Tuesday, August 29, 2023

tack tuesday

Let's talk accessories, yes? Yes! 

Poor Doozy, she's the ultimate red-headed stepchild in that all her stuff is handed down or otherwise borrowed. Even her halter... You should've seen the janky-ass halter I showed up to the adoption facility with -- was legit the spare I keep in my trailer in case of emergencies... 

manager michael waiting in the feed cart bc he's a #snack
Bonnie, director at After the Races, very gently (and generously) suggested mayyybe I take one of their old leather halters home with Dooz instead haha. Which I obvi accepted!

But like, y'all already know --- ruthless practicality is the name of my game! Doozy got hundreds of dollars of Ulcergard and bodywork immediately... but eh, any old halter will do for now! Ditto for all her tack.

confronting dooz with a barrage of saddles lol
Ultimately, I'm prioritizing finances for care, wellness and training bc... To be 100% honest with you all, if Doozy falls short in any of those areas relating to my goals for her, she will return to the adoption facility. Like if she's not sufficiently sound for, or interested enough in the job I want for her... Ya know, she will be better prepared to find a better matching home. 

charlie's monoflap l'apogee
I honestly did not do a pre-purchase exam on this horse. For a variety of reasons, actually, which maybe could be a whole post/discussion in and of itself if there's interest???  But for the purposes of this post, we kinda just went for it, with the caveat that the horse can always go back if things end up not working.

'tis a tad swoopy, ma'am!
Major expenses like tack and equipment will have to wait until we're a bit more reasonably confident in her future. Not even mentioning that any big ticket purchases need to be qualified by the reality that the horse's body is expected to change significantly over the coming year. 

tried 'n true adjustable + wool-flocked Bates -- old timers will remember
A perfect fit today is cool and all while we're not really doing much, but a perfect fit later when we're hopefully doing bigger, faster, more complicated things... That matters more, ya know? And my investment choices should reflect this.

major fail tho, womp
So. This all basically means that we can expect an evolving tack situation LOL. I obviously did not entertain any idea that Charlie's monoflap saddle would fit Mondeuse... But color me shocked when it somehow did better than my old faithful beater saddle, the Bates. 

Pessoa borrowed from Royal
We plopped a bunch of random saddles up there, and found that... Doozy's wither and shoulder are reasonably standard --- plenty of saddles looked good from the front. But... Her back is very flat lol. Like, sure, it's peaked down from the spine -- not flat from side to side. But there's not a lot of curvature from front to back --- not a particularly swoopy back. 

well that looks sittable to me!
Luckily we happen to have a large number of narrowly framed, fine boned TBs on the farm. Including, our good friend Royal! Who, very sadly, is still in the throes of recovery from two soft tissue injuries in his foot. His Pessoa saddle is therefore generally available for use --- and, actually, a very sittable fit on Dooz!

not my geometry tho lol, stirrup bar legit miles in front of my seat lol
It's very comfortable, too. Very easy to sit in, easy to ride in. Doesn't *look* like a great fit for me, and probably would prove to be limiting for more complicated stuff (like, I haven't even cantered yet lol), but feels jussssst fine. Including posting the trot, which you might guess would be hard given how far forward it puts my legs... But, eh, no complaints for now from horse or rider!!

one of my favorite bridles that doesn't get used often now that charlie's primarily in a hackamore
When it comes to bridles... Guys I've been a strap-goods hoarder for so long, there was zero chance we couldn't figure out something for Doozy. Luckily --- my first choice bridle looks workable! 

probably still needs tweaks, but maybe nice?
This is the nicest bridle I've ever purchased for Charlie, that now goes mostly unused except for dressage lessons and tests at shows. Bc #hackamore. So, eh, assuming Charlie gets sound again, he'll use his former jump bridle for dressage, and Mondeuse will inherit this lovely specimen -- paired with one of the many Sprenger KKs I always seem to have. Pretty sure I have a bradoon version of the same bit, just with smaller rings... One day I'll dig that out and maybe the fit will be better?

The nicest thing about Doozy so far, tho, is that.... Normal reins work on her! And I actually still had a very nice new set from the headstall I bought for Charlie's new hackamore upgrade that work perfectly! 

soooooo she's still bigger than i think she is lol
The last set of important-to-fit accessories is... my least favorite lol: Blankets, ugh. I'm that special sort of somebody that "measures" horses by... just putting existing blankets on them lol. My plan is to buy used either from friends, connections, or local consignment. So, must know size, yes? 

Stacie has a stockpile that I'd hoped to take advantage of, including a few in the 75" to 76" range.... But, turns out, yeaahhhhh I know she looks small relative to Charlie, but, eh, not that small apparently! 

definitely not Charlie big tho haha... hahahaha
But maybe a 78" will work? Still definitely going to go used, tho, so if any of you out there have anything that size you're willing to part with for peanuts lol.... hmu! 

For real, tho, it's so tempting to just go out and buy all this beautiful new stuff that's perfectly matching and beautifully fit and super nice, etc etc etc... But realistically, maybe that's next year's plan lol. This is my first time with two, and we're just gonna eeeease on into it. For now. 

Unless, naturally, any of you all riders out there have anything that looks perfect based on what you've seen above, that you are desperate to unload! 

Anybody else go about outfitting a new horse the same way, with piecemeal one-at-a-time acquisitions? Or do you like to go all out all at once --- splurge on all the things up front and then go from there? Or do you just already have so much stuff that any new horse is guaranteed to be covered, no matter what???

Monday, August 28, 2023

practicing pressure

Doozy had her first lesson with one of our local horsemanship pros, Jim McDonald, last week, and it was good! I've done a number of sessions with Jim over the years, with various horses both of my own and within my barn circles. 

legit the only picture i took from our horsemanship lesson. pretty representative tho! 
Particularly -- he's my go-to for all things trailer loading. But over his years of experience training horses, Jim has developed a simple, elegant, and practical system for progressively building connection with your horse through ground work exercises. Trailer loading is just a natural offshoot from the steps in his system, as are other normal horsey activities like lunging and standing at the mounting block. 

stormy skies!
There's something else about Jim, tho, something that keeps me bringing him back with each new horse in my life --- even tho he's already trained me on his 'system' and the lessons always follow the 'same' process. It's that... Knowing a thing about horses, reading something in a book, or having something explained to you... It's not quite the same as doing the thing with the horse. 

oooooh and it's actually a rare pic of me and my horse, and Royal!
And doing the thing is always ALWAYS more nuanced. There are things that Jim knows, things that Jim does, that go well beyond what can easily be conveyed just by words and explanations. His perfect posture in relation to the horse, perfect timing, his energy

He understands his system so well bc it's his own native language in communicating with horses, and his fluency means that horses plain old understand him, effortlessly.

actually got a couple of pics of me from our walkies last week.... turns out, yes i AM kinda a weirdo lol
Most of the rest of us mere mortals are.... a bit less clear in our communication with our animals lol. A little muddier, let's say. Maybe bc our posture says something a little different from our pressure signals, or because our timing in the release is slightly off, or even bc we're not even entirely certain ourselves what, exactly, we want the horse to do. 

just me and my fluffy hair, taking ?ridiculously? long steps walkin my pony around lol
So every time I work with Jim, my goal is to basically absorb more and more of his way, his method. His timing, his energy, how he places himself relative to the horse. 

I don't plan to replicate him exactly, tho --- bc let's be real, I kinda like my horses to be a bit in my pocket, and Jim prefers horses respect a larger bubble around him. And that's fine, right? But it's really useful to understand how Jim builds that bubble. 

just grazing things
It was definitely funny, tho, bc after Jim observed me handling the horse a little bit, and then took the line himself to demonstrate a more refined way of moving Doozy around, quarter by quarter, with and without physical pressure cues.... 

He kinda looked at me confused, and asked, "Ok, So.... What's the problem?"

supervisor michael, doin supervisin things
Which, lol, there IS no problem. Doozy is, by all appearances, a sensitive horse who has a correct and honest (but not frantic) response to pressure, as well as a strong desire to connect with her people. Only observation I've made so far is that she's likely to "shut down" a bit and recede within herself if she doesn't fully understand. But generally, she's good, ya know?

unrelated: slowly but surely de-redneck-ifying my craigslist truck. monster tires are GONE, replaced with much more sensible (and smooth rollin) variations
And that's exactly what I told Jim. That's basically also why I bought her LOL. Like, yes, I like this. More importantly --- I want to preserve this, keep this, build on this, even as we start introducing more pressure and uncertainty to the equation. 

Like, eventually, both Doozy and I are going to both start making more and more mistakes in our work together -- like when we go to learn jumping together lol. So I want to set a really strong baseline now, ya know?

the better to travel to horse shows with!
So. That's what we worked on. Jim's process starts with having a horse who is responsive and sensitive to (but not fearful of) the working tools --- including a line or any whip/stick/string/extension tool you might be using. 

The second step involves learning to move each of the horse's quarters independently. An exercise he calls 'hip-hip-shoulder-shoulder-back-forward' wherein the repetition of each word reflects moving from one side of the horse to the other. Hip = turn on forehand; shoulder = turn on haunches; back + forward are as stated. 

which also conveniently provides opportunities to familiarize (but not actually practice yet) with the trailer
The critical aspects of this exercise are:

1. Positioning yourself correctly to the horse -- as in, in relation to the axis of movement you are requesting.

2. Knowing exactly what you want before you ask for it --- and NOT changing midstream. Specifically: how many steps of TOF or TOH do you want? I start with 1, usually, then build to 3.

ooooh and moar pics of me and my ponies! from when my parents visited to meet the new red thang
and random musing... i see pics like this and wonder, did i wreck my left ankle bc i stand like this? or do i stand like this bc the ankle is wrecked?? lol chicken or egg, i guess! pro tip: don't be like me, do physical therapy....
3. Releasing at the right moment. Which... generally... is sooner than I think. Horses learn in the release, so whatever you are doing in the moment of releasing pressure is what the horse learns. In my case, I was waiting until the last step was completed, but needed to actually be thinking of releasing as soon as that lest step begins. 

4. Following a consistent and systematic pressure progression. Always starting with the lightest possible ask, like leaning in, and progressing through a consistent system - maybe next to verbal, then touch, then... more and more until the desired outcome is achieved. 

If you always follow the exact same progression, eventually the heaviest asks fall away and you can achieve the desired outcome with the lightest possible pressure.

turns out framing pictures with horizontally long creatures (like horses) is hard for folks used to shooting vertically LOL
Which takes us to the next step of Jim's process --- repeating the same exercise, the same set of movements in the horse, with predetermined numbers of steps, but this time without needing to touch the horse. 

This is something I never quite mastered with Charlie in our regular early practice, tho eventually we got there anyway in terms of him being able to move each quarter away from my non-touch pressure. And actually, something Teresa wrote her in own recent post maybe helped me understand this a little bit more --- about how our own horses tend to start seeing us as their 'safe space' and might be likelier to tune us out a little bit in instances where they are more distracted by the world around them. 

that's all for now!
But anyway, this was the step where Doozy kinda shows a little bit her tendency toward shutting down. She's not quite ready for that non-touch 'sending' cue, so need to keep working on the broken down individual pieces. Then she'll figure out how to move away from me without touching, then I'll be able to reliably "send" her etc, including onto the trailer. 

Last piece that Jim really wanted to reinforce with me: to slow down my own thinking. To not be so preoccupied with what I *think* the horse will do, what I think might happen, or not happen, or how I expect the horse to respond. 

His counsel was, paraphrased, 'No matter what is going on, what's happening, whatever, if you want the horse to move her left hind leg over, just think about that left hind leg. That's it. Nothing more. Just get that left hind leg to move. Then focus on whatever next movement you need. One step at a time.'

Which.... Now that I think about it, is actually maybe pretty good horse advice generally lol. Focus on the small pieces, be consistent. Practice diligently with a clear sense of your desired outcome at each step of the way... And... Eventually you'll get there!!*

So. Here's to more and better practice, as always with horses, and forever lol.

(*Shout-out to Carly, formerly of Poor Woman Showing, who has done exactly this for the last 10 years --- and got somewhere really great this weekend, earning her final score toward her USDF Bronze Medal!! Woot woot, way to go Carly!)

Thursday, August 24, 2023

slowing everything way down

Doozy's nasty cellulitis maybe came at a fortuitous time for us. We already established that, actually, she seems like a pretty pleasant and easy (if not way more forward-thinking than I'm used to) horse to ride.

why yes, i fauxto-shopped my sad mare's stricken limb into a Ren Fest Turkey Leg, why do you ask?
In fact, so easy that it wouldn't take much to go instantly down some nit-picky training hole of progressively higher expectations ---- and inevitable disappointments when, spoiler, green horses go through peaks and valleys in their training and I'm still an unreliable pilot LOL.

thank god she eats a literal mountain of food, the better to hide 45 (!!!) doxy pills... 
related: any appetite (hehe, see what I did there?) for an updated feed post for the ponies?
Instead, her condition and wellness -- while always peripheral -- are back to being the absolute front and center of my attention. Everything we do is done with the intention of helping her leg. 

for real, tho, the leg is still huge, but not nearly as terrifying as on Days 1 & 2. she did split the scabs tho....
In other words, basic care, feeding, and management are the priority -- hopefully generously spliced with pleasant activity and relationship building. 

moved into a bigger paddock with a little more grass and overnight turnout!
We got a big boost in the 'activity' department when, a day after the infection set in, an evening paddock finally became available. Before this point, Doozy and Stella had been relegated to daytime turnout (think: hot sun + biting flies) bc all the paddocks were full during the normal overnight turnout shifts. 

and the riding adventures continue!
That finally changed, tho, and meant that after Stella and Doozy came in for dinner as usual, they actually got to go right back out again -- resulting in a near 24hr period of turnout. That made a huge difference for the leg's general size, and it's stayed relatively smaller now that she's only really stalled about 8hrs during the daytime.

this time out in the way way open of the front xc fields!
Because, it turns out, movement is the biggest difference maker for her particular condition. I'm trying to be really intentional about how we go about "moving" under saddle, tho, bc I want to avoid any dicey situations where she's uncomfortable in more ways than one, ya know?

strollin' with buddies is the way to go
But, eh, it's proven fine. We've repeated the same paths enough times in hand and under saddle now that she seems to be developing a good internal map of the farm, and seems pretty comfortable riding into new spaces even where she hasn't hand walked yet -- like the grass ring used for dressage warm up, and the front xc fields. 

making these paths feel familiar and relaxing, one ride at a time
It's always nerve wracking riding a horse out into the middle of an open field for the first time lol... Esp when the field is still set up with the show jumping course (they leave it up after the recognized for the starter trials later in the fall), not to mention the random machinery and supplies for the fence lines currently being replaced.... 

she's a good egg <3 how do you like this bridle on her?
Mondeuse was fine, tho. Mostly marched out ahead of our riding companion, tho occasionally slowing back down to be alongside when she felt less certain... Spooked a little sideways at one random xc jump, but recovered just fine. And didn't set off racing when we turned back toward the barn, or get sulky when we decided, "actually, let's do a second loop!"

back again the next day for hand walkies / grazies! this time with friends!
So, overall a success! Plus the leg was wayyyyyy smaller after the ride --- like could see actual definition around the tendons again, whew! 

incorporated a little whip desensitization into our walking, ahead of today's (!!!) horsemanship lesson
Opted to keep is slow and simple the next day tho, and just hand walk. Royal's owner was interested in bringing him along, since they're hoping he might graduate to tack walking in the near(ish) future and she wanted him to remember how to act while moving about the farm LOL. 

and walkies even farther afield -- out into the main xc fields, and by the water!
I also wanted to do a little more in hand practice ahead of our horsemanship lesson. Now that Doozy has a bit more trust in me, and understands a bit more about what to expect on our adventures, she's muuuuuch more inclined toward thoughtful stillness, and moving each quarter independently, rather than spurting off in whatever direction.

i only really asked Doozy to confront and consider the water, but didn't push for more
So after a little time in the dressage ring pressing a few buttons, we picked up another barn buddy who was out for a light hack, and wandered out to the main xc fields!

honestly it was so nice out, we kinda just stood around chatting and grazing, one rehabbing horse, one rehabbing rider, and obvi green Dooz -- everyone appreciated the low key stroll!!
Doozy doesn't really understand xc jumps yet, and a couple of them have spooked her a little bit... Except then she sees none of the other horses are spooking, and the jump isn't moving, and everybody is kinda just ignoring her.... and she just, eh, moves on LOL. It's nice!

maybe by spring we'll be confidently bopping around these same jompies??
She also wasn't super sure about the water, but gradually became relaxed enough to toe around the squishy edges eating the mud (gross lol). 

ooooh we did walk up and down the little baby bank edge lol, nbd
My hope is for these fields to be primarily associated with relaxing strolls, to be a calm and easy place to be, before we eventually introduce the whole "jumping at speed" thing. 

then home again <3
Obvi I'm anxious to get back into the saddle for more 'real' riding again, like... ya know... would be kinda cool to canter haha. And considering Charlie is currently lame at the walk, he's not really available to scratch that itch either... 

back out to your turnout, to keep moving and keep that swelling down!
But. Eh. All in good time, I suppose. At least they're both just pleasant horses to be around, and both enjoy grooming and fussing. 

Mondeuse has a check up appointment on her leg later today, PLUS --- our long-awaited horsemanship lesson. So things still keep happening, keep progressing, one way or another lol. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

well that didn't take long

So I guess the cool thing about buying a second horse bc the first is lame.... is that, now you own TWO lame horses!! Yayyyy!!!! Congratulations!!! Lol.....

"911 pls help they are trying to kill me!" - saddest red mare
Mondeuse developed a pretty significant case of Fat Leg Syndrome this weekend. Doesn't appear to be related to any new trauma or injury... But more so related to her condition and existing trauma (from a fence encounter before I met her) and skin funk etc. 

"tf is this wrap, i wanted you to fix it not put a bandaid on it!" -- pushiest red mare
The swelling kinda came out of nowhere, but got big fast. She came in from turnout with a noticeable lack of definition. But by the time I got to fussing over her after finishing chores, the leg was even bigger. I buted, cold hosed, and wrapped it up tight -- all very important milestones in building out that care partnership I guess -- and hoped for the best in the morning. 

hooooly mother of dog that's a big leg
legit looks like the giant turkey leg you can get at Ren Fest LOL, there's some meat on that bone!
The wrap did jack squat, tho, and the leg continued to grow in size --- particularly higher up the limb -- by morning when I arrived to drop feed. So, eh, let's go nuclear, yes? We put in an "emergency" call to get an appt that day. Not really "emergent," except, well, we need drugs today so pls come. Plus a second horse at the farm had a puncture so, yea. Split that farm call fee!

UGH at least she's shiny?
I'm keeping this post in chronological order, so even tho you can probably surmise the outcome of the visit, I'm going to put a pin in that and talk about what we did in the meantime!

other than feeling like an overstuffed sausage on it, she's actually sound
The short and long version: Hand walking!!! And also, Hand grazing!!!! For an hour!!!!!!

so yea, she went thru a fence some time before i met her. this is all likely related. or maybe she's just extra susceptible bc the crud and compromised tissue. regardless it's a lot tho omg.
I guess this was Doozy's answer to all my idle musings last week about not knowing when to push for under saddle milestones vs other types of learning adventures lol. 

hand-walki-grazies to the rescue, tho! well, lolz, after we put in the call for the emergency vet visit
Like, she could have just used her words and said, "Actually, that's enough of the indoor, thanks!" and we'd all have been cool with it lol. 

after a while of hand grazing in new and interesting places, we did ventured onto new-to-Dooz paths
But, eh, we can take a hint. So I took this opportunity to spend our time waiting for the vet by introducing Mondeuse to new paths around the farm -- esp getting up to the jump ring.

including to the jump ring!
Guys.... It's been so long since you've seen me and Charlie do anything in this ring, but it's really not looking too hot right now. Shabby is probably the right word. But... It's what we got, so... eh. 

including sniffing and rattling all our ramshackle equipment 
(and grazing on the ring grass UGH)
Anyway, Dooz doesn't know any better, except that she definitely thought arriving into the arena was a weird progression from the nice little bridle paths. So she got a little more up and marching once we were in there, and was a little surprised by some equipment around the rail, etc... But basically accepted that it was safe to interact with all this new stuff. 

walked thru poles bc they were there and she was down....
We didn't spend a whole lot of time up there, just a lap or so in each direction, plus a wander betwixt and between everything, then back home to the barn. 

then back home again, over the same little stream that had stopped us in our tracks earlier LOL, obvi fine now
It was pretty apparent that while the leg was significantly uncomfortable in being like... grossly swollen.... there wasn't really any sort of mechanical lameness. So, silver linings?

and then post vet call... dealing with Doxy pills.
pro tip: powder lol..... christ my brain still hurts from counting out 45pills for 2x daily doses.... and so far, no i've only ground up one dose but we're hoping she will accept the rest whole mixed into feed....
Anyway. The vet pretty much reaffirmed what we thought. The horse has trash for an immune system right now, after years of the track chemical lifestyle. She's particularly susceptible to this type of inflammatory infection right now, but it's not clear if it'll be a "normal" thing.

after all these years wrapping charlie, doozy still has firsts for me: my first sweat wrap
We'll treat with Doxy for now, to see if that makes a dent, plus furazone sweat wraps and plenty of bute. Not gonna lie - it's crazy that after all Charlie's careful and intentional education of my equestrian first aid knowledge, Doozy has me doing my first actual sweat wrap.

not my first time with this stuff, tho, except i basically only ever use it when explicitly directed by a vet....
Just further proof that... Ya know. We never really get to choose our lessons, I guess. 

not gonna lie, this kinda sucks for her :(
But. Eh. Doozy should be fine. Probably. The swelling is expected to be slow to resolve, and perhaps one of those things that could crop up again. 

We'll deal with it tho. She's such a cool horse, it's obvi not ideal to have a significant wellness issue so early, but it gives us room to grow the trust bank. We'll see where it goes from here! 

Charlie colicked the first week I owned him, so maybe I should have expected something to happen. I mean --- have you had something happen with a new horse? Or... is that just me? Lol...