Sunday, October 30, 2011

dressage clinic

Celebrating the almighty raspberry leaf.

We had a little dressage clinic at the barn today.
I did not know the instructor and it was a group lesson so really the only thing I hoped for was that Nina would not have a melt down.

She didn't.

She was fine.  OK, we had a few moments.  She refused to trot a few times in her head tossing you-can't-make-me mode, which is always followed by a you can't make me walk cuz I'm trotting moment.   She punched her time clock at 20 minutes, told me she was done.   But this was all WITHOUT the nervous, suicidal energy running underneath that always makes me wonder if she is willing to kill us both to get her own way.   She was just a slightly pissy mare who needs more schooling and much of the time she was perfectly cheerful.   It has to be the raspberry, it is too many consecutive days to be just coincidence.

And we got an exercise to work on to improve the down transitions, which at this point are done solely off the outside rein or, if done with both reins,  involves a lot of grabbing and hanging - her, not me for once.

So the day was a double success.
The raspberry leaf also one of those double edged swords.  I am glad that I found something that works and I feel bad that her resistances may all have been because she has been uncomfortable, maybe all her life and I didn't find this earlier.
On the other hand, that should make me the hero and not somebody to fight with.  Right, Nina?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I think I fixed my horse

It's sort of unbelievable and I have been putting off posting about it because I assumed that I was mistaken anyway.
Here's as short as I can make it.
Nina has always been TENSE.  Even on her best days, she can get into a lovely forward, back swinging trot and still there is an underlying tension.  On her not so good days she gnashes her teeth, pins her ears and glares over her shoulder a lot.  Most of her training issues are described in the last million or so posts so I won't repeat all of them here, just accept that TENSION has been a large part of our training relationship.  Tension that all the saddle fitting, massage, reiki, etc etc etc cannot fix.

A week ago Friday I put red raspberry leaves in her beet pulp and every day since.  I had never tried this because she does not act like the typical Jekyll & Hyde hormonal mare.  But I did a little research a couple of weeks ago and found that it works on all sorts of behavioral problems that apparently are connected to hormones.
So 4 days later I get on Nina and we walk around for an hour, on the buckle, circles and spiral and leg yields (which are worth WWIII) and she is just ambling around with no TENSION, none.
So I assumed she had a tough night and the next day prepared for my mare back.  Nope, did a little work, she was a little pissy about several things but without the underlying tension that makes her hum all the time.
Fast forward to today.  She hasn't been out of her pen for two days because of the weather.  She was higher than a kite and close to crossing the line to rude behavior.  She was spooky and silly, it was cold and windy.  When I got on her she was still silly and spooky but all that tension wasn't there.
She used to radiate a clear message  'I hate you and I am going to kill you.'
then that tapered off to 'I hate this, I hate this'
That is what is gone.  It's hard to explain.  It's not like she suddenly became well trained and perfect but is is like riding a different horse.  It's like everything came down to normal size. 
I'm excited about this.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

cold and wet

Our early snowstorm has turned out to be as much cold rain as snow, typical fall.  I have lost one big branch off my big maple tree but otherwise no damage.  I thought the cold and snow would strip the trees but no, they hung onto their branches and now trees all over town are big snow drifts.  We will see tomorrow when it all melts off how much damage was done.

I took Nina her beet pulp and found her cold, wet, spooky and making herself so tall I thought I was going to have to jump up and down to get her halter on her.  I went prepared and threw a cotton sheet on her followed by a waterproof nylon sheet and within about 10 minutes she was warm under the sheets, starting to dry and reduced to her normal height. 
I wish my internal heater was as efficient as a horse's.  Or even burned calories like that.  I could use either one.  
Spring and fall it is hard to keep horses that are confined warm enough without being too warm.  Fortunately, Nina is like me and always cold so she always appreciates a sheet or blanket and rarely gets too warm.
Gradually back into the 70s by the weekend. 

good bye Fugly

I have read Fugly Horse of the Day for years, off and on.  It can go for months without me and then I will follow daily for a while.  While I think that some of the criticisms were mean spirited enough to make you blink, once you heard more it was impossible to not feel that it was justified.

After years of documenting and raging against the stupidity in the horse world the originator of the blog turned it over to a new writer. 

I tried to keep an open mind and read and give the new writer a chance to make her own points in her own way, but I have had enough.

On her personal blog she stood up for the abusive riders in the reining competition in Stockholm that drew the ire of the world.  She didn't say it was good, but maintained that it was the way things are *shrug* and explained that the horses were not actually being hurt.

There have been several digs at training and disciplines other than her own.  Today was the last straw.  Publishing a photo of a horse with a flash noseband so tight that it was an instrument of torture she proceeded to blast the use of any 'noseband' as cruel, lumping them all together and making no distinction about proper use vs. abuse and why there are so many different ones. 
Since I use a "caveson" (or noseband to Western riders) and I have even recommended a figure-8 to a student or two and I have and have not used a flash...... since I understand the use of these pieces of tack and understand how they can also be used to abuse, since I ride in the English disciplines where they are traditional, I think I have had enough of her anti-English riding and have crossed her off my blog list. 

She is entitled to her opinions, I just don't have to support a blog anymore that I have previously promoted to friends and horse lovers.   I wish she had just stuck to her own blog and her own opinions (which I probably would have continued to read, I am not afraid to disagree with someone) and left the famous (or infamous) Fugly blog alone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A taste of winter...

This is the cottonwood tree at the barn that makes shade for us to sit under and yak while we think about doing something constructive with the horses. Today it was vivid against a bright blue sky. By Wednesday we are supposed to have 12" of snow, which will strip the trees bare. We will have more nice fall days, but without the color show going on around us. As compensation - all the flies and hornets at the barn will drop dead.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Sunday...

People who actually have a horse life are off somewhere at horse trials and shows and clinics doing horsey stuff. The rest of us are ..... not.
I hope they do write posts on Monday morning about their adventures for the rest of us.
*sigh* hint hint

I did teach a lesson today and it was a beautiful fall day so I can't feel tooooooo disgruntled.

Friday, October 21, 2011

if your horse was a dog......

What would it be?

a German Shepherd?

a Labrador?

a Poodle?

a Greyhound?

a Blue Heeler?


Thursday, October 20, 2011

feeling better...

This is just a vent about my frustration with Nina - long and rambling. 

I have been so discouraged about Nina.  She was off for so long and then for a couple of weeks she would be fine for 2 days and off for one and repeat.  She has been sound all week this time.

And she has reverted to one of her original resistances, sticking her head between her knees and bracing against the bit.  This was her first big resistance, OK second, I guess rearing trumps rooting.
I just get so tired of feeling like working with her is one step forward and two steps back, every once in a while I get to reverse that.

So I did a little thinking about what is going on.  Some of it is between my ears.  I tend to walk on eggshells when riding her because doing that worked when she was so mixed up and defensive.
Well, she is not mixed up and defensive much any more, I think asshat is a closer description.
So I decided that I might be better off treating her like a naughty two year old under saddle instead of an old wily duck-and-run expert.  That is the part that is hers, she has never learned the basics about being a riding horse and she has resisted learning this stuff all her life.

I decided to try to fix the rooting in the round pen.  I thought I had fixed it under saddle and she had not done it for a long time, but she is still a pro at it.
I took a nylon cord, put a snap at each end ran it from the bit through my grab strap and to the bit.  I made the length long enough that when she carried her head normally there was no tension, but it was too short to stick her head between her knees.  I put this on her two days ago and she fought it for almost two hours.  Not a big hysterical fight, just slow, calculating, using all her strength to pull the damn thing down to the ground.  I had her walk a little and trot a little but mostly I just ignored her and she walked around rooting and shoving, trying to surprise it, trying to force it, trying to paw at it, only rarely picking her head up and relaxing.
This was more than a little discouraging.  When she appeared to have given up I removed the cord and got on, she immediately dropped her head to the ground and stuck it there.  I got off, put the cord back on and another hour passed before she was walking around in a horse shape.

It did occur to me that 'submission to the bridle' was just not in her vocabulary, never has been and until we can agree on that - there is no progress.  No wonder we have been on a roller coaster.  We are at square one.  Only not the square one that I had thought we were at - no ------ way back before that one.
Yesterday she had off.  Today I did it again and in five minutes she was trotting around, carrying herself normally, NO rooting or pulling.  (She doesn't know it but giving in for one day is not success, she is going to spend a lot of time wearing this.)

I got on her, she rooting ONCE about 15 minutes into the ride, I grabbed one rein and hung on and after spinning around a minute she gave up.  No more rooting.

Then she was a tree, unable to move - we have been doing this too.  When I make her move she is spooky and crooked and so uneven that it is like a dingy in a high sea.  If I think about this too much it gets to be intimidating.
So I put on my big girl panties, told myself that I was at a competition and did I want to be the idiot on the bad horse?
I booted her into a joggy, crooked trot and from there into a more forward trot and from there into an actual trot.  She spooked and ran sideways at the poles that we had already trotted over and I growled at her that I was going to kill her and kicked like a six year old on a bad Shetland pony and suddenly I had a nice horse under me, forward, balanced and unbelievably, relaxed.
I worked her for a little while, walked over the the gate, stopped and then just to push a little more - went back to work.  She was fine.

I had a horse when I was 20 that fought me like the devil for the first 10 minutes of every ride and bucked me off a hundred times.  Next to him Nina is a pansy.  I need to make up my mind that she is going to be difficult for the first 10-20 minutes of EVERY ride and just kick her through it and get on with it.  Just because she doesn't act this way for a few days doesn't mean that she is fixed and going to be good from now on.

She trusts me absolutely on the ground and it is because I make her toe the line and I am a good leader and boss.  I have not been consistent about doing the same under saddle.  I think my whiney little voice wants an easier horse to ride.  But this is the one I have.

I feel better about this today, not so much tempted to quit and more sure that I can push her through this juvenile crap and get to where we are doing stuff that even she thinks is fun.
Vent over.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I know that Nina is observant and smart, but sometimes she surprises me and makes me laugh. 
She is often turned out in one of the pens around the arena while I teach lessons.  Tonight I put her out in a pen and taught three lessons.  She trotted and rolled and stood around and slept and watched.  Feeding time was between the second the third lessons and she watched the gator roll by with the hay and feed and yawned. 
After the third lesson I started picking up the standards and poles and as soon as I had put several of them away Nina started pacing in the pen and yelling at me.  She knew I was done and it was time to pay attention to her.   A friend of mine was watching her too and said that it was perfectly clear that Nina could tell that it was her turn. 
When she is not infuriating - she cracks me up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

saddle pad contest

Have you entered to win one of Kate's fabulous hand painted saddle pads?
It's simple - here is the post with the info The Adventures of Lucy - Win a hand painted saddle pad. 
Only a few days left.
Nina made me enter!

Another great helmet cam - this one from Fair Hill

I love Doug's helmet cam videos, sort of a combination of schooling lesson (big opening left rein and lots and lots of right leg) and a guided tour (and coming up on your left is...)
Thanks to Doug and DPEquestrian.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seasons changing

The high today is supposed to be in the 50s.  There is a storm blowing in the mountains. 
At this time of year when I hear this forecast I have to remind myself that I don't really need 3 jackets, 2 hats and my Antarctic gloves. 
When the temps reach the 50s in January or February we throw our coats off and ride in T-shirts, maybe with a vest. 
Just have to get adjusted all over again.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

a little wake-up call for Nina

So Nina has had it pretty easy for EVER.  Ok for several, let's see...almost 7 months.  So now she appears to be sound, maintaining sound and ready to go back to work.  She has been sore here and there as she starts work and she has been getting short rides, maybe 20-35 minutes. 
Today there was a little wind and she was a spooky mess.  Nearly ran out from under me twice and was a jerk about transitions, rearing once and just being a turd.  I got irritated enough to push her through that and she settled down and did a little, very little, good work. 
I don't want to push her too hard, trying to build her back up slowly, she is not a youngster (neither am I!) but I decided today that she can just simply spend a lot more time under saddle, even if she is not working hard. 
So today I got off, picked up the jump standards that someone had left laying on their sides in the arena, chatted with a friend for a while, tightened my girth back up and got back on. 
I expected a hissy fit, which I did not get, but it was a laborious process to get her to walk a few laps next to another horse.  Exhausted, ya know?
I am used to working a horse for about an hour a day and while she can't work for that long she can pack me around for that long and get over punching a timeclock at 20 minutes.

beware unscrupulous horse trainers/dealers

Remember 'Hank'?
I told you about him last week, I went with a client to take a look at him.  He was priced at $2500, which I thought was too high for him, but my client liked him, made a full price offer and arranged for a vet exam.  The appointment was for today.
This morning the seller, Cayla Stone of Fort Collins, CO.  contacted the buyer and told her that she (Cayla) had decided to keep the horse.
The buyer cancelled the vet appointment and was disappointed that the seller had changed her mind, but that's the way things go.
Then - lo and behold!  Hank is back on Dreamhorse already, with an increased price.  Now she is asking $3000.
If you are shopping for a horse in Colorado, or know anyone who is - stay away from this one.  Word will get around quickly, but until then you are just asking to be jerked around.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goodbye Gogo

Gogo died today.
Those of you who read Eventing A-Gogo know the story of Andrea and Gogo.
If you haven't read about her, Gogo was a lovely event horse who suffered a suspensory injury that, in spite of a long battle, did not heal.  Recently it had started breaking down and Andrea had to make the decision to put Gogo down.  These horses are not pets, it's a different kind of relationship.
They are friends and partners and teachers.
They are missed forever.


I got stepped on yesterday, silly me. 
Where we tack up trucks and trailers go by just feet from the horses, Nina is normally fine with them, sometimes gives somebody the hairy eyeball but is usually good.  Yesterday I was fastening her bridle when a stock trailer making a lot of noise went by.  Nina tensed up and I could tell she was likely to spook a little but I made the decision to just keep working and try to ignore her.  If I react then her reaction can be to blow up.
Well, I had it all decided that she would jump away from the trailer if she jumped at all.
Nope.  She jumped toward the trailer and toward me.  Trying to hide in my pocket maybe?
She landed on my right foot and even though it felt like all her weight was on it, she must have felt it and shifted her weight away because nothing was broken or even bruised.  But it hurt like *#($)@*$&!
AND I found myself standing with my nose inches from the side of a slightly frightened 1200# animal with my foot nailed to the floor!  I actually thought about this at the time and debated briefly my decision to stand still. 
Then I started yelling and she backed away and all was well.  After a little limping around and swearing while she cocked her head at me and looked puzzled. 
ANYBODY who does anything around horses in tennis shoes or flip flops - and I see it all the time - is an idiot.  I never go to the barn without leather boots.  I get stepped on about once every 10 years or so and that is plenty enough reminder for me!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tevis Cup

The Tevis Cup was run this weekend. In honor of the brave and/or insane riders who complete this race, here is the best video I have ever seen of Cougar Rock. (aka- why I don't do Endurance)
You have to watch the whole thing. The first riders are the race leaders and just scurry up it like it is level. Then the mortal beings take a stab at it.

Monday Morning

Nothing new to report on the horsey front.  We had 32 degrees and rain all day Saturday, a reminder that yes, winter is coming.  By some fluke of timing I managed to teach a jumping lesson in the indoor without a single other horse in the ring.  That was nice. 
A friend posted this cartoon on FB.  I thought it was an excellent way to start the week.  Put your coffee down. Have a great Monday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

regular work

Nothing exciting going on with Nina.  Trying to ride as much as possible and get her (and me) back into shape before winter gets here.  When she feels good she has started moving like this, with a level back and her nose poked out a bit.  It has taken a very long time to get her nose out from between her knees.
She is getting back into shape.  When she is tired or muscle sore she moves a little downhill, her rear is not really strong again yet. 
Pictures of her looking this relaxed in the neck make me happy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things you really didn't need to know....

I think we should all have a category on our blogs for when we find out things that no one could possibly care about - but we have to share them anyway.

A horse's diet consists mostly, at least in my mind, of generally tasteless stuff that takes a lot of chewing.  They seem happy with this.
So this morning I am reading about some alternative supplements for horses.  I use slippery elm bark for ulcers, works great most of the time, sometimes she seems to need a bigger blast of it.  It also falls into the tasteless group of food.  So this article says that fresh ginger can have the same effect and works better for some horses.
Ginger?  That stuff that can spice up your life.... or take the top of your head off?
There is no way that my super suspicious, WHAT DID YOU PUT IN MY FEED, picky horse is going to get near a pungent bucket of anything with ginger in it.
The recommended amount is a chuck the size of your thumb, chopped up small.  No kidding, small?  Does microscopic make the taste milder?  That is a LOT of ginger in a feeding.
But I decide to experiment. After all, I will just be throwing away one bucket of beet pulp, no big deal.
I walk into Nina's pen with the bucket and she nearly knocks me down.  Her manners around feeding are generally great and she will stand patiently and watch me play with her feed as long as I want to.  Not today.  I whacked her on the nose with the big plastic spoon a couple of times and she finally backed up a step.  I dumped the ginger beet pulp into her feed bucket, she dove in and I don't think she took a breath until it was gone.  She certainly did not raise her head or even open her eyes.  All her focus was on her mouth.  Unbelievable.
There now, totally worthless info but you can see why I had to tell you.

Brian O'Connor

If you want to REALLY know what is going on in Eventing, just watch Brian O'Connor. This one is also from the Eventing Nation website. Visit them at Eventing Nation.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Found on Eventing Nation...

This horse totally misread the jump and decided to carry on anyway.  I will pass along EN warning to put down any beverages before watching this.

Horse Shopping

There are two ways to find a cheap horse for yourself.  One is to buy a mature horse with the baggage that has made him into a cheap horse.  This is what I did with Nina.  These horses can get really cheap, depending on the baggage. 
The other is to buy a young horse and with Thoroughbreds that means that you have to hope that they will grow up into the athlete that you want.  And much of that growing process can be frightening in terms of the horse's later success.  And it can take a long time.
The horse we looked at yesterday is four years old and has good and bad.  On the bad side he is (hopefully) in the middle of a growth spurt.  His rear is straight everywhere from toe to croup.  It is also way up over his withers, making his back a long downhill slide.  His front end belongs to a different horse and is nice with good angles, a long shoulder set into a fair length upper arm.  The type of front that has a moderately good length of stride and the ability to fold up well over a jump.  His neck is of good length with a nicely set on head and nice throatlatch. 
He has a very baby head/face and no muscle which I am hoping means that he has still more growing to do.  If he grows enough for the front and rear to match he is going to be a very nice athletic looking horse.  If not...... that is the gamble.
He has a wonderful brain; calm, curious, willing but not a dead head. 
He is going to get vetted, I think he is going to be bought, he is a gamble, just like any other young horse, but that brain is worth a lot.
The trainer was what I expected, a twenty something trying to make it as a trainer without any help.  She has a couple of green horses, including this one.  I give her full strokes for not pushing this horse.  He does walk, trot, canter on a loose rein and not much else.  But he has been out on the trails and hauled to shows as a tourist to just look around.  She has not worked him hard because he appears to be growing, that is excellent. 
Here are a few pics from yesterday.

Monday, October 3, 2011


It's Monday!

Rockley Farm is once again posting pictures of that beautiful countryside that they ride through, complete with ponies.

The Adventures of Cathy and Valie posted a video that I am not even going to comment on, but it is worth seeing.

Riding From The Ground Up  show us one of those pictures that makes us all snort when our instructor says 'the jump is just another canter stride.'

And I am in a better mood about going to look at this young horse.  In fact, I am starting to look forward to it.  One more cup of coffee and I will be there.  I am going to grit my teeth and nod politely at the 'I am a professional trainer' speech, which my client has already heard at least once and just see what we got. 
Here is a video of the baby (and I did not say 'amateur hour' out loud - oops)  He is kind of cute.  He has no steering but I wouldn't expect him to at this stage.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

horse shopping

Going to go and look at this boy tomorrow for a client.  He could be nice or not.
Since his owner claims to be a professional trainer, wouldn't you think she could take a professional or at least a decent photo to try to sell this horse?
I hope he is worth the drive.  Or at least I hope I am not so grumpy.  Wish us luck.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Reining show at the barn all day.   I hope they have enough volunteers, there are about a zillion wanna-be reiners boarding there.  Only a half dozen actually work at it, take lessons and compete etc.  I think the others should show up and support the show, I hope they do.  I plan to go out sometime and watch and see if there is anything that needs to be done but I am just not motivated to show up at the crack of dawn. 
Nina is doing well, getting over her sore muscles and stronger everyday.  She has developed a new weird habit.  When I get on and tell her to walk off she grabs the bit, pins her ears, shakes her head all over the place, stomps her feet while we start moving.  If I just throw the reins at her and wait a minute she is fine and we are moving along.  If I don't wait for this little ritual to be over, she gets stuck.  I think it is some sort of protest, maybe over having so much time off and now going back to work AGAIN.  Who knows, but she had done it nearly every day this week.  I think she forgot once.  She is never boring.
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