Thursday, November 8, 2018

The End In The Beginning

I apologize for the radio silence of late. Life has been a lot, lately, and a new job prevents me from blogging at work on my lunch breaks as I had been doing before. 

There have been a lot of big things going on, and it seems like nothing is ever sure enough to post about, but I think it's finally time. Over the last few months, my marriage has been in trouble. We've fought, my husband has gone off the deep end and tried to prevent me from buying hay to feed my horses after our hay guy decided he just wasn't going to cut our field again despite his promises, and that was added to stress on our finances that already exists. I've considered divorce, and honestly, it's still not off the table. But for right now, we're trying to focus as a team on getting ourselves into a better financial place, which is the first step in the other big, crappy life event coming down the tube.

We're going to be moving away from the farm.

My husband has never been happy here. He doesn't like the commute, he doesn't like the house and he doesn't like all of the work having property has come with. I think we have a lot of things to discuss before we figure out where we go next (and if we're going there together) but either way, I can't stay on the farm by myself, and he doesn't want to stay, so either way, I'm going to have to say goodbye to my beloved farm. 

It's already begun, and every day is like a little bereavement, knowing that all of the work I've done, and all of the stress and happiness and joy and pain I've experienced over  the last year and a half won't be my future. I'm dreading heading back to boarding. 

Sometimes I can see the huge pros; I can have my free time back from chores and projects and endless mowing and weedwhacking. I can have an indoor. I will have a place to get away and make new friends and build a social life that isn't dogs and horses while I wait for my husband to come home from his own social life. I won't be tied down because I have to feed and do stalls.

But there are also huge cons. I heavily manage Arya's ulcery self through forage, and boarding barns at least locally seem to not feed hay like I need. I will have to struggle with keeping weight on them again, if I can't provide my own feed or can't sustain the extra cost when I'm forced to pay for barn grain that I don't want to use. I'm already anxious about introducing Arya to a herd of horses again; after her fights with Ginny, I'm nervous she's going to get hurt. Or hurt someone else's horse. I won't be able to walk out the door to blanket, and I won't be able to sit in the barn every night and listen to the quiet munching of content horses. I won't get to work from home and watch them playing and running out the window. I'll still be tied down, because someone still has to go home to feed and let out the dogs. 

I haven't ridden consistently in far too long, and it breaks my heart. The rides I have squeezed in; sneaking out of the house and doing chores at double time to squeeze in a ride under the lights or hopping on a horse when my husband is doing inside work and can't say I'm neglecting the work I need to do outside to get the property ready for sale next spring and summer; have been generally good. Bailey is out of shape, and I get annoyed with her, and Arya has been good, but she never progresses because I never have time to do more than drill the basics. 

And now it's dark at 5 pm and my heart is heavy. I don't know what the future is going to bring, and I am desperately trying to figure out how to afford two horses not at home again. It's amazing how much it hurts to even think about board prices again, and how much anxiety I have already about Arya, in particular. 

I'm also disgusted with myself because I don't want to ride Bailey. She's not fun when she's out of shape, and has spent the last year and a half out of shape, pretty much, after being fit and in good work the year before. It's like night and day, and it eats me up. I wonder if she's not the horse for me. I wonder if anyone would actually pay money to lease her. I can't fathom selling her, but I also choose to ride Arya over her, and still feel inkling guilt that people think she deserves to be showing and out there being big and fancy and on display. 

I'm extra hopeless about my riding situation because I'll shortly be starting a part time job, because apparently I don't pull enough of the financial weight around my house. And while I am hoping I can still squeeze in rides, they're still going to be inconsistent and it's going to be hard, as of course winter decided to show up after a week of disgustingly wet weather and freeze my paddocks into modern art and flood my arena into a skating rink.

TL;DR: My life is a mess, and I'm sorry. It's not going to stop. It probably won't get better, and I'm also highly likely to spend a good portion of the winter in a deep, deep depression. I feel like I've poured my soul into my farm and I don't know who I am anymore, and now that I'm facing some huge and terrifying changes, I am drowning. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Slow Updates

I'm a bad blogger, and I'm sorry.

It's been a busy couple of weeks in my life, though the riding side of my life has been pretty routine.

RE: my last post, I swapped all the girls to Ultium Competition and have added canola oil to their diets, and I'm really happy with how they look. It brought back a nice shine into Bailey's suddenly dull coat, Bizzy seems to be gaining that extra bit of weight, and Arya looks fantastic. 

Before I could decide on a supplement for continued gastric support, we got some cool weather and Arya spent a lot of time huddled in the shelter, and I think she gave herself ulcers in that process. We had a tough day on the line last week Monday and then Tuesday when I got on, I knew we needed to get some Nexium back into our lives; she reverted back to her explosive, behind the leg, offended by the leg and contact overly defensive self and I got off pretty quickly. She's had about a week off at this point, and has been on Nexium, and our ride last night was extremely positive. She really responded nicely to inside-leg-to-outside-rein and walk-trot-cantered both directions without dramatics or trying to bolt/kill me.

So I definitely need to get some gastric support on board ASAP, and despite myself I'm eyeballing the Gastric Care Ultium again along with G.U.T by Uckele. It feels odd that I pull her off of the gastric care feed and she relapses, but also I happened to time it with a few days stretch of misty cool days. Today it's rainy and cool, but the mares are out on the pasture after spending the night tucked into the shelter (and I've been keeping the hay nets in the shelter filled since this cool weather kicked in).

Work got busy with our system's go-live weekend fuckery, and I got a new job all at the same time, so I've missed some rides due to that, but on the whole, both horses (now that Satan's Mistress has been ulcer-medicined back into a horse I recognize) have been working really well. Bailey has been jumping a lot, lately, and we tried some of the different bits we have around to see if I could get her off her forehand and to stop leaning on my hands constantly because she was too out of shape to want to carry herself. We tried a slow twist full cheek with a Dr. Bristol center link (funky, but too much) and have been using the Beval/loop ring Shires bit I have lately, which was pretty decent. I want to add a chain or gag cheeks to it because she does tend to hang on it more than she does other bits, but we shall see. She also finally put in a very solid, polite dressage school last night - without spurs.

I've been jumping without spurs out of lazyiness and have just been carrying a crop, but the dressage school was pretty darn good. Her canter departs aren't quite as clean as they are with spurs, but she reacts to my leg (which never used to happen) and stays forward with just the occasional showing or tap of the crop. It's nice to feel like I have my old horse back, and I'm determined to keep her working and in better shape so we don't have to struggle for a month before I feel like I can ride her well.

The last bit of news I have is that because I got a new job, I bought myself a present. Because that makes sense, right? There has been a Courbette Vision dressage saddle in a delightful 33 cm tree (I have never seen a 33cm marked Courbette for sale) on Ebay that was located in Germany, and I've been lusting after it for like three months now. And after I put in my notice, I came home and got into a bit of a offer-war with the seller, and it's now on it's way towards me from Poland, I think. I need to get my tack room settled for winter, and soon will have four saddles, so I need to figure out stirrups (and I'm debating if I get normal stirrups, ones that will fit my mukluks if I ride in them, or both), leathers and covers. Arya's black Courbette Galant came with a cover from the friend I bought it from, and I purchased stirrup leathers, and had irons for it, but the cover isn't waterproof and I don't have any other strap goods left in my stash now except for a very old pair of unlined black stirrup leathers, and they aren't matched (annoying). Between the saddle and Arya's fancy new boots, she's going to be looking very spiffy!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Wondering Wednesday: What's in your feed bucket

As my brain is turning towards fall and winter again (especially after the chilly misty mornings we've been having) I've been looking at my girls' diets and trying to prepare them for cooler weather with extra calories and to make sure I'm happy with the changes I've made in their diets both for Bailey's choke and trying to consolidate my feeding. I've also been thinking again about Arya's ulcers, and was hoping the blogger community could help me out with supplements.

Arya is no longer getting the Gastric Care Ultium; I wasn't really convinced it was doing anything other than being just as expensive as her previous feed with fewer calories. From what I could tell, Ultium Competition has more calcium in it than the Gastric care, and while it's a nice feed, I figured calories was more important to me this winter. So I am thinking of changing out Arya's pre-ride meal with Alfalfa pellets (soaked) which is less fun in the winter, but doable. I am also thinking I should try to find a supplement to add to her routine to help safeguard against the stresses of this time of year; swapping from pasture to hay and changing weather sounds like something that would set off her gastric issues and I'd like to prevent any recurrences.

I found a video I took last winter (January) right before I quit riding her for a month to get her back adjusted, and eventually treated for ulcers, and guys... it's painful. Arya is never lacking in sass under saddle but her lashing  tail and tiny steps and the throwing herself sideways shows me a horse that (while she was being rude and definitely defaults easily to the wild asshole side of her) was really in a lot of discomfort. And I don't want to have that happen again. Not only because I really don't want to die, but also because that isn't a very nice way to exist.

Sooo, blogger folks:

What type of gastric or ulcer support supplement do you feed? Do you take any seasonal precautions to prevent ulcers? 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Crabby Crabby Fat Fats

The horses have been getting a decent amount of work lately, but is hasn't been totally consistent. Post choke incident, Bailey got nearly a full week off, did some lovely W/T/C work in Arya's micklem, and then got to play western barrel pony for Jaqi for her next ride. Since then, we've been struggling with some annoying crabby pony issues; she still coughs a bit, and I am trying to be as soft and allowing of that as I can be, but she also is determined that coughing includes running and then diving onto her forehand.

Obviously, me and my half halts are not her favorite person right now. I'm thinking I'll bit her up for a ride or two to reinstall the half halt and the concept of carrying one's own head, and then we will work on our dressage and jumping with the continued goal of that October schooling show we did last year, and maybe an XC school. She's definitely the horse behind my title at the moment though; she's skinny/fat, flabby and out of shape, and even more, she's not interested in becoming unflabby or unfat. Sorry, B, it's for your own good!!

Plus we may win a blue ribbon in another 2 person class :) 

Post choke incident, Bailey also has started to look a bit meh. Part of it is that she decided to start growing her winter coat, like... now. So she's gone all fluffy and isn't sleek and shiny like the other two idiots who probably, out of spite, won't grow any hair at all and will slowly kill me with anxiety. Anyways, she also is looking a bit saggier and a bit skinnier than she has been. I'm sure a week off work, and several days before that week also off didn't contribute to that at all. Nope. Either way, I've added some oil into her diet, as the other mares are getting it, and it's nice that it can soften up her already pretty soft ultium a bit more for me. 

The other two horses are getting oil in their feed in prep for winter; I figure I'd try it now at a low level and make sure there aren't any negative ramifications so I can make any needed changes before it gets cold and I have to recover a lot of weight fast. I'm also planning to de-worm the girls, in hope that it might give Bizzy that extra bit of bloom she seems to be lacking. 

Bizzy is super shiny, and is carrying more muscle than I've seen since I brought her home- she seems sounder and is lively and happy. The one thing I'm not loving is that she is a bit ribby still. She is a rounder barrel type horse, so I am wondering if I can actually cover her ribs entirely without making her obese like she was when she arrived, but it's going to be a continued try-things-see-what-works type situation. 

Canola oil is my choice over feeding rice bran like last year in part because of cost (it's very affordable per calorie, and 1 cup of oil is pretty much equivalent to 1 lb of rice bran) and it's the most balanced Omega oil I can find locally. It would be nice to find flax oil, but the cost seems pretty astronomical compared to canola (which I buy at Aldi with my weekly groceries). I'm not sure I won't end up switching back to rice bran, or just feed more ultium, but for now, I feel like it's worth a try, and the horses are finding it very edible so far. Arya is looking wonderful after being a tough keeper for a year, so I am hoping to hold on to that.

Video still but LOOK AT THAT BODY

Speaking of Arya, she's been an interesting character under saddle. I cannot find my camera ANYWHERE to video, but I may end up setting up my DSLR and saying F it to get some video of her lately. She's alternated between very good and hitting a wall, and while I'm proud she's not going postal, I wish she would have a bit more try in those moments. Especially going right, she will get into a mood about my inside leg and will casually counter flex and will try to refuse to bend the proper way, and will get snotty when I try to just push her through it. I can get it if I am tricky; my last ride last night we had a good break through to get her bending and moving forward by counterbending her, which seems to be totally different in her mind than actually bending. So she will get crabby bending right when going right, but counterbending when going left seems to work. I think the resistance, which is definitely worse when she's going right might be connected to her distinct lack of muscle on her right hind, which the chiropractor this winter figured was probably fall out from not being properly rehabbed from her ankle injury. 

My non-ponyclub approved butt photoing position, but that right cheek is looking a bit... skinny.

So we'll keep working on it, and I'm going to try to take periodic pictures of her butt to help measure any progress. All in all, Arya continues to be really rewarding to ride and I'm crossing my crossables that she will turn into something spectacular when she's ready. Our last ride yesterday was after a big series of thunderstorms that morning and the previous night, so my arena had several large puddles; clearly I need to work on leveling and dragging my ring so it doesn't pool, but we played in the puddles and she was really awesome about it. I feel like there is hope for her to be a useful and hopefully eventer type horse if she doesn't get thrown off by going through water (albeit shallower than a water complex by far). She also looks SUPER cute in the majyk equipe red XC boots a friend basically gave me, and I think she should let fashion determine her future career, because that makes sense, right?

I'm an optimist, ok?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Universe Knows When You're Impatient

Beautiful BB

The universe also knows how to slap you upside the head when you're being dumb.

So I've been complaining about Bailey a lot lately; its been hot, she's out of shape, and she's not super into doing work or doing it well. Work ethic has never been her strong suit.

Unfortunately, on Monday night, the universe decided to remind me to be thankful. And I am, because while I farted around spraying pastures, the mares ate their dinners. And Bailey started to choke. She didn't seem alarmed, and did a lot of horrible coughing and mucus-ing while vigorously power walking away from me because I didn't realize until she cruised past me to go outside, and when I got her caught, she seemed overly relaxed (no whinnying for her sisters, no stall walking) and would occasionally cough and mucus, but again... didn't seem very upset.

I called the vet, and we decided to watch and wait. I walked, I massaged the left side of her throat, and I annoyed the crap out of my friends freaking out about if I needed to spend the money on the vet. The vet came, because of course when I was starting to convince myself she was clearing the blockage, she spooked at the husband letting the dogs out and set off a new barrage of mucus and coughing. We sedated her, got the tube up her nose and a couple of pumps of water cleared the blockage successfully. She didn't even bleed out of her nose. I confined her to a stall, removed all the hay I could and tucked her in for the night after watching her come out of her sedation. The next morning she ate her heavily watered breakfast grain a bit unenthusiastically, but clearly, once turned out, was hungry. She did seem to have a sore throat (understandable, that tube is NOT small) but came in happily for dinner last night and seemed weirded out while I watched her eat her soupy dinner like a hawk.

So she seems fine. I am going to throw her on the lunge line for some light exercise tomorrow, probably, to make sure her lungs sound ok, but she's fine. I'm fortunate, because it could have been so much worse. The bill wasn't that bad, but since I just went through my tack and boots and blankets, I do have a few items for sale if anyone is looking for something (lots of reins - rubberized web, web with rolled leather to the bit, really nice courbette laced, all black and SMB boots, fly boots (Kensington brand) and Woof Club boots, cob sized black dressage bridle).

Yes, I did test the saddle with a regular girth
before unwrapping my newly ordered dressage girth :D 

In Arya's corner of the world, I continue to be enamored. We tried out the dressage saddle the last two rides, and I love how much more control I have over her body with the extra length in my leg. I also threw Foxie's old polo breast collar on her last night (because yay, tack! I like how polo collars look, so shoot me) and she was just the cutest little dressage pony I've ever seen. She's learning to move laterally, and has been doing really well under saddle. I'm really pleased with her progress, and am trying to figure out how to keep this good pony streak going.

Other than making sure her ulcers don't flair up/come back/whathaveyou, I'm considering adding Alfalfa pellets to her life as a pre-ride snack instead of doing a scoop of Gastric Care. I'm swapping back to Ultium Competition from the Gastric care because according to my math, it actually has more calcium in it, and the gastric care doesn't seem to head off any ulcery issues that she's had; I like my tractguard supplement for when she's outside, and am still looking for something to use for maintenance that I actually believe in for inside. With how cold it gets here, I find that the electrolytes or something in the tractguard make her pee like no tomorrow which makes ice on my mats which is... unnecessary. She drinks well regardless, so I'd like to find something without electrolytes for when the horses are stalled.  The only thing besides a winter supplement I can't really decide on is if it's worth it to feed alfalfa pellets when soaking them is going to be a pain in the butt, especially come winter. I know that it's dramatic, but I'm already like UGH at the thought of alf pellets freezing into feed pans or corner feeders (and I can't clean those easily).

I know my blog has been super boring lately, but any of the readers who are left... do you have a gastric supplement you like? Anyone feeding a pre-ride meal to their ulcery animal and have any tips and tricks?

Bailey will be headed back to work this coming weekend, with our sites on a schooling show in October again, so hopefully things will be more exciting!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Progress and Frustrations

I haven't had a lot of words for this blog this summer. It's been hideously busy, and I lose myself to the outside chores every evening after work without fail. But I miss blogland, and after riding last night, I have some feelings I need to process.

First, let's talk about the farm's doings lately: we got our first crop of hay in, and the horses seem to approve. I'm feeding broken bales as my night time hay for the girls, and while it was SO MUCH WORK OMG to get 350 bales (ish) into the barn in one night, we managed it (albeit, not in an organized fashion, but we tried) and I spent the next day stacking them into semi-organization. It destroyed my hands (like, this happened two weeks ago and my hands are still showing where I blew out blisters on my first three fingers) but it was rewarding as hell to put up edible hay. My husband is trying to talk me into doing rounds for the next cut, but I'm having a hard time deciding. I feel like we don't have room for rounds, and I literally just sold my round bale net, so I don't know what to do, yet. Smalls are a pain in the butt to put up, but are a more efficient use of our storage space. Is there a way I can justify smalls to my husband besides "easier to store"?

The pastures continue to hold on; they aren't hugely thick, but they're holding on. I'm planning to spray them for weeds and seed this fall, and am hoping they can hold on until then. We are a bit short on pasture acres for 3 horses, so I need to figure out how to get the most out of what we have until I close them off for re-growing time before it gets too cold.

Home life wise, we've been away for a weekend, and it was glorious to spend a few days wandering around Ely, MN with some friends, napping, enjoying a beautiful home on a beautiful lake and staying in the most magical tiny house ever. I left my dad in charge, and all of the animals were healthy and happy when we came home, which made me happy. I got a pair of Steger Mukluks for winter wear when we were up north (hello, serendipity, they were selling returns/seconds for CHEAP the weekend we were in town) so I am stirrup shopping to find something ultra wide so I can ride in them come winter.

Horse wise:

Bizzy continues to hang out and be an awesome pet. She did get a kick from Arya, which resulted in a comical goose-egg swelling sticking out of her left butt cheek, but it's slowly re-absorbing. She's also got a few ribs showing. We've had a bad time with bugs, and I've changed her feed, but while she is shiny and happy, she maintains a slightly ribby look. I'm tempted to try oil or some other means of calories, and will check her poops for sand and deworm her. Does anyone have any other tips for a horse who is a touch ribby, but hasn't had a lot of diet changes?

Arya has been an utter superstar, and I've been dealing with a lot of guilt because I want to ride her and only her lately. It's been so rewarding to feel her make progress in allowing me to be in control and stay rideable when we encounter moments when she previously would have melted down hardcore. We've re-introduced poles into her life, and while she thinks her life's calling is still to hiccup over said pole at a canter and then zoom off, but she's really progressing quickly and is walking and trotting and cantering over poles on the line, and is walking and trotting over poles under saddle. We're also doing a lot more canter under saddle, and her ground work is going really well. She's finally starting to slow down and react more logically and I'm loving every moment of riding her.

It feels terrible, because lately, I've hated riding Bailey. It doesn't help that she's out of shape, and doesn't get worked very often where I am much more strict with keeping Arya in work. And while the training is still there, she doesn't have the muscle to really do things easily at this point, and asking her to work involves her brushing me off and being like "nah, pass". She just doesn't have the work ethic that Arya does, and its just been hard to be motivated with her. She's pleasant enough to jump, but doesn't really want to take input from me, so we get awkward distances and I feel like I'm being ignored when I'm pulling and having to chase when I shouldn't to get her jumping better out of stride. On the flat, I usually have to kick her ass to carry herself, and then things go swimmingly from there. I feel lost, because she doesn't really seem to want to do anything - with Arya, I can tell that she is a mix of anxious and excited to work with poles again, and she normally really tries to do what I'm asking her. Bailey, on the other hand, doesn't really seem to be driven to please in the same way, and it's hard to be motivated to kick her butt when it's like... why am I making you do something you clearly don't want to do. Maybe she just needs a new job or a different way of riding? I feel like I'm missing something.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Apologies for the lack of media, I've been trying a new app to track my rides and have been using it's photo features. Unfortunately, it's buggy and has eaten my photos and my ride tracking. RUDE.

Last night Arya and I could have had a really, really bad ride.

Her ground work was a bit more... up...? than normal. She was an odd combination of very forward and rather un-responsive to the stick and string. My brain was still wandering off wondering where my hay farmer had disappeared to and then got a call from my husband right before I got on. My fly spray didn't seem to be working... it was just a mess of things. But I threw my leg over and decided to see what we could do.

Left wasn't too bad, but she was rather rude about wanting to canter, only, and did get a bit playful in the canter (which doesn't always feel "playful"). I am trying to keep myself accountable and keep my leg on and not let my hands go awol all over the place pulling. I've found that I have two bad habits, that probably stem from fear from Arya's terrorist days: I tend to get handsy and pull badly with my left rein, and that I take my leg off when I feel like shit is about to go down. The left rein issue is in both directions; I either lock up pulling going left, or I feel like I'm constantly dragging Arya out of a tiny spiral of a circle going right. My right leg seems to be lacking in the muscle department, so I need to be more thoughtful about using it and ensuring that I'm riding more evenly. Definitely an area to improve, just like keeping my leg on and keeping her coming forward.

There were several moments during our ride, though, that made me think that shit was about to hit the fan. I felt, especially at the canter, and then a thousandfold more at all gaits going right, that I was sitting on a spring wrapped around dynamite, and that bucking and rearing were definitely on the menu. It look a lot of forcing myself to be calm and breathe, and doing a lot of focused releasing of my lower back, as well as trying to be tactful with my leg and hand aids, but Arya, for once, let me manage the forward and the anxiety and we were able to keep going with our ride, and actually found some really fantastic moments in that ride.

Arya isn't a naturally soft horse, despite being light and having naturally collected gaits - she always feels/looks good, but the connection is generally false and it's hard to realize when she's faking you out right up until she totally disconnects and starts to be shitty. What really surprised me was that Arya was able to overcome her tension going left at the canter and came down from it (albeit it took almost an entire circle) and for some reason I was impulsive and tried softening my whole connection (both hands, which I know I am not supposed to do) and giving her a bit of a scritch on the neck before picking her up again. For some magical reason, this really worked - she softened and stretched down, and took the connection again in a much lower and softer frame than she normally goes in. And I was able to ask her for more. The trot I got to sit on during this... was lovely. Truly. I'm addicted.

Unfortunately, she's still too tense going right to do such a thing, but we were able to negotiate our way past some more potential tantrums and blow ups to something decent. She is definitely more balanced going left - the canter feels semi normal that direction, vs the extremes (either bolting or cantering in a half rear/tea cup) of her right lead. I was very pleased with her ability to actually use her brain last night, and wish she could get over her issues with bugs so we could do more work with less fly related anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, I had to stop myself from giving her Nexium last night... I feel like she has relapses into stress, and I'm not sure what the trigger is. The last few days, I tried to keep the mares on the paddock, which is getting over grown, to try and have them mow for me (and give the pastures a few extra days of rest. The mares seemed pretty meh about this and didn't graze a ton (though I was feeding hay) and have been doing a lot of standing around in the shelter. Now that I opened the grass back up on Sunday, they continue to come in and stand for long periods in the shelter or by the barn, just hanging out. I'm worried they aren't eating like they used to, all of them. It hasn't been as hot, and I haven't felt like the bugs are any worse than they were  before... has anyone had their horse(s) go through a summer slump?