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Thursday, December 31, 2009


Last night, after driving an obscene amount of miles, I picked up my bridle from Matt.

It's absolutely lovely.

I wanted to dash home and make tamales (a guest post coming for Food Adventures Etc.) so I just wanted a quick ride to try out my new bridle and then go home to tamale madness.

This is how the evening went:

  • Put the bridle on. Squeal to Matt on the phone how pretty it is.
  • Decide to ride sans saddle. Practically dance over to the mounting block and hoist my soft squishy self, in tight jeans over her back.
  • Call Matt AGAIN to squeal over how pretty the bridle looks from this angle.
  • For *some* reason, at this moment (magic new bridle?) I feel capable of cantering bareback.
  • I ask and she rushes and bucks.
  • I grip and madly kiss and off we go!
  • I realize I am not wearing a helmet.
  • This is stupid. I'm cantering bareback, in the dark, in semi-muddy footing, for the first time in 8 years. Without a helmet.
  • I take a moment to enjoy the breeze through my hair and feel my pony tail bounce.
  • I dismount
  • I call Matt AGAIN and talk so fast he probably didn't understand a word. Boiled down to me cantering for the first time bareback in YEARS and how happy I was etc etc etc.
  • Put helmet on.
  • Went back out and cantered for 10 minutes. OK - so at this point it was more of a handgallop. :)

I haven't gone above a trot on bareback in a very very long time. I had forgotten how much fun it was! Farley's rough trot, high wither, and rough canter departures have always dissuaded me from trying on her. Let's hear it for DRESSAGE! The last horse I galloped/cantered bareback was a standardbred. In fact, I don't think I've EVER galloped a horse bareback that was NOT a standardbred. One thing that was different on a small bodied horse was if I wasn't careful my feet would bump her front legs, NOT a problem I had with the big bodied standardbreds.

Farley's back muscles have REALLY improved. She still has a big wither, but at least there's not a pointy little back bone any more. Yeah, I had to grab mane a couple of times (getting old sucks) but I had a BLAST. Farley was a bit....hesitant. :) But I think she got the point of a speedy canter departure by the end. My weight was a bit more forward than it is in the saddle so there was a bit of...bucking...but we worked through it. :) What a BLAST. I LOVE this horse.

10 MORE things that make me happy

Apparently in the spirit of the season, Endurance Granny has decided to to "regift" me the blog award I gave her last week. really.....

Here's 10 MORE things that make me freakn' estatic about life these days.

  1. Hought's tack. My boyfriend ordered me a new bridle for Hought's, and had it shipped (expensively) in time for Christmas. Unfortunately the size he ordered was not what was shipped. Gail Hought got back to his e-mail in HOURS responding she would mail a replacement on the 2nd, after she returned from the Death Valley ride. A bit of a bummer, but these things happen. I got a call from Matt yesterday - the bridle arrived on SATURDAY. What great customer service! Gail must have overnighted it on her way to the Death Valley ride, braving the Christmas rush at the post office. The bummer is (of course) I was at Matt's house on Saturday, but we didn't check the mail. So now I have to figure out how to get the bridle from him before this weekend....

  2. Pony feet. and the fact that even after all these changes, they still fit into the (very expensive) renegades I bought her.

  3. New starts and new years. Live simply and live well is the 2010 goal.

  4. Good wine. I have had a lot of good wine the last 2 weeks. Good wine is such an experience - to be savored and to be shared with family and good friends.

  5. Knitting. Especially socks.
  6. A good book. The kind where the author puts words together so brilliantly, it's art. It isn't necessarily a book that will keep you up at night, but after reading it, it changes a little part of your life and how you view the world. Top of my list: Tess of D'ubervilles by Thomas Hardy.
  7. A fun book. The kind where you stay up ALL NIGHT to finish it, and makes you giggle outloud when you are all alone in the apartment on the couch. The kind you will probably never read again, but provides complete escape while in progress. This book is best viewed in a hot bath, or while snuggled on the couch under a blanket and with a couple of kitty cats. The kind of book you DEVOUR on holiday breaks while in college. Currently on my couch (on top of the blanket and heating pad): Jim Butcher's series.
  8. Shooting clays. And getting a good shot. Honestly, shooting clays is the only shooting sport that satisfies my patience (or impatience) level. "Pull!", bring the gun up, take the shot. All done in less than 5 seconds.
  9. An organized tack room. Need I say more?
  10. A perfect day. Sleeping in until I decide to get up. Follow that with a nice relaxed run, then seeing the pony. Cook something delicious while knitting and watching a show on DVD. Eating dinner over a good book. Then perhaps practicing a new song on the fiddle. Somewhere Matt, Family, and Friends fit into this day. And church. And Endurance. And Dressage.

Meltdown part 2

(FYI this is a scheduled post. "today" = Tuesday 12/29/09)

I admit I was a wee bit trepidacious as I stepped into the stirrup this afternoon. After 2 weeks off, Minx would have bolted as soon as I put weight in the stirrup, perhaps throwing in some 360 rearing pivots, just to keep things interesting. Farley sighed and stepped off.

This was my first arena ride since the melt down during the lesson. There was a glorious trail ride the day after, and then 2 weeks of....nothing....due to work issues.

I was a bit nervous. The last ride ended so badly. How much of the dressage work did she remember after 2 weeks? Were we (me and trainer) able to end the lesson on a good enough note that she wouldn't resist when I asked her to go to work?

The ride today was just to push buttons and see if they worked. Where were we?

I asked for a walk. She took the connection immediately down and over without fussing. She's NEVER done that. I signalled for a trot, and although it was a bit rusty, there it was. Again, good connection without any nagging from me. Now for the real test. The canter transition was a bit rough, but there. Picked up the correct lead the first time going both directions. The canter was....ehh...a bit rough. But she wasn't fighting me either.

I tried to school her at the canter a bit, asking for a bit more bend. She started to rush and be a bit tense. I backed off, played a little more and then quit.

I was going to slowly trot on a loose rein to cool down, then walk, but Farley decided to she wanted to canter. Why not? After all she was offering. She took off on a nice easy left lead canter (her "bad" side), made a couple of laps, then came to the center of the arena and stopped. "Time to get off" she seemed to say. I laughed, dismounted and gave her a big pat.

The buttons were there and they were working better now, than before her vacation.

So what have I learned?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Revelation #?

Do not practice the sitting trot in jeans. Period. Even if they are the most comfy jeans ever.

Farley's meltdown

This is part 1 of a series of posts describing Farley's meltdown, her comeback, and my thoughts on time off

The point of this post is not to ask for advice, although if you have an insight to share you are absolutely welcomed to do so. This post segment having a near *perfect* horse with a quirk. Do you a much loved or trustworthy horse with a quirk? Please share!

Farley had a complete melt down during our last lesson.

This is not the first time.

This will not be the last time.

The difference? That day it was a lesson and my trainer was there.

For the first 30 minutes of the lesson we worked on trotting and the sitting trot. It was LOVELY. She got round and soft with a very soft jaw. I was keeping the lesson easy because we hadn't gotten a lot of work in that week, and I could feel that she wasn't in top form that day. Just having one of those "Mental Mare" days. That doesn't mean that she doesn't work, but it does mean that I'm sensitive to the fact she may need some extra special tender attention and understanding.

Near the end we asked for a canter departure. She immediately got pissed off, said "I'm not going to play anymore". We cantered (badly) until it was good enough to quit (it was still bad). She then proceeded to blow through my half halt and my trot. Totally ignored my aids. Heavy heavy and more heavy. It was like I wasn't even there. She knew it was close to the end and she was determined to make it come sooner rather than later by just not responding at all.

When this happens, I pick one simple thing that she needs to do, and then we can be done. It's all about salvaging something good....All I wanted was a halt that was soft. That's it. Didn't even have to be pretty, she just had to acknowledge my aid. Then we could be done.

My trainer was a bit shocked at her behavior. I'm glad she finally did this at a lesson. At home, I have to deal with the rushing, horrible, stiff canter, and the temper tantrums. I think I've been handling them well, but it's nice to have the trainer see some of the stuff I have to school her through - she's usually very perfect and compliant during lessons.

The trainer got a lunge whip and while I asked her to flex, my trainer tapped her hocks, making her really work at the walk, stepping through. Then as she got soft, I let the connection down down down until she was walking with the rein all the way down. Then we quit.

The melt downs are unpredictable, although most of the time, some (but not all) of the following elements are present:
  • In season (a factor in this melt down)
  • Not ideal weather (a factor in this melt down - it was sprinkling)
  • Worked too many days in a row
  • Given too much time off
  • Worked in the arena too many days in a row (probably a factor)
  • Worked at a time of day that is not "typical"

99% of the time Farley is a very good pony indeed. During these meltdowns she completely shuts down. Unresponsive, sluggish, ignores me etc.

My "Dear Farley" note of a past post was partially a result of one of her melt downs.

Most of the time I try to manage them by:

  • giving her adequate time off
  • working her regularly when she's not on vacation.
  • putting her back into work slowly when she's been off for a while
  • don't do the same thing every day - have fun days for playing only.
  • Recognize what is happening and try to end on a good note before it turns into a battle
  • Salvage whatever good thing I can from the work out and end on a high note, even if it's in the middle of a huge pit - for example softening into the bit at a halt.
  • Keeping positive and upbeat no matter what and treat it like a game.

*sigh*. Every horse has it's *thing*. And for a mare she's remarkably consistent and not moody. So what if I have to occasionally work through one of her "moments". She has to work through my "moments" too. Just like all relationships, it's not going to be roses and peaches all the time. In reality, she has an "episode" less than once per month. I'm sure I get unreasonable and grouchy more often than that! It happens.

After the melt down:

The next day, after the lesson we went out on a lovely 15 mile trail ride where we did a little bit of everything - walk, trot, canter, and gallop. I've never actually opened her up full throttle. We've galloped, but I've never asked her to go faster and faster and FASTER. As Buster the Standardbred (the eye of my blog) started to gain on her, she pinned her eyes and slipped into a gear I didn't even know my little pony had. The difficult thing of course is that her long mane gets tangled with the reins at the gallop, which gets tangled in my gloves, which leaves me zero control, but hey - that's the fun of it right? The best front renegades I was using stayed on!

After the fabulous trail ride where the little pony redeemed herself, she got 2 weeks off....

So how did the precious pony do after 2 weeks off? Was she peaches and cream, or did it resemble more of a screaming hell cat with some hotsauce? Stay tuned for part 2.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Regarding barefoot

If you have a few extra moments today, check out this post here.

It's a very candid post about going barefoot, making the best decision for the horse, and analyzing where things may have gone wrong. I throughly enjoyed it.

Sitting trot

At my last lesson I discovered the power of the sitting trot.

Throughout this journey of learning to ride, there have been some revolutionary breakthroughs. So far mine have included:

Galloping for the first time bareback and not falling off
Galloping FULL out in a saddle and feeling the power of the horse
Riding a collected canter for the first time

Discovering the power of the sitting trot was no less magical than any of these.

Posting for me is absolutely natural. I could do it in my sleep. It’s the same one-two motion of running. It’s easy on my horse and it’s easy on my body. Absolutely effortless, I go along with the motion of the horse. Which is why, as I trotted around in a circle, willing my body to stop bouncing, I was frustrated. I had tried totally relaxing, moving side to side, flexing my back, going with the bounce. Nothing worked. I bounced higher and higher, while my knees moved higher and higher, and her head rose higher and higher. Finally out of desperation I shoved my hips into the bounce. More similar to a canter than a posting trot, I shoved my hips forward into every bounce. My chin came down, my chest expanded upward, and I put a haughty expression on my face. PUSH PUSH PUSH. My whole problem was trying not to bounce by going WITH the bounce. The secret was to EMBRACE the bounce and PUSH the bounce with my hips. I CONTROLLED THE BOUNCE.

It was a power trip I tell ya…….

I felt Farley expand below me to match the power of my hips as she stretched down, softening her jaw, and increasing her thrust behind.

I had laughed when my trainer told me that once I learned to sit the trot I would never want to post again. BAHAAAHAHAHA (evil laughter of one now addicted to the power rush of the sitting trot).

The sitting trot isn’t even the same gait as the posting trot. It doesn’t help to think of posting AT ALL when trying to do the sitting trot. More similar to the canter than the posting trot, you are almost ahead of the movement, driving the movement. Posting is very much being with the horse, following the movement, making sure you aren’t behind or ahead. The sitting trot is not about relaxing or putting your heels down. This is what it is about: taking control, embracing the bounce, and being supremely confident as you lay it all on the line.

****BTW – When I talk about driving the motion, I’m NOT talking about a driving seat, I’m trying to describe the difference in motion between the posting trot and the movement the hip makes for the sitting trot. Think about the differences between your seat at the canter and the posting trot and you’ll get what I mean.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pictoral - Hinds

Last post!

So what do you think? I was suprised how a camera can distort the pictures so.

Here's the hinds. Order for all is October, Early December, before trim yesterday, after trim yesterday.

Right Hind

Left Hind

Pictoral - Right Front

Same story as the Left front.

This foot has always worried me, but I'm getting OK with it. The outside doesn't have the flares of the LF and the bottom of the foot/sole changes so fast. It's definately in a period of transition.

October and fondly remembered drier days:

2 1/2 weeks ago:

Yesterday, before trim:

Yesterday, after Trim
(yes, I know I got her quarter high. Darn it! The sole is uneven and the white line isn't tight there and I ended up rasping the wall to the sole, but too high.)

(much better than LF)

How I see it:
Flares are not nearly as bad on this front foot. The white line is still very seperated at the quarters, the foot is not round. The crevice in the frog is not as deep, but the crevice between the bars and the side of the frog is very very VERY deep. Sole continues to exfoliate more and more with each trim. I struggle with getting the side to side balance correct with this foot.
I've always been leary about taking too much heel off this front because the LF is so heel high. However, I could see yesterday clearly what needed to come off, so I did it.

Pictoral - Left front

This next series of posts is going to be tedious for you non-horse people, or those of you that aren't particularly enamored of horsey feet. Sorry. I feel for you....I really do......

We will start with the Left front.

This foot has a tendancy to grow lots and lots of heel.

For reference, this is what her foot looked like in October before it got very wet.

Is it suprise that after sloshing around in this muck her feet changed?

~2 1/2 weeks ago, she was a bit ouchy on a trail ride (sans boots) so I poked and prodded and voila! All sorts of sole and frog began to flake off. There is what I had:

Then I let her sit for 10 days in the slop while work took over my entire life. Yesterday, this is what I had:

Before trim

After Trim

Summary of foot: (as Melinda sees it)
Significant flare in the toe, sides are better.
Sole has nice concavity, white line at quarters continues to tighten
WAY deep crevice in center of frog makes me unhappy.
Heels are still too high. Was able to chop a bunch of heel off at the trim yesterday. I couldn't have done it 2 weeks ago, but the foot continues to change!
Your thoughts?

Pictorial - rinsing beet pulp

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog Award - Happy 101

Thank you GunDiva!
The rules are to list 10 things that make me happy, and then pass it on to 10 people.
As my life as been a bit.....Errrrr....stressed lately (that's a very nice word to use, not all like the 4 letter words I want to use) this will be very easy.
10 things that make Melinda happy:
1. Sleep. For the past 3 weeks I've averaged 4-5 hours a night. I should add that those 4-5 hours occur in 1-2 hour naps throughout the day. So you can see, not nearly as restful as it sounds. Yesterday I got some good news so I went to bed at 2pm, woke up at 8am. It was delightful.
2. Riding. Seeing my horse. Hearing her knicker at me. I haven't been on my horse for a week. I didn't see Farley at all yesterday. :(
3. Running. Exercising. Doing something besides eating, sleeping, and sitting at this desk. For 3 weeks I've been eating fast food because that has been the only thing that met my time and energy threshold for food preperation. I am now soft and squishy.
4. Did I already mention sleep?
5. Good friends. My wonderful friend Catherine visited me over the weekend. She introduced me to desert wine and we ate chocolate, drank wine, and talked to 1am. There is something about a good friend that transcends any current situation.
6. Friends part 2. Really good trail rides with a friends. Thank you D*.
7. Galloping in hoof boots that don't come off and that make my pony comfortable.
8. Being able to leave work today when all my work is done, which might be soon if I stop writing this stinkin' post and finish up my projects.
9. Furry little kitty cats. Waking up with furry kitting cats nestled around me.
10. Simplifying my life by getting ride of stuff. Goodbye fish tank and little table! And framed picture, sofa pillow, and cowboy boots that don't fit!
Here's the 10 bloggers I'm nominating:
And as I REALLY need to get back to work, and I'm still tired, and I get to go home as soon as I finish my work, I'm ending my list of "10" now. Sorry everyone.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Hiding Place

I may be out of touch for a few days. Work continues to be HUGE issue, and until things settle down I am too drained and tired to post anything. D* - if you are reading this, I am SO GLAD I didn't answer my phone during the trail ride, as it was bad news from work.

I did have a FABULOUS 3.5 hour ~15 mile trail ride at Fort Ord this morning, with a friend I don't see very often, and as usual, talked too much and was opinionated on everything - including that which I know nothing about! LOL Blogs are for people with opinions right? It definitely ranked as one of my most enjoyable conditioning rides. As a bonus, Farley decided to redeem herself by being exceptionally sweet and (kind of) obedient today. Which is a good thing, because after yesterday's melt down and shut down, we were not exactly on speaking terms.

I am coming up with pictures of her feet for everyone, pics of my beet pulp soaking routine, a book review, my revelation of the sitting trot at my last lesson (and Farley's subsequent melt-down). In the meantime, please stick around, I'll be back soon - look for me on Monday (if things have settled to a dull roar by then).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hoof breakthrough Part 2

When digging at the tip of her frog on her right front, a chunk of sole crumbled from her foot.

What the.....

At the bottom of the "pit" was good looking, waxy sole. Hurrah! The wet weather/tightening white line/rinsing the beet pulp/whatever was causing Farley's front feet to exfoliate all of that dead sole.

I grabbed my tools and went to work.

I started on her left front. I gently scraped with my hoof knife and dead sole crumbled away. What emerged was absolutely amazing. A round little hoof with a tight white line all the way around, cute little concave cups. I could see her bars clearly for the first time. I could see I much her heels needed to be taken down to the live sole. I could see the patches of live soles near the white line by the toe. It was amazing.

Next was her right front. This was the foot that gave me the clue that her feet were exfoliating, but they weren't ready to give up their secrets yet. The white line is still not tight at the quarters, but I can see progress with this foot. Chunks of dead sole are flaking away, exposing live sole, and I'm sure when the foot is ready, it too will transform.

All four feet got a good dawn scrubbing and then it was off to work again.

So what did I learn today?
  • Even on the crappiest day, a miracle is waiting to surprise me.
  • There is nothing more beautiful than a barefoot hoof, coming to life
  • Have patience - even if nothing looks like it it's happening in there, the transitioning barefoot hoof is slowly transforming.
  • I read that getting a tight white line is key - then the rest of it will take care of itself. That has certainly been true for me so far. Her hinds had a tight white line first and got their little concave cups first. Is it a coincidence that the first trimming that the LF has a tight white line, that it also develops concavity? While the only hoof without a tight white line (RF) is the only one without concavity at this point?

At this point it's been 9 weeks since she's seen a traditional farrier, and 3.5 months since she's had shoes. This is the biggest transformation so far, and I really needed it as reassurance that things are progressing in the right direction.

I took pics, but it was dark and it's hard to see. She'll continue to get a good Dawn scrubbing daily until the thrush goes away (usually 1-2 scrubbings), and I'll boot her for any rides I do. I'll continue to focus on getting that RF white line cleaned up (and have patience! Because it totally paid off!) and hopefully I soon have 4 little cupped feet.

Barefoot totally rocks!

Hoof breakthrough part 1

So the excuses continue - this will just be a short update post because I don't have the time/energy for more blah blah blah blah. Like I commented earlier - that light at the end of the tunnel? That was the train headed for poor naive me. Like the coyote chasing the Road Runner and after the anvil hits him on the head and you think there can't possibly be comes the piano.

I admit it - I've been in a crappy mood all day. All weekend actually. I got a chance to ride this afternoon and found myself annoyed by two things, almost unbearably:
  • The jangling of the curb chain on Farley's bit
  • Farley stumbling in holes because she's not paying attention.

Then a gravel truck (double trailer) passed us, from behind, in the lane beside us, at 50 mph and shifting gears...and my little pony never even flinched. I decided that THAT was going to be the highlight of my day - that I had such a wonderful pony.

Of course that was BEFORE I walked her, on foot, 2 miles home. She just didn't feel right and I could tell she wasn't "into" it today. When she talks I listen, so I dismounted, took off her bridle and we walked.

It was not as enjoyable as it usually is - I was late for work AND I had to walk - no jogging. I had run 2 miles a couple hours earlier and cramped so bad at the end I had to resort to sitting down on the grass beside the road and pretend nothing was wrong. It took me 30 minutes to traverse the last 1/4 mile home. I was so not doing that again.

Stay with me - this post has a point.

As I stood at the stable with her, ready to leave for work I had a revelation.

Maybe she had thrush?

It's been very wet lately. it was a possibility. If it WAS thrush I was feeling very smug about noticing her very slight soreness. Just call me "connected to my pony". *self-preening*. Suddenly walking home on foot was more than just a gut feeling - there had been a reason and I had LISTENED to my pony. *more self preening*.

There wasn't anything obvious, but I kept digging and poking, and prodding.

Finally I found it - the flap of her frog came up and there was some thrush hiding out there.

Then something even more exciting happened.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Life throws curve balls

Work continues to be absolutely crazy, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have been accused this week of being a squirrel as I dash from one thing to another, gathering my nuts for the winter. The image makes me laugh.

Another "not-real" post from my today, although hopefully, starting tomorrow, I will once again have fabulous, informative, entertaining postings again.

I have plans of another canter down the canal session this afternoon. It's wet and the arena is probably unusable, but the canal should be fine. The rain has let up and this may be my last chance to ride this weekend.

I leave you today with a picture of Melinda's Fabulous Creation #4 (teddy bear). He just got stitched up and stuffed this morning, so no eyes, nose, or mouth yet. I took him to work with me today because he makes me happy. He's also going to get a fuzzy wool scarf.