Thursday, July 9, 2015

So Much

Where do I start. So much has happened in my horsey world since we last checked in. I got a new horse trailer, new (to me) truck, officially started riding, started jumping, rescued a horse, and Pippin went for another ride. Here is a brief recap. 

This is Hermione. She's a 2001 Ford F-350 7.3l diesel. She's the exact engine I wanted with the perfect number of miles. It just happened my friend was selling. 

Dickie is modeling the new pony mobile. It's a new 4- star 2+1 model. It is 7'6" tall and had two straight load slots in the back and a slant box stall in the front. 

This is Lucky a skinny mare we picked up when my favorite rescue had room. We didn't know she would be skinny and she wasn't healthy enough to make the 3 hour trailer ride. My friend ended up keeping her and she's already putting on weight. 

Dickie and I have been hitting the trails to get fit in time for shows later this month. My legs have forgotten that two point is a thing and are yelling at me every day. 

Pippin is as cute as ever and more confident everyday. Trainer hopped on him and he was a rockstar. He's been long lining like a champ. And he doesn't wear a halter in the pasture anymore. He walks right up and puts his halter on like a normal horse. 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saddle Talk

Last year I bought Dickie a used Black Country ricochet. I love it so much. My leg feels stable and my hips were happy even on my worst days. Everyone who rides in it wants one. The only issue is the flap could be more forward. My hips have kept me from jumping so it hasn't been a problem but I had it in the back of my mind I might want to sell it for a larger one down the road. 

This is the color of model of my current saddle: 

Now I have two horses who both need saddles. They will often be ridden at the same time so it's not feasible to use the same saddle on both. Dickies saddle actually fits Pippin better so I decided to bite the bullet and get the saddle I want now. 

I went with another Black Country ricochet. First I sent the tracings to Trumbull Mountain saddlery. The ricochet works better for the tall withered pointy roof backed horses. I picked the color and leather combo above. I love the look and durability of buffalo leather on the flaps. The seat/knees have what's called reverse doe which is nice and grippy. Dickie's tack is all dark brown so now it won't clash. I didn't love that my saddle is lighter than the rest of my tack. 

I decided to try serge covered panels because they are lighter and cooler than leather panels. My saddle fitter said its also easier to change stuffing with it. I was worried about durability but people give excellent reviews. I've seen photos of older serge panels and they look great. 

She looked at photos of me in the saddle and thought my seat sized looked perfect. They were able to do a more forward flap on the saddle so I can get my stirrups up. Then I added in the totally frivolous request of silver welt. That's the little light colored piping you can see in this photo. 

Black Country and Trumbull are amazing to work with. Asking for customizations aren't extra. You could even go entirely custom by having the tree made to template. If you like a Ricochet seat but the quantum tree fits your horse better Black Country will mix and match.  The only extra fees were for the buffalo hide flaps. I love that I can get an essentially custom saddle for the same price as buying off the rack. Can't wait for it to arrive. I've never owned or even ridden in a new saddle!!

I ordered it over a week ago. The wait is anywhere between two week and six weeks. I hope I'm able to ride enough to enjoy it by the time it arrives. 

Pippin Torture Continues

Pippin continues to be the cutest little bugger around. He's still jumpy when something comes up behind him, you toss a saddle pad on his back, or a rope over his neck. However, deep down I think he's a pretty unflappable guy. He's not worried about normal scary things like horse eating plastic bags. And if you do something scary he never panics. He just takes a step back and wants to look you in the eye. 

The week before last we lost a little ground so no riding happened. My friend Frankie and I were busy so Pippin got loves but we didn't have time for anything serious. Last week I added back in saddling and torturing him by wearing weird stuff. He remembers quickly and seems to thrive off the attention. One of my other good friends comes on Sunday's and played with him. She can do all the stuff my hip won't allow like trotting in hand. She took this great photo of the boys practicing tying. It's a big deal for Pippin because he gets worried about stuff happening behind him when he can't swing around and give it the direct stink eye. It's a big deal for Dickie because he thinks standing in place for too long will in fact kill a horse. I need him to be able to stand all day at the trailer without causing a scene. 

We've been working at the mounting block quite a bit. This accomplishes a few things. It gets him used to me being above him. From the mounting block I can get him used to me smacking him on both sides, touching him on the flank with my leg, swinging the rope over his back and all that fun stuff. It also creates a horse who will stand stock still at a mounting block to matter what. Human lines you up with with tall thing, horse stands there and doesn't move until human says so. Dickie learned this when he was two long before he couldn't handle standing still at the cross ties. 

Pippin also had the lovely experience of being hosed off. My friend took care of that fun milestone for me. It's hard enough for me to get in the wash rack with my bad hip let alone manuever a worried horse. I can't wait to get back out and play with his cuteness. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Didn't Sign Up for This

Sorry for the double post. The other one should have posted yesterday 


Pippin was saved from the slaughter pen two years ago. Since then he's lived a life if leisure. Other than a short trip to the trainer he's spent the last two years living like a king. Treats, love, lots of hay. Then he moved to Oregon. 

At first it seemed like he would continue his life of royalty. All he needed to do was take his ladies for walks in the park and he would receive full body massages by multiple women at once. Little did he know that the crazy ladies were cooking up a plan to RIDE HIM!

I've been putting all my weight on his back without a saddle. He's worn a saddle around the barn and learned how to stand at the mounting block. Blue's mom has been spending time with him whenever I'm not there and she helped me get on. She led us at first while I figured out what he knows. He doesn't remember much but was an angel considering he hasn't been under saddle in over a year. I couldn't have asked for a better boy. 

We walked around a bit and as soon as he understood "hoa" and "walk on" we were done. He's really smart so that only took five minutes. From now on I won't be the one riding because I really shouldn't be in the saddle yet let alone on a green horse. Luckily I have two friends who are spending lots of time with him so he won't have strangers getting on. We also have a ton of ground work to do so he can be more successful under saddle. I'm so proud of this guy and how hard he tries for his people. 

Pretty dang good for a horse who started his journey my way as an unhandled stallion waiting for to be shipped to slaughter. Thank the heavens that Pony Up Rescue for Equines saw his potentional. 

Going Places

For those of you who haven't followed long, Dickie has loose stifles. His quads are weak so his stifles are wobbly and in extreme cases the patella can lock up. It isn't an injury but is disconcerting to the horse becuase the patella locks up when you are riding. It tends to get better as they mature and get their man muscles in. The prescription is too keep them in steady hard work. It went away over the summer then he spent six months just hanging out. 

Bringing him back to work was a bit of a pain. He really needed five days a week but I can't do that nor could I afford to have trainer do it. Horses with this issue need heavy quad work (poles, backing and hills) but we didn't really have that at old barn. The hills were too slick and poles were used in jumps. 

New barn has been perfect. There are options for hill work no matter how muddy. There are poles that can be left out. And I'm well enough to back him and hand walk over poles several days a week. Progress has been slow but now Dickie is looking fantastic. 

We took him on a trail ride to the top of the hillside and he was rarin' to go the whole time. I think he's going to be in shape just when I'm allowed to start pushing myself in the saddle. My good days finally equal the bad and I can imagine all the fun things we will be able to do this summer. I'm looking at schooling horse trails later in the summer and they actually feel possible. Bring it!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Little Things

It's funny how quickly you forget how much goes into teaching a horse the details of good horse citizenship. I just went through it with Dickie and I already blocked out how much time was spent on the little stuff. Pippin is much further a long than Dickie was. He's also much more receptive to rules. There are still a million things he needs to learn. Leading from the offside won't kill you, mounting blocks don't eat horses, horses don't run from blankets, when people trot horses trot, and humans are allowed to touch horses anywhere. 

Dickie was a hard horse to train because he couldn't stand still (still struggles with this). If you poked him to move over he would protest with pawing front legs and bucking tantrums. But he was pretty fearless and could care less if you put a tarp over his head. Pippin will move away from you with just a touch and is happy to stand with you all day. For the most part he's not spooky. He doesn't care about hoses or mud puddles. However, if there is a human attached to the hose he thinks it might eat him. 

He was already started under saddle but we are treating him like a blank slate to make sure he trusts us. Last week my friend came out to play with him since I don't have as much stamina. She took him into the outdoor and worked on leading from the offside and trotting in hand. He let it be known that there is only one side to lead horses from and attempted to teach her. He also thought for sure she lost her mind when she asked him to trot in hand.  Normally you can just swing the lead role behind you and give the horse a smack to get a horse trotting. Pippin is super sensitive so swinging anything his direction means he side stepped away, at a walk. 

By the end of the session he figured out if the human goes fast it's ok to go fast with her. He still looked at her like she was insane but he went along with her. He thrives off of "good boy" and will try anything as long as he gets praise. 

She came back Sunday and couldn't resist having Pippin time. I had already worked with him but he seemed happy to come out with the people again. He's one of those horses who picks up better than you left off. He acted like leading from the off side was no big deal and trotted in hand like an old pro. We love us some Pippin!! He's so fun. Can't wait to see what he does this week. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Grounded in Paradise

I've had to move a few times in the last few years but I've been really lucky to find great places for the horses.  I believe strongly that getting out of the arena is good for the equine mind and body. This is no exception. There are miles of wide open trails. There are a few slick spots now but it is fine for walking and some trotting. In the summer it will be perfect for cantering and galloping. 

Last weekend my friend (Blue's owner) wanted to go for a ride with her BFF. Dickie needs long slow trail miles so it was perfect. You can see his spotted butt just in front of the camera. Everyone at the barn said he did great. I guess he jigged a little to start then settled right in. 

I'm so jealous. I can't wait to go for a ride. I love getting out on the trails. Trotting and cantering on uneven ground is the best for getting in shape. In a month I'm cleared to ride surgically. My leg pain seems like it might be a herniated disc rather than the piriformis but that does tend to get well on its own. Slowly. Way too slowly. 

I might not get to ride like the other kids but at least the scenery is amazing. For now I'll just putz along at a snails pace and work on my tan. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Pippin Took is a working man

The Pipster spent his first three years as a wild stud. The last two years were spent at an amazing rescue. He was so shy of people that it was a long struggle just to get a halter on him and for him to tolerate a farrier. In the months before moving to my friends house he really started coming out of his shell. Sending him to my friend worked out perfectly. She did all the hard work of getting him to tie, wear saddles, and be haltered by anyone. 

I thought he might need a week to decompress after his ride to a new place but he continues to surprise. Every time we get him out he seems perfectly happy to go on adventures. When he gets worried he never panics and with just w little reassurance he comes right back to you. 

He doesn't like to be walked on the off side and if he's worried he doesn't want people to stand out of his sight (by his shoulder, or torso). Everyday he gets better. He hasn't even been with us for a week and he's tolerating nose kisses, hugs, and being led in by strangers. He even seems to enjoy all the fuss. 
I think he's going to turn into a steady Eddie once he realizes humans are awesome. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

You are An Embarrassment

When your horse is turned out in a herd you want to have the happy go lucky pony who gets along with everyone. Dickie has been in multiple herds both mixed and gelding only. He always seems to get along. He might pester others into playing buts he's never rude. Until now. My horse is officially a bully. 

His best buddy at the last barn was a big sweet thoroughbred named Blue. Blue and Dickie were two peas in a pod. They loved to play but were not exclusive. They still enjoyed the company of other horses and were ruled by a little pony. A few weeks ago my friend decided to move Blue to my barn. When Blue spotted Dickie it was like two lovers being reunited after a war when one thought the other was dead. 

At first we thought it was cute. I was a little surprised because they weren't that close at the old barn. I wasn't super worried though because they did just fine in a herd before. They had a healthy relationship and played nicely with others. This is not the case at new barn. They walk everywhere as close as conjoined twins. If one of them so much as senses another horse looks in their direction. 

This is Mr Blue staring looking heartbroken when we took Dickie away. I always called Blue the good horse at old barn. Blue takes a treat so polite. And he was always a gentleman in the field. He's 17h and the pony could boss him with the flick of an ear from 50 feet away. I've learned not to be suprised by Dickies shenanigans but I'm shocked by Blue's asshattery. Blue bares his teeth like a wild stallion if another horse happens to walk within ten feet of Dickie. The two big bullies are quite enjoying big men on campus. 

I can't fully summarize Dickie's mean girl behaviors without mentioning the cone. The cone existed before Dickie arrived but he decided from day one it belonged to him and only him. Don't s sniff my cone, don't look at my cone, don't walk by my cone. MINE MINE MINE! He packs the cone around sometimes smacking other horses as he goes. So rude Dickie. I disown you. 

Dickie Goes to Boot Camp

Dickie has been worked twice a week by my trainer since my parents passed away. I've always hated the idea of putting a horse in training but I really wanted him in shape by the time I was ready to ride. His loose stifles mean the first few months of riding are essentially PT. Lots of walking over poles, hill work, and trot poles. 

His quads weren't building up much at the old barn because we didn't have access to poles and the hilly areas were slick. He has improved by leaps and bounds in the last month but he really needs to be worked more than twice a week. I can't ride but I can finally walk well enough to do ground work. There are some telephone poles we walk over and the indoor always has cavaletis out. I'm able to back him up ten steps ten times. All the ground work has the added benefit of reminding Dickie that he does in fact have to mind the humans. My trainer makes him remember manners but he's the kind of horse who needs to be handled everyday. Give him an inch and he will body slam you to China. 

The long slow walks seem to be helping me. We wander and when I'm too sore I sit down. Standing in one place is torture for the Spotted Princlett so that's a valuable lesson in itself. Hopefully we will both be in fighting shape by the summer! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hippie Problems

My last hip surgery was easy peasy. It took a lot of work on my part (the PT is pretty intense) but my recovery was text book. Moved steadily forward with the occasional hard day. My range of motion was better than expected at every follow up. The first few days after this surgery were a little rough but after my incision pain went away the left hip seemed to be doing even better than the first time around. I was driving, walking, riding the stationary bike...... Then at six weeks post up I tried to get out in the shower and something locked up. I had the worse pain of my life in my butt and burning pain from my hip down to my little toe.

I couldn't find a single comfortable position. Sitting sucked, laying down sucked, walking was impossible (I even managed to fall down once). I couldn't drive. I had to go back on narcotic pain meds but those aren't good for me. I was crying like a baby all the time and wallowing in my pity. I've had a pretty high level of pain for the last 12 months. Tacking this on right when I could see the light at the of the tunnel felt like more than I could handle.

I realized I can think "I can't take this" all I want. The reality is you don't really have a choice other than to keep waking up. I spent some time on the googles self diagnosing. It was clearly sciatic pain and the culprit was either my back or the piriformis muscle. I just had a car accident so a disc problem is plausible.  The piriformis gets pissed off with hip surgery. If it gets inflamed then the sciatic  nerve gets trapped between bone and muscle. 

The hardest part of my hip issues hasn't been the pain. It has been the helplessness. This last round I knew I needed massage, pool time, and pt. It's hard to get these places when you can't drive. My family and partner have already taken countless days off between two surgeries and getting my parent's house ready to sell. Luckily one of my amazing friends who works swing shift was willing to haul my ass around. 

Said friend also happens to work at a pool. They have a lap pool and warm therapy pool. Walking and stretching in the warm pool helped me turn a corner. I was also put on a short course of steroids because my surgeon suspects a herniated disc. Things are ever so slowly improving. I'm finally able to drive. I can get through the day on over the counter pain meds. I'm able to do some work with my horses. Slow and steady slow and steady. I'm hoping that I will be 100% before too long but right now I'm just grateful to leave the house whenever I want. 

Pippin Took Has An Adventure

Pippin spent the last few months learning that life as a pampered horse in a boarding barn isn't half bad. In fact it is pretty damned awesome. By the end of two months she had him tying, sleeping in a stall, getting trimmed every six weeks, wearing a blanket, wearing saddles, worming, and charming the vet. And all of this happened without fuss or stress. She isn't one to rush a horse and didn't go into with a particular timeline. If it had taken him six months for him to tolerate being in a barn without stress that would have been fine with his mommies. But he just keeps surprising everyone. As long as he gets a chance to think about things and everyone stays calm this little guy will do pretty much anything you ask.

Look ma I tie!!

There was room in the new barn and no guarantee there would be room later. My hip recovery hasn't been going well (more on that later) so I would have rather waited a bit but I have a crew of people around to help so we said "What the heck. Send him down!" He loaded up for his foster mom without pause. The wonderful hauler had several delays on the first leg of her journey so she was already running late picking him up. She ended up having a flat tire and had to wait for rescue as a storm rolled in and the sun went down. She was so tired and her home was on the way so she ended up stopping there. He wasn't sure he wanted to get back in the trailer in the morning but she has been hauling for years and often works with horses who are barely halter broke so they arrived at my place on schedule. He arrived a little sweaty but not overly worried.

Ex wild kill pen stallion rides in style. 

When he is worried he reverts back to being very people shy. He didn't want me to stand behind his head and wasn't ready for petting when he first stepped off the trailer. However, he was nothing but a gentleman. He follows right next to you without putting so much as an ounce of pressure on the lead. If something is scary he just wants to pause and think about it then marches right along behind you. By the time I left he was seeking out attention from strangers.

Did I hear a treat wrapper?
I spend several hours at the barn to make sure he settled in. One of the big horses is away at training so he gets a HUGE stall for the month. It is at least 14x14, open on 2.5 walls and has bars on the solid walls. He has a 360 degree view of the entire barn from his stall. The routine for new horses is to be in a stall the first day. Then day two they slowly get introduced to the herd. I wasn't sure how he would handle being in but he was happy as could be. There are lose horses on the property and they all came to great him. He seems so fascinated by everything. He just stood there munching his hay watching the activity.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Barn Hopper

I used to have a pet peave against barn hoppers. You know the people who are never happy and move from barn to barn with the seasons? They always seem thrilled to arrive and complain about the last barn then before you know it they are on to the next place. I must admit I am filled with judgement when I hear someone has been to more than one barn in a year. I like to get somewhere and stay there. I feel bad to drag my horse around and I don't like to move myself. I don't even like it when my honey moves the frying pan. I want my brush box to sit the same place it has been for the last five years. 

Bre and I have only been at a handful of barns in the 14 years we have been together. We were at a large boarding stable in Alaska and moved because she colicked so frequently. The barn actually provided wonderful care but you can only do so much in the middle of the city in Alaska. There were 45+ horses and limited turnout which didn't agree with the princess. So we moved down the street and came back for visits. If we hadn't left the state I would be at the same barn. 

From Alaska we made a brief pit stop at my Mom's house before moving to a heavenly boarding stable on the east side of town. There was turnout, miles of trails along the river, a big empty arena, nice low drama people, and a barn owner you who was like everyone's favorite aunt. I thought I would never leave and would keep every horse I owned there. Then nursing school happened. The drive was a killer and I needed Bre close in case she was sick when I was busy. I also didn't want her neglected when I was working full time and going to nursing school full time. So broken hearted I moved her from that barn to the place she will die. She lives with a family who spoil her like their own. The end. That is the extent of Bre's moves over the last 14 years 

Poor Dickie has had a different life. The first barn was never intended to be permanent. It was close to Bre (on the same private drive) so it seemed like a good fit. The large stable I had Bre at was out of the question because I no longer lived in that part of town. The arena was tiny with footing that I didn't even want to lunge in but he was two and just needed handling. Then he didn't get the amount of turnout we agreed upon and started taking the barn down. I quite like the barn owner and rather than having it turn into an dramatic mess we moved down the street. He had several acres and mares to teach him about life. We were very happy there until it came time to ride him. By then a busy hunter program had taken over and arena time was impossible. Jumps were up five days a week on the rails, the quarter lines, and every circle. I work 12 hour shifts so if my work days fell on jump free days I didn't get to ride green spaz that week. Sadly (because I loved barn owner and turnout) we made out way to a quieter barn with two large arenas. 

Barn number three was a disaster. The woman seemed great to start but over time it became apparent she was both selfish and likely suffered from a mood disorder. She ran every trainer off because she either didn't pay them or was so disrespectful of their time. Near the end I was looking for other barns closer with better trail access (and a non crazy BO). She decided that all of the boarders were plotting to leave without giving 30 days notice so she locked up our tack. She demanded cash or for me to give her tack as collateral. Fearing for my horse's safety with an unstable woman dictating his care we packed up and left in an hour. I am so glad we did because she stopped feeding the horses who weren't able to leave. Stalls weren't cleaned and horses were left out 24/7. It was HORRIBLE. So on to yet another barn, my friend who graciously let us crash there for a few months.

Barn number five was heaven. He got to be out in a huge field with other boys. His stall was so big he looked like a pony and was bedded at least six inches deep. There were two GIANT arenas and trails. Three trainers worked out of the barn but the indoor was so big it never felt crowded. Plus there was a 200x300 all weather outdoor. The people were nice. I love the event trainer and the owner of the barn was genuinely a nice caring person. So much awesome. I knew I would be happy there for a long time. In the back of my mind though I was aware that it's a long drive from Portland. We always planned on buying a house in town but that was years off. Then my parents died and the moving timeline was pushed to this summer. There were a few barns on my list to check out once I bought a house. It just happened that my trainer and farrier had a client move to my number one choice. The barn had a wait list which was great because I didn't want to move until June. I had hoped for a few trail rides with my friends once my hip healed. 

The wait list ended up being very short. A space opened up immediately and I had to take it. I was really sad to leave. The blow has been softened by the gorgeous facilities. It feels like a fairy tale. It is on the edge of a wooded hillside looking over a valley. There is a giant all weather outdoor, even more trails than the last place, and sand indoor. The footing in the indoor couldn't be more perfect. The stables are open air with bars so the horses can see each other. That is barn number five in three years of ownership. I am officially a barn hopper and I am sooooo ready to settle in. Six years from now I hope my tack trunk has melded to the floor. I want to have been there for so long that people think I work there. The only reason I move again will be because I won the lottery and built my own fancy barn.