Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Big 3-0

Today my sweet AJ turns 30. I can't even believe how much time has gone by and all that has happened since the day we brought him home. He was only 4 years old then, and we have been through so much in the 26 years that followed.

The day he came home.
He's a lot less rambunctious these days and quite a bit more cranky. He's missing most of his teeth and he's a little gray in the face, but he is still as handsome as ever. He truly is a member of our family and I love him so much.

My handsome old man.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May JCHSS Show

Lilly and I had a great show on Saturday. The weather was nice this time around too, which always makes it better. It was warm enough that I didn't get cold, but not too hot to where I couldn't get my breeches on. That's a win in my book!

She's the cutest.
I did encounter a couple issues throughout the day, though, which seems to be the case lately. If you're a long time reader (and I mean a LONG time reader), you may remember a horse from Lilly's past named Baby. Lilly and Baby first met back in August of 2010 at one of the many boarding barns I've been to. For some reason, those two formed some kind of crazy bond and have been BBFFs (that's bestest best friends forever) ever since. Baby's owner, M, and I boarded at that barn for several months before moving to a new barn at the end of January in 2011. Lilly and I stayed at that new barn with M and Baby for about three months before I absolutely couldn't take it anymore. The two horses were pastured together because they did mares and geldings in separate pastures at this place, so they spent a lot of time together. M and I tried going to several shows, but our mares were an absolute nightmare. (I remember this one very well, unfortunately.) So I ended up moving out of that barn and into another barn in May of 2011. I needed to get away from Baby. Peace at last...

So it's been like five years since these horses have seen each other... FIVE. Baby has been retired from showing for a couple years now, but M has been bringing Baby to the Johnston County shows this year because her other mare is up for sale. Well wouldn't you know that those two hussies totally remember each other? We didn't let them sniff noses or touch or anything, but they still remember each other, and they're still in love, and they're not sure how they survived all this time without each other. Lilly did ok with her being around at the last show because M decided to park next to me (which I actually didn't like because I knew this was going to happen) but I got to the show later than M this time, so I parked away from her thinking that would help. The two horses could still see each other, and talk to each other, so all day long, when Baby would leave the trailer, Lilly would whinny and cry for her BBFF. She dug a giant hole in the dirt, couldn't bare to eat or drink, and was generally a tool unless Baby was at the trailer or could somehow be seen.

It affected Lilly's performance in the riding classes too because M and I show in mostly the same ones. Lilly always had an ear and an eye tipped in Baby's direction, making sure she wasn't out of sight. When the placings were called, and Baby placed ahead of us and walked out of the arena, Lilly got all fussy and didn't want to stand in line. It's all so very annoying. SO ANNOYING. Why is she so obsessed with this one horse?

Even though the weather was gorgeous, I decided to skip halter again this time around. We just never place well, and I never know how many horses are going to be in the class. I don't mind gimme ribbons in halter strictly from a points perspective, but I don't like going into a class with 12 horses and not placing at all. So, I decided not to sign up again.

Lilly did great in the showmanship class. The pattern was fairly difficult, with lots of pivots and a fairly long back, so I knew if we could manage to back up straight (something I've been making sure to work on), we'd do well. There were supposed to be four exhibitors in the class, but the fourth one never showed, so there ended up being only three of us. Baby was in the class with us, but she went first, so Lilly was content having her long lost love in the arena with her. We ended up placing first, which snags us another showmanship PAC point.

Showmanship pattern.
Loved this showmanship pattern!
The main arena at this shows has always been really bad... it's North Carolina red clay, and it has been impossible for me to show Lilly here without her boots. The footing is just too hard and there were too many stones. At the show last month, though, I noticed the footing seemed different and I asked around to see if anyone knew what they had done. I was told they added a bunch of sand and picked out a bunch of rocks. I took my Renegades with me, but figured I'd try her in the arena without boots. She did amazingly well, and I'm thrilled to not have to use her boots. Aside from the whispers and funny looks (and even questions from the judge sometimes), I love not having to maintain them all day. So you'll notice she has bare tootsies in all her pictures. :)

She did really well in the english classes. We entered the stock type class (walk/trot), the adult class (walk/trot), and the pleasure class. I'll have to wait until the results are posted on the show website because I can't remember how many horses were in the stock class, but we'll just say there were five for now. There were five horses in the adult class, and eight in the pleasure class. We had a really good ride in the stock class and ended up placing third, but I had what I thought was a SUPER good ride in the adult class. Like, it was so good I thought for sure I won the class. Turns out, we placed dead last, so either the judge forgot I entered, or everyone else had a much better ride than I did. We placed third in the pleasure class, which I was also very pleased about.

The pleasure class.
I also decided not to do either the equitation or the horsemanship class. It's a long and confusing story, but essentially they said they were not taking a break between english equitation and western horsemanship. The problem is, equitation is class 39 and horsemanship is class 40. How exactly is one supposed to change from english to western without a break? Even a 10 minute break is pushing it for me, but at least I could try! They've decided to change the class order around now, and there will be minis driving in the arena between class 39 and 40, so we'll have plenty of time to change over and make sure we know the pattern. So perhaps next time, I'll enter.

I did, however, decide to do trail this time. The pattern looked pretty easy and I knew I could squeeze it in between my two walk/trot classes and my pleasure class, thus being able to do it in my english attire. Two handed trail for the win!! Which is actually what happened... we won trail. First out of three, but it gets us a PAC point in trail!

Trail pattern.
Trying to memorize the trail pattern.

Slightly distracted by the driving minis heading to the main arena.
I changed into my western stuff and had plenty of time to practice going nice and slow. I took my western work pad with me this time and we didn't have any issues with her tack. Well, at least not her saddle. As I was working her in the warm up area, and also in our western classes, she started getting fussy about her right ear. I couldn't figure out what her issue was, but she was holding it out sideways and shook her head several times. I got off and checked to see if a bug flew in there, or if something was weird with her headstall, but I didn't see anything. It got so bad that I swapped the ear keeper from her right ear to her left ear, but it didn't seem to help.

I love how she looks in the blue.
We entered only two western classes, the stock type walk/jog and the adult walk/jog. Lilly was excellent in the stock type class and we placed third out of 9 (a walk/trot PAC point!). Even though she was still keeping an eye on Baby, I think she was pretty tired and jogged around the arena just like I asked her to. In the adult class, her ear issue had come to a head and she was NOT happy about whatever was happening there. It was a struggle for me to keep her going and keep her focused on me, and at one point, we even had to stop so she could do one of those whole body shakes where they try their best to fling you right out of the saddle. There were only three of us in the class, but I wasn't expecting to hear my name called for first. Granted, I was super excited, but very surprised!! Another walk/trot point for PAC!

M and Baby were in that class and I could tell she was pretty stunned that we placed above her. She said the judge told her Baby "looked tired, and was having a tough time holding herself together." Speaking of the judge, she was amazing. I can't remember the last time we had a judge actually in the arena for the classes. They've always stayed up in the announcer's booth, but this lady was giving pointers and talking to the exhibitors. She was great, and I hope to show under her again.

First place in western... what?!?!
You can see how she's holding her ear in this picture. That's pretty much how she went around the whole time we were western. Once we got back to the trailer and she had some time there, though, her ear issue magically went away. Maybe it was something with her tack? Or maybe the bug finally flew out? I have no idea, but it would be nice to have a NORMAL show next time where I'm not dealing with weird issues.

We win!
Here's recap of our placings for the day:
Showmanship Adult = 1/3
Trail Adult = 1/3
English Stock = 3/5
English Adult = 5/5
English Pleasure = 3/8
Western Stock = 3/9
Western Adult = 1/3

Our reserve champion ribbon was for the adult division. So even though we placed first in three out of four adult classes, we ended up with a reserve champion ribbon and a $4 voucher for the next show. That last place in the english adult class just killed my points. It was a great show, though, and I couldn't be happier with Lilly's performance. The PAC points are great too!

Friday, May 6, 2016

April JCHSS Show - A Doozy!

I missed the very first show of the season due to crappy weather and I wasn't letting the weather screw me out of another show... but I should have. The show in April was absolutely awful. Despite the deceivingly sunny skies, it was COLD and WINDY. And when I say windy, I mean WINDY. Like, 30 MPH winds, steady, all day, with gusts of what felt like 150 MPH. It was probably the worst show I've been to in my life. Ever. I learned my lesson, and I will never show in winds like that again, for several reasons.

One of those reasons is because in nearly every picture taken of me, my face looks like this:

Lovely face!
It makes for such a pretty picture, amiright?! It was so windy, that hats were flying everywhere and the judges decided hats were optional. I opted not to wear mine, which also doesn't make for a very pretty picture. Not to mention the fact that my hair was constantly in my face, along with monumental amounts of dirt, blown in from the arena. Like this:

Because the weather was so awful, I only entered the most necessary of classes. Showmanship, english classes for the adult division and the stock type division, and the western classes for the adult division and the stock type division. No equitation, no trail, and no halter.

I don't have the showmanship pattern to post because the show is under new management and apparently the patterns are replaced on the website for each new show. I didn't save a copy for April, but I will for May, and that way I can post them here.

The showmanship pattern was quite fun. I think it went like this:
  • Trot from cone A to cone B.
  • At cone B, perform a 180 degree pivot.
  • Back from cone B to cone C.
  • At cone C, perform a 180 degree pivot.
  • Walk to the judge and set up for inspection.
  • When dismissed, perform a  270 degree pivot, and trot to lineup.

Lilly did a great job, and we placed first out of five horses. Even with all the crazy wind, she stayed very focused and I had no issues with her at all. We earned one PAC point with that win!

As you may remember, I bought a bunch of new show clothes over the winter, and I was so excited to wear them all, get cool pictures, and just feel amazing in them. (Thanks to the wind, none of that happened, but there's always next time, right?) Since I had new field boots and breeches for my english outfit, I was going to try and use my old fleece number pad so I could look extra fancy. I stopped using it when I had all those saddle fitting issues, then I went "casual" with my attire (polo shirt, half chaps, etc) and it was too showy. So I haven't used it in quite some time. Long story short, after getting it all set up, and using it in the warm up area, Lilly was having none of it. She started doing her signature "I don't like what's on my back right now" dance and I had to retreat back to the trailer for a very fast tack change.

It's so very puzzling (and frustrating) that a simple saddle pad can cause her to go from happy as a clam to refusing to move forward. She just does not like that fuzzy saddle pad one bit. I don't know if it's the thickness, the material it's made out of, or the way it sits across her withers... once I switched her back to the plain old quilted pad, she went along like nothing happened.

She was pretty crazy in the warm up area before our class went in, and by crazy I mean chomping on the bit and just acting very full of herself, but it was expected considering the wind. She was much better than most of the horses there, and I kept reminding myself that I was also pissed about the wind and the cold, so I just worked her through it. She calmed down for our actual class and we ended up with two fourth place ribbons. The classes had five horses in each.

Looking quite snazzy!
When it was time to change into our western attire, it was still cold and windy. There was no way I was wearing my western hat, so I decided I'd just wear my helmet instead. I also planned to take off the coat I was wearing before I went in my class (mostly so I could get pictures with my new shirt), but I remembered how much I was shivering in the showmanship class and I decided not to. At least you can see my chaps!

At least I was warmer with my coat.
I had the same saddle pad issue with my western stuff as I did with my English stuff. I bought a pretty new indigo saddle pad, and got a new felt liner to go with it. I got one that is contoured because I thought she'd like it better, and I made sure to get a really thin one to eliminate bulk. She didn't like the setup nearly as much as I did, and shortly after heading to the ring, the "I don't like what's on my back right now" dance made an appearance for a second time. I hadn't packed my work pad because I didn't think I would need it (should have known better), so I ended up putting her quilted english pad underneath the indigo pad.

So tell me how much sense that makes... she loves her western work pad, which is felt and about an inch thick, but doesn't like the thin felt pad I bought, yet is ok with the quilted english pad, but not the thicker fleece pad. I DON'T UNDERSTAND! At least I know how I need to pair my pads and saddles now, though. I guess I'll be selling my number pad and the brand new felt liner I bought.

Our western classes went fairly well. They were actually a little larger than the english classes, and we ended up with a fourth in the stock type class and a second in the adult class. I was very happy with her, considering how windy it was. I basically couldn't wait to get the hell out of there and I think she felt the same way.

Here's recap of our placings for the day:
Showmanship Adult = 1/5
English Stock = 4/5
English Adult = 4/5
Western Stock = 4/8
Western Adult = 2/5

Our ribbons!
We got enough points in the adult division to win Grand Champion, so we're starting out 2016 with a bang! It came with a not so fancy ribbon, but I got a $12 voucher to use on my classes for the next show. So we actually won money! I miss the bigger ribbons, but the voucher is so much more practical, and a great idea. I'm very much looking forward to the next show (which is this Saturday), and the rest of the year. Here's to windless show days!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spring Vet Visit

I'm still working on the show post from early April (such a busy month!), but maybe one day I'll be able to get that posted. Lilly and I have another show this Saturday, so I'll soon be extra behind!

So because of what my friend said at the show about Lilly being too skinny, I held off on using the muzzle. I wanted to wait until my vet came out so I could ask her opinion and see if she wanted to go ahead and muzzle anyway. Lilly is being worked more than usual and she is 16 now, so I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.

My vet said that she thinks Lilly looks perfect. I inquired about being able to see her ribs a bit, and she said she'd scale her at about a 4.5, and it's the thinnest she thinks she's ever seen her, but because of her history and the fact that she's borderline metabolic, she'd rather see her on the lighter side of the scale anyway. It's better for her body and better for her hooves. She told me to tell my friend that unless she wants to pay for my vet and farrier bills when Lilly gets laminitis or founder, she should shush. (Well, she didn't say "shush", but you get the gist) She did inquire about her "shaggy" coat, but Lilly has always been a late shedder. The white hair sections shed out first, and then the palomino colored parts of her hang on for a bit longer.

She mentioned that I could supplement her feed with corn oil if I wanted to add a little bit of weight without having to worry, but I told her that wouldn't work because I have to pre-bag all of her food. She next suggested adding flax seed to her diet, but after doing some research, I think I'm going to pass on that as well. I checked into supplements, but they're all powder, and there's no way Lilly will eat them.

Teeth floating!
She received her regular vaccinations and needed her teeth floated, so we took care of all that. I also had a fecal done, which came back with zero eggs. I've become a huge proponent of fecal tests. It's so much better than giving dewormer just because, and you know exactly what kind of worms your horse has, so you can deworm appropriately. Now I can give her an ivermectin paste and know that she's good to go until the fall. The test is only $17, so it actually saves me money. I love it.

My trimmer was out yesterday too, and I told her what was said at the show and what my vet said about Lilly's weight, and she totally agrees with my vet. She was actually very upset that someone would say something like that to me, and she feels most horses today are obese and unhealthy. She's very happy with Lilly's weight, condition, coat, and hooves. She feels like we've finally "made it", and all my hard work has paid off. I tend to agree. FINALLY.

So it seems that everyone is on the same page, and Lilly will have to start wearing her muzzle. I've been putting in on her for a bit here and there, and she seems to be ok with it. I hope I don't have too many issues with it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April Condition Photos

These were taken on the 17th, and I grabbed her weight then too. I was told by my friend at the show this past Saturday (more on that in a later post) that she thought Lilly looked too skinny. There are times where I can see her ribs, but I wouldn't say she's "skinny". That's also the reason I haven't totally pulled the trigger on the muzzle. My vet is coming out on Thursday, so I'll see what she thinks about her weight.

According to my tape, she's actually gained a little bit of weight since last month.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sweet Sixteen

Where have the years gone?

I don't have any human children, although I hope I will someday. Being sans children, I don't run around calling my horses and my dog my "fur-babies" or my "4 legged children", and I don't try to make Mother's Day about how I'm the mother to three wonderful animals, but sometimes I can't help but think of Lilly as my child.

We got AJ when he was four years old and he'll turn 30 this year, but the relationship I have with him is different than the one I have with Lilly. And while I've had Rylee since she was 13 weeks old, and she'll be three in a couple months, it's still not quite the same.

Sweetest thing in my life.
Lilly has been with me her entire life, from the time she was weaned from her dam until now. We had a brief separation when I was transitioning from the Marines, but for the most part, I have had her with me always. When I think about her being sixteen years old this year, I get a little emotional, and I can't help but compare her a little bit with a human child. "Wow... sixteen. If she were a person and not a horse, she'd be getting her driver's license." That's how long we've been together.

Always making me smile.
She's seen me through happy times and tough times, countless moves to several states, new jobs, new relationships, and has always been my rock. Changes are always happening in my life, nearly every day it seems, and she is always there. Even if I can't get out to see her, I know she's there. She's there being herself, not needing anything from me, but just waiting until I need her. Always there.

I love her so much, and while today is just another day for her, it's a day that makes me pause and remember just how lucky I am to have her in my life, and how grateful I am for everything she has done for me.

Happy sweet sixteen, my sweet Lilly. May we have at least sixteen more.

Our earliest days together.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Day Has Come

I was hawking the weather all week, counting the days until our first show of 2016, and it was rain, rain, rain. It wasn't the kind of day where it was going to rain nonstop, but it looked like there was definitely going to be rain. I hit up the show manager and asked her when they'd make the decision to use the rain day or go as planned, and she said Friday by 6pm.

I really hate the "Friday by 6pm" answer... Friday by 6pm I want to be cleaning up and heading home for dinner, downtime, and early bedtime. So it's either, go ahead and start the arduous process of packing and cleaning a mostly white horse, or take the gamble and hold off until 6pm.

Well, I decided to hold off, and they went ahead and decided to hold the show anyway. Even though it was going to rain. Even though they have a rain date. On a day with zero rain and bright sunshine. WHY?! She said, "Bring your rain gear!" Ummm, no.

Who wants to show in the rain? Who wants to get their western hat wet, their showmanship halter, their english saddle? Not me. I thought about hauling in later to ride in the western classes after the rain was done, but by that time it was like 2pm.

So no show. I was really excited to show somewhere new. With any luck, I'll be able to show this coming Saturday.

Oh, and this happened over the weekend too.

Not happy...
I'm slowly introducing her to it. We'll do a few hours here and there, then a few days, then put it on her full time for the foreseeable future. She was actually better about it than I thought. She didn't try to shake it off, but she has yet to grasp the concept of snagging grass through the tiny hole on the bottom. She kept trying to grab the grass as if she wasn't wearing the thing. If I was her, I'd be pissed.

It's for her own good and mine, but I hate it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New Show Colors!

Show prep for this Saturday has been in full swing for at least a week and a half! I've been clipping legs, having pants hemmed, oiling leather, printing out paperwork and signing up for all kinds of things... oh, and spending money on all the things.

Due to several reasons, I switched up my show attire this year. I was tired of looking the same in all my photos, so I had made several new purchases (some years ago), and had an outfit or two planned for this year's show season. I ran into some "fit issues" with a very important piece of clothing (the pants), couldn't find a different size, and thus had to completely start from scratch. There was much eBaying happening in my house.

What a nightmare this whole process has been... some things were too small, some things were too big, some things were only available in certain sizes, some things were just ridiculously priced. I'm relieved to say I'm finally done!


With any luck, I can wear these outfits for the next three years at least, or hopefully add a piece here and there to stretch it out even more.

So without further adieu... Behold! The New Colors!

Oooooohhh...  Ahhhhhhhhh....
I ended up buying all Hobby Horse stuff this year, because it made my life so much easier as far as matching colors goes. So I chose garnet for showmanship (which is just a fancy word for MAROON), and indigo blue for my riding colors. I have two shirts for riding, blue pants, blue chaps, and a blue mayatex blanket. Showmanship is just one shirt and a pair of pants, but I'm hoping to catch a certain shirt that I love with all my heart when they run their Broken Heart sale. I just couldn't bring myself to spend $300 on a shirt, especially after spending a small fortune to buy all the other items.

I also purchased a new pair of breeches and some actual tall boots so I don't have to wear my paddock boots and half chaps anymore. I'll feel totally legit out there in my hunt seat classes. WOOT.

It's supposed to rain on Saturday, of course, so I don't know if I'll actually get to show this weekend, but I hope so! I can't wait to try out the new stuff.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekly Ride Recap 3/7 and 3/14

Yeah, I'm doing two weekly recaps at one time... I know, I know. Even the weekly ones seem a tad boring these days. I've been trying to stick with my Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday schedule, but I've had some physical disruptions over the past couple weeks, so I only managed two days these past two weeks. Lilly is doing great, though!

Week of February 29 - March 6:
Tuesday - Rode for about 30 minutes. Despite it being a gorgeous day, Lilly had lots and lots of energy, so we pretty much only worked on the canter. I did a lot of transitions and lots of figure eights.
Sunday - We had a nice, normal ride, and I've been working on cantering along the rail instead of on the circle. She tends to fall apart a bit when we're not in some kind of bend.

Week of March 7 - March 13:
Tuesday - We had a great ride with several other horses in the arena, so that's always helpful. I'd say about 95% of the time, we're alone, so it's nice to have distractions in the ring like she'd have at a show.
Thursday - I decided to longe her instead of ride. I don't do much longing in general, but I thought it might benefit her some. I didn't use the saddle because I didn't want the stirrups flopping around and banging her sides, but I wish I had a pair of side reins because I think it would have been really helpful to saddle her and use those to help her work correctly. She did great, though.

She's the cutest!
Our first show of the year is April 2nd, but I have a million things to do to get ready. I refreshed my show wardrobe, but it's taking forever to get my showmanship pants, and when they finally get here, I'll have to take them in to be hemmed. I have no idea what kind of timeline we're looking at there. I sold the pants from my other outfit, so I'm going to be without something to wear if they don't make it back to me in time.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March Condition Photos

I'm a little late on these because I kept forgetting to get her weight when I was there. They were taken on the 10th, but her weight was just done on the 15th.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Weekly Ride Recap 2/29

There's not an awful to recap for the week. I made it to the barn on Tuesday to ride, and was very happy with Lilly's performance. I'm still working her for about 30 minutes each time, and we're doing mostly canter exercises, with a lot of circles. She's been making some really good progress with speed and balance, so I started asking her to lower her head a bit and round her back. I'm also trying SUPER hard to remember to sit up and not lean forward when I ask her for the transition and also while we're doing the canter itself.

My Thursday ride was cancelled because the barn was having work done on the driveway and we were all banished. There are pastures up and down both sides of the drive, so with a bunch of equipment sitting in the way, we weren't able to get back to the barn. I opted for music bingo at the local watering hole instead, so I still had a fun evening.

I went back on Sunday to ride and dragged along a friend of mine so I could have a couple videos of Lilly cantering. I wanted to see if she looks as good as she feels, and if I look like I'm actually sitting tall and not leaning forward.

It's been a long time since I posted videos!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Ride Recap - 2/22

Rather than writing several boring post per week about my rides, I've decided to just recap them all in one post. I can only say, "We had another good ride! I worked on jogging and cantering!" so many times before it just becomes ridiculous, so this seems like the way to go.

My usual ride days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Sunday. I didn't ride Tuesday because my trimmer came out and we always end up doing a lot of talking. I did have a great ride on Thursday, though, in which we worked on the usual things. I can feel her getting stronger and she's been making great progress at the canter.

Best view EVER!
I rode on Saturday and I was able to get some really nice, slower canter strides. She's even starting to stretch down and round her back. I've been riding her in the shank bit I use at shows rather than the snaffle, and I'm trying to ride mostly with one hand because I want both of us to get used to riding the way we need to do it when we're actually showing. Previous to this year, I always worked her in the snaffle because I felt like I could teach her more easily that way, but she's doing fantastic with the shank bit.

We also did some fun stuff after our ride. The barn owner has a lot of trail objects set up and a few little jumps here and there, so we played on those. She seemed to enjoy the jumps, even though she just stepped over rather than jumping. We did some work on the trail bridge and backed through some Ls. She really does well with trail, so I suppose we'll stick with that class this year at the shows.

My Sweet Girl
If you're a longtime reader, you know I've dealt with a strange diarrhea issue with Lilly for many, many years. It kind of comes and goes, and when it's in full force, her back legs just get covered. Her manure is always ok, but there's a liquid that comes out after she passes gas, and it just drips out, runs down her cheeks, and all the way down her legs. She's been doing really great with it for the past year or so, but for some reason it's back. I added that joint supplement to her diet, so I'm not sure if that's what caused it to return, or if it's because I've been riding her so much more now than before, or if it's because the grass is starting to come in a little bit... or if it's because it's a leap year and today is Monday.

Love this face.
It was really bad on Saturday when I was out. After our ride, she stood in the cross ties and made a nice puddle of green poo water on the mat. So frustrating.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Loose Rein Cantering?

Lilly started receiving her new joint supplement yesterday. After quite a bit of research and comparison, I opted for the SmartFlex Senior Pellets. I got the herb-free ones based on reviews saying they are better for horses with sensitive tummies. She definitely has a sensitive tummy. It pains me to think of her as senior, and I didn't want to get a senior supplement, but she WILL be 16 this year, and I have to face the facts. They seemed like the best choice and the best value based on what I wanted to get out of a joint supplement. I'm hopeful they'll keep her comfortable as her workload increases this year.

I went to the barn and rode her Thursday, and while we had a good ride, there wasn't anything I was really excited to write about. We just keep working on the basics, and fitness is what I'm really going for right now. I'm keeping the rides to about 30 minutes, increasing the amount of canter work we do during each ride, and I can already tell it's easier for her to hold a decent canter for more than a few strides. She's doing really well with everything I'm asking of her.

I've been making a point to get out to the barn for a ride on Tuesday, Thursday, and either Saturday or Sunday. So she's only being ridden three times per week right now, but I'm trying to be realistic and consistent. I wondered if she'd get tired of the rides and start avoiding me when I go to the pasture to bring her in, but she's always very happy to see me. Yesterday she ran wide open from the back of the pasture when I called her name, so the rides aren't something she wants to avoid. That makes me so happy. It let's me know she's comfortable and enjoying the work.

Yesterday's ride was great because for the first time in probably forever, I had her cantering around on a loose rein. It's a faster canter than I'd like, but it's easy to ride and great for now, and I just love that fact that she's doing it on her own. She's learning to stay consistent, and while I have to keep her in circles for the most part (things kind of fall apart when we try cantering on the rail), it's a noticeable improvement. I didn't expect to see improvement like this so early on, but I'm loving it.

Cutest cookie face ever!
I love my girl so much! She tries so hard to please.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cold and Rain!

I had two great rides on Lilly, but both were cut short thanks to the weather. I'm ready for spring, whenever it wants to show up.

Our ride on Sunday was only about 20 minutes because I thought I would literally freeze to death if I didn't find a heat source. It was an excellent ride, and I was very happy with how well she did. A friend of mine came along and took pictures, so instead of going on and on about what a great ride it was, I'll just show you some of the pictures.

Lots and lots of circles.
Every so often, we get a loose rein, semi-slow-ish canter.
Making so much progress!
I know I've only had a few rides on her this year, but I already feel like we're making progress at the canter. She's still very fast and not really collected at all, but I can feel an improvement in her, which makes me very happy. She also seems content to canter around the ring on her bare feet, without taking any choppy strides, as has been the case in the past. I don't use boots at home at all, and I'm excited that we can do this kind of work and know that she's totally comfortable.

We've got this jog thing down to a science... well, at home anyway.
Our ride yesterday was only about 15 minutes because the arena was soggy thanks to all the rain. I was hopeful when I first arrived because I saw hoof prints, but after checking it out for myself I knew it was iffy. It seemed a little too dry to wuss out and not ride, but a little too wet to have a serious ride, so I decided I'd saddle up and let Lilly tell me if it was too wet. She decided very early into the ride that it was too wet to canter, which is what I've been wanting to work on most, so we did our usual stuff and called it a day. Hopefully Thursday will be better.


Monday, February 15, 2016

February Condition Photos

These were taken on February 11th.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Changing Up the Order

Thursday I got in another great ride on Lilly. I stuck with the 30 minute routine again, but changed it up a bit this time, and I think it worked out much better for Lilly, which in turn made it better for me!

Normally, when I ride, it always goes something like this: walk and warm up exercises (poles, circles, bending, etc) in both directions, jog and canter in one direction. Then I reverse, jog and canter in the opposite direction. Once I've checked all the boxes, I work on whatever wasn't feeling quite right or needs to be worked on. I end the ride with a nice cool down, and we play with stuff like sidepassing, leg and seat only cues, and finally a bit of showmanship after I dismount.

I've pretty much done my rides this way for years because it seems the logical progression... warm up at the walk and jog before moving on to the canter. Being a creature of habit, though, Ms. Lilly anticipates the second canter, which is something I mentioned in my last post. Once that first canter is out of the way, she seems to stay focused on when I'm going to ask for it again.

We run into the same issue in the show ring too. She knows it goes walk, trot, canter, reverse, walk, trot, canter, and every time she hears the speakers click, she tries to move on to the next task without waiting for me to ask. It drives me crazy, but there's not much I can do about that at the show, other than school of course, but the order is always going to be the same, and I can only wait so long after the click to ask for the next movement.

Anyway, last night I decided switch things up. I did a really good warm-up at the walk and jog in both directions and did the canter last. We worked on the first canter and the second canter at the same time because I opted for figure eights, asking for simple changes in the middle. There was no anticipation, and she stayed much more focused and relaxed.

She still gave me a very fast walk at the end of the canter exercises, but I'm starting to think that she's cooling herself out, thinking she's done after cantering. That's what happens a lot of the time, so I've probably taught her that myself without even realizing it.

I need to be more mindful about the exercises we're doing and the order we're doing them. That way, she doesn't know what's coming next and I'll have a horse that is better about not anticipating.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Feeling of Starting From Scratch

**Pictures provided by my BO are totally unrelated to this post, but too fun not to share!**

It's true. Lilly and I have done very little in the way of actual work these past several years. Between all the hoof issues popping up, the craziness that is my life, and a myriad of other excuses I can think of, we really haven't practiced much of anything for an extended period of time. I'd get a ride in here and there, but I couldn't really work toward making us better, because the rides were too few and far between.

Feeling frisky!
There's something to be said for winning either grand champion or reserve champion in at least one division at every single horse show we went to this past year, but we're not really improving, and that's because we haven't been working to improve.

We do well enough to squeak by. We're consistently the okayest horse and rider team out there.

Lilly is awesome, and I was reminded of this last night when I was talking with my barn owner about buying horses. She's in the market for an OTTB she can use for dressage and jumping, and we were talking about how much we enjoy our predictable horses. She's a little nervous about starting over with a new horse. She's had her mare since she was a foal, like I have with Lilly, and we love the fact that we know our horses inside and out.

Rodeo pony!
I got to thinking about that conversation and how, in a way, I feel a bit like I'm starting from scratch this year. I know it's not the same as starting with a new horse, but I want it to feel like I have a new horse. I want to ride a lot more than I did last year, I want to work on several of our issues, and I want to see and feel improvement. I want to finally make some progress and feel confident when we jog into the western pleasure class that we're going to kill it.

I'm just glad she didn't tear anything... just sayin'.
Last night I rode for the first time this year. I've done all the longing I want to do for now, so it was time to bust out the saddle... the very moldy, gross, uncomfortable saddle. Lilly gave it the stink eye when I brought it out from the tack room, so I don't think she was too excited about the prospect of going for a ride. Honestly, I tried to talk myself out of it several times as well because it was SO COLD, but I kicked myself in the butt and tacked her up.

Overall we had a really great ride, considering the temperatures and the fact that I haven't ridden in months. I rode for about 30 minutes, which is what I'm going to stick with for now, just so we don't overdo it. We did mostly trot work, with lots of circles, changes of speed, and ground poles. I threw in a canter every now and then and the transitions were spot on, but I can tell she's not strong at all.

The usual issues were present, and I want to acknowledge them, so I can work on making improvements.
  • When she thinks she should be done jogging, she roots with her nose. Maybe I give her too much credit, but to me it feels like she roots so there's contact with the reins and she can say, "sorry... I felt pressure on the bit so I thought you wanted me to walk."
  • After cantering in the first direction, she gets anxious about cantering in the second direction, and doesn't really settle back down until we do the second canter.
  • So by the time we canter in the second direction, she's like a rocket, and it's difficult to get her to focus. While trying several different tactics with her yesterday to try and fix this, I might have found a solution, and that's simply to pick a point in our canter where she's done something marginally well, and praise the living daylights out of her. This really helped her settle yesterday, so I'll be trying that one again.
  • After cantering in the second direction, she speed walks around the ring. I can mostly get her to focus on work again, but the walk is super fast.

These are definitely minor things, but they're issues we've had for a long time that I just kind of let slide. I want to figure out a way to get past them so we can move on to bigger and better things!

Such a pretty girl!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gettin' in Shape!

I've been doing a lot of research on the best way to bring a horse back into shape, and like with anything else, there are a lot of opinions about it. Luckily, we're not coming off an injury or anything, so in theory, Lilly should be in some sort of shape from being turned out on pasture for 12 hours a day. Right?

I've been exercising her as much as my busy schedule allows trying to get her moving and working a bit. I've been doing a lot of in hand stuff (ground poles, small jumps, trail patterns) to get her mind going and get her picking up her feet. I've also been doing quite a bit of longing as well. She's great on the longe line and pretty much just plods around on the end of it. We've been doing a lot of jogging, and I toss in some loping every now and then.

It's great because it saves me quite a bit of time, and if I only have an hour or so, I can just groom her quick, grab the line, and take her to the arena. It's hard to work her into my schedule some days, but I know we both need it. It seems like my free days are plagued by rain, and my busy days are sunny and beautiful. Today is one of those days... I have free time after work, but it's going to rain all day.

Winter sucks... I'm ready for spring!