Monday, October 16, 2017

Baby Horse Problems

I was a bad mom and have hardly worked with my horses in the last week, and probably just scheduled myself out of doing horse related work tonight... again.


Bad Ashley.

I did drag Arya out on Friday (BB played too, though her ride is so laughably pathetic I won't even blog about it. She's as out of shape as I am, and that's saying something). Arya and I played on the ground, because I thought I would have time to ride this weekend when it turned out that I kinda didn't, because I was doing photo work and moving approximately 270 60-lb bales of hay. But anyways. Arya did some ground work, because she was looking a bit feral with all of her... acrobatics in the pasture, and of course, she also cut her leg and was stocked up so I wasn't sure if she would be sound.

She was sound, and started doing the basic groundwork stuff pretty obediently - stop, turn, go forward at different gaits, etc. I started again with her by walking over poles with me leading her, and for a while, we were doing great, even when I sent her. I upped the ante and put her over a pile of poles, and she did great - going one direction.

Her new form of protest, apparently, is to put on the breaks, and then turn and run the other way to do what I'm asking her on the "easy" side. Brat. She tried that a few times, which was extra scary because, ya know, I am lunging her through standards and if I don't steer her right, she runs into them, or around them, and both of those are undesirable and probably would traumatize her further. She got flustered and I tried to step her back to being like, ok, first we do a few ground work circles, and now I walk you over the pole, and now I send you over the pole, but she always wants to leap over the poles (they are seriously two landscape timbers next to each other, not stacked, not a mini x, nothing - and she only leaps when she's "alone") and then make her life harder by insisting on doing the exercise with speed. Then she'd scare herself, and would try to shut down going forward by kind of running backwards to keep me from getting behind her with my body to drive her forward.

I feel like each time we work on the ground, it's 2 steps forward, 3 steps back; she can do an exercise with increasing confidence, and then botch it once and the whole thing goes to pieces. On Friday, she worked herself up into a nice sweat that lathered when I tried to groom her afterwards, because clearly being dramatic and stressed is SO MUCH WORK.

So much neck sweat.

I think, going forward, I might actually try to do more pole work under saddle and work on bending and maybe even the start of lateral work in hand. While I still am a bit leery of her backing off under saddle and needing to thump her forward, I'm getting braver about it, and she doesn't offer to rear (yet) so we haven't had any further trauma.

TL:DR; training baby horses is hard. Arya is so much greener than I expected, weirdly enough, and I am trying so hard to develop her out of this freak-out-and-have-a-meltdown stage and to teach her to be confident and to trust me. I feel like there is a nice horse in there, but I'm not sure how to get her out of her own head. Clearly I need to a) work her more and b) figure out a game plan to get her progressing with, if anything, better recovery from the moments of "trauma".

She's a special one.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boots (though, how about without the fur)

When I was packing for the schooling show, it occurred to me once again that I don't own a pair of open fronts anymore; my last pair met their plastic-y end in the top loading washing machine accident of last year.

Every time I go looking at open fronts, though, I'm never convinced that I need to replace them. I want to put boots on my horses, and Bailey definitely benefits from the open fronts, as she tends to be less carefully when wearing full boots, but there's just something about them.

Perhaps it's the fact that the 20$ pairs and the 150$ pairs look about the same.

Or perhaps it's because I can never decide if I want brown, or black...

Or because I am crazy.

I can never seem to pull the trigger on open fronts. With the holidays slowly approaching (#winteriscoming) I am considering putting a set on my Christmas list... but with tack stores locally only carrying the standard brands (Roma, Eskadron) I am left wondering what the blogger world prefers and why.

Leather, or plastic?

Lining preferences?

Type of hind boot?

Are the more expensive plastic ones really...worth it?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Schooling Show Recap!

Despite hell and high water - er... lots of rain - J and I made it to the schooling show yesterday!

I threw down a quick school on Thursday, and Bailey was finally feeling semi-decent over some of the larger fences, so I told myself "It's a schooling show, chill out" and began, instead, to enthusiastically plan my outfit. It downpoured Friday night into Saturday morning, and the paddock has been reduced to a muddy and slow drying mess. The arena was full of ponds even on Saturday afternoon, so I didn't get my quick 20 minute jump school in, but my tack was clean, and I was feeling vaguely ok abut the whole thing.

J showed up to Ginny having a swollen spot above her knee, but we tossed her in the trailer anyways as she looked sound enough to at least do a W/T dressage test. Bailey must have seen me hitch the trailer or something, because she knew we were up to something, though she loaded peaceably despite scary people working on the shed right next to where we loaded up. We got to the show, got numbers and got J on to see how Ginny felt before their 18" jumping class. She seemed sound and enthusiastic, so into the ring they went. Ginny was much impressed with the fences and jumped J out of the tack over the first... 6 or so. She finally seemed to be jumping a more appropriate height (though still with enthusiasm) by the end of the course, but we clearly have more of a jumper than we expected on our hands! I'm super proud of J and her sticky britches for keeping it together, not going off course and for sticking each of those extravagant jumps.

Bailey and I had our show jumping class next, and Bailey was, at this point, morphing from "freakishly well behaved" show horse to "screaming banshee" because god forbid you separate her from her beloved Ginny! She was pretty good to warm up, though she did throw me a few bucks when I got after her with my crop for screaming at her BFF. There wasn't a jumping warm up, so as they were resetting the course, they allowed me to hop over a fence or two. Bailey was a bit of an anxious rocket, and I was eyeballing a few looky fences on the course with some concern myself. However, despite losing her hind quarters once around a much-tighter-than-I-expected turn, she jumped around clear and speedily. She didn't offer a stop, and went forward to some of the scarier stuff with impulsion when I urged her on. I was thrilled with her, to be sure.

It was a much warmer day than I was expecting, so Bailey was sweaty and gross when we were done jumping - she apparently didn't tap any poles, and the other competitor had a touch, so we won! It feels a bit strange, as the other gal's ride was much smoother and had better turns and a more thoughtful ride than I did. Something to work on, definitely! J was off doing her dressage ride (she ended up scoring the middle of a sizable 12 rider pack) and soon after, we had XC. The format was, though I shouldn't have been surprised, a lesson, so we did things like review two point and practice pulley rein stops. The jumps were simple, but I did benefit from the eyes on the ground - while I don't need anyone to remind me that both Bailey and I were out of shape (and thus, not at our best) - being urged to ride a quieter, more trusting ride to the XC fences was very nice. Bailey was happy to lope all of the fences and jumped nicely when I started to get out of her way and stop chasing. She also did her first sunken road type bank (down, one stride, up) and though the first ride was rocky, she trotted gamely through and though she was tired, kept tying until the last.

Overall, it was not a bad way to end the season; my funds are low for any other adventures, so I am calling it quits. We clearly have some takeaways, and I'm hoping to spend the winter putting a baseline of fitness on both of us, and trying to improve and cement our basics so we can come out with a bang next year.

And now, as a reward for scrolling/reading to the end of this wall of text, here are some obligatory satin shots:

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Schooling Show Prep, etc.

I've been a bit of a busy busy bee the last few days; J and I dropped our entries into the mail on Saturday for a show that (technically) closed on Sunday, but it sounds like we're in! I haven't been doing as much as I want with the horses, and the days seem to get shorter and shorter.

Arya has been doing some ground work - I gave her a "day off to play" on the line last week Thursday after two sessions in a row of small jumps and poles, only to totally regret the decision. I got after her with the whip when she would jump the small and larger cross rail one direction and not the other, and managed to push her into a full on bolting sideways tantrum. Whoops. And then I managed to loose her, because I tripped and she was rope burning my hand. I got to watch, vaguely horrified and also kind of amused, as my well bred grand and great grand daughter of big name racehorses flagged her tail and went galloping off across the newly seeded hay field, leaving lovely hoof holes in the dirt. The seedlings are about 2 inches tall, and sparse at this point, in case you were wondering. She galloped in a nice long loop and ended up staring at her sister and Ginny across the fenceline, puffing and confused.

Srsly, mare?

She let me catch her (big win! BB definitely would have tried to keep running from me) and I lead her back into the ring, and we started with a ground pole. And she completely shut down again and refused to move going one way, while happily walking in the other.

So we spent 20 more minutes working on walking over a single pole, in hand, and not stopping and trying to fly backwards.

The next day, I brought her out again, and things got easier. I need to review tonight, and I plan to get on her again, if lightly. We've had torrential rain for the last few days, and coupled with her lack of being "quarter sheet broke" and the lack of daylight I've been enjoying, she hasn't been getting worked. She also came in for dinner with a fat hind leg (the black one, aka the same one she hurt last time she ran around like an idiot) the day after the three did some of this:

I wrapped with BOT Quick Wraps, threw her a gram of bute and figured I'd have clean leg in the morning. Instead I had TWO fat, swollen legs. I turned her out and tried to not have a meltdown after I got to work and started googling, only to start reading about Cellulitis and other fun swelling stuff. Luckily, the swelling is back to just one leg, and she wasn't running a temp, so I am hoping it's just the princess refusing to move because it's muddy as all get out in my paddock. She seemed off the first night I noticed the swelling, but she looked sound enough getting chased by Ginny in the pasture, so I am at least going to sit on her. (Addendum: We rode, she was mostly unswollen when I tacked her up and was sound. She did some W/T/C in Bailey's wonder bit (which isn't wonderful for either of them, boo) and walked over some poles both way, though required Ginny to be her lead going her "bad" way. Mares!)

Bailey has been jumping; though it's been a while, so I'm trying to not think too hard about the rough moments we've had. I am getting my eye back (slowly) and she's getting her half halts back, and if anything, at least she's still forward and brave. I even ended up popping a few fences in my dressage saddle (while wearing my Arctic Horse Tongass skirt again) and didn't die. Tuesday evening we schooled over fences in the partially flooded outdoor; Bailey was sticky and not very forward, so I am hoping for something a bit more positive feeling tonight.

The show is Sunday, so I am hoping I can find the time to hop on B quickly on Saturday for a 20 minute quick school, then we'll pack the trailer and be ready for the morning. Bailey is showing in a 2'6 jumpers course and doing the XC class (though I have no idea what that entails) so we'll be packing jump attire and an XC vest. Fun! Since the show is super informal, I can rock all of the XC colors I want, and I'm looking forward to it. J and Ginny are doing a mini CT - dressage and an 18" hunters course. I think they're going to do awesome:

You can't deny that Ginny and J are the cutest barrel racers turned jumpers ever :) 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Thank You

I have a huge, public thank you to send out to some wonderful bloggers, who brightened a tough week. Their kindness has completely knocked me speechless, and I don't know what else to say but 


From the bottom of my heart. I mean it. I received a  package from Kaity, Nicole, Carly and Leah on Friday, and promptly broke down on my front porch in the sun when I opened it (and then promptly snapchatted about it because I'm that millennial). 

I laughed and cried when I opened the little box with the bracelet, which I haven't taken off since Friday except to shower; my parents had bought me a simpler version back when I was in high school and had just gotten her, but had overlooked the fact that Foxie's barn name was, well, Foxie. Wearing a bracelet emblazoned with "Foxie" in curly script was not something I was quite sure I wanted to do, and true to the initial impression, I never wore the thing. I'm so excited to be able to take Foxie with me wherever I go. It brings me joy to think that I can carry her with me this way, and maybe I can feel a little less guilty that I'm riding and enjoying myself and having fun when she's not here. There's still a hole in my life, but I don't want to halt my riding career because I miss her. She is the reason I can ride and train the mares who remain, and she is the reason I want to show and go after those dreams that don't have to stay dreams.

These wonderful, thoughtful bloggers also included a) A sweet note on TARDIS stationary which suits the Doctor Who Twins perfectly (have I mentioned I'm 97% sure I'm showing Arya  as "Geronimo"?) and b) a bag of horse cookies, which both mares have been enjoying with relish. There has been much happy nodding and begging for more. 

Leah, Carly, Nicole and Kaity... thank you. So much. I wish I could repay you in photos or in some way share the brightness you have brought in a dark time. 

I also haven't properly thanked all of you, who posted on this blog following Foxie's passing. I was so numb and evasive that I didn't thank you at the time, and have felt too awkward to go back and comment now. But... thank you. Feeling understood by horse people was so comforting, especially as people questioned the decision or made me doubt that I didn't do my best by her. Thank you for saying all the right things, and making me feel like I wasn't alone. 

Miss you, big girl.
In other news: 

J and I have been prepping for a show next weekend, so I am excited to begin the chronicles of "wearing the bracelet everywhere, with photo proof" by taking it to a horse show. I haven't done schooling shows since the Foxie days, so it feels right. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


Arya has been doing well under saddle. We have our routine; ground work, sometimes a quick "kicks and giggles" jaunt on the lunge line before I get on and we go to work. On the ground, her ability to go left or right when asked has improved immensely; she no longer runs me the heck over when turning to circle going right, which is much improved from the accidental feeling near body checks I'd get from her when doing that work initially. 

Kitted up to ground work, lunge and ride all in one! 

She's much more of a thinker and much less of a runner than I was expecting; she has lately tested me (or that's how it feels) by slowing down or pausing and not immediately moving forward when nudged. I kick her on and so far, she hasn't threatened to rear because of this, so that's great. I think this is also a side effect of me struggling to figure out how to teach her to bend, and it comes out when I introduce new concepts.

The bending thing has been a struggle; she wants to travel totally bent left when going right under saddle. And I want to take my inside hand across her neck to lever her head over to the "right side". And I want to pull, even though she only sometimes understands the whole giving to pressure thing. Bad Ashley!

We had some good progress yesterday, but the theme comes and goes. I think what my next steps need to be is an emphasis on going right, and installing the tools I need to feel comfortable going that way; the brakes and any sort of lateral push I have with my leg going left tend to go haywire when going right. We need to do it on the ground, and we need to do it at the walk going right until we can trot and canter and do them, too.

I've been trying hard not to rush her, but we have been doing some more tiny jumps and trot poles. She wiggles a lot and they definitely are scary or stressful to her, despite her being jumped at the rescue before she came home to me. I haven't even given her a real jump yet - just a "cross rail" set up on the feet of my jump standards. I think we need to bond and build up her skillset on the flat before we really do any jumping; she's game, but clearly doesn't know her job yet and that makes her uncomfortable.

What I would love to hear from others, is... what are your favorite exercises for working a green horse or OTTB? I'm struggling to not just go in circles picking at her until she does it right. Send help!

Shhh don't tell her stuff she will make me work

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Arctic Horse Skirt: I wore it, guys!

I finally got to wear my Arctic Horse Tongass Rain Skirt last night; it wasn't raining, but it was quite cool and breezy, an approximately 58 (according to my car). I wore my regular breeches (Smartpak Knit Pipers with the Silicon full seat), and a warmer coat running errands before my ride and I was thoroughly convinced it was chilly enough. So I tacked up. Unfortunately J wasn't able to be out last night, so my media is limited - but more is coming, promise! Why?

Because I'm obsessed.

The skirt is easy to move in and it didn't take long to figure out how to move so that I don't magically wrap it around my clumsy ankles. It didn't catch on my spurs, and while the size is maybe a bit generous for wearing with just breeches and a thin shirt (no belt, no fleece, just the heavier coat over top) it has belt loops to hold it steady. I punched a few extra holes in my belt as the belt itself is a little too generous (thanks, Internet size guide that definitely wasn't 100% accurate).

I used the mounting snaps to get on, and had chosen my dressage saddle for my quick ride. It had been blustery and spitting rain all day, so Bailey was at maximum fluffiness and maximum "I IZ GIRAFFE" ness. I haven't had a quarter sheet on her in some time, so I was ready for her to decide she was being chased by a black plastic bag like she normally does when I put my fleece lined waterproof Horze quarter sheet on her. However, the Arctic Horse skirt is more of a softshell material than something like a turnout; it doesn't catch the wind and billow around. The mounting snaps made getting on a breeze - absolutely no issues. I settled the skirt around me and slid my feet through the straps that help keep it from flapping and we tapdanced our way around the ring, spooking at all of the tarp covered shed-to-be piles on one side of the arena.

Bailey didn't seem to mind that the skirt wants to slide down her butt over her tail (she's intensely short coupled, something I didn't think about when ordering, so the skirt sits much further down her rump than the horses in the product photos). She didn't seem to mind the minor amount of flapping that occurs when I post the trot, and happily jammed along at the canter like nothing was different in our set up. She did seem to relax more quickly than I expected; I'd like to attribute that to having a warm back. I resisted putting a Back On Track pad on her or doing anything special to warm her up, as I wanted to see how she truly reacts to the skirt.

I had more trouble with a rubberband-less peacock stirrup than the skirt, and it was easier to post in than my dressage show coat. It did not flap terrifyingly, and it truly never impeded my ability to ride (other than being so distracted thinking about how cool it was). It didn't catch on my saddle, or my spurs, or my dressage girth. It was easy enough to dismount, though I didn't use the mounting snaps and just whisked my way off her due to the leg straps. I was warm and windproof in a light weight way. I'm excited to finally try it in the rain - though Bailey might hate me for it.

Now, here are some images. My husband thinks the skirt is suuuper silly looking (he says I look Amish, I don't care), though I have photos of him wearing it like a cape, so... he can be quiet.

"Do you know how ridiculous you look?"
"Don't Care!"
"I'm taking a picture so you can see how ridiculous you look."

View from the saddle featuring Bailey's overly active walk