hiatus benefits

Winter arrived late this year, or perhaps it returned from a temporary hiatus to Hawaii, and about five weeks ago it suddenly became frigidly cold and then started pouring. Which is normal winter weather but after days approaching 70 felt like a really nasty trick by mother nature.  This coincided with ramping Murray back up into work and trying to get fit for the first show we could possibly make it to this year, April Fresno. (A show which is horribly, terribly coincidental with Rolex Kentucky 3DE,  so…. I will be following the live tweeting I guess?)  This has kinda made our hiatus longer than expected, but not terribly so; and I’m trying to put the work in regardless.

I expected Murray to be a) super unfit and b) really unhappy with the getting-back-to-work situation. But I’ve been shocked really very pleasantly surprised.  He’s happy to come to work, and pretty happy to listen t me during work. I mean, he’s still Murray. He still bucks and screams and exorcises the bad feelings by shooting them out of his butt.  But when he’s not doing that, he’s working.  Even better, we’re working together.

And boy-o is way stronger and more muscular than before, especially through his topline. To which I can hear you saying “woah woah woah now Nicole, you let your horse languish in a stall and pasture for 20 weeks and he got more topline? now I know you’re smoking the ganja”, but I’m not. I swear. Sure, he’s a little huskaroo right now. But I found a conditioning program (by the fabulous Jec Ballou) pretty early on that emphasized walking, stretches, and calisthenic exercises (poles) to help a horse keep topline and fitness during downtime. And I did it. Religiously Scientifically. I have walked my horse over so many freaking poles this year, probably more than in the first four years we were together combined.

he’s put on even more muscle since I took this photo

Oh, and poles. We can do them now. Not like “I can hurl myself in a disorganized and inconsistent fashion at these sticks on the ground and hope it turns out all right oh GOD ITS NOT ALL RIGHT HELP”. More like “I can trot to these poles at a steady pace and if I need to stretch out over them I can push from behind”. This is a horse who chipped into trot poles literally 50% of the time from 2013-2017. Not kidding. And now he trots calmly toward them, and, unless there’s a huge question or some kind of majorly weird thing going on, just trots right through them. WITH HIS HEAD DOWN.


will walk over x-rails for treatz

Murray now has way better longitudinal balance, and his lateral balance is getting there. I worked pretty hard to reward him for walking and trotting around while stretching over his topline, so now it’s something he just offers to me because he knows he gets cookies for it. It’s like the lunging and liberty work doing this unlocked his ability to actually use his back and his abs — both on the ground and under saddle. He trots around in a halter (on a lunge or at liberty) with his head down, stretching over his back now. It’s the best trick ever!  (I think this is part of what helped him with the trot poles, as he can problem solve without needing to tighten his back line and tense up.)

And his tail grew. I know it’s a big thing but I’ve lamented his thin and somewhat sad tail for a while now. I vowed not to bang it and to be very careful brushing it while he was on stall rest so that when we got back to work I’d have this big reveal of LOOK MAGNIFICENT TAIL!  A new pasture buddy foiled that plan by chewing half of it off at his hocks in December, and then the rest of it got so long that Murray started stepping on it and pulling it out in his stall.  So I banged it and gave him some light layers, and it still looks thicker and fuller than before, if a titch shorter than I might like.


also: less spooky and not afraid of strange heavy machinery any more

It’s hard to enumerate the benefits we reaped over our 4.5 month break. I expected to have a long uphill climb after taking the time off, but it’s just… not the case. Murray came back sounder, smarter, and happier to work, and I learned a lot about riding, training, and how to teach my horse. Which is kinda crazy to think about, because I feel that we were in a pretty good place even before we went on hiatus. Murray had just saved my butt all over Camelot, and we were hammering out some pretty essential riding/training kinks. To be feeling better than that is pretty baller.

Don’t get me wrong — I have also learned (and continue to learn) about some of the (many) fuckups I’ve made in training this horse over the last four years (see above re: can’t do trot poles). But I also feel like this break showed me how reversible they are, and how to avoid making them again in the future. So… if I make more mistakes it’s okay, we’ll just fix them.

It’s good to be feeling good!

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pony stuff for mf’in adults: seconds pro app

I take my horse’s fitness seriously. There are a lot of things we can’t change about our horses, but fitness isn’t one of them. There is a lot we can do to help out our equine partner’s fitness, and I’m a firm believer that we should.

I also swam competitively all the way through high school, and one thing we would never be without when swimming was a clock. Workouts were written up on a big whiteboard that we could all see from the edge of the pool, and a huge minute clock with a moving second hand sat next to it.  We hauled ass to get through our 200s and 400s within the allotted time, caught a precious five or ten seconds of rest on the wall, and then did it all again. Over. And over. And over.

I can write out my horse’s fitness workouts, but timing the sets is a much bigger challenge. I no longer ride with a watch for a variety of reasons (not the least of which being that my boyfriend takes it off and hides it under the bed when I’m sleeping because it ticks too loudly), and despite many attempts to the contrary we’ve never managed to keep a clock in the arena for more than a few months.  Plus it’s hard to catch a glimpse at a clock that isn’t a jumbotron as you canter past anyway.

When I started bringing Murray back into work seriously I became even more interested in a proper way to time my rides. My eventing watch only beeps on minute intervals, and that isn’t good enough for me — you still have to keep track of how many have passed and how many you have to go before the next set, which get really difficult when you have complicated sets planned out (for example: walk 2 min, trot 3 min, walk 1 min, trot 2 min, canter 1 min, trot 2 min, canter 1 min, trot 2 min — where was I in that set again?). Cell phone alarms definitely didn’t cut it — I have no interest in fumbling with my phone to get one alarm turned off and another set.

Enter: Seconds Pro. (~$4.99)

Interval training is really popular, so I knew there had to be an app out there to solve my problems — something that would let me customize my horsey workouts so that I’d know exactly where I was in the ride and exactly how much time I had left to go. I shopped around a bunch and the internet seemed to agree that Seconds Pro, though pricey, had all the options I could ever want in a pony fitness app.


at left: setting up a workout. at right: what a workout looks like while you’re workin’ and outin’.

Seconds Pro lets you customize your workouts (duh, what’s the point otherwise) and automatically counts its way through the workout after you initiate the timer.  There are different countdown options so you can have your phone tell you exactly what you’re supposed to be doing next in its weird robot voice: Trot Warm Up Left, phone lady tells me. So I trot left.

You can choose left and right splits, so if you want to trot for 4 minutes total and be told when to change directions, the phone lady will do that too! (Or you can have an unobtrusive beeper let you know, your choice.) You can also add pretty colours! I don’t bother. To make your life easy, if you’re interested in doing a bunch of short sets, you can set up one workout and then loop it X number of times — so easy.

so many beeps, so little time

I feel like I’m underselling this app, but it is SERIOUSLY AWESOME.  As you can see from the screen shots, I already started using it for regular rides with the Zookini.  Have you ever trotted a really forward horse who likes to lean into your hands for 2 minutes in each direction when you’re really out of shape? I was begging for those beeps. BUT THEN I STILL HAD TO CANTER FOR 90 SECONDS EACH DIRECTION WTFFFFF.

I was so ambitious. I set just two, 3-minute walk breaks.

I totally took more walk breaks.

Anyway.

I think that Seconds Pro is going to be an awesome tool for horsey and human fitness — those trot sets are totally going to happen, and are actually going to be as long as they are supposed to be.

Oh gawd what have I done to myself.

operationalize

Shortly after January’s Spiral of Nag ride, I did what any confused amateur would do: I scheduled a lesson with my trainer, and complained to my friends.

This is me, asking myself about watermark.i was really looking for the vultures singing “that’s what friends are fooooor” but this one will do just fine

To recap: I discovered that my horse does not reliably trot forward when I cue him to do so. Depending on the day and where we’re at in the ride — warming up, going good, at the end of the ride, feeling super lazy — I get correct responses between, probably, 30% and 85% of the time. But other horses I ride can trot on cue.  Like, all of them. All of the time.

So the goal of my lesson was to help me become super aware and super accountable for the trot transitions. I told B to be extra critical of what I was doing with my body so that I could give the same cue every time and help Murray really understand the antecedent-behavior-consequence chain that I wanted.

Unfortunately, the lesson was a little doomed from the start. Murray had slipped out of his blanket at some point overnight, and the weather was unexpectedly frigid.  Not unexpected for the season, but shocking given the 70* days and near-50* nights we’d been experiencing.  So Murray was cold, tense, and cranky when I got to him.

not happy, nicole!

Murray and I demonstrated our weaknesses very quickly. B called me out immediately for throwing my body around when Murray didn’t step into the trot immediately.  It turns out that I have zero patience.  If Murray didn’t show some upswing in power within a step of me squeezing him with my legs, I would throw away the contact, pitch my body forward, and lift my seat.

B coached me through increasing the ask (more leg pressure) without flailing — giving a stronger squeeze or even a bit of a boot — while sitting tall, keeping my hands steady, and sitting in the saddle.  Which is… embarrassingly hard for me.

Murray was not a fan of this. He was happy to trot off on his own schedule, but doing so when I asked was not really working for him.

We made good progress in the lesson, but it got a lot uglier before that.  B kept encouraging me to stay tall, and quietly urge Murray to go forward, without letting him use balking or ducking behind the contact or fishtailing around to evade the work. I had lots of homework from the lesson.

evasions: we have them

On the friend front, Kate was an awesome, sympathetic, and encouraging ear. Sure, my horse doesn’t have a reliable walk-trot transition, which is something that much greener and much younger horses have long mastered, but now that I’d identified the problem, wasn’t this the perfect time to work on it?

Kate suggested that I operationalize what I wanted Murray to do.  What exactly is the cue? What exactly is the behavior I am looking for in response? Do I want to squeeze Murray for ten seconds and have him trot off at some point in the next ten steps?  Or do I want to brush my calves against his side and have him trot off immediately?

She suggested that for his current level of training (or like, whatever it is we’ll call it that I’ve been doing with Murray for the last four years) I make my cue a squeeze of 1-3 seconds and expect a response within 3 steps.  It’s not too extreme, but it is reasonable for the level of work that we’re trying to do this year.

Operationalizing the behavior was amazingly helpful. It gave me a quantifiable target for what I wanted to get out of Murray, and something I can count to see how close we are to getting there.  It’s impossible not to struggle with observational bias when the improvement or behavior I’m looking for is subjective — what is “better” anyway?  But when I can count mississippis and steps, then I can tell exactly how much progress we’ve made and how far we need to go.

Murray, for his part, remains the extra creature he’s wont to be.

2018 goals

It’s taken me some time to put my goals together this year, as I’m trying to be all “responsible” and “adult”, make plans for my future, take steps toward something bigger, some kind of end goal.

In that vein of planning, I put a few moments into thinking about where I want to be in five years, and where I want Murray to be in five years.  I didn’t think about it too long — it made me uncomfortable so I quit!! But more realistically, it’s hard to think about where my horse should be in five years when I’m literally at the edge of my expertise where we are right now! Plus, who knows if he’ll have the ability or soundness to hold up to things I might want to do in five years?

Likewise for myself. I could say “In five years, I want to have my bronze medal!”, and that would be a pretty reasonable goal. Only, if this horse can’t do third (for any reason — doesn’t like dressage, lameness of body or mind, etc.) then I’m  SOL. I don’t presently have, and am unlikely to magically acquire in the next 4.95 years, the funds to lease or buy a capable horse to get those scores.

While that’s not the world’s worst excuse, it is an excuse, so I went ahead and made five-year goals that assume the horse and I stay healthy and sound enough to execute them. It was still hard.


nevertheless, I persisted

So, in five years… I would like Murray to be competing successfully at Training level and thinking about Prelim. Really, five years from now we will know very well whether or not Prelim is ever in our future.  If it is, I’d expect that we’d almost be ready to move up in five years.  Time is a-wastin’, after all. And I’d like to be working on third level dressage — maybe not showing, but working on show-quality versions of those skills.  I’d like to be able to take him to any show venue and complete, even if we’ve never seen the place before. I want to be able to take him off property to a clinic and demonstrate a reasonable reflection of our abilities, problems, and skill level.  I want to have enough saved up that I can stop contributing to insurance every year and know that, if he needs it, I’ll be able to cover him for anything insurance would cover him for.  Not all of these are pure Murray goals, of course.  A lot of the stuff in here means changes on my part also!

For myself, I want to be confirmed in good savings habits that will allow me to start putting money away toward mobility (in addition to necessary  savings): a truck and trailer in five years would give me a LOT of flexibility. I want to be working in a career position, not hopping from short-term to short-term gig hoping something will work out.  I’d like to have enough money and security to do what I love (feeding dollar bills to my horse) and take vacations.

Chipping away at the long term goals will be modest this year — at least on the fronts that require spending of money.

Complete 3 Novice level HTs — this is predicated upon that whole “saving money” thing, but this is my big show goal this year.

1+ dressage shows — schooling shows are fine, but getting out and doing the horse dancing thing is also a goal!

Ride in 2 clinics — this was super achievable in 2017, so it would be nice to do again in 2018. (Spoiler alert:  I am already halfway there!!)

4+ lessons with Tina/other dressage trainers — I put this in my savings goals this year also. I love riding with Tina, but I’m open to other dressage trainers too!

Sitting trot — another year of trying this, I guess. I think I might need it for that whole dressage thing.

Go to two new places — I’m going to go ahead and say that “new” will count as anywhere that pony hasn’t been in 2+ years. His memory can’t be that great, right?

Work without stirrups once a week — I’d like to do a whole No-stirrups November makeup month at some point. That would be… uh… ambitious of me.

Cavaletti Sundays — Some friends talked about doing a weekly cavaletti exercise. I often won’t do it on Sunday because I seem not to ride on a lot of Sundays (boyfriend, other life stuff, that whole thing), but cavaletti once a week would be a great exercise!

Boy has got some big goals this year!

Goal number one: Keep up with the Good Citizen Without Shortcuts program from 2017.

Cross ties — we are gonna do this. We have the tools!  Time to work up the motivation. Maybe when we’re over being nude.

Patience while tied — this is apparently some kind of thing that people practice with young horses to make them well  broke. I dunno. I hear it’s a good exercise.

Sort out the feet — the barefoot experiment is going pretty well, and I’m doing extra well resisting the urge to just slap shoes back on and call it good.  Murray’s feet will benefit from this, and it will help us sort out whatever underlying issues there are surrounding his feet.  And I know there are some.

Evaluate Murray’s living situation — at some point this year I’d like to experiment with pasture board. Not sure homeboy will like it, but he might.  Not sure I will like it, but if it’s better for the horse…

Keep soundness and health a priority — it’s worth reminding myself to continuously do this. It’s not that I purposely work my horse when he’s not sound, or that I try to make him unsound. It’s just that his low-level mechanical lameness makes it easy to brush off other little things as just part of the bigger peg-legged picture.

Don’t burn the skin off his legs. Seems simple, right? MAYBE NOT.

Ooh. Not sure I have any big blog goals this year. I’d like to explore getting my own domain. That lends a lot of flexibility and opportunity to a writer.

Write more science-y blogs. I have a few topics in mind that are already somewhat fleshed out (placebo effect of calmers/depo specifically, cribbing/stereotypic behaviors, how riders affect horse comfort) but if there are any you’d like to see, I’m happy to dig into the literature.

And because this has to do with online stuff (ish, but definitely the blogging/online horse community), I’ll throw it in here: develop a horse-specific income stream. I’d like to have an income stream that is just for Murray’s use (well, my use for Murray but you know). That way I’ll feel less guilty when I blow 1k showing for three days in Santa Barbara.  I piloted some tote bags on my friends for Christmas and they seemed to like the idea, so I’m working out how I can do this on a slightly larger scale.

  

 

Save a whole pile of money — be responsible, Nicole. Save money. Save enough money that you can go to Kenya in September!

Make time for a personal life — as do many people I know, I have this awful habit of planning to do too many things, making too many promises, and forgetting to make time to just sit back, relax, and what a whole buttload of Netflix with my boyfriend.

Sleep more — did you know that your bedtime is killing you? I fucking love sleeping. I am pledging to sleep more 8-hour nights this year!

Learn a new computer skill — computers are stupidly important in the world these days. It will probably make me more valuable and marketable if I learn a new computer language or skill.  Like SQL or … that’s the only one I’m thinking about right now, really.

Run once per week — that’s just 52 runs this year. Hardly any.

Pull ups — I’d like to be able to do three by the end of the year.

Be ruthless — I’m trying to do a lot of stuff this year. Get a career-track job. Save money. Stop over-extending myself. I need to start being a little more cutthroat in what I pursue. It’s not okay to half-ass a whole bunch of things. I need to start whole-assing fewer things.

some things I’m saving for

Some clever bloggers are smart enough to keep track of their horsey expenditures in some kind of organized fashion.  Some people who shall remain nameless were not clever enough to do that.

HOWEVER.

I’ve been sitting down and doing some real #adulting lately, and decided that it would be a good idea to sit down and look at my equine expenditures and see how much I’m likely to spend on horsey stuff this year.  It’ll be interesting to see if reality matches up with expectations at the end of the year.  I ultimately decided not to share this information on the blog because I’m not really comfortable just… letting the entire world know exactly how much money I waste super-value-ably spend on my horse.  But there are some equine expenditures that I’m saving for that I don’t mind sharing.

gotta keep this little prince in the manner to which he has become accustomed

Bodywork
I’d like to bring bodywork into Murray’s life. He’s gotten a few massages over the years, but he doesn’t really like them. Our super wonderful massage therapist (A) has seen him a bunch as she’s at our barn all the time, but never laid hands on him. A and I discussed what to do with a horse like Murray who would benefit from the work, but inherently doesn’t trust humans, doesn’t really like being touched, and likes being touched and made to hurt (which massages sometimes do!) even less.  A actually had a whole program she’d work through with him. And, as I said above, Murray would really benefit from it, I think.  I hope he won’t need monthly appointments, but I’m budgeting for appointments every other month at around $70 each. (~$420)

Pentosan
I never got around to putting Murray on this last year, even though I intended to. He had his hocks done, then shortly after got stalled for the year.  It’s a monthly thing with a loading dose, and costs about $20 per dose. (~$200)

Hocks
REALLY hoping I don’t have to, but many horses need these done annually. But saving for them regardless. If we don’t need them done, that’s money I get to keep! (~$400 without rads)

lets revisit the reason I spend all this money!

Rated events!
I’d like to go to some shows this year. They are fun! Right? I’d really like to not get eliminated at them also. Stretch goal: not have my horse try to dig his way out of his stall overnight.  The costs in this post are still pretty accurate. So if I aim to go to Fresno (~$800), Camelot (~$800), and Shepherd (not on the list because I used old data, but I suspect about $1100), plus memberships, I’m going to need to save close to $3000 to do that. Gulp.

Other shows?
Other shows maybe on the docket include some schooling dressage shows, maybe a couple of local fundraisers, oh, and clinics!  These are significantly less expensive, more like $200 for the whole weekend. I’d like the opportunity to spend $800 or so on those.

This is the first time I’ve really sat down and thought out my non-necessity spending in advance. Usually I’m just like “Oh, Twin sounds fun! I’ll find money!” and then I find money (or put it on a credit card and find the money later). But I’m turning thirty this year, and am trying to be a little more responsible with this whole thing.  And to make it translate to my hamster brain, this means I’ll need to put around $400/month aside just for these purposes, whether or not I use it that month.

So tell me: how do you do this? What am I missing here? Is there a clever-er way to plan and track this?  If I were really clever, I guess I could have saved last year for this year… or I could start saving this year for next year…. but that seems like a problem for Future Nicole.

just keep clicking

I’ve mentioned this several times already, but in case you somehow missed the memo, I can now tack up my horse!!!!  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you read that correctly.  I can now do with my 9 (nine!!! how did that happen?) year old a task that many three-year-olds — and even two-year-olds on the track — perform daily with almost no fuss.

I. Am. So. Proud.

murray models a medieval pony torture device

We’re just about a year out from our last Major Malfunction, but that wasn’t the last time we struggled with tacking up. That day was a major outlier, but Murray’s never been an easy tack up.  And there have been days when I lost hold of the girth or the billets or the horse or some piece of tack or whatnot in the wiggling.  He’s just never been good at it. Never.

So, how did we accomplish this thing? Hippy granola shit with a big side of voodoo magic, that’s how.

When I last blogged about re-training tacking up, I was still working with Murray in his paddock at liberty. I was using the jollyball to indicate a target where he should stand still (with his nose placed on the ball), and was putting a variety of things on him (girth over the back, saddle pad, surcingle, etc.) and clicking and treating when he returned to the jollyball.  The idea behind this was that he was allowed to be scared, but being with me was to be more reinforcing than being scared.

side benefit of training your horse to stand: he can now be trusted in the hay/grain barn while you scoop things!

Stupidly, I didn’t write about the process at all between then and now. Before working with the saddle at all, I started practicing standing still at the tie rings in the barn aisle.  As with most new behaviors I clicked and treated a lot in the beginning for anything resembling standing still.  Now I intermittently reinforce Murray for not wiggling around.

I do remember that I decided not to risk one of my saddles by tacking up for the first time in his paddock.  What I really did not want was for Murray to freak out and the saddle to get thrown into the gravel and then trampled while I watched in horror.

One day I decided to just bite the bullet and go for it.  At some point during our clicker session I brought Murray out into the barn aisle and just started tacking him up like it was no big deal.  I made sure to work slowly and smoothly with lots of clicking and treating as he stood still through each step of the process (saddle pad on, half pad on, saddle on, etc.).  When we got to the girth I buckled the right side (click-treat) then moved over to the left and grabbed the girth and just held it against his belly and instantly clicked and treated. I literally did not give him a chance to think about it before I was stuffing grain in his mouth.  I did this again and held the girth for a moment longer before I rewarded him once more.  Finally, I held the girth against Murray’s belly and went for the buckle… only to discover that I had buckled the damn thing too high on the right and I couldn’t reach any buckles on the left.

i see no reason that my pony shouldn’t perform (most) of the behaviors of a dog in obedience classes
(also, is his little jumping-horse-shaped star not the greatest?!)

At this point Murray got a little agitated, so I quickly clicked and treated with a big handful of grain because he hadn’t gone anywhere (yet), and moved around to the other side. I lowered the girth (click-treat), moved back to the left side (click-treat), and held the girth up against his tummy again (click-treat).  I then managed to get the girth buckled on a pretty low hole on both billets, gave Murray a huge pile of treats, and promptly walked him away from the tie ring.

And the whole time he did nothing more serious than shift his feet around a bit.

It was pretty astonishing, frankly.

Since then, we’ve moved pretty quickly from tacking up while totally untied (I would loop the leadrope over his neck), to tacking up while tied on the blocker ring, to tacking up and tightening the girth (modestly) while tied.  And through all of it he has been totally reasonable.  He’s seriously a totally different horse about tacking up now.  I’ve way decreased my click-treat frequency so that I can get both sides buckled before breaking to reward him.  We still walk away after girthing as has always helped him kinda stretch out his pecs and get used to the idea of a saddle, but I have been gradually increasing the duration that he stands quiet and still before we do this.

With a couple of weeks of thoughtful, dedicated training, I eliminated a behavioral problem I’ve had for four years. I mean, I like clicker training. But I did not expect this to go that fast.

I absolutely do not expect other behaviors to solidify this quickly.  In fact, there are other things I’m working on that are stubbornly not solidifying like this.  But I’m pretty happy with where we have managed to get with our clicker training!  The behavior even stuck over our 2+ week break, which is also quite impressive for the Murr Man.

I’ll have to sit down and think out some distinct clicker goals for us this year, and make some proper training plans. Beyond this behavior, I haven’t really thought out the clicker training in a cohesive manner, and having a plan will definitely benefit us in the long run.

 

baby horse perspectives

Riding has been a bit off and on lately.  The smoke from the Napa fires sometimes gets pushed south into the Bay Area, and we have great air — so riding is on the table.  Sometimes it creeps over the hills and fills the valley, and to help preserve everyone’s lungs I cancel my rides.  I don’t think anyone minds the schedule.  Especially since there’s newborn puppies to stare at in my barn manager’s house!

Mug shots 🐾

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I also took Tuesday off and volunteered at Napa Valley Horsemen’s Arena.  It was one of the evacuation centers for livestock during the fires, and they are happily starting to empty stalls.  Stalls West must have hustled up and dropped stalls off really quickly, because I recognized stickers from Camelot on their temporary barns.  The operation ran really smoothly.  As one might expect, the morning was the very busiest, as we took temperatures on every horse (with some not-totally-reliable ten second thermometers) and mucked and fed.  There was a big lull around 1 when we were done with all the urgent stuff, and so the veterinarian directed us to turn a couple of big mares (who had been stuck for a few weeks in mare motels) out into a free arena.  The girls trotted around a bit, rolled about ten times, and were not unhappy to come back in.  We considered turning out other horses, but as some were very hard to catch even in a mare motel, and I had no idea about the soundness or restrictions on any of them, without direct vet supervision I was uncomfortable with that plan.

We also helped load up a bunch of horses and a couple of pet steers to go back home, which was awesome for them.  Lots of people have been released to go home, and while a shocking number of structures were lost, because of the shape and size of the fires, many who were evacuated were spared.  The facility is switching over now to keep their sights on long-term care of the animals who won’t be able to go home — for perhaps months or years, as the infrastructure (wooden bridges or electrical/gas conduit) is rebuilt.  It’s going to be a long haul for some people, and I’m so glad that the community stepped up to help.  I’m really glad that we’re seeing the end of these fires too.

Lip shimmer game on point

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On Wednesday I got back at it, and had a lesson on the mom-bod mare (now MBM) with B, as I’ve not been able to get her to canter left for… a week or so.  Oddly enough, B told me that she had never gotten MBM to canter left, only right.  So I’d somehow unlocked something in there in previous rides, only to lose it.

MBM was a little up and not listening to my seat as much as she usually does, but it was fine.  B had me slow my post way down and I half  halted through my thighs, and we got back in tune.  She is definitely one of those horses who gets tense, braces, and rushes when she’s confused or off-balance.  Thinking about tempo and getting her comfortable with moving her body in different ways is going to be key here.  But I was very pleased to feel that her steering was vastly improved from my last ride, where we fought about turning left at the wall for a solid ten minutes.

throwback to when Murray couldn’t turn left either

We tried a couple of canter transitions and I only managed to get the right lead, so B suggested pushing MBM’s haunches in a little.  That was the trick, and we got the left lead on the first try.  The super neat thing here is that I’m now experienced and subtle enough that I could push her haunches over just a little, even with the mare feeling a little bracey and rushed, and not over-do it or get weird about it.  MBM immediately locked herself into “race mode canter” and whizzed around the arena while I tried to get her back underneath me and listening.  I could feel myself bracing in my heels and letting them get ahead of me while I tried to half halt with my hands and actively fought that position, but it’s hard when letting the reins loosen and getting your leg back under you just results in feeling like you’re going too fast and have no hands on the wheel.

The trick was turning MBM into a 20 meter circle so she didn’t have the long sides to use as an excuse.  B had me half halt hard with the outside rein and keep my legs on, then soften with both reins.  We actually managed a full circle in a pretty quality canter, which was awesome.  So the next step here is going to be transitioning from this freight-train canter into a controlled canter more quickly.  This is the place where sometimes her former brood-mare-y-ness bugs me: I feel like MBM is bossing me around, like “I’m the mom, I tell you what to do.”  And I’m like “no, I’M THE MO– I mean, I’m the leader, I tell you what to do!”


murray antics for everyone’s appreciation

Right canter was a similar struggled, but I was once again really happy to feel that MBM had taken some of our previous fights to heart and was getting off my inside leg much more promptly.  B cautioned me not to let her bait me into pulling the right rein.  She pops her head and neck to the left in a counter-flex, so in response I flex her back right.  But once we flex to the right, she falls in to the right, and does so hard (like, in a few of our previous rides I thought we were going to crash into a jump standard).  So I had to slow the tempo down, flex right, then keep her off my right leg, and weight my left stirrup a little so she didn’t feel quite so inclined to just motorcycle to the inside.

It was a great lesson to confirm my instincts and feel the progress we are making.  Along with MBM’s slimming down and muscling up, B said she can see her gaits improving and extending, and that the mare’s canter has gone from pace-y to more three-beat.  Which is fantastic!

After my lesson, I tried to hand walk Murray for an hour and gave up around 40 minutes. HAND WALKING IS SO BORING OMG.  But I’m trying to get him out a bit more to help push some of the interstitial fluid out from around the leg hole.  He’s becoming more and more of a pill about bandage changes, so my goal is to tire him out a bit with hand walking (which he finds both tiring and boring) before I change it today, and see if he can’t be more reasonable for it.  The hole is healing it’s just doing so at it’s own absurdly slow pace.

But my vet and all my vet and tech friends assure me that it will heal. As they always seem to do.  Even if it does take forever.

want to get back to this please