Saturday, November 30, 2013

Videos of Griffin

My filming while holding lunge whip and giving direction is less than desirable as far as shakiness, but OH WELL. Here's Griffin warming up the other night at liberty with zero gadgetry.

I'm really excited to start adding riding to our workouts next month. The plan is to stay in the round pen for all December riding and likely all January riding, too. I'd do just one month, but with my schedule changing with my second job beginning, it will be unlikely that I go out more than 3 times a week. (I'll be working 7 days a week for nearly 2 months! Xmas and New Years included.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

A montage of cat photos

Because you all said you wanted more.

Oh, and this guy. Because I couldn't leave him out!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Being Thankful: Interpretted with Photography

I am thankful for:

This mare
This gelding
These guys
Fly fishing
New friendship and sillyness
New friends and sharing
Climbing with a mission
Eager athleticism
My daily view
Willingness and athleticism
This dog
A trailer to use and a newly learned skill
These two
New cats
Visiting friends
New jumps and bounces
My job
My state
My goofball
A now healthy, happy boy
A lush WV summer
Great friends and my state
This goofball and the trailer
This smiling face. Every. Day.
Climbing and my state
Winters with amazing people doing wonderful work

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dr. Jekyl / Mr. Hyde

 Or moreso, The Q I love vs. The Q I hate.

And some screenshots from the videos for those who don't/can't watch:

A crazy, sassy Q on top; a sane, relaxed Q on the bottom
And no, I don't wipe off mud unless its gonna be under the saddle.

Things I'm figuring out about this horse as they relate to dealing with her problems:
  • (Okay, I've known this one for ages, I just struggle with it because girly hormones are a bitch) I MUST check ALL emotion and hormones at the door. Leave them in my car as I get out. My emotions, my reactions, my hormones influencing these directly and acutely influence this horse. Example: Every time I have ever dealt with her, when I have zero cares in the world and give zero fucks about things, she surprises me with her willingness and athleticism.
  • I cannot have a strict plan. Some things she may not be ready for on a day when I want to do them. I need to instead have a very flexible list of things to potentially do and rotate through the list as her behavior dictates. Forcing her into my schedule ends up backtracking our progress. Example: The other night I had planned to lunge her a bit and perhaps a little riding. Instead, I got carried away with my grooming and decided to try to shave her legs just to see how bad she might be. I was able to shave all four of them! The hinds have about 15% left because I wanted to end before she lost ANY patience. #WINNING.
  • She's paying more attention to me than I ever imagined. In fact, this horse is SO like me its eerie. I pay way more attention to everything going on around me than I ever let on. My senses and my mind are always whirring and redirecting to file every tiny thing away. Q does this, too. My minute gestures and requests that I presumed she was looking past? She notices. If I act on those minute gestures and avoid giving big ones, I get a much more responsive horse. Example: She has never given me inside turns at liberty in the round pen. If I ask the SAME way on the lunge, she turns in with zero problems (she recognizes the line, obviously, but still worth noting she can turn inside without hesitation). So I asked a few times the other night in the round pen at liberty. Outside. Outside. Then I noticed her responsiveness would alter a little when I was just thinking about wanting her to turn inside. I obviously do something a little different with my body posture, too, because she offered the very beginnings of an inside turn. I noticed and gave a small gesture to please continue. And she did. We repeated this, smoothing out our discussion as we went, and ended up with many nice inside turns.
Big realization? This horse is ME in horse form. Its absolutely ridiculous. I get upset with her, she crumbles inside; if I'm calm and deliberate and logical, she thrives. (I have quite the mental battle with myself when people are angry with me and even around me. As a result, I've surrounded myself with level-headed friends who are very slow to anger.) If I don't keep her mind busy with a task she starts second-guessing everything around her, really seeking and looking for danger to spook at; if I give her enough to keep her busy, she's a star. (I am notorious for second-guessing everything around me. My teachers used to joke that I need to just move through  my tests and go with my gut because otherwise I'd get everything wrong from second-guessing. As a result, I'm a QUICK test taker.) Q will spazz over stupid things and have zero issues with  big things. (Okay, this isn't me very often, but I definitely am guilty of it.) She's a superstar whenever the moment really requires her to be. (When I'm on the mountain working accidents in high-stress situations, I completely chill out and do my job and am unbothered by things around me. They'll hit me later. But in the moment, I am all business.)

Its never immediate or easy with this horse. But damn, is it worth it. She's a puzzle I love to work on. And with every piece I click in, I love her more.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Problems and Solutions

My gadget post seems to have unintentionally opened a small can of worms.

Re-reading it (and accidentally taking it down for a few hours as a result of doing all of that on my phone app - sorry!), I realize I did a piss poor job of explaining some things, and I made some unfair assumptions that people would piece together things from past posts in order to understand my reasoning better. Writing and blogging can be tricky! I'll do my best in all future posts to better explain my line of reasoning/refer to old posts.

I'd like to state immediately though, how thankful I am for the interest of others and the guidance they're willing to provide. This little community of folks is so awesome. I really appreciate the help and support we're able to give each other. Sometimes it does suck to read, at least at first, but it always triggers (at least for me) so much more thought, introspection, and investigation into things. Thank you. Without these moments, I wouldn't be able to grow as a horse person. In fact, this post is a direct result of comments and guidance received on that post. I've thought of little else horse-related since.

To rectify my poor job of explaining and my assumptions in that previous post, I will now review [some of] Griffin and Q's problems and my start at finding a solution for them.

- Griffin tossed me off pretty good back in September. I made light of it because that's how I approach difficult things in my quest to learn from them and not dwell on the bad of a situation. However, the seriousness of it wasn't lost on me.

His episode in rodeo bronc-ing was a breaking point for me. He'd had a series of outbursts over time, and getting bucked off in such a violent way really led me to thinking hard about: what I was doing to cause them, what similarities existed in each episode, and what ways I could approach to remedy the problem.

Conclusion? Almost all of the episodes where he pitched his royal little fits (still relatively minor on the grand scale of horse fits) were triggered from me requesting something that applied pressure to his mouth. Sometimes he'd spazz over a request from my leg, but I'm fairly certain these were times he'd reached his breaking point from the pressure on his mouth first - my leg just sent him over the edge.

It bears saying right now, I don't immediately haul around on my horses mouths or kick them unduly. I always offer the good deal first, and then I increase the form of my request until they respond. I am not violent. Griffin has always learned this way from day one with me and he is SO clever at figuring things out. I think its why, even in his short time under saddle, he is so good about moving off my leg. But I can't very well go around teaching him to move about exclusively from my legs! (Okay, well, I'm sure I could try, but there would eventually come a time when it would be inappropriate!) And, in like, I cannot have a horse who gets offended and freaks out about the bit in his mouth causing even a small amount of pressure.

- Q has changed a lot lately. I don't know that I've mentioned it greatly on the blog other than individual moments of her being a spazz. I tend to push away her idiocy and focus on how awesome she is because when she's on, she's SO on. And her awesomeness has always outshone her stupid moments. Of late though, I'm having a hard time ignoring the stupid.

Since the introduction of the Friesian sporthorse to the herd, her personality is very different. It took me a few months to realize that his arrival is very likely the trigger for her new issues (and reintroduction of old issues). The trip to Fort Valley really struck the point home though. I got my girl away from home and her friends and she went right back to being amazing. Something about that big, rude gelding just sends her into a tizzy.

Some problems she's had since I got her (e.g., being weird about her feet being handled, whirling around when tied in the barn, trailering, lack of attention to me when working on the lunge/at liberty in the round pen), but they've been blown out of proportion since Eli's introduction. Other problems (e.g., her spookiness under saddle, her attitude on the lunge and in the round pen) have become so severe that I question working her or taking her out to ride at all a lot of days.

Her spooks under saddle are awful now. What was once some over-zealous side passing or change of gait in response to something potentially dangers, is now a horizontal teleport violently away from something or a violent slamming of the brakes from whatever gait she was going at.

You all ride, you know how awful that kind of spooking is. I know I'm a balanced rider. I wouldn't be where I am with riding if I wasn't! Q's violent leaps sideways hurt my back and scare me. Her halts from a big trot or a canter to a standstill throw me from the saddle every time.

I don't like to get hurt. No one does.

Her work on the lunge and at liberty in the round pen has also changed dramatically. Where I had a forward and slightly distracted horse before, I now have a manic horse that wheels around and around in a high-headed panic. Its awful.

- When Griffin's increasing fits related to pressure on his mouth started to click in my mind, I began ground driving again and added work the Fauxssoa. Within a few short sessions (20 minutes max with the Fauxssoa with some warm up/cool down without it) I noticed a huge difference in him under saddle. It was SO nice to have him realize that me doing something with my hands didn't mean he should immediately spazz. Instead, every time at the walk and the majority of the time at the trot, he would instead reach into the pressure and put himself into what looked and felt like (to my untrained senses) a very nice little frame. He was soft and responsive. It was beautiful.

But if we worked above the walk (even for the shortest of periods!!), he'd get eager and was quick to take offense to pressure again. He'd start pitching his fit. And, then, Liz was hucked off in an extraordinary [for Griffin] way. Weeeee! Not.

That brief intro to flying was my breaking point. My ankle was hurt and not getting better quickly. My first 50 on Q was less than a month away! I couldn't risk not getting to ride in it because of my angsty little teenager, Griffin.

So I quit riding him/working much with him for the whole month of October while I prepped Q and myself. But I didn't quit thinking about HOW I would approach things with him after the race.

I planned on more ground driving and more Fauxssoa and looked into other things. I wanted to spend a good month putting the little guy through his paces without me on his back. I wanted him to really truly understand that some pressure on his mouth shouldn't be cause for pitching a fit.

The ground driving helps a TON. But I can't do it (for long) above a walk. And where his issues really sit is above the walk. In the episodes in the round pen and on the lunge his fit pitching only occurs when I request trot and canter. (And no, it isn't all the time, and I'm not concerned that it is caused by anything other than him trying to get away with being snotty.) I wish I had some video to offer of his squealing protests to my requests as they are quite comical! I'm not usually one to anthropomorphize my animals, but I really can't think of a better comparison than to call him a teenager who is pissed at his parents for telling him to clean his room or something. He gripes about it to see if he can get away with not doing it, and then settles into getting it done. He's testing me.

He's smart, too, so if I let him get away with things or allow him to put two and two together that bucking = me coming off = end of work for a time (time = time it takes me to catch the little shit and get back on if I'm not too hurt to do so), I'm screwed!

And so not in an effort to put him in a frame, not in an effort to try to fix his muscling to work in a frame, not in an effort to find the fast-track to a supreme-o looking dressage pony, the Fauxssoa/chambon have been my efforts to get my little grey horse to realize that pitching a fit will not solve things when pressure on his mouth is concerned.

And looking back, I've done a piss-poor job of making that clearer than I have on the blog. Talking with some of you so often outside of blogland has made me complacent in blog land about fully explaining things. I apologize!

Photos of Griffin that I take don't really do everything justice and have made life more confusing, I fear. I have videos, too, but they're really awful because I'm trying to handle the lunge whip and the camera and keep my body position as such to dictate that the horse should continue. I'm almost always ALONE when I work my horses. Dee stays up at the house. I don't have help filming or in other realms that would be helpful with everything.

I try to give photos so that I can get responses and guidance from y'all. I'm very sorry they've caused confusion. I'm still learning the best way to explain things.

- As far as Q with some sort of gadget is concerned, I really just want to redirect her issues with lunging and round penning and get her to work in the frame she will give me under saddle. I can't watch and observe myself riding her to judge things. I would like her to be able to build muscle in "good" places, and would like to better observe her way of going while she's doing this so that I can apply things under saddle better. I wish so much that I wasn't so far from lessons (a 2 hour minimum haul) and horse professionals in my realms of interest.

What I (and Q and later Griffin) could really benefit from is time with a good trainer to help reinforce, reteach, and introduce new things. With Q, it would be so nice to have someone that knew what to look for to just lunge her while I was riding so that I could focus on things and not have to worry about "making the horse go forward" while I focus on other things. At least for a short time.

But alas, things are as they are and I'm determined to make the best of it!

Gadgets definitely are not a forever solution. I'm too cheap (haha, obviously with my ghetto crafting) and too impatient to spend excessive time with them. I definitely prefer to ride and I definitely agree with Dom on how you need to have a feel for things that gadgets can't do. I just need my horse to allow me to use contact without pitching me off to get to that point. =) Or, in Q's case, I really want to spend some time to get her to recognize that groundwork can - in fact - be as pleasant as our work under saddle. I think it would help her to build "good" muscle if she could work well without my flopping in the saddle. =)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Praying the GREY Away?

A fun photo transition of Griffin through his life. (And photos showing how bad of shape he was in when he was rescued!)
Its the way of things with a grey horse.
Its a slow process sometimes - which I think it will be for Griffin - but one day he'll be white in coat.
But I can hope he'll keep that black mane for awhile. It would make my inner 6 year old who ALWAYS drew white horses with black manes and white bodies VERY VERY happy. :-)

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Skiing. So. Soon.

A New Gadget

(I did a poor job explaining some things here and rectified it with this post.)

I asked Saiph last week what other "gadgets" existed that I could make to help with Griffin and especially Q to help them learn to move better. She gave me a list of things, but the chambon really caught my eye.

I'd noticed this article on Sustainable Dressage about how the Fauxssoa I've been using was basically causing the horse to use himself in the manner we wished because his own hock action was cracking him in the mouth and forcing him to travel in such a manner as to try to avoid it. I didn't like that idea much.

The same page on Sustainable Dressage also had good points about the chambon. It relieves the pressure when the horse stretches forward, down, and out. 

Griffin is so soft to cues because I've always "offered a good deal" before giving him a bad deal as far as my requests to do things. He's very smart, as most young horses with a blank slate can be, and has figured out over time that the good deal is the way to go. The observation that his hock action was putting undue pressure on his mouth didn't thrill me at all. I want him to move well without some painful stimuli.

Paracord + carabiners + an old browband @ poll = homemade chambon
And thus, I took Saiph's recommendation to try a chambon and the recommendation of the article: I made a chambon and altered the Fauxssoa into only a butt bumper.

Ghetto? Very. Effective? Quite!

I have to also note, that while warming Griffin up at liberty with only the butt bumper on, he started to collect himself without any sort of gadget help! It was only for a few seconds at a time, but I was thrilled to see him choose to do this.

Once the chambon was attached at the loosest setting, I set Griffin around the ring once more. He figured out in short order how to relieve the pressure from his poll/the bit and went into a nice little frame. Good horse!

I tightened the gadget up a bit after several minutes just to see what kind of difference it would make in Griffin's efforts. Would he find a nice way of going quicker? Would it be more dramatic? Or would he just stay the same?

The answers: a little quicker and mostly the same.

I like gadgets like the chambon and butt bumper for Griffin. They're great reminders for helping him to bring his back and body into the equation better. The more he works and is reminded, the more he seems to want to choose the "right" way on his own.

Q and the chambon though? The brief time I tried this with her she braced.braced.braced against it. From loose to tight. I made it as tight as I was comfortable doing to try to make her uncomfortable enough to QUIT BRACING, to no avail.

I think I'm going to have to come up with another solution for her. I think she was treated a bit roughly in the beginning of her life. Cowboy training can be good - and has benefited her much - but the force used for some things (and over-use of the training flags for ground stuff) just really killed the trust my girl has for humans. It takes a lot to gain her full trust, and it can be shattered quickly with harsh actions.

So the verdict? Yay for getting out of Griffin's mouth more with the chambon. Ghetto homemade devices for the win! And Q? Well, we've got all winter to discover something to help her; share your ideas if you have any!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Under da Sea

A couple weeks ago, Allison at Adventures with Shyloh held a giveaway contest for a Horze fleece cooler.

And, by some miracle (because I never win anything), I won! And of course I chose the marine green color because its boo-tee-full.

I was concerned when I opened the box that the color wasn't nearly as bright as it had been online. I think they boosted the saturation on the photo a little bit... But when I headed out to the barn to have my two models show it off, it was still sufficiently obnoxious. (There is zero filter on these photos.)

I am NOT amused. NOT amused.
Seriously, human, stop with the photos.
But whaaaatt is this thing?
Over it. Now I'll be adorable.

Its nice to have two similarly-sized horses. Its a little too long on Q and just right for Griffin. Though, if the boy grows more (which he's bound to do since he's only 3¼), I may not be able to cram them both into the same blanket. Though, once Griffin is of an age to attend endurance events with Q and I (provided we have another butt to ride him through!) he'll need blankets of his own for those cold rides!

Had to include that video because that's where they look like they should be with this color! With a bit of a saturation boost and some other post-processing via Snapseed, I've replaced the "lock" and "home" screens on my phone with the following two photos:

I love my little sea-colored horses. =) Thanks Allison and Horze for making this happen!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An Impromptu Climbing Venture

My Saturday night plans were botched at the last moment this weekend past, so I packed up and bolted down to the New River Gorge/Summersville Lake climbing areas.

I knew Jeremy would be there, but was pleasantly surprised to discover all of my other close climbing friends I hadn't seen since July were also in attendance. I had so much fun catching up with everyone around the fire! Kenai was equally thrilled to be around people - especially his Best-Worst Uncle (best because he gives Kenai whatever Kenai wants; worst because, well, he gives Kenai whatever Kenai wants) who he adores more than most people in this world. Kenai even got to sleep in the tent with his Best-Worst Uncle. =)

Sunday Jeremy, Anna, Garth, and I headed to Summersville Lake, getting a few minute head start on the others who were all still finishing up hearty breakfasts (this crew doesn't screw around with their breakfast, they're quite the camping chefs).  Kenai was loath to leave with us, as he'd been doing his best sad-puppy expressions to score some food. All it was getting him was orange polka-dots on his muzzle from dripping Tobasco sauce though. (Yes, he looked ridiculous.) But with just a little encouragement, I got the rowdy pup into the car and off we went.

The weather forecast was dreary. 70% chance of rain for the day. The skies were pretty grey and we really didn't know how long we'd last. It was good to get an early start so we could squeeze in all we could.

Jeremy took us along a new-to-me approach to avoid the ladder and having to carry Kenai. It afforded some pretty vistas of the now-dry lake.

The Gauley winds along at the bottom of the lake

Route 19 cruising over the dry lake

The Army Corps of Engineers draws down the water yearly to maintain structures at the bottom of Summersville. The releases allow for the Gauley River to run some of the best whitewater in the world through September and October. Every 10 years they are supposed to draw down extra low (pictured above) to do some double-checking and extra maintenance. However, for the past 3 years they've drawn down all the way to the Gauley's former bed and bank because - I can only presume - maintenance hasn't gone as planned. (The lake is full again by May - yay wet and rainy east!)

Anecdote: When dams are placed to create lakes like Summersville Lake, the dam is often named after the town it is in closest proximity to at the time of its creation (sometimes these towns later "die off" due to a myriad of economical reasons, but their names remain). Well, when the dam for Summersville Lake was created, the closet town was the town of Gad - which was inundated by the lake's creation. Those in charge decided we COULDN'T POSSIBLY name this dam after the town of Gad...think about it, say it aloud: Gad Dam. Yep. And thus, Summersville Dam it was named and remains so to this day. 

At any rate, the low waters of winter open up some more climbing at the lake for those who seek it. Jeremy had his eye on one of those climbs - Mutiny, a 5.11d.

Note the quickdraws on his harness and clipped into a bolt on the rock
below him. I referred to these in the Red River Gorge post.
Bring up rope to clip into the next bolt at his head-height
Looks like he's climbing on some remote planet in space

After watching Jeremy take a go at the climb, Anna and I decided to head off to another wall further down to get in some climbing - leaving the boys to be boys on this route that was a bit above our current climbing range.

We said a quick hello to our other friends as we passed them on the way to a 10b we had in mind for warm-up. It was a shorter 30' climb that went well for both of us. We'd both climbed it before. The skies opened with a little drizzle as I cleaned the climb, but so far so good with the weather holding out!

Garth and Jeremy caught up with us as we were headed toward Satisfaction Guaranteed, a 5.11a around the corner.

Each of us had a go at this climb. The three of them each took a turn leading it (and cursing it), and I pursued it on top rope (and cursed it).

The first move of the climb plays right into some of my weaknesses in that its a pretty bold and powerful move. I took 4 goes at it before requesting Garth to be my imaginary right foot that would help me heave-ho up and into better position to actually gain a foothold on the rock. From there it didn't get any easier and I proceeded to hang around staring at the rock, trying to will it to tell me precisely what to do.

Jeremy, high above with my phone (camera) called some beta (i.e., directions), but I still had to stare at the rock awhile to decide on what would work for me. Jeremy's ~5'11" and I'm 5'6". Height differences in climbers greatly alters the way they go about pursuing a climb. The whole guy vs. girl thing alters a lot, too. Girls will climb a lot more from their legs while guys will do more with their upper body. This is why when I don't have decent feet, I tend to suffer a bit; hence why I cursed the beginning of this climb!

With some thought, I did puzzle out the first section of the climb. However, the next section was tricky in a whole other way: piddly crimpy hands on a slabby face. This kind of climbing gets really balancey as you have to rely a lot on your feet. I can manage it, but god does it take a lot of pondering. I spent a lot of time studying and pondering my every move, helped by Jeremy above who was also snapping a lot of photos!

Groping the rock for a better left hand

The slabby section really ended up being a lot of fun, in hindsight. Reaching the end of it though was leading me into the move I was dreading most about this climb - a roof. I SUCK at roofs. I despise them greatly. This, coupled with the fact that I was having difficulty making the move to reach the roof, coupled with the fact that the rope was creating forces to pull me off the wall, coupled with the fact that I just didn't feel like being on this climb any more, led me to the decision to just  bail out and be lowered. There was another climb I was more excited about that I wanted to save energy for.

But, here, for your viewing pleasure, is a very comical video of my dangling frustration before I decided I'd quit. I think this was the third time I'd been pulled off the climb by the tension of the rope on the roof (and yes, I could have asked for more slack and it would have been fine, but I was tired and not feeling it at all).

Concluding thoughts on Satisfaction Guaranteed? I liked that it challenged me. I liked that it taught me something. I like that I'm incredibly sore from efforts involved in that first move. I am pretty well convinced that when I'm in better climbing shape (next summer?), I'd like to try it again. (Yes, Jeremy, you win.)

The final climb for me on Sunday was a climb I've done multiple times before that I remembered being really challenging for me, but one that I really liked because of the challenge.

I don't know what the hell I was thinking. It sucked. It sucked HARD. And I flopped up it with the grace of a fish out of water. I'll confront it - yet again - another time when I'm in a bit better shape and not fresh off a week where I was pretty sick for 3 days (really thinking this had a lot to do with my lack of energy).

After I finished flopping around, Jeremy and I went over to sit with our group of friends and watch as several of them pursued some pretty stout climbs on a huge overhanging wall.

They're insane.

And then, we all hiked out together. And Jeremy carried a very distraught Kenai up the ladder like a good fireman.

And the day was done. And I had a blast. And I finally got some new-ish photos of me actually climbing. Happy Liz.