Monday, September 27, 2010

Horse Monday! Also, Ranting...

So, nothing of note is going on...I've not taken any pictures because I'm a slacker and Miles had a swollen rear fetlock yesterday (all better today, though of course I didn't have time to ride), so nothing of note to report on that front. He was great Saturday though, and I got to show him off to a horse crazy girl that was out at the barn and thought he was the most handsomest thing EVAR! :) She was 13 and at the barn with her dad, who was at a meeting in the lounge area of our barn, so she killed a couple of hours by following us around. Hey, I remember being that age.

Anyway, I sorta love Mondays (after work, natch), because HRTV has horse programming on all evening...I'm assuming it's because they don't run races on Monday? Anyway, it's everything from The Saddle Club (don't hate!) to Lynn Palm to Monty Roberts and some Australian show called Horse Talk. I love it all. I have dubbed Monday nights on TV...wait for it..."Horse Monday". I know, my creativity astounds.

Anyway, I'm watching tonight, and I have to rant for a moment. I realize I may piss some people off, but keep in mind I'm not talking about YOU, only what I'm watching on the tube. Having said that...

Lots of these shows center around a rider/horse combo that have a problem and they are turning to one "expert" or another for help. Actually, I commend and admire those people for seeking other opinions and for having the guts to ride on national TV for every shmuck like myself to critique. Having said all that, the one discipline I cringe at EVERY time I've seen it demonstrated on one of these shows is barrel racing. The show I saw tonight that got me thinking about this wasn't even someone asking for was just a girl with her horse telling their story. The poor horse was wearing the usual head tie-down thing (sorry, I don't know what else to call it) that all barrel horses seem to wear, and looked like she had more than a little hardware in her mouth as well. Her rider was small, but (and I'm sorry), not particularly kind to the horse's back or mouth as she was running barrels during the segment.

This isn't, unfortunately, the first time or even the 10th time I've seen a similar situation. Last week it was someone on Ryan Gingrich's show asking for help with her barrel horse. She had her gelding in a twisted wire snaffle, and of course the ubiquitous tie-down. There was lots of pulling and kicking and resistance (can't imagine why). To Ryan's credit, he at least swapped out the bit. Twisted wire may have it's place, but that horse was getting his mouth shredded.

Hey, I know there are good, kind barrel racers. In the upper level rodeos where there is big money involved, I see (for the most part), great riders using their whole bodies to cue their horses around barrels, not just yanking on their mouths. I'm sure a lot of my bias comes from my primarily English background, and every equine sport has problems and ugly riding at lower levels (as well as upper levels in some cases). Still, this is my rant and my just makes me sad for the horses. Also the riders for that matter; I know most of them must love their horses. Maybe this is what they're taught. Maybe they haven't had a lot of instruction and don't know any better. Maybe it's the barrel racing culture, which I admit I know zilch about. All I do know is I get tired of seeing hot, high-headed horses with open, gaping mouths attached to riders' unforgiving hands that are held high, with no slack in the reins whatsoever and a tie-down on top of everything else. It's not a nice picture to me. It's not kind riding.

Again, I want to reiterate I know not ALL barrel racers ride like this, and I've seen very nice rides (that are plenty fast) as well.

I'm also not picking on barrel racers because I think it's the worst thing out there. Someday I'm going to do a blog on Big Lick horses and really piss people off, because I don't think that particular horse "sport" can be done without abuse to the horse. Ugh, I honestly can't believe it still exists. I'm convinced Tennessee Walking Horses must be the most forgiving breed in the world.

Feel free to share your horse sport peeves, or to tell me to go fly a kite:) Happy Horse Monday everyone!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Day Of Fall and Bit(less) Update...

Blah, I'm home sick today with a sore, swollen throat, so why not write a blog post?

Miles was ahhhhh-mazing last night. I was tired as all hell (getting sick, obviously, though I didn't know it at the time), but it was nice out and I was determined to ride. I didn't even have the energy to lunge him, though he was also super relaxed so I just threw on his hackamore and mounted up.

WHAT a difference. No crazy noodle-neck, no grinding, no resistance at all. I daresay he listens to my leg more and I'm able to get him to bend through our corners and on circles much, much easier than with a bit. Of course, most of that is probably because he's not fixated and concerned with the metal in his mouth. Everything was just...better. I don't think his neck popped up or he hollowed out once.

I'm slow on the uptake, I've never denied that. So, bit experimentation is on hold for now. Right now, I just want to work with him, really work with him, and try to improve our right lead and maybe start extension/collection work. I guess it took one day of him being very obviously uncomfortable and upset to get me to wise up-right now it's looking like the best thing that could have happened! Previous to Sunday, his mouth was still more active than I wanted it, but I could also get him to stretch down and relax during parts of our ride. It's much, much nicer to have our ENTIRE ride like that now, though:)

The one thing I really don't like about the hackamore is the curb chain is a bit tighter than I would like it, even with everything on the last hole. So, when I take up contact, the chain actually tightens under his chin, which is soooo not what I want (though it didn't seem to bother him at all). So, I'll either look for a bigger one or wrap it in vetwrap or something. Now that we're getting somewhere I don't want to take advantage of his good nature by inadvertently punishing him. We will return to trying other bits and maybe even a bitless bridle in a couple months, maybe. Does anyone know of a company that lets you "try before you buy" with regards to bitless bridles?

A huge thank you to everyone that commented and offered suggestions and help. It's always appreciated and welcome! I'm always learning and have a long way to go.

In other news, it's the first day of fall, although the sun is out and the breeze is balmy. Miles is getting his true color back now...the bleached-out rusty color is completely gone and his almost black coat is back, which I just love. Between that and his increased fat and muscling, he's looking particularly handsome these days:) Pictures of the Beefcake sporting his hackamore coming shortly!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bits Bits Bits...Enough!

Just a quick note before bed...

Admittedly, my riding schedule with Miles has not been consistent the last few weeks, with his scrapes in strategic places and a couple other factors. We've also had a lot of rain the past couple of weekends. Blah blah blah, all this to say, on our ride yesterday, the first in about a week, he was worse then ever with that damn bit (this is what he's wearing). Now, the weather has been cooling down (YAY!), and we were riding indoors for the first time in months because the outdoor ring was soaked. So, a couple of other factors at work; still, he lunged just fine in his halter, and c'mon, a week off is going to happen every now and again.

He was plenty forward. Actually, it was quite lovely-lots of energy, but he was directing it into our work which was great. I was excited to get on him after lunging. As soon as I picked up the reins, however-my goodness, the fussiness! That long neck of his was alllllll over. He was grinding his teeth and over flexing. He just wasn't happy. It's a damn shame because, as I said, he was moving so well, and even bending fairly well and listening to my leg, as much as I could expect when the neck is totally disconnected:) I kept my hands steady and continued to work him forward, ignoring his antics. I know the worst thing to do is discipline a horse with your hands...

Literally the moment he would either lower his head and stretch (not root, big difference), or simply relax and be still, I would reward him with a walk and praise. He soooo loves being told he's a good boy:) He also loves ambling around the arena on the buckle.

I know there are possible explanations other than him just hating his bit. I guess y'all will have to take my word that my hands are quiet and steady (hey, I'm not perfect, but it is something I've been complimented on before, and certainly I've been conscience of my hands with Miles), and while I'm not allowing him to tool around the arena on a loose rein (after the first few minutes), the contact I'm asking for is hardly severe or something he can't do. Honestly, he's unhappy even with no contact. It's the metal in his mouth he's rebelling against right now.

He's obviously uncomfortable-he wasn't in the least bit anxious being lunged in the halter before I put his bridle on. He was just floated, so we can rule that out. It may be the bit-I don't know. The next piece of metal I'll put in his mouth will probably be a Myler bit (thank goodness they have a good resale value, considering the cost!). Until then, back to the English Hackamore we go. I know it's not a perfect piece of equipment, but for what we're doing, it works well, and he's happy in it.

Poor boy. I wish I had the budget and time to play around with all manner and size of bit, but I don't. I'll try the Myler when we can afford it (or get it for Christmas;) though a lightweight turnout sheet is next on the never ending list of Miles' needs at the moment. I'd also love to try a bitless bridle at some point.

Anyway, there's my quick riding update. The positive spin is that he was moving so, so well, and if this wasn't an issue it would've been one of our best rides yet, I think. While he was definitely a bit "up", he was also exceedingly good and never did anything silly or stupid. To sum up, even with our challenges I left the barn with a big stupid grin on my face.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's The Little Things

Oh Miles. Tonight I went out to the barn, with a new saddle pad and everything (It's a sickness really...don't ask how many I have. It was ordered with the SmartPak sandals, natch.), super ready to ride in the beautiful evening air. Nope, I find Miles in his pasture with two identical, parallel gashes on his side. Very superficial, but they're right where my leg rests.

Ok, if he has to get injured, I'm glad it's not his legs. Very, very glad. Still, does it always have to be the saddle area where this happens? First the possible bite on his back (really, though, I'm having doubts about that being a bite) that gave him a few days off, now this. In between, he also managed to gash himself below his shoulder this weekend, and it actually swelled a bit and the surrounding tissue was warm, though that's all gone now. He was/is sound, thank goodness, and I've been keeping it clean and dressing it, but it's deeper than his previous boo boos and pretty ugly, though very small.

Time to walk that pasture and try to find out what he's hurting himself on. I don't know about his back, but these latest two are NOT bites or kicks. I didn't have time tonight but Saturday I'm going to try to get out there early and get to the bottom of this. Please Universe keep him safe until then.

Of course his pasturemate, LaShore, has nary a scratch on him. Ah, Miles...keeping me on my toes. I've gotta say though, I'd rather be in the saddle.

Whut u say? Miles not smart enuff to skrape up strategik Miles' parts to avoid ride tyme. Nope Nope Nope. Look how dull Miles iz.

I'm on to you, Bubs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Miles' One Year (And Change) Anniversary

I'm a bad, bad horse mother. Actually, I'm just bad, bad with dates-birthdays, anniversaries, you name it (that Kyle's a lucky guy;). So when Miles' one year anniversary of coming to Michigan that marked the beginning of this long, strange, wonderful journey came and went on September 1st, I totally missed the boat.

Sorry Bubs. Here, have a meandering blog post filled with Odes to Miles.

Looking back to one year ago, of course, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. Who knows if I should have even thought about adopting another horse so soon after Ebony passed, let alone an OTTB? I questioned the wisdom of what I had done a lot in that first month, and of course I still missed Eb terribly. I tried not to compare Miles to her in those first days, but it was really hard not to as he was rearing up in the arena, screaming for other horses and looking anywhere but at me. Obviously, we worked through those issues, thank goodness!

It really wasn't just A horse I was looking for though, honestly. It was him. After seeing him on New Vocations website, I couldn't get him out of my head, and I never looked at other horses. Fate? I don't know about all that, but adopting him was certainly was the right thing to do, and in hindsight the only thing to do. I can't imagine having any other horse, or him ending up with any other owner. I'm still so, so grateful.

I couldn't be more pleased with where we are at this stage, a year later. I feel like we finally know each other, really, really well, and we trust each other (more or less-I haven't pushed those boundaries too far, admittedly. No trail ride yet, in other words. I'll get there!). Trust is pretty important when you're dealing with a 16.2 beast. It's funny, I always forget how tall he is now (again, I'm just used to him), until there's a new person at the barn, or someone asks, "How tall is he??" This is amusing to me because I'm used to being the person with the little quarter horse, and also because he would be about average in a barn full of hunter/jumpers or dressage horses. Surrounded by mostly stock horses and Arabians though, not so much. So yes, trust is a very, very good thing.

I love how respectful he is on the ground, and I'm proud of that-I've worked really hard with him to ensure his manners are what they should be, particularly because he gets led in and out of the barn a couple times a day by other folks. He's great about respecting my space, though he's still a little mouthy. He's never bitten, and it's all in "good fun" (I know, I know, not the ideal type of fun, particularly for humans). He just likes to mouth the lead line, or my jacket, or whatever is closest. I admit I think it's cute, but he will stop when I ask.

This brings me to the next thing I really adore about him-I don't think Miles has a malicious, mean or manipulative bone in his body. Of course he's not perfect, but in all instances whether on the ground or under saddle, he tries, and usually tries hard (that first week or two notwithstanding. And hey, I'm going to give him a break on that). I hate writing stuff like this because I'm superstitious, but he's never offered so much as a cow hop under saddle, let alone a real buck or rear. The one time I came off him we were outside the arena, he spooked, and simply wanted to get OUT of that area, and I was left behind. Hey, you can't have everything:) Still, I'll take that over a horse that wants me OFF their back. Miles can be lazy, but that's it. I am a FAR from perfect rider, but he puts up with me and lets me go at my own pace. He stands like a statue for mounting, isn't girthy and never avoids the bridle. Cripes, I don't think he even swishes his tail when he's annoyed. He's just a good-natured boy, who gives me the benefit of the doubt and likes working and hanging out with me in equal parts it seems.

Most of all, he is my sweet, sweet pony. He loves to (gently) push his head into me and just stand there while I rub his face. He's always looking to me for reassurance or just to see what I'm up to. I've never had a horse that actually looks back at me while I'm riding him, but he does, occasionally, just to check in I think. He's perfectly happy to leave his buddies to come with me, and he doesn't mind when his buddies leave him as long as I'm still there. These things didn't happen all at once, or all at the same time, but now it's all routine. It's a nice feeling.

Is he a "10" mover? No. Is he clumsy? Yep. Does he have OTTB moments? No doubt. Is he a ridiculously hard keeper? HELL Yes. Still...

I'll never get tired of his adorable face and those sweet nickers when I walk up to his pasture from the car. It's what keeps me making that loooong drive to the barn every day I can, even if it's not to ride. How could I let this face down?

Happy Anniversary Bubs. Thanks for an amazing year.

PS-I won't make this mistake twice. Your birthday is in October, and will include party hats!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SmartPak Strikes Again

Seriously, between their clearance sale and free shipping code, how could I not get these?

I couldn't imbed a picture, but they are these totally cute flip flops for 5 bucks. Yes, they have horses on them, and I will no doubt be gently mocked by many peoples. Still, I think that's half the fun:) Besides, we still have a few days of sandal weather left, no?

Damn you SmartPak! *shakes fist* Your torment knows no bounds!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ahh, Eazy Dayz

I took this week off from work to stay home. This is monumental-not because I don't ever take time off (ask my boss, ha ha), but because my scheduled time off always revolves around a trip. Usually it's to the Upper Peninsula to see my husband's family, but in the past we've traveled with either Kyle's mom or dad to various parts of the Country (Arizona and the Florida Keys, most recently). We go to Buffalo, NY at least once or twice a year to watch the Bills play and tailgate our asses off (my dad is from Buffalo and gets season tickets every year). We also like to camp, either taking a long road trip out West or to New England, though it's been a couple years. We get around, is what I'm saying. And it's great, really. I've loved every excursion.

I have to say, though, this time I'm taking right now? To stay at home and read, RIDE, sleep, walk, piss away hours on the Internet...I am loving it! I feel like a 15 year old kid again, when I had no job (0k, I've ALWAYS had a job, but we were talking maybe 15 hours a week at the pet store), with looooooong summer vacation days, and the time stretched out before me like a sea of possibility.

Ha ha, that's so not true-time did stretch out before me, but all I HAD back then was time, and of course I assumed I always would. So, most days were spent sleeping in, on the phone, in the sun-and of course, at the barn.

The summer of my 15th year was one of the very best (you never realize it at the time though, do you?). I was too young to drive, which I hated but was actually great (no insurance payments, need for gas money, etc). Best of all, after 7 or 8 years of begging, my parents had bought me Chami earlier that year, my sweet lil' appendix Quarter Horse. We boarded her at Crestview Farm, which was about 3 miles from our house. I often took my bike to the barn and spent alllll day there-bathing her (she was cleaner than ANY of the show horses), cleaning tack, and riding, riding, riding. I joined 4H for the first time, and showed those whipper snappers a thing or two about jumping:) Chami and I rode with a small group of kids at the barn who had no fear of either horses or the law, and we were all over the place. You haven't lived until you've galloped over a golf course green (comical old men in plaid pants waving their clubs at you and everything) and gotten properly chewed out for it. There were races through wheat fields and encounters with stoners at the county park. Good times, good times.

Anyway, I've been thinking about that great summer these last few days, as I have the freedom to fill up my time with pretty much whatever I want. Surprise surprise, not much has changed-I cleaned horse blankets today, and tomorrow I can't wait to get to the barn and spend the day riding and giving my saddle a much needed oiling. Yes, I only have a week, and a week is not a summer. Then again, tomorrow is only Wednesday:)

I can't believe I haven't given this week of bliss to myself long ago. Still, I think my 15 year old self would be proud I finally wised up.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Beefcake, Avec Video!

Hoo, boy, hope I have enough skillz to actually get a video up here!

Windy Windy Windy-crazy winds the last two days here in Mid-Michigan. This, along with very cool temps, makes even the most laid-back thoroughbred feel real nice and lose his mind a bit. Fortunately for me, his mind took leave for only about 20 minutes yesterday (when I free lunged him in the outdoor arena-yeah, lemme say I won't be doing that again when he's feeling his oats. I was seriously concerned he was going to jump the damn fence!). He was 100% awesome today, however, and I managed to get some pictures and video lunging before my Droid camera decided to die on me (not cool). So, as promised and without further ado, feast your eyes on my feasting beefcake.

I made him look up from his hay, hence the less than pleased expression. Still, lookit that butt! That topline! Swoon...

Alas, work he must. I apologize in advance for the pictures and video-'tis very hard to operate tiny technology while a large beast is on the other end of a line and you are trying to be both a good leader and lunger and the next Martin Scorsese.

Ick, with the high-headed trot. Still at least he is semi-centered. You have no idea how many pictures I took with just a butt or a head in the frame.


Yay for the stretchy trot! Could be more forward, but I'll take it.

Next of course, is canter work, though I admit I often warm him up in the beginning with lots of canter work thrown in. It's his favorite gait. I think he looks pretty good in these pictures and certainly he's happiest at the canter most days.

I really like this one.

My uphill boy!

Feelin' good!

How'd I do, ma?

Good bubs. You did very, very good.

Here's the video. Please ignore my ridiculous voice and forgive my confusing cues-I really do know how to lunge a horse, but I was sans whip and looking at my teeny tiny Droid screen to capture the experience. Mostly, until the end, I just wanted him to go forward, no matter the gait. Hence the constant clucking and kissing. Still, I think it could have turned out worse...enjoy! Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend everyone~

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ewe Gee Aitch

...spells UGH. These three little letters sum up the summer of 2010. In fact, if it weren't for Miles, ugh would not properly convey how shitty the last few months have been.

Sweet Miles. My next post will contain a photo of my big ol' beefcake-he's gained over 50 lbs since late July. Whoohoo!! He is happy, sound and healthy, and I am grateful everyday for this (really).

I wish I could say I have taken full advantage of this fact, but I haven't. The weather has suuuuuucked. Mojo is...not doing well. We went to the vet today after she had a not so great night and she will be going on prednisone very soon. My sweet old girl. My one and only priority is her comfort. I am not going to let her suffer because I will miss her if she's gone-it's truly a day by day thing right now. Speaking of right now, she's feeling much better in the cooler weather and is sleeping at my feet.

Grandma is doing OK. She's still having the occasional seizure, unfortunately. We're trying to figure it out, with her doctors.

There are other...things on my mind as well. Hey, let's not turn this into Sarah's deep dark journal of darkness, shall we? :) Smiley faces all around! :) :)

Sometimes I just want to rage. I want to scream. Get in the car and drive for hours. Drink a fifth of something dark and strong. I want to throw a saddle on my thoroughbred and gallop him down the trail as far as it will take us. Fortunately by the time I get out to the barn and do all the things that having a horse requires me to do the feeling has passed and I'm in a much better place. Bargain therapy, thy name is Miles.

The next post will be better, I promise. I want you all to see how good my thoroughbred looks! I also want to get back to riding regularly and with purpose-it seems this summer, every time we get into a groove, we are interrupted by back sores, or weather or other things.

Still, other things do need attention. In particular this Other Thing. She is such a good, good girl.