Monday, May 4, 2015

Birthdays Galore, Working Outside (horses and humans)

Last week had a number of things happen:

Mikey tried on his new Back on Track Mesh Sheet last Monday.
He loves it.
Back on Track pad. This is after our ride, the girth is loose so everything slipped back.
I hate how it fits under my saddle. I do not like extra fabric in front of or behind the saddle!
So I won't be buying a white one.
But he seems to like it. It really warms up his back a good bit before we ride.
Tuesday we rode, hand grazed, then dug ticks off the horse.
Back on Track poster child. Just needs his no bows on to make it complete.
Wednesday was my 28th birthday. Yay me! My day started off horribly. I normally work from home Wednesdays, but I had to go in that day. I forgot to set an alarm so I woke up late. Then as I'm driving to the bus stop, my purse, lunch bag, and laptop set off my car's seat belt warning beeper (which wouldn't turn off until the seat belt got plugged in), so it's beeping like crazy and I have no where to pull over, so I'm trying to buckle the passenger seatbelt and drive. Then I faceplanted into the side walk when I was walking to the bus stop from my car. Darn uneven pavement and easily rolled ankles. I did not rip my pant open but I have an awesome set of bruises on my knees and a tweaked shoulder. I wish I had ripped my pants, I would have said screw it, I'm going home.

Thursday was Mikey's 16th birthday. Yay Mikey! I pulled more ticks off of him for his birthday after a quiet ride.

Friday was Nickels' 4th birthday. Yay Nickels, you made it to 4 years old! Go you for outliving your life expectancy. He enjoyed some extra attention and a steam while I got a shower. Penny was not happy to be locked out of the bathroom (see paw under the door).

"I want to sit in here while you shower. Do I have to let Penny in?"
Friday night we attacked our umbrella tree. Our house's old owner just kept adding mulch to the to base, and the base overflowed the trim so the trim didn't even meet anymore. We took a whole lot of dirt out, dug the base in, removed some of the crown that formed at the grass line from the expanded base, weeded, and then put the trim back and mulched under it.

Pre-mulch. We we in the process of smoothing out the crown (on the left) so when we mow the grass, the mower doesn't wack away ground. We just need to plant seed. No after mulch pictures on Friday because we spread mulch my tractor headlight as it was dark by the time we got that far.
I finally rode Mikey outside on Saturday. First time since last fall. We ended up joining the weekly Jump School so I'd have some structure as we rode. Our trainer sometimes starts off with pole work in her jump school, and she opted for that since I asked to join for the beginning and it was the first jump school outside for the year.
We're outside! And I didn't get bucked off!
She was happy she went with 6 canter poles in a row to start- we trotted through first, then trot in, pick up canter in the middle, canter out- because as soon as we added canter, the horses started acting goofy and some jumped around a little.

I learned that Cody taught me several things over the winter. The first I talked about on here before, the second is more relevant to Saturday's ride as I finally made it happen with Mikey:

  1. The horse can't come through to the left when I have my left hand/elbow/arm locked and tight and heavy. I learned to give and relax to get motion back in my elbow, which is something my trainer has been after me for a long time. Cody cemented it. He would not come through if I locked my elbow. I got an immediate reward from Cody for softening my elbow. Two way street on the rewarding for softening thing, who knew?
  2. This was more relevant for this ride: When Mikey shortens his neck, give my hand and send him forward instead of taking my hand back and giving him no where to go. Go figure that the answer has always been forward. I never worked it out myself (or rather convinced myself to do it) because I was worried about Mikey imploding. Cody just did it to evade and waited for me to figure it out, so I got to find out giving and more leg works to lengthen the neck. Once again, doh!

After Mikey figured out the pattern, trot in canter out, he was gung-ho about the canter part and leaped the first two poles in one bound. He wanted to jump so badly. So when I got him back together in trot, he shortened his neck and tucked in his chin so that he could hop around when I took up the rein to get contact again. But I didn't fall for that! I diffused him almost immediately with a giving hand and more leg. It went against everything I felt, "I'm riding a bomb. I should hold it together, not add leg!" As soon as I diffused him, he was perfect. No jumping around, no being naughty, just soft and listening. Not to say he didn't enjoy an inverted romp through the canter poles and ignore me in there, but he stayed with me until we entered the poles and came back to me immediately as soon as we left the poles. He did have trouble picking up the right lead in the poles- not sure if that's a failure on my part (crookedness), a strength issue, or an I hurt issue. We didn't pressure him to continue until he (or I) got it right, I just made sure to do a simple change immediately after the poles.

I did feel a couple bad steps behind when we tracked right in the trot on our way back to the poles. I asked him for some more throughness and they went away, so I'm really not sure if it was disconnect I felt or an I hurt. Something to keep an eye on.

We changed the pattern to a pole across the school at X, then track left to almost the rail and go over a pole, back around to X, then track right to almost the rail and go over a pole. Mikey got excited about this- he was hopping the poles until I forced him to be more through. We did it in trot first, then canter. Ideally I would have encouraged a flying change over the pole at X, but I didn't want to wind him up or ask too much, so I asked for a simple change in trot  as soon as we were straight and before the pole. He got very through, very round, and super tuned in after a couple rounds. He was also very tired by then. We did more work Saturday than we had any other day since he's been back to work, so we were done. Everyone else continued as the poles became jumps, and we watched them go around.

Guess what's really scary? Trees falling. Guess who spooked? Me. Guess who looked and did nothing? Mikey. Across the street from the farm someone is logging the hillside and the trees are super loud when they fall. I'm sure being in a group helped Mikey. It also helped that it's been going on for at least a week so Mikey is used to the sound and I wasn't aware it was going on.

Mikey and King. I swear their field has a ton of green grass. I don't know why I always end up taking pictures near the woods.
After icing Mikey and letting him nestle into his BOT mesh sheet for a while, I put him outside and went home. My husband took me out to see the new Avengers movie for my birthday in IMAX 3D. One of the ladies at the barn was like, I need to hurry and head out, going to see the Avengers tonight! We realized we were going to the same show, so we had a fun night out on a double date.

Sunday was no fun, even if it was productive. I paid the price for a fun Saturday by working at the house all day Sunday, no Mikey. He did a lot on Saturday, so I'm sure he appreciated the break. Husband mowed the lawn, I weeded and moved plants around in the big garden bed. Then we both attacked the big garden bed in removing all the weeds and leaves and extra dirt before mulching it.

The umbrella tree, all mulched and awaiting grass seed.
The big garden bed. Husband removed a dead bush/tree a few weeks ago that was next to the steps. I moved all the little purple hyacinths to the least imaginative configuration possible: all next to each other so they're easy to weed between. I moved some other bulbs so the plant wouldn't get stepped on as we were clearing out all the crap that was in there. We ran out of mulch for this bed, so it has a random empty space until we get more mulch.
Panorama of the front, all neat and tidy.
To the right: the side we worked on. It's missing mulch, but the planter to the right has to come out because there's stumps in it from bushes we hacked down last summer. No use mulching it yet.
To the left: An untouched garden bed. Full of leaves, weeds and other undesirable things. That's the next project. That is also how the big garden bed looked before Sunday.
I hate gardening and taking care of the outside. I wish I could hire a gardener. I'd rather clean stalls than pull weeds.


  1. Yay outside! Can I just say I share your hatred of pulling weeds. I think it's the worst thing ever. I have all these grand gardening ideas, then the weeds start coming in, and I go "Screw it! Just cover it all in gravel!"

    Love your bit about giving with the hand and adding leg when your horse goes all short necked and high stepped and retarded. I know it works, but it's so counter intuitive. I usually end up doing some sort of flexion to break the short/locked neck and then pushing forward. Dear self: GIVE.

    Pig is terrible through poles. He's an excellent jumper, but I think he thinks about where to put his feet too much in poles and he gets flustered. That exercise sounds a little bit like torture! :)

    Weird steps happen, fingers crossed they stay just occasional weird steps.

    Finally, OMG I LUST OVER BOT STANDING WRAPS. Why are they so expensive?

    1. Yes, exactly! I have all these nice thoughts about what I could do with the garden and what plants I'd like to see... and then I say screw it, pull everything out and put mulch down. My mom wants to give me some of her bulbs so badly because her garden is overrun and mine lacks color and imagination. We didn't mulch last year because of the amount of work that needed to be done and it was our first summer in the house, so I pulled weeds all last year. I'm hoping we got all the roots when we cleaned the beds out and put down a ton of mulch so they can't come back this year!

      I've been able to force myself in the past to create flexion to break the locked neck too, but it's just so counter intuitive- 'don't touch the bomb!' is what my head is screaming. The answer is always give and more forward. Half halt too but first needs to be give!

      Mikey loved the exercises. He's just iffy through poles because I haven't worked him through them in several years (bad Jan!). He wants so badly to jump again though. But that's strictly against the rules these days, so we're off to pole land! Mikey was a very good jumper, and any time we pulled rails it was usually my fault for sitting down too early so he dropped his hind end. I have to say, I don't miss it that much. I miss the challenge of riding a hard line successfully, or a scrappy ride through a line- pushing for more to make it through always came naturally to me so as long as I stayed committed to the fences. I could put aside that something bad was happening and push and help Mikey to get us out of it. But for the most part, I don't miss jumping and dealing with a looky ditchy bastard on course (I've spent some time laying in xc ditches).

      My trainer saw those bad steps too- she wasn't sure if it was hurting or strength either. I haven't felt them again though, and I worked him pretty hard last night due to a change in our situation (I'll post about that later) and it being the last time I'll have access to an indoor for at least 6 months (or quite a bit longer). I know in the past I've thought he was lame, so I've asked about it, and everyone seems to agree I was feeling something funny because he wasn't connected back to front, so I'm hoping that's all it was. A reason to stay connected: I'll end up being DQ'd for being lame in public.

      I love BOT. I really wanted a set of the no bows and some other stuff they had last year, but I couldn't justify the cost since nothing was really wrong with him. After his accident, I got the hock boots and no bows as a therapy to getting him sound and back to normal. After getting those and loving them... well I just couldn't stop. And Rolex was around the corner, and BOT was there with their 'buy that mesh sheet you've wanted for a year and get a free $83 saddle pad' discount and I'm a sucker for a good deal so I bought him more BOT. I do want to get another set of no bows so that I have 4. When we go to horse shows he can have a set for the fronts (his old bow tends to swell after long hauling for a couple hours and after horse show days) and the backs (I'm assuming these are going to swell now too). It doesn't help that I've hit the 'it's only money' and 'I've already spent several thousand on him to fix him, what's another $75?' mottos.