Thursday, February 27, 2014

IHSA Problems

I know more than a few of you out there rode for IHSA in college (as did I; I anchored the walk-trot class for the team because I had no show record and we were perpetually short of beginners, go me), and this Tumblr is hilarious.

IHSA Problems

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Some small pieces of progress!

My hand is still healing but I've downgraded the type of bandage I'm using and I am slowly regaining mobility. Should be able to ride by the end of this week. I'm scheduled for barn chores this weekend.

In the meantime, still free longeing. Last night I got back to work after a few days out of town visiting family, and Tris was fresh and raring to go. He bucked and farted and galloped around and was generally naughty for quite a while once I asked for a trot.

We did some work on discipline issues: if you're going to spin around and let fly with your hind end and generally give me the middle finger, then you are going to keep moving, no matter what. I would test him occasionally in asking him to turn or waaaaaaalk, and when I got an immediate, obedient response he was allowed to walk again. If not, back to the big forward trot for him!

I'm actually really liking what the free longeing is doing for him: it allows me to really focus on his hind end engagement and get him moving forward and through. Without the added complication of the longe line that's all we're doing - and since he's free longeing, I don't have to worry as much about torquing his joints and/or overdoing it. He's basically going 'round and 'round the arena in exactly the same way he would under saddle.

So he has to have a big forward walk and trot and use his back for the entirety of the work, which is doing great things, I think. He's still clearly gaining muscle through his back and neck and hindquarters. It's so nice to see the progression! Last night, some of his big forward fancy trot had a ton of suspension (caveat: for him); his front feet were practically floating off the ground for a few strides at the time as he sat back on his hind end and really engaged his hocks.

It also lets me really see any imbalances. For example, right now his right hind is tracking...maybe 1/2" shorter than his right hind. So we worked to the right and through transitions to get him to step under more, to flex that hock more. It didn't say to me pain or problem, just stiff and a bit uneven.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Why yes, I was an adorable pouty little moppet! I was probably glaring and wondering why I couldn't hold the reins.

Free Longeing Some More

Against all odds, I made it to the barn last night for about 1.5 hours in the middle of a 14 hour workday. I even beat evening grain, which doesn't always happen!

We free-longed again and he is getting even better. We had one or two incidents early on, and near-ish to the end when he was getting bored and sick of me he let fly with his hind end in my direction and took off, but he regretted it. (You want to run, pony? Go ahead, keep running!)

I like free longeing right now; even though I still can't grip a longe line, I can get and keep him moving, and he travels the entire circumference of the indoor, so it's easier on his joints. I can control his stride and keep him forward, and praise when he stretches down. It's even a little bit of exercise for me as I jog alongside him in the trot. And it's great for our communication: by the end of the session he was adjusting his gait and position by my body language alone, and his response to voice commands had sharpened up considerably.

We did 10 minutes of walk each direction, 5 minutes of trot each direction, 2.5 minutes of walk-trot transitions both directions, and then a few minutes of trot-canter transitions; I didn't time those. I basically ran him through a few until I felt he was responsive and had a smoother transition and then called it quits. I wanted to drill the walk-trot more for muscle-building purposes.

Tonight, hopefully more of the same, and then out of town for four days - of course, four of the nicest days we've had in months. It might even hit 40!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Product Review: Easy Boots Rx

EasyBoot Rx

After Tristan had his surgery, the debate was between hospital plate and hoof boot. Hospital plates are a special kind of shoe that supports a flat piece of metal that covers the bottom of the hoof. They're protective and supportive.

However, in those days, Tristan's hoof was actually open on the front as well (see the foot progression collage for an example of what I mean) and needed protection all around.

The vet clinic recommended these EasyBoots, so I measured away and ordered them. He wore them 24/7 for 8 weeks on both front feet - both shoes were pulled and we wanted to keep them even so there was no compensatory lameness. The first 5 weeks or so were entirely on stall rest, and the remaining three were on limited turnout in a small gravelly area. His RF (the surgery foot) was wrapped 24/7 under the boots.

I ordered two size 4 boots, which were the correct size for him, but had to buy a size 6 from the vet clinic - in the first early weeks, we were wrapping his foot with multiple layers of gauze, vet wrap, and then Elastikon on top of that. Eventually we transitioned down to the 4 on both fronts.

Pros: they were really easy to use, opening up in the right way and sliding on. Sometimes it wouldn't settle 100% on the hoof but usually asking him to pick his foot up and put it down again fitted the hoof right in. They do exactly what they are advertised to do, and it was rare for me to find even a shaving down inside. He only pulled them off once or twice. They function very much like the SoftRides and are a much better price (usually running about $75 per boot, as opposed to $200 per pair). They are also sturdier than the SoftRides and can be used for limited turnout.

Cons: they are not really for turnout. Wear & tear accelerated significantly when Tris started going out a little bit. The elastic that tightens the top of the boot wore out relatively quickly, but I was pulling it extra tight to try and keep more of an antiseptic environment. The boots weren't exactly going to fall off, but there was noticeable stretching. The fabric tore a bit in the area where the two pieces come together - you can see it in the bottom left of the photo above. They MUST be worn barefoot - a shoe would have shredded the inside of the boot in short order.

My biggest complaint: those air holes? Did not work AT ALL. His feet were constantly damp. I tried shaking in talc powder to soak it up and that mostly created a paste inside the boots. His soles and frogs were a wreck after 8 weeks, because they were constantly steaming. Thrushy and mushy. I had to do a fair bit of remedial treatment to get them back online after he came out of the boots. He was just standing around his relatively clean stall, too - at no point did these boots EVER come in contact with serious moisture. If he could have spent even a few hours out of them I think that would've allowed everything to dry out, but he couldn't. Better than the alternative of re-infecting the surgical wound, but the moisture was a constant battle.

In conclusion: these do what they say they do, and for a decent price. They are useful if you find yourself in a situation that requires therapeutic booting.

Songs About Horses: Tickle Cove Pond

One of my favorite Pandora stations is my Great Big Sea mix, which I have carefully cultivated to be mostly rousing songs that I can sing along to, even if they're more sad than not. It's a good cleaning channel.

Tonight I turned it on and up came a song called Tickle Cove Pond, which I hadn't heard before. It's about an accident with a draft horse on an icy pond. Don't worry, it has a happy ending!

(um, also ignore the awful videographer commentary, I couldn't find a clean version of this on YouTube.)


In cuttin' and haulin', in frost and in snow
We're up against troubles that few people know
And it's only by courage and patience and grit
And eatin' plain food that we keep ourselves fit
The hard and the easy we take as it comes
And when ponds freeze over we shorten our runs
To hurry my haulin' with spring coming on
Near lost me a mare out on Tickle Cove Pond
Lay hold William Over, lay hold William White
Lay hold of the cordage and pull all your might
Lay hold of the bowline and pull all you can
And give me a lift with poor Kit on the pond
I knew that the ice became weaker each day
But still took the risk and kept haulin' away
One evening in April bound home with a load
The mare showed some halting against the ice road
She knew more than I did as matters turned out
And lucky for me had I joined her in doubt
She turned round her head, with tears in her eyes
As if she were sayin', "You're riskin' our lives"
All this I ignored with a whip handle blow
For man is too stupid; dumb creatures to know
The very next moment the pond gave a sigh
And down to our necks went poor Kitty and I
For if I had taken wise Kitty's advice
I never would take the shortcut on the ice
Poor creature she's dead; poor creature she's gone
I'll ne'er get my mare out of Tickle Cove Pond
So I raised an alarm you could hear for a mile
And neighbours turned up in a very short while
You can always rely on the Overs and Whites
To render assistance in all your bad plights
To help a poor neighbour is part of their lives
The same I can say for their children and wives
When a bowline was fastened around the mare's breast
William White for a shanty song made a request
There was no time for thinkin', no time for delay
Straight from his head came this song right away
Chorus Final
Lay hold William Over, lay hold William White
Lay hold of the cordage and pull all your might
Lay hold of the bowline and pull all you can
And with that we brought Kit out of Tickle Cove Pond

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Transformation Tuesday

Hullo to everyone who has come over from She Moved to Texas!

And thank you to Lauren for featuring my journey with Tristan on her Transformation Tuesday series. For those of you who don't follow Lauren, you are seriously missing out on a great horse blog. It's a must-read for me every day.

For those of you who haven't been here before, welcome. :) Apologies for the winter doldrums that have characterized us of late. If you're curious about what we've been up to in the recent past, 2013 was an insanely eventful year and not really in the good way that my blog title generally hopes for, ie lots of eventing. The 2013 Year in Review post is a good place to start!

Another Day

Thanks everyone for commiserating with me yesterday. I threw myself into more cleaning, folding clothes, etc. and when the boyfriend got home he dug my car out and I headed to the barn.

I ended up free longeing Tristan in the indoor for about 40 minutes, walk-trot-canter. He behaved beautifully. Our control and focus while free longeing is a bit of a work in progress, and sometimes he doesn't cooperate - gallops to a corner bucking away and then refuses to come out, or heads to the gate and hangs his head over looking for someone to take him back to his stall.

Last night we worked through some stiffness (horses are on limited turnout with all the snow, and even when turned out he's not doing much beyond stuffing his face with a round bale) and he ended up with a nice smooth forward walk and trot, stretching down of his own volition in the trot. Canter was a little wonky; he was throwing his hips inside during the transition, and without a longe line I couldn't correct it, so I didn't want to work too much on an incorrect gait.

Hand continues to heal, and hopefully we'll continue to free longe this week and then next week I can ride again.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The blahs

I had to call off my barn shift today on account of still not being able to make a fist or grip with my right hand.

I tried to start my truck but the battery was dead. Called AAA to get it jumped. Ran it for 10 minutes. Still dead on the other side. Will have to call them again to get it out of the driveway to get it inspected next week.

I have been trying to clean the apartment, one-handed, all day, but am hardly making a dent and I kind of want to throw everything away. I can't do any deep cleaning because I can't get my hand wet. (And let me tell you, taking showers with my dominant hand wrapped in plastic and held above my head is getting SO OLD.)

I tried to clean tack but couldn't get the lid off my tack soap one-handed and so had to wipe my saddle down with water and clean it a little bit with some backup liquid tack soap that I don't like nearly as much. Discovered I am out of leather conditioner. Didn't really get a good deep clean anyway (see above re STUPID HAND).

I just tried to shovel awkwardly one-handed to get my little car out of its parking space, which has mostly left me with a sore left hand and a bruise on my ribcage from balancing the shovel and an aching right hand when I tried to use it.

And the car is still stuck. Not going anywhere. I haven't even seen my horse in a week and now I still can't. I have spent all day thinking of ways I can get him some exercise with one hand and had finally settled on free longeing in the indoor and now not even that will happen until maybe my boyfriend gets home at which point I'll have wasted the only sunny day we'll have this week.

I have to go to a family reunion this week that is feeling less like a nice weekend away and more like a series of command performances in which the agenda, menu, location, and social choices have been chosen for me and which I must follow under pain of Disappointing Your 90 Year Old Sick Grandmother (Not To Mention Your Parents). So there goes another weekend of riding.

I am basically feeling like the most lazy, useless, worthless human being on the face of the earth.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


We got somewhere between 14" and 18" in the snowstorm yesterday. Business more or less as usual. In fact, people were mostly thrilled - good skiing this weekend! Some schools canceled, and for me work closed an hour early when it became clear the snow would impact the evening commute as well. Since I walk to work, I stayed to catch up.

I wish I could ride in it, but we're heading out of town tomorrow to visit some friends. Hopefully enough will still be there Monday...and I can finagle a way to hold the reins without really using my right hand? Hmmmm.

In the meantime: have a cool photograph. This was taken near Crystal Lake Falls in Barton, VT in 1941. Before snowplows, rolling and/or scraping snow was the order of the day. The idea was not to get ride of the snow but to make it a smoother surface for sleighs to travel on. In the 1940s, Vermont didn't have an interstate highway system or really even much in the way of paved roads - or electricity. It's still a very rural place, but not quite like this anymore!

(Photography courtesy of the VT Agency of Transportation/Department of Highways: Vermont State Archives and Records Administration)

Friday, February 14, 2014

For crying out loud...

After two days of being flat on my back with a nasty stomach bug, I started feeling better late morning yesterday.

So I decided to do some dishes, and when I reached inside a glass to scrub the bottom, it explodes in my hand. I rinsed it in cold water and did a pressure wrap but an hour later it still wanted to bleed, so off to the ER I went.

No stitches, thankfully, though I was right on the line. Steri strips and glue and a tetanus booster and instructions not to use it much for the next few days. Typing is difficult. Riding is definitely out, and since it's my dominant hand, so are most other things.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


I am alive but exhausted and busy. Will have photos and lesson notes later tonight or maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, HOLY CRAP.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Spicey Pony

I snuck away from work for a little while today, in the middle of my second 12 hour day in a row. Because I only had a very small window, I just tossed Tristan on the longe line nekkid. Halter only.

He was pretty up, and blew right through my commands to start with, and did a fair amount of bucking and farting and cavorting when I asked him to walk on. Then the apprentice barn dog, a 12 week old Australian Shepherd, thought it would be great fun to caper about with him, and Tristan agreed.

Tris actually loves dogs and the puppy was lucky that was the case; he would run a step or two along with Tris, and Tris took off bucking and farting. The puppy spooked and sprinted back in the aisle and then snuck back in for a few more steps.

I don't mean to say I was making light - the puppy was clearly not allowed in the ring, but Tris was being enough of a handful that I couldn't shoo the puppy out myself. He would leave the ring when ordered but only for a few seconds, and after three or four play attempts the barn manager arrived and dragged him back to his crate in the tack room.

After that, Tristan settled down to be a bit more workmanlike. He had some nice stretching out and some big forward movement. We worked on transitions for a while, particularly tracking left. His left hind has always been weaker, so we really worked hard at walk-trot and trot-canter transitions on voice command. They sharpened up nicely, and we schooled them a bit to the right.

Tristan is so often so laid back and quiet that it's easy to let him be a little sloppy in his voice commands, so today was a good opportunity to really drill those. We also worked on halt-walk and ground tying. I also worked a bit with a new voice command I'm installing, turn on the longe line. It's only useful when longeing in his halter like this. He turns to the right nicely but doesn't always want to turn to the left.

In all, I was pleased with the work he did, even if it was only 25 minutes or so. I had a nicely forward and responsive horse, who kept one ear and eye on me at all times and was responding to my body language. I'll get up early tomorrow before work to ride, and then Sunday and Monday am covering for barn chores so I'll ride after both those days as well.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What color looks best on your horse?

Tristan is a funny sort of color. He's a deep red in the winter, and in the summer he's quite distinctly more roan. His mane and tail are frosted the whole year 'round. I've tried many different color combinations on him over the years, and always default to black and white, with a hint of gray. I do so wish I could do more colors, though.

I just spent some time playing with a fun tool to design your horse's color scheme. Now, it's not comprehensive, and the interface is a little clunky, but it is a marvelous time waster. (The things you are reduced to doing when you are being dumped on by a foot of snow...)

Here's what Tristan currently looks like to go XC.

I did one for Hannah's Tucker, too, except it needs more spangles.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I should probably duck and run...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New blog design?

I've been toying for a little while with redesigning the blog. Right now, I like the physical layout for its functionality, but the "look" of it is an out-of-the-box Blogger template.

I've messed around with Photoshop a bit, but it's been years since I've really had the chops to do much in that department - and to be honest, I never had the eye.

I've also got a name change in mind to make it reflect more clearly what I'm trying to do, and I'd like to do a bit of graphic design with a not-quite logo that - well, it will become more clear as I implement all this.

Has anyone done a blog redesign? Do you have any advice? I have a very little bit of money (around $50) from my tax return that I can spend for a bit of custom design but I realize that doesn't get me very far...any advice on that end?

Equine Nutrition on Coursera: Week One

So I signed up for the Equine Nutrition class from the University of Edinburgh through Coursera, as I mentioned.

Verdict after one week: loving it.

I've increased my knowledge exponentially and we're only 1/5 of the way through the course. I've been thinking and looking back over my notes a ton since watching the videos. They have great information delivered in bite-sized chunks that are directly applicable to what I want to know.

I'm excited for week 2, and plan to start watching videos tonight!

Is anyone else taking it?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Topline Photos Updated

I actually took these last week but kept forgetting to put them up. Definitely improvement, in particular behind the withers, along the crest, and in the butt muscles.

Previous photos are in this post.

Lesson Notes: Shoulder-In and Counterflexion in the Canter

The plan for the lesson was to warm Tris up thoroughly over his back before it started, and then drop the stirrups and do a 30 minute lesson in shoulder-in and work on the canter a bit.

It mostly succeeded. The catch was a bit that I didn't get him really through and supple enough in my warm up, so we spent the first bit of the lesson working on leg yield at the walk and then trot to get him connected and responding. Then we switched over to shoulder-in, starting at the walk.

Tris and I have both ridden shoulder-in before; it's not new to us, but it's been a long time and we haven't really ever had good eyes on the ground when we've schooled it. Plus, I'm finding that most things are a bit of a re-learning, both because we were out for so long with his injury and because the new barn is much more dressage-focused than the old barn.

So, shoulder-in went reasonably well; Tris had a tendency to be overbent through his neck and not get his haunches through. I had a tendency to hunch to the inside and let my outside leg flop around uselessly. Correcting the shoulders through the outside aids and tapping with the crop helped straighten him out, and discipline corrected some of my postural problems.

It really got cooking in the trot, though: Tris had enough forward energy to really load his hind end, and when I got him lined up, BAM, I could feel the sizzle in his hind end as if I had unstuck a cork. In fact it became a bit too much at times and he got fizzy and rushed and disorganized at the end of the long side, so we then incorporated half-halts every stride or two to collect the trot more. It felt like every pass we made was better than the last and with great substantive improvement. I was feeling his body much better and able to catch when it was going out of alignment, I was sitting more deeply and through and straight, and we had some very nice passes. Best of all, I was really connecting through my core in the shoulder-in - feel the burn!

Tris was huffy and puffy from working so hard through his hind end and over his back in that shoulder-in, so we walked for quite a while, and then picked up some canter work. The goal here was not necessarily to school, but rather more to demonstrate where we are in the canter. Right canter met with approval: I am more straight and deep in the saddle, more even in my hands and seatbones. He's more supple and more flexible and on the outside aids.

Left canter was better than it has been, but still not nearly the right canter. So we did end up schooling that direction for a bit, as he flung his shoulders around on the circle and was not nearly as sharp to the aids in the transition. Trainer had us school counterflexion and back for a bit to get control of his shoulders, and once I got the feel of it, applying it correctly really unlocked some nice things in his left canter. Basically, before each "point" in a 20m circle, counterflex for one stride; then correct flex for the "point"; then counterflex the stride afterwards. It was a way really emphasizing my outside aids, and not allowing his shoulders to rule the day.

So it actually ended up being more like 45 minutes, all without stirrups. Hoorah and huzzah! I felt great, and especially loved schooling the canter without stirrups. It's not an all the time solution - in particular, I can't warm him up effectively without getting off his back and I can't do that for long enough without stirrups - but I loved pulling them for the second half and getting a workout at the same time we did more technical work.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Barn Sour Horse on a Hack

Tristan has always been mildly barn sour. In the outdoor, he bulges his circles toward the barn, and speeds up when approaching it. The first bit of a trail ride involves a lot of kicking and keeping him straight so he doesn't swerve back. It's far better than it has been in the past, mostly due to my better riding, but I think he'll always have some of it. There is food in the barn, after all, and he can nap there and not work hard. It's just the way he's wired.

Yesterday, we headed up the hill to the fields. We ended up doing about three miles in an hour, which is a deceptively slow pace: 75% of it was on a pretty good incline, whether up or down. He was his usual self for a while, but then he settled in beautifully and was striding out and forward on a loose rein, interested in everything. He did have one little tantrum up in the fields, but to be fair, a flock of 50-75 birds took off from the brush and rattled it quite a lot in addition to the flapping noise of their wings. They were only about 15 feet away from us and startled rather suddenly. He danced around a few steps and swung himself toward home. I made him stand and calm and praised him for that, and we kept going.

At a certain point out, though, snowballs were building up in his feet and I could hear both gunshots and snowmobiles in the distance. The land we were on wasn't posted against hunting, and though there were no snowmobile lanes on it, the VAST trails, a series of networked trails for snowmobiling, are a Big Deal in more rural parts of Vermont. I knew there was a loop of it about a mile and half from where we were but hadn't seen any signs on this land - still, it was impossible to say with accuracy where the noises were coming from, but I could definitely tell they were getting louder. I did not want to encounter a snowmobile or series of them with Tris more up than he typically was.

So after I judged that we'd gone a fair distance, I turned around, and that's when the fun started. Remember, most of the first half of our ride was going uphill; going home meant lots of downhill. And he was a jigging, snorting, recalcitrant asshole for every.single.step. I sat deep. I talked to him constantly, reminding him to waaaaaalk and stay eeeeeeasy. I gave hard half-halts every few strides. I halted him entirely when he was being especially punky. Nothing worked. I got five strides of walk, once, and that was it. I made sure to reward and praise him every time he relaxed for even a split second and he still went back to jigging and dancing around within seconds. I got frustrated, he got cranky, and with the snowballs in his feet, once we got back to more hard packed road he jigged, slipped, snorted, slipped, kicked name it. I was hating how hard I was making my half-halts, even though he was going in a big fat French link loose ring snaffle - as forgiving a bit as it gets.

Eventually, when we got to the steepest part, I got off. It wasn't worth having him fall to prove my point. We walked in hand about 150 yards through the worst and steepest part of it, and thankfully his ground manners are better than his under saddle manners. He was up and striding out and a little pushy, but not jigging or spooking. When it got flat again, I got back on, and when he was piggish about getting close to the barn I turned his ass around and trotted back up the hill about 50 yards. Then we walked calmly back, and we walked back and forth up and down the road past the entrance to the barn until he stayed on my aids and was listening to where I told him to go.

I led him into the indoor and walked around with him for about 10 minutes - he had gotten himself so worked up he was blowing out, though thankfully just warm and not sweaty.

I still feel wretched about using the bit that way. He didn't much seem to care or notice, but that's not how I want to ride my horse. If we'd been on flat ground, with a straightaway, away from the barn? I would've pushed him forward to burn some of the energy. But on a slippery downhill going toward the barn - no way was I going to let him trot or canter it out.

I love, love, love the roads we have around the barn and the near-endless road hacking we could do, but it is somewhat frustrating that there isn't a flat road for miles. Everything is hills, up and down. It's great for walking and building strength but only at the end of my ride yesterday, after a mile and a half uphill, did I hit a flat(ish) straightaway.

Lesson today, and we'll see if he's tired or sore from yesterday. Tuesday off, Wednesday longeing, Thursday riding, Friday longeing, and Saturday is still up in the air.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

On Learned Athleticism & Balance

Last night, my boyfriend and I went to the family fun night at an outdoor skating rink near our house. It's been open for a few days now - basically they flooded the giant pool and maintained it as it froze - and they celebrated the first Saturday night of its opening with hot dogs, hamburgers, and general merriment. (Vermont!)

I'm no stranger to skating; the boyfriend is a huge hockey fan and has used me to fill in an empty spot on a pickup game roster more than a few times. I grew up in New England, two towns over from Nancy Kerrigan, in the same town that the Bruins have their practice arena, and with more friends than I could count who were competitive figure skaters and hockey players.

It's never been a focus of mine, though; more like, I have always owned a pair of skates and have enough proficiency to account well for myself, but no finesse or higher skills.

Last night, as we started to skate around, my feet cramped up badly within the skates. It wasn't the skates, or any of my motions, and it took me a while to really figure it out but when I did it had me thinking for the rest of the night.

In short: I was applying all the body rules that I have drilled into myself while riding to figure skating. Horses are the main focus of my exercise and athletic endeavor these days, and my body has learned to associate being physically challenged with being on a horse.

I was dropping weight into my heels while skating. I was sinking down my spine, through my seatbones, and keeping weight out of my knees. Every time I wobbled or felt out off kilter, my body kicked in every horseback balance reaction it had. Within the first twenty minutes, this had really started adding up, and my feet were a tight mass of pain, as my heels drove deep into the skates but I was light in the balls of my foot, and my toes were nearly pushing against the top of the boot.

The solution was to skate correctly: put weight more into the balls of my feet and be lighter in my heel, be comfortable with balancing on the edge of the skate, bend my knees more, and tip my center of balance further forward over my knees, rather than my heels.

It was really hard. My body had learned and adapted to a certain instinct and it didn't want to let go of that hard-won skill. I've never been the wildly athletic person whose body is flexible and poised and can tackle anything. I'm not exactly unathletic, either (except in the matter of hand-eye coordination, sigh), but I function best when I'm applying myself to one particular path, and disciplining my body for that.

Eventually, I repositioned myself, and my feet stopped cramping up, and motion came much more smoothly. We stayed for about an hour and the last 45 minutes were much easier than the first 15.

Have you ever tried another sport and found your riding instincts working against you?

February Goals

For reference: 2014 Outline & 2014 Goals

So per the outline, here's February:
Ditto January: Stick to a consistent schedule; build topline & fitness; take a few lessons. 
If all goes well, try a few jumps under saddle at the end of the month.
That should cover it. Nothing fancy, just keep on keeping on. One catch is that his jump saddle is still not a great fit for him, so we might not jump after all until we have the saddle fitter out; we'll see how this plays out in the last week or so.

The 2014 Goals will hopefully see some work on overall organization - there are a few things in our mud room that really need to be sorted through and dealt with. Ditto my own fitness. Ugh.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Some years back there was a mustang with a professional eventing trainer. I think he was featured on Eventing Nation. I remember him because his show name was "Must Tango." Get it? MUSTANG GOOOOOO!

Anyway! Tris maybe was taking some inspiration last night, because he was, as they say, hot to trot from the first moment I sat on him. We had to have a conversation about standing politely at the mounting block until I settled into the saddle, even. (I know some people are ok with horses moving off as they find their second stirrup; I am not, and Tristan darn well knows that.)

It was a different challenge than I ride 95% of the time: how to manage the fired up quick horse rather than the lazy solid horse. He took a half-halt easily enough, but he totally killed the motor when he did so. It was a bit whiplash-inducing, going from a speedy horse to a stalled out one, and it took some negotiation, but once he agreed to take a half-halt and use it as intended, loading his hind end with energy instead of just expending it by going fast, he lifted his back and came through beautifully.

We did not do much fancy work, honestly: some leg-yields, some changes of direction on the diagonal. We spent some time working on staying straight on circles, and changing flexion back and forth, spiraling in and out on circles.

We had some long(ish) conversations in the canter about paying attention to me, and taking a half-halt without flinging his head up and charging off in the other direction. We worked hard on staying in the circle through the outside rein; accomplished in the right lead, mostly accomplished in the left. He was hot enough in the canter that the trainer (who was teaching another lesson at the time) laughed and remarked on it.

We finished with a long forward stretchy trot session and then a fair bit of walking. He got his wind back quickly, but was still a bit warm to finish, so he got a cooler and a bit of extra hay to keep him company until he switched to his blanket and got his grain at night check.

I admit, I'm a bit mystified as to what's making him so forward and up the last few days. Coming back after a week and a half off? Having the round bale all day? Grain increases finally kicking in? Fitness hitting a new level? It could still fade away again, but I hope not. He's fun to ride like this, and it bodes well for getting good work done through the rest of the winter.