Sorry everyone. I know. I suck at blogging. I really meant to post this last week, but a lot happened and I just never really sat down to put all the video together until the other day. As I said in one of my previous posts, Amber did seem to like dressage better for the fact that I was helping to support her. I also know that dressage is a LOT of strength building – particularly in the hindquarters. And looking at her, she’s got a lot of muscle on the left side. Aaaaaand kind of none on the right side. Hey! Just like me! haha (I told Trainer G that Amber and I are 2 peas in a pod & perfect for each other because the both of us have the majority of our injuries on our right sides, and that we’re also too young to be this messed up – Amber arthritic and laminitic at 9, and me practically the same way at 28 lol)
Physical therapy is a pain, and hurts as you get stronger, but then once you’re stronger, you feel a lot better. I figure that Amber is never going to be or look perfectly sound, but I can help her stay as comfortable as possible, and if that’s by strengthening her body, then that’s what we’ll do. I loved Austen’s post about riding the older, unsound horse, and right now, I feel that’s where I am with Amber. Even tho she isn’t older, I’m not gonna lie that I feel a bit nervous posting video because of her arthritic knee, weak stifle, and recovering laminitic foot. But she loves to get out and be ridden, and I’m going to post the videos anyway. It may look bad as we go, and believe me, I’ve had my fair share of worrying that I’m doing too much, pushing her too hard, and she’s just not telling me no when I shouldn’t be doing this. But I can tell she’s so much happier. She nuzzles me after every ride. She’s been nickering at me more. She bumps my stomach as I’m putting the halter on as if to say “I’m so happy we’re going out, mom.” So, we may look lame, or off in videos, but whenever I release her to walk on a dropped rein, she’s always got her ears up.
Even though Trainer G is an h/j trainer, and does dressage in a way that aids jumping, she and I have a great trainer/student relationship. I know she’s always mindful of the horse and it’s abilities, so there was no one else I wanted to start up lessons with again. I was super happy that she was just as excited as I was to start up lessons again. It would be a lot easier for both of us doing lessons at our barn, so I was really looking forward to being able to ride my horse in our arena.
I had ridden Amber the previous week and Tuesday and Wednesday of lesson week. I had a long day Thursday so just walked around bareback on her, and I had Friday off. I had planned to ride, but had a good meet-up with my sister so I ended up not riding. Saturday we had sustained wind at 20 mph, so riding was out. This is definitely one reason I love being able to ride Amber again. I hadn’t really ridden her in 3 days, the wind brought a cool spell, it was still a bit breezy on Sunday, and I knew I would have to worry about absolutely none of it. She’s 9, broke, and is all business when I need her to be. What I wasn’t prepared to find was that my normally “I like to keep clean” pony had decided a pre-lesson nap was in order. And proceeded to sleep in her pee spot. After she’d gotten a bath on Wednesday so that we looked more presentable on Sunday. Oh, horses lol.
Either way we were saddled and ready when Trainer G got to us. It was a beautiful day – maybe about 78 degrees with a cool breeze – absolutely perfect. I will freely admit I was a little chilled when I first went out to tack up lol. Going from the 100s to mid-90s to 70s in about a week has been like whiplash for everyone here in Vegas – hence also why I’m sick. (I have been properly astonished to see how hot it is for everyone east of me/on the east coast and it’s practically noon here as I’m writing this and freaking 72 degrees. I can’t even lol since writing this tho, thankfully the majority of you guys have cooled off a bit!)
We started the lesson slow – a lot of walking, and Trainer G seeing how Amber and I worked together. It was awesome to have a lesson again, and on my pony (finally). There were just small things that I couldn’t tell from in the saddle that I needed to do differently: lower my outside hand, but raise the inside a little, thumb up on the left hand (I think that’ll be an eternal struggle lol). I loved how she told me to imagine I was riding Amber up a hill since I am definitely a tip-forward type of rider. That more than anything got my shoulders and my chin up! I could totally tell the difference after I started implementing that because Amber got a little lighter in front too. I explained to her that Amber can get behind the bit/vertical from her western training, and that I’ve been really careful with contact and whatnot since I really don’t want her doing that. I’d push her forward, but again, it was so good to have Trainer G’s eyes on the ground because I wasn’t pushing Amber forward quite enough. She’d dip and hide, but with a small cluck go forward and lift. She also had me shorten my reins a lot more than I usually do. I know as I was first introducing Amber to consistent rein contact, I’d have to have my reins pretty long, but shortening them really did help keep Amber more upright in her frame.
We did a lot of exercises at the walk as well. One was “standing up” on a front leg. I would transfer contact to the “inside” rein of the direction I was going, open my “outside” rein and use my same leg as the open rein to push her into the middle. It really helped to get Amber’s left side lighter – she’s pretty heavy on that left shoulder due to that right hind, so it was a bit of a no-brainer to work that into our lesson. I’ve worked with Amber plenty of other times on relatively similar exercises, but this one was certainly the best in getting Amber to pick herself up. She got a lot more responsive to my calf when I’d ask her to stand up on that shoulder as we walked/trotted a circle, and we’ve done that a lot since. We had a few fumbles on trot to walk transitions. I’d use my voice and she’s so attuned to that so she practically stopped haha. We figured out the best way was to sit quiet and still my whole body, and supporting ever so lightly with my leg. We’d have really good transitions then – just no talking haha. I did continue talking to her, and with every “good girl” she’d take a breath and try harder.
She tried her little heart out this lesson. We hardly did anything “big” but it was so much fun. We practiced leg yields at the walk as well, and thank god it was at the walk because me being me got directionally confused as usual lol. We were moving towards the rail, and Amber led with her shoulder, and Genevive kept saying “left rein” and my brain was like “yes, I use right rein” haha! So once we fixed me, our leg yields were much more successful lol. If Amber tried to lead with her shoulders, I’d just tighten my fingers, and firm up my arm holding that outside rein, and she responded just beautifully. Success!
There were other small things we worked on – straightness was always key, but we also ensured I completed my turns and kept Amber active even at a walk. She was definitely tired by the end – she was certainly doing a lot more targeted strength building than I’d been doing with her! But good girl as she always is she kept trying, and got many cookies afterwards lol. I was also super proud of her because only once did she think we would be cantering, and then settled right down into the work. I slathered her back, haunches, and legs with Sore-No-More, and she loved all the attention.
We have the incline to the barn from where the builders built up the pad, and there’s a wash off property that has an incline. Trainer G suggested we go up and down that for our strength building for Amber’s weak right side. So we’ve been doing the one near the barn a bit to start with. Amber is very confused about going up and down that, so hopefully sometime this weekend we’ll have a “trail ride” of inclines through that wash haha.
I’d meant to turn my helmet cam on for the lesson and forgot, so I have one of my previous rides to test out the larger SD card first, and my lesson videos my mom so wonderfully took for me second. One thing I didn’t realize is that I talk A LOT apparently. More than I’d originally thought I did lol. I’ve edited out the blank spaces of walking or not doing anything for both rides, so hopefully it’s a pleasant watch. I had another lesson scheduled for this weekend, and it was awesome. Amber felt great. Hopefully I’ll get that lesson recap out a little faster this time (although to be honest I sorta doubt it. Being very realistic here lol).
So, I may have gone kinda overboard. Oops lol.
First off, I’d noticed a trend before Amber’s surgery – she was infinitely more comfortable in her western wear than English. I thought perhaps it was just that she was more used to western, but I thought way back and remembered her easy transition once I’d gotten her jump saddle. The biggest difference? I had a Thinline half-pad and not an Ogilvy, even though she liked the latter for a time. But with her losing so much muscle, I really need something I could shim – even her dressage saddle is a little wide for her.
I will probably sell one of my Ogilvy pads (so if anyone is looking for one, please let me know! I’d love to sell it to a fellow blogger), but keep at least one. I’m loathe to part with a lot of my things I don’t use right now because whatever horse I get next may like different things than Amber.
But anyway. I’d been eyeing the full sheepskin half-pad. Because Amber is a special unicorn – not as special as some horses, thank god – but I want her as comfortable as I can help her be. And if half pads with support, and no neoprene ever is all she really asks for, then it’s hers lol. (I chose the fluffy because perhaps more cushion? I don’t know if she’ll notice the difference but we’ll see lol) But, you know, cue the “I don’t think I’ll be able to ride my horse for a while” thoughts and so for a long while I just dreamed and sighed of All The Things.
Then we got the go ahead for continued light riding. Then Trainer G said absolutely to dressage rides. So naturally, I completely fell apart and bought EVERYTHING.
The Thinline pad I wanted was on sale. AND it had my size where it didn’t previously. Well, what am I waiting for?! SOLD. Through some testing before it got to me, I found that the thickest foam front piece from my xc ECP pad was just the right thickness to shim up her dressage saddle. So a bit of MacGyver-ing later, and my ECP foam inserts are now being used in my Thinline. I will probably end up getting actual Thinline shims in the future, but for right now, this is perfect!
PS of Sweden was releasing their new fall line – they call it Jade but it totally looks teal to me. Anyway, I LOVE teal/turquoise. I dyed my hair teal. Once teal/turquoise became the “it” color for the year a few years ago, I bought everything in those colors because it was so hard to find any other time. And I can ACTUALLY RIDE now, so obvi, I was getting this whole set. It was waaaaaaay too expensive, but WORTH IT. I’ve missed out on their French blue, mint green, and other lovely colors because a) it IS expensive and b) I had no horse to ride, so now that I do I’m buying this one. Not to mention, this teal set is accented with brown and gold, and finding my fav colors accented with warm tones is actually way more difficult than one would think. I prefer warm colors, but a lot of things are accented with blacks/greys and silver and finding a warm color combination that I really like doesn’t happen often haha.
Plus, I need new dressage reins, cause my long braided ones totally don’t work (hint: they actually do work), and I still needed a certain amount to get PS’s free shipping, so what the hell, let’s buy reins to match my bridle. Because why the hell not. And they’re nice. I think Amber does actually really like the elastic in the reins, even though she didn’t when it was on the bridle. I’ll probably cut off the running stops they came with since I bought the snap-on ones. If I ever need a running martingale with the next horse I’d buy, I’d use the PS of Sweden running attachment that has the clips since that really is so much easier than the running attachments that you have to thread through the reins.
I also didn’t have stirrup leathers either! The horror. Just jump leathers that I’ve been using because do we ride much, if at all? Ah, no. I’ve been dying to try the Lund leathers, so a hop, skip, and a jump over to Lund and now I have new stirrup leathers (tho they haven’t arrived yet). To be fair, looking at short videos/pictures of me riding that my mom has taken, I really DO need new leathers because my jump ones are on hole 5 or 6 so I don’t have a lot more room to drop my stirrups down haha. So, uh, it was actually a needed purchase if I was going to keep riding dressage.
My horse stuff is taking over my poor parent’s spare room – ahhh, AND part of the sunroom, actually lol – so before all of this happened I finally bought a tack trunk to put all of my “not using right now and probably for a long time” items. I have a lot of loose leather items, too – the extra chin pad and strap that I got with my PS bridle, my gorgeous beads for my DJD browband, my chin straps for western bridles, extra spur straps – you name it. I kept losing things and finding them randomly, and while that’s normal for me, I really like all of my strap goods and I want to keep them all in one place. Now I have everything organized, and it looks pretty good.
I think this all just exploded because I’ve been super strict on myself to not buy anything horsey that wasn’t absolutely needed for about a year and a half.
Oh, lord. I really need to sell things. Anyone need anything? Black jump leathers? Breeches? Ogilvy half pad? A bling dressage pad? lol
So, I don’t need to buy anything for a while. And yet…. I do know that if RW has one of their 20% off sales, I am totally taking advantage of it and grabbing another BoT dressage pad and their therapeutic mesh sheet because Amber does seem to go a lot better when wearing the BoT pad I have now. Plus Weatherbeeta has a gorgeous French blue dressage pad. You know, since I missed the PS one…. Now that I can ride again I really need to keep telling myself I don’t need more stuff lol.
What about you guys? Have you gotten anything new?
I think Amber is part cat. I swear she has 9 lives.
Either way, I’m gonna do a (kind of) small recap.
In June 2012, I bought Amber as a 2yr old and brought her home with me.
July 2012, Amber got out of her pasture, and sustained a career ending injury – at least a dozen bone chips in her right knee, and – we were later to find out – damage to her hocks and right stifle. Only, it wasn’t career-ending, and 4 months later, to my hope and the vets’ astonishment – she was sound.
In 2015 she came to Texas with me, where a vet discovered that her hocks had sustained minor stress fractures from her injury in 2012. These were completely healed by then and didn’t affect her physically, but we theorized that sliding stops reminded her of that initial injury, so competitive reining was off the table.
In April of 2016, I watched the Kentucky cross country and show jumping live feed, and fell in love with eventing. Amber and I pressed on for our western showing goals, and even won a buckle.
Mid 2016, it looked like she’d gotten cast in her stall, and was lame on that right hind leg for about 3 days before it seemed to work itself out after I checked her over for a month as she still looked fine. (My mom and I later discussed a lot that Amber hadn’t had an issue before, but getting cast possibly set the ball rolling for the degeneration of that stifle)
In mid 2017, I got my English saddle, the horses moved home, and I was able to slip in some dressage work to show Amber English and western, and we won our western performance buckle that now permanently lives on my blingiest belt.
November 2017, just after the last show, we finally realized why she’d felt very slightly off, and scheduled her stifle debridement for January 2018.
December 2017 Amber decided to slam her jaw somehow into something, and cracked a tooth. Surgery was cancelled, and her tooth was pulled. It was expected that she’d be healed in a month. April 2018, after an abscess in her jaw and 4 months of the initial drain incision taking forever to heal, bone chips from her jaw finally come out, and she was cleared for surgery.
May 2018 she had a super positive surgery, and she healed very quickly.
July 2018 we were all scratching our heads. For as well as she’d seemed to heal, she now wasn’t – not really.
The first day of August 2018 we discovered she had laminitis and only 0.4 centimeters of sole left in her RH. We got her boots, immediate stall rest, and I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to be able to ride my horse after this. Everyone around me was positive, but my vet and I could both see that it wasn’t a situation that was likely to have a positive outcome.
The end of October 2018 found her to have grown a really good amount of sole – more than the vet was hoping or expecting (which is always a plus). Still strict stall rest, still soft ride boots, and another appointment 2 months later.
The January 2019 appointment was more good news, so I finally started to let myself hope that maybe I’d get to at least ride my horse at a walk sometime in the near future.
June 2019 the heel of her coffin bone was pretty low, stressing that back tendon, so we put her in a shoe and slightly wedged pad. This would test to see how her foot grew with a shoe and pad instead of being stuck in boots this whole time.
August 2019 check up saw her foot at its best so far, and she’s been moving consistently better in the past 3 months. Good enough that I got a go ahead for very light riding, and as I’ve been riding her more consistently over two or three weeks, she has definitely been happier. The little bit of work has felt like it’s been helping her body feel better too – physical therapy after her injuries, if you will.
And now, just a little over a year later, Amber and I had our very first dressage lesson together on Sunday, something that I never thought I would be able to do with her after that diagnosis.
This little mare, you guys. She’s such a miracle pony. Apparently, she isn’t done just yet. One thing is for sure – she’s going to keep me on my toes with all of her surprises!
More on that dressage lesson next post!
I’ve uh…really been meaning to blog. Honestly. But when you’re trying really hard to do this –
– the small things get put on the back burner (basically anything fun lol).
Well, except riding, thankfully.
However many weeks ago (maybe 2 now…?) the vet came out to help us with Kahlua and trimming her feet (I also swear I WILL give you guys a Kahlua update er….sometime?), I spoke briefly to the vet about Amber’s progression. I wanted to chat with him a little more, but he had an appointment to get to so I could only tell him about how Amber seemed to be doing. After her very positive visit at the beginning of August, I’ve been riding her very lightly – walking, jogging, and cantering only a little, and just the few times she’d offered – but she has actually felt pretty good. A lot more stable, like both hinds aren’t bothering her as much.
He said to go ahead and keep doing what I was doing, keep her up in light riding, and see how she’s doing next visit.
I think I lost some hearing after he said that. Was just a bit in a daze, wondering if I was hearing correctly. Thankfully, I really was hearing right, so Amber and I have played around a bit. I mostly rode western, but just wanted to wear my English get-up a bit, and took a shot at doing dressage things like we did a year-ish ago. And Amber remembered. My smart little mare remembered it all. Plus, it actually seemed like she liked the dressage a little better. Sure she needed to up her pace versus her baby western jog, but I was helping support her, whereas in western I let her support herself, and I think that was easier for her in a lot of ways. After a few more short rides with her doing well, I switched up her tack back to her dressage stuff.
It feels amazing to ride again. We’re really just doing walk/trot, with the occasional tiny canter just to feel how she’s doing. I’m hoping that with the walk/trot work we can work off a bit of that scar tissue that’s around her stifle. I don’t think her gaits will ever look normal, but I really don’t want to subject her (or myself) to more surgery. It’ll be what it’ll be; I’m just happy I can ride her occasionally again, and I know that she’s very happy to be working (lightly) again.
My sister is doing really well – walking around and continuing to get better. Good news all around for her, so we’re all very relieved and glad that she’s not any more worse for the wear than she already is after her accident.
I’ve been planning to go to Kentucky next year, and I’m pretty excited. I LOVED going in 2017, and can’t wait to see it all again! I had so much fun last time I went, and can’t wait for the early bird tickets to open up in October. I’m going to make it into a nice vacay and head to South Carolina to visit family after the show is done.
Other than that, not much is going on so far!
Ya’ll. It’s been a whirlwind. But I am so, so thankful, because I received good news about Amber, and my sister was released from the hospital Tuesday.
As I was drawing up some plans with Amber to blog about, I got the call Friday afternoon that she’d been in a motorcycle accident. Thankfully no other vehicles involved, but honestly, with where she was and how she fell, if it had happened any other way, we’re pretty sure she wouldn’t be here. So I am so so thankful that her accident wasn’t any worse.
Her special motorcycle gear protected her where she needed to be protected. She injured her knee pretty badly and broke her pinky, but other than that she’s okay, and as I’m sure any of you guys know she could’ve come out of that a lot worse. She’s staying with my parents so I’ll get to see her every day, but she’s already shuffling around well so we’re all pretty sure she’ll heal up quickly.
I’ll be taking care of puppy Rebel, so I definitely won’t be blogging much again between helping my sister, work, and dog/horse duties, but I’m just glad I’m here and I can help. So I’ll be MIA for a bit again in terms of blogging, but I’ll still be following all of you guys and your adventures!
Sorry for leaving you guys hanging! I attended the Women’s Leadership Conference or WLC in Vegas this year, and left on Sunday. I thought I may still have time to blog buuuuuuut apparently not haha. It was really good though, and I highly recommend it. But let’s get to the news!
Last Amber saw the vet 8 weeks ago, she’d worn down her sole to where she was very uncomfortable, and her coffin bone was pretty straight, so she needed a wedge pad that could take the pressure off of her back tendon. So, she got a full set of shoes again, and my farrier lopped off all of that extra toe. More could still come off, but obviously there’s only so far you can take a hoof down in one trimming.
But her x-rays and feet went from looking like this:
To looking like this:
You can bet I’m feeling pretty damn good about that. Just a big breath of relief. Looks like we’ve found a perfect angle, and having shoes on the hind feet and a pad is all just the right mix for her. That’s A LOT of sole that she grew, which is super positive. Even Doc said that in all her x-rays she’s never grown this much hoof, which is excellent. A definite “yes” that we’re on the right track again! I know she’s happy – she really really hated those boots lol.
Doc also said that she’ll probably have a very normal-looking foot. While that’s a plus, I’m certainly not too worried even if it’d look abnormal. It’d just get trimmed in the way it functioned the best. It’s still a positive, though, so you can bet that I’m taking that too haha! Her front feet are looking positive as well, and I think she’s a lot more comfortable.
But the best news?
She should be pretty rideable in another 4 to 6 months!
Not anything like we used to, and mostly a let’s-putz-around-trail-horse. She can probably do a bit of loping here and there, but mostly long walks and some trotting, and that’s more than I thought I’d get a while back, so yeah I am extremely happy lol.
Part of what I wanted to try that was low-key and low-impact for her was liberty. She already follows me around mostly, so I figured that maybe we can turn it into something else we do together. We’ll see how it goes lol. I’ve never made her following me into a job, so now that I can start doing a wee bit more riding I may not do liberty too extensively.
Her right hind is still short, still hitches a wee bit. But the more I get her out to just walk around, the better it gets each time. I think part of it is that it’ll never be 100% and has some scar tissue blockage there. The other part I think is that she still expects that left hind to hurt, even if she’s feeling better, which I can totally understand. I rode her over the weekend, and I’m going to hopefully hop on her 3-4 times a week now. Mostly just walking, and maybe at most 15 minutes because it’s god-awful hot for anything longer if it’s not at 5 am or pitch-black out lol. But I’ll be monitoring her every ride.
Ya’ll, this little girl really is a miracle pony. Even Doc said that she’s really been surprising him with how well she’s doing. It’s certainly a relief!
Oh boy. I haven’t blogged in…..just over a month apparently. There hasn’t really been much to blog on, but it’s really got nothing to do with there being no news in general with Amber. Mostly, it’s because shit’s just been really hard. Just be prepared – this is a bit of a life-rant lol.
A lot of this has been brewing since mid-January, and then just piling on from there. I started having severe back pain mid-January, and it was so bad I had to stay home from work. Turns out we’re pretty sure I have a bulging disc in my lower back. Hurray. This does put a damper on riding though not a lot thank god because riding absolutely helps it – but I’ve had to change a lot of what I do every day. Also since February, I’ve been in a near-constant state of exhaustion, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t even function as a human (at least, more than usual). Turns out, my mattress ended up the culprit. It wasn’t meant for a bulging disc, and after sleeping for 11 hours straight on my old mattress at my parent’s house when they went to get Kahlua… Well, a new bed was for sure in order. It’s all paid off – my back is doing well now, and I’m actually sleeping and feeling better.
I’m also realizing pulling myself out of this constant state of exhaustion didn’t help me with my last class. I felt ready to start my class in June but I think I should’ve waited once I found out about the sleep deprivation, especially since my coworker decided right as I started the class to cut back their hours to only two days a week, which means that I then started working three 10-hr shifts a week. I had a week to cancel, but I thought I could do it. Hindsight, I suppose. I have been behind the entire time in this particular class, and finally got all of my assignments turned in Wednesday. Aaaaand the class ended Sunday. But I finished? And got a B so I don’t have to retake it? Silver lining, I guess?
July just has not been good for me, and everything that I got behind on in life due to the exhaustion is now catching up to me like a freight train, too.
I’ve had some fun things interspersed in all this, but it hasn’t been much. It’s just been a lot to try to handle these last few months, and unfortunately, it isn’t going to get any easier as I try to fix all the things that fell by the wayside. Unfortunately, it also hasn’t just been one thing; it’s been all aspects – work, school, food, and even free time. It’s been a shit show.
It’s probably not gonna be pretty for a while, and I’ll make more mistakes as I try to fix things, but you gotta do what you gotta, right? So, I’m changing a few things. Work is starting to improve. I’m done with my class so that’s a load off as I rest in August before taking another one. In the food aspect I’ve had to really change things around, too. I started cooking more instead of getting frozen foods. I have some old Blue Apron recipes that I can remake or mix and match, so that’s an easy way to “meal plan” because I really really hate meal planning, and it’s pretty easy to make those simpler. So far, it’s all been helping, and I’m actually a bit surprised how much changing my food is helping. I now think I was low-key starving myself. I was eating, but none of what I was eating had the right nutrients in it whatsoever to actually provide my body with what it needed. So now that it is getting the nutrients it needs, I’m feeling better.
But I think that, to balance my life and get some of my former confidence back, I need to start doing something horsey again. Horses are my spirit booster, and no riding has a part of my brain a bit depressed, I think. I’m brainstorming things to do with Amber, and have kind of come up with something. It’s low key, no pressure, but gives the both of us something new to learn and something to do together, and I’ll post on it later once I actually do it a little and get some media lol. I want to do lessons again, but there are just a lot of extenuating circumstances that make it not quite feasible at the moment. In a weak moment I very nearly bought a yearling filly that has very similar bloodlines to Amber (I messaged the owner and everything so it was very close haha). She pretty much ticked ALL of my weakness boxes, but I have nowhere to put a second horse even as a resale project soooooo lol. Plus, Amber had a vet appointment on Tuesday with good, positive news (which I’ll post later, too), so that has really boosted my mood.
So, uh, yeah. Thanks for listening/reading, guys. I always appreciate everyone that comments, and if you’ve gotten to this part in my life-rant, congrats and thanks lol. I live vicariously through all of you guys!
There’s not much progress, but hey, I’m gonna take what I can get haha. Go slow to go fast, right?
There really wasn’t much to update last Friday. I had decided to try what had seemed to work before: when I backed off, Kahlua picked it up and handed it back to me. So I stopped feeding her grain every night, and just started working around her like she’d been there forever. Within two days of no grain, I could see her eat dinner, and then wait for me to come with it. I gave it another day. And on Wednesday got this.
She very much wanted to be a pocket donkey, and was very confused that I hadn’t given her grain haha. But I just let her sniff my empty hand, and she got within about a foot of me and was just sniffing and sniffing. I figured this was good for her eventually not needing treats of course haha. So I gave her grain on Thursday, and since there hadn’t been anything that really happened with her up until that point, I figured I’d wait a week to post again.
Well Friday, I grabbed some carrots, and cut them into pieces – enough for Kahlua and the girls – and gave Whisper and Amber a few. By the time I got to Kahlua, she had noticed that Whisper and Amber had gotten nom-noms, and was waiting with long ears pricked just outside of the covered stall. As I got closer, her little nostrils flared and her sides heaved. No bray, but she was making these adorable little grunts in the back of her throat as she greeted me! Cutest thing ever.
Then on Tuesday she just walked right up to me IN the stall portion! It’s still an area of discomfort for her, so for her to feel brave/comfortable enough to do that…. I took a chance and figured that maybe now she was ready for a little more people contact. So I dumped some grain in my hand…
She turned right around and came back to me as I moved to the outside portion of her stall since that’s where she’s the most comfortable. She shook her head again and did her little buck (which we laughed at) but didn’t even hesitate coming up to me again. And, we got this:
Yay! First time taking grain from my hand.
Throughout the next week I’ve been off and on, and she definitely notices now when I don’t give her some grain! haha! She’s started to stare at me through the divider as I muck Whisper’s stall LOL.
She took some more grain from my hand Wednesday, but I’m making it an “optional” thing and occasionally giving her treats instead to help her confidence grow. She’s let me blow in her nose now, and avidly sniffed back, and aside from an initial brush on her nose with my forefinger, there hasn’t really been much touching. But I’m enjoying taking my time with this and trying something new by gentling a burro lol.
I may not have a Weenie Wednesday, or a Schnauzer Sunday, but I figured I could create Kahlua Friday!
It will be good for me to write down my process with Kahlua, and a few people requested I chronicle my adventures with her, so here we are! This initial post may be pretty long – I can completely wax poetic because first off I love to write, and second I’m a very cerebral person, so I really get into nitty gritty details and the hows and whys behind the things I do. Just to prepare you guys lol.
I hadn’t given much thought to how I’d work with Kahlua until I was around her for a few days. Having grown up wild was going to be a challenge, not to mention how often I’d heard people say that burros are exceptionally smart – they’re exactly like those horses that are the least forgiving. They remember everything, and if you make a mistake… Well, I knew two horses like that, and worked with one, and let’s just say that it did not go well for us. So I was determined to approach Kahlua much differently, but had to get a feel for her first.
When in college, I worked with halter-broke colts for 2 years as part of my classes, then for another 2 years in Texas. A few weren’t halter broke, but I specifically remember that one of the methods that we were instructed to do was to run the horse around the round pen until they looked at you. I don’t like that. For me, personally, it’s really hard for the horse to clearly understand what you want when everything is so fast paced. I really believe in “to go faster, go slow.” It’s worked for me a lot more than too much pressure. Not to mention, that was for horses, and Kahlua will not be ridden. Just enough to get her comfortable with haltering, grooming, farrier, and perhaps loading. But, as we needed a way to get her more curious about people, I had to come up with something that would entice her.
My mom started feeding her apple and carrot pieces, and some of our apple treats. Since I was going to be the one working with her, I wanted to use either the apple treats or grain as my training tools. In that first week I started feeding her small portions of my Ultium grain. Initially, she wouldn’t eat from a bucket, and I wanted her to see that this pile was different, so I put the grain on the dirt. We switched a bucket for a large, round, low profile fortex bucket, in lieu of the fact that the bucket could be seen as restrictive and too-enclosing over her head. After she’d gotten more used to the grain, I put her alfalfa and grain in the fortex. It took her five adorable back and forth minutes, but she realized the bucket was a-okay and has been eating there ever since.
Even after a few days, tho, I could tell Kahlua was going to be my kind of girl: kind, sensitive, smart, watchful, and challenging – a combo that’s really rewarding when patience and hard work pays off. I wanted to let her settle for a bit, but for the whole week with us she was turning towards us, looking at us, so I figured tapping into something that she already did would be a perfect way to start getting her to come towards us.
As with all training, when I decided to do just that, it wasn’t happening lol.
She wouldn’t step towards me, so I made the decision that one step was all I needed, no matter how small that step was. I’d step in close, then back away, try to draw her to me as that had worked throughout the week. No dice. She’d move her shoulders away, and leave her butt facing me, but this is why I love ones like her that are super sensitive. Just a few steps towards her butt, a few ticks of my tongue, and she’d move her butt away. She’d try to move too far forward, so just a few steps back, and she’d stop since I was blocking her shoulders. I was very careful doing this, not moving too fast – she was against the fence, and the last thing I wanted was for her to feel trapped and to lash out because of it.
After about 5 minutes of this calm back and forth – which for sure felt waaaaaay longer haha – she finally took that one little step towards me with her left front. I praised her, dumped the grain as quickly and non-threateningly as possible on the ground and proceeded to make myself as small as possible exiting the stall so that she would hopefully understand that by doing what I wanted – moving towards me – she got what she wanted – no pressure/people. I had finished cleaning her stall, so for a good half hour I made sure to leave her alone and not go near her.
The next morning she was pretty wary. My mom told me she’d move away from her pretty quickly, and while I felt guilty because that’s what us horse people do, there was really nothing that could have gone better the previous night, short of her immediately facing me like she had before. So I had to work to let that go haha, but then was super happy to realize that throughout the day, she’d improved greatly, and by the time I came by to feed, she was back to being curious. Perhaps any human interaction like that had preceded a few worrisome experiences for her so that’s why she was wary, but I was determined to go at her pace and not work with her for at least a few days.
Go figure, as I was mucking her stall, what does she do? She bravely steps towards me. One foot, but she did. And I had no grain. So I laughed, told her she was a brave, smart girl, finished mucking, and walked back in. I hadn’t planned on it, but she had certainly got the memo from last night, and I had to reward the try. So I stood there with grain, shoulders perpendicular to hers, and within a minute or so she took a short step, and I repeated dumping the grain. This time tho, she was in front of the door, so I smooshed myself into the corner of the stall. Knowing grain now, she ate it while I was in there, and it caused her to take a few more steps towards me. She looked at me for a bit, then decided that was enough and moved away which still had me smiling as I calmly exited.
From that point, about mid-second week, she’s been making huge leaps by taking a lot of steps towards us. She’s very curious but cautious, which doesn’t surprise me, but I’m loving how smart she is. I’ve made sure to rattle my cup with grain whenever I have it for her, and by last weekend she would hear it and practically come running! She’s gotten less nervous about me going from a crouch to a stand, but is still a bit wary of stand to crouch – which, yeah totally understandable from a prey perspective lol. Even still, I’ve let her dictate how close she chooses to get to us. I haven’t needed to encourage her hardly at all after teaching her that 1 step those 2 or 3 times, and I’m more than happy to go slow.
Last Friday she got within about 2 or 3 feet of me by her own choice. I had two apple treats, and she stared at them, but didn’t make any move towards them. So I tossed them to her – which she’s also super smart and understood within about 2 or 3 days that we’d toss her treats so don’t be scared of them – and I was super surprised but very pleased she felt brave enough to eat them with me crouched there. I poured her grain and backed out again.
That Sunday she very nearly took the treat from me. She stretched out her neck a little, definitely wanting it and about 3 or 4 inches away from my hand, but just couldn’t bring herself to. No problem. I tossed her the treat and she ate it. I held out a second for her, and she really thought about taking that one, then decided it was too much and turned away. But she came right back up to me, within a few feet again and close enough to take the treat. What more could I ask for? So I tossed her the treat with a big smile, poured her grain and stepped out.
She’s not backing away as much, not as worried about us, so it’s still steps forward to me! She’s gotten a lot more comfortable with us walking around. She’s not as startled when we appear behind the barn, or when I enter Whisper’s stall to muck. I still call out to her to warn her I’m coming around, and she’s gotten used to the cadence of my voice when I do that, as well as listening for our footsteps. She’s learning really fast, and is still very sweet even though some of her personality and sass is beginning to show through. I’m hoping that she really does like it here.
She’s nearly there taking treats from our hands. A couple times Tuesday evening she scared herself after bumping her nose against the treat in my hand. She definitely likes laughter, because after she scared herself and backed a few steps I couldn’t help but snort out a laugh, and those little radar ears swiveled towards me like “I like that!” and then she came up closer. She’s getting curious, too. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that same Tuesday, that she is very intrigued by affection. She was within a foot of my back as I loved on Whisper because Whisper was craving some face-cuddle time, and Kahlua just watched me snuggling Whisper’s face. It was sweet.
Wednesday was another one of those days. When you think it’ll work to start messing with them, it doesn’t go as you hope. And then when you decide to back off a step, they’re like no, keep going! lol I wondered a little if Kahlua was wising up to the fact that while she gets treats/grain if she steps forward, if she doesn’t take a treat from our hand we toss it to her anyway. So I talked to her while mucking, telling her I was going to leave her alone, but no grain today and we’ll see how that all pans out. Aaaaaaand she walks straight up to me when I’m done, her nose within two feet of me, and then we just comfortably look at each other. And stare. So I thought – eh, what the hell – and reached out my hand. I didn’t have any treats, but she stretched that nose forward, and touched my hand with her little left nostril. Instead of startling herself, she just sort of moved her head away like she was still unsure. But not scared, so I just backed away a bit, smiling and saying, “okay, well, apparently you understand me because you get grain now.” lolol
I’m mostly winging all this, but it’s all still rooted in how I’ve worked with horses before. For one as sensitive as she is, going slow and making things clear-cut for her is my main focus. She’s taken it from there, which is what I hoped, and the only thing I want from her is to want to come near me. I want her to know that if we get a little too close and she’s nervous, that we back away, and I feel that while it’s a small thing for us, it’s big for her, which has helped her become a lot more comfortable with us. She’s certainly gotten more comfortable with the barn – she’s using it to scratch all of her itches!
And then just yesterday……
Woohoo! She took the apple piece right from my hand! We’re getting there!
She’s really fascinating, and stands sentry just watching everything that’s happening around the barn. She got used to the train very quickly, and Whisper has shown remarkable improvement now that she knows Kahlua is keeping her watchful gaze on everything. She woke my parents up one night because she finally brayed! lol We’re thinking that perhaps the coyotes were out and she was giving her warning to them or Amber and Whisper, or who knows perhaps it was nothing, but we’re really enjoying having her.
I think she already knows her name. Her radar ears swivel towards us when we say “Kahlua.” It’s the cutest freakin thing. The flies are really bad near her eyes, and she got a small scrape probably from scratching. It’s kinda hard to see them all ganging up on her, but there’s not much we can do about it right now. I laugh so hard every time, but the scrape is near her eye, and her ears are so long that if she shakes her head just right, the tip of her ear flops against the scrape and dislodges the flies. I have yet to get a video because I’m chortling so badly. She just looks at me like she wants in on the joke lol.
But I’m having a good time working with her. I like that there’s no pressure for her, no pressure for me – be it an outside source or self-inflicted. I feel that her coming to us, and us petting her will be hardest obstacle to overcome, but once the mountain is crossed, it’ll be downhill from there. She’s so smart that I think once she has more confidence and trust in us, things like her feet for the farrier or haltering will be pretty straightforward. At least that’s my hope!
That’s all for now! Hopefully I’ll have some more improvement to talk next week!
I’ve gotten a few new things – some aren’t very recent, but they are still pretty new to me since I haven’t used them much yet. Some I’ve used more than others, but for the most part they’re still “new.”
Best In Blue Equestrian – Diamond Hickstead belt
I love my Mango Bay belts – they have fun designs, and are cloth, which conforms to my shape much better than leather belts. But what conforms even better than cloth? Elastic.
I have been looking and looking and looking for a black belt that’s me. I nearly bought one of Mango Bay’s graphite and black belts, but it was more grey than black, and I never liked the design or colors enough to just buy it. On a random “let’s check this out for shits and giggles” after Karen posted about the belts and they intrigued me, I saw the Hickstead belt on Best in Blue’s website. They had 1 left of the black diamond. It was perfect. All black with a top and bottom row of fine silver thread with little diamonds. Not loud at all. Subtle, and a little sparkly, which is definitely me.
What caught my eye the most was the surcingle clip. I’ll be honest and say I am insecure about my tummy, so when I wear higher-waist pants, belts with buckles and even the Mango Bay belts just felt like it was drawing attention to something I was already self-conscious about. I’m sure most people never notice, but we’re our own worst critics. The surcingle clip is ridiculously slimming. So much so, that I am wearing this belt with my work pants, and relatively anything that needs a belt. It’s crazy – it’s stretchy enough to be extremely comfortable since I sit all day, so it doesn’t compress my stomach, but that stretch is strong so my pants/breeches do not slip more than a 1/2 inch. Which, to be honest, even some leather belts that I’ve had on tight still let my pants fall like an inch or so. And I’ve had this belt since about February and wear it at least 3 times a week. So I am very impressed with it. I need more haha. I like the navy one, so I may nab that one as my regular-clothes one, and it looks like you can request a different color, so maybe I’ll request a brown one for breeches in the near future? We’ll see!
GH Morris – Add Back knee patch breeches
I was VERY hesitant to buy these breeches. They specifically say slim fit, and I am not built for slim fit. They were on sale tho for $50 – I think a new years or Christmas or something sale; I don’t remember lol – but RW is always good about returns, so I figured what the hell, let’s just try them because I was absolutely in love with that rust color. I sized up because of the slim fit, and I’m glad I did. My thighs wouldn’t have fit into my normal size lol. The waist was fine tho, if a little big. They’re definitely built for – you guessed it – women that are slimmer than I with perhaps more of a straight shape versus hourglass like me.
I have actually been very pleasantly surprised by these breeches. The fabric feels lovely, but I am the most pleased with the breeches’ stretch. I am used to bending down or squatting, and feeling my pants pull at the waist. I usually need to hike up the knee area before doing that, even in yoga or work out pants. I went to sit down and these didn’t pull AT ALL. It was like there was a different set of fabric around my legs versus my butt; I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that with pants haha. The size up is juuuuuuuust this side of tight, but while they look a little tight, they really don’t feel that way due to the stretch over my thighs. They do feel a bit tight on my calves; but that’s par for the course on a slim fit for me, and I did know they had a slimmer calf fit, so I knew that buying them. Once I’ve sweat it’s difficult to pull them off, so I have to just pull them off inside out lol.
Otherwise, I like these. A lot more than I thought I would. I would buy another pair, but perhaps just one, and only if it was a to-die-for color (like that wine pair OMG), and on a bit of a sale, even if $109 at RW is not bad and they’re on sale now for $62….. But, despite it’s awesome stretch, the Grand Prix breeches just still fit my shape the best and are the most comfortable to wear. I’d still recommend these tho!
IRH helmet – IR4G navy matte helmet
I have been lusting after this helmet since April 2017 lol. I grabbed the Ovation helmet just before trying this one on, but it’s the single, best-fitting helmet I’ve ever stuck on my head. I have a round head and a low profile, so most helmets I tried on – even ones made for round heads – hit the tops of my ears and really made them hurt. They also came too low in the back, and I also have a smaller size head of 6 3/4. But this IRH helmet fit my head like a glove, and it was not only on clearance price already, but RW had a 20% off of everything including clearance items on their Memorial Day sale, which made the helmet come in at about $103. Damn good price, so I figured I may as well just snap it up.
The small fits just like it has every time I’ve put it on my head. It’s a wee bit tight, but that’s brand new padding and I’ve never sweat in it, so I’m thinking the padding will condense a little with more wear. There is definitely no room to put my hair up in it, but I prefer it that way. My mom used to tuck my hair in my helmet as a kid, and I remember MANY shows where my scalp would itch so badly that I’d spend nearly five minutes scratching it when I could finally take my helmet off. I do not fancy itching like that again, so my hair will be outside the helmet but tucked away in a net. You know….. whenever it is that I manage to compete again lol. The helmet will probably stay in its box until I have a lesson next or… something, but I guess I have it now? lol
I’m pretty close to buying this tack trunk from Schneider’s. My mom won one as an end-of-year award with Whisper. Now that I’m not riding consistently, my stuff is EVERYWHERE in my parents’ house so it doesn’t get dusty in the tack room. It’s a big, deep trunk that’s easy to move so I can organize all of my stuff – or at least my English stuff – into one place.
And because Amber’s stuff is everywhere, I can’t find a few of her things, go figure. So, a tack trunk to help me clean and stay organized. Awesome. Likely, it will become messy and stuff will just get tossed in there like I usually do, but it’ll work for at least a little while lol.
Since I now have a ton of them, I’m working on a breeches guide. It’s mostly finished – I just need to get pictures of me in all of them haha. Hopefully I’ll have it out soon.
Amber got another check up Tuesday.
It’s meh news. Her foot doesn’t look better. Compared to our last set of x-rays, it looks worse. She doesn’t have as much sole growth, and she’s rolling to the outside of her foot and collapsing the heel angle, which isn’t surprising because she’s basically walking on her sole on the inside of the hoof. That is certainly no bueno. The other problem is that since she’s rolling her heel and it’s now very low, she’s stressing that tendon.
Seeing where her coffin bone is now makes a lot of sense. My spidey sense have been tingling, which is why I made the appointment in the first place. The angles just kept looking off, she was cocking that left leg more often, shifting her weight a little more often, starting to keep her left hind more forward than her right as she eats (which isn’t her go-to position) – all due to very little sole growth and strain. When I saw the underside of her foot, I knew I needed an appointment so I’m glad my suspicions were right. I’m not sure whether it’s fortunate or not that she’d be better with shoes on her hinds (I’m thinking fortunate lol), but we’re thinking she just really wore down the sole that she’d grown even for those 12 hours her foot was out of the boot.
Choco is still her very cute self and doing well. She turns 15 in a week!
Since we can really see what’s going on now, doc wants to put a wedge shoe with a pad on her left hind. Or at least, after talking with my farrier, she’ll probably have a regular shoe and a wedged pad because they don’t make wedge shoes for hind feet. Either way I’m all for it. I really don’t like the angle of that foot, and giving her a heel lift will take the strain off of that tendon. I’m also all for the idea because Amber will be ecstatic to have those boots off permanently haha. Her right foot is still looking awesome, so thankfully no worries there, and I think that will just get a regular steel shoe. We should be able to get it all figured out soon and get a shoe on that foot hopefully soon. The pad should help her sole to grow more – or at least I’m hoping it will.
On some more “updating” news, remember this teensy puppy?
Well, she’s still ridiculously adorable, but definitely growing into a big, fearless girl that loves people.
And also, because it’s the most adorable thing ever, here is a video of Kahlua eating carrot pieces. You’re welcome. She has now also been given Radar Ears as a nickname LOL.
Well, we’ve adopted a burro!
Or, well, technically, my parents adopted the burro.
But my mother is excited because she volunteered for me to halter break Kahlua and teach her to have her feet done.
Yes, uh…. well, thanks, mom lol.
She was just a rockstar for the trip, and hasn’t yet made a peep, but she has a very kind face, and I think we’re all in love with how much her ears flop when she shakes her head lol. Either way, it was an amusing situation all around. We left Whisper in the arena while we opened the pen panels to let her in so that she have as low-stress an unloading situation as possible. Amber could see Kahlua through her door, and proceeded to give “what the Fs” while we were letting her settle. Amber has totally seen wild burros before, and they’ve often come within 2 feet her previous stall. So her OMG-ness was pretty funny.
Until she started throwing a temper tantrum in her run and bucking and charging in and out of her covered stalls because god forbid the trailer be hooked up and moving because DEAR LORD WE WILL TAKE HER HORRIBLE PLACES lolololol. So after she wouldn’t calm down, she got tied in her stall. Then she started calling for Whisper, because maybe we wouldn’t take her, but what if we were here to take Whisper to the unknown abyss?! Whisper always answers her back. Except this time. Because Whisper – sweet, somehow incredibly intuitive Whisper – knew that this was a new addition, and a new addition to her side of the barn at that. And when Whisper wouldn’t answer and Amber couldn’t see her, she was very pissed. Pawing tantrum ensued. Tie time extended indefinitely lol.
About fifteen or twenty minutes after we’d closed the panels and let Kahlua settle, we brought Whisper up. Amber nickered a lot (was denied again because Whisper couldn’t care less about her now) and Whisper just went straight outside. Whisper had absolutely no issue with Kahlua being a burro. She was much hotter than we are used to seeing her, but this was definitely an inquisitiveness versus scared. After about a minute with no fusses, we let Whisper go, and fed her and Kahlua. Kahlua wouldn’t come to the fence to sniff noses, but it was obvious she liked Whisper. She hadn’t had any friends in her BLM pen, either, so it looked like a perfect situation for the two to bond. And after every bite of food Whisper would turn her head to look at Kahlua. Amber was very mad when Whisper wouldn’t answer her – god forbid Whisper get another friend other than Amber despite how rude Amber is to her – and then we were feeding them and not her and more pawing ensued. She was ignored by all of us lol.
Pretty soon we went in for dinner, and watched as Whisper and Kahlua ate by each other. Whisper was enchanted from the start, and Kahlua will often stand by her as well, so our hope for them to bond looks like it’s working great! Amber was still tied for another half hour after that, and by then she was unhappy but standing still, and seemed to be over herself and ready for food.
Thankfully, it was pretty uneventful! We’re going to wait a bit before trying to gentle her. I want her to get comfortable in our barn’s routine before working with her too much. I’ve never worked with a burro let alone a wild one, so this will be super interesting. Perhaps I should chronicle it? lol
So far she’s cautiously inquisitive – she checked out the salt block, the water bucket, but didn’t drink, nibbled on a little hay, and then just stared and stared at the desert. She doesn’t get too upset by new things; she just seems to watch with laser focus, her ears floppy radars that go back and forth, then decides it’s fine. Which is so awesome because it was exactly what we were hoping. Whisper already seems calmer, happier, and doesn’t want to be turned out in the arena anymore! lol. She wants to be by Kahlua.
We know she’s from a burro herd in Mina, Nevada, and was at the BLM for about a year or 2 through no fault of her own. Most people just wanted younger ones, but that worked out perfectly for us. She’s 6, and what is known as a “Jerusalem donkey” because of the shoulder stripe that “crosses” the dorsal stripe. Other than that there’s really not too much to tell – or at least not much more that I know since I didn’t go to adopt her haha. She’s still very fuzzy, which is fine for the super weird spring weather we’re getting here. She’s shedding though, so hopefully once we get our actual summer weather she won’t be too hot.
She seems to be settling well so far, and one of the tips was to sit in her stall and read to her. So my mom has been reading to her, and I’m thinking tonight I’ll pull out one of my books and read to her as well.
Facebook kindly reminded me that 7 years ago today was when I bought Amber. It would take another 2 weeks before I could actually get her from her new home in Steamboat Springs, but when the owners offered her back to me, that was it.
I can’t believe I’ve had her 7 YEARS! She turned 9 on April 20, and I didn’t have a b-day post or celebration for her this year, but she got new tack so that was her gift LOL. Either way, I’m relieved we’ve gotten over the worst of her laminitis. The vet is coming out in two weeks for another x-ray check-up to make sure that her foot is still improving, so I’m hoping for another positive visit. I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally sure she’s over her laminitis, but she’s gotten happier with riding so I think we’re on the right track.
Anyway, Happy Gotcha Day, Miss Amber-lee ❤
This happened maybe 2 or so months ago, and I’d meant to post it but forgot. I suppose I can hardly call her an escape artist when there is no chain or latch for her to undo, but she’s still smart. I hang the chain in a way that if the gate is pushed open even the smallest bit, it’ll rattle, and she’s usually super lazy and knocks a foot onto the bottom bar of the panel since part of it is raised about 3 inches off of the dirt. But when she sneaks out?
Thank god she’s just so food driven and doesn’t seem inclined to leave the property. And yes, I now latch her gate every time I leave her stall lol. She’s disappointed every time she pushes it, but no more escaping horse, because I’d like to keep my injury-prone beastie less injury-prone.
Also, during I think the 3rd week of our handwalking, she gave an almighty buck. A very happy buck. And I broke down laughing.
She’s always making me smile haha!
Turns out my mom got photos of Amber free jumping herself when she was about 4-ish. No kidding – Amber just sent herself to the jumps. And you can see there’s no guard rails to even keep her in a chute lol. She just jumps lol.
Never a dull moment, y’all. Sometimes I do think my horse is really stupid. Or crazy smart. Or weird.
You never know LOL
Saturday was my birthday, so I had a bit of a birthday week last week. I went hiking on Wednesday. I took Friday off of work. I bought myself some clothes I’ve been eyeing on Amazon. I got Amber and I some tack (because her bday is April 20, so close enough right? lol). I usually don’t take days off of work or anything for things like birthdays, but it was a good excuse to make myself take time for me – a bit of a mental health day, wanting to do something for me to bolster my spirits. And of course – determining to ride Amber around – hence the new tack.
Even her western saddle is a little big on her right now with all her muscle loss, so I “needed” a breastcollar that would help the saddle stay forward. I went back and forth on A LOT of breastcollars, worried that they were all actually too small (I wasn’t wrong). So I found the longest one, and coincidentally it had a matching bridle, AND the design matched the collar I bought Choco about a month or so ago, so I mean it’s meant to be, right? So, it came home with me.
I know Amber misses riding as do I, but I’m taking it really slow in terms of riding. I’ve looked back through memories, and put together that when she started grinding her teeth was most likely around the time her laminitis was really bad, and it was around that time I took to hand walking instead of riding since I didn’t want and was hoping that she wouldn’t associate riding with pain. Since her foot has grown a lot of sole and we’ve moved to the cloud boots, I’ve saddled her up a few times, but she’s been very wary when I throw that saddle on. So I do think she associates riding with being in pain, but as usual she shows her discomfort very subtly. So I’ve been going slow, making sure I’m riding western, and playing around with a few buttons but trying to make her understand these are in no way training rides.
She was wary at first, but when I rode her Friday, I knew that one of the only ways to show her that it won’t be as bad is to actually have her do it. So we loped. Just down a long side, and she was acting a little cold-backed, but I knew she was just expecting something bad. But the reins were loose, and I sat back on her, and it felt just like the old times as she eased into it. We slowed, and then walked around while I patted her and spoke to her. She had her fast walk going, and was certainly expecting more, but I hopped off shortly after, just hoping that she got the right idea.
I think she did. She full on pushed the side of her face along my chest and stomach, and actually let me hold her head for far longer than she usually likes me to. Best birthday gift ever, that moment.
Saturday she was super happy, and gave me a bit of a wary glance when I saddled her but the moment we got in the arena she walked around and felt super content. We jogged the teensiest bit, and after she didn’t have her fast walk – just her relaxed one, so I think I’m on the right track. It was a great walk ride.
Sunday I hopped on with a bareback pad. I had wanted to saddle up and walk again, but I figured in keeping with our these-are-super-chill-rides-with-only-minimal-expectations a bareback ride was still perfect. She had no wariness as I tossed the pad on her, and she opened her mouth to grab the bit. That alone made me confident in my decision. Well, that and she got super upset at Whisper when I handled her because mother must never handle another horse when she can see. Yes, dear. She gets that way when we’ve been riding a lot lol. So we walked around easily, both of us happy and very relaxed. I had her spin a little, just to play around. Perfect end to a really great birthday, made even better because I had determined to make it a good birthday.
I gave her a “break” again after that. She got turned out in the arena to wander the next few days. She’s always been a wanderer, but being cooped up in her stall has now REALLY made her wander all over the arena lol. Which is great. She’s out for 20 minutes or an hour and half, and enjoys her time out.
Either way, it was a perfect weekend.
While I’m hopeful that maybe Amber and I can putz around again with a bit of walk/trot/canter, I’m okay if we can’t do more than that, like western dressage or something. I’ll be sad for sure, because after nearly 8 years together, all of our hard work and our relationship-building has made riding her so easy. I think something and she does it, I look at her and she knows what I mean without me having to say a word – we know each other by heart.
And it’s because of nearly 8 years together, we have play days like this past Tuesday.
It’s rarely caught on film since I’m usually by myself, so I have few of these to look back on. But it’s wonderful to have this little reminder of everything we do have if we can’t do everything like we used to. We always have fun together, and she’s really like a 1100 lb dog haha! Thankfully this time, my mom was around and could snap a quick video while Amber still wanted to play. Although please excuse my flip-flops. It was like 75 degrees with a nice breeze and this was totally unplanned lol.
Not a mini farm. But a Mini farm. Like so.
I finally got my giant and old external hard drive up and running, desperate to get photos and other memorabilia off of it since I moved to my much smaller, lightweight, portable external HD. While searching through endless photos, I stumbled on the pictures of when I visited a farm of minis with one of my equine classes. I have no idea what class it was or why we were visiting, but I remember them being the squishiest.
So, I’m just going to bombard you with terrible quality photos because while I took them on an iPhone, this was like 2010 or 2011. It’s really weird to think that was almost 10 years ago.
Happy #TBT everyone!
So, there’s not much Amber update to update. She’s doing well, and after we’ve hand-walked and rode at a walk safely for…well actually about 6 weeks now with all the crappy weather, I figured it was time to let Amber loose. For the first three days she was super chill, walking around.
Then there was this last week (make sure to have the sound up lol):
I was pretty worried, but also ridiculously happy to see her so happy. It was like she realized she could finally RUN instead of having to buck at a standstill. I don’t like her learning that she can do that, but as long as she doesn’t do it under saddle (and I highly doubt she ever will) then we’re fine lol. Since that run though, she’s been really chill, and we’re going to see if she can be out again for 15-20 minutes without being chaperoned. She has a moment in the beginning where she’s on one side of the arena before bucking and then lopes over to the gate, and then she’s done. But no more running like the first time. I know she needed to get that out.
But it’s mostly been waiting, taking pictures, and taking each day as it comes.
Getting Choco a new tag that says “Keep Calm and Give Me Food.” Because that is her in a nutshell lol.
Bunny Daisy has been getting comfy with us. I’m pretty sure it’s Daisy because it remains the only wild rabbit to get near us. They’re just so cute.
My sister getting a new puppy for her birthday, and she’s the cutest little pit ever and wants to be near you and snuggle at all times.
Also, thanks every one for their suggestions on a buddy! We’re looking into donkey rescues around the area!
So I figured I’d put this out here see if any of you guys knew of anything. We’re casually looking for a buddy for Whisper.
The past 2 winters we’ve had a lot of trouble with Whisper. In the summer she’s fine, but once winter starts she starts pacing in her stall. Sometimes she’ll run in and out and nearly hurt herself. It is obvious that she’s extremely upset about something, but as far as we can see there is nothing. We have to turn her out in the arena for her to calm down and rest. Because she paces, she’s lame and in pain all winter, and the vets, my mom and I are sort of at our wit’s end as to how to help her otherwise. She’s much better this winter, which is still not really okay tho.
We also think she may have a tear in a ligament or a tendon, and short of an MRI we won’t know for sure. But obviously her walking and pacing is not helping. Storms are particularly terrible for her. Wind, rain – doesn’t really matter. And, well, Amber isn’t really the best candidate to be a friend that gets to stay next to Whisper. When Whisper gets worried and won’t stop pacing or freaking out, it pisses Amber off and she then pins her ears, bites at the fence and kicks, which then makes Whisper even more worried….. So, uh…. that’s not a good choice lol. Amber likes to SEE other horses around. But she doesn’t want them near her or in her bubble. She loves Whisper from afar lol.
So, what are we looking for? Something older, probably teens and up, that is other horse friendly, very chill in their stall and doesn’t mind neighbors walking their dogs or trains since we do have 2 railways behind the barn. Preferably few health issues, but they don’t need to be sound to ride, and we would obviously take very good care of them and provide the buddy with a retirement home as Whisper’s companion. We don’t care if it’s a gelding or a mare – Whisper loves everyone. It could even be a mule, honestly haha. Whisper used to be stabled with a mule and adores them, and Amber, while very curious about them, liked them when she met them as well.
So if anyone knows of anything I’d love to hear from you lol. It’s not at all urgent right now – there’s still some things we need to iron out before making a decision, but I figured I’d put it out there in case you guys knew of anyone looking to give their partner a good and easy home for retirement. Even if you hear of something in a few weeks, or a few months, please still feel free to reach out. Thanks everyone!
I’ve been procrastinating writing this lesson recap because it left me in an odd headspace for a while. And then many things happened at once so posting this fell to the wayside. But it was just a weird day in early January. There must’ve been something in the air – we were expecting an incoming storm (which was just clouds and a temp drop and didn’t manifest until Monday) but boy Saturday wasn’t a good day.
It’s really heartening to hear that your trainer likes the way you ride their horse lol. Trainer G has told me a few times that she thinks I ride Soxie very well, and this does bolster my confidence in riding her. I am a worrier, and I worry when I can’t do things, when I can’t be the rider a sensitive horse needs, but at the same time, I know I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and we learn from those mistakes, and to a certain extent the horse has to be able to work with you on that. Soxie is deceptively calm – she starts out like a cold diesel engine, but once it’s warmed up and you want it to go, boy it’ll just fly. But relatively in the beginning of the ride, I startled her. And she got upset at me. And then I pulled a little more than I was trying to. And that kind of set the tone for the rest of the lesson.
We started off with a simple exercise – trotting over a pole on either side of a raised cavaletti. Soxie was dragging her feet a little, so we were just working on getting her to pick her feet up, but also for me to stay balanced and posting instead of going up into a two-point which was my first inclination. We did the exercise both ways until I could remain posting even with her lifted stride. She was a super girl through that. Then we were going to go over some ground poles set far enough apart for a trot in, canter transition and then canter out. Pretty simple.
It was not lol. Soxie felt good, and I like to set things up, prepare a little extra, and be soft and measured in my cues so that then the horse can do their job. But I looked at the limited space between the poles, and decided that I will ask sooner, and I will be determined. Well, I was determined all right, and too determined for poor Soxie. I completely underestimated her responsiveness. I goosed her a bit with my outside leg – in wanting to get the exercise and give Soxie plenty of time to canter, I reverted to my western cues – and poor thing scooted into the canter, had no right leg of mine at the girth to help her stay straight, and then I did some ugly pulling, we completely missed the pole, and stopped by the fence. I was laughing at my super goof, and trying to reassure Soxie that it was all my fault and I am so sorry. I had scared her though, because after that any cue met with leg and she was like “omg I’m so sorry; I’m going!”
I always get way too hard on myself, and I’ve found that laughing is a good way to ease not only my emotions and get myself out of a spiraling, negative headspace, but I also feel like it’s helped the horses settle their emotions, too. But we had to scale it back after that. Trot in, walk out. Trot in and out. A good 3-4 times. I finally had the lightbulb of “oh hey, so when you tilt her upper body back that miniscule inch, Soxie is right there for you in your half half.” It was a good lightbulb. I just couldn’t do it very often, or sort of like…at all haha. I was focusing on a lot, and that little inch just wasn’t on my radar most of the time. It should have been, because it would’ve helped, but it takes time to break habits. Anyway, when Soxie was calmer, Trainer G gave me the choice of repeating the initial exercise, or trotting in and out and cantering in the corner. I chose the latter. Better to be easy. And it turned out really really well. We moved to the left, and it worked well until just past the corner. And then Soxie took the bit and started running.
To quickly preface, putting that left leg on and asking for the bend in the turn is one of the things that gets to Soxie, and it tends to show up when she gets into a worried headspace. I was aware of that from the start, so when she did that I just sort of shrugged. I let her go for a moment, asked to come back, let go for a moment, asked to come back, rinse and repeat. She came back to me after a lap, and we carried on.
We did manage to jump a few times, and she was really good to the right. I accidentally kept catching her mouth, riding a bit too defensively with my hands which I don’t like doing but what can ya do sometimes? I was already focusing on a lot, so that little bit of body weight shifting back just wasn’t really registering when it should have, and I’m just not there yet where I can really separate my arms from the rest of my body for a better release over the jump. Turning left after the jump, she really wanted to turn and burn, and some outside rein helped break the thought up a little. And then I had to just suck it up and do it right – left leg on, bend to the left around the corner. I stuck my left leg on, asking for that curve, and she took the bit again. But just like before it was no big deal, and she came back to me again.
We ended on some long and low trotting. I kept getting sucked into the “if she’s fast pull” instinct, and only when I started to circle, over-exaggerating the bend and really insisting inside leg to outside hand would she round and come into a frame and relax and take a breath. Fast again, rinse and repeat. I nearly got a long side with her in frame and relatively relaxed, and just decided to quit there. I was hoping for a whole long side, but I’d rather quit on a good note. I walked her out, pet her, blew in her nose.
It wasn’t a bad lesson. In terms of me being able to handle the horse, not getting scared, still being a thinking rider and trying to make good decisions and succeeding in certain exercises, it was a success. That type of ride just always saddens me. I’m not unfamiliar with it – I had a good year and a half of rides that were consistently saddening with Whisper as I tried to earn her trust bit by bit. I wasn’t scared with Soxie running off with me because I knew it was her fight response developed from fear some time in her early training. Sure, she was a little pissy at me because I wasn’t releasing with my arms like I needed to, and I was being more handsy than both she and I preferred, but that kind of thing happens, and I get that. It helped that her running off isn’t very fast and is actually quite controlled. I mean, it’s much faster than I’m used to, and you can feel it’s a run and not an increase of speed. But, it always saddens me to feel that kind of flight and consequently fight response in a horse I’m riding, especially if I unintentionally caused it.
I’ve had the good fortune that whenever I’ve had this type of ride on a horse, it’s been one I own or one I rode daily, and I could ride first thing the next day and fix myself to have a good ride. I couldn’t do this with Soxie unfortunately – not only did I need an adjustment period with starting school and falling into a routine with that, but Trainer G also got badly hurt that day. I was thankfully there to help her. Plus that’s when Amber’s vet visit and subsequent shoeing was coming up, so I was sidelined on lessoning for a few weeks. I wanted to lesson at the other facility, but Wednesdays were their best days (it was quiet, and my introverted self likes the quiet, and they’re quite booked on weekends) and I started using Wednesdays as a homework day so I still have weekends free to relax. Now that Amber is able to walk too, I may be able to hop on her in the future to at least get some walking ride time. We’ll see how that pans out.
But I was finally able to sync my schedule with Trainer G for a lesson on Soxie, which was just this past Saturday. I was originally going to have a lesson last weekend, but I was suddenly having very excruciating spine pain that even sidelined me from work, so Trainer G and I decided to wait a week, which was for the best. I was feeling better, and eager to hop back on my fav lesson horse. I’d had a good 3-4 weeks of no lessons and no ride time, so I had a lot of time to think about what I could do better after my last lesson. I reread my lessons, looked at pictures, and was finally able to see that when my body is weak I perch too high, and Soxie just does better when a rider sits back – almost a dressage position. So I need to sit, and unfortunately I’ve gotten in the habit of perching.
In a saddle with a deep seat and a lengthened leg, when Amber really gets her collected canter down, it’s lovely to sit. One of the easiest things in the world. But it was just easier to 2 point in my jump saddle, to not sit on her back because she’d get choppy. And instead of fixing it I would just 2 point and perch. So, there’s a habit that I definitely need to break lol.
Keeping in mind that I needed to sit my ass down in the saddle, we started our lesson. We were only working on the flat that day which was perfectly fine with me. After not having ridden in weeks, coupled with the fact that my back pain was slowly starting to fade, flatwork was great. Plus, it was on the flat that I made my mistake last time, so it was a perfect opportunity to iron a few things out and fix my goof.
And man, Soxie made me work for it haha. Since it was flatwork, the lesson focused on us both equally. I hold my left shoulder weird. Which causes the weirdness in my elbow and wrist. I lead with that shoulder too. So there was a lot of left upper body fixing going on for me lol. Trainer G also had me working with draw reins to start getting me used to holding two reins, and while the draw reins were never engaged, it was an excellent reminder of “dear god, Mandy, close your damn fingers” lol. I’d grip the draw reins, and as usual let the braided rein slip through my pinky and fourth fingers.
While my brain understands and agrees with the needs and benefits of inside leg to outside hand, no matter how little I’m bending a horse’s head around I completely drop the outside rein – a product of many years of colt breaking and teaching them the one-rein stop. So this was a great lesson in keeping steady tension in my outside arm while (attempting) to put on my inside leg. Soxie is very defensive about her mouth, and it took her a little while to trust my hands. But Trainer G and I were steady and patient, making sure she stayed in front of my leg and focusing on her energy from behind and her straightness while ignoring where her head was. We stayed on a circle, and this time, I was pleased with myself that when she got fast, I didn’t get defensive with my hands. I sat up a bit straighter, slowed my post and really engaged my abs, and she was right there for me to half halt and was very responsive. A win!
We cantered early on – Soxie is definitely a horse that loosens up after cantering – and I made sure to keep my butt closer to the saddle, and my upper body back. I had also lengthened my stirrups a hole to encourage myself to sit a little deeper, and I think that really helped me. But as we kept cantering, it was juuuuust a little too much for my poor little brain to keep the half seat and the upper body, and my fingers and wrists and arm tension and shoulder and abs and inside leg that I ended up sitting Soxie’s canter lol. This time when asking for the transition, I asked correctly and she didn’t dive. Yay for me haha.
I had a good lightbulb moment as well – towards the end of the ride as we were cantering, Soxie was finally starting to trust me that we weren’t going to mash her into any frame, and she started pushing ever so slightly into my hand. As soon as I felt that it was like “oh. OH. OMG hurry and put your leg on and hold tension! OMG we got it!” lol And then she pushed up into it and softened, and while it wasn’t perfect, sometimes you just gotta feel that beginning feeling of rightness and then you’ve got it. I did that for about a half circle before walking – I’m always better if I feel something and hold on to it for a few seconds and then pause. It solidifies the feeling in my brain without it getting muddled by the wrong feeling if we try to hold it for too long.
After that Soxie and I were really starting to communicate better. We were doing a good exercise that was mostly geared for me of trot circle, canter circle, trot transition and immediate semi circle to help her stay on her hind end. I tend to let horses fall in downward transitions, so the immediate, tight semi-circle really made me sit up and back, engage my outside rein and inside leg. I felt like I was pulling soooo much on that outside rein when from the ground it probably just looked like tension LOL. But Soxie and I had one great round each direction, with her pushing into the contact nearly the whole time, and being very responsive at the trot. She came back with my half halt, pushed into the contact, and remained very active and forward with her hind end. We did an extra circle with her in frame, with me sitting up and back and keeping tension in my arms. Once we got there, it was soooo easy – I felt that even in my unfit state I could have trotted her like that all day. So we ended there! A very successful lesson in my opinion.
It was the perfect goodbye ride. While she’s been my fav horse to ride so far for sure, Soxie has still been for sale, and was sold to a good home. I’m certainly sad to see her leaving, but I’m so glad that she’s going to a good place with a wonderful set-up for her, and that I got to have a good, last ride on her before she heads off to her new owner. Rocky will be my main lesson horse for now, which is great since I do like him lol. And who knows? Perhaps a chill, ex-reiner is the best to continue forward for right now. And I’m also so glad that Trainer G is doing better (but please still send her healing thoughts if you could!) and that I still get to lesson and that Amber is continuing to do well. Success all around!
I thought we were living in the desert. Apparently not.
Maybe it’s a decade thing? It snowed 3.5″ in 2008, so maybe it was just a wee bit late and decided to hit the desert again in 2019?
Then again maybe not. It snowed very slightly in 2014, but….snow in the desert. Yay. It’s been so windy tho, and February is usually our nice weather month and March sucks.
Hopefully you can see the snow falling lol
At least it’s pretty. And I gotta admit – I do miss the snow.
Since all Amber and I can do right now is walk, like many many many many many many other posts I’ve had in the past…ahh….year lol, I’m trying to come up with fun and NEW blog post titles. I may or may not have succeeded here haha.
Amber is very excited to be out walking again. The weather hasn’t been too cold at all, but it’s been alternately cloudy, rainy and windy or all 3 combined. Amber does not approve. It was a light drizzle Saturday with a bit of wind and I wanted to get her out and walk but she protested. There was much head-shaking. Wrinkled nostrils. Hopping and grunting. So we went back inside after maybe 2 or 3 minutes. I forgot my phone to time it, but we weren’t out there long. After growing up in a pasture in Colorado, she doesn’t like being outside in crappy weather which I find highly amusing lol.
Because of this I didn’t get her out Monday or Tuesday because of mixed wind and rain, so when I got her out Wednesday she was a kite. After so many times of me reprimanding her for bucking in her stall, she looks like she’s angry when she bucks lol. But she’s getting used to me just being at the end of the lead rope and laughing as she expresses herself. The colder weather (we’re 30 degrees now at night; I know it’s SO COLD lol) has come around, so she stands all day and I think her stifle bothers her so she’s in a bit of pain when she goes walking. I’ve no doubt there’s scar tissue, and I’m sure it’s stiff and achy, but the walking will only help. She’s been happier in her stall since she goes out and walks now, and she’s starting to look for my truck to pull up again because she gets to go out instead of just expecting me to be her food dispenser LOL.
I ended up going with the Cloud boots instead of another pair of soft rides, and I’m really glad I did. They’re so much lighter and not as bulky, and Amber likes them so much better as well. She walks well in them, and they seem to be padded enough for her. They’re also miles easier for both my mom and I to get on and off Amber’s feet, so they’ve been a hit so far since we’re taking them off at night and putting them on in the mornings.
So far I’m able to get Amber out 5 days a week, with my long days acting as a break for her since I don’t get off of work until 5 and it’s still just a touch too dark. Plus, while it’s been extremely difficult to be patient, I’ve taken her rehab slowly, and that’s been paying off. So walking only a few days before taking a break may be a wee bit overkill since we’re only walking 5 extra minutes but after 6 months of strict stall rest I don’t want to overdo it. Slow but steady. Mostly, I let her walk as fast as she wants, sniff all the poop, roll and general head shaking and hopping and bucking that ensues. Not too many bucks mind you, but even when she does she knows to stay well away from me and not run me over lol. But for the most part she walks with purpose, wanting to just go somewhere.
Occasionally, I’ll remind her of her ground manners. Which I had to do the second day because when I tapped her shoulder as in “hon, I’m right here and you know better than to push on me” she immediately leapt in the air and bucked, and THAT was not acceptable. Buck for fun yes, but when mother asks the shoulders to move, they move. We do not throw a tantrum lol. So I practice her showmanship turn, her slowing down for me, backing and other small things without me needing to use my lead rope, and while I know she wants just wants to absorb it all in again and I want to let her play, I think she likes something to focus on. Her eyes are always softer, and her body is a bit more relaxed after.
She was just looking for an excuse to explode lol. I don’t blame her, but manners are manners lol
She was definitely more relaxed when I took her out last night; her eye was soft and there were no bucks. She was happy to be walking and looking out around her. Just at the end of the 5 minutes, I decided to just hop on. I’ve sat on her in her stall a few times, and it’s done us both good every time. We both really miss it. She’s not gotten all of her playfulness out yet, but she just looked very happy when she walked, and I know her so well that I knew she’d be fine. So we walked one 20 meter circle. And then I hopped off haha. I could tell she liked even just the small circle, because she put her nose in my stomach when I pet her. And then she proceeded to give Whisper nasty faces and try to keep me away from her LOL. But just as I was about to lead her into her stall, she startled something fierce. I was at a loss at what could have possibly scared her that badly. Until I saw it. What was it do you ask? (Sound on lol)
Our cute little barn owl. Oh, horses.
So that’s what’s been happening with us. We’ve gotten about 3 weeks of walking now, so we’re just going to keep plugging away. I’m not sure how long we’ll be at 5 minutes, or how long we’ll be weaning her off of the boots, but I’m not sweating it. My guess is 2 or 3 months of gradually less time in the boots, and walking increasing a bit. She short steps with that right hind still, but I think a little more walking and time will be the ticket to breaking up that scar tissue. Maybe then I can throw a saddle on, and we’ll do our walking under saddle once more. But I’m in no rush. At this point, having an inch of sole growth in 6 months and finally getting to walk out of her stall again are gifts I’m so happy to have right now. I know she’s happy too!
I think it’s high time I start actually getting around to reviewing things since I have no life right now haha. I’ve had a lot of things for a good long while now, so I should start getting them out. One of those things are the Composite Reflex Wide-Track Stirrups. I’ve had them since June 2017, so it’s been nearly 2 years that they’ve been in my possession. I’ve had the regular, Composite Lightweight Stirrups for a much shorter amount of time, but this will be a bit of a compare and contrast for the two stirrup types.
First I’ll go over the composite lightweight stirrups. I believe I bought these probably when I got my saddle – April of 2017 (sorry guys my memory doesn’t go back that far and I’m too lazy to really go back through my pictures lol. Because it could’ve also been like Jan or Feb 2017…. lol). After watching eventing in 2016, and beginning to follow some bloggers’ adventures, the ERM series, and anything else eventing that I could latch on to, I was very intrigued by the black stirrup look. I grew up riding in the hunter ring, so it was navy coat, tan breeches, black boots, oakbark tack and Fillis irons. I had also been out of the English world for 13 years, and eventing was so very different from the other English disciplines as well. It was bright, it was fun, there was color, and after riding Western with all that bling I was really loving all the xc possibilities.
After trying out my mom’s regular Fillis irons, they were heavy and the balls of my feet would hurt like crazy with those – so much so it’d make my toes numb. So I searched around for a stirrup with more padding, and that’s when I found the composite stirrups. I was immediately interested in those – perhaps they wouldn’t be as hard as metal, and they’d be lighter as well as having a nice, thick pad. So, I grabbed the composite lightweight stirrups – in royal of course because 1) color and 2) it matched all of Amber’s royal accessories and 3) because why not? I really liked them when they first came; they were just as light as advertised, and I loved how the royal looked so fun with Amber’s stuff. They were nicely padded, and I could tell that my feet felt a lot better in these.
But, after only 3 or so rides, the balls of my feet started hurting again. And I was really disappointed. I really liked these, but numb feet are no joke and quite painful. Since there were good things with these stirrups, I decided to stick with the composite but search for other options. At that time, a few bloggers were discussing how their feet felt better in a wide stirrup bed – distribution of pressure and all that. I hadn’t ever really thought of that, especially after being away from English for a while, but once I read that it made so much sense – my feet never hurt like that in Western stirrups, even when the length was short. Of course – wider foot bed. So with that light bulb in mind I went back to RW, found the composite wide tread stirrups, and snapped them up.
I was quite hesitant with these at first. There was no padding – only a lot of grip that I was afraid would still hurt quite a bit when I used them. I nearly got the black with the blue again, but I thought the all-black would be a good compare/contrast for me. And it turned out that I just really love the all-black look with my saddle. Can’t quite tell you why, but I do lol. But, since I’ve been using them for about the past two years, I’ve never looked back.
At first, my feet hurt a little bit. I wasn’t used to the grate on stirrups, so I’d take my feet out, roll my toes and check to see if my toes were numb. While the pressure was different, I didn’t have any numb toes. And then, after about 3 rides, my feet stopped hurting. And they haven’t hurt since. The only time my feet did hurt was when it was cold, I was wearing the wrong socks with my non-winter tall boots, and my entire foot was numb haha. But that wasn’t the stirrups’ fault haha. Once my foot got used to the newer stirrups, my feet have been great. My arches have hurt less, and these definitely distribute the pressure a lot more evenly than a narrower foot bed. Personally, I think these have helped my knees a little as well, but to be really honest I can’t completely tell. I still get a few pangs, but they’re few and far between than the once a week when I rode in the Fillis irons and the narrow composite ones.
The grate on these stirrups is super grippy. I think my feet have come out of these stirrups exactly twice – once in my lesson with Lit when he spooked at the canter and I nearly fell off the side (and once I jammed my foot back in the stirrup I had to actually lift my leg up to reposition my foot), and the second time when Soxie got too close to the rail and knocked my foot out of it lol. So these have a lot of really good grip to them. I’ve even used them with my dressage saddle, and I really like that even with a draped leg, my feet stay in the stirrup right where I place them – no slipping and sliding. Plus, because they’re composite, they’re very light, which is a wonderful change to very heavy western saddles. Granted, English saddles are generally much lighter, but I liked that these added very little weight.
This isn’t to say that the lightweight composite stirrups aren’t good. Not at all – I really liked them when I used them, especially with their fun, colorful options, and they’re a great stirrup for a lot of people. And at a little over $30, you really can’t beat that. For me, though, I needed something with a wider tread that distributed pressure, and those are a better fit for me than the regular ones. The wide tread comes in at a little over $40, so these absolutely don’t break the bank, either. Also, the regular composite stirrups don’t have the grip like the wide tread does, so I could see my feet coming out of those easier than the wide tread. The padding is a pretty good grip – it’ll stick to the bottom of your boots, but if you’re jumping or running xc where it’s a lot easier for your feet to slip around, I would suggest going for the wide tread versus the regular.
For that, I give the Wide Tread stirrups a 5/5, and the Lightweight stirrups a 4/5.
For anyone eyeing these stirrups, I hoped my review helped!
Yesterday, Amber’s check up was finally here.
Not quite, but it certainly feels like it. It’s been 4 long months of just sitting here twiddling my thumbs since the last check up. The waiting game is never fun, and with Amber on strict stall rest and not even allowed any hand-walking, both her and I are getting stall fever. Unfortunately, feet do not grow that fast, especially in the winter. But her toe was getting really long on that LH, so much so that it was actually pushing it over the bounds of the boot and ripping it to shreds. I was really hoping she could wait the 3 weeks. But I started to feel heat on the back of the coronary band and the heel of her LH. I had called my vet to ask what he wanted to do – her shoeing appointment isn’t until the 6th, and her original appointment was for the 29th, but I was really struggling keeping that boot on her and was worried about the pressure it was causing.
That’s when he suggested to move it up a week.
So on Tuesday he came out to get new xrays on her foot. Amber was very happy to have all the attention centered around her, and checked everyone’s pockets for treats. She was perfect for them, and within the first five minutes of arriving they had their equipment set up and were getting the xray. And you guys, we have good news.
You can see how well her new hoof is growing out. It looks like it’s growing well along the new coffin bone line. She has a lot of extra toe that will need to come off, but our farrier will be out on Friday to shoe Whisper, so hopefully he can squeeze Amber in there too.
And some more good news! Amber is cleared for walking! The vet said she would be okay with light turnout, but knowing Amber, she’s going to be a kite if I just turn her out. Poor girl hasn’t been allowed out since August 1, so she will certainly be…ah happy… if I just let her out haha. So hand walking it is. Just for five minutes, but I know she will be so happy even with that.
Doc also thinks that she’s good to start weaning off of her boots! Her left boot is completely shot and requires gorilla tape to hold it to her foot until the farrier can see her. So, we’ll start with letting her have her boots off at night, wearing them during the day and for her walks, and then we’ll go from there.
It’s still going to take a good 6-9 months before Doc is completely happy with her foot and believing us fully out of the woods. But, having such a good prognosis yesterday I’m completely fine with waiting it out some more. Amber won’t be happy with still so much time left, but at least now she’ll get out. After a little while of hand walking to get a lot of her initial kicks and wiggles out, she’ll be able to get turned out all on her own.
So, lots and lots of good news guys. I am so relieved. I know for a while there I was really prepared and expecting the worst, but I think Amber still has some surprises left.
But I’m torn between buying her another set of soft rides or trying the cloud boots. Do you guys have any experiences with the cloud boots? If so, if love to know your opinions!
I REALLY meant to post this Tuesday. And then Wednesday. And then yesterday. And totally kept forgetting to bring all of the media together to post this haha. I guess after officially starting school Monday, I only have so many brain cells left over after work and then school LOL.
Nevermind that, tho – on to the lesson! Saturday was a ton of fun. Not only did I have a great time on Soxie, but my mom also had great fun on Rocky! He was the perfectly pokey QH for her haha!
Soxie was an angel. Personally, even though she was strong in my last lesson with her, I think she always is pretty perfect, but I felt this was one of my best lessons yet on her. It could have been because we tried a different bit on her – just a very mild elevator – but I like to think it’s because we get along haha. I think it’s because she’s so much like Amber and Whisper, and just for the type of horse she is I hop on her and immediately feel very comfortable. I think she feels comfortable with me as well – this ride she was lowering her head and neck and stretching down and over her back within one trot lap around the arena. And she was actually a bit lazy this lesson!
In terms of challenging exercises or having a lightbulb moment, this lesson was not either of those. Because my mom and I were lessoning together we didn’t do too much, and Soxie hadn’t jumped in a week, so we kept it very simple. But everything just came together so nicely, and Soxie and I were communicating well. It helped that I was doing my PT exercises again to get stronger, and that improved my balance and stability. I was hoping we would be able to jump just a little, and we did! And this time, I actually not only REMEMBERED to BRING my helmet camera, but I remembered to TURN IT ON. So I FINALLY got some video for between the ears with Soxie! It’s only of our last two runs, but they were the best and most exciting anyway, so it works lol.
Mostly, we focused on getting Soxie relaxed, but forward, and practicing our half halts. Soxie has a very fine line of just right and too much, and she was a little too slow so I had to give a good squeeze to get her from a little pokey to a little brighter lol. When a horse is fast I tend to sit “back” with my center of gravity going back and my lower leg coming forward – a habit I certainly learned from riding western! So I really tried this ride to keep myself centered and not let my lower leg swing forward. This helped when Soxie got a little fast, but I’m still learning just what she needs from me so she can relax into a frame. Then if my leg slipped a wee bit too far back, Soxie thought canter, so she was a good teacher in helping me figure out where was just right and where was too forward or back.
She was a bit stiff but also just resistant to really coming around my right leg. It’s my weaker leg anyway, so I wasn’t surprised, but I think it’s also her slightly weaker side as well. We worked on getting her supple and in that exercise for me NOT to hunch my shoulders when I release. I think that’s going to be my hardest habit to break – the shoulder hunch when I release. It must be a western thing – release with fingers or your shoulders and break your wrists but omg NOTHING with your elbow haha. So that’s been a challenge for me.
Trainer G set the poles/jumps in a lightning bolt pattern down the middle of arena, and we worked on all the space in between. Soxie absolutely loves to jump, and was very excited to be jumping by actually jumping the poles haha. But she was still very respectful as I brought her back to a trot, and really tried to implement my half halts with my seat. She had a few moments of “no, let’s GO JOMP OMG” but when I told her firmly that wasn’t what today was about she responded well. I over-bent her a bit in the turns because she does like to be strong and just go for it. But the point for her was everything in between the jumps, and part of her strength is that she likes to brace through her turns. Her right was still a bit difficult – it was easier in the trot than when we made it to the canter, but once she realized the activity she was foot perfect for the rest of the jump exercises.
We had 2 runs of trot to crossrail and canter to vertical, and both times felt positive. Soxie is positively the easiest horse I’ve ever ridden to trot a jump haha. I know she’s going to go, and you can feel her excitement of YAS JOMPIES and she does this ever-so-polite canter stride before the jump that you can just let yourself relax and follow her momentum over the jump. So it really allows me to think about my weight in my heels, closing my leg around her and keeping my elbows straight and forward without worrying if she’ll jump or not. We reiterated her coming down to a trot for a simple lead change as well as just reminding her to come back, and then turned off the rail to the small vertical. I turned a little early, and was just a little too soft. She lengthened as she locked onto the jump, but was super responsive when I half halted and steadied her a little, so we came up short to the vertical. It still felt like a good ride – I was a thinking rider, I was helping her out, I was actually able to rate her stride to judge the distance, and instead of being indecisive, I made the decision to be short to the jump.
We had one more go around, and that time was the golden ticket. We nailed our lead changes, and Soxie softened into my leg around the turn. I sat back just a hair, and closed my legs to support her but remained steady with my hands. I turned just a little later than the previous time around, and made sure that my shoulders were up and we still had that lovely rhythm. A few strides out and I knew we’d hit the jump beautifully, so I loosened my elbows a little and we flew over the jump. We nailed the left to right lead change too, and while she wasn’t as soft around my right leg, she was responsive, kept her frame, and was perfectly accepting of my input as we cantered for a bit more before having two great downward transitions.
You can hear me on the video and how over the moon I sounded haha. But it was just a super positive ride on her. Soxie completely remains my favorite of the horses I’ve ridden so far lol.
As for my mom, Rocky was a perfect QH for her. I was very pleased that through the lesson she wanted to continue doing more – she felt confident on Rocky, and ended the lesson laughing and having a blast. Which was the exact point of the lesson for her! She hasn’t gotten to ride Whisper in a while, and English will always remain her first love, so I was extremely happy that the lesson was such a success for her.
As for school, it’s definitely different from what I’m used to, but I’m really trying to stay on top of things and do a little bit each day so it’s a nice and easy transition and I’m not suddenly overwhelmed with things to do come the weekend lol. Because of this determination, I got quite a bit done on my class, so I have another lesson with Trainer G and Soxie on Saturday!
Wow – TWO lessons already so far AND I’m keeping on top of school for now?! It’s a miracle! Let’s just hope I keep it going LOL!
I did have goals at the start of last year – they were pretty vague goals, but goals nonetheless. So, let’s see how I did!
Figure out what’s going on with Amber: I am quite happy that I can cross this off! While the news was certainly not the best, and she’s been officially retired, at least I KNOW what’s been bothering her.
Get back to work riding Amber: For obvious reasons, this did not happen haha.
Keep Amber healthy and happy and healing: I am going to cross this off. She’s healing, I know she’s not completely happy but still doing well, and laminitis notwithstanding she is quite healthy. She’s even putting on her winter pounds, which I’m not sure how considering I’m not feeding her any more than her assigned 18 lbs LOL.
Put even more/better energy into work: While I still need to do more, I do consider this a success. I certainly put more in this year than I did last year, and it’s all about progress – baby steps! (And yet why is it so easy to be like “little steps; progress with horses isn’t linear” and yet for me “how dare I not improve 110% all the time, all year” lol so it’s a success!) To be a better/fitter person/ rider: This is a meh, so I’m marking it as half complete. I do believe I’m a better rider for my lessons, but I am not fit like I should be. Riding guys like George and Lit certainly helped my fitness, but as to going to a gym or just targeting weak groups of muscle – that was a massive fail haha. Funds permitting, have 2-3 jump lessons a month – or if funds not permitting, at least 1 a month: I got started with this late in the year, but I still think of it as a success. Counting all of them, I’ve had 10 lessons, so personally, I think I did it! It evens out to almost 1 a month, and starting September I did have 2-4 lessons a month, so it counts to me! lol Spend more time with friends: I did! Not as much as I was hoping, but I still did make time for more friend get-togethers – not to mention I flew to South Carolina to spend some much-needed time with my Grandma and relatives.
For 2019, it’s really going to be more of the same:
These are purposefully vague. If I get too specific, I find I either tunnel in on the details and lose sight of the big picture, or even the thought of it feels overwhelming and I avoid it like the plague lol. For me, the vague goals still give me a sense of direction for the year, but it doesn’t feel constricted. I feel that I can still have my eyes ahead but I’m not so focused that my peripheral vision can’t see potential opportunities.
As it stands, I’m on the way to starting off January with a bang on the lesson front – I have a lesson with Trainer G on Saturday and Soxie is my ride again! I gifted my mom with a riding lesson for her birthday, so we’re going to have a “group” lesson on Saturday with her riding Rocky! We’re both very excited. Hopefully, I’ll be able to have a lesson with Trainer M next Wednesday provided the horses are all healthy and good to go.
2019, here we come!
You guys. I did a thing.
A non-horsey thing.
And not just any thing.
2019 is the year that I am going back to school. I am equal parts petrified and excited haha.
After doing some researching and asking around early 2017, I decided to postpone schooling for the time being. Amber and I were showing; I wanted to get into eventing with her, so there was no time for school. Of course, all of the things that happened at the end of 2017 and all through this year had all of that screeching to a halt.
I’ve thought long and hard about all of it for months. And I realized I didn’t want to lease a horse, much less buy one yet. I also realized that I’ve been skating by a bit with work, and just kind of life in general. So much of my focus has always been tunneled on my horse life and aspirations that I’ve really had to reassess where all the non-horsey aspects of my life are going. Since it is a waiting game with Amber healing, why not now? I procrastinated and pushed it aside before since I wanted to do the eventing thing with Amber, but that’s not in the cards anymore, and this feels like a really good time to start it, to push forward.
I’m not posting often now, and that will probably dwindle down even further once I start school. I’m absolutely going to try to keep up lessons since I can’t even ride Whisper, either (she’s having some winter woes again). I’ll certainly still get my horsey time hanging out with Amber, and if I’m in dire need I’ll hop on her as I’ve been doing recently – just a few steps around the stall and then lots and lots of scratches in the places that are hard to reach from the ground.
It’ll certainly be different. I’m used to my world centering around my horse, but all things in life require balance, and I think it’s time I balance my work and my horses. Of course, it’s a little bit tipping the scales the other way, with my life centering more around work and how school will help me with work and horses taking a back seat. But I’m hopeful that once school is over, the balance will even itself out.
So that’s what’s coming up for me!
As for Amber, we’re continuing the long waiting game. She’s doing as well as she can – based on what the farrier could feel of her LH hoof, she’s growing a really good amount of sole which is great to hear. She gets her Equioxx every day and I think it’s helping. Short of more “meds” I’m trying to get her as comfortable as she possibly can be, so with her pill she now gets MSM, Glucosamine and HA. I mean, this horse really does get better care than me. I’m living on Airborne and Aleve and frozen foods at the moment haha! But I do think the supplements help her feel better. She’s still very short on that RH – I think it’s still a little painful, but I also think that because she’s moving very little it’s stiff and there’s no doubt some scar tissue built up.
She’s handling her confinement remarkably well – she’s now at 142 days of being on strict stall rest – not even hand walking. I’m not overly surprised that she’s doing well; she was relatively confined to her stall for nearly a year after her first knee injury. But she’d been allowed small bits of turnout and exercise at least 1x a week so she at least had that.
I’ve also created a bit of a monster LOL. On Thanksgiving I decided to screw it and hop on her. I missed my horse like crazy, and nothing ever feels so much like home than when I swing a leg over her broad back. She was very confused at first, but lots of scratches and just a turn or two around her stall run was all either of us needed. I’ve done that a few times since, and for days afterward she is pushing at her gate, looking at me like “hey, so, we rode, so that means that we’re going out now, right? Right?? I mean, let’s go!” I don’t latch her or Whisper’s gates usually as I’m doing night chores – both girls are always preoccupied with hay and I go in and out of them a lot. Well, Amber has discovered how to push her gate open without making any noise. Because if I hear it I laugh or scold her and latch the gate.
And she’s also learned that if she gets it open without me noticing to hurry the F out so I can’t catch her LOL. It’s great she’s so easily persuaded with treats because I just grab a few and she follows me back. No need for me to grab a halter or anything. I am probably not a great horse mom because I will let her do it haha. Partly because it’s funny and I like her shenanigans (thankfully they’re TAME shenanigans or it wouldn’t be funny lol) and partly because who knows, maybe she feels happy or challenged trying to get out of her stall, and if I let her have small victories then maybe it’ll make her stall rest more bearable lol.
What can I say? She gets away with things I would never allow another horse to get away with haha.
A few weeks ago Whisper was running around and got really excited, which made Amber excited and go cavorting and bucking in her run. She smacked her left hind really good – a giant bump on the front of her LH and a swollen tendon on the back of that LH. I iced it, the heat went down and it was okay, and then her skin started flaking off. I thought maybe it was fungus, but wasn’t sure if I should put any antifungal things on it – they looked more like she’d scratched herself up. Now the scab is peeling, but I don’t know it just looks really weird. It also looks like some of her hair is growing in white, which I’ve never seen before so I have no clue what’s going on. Any of you guys have any thoughts?
Amber has a vet appointment before her next shoeing to see how her feet are progressing, but that’s in another 6 or so weeks. I hate picking scabs, but I’ve worked on the two of them trying to see what’s underneath. The good thing is that they both look like the exact same thing – the bad thing is that I have no clue what the thing even is. I’ve thought maybe the front is a splint but then what does that make the back cut/pit of mush? I’ve kept it wrapped with a Neosporin-like salve on it, but it’s just….weird lol.
So any thoughts would be appreciated.
I’m hopeful that her LH will grow out and at least be more functional/comfortable than it is now. I monitor her RH a lot, but I don’t think she’s in danger of laminitis developing in that foot. She still puts an insane amount of weight on that LH, so we’ll see how it goes. But, I’m hoping that if her foot can recover relatively well, that the new hoof will grow parallel with the coffin bone, that maybe sometime in the future she and I can go on short walks again together, maybe 2 or 3 times a week. I know she misses that, and I miss that, too. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that hopefully our prognosis will be positive!
I figured I may as well hop on the bloghop bandwagon! It’s been one helluva 2018 lol.
Favorite Horse Show Photo
It doesn’t look like much, but this was Whisper’s first show in at least 5 years, and my first show with her in about 7 years. Compare this to any of our older photos, and neither one of us look this relaxed or calm. This was such a phenomenal show for Whisper. It was small, we only did 4 classes, but she was calm, she was trying, and she didn’t do any of her previous nervous habits. Unfortunately it was her only 2018 show, but I still think it says a lot about what she and my mom can do in the future!
Favorite Non-show Photo
Saturday or Sunday walks around the neighborhood with my mom and Whisper were some of my favorite days. The two girls loved going on their walks together, and it was great for my mom and I to chat and to let the horses have a change of scenery.
Favorite Thing You Bought
I really love my dressage saddle, and I love the deal I got on it, too. I also love the fabric I bought to make stirrup covers for my stirrups while on said saddle. The two go together, really lol.
Favorite Moment on Horseback
When I first got to hop on Amber post-surgery. This picture wasn’t that day, but I certainly missed riding my best girl, and being able to ride her once more was the best. I know she was certainly happy to transfer from hand-walking to riding!
Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle
I think our faces say it all!
Favorite Between the Ears Photo
Riding out in the neighborhood in just a halter? Check lol.
Favorite Horse Ridden (or groomed/cared for) Aside from Your Own
Soxie hands down lol. She is such a cool mare!
Favorite Funny Photo of Your Horse
This is totally her “omg you have TREATS” face, and it perfectly embodies her LOLOL. She has SUCH an expressive face, but whenever I whip out my phone to capture it she deadpans at me. She’s only photogenic when she wants to be lol.
Favorite Fence or Movement that You Conquered
This particular lesson was pretty intricate that Trainer G had set up in the early part of this year, and I was really proud of myself this lesson. I got the striding, got Liam on pace and in front of my leg, and got the bending line. Success!
Favorite Horse Meme
True story tho haha!
Thanks everyone else for doing this, too! I’ve loved looking through all of the photos!
I’m going to combine these two lessons into one post since – well, I was a fail in my last lesson, and we didn’t do much in either one. Plus, I have very little to no media. What do ya do.
Well, for starters, I was happy to have Georgio this lesson because per last lesson I was expecting to do more cantering, poles and the like. And Georgio’s canter is much easier to sit. Once he gets going his canter is great. But what did we work on? Trotting. Sans stirrups. Because apparently it’s Drop-’em December. Oh lordy. And poor Lit got a boo-boo so he was out of commission. Plus, I rode the whole lesson without spurs. If you are thinking I died and somehow managed to come back as a ghost and write this, well then you would be correct.
It was a cold-ish and dreary day, so I was hoping my Grand Prix Thermal full seat breeches be in by that time (they weren’t), so the fleece-lined Ovation tights I pulled to ride in….they did NOT help me. It was just a fail fest on Wednesday, really. Georgio was more responsive this lesson, and really responded when I’d lighten by seat while posting. We were pretty good for the first 15 minutes of the lesson – when I got my shit together he’d go nicely, and then he’d decide that work was optional. So I’d lose my position when his pace would waffle – basically the back and forth I had the first time I rode him. No spurs didn’t help, either. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice horse, very sweet and I like him. But there’s only so much my out-of-shape legs can do, and I really really dislike how much I need a crop with him – and Lit too for that matter.
We worked on sitting trot for a bit, and man, if I’m going to do that with Georgio again, I’m either going to have to make sure to drop my stirrups or change my position (the most likely culprit I think), because I had neck pain for days which gave me some nasty headaches for like 3 days straight. It doesn’t help that I for sure have 1 herniated disc, maybe 2 in my neck. When I dropped my stirrups it was much easier to sit Georgio, but my cross country saddle is not made for dressagey sitting trot lol. I was trying to sit with my butt here, calf muscles there, elbows not compensating for balance – that means YOU AS WELL LEFT HAND – and I’m thinking I got ridiculously stiff in my neck which caused the whole thing to start. It doesn’t help that I’m so focused on keeping the horse going that I can’t focus on relaxing into the movement. I loved sitting Amber’s trot in my dressage saddle – it felt really nice. Then again she is certainly not as buoyant as George lol. When sitting the trot tho, the Ovation breeches did not help me at all like my full seats do, and they bunched up weird.
It was just… not a successful lesson. I was miscommunicating to Georgio, and he was a bit tired despite the cold – his only “it’s cold and I be a wild beast” was to spook twice. Like huge, slow motion spooks haha. It was ridiculously easy to sit to after riding short, tiny, agile cutting/reining horses that can scoot out from under you in a heartbeat. I was disappointed in the lesson, just felt very blah – especially from myself. I think Georgio was feeling under the weather – they’d had a show that past weekend that he was in, and he had lots of crusty boogers and snot on one of his nostrils, so I wonder if he just wasn’t feeling it either.
What did work about my lesson? My new winter Roeckl gloves, my Ariat merino wool sweater, my puffy vest, and my trusty brown MH boots. At least I picked my clothing well – minus the breeches. I just, ya know, couldn’t ride that day lol.
After that lesson I thought a lot about grabbing a dressage whip – I’d prefer not to have to use a crop at all, but the lesson horses kind of need something longer with perhaps a little more “oomph” if I’m not going to be able to use spurs; and my legs are only so strong to not only hold myself but use them on the horse since both Lit and George take A LOT of leg. Not even Rocky or Soxie need that much leg. But, the main reason I’m thinking of grabbing one is for my left hand. It likes to completely flatten with my knuckles in the air, which allows my elbow to imitate a sea-flap-flap. Trainer G always has me grab a dressage whip instead of a crop, and I realized that when I switched it to my left hand, I could feel the press of the whip on my thigh when my left hand was in the correct position. So it helps remind me to ice cream cone my left hand, which in turn prevents my elbow from become a chicken wing. Or a sea-flap-flap. Whichever you prefer.
So for the next lesson I planned to switch it up and chose my only pair of full seat Pipers. They’re a thinner breech, but not made for hot weather like my Grand Prix breeches , and it was a lovely, warm sunny day so they were perfect. I debated whether or not to wear my brown boots, but decided to finally break out my black boots that I’d gotten on the Black Friday sale and try them with some new socks. The day before my next lesson I ended up popping by the local tack store for a dressage whip.
I was assigned George again (it’s slow going but I’m getting better at his trot), and he was so sweet – perked his head up and left his hay when I called his name. His nose was still snotty, so he was definitely a little sick, so I immediately determined it would be a light day. I got to ride, and that was good enough for me. Trainer M agreed that we would do only a bit of trotting, a teensy bit of cantering and just focus on my position since George was feeling under the weather (and yes the barn was taking good care of him!). I made sure to tell Trainer M about my neck as well, and she immediately switched up the exercises that would garner the same results.
George and I worked so much better together this lesson. I think part of it is I’ve ridden him a few times now, and I certainly rode better this lesson, but to be honest? It was the whip lol. When I first asked for the trot he threw his “I don’t wanna” sucking back head toss, and two quick taps with the whip had him second-guessing that. He moved into what has been his most forward trot to date, and it was so much easier for me to do my job. Only a few times at first would he slow down, and a cluck and a tiny tap and he’d be forward again. I could actually focus on posting the way he preferred – light and a little forward in my seat with supporting calves. I could focus on using my elbows as the hinge instead of my shoulders. I could focus on balance and position, and I could hold it much longer since he remained steady and forward.
The lesson really was mostly trotting, having me two-point at the trot and post the trot sans stirrups that similarly works your abs and legs like a sitting trot. It was really good that Georgio kept a steady pace for this, especially for my two-point. I realized that while I’m using my core, my back is still like “NO NO it’s fine – let me just take ALL of this slack up” so I had to really concentrate on loosening my lower back muscles every few strides and tightening my abs – back and forth lol. I was also able to also focus on breathing, which sounds silly, but I’ve realized that I have to breathe a certain way with George to actually get enough air in my lungs haha!
Once our trotting was done and we took a short break, I asked George to canter. He still threw his head toss, and I only had to tap him twice, walk and readjust, and we were off without a hitch. He’s such a lovely horse to canter, and we cantered about once or so around the ring before calling it quits. He got many pats.
It was a short lesson, but it felt like one of my best on him or Lit so far. I do think it worked so much better because he was more forward – a lot of things work better with a forward horse lol. Because of that I felt accomplished that I could do the exercises instructed, and then better support him in turn. But the dressage whip really did help me with my left hand and coincidentally the fact that the left side of my ribcage collapses. I mean, I knew it collapsed, but sometimes the light bulb doesn’t go off until something else helps it along haha. I’d feel the whip bump against my boot and get the whip back up. I will still need to tighten my right elbow, but my left one is the worse offender, so I’m going to keep on carrying the whip for a while for my poor left hand’s sake lol.
Two very different lessons, but I think I still learned a lot in them both. What not to do in the first one, and what works in the second one. I have another lesson tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it. I know I won’t get another one with Trainer M for at least the next 2 weeks, and I may not get another one for a while after that – it’ll just depend on how things go for next year. I’ll have a post coming up telling you guys all about it!
That is….if I can write it much less get it out next week haha!