Thursday, December 27, 2012


Excessive enthusiasm is a pain.

But hey, I can't complain.  She did a 3/4 stride bending line today.  Three strides the first time when she was surprised by the second fence and left long, four strides when I did a better job telling her to whoa, damn it.

As her confidence returns, I find myself going back to the old battle of informing my mare that bolting about while jumping is just not acceptable.  This time I intend to take my time and really rebuild these basics.  No competitions until April at the earliest and we already know she's got Novice in her, so there's no reason to go higher than two foot until she's got the basics relearned.

Hunter pony?  Never.  But we can still aim for consistently not terrifying anyone.  And leaving me out of the rafters.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When in doubt . . .

Torture your horse.

I'm lucky my mare is so tolerant.   And cute.

Yes, this is what I did when I went to visit her.  The ride was a bit of a disaster (three days off is always a bad idea) so we'll just focus on how cute she is in my new hat.  Thank you to my mother-in-law for the new hat.  It keeps my ears quite warm.

The junior rider will be exercising her tomorrow.  Hopefully she'll be able to take some of the edge off of my enthusiastic mare.  She is a handful when she's had time off.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Absurd accomplishments

The dead of winter is not a time to make huge leaps and gains in lessons.  It's cold, it's wet, and we're proud of ourselves for simply showing up.  However, I've got an entire week off from work and school so some progress is to be expected.

First accomplishment, my jumping saddle is back!  Oh, how I missed that lovely piece of leather.  I appreciated my friends letting me borrow their saddles, but there's nothing like sitting in your own saddle.  Particularly when you're as petite as I am.  My feet barely reached the bottom of the Muppet's saddle and Dorkzilla's saddle left big bruises where the thigh rolls hit.

To be fair, Fiona jumped the cross rail like we were going training and the thigh rolls had a big role in keeping me on, but the point still stands.  Ow.

Second accomplishment, Fi has decided that the Regumate is no big deal and she licks her bowl clean.  Thank goodness.  It does seem to have brought her down a notch and gotten her more focused.  It's too early to tell, but I am pleased with the results so far.

She was also a model citizen for her vaccinations this year, which was a relief after the Wonder Mare and one of the ponies decided that intra-nasal was just not happening this year.  

Third accomplishment:  New graphics software!  I'm sure some people have noticed that I haven't been drawing much.  I had a bit of a falling out with my install of Windows and in a fit of annoyance installed Linux.  Yup, I'm that much of a computer geek.  Unfortunately, my graphics program didn't want to run on Linux no matter what I did.  Today I found a program that worked for me and the tablet is back in action!  It's going to take a bit to get used to the new software, but it's not longer a multi-hour ordeal to get a drawing done.  Expect more cartoons in the future.

And the last accomplishment du jour:  cantering through cones.  Everyone seems to walk and trot through sets of cones when they're learning to ride.  I weave Fi through them to give us both something to do.  The trainer had them set up during our lesson and decided that we should canter through them.  Erk.  The princess and I were up first.  Fortunately we've been working hard on our counter canter so it didn't take much for us to calmly canter through the serpentine pattern.

Then the trainer decided that was too easy and added a ten meter turn at the end so we would be going back through the cones without breaking out of the canter.  My mare is just too ridiculously fancy sometimes.  She weaved through the cones and when she got the balancing half halt, swapped leads and turned on a dime to head back.  Then did it again on the other side of the ring.  It was a challenge to hold her on one lead for the cones, but the flying change was a piece of cake.  Go figure.  It was very impressive, at least to me.  I might be biased.

Tomorrow is Christmas and I'll be bringing her a bunch of treats before we take advantage of the empty ring to play with some grids.  I'm pretty sure I'll be the only one at the barn riding.  As much as I enjoy meeting up with my barn friends, it will be nice to have the ring to myself.  My girl does enjoy puzzles, and I'm all about giving the Princess exactly what she wants for the holidays.

A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Girls just wanna have fun

How many masters degrees does it take to set up a Regumate dosing system?

At least 2.5.  Dorkzilla's owner provided 2, I'm the 0.5.  That's kind of sad, if I think about it.

After much fussing, debate, and consideration, Fiona is officially on Regumate.  For anyone that's not familiar with it, it's alternogest (synthetic progesterone) which will keep her from cycling.  It should have the same effect as the injections but since it's dosed daily, it will be a steady level of hormones rather than surges.  It goes on her morning grain, easy peasy.

Those are the good features.  Then there are the not so good features.

It's an oil solution that can be absorbed through the skin.  It's even been known to go through latex gloves.  If a human female gets it on her skin, she'll get her period and it will probably hang around for 2-3 weeks.  It's also a possible carcinogen.  Fun stuff, huh?  And it's freaking expensive.  Keeping all of this in mind, and the fact that I really like the barn staff, Fiona's bottle of Regumate was delivered with a lot of safety equipment and a very precise procedure that I wrote up with my trainer's head girl.

A fancy dosing gun was hooked up so that all they have to do is squeeze the trigger and get 10mLs dosed onto her food.  I did the set up of the gun and that's the part that required multiple masters degrees.  The instructions were just stupid, but we successfully got everything set up without shooting hormones all over the tack room.  I looked like I was conducting surgery, wearing black nitrile gloves, reading instructions, and with spectators staying at a cautious distance.  We hooked everything up in the sink in case of disaster, then transferred the bottle and dosing gun to a little bucket.  The bucket and a box of industrial strength nitrile gloves now live in the feed room.

The gloves are from when my husband is working with chemicals that he really doesn't want on his skin.  They're tougher than latex and we don't have to worry about any of the staff with a latex sensitivity.

There's a writeup in the feeder's notebook about the proper way to dispense the goo into Fi's food, complete with a warning about what happens if you get it on you.  Her breakfast now goes in a bucket with a lid so they can dose her food, then just haul the grain to her stall at feeding time rather than moving the Regumate setup.

It's all kind of ridiculous, but better safe then sorry.

After all of this nonsense, it was just Dorkzilla and Fi in the ring.  The dentist had been out, so I was just goofing around with the princess in a hackamore.  We practiced jogging and neck reining at the canter.  It was nice to have a complete slack off ride where we did silly, silly things that had nothing to do with getting ready for a competition.  Unless we decide to go show Hunter Pleasure.  You never know, we might decide to branch out this summer.

Fi appreciated the change in pace.  No stress, no muss, just goofing around with a friend.  I've got to remember to do this more often.  It's not about competing. It's about having fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I want to take control but I know better

God, I want to dream again
Take me where I've never been
I want to go there
This time I'm not scared

- Unbreakable by Fireflight

Horses are heart breakers.  Everyone that's been with them knows this.  Everything is wonderful, and then in the blink of the eye, it's gone.  I've learned this lesson before, and the last four months have been a firm reinforcement of that lesson.  In August, Fiona was getting compliments on her talent and there was talk of moving to training.  In October, we weren't even sure if she was going to compete again as an eventer.

I'm nothing if not stubborn and despite both of us having a crisis of confidence, we've kept plugging along.  One day she jumped a cross rail calmly.  Another day she actually tugged me to a cross rail.  A week later we were able to jump an oxer.  Set backs and frustrations every step of the way, but we keep inching forward.

Today she jumped good sized cross-rail, went back to trot to do a roll back type turn to a vertical, then cantered around the ring to a third vertical.  Her ears were pricked and she was tugging toward the fences.  I have to jump her with almost zero contact, but it's working.  The panic has faded, replaced by her old confidence.  She's going in a hackamore and a snaffle.  It's taking some practice to ride with two completely different feels at the same time, but I'm getting the hang of it.  If she starts to panic, switch to all hackamore till she settles.  If she's starting to bomb off or I need to really rebalance, more snaffle.

I know some of the old excitement is back for her because she's offering to jump on her own.  I was walking around on a slack rein, not really paying attention, when she picked up a trot.  By the time I figured out what was going on, we were going over a fence.  Afterward she stopped politely and looked back, waiting for her treat.  Someone else was in the ring with me and was laughing just watching Fi go.  She said the princess's eyes were sparkling while she pranced about after jumping.  She's still a handful, but that's just Fi.  That's never going to go away.  

She even managed to work through a bounce.  I added some guard rails so she wouldn't cut out, gave her loopy reins, and let her figure it out on her own.  She stressed about it, but was much more confident by the end.

Her Regumate is on order (poor thing was sore from her heat cycle this week) and it should be here soon.  She's also got a hackamore that's got a different shape shank on the way.  It should work better with the snaffle.

Her junior rider messaged me today, asking if she can ride and show the princess again this summer.  I have my fingers crossed that, come summer, Fi and her junior rider can go out and have another wonderful season like they had last year while I wind up my master's degree.  

It's hard to dream again after questioning everything for months, but I recognized that horse I was riding today.  I recognized that proud swagger.  She's still in there.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The CTM Assault Vehicle 2000

Presenting the wave of the future for locating and conquering hard to reach portals*:

The Chestnut Thoroughbred Mare Assault Vehicle 2000

Inspire fear in your enemies with this imposing vehicle!  Standing over five feet high at the shoulder and capable of reaching eight feet in total height, this vehicle shows that you mean business.

Nine years in development, this is a top of the line AR assault vehicle.  This model features excellent all terrain capabilities, a sophisticated ocular system, and one of the finest homing systems seen on the market.  The CTM AV 2000 can achieve speeds of 25 mph while clearing solid obstacles up to 3'6" tall and an amazing 5' wide!

This system can handle almost any kind of terrain, including water, steep hills, trees, and even rain or snow!

The CTM AV 2000 also comes with a programmable pilot system.  This system easily interfaces with an Android phone in order to locate and conquer portals.  While the pilot system is an older version, it is robust enough to handle the demands with only occasional maintenance.  A firm impact to the cranial region is usually all that is necessary to reboot the system and bring malfunctioning systems back online.

Please keep in mind that this is a beta system.  Not all bugs have been worked out.

However, we are certain that the CTM AV 2000 will give the Enlightened access to portals that would otherwise remain under Resistance control indefinitely.

This best in class portal acquisition system is available for immediate deployment, all for one invitation code.  Call now and order your very own Chestnut Thoroughbred Mare Assault Vehicle 2000!

*For those wondering if I've hit my head without wearing a helmet this time, this is in regards to a game that has come out for Android phones called Ingress.  The image of Fiona charging into battle in order to defeat the enemy was far too amusing for me.  I may also watch too many infomercials.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The other kids

I think we're about due for a canine update.  I haven't done one of these in awhile.

Our Minature Pinscher Cowboy, despite semi-regular scares, is still truckin' along and looks really good right now.  He's got more than his fair share of health issues, but right now they're all under control and he's looking and acting like a dog in his prime.  Minor detail he's actually thirteen.

Poor little thing.You can see how he suffers.  Actually, he really enjoyed all the attention that came with his costume.  He had a lovely run around the apartment while his sister tried to grab onto the tail of his costume.  Pretty good for a dog that was scheduled to be euthanized due to progressive paralysis almost two years ago.  He gave us another fright this year when his coordination started to fail again and he couldn't really walk on his own, but a little tweak of his meds and he was right back to going on 15 - 20 minute walks with his sister unassisted.  The vets are being very cautious with him, cutting back his vaccinations to rabies only and unwilling to change anything in his routine.  Someway, somehow, it's working.  We've been on borrowed time for almost two years now.  Everyone is amazed that he's still happy, active, and with us. 

The little monster is enjoying his golden years and the presence of his adopted sister.  He had an aggressive relationship with his father, Cruizer.  When Peyton joined the family, he suddenly had someone that thought he was awesome and wanted to cuddle and play.  It took him months to figure that out.  Now he barks and chases her around the living room, which she adores.  Our neighbors aren't really big fans of it.

Speaking of his sister, this is what I usually come home to.

We've given up on keeping her in the play pen.  She climbs out or squeezes out impossibly small spaces.  She freaks out in a crate.  Once she's loose, she just curls up in the brown chair and sleeps, so she has the privilege of being the only dog we've allowed to sleep loose.  Little Peyton has changed from a skinny, quiet, uncertain, scraggly looking mutt to a glossy, lean, confident little dog.  A grain free raw diet has her food allergies under control (our dogs eat better than we do, no exaggeration) and lots of socialization has her quietly handling just about any crowd.  She loves visiting the barn, going to the pet store, and even trips to the dog park.  Peyton's the first non-aggressive dog we've had . . . ever, so it's a real treat to take her out and not worry about her starting problems.  Of course, at all of thirteen pounds, we have to keep a close eye on her with big dogs.  It would only take the blink of an eye for her to get hurt.

Not to say she's a push over.  Far from it.  She's a dominant little bitch, just not aggressive about it.  I should rent her out to owners of large breed puppies.  She came across a Rhodesian Ridgeback cross puppy that was a couple months old at the dog park.  It was a super friendly puppy, all ears and paws as he galumphed over to greet her.  Of course, he was at least twice her size already so a boisterous greeting, even friendly, was not appreciated.  She very calmly knocked the puppy over, corrected it's rude behavior, and walked away.  The puppy's owner was so worried that I'd be upset, but I laughed.  She did exactly what she was supposed to do and the puppy was much more careful with her after that.  Most puppies get the hint when she gives them the 'look' and they settle down.  She is not to be jumped on, thank you very much.

I frequently think that Peyton should have a job, but between work, school, and the princess, it's not really in my schedule.  She's very smart and a quick learner, but she certainly doesn't mind all of the unstructured time.  Her job is to make sure no one comes in the window, ensure that I get up and move regularly when working from home, and that her adopted brother doesn't get cold or lonely.  It's a tough job, but she's up for it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Four letter word

There are a lot of four letter words, but I'm coming to find that there is one that carries a lot of weight.


As anyone that's been following along for awhile knows, Fiona is my first partnership with a mare.  I avoided them for years and years because of the moody reputation.  There's only room for one bitch in this relationship, and I called dibs.  I made an exception for Fi because she's so sweet and such a pocket pony.  She doesn't squat and squeal at the boys and is happy to be touched and groomed any day of the month.

However, she can be very adversely affected by her hormones.  She gets cramps when she ovulates and she gets distracted when she's in full blown heat.  She was once so busy looking at a boy she actually ran into a jump standard.  I was embarrassed, and so was she.  For the first year, we just got to know each other.  There was no way to know what was hormones, what was training, and what was just the princess.  In the second year, we stepped in when her spring heat cycles got wild enough to make her a danger to handle.  A monthly progesterone shot levelled her out dramatically.  The cramps were no longer an issue, her attention was on the game, and she had a terrific season.  Her first show on progesterone was her outing with my trainer at UNH where she got second in Beginner Novice and won the dressage.  Then she started campaigning with the junior rider and I had my best finish with her at Novice.  The mare was an eventing machine!

But there were problems.  While the depo prevented her heat cycles, each time we used it the period of time it lasted shortened.  Her heat cycles when she did get them were stronger.  By September, I was rearranging her injection cycle for every other week with the vet because the shots were wearing off in about two weeks.

By November, she got a shot on the 8th to make sure she wasn't in heat for Equine Affaire.  She was stabling with stallions, I did not want to deal with that level of distraction.  She was in a screaming heat on the 18th when we moved her to the winter barn.  Between her heat cycle and the stress of moving, she was completely beside herself and screaming while running the fence line.  While riding her in the indoor with Dorkzilla, she was still calling and jigging about.  The 'monthly' shot isn't even making it two weeks anymore and her heat cycles coming off the depo are definitely an ordeal.

She's officially off depo now, since it's just making a bigger mess of things at this point.  After a ride yesterday that had me in tears due to her resistance and distraction (again, in heat), the decision has been made to try Regumate.  Suppressing her heat cycle with progesterone was a huge success, reducing her pain and stress.  We just need a new way to get it into her.

She got a 54% on her First Level 3 test today.  The same mare that can get a 61% at First Level.  It was a lot better than yesterday when I wouldn't canter a left lead circle of any size, but her hormones were still slightly out of whack and she hates rounding her back when she's in heat.  Basically, she was PMSing.  Pissy and crampy and generally not thrilled to be working. 

I can't give her chocolate, Pamprin, and a bubble bath, so we'll have to just stop the symptoms before they start.  I'll buy a three month supply and we'll see how she reacts.  I'm hopeful, because right now?  I don't have an eventer and I don't have a dressage partner.  It's a very, very frustrating position to be in.