Saturday, September 28, 2019

Actual Riding Updates!!


Yes, that’s right and they’re positive :)

This whole social barn thing is really helping my motivation to ride. At the old barn I’d be the only one there, literally the only one on the property a good chunk of the time and so if Katai was at all anxious or spicy I’d lunge partially from a self-preservation perspective and partially just because I was anxious and didn’t have any reason to ride. It was tough always being alone.

Here there are always people around and there have been at least a few times when I’ve arrived at the barn with no motivation, thinking I’d just lunge, and then changed my mind when I got there because there were lots of other people riding. Part of it is that this barn has a recommendation (I won’t call it a rule because they’re flexible) of no lunging in the indoor when someone else is riding. They’re fine in the outdoor, because it's bigger, but if there are lots of other people riding I’d still prefer to ride rather than lunge since I still feel the risk of accident is higher. Mostly though it’s just that when my friends are tacking up to ride I’d prefer to tack up and ride with them!


That meant that this week when I went out on Monday I was still feeling like crap and thought I’d just groom and lunge and maybe work in hand outside a bit. When I got there though my friend M (who was the reason I moved here) was there and just finishing up grooming and there were lots of other people riding. I had decided I might ride and then I saw another friend drive up. When I asked she thought that she’d ride in the outdoor. I figured I’d see how Katai was, since she’d been a pill the previous few days, but she was so good and quiet in the barn that I decided to join my friend in the outdoor. I didn’t have a death wish though so I decided to lunge first. At first Katai was a little tight and spicy but she calmed down pretty quick and before I could second guess myself I led her over to the mounting block and hopped on.

Long story short she was SUPER good. She acted like she’d been riding in that outdoor her entire life. She wasn’t spooky even with some construction happening at a nearby pole building, or the foal that was being weaned running around in a neighboring paddock. We walked for a while so that I could make sure she was really tuned in and then did some trotting and finally cantered. I let her run into the canter and just kept it nice and forward and low key but with that being said she never put a foot wrong. The arena is huge so she had lots of room to navigate and not feel like she was losing her balance which I think helped. She fell into trot going right at one point and I wasn’t going to ask for more but she went back into canter and the transition was gorgeous and she was listening to me so I just went with it for another circle or two.

I kept the whole ride pretty short because the arena footing is way different than what she’s used to at this point and we’re still acclimating. I was so proud of her and stuffed her full of treats when I hopped off and then hand walked her to “cool down” for a while even though she wasn’t sweaty at all. I think that part of what was so different was that she was out there with a horse that she knows well. I’m ok with that being our method of helping her understand that the outdoor is a safe place though and plan to ride out there with friends as much as possible until the weather dictates that we only ride inside.

I’m up north at a cabin with my bf this weekend so probably no updates for a bit but I’m hoping to post more soon!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Settling In

You can juuuuust see a tiny white speck of a pony in this
but it was so pretty that I wanted to share.
The new barn is great, really fantastically great. The missing piece from many of the past barns for me has been the social piece. This place is finally everything and more that I could want from that perspective. The people are fantastic and every single time I’ve been out, no matter what time of the day or what day it is there are at least 3-4 people there grooming, riding, lunging, or in some way working with their horses. Most people ride their horse(s) on a regular basis, work with instructors, feed supplements, and just groom or lunge. Everyone is nice and positive and while there’s a lot of diversity from a horse care philosophy and/or training perspective everyone seems to get along really well. There are at least 4 people that board at this barn that I’ve either previously boarded with or knew through a friend and one of the people who is boarding here now boarded at both J’s and Jane’s with me.

There are certainly nice things about having the barn or arena to myself but it is just so much nicer to know that there will be other awesome people to talk to, learn from, compare notes with, and support and be supported by. It’s so motivating to me to go to the barn and then even if, like this past weekend, all I can manage to do is feed supplements I can also hang out and talk with other people, watch others ride, help grab a needed side rein, etc. and feel like the drive to the barn was more valuable than it would have been to just go feed supplements (even though that’s also very rewarding :)
Puppy was napping with me and then when I got up off the couch she got absorbed into the cushions.
You can see how disgusted she was about it lol
Katai also seems to be adjusting and figuring things out. I went out on Monday the day after she arrived and then again on Tuesday. She was definitely tired from dealing with figuring out the new herd dynamic. I missed a couple of days but went out again the following Saturday. Things were on track and going great but then I started to get sick. I was really hoping it would be just a few day thing but alas the cold kicked my butt a full 6.5ish days and I’m only feeling mostly better still more than a week now from when I first got sick hence why I’ve been so quiet!


I'm planning to post a review on my new grooming bag soon!
This past weekend though I was feeling up to getting to the barn and knew that I really needed to. The most unfortunate thing about Katai being on pasture board this winter is that she’s relying on me to feed supplements. I’m working to figure out a storage solution so that I can keep them at the barn (in a mouse proof way) so that others can help if I can’t make it out but I didn’t have that figured out prior to getting sick this time. Most of the time I should be able to make it out at least 5 days a week and it’s a little extra motivation to make it out there but I know there will be times when I can’t so I want to have a backup plan figured out. On Saturday she was not especially excited to see me and slowly walked away but then stood when I approached. She was unusually subdued but didn’t have a temp. She also wouldn’t eat her “grain” but I knew she’d been eating on the round bale all day and maybe just wasn’t hungry enough for the supplements to taste good. I was slightly concerned but figured I’d check on her the next day (knowing she’d have a lot of eyes on her between then and Sunday) and get someone involved if she wasn’t perking up by then.

On Sunday when I went to catch her it was immediately clear that, while she still maybe wasn’t feeling herself, she was feeling much less subdued. She actually ran from me! This pony has NEVER been tough to catch the entire time I’ve owned her even when she was feral at the beginning. At the most she’d just walk a couple of steps and then stand nervously. This is the only time I can ever remember her actually putting any effort into evading me. I walked her down and it didn’t take long but I still have a lot of congestion in my lungs so it was more work than I was looking for. When she eventually stood she was clearly unhappy to be caught but just didn’t want to run anymore. She was also super reactive. I realized pretty quick that it was because she hadn’t been getting her magnesium and made a plan to get her on a loading dose for a couple of days to catch up. She was also clearly in raging heat so she was interesting, to say the least, in the cross ties and wanted to kick at me when I picked her back feet. We survived that and I lunged her in the outdoor but she SCREAMED the entire time to a bunch of mares that are in a pasture near the outdoor who she’s never met before.

Seriously *headdesk*

At least she got her supplements, was sound, and had more energy so I could stop worrying about her being sick. Now I just need to feel better, get her back on her supplements (at least the magnesium) and work some energy off on the lunge and then hopefully by end of this week I’ll be able to fit in a ride or two before we leave for a cabin up north for the weekend!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Moving

I was hoping to have more photos but alas, I’m bad at remembering to take them.
 Instead we’ll do a photo tour of previous barns starting with J's Barn

These have stopped being exciting adventures at this point and are more like slightly annoying necessities lol. With that being said, I have been trying have the mindset of using this move to continue to prep for trailering to shows or as traveling practice in general. I actually talked about it with my therapist and she gave me some homework as far as keeping my anxiety low. She also reminded me that something that’s super scary for both of us like trailering is not the place to focus on others and instead to ask for what we need and focus on our relationship. While my therapist isn’t a horse person it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear and continues right along with the theme of really focusing on the relationship and trust that Katai and I have built.

Temporary "escape from J's barn" barn

A lot of the anxiety with moving Katai comes from knowing that she’s not always a great loader and then feeling embarrassed and guilty that she isn’t better. In all honesty I work hard on it and try to utilize resources (such as others offering to let me practice loading her) whenever I can. This summer alone I practiced in two different trailers, one a few different days, and we made some progress. I also really hate feeling judged. As I told my therapist horse people can be extra judgy and part of why I moved was that the people at my previous barn were super extra special judgy which definitely increase my anxiety about everything including getting her loaded.

Crazy people barn

That morning I actually was managing to keep my anxiety low on the drive to the barn. I was working through some of the homework I had from my therapist specifically for pony moving. When I got to the barn though I saw that two of the judgiest people (and most forceful handlers) were there and got scared. One of the two (miss nosy) was the person who was bullying me when I first moved in. We have an understanding but I still don’t trust her to help or handle my pony at all and knew that she’d try to insert herself in getting Katai loaded. She had also seen me doing trailer practice with Katai on a day when I’d neglected to use a lunge line and, because of that, Katai got free and spooked her horse. I felt super bad about it but horses will be horses and humans will be humans and it was extra unfortunate since that literally hasn’t happened since I first got my pony and of course that was the horse that she spooked *headdesk*. I apologized to her that day but she didn’t handle it very well.

Lovely barn, I only moved because it got too expensive for my living situation at the time

Anyway, on Sunday I was at the barn early so I picked up the last few things. After a while the new barn owner, who we’ll call M, showed up with the trailer and I was relieved to see that it was fully open in the back and had a ramp since I knew that both things would help Katai load quickly. I ignored miss nosy inserting herself into the conversation and walked up to M and let her know how she could help which was basically to stand off to the side, wait for me to walk Katai in, and then hold the doors shut so that I could fasten her up. M looked doubtful and my stomach churned but she heard me. I went and got Katai and led her back to the trailer and could tell that as I walked up miss nosy had been telling M what an awful loader Katai was. I marched right up into the trailer, Katai followed, pulled back once, and then walked right on and turned around. She proceeded to stand fairly quietly next to me while M pushed the doors shut. I tied her up, fastened the slant, and then walked out of the trailer. The whole thing took less than 3 minutes and miss nosy was nowhere to be seen when I walked out of the trailer.

Jane's barn <3

M locked up the trailer, I hopped in my car and we had an uneventful trip to the barn. Very nicely M asked me if I needed anything when I went to unload her. We basically reversed the process, Katai unloaded nicely, and then we walked her to the pasture and let her go to start introducing herself. The whole thing including drive time took no more than 35 minutes and was another good experience to include in the growing list of positive travel experiences.

Weird barn, rough trainer, extra long commute

I like M so far. She hung out watching the herd go through the initial integration for about 15 minutes even though it was raining. We chatted but also she was keeping a careful eye on everything and was ready to break up any fights that occurred if needed. There were definitely a few scuffles which I was surprised to see. Katai has definitely matured and seems to have decided that she needs to be top mare which is so weird since I’m used to her being bottom of the pack. We eventually decided that they were quiet enough and she gave me a tour and I got to know M and the rules a little more. I like her combination of no nonsense but also no superfluous rules and can tell that it’s all about trust which I like since I know my stuff and hate being micromanaged (looking at you previous barn). I got my stuff unloaded into a beautiful and luxurious feeling open sort of tack locker/compartment in the room for the pasture boarders. I really like the setup! I’m looking forward to eventually moving Katai into a stall but I’m certainly going to be spoiled even with pasture board. The barn is set up really nice and feels cozy and like home again which is so super nice.


I’m planning to go out tonight and do my first lunge or ride with Katai even though it’s a Monday. Worst case scenario we’ll just do ground work and get her used to the new facility, best case scenario we’ll do a nice ride in the indoor. I’d like to do groundwork outside but it’s supposed to be raining out and it’s only in the 50s-60s this week so I’d rather not get that cold and wet. I can’t believe it’s almost blanket season again!

Current barn, defending herself from the other frisky mares :)

Monday, September 9, 2019

Going Ons

I'm loving her new halter.
You can't really see it here but it actually has her show name on it!
Things have been happening over here peeps! I’m finally feeling like a real live human again so I’ve been getting back on track with pony things.

The new schedule has been super helpful although I haven’t been able to 100% stick to it yet. I have been doing the most intensive planned days though which has been huge. This past weekend I didn’t go do adventure day on Sunday but did go on Labor Day to “make up for it” so I’m proud of myself for that. I think that the only day I’ve really struggled with is spa day. If it’s nothing other than grooming I’m finding that my motivation just isn’t there so I think I may reschedule a bit or just move to the more intense schedule a bit sooner than planned.

Rides have been going really well! Unfortunately it’s been a looooooong time since I consistently rode even 2 days a week so we’ve both lost a lot of strength and fitness. I’m continuing to work on losing weight and gaining muscle out of the saddle though and with the plan I’ve put into place it seems like Katai is thriving off the work. She’s moving really well and we really did make some progress on random things over the summer even with the lack of work. Relaxation is a big one and she’s traveling much looser and longer from head to tail than she used to. This feels like a huge win for us.

Our second real work day ride was more about endurance than collection and so I added some time to our ride. Total work time under saddle (including walk warm up and cool down) had been right around 20 minutes. This past week we moved that up to 30 by increasing the walk and trot. I still haven’t cantered because now I realized that her saddle is too wide (loss of muscle) and so it is sliding forward badly at the canter. I need to bring my shim pads to the barn as a temporary solution but I keep forgetting. To make up for that and continue to add canter endurance I have been doing a fair amount of canter on the lunge.

Then on Monday’s make up Adventure Day I did some work in hand. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do on the way to the barn but figured I’d either do a low key ride around the barn or some in hand work. It ended up that, for some reason, I was having high anxiety and so was she. Often even if I’m having a high anxiety day when I get to the barn and she’s her normal calm self I can get my anxiousness down but on Monday she was also really anxious. With that I decided that, for multiple reasons, it made the most sense to do ground work.

The best thing about the situation on Monday was that with us both being high anxiety it was a good mini replication of what it would be like at a horse show. I decided to work her in hand around the trailers since that’s an issue typically. Somehow, magically, as I was working with her I ended up finding a tool to resolve a major issue I’ve always had with working her on the ground. For some reason something clicked with me that what’s tough about handling her on the ground is when she crosses in front of my driving line because then I lose the ability to effectively handle her. With that in mind I was holding the coiled up lunge in directly in front of my driving line (dead center in front of my body) and would flap it against the front of my legs if she got too close to crossing that invisible “wall”. This was seriously like a miracle and not only did she get it right away, she also stopped pulling and remained on the side I was trying to lead her on without a bunch of barging and pulling. It’s so simple that I can’t believe that it took me this long to figure it out. At least now we have one more way to effectively communicate with each other.

With that tool I worked on walking towards and away from the parked trailers since when we go to walk away from the trailer she always loses her marbles. Then we also went up to the wash stall and practiced standing in it. Both were productive and I continue to feel like our communication, trust bank, and relationship are improving in leaps and bounds which is paying dividends for everything I’m working on with her. The gains in relationship and trust are the biggest success for us this year and that’s a huge thing.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Sunday:

Puppy is not a morning person

Of all of the days this is the one that most deserves a post of its own so this worked out well.

Sunday is Adventure Day! and it’s the plan for me to start trying to fill in the hole I dug myself with Katai not feeling confident outside of the indoor arena. Everything started well with me putting on the first dozen or so rides outside, mostly all in big open pastures. She was slightly terrifying to start for the same reason that she can still be slightly terrifying to ride. She’d get all bunched up, completely ignore my leg, and any pressure would make her explode up or sideways or backwards or forwards or down or whatever direction she felt like at the moment. She’s small enough and quick enough that it could be tough to ride and since I didn’t want to teach her that bolting or rearing or bucking would get her free I was pretty particular about how and where and when I rode but all I had at the time was outside so that’s where we rode.

Then we moved to our first barn that had an indoor. I was still taking her out on trail rides but the arena allowed me to keep her going through the winter which was key. Of course once the winter hit we couldn’t ride outside. That barn didn’t have an outdoor and the only place to ride outside was along a road so as soon as the plows made a snow wall along the road that option was out.

Then I moved her to our first dressage barn. This is where I started to dig myself a hole. There was an outdoor but the footing wasn’t great and it was right near a swamp so the bugs were really bad so I avoided it. I was still occasionally going out on trail rides and she was doing well and was still a good trail partner but I just didn’t focus on it enough since we were learning dressage and I was LOVING that work. Then I moved several a few more times and sometimes had some opportunities to work outside and sometimes no opportunities.

Proof that sometimes we have our act together outside

I think it really fell apart for the first time when I was at the place prior to Jane’s. For some reason both of us HATED that arena. Katai, who was a firecracker on a good day at that barn, turned into a fire breathing dragon and it was tough to get ANYTHING accomplished. She would also bolt on the lunge in that outdoor and tore her boots off one time she was bolting so bad. I’m still not sure why but she hated the outdoors at that place. I did try to take her on the mini trail around the pastures but she’d start rearing and couldn’t be convinced to stop. Trust me, I tried. Then I moved to Jane’s where there was almost no space to ride outside. At S2s I really did try to take her outside.

There was a regulation sized, outdoor dressage arena with great footing and I made it a priority to work on the yucky outdoor behavior. I think, though, that I didn’t realize just how much time it was going to take and so I was pretty casual about it. We did start to make some progress but she was certainly never relaxed or easy outside like she is indoors. Now at the current barn we moved in the fall which quickly changed to winter (funny how that happens) so we didn’t spend really any outdoor time, and then when the snow melted I realized just how bad the footing in the outdoor arenas was for a barefoot horse. I have figured out that she’s ok with boots on her front feet but she was such a pill when I started working with her out there that I quickly realized that I needed a different tactic.

I really think that she just lacks confidence and since horses don’t contextualize the same way we do I think she just, basically, reverts to being a green baby when she’s outside since she’s only been trained not to be a green baby indoors. Of course she has more skills, as do I, and I have more tools to use when she’s being like that but ultimately we need to sort of go back to the beginning to help her build her confidence that riding happens outdoors and it’s ok. Right now this is my priority for improving our scores more than anything else. Of course she’ll still get tight and nervous at shows but if I can reduce that at all by making sure she’s at least relaxed and confident outdoors at home that will be a huge win. We have the riding skills, we just need the relaxation and confidence outside.

Therefore adventure day is my way of doing just that. I’m basically going to be doing stuff with her outdoors as though she’s a green baby. We’re going to hand walk and look at things, we’re going to lunge, we’re going to play with me standing on the mounting block, etc. I want to get her comfortable with playing around outside and by focusing on these things it will help me keep my mindset positive and light hearted vs. more serious and When I do ride we’re going to toodle and I’m not going to ask much. Since our riding isway further along than that I’m fairly confident that we won’t be stuck back at the basic basics for too long.

What’s encouraging is that at Janes even if I led her outside (since her pen basically went right into the barn/arena) she would get very hot and spicy and start trying to rear and strike and other similar behaviors. Now, because I need to take her from the barn to the indoor (which is a bit of a hike) she’s really relaxed on our regular route as well as behind the barn where I hand graze her sometimes. If, through repetition, I can get her comfortable with increasingly larger sections of the outdoors (including the arena) I have hope that we’ll be replicating our indoor rides outside sooner rather than later.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Friday and Saturday:

Can you spot the pony?
I took this partially because it's very much a case of which if these is not like the other lol
(Posting a second since I was so late in getting these up and want to get through them so that I can post more current stuff)
I was going to do these separate but I don’t have much to say about spa day so these are getting combined as well.

On Fridays I have chores planned which I’m calling Spa Day because it sounds like more fun.. This could be anything from trimming Katai’s bridle path or tail, clipping her (once it’s that season), or trimming her feet to picking up supplements or other necessary horse items. This will eventually likely be planned with lunging day just because lunging is less work intensive so I’ll do that and then take care of these items.

Saturday is currently the only riding “work” day I have planned. This could be anything from working on collection, to building endurance. As Katai gains more confidence outside I may even do canter sets or something outside and then adventure day can be a low key trail ride.

Sorry for the Instagram repeats. I figured repeat photos are better than none.
This past Saturday I did some collected work just because she was really into that on that particular day. I started out with some stretching and walk work and then I moved to rebalancing her through half halts and working on longitudinal and lateral flexibility. Once she was really in front of my leg we did some SI and I started asking for smaller, but still active, steps within the same rhythm. For the first time she really got it and did a few really cool, in rhythm, small but very active and bouncy steps. Once she did that I stopped the trot work and just did a bit more walk work.

Next time I’ll probably do some turn on the haunches and potentially HI at the walk. I also want to work on canter but right now we’re focusing on canter on the lunge since it was causing some blow ups under saddle. The other thing I’m avoiding right now is sitting trot so even though it’s not “proper” I’ve been posting the SI. Once we’ve both built back up some fitness and my core workouts have started to pay off more I’ll bring that back in as well.

Wednesday and Thursday:



(Oops, didn't mean to wait that long. I was hoping to get more media but was only partially successful)
I’m writing about both together because Wednesday is also a planned day off so we’ll go through it quick!

Wednesdays are planned to be a chores/food prep/grocery shopping/house cleaning evening together for me and my boyfriend. We do shift this day around sometimes if one of us has set plans on a Wednesday but we try to be really consistent with it. We used to do this on the weekend but we’d keep putting it off until it was Monday morning and having a mid-week check in is pretty nice. My boyfriend climbs and is more of an extrovert than me so does after work happy hours or hangs out with friends in the evenings. I go to the barn 3 evenings a week so it’s nice to actually see each other between the weekend :)

Thursday is currently planned to be a lunge day. There are a few reasons for it to be scheduled this way right now, one of which is that we’re both gaining fitness so a planned lunge day means that Katai is still working but not needing to deal with me on her back. Because she isn’t also trying to balance me or carry me I’ve been focusing on helping her with her balance and endurance. I rotate right now between a lunge work day and a PT lunge. For the work day I’ve been working her with the Vienna reins to make sure she isn’t just locking up through her back and then we do patterns, at least as much as you can do on the lunge. These patterns include spiraling in and out, 10, 15, and 20 meter circles, going down the long side, and just lots of transitions. For all of these things I’m focusing on how she’s using her body and if she drops down into a transition on the forehand we redo it. Sometimes I put down ground poles and walk/trot/canter her over those as well.


On PT lunge days I lunge her in a halter and focus on really getting her stretching out and down and on really making sure she’s bending. I also usually do a bunch of in hand work before lunging including front leg stretches, carrot stretches, backing with her head lowered, etc. Right now this is a decent amount of the time we’re working together but will continue to be a smaller percentage of the work over the next few weeks. Sometimes I’ll even go back to the in hand work in the middle of when I'm lunging her for a bit if I notice that she’s especially tight somewhere.

The plan is that within the next month or so this will switch to a riding day and it will likely be more of a work day. I need to figure out what exactly I’ll have scheduled that day once I get closer but I will be changing this to a riding day. I will still be doing lunging and stretches etc. but will be moving it to Friday and doing both spa stuff and lunging stuff that day. This will most likely be more of a halter lunge and less of a work lunge at least until she gains a lot more fitness.

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With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...