Friday, October 26, 2012

Public outing

Yes, they do let this pair of weirdos out in public.  Sometimes.

 For those that don't live in New England, Equine Affaire is a big shopping and clinic extravaganza that goes on from November 8th to the 11th.  It's held in western Massachusetts, specifically Springfield.  I've applied to clinics for the past couple years with no luck.  Same thing this year, I got an e-mail saying that we weren't selected.


But then I got an e-mail yesterday saying that the lineup had changed and they wanted me and Fiona for one of the clinics.  So the princess and I are off to Equine Affaire.

The clinic is with Julie Goodnight, a Natural Horsemanship type trainer, on straightness and willingness and stuff.  It's a long title, but seems very well suited to what Fi and I are working on.  I'm ho-hum overall from what I've been able to dig up on the trainer, but I think this is a good opportunity to work on sitting down.  I don't expect any earth shattering results or even major changes, but it's only $50 for the clinic and the stall and I love taking Fiona out to try new things.  You can learn something from absolutely anyone, and I did learn a lot when I was at a Western Pleasure barn.  I'm open minded.  I've seen enough of Goodnight to know that she's got a good dose of common sense, she's not going to be a danger to me or my horse, and she's not going to pull a Parelli (bonk Fi on the head or something else equally violent).  Natural Horsemanship overall leaves me cold but that's mostly due to the marketing machines that so many of them become.  I tried watching her show, but it was nothing but ad copy.  Even if it's products I use myself, it still made me roll my eyes.

More importantly, I just want to take Fiona to Equine Affaire for the miles.  It's going to be a great experience for her and I don't think crowds around show jumping will ever bother her again after this.  I'm going to keep applying for the more eventing and dressage-centric clinics so getting her used to the hubub is a good idea.  I'm highly motivated by anything that makes the princess more bomb proof.  Is this the best reasoning for attending a clinic?  Probably not, but it's a good enough reason for me. 

So now I'm organizing a trailer ride and a dog sitter so I can scoot off to Springfield for a weekend with my girl.  If she's being good, I'll wear my jacket with the barn logo across the back.  If she's being a puke?  We'll just leave that in the car.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


No, not me.  At least not in this particular thread.  I'll rant about my fitness another day.  This rant is about Fi.  Yes, the princess is chubby. 

Somehow, chubby and Thoroughbred just doesn't seem to go together.

I was looking at my mare while tacking her up and just stopped to stare.  Wait a minute, she's always had a broodmare belly but it's not usually quite that . . . large.  My mare has put on weight.  Not a shocker, as she spent a month in very light work while we sorted out her soreness issues.  Even now with being back in regular work, it's not galloping, cross country, competing kind of work.  It's more like 4-5 days a week schools in the ring with cross rails and usually one hack a week for 1-2 hours.  She hasn't been galloping since she got sick and it shows.

The trainer cut back on her grain and we're organizing some additional rides for her.  It's been a rough quarter at work so I'm doing all sorts of extra meetings.  I'm also a half time grad student.  Between the two, it's hard to make sure she gets work six days a week like she's used to with two riders.  No one's stepped up quite like her junior rider from the summer, but there are always teenagers at the barn that are looking for extra time in the saddle.  Fi is a gentle, well schooled horse on the flat so it's easy enough to find her a ride here and there.  She's a vintage that only very particular people enjoy for more than a catch ride.

I miss her junior rider.  I really, really do.

Fall is in the air and the horses are all feeling a bit rowdy.  The ring is also crowded since the sun is down by 6pm these days.  Everyone has to pile in during the few hours between school/work and sunset.  It's a bit of an ugly combination.  There's a horse at the barn that has decided that he hates Fiona.  No, scratch that, detests her.  It doesn't make any sense since they're not stabled near each other, have never trailered together, and have never been turned out near each other.  For whatever reason, this gelding that is usually perfectly friendly flattens his ears and bares his teeth at the princess.  He also actively lunges and will go out of his way to go after her.  Fiona ignores him completely unless he gets too close, then she gets worried.  She gets the stressed ear set and tightness around the eyes.  I think that's a totally valid response.  I've started avoiding the horse like the plague, leaving at least a quarter of the ring between them.

We think she turned him down for the prom.  That's our only guess for why he hates her.  He asked the head cheerleader out and she shot him down.  You know Fi is the head cheerleader.  Pretty, athletic, and she will cut you if you annoy her.

It's a lot of fun to go through the barn and assign them stereotypical high school roles.  Try it some time, it's a riot.  Fi is the head cheerleader, Dorkzilla is on the football team (offensive line), and the hater is the head of the chess club.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Fi and I are in the November issue of Dressage Today!  I submitted a picture for their monthly photo clinic and when I opened my issue today, I saw a very familiar picture.

It took me a couple tries to actually read what was written.  I was so nervous!  The feedback on Fiona was nothing but positive.  A happy, organized, well balanced horse and she had no criticism for her at this level.  Yay!

And then there's me.  Sigh.

Is it bad they can tell I'm holding my breath in a still photo?  The summary is that I need to breathe and sit down.  At least it wasn't a shock to me, as I've been working on that.  Hearing that I should shorten my stirrups was a surprise.  I always feel like I keep my legs too short, but then again, I look like I'm reaching for my stirrups.  Hm.

But either way, we're celebrities!  Of a sort.  And my mare looks fabulous, that's all that counts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Road rage

Little known fact.  I drive a Toyota Yaris two-door hatchback.  This is a sub-compact speck of a car.  Tiniest turning radius I could find, and I can parallel park anywhere.  I have also crammed eight people in it, including five teenagers in the backseat with two dogs (one with gas), but that's off topic.

Another little known fact:  I suffer from road rage.

If you are ever in the New England area and see a little white car with angry music blaring, a ticked off petite woman cussing at the wheel, and stickers for both the USEA and USDF in the back window, it's probably me.

How is this related to a horse blog?  Wait for it . . .

The seasons are changing.  The leaves are falling, the temperatures are dropping, and the sun is setting earlier and earlier.  These days, we're done riding by 6:30pm at the latest.  Darn these seasonal changes.

At the same time that daylight is becoming a scarce commodity, the state of Massachusetts decided to start construction on 3 North.  This is my typical route to the barn and is the only realistic way to get there in under an hour.  With the construction, if I hit rush hour, it takes over an hour to get to the barn.

Now you're seeing where this is going.  Full time job, half time school, sudden increase in drive time just as daylight is cutting back . . . Let's just say that I've managed to keep riding enough for Fiona to know who I am, but my manager isn't always thrilled.  The downside is that I'm usually wound up tighter than a top.  Blaring angry music and yelling along usually helps (Limp Bizkit, Korn, Disturbed, and a bit of Mindless Self Indulgence, for those that are curious).  But any amount of tension is a bad idea when dealing with a thoroughbred in fall that isn't getting the amount of work she's used to.

Fi has gracefully accepted being let down from her competition fitness, for the most part.  She's always such a lady, even when she gets extended time off.  It really is one of her best features.  We've made progress with her jumping, all the way up to trotting cross rail courses calmly and politely.  She's certainly not trying to cut out.  We're taking this as a chance to really rebuild and teach her to calmly and politely jump.  No bombing off afterwards or beforehand allowed.  She seems much more comfortable after her injections.  She still has the occasional bad step on the left hind, but I don't think that will ever go away.

Next week we have a private lesson with my trainer's trainer.  The jury is still out as to whether it will be a jumping or flat lesson.  I'm leaning toward flat, since it seems a waste to have a private to trot over cross rails.  We'll see.  Fi and I had a really lovely flat ride today, including her stepping into a canter from the walk and carrying herself in a very balanced way.  After I worked her down.

Got to love TB mares in fall.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Baby steps

It's hard to keep things in perspective.  It's easy to think in absolutes, but hard to stay within uncertainty.  It's simple to say 'Fi doesn't want to be an eventer anymore', but much harder to say that she's one hell of a nice eventer, but she has an issue right now that might or might not be fixable.

Yet again, Fi had a visit from the vet today.  It's become a weekly thing while we try to pick through the issues she's picked up.  I keep telling her, if she would just open her trap and tell us where she hurts, this would all be so much simpler.  Or even if she would just show us where she hurts rather than being so stoic. 

I have to mention here that I love my vet.  She's so darn patient with all of this.  Fi is a puzzle, not only to trainers but to vets.  My vet has been watching her on the ground and under saddle for weeks now, slowly piecing the bits together.  I was able to be there today and be the one in the saddle while she was evaluated yet again.

The princess did give us a pretty useful clue this time.  I had to give her four days off due to it being the end of the quarter for work and my first week of classes for the fall quarter.  That meant that her back was feeling pretty darn spiffy.  When I rode her, there was a definite stickiness to the left hind.  After her ride, her back was more reactive.

Ah ha!

The vet got out the ultrasound and I darn near passed out.  I've never seen that thing without it being bad news.  Like career ending bad news.  And then the vet said 'ah!' while looking at the images.  Oh, Goddess help me.  Save me from vets saying 'ah!'.  In this case, it was okay.  Her stifles weren't particularly swollen and all she saw was some remodeling on the left that suggested she'd had some instability in the past.  I already knew that, since her left stifle was the one that slipped when she was out of work and weak.  The vet said that everything looked fine to her, just some jewellery that wasn't unexpected, and we moved on to injecting her hocks and left stifle to make her more comfortable.  I was so darn relieved to see that ultrasound leave without any horrifying prognosis that I had to lean on Fi for a moment.  But just for a moment, because the princess had to be sedated for her injections.  My girl is such an absolute wimp with sedatives.

I seriously thought she was going to fall down.  At least her reputation proceeded her and she got less than the standard dose for her size.  That white thing at her chin was a towel stuffed in her halter as padding while she leaned on the cross ties.  We flipped the clasps over to make her more comfortable and to make sure they held her up.

So she gets a couple days off and some cold hosing.  Then we'll see.  Her Lyme titter came back negative (again) so it's not that.  My vet really feels that she's got a bilateral issue behind, more left than right, and that her back issues won't sort out until she feels she can really push from behind and use herself properly.  With the remodeling found, I think we're on the right track now.

What does that mean?  I don't even know any more.  She's jumping cross rails again with confidence and enthusiasm now that the vet has her back pain under control, so at least some jumping is probably in her future.  If we can root out the actual cause, it's quite possible she'll be back at Novice next summer.  My vet and trainer are both optimistic for that, so I'm trying to follow suit.  This winter will be focused on getting her show ring ready for First Level 3 and getting us started on Second Level dressage.  If she decides she still wants to be an eventer, then we'll head back out at Novice.  I hope she decides to be an eventer again, but it's up to her.  She's too nice of a horse to ruin by forcing her into a discipline she doesn't enjoy.

For now, we just have to wait and see if this new tactic will make her comfortable and if she'll want to jump again.  

I hate waiting.