Monday, December 26, 2016

12/17 Day 2: Ice Storm From Hell

I hope everyone had a good holiday! Back to our semi-regularly scheduled programming...

Mom and I woke up Saturday morning to Virginia being covered in ice. I knew that would happen, but the temps were supposed to rise, so I didn't worry about it too much beforehand. My lesson was at 10:15, and around 8:30 I got a call from GP Trainer telling me, "Don't you dare leave your hotel, the farm road is impassable, we'll do something a bit later when the roads are better."

Good thing. It's hard to tell, but my entire truck was covered in a thin layer of ice. That same thin layer covered every road surface too, and apparently the VA road crews don't salt the roads before freezing rain happens. Apparently neither did my hotel, because they decided to salt AFTER watching me ice skate to the truck. Also, they salted under their covered parking area. Which was dry. *facepalm*

We were able to reschedule for 12:15, so off we went to the barn (after visiting Tractor Supply- we had to check out of the hotel at 11 and needed to kill some time).

This picture doesn't do it justice, but on the way to the farm we stopped to admire a mountain top that was sunlit and covered in snow still.

When I arrived, Penn was in his stall (with the ice and rain, horses took turns in dry lots after the sun came out), doing his best to show everyone just how big his lungs are. He was screaming.  I got the comment, "He's sure got some lungs on him." I wanted to crawl in a hole. My horse is that horse. The one you want to bludgeon at shows because they have the loudest scream and insist on doing it every 30 seconds while they're alone in their stall. I mean, I already knew that, having experienced him at shows, but annoying GP Trainer's staff is not on the to do list. (not that they were annoyed, they seemed to understand lol)

I hustled to get Penn ready and off to the indoor we went! We warmed up with a little shoulder in, and I threw in a couple mediums so I could get opinions on both. GP Trainer didn't nail me for the shoulder in like she did last time, yay! I was finally able to see them in a mirror (also yay). She had me ride more forward again, making Penn lift and meet the bridle, and be straight (when we weren't in shoulder in). She stressed it was about closing all the doors so his only option was forward, lifting, and straight (or bent in the shoulder in).

In the mediums, she had me think about leaning forward, creating a space for his back to lift up. Then she had me put my leg on at the start of the diagonal, and hold it on so I don't disturb the rhythm of the trot. Both instructions were hard for me- we've done so much sitting up to create up, that it was hard for me to balance the two. Holding the leg on in that movement was new for me as well. Penn went to break to canter in the last one, I brought him back and she immediately got on me to send him forward again... which in all this time, I've never really done. I've always assumed it's lost and don't really push for it again. She thinks of it as allowing the horse to be a little off the bit, standing up in the irons a fractional, tiny amount, then squeezing and holding all the way across the diagonal. She doesn't like picking at them across the diagonal because it interrupts the rhythm. I'll have to work on it so I can develop an extended and a medium, but it probably won't be in time for the February show.

After that I had to catch my breath- I still have the cough from when I was sick over Thanksgiving, and my asthma acted up overnight so that meant no oxygen for me.

On to the canter! GP Trainer immediately got after me to have an "active sitting" seat... then sent me down the long side with a 10m circle at B, where he promptly broke and GP Trainer got after me for chasing him instead of driving him (the difference being I lose my shoulders when I chase). Annnnnd we had more picking up the left lead issues. They stem from a not straight walk, a walk that is too short and quick, and general impatience on Penn's part. She told me to spend time sending him forward to a point 20m away, even when on a circle, just keep moving the point.

The goal for the canter was to just go down the long side. Such a simple task. Cantering in a straight line while Penn holds himself up and I don't fall forward. The struggle!!!!!!!!  I felt like an idiot. But I remember when Penn couldn't canter the entire way around the ring before, it was a simple "he's not strong enough to canter that long." Well we're back to that, only because now he has to lift his shoulders and canter and be light and that's equally as hard. And one day it won't be. That day was not it. Today won't be either.

She had me use a 10m circle and the wall again to help bring him down from canter to walk. Penn seems to trust me because I aimed him for the wall and he called my bluff, "You won't let me run into that." He's right, I wouldn't. That's why unless I commit to it, I can't get a canter walk transition!

Man, I just need an earbud with the same phrase playing when I canter: "Sit down!" She said when I watch my video, compare when I'm really planted on the back of my butt in the saddle and when I'm not- his ability to canter is so much greater when I'm really stuck to the saddle and sitting actively. The instruction was to plant the entire butt patch of my FITS against the saddle, and follow him and sit up. I got that feeling and he promptly wanted to fall down and run away because sitting is hard.

We cantered to the right and got a lot further down the long wall before he broke- I used two 10m circles to rebalance him though. Any time he wants to fall apart, I need to get planted again and drive him up and circle him to put the pieces back together. If he falls apart, that's ok. Make him fall apart from the correct shape than not having him there at all, otherwise the work is useless.

She also had the funny comment: "If you feel him about to flatten out and fall, trot. Abandon ship. He is strong enough to make a good canter out of good walk or good trot. He is not strong enough to make a good canter out of a bad canter." and then "Don't be a hero." It's all about doing the most good work possible.

Then he promptly spooked out a good canter when I was looking for a 10m circle to bring him back to walk for a rest. Darn light through the windows. #notaneventer

We revisited the canter to the left. She made me deal with his bulging left hind end with my inside leg and outside rein in the walk-canter transition. If he didn't want to listen to the inside leg and get straight again, use the whip on the left hip. I tend to grab with the left rein to bring him around, which obviously doesn't work (or else he'd be good by now!). In the 10m circles she had me sit more on the right seatbone, which really helped him stand back up. Guess if we're both dropping over the left shoulder he can't pick it up huh? As long as he's making an effort, we can have the circle be 12-13m instead. As we head back to the wall, left leg (inside leg) tells him to KEEP GOING.

Overall, I was happy with our lessons and I'm hopeful I can continue on the right path on my own. It was good to have confirmation that I am on the right track... because sometimes it's pretty rough at home.

We left GP Trainer's around 2pm. It was 45ish degrees with a sunny, cloudless sky. Mom and I drove for about 2 hours, and then all of a sudden we crossed into WV and there's ice in the trees, it's cloudy, snow is slowly accumulating on the shoulder the further we drive. The temps plummeted to 35 degrees, so I pulled into a rest stop to check on Penn. I put on his hood since he was a little chilly.

The trees at the rest stop were like fairy tale trees. Very pretty.

We kept on going, things were going well... Until we got within 21 miles of a major interchange (which is the halfway mark in the trip).

Hellloooooo traffic.

Traffic came to a complete halt. Like, put the truck in park and turn it off halt. I was able to make my way over to the right lane (we were near an exit) and we had a sit and think about what to do. Google and my GPS kept increasing the wait time- there was an accident a mile or so ahead. The truck said we only had 79 miles of gas left, and we had 24 miles to the major interchange that had gas. The wait eventually became about 40 min, and we started to get worried about running out of gas while we waited. I took the ramp to the exit, and sat and tried to come up with a detour. I have a big enough truck with extra weight over the rear axle (thanks Husband for my custom sand bag holders + almost 600lbs of sand), and I have a little BP trailer that fits almost everywhere. The GPS had offered me a detour when we first started waiting, but I couldn't get the GPS to give it to me again, or give me a detour where I could avoid was was immediately in front of me... so I took a look at the map and took a stab at where they had told me to go...

Let me tell you about my GREAT idea to avoid the red x.
Map courtesy of the creepy phone tracking abilities of google.

The roads started out ok, until we climbed a huge hill. That we had to go back down (% grade warning signs and all people). Turned on 4WD (the road had snow in the middle by this point), put the truck in 2nd gear, put the trailer brakes on high, and crept along. And kept creeping past that hill. The GPS and phone couldn't agree on where to send me, so we'd evaluate both roads when we got to intersections and pick one based on snow coverage. I think we chose well, all things considered. I barely drove faster than 10mph and drove all over the road to catch the visible road surfaces. I'm very pleased to report that we did not slide or slip once.

After white knuckling it for a half hour, we got back to the main highway. We absolutely saved time, because there was NO ONE on our side of the road. This is a very high traffic road- tons of tractor trailers because it is a major interchange for them, and for cars too (major route to and from DC). We saw one or two other vehicles on our side of the highway, one of which popped out in front of us after taking  a 'short cut' road that Mom and I vetoed immediately on sight. The main interchange was empty, with no traffic sitting at the lights. I can't find anything on the internet about the accident or how long it took to clean up, so I have no idea how long traffic was just sitting there. Our detour probably wasn't the best decision (it would have been totally fine in the summer months), but I'm still happy with it because we didn't run out of gas and it ended up OK. I would defintely think twice about trying a detour again though.

By the time we got gas, the temps were just about freezing, and Penn was cool again in the trailer, so I closed his windows. On the last stretch, the temps varied between 35 degrees and a blistering 66 degrees. Come on, how am I supposed to dress my horse and have his windows for that?!? It eventually became a, you-just-have-to-get-home type thing.

We got all the way home, 7 hours after starting the trip, though our detour, all 240 some miles, and I fucked up the last 5 feet.

Ice ice baby.

The barn got the ice, then 5 inches of snow, then it melted/compacted, then it rained and got dark. Never mind that it was still 55 degrees there, the driveway was still frozen. All I saw was the end of our trip, and made a shallow swing into the driveway. And promptly slid out because every tire hit ice. I tried backing up, nope, more slide, closer to jack knife. Tried to go forward, nope, slide. I gave up. I called the barn owner and asked if her husband could come out and rescue me. I unloaded Penn on the road to get rid of extra weight and walked him to the barn. BO's husband got the truck and trailer unstuck and in the driveway. He tried to park the trailer in its spot, but the ground was just too wet and the truck couldn't maneuver the trailer. We parked it off to the side and went home, no reason to keep fighting the damn thing at almost 10pm in the dark and the rain and cold. I came back Monday after the ground had frozen and parked the trailer... after getting a shovel and bucket of hot water to get it unstuck from the ground. Again.

All in all, a good weekend, we got home safe, and I'm looking forward to visiting GP Trainer when she comes back from Florida for a weekend in February!


  1. Ugh it was a bad weekend for travel adventures!

    1. I feel like we still lucked out- I was able to take my lessons and we got home safe!

  2. Those lessons sound so intense - so much good meat in there! Crappy that there's so much misadventure involved in traveling to and fro tho, glad nothing worse happened, that ice storm was nasty!!!

    1. Definitely good stuff in the lessons! The ice storm was bad, but I'm glad we were able to work with it. I packed extra days of grain so we could decide on Saturday if going home Sat or Sun would have been a better bet.

  3. "If you feel him about to flatten out and fall, trot. Abandon ship. He is strong enough to make a good canter out of good walk or good trot. He is not strong enough to make a good canter out of a bad canter." <-- yes, yes so much this! This is exactly where we are, in spades! I <3 your trainer!

    1. I had a serious duurrrrrr moment about it- why do we push through falling apart? I know so it doesn't become a habit to fall apart (I did get after Penn for breaking because he was spooking at home), but otherwise, if the horse is putting out a good effort, why ruin the effort? I found everyone is less flustered at the end of the day, and Penn has actually started thinking first before getting flustered.

  4. I LOVE your lesson reports!! Keep them coming! Also, the ice storm sounds like a nightmare. Glad you are ok!

    1. Haha, I won't have more from GP Trainer until Feb (if the weather cooperates!). There's no way I could have hauled Saturday morning, but driving around after was fine... and the trip home would have been fine if I had waited out the accident. But I probably still would have hooked myself on the driveway, haha.

  5. Wow, I can't imagine dealing with that. This is one of those times when I'm glad I don't have a trailer and just don't have to deal with this. Of course not being able to make it to that lesson would suck since you guys are looking amazing!

    1. I wouldn't trade my truck and trailer for anything- I did so many years without my own and not being able to call my own shots. Now, I don't envy those who make calls like this one, but I'm happy to make them myself.

  6. That drive sounds like a nightmare. The lessons sounds excellent, but I hate trailering even in good weather.