Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fluffy Braids

So Tuesday night, I'm wide awake at a wee hour of the morning, so I parooze Facebook (because you know, that will help me fall back asleep), and I come across this video from Horsegroom Denmark.

It instantly reminded me of Austen's braids. Something I attempted when she posted her tutorial, but wasn't all that successful for me because I pull Penn's mane and keep it pretty short.

Penn's mane is currently a long mane disaster- too long, too thick. It needs to be pulled. I decided to give these braids another whirl since I didn't feel like cleaning up Penn's mane in time for our show in a week and a half, because lazy. I love my tight little braids, but I'll admit, when I want to make them exceptionally perfect, they take me at least 45 min to put in, which means I usually braid the night before to ensure I'm not rushing on show day.

Courtesy of High Time Photography.

So I got to the barn Tuesday night and killed some time. I did them the way Horsegroom Denmark did, but I think I'm going to try them again Austen's way- I used waxed thread because that's what I had on hand. The nubs looked a little funny since the thread pulls tight- Austen uses yarn to avoid that. But the methods aren't all that different, except Austen's are much fluffier!

7 not-so-wee fluffies made in 15 min with practically zero effort.
This might be dangerous.

The only one I really oopsed on is the very middle. When I got to the bottom, I realized I didn't have a rubber band on my finger and tried tying it up with the thread... it didn't tie well and didn't wrap well.

Braids in action. My double lunging and picture taking skills have been severely lacking lately.

I was happy with how they looked when Penn worked- His neck just shrinks away and they at least sit on top and add some fluff to his neck.

Penn was not cooperating with standing and not looking like a giraffe, so you get blurred lines haha.

Of course the night deteriorated into "get some good pictures of the braids for the blog" and I took so many pictures. Penn was not cooperating. One of the few gentlemen who ride at our barn came out to see his horse and was like, "Why so many pictures tonight? Are you selling him or something?" I laughed and said no, I just braided him for shits and giggles and wanted a nice pic of the braids.

I can dress him up but just can't take him anywhere, lol.

Even the All Ears Selfie app didn't help much. It did get all of the horses riled up though- they were waiting for dinner and the neighing in the app made them all start talking. Though, that did jazz Penn up a little bit, so maybe it helped in a different way?

Trying to be artsy with my pictures.

I ended up getting a handful of cookies and throwing them up in the air in front of Penn to catch his ears. I may have lost some, and may have hit that gentleman in the back... *facepalm*

And I don't know how many hundreds of pictures later, I have a decent headshot.

I'm going to give these braids a whirl in two weekends, but I'm going to try to make the parts in the mane more on a diagonal like Austen's rather than straight like Horsegroom Denmark's. I'll probably practice braid again before the show, because these were kind of fun!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Odds and Ends Picture Dump: Lunging, FLIR, Comparison

Ermygawd, I love this face.

Penn continues to be wonderful since he first round with the lines- he's trying hard and I'm trying to go with him. He's better outside in the open, but tolerates working inside (I don't blame him, the outdoor is so much bigger than the indoor). With the relatively good weather we've had lately, our outdoor has thawed beautifully on the days that are above freezing. I've been able to ride outside on it 5 times in the last month! He's been great about his lateral work, and the canter is doing ok. I've started getting after him about breaking from the canter- he's not quite willing to go above and beyond in canter right now... but then again, he needs strength, so he probably isn't able to.

Saturday was over 60 degrees and he was actually a bit lazy and dull off my aids, which let me relax a bit and just enjoy the ride. We worked through all of the 2-3 canter work straight through with two oops moments. We got our signals crossed when I did the left lead 3 loop serpentine and he wasn't sure what I wanted and I was afraid he'd swap leads, so he broke. I started over, made sure to be perfectly clear, and he did what I wanted. Then I rushed the simple change from left to right and he never swapped leads.

Modeling his lunging polo wraps.
Also, just ignore the dangerous swinging rope hanging off his face, just waiting for a foot to go through it.

I double lunged him some more in the last week - I'm doing that twice a week and riding three days a week to hopefully build strength faster. I learned I can't work him on the lines while the vaulters are working. I thought it would be great- they lunge at one end of the ring, I lunge at the other... except I just started carrying a full lunge whip with Penn and they have a long snapper whip... that snaps all the time.

Starting out on Wednesday, pre-meltdown.

Penn gets upset when another horse gets disciplined. I found that in addition to that, he does not differentiate between another horse's audible cues and my cues. He was working well until they went to canter an entire routine and snapped the whip a lot... and I lost control of Penn. He went forward, got angry at my requests to stop (snapping whip and all), cantered off (more snapping), pinned his ears and ran (more snapping), leaning in then throwing out bucks. I couldn't get him to stop since the "go" was being pushed so aggressively inadvertently. I ended up having to shout at them to please stop snapping the whip until I get Penn under control. I felt really bad about that, but Penn was having a meltdown over it. He thought I was being unfair (stop/go/stop/go/STOP/GO!!!!!!! at the same time). I guess that's something we should work on, but I really don't know how to tackle that without really upsetting Penn... and to be honest, we're not going to be in situations like that very often. I should work out how to make him focus on me instead, that would be more useful!

Staring hard at the vaulters. Please note, I've ridden him with the kids running, jumping onto a trampoline, and leaping on to the fake vaulting horse. He was bored watching that. *facepalm*

Husband got a great new toy on Friday- a FLIR camera! For those unfamiliar with it, it is a thermal IR camera, and our version works with our cell phones. The camera looks at the relative heat of everything in the image- If I zoom in on the floor or Penn's body, the camera would auto adjust and find the hottest and coolest points and assign the entire range of colors. The larger landscape in the image, each color will cover a bigger range of temps. The smaller the landscape (so less variance of temps throughout), the smaller temp range each color covers.

After we tested it out on the cats...

Cat lumps with warm faces (and a warm back since Felix had been sleeping on the chair).
Used to be a cat lump sleepy spot. Complete with paw prints walking away!

I stole it and took it to the barn Saturday to take pics of Penn...

So handsome, even in thermal imaging.
You can see where he's not shaved- the heat doesn't come through as well as it does on shaved body parts.
See the difference in this very fluffy (un-shaved) horse? He's pretty well insulated!
Penn's legs and hooves. And a warm hose behind him.
Penn's other side. (the curious sheath square is actually a window in the background, lol)

Which lead me to taking a side shot of Penn to do an impromptu comparison shot!

Mid-December 2015 - Baby horse!
1/21/2017 - So much more muscular.
Holy cow is he more grown up.

And then of course I had to try the "All Ears Selfie App", which I purchased as soon as it became available for Android. Penn reacts well to it! He liked all the horse vocalizations. He didn't seem to care about the donkey or gate or grain or other non-horse sounds. I got him to talk back to the one horse, haha!

I actually didn't like many of the pics I took using it- mostly because I tried it on a whim and didn't set him up well for a picture. That's ok, this post was flooded with pictures of him anyway!

So now that this post has covered a ton of subjects, I suppose it's time to stop!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Weekend Focus on Connection

So way back in November, GP Trainer told me not to worry about Penn not being round at the moment. As long as he felt like if I pushed for it, I could make him connect again, it was OK.

We've finally gotten to a place in the trot where I don't feel that way, and in fact, the trot is kind of a traveling shit show. After several frustrating rides where he would not bend or connect or go forward in a constructive manner at the trot (aka if I put leg on he was just going to speed off and not try to meet the bridle), I decided to pull out the long lines.

I love double lunging. I have a feel of both sides of the horse's mouth and so can apply independent half halts, and I can't hold up the horse or get off balance myself and impede the horse.

That time I got to the barn and the lights were on, then I got out of my car and the power went out.
I tried to work the horse anyway since it took me an hour to get to the barn that night. Penn  was not amused and was extremely bothered by cell phone light and spotlights.

Saturday I broke out the lines and hooked him up, but with one addition: I tied a polo wrap to his surcingle and looped it loosely under his butt, right above his hocks. I hate putting the outside line under his butt because his own leg action interferes with my feel of the outside rein, and the line inevitably ends up creeping up his butt and getting stuck under his dock, which will rub him raw if I let it stay there. What I do love about the outside line under the butt is that it helps remind him to tuck his hocks under himself. Polo wrap to the rescue!

I hate the pessoa lunging system because it ties the horse's mouth to his hocks. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I'm making my own.
Also, he's been working without boots because the first time I didn't use them (because muddy horse and lazy human), he kept getting upset that he was interfering, so no more boots for you for a while!

He started out doing his shit show trot- using the under neck to power around while being on the forehand. I had some success to the left in getting him to use his topline again by sending him forward with the whip (I broke out an actual lunge whip instead of a long dressage whip like I normally use), and then giving him some good half halts with the outside rein and working the bit with the inside. I wasn't fully happy with the progress, but I was at a bit of a loss of what to do because I did not want to further open the can of worms, and he had improved slightly.

I swapped to the right where Penn promptly moved uphill and met the bridle and used his whole topline. Well then. I let him carry on to the right just trotting and moving forward and establishing a good rhythm. I was able to fiddle with getting him more uphill with the whip and applying good half halts to take that forward and sit him down with it. The canter was much better than it was last time I double lunged him. However, he is still weak in it and can't hold it for more than a circle, and that's with a lot of support from me (timing my steps with his strides and the whip to encourage him to keep trying). One neat thing about the right lead canter was the jump he had in the inside hind that the left lead canter was severely lacking. I had him do several trot-canter-trot's before returning to the left.

This time to the left, Penn was more pliable and willing to meet the bridle. I got his upper neck muscles crunching through to his whither- I had trouble getting him to use the very base of the upper neck the first time I took him left. He did a lot of super work- taking nice big trot steps that had some suspension, and really making an effort to sit down and be uphill when I'd push him more forward and apply a big half halt. His canter left can carry on for longer than the right, but that is because he wants to lean in and over the left shoulder instead of sitting and using his hind end. This is where the polo really helped- it reminded him from the beginning to keep his butt under him and I didn't have to chase him so much, just support him. Mega halt halts with matching forward would get him to sit and stand up straight in the left canter for about 2-3 strides before he'd fall apart and/or trot. Totally cool though, we finished with a better-than-we-started canter that I had him keep for a half circle and then trot when I cued him.

Very pleased with the pony.

Really not representative of the work he did. I was having trouble managing the lines and phone and being effective with either. But you can see the meh frame he wanted to carry at the start of our work to the left.

That double lunge work was incredible in helping create the horse I got to ride Sunday and Monday. We were able to work outside (yay! I can push a few more buttons out there since it's bigger), and I learned a couple things:

  • Penn is getting very very sensitive and in-tune with me. I absolutely cannot ask loudly when he is this in-tune. More on that later/throughout.
  • He gets stuck in the front end. Especially in the walk. When he wants to jig or anticipate, I need to focus on making his front feet take bigger steps. By focusing on the front feet, I wasn't throwing him away or stretching him like I have been when he gets jiggy in the walk, I was able to make something constructive faster without straying too far from what I wanted.
  • Post the trot to start, focusing on making it very round and connected to my elbow. It has a low hand feeling with weighted elbows that tug on the collarbone. Maintain the sitting up to create some uphill (I have trouble creating the desired uphill when not in sitting trot). Put some 10m circles into this work to get him bending.
  • Sitting the trot means sucking my belly button into my spine, filling in the hollow that wants to be in my lower back, yet still keeping my shoulders up and back while simultaneously tucking my butt under me. I used to watch a lot of America's Next Top Model. I call this move: the model slouch, but with shoulders up and back. If my abs are burning, I'm doing it right.
  • Speaking of sitting the trot, if I want any lateral moves at all, sitting in the above position is not optional. Otherwise I jam my seatbones into Penn, which makes him hollow because he just can't bring his back up and do the movement.
  • YOU MUST FOLLOW THE CANTER WITH YOUR ELBOWS. This is not optional. When you don't, and ask the horse to go from collected canter to medium, he bucks. Bring the hands up a hair more than in the trot, and use that to force the elbow to follow. It also counteracts Penn's want to go downhill when he's quite round.
The horse I had for both rides was soft (but spooky because it's still Penn and we have to spook at inanimate objects), and man was his back UP. Sunday's canter work was a struggle for me because he was pushing me out of the saddle and I couldn't work out how to get myself back in the saddle.

I finally put together the trot work from 2-3 and 3-1 on Monday: shoulder in to 10m to haunches in and shoulder in to 10m half circle to half pass. As long as I remember the sitting trot rules, he does not shut down and he stays soft and tries very hard. I was really happy with this work. It all still needs to be better, but he made big efforts to try.

It needs to stop raining. The outdoor ring held up well, but my yard (and the fields) are not.
I bought a chest freezer off of craigslist Saturday, and we couldn't get the truck out of it's space (yes, we tried 4WD and the truck went sideways down the slight grade into the neighbor's bushes). We ended up using Husband's Camaro to pull the truck out. Not the intended use of a Camaro!

His 3 loop serpentines on Sunday were wonderful to ride. I got to thinking I was over schooling the counter canter (or schooling it into submission as GP Trainer said you need to do for 2-3), and I was concerned that he may not do flying changes, so I worked on simple changes Monday (I am not touching the flying changes until the show Feb 5). Umm, he has not forgotten how to change leads. I asked too hard for a right to left simple change and he was so quick to pick it up, and lifted his shoulders so much, then kicked out with his left hind. Sorry man, I'll learn one of these days.

After jazzing up the simple changes, I spent a bit of time working on quiet canter-walk-canters on a circle, no simple changes. I was over cuing the new lead, and he was responding by trying to put his head between his knees in the canter (very bad now that he's bucked a few times). I did lose a little of the prompt upward transition though- he'd take a trot step into the canter.

I turned him out and he hung out at the gate for face scritches and cuddles.

Penn bucking through a collected canter-medium canter transition finally made me find my seat in the canter, sit up, and follow with my elbows. After that, he happily transitioned between collected and medium and collected (mind you he still has trouble holding collected), and I found a nice uphill left lead canter, with a very clear 3 beats. I felt like a noob pumping my arms at him, but I have a feeling I wasn't moving all that much. I generally stop moving altogether, so any motion is going to feel like a lot of motion. I used a 10m circle to get a prompt canter-walk and let him be done.

I had a super foamy mouthed horse at the end of my Sunday and Monday rides, and I was very pleased with the work he offered because he was just so connected throughout it all. I need to get my act in gear pretty quickly though- he's going to put me in the dirt if I keep getting him sensitive and tuned in, yet keep over cuing and then blocking him.

"Hiiiiiii, more scratches please!"

This weekend was the first time I thought, "The show in 3 weeks might actually go well." That thought was quickly followed up with, "Or it might be a shit show. You know, one or the other."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Riding and the Chiropractor

OK, back to ponies! We're finally out of the cold, so riding can happen again! Hope everyone stayed warm!

Penn's rides have been oh-so-riveting the past two weeks. Ok, so they're not exciting at all. I'm working on keeping him uphill and light in my hand, as well as trying to toss in some of the moves from 2-3 and 3-1. It's barely exciting to ride, so writing about it sounds terrible.

There were some good rides where Penn worked hard, I didn't get in his way too much, and we quit quickly.

There was one very bad ride where I wanted to kill him (and so I quickly found something we could do in a mediocre fashion so we could stop on what could be called a good note). He forgot how to trot and do things in that ride, as well as laying on my hands in canter. I tried shoulder in to a 10m circle to haunches in at trot. He giraffed in the shoulder in and slowed way down, was jerky and lame feeling through the 10m circle, then kinda sorta did OK in the haunches in since he likes tossing them in right now anyway... I have to say he did have a worried look in his eye after we were done riding when I got after him for being the mouthy bastard he is.

Then there were the rides where he just laid in my hands at the canter. It took several rides to get him back up and light. In fact, I had a ride where my hand just got too tired to hold him up so I threw him away in an effort to rest my arm. The bastard started carrying himself instead. Less is more. Gotcha.

I had an "aha moment" with the lateral work though- it's always "inside seatbone on!" and well that gets me to crushing him, then it doesn't work, so I try harder. In general, I sit heavier on my left seatbone (even in my chair right now, as I type this). GP Trainer had me sit a little more to the right on lefthanded 10m circles (and Penn was magically able to stand up and bend and finish the circle). I figured there must be something to that, so I tried cuing for shoulder in with more tucking my hips under me and belly button in feeling than a single seatbone feeling. Penn seemed to appreciate that because his lateral movements became less jerky and softer in the bridle. Less is more. Again.

I love Zootopia.

I was able to ride outside twice in the last two weeks- on 12/26 and 1/1. Both days the sun came out and warmed up our dark-footing outdoor enough that while it was wet, it was not soppy and it was soft. I took full advantage of those days to work on trot 5 loop serpentines with plenty of time to get straight and bend, and then to work on the canter 3 loop serpentine with no change of lead that we need for 2-3 (since we go down centerline in a month!). I want to talk about that, because they were happy rides, haha.

The first time I tried the 3 loop, I could feel Penn questioning if I wanted a change. I tried to make it very clear that he was to maintain the lead, but track the wrong way. He only had one lead goof in the 8-10 serpentines we did (I made sure to do 4-5 each direction because I had no idea when I would get to school it again), when he was on the right lead loop and swapped over to the left about halfway through the second loop. I ignored the change, brought him back to walk quietly, and asked for the right lead again. He never did it again. I was "helping", aka not helping, him along that first day by lightening my seat a lot and letting him carry himself much lower than I usually would (which I'm sure contributed to the lay on my hands days that followed). He did have trouble maintaining the canter in general, and most often the "fall apart" time would be when we got back to true canter at the start of the 3rd loop. I never made a big deal about it the first day we worked on the serpentines because I don't want them to be a hot button issue or something to be nervous about. Around that time, I let him carry himself less uphill to help him make it to the end of the serpentine, where he would promptly collapse. He tried very hard though, and the right lead is definitely harder to maintain into the 3rd loop (go figure huh).

He's going to retire from dressage and become a magazine model.

The second time I got to try the 3 loop work, I made him travel more uphill, and I paid more attention to what my shoulders were doing. He never offered me another lead change, and I was very pleased with the uphill canter and the amount of jump he developed in the counter canter. Again, he struggled to maintain the right lead canter in the third loop. I rode the 2-3 pattern in two pieces- once on the right lead, then instead of a simple change to the left, we took a short walk break before picking it up to work to the left. This way, he never learned he could "stop" after the 3 loop, but I would never be unfair to him and force him to continue on when he's been quite good.

His medium canter was very very strong feeling- he kept the rhythm a lot better than he has in the past and I could feel the bigger air time happening. The transition back to collected canter takes too long, but I don't care. Not yet at least. He's barely strong enough to hold the collected canter through all that canter work in 2-3, I'm not about to nit pick how long it takes him to return to collected canter at this point. (that goes back to, "He can only make good canter out of good walk and good trot. He's not strong enough to make good canter out of bad canter." and going from medium to collected is dangerously close to making good canter out of an ok/bad/unorganized canter.)

Another good exercise I've done in the past week was walk/canter/walk/canter on a 10m circle, especially to the left. It reminds me to sit up, and reminds him to hold his own damn face up. I did that a few times and his left lead became notably better.

By this point though, I could feel Penn's need of a chiropractic adjustment. I'd get on him and he would take short walk steps to start, almost like he was lame (I remember this being a cue from last winter/summer that he needs to be seen), but he'd work out of it in a couple minutes. The ride we had 2 days after our lovely outside work was not good- I worked him without boots, and maybe that was the problem since he interferes badly, but he had to work out of something in the trot (but then had a lovely start to his half pass work), and could not canter to save his life. 1/4/17 was 9 weeks from his last adjustment by Super Chiropractor, so I'm actually impressed that it took this long for him to start feeling bad.

I had been pestering Super Chiropractor's office assistant for most of December, "Does he have his January schedule yet? When is he coming back to my area?" Finally, I was told, weather permitting, he would be in town on 1/4/17. Sign me up!

Acupuncture Injection Therapy- B12 shots in his adjustment areas.

Gosh, I love Super Chiro. He does such good work. Penn's right hip has been a little low, but no where near as bad as it was when Super Chiro did him the first time. Super Chiro was working on the left hip more than the SI area (where he did a lot of work last time- Penn's spine was curving instead of going straight into the SI area), before a huge pop happened and Penn's back immediately became bouncy and loose, and his hips were magically even again. Super Chiro isn't crack happy, and he doesn't man handle or surprise the horse, he just makes firm adjustments. I helped him make a shoulder adjustment (held up the right front while he did something, I couldn't tell you because I was trying to hold onto a foot that Penn did not want to hold up, haha).

His really super badonkadonk is even again!

I decided that while Penn is gaining the strength to do 2nd/3rd level work, I'm going to have him seen every 4 weeks by a chiropractor (goodbye money, glad I got a promotion with a significant raise in December), especially since 8 weeks is a stretch for Penn and we're going to start showing again soon. So Penn will see Super Chiro every 8 weeks (that's SC's goal schedule), and he'll see Local Chiro (the local vet I used all summer) 4 weeks after SC's visit. I'm hoping I only have to have Local Chiro work on him 2 or 3 times, and then maybe toss in an extra visit near Championships.

But we're still plugging away at holding an uphill canter longer, trying to make the walk relaxed and on the bit again, trying to make the trot work again, working on the devil's transition simple changes, and starting to mix in the movements for 2-3 and 3-1.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Felix Update

Felix gets his own post because I tried adding it to my next post and it just got too long. If you don't do cats and their ailments, feel free to skip.

Ninja practice?

To recap the baby cat's December adventures:

December 3 or 4, Felix started vomiting blood. He went to the vet that week, who couldn't find anything on the x-rays to explain it other than he had a lot of gas in his intestines. He got an anti-nausea shot, a pepcid shot, dewormed, and fluids under the skin. He went back the next day for a repeat of the anti-nausea and pepcid shots and more fluids.

He was good until the next Sunday (December 11), when I took him to the emergency vet for vomiting a lot of blood about every hour. They did more of the same (no obstructions, just gas, more shots and a hefty bill), and on the way home the liquid diarrhea started. By this point, we had acquired a large dog crate from a neighbor friend and Felix was spending his time in there because it's hard to clean blood vomit and diarrhea out of the carpet. He went to the vet every day for the next 3 days for more fluids and shots, plus a few more x-rays. Work was a godsend that week- they let me work from home to properly medicate Felix who was on 3 different medicines that couldn't be given near each other and had to be given once a day, every 12 hours, and every 8 hours.

He doesn't hate it.

He was good for about a week and a half and we started letting him out of his crate unsupervised, and then the vomiting started again after he was free all Christmas weekend (we felt bad locking him up for 36 hours while we were gone). We noticed that he was eating his cat litter (World's Best Litter, corn based), before this vomiting blood episode. He went back to the vet, who took more x-rays (I swear, this cat is going to be radioactive), and found that his intestines all looked good, but his stomach wall had thickened to be about 4x thicker than it should be. They did what was now 'the usual', aka shots and things, and Felix came home with the order that if he throws up again, bring him back immediately for another x-ray to see if there is a moving blockage that keeps vanishing on the x-rays. They also recommended changing his food to something for sensitive stomachs. I decided at this point to give Felix a Pepcid pill (for the stomach), a vitamin (since he may have a mineral deficiency causing him to eat litter sporadically), and a probiotic (for his very sensitive gut), on a daily basis.

Around New Years, we got a cat fountain for all the cats because Sophie seemed to have a UTI, and all of the cats seem to enjoy drinking out of the tap (which is how this one flows). The TLDR version is that the cats' vet wasn't making it easy (or cheap) to get Sophie antibiotics, so I ended up getting them from Penn's vet after explaining everything my reasoning (don't forget that equine vets had small animal care too in their schooling!). We also started everyone on a dry food AM /wet food PM diet to help all of them (especially Sophie) get more fluids.

He's pretty good about not playing in it.

Felix started throwing up again on 1/2. By this point, Husband and I were very frustrated because we had been careful to not let him out of his crate unsupervised (so no eating funny things), and the vet never seemed to make any progress on the matter. We decided instead of taking him to the vet, since he's locked up and still looking frisky and hungry, we were going to keep throwing food at him in small doses, even if it comes back up. We were also going to try to keep food in front of him for as long as possible (so his stomach acid is always working on something and he doesn't bolt his food, and screw it if he gets too heavy). Throwing food at him seemed to work, the vomiting was done in one day.

Cue internet searching on the bus ride to work the next day. FYI, don't google chronic cat vomiting- it only pulls up IBD and lymphoma and is very negative. Cue being extremely upset in public, because both are only diagnosed by major surgery to take a full intestinal wall sample, and both are not easily treated since it takes powerful drugs to fix either of them and those can have disastrous side effects.

Luckily, still frisky.

I did some research on alternative treatments and found sensitive gut kitties seem to do well on a raw food diet (something I was not keen to take on because of the amount of work it takes to make it affordable). I decided to try RAD Raw Cat Food for Felix, available at a local but strange pet food store. Felix seemed to gobble it up no problem, so he's doing normal wet food in the AM, and raw food in the PM, with the goal of making the switch to all raw food. Apparently the meat sits longer in his stomach because it's more complex to break down than normal food (so his stomach acid is always working on something) and his poops should become less in volume, less in smell, and more pellet-like. Sure, let's give that a whirl.

I got two more containers of the Turkey for him on Saturday, and that's when I realized just how expensive it was. Felix should get 3-3.5oz twice a day of this food... I got 32oz of food in two 16oz containers to the tune of just under $22 from our local store (who I'm 99% sure has the best price even though I drive 40 min to get there- everywhere else charges about a $1 more with large surcharges for shipping frozen). It says that kittens may eat 3-4 times the normal adult amount (so let's just call it 4oz twice a day for Felix because he is positively ravenous these days and has been since this vomiting thing started), my $22 only buys food for 4 days. A month would cost me $165. Penn doesn't even get $165 worth of supplements monthly.

I feel like I should cook it and eat it myself for that price!

The store gave me a couple freeze dried samples of other brands they carry, one of which was Stella & Chewy's Freeze Dried Turkey Morsels. They're not raw per se, but they are the same 98% meat with zero grains and fillers (which is really what we need anyway). The package said I could feed them dry or wetted, so for shits and giggles, I fed them to him dry like a treat. Holy cow, he ripped them out of my fingers. I gave him a couple nuggets and gave the girls each a nugget. He gobbled his nuggets down, then stole each of the girl's since they were just playing with them. I fed him the rest of the sample bag (after which he went to the fountain and got a good long drink).

I ordered a bag of that ($30 for 18oz) and we'll see how far that goes in meals. It really bothers me that these bags will list the weight in ounces, and then tell you to serve cups, and won't tell you how many servings you get out of the bag or how many ounces a cup of their food weighs. Oh well, we're still experimenting in how to make this affordable. I'm wondering how easy a grocery purchased, homemade turkey raw diet would be? I want to stay away from beef and fish for sure (allergy reasons), and probably away from chicken, so that leaves not as common foods like goose, turkey, rabbit, venison, etc.

Or maybe I will try making raw food myself- this website makes it really easy, and gives a turkey substitute. I would just need a very expensive grinder... but I could freeze it immediately into ice cubes and then thaw them one meal at a time... Husband, start looking for that deep freezer!

Knock on wood, things seem to be going well for Felix. He's not crazy about his wet food, but he loves the raw food and licks the bowl clean every evening. He's a champ about taking his pepcid and vitamin every day (down the throat since he won't eat it in his food). Just want my little guy to feel better, and stay feeling better!

If it goes downhill again, I'm going to call a not-so-local holistic vet to get his opinion on what to do. Traditional couldn't fix the vomiting, and if he develops IBD (which can develop into lymphoma), we're going to be up a creek with a very young cat.

The "normal" cats.

Anybody ever do raw food for their cats (or dogs)? Did you make it yourself or buy premade?

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Goals


I may or may not have copied my 2016 goal post and just changed the words, haha. It was easiest because I like the format and my goals this year are basically the same as last year.

Once again, they are all competition result oriented because that's how I am. End of story. I don't do dressage for the sheer joy of training my horse to carry himself properly. I enjoy competing and training to compete. I am lost without a competition goal. It's probably rather sad.

Attempting to keep this in mind.
I may have done better last year.

2017 Main Goals

  • Second Level Rider Award - I need one more score.
  • Centerline Scores 1* Rating - I have 3/10 points towards it already.
  • Bronze Medal - I need two Third Level scores.
  • Third Level Horse Performance Certificate - This will be significantly harder to get than the First Level award.
  • Region 2 Championships at Third Level - Go there and compete, and do it well (top 6 or 63%+)

2017 Stretch Goals
  • Earn one Dover Medal - Because medals are cool.
  • Centerline Scores 2* Rating - Because why not go for broke.
  • US Dressage Finals at Third Level - Because why not go for extra broke.

Once again, all horsey goals, all competition goals. Also, significantly more goals than last year (4 vs 8), and I think much more difficult because it spans two levels worth of work. Last year I set 3 Main goals and 1 Stretch goal. I finished all three main goals quickly, and missed the stretch (which was ok). Some further details:

  • Second Level Rider Award: 4 scores at 60%+ from 4 different judges from at least 2 different shows. I have 3 scores from 3 different judges already. Hopefully I can knock this out at the first show. Sadly, Second is the last level that has a Rider award, so it's all about Penn from here on out.
  • Centerline Scores 1* Rating: 10 points at Second Level. (Click here for more info about the ratings) I currently have 3 points from my work with Mikey. This rating doesn't count for a damn thing because it's not USDF and I'm not a Pro, but I want it anyway. It will take me 4 to 7 tests to finish (I don't anticipate any 70+% scores) and I've only allocated 5 tries at 2-3 over the summer, so this might be hard to get.
  • Bronze Medal: 6 Scores over 60%, 2 at First Level, 2 at Second Level, 2 at Third Level. For the love of all that is holy, can we get this taken care of already? How many years in the making, you know? I just need the two third level scores.
  • Third Level Horse Performance Certificate: 10 scores at 60%+ from at least 4 different shows and 4 different judges, where at least 4 scores need to be from the 3-3 test. I plan on attending 6 different shows, over 5 weekends. Riding Penn at least twice per weekend at 3rd level, this should take through Championships to finish. I won't be heartbroken if we don't finish it this year, if only because I know we'll be repeating Third at the start of 2018 because we'll be working on things past my current knowledge.
  • Qualify for Championships: 2 scores at 60%+ in 3-3, from 2 different shows. This falls in line with my other goals, but could come into jeopardy if we don't have all our ducks in a row early in the season (3-1 vs 3-3). I went through my show list, and I may have to pick another show in June or July to go to- The first 3 shows on my list are two day shows (vs 2 one day shows), and I can only get one qualifying score each weekend. I can take 2 cracks at it in a weekend for sure, but only one will count.

For the stretch goals, these are all things that I would like, but probably wouldn't be disappointed missing out on (because hell, I'll be tired after getting my Main Goals done!).

  • Earn one Dover Medal. Win the 2-3 Dover Medal Class. This is pretty straightforward. I gave myself five shots at it this year. It's not a Main Goal because it's reliant on a placing, not a score, so even if I have a ride of a lifetime, someone else could too and beat my ride.
  • Centerline Scores 2* Rating: 1* Rating + 10 points at Third Level. (Click here for more info about the ratings) I currently have no points at third and no 1* rating. Perfect. I actually think I have a better shot at getting the points for the 2* rating than the points for the 1* rating.
  • US Dressage Finals at Third Level: Top 2 or 65+% for a Wildcard invite. Self explanatory. Finals will always be on my mind every time we go to Championships because there's always a chance of going.

2016 Small Goals

This section is to map out my plan for meeting my Main and Stretch Goals. I'm not bothering to write down the schooling shows because I think we'll only be going to 4 or 5 of those, most of which will be before the first recognized show and probably be pretty bad because I need some confidence at these levels and Penn needs the experience. Guess I'll have to fake it to give Penn a good experience!

By "only" going to these shows, I'm actually cutting it close with a lot of my goals. I've left 4 blanks in the schedule- I could ride a test there (and before creating this chart, I had 3-1 in those slots), except I think we're to a point where 2 tests per day will be hard, and 4 tests in a weekend will be a lot for both of us- I've always checked out mentally in test 4. Note I didn't ride a 4th test this past year. The only show I have 4 tests is Loch Moy, and only because it's two separately numbered shows and so will have 2 Dover Medals up for grabs.

Second Level Goals:

Second Level and I haven't always been friends, but if an ill-educated Mikey can get a lifetime high score (which was also at Second Level) of 64.2%, I think Penn can do it since he's far better educated than Mikey was when he was showing Second.
  • I have 2-3 on the schedule for every time a Dover Medal is offered, except at Championships because well, come on. I'm not wasting an entry on that when the competition is so stiff.
  • I would hope I could complete my second level rider award in those 5 tests. If not... well the year is not going to go as planned!
  • I'll need to score over 65% twice and between 60 and 64.999% three times at minimum to accumulate my last 7 points for CLS 1* Rating in those 5 rides. It took me 9 rides (3 Mikey and 6 Penn) to get 10 points at First Level. Maybe this should be a stretch goal too!

Third Level Goals:

Third Level is my nemesis. Maybe we'll get along better at the end of this year. One can only hope. This is by far the level I've struggled with the most (well, most publicly- it took me years to move from Training to First with any kind of success, but I did that in the privacy of my own arena). I actually don't plan on sending Penn out in a double for this level this year. I don't think he's ready for that much bit, and it might cover up any collection holes we have (preventing moving up in the future).
  • If I can't seal the deal and get my Bronze this year, I think I'll sell Penn and buy a goldfish (or maybe a koi pond). I mean, unless something horrible happens where we can't compete... If I can't get the job done in the 11 tries I have on the table for this year with the really fantastic instruction I should be getting this year... I need to re-evaluate my program or myself, because it will not be Penn's fault if this goal fails.
  • I only have 4 shots at getting two 60%'s in 3-3 before the August qualifying score cut off, but the weekend I ride 3-3 twice will only have one counting score even if they're both 60+ (so basically 3 chances?). I mean, I could swap out those 3-1's for 3-3's for extra chances, but I really wanted to start with something easy. I would hope it doesn't take me that long to get 60%, but you never know. And if it does, I probably have no business going to championships at Third Level anyway.
  • I am 100% ok with Penn not getting his Third Level Horse Performance Certificate this year. It's on the list because he'll be entered in enough tests to get it (11 tests, so one oops test allowed).
  • I am 100% ok with not getting my CLS 2* Rating this year. Again it's on the list because I'm planning on riding third 11 times this year, which I hope will let me accumulate most of the points I need.
  • I am 100% ok with not going to finals too. It would be a neat perk, but to be honest, I was relieved after 2016 championships to be done showing for the year.

Obviously the biggest goal for the year? Bronze Medal. #bronzeorbust

2016 Training Goals:

The "Small" Goals will test my "Training" Goals. As they should- horse shows are a test of your training. You get feedback, bring it home, then make changes according to your feedback. Below are all of the movements from 2-3, 3-1, and 3-3.

2-3 Movements/Skills:
  • Medium walk
  • Free walk
  • Collected trot
  • Medium trot
  • Collected canter
  • Medium canter
  • Transitions: walk/canter, canter/trot, collected/medium/collected
  • 10m circles in trot
  • Shoulder In
  • Travers
  • Halt, rein back
  • Turn on the haunches
  • 3 Loop serpentine, no change of lead
  • Simple changes (canter/walk/canter)

Third Level Movements/Skills:
  • Medium walk
  • Extended walk
  • Collected trot
  • Medium trot
  • Extended trot
  • Collected canter
  • Medium canter
  • Extended canter
  • Transitions: walk/canter, canter/trot, collected/medium/extended/collected
  • 10m half circles in trot
  • 10m circles and half circles in canter
  • Shoulder In
  • Half Pass: trot and canter
  • Turn on the haunches
  • Flying changes

At the end of the year, I'll look back on these like I did for Training and First and evaluate how well each one went for us on a 1-10 scale. There will be more charts. #mathnerd

If all else fails, Penn can be a magazine model.

Hopefully when I look back at this at the end of the year, I don't say, "I spread myself too thin."