Need More Beer

It is bitterly cold. The kind of cold that makes your fingers numb within seconds, the snot freezes instantly in your nose, and the air hurts your lungs to breathe. Touching anything metal without gloves on is a sure fire way to lose some skin.

Everything is a massive undertaking to accomplish. Even just letting the horses out into the main pasture has become a slog.

 

I’m becoming convinced that the only way to handle winter is through inebriation.


 

I’m seeing people post pictures of themselves riding in indoor arenas, wearing their posh riding attire, while riding their perfectly clipped horses…

And then there’s me….

If I go much more redneck with this, I’ll be disbarred from the dressage community entirely.


There’s a facebook group I belong to where real life vet’s answer common people questions about horses. One of the questions was when is it too cold to ride. Vet made it seem like anything above 5 degrees was fine to ride in.

If this is true, this removes my most common excuse not to ride in the winter. Which is good, right? Except, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I keep trying to convince myself I’m more of a badass because I ride outside all year long, but secretly I really just want to tuck myself into an indoor for the rest of the winter.

frozen

 

 

The Ides of March

March always seems to bring false hopes and then crushes them! 

It’s spring.  It’s winter.  It’s spring.  It’s winter…  Ugh. 

It has been jumping 20 degree’s within 2 hours some days.  Then the winds came. Reports of 45 to 60 mph winds.  Tree’s are down all over.  Our power went out. Internet went out.

I got a bonus from work!!  Yay!  Money for hay,  and I promised the hubby he could spend a bit on himself this time.  He was happy! 

Then one of our barn kitties died.  My favorite one.  The snuggly one.  *sob*

Then Ava colicked.  You know how horses who are colicky will look at their flanks,  or kick at them.  Not Ava.  She curled her upper lip constantly.  When I put her grain in her bin,  she layed down.  Didn’t roll.  Never once looked at her sides.  She layed down and curled her lip up.  It was the weirdest thing. 

Lip curl

Of course we still had no power and it was 9:30 at night with 50mph winds.  Of course. 

I called the vet immediately.  Slight impaction.  Vet worked on her for about 2 hours (mainly because Ava is not a good patient). 

And poof… there went the bonus money.

Hubby no longer so happy.

I had money.  Now I have no money. 

*sigh*

The icing…  The vet had left,  it’s nearly midnight,  and I’m sitting in the barn watching Ava and the other horses when I hear loud cracking noises and a solid thump.  The kind of thump that shakes the ground.  Everyone jumps.

Tree fell. No biggie.  But I check fence lines anyway,  and yup,  big tree right across the fence.  Grrr…

Had to lock everyone in for the night.  Which I guess was good.  It kept Ava company.  But I had to drag the hose out and fill water buckets in the middle of the night in freezing temps. 

3 hours sleep and hubby and I are back up and clearing fallen trees in the morning light. 

I’m sore. 

And I look like the walking dead. 

It’s only the 10th of March.  I shudder to see what the rest of March looks like. 

Stay safe everyone! 

Indian Summer

We had a brief glimpse of what spring may look like.  It was fantastic. I was running around in a t-shirt! I was marvelous! The sun even came out for the day.

The following day was the dreariest day in history.  Fog all day, and the worst chill. Blah!

dreariest day ever

All day with that fog.

We’ve had three days of sunshine in 2017.

Three!!

Screaming

Terrible Weather

It rained and then immediately froze. Everything is covered in ice.
You scoffed at the poop piles left in the pasture, but those were really traction bumps to prevent slipping. This is good equine management practices.
What really annoys me is that exactly half of the pasture (straight down the middle) is completely ice and snow free. Not a spot of anything remotely treacherous on that side of the pasture.
Guess which side the barn is on? That’s right, the side utterly covered in ice!
My idea of leaving the water tank in the large pasture rather then placing it in the paddock is working like a freaking charm. Now instead of the tank being readily available for Joy and Jessie mere steps from their stalls, they have to traverse an ice rink.
Which means I’m stuck hauling water to their stalls twice a day (if not more).
This is good human management practices. Ensuring the human gets adequate full body exercise in winter is important.
Last night I’m hauling water, sloshing it all over myself, and the darn dog decides that I’m doing all this to bring him water. The 140lb lab places himself directly in front of me, as I’m walking on ice, and plunges his head into the buckets to drink. It’s not as if he doesn’t have fresh water inside, where we JUST came from. He must drink from these buckets immediately or die of dehydration!
The entire time I’m thinking “I’m sure the horses will appreciate dog slobbered water”…
Last night we stripped and cleaned all three stalls while the horses munched hay outside. Hubby and I are standing in the barn, appreciating the freshly bedded stalls and clean barn when one by one, the horses walk in and immediately pee and poop.
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Then, last night, I find Joy standing next to the water tank in the big pasture, refusing to move.  Just a bit o’ wisdom, but putting shavings on top of ice results in slick ice, covered with shavings. Utter failure.
Anyway, I thought pulling Joy through the yard would be the best course of action. The footing seemed okay to me, but Joy felt it was absolutely no better. She slipped and skidded her way to the barn like a drunk on ice skates.
I finally got her in the barn safely and made sure everyone had water in their stalls and extra hay.
I am so over winter.
Frozen.jpg

Struggle Bus

I can’t seem to do anything dressage related right lately.  Not even a little.  

The more I pushed Joy for forward,  the stronger my hands got.  The stronger I got,  the more Joy ran through the bit and acted out in frustration.  Then I got frustrated and pushed harder! 

We fought.  

It’s entirely my fault. I don’t understand why my arms have to become steel rods of tension.  Ugh! 

I decided to only focus on keeping Joy’s head right in front of her shoulders while I worked on circles and bending exercises.  This mentally helped me relax my death grip and helped Joy relax. 

Once I had Joy less tense, I tried the forward/back exercises again.  I wanted to try to keep her as truly straight as possible on the forward part,  so that we had a better chance of actually getting the hind involved directly under us (not side to side,  like she likes). However, my arena is the size of a 20m circle.  Not much room.  She’s small though,  so I was able to get a few, short straight lines where I felt like she stepped up through the bit.  It was just for a few seconds here and there… but it was all I could get for the time being.  I tried forward on a curved line,  and I just can’t keep her shoulders or haunches from either popping out or swinging in.  

My little arena is not so good for straight lines. The noticeable slope doesn’t help either.  

It hasn’t stopped snowing for days.  We have at least a foot of snow now,  and another 10 inches projected for the next 2 days.  It was 50’s and beautiful last week.  Now its 25 degrees and there’s a shit ton of snow on the ground.  
I had hubby plow out the arena so I could ride.  Poor hubby froze!  🙁😨

The footing wasn’t as good as i had hoped, but the more we rode over the same spots,  the better the footing got.  Still a bit slick in areas.  We may not be able to do much at the trot or canter for the next several months,  but we can at least work on bendy lines and some basic stuff.  

Might also be a good time to work on our trail riding skills again,  since a fall into a foot of snow probably won’t hurt too much.  Haha

Other things:

Before the snow… We worked on picking up the canter from Shoulder-in going left,  and haunches-in going right.  This gave us decent departs from light aids.  I was very encouraged by it.  I am suspecting that a large part of our canter issues are due to tension.  The more tense Joy gets the more her hind end swings left.  Keeping her in either SI or HI seemed to help a lot.  She wasn’t able to hold the canter,  but for about 5 strides it was really nice!   The other benefit was it kept me straight and more aware of where my body was. I realized at one point that I was attempting to launch my body to the inside in a desperate attempt to shove/drag her into a right lead canter.  

Totally elegant and immensely productive for dressage.  /sarcasm

The take away was that I need to focus on keeping her relaxed,  and when she gets tense I need to move to something else to do rather than keep hammering at the canter.  Also need to stop throwing my upper body around when I ask for the canter. 

List of things i need to do:

Stay off her face,  keep her in front of the leg,  keep the hind end under us,  keep her head and neck in line with her shoulders,  keep the shoulders straight, keep my upper body straight, keep Joy relaxed and soft… And voilà, we’ll have great canter departs!!

Nooo problem!  lol! 

We’re working on walk pirouttes,  and I think they’re coming along nicely.  Left is easy,  right requires a bit more finesse to get her bent.  We can do quarter turns on a smallish circle without losing the rhythm or tempo (usually).  Half circles are still a bit beyond us at this time. Everything kind of falls apart if I ask for more than a quarter turn. 

And totally unrelated to dressage, but when i hop off she no longer shuffles around and backs up as if she lost her balance and had to scramble to catch it.  Always made me feel like a fat ass when she did that.  Now she’s just “Get OFF tubby! ”  and stands solidly while i dismount.  

I’ve got a line on a trainer not too far from me who said she’d give me some lessons this spring.  I wanted to take Joy to my regular trainer,  but the pony doesn’t haul well,  and the 2 hours each way is a bit much to ask at this stage.  Especially since I have no idea what I’ll unload at the other end.  She could see a new place and have her mind implode. I have no idea what to expect…  But this local trainer is nice,  low key,  and has non-traditional horses,  so I won’t have the added (irrational) fear of being judged for showing up with a mutt pony and horrid riding position.  It’s less pressure on me. I can just focus on getting the pony through the lessons in a new place as best as I can.  

We’ll see.  It’ll be an adventure! 

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

Joy was feeling rambuncious yesterday.  Made for a pretty picture.  I rode her right after taking these pics and not even one little step wrong.  She’s such a saint of a pony.  

Outdoor Riding All Year

In Michigan, an indoor is rather mandatory if you want to ride consistently all year round. Without it, you’re at the whim of nature, and let me tell ya, nature isn’t too kind around here in the winter.

I haven’t ridden since December 26th. Everything has been covered in a layer of ice. It finally melted late last week. I was able to lunge Joy Friday, but Saturday it rained all day, today it is snowing like crazy (and it’s only in the 20’s), and tomorrow I leave for Texas.

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January is not looking like it’ll be very productive for under saddle training.

I worked on getting Joy used to the clippers yesterday. That went far better than I had expected. At first she snorted and moved back a bit, but within 5 minutes she was ignoring them completely.  I didn’t actually touch Joy with the clippers running yesterday. Only with them off. Since I have the time, I figured I’d do small increments of desensitization with a slow progression (since I have a tendency to rush these kinds of things).

Ava, who was snooping through the stall bars, got all kinds of wiggy when I turned the clippers on. Snorting and blowing and acting like she’d never heard these strange contraptions before. She’s never been super about clipping, so I suppose this is a good thing for her too. It just surprised me that she would react as she did when she’s been clipped a good number of times in her life.

This is one of the aspects I love about having my horses at home. I have the time and ability to spend a few minutes every day just working on clipper desensitization. Heck, I can hang the clippers from the stall wall if I want. Whatever I need to do to help the horse get used to them, I can do, because I own the joint. Haha. It’s really nice to have that freedom.

Oh, and it is so freaking awesome to have outlets at each stall. It meant I could plug the clippers in anywhere I needed them. No more extension cord running the entire length of the barn getting wrapped up in legs and stepped on. Woo Hoo!

Ava Update:

I’ve got Ava on one really small handful of grain twice a day in order to give her her supplement. Then she gets pretty much free choice hay, but its mainly in a slow feeder hay bag. I know she’s lost weight since she developed laminitis, but it doesn’t seem like she’s losing very much. I’m not sure what to do about that. The weather makes it really difficult to exercise her. I’m not gung-ho about limiting her hay.

October 12, 2015
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She developed laminitis November 26, 2015.

January 9th, 2016
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I have to get the vet back out, do a full work up on her. See what else is needed, or what I need to change, so that I can get Ava back to full health. I know she’s not sneaking anyone else’s grain. She’s only getting crappy grass hay. There’s no grass in the pasture. She doesn’t get any treats or extra feedings. Nothing. I’m beginning to think the mare can live off air. Which is extremely sad, because Ava so enjoys her food.

Joy’s also been on a diet, and she’s lost quiet a bit. I actually have Joy on more grain then I have Ava on. Double the amount of grain (same amount of hay). Both have had nearly the same amount of exercise this past month.  Yet Joy is losing weight, and Ava doesn’t seem to be losing very much.

 

Here’s a comparison from Dec to Jan:

Dec2015

 

She almost looks heavier now then she did in December!

Crap like this makes me want to sell all my horses and throw in the towel! I have no idea what I’m doing….

Winter Doldrums

My bird bath is gone. Somewhere, in the vast expanse of snow, is a blue ceramic, 2 foot high bird bath. The snow is so deep that when I’m standing in my yard, I am higher off the ground than my bird bath stands. I could walk over it and never even notice.

This winter has got to end at some point!

Due to the weather and extremely cold temps (it was -5 this morning with wind chill of -20), my riding has been rather sporadic. I try to ride several times a week (Thank goodness for indoor arenas!), but some weeks have been too cold to do anything other than walk with some short trot work.

Basically all I’ve done since November is work long, round, low with a focus on relaxation. I figured it can’t hurt her as long as I don’t put her behind the vertical, and I was hoping it might help her learn how to relax.

Part of me thinks it’s really helping. The rest of me thinks I’m full of… uh, it.

The nice part is I can now get the big, bouncy trot with big forward movement pretty much whenever I want now. And for quite a long time. Last year we could only do it for a few strides during an entire ride, now we’re doing long stretches of it.

The bad part is I can’t sit it. It launches me out of the saddle like a high tension spring. Boing!

I look like a newb trying to learn how to post.

You know, people always say you should buy a horse you can ride. But they forget to mention that the more training you put on a dressage horse the bigger the movement gets. So remember… that horse you can’t sit the trot on now will get a bigger trot later. Yay!

Why do we do this to ourselves? Haha

Last note… I cut my thumb today at the barn. My hand was frozen and I didn’t notice until I saw blood on Ava. Then I freaked out trying to find where she hurt herself… only to be relieved it wasn’t her.

I hate winter. This white stuff can go away any day now.

Here’s a bad pic of Ava. 🙂

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