Tag Archives: horseback riding

And… We’re Done

While the title reflects my current mood, it may not accurately describe the future. Maybe. Hopefully.

In the beginning of this month I was raving about how much I was enjoying Macy and how amazing our jumper show and xc schooling went.

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This. This was so much fun

But if you have a horse you know that for every high there is a low.

When we got back from the show, Macy seemed off. She wasn’t eating or drinking well, and when the veterinarian was called to check her out, she confirmed that Macy had an impaction colic.

So many reasons why this could have happened, but what was most concerning was that this was Macy’s 2nd colic in 6 weeks. And this mare, who is 17, had only colicked once before in her entire life.

The thought was the colic was spurred on by her ulcers, which used to rear their ugly head quite often. Macy is on an NSAID which could have been inflaming her ulcers and causing her to colic. To add to it, I was an idiot and forgot to bring her ulcerguard when we traveled. So, when she was flemming and not eating well at the show, I passed it off as her being in heat and being too concerned about where Max was and not to her  feeling off. That still could have been the case, but considering she felt like crap when we got home, I think she was already beginning to colic.

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How do you know you’re in Idaho? There is an enormous Mormon temple behind you while xc schooling

So, we take her off the NSAIDS and give her some rest. She starts to feel great after about 3-4 days (we also took her off her grain and Quiessence, which I only knew had happened when I got on her and she was her old flightly self. She went right back on the Quiessence…)

And, as expected, she felt a bit uneven and unsound. Old mare needs her drugs to feel 100%. So we started her back on them and she started to feel looser and more even. And then, the following day, I took her for a walk down the driveway and she felt completely off on her front left. At the walk. When we went back into the barn and I began to untack her she was resistant to put weight on it. I checked the foot and everything looked ok. I asked Sarah to check her out the next day.

When Sarah went to go check her, leg was swollen and hot.

Now, Macy is old and a bit of a delicate TB flower. But she had just gotten a week off for a colic/ulcer issue, and now she was lame on a front leg- usually the stifle is what is the issue. And while I wanted to be like “give her a week off and we’ll see how she is” I have a recognized event in about 2 weeks. And closing day was the following day.

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I don’t think a good horsewoman would look at this horse, who is basically breaking down around us and say “eh, she’ll be fine to run her first Training event in 3 years.” I don’t think a good horsewoman would think “I REALLY want to go to this event so how can we patch her together to make it happen??”

And while I like to think I am a good horsewoman, I thought all of the above thoughts. And others. But then realized I am NOT a good horsewoman and I emailed the show secretary and scratched our entry.

I’m not sure Macy can withstand the level of work I am asking of her. I think she would happily jump anything I point her at, that’s the kind of horse she is, but it’s tough on her body and she’s starting to show her age, as well as why she was initially retired.

The biggest bummer for me, selfishly, is that I felt like I finally got her. I felt like she had made me such a better rider and we were now a team. I really liked Macy, if not loved her. I haven’t met a horse with such an amazing work ethic before.

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Now, we’re not sure what’s wrong with her front leg, but hopefully the vet will tell us that she still has some riding left in her. Sarah and I have both prematurely come to the conclusion that we need to take it a bit easier on her. If she hasn’t blown a suspensory (always imagine the worst, right?) we’ve discussed doing some dressage work on her for the future. Maybe no more jumping.

Since I scratched the event and was feeling down in the dumps, Sarah offered to give me a June lesson, maybe I could back her. I pulled June out, threw her in the round pen and went through our routine. Brought her into the indoor and began to brush her. That’s when I noticed a cut on her left front. Plus lots of swelling and heat. So…. I went and cold hosed her, gave her bute and wrapped her. So much for my consolation lesson.

Horses. It’s never a dull moment is it?

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Learning to Chill

In my last lesson with Trainer Dana and June, I proudly showed off all we had been working on. I mean, June is basically a genius. I explained that I was having some trouble with June trotting and cantering when I didn’t want her to.

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She’s always ready for the lesson to be over

Well, it didn’t take Dana long to see that I was basically amping things up when I didn’t need to. So, here was my learning moment. When Dana told me June should move when I ask her to move, I took that as “she must move fast and in order to be responsive she must be moving quickly and be slightly frantic.”

This is not true. June can be responsive at the walk. The halt even. So, we basically worked on slowing both our brains down.

My genius baby totally figured it all out and we had a very successful lesson.

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This is her figuring it out

I’m excited for her to go to Dana’s place for a month but also sad because I’ll miss seeing her everyday. I know she will learn so much and be such an amazing horse when I get her back.

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She learned about bits this week and blow dryers. Neither were of any interest to her

She continues to be adorable and make me happy every day. Every day that she doesn’t jump through a trailer….

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The cutest

 

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So.Much.Progress.

In working with June almost every day, I’m seeing tons of progress.

I think I’ll just photo spam in order to get you up to speed….

Our lessons get better and better. And while she may have had a bit of a meltdown in my trailer where she cut up her face and leg pretty badly, the next time she traveled in my trailer she was a perfect angel. Oh, and I can send her into my trailer without issue. No more trailer loading issues. It’s amazing.

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Me goes in trailer now. And behaves

She has learned to side up to the fence. This was a super exciting part of our lesson where June got used to literally a monkey (me) up around her back. She is totally fine with it.

And while my weight was mostly on the fence, and not on her, it’s a great step before we actually put me on her back.

And speaking of things on her back… she now happily wears a saddle WITH a girth ūüôā

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Picture taken prior to girth being put on

She is amazing at posing with friends, too…

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And, trot poles are no big deal. I can send her right over them.

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Every time I see her I get excited about how uphill she is built

She makes me so happy. Even when she is sassy. I love the sass. The other day when I sent her around the round pen she pinned her ears and tossed her head at me. Bring it baby, bring it.

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Ground work has been so fun and so meaningful. She is teaching me so much and our bond grows stronger and stronger each day.

She is smart and sensible; brush boots, fly masks, scissors near her face as I tame her mane, no big deal.

A barrel falling right in front of her. Whatever.

LOVE.

Another lesson this coming Monday at a new location. We’ll see what fun things Dana has in store for us!

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History

There has been much talk of history in the news lately. And while this is in no way a political blog, it’s tough for me to turn a blind eye to the atrocious acts that have been occurring in our country of late. I am embarrassed by our country’s leader and horrified that hate groups feel emboldened to come out of hiding. Our country has parts of its history that we shouldn’t be proud of, but instead of moving forward, we’re bringing the past into the present.

History is a tricky thing. You can’t erase it. But by living the present in the way you want the future to be, you can change the course of the past. ¬†That made sense on my morning run, I hope it still does now, as well.

Macy has a storied past. You really can’t say her name around someone who knows her without getting some sort of story about her past. And while her event record on paper is quite flawless and speaks to the athlete she is, the entire picture of this horse is more than what you see by looking up her record on useventing.com

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Macy has a history of being a difficult horse. She’s quirky. She’s a pro ride. She doesn’t make it easy. ¬†She’d spook and bolt and bite and kick and really wasn’t very pleasant to be around.

I got to hear all about this when I decided to start riding her this spring. And, as you can imagine, hearing the history of this horse made me feel a bit less than confident around her. And, as you can imagine, Macy took full advantage of this.

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Even Sarah couldn’t get Macy to listen to her

And we had our mishaps and frustrations and my confidence plummeted. To where I dreaded riding her. And dreaded having a lesson where Sarah would yell at me because I over reacted when Macy over reacted and the entire thing was a disaster.

So, I stepped back and essentially started over. I stopped riding Macy as if she were my next event horse. I had lessons that were completely at the walk. My attitude about riding her began to change. I slowly started to trust her more and more. I could sense when she was going to spook, or toss her head, and reacted appropriately and with minimal fuss. We moved on, instead of letting it overtake the lesson. I rolled my eyes when she wanted to bolt and made her get right back to work. I was over the behavior. But more in a motherly way than that of a scared child.

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And since then, Macy has begun to change the path of her history. She’s become a rideable, calm, enjoyable, dare I say it, fun, horse to be around. We have been having a fantastic time together. We went and schooled cross country and Sarah was essentially silent the entire time I was riding. She had a few pointers for me, and there were some laughable moments, but all in all, it was a great outing. Macy was calm and relaxed and so was I. ¬†We haven’t had a bad ride in over a month, maybe two.

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I have my theories about why Macy is a changed mare, but they are theories. Sarah thinks it’s because I am riding her better, and am more confident, and that may be a (large) part of it. I think the other part is that a) it’s bloody hot and who wants to put in the effort to be bad? and more likely, b) Macy realizes she isn’t a 2* mare anymore and is ok with just plodding along. I honestly believe that so much of her past behavior came from a place of “I MUST BE AMPED UP WE ARE JUMPING BIG JUMPS AND GALLOPING FAST.” We haven’t done any of that together and I think she’s realized it’s a thing of the past. Her future is going to be all about galloping at a moderate pace over pretty insignificant jumps. And I think she’s ok with it. More than ok with it.

So, here’s to not letting history dictate our future. Enjoying the present and letting it be the guide of what our future holds.

 

 

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My Current Favorite Picture

Sure. It should be of June. Since she's my future.

And I do love this pic of her on a bridge casually relaxing.

But my new favorite picture is of Macy. You know, the mare I have been struggling to ride. The mare who can kill my confidence in the blink of an eye, (or bolt across the arena). I haven't hidden the fact that I'm not sure I'm the rider for her.
And I'm still not positive I am. But man she's been great lately.
And I've actually been having fun.
And letting go of the reins

And while she isn't impressed with any of it, I really am. Because it shows progress. And happiness. And those are both reasons why I spend all my money on this crazy passion.
So here's to more fun with this mare more learning and perhaps more surprisingly good rides on her.

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Night and Day

June had her second foundation training lesson and the difference between this lesson and the last were monumental.

Our trainer, Dana, started the lesson by having me show her what we’ve been up to. Now, anyone who takes lessons is familiar with this test. The trainer is essentially seeing if you did your homework.

And, well, I LOVE homework, and was super excited to show her what we had been up to, as well as get some feedback on some struggles.

While I ¬†had been diligent about doing my homework, I’d also been trying to problem solve some issues. Dana assured me that my instincts were correct, and we were moving in the right direction.

She was also super impressed with how much progress June had made. Not only in our homework but physically as well. She kinda looks fit from all the trotting and transitions we’ve been doing.

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The other great thing about trainer Dana is that she’s also kinda a media whore and insisted we get some good pics of June.

We ran through what we’ve worked on, and then were able to move on and add some new things. Dana is awesome with June. Everything she does with her makes sense to me, and she is just a really good horsewoman and so solid in her ground work training.

 

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Plus she was fine with me posting pics of her, so that’s cool

June was so good. She thought about what was being asked of her, and there wasn’t any “NOW I RUN YOU OVER” moves, which was REALLY lovely.

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June figuring it out

And I even got to work with her on some of the new stuff and it wasn’t a total disaster! Where I have my body in relation to what I am asking is so important. I’m learning that a good deal of June’s confusion comes from me either not asking correctly, or my body blocking her. It’s getting better though!

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At one point Dana had to ask me to be more subtle. I about fell on the ground laughing. Sarah says this to me ALL THE TIME. And my response to Dana was the same as it is to Sarah: “I can’t be subtle. That’s why I didn’t get an OTTB.” Yeah, I’m German. Subtilty isn’t in our genes.

Nearing the end of our lesson Dana wanted to head over to the arena, and out of the round pen. I had no idea what we would be doing over there, as neither June or I are  ready to work outside of a small space.

But we were going to work on walking over a bridge! Yay! Dana had me start. Walk with purpose over the bridge.

It was a big fat fail. So… Dana tried. And had no problem getting over the bridge. She told me to have more control of June’s nose and shoulder. The rest will follow.

She then proceeded to send her over the bridge.

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And then I sent her over the bridge! Eventually..

I was basically all smiles the entire time. I feel like June and I are slowly growing a connection. I had no idea foundation work could have such an impact on me as a rider. It’s building my confidence and showing me how important it is to ask for things from the ground before asking from her back. Plus, we’re making June stronger so that she can carry me and do everything we’re asking her to do once I’m up there. ¬†We worked a bunch on yielding from the shoulder, bending, and turning her haunches. She was game for all of it, and was well-behaved for all of it as well. I’m really excited as to how things are progressing with this sassy mare, and am excited for our next lesson!

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Basically how I felt all day

 

 

 

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Gary Mittleider Clinic

While his name may not be familiar with many of you outside of Idaho, Gary has been training and riding event horses for many years. His daughter, Sara Mittleider, has competed at Rolex and has found success with multiple horses that she rides and trains at her family’s farm.

But the reason I know the name, is that Gary is my trainer’s trainer.

And for some reason I eagerly signed up to take a jump lesson on my trainer’s horse with her trainer. Oh, and when the group list came out I realized I would be riding my trainer’s horse, with her trainer and she’d also be riding in the lesson. Just the 3 of us.

Recipe for disaster.

I decided to make it even more fun by riding another horse- a lesson horse the barn had just purchased who I had ridden about 4 times and jumped once. He’s probably jumped a handful of times in his life. I had no idea how he would be in the lesson.

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Deputy the adorable QH

Well, let me recap for you.

Gary set up a grid. Three poles set 9ft apart followed by a 2 stride gap, followed by 4 more poles set 9ft apart. The 4th pole would eventually become a jump. It was a canter cadence and balance exercise. The gap in between poles would encourage horses to get quick and on the forehand, the poles afterwards would remind you of the cadence you needed before the jump, and hopefully you hadn’t changed anything just because there were some poles missing… After the grid developed you would make a sweeping left hand turn to a skinny cross rail¬†-riding as if there were still poles on the ground encouraging you to have an uphill, balanced ride.

It was a great exercise.

Deputy, the solid as a rock QH ¬†did not disappoint. Once I gave him the support he needed he handled each question easily. Man is he fun. He’s forward but responsive. He did not want to pick up his left lead, so we worked on that. I mean me, we worked on me, and how I can help him with that. (Note to self, looking down and leaning inward does NOT help). He handled the grid so well, and while it took some effort on my part, I was really surprised it wasn’t more difficult.

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whee!

I’d happily ride him again and even entertained the idea of half leasing him. Then I remembered I am short on both time and money.

I hopped off Deputy and onto Macy.

Warm up was tense and reactive. Sarah and Gary eyed me from the middle of the arena and I was like “this is going to be bad”.

After warm up Gary mentioned that I just seemed to be making too much effort. It shouldn’t be this tough. He knows Macy well, and told me he knows she “likes to argue,” so we have to keep from having arguments with her.

We went through the grid a couple of times and he called me over. He changed my leg position. Less heel, more thigh. What? Sarah and I had been working so hard on me having an effective lower leg! What?? Why would I take it off now? He could sense my confusion and said “Don’t take it off, just test the temperature with it. Don’t use it as a brace.”

Huh. ok.

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My toe could be more forward here, but mare is looking pretty happy.

It was kind of like magic.  I had the best ride on Macy I have ever had. At one point I even said out loud that I was having fun.

No head tossing, no arguing, it was like I was riding a super capable horse without all the baggage.

Like magic.

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This is her usual tail position on the backside

I’m not sure if she was having a good day, or missed Gary, or was happy to be riding with her BFF Rapid, but the entire ride was great. Huh. Maybe, just maybe, I’m learning to ride this mare.

Here’s a short video of the grid:

While it has been more about Macy than June lately, that’s about to change. Baby has been settling in SO well and there’s lots to report. So, be prepared for baby horse spam soon.

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