Friday, February 27, 2009

Muddy frustration

Last night I was all set up to clean poop out of the arena, have a nice ride on both horses, followed by a fun filled session of arena watering and dragging in preparation for my lessons tonight. However, when I got the the barn Kaswyn was literally dripping with wet, sticky mud.

Usually if my horse is muddy it's dried so I can scrape and brush it off, but the booger must have just rolled before he was brought in from the pasture. Not only did he plaster both sides of his face, smoosh it in his ear, and gunk of his halter, but he got it a good two feet up under his blanket on both sides all along his body. The only parts that weren't covered were the top third of his body under his blanket.

Since it was over 50 degrees yesterday, Kaswyn got a bath. Yep, a bubble bath, complete with mane and tail washing/conditioning. There was just nothing else I could do. Now, the bath itself would have been much easier if the water pump by the washrack was working (it's been broken for months, maybe 5), and even better if the washrack drain was unclogged (again, been clogged for some time now). But, alas, neither of these things happened, so I had to hook up a hose from the water pump halfway down the barn aisle, connect it with a Y connector to the hot water (which, by some miracle, WAS working), and tie my pony outside and bathe him.

It sucked. I can't express that enough. The wind started to blow and both of us were cold. I felt so bad for him and just frustrated with this situation. Not for the first time, I thought that maybe I'm just plain stupid to think that I can actually effectively show these horses while boarding at this barn. The arena is too small, I do lots of work to be able to ride, and nobody really takes into account how a show horse needs to be treated. Not that they are mistreating Kaswyn, but the mud was SO extensive and apparent, you'd think they'd decide not to turn out. But, nobody else ride their horses, so who cares if they get muddy?

Well, I care. I hate to do this but I'm going to have to tell them that if it's muddy then Kaswyn can't go out. They can put him in the arena with someone (more poop for me to clean - yay!) but I can't miss a day of riding, have him pull a shoe, or miss a lesson because he got turned out in the mud.

I can't move Kaswyn to another barn right now, because we can't afford it. Well, we could, but then I couldn't afford to show him, so what would be the point of moving him? Also, I don't want to move Kaswyn because then I would not have enough time to ride Albert, and I think he's really helping my riding. Also, he's just a ton of fun to ride. He's a great little guy.

So I just have to suck it up and work with what I have. Sometimes it's really hard though. I know I'm getting really inexpensive board, and I'm lucky to be able to keep my horse at all, but sometimes I wish it didn't have to be so challenging.

Last, but certainly not least, I'm getting this sinking feeling that my trainer might cancel my lessons tonight. She's pushed them back two hours already. I know she's busy, and that coming to my place is a pain.

Two weeks before the show starts. Right now, I don't feel ready at all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In some cases, size does matter

An official dressage show arena measures 60 feet by 180 feet (20 meters by 60 meters).

The arena at our barn is 60 feet by 120 feet. Which is 60 feet too short.

Trying to ride a Fourth level test in a 60 x 120 arena is extremely difficult.

Trying not to panic here, since I don't have easy access to a large arena to practice my tests in. I mean, I know I'd be more than welcome to ride in my trainer's arena, but we have a little problem... neither Susan or I has a trailer and my trainer's barn is not close enough to ride the horses to.

Oh well, at least I have the test memorized!

(17 days until the show! Ack!)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


A few weeks ago my trainer was telling me that she put her horse on a great supplement that really helped him recover from his injury. She called Smart Pak and said that the woman on the phone spent a good deal of time with her explaining her options and suggesting the supplement that would benefit her horse the most due to his age, usage, and condition. I decided that I should probably call Smart Pak too and get their recommendations, since I've never had a supplement evaluation for Kaswyn. I've always just done my own research and put him on whatever is best, and least expensive!

Right now Kaswyn is on 4 in 1 and Legend, in addition to his grain and Equine Senior. After 40 minutes with the Smart Pak lady on the phone, I decided to go with Recovery EQ Extra Strength, Smart Energy, and Smart Hoof Ultra.

The Recovery EQ is for joint support, and has a special formula that help speed healing of tissues on the cellular level. It also has all the usual suspects for joint health like Hylauronic Acid, Methyl Sulfonyl Methane (MSM), and Glucosamine hydrochloride, all of which are great for older horses like Mr. K.

Smart Energy is for energy, just like it sounds. It's not an iron supplement for anemia, but it contains everything that horses need to fight anemia, since iron alone might not do the trick. It also has a bunch of the B vitamins and other minerals. This way I won't have to keep him on the Red Cell, and it actually might work better for him.

Smart Hoof Ultra has the biotin for good hoof and coat health, plus probiotics for good intestinal function. I only added this one because the 4 in 1 that he is currently getting has all of those in it, and I want to make sure I don't short change him on anything. The only thing he won't be getting is linoleic acid, which is a good protector of the stomach when he has to have bute, but I can just give him corn oil for that.

I had her do a price comparison for me, and it's actually cheaper for me to get all the supplements in Smart Paks than it is for me to buy the buckets and measure it myself! Plus shipping is only $8 per month, and they send it right out to you. So I'm finally getting Smart Paks for Kaswyn. No more measuring!

I hope I'm doing the right thing here. It's going to cost me, but I really want my horse to feel his best. With any luck he won't think any of them taste yucky. He better eat them!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Finally a post - two lessons, more food, and an award

Things have been so busy I just haven't had a chance to post. Ten days flew by faster than I thought. Evenings are busy with riding horses, and then with playing with girls, and work has been crushingly busy. So there has been no time to write. I imagine that I won't get this post done in one sitting, let alone one day. But let's get this started, shall we?

Both horses are coming along well for me. I had a lesson last Friday on each horse and my trainer was basically happy with both, but less so with Kaswyn than Albert. Kaswyn was up first and I showed her how I was warming him up and riding him low and deep. She thought that was a very good idea. However, after she saw me warm up she pointed out to me that I ride the left lead canter differently than the right lead. I had been complaining that I thought Kaswyn was not giving me a true canter at times and was four-beating, and she said that while she would admit that his canter isn't three-beat 100% of the time, she said that I need to trust that it's not as bad as I think. And also that my riding could be making it worse, or at least feel worse than it is.

She said that I'm overly cautious, and that I need to ride the left lead with more confidence. She said "Trust his canter, don't be so scared that it's not there because most of the time it is." I think that was just a nice way of saying "Um, you need to sit your butt down and RIDE and not worry so much." Since the lesson I've been starting the canter on the right lead (I used to always start to the left) and then go to the left and try to keep the same feeling. And it's really helped Kaswyn's canter a lot.

We also worked on the canter half-passes. I'd been working the half-passes deep also, just trying to get him to move laterally for some suppling and strength building. They were more schooling half-passes since I wasn't asking him to sit and push through them. She watched and said that while that was okay for the first one or two passes, I should really ask him for more collection because he was tending to get flat instead of having a nice jumping half-pass. We've been doing that since the lesson and I think it's been helping things.

Albert was great in his lesson. She was very happy with his frame and tempo, and asked what I wanted to work on. I told her that I needed her to check the leg yields at the trot to make sure that they were correct. She watched me do a few each direction and then said that they were technically correct, like a 6, but why not get more spring and expression and go for an 8? She had me do an exercise where I trot a three loop serpentine, and upon crossing the centerline each time add two ten meter circles, one in each direction. This will encourage Albert to be softer in his bending and have him step more under himself. After we did a few of these serpentines in each direction the leg yields were better.

I haven't entered the show yet (by the time I post this I will have though!), because we just had Coggins drawn for Kaswyn and Albert on Monday. As soon as those get back I'm entering the show, with Albert going Training 1 and 2, and Kaswyn doing Fourth 1 and Prix St George. Should be interesting. I'm way excited!

While Dr. B was out to draw blood for the Coggins, I had him give Kaswyn his spring shots. Everyone else in the barn just got the rabies vaccination because Susan can get the shots for cheaper through work or something. Kaswyn, however, got everything because he gets so swollen and sore from his shots that he has to get shots of banamine and dexamethasone when he gets his vaccinations.

I also had Dr. B take a look at him to evaluate his weight. I explained that Kaswyn still didn't have as much energy as I thought he should, and hadn't really put on any weight since we switched grain and put him on alfalfa cubes. Dr. B upped his grain and said "Give him as many alfalfa cubes as her will eat." I asked if that would colic him or anything and he just laughed, saying that alfalfa cubes will not make him sick. Dr. B thinks that as soon as spring rolls around that Kaswyn will put weight on and we'll have to cut him back, but for now he needs more food. So we're soaking a few small buckets of cubes every day and making sure he has some available to eat all the time. I'm also adding some Red Cell to his grain too, just in case he's anemic. Hopefully he'll start getting fat and sassy soon.

MiKael over at Rising Rainbow was kind enough to give me an award -

Van Gogh Award

"Apparently, this Van Gogh's Ear Award is for blogs that are making a difference in the blogosphere. It's creator said, "We are all artists in our own way, be it art, photography, writing, philosophy, comedy, or blogging, and we all go a little crazy sometimes. But if you ever feel so crazy to cut off your ear and give it to a prostitute, "Seek Help"! Always remember you're unique. Just like everyone else."

So thanks to MiKael! I'm supposed to pass this on to some fellow writers, but I confess that I haven't had time to even keep up with most of the blogs that I follow. I'm going to do a quick check and hopefully I can find some deserving folks who have not received the award yet!

Jewel at Viva Volte, because she's a fellow Arabian dressage rider

Stacey at Behind the Bit, for her well researched and insightful articles

Grey Horse Matters, because of her fantastic pictures and thoughtful posts

And Anne at Smells Horsey, because I should really read her blog more often!


I'm finally finishing this post up, and not much has changed since I started it days ago. It's freezing here but I'm still working horses because that show is only three weeks away! Yikes! I will hopefully be having two lessons, one on each horse, later this week. At some point before the show I'm going to see if I can get a lesson at my trainer's place, because her arena is full size and ours is small sized. I figure it might be smart to ride the horses in an arena that is the same size as the show ring. It might not be possible, so I might have to wing it at the show!

Just thinking about the show is getting me a bit nervous. I have to gather all of my horse showing crap and make sure I don't forget anything. Muck tub, stall fork, buckets, coolers, wraps, clean horse brushes (yes I do have separate brushes that I take to shows and use only on clean horses - no I'm not a freak, I just have keen attention to detail), all my show clothes, etc etc . Oh, and I've been working Kaswyn exclusively in the snaffle. At some point I'll have to put the double bridle on him again. Maybe next week?

The fun thing is I'll be bringing our new video camera to the show, so if I can get someone to video my rides I'll post them here for everyone to critique! Whee! And no fair saying "Your horse is skinny." I know that already.


Hello! Yes, I'm still here, and I've been working on a post since last Thursday. I've just been stupid busy and have had no time to write. So busy that I missed the deadline for entries for the first show! Luckily the show secretary told me to send them in and it wouldn't be a problem, so Albert and Kaswyn will be entered today (as soon as I get to the post office after work!)

So March 13-15 I'm going to be showing again after not showing seriously since 2002. And I'm showing two horses! I must be nuts...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Super Cuts

On Saturday the horses got the day off. They also got clipped. Albert was a hairy beastie and would get sweaty even in the coldest temperatures. I knew we were going to get warmer weather this week so that hair had to go. I only gave him a blanket clip because when the horses go out sometimes they are out all day long and I didn't think it would be nice to clip anything that would stick out from under his blanket. Well, I did clip his belly because I thought it would look weird if I didn't. Anyhow, here he is before -

And here is the after shot -

His legs still look really hairy but I'm hoping that the clipped area will grow in some before the show, and that the legs will shed out a bit so the whole look is more even. I'm pretty pleased with how he turned out.

However, I'm not happy with the job I did on Kaswyn. He didn't need a full body clip so I just clipped his legs up to his fetlock, but I think it looks terrible. It's the worst clip job I've ever done (well, except for that one time), and I really hate it. I don't know if it's because he's hairer this year than he's ever been or what, but his legs better grow in/shed out too or it's going to seriously bug me.

Today I rode both boys and I have to say that they are feeling pretty good. Albert is up to a 25 minute workout. We're warming up and then running through mock training and first level tests. It's been so long since I've shown those levels that I don't know the tests anymore, so I just make them up from what I remember. He's doing a pretty decent job, but then I wouldn't expect anything less. He's been completely trained through first level before, so he just needs to get back into the swing of things. He's not quite ready for second, so we'll have to stay at training and first for this year.

Since I'm still trying to get weight on Kaswyn I'm only working him for 15 minutes. I'm working him round and deep, especially at the canter, and not asking for too much collection or elevation of the front end. That doesn't mean I'm letting him go around on the forehand - it's just that I think he needs to get stronger in the back and hind end before he's asked to collect much. He is in the habit of collecting and sometimes will come into the corner and lighten the forehand, raise his shoulders, and shift back, but I put him back down again. I don't want him hurting himself or making himself sore. But overall he feels good.

And for the first time in many months I feel good too. I'm getting stronger, my riding is getting more precise, and I don't have any back or butt pain. I'm pleased, very thankful, and really looking forward to getting back in the show ring.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Good Albert

I had limited time tonight to ride, and I started with Albert as usual. He is really doing much better with bending to the right and being more straight at the canter on the right lead. It's hard for him to unlock that side, but now he knows what he's supposed to do so when he slips back into the old habit all I have to do is shift my weight to the left, bump him with my right leg, and close my right hand. Then he gives on the right and gets softer.

He's also getting better with the leg yields. He used to get tense and blocked in his neck, but now I'm able to unlock him, make him take the half-halt, and get him to complete the leg yield while working over his back. Kaswyn felt a little lazy, but I was able to work the canter long and low. He seems to do much better doing this right now than if I ask him to collect. I think I'll work the canter this way for a bit and build up him back and rear with big, bounding, low, round canter strides.

These are all good things because I'm pretty sure that I'm going to enter Albert and Kaswyn in the upcoming March USDF/USEF show. That gives me five weeks to get these boys (and myself) into shape. The entries open on February 9th, so I have to make sure of a few things before next week.

1) I have to get my trainer out to teach me some lessons before the show. I'd like to get a lesson every other week until the show. I know she's really busy, so I hope we can work something out with her schedule.

2) I need to find out if my trainer is coming to the show with other students, and if she isn't if I can get her to come out there to coach me. I'm hoping she will bring at least one other horse so we can stable next to each other.

3) I have to get a fire lit under Susan and have her arrange for the use of her friend's trailer. She said she thinks we'd be able to use it, but hasn't called yet. If we can't use this trailer then I need to figure out how I'm going to get those horses to the show. This could be interesting.

I emailed my trainer my plans for the show, and I haven't heard back from her. I suspect that she thinks I'm nuts. The thing is both Albert and Kaswyn are trained. They need fine tuning and increased strength and stamina, but they both know their jobs. But I suspect she thinks that I won't be ready for the show in such a short amount of time. But I will be ready. I'm determined and driven. This will happen.

And hopefully I can get someone to video my rides, so you guys can see how we did. Lets hope that won't be embarrassing. Either way you'll get to see it, in all it's glory!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Good Sunday, Scary Monday, Hopeful for Tuesday

Sunday I spent most of my time at the barn doing arena work instead of riding. I watered the arena, then dragged it. But before I could drag it I had to dig out the door to the arena. There was a ton of snow piled up in front of the door, and since the temperature was nearing 40 the snow was nice and heavy. After I got all that snow moved so I could get my truck into the arena, I had to dig the drag out of the snow as well. It's kept leaning up against the barn and had about three feet of snow locking it into place. After moving all the snow and trying to move the drag I realized that the bottom of the drag was frozen into the once muddy but now icy ground. Great.

Luckily the drag was propped up on it's side so I was able to pry it away from the wall and then use my weight to stand on it until it fell over in the other direction. Finally by wiggling it back and forth the drag was free. Then it was just a matter of hooking it up and dragging the footing.

I have to say I'm a little worried that the footing might freeze. I was very careful not to get the sand too wet, and after dragging it there seemed to be a decent mix of wet and dry sand. It wasn't as wet as I'd usually get it, so hopefully the arena won't be a big ice slick tomorrow. If it is, I'll just drag again. Hopefully I haven't made a huge mistake.

After all that work my back and hips were hurting, but I decided that there was no way that I was going to do all that work and not ride. So I rode both ponies for 20 minutes. Albert was a spooky little boy, particular in one corner of the arena where snow had melted and made a wet spot on the kick boards. He is usually so level headed and this behavior surprised me, but we were able to work through it. I only got after him in a punishing way one time, when I thought he was really taking advantage of the situation. Usually I'm pretty understanding about horses who are scared, and I really believe that punishing a horse who is scared or confused is a good way to make the horse scared to working or scared of being scared.

Anyhow, we go through the ride and Albert was a sweaty beast. We had also worked on unlocking his right side, and that is really hard for him so just a little work on that exercise makes him hot. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to have to do a blanket clip on him in the not too distant future. He's fine if I don't work him too hard, or if it's really cold out, but unfortunately it's going to eventually get warm and I'm going to have to work him harder in preparation for the show, so some of that yak hair has got to go! That's going to be fun. I really don't like body clipping. Ugh, such a mess.

Kaswyn really felt pretty good, except that he was spooking at the same spot that Albert was all in a twist about. For Kaswyn to spook it's got to be kind of a big deal, so maybe there was an animal or something behind the wall that they would smell or hear that I could not. Anyway, again the left canter was a bit stiff at first but he worked out of it. He still feels weak behind on both right and left, but at least I have his enthusiasm back. It's such a great feeling, and I think I'm getting my old partner back. I know it's hard for him to build himself back up, but I think he can do it. I'm really excited about this year!

That was Sunday. Today is Monday. The day that I had my follow-up appointment with New Dr. Colon. In anticipation for this exam, I made preparations. First, Craig took a half day off of work to be able to drive me down there. This was a necessity due to the fact that I was planning to take a bunch on klonopin before my visit. I was expecting there to be a certain amount of pain involved with the exam, so drugging myself up would make everyone happy. Also I got two enemas and took them at home before we left. I figured that would be a better solution to do it in my own home rather than have a nurse give me one in the exam room. Not that either is pleasant, but I'd rather do it myself privately.

Once my colon was nice and cleansed, we headed to the office. We spent some time explaining the various problems I've been having, and it sounds like many of these are normal. She said I'm not totally healed yet, and that could take another six weeks or more. Most importantly, when she examined me she was very gentle, explained everything she was doing before she did it (which is nice when someone is about to jam a metal instrument into your anal cavity) and told me that if at any time I was in pain that I should tell her and she would stop. I was as brave as I could be and was able to make it through two exams. In her exam she found one area that is still very swollen and one area that is open, raw, and still needs healing time. She did not find anything out of the ordinary, and would expect my healing to continue down this track. She hopes that within six weeks I will be totally healed, but if not it just means that I need more time. There was no infection or anything else to be concerned about at this time.

So since this exam was much less scary I think I'll be more relaxed next time. I still plan on taking my klonopin and having Craig drive me. There's no reason for me to freak out if I don't have to. That would make for a very bad afternoon for everyone. Especially my butthole.

So, more riding tomorrow. I hope the arena isn't frozen. If so, I'll be dragging that sucker again. And hopefully learning from my mistakes. No promises there, though.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr