Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review

January was a month of massive change that at first seemed scary and impossible, but led to a blessed year at a new barn with new friends and new opportunities. More here.

February was full of challenges but I started approaching Lucy's excess spunk by way of groundwork, which turned out to be a much more effective way of working with her. More here.

March was full of new experiences, including trying Lucy in a hackamore after she injured her tongue and couldn't be ridden in a bit. More here.

April was a warm month and we had many fun rides. Lucy was back in a normal bit/bridle and we had a lot of fun out in the fields and woods. More here.

May brought more incredible weather, and our very first event! We came home with a 4th place ribbon and I was head over heels in love with my horse. I thought we were such a great team. More here.

June was a challenging month. We went to our second event and totally bombed all three phases (sucky dressage, eliminated in SJ, couldn't even get around the XC course). We had an Eric Smiley clinic the next day and she was good but then took two hours to get on the trailer to go home. I hated her. I also got laid off from my job, but then was hired at a new, MUCH better job just a couple weeks later. More here.

July was hot and kind of slow, but we did have fun at Course Brook Farm during an XC lesson. More here.

August was fun, with a Niall Quirke clinic and getting tossed in the field but managing to land on my feet. More here.

In September, we had lots of fun trail rides, and both of us were happy and healthy. More here.

October was another challenging month. Cairo went in for surgery to remove a cancerous tumour we had found, and the shock of it all absolutely knocked me off my feet. I lent Lucy out to someone to use in a clinic and she came home very sore in her hind end and consequently needed time off. I worked my butt off to get her healthy again in time for Equine Affaire, which turned out to be a wasted effort. More here.

November was scary and expensive. Lucy ran into the road when she unseated me during an early morning ride. She somehow missed getting hit by a car but required $700 of emergency vet care and almost a month off to heal. During the rehab process, I gave her a bandage bow by mistake and then spent the remainder of the month hating myself and running myself ragged trying to give her the best care possible. Looking back at November's entries, the happiest entry was the first day I was allowed to hand walk depressing. More here.

In December my soul belonged to saddle pad and ornament orders, in addition to working full time and gradually getting Lucy back into work. I conquered my demons and rode her in the outdoor for the first time since her accident. Then tonight, on the last day of the year, I had a really fun ride in the indoor, bareback with a rope halter. I think after all the ups and downs this year, I couldn't have asked for a better way to welcome 2013.

Happy New Year to all of Lucy's friends and fans!

back from England

I landed in Boston yesterday after a wonderful week in the UK, visiting friends and family and showing Kenny where I grew up. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which I was very grateful for because my Grandfather was extremely sick this year and there were a few times we thought he wouldn't make it. So I am very glad to have spent some time with him!

Here are some photos from my trip:

Gloucester Docks

Christmas Day hike

Trafalgar Sq.

my favourite spot in London (Trafalgar Sq.)

Snuggling with a guard's horse

Big Ben at twilight

the city tries its best to be tourist-proof

London Eye

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lucy-fer returns.

Continuing with the theme of rollercoasters, Lucy was an absolute ANGEL on Tuesday, and then was a NIGHTMARE on Wednesday.

After my ride on Tuesday, which consisted of w/t/c in the outdoor (!!!) with zero problems or disobedience or pinned ears (!!!), I was like, hmm, maybe we've turned a corner.

Then on Wednesday, she didn't want to be brushed, didn't want to be tacked up, didn't want me to get on, was totally chill about walking around on a loose rein, but went bonkers when I tried to pick up a little trot. Not to be discouraged by a little bit of crazy, I patted her on the neck, gently asked again, sat that tantrum, walked for 20 minutes while asking for a bend/shoulder in + out, etc, then tried again. In the end we managed a trot around the whooooole ring and no one died, but come on.

I came to the conclusion that she was in raging heat. AGAIN. I feel like she was just in heat two weeks ago...oh wait, because she was!! Each time she's in heat, I think, "thank goodness, this must be the transitional heat, now we can relax and enjoy our winter off from hormones." Then she's back in heat before I know it.

To all my friends with geldings: you are way smarter than I am.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Great Outdoors

Lucy's been going pretty well, but up until this weekend, we hadn't addressed the elephant in the room: the outdoor ring.

Yeah, I was a little scared. I lunged her out there a few times over the past weeks but she kept acting like a freak in the corner of the ring where the dog had spooked her. That end of the ring abuts the town forest with all of the trails, and before the dog incident it was already the "bad" end of the ring that she always gave the hairy eyeball to.

I realised that this was getting ridiculous; though the indoor provides a nice, enclosed, and very safe place to ride, I was getting really bored going in circles with white walls surrounding us. I enjoy Lucy the most out on trail rides, and if I had any hope of getting out on the trails again, I at least needed to get to the outdoor first.

On Saturday, I decided I was going to ride outside. It was lovely and sunny outside and I had no excuses. My barn owner had installed gates to the outdoor area so that if a horse got loose, they couldn't get up to the road. I made sure to secure these gates before getting on.

safety first!

I was all alone at the barn so I also made sure I had my cell phone in case something happened. I lunged her first and then got on. I didn't allow her to go more than 5 or 6 steps in a straight line; we did bending lines and serpentines all over the whole ring. Gradually I guided her to the boogie corner of the ring and as we got closer, I asked for a shoulder in so she could think about that instead of what was going to jump out at her! I was super nervous but I tried my very best to put on a calm appearance so that she didn't pick up on my nerves. She did so well!!! She was actually a pleasure to ride, believe it or not!! I was so happy and impressed. As we warmed up, I rewarded her good behaviour with a little bit of slack in the reins, but I never gave up the whole length of rein and my heels were jammed down to China. We walked and trotted, and the circles got bigger as we went on, so that we were circling around half the ring instead of doing 5 metre circles. She didn't put a hoof out of place, what a good girl :) :)

please ignore how disgusting she is :(

I hope we can continue this wave of success and keep having good rides. It is supposed to rain for the next three days here so we will stick to the indoor I think, but I hope to be able to ride outside again toward the end of the week.

On Saturday, I am traveling to England for a week to visit family, so she will have that week off unless someone ends up riding her.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

apples galore

We have a super grocery store to us that is part of a very small local chain, called Dave's. They have a few locations throughout RI and they have excellent produce.

I was there the other night picking up something for dinner and I spotted the produce manager putting away some apples. I asked him if he ever had bruised or damaged apples, and if so, could I buy them for my horse? He said they usually have a bunch of them every day that they just throw away, and he would save them for me to go and pick up the next morning.

I got to the store at 7am yesterday morning and a huge box of apples was waiting for me FOR FREE!

I was soooo excited and so grateful. I usually buy bruised apples at Stop and Shop, another local store that is part of a huge chain, but I pay about $1.50 for 4-5 apples. There were about 30 apples in this box and I paid a grand total of $0. The produce manager said to me, "we're just going to throw them out, why would we charge you for them?"

So last night after my pretty decent ride, I revealed the big box of apples to Lucy and her eyes just about bugged out of her head.
OH MY GOD! Is this some kind of joke?!

a little mid-dinner snack? hell yeah! 

thank you Dave's!

"falling off" practice

Kenny came to the barn with me last night and videotaped my ride. This was the first time I had ridden in about a week - I have been lunging in side reins primarily. Of course in my classic wisdom, I rode her bareback last night, but hey she was good! Bareback makes it much easier to get off, anyway. I left the surcingle on her just in case things went a little haywire - it gave me a bit of stickability.

She is getting better and better about this. She has progressed from having big backward explosions to taking just a step or two, then stopping. I hardly had to brace myself against her at all last night; just one split second of pressure on the rope halter and then she stopped. I am going to start introducing treats, like a peppermint, so that when I get off she will immediately think, treat! and come toward me. I generally do not feed her with a bit in her mouth but I think this will really help her understand the goal. I just hope she doesn't become an absolute pig and frisk me for treats every time I dismount. I suppose we could integrate clicker training if that becomes an issue.

You will see that the last time I dismounted, I did it to the right. Um how insane was that? I was psyching myself out, trying to figure out how to arrange my body to get off that side and every fibre of my equestrian being was screaming, this is WRONG! lol. Too funny. It was not a graceful dismount at all, but then again most "unscheduled" dismounts aren't. I figured when you fall off, it isn't always to the left, so we might as well work on that right side also!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Over the past month and a half, a big change has been brewing: Lauren found a horse that she fell in love with and ended up agreeing to take on as her own.

Lauren and Charlie
We drove down to Pennyslvania this past weekend to pick him up, and he is now safely at his new barn with Lauren. She opted not to board at the same barn as me because she recently moved and it was almost an hour's drive for her, but she isn't far away and I plan on going to visit soon.

So of course I am thrilled for her because I know exactly what it's like to be in her shoes as the perpetual leaser and to really want your own horse. However, I am really going to miss her! I am sure Lucy will too.

She started a blog for her new horse, named Charlie, which you can read here. I told her I would pimp it out for her, so make sure to add it to your reading list so you can keep up with their progress. Charlie is a 5 year old Irish TB gelding. He is a real sweetheart and I know he couldn't have gotten a better home. He is very green and has a lot to learn, but he has a willing attitude and zero soundness or health issues, so the sky is the limit!

doubting my sanity as usual

Everything that I've gone through in the past month and a half has put a major glitch in my motivation. Horse was NQR after the three day groundwork clinic, I went broke trying to fix her, horse tried to commit suicide, I went even more broke after having to get the emergency vet out (um, insurance company, where the hell are you? didn't you get the paperwork I submitted?), hand walking and cold hosing and wrapping galore, I almost wrecked a tendon doing a shitty wrap job and then had to rehab her for that on top of everything else, and then she turned into a raging monster in all of her boredom.

Then, it was time to get back on and to my great surprise, she was really good. I had hope, and thought there was maybe a reason I pour my heart, soul and all my cash into this animal. Things went well for a week or two but then she started behaving progressively worse and worst during each ride. It started out with some wenchy ear pinning, then it grew into some sillies at the canter, then on Wednesday she straight-up tried to launch me into orbit. We were cantering to the right and she pulled her signature Lucy move: shove head down, pull reins out of rider's hands, wheeee! Though this scares the shit out of me every time, I was mad about a lot of different things and I was not going to let this spoiled horse get the best of me, so I jammed my heels down, picked her head up, prayed to god, and legged her on. She had swapped her leads (also an evasion she likes) and when I made her keep going, she fixed her front lead but not her hind. She was shocked that I didn't ask her to trot and fix it. Nope, I was not playing nice that day. If she wanted to be a jerk, then she could deal with the consequences. So we cross-cantered around a bit and someone who was watching said, don't you want to fix her lead? to which I replied, oh would you like to get on and ride her? no? ok.


After a few circles, she was really asking nicely to stop so we did a simple trot step and then back into the canter without incident. I ended the ride not long after that.

Lucy really picked the wrong day to mess with me and after that, she was a lot better, but I once again I was back to thinking "why do I even bother?"

So that night, I went home and defragmented my brain, went to bed early, and got up ready to try again on Thursday. I went to the barn after work, did my chores, and tacked Lucy up. She pinned her ears at me in the cross ties, and I gave her a solid WHACK in return. Oh, what do you know, she was instantly like, "omg can we please be friends? I don't want to fight."

After lunging, I got on and was all business. She didn't get much of a loose-rein warm up period; we really went straight to work. I rode her in my figure 8 bridle with the Herm Sprenger Aurigan snaffle, and then a rope halter over the bridle with a lead rope attached to it. My plan was to do some flatwork and then practice emergency dismounting, in hopes that I can teach her to stop when her human dismounts. She respects the rope halter much more than her normal leather halter, mostly because the rope halter demands respect. If she is neutral, the halter will be also. If she pulls back, though, the halter pushes on sensitive pressure points on her poll and face. It works great with horses that like to pull back against pressure because it will not break, and the pressure vanishes instantly when the horse relaxes.

The work under saddle went much better than on Wednesday, as it usually does when I am in this type of no nonsense mood. After we had gone through all the paces, including a million and three circles and about 65,000 transitions, I let her walk on a semi-loose rein. Without any warning, I let go of my reins and stirrups, held the end of the lead rope that was attached to her rope halter, and vaulted off the side. She spooked, spinning her butt away from me and trying to back up. I stood fast against her pulling back, and within a second or so she stopped pulling, though her face was saying, HOLY CRAP YOU ARE INSANE! I immediately let the tension go from the lead rope, walked up to her, and rubbed her face and praised her.

We went back to the mounting block to try again. This time I got back on and put her to work again at the trot. Once she was going fairly nicely, I did the same routine as I had at the walk. I had the same reaction from her but the spook was a little less dramatic and she settled down a fraction of a second faster. I praised her and we ended the evening on that.

I hope to get some video of this soon to show you all. I think it will take her some time to get used to it, but I do hope this will help mitigate any "run away" situations when she dislodges her rider in the future.

She hasn't shown any discomfort or unsoundness coming back into work, and her legs are looking fantastic. Her stifle wound is getting smaller and smaller each week and the fetlock wound is looking pretty good, too.

I am not sure if this unease is a phase, the early-winter-blues, or if I am really burned out. Two people have approached me asking about an off-farm lease, and the more I think about it, the more I think I might enjoy some time off. Then the other night I was flipping through some photos from the past year and we had such an incredible summer. I don't know what to do, so for now I will keep chugging along; I at least want to get her back to where she was before her accident. Then I will think about what I want to do long term.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

hot tamale

Kenny and I were very busy running errands, going out to the movies and dinner, and then to a friend's housewarming party yesterday, so Lucy got the day off.

At the tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree!
Today when I got to the barn, she had just eaten lunch so I opted to do chores before riding. I cleaned her stall and then moved her from her paddock into one of the grass turnouts so that I could clean the paddock. She was high as a freaking kite, absolutely convinced that there was something super scary in the woods. I heard some rustling around, so maybe there really was something back there, but just watching the way she carried on made me really think twice about riding her! She was going around with her tail straight up in the air, blowing loudly, snorting, etc.

I had to put her back in her paddock, where she settled down immediately. I cleaned the paddock and then took her back out, brushed her, and we went into the indoor where I free lunged her. That seemed to really help calm her down, so I took a leap of faith and tacked up and rode. She was great! There were two other horses in the indoor with us and I think she liked the company. She was a little naughty at the canter to the left but going to the right she was perfect. It was super warm today and she was a disgusting sweaty mess at the end, so then she got a bath. All in all, not bad.

Her wounds are healing very well.

she probably got on the phone with PETA right after I
left. "she is such a mean mom!"

recent pads and ornaments