Thursday, November 21, 2019

General Catch Up

I've been trying to blog, guys, I sincerely miss it.

The combo of my work computer not allowing me to comment or post, and the phone interface on google chrome being relatively useless has resulted in a lot of drafts and very few actual posts. So let's do some catch up, and hopefully I can get photos in!

The horses have been in work, particularly since the hubs moved to VA. It's been a great distraction and stress reliever for me. Bailey has done some jumping, though it's been too wet to do it often, and we've been working on straightness, consistent contact, and re-installing the half halt that has wandered off again. I bought a dressage saddle (more on that below!) and she's been going really, really nicely. 

Arya was doing her now-routine walk and small amounts of trot work, and was starting to improve in the category of "starting shit". Her usual evasion, rearing, has become less fun now that I don't freak out, and she occasionally gets mad and defaults back to refusing to move, but I've also had some rearing moments resolve back into productive work. We've had some larger tension problems as the temps have dropped, and the last time I got on her, I got off pretty quickly (it felt like she was alternating between bucking and rearing and she wouldn't stop jigging) and put her back on the line. At this point, working her involves almost an hour of lunging and ground work; she feels the need to go out and tear around on the line until she's tired, and then we do our small work, and then I would get on a soaked and puffing horse to "ride". Her ulcers seem to be back (always...) and work was just miserable, so I've taken a step back and we've only played on the ground for a few weeks now, which is much more fun.

I'm also toying with massage and stretching - both seem to really encourage relaxion in Arya, in particular, and the massage has been beneficial for both horses so far. I'm heavily in the market for a massage book or two - does anyone have a recommendation there?? I'd love some outside input!

Speaking of purchases, I caved soon after hubs moved away and paid the $30 to have a consignment Stubben Aramis shipped to me for a trial. And then I promptly fell in love with it, despite my best intentions to try and hate it. My leg is able to contact much more of Bailey, and is much more correct in the way it hangs. I'm much more stable and I'm starting to fight my habits of tipping my hips forward and then collapsing my upper body. I've been using my PIVO heavily to video rides in trial saddles, and now rides as I try to improve my dressage, and I'm becoming so much more body aware lately. My wandering outside elbow, my wiggly hands and my slumped upper body are all starting to look better to me!

In addition to overhauling my position, I've been feeling some good progress with Bailey as a benefit of fixing myself, along with the focus I've been putting on laying the basics back on her. We've been hacking around the pasture fence as well and that has gotten so much better. The first few times were a bit scary with a very up, spooky horse, but she seems to be figuring out that the neighbor's cows aren't coming for her (yet). 

So yeah, that has been what we've been up to. Working away, enjoying the cool to cold but no snow yet weather as much as we can. I'm eyeballing items for my Christmas list (we do a family secret santa style gift exchange to keep the holidays more affordable) and any Black Friday splurges I might actually need...

I'm trying to figure out a cooler for Arya, as my main focus. Even with "just" lunging, she's been getting very sweaty, which means that when I work both horses, Bailey's cooler is generally soaked and hanging to dry, or actually on Arya. I can't decide which brands are worth my time, and I just noticed my default Weatherbeeta Therapy-tec combo neck cooler is gone in Arya's size off of their clearance... so it's time to ask for suggestions there, too.

So, anyone who still reads this: 

- Favorite massage books? Or ones you've heard good things about?
- Best cooler? I heavily prefer ones with neck covers, and need something that will work well and move a pretty heavy amount of moisture without taking 40,000 years. Also prefer straps to secure it - I don't turn out in fleece, but Arya does stall walk and I often work her first and let her stand in her stall while I work Bailey and she dries.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Change, decisions, possible insanity

A lot of you have been with Bailey and I since her #feralredhorse beginnings. It means so much to have any small connection with the super cool blogger world that exists, and writing this blog has given me the chance to be thoughtful and learn and explore space I haven’t been able to otherwise. And now I’m back, hopefully to post more but also to see if anyone is still out there to talk to.

I’m on the cusp of a big life change, and am looking down the barrel of a bigger life change sometime in the next year. It could bring good things, it could bring bad things. It’s one thing I’ve never done before after another, and I’m not sure how to process it yet. I also don’t feel safe blogging about it because for all I know, my family could technically still care enough to stalk this blog, and I’d rather not hand them information they don't deserve about my life. So, sorry about the generalities.

But through all this change and anxiety and fear, I’m also gaining some perspective. I miss working with a system I used to work with, so I’m pursuing getting back to what makes me happy and sets my work life on fire. I have been finding grit and determination in myself that has lead to me sitting through some major lessons with Arya. Feeling her kind of shock and “well what do I do next” attitude after sitting chilly through a series of rears, and attempts to yank the reins out of my hands and get me to quit was a really triumphant moment for me.

The reason for this post, though, is B. My friendly, amiable, relatively straight forward B. I’ve felt like she hasn’t been happy in her work lately; she’s hard to catch sometimes, and while obedient, she rarely exudes joy like she used to. She doesn’t love doing tons of dressage. She doesn’t seem to really enjoy eventing. She can be eager and forward on an XC course, but is also prone to being looky and unpredictable. She’s utterly pleasant to flat around, and she loves the occasional jumpies.

And I can’t help wonder, does she just want to be a hunter? Or even just a broodmare?

And what do I do? Do I try to retrain her as a hunter and find her a home where she is happy? Do I try to change disciplines despite feeling like I’m too much of an eventer to ever be able to ride a suitable hunter round? I already have enough problems with my confidence as an eventer, so I wonder... would low hunters be my thing? No more dressage, no more XC. But I also realize that I don’t enjoy a sport that generally makes me cry with joy anymore because, honestly, it’s not as fun when your horse doesn’t enjoy her job.

I’ve felt divorced from Bailey, lately. She doesn’t seem to want to work for me, and having an extroverted, very interested in me horse who often marches up and demands my attention, it’s even more clear that something isn’t the same with me and my feral red girl. She doesn’t hate me (despite my dramatic retellings of days she’d rather play than be caught). I can sit outside her stall and she will acknowledge me, but doesn’t go out of her way to want to be with me, where Arya is always curious and testing and interested.

So here I am, contemplating trying to hold onto a horse by letting go of dreams, or letting go of a horse to find her a job she might actually enjoy.

But first, like... how do I hunter? (Since no practice is needed for B to become a broodmare).

Friday, September 27, 2019

Choke (again)

Just as I was writing blog posts excitedly comparing saddles I have tried and want to acquire, Bailey has to go and blow a relatively sizable chunk of the "saddle money" I had coming in this month. Clearly, she is boycotting dressage, which, I mean... I get. I am a dreadful dressage rider after all my time in the last few years riding in jump saddles with a chair seat, and I am sure it's not any more fun for a horse who doesn't want to use her body correctly or have even muscles. She just wants to do the occasional jumpies and be a ridiculous chestnut butterfly.

I would prefer, however, she pick less expensive ways to make her preferences known. 

I was in her stall with her, and was starting to  get her tacked up to take another ride in my trial Stubben Maestoso when she started flipping her lip. I had added magnesium to her feed (it honestly seems to be doing fabulous things for reary-mc-asshole) so I assumed she had tasted it. Then she started to cough. Big, deep coughs. Then kind of a roaring noise (not sure if she was breaking in or out). And then came the mucus.

She did try hard to clear it; she was coughing, mucusing and clearly uncomfortable. I waited about a half hour or so, and then put a call into the vet. This started around 6 PM, and the vet didn't roll in (as she had a more emergency emergency to attend to first) until probably 9:30 or so. Then we got her drugged up, started to tube, drugged her some more, and while it didn't seem to take too long (other than trying to get the obstruction to become less sludge and more something that will run out of the damn tube), we did bloody her nose spectacularly - including a giant slug of blood clot that she was basically smothering herself with. The vet packed up her stuff, took my money for her rather exorbitant fee, handed me some SMZs and went home, and I trudged my ass inside to go to bed. I think I probably seemed pretty unconcerned at this point, just shutting off the lights and going inside, but like... I was frozen, and tired, and couldn't listen to her wheeze anymore, so I put myself to bed.

This morning I scooped her up a pound of Ultium, watered it well, and cursed SMZs as I snapped them into her food. She ate it slowly, and clearly is very sore still, and didn't finish it, because, of course. I tossed her out into the dark, and she power walked her hungry ass out to the pasture after I slapped her bum to get her to stop eating hay out of the manure cart. Arya stayed in with her, and seemed content enough - she was down when I got out this morning, and mostly seemed annoyed last night that we were preventing her beauty sleep.

I'm super tired today (surprise surprise) and probably have a permanent glare for the day, but I'm hoping to come home to a perkier horse who doesn't sound like Darth Vader, and maybe I can play with Arya around finding a syringe for the SMZs and trying to stay conscious until an appropriate hour. Anyone have any pro tips on feeding horses who choke?

Thursday, September 26, 2019

We're Still Here!

The blog of late has been quiet; it gets that way, in the summer, when you have a million things on your to-do list - and mow for approximately 6 hours every damn weekend. And things haven't been exciting, no big news, no big changes. So I guess I'm just checking in to say we still exist.

I have been riding. And for the most part, it's been good or great. We haven't had a lot of goals in riding, lately, but Bailey is improving in her ability to go straight, punctuated by generally great jump schools, and Arya is showing off how light and lovely she can  be, in between being her usual Arya-ish self. 

The mares have seen the saddle fitter, and I'm now shopping for a new dressage saddle. It breaks my heart to list my Vision dressage for sale, as I have invested so much love, time and effort into restoring it and bringing it back to it's proper, beautiful state. It's truly a beautiful, comfortable saddle, but alas, when your saddle is curvy and your horses are flat, not much can be done. As an aside, if you know someone shopping for a really cool dressage saddle - or someone selling a two tone dressage saddle that is wide and generally flat front to back, hit me up.

The pasture adventure has gone 1000% better this year, as, shockingly, has the whole "hay" thing. It's been a tough year with high prices, and I am so very, very fortunate to have gotten two cuts. That, combined with what I have leftover from last year, means I am set for the winter. 

As the weather is starting to feel like fall, we've settled in for a quiet, if busy month. I'm continuing to experiment with Arya trying to work through some of her issues and get her back on track and hopefully keep her in work this winter, and my fall plans to XC school and play are on hold, at least temporarily, while I wait for the brake line to get fixed on my hauling truck. I'm hoping to squeeze in a few more projects yet this year (preferably to fill the weeks until I can go jump the jumpies); mainly putting in fill around the barn and putting up some gutters, because suddenly its rainy and I'm remembering how damp the barn can get when water comes in under the doors... or like last winter/spring.... under the walls. Eyeroll. 

So... we're still here. I'm quiet, but nothing is wrong. Hopefully I'll be able to figure out gifs and be able to show off some riding, and some trial saddles, once I'm able to saddle shop more actively. I'm looking pretty hard at Thornhill, but I'm wishing I could find something really special that suits my budget. Anyone have any suggestions for affordable, yet awesome dressage saddles? 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Fly BB Fly

Life has been moving a pace at the farm. Arya is back under saddle after losing nearly two months to the foot abscess from hell, and is doing pretty well. In my last post, I believe I shared how fantastic Bailey schooled out at our old boarding barn on their XC course.

This weekend, we got out to school again - this time in Wisconsin, at Otter Creek Farm. I haven't ever had the chance to school there before, and was both excited and nervous to finally be getting there in a non-competition setting. Bailey hauled well, and I didn't die driving, despite the often pouring rain that followed us from home to Wisconsin. It was pouring when I pulled in, and luckily S, Bailey's biggest fan (and who own's Bailey's mom, Cali) and her boyfriend were wonderful and took Bailey from me when she unloaded and stuffed her in a stall out of the water and helped me tack up. I got geared up and at least I remembered a crop this time; I mislaid my favorite nubby spurs so I had longer ones on, but I did remember a crop. I didn't end up getting boots on Bailey, and forgot my gloves, but hey! We got there. 

I had Bailey in her new myler combo, and let me tell you... I love her in that bit. I already need a snaffle. Arya likes it, as well, but Bailey was just a star in it. I had power brakes and good steering but she wasn't backed off from it like she can get from "bigger" bits. I had a leverage rein and a snaffle rein, and was glad I did, because Bailey was a bit up once we were on and warming up. She was a bit silly spooky and jammed pretty hard in her warm up canter. We started over the truck jump, which is one I want to replicate at my own house (the jump is the trailer of a semi, hauling "logs" that are round poles mounded up). and she actually bucked once on landing once she got over it a few times. It was thundering and raining through all of this, but Bailey came out to play. 

We did have some stops, which we haven't had in a while. One was a bit odd - I think B couldn't read the take off, which was on a downward slope to the fence, which was set in a little cup of ground between two trees. She stopped a few times before finally going over it, and was looky at it the next time I came around to it. After a few rounds over a couple of fences, the trainer pointed out a couple of really helpful things for me - I'm a better course rider than I am a single fence rider, when I look where I am going for my next fence vs just kind of schleping off to my downward transition. She immediately called me on my eyes, which is SO TRUE, and my rounded shoulders. I tried to ride taller and that did help. She also got after me to keep my legs on and keep churning Bailey's hind end up to the fence. I feel like I got better at that as we went along. We had a couple of silly stops at the banks and bank into water, but Bailey didn't back up, she just would stall out and waffle, and after one big launch into the water dropped in super nicely after that. I also had a totally me stop at a fly fence up on the back of the property. You canter along the tree line on a decent slope before dropping down a hill to a fly fence near the bottom. I was really psyched out by that fence, but it rode GREAT once I got over it, and I picked her up and cantered on to a white table, what she flubbed to. We redid the table, but left the fly as it was. 

It was a really positive schooling experience, and I'm already itching to go back and practice churning the hind legs across country again. I'm happy with the bit set up (though I might school more in a single rein at home - the extra leverage isn't probably needed when she's much more chill at home) though unhappy I forgot my gloves and have matching holes in my pinky fingers. I'm just chuffed to bits with the horse, too - she jumped a good amount of novice questions and always had the answers. I just need to re-discover my own bravery so I can give her the ride she needs - novice doesn't feel all that big when I have my shit together! I am sore and need to oil all of my tack, but I am so, so excited to get back out and do more XC, be it schooling or in competition. It's fun, and I had forgotten!

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Rain, Rain, Go (the heck) Away...

It's been a month since my last update, so time for another word vomit of stuff that happened this month... whee!

Farm Updates: 

- It's still raining way too much. We get one clear day for every handful of rainy ones, and just when things were drying up, it decided to pour again. UGH. My whole property is puddles, and my hay field has at least one small lake. 

- We've put down some plans for the summer, including re-fencing the last pasture (P1). I did get to re-doing the back paddock fence, which is between the paddock and P3, which looks so nice (and I don't have to listen to my fence grounding whenever it rains) and picked up a gate off Craigslist for cheap so I can finally have a gate for P1 when we redo it.

- My awesome neighbor came and took away two years of manure, along with the sizeable mound that was left from the previous owners. I still have some majorly boggy areas, but I am hoping we can get some sort of material down to stabilize a few areas to be high and dry, along with gravel or similar for the gate area. 

Horse Updates:

- Arya has struggled off and on since my last update post with soundness due to her foot being quicked. I've been off and on treating and wrapping it, and she's been off and on sound (or sound until she runs on the lunge for 15 minutes and then she sore, some days she's hopping my-foot-is-falling-off lame...). I think I've finally got myself in to a good routine that involves getting a lot of blue kote on my hands, but it seems to really be helping. I'm hoping that I can move from diapers and foot boots that aren't lasting the day and let the cut get dirty to stuffing the cut with iodine or medication coated cotton and sealing with the wax. As an aside, that shit is so much easier to use when it's warm out, let me tell you.

- Bailey has gone back into work really well now that I changed her  back to her usual bit, and I've been pushing her to be more even in her body. My dressage saddle is back from being stretched and is almost a bit too wide (what I anticipated) so between that, and her being a bit back sore, I used an amazon gift card I had laying around to invest in a new half pad for her. I'm super excited about it and will have a review once I've used it more. She's been jumping well and went XC schooling over the memorial day weekend. I was shocked that she grabbed the bit and charged down the fences after two years away from jumping XC solid fences - but also totally pleased. I didn't have my stick, and she never even thought about stopping, which was amazing. I'm utterly pleased with her willingness and she even handled the deep wet footing with good grace. 

Goals update and next steps:

- Arya hasn't done any consistent work. She's been good when she has worked, and has been a very willing patient, which is a blessing. I'm hoping she will come sound and I can get back to work and get back on her. 

- Bailey has been quieter jumping at home in the ring, but was very strong on the XC course. I'm considering more bit for future outings, as she really exhausted me pulling my arms out. She has good days and bad days going into the bridle and being quiet in my hand; I'm tempted to play with her bits and also need to punch some holes in the micklem as she is gaping her mouth and there is nothing to stop her from doing so. 

- Barn is dry, but I haven't done a ton of work on the aisle yet. I have moved my cross tie area to where the mats are, and I am happy with that. No gravel has been placed or purchased yet. Some areas are still wet and I need to really clean up and get things organized, already. I've made some progress with my med kit, but I have a lot of stuff not in storage that could be, and I can't find things that I need easily, so I have some to-do's there. 

- Farm in general - baby trees have been taken down, soil test has been done and pastures have been fertilized. I really like the fertilizer I used last (15-15-15 which is a broadcast solid that looks a lot like banana split dip-n-dots) and will probably move to using that almost exclusively vs the spray. I want to stabilize the broadcaster a bit better, though, as the areas where it tipped not only wasted fertilizer but also burned the grass because you can't exactly get it up easily. I still need to killzall (need a stretch where it's not raining so it won't run and damage my pasture or lawn) and weedwhack. Fence redo is destined for later in the summer, but I have money budgeted away for it already. I do need to start budgeting for hay, and maybe watching for some nice stuff for my inside hay, since I have a feeling that cutting may be a problem at my house again.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Two Years on the Farm

Two years ago today, I had just moved to a farm, the mares were still boarded and I had been whisked off to a conference at work, feeling totally uprooted.

Two years on the farm has taught me a lot of lessons. I get up at 5:20 now, and mostly, I get up without snoozing my alarm. I love my routine, and I hate it. There are days when I don't want to go do chores, but I never come back inside that way, at least this year - it really helps if you don't worry about losing toes or fingers to weather because you finally have good clothes. So I guess the farm has taught me to dress for the weather, and to improvise when you can't do something the way you normally would.

I'm a lot more disciplined. I am a lot harder working. I wish I had a better way to prepare for hay season, but maybe I can do some weight work before the hay starts coming in to save my arms. I've learned a lot of grit, and a determination I didn't have before. I would throw my hands up a lot, and would defer the problem I couldn't solve confidently to someone else, just to escape the pressure of having to figure something out.

Now I'm determined to not ask for help if I don't have to; I rehung a 10' barn door in the pouring rain, by myself, using leverage and probably some really dangerous schenanigans on a ladder. I get in trouble for hoarding my husband's power tools and not returning them. Instead of waiting for someone else to do it for me, I do it myself. No one is obligated to do it for me. And that makes me mighty, in my own small way.

The farm is heavily emotional; I've sobbed trying to put stall doors back together so I can keep horses inside of said door. I've felt an overpowering zen peace smelling cut grass, taking in the beauty of our property from the back of the tractor. I've laughed with joy sitting on Arya's perfect canter. I've boiled with rage while a horse does something naughty (like Arya bolting across the newly planted hay field after noping the F out of the arena). Despite being hugely emotional, the farm has taught me a lot of emotional resilience. 

The farm has taught me to be accountable and to not forget shit, for the most part. I have to keep track of my kimchee, and while no one will yell at me, no one has my back. No one feeds my horses when I'm not there for a few days, and my feed doesn't magically arrive; I have to remember to get it, and I have to plan ahead if it's going to blizzard, or if I have plans. I can enjoy being in control, in a way that I've never been able to be at a boarding farm, but I also am accountable for the mountain of poop that needs to be scraped out of the shelter after winter, or keeping the waterer happy and working when it's negative a-bajillion.

We've made a lot of changes in two years, I'd like to think:

- We placed and have now covered (save about 6 feet, but let's not split hairs) 1200+ feet of drain tile to help the riding arena and paddock drain. 
- We redid the barn, adding 5 stalls and a grain/storage area
- We doubled the hay storage on the side of the barn, and have mostly leveled the ground inside to prevent flooding. We can now easily store 1,000 - 1200 small bales.
- We've removed fencing (t posts, polyrope fence, gates) from the front pasture, the "link" fencing between what is now my P1 and the front pasture, the back pond pasture, and the back hill pasture. We have tamed the areas of pre-existing grass, and are now able to keep them mowed and semi-civilized looking (though the frost has really fucked the ground this year). 
- We plowed, planted and fenced two new pastures (about 1.75 acres)
- We plowed, planted and harvested off of 12 acres of hay field

We have some plans for this summer, too:
- Gutters for the barn and house
- Level the barn aisle and re-work mats for wear spots developed this year
- Gravel problem mud areas or other mud solution
- Redo the remaining polyrope fencing in P1 and the paddock and add a real gate to P1 vs the rope stretch gate that currently doesn't really hold the horses out
- Hopefully get two cuttings off the hay field
- Fertilize and better maintain the pasture this year
- Redo the falling down riding arena fencing (unfortunately while it's wood, but badly maintained so I'll likely have to scrap it for cheaper replacement materials)
- Build some new jumps or a coop

It's a lot of work, but boy has it been an adventure!