Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Scenes from SoCal

I had a wonderful and relaxing vacation last week at my parent's outside San Diego.  It was bittersweet; my parents are selling my childhood home and moving to the beach in Mexico.  I haven't lived down there in over 10 years, but it will be weird visiting and not staying there.  So this was my last hurrah at home.
The things you find while cleaning out the house. Me and a TB gelding I leased for a while, Ferrari.  Circa 2002
I did manage to sneak in a ride at my old barn.  My old trainer and I went for a "trail" ride.  The barn in out in the suburbs, but suburbia's been growing.  They have bridle paths along some of the roads and around a big park.  I was riding Royal, a TB gelding my trainer has only had a month, and only taken on the trails once.  I was prepared to die, but he was a very good boy.  The only thing he didn't like was a stroller coming towards him but all he did was stare and snort at it.
Meet Royal, trail horse extraordinaire.
We took a day and went down to see the house my parents are renting in Mexico. They'll be just a half hour or so south of the border and the area is super nice.  Very relaxing and laid back.  I can't wait to spend Christmas on the beach instead of freezing my butt off in Oregon!
Future view
And last but not least, while going shopping with my mom we passed the following, and I of course made her stop the car so I could get the pic:

Monday, April 20, 2015

World Cup Impressions

I'm on mobile blogger, so I'm just going to share a few of my thoughts from the World Cup till I can get my laptop hooked up to my parents' wifi. 

The Thomas & Mack arena is super tiny
. The courses were all twisty turny, with every jump coming up super quick.  

It was awesome to see the best of the best up close and see how they approached the courses. I was amazed at how Beezie would get Simon to some incredibly deep spots, especially to the oxers, and how he just seems to spring over them. 
Rich, his wife Shelley, and son Chris walking the final course. 

The atmosphere was electric when Rich and Flexible came in. I was shaking and the crowd rose every fence with them. At the end of their final round, after dropping to 7th, they got a standing ovation.

Celebrity sightings included sitting behind Shelley and Chris Fellers on the shuttle bus to the show, having Lucy Davis walk next to me as we were waiting in the cab line, and standing next to Marcus Ehning while waiting to buy drinks. I'm proud of myself for not completely fan girling. 

Finally my mom and I were winners at the USHJA booth. I bought some embroidered polo wraps and if you willing to have your picture taken for their Facebook page, you got a free backpack. We snatched the last two!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Reasons to Love TS

I'm on my way to Vegas to watch the World Cup Finals, then will be making my way to my parent's place in San Diego.  So for the next few days enjoy some qued/filler content!

When I first starting using TS as a chiropractor almost 10yrs ago all I really knew was she was a chiropractic DVM in our area who traveled.  Over the years I learned she was a former dressage rider/trainer and still did clinics up and down the west coast. It wasn't until our first clinic with her, maybe 3yrs ago?, that I really learned about her past.

Except TS

TS grew up in SoCal, riding rented horses in LA.  As a teenager she focused on equitation and dressage and at 18 started riding for George Morris at his clinics in SoCal.  She was asked to go back east and TRAIN AT HUNTERDON with GM!!!  She has to have nerves of steel because she declined and went to vet school instead. In college she focused on dressage while getting a BS, MS, and DVM as a Regents Scholar.  Afterwards she worked with Herman Koopman, Major Ander Lindgren and Charles De Knuffy, training and riding up to the Grand Prix level.
TS on one of her TBs.  Shamelessly stolen from her website
TS has a preference for TBs, saying that what she grew up riding and is most comfortable on.  In the late 80s she got a TB stallion that had been showing in the 4' hunters successfully with the intention to show him dressage and start a breeding program with him. Cloned Steel was a 1983 15.3hand chestnut bred to be a sport horse, not a race horse.  TS took him up to Grand Prix as well as taking him to the keurings for some of the warmblood stud books. Cloney placed first in the jumping section of the Trakhener keuring even though he hadn't jumped in years. He was the first, and one of only a handful, of TB studs to be approved by the Trakhener and Dutch stud books.
Unfortunately Cloney has died, but TS has an appendix stallion son of his.  According to her "he never really did anything, schooled up to 3rd level."  She got his from his breeder right when she was getting out of training/showing.  He lives the life at her house and she breeds him to select mares; only mares that she approves of and likes.  I'm very, very luck in that she's offered flat told me to breed McKenna to him.  I've only seen a picture of him, but he's a bright chestnut with chrome like his daddy but has more of an AQHA body.  I'm seriously considering it, in a few years.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Back on Track

I still haven't replied to my MT about McKenna, but fortunately the mare is getting better.  I did some of the massage techniques she taught us working on the big knots in the mare's back (seriously, you could see them).  The temperature's dropped back enough that the horses need sheets on at night, so McKenna's been getting some quality time with my BoT sheet.

She also got a special massage from my BO's new gelding. Apparently both of us have a thing for chestnuts with chrome.
Tuesday McKenna got lunged in some loose set side reins to help stretch her out.  I could tell she was feeling a lot better; I was able to brush her without her flinching and didn't feel near as many knots in her back.  She was surprisingly good on the lunge.  A little up and wild eyed, but payed attention and didn't have any crazy moments.

Yesterday, after a long turnout time in the indoor, we had a pretty good w-t-c ride.  She started out pretty up again, but lots of forward trot with circles and changes of direction helped bring her back.  She felt like she did a couple weeks ago; a powder keg ready to go off but I was proud of both of us for not freaking out and working through it. We didn't do much more than 20mins as I didn't want to push her and she felt maybe a little weak towards the end but I figure we're rehabbing so it's to be expected.
Oregon State, fight fight fight!  Go Beavers!!
I tried the tape test that's been going around on social media.  Apparently putting duct tape on a horse's nose acts like a twitch and helps chill them out for the farrier, mane pulling, or clipping.  Since one of our quarterly goals is to work on ear clipping I thought I'd try it out on McKenna.  For us it was a big fat FAIL. As soon as I put the tape on, McKenna started swinging her head and rubbing her nose on anything she could reach trying to get the tape off.  I tried a few times, letting her sit for a couple minutes with it on but I wasn't able to clip her ears anymore than I normally do.  Oh well, at least we tried!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Best of Intentions

After having a couple good rides last Thursday and Friday just asking McKenna to go forward and relax I gave the mare the weekend off.  My mom was flying in and we were having a girls weekend in the city.  Our equine massage therapist was going to be out Sunday so I had scheduled a massage for McKenna. I got a message Sunday night that the mare was a wild child and when I got to the barn Monday McKenna was covered in dried sweat.  She was also extremely back sore; so bad I could barley brush her.
Enjoy these cute pic from the Oregon Zoo as I have no new pony pics

Our massage therapist has been having massage classes for the past 4-5 months at our barn and I've been learning how to do my own massage.  The past few classes have turned more towards Mediterranean Horsemanship which I'm not sure I completely understand or want to learn.  Basically as I see it, it's another form of natural horsemanship that focuses on free movement, in hand work, and connecting with the horse. A lot of it is very much opposite of what I've been taught. I see how a lot of it could be helpful, but again, I'm not super convinced and it's very hard for me to wrap my head around it. But to each their own.
Here kitty kitty

In the past, when we've worked on our horses in the massage class (it's all ground work and learning the different massage techniques) I've been the only one working with McKenna.  Our MT feels (and I agree) that because she's a young, hot, OTTB mare she's a little too advanced for the others in the class.  I was under the assumption that by scheduling McKenna for a massage this weekend that our MT would be working on her alone, that she wouldn't be used in the class unless the MT was demonstrating something.  My mistake.  Apparently McKenna was used for some "communication with wands" with one of the other students.

In the email the MT sent me today, she said the McKenna and the other student S ended up having some great moments and that she was really proud of them.  She said they worked for an hour and a half, and that when McKenna was done, she was DONE. There was one brief line about how in the massage part of it that the mare's hips felt better, but her back and barrel weren't "she she would have wanted them".  Yeah, no shit.  If I can't even brush my horse's back, there's a problem. 
We might have also gone to the Garth Brooks concert.  Trying really hard to take this motto to heart

I haven't replied to the MT yet, because I don't know if I can without losing it.  I'm pissed that my horse was used in training without me there and without my permission and that it caused her to be even more sore than she was before. I'm also not happy that I paid for a professional massage when in fact I got a "training session" by someone I don't know super well and a horse with a super sore back. I would have been ok if the MT had demonstrated with her, but having someone I don't know, and have never seen work a horse, practice on her is not ok.  I'll take the blame by not explicitly stating that to the MT, but I would have thought she knew that.  There's very few people I trust to work with McKenna and that list jut got shorter.  If it had been Phoenix or Buddy?  Not a problem; they're both super well trained and can't really be screwed up too much.  But not with my green bean of a mare.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sit Like a Soup Sandwich

At least my hair was tucked up in a hairnet and I had a belt on.
  I've always been told to not ride like a sack of potatoes, to be long and tall, to hold my body up and equitate. But sometimes sitting like a soup sandwich isn't a bad thing. I rode McKenna for the first time in over a week last night and my goal for the ride was for both of us to stay as relaxed as possible.

Thankfully my chiro was able to come out on Monday and adjust the mare.  I was at work, but from the note she left me McKenna was pretty sore on the whole left side of her body.  Her poll, neck, and hips were dropped left and out. Tuesday we got new sand in the indoor, so I just turned McKenna out to run around.  Wednesday I just lunged her because I had forgotten the western trainer was coming out to the barn to do lesson and ran out of time to ride.  So after having 9 days off I was worried I'd have an explosive pony to deal with.

Or possibly light my horse's ass on fire
We started with lots of circles, loops, figure 8s at the walk.  When we picked up the trot I would only do a circle or two, or just go down the long side, before coming back to the walk.  Just enough to let the mare stretch out, but not enough for her to build up some steam.  So we did lots of transitions, with some halts thrown in for good measure.  Eventually I started asking for more trot, more bend, more flexion.  It was here that she started to get tense and strong and I felt myself get tenser with my body.  Once I made the conscious decision to relax, so did she.
What "not" to do

As long as I pretended I couldn't ride, or rode like a soup sandwich, McKenna stayed relaxed and quiet.  But as soon as I tried to equitate, or got stiff and unfollowing with my body, her head would shoot up and she'd get stiff and strong.  It was weird to think about doing the opposite of what I "should" be doing, but we had a nice 25 minute walk-trot ride where she didn't get explosive or try to drag my arms out of their sockets.  We even had moments where she was stretching down and seeking the contact.  I think my problem is that I get so focused on getting her round, having my shoulders back, heels down, chin up, soft hands and elbows....I forget about actually riding my horse and doing what she needs. Sometimes both riders and horses just need a super relaxed, go with the flow ride. My plan for today is going to be the same and we'll see if we can continue this into our canter work.
McKenna's more interested in eating the phone than taking selfies

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Weigh-In Wednesday: Skinny Pants

Everyone has that one pair of skinny pants they keep in the back of their closet. Not necessarily skinny as in skinny jeans, but a size (or two or three) smaller than they currently wear that they just can't part with.  Mine is a pair of old school TS breeches.  I love those breeches, but I haven't been able to get into them for 5+ years. 
I forgot just how much I love TS.

Just after the first of the year I got serious about loosing weight.  I downloaded the Lose It! app which is basically a calorie counter.  It's been up and down but I'm currently down just over 20lbs. I was able to get into the TS's last week.  They were a bit tighter than I'd want, but I still have more weight to loose.  My reward for getting to my goal weight is going to be at least one new pair of Tailoreds.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Slip and Slide

Unfortunately over the past few months the footing in our indoor has gotten pretty crummy.  The base has really packed down, and after the footing gets watered it turns into a slip and slide.  When the footing is dry it's not too bad, just a bit dusty.

McKenna had both Wednesday and Thursday off and got turned out in the indoor.  Thursday morning our BO watered the arena but I really didn't pay any attention to it when I chucked the mare out.  She got to hang out for over an hour while I rode Tia.
Ring side seats
Friday when I turned McKenna out in the indoor while I did her stall and almost
immediately she took off and slipped a little in the footing.  I heard her play around while I cleaned but wasn't too worried.  But when I tacked her up and put on the lunge line and she slipped half a dozen times I got concerned.  I moved around the whole ring, trying to find a dry spot, but the mare's hind end kept tripping.  A few times she left skid marks, and got down the arena base.  After one pretty bad slip she came up lame.  Nothing major, just a little short behind, and it looked like she was hesitant to put her weight on her heel.  I walked her out, put her away, and gave her some bute.

Saturday was a gorgeous day so I put her and Tia in the outdoor paddocks early in the morning.  McKenna's normally pretty excited to go out, but she seemed subdued.  I watched her walk and while she wasn't as bad as Friday, she still looked a bit off.  I've got a call into the chiropractor to see.  Later in the afternoon when I came back to feed I put her on the lunge line in the outdoor and she still seemed a bit blah.  She didn't want to move out, would barley trot, and just wasn't her normally happy perky self.

Thankfully when I went out this morning she was acting normally.  Was way up as I took her out to the paddocks and happily bucked and played around outside. She didn't look sore anymore, but I figured a few days off won't hurt anything.  I'm planning to lunge her tomorrow and possibly get on to see how she feels.  I'm having a lesson with Tia on Tuesday and if McKenna's still wonky I'll have my trainer take a look. 

As for the footing, my BO had the big tractor out today working it up.  She did say it had compacted more than she liked and she's got a call in to see about getting more sand.  So hopefully we can get that fixed ASAP!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Let it Go and Just Breathe

McKenna and I had a lesson Tuesday night. It had been storming off and on all day Tuesday, but our outdoor arena was usable. My trainer had another lesson before mine so as I was getting ready to tack up she said that we would be outside. I've never ridden McKenna outside in the wet arena, and with a little chill in the air I was a nervous wreck thinking about how naughty she had been the previous week and what she would be like that night. Note to self: don't psych yourself out before the lesson begins!

I had turned her out in the indoor for a good hour before my lesson, hoping she'd get some of her energy out.  She was pretty relaxed and chill getting tacked up, if a bit confused as to why she had to work when it was dinner time.  But once we hit the outdoor arena she puffed right up and felt super explosive.  I'm pretty sure I had a terrified expression on my face because my trainer said to head inside and that we'd start in there.   I put the mare on the lunge line and let her play a bit, not that she did anything, while my trainer finished up her previous lesson.

At least she looks cute
To start the lesson my trainer had us do lots of transitions by calling out different gaits, never letting us go too long in one before switching or changing directions.  It kept both McKenna and I off balance, which worked in keeping me from anticipating and her from building up too much.  I would have expected it to do the opposite, but that's why I'm not a pro.  We had some decent w-t-c work, not our best but definitely not as bad as last week.  My trainer told me that my mantra should be "just breathe", and that I was holding my breath and tensing up.  And when I'm tense, the mare's going to be tense.

Trainer then wanted to go back outside and conquer our demons.  No getting away with an ok ride and not doing the scary things under her watch.  So back out we went.  She had me put McKenna right to work, doing leg yields and breathing while she set some trot poles.  She set them a little short and the first time we approached I felt McKenna think about just jumping all three at once.  I was told to breathe, half halt, then let go.  And what you know, it worked!  Once I relaxed, asked McKenna to slow down, then released and let her, she did.  Our other big take away from the lesson was to let go.  If I continuously hold her mouth, she's going to pull right back at me and we'll get into a tug of war.  She's not a complete baby anymore that needs her hand held or constant re-balancing.

We did a few trot pole courses, two outside lines and the diagonal lines, never doing the same thing twice.  Trainer reiterated what TS told me at our last dressage lesson, McKenna's too smart and knows when she's done something right.  I can't keep drilling her, I have to constantly switch it up.  We ended by cantering circles at the top and bottom of the ring and trotting in between.  The mare wanted to get uppity, but somehow we managed to keep it together. It's hard to trust that she's going to be good when she keeps feeling explosive but other than feeling that way she didn't do anything naughty.  Forward baby steps are still better than backwards steps.