Saturday, August 31, 2019

Moving Day

I did it.  I didn't think I'd have the guts, but I did it.  I moved Theo to his new digs.

Face full of hay makes for a happy pony

We didn't even try the shed with the run in since it's so isolated and Theo was already wondering where everyone else was.  I chucked him in a round pen just outside the shed row stalls so he could have a roll and watch horses coming in from turn out for an hour.  Once his neighbors were in, we brought him into his new stall.  He found the pile of hay waiting for him and dug in while watching the activity like it was a tv.  Apparently the mare next to him (barn owner's horse) knew him five years ago when they were boarded together and she loved him.  This sounds like a good start.

The view from his stall looking out at the paddocks

I got my stuff moved into my new locker and moved my trunk up to the hayloft to hold all my extra grooming stuff/polos/boots/who knows what Ihavealotofshit.  

My locker full of treats and jumping gear

Since the ponies were all getting dinner, I decided to leave Theo to settle in and not take him out for a ride.  Will I pay for this tomorrow?  Quite possibly, but he will be going out into turn out at 7:30 am so he'll hopefully get the worst of it out on his own.  His chain lead is waiting and everyone has been warned, he will probably not be a gentleman when he's taken out tomorrow.  But if he can get the idea that he's supposed to go out, have recess, and then come back in, he'll be okay.

Fingers crossed.  Tomorrow we try out the ring and hopefully start meeting some other boarders.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Supplement Shuffle Episode Three: Electric Bugaloo

New digs, new routines, new feed.  The current barn was on Blue Seal for a long time, but swapped to Poulin about three months ago.  I rebuilt his supplements and diet to use those grain options.  The new barn is on Nutrena.  Thank goodness for or I would be losing my mind.  I spent quite a bit of yesterday with charts and feed labels, once again balancing Theo's diet.

I can't figure out how to add a salt lick, so ignore the red sodium bar and I'm leaving the selenium since I don't have a hay analysis for the new hay yet

Nutrena is not the friendliest brand in terms of NSC.  They do like that sugar.  The lowest one I found was 15%, SafeChoice Special Care.  For comparison, Theo's currently on Carb-Safe with 5.4% NSC.  Carb Guard comes in at 11% and he was on that with great results for years.

Theo doesn't have any metabolic concerns, his low carb lifestyle originated from some of his bad behavior.  Way back when he was a lesson horse they had him on a cheap grain that had a lot of corn and molasses, something like 33% NSC.  I swapped him to Carb Guard to see if that took down some of the fizzy, reactive behavior.  Sure enough, we had less trouble under saddle so we kept with it.  He's enough of a bratty toddler without adding a bunch of sugar.

The new barn's default grain is Nutrena ProForce and while it's not crazy sugary, it's a lot more than Theo's seen in years.  I really don't want to see him hit the rafters and act like a child that was left unattended in a candy store.  Or colic.  His system just isn't used to it.  He'll also be seeing less fiber and more protein.  He'll be on free choice hay so I'm not that concerned about the decreased fiber, but I'm eyeballing that protein while figuring out just how much demon I might create with a feed change.

Not to be trusted

So the current plan is to bring over a couple bags of his current stuff and very gradually shift him to the SafeChoice so he gets used to the sugar.  Probably take a month to transition him.  Excessive?  Yes, but I like living and this is the time of year when Theo's prone to losing his little pony mind anyway.  He only gets 4 lbs of grain a day so its not like I'm dumping pixie sticks in him.  I'm just paranoid. 

Once he's settled, I'd like to move him to 5 lbs of grain a day and see how that works.  With 5 lbs of SafeChoice, I can actually take him off the multi-vitamin he's on and reduce his supplement bill.  SCORE.  I'm thinking about moving him to Cosequin ASU, his selenium supp, MSM, and biotin.  That's it.  With 5 lbs of SafeChoice, I'd actually have all of his bases covered.

This is totally normal, right?  Spending most of a working day balancing your horse's diet?

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Blog hop: 12 questions

Copying Contact for this one since I'm still in horse show hangover mode.

Q1:  What hobbies do you have outside of riding?

I love to cook, so I think that counts as a hobby.  I also help with homebrew beer including stewarding at competitions.  I've even brewed my own 5 gallon batch of all grain beer that was good enough to let other people drink.  It's progress.

Blue Moon clone using brew in a bag method

Q2: What is your boarding situation?  Are you happy with it?

 HA.  Okay, Theo is currently on 24/7 turn out with a shed which is ideal for him.  He's lived in this field for six years.  Am I happy?  Apparently not.  Due to a number of things around footing, horsemanship, and the level of care, he's moving to a fancy dancy h/j show barn in three days.  They have a shed with a small paddock attached that we're going to try with field turn out during the day.  If that doesn't work, he's going in a stall at night and out in a field during the day.  And if that doesn't work?  I dunno, my back yard and sleep in my garage?

This will be a big change

Q3:  What's on your horsey-related wish list?

New girths.  His jumping girth is now too small (beefcake).  His dressage girth is fine but with his shifting body I feel he needs more room behind the elbows.  I also need some dressage boots, Trainer Z was giving my Ariat V Sport boots the hairy eyeball before I went in at my last show.  If we're going to keep moving up (she brought up PSG again!!!), we need the boots that will make us look serious business.  She's recommending Petries, I'm just here to look cute and sit on the horse and write the checks so that works for me.

Q4: What is your most expensive horsey-related item?

Like most, it's my trailer.  Best investment ever.  Hands down.  I can't even imagine how I would have got to Second without it.

Q5: What was the hardest horsey-related decision you've had to make lately?

Moving.  Neither of us like change, both of us will be on ulcer meds for at least a month.  

For better or for worse, this was home for a long time

Q6:  What's something you feel you can't live without in your routine?

This is really funny coming from a dressage rider but I don't do routine.  I am definitely a seat of my pants kind of person.  There are a few things I must have.  My stuff must be where I put it last or I won't be able to find it and I'll freak.  Moving my stuff is the sure fire way to make my usually laid back persona completely leave the building.  People still whisper about the time I found my dressage tack in the feed room.  On the back of a chair.

I also require at least five minutes, preferably ten, of just walking when I start riding Theo.  I'll start warming up with laterals while we're doing that, it's not just moseying around, but both of us are getting older and it takes a few minutes for us to feel like it's time to move.  It also takes a few minutes for me to turn my brain from analyst to rider.  It's a very different setting that requires me to be in the moment.

Q7: What's on your horsey-related calendar for the rest of the summer?

September 8:  NHDEA Schooling show, Second Level 1 and 2 (to qualify for year end satin)
September 29:  Oakrise Schooling show, Western Dressage Level 2, 1 and 2 (moah year end satin!)
October 5 - 6:  GMHA, Second Level 1 and 2

Q8:  What is one thing you would willingly change about your horse?

 A little forward tendency would be awesome, kthx.

Pony says no

Q9:  What is something you most want to improve on with you and your horse?

 Please see above.  Also his range of longitudinal flexion.  We've got sideways pretty well figured out but we both struggle a bit with making big and little steps as opposed to fast and slow steps.

Q10:  What has been your [current] horses most severe injury?

Theo is the king of the NQR so I'm going to give this one to the Abscess Wars of 2015 that took him out for a month.  RIP, Abby.

Q11:  What do you feel your biggest downfall is as a rider?

Anxiety.  In warmup, I was sitting my trot so nicely that Trainer Z commented on our progress.  In the show ring?  Theo and I both tense up which does not lead to pretty sitting trot.  He's not carrying as nicely and I'm too tense to follow properly.  It's getting better over time, but I still feel like I'm some lost h/j kid that doesn't belong with the fancy kids in the sandbox.  Put a course of fences in front of me, I'll eat it up.  An empty dressage arena?  Meltdown.

Totally thinking about throwing up over his shoulder in this picture

Q12:  What feeds your motivation?

When I call Theo's name and he comes tearing up to see me.  When I shift my weight and feel him collect from just that.  When I ask him for something that used to seem impossible and he does it as easily as breathing.  All those little moments keep me coming back and grinding away through the tough times.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Culture shock

Something dawned on me while I was talking about the new digs with the girls at the barn:  I need h/j outfits for my jumping lessons.

We have been pretty focused on this look lately.  From our most recent Second level outing

It's been a few years.  Okay, a lot of years.  I last did the h/j ring back in . . . 2005.  It was 2006 when I moved Allen from his h/j barn to an eventing barn to try my hand at a new discipline.  Yes, I took Theo to a h/j show, but that was all about survival and I don't think it counts.  I didn't look to see what had changed in the ring.  And he tried to kill the other horses and buck/farted over a lot of fences.  Lets just say there were no ribbons that day.

He did not look repentant

For context, I'm approaching my lessons as an adult eq rider looking to do the little local stuff (2'6" to 2'9").  Not the modifieds but I'm also not thinking we're going to New England finals or anything.  I think Theo would throw up as much as me in that coliseum. 

I've been rereading all my favorite h/j blogs and sites with a bit more focus on the pictures.  Yes, pretty ponies, nice knees, but what are they wearing?  Fortunately I never really left jumping behind so I have some ideas on how I'm supposed to look.  Some things don't appear to have changed.  My Charles Owen helmet is totally acceptable.  Long sleeve sun shirts?  Done.  Tan breeches?  I have one pair in the back of the closet, but I'm seeing other conservative colors as appropriate for lessons.  I probably shouldn't use my favorite pair since they're super purple, but the brown pair should be fine.

Black leather gloves, a belt, a hairnet, and my little spurs should finish my outfit off.  Or close enough.  Thank goodness equestrian fashion moves very slowly.

It's totally a picture of him refusing, but the outfit is good, right?

And then there's my tack.  I'm pretty sure my croc print open front boots are okay for lessons because they're very subtle.  I have both black and brown.  I'll swap in my plain black bell boots instead of my beloved LeMieux bell boots in white.

Oh right, rubber reins, I think I have my laced reins around here somewhere, are those bell boots navy?  Son of a . . .

The saddle is fine because it's a nice, broken in close contact saddle in brown.  And nothing else fits Theo so it's just going to have to work.  Feeling quite happy with my choice four years ago to go close contact and not something more eventing oriented.  I'm planning to slap his D ring back on his jumping bridle, I don't think we'll need our magical power steering NS loose ring if we're not doing collected work.  He has a pelham but that would be massive overkill while in a ring.  The bridle is a D'yon knock off franken bridle I cobbled together to fit his weird head, but it's fine for lessons.  I hope.

Omg, why are we allowed out in public?

The saddle pads?  Let's just say I don't even own a white jump pad.  I think I still have my fitted pad from our hunter outing in the back of my spare tack pile.  I have brown, champagne, hunter green, and grape square pads.  All from PS of Sweden. Color is going to be a thing but I'll save my gorgeous new grape pad with the gold and white braid for schooling rides.  For now, anyway.

Seriously, why do they let us out in public when I can't remember to pack the right boots?  But the saddle pad is pretty on him

I really am going to try to blend, at least for my jumping lessons.  I'm just not very good at blending.  Even fellow dressage and eventing riders raise their eyebrows at some of our . . . brighter outfits (looking at you, azalea pink with matching polos and browband).  I can take it down a couple notches while I'm trying to convince people that Theo's a serious business show horse.

We'll save these for after introductions have been made because you know I'm not giving them up

Monday, August 26, 2019


Well, that escalated quickly.

I heard back from the barn I toured and yes, they have a stall for us in September.  More specifically, they have this single paddock with a shed in it that Theo can try.  Ideal for a horse that doesn't understand going in a stall, but he might feel isolated at night since he can see the barn, but he won't be in it with everyone else.  A couple of shed row stalls are there and he'll be near them.

I'm going to give it a try since he does that right now when there is bad weather and they bring most of the barn in.  He can see them and hear them, he'll just be outside while they're in.  He'll also be going into grass turn out during the day with them so he can hang and play halter tag.  I kind of want them to put him next to the Lusitano stallion.  He does well socializing with stallions.  If he doesn't like it, we discuss moving him into the main barn.  Might discuss that either way once the snow flies and snow removal becomes a thing. 

Can he cope with this?  Gonna find out

What that means is that he has a spot starting the 31st.  It's a three day weekend and as my hubby pointed out, what's the point of staying somewhere you're not happy with when you have another option?  It's not like Theo has to say his good byes or get used to the idea.  Soooo I agreed to a move date of the 31st.  This Saturday.  Five days away.

I've started packing up my stuff and am realizing just how much stuff I have.  How did it all fit in my locker?  Also tracking down all of the stuff I've been letting everyone use.  Surcingle, bareback pad, wool western pad, bits, slowly but surely need to hunt it all down.  I hate change so much that I settled in with the intent of never moving.  I might have retired Theo to that field if things had turned out differently. I tend to stick with barns through thick and thin.  It's a good thing I gave my notice or I would have backed out of this a dozen times already.

I'm excited for the new opportunities.  I'm excited to be with my friend again (Dorkzilla's owner, now the owner of a stunning mare I call Legs).  I'm excited for better footing and meticulous care.  I'm excited for Theo to be treated like a show horse.

I'm nervous for how Theo will react and how the barn will react to us.  I'm nervous for the first few 'you won't believe what your little monster did this time' texts.

I'm very, very sad for my friendships that I know won't survive this.

Mostly I'm just a ball of anxious that wavers between dragging my feet and wishing this was over already.  I'll end up paying board at both facilities for September but such is the price of making a snap decision.

I need to pick up carabiners to secure gates.  I need to consolidate my belongings.  I need to order Ulcerguard.  For both of us.  The horse version is quite a bit tastier than the human version.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Perfect day

Based on my experiences over the past two years, horse shows suck.  They're exhausting, overwhelming, lonely nightmares and we actually pay to experience this torture.  Which is just crazy.  I'm usually sun burnt, over tired, and hungry.  I go because I crave the chance to see where I'm at but I hate the decision most of the time I'm there.

This expression pretty much the whole time

Folks, I think I've been doing this wrong.  Today I went to a show and I was not over tired, lonely, or freaked out the whole time.  How did that happen?  A number of things.

Ride times:  12:11 and 1:19.  Holy hell yes perfect ride times.  I got to sleep in till 6am!

Weather:  70* and sunny with low humidity and a nice breeze as I went down centerline.  Heaven.

Location:  A beautiful dressage farm about an hour away.  Just big enough to be fun but small enough to be casual and comfortable.

Support:  For the first time in 2 years, I had a trainer in warmup.

Pony:  My pony is feeling good and was happy to let everyone see what a fancy boy he is.

Absolutely zero media since I was so busy enjoying the day, but I did grab a picture of the goodie bags this facility hands out.  Yes, that is an entire box of sugar cubes, a bag of ginger snap cookies, and mints down in the bottom.  This is Theo's favorite facility.

Some of this I can't control.  Ride times are really an act of fate.  Weather this glorious can only happen in northern New England as we cruise into fall.  It's the first glimpse of the two months that make the other ten bearable. 

The coaching I can control and after this, I will be highly motivated to make that happen.  Trainer Z was at the show with about 6 riders (sounds like her business is taking off) including her other Second Level student.  This worked a treat since we had ride times within ten minutes of each other, in the same ring, and were warming up at the same time.  Her horse is an OTTB named Noodles.  He is grey, leggy, and so very sweet.  He doesn't like to stand still and is, in every way, Theo's opposite.  His rider is a tall, skinny teenager.  My exact opposite.  However, we needed similar warm ups. 

Noodles got a twenty minute head start because he's a TB and needs a bit more time to bring his brain online.  Theo joined in and felt like a million bucks.  He loved the footing in the warm up and his updated hips were swinging away.  Trainer Z hasn't seen him in almost a month and was so happy to see the way he was moving in his hind end.  For ten minutes, it was business as usual.  A nice walk, some long stretchy trot, a bit of canter in each direction.  Just letting my older boy warm up and settle into the new ring.

Then Trainer Z took over and dropped the hammer.  It was everything I've been missing for the past two years.  Do the transition again, he needs to wait for you.  Rounder, that's not his Second level neck.  Come around, do the medium, make it less abrupt.  Relax, try to make it look less uncomfortable.  Work the free walk, get him to stretch.  Again.  Again.  We worked a solid 40 minutes and pushed Theo from sleepy to fizzy/rude to rideable.  I don't usually push him all the way through this cycle because I worry I'm doing too much, the wrong thing, whatever.  I would have stopped ten minutes before we did but she said nope, he wasn't ready.

Other media from Trainer Z turning us into a Second Level pair

She was right, I'm not ready to warm up on my own right now.  I'm still a bit shaky on what 'it' feels like.  I can't chase 'it' and manage warm up and my ride time and traffic.  I have no damn idea if Theo's looking like a Second level horse.  I need someone to watch my transition, say do it again, and tell me what I need to change.  No emotion, no wandering around warmup without a plan, just structure and strict timing that I don't need to manage.  The ring stewards talked to my trainer, not me.  I focused on Theo lifting his shoulders, not my ride time.

My trainer.  It's been a really long time since I had someone to call my trainer in the warm up.

She herded us down to the ring.  I went down at the same time as Noodles since Theo needs a few more minutes to adapt to a change of scenery and he would be much happier walking down with his new friend and Trainer Z (who he completely recognizes as one of his people now).  Theo promptly fell asleep next to the ring and managed to convince Noodles to stand and chill with him.  It was good to see the two boys chilling side by side and Noodles taking a note from the much lazier half.

My performance?  As Trainer Z said, we nailed it.  Theo was in a really good mindset.  He had the extra fizz worked off and had his warm up fresh in his mind.  Trainer Z told us to canter outside of the ring before we came in and that made my brain flail but we tried it and it helped us have the right amount of energy when we went in.  I had my orders to keep my reins short and my legs on.

It was a really good test.  Of course we had the occasional bobble.  I botched the shoulder-in right because I screwed up the corner before it and at this point, we can't recover fast enough to salvage the movement.  5.  Our second medium trot was non-existent as my tired horse informed me the tank was empty.  5.  But both centerlines were 7's.  The down transitions out of the canter got a 7 and a 6.5.  We mostly got 6's.  Lots and lots of 6's.  Final score was 60.7, good for third out of eight rides.  Scores were quite low with the winners tying at 62.1.  Second Level champion got a 63%.  Ouch.  Trainer Z thought it could have got a 65 with a different judge since there were very few errors and most of the movements looked confirmed.  I thought it was more like a 63% but I'll defer to her expertise.

I don't really care.  2/3 of a Bronze!!!!  3rd place including the open division!!!  I have my Second Level scores and can start working on Third!!!  Trainer Z did get video so I will hopefully have both video and judge's comments soon.

Theo was wiped so I scratched my second test.  He had put down a fantastic test, there was nothing left for him to do that day.  With some more fitness we could go back to two tests in a day, but not for this show.  I stripped him down and watched tests while he grazed and let strangers admire and love on him.  I don't have my test yet because there was a mix up with my class and they couldn't give me my test until it was sorted.  I have my online scores, but no comments.  Trainer Z had the last rider of the day so she offered to pick up my test and ribbon so I could take my fancy dancy dressage pony home.

My next two outings will have Trainer Z in attendance.  I think it's going to become a priority to show with her while I move up.  She invited me to show with her riders at GMHA in October.  A block of stalls?  With banners?  A tack stall?  Friends?  A TRAINER?  Yes, I'm going to GMHA in October.  Just one night, Theo should be okay.  I'm not going to pass on the chance to show with the support structure I've been sorely missing.

I didn't even know how much I missed this.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


I swear my horse has a calendar hidden somewhere with show dates.

I finally got to ride after the SI injections.  First impressions?  Nice!  Canter was three beats even when I had him on a contact.  He was perfectly happy to stretch over his topline in the canter.  Simple changes felt good.  The clarity did fade as the ride went on, but if he's been struggling with this for awhile, it's going to take some more repair work to get him straightened out.  I'm taking it as a good sign that he was willing to canter in both directions with no resistance while on a contact.  Light years better than before, even if it's not perfect.

And then, while stretching him out in the trot, I heard a clunk.  I had bell boots on but apparently pony's got mad skills.  I didn't see a shoe on the ground and with his bell boots I thought he had both fronts but if he was forging that hard, he must be tired already.  25 minutes of work but the first collected request I've made in weeks and after five days off.  Okay, he's tired and I need to stop, I hopped off.

Wait, you had four shoes when I walked into the indoor.  I know you did.

It took some hunting to find the shoe but sure enough, when I heard that clunk, he'd ripped his left front off.  A frantic text to the farrier got me a 9am appointment.  Papi went right back in the stall he'd just managed to escape.  I still have hope that I'll get to show on Sunday and I don't need to risk a stone bruise.  He did a number on his tootsie (as he does).

At least I got to try out the new systems before he did that.

I'll make the call on the show on Friday.  By then Theo should be used to his new normal and I'll know what kind of canter I'll have.  And whether or not he's going to be fit enough after all of his little breaks in July and early August.  

Monday, August 19, 2019

New bridle!

Everyone knows I hate my current western bridle.  The leather is cheap and poorly dyed, the stitching was already popped on the browband when it arrived, and it's just ugly.  But when riding western, draft sized tack is not exactly easy to come by.  Yes, I'm a tack snob, but the fit and leather was just hard to live with.  Why have such a pretty saddle and such a meh bridle?

Ugh, why is it so awful???

Enter Buckaroo Leather and their custom bridles.  After ordering my custom chinks I decided to email John with my bridle wish list.  He replied with a seriously reasonable price tag and I took the plunge on a custom western bridle.  After five weeks, it arrived!

There are no words for the sounds I made when I opened the box and pulled this beauty out.

I really need to replace my kitchen floor

The leather is so nice!  I expect zero break in.  The conchos match my chinks and the wild rose tooling looks fantastic with my floral tooled saddle.  Also note the lovely rawhide detail on the browband.

Love, love, love this bridle

I decided on loop reins since I keep dropping my split reins at awkward moments, like after the judge has rung the bell for me to start my test.  Theo has learned to turn his head and let mom grab the dropped rein but loop reins still seemed a wise choice.  I got a 10' loop rolled rein that was designed specifically for cowboy dressage.  The leather quality is wonderful and the buckles match my bridle.  I love the way they feel in my hands.  Hubby was impressed with these since it's apparently a lot of work to get leather burnished and finished like this.

Cameo appearance by my turtle tattoo and my kitchen wall that is under construction

Theo's got a big head so this vintage style bridle will suit him very well.  I can't wait to show it off!  A pity I missed all of the second half of the western dressage season with my health issues, but I should have one more schooling show this year.  I also have 2020 and our Level 3 debut to look forward to.

Chap leather lining

Can't recommend John at Buckaroo Leather enough.  Communication is great and it really is whatever you want., sky is the limit! For the cost of my PS of Sweden headstall, I got a bridle made to Theo's measurements, a set of reins, and a curb strap.  It's all hand tooled and the bridle is lined in chap leather.  The leather quality is wonderful and I expect it will serve me for many years.  No, it's not the crazy padded anatomical beast that is my PS of Sweden headstall (which I still love and would totally buy again), but it is a high quality, beautiful bridle I will be proud to take on the road.

I've already got the hackamore set I want all picked out, just need to wait for all this moving nonsense to be done so I know what my budget looks like.  If I'm going to be the weirdo western rider in a barn, I will be a very fashionable weirdo.  I finally found someone to buy my spare western saddle off of me AND sold some spare tack at the consignment shop so I have space for some new gear.

Does this make me a tack ho?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Landing softly

I had my tour at the potential new place.  I dislike pressure so I had my friend show me around so I didn't feel like I had to play nice with my questions.  This plan backfired spectacularly when it turned out everyone knew my horse already.  I actually rode with the current barn manager for a short time.  Her mare was in the ring when Theo had his conniption during the hunter under saddle class and decided the other horses needed to die.  Thank goodness we got to ride together after that and I could apologize and laugh about it.

At least he's pretty

A former instructor from my current barn was visiting with her four year old for a session with the resident trainer so we got to catch up.  And the resident trainer was coaching an opposing team while I was helping coach a college team way back in my h/j days.  Small world, huh?

The informal tour worked well for me getting a look at the culture.  No one knew why I was there so they assumed I was visiting my friend.  I went into the indoor to observe what was going on in there while my friend rode  The resident trainer was riding so I got to watch her for a bit and casually chat with her clients.  Pretty standard h/j fare, nothing that bothered me.  I chatted with her a bit at the end and felt like I'd enjoy doing some jump lessons with her.  She certainly wouldn't do us any harm and sounded genuinely excited to help my short striding pony make the distances if I wanted to try the eq ring.

Aside from being the opposite of anonymous for my tour, I liked what I saw.  It's a new facility built in 2016.  14 stalls, indoor, lots of turn out options.  Heated tackroom with little lockers but the hay loft is a free for all to store trunks and saddles.  Outdoor ring is currently under construction and most guess it will exist in spring 2020.  No real trails but it's a big enough property that you can hack around the paddocks and the road is very quiet (dead end) so you can hack down that as well.  My friend says she rides in the turnouts when she doesn't feel like riding in the indoor, they're bigger than a large dressage arena and just enough terrain to be interesting.  Almost entirely adult riders which was a bit of a shock.  No school horses, no up down riders.

So the pros:

1.  New construction so everything is in really good shape
2.  BIG individual grass turn outs (almost the size of his existing field) for everyone that can be on grass
3.  Big, airy stalls with fans, hoping to snag a 12x14 but the smallest is 12x12
4.  Fluffy, well maintained footing in the indoor
5.  Active show barn
6.  Very clean, like the tack room smelled like clean leather and I had forgotten how much I love that smell
7.  Can bring in specialists for dressage
8.  No small children or clueless parents under foot
9.  Space upstairs for all my extra gear, like saddles
11.  On property owner and barn manager, both of which have horses in the barn.  So does the resident trainer.

The cons:

1.  Turnout from 7:30 to 4, so about 8 hours in turn out as opposed to 24
2.  Smaller turnout for inclement weather (paddock sized)
3.  No outdoor or trails to coax us outside
4.  Still under construction so some things aren't done, like no running water in the bathroom
5.  Required weekly lessons with resident h/j trainer
6.  Quiet, I suspect I'll feel a bit lost and lonely while I adapt since I'm used to the activity of a school barn
7.  Only DQ in the barn.  By a mile.  Also only western saddle in the barn.
8.  Resident trainer so if we start butting heads, I'll be in a situation
9. More money

I'm not thinking that any of the cons are complete deal breakers for me.  A big airy stall with extra hay at night check might help Theo learn to cope.  Big turn out with neighbors should also help.  The footing was lovely and everything was very clean.  All of the adults were friendly and welcoming, I was a h/j rider for long enough that I will totally blend in.  Most of the time.

I gave my notice at the current place today so that's also motivating. Can't be too picky when you're going to be homeless soon. Its heartbreaking and terrifying but it's time to move on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Keep on keepin' on

The barn hunt is on.  I really hate moving so I'm grumpy about the whole thing but I have hope that I'll land somewhere with more of a performance focus where I won't be such a squeaky wheel.  Where my fussing over footing is normal and not met with blank stares and 'what do you mean it's wavy?'.  I have a lead and, most importantly, a dear friend is already there.  It's not 24/7 turn out so there will be a very steep learning curve but I'm discovering that 24/7 turn out doesn't usually go with things like indoor arenas and full service board.  I want the show horse level of care and that seems to come with a stall.

Because he's a damn show horse

The place with the stalls that have run out paddocks is full and doesn't even have a waiting list.  I'll admit, I cried a bit.

But 7:30am to 4pm  turn out isn't bad.  I ride after 4pm so that's another couple hours out of the stall.  And if he can acclimate, away horse shows will be much easier!  I guess we're going to find out.  It's a h/j focused barn but I'm completely happy to take a jumping lesson once a week.  Theo would be thrilled to have more jumping time.  They also allow outside experts so Trainer Z could come out to visit.  That works for me.

See, we own a jump saddle and everything!

In the meantime, the vet came out for his lameness exam.  I love a lameness exam that includes 'I know he's not lame, but . . . '.  My poor vet's assistant was perplexed.  He trotted and cantered on the lunge in a (lazy) totally normal manner.  With my vet's clientele, this probably looked really weird.  My vet said that he's still guarding the pelvis though the hind end looks much better after the hocks and stifles were done.  No sign of an issue up front, down low, or anywhere else.  Nothing soft tissue, either.  Let's be honest, there was barely a sign of an issue at all.  If he wasn't a mid-level dressage horse (and a super sensitive princess), I probably wouldn't know anything was wrong.

We went ahead with the SI injection since that was the plan before and the most obvious step with him guarding that kind of movement.  I was relieved to hear that the vet didn't see anything outside of the pelvis stuff already identified.  Theo is now taking yet another five days off from work.  This does not bode well for my show at the end of the month but it's the logical next step.  And while he's on hand walk only, I'll be out looking at facilities. 

I want no part in the rumors and drama at the barn.  I want to step away quietly and focus on giving Theo the best care possible.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

When trust is lost

I'm prone to overreacting so I tend to assume that I'm overreacting.  So an outside opinion is requested.

A beloved (like seriously, fan club because he is a damn unicorn, I've been cuddling and sneaking treats to this horse for years) school horse gets kicked in the field.  He's sore, fluid on the knee, but fine.  He spends a couple days inside and then gets the green light to go outside.  He celebrates his freedom by going for a gallop and having a fall.  Several witnesses to the fall and they see him go down hard on his knee.  He is immediately hopping lame.  He gets cold hosing, a tab of bute, and into a stall.  Within a couple hours, he is taking no weight on that leg and is not willing to move four steps to reach the water bucket in his stall.

Should you call the vet?

I showed up at the barn a couple hours after the fall, was told the story, and checked out the horse.  I said yes, absolutely, call the vet right now.  Front leg taking no weight after a bad fall?  That's not even a question.  I didn't suspect fracture as there was only a little swelling right below the knee but he reacted to palpation and kept trying to get even the teeniest bit of weight off.  With bute already on board.  I had only seen two horses in my life that lame before this one and . . . it wasn't good.

I talked to Trainer A and she chose to not call the vet since he was on vacation and they would need to call the back up vet.  I have to assume economics since we've used the back up vet in the past for Theo and he's quite good.  They waited from Friday morning till Monday morning when the regular vet was back.  By Monday morning, it was even worse.  The leg suddenly swelled up and the vet had to rush out.

Diagnosis:  Fracture that 'completed' on Monday.  The horse was euthanized.  I found out on Tuesday when I went to his stall and found it empty.  He wasn't outside, he wasn't anywhere.  I was looking for him and the boarders I asked had no idea.  So I texted Trainer A and heard the news.  I had been hoping and praying for a seriously blown ligament.  I knew it was bad, like life ending bad, especially with no treatment but maybe I was wrong.  Maybe he would be okay. 

I'd known in my gut that he wouldn't be there when I arrived.  That didn't get me ready for the empty stall.  It also made the fact he had to wait three days worse.  Fractures hurt, even when they're not displaced.  I can't even imagine.

I told the barn owner that I had major, major issues with how that went down.  He needed a vet on Friday, not on Monday.  He lived with a broken leg for three days.  I had to push to get anyone to put ice on the swelling for pity's sake.  She replied that it was a really difficult situation, that they thought it was just a reinjury of his knee.  I can't take that answer.  Fluid on the knee and a limp is one thing.  This horse wouldn't move four steps to get to his water bucket.  I'm familiar with making the nearly impossible choices with horses.  You get it wrong some days and you regret it.  I've done it, it sucks.  The vet comes out for nothing or you think it's nothing and it turns out to be a very big something.  But this wasn't a hard choice.  Non-weight bearing after a bad fall, you call the damn vet.

They didn't.  They chose wrong.  The barn owner was not happy with my reaction.  I suppose anger was not the expected reaction to finding out a horse had passed, especially a horse that I never rode.  I let it go because, honestly, the barn owner was not the one making the call.  I like her quite a bit, she's a very kind person.  But also very inexperienced.

I'm looking for a new barn.  After this display of lack of horsemanship, I don't feel comfortable leaving Theo in their care.  What if they couldn't reach me?  What if I was on a camping trip?  Would they leave him like that for three days?  Theo is not a school horse, I have to assume they would know to call the vet immediately but I'd also assumed they would do that for a horse that was so valuable to their lesson program.  This does not impact my horse or his care in any way but I have lost all trust in the barn's management.

Some things have been boiling under the surface in regards to the barn but this is something that feels like hitting a brick wall.  Like I can't stay at this barn anymore despite the fact Theo has lived in the same field for six years and moving him will be very difficult for him.  Am I overreacting? 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Making lemonade

When life hands you lemons, put them in a bottle of vodka and have a lemon drop martini.

It's been about a week since I asked Theo to really collect and he's a much happier pony.  He's working on his transitions, jumping small jumps, and going out for nice walks when the deer flies allow it.  He's very content with all of this and has been a total cuddlebug.

Post ride and grooming content face

I'm also riding in a hackamore for about half my rides.  It's a great change of pace and making me really focus on what my legs and seat are doing.

Ready to go out and try to outrun the deer flies

My hope is that if we practice doing transitions within gaits with the hackamore, I'll finally figure out just what my seat is supposed to be doing and I'll be able to go from medium to collected correctly.  You know, without the bracing and falling on his shoulders and losing all impulsion.  I'm getting glimpses that I'm figuring it out.  He'll start to lift his shoulders and fill out his neck if I get it right.  The hackamore gives me just about zero finesse with the hand and very little say on what he's doing with the front end so it's all seat and legs.  It's good for me.  Theo seems to appreciate the change of pace.

The biggest update from our week of easy work?  I love love love his new boots from Ready to Ride.  I had to wait a long time for them since they were a pre-order from New Zealand but totally worth it.


They fit well and are certainly eye catching.  The fuzzy lining was approved by Theo and he didn't try to kick them off even once.  The full size fit him just fine.  They're not velcro, they're the jumper style tab closures so less adjustable.  Theo's on the last hole right now and he's not huge so if your horse has massive canons, they may be too tight.  The color is perfect on him, I'm completely in love.  For the price, I'm not concerned with longevity very much (I think they were $67 for the set).  Theo wears boots for a reason and they'll accumulate strikes quickly.  As a set I got for fun and to make some people twitch?  They are a solid win and I recommend them.

The saddle pad I got to match is nothing to write home about.  Compared to my PS of Sweden collection, it's pretty meh.  I'm concerned about how it will hold up in the wash and the embroidery of the logo is huge.  No fancy wicking materials going on here, just a plain thin pad.  The straps going to the D rings is a nice touch but the velcro was wide and getting it through the rings the first time was a total pain.  It goes with the boots and it was cheap, I'll use it up.  Or I'll donate it to the school, the kids will love it.

Vet appointment is Wednesday afternoon.  I think Theo will be sticking with this plan of long low work and little jumps in the hackamore until I hear just what is up with him.  He's happy with it, we're maintaining fitness, and it gets me my pony fix.  Everyone wins.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The judge conundrum

It's been interesting getting back out there and seriously showing after a couple years off.  The pony is radically different and so am I.  Now I can look back and see where I was getting dinged at First and how the judges were trying to get me back on track.  I read the comments with my more educated eyes and see what they were trying to get us to do.  Theo was not in any way submissive to my aids, I get that now.

Not good

At the same time, I think my horse is very polarizing.  Judges see him very differently even when the video shows a very similar test.  One judge will underline harmony with a smiley face, another will say that we're not ready for the level due to our lack of connection.  It feels like a crap shoot right now.  My horse is becoming more confident and reliable, but my scores are still all over the place.

Seriously, look at this hot mess, but you can see the exact point in the summer of 2018 when we got a clue at First

I've been talking to trainers in my region who know these judges and have shown under them for years and they agree with me, my scores will remain scattered.  Some of them love Theo, some of them hate him, and it's not going to stop.  He's not a purpose bred warmblood that was trained from day one to prance in the sandbox.  He's not flashy or flouncey bouncey.  He will always look different.  Not in a bad way, but he moves different and his outline is different.  Trainer Z calls him her bouncy ball. Verne Batchelder called him a sports car based on his very responsive steering and gait changes (not for his speed, believe me).

Walk - canter - walks with changes of lead every couple strides with my sports car

An S judge that is infamously tough in my area likes Theo because he's willing and soft in the ring.  I show people the scores he got from her and they're surprised.  She's usually considered stingy with the points but I got a 68%.  She likes that he's happy to do the job with his tail swinging like a metronome.  Another S judge nailed me hard for my lack of accuracy in my figures, but complimented Theo's way of going and gave him nice scores.  The message I got from her was that I needed to be a more accurate rider to show off my nice horse.  Fair.  I was informed by a rider that this particular judge will destroy a ride that's behind the vertical so she's not popular, but it wasn't a surprise she liked Theo.  Theo is never behind the vertical and keeps his poll up well.  The judges that like Theo note his relaxed, happy manner, our harmony, and his prompt responses.  Several officials have said that he looks like a horse they would actually want to ride and I consider that the highest compliment.

Other judges want more flexion, more suspension, more power.  They want big, elastic movement with long, flexible necks.  They want warmbloods.  Well, Theo is many things but none of them include being a warmblood even if it says American Warmblood on his paperwork.  His gaits will never be huge and our extensions will always be 'take the 6 and be done' (though he did sneak in an 8 for his canter lengthen in our last freestyle so it's in there).  He's learning to not get in front of my hand when under pressure but he will always be a horse that's more comfortable just in front of the vertical.  His short, heavy neck makes that flexion more challenging and, lets face it, submission is not Theo's favorite word.

Exhibit A:  Getting in front of my hand as he comes out of the 10m circle and I push him forward

I thought I was having sour grapes again but no.  The professional consensus is that I wasn't going to get a better score from that judge that weekend even if we rocked it.  We weren't where she thought we should be and frankly, we might never be.  Save the effort for another day, another ring, another judge.  She's not a bad judge, most riders really like her and she's usually generous with the points, but Theo is not her cup of tea.  We're going to have an uphill battle to impress her any time we go in the ring.  I was last and second to last in her ring at two different levels, the message was loud and clear.

Theo still needs more flexion.  Yes, I acknowledge that.  I will always need to work on that.  That and ground cover.  He will always be the horse where I have to nail the mechanical movements to boost our scores that are more gait based.  There's a reason I practice my centerline to halt so much.  I've started getting 8's on that movement!

I need to fix my position issues.  I've come a long way, but I'm not going to make Third with my hands in my lap and my shoulders tending to get in front of my hips. 

But we'll get there

It's a subjective sport.  And there's a reason some people won't ride in front of some judges.  If you've got a certain type of horse, you don't want to ride in front of someone that will give you lousy scores for things you can't change.  The judge that loves Theo and put a smiley face on his test?  Trainer Z avoids like the plague with her stallion that can get anxious in the show rin.  It's the nature of the sport.

The good news is that I have numbers and can line them all up so I don't get overly discouraged by a bad score.  Several bad scores?  Then I've got a problem, but blips on the radar aren't a call for a course correction.  It's one person's opinion of one ride on one day.  The judge marks what they see with no context, which is the point.  The rider presents their horse to the best of their ability on the day, which is the point.  We can't please everyone with every ride.

He does get all the cute points and that wagging tail of his is kind of his signature

But I can avoid situations that aren't predisposed to success.  I will be looking for that specific judge's name in the future.  And avoiding it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Almost sorta kinda

Pony-noia ahoy!

So Theo's left lead canter broke last year.  We got his hocks done and his canter straightened right up.  When his right lead canter started to break down this year, I got his hocks and stifles done.  For a couple days he felt like gold.  His over track was enough that I had to put him in bell boots to keep his dang shoes on.

Then I got sick and ended up disappearing for two weeks.

Now I'm back and he's back in full work.  The right lead canter?  Still wonky.  It's pretty specific, it's only when I actually collect or ask for things like the 10m canter circle.  The rhythm breaks down from 3 beats to 4 beats (and one time 5 beats, I'm still not sure how the hell he did that).  I did some experimenting to try to figure out if it was pain, strength, or training.  With a hackamore and bareback pad I can totally canter a 10m circle and basically use no hands, but it's not in collection.  He isn't on the bit, aka flexed.  When I tell him to actually flex and stay on contact, the rhythm breaks down.  I can sometimes feel a resistance in the collected trot, but no one can see it.  It makes me question my sanity.

Unrelated but we showed up in my GMO's newsletter and I'm still giggling with delight at how far we've come.

I also tried taking him into the outdoor to see if softer footing made any difference.  I have no idea if it did because he was locking onto fences and that was improving his canter dramatically.  I don't jump from the collected canter since I want him to be able to move his head to focus.  He was delighted to go hop over stuff and had a nice three beat rhythm on both leads.  I can feel a hesitation if I roll back on the right lead but the rhythm holds.

Sneak peek of our new jumping outfit

I suspect pain.  It's kind of my go to answer and he's showing a hesitation even when doing something he considers fun.  Teeth have already been checked, chiro and massage are on schedule, so I don't have any clues other than the rhythm breaking down.  I ask him to really sit and bam.  Four beat canter and he'll start looking to break to the trot.

So.  Now what?  I've got a horse that most people see as 100% sound that I'm hesitant to work because I think he's in pain.

Vet is on vacation this week so hopefully I can get him out next week.  If it's Theo's SI, we inject it and move on with our lives.  I want a lameness exam to make dang sure that it's not something else that I'm assuming is coming from his weaker right hind.  He does have that crack in his right front so I don't want to rule out other causes for canter rhythm problems.  There's zero sign of lameness in the walk or trot so I'm pretty confident that right front is fine but I'd really like to have a professional's opinion.

In the meantime, Theo's loving the jumping pony life.  I can keep him fit and happy working over fences and doing nothing more than a First level frame.  He's supposed to have a show at Second level at the end of the month but if I don't have an answer, I'll scratch.  Theo can still collect in the trot and walk so we'll do that to keep his topline development at it's current level.  

He better watch it or I'm going to take him to that H/J show coming up and do some medal classes.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Life after Smartpak

My last Smartpaks are being used up and it's time to move to life without my auto-order supplements.  As someone prone to disorganization, this is kind of terrifying.  I haven't had to put together supps since . . . 2004?  Wow.  I'm kind of old.

I'm also transferring my shopping behavior which has been quite hard.  Rider's Warehouse is getting quite a bit of love from me right now but man their website makes me nuts.  Filters, folks, it's all about the filters when shopping!

Anyway, supplements.  First step was to pick my new supps.  For the curious, I settled on:

UltraCruz Equine Wellness/Joint Performance Supplement - This is a combo multi-vitamin and joint support supplement that I found on while pricing out supplements.  I test drove it through my XL Feed account and it filled in a lot of the gaps in Theo's feed program.  It also gave me all the stuff I look for in a joint supp.  Since it comes in pellet form, it's an all around win for me.

UltraCruz Equine Probiotic Supplement - For show season, I find a probiotic useful for keeping Theo happy.  I use omeprazole when trailering but I want to make sure his gut is in tip top shape when he's stressed.  Couldn't argue with the price (150 days for $30) so I tossed it in the cart.  Powder but I'm not as worried about him getting all of it into his system.

Vita E & Selenium Crumbles - Same supp he's been on for ages since there's no selenium in New England.

Vita Flex MSM - Just pure, powdered MSM.  Boring but helpful in bug season for a certain someone that blows up like a pineapple as soon as the horse flies spot him.  This is also a powder but I've found most horses accept it well since it has zero taste and sticks to pellets pretty easily.

Horseshoer's Secret Concentrate - Hello, biotin!  Theo's feet are not fantastic and grow very slowly.  25mg of biotin a day helps to keep his feet in the best shape possible.  Also helps him grow that amazing tail that I have to spend hours maintaining.  Wait, why am I supplementing this again?

My buckets of supps arrived in two boxes.  I am so that horse mom.  I tested some tuperware containers I had in the house and found that the 2 cup size was perfect.  I ordered a stack of them off Amazon and filled them up based on a 28 day schedule.  It should help me to stay on top of things if I use the four week cycle.

I got the ones with screw top lids so I don't have to worry about the lids popping off if they don't seal completely and they'll be easy to manage come winter when people are wearing gloves.  Black sharpie didn't show up on the blue lids so I had to get a bit blingy.

I don't know why people think my horse is spoiled.  It's not like I bring him his supplements in royal blue containers with his name in gold or anything.

I'm not expecting any changes in Theo from all of this.  According to my FeedXL account, this will be very similar to what he's on now.  There are a few things different between the UltraCruz and the SmartPak multi-purpose supplement so it's possible he'll notice.  But not likely.  With the powdered supplements now part of the picture he'll also be getting an ounce of wheat germ oil to make everything stick.  That's more likely to cause a difference and I'm hoping for more gloss on his poor summer coat.  The bugs really got him while I was away and I'm gooping him up with everything in the cabinet to help with the itching.

According to my worksheet, I will be saving between $15 and $20 a month with this so that's an extra couple of lattes.  Go me.

Fingers crossed that this system will work.  I don't want to become one of those boarders that never seems to have their supps ready for feeding.