Friday, May 30, 2014

Griffin's Browband

Karen did it again! Absolutely stunning handmade browband. Perfect match to his halter bridle! Thank you Karen! 

If anyone would like a custom browband for their bridle, contact Karen. Her work is absolutely one of a kind and so striking.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

2 Years Ago: Q's Gotcha Day

The Facebook notification I posted the day we brought her home.

Two years ago today, we brought Q home.

My BO and another mutual friend and I all headed 2 hours south to get her from the cowboy. He was gone at the auction he'd originally planned to take her to, so we were on our own fetching her from the mare's field.

I'd planned to take her on a short trail ride before we trailered her home, you know, get out some energy and stuff.

I brought her to his barn and tacked her up under one of the ~10' horizontal beams that made up the perimeter of the cowboy's barn. It was a very unusual architecture for a barn - very open with no external wall around the whole facility. Pseudo-barn/pavilion area that encompassed a few stalls, a round pen, and seating above the round pen wall. Instead of cross ties, he had ropes from higher beams that dropped down. When mounted, the lowest beam that made up the structure's perimeter walls was right about clavicle height for someone mounted on a 14.1hh horse.

I mounted Q, talking to my BO and the other lady as I did. They cautioned that I should be careful Q didn't run under that beam--- She took off before I had my right foot in the stirrup. Shot right under the beam which I held onto with both hands as she went. She ran right out from under me and I swung, holding the beam for a moment before dropping lightly onto my feet on the ground.

Q tore off through an open field at break-neck speed back toward the mare's field. My BO and friend stared at me in disbelief then complimented me for being forward thinking and agile.

I stalked through the field after Q, brought her back to the barn, and rode her in the round pen for a few minutes before deciding that was enough for today.

I'd almost forgotten how horrible her ground manners were
originally! She'd whirl around and call and call if you left her
for more than a few moments. Call and pace and paw.
I spent a lot of time leaving her tied both with a friend and
alone. With time and persistence, she overcame her issues.
Now I can leave her tied - alone - for a long while and she has
no issue. #winning
I untacked her and we loaded her into the trailer with minimal issue (wish she'd still do that!) and headed home.

The 2 hour haul was uneventful, as was Q's introduction to the herd when we arrived at the barn. A few bitchy mare faces, some half-assed stomping and striking with her fore hooves, and then she trotted off from everyone, giving them her snake face when they got too near. My BO would later report that that was all the more she ever did toward the horses. They respected her for it and that was that. She didn't seek to be boss mare over the current mare in the field, she just simply dictated to the other horses that they were to leave her the eff alone unless otherwise invited.

And after that, its history! From day one, her story is chronicled here on the blog under the "Q" label.

She's my challenge horse on all counts, but I still enjoy her greatly despite all of the recent nonsense she's put me through (including my still bruised ribs and still busted toe/foot).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Q Redeems Herself

Off property, of course! Because on property = crazy lady.

Tuesday I got to fulfill a childhood dream: ride and jump my horse at my elementary school!

Because seriously, what horse-crazy little girl didn't run around the playground play-acting like she was a horse or had an imaginary horse to gallop around and jump over everything!?  There were even a few things on the playground I had decided I would indeed jump one day...they'd sadly (and probably for the better, haha) been removed.

So when an opportunity to do a jump/English demo for 220+ elementary schoolers with my local riding club was presented to me...oh you bet I accepted right away!

We had minis for petting, pony rides on some burly QHs, and Qbert doing a jump demo.

I took the jump standards Mike & Dom made for me, figuring the bright teal and purple would please the kids. I had no idea how much space I'd have to use, so 3 jumps seemed to be enough.

After yesterday morning's trail ride with Mike (pre-planned not only to see if Q would behave better for him, but also to wear her down before presenting for kids), Mike and I bathed her and prettied her up.

Mike was hilarious throughout the bath process, talking to Q and telling her all about how her First Day of School was going to be. "All of the kids are going to love you, Qbee. Don't be nervous. It'll be fun. Your momma needs to braid your mane all pretty because its your first day! So be good so she can do that - nope, no moving your head. Be good. You know? My favorite part of school was always recess - I think you're going to get to go JUST for recess! You'll love it. All of the kids will love you. Don't worry."

Its really no wonder she loves him more than me lol.

We had her all done up and the jumps loaded in no time.

Q was a bit of a horror to load on Dee's 2 horse slant load. We even led her on because there was a great escape door to slip out. The new routine: Plant Feet and Do Not Ever Put More Than Two Feet On The Trailer. Rear Up and Back FAST If Provoked. Back Off Fast If Door Closes. Use Ass To Push Door Open. Do Not Move Feet To Get Back On.

This is frustrating...but at least her heart rate isn't super elevated. She's not freaking out any more. She's just being obstinate without being panicked. The rapid backing off is awful, but le sigh. I suppose the whole ordeal is better than how things originally were with loading! (grumblegrumblegrumble)

Finally, we were off like a herd of turtles.

We arrived at the school and learned that we'd be on the playground and I'd be setting my jumps up between  the soccer goals. Cool. Not a lot of space, but cool.

I prepped Q and in no time we were walking across from where we'd parked to mount up! I was a bit apprehensive, but Q's body language since getting off the trailer was already demonstrative of Away From Home Q. This helped me calm some. (Away from home I am her herd. At home she doesn't care for any human as much as the other horses. Strange horses away from home aren't as appealing to her. She makes me her rock at endurance rides, following my every movement, nickering at me every time she catches site of me, etc. She even gave my Fort Valley crew the same treatment. We were her herd away from home.)

I'd decided to dress in eventer attire more than show jumping attire for the day. I had all the orange, kids like colors, and wearing the crash vest would 1.) save my ass some if she dumped me, and 2.) promote that safety is important around horses for the kids.

Guys, we had 220+ kids to present to! 220! Eep!

They were seated on either side of the field in the soccer goal area. I wouldn't have a ton of space to maneuver. Q needed to be ON POINT if this was going to work.

Big stride for a little mare!
I mounted up and walked her around. The Monster!mini horses weren't in sight of the jump demo, so that was a plus. Also, for safety's sake, we started the jumps low at about 1'3" - 1'9" - two verticals and one X.

I focused completely on Q, trotted her around, trotted her over each jump, decided she was in a good calm mood, and breathed a sigh of relief. Away From Home Q was here. Excelente.

I guided her over to the first group of kids and said, "Can you guys say, 'Hi Q?" and was welcomed to a chorus of "Hiiieeeee QQQQQ!" I told them about Q, about how jumping was only a secondary job for her because endurance was her primary job. I warned them about being too loud or too fast with their movements (something they were VERY attentive to and very, very good about any time Q was within 20' of them). I answered a few of their questions, then did all three jumps 1x through. I then stopped at the opposite end of the soccer field and did the same talking song and dance with that group of kids. Then I jumped some more.

Cantering between the verticals. We'd circle and do the X first and then
travel clockwise to hit the two verticals, sometimes going around the whole
area a second time after the second vertical.

By the time I'd done all of the jumps 4 or 5 times, the kids were chanting "higher, higher".

I obliged, taking them up to the 2' range. We did the jumps again to ooo's and aahh's. I answered some more questions, explained that this was pretty high jumping for Q! I told them that she doesn't do this all the time and that most horses who jump so high that kids see on TV are usually at least a foot taller than my little girl.

They grew bored with me again, so I took both verticals up to 2'9" ish.

That satisfied the little buggers.

Good girl, Q!
Q was a doll. She was borderline LAZY even. She chipped most of the jumps during the time we were there, no matter how much I urged her forward and egged her on. I never thought I'd see a day where this little horse would be SO LAZY.

I dismounted, letting the kids on each side line up to pet her neck. I answered questions all the while about Q, her age, her job, her likes and dislikes, how long I'd been riding, if jumping was scary, how pretty her browband was (Karen, she got SO MANY compliments on that browband!), what was on her feet (some kids hadn't seen hooves before! lol), why she was eating grass, what is she scared of (butterflies, flowers, the sun, the wind, the rain, other horses, mini horses, dirt......), if I owned her, etc. etc. I also entertained many mini stories about kids who had horses/had ridden a horse/had seen a horse/had read about a horse.

I was standing with one group of kids while they petted Q.
You can see the tight area we had to work with!
Lucky Q was so calm and SLOW about everything.
After petting Q, the first group (grades 3 - 5) were dismissed to the pony ride area and I got to entertain the next group (grades K-2).

I gave the same speech song and dance to both sets of kids on each side of the field, jumped some, answered more questions, "Do you have to wear a helmet?" "Yes. I have been trampled and have fallen off this horse twice this week. My big toe is broken, my ribs are bruised, I have lots of bruises, and I hit my head pretty hard, too. I choose to wear this helmet or I'd probably be hurting more!" (Whoops, just realized I never mentioned all that on the blog - only Facebook. I'm fine - healing, but fine mostly. But Q needs to learn to stay the hell out of my space when she's feeling scared. Trampling me is NO BUENO. NO BUENO.)

I jumped a little more, then let the kids all pet her again, fielded more questions, and then it was over.

I had a water and I dumped another water on Q's neck since we'd been standing around in the hot sun.

To the left of the slide and the right of the mini rainbow monkey bars
there used to be a curvy balance beam about a foot high.
That was what I wanted to jump my horse over when I was a kid.
Now...its a bench.

For a rider who has only had two formal jumping lessons ever (hey thanks, Dom!) and a horse that
has NEVER been ridden during a jumping lesson, we're not too bad. One day I'd like to get some proper instruction, but I'm pretty proud of what Q and I have achieved in just two years of largely self-instruction.

And more than anything, I'm so thrilled with this little mare's performance yesterday. I needed that boost. I'm glad she chose to redeem herself. I know it isn't a lasting thing and she'll be wiggy a lot more at home, but the fact that she can step up to the plate and be so awesome when it really counts means a lot. She was so stellar with all of the kids, standing with a hind leg at rest, eyes half closed through all of the 220+ pettings.

Thanks, Qbert, for putting up with me and these silly childhood dreams. From parades to endurance to a showcase at my old elementary school, this horse - despite our issues with one another - has helped me fulfill a heckuva lot of pipe dreams.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's Personal

Well after an exceptionally awful ride on Q yesterday where she proceeded to spook at EVERY TINY THING and be a complete and total Tense Bundle Of Nerves, she redeemed herself today.

She made it quite obvious that this attitude and nervous spooking extreme issue she has is completely personal. And this is completely okay with me. This option, while not awesome, is so much cheaper and less stressful to deal with in the bigger picture than some medical issue. And I'm not ruling out things like saddle fit, hormones, Lyme's, or something else. I'm just pretty certain that it's something more simple....

My horse doesn't like me [anymore].

But she ADORES my boyfriend. (Hrrrumph!)

After yesterday's 3.5 mile trail ride, I was feeling pretty down. Pretty sad and freaked that she had something bigger than just hormones (she's not even in heat!) going on. I decided after the ride that I would have Mike ride her today. Same tack. Same trail.

Main differences in yesterday and today: Time of day; amount of cloud cover; speed traveled down trail; rider.

Yesterday's ride was at 1p; today's was at 9a.
Yesterday it was mostly sunny; today it was partly cloudy.
Yesterday it was mostly a walk ride; today it was mostly a trot ride.
Yesterday I rode Q; today Mike did.

And yesterday Q was so horrible and freaked out. Even my trail partner who rode Griffin noticed it!

Today? Today, under Mike's guidance Q was a total and complete doll baby. She was relaxed. Alert, but relaxed. She didn't spook stupid at anything on the trail. She gave a few things a wide berth, but she wasn't dumb about it. The only spook she had all day was at the very end and I'll give her that one - a rusty piece of sheet metal had fallen from a truck on a driveway we sometimes ride to connect back to the property. It was a new object and looked a bit like a dark hole, something she gets wiggy about usually. So I'll give her that.

So clearly, it's personal.

Its my way of riding vs. Mike's way of riding. Its not the tack. It could be time of day and it could definitely be the difference in how the sun's rays that stream patchily into the forest light things up really weird. But the end of the ride had the same sun spotting today and Q was FINE.

Mike says its because he keeps contact with her nose with the bitless bridle. I keep contact, too, though most of the time.

I asked him what he's looking at as they move down the trail, he says the back of her head half the time and the upcoming trail half the time.

Okay, that's different. I'm usually peripherally focused on her while I'm scanning the trail and surroundings. I always scan and take quick note of all places and things that might induce a spook. I don't focus long, I just keep a continually moving list in my head of potential moments. She's slammed on the breaks and had me off or had me jerked so hard to keep my balance that I feel I have to do this.

I have to quit.

I have to find a way to trust her a little bit more. To be MORE relaxed than I already am around her. To control my emotions MORE than I've been trying to do for the past 6 months (wow, its been so long). I have to relax and stop micromanaging all of the "what ifs". I have to trust my horse and ride.

This is going to be hard. But I have to do it. It'll be yet another personal challenge for myself. I seem to tackle a couple of these every year. They make me grow and better me overall. The process is never fun or easy, but its good for me!

I don't know quite how I'm going to go about tackling this, but I'm going to give it a go nonetheless. We'll get there. It'll just take time. And if I can't get back to where I was with this horse, that's fine, too. I'll give her to Mike. She's clearly chosen her person. For now, until Griffin is older, I'd just like to see if I can get her to tolerate me! She's certainly a challenge!

Her SmartMare Harmony arrived today (Saiph you are the bestttttttttt) and her Mg will be here a little later on. I'm hopeful that both of these (herbal supplements + a mineral I think she really may be lacking) will help give her just enough of an edge to help us to get back on the same page.

Mares. I swear.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Battle Continues

(I am about to kill Blogger's formatting, or lack thereof, so I apologize for the way photos are portrayed in this entry. I had to post it before I deleted the whole thing in a rage. Grumble.)

The battle to regain the horse I bought and not this new spazz mare that has emerged.

Things I have changed and things we have been doing since the initial freight train episodes:

Flat work with tons of transitions and changes in direction in the field - Walk -canter - trot - halt - back - canter - walk - halt - trot - canter - walk - trot - halt - back - trot - halt - back - canter - walk - etc. Add lots of directional changes to that mess and you'll have nearly every day since that entry about the freight train. This is working. She is more focused on me than ever. She's not overly rushy in the home directions either. However, she is still spazzy and super cued up and on edge. Its insane. I've got her focused, but she's still manic and panicky about things. To the point where a blade of grass blew in the wind and she balked and her whole body shuddered violently. She's not even in heat! When she's in heat she can be like that, but she's not usually that way out of heat. Its getting ridiculous.

Video still: A nice halt. Go Q!

Video still: Backing - halt - canter!

Ported kimberwicke > snaffle - Yes, I bitted up. I did it initially to see how she would even respond before making a final decision. And, guess what? Miracle difference in her. She was a bit appalled at first when the curb action made contact, but after her initial disgrace at my added control against her evasions, she shuttup and focused. My aids are light and she is responsive again. Its amazing. I hated the force that I had to apply to the double-jointed snaffle to get any sort of response from her when she was having A Moment. It wasn't good on any level. She likes this kimberwicke more it seems. She's responsive and light again.

Running martingale - She hates that this is on still. But her hate of it is only evident when I request something she really wishes she didn't have to do like SLOW DOWN and STOP instead of making moves to push forward. While she's not rushing like she had been, she is trying now to make the Correct Answer be Going Toward Home Direction As Fast As Permitted And Not Stopping. So when I ask for a downward transition or a halt she will shake her head no more than 3 times to demonstrate her dislike of my request. Its not very predictable, but the times it happens are always in the home direction and usually when asking her to downward transition from the canter.
Flat work with *surprise* jump - I'll march her around with flat work and then pop her over a *surprise* jump. There is no rushing in any direction. She gets a little excited when allowed to canter a jump, but she's not a completely crazy bat about it, just exuberant. I can deal with that.

Video still: Hunt that jump!

Video still: launch!
Yes, no ground pole, shame be on me. They'd brush hogged the field, a surprise to me, and all my jumps
had been moved everywhere.

Video still: Wee!

Video still: Clearly the fence is much higher and wider than the naked eye can see.

Video still: Wee!

So, yes, lots of positives. 

A looming negative though is still her elevated spazziness lately. It has reached new levels. I don't know what crawled into her head to whisper things in her ear about how awful the world is, but it needs to end. SmartMare Harmony and a Mg supplement will be arriving soon. I hope that in the next 45 days there is a marked difference in her behavior because it is getting OLD.

Our first really awesome breakthrough ride with lots of transitions and her attention on me was a really big high for me. It felt great. I thought I was getting somewhere. Only to come back to the barn and have Q flip her shit over Mystery Something. She flailed and thrashed about in a manner that made me think she was likely to flip herself onto the ground. I wasn't about to step into that, so I just turned around and set to putting her bridle away as I had been doing. She would either stop her thrashing or hurt herself, but I wasn't about to get in the middle of it and get hurt, too. That helps nothing. When I emerged from the tack room seconds later, she had slipped her halter and was running the far fenceline in the barnyard, visibly upset. Ugh. 

I brought her back and finished untacking her and turned her loose, but the whole thing - even though I had NOTHING to do with ANYTHING that caused her alarm (I was in the tack room during the whole ordeal) - really put a damper on my spirits. 

She's not even in heat! This elevated spazzy behavior is outrageous. Typically she's FINE around the barn/barnyard. No problems. Calmest horse you ever met. You'd have a hard time believing she could ever be a spazzy witch. But ugh. Its hit or miss lately. I don't know what's going on with her hormones or the hormones floating around from the little mixed herd of 9 horses she lives with, but eegads. 

Tomorrow we do a demo for 200+ elementary schoolers. All I can do is pray that she is her usual away-from-home self. Calm. Happy. Cross your fingers and light a candle that this is the case!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Friesian porn

My neighbors have a Friesian sporthorse breeding facility.
This is Bart. He was a stallion they used until last fall when they decided to geld him.
Beautiful boy, no?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2 years ago today....a decision

After two sleepless nights and some blog queries and help from blogger friends two years ago, I awoke on Monday morning and decided I would take the cowboy up on his offer to buy Q - then the nameless Arab horse.

I called him up that day, had to leave a message, and proceeded to wait on pins and needles for his return call.

With time, he returned my call. We worked out payment and he okayed me to come and pick her up the following weekend. He would be out of town at that sale Q was supposed to be taken to. He said he'd leave her at the farm for us to pick up. He was adamant about the money being mailed to him, cash, but I wasn't game for that. We settled instead on my giving it to a mutual friend that would see him later that week.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Q the Freight Train

This mare. I swear, y'all. I love her. I hate her. She's a blessing. She's a curse. She's a CHALLENGE.

I've got my jumps set up in the field across the creek from the horses' field where they live. I don't have to move the jumps when the BOs mow the barnyard now, and it gives me a lot more space to have my 3 jump standards and 3 cavalettis. The BOs are going to brush-hog the field sometime soon, but until then, the tall grass remains. Its really not too bad at all. Quite clear when you're out there in the middle of it, not as thick as the photo makes it appear.

The back field. To the left of this photo is the barn. I took this photo from the far end of the field opposite the area I use
for jumping right now. Its a huge field! The grassy hill in the center-right of the photo is the hill we do hill  sprints on.
The jumps are situated left of center. If you look closely you may be able to see the teal standards rising above the grass.

I've been jumping more frequently as of late because I have a mini-performance for kids where I will be jumping in the near future. I know Q knows what to do, but it doesn't hurt to get my shit dialed in so I don't make the little wonder mare look bad when she's doing her thing.

Since we've been jumping in this back field, Q has been doing her best freight train impression when we jump over anything in a toward-the-barn direction. She'll land and CHARGE off. If I navigate her away from her desired direction, she does this insane sidepass AT SPEED to try to get what she wants.

Thank god I've initiated use of a running martingale - something I've been avoiding for awhile, uncertain about the gadget - or I wouldn't have any chance of controlling her manic charges off into oblivion as -formerly- these manic charges were accompanied by a high-headed/nosed headset to further evade control from the human.

Backstory on running martingale use: Q has been threatening to rear with me to evade requests and has reared once with Mike - a behavior ONLY exhibited as refusal to a request. She's never done it in fear or in pain because the things we ask of her that merit the behavior are things she will do regularly the majority of the time. Rearing is her new "nope not gonna!" last ditch effort to kindly tell the offending human to fuck off. 

Fortunately, in addition to providing an aid to recommend Q's feet stay firmly on the ground, the running martingale has also nipped her nasty habit of throwing her head in the air to evade contact in the bud. Last year, when we would jump in the barnyard, if she tried to freight train off after a jump it was always accompanied by a look-I'm-an-Arabian!/giraffe head set. (And for anyone curious if her behavior to evade is because of dental work, her teeth are fine. I've had the vet out to check.)

Since I've been using the running martingale (3x so far), Q has realized she cannot throw her head and nose up in the air to evade contact. She instead refocuses herself when she hits that barrier and reaches into the contact. It really seems to help her to focus 75% of the time. She moves more fluidly when she's not stolting along with her head in the air. Whenever we take a walk-around break after going through our mini jump course now, she goes into such a beautiful swinging walk, lowering and stretching. 

This little gadget really seems to work for her - something I never expected. We're only using it for jumping work and none of the dressage exercises we pursue (dressage rides with Q are now done bareback as this seems to be the best for both of us!) With time I would love to put it back on a hook in the tack room, but as an aid to help Q to refocus and listen, it may be a good helper for a time.

The backstory helps to paint a picture of some *mostly* positive things. Negative though? Any jump that is taken in the direction of "home" results in a charging mare.

I keep her in a trot to approach all of the jumps. She'll land and try to canter or gallop from jumps headed toward the barn, but she is receptive to most requests to slow back to a trot as long as she's not pointed toward what she considers to be home.

The new course I set up last night only allows her to head toward the barn twice in a 6 jump course. Those two instances are both over the gymnastic I have set up that she encounters as the 3rd and 6th jump obstacle in the 6 jump course. My thought was that this gymnastic would cause her to have to be more mindful of what she was doing so that a charge home would be less likely.


This mare. Gymnastic complete: CHARGE! home! I give leg and rein aids and I talk to her throughout. She does this manic sidepass at the gallop/canter to make an evasion attempt. I slow her and make her halt.

I'ts beyond frustrating because in those CHARGE! moments she sees red and just won't listen. She gets so *up* about the whole business that it then takes a nice walk around the perimeter for her to truly calm down. Redirecting her CHARGE! isn't yet possible. I just have to stop her, which rewards her in a sense because she gets to cease movement which is something she visually appreciates. (Well, mare, if you hadn't charged off like a maniac you might not be so tired/frustrated.)

Last night that walk wasn't even enough. I don't know what was shoved up her butt, but she was on fire. CHARGE! CHARGE! EVADE! SIDEPASS! RAWR! And the worst of it is she is SO goddamn agile and athletic that altering her CHARGE! course with changes in direction to try to recapture her brain to focus on me isn't enough. She just leaps through those requests with the agility of a bullfighting horse. Someone would LOVE that in her, me? Sigh. Its just too much.

I did 3 hill sprints with her - which she executed with more power and speed than she ever has before. Walking off the hill after the final one, she danced and jigged on a whole new level. I made an attempt to perform a serpentine pattern to redirect her focus on my requests, but she instead lept and dodged through the maneuver, dancing and jigging in such a way to attempt rearing but failing.

Back on the flat of the field, we walked along the base of the hill, serpentining and circling intermittently. I changed the direction of the circles and the frequency of the serpentine pattern at random to keep her attention. She'd trot-leap into the turns that were away from the barn in an attempt to reface "home" faster. When we'd do a turn toward home, she'd relax and calm because it was what she wanted. She was attempting to train me in a sense with this behavior, it seemed, acting in a favorable way when she was headed where she wanted and acting out when she wasn't.

This mare, I swear. That fast-thinking Arab brain doubled with super athleticism and agility. Its dangerous and challenging!

We did the jump course twice more after the hill sprints and she was somewhat more controlled. An improvement on the first run-thrus prior to the hill sprints, but still with CHARGE! mode initiated after the gymnastic. Dialed back from where it had been, but CHARGE! and EVADE! still present.

So I don't know. What else can I do other than altering the jump course to reset this mare's brain to focus more on me? Her manic moments of CHARGE! that lead to EVADE! are powerful. They're so frustrating.

I hate to apply any stronger aids than what is already provided; she moves off my leg fine without a spur except in these moments, and she listens to the bit except in these blind manic red-vision moments. She's in a French-link eggbutt snaffle for our jump work. Should I apply a bit with a little more bite than that? If so, what?

Should I alter the course in such a way to refocus her? If so, how? I can't avoid having some jump that at some point is going to result in her heading "home". It's not feasible. And I need her to move past that need to go home to her friends that she seems to have.

I've slowed the pace of the course to trotting as much as possible for the time being to help have control and to help her to develop the same rhythm throughout. Should I slow even more? I don't think that is possible? She listens at the walk to the point where there is ZERO issue. Anything greater than the walk is where problems begin, so that is where solutions need to be figured?

Worth noting - her CHARGE! and EVADE! impulse is still present in that field during flat work that is at any speed greater than a walk, as well. This isn't just a jumping thing. Its a location thing.

Her friends aren't even CALLING to her and she's not calling to them either. They're not even in sight most of the time. So I have to even wonder about the herd-bound trigger vs. just a "let's go home to the barn where I don't have to work" trigger.

I'm going to start adding some herbal supplements for calming the mare very soon to see if they benefit some of her behavior at all. But until then...

What can I do to harness this freight train, refocus it, and slow it down into something more controlled?

Monday, May 19, 2014

On this day 2 years ago...

 The next week-ish I'll be reviewing three important days that led to Q coming home and becoming "mine".

I went on my first formal ride on Q, who at that time was only know as "the Arab" or "that crazy horse" or "the psycho horse".

About to tack her up for the first time
Feet in poor condition with slightly over-long toes and really poor hoof horn that chipped everywhere.

She was forward. Eager. Her gaits were to die for - especially that ground eating canter. You'd point her at an obstacle to jump and she'd collect beautifully over it unlike any horse I'd had the pleasure to ride prior.

Looking around the trailer for another horse

She was pushy on the ground, but beyond that, a dream to ride and work with in comparison to so many horses I'd been riding other than Stan.

In the round pen before I mounted to ride.

She was offered to me for $600, but I wasn't certain I could handle the extra financial burden at that time. I began pondering; we still had another day of riding left.

Homely lookin'. Floppy lower lip, too.

Ultimately, that second day would tear at my heartstrings 10-fold because of how awesome that little mare was for me. All of my friends on the ride who were twice my age and in various professional fields that involved horses urged me to get the little horse.

On top of the mountain. She wasn't amused with photos at this point.

I was still uncertain about the financial feasibility of it all though. ...yet if I didn't get that little mare she'd be headed to auction the following weekend. An auction that would likely land her in the hands of a kill buyer...

Head tossing rudeness after our ride.

The following morning. I love her summer coat before its sun bleached. So stunning.

Gah. Stunning. I was having a hard time thinking about having to say goodbye to this little mare at this point.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Transformation Tuesday

Griffin's summer shed this year has revealed quite the muscled, growing gelding. I'll let the pictures do the talking, but he's a far cry from where he was two years ago!

January 31, 2012
January 31, 2012
May 7, 2014

May 7, 2014

And for photos taken two years apart to the day:

May 8, 2012
May 8, 2014

May 8, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Griffin's Trail Debut

As a member of the local horse club, I receive invites to monthly rides and horse events around the area. Saturday was our kick-off ride for the season. This ride takes place each year because of the abundance of morel mushrooms that are present along the ride. These mushrooms grow naturally here in West Virginia and are perceived as a delicacy elsewhere. Friends on Saturday reported that they were going for $119/.lb in NYC!

There was the opportunity to head to the base camp for the ride Friday night (about an hour or so from my barn) for a potluck dinner, drinks, and shenanigans. However, with rain in the forecast and only a tent to sleep in (as opposed to trailers with LQ that all the other members have), I didn't opt to head over Friday night. Perhaps, if the rain from No Frills and my tent fiasco hadn't been so fresh in my memory, I would have.

Instead, Mike and I headed to the barn Saturday morning to hook up the trailer, fetch the horses, load tack, and load horses.

I hadn't loaded both horses in MONTHS on the trailer. Q's been going places, the holy terror that she is, but Griffin has been staying at home. In fact, this ride would be his first formal trail ride away from home & the longest trailer ride he's had since he was a yearling.

I opted to put the grey guy on first, hoping Mike would be able to get Q on and slip out the escape door before she pursued any shenanigans.

Griffin approached the trailer with caution, sniffing the interior a bit before stepping on without issue where he almost immediately dug into the hay in the manger in front of him. Good horse!

I pushed the divider to the center and put the ghetto butt bumper up so Griffin would note that something was behind him and not try to scoot off the trailer. He seemed calm and content with his snack, so I motioned for Mike to lead Q on, "Just lead her on and immediately slip out the escape door. I'll close the big door as soon as her hind feet are on the trailer."

Mike did just that. And Q walked right on like it was nothing. -_- That mare. She didn't even do her worried dance once she was on!

This could be attributed to the presence of another horse on the trailer (likely) or it could just be because the whole situation was different due to a human leading her on and none of the terror that she associates with self-loading. I think I am going to try to rig a way for me to push or pull the trailer door closed after I step out of the escape door from leading her on. It swings open to the same side that the escape door exits, so in theory, if I had a stick rigged to this (a la stick clip used when sport climbing) I should be able to give the door a shove without stepping away from the open escape door where I can hold Q until the door is closed. Hmmm... *steepled plotty-schemey fingers* Either way, it is good to know that as long as there are two people involved there is a way to load this horse with low probability that one of us will be hurt.

Mike drove us south to the ride site while I navigated; he has a lot more experience driving trailers and large vehicles, so I am happy to turn over the wheel when he's around.

Happy pony wonders why he can't lead
this ride.
The drive was uneventful. We pulled into the new-to-me place RIGHT as the group was about to ride off! I'd been told "late morning" for ride departure. Further prodding for an exact time merely got me a, " 10:30a or 11 or something" answer. We arrived right at 10:30a. The group of folks saw us pull in and waited while Mike and I did a blitzkrieg tack-up assault on the horses as soon as we'd pulled them from the trailer.

Poor Griffin is still unaccustomed to trailering and was DRENCHED in sweat upon arrival, shaking a little bit. =( Poor baby. He was curious and inquisitive about his surroundings as I rapidly prepared him to ride though. He calmed a lot in those brief minutes, his coat even drying out along his neck and flanks by the time we were headed out.

Mike on Q and I on Griffin fell in with the group, chatting amiably as we set out, the horses settling right into their jobs.

The terrain was akin to what we have access to from home, so the horses were well equip to handle it. Mike had tacked Q up in his Australian saddle for the day, complete with crupper and breast collar as that saddle just doesn't stay put on her when hills are involved due to her mutton withers. He'd been quite conflicted about Ansur vs. Australian, but opted for the Aussie due to the potential for Q to spook. The thigh braces on the Aussie keep him on no matter what. Q was very well behaved all day though, calm and happy amidst the herd of 14 who were out riding.

Griffin was a total champ all day long. He conquered the climbs, he behaved himself around other horses, and he listened to my requests. My only complaint about him is that he can't go on "autopilot" yet. ;-) An extremely minor complaint for my almost 4 year old. The other horse his age on the ride had more Moments than Griffin did. I was pretty freakin' proud of my little grey horse.

Hanging out for a moment
When hills were extremely steep to descend, I would dismount and lead Griffin down. He was so totally and thoroughly at ease with this (and everything else). There was one moment when I was leading him down one hill and his head came even with my shoulder while he still kept a good 2'-3' between us. I looked over at him as we walked in tandem. His eye was calm and relaxed, yet curious about the terrain in front of him. His ears were forward, focused. Each of his steps were confident. And I realized, watching him then, how awesome this little horse is and how lucky I am to have such a young and willing equine partner.

It rained on and off throughout the 4½ hour ride. Two particularly drenching episodes were cause for the lot of us to put on raincoats, ponchos, slickers, what have you. I'm very happy to report that Griffin could have cared less that I pulled out a noisy plastic poncho and put it on/took it off twice during the ride! The second time I had to don it, we were headed down a hill and he just focused on his job while I struggled into the poncho. Mike was losing it laughing at me because I'd managed to get my arms through but not my helmeted head just yet as it took a little finesse to do that. Griffin didn't give a damn though, he was so focused on his job!

Griffin was thoroughly convinced that the sole purpose of this ride at a new location was to starve him. He ate like a freaking HOG all day long on the trail - something he's never done on our rides at home. Every passing piece of greenery was grabbed and consumed. He became quite adept at grabbing grass on the go. When in the woods, he was the master of finding the rare clumps of grass amidst the other understory forbs. SO hungry. ALL day. I'm glad he'll eat like a champ away from home, but I'm going to need to curb his manic need for constant grabbing of edibles.

Still so focused
Mike and Q had a blast. Q adores him and would do anything for him. He sent Q off through the woods to jump several logs throughout the day; he is really having fun learning to jump this little mare! I heard him talking to her all day, telling her how good she was, chastising her when she would try to trot when it was "beer time", and narrating the trail to her as they went along.

Mike and I were both on and off and off and on the horses throughout the day. We'd lead them through sticky spots and lead them up or down extremely steep, sustained terrain. Additionally, we were on and off as we searched for (and found) morels, fiddleheads, and ramps (the latter two of which were easy to find due to their abundance).

Mike hadn't found morels prior to this trip. He was like a kid in Candyland when we found the first. I was quite suddenly in charge of holding not only my two horses, but a third from a friend. Reprimanding each horse in turn for making bitchy faces at the other was quickly overwhelming. Griffin, sadly, was trapped between two opinionated mares! Poor guy. I tied my two after a moment, and handed the third off to her owner (riding another horse) to avoid further altercation.

Waiting on the morel hunters between hunting forays, I was still ahorse when Griffin started doing this herky jerky motion without moving his feet. I looked down to see if there was something on the ground bothering him, then looked up in confusion to a neighboring friend, my eyes wide as saucers with confusion. My look alone asked the question, "What the..?!" And she answered, "Well, Liz, you may not want to know this, but your horse is trying to breed the air right now. Is he cut?" Yes. Yes. He was cut as a yearling! She laughed.

A very happy guy
Mike and Matt found two sandwich baggies worth of morels on our outing. They made a great team. Mike additionally took some time to gather some fiddleheads and ramps so we could later indulge in the Appalachian spring trio of morels, ramps, and fiddleheads.

Overall it was a great ride. My GPS didn't work well throughout, but based on our pace when the GPS was on, I'd estimate we did 13-14 miles over the 4½ hours we were out. The ride invitations on various medias had all noted "***Shoes recommended for this ride.***" My two were completely bare the whole time without issue. Thankyouverymuch. The only two there without shoes all the way around. I'd packed one pair of Renegades for Griffin just in case, but he didn't need them. Q's feet are beyond solid, so I wasn't concerned about her at all.

West Virginia in the spring is beautiful, and in my opinion, it's best experienced from horseback. Riding along one gets to appreciate the differing hues of green that are emerging, the songs of the migratory birds returning to summer habitat, and the other forms of life emerging from the ground as temperatures increase.

The next one of these rides will be in June. This one departs from the barn where Q and Griffin are and will be on trails I ride all the time. I've got a bit of work to do to finish clearing sections of trail, but we'll be ready in time. Should be a blast!

Lady's Slipper


Far from tired after the ride.

Griffin and Q leading their friends around the field after the ride while we had dinner. Griffin was the ringleader/troublemaker.

A small sampling of fiddleheads, ramps, and morels.

Holding three horses while Mike and Mat hunt morels

Our feast!