Sunday, February 28, 2016

She's Sound!!!:Lesson Recap 2/28

*This is a warning that starting with the 6th paragraph I'm going to be journaling about how my mind works in regards to my pony. It's probably a little boring and not much about our lesson but I want to write it for myself. Feel free to skip to my next post if it's boring.

I'm so happy right now! I drove out to the barn first thing on Saturday morning and was preparing myself the whole time for her to still be off. When I got there I tacked her up and put on side reins so that I could start off lunging and then hopefully ride after. She still seemed a little tender on the concrete but once she got to the arena footing she looked excellent! I had my fingers crossed the whole time and when I first asked her to trot she was really reluctant so I got nervous but other than clearly being stiff she was sound!

I had her walk, trot, canter each direction on the lunge and then climbed up. Her saddle was really sliding forward badly which I think was a combination of gaining some weight (pony's got a cute little hay belly right now) and losing some muscle behind her shoulders. Under saddle I walked and trotted and when I went to canter I got her first real bronc moment. I looked down and realized that her saddle had really slid forward but made her canter a circle first so that she didn't think that I'd get down for that type of behavior. Then I called it a day.

Today I started off lunging her again. Part of me was worried that after our work yesterday she'd be a little sore again but other than seeming a bit stiff to start out again she was brilliant and very sound. I walk, trot, cantered her again on the lunge and then just as L was getting to the barn I climbed up.

Katai was VERY reluctant to bend her rib cage to the left. This was normal for her but was getting better and better prior to our three week break. Today it was pretty bad but thankfully between her being more mature, stronger, and better trained and me being smarter and better trained we figured it out by the end of the lesson and with very few theatrics from Katai. She had a few stiff, trot sewing machine, canter moments but mainly kept her head about her and she never pulled any rearing or balking crap. After a couple of great stretchy bendy circles in each direction we called it a day before we made her too sore.

I was really happy with that but during my 1/2 hour drive home I always analyze how everything went or felt and after about 15 minutes I came to this sort of stunning realization that the entire time I was riding I was feeding myself self defeating self talk. except it wasn't so much about me, it was about my pony.

See Katai is enough for me, she always will be. I've had these scenarios that I play over in my head when I'm day dreaming where some rich parent comes up to me at a show (where we're showing 2nd level or something) and offers me some outrageous amount for my pony like $50,000 and I turn them down. Katai is literally everything I love about horses, she's my perfect match and there's no way that I'd sell her now or in the future when we are riding at 2nd level.

However, some small part of my brain has always related the amount I got her for (basically free) to her worth. I mean we all probably do it to some extent. There's a big difference between this;
and this;

Clearly if you had the former you'd blame yourself for mistakes, you'd feel like you could do anything, you'd expect that you'd be riding at a high level fairly quickly and (speaking at least for myself) I would certainly pay for the best instruction and care team that money could buy so that we didn't "mess up" this talented (and expensive) horse.

I'd also spend twice the time grooming that horse, have more chiro appointments scheduled, certainly more massage appointments and I'd have the saddle fitter out more often. I know, I know just because the horse is worth more it doesn't mean that it deserves any of this more than my pony. I truly do understand that Katai deserves everything that that horse does but I would just expect to do those things for that horse while me, and everyone around me, is surprised when I do those things for my pony. It's just the way that human thought process seems to work and it's something I've been fighting ever since I got Katai. I love that I get to do all these things for my pony regardless of the worth that someone might place on her and again, I think that she's completely priceless, but my traitor brain doesn't always play along with my heart in this case.

In the car I realized that today as I was riding I kept thinking that "this little pony just can't do this", "she's not talented", "she's sore because she's not talented", "she's not holding up because she's not a dressage horse", "she can't do dressage", "why are we trying to do this", etc. Despite this clearly not being the case I kept right up with the self defeating self talk.

I mean this is the pony that went from a sewing machine trot to such a long stride that the other local dressage instructor had to move the ground poles closer for a dressage horse she was riding (and not to compress stride). This is the pony that developed a stunning medium trot after less than a year of regular lessons and only about 4 months of a reasonably consistent riding schedule. This is the pony that now canters just off my seat cue and has developed a nice amount of jump to the canter, this is a sound, athletic pony and just about any sound, moderately athletic horse can do dressage at the lower levels but most importantly this is the pony that I chose to ride over any other horse. For me Katai is more than enough, the lower levels are more than enough and I still truly believe that we'll be able to achieve a bronze medal.

My damn brain, but again. This;

vs. this;

In the past when I moved her from the temporary winter barn to the barn with the crazy people I was extremely nervous. For some reason I was sick to my stomach thinking of moving her to that beautiful barn because I was worried that she'd be a little devil and she's clearly a scruffy pony and I'd have to own up to this being my scruffy devil pony. So I tricked myself, I told myself that I was actually moving Charlotte Dujardin's new, talented pony prospect to a new amazing dressage training facility where I'd be helping to exercise her. This pony prospect easily cost charlotte in the 5 figures like this guy and of course was exceptionally trained so she wouldn't have any issues with the move.

It actually worked. I was calm and proud of being able to bring this amazing pony to the new barn. Everyone there gushed over how amazing she was and I truly believe it's because I treated her like she was worth a million dollars. Pretty sad huh that I couldn't just be proud of my own pony. Now I need to do the same thing again only actually remind myself of how much Katai is worth to me. That needs to be enough and unfortunately after all the self defeating I've been doing I'm going to have my work cut out for me to reverse that to get my brain to actually acknowledge how much worth and love my heart has for this pony.

It feels traitorous to even post this here and looking at these pictures I know which I'd choose every time (just a hint, it's not the expensive one) but I'd rather acknowledge it and work on it then keep it a secret.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Project Update

I got another weekend in with my dad working on my tack locker. We're working on the toughest part right now which is getting the body of the cabinet assembled. Luckily my dad has 7 large clamps that we can use to hold it together because it's like a large, heavy, sticky (from the wood glue) 3D puzzle.

So far we have the top and left side up and nailed and glued. We're letting the glue dry on those before we put up the right side and bottom luckily those will be far easier since we'll at least have a reference and more to clamp to.
Getting there!
Since I'm in WA this week and only getting home on Friday I likely won't go home again until the beginning of March but over the next few times working on it we should be able to do the majority of the rest of the work. I'm not in too much of a hurry though because before I move it I want to paint it and since it doesn't make sense to paint in the small enclosed space of my dad's shop I'll likely wait until it's warm enough to take it outside and that won't be for at least a month or more.

Selfie time! From my hotel window seat looking out at the Seattle Convention Center
I also finished up another project! I started working on the idea for a stall name plate like this over Christmas but I went through a couple before I got it right (right enough anyway). There are still things I'd like to improve but mainly I really like it. I'll take a picture to share when I get home but I painted chalk board paint in a rectangle on the bottom so that I can put notes or just doodles on it. The chalkboard is nice although a white board would have been nicer to write on. The colors, navy and pink, are what I'm going to try to do with my tack locker so it should be a cute match once that's done.

Friday, February 19, 2016


Sorry for no entertaining post title, not feeling much like being creative right now.

It's been a tough February so far for the mare and for me. I hadn't realized how much I've been relying on my regular rides and regular routine. During these cold and dark months when not much else is going on it's made me feel like I'm actually accomplishing something. Now we haven't had that for nearly three weeks and both of us are feeling it.

After every ride, even if they're not amazing, I feel amazing because I feel like we're making progress. Today was tough because I spent the day at a career fair and my co-worker and I were talking horses (I'm lucky enough to have a co-worker with horses) and it's so unseasonably warm that she was excited to go to the barn later. I could have gone to groom and see Katai and I'm sure that she would have loved to have me there but it was tough to convince myself to spend an hour in the car for such a short time with her especially on a night when I needed to pack.

I'm still not sure exactly when the new boots are supposed to get here but I'm honestly a little freaked out about leaving her for a week like this. Thankfully I have an amazing BM that will take amazing care of her. We're having a huge melt and so part of me is hoping that the ice will melt and the ground will be soft enough to give her a break. Hopefully the mud that's the result of that won't cause issues itself.

I'll be back on Friday the 26th and will have my fingers and toes crossed the whole trip that she's feeling better by then. If not, I'm hoping that the boots will be here and those will be helpful.

Poor pony :-(

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I went to the barn Wednesday last week all happy and excited thinking that Katai would finally be comfortable and ready for a nice stretchy workout. Unfortunately that was not the case. Based on the timeline I constructed in my head, after a major internal freak out that my pony was never going to be sound, I think that this is what happened.  

January 22nd – Pony gets a massage where someone pokes at her back and makes it angry (which will eventually be a good thing)

February 2nd – Pony gets her hooves trimmed and chiropractic. More poking at her back, plus her right shoulder, plus her left hind so now lots of angry (will also eventually be a good thing)

February 3rd – Hand walking day, pony is footsore on concrete from her trim (normal) and stiff

February 4th – Hand walking day, pony is footsore on concrete from her trim (normal) and stiff

February 5th – Hand walking day, pony is footsore on concrete from her trim (normal) – Five ladies from the barn are watching Katai be footsore on concrete which makes me feel like a bad horse owner. I go to the local farm supply store and buy Magic cushion, put diaper/duct tape booties on all four feet and feel better because I did something about it. Still stiff

February 6th – I don’t go to the barn to give Katai a chance to heal

February 7th – Pony looks pretty dang sound. Barn worker had removed the remainders of booties (thank goodness for amazing barn workers) so I rode her at a walk for 15-20 minutes. Less stiff!!

February 8th – Pony had the day off

February 9th – Pony is dead lame on concrete (not normal). I feel like a bad horse owner and wrap both front feet in booties (her normal sore feet). On the drive home I remember that on the 7th barn worker told me that Katai was doing a lot of bucking and bouncing in turnout. On the hard, frozen ground it doesn’t surprise me that she bruised her feet. Less stiff and her back feels great!

February 10th – Hoping that the magic cushion worked again I drove out to the barn hopeful that I’d be able to ride at a walk again. Nope, pony is dead lame on concrete again. I checked to make sure that it’s her feet (it is, as soon as she’s in the cushy arena footing she’s fine and on the more firm arena footing she’s tender) and feel like an idiot because it’s clearly her back feet. I wrap her back feet this time in magic cushion booties and cross my fingers.

Fast forward to today and unfortunately although she's been getting better she's still been sore. Yesterday I hauled ass to get to the barn by 4:00, leaving work early and dealing with rush hour traffic, to meet my trimmer to look her over. After agreeing with my prognosis (she was as surprised as me that it was Katai's back feet) the trimmer fitted her for boots. I'm going to go ahead and just get her boots for all four so that I don't have to deal with this again, hopefully, anytime soon.

It sounds like the boots should be here next week sometime while I'm out of town and I'm not holding out much hope that Katai will be ride-able this week before I leave. Depending on how she is feeling on Friday and Saturday I may still see if L can ride her but if not, I'll just have to hope that one week of consistent riding will be enough before I ride in the clinic on 3/7 and 3/8.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Humble Pie

I feel like it's always good for people to be able to admit when they are wrong especially when it comes to working with a very sensitive and large prey animal that easily blows things out of all proportion.

Part of this, when working on my own, is self awareness. It's one thing if my instructor tells me that something is wrong but I prefer, whenever possible, to catch it before my lesson. Part of that is that I'd rather not expect my instructor to catch everything and part of it is that I want to feel like I can be productive on my own.

This time what I caught is that I've been choking up on the reins again too much prior to Katai's vacation. The problem is that during some rides Katai rushes so much that we go through this cycle where I get to the point where I'm using every weight and core half halt aid that I have and then I go to the reins. She slows down for a stride or two and then it's back through the same cycle. At some point I get so tired from all those half halt aids that I start relying more on my hands and eventually then even when she's not rushing as much I'm relying on too much rein.

Also, the name stubborn together? Well I seem to get to this point where I'm stubbornly trying to do what I've read in a book and even if it's not working for my pony I persist thinking that she's wrong. Honestly there's no way for her to be wrong, she'll always be honest about how she's feeling. It's my responsibility as the rider to figure out how to fix something so that she makes the change that I'm looking for.

Also, we've been working on getting her really through on the outside rein. She's good going to the right, left rein but doesn't want to take contact at all on the right rein when we're going to the left. Sometimes this requires me shortening up that rein with a nice amount of contact and then slowly working her out. When I'm working with L she can call me on when I'm just holding but when I ride on my own I just keep thinking that I need to keep that contact. Again, this get the reins shorter and shorter.

I had started noticing a few weeks ago that Kati was getting tighter through the shoulders and back and more inverted again. Nothing like before but she wasn't working with a nice long neck and swinging through her back like she had been recently. I kept thinking different things about it but finally diagnosed the above probably along with the soreness that came up in her two appointments. Although of course then I start thinking about whether, like the chicken and the egg, the soreness came first or the postural riding things.

Two weeks ago, with the saddle fitting day, was a little bit of a mixed bag when it came to rides. Since she had worked and gotten a massage on Monday I gave her Tuesday and Wednesday off instead of Monday and Tuesday. Then Thursday was drill team which was sort of when I finally diagnosed what was going on since I had an extremely inverted unhappy pony for the first half and then after making a couple of changes (like actually giving the reins forward a little) she got long and loose and swingy. Then this week of course she's been on a break so just got walked on the long on Wed, Thu, Fri. Had Saturday off and then just a walk ride on Sunday.

I also realized that I need to stop stubbornly trying to warm her up the way that I know works for other horses. She's not other horses, she's Katai and part of why I like sports involving horses is that there's the extra challenge of working with the horse as an individual to get the result you're looking for. In this case I need to stop trying to warm up Katai with more contact and instead, ignore the ugly during the warm up but not give up on bend, push from behind, a longer neck and nice loose back. Once I get her to the place THEN I can have high expectations and start to work on what I want but until then I need to do what it takes to get her there even if it's not by the book. It was this post by SprinklerBandits that made me realize this so thank you for that post SprinklerBandits!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How Justin Bieber Relates to My Riding

What the heck does Justin Bieber have to do with my riding you are wondering. I had this unique epiphany the other day on one of my drives to the barn when the Justin Bieber song "Love Yourself" came on the radio that had to do with who I am as a person and a rider.

I am a very intense person. When I get a thought in my head I will persist with it until I have an answer. I've had to learn to tone it down at work but when it comes to horses I'm stubborn, driven, tense and intense and not always good at calming down. I've been aware for a long time that this is probably party why Katai is rushy and tight with me riding but completely changing my way of being isn't easy.

The epiphany was about how this relates to my music choices. For about 14 years of my life I did this.

It's intense, dark, and tough. There's nothing relaxed or easy about this music or most of my music choices into my late twenties. One of my favorite songs from a play list that I created a few years ago was Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars.

It's a gorgeous song but again, intense and driving and there's nothing easy about it.

Recently though I've realized that I'm being drawn towards a different type of music. Music that's lighter and more carefree with a really easy sound. One example is Skinny Love by Bon Iver.

But Love Yourself by Justin Bieber is an even better example. I've been enjoying it every time it comes on the radio but the other night when I heard it, especially the part at 2:44, I had this realization that this is how I want to ride. The relaxed, easy, go with the flow sort of riding rather than how I normally ride and operate in general.

Easier said than done but next time I ride I'm going to be thinking of Justin Bieber.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sore and Stuck: Lesson Recap 1/31

We had an interesting lesson on Sunday this week. Katai has been virtually tantrum free for the last few months but she came as close as she has at this lesson. She started off very stiff and reluctant to bend. In true amazing trainer fashion L didn’t get fussed at all and just worked us through it with lots of canter transitions to get her loosened up. Katai was calm but sucked back at that point which is unlike her. In fact she’s been fairly sucked back recently at both training rides and lessons.


Once she was loose enough we did some walk work and Katai tried a new tactic. She would freeze at the walk and absolutely refuse to go forward. I got to practice my pony club kick and then we’d push her into canter and make her work until she was listening. Then back to a walk and wash, rinse, repeat. After about 3-4 times she figured out that listening to my leg and going forward at the walk was much less work than being made to canter and with all the canter work she had done she was a little tired and sweaty so we ended the lesson.


This along with findings from both the massage/saddle fitter and the farrier/chiropractic appointment that she had today point to general muscle soreness/stiffness. Specifically in her lower (closer to her hip) back on the left hand side. Massage/saddle fitter thought it could be saddle fit and farrier/chiro thinks it’s just muscle fatigue. I had a long text conversation with my farrier/chiro and her recommendation is rest first and then to give her a chance to show us if it’s saddle fit or just a pulled muscle or tough stretch of work. 


Based on her recommendation we’re going to give Katai a quiet week. I’ve already messaged L and we are going to cancel my lesson. I’m going to hand walk Katai for 2-3 days, ride at only a walk for 2 days, and then go to walk, trot for a few days before doing much canter work. I’m going to keep track of any pain responses in her back and see if it’s getting better. I’m also going to include some stretching.


My chiro isn’t worried about her at all, she just thinks she’s getting used to moving herself properly and suggested lots of work having her use her back and some ground pole work to make sure she’s using herself correctly. I just want to make sure I’m not aggravating something and, like I told L, since we’re not training for the Olympics we have time to just let her relax and heal.


Tonight I did my first evening of hand walking. She was pretty stiff but after about 15 minutes of nice, relaxed hand walking she was loosening up and had a nice over reach at the walk.


On the drive home I was really thinking about this chart that the farrier/chiro sent and I have a thought. It looks like her lower left back – the muscle that helps her push with her left hind – and her right shoulder are both sore. I’m going to guess that between working on lengthenings and extra canter work I bet she pulled her back muscle and has now been compensating with her right shoulder at the trot. Just a theory but I think it’s maybe a good one.


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...