Monday, February 1, 2016

Week 2: Getting started

We started off the week with all sorts of good intentions. I pulled macho out and grabbed my tack from where I've been storing it in my office, only to find the Vienna reins were missing. I've never been in such a big barn, and I forget how important it is to never leave a thing out! Not sure if they got left in the arena, the tie rail, or actually were taken out of my office. Hope they show up, but will have to rethink the lunging plan.

So with the loss of equipment heavy on my mind, I set out to lunge. This time we tried the line over his poll to connect to the other side of the bit. This did seem to help. It is not my preference, but neither is rocketing around! Our goal for the session was walk trot walk transitions. I only slipped in a little canter, and stopped it before he could build to the kite flying stage. He was certainly improved. I just want to slow everything down with him.

So with that same idea I came out on Tuesday with the plan for a walk only ride. He expects walk trot canter and gets anxious, so I switched it up. We did 20 minutes of walk exercises. We started out with a loose rein walk and just letting him walk out on the buckle. He did great. As expected, when I picked up contact he thought trot, canter, stress, etc. He also has some contact evasion issues. He clearly has been taught, even if only briefly at the rescue, that rein contact means put your head down and in. So my biggest goal right now is encouraging him to accept the contact without hiding behind the vertical or fighting by tossing his head up. We focused on straight even contact, following hands, a marching walk, pushing his nose out and forward with the swing of his walk, and subtly lifting the reins when he got too low.  Then I added in changing bend first with circles, then serpentines. He is very attentive to change of weight, so he responds beautifully to seat bones. The work was great. He threw in a ¼ spin and kick out for good measure. Guess he thought we should be trotting! And that would be why we're walking. Hoping to find his brain again before we ask for more.

After our ride he was turned out with his pen mates into our very muddy outdoor arena, where he coated half his body in awful mud. Of course it's too cold to rinse, and he wasn't dry enough to knock it off until after I started teaching afternoon lessons, so he got to stay that way.

Wednesday I got out early enough to find the indoor arena empty!!! So I didn't waste a second getting the mud off, I just turned him out immediately. Our gate is not really meant to hold horses so much as deter them from leaving while ridden, so I had to stand guard there to be sure he didn't just shove through. But that was fine, he clearly didn't need any encouragement to run! I only encouraged him to not run me down or jump the wall! He ran for 3 minutes straight before even stopping for a breather. Clearly he had some pent up energy! He totally forgot to even roll.

Hope I can catch a free arena a few times a week for this. After his gallop, I just cleaned the mud off, and got on with my day. Thursday and Friday didn't allow any time, so aside form mud arena turnout and more rolling, he got off easy. It's looking like major snow really next week, so either I'll have the place to myself and extra time, or I won't be able to get out at all. We'll see what the storm brings!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Re-Start for Macho

The plan with Macho will be Monday, Wednesday, Fridays. So I pulled him out last Friday to officially start. So this will be our official starting picture as a baseline.

Now I've only been on him a handful of times in the past, and all were last fall: trial at the rescue after another rider, two or three rides the first two weeks, and one trail ride. Think I also pulled him out to lunge him the first two days we had him on site. Other than that he's had a mix of people on him over a few months, and when it became clear that wasn't going to be the best for him and most had lost interest, I volunteered.

So Friday was sort of our chance to start over. I tacked him up in the bridle and surcingle with the idea that at some point I'll start him in Vienna reins. There was already one horse lunging at the gate end and one jumping at the far end, so we took about 10 minutes to just walk in hand while waiting for a lunging spot to clear. Turned out to be a great easy warm up for him for his mind and body. I got him to stop speed waking ahead of me and halt when I stopped.

Lunging started out fine, forward, but that was to be expected since I think it's been well over a week since he last left his pen. He clearly wanted to roll in the lovely indoor footing, so he did a ton of trotting with his nose to the ground, but continued to trot like i asked. Great stretch, and it slowed him down, so I took advantage of the situation. Then heading right,  our lunging just turned into kite flying…with a strong wind!

This boy can barrel around.

Things I'm pleased to see-
If he picks up the wrong lead or is cantering disunited from bucking/playing, he will quite naturally fix it with a flying change.
After charging around to the right, we worked on walk trot transitions until he was quiet and listening.

It was a good place to end, so adding side reins will be an adventure for another day. I am always very careful with introducing them to any horse that may not have had them on before, so we'll wait for the right day.

The hardest part will be having the patience to wait a few days in between. It's killing me to have to wait until Monday, but I do love my time with my toddler and husband, so I'll remind myself that this is all a balancing act.

Friday, January 22, 2016

New Era in Training Projects

I have had quite the change in life since first starting my training blog with Lola. When I bought and started her back in 2010 life was much more centered on my horses, both financially and with my time. Six years later I am pleased with what I accomplished with Lola, and managed to fit in getting married and having a baby. Although the baby changed things, and when faced with our second cross country move, I opted for a more secure home (temporarily) for Lola. She is currently on long-term lease and is happily packing around two adult ammies at BN at a friend's barn.

In the meantime, I've landed myself a new project. It will be temporary. He is not mine. But I'll take what I can get! Aside from a two day a week working student position, I don't get much saddle time since job at a riding school doesn't allow for much riding. So when it became clear that a horse at the riding school needed some ride time and training, I offered my time for free.

Here he is the first week we got him at the very end of October 2015. He's on the left. (They other two were adopted from the rescue at the same time. 

And then a better picture, but with about a week and a half more food in him.

His name is Macho Moono (funny race names). He is a 5 year old thoroughbred that came off the track last summer after 10 starts with only one win. He spent a few months at a rescue before we picked him up in the fall. He had an unknown amount of rides at the rescue, and has had all sorts of different people on him since coming to the riding school, but no regular program, just catch rides here and there. Last fall he initially felt pretty good (just green) at walk trot canter, but he got hotter and more anxious as time went on. Not surprising, more feed, more exercise, but no regular rider/training, so I'm optimistic that we'll find his happy place again, and then find him a job.

He's adorable, and I'm smitten, and have to remind myself daily that I don't own him, and cannot buy him. So I'll do what I can to give him a brighter future.

It may be 30 days, it may 6 months, really the situation may change at any moment, but for now, he's mine to set goals with. I've enjoyed the variety of horses I'm on at my working student barn, but there is nothing like having your own project to figure out. Can't wait!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hibernation over, but bun is still in the oven!

It has been so long since the last post, that I actually had to go back and read what I had posted! I supposed I had the time to post while sitting around the house in the cold arctic winter that WOULD NOT QUIT. But... it wouldn't have been very interesting. Plus getting ready to have a baby took much more time than I ever would have imagined!

I sit here today, three days past my due date, wondering when this all come to the exciting end (beginning) that we've been planning for! And, of course, I am getting more and more desperate to get back on the red beast with each passing day. While the pregnancy was one obstacle, I know a newborn will be a whole other crazy complication to riding like I used to (ie 5 days a week with regular lessons).

I am extremely grateful to have had a healthy pregnancy that allowed me the ability to still get out to the barn on weekends. I even had a resurgence of riding in my second trimester that I wasn't expecting to do (I only admit this on the horse blog, because I am sure you would all do the same given the situation!) I fully appreciate all the times my husband came out with me to scrape mud off Lola, and he's become a hoof picking star (seeing as that was rather uncomfortable for me). I was lucky enough to end up with not one but TWO riders to part lease my mare, and right at the time when my low back and hips were telling me that riding was no longer an option. They have done a lovely job getting her back into shape this spring and giving her love, exercise, and regular grooming. In fact, I hope they both stick around for a while. With their current schedule I could still have my Lola two days a week, which, in reality, is probably what I can commit to once I get back in the saddle.

So within a few days (hopefully!) I will have a new distraction that make me totally forget that all I really want to do is have a nice canter on the grass! Then it really will be only a handful of weeks (all filled with baby-joy/exhaustion and visiting family) before I will have a body that can start getting back in the saddle. In the mean time, I can rest assured that Lola has excellent care from the barn, and two wonderful riders giving her attention (and cookies).

Although grounded, I have still enjoyed some lovely spring days out there with her!

Winter mane went from:

To a cool new summer cut:

Belly and all, I'm still working her from the ground (this was just Saturday!):
Trying to induce labor with some horse time...

And, may have spent a day or two this spring just cleaning tack and watching her laze in the sun!
 Such is the joy of NOT riding. Oh well, there will always be next year!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Time off...

Amazing what time off will do to you. I really APPRECIATE my time with Lola these days, because it is few and far between, but without goals, it is hard to stay committed.

First off, I'm pregnant and due in May!!! HURRAY! It has been long awaited, and much rejoiced, but BOY does it change your life!

So seeing as I work full time, work three personal businesses that I hope to create full time income with, AND I'm pretty much ready for bed by 9:30pm, there is not much time in my life. Add to this that my first winter in Ohio happens to be one of the most "wintery" in a long time doesn't help.

So I'm sitting here on the sofa, with dog and blanket, watching the beautiful snow fall out my sliding glass door, and wondering why I would ever leave this spot? I have plenty to do here in the house. Between the French lessons that need to be prepared, children's book events/parties to schedule, and packing for a trip next weekend, I have plenty of justification to stay home.

Normally January is my horse planning month. I'm anxiously awaiting everyone to list their events, clinics, schooling series, etc so that I can plan my spring training, summer competition schedule (cheap and low-key), and my fall "prove that I made progress" event. This year I have no foreseeable goals, no events on the calendar, nothing but a vague idea that I might catch a dressage schooling show at the end of the season if I'm really good about getting back into shape. This just doesn't feel right.

So I am trying to come up with different goals.

-I will still lunge Lola regularly through my pregnancy to keep her fit and happy
-I will do my best to FULLY desensitize her to clipping instead of having to coerce her into letting me de-fuzz her ears
-I will spend lots of extra time grooming so that she shiny!
-I will maintain her tail so that everyone is jealous of it while she stands around eating (as apposed to only fluffing tail for shows)
-I will make the most of this, because it is only one year, and I can learn a ton from focusing on the "other stuff" when I'm not distracted by riding being my main focus for the time I have with her

Alright, now to venture out into the snow...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Body Awareness and Body Control

Now that its cold and I'm more inspired to write than ride, I wanted to post about some of the reflecting I did over the summer. With a couple months needed to recondition and acclimate to the humidity, I took things slow, and my rides became much more of a mental game. Without lessons, I figured I could really benefit from trying to process some of the material from the spring in a setting where I could just think, feel, and try.

My plan for Lola's reconditioning was to step down the training scale. Forward, rhythm, stretching to a longer contact. With the humidity, forward was the last thing on her mind. Example of our rides:
7pm arrive at barn thinking it will be cool enough to ride, only to find Lola drenched in sweat (just standing)!
7:15 cold hose sweaty beast
7:30 let her graze
8:00 take slightly cooler and now dry horse to tack up
Usually by then it was getting down to the 80s!

I wanted to make things easy. So we tended to ride out in the field where she was more forward thinking, and I usually did a warm up canter on a fully loose rein. Basically I was trying to get the forward button before I tried to push the forward into any sort of contact. So much of our summer was loose swinging trots and long rein canter.

At the end of each ride I tried to play with something that we struggle with: my seat, canter departs, sitting trot and canter without stirrups. I figure I know what my issues are, so I should really make an effort to fix them outside of lessons too.

The real break through was my uneven seat. I tend to sit off to the right, which isn't much a problem going right, but circles to the left throw me out to the right more. I constantly hear, "Bring your right seat bone to the center of the saddle." Ya... you mean instead of hanging two inches off my horse?? The thing is I just can't! Or if I do, it lasts a stride. So it was something to process.

What triggered all this was a lesson from back in 2010 when I was very first trying to canter Lola. It wasn't going well, and in an effort to clarify my cues for her, my trainer broke down what I needed to be doing for the left lead: step into left stirrup, windshield wiper your right left back, stay sitting up tall. When she broke it down, I was sort of dumbfounded. I was all the opposite of what my body did, no matter how much I told myself to stop I still stepped back into the right stirrup and pitched my upper body forward to ask. She commented that you can't really swing your leg back if your weight isn't more in your left seat and stirrup. You can't. Hmm...

Of course Lola was gone a year in between, and while I had different issues with Bear, canter departs on both horses have felt like a basic building block that I can't rely on. Something so simple, yet they freak me out because I know they are our weak link. So its me, I own this, and I need to fix this to ever progress, because its not like I only need to weight seat bones and swing legs for canter! There are a whole lot of movements I won't do correctly if I can't control my body.

It led me to a whole lot of research on correctly asking for the canter. Of course you can watch YouTube videos for hours and get 10 different ways. I was willing to take any description I could, hoping one would stick. The absolute best online resource in my opinion is USDF's E-Track learning center. I stumbled across this last fall. In a world of different philosophies it is nice to have one with the USDF stamp of approval. The videos, articles, etc that have been selected to be included are done by well known and proven rider/trainers, and they have a sense that educating an unknown person can be dangerous (think child lunging a green horse in side reins only to have the horse go up over backwards). They are conservative in their approach, only the safest methods on lunging, for example, made it into the program.

Anyway, they have this whole series on seat and position. A few of the exercises in that lead to a total break through. I really don't sit evenly on my seat bones at anytime. Even while sitting on a chair to run through the exercises, I sat more on my right seat bone. Now to sit on the opposite seat bone, what you are really doing is lightening or lifting one. So to have even weight on each I need to lift my right a little. It was uncomfortable, and kind of hurt, but so does the sitting trot, right? So you just have to work the muscles to improve.

That nights ride showed immediate results. Lola is hollow to the right (too much bend) and doesn't bend through her body going left. Imagine if the rider is always poking that right seat bone into the right side of the horse's back. Going to the right they can avoid some of that pressure by moving away from it. Going to the left if they bend their body on the left curve they would be moving into that poking pressure. So not surprisingly when I lifted my right seat bone to weight the left she did bend much better through her body on the left! Ta-da! Even rider creates even horse.

So I play with this a few days, have a week off, then play with it another week. In this time I sort of throw my back out moving a mattress, but it seems to go away on the week off. I then fully throw my back out two weeks later by doing nothing but sitting at a desk. WTF? It was bad, like cry on the floor bad. So I go into the chiropractor and what do the x-rays show? My left hip is higher than my right. Yep! This riding problem was pointed out like 3 years ago! I don't know why I didn't just go to the chiropractor then and ask if, by any chance, I was a little crooked. Instead I've been fighting in, very unsuccessfully.

There is hope! Between adjustments to straighten me out, body awareness practice to check my even weight, and building the right muscles to have some body control, I might just conquer this!

Long story short, I have a long road ahead of me, but a better idea where I'm heading.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ohio Horse Home #2

Lola's got a brand new home! And just in time.

First off, comments on the picture... no she isn't stabled with her halter on, I hadn't taken it off yet because I was still going to blanket. And forgive her half-way grown out mane. I decided in May that I suck at braids and was taking a break from mane maintenance for awhile. She will either have long luscious pony locks, or get roached! We'll see. By spring she'll have full pony mane again for sure, based on how that looks and our show plans

Now on to the barn! Lola is LOVING her new home. This pick was only a few weeks after moving and she already seems to have gained back any weight she lost at the first barn. The things that I love here very much outweigh the things I wish were different. The thing is, Lola hates stalls. I don't know how she handled the year that she was on lease in the bay area and lived in a stall, but since she came back I can't put her in a stall for more than 10 minutes before she is "that" horse that grates her teeth down the wire front! So stabling was a huge concern for me when moving to Ohio.

Perk #1: stall guards! Not sure what it looks like at night, but any horse in a stall in the day pretty much has his head out the door to look around. This works because they either keep the front barn door shut or a gate across instead. They back door goes to the indoor arena. They also only have maybe eight horses in the barn.

Perk #2: slow feeder. As you can see in the photo she has hay in a hay bag. They keep this sucker stocked full anytime the horse is in the stall. She is not bored in a stall that has a food, and the bag makes the food last much longer.

Perk #3: turnout galore! Small barn means no horse is ever over looked or limited due to the needs of others. She gets daily, ALL day, turnout on grass, rain or shine! This is my preference because it is clearly my horse's preference. I went out on a Saturday a few weeks ago. It wasn't really raining that morning, but steadily got worse, and was pouring by mid afternoon and was down in the low 40's. Perfect test to see what their plan was for rainy day turnout. The owner was giving a lesson in the arena, and said as I walked up, "Your horse is still out in the rain! I've been putting away any horse that comes up to the barn, but she seems quite happy out there." Yep, sounds about right. She lived out in an open field without ever seeing a blanket until she was 7. So with a blanket to keep her dry, I have no problem with her staying outside in the rain.

Perk #4: she's like one of their own. The owner has a few of her own horses, and only a handful of boarders. This means every horse is like her own horse. Blankets get switched when needed, taken off for the sunny days in early October, and on for the evenings. She is more concerned with the horses being happy than the "trouble" or "cost" they might be. She is generous with hay, and I've been able to split her fat supplements to be fed with each meal instead of once a day.

Perk #5: near the trainer. So although facility-wise, I would still love to be boarding with the trainer that I've been using, I am actually only 4 miles away! It is just an easy trailer ride over to her facility for lessons and shows (she does regular dressage schooling shows!). 

So for now, I am grateful to have found such a good place (and in my budget price range!) that I can't be anything but happy there. When I used to gripe about whatever my issue du jour was with the boarding place at the time my husband would often ask me why I was never happy? Was I just picking crappy places? Were my standards too high? Although it might logically make sense that a place charging $400 a month WOULD provide better care than one charging $225, I usually was paying less because I kept my horses out of stalls, not that I picked a terrible place. I don't know what the answer is, but until now, I had resigned myself to the idea that I would never be at ease until I had my horse at home. Now I'm really perfectly comfortable with her care, and SO relieved that I don't have to brave the coming Ohio winter everyday to make it happen!!!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The search for the "right" place

While Lola did enjoy her time at her "Summer House", I was busy researching the next step. Which also meant finding a new trainer.

This is so HARD when you are still sort of mourning what you left behind... I loved my trainers at home! I had been with my dressage trainer since right after I bought my gelding. I think I took my first lesson with her the spring of 2009, just a month or two after I started him under saddle. We were a little inconsistent that year, but when the little red-headed mare came along the next spring we were desperate to spend as much time with our trainer as possible! (She was a tough nut to crack, in fact I'm still cracking this red mare!)

At the time I was glad for a knowledgeable trainer that was extremely positive and willing to work with a silly amateur that was switching from H/J to dressage AND training her own horses from the ground up. Really, that in itself was commendable. What I realized over time was just how lucky I was to be working with someone that had already trained her own horses up to the point of earning her Bronze, then her Silver, and now half way to her Gold. She also is currently participating in the USDF instructor certification program (a long and grueling process) and I was so excited to get to audit and even be a part of those workshops last fall. I miss her, I miss her lessons, I miss the horse that seems to only appear about 15 minutes into said lessons (you know the magical one that you almost don't believe exists until you experience it again in the next lesson?), I miss her peaceful facility, her perfect footing, and her coverall arena.

Enough moaning... the point is, those are some hard shoes to fill!

I had also worked with an eventing trainer right down the road with probably 20+ years of creating kick ass eventers. She had a beautiful cross country course on her facility, and three nice arenas. I didn't realize until now what a luxury that was. All this might seem the norm in California, but this was all in our little foothill area, and not So Cal or the bay area. Nothing huge, nothing outrageously expensive, all just part of our little horse community.

I started my research on the Columbus eventing scene back in like January! I love that sort of stuff: find the good places, make plans, map out locations. I got excited! Then I realize just how far everything is when you live in the center of a city. Grrr...

Myoptions were limited based on this. It sounds like there are some actual eventing barns northwest and northeast, but since we are just south of the center its tough to justify 45min to an hour drive one way to see the beast.

Lola spent July, August, and September south east of the city. Like any barn, there were positives and negatives. I was determined to have her moved by October (so glad I did, since it snowed this week!). I did find what I think would be the "right" place. Problem is that I really can't afford the "right" place without a little help from a half lease! The thing is, I have never boarded at a trainer's barn, because I can never justify the cost! So its not surprising that I again have landed near the trainer, but not at the trainer. It has worked for me so far, so I might as well stick with it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ohio Horse Home #1

When looking for a place to board MANY states away, it can be very overwhelming to make a good decision. So I made it easy on myself. While I made tons of notes on every interesting place I found that MIGHT be an option, I decided to find myself a "summer spot" where she could be outdoors and I could save some money. The right place needed to have so many things that needed to be evaluated in person, such as trainer, arena footing, stall cleaning standards, that I knew it wouldn't be possible to pick the right spot the first time.

So I found a great place where she would live out in a really large paddock with shelter. They agreed to turn her out each day and even set her up on a plan to have her grazing time gradually increased each week while she got used to the grass.

She settled in immediately. I have to say, this horse has an enormous sense of adventure! She took the move with such good spirit. Always interested in the night's location, never stressing. She really was a good traveler (despite not drinking in the trailer). I'm sure she was happy to stay put though!

Right off the bat it seemed like she was gaining back any weight lost on the drive. We waited about a week and then started slowly back into a riding routine. (Both of us were out of shape since June didn't allow much time for riding.)

I had to transition her on to new feed based on what they have in the feed stores, and she seemed to like the Ohio grown grass hay. All peachy.

Our favorite thing was this huge grassy field. It was the best place to ride. Plus with the heat and humidity, my only choice was to come close to sunset and the light actually made for a well lit area to ride even after it was fully dark.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Our big move

Now this wasn't my first cross country road trip, and I really don't think it will be my last, but I hope to never have to do it THIS way again! It went fine. Really it went great. I couldn't have asked for a smoother trip, but man is it stressful to have everything you own (AND the horse and dog) with you on the journey.

Asking my high mileage truck to get us all the way out here was actually asking for a miracle, and we received it! We are fully grateful for the blessing it is that we had no car trouble at all despite the fact the truck was probably past its recommended capacity. We also had nothing ruined, all dishes arrived intact, and no water damage even with the few summer showers we hit.

Basically my husband drove our new car (fully loaded and with bikes on top) and I drove the truck and trailer. Here's how the trip played out...

Friday, June 28th- Last day of work- Load up- Wait, there's still more stuff to pack????
Both my husband and I worked over have the day, then worked on packing/loading/etc. Insane, right? I had at least two emotional breakdowns that night, which seems quite reasonable looking back on it!

Saturday, June 29th- Destination: Wells, NV- Total miles: 440
States driven: California, Nevada
After a very brief night of sleep we set off to pick up the horse bright and early. This is where my first doubts hit! The truck's bed was fully loaded, and the trailer tack room was stacked floor to ceiling with our boxes. So even without the horse, this was the heaviest the rig had ever been! It took a few adjustments on the break control, a stop to shorten the trailer chains since the hitch was SO low, and a few hundred miles under my belt before I felt confident about the truck making it!

My fearless travel buddy (and my audio books) helped take the stress out of the drive. She wasn't concerned about the hitch being inches from the ground. Over the first couple of hours I got used to the excessively heavy feeling when braking, turning, accelerating, etc. and started to relax.

We did make it through the mountains just fine, and stopped for gas/breakfast/horse & dog check.  I still couldn't believe just how low that hitch was to the ground.

We, of course, stopped again for gas and check-in later on. The heat wave combined with Nevada desert temps meant that we were dealing with about 108 degrees by 2pm. We did not make as good of time as I hoped. AND Miss Lola decided she wanted nothing to do with the water offered her, or the wet food put in front of her at stops. GAH! So the worrying started up again. Then we had an unplanned stop because we had reached our original destination and I had been trying the horse hotel on and off for a few hours with no luck. I finally got a call back that she didn't have me on the books (I had scheduled in March so I can understand why it was forgotten) and she was super nice about it. She tried to find a way to make it work, but bottom line we were actually 10 miles past. Mentally I could not back track 10 miles. We found another horse hotel only 20 miles ahead, which turned out to be much more conveniently located. So it all worked out for the best.

 Our first night stop dropped us in Wells, NV where Lola stayed over night at a wonderful place with a large paddock. She got a good hose down of course, and she happily drank water and ate her wet food once she was OUT of the trailer. On the owner's recommendation we had dinner at Bella's which was a great find!

Aside from the unexpectedly great food, our priority was sleep, and that is what we did!

Sunday, June 30th- Destination: Rock Springs, WY- Total miles: 365
States driven: Nevada, Utah, Wyoming
We had to go back to Bella's for the yummy looking muffins we saw the night before, then we were out to the barn to pick up the truck, trailer, and horse. After a tire pressure check and fill up on air (I'm sure some of you were worried after the picture above!) we were on the road. We wandered along through Nevada, into and out of Utah, and a good ways into Wyoming before our day was up.
We stopped in Utah to marvel and the vastness of the salt flats and salt lake. 

And Piper got herself a lovely portrait at the Salt Lakes! 

Then we were back on the road, for more of the same...
Again Lola resolutely refused to drink what I offered her, or eat the wet food I put in front of her. So we made the best of it and tried to keep the day as short as possible.

That night we were all set up to stay at a cabin at the KOA in little Rock Springs.

Lola had a lovely pen right behind our cabin. We were very lucky to have a few other horses staying that night, so she felt right at home. We got her settled in, and again she ate and drank and seemed just fine.

The view from our cabin was spectacular, especially after so much flat nothingness from our drive!

After dinner we took a lovely sunset hike up the bluffs behind camp to stretch everyone's legs. Then I spent an hour with Lola doing a massage on her. I figured I would rather be safe than sorry, so it was more of a preemptive measure against her potentially tying up on this trip. Happy, healthy muscles with plenty of blood flow was my goal.

Monday, July 1st- Destination: Denver, CO- Total miles: 357
States driven: Wyoming, Colorado
Leaving Wyoming and heading down to Denver was much more mountainous than I thought it would be! We hit a really high pass, and a storm at the exact same time. I have to say that the various climbs in our trip always put me on edge because I would literally be pedal to the metal and still loosing speed. It is a weird feeling to not have any power left just in case. I tried to breath deeply and keep on trucking along at 35 mph, and would breath a huge sigh of relief when we hit the top. BUT a storm at the same time? Well that is a whole different level of "edge", as in "over the edge"! So the first sigh of rain I pulled off to a rest area. I was SO relieved that I did, because the hail hit with a vengeance, and the temps dropped to the low 40's! Crazy.

 Lola was glad to have a blanket thrown on her, and we moved on. Crazy to have gone from fretting over the 100 degree heat to hunting for a sheet. Overall that day was probably the hardest. We tried to stop for lunch in Cheyenne only to have the "Food ahead" signs direct us toward downtown. So after a fruitless 4 mile detour through the not-so-horse-trailer-friendly city streets we got caught in a construction detour, and then finally got off at the next exit which was the truck stop we wanted all along. However, it was apparently the truck stop that EVERYONE wanted. We must have waited 40 minutes for food at Wendy's. So much for fast food! All of this lost time meant that we hit Denver in traffic. Another least favorite thing to do with a horse trailer... traffic in an unfamiliar city. So at the end of the day, I had REALLY earned this:

Well, one of them was my husbands... but he earned it too since I was so on edge from the drive that I may have been more than a little unreasonable in my anxious back seat driving while he drove us to the downtown that night!

Our Yeti drinks at a local brewery was followed by a roof top restaurant...

with some really yummy food! Thanks Denver for feeding us well! We then took a quick walk around the area and found the Rockies stadium. Sadly no game that night.

Lola's accommodations were not nearly as good.  Well, our actual accommodations were awful too. Denver was lovely, Aurora was NOT! The goal was to be on the east side of the city because the next day would be the longest by far. I had no idea what I had gotten us into. 

The barn was ok, just that it was a HUGE boarding facility. Turnout was only and option if you were there on site to move them. Otherwise she had a tiny dark box stall. No one was there to tell me where to put her or park. I got bad directions by phone and had to ask for help from a rider. The only option for the trailer was on the street so we opted to take the trailer and truck to the hotel. This turned out to be a worse idea since the hotel was the most ghetto place I think I have ever (or will ever) stay in. Really! Thankfully, nothing was stolen, and we got ourselves up and out of there at 4 am.

Tuesday, July 2nd- Destination: Kansas City, KS- Total miles: 593
States driven: Colorado, Kansas, so much Kansas
This day was our LONGEST drive by far. We knew this going in, and we did have a back up plan to stop earlier if needed, but we really wanted to stay in Kansas City. So we were counting on the flat straight drive down I-70 to help us out. So I was out at the barn before 5 am. I wanted to let Lola stretch her legs and eat a little before getting in the box. So I turned her out in their indoor arena for a few minutes and packed up. I loaded her up with the very first rays of daylight, so we were on the road before sunrise.
And sure enough... it was flat...
and straight...
and very welcome after our adventures in the mountains!
Lola had a great place to stay that night. This pasture stretched down to the end of the trees, and gave her plenty of room to stretch her legs after such a long time stuck in the trailer. She ended up taking full advantage of it because she was trying to run away from the biting flies. Welcome to the mid-west honey! They don't make flies like this in California! She got herself plenty of exercise and the very nice barn owner sent me a text to confirm that she had stopped running once the sun went down and the fly went to bed!
We headed out for real Kansas City BBQ! They had a feast for two option, so obviously we had to get that!

Wednesday, July 3rd- Destination: Aunt's house, Cape Girardeau, MO- Total miles: 353
States driven: Kansas, Missouri
I was so glad that this was the last haul before we got a break. Although Cape Girardeau took us off our direct route a bit, we had made plans to stay with my husband's aunt for the 4th of July. We figured we could use a break, and how often do we happen to be in Missouri for a holiday? We also had my mother-in-law fly in to St Louis to meet up with us. Now this created a few problems. First, we had to split up because I refused to drive the trailer to the airport, I do many things that scare me, but sometimes you just have to put your foot down! Second, we had packed both our cars full to the point of bursting. So figuring out room for a whole human being and her luggage put our Tetris skills to the test! We did manage to squeeze the contents of the car's passenger seat into new places in the truck and trailer, but we are lucky the his mom is tiny, and able to pack light.We split at St Louis, but I hit so much traffic that they easily caught back up with me.

On the 3rd and 4th Lola stayed at the most glorious facility I have even been at. It sat on top of a huge hill with rolling green pastures surrounding it. All the horses stayed out in pasture full time, so Lola had the barn to herself. With extra gates open, she had the choice of four stalls, and two huge paddocks to wander through.

I found a little time to get back out on the 4th to get her out a little. They even let me borrow a saddle out of their lesson tack room since I had boxes packed in the trailer blocking mine. We had a lovely hack around the open grassy hills.

She got a nice cool hose down too. After several days of being hot in the trailer, I'm sure she enjoyed a day off every bit as much as I did!

It was wonderful to stay with family and relax a bit after so long on the road.  Our highlight was the fireworks. Being west-coast born and bred, we had no idea what fireworks could be like. Everyone out there has access to buy and set off their own huge fireworks. The REAL kind that shoot up in the air and explode! The ones that I always thought were only ever set off by professionals. We bought fireworks that afternoon, and my husband lined them all up and started to map out how he'd set them off that night. Waiting for it to get dark was like waiting for Christmas morning as a kid! I zipped out the the barn quick just before dark to pack a few things up, and check on Lola. All the horses had been pulled out of the pasture and were locked up tight in the barn, every door and window shut, and despite the fireworks starting all over the area, they were all calm and safe. The drive back to the house was a little crazy because huge loud fireworks were starting up EVERYWHERE!

Friday, July 5th- Destination: Columbus, OH- Total miles: 480 
States driven: Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
One last day... then home sweet home. We dragged ourselves out as early as we could on our last day of travel. It was long, and surprisingly eventful!

My husband had to drop me at the barn since the truck was there, and then go back to get his mom (only one seat still!) So I was waiting for him to catch up to make a stop for gas and breakfast, and suddenly the cell signal dropped, GPS signal dropped and urban dumped into total rural countryside. Of course that is when I realized that I needed gas! We had been stopping for gas at or before I hit the 1/4 tank mark, so we usually had plenty of wiggle room, but we must have pushed on to the barn instead of stopping for gas one last time, so I didn't realize how little I was starting with. I eventually pulled off when I found a large enough place. (Figured if there was no gas to be found, I'd rather wait for roadside assistance in a nice large dirt lot than on the country road without shoulders!) I finally got enough signal on my phone to map the closest gas station, and decided that we would indeed make it that far.

At our next gas stop road construction left us unable to get back on the freeway the way we came, so we had to take a detour to another freeway on ramp.

Our third gas stop was the most interesting by far! We pulled into a rather shady looking neighborhood and found a battered old gas station with three police cars. Of course with the tiny gas station and little choice with a trailer I end up parked right next to the car being searched, and from the inside of the bathroom I could hear most of the conversation between the officer and the woman being arrested! No, we DIDN'T get pictures!

Hitting the Ohio state line was one of the most glorious feelings ever! Part of that was that I had been shaken, jolted, and pushed around by terribly grooved roads, road construction, pot holes, etc in basically every state since California. Construction through several states had shifted the lanes to drive on the rumble strip, and in all the rest it seemed light the far right lane (the one I had to be in!) was just about ready to crumble away from the other much nicer lanes! I don't know if this really was worse in Illinois and Indiana than the other states, or if I was just at my wit's end with bad roads, but they were driving me batty that last day! When we crossed the Ohio state line, the road immediately turned to smooth new pavement! Ahhh...

We made it safely, our tarp and net wrapped boxes in the back of the truck were fine, we never had anything worse that fried nerves happen the whole trip! So while I see the whole trip as a total success, and we saved a ton of money doing the move ourselves, it will take a LOT of convincing before I do that again!

The old truck has more miles, but hard work is behind her.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Training Level Dressage

We officially have shown training level- at least a schooling show level. Just two weeks after our slightly disastrous test then somewhat respectable re-do (and just a day after going horse camping at a cross country schooling facility) we tried our first training level tests together.

I actually had asked my dressage coach to come out to warm us up. I figured with the approaching move, this may be my last show for a while, and wanted to make the most of it. A last minute horse emergency meant that she couldn't make it. While I think she could have gotten us stretching over the topline if she had been there, we did really about as good as we could!

First off, this was my third, and potentially LAST try at these braids. These pics were after the two tests, so I'd like to say the braids looked better at the beginning. But CLEARLY I need to change something. I refuse to pull her luscious pony mane because I see no point. So I need to braid to accommodate this. Maybe a few videos to refresh my technique might help, maybe I need to go Andalusian style and braid the mane long instead of shortened? Maybe I'll just roach the thing and be done with braiding forever? I think this last one might work slightly better for eventing than USDF rated tests that I hope to get to.

 Any way, the tests both went quite well. I had never done Training Test 2 before, so it was nice to get that under my belt.

She was very good in this arena too! It can be quite echoey with the birds up in the rafters. Although I had been there twice with Bear, Lola had never been to this place before.

We got some 7's and 7.5's on our trot work. Our free walk was not as good as it usually is, and lately I've been getting some stretch but no real over track. She'd rather take the chance to look like a deflating balloon strung out and pokey.
As expected, her canter departs and quality received some comments about needing improvement, but I already know that. I just keep plugging away, and little by little the red mare is figuring it out. The left is especially hard as she doesn't bend to the inside so easily that direction.

Her canter to the right actually got a 7 on our second test, and her downward transition to the trot even got a 7.5 Notes were well balanced with good bend (Well, yes, that's the direction that she LIKES to bend!)  I'll take it though! Even if it is a slightly generous schooling show score.

I do have to remind myself that despite the canter work not being what I'd like, it is still so much improved from what she has naturally, and what it was even a few months before.

We ended up with almost a 66% on each test, but definitely landed us in the mid-60's which was my goal for these first tests. We really didn't get much out of our stretchy trot or our free walk, so those are two clear places to improve on before trying training level at a rated show. 
Of course the fun of schooling shows is having similar level competitors. So my 65's were good enough to get me two blue ribbons and some horse cookies!

Training Level Test 1 Video

Training Level Test 2 Video

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Davis Derby Part 2

With our disastrous, and then respectable do-over dressage test behind us, it was on to jumping.

This was the first time I had jumped her on grass since she came back from her lease last fall. (Our cross country course at the jumping trainers was not yet open for the season). So I was surprised how much "ambition" to tackle this course! She was on a mission!

Round 1- Elementary height

Fence 1

Fence 2

Fence 3

Fence 4
 Fence 5

Fence 6

 Fence 7 was a cool skinny with a branch as the rail, so I'm sad we didn't get a picture.

Fence 8 

Fence 9 must have been missed too, but i love these canter shots.

 Fence 10

Round 2 BN height

Following the "its just a schooling show" logic, it makes perfect sense that if one course went great, the other would crash and burn!!!
Fence 1 was fine

Fence 2: this where it all went wrong
This spook/freak-out/refusal starting happening WELL before the fence. And then went backwards!
But we got over it second try.
Think this was jump 4, so we must have successfully jumped # 3 in between, but this rolltop was also insanely scary (not really, and certainly nothing she hadn't jumped before) however this lovely shot is our second approach.

Fence 5
Fence 6

Now for 7A&B: A was the ditch seen here.

B was the picket fence that she has clearly launched herself over! This was actually our courtesy fence, because we were officially excused from the class when she launched herself over 7a (ditch) and then panicked and ran out once she saw 7b was right there. Third refusal, thank you, please leave the arena before you run out of luck and fall off! Of course I begged one last try at the jump we just missed. I took it without A, and told her that it was now MY idea that the course was over.
She didn't need to know there was another 3 jumps. And I really was ok leaving it at that. You've got to pick your battles. She is a whole new horse after being gone, and I had accustomed myself to riding Bear (a whole different attitude and jumping approach), AND neither of us were really fit for the task yet. And based on her insane leaps over the jumps in an effort to tell me just how much she resented me making her jump them, I wasn't positive that she wouldn't eventually jump me out of the tack. Oh well. We have work, what's new? If it were easy, we'd be bored, right?

I chose to remember the fun of her going through the elementary course and after every fence she really felt like she was asking, "Ok, what next? That one? Oh, heck ya! I'm gonna jump it!!!" I had such buy-in from her, it was great.