Saturday, March 31, 2012

Yes this is Seattle, but really?

The rain this week has been awful.  I know that in Seattle we have a reputation for the rain, but the reality is that it usually just sort of piddles and drizzles and is a whole lot of cloudy.  But not this week.  This week it has been dark and grey and cold and rainy.  I haven't been to the barn since Wednesday night because of work and I probably won't make it out until tomorrow, but Laura said she's doing a bit better and they are turning her out in the arena in the morning to stretch her legs.

Sunday I'm going to be giving the pony a kiss goodbye and getting on a plane for Scottsdale, Arizona.  Sunshine!  Heat!  Swimming pool!  For five glorious days, I will get a taste of summer.  Hopefully while I am there, the pony will get sound and will be able to start her training.  April is going to be an exciting month for the princess and I.  I can feel it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Heart My Barn

I just wanted to say how much I love my barn and my trainers and everyone there.  I may not have any best friends yet, but they are so incredible with the pony.  I got a text the morning the puffiness showed up "Your pony has a puffy LF and is lame".  Followed up with a text from trainer/barn owner that "Pony has been treated and is resting in stall"

I went out and visited El-Lame-O last night and she looked very cozy in her stall.  She's usually out at night and I don't know that I'm not attributing my feelings to her, but I swear she looked calmer and happier.  She seemed to be glad to have the company of her next door neighbor Knox who also has scratches.

She's going to be kept in for 2 weeks with only arena turnout.  Mentally this might be tough on her, though I've heard she just stands in her shed when she's outside anyway so maybe it's not that big a deal.  She will get to watch the other horses and will be kept warm and dry.  They are treating her foot and keeping a close eye on things.

It's kinda odd that the swelling isn't just around her fetlock, but is limited to one side of her leg between fetlock and knee.  She has an old (three weeks?) splint there but hasn't had any problems.  I haven't talked to anyone today about how she's doing because it's been *that* kind of a day at work, but I'm sure they would tell me if anything had changed significantly.

But I wanted to say publicly how much I appreciate my barn and everyone in it.  I know that my pony will be well taken care of and get what she needs.  I know that there are people looking out for her when I can't be there.  I will be interested to see what happens while she's inside.  It may be that because she's anxious, being inside with the other horses at night might work better for her.  I know that horses generally like being outside with room to move better, but I also know there's no such thing as *this works for all horses*, so I'm open to alternatives.  Of course, my checkbook would really prefer that she just stay outside at night.......

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lame! No, really.

Quick update.  Got a text from the barn manager today that the pony is lame on the same foot that had scratches.  Yesterday I had hosed her legs off, scrubbed them and treated the one with something called Iron Horse spray that the local tack store said 'should work'.  Today, foot is swollen and she is lame.  Barn manager gave her bute and I'm going to try and go out tonight and hose off the foot and treat with Desitin.  Poor pony!  I will try to take pictures if she's still swollen and gimpy.

Called the tack store to see if I could return the spray that I used ONCE and that may have caused my pony to go from normal with a few scratches to puffy footed lame.  Nope.  They said I had to contact the manufacturer.  Sigh.  Please, please, please...if you are a small business, please understand that you should think hard before saying no.  I pay higher retail prices to support you, but when you won't take back something that not only didn't work, but may have caused my horse a problem it doesn't make me want to give you my money.  I know it's hard when you're a small business but I have run many, many small businesses and know that when you have a customer who will spend money every week in your store and ONE TIME they want to return something that they used ONCE, you should just suck it up.  Okay, rant about tack store over. 

To cheer me up, I got my saddle fitter to send me a picture of the saddle I will be getting.  This one has red trim where mine will be blue.  So, imagine the trim in a lovely shade of royal blue.  So. Pretty.  I had a momentary panic attack where I realized that getting the blue means it could affect the resale value.  But then I calmed down and realized that I'm having this made for *me* and it's okay if sometimes you don't think about resale value.  From a fashion standpoint, this will mean the pony will need some blue items instead of pink.  But I love blue and she'll look great in blue so I'm okay with that.  Plus, it means I get to do more pony shopping this summer.

Hairy Pony Belly.  Somebody isn't getting worked very hard these days!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Horse Eating Wash Rack

Tessa does not like the wash rack.  For a princess, she sure hates getting cleaned.  I have avoided even pushing the issue, but she has a mild case of scratches on one front leg and I wanted to hose it off clean and get a look at it.  So after our ride, when she was tired and sweaty, I put her in the wash rack.  She danced around a bit but settled down pretty nicely.  I ended up giving her an almost full bath.  I didn't scrub her hindquarters, but I washed her front feet and sort of washed her back feet.  I also did her girth area, mane and tail.  The only challenge we had was when she saw something scary (twice) and she decided to push me into the wall.  Her little brain turned off and she pushed into me.  The more I pushed back, the more she pushed into me.  Like a nervous kid looking for it's mommy.

I gave her a shove and an elbow and finally a kick with my boot.  She moved over, but her attention was still on the outside and what was going on.

So, for those of you who do groundwork and believe that the key to attention is to get the feet moving, what do you do when you're in an enclosed space (wash rack, trailer, etc.) and your horse is cross tied?  How do you regain their attention and get their mind back if, physically, it's not possible for their feet to move much?  When she ran over me, I just ended up needing to make myself scarier and bigger than what was on the outside.  I didn't do the worst job, but I don't think I got my message across.  Mainly because I'm afraid of disciplining horses who are tied.  I'm always afraid that if I get after them and they pull back, I will have created a horse who pulls back.  And I definitely don't want that!

So, how do you help your horse calm down when movement isn't the best option?

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Always Harder with an Audience

I am a bit behind in my blog reading and writing.  I have a pinched nerve in my elbow (ulnar neuropathy at the elbow for you medical/google types) and have to keep my elbow straight for the next two weeks.  Which means it's a bit of a challenge to be on the computer.  And to ride.  And drive the car.  You don't realize how much bending your elbow factors into things until you're not supposed to do it.  Sheesh!

Yesterday, though, I had another appointment with the saddle fitter.  We were trying the custom saddle again to see why it slid forward.  Luckily, it turned out to be a simple human error.  When the saddle fitter had left it for me to try, she had the wrong tree in it.  Since one of the beautiful things about this saddle is the fully adjustable tree, she swapped it out in five minutes and tada!  Less slippage.  There was still some minor moving forward, but that has more to do with Tessa than the saddle.  The pony has a long sloping shoulder, a short back and is croup high and where the girth wants to sit is in front of her shoulder.  So I'll be purchasing one of those fancy girths like this one.

I don't usually ride in the afternoons, but Sunday afternoon was when the saddle fitter could come out so I waited until the afternoon.  Ms. Princess Pissy Pants was not happy to be woken up from her nap.  The barn was busy, with no less than three riders in the ring (we do NOT have a big ring) and all of them people I didn't normally ride with.  So of course, as soon as I got on, the pony balked.  And not just a little bit.  She was NOT having it.  She flung her head, she swished her tail.  I got off and did the ground work Linda had shown me last week.  Got back on.  Nope.  No go.  Even trying to move her in small circles was met with resistance.

My cheeks were burning.  Here I was, trying to check saddle fit, and I couldn't even get the horse to walk.  Tess, of course, could feel my hesitation and decided that even walking was too much for her.  So I got off again and lunged her.  She had a minor explosion, but then moved nicely forward.  Back on, no forward.  I'm kicking and sweating and pumping and cursing under my breath.  I wanted to crawl under a rock I was so embarrassed.

Finally, I sucked up my pride and asked for help.  I knew I wasn't willing to have a big fight in strange saddle with a crowded arena.  I also knew I needed to get this show on the road.  I was wasting my saddle fitter's time with having stupid arguments.  So I asked my saddle fitter to stand in the middle of my circle with the lunge whip.  She only had to threaten the pony twice.  It wasn't the most elegant of solutions, but it worked and we got forward again.  I am now trying to regain that swagger that I had last Friday for my ride tomorrow.  Using the power of positive thinking.....

Despite the pony's bad, bad behavior we did accomplish one thing.  To the dismay of my credit card, but with full support from my financial team (aka husband) I have ordered a saddle.  AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!  The commitment!!  I don't have a picture of the *exact* saddle but here's a version of it in black.  My custom version will have....wait for it.....BLUE PIPING!!!!  There aren't any pictures of one with blue piping because it's custom, y'all.  SWANKY!!!  The blue is in between navy and cobalt and should look AWESOME with the dapple grey pony.  The saddle is a Hastilow Deep Seat Elevation Concept (or something like that) in case you're interested.

The bad news?  It has to be made by the guy in England and then shipped.  It will take until July most likely.  So until then, I am looking for a less expensive hunt seat saddle that we can use for a few months and then re-sell.  Still, just knowing that I have a fancy saddle coming is pretty exciting and nerve wracking.  After all, this saddle cost WAY more than my horse did......

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sunshine, Shedding Pony and Mona Rides Like a MOFO!

Not much time to write too much, even though I can't stop grinning from ear to ear.  So here's the quick skinny.  I had not been to the barn since Monday due to work stuff.  We unveiled a new online store and everything went as wrong as wrong could be.  The usual computer mess.  So the pony had not been worked for three days.

It was sunny.  Finally.  It's been way too long.  I needed the sun.

So I get to the barn and throw the pony in the arena.  Snort, blow, gallop.  At one point, she is trying to do her OCD thing and only run the ten feet between the door and the corner and I step in her way. There was a definite "Oh crap" moment on her part, where she realized she was going to run me down if something didn't change.  I raised my arms (one conveniently holding a lunge whip) and Tess tried to do an about face.  Only it came out more of a face-plant.  She tried to turn around but she was going so fast that her legs got all tangled up and she fell.  Then she tried to get up as fast as she could and sort of half fell again.  Then she snorted and spun around and ran the other way, checking in to make sure I hadn't moved again.

She was puffing pretty hard even though she hadn't done *that* much running.  Probably a combination of scaring herself and working hard with her winter woolies still on.  Into the cross ties for a quick grooming session.  Five minutes later and I was wearing a sweater of white horse hair.  Glance at my watch.  Crap, my lesson starts in two minutes.  

She's still got big nostrils and is huffing a bit.  I saddle up and get to the arena.  Here's where it gets magical folks.  I did not lunge.  Yes, it's true.  My pony had three days off and I just let her blow a little steam off in the arena and then got on and rode her.  Hell yes, I'm brave like that.  A few times, Laura had to remind me to stop getting in my head and saying "Maybe you should have lunged her!".

We had a few spooks (sunshine creates shadows and in case you didn't know this, those shadows are horse eating shadows) and one time where she went left and I was still riding a circle to the right, but I somehow managed to adjust accordingly.

The lesson was spent working on trot, canter, change direction.  Forward, forward.  Using what Linda showed me last week about trotting tiny circles while reinforcing my leg, we got the most forward trot.  And then there were moments where her back lifted and her head dropped.  There were also a few kicks out and a buck, but they were in the middle of going forward.

What's up Mona Sterling?  Who's that MoFo riding large and in charge?  Yeah, bitches, it's me.  Mona Effing Sterling.  Am I kind of pumped up and sassy right now?  Oh, you better believe it.  'Cause I rode that pony without lungeing and I rode her forward and when she argued, I said "Oh no you did NOT" and we got down to business.

Coming in April ---  my quest to ride in the ENTIRE arena, not just 3/4 of it.  Also in April....back feet.  I'm tired of avoiding them.  It's time to conquer the back feet.

Shaggy, wet pony.  I hosed her off she was so sweaty!

Grass!  Sunshine!  Is it spring?!

Hairy girth.  Seriously hairy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Now You Must Trot

"Now pick up the trot"  Linda waited.  I fiddled.  I squirmed.

"What do I do if she won't trot?"  I adjusted my legs and hunched my shoulders.  Linda looked at me like I had grown a second head.

"Just trot.  Just do it.  Don't adjust anything.  Don't change anything, just trot."

"But..."  Linda waited patiently, though her expression was pretty clear that there wouldn't be any 'buts' today.  I sighed and asked Tessa to trot.  She tossed her head and reluctantly slogged into a painfully slow jog, dragging her toes.  My pony has perfected the resentful trot, complete with tail swishing, ear pinning and the occasional head toss with dirty look.  She's an Arab so she can swivel her head and neck around to give me the evil eye, while still maintaining a painfully slow trot.

"Okay, now bring her to a walk and go back to moving her hindquarters.  Tap, tap.  Yes!  Bring her head around.  Remind her that leg means move. "

After a few tail swishes and a few circles of the shoulder, Tessa finally lowered her head and moved her hindquarters.

"Yes!  Good girl!  Now let her move forward and go right back to trotting."

Forward we went, into a marginally faster trot.  It was still slow, but it was almost a trot and not a jog.

"More trot!"

I squeezed and tapped and panted.

"When she is trotting, stop asking."

I stopped asking.  Tessa stopped trotting.


I asked for trot and Tessa gave me the pony finger, along with a big kick and a buck.

"Now circle.  Back to the circle.  Tap, tap, tap!"

I tapped.  I asked.  I could feel Tessa's energy coming up as we went from walking the circle, to trotting it.  I kept the energy coming up as her head came down.  And then we were off again, trotting!  Two strides later and I tried relaxing my legs.  Tessa immediately slowed down.  I asked again and followed up with the whip.  I felt her body tense up for the tantrum.

"Circle her!  Inside leg to outside rein.  Stop throwing your outside rein away.  Bend your elbow, keep your hand soft and steady.  Don't worry about her head, just keep your hand near the pommel and let her come INTO the rein off of your leg.  Good girl!"

We circled again, the energy coming up even more and the submission coming faster.  We went back to trotting.  I relaxed my legs.  And for a few minutes we had contact, submission and a forward trot.  My hand stayed where it was supposed to and my leg moved her gently into the contact.

"That's it.  That's where you want her to be.  Just keep holding that outside rein steady and she'll come into it.  If she raises her head like a giraffe and makes that rein short, you just leave it steady and use your legs to ask her to come back into it.  Do NOT pull back or give that rein to her.  Let her find her boundaries."

And so we found some boundaries and we found a decent trot.  Then we did some cantering, but it wasn't good enough to write about.  Thankfully it also wasn't bad enough to write about.  She just wasn't in front of the leg enough and so we worked on keeping her in front of the leg when she fell back into trot.  I'm sad that I won't be able to ride again until Friday because I'm excited to put my new skills in place.  However, I'm super grateful that I have not one, but two awesome trainers to help me out.  They always have different perspectives and different things to offer.  And in April, the pony goes into training.  Yes, real training.  That's gonna be so exciting!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Tool in My Pony Toolbox

After yesterdays icky ride, I wasn't looking forward to this lesson.  I didn't want to ride a bucking, snotty pony.  I didn't want to push through my fear.  It must have shown on my face while I was complaining what a pill the pony was, because Laura disappeared and Linda showed up in her place.  After adjusting the saddle (still testing out the fancy saddle) to sit farther back (we had to do this multiple times so the saddle isn't fitting quite right.  Saddle fitter will be back out on Sunday to see what's up) Linda took Tessa's reins from me.

"We're going to start on the ground before you even get on."

She put gentle pressure on the rein, waiting for Tessa's head to drop.  Then she quietly asked her to move over by pressing the whip behind the girth.  Not only did Tessa not move, but she flung her head up, swished her tail and lifted a hind leg. Oh, Pony, that was not your best idea.  Linda promptly tapped her smartly with the whip.  Pony went into Arab meltdown and for the next thirty seconds tried spinning madly with her head in the air and at the last minute even threw in a rear.  Linda stayed quiet and waited for the tantrum to subside.  Then she asked quietly again for the pony to move over.  Tessa moved over, but again with her head high and her eyes rolling back in her head.  Linda just stayed with her.  Then she rubbed her all over with the whip.  And asked again.  This time Tessa spun quickly, but her head stayed level.  Another rest and then Linda asked again.  Tessa lowered her head and quietly moved over.  There was much praise and petting.  Repeat on the other side, minus the tantrum.

"Your turn."

I took hold of the rein and was rewarded with a soft feel from the pony.  She moved quietly and quickly off the whip each time.  So then it was time to get on.

"Right away, take the same feel of her face.  Turn her nose slightly towards your boot and ask lightly with her leg for her to move her hindquarters away. "

Not surprisingly, the pony didn't move.

"Okay, now just tap, tap, tap the way you did on the ground.  If you need to you can pull her nose towards your boot more."

I tap, tap, tapped and sure enough the pony started to circle.  Repeat on the other side.  Praise and petting ensued.

We then proceeded to work on having her move her hindquarters off my leg while capturing her shoulders with my outside rein.  From there, it was on to trot work.  I'll tell y'all about the trot work tomorrow since this is long enough as it is.

Also, though I have no photographic evidence, I shouldn't be allowed to clip horses.  Ever.  I was just trying to clean her up and I left a giant clipper mark in her face and a totally uneven line around one front hoof.  I couldn't even finish clipping the back feet because she was being funny, so they are half clipped and totally green.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quick Update

Rode in the trial saddle today.  Saddle was great.  Pony was a pill and a half.  She was lifting her tail a lot so maybe she's starting to come in to heat.  Good news is that my hip doesn't hurt.  I have a lesson tomorrow to REALLY test the saddle.  I also am going to be slammed at work, so I'll try and update as soon as I can.

Also, the shedding is insane and so is the weather.  Please, can we have spring now with some reasonable temperatures?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bareback and Rent A Saddle

Always remember to add the word "horse" when you google the word "bareback".  There are some things you can't undo seeing.  But check out this dude in his tennis shoes racing his horse bareback.  Wow.  I can't decide if that's hot or just stupid.  He's foreign (I want to say this is from Spain but I can't remember now) so he probably would have a cute accent.  At any rate, he's got to have a good seat to stay on at a gallop on a skinny racehorse.

The saddle fitter brought out another truck load of saddles yesterday.  I narrowed the selection to three and then down to one saddle.  Luckily, my saddle fitter is incredible, and is going to drop off the saddle I liked on Saturday for me to try out for a few days.  My main concern is that it works okay with my hip, especially since the last time I trialed a saddle I couldn't walk for a week afterwards.  Not good!  

Here's the downside....the saddle that I liked is out of my budget range.  By a lot.  It's completely custom so it can be adjusted to fit me exactly.  Narrow twist for my hips?  Check.  Less stuffing in the back?  Check.  Higher pommel?  Check.  Front billet?  Yep.  Shorter back?  Yep.  Adjustable tree for if the pony grows?  Yep.  The saddle can go from narrow to Extra Extra Wide.  Which means if I get a new horse, the saddle will likely fit the new horse as well.  It may need different adjustments, but the saddle fitter said that she could make this saddle fit *most* horses easily.  There's also a 10 year guarantee on the leather.  Am I justifying?  Probably.  Is it working?  I think it might be.  My husband only blinked twice when I told him.

So let's say this saddle works and I order it.  Here comes problem #2.  It takes 10-12 weeks and sometimes a bit longer for the saddle to get made and arrive (it's from England).  The saddle fitter checked out the saddle I've been riding in and said that it's not the best fit.  It's not the worst either, but the bars are pressing on her back a bit.  So what to do in the meantime?  Hence, the whole bareback thing.  But I'm way, way too much of a chicken to try bareback at this point so really that's out.

My husband had an interesting idea.  He suggested that I have the saddle fitter help me find a used saddle that fits her decently for the short term.  One that has a good resale value.  So, let's say I buy a $1200 used hunt seat saddle and then use it until my saddle arrives in July.  Then I sell it in July for $900. My husband says that way it's just like we paid $300 to rent a saddle for four months, which isn't a bad deal.  Interesting way of looking at it, no?  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Not Oooooover

And then she went on the internet, talked to the physical therapists, talked to the trainer and decided that even though she had seen the top orthopedist in the area, that he was just being an ass and was wrong.

I plan on riding horses, working out AND being pain free.  I have a history of overcoming things using alternative approaches (chemical/clinical depression runs in my family and I have overcome mine completely with no drugs) so this will be a piece of cake.

Saddle fitting tomorrow and I've researched and emailed the saddle fitter since it sounds like saddles with narrow twists may be more appropriate for me.

When I'm still riding five days a week AND working out AND not having pain, I have every intention of sending that orthopedist a thank you note.  Nothing gets me mobilized more quickly than some jerk off telling me that I can't.  So, thank you, mean 'ol orthopedist.  Without your snobby, condescending attitude and your grim diagnosis, I might have just puttered around with working out and finding solutions.  You have now just mobilized me into proving you absolutely wrong.

Hip to the Hop a Hippy to the Hop and You Don't Stop

I have re-written this post a hundred times.  Sometimes it comes out whiny, other times it comes off sad.  When I go for that brilliant mixture of self-deprecating humor and wistfulness, it ends up sounding deranged and fishing for attention.  So, taking a deep breath and diving in.

First, you  must know that sympathy  makes me uncomfortable.  If you must offer me sympathy, please use a good curse word when you do it.  I don't know why it feels less sharp when someone says to me "Aw sh*t, that f***ing sucks a**" as opposed to "Oh, honey that's terrible."  It's probably because I have a tear-duct reflect to sympathy.  If you want to see me cry, just have my mom call me up when I'm having a bad day and say "Oh, punkin..".  I'm a grown woman and this reduces me to tears instantly.

I went to the orthopedist yesterday to figure out my hip issues.  My hips have always given me problems, especially after my accident 20 years ago where I ripped my hip flexor tendons.  So I wanted to go in and see if I was doing more damage by riding.  After waiting an hour and a half for my morning appointment (and no one apologized for the super long wait which should have been a red flag), the orthopedist came in.  He sent me for an x-ray and then sat down with his fancy pen and drew some angles on the screen.

"You have hip dysplasia." 

"You mean like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers get? "

He gave me the kind of look you give an idiot, eyebrows raised, pen paused in mid-air.  


"Nevermind.  I...just...uh...hip dysplasia??"  I've seen my fair share of hip dysplasia in dogs over the years.  I've recommended supplements for owners with large breeds and concerns about hips.  Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, designed to help re-build the sonovial fluid in the joint.  So, no big deal.  I'll just start taking supplements.

The orthopedist at this point was talking and pointing and using his mouse to draw new angles on the screen.  I was only half listening as my mind was calculating how much glucosamine I should take and what foods might have high natural sources of it.

"blah...blah...blah....hip replacement....blah....blah....blah"

Scrreeeeeech.  My brain halted.  Stuttered.  Rewound. 

"Hip replacement?"

"Not yet, no."

"Phew.  You had me worried there for a second."

He explained that I have had hip dysplasia since I was born, but that over the years it has gotten progressively worse.  He told me that as I get older, it will continue to progress and that he will probably see me again for a hip replacement.  But since I didn't need a hip replacement now, he felt like some physical therapy would be appropriate to help deal with the pain and the scarring on my hip flexors.

"Now," he said as he leaned forward, pointing his pen at me.  "Do you want to able to work out, to ride horses or to not have your hip hurt?"

"Yes!"  I answered enthusiastically.

"This is not an 'or' question."  He frowned at me, giving me that look again as if he couldn't believe how stupid I was.  I laughed, sure he was joking.  His eyebrows raised again and I shut my mouth mid giggle.

"You're serious?  I have to pick one??"

He nodded and leaned back in his chair.  "Oh, I see,"  he smirked.  "You're one of those people that want to have their cake and eat it too."

Was he joking?  How is wanting to stay in reasonable fit shape, not having pain and riding horses wanting to have your cake and eat it too?  I thought doctors wanted you to exercise on a regular basis?  What the hell??  I took a deep breath in through my nose and tried again.

"So, I can't work out AND ride horses?"  He shook his head.  "I can't not be in pain AND work out?"  He shook his head again.  I sighed.

"I want to ride."

He nodded briskly, scribbled out a prescription for physical therapy and said "Stop riding right now, take ibuprofen three times a day and go see a physical therapist three times a week.  They'll tell you when and if you can ride again."  

And with that dire statement, he handed me the prescription for physical therapy, nodded again and left.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

She's Not Just a Pretty Face....

In my lesson yesterday, we rode almost the entire arena.  Laura had me ride her as Tessa offered to go into the scary half of the arena before gently guiding her back to a safe spot.  We kept her anxiety low and her attention mostly on me (don't forget I was holding a medicine ball in my hands the whole time, so this was nothing short of a miracle in itself).  If she lost some momentum through the 'scary' corner, but didn't get anxious we would allow her to come down to a walk.  Which she did, three times in a row.  A lovely, relaxed walk, in fact.  We praised her for staying calm and focused on the ride and not turning into a spooking, spinning mess.  Then we moved on and did other things.  Later in the lesson we came back to that side of the arena, but this time I kept her focused on working and I took control of the direction we were going before she decided to.  And guess what?  My smart little pony though "Aha!  I know what this corner is!  This is the WALKING corner!"  and promptly dropped into a walk.  This, folks, is why you are *always* training your horse, even when you're not training for what you want.  I was training for confidence in the spooky corner and my horse thought I was training for walking in the corner.  Hilarious, smart pony!  So, yes, we then did that corner four more times at a trot all the way through with effusive praise for holding the trot and staying relaxed.

Speaking of relaxed, here are some pictures of her pre-ride yawn.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Enjoying the View from the Top of a Mountain

I have a crazy post with all sorts of epiphanies and I'm not even sure I can get it all out.  I am also starving and need to get some work done today so I'm gonna just do some bullet points.  I may try to come back later and expand on these.  Or not.  Sometimes you don't need to go on and on and on about things...or at least that's what I'm told.  Ha!  So, in no particular order here we go:

1.  When I want to suddenly do a crazy clinic, send my horse off to a far away trainer, or any other mission that takes me off course from the mountain I'm climbing, I will refer to this post.

2.  When I am doing my mountain climbing (this would be the mountain of confidence and relationship with my pony) and I get to the top and am headed down the other side, I will not suddenly decide that I need a different mountain guide or a whole new mountain.

Oh sure he's working hard.  But can he do this on a pony?  I didn't think so.
3.  I rode my pony today with a medicine ball that weighed 11lbs.  You had to hold it using your core and make sure your body turned with it.  This meant my reins stayed one length and weren't very adjustable.  It also meant I couldn't open my inside rein and pull her around and I couldn't hold a dressage whip.  So, of course, we had a brilliant ride.  Because I didn't have time to over think and worry about what might happen.  I was too busy figuring out how to keep my ball close to my body.  No spooking.  No bucking.

4.  Saddle sore is almost completely gone.  Wore different kind of underwear today (warning, TMI coming up.  If you're sensitive just stop right here) and was unpleasantly surprised.  I know some women do it, but I recommend against wearing a thong.  It may have saved my ass, but it rubbed other WAY more sensitive areas (or area) raw and that's even worse.  Ick, ugh AND ouch.

5.  Laura says I'm ready for an evening group lesson.  WITH OTHER PEOPLE!!

6.  I love my pony.

7.  I am so proud of me.

8.  I will go and reread the above post mentioned in number 1. a few more times to make sure I get it this time.  Really.  Really.  Get.  It.

9.  I think y'all are so wonderful and supportive I can hardly stand it.  Thank you for keeping on encouraging me and believing that we could actually make progress.  We can and we are and we will continue to.

10.  And now for a well deserved glass of wine (yes, yes I do know it's only 2:52 p.m. but it's Friday and I've earned it)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bill Richey?

Anyone ever done a clinic with Bill Richey?  There's a clinic in my area and I'm wondering if it's appropriate for me and my pony.  I understand they start with doing some mounted drill work which I'm not sure we're ready for, but I like the idea of building my confidence around handling her spooks.

Or am I better off saving up my pennies for something bigger, like a Mark Rashid clinic (not that I see any in my area).

I live in the Pacific NW (near Seattle) so if anyone knows of a life changing, confidence building kind of clinic that won't break the bank (I will probably have to rent a horse trailer AND a truck to get there so that's a cost factor too), please let me know.

The only clinics I'm not super interested in are Parelli clinics.  I've been there before and it's just not my flavor.

Thanks in advance!!!!

Old Ladies and Ponies

Okay, I'm not really all THAT old but I am old enough that my body is not what it used to be.  Add to that some pretty big accidents with horses in my 20's and it takes it's toll.  I've had hip problems since I had my big accident in 1997 and I just can't seem to get it to go away.  It's a pain right by my groin.  I believe it's the adductor muscles because it hurts  when I lift my leg outward.  I've had this pain off and on for so long that mostly I ignore it.  But with the return of horses into my life, the pain has gotten worse.  I'm not a big fan of taking stuff constantly to mask the pain so mostly I just deal with it.  But since the last few weeks of saddle shopping, it's becoming clear that I need to figure out what's going on and what I need to do to make it better if I want to ride in a lovely, deep seat for dressage.

So, Monday morning at 8:30a.m. I'll be seeing a hip specialist at the Orthopedic Center.  I'm excited to put a name to what's going on and nervous that they might not have any answers.  But, better to know now what I'm facing BEFORE I buy a $1700.00 dressage saddle, right?  Because if they tell me I can't do the deep seat, I'll want to look at close contact saddles instead.  And if they tell me I can't ride english, I'll have to look at Western saddles.  And if they tell me Western is a no go, I'll have to look at alternative saddles like Australian saddles.  And if they tell me no horse back riding...well, they're just crazy if they tell me that.  Besides, there's always Combined Driving.......

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Confidence is walking with your shoulders back and your head up, eyes alert and engaging.  Confidence is handling problems as they arise and then moving forward.  Confidence is knowing that even if you don't have the perfect solution, you can get there.  Confidence is trusting in something.  Maybe it's in your own abilities, maybe it's in your trainer and maybe it's in a higher power.  My horse has no confidence.  I have no confidence.  So when we try to step outside our collective comfort zones, our lack of confidence gels into a mushroom cloud of panic and despair.  She scrunches her body under saddle and I tilt forward and freeze.  We spiral downward.

We tried to take a walk the other day and the gate had her spinning and snorting and spinning and snorting.  When she really gets scared, she pushes her shoulder into me.  She figures if I'm not going to help her out, she'll make the decisions and push me out of the way.  My own fear rises up and my hands shake while my heart beats out of my chest.  I can feel tears threatening as the adrenaline overflows, looking for a place to release.  

I mutter curses under my breath, mostly at myself.  I'm not judging my horse who is simply a young horse looking for some leadership and guidance.  I'm judging me.  I'm judging my ineptness, my fear, my shaking hands.  Because although I can relate to the chickenshits of the world, I also can't relate.  I don't give myself an inch of "It's okay to be scared."  It's not okay for me to be scared.  It puts me and my horse in dangerous situations when I'm scared.  It makes things worse when I'm scared.  

So today, I'm going to try again with confidence.  And if I can't have confidence, I will try to find a small piece of faith to hold onto.  Faith in my trainer who thinks this horse is a fine match for me.  Faith in the universe that this horse came into my life for a reason (this sentence makes me want to smack myself silly.  I've seen too many people who are overhorsed use this as some bullshit excuse.  I hope this is not what I'm doing, but I'll admit I've thought a lot about it.)  I'm going to breathe deep and stand solid and see if I can't fake it 'til I make it.  

The cute face, looking for someone to be in charge.
Because remember how in my last post I promised to stop looking for a different solution all the time?  I am having a HARD time remembering that this week and need all the confidence in our future that I can get.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pain in the Butt

I have a saddle sores.  Was it my underwear?  My position?  Sigh.  So I'm not sitting lopsided, with a bandage on one side.  I had no idea about saddle sores since I've never had them before, but hoooooeey they hurt.  They're like rug burns in a VERY uncomfortable place.  Mine were right on my underwear line, so they're where the butt meets the leg.  I also now know how painful it is to have water hit your saddle sores.  Yowza.

So, I'm taking today and tomorrow off to let those heal up before I get back on.  Have you ever had saddle sores?  What did you do?  Do you wear special 'riding' underwear??

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh Snap!

I wrote a long post and deleted it because it just went to all sorts of places I didn't need to go.  I am going to put a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time I think I need to do something different.  I know some folks get stuck in ruts.  My problem is that I have a hard time staying on track.  I have a young, green horse and am a returning rider.  Training takes time.  Confidence takes time.  Relationships take time.  Thinking I need a new trainer?  SNAP!  Oooh, I should ride Western!  SNAP!  Maybe she needs trail training.  SNAP!  I just need to find a clinic to go to.  SNAP!  I just need a truck and trailer.  SNAP!

All of these things are fine things on their own, but for someone who's looking for the magic pill they are just band aids over the gaping wound picking at the scab that is "I need to allow a relationship to develop between my horse and I where I am the leader."   See, I made it to the peak of the mountain.  And now, rather than enjoying the view I'm taking those last few steps and wondering if I climbed the right mountain and how am I going to get down and did I remember my chapstick and what if I had used a different kind of boot, would my feet hurt less?

I had a lesson on the pony today that was not about fear.  It was not about attention (mostly...c'mon, she's a young, green will ALWAYS be about attention) but was about training.  What?  Training?  What's that?  Oh, yeah.  That's things like controlling the shoulders when they bulge on the corners.  It's about using outside leg and rein to capture.  It's about rewarding Tessa's tiny little tries as she learns something new.  Let me repeat the end of that so we can all hear she LEARNS SOMETHING NEW.   Yes, internet horse buddies, my horse and I have graduated to actually learning some skills.

Years ago, there was a time where with the help of a trainer, I could easily teach a horse things.  Nowadays, not so much.  And so part of my discussion with Laura was about her putting some time in on Tessa.  The hard part about teaching your horse things when you don't know them yourself, is it's hard to know what right feels like.  So we're going to do a combination of Laura teaching Tessa what *right* is (talking about shoulders and turning and using less opening rein) and Laura teaching me what *right* feels like (when you put your leg here and move your hand here, this is what *should* happen) and then I'll get on Tessa and we'll try to combine the two.

As I was riding my pony around the indoor, asking for her nose to tilt slightly outside while I push her towards the inside with my outside leg and rein, I realized that the trail training can wait.  The Western saddle can wait.  We have many, many adventures coming our way and adding in too many solutions just makes the problem harder.  Sometimes it's just easier not to have too many choices.

Now I'm going to take my winning $2 ticket and go buy an apple for my pony.