The Road Trip (of a life time)

To read the notes I took during the clinic, go to “Notes from the Charlotte Dujardin clinic“.

Post about how I got the tickets for the clinic: Once in a Lifetime

Although I only had one ticket for the clinic, my wonderful husband ended up going with me. Lucky for me he did!

Hubby was driving, and we had just pulled onto the off ramp when he casually says “We have no brakes”. Totally calm about it. I, of course, have 20 seconds of “What’d he just say?” followed immediately by extreme panic!

Hubby got us safely off the highway and coasted into a gas station. That man can seriously drive!  And then he was able to patch the brakes up enough to allow us to carry on with the road trip.

Yay!

The awesome handy man!

Brake fluid trail

Plugging the leak

He was coated in brake fluid afterward. Poor guy. Head to toe covered. And he broke his favorite tool. Not a good trip for the poor hubby, but boy was I glad he came!

The entire drive there and back took much longer than we anticipated. We left the house before 10am Friday. Google maps said it was less than a five hour drive to the clinic. That should’ve put us there about 3pm. Clinic rides started at 4:00.

Plenty of time…

Well, even though the brake issue took up an unexpected 30 minutes of our time, it still took us 6 hours and 42 minutes to get there. That included one short bathroom break and the brake line fix.

It was such a loooonnnnggg drive!

Since my hubby is a night owl,  we headed home right after the clinic.  He can’t sleep at night anyway.  Plus,  I was antsy to get home.

The ride home wasn’t much shorter. We ended up getting home about 4am. Left the clinic around 9:30pm.

The other funny thing that came out of that trip… I had asked the next door neighbor (who also owns horses)  if she could feed mine Friday evening while I was gone.  I set all the food next to their doors so that all she had to do was dump each bucket in to the feeders (access from outside of the stall) and kick the hay in.  Quick and easy.

However,  I knew my neighbor’s boarder was also coming. Nice guy, but he loves to get in Ava’s stall and pet her.

If I’m there,  I can usually nip Ava’s evil side in the bud before she escalates. When I’m not there, Ava can be downright evil.  I didn’t want to come home and hear about how Ava kicked him,  or bit him,  or trampled him…  (all things she’s done with other people before). So I left instructions for the neighbors not to go in Ava’s stall, at all.

The other two horses? Knock yourself out. Hang on them, lay under them… do what ever you want. Those two are saints.

Ava? Nope. Kick the hay in, slam the door. Do not go in.

So… Of course they went in anyway.

I didn’t find any dead bodies when I got home  — as if i wouldn’t have immediately implemented the “Shovel and Shut Up”  protocol if I had!

Ironically, I only knew that they’d gone in to Ava’s stall because they made sure to specifically let me know they’d gone in Ava’s stall.

Oh, and they were offended that I’d asked them not to.

tenor

 

 

Horse people are freaking NUTS! 

 

 

 

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Horses at home

My little princess, Ava, doesn’t enjoy summer. She is happiest squirreled into her stall with a hay net and fan.

I threw Ava outside after her dinner so she’d go be a horse for a few hours. 

She kept an ear cocked,  listening for me to come out and “save”  her. Obviously her human had made some kind of mistake and would rectify it immediately. 

I forgot my phone on the back deck.  I had to crawl across the deck on my hands and knee’s to retrieve the phone, because if Ava see’s me she runs to her paddock gate,  refuses to leave it,  and will whinny until I let her in.

Ava heard me open the back door.  She ran to her paddock gate, whinnied,  then stood there seeming confused when she couldn’t see me.

I crawled back inside…

At 9pm I snuck out to the pasture without being seen. I hollered out ‘Ava!! You can come back in now!”

Ava whips her head up, and lets out a continual bellowing whinny as she galloped up to the paddock gate. 

Today, the little monster (Ava still) decided she needed more hay, and began her systematic kicking of the stall wall to voice her displeasure.

Bam

Bam

Bam

Bam

“It’s second lunchies,  bitch” BAM!! 

.. 

I snuck out to the barn hoping to catch her in the act, but right before I get to the barn Joy lets out a big “Hey, what’cha doing?!” whinny.

D’oh. Caught.

I hid behind the wall of the barn hoping they’d both think they were mistaken and go back to what they were doing.

 They both pressed their heads hard against the bars, trying to eye ball me as I snuck looks around the corner.  

Ava’s new trick is to shove whatever itches in my face.  Shoulder itches?  Shove it into the human.  Belly?  Yup,  human can access it better from the ground.  

The cat’s have become complacent around Ava lately.  They should know better, but they are arrogant cats.  Yesterday I let Ava out and one of the cats decided to make friends with Ava.  It should’ve been one of those cutsey moments..  Instead,  Ava’s ears go back and demon monster horse lunges with teeth and hooves flying toward the cat.  The hoof missed by skant inches. Cat goes fleeing for her life.  Ava promptly turns toward me with a “Hehehe..  Did you see that cat run!”  look.  Like she expected me to get a good laugh out of it.  

Ok,  I admit,  once I knew the cat was fine,  it was kind of funny. 

Pics!! 

The old lady

Intermittent Riding

Had a fun ride on Ava the other day. It’s always an eye opener to ride your own horse after riding someone else’s.  I think I become more aware of the things I’ve let slide,  the defects,  the little things I’d grown accustomed to that shouldn’t be there. 

I’ve been having issues convincing Ava to go forward in the tiny arena. She has plenty of forward if I take her to the field behind the house. However, I want to work on bending and suppling exercises and everything in the field is straight lines (path is straight). I can work bending and suppling in the arena, but she sucks back and becomes ornery in the arena. She only wants to offer the slowest of jog trots.

So I got after her right off the bat about forward, and after an initial “I don’t wanna”,  we finally got some forward! Yay!

Even had a few moments of decent engagement this ride.

Ava Canter LeftAva Canter RightAva Trot

Now if only the rain would stay away.  Seems like 6 out of the 7 days of every week have been rain.  We are water logged. 

Ironically,  I would rather ride in snow.  Ava HATES rain. Hates it!  If one drop touches her nose,  she pulls her chin to her chest and will refuse to budge. Doesn’t matter if in the field,  being ridden,  or being led.  She is not kidding around about her intense dislike of rain. 

Joy doesn’t care though.  Best pony ever. 

We were supposed to do our first test haul tonight (around the block) with Joy.  It’s postponed until the rain lets up.  The end of the drive is too soggy at the moment.  

However,  I’m feeling more optimistic about how it’ll go.  I can load Joy in the trailer and jump up and down to rock it,  and Joy doesn’t care.  I bang things,  no response.  Today there was a flappy tarp right behind the trailer (and behind Joy),  and after a 5 second “What the heck is that?!?”  scare,  Joy was fine with it.  Stood in the trailer eating hay while the tarp flapped right behind her. 

(not sure if the vid will work) 

So,  if the hauling goes well, then i want to test taking her somewhere and then getting her back in the trailer to go home again.   I think I’m going to ask my neighbor if I can do a trial run at her house. 

If all goes well,  lessons are in my immediate future! Yay!! 

Inconsistent

I had to force myself to ride yesterday.  I’m always glad I rode when I’m done,  but getting geared up to go is sometimes a massive battle of willpower.  It’s difficult to want to ride when you can’t feel your fingers.

We were almost out of daylight by the time I got to Joy, so only a really short ride for her.

They were not the most productive rides.  A few trot circles in the “arena”  and done.  I would not call this “dressage training”.  This is what I call “survival” riding.

I have to say, I was very impressed with Joy. I haven’t actually ridden her in a month. I’ve lunged her some, and we’ve done some desensitization training, but no riding. I really expected a spazzed out, flighty pony on my hands. Instead, it was actually quite relaxing and pleasant. I was super impressed.

It snowed and snowed and snowed yesterday…

Ava was waiting on her treat.

I’m having a hard time riding consistently.  Between my lack of energy and the the bad weather/footing, I haven’t been able to do more then one or two rides a week (and those were short rides).

I can’t express how badly I envy people with indoor arenas right now.

. . .

My farrier was out last week to trim the mares.  Ava is a badly behaved,  evil beast when anyone unfamiliar is in the barn.  This time she was charging the stall door when the farrier was near it,  and then turning and double barrel kicking at him.  It’s not specific to him.  She does it to the vet,  the dentist,  pretty much anyone except my husband and I. She’s an indiscriminate a-hole.

Anyway… Farrier went after her (with my blessing). I gave him my whip and when she charged the door he burst into the stall and scared the bejesus out of her (he didn’t touch her,  just scared her).  I need to pay him more.  Poor guy.  Has to discipline my horses for me.  *sigh*

She used to do the same to me when I was handling Joy or Jessie, but after several “come to Jesus”  moments,  she no longer even thinks about it.  I think the issue now is that she knows I won’t get after her when strangers are around.  It’s hard to hold a horse for the vet and charge into a stall to put the fear of God into a horse.

She sure makes Joy seem like the happiest,  best behaved pony in the world.  🙂

2016 Year in Review

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write as the”year in review” type of post that I normally do. I don’t feel like we made any progress toward anything. Not riding, not trailering, not showing, not toward lessons…

I was so gung-ho this spring. I had it all planned out. I was going to take lessons, start hauling Joy to new venues, hit a couple of shows…  but then it came to a grinding halt when she mysteriously came up lame in May. It took nearly three months to resolve that. After that, it was like starting over. I had a butter ball pony that had regressed back to a scaredy cat anywhere off the immediate property (even on the next-door neighbors property).

I spent the remainder of the year in a “Screw it” mentality. No expectations, no pressure, no goals that would drive me insane when I didn’t hit them. I focused on increasing Joy’s suppleness, attempted to get that hind end directly behind her instead of off to the left, and help her find a better balance.

I spent more time with Ava. Ava’s feet were finally grown out enough from the bout of laminitis that I could start working her again. I put my time into increasing Ava’s fitness to see if I could get her back into some semblance of “dressage” shape. And even if dressage wasn’t possible, we were still having fun crashing through trails and galloping around the fields.

Things were going swimmingly with Ava. She was getting more and more fit. She went from barely able to trot more than 100 yards in early spring, to galloping the entire length of the field by end of fall.

December hit and Ava went lame again. I thought it was laminitis, again… that weird stance.. but by day two it seemed to oddly be affecting only one leg.

Abscess.

 

So, overall, a rather unproductive year with lots of annoying problems. And I have the dubious honor of experiencing my first abscess. So there’s that.

Here’s hoping 2017 is a bit more productive!!

Joy’s Year in Review Video Recap (6:33 mins long):

 

Goals for 2017

  1. Lessons
    1. I have a line on a local instructor who has agreed to (try to) help me this spring.
    2. I’m going to go watch a friend take a few lessons this winter (better than nothing until I can haul the pony there).
  2. Fitness
    1. I’m going to work on increasing my overall fitness and decrease my weight.
    2. I need at least 30 minutes of cardio 5x a week.
    3. I need to increase my flexibility and symmetry (greatly) so that I stop falling to the right.
  3. Get Out and About
    1. Get Joy hauling safely.
    2. Start hauling Joy off property
    3. Start taking Joy to lessons.
    4. Take Joy to at least one small show
    5. Take Ava to one of the state parks for a group trail ride with friends.
  4. Tack Room
    1. Figure out how to prevent all my tack from molding!!!
  5. Arena
    1. Increase length of arena
    2. Continue work on making it somewhat level

Super Awesome Day

Yesterday my work day was going terrible.  Nothing worked.  My computer was slogging away at simple tasks,  people were yelling wanting me to work faster,  I couldn’t get anything to work.. It was terrible.  A thoroughly wretched Monday. 

I get home and hubby is sitting in the garage with the dogs waiting for me (which always brightens up my day).  I give him a peck on the cheek and run inside to change into riding pants,  then outside to the barn.  I figured I’d ride Ava while I had some daylight left,  then clean stalls (since the barn has lights). 

But when I got into the barn. . . . 

ALL OF THE STALLS ARE CLEAN!!! 

Hubby cleaned the stalls,  turned Ava out into the big pasture,  swept the barn,  and dumped the poop! 

I have the most amazing hubby ever!! 

Not one to pass up a gift,  I grabbed Ava,  tacked up,  and we headed off to the fields behind us.  

I had a blast! 

We trotted through the twisty,  winding trails in the pine trees.  We watched two deer run beside us.  We galloped through the field and raced up the hills.  

It was AWESOME!! 

Ava seemed to enjoy it also.  Her normal “I don’t wanna go above a walk” sulky behavior dissappeared and was replaced with a high energy,  raring to go mare! She was responsive,  light,  and full of pep! 

Best day in a long time! 
All thanks to my wonderful husband! 

I swear,  there’s no amount of stress a good gallop can’t get rid of. 

No Stirrups November,  or Too Lazy to Use a Saddle

It’s suddenly November,  it’s beautiful out,  I have no time,  and I have a bareback pad.  

The perfect excuse for not using a saddle fell into my lap…   No Stirrup November! 

Nearly everyday I hop on either Ava or Joy using the bareback pad.  Not both.  My thighs can’t last through 2 rides a day.  I can barely walk after one ride.  

First day,  I hop on Ava after not riding for 2 weeks (work got in the way).  A crazy deer and amped up horse had me desperately clinging to mane as we jumped/bolted down a steep hill.  I have no idea how I stayed on.  It was close,  one more hop and I would’ve been a goner.  

Next day i ride Joy AFTER I lunged her.  No canter work.  We’re working on 1/4 walk pirouttes.  Just playing around.  I have to get the left shoulder under her to be able to stand her up right. Once straighter she is a dream to ride. I pushed my hands out in front,  she met them,  and we flowed.  It was sweet for a moment. A moment here,  a moment there.  Most of the inbetween is crap still.  Did a few steps of bastardized half steps.  She’s learning not to get so stressed when pressured. 

Following day,  ride Ava.  Every other day.  Tried to walk past scary deer encounter spot (with bareback pad,  no saddle)  and Ava is AMPED!!  Scared me.  We made it past,  but I haven’t gone that route since then.  ‘Cause I’m a chicken.  

Joy ride following day.  No expectations,  just testing straightness,  half halts,  go forward off light aid.  She’s so incredibly easy to sit the trot on. She spoils me. 
Ava is so horrifyingly bouncy.  I can sit it with some modicum of elegance for about 10 strides.  After that I’m grabbing mane and begging Ava to walk before I fall off.  If I get her super straight and connected,  then her trot smooths out.  It is still an ab workout from hell.  When her head jerks up and her back hollows,  its like riding a jack hammer.  It hurts! 

Take Ava out to back field for ride with bareback pad.  Trotting down the path like a boss! Walking toward the big hill and Ava’s head shoots up and she slams the breaks on.  Sometimes a short looky-loo and she’ll get over it.  Nope.  She spins to go the opposite direction.  I pull her back.  She zigs left,  zags right.  I push her forward.  I’m starting to get scared,  so i sing… loud and completely off key,  with made up nonsense.  But,  she settled and we made it to the top of the hill without any histrionics!  Yay! 

I hope the deer hunters are entertained. 

Every ride in the bareback pad,  and I can barely walk afterward.  Legs like jello.  I don’t feel stronger yet.  I really need to do no stirrups with saddle. It would be far more beneficially,  but…  I have to put my riding pants on and saddling takes at least a whole 5 minutes. 😉 

I’m so lazy! 

Jessie injured herself while I was away for work.  She’s such a good old gal.  I wanted to make sure she ate the antibotic laced grain fully every meal,  so she got to hang out in the middle of the barn and eat.  She’d finish and calmly walk back into her stall.  Love this mare! 


Midway through November and the temps are starting to dip into freezing at night.  It’s not as warm during the day.  

I don’t want winter to come!  

Ava and I did some walk half-pass. We haven’t attempted that in 2 years.   I also realized if i just pretend to put my legs on (but don’t touch her)  and put my weight where it needs to be,  she automatically takes whatever shape I was going for (i.e. Haunches in).  She’s definitely a less is more horse.  Less leg,  less rein,  and she becomes more responsive. I always forget and have to relearn this every week or two,  but then i use it on Joy afterward and we always make progress when I employ the less is more approach. Why I keep forgetting this is beyond me…

I hope your No Stirrups November is going well!  Leave me a comment with your experience,  or goals,  for this month! 

#NoStirrupsNovember

Mishmash of Things

I got a new bit for Joy. I’ve only ridden her once in it, and all we did was walk. I didn’t notice a huge difference. I was hoping she’d find it significantly more comfortable, and therefore have a quieter mouth… but she chomped it as much as the other.

This requires more study. I’ll report back on results as they come.

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This spot in the yard used to scare the bejesus out of Joy at this time last year. She would turn into a horse shaped kite every time. Now, meh… Clover!

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Successfully loading on multiple occasions, while staying calm. Yay!

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Ava is weirdly shiny for a horse that hasn’t been bathed in 2 years. Wish the rest of my horses looked this shiny. Joy eats the exact same diet, and although she’s shiny, she’s not blind you shiny like Ava is. Must be a Friesian thing…

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(She’s wet in this pic.) I think she’s looking much fitter and healthier this spring.

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Our trail rides have been fun. This is our cool down lane. I drop the reins and do rider exercises through here (arms over head, to the sides, hit my hand on a passing tree, lift arms back up, back to the side and rotate 90 degree’s before I hit a hand on the next tree, etc).

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Mr. Stumpy has a hard life of sleeping, eating, and terrorizing feet.

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We have kittens again. This one is my fav. He’s the sole survivor of his litter (dead beat mom). Hubby had to sequester mom and kitten in a room to get her to finally nurse him. Now he’s a healthy, nearly weaned, biting machine.

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He has a hard life.

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Spiders…. I killed this giant beast today.

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This is really how big he was.

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I had so much fun on Ava tonight. We hand galloped through the field. Then I sat up, Ava collected under me, and we did this perfect 10m circle around our riding buddy. I probably broke Ava doing that. Tomorrow I’ll go out, and Ava will be 3 legged, hobbling around.. her left hind laying somewhere out in the pasture.

She’s been going like a top though. I haven’t asked anything of her but forward in straight lines while connected. She’s getting fitter. She doesn’t feel off to me.  Occasionally a bobble on the front end, but the back end feels even to me. She willingly, and easily picks up either canter lead and it feels even (whereas before she would balk at picking up the left, and once in it she felt like there wasn’t any strength there).

I should get her re-tested by the vet, but man, it was over $800 last time.  Even after that, they never did definitively find the problem. It was a diagnoses based on elimination. I hate those diagnosis’. There’s nothing to verify if the base issue is healed completely. I can’t just have them xray “the spot” and give me a verdict, because nothing ever showed up to begin with.

I’ll keep slowly upping her work load. If she even hints at having an issue with that stifle, I’ll back off. My fall back plan for Ava now is Xtreme Trail Riding! All she really has to do is walk over, around, through stuff. I think she can handle that.

And, one step backward

I tried getting the same feeling of connection with Joy out in the field the following ride. it didn’t go so well. I did get a few steps at the end that felt sort of connected and more relaxed in the contact. It wasn’t as solid as it had been yesterday.  I’m positive the issue was the straightness, but I couldn’t identify exactly why she wasn’t straight… only that she didn’t feel straight.

However, Ava… holy cow that horse is awesome! We’re out in the field doing trot work and I half halted her to set her up for a small downward slope in the trail… and Ava floated. That big, lofty trot she used to do. It feels so neat. There’s so much space between foot falls that it really does feel like you’re floating above the ground.

Ironically, I got tired before Ava did. Staying centered and balanced on a big trot takes a lot of strength. I end up feeling like I got a cardio workout when we’re done.

 

First Quarter 2016 Update

I’ve been trying to ride both Ava and Joy at least 4 times a week. It’s good for me because I need the saddle time to work on my strength, position, and riding.  I’m exhausted after riding both of them. I don’t know how people who ride more than 2 a day do it. Times like these, I’m glad I’m an Adult Ammy.

Ava:

Approximately three weeks of riding 2 to 5 times a week. We’re doing straight lines and a few small hills.  I’m only incorporating small amounts of trot work still. Mostly walk for 30 minutes with one minute of trotting, twice during the 30 mins. When we first started, she was hitchy at the trot. I could feel it when I posted off the right diagonal. The last couple of rides she’s felt smooth and even between the two diagonals.

It seems like this is working well for Ava. Not only does she move better already, but she seems happier and more relaxed in general too. She’s almost back to her lovable, happy self again.

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April 12th – The left hind doesn’t step as far forward as, nor does it articulate as much as, the right hind.

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Joy:

I’m really focused on canter work this spring. I left off last year with being happy if she even fell into a canter at some point. This spring we’re working on balance, promptness, and understanding the canter aids. I’ve started carrying a whip to encourage a more prompt response to the aid. We’re currently crow hopping into the canter, but at least she’s picking it up promptly.

She’s also just starting to allow me to rebalance her once we’re in the canter. We aren’t flying around the arena pell-mell as much, or feeling like we’re going to fall or trip at any moment. I’m actually getting a positive response when I half-halt with my seat. She still loses her balance a lot, but we’re getting a couple strides here and there where we can exist in a semblance of balance. It’s a huge improvement for her!

We’re also starting to be able to pick up the right lead canter with right bend. Not every time, and not elegantly, but it’s improving bit by bit.

I’ve taken Joy on a few solo trail rides this spring. We passed deer, dogs, construction, etc. She’s been nervous, but sane. Yesterday I took her for a trail ride with my neighbors. I was able to ride her on the buckle almost the entire ride. I feel like this year she’s finally developing her own confidence in herself and her rider. She seems more sure of herself, more confident, this year.

And last for Joy, we’re still working on the trailer. I’m dreading closing the stall partitions and then trying a first haul. It makes me so nervous, and Joy is really good at picking up on that. However, I so badly want to start taking her to new locations, take lessons, and start showing. Right now she’s comfortable in the trailer as long as there isn’t something really loud going on outside.

Farm Update:

Hubby has dubbed the place “Poopy Farms”. Unfortunately, the name seems to be sticking. I’m going to have to make up t-shirts with a farm logo for Poopy Farms.

Hubby cut down the remaining scrub pine tree’s in the pasture. These were the major cause of so many cuts, puncture wounds, and scraps that they had to go. The picture below is about half of the line of pine tree’s hubby cut down and hauled out.

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Joy thought she’d lend a helping hand.
(all of the stumps were cut to ground level after we hauled the tops to the burn pile.)

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The newly pine free pasture!  Yay!

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Side Note:

Joy was snoozing in the pasture the other day, laying down. She let me walk right up to her and scratch her withers for a good 5 minutes. I have never, to this day, been able to walk up to Ava while she’s laying down (not unless she’s really sick. As in, it’s a bad sign if you can do that to Ava). But Joy, she was happy as a clam to snooze and get wither scratches! I really love this pony!