Monday, June 30, 2014

Quarter 2 Review

How are my 2014 goals progressing? Here's the 2014 Goals post; I'll go down line by line.

Tristan's Goals
1. Get fit and rebuild muscle
Going really quite well! He's fitter, and his back is really starting to look good. His neck is changing more slowly, but it is coming along. We're now trotting the long hayfield hill in a long and deep frame on a regular basis.

2. Strengthen dressage, particularly the canter
Also going really well, though I can't claim much credit for it.

3. Work on jumping again
I actually have popped him over a few jumps, and an actual lesson should happen in this next quarter.

4. Do a few tests at dressage show
Not yet, but the best candidates for this were always in midsummer through fall. The decision will be between a local schooling show and a bigger recognized show. I have some great options in both directions.

5. Complete a group trail ride
Hmmmm, not yet. Some good options coming up, though, especially with the GMHA member days.

My Goals
1. Get fit!
Hahahahaha. Ha. Damn it. Two steps forward, two steps back...

2. Find a schedule and stick to it.
I actually did a pretty good job with this through April and early May, and then June was like a bomb went off. Back on it going forward!

3. Take more lessons
Hmmmm, not as many as I had hoped for. A few planned for the summer. The big stumbling block here is money: I need to buy a new car in the fall, and I keep coming across unexpected expenses that are taking priority. However, the training rides were an excellent way to address this.

4. Rebuild emergency savings
I've just managed to start this up again, and the plan is for it to speed up in the fall.

5. Be better organized with barn stuff
Sloooooowly but surely. Some progress: I reorganized the trailer stuff, pulled the first aid kit to go over, and consolidated some tack. I need a few hours of good weather to drag out and clean my main tack trunk - it's musty and cluttered.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Travel Bug

I'm catching up, ok?

Most of us have been somewhere with our horse, whether its camping, a trail ride, a horse show or just moving them to another barn. Like most things with horses, sometimes success is just a measure of trial and error. What is your best tip for traveling with horses?

Lots of other people have answered to make a list and check it twice. I do that. I even have a separate sub-list for my trailer-specific first aid kit. To describe it as obsessive would not be doing it justice.

However, here is my absolute #1 tip for travelling with horses: bring way, way more water than you think you will need, and bring it from home.

There are many reasons for this, so I'll break it down.

First, horses can become suddenly picky in the weirdest of ways. Having water that they're used to, from home, diminishes the chances that they'll go off drinking.

Second, never, ever, ever plan on water being available where you're going, even at shows. Biosecurity is a real thing. If you arrive at a show, and the only way to get water is out of a communal trough, DO NOT USE IT. Don't be that horrible example who brings strangles back to your home barn. (I am also fairly neurotic about not letting Tristan graze if trailer parking is in a strange pasture, but I know that's a little above and beyond.) Bringing your own water helps neatly avoid this problem. If there's a hose/spigot available, and you can fill up separately from the main trough that everyone and their cousin has used for their horse, then that's a bonus, and fill up your empty containers before you go home, just in case.

Corollary to this: don't be that person who waltzes up to the big trough and lets their horse drink right out of it. You are the Pony Club poster child for thoughtless horse owner. I'm serious about this. Don't do it. If you must, dunk a clean bucket in to fill up.

Third, you never know how long you're going to be stuck on a trailer. "Oh, it was only a short ride to the trailhead!" becomes a 4 hour wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a hot summer day. If you didn't bring enough water, or didn't fill all your empty buckets from the (safe!) hose before you left, then you can't pull over and offer your horse water and you are going to really, really regret your lack of preparation. I've been hauling horses at the tail end of what was supposed to be a short drive and sat for hours and hours in stopped traffic when a horrible accident closed the entire highway. I was very glad I could have my companion jump out and offer water to the horses.

I never hitch up the trailer without somewhere between 20 and 40 gallons of water, depending on how many horses I'm hauling. I usually fill up four 5 gallon buckets, and then I have a few 5 gallon gas containers that I fill up with water as well. I dump and refill them regularly if I haven't used them up. I scrub them and let them dry in the sun if they show the slightest hint of slime. (I also have 3-5 possible buckets to use for sponging or drinking for horses, so they're not drinking out of those buckets.) I covet one of those big water tanks that tucks under a gooseneck or in a tack room. Someday!

If you're hauling with someone else who doesn't have adequate water buckets in their rig, then it's your responsibility to provide water for your horse and, if you're a thoughtful person, for the other horse as well.

So, there's my lecture/advice. Water: don't leave home without it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Final Training Ride

First: I'm aliiiiiiiiiiiiive!

So I know it's almost July, but let's review my June goal:
Unfortunately I already know that most of June will be a wasteland due to a massive work event at the end of the month. The goal for this month is to keep my head above water: stick to a schedule and keep him fit. 
Possible events for riding or volunteering: East Hill Farm Schooling Dressage (no dates yet), Vermont Morgan Heritage Days (June 14-15)
I was right. June was a total timesuck, wasteland, minefield - pick your metaphor. I got maybe a half dozen rides in the entire month.

The good news? Putting him into training for that month was one of the best horse-related decisions I've ever made. Hurrah and huzzah for that! He kept in work and fitness, and not only that, he made huge, HUGE improvements.

In fact, I have proof. I was able to get out last night to watch the last of his training rides and I have two short videos: the first of his first canter stretch during warmup, the second of a canter further along in the ride that shows some of what his next step is: more sit, more lift through the shoulders.

Finally, I saw this note and had to laugh. Only in Vermont would we still be worried about it being below 50 overnight. (I camped for most of last week for my work event, and on Friday night it was 38 degrees. Yep. You read that right. SO COLD.)

Here's to more horse riding and blogging for the rest of 2014!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nothing Doing

There is a great deal going on in my life, but very little of it is horse-related. (Unless you count the Morgan horse stuff I am doing for work - which is great, but it is not MY horse!)

I rode on Friday last, and don't anticipate riding again before Wednesday next. Which is a huge bummer.

HOWEVER, the ride on Friday was inspiring and difficult. It showed me the whole wide vista of challenges we have ahead of us now that he has jumped up a level.

I've always thought of riding as being a series of plateaus. You climb, and you climb, and then you even out, and when you get frustrated from that evening out sometimes you fall back down for a bit. But when you climb back up you're higher than you were before - and then you're stuck in a flat area again.

Well, we are on a very steep climb right now after quite a long plateau! It will take some getting used to.

Whenever it is I see my horse next, that is. Putting him in training while I am working 24/7 was one of my best decisions of 2014.

July, here we come!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Foot Update

Tristan saw the farrier yesterday. Originally, our plan was for him to lose the front shoes back in April: from the front, it looks like the abscess hole was all the way grown out, and he's always been a barefoot horse before. I wasn't there for that farrier appointment, but the farrier put front shoes back on. I was confused but didn't have time and energy to follow up.

I asked the barn manager to check in with the farrier specifically yesterday and ask what was up, and chatted with her this morning.

The upshot: believe it or not, he's still growing out the abscess hole/hoof damage. Remember, this is the abscess that blew on August 16, 2012. Yes, that's right: this abscess hole has been growing out for 22 months now!

It's barely detectable, but it is still there, and there's bruising in the toe area leftover from the destabilized hoof. He was missing massive quantities of hoof wall for so long it's just taking a while to grow a completely healthy hoof, top to bottom. Because the abscess blew at the coronet band, there's still a lump in the hoof starting from that scarred area.

So he's still in front shoes. He probably will be in front shoes until the end of the summer at least. Farrier thinks he'll need some serious time to adjust to going barefoot in the front again, so I have to think about what would make sense as a timeframe for that, and what combination of toughening work & time off would help him out.

(I swear, I thought I was done with the abscess tag...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

RTR Blog Hop: Superstitions

So, the blog hop asks: What superstitions do you have when it comes to your horses, riding, and/or showing? Do you have any good luck items/charms?

I am actually not an overly superstitious person! I don't really have any good luck charms. I don't have any particular things I have to do before a show.

That's not to say I am not fussy in other ways: I tend to read too much into small things on a day when I'm really nervous, especially at a show. (Whether I can find things quickly and/or in a way that "makes sense" to me, what number I get - not that I have a lucky number, but more if the numbers "fit.") I have a few OCD tendencies in that there are routines I do to feel comfortable, like the ways I tap my saddle after I've put it on. (It's kind of tough to explain!)

The only really superstitious thing I do, in that I feel like I'm reaching toward a higher power rather than my own individual neuroses, is directly related to Tristan but doesn't come into play around him.

I wear a St. Michael's medallion around my neck. It's a small silver-colored piece about the size and weight of a nickel. I got it on a trip to Normandy while I was studying abroad.

Mont St. Michel

I actually got it at a small parish church on Mont St. Michel, which is an island/monastery off the northern coast of France. My college advisor, a very close friend, got married in the parish church and gave me the contact information for the priest to look up and say hi to. We had a lovely chat and I got a behind the scenes tour of the church. (Not the big famous monastery, but a much smaller and more intimate chapel in another part of the town.)

Before I left, I dropped a few euros in the collection box and lit a candle, which I do compulsively when in Catholic churches, though it is at this point that I suppose I should say that I am not actually in any way Catholic, or even really religious. (I lived in a nunnery and regularly attended mass while living in France but it was more cultural than spiritual.) Next to the candles, they had a dish of these St. Michael's medallions, with St. Michael slaying the dragon on one side and a profile of the island on the other side.

This isn't mine, but it looks very much like mine - the saint's side anyway.

When I got back to the city I was living in from my Normandy trip, I bought an inexpensive chain, and have worn the medallion around my neck ever since. It's small and simple and I find it comforting. I've always played with it and fiddled with it on and off since. I've worn it for about ten years now.

I'd worn necklaces before, and had always had the habit of making a wish when the clasp rotates down to the front of the necklace and bumps up against the charm. I think someone told me about it in elementary school.

After I got Tristan, which was about a year and a half after getting the medallion, I found one day that the clasp had rotated down. I was about to turn it back and make a wish when I realized that the wish I'd so often made when I was a little kid - to have a horse - had come true!

So ever since then, every single time, when I rotate the clasp back around, I pause for a second or two in whatever I'm doing and I think about Tristan. I send a quick silent prayer for his health and happiness, I thank the universe for bringing him to me, and if my day is particularly hectic I close my eyes and think about a long fast gallop, or burying my face in his shoulder, or the sweet smell of his nose.

I've only deviated from this a bare handful of times in the last eight years, maybe three or four times, and each has been for another horse: a friend's horse in danger, or another friend's horse who died suddenly and heartbreakingly. Always horses I know personally.

Most of the time, it's my charm for Tristan, and it helps me feel like he's with me even when my life is hectic and I can't see him as often as I'd like.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


The past few days have been neverending cavalcades of Not Good, and life promises to do nothing but ramp up until my work thing, but yesterday!

Yesterday, I rode my horse. For 20 whole glorious minutes. For the first time in 8 days. It was the first time I'd done anything like schooling in closer to 15 days. I fought tooth and nail to carve the time out of the schedule. I got on not expecting anything, just wanting to have the feel of a horse underneath me again.

I asked for softness in the walk. He gave it to me. I asked for more from the hind end. He gave it to me. I asked him to stay soft and round through the transition into the trot. He gave it to me.

I asked for a canter, and I asked him to come through the outside rein, in exactly the same way I have asked futilely for years (and years and years), expecting the flung shoulders, the block-of-wood neck, the hard mouth.

He softened and rounded.

I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I say the following. It is a statement of pure fact.

I have never, ever, not once, not for one single split second, felt my horse, Tristan, soften and round in the canter. Not truly. He may have given up on bulling through for a second or two, but never, ever, EVER has he put his head down and softened to the bit.


Oh hey that's more familiar.

I almost dropped the reins. I yelled "HOLY SHIT" at the top of my lungs to the empty arena. I felt disoriented, like the ground had dropped out beneath me in front - what was I supposed to do without his ears up my nose?

I laughed. I cried. I remembered all of a sudden how to ride a collected canter and put my leg on, and straightened him out, and then brought him down to a trot and praised him to the skies.

I may not ride again for another week, but if this is the change only four training rides has wrought, I can't freaking wait.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Like a Tremendous Machine

I am a Triple Crown atheist.

Real Quiet strained and affirmed my belief: so close. If he could get so close, surely someone could bridge that gap.

War Emblem completely shattered that belief. I still remember exactly where I was and how I felt when he stumbled out of the gate. Spring and summer of 2002, my first year of college, watching the Derby and the Preakness on the big screen, then home for the Belmont, in my parents' living room, kneeling in front of the television, hoping, then heartbroken.

So I will watch the Belmont tonight, and I will have a faint, desperate hope, but in my heart of hearts, I don't believe. I wish I did.

I'm choosing today to remember instead the greatest racehorse who ever lived, in his greatest race.

From William Nack's Secretariat:
He is galloping to the beat of twelve. Aglide, he turns for home in full flight. He opens twenty-one lengths. He increases that to twenty-two. He is running easily. Nor is the form deteriorating. There remains the pendulumlike stride of the forelegs and the drive of the hindlegs, the pumping of the shoulders and neck, the rise and dip of the head. He makes sense of all the mystical pageant rites of blood through which he has evolved as distillate, a climactic act in a triumph of the breed, one horse combining all the noblest qualities of his speed and his ancestry - of the unbeaten Nearco through Nasrullah and Bold Ruler, of the iron horse Discovery through Outdone and Miss Disco, of the dashing St. Simon through Prince Rose and Princequillo and of the staying Brown Bud through Imperatrice by way of Somethingroyal. He defines the blooded horse in his own terms.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life Rolls On

I have ever so many blog updates planned and written in my head, you guys. Things are happening, albeit slowly and sporadically!

Short version:

- training rides continue to be awesome

- hacked Tristan out on Sunday with some trot sets included and he was tired and awesome

- Arya (puppy) had her first extended visit to the barn on Monday, about 2.5 hours, and she was a rock star who slept like the dead after coming home. Win-win!

- I am starting to believe there's a life after Expo (my work event). Said life includes GMHA member days, volunteering at other events, and a polo clinic (!).

Now, if I can just make it to the end of June...