First of all, I have an outside rein! Why does it seem as though I have to relearn that every other week? For this particular go-round, I was riding Izzy when the realization hit. Last week, I had a great lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, but I've only just finished wading through the nearly hour-long video she shot. During the video, she said something that really made me think: "keep thinking about renvers; that's your steering!"
After working on the square with haunches in, we took that same idea to the counter canter. Izzy loves to throw in flying changes every time the work gets too hard. In his mind, it would all be so much easier on a true canter. As we crossed the diagonal heading into counter canter, Chemaine reminded me to keep his haunches where I wanted them. In this case, in renvers.
As it's been said before, there was a whole lot of ugly before it got pretty. Pretty might be too strong of a word, but at least I had more control. For a long while, I've focused almost exclusively on his shoulders. While this is super important on Izzy, it's meant that I've neglected his haunches. This has allowed them to start doing some really awkward things such as swinging wide on the turns and falling "out" during the counter canter, which allows him to drop the canter.
Here's a clip from that last lesson with Chemaine talking me through the counter canter and the outside rein.
Someday, when we can put it all together consistently, this horse might turn out to be pretty amazing. Until then, he's a great "teacher!"
A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my horse trailer's vent covers was broken. My husband and I replaced it, but during the process, we discovered that the other two vent lids needed replacing as well. If you've ever read any of Laura Numeroff's books about giving mice and moose cookies and muffins, you'll know exactly what I mean. Inevitably, one thing leads to another.
With rain predicted on Christmas Eve, I managed to persuade my husband to swing by the ranch after work to help me install that last two vent lids. By the time he arrived, I had both vent lids disassembled with only the roof part left to remove. We're now experts.
My husband climbed up on the roof to remove the broken lids, and then he slid the new lids onto their respective hinges. From inside, I screwed everything back together. Like I said, we're experts.
With a family Christmas Eve dinner awaiting us, my husband quickly left to get home and shower while I finished cleaning up. After he had left, I realized that the other job I wanted help with, installing a Symphony Dressage license plate cover, had been forgotten.
Irritated, but determined, I decided to tackle the job myself. I backed the truck up to the rear of my trailer to serve as scaffolding; my trailer is really tall, and the license plate is at the very top.
I am fairly handy, but sometimes that's not enough. The license plate was attached tightly. Who did they think was going to try and steal it, Hulk? I finally had to add a step stool to my tailgate so that I could precariously lean over the top of the door to hold one bolt while simultaneously trying to loosen the nut on the other side. And this was done while standing on tiptoe on the stool. What I lack in brute strength, I make up for with problem solving skills.
My car and truck already sport Chemaine Hurtado's logo, as do some saddle pads and a jacket. Now my trailer feels like part of Team Symphony, too.
Give a girl a screwdriver and a monkey wrench or two, and watch out!
I swear I write this exact same post year after year. Not that it's entitled Third Level Challenges. One year I am sure it was called something like Training Level Terrors or First Level Fraud. I know it was called Second Level Sucks last year. The point is that each year that I've made the decision for Speedy and I to move up, I've regretted it immediately.
Second Level will always be my reminder that that we can overcome. I started the season terrified to ride in a local show for fear of looking like the world's greatest hack. Scarier than that was the thought of not being able to earn at least one 60% for my CDS plaque. I was certain that we were way out of our league. Imagine my surprise when instead of earning just one qualifying score during the year, Speedy and I managed to earn 15 scores above 60%, our second best of any season so far! Take that, self doubt!
I've been riding Speedy all week even though he didn't start out perfectly sound; the abscess is/was still healing. He felt 100% sound yesterday though, so I finally started re-schooling the medium trot with an eye toward the extended trot. Uh-oh. We're in trouble.
Rather than let myself feel defeated, I decided to get to work studying the tests. There's a lot to learn for sure. I read the purpose of Third Level and gulped. The part that got me was engagement. The word is used twice, but then they throw in self-carriage which requires, you guessed it, engagement.
There are almost no changes for the 2019 Third Level tests, which tells me the tests must flow pretty well. There are a lot of double coefficients though, Including a new one for the flying change. On the other hand, there is also one for the rein back which we do well. I took a deep breath, and instead of panicking over what we can't do, I separated what we can already do from what we need to work on.
Here are the movements required for each test at the level and how I feel about it:
If I had to ride Third Level Test 1 tomorrow, I feel like we could at least do all of the movements. The extended gaits would come with the comment "need to show more". The half pass would read, "needs more bend and engagement". We might get lucky and get clean flying changes, but in all likelihood, the comment would read "tense and explosive".
It's a good thing I like to work hard because I see a lot of hard work in front of us. Don't tell Speedy though; he's not a fan of manual labor. Third Level? We got this (sort of, almost, probably).
Oh, boy, oh, boy did I have a great lesson over the weekend. Izzy hadn't seen Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables for several months. Up until recently, he had been so nice to ride that I wasn't having any problems. When Chemaine said she'd be here on Saturday, I waffled. As it turned out, I needed a lesson much more than I had thought.
With Izzy standing patiently by - I guess all of last week's do it or else riding really paid off, Chemaine and I talked about where I was with him. I know she doesn't show up with an agenda, so I am always amazed at the exercises she can pull out of her hat with only a moment's notice. What she decided we needed was to get Izzy better engaging his inside hind.
She had me ride a square, first at trot and then at the canter. As we approached the corner, Chemaine had me half halt the outside hind by opening my outside rein as I brought it back, like you would for a walk pirouette. Then I used my outside leg to push his haunches in to make a square turn. I kept my inside hand low and steady to maintain the bend. In between turns, I gave Izzy every opportunity to stretch down, but as we neared the next corner, I repeated the half-halt, haunches in, turn.
Here's a bit of video with Chemaine explaining.
I've ridden him every day since Saturday's lesson, and while he hasn't magically become Verdades - give us about 50 more years, he's definitely getting more and more buttons installed.
While riding this week, I realized something. After schooling some walk to canter to walk as well as turns on the haunches and counter canter, I realized that Izzy has a ton of really cool buttons, but they're only half-way installed. He can do a lot of movements from Training through Third Levels, but he can't do them well or consistently.
One of my goals for 2019 is to get him to a show, the level isn't important, with the knowledge that we should be able to earn at least 60%. I am not sure if my strategy of work movements regardless of the level will work, but I am going to continue playing around with the different movements. The instant he figures out that relaxing won't kill him, all of those half-way installed buttons will fall into place.
Let's hope it happens at the start of a test!
For most of December, both of my boys have had hoof abscess; one for Izzy and two for Speedy. It seems as though we are finally back to normal, or very nearly so.
Speedy's second abscess came immediately on the heels of the first one - and I am not kidding here. It started the very day after being deemed sound from the first one. Fortunately, that second abscess lasted only 3 or 4 days. As of yesterday, he was seen rodeo-style bucking in the morning before breakfast. I think he feels better.
Just to be sure, I pulled the hoof pack and picked out all four feet, examining them for any sort of hidden tenderness. When that all checked out, I took him up to the arena for a quick lunge. I gauged him to be 95% sound. There was an ever-so-slight hitch in his giddy-up, but that might have been due to several weeks of standing around.
I am not sure that Speedy will be sound enough for a ride this morning, but I may hop up on him bareback just to make him feel happy. He gets grouchy if he thinks he's being ignored.
I gave Izzy his last dose of UlcerGard on Saturday. Boy, am I glad that's over. I made it to the barn every single day for 28 days straight, and still counting! I say I go to the barn every day, but the reality is that it's more like 5 - 6 days a week. Try doing it for literally seven days a week for a month. It gets old, really old. Especially in the dead of winter when it's dark and freezing ass (California style) cold. You do what you have to do though, right?
After having an abscess that left him gimpy for nearly three weeks, Izzy finally went back to work last week. If you're a minor, cover your eyes for a moment as my language is about to get strong. For the entire first week back to work, Izzy flew past the land of jackassery in favor of straight up asshole. He was a dick just to be a dick. We had three or four rides that were filled with expletives on my part, and ginormous "F" Yous on his. Dude was a complete and total A-hole.
After a lot of free lunging and me jerking the crap out of his face, he finally turned his brain back on. And before some of you get all preachy on me, this horse is huge and he weighs about a billion pounds. His number one go-to is to lock his jaw and neck and run off. When he does that, I have no recourse but to halt the (bad word coming) shit out of him. I feel bad, I really do, but he simply can't hear me otherwise. By Friday afternoon, he was over it and ready to play ball. We had a lesson on Saturday that not only gave me some new tools, but also some new feel. More on that tomorrow.
Today is the first day of my Christmas break. I have two weeks off with dry weather predicted for all but one of those days, and I finally have two horses who are (knock on some wood here) sound and healthy and ready to get back to work.
I see a lot of flying changes and simple changes in our future!
I am a Pollyanna, glass half full, make lemonade, and see the silver lining kind of girl. Usually. Right now, Universe, I am OVER. IT.
When I went out to check on Speedy last night, hopeful that he was looking perky and ready to get back to work, I noticed that both front legs were filled and his stride was pretty wonky.
He looked good on the foot that had just abscessed; it was the other one that he didn't want to bear weight on. Even so, I gave the first foot a thorough exam, poking and prodding as I watched for a pain reaction. Nothing. On the other hand, I got a solid Hey! That hurts!!! as I pressed deeply within the creases of the frog on the other hoof.
I packed his hoof with Numotizine as I rolled my eyes. Repeatedly. It is what it is, but really, Universe, I could use a break. What with three abscesses, two horses, and one sad girl, you'd think it was beginning to look a lot like the "Twelve Days of Christmas." I don't need four of anything unless I also get five glorious days (of weather combined with healthy horses).
Happy first day of Christmas vacation (starting at 1:00) to me!!!!!!!
I love having my own trailer. It's liberating. I can go anywhere I want, whenever I want. The only problem with having your own truck and trailer is that they occasionally break or need repairs. Less than three years ago, we replaced all three of the roof vents over the living quarters portion of my horse trailer.
A week or two ago, I saw this on the ground, and I knew it hadn't blown in like Mary Poppins. I glanced up to the roof of my trailer and saw the rest of it dangling uselessly.
I assumed we had to replace the whole unit agin. As it happens, roof vents are a weak spot on a trailer's roof as they get baked by the California sun. Turns out you can replace just the cover without having to install the whole unit (which involves a lot more work). I called up my favorite RV center, Pensingers RV Parts and Service, where they sold me exactly what I needed - these are guaranteed to be unbreakable, and then they gave me 10% off my purchase because they're just nice that way.
Replacing just the vent lid is a very easy do-it-yourself job. I give it 1 hammer out of 5 on the degree of difficulty. All you need are some screw drivers and a pair of pliers.
From the inside, you need to remove the decorative casing, then the screen, and finally the handle. These are all simply screwed in. Next, remove the handle mechanism from the cross bar by unscrewing each end. You can see it dangling in the lower middle portion of the above photo.
From the roof, you can now manually raise the bar that lifts the vent up and down. With a little jiggling, the vent will then slide off the hinge. Replace the new vent by first sliding it onto the hinge bar - pinch each end tightly with pliers so that it doesn't back slide off. Place the "lifting arm" - I really don't know what that piece is called, into the round slot of the vent lid's track. Go back inside and reattach the handle mechanism. Replace the screen, the handle itself, and the outside housing, and you're done.
Of course, once we got on the roof to get a good look at the vent, we discovered that another vent lid was also broken, and the third one was in equally bad shape.
The heavy duty vent lids cost $33.73, so replacing all of them with the sturdier plastic will run about $100. I know what we're going to be doing this weekend.
It's tough when you have to manage not only your wheels but your roof as well. And guess what? Blue Truck isn't feeling too well after all. We're in the midst of scheduling an appointment.
'Tis the season ... for vehicle repairs?!
The whole time I've owned horses, more than 30 years, I've always subscribed to the Keep It Simple, Stupid, or KISS method. Most supplements have always struck me as a great way to make expensive poop. You wouldn't know it by looking at Izzy's daily bucket.
Over the past few weeks, I've actually added some supplements to his already pretty complicated diet. It's frustrating and expensive, and I am working hard to whittle it back down to a simpler feeding routine.
His hay ration consists of twice daily armloads of high quality grass shipped in from Oregon. He also gets a bit of alfalfa to keep him happy. For now, his daily bucket includes:
I am just not seeing the results from the Platinum Performance that I was hoping to see. Not that I was looking for anything specific, but I had hoped for a better attitude and fewer reasons to call out the chiropractor. For the past month, both he and Speedy have been on a half serving. I just started my last bucket which should last them another two months. After that, no more Platinum Performance.
The Platinum Hoof Support should last another few weeks and that will be the end of that supplement. I never planned on giving it forever anyway. The plan was to give it for 3 - 4 months to help him grow some hoof. That has happened, so I am done with that one as well.
The SmartGI is a new normal. My vet recommended it, so it's an everyday addition for at least a year. Next fall, I'll reevaluate and see if we need a change. Of course, if things go haywire before then, I can always make a change sooner than later.
I have another few days of GastroGuard to administer, and then we'll be done with that one. I have seen a big change in Izzy's attitude though, so I may give the GastroGard when he leaves the property for something stressful or gets a dewormer.
I finally got to a point where feeding this horse has become more complicated and expensive than feeding myself. And all of it is just to "support" his health. Since I am not seeing concrete results, it leads me to believe that I may simply be creating expensive poop.
No one likes healthy poop more than me, but expensive poop is going too far. Bye-bye expensive bucket, hello less-expensive bucket!
Hopefully your horse will never have another one. For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of owning a horse with a painful pimple in his hoof, here's one way to help him through it.
First up, invest in a boatload of duct tape. Yes, the guy in the paint department will look at you strangely. At least the guy at Home Depot did as I carted an armload of the gray stuff back to the register. If I had bought zip ties at the same time, he no doubt would have called in the FBI. The thing is, if you buy only one roll, you're asking for a lengthy abscess. If you purchase way more than you'll ever need, your horse will never abscess again.
You probably have most of this stuff already, but if you don't, it's all good bandaging material to have on hand as it can be used for a lot of different types of bandaging jobs. I keep a good supply of this stuff on hand at all times, especially the Vetwrap.
If the abscess is still stuck somewhere in the hoof, you'll need some kind of poultice like Numotizine or Ichthammol to draw out the abscess. Once it's blown, the hole that it creates can lead directly into the hoof, so you'll need to clean and protect it until the tissue has epithelized. This bandage is for after the abscess has blown. If the abscess hasn't blown substitute the flushing and gauze pads with Numotizine.
The first step is to clean the entire hoof with water and a Betadine solution. If the hole is at the coronary band, you probably won't be able to irrigate it, but if it's in the hoof itself, it's important to flush it out so that a new piece of foreign material doesn't get stuck as the tissue is trying to epthelize.
To irrigate the hole, create a dilution of Betadine with water. The percentage of water to Betadine doesn't really matter. Just get it looking like tea, and squirt it in. I do at least three full syringes. You want to make sure to flush until nothing but your solution comes out. The first day I did this, the solution actually oozed out from a small "blow out" hole in Speedy's heel bulb, just above the large drainage hole. By the second wrapping, that hole had closed up.
Once the abscess's drainage hole has been thoroughly flushed of foreign material and any pus, pack the hoof with gauze pads that have been soaked in Betadine. The Betadine serves as an antiseptic and provides antibacterial activity. It will also "dry out" the abscess.
Once the gauze pads are in place, wrap the entire hoof with some kind of cotton padding. I like the Webril cotton rolls because they have a waffle texture which gives more cushion than just brown gauze rolls might. It's also easier to handle than cotton sheets used for large bandages. But really, use whatever you have on hand.
The next step is to wrap the entire hoof in Vetwrap. The Vetwrap's job is to keep the bandaging material firmly in place. For some bandaging jobs there's a risk of getting the Vetwrap too tight or even too loose if it's a pressure bandage. For covering the hoof, just wrap it without worrying. You want it tight enough to keep it from slipping around, so wrap with sure, firm, layers.
The last step is to protect the bandage from mud and dirt. If you have a boot, you can use that instead of duct tape. To make the job a bit easier, peel off 3 - 5 strips of duct tape that are about 10 inches in length. I stuck mine to the bucket I was using to hold all of my materials. Once you have your tape strips ready to go, start laying them from toe to heel to create the bottom of the wrap. From there, keep applying layers around the hoof and across the bottom until every bit of Vetwrap is covered. Press it all tightly, and you're done!
For all bandaging jobs, I like to rewrap every other day. If you're interested in doing a pressure bandage, check out this post or this one.
And I guess a thank you goes out to Speedy G for providing this learning opportunity. I appreciate the effort, dude, but I think I've got the bandaging thing down. No more experience needed!
If you haven't been invited to a barn party this year, throw one. There is nothing more stress-relieving than hanging out with a bunch of like-minded, horse crazy folks eating too much food and laughing at stories that the rest of the would find world find boring.
On Friday night, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, opened her beautiful home to all of her students and friends for her annual Team Symphony Christmas bash. Chemaine had students from all over Kern County show up, and it's a big county. That lady really gets around!
Team Symphony's party was like a lot of others. We brought more food than anyone could possibly eat, and I mean that. Somehow the two food tables, yes, TWO, kept getting refilled. It was like the miracle of the loaves and fishes. One thing about horse people is that we love to chow down almost as much as we love seeing our horses dive in.
Like most barn Christmas parties, we all brought horsey-themed gifts to swap and steal. At the end of the night, I ended up with not one, but two new ornaments! One I "stole," and the other came from Chemaine. She had hand painted each student's horse on an ornament. Mine had both of my horses depicted!
Part of the evening's festivities included a fun game of "Reassemble This Bridle." I laughed because not long ago I wrote a post about cleaning three bridles and getting confused when I started putting them back together. Chemaine paired me up with my friend Wendy, an amazing barrel racer who also rides dressage. Not to change the subject, but here's Wendy on Bloo.
Since Wendy and I were up first, Chemaine gave us a moment to strategize. Not wanting to be responsible for the crown piece and brow band - I look like a retarded monkey when I try to figure out those pieces and that's in the privacy of my own tack room, I told Wendy to do that part while I tackled the reins and bit. We end up winning with a time of 1:16. Take that, retarded monkey!
Like all good things, the evening eventually came to an end but not before everyone handed out lots of hugs and well wishes. It was a Christmas party after all, and the spirit of good will was definitely felt as everyone wished each other's horses good health, top scores, and success in the coming year.
Thank you for having us, Chemaine. I am so looking forward to 2019!