shawna karrasch, part two

Sunday morning dawned clear and warm in comparison to Saturday (up to 47F from a thrilling 42F, which is lovely when you’re watching a clinic), and I took Speedy for a little walk and round pen run in the morning before our session. I clicked a bit for Speedy trotting and cantering when I asked, but I also let him stare out of the round pen and do his own thing a fair bit too.

Speedy came into the arena ready to play again, and Shawna walked me through the steps we would take to do A-to-Bs. First, we made sure Speedy was catching on to the target with Shawna. Once he realized that Shawna would give him treats AND let him play with the toy, he was right there. Then Shawna would say “ready? okay!” so that I knew she was about to send Speedy, and point toward me. After that, it was my responsibility to be as exciting as possible to get Speedy to join me.

targeting right before sending Speedy back to Shawna

After realizing that the person who had just sent him (and subsequently gone unresponsive) wasn’t going to be very interesting, Speedy was happy to head over to the other person and play with them instead. I love how much he loves people, and the more I’ve been clicker training with him the more he seems to want to engage with me, not just nibble on/mouth me.

I immediately saw application for this game at shows. Managing Speedy’s energy in a productive way away from home is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Lunging can be a great tool, but not all horses calm down and relax during lunging, especially in chaotic show environments. I also need something that helps me keep calm and engaged (a big realization I made during this clinic), so playing a game with Speedy in a lunging area rather than just sending him in circles and worrying about his responses to the outside world is going to be super helpful for me.

Speedy did not believe Shawna could possibly ignore his cuteness. She has a steel will.

Lots of clinic participants had questions about clicker training under saddle, and I really wanted to tack up and get on Speedy and do some clicking under saddle. Less so we could learn or demonstrate anything specific, but because I wanted Speedy to collect some clicks under saddle in a new place. So it worked out perfectly for me to tack up after lunch and come back ready to ride in my second session.

Luckily for me, when we got into the arena, Meika was turning out the resident horses at Polestar. Speedy was fascinated… and a little aroused. I let him stare out of the arena as the horse before us finished up, clicking when he would check back in with me or respond to me asking him to bring his head around with a direct rein aid. But he definitely wasn’t really with me, which he made clear by trotting off a few times and spinning to orient himself back toward the horses outside of the arena. I felt a little of that rising adrenaline that comes as fear just starts to softly grip me, and focused myself on what I could do. Could I ask Speedy to woah and click for that? No, not really. Could I click for him putting his head down? Surprisingly, yes. Could I let him look out of the arena to explore his environment and then redirect the energy back inward? Sometimes.

this gif slowed down in processing somehow, but this was a really adorable and enthusiastic walk responses from Speedy

Shawna asked us what we had been working on lately, and I responded with our process on the woah aid and asking Speedy to lower his head in response to rein pressure. So she set up a couple of targets so we could work on woah, clicking Speedy for slowing his motion as he approached the target rather than for actually touching the target.

Once we got into the game and Speedy realized Shawna was playing target with him, he completely forgot about the outside horses and focused inward on the game. It was awesome. I have never been able to successfully redirect any of my horses’ attention that quickly, from the ground or under saddle. And even though Shawna told me to just be a passenger and let her click and feed Speedy for the beginning of the game, I calmed down immediately. I’ve been thinking about this a ton since the clinic, since clearly my ability to manage my horse’s attention and energy in an environment is going to be affected by my own energy there.

I love how curious he looks here

Speedy was a great demo horse for clicker training under saddle. I had just charged up the actual clicker for him the night before (as mentioned previously, I usually use a tongue cluck a la Elisa Wallace) and under saddle the clicker itself was meaningless to him. So I paired the click with the cluck for him to start connecting them under saddle. Speedy also lost all the context for what the target meant when Shawna wasn’t with it, and instead tried to follow Shawna around. This required a little creativity on Shawna’s part to set him up for success. Once he did get that what he was playing with was the target, he immediately started to swing his head back to me after a cluck to get his reward…. after he took a moment to enjoy himself mauling the target a bit first.

The session wasn’t terribly productive in terms of solidifying or making progress on Speedy’s woah aid. However, it was very productive to help him start to play with targets under saddle, which will definitely be a piece I use to help us with other movements. And even more, it showed me just how much I can draw Speedy’s focus back into the arena with targets and games.

This is something I’ve struggled with at home, especially when things change outside the indoor arena doors Speedy is desperate to look at them and doesn’t always want to come back and refocus his attention on work. And who can blame him? But if I can make work more like games, I think Speedy will rejoin me much more readily.

It’s funny; I’ve been into clicker training for a long time now, but it took until this clinic for me to realize how much clicker training would benefit me in addition to my horse. Not just in having a better behaved horse, but by giving me a way to exert control over my environment and create predictability in strange settings. I’m training myself while I’m training my horse. It’s fricking genius. And it’s also exactly what I need.

how not to rock your great barrier reef dive trip (but have a good time anyway)

You’re going to Australia!! Yippee! Book your dive trip without checking out the diving conditions or weather at this time of year. You lived in Australia for 13 years, and December is summer and summer is swimming weather. You’re going diving, dammit.

Neglect to check the weather when you pack for your Australia trip. (It won’t matter, as the weather will turn to shit the second you got there anyway.)

Don’t look up what it will be like living on a dive boat. Don’t pack quick drying towels, warm clothes, or anything waterproof (though the sunshirts you packed will come in handy).

Spend a lot — a lot — of money on a really magnificent underwater housing set up for your DSLR. Borrow strobes from a mate. Do not test the set up in a pool before you dive. Do not read up on best practices for underwater photography. You’ve done this before.

Definitely do not explore what you can expect to see on the Great Barrier Reef at this time of year, or in general. You’ve seen the pictures online. You know it will be a veritable cornucopia of brightly colored corals, rainbow fish, and crystal-clear visibility.


or — er — not

Take sea sickness medication — even though you firmly assert that you never get seasick. (Thanks to this, you get to keep saying that.)

Flood the main strobe to your underwater camera set up on your first dive. Ascend quickly and do your best damage control on super corroded, borrowed, entirely necessary piece of equipment for underwater photography. Marvel somewhat at the amount of corrosion that is possible when salt water comes into contact with sensitive electronics and you run electricity through them.

Listen to the skipper as he explains that the weather should get better on the afternoon of your second day on the dive boat — there’s just a little cyclone forming up in the coral sea that is causing some weather inside the reef right now.

Fall asleep to the slightly aggressive rocking of the boat in a rainy season squall. It’s lovely.

camouflage!

First thing in the morning, thankfully after coffee, get really lost on a really navigationally-simple dive to a reef formation not 20 meters away from the boat. It’s a nice dive — just not at all where you’re supposed to be. Realize that together, you and your dive buddy absolutely suck at navigation.

Listen to the skipper as he explains that the small cyclone in the coral sea has become a full on cyclone. Not to worry — it’s always wet underwater. Plus, cyclones almost never make it as far as Cairns, and they never cancel dives unless they have to. The visibility will not get better (lots of particulate floating around because of the high seas), but the boat is moored in an excellent spot for some great dives.

Figure out how to rig up the remaining strobe so it will work on its own, and finally get the camera going under water. Take some mediocre pictures while you try not to get lost again.

See a huge turtle sleeping in his cave on your night dive. Like, as big as you are huge. His name is Bryan.


not Bryan — but still very close and very cool

Win a pop quiz about the reef. Because duh.

this is a terrible picture, but parrotfish wedge themselves into little hidey holes at night and go to sleep and it is about the cutest damn thing i’ve ever seen a fish do

First thing in the morning, listen to the skipper as he tells you that the full blown cyclone has dissipated, but now “ex-tropical cyclone Owen” is headed straight your way, and we’re in for a rough ride back to Cairns. The rest of the dives are cancelled, but sea sickness medication is on the house!

(Really, we had a lot of fun and some great dives. But next time I go, it will be solidly outside of the wet season!)

he’s home!

In the middle of the night on Tuesday I bolted upright in bed freaked out that I had forgotten to meet my horse at the barn when the shipper dropped him off.

But I needn’t have worried, since he wasn’t even getting picked up until the next morning.

Early Wednesday morning I got this picture from the hauler.

that’s the exact amount of suspicion that I’d expect Murray to have with this situation

The hauler, Kevin McNabb at Twin Palms Custom Transport, was fantastic. He let me know the shipping schedule and as soon as he picked up the last horse on the leg he updated me with an approximate time window of arrival. A couple of hours before drop off, he let me know a more exact time.

I headed out to the barn intending to arrive 15 minutes before horse, only to get off the freeway RIGHT BEHIND the Twin Palms trailer.

At which point I had massive waves of anxiety wash over me and a little bit of an anxiety cry.

Kevin got Murray off the trailer for me, told me that he’d been a great boy on the trip (which may have been a lie because I could hear kicking/pawing in the trailer when we were figuring out a place to park). Murray walked off the trailer like a fucking professional (thank goodness for side ramps) and quietly walked down the driveway with me to his new digs. Like a perfect horse.

Cue panic that I got the wrong horse.

His tiny lips were super pursed though, so I think he was probably defaulting to ULTRA GOOD behavior since he hadn’t seen anyone he recognized for 11 hours.

And now he’s here. In his new digs. He had a big drink of water, and a super long pee while simultaneously eating hay in his new stall as soon as he walked in. I made him a mashy bucket so he could get plenty of extra fluids in, we took a little walk around the indoor arena, and then I tucked him in for the night.

He’s home.

Murray was the last thing we had to move from California. The realization of which cued another wave of tears because human emotions are hard for me to process. But we’re all here now, and he’s pretty happy with his new setup. No paddock, which is a bummer, but the horses get all day turnout in a huge field in a big group so I thiiiink he’ll survive.

He can still walk, trot, and canter in straight lines and circles. And he hasn’t bucked me off yet.

Oregon pony is off to a good start.

the times they are a changin’

I’ve always considered myself Very Australian.

There’s a sense of peace that I feel nowhere other than South Australia. The second I step off of the plane, something about the smell of the wind and the salt in the air says “you’re home.”

But the reality is that I haven’t lived in Australia for more than a decade — closer to two. We moved to California in 2002, I did a few years of high school, and promptly landed myself in a place whose landscape was very familiar and comforting.

sunrise in Davis

I’ve always been attracted to a certain type of landscape.

the view out my bedroom window in Congo

I’ve lived in Davis as long as I lived in Australia — if you don’t mind the year I spent living in Kenya and Congo. This place is more my home than anywhere in California. The formative years of my life have been spent here.

sunrise over Mt. Kenya — this was a good year too

I got my horse here. I built my barn family here. I found a kitten and got a dog.

And now, we are leaving. Murray and Jelly and my partner and I are moving. Not far. Just a little ways (600 miles) up the road, to somewhere rather a lot different.

Image result for aurora, oregon

Most of the kinks are sorted. We have a place to live, I found a place for Murray to live. We move in a little under four weeks.

piglet will miss this!

It’s a big change. Not a small item in the “cons” list of this move was leaving my barn family and amazing friends. But we’ll always have the internet, and couches to crash on. And a 9 hour drive isn’t thaaaat bad. I’ve done it before.

So bottom’s up for new life adventures!

vacation + house sitting

If you’re wondering, a fantastic way to get comfortable hauling your horse is to haul him approximately 250 miles over the course of 4 days. This is not necessarily a way to make your horse happy with you. But damn, I feel much better about trailering now!

Murray had just one night to languish at home in his pasture after Camelot, and then we got right back in the trailer and headed to my in laws’ house for ten days of house sitting and dressage schools and vacation and trail rides. He wasn’t happy about getting back on the trailer, and he was even less happy when he unloaded (may have sat down a wee bit). But he’s settled in and is doing all right.

The property is dreamy, with miles of trails nearby (mostly ag roads, but with some gentle terrain), and a full dressage court with mirrors (we had a dressage camp here a few years ago!). I’m getting some work done, and I’ve only messed up the irrigation every day so far. So that’s good work.

Unfortunately, being away from all my trainers has me feeling rather panicky. Murray is learning so quickly lately — he’s in a massive upswing of understanding. At the same time, I’m changing a lot about how I ride and how I communicate with him. Which leaves me in this terrible position of feeling like I shouldn’t ride unsupervised at all right now! What if I do something wrong? What do I do when he gets confused? How am I supposed to fix it when he throws new weird shit at me? Am I posting slowly enough?!

We will survive, obviously. And it’s all right — if there’s anything this horse has taught me, it’s that almost anything I mess up now I can probably fix later! (With the right help, of course.)

 

first thoughts on convention

I had a ton of fun last week at the USEA Convention.  I’m a learning sponge and love the chance to meet and joke around with famous strangers, so conventions and conferences are always my jam.  Plus I got to have lunch with Jimmy Wofford and dinner with Lynn Symansky, Hannah Sue Burnett, Katherine Coleman, and Jon Holling ALL BY ACCIDENT which was so awesome.

Plus there was a giant Pacific octopus there, and what’s not to love about that?!

I could tell that the USEA worked hard to make the conference something that both professionals and amateurs were interested in attending.  There were some great educational and information sessions targeted at amateurs, and plenty of pros popped into those.  I’ve enjoyed Daniel Stewart’s work before, and got accidentally roped into working out with him first thing in the morning (and woah, did that hurt for days afterwards because all I did post workout was sit around and listen to talks).  I attended a couple more of his pressure-proof type talks, and they were as great as before.

I also loved the course builders session.  It was a really interesting combination of updates on rules (new frangible pin rules and max spread rules and such), but also a great discussion of the mysterious “level creep” and why it both is and isn’t a problem.  I’ll probably write a whole post on that tonight, because it’s an idea that really fascinates me.  We also talked a fair bit about Prelim  Modified, the new division, and how the fork we were going to get PM into events.  One problem is that it costs about 15k (and then some) to put together the new fences for a PM division, but no new riders will be attracted by PM… it will only be riders who would be riding Training or Prelim anyway.  So… what’s the incentive to offer PM to organizers?  (Right now it seems like the answer is: none.)

Boyd also gave a pretty killer keynote.  But he also said some really interesting things in the adult amateur session about how getting to be stressed out is a privilege, and his thoughts on training and fear.  It also became pretty clear that he’s a total nutjob in the way only professional athletes can be, so I guess that probably helps you get back on after a rotational fall.

what boyd’s childhood was like, i think

To top it all off, I got to drive there and back with a couple of trainers/elders from my area and learned a TON from them, along with talking about some fun ideas for data analysis and future show plans.  SO COOL.

Really, a great trip all in all. Now to organize my notes a bit and tell you what I really learned!

2017 USEA Convention

I’m at one of Area VI’s last HTs of the year today, Fresno Park, helping boot mom a bunch of my friends (many at their first rated show!).  Hopefully my boot shining, mint providing, water-bottle holding, picture-taking, and cheerleading services will be up to snuff for all the favors they have done me.


❤ friends!

But what I really want to ask about is the 2017 USEA Convention!  This year it’s being held in beautiful Long Beach (I will for sure be sneaking away to the aquarium for a little while!) and features a ton of awesome speakers including Boyd Martin as keynote, Equiratings (be still my beating heart!), and tons of interesting sessions for riders and organizers.

 

If you’re going, I’d love to meet up and take a crappy selfie and laugh about our ponies together!

lemonade

When Murray’s leg hole turned into a more significant situation than originally thought, I was like “dammit, I’m not going to become one of those people who can only talk about her horse’s injury.”  And here I am.  Talking about his injury again.

But this week, we made some lemonade of this whole stall-bound situation. I pulled all of Murray’s shoes!!

back in the day of pony playtimes

You might not think that shoe-pulling is something to get excited about, but for me it really is. I have been obsessed with the idea of functionally barefoot horses ever since I started care-leasing Murray.  It coincided with finding the Rockley Rehab Blog, the proprietor of which firmly asserts that all horses can become comfortably barefoot with the right care.  And I really liked that idea.  I lived in Kenya and saw zebra on the daily, and never did I see a lame zebra.  I saw zebra running away from things (cars, lions, cheetahs) pretty damn quickly, over some pretty interesting (rocky, shale, slick, muddy, rainy, watery) surfaces, and very few of them ever slipped.  This was pretty good evidence in my mind.

Over time, I came to realize that without being willing to undertake certain lifestyle changes for the horse, it may very well not be possible for Murray to have a competitive career barefoot.  That is clearly not for everyone.

However, I can’t shake the inclination to believe those farriers and veterinarians and yahoos that say that barefoot really is good for the foot overall.  Human podiatrists acknowledge that the types of shoes that many people prefer are not actually all that good for our overall foot health and strength.

okay so this guy probably slipped at least a little

So knowing that Murray only has to be sound in his stall, in arena footing, or hand walking around in the gravel, I really, really, really wanted to give his feet a break from shoes and see if we couldn’t strengthen up his heels and re-angle his upright RF.  Farrier approves of this plan and hopes that it will help his particularly contracted RF heel spread out a bit.

Right now, we hand walk for 20-40 minutes 3-6 times a week.  I’ll try to start doing that on a whole variety of different surfaces so Murray isn’t just standing in the cushy padding of his stall an paddock.  I forsee another six weeks of this routine, which should give both of us plenty of time to harden up our feet and get into a rhythm!  It’s certainly not the same as the Rockley horses being out 12 hours a day on tons of different surfaces, but perhaps we’ll be able to get there a few weeks after that with night turnout.  Once we get back into real non-walk-work, the shoes will probably go back on.  Fronts first, and we’ll see if we can make it through the winter without hinds.

camelot bonus reel: blogger meetup

One of the funnest things about Camelot has always been showing there with my friends.  We’ve been going to Camelot for years and years and years — seriously, I think my trainer first took students to a one day schooling HT there back in 2011.  My first show there was 2013 — from which I was summarily eliminated, but I had a ton of fun riding Quincy around bareback at night with my friends despite that.

This year, I knew pretty early on that Kate was bringing students, and Olivia would be coming, so it was for sure going to be a mini blogger meetup.  I tried to rustle up a few other locals, but alas none more were to be had.  No fear, both Kate and Olivia brought many incredibly adorable horses, which more than made up for it.

Sorry, Olivia. I suck at selfies.

But the highlight of meeting other bloggers was meeting Keith W. Matapouri of Post the Trot.  (Also sorry Olivia and Kate that meeting up with you guys wasn’t the best part of the weekend. I mean blogger meetup.)  In the time-honored tradition of the close blogging community, though, I’m going to refer to Keith by a made-up blogger name.  Let’s go with Kathy.  Kathy seems like a good, strong, blogger name.

I actually knew I was in the presence of Kathy even before we had been properly introduced.  It was just one of those things.  I don’t want to imply that I’m a stalker or anything.  But you know when you see something you’ve never actually seen before in person, you’ve only heard/read about it, but the second you lay eyes on it you know that this is that thing you’ve read about? It was like the first time I ever saw a gerenuk.  I’d never seen a picture of a gerenuk, I’d just heard of them, and then there was a gerenuk standing there in the scrub and I shouted KATHY GERENUK!!

Image result for gerenukthis is what it was like to spy Kathy

Alternately, you know when your dog jumps off the couch and makes that kinda subtle smile at you, and you know that you need to rush her outside right away because she’s about to start puking on the carpet (even though she hasn’t started heaving or gurgling yet)?

It was kinda like that.

Anyway, Kathyand I spent a little bit of time chatting after I introduced myself.  We had a fascinating and in-depth conversation about the appearance, function, role, and genetics of dapples.  Interestingly, did you know that nobody really understands dapples?  I mean the dapples that show up seasonally, not dapples that stick year-round on gray horses.  We think it’s genetic, it seems to be associated with nutrition in some cases, and some horses get to have dapples even when their nutrition is total shit.  So what regulates whether a horse gets the ability to get dapples (like, what gene even controls dapples REALLY?), if a horse gets dapples within its lifetime, and how big/bright/patterned/obvious those dapples are?

NOBODY KNOWS. It’s interminably frustrating.  Kathy understood.

Kathy also promised to take me horse boating sometime, so that’s pretty cool.

Image result for gerenuk(I did, actually, see gerenuk a few times living in Kenya. This picture is from MF Kinnard at Mpala, which was essentially right nextdoor to where I lived in Kenya. Like, as nextdoor as you get when you live on a 200 square kilometer conservancy.)

 

teamwork makes the dream work

Camelot’s August event was everything I hoped it would be, and then some.  I don’t quite have the energy for a full recap (I’m still catching up thanks to a sleepless Friday night and minor flesh wounds to both knees), but there are too many good pictures not to share some of them.  The short story is that we were successful.  But in reality, I’d categorize this as more of a wildly successful outing for us.

c/o Kate’s friend, Kathy. Thanks Kathy!

Thanks to my own stupidity and inability to ride down banks, I tweaked both of my knees on Friday afternoon while schooling the utterly enormous and incredibly inappropriate for the level 3′-ish bank that was flagged for the Novice course.  I suck at banks and we haven’t practiced them in a year, so we worked our way up to the big one.  Murray was fine going down the littler ones, but could clearly sense my hesitation and lack of desire to go down the biggest bank, so he stopped a few times.  I finally approached it with some commitment, then promptly lost my left stirrup. Murray turned a hard right upon landing, and physics was not in my favor.  I kept going straight.  As I slid over the saddle my right foot must have become caught up somehow, because my knee twisted on the way over.  I initially landed on my left foot, but promptly fell to my knee.

I lay there in the dirt, both of my knees stinging, while Murray stood next to me and judged me for my silly actions.  Eventually I gathered up the gumption to stand (stung knees hurt, yo!), got back on, and we schooled the bank and a few other fences with great success.


I love the Camelot standards. Thanks Kathy!

The whole weekend was really an exercise in teamwork, though!  First, Kate kindly hauled Murray to the show as we were short one trailer spot from my barn.  To my great pleasure, Murray happily walked right into Kate’s trailer, and then unloaded quietly once at Camelot.  Kate even had a pin of just the right dimensions to fix our own trailer woes, when the 3-horse we were borrowing was short a pin to keep the back divider closed.  I mean, if that isn’t a beautiful coincidence, I just don’t know what is.


a couple of fences at Camelot have glow in the dark paint!

After spraining said knees, one friend loaned me her horse’s Back on Track wraps, another drove to get me ibuprofen at a nearby gas station, and everyone pitched in to help fetch, carry, and lift while I limped around the facility like a pirate.  The good news that is NSAIDs and BOT helped my knee to feel pretty much normal by cross country time.  I don’t really know how I feel about Back on Track gear… part of me thinks it’s juju voodoo horsey pseudoscience.  The other part of my knows that the BOT treated knee was way warmer than the untreated knee, and it felt WAY WAY BETTER after putting the wraps on.  So… we’ll need to play with evidence based medicine for that one.

Kate’s Kathy and Olivia’s husband kindly got pictures of me during my stadium ride, which were so appreciated when I realized after stadium that in the course of bumping my camera around on my hip I had deleted every single picture from the entire weekend.  I felt sick when I realized that I had done that through carelessness and bad habits (of not turning off my camera or protecting my images).

picture credit to David on this one!

There was even some pretty solid team work getting my outfit together.  I’ve been admiring the Winston coats for a while, but they are solidly outside of my budget in even an off-the-rack scenario.  A couple of months ago L alerted me to a tack sale for an Oregon tack store that was going out of business, and they had a Winston in just my size for an amount that I could, somewhat drunkenly (and only if I don’t look up the email to see what the actual price is) justify paying for.  I hemmed and hawed over it, and Peony told me to do it (and buy a Samshield alongside to boot, but they had none in my size).  And Megan concurred. So I bought it.  It didn’t quite have the shiny buttons I wanted, so I headed to Etsy and found the brushed stainless buttons I needed, easily replaced the old ones on the front of the coat and voila!

 I adore everything about the damn thing, and having a really, really well-fitting coat is just so nice for me.

It was such a wonderful weekend to spend with friends from all different avenues of my life.  I can’t wait to do it again — maybe in April, guys?!