Thursday, August 30, 2012

AJ Visit

This past weekend I took a small vacation to Michigan. My mom threw me a bridal shower and we had a party with all the local relatives as well. It was wonderful seeing everyone, especially since a few of my family members won't be able to make it to the wedding. The weather was spectacular every day I was there, and I had a really nice time.

It was also wonderful seeing AJ. It's been quite a while since I've been able to kiss his sweet nose and I was so happy to see him. He looks fantastic and while I didn't have a lot of time, I made some time to take him for a little ride. My dad asked if I'd ride his horse Justus a little bit too, so I spent Tuesday morning playing musical ponies.

When I rode AJ, Justus was right by our side and AJ wasn't very thrilled about that. He kept pinning his ears and would nip at Justus if he got too close.

Justus never left our side the whole time.
At one point things got a little hairy and AJ started bucking! Since bucking off the future bride is frowned upon, the ride was cut short. I don't want to have to figure out how to match a cast to a wedding dress. Not that I'd actually fall off... Pshh!! :) At least we can say he's feeling REALLY good these days!!

So cute!
He's having so much fun!
When I swapped ponies and rode Justus around, AJ decided he needed to follow us. I guess it's only fair!

Now it's AJ's turn to follow the leader.
Not too long into the ride, though, he decided the grass was much more fun so Justus and I had some time alone to practice side-passing and then pose for pictures.

Got one with his ears up!
Both of the boys are much bigger than Lilly and it's always fun to climb up into the saddle and feel their longer stride. Neither one of them listens quite as well as my sweet Lilly, but they are retired and used to the easy life!

AJ is looking pretty darn good for an old man! Michigan weather is so much easier for him than the hot, humid summers we have here in NC. My parents are taking fabulous care of him and he has a wonderful home there. That doesn't mean I don't miss loving on him, though.

I sure do miss seeing this sweet face!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cough, cough...

After another busy week, I was able to ride Lilly this morning. I could tell she was really excited to go for a ride because she promptly fell asleep in the cross ties while I was grooming and tacking up. :)

I set up the camcorder in the arena and took some video. It died about 18 minutes into my ride because I think it got too hot, so it's mostly video of warm-up and a little bit of the good stuff. Because the software I have to use is from the stone age, it'll take me a while to get it processed and edited, but perhaps I'll have some video proof that Lilly actually does look western!

She was a bit of a booger today. I don't know where her brain was, but I'm pretty sure she left it in the pasture. She just didn't want to stay round and wasn't really as willing to do what I asked as she normally is. She wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn't her normal, wonderful self.

I did notice that she was coughing quite a bit. She's not one to cough when we start exercising, so this is new and slightly alarming because of how often she coughed during our ride. The arena is really dry and dusty, but we've been in that dusty arena many, many times. One of the boarders told me she's heard Lilly coughing a bit in the pasture too.  She seems totally normal otherwise, well, other than her runny eyes, which happens every year around this time, so I'm wondering if her summer allergies are just a bit worse than normal. Perhaps that's why her performance today wasn't up to snuff.

One other update, and I hate to even say it because next time I go to the barn she'll be a mess, but she hasn't had any serious issues with diarrhea in the past few weeks. Actually, I think it's been more like a month or two since we we've had any major problems, and while she always has drips here and there, it's nice to see that her hind end isn't coated in manure. Nothing has changed since I started giving her the U-Gard pellets, so maybe they've had enough time to work and soothe any issues she had going on in her digestive tract. Whatever it is, I'll take it!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Lilly Pictures

I haven't posted any pictures of Lilly in a while, so here are a few I took yesterday with my new lens. Aside from having a completely uncooperative subject, I think they turned out quite nicely.

Looking for her boyfriend(s).
Getting too close to photograph.
Giving me the stink eye for chasing her around trying to get a picture or two.
Done playing games, she just stood by the gate and waited.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An Entertaining Afternoon

Even though I haven't had a lot of time to ride Lilly, I've been going to the barn almost every day. It seems that she has enjoyed the past few weeks and we've managed to get ourselves into a bit of a daily routine. I can't remember exactly when it started but for the last week or so, she's become very predictable. I drive by her pasture when heading to the barn and I'm pretty sure she recognizes my truck. Sometimes I have the window down and I holler to her as I go by. By the time I'm parked in my spot, she's waiting for me at the gate and when I get out of the truck I say hello to her and she nickers to me. I walk into the barn, put my stuff down, grab a cookie, and head out to her pasture. By this time she's impatiently pacing back and forth in front of the gate. I grab her, bring her inside where I cross tie her and scratch all her worries away with the curry comb. Usually when I'm done with her, I fill up her hay bag and put her in the stall for the rest of the day to give her a break from the bugs and the heat. I'm not sure which part of that routine is her favorite, but she's always happy to see me drive by and it warms my heart.

Today I switched things up a bit because I wanted to get some pictures of her with my new lens, so I pulled off her fly sheet and mask and told her to do something pretty for the camera. She wanted to know why the heck I wasn't taking her inside and refused to get far enough away for me to get any pictures. She's so uncooperative when it comes to photos! After I gave up on the pictures, I took her inside and worked on her hooves a bit more.

I had some extra time today so I started getting my tack ready for a nice ride. Shortly before I was done tacking her up, the owner of the new horse showed up and we ended up talking for quite a while. (We'll call her N...) During our conversation about ourselves and our horses, she kept referring to Lilly as a pony. I do the same thing, but I call her a pony as a term of endearment and I was pretty sure N really thought Lilly was a pony. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I worked into one of my sentences that Lilly was actually a horse and she was very surprised. She and her trainer both thought Lilly was a large pony! I think Lilly was offended, but I made sure to set N straight so Lilly's feelings weren't hurt anymore.

N was going to be getting a lesson but said she didn't mind if Lilly and I were in the arena so I finished tacking up and headed out. Lilly and N's horse, Gabe, have a bit of an affair going and Lilly nickers and whinnies to him all the time. She's also been a bit flirty with the other geldings and I'm not sure what she's up to... she's not in heat, so I guess she's just having fun flaunting her position as the farm's only mare.

When we walked past the other gelding pasture on the way to the arena, both of them came running over to the fence to see her, all of them nickering like fools. Once Lilly and I were in the arena, they boys ran over to the fence that separates their pasture from the arena. So as we walked along the long side of the arena, both geldings following us from one end to the other, nickering to Lilly, and she nickered back to them. How disgusting!

Once Lilly and I were on the other side of the arena, the boys got mad and took off running and bucking and having a grand old time. By this time, N and Gabe had made it into the arena and it was impossible for her to get on. Poor Gabe was beside himself with all the commotion and the goofy geldings ran around for quite a while. Lilly didn't seem to mind, but the whole show was quite entertaining. It's been a really long time since we've been in the arena with other horses.

Once things calmed down, I was able to get in a really nice ride. I'm not sure what's gotten into my girl, but she was SO SOFT today. She was really soft last time I rode her as well, but today she pretty much stayed nice and soft unless she was distracted by the geldings. Normally we have to have a few conversations about staying soft, but not today. She made us look really good for our new friends!

Her left lead lope is coming along really nicely. The technique I've been using with her seems to be sinking in. She absolutely prefers to have a loose rein, so when she's soft and slow, she gets her head, and when she speeds up, I lightly hold her back until she's soft and slow, and then she gets her release. I was impressed with how well she did today, especially considering how little she's been worked the last couple months. Her right lead lope is coming along, but it's quite a bit more difficult for her to lope in that direction. The transitions still take some effort because she doesn't want to stay soft, but she's getting it. I wonder if there are any classes we can enter where we only lope on the left lead?

After we were done with our workout, N's trainer asked me if I compete with Lilly and I told him about how we show mostly hunt seat but that I'm trying to get her ready for western pleasure. He exclaimed that he thinks if she's not ready yet, she must be close. N and I had spoken earlier about showing and I mentioned how I think western pleasure horses don't get the recognition they deserve. I think it takes a lot of work to get a horse to stay soft in the bridle on a loose rein and told her that's really what Lilly and I were working on. When we got back to the barn she said she thought Lilly stayed really soft and that we looked really good out there. They're new to the barn, so perhaps they were just being nice, but it was really nice to hear such wonderful compliments given to my sweet girl.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Birthday?

It may or may not be my birthday today, and I may or may not have received some super cool gifts that I think my fellow horse enthusiasts would be interested in!

My parents got me a great new pair of 15" Diamond nippers. They came a few days ago and I couldn't wait to try them out, so Lilly has already had her first trim with them. I'm thrilled to say she wasn't sore the next day! Not that I thought she would be, but I was nervous using the nippers for the first time. With the new rasp I bought a few weeks ago I was able to spend about half the time I usually do on her hooves, which was quite nice. Now that I have new nippers I feel like a genuine hoof trimmer! Once I get an apron, I'll be officially official!

For realz hoof trimmer tools!
My fiance's sister got me Yoga For Equestrians and I can't wait to get started reading it. I haven't been to any yoga classes yet, but I bought a Groupon a while back for some classes, so it's on my to-do list for sure. Probably once the craziness of the wedding planning is over I'll get some scheduled.

Anyone else read this one yet?
The future hubby got me a new lens for my Nikon D40 that I'm super excited about. I have a 35mm lens, an 18-55mm kit lens (that sucks bad and I don't know why I haven't pitched it yet), and a 55-200mm lens that tends to be my favorite for taking most of my photos. I've been looking for something that could work as an all-around lens so I can do wide angle and have some zoom all in one lens. I finally decided on the Nikon 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR ED Nikkor Lens and it had been chilling in my Amazon wish list for quite some time. I was going to buy it for myself to take on the honeymoon, but now I don't have to!

Dreamy!
I wanted to get some pictures with it today while I was at the barn, but the weather didn't cooperate, so I'll have to take some pictures later. It got mostly positive reviews on Amazon, but I won't really know what kind of photos I can get until I play around with it.

Since it was raining, I didn't do much with Lilly. She was inside because of the weather, so I picked out her stall and refilled her hay net. We recently welcomed a new horse to the barn named Gabe and he's stalled during the day too, so I played with him a bit. He's a super cute Appendix who looks a lot like Lilly's old flame... there's just something about dark horses that she is attracted to, so he's currently her boyfriend.

The BO's horse, Jack, had a traumatic experience the other night when we had a really severe storm, so he's stall bound and will be for quite some time. No one really knows what happened, but he got into a fight with the pasture gate and managed to impale himself pretty badly. The puncture wound is pretty much where the top of an english girth would buckle to the saddle, so it'll be quite some time before they can ride him in a saddle. He's doing much better than he was a few days ago but he's still in pretty bad shape.

Sometimes I feel like a high maintenance boarder when I ask them to bring Lilly inside when it rains and storms, but it's things like this that scare me to death. I'd just rather she be safely inside her stall when we have weather like that. You just never know what can happen.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Good Ride

I've been a bad blogger... between wedding planning, house hunting, social gatherings, and a bachelorette party, I just haven't had a lot of time to spend with Lilly. I get out to see her often, but I don't have time to do much more than check her over, brush her, fly spray her, feed her hay, and shower her with kisses. I think she forgives me, but I still apologize when I see her.

I was hoping to attend a show on Sunday, but it just isn't going to happen. I haven't had any time to ride, so I don't think it would be fair to drag her up there and expect her to perform all day. I also have a dinner engagement that evening and I don't want to have to rush home from the show, so I'll just skip it. This hasn't been the best year for showing and busy doesn't even begin to describe my summer.

I did manage to ride today, although I had to make time to do it. We were supposed to go check out a new construction neighborhood before work today, but I decided I wanted to go spend some time with Lilly instead. We aren't finding any homes we like anyway, so I'm getting discouraged and frustrated. Lilly tends to make that all melt away.

Things started out a little rough because for the first time in her life she decided she was afraid of the mounting block. I decided I wasn't getting off the block and challenged myself to see if I could move her feet from the block. After some effort and a few smacks on the shoulder, she decided the block was okay and she walked up right next to it like she's seen it a million times... oh right, she has!

After the block excitement was over, I hopped on and off we went. For not having been ridden hardly at all in the past couple months, she did exceptionally well. Her jogging has come a long way and it seems to be something she's totally cool with now. She goes nice and slow and I can ride one handed without any trouble. She jogged around so nicely that I briefly reconsidered my decision not to show. Briefly...

Once she was all warmed up I decided to work her off the rail at the canter today. We worked on lead changes and going up the middle, and I made up little patterns for her to try. She has trouble going up the middle, especially if we stop along the way. Her "go button" tends to get stuck and she moves every which way but forward trying to figure out what I want her to do. "Go sideways, pivot, back?" No Lilly, FORWARD. She did really well, though, and we had a couple of really nice lead changes in there. They were all simple changes, but they were REALLY good simple changes.

She has really come along at the canter too. I think she remembered our conversation from last time and did an excellent job on her transitions and she didn't feel the need to run around the arena like a lunatic. I think the circles and lines and stops and everything else were were doing also helped. She had no idea what I was going to ask her to do, so she never really got her engine revved up. She's such a good girl. :)