Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Riding the Rein Back?

Rein back is the kind of skill I really feel like I should have mastered by now, but I really suck at it.

I've been working hard to strengthen Tristan's stifles in particular and hind end in general, and rein back can be a great way to do that. In particular, a few steps uphill can be great.

We always fight about it, though. He tries to squirt out to either side, yank the bit away, or simply swing his hind end left or right instead of going straight back.

If I do get a few steps, it's usually with a very tense jaw and he'll do one or two dramatic strides back and then refuse to go further, and the whole process starts again.

I'm asking by: sitting deep, holding the bit steady (not pulling back just creating a barrier against going forward), keeping my thighs open/loose, and giving a light leg cue at the girth with both legs. I almost always also give the verbal cue "back!" which is a carryover from on the ground.

I could do this in hand - and I probably should - but it irks me that I can't do a good job of it under saddle.

So, blogosphere, what am I doing wrong? How do you cue & train the reinback?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Current Schedule

I seem to have - somewhat by accident - fallen into a riding schedule.

This is not a bad thing! Though I do occasionally wonder if it will get stale. So far, so good.

Sunday: hack (20 minutes or so, usually bareback, focused on mental health)
Monday: dressage intensive (40+ minutes, drilling down on one specific thing)
Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday: longeing (20-30 minutes, side reins)
Thursday: light dressage (20+ minutes, focused on getting in & getting out to nail an overall feel)
Friday: fitness (40+ minutes, hill work, trot sets, long canters, whatever needs tweaking)
Saturday: OFF

last week's dressage intensive

Tristan has always been a harder horse to manage mentally than physically. He just does not love to work, and he really does think things over and benefit from that during time off. At the same time, he's 22 years old, and he is healthiest when kept in regular work.

I am constantly playing catch-22 with his work ethic. His first answer to everything is NO. It has been for over a decade now. That's never going to change. However, his confidence in the work that follows my YES is a really tricky thing to manage. The better his work is going, the more confident he is, and after a warmup he can be downright pleasant if we're on a good streak. The opposite is true: if we're on a bad streak, the ride is just a slog from beginning to end.


The only way to fix that is to get good work back again, but then you're fighting an uphill battle. How do you get back to good with a horse who is in a grumpy spiral? Time off. Lots of finesse. Backing off intensity - but not too much, because muscle melts off his Cushings body like butter. Lack of muscle means he's less confident in the work, which puts us back at square one. In that same vein, getting too excited about good work means I push too hard, which leads to a backlash.

It suits me, in a way. I would not do well with a horse that has to be ridden every day. My life is too unpredictable. Similarly, the careful constant management teaches me so much as a rider and a horseperson. I'm a really practical person and that sometimes leads to a lack of empathy on my part. Tristan teaches me every day that each small action and decision I take has bigger ripples.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

House Post: Man Cave, FINISHED


When last we left it, the weird bonus room was well on its way...and there it sat, for lo, many months.

Last weekend? The in-laws came to visit again (I love them so much) and we finished it!

But before I show you final pictures, I would like to revisit once again our before picture: what this room looked like when we moved in.

Oh, boy.

What does it look like now, you ask?


So, this past weekend, we finished the trim and put in the floor. By "we" I mean my husband and his parents; I had to work, and then my "help" consisted of snuggling the dog (who clearly needed it, I mean, look at her) and then working on the dining room some more, which is almost done.

Progress photos, you say? Happy to oblige.

Now I'm pushing hard on the dining room and the garage, with both to be done in 2017, hopefully.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Really great assortment of reading this week!

I'm considering doing a blog highlight each week; if you reach out to me and describe your blog and share your 3 favorite posts, I'll put it up top in this post. Does that sound like it would be appealing, both to read and to submit your own info? Let me know!

Canyon Fire 2 Horse Evacuation Story from Saddle Seeks Horse
There are so many awful things going on right now, and reading this made them hit particularly close to home. I teared up a few times reading it. I'm so glad everyone was ok.

The Lone Survivor from Not So Speedy Dressage
If you want to learn more about barns that haven't been as fortunate in the California fires, and how you can help, read this.

The Biggest Change in My Riding from The Roaming Rider
I looooooove this. It's something I struggle with more or less constantly. I am too reactive in the saddle.

Lauren Billys Collecting Supplies for Puerto Rico’s Horses from Eventing Nation
Puerto Rico is another of those horrible ongoing disasters. Here's how you can help the horses there.

Yep, I'm Crazy from Cob Jockey
I...kind of love this trailer? I would never have thought I would, but! It looks awesome!

Horse Trailer Insurance from Cob Jockey
I learned things reading this, and I thought I was as obsessive as it's possible to be about horse trailers.

Well that dream died a quick death from The Roaming Rider
As you can guess from the title this isn't exactly a happy post - but it is informative and good to think about what happens when plans fall through.

Figuring out a Gym Schedule from A Enter Spooking
Ugh. Linking this for my own personal motivation. I'm still eating well but my exercising has been shit lately.

Printable Pony Rebrand from The Printable Pony
I've long admired this small business; go check out their new website!

Blog Hop: Truck and Trailer Set Up from Hand Gallop
This is so freaking cool I am speechless.

The Hexagon Leg Yield from Dotstream
Whooooooa I love this.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

When it rains, it pours: back in front shoes

So Tristan had chiropractic work on Friday, after much angsting on my part and carving room in the budget for it. He felt much more free through his neck on Sunday, so I was glad I did it.

Then on Monday afternoon, the barn manager called. The farrier was there, and wanted to talk through Tristan's right front foot.

Yes, that right front. The problem child. It's been over five years since it first started causing problems. If you're new to that saga, start reading the abscess tag. Here's the foot progression collage. Short version: he had a stress fracture of the coffin bone that separated, got infected, abscessed, and had surgery, and that foot has never been quite right since.

It's always grown slightly wonky, thanks to the scar tissue from the original injury and the abscess insult to the coronet band. Well, the farrier was telling me over the phone that over the last few months it's been resulting in a mechanical instability at the toe - not due to bad balance, but rather to the way the foot itself was growing. That had now resulted in some separation at the white line, a bacterial infection, and a growing crack.

I knew the crack was there, and had already planned on talking it through with him, but I also thought it could be dug out with a normal trim. Joke's on me, nothing about that foot is normal.

Verdict: he needed to get it totally dug out back to healthy foot, stuffed with artimud, and then...back in front shoes for stability and protection.

Whooosh goes the money out the window. See, my budget is pretty tight, and it's built around him being barefoot, which, 95% of the time, has been a realistic projection!

Alas, not for the next few months.

So here's the foot all dug out.

It's tough to really tell, but that's a decently deep hole. The good news there is that the farrier really thought it was better than his worst fears.

Tris also got hot shod for the first time, this farrier's preference. New farrier from the last farrier who did shoes on him - anyone remember when Tristan had to get sedated for shoeing? Yeah. Good times. Thankfully, I distracted him with peppermints and he did not put a foot wrong the entire time. GOOD PONY.

Next step, artimud and dental putty.

Farrier said "if you want bragging rights, your horse's foot is so round that I have to use the draft horse pad."

Then, the shoe. Sigh.

GOOD PONY. So well-behaved.

I was grumpy but resigned (also freezing cold, it was 40 degrees and I am not yet acclimated to winter) but then I got on...and we had our best ride in WEEKS. He was forward, he was cooperative, he was loose.

Fine, pony. Fine. Have all the money.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

I've been slammed with work this week so this is somewhat abbreviated but some good stuff in there, including new-to-me blogs. Thanks, 2pointober!

Dream Horse from Eventing Saddlebred Style
I find these posts just fascinating. They're really a window into all the different things people want out of horses.

Full Story: Charlie's Surgery + Treatment
Surgical Wound Care + Bandages from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing
You all know I'm endlessly fascinated by wound care posts, especially ones with such good detail.

More on Baybuilt from Guinness on Tap

Let's talk about butts from Go Big or Go Home
I love this post, on many levels. It's useful and well-illustrated and funny.

Eventing has gotten harder - now you have to jump upright wine bottles from Riding to B
Karen O'Connor is one of my equestrian heroes, and this was a great recap of a clinic with her.

Comparing lunging and riding with Equisense from Cob Jockey
I want one of those riding trackers sooooooo bad and this post just made it worse.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Chiropractor Results


Thanks to everyone who weighed in yesterday, it was all very useful.

The bottom line: Tristan's fine.

His back was pretty darn loose, only minorly locked up.

His biggest points of tension were in his neck, mostly on the left side.

He tolerated the adjustments exceptionally well.

Overall, the vet (who had seen him once, ten years ago, at a different barn, but understandably did not remember either of us) said "you have the healthiest senior mustang around."

That's good news!

I do feel somewhat conflicted, though.

Now the answer is, as always, "ride better."

It would have at least satisfied something if I'd spent a pretty good chunk of money (more than my monthly grocery budget; money I had set aside to buy new tall boots) and found and fixed a problem.

mostly he wanted a nap

I don't blame the vet for that, though. Getting the news that your horse is in terrific shape considering his age and his general health setbacks is reassuring, and for that if nothing else, I'm glad we did it.

But yeah.

Ride better.

Gotta work on that.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What to expect from a chiropractic appointment?

In the last few weeks, I've noticed two things about Tristan.

First, he's tracking up evenly behind for the first time in a very long time. Years, perhaps. I actually trotted him out for the vet this spring to see if she had anything to say about it. She thought it was perhaps some arthritis but mostly weakness and over-protecting. So I focused hard on getting both hind legs to step under in all of our work, and I stepped up our time on hills. It seems like that's been successful!

Second, less positive, I'm hearing a popping sound from behind the saddle. Now: Tristan's front legs have snap-crackle-popped for years when I lift them to pick up his feet. His joints just seem prone to air bubbles (apparently what that noise is) and it's never directly correlated to weakness or pain. Multiple vets and the internet have told me it's not a symptom in and of itself. I think it's lower back, but it could be stifle.

However, he's also been more sour in his warmup lately. Even as he's tracking up better, reaching better, using his back better, he's also stiffer through his warmup. More flailing. More reluctance to trot initially, and that's a rock and a hard place for me: if I don't push him to be forward right from the first step, I never get it. So when I push him to be forward, he's unhappy but it results in a better ride after the warmup; when I let him shuffle along slowly until he's more responsive, it's a shit ride from start to end but at least he's a bit happier at the beginning.

the goober in question after a recent dressage ride

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I have finally pulled the trigger on something I've thought about for a while now: scheduling a chiropractic assessment and adjustment. Vet is coming out tomorrow.

I've never had it done before. I haven't had time to properly research it. I just know that a) it's helped me a lot in the past b) a lot of people in blogland swear by it and c) the ways in which he is exhibiting sourness make me think it's not a muscle soreness but a stiffness.

So, I crowdsource this: what should I expect? He's generally stoic about pain; will he be too sore to ride after the appointment? Have you seen a huge difference in your horses, or no difference? Anyone with senior horses who uses chiro? Anything I should make sure to ask or discuss with the vet?

Obviously this will all be a conversation with the vet tomorrow too, but I'm fiddling my thumbs anxiously and hoping I've done the right thing so would like some opinions before we talk!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekly Blog Roundup

Kinda short and sweet this week.

What is hot? from The Repurposed Horse
An endlessly fascinating debate for me; I have for most of my life preferred kick rides, but I'm starting to want something with more natural GO.

Frugal October from A Gift Horse
I know these feels all to well.

10 Great Things About Boarding from Oh Gingersnap
YES to all of these. I love my barn.

Gone to Ground: Hunt Recap from PONY'TUDE
siiiiiigh. Living the dream!

Buyer Beware from The $900 Facebook Pony
The equestrian version of the Craigslist rental scam...

Grooming essentials from Beyond the Shedrow
I often think I fall onto the minimalist end of this spectrum, so it's always interesting to me to read what other people use.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2pointober Bseline

It's that time of year again!

Last year, my baseline was 47 seconds. My final time ended up as 5:12. Yay me.

This year, my baseline is 25 seconds. I suck. I guess that leaves room for improvement?

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 Goals: August & September

I failed and didn't write August in time, so you get a twofer. Lucky you.

January Recap
February Recap
March Recap
April Recap
May Recap
June Recap
July Recap

Horse Goals - original post here

1. Put hands on my horse 5x a week - Mixed. The good weeks were good, the bad weeks were bad.

2. Be less perfunctory - Backslid on this. Needs more attention.

3. Aim toward dressage schooling shows - We did a show! I still have to recap it (if you don't blog about a show did you really even ride?) but I swear we rode two Training tests over Labor Day weekend.

4. Take more lessons - I did a late August lesson that was terrific.

5. Horse-specific income stream / funding emergency fund - The income stream is coming along beautifully. I plan to sell things at a barn tack sale on October 28 and then put them up for general sale on November 1. Watch this space!

The emergency funds. Sigh. I'm going back to the numbers to keep myself accountable and because I hope to close out the year with a bang. The good news is that all of the vet bills (and the associated credit card bills) are paid off, so I can actually build instead of simply plugging holes.

Emergency fund: $4,100/$15,000
Tristan's savings: $0/$1,500

6. Do more thoughtful work - Yes. I'm generally pleased with this.

7. Get more media - I'm doing better with this!

Life Goals - original post here

1. Pay off car - Today I scheduled my last payment for November wooooooooo!

2. Read 75 books - 72/75, CRUSHING IT.

The Island Stallion - Waler Farley
A Beautiful Mind - Sylvia Nasar
All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders
The Black Stallion and Satan - Walter Farley
The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt - Walter Farley
Al Franken: Giant of the Senate - Al Franken
Trish Trash: Roller Girl of Mars, Vol 1 & Vol 2 - Jessica Abel
Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad - Christie Golden
The Stars are Legion - Kameron Hurley
The One Thing - Gary Keller
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi
White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf - Aaron Bobrow-Stain

Best thing I read in this period was Al Franken's book. Worst thing was White Bread. Talk about taking your compelling argument and beating it into the ground.

3. Revive history blogs - sigh.

4. Do better about food - Yes! Doing pretty darn well! Down 30lbs, doing better with overall energy and health. I need to wrestle our grocery budget back into normal order - I've been doing too much midweek last-minute shopping - and clean out the pantry to cycle food through, but I'm generally happy.

5. Decorate the house - YES! I finally put up some more wedding pictures, I have started to think through a plan for the living room shelves, and I'm going to make a list of the frames we need to get all the art we bought on the honeymoon up on the walls.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

House Post: More Basement Insulation

The project that's never done took some big steps forward last weekend: I added Roxul insulation to the basement ceiling.

To recap the plan: we had a contractor spray 1" of closed-cell spray foam on the ceiling to serve as a vapor barrier & air sealant. We built a wall to separate the garage from the main basement.

Last week, I used Roxul insulation to add on top of the spray foam. I had the week off for a staycation to work on the house and try to give my brain a rest. I told myself I had to work an hour a day on the basement; on day 1, that meant about two packages of insulation, or 12 batts total.

This stuff; two of these at a time.

I dressed to the nines: jeans, long sleeved t-shirt, baseball cap, protective goggles, respirator. I did it first thing in the morning, and then took a long shower afterwards. Roxul isn't quite as bad as the pink fiberglass stuff, but it's still not great to get on your skin or to breathe in. 

By the end of the week, I had both run out of insulation (and the budget to buy more, sadly) and improved my time quite a bit: two packages on day 5 took me about 30 minutes, or half as long. I am guessing that I need about 4 more packages of insulation, or about $140 worth. I have until mid-November to figure that out, which is when my dad is coming to help put up the drywall.

On the one hand, the actual doing of it wasn't a ton of fun. It was a lot of lifting and shoving above my head. On the other hand, it was straightforward, simple, and enormously satisfying to see happen.