I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, and Universe? F*#@ you!
First of all, you kind of need them; horses too. Keeping with the theme of this winter though, Speedy tried to knock his out.
Speedy's a worrier. He paces and whirls when he thinks he's been left on his own, which NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENS. On Sunday morning, while I lunged Izzy, Speedy apparently paced and whirled a bit too hard and whacked his face against the pole that holds up his roof.
I swear I cannot make this stuff up. When I saw the blood on his mouth, I pulled back his lip and saw a tooth hanging to the side. I gently pushed on it to see if it was loose, and he snapped his head back with an audible intake of breath. That sucker looks like it must hurt.
Since he was eating and looked fine otherwise, I decided to wait to call the vet until Monday. Frankly, my wallet couldn't handle a Sunday emergency vet visit for something non-life-threatening. The ranch owner and I both agreed to give it one day to see if the swelling would go down overnight. It didn't.
I called the vet on Monday afternoon, but due to a busy schedule, a day off, and the dentistry required to fix this, it was decided to drop Speedy off last night so Dr. Tolley can get to him some time today while I am work. The plan is to wire the tooth back into place. Sort of of like having braces.
I'll let you know how it goes. Oh, and Universe? F*#@ you!
Izzy's been a tough nut to crack; we all know this. One minute he can be offering flying changes, a lovely uphill canter, or even a trot half pass.
In the very next minute, he can't make a left hand turn without ripping off my arms and nearly bashing me in the face.
With Speedy being so intent on injuring every part of his body, I decided that Izzy has got to start earning his keep. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, pulled into the ranch for Sunday's lesson, I let her know that Izzy needs to step up his game.
We discussed what he can do: half pass - sort of, flying changes when I ask - sometimes, walk to canter to walk - also sometimes, stretchy trot circle - actually better than Speedy ever did, a decent trot to canter transition, counter canter, and he's sometimes straight. Give all of that a good shake, and then roll the dice to see what turns up. We decided to call him a First Level horse - in training. It's been more than a year since I've ridden a First Level test, so Chemaine had to remind me what we'll need to work on.
Now that I can get Izzy in front of my leg - most of the time, it's time to start playing around with adjusting his stride. That's where we started. Chemaine had me do a bunch of transitions within the gait. Nothing wild or crazily new in that concept, unless you're a big brown horse who hasn't been able to lengthen his stride at all. I think Chemaine was a bit surprised at how easily he offered a longer stride.
And then since I can, one more of that baby lengthening of stride.
We also played around with the leg yield. Since Izzy moves laterally so easily, unlike the Speedy pony, it's more about keeping all of his parts in line without letting the shoulders lead too much while leaving the haunches behind.
The biggest First Level movement we'll have trouble with is the canter to trot transition at X, and later, the canter to trot to canter transition at X. Damn X anyway. Once Izzy starts cantering, he just can't stop. Especially if we cross the diagonal. All he sees is more real estate to cover. And in his opinion, the faster the better.
According to Izzy, trotting in the middle of a good long run seems like a dumb idea. He would much rather keep on cantering and turn it into a counter canter; that he understands. In fact, once this horse canters, it's really hard to get him to stop.
As much as I'd love to just write my own test - A enter cantering, X continue to canter, C track left still cantering, E canter left 20 meters, K-A-F canter, F-X-H change rein, C counter canter ... USEF won't let me. So for now, Izzy has to learn to do that transition without me needing to haul back on the reins to half halt his freight train of a canter.
Always one to think on her feet, Chemaine offered two different tools to keep Izzy on my aids. The first was to think shoulder fore as we canter through the corner, heading for X. This will keep him on my outside rein as I ask for the transition to trot.
When that doesn't work, and you knew it wouldn't be that easy, Chemaine said, "If he falls off your outside rein right away, canter a 10-meter circle." And the beauty of that exercise is that there are a lot of 10-meter circles as you cross the diagonal.
Eventually, we got a few good canter to trot transitions across the diagonal. I love having a plan, so focusing on the movements at First Level with an eye to finally, finally getting this horse into a show ring only increases my motivation.
Here's a short video of that exercise.
One of the things that I love most about Chemaine is that she is never out of ideas. She works the horse and rider that show up for that day's lesson. It's a good thing because next week, Izzy might show up acting more like an Intro Level horse!
I had a rough last week. Fortunately it wasn't because of horses; they've given me enough gray hairs this winter. On Thursday, a friend tagged me in a Facebook post that pretty much saved the rest of the world from total annihilation as I was very close to going postal - how much crap can one person take?
It's Dwight's face that cracks me up the most. I know that's the look that Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, must have on her face when Izzy starts with his jackassery. I looked at that meme all weekend long, laughing harder each time. It's easy to get a little punchy though when you're on the edge.
Thankfully, while horses can drive us to the brink of insanity, they can also keep us standing squarely on our two feet. My own equine therapists, a Goddess and a Wild Card did their jobs well (sort of) over the weekend, leaving me mostly prepared to tackle Monday. My husband drew a name for last week's book give-away. Congrats to Mag for winning a copy of Is Your Horse a Rockstar.
Mag wrote, "I think mine would be the "mean girl" even though he's a gelding. He has to show everyone that he's in charge - pasture mates, stablehands, etc. I would love a copy to see if that's one of the choices!"
Mag's copy is in the mail, headed her way. And Mag, I'm wondering if your gelding might be The Macho Man, The Boss, or even The Prize Fighter. I hope you'll let me know!
I was recently chatting with my friend Jen about show entries. She is the queen of show managers which is why we were discussing entries. She puts on at least a dozen or more USDF-rated shows each year plus another dozen or so schooling shows. She's also the chair of the Ventura County Chapter of CDS which means she does All. The. Work. If you have show entry questions, she's who you should talk to.
I think the conversation centered around the new USEF rule regarding the use of Pergolide. She was the first one to tell me that Pergolide is now allowed with a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) - Speedy had just been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease. I assured Jen that I would be submitting the paperwork for that as soon as possible. I did, and the TUE came back within a week or so.
So what does that have to do with show binders? As Jen and I continued our conversation, things drifted toward what else should a rider include in her show entry. Apparently, I am in the minority of riders who actually complete their entries. I was stunned to hear just how many riders submit incomplete show entries. When I asked what could possibly be missing (In my world, directions get followed, but that's just the teacher in me.), she replied "Everything!" Quite often there are no copies of membership cards, no payment, no list of which classes a riders plans to do, no horse name and on and on.
Online entries would of course eliminate all of that nonsense, but here in my neck of California, not a lot of riders use them as it costs more to enter online than to use a paper entry. That means Jen, and other show secretaries, wade through mountains of paperwork. And when that paperwork is incomplete, it makes her job so much more difficult.
I know other riders have much fancier versions than mine, and you might want to check out what The Printable Pony has in her Etsy store, but here's what my show binder looks like.
For my purposes, I've found five areas that suit my needs, although the contacts section has been empty for a long time as things now go straight into my phone. I have placed things like flyers or adverts there though.
My first tab is for show premiums, directions, stall assignments, and anything else related to a show including Speedy's stall sign. I got mine for FREE at The Printable Pony; ask her if it's still available.
Horse ID Numbers
Stored in sheet protectors for maximum safety - horse shows are dusty and often times wet places, I keep both boys' "master" copies of our membership cards. After those, I keep copies of their USDF Certificates of Lifetime Horse Registration.
This section is jam packed, and frankly, it should either come at the beginning of my binder or at the back as it's the area that I use most often. Here is where I store their vaccinations records for USEF, Speedy's TUE, both horses' Health and Vaccination Record cards, and finally, Izzy's RPSI passport.
Weird, and no doubt useless, but each year I spring for USEF's Equine Liability Insurance. I don't know if it would help, but if Speedy, or more likely Izzy, kills someone at a show, I am hoping this will help pay at least a small part of my bills. As I was cleaning out my binder, I realized I had a copy from 2017. I don't know why I didn't print out last season's evidence of coverage, but I have fixed that.
Nothing to see here. I used to keep things like business cards and names of other equine professionals like chiropractors and farriers, but like I said, it's much easier to store all of that in my phone.
In the front cover of my binder, I store extra copies of the USEF vaccination records. I've only twice been asked to submit a copy with my entry, but it's so much more convenient to have extra copies on hand than to be scrambling at a show to produce a copy. I also store all of my membership cards in an envelope in that pocket as well.
In the back cover, I store ready-to-send copies of mine and each horse's memberships cards. This year, I was seriously optimistic as I made 10 copies of each. Even if I had 20 weekends free, I could never afford to enter 20 shows, but you never know!
I am sure there is other stuff I could include, but for me, this works. I don't need packing lists or a calendar, and frankly, I hate updating stuff, so keeping my binder as simple as possible makes it user-friendly for me.
Any good ideas out there? Do you keep a folder/binder? Do you you store anything in it that I might find useful? I know I am curious, so others must be as well.
I am trying not to complain too much, but waiting for skin to heal really is like watching paint dry. Speedy is now bandage free, but we're in the next stage of the process that happens when you take pressure bandages off; everything swells up. I've been down this road with Izzy (his wound took a full year to heal), so I haven't been surprised by the setbacks.
Last week I sent my vet some photos of Speedy's legs, and he gave the go ahead to remove the bandages and switch to an aluminum-based bandage instead. There are several brands to choose from; I went with AluShield because that's what Amazon could deliver the quickest. If you haven't used an aluminum-based bandage, it looks just like spray paint. The product description reads, AluShield is a convenient, water-resistant aerosol bandage that creates a protective barrier against external irritant agents in wounds in small and large animals.
When I got to the barn on Monday, my little heart sank a bit. Both legs were crusted over with dirt and scabs and the left one had ballooned up. Having been through this before, I shoved my disappointment back down and grabbed a hose to start cold-hosing. As I hosed, I ever so gently picked away at the dirt without dislodging the scabs. The photos above are from after I cleaned up both cuts.
From afar, meaning kneeling a few feet away rather than pressing my nose against his knees to get a serious close-up, the wounds look much better than they did even a week ago. Read about the injury here and here. When I looked back to find those links, I was shocked at how ugly it was compared to what it looks like now. In truth, both sides are practically healed!
The thing I love about AluShield is that it makes everything look better. I know both Speedy and I are ready to get back to regular work. I'll be glad when that last scab gets knocked off and pink skin shines through. Until then, isn't that a lovely shade of silver paint?
I mentioned that Speedy is back to work. We haven't done any cantering yet, just some walk/trot. The newest problem is that he's a bit sore on what I think is the left front, which is the leg where the smaller injury was/is. I think he's sore from the bandages and scabs.
I hate to ride a horse that's lame, but sometimes it's better for them to be ridden, especially if they get less lame while working. Right now, Speedy's energy is building, and he needs a way to get rid of it. Simple trail rides aren't quite enough to ease his growing tension. Twenty minutes in the arena lets him feel useful and valued which soothes his ego and lets him relax.
Since he was still sore on Sunday, I focused on improving the walk, both the free walk and collected. He could only stand so much collected walk though before he insisted on trotting. It was rough, but the longer he worked, the less it seemed to bother him. And then suddenly he was a fire breathing dragon, and he forgot all about being a bit sore.
We worked on getting supple, doing some shoulder in and moving the hindquarters. Over the past few months he's forgotten what a turn on the haunches is, so we rode a lot of squares and haunches in. He even felt solid enough to ask for a small medium trot. Boy does he love doing those!
Third Level is my goal for this year. We're behind schedule, but that's okay. We'll school what we can, and then we'll tackle the flying changes again when I am sure Speedy is healed enough to do them.
Really. I can wait.
On Sunday, Izzy and I had a particulalry good lesson with Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. That isn't to say that I don't always get good lessons, because I do. Sometimes though, an important piece of the puzzle will fall into place. And when that happens, a bigger picture starts to show through.
The biggest AHAs! that I had during this lesson were about bracing with my arms - how not to do it, and feeling Izzy's hind legs when they're NOT stepping under.
During our last lesson, Izzy finally showed us that he can handle a lot more leg. The problem with pushing him to get his hind end in the game is that he gets super heavy in front. Yah! for the added impulsion, boo hiss for the 120 pounds that he's making me carry in my arms.
When I mentioned to Chemaine that I've been bracing against Izzy's bracing, she suggested I resist with the outside hand but flex with my inside hand all while still adding leg. LEG is our new word of the month.
It was like I suddenly learned how to ride. You mean bracing doesn't work? I kid you not, just hearing that I could "brace" with ONE hand, but move the bit around with the other, gave me a completely different feel. He didn't magically get soft and light or anything, but the whole dynamic changed for the better.
What ended up happening was that when I quit holding up his front end and added leg, the argument was with my leg instead of my hand. Horses don't (usually) spook or balk when they're in front of your leg. So, every single time he spooked and or came above the bit, I added leg. And not just a gentle hug either; I whacked him in the sides. And when he squealed, I whacked him with my legs again. We did a lot of cantering.
Once he was finally in front of my leg, we got to work. And when I say work, I mean we finally started doing some dressage work. Chemaine showed me a great shoulder in exercise that helped me feel when he wasn't driving with his hind end.
We started with a shoulder in, but Chemaine had me focus more on his hind end and not so much on what was happening to the shoulder in. She explained it like this: my rein aide tells him where to go while my seat and legs tell him to push us forward in that direction. I am usually so worried about getting the correct shoulder angle that I forget about the hind end and suddenly it's hanging way back there where we started.
After a shoulder in down the long side, Chemaine had me use the short side to straighten and regroup and push him forward. Instead of coming down the next long side, I crossed the diagonal, still in shoulder in. By focusing on a point in the distance - I don't have letters, I could see where I was losing him. As we approached the rail, I changed the bend and leg yielded to the rail. That's where Izzy gave me the most resistance - changing the bend.
We repeated the exercise over and over, occasionally jumping into a canter when Izzy "spooked" or got distracted. The most wonderful thing started to happen though. For the first time ever, I felt really plugged into the saddle with my seat bones asking for a longer stride or a shorter stride. He was finally loose enough in the back to give me a place to sit. I actually felt like a dressage rider.
I am loving every minute of this version of the big brown horse. We are definitely not-so-speedy dressage, but given enough time, we WILL get the job done!
I am sure that all of us think that our own horses are more sensitive (meaning "special") than others, but I am here to tell you that Speedy wins the "snowflake" of the year award. Right now, he is in the midst of tantrum that's been going on for a good month. Which brings me yet again to Dessa Hockley's book, Is your horse a Rockstar?
If you haven't bought it yet, do it. I promise you won't be disappointed. I don't get anything if you buy the book, but it really is that good. In fact, I love the book so much that I am going to buy a copy for someone who wants one. If you want the book, leave a comment, but make sure to fill in your website or email address so I can get your snail mail address. I'll do a random drawing on Saturday (March 16).
The reason I bring up the book is that Speedy is having a pretty rough winter. He's abscessed several times, been diagnosed with Cushing's Disease, and torn open both front legs. All of that means he isn't getting very much positive attention. To him, it feels as though all I do is poke him in sore places or jam weird tasting stuff in his mouth.
"Speedy is what Dessa Hockley refers to as The Goddess (Submissive, Energetic, Curious, Friendly). If he were a bit more dominate, he would be a Rock Star, and frankly, there are days when he does fall into that category. For The Goddess, the relationship is everything. Right now, Speedy's a bit pissed at me because he's not getting the saddle time he thinks he deserves. The ear pinning and tail swishing are dead give-aways that he's feeling slighted.
Speedy's mission in life is to be adored by me, and anyone else in his vicinity is welcome to jump on that band wagon as well. It doesn't matter what we do; he's happy to please as long as accolades and adoration are his reward. Cookies and candies are also expected. As The Goddess, he is, after all, a divinity."
I wrote that in January of 2017 - probably in the midst of some other injury. It is just as true today as it was two years ago. Speedy is so unhappy right now. Everything in his life sucks a big fat lemon. He now has to take a Prascend pill every morning which he hates. He hasn't been turned out in at least a month because I don't want him to re-injure his front legs or cause some new injury. And the worst thing to him is that he's no longer in regular work. I rode him last weekend, but then it rained all week, so I didn't get to ride again until this weekend.
While Speedy was happy to be out and being ridden, he was so resentful that everything I asked of him turned into a chore. Bandaging his legs caused drama. He didn't want to be bridled. He refused his peppermint candies. I was frustrated, and he was frustrated.
It's going to take some time to rebuild our relationship, and I have a feeling that I am going to be doing a lot of butt kissing over the next few weeks. And if Speedy has anything to say about it, there had better be some better treats involved.
Like I said, he's a Goddess. And a big fat "snowflake!"
More than one person has suggested that I move Izzy on to somewhere else. Someplace far, far away. It's been four years, and he's still not any closer to a show ring than he was back then. I get it; he's not everyone's flavor, and sometimes even I get sick of his shenanigans. But then I get a few moments of this.
Of course, this took 30 minutes to achieve and only after about a million half halts followed by a good hand gallop. Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, has been infinitely patient and creative with team Izzy a Complete Lunatic? She shows up every time ready to school whichever horse I've got that day. Usually it's a horse with a very short attention span jacked up on Mountain Dew.
Sunday was no exception. Izzy was tense and spooky and generally just refusing to focus and do what was asked. The interesting thing was that Chemaine had watched him on the lunge line while he trotted around in a perfect circle never spooking once. I think it's the first time she'd seen him lunged. It gave her some ideas about how to deal with the spooking under saddle.
Since I had some cavalletti poles set up, Chemaine had me work on shortening and lengthening his stride over the poles. We also had a lot puddles that we used for the same idea. The purpose was to collect his stride, forcing him to step up and over - sort of like a manual half halt. The puddles and poles also forced him to keep an eye on where he was going. He hates stepping on the poles.
Collecting and lengthening one's stride will only get you so far though. The photo above illustrates that. I know it's long and it's not exciting, but Chemaine shot some video of that part of the lesson. Essentially, it was lengthen his stride, shorten his stride, repeat, repeat, repeat.
After this part of the video, we moved on to deal with his jackassery. He was quiet and listening on the lunge line, but somewhere during the first 15 minutes of the lesson, he decided that the far end of the arena was a very spooky place to be. And then he proceeded to do everything possible to avoid heading that direction.
Chemaine's advice was to over ride him. I know that sounds weird, but I knew exactly what she meant. I pushed his butt forward, and every time he got balky, silly, or heavy, I pushed him to a bigger stride. Pretty soon we were hustling around that arena. With poles here and there and big puddles scattered around, Izzy suddenly found himself needing to redirect his attention stat.
As we zoomed around, Chemaine encouraged me to be louder and more obnoxious with my aids in an effort to be more distracting than the distractions. In the past, I wasn't able to be so loud with my aids because that was a sure way to get a melt down. But as Izzy gets more educated, he is able to keep it together - mostly. And when he's truly in front of my leg, he can handle a lot more pressure because he's thinking forward.
Eventually, I bumped it up to a canter and let him get it all out. With my night classes, heavy rain, and needing to bandage Speedy, he hadn't been ridden in more than a week, so I was pleased with how much he let me try to put him together. In the next video, we've just finished a good hand gallop, but you can see that his back is looser and he's offering a more energetic stride.
This horse will never be a finished show horse, and he'll never be easy to ride, but if you can hang on, you can get some really good moments from him that are fun to ride.
Yeah. kind of like that.
I know I said I'd be writing about a lesson I took on Izzy, but I have to switch it up instead. When I unwrapped Speedy's legs last night, I finally got a pleasant surprise.
But first, an explanation ... I already told you I've been in the midst of a Tuesday/Thursday series of night classes for work. Tonight's class is the last one until late summer - so happy for that. Working from 6:45 a.m. until 7:45 p.m. bites. Hard.
Dr. Tolley recommended re-wrapping every other day, or every third day if my bandages looked good. My bandages always look good, but I've preferred the every other day routine as I am nosy and impatient and want to see fast results every single time. I haven't, but I am like a gambler looking for my next big win, so I keep checking every other day.
Yesterday, I got that big win. I re-wrapped on Sunday which would have meant rewrapping on Tuesday, but I had class that night. It's not possible to make the trek to the barn and back and be on time for class. We don't get credit if we're even ten minutes late. So, against my better judgement, I let the bandages cook for three days.
Yesterday, I unwrapped the first one, which is closing, but it's taking its own sweet time. I rewrapped it, and moved on to leg number two. Frankly, I was feeling pretty discouraged and not very hopeful and then a tad bit worried because it had been three whole days.
I always unwrap the vet wrap and cotton quickly, but I hold the hydrophilic foam pad against the wound because it does stick a bit. I didn't know that the first time I unwrapped, so Speedy got a surprise when I inadvertently yanked it off like a regular bandaid. OUCH! When I gently peeled back the foam pad, I sat back in surprise. The wound was nearly closed!
I so wanted to pick at the scab, but I didn't. Instead, I gently wiped any dirt or loose debris away from the wound and wrapped it back up again. I think I'm going to let my money ride and wait another three days before I open it back up. If my luck holds, it might even have hair growing.
My money's on the Speedy pony!