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Monday, 16 October 2017

Ground School




I do not love groundwork.   I pretty much never lunge my horses unless I think they are lame.  I think I have resistance about it for a few reasons:
 

  1. When I was in my late-teens my barn family was taken over by the Parelli cult training methods.  Blue had recently been diagnosed with navicular and I was repeatedly told that it was my fault because I jumped him, rode him a lot, and didn’t do groundwork with him.  I tried to join in on the groundwork party (because I couldn’t ride then anyway with my lame horse) but honestly Blue hated it so much and we did not have any fun.  I don’t hate all Parelli people (some of friends IRL do Parelli stuff) but the attitude that began to exist towards people who actually rode at my barn was not cool at all, I should have beat those motherfuckers with their carrot sticks. 

  2. I boarded Apollo for a year at a barn that was very natural horsemanship-focused, the coach kept me on the ground for all my lessons.  She pretty much convinced me that I was so lousy at groundwork (true story) than I shouldn’t be riding (um no).   Eventually I had to sit her down and tell her that every time I need to ride to build my confidence about riding (which was at an all-time low).  She finally let me ride and told me that I was much better in the saddle than on the ground… k. 

  3. If I don’t ride I start to convince myself that I can’t ride.  Any stretch of time off from riding more than three days and I will get nervous about it.  Making sure than I get my butt in the saddle (or bareback horse as it were) is very important to me, more important than groundwork.



I did do a fair bit of groundwork/desensitization stuff work with Mystic and Henry when they were small bbs.  So I don’t totally suck at groundwork.
 
See? And look at that adorable bb Mystic (She's like 1.5 here)

 
But lately my back has been bugging me a lot.  And there are some issues with my horses that could use some work.  The last time I loaded Mystic into a trailer we had words.  Henry can be pushy on the ground.  I also want to teach Henry to carry the flags at the barn and would prefer to start that from the ground.  I’ve also always wanted to try some “cowboy challenge” type events with my horses (once I have saddles and wheels).  I think devoting some time to groundwork would be a huge benefit for all of us as I try to get my back sorted again. 


Bareback trail horse because my back hurt too much to lift the western saddle


So please share with me… what are you favorite ground exercises to do with your horses? 









So far my greatest hits are free lunging/join up stuff, schooling turn on the haunches/forehand, and walking over tarps. I’ve been searching youtube to add a few things to my repertoire but would love any suggestions from blogland. J 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Balancing Things Conversation


So 2017 didn’t turn out the way I’d imagined.  I was quite sure I’d be spending my 32nd birthday sitting on the porch of my new acreage watching my horses graze.  It didn’t turn out that way.  And that’s ok. 


 
For most of 2017 I felt like I was treading water and just barely keeping my head above the surface.  Sometimes drowning, but usually managing.  Particularly in terms of my finances and my energy-level. 

I told myself that I just needed to continue working like a crazy person until the condo sold and I moved into my sweet acreage life. I worked 60+ hours a week but still could never seem to afford to get a haircut or do anything fun for myself.  Horse boarding costs have majorly contributed to my current lack of funds.  I was hesitant to uproot the horses earlier because I didn’t want to have to move them twice in a short period of time (to a temporary spot and then on to my acreage) and I knew they were happy in their current locations. 

 #horseloaf



I recently quit my part-time job.  Which was necessary for so many reasons.  This was a good step for my sanity.  But this, of course, further depleted my financial resources.
 
So I have decided to make a change. 
 
I am on the hunt for cheap (but reasonably close and safe fencing) pasture board for all three horses.



 
This is ideally where they will all stay until I am able to purchase an acreage.  It will obviously suck to leave my sweet indoor boarding situation in the winter time but I simply can’t afford it.  And I won’t be able to lesson over the winter months either.  Those things suck.  But there are some things that don’t suck… A smaller board bill will give me more money towards:
 

  • Buying high quality proper fitting tack for everyone
  • Buying a horse trailer
  • Paying off debt and actually saving money for once
     

I got to a place where I was seriously debating down-sizing my herd.  Which is probably a more practical thing to do.  But really - if my horses get ridden a bit less in the winter they won’t die.  If I keep feeling so stressed about money my head will probably explode. 



So I will have to learn to be one of those tough outdoor winter rider types until I can afford a trailer I suppose!


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Color Quandary

I had the chiro guy out for my horses last weekend.  I try to have him out at least once every three months because my horses are all ridden by an extremely crooked human (yours truly). 















He also is really great about saddle fit, more so with Western than English tack.  I had him look at Mystic's new saddle.  He thinks the fit is overall really good but did notice a very small amount of bridging.  I couldn't really feel it, but to be honest I spent more time checking the fit around her shoulders because that's where the previous one seemed to want to pinch all of a sudden.  He recommended using a pad that I can add a shim to.  He also said she was a saddle fitting nightmare hahah - which I have heard before from the Saddle Geek.










I'm currently using my friend's Diamond Wool pad which is a nice thickness and quality, so I'm going to ask for another one (that's shimmable) for my bday.




One of these:  http://www.diamondwoolpads.com/shop/pressure-relief/contoured-relief-pads






But I'm having a heck of a time choosing the color!




I've narrowed it down to four and would love some input.  I am mostly turn between the navy (which looks like a beautiful indigo on the website but might be a more boring navy in person) and the purple.  They don't have all of the colors shown as a pad (mostly just squares of color), so it's harder to picture them.  Mystic's "color" is supposed to be purple for her gear but I haven't really stuck to that. 


Here is a pic of the saddle if that helps with color choice :)





Here are my top four color choices:







1) Navy






2) Purple






3) Turquoise






4) Royal Blue






Which do you think would look best on her?  Or is there another wildcard that I should go for from the other colors listed on the site?


Opinions appreciated :)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Learning to Share


I have been horrible at sharing for my entire life.  I can distinctly remember being six years old and asking my mom to make my friends leave because I was tired of sharing my toys with them.  Don’t I sound fun? 

Mystic thinks I'm cool (if I have cookies)


 


So obviously I am an obnoxious weirdo about sharing my horses.   Coach D has ridden Apollo and Mystic.  SP, who started Mystic, rode her and a few of her working students did too.  Last spring my friend M rode Apollo and Henry.  RK rode Henry and Apollo in training.  And that’s about it for the past five years.  I was planning to have Apollo be my husband’s trail horse but we all know how that went.

 
Proof I'm not a total A-hole









I have a good friend at work who had to put her horse down last fall.  She half-heartedly horse shopped at the beginning of the summer but nothing really grabbed her.  I’m not sure if she wasn’t quite ready or the right horse didn’t show up.  I found a lease situation through another horsey friend that she will likely be going ahead with soon, but in the meantime I have offered her to ride Mystic a few days a week.

 





It took me a long time to decide I was ok with that.   Mystic is my best horse at the moment (and by that I mean most quiet and useful, plus she has a saddle that fits) and I kind of want to be greedy and keep her to myself.  But honestly she is a bit tubby and now that the days are getting shorter, there are only so many days I can ride (mostly weekends).  The extra rides would help manage her weight and it’s probably good to have someone ride her besides me once in a while.


Sharing these views

 



Sharing Mystic will likely be a short-term thing (unless the lease doesn’t pan out) but I think it will be good thing.  I’m not planning to sign a contract or asking for any money, unless it becomes a bit more long term.   My friend C will likely be around (she lives on the property) or will ride with Mystic’s new occasional friend, and will report back to me if they’re having any trouble. 




 


Any thoughts for me about horse sharing?  Does this mean I’m a mature adult?  :P

Thursday, 28 September 2017

My Saddle Has a Birthday

I have been scouring the facebook market for something used that would save me and my tiny bank account from buying a custom saddle for Henry and I.




I didn't find a lot that would work for me (giant humans need long flaps) but I did find a few that would work for Henry.  I hummed and hawed. 




Can't stop using this pic because H looks so handsome






The used market just isn't cheap enough in Canada, if I'm only going to save $1000 - might as well just get everything I want and have it be brand new.  Not that $1000 is no money (it's a lot of friggin money) but when you're already spending that kind of cash, you should get what you want.


I decided that I would pull my Amerigo out of the tack shop on November 8th (I signed a contract that I had to leave it in their shop for a minimum of 90 days - that's day 90) and sell it for super cheap, and get my damn saddle ordered. 




Soon I will have dis (with a longer flap)






I texted the Equipe rep to let her know that I was still interested and my ballpark timeline of when I'd be ordering.  She told me that she would take the Amerigo on consignment and I would get that credit towards my new saddle.  Like when you buy a new car and they take your old car and give you credit towards your new car.   Which is awesome.  She made me a very fair offer on what kind of credit I'd get too (more than I would been asking for it in my original post-November 8 fire sale idea).


So my new saddle's birthday is November 8th. 






I'll keep saving up in the meantime of course but at least I know I can order it then for sure.  If the Amerigo happens to sell sooner I will order sooner.








I will hit the thanksgiving/Christmas breaks so I would anticipate it would arrive in December (maybe) or January (more likely). 


41 days to my saddle's b-day! 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Transitions

And I’m not talking about horsey transitions.  Although I have been doing a lot of those lately!


<3



The transition in my life from working 60 hours to working a more “normal” 40 hour week have been huge.  Some positive and some… not so much. 


Mostly I am just sleeping so much.  Last night I slept 12 hours.  At this point I’m telling myself that I need to catch up.  If it continues past a month (my last official day was September 10, so it’s only been two weeks) then I might chat with my doctor about it.  It is such a gift to be able to go actually bed when I’m tired.  Even if it’s 8pm.  I used to stay up late so I could actually chat with my husband/watch TV/relax a bit after a long day of work.  Now I put my pjs on and go to bed when I’m tired.

This is me right now...




I had all these ambitious ideas about what I could do with all this free time (take piano lessons, have a social life, take dance lessons with my husband, try out some new fitness classes etc).  And that’s just not going to happen yet. 

I have been running though.  It’s harder than I remember but it feels good to be back at it. 
 
I also have had some really wonderful rides on all three horses.  I think they appreciated a less-rushed human.  I have been riding lots!  Way more than before.




I have to admit though.... I do sort of miss the momentum of a very busy schedule.  Even if something made me anxious (riding Henry after a fall etc) I had to get it done in the small window of time I had available, so it kind of forced me to do things.  Now with all this free time I seem to have trouble structuring my day, and it’s easier to push the “uncomfortable” things to another day.  I think part of the reason I’ve always kept myself busy is so that I don’t have time to be anxious.  But now I do.  And I am figuring out how best to manage that.





I have made an effort to devote more time to self-care.  I’ve dropped some much needed cash on chiropractic and acupuncture.  I even have a nail appointment booked tonight and a hair appointment in October.




There is some saddle news in the works but nothing official to share yet :) 


Monday, 11 September 2017

Breadcrumb


I have more thoughts about the custom saddle to discuss but first I have to share some happy news about Apollo…

Let me back up a little bit! 

I’ve owned Apollo for 10 years.  Sporadically throughout that time he’s been hard to catch.  I think once a horse learns that behavior it will always sort of be in there.  He had very little contact with humans in his first 8 years of life so it’s not exactly shocking.  It’s kind of his “go-to” if I’m not very consistent in my riding schedule or if our communication has broken down in the saddle.   Also if I’m in a huge rush or very stressed out he senses that and runs away from me and the dark rain cloud over my head.  I’ve learned a lot of catching horses, keeping emotions in check, bribery (hah) and horse behavior from his hard to catch habit – so part of me is grateful for that. 




When he got back from training with RK he was pretty much the worst he’d ever (except for that one time that it took me like 7 hours to catch him…).  Shortly after he returned I broke my nose.  I was extremely crabby and in pain.  I decided that catching him was not an urgent issue, although I did manage to get a leather halter onto him eventually.  I kept the leather halter on longer than I normally would have because I just because I knew my stress levels were out of whack and I still wanted to be able to grab him for health check/grooming/flymask/flyspray reasons at the very least. 


He's been great in my lessons with ST and really seems to respond well to her suggestions for us



A few weeks ago I finally decided that we could ditch the leather halter for good. 

The most I’ve ever gotten from him is that he’ll see me and walk over.  90% of the time he just stares at me and waits for me to come over.  I give him a cookie right after I put his halter on to re-inforce that having your halter put on is pretty much the greatest.  When the baby horses moved into his pasture he’d sometimes walk over (and receive a cookie) but he would never leave the herd and follow us in.

And what did he do on Tuesday? 

He followed me in with Henry. 

Henry was not a fan tho


I was only planning to catch Henry because he had a saddle fitter appointment and I only had one halter.  I figured he’d follow us halfway and then turn around.  Nope he came to the gate.  So I caught him and gave him a cookie.  He came in supervised the saddle fitter appointment. 

This year has not been my favorite so far but I am taking this as a breadcrumb that I'm finally on the right path with Apollo.  So that's my happy news :)  Maybe it's not awesome satin but it's a pretty huge win!

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Custom Saddle Angst


I had my appointment with the custom saddler last night for Henry.  She could see why we’d had trouble finding something for his long wither and my long body. 


She suggested the Equipe Grand Prix for us (it has the longest pommel) and said we were very lucky that I fit well into a 17.5 because there wouldn’t be a ton of room if I needed an 18 because of his short-ish back.  She thought the standard flap wasn’t horrible on me, but definitely agreed that I needed a long flap. 


Pretty <3




I had a quick ride in it.  Being back in a saddle again was weird.  But I really liked this one.  I didn’t hear angels singing or have earth-shattering moments of “OH MY GOD IT’S SO WONDERFUL” but mostly I felt secure but didn’t really notice it was there… which I liked.  I could focus on trying to steer Henry, the baby noodle horse, who randomly forgot how to steer/horse for part of this ride.  He seemed to move nicely in it, didn’t get quite as giraffey at his trot transitions as he did in the amerigo. 


Bareback hobo no more?




I like the style and look of the saddle as well.  Sort of had an understated classy vibe.  The saddle's turnaround time is currently 5 weeks (although they do have a reputation for being very slow).  The estimated arrival time would likely be towards the end of October.


I was feeling pretty keen to order one but decided to sleep on it. 


Driving home from the barn I started to freak out a bit.  My freak out was about two main factors.  You can tell me if I’m being a nut or not about this….


  1. Money.  Omg that is so much money.  My husband agreed to let me use some of the money from my car accident to get a saddle (and when the Amerigo sells those funds will go back towards a car).  But the amount I’m taking out of the car fund is only the down payment for a custom saddle.  Which leaves me two months to come up with the remaining balance.  I thought it would take a lot longer for the saddle to arrive (and it still might) so I figured I would have three to four months to scrape that much cash together.  Which is apparently not the case.

     
    It’s just a lot of money.  I haven’t even got a haircut in over a year, my roots are so long my hair is ombre.  I’m not a very spendy person and a purchase like this gives me huge anxiety.  Recent vet bills have made me extra nervous about spending.
     
  2. Is the saddle the solution? So a big part of the reason for a custom saddle is that I believe that H’s Amerigo caused him to buck.  Other sources (saddle fitters, bodyworker and my coach ST) have supported this idea but it’s impossible to know for sure.  It would be nice to know that he has something that fits him perfectly.
     
    I am trying to attack this problem from all sides (working on my own fitness/riding skills and also have quit my part-time job for more saddle time).  But what I get him a perfect custom saddle and he launches me again?  How devastating would that be?  And then what? 

 

I really wanted to have fun trying out new fancy saddles but the part of me that’s trying to be a grown-up just isn’t having it.  I don’t think my previous custom saddle nightmare (the DK) helped matters either.




My current plan is to see how much money I can save up on my own before I fully commit to a custom saddle.  I will see how things are going in October and go from there. 


I am planning to get that treeless saddle soon (still waiting for my refund on the ADT saddle) and that might be an OK interim solution for Henry as we build his fitness back up again. 


Hey anyone want to buy one of my kidneys? :P

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Standing Outside the Fire


I had a fantastic/insanely busy weekend!  It was a long weekend from my full-time job but I had three remaining shifts at my part-time job to finish up. 





I am happy to report that I have officially folded my last gym towel!



I was very spoiled to have a puppy visit from my new dog nephew, Ernie!  He is the cutest pup ever and is amazingly well-behaved. 

Ernie + Molly = Love



My college roommate was in town for a bit and she came out to visit my ponies with her husband.  It was so wonderful to see her again, it's been too long!

Henry basking in the attention 




I also got to see Garth Brooks.  Which was a lifelong dream.  I was on my feet dancing for most of the concert.  So many of Garth’s songs were the soundtrack to family roadtrips and hauling horses to Pony Club lessons.  There are many happy memories tied to those songs.


I caught feels and cried during “Standing Outside the Fire”, which has always been an inspiration song for me. 





I had a fantastic lesson with ST on Monday!  We are still doing the timeshare between Apollo and Henry.  I was a bit worried about Apollo as he was a little stiff on our last ride, but he felt fantastic!  Henry was a very good sport and I am getting back into the groove with sitting his bouncy trot. 

Apollo has randomly trained himself to ground tie, which is handy for photos!




In other happy news - it turns out that I grabbed the wrong saddle from Coach D’s to try on my horses.  We were able to swap on the weekend for the one that is actually for sale.  That saddle fits Mystic like it was made for her.  So 1/3 of my horses has a saddle now.  WTF YAY!  I also cantered Mystic for the first time in ages, she was a little crowhoppy at first but was totally fine after I waited for her to be more balanced/forward the next time I asked (fair enough).




What's up saddle



I will be picking up the treeless this week (depending on when I finally get my money back from the saddle I had on trial) so that will be for Apollo, and Henry if it fits him. 


Tonight is my saddle fitter appointment! Wish me luck :D

Friday, 1 September 2017

S is for Saddle



(and maybe September?)








I have some happy saddle news!  (Finally)



I found a treeless saddle that will be a good temporary solution for the herd.  I am about 99% sure it will work for Mystic and Apollo, I’m hopefully it will work for Henry too.  I should pick up my new treeless sometime next week woohoo!  I'm not a great lover of treeless saddles but this is a brand I've ridden in before (Sensation) that I do like and they seem to be just fine for trail riding.  Yay stirrups!




I’ve decided after much searching that I will be biting the bullet and ordering Henry his custom saddle this month.  I have an appointment with the fitter on Monday.  I may hold off on ordering until more of his topline returns (after the coughing/pneumonia fiasco) but I should have some more details to share after that.  He isn’t that hard to fit and I’m not that hard to fit but together we seem to be very tricky.  He has that whole short-ish back, long/high wither, prominent shoulders thing going on and I am very long (I’m 6 feet tall for the record).  I have found some used saddle that fit one of us, but not both.  And we both need to be comfy to continue our progress. 




I welcome any advice on custom saddling!  This will be my second time down this road in my life.  I learned a lot from the DK disaster and hope it get it right this time. 





Thank you to my husband for taking some photos for me last night! 





Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Reinstalling the Wheels


I had my first rides back on Apollo and Henry last Saturday in a lesson with ST. 

ST is very kind to let me split my hour between the two horses.  Which is great because they are both out of shape and Henry is recovering from pneumonia - so 30 minutes each is plenty.  The vet said Henry was ok to go back to work but to start slow and increase the cardiovascular work very gradually. 


 Good ponies <3


I started with Apollo and finished with Henry.  Apollo gets very antsy when he’s tied in the barn alone so it’s just easier (and I don’t have to hear the racket of him losing his shit) if I ride him first and then tie him in the arena when I ride Henry.  






Apollo has had a lot of time off!  I didn’t think I had ridden him since I got home from RK’s but ST reminded me that I’d sent her a pic of us riding so I guess I did at some point, I think when he first came home.  He was big into his hard-to-catch routine when he first got home that was followed by some tenderness so I would say he’s been off since the beginning of June (I know for sure I didn’t ride him after I broke my nose on June 10).  So about two and a half months off for him.  I’m sad to report that the saddle I was going to borrow/pay off from Coach D did not fit him (it was really crooked on him, not sure if it was him or the saddle but it was no bueno). 

He was a lot better than I expected in our lesson.  He was hot, sure, but he’s usually a lot ruder after that much time off.  His walk work was fabulous.  His trot was really nice in one direction and in the other (unbalanced) direction it wanted to be a canter really badly.  But no crowhopping or real shenanigans.  Our lesson was a reminder to me to half-halt and not pull.  When he’s hot I want to pull so badly but it just gets him more ramped up and gives him something to brace against. 


Beautiful sunset at the barn the other night






I rode Henry a few times bareback in July.  I was out of town twice and he developed a cough that later became pneumonia so I would estimate he had about a month off.  I ordered a saddle for him to try out but it sadly was too narrow. 

Too narrow in the shoulder but oh so pretty



I’ll be honest, I’m a little nervous after being bucked off three times to not have stirrups.  I think the saddle fit was a big contributor to the bucking but I’m still uneasy (which is understandable).  He’s been fine about being ridden bareback, even after a month off.  ST said he looked a little bug-eyed at first but he didn’t do anything silly. 

This lesson was a friendly reminder that I can’t sit his trot to save my life.  I warmly welcome any and all tips to help me out with this.  I know I will improve as I practice more but holy crap my internal organs have been re-arranged yet again. 


Who knew the highlight of my show season would be trotting a baby horse over poles


In both lessons I really wanted to tip forward.  ST gave me a good tip to think about lifting my chin when things get a bit hairy (somehow that makes me sit up properly).  I also want to hike my legs up when I transition to Henry, so I’ll have to remind myself to have “longer legs” when I ride him second.  I haven’t ridden them back-to-back in a really long time… and Henry feels so small to me after I ride Apollo.  Apollo is like riding a smooth picnic table.  Henry is like riding a bouncy 2x4.

This combo lesson was really the catalyst for me deciding to quit my part-time job.  I was so happy to have had a positive experience on my first rides back but when I started thinking about when I’d be able to ride next… it would be a while.  And that just doesn’t work for me.  I want to keep building on our positive momentum.  I also get more nervous the more time off I have, so that does me no favors. 


I am really excited to see where we'll all be in a month!