Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lucy rearranges her paddock

Lucy's chiro appt was yesterday. He texted me a few times during the exam, since I was stuck at work, to ask me questions like when her teeth were done and what saddle pad(s) I have been using. I like this chiropractor because he doesn't just make the horse go pop and then call it a day. He takes everything into account, right down to the horse's tootsies. He reported that she only tried to kick him once (sigh), her neck was sore, her SI area was very tight, Lauren's saddle doesn't fit at all, and my saddle is going to have to be replaced in the future.


Ok, well this was a lot to digest on a Monday after a very long meeting at work. Poor Lauren, but at least my saddle fits well with the help of the fleece 1/2 pad I usually ride in. As for the kicking, this is nothing new and she doesn't try to kick the person, but she does tend to kick out slightly when her hind end is being messed with (I suspect she's just uncomfortable). I hope this was the case with the chiro because I really hate when she's naughty around professionals who are trying to help her. As for the neck soreness, that was confusing until I got to the barn after work to find Lucy down on one knee, butt up in the air, head twisted to the side with her left cheek on the ground wedged under the fence to get at the grass on the other side. "Well, this explains a lot," I thought.

I think I will get a second opinion on my saddle before do anything drastic. I cannot afford a saddle change right now and while the chiro assured me it was perfectly fine to ride in with the half pad, I want to plan for a change if that's what has to happen so that I'm not caught broadsided like I was last time (similar to what just happened to Lauren, except I had no saddle to ride in). I have a fabulously talented saddle fitter and if there's a way to fit this saddle to Lucy, even if I need to adjust the tree, that would be preferable over getting a different saddle.

Then I got a really fun phone call today at work to let me know that Lucy had gotten tangled in her hay net and in her effort to free herself, she pulled down a bunch of fencing in her paddock. Luckily this is not the fencing that keeps her in her paddock; rather it surrounds a tree and some vegetation that the barn owner doesn't want the horse to get into. It's steel panel fencing and I bet she really scared herself pulling all of that down. I am so grateful that Maddy got to the barn not long after it probably happened, fixed the fencing, doctored Lucy's scratches (her LF has a nice long scrape on the outside of the cannon bone), and rigged up a better system for her hay net.

I am not really a big hay net fan but she wastes hay like it's $0.50 a bale (um, try $7/bale) and the hay net really helps to keep hay off the ground and in her belly, instead. This causes a few problems, though, because I don't want her twisting her head to get at the hay, so I leave the hay net as low as I can without risking her getting tangled in it. Clearly this backfired today because she DID get tangled in it, so it's going to have to get rigged up a bit higher.

I just can't win!

Good news is that after work, I went to bring the horses in and feed them, and I let Lucy have a quick free lunge in the indoor before I gave her dinner. She rolled in her favourite spot, had a nice trot, then took off in a bucking and leaping fit up and down the arena that lasted a solid two minutes as I stood there with one eyebrow raised and an amused smile across my face.

Thank god I didn't decide to ride that beast today.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

cash makes the horse world go round

Back from the brink of insanity/poverty thanks to my new job, I am now able to afford some extra bonuses for Lucy the Princess. The chiropractor is coming out tomorrow to give her an adjustment and also check the fit of both saddles (Lauren's and mine), and I have gone and signed myself up for a rather pricey lesson with Niall Quirke. I think we learned so much from the Eric Smiley clinic, and it completely changed the way I ride (for the better!) and I hope to gain as much knowledge from this lesson with Niall.

We've been going on lots of hacks, doing some ring work, and finishing every ride with a nice hop over one of the smaller XC jumps. She has been going so well, and she seems very content.

out exploring, bug free
Today we had a really nice, really long trail ride with Maddy and Pretty (an Arabian mare). We walked through the trails to a nice park that we visit sometimes. This particular park has some softball/baseball fields and today they were having a game. No problem for Lucy, but Pretty went into insta-Arab mode, tail flagged, eyes bugged out of her head, ears on high alert. We didn't have any problems until we were past the softball field, because three little girls apparently really wanted to pet the ponies, but instead of asking us, they stalked us through one of the fields, trailing about 50' behind us. It was like a game of red light/green light because when I'd turn around and look at them, they'd be walking, but when I would return to looking forward, they started running toward us. Understandably, Pretty could not handle that nonsense. I turned around quickly and caught them running toward the horses, and I ended up taking Lucy over to them and giving them a gentle lecture on safety around horses (i.e. DON'T RUN UP FROM BEHIND THEM!) and then let them all pet Lucy's shoulder.

After the three girls went back to their parents and left us alone, Pretty relaxed considerably and the rest of the ride went smoothly. When we got back to the barn, I pulled Lucy's mane. It was right on the edge of out-of-control but I pulled it really short, so I hopefully will not have to pull it for another few months.

almost done, giving my hands and her neck a break!
In other horse-related news, Kenny's dad got us these awesome aftermarket mirrors for the truck that are specially designed for trailering. They come standard on most of the bigger trucks but Kenny's Silverado 1500 had regular mirrors on it that made seeing around the trailer very difficult. The new mirrors are much bigger in size, have a fish-eye mirror on the bottom, and telescope outward to allow the driver to see as much as possible even while towing a trailer.

Cairo likes them, too.
Now we just need a trailer...ahhh.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

my ride in pictures

I've been doing a lot of talking and not a lot of photo posting lately, so here are some photos that my friend Maddy took of my ride tonight:

Not bad for an $800 racetrack reject :D

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tiny Monstrosities: The War of 2012

NEVER have I had as many issues with bugs as I'm having this year. The barn she is at backs right up to the trail system that we love so much, which happens to be quite swampy. This means there is no shortage of flying, biting insects. Short of hiring someone to stand in her paddock and karate-chop any big flies that were trying to eat her, I was out of ideas to protect her. I tried spot treatments, I tried switching fly sprays, and finally after getting to the barn one day last week and finding Lucy being tortured by a huge bomber fly, I realised that I had to get her a fly sheet.

This wouldn't be an issue for most people but I have protested the use of fly sheets for years. I have seen bugs get under them and the horse can't escape and I think Lucy would genuinely injure herself if that happened to her. Still, I figured it was worth a try. Enter this eyesore:

This has actually worked pretty well, except for the days when it has been super hot and very humid, because she sweats so badly under it. Today was in the mid 80's and when I went to ride, she was completely dry under it. Once it hits the 90's, though, I don't put it on.

So, ok, great. This solved the turnout problem. But what if I want to go out for a trail ride? I can't ride her with her cape on. Enter this contraption:

"oh my god."

This is the Bug Out Riding Hood. Though it's not beautiful, I found out tonight that it works really, really well. It has very fine netting that she can see out of easily. It covers her head and most of her neck, including her ears. The bugs normally attack the top of her neck on either side of her mane and tonight on our trail ride, she didn't act like they were bothering her at all. They were landing on her in droves and trying to bite, but beside the occasional ear flick, she seemed very content!

unsuccessful biting attempt :D

Western saddle, running shorts, and sneakers...oh my.
We trail rode all through the woods, past the swampy area, around the lake, and through tall grass. She was fine the entire time. Cairo, on the other hand, got chewed up pretty badly. Poor thing :(

So I will call this a success!

On a side note, thank you for all the sweet comments about Cassie. We are taking it one day at a time and making sure she is comfortable. It seems our idea of what could happen if one of the tumors burst wasn't quite accurate according to a second opinion so we may be able to have more time with her. It kills me to not be home right now, but I know my parents are giving her all my love.

Friday, July 20, 2012

life just won't slow down.

Once again my blog (and my horse) have been neglected. I get the feeling that there just aren't enough hours in the day at least once per day, every day of the week. I have ridden just a handful of times due to work and the heat, which up until yesterday has been outrageous. Lauren has still been riding diligently, at least!

This is a video from tonight's ride:

I am SO out of shape but I am really happy with Lucy.

I am heavily distracted now because my beloved Golden Retriever, Cassie, whom I picked out of her litter 16 years ago, has been diagnosed with very advanced cancer all in her lungs and bones. She lives with my parents in MA so I only get to see her every so often. I got the news on Wednesday and the vet who saw her said she had 3 months to live. Then our vet, along with a family friend who is also a vet, looked at the x-rays and recommended that we put her down within the next two weeks because her condition is much worse than the original vet thought. This comes as such a shock. She is the sweetest, most happy dog. Even though she has probably been in terrible pain for quite some time, she always wants to snuggle and she always has a smile on her face. This type of cancer can rupture and cause the animal a horrific death and as a family, we have decided to put her down so she doesn't have to endure that end, even if we may get more time with her if we wait. To me, the risk of her dying a horrible death is not worth getting a few more weeks with her.

I have known this was coming for some time - she's 16, which is an impressive age for a Golden and the adult in me knows they don't live forever, but the reality that it is happening in the very near future has left me reeling.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

it wouldn't be Lucy...

...without the occasional come-to-jesus session.

I have been a major slacker. I haven't been riding consistently at all, and Lucy is not really a horse you can let sit for four days and then hack around on, which is what I tried to do on Wednesday. She was quiet at first, until I asked for a little canter and her response was a display of impressive bronco moves around the far end of the ring. It occurred to me that it may be intelligent to lunge before we proceeded further, so I hopped off and grabbed the lunge line. She did one nice circle like a lady, then dragged me while running backward from the far end of the ring to the gate. I guess she would have preferred to go back to her paddock and continue her holiday from work.

Well, too bad, horse. The bronco moves were understandable and I almost felt like I asked for that show. Dragging me around is A BIG NO NO.

The no-nonsense rope halter was summoned. Tack was removed, and she got her attitude realigned with an hour of solid, serious ground work. Right at the start, she tried to pull me over to some grass to eat, and without a second of hesitation I gave her a smart smack on the side with the end of the super speshul lead line (which has a little bit of leather, so it gives a really good SMACK sound). Instantly she went from giving me the middle finger to listening very carefully to what I wanted.

Oh, horse, you don't want to have a nice leisurely 1/2 hour hack in the outdoor? Ok, we can do an hour of solid, sweaty, difficult ground work. Yes you can move your smart little ass in a small circle. Yes you can move away from me when I demand it and then walk toward me when I demand it. Now you're going to jump this little pile of logs. Yes, now. Ok, you're feeling more cooperative? Good, then I will tie you to this tree for 20 minutes while you patiently stand there and think about things.


She had a totally different attitude from start to finish. She went from saying "NO" to "What would you like next? You want me to jump? Ok, how high? You want me to trot? Would you like a medium trot or an extended trot? You want me to stop? Yes, ma'am. You'd like me to pivot? Would you prefer a turn on the haunches or a turn on the forehand?".


In other news, she has gained so much weight, I could just cry with happiness when I see her. I have started giving her hay in her hay net. This prevents her from wasting as much as she does if I just put it on the ground, and I can also give her 6+ flakes in the beginning of the day and she goes through the whole thing. She was getting 2 flakes AM and 2 flakes for lunch, and there would be so much waste at the end of the day that it was worthless to give her more than that. She will not eat anything once it has touched the ground.

She's still getting lunch grain so between AM grain, 6 flakes throughout the day, lunch grain, 5 flakes of hay at night in her stall, and dinner, she is looking GOOD. Lauren commented that she could barely buckle up the girth last night. Now that is satisfying.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

XC school at Course Brook Farm

The Queen Bee, photo by Amanda Rains/Red Horse Photography
Yesterday morning was an exciting one - we were heading out to Course Brook Farm in MA for an XC school with Suzi Gornall. Lucy started the day off in style by getting loose at the barn before getting on the trailer...I took her lead rope off so I could put the chain over her nose because she was being a bit strong when I was leading her around, and she waited until she knew the clip was undone and then said:

She had a GRAND time running around, getting all the other horses riled up, and playing hard-to-catch. We corralled her into the indoor where she finally stood for me to catch her, and then she got her little heinie kicked on the lunge line. Oh, you think it's so much fun to run around? Well then you can do it on the lunge line.

Yes, two can play that game!

After a good amount of lunging, and then some refreshing on ground manners, she was a perfect angel. She loaded in no time, trailered great, unloaded at CBF, stood for me to tack her up, and let me mount from the ground. We walked around the trailer area on a loose rein while the rest of our crew tacked up, then hacked back to the cross country course.

Suzi asked me what my goal was. I told her about our massive failure at Groton House and said that I didn't care what height we were jumping; today I needed to get confidently over some jumps. That is exactly what we did; the "scariest" jump was a 2'3" (if even that) log that was hoisted up in the air, with a small ditch underneath. Going up to it I was like, THAT IS A SCARY JUMP!!! but Lucy hopped right over it. Given my defensive ride, she threw in a few bucks upon landing. Suzi said I needed to stay off her back a bit more and let her jump; she is a nice jumper but jumps very round and I should try to stay out of her way better.

One other thing was that she loaded like she could not WAIT to get on the trailer. WTF horse? We used my barn owner's ramp load trailer, and of course her super sexy Dutch Warmblood gelding was in there. I think the key to my loading issues with Lucy is to buy myself a nice ramp load trailer and an even nicer Dutch Warmblood. Yup, that's what I need! Kenny, are you reading this?

I hired a friend to come out and take photos for me, so here are a few! Check her out here (Red Horse Photography on Facebook).

warm up gallop around the field

pep talk from Suzi

can we just jump little logs forever please?

folks, this is why I do what I do

the scariest jump of the day
no really, I was petrified of it...

The Lucy Special

trotting through the "water jump", which had really dried up to nothing
more than a puddle.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

get fat; get happy

A nice solid week off did Lucy some good, I think. She is rounder and had decompressed from the event and the clinic. She got her feet done on Tuesday and since I had the 4th off of work, I decided yesterday was a good day to get back in the saddle, but it was too hot to do ring work. A trail ride after a week off? No biggie. A trail ride in the snaffle without lunging first after a week off? Ehh not a great idea. She wasn't the worst she's ever been, but she did try to romp a bit, and since I was using the snaffle, I had no leverage to get her head up. We cantered for a good amount of time but in the end we walked more than anything. Next time I will ride her in the Kimberwicke!

we survived! (did I mention the bugs were
TERRIBLE? her fly mask had blood on the ears
when I took it off - those nasty biting flies
bit her right through the fabric)
I am trying to sort out an XC schooling day on Saturday - hopefully that pans out and it's not a gazillion degrees!