Thursday, December 30, 2010
Well, technically, there wasn't much jumping. We trotted a cross rail twice...I know, I know, we're crazy like that! Haha. I didn't get the canter depart after the jump I wanted, but the cross rail was teeny tiny, and my real goal was getting him straight to the obstacle (relatively successful), maintain forward motion, and get us both on the other side. Leaving the rails up without major rubs was an added bonus. Also, it helps to know he can jump properly, since I've seen him do it on the lunge; I thought he was trotting pretty forward, though he certainly has more engine than what I asked for. I was also trying to focus super hard on my position-weight in heels, good base of support, proper release, all that important stuff, since I haven't done this in awhile. All in all, I'll call it good, especially considering all the time off we've both had, and the fact that he felt a little...off on our flat work.
It's weird, because we were in the high 30's today, so I thought he would be feeling good. He lunged really well, but just felt odd from time to time under saddle. Not all the time, mind you, or even most, just the occasional wrong step here or refusal to bend there.
Ah well, we have 2 more days to sort everything out. We're also building our foundation for (very low) jumping, and in that I say yes, we did well. Thanks bubs!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday. We took a trip up to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for a few days to visit Kyle's family, and as soon as we came back down-state it was back to work. Fortunately, I have one more day and then I'm off again for 3 glorious days, in which we have no plans and I'm keeping it that way, so help me God. Just me and my husband and our little furry family, with lots and lots of pony time. Bliss.
Was Santa good to you and your ponies? He was very good to Miles and me. One of my favorite gifts was a balance ball chair, with the theory being that I can strengthen my core (abs and back) during some of those 8 hours I spend on my tush at work. I can't wait to try it!
Miles also got himself this Myler bit, which I hope he will like. Plenty of room for that fleshy tongue of his, and it's gotten good reviews from folks with OTTBs and other horses who have bitting issues. I'm not going to try it right away, but I'm super interested to see how he likes it, especially after we've gone for months in a hackamore. Worst case scenario is that he hates it and we sell it-everyone wants Myler bits on Ebay, thank goodness.
Finally, Miles got these:
WhooHooo! I'm quite geeked. OK, it's just one set (2 blocks) but it's a start. Yesterday, for the first time, I lunged him over a cross rail. He was a superstar, and once going forward he had no problem making the effort to actually jump and canter away. I think he surprised himself the first time-he shook his head and practically sashayed away from the jump. Most importantly, he was happy and forward and brave, never wanting to look, stop or swerve. He's just so game. Finally, he even left all the poles up, suddenly turning into Mr. Careful.
I really wanted to ride, but I had so much to do yesterday (including mucking out a very neglected-by me-outdoor shed, blech) and Miles had many days off while we were gone. Still, it beat the hell out of a normal lunge or groundwork session, that's for sure. I can't wait to pop over a few obstacles in the saddle this weekend, hopefully *crosses fingers*.
I'm very horrible in my No-Horsey-Holiday-Picture-Taking-Let-Alone-Posting; another thing I hope to remedy this weekend as we look forward to 2011. 2010 kinda sucked the big one, in a myriad of ways I don't mind saying. Still, it was a real breakthrough year for my Super Steed and me. I think we built a great foundation for our partnership, and I can't wait to see where we go from here.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Anyway. Tonight I rode Miles for the first time in a week. A year ago that was par for the course, but there's usually a reason if I don't get on him at least 3 times a week these days.
I've still been going out to the barn, though. I know you all know how amazing horses are for healing after something rocks your life. This is the first...life altering thing I've faced with Miles though. Tough times? We've done them, and he helped me then, too. There's something incredibly healing about Barn Time, though. I think it messes with the space-time continuum or something. Anyway, here's what it does for me.
It's been great the last few days to just go out to the barn, warm water in a gallon jug in tow. Mix up magikal beet pulp/alfalfa mash. Go out to the pasture where Miles (and usually LaShore) is waiting, ears up, nickering softly. The last couple of days chores at the barn were done early, and Miles had his nose deep in 2nd cutting hay-and he STILL walked over to me when I opened the gate. Sweet boy. I'm sure it has nothing to do with what comes next...
I bring him in and he slurps down his mash, some days with more gusto than others. I pull his blanket off and do our grooming ritual. I love the difference between his slick coat beneath the blanket and his fuzzy, teddy bear fur on his neck. I laugh when he takes breaks from his mash to sniff my hand for something yummier, or to snorfle my hair, leaving a big wet goober trail behind.
This ritual is better than medication, meditation, yoga, or just about any kind of therapy I can think of. I don't exist in my head when I'm at the barn. I'm very much in the moment. Even when doing something that comes automatically, like picking out his feet, I swear my mind is either calm and blank or thinking about that hoof-is it clean and smelling good? Was that crack there last week? I should probably do his thrush treatment just in case since it's been awhile....on and on. It may sound monotonous, but it's not. There is something wonderful about caring for a horse that lets you block out everything else without even trying. There is no world outside the barn. Let's put it this way-it's literally the only place I go without my cell phone, unless of course I want to take grainy pictures or video.
So, it's been nice just existing in peace with my pony. Last night I lunged him and tonight I rode. He's been great-a little ouchy yesterday after his recent trim, but much better with his Cavallo boots on tonight. He takes awhile to warm up still, but we ended the ride with him moving forward and relaxed, happy that a little mare came to join him for a lesson in the big scary nighttime indoor (daytime indoor is apparently completely safe).
A little birdie told me that we will be getting a couple plastic Block-type standards for ground poles to continue our quest to be Best Cross Rail Jumpers Ever. Until then, I'm happy to just Be, in the one place I'm able, with my favorite Furry Thoroughbred Goober.
If he was smart he would start charging me by the hour. I think the least I can do is bake him some of his favorite horse cookies for Christmas, to thank him for his services.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Now she is gone.
It was too much-her arthritis was worsening seemingly by the day, no matter how many drugs/supplements we threw at it. The cold was so very hard on her. As soon as we took her off the prednisone, tumors began appearing around her neck, and last week, she would often cough and was having trouble swallowing anything but the cooked chicken I made for her. Thursday night she woke me up many times with her cough. Friday morning she would only eat if I hand fed her. Kyle and I took her and the Goldens for a final walk, and then we took her to the vet in the afternoon.
She slipped away so peacefully. She was ready, just laying her head down and going to sleep. Of course, that's when I lost it; my dog was dying, and I was doing it to her. I howled like a banshee, but by then she was gone. It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
I know it was for the best, of course, I'm not delusional. Still, I miss her so, so much. She is in a place that I don't know. Is it even a place? I'm not with her. I can't keep her safe.
The Goldens know something is amiss. As I type, Lebowski is laying on the deck, looking out towards the backyard, looking for...something, I think. He rarely leaves my side.
Anyway, everyone has been wonderful, especially Kyle. I'm not posting this for sympathy comments, though of course I love hearing from anyone who reads me. I just wanted to write something for her, to acknowledge that she existed, lived, and was so, so loved.
Goodnight, Jones. Life will go on without you, yes, but it will not be the same. You were special. You were my girl.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
...and it's Monday morning (or Tuesday; let's face it, both days suck!) at 6:30 am, dark as hell outside and you're the ONLY being in the house that has to drag herself out of bed. Not even the cats are harassing you with their usual calls for Fancy Feast Fake Meat breakfast. The dogs don't even notice you're up and of course the husband is still snoring away in a warm bed with fresh, clean, wonderful flannel sheets you put on the night before...
...and your ancient dog finally tells you under no uncertain terms she can't go for these walks with you and the young Goldens anymore, at least in this weather (and you worry maybe never). No matter how slow you walk for her, she sits down, unable to go any farther and looks at you with a face that breaks your heart...
...and you coax the ancient dog (plus 2 overly energetic and confused Goldens) home, yelling at the still sleeping husband who works from home (and to whom you make a daily effort not to hold this fact against him) to walk the boys when he gets up as you climb into a freezing cold truck to navigate moron drivers and ice patches on the expressway during rush hour...
...and you spend 8 plus hours navigating the quirks of a ridiculous office software program, all while getting pissy emails from various parties and talking to even pissier people on the phone, who are usually irritated about things you have less than zero control over...
...and you drag your ass home, repeat the frigid Walk of Death (this time with only the 2 Goldens), racked with guilt the whole time that the ancient dog is left at home...
...and you get BACK into the cold truck to repeat the moron drivers/ice and snow patch avoidance game...
...and you return home, kiss your husband, romp with the Goldens in the back yard while the ancient dog watches, wagging her tail and occassionally barking, and then you come back inside to hunker down with your beloved under a blanket with some hot tea (ahem, or something stronger), and you smile, because it's been a good day.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It is beautiful, yes it is. Still, what a pain. I couldn't get to the barn yesterday, as it was just coming down in sheets (Thank you Universe for awesome barn peeps that fix my boy's blanket and feed him his beet pulp!!). It was so frigging cold this morning that my poor old dog could barely walk. It's going to be in the single digits tonight, so no riding again. Sigh Sigh Sigh....
I was so excited for last Saturday's ride. It was in the mid 30's and Miles had his Good Boy Brain installed. I dragged out a bunch of standards and poles and started warming him up...he was lovely. I think the slightly warmer weather definitely helped him move forward and freely.
Unfortunately, boarding my horse means sharing the facilities (and my inner 2 year old starts whining "but I don't wanna shaaaare!!!"). Just as our warm up was done a big young horse starts lunging on one side of the arena. A big, young horse that likes to kick the walls and run amok and buck and fart at random times, scaring the crap out of ME, let along my Thoroughbred....Miles was very, very good, all things considered, but I could tell his nerves were getting worn (and so were mine). The good news is he can spook in place, hooray! When someone else came in to walk their little Arab, I called it quits...there was no way I would have enough room to work him over poles or the cross rail I set up. Oh well.
That will teach me to set any kind of riding goal in a Michigan winter:) At this point, with the snow and the freaking cold nights we're in store for, the only goal I'm going to set is to make sure I ride at least a couple times a week. We will do what we can until Spring.
I think it's only 97 days away.....
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Sunday, December 5, 2010
The first week he was at the barn Miles was a naughty boy every time he caught sight of the cute Paso. Whinnying, head in the air silliness ensued. Thankfully, he's adjusted; still, even today he continues to be fascinated by him. The Paso and his owner came into the indoor as we were working, and Miles was all arched neck, prancy trot, and practically begging me to let him go over to sniff the tiny equine. Honestly, I cannot imagine the inappropriateness that would ensue if Miles was actually allowed to make contact...I'm thinking it would not be pleasant for tiny Paso:) Then again, maybe all Miles wants to do is follow him around and stare adoringly, who knows? I'm not super eager to test the odds, though.
Aside from that excitement (and it really wasn't all that exciting-Miles settled down and we had a really nice ride today), there's not much happening. I'm still working him over poles-it's been busy at the barn lately so I haven't been able to drag out the jump standards and poles like I've wanted to. If I don't get them for Christmas, I'm planning on buying these or these, which will beat lugging around those heavy wood standards any day. Another boarder at the barn jumps with her horse, and we're going to try to set up a time to do some cavaletti exercises together some day soon. I'm really looking forward to that! She's also got a Dr. Cook's bridle she said I could try anytime I wanted:) I board with some awesome peeps.
Miles has been lovely, especially considering the cold snap we've had in the last week. He is taking longer to warm up, but usually by the end of our ride he's moving forward and freely. He's not been unruly or fresh because of the colder weather, which I appreciate. He's such a good thoroughbred...just a joy to be around, and to ride. It's feeling good to make real progress with him.
This week, and actually this whole month is going to be crazy with holiday business...I haven't even started shopping, so I have to change that soon. My husband and I have been down to one car for awhile now, but it's making getting out to the barn lately that much more challenging.
It's a good thing I have such a great reason to go.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday night we worked on ground poles, for the second day in a row. I really, really want to be able to jump this horse. Maybe not a full course of six jumps, and definitely not anything over 2 feet (at least without lessons and an ok from a vet), but cross poles at least. Maybe be able to enter a hunter hack class at a schooling show someday.
Previously, he has shown little to no interest (or so I thought) in picking up those feet of his over ground poles-it didn't matter if it was one or five in a row. Clunk Clunk Roll Stumble...not pretty, in other words. The one time I walked him over a cross rail that was about 10" off the ground, he knocked down a pole. Yeah....
Of course, all this was before I switched farriers. Now, 2 trims with the "new" guy (and my new favorite equine professional), he is moving SO much better, and finally picking his feet up. Miles has been barefoot since I pulled his shoes 2 weeks after I adopted him, but I no longer have to ride him everyday in his Cavallo Simple Boots (though I still love them for riding outside of the arena). He doesn't stumble. He is balanced. It only took me just over a year to get to the root of the issue. I know, I know.
Having said all this, with the colder weather coming on, it is taking Miles a bit longer to warm up before our rides. Still, he's looking much, much better than this time last year, when on his worst days he would limp slightly on his right front (arthritis, which I knew about when I adopted him). I love the pure glucosamine supplement he's on now, in addition to MSM; he's on high levels of the former and normal levels (10,000 mgs) of the latter and it's all he's needed, so far and knock on lotsa wood. Again, I can't overstate how beneficial his new farrier has been either.
So, in the next week or 2, my goal is to get Miles and I jumping...I am sOoooooO geeked!! Now, of course, I am talking tiny tiny fences, but still...I MISS jumping so much. I didn't realize how much until I cantered him over a ground pole the other day. The measuring of strides, feeling the horse gather himself, the (ever so slight) elevation...ahhhhh. This week, Miles has told me he's getting ready, too-Monday had him trotting straight down a line of five ground poles, forward, ears pricked and feet up.
It was pretty cool.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I grabbed my crop and did some tap tap taps on his knee while saying "foot"...and he lifted his foot.
The right side was less successful:) Still, I hope that means no one has taught him this before...I want to take all the credit when he finally gets that Spanish Walk!
Today? His TB light bulb totally went off, and he picked up each foot when I asked him to. Once he got it, he GOT IT, and each foot came up every time. My brilliant boy. From everything I've read, we need to stay at this stage for awhile, and then instead of rewarding him for just lifting the leg (though I already have him lifting and holding it up, he he), eventually he only gets rewarded when he lifts higher and higher. Then I start asking him to take a step forward with his leg in the air. We both had a blast doing something new, and he gets so cocky and adorable when he gets to do new things and he knows he's doing well.
I used to be obsessed with Spanish horses, really all Iberians, and I still think they're beautiful and amazing animals. I may not have my dream Andalusian, but I don't really care anymore. I have my dream horse. And we can do any damn thing we put our minds to;)
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Right now, as Thanksgiving approaches, I'm feeling especially grateful and humbled by my life...and I'm trying my damnedest to appreciate it and soak it in as things can change like that-in fact, that kind of change is quite inevitable.
My family and I are relatively healthy. My husband and I continue to be each other's best friend, and no one makes me laugh more when I need it than he does. Today he walked the dogs twice for me and cleaned the entire house-most days he is everything I need in a partner. All of our animals are healthy and happy, and we've finally solved Mojo's mystery illness. Her arthritis continues to progress, but other than that she is a very robust and sturdy 14 year old dog.
Miles, of course, continues to be my comfort and joy. We had the briefest of rides today, as the temperature dropped about 30 degrees in 24 hours. The most fun I had was feeding him his beet pulp and hay cubes, and tucking him into his blanket before turning him out. He totally loves to be pampered and fussed over, and I'm always happy to oblige. After he was done eating he stood in the aisle while I cleaned the last of the mud off him, dressed his hooves and gave him his MTG treatment. His eyelids grew heavy and he was sooooo sleepy and adorable. I can't even describe how much his health and happiness directly affect my own outlook...when I'm at the barn, it's everything to me. On those couple of days a week I don't see him I miss him more and more. Hmmm, maybe it's time to really look at moving to the country. I can't imagine waking up everyday and being able to walk down to the barn and see my boy. It doesn't get much better than that.
These last couple of weeks have been so difficult for some of the people I know and love. Two people I know (either in person or in bloggy land) have or are having to put their much loved horses down-these are "heart" horses, and it's devastating to their owners no matter what the circumstances. Others I know have had to accept that their horse must be retired or semi-retired for the foreseeable future. Some people are struggling with their horse's chronic lameness, unable to ride much or ride at all. Finally, a friend lost her dog to a heart condition last night-totally unexpectedly. My heart breaks for all those suffering...it's so damn unfair and the pain and sorrow can feel overwhelming. Often it leads to depression, where every aspect of life seems impossible. It doesn't get much worse than that.
No one knows why bad things happen to some people and good things happen to others-although I tend to think we all take our turns on the merry-go-round of the highs and lows of life. Many people believe God has a plan for all of us, and even in the midst of great pain there is always a reason for suffering, even if we can't know it. I honestly wish I could believe that...it's much more comforting than believing everything in life is random, and there is no rhyme or reason to bad or good things happening to people. Having said that, I'm not sure there isn't something in the universe-karma, whatever-that ultimately "balances" things out. Who knows.
I suppose this is the ultimate rambling post. Things are going well in my tiny corner of the world, and I recognize how fleeting it may be and am so, so happy and filled with gratitude that things are how they are for me and mine right now. My heart goes out to those who are struggling, hurting, sad, desperate, lonely and angry. I can only hope (and I really believe) things do eventually get better-hours turn into days into weeks into months. The sharp pain turns into a dull ache. Eventually it can disappear altogether, and you will also be feeling gratitude for yourself and your loved ones, for your life, once again.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Because I am deliriously, over the moon ecstatic that my dogs have frigging mange!!
That's right, it's definitive. Mojo for sure has it, and the goldens most likely. All three got a dose of Ivermectin, a dose of topical, some prednisone, and are snoring happily.
The #1 lessons learned-listen to your animals. Trust your gut. Don't be intimidated by men (or women) in white coats. Finally, the Internet kicks major ass.
The particular type that Mojo has does not bother people or cats, so we're OK. There's no way to say where she picked it up.
Mojo is old, and something will get the girl eventually. For now, though, she's weathered yet another storm and is on her way to being healthy. I love my tough old broad. Together, we totally Pwnd scabies!
I hope Wayne is running around somewhere with four perfect, sound legs and having a blast. RIP sweet boy.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Holy Moly. The symptoms for sarcoptic mange (or scabies) match Mojo's symptoms PERFECTLY. The first site I looked at even said it is often missed in skin scrapings. The mites burrow under the skin and are microscopic so we wouldn't see any kind of bug. They cannot live on humans and generally don't bother people.
If you're interested, here are the few sites I've read so far. I plan to do a lot more research.
My favorite, because it lays things out very simply and describes my poor girl to a T. Her lymph nodes are even swollen.
Check this out, from the last link:
"Sarcoptic mange is a somewhat common infection and many cases have often been misdiagnosed as severe atopy (inhalant allergy). Any time we see a dog who does not have a prior history of allergies and develops severe itching, or if the itching is not seasonal but year-round, we have to suspect canine scabies."
I'm also absolutely fuming that the vet never mentioned this. According to the last link, only 20% of sarcoptic mange cases are diagnosed with a skin scraping. WHY wasn't this considered?? She has been to the vet many, many times in the last 2 months....
Look, I'm not saying I know for sure this is what Mojo has. I'm sure vets get annoyed when people think they know more than they do because the Internet tells them so and so.
Still...it's probably a good thing Kyle will be taking her in to the vet tomorrow instead of me (I have to go out of town for work). My poor dog has been suffering for so long, possibly totally needlessly, and I don't know how tactful I could be towards them right now. I've been worrying about her and thinking she's got some horrible deadly inflammation for months now.
Regardless, even though I'm pissed, I'm also so so so SO relieved. I'm trying not to get my hopes up, in case this isn't what she has, but it's hard not to. IF this is what she has, it's easily taken care of with injections or dips. Please keep your fingers crossed for us and my old girl tomorrow.
Very best case scenario-Mojo has mange and has passed it off to the goldens, although (so far) they have it to a lesser degree. Dogs all get a few injections or dips, and everyone is right as rain. Kyle will have earned some MAJOR Cool Points.
Oh, and we find a new vet. Definitely.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
It started with Mojo and the infamous "Neck Thing" in July/August. Along with the weird swelling she suddenly was itching herself and losing hair on her back legs. Weird right? Steroids and antibiotics helped, and the neck swelling went away. She's still on the steroids, because the hair loss keeps progressing, although she seems comfortable now. This is a dog that has NEVER had skin issues in the 12 years I've had her. Mind boggling. The vet is no help, quite honestly.
The 2 goldens (particularly Lebowski) have had intermittent skin issues from time to time, but it's gotten much worse the last month or so. I woke up today to find a giant hot spot had erupted on Lebowski's backside. Samuel has a sore on his elbow. What the hell is happening to my dogs?
They have been treated for fleas (and I can't find any on them with a flea comb anyway-I literally check for them thoroughly every day.). We have hardwood floors with rugs that I vacuum every other day. We've cleaned all the furniture and bedding. Neither myself or Kyle is getting bit. The cats are fine.
Sorry, I'm just venting-it's so, so, SO frustrating to see my babies uncomfortable and not be able to help them as much as I want to. The vets will just throw all of them on steroids, which is not what I want. Symptoms have been controlled in the goldens with Benadryl-of course we ran out yesterday and that's when Lebowski's spot decided to bloom. We go through a tube of hydro-cortisone cream a week, if not less. I have started the dogs on Fish Oil, but they've only been on it for 2 or 3 weeks. I'm hopeful it will start helping soon.
Tonight I brought home Miles' MTG-hell, it works for EVERY weird skin issue my horse has, why not? I read some testimonials on-line and lots of people claimed it worked well for their dogs, and also I'm kinda desperate at this point.
OK, my dogs aren't miserable, but even their mild to moderate discomfort just kills me. I wish I could take it away from them and shoulder it myself. Mostly, I just wish I KNEW what the FRACK is causing it-I have racked my brain, and considered everything from food to bedding to water to detergents to bedbugs and nothing adds up. My best guess is it's something outside, something environmental. Hopefully lots of frost and snow will help. It is SOOOOO frustrating not being able to help them, or help them only a little.
So, that's what's stressing me out these days. Rode Miles tonight in the indoor, in the dark, with the rain pelting the roof, and it was better than a valium. Just what I needed to get in a better head space, forget all my worries for a few hours, and gain some perspective on the problem.
If the MTG doesn't help, or it gets worse, we will make yet another trip to the vet, and maybe demand some allergy testing or something-I'm sure it will only cost a paycheck or so *passes out*.
In the meantime, think calm, soothing thoughts for my boys and girl. They are such good dawgs.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
After I shut the gate and let him off the lead, he pawed the sand and rolled. He got up, and rolled on his other side. Lather and repeat about 10 times, I'm not even kidding-I've never seen him roll so much. In between, he walked and trotted around a bit, and we actually played together...it was so much fun. When he got to the far end of the ring, I would call him and he would come galloping back. I love playing with my pony, and I'm a blockhead for not doing this more often. THIS beats a quick lunge any day of the week. He loved it as he tossed his head and pranced away...little show off. After we were done I took him back to the barn and he would not leave me alone-he kept whoofing in my pockets and messing with my hair. I think we're in love:)
I took some very poor videos, but Blogger is being a shit and they aren't uploading properly. WhatEVER, Blogger; good thing you're free!
I also want to plug a great organization and tell you how you can get the CUTEST gifts for yourself and your horsey friends this year. Seriously, I LOVE these:
Their website doesn't seem to be up, but they are on Facebook; just do a search for Emerald City TB Project. If you still can't find them, drop me an email and I'll send you the artist's contact info. Help out a great cause and get a pony that doesn't poop-win win! Also, I get to buy a toy without feeling like a weirdo;)
Monday, November 8, 2010
Miles was a superstar on Sunday...really, another one of those "top 10" rides ever. What made it even better was I had witnesses. Normally I hate hate hate riding in front of people (not the same as riding with other people, which I normally love in the right amounts), but it was a gorgeous day and I wasn't about to retreat to the indoor ring just because a few ladies were chatting rail-side at the outdoor-it's my own insecurity, really. So ride I did.
Best view ever. Wish I had a pair of forward ears, but I'll also take the floppy, listening kind.
There's those forward ears! Also, this is me turning sideways to take a picture, with my arms up. Not me wearing a hood with gigantic boobs. Kyle assured me no one would think that but apparently I'm worried enough about it that I need to add a disclaimer. Plus he's a liar, proven fact:) I say this with love.
After our ride I snapped one more picture, just because he's so dashing under tack.
The cherry on top of my Miles adoration sundae came Monday night, after literally dragging myself to the barn (time changes are always hard on me, whether it's spring forward or fall back). Miles and LaShore were at the far end of their pasture, and for once didn't see me pull in or walk up to the gate since they were up the hill and behind their shelter. As soon as I called "Miles!" I heard the loudest neigh and a thunder of hoof beats as the boys appeared, cantering happily down to great me. It made me laugh hysterically...and then start waving the lead rope like a lunatic as they got close and weren't stopping, yipe!
Stop they did, though, in a cloud of dust and tossing heads...it was so, so adorable (I have got to get a video of it one of these days). If I could bottle that feeling I had...well, in the equine world, there's just nothing like it. When your horse greats you like he's the Black and you're Alec Ramsey, like something out of a novel, it just doesn't get any better. I love the bond we have, and after over a year together I'm still discovering new and awesome things about him. Miles is an amazing gift...sometimes I think he's the whole the reason I was a horse-crazy kid. Maybe I've been waiting for him all along.
End smooshyness! Thanks to everyone for reading, and for letting my inner goober run amok for awhile. Just try to imagine what Miles deals with;)
Sunday, November 7, 2010
OK, not really, but my heart did absolutely stop at the end of her amazing race in the Breeder's Cup Classic yesterday. If you are living under a rock (or have not been maybe obsessively following her career since she won her 17th race in a row), Zenyatta lost her 20th race by a little more than a nose. It was an amazing effort, and she absolutely gave it her all, as per usual for this girl.
She started the race last (again, as per usual), but the difference this time is the caliber of horses she was running against, and the sheer number of horses she had to weave her way through to get to the lead. In a game of inches, she came up just a few short.
Still, the important thing is she came out of the race happy and healthy and sound-at least one horse (Rough Sail) wasn't so lucky yesterday. She finishes her career 19-1-0; that's something alright.
Great job Z! Thanks for the memories. Now go have fun making million dollar babies:)
Thursday, November 4, 2010
"What might help?", I thought. Not another boring blah blah training post.
The only thing stopping me from buying something like a Pretty Pony every time I go in is the reminder to myself that I am, in fact, an adult, and adults do not buy toys FOR THEMSELVES. It's weird. Besides, when I get my "My Favorite Horse" action polo pony with matching rider box set home, what the hell am I going to do with it? Play? I don't even know how to do that anymore.
I can still pine for these toys, though, and stare longingly at them while petting the soft plush of the oversize stuffed paint horse. I could be shopping for children! Underprivilaged children even! That is, after all, the only acceptable time for adults to buy toys. Even horse toys.
And I can't resist-Kristen, I instantly thought of Laz when I saw this plastic beauty:
I could go on and on....I started seeing horses from all over my barn in each of the cute but slightly deformed figures. Horses from my past are in there too. It's a very diverse herd.
So there it is. The 10 year old girl in me had her day after all. After their photo show, I put the horses back in their toob and put them on my dresser, where they will remain for the foreseeable future.
I mean, I'm pretty sure. It's not like I'm going to take them out and arrange them in various entertaining (to me) poses, and create scenarios for them to act out. It's not as if I would make them talk to each other or anything. Talk about strange.
Plasti-Miles says end the post now, Sarah. There's no graceful way to save this one.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I know this is a total bummer of a post. If you don't want to be further bummed, move along; it's OK. I'm rarely in the mood to read this kind of thing either.
I don't have children. I hope to, maybe one day...but maybe not. The point is, my animals have always been my children. People with actual offspring may find this statement offensive, and I apologize for that. I can only say I have suffered and grieved for every. single. animal I've ever owned in my life, past the age of maybe 8-before that I cried, but I don't know how much a young child can actually grieve. Anyway, it's a lot of loss, is what I'm saying.
The shortest life I've mourned was my ferret Franklin, who lived 5 years and died about 6 years ago. I adored that little guy-he was like a kitten on PCP all the time. Unfortunately, he was bred at some factory farm, and from ages 3 to 5 I was fighting an uphill battle against skin cancers, adrenal disease, enlarged spleens, you name it. He was SO full of life though-I handed over my hard earned dollars, and he inevitably bounced back from each procedure. Until one day he didn't. My point in telling his story is, it doesn't matter what the species is, or how long they are in our lives-if we have loved them, they stay with us. I wish I had a picture of him...ugh, I'd have to scan it. Anyway, he was white with red eyes anyway-not the most beautiful of animals,but it didn't matter. He was my boy.
Aside from Franklin, I've loved many dogs, cats, rodents and horses that have since left this Earth. It sucks, it's horrible, and it's an inevitable part of owning animals that we must accept if we are to love them fully and reap the wonderful rewards of sharing our life with them.
The person that keeps an "outside" dog or cat that passes away? Or any animal owner that keeps their pet at a distance-the person may be sad, but they will not feel the grief that those of us that let our animals fully into our lives know. They also will never know the complete joy and partnership of such a relationship. It's a heartbreaking bargain we make-the beautiful with the horrible.
I'm writing this now because my old dog Mojo, while still happy and plucky, is battling some kind of shitty, persistent inflammation that may get her in the end, if the drugs to combat it don't first.
I'm writing this now because one of my great barn friends is faced with making the most horrible and compassionate decision that we as horse owners will all have to make eventually, if we are in the horse "business" long enough. We're all still holding out hope...she is the best "horse mom" I know and will always do what's right. I feel for her.
I'm writing this now to work through the issues I still have around putting my mare down a little over a year ago, and adopting my heart horse a month later. Sometimes I feel like Karma has a target on my back, especially because Miles has been relatively drama free, other than the weight issue. I love and still miss Eb, so much. If something happened to Miles...no. I can't write anymore about that.
I'm writing this now because other people may be facing the same thing with the animal(s) in their life. It's so, so hard.
I truly find comfort in the fact that so many people have lost their own beloveds, and lived to tell about it-that may sound dramatic, but grief at it's worst feels...impossible. Going through the experience is something beautiful we all share. I, for one, can never regret the relationships I've shared with my animals, no matter how much I hurt when they are gone. It's a small price to pay for the years we've shared.
I'm writing this post to remember this, and to appreciate each and every day I share with the loves of my life, both human and non-human. It's a cliche. It's also true.
I have to go now. Mojo wants an extra slice of chicken, and I'm going to give it to her.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Here's my confession-I don't allow him and I to practice this gait under saddle nearly enough. It's my own neurosis, I 100% admit this. While cantering, it's much easier for horses to bolt, buck, spook...take your pick. At the trot, a horse only has 2 feet on the ground at any given time. At the canter, there are 3, hence the increased chance for silliness.
Despite this, I have vowed, starting this week, that I'm going to trust my boy and work more at his favorite gait. Previous to now, I really did have a legitimate excuse for not doing so much canter work; cantering well takes balance, and balance takes strength. Strength takes time to build. Now, thanks to lots of lunge work, he has plenty of strength to maintain a nice canter under saddle, and the only way to get MORE of that strength, of course, is to canter!
Blah blah blah, obvious, I know. Today though, after doing several transitions, I finally kept us at the canter for a couple laps around the ring. I know this isn't a huge thing to lots of people, but work with me here.
By the end of the 2nd lap, he felt...amazing. You know how horses just "give" you that place to sit, and it feels effortless? Yeah. It was a combination of his balance, straightness, collection and MY relaxation. He was using himself and not pulling himself along on his forehand. I sat up, but let my seat just GO with my horse, instead of having my constant "heels down hands still back straight elbows bent etc" mantra that runs waaay too often in my head. For those 10 strides or so, we were perfect together. It doesn't get better than that feeling:) It's the feeling I used to dream about (literally) when I stopped riding for a few years. It's a hell of an incentive to continue working on the canter, that's for sure!
Now, onto pictures! Behold, Miles one year ago.
I'll never get tired of that face.
Miles did not enjoy posing for this side. I threatened him with real work, like his pal LaShore was doing behind him, if he didn't stand still. He called my bluff:)
This is his only marking of white, besides a small random white spot on his hindquarter. What would you call this? It looks like a Rorschach blot. I know it's technically a star. I shall dub it Miles Exploding Star:) If I squint I also see a dog walking on his hind legs. Make of that what you will.
He also has two uneven swirls, which I understand may signal a hot horse with an uneven temperament. Hahahaha:)
Saturday, October 30, 2010
*Note to Universe-the previous statements and all statements to follow should in no way imply that I know what I'm doing at all; in fact I still need your good karma on my side. Still very humble, just so we're clear. Thanks a bunch.*
So, today was a really nice fall day-sunny, about 55 degrees, with some wind. Now, this "wind" is nothing at all like we've had this past week, but it certainly was enough to make Miles a bit fresh and me a bit wary. I especially loved it when the air was very quiet and then a 40 mile an hour gust came rushing up out of nowhere, usually when we were in the skeeery side of the outdoor arena. But I digress.
I was determined to ride outside no matter what today, so of course that meant out came the lunge line. There was a little fun show at our barn last Saturday, and naturally to make things more interesting a bunch of poles, jump standards and barrels were stacked in one corner of the skeeery side of the arena. No matter, I figured, we shall lunge past it until he realizes this is no big whoop (his eyes were just glued to that corner as soon as we walked into the arena, which was my tip off he was going to have issues).
I started off lunging him in the "safe" side of the arena, which also has SO much better footing-I have no idea why, but the other side is very deep, like we're going to be having reining competitions down there or something. Anyway, Miles starts off fine, but of course as we move closer and closer to the other end of the arena and the Jumping Equipment of Death, he gets more and more agitated. He starts dropping his inside shoulder as he gets near the equipment and doing his infamous bolt and buck-not every time he passed it, but enough.
Fine, I say. Miles, I shall walk you up to the corner of doom my own self, like you're a wee baby. He snorted a bit, but he sniffed everything and stood placidly after he realized these inanimate objects were not, in fact, going to attack him. Super, I think, let's do a couple small lunge circles in each direction down here and we will be good to go.
Sigh...at this point I think Miles was just enjoying his "drop-shoulder -run-away" hot move when he got to that corner, so that's exactly what he did, again.
Can I just say how happy I am that I have other tools in my arsenal for times like these? I learned the "sending exercise" from Clinton Anderson....basically I point with one hand, indicating Miles to move in a certain direction, and urge him on with my other hand holding the whip. After he has been "sent" past the corner, I say "whoa", yield his hindquarters, and repeat in the other direction.
I know, it sounds simple, right? Maybe I'm just slow, but before I learned this exercise, I would have NEVER thought to do something like this. I might have either continued the fruitless lunging (and Miles is naturally lazy for the most part, so that might have worked eventually), or I might have led him back and forth past the corner myself multiple times. The problem with that is I'm right there with him; I can lead that horse pretty much anywhere and he will follow me. It's when he has to go somewhere on his own that things can get sticky.
Anyway, he immediately relaxed after the first couple "sends". And what do you know, after that I certainly could lunge him past the corner with no shoulder dropping or rushing at all. I don't know exactly what it is about that exercise (maybe the yielding the hindquarters bit?), but it was just what we needed. I also backed him up quite a bit prior to starting the exercise, which I think helps all horses when they're feeling silly.
The best part was this was all done at the walk, and there wasn't a drop of sweat on Miles...his behavior change was not due to fatigue. I also didn't feel irritated or frustrated with him once, even before we started the sending exercise.
What do you know? Brains win! We went on to have a great ride, and a great day. Say what you want about Clinton Anderson or some Natural Horsemanship, but after riding for 20 plus years under many different instructors, I never was taught anything like this to get a horse past something he's scared of. That's not a knock against any of my instructors, just some praise for CA, and the fact that as riders we CAN work things out on our own...as long as we stop and think.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I was finishing our ride tonight (our mojo from Saturday carried over, for the most part-Good Miles!), and Amanda (go visit her blog and say hey!) walked in with her camera and offered to take some photos of us, since we have exactly Zero of me riding. What could I say? I've been dying to get some, if for no other reason than I need to critique my own equitation and have a gauge as to where we both are, position wise.
Of course, today we were again in the indoor ring, which has not the best lighting, Miles was dusty as all hell from the rush grooming job I gave him (to be fair, he was COVERED in mud from the rain we had last night), and we were both a wee sweaty and tired. The cherry on top? My gray Tractor Supply Company t-shirt, in size XXL, which doesn't billow about me and make me look like a Stay-Puff marshmallow AT ALL. Ah well. I'm still thrilled to have any pictures of us, and it was so, so sweet of her to offer.
Unfortunately, apparently most she took of us, particularly at the trot, were too blurry. These 2, however, I'm not totally embarrassed to post (the others are for my eyes only, because of me, not her picture taking:). Obviously I'm not the slim, legs-that-go-on-forever ideal type of rider. My butt, hips and thighs have always been, ahem, ample, no matter what I weigh. Still, I think we fit each other fairly well. Miles is happy in our work. And I hope this is just a starting point for both of us:)
Relaxing...again, not much to say. Still, here you have it...photographic proof I ride an OTTB!! If you had told me I'd be doing this 2 years ago I would have laughed in your face.
Anyway, here we are! I hope it inspires any of you out there struggling with the same thing. It's actually quite liberating!
Also, Miles makes me look good (or passable, anyway). All you really need is a handsome steed:)
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Miles was forward, focused and balanced. His mouth was still-the contact I had in my hands was perfect. I felt strong in the saddle. We rode with rhythm and purpose. We did circles, serpentines, transitions, leg yields...we were just on together.
There's not much else to say; that's the funny thing about great rides, isn't it? I want to hold on to the feeling I had as I rode, and remember how things looked, smelled, felt...in hopes, of course, that we can recreate today many, many times to come this winter.
I swear Miles knew how great it was as well. He was extra cute afterwards, snuffling my hair and turning up his already considerable charm to "high".
Maybe pictures tomorrow. I was too busy today grinning like an idiot and flirting with my pony to drop everything and get the camera.
Thanks Bubs. Good rides may not make for exciting reading, but they make for happy, happy mommies.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I found out how truly relaxed and lazy he could be in the spring and summer. Now that the weather is turning brisk, though, I'm finding I may own a spirited thoroughbred after all...he's not done anything naughty, but I feel like it's just there, below the surface. That "sitting on a powder keg" feeling is there more often then not these past couple weeks. Miles has also been tested by other things lately, besides the weather...giant farm machinery appearing at random times, dogs running amok (Ugh, this is getting old I've got to say. And I love dogs!), busier than usual arenas with horses cantering endless circles feet away from Miles and me. LOTS of new horses at the barn. In short, it's not just the weather. And deer season is right around the corner. Joy!
It's also not all bad. Of course I don't expect our environment to always be serene and perfect. Both of us must learn to relax and deal with distractions and new stimuli. So I guess that's good:)
Still, must it all happen while we are also riding in 50 degree temperatures with random ridiculously strong wind gusts? Tonight we faced almost everything I mentioned, plus it was cold. Miles was unfocused, but kept himself together, though at times I could feel he was just barely able to check himself. I gave him lots of praise and support throughout our ride for being so good (his self control under saddle has really been great), but we also didn't get much done. We worked on lots of direction changes and trot/walk transitions, but no cantering. He would probably have been fine, but I just didn't want to risk it. The final straw was when yet another horse came into the ring and did a small rear as we were halted 10 feet away. Miles is a good boy, not an angel.
It's a little frustrating to be limited by our environment right now, but that's OK...again, it's good for us in the long run. I just miss our big canters around the arena, that's all. Maybe we go to the indoor arena next ride...we will be getting very familiar with those fluorescent lights again soon enough anyway:)
Saturday, October 16, 2010
I don't know what's gotten into me, but I've been looking forward to his birthday for weeks, and planning what to make him and wondering if he will freak out if I put a party hat on him. Maybe it's because he's the first horse (or animal for that matter) I've owned, whose official birthday I know for sure. Today we had a little hack around the farm, and he received more treatings and pettings than were necessary and appropriate, I'm sure. Anyway, behold my craziness...and feel sorry for my horse (but not too sorry).
Miles Super Special Pony Cookies. Admittedly, they look more like burger patties than cookies, but Miles LOVED them, and at least one other horse at the barn did too. I found the recipe randomly online and made a couple improvisations. If you're interested, here it is:
2 cups EACH grated carrots, grated apples, oats
1 cup flour
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon brown sugar *I used a little less
In a large bowl, mix carrots, apples, oil and molasses. Then fold in salt, brown sugar, oats and flour Make sure cookie sheet is non stick, or spray it b/c these will stick otherwise. Make little balls and squish into cookie size you want. Bake at 350 for...I dunno, I think I baked them for about 10 minutes, flipped them, and baked for another 5 or 10 minutes. Just keep an eye on them and you should be fine.
NOM NOM NOM! Miles digs weird hamburger patty horse treaty!
I have to say, they were delish. Also, sprinkles!
Before we get into Miles humiliation, behold his BeefCaky-ness!
Not a rib in sight! I will take it.
Totally random picture...I just thought it was super cute how his mouth is just barely open. He does often seem like he wants to say something so bad!
Do you see what she's done? She was serious about the hat.
Now she's parading me around the farm so everyone can laugh at me. Why Why Why....
Still, I AM kinda cute. Wait, what am I saying?
Screw this. Off to eat weird cookie patties sent from heaven.
This food coma brought to you by pony cookies, beet pulp and 2nd cutting hay. Not a bad day, all in all.