Mid Year Update

Where am I – how am I doing?

I am focusing less on conditioning and training the horses right now, and more on getting myself well and keeping healthy both physically and mentally. Riding made a condition I have worse recently, so I took nearly a month off riding to heal. I am waiting to see if the time helped. Also, hot summer days are murder on my auto-immune system, so I have to take a “no outside work” break in the deepest part of summer. So for these reasons I had to back off the horses a bit. Indy went to a new home in Virginia with his owner and I am ecstatic that he will be closer to her and get more attention. That’s a good thing.

I wrote a piece for Horse Junkies United about why we event even though two tragic deaths rocked the sport in June; it got thousands of views and spread all over the world, including being read and distributed by the executive director of British Eventing, who said it explained very well what we do, to others who do not understand the sport. I asked a question about bullying in the horse world on the COTH bulletin board, and it received the most views of any post of the week. My older blogs occasionally pop up in feeds and links; my writing is widely read. I am just now beginning to believe myself! (Yah. Don’t waste too much time on that notion.)

How are the horses? Lucky is good. Working on getting in front of the leg more. Working on ground manners. Rugby relapse is evident – not doing well. George – about the same, struggling to find time for him. Hamish – my favorite ride but woefully out of shape. Got to get going on these guys, but I am good day – bad day physically, so have to do it as I can. Frustrating because I cannot keep a proper schedule. It is what it is.

I may take a road trip in July to Virginia to watch the last tryouts for the WEG team and see the sights in blue-blood country. Anyone up for that?

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Charlie

2013-12-06 10.42.58It’s a beautiful Saturday morning; I have lots and lots of work to do in the barn, outside, in the yard, the driveway needs work, the manure pile, the list goes on….but first, this morning, I had to help Charlie back to God. It hit me hard perhaps because I’m still mourning my mother’s loss. He was suffering and was losing function, crying, then sleeping, and nearly comatose at the vet’s. (Thank you, Lord, for the great and kind people at Governor’s Avenue Animal Hospital in Dover, DE. They saved me today.) I am missing him and Jax, left at home, is also missing him. Although, I think Jax is rather glad to be Only Dog again. Charlie was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia about the time I had to go back to Seattle to watch my mother die, and when I got home, he’d lost weight and was not doing well. He hung on about 6 months. So here, I am taking the time to put up a little memorial that can live online for my dear little dog Charlie who was always a good dog and always a happy dog no matter what happened or where it went around here. He was a great dog, and I am just now realizing how much joy he brought to my life. Why do they have to be gone before you realize how lucky you were to have such a great friend? No goodbyes. Just look up Mom, when you get to heaven, Charlie, and make sure she gives you a treat. She was a great cook, and Charlie was a great eater, so I am sure they are getting along super!

2013-05-23 08.39.002012-07-07 17.24.02DSCN1328

Weekend

I am exhausted. I rode three horses each day, Saturday and Sunday, but the big work was grubbing out some overgrown bushes on the side of the house, and cleaning out the landscaping around the back of the deck. That was so easy to write, and there was so much work involved in all that! It took two days, the tractor, a shovel, a pitchfork, a rake, my bush nippers, a supervising Jack Russell or two, a tow chain, gardening gloves and sixteen gallons of sweat! The bushes are now gone – the overgrown holly tree is gone – the overgrown evergreen ground cover is gone and a whole lot of pesky ivy vine, too. Along with an old sattelite dish that nearly tipped the tractor over (it was on a 12-foot pole I thought was only a 6 foot pole!) I didn’t pull hard enough on it. OK, five trips with the tractor to dump the vines, weeds, bushes and root balls, and Brian and I thought we would die of exhaustion. When I think people do that all day long, day after day, for a living, it really makes me appreciate my college education.

The bush destruction was not the only work. I also mowed the arena, dragged it, reset the jumps, mowed all over the farm, dumped and refilled water tubs, cleaned stalls, went to Tractor Supply and got the weeks’ bedding, unloaded it from the truck, moved the truck and trailer and mowed some more around the barn. Also planted a tiny garden patch near the front of the barn (just flowers and carrots) with some very old seeds that probably won’t come up, but I thought it was worth a try anyhow. All the horses ridden today, because it was hot, got baths. So that was my weekend and I wonder why I can’t lose weight.

Jax, the oldest Jack Russell, spent all day with me on Saturday, and seemed happy to be outside all day. Charlie, the sick one, is sort of not doing well but he’s holding his own. I think he’s at least partially blind at this point but he is eating, pooping, sleeping. We are not out of the woods on Charlie but he is trying I think to stay with us.

All the horses seem OK – Rugby’s right hind leg doesn’t really seem much better, I guess it will take time. Hamish has his new up front shoes and seems really good. I rode him and even jumped a little on Sunday (four x-rails) and he was very bright to them so I think he is ready to go back to work. George lunged with a lot of neighborhood activity, which he needs. Lucky was good both days. His hind feet are showing some stress and I think he’ll need hind shoes next shoeing, darn it — that means single paddock turnout for him…..too dangerous with hind shoes on to anyone! In fact, he’ll probably whack himself with them, a reminder to turn him out with bell boots and padding on the legs….I think he is allergic to the neoprene lining in the work boots, too. He’s got scunge on the hind legs from the boots used during the cross country school at Carousel on Monday, poor guy. Oh, is there anything he is not allergic or reactive to?

So now it’s Sunday night, I got on the computer to get my work for Monday, and check Facebook news feed for all the eventing news, and cheer or congratulate friends, and now it’s literally time to drop into bed and pray my back will allow me to get up in the morning without passing out from pain. Not likely.

Report on Lucky’s day at Carousel

Lucky had a big day last Monday, Memorial Day. He was driven PAST Delaware Park, much to his relief, to Carousel Park, and went to go in the water and stream, watch the kids play in the pool, jump off the diving board, swing on the swingset, and all the doggies pulling people around on strings and leashes. He was with a group of others who were also listening to a new lady talk to Mom, who was riding with a whip and spurs, darn her. The day got hot and he sweated, but it really did not seem like a lot of work. He looked at lots of jumps in two or three fields, and actually jumped over a lot of little jumps with some of the new friends. The lady without a horse was very nice and complimentary and thought Lucky was worth messing with. He did not want to jump the jumps on the first try but rather felt it was better to jump them the second time, and he also thought it was better to jump from a small canter than from the trot. All in all a good day and Lucky is better for it. Now the next problem is to keep him going and jumping someplace different each weekend. I’m looking at schooling in the coming weeks at Fair Hill, perhaps at Plantation but work is probably going to interfere with that, perhaps a schooling show hither and yon, anything to get him out and jumping.

Lucky’s clinic on May 16 was detailed with video (thanks to Julia Jesu) and is posted at Horse Junkies United. His dressage show on May 11 was pretty good but he got fussy after the first test. Warmup was a bit unorganized and we actually rode in an arena we could not go around, and when we trotted in, and turned, the judge gave us the bell! We didn’t get a chance to even get straight for center line; then the stable worker took five or six horses out of a paddock right NEXT to the ring DURING our test and lead them on a gravel driveway, clop  clop, past the end of the ring to the barn. Other riders in our class had no such distraction. It was just sort of weird. They had a lovely grass dressage arena on level ground down in a field, with ample warmup but weren’t using it for the show — I did try the indoor but it’s so dusty and nasty in there I was in there about 10 minutes and had to leave. Schooling shows are great experiences but it they aren’t safe they aren’t fun. Lucky immediately broke his trailer tie ring the instant I took off my boots and was shoeless, and trotted off to the other side of the farm to get caught eventually when he went in the indoor ring to find the field horses. He’s nothing if not smart, he’s always aware of where the horses are when he goes someplace. There was a photographer and I was able to see some nice photos a couple of weeks after the show, the trot views were very nice but the canters seemed flat and rather short in stride, but the views were all of three feet on the ground so it was hard to see if there was any “loft” or spring there. Lucky has a nice canter that is wonderful to sit and ride. Overall, I felt it was a good experience, but I wasn’t real thrilled with the location and probably won’t go back there because of the unwieldy warmup situation. It is always nice to be able to trot all the way around the ring past the judge’s booth with a green horse, because it sets the tone that they are performing in the ring, and that the distractions are outside of it — it’s just a pet peeve of mine that we present new things logically to green horses so they understand what we are wanting, and in the case of dressage performances, how they think about a dressage arena and what it is for, and this affects their thoughts the rest of their performance lifetime. I feel strongly that even schooling shows should have proper arenas and judge’s booths with room for the horse to go around and warmups on the same footing. We just mess with their heads otherwise.

Update: May

Sorry, I’ve been busy. We’re almost at the end of May, like six to eight weeks busy. I am desperately squeezing in time for the horses around work and my mother’s estate needs. I’ve got no real updates except I’ve been busy. Sorry.

Photos: #mindyourmelon

George photobombing my selfie on Cold Hump Day

George photobombing my selfie on Cold Hump Day

Not a deleted photo!

Not a deleted photo!

"Gypsy gold does not clink and glitter...it gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark"

“Gypsy gold does not clink and glitter…it gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark”

Photo by Sarah Kullman - my dearest Rugby

Photo by Sarah Kullman – my dearest Rugby

Eventing preliminary level in Oregon, back in the 80's. This is a pretty big oxer.

Eventing preliminary level in Oregon, back in the 80’s. This is a pretty big oxer.

3plb lucky at winterplace 2014

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

I have been working on getting Lucky’s attention in dressage for about a year now. When he doesn’t pay attention, he’s scary. When he does pay attention, he’s scary, too but the other way!

Today, Lucky proved what I sort of thought. He’s good. He is smart. He can move nicely, very nicely. He needs me to ride him carefully, let his neck be longer, more off the leg, create and keep the balance, and be a stronger person physically to be able to control my aids.

I entered just two training level tests, 2 and 3, and spent all week memorizing them. Yeah, right. Well I got most of them right. I missed a transition and got dinged for it but other than that I was pretty much remembering them. I got up and had all sorts of plans to braid and be early. Yeah, right. Got there just on time to get number and get warmed up in time for first test. I worried he’d be bad and crazy and dump me and run off or get loose or break his halter — none of that happened.

He did get through the Aisle of Death with the help of a friend, Kim and her nice chestnut mare. We walked through the aisle several times, actually, and he was very interested in the softball game on the other side of the Devon ring. He was pretty much agog when he got out of the trailer but soon got an idea what  it all was. The dogs walking around the park on the leashes, the golf carts and horses going around over the jumps, all pretty interesting. The jogger a field over got a lot of attention. I began my warmup just with walking, feeling tense, and anxious, then the trotting circles and you know the head came down, the back loosened, I could rise a bit less sloppy and felt like he was getting a little more attentive. Then just worked my way through warmup and spoke with friends, and cantered a bit, and the circles were fine and he was relaxing and I began to think maybe he will be good. When we walked around the ring for our first test, here came the dogs, a pile of them, all on leashes attached to owners walking around the park. I figured I had better just let him go to the fence and see them now, because if I ride past, he’ll want to look around at them. It worked. He processed them, put them away and got down to work. I rode a bit tensely in the first part of the first test but then felt him relax in the second part, and then the judge wanted to speak to us after our salute. She was so complimentary and so exciting to listen to, I felt a huge relief and even a few tears of joy in hearing her say, “he is stunning”. Wow. The second test was a bit better, some wiggles, a missed transition, and I could feel him saying, well, I am almost done playing in here, Mom, and lost his strength and connection a little, but overall I was pleased because I rode better and got a better result.

The scores came up — 68.04 Training level Test 2, and 70.03 Training Level Test 3. Enough for first in both and champion of the division and I think he may have won the TIP award for high score dressage horse. All good. He walked back through the Aisle of Death, and we hung out at the end of the hunter rings, even jumping a couple of the small jumps from the trot and canter in the dressage saddle with the long stirrups. It was fun.

I was nervous because a  nervous horse at a horse show is a hard time. He was at the beginning, but then he got it and said, ok. I need to do some more so it becomes easier for him and I hope he gets so he likes them.

Busy, wait, no, yes

1978621_10152040765722613_1934792970_nHunt ball: received a lovely certificate and got my COLORS! Yay! That is so exciting. Now I get to try and find buttons and how to put a green collar on my black wool hunt coat. Accepting donations…..had a lot of neat stuff at the silent auction, and I won the Spode hunt plates! Wendy really wanted them, now I feel bad, but they match my new living room colors.

Trying to get horses ridden. I sent in an entry, so the next day of course it rained for three days straight, Lucky poked his ankle with something and it blew up over night, he is losing hair on his butt, and came in with bloody scrape on the other front leg tonight. Oh and he has a halter rub, too. And dandruff. And I had to twitch him to finish pulling his mane and he was pissed at me for three days! He wouldn’t even eat a cookie from my hand. He did eat it when I put it in his tub, though.

Hamish was a great ride tonight, as was Lucky. If his Royal Red Highness prances around the dressage arena at the Thoroughbred show like he did tonight, he will be impressive indeed!

New saddle is awesome but I can’t get the stirrup length comfortable. Too long tonight. Last time I rode in it they were too short. Gauughhhh.
Rugby is doing OK. Seems OK, no too uncomfortable in his second tube of the EPM treatment so far so good.
What a shame hunting is over! The footing and weather are just getting good enough to ride consistently!
But my arena is STILL underwater a bit from the three inches we got over the weekend.
Hamish says he’s wishing there was more hunting. Me too, Hammie.

Pain

Today while working I walked smack into a jutting out wall near a garage door. I did not see how far it was out because I was looking at my camera. I felt a pretty sharp pain all down my left shoulder almost immediately but had to continue to work the claim, take photos, and get in my car and drive the rest of the day. That sucks. But it’s not a broken bone, or a shredded ligament or tendon, and I was still able to lift my arm. As things go, it was not too bad. But I have also had those falls where you get the breath knocked out of you, and you lay in the arena fighting for breath and think, who cares if the horse is loose, it just hurts. And a couple where I can’t remember anything about the day, or the week, but got back on the horse and kept riding apparently. Yikes.

Pain and being a part of the horse world seem to go hand in hand. Most professional riders, drivers, handlers or grooms have war wounds or broken bones or worse. Even my amateur friends have had serious injuries – crushed pelvis, broken back, severed tendons from being stepped on by a horse, and I’ve had two friends killed by horses. One was found dead when working with a horse that was bought at an auction and was not given the history with the horse — and I warned her a month or so before she died that I did not think she should trust him. The other was a wonderful guy I knew who raced harness horses and was in a bad wreck at Harrington Raceway a couple of years ago, a wreck that just didn’t seem that bad, but the way he landed I knew it wasn’t right, and the shocking news made all of us just stop in our tracks and think pretty hard about what we were doing, and why. I’d trained and jogged horses on that track, warmed up horses with the water trucks going around, had lots of exposure to danger on that very track.

Younger days when jumping big fences was fun

Younger days when jumping big fences was fun

I know, as we all do, that injuries heal, that time takes care of it, that it is what you accept if you work with large dangerous animals with a mind of their own. Somehow we keep putting that to the back of our minds and keep putting foot in stirrup. There are wise old men and ladies who foxhunt literally all of their lives and don’t ever get hurt. There are people who have had horses for nearly every minute of their awake life and don’t get hurt. Yet, there are people like Boyd Martin who seem to break a new bone each month. I wonder if it is that we are not very smart, or pushing it, or if things have changed so much that danger is now a real part of making a living with horses. Jump jockeys either die or end up paralyzed. Their sport is flat out dangerous. They don’t break things. Exercise riders die or break shoulders and heads. Jockeys die. Event riders break everything and they also die. Dressage riders hit their heads. Old ladies get crush injuries because we’re too slow to get out of the way of falling horses, not like when we are young and can roll.

I wish guys like Boyd Martin would not get hurt but just fall off. I wish they did not take such chances, push young horses, try to make the time, get one more length out of a horse when no one is really sure if the horse can get there or not. My BFF says that’s Aussies, they are all hard headed and think they can do anything better than a Yank, and to some extent, I have to agree with him. Lots of the Aussies I know are stubbornly talented horsemen who would ride anything and take any chance on a horse. Makes for great betting but bad for longevity! My best healing vibes are going out to anyone who is healing from an injury, including my own stupid self for walking into a wall completely unassisted. Best of luck to all of us, horse or horseless. May the best steel rod and screw job win.

Saturday

While I didn’t start out very ambitious, Saturday ended up pretty busy. Worked online two hours when I first got up – fed, did the barn, which is always slow on Saturday morning as I do extra stuff that can’t be done during the week, like cobweb and sweep corners, pick up stuff, etc. Loaded and unloaded over 30 bales of hay, had to jump the truck to start it, something drained the battery from the last time it was used. Rode two horses, jump schooled one, lunged and hacked  the other. Groomed two others. Emptied manure and cleaned up trash. Did laundry, and after dinner, made three (yes, three!) desserts – cookies, brownies and a cherry dream pie dessert with graham cracker crust. So…. it can snow at any time! Time to get busy and get stuff done so I can hunt today, one of the last hunting days available. They have already started March Madness over on the Chester side of the peninsula.

Dressage Update

Finally! Dover Saddlery put “my” saddle on sale! The Warendorf mono-flap, in my size, and the regular tree — I wasted no time, let me tell you, and ordered it at midnight online. It came in two days! Of course, the night I got home, it was on the porch, in the pouring rain. Fortunately my UPS guy had a plastic bag over the box to protect it. I opened it up, unwrapped it, covered it in a bag and ran to the barn with it. Lucky was not amused when I pulled off his blanket, put a pad and girth on it, and threw it on it back while he was eating his dinner. He is serious about food and being saddles while eating was NOT acceptable. As soon as he was done, I literally jerked his mouth out of the tub and tied the end of the lead rope to his halter, walked him to the end of the barn, squeezed him around the mounting block with the barn door closed and … uh oh. Without stirrups, I could not get a leg over his back. The new saddle with its padding sits up a tad higher than the jump saddle. I lifted my leg for a hop-over. No go. He moved just slightly and YIKES I was doing the splits, one leg still on mounting block, one leg over horse! This is absolutely not working. Put him back to finish eating, took saddle in tack room, found stirrup leathers and stirrups — and the bars are new and very snug. I struggled for about 10 minutes each side to get stirrups on the dang thing. My “new saddle excitement” by this time is waning fast. Back I go to get the Grump who has now got the Stink Eye going at me. Threw saddle back on, climbed back on mounting block, positioned horse. All this time, it’s pouring down rain outside, you can’t hear yourself think with the tin roof. I get on, it’s heavenly of course. Fits him beautifully and nice for me. I like the knee blocks and seat, doesn’t trap me or lift my hips forward. Anyhow, I walked up and down the aisle carefully — with just the leadrope and halter — and Lucky had had enough. When we passed his stall for the third time without going back in to finish dinner, he curled his head (his sign of “get ready, here comes the Volcano Horse”), lifted both hind legs OFF THE GROUND IN THE BARN AISLE and BUCKED. Yikes again. I am here to report that the new saddle is just fine in terms of stickability. But I got the hint. So we returned to the tack room end of the barn, with a lot of halter-rope pulling and yelling to “behave”, and removed said new toy — and returned His Highness to his dinner. I got the Stink Eye for a while for that!

Last night I got home late, as usual, with work adding so much to my day now. So I dragged him out and put the new saddle on again, this time, at a better time of day, dry, with a lunge line activated for good measure. Yes, he bucked — I was concerned. What if this saddle is bothering him? I don’t think so. After a few springs and high spirits, there was no Stink Eye, and I got on and he was SO much freer in his shoulder. I think he would like an elastic girth rather than the hard and fast one I have on it now so that’s the next shopping need, but I had a wonderful quick ride in it and really enjoyed it. Now I have to remember how to sit in a dressage saddle — stop lifting my pelvis so far forward and keep myself centered! I like it and have notice a difference already in how I need to give the aids. Good stuff, going forward.