Friday, March 29, 2024

golden hour

Happy Friday, y'all! It's been a week around here, not gonna lie. At least from a horsey perspective, it wasn't the worst time to kinda take it easy tho.

golden child
Recall Doozy had that nasty kick / puncture wound on her forearm that was pretty swollen and ouchy for a few days. Then she got all her spring shots and was just kinda overall being a bit of a hot house flower. "My hair hurts!" vibes, if you know what I mean lol.

pics don't do the sky justice --- it was cream colored and glowing
But she's a resilient sort of mare, and the wounds are healing just fine. So we're back to just sorta plugging away at it!! Including a short fun ride up in the jump ring with friends last night!!

lolol why Yes! that IS a screen shot of a video taken of a video playing on my friend's phone
Like I mentioned in my last post, I'm trying to be a little more disciplined about refining some of the details and being more clear with the mare about how I want her to go... Ya know. Like, actually maybe training the animal haha. 

And she actually responded quite nicely in this ride by showing a willingness to adjust her balance and posture and overall longitudinal and lateral frame without getting riled up or tense.

but the colors are so pretty!! just pretend it's impressionism or something LOL
Ya know. When she wasn't otherwise trying to bolt directly at Rosette lol, to whom she is now obscenely more attached than she was pre-Hunt Club haha, womp womp. Oh well, tho, right? Like, learning that you have to focus, even when your friends are in the ring omg, is just one of those ongoing and difficult things for us that is pretty much unavoidable. 

Ya gotta deal with the complexity eventually, right? Might as well be on a nice spring evening while riding around with good barn buddies!

no i did not bother to dismount and reset fences lol, we had fun anyway!
Anyway, I wanted to pop over some fences but wasn't really sure how it would go --- on one hand, the mare was giving me kinda nice work!! Otoh, tho... ya know, the bolting lol. 

Plus the ring was kinda set up weirdly... Somebody had clearly been trying to force school their horse to trot fences, and had put lines of trot poles on the approach to most of the available single fences. 

blossoming trees!!!
But, eh, there was one nice single cross rail, plus a short two-stride in and out of microscopic Xs -- practically a cavaletti exercise. And I finally felt like I was getting the right balance out of the mare that we probably wouldn't crash and burn in the short distance.

not a bad way to spend a spring evening, amirite?
So we had a nice little be-bop around!! My first time popping through everything I tried to trot in... But I don't know. It just feels like it's not worth the fight -- not worth the backwards pulling when the mare most definitely wants to canter, and meanwhile seems to have a pretty naturally good eye and footwork.

get 'em, Dooz!!
We trotted into the 2-stride anyway tho the first time, just to get a feel for the distance. It rode in two trotting in, but kinda a long-ish two (given the small height), so I figured we'd probably be able to canter in and still get two without completely splatting lol. 

what a good girl <3
And ya know, Doozy just clocked right on around for our final little circuit (on video below). I tried to keep my favorite YR's pithy one-liners cycling through my head: "it doesn't look the way it feels" (aka lighten up) + "maybe under-think it" LOL, and Doozy responded in kind, maintaining a soft but positive balance that I could carry forward to the fences. 

Honestly was super pleasant!! And just what the doctor ordered after a long week that felt like non-stop crunch time. 

sweet thing is too spoiled to stand still for pictures lol
We definitely need more lessons on the books but... not gonna lie, it's been nice to just putter around the last couple weeks after what was otherwise a gangbusters month for the little lady.

she looks good in pink, right?? 
I think she likes all the adventures and outings and whatnot, tho. She definitely came home from Hunt Club a much more grown up horse, and is basically straight up reliable now about riding around all the laneways on the farm to and from our various outdoor rings. 

Next challenge will be reintroducing riding out in the fields, tho I've been putting that off bc for some reason they never brought the rough board horses in for the winter. Usually they get confined to sacrifice paddocks and all the gates to the big xc fields get opened up -- making for easy open hacking. I haven't been super inclined to ride Doozy into a potential herd of loose horses haha, but eh presumably eventually the temptation of xc fences will win out!

That's all for the future, tho. For now, I'm just happy it's Friday. Anybody got any big plans for the weekend?

Saturday, March 23, 2024

oozy doozy

Happy weekend, y'all!! It's been pretty low key around these parts for the last week, after what felt like a bit of a sprint all month getting Doozy ready for her two big back to back outings!

sweet mares basking in their post-show glows the day after Hunt Club
Horse training is such a giant topic, there are so many different methods and priorities and approaches... But as far as I'm concerned, basically all roads lead to Rome (eventually lol). For an OTTB like Doozy, there's literally a grab bag of subjects that need attention -- to the point that just about any time spent with the horse can be considered additive to her overall development.

sooooomeone, not naming any names, is a little obsessed with her reflection
Leading up first to the Stables at Fox Crossing dressage show and xc schooling, and then to Hunt Club Farm for the combined test, we basically just focused on all things "survival." As in, all aspects necessary to get through the day with Dooz with minimal drama. 

This approach more or less necessitated de-emphasizing the actual quality of the ridden work in exchange for solidifying relative relaxation and obedience. Or, to put it another way, my compromise to Doozy was basically, "I'm not going to really fuck around with your way of going so long as you go more or less where I want, at more or less the right pace, without bolting or jumping the shark."

"must love mirrors"
Which ya know, kinda worked out for us! We did in fact stay in the dressage ring at both events, and accomplished our tests more or less as they're written. Just, ya know, with pretty terrible scores lol. But, eh, that's Phase 2, right? 

Like, "Ok, you can do the thing, yay!! Now let's make it better!"

yes yes, we all think you are VERY cute, dooz!
So that was kinda my plan for rides this week. No stress, no pressure. Nothing presently on the upcoming events calendar. Let's just keep working those basics, right?

well. except for that icky oozy little ding!
Lol. Wrong. Doozy went ahead and got herself kicked. Again

And while last time she kinda just got grazed, this time looks like a direct hit. Poor baby!!

there's a tiny pocket, but at least it goes upward, making for easy drainage
It seemed relatively fresh when I saw it tho, probably got kicked while milling around at the gate before evening turn in. 

I was about to pull Doozy out for a fun evening jump school with Amy and Punky, but saw the crusty swollen grossness and was like, "Welp. Change of plans!" and grabbed Charlie instead. And proceeded to have a very fun and casual romp around some very low jumps with our favorite bay <3 <3

sad suffering mare swells up if you even look at her wrong
Then back to the barn to take care of this thing, who by this point was significantly more swollen than she'd been just an hour before. I swear, she is the most delicate flower!

cleaned up pic for the vet, who happened to be coming the next day for spring shots anyway
At least she's got good timing, tho. Vet was scheduled for spring shots the next morning already, so I just gave her a heads up that the wound might need a little attention too. She advised that we go ahead and start on SMZs, and then during her visit she flushed it with a gentamicin solution.

24hrs later, tons of disgusting drainage, tho the swelling is receding lower down the limb
Not gonna lie, it's kinda a nasty little wound for as minor as it is. Like, it was DRIPPING fluids down her leg. But, eh, better out than in, I guess! I smeared vaseline all over the skin to try to prevent it from getting too crusty, but otherwise will just try to keep it clear and clean.

barn owner kinda freaked when she saw the knee on day 3 and sent me this pic
(for various benign reasons, she had been previously unaware of the wound so this was her first time seeing it)
The horse is so funny, too, bc she clearly hates being uncomfortable. Add in all the spring shots and whatnot, and she was a pretty sad puppy. 

unrelated barn panther palette cleanser after all that nasty discharge lol
But, eh, back to my earlier point... Basically anything can be a training opportunity with this horse. She kinda hates being poked and prodded (and legitimately doesn't want you to do ANYTHING to her mane --- even literally snipping with scissors apparently hurts her hair, omg), but she enjoys being fussed over. 

So we're trying to find that balance, and she's figuring out that, actually, we're here to help lol.

and spring blossoms with charlie ears!!!
So ya know. Maybe not the agenda I'd planned for this week, but nice enough all the same. And in the meantime, it's been nice to really savor my rides with Charlie vs feeling like I have to be hyper efficient with time. 

Bc he's doing well too!! Tho... Not gonna lie, he doesn't seem in any rush to come out of semi-retirement LOL. And I'm also still feeling pretty tentative about increasing impact on his feet. 

All in good time, tho! For now tho, we're just enjoying a nice quiet weekend! Hope you are, too!!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Hunt Club Farm CT

Doozy and I had a somewhat rare opportunity to fill an open trailer spot to Hunt Club Farm's spring starter trials this weekend!! 

cute mare is getting out there and learning how to cart around her adult ammy owner!!
On one hand, we are obviously not really ready for primetime -- just like last weekend at the schooling dressage show haha. Not exactly a whole heckuva lot of training you can do in the span of one week, right? 

we learned a lot of life lessons and soft skills throughout the day lol
On the other hand, tho, we'd be traveling with very capable and helpful company -- the best possible circumstances for ensuring Doozy gets all the support she needs. Plus. Ya know. It's a starter trial in March. Not the Olympics, right? 

gotta seize the opportunities when friends have available trailer spots tho!
So we signed up for the CT class in the lowest level division, which called for USDF Intro C as the dressage test, and cross rails and small verticals not to exceed 18" for show jumping.

these lovely ladies may or may not have won their division!! despite rosette proving that actually, maybe she shouldn't ship with mares unless you want to spend the entire day listening to her sing the song of her people LOL
It meant for a LONG day, since Katie's division went much earlier, and obvi we were basically the very last to go. But. Eh, it's like that sometimes, and we knew what we were signing up for! 

quasi-related -- Hunt Club Farms was super cute, nicely compact, easy to get around and nicely arranged. it's also a super interesting part of the world geologically, with a LOT of rock jutting up all over the place. they did a nice job orienting the xc field and grassy areas to make safe passage intuitive
The long day was useful anyway for all the soft skills horses need to be successful competitors -- hanging out by the trailers all day, eating hay, drinking water, getting on and off the trailer repeatedly... Not being a menace to other people and horses parked nearby. Ya know. Normal manners that can make or break the overall experience.

holy moly we're cantering out in an open field for warm up!!
(tho i assure you, it was NOT smooth sailing lol... sorry if you were in that ring with us!)
This was actually my first time at Hunt Club Farm, in Berryville, VA. And it's SUPER CUTE guys, omg! And really friendly. All the volunteers were really laid back, they had a nice selection of judges across three dressage rings, and cute but simple and inviting jumps for all phases. 

omg she just went into the ring and.... trotted around
And we got to meet Nadia (and Siri!!!) omg!!!!!! Long time bloggers know!!!! Nadia relocated to the East Coast just a few months ago, transplanting from the wide open (and spread out) world of the West into Eventing Central, USA --- beautiful Virginia! So it worked out perfectly for her to stop by the grounds while we were there!

Sorry I somehow didn't snap a photo of us, but hopefully we'll get it next time -- and hopefully with Henry in the mix too!! 

got both her canter leads!!
And guys, this is maybe the perfect example of why I'm so excited about getting back out and about with Doozy, even tho we are objectively "not quite ready" lol. Bc it's just such a cool community, such wonderful comradery, so great to run into folks and chat and basically just be a part of this thing again.

i honestly kept waiting for something crazy to happen... but she just.... did the test lol
Tho. Ahem... One might also argue that maybe I should wait until we aren't "that horse" in warm up so I don't just embarrass myself by almost making roadkill of former coach Dan C by nearly running sideways over him (all under his watchful gaze of muted disapproval LOL)....

like. obvi there is a LOT to do here haha... but that's a problem for future emma lol
All that to say --- this was, yet again, another big ask for Doozy. And our warm up was not really confidence inspiring. We were very attached to Rosette. Very unable to manage a straight line in any direction not facing Rosette. Very unable to do anything other than attempt to bolt when directed toward Rosette. It was a lot, and I had significant doubts. 

bc present emma is legit just happy to be here again!
But, eh, I just kept the full length of my inseams on as strongly as possible, and tried to slowly expand our bubble, while not accidentally murdering anybody else in the ring (thankfully it was a fairly empathetic set of riders!). We managed to trot in a civilized manner. Then when Doozy broke into canter, I just rolled with it and managed to ease into something that felt ok enough. And then it was our turn!

maybe eventually we'll have slightly higher expectations
I had zero idea what to expect when we went in for our test. We had to walk away from Rosette, pass through a gate into a separate field, circle around the judge's car and all that, and then perform a test in a standard (ie wall-less) court for the first time. I honestly figured literally anything could happen. Except, even then, I was not expecting what Doozy did...

but we did it, yay!
Bc guys.... The mare just went into the ring and did her test. Omfg. Just like, "Sigh, ok, this bullshit again..." and went around, only breaking accidentally into canter once! Well, ok, I actually got rung out immediately for forgetting my first halt, so we exited and started again with the error on our first score. BUT STILL omg!!

all the back and forth from the trailer throughout the day seemed to help doozy settle in
Like it's not a "good" test and the scores reflect that. But Doozy also doesn't know what a "good" test IS, nor has she been trained to accomplish said test LOL, let's be real hahaha. But ya know. She CAN walk trot and canter-ish around in a 20x40m space, accomplishing approximations of various movements and patterns more or less on purpose. 

flash forward about 3.5 hrs lol... and it was time to show jump!
As far as she knows, that's the whole game lol. So I was thrilled with her. If there's one big takeaway from this whole experience --- it's that, ya know, I just need to keep raising my standards and expectations of myself, bc the horse will get there. 

i stuck to the small covered ring on footing for our warm up as opposed to the more open grassy area
Which. Ya know. Was basically the theme for our show jumping, too. We had a LONG break until show jumping, which was itself running about an hour behind schedule by the end of the day. Fortunately we could hear the announcer from the trailer and kept track of the order of go, so time management worked out just fine.

she was so brave to these little Xs!! 
We spent some time up by the ring in hand, just watching things go, getting Doozy comfortable with the atmosphere and various lines of sight around the ring, with XC running in the background. She was totally fine, tho, and eventually it was time to get on while they reset the course for our little cross rails. 

side note: the trial period ran out on both saddles before i could get a fitter out, so we're back in Charlie's l'Apogee
Options for warm up were a little limited -- there was a very small covered ring with footing, and then a slightly larger grassy area. I opted to stay in the covered, thinking it would help with Doozy feeling all sorts of ways about her attachment to Rosette... But actually, in retrospect I wish I'd gone into the larger space. 

we got a little gung ho in places haha
It's the same thing my young rider friend identified for me recently -- it doesn't look the way it feels. In my last jump practice with Doozy, I really tried to embrace that mindset and let her carry more pace, and it was great. But in the small covered ring, we didn't really have room for that, and I was not fully trusting the mare anyway. 

So then in our actual round, I kinda forgot some of that feeling. I really had no idea what to expect, ya know? Like, I know the horse is brave -- she's actually been in almost as many different jump rings as she's had jumping sessions LOL. And she so far hasn't seen a jump she doesn't like. But I still felt like we needed to go slow to give her time to look at things.

were appropriately patient to the big brick columns tho!
It all worked out, tho. Like we had a couple jumps out of decent trot, a couple jumps out of decent canter. A couple jumps out of a rushy canter (including one clobbered rail), and a couple out of a rushy trot that I probably could have let be canter. 

she seriously just clocked around the jumps guys, omg
Tho, maybe in my defense, the one jump she wiggled to and seemed to think twice about was one we cantered, and we got there on a lovely stride -- but on the kind of open distance that is definitely still new to this mare and she wasn't immediately sure. But she figured it out, good girl. 

Anyway, tho, actually the second half of the course was a bit more moderated. A few jumps (like the sails above) I thought she'd canter, but then she came down to trot herself. And she finished the course on a lovely effort with a pleasant little canter circle. 

nice little canter over the last!
So on one hand... I kinda wish I'd ridden better. Which like, duh, don't we always? On the other hand tho, it felt like we both learned a lot. And at the end of the day, that was the whole point anyway!

We didn't win any ribbons for our efforts, but I'm just so pleased with this mare. She's challenging to me in many ways, but honestly is turning into a pretty game and forgiving creature. My hope is to really learn a lot from her, and hopefully have a LOT of fun along the way. 

crossing bridges --- literally and figuratively!
Obviously we've thrown a LOT at her in just the last few weeks, if I'm being honest. This was only her 5th off property adventure. But it seems like she's figuring it all out? None of what we're actually asking of her is particularly hard. And in fact, maybe she actually likes the job?

little lady is growing up!
Maybe the hardest next step will be getting more serious about actually properly training the creature (and/or myself, as the case may be). Maybe, lol.

But for now, I'm just grateful for the experience -- and grateful for all the help we're getting along the way from friends like Katie! And grateful for gorgeous spring weekends to get out and do fun things with the ponies!!! 

Friday, March 15, 2024

friday foto finish

TGIF, y'all!! I've been making daily pilgrimages to the barn for a couple weeks now for a variety of reasons.... some very practical (like giving Doozy her ulcergard!), and others... more just relating to keeping my happy place front and center. You know how that goes sometimes!

Anyway, tho, so much barn time means I'm constantly snapping random pictures that don't always fit neatly into standalone blog posts, but are still memorable or pretty in their own right... So here they are!

This time of year makes for the BEST dusk rides --- esp when we accompany our friends who are out doing fitness sets on the hills. Obvi Charlie isn't doing trot sets at this moment in his life, but he can still hang out and enjoy the show!

The weather has been so mild, tho.... Literally drove out the driveway past the 'rough board' boys, and *boom*!! Nap-O'Clock!! Just look at 'em all!!!

Doozy, meanwhile, basically always has chill vibes in the field. There she is, on the far right side of this frame... Good girl just chilled at the round bale (you can kinda see the dark hay ring behind her) waiting for turn-in while the rest of the ladies jockeyed for position at the gate. 

She's getting more comfortable with all the little ins and outs around the barn too --- like stopping to sip from the central water trough when coming and going!

Lol, Charlie has always been comfortable around the barn tho... Maybe too comfortable!

This time of year is kinda my favorite, tho. Longer days, mild weather, growing grass and pretty spring flowers!

Makes for way more opportunities to ride outside! And Doozy's getting to be pretty solid at all the outdoor riding spaces (tho we haven't been back out into the fields in a long time). Here you see some of the jumps we practiced the other day --- including this related distance from X to low caution panel.
we also had a fun (but dusty!) indoor ride one night with four horses and these fun diagonal trot poles --- we basically just did one big train of trotting thru everything, occasionally "shuffling the deck" if horses were approaching different diagonals at the same time. All the horses got totally into it, tho, and it was a fun way to all have a good time sharing small spaces!

The dressage ring, meanwhile, is getting easier for us too! Not "easy" yet -- no no, there's too much activity with the lesson shed row right across the driveway and ponies and kiddos constantly coming and going... It's going to take time to fully normalize. But we're getting there! In this ride, I set up 3 ground poles spaced on a gently bending line about 18' apart center to center. Trots well, and also canters in quiet one-stride distances. Doozy nailed it!

Forsythia season is the best season, change my mind.

And bath season!! It was 70* earlier this week so BOTH ponies got their first real big true bath of the year!! Not a day too soon, either, bc somebody (not naming any names) like sleeping in her pee... ew!

Oh, said someone also got a fresh little wound. Doesn't seem serious, but apparently bled quite a bit, plus kept oozing for a while. I think it was pretty fresh-ish when I brought her in. Luckily not on her cellulitis leg, but we'll keep an eye on it all the same -- and she spent the night in a standing wrap just in case!

Anyway, tho, the house critters are also well. Here we get a "between the ears" shot of my fat house cat Martini raptly watching me edit the gif of Icee doing Icee things lol....

He IS, after all, an entertaining critter. Terrifying, sure. But entertaining!

So ya know. That's about all we've been up to lately. It's turning into a really pleasant end to winter (knocking on wood). Anyone else looking forward to the weekend??