Sunday, February 26, 2017

Definition of perfection

I thought I knew my type.  But then again, most people think they know their type, but it's often the one they overlook that changes everything.  I wanted to overlook Theo, he wasn't my type.  That's what I thought, anyway.  Even when I leased him, even when I bought him, I had it in my head that he was the exception.  I bought him despite himself, in a way.  He wasn't really what I wanted, but I didn't want to share him.  But when cantering mi papi around completely on the buckle this weekend, I couldn't help but declare 'I love this damn horse'.  To which Trainer A said 'he's amazing'.

Not for the reasons I thought I prized and not for the reasons most trainers list for their mounts.  His movement is average at best and he's pretty inflexible through his whole body.  He's prized because he's innately chill.  Even when I can feel the buzz of excess energy running through his body, that electric, popping feeling that most riders are familiar with when the horse's skin shivers and moves when you touch them, I can drop the reins and have him stretch and walk.  He was hot all weekend, eager to move out and looking to burn off that electric feeling.  I had a hard time finding the bottom of it.  He barged through my hands at the trot, picking up the canter and threatening to bolt.  But when I dropped the contact, his head went to his knees.  Trainer A prizes him because my lessons are reliably productive and enjoyable.

He's the only horse in the lesson program with that reaction to life.  Little Girl popped a full blown capriole in our last lesson, leaving Trainer A a bit pale.  I hung on to papi's mane and practiced my breathing while he napped.  I put my friend on him to practice her canter and jumping because, in the ring, there is no safer horse in the barn.  When did I start to prize this?  When did that feeling of safety become the most important feature?

Have I been a secret draft cross fan girl this whole time?

At Trainer A's insistence, I'm branching out to other horses again.  I'm fit enough and in practice enough that things like bucking and barging don't bother me anymore.  I'm a gutsy rider, I think the temper tantrums most horses toss at me are cute more than anything.  I've ridden the Hellbeast at his worst and after Fiona?  A below average moving pony having a temper tantrum isn't a problem.  This is the part I can't wrap my head around.  If Baby Pony's bolting and Juicebox's broncing make me giggle, why do I need my completely chill horse to really relax?  Am I secretly a coward?

I don't think I am.  When papi has his moments, you still need to be a gutsy rider to handle it.  When I take him out to the Ritz for that first time this spring, I'll be wearing my cross country vest and probably have him in a wonder bit for some extra leverage.  He's got a big buck in him and I've made him very strong.

Maybe I'm just coming to terms with the fact that I'm not a professional and I'll never be one again.  I'm not riding to win the Olympics or compete at Grand Prix.  I'm an ammy adult.  I miss nights of riding due to meetings.  Some days I just want to go hack on trails or chase a soccer ball. 

 I'm competitive, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'll be in the low to mid levels forever.  With that realization comes the fact that I don't need a talented horse.  I need an enjoyable horse.  I need a horse that will forgive me for missing a day and will go for a long walk down a trail without missing a beat.  I'll never score a 70%, but I'll make kids giggle by riding backwards on my horse.

Yeah, I did that.  Theo was amused.  His girl is weird, but she has cookies.

I can't decide if my tastes have changed or if I'm more in touch with what I've really wanted all this time.  I could go either way.  While I'm adding naughty ponies to my dance card to keep me in practice, my partner has become a refuge.  I feel safe on him.  Not because he's predictable, but because he's inherently lazy.  While I can power him up, he will always stop if given a chance.  And if I want to be lazy, that's always an option with him.  It's been a long, long time since I partnered with a horse where I could be lazy.

Who knew laziness could be perfection?

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Seeing spots

A school horse with a twisted shoe led to me having a happy reunion tonight.  Baby pony!

My friend's chosen mount was out due to his footwear problem, so I gave her Theo and I stole the baby pony from one of the teens.  He's gotten so big, all the way up to five years old now.  He's filled out a lot and I no longer feel like I might capsize him.  His head tossing temper tantrums from the summer have also abated, at least for riders that know what to do with their hands.  His questionable brakes have him in a slow twist, but I somehow doubt he'll need that once he's done being a teenager.

We spent a good ten minutes discussing the fact he should stop and stand with a minimal request from me.  Once we had that, we started trotting.  I had to keep my inside leg on until he quit flailing at it and collapsing in on the circle.  Once that happened, he magically dropped down and stretched out his neck instead of bracing and holding his head up like a giraffe.  These poor ponies, all so shocked to discover I'm not easily intimidated.  Flail all you want, once you're tired, we'll do it the right way.

We did figure eights with him stretched out, transitioning between walk and trot like a gentlemen.  He's a horse that takes very well to positive chatter.  When I made a big fuss over him, patting him with both hands and loving on him, it really locked a behavior in.  There was licking and chewing once he figured out he could chew the reins out of my hands.

He's finally cantering in lessons, though it's still a bit wild.  His barrel racer roots like to come up when the speed turns on.  He tends to anticipate, rush, and generally flail about at the canter.  We got good work in both directions.  I've been doing this long enough that I could get the leads on the first try, control his shoulders enough to keep him from diving around, and control the tempo while letting him have his neck.  It wasn't easy, far from it, but Trainer A was very happy to see him cantering around in a calm way.  He doesn't get a lot of practice cantering with experienced hands.

She also said she was happy to see me on another horse again.  I suspect Wednesdays are going to become the night where I play the pony parade game.  It's good for me, but ugh, I hate using school tack.  That saddle was horrible!  And those web reins, how does anyone work with those?  I wonder if my saddle would fit on the baby pony . . .

Monday, February 20, 2017

Show off

I have a vice.  I'm sure it's one I share with a lot of people, but it's a bit of a problem because I share it with my horse.  We like to show off.

Who, me?

Saturday night I had a party (omg non-horse social life) so I had to ride early in the day.  I usually avoid this because there are a lot of lessons running on Saturday mornings, but I certainly wasn't going to give papi the day off after just getting him going again.  Due to helping some of the young and clueless in the barn, I ended up riding right in the highest traffic.  Four of the more advanced teenagers have a lesson together at 11am.  I mounted at 10:40am.  Timing, I do not have it.  I dodged nervous beginners and lunge line lessons for twenty minutes, then started doing my canter work while the teens were mounting and walking about.  It was the one break in the morning where I would have some room to work.

Theo wasn't paying enough attention in the chaos so I had him walk.  Didn't like the transition, so went back to canter and back down to walk.  Oh, nice, let's do that the other way.  Hm, traffic, might as well do a 10m circle and get him really sitting.  Canter canter canter walk.  Good boy!  And then I was just showing off.  Little canter leg yield to let someone pass, roll back style turn to change direction, a little counter canter, a flying change, you know.  Whatever.

Trainer A was giving me the eye so I settled down when the class got rolling.  But hey, it's fun to show off all of the things Theo has learned that none of the youngsters ever see.  It doesn't help that the sudden increase in traffic (and two, count 'em, two mares including Miss Thang) had a certain someone arching his neck and in full stud mode.  I had to keep him under wraps so he didn't upset any of the other horses.  Energy levels were high and there was some bucking and running about in the lesson without any help from me.  So I dropped my stirrups and went back to trotting.  Because, yes, showing off is a terrible vice and I posted trot with no stirrups just to show I could to a bunch of girls half my age.  Nope, not proud. 

I know the teens pretty well so when they started jumping, I parked Theo and spectated.  It was a great lesson for him to learn to deal with horses in his personal bubble.  He had horses jumping and cantering straight at him and he had to stand.  He occasionally pinned his ears, but generally ignored them and proceeded to nap.  Complete with a resting hind foot.

And when they were done?  It was Theo's turn.  We only jumped for about two minutes, but I couldn't deny him.  After watching everyone else go, I picked up his reins and he started trotting.  Clearly it was his turn.  So we cantered and popped over the bending lines, no problem, nailed our leads.  Because nothing says mature adult like showing off over 18" cross rails.

I need to work on this.

Friday, February 17, 2017


I saw my pony!  And we did more than walk and shiver!  He didn't even threaten to double barrel me when I took off his blankets!

Mother Nature cooperated and it was 36* out for my lesson.  Oh, sweet bliss.  I rode without my winter coat!  I pulled off his heavy and he was happy to have it off.  I took the time to give him a good curry with the cooler folded back over his butt and he zoned out.  He was so happy.  So many itchy spots under his armor.

He's learned to deal with having his belly curried with minimal temper tantrums and today, he seemed to genuinely enjoy it.  He started biting his cross ties again last month, so I put him on a daily supplement to manage his tummy.  Two weeks in and the Smart Gut Ultra pellets seem to be doing the trick.  He's nice and chill on the cross ties and hasn't lunged around while his girth is tightened.  While his ulcers were treated for a month solid, he started to have off days again in January.  I'm suspecting that the pop rocks didn't dose him consistently so he was treated enough for symptoms to abate, but didn't completely heal.  The supp seems to be handling the problem and for now, fine.  I've got it in the back of my head that I need to do a month of paste treatments to make sure he gets every bit of medicine.  He has this annoying habit of flinging feed when he gets carried away.  But for today, the alfalfa in every feeding and the supp has him happy and comfortable.

On Tuesday, we jumpa da jumps.  After a week of very sketchy work and a sudden jump in temps, Theo was puffing and not pushing off evenly behind.  His weak right hind put in an appearance.  I joked that he was sore from all the walking in the snow, but I might not be far off.  He was, for lack of a less anthropomorphic term,  relieved to be back in work.  Trainer A noted that he never stopped licking and chewing throughout the entire ride.  I took my time warming him up and we took a lot of breaks so I don't have a stiff, sore horse for my next ride.  He was very willing through the low, gentle bounces, but when given a break, he'd huff.  Little Girl was huffing, too.  Trainer A shook her head.  Two of her fittest, best conditioned horses were huffing halfway through their gentle lesson.  It's amazing how quickly we can lose condition.  Theo went from sitting on the bit, begging for more to dragging and asking for a break in a week.  Sure, he picked up every time Trainer A reset the jumps or I asked for it, but he was quick to drop the bridle and just sink into the footing.

Wednesday was better.  We worked on trot poles and lengthening his stride.  Combined with some stretching and laterals, he's starting to sit on that right again.  Amazing how quickly he gets sticky back there.  Not lame, but just stiff. 

Today I'm planning to cut out earlyto visit the pony and it's a three day weekend with reasonable weather!  We'll see 50* tomorrow!  I might even take him out on a trail for some variety.  The name of the game now is to keep him in consistent work so we can regain lost ground.  I got my new Janet Foy book and it's great, I'll do a real review soon.  But let's just say papi is in for some new forms of torture.

Hear that, Mother Nature?  I've got stuff to do!  Leave us alone!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cabin Fever

I'm still inside and it's making me crazy.  The good news is that we only got a foot of snow last night.  The bad news is that the wind is gusting hard enough to make the blowing snow dance all about.  It's pushing ground blizzard levels out here as we gust into the 40 - 50 mph zone.  The snow we got was very fluffy so it's drifting all about.

I am so sick of being in the house.  So how do we cope with these situations?

I bought a new dressage coat!

The RJ Classics Soft Shell Piaffe Frock in navy.  This makes me very happy.  I've been eyeballing this coat for awhile since I love my RJ coats.  I have a frock from them in black and when I saw this in navy, in my size (12 Short), and on clearance for $118 at Smartpak?  It magically appeared in my cart.  Amazing how that happens.  I'm so excited to have my navy coat to go with my navy show bow.  Now I need a navy browband.  PS of Sweden has the exact one I need, navy pearls and clear rhinestones.  And I think a baby blue stock tie.  And a baby pink stock tie to go with my black coat, since I have a pink show bow and a pink browband . . .

But that will have to wait.  I just bought a new coat and his winter shoes are due this week.  Not cheap.  I can use my existing browbands, new bling isn't on the need list.  New bling won't help if my leg yields are still prone to collapsing.  Instead, I got something to help us actually perform. 

My judge crush continues.  I love this woman and reading a book written by her that focuses on making opinionated, less than perfect horses into dressage ponies?  Sign me up!  Might as well do something with my abundant indoors free time.  The reviews are excellent and I'm looking forward to a new read.

Also, I cannot emphasize enough how much I love my Dublin River boots.

I got for when it's muddy out and for walking cross country (ha!).  This winter I discovered that they are amazing in snow.  Last winter was really mild, so this winter they were really put to the test.  As I was wading through snow up to my knees yesterday, feeding the chickens, my feet stayed bone dry and toasty with a pair of wool socks.  I've slopped through every combination of slush/mud/water/slop known to man with our crazy weather and my feet stay dry.  I even ride in them on the days when it's too cold for my riding boots where I can't fit my thick socks.  I wear them into town with a pair of dark jeans and people think they're cute.  Slap on a set of ice cleats and these have served me through an entire day of outdoor barn chores, in the melting snow, including chasing my idiot horse as he decides playing tag is more fun than working in the sand box.

Really, if you live in an area prone to lots of snow with lots of melt, consider a pair.  Lifesavers this winter and especially through these last two storms.

As for Theo?  For Facebook users, here's a little clip of his pasture's situation.  Snow up to his chest in spots.  It's kind of like water training, right?  Lots of resistance meaning that he's going to stay fit just walking around his pasture.  At least that's what I'm hoping for.  Tomorrow's weather is supposed to be agreeable and I should be able to ride in my usual lesson.  And then rush home, shower, and go out for Valentine's Day.  Because that is how horse girls do romance.  You know we really care when we shower before showing up at a fancy bistro for a date.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


We're over achievers here in New Hampshire.  A foot of snow?  No, that won't do.  How about a foot and a half?  Much better!

So we got a whole bunch of snow and now we've got warnings up for another 12" - 18" tomorrow.  And another 5" - 8" on Wednesday.  It appears that all of winter decided to arrive in one week.  I managed to get in the saddle today for about 30 minutes, but it was mostly walking around since the temps were in the teens and the wind chill was worse.  Tomorrow?  Depends on when the snow arrives.  I'll try to see him, but if the snow if flying, it won't happen.

Mother Nature is being very cruel.

So I'm killing time looking up all of the shows I could do next year.  No better way to spend a February than to put together a show schedule!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Horse? What horse?

Poor papi.  We're having one of those weeks.

Saturday we had a jump lesson with my friend where Juicebox decided he needed to be a ridiculous little appy pony and we traded mounts.  She had a wonderful return to jumping with Theo's steady, straight forward style while I handled the pony that was clearly at his wits end with being told to go slow.  After we worked through the fact that I thought his temper tantrums were cute, not scary,  and would not make me take my leg off, we cantered around and jumped nicely.  It was a lot of fun and a serious change of pace for both of us.  So tiny!  I got ahead of him to one jump because I thought it was time to launch and he had a whole other step to put in.  Trainer A cracked up.  But no real time with papi, I handed him over within five minutes of the start of the lesson when Juicebox started bucking and trying to bolt.

I need a new picture of Juicebox

Sunday I ran a 5k.  I visited to swap his blankets, give him a kiss and a cookie, then send him back out to his field.

Pretty much the situation every day, all winter

Monday is his day with Trainer A.  She worked his canter - walk transition and is happy with his progress.  He knows what we want now, so she can start working on it going canter canter canter walk instead of canter canter canter fall on face walk.  For the record, I'm still firmly in the fall on face phase so I'm glad she's getting some real transitions.

Tuesday we had freezing rain and I couldn't get to the main road.  I texted Trainer A and missed another day with mi papi.

I saw him on Wednesday!  We had a nice lesson working on turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and our walk - canter - walk transitions.  After such hit and miss work he was tense in his poll but otherwise a role model of agreeable behavior.  Except when the smoke was coming out of his ears because we made him turn on the forehand while stretching his neck down, but he didn't offer to toss me so that's a good night.

Today?  12" of snow and a snow emergency.  Not going anywhere.

And so it begins

Tomorrow?  Not sure yet.  Depends on the temperature plunge.  If it's single digits, he'll be bumming around for another day.  Can't do much more than walk in that nonsense.  But the boss is out on Friday and my calendar is clear so I may try to sneak out in the afternoon and ride while I've got the chance. 

Because this is my forecast.

Winter is going out with a bang!  Damn it.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Clearing out the to do list

Thank you to everyone for the support, I really appreciate it when caught this much off guard by my job.  While I wait for work to decide how much of a curve ball I'll be getting and when, I managed to knock two things off of my goals list in one weekend.

Saturday I had my second bomb proofing clinic.  Not too much to report, since it was focused on adding skills in the saddle and, surprise surprise, I have above average control of my horse's body.  Leg yield and shoulder in?  Not exactly new concepts for us.  While two of the horses had trouble with the exercise where they trotted over a tarp, Theo cantered over it on the buckle because he is the king of not giving a shit.

We did have a bit of trouble when we had Little Girl having one of her 'moments', another horse spooking at the tarp, and a third horse having a conniption at the soccer ball.  In the middle of it all was the clinician, trying to manage the chaos and having to get loud.  Energy levels got a bit too high and Theo started to get a bit hot.  Not spooky, but studish and wanting to strike out at these other horses that were invading his space and being unpredictable.  It was great practice for a warm up ring and I concentrated on making him work through something that's very challenging for him while everyone else worried about desensitization.

Then we did a flying change over the tarp because the instructor suggested it as a joke.  Do not tease me, I will always try to show you up.  It's a flaw.

 This is a horse that does not stable well.  Can you hear him demanding his release?  A whole 3 hours imprisoned.

Sunday I ran my very first 5k.  Though ran is probably too strong of a term.  How about enthusiastic shuffle?  I did it in 38 minutes, giving me three 12 minute miles.  That's not too bad considering I haven't run anywhere for any reason since college.  And even back then I was slow.  I'm planning to keep this up and see if I can get down to some 10 minute miles.  I sounded like a dying freight train at the end, but by the gods, I ran over that finish line.

Hubby came along for the beer and chili.  His competitive nature got the best of him and he ended up running despite his stated plan to walk and probably not bother doing the last loop.  He walked/ran all 3.1 miles in 40 minutes while wearing a flannel shirt, cargo pants, and hiking boots.  He looked like a hipster got lost and jumped in on the fun.  No, he did not train in any way, shape, or form and was only two minutes behind me.  It's valid to loathe him a bit for that, right?

Selfie fail, but it was a first for both of us so the picture stays

After my 38 minutes of self torture, we celebrated!

Homemade kettle chips with cheddar, bacon, and blue cheese paired with a cask conditioned cocoa porter, these paired beautifully

They had a lovely dark beer with some salty, crunchy goodness.  Electrolytes, right?  I earned it, dang it.  And yes, my legs are sore now.  Tomorrow will be unpleasant.  Good thing it's Trainer A's day with mi papi since I doubt he'd be getting a lot of motivation from me.  My Herbal Horse muscle rub is being put to good use.

Will I do this again?  Probably.  My resting heart rate has been slowly but steadily trending down as I've challenged my cardiovascular system by getting ready for this.  It's a good thing and as much as my 38 minutes sucked, it was perfectly doable and the experience overall was one that I intend to repeat.  In spring when it's warm because BRRRR.

I'm moving my laptop to the bedroom tonight so I can work from bed in the morning while my legs curse my idiocy and while the option is still available.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Priorities and real life

I'm aware that I'm very lucky with my job.  I work from home and have flexible hours.  I have paid vacation, sick days, and supportive managers that don't care when I work, just that it gets done.  I can zip out for a lesson at 3pm and then pick up work again at 5pm with no problems.  I've had a job that allowed me to ride horses for a long time.

It's a crazy job, but flexible

 I saw a very surprising update today at work.  They've decided that the teams must be colocated now.  That means that our currently very scattered team will be moving to one of six offices in the country.  Surprise, surprise, none of those locations are in New Hampshire.

No details yet.  We probably won't have details for a couple months, but by the end of September, it's expected that all of my part of the business will be working in offices in the middle of major cities.  For many of my co-workers, it's going to be a choice between losing a job (with no unemployment) or moving hundreds of miles with their families.  For me, the best I can hope for is Boston.  Downtown, packed with people, Boston.  Which is going to be a 2 - 3 hour commute from my current residence.

This has thrown a monkey wrench into everything.  The best case scenario is that I only have to go in once a week and can work from home the rest of the week.  That would minimize the impact.  But if that doesn't work?  I'll have to get a different job.  Which will, most likely, include a commute.  Most of the jobs in my field are south, near Boston.  My horse is north.

If I have to take a full time job with a one hour commute heading south, I'll never see Theo.  I told the hubby I'd be looking for jobs that are north so I can see Theo and that I'd be requesting a swing shift so I can ride before or after I work.  He informed me that if I want all of that, I'd better start looking now.  And that I better be ready to choose between a job I want and being able to see Theo as much as I want.


 I didn't work this hard to turn Theo into my dressage pony so I could never see him.  But I need to be able to afford him.  How does anyone do this?  How do people with regular jobs keep up with their riding?  Even if I can manage to get an 8 to 4 job, I'll be leaving at 7am, getting to the barn at 5pm, and getting home around 7:30pm or 8pm.  With chicken chores in the morning, that's a 6am wake up call and running all out until 8pm.  I managed it when I had an office job by working from home twice a week and riding those nights.  Then I only needed to ride and work in an office twice a week.  But I'm discovering that working from home is not all that common.

 Because I have more critters to care for than just mi papi

So I'm polishing up my resume and crossing my fingers for the best possible options because I don't want to lease out my horse because I'm commuting four hours a day. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The new normal

So there I am, cantering around in my Wednesday night lesson with the adult ladies in the dead of winter.  Miss Thang is being sassy, Juicebox is tossing bucks, and Theo?  Theo's decided that going forward really isn't that bad.

This is my second day in a row where I've felt myself shorten the reins and get back because I've got a lot of horse under me and the brakes aren't 100% responsive.  Not in a bad way, mind you, but it's still a very strange sensation.  I just don't associate Theo with being forward thinking.  Up until pretty recently, I only saw glimpses of that behavior.  Yesterday we were jumping and Theo was in 'game on' mode.  Right on the bit, ready to make that long distance work.  Today I'm not even sure what got him up on his toes.  I could canter with ZERO leg.  No kicking, reminding, begging, pleading.  None.  I got my canter and held him together with my seat so he wouldn't rush or get downhill.  I practiced cantering with my leg completely off and it worked!  I used nothing below the hip and he kept cantering!  When I shortened his stride to practice our simple changes, I had enough forward to actually do it.  I even got told to not be so conservative and to not shorten up so much.

Someone described him as looking like a carousel horse.  Lots of lift and an arched neck while cantering. 

I can work with that

This is my new reality.  It's happened enough times at this point that I have to accept that this is now my horse.  This forward, energetic beast is Theo.

Of course he's not suddenly perfect.  He still wants to fight at times.  He didn't like my very picky work on the simple changes so he decided he'd just canter in place and stomp his feet instead of stepping forward into the upward transition.  Which is not good for him physically and wasn't going to do a thing for him mentally, so I had to boot him out of that.  We trotted on a loose rein for a minute so he could reset his rather temperamental brain.  At one point he swung his haunches and pinned his ears, letting me know that I'd crossed a line.  He doesn't like being wrong and being corrected for fine tuning can tick him off.  He did it right, he knows he did it right, why am I correcting him?  Stupid human.  I had to go back to the adjustment with a more delicate touch, even when he was trying to bulldoze his way through the exercise.  Such a delicate little flower.

But I'll take those moments of rebellion and the moments of curling and playing with the front feet in exchange for this new sense of forward.  It's even translating to other riders now, though not in the same way.  He filled in for some twelve year olds that wanted to have a lesson bareback.  There was much delighted giggling and bouncing about while Theo looked saintly and marched along.  When the young lady asked to canter correctly (he is awfully picky about that these days), he stepped into it with no fuss or theatrics.  But when she asked for more?  She got it.  Trainer A said 'not so much!'.  The girls were tired at the end of the ride since he takes more leg and seat than they're used to on their ponies, but he cantered around the ring for them with no encouragement other than their seat and leg.  Gave one of the moms a heart attack, though.  That's a long way up for her little girl and was he really supposed to be going that fast?!

On Saturday he filled in for a lesson with a lady just coming back into cantering after back surgery.  He was described as saintly.

I'm glad he's tempering his new enthusiasm with other riders.  He can be quite powerful and he gave me a couple of transitions today that made my pulse jump.  While I think it's amazing and wonderful and to be encouraged and not at all a problem even in a fat snaffle, it would freak out a less experienced rider.  When I ask him to trot or canter and that entire front end lifts, it's very impressive.  It may be time to invest in that little pelham for when we start doing fitness sets on the trails in the spring.

But I think I'm seeing the difference in his nutrition showing up in this steady shift in energy level.  As I check my notes, it's increasingly consistent over the month of January.  He has enough in the tank to make it through a whole lesson, I'm not cajoling him at the end for just a bit more.  Powering along is fine because he's got energy to burn.  He comes into the ring with some extra swing in his walk.  I made his grain changes at the start of December and then added his alfalfa at the start of January.  He's starting on Cocosoya this week to replace the top dress he's currently on, hopefully that will take care of some of his dry skin issues.  As of next week, I should have his diet dialed in almost exactly where I want it.  We'll see if I've overshot a bit on the available energy, might have to dial it back down in the spring, but I'm seeing the world of the possible.