Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Catch Up

I have been such a bad blogger!! The week before Christmas was super busy at work, then I left for five days to visit family, then had to immediately jump back into work. And my phone didn't want to play nice with out hotel's wifi so I couldn't update on the road.

Right before I left I got my Blogger Gift Exchange from Amber at TB adventures. It was awesome to get the package and rip into it. I had asked for anything pink for Miss McKenna, and we got a new pink brush, pink vet wrap, the trial pack of show sheen, and a bunch of horse treats. Thanks Amber, Jetta, and Misty!!

For Christmas I didn't get too much horsey stuff, other than the money to pay for the John Turner clinic next month. All of my families animals (my three ponies, my two cats, and my parent's dog and cat) gave me a new iPhone cover with horses on it.  I found at 25lb bag of carrots at the grocery store so the ponies are getting a holiday treat!

Since I've been so busy I haven't done much with McKenna and Buddy.  I did manage to sneak in a couple rides on Bud, and had a little jump school in which he was great.  We only worked over a vertical and oxer a few times each but he pretty much nailed it so I didn't push it. McKenna's been getting lunged and I did light ride yesterday.  My trainer was giving a lesson to a couple pony kids and basically told me to hop on McKenna and just work her around the ponies.  We did a little walk/trot and mostly just hung out in the center of the ring while they played Simon Says.  McKenna held it together pretty well, considering the girls were excited and lacked some steering skills.  At one point Jen was standing right next to us and started clapping her hand to help one of the girls who was having trouble getting her pony to trot.  McKenna jumped back and snorted at the clapping, but calmed down and was ok when Jen walked around us clapping.  I'm hoping to have more time to work her this week.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Off The Rails

Considering how little I've ridden or worked the horses in the past few weeks, McKenna was awesome in our lesson last night.  I lunged before getting on, making sure she got her bucks out.  To warm up Jen had us do some baby leg yields at the walk.  Usually I do leg yields from the quarter line to the rail, but in doing that McKenna would pop her shoulder and fake it.  But going from the rail to the quarter line, she would stay connected and actually leg yield. 

In our trot work McKenna's been a bit sassy, flipping her head to avoid contact or bending.  Every time she did that, I was to circle her and ask for bending and softness.  As soon as we turned away from the rail she would quit the head flipping and become so soft and round.  We did a lot of circling, sometimes only going two or three steps straight along the long sides before circling again.  Right now her biggest issue is that she leans to the outside and wants to use the rail as a crutch and not bend her body.  By working her off the rail and doing random circles she has to listen to me as to where we are going and how to bend and use her body.

Along with that, we did some changes of direction across the diagonal lines.  Going right to left, she'll move off my left leg and change the bend pretty well.  Left to right is much harder.  She wants to pop the outside shoulder and when I put my right leg on to ask her to move over she gets excited and tries to canter.  We went back and forth working on having a strong half halt with both reins, then asking her to move over with the right leg while opening the left rein. It got better but it's definitely something we'll have to work on.

I had asked Jen for some pole exercises to do since I know I get bored with baby flat work and I'm pretty sure McKenna does too. She set up a baby 6inch crossrail in the center of the ring at X and told me to circle over it.  We started to the right, McKenna's better side, and the first time she looked at it but wasn't scared or worried.  More of a "Huh, that's new" type of thing.  I admittedly was a bit nervous of how she'd handle it so I didn't give her the best ride and let her get crooked and a bit behind my leg but McKenna just trotted right over it, no problem.  We came back around a few times till we could get the right approach and every time she just stepped right over. 

Proud of her first "jump"
We changed direction and the first time going left we had some steering issues after the crossrail and almost ran into the wall.  Oops.  But the second time was much better and by the third time I had her exactly where she needed to be.  We'll start working that exercise into our routine and the next step will be to figure 8 over it, making sure to get a nice change of bend.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Why does life get in the way of everything? I've been so overwhelmed for the past week it's ridiculous. Except for a snowy trail ride (my first ride in the snow!) I haven't been able to ride in over two weeks.  Come hell or high water I'm riding both Bud and McKenna today!

Last Wednesday I took a ride in the frozen, snow covered fields with a couple other boarders. It was in the mid twenties and I couldn't feel my nose, ears, or toes by the end of the ride but it was awesome.   We just walked around for about a half hour, and it was magical.  Like something out of a movie. 
What was once our summer gallop track between the pastures
That beautiful sunset wasn't heating anything up

It finally started thawing Friday and warmed up enough to start working the horses again.  I lunged both Buddy and McKenna and they were wild.  I had to work over the weekend and was only able to lung both of them Saturday and Sunday.  My plan was to ride at least one of the them yesterday, but my barn owners are gone, so between chores and helping with the 4H ride I lost all my time and motivation to ride. But tonight's the night, especially since I have a lesson on McKenna tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Five Day Challenge - Day 4

16. One thing I would change about my horse
I'd make Buddy younger.  I wish he was 10-12 so I could keep him longer and wouldn't feel so bad about pushing him to the 3'.

17. Your future with horses
I plan to ride for as long as I can.  Phoenix will live with me forever, and long term if McKenna works out I'd love to breed her and raise a baby.  My barn owners talk about me taking over the place once they retire, but who knows.

18. Worst show ever
There's been a few with Phoenix that were pretty bad.  I think our worst was in 2006 we went to our first A show and it was a disaster.  We started by getting to the show grounds (4hrs away from home) at midnight (we got lost), found horses in our stalls and had to find two stalls together and threw the horses in them. By the time we got to the house we had rented for the week it was close to 2am and we had to get up at 6 to get back to the show.  The hot water heater at the house broke so for the whole week we had to take cold showers. As far as riding goes, we were warming up for a 2'6" jumper round when another girl crashed her horse into a jump in warm up ring right in front of me. They had to take her away by ambulance.  It freaked me out and I locked up and couldn't seem to go faster than a crawl.  We ended up scratching our jumper rounds and switched to the 2' hunters, but I was still freaked and we still barely made it around. It was not a fun week.

19. Favorite horse show venue
My all time favorite is the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego.  I only showed there once in high school but it was awesome.  The fairgrounds is also home to the Del Mar Racetrack, and they use the backstretch of the track as the warm up rings. Some of the OTTBs have a hard time with that, but it was fun.  My trainer let me do my first jumper class there, and they held the jumpers in the giant Del Mar Arena where they hold $100,000 GPs.  It was late at night, and we were under the lights, and it seemed like a fairytale.
The cover was added after I rode there
20. Show day routine
Usually I try to have the trailer packed the night before, if I can.  I'll wake up too early, get dressed then head out to the barn to hook up the trailer.  Grab anything I didn't load already then load the pony and go. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Five Day Challenge -Day 3

There's still a ton of snow on the ground and it hasn't gotten above freezing since Thursday so there's not much to report with the horses.  They've been getting some turn out time in the indoor, but it's too cold to do much more than that.  I did let Phoenix free in the barn aisle with all the door closed Sunday to help "clean up" the loose hay.

Perks of being a good old boy

11. Critique your horses conformation
The most recent confo type pic of have of him.  He's also muscled up some from when this was taken.
Buddy is very long backed for a horse his height.  He's slightly downhill, but seeing as he was bred to be a cow horse that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Cow horses need to be able to get down low to move the cows.  He's solidly built, and has great feet.  The pic makes him look a little camped out behind, but it's just the way he's standing.

12. My horses favorite exercise
Eating!!  For as lazy as Buddy can be, he loves to jump.  Anything and everything.  He's never refused with me and get excited when he knows he jumping, especially out on the grass or XC.
13. Favorite spa day products
I really don't use a lot of products on the ponies.  Usually whatever horse shampoo is on sale at the tack store.  I do like the EQyss brand of products, especially the marigold spray.
14. 3 best things about your horse
1) He's a been there, done that machine.  When I first got him I had lost a lot of confidence, especially over fences and no matter what I did before the fence he would still jump it.  You point him at the fence and he'll go over it.
2) You can do whatever to him.  He loves getting clipped, both body clipped and his ears done.  He'll lean into the clipper and starts pawing when you stop.  He also loves getting hosed off, except for his face.  In the summer when he hears the water tanks getting filled he'll come up and paw to be hosed off.
3) I trust him under saddle more than any other horse.  There's been times when he's had weeks off and I can hop on bareback and he's fine.  I've ridden him bareback with a halter and he'll just go around. I know that when he's pissed, he won't buck or bolt, he'll stop and won't move.
15. Favorite picture of my horse
This is my favorite shot of both of us. 
I think this is my favorite action shot.  You can't tell, but we were jumping on a pretty decent angle and landed with a tight left rollback.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Five Day Challenge - Day 2

6. Favorite equestrian book/movie
Book is without a doubt Snowman.  I cried so much when reading it.  My other favorite horse book that I've reread many times is In & Out by Barbara Moss. It's a fictional tale of FEI level jumpers and the A circuit.  It's got some intense NC-17 rated scenes in it, so not for the unprepared. It was supposed to be the first in a series but the author never put out any other books.

7. Most common riding misconception
That it's a hobby.  To me, riding is a lifestyle.  It is something I will do for the rest of my life.  I've had people make comments that it's so cute that I ride and am able to maintain my childhood hobby.   My horses are my children, not some set of golf clubs or tennis racket to be taken out whenever I feel like playing. "Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. 2 riding strengths and 1 weakness
I tend to underestimate my riding ability, thinking I'm not as good as I really am.  Which is both a strength and a weakness.  I won't ever over face myself or my horse, but at the same time I tend to not want to push what we're capable of unless I'm in a lesson.  I think another strength of mine is my leg.  I've got super strong thighs and calves, thanks to both of my boys.  My trainer used to call Phoenix the thigh master as it takes of lot of thigh to half halt him, and to get nice lateral work out of him.  Buddy, being super lazy and disliking spurs, requires a strong lower leg to get him motivated.  He's super wide, and will stretch your legs.  Riding him bareback has really helped keep my leg quiet and grippy.

9. Least favorite thing about riding horses
As with everything else, $$$$$.  I also wish being able to show while having a full time job was easier.  It's fine to have one or two day schooling shows on the weekend and work, but trying to take five days off to go to an A show (if/when I have the $$) is hard. And trying to explain it to my boss is even harder.

10. What does my horse eat
Phoenix- Grass hay, 4quarts Strategy, turmeric, celery seed, BL solution, nettle. Both am and pm
Buddy-Grass hay, alfalfa, 4 quarts Strategy, half cup Amplify, turmeric, nettle.  Both am and pm
McKenna-Grass hay, 4 quarts alfalfa pellets, 2 quarts Strategy, 1 cup Amplify, skullcap, MagRestore, both am and pm.
This is the their winter ration, in the summer when they're on 24/7 turnout they get less of everything and don't get fed hay for the first month or so when there's enough grass in the pasture.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Five Day Challenge - Day 1

Because this is the current temp:

And the front of my house looks like this:

I am stuck inside.  We got between 6-9 inches of snow yesterday, and because I'm considered essential staff at the university where I work I had to go in.  It normally takes me 45mins to get to work, but yesterday it took over an hour and a half.  By the time I left work driving conditions had gotten so bad that the state police had required chains for the main freeway between work and home.  I spent over an hour at the local tire place trying to find chains for my car, which they didn't have because the tires on my Scion (which are the original tires from Scion/Toyota) are a very odd size.  I then had to take the two lane highway home, which normally adds another 30mins.  It took me almost 3hrs to get home, and it's a total of 48 miles. I didn't make it to the barn yesterday, but I'm hoping to make out today. So onto the Five Day Challenge!!

1. Most influential person in your riding
My parents!  Without them there is no way I could afford my ponies.  They have gone above and beyond in helping me financially when the easy thing would have been to tell me to sell one of the horses. Thank you thank you thank you!!

2. Piece of tack you would splurge on
Everyone is saying custom saddles, and yes I would do that too.  But what I would really love is considered tack.  I would love a big one ton dually pickup like my barn owner's.  I've been lucky enough to use it to haul and I love it!  It's so smooth and handles like a dream.  Of course I'd love a big 4 horse gooseneck trailer to go with it.
Come to mama!
3. Top 5 riding playlist
We usually have a radio playing the local country station in the barn.  And sometime my barn owner's husband will practice playing guitar in their apartment and you can hear it in the barn.  I usually don't listen to music while riding other than that.

4. Most important part of your barn
Its my second home. I'm pretty sure I spend an equal amount of time there as I do at home.  My barn owners have become family and even talk about when they retire from the barn that it will become mine. I've basically become the assistant barn manager, and when the BO's are gone I'm in charge (which is still somewhat intimidating and stressful!). Our barn isn't the fanciest, and we don't have winter turn out, but our summer pastures and field riding are awesome!!  The footing in our outdoor is some of the best around; it can pour rain one day and be rideable the next.

5. 3 winter riding goals
With Buddy our main goal is to get back in flow with each other since I haven't really been riding him for the past 6 weeks.  I want us to be doing 2'9"-3' and see how much of physical toll it takes on him.  With McKenna our winter goals are to be cantering more consistently and I want to start her over some small fences by spring.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Plan

For the short term, the plan with Buddy is to work him up to 3ft during Dec/Jan.  His lease girls are gone starting next week, and then he'll only have one half lease from January-March.  After that things get a bit hazy, as I'm assuming his other half lease will want to lease again when she comes back from studying abroad.  If not then our time line gets moved up.

For Christmas my dad is paying for me to ride in a John Turner clinic at the end of January.  I sent in my registration form this week, and while I really, really wanted to check the box on the 2'9"-3' section I signed up for the 2'6".  It's a two day clinic and don't know if Bud will be ready for two days of 2hr rides at that height by then.  Which leads to the long term plans....

I want to move up to the 3' jumpers this year with him. But he's going to be 18, and while he doesn't have any soundness/joint problems I don't want to break him.  I have McKenna, who in theory should be more than able to do the 3' (not this coming show season, but 2015?).  Long term I can not afford 3 ponies and Phoenix is my forever horse.  So my long term plan for Bud is to put him up for sale sometime in the spring/summer.  I think he'd be an awesome first horse, for either a little kid or an ammy looking to do the 2'-2'3".  No one ever believes he's 17 and he's got years left in him at the lower heights if he's taken care of.  It will kill me to see him leave so I'm going to be super picky about where he goes and a good home is much more important to me than his price. But that's a bridge we'll cross when we get there.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Both Buddy and McKenna were out of whack and needed adjustments when the chiropractor came yesterday. We started with Bud and the first thing she said was how good his top line is looking.  I had been thinking he was a bit thin, you can see a hint of ribs, but she said he looked fantastic. We talked as she worked on him about how he's been and what my plans for him are (which will be another post soon). He was dropped left in the hip and pretty out in his poll, but a few days of easy walk trot and he'll be better than ever. 

Tina had me take McKenna out and lunge her before working on her so she could see her move. Said she's pretty balanced and put together well. I told her about the bracing in the canter and she said that McKenna's neck was out, but that's a typical OTTB thing.

McKenna was very well behaved for her adjustment and took it like a champ. Tina kept saying how nice she was, and that she's got a good brain. She know my BO, and that our barn has a way of finding nice horses cheap/free, and complimented us on finding McKenna. McKenna will also get a few days of light work, then we'll start lunging in Vienna reins, something that Tina suggested. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Proving Me Wrong

For the past couple of weeks McKenna and I have had problems cantering.  She either gets hoppy in the trot and tries to canter when I don't want her to, or won't go when I ask.  When I can get her into it, especially to the left, she braces against my inside aids and twists her head to the outside.

Yesterday our ride was one of our worst yet.  I had lunged her for a while, then set out some trot poles.  When I got on she was distracted and antsy.  We started with some walk trot transitions and every time I would ask for the trot she'd flip her head up and jump forward.  So we did many, many transitions.  Once she would go forward nicely we went back to the 10 posting 10 sitting exercise we did in our last lesson. When I went to sit, she'd get hoppy and try to jump into the canter.  I also did lots of circles and changes of direction to keep her guessing but she never really settled.

We took a walk break and as we came around a corner she took off across the diagonal bucking.  She's given me some mini bucks before, but this was way different.  I thought I was coming off, but managed to yank her head up and get her stopped.  I immediately asked her to back and I could tell that she knew she was in trouble.  I walked her forward until she kind of relaxed then got off and lunged her.  She ran, and bucked, and ran some more.  Once she finally was dragging her head I got back on her.  We finished with more trot transitions and some sitting trot.

I sent a somewhat desperate text to my trainer last night asking for a lesson this week as well as making a chiropractic appointment for both McKenna and Buddy for Tuesday.   I want to make sure that she's not acting out because she's in pain.

Today when I rode, after a lot of lunging, I had no expectations.  There was a horse being lunged at one end of the ring and another being ridden.  A lot of activity for the baby horse to deal with, but I figured we would just do some walk trot and keep it low key.  McKenna was a rock star. Almost no fussing in our sitting trot, coming on the bit, bending well, and best of all, not caring about the other horses.  Once the one horse was done lunging I even braved the canter.  She picked it up well, and was almost balanced.  She still wants to brace against me but not nearly as bad as before.  We were even able to canter while the other horse being ridden was cantering!  I think my new plan for our rides is to not have any expectations and assume the worst.