I think out of all the years I have blogged, this one by far has been the most difficult. Not necessarily to do with the horses, but moreso dealing with the private details of my life. Losing two furry family members made 2018 very bleak and although the horsey aspect of it was a lot of fun, I can't wait to turn the page on this year and start over with a blank slate.
While I realize that you can't necessarily bury your problems and leave them behind - something about a fresh calendar year, with a fresh and positive outlook is something that inspires hope within me. Loss has been prevalent in Blog Land and in life around me - very unexpected circumstances resulting in death or significant injury seemed to have plagued almost every single person I know (whether personal or as shared grief).
Despite this, I am making it my mission to not taint 2018 as a completely shit-tastic year, because that's essentially what it was. At least for me and mine. I am thankful for those who were there to comfort and offer support during the immense loss and grief my family experienced this year - life is so precious, and the profound sense of loss and sadness that seemed to be lurking around every corner made me once again realize how fortunate I am to have the people (and animals!) in my life that I do.
So before we get started, thank you for being there this year. Thank you for being patient while I grew into a better horse-woman. Thank you for giving me a safe place to write and experience comfort when things did not go well.
And to those still suffering from the impact 2018 left - I promise you, better days are on the horizon. Strength is not a measure of how fragile you aren't - it is a measure of how you keep going in the face of circumstances beyond your control.
The beginning of the year began with a bang - the wheels had been rolling since October of the previous year to send Annie off for training with Trainer K to work on her canter lead and cross-firing issue, as well as immersing her into the life of a "real" horse. Working a young horse from a private barn has it's perks - but one of the downfalls is that Annie never really got to experience a busy boarding atmosphere. I knew Barn C would be a great place for that, especially in the Winter-time and coupling the fact she needed some work with her leads, the formal barn experience would be icing on the proverbial cake.
|This was on a majestically cold -20C day.|
WHY was I riding?! Haha.
Of course, we also celebrated our One Year Annie-versary and it was fun to look back and reflect on what the earlier days looked like. I also reflected back on Annie's age, and how although she got a late start to the world of being a riding horse, it doesn't really "mean anything"!
Being excited for 2018 also meant I started to plan, plan, plan! Somewhere in here before we went to our first clinic of the year, I broke my nose. It wasn't on the blog, but it happened when I went riding during my lunch break (I had fun explaining that one to my boss!).
Basically, the streets were snow-dusted but looked OK and we headed out for a quick ride around the street. Annie had front shoes on with pads and borium studs at the time and after making it 1/2 way around the street, I decided to turn back since I had gotten cold. We walked towards the edge of the road before making out turn and unfortunately, a hidden puddle of ice lay beneath the surface. Annie slipped and attempted to right herself, but went down. I came off over her side and landed on my back, her legs were neatly folded beneath her but were pointed right in my direction. As I scrambled to get up, she also scrambled to get up and basically sucker punched me right in the nose with her knee. The sound of my nose crunching still haunts my dreams.
|I intentionally left this one small... should any readers be of the|
squeamish variety, haha.
I spent a few weeks wearing copious amounts of ill-colored make-up (because I have no idea how to "girl" correctly) and being made fun of as my eyes swelled and exploded with colors. It subsided and everything was more or less back to normal by the time February rolled around, although I do still have a left-over scar and a now crooked nose.
|Day 1 of the Derek clinic!|
The start of February saw Annie off to training. Trainer K took over the proverbial reins, and was able to glean more insight during our Derek lessons, which is always helpful (esp since she also rides with him). As part of the training process, I set up weekly lessons with Trainer K to help keep me in the loop with Annie's progress, and understand the information Trainer K was giving her.
|At Barn C, her new home for the month of February.|
Our first lesson started out super, and we found that a lot of the canter baggage is with me vs the horse (isn't it always, haha?). Unfortunately, 1/2 through our fabulous lesson, Annie tried to lay down and roll. She ended up having a mild colic episode, which was kind of terrifying for me (no one ever likes colic). I hung around the barn for several hours before the winter storm caused the roads to worsen and Trainer K told me to head home. Trainer K took great care of Annie for the next week and updated me throughout the first critical 24 hours. I ended up bringing her a bottle of her favorite alcohol as a sign of my gratitude. The winter storms and work made it impossible for me to take care of my horse myself, unless I were to take time off and stay at a friend's place close to the barn.
Annie was well taken care of and resumed regular training slowly to ensure there were no other issues and I was happy to hear she took to it easily. We think the low temperatures and lack of drinking caused the colic episode, but aren't really certain.
Of course, during this time Spud was stabled at a friend's place not far from their private barn. I visited him a handful of times, and found it weird I didn't have to go out every day to feed/check horses/ water, etc.
|A good lesson with Trainer K.|
February ended with the loss of my special Shepherd, Ty, who was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy last Summer. With the addition of a wheelchair, we were able to keep Ty's legs strong and I believe it gave him a few extra months with us. Since his diagnosis, we had changed our lives completely to devote to his illness and to ensure he had the best changes for succeeding. He did impeccably well, and even surpassed the Vet's original diagnosis predictions. Mid-February, he let us know he was ready.
|The very best dog <3|
I had a difficult time with Ty's passing, and ended up taking a few days longer than planned to go pick up Annie and bring her home. We also had taken Roxy for her luxating patella surgery, which meant yet another drastic life change as we promoted healing and recovery for her. I did bring both horses home a few days into March, after having to chip away at several feet of snow and ice to recover their water trough.
With the immense amount of snow still hanging about, we relegated ourselves to road riding and Annie seemed happy to pick up where we had left off. It would be a few more weeks before the riding arena would be clear (and dry enough!) to ride in. Annie was so happy to be out that a few times, I had to man-handle her to actually go home.
|So happy to get out and hack!|
We also battled the wet weather, as well as some naughty behavior from Annie, and I delved into how frustrated I've been with Annie's weight fluctuations. It all wound up being in one big post: here. There was a lot of revisiting standing quiet, hand-walking and ground-work, as well as undersaddle manners. It always seems after a long winter, the horses are kinda feral.
|I was peeing my pants, but Annie had it together lol|
Late March, after Roxy's knee recheck, we went and picked up Ella from the animal shelter - which was blogged about months later :)
Late Winter storms continued to roll in and hit us at every moment. It was frustrating, because the horses would be getting a very late start on the year. I made do with what I had tho, and we did a lot of work on her mounting block impatience, as well as her burning desire to charge down the driveway jigging. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, we plugged away at it until it became so redundant and familiar.
|Anthony Clinic - good girl.|
I had also started Annie on some ulcer medication, as well as ordered a few other prescriptions to dot all my i's and cross all of my t's (it was a very expensive month haha).
We toodled lots during the month of April - with other horses, ponying Spud, by ourselves, bareback... you name it. We were the Champions of Toodling.
I finally blogged about Ella and welcoming her into our family. I also mentioned she was a Foster Dog - a Foster Dog that became an adopted dog a few months later. It was an interesting time, because while I didn't feel ready to give my heart to another dog just yet, Ella was patiently waiting for the day when I'd let her in. I learned a lot from her, and my heart still aches she is no longer with us.
We were able to tag on a Karen lesson before our Spring chiro appointment, which was... messy, haha. Annie was FRESSSSH and took a while to settle into the lesson, but once she got the hamsters back on their wheel, she was a solid citizen. We were able to reaffirm that by pushing her past her cheekiness, she settles and stops getting so frantic. I use this often - just sitting along for the ride while she works out whatever little issue she has. The Chiro was pretty happy with how Annie looked, and only some minor adjustments were needing to be made - hooray!
Towards the of the month we signed up for our second clinic of the year - an Anthony Lothian clinic. We had ridden with Anthony last year, and I was familiar with him as an instructor, as I have ridden in many of his clinics in the past. I had a moment of self-doubt after signing up, because we hadn't really done much in the sense of schooling. The snow load from February and March was still hanging around and made it difficult to get anything done. Still, we went and we persisted.
Annie was.... naughty for this clinic, especially on Day 1. She fidgeted while tied and danced around. I went to lunge her and the little witch wound up and clocked me on the thigh with a hind hoof. She was Bad Pony lunged and I was completely mortified. The day didn't stop there tho and we ended up having a very late lesson because apparently I forgot how to turn my horse properly at the canter... Anthony ended up having to lay out poles and literally have me canter through a chute. It. Was. Embarrassing.
|Annie, not being naughty.|
Overnight at this clinic, Annie also decided to kick a few boards out in her stall and despite the boards being already half-rotten, I was pretty peeved with her behavior.
The next day she was better behaved at the trailer and stood quietly, thank god. We had a super productive lesson, wherein I steered properly and we even were able to jump some jumps. I was pretty happy with the 180 Annie made in the arena and clambered off happy. We met with the farrier there, since he was already there to trim a few horses. Annie was, once again, a total douche for him and I silently cried to myself in my truck because I had worked so hard over the winter to eradicate the leg yanking and pawing issues she exhibits with the farrier. I also shook my fist at several people who told me Year 2 undersaddle was gonna be Hell.
By the end of April, the snow finally melted (oh my god please don't take this long to melt in 2019) and the arena was ready for riding. I worked diligently on instilling manners into Annie, who continued to forget she could tie without pawing or throwing a hissy fit. We did a lot of ground-work and even took our first solo trail ride of the year. I also continued with figuring out her weight issues and power-pac dewormed both horses.
I started May off with a blog review of my Mountain Horse Venezia tall boots, which have been a happy addition to my tack trunk for nearly a year now. We also did a horse show in early May, which I blogged about later on once I got media for the posts!
Annie showed off more baby horse ADD, which made me want to send her to the glue factory, haha. But nevertheless we persisted and had some good moments. I was able to get in a bunch more hacks to bring up Annie's stamina, and even had time to go out with N and AJ on a warm and bright Spring day!
|Many hacks in these trees were had!|
As per my goals of the year, I took the opportunity to trail ride where I could - on trails I hadn't ever done before. Annie was great, and ponied Spud solo-style like a champ. The trails we went on varied in difficulty, but I liked they weren't just flat-earth plodding. Lots of hills, rocks, and water crossings!
I also went to visit the Boyfriend, who was working away from home, lots with the dogs, so Annie had a lot of down time throughout the year to marinate! I was able to get my butt back in the saddle after a 5 day trip visiting the boyfriend and due to the ring being redone, had to school in the open meadow. It was great for mixing it up, and I continued to mix things up with asking for more - more stretch, more balance, more honest in the transitions. We hacked with N and AJ a few times, as well as trail rode so I could begin to better educate our rescue dog, Ella, with how to behave while I rode. We also met the mascot of the subdivision, an older pig that wanders around as she pleases. It scared Annie, but was a good lesson in leaving things along for the dogs!
|I just discovered this trail this year!!|
At long last I received media from our schooling show in early May. We did TL Dressage and a few Hunter courses for fun. She was great for the entire day - stood quietly at the trailer and ate her hay like a big girl and even did pretty decently in the warm up arena. Unfortunately, Annie still felt tight-backed and behind the leg (something we worked tirelessly on all summer), and our scores reflected that. Still, it was huge progress considering our missed leads and exit stage left in the dressage court last year! She was also great for the Hunter courses, even earning us some satin which was fun.
|We had fun in the Hunter ring!|
Day 2 we worked moreso on her resistance to forward and played a lot with slow/fast buttons at all the gaits. It was a good lesson to remind me that things don't get better unless we work on them! The more we work at it, the more compliant Annie will be become.
|Another clinic... haha.|
We schooled more in the open meadow, as the construction crew was still busy redoing the ring. I made a lot of time for trail riding and riding out with other friends and other horses - something and someone different for Annie to see. We rode around in the new footing at the arena while the rails were still off, to test the depth of the footing before the construction crew put it all back together. It confused the horses to be in an arena with no walls, haha.
I also drove Spud more - getting him more attuned and reliable to the bridle and my aids. Much to his dismay, lol. We rode with more friends, while Annie ponied Spud, and altho both horses were young and kind of fed off of eachother, the ride ended quiet and calmly.
|Good boy, Spud!|
We did a ride at the arena with a friend and Annie was kind of tight and not feeling herself. When I got back to the barn, I did some investigating and found that Annie had punctured her fetlock. Her leg didn't have much swelling when I initially had found it, but it ballooned up the following day. While I was frustrated to lose saddle time because of an injury, I was glad it wasn't very serious and realized injuries carry their own silver linings. You never really practice cold hosing, wrapping, poking ouchie bits, and standing quiet until you have to!
A week later, Annie resumed work and we started with a nice and easy trail ride with a friend. Our second ride was not so easy, as the young horse we rode with was also quite antsy and it resulted in a very large spook and spin I was NOT a fan of, haha. Despite the spin/spook, our school that day in the arena was fantastic, so I couldn't be all that mad!
|Bridleless riding - a new thing for both of us!|
Whew... only 6 months down and we did a heck of a lot! Stay tuned for Part 2 :)