Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Sentimental Lunatic

Apollo has been super weird lately.  It’s freaking me out.

Still thicc tho  (pic from March 19)

I haven’t ridden him since early 2018 (a few scattered rides in January/February from what I can remember).  He was losing a bit of weight in January so I decided to reduce his workload and started blanketing him at that point.  He was (and still is) a little chubby but he’ll be 19 this year so I wanted to make sure to keep some weight on him as winter was definitely not over for a while.  Maybe it’s finally over now.  Maybe not!

I still brush him, feed him, do carrot stretches and do ground work with him quite a bit.  My favorite order to handle the horses is 1) Apollo 2) Mystic 3) Henry.  Mostly because once you have caught Henry he cannot be uncaught and is a complete pest to me and the other horses while I’m trying to get in and out of gates.  I also feel like Apollo appreciates being caught first, you know… herd seniority and all that (not anthropomorphizing at all, hah!). 

I would say since end of February/early March that Apollo has been different.  The main difference is that he has decided that he loves me in a big creepy way.  He speeds walks over when he sees my truck and often will sprint over to me if he sees me handling another horse (even if he’s already had his turn for feeding/brushing etc).  Historically he’s been consistently very aloof and often hard to catch - I’ve had him for 10 years and he barely seemed to give a crap if I was there or not most of the time.  I know I should just rejoice that my horse finally thinks I’m wonderful but it actually worries me that something is wrong with him so he’s being clingy because he’s trying to tell me (apparently I cannot accept love).  The other changes are more minor and more recent. 

I LOVE THIS HUMAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He’s had a skin funk going on since mid-March.  Mostly his skin is super dry with a few crusty spots.  I worried a lot about it being lice (it may have been lice, I did delouse him twice just to be sure and it’s improving).  I will admit to neglecting this a bit while I was sick, I was hoping to do some serious de-shedding and shampooing when the weather warmed up but I was only able to do a thorough shampoo for the first time last night.      

He’s also been a bit flightier than usual in the last few weeks.  I can usually trust him to not be a complete idiot and spook at nothing… but lately he’s been sketchy and spooky.  He pulled back in the crossties at the wash rack last night, which he hasn’t done in probably 9 years.  He used to pull back like crazy when I first got him, it was an unfortunate phase than lasted about 6 months and saw many halters broken and a few fence posts pulled out of the ground. 

Something that makes me sad is that he is has lost a few rungs on the herd totem pole in the past six months.  Henry is the boss (and a very violent boss at that).  That used to be Apollo’s role in the herd, although he was much kinder about it.  He’s still in the top tier but it’s very strange to see sassy little Henry boss him around.    

My current plan of attack is to add some oil and aloe vera gel to his diet and increase his workload.  He has gotten ulcery this time of year before, and hopefully the oil can help bring back his skin condition.  I’m going to do longer/more interesting groundwork sessions to keep his brain busy.  If I’m honest… I’m not keen to ride him right now, he’s just too sketchy.  Maybe his brain will come back to town soon now that the snow is melting.  Although maybe his roly-poly self just needs a job again.  I will play this by ear depending on how the groundwork progresses.  He's had time off before and was not at all like this, in fact usually with time off work he becomes harder to catch. 


I will book him a bodywork session once his skin looks 100%, it’s not really fair to ask someone to work in a dry skin cloud.  He is also due for a dental check-up, which is on my to-do list but since I have to pay for three (bank account softly weeping) won’t be happening until June at the earliest.  If he isn’t back to himself before the end of May he may get a private vet check up with some blood work.  I worried a bit about his vision too (explaining the random flighty-ness perhaps?).


Anyone have any other thoughts or suggestions for me?  Hopefully my big pony is back to normal(ish) soon. :)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Keys

There hasn’t been a ton of stuff going on in my world lately (hence the *crickets* on the blog). 

I unfortunately got very sick for over two weeks and couldn’t manage anything other than just feeding and occasionally brushing my horses.  I got the weirdest cough that was especially bad at night time, so I essentially was getting no sleep… and therefore was pretty useless all day.  Several times at the barn I coughed so hard I threw up.  I’m not sure if it was the colder air or if there was some irritant in the air but I was much worse at the barn than when I was a vegetable on the couch.  I tried two different types of puffers, had a chest x-ray (which was clean) and codeine cough syrup.  None of them helped at all.   Although the codeine cough syrup made me feel pretty relaxed!

This combo helped a bit (honey, rum and two kinds of cough syrup haha)

I’m still coughing a fair bit at night but it’s finally improving.  I felt good enough to ride last weekend and Henry and Mystic shared a lesson with ST.  I had my first ride back on Henry the day before.  Because we are #snowflakesoulmates he had a horrible cough two weeks before mine that resulted in some time off (no fever or nasal discharge).  ST and I joked that Henry and I are just both allergic to horsing/humaning. 


I’m happy to report that my first ride back (on Saturday, April 14) and my lesson following day were pretty amazing.  And I think I have discovered the key(s) to riding Henry.  If I have to nearly die for two weeks to have a breakthrough with my horse – so be it. 

Before I get to the keys I want to explain a bit about the type of ride I’m used to.  Mystic and Apollo are very similar.  He’s hotter and more dramatic than she is but they both start off with a lot of forward momentum.  And I mould/shape that/try to steer that and they eventually go along nicely.  They both have their own motors and it’s very easy to take more of a “passenger” ride on them. 

Wut is happening, I am retired 

Henry is not like that.  I have a really difficult time getting good momentum at the walk.  His first lap of walk is pretty wonderful.  And we slowly seem to lose steam from there.  And then sometimes look for fun things to spook at.  This is my fault as I preferred a slower speed when I rode bareback so I didn’t really ask him to move forward properly. 

On my first ride back after the death cough I hopped on (after some groundwork and a quick free lunge) we had the loveliest lap of walk.  It was so forward and I could feel his back swinging.  After that I could feel him start to look for things to be looky about.  So I was like… “You know what… let’s just trot and see what happens.”  And we did.  AND HE WAS FUCKING SPECTACULAR.  We made lots of different shapes and did some changes of directions.  My dog kept sneaking into the arena and a cat jumped off the ATV in the corner…no spook, no nothing.  Henry was at work and was possibly too tired to have opinions about it.  I was able to do about 5/10 ish minutes of trot in both directions before I started coughing my lungs out so I decided to take him for a handwalk on the front lawn.

I had a similar breakthrough ride in my lesson with ST just over a month ago.  The arena was very busy with three other horses, which is maybe not busy to some people but I am usually alone in my hermitage. 

I was really nervous as Henry seemed lit AF (for once).  He was actually super forward and I felt like we were travelling at light speed.  But when he was moving forward he felt so much straighter (duh) and was so much easier to steer.  I knew I had to be braver so I could be a good leader for him - so I pictured us riding in battle (haha a bit weird but it seriously helped!).  I finally felt like I was starting to trust him again.  In fact as we trotted through a small hole between the three horses I was softly chanting “I trust you/good boy” to him. 

ST sent me a text later in the day after that lesson that said “That’s the best I’ve ever seen you ride.  Keep riding him like that and you guys will have no problems.”  ST is a super positive coach but she isn’t one to throw around compliments so I legit teared up when I got it. 

So to remind future Kate the keys to riding Henry this is what I’ve found:
  • Trot = Henry magic
  • Forward is always the answer, it makes your life easier and your horse straighter.
  • Ride with courage even when you are mentally pooping your pants.
I’m going to make those points a note in my phone that I read before every ride.  :)   I was really bummed out/frustrated about having to take those two weeks off riding but I think we are on a good path now. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Not Falling and Other Wins

Since our new saddle arrived back in mid-January Henry and I have been getting back into the groove.  I never really stopped riding him when I didn’t have a saddle but there were often long gaps between rides.  And when I did ride, I didn’t ask for much.  To be honest I never really was 100% comfortable riding him bareback.  He’s quite bouncy and narrow… and I was still a bit tentative after my hat trick of falls last summer.


Our riding schedule is still unfortunately not the most consistent (sorry Henbot) due to my ankle injury/death flu and then the condo renovations taking over my life.  But I clocked more hours in February than I did in December/January combined.  I also look forward to riding him instead of feeling nervous about it.  I was really whiteknuckling it those last few months with the bareback pad.

I am hopeful that now that the condo is listed we can get to work for real.  And hopefully start cantering and doing some small fences again soon.  At this point both of our fitness needs work and I don’t want to rush him without re-establishing some communication/straightness basics. 

I ate only health foods while completing the renos 

We had one ST lesson in February (on the 10th) and our homework was to develop a proper forward trot.  A forward trot feels way too fast to me but apparently it just looks normal.  I’m used to a smoother shorter-strided drafty trot I guess.

I was working on our forward trot on February 24 when my dog popped out of the corner we were riding by.  After that the corner was haunted and Henry needed to be dramatic about it every time.  I tried a few approaches (mainly circling and slowly getting closer to the evil corner at the walk and trot).  I also at some point just decided to ignore him and make him go in there regardless of how weird and giraffe-y he was about it.  I was proud of myself for digging in and making him work through his tantrum.

This canine decided to pop out at a terrible time

Then, all of a sudden, as we were finally softly trotting through the corner… he exploded.  It felt like a rear but I think it might have just been a big leap.  I lost my left rein and stirrup.  My whip was somehow lodged under the left side of my saddle.  My brain was like “oh crap, I’m going to hit the dirt”. 

There was a split second in there after the leap where I was 99% sure he was going to start bucking.  I was in a very similar position (tipped forward and off balance) to what started the 1st and 3rd bucking incidences.  In that pause I could almost feel him thinking about it.  But after the initial leap when I calmly (in my mind I was calm at least) said “whooooa buddy” he stopped.   I praised him (almost in tears of joy) for making a good decision and listening to me.  I straightened myself out and we walked calmly through death corner a few times and then moved on to a different exercise. 

I know this is kind of a dumb thing to be so happy about, but I really am.  He had a very clear shot at dumping me on the ground and didn’t.  I attribute it somewhat to luck that I was able to stay on but also that I started stroking his neck and speaking to him in a calm voice when he panicked.  The other times I tensed up and gripped for dear life (not that I blame myself for that but it didn’t help matters).

I realized after the ride that the big “explosion” was likely due to water (like half a cup) getting dumped on his neck from the sprinklers.  I didn’t see it when I was riding but he had a huge wet spot on the left side of his neck that didn’t correlate with a sweat pattern.  He lives outside and you know... has been hit by rain before so it’s a bit ridiculous to leap into the air over it but…. for a baby horse getting back into riding life I can give him a pass on it this time.

After we finished our other exercises I hopped off to cool him off and we spent some time in the scary corner eating cookies and getting pets.

I am super proud of my baby horse for using his brain.  <3  And I’m very grateful to have stirrups!

Monday, 5 February 2018


January flew by!  Mostly because there was so much going on.  I have a lot of happy news to share!

Mystic is home!  It's so nice to have everyone together again.  I was really bummed to leave my sweet trails and riding buddy, C, but this was a really smart decision.  Also my husband and I are currently sharing a vehicle (I never ended up purchasing another vehicle after my accident in the summer) so having the herd so close helps me be less of a truck hog. 

Mystic is learning to be an arena horse again and continues to be the most wonderful creature ever.  <3 

She had a month off and I took her out in the hayfield bareback - and she was rock solid.  She truly has the best brain and heart of any horse I've known.  It's been really beneficial to my confidence to have more rides on her.

I got my saddle for Henry on January 15th! AND I FREAKING LOVE IT. 

It arrived right before my trip to Las Vegas so I haven't been able to deck it out yet because I can't afford it haha.  So I am currently rocking ancient stirrup leathers and a used $8 fuzzy girth.  But who cares.  I have stirrups! Yahoo!

I haven't had as many rides as I'd like due to hurting my ankle and the horrible weather.  But I have been really happy on rides I have squeezed in!  I have never felt so comfortable (and somehow very secure) in any saddle before.  Totally worth how broke I am.

I would really like an ecogold secure pad (the jumper or xc version, don't care which) as the saddle is just very slightly wide on Henry.  I'm currently just using one of my thicker pads but it's ugly and I want a fancy new one. 

Apollo (who is usually quite aloof) has been overly friendly and really keen about going to work lately.  He usually goes through some stiffness when the temperature drops and isn't super keen about being a working horse in the winter - this year is a complete 180.  I hadn't really planned to do much with him this winter but he seriously waits at the gate for me when he knows I have another horse inside, so homeboy has been keeping busy too. 

Sometimes when you come inside you get a massage from your BFF at Vitality Equine

I'm just feeling really grateful about where things are at right now.  I mean... yeah I only have one saddle and things aren't perfect, but they are so very good.  I was even kind of happy about hurting my ankle because I caught I death flu at the same time so I could take care of both things at once rather than being off for a longer period of time (it was also like -30 so staying indoors was fine by me).  ST has also been away so I couldn't have done lessons with her over that time anyhow. 


I have lots to catch up on and big plans in February!  Our condo renovations have started and the condo should be listed again March 1.  I also am in the works of booking some lessons with a cowboy challenge guy, a long-lining specialist and of course the wonderful ST. 

2018 - I like you.

Apollo hair heart <3

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Peace Like a River

Happy holidays everyone! 

I arrived back from Mexico just in time to spend a lovely Christmas with my family.  The tropical vacation was exactly what I needed.  I was so run down before we left, and just really not myself.  A lovely combination of sand, sun, sleep, swimming and blended cocktails revived me.

I had a lot of time to reflect on 2017.  Initially I felt like 2017 was total crap and the worst year of my life.  But after some thought, that idea proved to be overly dramatic. 

There were tough things in 2017 for sure, but there was so much more to be grateful for.   So instead of ruminating on the boohoos of 2017 I’m going to think about these three things when 2017 pops into my mind:

1)      I rode my young horses bareback so much (which is sort of brave and they were really sensible...go team).

2)      My husband and I became closer than ever dealing with the challenges that 2017 brought, our relationship has truly never been better than it is now.

3)      I am incredibly grateful for my life and the people and animals that I share it with.   It’s so important to enjoy and appreciate your tribe, you never know how long you get to keep them.  Time is a precious thing. 

As I look ahead to 2018 I’m going to keep it simple for goals. 

1)      Sell condo
2)      Buy acreage
3)      Be happy

As we prepare to re-list our condo I know real estate buying/selling takes a lot more time and energy than I originally anticipated.  If the condo sells I can certainly afford a horse trailer, some semblance of a show season and more tack.   Until I tick number one off the list I will hold off on making more concrete goals. 

Thank you everyone for your kind words about Toby on my last post (and all the support I’ve gotten over the years).  I truly value being part of such a supportive community. 

Onwards and upwards into 2018! 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Love and Hard Times

I had to say goodbye to my dear friend, Toby, on the weekend. 

I will write more about it all when I'm ready but I just wanted to share a picture of him I took about two weeks ago. 

I could pretty much never get him to look directly at the camera for the past 9 years but I took this great shot at the ball diamond near my house (which I use as my private offleash park).  It's probably the best photo I've ever taken of him.

My husband's cat escaped (again... he escaped from my in-laws house back in October) late last week and that was incredibly stressful.  We did find him, thank goodness. 

Between that and Toby's passing my nerves are completely shot.  I'm a mess.  Apollo has chosen this time to be impossible to catch again (he was recently dewormed, which is sometimes a trigger for him...but also his human being a crying mess really freaks him out). 

I just wanted to give a quick (although somewhat depressing) update.  I hope to have a little bit of time to catch up on my blog reading list in the next day or so :)

I leave for my tropical vacation this weekend and hope to return feeling a lot better.


Monday, 27 November 2017

Ballad of the Absent Mare

I am 90% happy and 10% sad to be writing this post.

I have made a big decision about Mystic’s living arrangements.  She is moving back to the property where the boys are.

Sleepy snow pony

The happy part is all my horses will be in one place again! 

I can see Mystic every day if I want to as she will be 15/20 mins from my house.  I will also have an indoor arena to ride her in so I can ride more than once or twice a week.  I’m currently limited to being a weekend warrior with her because the short days/my work schedule but if we get lousy weather on the weekends I can’t really ride then either.  When I worked three evenings a week it wasn’t a big deal… but now I have more time to ride and would like to make the most of it. 

It’s also handy because eventually my horses will live together at my property (#acreage2018orbust) so if they’re already living together before the move it will make the transition slightly easier.  They have lived together before (for about three years) but Mystic was at a training/lesson barn for a year and then moved to her current spot for another year so they will likely be “new” to each other again.


It is slightly bittersweet too - as I love the beautiful trails and I will deeply miss riding with my friend, C.  I usually prefer to ride alone (because I am a legit hermit in my heart) but I had so much fun riding with C.   Mystic also is handled/checked multiple times daily in C’s care and is fed her daily grain ration.  Those responsibilities will be back on my shoulders once she joins Apollo and Henry.

I made my mind up on November 22 and gave C notice that day.  Mystic won’t move until January 2nd as I don’t want to change up her routine and then leave for Mexico/family Xmas festivities. 

I am SO excited to have my girl closer to home! <3