Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blood work part two

Mikey's blood work came back clean, just low in protein. The vet usually recommends the horse go on alfalfa pellets when that happens, but Mikey is already on them, so she's thinking right now. If anyone has any suggestions, please share! His problems are outlined in my previous post.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Vet, Blood Work and Chia Seeds

The vet was out Monday to see a bunch of the horses, Mikey included.

Mikey got acupuncture, an ulcer test, and the vet checked his hock. The ulcer test came back negative (yay!), and he enjoyed his acupuncture. He was sound for the vet, but had some residual swelling on the inside of the upper hock joint so she did a laser treatment on it. It's a new thing she has, so we'll see how it looks today when I go out.

One thing she noticed was a slight muscle wasting, the biggest spot you can tell is under his tail where his butt cheeks don't actually meet. I noticed that in the last couple months, but he's always been slim, and they've barely met in the past, so I didn't think too much of it because he's dropped a little weight. She pulled blood to send off and have blood work done, so I'll have that result today or tomorrow. He works so hard and he's got rock hard butt muscles, but he can't be muscle wasting away.

My trainer and I think that if his blood work comes back normal, that he's worrying off his weight. He's done it before. He shows no outward worrywart symptoms except chewing his stall down. He's always easy to handle and cooperative riding no matter how he feels. He internalizes his worry. How human of him!

Cha, cha, cha, chia! Anyone else remember those commercials?
I also ordered him a 24 day supply of chia seeds. My trainer has a student who uses them, who suggested them to my trainer, who in turn suggested it to me as a possible replacement for the fat food he eats (the idea being to cut down on the grain he eats). There's apparently a lot of good to them, and the worst they would do is not work. Click here to go to US Chia and here to go to Equine Chia to read about the benefits in more depth. I didn't buy from either place, too expensive per pound and I think it's probably all about the same quality (sorry Mikey, I'm not buying you organic Chia). Instead I bought from Get Chia at $5 a pound for the 6 pounds of chia to do the 24 day test that Equine Chia does, but at the 4oz per day level instead of the 2oz level that is in their test. If it works I'll buy the 60 lb sack that ends up at $4.49 a pound. He works hard enough that the higher dose would be appropriate I think. Plus if that works, I can always try cutting it down later for even greater savings.

That's a whole lot of chia, in lots of tiny bags!
Though that's probably best so they aren't all exposed to the air at the same time.
An overview of the benefits of Chia Seeds:

  • Lower the chance of sand colic
  • Improves gut health
  • Helps prevent stomach ulcers
  • Helps with allergies due to the high levels of Omega 3 and Omega 6
  • Anti-inflammatory properties
  • Some calming properties
  • High fat, protein, and fiber content

The sand colic isn't really applicable to me since I live in PA and the only sand we have is in our arenas. Improved gut health just sounds like a bonus if it actually works. He's colicked a couple times before, and I don't want to repeat it. If it helps prevent stomach ulcers, I won't get ompraozle for when he travels. He could use the allergy help since he's a sensitive redhead that gets hives every spring and fall. I tried Smart Shine Ultra on him to great success, but it put his supplement cost at over $3 a day, so I stopped after 90 days when his hives cleared up. That combined with the supposed anti-inflammatory properties makes it more helpful than Smart Shine Ultra, so I might be able to stop his MSM and his hock injections might last longer. I'm not sold on the calming properties, the reasoning they gave didn't impress me, but if it can quiet his mind, I won't do 3-4 days of Robaxim the week before a horse show. I use Robaxim outside the withdrawal period before shows because I spend so much time schooling and primping him the week or so before that I want him to associate it all with being chill, and then the chill feeling carries over when we're competing. He got to the point that when I brought out the clippers and trimmed up his face, bridle path and fetlocks that he'd start his nervous twitching and pooping since he knew he was going to be traveling. Just want to calm the mind a little. High fat, protein and fiber content sounds like a good way to help his hard-keeper feed put weight on him.

Basically for $30, I'll see what happens. It certainly won't hurt him. If I can cut out some other costs by not having him on fat food or the drugs, I'm saving money even though the Chia seeds will run about $34 a month. I'll make sure I get someone to hold him against a plain wall so I can take a before picture.

I also ordered myself some chia seeds, via this drink product. I too have worrywart symptoms, nervous energy, allergies and sinus problems. The US Chia website's page, Chia for People, mentioned it helps with sinus swelling, a major problem of mine. If shipping is already free, why not give it a whirl.

I think it looks tasty!

We have sparkly inventory!

We have in strands (left to right): Light Siam AB, Crystal AB, Light Sapphire AB, Half Metallic Blue, Teal AB, Half Coat Silver, Jet Black AB, Metallic Montana
In circle containers (top to bottom): Cream pearls, Green Iridescent, Metallic Champagne

Close up sparkles :-)

I made a Metallic Champagne one (it's in the finishing stages), and this is my next one.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Second Browband Done!

I spent my Saturday night finishing a second browband! That unfortunately, I cannot sell. As I was fumbling with it trying to get part of the wiring to sit properly I accidentally sliced the nylon thread at the end by the bridle loops and had to sew the darn thing back together. I think I got it patched up well, but that combined with a bad rivet job (not awful, but I don't have the right tools for it so I have marks on the rivets), I am just not comfortable selling it, even at a discount price. So now it's on Mikey's Micklem and we'll see how well it holds up to being in a tack room and seeing almost daily use.

Its beauty picture! Jet Black AB bicones, white lined clear seed bead webbing, and transparent smoke lustre connectors.

Mikey enjoys this new bling.
Addition to this post:

Hubby made me a leather loop and rivet station, complete with new tools :-) Happy second Hanukkah to me!

Love my husband!!

Saturday, December 27, 2014


It has taken me a week to write about this, and I'm not going to say much because this week has been one long, upsetting, event after event week.

Mikey got kicked or something last Friday or Saturday in the hock. The already weak hock. I found it when I took him for a road walk and he walked fine, and trotted horrendously. To make a long awful story short, Mikey moved to the barn my trainer is leasing for the winter on Christmas Eve. It mostly centers around the fact he was going to be there anyway for the vet next Monday and I couldn't monitor the leg as closely as it needed to be since he had 3 different sets of hands on him a day of varying knowledge. It was not in the horse's best interest to stay. There's other reasons too, but that's not for the world to know via blog.

A week later and Mikey is for the most part sound and no more swelling. He tracks well and flexes negative, but you can get a slightly off step by turning him just the right way in trot and his right hind is just slightly slow off the ground.

On Monday Mikey will see the vet for: acupuncture, a pentacin shot, a stomach ulcer test, and now she'll also be checking his hock.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Lucky Numbers?

I got Chinese for lunch today, and found my fortune cookie oddly accurate. Perhaps I should go buy a lottery ticket tonight with the lucky numbers.

Let's hope the browbands are the good opportunity that's coming a knocking. Mikey wants his hocks injected again this year!
Why yes, everything in my life right now is expensive.

New Business

I decided to make a blingy browband for Mikey because the one I really liked was over $200. While this is not similar to that one, it is much more blingy!

"Mom, my face is sparkly... and I might like it."
I wove crystal beads with glass seed beads, went to an Irishman's leather shop to learn how to make the leather ends, and bam, sparkly browband that is almost ready for the masses.

I have a few design things to work out, but as soon as they are, I will post links to my Etsy store and anyone can have one made to order! I have a lot of colors available. I can do Swarovski Crystal or a premium regular crystal (the one Mikey has on is a regular crystal). A Swarovski Crystal one will be outrageously expensive because I need 165 of the beads for a 16" browband, and they are expensive to begin with and bulk pricing means I get 3 packages of 6 beads instead of one package of 6 beads. *shakes head*

Anyway, I'll be posting finished browbands as I go. I have one completed (light blue crystal with white webbing), one ready for leather ends (solid black crystal with white webbing), one almost ready for leather ends (red/orange crystal with gold webbing), one ready to start beading (fire opal Swarovski Crystal with black webbing), and beads on hand for a green iridescent crystal and a cream pearl one.

Stay tuned!!! And if anyone wants one, please comment and I'll get in touch! More pictures to come!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Good Ride After Lots of Dreadful

I rode last night with much better results.

I started by simply closing the arena door after we came in. This is something I never, ever do. I figure if I'm out at a show and something is going on, I can't ask for someone to move, or for a door to be closed, I have to deal with it. I can't deal with it in public if I can't deal with it at home. But last night I was alone at the barn, it was windy, and I really wanted a good positive ride so I broke down and closed the door.

I started in walk with a much stiffer horse than I usually start with. I remembered exercises detailed in Bakersfield Dressage's post that involved working circles in counter bend and how she had had good luck with them unlocking her horse's jaw, so I gave them a whirl in walk and trot as I warmed up. They were quite effective. When Mikey is stiff or tense, he locks his jaw and I haven't found anything that quickly unlocks it- until these exercises. I didn't get a lot of throughness as I was doing them (I still got more than I had), but as soon as I went back to regular bend I had an incredible amount of throughness and swing. As I moved on to my haunches in work, I kept those exercises in my back pocket for any time I met resistance. A quick run through of the counter-bent figure 8 got him soft and pliable again.

Another thing to note is I left my gloves in the barn. I realized this when I was getting ready to get on and I was like, "Oh, no gloves." I had already finagled the arena door and didn't feel like tromping through the wind to fetch them, so I worked without them. Every now and then I like to work without them because I'm more aware of how much pressure I'm putting on the bit, and where my hands are and if the reins are slipping etc because well, my hands hurt and the reins pinch my wedding and engagement rings.

He carried a bit of tension last night, and it became evident as I asked for a trotting haunches in. Without my gloves I felt immediately when I began to smother him with inside hand when he didn't immediately comply, and that made me reevaluate how I was asking for it. I also realized my seat and legs were "screaming" at him when I asked for haunches in left. I expect a problem, so I used more than I needed. The moment I quieted down my seat and hands aids to a minimal amount (a tiny bit of outside thigh and seatbone with soft unmoving hands), he immediately softened and shifted his haunches into a lovely rhythmical 4 track haunches in (yay mirrors! Normally I would have thought it wasn't enough angle, but the mirror showed it was very appropriate). I kept that same thinking as I did more to the left and I had a happier and happier horse who very willingly stepped his haunches in.

I tried the same feeling to the right, and I need to work on getting my left seatbone and thigh to talk the way my right ones do. It was not as clear to Mikey what I wanted, but haunches in right is his easier one, so he was awesome and did it anyway once he figured out what my seat was 'mumbling' at him.

I did a few half passes in trot, and felt the collapse of my right side when I half passed. I collapse my right side, which Mikey does not appreciate. Had to think of it like someone had my right shoulder and was pulling upwards on it and force myself to sit up. As soon as I did that, the half passes got easier. Nothing spectacular, but I had soft ones each way. I'm running into problems with Mikey quitting them when we're about 10ft from completion. He suddenly becomes resistant and refuses to keep tracking over. I think I haven't been insisting he complete all the way to wall lately, so he's just doing what I've taught him to do: stop half passing before you get to the wall.

I moved on to canter, and did a couple canter haunches in before working the half pass in that direction. The half pass left was softer, the haunches didn't lead, but I didn't like the amount of trailing they did either. They had limited cross over but the general idea was still there so three soft ones of those and we moved on the right. I would have kept it at two, except I gave him a pat after the second one quickly on the left neck and he immediately went to trot before we had turned left at C to continue going left. So repeat. The right was not as nice as the left, the haunches trailed more, but it was still soft and he did make it from the rail to centerline in the span of a longside. Two of those, transition to trot, stretchy circle, walk, lots of patting and good boys.

One thing I tried to do last night was say "Good Boy!" and try to work on a pat on the shoulder. He really appreciates those and I have to remember to do them for all good efforts because he tries harder the next time. He was wonderfully through and had his back up all last night, so after 20 min of work we were done. No lingering on anything, do it promptly and successfully and move on!

My hoof wrap from Tuesday did not fare well. I didn't think it would. For some reason I couldn't get it wrapped just the way I wanted, and he wore a horse shoe shape on the bottom and had a flap hanging from his heel. I cut the whole thing off to ride. I had wanted to work with it on so I didn't get sand rubbing on his heel bulb, but I had to try to buff off the mud and dry the hoof with the sand so I could rewrap it. The joys of hoof wraps.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Too Much Going On

There has been way too much going on!

This was a hurried post, sorry!

Friday: Work, my trainer's barn Christmas party
Saturday: Barn work, ride, wrap Mikey's hoof, visit a wonderful Irishman's leather shop, get home and clean up for my husband's company Christmas party.
Sunday: Barn work, ride, wrap Mikey's hoof, deal with new truck and trailer set up and get trailer brakes adjusted again, hurry home to host the husband's parents for the afternoon and evening.
Cue here to have breathing problems start up.
Monday: Work from home because I can't breathe, run to the barn after work to wrap Mikey's hoof again, run back home to change and then go to my parent's house for my husband's birthday.
Tuesday: Work from home because I have a doctors appointment in the middle of the day, run to the barn after work to wrap Mikey's hoof again, run back home to change and then go to my parent's house for the first night of Hanukkah.

During all of which I am trying to get my own business started up enough that I can start making a little money. More on that later.

Which brings us to today, Wednesday. I'm going to ride today, but let me catch you up on how everything's been:

Mikey became sound and moving evenly again by Saturday, but for now, we're keeping the hoof wrapped to protect the heel bulb from hard ground outside and to keep it clean when the ground is mud instead. I cancelled my lesson because I wanted to get Mikey working again before seeing my trainer and my trailer brakes weren't talking properly and I wasn't sure we could have them fixed for Sunday.

Over the weekend I wanted to review half pass in canter and make that function again. I spent Saturday and Sunday either gloriously failing, or supremely winning at half pass. Mikey has become very reactive to the half pass and anything else lateral. The half pass in canter has fallen apart because every time we leave the wall in canter Mikey is trying to do a flying change, but I can hold him to his lead, so instead I get hopping, head tossing, and general disconnection. The half pass in canter has fallen apart to the point where I ask for it, he trails his hind end maybe two strides, then either tries to pull through me or simply just won't move sideways anymore, disconnects and attempts a flying change. I've been working on NOT doing them- canter down centerline, half pass from the wall to centerline so I don't have to make a change of direction, anything EXCEPT the flying change. He's getting it slowly.

I got so angry with him Saturday. We started off long and low to make sure he was sound, and he was, and then I went back to working the half passes again like I do in any normal warmup. He was very nice in the long and low, paying attention and relaxed. As soon as I asked for canter half pass, he began spooking at the arena door and being a reactive snotface.

The little snot has had a good bit of "easy" work, long and low and nothing really expected of him for the past week or so. So Saturday he's good and not spooky, and then I ask for more, and he becomes spooky as all hell. I know it's because he's learned he can disconnect and almost get away from me (he flings himself sideways and gawks at the arena door when we track left), and I have a lot of trouble keeping him on task. I spend most of my energy fighting him and trying to get him through again that I completely miss the start of my next movement. I've tried ignoring the behavior and keep on trucking into the next movement, which is then complete crap. I've tried overbending him to the inside so he has trouble staring out the door (he shuts down instead), I've tried circling until he stops reacting (I was still cantering the same circle 6 or 7 15m circles later with almost no change). He's not spooky when the work is easy, and he's spooky when it gets hard, the little snot.

It got so bad that coming out of every corner he'd break to trot from the canter, making it even more impossible to do anything with him. I'm sure by this point I was interfering quite a bit just trying to keep him round, but when I'm driving my seat like I would for extended canter, pony club kicking, and supporting all that with the hand to keep him from motorcycling his turns, I expect a better reaction than breaking to trot.

Usually when things get this bad, I know there's no fixing it today and try to do something else so we can end on a positive note somehow.

I went back to haunches-in in walk and trot on the rail, paying attention to connection and throughness only. Angle and bend, don't care for now. I need my throughness back. He's far enough along that I have to be able to manipulate him and he's not allowed to become a snotface and offended by the extra work. He couldn't quit until he stayed through both directions in trot.

So Sunday rolls around, and I check that he's still sound and then start immediately into the haunches in. Then swapping from haunches in to shoulder in and back again. I keep going with that in trot until he's responsive (not reactive). He's gawking at the arena door to the left still, but in trot, it's not so bad and it's relatively easy to put him on task again with a forward thinking seat and leg, soft hands, and a slightly open left hand to keep him thinking about what's in the arena. I start the half pass, thinking about it more like haunches in on a diagonal (stand at the start of a half pass so you're looking down the diagonal the horse is going across- it's a haunches in!) than a sideways movement. When I think about it like this, I tend to get the haunches leading, but I can keep the throughness. Right now I have a haunches severely trailing problem, I'll take leading for now and then fix it later.

I pick up my canter both ways, and each direction ask for haunches in on the long wall. To the right, he's very willing to give me it (he likes traveling with his haunches right), to the left, we've started WWIII. Either haunches in or throughness, not both, then bam, there's the door and he's sucked back behind my leg and I'm trying to keep him from spinning while still asking for forward. Whip, spurs, doesn't matter. I end up screaming obscenities at him because that helps me relax and deal with him without being mean to him. Yes it's crude. Oh well. Eventually the haunches in left in canter gets a little better. I decide to keep tracking left and tackle that half pass first while he and I both still have energy. The first one we do (thinking about it as haunches in again) is ok, and I go from the wall to centerline in an unspectacular fashion, but it only disconnected a tiny bit. I go back around again to try again and he's evading me at the arena door again. I try the other diagonal and now he sucks back and gawks at arena door the entire time I'm asking for half pass, because now he's straight on to it. I ended up continuing to work on it until I get another semi good one. I had to use the whip to help keep the haunches moving. The right half pass is much much better, it was almost as fluid as the trot half pass right. We did two of those well, he got a good boy and a pat. I only worked for about 25 min or so.

Tonight I aim to repeat Sunday's ride (hopefully without the gawking).

I wrapped Mikey's foot on Sunday and asked husband to do the duct tape because I can't ever get it to stay properly. The sole of the wrap ends up shredding. Well he taped it, and showed me what he did, and when I came back 28 hours later it was still intact, even after being outside in the mud Monday!

All hail the duct tape skills of my husband.
I wrapped it the same way Monday night, and 24 hours later on Tuesday the wrap was just as good, and it had seen much more mud Tuesday. The hoof was just a touch wetter, but no dirt.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shoeing Issues, Trailer Issues, Lesson Issues *Updated

Just a bit irked about Mikey's shoe. For the couple months I'm at this barn, my farrier's assistant (who is a farrier with his own clients) is going to shoe Mikey because it fits into his travel cycle when he'll already be visiting the barn for another horse and it'll save everyone time and money. He usually does the finishing work after my usual farrier puts the shoes on, so no big deal.

I think I'm about to become that horrible client farrier's hate.

Pros: My horse has a shoe again. The farrier made a special trip out ($$$) to make sure Mikey has his shoes back. I am happy about that.

Cons: The farrier essentially had to do a reset mid-cycle, so Mikey's front hooves are now two different lengths. I can understand this. Mikey is due to have his other feet done next week, so that off balance problem will be fixed then. What I have a problem with is it is the wrong type of shoe, and it looks like the hoof is much too small. Which leads me to believe he was not trimmed the way my usual farrier has been doing it. I really should have written down exactly why they slightly changed how he was being trimmed up front and put toe clip shoes on the fronts. I think it was to make the heel base wider? I'm really not sure, but it was something that will be better for flatwork. This is why I write down anything important. It also seemed like there was an excessive amount of shoe out behind the heel without any hoof over it. I know some will stick out, but this seemed like too much. But I am not a farrier and do not know much about shoeing, so I hate to question the work. Maybe he just didn't have a toe clip shoe in his truck and didn't realize Mikey needed them. I don't know, so I don't want to presume.... but he never mentioned he didn't have the right shoe when I talked to him yesterday.

Ok, so I'm seriously irked about the shoe. I messaged my trainer but haven't heard back. I'm trying to figure out how to word my question of "why the heck does my horse have the wrong shoe on" in a way that won't offend anyone. I also am willing to pay my usual farrier more to make the trip out to my horse. The farrier that put Mikey's shoe back on yesterday shoes one other horse in the barn. The lady that does most of the riding of that horse noticed that the farrier is putting on one new shoe every cycle. Like a rotation of one new, 3 reset each time and it's a different new one each time. I voiced this concern to my trainer (who works very closely with my usual farrier) and she said it did sound odd, but that's not how the two normally work and there's probably some reason like a lost shoe somewhere in the cycle.

The more I talk the more I want my normal farrier out to shoe the horse. There are two other horses that use my usual farrier, but they're 3 weeks ahead of Mikey's shoeing cycle. I'd rather pay for the single horse trip a little before Mikey is due so he ends up on the same cycle as the other two horses.

As I wrote this, I pulled the trigger and texted my question about the shoe to the farrier that set Mikey. Google produced an article about the effects of quarter and side clips vs front clips and it effects how the hoof expands (makes sense). So now I have a toe clip on the right front, and side clips on the left front. The hooves are two different shapes. My horse will most likely not move properly.

I did ride last night, and he was off balance and slightly lame. He did a very good job hurting the inside heel bulb. I'm not sure how much is the heel and how much is the shoe. He did come round and through very nicely for being off (because he's amazing and will work through anything), and I stuck to a lot of walk, some trot and a lap of canter each way with changes across the long diagonal. About 20 min of work. I wanted to work him more since he's been in, but I don't feel right working him that hard. He was very sane for being locked in his stall for two days. Though life probably wasn't too bad. No going out in the rain and wind and cold to eat not so great grass. Instead, stay in the dry warm stall eating as much second cut hay as he could eat.

Mikey is going to wear a betadine bootie (betadine, diaper, vet wrap, duct tape) for the next few days for turnout to help toughen the heel bulb while protecting it from the hard ground. I'll probably wrap it to ride. We did that before when he dug his hind foot into his front on take off jumping a ditch (yes, he was wearing bell boots, this event actually made me buy the Dalmar no turn bell boots that have a carbon fiber strike plate covering the heel bulbs). He ripped the shoe half off, and dug a nice hole into the outside heel bulb of the same foot. That was a fun day, holding his foot up so his clips didn't dig into the sole, all while it bled all over my hands. My trainer had to run the quarter mile back to the barn to get pliers to get the shoe off, and some vet wrap and gauze so the horse could walk back to the barn. I then hauled Mikey so his shoe could be put back on that day. He had about a week off, and then we wrapped it to ride for the next month or so. I had a soft indoor to ride him in at the time, so we were just smart about what we did with him.

Anyway, I'm just getting angry about it. I am supposed to have a lesson Sunday where I haul up to the usual farrier's barn (my trainer is leasing it for the winter), and while I don't want to take him up if he's still not quite right, but I want her to see it so I can either get an answer or reassurance that it will be fine. But my new truck isn't responding to the brake controller box properly, so I may not even go. I hooked up last night to check the drop hitch I use is still appropriate (it's not, I need a no drop or 1in drop), and to check the wiring... Well when I apply the brakes, my marker lights on the trailer go out and the brake lights go on. Husband is already on it. I needed to go to tractor supply and get vet wrap because I can't make it out to the tack shop Saturday to get the cheap stuff, so we'll add a hitch to the list too.

This week hasn't worked out well!


When in doubt, just call the farrier. I could have avoided a whole mess of worry. He couldn't hot shoe because of the smoke alarms (they're wired to a company, so no battery pop out) and you have to to correctly fit a toe clip shoe, so he planned on swapping the shoes from toe clips to side clips. Mikey has been going incredibly well, and I don't want to compromise that, I'd rather everything stay exactly the same. So I contacted the barn owner and asked if I could pop the batteries out of the alarms when he'd be there (that's when I learned it's a fancy security system).  She said I can't disconnect them, but she can call the company and have them turned off while the farrier is working (she does that for her own horses), I just have to remind her in the morning on the day of. I asked the farrier if that was good with him and if he'd be able to reset the side clip shoe (again), he said absolutely. Farrier good, barn owner good, lots of thank yous and praise for both for tolerating a crazy me, and it's all much better! I just need reasons for things, I feel much better!

Now on to fixing the truck (husband checked fuses first, and now he's going to check the grounds in the electric), and hoping Mikey feels up to a lesson Sunday.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Lost Shoes

Well Mikey pulled a shoe sometime between Sunday afternoon and Tuesday evening, not sure when. When I went out Tuesday it was missing (I last saw Mikey Sunday when I turned him back out around noon), but no one had mentioned it to me so I'm guessing no one checked for shoes and because of all the mud, the horses don't make a clip clop noise down the aisle. Slight annoyance there (maybe more than slight, there's only 5 horses), but oh well. He's usually fairly sound when he pulls them and I checked with my trainer about doing 15-20 min of walk (very through and over the back) without it and she seemed to think that'd be fine... that's been our usual protocol with missing shoes and more than 24 hours until the farrier will be out. The sand in our indoor is so light and fluffy, it shouldn't hurt anything. I jogged him down a long wall and he was a bit gimpy, but he was also missing a shoe, so there you go.

The farrier made it out today and put the shoe back on (Mikey's been on stall rest since Tuesday), and said the heel bulb was tender and he might still be off. Basically Mikey did a super job of ripping his shoe off. I'm hoping I didn't add to it since we walked for 15 min Tuesday night. Sigh.

I think Mikey knew we were going to my trainer's for a lesson on Sunday. I'm going to bet that's up in the air if he's not sound when I get there tonight. He does need to go do some work before he's allowed back outside, otherwise he'll jump around like a fool and rip off more shoes or damage his tendon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Getting Crafty

I've been looking for ways to make a little extra money, and I enjoy being crafty. It's taken some time to figure out what I want to make, but here's a preview:

I'm guessing people will know what this is going to be.
When I have the details finalized, I'll be sure to let you all know!

Weekend Rides

I know Thursday isn't exactly the weekend, and Wednesday is kinda far from the weekend, but this post is about my rides from last Thursday to Sunday. Mikey had last Wednesday and Friday off.

I paid for my great lesson Tuesday with a super crappy ride on Thursday. Mikey was spooky, tense and in general uncooperative. I ended up spending the ride doing simple things such as trotting across the diagonal. Anything more complex and he got tense and reactive. I tried some of pirouette work in walk and I had resistance in that too. Same with halfpass in walk and trot. Something as simple as turning off the rail made him want to sit and spin and he did his usual tricks of shortening the neck, not meeting the bit (yet still running through me), and traveling with his haunches in. I didn't put boots on him, and he interfered pretty badly Tuesday (the inside by the fetlock joint of one of his front boots was ripped to shreds). Maybe he was whacking himself and didn't like it. Maybe he was still sore from Tuesday. Maybe we've been working too hard. Maybe he didn't go for enough rides this past week. He needs consistent work (5+ days a week) to stay polite and he ended up with an extra day off. Maybe his feed finally got to his brain (I upped it). I have no idea. I only know the ride was crap. I did work him in his double, but I hooked the buckle of the curb rein to my pad so the reins wouldn't move while I only used the snaffle. He got so uppity and sideways spooky on me that I took up the curb rein to help rein in the sideways. I did get some very nice trot and canter work, but it was simple and straightforward work. Nothing lateral. I tried to find a good spot to quit by that point because it wasn't getting better. Partway through my ride I stopped him and had him bend his head back towards my knees so I could stick fingers in his mouth to make sure the bits were laying right in his mouth. I have no idea. Just a bad day.

I rode again Saturday, and had a delightful ride. Go figure.
I worked him in his Micklem because I think he's on overload and he loves his Micklem. We did very basic things and he was great. I added in some lateral work and he wasn't stellar like he's been, but he was good. We spent some time getting over his fear of the arena door opening. I made sure as we went past it that he felt he could go out the "front door" and move forward away from it while trying not to smother him on the inside aids (seat, leg, forcing him to look in and away from the door). We did 10m circles at the start of each long side going away from the door because that way we ended up facing the door at some point in the circle and I could work on convincing him there's still a job to do. I spent some time in canter getting it forward and through, using the same 10m circles. He was incredibly adjustable and non-bulgy. I think it's a side effect of the canter pirouette work.

It rained beginning Friday morning and continued until Saturday evening. It was an awful wet mess Saturday. The horses have a run in, so out they go! Mikey did not want to go back out in the rain after I rode him.

Sunday I tacked him up in his jump tack with his Micklem and mullen mouth and we did 5 minutes of walk/trot/canter each direction in the arena and then went for a road walk/trot. He was very relaxed and did the walk on the bit and over his back. Even some slower trot work was through and floaty. I love the sound of clip clops on the road.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Our House is Officially a Parking Lot

I started today with a Dodge Ram 1500 and a Toyota Camry. My husband has a 1972 Super Beetle and a Camaro. We added a 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500HD to the collection today!

Getting in to drive it home!
The Camaro lives in the garage, the beetle and Camry live in the side parking spots, and the Dodge in the grass in front of the Camry (we have a long driveway). Well now the Chevy lives in front of the Dodge in the grass. Our neighbors are going to hate us. The Dodge is going to be sold ASAP, and the Camry sometime in the next year.

The Chevy drove very well, is in good shape, and will have an easier time pulling my horse trailer. It has the gooseneck hitch already in the bed, which is nice even though it's going to be a long time before I pull a gooseneck (if ever). It has a engine heater block thingy (I'm very technical), which would be better if it were diesel, but whatever. It's already set up to haul and my husband made a plug for the back that tested the wires to make sure they all worked properly. I think he should design and market them! He had to make one because he couldn't find one for the plugs that tested the brakes too. It has leather seats, 4WD (and buttons for 4WD, unlike my dodge where it's a stick and you have to be careful you don't grind it when you shift), new brake pads all around, new rotors in the back. It has a few more miles than I wanted, but it was the right price and the right truck with the right amount of add-ons. It has a dent in the tailgate where it looks like someone unhitched their gooseneck and then drove out from under it with the tailgate up. It only has a handful of other cosmetic flaws. I am excited to have a truck that should last me another 5-10 years (I only put 3000-5000 miles on the truck every year). We have to do a couple things to it like coating the bottom in a phosphoric acid rust remover, then painting the bottom with rustoleum and then oiling the bottom to protect it. I will also be putting running boards or a step of some kind for each door eventually, but not now.

My parents, husband and I all went to dinner in it last night. My mom and I sat in back and she kept telling me, "This truck has more space in the backseat than my car!" and "It's so spacious, I don't feel like I'm in a truck!" She was too funny.

Now the truck just needs a name!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Validation from the German Riding Master

I left work early Tuesday to go drive out to the barn and pick Mikey up to take him for a lesson at 6:30pm with the German Riding Master. My mom went along for the drive to keep me company... a good thing too, I left my house at 3:30pm and got home at 11:00pm... 7.5 hour day after a 6.5 hour day at work.

I got on Mikey and we walked around a little bit while I waited for him to come to the arena. My lesson time was the last one of the day and a little flexible with regard to the time because I figured I'd be pushing it to be there at 6:30 with rush hour traffic to contend with.

Mikey was a bit spooky about the arena, but settled nicely. When the German Riding Master (GRM for the rest of this post) came in, we had a chat about where Mikey was at and he said to warm up like normal and he'd see what we had. As I walked I mentioned I had moved a month ago and he's been really super and the flying changes are working. Once Mikey was loose and relaxed, and then off to trot we went. Within a couple strides I had my nice loose relaxed through horse and GRM was like, "He's much better now!" and "Good trot, much more through and active behind than last time!"

We worked a little half pass in trot, GRM told me to pay more attention to keeping the haunches bent and active in the half pass, keeping it a touch slower if I had to... I instantly got much more reach and a better tempo and bend.

On to the canter. Mikey was not as through as he could have been. We went for a little canter half pass, same thing, pay attention to the haunches and bend. I have a tough time influencing the canter half pass so they were average, but we started working the flying changes into the ends of them. He did a couple flying up front and a skipping trot step behind, so GRM pulled out the poles and said go over these a couple times so he can get his confidence back in this different indoor. Well Mikey saw the pole and 5 or 6 strides out was like, "Change now?" and he did. So GRM said ask for it early, if he gives it, pull off the line and skip the pole. We repeated that pattern many times, always getting a good clean change many strides before the pole. GRM was very happy with it and said now I needed to work on keeping Mikey through in the change. He inverts for the change and the stride or two after, then softens again. He said work the same pattern focusing on keeping to softness.

He liked that my hands were much softer than before and how Mikey does understand the changes and is trying and not getting upset. After many good changes, he asked if there was anything else I wanted to do so I asked about how to start canter pirouettes. I had worked on them on my own, but I wasn't getting the hind legs to stay in place.

He had me start in walk and trot, because "If you can't do it in walk and trot, how can you do it in canter?" He said to find the best aids for getting the point across to Mikey in trot, and get him to understand while staying through and not inverting. We did several in trot, and to the right was much easier than to the left. He doesn't need a lot of quick steps, GRM said to make sure I keep the steps quiet and slow so he doesn't get his legs hooked or over stress them. He said before you work it in canter, know that if he breaks in canter, don't push for canter again or get out of it, make the trot slower and continue the pirouette, and eventually making it a walk pirouette. He said right now Mikey needs to understand what you want, no matter the gait, so finish the movement no matter the gait and he will get used to finishing it no matter what.

We moved on to canter because the trot work went so well. The left was unspectacular, but I did get several good steps. I ended up carrying my whip in my right hand so if he was "dragging" his front end, I could tap his shoulder to make it keep up.

The right was much better. I was soft with my outside rein in trot, but in canter I absolutely smothered him with it. GRM was like, "Walk! Walk! Relax the outside hand, you won't get it by holding the outside rein, you'll get it by keeping it soft and using the inside rein to guide him on the circle." Once I relaxed my outside hand and used my seat and thigh like I'm supposed to, Mikey started to really sit and keep his haunches in one place. He surprised me the first time he did it because I never kept up with him and forced him to continue so he walked. GRM was like, "Ha! He surprised you. Make sure you ride it next time!" And ride it I did, Mikey would get two strides in, and then start to peter out, so I'd engage my seat to push "forward" while my thigh and leg still said to pirouette and then Mikey really started keeping his hind end planted and giving me several good steps. I'd let him out of it after 180 degrees or so.

Mikey was so super, and GRM was very pleased with how he's progressing. He asked if I worked it all on my own, I said, "Yes! I school him on my own. It helps my new arena has a short wall entirely covered with mirrors so I do all of my work towards them so I'm constantly checking myself." He said, "Good job!" It was incredible validation for my ability to train and school my own horse, without the constant supervision of a trainer. GRM was very impressed with how far we've come, especially with me working on my own for a month.

The best comment at the end of my lesson as GRM was talking to a couple other riders: "This horse has the activity behind that your horse is lacking. It's what your horse is missing for the collected trot, it doesn't have to be slow, just more active. This horse's collected trot isn't slow, but he's not hurrying, he's just active behind." Hind end engagement and back swing is something we have struggled with for years.

My mom had watched from the lounge, and she was positively BEAMING when she came out. She was like, "Mikey looked incredible! I saw him in August, and this is a million times better! He's a completely different horse. You have to stay at the barn with the indoor, he's doing so well there!" It was nice to hear that because she had been pushing for me to make sure Mikey does go back to the cheaper barn at the end of winter.

So my homework is to make the changes softer, and gently work the canter pirouettes. That's more than enough work for the next couple months!

Monday, December 1, 2014

New Truck

I have a 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab, 5.9L truck. It does the job (barely) and is starting to show it's age and I don't trust it to be completely reliable to haul anymore. It has abandoned me twice before. Both times the transmission overheated. Once about a year into me owning it, but luckily I was almost at my destination and I was still eventing at the time and the rest of our group had already made it to the show. One of the ladies with a big truck came back to pick up my all steel trailer and Mikey. After that incident that weekend, it was an angel and hauled the empty trailer home (the same lady had an empty spot in her trailer and Mikey rode home with her). It attempted to abandon me again about a year later when I was hauling to our long format three day event in MD. That wasn't it's fault entirely, I made a bad judgement call about how to get there and ended up climbing mountains with it. A 4 hour drive became 7 with the number of times we pulled over and opened the hood to let everything cool down.

The transmission searches for gears and it's been stalling lately after filling it with gas. We've added gas treatment to the tank before filling the last few times and that seems to do the trick for the stalling bit. It doesn't run often and it sometimes sits with a half empty tank. We think water condenses in the tank and then mixes with the gas (or rather doesn't mix with the gas, so when I fill it and run it, water ends up going through the engine instead of gas). That's not it's fault, it's mine for not keeping it full all the time. It does have a loose steering column, meaning there is a bit of play in the wheel and it wanders a little bit. It is exhausting to drive the 4-5 hour drives because of it.

I know I'm near maxing out it's abilities and one day it will completely abandon me. Yes, I do keep AAA and US Rider for that day, and I will keep it for after that day. US Rider has been a godsend to several people I know and they have always sent knowledgeable and nice people to help. So I decided (with my husband's input) to start looking for a 3/4 ton truck while my Dodge still has some resell value as a useful truck and not as scrap. A one ton truck is just more truck than I will need in the next 5-10 years as I love my bumper pull and don't see myself with a gooseneck unless it has living quarters. Right now I can't afford the truck that will pull LQ, and it's going to be a long time before I can afford a trailer that has LQ (it must have a shower and toilet).

I'll have to sell my Dodge and my 1995 Toyota Camry to pay for part of the new truck though. I keep a car for daily driving- it's cheaper to have both and use the truck to haul only than to keep the truck as a daily driver. I'll miss my car. It only has 123,000 miles at almost 20 years old and it's in great shape with very little rust because it's a hand me down car from my grandparents. Every time they'd decide to get a new Camry, they'd give one of their old ones to my parents. I got the last two they handed down since I needed a car. My grandparents' cars lived low mileage lives in a garage. Every now and then they'd be expected to drive across the country, but then they always returned to their garage. They have very little rust and regularly make it to 200,000+ miles. My current Camry lived it's first 15 years/85,000 miles in a garage. My grandfather is 95 and will most likely stop driving in the next year, and I will get his car when he does. Yes, I don't have to work for a car that's in great shape. I know that won't sit well with some of you. This is how my family functions though- as long as you're in the financial shape to do it, you pass things around the family and help out where people need it. It's what my grandparents have been doing for close to 35 years. They've passed 4 cars on to my parents so far, this one will be the 5th.

I found a bunch of Dodge Ram 2500s on Craigslist and at used car dealers that were ok. They are more than I wanted to spend. I am not interested in a diesel (at all) or a gas truck with over 100,000 miles. I plan on keeping this next truck for 5-10 years, so it needs to be under 100k miles and in decent shape, so up the budget goes. I am not interested in another Dodge. I was looking at them simply because it's what I can afford. I am not pleased with the one I have, but in all fairness, it has done its job and I make an effort to plan my trips outside the heat of the day and I take it easy on it. The engine has never quit on me, but the transmission and steering column leave something to be desired.

Yes, I am that crazy person that holds on to a vehicle until it finally dies and has to be hauled away for scrap. Getting the hand me down cars has also taught me to take care of the vehicles I have, and you keep driving them until the end. Neither my car or truck is at the end, but there are high stakes with the truck (I will not be abandoned on the side of the road with my horse in a hot metal box), and the car must go as an unfortunate side effect of the cost of a new truck. If I could I would hold on to that sucker until the day it dies. It's a fabulous little car.

Over the weekend I found a 2005 Chevy Silverado 2500HD (gas engine) for slightly more than the Dodges I have been looking at. What's another couple thousand? I've already blown my budget. My husband and I went out to the lot when they were closed on Sunday to poke around and look at it. Believe me, I would have loved to go when they were open! But the closed at 2pm Saturday and won't reopen until Tuesday. I plan on going to see again Wednesday afternoon and hopefully it's up to snuff and we can negotiate a slightly better price (paying cash should help) and I will have a new (to me) truck! I'm hoping it's still there on Wednesday. My husband and I thought it was a great deal for what it is. I simply cannot get out there before Wednesday afternoon- they are closed today (Monday), I have meetings at work I can't miss in the morning and a clinic in the afternoon/evening on Tuesday, so I will be working a half day from home in the morning Wednesday.

If the deal goes through, I will tell you more about the truck. If not, well I'll probably say all the great things I lost out on and then whine about continuing the search. It wouldn't be the end of the world, I'm not ready to give up my little car! I'm a firm believer in things happen for a reason, so if it sells before I see it, there's a reason I wasn't meant to have it. Maybe that's just something I tell myself to make myself feel better, but I generally try my hardest to make things happen. Usually when they don't work out, either something comes up that would have complicated it or something better comes along.

Tonight I'll be riding and packing the trailer for my clinic with the German Riding Master tomorrow! I'm sure you'll hear from me on Wednesday, there will be a lot to say.

Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Girth

Mikey had last Wednesday off, then we road walked on Thanksgiving, and then worked Friday in the arena. We had several discussions about moving off my leg into half pass. We also had a discussion about simply going straight in canter on centerline. No changes, no half pass, nothing. Straight and then track the direction we were bending. It was difficult for him. So difficult we will have to repeat in our warm ups every ride. A handful of the tests call for cantering up centerline, trot, halt at G or wherever, and in the past he's always been "What now, what now?!?!?" and made it difficult to get a good final centerline. Nothing ground breaking about the ride. Just a good, solid ride.

Sleeping in the sun Saturday morning instead of eating the hay I put out for his skinny ass.
Saturday I borrowed my barn owner's Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief girth. I mentioned it in a previous post. I had mentioned it to her when she said her horse got very funny about shoulder and back restrictions, and she went out and ordered one a few weeks ago. Her horse loves it.

All tightened up.
Maybe I should have cleaned my saddle and used a fresh saddle pad.
He loved it. Absolutely loved it. From the moment I sat down on him, he was more forward and less pokey. No pushing for more unless I wanted extended gaits. His shoulder was freer for sure. He had much more swing in the shoulder when I looked at him in the mirrors. His trot became hard to sit, and not because he wasn't through and so I didn't have somewhere to sit. No, he was very through and connected. He had so much swing to his step and lift that he created a much bigger motion to sit. His canters were forward from the walk, no shuffles and immediately off into a nice canter. I worked with my curb rein hooked through my saddle pad's velcro straps (see the above pic for the gray velcro), but that wouldn't have made that big a difference in his quality of work. We worked centerlines again, and I mixed in one flying change on centerline, and it worked! We worked 10m circles at the start of the long side in canter, then trot half passes and canter half passes from the centerline to wall. We did a couple flying changes on the diagonals to an extended trot to finish. He was absolutely stunning. I'll be ordering a girth for myself. He was so much freer in his movements, and so happy to go to work.

Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Girth: A+ rating. Try it! The leather is super soft and supple, and it feels like memory foam when you squeeze it. At $134 or so after shipping, it's an incredible value. If you have a horse that is just not as free moving as he could be, give it a try. The company does 110% money back and a 30 day test period. You can't lose!

Simply stunning horses get to stop working early and go for a road walk!

Lessons with my Trainer

This is a long overdue post. I am no good at posting when I am on vacation from work, I just don't sit at my computer! I hauled Mikey over to my trainer's winter barn for a lesson the Monday/Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I got to my barn early Monday afternoon to hook up, get hay set up, and get loaded in 50 mph wind gusts and rain. It was awful. Mikey backed off the trailer too, something he hasn't done in years. We has a discussion about staying on the trailer and not moving until I get the butt bar up. I load by myself 90% of the time, he has to remember to stay on! The sun came out as I was leaving, yet it was still raining on me. I made a turn off the barn's road and looked back, and I saw an incredible triple rainbow. The first arch was super bright and had multiple layers of red and orange, and blue and violet. The other two were very faint and could mostly be seen off to the right.

This picture doesn't do the rainbow justice. The naked eye was the only way to view it. It was stunning.
Monday Evening Lesson:
We worked for a short time to show my trainer where we were at. She was happy with our progress. Our half passes are more correct, and he's much more through. We started with trot half pass, and while correct, it lacked expression and his right hind was quiet. She suggested dropping the curb rein on the double bridle so I don't overly engage it by accident. That seemed to help with the lack of expression. We worked a bit on canter half pass next. To the left, he was solid for 3-5 strides and then petered out and trailed his hind end. She said it's just a strength issue, and as with many things, will come with time. At the end of the first one we did a neat and perfect flying change left to right! She was very pleased. For the canter half passes right, he lasted about two strides before becoming a "saucy boy" as she put it and blew through me, skipping right to the flying change. She said he needs to be that cocky about the other lead change, and at that point we can start putting counter canter back into his work and picking the time to do the change. We agreed he absolutely understands the changes and I need to change up how I ask for it every ride. For example, one day use the serpentine, the next on diagonals, the next half passes, the next centerlines etc. We ended up doing 10m circles in the corner after centerline, then making it a 15m, then going down the wall or quarterline, wherever I ended up, and then half passing from there for the canter half pass right. If I didn't, he'd do the first step of half pass from centerline to the wall, then leap out from under me to do the flying change and ruining our connection. Basically I need to change it up enough that he's not anticipating the change.

Some things I realized that night is Mikey doesn't like slippery footing (the arena had been watered but not dragged) and he gets upset when he knows the right answer and can't do it. For example: I didn't set him up right for one of the canter half passes left, and it didn't put him in the right place for the flying change at the wall, and he became very upset that he couldn't make the change when I asked.

Tuesday Morning Lesson:
Our warm up walk and trot work were much better and more relaxed since the arena had been dragged and wasn't slippery anymore. The canter work was better as well, and we warmed up paying attention to him being upright and bending in the corners and keeping the jump and lift in the shoulders. She had me tie up my curb rein and drop it, and we did the canter work without it. We warmed up with a 10m circle at the start of each long side, paying attention to bend, forward, and throughness and then repeating the circle until all of those came together. We then moved on to the half pass from quarterline to centerline so we didn't trip his flying change fuse. We did that both directions, and then did a couple flying changes on short diagonals. He had significantly less attitude, mostly because the arena footing was better and he had settled overnight.

Overall, she liked the new march he had in his walk, the overall throughness and obedience, the progress with the flying changes, how he was going much more off my seat, and just how he seemed to really enjoy his job. She reminded me to keep taking him out for walks- the road, around the farm, anywhere outside of the indoor. He's working well now, but I don't want to ruin his good attitude with too much ring work. Our homework for the next few weeks is to continue the canter half passes, with and without the flying changes. IE sometimes half pass and flying change, sometimes a simple change through walk, sometimes leg yield back to centerline or the quarterline or wherever and then keep tracking the direction I was going. Another thing she said to do was to canter down centerline, maintaining straightness without any change of direction at the end. She also wants me to continue working in his double, but hooking the curb rein to my saddle pad (I hook the front billet velco straps together almost like a grab strap), and doing my work with just the weight of the weymouth in his mouth without engaging the curb.

I loaded him up and took him back home where I promptly turned him out after a couple horse cookies. He was happy to be rid of me!

"Bye Mom!! I don't miss you."
My parents were away Tuesday so I drove to their house to pick up their dog and take her home with me so she didn't spend the day alone. She wasn't sure about hopping all the way up into my truck, and I had to lift her down when we got to my house. She's a 14 year old dog that sometimes has a limp (it's sporadic and we haven't pin-pointed it yet), and I wasn't about to let her jump out of the truck and hurt herself.

She was an excellent truck dog. She loved sitting in the middle of my backseat and staring out the front window. Too bad she doesn't get along with other dogs and barks at horses, otherwise she'd be a perfect horse show dog!

Penny the cat (under the left curtain) and Chuckles the dog (under the right curtain) sharing the window.