Board Stiff

I’m having a discussion on FB about bits with people. I’ll be honest.. I don’t consider them the most educated horse people.

I’m sure they’re fine people.. when they’re not calling me names, or being passive aggressive, because I ride/rode dressage.

I think they were insulted when I suggested additional training versus a bigger/stronger bit.

But, that’s not really my point.. what I wanted to ask you is this:

At what point in learning dressage did you realize that other people’s horses feel like blocks of wood with piss poor training?

You know what I’m talking about. You hop off your horse, after you’ve gotten yours bending evenly on both sides, he’s forward and responsive between the reins, and you can feel his back come up and the movement lift and swing..

And then you sit on their horse.

Their horse, the one that doesn’t even have the first clue what moving away from a leg is, NOR does the horse do more than grit its teeth and bear down on the reins when you ask for slight flexion to the inside.

This isn’t to say everyone who doesn’t ride dressage is a bad rider/trainer. I’ve met many non-dressage horses that are trained as well (if not better) than a good 2nd level horse. I’ve been in awe of many of them.

No, this is the average, back yard, 4H level horse, or the dreaded “School Horse”. The kind you used to sit on and think was trained well. The kind you never noticed how stiff they were before you began dressage. At what point in your dressage training did you start to realize how poorly trained the average horse is?

Have you experienced it? And if you have, do you find yourself trying to “fix” the horse?

Actually, this same phenomenon probably applies to other disciplines too.

I’m sure Reiners could relate (I’m not gonna list all the disciplines).

I’m probably just being a pompous ass, but it’s something I noticed. Horses I once thought were the epitome of trained, now seem stiff and cumbersome to ride. I take things like “move away from the leg” for granted now, and yet so many horses can’t do that realtively simply thing.

I’ve gotten so I won’t ride just any horse. It frustrates me too much to have an unresponsive, argumentative horse, and I can’t fix it in a 15 – 20 minute ride, so I turn down a lot of rides.

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Cross-Rail Queen

I’m still doing the jumping lessons. Having a blast with it. The instructor is focusing a lot on the rider position. Which is great, but my body disagrees.

I’ve found it interesting learning the new positions and how to stabilize my upper body (especially over a jump). Prior to jump lessons, I didn’t realize I used the ball of my foot to balance off. I thought I had my weight in my heel. After a few times being thrown forward on a tiny jump, and I realized I really wasn’t sinking into my heel. I think it’s helped my dressage riding learning this.

The lesson prior to this last one, we started on counting strides to a fence. I thought I wouldn’t have an issue with this. I can count strides! I can count them on a circle, I can count them down a wall, I can count them as we wiggle, I can count them down the hall…

Put a fence in front of me and ask me to estimate three strides out and start counting… HA! Nope. Can’t do it…

Even with the instructor counting FOR ME.
Nope, couldn’t do it…

It was like patting my head and rubbing my stomach. If I counted, I couldn’t ride the jump. If I rode, I couldn’t count. Haha

I realized recently that I’ve been taking twice a month jumping lessons for about 8 months now (approx 16 lessons). When I started, I was still nervous about going over ground poles. Cross-rails seemed like an 8 foot wall, and made me almost nauseous to even think about going over one. Last lesson… I’m now bored of cross-rails. I’m actually pretty darn proud of that fact. I never thought I’d get comfortable enough to think a cross-rail was ‘boring’. Woo Hoo!

Not sure where I want to go with this whole jumping thing still, but I conquered a big fear I had, and I’m pretty darn proud about it!

Of course, put me on a horse that has a big jump, or isn’t quite as experienced, and I’m sure my tune will change real quick. haha

I would like to share that I am covered, head to toe, in poison ivy.

Polar, the Great Pyrenees.

My big, loveable dog, Dax, died of cancer last fall, so I was searching for a new large breed dog to fill Dax’s big shoes.

I tried the animal shelters first, but after getting bitten and growled at by the “friendly” adult dogs up for adoption, and having been denied by the rescues, I figured my only route was buying a puppy.

I’d been reading up on Great Pyrenees dogs over the winter and thought one might be a good fit for our family. I scoffed at the “fiercely independent” description. I thought. “Pfft, we trained a full grown, adult, Chihuahua that knew nothing. How bad can a loveable big dog be?!”

The size didn’t bother me. Dax was 130 lbs when he was in good health, and it wasn’t an issue until he got too ill to walk on his own.

So, I was browsing puppy ad’s when I shouldn’t have been, and saw a Craigslist ad with Great Pyrenees puppies for sale. Of course we called them, but unfortunately, all the puppies were sold already. I figured that was that, and we carried on with life.

I like the concept of fate when it comes to animal companionship. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. I figured it wasn’t meant to be.

A couple of days later, we get a text from the breeder that one of the pups was being returned. The largest male of the litter.

The people who had taken him named him Cashmere, and were returning him because he barked non-stop.

None of this deterred us in the least. We immediately went to pick him up.

We show up at the breeders house and this fluffy, white puppy tumbles out, falls in my lap in a heap, and contentedly lays there while I pet him. I was shocked how mellow and calm he was.

So we took him home…. this fluffy ball of mellowness…

Ever since, I’ve been learning that I need to up my dog training skills to the top level in a hurry if I’m going to have a chance at ending up with a well behaved canine citizen!!

This is only my 3rd puppy (and 4th dog) I’m training, but I grew up with parents who bred, raised, and showed Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Walkers. I’m not a total newb to this… but this pup has kept me furiously racing to stay one step ahead of him at all times. I feel like a total newb with this puppy.

It’s a darn good thing he’s cute, and those rare instances where he’s not a total jerk, the glimmers of the loving and affectionate dog he’ll become shine through.

If we survive puppyhood…


Polar as a wee pup at his breeder’s farm. He’s so small.

Polar with his dad

May 8th, first day at his new home.

Age: 8 Weeks.

Week 8

He’s almost the same size as Zeus.

May 14

He looks like a potato.

may 15

May 20th

Anything that moves gets attacked. Brooms, cats, toys… you….

We found this horse ball in a pile of brush. He thought it was the best thing in the world!

May 24

Morning walks means he sleeps for 2 hours afterward while I work.

May 28th

Polar meets new friends, Sebastian and Murphy:

may 28

Another play date with “Uncle Sebastian”.

june 1

Age: 12 weeks

He bites, a LOT, and nothing seems to curb it. His needle like teeth hurt too.

Moments like this are priceless.

Because…

He figured out how awesomely fun digging is, and does so at every opportunity. I follow behind, filling them in. It’s my vindictive way of showing him the futility of his destructive ways (did i mention he bites me a LOT and leaves me bloody and wounded? You’d be a tad vindictive too.)

june 2

Morning walk.

First horse show

I took Polar to visit a local open horse show to try to expose him to new experiences. He was a perfect gentleman. He is awesome with other people and kids. Never barked at anything.

Polar watching the horses go around.

He caught some zzz’s while I watched the show.

june 4

I’m 4’10 and sone change.

june 5

june 9

One of the things they talk about with the GP breed is the delay in responding, or the euphemism of “needing a lot of patience” when training them. I didn’t understand at the time…

It works like this.. I say “Come”, and then there’s this 30 second delay where Polar thinks through all his options…. it’s maddening sometimes. I’ve never had a puppy this obstinant and independent before.

I’ve been told you can’t train this out of them.

june 15

Age: 14 weeks

Weight: 34.5 lbs

Morning walk

His recall when I have cheese is phenominal.

june 17

Zeus tries hard to keep his top spot in the family dynamics, but it’s hard when your underling outweighs you.

june 19

june 20

june 23rd

Not a lap dog anymore…

June 26

Loves riding in the UTV, but gets confused about where he should sit.

Destroyer of Cushions

July 3rd

Age: 16 weeks

Weight: 43.5lbs

July 4th

He still goes after anything that moves, including us. Hubby and I have more holes in our clothes than we can count.

This breed is cute, affectionate, and extremely smart… but for the love of God, do not get a puppy. There’s a reason a ton of these dogs end up at rescues.

We start a new puppy class in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed it goes well.

The Game

Last night I went to my jumping lesson. I’d switched nights due to a sleepless night of puppy shenanigans. Darn puppies…

Anyway, after my lesson there were two adorable little girls getting ready for their lesson. The parents were patiently waiting in the wings, watching the kids tack up. I kept thinking the woman looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her.

Until finally it hits me.. Of course, I still can’t remember her name, but I at least had identified I wasn’t off my rocker thinking she looked familiar. Ha!

So we chit chat about how we know each other for a moment , how long it’s been, etc. when she asks, “Do you own horses?”

Why is it that it always feels like I’m entering into a competition with newly found horse people every time we wade into the subject of horses?

The conversation itself was rather banal, but the subtext of these conversations always seems to contain a query to determine my importance to the horse world.  With the goal being to determine who the better rider is, and then ranked accordingly.

Maybe I add too much into these things.

I probably do….

But, still…  I swear, sure seemed like I was being evaluated and dismissed as anything other than a beginner rider.

Anyway, we talk for a bit until I make my awkward exit (she’s basically written me off at this point). Except, the entire car ride home I’m thinking of all those things I could’ve said instead. The things that would make her see me in the light I want to be seen in (an accomplished rider, who has had at least a modicum of success in the horse world). You know, all those things you wish you would’ve said instead of what you said.

Why’s it even matter?

I don’t really care what she thinks…

I think the issue I have is that, I have put so much time, sweat, blood, tears, into this sport that I want to be taken seriously. I want my accomplishments to count for something. I want to be seen as an accomplished and skilled rider.

Because, lately, I don’t feel like I am. And having that feeling reflected back at me, through her eyes, hurt.

Top 100 Blogs

My blog got added to the “Top 100 Dressage Blogs…” blah, blah, blah..

Feedspot has this deal where if you’re a Gold member, they list your dressage blog in their Top 100 list. You can’t get listed unless you’re a Gold member.

Gold Membership costs money though.

They won’t tell you their gold membership fee up front though. You have to give them all your info first. Then when you see the fee and go “Oh Hell No!”, they’ll email you directly to convince you to pay. They’re actually quite persistent about you paying them.

At first they’ll offer you one (1) free month.

However, I got sick of the emails, so I replied with “I’m never paying you a dime for a membership”, and they responded by giving me a free Gold Membership.

(I’m not tossing away hard earned cash on a feed aggregator.)

(why can’t people give me cars, or money instead?!)

(I bet my Gold membership gets yanked now.)

With my newly minted “Gold” status, I’m suddenly a Top 100 Dressage Blogs!! Woo! I’m so kewl! 😒

If you’ve read more than one post, you know my content is rather sub par, sporadic, and well, as my mom put it “I read the first line and quit”. 😭

😂😂

[she wasn’t captivated by my laminitis post]

Here the listing: https://blog.feedspot.com/dressage_blogs/

Go get your blog listed for free now too!! …where the fees are made up, and the lists don’t matter!

Slap me upside the head

Some days I’m surprised I can get through life at all.

As long as I’ve owned Ava, she’s thrown her head up. She’s been doing it since the day I bought her back in 2011. Example: https://youtu.be/gJvhwlMYJRk?t=3m58s

It was always explained as a training problem to me.

2018, this thought popped into my head, “What if it’s the bit?!”

Switched her to a french link and…

she’s sooooooooooooooo much better.

I feel like the densest person in the world!

Been riding her in it for a few months now, and the head thing has almost completely gone away.

#hindsight20/20

My Winter Laminitis Struggles

I mentioned in a much earlier post, I had asked the vet to test Ava’s blood for iron levels…

The results of the Iron test:

Ava’s levels: 305 mg/dl.

Normal range is: 105 – 277

Below are links for information on iron levels and laminitis:

“The role of iron overload as a risk factor for IR (Fernandez-Real et al, 2002; Jehn et al, 2004), and therapeutic effect of lowering body iron levels (Fargion, 2005; Piperno, 2004), has been documented in man”

http://forageplustalk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/IRON-STATUS-OF-HYPERINSULINEMICINSULIN-RESISTANT-HORSES.pdf

More links related to high Iron/laminitis:

https://www.americanfarriers.com/articles/8630-too-much-iron-can-be-detrimental-insulin-resistant-horses

http://www.laminitishelp.org/2410/check-hay-feed-for-high-iron-levels-when-treating-laminitis-in-horses/

http://forageplustalk.co.uk/iron-overload-in-horses-by-dr-kellon/

http://gettyequinenutrition.biz/Tipofthemonth/Tipofthemonth.htm

I was told by another vet that although Iron and laminitis show a correlation. No causation has been proven. But high iron has other issues, so needs to be addressed either way.

Nutrient Requirement Calculator: http://nrc88.nas.edu/nrh/

No Iron added Supplements:

Vermont Blend – $72.00 (60 day supply) $1.20 per day.

U-BALANCE FOUNDATION – $159.95 (60 day supply) $2.67 per day.

California Trace Plus – $70 (40 day supply) $1.75 per day.

All have free shipping. Vermont Blend will send a free sample.

Ava loves the Vermont Blend. She will eat it straight. Joy isn’t quite as fond. She doesn’t hate it, she just doesn’t really care either way.

Since I’m not feeding grain, and neither horse likes beet pulp, I’m looking for a supplement, or ration balancer, with no iron that both will eat without requiring additional prep.

Agricultural Extension – Use it!

To find your local Agricultural county office, check this link: http://pickyourown.org/countyextensionagentoffices.htm

Or do what I did, and Google “agricultural extension office [your] county”.

What can you use them for?

Everything!

Why you should use them?

They’re free!

Most of the extension offices also have facebook pages. I’ve checked out several of the FB pages of neighboring states, and they offer everything from courses on equine senior care to assistance with health insurance.

My experience:

Since I’m easily confused and was having difficulty finding an answer to a specific question (how to get free water testing), I simply emailed the main contact email address on my county’s agricultural extension web page.  This was during a holiday, so it did take a couple days for them to respond (I assume gov offices were closed).

I was then put in touch with a person who works with the top veterinary college in my state. Within a few days, we had set up an appointment for him and an equine veterinarian from the college to come to my house to check out everything (from what grew in my pasture, to what I was feeding, right down to the health and condition of my horses).

They walked me through what I was feeding (hay and supplements) and suggested some tweaks to ensure I was providing all the minerals/nutrients that the horses needed.

They answered the billion questions I had about how to test hay, where to send it for testing, and how to interpret the results. They brought out a hay corer to get samples of my hay, and helped me package it up for shipping to be analyzed. They then gave me a direct contact to a equine nutritional expert to help me interpret the results.

In addition to this, they sent me resources for more information on iron levels in horses, gave me instructions on how to build my own hay probe (because I refuse to pay $200 to buy one), and discussed best practices for how to manage my IR horses with my existing set up.

I’d strongly recommend that you take advantage of this resource. It’s completely free, and is beneficial to both beginners and the knowledgeable horse folks out there.

Hay Testing:

http://equi-analytical.com/standard-analytical-services/

  • Fast-Track = $18.00
  • Equi-Track = $28.00

They’ll email, or snail mail, a copy of the report to you.

Hay Report Sample

Hay Report Sample

You may need to research how to interpret the results, or contact your Ag department for help.

There are also some good websites with information on interpreting results: https://extension.msstate.edu/sites/default/files/publications/publications/p2620.pdf

 

Hay Probes:

List of Hay Probes: http://www.foragetesting.org/index.php?page=hay_probes

You can also make one from a golf club, or ask your Ag department to bring one out when they come out.

 

Overall, absolutely the best resource to have available. It’s completely free. They’re wonderfully nice, helpful, and a joy to work with. I think every one of you should take advantage of these services.

And if you can’t find what you’re looking for on their website, contact them!