Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Ready for Spring

What's that? Volcanic ash?
Nope, just snow.
Things in Annie-land have been slowly chugging along. Very slowly. The days of meaningful schoolings have gone out the window until next year (unless the 3' of snow we've accumulated melts... but I won't hold my breath) and I find myself regenerated for a new season of learning and adventures.

It can be difficult to remain positive every step of the way in a young horse's journey - especially if this young horse is the first young horse you've ever really dealt with. Sure, I've hacked out friend's green horses and been tossed up on a few young ones, but I've never been solely responsible and in control of that animals training 100% day in and day out. Aside from Spud (who came home after 60 days with a trainer), I've never had much exposure to true "greenness" and have a newfound appreciation for what it takes to get a horse to become completely amateur friendly and "fool proof".

Mounting from the back of a pick-up truck 'cause why not.
Also - when you haven't ridden your greenie in weeks just
go ahead: mount up bareback and hack around the neighborhood
all alone. You'll be fine. (Spoiler alert: we were more than fine!).
Since the days have become shorter and the snow and rain just won't quit, I find myself letting the horses take a bit of a back seat in life. Work is insane for the moment, so I am just holding on for the next three weeks until the craziness is over and some normalcy is reintroduced.

It doesn't stop me from having fun with the horses when I can tho.

Mare's blanket matches the color of her soul.
(I kid, she's actually quite sweet haha).
Sometimes that fun is just puttering around in the back field through the snow, and sometimes it is a quick hack around the neighborhood. I managed to put in a more productive ride this past Sunday after a short day at work. I was keen to go back to the basics with Annie - using the smallest amount of pressure and gradually increasing it as she settled into work (typically for the first little while of our schooling she is very receptive to the aids and almost too sensitive).

I was able to even throw in trot-walk-halt-walk-trot sets down the asphalt road. I didn't do too much, considering the concussion of asphalt on horse's legs isn't the greatest, but I wanted to see how sound she felt in her back and loin area - which felt GREAT. I mean, until I get to sit the canter again, I won't know how much the adjustment and supplement has helped, but she feels so much stronger in her back albeit weak in her balance (if that even makes sense). She's lost a lot of muscle tone from the year, but she feels sturdier than she did when I brought her home.

I found myself verbally praising her a lot more than I had been, which seemed to make a lightbulb go off in her head. I don't even realize how little I verbally praise these days, but made a mental note to use it more in the future. We did a lot of walk-halt transitions since these are not her favorite thing to do because WE ARE ON A HACK WE MUST GO PLACES AT ONCE. But once she realized I wouldn't use the reins and instead focused on my seat and vocally asked her to "whoa", she kind of just gave up and reluctantly obliged.

Practicing the halt with verbal cues only.
She takes about 3 steps after the cue is given (you'll
notice her ears flick back when I ask her to whoa).
We've continued to practice our farrier-routine in hopes that the next time my long suffering farrier comes to put shoes on Annie is more amicable and agreeable with his efforts. We've made some huge headway and I'm quite proud of how reliable she's become in the last few weeks. I'm not too certain what her issue was on that particular day, but it seems to have sussed out (after a minor snafu wherein Annie yanked her leg away from me and promptly set back in her rope halter... She hasn't pulled back since the Trailer Fiasco back in February... Regardless, homegirl learned realllll quick that pulling back in a rope halter = face hurties).

We do a variation of different things with the "farrier" routine - pulling the leg forward, holding it between my thighs, banging on shoe with a "hammer" (I just use a hoof pick) and more recently I have been incorporating each exercise while she is ground-tied and while she is eating her grain. The entire purpose is that when I ask for your foot - I want your foot and I get to do whatever I want to your foot no matter what you are doing.

Aside from general ground work and pivoting the haunches and shoulders, we've also dabbled with ground-tying for longer periods of time and with me at greater lengths away. Mare already knows to stand quiet for conformation photos, but this should refine the cue and make it more reliable. I am hoping that down the line if she ever were to get loose while being tied or panic when being tied (b/c horses), I could use a "STAND" cue and have her stand quietly for me to catch/ remediate the situation.
As always, I can't forget about The Potato - he's been happier than a pig in shit and I've been trying to find a non-rainy day to throw his rainsheet on because he is completely filthy and disgusting. Of course, every time I got to the barn he's completely soaked from standing in the rain... He's got a thick winter coat, so I don't imagine it bothers him too much - he just looks like he's very homeless.

And as a last tidbit of fun; three years ago today Spud finally came "home" - long-time readers will remember that I officially became his owner September 17th. After I had purchased him, he spent two months with a driving trainer before coming home.

Getting Spud's trot sets in, lol.

The whole "going nowhere fast" kind of applies here - the time with the horse's is on the back burner and I'm kind of playing catch up with a lot of things training-wise. Naturally (like the whole shoeing thing), some training has backslide a bit so I've had to go back and readdress. Which, is totally fine, but also can be a bit of a downer. Of course, consistency and repetition is the key so we just keep plugging along as we normally do. 

She's a good egg and altho the steps we make are at a glacial pace, we are having fun doing it which is what really matters.

As a sidenote - anyone else ready for Spring?!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Updates and 30 Days of Equitop Myoplast

It snowed all of this in 12 hours.
We are sitting just past the halfway point into experimenting with Equitop Myoplast as per the Vets recommendations to build topline. While this product is mainly designed for horses in work, it has also been used on horses that are on stall rest (and cannot lose muscle tone), and horses that are just coming back into work. Part of me is interested to see what kind of results I would have had had Annie been in full work - but Daylight savings time and Winter can really put a damper on things.

I've managed to put a few rides on her - none of them schooling other than rides down the road and hacking down the streets. Lunging has been off the table for about a week or so, as the ground became quite slippery and with 3ft of icey snow, I don't want to risk injury for the sake of trotting around in circles.

New purple pad from our ride before the snow flew.
Also note: Spud exiting stage left.
So, we are kind of land-locked. Which, I am kind of OK with. I miss riding with more purpose, but this "let down" period has been pretty beneficial for the both of us. I am rediscovering tho, that Annie is still a baby bean and I need to put more thought into things. For example, we had a farrier appointment last week and I had literally done nothing with the horse for almost two weeks. The wind was blowing, it was cold, and I pulled her out and expected her to stand quiet (not necessarily defending her, but I didn't really put her in the best situation, esp with this being her 3rd time being hot shod). Unfortunately, the disastrous farrier appointment resulted in the farrier only tacking two fronts on her and calling it a day. I didn't blame him and he left with a copious tip. After he left, we revisited the basics and after a few Come To Jesus meetings (and after pulling back on her lead, ugh), she complied and was as sweet as pie.

It's frustrating, but I guess that is just baby horses. We will keep plugging along and I have instilled more variety into our groundwork that hopefully will end up being useful during farrier/vet/chiro appointments and make them more friendly and safer for the professionals dealing with my horse. It isn't fair to expect someone to come and work on a fractious horse, regardless of what is up their ass that day.

Hacking bareback.
We've been able to ride around quite a bit - ponying Spud and even riding around bareback in the snow. It's been fun to have "no pressure" rides, and we've been working on a variety of baby things - like standing quiet in the middle of the road because "OH MY GOD WE HAVE PLACES TO BE" and trotting in the snow because stopping and refusing to walk on is not the answer, even if the snow IS deep.


For as much as I document how naughty she can be, she has also been really fun. I haven't trotted around bareback in the snow for years and I found myself giggling and laughing as she high-stepped her way through the back paddock. She may question my authority and attempt to instill a "my way or the highway" attitude, but she always seems to come right back and get over herself.

Blazing trails in the back paddock. She was not amused.
Spud followed us to the back paddock and promptly decided "Fuck this shit".
I posted this video on my social media and had an influx of comments and private
messages about "poor Spud" and how I should be shoveling him a trail, etc.
Sigh. Little potato pony is just fine in the front where they have already
blazed a trail.... horse people sometimes.
Time off is great, but I need to strike a balance so Annie doesn't go completely feral on me. Does anyone else find Winter makes their horses revert back to their nomadic ways? lol

Back to the point of this post (and a large variety of before/after shots you all were hoping for!):

Top: Day 1
Bottom: Day 30

Top: Day 1
Bottom: Day 30
(I didn't get a conformation shot on Day 1 of the supplement, so this one is from Sept 30)
Top: Sept 30th
Bottom: Nov 17th
All in all, I'm pretty pleased with the product and the results I've achieved thus far. When we hit the 60 day mark I'll do a final update and my overall impressions, but I think there isn't much to be said other than this stuff really works. I did find that from week to week she changed a lot - sometimes her withers would look sunken in and her haunches would look filled and then it would change the next week. She also has put on a significant amount of weight, which I am really happy about - the change to straight alfalfa (minus other grains) has worked wonders.

If anyone has any questions about the product or where to get it from, feel free to drop a comment and I'll try and help you out as best as I can!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Our Season by the Numbers

A lot of other bloggers have been doing this (T @ Project Gingersnap, and Alanna @ Pony Express), and I figured it would be kind of fun to pool the data of our 2017 season into numbers. Of course, it may change, but I sincerely doubt it since it seems the snow (and ice) is here to stay.

Part of me is sad the season is over, and part of me is looking forward to the Winter break and ready to dig back into it in the 2018 season. Things will continue as per usual - riding Annie when and if I can pending work, weather, etc. There isn't much pressure to "do things" now that the arena footing is frozen and clinics are non-existent until later during the Christmas holiday. I remain skeptical about driving out on the roads during Winter, but who knows? We could have a mild Winter and I could be hauling for lessons in the next few weeks.

Ironically enough, when I made this infographic, I noted that I will have owned Annie for 10 whole months on November 11th (which also happens to be my birthday). It's something I wanted to include in the graphic and something I am kind of... shocked and in awe about. This mare was broke in December of 2016 and became mine in early January. We've had our challenges, but she is just so cool.

I've learned so much about owning a young horse (like about trailering, not putting them in a w-t-c class their first horse show (...seriously still shaking my head over that one!), being consistent with manners and behavior, learning to take a joke, realizing when I'm in over my head and need help)... and so much more.

Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey and continues to support us. The riding season may informally be over, but I'll still be trying to catch a ride on my mare when the opportunity strikes!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


The pellet stove is Ty's favorite thing.
Things have still been incredibly busy these past two weeks - last minute Winter prep at the barn one last clean-out of my tack room (I bring most, if not all, of my tack home for the Winter), dreadfully long hours at work, accumulation of snow after a bit of a cold snap, and a purge of useless/old things from our two back bedrooms. I feel less cluttered and more organized, which is a nice feeling, especially since the Winter months are when I spend more time indoors/at home and having a less cluttered home feels so... comforting.

There was a brief period last week wherein I convinced myself Annie was colicking, since she refused to touch her mash. I ended up temping her, hand-grazing her, and ultimately realizing mare didn't like the oil I had been adding to her mash. I've tried to trick her by adding small amounts but it doesn't seem to matter - she tastes any kind of the oil and she turns her nose up at it. I managed to get away with leaving the mash in a strung up bucket (away from the Hoover... aka Spud), but a few days ago she completely left the bucket untouched. So... I forfeited and excluded the oil. It's not like she really needs it, but the extra fat in her diet would've been nice.


"Get rid of the ew, pls human." - Annie
Last Thursday I took some time off work in the afternoon to haul Annie and AJ to Barn C to be adjusted by Amanda. I opted for an afternoon appointment, simply because I didn't want to haul in the dark. It worked out well tho, because Nicole was able to meet me there after her work (she works and lives part time in the town) and hold her own horse and stuff. She wasn't sure she'd be able to make it initially, but I was glad she could, since she had questions she wanted to ask Amanda.

The appointment went really well - Amanda said that she held a lot of her previous adjustments, but with her body growing and changing shape, she had some new (and old) places that needed some help. Her pelvis was rotated and sunken down on the right side like before, two spinal discs (I think that was the word she used) were raised (remember her inflammation?), two ribs on her left side were out, and her pelvis needed to be "widened". I don't know that I used all the technical information, but it was pretty cool to come to the barn and walk my horse up and down the aisle and have Amanda point out the problem area in her back without even hearing about our vet appointment or anything.

I mean, obviously the lady is well trained in her job and has a keen eye - it just amazes me every time when they point out things like that. I explained about the vet appointment and Amanda agreed about keeping her on the myoplast. Since a lot of her adjustments were quite large, Amanda opted to have me give Annie 4-5 days off to let her marinate.

The dip behind her withers has resurfaced, but her haunches have expanded
exponentially! Her back "loading" surface has almost doubled in size as well.
It'll be interesting to see everything "even out" as she continues the supplement.
Note: We are on week 3 of 9.
Also lol at knock-kneed Spud lurking.
I was pretty happy with Annie in this visit - AJ was completely infatuated with her but she listened very well and didn't even care when he was walked up and down the barn aisles away from her when it was his turn (AJ did not enjoy when Annie had her turn lol). Lots of licking, chewing, and yawning occurred while we waited for AJ to finish.

All in all, it was an uneventful trip, save for when I dropped AJ off and Annie thought it'd be a cool idea to pull back and shake the trailer back and forth. The trailer tie I use on her as a velcro strap, so it came undone, which was good. I hooked her back up and when I got into the trailer I had to do a few "brake checks" to get her to stand on her feet vs shuffling and carrying on in the back. Once she realized "Oh shit, maybe I should stand instead of trying to paw and be a fucking dingus" I carried on driving and unloaded her without issue at home.

As a weird sidenote, I am loving how she is starting to stretch her neck vs
being so retracted into her throat latch. Lots of long and low is in store for us next year!
Now that we can, yanno, steer.
With Annie having some time off, it ended up working out really well - the ground varied from being too slippery (rain) and too hard (ice) so any kind of lunging was off the table. On my only day off (Sunday), I ended up doing a bit of a Spring Cleaning at the barn.

I tossed garbage (old feed bags, baling twine) into the back of the pick up, reorganized my medical cabinet and made a list of things I needed to replace, piled most of my tack into the truck, organized polos and bonnets into piles for washing, scrubbed and filled the water tank and put the deicer in, scooped manure (before the snow came!), did a fencing check, and organized where we would put the round-bales in the barn.

It was a productive day, despite not riding. I feel like Annie doesn't mind this mini/seasonal vacation and in the end, I think she deserves a break.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What I Hoped She Would Be

They are making a children's park here - it used to be all trees.
Annie was very suspicious.
Last Sunday, considering we had a half day of work, I opted to head out riding with N and AJ for the afternoon. Admittedly, I had been avoiding riding Annie or doing anything above normal chores, but am slowly starting to get myself back into the swing of things. Unfortunately tho, once daylight savings time hits, any kind of riding will be off the table until I have my turn-around week from work.

(Over the last few months, work has been ramping up (as do all construction jobs), so I typically work 11-12 hour days for 20 days (sometimes we get a day off or half day somewhere in there) and then get a 9 day "turn around").

Despite work making pony-time difficult, I don't necessarily mind it being that we are headed into the winter season. Once the snow flies, the horse trailer will be land-locked until next year and the fuzzy ponies will get to enjoy the freedom of being ferals - much like every other year.

Back to last Sunday - I tacked Annie up and opted to lunge her first prior to getting on. I have been lunging her 2-3 times a week, as work/ daylight/ footing allow and wanted to reinstill some manners we had been working on on the line. I had found that I was letting her get away with too much while lunging (cutting into my space, running into canter whenever she wanted, fast trotting, etc) so I started to take back some of the freedom I had unknowingly given her. We had a short CTJ meeting two weeks ago about sass at the canter and since then, I've had a horse who quietly and willingly rolls into a canter (on the right leads) with no head tossing/ grouchy faces.

Different day.
Also yea I'm that person that uses Dressage pads
with my jump saddle. lol
It's interesting how things all kind of fall into one basket - the canter problem we've been having undersaddle kind of spills over into other areas (lunging). The fact she began attempting it on the lunge was interesting to me, as she had never offered that level of response before and once I made it absolutely clear it was not tolerated on the line, she was happy to revert back to quietly bounding into the canter when I asked.

I think that this is why part of me was pleased the vet assessed Annie as "part pain, part attitude". Although, the whole "attitude" thing can be a bit subjective and difficult to really measure in terms of medical testing and such. Despite the fact I don't really have any kind of chart or numbers to go off of, I have memory and understanding of Annie's typical response to stimulus and positive/negative reinforcement. With all the information of what I expect or anticipate Annie's response to be, based off of previous attempts, I can deduce whether or not something is normal.

So when I started to see a horse who was beginning to transfer identical behavior from undersaddle to the lunge - wherein she had never offered that response before, including when I would lunge her prior to riding or on a day I was unable to ride, I was able to correctly and effectively announce it as "misbehavior".

Sorry, but it's true.

Which, totally makes sense. It's much like training a dog to lay down - at some point your dog will eventually attempt to "bow" or lay halfway down when given the command, just to see if the stimulus (whether it be a treat or pat on the head) will still come his way.

Anyways, I'm going off on a tangent about animal behavior, but it is truly interesting and as I delve more into my time as a first time baby horse owner, I discover more and more I hadn't really assessed or thought of before. And while most amateur owners can come to conclusions much quicker, I feel like owning Annie has made me more calculating and observant than in the past with a much broker horse.

For the last time - back to Sunday's ride. After a quick 10min lunge, I led Annie to the mounting block. She was a bit wiggly and kept moving her hips away - I reminded her to stand and hopped on without issue. She walked off quietly too, which was nice considering she had started a habit of BRISKLY WALKING OFF when I cued her to go. I'm not sure if readers remember, but I had started to turn her back to the barn/do circles, etc if she tried to pop into the trot or threw her head up at me asking her to slow down. It seems to be paying off because she was quiet as could be on Sunday.

As we neared the top of the street, I could hear Spud neighing from the paddock. I ended up turning Annie around and made the slow venture back to the barn (because Annie is weird and walks fast AWAY from home and walks slow TOWARDS home). Barn-sour she is not.

Really need to change it back to "riding" not running lol.
And our canter is typically a 19km/h - we had a very sad and slow
canter on Sunday lol.
I had initially not wanted to pony Spud since I hadn't done much riding lately, but figured I'd give it a shot. Annie was great when I remounted and we walked off without incident.

As a random sidenote - Annie feels SO wide now. My legs typically weren't always in contact with her barrel, especially my calves. Now? I can feel every shapely curve in her body. The gullet in my saddle is going to have to be expanded for sure and it'll be interesting to see what she feels like at the end of the 60 days.

We met up with A and AJ later on and enjoyed a nice hour hack around the roads. I also ended up trotting and cantering Annie down the long dirt road (much to Spud's dismay) and had zero issues with head tossing or resistance. She was super tired by this point tho, and only cantered about 10 strides before she was like, "I tired, can we pls slow down to the walk k thanks". Part of it could be she was feeling better, part of it could be that we weren't in the arena, and part of it could be that I had zero contact on the reins.

Regardless, I felt so very happy and at home in the saddle. The quiet and leisurely ride reminded me just how much I adore Annie and her qualities. The calmness I felt from just being on her back hit me like a wave and I felt extreme gratitude in being in this whole crazy horse journey. My heart is still aching for my red mare - the barn is still not the same place it was and I cannot convey enough how much both Annie and Spud have been such amazing healers in this entire thing.

And my ride on Sunday was testament to that. We may have some big hurdles to address, but it is important to remember her life as an adult amateur mount only started a mere 10 months ago. Her life and training is just in the beginning stages and I can already see so much of what I had hoped she would be.