Sunday, April 29, 2012

A hole in JB's back

My focus these days ofcourse is on Maggie, who is not a Barb (Barbs, etc name thing) but is my main riding horse but  I thought maybe it was time to get you all up to date on JB, my barb gelding, who this blog was basically named after.

JB continues to be my other "work in progress" , but in a different way than Maggie. JB has a hole in his back. He has essentially forgotten that he has a right side to his spinal area and how to use it. .Due to his injury and lack of use, he has  learned to compensate for his diasbility by traveling and holding his body in a very strange way. Typically a horse at liberty mostly travels straight... mostly. JB travel with a right bend from his shoulders to his head, but his ribcage bent in the opposite way. So, essentially he is shaped like an "S" as he walks around at liberty.  It's  his "compensation " for his injury on his right pastern. This way he has learned to travel has created some atrohpy in his loin  along the right side of his spine  (if you were over the top of him looking down.) He has become very weak and unable/unwilling to drive himself forward with his hind quarters. As a result, he looks like he is off on his hind left but oddly enough, it's not that he is lame, He is just out of balance.

So , I have my work cut out for me and in many ways, we are starting over. I have been working him on the lunge  to help begin to get his strength without the added burden of a rider. When I do ride him, the work consists of long low walking with alot of bending. He is very resistant to bend correctly to the right. He wants to bend only with his his head and neck , but not let go through the spine and rib cage. It's a very strange feeling and frustrating to ride.

Today, my husband had a moment of absolute brilliance and pulled out a few of our blue barrels we have had laying around. I needed an object of some kind to bend JB around.. A visual aid helped us tremendously. I placed 6 barrels closely togther and made it so as I entered the barrels, he had to turn right or left. We did this at a walk and by the end of a few go arounds, JB was finally starting to find his ribcage again. Wow, what a feeling when a horse goes from rigid to soft,  steps under himself , and relaxes from head to toe... it was a total break through. I didn't have to fight him, he found it himself.

And to top it off, when he bent and traveled correctly, the sense of him being off in the back magically goes away..

In the last few weeks of trying to sort out what we needed to do with JB to get him to travel right, (even to the point of thinking he really was lame in the back end somewhere) today was such a great day.

The takeaway? What appears to be lameness needs to be fully investigated.. Look at the whole horse, don't overlook the small things. Something could be hiding that has nothing to do with a foot  or a leg...


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Fear and Motivation

So the nicest days we have had thus far this spring were Sunday and yesterday. Ofcourse, as it would happen, I had to attend meetings at our main office beginning early Monday morning, which meant I had to travel 4 hours on Sunday afternoon.It was a  total bummer. It was hard to have to pack up and get in that car to drive in sunny 75 degree weather . I pouted... and whined as long as I could Sunday morning but I did manage to atleast ride JB a bit before I left. I did the office corporate thing ALL day Monday and finally got back on the road at 4:00 p.m. The husband called and said that Xena , the German Shepherd, had somehow managed to escape. She climbed a 6 foot kennel to get out. Do you know how hard it is to be 4 hours away and completely helpless ?? Besides that fact that the majority of the trip is in "dark country" . Tom  would be spending his afternoon looking for her.
A little motivation and a fair amount of fear can do amazing things. For the dog and me.

I made that drive in record time, 3 hours..I got home at 7:00, Tom picked me up at the car rental place and we raced back home. We drove some of the back roads, with me calling her.. but we saw nothing. We decided to run home so I could change out of the office garb and get to searching for her. I had two hours of daylight left. The neighbors had been running tractors and lawn equipment and that scared her enough to drive her over the kennel. She was last seen headed south by some other neighbor.

As I was changing and Tom was unloading the car, he says, "someone's here to see you!"

It was the best 5 words I had heard all day...

Xena came bounding in the front door and jumped on me. She was quite happy to see me but not as happy as I was to see her..
Xena must have heard me calling her, even though Tom had been out for 4 hours already calling and whistling for her.

So much for the fenced back yard we were building...

Plan B- a cover for the kennel..

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Conditioning riding resumed today

I debated but took Maggie for a condition ride today. She started out a bit on the  sluggish side but seemed to perk up. The rest of the week went without any further issues, although she is still in heat. At about the 5 mile mark she started acting a little odd, and seemed more sweaty than she should have been for the ride. We had trotted but not a lot and not fast. I decided to stop, get off, let her graze a little and assess her for a few minutes. She pee'd and nibbled at a little grass but generally seemed uninterested. I got back on and decided we would make our way back towards the trailer. If I didn't purposely take her a different route to head back, I would have thought her increased energy level was simply the "aha home" mode, but she wouldn't have known we were headed back as it was a different trail altogether. Fo rthe first time , she felt like the normal Maggie. She even decided she wanted to pick up the pace to trot a little. Tom was along with Brego and we trotted along a nice two lande soft dirt track for about a   2 mile stretch. Maggie moved out into her big trot and stayed there, for all two miles. It always such a thrill to ride her in that trot, I could go for miles. She acted as though she wanted to continue but the trail merged into a more technical section so we had to slow to a walk.

So, maybe her earlier isse was just that she had to pee???

We decided that since she had perked up and was acting quite normal, we would not head back and instead take another loop . By the time we got back to the trailer, we had completed 12 miles. Our top speed according to the GPS was 13.6 mph and that would have been during our big trot out.

13.6 mph trot???

 NOT  bad... Not bad at all..

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grace Leaves and all Hell breaks loose

This is delayed but I wanted to get that Ride post out first... This week has been a horse health headache week with Maggie.

Sunday was a good day, Grace went off to her new home,  I ran the 5K on Sunday afternoon and then came home and rested for a bit. I stumbled across the box of wormer that I had ordered a few weeks prior and realize "oops, we needed to worm everyone". So , we did. A tube of yummy pasty Ivermectin for everyone. Rebel, Maggie, Brego, JB, and Cassidy were all rather unpleased but tolerated it well enough, especially when I brought out some apology carrots to pass out. Ofcourse,  they all thought initially I was trying to poison them only now with the carrots , but eventually the urge was too much and they caved.

We decided to that now that Grace was gone, we could move horses around so I could have Maggie separated in order to manage her food amounts better. I also will begin supplementing her Selenium and Vit E shortly so her being separate will make it that much easier. We moved Rebel and JB into the large corral where Cassidy , Maggie and Grace used to be and put Maggie in where Rebel and JB were. That made the big corral a gelding corral with Cassidy, JB and Rebel. They are all the "older " geldings and all three are a bunch of low man in any herd. That left Maggie to her own corral and barn and Brego to his own corral and barn. Brego has to be separated unless they are turned out in pasture becuase he is awful to other horses in confined areas, especially around food.  So this time of year, he goes into isolation. Good place for the miserable beast....

Anyways, I took Maggie out to a friends Monday night. She was in a rip-tearing heat,  and was a bit on the cranky pissy generally bitchy side...thank you Brego... Well, that attitude was fine because the plan was to take the horses out and work them in the plowed field. If you have ever done this you know it's hard work on a horse. It's really great for a horse who wants to be speedy in a canter, like Maggie.

*Okay, before you all hyperventilate because you are thinking " OMG,  cantering in deep plowed earth?? Have I lost my mind?? That 's just asking for a tendon injury... right??"

I warmed her up for a long time on regular footing and then walked her in the deep footing before we ever did any hard work. That usually mitigates the risk of a tendon blow out.

(Okay, now that that is clarified) Maggie was huffing and puffing pretty good after about a half hour of walking/trotting and a few canters in that field so we called it a day, rode back down the dirt road for a while to cool the horses off and headed back to the trailer. I blanketed her as she was quite sweaty and I didn't want her catching a chill on the trailer ride home. Maggie dove into her hay bag for about 10 minutes while I visited with my friends for a bit. It began to rain so I loaded her and we went home. I gave her her evening hay and a little bit of extra beet pulp that Rebel didn't finish.

I woke up the next morning to a colicky mare.

She wanted to lay down but she didn't roll. I watched her pass manure and yet she had the listless ouchy belly look. She didn't want her breakfast... something was definitely wrong.

I had meetings all morning so I decided I would give her bantamine and work from home until 9:00 so I could keep an eye on her. If she improved I would go into work, if not, we would be going to the vet.. By 8:30 she seemed to be improving and wanting to eat again. If a horse improves on a dose of banamine, that is usually a good sign. If it doesn't have any impact, you generally have bigger issues.. however, I am not a vet and every horse  is different..(my disclaimer) That is just my experience.

 I thought maybe this was  just a gas bubble.  I decided to head to work and would come home at lunch again to check on things.

I got home about 1:30 . Maggie was laying down. Quiet but still laying down. I decided to call the vet. The problem now was logistics. The vet secretary said I could wait until after 3:00 to get her in because the vet was slammed, or I could bring her in now and drop her off and they would keep an eye on her until the vet could look at her. Well, I had to be at the office for a 3:30 meeting that I could not get out of and Tom would not get home until 4:00. That also meant that poor Maggie would have to possibly suffer and potentially get worse between that time frame if I waited. I decided I had better just get her in ... I didn't even have time to change out of my office clothes and I happened to be in heels that day. I ran out  in heels, got her halter on (while she was laying down) and somehow managed to get her up . She loaded like a dream , I said a quick prayer  and off we went.. me in my heels and dress pants and my horse in tow..
I showed up and the vet techs ran out to greet me, knowing that I was under a time crunch.. (I love my vets!) I gave them the quick run down and they took her to one of the corrals. I told them to call me when they knew something and  jumped back in my truck,  flew down the highway and got back to the house, washed my hands , got in my car, and headed back to the office... It was going to be a long day...

 Amazingly..I still had the heels in tact...with only a little bit of horse poop on one of them, which I managed to remember to wipe off before the meeting.

I got a call about 3:30. They found nothing and my vet said I must have waited just long enough to have it resolve itself...They gave her electrolytes and fluids as a preventive measure and did a rectal exam. ALl looked good...Tom picked her up from the vet for me because I never got out of the office until 6:00 p.m... like I said, long day.

She was fine that night, but by yesterday morning she was acting sulky again. She didn't finish her meal and I watched her paw and lay down a couple times, again never rolling but definitely not acting right.. By yesterday evening, she seemed fine. She is still in heat and was standing there next to Brego with her tail in the air doing her girl thing...

This morning, she seemed a little more normal but again, didn't finish her meal. Ofcourse, I fed her extra hay last night at midnight and it could be she just wasn't hungry this morning.

I am not sure what would be causing this but my theory is that it was a combination of stress, coming into heat , getting wormed and getting worked pretty hard the day after.. I feel like the worst horse owner in the world right now because I feel like my actions caused this.. Can a heat cycle cause colic symptoms? I have never heard of that but I do wonder..

I am still watching her carefully but I have never had a colic act quite like this.. anyone else??

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pete's Ridge Ride

The plan was to get to Pete's Ridge in the state land.  Tom came along this time and we met some friends , who will be referred to as J &J.  The truth is J took me to Pete's Ridge a week before but because I am directionally challenged, I could not quite remember how to get in there. Tom was my insurance policy , and was tasked with marking way points with the GPS.

The Trail, it all looks the same...

We met late morning and headed out in a very uneventful fashion. All the horse were behaving and set into a nice pace. At about 2 miles in , and several turns later to get on the right trail, (seriously I still may never find this trail on my own) we started climbing. We made our way to the "look out" , checked out the view, and carried on

The posse- Tom trying to duck out of the way...and yes, there are three horses and two riders behind him. One horse was being ponied along..

The View from the Lookout

Another view overlooking the valley from the lookout- about 3200 ft elevation

At this point we were not that far from the top but we had a steep climb ahead...

This pic doesn't do the climb justice but this is J coming up the trail with her strudy litte "Sage". It was quite steep,and a long climb up, just take my word for it.!

We hit the top and it was so windy and cold, we didn't stay long. We rode to a low spot on the trail and had a little lunch and threw pinecones for J's cute little cow dog known as Jackson. He's a nut!

On our way out, we ran across one of these:can anyone guess what it is???

Think Heebie Jeebies...
They are every where on this system of trails, but this one gets the prize for sure..

Over all the ride was pretty uneventful. It was a chilly day but the sun poked through  enough to keep our spirits high. We ended up covering about 9.5 miles and we got back to the trailer and Maggie was a complete pill. She did not want to stand still for anything, which is unusual for her. It was cold enough and she was wet enough that I had to blanket her. Have you ever tried to blanket a moving target.  She definitely was not acting like she had just been ridden 9.5 miles but instead acted like she was ready to go 9.5 more. I was quite tickled, in a sick endurance rider kinda way.

The good news is that  we successfully marked multiple waypoints but after two hours of trying to make it work, I still can't get my GPS to upload the map so I can make it look all pretty and post it here like Funder and Endurance Granny do. 

I will keep working on it I suppose.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Elusive Pete's Ridge

Pete's Ridge is one of the "talked " about trails in my local horse circles that seemed to always be a bit elusive. I ride alot in the state land as mentioned previously known as Kuhns. It's not a huge area but it's easy to get lost in . Just ask all those dogs I run across. There are a lot of trails and is winds around state, federal and private land.  Some of it is gated or signed and you know not to enter. Some of it isn't gates or signed and your riding along thinking everything is fine, until some crazy lady/man with a large gun meets you at their proeprty line  and yells that you are trespassing. So that is usually a pretty good indicator that you are not on state land any more. 

Last year they started logging this and if it wasn't confusing enough before, it became twice as bad. So, for two years I have been trying to find Pete's Ridge without being met by an unhappy property owner.  On Saturday, with the help of a friend , I finally got to experience it. Let me tell you, Cougar Rock got nothin on Pete's Ridge... atleast if I were to guess, Cougar rock is a close second to what we climbed on Saturday.

Stay tuned for photos, the ride recap  and maybe even a Garmin connect (Basecamp) display, assuming I can figure out how to make it display right. I spent two hour fiddling with the new laptop and managed to get my Garmin driver software successfully uploaded.After a decent amount of stumbling around , I was finally able to upload the route I had marked, along with all the waypoints I had flagged along the way but the background  on the site is just blank??? I can click into another screen to get mileage and elevation changes but  I can't seem to get the nice display that I see you all are able to do ?? Any advice to get this to look right would be greatly appreciated!

***P.S.. Oh, almost forgot.. I finished my 5K.. and didn't die... 33 minutes..and I finally beat the midget (no offense meant her to those that are vertically challenged, including myself,  but there is a bit of a funny story here) If anyone wants to hear the run story I would be glad to share it , but you'll have to ask. Otherwise, I won't assume you want to be bored with it because for now,  it's tucked away neatly in my "To DO, TO DONE Bucket.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Personal Goal Weekend- Fast Feet to the Finish Line

I have signed up, logged all my training miles and race day is almost here. This has been quite a journey since November for me and now here I am, about to face down a long time goal. At 37 years old. Normally, in my current world, “race day” refers to Endurance with my horse. But for this race day, I go it alone but it’s no less nerve wracking. Actually, it’s probably more nerve wracking at this very moment. I would much rather be preparing to ride 30,50, or even 100 miles. I am confident on the back of a horse. I know how to take care of my horse and myself. Not so much on my own two feet.

Two weeks ago, I was beginning to think.. “this is stupid, I have already proven to myself that I can run the 5K distance, why am I bothering to pay to run in an actual race?”

My goal when I started this whole crazy ideas was; I just want to be able to run a 5K. Then when I was actually running that 3.2 miles, I thought, “well, hell, I can do this” and decided to just make it I official and work towards running in an actual race. I don’t know what I was thinking other than I think for my own satisfaction, I just needed that “ officialisness “to make it real for me . So, having almost talked myself out of it two weeks ago, I am committed and doing it.. Scared to death but doing it nonetheless. Like my husband says. “What’s there to be scared of, you just have to run”…True enough

I know I can run the distance. I have run 4 miles several times in my training runs but still.. it’s me, running a 5K. I am not really what I would consider “built to run”. I have an old left foot fracture injury that rears it’s ugly head a lot and I am certainly not fast..On a good day I can run a 9.5 - 10 min mile but generally average 11-12 minute per mile. Speed shouldn’t matter , I shouldn’t care, but I can’t help it. In my ideal running fantasy, I would like to be able to run a 7 min mile..

I have learned a great deal about myself over the last several months of preparing for this. The biggest lesson learned is that I can do it.. I had a total mental block about my ability to actually run. No, I am not the worlds most efficient runner, but I can in fact run. The crazy part about that is as a child, I was known to never walk anywhere, I always ran. In fact, many of the pictures of me as a child were the back of me , running away. I often ended up lost because I was too independent . I don’t know what happened to me as an adult but I guess I have tapped back into some of that running  ability again! Ofcourse, I don't remember it being such a challenge back then! Ahhh,'s wasted on the young..

My strength is my leg strength. My weakness is my breathing. I forget to belly breathe which causes me to end up with side stiches.  I now know just what to eat before a run to feel at my best ( a light lunch like a spin salad with lean meat) and what to eat to feel at my worst (a handful of chocolate Hershey’s candy ) I have learned how much time I need to digest my meal before my run to avoid any side stitches (atleast 3 hours, better if four) . I run better a little on the hungry side. A good shot of caffeine an hour before a run makes me feel 10 feet tall and bullet proof . A small coconut water an hour before keeps me from hitting a wall at the halfway point and keeps my feet from cramping. I have learned what shoes work best for me and what shoes I absolutely cannot wear for running, regardless of what the trend is. I even had to break down and buy an ipod so I could learn how to download music (I know, about time , right?) so the running was bearable. I believe without music to run to, I could not have done this!
Never would I have imagined that I would have learned so much and all for something as small as a 5K.

So, as the timeline winds down, today is my last real running day before the race. This afternoon I will meet a friend who has run this race before and we are going to run the actual course. That way there are no surprises. (see, its not like endurance, which the unknown of the trail is part of the excitement; for this, I don’t want the extra burden of worrying if I am on the right course. I will have enough to deal with just focusing on my breathing and form !)

I have given race day game plan a lot of thought and beyond a few key things to keep in mind, I am going to listen to the husband and I am just going to run, like I have been doing 3-4 times a week since November.

The Game plan?

No alcohol the night before- just water, lots of it.

Eat a lean protein meat with some kind of large helping of vegetables, maybe roasted root vegetables.

Sleep as late as possible which will probably be about 8:00 am. The race is at 1:00 so I have all morning to get ready.

Eat breakfast at 9:00 which will be something like a banana , spinach and greek yogurt protein shake or maybe a slice a sprouted grain bread with sunbutter on it (we’ll see how I am feeling)

Hydrate all morning until 10:30 a.m with water.

Warm up 25 minutes before starting time with a 10 minute jog, and a 5 short picks ups under 30 seconds.

Aim at a Negative split – meaning finish the second half faster than the first half. Take the first mile to ease into things.

Lastly:  Run like hell for the last quarter mile.Give it everything I have... and get across that finish line...

Wish me luck! And feel free to offer any other suggestions!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Interval Training and Upcoming crazy days..

I got home early enough from work last night and decided it was too nice out not to ride. It would be an arena work night. Maggie always starts out a little on the hot side but after a few minutes of circles, figure eights, and other loosening up excercises at the walk and trot, she will USUALLY settle in. Not last night. She just got hotter and more amped up the more we worked.  We spent alot of time just walking , bending, working on hind end releases and few trot rails . I tried to mix it up to keep her thinking about anything other than wanting to go go go... We worked for over an hour and Maggie was winded but not acting the least bit tired. We walked out of the arena to go work in another section of the pasture in order stay out of the way of flying arrows. (Tom was training) We worked in a big circle at a trot . Eventually she settled into a nice soft (for her) trot. I worked on a lot of up/down transitions while on a serpentine . At one point, Maggie popped into a canter when I accidently added too much leg (she is hyper sensitive to leg pressure) and it was such a nice up transition  I let her continue. I kept her in a large circle and she cantered and cantered, and cantered. At first things started out a little speedier than I would have preferred but it was controllable.  I just directed her to keep her on the circle  and didn't worry too much about the speed as long as she didn't try to turn and burn... which she can do quite well. Cantering is a funny thing. The only way a horse learns not to hurry and scurrry in a canter is to let them hurry and scurry and begin offering occasionally with your seat and legs to come back to a slower speed. I offered  4 times before  Maggie decided that maybe this wasn't so much fun after all. She finally dropped her speed to a canter that was much more enjoyable to ride. Another half halt, and finally a break into a trot... It took a while but we eventually got there. The hardest thing with riding her is that she has no withers.When she is tense , cantering on a circle, she is anything but soft and collected yet , so she tends to push through her outside shoulder. This causes the saddle to want to also go that direction. Its a challenge to try to stay balanced in this situation, keep your outside leg on her  but not so much that I am causing the saddle to shift more. The best thing to do is to focus on staying relaxed, breathe and keep my weight slightly more on the inside seat bone. It's not easy when your flying around at a gallop in this state! I am sure my riding position was anything but pretty !  We went the other direction and Maggie started out fast again but came off her speed much more quickly. Thank God. I wasn't sure I had another round like the first in me! It was an extremely tiring ride.

 Last  night's work out was what I will consider an interval training session. I need to get more disciplined and start checking her recovery rates. Next time that will be the plan.

As for the rest of this week,  it is going to be brutal at the office. Probably won't get another ride in until Friday night if I am lucky.

This is also big weekend coming up, with lots of activities going on. Saturday is mileage day for Maggie so we will probably go back and do another 10 mile ride.

Sunday, Grace will head to her new home.

and last but not least..

 Sunday is the 5K I have been training for. Yep, gonna do it.  Pray I make it through!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pig Farm Ride Cont'd...

Here's the rest of the ride story:

Getting more agitated by the minute at the cold wind that seemed to be picking up, I finished saddling up . Moved Maggie around in a circle or two to make sure nothing was pinching or grabbing her hair funny and hopped on. I knew once I got into the state land it would better in the heavy timber so I hurried her to the trail head.At the trailhead is also more parking, more intended for hikers and bikers but today a large horse trailer with about 7 or 8 horses and a group of younger individuals were plugging the parking lot, and the trail head. They all seemed to be novices ,each one struggling with some stage of having their horses properly tacked up. A woman who appeared to be trying to run things walked around assisting everyone. All I could think was I needed to get the heck out of sight before they hit the trail.

I zigzagged Maggie through the crowd and FINALLY we were on the logging road that would eventually wind us into one of numerous trails we could grab. I could feel myself relax for the first time all morning. Maggie walked out quietly but with a spring in her step. Remembering that I wanted to track miles, I checked my vest pocket for my GPS only to find it empty. I apparently , hopefully left it at the truck. Plan B- ride for at least two hours. That would be a good solid workout for Mags. We followed the logging road for about the first mile and then darted off into the trees. The snow started to come down and suddenly I heard a dog come running up behind , panting heavily. Maggie was alerted but not overly concerned. It's common for dogs to be in the area as bikers and hikers often let them run loose. Sadly , too many dogs end up lost this way as well, never to be found again.. This dog realized I wasn't anyone he recognized and headed back the way he came. Fine with us! Maggie and I picked up a trot, and made our way up, around and further back into the trail system. For the next hour, that dog kept appearing randomly out of the woods, startling both Maggie and I pretty good at one point as we came around a corner. This dog was clearly looking for someone. At one point, I stopped Maggie , hopped off and I tried to call him but he just kept running. Best I could tell was that he was some kind of springer/hunting dog, who are generally high strung/crazy anyways. If he wasn’t going to come to me, there wasn't much I could do for him so I turned off onto another trail hoping to lose him once and for all. I know, not very nice but I have been adopted on my trail rides dozens of times by lost dogs over the years in this place , some I found the owners for , others I end up taking to the pound. This day, I wasn't really up for dealing with some other person's irresponsibility. Folks, keep a leash on the hounds.
Maggie and I continued our ride and it snowed on us for the first half of the ride. Eventually the sun did come out and it turned out to be a perfect afternoon. Maggie was behaving really well and I ran into no one. It was just Maggie and I , the birds and the wind in the trees. The dog had apparently decided to not follow us anymore. We meandered through the network of trails. There is a lot of variation to the trails in this area. A lot of up and down, some technical along with some great , pine needle covered, flat , easy to "smoke " 'em trails. I let Maggie pick up her trot on these areas and let her do her Morgan Road Trot thing. We even had a few nice canters. If I could guess, Maggie seemed to be actually enjoying the ride we were on. Not once did she look over her right shoulder and want to turn around, which she often does. Are we finally beginning to get in sync with one another??? Maybe…
We had been going for a little over 2 hours at this point and I was sort of headed in the long about direction back out but ended up finding a nice wide logging road with soft footing. It was a gradual climb. I turned her in that direction and asked her to pick up a trot. She trotted for a few strides but then dropped into the nicest little canter, uphill!!! I love the feeling of a horse pushing themselves up a hill at a canter. I let her canter until the first bit of the hill leveled out, then asked her for a trot again for a bit and eventually she offered to walk. This must have been a first! She always walks willingly when I ask her to, but if we are trotting, rarely will she ask to walk here self.. Maybe she is starting to figure out that she doesn’t always have to be in such a hurry. When we reached the top, I hopped off, checked her legs and let her graze for while. I wished at that moment I had the heart rate monitor or even a watch on me, but didn’t have that either. She was huffing and puffing (still has a winter coat!) but she seemed to recover quickly.
We rode for 3 hours with only that one 10 minute break. When we arrived back to the trailer, she was tired but not wiped out. She still shows some level of being uncertain being out there alone but I saw some real progress with her. For the first time it felt less like a battle and better than anything else, Maggie seemed  be enjoying it.
Looking forward to the next ride out with my girl…

P.S - Oh, the dog story .. there is more. It turns out the dog belonged to the large group of riders I had seen at the start of my ride. They asked me if I had seen in it. I told them I had a couple hours earlier, about 4 miles in. I carried on, crossed the road and headed back to the parking lot where my trailer was. A guy on his tractor called out to me wondering if I was looking for a dog. I sent him down the road to the owners. I am sure they were glad to find him. Lucky dog, he won’t be cougar bait.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pig Farm Ride

The weather royally sucked all morning. It was a  blustery 25 degrees when I got up at 7:00 a.m. Only supposed to hit 46 today but the wind had picked up.As I busies myself with a few household chores, I kept glancing outside waiting for some magical  weather change. Hey , it can happen ! No luck though. By noon, I was trying to talk myself out of going, which then moved into bargaining with myself; "Hmm, I could always just go up the road" for a quick 6 miles and call it good. No, not good enough and I knew it.

I cooked up some eggs, drank down a bunch of water, loaded the saddle in the trailer, hooked up and reluctantly hauled out. But first I had to get fuel. As I drove in the opposite direction of where I needed to go to ride in order to get to a gas station, yet another snow squall tailed me. I grimaced. This sucks... really. $60 worth of diesel later, I  headed back down the road, only to be caught in yet the same snow squall which had decided to just hang out. Only  it had become almost a white out. Hmm, bald tires on the trailer. This might not be good. I couldn't whether I would eventually drive out of it but I was hoping. I drove a bit further and it just kept getting worse. I decided , "Y'know, this might not be in the cards today". I turned left on Conn Road and headed back home. Tom just happned to call right about then, wondering where something was. I whined about the weather and said I was coming home. Surprised, he asked why. He said it was sunny sky directly to the west, which is where I needed to go. I was still 4 miles north of home. I decided I would drive to the intersection where I would either have to stay straight to head home or  turn right onto in order to get back on the road that would take me to where I had planned to ride. What we locally call the Pig Farm, or the state land..or Kuhns; take your pick . I got the intersection. The weather did seem signifigantly better.  Fine, I all fueled up, saddled up, I may as well just go.

You know those days where things just don't seem to feel right? That was how I was feeling when I pulled out of the driveway this morning with the trailer.  I was planning to ride alone , which is normally not an issue for me, but I just felt like there was bad mojo in the air. It made me anxious but chalked it up to  the weather.  I pulled up to the parking lot for trailers and unloaded Maggie. The wind was whipping. Gray clouds loomed. I hurriedly brushed most of the dirt off Maggie and saddled her.

I have to stop here: I was just informed of the time and  need to go get in the shower and get ready for a night out. I will finish this tomorrow.. Stay tuned..

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finding our inner canter

This post , as promised in an earlier post , will be about canter  work with Maggie, but first I have to talk about our ride yesterday. I took advantage of a small window of good weather and took a PTO day from work. It was our first real "trail" ride of the season.. I met a friend who brought along her husband , who was riding a sweet but young and inexperienced little paint mare. The trail was not near as bad as I expected, only  small areas of rotten ice and mud. We ended up just walking for the majority of the ride, in fact, mostly  all of it in consideration of the youngster along. I didn't mind because this was Maggie's first ride out and I wanted to keep things low key. We climbed an area called Pete's Ridge, a trail I had been trying to find for a year but never seemed to manage. We managed to cover 8.45 miles , and some change. I was pleased with my little bay mare. We only had one meltdown and that was only a mile from the parking lot (which she knew) I was in the middle and we had one more steep but short little hill to climb and the horse ahead got too far out of range apparently.  She lunged up the hill and ignored my requests to walk. On her third and final leap, we landed at the top and she still wanted to catch up to the other horse. I asked her to stop and apparently that pissed her off enough , she attempted to rear and then buck. By then, she wasn't the only one who was pissed.  I hate rude behavior in a horse ( I made one change to it but can anyone name that quote??) We did a circle or  two and she came off her temper tantrum and was finally resigned to carry on in a more "lady like" way . She was  still a bit hopped up but was now listening. My friend was laughing at the  fit Maggie had just thrown and was quite surprised at how athletic she was , for being so short and round....I suppose it is a little funny looking on from some other saddle but when your trying to deal with it, it's not always so funny! We hit the final logging road to take us out and she settled back down. One meltdown isn't too bad.  It felt good to log the first few true condition miles.I hope to be back out on Saturday.

On to the canter work : I guess it was 3 weeks ago I finally started some concerted work with Maggie again. One section of the arena was dry enough to get something accomplished. After a long period of not riding much, I like to do a few lunge sessions at the beginning of each season to stretch Maggie out. It also allows me to assess her overall body and condition and watch how she is moving. I can see any hitches in her gait if she has any . It also help gets the “cobwebs” out of her sedentary lungs and heart . It helps gets her brain engaged into work mode and it has helped me to help her learn speed within her trot. All of this without the added burden of a rider. I usually do about 3 lunge sessions the first week back to work in the spring and no riding. Then I start riding and lunge in between for the second week. The riding is low key, mostly walking, bending, and lateral exercises. By the third week, it’s full riding at all three gaits and lunge work only if/when I am short on time or feeling lazy.

20-30 minutes is usually sufficient on the lunge as it can be hard on their legs. I use a 32 foot lunge rope made out of retired climbing rope. Last year, Maggie took quite a while to accept that she was supposed to go around on the end of the line . We mostly walked and trotted last year on the lunge. If she happened to canter, I let her but I never really asked for it. It was a rare occurrence that she did canter willingly on the lunge. She would much rather just trot as fast as those little Morgan legs would carry her, which is pretty fast and impressive coming from a 14.0 hand Morgan. I suppose its what they are made to do so I shouldn’t be surprised. The few canters she did offer only lasted a few strides and then she would , as I call it, “Seize up “. She would start to try to buck and pull against me, then she would speed up , panic, and try to run away. Fortunately, I have her trained to “WHOA” command and I would get her stopped. She would stop abruptly and look at me , with her Wild Morgan Foretop and Maine tussled, as if to say “ What just happened?”

It’s actually a little scary for both her and me. God forbid she get away from me dragging that long line and it get wrapped around a post or something!! So last fall, I did a lot of work on trying to find her canter . I set things up so it was as easy as possible for her. I used Tom’s archery track which is just a 90 meter straight line. We cantered… A LOT! I can only recall a handful of times where she offered a canter that could be considered relaxed and easy to ride and that was only because that was probably after 9-10 previous gallops.

So this spring, we have started up again with finding the canter on the lunge. We have had a few Seize Up moments going clockwise , but going counter clockwise is going well. Here is what I have found works and what doesn’t:

Do plenty of trotting first both directions

Ask for a lot of up /down transitions from walk-Trot-walk- Whoa.

Ask for a lot of speed changes within the trot

No big movements with the whip . She is hyper sensitive . Too much of a flick toward her hocks will send her to the moon.

Lots of trotting over ground rails – teaches her to stretch down and forward and think about where her feet are.

When asking for the canter, say “canter” and lean forward with my body, being careful to stay behind her shoulder (more at her rib) and just lift the whip gently from the ground up towards her flank.

Key here is to wait and not be impatient . She will pick up the biggest fastest trot you have ever seen and eventually the legs get all sorted out and pick up the canter. I give her one lunge lap to pick it up before I ask again.

Then, the final note is that I don’t ask her to stay in the canter . If she only gives me 3 strides, I let her drop back down into a trot, ask for a walk , then a whoa, and end the session at the point.

The goal with her at this point is to not make it such a big deal. Everything is over the top with her because she is hyper sensitive to pressure. Any pressure.

Chances are pretty good she’ll never truly enjoy traveling at a canter but she can certainly become more balanced and comfortable in it than she is now.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Laptop is Dead

A few weeks ago I thought the laptop was making an odd clicking noise once in a while,  but I ignored it, ..thought it was just the new updated virus scans running in the background. Yep, Queen of da NILE.  I knew better. I make a living working on the darn things. Came home Friday night, went to log in to pay a few bills. Got the dreaded black screen with this across it

"Operating System Not Found"

That can't be good...

We took it to Best Buy on Saturday. We give a quick explanation of what happened to the young, wet behind the ears techy geek squad guy  behind the service desk. He then  looks at me and says "Have you backed up recently?" to which I replied.."Yes, in fact, I just backed up into my parking spot out there". 

Blank look from techy geeky guy......

...scowl from husband (which I could see out of the corner of my eye but pretended not to)

(sigh..... fine I will play nice)

Young techy geeky guy assumes that I am just some dumb girl who only uses the computer to download stupid YouTube videos and  go onto facebook finally says (after a bit of a long awkward pause)

 .. "well, I am 99% sure that your hard drive is toast"

I decide to be less mean and say

"Really, what makes you so sure? 

He then starts asking me a bunch of other questions of how the laptop was behaving over the last several days and comes to the conclusion that he is right after all. He then begins rattling off numbers of what it would cost to have their "tech team"  rebuild it . Ofcourse, they want you to buy their tech support plan  for an added fee, and this add on service for another fee, or if you buy this whole meal deal package, it will save you 20% and you get all these other services.. blah blah blah blah blah....

I let him rattle on  for a few mintues and then when I couldn't take anymore, interrupted him and asked for a breakdown of their fees, a list of services that I could look at... and digest because listening to him was making my stomach turn at that moment.

He handed me this horribly printed out , crooked on the page, black and white list of services that looked like a 1st grader created .  I looked at it for long enough to seem polite, grabbed my laptop , and said "Well, I will take a look and let you know if" ....and out the door we went. 

I decided  inside of 10 seconds that I was not going to be  buying their stupid "plan" which has a ton of services I don't need nor will I ever use. I just wanted to know two things:   could they salvage anything from the existing hard drive and what it was going to cost to yank out the old hard drive and stick a new one in..
That's it!!

Apparently it's not that simple anymore.

So, in support of local business, I will be taking my dead laptop to the little hole in the wall tech place down the street... I am even willing to pay a bit more because I know I won't get sold a bill of goods....

Long story short, I will be off line for a bit.. My Ipod just isn't fun to try to blog from... ! Ofcourse,  you can always catch up with me on Facebook if you really need to!

Here's to a Great Week~!