Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year Begins!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! I know I did! It was so great to see my family for an entire week. Although there was a ton of snow when I arrived, it was all melting by the time I left. It was a crazy weather week for sure.

I came back hoping to find Lilly completely healthy... What? Christmas miracles happen all the time! I thought maybe I would be the proud recipient of one such miracle. I actually found her worse than when I left. I even brought back some Sand Clear to share with the barn owner, but we decided the Metamucil we were using actually was making the girls worse. So no more of that... we did decide to deworm with some Quest instead to rid their system of any encysted small strongyles that may have been present. Now it's a waiting game. If Lilly isn't better in 10 days-ish, I'll call the vet and see what else they suggest. The vet has already suggested blood work, but the blood work from last year didn't show anything. Although, I'm starting to wonder if this might be something different than last year. Maybe it is just coincidence that she had diarrhea last year and this year because last year it cleared up after she stopped cycling. This year it just won't go away. So I'll proceed however they suggest to see if I can't get rid of this mess.

I've been washing her every day since I've been home and I'm keeping track of it all in a planner. That way I'll be able to look back and see when everything was started, stopped, and how messy she was. I've created the offical "Poop Scale". On a scale of 1 - 10, how messy is she? Today she was a 4... Maybe a pattern of some kind will emerge. Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

Either way, welcome to 2009!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New Game Plan

Is anyone else as freaking busy as I am? Holy crap! I'm leaving for Michigan for a week on Saturday and I have 6 million things to do before I go. Christmas snuck up on me for sure!

I haven't even been to the barn in days. I can only imagine what Lilly's butt cheeks will look like on Thursday when I finally get time to visit (or Wednesday... I don't really know yet). She'll need a good scrub for sure before I go. Lots of Desitin is in her future... While I'm gone she'll have to go a whole week without being washed. Ugh! Poor girl.

So here's the game plan (veterinarian recommended). I'm going to order some Sand Clear. I'm going to order some Quest dewormer. She'll be on the Sand Clear for 2 weeks straight to see if she's just got some sand trapped in there somewhere that's causing irritation. Then about 3 weeks after that, she'll get the Quest dewormer to hopefully remove any encysted strongyles that the ivermectin/Equimax may have missed. I'll leave her on the supplement for now as well. The vet recommended probiotics too, but the supplement already contains pro and prebiotics.

If that doesn't work, the barn owner said we could move her to a different pasture and see if that helps at all. And if that doesn't help, I'm screwed. I'll be starting a log on the 28th, though, to track progress (or track no progress). Maybe some kind of pattern will emerge.

Merry Christmas everyone! I'll talk to you when I get back from COLD Michigan!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gloves Are Good!

I forgot my gloves yesterday for my lesson... BAD idea. I have two huge blisters now on my ring fingers next to my pinkie fingers. You know, right where the reins go.

Lilly was a handful. She is such a brat and often gets on my nerves. :) It isn't cute or funny anymore. Ok, maybe it is still funny, but I'm getting annoyed. She isn't kicking at my leg or hopping around like a rabbit, but she still tries to canter all the time on her own and then shoots off like a rocket when I ask her to canter. I had been riding her with very few transitions because I don't like to fight her and thought riding with lots of leg but no canter would be a good idea to desensitize her, but my trainer said I need to canter, canter, canter. I need to do it so much that Lilly becomes bored with it and sees it as no big deal. Easy for her to say... she doesn't have to ride this crazy mare!

She is making progress, though... I see an itty bitty bit of progress each time I ride. Maybe if I do canter, canter, canter it will help and she won't be in such a hurry to launch herself into the canter. Then we can work on leads, slowing down, and getting her to put her head down.

We also worked on my posting: "SIT UP for crying out loud!! And post with a purpose!! Get your butt out of that saddle!!" And then we tried to slow Lilly's trot with my posting speed. And I'll be darned... it worked! It is harder than hell to post against her, but she slowed right down to get in rythm with me.

We just might get the hang of this one day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yucky!

I went to the barn last night to ride, but never manged to even get my tack out of the shed. It started raining, a donkey and pony got loose, and I helped one of the boarders with her recently dewormed horse. Not to mention the fact that I spent nearly 45 minutes washing the hind end of my horse. She was disgusting!! And her tail, oh my gosh... beyond words. And it was so dry and crunchy. I guess from having manure sitting on it. Luckily it was about 58 degrees outside so I didn't feel too bad washing her with the hose. The water was cold, but it had to be done. Her poor skin is so red... so I coated it with Desitin and put her tail in a tail bag with a lot of conditioner.

I guess the supplements haven't started working yet... I wonder if they ever will. It has only been a little over 2 weeks, but I was hoping to see a little bit of progress. I figure I should see something in 2 months if it is going to work. So February is the deadline. If she's still messy by then, we'll have to do something. I don't know what, because we've tried it all already... but this is ridiculous. I don't think she's still coming into heat... so I have no idea what the problem is. It's too cold to be washing her every day, though. Not to mention her skin is so red and irritated... poor girl.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Well, She Was Better

Since it was going to be a balmy 56 degrees yesterday, I headed over to the barn to ride. I usually give Lilly and myself the day off after our lesson because I'm always so sore and I figure she might be sore too, but the weather demanded it (insert sarcasm). I didn't ride her too hard and we just practiced a few canter transitions after trotting her around the arena with my leg on her side. She did better, but she was still annoyed with it being there. The transitions were still 'big' but she settled into the canter much more quickly than she did on Wednesday. I even mixed it up with some poles and she was trying to trot over two of them at one time. It didn't work out real well for her...

Is it spring yet?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What a Brat!

I had my lesson yesterday and it really turned out to be a lot of fun. My trainer set up some ground poles, so we worked on going over those before working on the 'c' word. There was one pole off by itself and then there was a group of 4 that we had to maneuver. Lilly did OK with the lone pole, but when it came to the group of 4, it got ugly. I think the first couple times she thought she was supposed to step ON them rather than OVER them. Toward the end of the lesson, though, she got the hang of it and did really well. It was fun to feel her pick herself up and trot over them. I'll definitely be doing more pole work in the future. I think it really helps Lilly!

Now on to the even more fun part!

My precious princess is still of the mindset that she gets to canter whenever she wants to. She tries to canter as soon as I do a sitting trot. Granted, 99% of the time, the sitting trot is followed by a canter, but that's beside the point. She needs to wait until I actually ask for it. So there were times when we were doing the poles that I was doing a sitting trot and Lilly would start her choppy, prancy, trot deal, where her head comes up and she desperately tries to canter. I had to just keep doing half halts and then pushing her into a working trot until we got past her little fit. A couple times my trainer told me to hold her head up... we figure if she wants to have her head up like that, I'll hold it there for her until she gets tired of it being that way. It didn't work too well because I think that's Lilly's preferred way of going, so it didn't last long. What was working best was just pushing her into a working trot and getting her head back down. We even mixed it up and I went from a sitting trot to a rising trot to a sitting trot. Sometimes when I was posting she'd try and canter too, just because she couldn't stand it. Her steps get so short and choppy that I end up on the wrong diagonal because when I'm up she manages to take two steps. It was crazy!

I was telling my trainer that the canter departs weren't a problem any longer. We didn't have to worry about her taking 4 trot steps before the transition because now she leaps into the canter with her ears pinned, tail swishing and with a slight buck. Our first canter depart didn't disappoint me! When I asked for the canter, it was just as I described. She had been waiting to canter for SO long, she just burst into it when I finally asked her for it. My trainer decided we'd let her canter for a while around the ring just so she could 'run it out' and maybe relax for the rest of the lesson. So I cantered her around the ring about 4 times and then asked for the trot and then the walk. When she was walking I gave her a loose rein so she could have a break. After a couple minutes of walking, we tried again. This time, though, my trainer wanted me to trot and put my outside leg on her and leave it there but not let her canter. Oh boy... that's like holding a giant lollipop in front of a 3 year old and not letting them have it. And Lilly threw a fit just like a 3 year old. She kept trying to canter and I kept holding her back. She'd want to prance and shorten her stride, and I'd push her forward. She wanted her head sky high and I kept asking her to put it back down. Finally, she got so pissed that she started kicking out sideways! She was kicking at my leg! I was laughing so hard my trainer finally asked what was so funny... I just couldn't believe she was having such tantrum! My trainer said it was better to laugh than to get pissed back because then we'd be in big trouble. After much effort, Lilly finally gave up. I actually felt her just accept the fact that she wasn't getting my leg off, and she wasn't going to canter. Her whole body just relaxed and she jogged around in the circle. What a little brat she is! Oh, but I love her SO much! She's always making me laugh.

We had to do the leg deal in the other direction before cantering and she was slightly better. She still had a fit, but we worked though it and had the most wonderful canter depart ever! She just stepped right into it like it wasn't a big deal, so that's where we stopped, and she got lots of pats and kisses. It was a great lesson!

I need to stay consistent and firm, and not let her get me flustered or upset. She'll learn that its my way or the highway eventually. And once we get things worked out, we'll be such an awesome team.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

AJ is the Man!

The farrier was out last night to trim AJ and shoe Lilly. (Yes, it was cold, dark, and WINDY!) When I went to get AJ from him usual pasture, I noticed he wasn't there. I thought I had seen him in Lilly's pasture when I drove in, but I knew we were getting some new boarders so I thought one of their horses looked just like AJ. Come to find out, it was AJ.

So mister AJ is now in Lilly's pasture with three other mares. Let's just say, he's loving life. The barn owner said the mares are a lot calmer now with him in there. They were all eating hay when I was there last night, so there wasn't much interaction, but he seems to be enjoying himself. He was very happy to see me, though, and came right over when I went in there with the halter.

It'll be nice having him in the same pasture as Lilly because it will be easier to visit him.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Lesson of All Lessons

Nothing like writing about last Wednesday's lesson on Monday... things were busy all weekend with Thanksgiving and I was lazy. I'll admit it.

It was COLD and dark, but I rode in my new breeches and they helped to keep me warm. I was still quite cold, but I could tell the pants helped. My toes were frozen, too, and all I could think about were those wonderful new boots at home in the closet.

The lesson started out well. Lilly was frisky but she settled in well and we got to work. I had been talking to my trainer about wanting to do some work off the rail with obstacles to break things up, so she set up a pole on each end of the arena and we rode over them at the walk and trot while doing our circles. It isn't as easy as it seems to trot over a pole in a circle... Lilly didn't want to stay bent while going over the pole, so it took a bit of work to accomplish that. Going over the pole actually makes her pick herself at the trot and she can't be lazy about it.

After the circle work, it was time to canter. Lilly did OK at first but was still giving me problems. She was doing a lot of the same stuff she was last time I rode her... the cantering on her own agenda, the hopping, the bucking... but my trainer was there this time to tell me what I needed to be doing. Lilly knew we were going to canter, and it was as if she wanted to get it over with, so she would rush right into it on her own. At first we just tried to settle her back down and get her trotting again. Lilly would decide that she wanted to canter NOW, though, and start hopping around like a loon. My trainer told me to put Lilly's nose on my toe and make her trot around in a little circle until she decided to listen. As she got soft, I was supposed to make the circle bigger and when we were ready, ask for the canter. As the circle got bigger, Lilly would try to canter again. This went on for quite some time and I lost count of how many circles I did. I was dizzy... Lilly acted like a booger both ways, so we circled a lot both ways. I was so sore this weekend... My poor legs were tired. I imagine Lilly was pretty sore too.

My trainer doesn't want me to overuse the circles, but at the same time Lilly can't be in charge. She needs to learn to wait and do what she's told when she's told. Wonder how long that will take?

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Hate the Cold

I sure do hate the cold. I hate the cold more than anything. I can wear 3 pairs of socks, 5 layers of shirts, hats, gloves, snow pants, and moon boots, and still be cold. Sometimes, when other people are wearing shorts and t-shirts, I'm wearing long pants, a sweater, and a jacket, and I'm still cold.

When it's 95 degrees outside, I'm comfortable in my jeans and t-shirt. Everyone else is dying of heat exhaustion. It's crazy.

I lived in Michigan for 18 years. MICHIGAN! And I did just fine in the cold. I even had an after school job at a horse farm, so I was out in the cold all the time. I'm not sure what happened between the time I left there for boot camp in Parris Island, SC and now, but I just cannot handle the cold. I'll shiver and shake until my muscles ache... and it takes me forever to warm back up. Everyone says it's because my blood has 'thinned' from living in a warmer climate, but I think that's a bunch of hullabaloo. I think I've just gotten used to the warm weather, and like it!!

Let's just say I literally FREEZE when I go home at Christmas.

So what the hell does this have to do with horses you ask? Well, case in point: I missed the JCHSS show last Saturday because it was "too cold". When it is this cold (right now, as I type this, it is 49 degrees outside) all I want to do is hibernate. Ride in the warm truck to work, work for 8 hours, ride in the warm truck home, and crawl under a blanket on the couch. Notice how the word "Lilly" never appeared in that statement?

I'm such a slacker. I even bought those new pants, gloves, and boots to help me stay warm. And I've put more warm stuff on my Christmas list. But unless someone develops a heat bubble that I can ride in, I'm going to hate riding in the cold, because no matter how much I wear, I'll still be cold.

I don't know how to motivate myself into thinking freezing my ass off is a good idea. Anyone?

Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 JCHSS Results!

The results are in, and here's how Lilly and I did in 2008!

Stock Type Division 2008
Miss Zip Abby Do Da - 140 Points
This Zippohs Hot - 74 Points
Mr. Lucky Assurance - 63 Points
Slow Lopin Cookie - 49 Points
Made That Way - 48 Points
R Lil Bit of Cash - 38 Points

Adult Division 2008
Miss Zip Abby Do Da - 198 Points
R Lil Bit of Cash - 113 Points
Holly - 111 Points
Nagria - 71 Points
Moonshine Troubles - 70 Points
Made That Way - 60 Points

Luckily my 113 points held up even though I didn't go to the show Saturday! I don't know if they give out year end awards or not, but maybe I'll get something for being "reserve champion" in the Adult Division!

They have quite a few divisions, but we only had enough points in the Adult Division and the Stock Type division to show up in the results. I didn't know they were going to "place" up to 6, so we managed to get some recognition in the Stock Type Division too!

In the All Around Division, we came in 23rd out of 111 horse/rider combinations. Not bad! :-)

Plus, we got those 4 PAC points in halter/showmanship.

I can't wait for next year. Hopefully we'll be even more ready to show!

So I Wimped Out

I didn't go to the show on Saturday. I really wanted to, but I couldn't bring myself to step outside the nice, warm house into 38 degree weather. The sun was shining, but the wind was blowing and it was just too cold. I feel like a wimp, but I'm sure Lilly was thrilled that we didn't go. I show to have fun, and I hate the cold more than words can say. With it that cold, there's no way I would have enjoyed myself. It was the last show of the season, but February will come soon enough. Shows start early here in NC.

Lilly's SmarkPak stuff came last week so today she got her first dose of the new digestive supplement that will hopefully get rid of the icky mess I always find on her rear end. I cleaned and braided her tail yesterday and applied some Desitin on the spots that collect manure and get irritated. I'm hoping that will be one of the last times I have to do it. It's getting too cold to be washing her every day. We both get cold and wet.

Cross your fingers!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Little Bronc

My precious little Lilly has turned into a bucking bronco...

Ok, maybe not a bucking bronco, but she has turned into a bit of a bucker. Yeehaw? Yeah, not really. She has become so concerned with cantering that she tries to do so every chance she gets. And when I don't let her, she explodes with a little buck to let me know she's not happy.

I've been riding her with as much leg contact as she can stand (which isn't much these days) and the more leg I use, the more she wants to canter. She's forgotten all about the fact that she's only to canter when I slide my leg back behind the girth. Now the cue to canter is whatever she chooses. She's been doing really well at keeping her head down, but she's behind the bit a lot and just chomping away.

I was working her the other day in circles like my trainer suggested and trying to get her to be round in the circle and also push her hindquarters out a bit to help her canter correctly, easily, and on the correct lead. Whenever I would apply any pressure with my legs, she'd hop into the canter. Now, the transitions were wonderful, but they weren't asked for. So I'd have to bring her back down to the trot and try again. When I'd feel her start to canter, I'd half halt and make the circle a bit smaller. Sometimes she'd canter anyway and sometimes she lets out a little kick. Once she let me have a pretty good buck.

I also got some of those really cool floaty trot steps... she was prancing and pawing and just carrying on. I ended up having to give up on the circles and have her sidepass toward the rail and then away from the rail to get her mind off "leg pressure means canter".

When I decided to quit, I got off, loosened up the girth, and she let out this big sigh. Then she started sneezing and I could see the nerves just disappear. Poor girl... I don't know why all this gets her so worked up.

I don't get to have my lesson today, so I'll have to wait another week for some more help from my trainer. Instincts tell me to reprimand her in some way to let her know that bucking isn't an acceptable form of letting off steam, but at the same time, I don't want to punish her and make things worse.

I have my last JCHSS show on Saturday, so we'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Could It Be?

After searching every store in the county for AJ's Focus SR supplement, I finally found some at the Ace Hardware store for $29.99... I usually pay $19.99 at the local feed store. That's a hell of a deal! (*insert sarcasm here...) So I have decided to turn to SmartPak. They'll ship the stuff to me every 28 days (and gladly charge my bank card) no matter what. I won't have to forget about getting the supplements, I won't have to worry about the store not having it, and I won't have to worry about AJ or Lilly running out. Done. It's a little bit more pricey, but I think it's worth it in the end. Not to mention, the stuff is in little plastic containers (that are recylclable for all you crazy tree huggers out there) so my supplements stay fresh. It drives me crazy to go into the feed room and see the lids to my supplement jars half off and not screwed on.

After searching and doing some research on their site, which is wonderful I might add, I have decided to change AJ's supplement to an MSM pellet and ditch the Focus. There wasn't really much in the Focus that I thought would benefit him when I compared it to the MSM. (Makes me wonder why the hell I've been buying it for him all this time...) The MSM will help his joints, his coat, and his hooves. The focus had some minerals in it, but he's a pretty healthy horse and I want to make sure he's getting a supplement that will help him with his arthritis.

I originally planned to order some Probiotics for Lilly because she's still really runny and I have to wash her hind end off in 40 degree temperatures every day. I figured it couldn't hurt, and maybe it would help. I tried them already, but I thought maybe... just maybe. As I was searching, though, I ran across this: SmartDigest Ultra It says that it will "not only help maintain a healthy intestinal tract and normal digestive function, it also promotes proper gut pH and helps safeguard the stomach lining against gastric acid. This formula is also an outstanding choice for seniors, hard keepers, horses on antibiotics, those with chronic diarrhea and those undergoing a change in diet." Sounds like someone I know!! Well, at least the chronic diarrhea part. It also says, "If your horse working hard or under stress, supporting his digestive health is essential! SmartDigest Ultra is a comprehensive digestive formula for any horse that needs G.I. support, but especially those under the stress of training and competition. In addition to probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (food for the beneficial bacteria), it also provides digestive enzymes, soluble fiber, soothing herbs, and amino acids that support G.I. cell health." The reviews were really good and while it costs WAY more than the Probios, if it works, I'll be so thrilled!! I hadn't really thought of her having loose stool because of stress, but that could be a contributing factor. She does get ridden a lot more than she used to and the shows also seem to stress her out a bit. It's November and she still has diarrhea, so I'm desperate.

I hope, hope, hope that it works!! She'll probably stop having runny stools after I start feeding it to her and at the same time she'll stop coming into heat. That way she'll make sure I don't know the cause of her diarrhea and I'll still be clueless come spring.

Ahhh... this is the life!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Latest Lesson

I ride on more days than just Wednesday... I promise! The writing about it part just tends to get redundant after a while. It's the same thing over and over.

I had my lesson last night and things went well. (See, I even say that every time) Lilly was a bit fired up for some reason. She wanted to go, go, go... I think she's going through a phase. Before, she didn't canter until I brought my leg back and asked. Now she thinks everything means canter. So because of that, we did a lot of circles last night. We circled at the walk. Then we circled at the trot. And finally we circled at the canter. It was mostly trotting work and trying to get her set up and prepared for the canter transition. I was trying to get her to bend around and also stretch down. It was a challenge because she wanted to put her head up, not bend, and go extra fast.

We ended the lesson on a good note when she finally picked up the canter going clockwise... she had been getting the wrong lead (although the transitions were awesome!) so we had to keep starting over. It amazes me that we can be trotting in a tiny circle and she still manages to pick up the wrong lead when I ask her to canter. Crazy...

When she picked up the correct lead and we cantered around a bit I asked her to walk and then I praised her to death. Even my trainer rubbed all over her. After that, I got off and Lilly had the cutest look on her face... it was as if she was VERY proud of herself! She kept going back and forth between me and my trainer like, "I did good, huh guys?" She's such a fun horse!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday's Lesson

I hate it when the time changes. My lesson is at 6:00 and it's dark before my trainer even arrives! There are lights in the arena, which is nice, but it sucks that it is dark outside the arena. So untacking and putting things away is a hassle. There are various lights outside I can turn on, but I just like to complain. And I prefer to have it light until 9:30 in the evening.

The lesson went well. Lilly was a good girl and my trainer and I both noticed a big difference between last night and last week. She's gaining more confidence and is really getting the hang of the canter depart. I've been instructed to ride with leg, leg, leg because it really makes Lilly nervous when I put my legs on her. She's not used to it and right away thinks she's supposed to do something. She needs to get used to my legs being there. We did some canter departs from the trot and also some from the walk. The trot departs were pretty good and the walk transitions were ok. Going counter clockwise was better than clockwise, but all horses seem to be better one way than another. Lilly seems to know when I ask for the canter that I'm asking for the canter. She doesn't seem as confused, although she still seems to act as if she can't do it, or doesn't think she can. One of the transitions going clockwise was interesting as I got a nice buck from Lilly! It wasn't really big, but it was enough to let me know she didn't want to canter. She tends to pin her ears and get a little pissy when I ask, but once she's in the canter, she seems fine. Little brat...

I talked to my trainer about my saddle issues too and we looked at my show saddle and my work saddle. She thinks they both fit fine and there's no reason why adding my number pad would make it not fit. Her assessment was that Lilly is just being a brat and doesn't want to work, or that all those classes in one day is too much for her, OR that she's sore for some reason and by the weekend she just can't take a whole day of showing. I'm skeptical because of all the testing I've done with new pads and old pads and everything, and even at the one CMESC show I hadn't even been on her back yet when she started acting silly with the saddle. My trainer is very sure it isn't the saddle, though, so I'll roll with that assumption. Next time Lilly starts acting like a goober she said I should longe her and see how she reacts then. From all the scenarios she suggested, I tend to think maybe she's sore come show day or knows she'll be sore by the end of the day, so she's letting me know. Her reaction isn't that of a pissy mare, in my opinion. That's not Lilly. I still think she's in pain for one reason or another. I'm willing to give it a try though because not buying 4 new saddles sounds like a good idea to me. She was impressed with my show saddle, though, and thinks I should ditch the work saddle and ride strictly in the new one. I get the impression that she hates my work saddle! She said it's slippery, hard, and just not comfy. I like it... but it's all my butt knows! I just like the idea of having a saddle that is strictly for showing, but I see her point. The new one is more comfy. I'm still mulling it over in my head and contemplating making my current show saddle my new work saddle and saving for a really nice show saddle. I'm accepting donations now.

My trainer suggested we have a chiropractor take a look at Lilly and I mentioned I already had, but she hasn't been looked at since August. I told her about the pelvis adjustment and also about Lilly's injury when she was a yearling. She watched her move a little more closely and said that she thinks something might still be off because she saw just the slightest issue with Lilly taking her right lead. She has a chiropractor that she suggests I call and thinks maybe she should see Lilly more frequently. More in conjunction with her training, so as her muscles get stronger we keep her adjusted properly. Can you say MORE MONEY? I wonder what it's like to have a horse that doesn't need to be catered to all the time?

Trailer Washing

I have a 2007 Exiss Sport ES 200 with a weekender package. I bought it new last March when it was on "sale" and traded in my 3 horse Sooner. The Sooner was just too big. It seemed silly to haul around a 3 horse trailer with just one horse in it. Not to mention, the gooseneck part was empty. No insulation, no nothing. I had fleeting thoughts of a do it myself project to build living quarters in there and then realized I was stupid for even considering it. The 2 horse works great because I use the first stall for stuff like hay and totes that hold all my camping gear and Lilly rides in the back stall. I liked the 3 horse better because I could turn her around and walk her out straight rather than having to stand outside and pull her tail to get her to back out. Small price to pay, I suppose.

When I was shopping around I found the 2 horse Exiss. The weekender package has a fridge that runs on propane or electricity, a shower, a potty, and a sink. It also has a/c and a heat strip along with a microwave. I LOVE IT. Every time I go camping overnight with Lilly it is so nice to be able to take a hot shower and curl up in bed with a locked door. I run the hot water heater off propane, the fridge off propane, and the lights work with just my marine battery. So when I'm camping somewhere without electricity, the only thing I can't run is my microwave and the a/c. It's like heaven in that trailer. When I go to shows, I have a sink I can use to wash my face when I'm sweating my butt off and a potty I can use when I don't have time to run up to the bathrooms. It's hard to get a good picture of the inside because it's so small, but you can see the bed on the left and the fridge and sink in the middle. The microwave is in the cabinet above the fridge and the other two cabinets are for storage. To the right is my shower/potty combo and on the wall to the right that you can't see, there's a really cute towel rack that has boots on it.

The horse part is also very nice. It's roomy and insulated, so it keeps the temperature regulated well for travel. I have no complaints (except when the payment comes due)! :-)

I try to take really good care of it. I make sure I wipe everything down and keep everything clean and in top shape. So this past weekend it was time to give the horse part a thorough cleaning. Lilly has taken to peeing in the trailer on the way home from the shows, so I always make sure I hose it down, but this time I wanted to take the mats out and scrub the floor really well. I hate taking those mats out... damn they are heavy!! And the mats in the back on the trailer are pretty much permanently in there because the tack door keeps me from being able to take them out. If I took out all the pins from the tack door I could remove the mats, but that's a little much for me to do by myself.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This and That...

I ordered some winter riding gear from Dover the other day because the plan is to not slow down in regards to Lilly's training. I want to continue to take lessons and ride at least 4 days per week. Being from Michigan and all, you'd think I could handle arctic temperatures like a pro. That's not the case, however. Since moving down to North Carolina the first time, I have turned into a wimp. If it isn't at least 70 degrees (and even then I'm a little chilly) I'm COLD. I ordered these pants and I am in LOVE! I haven't ridden in them yet, but I wore them around the house last night and they're dreamy. They're fleece on the inside and a waterproof type material on the outside and should be wonderful for keeping the wind off my skin. I'm THIS close to ordering another pair... they're at least going on my Christmas list. I'll be able to wear them english or western too. I also got a pair of Mountain Horse boots and some warm gloves, but those aren't as exciting. Bring on the cold temperatures!! NO, WAIT!! I want it to stay warm instead!!

I also bought Lilly a new cooler. After my lesson on Wednesday she was pretty steamy and it was quite cold. A cooler would have been nice to put on her while I walked her around. I've been tossing around the idea of doing a little body clipping too, just so she dries faster, but I've never done it before. Wonder what she'd look like when I was done? Yikes...

I spoke with my trainer via email about my saddle fitting issues and she thinks that my Lynn Palm makes it a little tough on Lilly to balance and might sit a bit too far forward on her shoulders. She said it isn't bad or she would have said something about it when we first met, but she thinks there are some saddles out there that would make my life much easier. I've asked her for some ideas, and then I'll probably head up to M & M for a fitting. I might just have to sell my current two saddles on eBay or something and ride in the new one for a while. It'll just take some extra work keeping it clean and taking good care of it so it looks nice on show days too.

I rode Lilly yesterday for a little while... I didn't want to push her since she had worked pretty hard on Wednesday with my trainer. I did a couple canter departs from the walk and she did really well. Maybe one or two trotting steps was all she took. She also kept her head down almost the entire ride, which is good. She's learning how to travel 'in frame' (since most trainers I know hate the term 'head set'...) and she looks really pretty! She has started chomping on the bit though... I guess she's just nervous. I've been riding with a lot more leg and it kind of drives her crazy. She'll get used to it eventually I hope.

I'll get some pictures of her this weekend. She's really getting dark and her dapples are very prominent. She always looks so pretty with her winter coat. Her tail is starting to grow back in too where she rubbed it off. It looks kind of funny... I'm thinking about wrapping it tomorrow and leaving it until the next show in November. The bugs are gone for the most part, so I think she'd be ok without it. I'm going to try the tip given by Mugwump and see how it works. I'll wash it, condition it, dry it, and then loosely braid it with pieces of bedsheet wrapped around each section of the braid, then wrap it all with vetwrap. I'm hopeful it will work well to keep her tail clean and protected, as Lilly manages to get her tail out of tailbags quite easily.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday's Lesson

For yesterday's lesson, my trainer came out and rode Lilly for me. I like having her do that once in a while because then she's knows what I'm up against. I also like Lilly to have someone ride her that knows what she's doing. I think it really helps her understand what we're asking her to do. It's nice for me to be able to watch my horse from the ground too. I can see what it looks like when she does "this" and "that" and then watch my trainer correct her and see the difference.

It went pretty well. My trainer was showing me how I need to make Lilly stay consistent in the walk and trot. She needs to stay in the same rhythm, going the same speed, and in frame as much as possible. Serpentines and lots of circles are best for Lilly because she tends to lean or drop her shoulder when she thinks she knows where we're going. She'll also grab the bit and drag us along in her preferred direction. She needs to learn to listen to me and not make her own decisions. She thinks she's smarter than I am!

My trainer also worked on getting Lilly to canter from the walk instead of the trot because she feels that Lilly is just pulling herself into the canter rather than striking off with a bit of 'umph' like she should be. That was a bit of a challenge, and Lilly threw in a couple of small protest bucks and even a kick or two out to the side. She definitely wasn't happy about the encouragement from my trainer's spur!

It's something I'll really have to work on, that's for sure. Among other things.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saddle Fitting Woes

As you may or may not recall, this year has been hell for me as far as saddle fitting goes. With this post, I'm hoping to organize my thoughts and maybe get some guidance on what I should do.

First, let me tell you about my 4 saddles... Yup, I have 4 saddles for one horse. Some call it overkill... I call it necessity! The idea behind it was to have a western work saddle, a western show saddle, a huntseat work saddle, and a huntseat show saddle. That way, I didn't have to worry about keeping my work saddles super clean and scratch free for the shows. I'd have separate saddles... one for each purpose. There's no way I could have one western saddle that I use for trail riding and showing. Not with all the water we play in and trees we run through. So I've always had 2 western saddles. Then, this year I started riding more huntseat and decided I wanted to start showing again. So I decided to buy a new huntseat saddle so I'd have a nice one to show in. Afterall, the work saddle I'm using now is about 16 years old, I think. I got it way back when, shortly after AJ was retired. I thought I was due a new one.

So, here they are:


Huntseat Work Saddle
This was taken at one of the first shows of the year, before I got my new huntseat saddle. Notice the number pad I love so dearly. I never had a problem with her being uncomfortable with that saddle and pad. Nor have I ever had problems schooling her with that saddle and any pad. Heck, I used to use a quilted dressage pad on the bottom and a fleece pocket pad on top. So there was a time when I was using two layers of pad and never had a problem. Or maybe there was a problem with the fit but Lilly never 'said' anything about it. This saddle is a Collegiate Lynn Palm CC style saddle with a 17" seat and a medium tree. I love this saddle with everything I have! It is so comfy and I really like the close contact style better than the all purpose style.

First Huntseat Show Saddle
I bought this saddle in April of this year and had plans to use it as my new show only huntseat saddle. It is a Collegiate Connoisseur CC style saddle. I don't consider it CC because it has the knee rolls, but I wanted another Collegiate, so this is what I picked out, and they call it CC. What do I know anyway? I thought with the same style and maker, it would fit Lilly no problem. This saddle has a 17" seat and a medium tree.
I rode in this saddle for the first time in April. You may remember the post from the show... I ended up not being able to show in the huntseat classes because Lilly was stopping, shaking her head, and twitching her withers. I even tried a friend's saddle, but had no luck. After the show, I rode her in the saddle a bit, but without the numbers pad because I didn't want it to get dirty. She seemed fine and I even put the saddle on her without a pad to see how it looked on her. It looked fine to me... all the saddle fitting guides said it should fit her fine. I thought maybe there was just something going on with her that day.
I rode her fine in the saddle at a couple other shows in this saddle with no problems, even with the number pad. After I saw pictures of how my legs looked in it, though, I decided I was on a mission to find a TRUE close contact saddle. The knee rolls were pushing my legs way far back. I wanted one just like my work saddle except newer and less beat up.


Newest Huntseat Show Saddle
So along came this guy. I wrote in a post back in June about how I swapped my new saddle for this one. It's a Collegiate Lynn Palm CC saddle, 17.5" seat with a medium tree. It was a dream come true finding this saddle! It's just like my work saddle, except for color, seat size, and it isn't all beat up!
I rode in this saddle at two shows with my number pad and had no problems with it at all. She seemed to be very comfortable in the saddle. The CMESC show in September was the first time I had an issue with this saddle. I had my number pad on her, and was warming her up in the indoor when she suddenly stopped, started shaking her head, and did the wither twitching thing. I ended up taking her home and riding her in this saddle with the number pad and then my regular quilted work pad. When I had the number pad on she was doing the 'shake'. When I had my quilted pad on, she was fine. It was at this point that I decided the pad must be too thick and bought a new ugly pad that is just quilted with fleece around the outside. I figured the thickness of the pad must have been pinching her withers or shoulders. So why she's fine with it some days and not others I have yet to find out.


Western Show Saddle
I got this saddle back in spring of 2007 sometime when I had high hopes to show last year. It is a used Circle Y I bought off eBay. It was made in 2000, has a seat size of 16, has semi-QH bars, and a gullet of 6 and 3/4. It weighs 32 pounds.
I've been riding in this saddle all year with no problems (until the show on Sunday). I use a 1/2" black flet pad underneath a woven show pad when I ride in this saddle.


Western Work Saddle
I can't remember when I got this saddle but I've had it for a few years now. I think I got it back in 2004 or 2005. It's a Circle P, 15.5" seat, with full QH bars. It weighs 23 pounds and is all synthetic (awesome for trail rides!). I love this saddle. It is so comfy and lightweight, and easy to clean. I ride her in this saddle with a Professional's Choice SMX Air Ride pad and have never had any issues with this saddle at all, and I ride her all over in this saddle.

Now that you've met my saddles, any ideas? I know that horses don't always tell us when they're uncomfortable. They really put up with a lot from us. They don't know how a saddle is suppose to fit either. So it could be possible that even though I think these work saddles fit her, that they really don't. And maybe the show saddles really don't fit, and they hurt her badly enough to make her do the 'shake'.

Then I think back to earlier this year when I had Lilly at the trainer's. He used his own saddle... so maybe that one didn't fit her either and has made her back sore or scarred. Or maybe she's that way already from my ill fitting saddles. I just don't know why she works 'fine' in my work saddles but hates my huntseat saddle with number pad, and why all of a sudden now the western saddle is giving her fits as well.

Should I hold off until the Equimapping vendor is at the November 16th ride and see what it says about my saddle fit? That would only give me one week, though, to fix the problems before the last JCHSS show that following Saturday.

Should I call a massage therapist and have them come out to look at Lilly to see if she has any scar tissue or is really sore in any areas around her spine, shoulders, or back?

Should I just call a saddle fitter and get 4 new saddles that they say will fit my horse?

Or should I do all of the above? Replacing 4 saddles is a bit expensive, for sure, but I'll do whatever I need to make Lilly comfortable. If I have to go back to just 2 saddles for now, then that's what I'll do.

Monday, October 27, 2008

JCHSS Show Number 7!

Due to the rain on Saturday, the show was moved to Sunday, which worked out because Sunday turned out to be a gorgeous day! It was sunny and about 72 with no wind... perfect for a horse show.

Since the show was moved to Sunday, I had no idea how many people were going to be there. I usually leave the barn around 11 to get there by noon and it's always been the perfect time to get ready and not have to wait around forever for my first class. Yesterday, though, I ended up leaving at 9:30 and figured I could just band when I got there if I was way early.

Oh wait... let me back up. Saturday evening I went to the barn to give Lilly a bath because I knew it would be too cold Sunday morning. So I cleaned her up and clipped her ears and muzzle and turned her out hoping that she'd stay clean. So when I got there Sunday morning, I glanced out in the pasture as I drove by and she still looked pretty white. I hooked up the trailer, drove to my parking spot, and grabbed the blanket out of the back of the trailer. As I was walking up to the tack shed to put the blanket down and grab her halter, I saw her start to walk away. Once I was out of view, though, she walked back up to her hay pile. After dropping off the blanket and grabbing the halter, I headed back out to the pasture to get her. It was so funny... she was eyeballing me as she was munching hay and as soon as I got to the little road that leads to the gate, she took off as fast as she could, bucking and kicking the whole way! She got to the bottom of the pasture and turned around to stare at me. The whole time I was walking to get her, she had her head up, ears forward and must have been wishing for me to diappear. Do you think she wanted to stay home and not go to the show? She must know what the trailer means! At least I was able to walk right up to her and put the halter on. She used to run around and make me chase her down. Poor, poor girl. She's so abused. As it turns out, she had just one small spot of dirt on her side that easy brushed off. Woohoo! So I loaded her up and off we went!

As it turns out, I got there quite early. They were just finishing up with class 9 and I was class 20, but it gave me time to get registered and band her mane, so it worked out. Plus, I was concerned about the saddle pad and all that mess from the CMESC show. I gave up on my lovely number pad and had purchased a 'witherback companion pad' that basically has the saddle part cut out of the fleece. So it ends up being just a quilted pad with fleece around the outside. God is it ugly... bleh! Since I've successfully ridden her in the number pad before, I thought I'd try that one first. Before I even got the girth tightened, she started shaking her head. So off it came and on went the ugly one. She seemed fine with the ugly one and I was able to ride her in all of our classes without issue. Hooray for the ugly pad? I suppose... When I was up at the state fair I got this great leather girth too... it's leather but it's got gel in it. It's so soft and squishy. I'm sure Lilly likes it better than my old one. So we were looking good and ready for our huntseat classes!

The first class was huntseat walk trot equitation. There were 5 horses in that class and we got 4th... bummer. I guess I still suck at equitation. I really tried to concentrate on keeping my heels down, but I think I need to shorten my stirrups a hole... the only problem is that I'm out of holes! I had to adjust them at the show because one was longer than the other (isn't it wonderful how they can stretch an entire hole like that?). So on the one side I'm out of holes and on the other I can only go up one more. If I can remember I'll switch sides with them to try and stretch the other one out so they'll be even! Or I might just ask for a new pair of the pre-stretched or the kind with webbing in them to prevent stretching... anyway, I'm rambling.

The next class was huntseat walk trot stock type. This was a pretty big class and I think there were 13 horses. We ended up placing 8th, which isn't bad, but equates to no PAC points. I was hoping for 5th or better, but we got what we got. Now, while I can't see every horse in the class, obviously, I thought we did much better than we placed. Lilly did awesome! She was so consistent at the trot, had her head down, and was moving at the perfect speed. There was even a woman watching the class who approached me afterwards and said she had me pinned 4th. She thought Lilly and I did great. I was so proud of Lilly!

In huntseat walk trot open, we placed 7th out of many of the same horses from the previous class, except this class had about 16 horses in it. Again, Lilly was perfect. She was such a good girl for those riding classes.

The next class was showmanship and there were 5 of us in there. The pattern was as follows: walk from cone A to cone B and jog from cone B to cone C. The cones were set up in the shape of an L. Once we got to the judge we set up for inspection and then had to do a 3/4 degree turn and walk to line. Lilly nailed it. She set up very quickly and did her awesome pivot as usual. I was the first one in so I got to watch the other patterns and none of the other horses pivoted. I thought for sure we won the class. 1st place... not me. 2nd place... not me. We ended up getting 3rd. I just don't get it. Maybe no one down here cares about pivots as much as they did in Michigan. If your horse didn't pivot at the Michigan shows, you could hang it up. You weren't placing. And you certainly wouldn't place over horses that did. The only reason I can come up with is that Lilly is 'dirty' by the time the showmanship class rolls around. Her legs are orangish from the red clay in the arena and she's crapped all over her legs by this point. She's also got sweat and saddle marks from the huntseat classes. I cleaned the manure off her legs and rinsed off her hooves, but I can only do so much in the 30 minutes between huntseat and western. I've got to get changed myself and then try to get her ready for the showmanship class. I also occasionally like to try and grab something to eat at some point during the day. At the end of the class when the judge was looking closely at the horses one last time, she looked very closely at Lilly's legs... like she bent down to take a look... that's what got me to thinking maybe I got marked down for her not being spotless like the top 2 horses that haul in just for western classes.

Halter class went pretty well, though. We got 6th out of 10 horses. Lilly definitely isn't a halter horse, but her conformation is decent, I think. But then again, I'm biased. :-)

Just in time for the western riding classes, the unthinkable happened... I saddled her up, put her bridle on, and walked her out to the make up area. As we were walking, she suddenly stopped in her tracks and started shaking her head. Then she started twitching her withers! WHAT THE HELL!! It's the english saddle problem all over again except it's western this time! So I got off, moved the saddle back slightly and hopped back on. By that time it my class was being called so I had to hurry into the arena. I could tell she was still uncomfortable and kept trying to bite at the girth on the right side. So I planned on scratching my classes but decided to adjust the girth first thinking maybe it was just pinching her or something. I did some more adjusting and dropped the girth a hole and then left it a little bit looser. She seemed to do ok in the second class, but was back to being uncomfortable by the last western class. Since I was preoccupied, I don't remember how many horses were in each class (I'll update it once the results come out) but we got 5th out of 5 in the equitation class, didn't place in the walk jog stock type class, and got 8th in the walk jog open class. She was very fast, but I'm sure it had something to do with the darn saddle.

Now, nothing has changed on my western setup. No new pad, no new girth... nothing. I have no idea why she was uncomfortable. This is getting very upsetting for me, though. If I need to sell both my saddles and buy two new ones, then so be it. I hate that the saddles cause her pain. My work saddles both fit her fine and I've never had any trouble with them, but both of my show saddles are just one headache after another. I've been doing some research and I think what's happening is that the flap of the saddle is restricting her shoulder movement. I found this on a website and is what I think might be happening. It says, "If the saddle is too tight, or the flap points inwards, or the flap is held down too tightly by the billets, then the shoulderblade will not be able to rotate smoothly. Instead, the tip of the shoulderblade "bumps" into the front of the flap. The thin skin above the shoulderblade gets "pinched" between the tip of the shoulderblade and the saddle flap." When Lilly walks, she gets pinched. So she stops abruptly and begins shaking her head and twitching her withers, and doesn't want to move forward. Now, why is the western saddle a problem all of a sudden? Ugh...

On the 16th of November there's a trail ride I'm going to that benefits the USERL. There's going to be a vendor there with the Equimapping system set up so we can check the fit of our saddles. I'm going to do both my english and western saddles and see what they have to say. I know english saddles can be reflocked, but if my western saddle doesn't fit I'm screwed. Either way, I need to know and I need to find tack that fits my horse. It seems odd that I've had her for 8 years and this is the first year something like this has happened with saddle fit.

On a side note, there was no one there taking pictures of the show. I guess because it was moved to Sunday maybe? And I was there alone so I don't have any pictures. I wore the same outfits, though, and Lilly looks the same, so just look back at some of the pictures from the other shows. :-)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Hands! My Hands!

I had my lesson yesterday and things went great! I told my trainer how well Lilly had been doing with the lower hands and the softer but more consistent contact. She always does better when my trainer isn't there, though. Or maybe it's me because I'm riding in front of someone... it's probably me.

We worked on Lilly's upward transitions and did the canter transitions in a smaller circle with her bent a bit more than usual. There were a couple times when Lilly tried to step into the canter but ended up just going back to the trot. It's as if she doesn't think she can do it. I really need to make sure I act la-de-dah about the whole thing so it doesn't seem like a big deal to her. That way she won't second guess herself quite so much. She's also doing great with her head at the canter... she tends to put it down more frequently now, except she also speeds up when she does it. A half halt will slow her down temporarily, but then she speeds up a few strides later. It's coming together, though. I see progress every week.

She was being a bit of a booger, though, and anticipating the canter. She's figured out that I always sit the trot before I ask for the canter. So when I go from a rising trot to a sitting trot, sometimes she'll start cantering on her own! She's so smart! So last night I went from rising trot to sitting trot to rising trot to sitting trot... and then I walked. HA! Figure me out now smarty pants! Darn mares anyway...

My trainer also said my hands looked great!! I was really excited because I've been trying really hard to use them properly. I've found Lilly actually responds better now with the new method, so it's easier to remember to do it right.

I also asked my trainer about the show on Saturday (that is if it doesn't rain like the weather man says it is) and whether she thinks I should try a canter class or not. She suggested I stick with the walk trot since Lilly is still so insecure about the canter and the show ring is even more difficult than at home because of the other horses and the distractions. So I think I'll just plan on cantering next year. The first show of next year is in February, so I really don't have a lot of time until then anyway!

Looks like it's time to break down and buy some winter riding clothes so I can keep up her training all winter long!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Raven Rock *Updated!

Saturday Lilly and I hauled over to Raven Rock State Park. This was the first time I'd ever been there, and I've been missing out! It's only about a 30 minute drive from the barn, so it ranks right up there with Umstead and the Tobacco Trail on my list of day ride locations. There are two different loops, and each one is about 4 miles, so it's a good two and a half hour ride. The terrain is very rocky, though, so shoes on all 4 hooves is a necessity. It's pretty much all woods, which would be nice in the summer, but not so nice when you're hoping for some sunshine to warm you up.

It was quite cold on Saturday. I think it was 52 degrees with overcast skies and everything was damp because it had rained pretty hard Friday night. At least the rain had stopped by morning, although when the wind picked up out on the trail it blew the trees around it felt like it was raining. I had to bust out the winter clothes and I was still a little chilly. I want summer back!

When we got there, Lilly was in a hurry to get out of the trailer as usual. She rides great and will stand inside the trailer all day, but as soon as you open that door and tell her to back up, watch out because she's coming out! (Yeah, I'm working on it...) My riding buddy had already parked and his horse Bubba was out and tied to the trailer. Well, when Lilly came flying out of my trailer, I think she was surprised to see a horse standing there. So she did one of those big sideways looks. You know the kind... where her entire shoulder moves sideways and she has to take a big step with her leg to support all that weight... So she steps sideways right onto my right foot!! And then she stands there, mesmorized by Bubba's presence!! Again, ON MY FOOT! So I'm pushing and yanking and pulling and yelling trying to get her to step anywhere but on my poor foot. Nothing... So finally she decided to step backwards, but she drags her foot off mine. Holy crap did it hurt!! I said a few words and hobbled over to the tie ring to tie Lilly up. My riding buddy came to see if I was ok and we decided it was a good thing we were riding and not hiking. She ended up stepping right on the top of my foot. Like right on the arched part. I'm ok and nothing seems to be broken, it's just very sore.

We had fun, though! The Cape Fear River runs through the park and we found a trail to take us right down to the edge of the river. There were waterfalls and streams... beautiful. I didn't take any pictures because it was just dark and damp. Next time, if it's sunny, I'll take some pictures.

** I got a question from Double A Training, who hosted the clinic I attended back in June. It was the clinic that helped me deal with Lilly's herdboundness issues. She wanted to know if Lilly and I got left behind and how Lilly handled it. I can't believe I forgot to mention it!

Actually, we did get left behind! Lilly wanted to go one way over the stream and I wanted her to go the other way. So as she fought to go her way, Bubba got farther and farther away from her. Since Brad and I are good pals, I asked him to stop and wait for me up the trail just out of view so I could take this time to train my beloved Lilly.

After we crossed the stream, she couldn't see Bubba anymore and she started to freak out. She was throwing her head around and starting prancing. I told her to stand as she swung us into the trees, but of course she wouldn't. So I did the one rein stop exercise I learned from Alex at the clinic, and had her circle until she stopped moving her feet. She seemed to remember what the exercise was all about and after about 3 spins, she stopped, and I let her stand. She wasn't happy AT ALL but stood still. When I asked her to walk, she started prancing again, but when I told her to stand she did. So she did much better and didn't rear or completely lose her mind, but she still wouldn't walk back to Bubba cool and calm. She was still very worried about where he was and how long it would take her to catch up.

There was a lot of prancing and stopping, prancing and stopping and she never really walked until we caught back up to Bubba. When I asked her to stop, though, she did. Still not perfect, but MUCH better than how she would have acted in the past!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bareback!

So the other day I was reading the "Just Saddle Up" blog and saw that Alex had posted about riding her new project bareback. I was inspired! I used to ride bareback often when I was in 4-H and even showed in the bareback equitation classes. We all used to cheat and spray hairspray on our horses to help us stick, but it was a lot of fun! The english bareback classes were brutal, and I think the judges had us trot extra long just for the fun of it, but we all had a good time.

I haven't really ridden bareback since then. Sometimes I ride AJ bareback in the pasture or in the arena, but I'm not really 'riding'. I'm just sitting there spending time with him. And his withers are pretty prominent these days too, so I usually just end up putting the saddle on him instead. Plus he's all over the place... :-)

I rode Lilly bareback once before just because I wondered if she would freak out (I once heard a horror story of someone's horse that couldn't stand to be ridden bareback). She did fine and didn't seem to care in the least.

So yesterday, I decided to ride Lilly bareback again. It was so much fun, and I've decided I need to do it more often! She was really good and did very well considering the amount of contact I needed to have with her in order to stay on. I didn't do any posting because, well, I don't have to, that's why! All sitting trot, and it's a good thing because I'm paying for that today, and probably will be for a couple more days. I wasn't sure if I should try cantering because I didn't know how she would do with all that contact, but I decided I might as well give it a try. What was the worst that could happen? Well, whatever it was, it didn't. Thank goodness. I also practiced what my trainer was saying about my hands and it really helped Lilly soften.

If only they had bareback classes at the JCHSS show!

Wednesday's Lesson

Gosh, I've been so busy lately! And I have so much to write about. I think I'll break my thoughts up into individual posts so I can keep myself organized!

I had another lesson on Wednesday (hence the title of today's post). It went great. Things are starting to come together...

I got Lilly ready about 15 minutes early so I could warm her up a bit and she was all over the place. She was a bit forward, she was being a bit stubborn, and her focus was everywhere except on me. So when my trainer got there, we decided to do some exercises to keep her focused on me and also improve upon Lilly's bending challenges. It's tough to describe the exercises if you haven't seen how the arena is set up, but I basically did a bunch of S shaped serpentines and did some bending in my imaginary rectangle arena (the current arena is oval). Lilly did really well and she was really starting to bend nice. We worked on cantering too, and also on my hands. My trainer showed me what my hands should be doing and for some reason it just made sense this time! I usually keep my hands pretty stationary when I ride and only move them when I need to communicate something to Lilly (and it's usually just with my wrists). She said I needed to be fluid with my whole arm and move in the same motion as Lilly. Instead of just bending my wrists back or down, I need to move my whole arm.

Ah hah!! That makes sense! And Lilly really seemed to respond to it. She was much softer and relaxed. I guess it makes sense... If I'm bracing with my hands, she's going to brace back.

Fluidity!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

State Fair 2008

I got to spend some time at the state fair yesterday. I always try to go watch the Paint/Palomino show to keep up on current show trends for the bigger shows and the "higher caliber" horses. Although, as it turns out, there weren't very many horses there. I expected the classes to be bigger but I think the biggest one I saw had 10 horses in it, and that was the Paint western pleasure class.

All in all I had a lot of fun and enjoyed watching the classes. I saw some very cute little kids on some giant horses, and I always enjoy watching the kids ride. The very slow 4 beat lopers weren't placing (one girl didn't even ride in any more classes until the pattern classes started up), which is great. We need to get rid of that trend...

I also saw some showmanship patterns that were, well, um... bad. I was expecting to see some of the best showmanship horses, but I don't think any one of them pivoted the entire 360 degree turn (or even 90 degrees of it). So I was disappointed there. The horsemanship patterns were the same way. Sloppy... where I come from, you had to be DEAD on with your pattern or you weren't placing. It came down to things like flying change vs simple change of lead in the canter. Or, what diagonal you were on when you posted down the middle of the arena; the one toward the judge or away from the judge? I guess it's good to get out there and try and do your best, but I just expected to see more because it was the state fair.

I saw some other stuff I didn't like too, and it made me want to run home and tell Lilly how lucky she is to be my horse! I thought I took some video, but apparently I don't know how to work my own camera. It's probably just as well. I didn't see anything in the show ring, but I did see some stuff in the make-up ring and also during the breaks when the arena was open to schooling. I must say that if I did any of that stuff to Lilly, she'd probably buck my ass off and run me down.

I guess what I was seeing were people 'suppling' their horses. They were doing this by making those horses lope with their noses planted on their rider's boot. Can you imagine trying to lope with your neck completely wrapped around your body like that? These horses still managed to lope in a straight line, somehow, but my word! And even though the horse was holding his neck like that, the rider was still popping the rein on that same side up into the air. I guess to make sure the horse kept his neck there... I saw about three people doing this with their horses.

I also saw one lady who was doing the 'suppling' exercise and also the 'headset' exercise. Her horse had what I considered a decent headset... a bit lower than his withers, but not too low and certainly not too high. She'd be jogging or loping along and all of a sudden POP those reins up to ask the horse to set his head when he already had his head set. She did that over and over again and the horse looked miserable. He was as confused as I was as to why she kept popping him. So when he wasn't being asked to set his head, he was being asked to lope with his head wrapped around his body. Nice...

One of the poor Paints being 'suppled' was worked for over an hour like that, and later I found him tied to the trailer with no hay. Maybe I'm a softee, but when my horse is tied to the trailer, she always has hay. Especially if I work her hard. It's like a reward for her. The only time I take the hay away is when I'm getting ready to put the bridle on her. Otherwise, she has hay to munch on.

Ugh... of course, those are the horses winning the classes. If that's what it takes to win, I might be in the wrong business.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lessons Again!

I started my lessons back up with my trainer as of yesterday. The lesson was at 6:30 and we had to turn the arena lights on because we were running out of daylight and fast. It was dark just shortly before my lesson was over, so I'm not sure what we're going to do when it's dark at 5:00... The lights are nice, but it isn't like riding in the daytime, that's for sure.

I've heard some people say their horses are a bit spooked when riding under lights. Lilly didn't seem to mind at all last night, so that was nice. I was afraid her shadow might spook her at times, but it didn't (amazing...).

Lilly did really well. I told my trainer how much progress we had made and I was looking forward to her suggesting some other things for us to work on. She had plenty...

I've been riding the same way for about 6 years now. Lilly is my primary horse and I only ride AJ occasionally, so I'm very used to Lilly and I'm very used to the way I ride her. Apparently it's very wrong... :-) It's mostly how I use my hands, but having ridden like that for so long, it's pretty much muscle memory for me at this point, so breaking myself of it has proven to be very difficult. I'm trying to learn and I'm trying to teach Lilly at the same time, so I have to remember to do about 12 things at once. Often times my hands just go back to the position they're used to being in as the rest of my body tries to focus on the 11 other things. So my trainer kept saying, "Your hands!" over and over. I felt as though she was getting a little frustrated with me because at one point she said, "Your hands! Even if you don't want to!" I really want to, but I have to constantly remind myself.

(For those of you who may want to know, I bend my wrists a lot. Rather than shortening my reins when I need to take up slack, I bend my wrists inward towards my body to take up that 2" of slack in the reins. Sometimes I even have to pull my bent wrists inward towards my body if I need more than 2". I've been accused of looking like Tyranosaurus Rex... I know it must look horrible, but that bend gives my just the right amount of tension in the reins to slow her down or set her head, and once she does it, my wrists go back straight. It's just a quick fix I use... Very quick, very simple, but apparently very ugly. And it is VERY tough to avoid doing it.)

My trainer also says that bending my wrists like that changes my body position as well and drives Lilly forward so it ends up being counter productive. I wish I had been taking lessons all along. Old habits are hard to break.

Another thing we worked on was getting Lilly to bend. I really need to work on that. She either wants to counter bend or do a leg yeild. So it's challenging getting her to wrap around me to do a nice circle when she wants to just sidestep to the rail. Lots of circles are in our future.

The night ended on a stellar note when one of us (probably me) figured out how to do a canter transition. I usually do a sitting trot before asking for a canter, and usually when I ask her, she shoots off like a rocket. Not very pretty. So my trainer had me work on half halts and bringing Lilly down to a near walk and then asking for the canter. Being a mare, Lilly thinks she knows what I want even before I do (she is telepathic you know) so it's a challenge to get her to focus and pay attention to what I want. I think that's part of the reason for her canter transitions. She already knows what I want and when I finally ask her she just can't help but LEAP into the canter. Like, "I know!! Let me do it!!" So between the half halts, the leg cues, and envisioning what I wanted the departure to look like (it actually works sometimes!) I asked very softly and very slow motion-y for a canter. Instead of leaping and taking off like a bat out of hell, she stepped into it. It was controlled, it was pretty, and it was much easier to sit. It was beautiful! The circles following the transition were also nice. We had a comfy, collected, 3 beat canter.

I look forward to practicing these things all week. I'll have another lesson next Wednesday and I hope to not have to hear, "Your hands!!" I might put popsicle sticks inside my gloves so I can't bend my wrists... It might just work!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Road Riding

First, guess what came in the mail on Saturday? Coggins! Woohoo!

I decided yesterday to take Lilly for a ride down the road. I figured she could use a break from the arena and didn't feel like taking her down to the trails. What an exciting event it turned out to be.

I tacked her up western just in case she got crazy (I'm a wimp, I know). She started out very relaxed and was doing really well with the bridle and bit. I haven't ridden her western in a very long time, so I was surprised that when I lifted the reins she put her head down. As soon as we got out of familiar territory, though, her head came up and she got very nervous. She didn't spook at mailboxes, garbage cans, or cars. Nope. She spooked at PONIES. That's right folks. She was scared to death of the pony living only a short distance from her. When she saw them she stopped dead in her tracks. I could literally feel her heart pounding beneath her skin. It was ridiculous. When I finally decided she was done looking and asked her to walk forward, she scooted as quickly as she could. That's my girl!

I'm going to have to take her out alone more often. She's ok in the arena and also on the trails for the most part, but evidently the road is a terrifying place. She's not very brave. It might also be a good idea for us to road ride so I can show her it's ok to trust me even when she's not sure.

Friday, October 3, 2008

No Coggins...

I have not received my coggins papers in the mail yet. I got the bill, though!!

So without that paper, Lilly and I cannot go to the show this weekend. I'm certainly going to take a look at the TWHA shows next year, though. Their shows look like fun and most of them are not too far for me to go.

I've been trying to get ahold of my trainer too, to start taking some more lessons. I've called her a couple times and am waiting to hear back from her. I feel that Lilly and I are actually in a place where we're ready for lessons now. Before, we struggled so much with a lot of the basic stuff that I thought the lessons were almost a waste of her time. We're ready now, though! Our transitions are much better and Lilly's speed is actually under control.

The next show on October 25th is getting closer and closer! Do I canter there? I'm sure going to try, so that's what I'll be working on!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Reader Beware...

Just a small disclaimer... this isn't a very "clean" post, so if you have a weak stomach, it's best you move on.

There. Now you can't say I didn't warn you.

Lilly gets diarrhea ALL the time. (Like how I dove right in?) I've tried to tie it to something, but have failed miserably. I think it is related to her heat cycle, but I'm the jury is still out on that one. Last year, she had diarrhea pretty much all summer long. I had the vet out a couple of times and we found nothing. No worms, no abnormal blood work, nothing. We tried a power pack worming deal, gave her antibiotics, SMZs, probiotics, and I even put her on daily dewormer hoping it would help. Because she had it continuously, we decided it wasn't related to her heat cycle either. We tried moving her to a new pasture thinking maybe there was something out there she was eating that was disagreeing with her. Nothing helped. I ended up 'giving up' because she seemed fine other than the diarrhea. She was well hydrated and eating fine, so we took a wait and see approach. There were many days where I couldn't ride because her poor little butt cheeks were so red and tender from having manure sitting on it all day. I had to wash her entire back end, along with her tail, every single day. Then I coated it with Desitin to give her some relief. It was awful.

It was a really hot summer here last year. I was starting to think that maybe her body couldn't handle the heat, so I toyed with different sheets and creative ways to keep her cool. Where I board, there aren't any stalls. It's all pasture board, or I would have tried putting her in a stall with a fan. I was starting to think I was going to have to move her to a different barn and try the stall idea. But by that time, fall had arrived and one day the diarrhea was gone. It just disappeared... poof. Gone. So I never really found out what it was. Was she in heat the entire summer? Was it too hot for her? Or was it something else? The world may never know.

So fast forward to this year... She was a little runny earlier this year. It wasn't bad enough that it coated her entire hind end and legs, though and it wasn't every day. Every now and then, though, it would be pretty bad and I'd have to wash her off. It seemed to be the worst when we had hot spells. It also seemed to be around the time I thought she was in heat.

On a side note, Lilly has never been one to show heat. I might see her out in the pasture 'winking' at Ricochet sometimes, but she's not crabby or anything. Once she's out of the pasture, you'd never know she was in heat. She's always a good girl.

I should have been taking notes on when she had diarrhea, but I was gone so much this year that keeping track would have been tough. Perhaps next year I'll be prepared and I can keep track to see if it's related to her heat cycle.

So my point here is, she's been having bad diarrhea again the past couple weeks. I was gone this weekend but when I went to ride yesterday, she was coated in manure and I had to bathe her hind end and wash her tail. It looked like it had been sitting on her skin for a couple of days because even her legs in spots were pink and tender. I never ride her when she's like that because I imagine the friction from being forced to trot/canter around the ring would be very uncomfortable for her. So she gets washed up and Desitin-ized and that's it.

I feel so bad for her!! If it is heat cycle related, is there anything I can do? If it something else is there a way I can prevent it? If she can't handle the heat, what do I do? It just seems impossible to fix because I don't really know why it is happening, and even with all of the scenarios, I can't think of anything to try that my vet and I haven't tried already.

Forget doing a google search, too, because if you type in 'mare' and 'diarrhea' you'll get a thousand hits on foal heat diarrhea. She doesn't have a foal!

So I'm really just venting, unless anyone has any ideas. I'm hoping once fall gets here and she perhaps stops cycling or the weather cools off, the diarrhea will go away. I'm sure I have next year to look forward to, though...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still Pondering...

I've been through every possible scenario in my head about how to make spending $350 at this show sound like a good idea. I really have... Even my boyfriend has decided to chip in $100 just to help me out and enable me to go to this show with a clear conscience. He's such wonderful boyfriend... so understanding and easy going.

Then, this morning it hit me! My horses are getting fall shots and coggins on Friday. Lilly's coggins was only good until this past Sunday, so if I don't get the results by next Friday, I can't go. And really, I'll need to have them by Thursday because the plan would have been to go right from work on Friday to the barn to get Lilly. That means it's really out of my hands.

I doubt they'll be here on Thursday...

Now maybe I can get some sleep...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Love This Blog

Whenever I'm pondering ideas, frustrated about something, or happy about something else, I can come here and type away. I can post pictures, I can paste links, and I can read about this year so far with Lilly. And aside from me, there are like 2 of you that read along with me! What more can a person ask for?

So here's my dilemma... There's a show next weekend, October 4th and 5th, in Williamston, North Carolina. The facility is gorgeous and it is usually very expensive to show there. It is also about 2 hours from where I live, which makes getting there by 8am Saturday a bit of a challenge. I've never been, but heard it is an awesome place to show your horse. The show is sponsored by TWHA and the show bill can be found here. The classes are all over the place, with no rhyme or reason as to how they're arranged. Most shows I've been to have english type classes first, then western last. This show has an english class, then a western class, then a hunt seat class, then a western class, and it's just crazy. I always ride hunt seat and western because I enjoy them both, but wouldn't be able to do tack changes that quickly out there. So would have to pick one seat or the other.

Since the show starts at 8am, I'd have to leave my house at 4am to go get Lilly and get there by 7am. Holy crap... They have camper hookups, so I could haul in on Friday night, wash her up Friday, stall her, and be ready to go Saturday morning. Camping, though, is $50 for the weekend and stalls are $50 for the weekend. So that's $100 right off the bat, and if I did that, I might as well stay for Saturday and Sunday. I could do hunt seat one day and western the next if I stayed for both days. Classes are $7 each, there's a grounds fee of $10 per day, plus the gas to get there and back. I'd be looking at about $300 for the weekend.

The cost isn't a huge deal, but $300 is quite a bit of money. In contrast, I usually spend about $100 plus gas at the JCHSS shows, but I also enter a lot of classes, and it's only an hour away. At the TWHA show, I'd have to limit myself to a smaller number of classes or I could easily spend $350. Aside from the cost, if I got there and spent all that money only to have Lilly walk around the place shaking her head and swishing her tail because her saddle and pad didn't fit, I'd be a bit upset (I bought a new pad and will try it out when it gets here, but since it's hit or miss, who knows!). So that makes me really nervous. Granted, I could just show western if I ran into tack troubles, but hunt seat is where we have the greatest chance of placing right now because she's still too fast for the western classes. And I don't want to spend $300 just for the hell of it. I'd like to do well and maybe get another PAC point in something.

So you may be asking yourself why I'm even considering going? Well, it would be FUN! Of course, I probably won't know a single person there and I'll be lonely as usual, but Lilly and I have fun together. Plus, they have novice horse classes. What better way to try her at a canter at one of the shows? I have no idea what kind of "novice" horses will be in the class, but I think I might have a chance of placing in one of them, or at least getting some experience and seeing how she might do in an arena full of cantering horses. I don't know if she's going to buck, rear, kick out, fly around, or freak out. I just don't know... so this would be a good place to try it out.

Cons:
  • It's really just the money... and the 2 hour one way drive there.
  • Because of the distance, camping and stalling would be necessary. $100
  • If I'm stalling and camping, I might as well stay both days because it's going to be $100 whether I stay for one night or two. That means double entry fees. Minimum of 4 classes a day (I'd want to do more) for a minimum of $56. But is it worth all the trouble for only 4 classes per day?
  • Grounds fee of $10 per day. I'm not sure if Friday counts, so potentially $30
  • I'd need to buy shavings for her stall. $15
  • I'd need about a tank of gas (maybe more). $90
  • Grand Total: $291 - Ouch...
  • ------------------------------------------
  • Technically, I could just show one day and get up at 4am. I'd cut my costs to $90 for gas, $10 for grounds fee, and I could probably swing 12 classes (with lots of rushing to change outfits and tack) for $84. Grand total there: $184 That would be a hell of a day.
Pros:
  • Fun! YAY!
  • A chance to see how Lilly is going to do in canter classes.
  • Hmmm... not many pros here.

Bottom line... it could be a really fun weekend for about $350. Do I pony up the cash and go for it, or wait until next year when Lilly has more miles under her belt and we have the potential to be more competitive?

ANSWER ME, BLOG!!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

It's a Shadow... Really!

Lilly's cuts looked really good last night. The boot had moved around a bit and was barely covering them, but they were clean and fly free, and that was the goal.

Lilly is so funny... I think she could be a search and rescue horse. Not to be ridden by rescuers, but rather to join the scent dogs as they sniff out the missing humans. That girl has a sniffer on her, let me tell you! When I took her boot off, she wanted to sniff it (she loves to sniff...). So I showed it to her and she sniffed and sniffed and sniffed. I don't know if it smelled good, bad, or what, but she was very interested in the smell. It's so funny to watch her because she takes really big breaths and does it very rapidly. Just like a dog. She does that a lot at the shows too as people or horses walk by... sniff, sniff, sniff... She just loves to smell everything. I finally had to take the boot away from her so I could continue on with my evening. Goofy horse...

She was a bit spooky last night. She kept startling her self with her shadow. The days are getting shorter and the shadows are getting bigger. SCARY! She was also a lot more forward than she has been the past couple days, but I've been trying to ride her with more leg now that she knows "tap, tap" means trot and moving my leg back and squeezing means canter. No excuse for her to think contact means go faster!

She's still making progress at the canter. She's so good with leg yields, though, that often we just end up going sideways. It's going to take a lot of work to teach her to canter off the rail. Just the fact that she's doing it so well on the rail is great, though. She also picked up the wrong lead last night once and cross-cantered once as well. I was trying to get her to canter in the middle of the arena and she was all sorts of confused. Poor girl. I always make sure to praise her like crazy when she does it right and not make a big deal of it when she does it wrong. Confidence is a big thing with her. She lacks it, and I'm trying to build it up.

I have big hopes for October and even next year!

We also moved her from the big pasture with the mares to a smaller pasture behind the tack room. She'll be much closer for me now when I get there. Woohoo! She's also out there with Ricochet. He's healed enough now that the BO decided to turn him back out. Hopefully he and Lilly can bond like they did before Summerberry came along. It would be nice to see her with a friend again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Here We Go Again

I was just thinking the other day that I haven't posted any pictures here in a while. Granted, not much has been going on as far as shows and riding goes, but still... I like to have lots of pictures to look back on.

So my wish was granted last night when I got to the barn to ride... There it was! Something to take a picture of! I found these lovely gashes on Lilly's left hind leg. After the initial annoyance and shock was over, I decided I had better scrub her leg up and see exactly what I was looking at under all that dried up blood. The good news was that they didn't seem to bother her at all and there wasn't any swelling. She also didn't seem lame, which was a huge plus.



So here's her leg after I scrubbed it. The mark on the left is just a surface scrape, and although it looks pretty yucky, it mostly just took the hair off. The one on the right, however, is pretty deep. It isn't deep enough to need stitches, but it's deeper than I feel comfortable with. With what happened to Ricochet with his infected cut, I was wondering what I should do with hers to keep the dirt and flies out of it.


After I got her leg all cleaned up, I decided to go ahead and ride. She seemed fine and the cuts weren't that bad. She was really, really good and I only had trouble with her once and that was because I noticed the bit was too loose. I had cleaned the bridle and obviously didn't put it back together correctly. So after adjusting things, we went back to it and she was SO good. She's really getting the hang of cantering, so I decided to work on some canter transitions from the walk rather than the trot. She was confused at first and just tracked to the inside, but went right back to the rail when I put my inside leg on her. So inside leg on, outside leg back, and off we went. She was still bent all over the place and pinned her ears, but she made the transition. I praised her like crazy and by the end of the ride she was doing really well. I even tried doing some figure 8s with simple changes in the middle. She was such a good girl.

I don't know what to make of her pinned ears during the upward transitions, though. She does it into the trot and the canter. I'm always careful not to pull on her when I ask... she just seems pissed about doing it, but as soon as she's in the gait, she's fine and her ears go back forward.

After the ride I cleaned her cuts up again and decided to put an ankle boot on her. The barn owner and I were trying to decide the best course of action to keep it clean and covered. That's what we can up with and I hope it's still on when I go out there this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Progress is Here!

I rode Lilly on Sunday and Monday and she was wonderful. She was especially good considering the amount of work she's had in the past two months. I really wish I could have ridden her at the show on Saturday...

I think we're starting to understand each other. I've noticed a lot of progress with her speed and her ability to travel sanely around the ring on a loose rein. Both days she did that very well. She's learned that if she stays calm and maintains a manageable pace, she gets to have her head. I've learned that she CAN jog around the ring on a loose rein and behave herself. So I give, and as long as she doesn't take advantage of it, we jog happily around the ring on a loose rein. I'll ask her to level out her head, and when she does without speeding up, we look darn good!

She has also made huge progress with transitions. She's learned that "tap, tap" with my outside leg means trot. She's learned not to leap forward and go as fast as she can. She still puts her head up and often pins her ears a bit during the transition (not sure what that's about either) but then within two strides or so, so jogs off at a reasonable pace.

Her canter departures are what surprised me the most, though. I'm still working the transition from a jog, so I do a sitting trot when I want to canter, make sure I stay sitting up, move my outside leg back, and squeeze. Within about two strides she's cantering. She has picked up the correct lead every time as well, so hopefully all that chiropractic work has helped. I'm still cantering her in two-point, though, to stay up off her back. I think it is really helping her learn to balance and she's able to slow down a bit. We did many passes around the ring on a loose rein cantering!

I'm so proud of her! She's the type of horse that tries really hard. She's very smart and really wants to please. The challenge has been getting her to understand what I want, and I think now that she realizes I want her to slow down, her progress will just continue to improve over the next couple of weeks. She's pretty out of shape right now, so I can't canter a lot (about 3 times around the ring and she's done) but as she gets back into shape, I'll be able to work her for longer periods of time and see how she does.

I'm thinking that at the JCHSS show in October we might be able to enter a canter class or two. Last time I said that my plans were derailed, so I hope I didn't just jinx myself.