Fraggle Friday:When Life Hands You Lemons

Oh man. Life threw me a curveball that has kinda rocked my world.

Two months to the day of Stella’s back surgery, she had her second seizure.

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Siri does her best trying to comfort her

The fact that it was her second was significant. She had her first seizure 70 hours prior. We were on a walk and she fell over and started paddling. Stopped, sat up, and then got up. The seizure lasted maybe 5 seconds? We walked slowly back to the house and she slept most of the day. After speaking with her surgeon (who I literally have on speed dial) there were a couple of possibilities. 1) Hopefully it was a one time event. 2) She has some deficiencies, and we can see if calcium and other levels are low 3) She has a brain tumor.

So, when Stella had her second seizure, after going to the vet and her blood work being absolutely perfect, we’re left with really just one option.

I cried all day Tuesday. I tried to go to work and was just a blubbering mess. I kept apologizing, but was unable to talk about why I was crying, so basically I was just super awkward and super unprofessional. Fortunately, I work in animal welfare, with a bunch of caring, compassionate people, so they handled my blubbering mess well.

And while that Tuesday was horrible, and I know my time with Stella is limited, here is the lemonade part of this story.

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We started her on Keppra, an anti seizure med, and she is like a new dog. She sleeps through the night, she eats all her meals, she gets up to greet me at the door, she drags me down the road for walks, and yesterday, when I took her to the banks of the river, she wanted to play fetch.

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Momma throw sticks?

The meds made her a bit more unstable initially (and gave her serious diarrhea, but that has resolved), so walking hasn’t been as easy for her, but now that she seems acclimated to the meds, she is really feeling great. Like, pre surgery great. For weeks before her first seizure she would get up one hour after I went to bed and begin to pace. The pacing got worse and worse and lasted longer and longer. And it was after a particularly bad night that she had her first seizure in the morning.

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Searching for sticks…

I think Stella hadn’t been feeling right for a while. And I’m not an idiot. A brain tumor is not a diagnosis anyone wants to get. I know my time with her is limited (they say it is a rapidly growing tumor and if lucky I will have 1-2 months with her). I know that one day she will probably stop eating again. She’ll start pacing. And while it scares the crap out of me, she will probably have another seizure, and it could be far worse than the last two.

So, I’m literally enjoying every moment I have with her. I’m so thankful I get to see “normal” Stella again. I’m so glad she feels good. I love that she drags me around on walks again. Knowing the end is near gives me anxiety and I’m so sad, but instead of dwelling on it, I try to focus on the now. And how lucky I am to have had this dog in my life for nearly 15 years.

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And taking lots of naps. She still enjoys that!

So, be prepared for lots of Stella posts, she’s pretty much going to rule my life for as long as she possibly can.

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On Being a Laid Back, Type A, Personality

I am fully aware that my title contradicts itself.

But it’s truly who I have become. Especially when it comes to “show season”

When I was riding Georgie, I would have my show season set by January. I knew what I needed to do if I wanted to qualify for the 3 day,  knew what clinics I wanted to participate in, and had a good sense of exactly how my season would go.  Planning gives me a sense of peace and relaxation.

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Also peaceful and relaxed

But then Georgie injured herself, and ever since I have not had a single plan work out.

The plan to compete Macy at a recognized event fell through at least twice.

And more recently, my FEH plans with June have gone askew.

But I think one of the most important things Macy taught me, in preparing for a baby horse, is to throw all plans out the window. And somehow, this lesson from Macy (like many others) is absolutely invaluable.

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Thanks Macy!

I am so incredibly laid back about all my June plans it’s like I am a different person. (But still the same person, because I love MAKING plans. I’m just okay with said plans not being what actually happens)

This laid back attitude reaches from my daily training of baby horse to future of baby horse and everything in between. When I found out that the Spokane event wouldn’t be holding a FEH 4 yr old class this May, (where I planned to go watch so I knew what I was getting into for Rebecca), I re-routed myself to NY to see family and deliver Peekaboo to her new home. When I found out Rebecca Farm wasn’t holding any YEH or FEH classes this year, I felt relief, as I could now speak at a conference and not have to figure out how I would fly there from Montana and get June home without me. And, even when I found out that the FEH class that I was hoping to attend this fall was happening AFTER championships (therefore making qualifying for championships obsolete as it’s not like I can go next year), I kinda shrugged and while bummed, knew there is a good chance I won’t qualify for champs, so no big deal.

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She’d probably have a better chance of qualifying for champs without me…

But, in case you’re worried about who I have become, and worry that I have turned into some apathetic, non caring human, fear not. Sarah noticed there was an event being held in August we’d never been to. It was holding both YEH and FEH classes. After emailing them to confirm they would hold a FEH 4 yr old class, I decided this was the new plan! Sarah and I would go, me with my 4 yr old, her with her 2yr old. Not only do I get to take June to a show, Sarah is coming and we can make it a quick “vacation” of sorts! So, not having plans, may actually work out for the best!

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Still so adorable

And if these plans fall through, that’s ok too. I can re route once again. All plans are up in the air, and changeable. And weirdly, at this point in my life, that’s totally ok.

 

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Trot, Trot

You guys, I’m in love.

This baby mare’s brain is the best.

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She also has a properly pulled mane now. So grown up!

Ok, let me set the scene. It’s our second lesson and the arena is a bit crowded and chaotic, unlike last time. I had run June around a bit outside but she wasn’t interested. So, I bring her inside. She’s a bit more distracted so I lunge her a bit and then hop on. She’s still a bit distracted and high so I hop off and lunge about 15 more minutes.

Ok, that wasn’t why I love her so much. That part starts here.

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Also, I ponied her off of Georgie. Um, it wasn’t magical bit this was the worst of it 😉

I get back on her and she’s totally calm and relaxed and paying attention. Despite the fact that there is a new tent  flapping in the wind outside, about ten RVs parked out that same door with people working on them, two horses in the arena, and someone coming in and out of the kitchen off of the arena, sometimes hauling a cart, sometimes hauling tons of boxes of who knows what.

We do some walk work and Sarah asks me to introduce the idea of bend. This means I have to do things like use my thigh and not my calf. That whole independent seat stuff.

Then we get to trotting!

We start on the lunge, and it goes like 5 million times better than last time. Probably because I am SO MUCH more relaxed but also because June’s a genius and better understands what is being asked of her. We trot both ways and occasionally I am brave enough to ask for her bigger trot. The trot is LOVELY but it’s hard to fully enjoy as I am worried she is going to stop, or spook, or buck. She did none of these things and by the end of the lunge work we had some really nice trot moments.

And then Sarah asked if I wanted to trot off the lunge line. Um, gulp. Um, ok

She wants us to pretend we’re still on the lunge and still circle around her. She just wants June moving forward and for us to keep a rhythm.

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Pure magic

June was so good! Even when the next lesson’s rider hopped on her horse and started walking around, June stayed with me and listened to what I was asking. Was it perfect? No. But she was so easygoing about all of it. And she tried and she listened, and she exceeded my expectations.

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AND she looked cute while doing it!

I’m so excited to continue this work with her. I want to get comfortable at the trot so that I can be comfortable at her bigger trot, as it’s really fun and I need to let it happen.

So, YAY! Here’s to more and more trotting!

Before We Move Forward

We need to revisit the past.

This is a post I’ve been putting off, but now that June and I are moving forward under saddle, I think I need to fess up about something in our past.

I’m not going to get into specifics because I don’t want to point fingers, and hey, we all make mistakes, but here’s the gist of it. (Also, negative comments about any party involved will be deleted. Let’s just take this as a learning opportunity, shall we?)

Last October, I had June in full training. I asked to be the first rider on her, and as her time with the trainer was coming to an end, she suggested I hop on her. In my mind, I would hop on her, we would walk around the round pen and it would be a major success.

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Our first ride!

But the trainer she was with starts horses differently than I had imagined. She feels it is important to walk, trot, and canter, in the first ride. I did not know this, and was not prepared when she had June trot. When she told me she was going to have June canter, every instinct told me to say something, to tell her I wasn’t comfortable cantering her, but I didn’t.

Instead, I clamped and stiffened and became a brick on my poor horse’s back.

As you can imagine, June felt this. And she responded by becoming a bucking bronc. She started bucking and hopping and after flying forward and back, all I could think was “I need to get off this horse NOW.”

So, I jumped off and landed on my feet, but I was basically bucked off. And, because we are dealing with horses, I had to get BACK ON and walk and trot again.

The whole experience left me sad and angry. I wish I had trusted my instincts and just walked around the round pen. I wish I had said something. I respect this trainer and feel her methods are valid. But, as we spoke about the incident later, we both admitted that it’s different having a pro be the first ride than it is an amateur who has never ridden an un-broke horse. Having June canter, when I was so unbalanced in the saddle, was a mistake. We can both admit that.

So, now that I have June back, I am essentially re-training her under saddle. The trainer did get some nice rides on her before she went out to pasture, but my last ride, was the one where I came off of her.

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Wait. I did something wrong?

So, poor Trainer Sarah now has to pick up the pieces. I’ve been working so hard on her walk work,(we can turn and woah and it’s basically amazing) that Sarah felt it was time to trot! I asked to work on the lunge line, as I had no idea what was going to happen and didn’t want June to take off bucking. In the first walk to trot transition I was pretty nervous and June could feel it. Her back got tight and she tucked her tail. But that was it. As we started the next one, I was again nervous, but I reminded myself to breathe and the moment I did, June’s entire body relaxed as well. Literally, Sarah mentioned how much calmer she was the moment I relaxed. So, we spent the next ten minutes trotting, working on upward and downward transitions and it got better and better. June was perfect and SUCH a good girl.

It’s amazing how in tune with me she is. It makes sense though. Thus far her life has consisted of following my lead whenever we are together. I need to remember that she relies on me for guidance and support. If I am nervous, why shouldn’t she be?

I told Sarah I still had some hesitation about ever cantering and she assured me we can take things as slow as I want. I really like Sarah’s method of starting horses. There is zero hurry and her hope is one day we will just fall into the canter, rather than make a big deal of it. (And cantering is a LONG way down the road.. if I hadn’t mentioned my fear Sarah would have never brought it up.)

I will say June’s trot was amazing. It’s so much bigger than Georgie’s and I mentioned how fast it felt.  Sarah told me it wasn’t fast, there’s just more movement,  and I need to let it happen, not hinder it. No pulling back!

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Let this floaty trot happen!

I’m still so excited for the partnership I have with this horse and feel a sense of relief knowing that moving forward, I’ll trust my gut and go as slow as I want. June is proving to be a smart horse, and I need to trust her as much as she trusts me. So, when I mention any fears, now you know why.  My hope is to get more and more comfortable at the trot and then see what the future holds on this horse who seems so willing to be patient with me.

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Fraggle Friday: Siri’s Tough Life

If Siri could talk I have a feeling she’d tell you all about how rough she’s got it.

I’ve never met a dog who has it so good and yet feels completely neglected.

The other day I brought her to work and during an all office meeting she literally went from person to person trying to get into their laps. In Siri’s mind, laps are for her to lay in.

As my friend said to me recently, “it’s Siri’s world, we just live in it.”

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See the dog bed off to the right? Why would she lay there when she can be in my chair?

Lately the dramatics have been upped a bit. After breakfast she gets back into bed.

My bed.

And trying to get her out of my bed is nearly impossible

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Why would she get up when all the dogs on the sheets clearly aren’t going anywhere?

I mean, how am I expected to get her up when she looks like this as I enter the room?

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Her “Do Not Disturb” pose

Clearly if there is a bed or a lap, she’s in it.

In other news, Stella is doing GREAT, has been cleared for 10 minute walks twice a day, and she loves it! She drags me around the barn and begs me to let her off leash. Hasn’t happened yet, but I am excited for the day she can run free again!

Happy Fraggle Friday everyone!

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Unlikely Friends

A while back I mentioned I was hopeful that one day I’d be able to pony June off of Georgie. But, I kind of gave up on that dream when June got home, was housed next to Georgie, and all they did was beat each other up over the fence. So I gave up on any hope they’d ever be able to be near each other let alone ride together.

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Georgie does love her boyfriend Tommy however…

And, as life would have it, because I stopped thinking about it, things happened. Georgie and June were once again housed next to each other but in a different part of the farm. I loved it, as I could give them both treats and love whenever I went to get June, but beyond that, I didn’t think much about it.

And then one day, I took June out to work with her and Georgie whinnied. Georgie has never ever whinnied for another horse. But there she stood, at her fence line calling to June.

Huh.

I started to realize I hadn’t seen them fight. June was free of any bite marks, unlike the last time they were together. They seemed to hang out at the fence line together.

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She may like June, but this is her happy place

Could it be they liked each other???

I decided to bite the bullet and turn them out on pasture together. I hemmed and hawed about how to do it, but decided to take Georgie out first, and then add June to the mix. My hope was Georgie would be so happy about grass she wouldn’t have the time to come meet June and fight with her.

So, As I led June out there, heart beating fast, I just hoped no one would get hurt. I let June loose and stood there, waiting for mare drama. June walked into the pasture and started eating. Georgie just kept eating in her area. I stood there for ten minutes and nothing happened. Later, I rode a horse I was exercising by and both mares came to the fence line. No drama. In fact, as I walked away, THEY HAD KISSY FACE and then walked off together to go eat.

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Hi mom! Just hanging with my bestie!

Um. Ok.

Georgie and June are now besties!

I walked them back to their paddocks TOGETHER with zero issues. They’ve been out together about 3 more times without issue.

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These pics are not exciting to anyone but me, I get that. But, they are SO exciting to me!

This opens a whole new world for me! I’ve got a ponying day planned in a couple of weeks and I can’t wait for Georgie to give June ALL HER KNOWLEDGE.

When two mares I love become friends it’s like I’ve won the lottery.

Alone Time

If you read my blog and that of SprinklerBandits you may get the feeling we have two of the most amazing, lovely, easy as can be, young horses. And, while I actually think this is true of Zoebird, I’m going to let you in on a secret about June. She isn’t perfect.

I know, you’re shocked.

I will say, before talking about all the things she needs work on, that she is actually a great baby. When she knows what is expected of her, she is happy as can be to do what I am asking. I’ve had few problems with her in work actually, most of the baby moments seem to be happening when we are just standing. This mare CANNOT just stand.

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But she’s so cute when she’s in my space!

Now, I know that’s pretty normal for young horses. I thoroughly enjoyed Amanda’s post about the Tree of Knowledge. June needs a Tree of Knowledge, or a Thinking Pole, or whatever else you want to call it, SO BADLY. Baby horse cannot stand tied, or next to me, for more than 3 seconds without beginning to paw incessantly. It used to be only when I left her alone. But yesterday, as I was talking to a woman who has worked lots and lots of baby horses, June got right in my space and then just started dancing and pawing in the 10 seconds I was speaking with this woman. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well and maybe I was called out for letting her do that. (There are very few people I will allow to question my baby horse training, this woman is one of them). June got an impromptu lesson on just standing still. And I began to hunt the farm for somewhere, anywhere, that I can high tie June.

Our other issue is that she really doesn’t like to be alone. At all. So, I’ve been forcing alone time on her. Sometimes I stick her out in the outdoor arena, where she can see other horses, but she still gallops around whinnying and has a fit. Other times she goes into the high sided roping arena, where she gallops around and has a fit. The first time I stuck her out on grass, she had a fit and missed out on enjoying her pasture time.

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Mom, please save me from this hell

She’s getting better. Which is good. But there is still a bit of a struggle every time I put her out and leave her. Which, she will have to get over, because I have plans for her this fall that involve travelling by herself.

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Also, in an exciting twist, these two have become besties, but more on that later…

I keep reassuring myself that this is just baby horse antics and ALL MOST baby horses act like they’re wearing hind boots for the first time EVERY TIME YOU PUT THEM ON FOR 1 MONTH. I have a lesson this Thursday and while I am eager to show Sarah all our skillz under saddle, I also can’t wait to ask her about 100,000 questions about certain behaviors I am working on with June and if my approach seems to make the most sense.

So there you go, June isn’t exactly perfect. But she’s still my most favorite baby horse ever.

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Habits

Since I’m not doing much riding with June just yet I’ve taken the opportunity to ride a couple of the lesson horses at our barn. Mostly I just hop on them when Sarah is out of town and they’re not being used for lessons, but could use some exercise. No matter which horse I ride, my habits are right there with me. It’s nice because I can work on them. Work on my position and try, desperately, to break my bad habits.

There’s one habit that follows me on whatever horse I ride and quite honestly, I am not willing to break it. It’s a habit I actually think has served me very well over the years.

You see, I talk to horses.

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What’s that you say? I have hay in my forelock?

When I’m on their back, I’m a talker. Like, not all the time, but a fair amount. It served me really, really, well with Georgie. For one thing, when we started going Training, and neither of us had jumped cross country at that height, I could have been up on her back, just not breathing. Instead, I made sure I was breathing by talking to her as we cruised around. There were lots of “good girl” and “woah” and sometimes me blithering on about what was next. It kept me breathing but it also kept her engaged with me. I’d see her ear flick back. As time went on, it was totally routine. When we were out on course together, I was always communicating with her. I actually think she really enjoyed it. It seemed to be what she expected and it relaxed her a bit.

Ingrid Klimke actually spoke in an interview about how she is constantly talking to her horse while she is out on cross country. And while I can’t find the interview, I remember she made fun of herself a bit, referencing the fact that she is not a quiet rider. Instead people are surprised to hear her talking as her horses fly over jumps. Her reasoning is much the same as mine.  Think about it, we’re ALWAYS talking to our horses. We’re asking them to move over, get out of the way. We cluck at them, ask them to whoa, and tell them how amazing they are. They’re used to our voices.

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One of our ridiculous barn cats

With June, so much of our relationship is based on verbal communication. She is so used to my voice. And, now that I am riding her a bit, I’m teaching her what “woah”means as well as what a “cluck” means. I assume my habit of talking to her while I am on her back isn’t going to stop as we progress in our training.

With the school horses I ride, if they offer a good behavior, they’re sure to get a “good boy.” If they spook at seemingly nothing, they get a “Seriously?” But they also get lots of verbal reinforcement as we go about the ride.

It’s a habit I can’t see myself changing, and one I’m actually quite happy I’ve got. What about you? Are you verbal with your horses when riding? Or do you tend to be the silent type?

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She Jumps!

I’m not gonna lie. I have maybe spent some time worried that June wasn’t going to know how to jump. Or would be super awkward and not talented at all. I mean, I’ve never had a baby horse before. There is zero guarantee about anything. And sure, her Dad looks like THIS when he jumps:

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Photo By: Janne Bugtrup

But hey, he’s only half of her genes.

Anyway, I was gone for 8 days, and while June got out a handful of times while I was gone, I didn’t want to ride her in my lesson the day I returned. So, instead, we decided to free jump her!

 

Now, I know what you’re picturing. Huge, elaborately decorated jumps. But, let me let you in on a secret. Free jumping actually isn’t as exciting as it is in those fancy broadcasts you see with super fancy horses. For us, we started with groundpoles. And we raised the jumps to about 2’3 at the end. It was lots of me chasing June around and trying to get her into the chute. It’s not glamorous people.

But it is fun. Especially when your baby horse figures it out quickly and thinks she is HOT SHIT and gallops around every time she exits the chute.

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Clearing the groundpole…

IMO she had great form, a great brain, and was super excited about jumping! Not that I am biased.

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2’3 was about 2 feet too small 😉

It was so fun to watch and worth all the running around to catch her and put her in the chute after each go.

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Love those happy ears

Sadly the next day we were back in the round pen, with a dressage saddle, but she’s still thinking all about how great she was at jumping.

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Fraggle Friday on a Monday

This past week Peekaboo made her way to her forever home. I was supposed to drive her to NY about a month ago, but Stella’s surgery delayed the trip.

When I found out Spokane Horse Trials would not be holding a FEH 4 yr old class for me to watch this weekend, I re routed from Washington to NY.

I was not looking forward to this drive. Thirty six hours of driving is not a great use of vacation time, but I was excited to get her to her home and so we loaded up and headed east.

She didn’t help with any of the driving but was a good travel buddy regardless

It was a long 2.5 days, but Peekaboo made it as easy as she could.

It was actually nice just to spend time with her. She had been overshadowed by Stella and Siri at my house.

When we arrived and both basically unfolded ourselves out of the car, Peekaboo saw all the grass and open space and immediately did a happy dance. That blur is her running full speed..

She got along great with my Dads other two dogs and honestly, she really could not have settled in any better.

I spent the weekend showing her the ropes and introducing her to the invisible fence, a process that will take more time than I had, but I wanted to get her started on the boundary line at least. It became clear she had worn a shock collar before- as soon as she heard the beep she ran back to me. Makes me a bit sad for her but will make fence training easier.

A post about being east is not complete without at least one Dublin picture

He looked as handsome as ever and was happy to have me give him some love and apples.

He’s got to be close to 22 but definitely doesn’t look it. I was able to meet up with Amelia from Dark Jewel Designs and we both spoke fondly of these Irish horses and how well they age!

A great, quick, trip home before I head to the Midwest for work. I’ll miss Peekaboo but am so happy for her future with my Dad.

Looking forward to getting back to my two fraggles. I miss them so much!

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