Friday, May 31, 2013

It's a good thing I like horses

Because I am WORN. OUT.

I got up this morning to feed the horses (after feeding/walking my zoo at home), packed my car full of Lex's stuff while they ate, changed out Lex's hoof wrap, and turned them all out. Then I rode Taylor, who was a sillyface. She was INCREDIBLY DISTRACTED through the entire ride and spooked at everything she could see. She's challenging to keep straight and even more challenging to keep focused. Her owner is interested in having me take lessons on her with the h/j pro who brought her along, which I'm certainly down for, of course. Anything to learn something new!

Then it was back home, walk dogs, make a grilled cheese sandwich (it was 10am, beeteedubs) which I ate in the car on the way to the lesson barn. I got there in time to ride Zephyr before my first lesson. He was very good, and much less of a sillyface than Taylor. If he spooks and I send him forward, he doesn't go looking for another thing to spook at. He settles in. I love that. I think he's such a nice horse, and Regina is lucky to have him. I hope I can be helpful.

Next, one lesson, then back home again to walk the dogs and finish an article that's due to a journal tomorrow (SUCCESS!) and to wolf down a real lunch. Back to the lesson barn again for two lessons (and I had the world's cutest kid in the second one) and then BACK to Lex's barn to change out her wrap AGAIN and to ride Duchess. I know I didn't technically have to ride Duchess today, but I needed to spend some time with the old lady. It'll be hard for me to maybe not see her as often. I just threw the bareback pad and bridle on her and went for a walk around the field. Barn Mate K was hacking her gelding around so we ended up walking around the field together and chatting, and it was fun - especially when we found a SERIOUSLY newborn kid goat! We saw him get to his feet for the first time.
I have legs!

Yoga seems like a good thing to do when you're two minutes old.
K got off her gelding and I ponied him back to the barn while she carried the kid (mama goat followed right with her - she knows this routine by now) and put them in the goat pen. I wasn't sure how Duchess, who is a thoroughbred mare and thus touchy about her personal space, was going to do with ponying a cranky QH, but she was pretty good. I mean, I think she half-passed her way up the field while snorting at him, but he just came along and was a good sport about it. Considering that I was on a bareback pad, I appreciated their relative goodwill.

Now I'm home, and have finally had a dinner I didn't have to inhale. I'm SO EXCITED about Lex's moving day tomorrow. I'm planning on not working all day, and just focusing on getting her settled in and happy.

I've rarely worked this hard in my life. I love what I'm doing, and getting to ride so much is an incredible gift, so I'm not complaining at all. I just need to keep working on that stupid dissertation at some point...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hoof Wrappin'!

I'm notoriously terrible at wrapping gifts. I don't know how to make the ribbon go all curlycue (my mom tried to show me a trick with scissors but I just shredded the ribbon). I can't judge how much paper I actually need and always end up with too much or too little. I get angry, and all "what's the point, they're just going to rip the paper off anyway." When I was a kid, my dad would often wrap gifts in aluminum foil, until the other members of my family shamed him into stopping. I thought - and still think - that that was GENIUS. I always have foil in the house, but I rarely have wrapping paper, let alone other prettifying things.

Wrapping hooves, though? I am a freaking professional at wrapping hooves.

First, gather your supplies.

Treats, Epsom salts, duct tape, and diapers - size two for my girl.
One of those supplies is clearly the most important and Lex would be happy to tell you which it is.

Next, get equine.

If the equine looks like this, apply the first ingredient!

There we go!
If you're removing an old hoof wrap, I like to pick up the hoof and take bandage scissors and just cut right down the middle of the sole. But USE BANDAGE SCISSORS AND NOT REGULAR SCISSORS! Or your horse will have bigger problems than whatever you're packing the hoof for.

Then take the duct tape and make a quasi basket-weave mat out of it. 

Starts like this. 
Ends up like this!
Don't make an actual basket weave, though, because it will take forever and the tape will get stuck to all the wrong parts of other pieces of tape. I just do one vertical strip, then one horizontal strip, etc.

Then you take the diaper and put Epsom salts in the butt end and add a little water. I tried taking pictures of this but they didn't really turn out, but I trust you can figure that out. Next, I take the woven duct tape and stick it on the side of my thigh for easy grabbin. Then pick up the hoof and get to wrapping. This is where it REALLY HELPS if you can hold your horse's hoof with your legs like the farrier does. If you can't do this already, practice it. Get your farrier to show you how so you do it safely and correctly. You're going to need both hands to handle the diaper and the duct tape. Put the diaper on the hoof, with the Epsom salts concentrated wherever the bruise or abscess or whatever is, if you can. Then take the woven duct tape and put it over the hoof, like so:

Then shape it to the hoof:

Next, put several layers of duct tape over the toe, because if she's gonna walk through the boot, it's going to be through the toe. I don't like to wrap all the way around the hoof too much, partly because it uses a lot of tape and also because I worry about squeezing the heel. So when you do take a couple of passes all the way around the hoof for security, try to keep that in mind. I also do another layer or two over the sole as reinforcement. I use about 1/4 of a roll of duct tape each time I do this - I don't want to be skimpy and risk her losing it and making the whole process pointless.

Like that!
 I put the hoof down and make sure that it all looks secure, et voila, a wrapped hoof.
 If you did it all well, when you go back to check on it later that day or the next morning, it should look about like this:
Yay! Still on! No holes!

Lex seemed a LOT better today. Either the bruise was feeling better or the abscess ruptured, but her digital pulses were still elevated, so I wrapped it again just to be sure. I didn't see anywhere the abscess busted out. I'm gonna just keep doing what I'm doing for now, to be sure that whatever's going on is better. Even if she doesn't need the Epsom salt solution in the diaper, I'm going dry-wrap it until Saturday morning, when she moves to the new barn. Her hoof is so soft now from all the soaking that I bet she'd get an abscess immediately if I turned her out barefoot. So, she's gonna stay booted until she gets in a stall for awhile.

And that reminds me: Yes, we're definitely moving. I told the barn owner, and I was all afraid of hurting her feelings. I told her that the other place offered me a good deal and has a jumper ring, and she was like, "Awesome! Just don't stop working here, please!" I set her mind at ease on that score, as I certainly need the money. So Regina is going to come get her on Saturday morning. I'm looking forward to getting settled into the new digs!

What medical procedure have you mastered?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Abscess Watch 2013

There's nothing like sitting around and waiting for pus to drain.

We're pretty sure it's an abscess that's deviling Lex. She's sound-ish on the grass, but hobbling lame on concrete, which is a good sign. The hoof testers showed a lot of pain in her toe, and her digital pulses are still elevated. Ted dug around with his hoof knife a bit and found some bruising. It could just be the bruises that are bothering her (this mare is not stoic and bruises do hurt), but Ted thinks there's an abscess in there somewhere. She's being turned out in the paddock around the barn with Lovely Barn Mate S's saintly Percheron gelding, Charon. They seemed happy all day and were contendedly grazing when I left them, so hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. She's got a diaper duct taped to her hoof, which she isn't thrilled about.

This morning she had even more reasons to file with the Annoyed Pony Association.

Diaper hoof!

Awkward back-icing!

At least she gets the yummy grass.

This morning I also had the chance to ride one of Kris's horses, a jumper prospect named Taylor. Taylor is my least favorite horse in the barn when it comes to the barn worker perspective, because she bites and kicks and does stupid things like run through walls. But, oddly enough, she's actually pretty fun to ride. And she's GAWGEOUS.
Supermodel of the World.
She's a very fancy horse. She's also for sale, if anyone wants gorgeous and athletic and doesn't mind kinda-nutty.

Cross your fingers that Lex has busted out that abscess tonight. And think good thoughts for L. Williams and Sprinkler Bandit. They could both use it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Lex: The Queen of Minor Injuries

Oh, horses. Just when you think you're going to make it to 35 with no grey hair...

I took her over the hill for our on-site vet to check out her back. And you know what? She was lame in her left front. Hobbling, head-bobbing lame.


Fortunately, the vet thinks she's just got a bruise or an abscess. I soaked her hoof for 20 minutes, to her extreme annoyance.
At least her coat is shiny?

She hates, hates, hates having to keep her foot in a bucket.

Tomorrow I'll soak her hoof again, though I think instead of fighting with the bucket issue, I'll put the Epsom salts and some water in a diaper and tape it to her foot and let her hand graze. That should make her happy. But she'll not love the fact that I have to ice her back for 30 minutes while her hoof is soaking. The vet thinks she has a bruised rib, which she probably got from either rolling on a rock, getting kicked or stepped on by another horse, or getting run into something. In any case, it's not from anything good, but it's not the end of the world. Time will fix it.

The barn owners let her stay up in the nice barn tonight but she's getting kicked out at 7am sharp, because they're overloaded. I'm bummed about that, because even though there's no medical reason she can't walk around with a bruise or an abscess, I feel like she's getting chased around the field a lot, and I don't want her to have to run around while her foot hurts. Additionally, I'm guessing her back injury was probably the result of something that happened with another horse. This is the downside of pasture boarding: I can't leave her in a barn with other horses in it during the day or overnight. I also think this herd isn't good for her, because she comes in with new scrapes and bumps and bruises pretty much daily, and she's been there for two months now.

Soooooooo, I think Lex is going to move. It's not set in stone yet, but I'm leaning toward moving her to the boarding facility run by the woman I work for at the lesson barn. It's nothing against the barn I'm at now - I hope to continue working there - but I'm not sure it's working out for us. We could use a jumping ring and a stall. I'll keep riding Duchess, because I'd never abandon that lovely mare. I think my time will be stretched even more thinly than it is now, but I'll make it work.

 I know that most of you have had to make hard decisions to move your horses, and I'm not taking this lightly. I've been stewing over it for weeks, but the past few days have brought it to a head for me. I am on a very tight budget, but I owe this horse the best environment for her that I can manage. Regina will let me work off a significant portion of the board, which is very helpful indeed, and the rest she can just take out of my paycheck from the lesson barn.

I just hope that my current barn owners understand. I've been working there a lot longer than I've had Lex, so fingers crossed that we can just keep being buddies even though she isn't there now. They're great people, so I'm optimistic. Have any of you managed to move your horse without creating drama or hurting the feelings of your former barn owners? Am I overthinking this?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Another Photo-Heavy Post

I'm tiiiiiiired. Serving up three-job realness!

Lex's back still hurts, so my barn owner's husband (an equine surgeon) is gonna look at her tomorrow and see what he sees. I'm guessing she is sore from the sand and hill-work (those being the only two options around here for footing) so she's gonna need a little time off and maybe some muscle relaxers to help her get over it. I read this really helpful article on equine back pain and this paragraph stood out to me:
 Lack of athletic fitness is another common cause of back pain. "Unfit horses in the process of getting fit have the highest incidence of back problems," says Stephen Soule, DVM, whose West Palm Beach, Florida, practice includes many show horses. Abruptly introducing horses to more work than their bodies are prepared to withstand stresses the back from all directions. Even fit horses suffer back strain when changes in footing or terrain force them to alter their ways of going. Soule frequently sees back soreness in horses who have summered in New England and then been moved to Florida's deep-sand footing for the winter. Those who are relocated several weeks prior to the start of the winter show season fare better because they can have a period of reduced work to get "sand fit" before launching into full competitive efforts. Hill work can put a similar strain on horses' backs if they're used to being ridden only on level terrain. In itself, hill work is an excellent fitness and back-strengthening exercise, but it has to be introduced gradually, starting with slight inclines or minimal repetitions and increasing the challenges as the locomotor structures adapt.
Ding ding ding.

So I'll wait and see what the vet has to say, but that sure sounds right.

Madame Lex got her feet done AGAIN today. This four-week schedule is bananas, but the farrier trimmed off probably a 1/4" of hoof wall. My girl is a professional at growing out her feet. It's a problem I'm delighted to have.

I am the Queen of Spanish Moss. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

I freaking love this freaking horse.
 She was a good girl for the farrier, and very snuggly and happy. I'm so glad. Because my farrier is a genius horsewoman, she said she was willing to take a look at saddle fit and stuff. She thinks my saddle actually fits Lex pretty well, but that I need a lot of padding around the withers because she's sore there (she's sore everywhere, withers to croup). She's got those prominent TB withers, which I know many of you have struggled with.

I rode Zephyr again this morning, and he was good, but I think the odds were against us getting a super nice ride because 1) it was morning feeding time and 2) I was time-limited because I had a lesson arriving. He didn't do anything naughty while mounted, but he is a monster on the ground. He needs to learn some rules and boundaries, STAT.

Here are some pictures of him from our ride yesterday!

Introducing himself to the dragons in the flower box.

My mom would love this horse's head. Ignore the goober holding the reins.

I don't think I look irredeemably huntery in this picture!

He's just beginning to relax here. Check out that foamy mouth!

Theeeeeere we go, starting to really chill out.

Yesterday was also the first day he was introduced to his new pasture-mates, so we got some pictures of that too.

Fancayyyy knee and hock action, bro.

Motorcycle pony.

He's a tall horse, probably roughly 17hh. I'm surprised that I don't look weird on him, because you'd think he'd look better under someone taller. I won't complain though!

Think good thoughts for Lex tomorrow. I hope she can get something to help her feel better, or at least a recommended course of action.


I meant to post this last night, but after I got home from running back and forth between both barns all day (and they're almost 30 minutes apart, sigh) I collapsed.

The good news is, Lex looked great yesterday. She trotted up to me in the field, walked into the wash rack with no problems, and was her usual snuggly self. We're getting close to being able to ride again, I think. Fynn continues to be a space cadet while I work with him, so I'm gonna have to figure that out. I rode Zephyr yesterday, too. He's a tense horse, but once he relaxes he really goes great. We're considering taking him to some dressage shows, so I'm going to have to learn to sit down! Ha! There was a photographer at the lesson farm yesterday so hopefully we'll have some good pictures of the Z-man soon.

But for now, it's Rocket Time! Mom reports that she is doing great, learning all of her little ground lessons extremely well, and is friendly and a delight to be around. She's also definitely growing feathers. Mom took these pictures after a big rain storm, so she got to see Rocket bravely exploring puddles and having fun with that. Rocket also got a free bath thanks to the rain, and apparently LOVED being rubbed down with a towel.

Without further ado!

Sorry it's blurry, but she was following the cat around and I couldn't resist posting it.

Filly Meets Puppy.

Who is THAT beautiful horse looking back at me?!

Beasted the water. Ain't no thang.

Maybe she's born with it...

Maybe it's Maybelline.

Can I walk through it this way too?!

I am going to be a cross-country machine.

Who's that lady?
She is getting so big! Her mane lies down flat already. Mom said her mane and tail are super curly. We are going to go through a lot of mane and tail conditioner, I bet.

Off to ride Zephyr again this morning! I read the Intro tests last night and there's nothing in there we won't be able to do in a couple weeks at the potential first show, as long as he can hold it together emotionally. Given how well he's been doing at the lesson farm, I think he'll be okay. So here's my question: What do people wear in dressage shows these days? I probably haven't ridden in one in 15 years.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Twin Geldings

Today was a pretty good day, all things considered. I'm not beating myself up anymore, just trying to move forward and make sure little Lex gets the best of everything while her back injury heals. My barn owner/vet checked her out today and saw the small swelling, and thinks that she got a bug bite or rolled on a stinging nettle or something. The good news is, Lex responded very well to Bute and Ice Tight so I don't see any reason why she won't be fine within a week. Barn Owner thinks she'll be fine in 24 hours, but I'm not gonna rush it.

Pretty girl got a fly sheet to hopefully prevent another horrible bug bite, but it won't go on her til her injury heals.

Do you think that's enough poultice??!

My horse is in a JJ Abrams movie, apparently.
She got two more grams of Bute this morning and another round of poultice, as you can see. I'll give her one gram tomorrow and more Ice Tight, because why not. In the meantime, she gets to stand in the wash rack and eat lots of treats because she's decided she doesn't want to go in there now that she's worried about the saddle.

I also got to play with Fynn today. I've decided he needs to be downgraded to lunging, and that he needs more consistent work. I'm going to do my best to give him 20 minutes of my time every day so that we can get him trained for real. He was very naughty indeed on the lunge line today, so it's gonna be a long haul, I think. He's lovely, but he's no thoroughbred, if you know what I mean.

Fynn! He is seriously cute.
 We had a large space to lunge in today, and I just lunged him in the halter. He was okay to start with, but he'd get sick of working after a couple minutes and try to pull me towards the gate. Zephyr, the new horse, was running around nearby, and the mare and foal were having a good time in their field, and he was just paying attention to everything and anything but me. After I got his attention for a few minutes and he managed to walk in a circle without losing his mind, we called it quits. I had to teach a lesson anyway.

After the lesson, I got to ride the dreamy new horse, Zephyr. He's a six year old Friesian/TB cross (what is it with me and Friesians lately? They've never been my breed of choice, but now I've got them coming out my ears). Regina and I had no idea what he was going to be like, so I lunged him and then got on him slowly. He was a very, very good boy. He bucked once in the canter, but we were riding in the small ring and I think he was having issues keeping himself together. He hasn't been ridden regularly in awhile. I can fix that!

This picture was taken as I was first sitting down. That's not how I ride!
This is the best picture I have of Zephyr - I'll try to get some better ones tomorrow - but wow, does he look exactly like Fynn. They're not related, not even the same breed, but they have the same head. Zephyr is Fynn in three years, basically. 

He's a lot different than the other horses I've been riding lately. I rode him in my jumping saddle, but I was thinking, man, this is a dressage horse. I'm still gonna see if he wants to jump (apparently his old owner jumped him) but maybe he'll help me brush up on my dressage seat. I had such low expectations when I got on, and he exceeded them by just being rideable. We'll have some connectivity issues to work out, but I think it will be a good experience for both of us.

Tomorrow, some adorable Rocket pictures from my mom!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mystery Solved, or, I Suck


I got on Lex again today, and she was immediately like "I AM A DRAGON AND I KILL EVERYTHING WITH FIRE!" So I sat it out for five minutes, got off, and burst into tears, sure that I had ruined my horse. I walked dejectedly back to the wash rack and Barn Mate S pulled Lex's saddle off and immediately identified a slight swelling on the right side of her back, like she'd been kicked or run into something, or whatever. The right side of her back REALLY hurts, y'all.

I am a dummy. Minus 10 horsemanship points for me.

So, that's what's going on here. It's not the ring, necessarily, although I bet that doesn't help. Something hurt her, and I probably won't be able to figure out what, so now it's just onto treatment. I put some poultice on her back and gave her some Bute, but the little girl doesn't even want to go into the wash rack because she's anticipating the saddle. I'm going to give her a week off, at least, but during that week, we'll go into the wash rack every day and I'll feed her lots of cookies and then let her hand graze. I just hope that whatever this is, she recovers from it and goes back to being happy under saddle. I feel like a monster.

In other news, my boss at the lesson farm just brought in a six year old Friesian/TB cross for me to play around with, so I'm really excited about that. He's very cute and looks a lot like Fynn, the three year old I've worked with a couple times. I will have plenty of horses to ride while Lex is on the mend.

Here is a cute picture, in case anyone needs one. I know I do.
TJ meets my nephew via my mom.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"Paying attention, good. Worrying, bad..."

"...Listening and learning, good. Freaking out, bad."

So said my smart and thoughtful Trainer Chris when I e-mailed him about Lex's recent mood swings. Which, honestly, aren't bad. I'm just trying to figure her out and what makes her tick.

I wrote a few days ago that Lex clearly does not want to go in the ring. I gave her Saturday off to go to the show with Chris, which was rewarding. I ran my ideas for helping her by him, and he thought they sounded reasonable. We watched some pretty "whatever" riding over a very badly-designed course, but I really liked getting the chance to hang out with Chris and Susan. They are smart people who clearly care a lot about animals. Anyway, on Sunday we were able to take a really fun hack with Lovely Barn Mate S and her horse, Izzy, who came from the vet school, just like Lex. S just started Izzy under saddle and she was a very good girl. Lex and I had a lot of fun with them and she was AWESOME. A little fresh and forward, but I love a fresh and forward horse. I'd rather say "okayyyyy let's just settle ourselves down a little" than worry that my horse is being sluggish because she's unhappy. So, YAY for Sunday.

Monday she got the day off again, except to get smooches and treats from her adoring human. Tuesday, though. Whew.

Things started out okay on Tuesday as we walked around in the ring a little. It had been raining all night, so the sand in the horrible ring was really nicely packed. I thought this might be a good day to do a little bit of trotting in the ring and maybe hop over our tiny cross-rail again. NOOOOOPE. The trot started out fine, but as we went along she got more rushy and ear-pinny and got kind of a hitch in her back - all of this is new for her. She was downright unhappy. I brought her back to the walk and she was fine. I took her out of the ring, and she was just weird. S was there to feed, so we took turns jogging her and watching her go, and neither of us could see anything wrong, but things were definitely NQR. I got back on to just walk her around, and she seemed upset. After a short walk around, during which time she relaxed, we stood around and talked to S, who scratched her ears (she LOVES that) and cooed over her. Eventually she looked more like my reasonable, sweet horse.

The mare was not trying to be naughty. She was hurting. I was really bummed out about it, especially because I couldn't figure it out. The good news is, my brilliant, wonderful farrier was coming out to work on Duchess later in the afternoon, so I texted her and she agreed to look at Lex also. She and I went over her with a fine-tooth comb (and she gave me a thorough course in hoof-testing and how to hold the hoof like a real farrier, which was awesome). The mare isn't lame at all, I was relieved to learn. In fact, she trots really beautifully - even in hand, she's got suspension. Soooo fancy!

Here's what I'm thinking:

1. She's sore. She is fine trotting out in the field, but the ring makes her hunchy because it's small and the footing sux. It would be great if the barn owners would drag it every once and again, but even then, I doubt that would fix the problem. Lana The WonderFarrier agrees with me that this is probably behind her weird behavior yesterday. So she got today off (except for smooches, hugs, and a good thirty minutes of hand-grazing) and tomorrow we will hack around the field and take it slow. We're not in a hurry.

2. She could be in heat - I don't know her very well yet, I haven't pinned down her cycles. I didn't notice any other typical signs, but I'll definitely keep observing her carefully.

3. I started the ride with Thinline neoprene boots on. Something in the back of my mind is wondering about whether she hates them/has issues with neoprene. I'll leave them off and see what happens. Even if she doesn't have a neoprene sensitivity, if she was sore and/or in heat AND the boots are annoying her, that could lead to some cranky behavior. I took them off, though, and nothing changed.

4. She's dropped weight. The barn owners stopped feeding the big round bales "now that we have grass" (what grass? It's a sparse, sandy field - they used to have grass, apparently, but there's not much there now) and so I'm gonna up her feed, especially forage, and try to get a little bit of the weight back on. I know I'm a shithead when I haven't been getting enough food. So the pretty girl gets to come in for morning feedings and she is very happy about that!

Today she was in a good mood. My gut says that she's sore and developed a complex about the ring. I'm done with that stupid ring. It sucks because now I don't have a level surface to ride on and I'm gonna have a hard time training a green horse with no flat ground or good footing. I'm bummed out about it.

The good news, though, is that I have had my little girl for two months today!!! I love her so much. Our recent couple of odd rides are nothing. She is a delight to be around, lots of fun to ride, and just brightens my day every day. If we run into some rough patches, well, that's horses, and Chris is just a phone call away. I can't wait for our ride tomorrow.

I rode Duchess today, and she was such a good girl. I am crazy about this horse! She's essentially had over two months off and you'd never know it. Perfect mare. Of course, she's 20, so she's got no excuses to be silly, but she's as forward and happy as ever!

Look at that beautiful face. I am lucky to have these mares!
 Lex stood under a tree and watched the ride! It was hilarious. I wonder if she was confused, or if she was entertained to watch me torture another pony, or if Duchess was giving her pointers about how to train me properly.

Wait... what? Why are you on that horse?

Chillin' like a masked villain.
 I think she looks a little thin in these pictures, especially if you look at her hindquarters. She has a big ribcage, which is deceptive when it comes to weight. I'm not worried, we'll get her a little bit buffed up. Her coat is still glossy.

And speaking of coats, check out this handsome guy! My friend Megan, who lives above K's barn, called me this morning to have me go look at Bubba. He got a hair cut! I am SO relieved. The other day, when Megan and I were bringing the horses in, he was panting. There isn't a lot of shade in his paddock and his coat was bananas, even after I spent all that time shedding him out. He looks like he feels so, so much better now.

And here's a picture of Rocket, just because!

I AM going to get my whole head over this door!
I hope everyone else has been having a good week!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Quick Gripe

I'm sure I'll have some fun horsey news later today, but right now I'm trying to join the USEF as a non-competing member (liability insurance, y'all, and I'm hoping to upgrade to competing member next year). But even this process is gender-laden. You have to pick a title, for one - I picked "other," and I'm really glad I'm getting my PhD, because soon my title can just be "Dr." and I won't have to deal with the icky Mr./Ms./Mrs./Miss situation. I don't like any of those for myself.

Sidenote: A couple years ago when I was applying for a SunPass so I don't have to stop at every tollbooth and add 45 minutes to a 5-hour drive to Miami, I chose the title Rev. I always appreciate an opportunity for irreverence.

Anyway, I selected "other," which is fine, as Dr. wasn't an option and I don't have that damn dissertation finished anyway. But then I found that you have to select male or female.


Is it really that important? And can't they supply an "other" option there, as well? Or even "Prefer Not to Say"? I'll write them an e-mail about it, but for now, I'm just going to have to pick. It's not that I'm caught between them, it's that neither really feels right.

Sidenote 2: You know how you don't have to pick a gender on Facebook? That's because of my AWESOME friend Casey (partner to Wonderful Cori, who took the photos and videos of me riding Lex awhile back). Casey started a campaign to get Facebook to drop the unnecessary gender identification, and it worked. I find this story incredibly empowering.

And while we're on the topic: I noticed that the forms new riders have to fill out at my lesson farm have "mother" and "father" on the entry. Since my boss there is so stinkin' cool, I think I'll ask her about that - maybe "Parent 1" and "Parent 2," since many kids have gay parents, or only one parent, or whatever. I think Boss Lady will be into it when I bring it up, because she is outstanding.

Okay, rant over. I'm gonna go teach lessons now and then see my pretty horse later this evening, so it'll be a good day, gender nonsense aside.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Clear Communication

Part of good riding is listening to what your horse is telling you. Today, Lex said loud and clear, "I do not want to go in that ring."

I started the ride with a few minutes of lunging. She balked at the ring entrance but went in without too much urging on my part. I probably should have skipped the lunging. She behaved, but I could tell that it was a little hard on her, so I called it quits after getting a decent trot each direction. I hopped on, walked one lap of the ring on a loose rein, and then headed for the fields. It was a night and day shift in her attitude. She went from being kinda glum-looking to being delighted to be out riding. She pricked her ears, admired the beautiful egrets that were all over the fields today (oh, Florida, I love you), and enjoyed trotting around. She went from sluggish to sparkly. We hacked all over the place, and I even let her gallop up one hill. I was very careful not to pick up any contact for her to lean into, so she didn't really get going, and came back nicely when I asked her to.

Happy ears!
We even ventured out into the field we haven't spent much time in - the only other time I rode her out there was when we hacked with Susannah and Belle. But she seemed to enjoy the excursion and didn't even mind when we got out of sight of all the other horses (although she DID want to trot back and we had to talk about how I get to pick the gaits).

Saying hi to Baron and Winnie as we cruise by in a power-walk!
Then, after we rode around for awhile, I figured we could just walk back into the ring, maybe do a trot circle or two. We got to the ring, and she balked again. At my light urging, she went in, but broke into a trot. I gently brought her back to a walk, dropped the reins, and just let her stretch out. We did one lap, walked back out, wandered around for a couple more minutes, and I got off.

So the ring thing is a little befuddling in its source, but she couldn't have been more clear about her feelings if she had spoken English. I'm guessing it's that the footing is deep in there and she has to work very hard to stay forward and balanced. In fact, she can't stay balanced well, especially to the right. I'm wondering if she's more freaked out by the lack of balance than she lets on. I think she's actually kind of stoic in some ways: when I first brought her to the farm, she explored and never panicked or anything, but she didn't touch her grain for two days. She also went off her feed when she got her rabies shot, but never acted like she didn't feel good otherwise. So maybe she didn't have anything nasty to say in the moment about how she wasn't enjoying work in the ring, but it's coming up in her resistance today. Or! Maybe she doesn't object to the ring on principle, but she's sore and tired today. That would make sense to me, because she did work hard yesterday, and she's smart enough to know that the ring is where it's hard for her to work.

I'm turning myself inside out to do right by this horse. On the one hand, I'm glad she's telling me what she can and can't do. On the other hand, I'm hoping really hard that she can get to the point where she's happy to work in a ring - maybe a bigger one, with better footing, and with more interesting exercises. We haven't been riding long enough for her to have gotten sour to the whole idea of work yet. It's been about a month of pretty light work. But I think she could get sour, and that is something I desperately want to avoid.

So here is my plan - feel free to chime in with your thoughts:

1. Chris and I already agreed that she would work hard Thursdays and Sundays, and get Mondays off. The other days are for less-hard work. So Thursdays and Sundays, we will do at least 10-15 minutes of real work in the ring and fill out the hour on the grass. That balance may tip towards more ring time on those two days as she gets stronger and more balanced.

2. Mondays off, as planned. I'm also going to give her tomorrow off, because I'm going to check out a horse show with Chris for a couple of hours in the morning, and because she was a very good girl today.

3. On days that aren't Thursdays, Sundays, or Mondays, I'll feel it out. But I'm not only going to ride her in the ring when she's working hard. That won't solve anything. I might do the warmup and cool out walks in the ring, and give her breaks in the ring, and do the conditioning work or whatever it is we're working on that day in the fields. Work in the field, rest in the ring - seems like that could work, right?