Poison Ivy Sucks

Its been a full week. I read it would go away in about a week. Instead, my rash is spreading to cover both arms.

I think I’ve found the culprit, considering I have studiously avoided any contact with plants remotely resembling poison ivy…

The dogs.

I just watched Dax sit in a patch of it.

This is going to be a very long, itchy, summer…

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I have been subjugated.  I also drank two cups of coffee and am in desperate need of a restroom. The pets don’t seem to care…

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Yes, I have dog cartoon PJ’s  on. I assure you, these are the highest form of fashion.

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Zeus, contemplating the meaning of freedom, and the dilemma of giving up his comforts for it.

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A foggy morning before work…

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Ava laying in the hay I put out. I rarely see her lay down. She must feel safer with Joy standing guard.

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…….

I went to a relatives wedding yesterday. Anytime I sneak out into the public realm I end up wondering why I bothered. I’m socially awkward. I make people uncomfortable around me.

The only way I could offset my awkward demeanor previously was copious amounts of alcohol. Since I gave up drinking, the social aspects of life have become extremely difficult.

I now understand why some of my friends carry portable wine containers….

Portable Boxed Wines

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The Trail Ride

Wednesday, I went for a long trail ride with my neighbors. Well, long for me…

It was such a beautiful day!

Ava was, as usually, brave and willing. Her only issues are when the ground changes colors (usually dark spots), or walking into shadowy areas from the light areas. I don’t think her blue eyes adjust well to changes in light. We hit one section of trail where the ground was black in spots and Ava kept ducking her head and shying around them. I let her pick her own way. Whatever she’s comfortable with.

We did some short bits of trotting and Ava felt wonderful. Not an ounce of lameness that day. I even cantered a bit. She’s got a really fun canter to ride. Very smooth.

Ironically, Wednesday I had decided to take Joy instead of Ava. I spent like three hours trying to build up my courage… but when I went to get the pony she was horribly lame. I thought she broke something she was so lame. I checked everything, but couldn’t find a source. She was putting weight on the leg. No heat. No cuts. Hoof seemed ok.

Yesterday she seemed better. Not 100% sound, but much, much better.

Pictures from the trail ride:

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I’ve decided I want to buy a nice bareback pad. Hopefully one that’ll fit both Ava and the pony. My thinking on this is that A.) Sometimes I don’t want to have to saddle up for a short ride B.) Jeans hurt in my dressage saddles, and sometimes I’d like to ride without having to change clothes, and C.) It’s cheaper than buying a good saddle for Joy, and may buy me some time and allow me to still ride her lightly.

However, in researching BB pads I’ve found they can still cost quite a bit of money. I was shocked at the pricing. (I’ve been out of the loop for a long time.)

The Weekend

Last weekend was a killer.  Friday I worked late, and afterward I cleaned the stalls (which were trashed) and then started cleaning out the barn in preparation for getting new hay on Saturday.

Most people find junk, cobwebs, and/or dirt when they clean. I find baby kittens.

So now we have two litters of kittens.  * oh yippee *

Saturday morning we picked up 50 more bales of hay.  Google maps lead us to a very, very narrow, winding dirt road by a lake that is surrounded by houses with tiny driveways. This was obviously not the right place, so we called the seller. It was another 10 miles down the main road. Hubby had to back the truck and trailer down the narrow street quite a ways before we could turn around.

We got back on the main road, and ended up blowing past the hidden turn off that has no sign. I’m so glad my Hubby is good at turning trucks with long trailers around.

We finally got to the sellers barn.  The hay seller climbs to the top of his stack of hay and starts systematically tossing hay on to the trailer in perfectly stacked rows.  He probably could’ve stacked the entire trailer by himself without ever leaving the top of his hay stack (if I hadn’t been in his way constantly).

My arm started to itch like crazy.

We got home and unloaded and stacked the hay. By the time we were done my arms were shaky. I was ready to call it a day at that point, but Hubby thought we should clean up the trailer, the barn floor, and dump the bad hay (from first time we bough hay) out back.

*sigh*

Fine! I wanted to be a lazy, worthless piece of lard, but I guess I’ll clean up after myself and my horses. 😉

My arm really itched!! I keep scratching it.

Finally, we were all done and, other than evening feed, I’m in for the night. It’s 6pm Saturday… And suddenly I realized I’d forgotten to pick up more grain while out and about. So, off to the store I go. The store is packed. There are very large people with carts jaw-jacking in the middle of every aisle that leads to the grain. In frustration, I flagged down a sales associate who barged through the people.

The nice thing about being a girl… the sales associate loaded all four bags of grain on my cart for me.  Yay!

On the down side, I now know that Nutrena chicken feed is preferred by this sales associate over Purina chicken feed. I’m not sure why he felt I cared about chicken feed. Maybe chickens are a pre-req to having horses at home or something?  Like, you start with chickens, and if you can keep them alive for 6 months then you step up to penguins, and eventually you earn the right to have a horse in your back yard….. *confused*

I checkout. Total was $89 for 4 bags of grain and a $20 bottle of fly spray.  I was gritting my teeth in frustration as I watched all of our savings disappear.

My left eye started twitching incessantly at that point. My arm still itched like mad.

Sunday, we picked up more bedding. Another $126 dollars.

Bedding drives me nuts… Let me give you a ton of money for a bag of shavings so an animal can pee and crap on it.

These freeloaders need to learn to use the toilet.

Total expense for weekend: $465.
Number of times I had ridden the last two weeks: 0.

By Sunday evening my arm itched so badly that I was thinking about peeling the skin off. Somewhere along the way I brushed up against poison ivy.

My eye is still twitching!!

Pony Saddles, etc.

I had some friends over last weekend to give me a hand with Joy. I wanted to work on desentization under saddle.

I put Taylor on Ava, the nearly bomb proof one, while I hopped on Joy. Normally I lunge Joy before riding, but she’s been so good under saddle that I thought I could risk skipping the lunge part. I also hadn’t ridden her in several days. This was either going to go okay, or I was in for a massively jarring ride.

Taylor and I have Ava and Joy standing side by side, while my other friend has a scary object out in front of us and that she’s moving around.

Joy looks curious, but barely any more reaction then a head movement.

Ava on the other hand is like, “What the Hell is that?!?!”

Snorting, backing up, nervous….

Taylor handled it well (she’s a very good rider), and Ava eventually relaxed.

Anyway, Joy was Ms. Confident with the scary objects. My friend flapped it all over her, under her, behind and around her. I held it and drug it behind us as we walked. We walked over the tarp, backed over it, etc. No issues.
Joy seemed bored. In fact, Joy was so good that she made Ava seem like a drama queen. You would’ve thought Joy was the 12 year old show horse who’d been there, done that. Haha

After all that, Taylor and I went for a short trail ride. This was the first time I’d ridden Joy outside the pasture. She did pretty good. I’m glad Ava was there, because Joy tensed up at one point and I got pretty nervous, but I just tucked her up close to Ava’s butt and kept her focused. The moment passed and we were able to do a short loop of trail near the house.

Saddle Shopping:
I went to two tack stores last weekend looking for a saddle to fit Joy. There just isn’t much back real-estate to this pony. I think, in order to get it short enough to not sit on her kidneys, that I’ll need a 16″ seat or smaller.

My problem is I have a large bum.

At one store, I ask to sit in a jump saddle that’s about 15 inches. Of course my butt cheeks hang over. But in my head I’m looking at length of the saddle and trying to gauge whether it’s short enough for the pony. The sales person, however, is very concerned that may ass hangs over.

She tries to direct my attention toward the bigger seat sizes, but I point out another small saddle and ask to try it. She seems a bit flustered but complies. I sit on the saddle. I’m pleasantly surprised that the seat is almost comfy. The flaps are perfect sized for my midget legs.

But the sales lady is making noises, and trying to politely tell me that my ass is too big. She shows me a 16.5″ and has me try it. This seems to be her compromise saddle… the smallest seat size this lady can stand to see me in without barfing.

I check out the price tag…

Over a thousand dollars.

Uh… no.

Just for fun, I point out another super small saddle to try. By this point the sales lady has launched into a spiel about saddle fitting to the rider.

I tell her I’m interested in the 15 3/4″ saddle, but I’ll have to come back. And just for a split second she looked at me like I was an idiot. Then she plastered a big smile on and explained their trial periods. Hahaha

Poor sales lady…

Hey, I told her up front I needed a saddle for a 13.3 pony with no back. It’s not my fault she can’t listen. I only wanted to see if I could sit in that small of a size without breaking myself.

And what is up with the dressage seat sizes?? There isn’t a tack store in 100 miles of me that carries a dressage saddle with a seat size smaller than 17″. I can’t find many 16″ or smaller online (of quality and inexpensive). I see a ton of 18″. And even found a few 19″ dressage saddles — I didn’t even know they made them that big.

Also, I can’t believe the prices on pony dressage saddles online! OMG. 2k and up for half a damn saddle. Literally. It’s half the size of my regular saddle and three times as expensive.

I want to apologize to all my pony brethren for silently laughing at you for how much you paid for your saddles. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know!!

Anyway, I still don’t have a saddle for Joy. Plus, we’re broke, so I’m not sure when we’ll have the money for a saddle to fit Joy.

And… I get to move hay today. Yippee.

Here are some pictures:

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Under Saddle Training Update

I’ve now had Joy for two months. Since I am dang near a pro level dressage trainer, I’d like to share a video of Joy’s upper level work. We’ll be debuting at Grand Prix in July.

Ok. More like a video showing me bumble around while I struggle to steer and the ‘Go’ buttons are a bit sticky.

Cue video!

It’s down there some where. Keep scrolling.

Joy’s progressing fairly well. She’s starting to figure out leg, rein, seat aids (in a general, they exist kind of way). We’ve been working on leg yielding the past week so that I can start to build on ideas like bend, outside aids, and stepping under the body. She’s darn good (for a greenie) moving to the left, and it’s like pulling teeth to the right. She likes to toss her haunches left naturally, so crossing and stepping underneath herself to the right with the left hind leg is probably moving her in ways she’s not used to moving.

I’ve also started turn on the forehand. I was going to wait a little longer to introduce this, but I was listening to a podcast that talked about the benefits of the movement for young horses. And because Joy swings her hips left all the time, I thought it might be helpful to try to teach her how to move them around as early as possible. Plus, the crossing of the legs helps her loosen up her hips. We just finally were able to get a few steps in both directions this past week.

She seems to get locked into only my right leg. So after a turn on the forehand I put both legs on and she just keeps turning, and turning…

One thing I’ve noticed.. when you’re horse is this small, you really have to keep your balance right in the middle.  I kind of feel like Joy’s size is an advantage for dressage training since the idea of following my seat is kind of mandatory or she’ll fall over. Hahaha

I finally measured Joy last weekend. I had a disagreement with a friend about Joy’s height. I thought she was 14.2ish. Friend thought she was 13.3ish. I was invested in Joy being 14.2, because anything smaller could only mean I have midget legs.

Friend was right… She’s between 13.3 and 14 hands (I don’t have the most accurate measuring tool).

On the plus side, I think she’ll be more marketable in the long run because she’s eligible for the USDF pony classes at this height.

I was having a heck of a time with Joy the last ride. Going to the right was fine. She would bend and move her body. Going to the left she falls in drastically. I can’t flex her left, or turn her head left at all, or we immediately swerve left. She’ll move away from my right leg easily, but when I put my left leg on she ignores it. I can get her to bend her body around my left leg for really small moments at the walk, but then she’s immediately back to the leaning on the left shoulder and bulging left.

It’s frustrating!

I’m trying to figure out if my position was contributing to the issue, but I can’t tell when I watched the video. If you see something let me know.

I need a better fitting saddle for Joy. This one isn’t going to work. And of course, neither of the other two saddles I own fit her either. Ugh. I need a midget sized saddle. I don’t know how I’ll fit my tubby butt in a saddle small enough to fit Joy. I think I need to switch to celery sticks for dessert.

Finally, here’s the video of Joy’s training as of June 5th, 2015. If you watch this, don’t expect much. It’s pretty rough looking. But… *drum roll* there’s footage of me actually cantering.
I’ve only cantered her three three times and only a few steps. This time we turn while cantering!! 😉

Ground training update

This week has been fun. I’m learning more about this little pony every day, and I’ve been pretty impressed with the brain she has.

I put together some ‘scary’ objects to introduce to Joy. One is a feed bag I filled with twine and then tied a rope around the top so I could toss or swing the bag around. The first time I showed it to her I just let her “chase it” while I slowly dragged it away. The next day I worked on swinging it, tossing it, and dragging it under/over/around her. It was a little scary to her at first, but then she just wanted to step on it and make it crinkle.

She was putting her nose on the bag, and then moving her top lip back and forth quickly against the bag. Either to make it make noise (which it made quite a bit), or it smelled like grain, or she liked the texture… I’m not sure. When I tried to pull the bag away she stomped her foot on it and wouldn’t let me have it. Ha!

The other day I walked Joy to my neighbors house. I’m trying to build up my confidence to start trail riding Joy. I thought hand walking her over to the neighbors would be a good test of how she’ll react. I worried a bit over whether to bring a chain with me or not. I also debated using the rope halter instead of her regular halter. I finally just said f’ it.. if she twirls around me like a circus freak then so be it. We set off to the neighbors with her plain halter and lead.

There was a bit of a tense moment when Joy thought she’d be safer if she put her feet on top of mine while going up the super steep, yet very small, incline. Joy’s getting much better about respecting my space though, and after a small reminder she decided she could probably walk up it herself. The rest of the walk went well. There are some objects down the path that used to make Ava nervous, yet Joy didn’t seem to care much.

At the neighbors, I took her up to the “bridge” (basically a wooden platform). Joy normally jumps shadows or odd patches of dirt, so I expected her to balk at the bridge. Nope. She clamored onto it like it was routine. We walked over it, and also backed off it, several times. No issues. We tried the poles. No issues. I let her loose in the paddock next to my neighbors horses. Joy sniffed around, sniffed the other horses noses, then pestered my neighbor for scratchies. I walked Joy back home. Again… she was excited, but sane and respectful. There was slack in the lead rope.

What else.. oh, I loaded her in the trailer for the first time since the “disastrous trailer ride” home. I was nervous. Joy didn’t give a shit. She hopped on. I gave her a bit of grain.

I didn’t close the dividers or rear doors this time. I thought I’d let her get used to the noises and smells a few times first.

I just want to say… all of my previous horses were self-loaders. I taught them to be that way. But Ava… ugh. Nothing I tried ever convinced her that a trailer was worth getting on. And trust me, I tried it all. The point being, my confidence in training a horse to self-load has been thoroughly shaken. So, we’ll see with Joy. I’ve got time, and more importantly, living with my horses means I can work on it multiple times a day for as many weeks or months as needed.

I would really like to have a horse again that just hops on the trailer and rides nicely. It’s makes life so much nicer.

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I went for a long trail ride with Ava and my neighbors today. We had a lot of fun. Ava was sassy today too. She’s fun when she’s sassy.

I cantered her for the first time in 8-9 months. I did get a tad nervous for a minute when Ava snaked her neck down. She sure seemed like she was thinking that a good, rollicking buckfest might be in order. Luckily she didn’t.

God, she felt like the old Ava today. She didn’t feel lame at all. We were trotting and all I had to do was tighten my core and she’d float.

It felt like… like heaven.

Hopefully I didn’t over do it on her today. Some days, when she’s feeling good, she’ll move like nothing in the world is wrong.

My trail riding partners today:
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This pic (below) is a more accurate depiction of personalities (don’t tell them I posted this 😉 ):
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I think the combined age of these two horses is about 46. Ava and I can’t keep up with the cute little Arab mare. Such a spitfire. I hope Ava is as spry at that age.

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I was sneaking a peek at the horses one evening when I heard this loud buzzing sound. I immediately panic (we’ve been inundated with bee’s), and when I turn to look, I see this little guy hanging out.
Hummingbird, if you can’t see it:
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I’m working on a post with Joy’s riding training. I should have something posted in the next day or two. I’m having problems. Green beans are so frustrating.