Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Multiple Horse Serendipity

KateRose recently posed a question about being a single or a multiple horse person.

When I was younger, the thought in my mind was always "when I grow up I'm going to have horses". Always plural. I wasn't allowed to have a horse as a kid. I always rode other people's horses. And as time went on, I enjoyed this relationship by and large. It was easy. Especially once Stan and I entered one anothers' life; I got to ride him whenever I wanted.

Of the horses I've owned, none of them were *planned*. I didn't shop, I didn't pick them out from other choices, and I didn't seek them out for a certain discipline.


Orion entered my life because I really wanted *a horse of my own*. But when I realized he would never be able to do what I wanted to do (endurance and jumping), I made the decision to pass him on to someone else (seriously, he stayed at the barn I had him at but just under the care of someone else - it's still the same to this day).

Griffin fell into my lap quite by surprise and with an escape door or two. He was a project that turned into a forever horse. This blog really started to take off when I got him and began his training nearly 5 years ago.

The first day I rode Q

Q was so fun to ride the weekend I met her that I decided to buy her. I didn't think I could possibly handle two horses financially - but then my job became permanent and things were suddenly feasible. I was missing riding dearly (Griffin was too young at the time) and I knew Q would be a great second project to keep me satisfied in the saddle while Griffin grew up.

Stan was part of my life on and off from 2005 - 2011. When his owner decided to "get out of horses" a few months ago and called me to give me first choice having Stan, I COULDN'T say no. Especially because I knew I could handle the finances.

And so, I'm a multiple horse person due to serendipity.

Quite reflection with Stan years ago

After having Orion, I longed for another horse of my own so badly. I did shop and seek and look. I came close to picking up an Arabian from the Arabian Rescue Horse page on Facebook a couple times, but it didn't come to fruition. And then Griffin fell into my lap and fulfilled my desire to train and learn with an animal while also fulfilling the yearning I felt toward animal husbandry.

After a few months with Griffin, the reality that I wouldn't be able to ride for a long while really hit me hard. I browsed online for Arabians constantly. (I fortunately was not involved with any of the endurance facebook groups at the time or I'm certain I'd have ended up with a horse other than Q.) I once again came VERY CLOSE to picking up a horse from the Arabian group, but then she found a home. (Actually, the guy in charge of the page decided to keep her for his son!) Shortly after the mare I was lusting after went off the market, I met Q and made the decision to bring her home.

My loves

The balance of Q and Griffin was wonderful. I loved it. It was a great combo of riding horse, baby horse that evolved into experienced riding horse and green riding horse. When I finally parsed them into individual disciplines, the combo evolved into further perfection. I loved the mix of training two different horses in two exclusive disciplines. Certainly, there was some overlap with cross-training - as it should be for any horse - but by and large Q was endurance-focused and Griffin was more geared toward eventing/horse trials.

I did not expect to have a third horse in the equation for some time. In fact, I didn't imagine a third horse would enter the picture until I decided to breed Q years down the road! And honestly, I couldn't fathom keeping up with a training schedule for THREE HORSES. Aside from retirement, I am NOT the kind of person who can just own horses and have them sit in the field!

But then Stan happened, and I would be lying if I told you I didn't expect it to happen in some fashion. I knew deep down he'd end up with me some day. I just didn't anticipate it would be so soon!

From this past weekend!

I ran across and article yesterday about how if you think you're productive now, wait until you have kids! Well, I don't have kids and my productivity in most parts of my life hasn't altered, but my productivity with the horses sure has! When I think back on spring/early summer, I laugh thinking about how hard I found it to keep up with training two horses. Keeping up with a training schedule for two seems like child's play now. THREE is where it's at. THREE is work.

Rather, it was work. And then the Universe granted Q with proximal suspensory desmitis (sigh) and a year-long vacation before I can consider juggling work with three horses again. And so, I'm back to two schedules, but three animals. I gotta say, I'm rather grateful for Stan's recent serendipitous re-entry into my life after the bad news about Q!

Multiple horse ownership is far from easy, but I enjoy it. Times like now when I'm down one riding animal are made a lot easier knowing I still have two other horses to fulfill my riding whims and desires. It also guarantees Q will get the time off she needs. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Continued Gymnastics

My unwritten goal each week is to get 2 dressage rides and at least 1 jumping session in with Griffin. I've been successful achieving this for a month now.

Our dressage rides aren't much to write home about right now. We do a lot of work at the walk and trot and are mostly working on Griffin accepting the contact and becoming a little lighter with the aids. Some days we kick ass, other days we struggle. Some days the struggle is due to Griffin, some days the struggle is due to me riding like something that resembles a sack of potatoes. Overall, there is forward progress for which I am grateful. Still though, nothing exciting to write about unless you want to read, "Today I rode my horse in various sized circles. We did a lot of walk and trot transitions. He's awesome to the left and we struggle to the right. He is accepting the contact more and more. Our lateral movements are inching forward with slow success," after every ride. 'Cause that about sums it up!

10032016_Griffin Jumping (2 of 10)
Black tipped ears <3

Jumping on the other hand is way more exciting to look at and write about at just about any point! The days vary, the lessons learned vary, and the take always from media are a wonderful thing because I don't have active eyes on the ground when I'm out there doin' my thing. The major setback to living where I do!

However, media helps me learn and move forward.

Lesson student Lauren and her mom were gracious enough to come out last night and get a lot of media for me while I jumped Griffin. They wanted to watch and learn some so it really worked out well for all! There was some discussion of doing this again in the future - yay more learning and more media! Additionally, there are some other plans in the works that will be keeping them very much in the storyline for me/my horses in the near future.

I currently have a gymnastic line set up. It is slightly modified from last week, but still much the same. 18" cavaletti, bounce, cavaletti, bounce, X rail, 1 stride, panel jump, 1 stride, cavaletti, 3 stride, oxer. Except for the first half of last night, that rode more like bounce, bounce, 2 stride, 2 stride, 3.5 stride when we finally strung it all together.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (1 of 10)
Warming up. This picture literally makes me LOL because I remember this exact moment thinking,
"Must put heels down more" as I felt my left leg, and only my left leg, fly backwards.

The 40 minute workout consisted of a warm up on the flat, then over portions of the line before we began moving through the whole exercise. There were a lot of breaks throughout. Griffin was never out of breath in a bad way and was always forward (or too forward) in his eagerness through the gymnastic exercise.

After warming up on the flat, I just took Griffin over the bouncing portion a few times. Good, good, good. Then we added in the panel jump. Good. Then we added in the last two elements. It was slower than necessary, and he added strides, but it was a forward effort that he tackled with happy ears. Repeat. Only added during one of the 1 strides - better. A third iteration, finally nabbed the striding.

However, Grif really wasn't feeling the need to put forth much effort over the final oxer. 2'6" and lower he carelessly goes over. 3' gets his attention though, so we went from a square 2'6" oxer to an ascending 3'. Repeated the line, added during one of the 1 strides but otherwise perfect with a horse putting some actual effort forth at the end instead of his former carefree lollygagging. Repeated again with the same adding, but things overall went smoother.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (9 of 10)
Hunting the jump. His expression makes me go squee.

And then he had a strong refusal at the oxer during our next attempt, dodging hard to the left. If my heels hadn't been so deep on the approach, I definitely wouldn't have saved it. As it was, I came inches from kissing the standard. NOT OKAY. I totally get that there is a really reality of coming off due to a refusal, hell, I already have! But to slam face first into the top edges of the standard as I do so? No stitches in my face, kthnxbai!

I brought Griffin through again, shoving my heels as deep as I could. My apprehension still pushed through a little though because he refused again. He did it a third time, though with much less effort than the previous attempts. So I spun him around and cantered him at *just* the oxer. Finally, he jumped.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (6 of 10)
Dramatic and defensive. Note to the honky in the saddle EYES UP!
10032016_Griffin Jumping (8 of 10)
And again.

And so, I spent the rest of the ride riding defensively which did nothing to help me as a rider - beyond bolstering my confidence that I could indeed keep my shit together enough to get the horse to realize his job did not involve refusing. I got some nice work out of Griffin toward the end and helping him find success and know I'm pleased with him is what is most important to me!

Overall, I wasn't amazingly pleased with my equitation through the whole evening. I felt like I got warmed up, began to settle into the flow of things only to be put on edge and I never fully relaxed after. However, I feel like that's a trade-off with a green horse / green rider combination - sometimes I have to sacrifice perfection for me in order for my horse to have a good experience. Improving my equitation will absolutely help my horse and our future rides, but I knew after the refusals I wasn't going to be able to fix my issues in one night. And sometimes riding/training is a matter of finding a good positive note to end on before things devolve more than they have - and that is definitely something that played into last night!

Here's a video (7 seconds) that shows one of Griffin's better efforts toward the end of the session. I'm defensive as hell and my riding went to pot totally and completely, but I'm learning a lot from my mistakes! I love and hate videos for that reason - they make my faults super obvious which is painful, but I'm able to learn from them to better myself which is so important. This is the reality of not having an instructor and eyes on the ground, lots of video and learning through media. As Nicole and I discussed last night after my ride, if I'd had eyes on the ground they would have been yelling at me to put my heels to China, keep my eyes up, and wait for the jump as we approached the fence. Heels and eyes would lend me the security and waiting for the jump would have helped Griffin more. Jumping ahead isn't doing me any favors!

The refusals absolutely rattled me. Not half as much as they have in the past though! And overall, I have positive take-aways from the evening: I know I can buck up and ride on; my base of support in the saddle is strong enough to lend me confidence - though I definitely need to work on keeping my heel down over the fence (I *know* they were down on the approaches because I was really achy last night as a result); I need to put more leg on to really push Griffin through the exercise so he nails the striding and doesn't offer up refusals; wait for the jump and stop this jumping ahead BS; and eyes up, heels down, always, always, always.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Unknown Facts

I've enjoyed the random facts shared by several of you, so I thought I'd share some of my own!

- I was an absolutely voracious reader as a kid. I'd read up to 5 books at once, alternating between them throughout the day. I'd always have a book or two with me when I went places. Fantasy-quest and such fiction books took up most of my time (whose plots were all people or all animals - David Eddings and Marion Zimmer Bradley vs. Brian Jacques), but I had quite the arsenal of books that revolved around horses, too. I was reading on a 12th grade reading level in 3rd/4th grade.  

- While I'm quite outgoing now, it is absolutely a learned trait. I was a SHY kid. People would try to talk to me and I'd hide behind my mom. Not so much with kids, I'd just be quiet with new people. You'd never guess now if you met me. I'm able to find common ground with most people which gives us something to talk about. I credit growing up in 4-H for a lot of this as it really stressed self-awareness, leadership, and volunteering which led to me learning more about myself and how to be more gregarious.  

- I have a small obsession with succulents and easy-to-take-care-of plants (i.e. no orchids or suchness that needs such a particular light/water regiment). I purposefully avoid the plant section of stores that sell them so that I don't buy more than I have. The last time I went through the plant aisles I came home with 5 new plants, 3 of which were succulents.

- While I'm WV born and raised, my parents are not from here. My mother is from SC and my father is from VA and they met in NC and ended up in WV by complete accident - it was just a stop along the way when my dad was job hunting and they loved it. The rest is history.

- I almost majored in psychology but decided not to because I knew I wouldn't enjoy my job options following school as much. I took a lot of social psychology courses though and enjoy the fact that my job constantly pushes us into courses and trainings that are social psychology based. I geek out pretty hard on the stuff. 

- When not reading, I spent TONS of time outside playing in the woods with my best friends. I climbed a ton of trees, had a fort built in the woods, and basically role played myself through childhood outside. I was most often an adventurer who could speak to animals, but through my phase with the Redwall series, I was often an otter adventuring through with my best friend who was often a badger.

- When I was 3 years old I caught a chipmunk and brought it (proudly) to my mother. Yes, it was alive and unharmed. No, it didn't bite me.

- My most irrational pet peeve is when someone is kicking/tapping a chair/bench/whatever I'm sitting in with their foot. It drives me BATTY after the 3rd tap. Something swells up inside me and it takes a lot of self control to not lash out verbally or physically at whomever is doing it (because it really isn't okay to freak out on strangers, y'know?) If I know the person doing it, I'll cut them off quickly. My friends in HS used to do it in class just to watch me react.

- Beginning in middle/high school, I was much more easily friends with guys than girls. It holds true to this day. Girls are catty bitches. This became really evident to me in middle school as they vied for more and more attention and fought each other to be "queen bee". I tried to simply interact and spend time with those girls for awhile (I did not want to be queen bee, I just wanted friendship) but it went horribly askew in 8th grade (I was bullied mercilessly by some really horrible, horrible humans) and by high school the following year, I rarely if ever spoke to or interacted with the entire lot of them (ever again). Girls I get along with the best to this day are girls that hate other girls. 

I can hold my own around guys and keep up with them physically in all of my chosen sports and verbally in all of the off-color banter that takes place. Much to my parent's dismay, I always had more male friends than female friends. At one point my mother told me, "I wish you'd bring more girls home" when I would bring friends home to visit from school. *shrug* Guys were more commonly into what I was into (adventure sports). And, to my parents disbelief I'm certain, I did not date the very large majority of the guys I hung out with. I can absolutely have a totally platonic relationship with guys. Two of my absolute closest friends in college that I still keep up with are guys and we never dated nor came anywhere close to dating. The mere thought of dating them churns my (and their!) stomach! *shudder* Just friends. For. Real.

- I was a perfect student K-12. At first, it was because my parents pushed me to be the best. Then it was because I wanted them to be pleased. And then I wanted my teachers to be pleased. And then by middle school it was because I wanted to be pleased with myself. I'd turned into quite the little perfectionist. I was that weird kid that liked school. It was kind of a secretive like because it wasn't "cool" to enjoy school after all, but I really did! I favored math and science, but didn't truly dislike any subject. They all had their unique challenges and were fun in their own ways. I didn't really *know* I was doing so well in school against my peers until I received word near the end of HS that I would be salutatorian. To which my immediate first thought was, "Shit. I have to give a speech. A speech in front of a LOT of people. Shit." (Spoiler alert: It wasn't bad and that single event cured me of a lot of my intense fears regarding public speaking. I still get nervous, but I know I *can* do it now.) 

- I was a picky eater growing up. There was a time I didn't even like pizza or popcorn! Now I can never turn pizza down and I'm a popcorn fiend (just ask Dave, he thinks I'm ridiculous). My brother and mother were adventurous eaters, I thought they were crazy - I didn't even enjoy your basic Chinese buffet very much. The flavors just didn't do it for me! 

But now? Now I'm a food fiend. Sushi is hands down my most favorite food. Anytime I'm in a metropolitan area I seek out ethnic foods - Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, Greek, you name it, I want to try it. I'm still a wuss about spicy stuff, but I'm actively trying to get better about it every week!

- When I feel stressed, I clean. Not only do I clean, I re-arrange furniture, I purge belongings, I alter my wall decor. It's kind of ridiculous and I've done it since I was a pre-teen. I have mastered the art of moving large furniture by myself without hurting my back or anything. 

- I don't watch a ton of TV, but my all-time favorite show EVER is Gilmore Girls. I own all 7 seasons and have watched them all at least 20 times a piece. Through college I continually cycled through them all again and again and again. I can quote the shit out of some Gilmore Girls and I credit that show the most for getting me rolling with my snarky quips that have now become second nature. 

The times I binge-watched the most were whenever I was really stressed with coursework or due to relationship struggles. Even following college, whenever I went through a break-up in particular, I would binge watch the shit out of Gilmore Girls. Season 5 is my favorite. I do not like Dean (Jared Padalecki does better work in Supernatural IMHO), I'm hit-or-miss on Jess, and I was always pro-Logan for whatever reason (he's a dick, I know). I Can. Not. Wait. for the late November release of the 4 short-films that will re-vamp the series. SO EXCITED. 

Also, my blog name came from Gilmore Girls. In Omnia Paratus was the motto of the Life and Death Brigade at Yale University. It translates to "Ready for Anything". I started this blog near the end of college when I was feeling really lost and uncertain about what my future would hold so I decided to adopt the motto for myself and charge forward and take control of whatever opportunities I was presented with. I wear a ring on my right hand that I got when I graduated college with the words inscribed that is a daily reminder to just do my best with anything that falls in front of me. I've done well by myself, I think. I'm very happy and very busy and love the crazy life I live.

- Since late-college, I've tried to be a redheaded character for Halloween every year. I've been: Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus (boyfriend was the bus), Peter Pan, Pippy Longstocking, Princess Merida from Brave, and Fiona from Shrek (boyfriend was Shrek).

This segues well into that meme going around on social media re: picking 3 characters you relate to most.


I chose Princess Merida from Disney's Brave (because redhead, Scottish (that's my heritage), rides a horse (with blaze and 4 socks like Q), and has a personality so much like my own (aka strereotypical redhead)), Rory from Gilmore Girls (because I always carried  books around with me and was a goody two-shoes perfect student all through K-12 school (salutatorian in HS) and into college and I opened up more (personality-wise) in college than in high school), and Hermione** from Harry Potter (because, once again, the goody two-shoes, driven nature but also with two best friends that were guys which was most of my life once I entered high school - and Nicole constantly accuses me of having a time-turner).

**Hermione as she is represented in the books moreso than the movies. I love both the movies and the books, but I love them individually. I grew up with the series. I was the same age as the kids in the books as they were being released in the US which made me feel that much closer to the series, I think.

When I first started pondering the character meme, I thought of Merida, Katniss, and Ce'Nedra. Katniss is a little more intense though than what I trend to be and Ce'Nedra (from David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean series) has a much more whimsical coy side than I have ever had. 

Monday, September 26, 2016


With a year(+) ahead of me where I will not be focusing on endurance at all, I'm redirecting my riding to include more jumping and dressage. Frequent reviews of my 101 dressage/jumping exercises workbooks is occurring to aid in this endeavor. Additionally, I'm making an effort on the jumping side of things to change up my jumps once every week or two at most.

Last Friday, I did something out of the usual for me and worked! I typically work 4-10s and have 3-day weekends, but with fall in the air and climbing season in full swing, I'm trying to make some time for getaways so I'm including some Friday work here and there to have a 4-day weekend at some point during the pay period. (Currently hoping to climb Thursday/Friday this week...but the long lasting drought we've had seems to be ending abruptly with rain in the forecast for the first time in 2+ months beginning Thursday -_-.)

Following work on Friday, I had time on my hands to head to the barn and enjoy myself for a good 3 hour window that didn't involve any hard schedule other than "ride Griffin for 30-40 minutes at some point". I don't have enough of those kind of days at the barn! Usually I have a much smaller window.

So, with my copious amount of time, I re-did my jump field and turned the course into a grid instead.

C = cavaletti, G = ground pole, V = vertical, O = oxer
In reality, we ended up having more ground poles than verticals

Monica's grid from Labor Day inspired me. I thought Griffin would really enjoy a big grid and I thought I could push height with him a lot on that final oxer.

I was super fortunate to have both a photographer AND jump crew on this day. I NEVER have such a luxury! I need to start goading some friends into this more in the future!

jumpinggriffin (2 of 20)
Happy boy looking around
jumpinggriffin (1 of 20)
This Wintec is great, but I need to invest in a jumping saddle; the chair seat this thing puts me into isn't helping
jumpinggriffin (3 of 20)
Asking for more bend, getting an Opinion in response

I warmed Griffin up at the trot and canter for a bit before taking him through the exercise the first time. He was very rateable throughout the exercise. The dressage work we've been doing has done wonders for our control and creating a more tightly coiled spring of a horse so far as his gaits go. I can wind him up real tight or leg him stretch out more.

Our first sweep through the grid was a bit awkward. I got off Griffin's back and stayed out of his mouth and just let him figure it out. I knew he would, and he did. Our second sweep went better, and by the third, he understood the game.

In the beginning, the oxer at the end was set to 2'3" and by the end of our session, we'd bumped it up to 3'3".

jumpinggriffin (6 of 20)
Happy ears. Front pole down on purpose in beginning.
jumpinggriffin (12 of 20)
jumpinggriffin (13 of 20)
Please note Kenai.
jumpinggriffin (14 of 20)
My favorite. He's perfect <3
jumpinggriffin (15 of 20)
Adding some height. Also increasing our power going into the jump.
jumpinggriffin (16 of 20)
Happy ears all day.
jumpinggriffin (2 of 3)-2
I love his expression
jumpinggriffin (17 of 20)
I will forever think of this point in time over a jump as "carousel horse"
jumpinggriffin (18 of 20)
jumpinggriffin (20 of 20)
Flying on my carousel horse
jumpinggriffin (19 of 20)
Tuck those hind feet, boy!

Griffin clipped the poles on the oxer twice (once at 3' and once at 3'3", but never his first time over), but not enough that they fell. I think he was just figuring out how to put forth adequate effort without over-jumping after his first initial "oomph" over the height. His first go over a new height is always a little over-zealous and then he dials back. With time, I'm sure the differences in height and the effort needed for each will be more second nature for us both, but for now we're still learning and that's why we practice exercises like this one!

I haven't jumped Griffin over heights like this since October 2015 and I'm tickled with how he did. Kid has springs in his feet.

As far as my position and my effort goes, I definitely found things a little easier than I did last year! Granted, I still need to improve my position to be more solid over a bigger height and in general I need to work through jumping exercises more often than we have been. I'm still quite defensive which really presents itself with my roached back over fences. As we did more iterations at each height though, I became more comfortable. I know with time, practice, and critical assessment to photos and video, I will get better. And when I'm better, Griffin will improve, too!

So much fun. I adore this horse and can't believe I've trained him from the ground up.

jumpinggriffin (1 of 3)-2
Reppin' my endurance "To Finish is to Win" shirt while jumping
jumpinggriffin (9 of 20)
Quizzical ears

Friday, September 23, 2016

Twinning BFFs

With the introduction of Stan to the herd, the dynamic of buddies has changed up. My three now pair themselves with their closest twins in the field.

It's kind of cute and very interesting from a herd dynamic perspective.

horses09222016 (8 of 11)
Saja and Grif

Griffin is the youngest in the group and he's paired with the oldest.

horses09222016 (10 of 11)
Q and Little Bit

Q is with her forever crush who is finally her boyfriend (except she's on house arrest now and thus must be lonely and turn him back over to the woman she tried, tried, and succeeded at stealing him from...but no fear Q, that woman is heading down the road soon and you can go back to being his only love!).

horses09222016 (9 of 11)
Stan and Pokey

And Stan is paired forever with his girlfriend he was stalled beside for many years in his younger days. They're rather inseparable.

Although, for Q and Griffin - especially Griffin - if I'm in the field then they'd rather bother me and pair up with me!

horses09222016 (5 of 11)
Mauling me for attention on my left
horses09222016 (11 of 11)
And on my right, this one.

I'll take it. =)

Do your horses pair up with their twin in the field?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Well, F*ck.

Monday Sept. 19 I hauled Q the 5 minutes to the vet. Dan met me there because he was totally game for a learning experience and hadn't seen a lameness exam before. I was psyched to have my farrier on board with all that's going on.

We ran through the gambit of things to begin problem solving. Hind end lameness exams take time!
  • History - Noticed her slightly off toward the end of September. Chalked it up to an abscess as it's been a bad year for them. Noted that she blew a HUGE abscess in her RF shortly after. Seemed okay after, but then still noticed slight lameness. Off at the walk on steep downhills, sound at the walk elsewhere. Sound at the trot going straight on the flat with good footing, off at the trot on a circle, especially to the left. Suspect something going on with LH.
  • Walk and trot outs - first straight out and back as one would do for an endurance vetting.Could see that she was uneven behind, but obviously, inconclusive as to what/why other than the LH looking suspicous.
  • Lunging - off slightly more to the left than the right, but still inconclusive (and she was not nearly as bad as she was for last week's video so it made things hard) beyond confirming it was something in the LH.
  • Flex tests - Negative for fetlock, positive for hock, negative for stifle. 
  • Hoof testers - Some sensitivity near toe of LH, but nothing super crazy.
  • Blocks - blocked the hoof and while there was some improvement, the lameness, while subtle, was still present. Tried to block her higher and she Wasn't Having It. And so in favor of not stressing us all or injuring my vet further (Q NAILED her finger, fortunately nothing else in her fit about attempts to block higher than the hoof!), we moved into x-rays.
  • X-rays - While there is some very mild arthritis forming in the joint at the hock, it is nothing crazy at all and not something my vet would expect her to be lame from. Hoof looked good, too. (Some, not all, of the x-rays included below.)
View 1
View 2
View 3
View 1
View 2
15_Navicular_60 Degree
View 3
Hock shots
Live action
Dan holding the drunk while we x-ray so I could be more involved
Quizzical ears

  •   Ultrasound - After many minutes with this, we found a small lesion toward the head/origin of the suspensory.

Well, fuck.

Silver linings?
  • While I hate this answer and it isn't what I was expecting in the slightest, at least I HAVE an answer and a plan of action to move forward with.
  • Caught it early and didn't ride the snot out of her and make it worse. I don't know if I feel better or worse about the fact that it happened in the field and not during competition?!
  • We've got plenty of time and can go slow. 
  • Taking time and going slow through rehab will give me time to work further on trust issues with this critter in hopes that some of her spookiness will be more subdued.
  • Gives more impetus to do dressage cross-training with her. Once back riding, we could easily spend months at the walk learning so much. 
  • While I'm crushed that I won't be doing any endurance for a year or so, my ultimate goal with this horse (or any endurance horse) has never been to win races or be at the top. My goal has always been health and soundness and longevity. This mare is 10. We have 4 years of successful endurance distance completions under our belts. With the ultimate longevity goal of Decade Team, *if things go well with rehab* I've got ample time to slowly work toward that goal still. 
I may wax and wane poetically on all of this with more time. But right now, this is where I'm at and it currently feels like a huge punch in the gut coupled with my heart being ripped out. I am both shocked, surprised, and incredibly saddened.

I am choosing to be optimistic and positive with my forward thinking on this ordeal - my personality is not one that does well falling down the "What If" Hole or living in the Doom and Gloom Dungeon, so being optimistic and positive is key! I've done (and continue to do) my reading to learn more.

I've already reached out and had answers from some long-time endurance riders about dealing with this from an endurance stand point. I'm certainly interested in hearing about success stories from others in any discipline. I recognize that the timeline of healing is fluid and there will be ups and downs along the way.

For now, it looks like Griffin and Stan will be getting a LOT more saddle time for the immediate and foreseeable future! Dressage and jumping competitions in the spring??

Friday, September 16, 2016

Shameless Plug + Updates!

First - If you have an Instagram, PLEASE go "like/love" this photo for me! I'm in the running to win a stainless steel growler of beer from the brewery.

I don't usually do this type of thing. But beer.

Now, onto updates!


Griffin is taking his transition into "dressage horse" very well. I've been putting in 2 - 3 rides a week on him. As of right now, I think this will be the continued norm. I'd like to be putting in a solid 2 days of only dressage work and then a third day of dressage for 20-30 minutes with another 20-30 minutes of jumping. He is so fun to jump and he enjoys it SO MUCH.

So far, our jumping session following dressage work was one of the best jumping sessions we've ever had. The dresssage-focused "warm up" gave me an incredibly rateable horse that felt like a coiled spring; there was so much power that was so controllable! The combination of dressage + jumping with this horse is a very good pairing. And he loves it...mostly.

Yeah, I'm in my dressage saddle.
And yeah, I had to hike the stirrups up. 
Look at his happy ears!

Dressage is hard work. Griffin has so much try though and so we're finding success. I'm quick with praise and he's picking up concepts quickly.

Our first two rides following Stephen's clinic were ROUGH. But the third was magic. Things CLICKED. And we've been building on that. We haven't had quite the level of magic since, but we also haven't regressed anywhere near those first two rides!

To focus on positives, I think by-and-large our biggest "breakthrough" to focus on right now is the fact that I have a horse who understands LATERAL MOVEMENTS. I never thought I'd be able to teach a horse such things! We're a long way from any definition of perfection (or a score above a 5), but he's GRASPING it and it's SO FUN.

In addition to lateral movement, Griffin is accepting contact much better, bending much better, improving greatly in his bad direction (to the right), and I'm becoming a better "human side rein". We're getting there!


Since the 30, Q hasn't been too busy. We've been doing a ~10 mile trail ride about once a week and that's about it. Nothing crazy at all. Lots of downtime for the most part.

Unfortunately, some of that downtime is due to the fact that Q's been mildly lame for a few weeks now.

First, it was an abscess in her front right. (It has been a STUPID year for abscesses here! Seriously ready for autumn and hopeful change in weather... I don't know what rain is anymore!) I noticed it the first time on August 29. After 10 days or so, that abscess blew (holy huge hole, Batman!) and she was back to herself.

Such a good girl lately <3

But now she's lame again. I noticed it when Lauren and I were riding last Wednesday. She started the
ride sound, but by mile 3ish (once we had some downhills under our belts) I began to notice her being slightly off at the trot and canter. She was sound at the walk - unless we went downhill. After checking her shoes for rocks (there were none) and checking her all over for cuts or swelling (again, none), I was a bit stumped. I walked her for awhile, rode her at the walk a little, tried the trot on the flat and uphills, and she was fine. But downhills triggered some funkiness that really seemed to be coming from her LH. Handwalking her down the mountain even Lauren noticed how Q's LH was being funky.

Finally, I had Lauren switch me horses and lead riding Q so I could watch her go.

My gut was telling me it was something higher up in her leg, but at the same time, she really didn't want to put that heel down on that foot it seemed, so maybe she had an abscess brewing or a stone bruise on the heel of that foot? I flexed her back at the barn and she trotted off sound on the flat. Nicole helped assuage my worries and so I let it go.

Except she was still off yesterday!

And so I did something I don't normally do and shared the above video to my Facebook to gauge some comments from other horse-folk. I had my hypotheses and concerns, but in lieu of looking for zebras when there are only horses, I decided to see what comments others may have and planned to take everything with a boulder-sized grain of salt. Because internet. The video generated some great conversations both publicly and privately! Q has an appointment one evening after work next week where we'll assess more with the aid of professionals, digital x-rays and the like. So stay tuned and cross all the things and light all the candles that it's something straight-forward that we can move past with minimal down time!


Stan is a new barn favorite - and that's not something I can say about my barn because there are a whopping 3 of us that board there and we are close friends of the folks that own it. We do what we will with our own horses and that's about it usually! But now Stan is favorited by all and it's surprising and yet not-so-surprising.

Top is end of August/early September, bottom is his first day on the farm

Everyone is riding him. Everyone is enjoying him. He's actually being used on a trail ride tomorrow! And my BO messaged me this week while I was on travel for work and asked me what my long-term plans were for him because she thinks he would be the PERfect horse for one of the other ladies at the barn. This fact is supported by the fact that the lady rode him Tuesday (I said they could take him out whenever!) and ADORED him. He is rather easy to love.

Stanley, how did you get your spittle on your face like that?

But no worries, Stan isn't going anywhere! I replied saying I planned to keep him forever and she'd be welcome to ride him whenever! I just want him to be fit and happy. And, sorry Stanley, fit means you get ridden!

Shorter toes and lower heels!
Getting there...
Looking balanced

The big guy has been ridden 2 - 3 times a week for the past month. Between Lauren riding him on the trail with me and Q, me riding him for an escape and some jumping, plus the fellow boarder riding him now, he's been in a fair bit of work. Perfect! He's taking to it all like a fish to water and truly seems to enjoy having a job again. He absolutely ATTACKS jumps and is a total and complete dollbaby on the trail. This horse spooks at nothing (except school buses...a story for another time) and it is SO CRAZY AWESOME to ride him after being on Griffin and especially Q who loses her shit over butterflies and ferns. -_-

Such happy ears!!

I did a 6-mile solo ride on Stan 2 weeks ago and despite flushing some deer that were very well hidden 2x during the ride, he spooked not at all. He moved down the trail with the happiest of ears the whole time. Such a doll.

The biggest thing other than general back-to-fitness that I need to work on with Stan is MANNERS. He isn't HORRIBLE on the ground, but in comparison to Q and Griffin, he's got a long way to go. But he will get there! He already stands tied with significantly less pacing than he did a month ago. These things take time, and I am positive that come his 1-year anniversary with me he'll be a totally different horse in the ground manners department!

Lessons - or lack thereof!

With some behavioral changes in my horses that were unrelated to the herd dynamic change from Stan's introduction, I have decided to discontinue giving lessons to newbie riders. The behavioral changes weren't outstanding or crazy, but I'm not completely deaf to my horses' attempts to communicate with me in their own way. The stress of giving 3 to 4 lessons a week on top of my busy work and extracurricular schedule was also beginning to get to me. I wasn't really *enjoying* my horses anymore and my horses weren't enjoying their time with me.

And so, now I'm down to Lauren - the junior rider I've gotten into endurance and who accompanied our group at RBTR this year. She's a very solid little rider and our lessons are as much a training session for the horse as they are for the rider! And that's the kind of thing my horses need. Predominantly, she's riding Stanley and they are a great match! We spend most of our time doing conditioning rides where she gets live-action coaching on her position from me throughout. She loves it, I love it, the horses enjoy it. It's great and it really brings things full-circle for me because this is what I did when I was a bit younger than her - long, "fast" trail rides with an older mentor. I can't tell you how good it feels to give that experience back to someone who truly loves it and soaks up all of the learning possible like the driest of sponges. This girl is going places and I'm so happy to be able to get her started.

On a side note, she's going to be riding at Fort Valley at the end of October in the LD again. If Q is back to normal, I'm going to be doing the 55. Anyone else doing the LD that might be interested in serving as a sponsor for Lauren? I'm trying to build a list of folks so I can match her and Shiloh with someone they'll pace well with!


Kenai is 6½ now and the arthritis in his knees from the surgeries and life plagues him, but we're doing what we can to manage it and he's a pretty happy, active guy most of the time.

He's been doing a lot of hiking with us in addition to daily walks. Occasionally, he even gets out on our mountain bike rides when those ventures are mostly flat and < 5 miles.

BWB (5 of 9)
So happy.
His paw slays me.
Just waiting for something exciting to happen
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I had his thyroid tested early summer to see if that was the cause for some of his anti-hair growth and weight gain. However, all was normal (yay? boo?) and after a call to a few endocrinologists, he was started on a 8-week trial of melatonin. I switched his food at the same time and so I'll never know for certain which is the ultimate cause - but we have hair growth in places he was lacking it for the first time in 3 years! Hurrah! I'm cautiously optimistic my dog will have most of his hair back by winter's end at the latest.


Between travel for work to a conference in Lake Placid and weekend jaunts exploring Almost Heaven, the past month or so has been a terrific one. Hiking, biking, and beyond, it's a really beautiful world out there.

Mountain Momma
The end of our 24-mile bike ride on North Fork Mountain
Still smiling despite my longest bike ride to date! An LD on a bike is not the same as on a horse!
Sue Haywood atop North Fork at one of our stops
BWB (2 of 9)
Pase Point, Blackwater Canyon, Tucker County WV
BWB (8 of 9)
Reppin' local business at their namesake!
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Home is beautiful
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And magical
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Sunset over goldenrod
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But really, it doesn't get much better.
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ADKsunrise (1 of 5)
The sun peeking over the Adirondacks at sunrise
ADKsunrise (2 of 5)
Good morning!
ADKsunrise (3 of 5)
Autumn colors are coming out in the higher elevations like the Adirondacks and Canaan
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Greeting the Adirondack morning
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Heart Lake
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I love the stark white against a forest of green
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And then the day was done; I hiked up Mt. Jo for sunrise and sunset
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Day is done. Gone the sun.
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Sun salute to the end of the day, as well!
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That's the moon over my head.