Thursday, May 29, 2014

Life Update

Sometimes life feels crazy, even when really nothing major has changed (job, home, significant other, etc). 

I went to UCSB. I lived in Isla Vista. 
One of the attacks happened right outside my former address. 
Maybe that's why my mind just keeps going back to this situation. Why I feel compelled to read every article. To reconnect with my college friends. 

Some days it just takes more effort than others to find the positive. To create the positive.

On to horsey matters.  Memorial day weekend was nice. Hemie got a bath and a relaxing hack around the property.  

I cleaned all my tack and did a nice conditioning treatment to my jump saddle.

I also played around with Hemie's bridle:

Sparkly browband, a little too big but I decided I don't really care.

Plus did you notice the extra set of reins?

The Micklem multi-bridle can be converted to a bitless bridle. Unfortunately the Micklem competition bridle (which is what I have) can't. But I didn't let that stop me. I just threw some reins onto the flash attachment piece just for fun. I'm happy to report that Hemie can steer without a bit. Stopping...needs work. I kept the snaffle in his mouth and reins at the ready just in case.

I'm playing with this just for kicks. I think its good to mix things up sometimes.

We signed up for a derby at El Sueno this weekend. We're doing 2 dressage tests and 1 combined stadium and XC jumping round. I'm not very happy with our dressage rides lately - I really need to remember that we are dancers and I'm the leading partner, and to focus on relaxation rather than submission.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Worms. Again.

Ugh. Hemie's latest fecal test has tested positive for worms again.

Quick recap: he's had worms multiple times over the 2 years I've had him, including strongyles and roundworms.  Each time they've gone away with a deworming treatment. It is unusual (and therefore extremely concerning) for adult horses to get roundworms. I fecal test him every 3 months using Horsemen's Laboratory mail service.

Previous worm posts:
December 2013
December 2012

After consulting with our parasitology vet, Hemie got wormed with 1 tube of double-dose fenbendazole (Safe-Guard Power Dose). I'll check his fecals again in 3 weeks.

This positive test was the kicker for me to start supplementing Hemie with diatomaceous earth. Our parasitology vet is not a believer in D.E., but he said there wasn't any harm in trying.

Diatomaceous earth is a flour-like powder consisting mostly of silica, used in a million different products. A 50-lb bag of food grade D.E. costs $30, and horses get 1 cup daily, so its pretty inexpensive and will last a while.

Unfortunately, the evidence on D.E.'s ability to help with internal parasites in horses is largely anecdotal. In fact I couldn't find a single scientific study on D.E. as an equine dewormer, but I did find some studies on pigs and cows, with varied results. Unfortunately (and fortunately) I don't know anyone who has had *repeat* worm problems, so I'm relying on lots of online research. Which is always kinda questionable. (Some people still believe the world is flat...)

But I figure its worth a shot. D.E. doesn't have any negative side effects and some people swear by it. It was first suggested to me by my regular vet as something for me to research and consider, though he didn't really seem to be a believer either ("I know some people who use could look into it..."). But you never know until you try, so we're trying it out!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

VCBH: Bit It Up!

Viva Carlos!

From L.:
For this weeks blog hop, as I continue to struggle to find the right bitting situation for the Dinosaur Jr. I want to hear all about what bit you ride your current beastie in and why!

Yay for this blog hop! I love learning about what tack others use and why. I learn so much from these kinds of posts - I hope everyone participates!!

The bit I ride my beastie in..

Hemie is ridden in a Albacon french link eggbutt snaffle made of German silver. 

Albacon (sometimes seen as AlBaCon) is the manufacturer. It appears they are based in Germany. They use German silver, which is considered to have better taste to the horse due to the high copper content. The idea is that better taste encourages salivation and acceptance of contact.

The type of bit is a french link snaffle. This is commonly recognized as one of the most mild bits available. It doesn't have the nutcracker effect of regular single-jointed snaffles. The bars and center link are thinner than most "losenge" type bits. I ride in an eggbutt simply because loose rings have been known to pinch horse's lips.

And Why...

I figured that I'd start off with the most mild bit, then increase severity only as it became necessary. I've been considering changing his bit so I'm interested in this blog hop to help me understand other bits better.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Hemie!

Hemie turns 9 tomorrow, May 20th! 

We had a fun celebration on Saturday. First, a good roll in the sand round pen.

Next, Hemie got a pedicure complete with birthday sparkles!! 

Then we went a fun XC schooling at El Sueno. Unfortunately no pictures. 

But then the real fun was had...BIRTHDAY CAKE!!

Hemie was a gentleman and shared with all his friends.

Happy Birthday Hemie! <3

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

VCBH: Continuation School

Viva Carlos!

With all the ups and downs experienced in riding, 
the expense, the pressure, the stress horses being giant and yet fragile. 
Some of us are sidelined due to physical conditions, horse injuries, finances 
or even a lack of a equid to throw a leg over, 
Why do you continue to ride?

L. comes up with some great questions, doesn't she?  I can think of 4 main reasons why I ride:

Good for the body
Hands-down its my favorite type of physical activity. You use your whole body - endurance, strength, coordination, agility, relaxation, and feel. Especially during lessons and working rides, its involved so it keeps my mind fully engaged. 

Good for the mind
Not only do I need to think during rides, I think about riding when I'm out of the saddle too. Setting goals, making plans, researching all manner of horse stuff, and writing this blog - I think its fun, healthy, and so much better than just watching TV or whatever else other people do.

Good for the heart
The relationship between rider and horse is one of the very special elements of riding that of course isn't part of other sports or hobbies. Horses have personalities, and developing a bond whether for just one ride or an ongoing partnership is a wonderful part of riding. For me, developing and deepening the special relationship I have with my horse is the most important part of riding.

Good for the soul
Riding brings me peace and relaxation like nothing else. It recharges me. Trail rides and hacks are oftentimes also spiritual - a space and time for me to just be, or to meditate on life, the universe, and my place in it. 

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Stable Life

Firstly, I want to thank everyone who sent encouraging comments or vibes, and especially to Niamh
I hope you all never have to deal with a similar is-he-lame-or-is-he-pissed-or-both situation with your horses. It's a miserable mind-game.

I'm happy to report that our rides over the last ~week have been very positive, due primarily to the following:
  1. Having TK ride Hemie while I watch.
  2. Making sure I'm in a good head space before mounting. I am suiting up in full armor, giving myself a pep talk, and visualizing myself handling issues quickly and efficiently.
  3. Having a very simple, straightforward plan for the rides. For example, my first solo ride we focused on 2 things only: #1 FORWARD/no-behind-the-leg-ness-whatsoever, #2 CONSISTENT contact/following elbows. 
  4. Giving Hemie lots of praise and pats during rides - it helps us both to feel happy and calm.

TK on Hemie, with Laurie (and George) looking on.

Watching TK ride Hemie is very helpful. Nothing she does with him is new or different than what Laurie has been having me do per se, she just is a more consistent, fast, effective rider than I am. And it is helpful to see the differences so I can really know what to work on. 

The other weekend I audited a Dr. Christian Schacht clinic, and got to watch the fabulous Karen of Not-So-Speedy Dressage both days on her OTTB Sydney. I've audited Dr. Schacht's clinics before, and even rode in one earlier this year, and he is quite fabulous. Weeks later his calming voice still comes to me during rides. 

Karen and Sydney looking great!

After Karen's second ride, she was discussing with Dr. Schacht how Sydney acts up one way but not the other (only too familiar...), and his advice was to start off riding the good direction, then change direction across long diagonal, but DO NOT CHANGE YOUR POSITION. IE, still ride like you're going the other way. Don't ask for new outside rein. Don't ask for new bend. Don't change your hips or legs or anything. Then...after any tension from the direction change has gone away, slowly start to ask for new outside rein, for true bend, etc. 

Flash. Light bulb. As soon as he said this, I knew that needed to be my plan of attack for the next ride. And it REALLY helped. 

So, what about Hemie's unevenness/bucking stuff?

After repeated in-depth evaluations, both my trainer and TK think that Hemie is 100% sound. They believe his intermittent issues are behavioral/training rather than lameness related. I truly value their opinions, but I don't feel pressured to come to a personal conclusion at this point. The vet is coming out next month for shots, so I may have him do a lameness evaluation. I've also considered chiro, massage, etc, and I've been doing lots of reading on various health and training topics which may be relevant.

I've also done A LOT of research on therapeutic saddle pads. This is where I owe another huge THANK YOU to the blogosphere for reviews and commentary on various pads (side note - if your blog doesn't have a search feature, will you kindly please add one? Helps tremendously with topic searches).

I currently have a thinline pad on trial, and so far I like it but will give it a few more rides before I decide whether to buy one or try out a different type of pad if I can. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Up and Down

My life the past week and a half has felt like a roller coaster.

Up. Down. Up. Down. And the sensation that I'm gonna throw up.

I got back from the horse show to some very sad family news. The sad/angry/helpless/frustrating kind.

But what really consumed me emotionally is concern over Hemie's lameness issue. Or unevenness issue. Whatever we want to call it.

At the show both Laurie and I thought it was a behavioral/tension issue. But...what if it really is a physical/lameness thing? I've spent hours upon hours brainstorming options. And worrying. Lots of worrying.

I longed him with hawk eyes to see if I could spot any off-ness. Nada. 
Then I stepped it up a notch by adding a surcingle and all manner of equipment. Still nothing.

The next day I rode. To the left we were 100% fine, but to the right we felt unbalanced. Not all the time, but enough of the time.

Laurie was concerned too. At our lesson last week, she started off by feeling his back and doing in-hand exercises to see if she could spot any issues. Nothin'. So I hopped on. She took video, of us going both ways, with Hemie as sound as sound can be, walk-trot-canter.

We were both feeling relieved.

But then he gave a little half-buck, and then another. Then we changed directions, and he gave some more! Tension was mounting, and I froze up. Whenever he gave the little buck-hop, I just brought him to a halt and walked him.  I could feel it coming like dogs can feel an earthquake - the "big one" was just around the corner and I knew I was going to get bucked off.

Laurie shouted at me to do something. Kick him. Hit him. Growl at him. Slap with the reins. ANYTHING to tell him that the behavior is not okay. I was rewarding him every time he even hinted at bucking. 

My horrible frozen riding continued for what felt like forever. Until finally a tiny sliver of courage came up and I growled at him when he tried it, with success. He stopped trying it and we had a few minutes of solid trot work before calling it a day. 

We took the tack off and felt up his back some more. Nothing.  
We decided to bute him that night and the next morning as an experiment and see if anything changed the next day.

Driving home that night I was able to put a word to the feeling.
For the first time in a long, long time, I was scared
Terrified to ride my own horse. To just trot around! What a horrible, horrible feeling.

I called my barn mate TK (prelim rider, giant balls of badassness) in tears, told her how I was making a bucker out of my horse, and how at first I was afraid that he had something physically wrong with him rather than behavioral, but now I'm afraid that its NOT something physical! I asked if she would be available to ride for part of my lesson the next morning. She graciously agreed. 

Meanwhile I started psyching myself up - after all, I have a helmet, a safety vest, and an air vest. What was I so afraid of - falling off? I've fallen off before and I'll fall off again. 

The next morning I put on my big girl panties. And all my safety gear too.

Laurie arrived before I saddled up to check out his back some more. We started him off in-hand/longe and did some exercises with poles designed to really bring out any issues with the hind end. He passed with flying colors. TK was running late, so I hopped on. 

Everything was fine for several minutes, but then a tiny hint of a buck showed up. After some time going to the right the unevenness showed up at the trot, especially in corners when asking for bend. It felt to me like he was trying to canter with his hind legs rather than trot. He let out a small buck and picked up the canter. I brought him back to a trot. He'd be fine for a spell, then get uneven and buck up into a canter again. He did this a few times. So TK got on.

And she had much, much less issues that I did. He got a little quick and a little uneven once or twice, but she was able to push him forward into a steady rhythm and steady contact and stopped trying to force inside bend and the issue went completely away. 

I got back on, and the issues were back. Once I got him nice and froward and in my hand, we were fine. But getting there was an issue - I felt like I was bumbling around up there!

I'm still mentally processing that lesson. We're gonna try to do a horse swap sometime - the idea being that a better trained horse can help me to feel what a better, steadier contact feels like. 

But I'm no longer afraid. I rode Hemie twice afterwards - once on trail, once just hacking around.

Plus this weekend I audited the Dr. Christian Schacht clinic and he had some words of wisdom for me. More on that later.

Now my gut says that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I may not see it yet, but its there.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Rolex Recap ~ CA Riders

Preview post #1 here.
Preview post #2 here.

The excitement of the 2014 Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event permeated the Fresno show this past weekend, with the help of live streaming on a giant TV at Ride On Video's RV.

Photo from Facebook

So, how did our west coast riders do?

Photo from Facebook

Deborah Rosen & The Alchemyst

Deb and Al started off the weekend with a solid dressage test. Debbie wore her trademark smile and they looked like a harmonious team.

Unfortunately heartbreak came on cross-country day, as Al refused at jump #5 (the first water) and they retired from the course.

From what I've heard and seen, Al is a challenging horse. When he is game, he is unstoppable. He'll jump the moon and gallop like there's no tomorrow. But when he doesn't want to play, he just simply wont. And as any eventer will tell you, the horse's heart has to be in it or else you just wont get around successfully.

XC in a Micklem bridle =]
Photo from Facebook

Jennifer McFall & High Times

Jen and Billy had a wonderful weekend. This was their first 4-star event, and I applaud Jennifer for focusing on creating a positive experience for her horse. They put in a lovely dressage test, and though it had a few foibles, she kept her cool.

They ran a conservative cross-country course, choosing longer approaches at the jumps with options so Billy could really see what he was doing. He got a little looky-loo at the head of the lake and even trotted a jump (isn't it amazing that horses can trot fences even at the 4-star level?!), but then found his groove again. They had one run-out and came in over time, but overall put in a great first 4-star cross-country go, meant to build Billy's confidence and lay a good foundation for future 4-stars.

For stadium jumping, they had some jump and time penalties, and finished 36th overall. Check out their feature in an Eventing Nation's Rolex Rookies article.

Photo from Facebook

Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice

Hawley and Ginny had a great weekend from start to finish. They had a truly lovely dressage test - their teamwork really shines through. Plus Ginny was looking just fabulous. She was certainly one of the best turned-out horses all weekend. 

They had a bold double-clear cross country go. Ginny got a little deep to a few fences, but popped right over them and made even the most difficult lines look easy. Pretty impressive for a 15.3hh horse! 

They knocked 2 rails in stadium jumping but had no time penalties and they ended up in 16th place. 

Photo from Facebook

James Alliston and Parker

James and Parker get the west coast award for best improvement over the weekend - they went from 55th place after dressage to 22nd place overall! 

They had a few sticky moments on cross country, but then those OTTB colors flew because they ended up with the fastest XC time of the day!  

They knocked 2 rails in stadium jumping but had no time penalties.

You can view the official scores here.  The event was won by the amazing William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero. This is William's 3rd Rolex win, and watching him ride is always insightful and inspiring. In addition to it being an international horse trials, the Rolex KY 3-Day Event is also the USEF National 4-Star Championships, with the highest-placing American rider taking home the tri-color. This year that was Lauren Kieffer and Veronica. This was only Veronica's second attempt at a 4-star, and I love that a female horse and rider made it so far up the leaderboard!

William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero!

Watching Rolex live in-person in on my bucket list - looks like a truly energizing and fun experience!!