Tuesday, October 31, 2017

If the Broom Fits

Well, I didn't end up dressing up for my Halloween lesson but if I had I would have totally dressed Katai as a witch...

This year
Goals for next year


She was just as bad, if not worse, for this ride with Jane as she has been for the rest of the week. I was SO GLAD that I had Jane there to help me and make sure that it wasn't just me. I knew that some of it was me but I also needed to know what to change and how since I had run out of tools.

Jane was able to be really helpful but even she commented on how horrible Katai was being. Honestly if I didn't know better I'd say that she'd run out of Magnesium because she's acting more like she used to when she wasn't getting that. I suppose it wouldn't be unheard of for something to be off with her supplements but I trust Smartpak so I really doubt it. Both Jane and I are thinking that it's the change in the weather combined with a bunch of new horses in the barn and a new routine.

I'm really hoping that it is just that and that she decides to return to normal sooner rather than later. I won't even go into much about tonight since it wasn't as though we really made any progress beyond ending with a slightly looser pony than we started with. Very telling was that she was really sweaty around her ears and on her neck despite the cold and the fact that she really didn't work that hard or for that long. I really think it was just where she was mentally tonight.

She's looking cute since she got a spa day yesterday but that's about all I have that's positive about where we are with our riding and dressage progress at this point haha. Along with the spa day I had a challenging (but better) ride yesterday only because I literally didn't ask for anything and just bombed around while my new fellow boarders rode around with us.

Just as I hoped it was great to have them there and is still motivating me to go to the barn despite current pony/human relations being so challenging :)

Also, more puppy pictures for your daily dose of cute!!





I can't believe that she'll be 5 weeks old this week! Only about a month left before she comes home :)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Full Barn

I sort of feel like I just need some catchy theme music and a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Maybe something like this?
Back to the updates though, my friends moved in!! There are now nine horses in the barn with 5 of those being people who will be riding and taking lessons, 2 that belong to Jane, and 2 retirees.

First though I want to back up a little.

Since my last post I gave Katai Friday off and then lunged on Saturday. It was apparent when I lunged that pony had a very tired hind end, especially her right hind. I'm fairly certain that's what started the argument on Thursday and if I'd known I would have just given her the day off but hindsight is always perfect I guess.

Instead, at least I know now and after that I decided to try a redo on the easy stretchy ride this morning. I got to the barn fairly early so that I could ride and get everything closed up and put away before three new horses (all mares) and a bunch of people showed up. Long story short, it worked! She was definitely not completely thrilled about the idea of working and definitely felt a little tired but unlike Thursday she was willing to at least try to do what I was asking.

I kept it really simple with lots of straight lines and big circles. I worked a lot at the walk, did a little trot, and finally just a tiny bit of canter in each direction. I didn't even try the lateral work since I didn't want to push her at all and I was really trying to repair human/pony relations.  After the ride I worked on her hooves a bit and then cuddled her back up in her blanket and turned her out.

Neither one of us is thrilled with this weather
It was right around lunch time at that point so I headed in to town, got some taco bell and a coffee to try to warm up and then headed back. I had just gotten back into the barn and started cleaning my tack when Jane showed up and shortly after that we heard the truck pull up outside.

It was so much fun to help them find their stalls and hang out while they got the official barn tour and started to move their stuff in. This is such a fun group and we were having a great time just hanging out getting the horses used to the arena :) Jane also figured out the lesson schedule and it worked out great! I've been trying out a schedule of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday rides. That way I'm still riding 5 times a week without it all being back to back and I don't need to drive on Friday night and risk all the drunk drivers. All three are planning to have their lessons on Wednesday evening which means I won't need to change my schedule in order to not interfere with their lessons since that's already a night off.

Tomorrow my hope is to do a bit more work and at least do some leg yields and a bit more canter. What's really exciting is that there will be OTHER PEOPLE there! At least two of my friends, now identified as C and J2, will be there as well. It's so much easier to be motivated to go to the barn knowing that there will be other people there.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Snowmageddon

Not the snow falling outside, which is happening, but this particular 13.2 hands of snowy white fluff.

Don't let her cute looks fool you
She was a PILL yesterday for my ride. I had really low expectations for that ride and just wanted to do about 15-20 minutes of stretchy, bendy, walk and trot work and just a simple canter each direction of the arena. Basically the only reason I was going to ride was to stretch her out and help her feel better after the hard work of the lesson on Tuesday.

Unfortunately all Katai had planned was to do the exact opposite of what I wanted. I asked for a trot and got a canter, asked for a leg yield (again with the trying to help her work out the stiffness) and got a lengthening, I asked for a canter and got a halt and so on and so forth.

Supremely frustrating but I'm proud of how I rode it which was to just keep trying to find a mutual solution to the disagreement and yet I wasn't coddling her.

I think the main reason for the fussiness was that she's using different muscles and likely a little sore. Combine that with a pony that likes to get the right answer but now is being asked to change what the right answer is and she was both physically and mentally locked up and crabby.

Therefore our ride turned from a 15 minute easy prance to a nearly 60 minute tough, mental, sweaty workout. However, we did get somewhere. Recently especially I've really been a diplomat. I know we're changing things so if I can get even 75% of what I'm asking I'm going with it, probably to the detriment of our riding goals, but it has helped to mitigate our riding related meltdowns. Yesterday was no different except I wasn't even getting 25% and through pushing to get at least that much I ended up getting closer to 100% by the end on certain things.

I did end up letting a lot of things go, she was still VERY tense but was letting me at least bend her and help her try to loosen up. I also had to let go of the stride length because about the only thing she seemed capable of was tiny itty bitty strides. Instead I made those strides fall at the tempo I wanted even if it meant that it took us forever to make our way around the ring. The real victory was that she actually was letting me put my leg on and was accepting it in both directions and was moving away from it equally in both directions. She also was taking contact on the right rein which was what initially started the meltdown (although I started out asking for about 25-50% of what I needed and at the end after all that fuss I ended up with closer to 100% of what I need).

I was good for the ride and after I was still pleased with how I'd handled but also emotional at how far back this step is. I dealt with this pony (or a slightly worse version to be honest) for over 2 years and she's been SOOO good recently that it's painful to be back here. We're still along for the ride and I know this is just a blip but it's a really painful blip right now.

In other snowy news, the weather man was actually pretty accurate.


I took the picture above a couple of hours ago and a lot more has fallen since then. It's still 33* and the ground is still warm enough that it's melting on the roads and just wet for driving but it's really sticking around more than I expected on the grass.

Also, here's a picture of my new little snowball!!!!!!!!!!

Already practicing the side eye
I'm dying over here wanting to just snuggle her so bad.

                          

Alas, I have just over a month to wait. It sounds like the breeder is aiming for the last week in November/First week in December and is working with the airline right now to arrange travel.

As to the details, she is a long haired Chihuahua. One part of my decision is that I really have wanted a dog I can bring to the barn and, while Veggie is the perfect dog in every other respect, he's just too keyed up by visual stimuli to be safe there. However, because I love his personally so much (he's an Italian greyhound/chi cross) I've really been wanting a Chi. Add to that the fact that a LOT of my horse friends have Chihuahuas all of whom are really nice little barn dogs and I decided to go with it.

I looked around for a long time for a breeder I liked that was producing happy, well adjusted dogs (especially important for toy dog breeders in my opinion) and finally found this one. I got first pick of litter, however, one thing I was inflexible on was that I wanted a girl and, wouldn't you know, this litter only had one girl. However, she is exactly what I wanted so all those positive thoughts I sent to her mom must have worked :)

Now I just have to somehow make it through the next 4-5 weeks and I'll get to finally welcome her home!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Other Happenings

There've been some other random things that don't each deserve their own post but I'm not quite sure how to fit them in otherwise so I'll just group them together. We'll go with least exciting/positive to most exciting/positive :)

First, when I got to the barn on Monday evening I found this.


I can count on one hand the number of times that I've found blood on my pony.

Three times, it was three times.

Aaaanyway I'm knocking on every piece of wood in the house as I'm writing this but it's important because my first reaction when I saw this was OMG HER LEG IS GOING TO FALL OFF which just speaks to how rare this sort of thing is over here. In fact the last time it happened was here in a post I put up in March of 2016.

At any rate there was a tiny amount, less than dime sized, of localized swelling and I'm sure she just knocked herself. If she were a fancy horse her whole leg would have swollen up in protest but since she's a pony it looked almost completely normal today. Once I got it scrubbed up I found a very small wound and put some ointment on it and that was that.

The coloring and shadows make it look weird but there was literally no swelling or heat today
Second, we now have 4" of SNOW scheduled for this weekend. I'm fairly sure the weatherman is exaggerating like normal but it's still not a fun thing to see in the forecast especially in October.

If only winter and snow was actually this fun
Third, my friends are moving in on SUNDAY this weekend!!! I can't believe that it's that close already and am really excited for them to move in. I plan to head out to ride in the morning to ride in order to beat any craziness that adding a bunch of new mares will cause. Then I'll stick around for awhile and hopefully see them arrive.

Not my puppy or type of puppy, that's a surprise, but who doesn't need to see a cute puppy
Fourth, awhile ago I mentioned that a few exciting things are happening (including my friends moving in) and now I'm ready to mention another one. I'm getting a PUPPY!!! I've wanted one since I was little but have always made the decision that it wasn't the right time. Instead I've owned two rescue dogs and adored/adore them with all my heart.

Finally though it's time for Veggie to have a friend and this is as good of time as any in my life to add a new family member of the puppy variety. I had pick of the litter with an amazing breeder in Louisiana about a month before the puppies were born. They were born on 9/29 but I didn't want to jinx it or say anything too soon especially since I grew up on a farm and know just how sensitive young life forms can be.

However, now that my puppy will be four weeks old on Friday I figured I would share :) The breeder isn't going to let her go until 9 weeks which falls on December 1st but she'll be shipped to me so the breeder is currently arranging travel and I'll know soon which day I'll be able to pick her up.

Cue lots of exciting baby puppy shopping and preparation including requesting a whole bunch of time off work. Also, at this point my family still doesn't know so it will be quite the Christmas surprise. I'm going to sort of keep it a surprise here as well as far as what breed and what she looks like but I'll share pictures soon or when she comes home!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Rhythm and Half Halts: Lesson Recap 10/24

Birthday treats photo from almost a month ago, I really need new media!
Pretty much my lesson tonight was about rhythm and half halts. At first it was about dealing with a very fractious pony that didn't want to pony. She was tight, sucked back, fussy, didn't want to take contact etc. Jane said that this is normal and that often when we start to push new things they revert to previous behaviors. She was also likely a bit sore from all the running she did on Sunday.

I had really focused on bendy, stretchy, flexions, and lateral work on Monday but it really didn't seem to help the ride tonight. She had a complete meltdown when I was asking for the leg yield and REFUSED to go forward so I kicked her (a few times) into canter. Jane yelled that it was the right thing to do and I did half the arena pushing the canter before I slowed her back to trot and tried again. Honestly it was almost as behind the leg but the next one was considerably better.

We did a few more and she continued to loosen up but still never really relaxed.

Jane had me canter her around the arena a bunch more in each direction just to burn off a little bit of pony steam. It did help and she relaxed (more mentally I think than physically) a bit.

After a walk break we did some walk/trot transitions. The first round was focusing on keeping her supple and not letting her lock up her neck. It was also helping me to keep the rhythm with my seat. It was a struggle but got better as we went. We worked in each direction and then took another walk break.

Then we did the same but this time the focus was on fewer steps and having me cue at the right time. We never actually really got to that few steps because the focus became helping me cue at the right time. I really struggled at first but eventually got the timing a few times and was rewarded by really feeling her step under with her left hind. We switched, cue the struggle again, and eventually got a few good ones to the right but she really didn't want to step under with her right and when she did I didn't feel it the same way.

Jane wants us to do this at least once a week to make sure we keep working on evening out the strength in both hind legs. Homework is good! Plus I really need to keep practicing my timing :)

Again with the old media
We took another walk break and then did some walk/canter transitions. The goal today was just to practice them. As normal, since I'm a perfectionist, I've been mainly avoiding them but Jane wants me to keep working on them. At the very least we both need to practice the communication and it just needs to become less exciting for Katai. Then, eventually, I'll need to work on the timing with these as well.

Even through the end of the lesson Katai didn't really want to play along and she still never really relaxed. We got some good work despite it but it never really felt smooth like it was.

Oh well, I'm not concerned at all and I fully trust Jane and we'll follow where she leads. I have no doubt that she knows where she's leading us, it's just tough that things that felt pretty and smooth don't right now. It'll be better eventually but right now there are sucky moments haha.

My plan for the rest of the week is to give her a day off tomorrow. Thursday she's going to get a light ride, Friday I'm taking off and then this weekend I'm going to find a day where I can do fun things with her. Jane actually pulled down the pen that she put up in our outdoor riding area so depending on the weather (mainly provided we don't get the 4" of snow that's forecast) I'm going to try to ride her out there just to give her something else to think about. I also think it's time to lunge in the Vienna reins again.

Monday, October 23, 2017

That Four Letter Word

Soooo yeah.....


That is snow on the forecast. Also a snapshot of the storms that gave me a migraine this past weekend. I was really hoping we could hold out until December for snow but I guess Mother Nature has other things in mind.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Another Meh Ride But This Time...

It was totally me.

Most of the time I've had the arena to myself for the past year. I can probably count the number of times that I've needed to share the arena on one hand. I've known that with multiple people moving in this is going to change and I'm going to need to adjust but I don't know if I realized just how tough that would be.

Then, today Jane came to lunge her mare while I was riding. I had, unfortunately, just set up a bunch of cavaletti at one end of the arena so Jane went to lunge at the other. I should have probably climbed off to move at least a few of them to give myself more room to maneuver but I didn't. That sort of locked me in to doing only very specific things.

I feel very safe with my tiny dog dinosaur keeping watch on my retiree neighbors
In addition I hadn't made it out to the barn the day before because the weather had given me a migraine and that same weather meant that the horses were in all day yesterday. Because of that Katai was speedy as well as sassy, she's very much in heat, and felt like a run away freight train.

Then, because the cavaletti got her even more jazzed up I spent most of the ride, limited to riding specific figures with a horse that was trying to run away and cavaletti everywhere in her vision which didn't help either.

Jane tried to help a bit from the other end and I was proud that I never ran out of patience but it was just really tough to be effective and I sort of set myself up to fail. Then, because she just.wouldn't.stop.running away I ended up working her more than I would have otherwise.

Shnoots
At the very least she was channeling most of the forward into a very big trot and not getting tooo tight or taking lots of little steps like she used to. She also didn't bolt, or buck, or have any tantrums. She just didn't end up learning much or changing her way of going at all during the ride and she's potentially sore after all that work which I really try to avoid.

Luckily I learned a lot and next time if I end up having a more limited space to ride I'll make sure I don't limit myself even more by adding a bunch of poles to the space.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

All The Mares

                         
                         
Oh my goodness I've been bad at blogging this month. Last year it was my seasonal depression, this year it's just that I've been enjoying the fall weather, getting chores done, and enjoying some down time after all the travel this year.

I've worked my way back up to riding 4-5 times a week and had a couple of make up lessons so I think we're back on track. I had a couple of amazing rides last week and then a decent ride on Monday this week. Tuesday evening I had a lesson with Jane that was sort of meh. Honestly I think we're in for lots of meh rides and lessons right now since we're really starting to change things up for both Katai any myself.

Whole bunch of new lights in the arena <3
For my lesson we started with a square of turn on the haunches. I struggled with keeping the correct bend and Katai didn't want to stay in front of my leg. It's the first time we've done them beyond really just basically introducing them to her so we just need some more practice.

                            
                                                Now if only her owner could help her stay in balance and 
                                                     still change the bend so she doesn't trip and/or loose the big stride

Then we did some warm up at the trot with some leg yields. Despite originally feeling like we were NEVER going to be able to properly do a leg yield they're looking pretty sharp now :) They still need to be able to have a bit more angle when I ask and she doesn't love to cross over with one hind. Each time though that hind leg but that seems to change. I'm not sure if it's because she's fairly ambidextrous or if there's something else going on from a riding perspective.


Old vs. new stall fronts
After that we went right into canter and that's where the wheels fell off a bit. Recently Katai has been REALLY good. She still almost never has a tantrum but that evening she got as close as she has recently. She was really just very jazzed up and didn't want to stop cantering dammit! When I would cue for trot she'd take one trot step and then go right back to a canter and refuse to go back to trot. She wasn't a run away and was taking direction well but she just didn't want to change back to trot.

                       

Practicing our counter canter

We took our time with it and got a few good transitions in either direction but also something we need to work more on. After when Jane and I had a chance to debrief she mentioned that it's likely that we're just asking for so much more and changing how we're asking (we were asking her to keep her pole up more at the canter) that she just didn't quite understand and wanted to run.

New fencing being installed
Then we worked on trot a bit more and did a bunch of SI. That was fantastic and we're both really starting to get it. There were still more moments where she was sucked back and tight through her back than there have been but we had a few magical moments and I was able to identify part of the problem when we switched to the second direction.

Hot water!!!
Wednesday she had off and then I was going to ride today but she ended up having her feet trimmed. My previous farrier would just show up every 6 weeks, trim them without me there and then bill me or I'd keep track and leave him a check. This farrier, who's amazing and used to be president of our farrier society, really wants me there. I do actually appreciate that but unfortunately the last two times have been during the morning on busy work days. This morning I sort of somehow made it work with lots of phone meetings in the car but it's far from ideal. Also because of that since I just can't justify driving that distance twice in one day it meant that she won't be ridden (also ok since I'd rather give her a day off after a trim).

Also this is exactly what my farrier looks like, complete with mustache and tattoos.
He actually used to be a body builder and he's in his 70s now.
He's a really interesting guy and his son actually dances with a big dance company in NY.
Hopefully she won't be tender tomorrow and I'll be able to ride again!

Also, in other updates at least a couple of my friends are moving!!!!! I know that two of them gave their 30 day notice at the start of October so they'll be moving in on November 1st :) I'm so happy and can't wait to have more boarders at the barn. I haven't heard from the third person but at this point I still think she may be moving as well. All three of them have mares and it's all mares at the barn now so we'll be full up on sassy females.

The sad part is that I may need to consolidate my tack a bit.
Possibly having three saddle racks to myself isn't very fair ;)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Playing Catchup

Free lunging from the Sunday where I flew out to Seattle
Momentum is an interesting thing. It's not that I don't have information to share, in fact I almost feel like I have too much information to share, it's more that I just haven't been able to convince myself to sit down and write.

Last year I started to really struggle with my seasonal depression but this year I started taking my vitamin D way earlier so I'm actually doing well. Beyond just being tired recovering from my Seattle work trip I'm feeling great.

Last weekend I rode Saturday-Sunday and then gave her Monday off before my lesson on Tuesday. In those days I had a lesson on Sunday and a lesson on Tuesday. The Sunday lesson we worked a bit on canter and some shoulder in.

Tiny dog is a ham and I think he missed me :)
We did two exercises, one was leg yielding to center line away from the long side. Once we hit X we made a 10 meter circle in the direction of the bend and then, figure eight style, changed the bend at X and did another 10 meter circle towards the other long side. Back at X we'd leg yield back towards the original wall we'd started from.

The second was one that we've done before where we'd shoulder in along the long side, midway down the side we'd go across the diagonal, change the bend prior to hitting the wall and cue for canter. In canter we'd do a 20 meter circle at the end of the arena and then go back to trot and do it again. I LOVE this exercise and Katai does too. We did so much better this lesson than we have in the past and the SI was clearly improved.

Little blurry and tough to tell, but that's a hot tub boat on Lake Union
On Tuesday we did a bunch more canter including shallow loops to work on our counter canter going into 20 meter circles where we'd spiral in and out. Going to the left it was pretty funny because she wanted to half pass to the center rather than move straight. Not what we were asking for and we were able to correct it but talk about an over achiever!

We also worked a lot more on SI and it's feeling SO MUCH BETTER!! It's actually starting to flow a bit more and Jane mentioned that she's impressed with our quick improvement. We worked a lot on the concept of me lifting her with my seat to control the sitting trot rather than sitting down into her back to control the sitting trot. Or as Jane says, "bounce her up with your seat". There were magical moments but they didn't last long and it would take me awhile to get it back. When it worked though it really worked so I'm excited to keep working on this.

Someone had asked for a picture of my Ariat coat.
Here it is, courtesy of the AirBnB Bathroom mirror 
In other news I started the first clip of the season today. I got almost all the hair off and got the lines pretty good. Tomorrow I'll just clean everything up. Poor girl is a bit moth eaten tonight and poor Jane probably wondered what I did to her when she saw her at evening feeding. Oh well, I'll finish getting her cleaned up tomorrow. I also got her bridle path cut but I still need to "pull" her mane, do some work on her tail, and I'd like to do one more bath before it gets too cold.

In sad news, her feet are looking pretty thrushy. During most of the year I was keeping up with it but after the past month were I wasn't at the barn as much they've back slid a bit. It will be my focus for this month and hopefully I can get it cleaned up right away!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Anniversary


October 1st was a big day for me and Katai since in 2012, 5 years ago on this day I brought her home :) Since I don't know what her birthday is I just use this as her birthday too so along with our anniversary it was her 8th birthday this year.


To celebrate she got a bunch of carrots and an apple (her favorite) and I decorated her stall. I really wanted to spend some quality time with her but had to get Veggie dropped off with his sitter and then get to the airport right away.


I ended up playing with her and doing some free lunging which was fun too. It's really cool to see the relationship we've built in that way and how she's happier with me than away from me in the arena. It also gave her a chance to stretch her legs a bit before she went back to her pen.

Although I will miss this view
I'm hoping to get out there tonight once I get home and then finally we're going to have a few months of consistent work without travel breaks. I'm so so so pumped :)

Thank You!

Thank you all so much for your messages and positive thoughts. I'm really really really really really really really really really really...