Tuesday, March 30, 2021

a show for every audience

I can always tell when it's spring around here bc suddenly my weekends end up double, triple, or quadruple booked. Like, for real, I wish I could give up the 9-5/M-F lifestyle and just like... live for the weekends LOL.
hard to tell but there's a bebe shetland back there watching charlie suffer through ice cold spot cleaning....
Anyway, tho, as is always Charlie's generous habit, he graciously volunteered to make my life easier and lighten my load by striking at least one plan from the agenda. In this case: his spring shots-induced fever meant we did end up scratching from our barn's little schooling CT this weekend. 

On one hand.... I'd already been kinda noncommittal about doing it and was maybe looking for an excuse. On the other hand.... Eh, it probably would have been fun to do. 

tadpole is best pole <3
As it was, tho, spending the day working the warm-up and in-gate had its own advantages. Like, just look at these friggin adorable kiddos?!? Local schooling shows aren't the most glamourous thing in the world. But these are essential points of access for kids (and adults!) who don't own horses to still get that experience and reap the benefits of all horses have to offer. 

They can't happen in a vacuum tho. Even tho it was a "small" "schooling" show, it still took a not-insignificant number of (wo)man-hours to make it happen. Coordinating entries and times. Dragging the arenas. Setting the courses, including carting additional standards and poles into a designated warm up area. Plus there still needs to be judges and stewards. 

It takes a village, ya know? And is honestly a great way to spend a Saturday <3
watching the pros warm up is pretty cool too
Tho, lol, back to the "double/triple/quadruple booking" situation... Apparently I was feeling much more ambitious in the cold wintry darkness of January -- when I signed up for all sorts of volunteer roles at recognized HTs throughout 2021. Including, Morven's spring event this past weekend. 

Guys. Morven is a haul for me, esp early in the morning, bleh. And esp esp on days when it's forecast to downpour all day... Luckily, tho, we got lucky with the weather and only saw sprinkles a few times throughout the day. 

Less luckily, those few moments happened to be when literally THIRTY FIVE (3-5-OMG) horses showed up in the Novice Show Jump warm up at the exact same time, and literally all wanted to know how many minutes til their round, and how many horses ahead of them, etc etc etc at the exact same moment. Omg. And my order of go (with all my notes) got all soggy and the pen was ripping through the paper... 

Lord, that was madness. Like, guys. If you are warming up with 30+ horses, each horse needing to jump, and each round taking ~2min.... Yea. It might be a few minutes before you go LOL. Esp when there are pros with multiple rides and coaching responsibilities who are guaranteed to show up and cut in line anyway.....

lol i love how charlie looks like an absolute gangster here --- but the real story is him standing back watching the ENTIRE HERD put on a show of their own
We worked it out tho and everyone jumped that wanted to jump. It was a hairy few minutes tho -- but also kinda sorta secretly exactly the blast of show ring adrenaline I live for -- that is, when *I*, personally, do not have to ride haha...

For real tho. If you rode in the Novice at Morven this past weekend, sorry if you felt a bit delayed getting through warm up!!! We kept the division on time (often running early, actually), at least, tho individual riders got a bit juggled off their slated times. 

Ahem. Anyway. 

I ended up not riding at all this weekend bc I was just plain old too worn out from being out in the sun on my bum ankle all day Saturday, then dealing with driving and being at Morven all day Sunday. 

You'd think that might mean a boring media landscape.... But Lo! Charlie's herd had the Spring Sillies in no uncertain terms, oh.my.fucking.god. 

I turned Charlie out after a little TLC on Saturday afternoon, at which point he was immediately chased clear across his field by the God of Mischief, little gray pony pictured in the above thumbnail. Then the entire herd of retired racehorses (plus, again, mischief pony) raced around and around and AROUND for literally three full minutes of bucking and squealing and farting and Bentley actually wiping the fuck out bc obviously

My favorite part of the video is obviously how Charlie and his best bud Iggy resolutely refused to demean their dignified selves by participating in the pandemonium LOL. Keep an eye out for the two bays holding their ground on the crest of the hill, hahaha.
shout-out to my editor in chief!
Omg. Again. Madness LOL!!!

I swear, no horses (or ponies!) were injured in the making of this film. But holy crap it's hilarious to watch --- even my cats thought so HAHA! 

So there ya have it. An eventful weekend in its own right, lol.... Tho. Ya know. Hopefully Charlie will be getting back to more of a leading role asap! 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday DIY: Classy Cat Bridle Hooks

Happy Friday, everyone! Earlier this week it rained absolutely cats and dogs, on actually the same day Charlie got all his spring shots and such. 

pictured: the pinnacle of neat + tidy organization
I figured he might as well get a day off from work -- but still wanted to go out and check on him, take off his rain sheet, and maybe putter around the tack locker a little bit. 

sir was feeling feverish after his spring shots and didn't finish his food***
(***except it turns out they put his food directly on top of manure that was in the bucket, what the actual fuck people why are you so fucking bad at this?!? gahh)
And.... I'm glad I did, bc poor pony was feverish and very very sad. Skipped his dinner*** and everything. Apparently a couple horses were having more of a reaction -- maybe bc of the downpour all day? -- so the vet suggested I give Charlie a couple (12) CCs of banamine and check his temp again in the morning. 

got a little medical assistance to bring him down from 102.4*
This was actually the first time I even used this bottle of banamine after buying it last summer during Charlie's anaplasmosis episode. The medicine comes in a couple different formulas -- and was recommended that I get the injectable version bc even if I myself don't ever plan on injecting IV, you can still squirt the stuff directly into the horse's mouth. So that's what I did!

onto today's story: those poor overworked plastic white hooks never stood a chance
So I fussed on Charlie a little bit, dried off the rain soaked areas of his coat, fluffed up his hay nets, and basically left him alone to chill while I tinkered around and kept an eye on him. 

disassembling the carnage. keep track of the fasteners tho bc they can be reused!
And the focus of my tinkering??? The poor abused plastic coat hooks presumably installed in my tack locker before the dawn of time, when dinosaurs roamed earth. These hooks carried a mammoth load with all my hoarding and whatnot, and finally gave up the ghost last week.

not gonna lie -- this whole fandango was pretty friggin heavy...
Bc, ahem, turns out --- I may or may not have a silly number of bridles for my one single horse LOL. Only two of which are even in regular rotation right now.... 

Plus I'd gotten lazy about hanging all other sorts of odds and ends on hooks too. So ya know. Not super surprising they'd finally succumb to gravity. 

wait a second, is that..... what i think it is??
Anyway. I like to consider myself somewhat "resourceful." Possibly you might find other alternate word choices springing to mind LOL, but my blog, my vocabulary. 

playing around with different configurations. this is highly precise stuff, guys
And as I sat around ruminating on what sort of hardware should replace those hooks --- I remembered reading way back a long time ago about people using tuna cans or pet chow cans as hooks. 

bzzt bzzzt!!!
Obviously, as the owner of what often feels like A LOT of cats (realistically just two, but still), I happen to have unlimited access to a supply of these exact little round tins. So --- after a couple days of saving them up, I had enough (including a variety of sizes) to tinker around with various potential configurations. 

ta da!! 
also i *swear* that's not left over cat food in there -- just wood shavings. i swearrrrr lol
And. Ya know. It really couldn't be simpler. I sorta measured out the spacing. And sorta marked out the locations for each tin. But.... Also just kinda winged it. 

testing out the spacing!
The spacing isn't exactly even, and none of the tins are level with each other (whoops). But -- honestly they actually work surprisingly well. I really wasn't sure if these smaller sized tins would be ok vs the more standard tuna can size -- but actually they seem perfect!

my middle name is 'engineer'
I also used a pair of pliers to flatten down the sharp edges inside each can, tho if I manage to slice a finger open it'll be my own fault LOL.

is it just me, or does the 'rose gold' give it a certain je ne sais quoi???
The cans are surprisingly secure, and don't spin at all. Sure, the middle two are slightly close, but I can still yank bridles on and off each individual can without any others falling off in the process. 

So. Ya know. I'm gonna call that a win LOL. Tho -- uh, I also reserve the right to tear it all right back down again should a more, erm, elegant solution present itself at some future date haha. 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

treating yo'self

And, obviously, by "yo'self" I am clearly referring to "yo'horse." Because why on earth would I ever indulge myself with any sort of creature comfort when those resources could be spent on my horse instead?! 

creepin on the shetland herd next to his temporary paddock
Case in point: I've been hobbling around the farm for a literal month at this point since my latest ankle calamity (in case you forgot: I dismounted directly onto a jump pole, and cckrtch'd the fuck out of my poor long-suffering ankle....). But, have I seen a doctor? Attended physical therapy?? Done literally anything other than brace the ankle, gird my loins, and carry on??? No, nope, and definitely not

only jusssst a little bit like that random sketchy guy hangin around the children's playground
Meanwhile, during this exact same time frame, my horse had a spa day, got his (joint) oil changed, and - as of yesterday - enjoyed some chiropractic massage and acupuncture from his favorite wellness practitioner. 

it's amazing how quickly these old buildings come down!
So. Uh.... Yea. Self care isn't exactly one of my strengths lol. Tho --- in fairness, major components of my day to day mood and mental well being are directly connected to the time I spend with my horse, and the satisfaction I get from this lifestyle. 

onto the main story: charlie getting spoiled!
In this roundabout way, I convince myself that Charlie Care -- investing in his quality of life -- thus indirectly serves my own interests too. Sorta kinda I can rationalize anything.

he luvs this attention so much tho
Lol for real, tho, for better or worse I like to take a holistic approach to Charlie's wellness. Obviously I'm a big believer in the benefits of typically invasive western medicine practices like joint injections etc. When the Shit hits the Fan, I'm calling out the DVM and shelling out for prescription grade medications. 

obvi it's always recommended to have the barn manager on hand supervising the adjustment!
For day to day maintenance, tho? I like to try out alternative therapies like massage, chiro, PEMF, acupuncture, etc. For a couple reasons: 

1) My horse fucking loves it; 2) It's a lower cost way to routinely check in on my horse's overall condition with professionals who know him well; and 3) It gives me more confidence that we're correctly distinguishing between physical issues and training issues in our regular work.

fairly standard array of pokey proddies
The practitioner I keep coming back to again and again over the years is this chiro / acupuncturist. She's a former DVM and very well known and respected throughout the region. She used to work on Isabel back in the day, and was one of the first people to meet Charlie after he came home to me. 

So, obviously this appointment had to be a key item on Charlie's Spring Tune-Up Checklist. The basic hypothesis being: we had a pretty low key winter around these parts, punted his annual maintenance from what would have been a fall appt to the springtime (a couple weeks ago now), and we're now starting to gear back up again.

more stabby jabbies -- in the neck here, and also some down on his pasterns / heel bulbs
The chiro confirmed that Charlie had more pronounced soreness in his back than we'd normally expect, and said it was more apparent on his right side. This is most likely the result of compensating for his hocks. Tho ya know, it's also possible my asymmetric style of riding lately (thanks to being #crippled again) isn't helping. 

deep in thought
We talked a bit about the realities of a sore back. Basically, the gist is: in horses, a sore back rarely if ever resolves itself. Rest does almost nothing for it (in most cases), mostly due to the compensating nature of their way of going. The only real solution to a sore back is to work on it -- through physical therapies, correct riding, and in more extreme cases, medical interventions like muscle relaxers. 

so focused on his favorite wellness practitioner haha
Charlie's not getting any muscle relaxers this time (much to his chagrin -- I swear Charlie is an absolute junkie), but he's getting all the rest of it. 

like a pig in clover lol
Theoretically the joint injections will correct the underlying root cause and need to compensate. The chiro should help ease everything back into alignment, and the acupuncture stimulates the nervous system and relieves pain. Or at least, that's sorta my working understanding haha. 

lol that's one way to stretch your back, charlie!
Then the rest is up to me: actually riding my horse, and riding him properly. Getting back into more normal dressage schools will be part of keeping him healthy happy and comfortable by building all those big important muscles he needs to support his bronto-self LOL. 

an right onto his next appointment -- he's a busy pony!
And just to complete the package: Charlie's first farrier appointment of spring happened to fall at the perfect time -- hopefully early enough to get in front of the crumbling hooves that will come when the grass is up. Maybe this year I'll finally be prepared lol

We went ahead and put leather pads up front earlier than in previous years too. Honestly Charlie is just more comfortable in the pads -- and hasn't had any issues with thrush or whatever. And I'm comfortable when Charlie's comfortable, so there ya go. 

Ooh. And. We also got the season's first stud holes drilled 'n tapped. Maybe -- jusssst maybe -- now that Charlie's getting all tuned up, I'll actually pull up my big girl britches and put this amazing thoroughbred to good use LOL.

Anyone else ticking things off the list?? Doing your own variation of spring cleaning? Treating yourself or your horse?!? Stamping out the mental gloom by sprucing up your favorite pony???

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

fresh open spaces

I figured it out, guys!! We found the missing puzzle piece! Having a "real" winter around these parts deprived us of our daily recommended dosage of cantering around in the fields and woods like absolute children

And, turns out, maybe that's why things have felt so anemic lately. Goooooo figure, lol.

no grass yet but they can definitely smell it growing
I made it our business to get out into the fields for our last couple of rides. And just.... cruise. On Sunday it was just me and Charlie, and I wanted to do a little trotting and cantering around plus get into the woods for a loop. 

death alley is spooky for a reason -- the last of the "old" outbuildings is coming down to be replaced with something nice and new! (like that new shed visible in the background!)
But nothing serious -- no timer or intervals or anything like that. And, honestly, for better or worse, not even really kicking Charlie on into his bigger better trot. Rather, we kinda just hokey-poked our way around, this way and that.

my goodness but look how square this creature can stand when he wants to
Which was.... enlightening, tbh. It's been a long time since we've done much real riding on terrain, and Charlie didn't exactly feel like a perfect picture of agility or dynamism, LOL. He was kinda dink-dink-dinking along in his own little shuffle-y way for the first few minutes. 

man it's been a LONG TIME since we went for a run through the woods
But as we coasted around -- up this big hill, down that long sweep -- he loosened up and stretched out. And, not coincidentally, re-discovered his bigger step. 

will never not love this view <3
And actually in a couple places broke into that wonderfully luxurious big rolling canter that I love so much. Not just bc it's an immensely comfortable canter to ride -- but it's just such a refreshing feeling when he's offering it up like that, vs me always kinda driving him along. 

haven't been back in this section in ages
It was an enlightening feeling for other reasons, too, tho. Ahem, cough cough. Neither of us are the picture of perfect fitness right now. Charlie was happy for frequent breaks. And I was not quite as stable or smooth in my position up and down the hills, esp as Charlie would find his bigger loftier steps. 

it's impossible to tell from these pics but there's a deep natural ditch running basically straight across the landscape here
After crisscrossing the main cross country fields, we slipped through a gate into the woods for a loop before taking the long way home out around all the summer pastures. 

Charlie knows all these trails by heart (since there are like, two total trails out there LOL) and it's actually great bc he hits a point where we're still technically moving away from "home" -- but he recognizes that we're close to the turnaround point and really picks up his pace. 

last year they got some heavy machinery stuck in that little spot that looks like a puddle. i assure you, it is *not* 'just a puddle.' it was a deep dark treacherous mess that charlie literally got stuck in like a brontosaurus in the proverbial tar pit, and scared the crap out of himself. luckily nature is reclaiming the pathway, tho, and charlie was finally able to cross it all by himself!! <3
Which happens to be pretty convenient bc we're at that point about as far away from "home" as is possible, but then Charlie gets all jazzed up and eager to power-walk, -trot, or -canter his way back. Plus naturally jumping whatever little obstacles are in his path. 

Not coincidentally including the nasty little natural ditch they tore up with a kubota or tractor or some other heavy thing last year. Charlie had a bad experience getting stuck in it, and hasn't wanted to touch it since. But I figured he'd be more willing if we were going toward home. And? Was correct, good boy!

as well he should, since he's a brave event horse <3
That ride left us feeling so refreshed and loose and full of good post-workout vibes that it was immediately clear to me: THIS is what's been missing. We need more of this. And not just like rigorous conditioning work or trot sets or whatever. But just... moving freely through open spaces on rolling and varied terrain. 

So, obviously, that's exactly what we've been up to since then haha. Helped in no small part by the longer days.

eeeee i love how happy he looks here <3 <3 <3
Maryland is experiencing absolutely perfect spring weather right now with super pleasant temps and dry ground -- so obvi literally every single barn mate has the exact same ideas haha. And all the xc fields were dotted with various groups of riders out and about doing their thang and enjoying their ponies. 

yes we 100% took our horses out into the field and to stroll around and take pictures of everyone trotting and cantering through the water lol
Including naturally our little old lady group LOL, where we mostly walked -- and possibly peer pressured a few members into jussst a litttle bit of trotting and maybe thru the water too. Plus naturally walking and trotting up and down the littlest step banks, just to get that feeling again. 

And honestly it just feels so good. Charlie's still a little lazy at times, and was certainly the slowest and quietest of the group. But again, once he gets moving it's like he finally lets go and loosens up in his body. 

my most majestic beastie after his "school"
It's helpful for me, too, as a rider. It's liberating. Just riding the horse forward in a balance over whatever comes our way -- with no arena walls or boring sandbox circles to slow us down, and no need for me to pick at him or micromanage. 

So... Yea, haha. If you need me, we'll be out riding in the fields for the foreseeable future LOL. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

can't buy it, only rent it

This past week featured some off-the-cuff scheduling shake ups, and actually ended up working out better than expected. 

Originally, we were going to take the horses back to that beautiful new local farm for another dressage clinic with Jess, formerly of Hilltop. And this time I was gonna suck it up and actually bring Charlie too -- for our first proper dressage lesson in damn near forever. 

beautiful charlie <3
It would mean forgoing our typical weekly jump lesson with Trainer P, tho, which made me a little sad. Esp since we'd already missed the prior week while Charlie eased back into work post-hock injections. And of course, that was the week the lessons all went out xc, go figure, womp. 

But, then -- the day before the clinic, Jess learned she'd had a covid exposure and had to cancel. Obviously a huge bummer --- and an important reminder that we're still not quite out of this thing yet... Tho at least it meant we could do our jump lesson after all!

omg charlie LOVES the little shetland stallions tho <3 <3 <3
(tho... i still keep him a respectful distance from them jusssst in case lol)
Which.... was a good thing. Bc damn, I still really am not feeling it right now in the jumping department. It's like I feel constantly under prepared -- like Charlie isn't fit enough, or we're out of practice, or idk.... 

I can come up with a million excuses for why maybe we shouldn't be doing what we're doing. Or why we should be doing it slightly differently. Or, something??

jumping a little box!
I recently heard a great quote tho (from a mountain biker, go figure) that 'you can't buy skill, you only just rent it.' In other words.... Skills, confidence, strength --- it's all fleeting. Just because something was 'easy' a year ago doesn't necessarily mean we'll feel great about it today. 

And at this particular moment.... Well. Y'all have seen what we've been up to this past winter, and it really ain't much. So lessons right now are kinda more about just reminding myself that it's going to be a process of getting back into the habit again haha.  

jumping TWO little boxes!
Actually, what I'd really like to do in lessons right now is some straight up course work. Stringing things together with steady constant reminders to keep riding the way I've been taught. 

Realistically, Charlie is a very different horse at Jump 1 than he is at Jump 5. Often for Jump 1, esp in the last couple months as he's come due for getting his hocks done, he can be sulky and behind the leg. Whereas, once we're on course he really gets rolling and strong.

triple: one-to-two stride grid, vertical-oxer-oxer
When we do just one line at a time, tho, I'm basically only ever riding Jump 1 Charlie, and never Jump 5 Charlie. Which then makes me freak out about having to do an actual course bc "Omg I haven't ridden Jump 5 Charlie in so long tho! What if I forgot how??" lol.... 

Tho... Again, at this point any sort of practice is a good thing, and grids will always be a favorite for Charlie. And this week, trainer P had a whole big PLAN: a big center line grid, some angled lines, and maybe some skinny practice too. 

exactly the same grid done the opposite direction: two-to-one stride, oxer-oxer-vertical
The grids were great, too. And so were the skinnies. Just the little brick wall boxes that Charlie's jumped a million times in various configurations. 

Charlie was super good about them as stand alone skinnies - stayed super straight and seemed to fully understand the question. Possibly our canter or technique could have been better, lol, but for an easy familiar exercise it was fine.

then doubled: one-two-two-one; vertical-oxer-oxer-oxer-vertical
Ditto the long grid. Initially we only had half of it up, and went through it once each way. So then once the full grid was set it was one big long run of 5 fences. 

We attempted to bypass "Jump 1 Charlie" by adding a plain single on the diagonal before the grid... But, ehhh it didn't really work lol and Charlie's first time through the whole line he was lazy and blah and knocked a bunch of them down. 

But we kept cruising around without stopping while they got reset, then tried again. He was much more forward and clicked into gear this time, so the whole thing was much smoother. And, possibly, a bit instructive for Charlie lol. Life is better when you GO, buddy!

farm is constantly being improved and under construction... this back path through the woods is currently fondly referred to as 'death valley' -- it's jusssst a little spooky rn lol
I opted to be done with that, since my ankle was killing me after being in the saddle for nearly 2 hours at this point (we had to help trainer P move all the fences to set up the big grid, so it was a longer-than-normal lesson). 

Plus I kinda wanted to stop on a good note, and figured a couple trips were plenty sufficient for Charlie's first jump school post injections.   

parking lot isn't much better right now either. added bonus: in between those two outbuildings behind the red truck to the left is a guy who may or may not be starting up a nail gun, circular saw, or other cacophonous power tool at literally any moment omg
All in all, it was reassuring to know that he's overall feeling better. There's still more work to do, tho, as always, and I'm pretty convinced that "consistency" will have to be a big part of it. 

I'm esp looking forward to more lessons practicing course work, getting out and stretching our legs and 'opening the pipes' lol. A fun sort of ride where we can just cruise around and get into a rhythm --- not so much starting and stopping, one jump or one line at a time. 

good boy charlie depositing me gently back at the mounting block since i'm still too crippled to dismount like a normal person...
We need to jump more often, basically. And at this point I'd love to do that via more consistent lessons. Actually having a real winter with multiple snow storms made for a somewhat haphazard schedule-- like we kinda just get whatever is up for grabs each week. 

Spring is finally here tho (hell yes!) and the ground quite suddenly firmed up all over the farm. So at least having places to actually ride won't be an excuse for me any more LOL... 

Tho naturally, lessons are cancelled next week too bc there's a schooling CT instead. Jury's still out on whether I'll actually ride in it, haha.... We'll see. It could be fun. 

you're a good boy, charlie <3
Lol.... In the meantime, it's good to log some solid reps over good exercises. Charlie honestly feels great right now, and much more forward and strong in the bridle than he has been. 

Hopefully we can get into more of a normal schedule now that spring is here complete with good ground and long days! I'm definitely thinking some long trots and canters through the woods and fields will be just the ticket for getting both of us back in shape!