Wednesday, February 13, 2019

An Update of Sorts

Well Blog-Land, it's been a hot minute.

There isn't necessarily anything new to report, aside from the fact we are still fiercely gripped in the claws of a cool arctic front. Thankfully, it appears to be lifting, but we still won't see any numbers on the positive side of the Celsius scale for a few more weeks.

Rest assured, the horses are bundled as needed and everyone is as happy as they can be given the circumstances. During the afternoons it warms up significantly and the horses stand longingly at the fence, and sometimes attempt to trot or gallop on the very hard, frozen snowy ground. Unfortunately, the bursts of energy don't last long, as both horses are physically uncomfortable trying to play across uneven rock-hard ice/snow. 

The other day I watched Annie go down for a roll, and I visibly cringed as she tried her hardest to roll on a section of hard snow that had been traipsed through several times. The edges of the snow did not budge and I could see the frustration in my mare's eyes as she hopped up, squealed, and attempted to take off trotting in annoyance.

The frozen wasteland of poo and snow.
You can see the little craters in the snow from where they
had walked weeks ago. It's very hard and uncomfortable.
Jamie and I discussed re-arranging the barn a little bit next year to allow the horses to utilize one of the 6 stalls. I was given free reign of three of them - the other three are used as storage for the BO and her husband. Of the three stalls one is my tack room, one is hay storage, and the third is general storage (Spud's cart, hoses, extra fence rails, tarps for hay, etc). In the past, the remaining two stalls were used for hay, as I hadn't been buying round bales at the time.

So, we'll see what we can do for next year. Right now it's not a high priority of mine to change over the stalls and move things around in -20C weather, especially since the stalls will require a pretty thorough walk-down to ensure no nails are sticking out, boards are sturdy, door latches are sturdy, etc. So, Summer project! 

Returning from a frigid walk.
I had plans on hauling out to the indoor to let the horses stretch their legs, but there is a risk of snow fall in the next coming weeks that make me leery. Let's not forget, I also have to somehow dig my trailer out of the frozen snow surrounding it and insure it before we even get as far as hauling somewhere!

We have been able to keep somewhat busy tho - I did manage a really wonderful ride on Annie back in mid-January, and have been able to hand walk both horses a handful of times. I try to hand-walk once or twice a week, weather/time/mental capacity (lol) pending. They're quite bored and happy when we do go out, so I try to keep them as busy as I can.

It was in the pouring rain, but we wore our neon pink
quarter sheet and all was OK with the world.

Or maybe it was fun for me and only me... lol

That apple bottom could only belong to one Potato!
Other than that, I've been pretty busy with the new addition to the family (Why did no one remind me how much work puppies are?) and full time work and school. It's a bit of a hectic life and at times I feel like I'm being swallowed whole and losing my mind (I had set down the wooden floor brush attachment when vacuuming the house and somehow it ended up in one of Jamie's work boots... uhm, what?). 

Anyways, just anxiously waiting for Spring and longer, warmer days that are sure to be around the corner. I feel a bit behind the mark, tho, because this time last year I had already done a clinic, Annie was in full training and I had already taken a few lessons from Trainer K. 

8 weeks vs 11.5 weeks.
Ah well, not much that can be done about the weather aside from longingly waiting for better days ahead :) 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Growing Up

In regards to my last post - never fear, we are all OK. I didn't mean to startle anyone! No one was hurt and no implications of harm were there, but I have taken appropriate changes to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Things have been good for the past few weeks, so just keep us in your thoughts that things continue on the upward trend!!

Over the last few months, I've visibly noted some changes in Annie - and truth be told, they really surprised me. I mean, I see the horse every single day, so I imagine it's hard to see small increments of change - especially if the changes are subtle over time.

Especially when I noticed Annie starting to get a little weedy on me again. I stood there in the barn aisle, cursing to myself for getting a damned Thoroughbred - let's be honest tho, Annie is only half Thoroughbred so I can't even wholly blame it on the breed. Nothing had changed in her life that would cause weight loss, and once again I was reeling from feeling incompetent to care for this horse who clearly was experiencing some kind of medical issue.

Last year, the 75" lightweight wore HER a bit more than she wore it haha.

I reached out to our regular Vet and mulled over some ideas before trying out a round of ulcer medication. The medication didn't do anything tho, so I kinda just tossed that idea aside and bumped up Annie's feed intake. She's pastured with hay 24/7, and I've removed all extruded or highly manufactured feeds from her diet, and she hasn't been consistently ridden since uhm... October.

So what the fuck is happening, mare?!

Remember what I said about incremental changes?

Being hard to spot?


Things kinda started making sense when I realized Suzie's old hand me down 75" blankets were no longer fitting as nicely as they used to. In fact, whenever the sky let loose with precipitation (whether in the form of rain or snow), Annie's little butt peeking out from the blanket would get wet from the apple of her bottom, right down her thighs.

Someone's butt is poking out of this 75" heavyweight!
These blankets used to cover her pretty well, and it made me take pause and reconsider the weight loss.

Was she... growing?

Unfortunately, I have no solid data to go off of, because she was never officially sticked by her old owner or myself when I got her. I was told she was a compact 15-15.1 that should finish around 15.2. I measured her a few weeks ago and she is solidly hovering into 15.3 territory.

Pls do not make it to 16 hands, Annie! I bought you because you were little!!

I'd say she grew just a little bit...

This all being said tho, I've been looking back at pictures and referencing how tall I was standing next to her and uhm... there is a striking difference. I guess the chiro was right when she told me Annie will probably grow until she's 7-8.

Not only that, but I managed to ride Annie yesterday (Jan 24) and uhm... I do not remember having to lift my saddle that high... or looking UP at her back like that... or uhm... riding a giant fucking beast.

The good news is that her weight is finally playing catch up, and I've added a bit more to her diet to help with the growing pains and transition. It's interesting to me tho, because a lot of people figure after 4 a lot of horses are done growing upwards and will start growing outwards. Which, of course depends on the breed, as some warmbloods and Tbs aren't done until they are 5-6. But I figured coming up on her 7 year old year, we were firmly in the "this is how tall I'mma be forever now" camp.

I guess not.

What she looked like just a week ago ;)

Pls don't let her make it to 16 hands....

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Barn is a Sacred Place

Recently, my barn was the target of some unwelcome visits (mostly relating to the aforementioned "drama"). I had mistakenly assumed things had fizzled out enough to become irrelevant, and I was wrong in thinking this. Despite everything that has gone on, I still am trying to remain unaffected and unchanged by it.

Of course, with this being a horse blog, I don't aim to write about theatrics and drama outside of the wooden walls of my barn. But as fate would have it, the wooden walls became a plagued place. Or rather, attempted to become one.

When I discovered my barn was "visited" without my consent or approval, my very first reaction was white, hot rage.

And for good reason.

The barn is my safe space.

Where I go to get away from the angst and commotion of every day life.

It's where I go to recharge my soul and balance myself.

To connect myself with nature, animals, and unplug from technology.

The fact it was threatened was difficult for me to process. My horses are more than just a hobby. They are a huge piece of who I am and how I define myself as an individual.

For someone to come and attempt to remove the peace and happiness I feel out there was a very low blow.

Being a self-boarder, as well as having the barn tucked around the corner of the house, my horses interactions with people are limited to myself and the barn owner (who has mobility issues and does not often venture far past the length of her driveway). These animals depend on me for their welfare and safety, and that is not something I am willing to bargain with or let slide.

I've taken great measures to preserve the safety and serenity in my barn. What was simply a stone tossed into my pond reverberated back to the stone-thrower as a tsunami. I do not, and will not take chances at the expense of my animals.

A lot of preventative measures have been put in place to not only promote the safety of my animals, but to also preserve the peace I feel there. It took a lot of deep breathing and realignment work to right myself and feel at ease walking through the barn aisles again.

The happiness and peace the barn typically brings me is starting to flood back, and though I know this bumpy road is not yet over, I will not let the power of fear and suggestion to rule me. I won't give it the satisfaction.

Not now. Not ever.

Despite the bitterly cold temps, Cedar met Annie for the
second time. He was not a fan, haha, but Annie tried hard to
say hello, as well as eat the pom-poms on my toque!

*This post will most likely be removed after a period of time. I don't want this blog to become a sounding board for things unrelated to riding and my animals, but I just needed somewhere to write. To let my emotions flow across the screen and to feel heard. Things will get better and do not fear, my horses are safe and secure - moreso than they ever have been. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads my blog, comments, and offers a shoulder to lean on. My friends and family have been exceptionally helpful through this entire ordeal and I draw a great deal of strength on their wisdom and love. Just remember that no matter who you meet - someone always has something going on in the background. Everybody has something they are dealing with. Be kind <3

Note: Nothing was damaged, horses were untouched, nothing was stolen. The fact that someone went there to try and cause more issues is moreso what I am writing about*

Tuesday, January 22, 2019


As if life wasn't chaotic enough with going back to school, working full time, and all the things that come with Adulting, we decided "hey, why not add another family member!".

Roxy wasn't as excited as we were.
After Ty had passed last February, I poked my nose around various Facebook groups and websites  - breeders, rescues, and everything in between. I scoured hundreds of ads, photos, and listings. And I wasn't really sure what exactly I was looking for. In more ways than not, I so desperately wanted to fill that big, gaping hole of grief.

I ended up on an Australian Shepherd group, and was messaging a breeder back and forth about a puppy that had caught my eye. As time went on and each puppy became spoken for, I kinda waffled about committing and in the end, thanked the breeder for her time but I just wasn't ready. (To clarify, this woman knew ahead of time my circumstances and position).

Like most things in life, the path I thought I would take was not exactly what played out. In March, I met a certain little dog named Ella, who I subsequently fell in love with and adopted months later. 

We all know how the year ended though, and I sadly lost not only my first dog love, but also my second. I'd be lying to say we still aren't reeling from both losses, because both the Boyfriend and I bear the scars of love for Ty and Ella that has nowhere to go.

After Ella's passing, I was back at the computer and checking out old groups and scouring for information. Again, I was visiting rescue pages, pet finder apps, and even managed to get the courage to walk through our local animal shelter again. As someone who has experienced pet-grief a handful of times, it makes me wonder why we are so eager to fill that hole again, especially so soon. I have felt immense remorse for "moving on" so quickly, but make no mistake, the aches in my heart are still very much there.

Through Facebook, I had fallen in love with Australian Shepherds again and after searching several rescues, I wasn't able to find quite what I was looking for (as a sidenote, there are very limited rescues devoted to Aussies unless they are double merles, which I find pretty interesting). I reached out to nearly 20 mini Aussie breeders and cross-examined each individually to see if their thoughts and beliefs would mesh well with my own. In the end, only 3 made the cut (in terms of health testing, upbringing, breeding objective, etc).

A very new Cedar-bean!
Neither myself or the Boyfriend initially wanted to get a dog from a breeder, as we realize there are hoards of dogs looking for homes in the shelter. I do feel as though there is a stigma attached to getting a dog from a breeder, but at the same time, I do feel as though the stipulations I set and stuck to, gave me the opportunity to work with an ethical and responsible breeder of the breed itself.

I had a general idea of what I wanted in terms of aesthetics - preferably a red tri, but not opposed to a red merle or black tri. Preferably female, but not opposed to either gender. The first breeder to have puppies had warned me ahead of time that she did not expect any red tris due to the cross, but crazier things have happened.

On November 23rd, during a farrier appointment no less, I received a notification from the breeder that her female had had 6 puppies. The first five were all merles (blue and red), and the very last puppy born was Cedar.

Breeder photo - 4 weeks :)
I was immediately sold and in love (how could I not?!) and began making the arrangements to have him brought up from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. And as it turns out, a friend of a friend was visiting family at the time in Saskatchewan and was able to bring Cedar home!

Things have worked out pretty well since, although I had certainly forgotten what it was like to have a puppy, haha. I'm pretty sure I panic-messaged the breeder several times over the first few days, "He only drank a tiny bit, is that normal?!" "He is doing ____, is that normal?!"

Now that we are in a bit more of a routine and the little guy is not so jet-lagged and exhausted from his trip, he is starting to come out of his shell and understand where things are in our home (ie food bowl, water dish). We've also started to introduce concepts like walking on a leash (which the breeder worked with beforehand) as well as a decent amount of exposure to the outside world (loud noises, cars, people, children, other dogs, etc). We have been avoiding unknown dogs, simply for the reason he isn't fully vaccinated obv, and he's pretty nervous around them (which I've been told is a puppy thing I guess).

Those toe beans!!!
All in all, he is a good boy tho, and I'm looking forward to working with him more and forging a relationship and bond like I had had with my last two dogs.

Life has certainly gotten busier, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Welcome home, Cedar.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Good for the Soul

I don't often talk about my personal life on this blog, mostly because I don't feel it necessary to share intimate details, especially when this is first and foremost, a horse blog.

That being said, after well over a year of situations that had caused anxiety and distress, it all finally came to a head in the last few weeks. Although I feel more at peace now, the seas are still choppy with residual aftermath. Rest assured, I am physically OK - it has more to do with the intricacies of family dynamics that had been tainted long ago, but still continue to swallow each person whole. I won't play the victim game tho, nor will I let myself be down-trodden for too long - life is a beautiful thing and we shouldn't make ourselves endure mental turmoil just because its family.

Things will get better, I know they will. I have taken steps to avoid having myself caught in the cross-fire, and am learning to emulate a stronger sense of self, even if I don't feel it in the moment.

When life is hard, like most equestrians, we turn to our horses.

On Thursday after work, the roads were clear and dry enough that I was able to bring Annie out for a short ride.

We toodled, bareback in a halter around the street. Quietly listening to eachother's breathing and I concentrated on the animal beneath me instead of the "what if" questions I had rolling around in my head. I let her movements gently rock my hips back and forth, my torso slide soundlessly into key with hers, and my ears attuned themselves to her hushed footfalls.

I let her choose her path over some of the melting ice/snow formations, and was happy to see the snow crush beneath her weight. The sound of snow churning against asphalt and hoof, the faint smell of hay and dampness in her mane...

I hadn't ridden her in weeks, and I wasn't sure how brave or stupid it would be to ride bareback in a halter, but the look in her eyes when I pulled up to the barn told me she was willing to offer relief of the burden I was carrying.

So, I let her take it.

Take it all away with each snow-crushing footstep.

And she didn't falter.

Not once.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Winter Doldrums

Her little lip snip is the cutest thing ever.
This blog kinda goes into hibernation mode during the Winter (no pun intended), which is pretty normal for most riders who board privately in this area. We do have a barn (with an indoor) within a 50min driving radius (Barn C, the same barn Annie stayed at during her training with Trainer K), but I am both cheap and inconvenienced by the thought of paying hundreds more in board (the increased $$ makes sense for many reasons tho bc the barn I board at lacks many of the amenities of Barn C has) as well as driving roughly two hours in total to be able to ride my horse.

I realize a lot of bloggers make this commute on the daily, but I just can't convince myself it's money well spent during the coldest and most unbearable season of the year. Factoring in unsafe driving conditions, and a large chunk of time lost to driving back and forth, I just can't make myself take the leap.

Which means riding is more or less on the back-burner, which is "fine" (it's not really fine, I miss it fiercely lol), and it gives Annie an opportunity to have a prolonged break. She does kind of need it too, as within the last month she has decided to sprout both height-wise and length-wise. So much so that her 76" blankets have her little butt poking out, haha.

This blanket used to cover her butt and part of her tail.
Now, her thighs get wet from rain dribbling.
It doesn't look like much, but the growth is fo real.
When we do manage to get out, it means any kind of riding is strictly road hacks (if and when the roads are safe ie. not icy or snowy), or little jaunts in the back paddock when the snow is light and fluffy (ie. not crunchy or topped with ice).

But sometimes, weather and outdoor conditions be damned, you just need to get on the damn horse. So, two weeks ago, I clambered aboard my mare and literally just sat on her in the pasture, feeding her many carrots. We wandered into the back paddock and trotted maybe a few steps, but that was about it.

Of course, this little shit mooched for carrots too.
He deserved them after trudging in the deep snow with us tho.
I've done quite a few in-hand walks - one of which required a small CTJ meeting because Annie was vair excited to get out and about. Mare was distracted and hyped up - when we pulled up, she was in the back paddock bucking and carrying on - so it took a few "uhm, no" corrections to get her brain back on planet Earth.

Mostly tho, mare just pokes her nose to the asphalt and lips at the snow as we walk along. She's a bit spookier than normal, but nothing out of line or violent. Just little snorts and stares, which I am just fine with.

Aside from all of this, we're just slowly plugging along until the snow melts away and we can play some more. I've started to piece together a game-plan for getting myself back in the saddle sooner (I mean, who wouldn't be?), which includes weekly hauling to an communal indoor arena - once the weather is a bit more agreeable and I needn't worry about icy road conditions.

Post-CTJ meeting.
We're the happiest clams in the bunch!
As a sidenote: does anyone think she got taller?
The tentative plan (bc the best laid plans...) is to start hauling once a week at the end of February and incorporate lessons with Trainer K in March/April before she heads back home for the Spring/Summer months. And by that time, we should be ready to rock and roll for the clinics that are scheduled throughout the Spring and Summer!

We'll see how this plan comes to fruition - we might be stuck in a winter wonderland forever.

It IS pretty... But it can go away any day now lol

Friday, January 11, 2019

Two Years of Annie

Today marks our second "Annie"-versary!

Although I officially purchased her a few days earlier, due to the arrangements of hauling and poor weather conditions, I didn't have her leadrope in my hands until January 11th.

The last two years have been a journey - with Annie being my first green horse, I floundered a bit with what I "should be" and "shouldn't be" doing - but Annie was there every step of the way without so much as a bat of her eye. We had our shares of issues (looking at you canter leads), and we still face some training problems (forward is hard, yanno), but I finally feel like things are coming together as they were intended to.

We pushed ourselves this year, seeking out as much education as I could afford both financially and schedule-wise. It has paid off in dividends, and I relish in the successes we conquered this year. Of course, it was not without some obstacles, but I feel like the way I pushed through them and addressed them was appropriate and par for the course.

In some ways, I'm kind of like "Wow, two years already!!" and the other part of me is thinking, "It's only been TWO years... we have many more years of partnership and many more rides to conquer." And in that sense, those two years were the first two years of Annie's undersaddle career, which is just insane for me to think about, haha.

This mare went from 30 days in a training facility to the middle of nowhere back-woods private barn set up, haha. Never been ridden outside of an indoor arena, one of our first rides after purchasing her was out on the roadways near the private barn I board at with cars driving by, dogs running about... And we kinda never looked back.

Here is to two years together, and to many, many more.

We started the year with a Derek Huget Dressage clinic, to address some of Annie's canter resistance issues. We broke down the canter issue to the basics - leg pressure = canter, no matter the lead she chose. The idea was to get her understanding the leg cue meant canter vs worrying about what lead she chose, considering there was some frustration when she didn't understand what I was trying to get her to do.

The clinic went really well, aside from an unscheduled dismount on my part on Day 1. We mostly worked on getting Annie more confident and comfortable vs nit-picking.

Annie went for 30 days training with Trainer K in February, so a professional could bridge the gap for Annie and I on the canter issues we had last year. It worked out really well, and the extra-instruction made me realize I needed to be accountable for certain things instead of ignoring them (and vice versa for other things).

In March, Annie came home and we resumed road-riding as the snow prevented us from doing much else.

We hauled out to ride with Show Buddy, who talked me into jumping Annie a bit higher than I normally do. I peed my pants, but did the thing.

We also conquered one of our first oxers!

In April, we did more road hacking and also took another Trainer K lesson.
It took a while for Annie's hamsters to get back into her brain, but once they did she was super.
We worked a lot on relaxation, esp at the canter so she wouldn't get frantic and balled up.
April continued with a two day Anthony Lothian jump clinic.
Annie was... a hot mess outside of the ring and made me
pretty frustrated with her theatrics. 

Regardless, we conquered the jumping thing and she was pretty decent in the ring.

Our first show of the season was in May - the Dressage left much to be desired,
but at least I had a compliant and listening horse. Annie had a cough tho, and
most of our 20m circles were coughing fits.

She was happy in the Hunter ring, and we even pulled some satin!

May also saw another Anthony clinic where I had one of my very best rides on the mare.

We worked hard in between the clinics I took this year and it showed.

Of course, we took the time to trail ride and pony Spud as much
as we could.

In June, we mostly schooled in the open meadow (Left side) due to the arena being
re-worked (see excavator). We also trail rode with a lot of friends during this time.

By the end of June, the arena was back together and we tackled some
bridleless riding... because why not.

July brought about longer trail rides now that the rivers had receded and we could
cross to the additional 4x4 trails.
We took part in a two day Sven Smienk Dressage clinic, which really kicked my butt
about the whole forward thing. And I left there feeling pretty confident despite
our issues.

It was the lesson I didn't want, but needed to have and it made me
better prepared to deal with the forward issue on my own.

We rode bareback in a halter on the hot days in July.

And we had another two day Anthony Lothian clinic where we jumped
a "big" vertical, haha.

In July, we took part in a "Ride a Test/ Fix a Test" clinic with Cat Armitage. We were at the very worst of our forwards issues, which is highly evident in the above video (I am actually super embarrassed to show it...). Cat gave me a lot of good advice, and along with the help from the two other clinics we took part of in July, I had enough tools in my toolbox. I just needed to be consistent, fair, and get my point across. The second half of the test is not nearly as bad, and I can glean moments where things are coming together really well, which was promising at the time.

We trail rode some more, during the cool evenings, and worked on
Annie's displeasure with being the "following" horse. Mare preferred
to be the leader, thank you very much.

Towards the end of August, a few friends pushed me to take part in an online Dressage show.
I'm glad I did - it felt like redemption in a way. It's not perfect, but I can see gleans of a happy and
WORKING partnership.

With that being said, the burn-out from so many clinics and shows and
hauling and schooling started to weigh on me a bit. I decided to step back
from any rigorous schooling and just enjoy the horse!
That's not to say that we completely abandoned schooling - because we didn't.
In September worked hard on keeping Annie's haunches straight and creating a quiet and
cadenced canter. 

We also went for a lot of trail rides with friends, as incoming rain threatened
our ability to cross rivers!

In October I rode with one of my BFFs and she gave me some really good pointers about Annie.
It was nice to hear that I wasn't doing a completely terrible job, haha!
We mixed it up, and played around with some natural obstacles, haha.

And rounded off the year with our last clinic with Anthony.

But we mostly spent the month not taking ourselves too seriously.
November came and I rode as much as I could, until the weather got too miserable for
the both of us.
Never fear tho, because I am still torturing poor Annie, even as the snow prevented us
from road riding.

When the roads were cleared tho, we headed out there as fast as we could!

Whew. Here is to our second year, and starting our 3rd with perspective, humility, and a partnership I hope will last a lifetime.

Cheers to you, Bannie!