Friday, December 30, 2011

Week Off

With the crazy holiday season, and our recent breakthroughs, I feel like this week was a good week to take some time off. Bijou's been getting a bit girthy lately, which I don't think has to do with saddle fit problems, but I'm hoping that giving her a week off will help with her sourness. She was getting the tiniest bit huffy with me when I'd start to ask for real work, and I think that a lot of that has to do with her finally learning to carry herself properly in all 3 gaits and it making her sore.

This week I've only ridden twice, and both times were bareback. First we did just some walking/bending and trotting, then today we tried some walk/canter transitions. These were a little messy since I was off balance and cautious without a saddle, but they worked, which is more than I could say about our walk/canter transitions before, since we couldn't even do them!

I'm using this time off to clean up around the house a little (what? me?! CLEAN!?!?) and reorganize my thoughts about what my goals with Bijou are. This is pretty perfect since we're starting a whole new year, just in time for new years resolutions :)

My horsey resolutions are:

1) Have short, frequent rides. I've learned that Bijou really works best if I just warm her up walking/trotting on a loose rein, and then do about 15 minutes of work-work, rather than futzing around for 45 minutes.

2) I will show this year. I don't care if my tall boots don't fit, or I can't find my hairnet, or we just do a walk/trot class, I will show. I'm not going for rated shows or even recognized shows. Even if I just make it to one show that my barn is hosting, I will call this one good.

3) Keep my tack clean. I'm horrible at this. All the pony clubbers would cringe at the layer of sweaty, grassy, slimy grime on everything.

4) Ride dressage tests. I've had plenty of practice remembering courses, but dressage tests are still really hard for me to remember. I think this will also be good practice for me to ride correct geometry and learn more about dressage in general too.

5) Don't accumulate unnecessary horsey accessories/downsize the current stash. I have 3 brand new bridles sitting in storage because they were such a good deal... but I never use them. I have two lavendar color saddle pads because I want lavendar, black, and white to be my eventing colors... but why two pads (in addition to 4-5 other saddle pads)? I have unidentifyable leather pieces in the bottom of my tack box that could have been reins, side reins, long reins, draw reins, but have lost their pair because I never use them. Maybe I'll sell some of my stuff on here like Eventer76 did over at We are Flying Solo?

I think 5 is a nice round and still manageable number.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Yay we can canter!

We had our best canter ever this week. I feel like (crossing fingers to not jinx it) we've made a breakthrough. I had a really great lesson with my trainer Melissa. She totally called me on some things that I needed to be called on. It's really great to have her be Bijou's advocate and I'm so happy to have her.

My lessons started off promptly at 9 am, which I think is the earliest I've even been on Bijou. It was foggggy! This, of course, meant that my little mare was shying and spooking at everything... oh dear. After about 10 minutes of bolting giraffe impressions: (see below for example)

Melissa asked if we even had a horse to work with today, and a month ago I would have asked the same, but I know better now. Bijou had this trick. She knew if she was REALLY bad for the first 10 minutes, I would get off, and just lunge her. I think she much preferred running around like a maniac to working hard under saddle, so in essence I was rewarding her. Then I got sick of it, and kicked myself in the butt to just ride it out. Lo and behold just at the point where you're thinking - "great, I'm going to be flung into the air today" all you have to do is make her do some HARD work, and then she settles in. This sometimes means tight trotting circles, counter bent circles at the walk, leg yields, etc. Then all of a sudden there's a horse underneath you instead of a bouncing bunny rabbit.

So, with that taken care of, we did some transitions to warm up. Lots of concerted 'on' with real contact and pushing forward with my seat and then big releases of 'off' to give her a reward. We've been struggling with the canter for a while now. Melissa wanted to get her to canter (not gallop) on a loose rein, so that I could then turn my aids 'on' and ask for collection, and then when she gave it to me turn the aids 'off' for a reward. This. just. wasn't. working. Every time I would let go of the reins (off means on the buckle) Bijou would rev up and get faster. I would get more tense, waiting for her to start misbehaving, she would get faster in response to my tenseness and you see where this was going.

We changed tactics. For the first week I just would randomly ask for a canter, and then as soon as she would get strong/fast, I would halt. This was not always pretty, but it got her to the point that when I half halted, it was strong enough to actually slow her down. This resulted in short spurts of ok canter. It also helped her realize that cantering is not so damn exciting :P

My last lesson, on Sunday, was a bit miraculous. I was supposed to have worked on what Melissa called "shutting her down" in the canter. The only problem is, I didn't get what that meant. I thought it meant some kind of shut the door in front of her, aka pull on her face. She asked me to show her our progress and when we realized we weren't on the same page we had a talk. Basically, I need to make sure that my body energy level meets what I'm doing. When I'm sitting in the middle of the arena chatting is 'shut down'. Armed with this new idea, I picked up a canter (from the walk, mind you :D), picked a spot, and just went into "I'm sitting at a halt" and without touching Bijou's face, we were trotting! It was amazing. I knew it was possible because she does really follow my seat, but I couldn't do it before because I didn't have the right mental image to follow. Hooray!!

This week, I've been really focusing on keeping my energy at a level that matches what I'm doing. I think that's why yesterday we cantered in both directions, with amazingly calm pace, and when I added contact, Bijou dropped her nose and lifted her back - even to the point where she had her head below her knees for a few strides. Needless to say, we called it good after that and I was smiling so much I got tears in my eyes.

I love my pony-mare.

Friday, December 9, 2011

aha moments

Its days like today and weeks like this week that I'm glad I started a blog to keep track of what I do with Bijou. There are many more things that I get out of using this blog which I didn't think would be so helpful. I get a whole community of horse people to relate to. This community validates so many of my feelings, its supportive, and it keeps me sane sometimes :)

A recent post by eventer79 over at We are Flying Solo totally keyed in to what I've been feeling and dealing with. I've been struggling with feeling like I'm not good enough for Bijou, or that she's too much horse for me. I've started to change this by taking lessons and really working on my confidence (which has been broken since breaking my ankle). So far this has worked out great! In fact, I have a confession to make...

Ever since I bought Bijou, I've had a small thought in the back of my mind that if we didn't get along, if we just couldn't make it work, then I'd sell her, like I've sold so many other 'project horses'. This was my secret thought, because I really wanted to make things work. It would sneak up on me after bad days/weeks when I felt a bit helpless, and then dissipate to just background noise again when things got somewhat better. Now, however, we've been making so much progress that I'm seeing visions of Bijou and I many years down the road, when she'll still be a bit kooky, but we'll have all kinds of shared experiences strengthening the bond between us and hopefully most of our major issues will be out of the way. I don't see her becoming The Perfect Horse, but I can see us continuing to grow together until she's My Perfect Horse, even with all her imperfections.

Ok, now I'll get my head out of the clouds... back on ground level! I'm going to see if I can get a fellow boarder to help me get Bijou out more regularly. Her horses are back home for the winter, and she has no one to ride. Her horse is normally pretty spunky so we are going to see if she likes Bijou and wants to help me with her a few times a week. Here's to hoping :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lessonless and still learning

So my trainer and I have been having quite a hard time actually making it to our scheduled lessons. She picked up a part time job which means that our schedules only have a few overlapping free periods now. At first I was like "ok, time for me to practice all those exercises we were doing" but now that it's been several weeks I'm thinking "hmm... what were those exercises again??"

But I think I've made a few steps forward on my own (which I guess is what I was doing before the trainer came along anyways). I had been kinda cheating. You see, when I haven't gotten my lovely 7 yr old TB mare out in ~4 days, she becomes a crazy hot wild animal. So I lunged, and lunged, and lunged until the poor beast was sweating and puffing, and then I would get on and do some under saddle work that is surprisingly focused and fruitful! I guess some would call this cheating, and some would call it lunging the bucks out, but I know that I was using her being fresh as an excuse to avoid having to talk about her crazyness with her.

I don't really know how much sense that makes, but basically I would lunge my horse until she was a different horse, and then get on to ride my now placid mare. I think I was doing both of us a disservice by skipping over the important conversation that needs to take place between a fractious animal and its rider.

So... after Thanksgiving when the beast hadn't been ridden in like 6 days I just got on. I knew it was going to perhaps be a bit rocky, so I set some simple goals. I wanted to trot without hanging on her face for dear life. At first this started much as I had pictured. Cue giraffe impression. Oh yah, and then bolt half way across the arena a few times. Break to a canter every 10 strides when I try to loosen the death grip. Flip head all over the place whenever a half halt is applied. So I applied a different tactic, which I had not had much success with in the past, but had never tried on Bijou. Every time she started to speed demon, I would lift my inside rein and make a small circle. She knows very well now that pressure on the reins means drop her head, so once she got over practically tripping over herself from trying to circle at full speed, it meant I got a soft and much rounder horse (rather than the giraffe). She tried to cheat a few times by gunning forward when the circle was done, but I'd just keep the bend as much as I could, and she'd realize that she couldn't get away with it and that going slower made it easier. Also, because I wasn't half halting every second, she was much softer in the contact that I did have and we didn't have any head flipping. Hooray!! I trotted her around a whole bunch and called it good.

I've also made progress on the spooking front. I've ridden plenty of spooky horses, but hers just throw me for a loop. It's not that I ever feel insecure like I might fall off, it's just that she's so acrobatic in her spooks that they kinda scare me. I've psyched myself up and made up my mind that when my horse spooks she's going to get to work harder until she settles the hell down. Today she was being all uppity about another rider kissing to her horse. She would only do it when the other horse was behind us, but she would launch into a huge leap and then throw her head/neck all over the place trying to wrench the reins out of my hands. For this she got to disengage her hindquarters and then trot in little circles and figure eights until she was listening to me and only me again. After the third spook (for various reasons) she decided it would be easier to just listen to me, and we finished our ride on 10 minutes of beautiful trot/walk and walk/trot transitions with a lap or two of relatively relaxed canter. Amazing how that works, isn't it?

I have a trim and a lesson scheduled for this week. I think I wormed Bijou since the last time I posted too...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Not the red kind you but on french fries, but the kind that needs to happen when I haven't blogged in ages...

Quick recap

1) Bijou and I went through a pretty nasty phase where she was being a huge idiot almost every day no matter what I had done with her previously. I put her back on a Vitamin B1 supplement and now we have more of a two way communication and not just me yelling at her at the top of my lungs

2) during that phase we went through total canter meldown. Canter = gallop + head toss + leap sideways + gallop faster. Canter rehab is currently underway with moderate success so far

3) I started taking lessons! I decided that I needed SOMEONE to keep me accountable week by week. This also has the added bonus of someone being on the ground to be eyes and giving suggestions. So far she's not the 'wonder trainer' but has been SUPER helpful and I'm glad I'm back under a watchful eye.

4) I started feeding my horse grain again. I started a bit early this year and just in the nick of time it seems as she's already lost some weight with the pastures dying out.

5) Lunging is my friend. What do you think of lunging?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bijou's 100th blog post.wmv

Wow, I know it's been quite a while since I last posted. I figured that I could put off posting until I had something really special to post about, and then I realized that my 2 year anniversary with Bijou was coming up. I figured I'd do a double whammy and have my 100th post be the 2 year post too. It's a little sad since that means I've only averaged 50 posts/year or approximately one post a week. I'm going to make year 3 count and do lots of blogging!

I've read through most of my blog over this last week, from when I first got this little lady all the way until now. I may not be where I thought I would with her, but I also didn't see having two horses for the first few months I had her, or breaking my ankle in the cards for us. We have had our fair share of ups and downs, successes and disappointments, but overall I'm happy to have her.

After years of feeling like the horse world could throw anything my way and I could take it in stride, I've finally found my match. Bijou tests me and challenges me in ways I didn't think were possible. I've learned so much about myself and the way I work with horses because of her. She's taught me quite a few new tricks to put in my training bag, and she's also taught me that sometimes it's alright to ask for help. She's humbled me in many ways, making me think some days that she's too much horse for me, but then I go out the next day and -as if she knows that I'm giving our partnership one more chance- she's turns around and gets her act together again. She's always surprising me, for better and worse. If we've done something all week and I expect her to execute perfectly - she'll throw a wrench in things and make us go back. If I take her somewhere new and scary she acts as if she's been there, done that. Never a dull day with this girl.

So I put together a video of (mostly) pictures and (a few) video clips from when I first bought her to November of last year. Through this period she went through the most dramatic physical transformation since I've had her so it shows up in pictures better. I realized that I don't have a lot of recent pictures or video of her (and trying to organize and find 1 years worth of pics was enough!) so I'll have to get on that to make a 2010-2011 slide show too. I'm hoping to get some video of us this week to give a comparison... we'll see if I can persuade someone to hold the camera :P

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I've been a bad blogger

So... I realized one day that my to-do list was reaching multiple page lengths, so when I re-prioritized I ended up not blogging for like.... ever. This was mostly because I also ended up not riding either. I have a good excuse!! I was getting married! All that planning and scrambling and organizing and nit-picking; lets just say I only plan on doing it once. Now that its all over (it all turned out so perfect!) I plan on getting back to some regularly scheduled programming.

Well, now I've explained myself. I plan on getting back into the blogosphere soon, as I'm DYING to get back in the saddle after MUCH too long. I'll be sure to post new and exciting things (hopefully with pictures) soon. Hopefully things won't get too exciting - seeing as how I'm going to go back to a very very fresh TB who might have forgotten some of her manners and become a wild naughty mare again... maybe she'll surprise me yet again?

Monday, July 25, 2011

beach riding sucess

I had the greatest time at the beach the other day. It looked a lot like that, but with maybe just a tiny bit more room to run around and play with the ponies. Bijou took everything like a champ (after not having been ridden in like 4 days due to a crazy weekend) and only freaked out when Wyatt left her behind to deal with the big scary flappy umbrella all on her own. We even jumped up and down a small bank and went in the dunes as leader for a while. I love my horse.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer time

Whoever came up with the saying "lazy summer" was wrong. I don't know how, but I've managed to feel busier now that the summer is here and I'm not in classes anymore.

Regardless, I have been riding, although not with the frequency that I like (aka every day) so the beginning of this week was a little interesting. Bijou got put in a new pasture with grass up to my hip and I think that helped with her crazies. I thought I could take her out and just hop on, since she's been so good/lazy lately... boy was I wrong! She was a total nutcase, darting into trot and canter transitions without any influence from me, shaking her head wildly for no good reason, etc.

So I lunged, and then rode again which was much nicer and allowed us to get some work done. Somehow in the process of her head flinging and stuff she must have chewed a hole through her rubber bit, because now it's barely hanging on! Good thing I bought that fat D-ring snaffle a little ways back because I'll have to switch to that until I can get a new one.

The rest of the week we did pretty good work, I've been getting both canter leads pretty consistently and there's been a remarkable lack of bucking! We're still working on getting rid of the giraffe impression at the canter, but I'll take it over bucking any day.

We even ended the week on a nice long ride where we did our first crossrail in ages. She definitely looked at it, but I've learned that she does need a little support from my leg going up to things, and now that we've balanced her hesitation with my push we get over things just fine!

I'm really hoping to show in early July if this EHV thing doesn't stop us, there's a schooling show coming up on the 10th that I might be able to make it to. We would do walk/trot and just have fun, but that means I have to break in my new boots... yikes!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

well that was interesting

We got an "unseasonable amount of rain" this past weekend, and thusly I have not gotten anything done with the mighty mare, except to blanket her for the unseasonable-ness.

Prior to the rain I had made a decision. I have decided that after the mud dries up I think I am going to put shoes on her for the summer, as it seems that all other soundness issues (I'm saying this at a whisper) are gone! And she's just a tad footsore on the gravely patches of the arena. So here's to hoping we can have a successful summer season, which I'm going to define as lots of riding.

I've also been seriously thinking (aka budget crunching) about doing some lessons this summer. I feel like my form is way out of it, and like Bijou and I could use the push of having someone who's going to critique as motivation through the week. So I'm going to go trainer hunting, which is going to be difficult because I feel like most of the trainers around here aren't respectable enough to earn my respect, which would not lead to a very good trainer/trainee relationship me-thinks.

Oh yes, I tried a figure eight with a metal (regular snaffle d-ring) bit. It was horrible. lots of head tossing and evading the bit and general unpleasantries ensued. I had a couple of hits when I put up an ad looking to try someone's bitless bridle or any other interesting bits they had but no one's gotten back to me after their initial responses.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Not one of my own yet... but over at The Process of Learning there's one for a new Showsheen shampoo. I love showsheen stuff, and you should too. Plus, with show season coming up, who doesn't need more awesome grooming stuff right?

In other news, the whole farm decided that gale force winds out at the barn last night meant it was time to run around like crazy. I didn't know this until I found the evidence in the stocking up in Bijou's hind legs this afternoon. I contacted the BM about horsey news and she told me what they had been up to. I buted, linimented, and cold-hosed after walking her around trying to get the swelling down all to no avail. She did look a little funnier to the left when she trotted for a second in the round pen so I'll have to keep an eye on that.

I've been having a thought... well rather a series of thoughts. With Bijou being so short strided lately, and bucking to the right again, I think I'm going to just go all out to make her better. I have a feeling that it's a combination of two things. I hate that it's always a combination of many things because you always have to pay someone to do each thing and each person wants lots of money for doing their thing! I am going to have the chiropractor out again, as he really seemed to do a lot of good, and Wyatt really benefited from a second adjustment, so maybe Bijou will too. I'm also going to put front shoes on. This has really helped in the past, and allowed Bijou and I to get our best work done, I think she's a wet weather kind of horse, as that's when her feet grow the most and look the best. When it gets dryer out, like it has been, her feet just start to crumble away, no matter how much hoof moisturizer I put on them. I doubt its a nutritional thing since she's out on great pasture, so I think it's just genetic and this is the way things are.

Right now I don't have much cash to speak of, and she doesn't have much hoof wall to speak of, and we have to deal with this sore/puffy hind leg thing... so I'm going to save up for a bit while she re-coups and then put my combination approach to the test.

And if all else fails... Well you might be seeing another kind of giveaway (of the equine variety) up on this blog soon! :P

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Good rides make the whole world better

I have had a few major life changes lately, mostly for the worse. Quite a few things were piling up on me and one of the heaviest was having an unsound horse. I know that she just had a night out on the farm and pulled something somewhere, but it wasn't getting better and since she wasn't really ride-able I didn't have my stress relief mare to go to when all else fell apart.

That all changed on Monday. I had the inclination that by Monday she was going to be back to normal after I had lunged her on the weekend (due to time constraints it was all I could do). I decided to put on the saddle and try to really ride again, man am I glad I did! It was much quieter out at the barn since I went earlier in the day before everyone gets out of work/class and Bijou was still finding things to be distracted by, though they were much fewer and farther between. One of Joujou's pasturemates was being trained to ground tie without grazing by her oh-so-evil mom who would flick a lunge whip stick with a scary plastic crinkly thing at the end every time she tried to eat, which Bijou looked at, but did not react to, and got patted every time she trotted past. For some reason, she was just more submissive... I don't know if it's because she's finally feeling better or what, but rather than fight about every little bit of contact that I tried to put on her, she took it and almost asked for more. She wasn't hanging on me, but it was almost like she needed just a constant heavier contact than what I'm used to. We worked on lots of trotting, mostly in straight lines, that was round and collected and forward without being rushy. It was nice to have her in front of my leg without having her rushing around, which is one of her big habits.

We also did some trot poles, which I set purposely close to get her to think about where her feet need to be, rather than just getting over those damn scary things as fast as she possibly can. This resulted in her being VERY bouncy and stepping on a pole or two at first, but then she settled in and took her time over them. I also set up one ground pole to help with our canter transitions. This part might get a little long winded... I've noticed that she is much more sensitive on her left side than she is on her right. This is true when I'm lunging her, riding, or even just handling her. She shies away from the fly spray more on her left side, leg yields away from my left leg better, reacts to smaller movements on the lunge when she's going to the left, etc. This presents an interesting problem when I'm practicing canter transitions, because I use my left leg to cue her into the right lead canter. I don't boot her, or even really nudge at all, I just lay my leg against her, and she leaps and charges into the canter. What's even more confounding is that most of the time she charges into the left lead canter... big no-no, so I quickly get her back to a trot, and set her up again, and cue again. Except now she's in a tizzy waiting for me to use that left leg. She gets nervous in the place where I cued her before and starts tossing her head and bouncing around like an idiot. So to keep her from anticipating I try to catch her off guard which hasn't been working so well.

This is where the pole comes in. I know it is kinda cheating, but I trot her at the single pole and encourage a big bounding trot up to it, and most of the time she comes off of the pole in a canter. I canter her around for a bit, and then go back to trotting the pole at a medium pace so that she doesn't always canter the pole and can't really anticipate any cue from me so she doesn't get all worried. This resulted in some of the nicest canter we've had in a long time. I figure if I get results, then I have to be doing something right, right?

I think for next time (once the weather dries up) I'll try getting her to listen to my seat more and see if that helps. Any other suggestions are welcome too.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Beautiful days should be spent with horses...

.... whether they are sound or not. So that's what I did today. I've been taking it really easy on the little mare, but I think her sore hip/hind area is maybe maybe finally clearing up. I've been getting on her for a few minutes at a time and just riding around to check her soundness since it's hard to see while lunging... it's gotten to the point that if I wasn't looking for anything, I wouldn't feel it. However, there were a few days when I decided to try really riding (like with a saddle and bridle and everything!) and when I asked for a trot, Bijou literally tip-toed around with the SHORTEST stride ever, which is very unlike her, so I backed it off. The only thing I can afford to do is just wait and see. My vet gets really expensive when I go to him with "she's just not right" because they run every test in the book with inconclusive results.

I've given up on even going to the show this weekend. Oh well. I just get to keep this shiny pony loveliness all to myself :P

Monday, May 9, 2011

lameness is lame

Bijou and her mare friends (who are all coming into and out of heat) decided to have a girls night out about a week ago... They tore through their electric fence and ran a muck around the property for a night. After this fiasco, she surprisingly (NOT) came up quite sore/off on her left hind. I decided to give her the week off with just little bareback rides to check her progress since it's pretty hard to see on the lunge. On Friday she was pretty darn close to being sound, so my little bareback trot turned into a little bareback buck fest in which Bijou succeeded in bucking me off. I'm relatively unscathed, although realizing that bouncing back up isn't as easy as it might have been back when I first started riding.

I also have a pictures-post coming up soon of when we went to the beach before the girls night out where I feel like we made a breakthrough in the canter. I can't wait until I can look back on the ugly canter phase and realize it was just a phase.... right now it looks more like an epoch...

Also, there is a schooling show coming up on Sunday... which is pretty last minute to begin preparing for it, but I figure if worst comes to worst I'll just bring her a long to get a feel for what she behaves like at a show, just to know what to expect for next time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Back in business

I don't want to jinx it, but I'm pretty sure the weekend off made my horse better :D

I tossed her in the round pen to get out all the bucks and squigglies... and she didn't have any. The more miraculous thing is that she didn't have any head bobbing either! We did a bunch of transition work, and then called it good. I still had an hour or so to ride so I tacked her up and hopped on in boots and jeans (still can't decide if I think its tacky to ride in jeans?) since I had left my breeches at home. The BO finally decided to put the grass dressage arena back together so I figured I'd ride out there to get her used to something new, and I've been meaning to work on our 20m circles. I warmed her up in the long and uneven grass, and she was very uneven, but I like working on 'fifth leg' training on uneven ground. We went into the arena and worked on bending into the corners, which really worked when I lifted my inside hand and kept my outside giving but steady. I've also been avoiding cantering a lot lately since every time I ask for it I have to hold on pretty good for the inevitable buck or two that I'll get... except this time! She still has a really hard time picking up the right lead unless I have her really collected and springy and bent correctly in the trot but we got it.

Now I'm tired but ready to do it all again tomorrow!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Trim failure

Bijou got trimmed two days ago, and went off again two days ago...

She doesn't have huge feet, and they do like to chip and crack, but I asked my farrier and he said that her chipping etc was all normal. He barely clipped anything off, and only rasped enough to get the edges clean and she hadn't been trimmed yet this year (!!!!) I kept putting it off waiting for her to look long and she just never did, so I just did it anyway and now I guess I regret it.

She's mostly sore to the left which is funny because her 'clubby' foot is on the right. I've still been getting her out for short rides because she isn't that sore and I do REALLY want to build on the momentum I've gained in the last couple of weeks. We've had many wet saddle pads (with perfect sweat marks, might I add) and she's finally starting to get the hang of good walk/trot transitions and we've even had our first balanced canter transitions that don't involve rushing. I'd hate to lose all that progress because I got her trimmed, so I might do what I thought I might have to do at this point this year, and just put shoes on her. This happened later in the year last time... she got sore around May/June and I put two sets of shoes on her and then took them off for winter again.

I might see how it pans out and see if she'll grow enough foot while I'm riding to make her happy again, but riding wears feet down so the less I ride the faster she'll theoretically get better... and then have lost some of the fitness etc that we've worked on.

Monday, April 4, 2011

busy day

Yesterday the vet came out to float teeth and do spring vaccinations. I figured I'd take the sedated time to do some mane pulling and grooming. This is after said tail banging and mane pulling, tres chic no?

And this is before, but with the new saddle:
Very forward flap and the seat is super comfy. I feel really sticky again like I did in my Bates Event, but without the huge knee rolls etc. And, my legs finally feel like they fit! I'm not hanging over the knee rolls in this one, but rather quite far behind them which makes the fit really secure.

Oh I love that cutie face! I always loved snips and never wanted to buy a horse just because of that, so when she was a good fit and had it I was secretly pleased :P.

Close up of how the panels fit her. I was a little worried at first, but so far the sweat marks (when I can ride long enough to get them) are immaculate and perfectly even. No more dry spots. I even groomed her extra hard today and before the new saddle she always flinched pretty good when I scrubbed on her mid-back with the curry, now with a few days of the new saddle (and a day or two off in there for good measure) she's no longer flinching at all, no matter how hard I rub.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Saddle experiments

I just submitted my application for Graduate School. A little surreal that I'm preparing to move on to the next step.

Now I can't wait to move on and "graduate" from having an unsound horse! I feel like it's been forever since I've really been able to ride. I'm still waiting on my packages to get here to make me really want to ride all the time, but by then I'll have an inescapable urge to be at the barn all the time since that's already where I want to be.

I did a few interesting experiments recently. So, I got her adjusted by a chiropractor. I also got a saddle on trial. The first time after I had ridden her was when I tried the new saddle. This is not the best way to see if a saddle or the adjustment is really making a difference. Sooo... then it rained for a week, the arena washed away, and just now are we able to start working consistently again. I've also set aside a few hours each day to be just barn time. So far this has been working to get me out to the barn, but not to get my homework done... oops... we'll have to keep working on that.

I rode in my old saddle a few days ago and Bijou was back to bucking and generally being REALLY unhappy. So I borrowed a longer girth from a good friend so I could try my new-saddle-to-be again. She was sore at first, almost to the point that I didn't want to get on. She even nipped at me with her ears pinned when I tightened her girth which she has NEVER done. I was worried about riding her but I figured I'd just get on and keep it slow and not ask her for anything that didn't feel right. Once she had the saddle on she was fine. We only walked and trotted but she was bendable and generally ok, MUCH better than she had been in the other saddle. Today her back was still tender so I just lunged.

I'm a little conflicted about how I'm going to handle her soreness. I want to give her time off to let anything heal, since pain is usually due to inflammation etc... but I want to strengthen her to make her better. I think I'm just going to go painfully slow but be consistent, like how I would need things to be in order to get stronger if I were making new muscles in the gym.

Today I decided to use the new saddle again to see if things would get better. I lunged first to hopefully get some willies out since I want riding to be a calm and work-filled experience... boy am I glad I did! She was still silly in the arena after lunging at mostly a walk and trot for about 10 minutes. I decided since the saddle was fitting, and her adjustment should have had time to set, that she was probably just spazzing out. I started out trying to make things to complicated and asking too much, my bad. I was asking for real bends in the walk and trot and I think those things are still hard for her to keep up for any length of time. Every time I'd try to get a good bend out of her in the trot she'd go into a leaping/bucking fit. So I took a step back... time to pick my battles. I just wanted a quiet posting trot for a few times around the arena in both directions. I changed my tactics and made it black and white. If she was quiet and soft she got to go around with very little input from me, all she had to do was stay straight and quit the bucking thing. If she decided to go nuts on me, she got to run/walk around with her nose on my boot until she quit tossing her head and fighting me. Surprisingly (NOT) this made her want to cooperate for longer periods of time. So after 30 minutes of warm up and fart around, we finally got about 20 minutes of good walk/trot work. Phew!

Now I just have to stay on it for this week. By the way, the sweat marks under the saddle were immaculate again, so I'm really happy that this one might actually fit her (for a little while at least). I'm also going to have her teeth floated and give her spring vacs this week! Yay for getting things done!

Monday, March 28, 2011

So ready to ramp it up!

So, I've been doing a bit of thinking lately. Well, that and some shopping. I went online to find necessities, like a leadrope that isn't torn into several strings from being repeatedly stepped on. So of course I go looking through the clearance section of all my usual websites, and I end up putting more in my cart than I should. I also end up doing an ebay search for tall boots, Ariat tall boots, just to see what's out there. Somehow I have this crazy luck. I always go looking for tall boots right when mine are about to crap out (or just don't take polish like they used to which makes me want new ones) and I come upon these crazy deals. I found Ariat pull ons, so I don't have to worry about the dumb zipper issues that everyone I know says the zip up ones have, for..... $75...... in my PERFECT size!! So I made a promise to myself, that if I'm going to buy a pair of boots to show in, I have to commit to actually going to some shows this year.

The other stuff I bought is going to come in handy for all the schooling I'm going to need to do to prepare for those shows. So basically I shopped my way into productivity... hopefully.

The arena was being reconstructed after it got washed away AGAIN in this last storm, so hopefully I will ride tomorrow!!!

Or maybe I'll just lunge the 6 yr old TB who hasn't been out to do ANYTHING other than eat in the last 10 or so days.

But then I will begin my show training in earnest. I'll post about all my grandiose ideas relating to that next time.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do March Showers bring April flowers?

It's been soaking! My arena got washed away again and won't be back in commission until after the next storm. However, I have had a chance to ride in my (potentially) new M. Toulouse Brione saddle, but only once! It was also the first ride after the chiropractor. So far it looks like Dr. L made a world of a difference.

Bijou was not obviously sore the day after, so I went ahead and put her in the round pen to let her move out to make sure I could get an idea of how she was feeling. She was a little frisky, but not too much, just enjoying herself. If anything I might say she was a little short strided in the back, but it was so small that I could have been making things up. We called it quits, and I fed her her lunch. Which is consisting of soaked beet pulp and this great low NSC senior feed that has 5% fat!

I took her out the next day after picking up the new saddle which is wool flocked and will hopefully be able to be fitted to her... I stuck that on her and went for a short ride. To the left she was much the same as before, flexible and quiet, but to the right she finally felt like she was able to bend! Not totally the same on both sides, and not completely better, but she was much more comfortable at the walk and trot and took less pressure from my aids to get a good bend out of her. Then for the real test - the canter. This is where she had been bucking before. I decided I'd leave her alone as much as possible, so I got off her back and picked up a right lead canter. She picked up the right lead on her own, and we went an entire circuit of the arena with no bucking, even in her old favorite corner. I tried putting a little weight back in the saddle and she thought about getting crow-hoppy, thought better of it, and just went around like normal. She did have a few cow kicks when I asked her to bend through the corners more, but it's hard to say if that's due to lack of strength, or because she's still out somewhere.

I'm a believer. I think Chiropractic worked on my horse! Now I'm off to find one for me :P

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Saddle?

So I stumbled upon this saddle. It's practically brand spanking new, and new they sell for about $1100. The woman will take less than half of that...

It's a medium tree and 17.5 in seat. Wool flocked as far as I know (double checking on that) so I would finally be able to get a fitter out to fit it to her.

I'm picking it up tomorrow, I plan to take lots of pictures and post them for opinions please?!

Friday, March 11, 2011

still crooked

I have two different horses, one that trots with huge slow stretchy strides at the trot, and canters around on a loose rein to the left, and one that throws her head around, and is stiff as a board at the trot, and bucks in the canter!

I scheduled the chiropractor for 11:30 on Monday. I'm hoping she'll be good and fix everything. The guy I had been talking to flaked out on me, so I saw her at the barn and swooped in to make it happen. I'm crossing my fingers!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I made a pretty tail

I haven't been a good horse mom lately. I think about doing things with my horse all the time. I think about getting her adjusted and riding and showing and competing and winning and spending lots of hours in the saddle, but it just doesn't happen. I've been so swamped taking 18 units and working 20 hours a week, I hate it!

But today I was a good horse mommy. I washed, repaired, dried and applied my old tail bag. I used a stretch stitch, so now it shouldn't get any holes in it because it will just stretch. I washed Bijou's tail with delicious mane n tails shampoo, and I scrubbed all the way down to her once dandruffy tail bone, which is now almost completely dandruff free. I fed her her grain and brushed out her tail. She got to graze in the sunshine after a good grooming while I waited for her tail to dry, then I braided it all up. When I was washing and brushing I noticed how LONG it has gotten! Her tail DRAGS on the ground, when I got her it was right between her hocks and pasterns.

All together, I spent about an hour at the barn, which is nothing to what I would have liked to spend, but I'm proud that I made time to get it done. I'm going to make appointments for barn time in my schedule for next quarter, because this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Playing the waiting game

So a few things have changed, big surprise. That show we were supposed to go to, it rained the whole week before hand, and was supposed to rain the day of, so it got canceled. I was training the week before that, hoping to do really well in W/T and getting some really good work in the walk and trot, but our canter totally fell apart. At first it was just a mild hop through a couple of the corners, but through the week it progressed into a couple of full blown bucks in one specific corner, and only to the right. Her left lead canter is still almost as good as ever, only with maybe a tiny bit more tension. I haven't changed her saddle, bit, bridle, feed, pasture, etc. I can't figure it out. So I began the search for a chiropractor. I found one, but have yet to get him to commit to an appointment so I'm just waiting around. I went out and lunged on Sunday (which was the only day out of the last several that it wasn't pouring/HAILING!!!

Bijou got ahead of me on the shedding front, usually I like to keep up with them as it progresses slowly, but I haven't been able to take her blanket off without her getting soaked in the last several days, let alone brush her. So I left several small fuzzy animals worth of hair laying around the trailer on Sunday, while I spend every spare moment grooming her. She was very easy to lunge, not ripping around like she usually likes to. I was going to go ride today but they fed early and I wouldn't have made it out there with enough time to work her without her losing her dinner.

So now it's time to twiddle my thumbs and see if I can find another chiropractor who will respond to my emails, or wait for this other guy to get back to me. I'm going to wait to ride her until I have this issue mostly ruled out just to avoid teaching any bad behavior.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

sputum and other exciting things

At least this time its MY sputum and not my horse's. I've been sick this last week, first with a fever then a cough. I've been pretty damn busy too, what with it being midterms week and having about a million and a half papers/assignments/quizzes/tests.

But I did ride! I spent as much time as possible out at the barn during the weekend, which turned out to not be that much. I've decided that my grown-up-sane-pony ran away and got replaced with the same pony I had at this time last year. She's not been quite so easy to just hop on after a few days off anymore. If I do, the ride goes something like:

Giraffe impression - 20 minutes,

Trotting Cart horse in the most important race of it's life - 15 minutes,

Bucking bronco practice - 1 minute (I don't put up with that)

and then I end up in the round pen anyways because she doesn't get to behave like that. Then I get back on and she's a lovely hunter daisy cutter for about 5 minutes and I'm exhausted and out of time.

Big news, we've scheduled our first show of the year! I'll be going up to San Miguel to ride in the first annual CloseBy Ranch Schooling series!

It's going to be their first show, so how perfect that it will be ours too! I'm admittedly a little bit nervous to get back to showing, for a few reasons. I always plan to prepare waaaaay ahead of time, and just like always, something has gotten in the way. I really planned on being able to ride this past week, and I've been sick. I also feel a certain kind of pressure since this is the youngest and least started horse I've trained. She's the one that's been the most mine from day one, so that means that her performance (good or bad) is all my fault. I know I've done a good job, but I don't know what the competition day will bring.

I plan on just doing the walk/trot classes, and they also have a ground pole hunter class which I think I'm going to try! S and I might do the pairs class, although we always feel a little foolish when we beat out all the 7 year olds... We're also going to go up the day before to practice, keep them stalled up there overnight and get everyone settled in. I think that will be the perfect way to do our first show, get a really good look at the arena the day before, then show in it.

I'm apprehensively hopeful about the whole thing. I'm not going into this to win every ribbon, or even to ribbon at all. This time around is about showing at a level which is appropriate, gaining experience, and maybe having some fun! I just want to get my feet wet to give me something to really work towards.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

We have takeoff

I officially jumped my first vertical yesterday! It was probably just under 2" but I'm just glad that the change of shape made absolutely no difference in how Bijou jumped. We also have been working on stringing multiple fences together. So far we're pretty good at a 4 stride line, she trots in, canters through and generally waits for me to ask for the right spot for the last jump. I'm thinking at this point I really want to keep her slow. She tends to get a little excited and rushy (which is nice compared to where we were 6 months ago when she just stopped) but I want to make sure I have a hunter that can become a jumper, rather than just a freight train :P

Since her head injury, she has been very sporadically head shy. She only really cares when I first walk out into the pasture, or when I take off her halter and bring the bridle up to her face. I've been working her in the round pen again mostly to take the edge off but also to desensitize her to it. So far it's been working ok. I've also been really diligent about feeding her, and it's paying off. I love the feeling that she's eaten well that day and it's made her ribs stick out less, so I feel like it's definitely working. She also officially started shedding yesterday! I'm excited because it means I'm a little closer to my sleek and shiny pony, but not so excited for all the extra time I'm going to spend grooming her.

We have scheduled our first show of the year for February 27th. I'm more than likely going to just do walk/trot with her since our canter can be a little frantic at times. She's been very easily distracted lately, so I'm going to try her on some B vitamin supplements which have proved to calm her in the past. Speaking of which, I should go order some more. Then I'll review them!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

all that worrying for naught

My horse is better. One solid week and she's feeling fine. I petted all over her head and both ears and there was very little shy-ness at all :D

So of course I tacked up (after not riding for at least a week to let her head heal) and we hopped into the arena. I had forgotten that I changed bits to ride a different horse, so we were back to the french link loose ring snaffle. Bijou was very tense but very responsive to rein aids. She had a few good moments of stretchyness but it was mostly just rushy agitated grrr the whole way (if that makes sense). She would pick a spot in the arena to have a little head tossing fit and then be good the rest of the way around until we got to that spot again, and then she'd toss around etc. She did it in a different spot when we changed direction... go figure. I kept it simple, and just kinda forced her to be good. There were a few times we broke to the canter just out of sheer forward momentum, but overall she was ok. One of the ranch hands decided it would be an awesome idea to drag 3 hog panels at about 15mph behind the quad, I'm just glad it was while we were facing that direction, otherwise we would have gotten a much bigger reaction.

She got all the sweat rinsed off since it was 75 (!!) today. Hopefully I'll get out there tomorrow and ride a more sane pony. Now I have to go study for a midterm :(

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spring Sunshine

My mood is a lot more up, what with the weather being so delightful lately. I've also started to get the first premiums for some upcoming schooling shows and I think I've finally gotten to the point where I just want to go for it. I'm so excited about showing I can't even stand it! There's a show at the end of February that I'm planning on going to, which means I have to find all my show clothes!! It also means I need to find all my 'hunter' tack again, right now I just have everything in lavender :P

I still haven't gone out to check on the head wound, but I'm ok with that. I would rather give it a full week to get better than try to push it. I am definitely going out there tomorrow morning to do something with her. I'm crossing my fingers that I will RIDE her, but you know what happens when you hope for the best, so I'm also preparing for the worst. Maybe I'll just take more pictures of her muddy self while I wait for her food to soak. I dunno, having low expectations is my goal.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ho hum

It's amazing how an injured horse can make my attitude so lackluster. I've decided to give her the week off before I go out and try to push anything, that way I won't be tempted. I want to keep things nice and gentle with her so she doesn't get headshy over the whole thing. I'm going to try to head out on Friday to check on her, and then probably won't ride until it's healed. I might try to gerry-rig something to be able to ride her, remove the brow band or something... I dunno.

In other news, I've finally put up my reviews section. It's only just begun, I hope to have a bunch of stuff up there just as a general info type thing. I love getting reviews from people I trust so I figured others must find it helpful too. Please feel free to comment and let me know if you have questions about how I use something or my experiences with anything. I can't say I'm an expert, but most of the knowledge we have in the equine world is anecdotal, and I have a lot of anecdotes :D

Monday, January 17, 2011


It was time for a beach ride! I went out to the pasture, walked up to my lovely mare, slipped the noseband of the halter over her nose, and flipped the crownpiece up to her ears when all of a sudden she flinched away from my right hand/the crownpiece and almost knocked me down. Stunned, I walked up to her and tried to just pet her face, when she flinches away again! I begin an investigation only to find that she has about a 1.5 in cut right below her ear. It wasn't bleeding badly, just obviously very sore. I walked her up to the trailer with the lead around her neck (this is through puddles and slippery mud still, good pony for just following me even when she didn't have to) to see if I could get some help.

She won't let me get anywhere near it. So I've decided to give her a few days off. I went to the beach on another mare (my friend is trying to sell her, so it was good for her to get the pictures) who was really good but I'm still disappointed.

Is it just me, or is it just one thing after another. The second day I had her she got a hole in her sinus which took 6 weeks to clear up. Then it was too mucky to do anything with her for another 3 months. Then she was mysteriously lame. Then I broke my ankle. Then I got an almost full time job for the summer and didn't spend nearly enough time with her. Then I had another horse who was the priority because I was trying to sell it. Then the arena washed away due to all the rain. And now I can't get a bridle on her because she has a cut where the crown piece would go.

I see everyone making their new years resolutions and thinking out monthly goals and I desperately want to do the same, but I feel like every time I make a goal it just gets broken by something. I even tried to keep my goals simple, but now I can't even keep the "ride every chance I get" one. When I got her I was hoping to have made a lot more progress in the time I've had. I'm not saying that the progress we've made is nothing, I just was so sure I was capable of so much more with her. I'm just really discouraged. I guess I'll make the best of it and just work a bunch, get caught up on my overdue class readings, and feed her a lot.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Is finally over!! We had about our whole years worth of rain the last two weeks, which resulted in our arena WASHING AWAY!! It was down to the base in at least 1/2 of the arena a few days ago.

But we have rebuilt. The first day that the email went out relaying the news that the arena was open again I went to try it. I was a little worried because there were already three horses working in there, all of whom hadn't been ridden in over a week and a half, some of whom I'd never seen ridden before that etc. Bijou went for a short romp in the round pen and told me she was done getting out her willies by arching her neck, trotting into the center, nudging me and blowing out a big deep breath of relief at finally being able to stretch her legs again. She went in a little bit quivery, like a horse on a windy day, but came out 10 minutes later as her normal self.

We tacked up and headed into the very busy arena and went right to work. I don't know if it was just because she was unfit or sore from slipping around in the mud for a while, but she was a little tiny bit reluctant to go forward. I wasn't kicking or flapping, but there just wasn't that willingness I've come to get used to. I'm trying not to blow it out of proportion, but I also want to pay attention to see if it's a trend. I did have her shoes pulled for winter, at least, since all the sucking mud would probably pull them for me if I didn't. She was still happy to work into the contact, and even picked up a nice canter on each lead without any fight. The quality of all the gaits was good, it was just the transitions which were a little sticky. Like I said, I'm hoping that's just because she's not been worked much. It was a very uneventful pleasant ride, surprisingly with all the commotion. At one point there were 5 horses in the arena, which is 4 more than normal and she took it all in stride. I think her specialty is to surprise me :)

I'm was going to ride a few times this week, but I've been lured into helping S body clip Wyatt for the last several days. I'm glad its done, and he looks really cute. Now hopefully it's on to riding!

Oh ya, I know it's kinda late, but here are my New Years Resolutions:

1) Ride my horse at every opportunity, even if it just means walking her around. If I can't do that, just go feed her
2) Get straight A's
3) Go to at least one show this season. I don't care what level I compete at, I just want to go.