Friday, December 30, 2011

In Which the High Queen Walks Home Killing My Dreams Along the Way.

I am pretty angry right now which is why I am not even looking at the pasture. Yesterday I decided to trailer Seneca to an indoor arena that is ten miles from my house.  It took me around fifteen minutes to load her, but still she got in, so off we went.

Seneca was pretty freaking fabulous at the indoor. She snorted and eyeballed everything but got down to work and was great. She was a bit bratty about giving me the left lead but that's the usual for her.  We even jumped a little.

Everything was happiness and sunshine until I went to reload her. OMFG! She wouldn't get in. She wouldn't get in for four hours. Then my husband came and we tried for another hour. She still wouldn't get in. It was at that point 8pm.  I wanted to call the barn owner and leave Seneca there for the night.  My husband decided to walk her the whole ten miles home. IN THE DARK! ALONG THE HIGHWAY!  My God I love that man.

Everyone is stiff and sore this morning. We got home with the horse just before midnight, and my poor husband had to be at work at 6:30am.  Did I tell you I loved him?

But here is the new problem other than the High Queen absolutely hates me and almost wouldn't let me put her halter back on this morning(I let her loose in the pasture naked last night).  And she's avoiding me, giving me the "I will hate you forever" look.  I don't know what to do anymore.  It took me a good two months to get Seneca to the point where I could load her and get her locked in the dividers.  What the hell do I do with a mare that I can't trailer?  *ARRRRRG!!!!!!!!!!*

Staring at the flags that are sooo far away.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stepping Out and Stepping Up

Starting on monday I have a couple of weeks of vacation time. What, oh what will I be doing with all that time off?  Can you here the maniacle laughing?  The High Queen can and I can envision her giving me a haughty "bring it on" look.

Today I started our new "we will be fit enough for the next step" training regime. Lots of trotting, long stretchy walking, and a bit of cantering.  I also threw in some jumping at the end. Nothing big or spectacular mainly because it rained buckets yesterday and the footing wasn't great, but also because we haven't jumped on a regular basis since this past spring. We're working back up to jumping courses again.

Part of the regime is also to trailer out to my friend E's at least twice to practice over her show jumps and trailer to an indoor arena to get Seneca used to working in that environment.

Why, do you ask am I getting the High Queen back to fitness and desentizing her to indoor arenas?  *jumping up and down with barely contained happiness* I am going to a jumping clinic to take a group lesson with an event rider who is riding advanced, and he's not too far away!  I've never ridden with him, but all his students seem really happy with him.  I've been wanting to ride with him for awhile, but either my horse was broken and or refusing to get in the trailer, or I was broken.

So this clinic is a test.  I have very specific ideas about what I want in a trainer. I've had some pretty bad ones in the past. I had a screamer when I was young, finally screwed up the courage to ditch her. I had a huntseat instructor in college who it always felt like she was nervous about her students jumping. Yeah that really inspired confidence, the only thing that saved it all from disaster was I had a really awesome horse. The first draftX I'd ever ridden. He always made my hips ache when I got off him, but he was so great. Steamboat was his name.  I had a trainer who changed her training ideas everytime I got on the same horse, and while I loved riding with her the arena we rode in always made me feel clausterphobic.

So now I will test riding with the new guy before he takes his stable to Aiken for February.  I want to start riding with him at least once a month. The distance is too far to do more than once a month but if I practice on my own we could actually make real progress for the coming year.  *bouncing!*

And the husband is coming along as the official photographer and videographer.  So in a few weeks we'll have our first post broken leg photos and pictures.

So keep it between the flags and wish us luck for the 15th.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Putting the Spots to Work

Although I haven't spent much time working with the Spotted Beast aka Cowboy since I had broken my leg last spring, and then trying to get the High Queen back to a modicum of fitness he was always lingering in the back of my mind.

He's way too pretty, and way to good a mover to just be an idle pasture ornament and sometimes trail horse. He's soooo going to event. But he's barely broke, and only just starting to understand turning and stopping. But he is an extremely quick learner.

So this weekend I gave the High Queen a break and we loaded the Spotted Beast in to the trailer. He's pretty much a self loader as long as food is offered.  We took him over to the park where I had trail ridden Seneca last weekend.  We let him loose in to the round pen and watched him do laps for awhile before I started reminding him about voice commands.

After working him for fifteen minutes we gave him a break then saddled him up and I got him in the round pen. He hadn't been saddled or sat on in almost a year. But he was calm, and seemed to be working well off my leg. He did argue with me once and almost smacked me in to the rails, but other than that he was fabulous.

In a few months when a spot opens up Cowboy will be going off to the trainer.  M. did the finishing work on our last ApHC youngster and did a fabulous job. I wanted to try and do all Cowboy's training myself but I realize between work and my healing leg that I am not going to have the time, and if I want to event Cowboy anytime in the near future he needs more than I can give him. So off to M's this spring.

I'll put up the pictures later this week so everyone can see Cowboy's awesome spottedness.

Keep it between the flags everyone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Into the Scary Woods We Go.

So last we left our psycho drama queen horse super pony we had successfully traversed travling out away from the farm, reloading and coming home again. Two things before I move on to this past weekends adventures.  Did I mention that the worst part about trailering out (other than the uncertainty of the High Queen reloading in the trailer) is actually getting the trailer back in the drive way? My driveway was not created with big long trailers, or any trailer for that matter in mind. It's fairly narrow and there are deep(5 feet at least) ditches on both sides. So if I don't make the turn in just the right spot I am screwed and have to do the unthinkable. BACKING UP! *Shudder, shake Shudder* 

When I took Seneca over to E's I just planned it right and waited for my husband to be home as a ground guide before I attempted to get back in to the driveway.  The second thing I forgot to mention is how attached my two horses are to one another. Cowboy ran the fenceline and screamed for at least an hour while we were gone. He was so loud, and so plaintaive that my neighbor called to see if she should check on him. What a big baby.

Now on to the latest adventure. The whole reason I took Seneca down to E's was a pretest for my trail riding club's holiday party. I wanted to go sooo bad. I had never been able to go out trail riding with them in the year I belonged to the club. But now I had a sound horse, sound body, and a fabulous trailer.  Work tried to endeavor to get in the way of going but I got my schedule rearranged for the day.  The only snag, I would be going totally on my own, lone wolf, commando even. By the time all the partying and trail riding was done my husband would still not be home from work. So no ground guide to get the trailer back in to the driveway(GULP!) 

Plus there was no telling the kind of craziness my horse would throw at me. She'd never been on a big group trail ride, never been to the park where we were going to ride and her black and white spotted buddy was staying at home. Oh God, what was I thinking!

But I planned ahead. I pretty much knew the High Queen was not going to stand tied to the trailer. But my club had so nicely fundraised and donated a round pen to the park. Haha, one problem solved. So I arrived early, parked my trailer close to the round pen and installed the Queen in her new digs. She trotted laps for 45 minutes. Fabulous.

The friend I had hoped to be there to shepherd my mare didn't arrive when we were ready to go but I tagged along on the end of a five or six horse group. The club president had a very nice Tenessee Walker gelding who did not mind my tail gating him the whole way. We're talking her nose stuffed in his tail hair. I was wondering if we should have gotten the two of them a room she was hugging him so hard.

Seneca seemed to think that she was going to the races because she sure acted like it was the post parade for the race. She yanked the reins, she jigged, she didn't want to stand still when we paused on the trail. Not the most relaxing trail partner. But she tackled going over the five or six wooden bridges and the sometimes over the fetlock deep mud without arguing. She was even manageable when the group moved out and were trotting and cantering(us) or gaiting(pretty much everyone else)

And she did have moments of sanity where she just relaxed, let her head hang lower and walked along happily. At the return she was good, tired, but good. She stood fairly well at the trailer, but I didn't want to take chances so I threw her cooler on and let her loose in the round pen again. At which point she rolled and then spent most of the time nibbling hay or staring transfixed at the cows across the road.

At reloading time, she was a little bit of a pain, but in all actuallity it only took me less than ten minutes to reload her. Then the truly scary part, getting the trailer in again.  Wisely before I left I left a marker for where I should start my turn.  Sadly it was too far forward and I ended up having to back up the trailer twice to get the right angle to get in.

But I DID IT! I got the trailer turned around in the pasture and reparked in its spot and everything. I was extremely proud of myself for that one. It means I am independant. It means I can haul to shows and clinics without having my husband come with me. Not that he wouldn't go, he's totally supportive of my addiction, but his work schedule doesn't always allow for it.

In the end I was proud of my horse, and proud of me. Go TEAM MIDNIGHT HILL!

Keep it between the flags everyone, and Happy Holidays!

Seneca chilling in the round pen after the trail ride.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the Road Again

Since late September I had the one thing that was missing in the puzzle of getting the High Queen to load. The new, bigger trailer.  But ever since we got the fancy Exiss the High Queen has deigned to be loade, but not locked in between the dividers.  Then it was figuring out how to keep her loaded, and how to do it by myself.  My husband works most weekends(the evils of being a senior manager of a retail chain). So I needed to be able to load and unload Seneca myself.

After a couple of weeks I figured it out, everything, the loading, locking and unloading, all by myself.  There was only one element left that I needed to test.  Loading, trailering out some place, unloading, and reloading.  This would be the ultimate test. Because if I got to a show and couldn't get my mare back on the trailer to go home what the hell would I do then?

So with Seneca being all legal with her shiny new coggins, and the trailer being legal with the title finally arriving in the mail(don't ask, wayyy too long a story) I decided a little trip was in order.  But where to go to make this a happy relaxed trip? Ah my dear friend E.  I boarded the High Queen with her a couple of years ago so the Queen should not have too much of an issue going back there and riding in E's fabulous arena(She has show jumps).

With much evil wringing of hands I planned and plotted. I let the two horses out to graze most of the day  in the front yard where the grass was better. This would relax the Queen and make her unsuspecting. Then I just went through the regular routine of catching, grooming, then loading. Except this time I didn't unload her. I started the truck and off we went.  Seneca was good the whole way. When I went to unload the Queen she almost didn't come out. Then she was all high headed giraffeness, and snorting.

After a while she calmed down and we rode in the arena.  E. and her family weren't home so I didn't really want to jump too many things.  I had major jump lust for the coop but I didn't feel comfortable with E. not being home.  I did trot all her ground poles, and hopped over the little X a couple of times. We even cantered a bit, and the Queen's circles and serpentines were decent.

There's hope for us yet.  Look out spring horse trials!

Keep it between the flags everybody. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Load, Lock, Repeat

Over this past weekend I visited my family. I can't remember if I relayed in this blog that my dad is really sick. Last month he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. So while my riding life is getting better and better, my personal life not so much.

While I was visiting my family I picked up some sort of virus, and I now have a low dose of flu, or a high dose of a cold. Whichever way you want to look at it I am not feeling well at all. But I made myself play with Seneca yesterday.  I had not loaded her on the trailer since last Thursday, and I wanted to make sure I could make a repeat of our previous success.

It wasn't success right away, although she was the calmest I have ever seen her in the trailer. She was almost dozing, three legged. The first two times I tried to close the divider I don't think I had her far enough forward because when the divider came across she freaked and threw herself off the trailer. It was either that or I was moving too quickly trying to close it.

I went a bit slower the third time, rubbing her as I drew the divider closer and closer in. Then finally I had her locked in. I tied her lead line loosely then slipped out the emergency door and came back in to the trailer.  She was still standing three legged and calm. I rubbed her butt for a long while before I decided to let her out.  I went around and tried to feed her a couple of carrots.  If Seneca is really upset she won't eat, not even treats. But she gobbled down the carrots and then let me throw the lead over her neck before I went back around again and opened the divider.

Again she scrunched her body in like a slinky retracting and turned to face the back of the trailer then waited for me to ask her to get off.  She hopped out of the trailer easy as you please then looked around calmly.  As a special treat I walked her down to the main gate to our property closed it then I let her loose to graze on the lush green that still runs down both sides of our driveway. 

She was happy, I was happy. A good day. I haven't tested the new routine in the two situations that are bound to make Seneca a little more worried. Which are in the dark(all my horse trials and xc schooling areas are no less than two hours away, and more often they are likely to be 3 and 4 hours away), and loading up and going off the farm, then trying to reload in a strange place. Those two things are next on my list to try once Seneca gets a bit better with the trailering.

I still can't get Seneca locked in to the first stall. I'm not sure if I ever will, but I'm okay with that as long as I can get her secured for travel. I'll have to figure out a way to tie the first stall divider to the second one so it doesn't swing around while we are traveling. But that is a minor issue considering a year ago Seneca wasn't loading at all much less letting me lock her in to the trailer.

So aside from my family drama all is going pretty well. Keep it between the flags everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Visions of Spring

For the last three years I've been trying to get the High Queen out to debut at a horse trial. The first two years Seneca was on the injured list, this last summer I was on injured list.  The injuries interspersed with Seneca's trailering issue kept us home. I would plan to take her some place we would work on the trailering issue, she would seem like we had it licked but on the day that we would be ready to go she would stare at the empty trailer, it would stare back and no joy was had between the two.

The last year as I've talked about in this blog before I have been unable to either get the High Queen to load or stay in the trailer. I had tried everything, and I even dumped my two horse gooseneck trailer and bought a bigger three horse slant trailer to try and convince the High Queen that trailering could be fun.

We bought the trailer in September.  The trailer had been on the farm for three days when the High Queen finally deigned to step forth in to it.  That was the first step and I nearly cried that day.  Seneca continued to get better at getting in and out. I created a routine.  I get her from the pasture, I tie her to the trailer, I groom her and then on to the loading and unloading.  Then I would either ride, or tie her and groom her again.

Seneca had been spending longer and longer periods in the trailer without just unloading herself which she learned only made me put her back in the trailer. She was only allowed to be done unloading if I asked her to unload.  Now while we are still having the one to two minute staring contests with the lead rope stretched tight, tight, tight between us, she does get on.  I have wayyy more patience then she does. I spent three months on crutches and in casts not walking, and being pretty helpless. If that doesn't teach a person patience nothing will.

This past week I had been adding something new to the routine. I needed to be able to close the dividers in the trailer so I could get Seneca secured in the trailer and then be able to close the doors. I had been trying to work on getting her to tie in the trailer so I could then walk back, shut the divider, and then the door.  No go.  She would not let me leave her. I did manage a couple of times to get all the way out of the trailer, but then Seneca unloaded herself. *sigh*

So what to do?  I began working Seneca up to letting me touch her with the divider.  I could use one hand to hold the lead and rub her, and the other to pull the divider against her.  The first couple of times Seneca got extremely nervous. But eventually she let me push her with the divider, but I couldn't get the nearest divider(The one for the first stall) closed because she wouldn't move all the way up in to the space.

Okay this is a problem. She will let me touch her with the divider but I can't move to close the first stall's divider. How did I solve this problem?  I looped a lunge line around the narrowist part of the second divider and used the lunge line to pull the divider closed.  TA DA! Wonder Pony is now locked in to the trailer.  I then tied her lead line very loosely (She likes to turn her head and look around) and slipped out the emergency door. I then came around and walked in to the trailer to reassure her. I petted her butt and tried to get the first stall divider closed, but she wouldn't move over.

Eventually I might be able to get her to let me close the first divider, but I can probably rig it so she can ride with just the second divider closed, and I'll still have a spot to put Cowboy in.  The beauty of a three horse slant.

So what did the High Queen do when I finally reopened the divider?  I thought she was going to throw herself in to turbo reverse and was totally prepared for it. But that isn't what happened.  My mare surprised me.  I had been trying to teach her to turn around and face the back of the trailer so I could try and pull the divider closed that way. Which would leave her with no where to back up to. I couldn't get her to understand what I wanted. She just thought I was asking her to either turn her head, or unload.

But when I opened up the divider, she scrunched her body together, turned around to face the back of the trailer then just looked at me. I was sort of startled for a minute then I walked on to the trailer and asked her to follow me off.  She jumped off and looked around worriedly for a moment as if she expected to be somewhere else. I think this goes back to the last couple of times I had trailered. Twice she'd gotten in to a trailer and left her friends, her usual handlers, and her routine to be cast in to something new and unfamiliar.

And what did I do after she calmed down enough to see we were still on our farm?  I loaded her right back in to the trailer and made her stand there for a few moments. Though I didn't close the dividers again.

I would call this a win. We are still a ways from Seneca being a reliable loader, but we have come soooo far. Happy, happy, happy!

Flying between the flags!

A Hint of Victory

These days with the time change *Glares, we so need to do away with it* I don't get home in time to spend more than 30 minutes or so with the horses. So I have to pick and choose. Do I work with Cowboy on becoming a grown-up riding horse, or do I work with the High Queen on her trailering issues?  I try to switch off days so I can work with both of them a little during the week.

This weekend I won't get to ride at all. I'm going home to visit my family. I am both happy and apprehensive. Basically my family is falling apart due to my dad's deteriorating health. I don't know how I will react to all of this when I am fully immersed in it. Being three hours away I'm detached from all the craziness, being in the middle of it is going to be a little scary. Which is why I'm taking the puppy with me as a buffer and stress reliever.

Back to the horsey-ness.  Yesterday I was going to take the puppy up to Petsmart to get him some food and let him walk around. I think he licked every toy in the place. But I did get him a new harness since Bull Terrier's are notorious for pulling.

But before I went I wanted to sneak in some time playing with Seneca.  She stood in the trailer for a whole fifteen or twenty minutes without getting off!  This is a huge step, since it's usually get on, get off, get on, get off repeatedly.  She also let me touch her, and push on her with the divider. She even moved over a little.  Soo much progress. I am so close to being able to lock her, sooo close. But I will remain patient. I don't want to scare her, I want her to be happy about being in there.

As a side note my trainer T. earned her USDF Bronze Medal this past weekend. She earned it on her Connemara/TB cross Chagall.  Chagall used to be her event horse but she's stepped away from eventing in the past few years and is focusing on dressage.  I've ridden Chagall before and he is super fun to jump. I never worried about being able to get over the fences with him. He's quirky but really great.  So congrats to my trainer on reaching one of her riding goals!

Anyway that is all from the Midnight Hill Farm front.  Keep it between the flags everybody!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Temper in the Leaves

This past Saturday was spent in horsey  if not riding pursuits. Because I was still in a cast at the time the planning commitee got together I volunteered to head up the food for my trail riding club's annual Poker Run Trail Ride. Which was pretty fun. I camped out for the first time in my new horse trailer.  It was really cold(adjustments to heating and blankets needs to be made) and my husband didn't stay overnight because he had to work realllly early Saturday morning, but we ate pizza, told scarey stories, made S'mores and generally had a good time.  Other than losing sleep(never let your husband park the trailer under a pine tree that scrapes at the window all night in the wind) due to the noise and the cold, camping in my own trailer was awesome.

The next day I made sure all our trail riders had hot drinks and chili and just a fabulous time despite the chilly weather.  I did almost get run over twice by an idiot who thinks he is an expert rider, but obviously not since he almost let his horse run me over, once while I was on a fourwheeler.  I truly hate people who don't have enough sense to keep an anxious horse away from the pedestrian areas.

But seeing all my friends, and trail riders going off for a jaunt in the woods made me homesick for my own saddle and trail riding fun.  Saturday night I had to work, heralding in Daylight Savings Time is not my favorite activity, so I slept in way late on Sunday.  I did get alot of stuff done on Sunday though. Gave the house a once over cleaning, played with the puppy, went horse, dog and people grocery shopping, (my puppy now smells like coconuts from his  new shampoo!), and then hurried home to get a ride in on my horse.

I purposely left the Spotted Beast with access to the main and side pastures because I knew the minute my mare was out of sight he was going to throw a fit.  Sure enough as soon as I started off across the fields Cowboy started screaming and flinging himself up and down the fencelines.

Seneca was pretty good for a mare who hasn't been off the farm since last spring. She was very up, and anxious, but she went with few complaints. We just walked the edges of the fields that belong to the local farmers. Not a long ride but enough to convince me that I can handle riding Seneca off the farm without putting my healing leg in to peril.

On the way back when we got within hearing distance of Cowboy, who was still screaming, Seneca wanted to trot or jig her way home.  No Ma'mam.  Every time she would move faster than a walk I turned her in the opposite direction. After four or five times the High Queen got the memo about the speed with which she was allowed to move towards home. Once we moved off the farmer's land and on to my neighbors Seneca calmed even more because she's been down there a couple of times.

I thought for sure Cowboy was going to jump the fence and I'd find him wandering about calling for Seneca but he stayed where he was supposed to.

All in all a good weekend.

Keep it between the flags and hugs to all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Step Forward, A Step Back

Even though I was entirely too tired, and got home from work late (*Sigh* Why does work always get in the way of riding?), I wanted to ride. I needed it.   So again with the routine, groom, load, unload, ride.

Except I added something new to the ride. Okay deep down I've been wanting to canter the last couple of rides but I wasn't sure how my ankle would feel. But I did it anyway.  Not only did we canter both directions, and my ankle wasn't protesting too much, but we cantered on the left lead(Seneca's nemesis, other than the trailer) and there was no bucking, no fighting, no prodding to get there.  I mean the transition wasn't the prettiest, but we got there, and it was good.

The trailering *sigh* I don't know if I will ever get the damn dividers or door closed. I want it, I want it so bad, so I can finally start trailering out to places, but the flipping mare is still protesting. *sigh*  Patience, patience, patience.

In other news. My dad isn't doing so well.  His planned third surgery got cancelled because they didn't think it was going do any good at this point.  His cancer is terminal, and the doctors are saying six months.   A miracle could happen, it could, it could, it could. But, time is a fragile thing, especially when there isn't a lot of it.

I've planned trips home, more than I usually would in a regular year.  My older sister has taken a leave of absence, the younger one is moving home.  And I guess I feel some guilt over not being there, but what would I be able to do if I were there? Sit and watch tv with him, talk about the same things that we always do?  I can't help him, I know this, and me sitting on the couch staring at the tv screen while be both ignore what is happening may pass the time, but it won't keep him from dying.

I also can't just drop my entire life to move home for six months either.  Both of my sisters work for civilian employers who have a bit of sympathy for the situation.  The Navy? Not so much. Unless my dad was very near the end and I got a Red Cross message I wouldn't be able to get emergency leave.  I am taking time in November and December, and probably in to the spring, but the Navy doesn't have too much sympathy for my family's tragedy, and my boss even less.  

My immediate boss A. is also my friend and he's been kind, and considerate, giving me time, and an ear, and a shoulder but my next up the chain boss has said not word one to me.

Anyway,  my animals and my husband are keeping me sane and stable right now. I don't think my sisters understand how I am handling this. Both of them are falling apart half the time, and my mom isn't doing so well either.  But I haven't cried, or been hysterical or fallen apart. I don't think I know how anymore.  I've seen too many things, and while I love my dad, the closeness of his death is not touching me yet.  I feel detached from it, and that detachment, as well as the three hour distance is giving me a cushion that allows me to think clearly, and act in the moment without thinking too far in to the future.

Does this make me cold or uncaring? Does it mean I'm not concerned about my dad's health, or where his situation is going in six months?  No, I don't think so.  I've dealt with death, I've seen it, I've stared it in the eye, and seen those who have but just barely escaped it. It makes me immune to some things. Plus I know that nothing I do will change my dad's fate. Nothing, so fighting, and crying, and falling apart isn't going to get the tasks done that need to be completed.

Tragedy happens, but the horses still need to be fed.

Keep it between the flags everyone, there's too much insanity outside of them. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Better Days Are Made By Repetition

I hadn't ridden in a week or so.  The last time I got on, even though I had planned for an early afternoon ride to stave off my mare's need to constantly be on feeding alert, the bugs were horrible, she was cranky, and my ankle was not thanking me for getting in the saddle. But any time I work with my mare whether I am going to ride her or just groom her I always involve loading in to the trailer.  When I groom her she gets tied to the trailer, when I get ready to ride, she gets groomed, loaded, unloaded, tacked, ridden, untacked, groomed, loaded and unloaded again.

Several times now instead the 3 to 5 minute staring, and tension on the lead line contest my mare has reverted to her previous trailer loading skill and walks right on behind me no fuss, no staring, no pulling. We have not yet progressed to closing the door, or the dividers.  I wanted to work on leaving the dividers open, but closing the door.  But any time anyone goes near the back of the trailer while she is in it she unloads herself. Of course I make her get right back in. I only let her be done with the loading training if I ask her to get off. I want her to get out of that mindset that she can unload herself without me asking and that A. it's okay for her to do that, and B. that at that point she's done and can go back to her horsey business.

Yesterday even though there was a breeze(breeze= hyper alertness=spooking) and I was extremely tired, I wanted to ride.  I had been in a funk for two days due to some work related/life related stuff and I needed to ride. I needed something good to lift me and give me something else to focus on. So I went through the routine, groom, load, unload, tack. 

The ride was actually really good.  She did give me the warning signs a couple of times that she wanted to spook.  Usually she's pretty obvious if she's thinking about it.  But we did transitions and circles working on bending, getting back in to a frame, and working on fitness for both of us.  Neither of us had done much physical activity in almost six months. Though the High Queen had still be able to move around her pastures, tormenting her brother as she went, I had not, and she has some considerable bulk to loose before we can do any serious training.

I also threw in at the end of the ride, checking to make sure el husband was not watching from the garage, a hop over one of the small logs in my main pasture/riding area. This actually was the same log that had landed me in to my broken-leggedness. Evil log, I shall jump thee and call myself the victor.  Seneca hopped over without a single second of hesitation. Yippee!

And the best part of the ride?  My ankle only protested a very little bit. It was down right comfortable. Though I did let my right stirrup down a lot during the previous ride so the angle, and percussion on my injury weren't so bad. I'm supposed to be starting physical therapy, though I just haven't gotten around to making the phone calls for it.

After the ride I untacked, gave treats, groomed and then began the loading and unloading again.  Over the last few sessions I had began trying to get Seneca to move past me in the trailer as a precursor to trying to get her to tie without pulling back in the trailer, so that eventually I could get behind her and shut the divider. So far I haven't been successful in getting behind her. I can stand at her side back by her huge belly, rub her, leave the lead line loose, but not leave her. If I try to leave she unloads herself.

I did start trying to get her used to the divider touching her.  She was not happy the first time I used to the divider to push on her. She unloaded herself.  The second time she stood with me having the divider touching her. So progress was made.

I really want to start trailering her out to places later this fall and in to the winter. I want to be fit by spring, I want to get to a horse trial, I want to be doing Beginner Novice by next fall.  I would love to be doing a recognized BN by the end of next fall but I don't know if that is too optimistic or not. I guess we'll see.

All in all just being able to ride put me in a much happier frame of mind, which bled over in to being slightly happier at work. I still hate my job, I still hate getting up early, throwing on the uniform, and not being in total control of my life.  I really hate being forced due to economy and that fact that I am not giving up my farm or my horses to sign away my life again for another six years, which will put me at seventeen years, and make it completely idiotic to get out when I would only have three more years until my full twenty where I can get my retirement checks every month.

*sigh* The things I do for my horses. Anyway, keep it between the flags my friends.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Herald in the Fall

I put the turn-out sheets on the horses for the first time since taking them off last spring. I must have taken them off some time last April but I honestly don't remember. Everything before breaking my leg in May is such a blur that I didn't even realize I had turn-out sheets left.

The Spotted Beast is notoriously bad about maintaining his clothing in one piece. Like a young child he'd rather have fun and tear all his clothing to shreds then behave as the High Queen does.  So I believed until a couple of weeks ago that I needed to purchase blankets to replace what Cowboy had destroyed.  I was even combing the net for the best deals. I scanned through all the tack sites, kept an eye on Tack of the Day, and browsed eBay.

Then I needed something out of the hay shed, and an old muck bucket that I had passed by a dozen times to get hay caught my eye and I found the sheets that I must have put away last spring. Well that's one thing off my mind.

So while feeding my four foots tonight, its always easier to blanket while they are eating, I slipped the blankets on. It felt bitter sweet. My whole summer had been spent not walking, then relearning, I'm still struggling. How could something that happened so quick take so long to heal? My leg will never be the same, so sayeth my surgeon.  I will always have hardware in my leg(I sort of wonder if I will make the metal detectors at the airport go off), and I don't know if I will be able to ride again the way I used to.

Will I be able to handle the strain of jumping? Will I have to give up eventing in favor of straight dressage?  Will I ever be able to fly over the cross country course again? Right now I don't know, and it hurts to not know.

Riding right now is not comfortable, I had to let my right stirrup(the injured side) out another to holes to make it possible for me to even think about staying the saddle without crying.  I had planned to trailer out(now that I can get the Queen in to the trailer) to lessons, and indoor arena's this winter so we both could be fit by spring, but if I can get my leg to tolerate it I don't know where I will be by spring with my riding.

Then there are other things invading my mind that make everything else blurry.  Bills for one, they never end.  And my Dad. He's not doing well.  After the second surgery the results came back, and then it got even worse. At first they were just going to take his bladder but now its that and chemotherapy, and a bone scan to see if the cancer has spread.

It feels hard, and dark and too much like I should be shopping for  a black dress that I don't own. I am the world's best pessimist.  Usually my way of dealing is to ignore things until the bad thing goes away. It usually works, but I can't ignore this, I can't hide from it. My dad might be dying and I can't do anything about it.

This year has truly sucked. Let's hope next year will be better.

Keep it between the flags everybody because it's too crazy outside of them.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hiding It and Moving Forward

Lots more things to blog about since the last post. Lets do the bad first, just like lessons, or training you always want to end on a good note.

My dad had his second surgery not too long ago and everything looked okay. And then the results came back a week later. Not so good. The cancer just won't stop taking things. Now my dad has to have his entire bladder removed. Will this finally help him be pain and cancer free?  I am a bit of a pessemist, so I'm betting not. Because the doctors already told us twice that he was good to go, only to come back a week or two later and have them sign him up for another surgery.

So we shall see what we shall see.  My own health? Not too shabby these days.  On the weekends, and afternoons when I'm not working I am crutch AND cast free. After I get my official piece of paper from the doc that says "No you cannot due the mandatory physical fitness test this fall"  I will probably start trying to go to work without the boot, but we'll see. My leg has actually started protesting going back in to the boot. It feels like when you wear a ski boot for too long.

And as I carefully look over my shoulder to make sure my co-workers are not shoulder surfing my blog typing, I will say I have finally started getting back on my horse.  I've ridden her twice so far. Not for very long, only about ten minutes, but it is soooo great to be back in the saddle.  Riding isn't too comfortable yet, that would be asking for the cake AND the ice cream, but I can do it with tolerable pain.

Our new puppy Midnight Hill's Agate Beach aka Baker Street Back in Black(he came to us already registered and I don't know if I want to or can change his registered name)  Anyway he is just HUGE!  Three times the size of Jasper at the same age. He is a voracious eater, player, digger, but unlike Jasper, Agate has an off button.  Jasper also liked to be completely under my feet constantly.  Agate will sometimes take a nap in the kitchen by himself.  So he's got more indepence than Jasper, and Agate is not afraid of the horses at all.  There is one section of front yard fence that borders a side pasture. If the horses are anywhere near it, Agate hangs out by the fence hoping for a friendly visit.

But what's up next for Midnight Hill Eventing? Hmmm, training and getting back to fitness over the rest of the fall and winter.  If I can make the High Queen happy about being in the trailer so that I can load and unload her by myself I can start trailering to an indoor during the bad weather, and down to a couple of other arena's in the good weather.  There is an eventing trainer up about two hours from me that I have been eyeing as a prospective instructor. I want to go watch a lesson first though. I do not do screamers, or people without an easy, encouraging style of teaching.  I want someone who actively competes, and who I can trust not to abuse me. I've had bad trainers in the past. Not going to do that again.

Then hopefully in the spring it will be our year to make our debut. I've only been trying to get there with the High Queen for three years!  Anyway, time to head home. 

Stay between the flags, and hugs all around.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

All the Happy Things

It's been almost a month since my last post and there have been so many things going on. Some very happy, others sad and scarey.  So lets start with the bad and move to the happy.

I found out in early August, about the time I started walking again that my dad has cancer. He had surgery and they thought they got it all, but not so. He'll have to have surgery again and hopefully then he'll be okay.

My job has been really stressful. There are just so many friggin things I have to get done and I just never seem to find the time for all of it. I feel like I'm getting no where. And then there is this person I work with. They have a superiority complex which they like to try and throw on me.  Not cool.

Lets move on to the happy.  We picked up our new puppy this past weekend.  He will never fill the hole that Jasper left, no dog could, but he is sooo beautiful.  He is his own little doggy person with a totally different personality than Jasper.  Our Golden Retriever who had been soo lonely is so much happier, and has stopped trying to crawl in to our laps everytime there is a thunder storm.

More happy. I am almost walking normally.  I'm still a long way from being completely healed but I can drive myself, and do almost everything that I had before I broke my leg. I haven't started riding yet, that is probably another month off.

The Best Happy.  I was so happy today that I almost cried. I had finished mowing, had spent some time with the puppy and wanted to spend some quality time with the High Queen.  A few weeks ago I finally ditched the ugly two horse straight that I hated and bought a big three horse Exiss slant.  Today for the first time I got the High Queen to walk in with a minimum of fuss.  She got alllll the way in and stayed until I asked her to back out.  I swear there were tears in my eyes.

It has been over a year of arguing, renting, or borrowing so many trailers you wouldn't believe it, and then finally getting the new trailer. I'd gotten the Queen half way in several times, all the way in once when I had Cowboy in the first stall, but she backed quickly off.

Today, I win. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Blue Cow and the Black Dog

The air near my house is almost perpetually a haze of smoke. The Great Dismal Swamp has been on fire since early in the month and burned over 6,000 acres. Even when it rains as it has every afternoon since Saturday the smokey smell never leaves.

I don't have health problems(other than a broken leg and a severe case of crazy) but my elderly neighbors do and I worry about them. I also worry about Seneca. I haven't heard her coughing, thank all things above, but as the reigning drama queen I'm keeping a watchful eye on her.

Sooo the broken leg saga continues. After my last visit where the surgeon basically said start moving on it, I very carefully started putting more and more weight on my leg. doesn't hurt. Or rather not much, there are days, some worse than others, where it aches, or the swelling is bad at the end of the day. But I can walk without cruches in and out of my air cast now. Although out of my air cast its a more Igor-like sliding, limping walk, and in the cast its a more straight forward limp. 

I have another check-up in about two weeks, so we'll see what we see on the x-ray.  I don't think I'm crutch free yet, for long distances I take them, but for short jaunts I go crutchless. And I only walk with the air cast off when I'm in the house, anything else is taking my life in my own hands if my husband catches me.

Horsey things.  My mare is the fattest creature on the planet. I hadn't gotten a real good look at her until this past week, and my God she is HUGE!  I cut her grain back because el piggo obviously is doing just fine. I'm hoping to have my trainer come start riding her in September.

And in other more exciting news I will be meeting the new puppy, his siblings, mommy and breeders this weekend. Soooooo excited. He won't be coming home with me until the end of September/beginning of October, but I am sooo sooo excited.  I'll put pictures up when I have them.

Until then, gallop on!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Half Way There and Other Fuzzy Things

I had my latest in doctor's appointments today. The "look see" took longer than usual and was about 50/50 as far as results. My leg is still not healing as it should be. It is healing, but not in the time frame that is usual for a broken bone. My surgeon related what I call a "percussion break" meaning it wasn't a straight on hit that broke that bone, but rather the force that spread from the initial hit that chipped a piece off the inside of my ankle bone. But the force like a ripple effect broke the bone on the outside of the leg.  That bone is the one that is causing issues. Back to where I was going, my surgeon related my percussion break to a crush injury for how hard it was to heal the thing.

My surgeon also said that if this very stubborn bone doesn't show more signs of healing that I may be looking at another surgery. *head to desk* Not what I really needed. He said that in a second surgery he would take a piece of bone from elsewhere "he didn't say where from" and use that piece to help the break heal.  I am fervently hoping it doesn't come to that.

That was the bad news.  The good news he did say I can start swimming, and as tolerated start putting weight on my injured leg this week, starting slowly, and moving towards bearing full weight on the leg at the end of two weeks.  At which point when I can bear full weight I will make the decision about driving.  Please, please, please I pray to all things above let me be able to drive and take my own life back.

People who haven't had a broken leg don't understand how hard it is and how much of your independent life you lose.  I can't drive myself anywhere which means I have to be escorted to the grocery store, the clothing store, the bank, the feed store, and to work.  I can't clean my house, I can't groom my horse, I can't walk my dog, I can't even do my own laundry.  Totally SUCKS!

But onwards to happier things.  I wrote in my last post that my beloved English Bull Terrier, Jasper, had passed away.  I knew in my heart that I wanted another BT, but I knew I wasn't going to be ready for a new little bundle of furry energy for awhile.  The quandry is Bull Terrier's don't grow on trees, good breeders are rare and the puppies are expensive.  So even with my heart breaking I started looking for a breeder near me with a good reputation. But the problem of finding a breeder doesn't end there, not only did I have to find a breeder but one with a current litter or a litter to be born soon.  

In a stroke of luck or divine doggy intervention the excellent breeder I found in Pennsylvania had a litter of puppies born the same week that Jasper passed away.  My new fuzzy baby will be ready to come home with me in October but I will be meeting him in a few weeks. I am both very excited and meloncholy.  I miss Jasper's jaunty strut to the kitchen when he thought a treat was on offer. I miss his "pet me now" eyes as laid his head on the couch. I miss his obsession with the sand at the beach and the water hose. I miss him terribly every day, and the new puppy could never fill the hole in my heart that Jasper left, but I know the new puppy "Agate, we name our Bull Terrier's after rocks because of their hard heads" will in the way of all sweet, fuzzy, four footed creatures will carve his own place in my heart.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


My first two weeks back at work have not been fabulous.  The first day of my first week I was told that in a year I may not have a job and that I should get my marketable skills polished up.  Freaking beautiful.

Then this past week was even worse.  Back in March my English Bull Terrier, Jasper undewent surgery for the third time to remove objects that are not supposed to be edible.  Though Jasper recovered some of his old spark he never fully came back from the surgery.  My husband and I prayed that the medications and treatments our vet gave Jasper would work, that like always our fun loving dog would bounce back.

We had gotten Jasper four years before as an 8 week old funny looking puppy that resembled a wombat more than he resembled a dog. Jasper was the first dog my husband and I had gotten as a couple. He was as most  Bull Terrier's are hard headed, stubborn, and full of amusement with the world. I had never been a dog person before we got Jasper. But I loved him above everything else with the exception of my mare.

Yesterday after a long, hard fight we made the decision to let him go. He wasn't getting any better,  and our wonderful group of vets had tried everything to no avail. Over the holiday weekend Jasper had nosebleeds, had lost way too much weight and then lost the sight in his left eye.  It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do but it was the only fair choice for Jasper.

We loved him and he will be missed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shock and Shatter

I went to my latest medical appointment last week and my doctor took me out of the hard cast I had been wearing for two weeks and put me in to an air cast/boot.  I still can't walk on it for another month but I'm making progress even though one of my bones isn't healing as well as expected. I felt like an event horse in a really high level barn when the doctor told me he was going to give me a four thousand dollar bone stimulator machine to try and give my healing a kick start.

That is actually the good news. The bad news is I started back to work today. And it all went down hill from there. I have to teach three classes this week which I wasn't anticipating, and teach another two week class next week, also wasn't anticipating that.  The worst though, and I am still freaking out over this one. I am Navy, I have been for over ten years. It's pretty much all I've ever done except dabbling in retail before I joined.

The Navy is trying to cut a lot of people and their new way to do it is to make people basically reapply for their job. If you want to reenlist(sign on for more years with the military) you have to go through whats called Perform to Serve.  Where the Navy looks at your record and decides whether or not they want to keep you. My current enlistement is due to end in September of next year. So of course I started the application process. It was disapproved. FREAKING WHAT!!?  

Now I get a few more times to apply and my career counselor told me not to panic until after this Christmas. But I am soooo panicing.  I have a mortgage, and horses not to mention a husband and several other animals who depend on me for things like I don't know FOOD and SHELTER!

I mean I have marketable IT skills and I am halfway through my computer bachelor degree but this came out left field and I just can't stop flipping out. You don't just tell someone that they might not have a job the following year then tell them not to panic.  That's like giving me a license to panic, free rein to panic, cracking the whip on the butt of the panic racehorse. 

Anyway that is my rant for today. And you can probably look forward to more ranting in the future.

Stay between the flags my friends.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So last week I went to my appointment.  My doc at first was going to offer me the choice between a hard cast and an air boot cast. I looked at him like he was crazy. "Shouldn't we look at the x-ray first?"  He looked confusedly at me and asked why.  Uh duh I am majorly crippled here.   Not that I wanted to ruin my chances of getting an air boot that I could take off to say take a shower or heh drive.

Off goes my doctor who then comes back all enlightened. "Now I remember your injury. You have to have a hard cast."   Thought so. I knew couldn't be that lucky.  So I got a pretty navy blue cast which my neighbors have decorated using a silver sharpie.

My husband has been feeding my menagerie of animals the last several weeks with a little help from the neighbors on some days.  But I have managed quite skillfully to evade detection and feed my horses a couple of times. Which sounds a lot easier than it really is. My horses eat in the field out of rubber pans.  Easy you say, just fill up two buckets with the appropriate amounts of feed and supplements, crutch my way out to the pans, dump the buckets, presto! Done.

Yeah righ.  First the High Queen feels the need to escort me the whole way while simultaneously running interference on the Spotted Beast who can be impatient and circle like a shark. Not only does the High Queen jealously guard any attention I give out, she is also extremely protective of her food.  So having a 1200 lb mass of flying hooves and teeth zooming around my crippled self is just a little disconcerting.

Then once the High Queen is happily muchning her meal I have to crutch way out to where Cowboy has dragged his pan simultaneously shaking my crutch at him so he doesn't try to dip in and boss his way in to his bucket of grain.

When I'm finally done and on the other side of the gate I am sweaty, weary but oh so happy to be able to do something normal, to be able to feed my horses. To keep a little of my sanity.

I even managed to escape my husband's eagle eye while he was napping to strip off the High Queen's nose to tail fly outfit to run a brush over her. She didn't really need it as she was a gorgeous shiny bay under her fly sheet, but I needed it and she stood quietly, sometimes touching her nose to me as if to make sure I was okay. Although I did have to explain to her that rubbing her head on my chest when I was already precariously balanced was not a good idea.

*Le sigh*  If wishes were two good legs then I would be riding right now. So until I can, keep it between the flags guys and have some fun for those of us who have to sit on the sidelines a while longer.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I had my surgery almost two weeks ago and aside from the first day after the surgery things have been pretty good considering I only have one working leg.  The day after surgery as all the nurses warned me was the worst.  They had to dope me with morphine several times so by the time I got shoved home by the totally bossy day nurse I was pretty well out of it.

But my mom came to stay the weekend with me since hubby had to work and that was pretty nice.  The bad parts came later when my husband's relatives descended.  Ever live in a house with three men and you are unable to cook, clean or organize?  Talk about hell.

The horses are good though, fat, lazy, well behaved. The Spotted Beast goes off to the professional trainer in September. I was on the fence about sending him but now I don't have two legs to stand on so off he goes to a really great guy in western virginia.

As for the High Queen. My trainer T. is going to hopefully start coming out once a week starting in July when I'm a little more mobile and ride her.

I have a check-up appointment tomorrow to get the stitches from my surgery out and possibly a permanent cast rather than the soft cast/splint I've been wearing for over three weeks.  And then the long, long wait. I thought I'd be doing physical therapy at the end of this month, but it was not to be. One of my breaks was so bad the surgery took twice as long and so will the healing time.

Anyway keep it between the flags!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Monday's Suck Dirt

Things had been going pretty good. I had been working with the High Queen on our Parelli at least every other day, and riding for fitness on the other days. I had gotten Her Majesty half way in to the trailer at least a dozen times. Then we both got tired and cranky and I decided to end things for the day.

I will not go in to the details of why or how because I still feel pretty stupid about it. Lets just say it was totally my fault.

But Monday evening a hoof who shall remain nameless made contact with my ankle. The resulting relationship was nothing less than painful with far reaching consequences.  I am currently scheduled for surgery next week to fix it and then thirty days of rest before I can start physical therapy.

The low estimate for me getting back on a horse is six months. Six months from the start of physical therapy puts me at about December. I don't ride much between late November and late February, so it will most likely be next spring before I can ride again.  That is the worst part. Not the pain of when it happened, not the x-rays when they showed me how bad it was, not the prospect of physical therapy, its the amount of time I will have to wait before getting back in the saddle.

Yesterday was bitter sweet for me. My husband, semi-horsey himself was going to groom both the High Queen and Cowboy, then do some Parelli with them. Then the neighbor came over to help. She loves horses but is a bit frightened of them.

So I had to sit propped in a chair watching someone else play with my horse. I wanted to cry. Because it was all my fault. If I hadn't been so stupid my ankle would still be in one piece and I would be possibly showing the High Queen this fall. Now I have to wait a whole season....AGAIN!

The fates are teaching me a lesson I guess. Be thankful for what you have, when you have it, because it could be gone in a moment.

Up and over everyone.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Seperate Corners....Again

Yesterday I had a pretty decent ride. I didn't work on dressage, I didn't work on jumping. I worked mostly on rthym, pace, and my position.  I had recently read an article in Practical Horseman, and then of course watched the awesomeness of Rolex last weekend which brought home the importance of the proper position on xc for speed, accuracy, stability and safety. So I wanted to work on the position I would need when I actually get to the point where Seneca and I galloping cross-country.

Mostly what I did was a very fast canter. I've never had Seneca out to her full speed, and since we are still working on the High Queen's fitness we didn't need to go that fast.  She did however feel well enough to buck with me several times when I asked her to canter going to the left.  She did that before as well and I am going to have to get to the bottom of her displeasure with cantering to the left other than that side is not as flexible as the right.

Today I had intended to work on some Parelli stuff.  We got half way in to the trailer last time and she stood there until I asked her to back out!  WOOO HOO!  We're so close.

But when I went out to get the High Queen from the pasture I found that her left eye was so swollen she couldn't open it to see.  *sigh, head to desk*  Either her brother smacked her while they were playing, or she poked herself with something out in the pasture.  So we won't be riding anytime soon.

Thats all for now. Happy riding.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When You're Down

Just a little burned out this week. I haven't ridden the High Queen in about two weeks. We've been working on Parelli stuff and I've been grooming her to her late spring, totally shedded out high shininess. The Spotted Beast is not quite shed out all the way and still looks a little ruffled around the edges.

So right now because the High Queen will not dein to step forth on to the trailer I have no plans, and no goals.  Thats always bad for me. I always need a goal to keep myself motivated. And while getting ye old evil bay Queen on to the trailer and having her be happy there is a goal I don't want to put too much pressure on that one. I know from past experiences with Seneca that if I put too much pressure on both of us it does not end well.

So what about the Spotted Beast?  Well he's 3 this year and while he's green broke, meaning I can saddle him, get on him, get him to walk around most of the time, and do some circles. We haven't progressed too far, and frankly I don't know if I have enough patience to take him from green broke to broke enough to go out and do things with.  Seneca was already broke when I got her, she didn't know anything about english riding or eventing, but she was broke and just needed to be reeducated. 

There is a biiiiig difference between reeducating a horse and starting a horse. Plus the High Queen is for the most part submissive under saddle. I'm not saying she doesn't test me, but she doesn't pull the antics that Cowboy does.  Yesterday was the first day I had been on Cowboy since December's impromptu lets go riding in the snow day.  He's always been good about being saddled and having me mount up.  He is not great about wanting to do the things I want him to do like turning left or right or stopping. Yesterday he bucked with me once, and reared up with me once. Not hard, or with too much enthusiasm but it was enough to have me rethinking starting him myself.

So as soon as I get the big crack in Cowboys right front hoof under control I'm going to be hunting a trainer to send him to. I would love to send him to an eventing trainer, but most of them are a fair distance from me and I kind of wanted to keep Cowboy closer to home. But we'll see. My ultimate, too fantastical to speak it out loud dream would be to send Cowboy to someone like the O'Connors, or Sinead Halpin(I LOVE her!), or any of the Advanced level eventers in my area. Living in Virginia does have a perk or two sometimes.  Proximity to an overflowing amount of eventers is one of them. But living in the furthest South East corner of Virginia not so many perks.

I'm just feeling a little down. It's raining buckets, I had to work last night from 2am to 5am, then sleep for a couple of hours in my car, then go back to work until noon. And of course sitting her I brood about not being able to take Seneca anywhere and the fact that my new trailer is still weeks, if not a month or so away.  Ah life in the Navy, it does inveritably suck sometimes. Back to my brooding and obsessive trailer searching.

Anyway that's the stuff for today.  Happy riding.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Parelli Pays

Yesterday I beat the husband home (We have nearly the same schedule) so I immediately started cleaning the house. Last weekend I went to my parents house in NC so no cleaning got done then and I have a serious psychological block against cleaning when my husband is in the house. I have no idea why, but I just can't.  This weekend I am making a compromise with the husband and going to the NASCAR races with him rather than doing something horsey. So no cleaning this coming weekend either and I will have the daughters of my friend E, coming over to feed the menagerie in the evening.  So I had to, had to, had to clean. I can't stand other people seeing my house in its usual semi-chaotic disarray.

The High Queen and Cowboy were glaring at me from the back pasture which due to the horses being on it all winter is nothing but dirt, weeds and the hay feeder. The High Queen was not amused that I did not immediately escort her royal procession over to the newly fenced lush pasture. But the weather was iffy and there are no trees, and no shelter in the new pasture and if it was going to storm I did not want my two ponies to become lightening rods. So I cleaned the kitchen, organized, threw things away. Then the husband came home and since the weather wasn't changing I put the horses over in the new pasture, then spent an hour with the husband before gearing up to teach Seneca more Parelli.

I had been watching the videos for a few days and had most of the games down. So I just started systematically going through all the seven games. The friendly game, the porcupine game, the driving game, the yoyo game, the circling game, the half circle/sideways game, and finally the squeeze game.  The High Queen is good at most of the games, but unless I am using the fence the half circle game is confusing for her. She's been lunged in a circle most of her life so only going half way then stopping and going the other without the fence to tell her to turn confuses her so we have to work on that one.

But after going through all seven games I took Seneca over to our "bridge". All the previous times I had to lead Seneca up on to the bridge. But Parelli teaches you how to send your horse anywhere. There are tons of videos on the Parelli site of horses being sent in to the trailer on a long loose lead line. It makes me want to cry thinking of the troubles I have had with our trailer loading. But yesterday I was able to send Seneca up on to the bridge without leading her!  And she was very relaxed doing it. We are one step closer to trailer loading success. That and in 26 days I can start truly looking at buying a new trailer!  No more trying to convince the High Queen that the two horse straight with the mangers up front is a suitably wide enough space for her.

Bring on the three horse slant!

Happy riding.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weather, Grass and Parelli

I haven't been able to ride in a little while. Mainly just my life getting caught up with my dog who is still balancing between serious illness and holding back the tide of infection and the weather has been so great. You would think I would ride more with the good weather but there are so many little projects around the farm that needed doing that I spend my afternoons after work doing that.

The big project that my husband and I finally got done was fencing in the new pasture. My extremely great neighbors own the L shaped field next door to me and allow me to use it for pasture since they don't have horses and don't want to mow the acres and acres of grass.  We had one pasture fenced in last year but hadn't been able to get all our ducks in a row for the second one.

I came home Monday afternoon to find that on his day off my husband had used his Four Wheeler upgrade money to buy the fencing materials for the new pasture and had already set all the posts and had most of one line of electra-tape done.  He's the man.  Yesterday between thunder storms we finished the last three strands of alternating electra-tape and electra-braid to have the fence completed. So now there is a four foot high fence of electrical goodness swathing the pasture. Because while the High Queen wouldn't stir herself to step outside of a fence whether it was on or not the Spotted Beast is a confirmed escape artist, sometimes even when the wire is hot.

Last year we had to crank the power up on the charger box for the fence three times before Cowboy stopped squriming his way through the fence like a Shetland pony.

So now that all that is out of the way, where are we with the High Queen's non-loading freakness?  Nowhere yet. We're working towards the goal of making her a reliable loader.  Right now I am avidly watching the Parelli videos after having paid about 10$ for the priveledge.  I have followed Clinton Anderson for a long time, and while I like all his practices, I felt like it was too blunt a method for the volatile High Queen, so I checked in to Parelli and it seems like it might help.  We'll see. Right now I'm doing two of the seven games with both horses and actually Seneca is a lot better at it than Cowboy. Which is strange, Cowboy usually picks things up a lot quicker than she does.

Right now I am not making any firm plans for taking Seneca anywhere. After having to eat the 85$ entry fee for the horse trial and then almost crying when I looked at the results board and saw "scratched" next to our names I decided not to disappoint myself that way again. Until the High Queen is a reliable loader, no plans, just going with what we get to.  On the other hand I am going to be spending more time with the Spotted Beast and getting him more broke.  He's green broke right now but needs way more work on stopping and turning before I take him outside of a fenced area or off the farm any place.

So that's where we are. Happy riding all around.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Day That Wasn't.

I would love to say that the weather made me cancel going to the horse trial. The weather for the week prior was great, no rain, lots of sunny days but horse trial day was supposed to be rain and storms. I would love to say I wasn't prepared, or that the truck broke down, or that my dog being ill (He really was and I was going to take him with us and assign my husband nurse maid duties) caused me to cancel.

But it was none of those things.  Friday morning came around and  because there was all these scheduling issues in the afternoon I decided to do the unthinkable. Usually when I rent a trailer from my feed store, which I have the last couple of times because they have big open stock bumper pull trailers, my husband and I go get the trailer together. I'm not great at backing up to hook up the trailer, so hubby has that duty.  But Friday just turned in to a scheduling nightmare. I stood in the kitchen, hubby already gone off to work on the motorcycle, looking at the keys in my hand and the truck in the driveway.  Hmmm, evil one eye brow arch.

I can do this. Which became my mantra the whole way to the vet to drop off my dog for the days worth of care and fluids he needed to hold off whatever infection he has, and the whole way to the feed store. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.  Thankfully my feed store thinks ahead and has handy helpers right there to guide people backing up, and help with the hook-up and checking of lights.  All hooked up, lights working, off I go. I made it home, and through the big scarey front gate, then the big scarey pasture gate.

HAHA! I even texted my husband after I'd parked the trailer in the pasture to gloat. This was a big deal for me since I had almost never driven the trailer alone, and never hooked it up on my own.  Then I spent four hours playing with the High Queen's loading/non-loading skills.  I even got her all four feet in the trailer half a dozen times. Big sigh of relief.

Except when dawn rolled around the next day the best I got was the High Queen half way in and it went down, down, down hill from there. Head to desk, SMACK! There goes the 85$ entry fee, and the trailer rental fee, and all the money I spent to fill the gaps in tack, clothing, and training.  Damn it.

I contacted a friend who I feel is the expert on all things Thoroughbred.  She says that OTTBs are used to being handled extensively everyday, and that because Seneca had gone without trailering for nearly a year between her joint issue the previous summer and then my deployment, that the High Queen had decided not only was I not her boss and herd leader that she didn't have to listen to me period.  That has some merit, and I will be taking the High Queen back to some behavioral modification refreshers. That and the new trailer comes at the end of May.  I will freaking solve this before next fall. I don't care if I have to set up a round pen around the trailer and make the High Queen live there for the whole summer with the trailer, we are going to have a coming to God over this  I will not trailer crap.  Hell the 3yr old, who had never been a good loader from the start loads himself on the trailer now, there is no reason a big girl of 10 can't do it to.

WE WILL LOAD!  That is the new mantra.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Two Days Away

The ride times were finally posted for this weekend's horse trial.  Our dressage test starts at 10am.  The menagerie of horse, husband, and audio/visual equipment will leave around six am to give the High Queen plenty of time to adjust and calm down.

T. came yesterday since the prophesied rain didn't fall and the footing was excellent. I hadn't been able to ride with T. in over a year, so it had been awhile since she'd seen Seneca. She saw some fabulous changes in balance and maturity.  We worked through the dressage test and then did a lot of grid work exercises to build the High Queen's confidence and back her off a little from her dive bomber style.

Things went well and I'm hopeful that on Saturday even though the weather for that day is looking really crappy that we'll do well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner...except Mommy

This saturday is the Queen and I's horse trial debut.  I have been trying for months to get the High Queen to a baby horse trial, but loads of things, including the High Queen herself have gotten in the way of getting on the road.

But this weekend is it, we are going.  Gaps in tack and clothing that have occured due to over use, lost, or disuse have been filled, the Queen has been groomed, groomed, and groomed some more. We've worked on the trailer loading things as we can, though until we actually get to the day we won't know what we have.  New fancy shampoos, conditioners and sprays have been applied.  Sufficient training time has been put in, T. may be coming out to give me a lesson tomorrow if the weather and footing cooperate and schooling on friday at my friend E's fancy show jumping course hopefully will happen.

So nothing could possibly get in the way of a perfect debut.   Almost.  While Seneca is the dominant horse in the pasture she and Cowboy do a fair amount of back and forth stallion like play, ie rearing up at each other, nipping and chasing. Which unfortunately leaves tell tale marks on the High Queen's polished, show shiny coat.

I was willing to deal with the current marks, but when I walked out in to the pasture yesterday and found a half moon hoof mark shaped area of removed hair on the High Queen's upper leg/lower shoulder only a week away from the horse trial I decided extreme measures were in order.

So Seneca got moved to the adjoining side pasture where she will remain turned out by herself until after the show.  I don't want people to think I've been beating my pony, and I obviously can't trust the two of them to keep their hooves to themselves. So the babies got sent to seperate corners.

Cowboy:  3yr old, ApHC future eventing star.
Seneca's contribution to pre-show grooming was to give herself a mud bath. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Bridges of Mane County

So I got to ride a couple times this past week, and most of the time Seneca was really good. Last Sunday when the weather was a bit cooler, but not windy or rainy thank God, she was a bit of a pain and we did almost no jumping and mainly worked on transitions, bending and relaxing.   Then Monday when it was freakish windy she was totally sweet and easy to work with.

I can always tell what kind of a ride day its going to be by how easy the High Queen is to groom. If she flits around like a humming bird on crack its going to be a hard day.  If Seneca just stands there on three feet, hip cocked barely moving we're going to have a great ride. 

Over the last several months I have been tweaking the High Queen's feed.  I switched her from a high fat feed that had a lot of starch in it to a lower fat, lower starch feed.  But this didn't have the desired effect, yes she came down from the high strung cloud she had been living on but she lost more weight than I would like.  So I switched her to a slightly higher fat feed but it still had a lower starch ratio.  The lower starch seems to be helping to keep her temperment on an even keel. 

Since we hopefully have our horse trial coming up next weekend I have been working with Seneca on her trailer loading. I borrowed a dvd from my trainer T. and tried to implent the exercises that were outlined.  Basically it's a mix of Clinton Anderson, who I like, and some other methods.  You use the Clinton Anderson sending/lunging exercise to get the horse moving, then use basically a wooden bridge that simulates a step-up trailer.  Seneca already knew the lunging exercise, but the bridge was new.   When my husband built the bridge I used Cowboy our Appaloosa gelding as the guinea pig since his loading skills are almost always guranteed and he's very brave.  He walked right up on the bridge no problems.

So next it was the High Queen's turn.  She bowed away from it during lunging but eventually got tired of circling and gave up giving the bridge the evil eye.  Then I asked her to come up on to the bridge. She would step up to it, sniff it, but would not step up. I finally had to cheat a little, pick up her foot and set her foot on the bridge so she could see that it was safe and not scarey.  

After that we had no problems she walked right up on to the bridge.  The next step is to either pull out the older step-up trailer from the back field or wait until Friday when I have the open stock bumper-pull that hopefully the High Queen will be cooperative about getting in. Because I already spent 85$ on the entry fees.  

In preparation for our debut I trimmed, pulled, and braided over the High Queen's mane. Because she has a wildly massive amount of mane and left to it's own devices it will flop on both sides of her neck.  I also bought Seneca a fly veil to keep the bugs out of her ears and I have to say with her mane tamed and the bonnet on she looks like a total show horse, rather than the wild pony on the range she was this winter and Cowboy still is.  As soon as I get this horse trial behind us I'm going to start spending more time with Cowboy who has grown a little more attitude over the past few months.  He's gotten that teenager, I'm a big boy 3yr old and you can't tell me what to do, attitude that I need to squash pretty quick.  Plus because Cowboy loads well I can take him to the trail rides for the organization I belong to. 

We rode today and Seneca was really good, bending in the circles, listening, and jumped all the new scarey jumps in the riding area although I always have to have lots of right leg and left rein because if she's going to run out she always ducks right.

So everyone think good thoughts, and pray for sun on Saturday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The High Queen's Gift

Last fall I transfered from one job to another. It's the way of the Navy to never let you stay at one job too long.  My first job at the new command wasn't exactly what I expected and the hours were really hard on me. In the begining I had to stop often on the almost hour drive home to make sure I didn't fall asleep at the wheel.

Finally I adjusted and dealt with all the stress this job gave me, as I was still attending therapy sessions for the combat stress I came home from Afghanistan with I was able to adjust, adapt, and over come.  Then of course I moved to a different department at my new command and hello sweetness.

My new position is a lot less stressful and the hours are sooo much better.  Better because I get more sleep, AND I get more riding time.  Who doesn't want that?  So today was one of those freak spring days where it's 85 degrees, but it was super, super windy. Hmmm how sane was High Queen going to be?

I was game to find out. The day before she'd been a bit of pain in the butt.  I was a little hesitant to risk life and limb to ride so with a plan to lunge her instead I went about grooming the inch of mud off of her. But she was totally different today, standing still and quiet while I groomed and showing me the glimpse of the perfect pony that lived somewhere on the inside but was often hidden by the haughty queen.  So instead of lunging I tacked her up to ride.

And just to be contrary she was great. She did shy once and try to take off but she worked that bit of high edge out and was fabulous after that. The High Queen did try to dodge out of the small oxer like jump that I had built, but eventually went over. She jumped the warm up jump mostly soft without giving me images of steeplec chasing, and towards the end of the session we even cantered a few jumps which I hadn't been able to do with her in a long, long while.

Hug for the perfect pony on the inside, and a nod to the queen on the outside. 

Blue Bird Promises

Part of this story began last summer.  I returned from my deployment in Afghanistan last April and thus began the merry-go-round of farriers that made it impossible to ride the High Queen all last summer.  One balmy afternoon I got home from work, changed clothes, slipped on a pair of flip flops and walked out to the side pasture to give my two four footed babies a couple of carrots.

There is only one small section of fence that didn't have electric wire across it so I stood there and fed her majesty and Cowboy their carrots.  There was a rustling in the grass that I mostly ignored.  My property has a lot of spots where water collects thus a lot of toads. So thinking that I had disturbed a toad I stepped back from the fence only to stare in horror and jump further away as I realized that I had disturbed not a toad but a huge black snake.  I fully admit I screamed like a little girl and then whipped out my cellphone to track down my husband.

I knew my husband was somewhere close because his truck was home but his motorcycle was not. He ended up being down at the neighbors but told me he would come help me with the snake.  I immediately moved my totally oblivious horses to a different pasture then went to look for a big bucket and something to pick the snake up with.

Okay I know you're wondering why I wasn't looking for a gun, and truly if I had known then what I know now I would have. But back then I thought I was doing a good thing.  King snakes, the big black monster in the pasture eat not only hole digging rodents but poisonous snakes too. So I didn't want to kill something that would eat oooh Water Moccasins and Copperheads.

My husband came home and we attempted to convince the huge snake (The largest I have ever seen outside of a zoo) that it did indeed want to vacate the premisis.  The problem was we finally realized why the snake was there when I looked up to see  EEEEK another King snake attempting to crawl in to the Blue Bird box that was on the fence line. There were at least three babies in there that had attacted the snakes.

We fought off the snakes and made them slither way off in to the woods.  We went back in to the house our duty done. Don't read on if you get squeamish.  Unfortunately the bigger of the two snakes returned, got in to the box, ate one of the baby birds and smothered the others.  My husband and I destroyed the bird box and ran the snake off again.

So this year for Valentines day my husband bought me two cedar Blue Bird boxes.  A few weeks ago we put up the first box in an area that was better protected from snakes and we put in some snake deterents. Though after seeing the whole effect I was certain that our resident Blue Birds would not nest in the box because it was in a higher traffic area outside one of the pasture gates that leads in to my backyard.

But today my husband and I were taking a walk through the back pasture and I glanced at the box and saw what looked like a pine needle hanging out of the box.  Funny, I thought then approached the box.  It has a latch that lets you open the front of the box to look inside and sure enough there was part of nest in the box that had not been there the week before.  The Blue Birds had indeed decided to nest in the box.

Update:  A week or so later there are now three eggs in the completed nest. I haven't been able to photograph the parents, but I was able to get one of the eggs.

Rush, Rush, Ride

I wanted to ride at a decent hour this weekend but the weather and my life just weren't having it.  Saturday I had to take Jasper back in to the vet for his weekly, post I-Ate-Something-I-Shouldn't-Have surgery, check up, which turned in to getting a whole lot of errands done including a stop at the feed store to get a different, higher fat feed for the High Queen since coming out of winter and trying to go to a lower starch feed has caused her to lose some weight. And of course when I got home it was on again, off again tag with thunderstorms.  So no riding on Saturday.

Sunday I had to work for a few hours in the middle of the day, early in the morning the footing was too slippery, and so rushing home after work, stopping at the grocery store, finally getting home, and dressed to ride it was nearly 6:30pm, which translates after tacking up in to about half an hour to ride. In which the High Queen was a pain in the butt. It was close to dinner time, never a good time to disturb her majesty, and her pasturemate was in the field across from the riding area stuffing himself on new green grass. Jealousy, and giraffe impressions ensued. So not a bad ride, but not great either.

I have two weeks to get the two of us in shape to debut at Deep Run, we could do it now, it wouldn't be pretty, but we could do it. I am going to try and take some lessons with my trainer over the next two weeks, but it depends on my schedule and her's, and of course the weather.

But I did find, and go walk a xc course that is only an hour away.  It wasn't spectacular, but for introducing a green horse to scarey xc jumps it would fit the bill and it's so close plus for as much rain as we have had the footing was excellent. I'll put up some pictures when I can. Until then, ride hard, jump high, and don't look back.

Jasper aka Croc-o-potomus

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Return of the Queen

Finally, finally, FINALLY! I got a semi-warm day, semi-dry footing, and a semi-sane mare.  I even got off of work early. Which almost never happens on a warm, dry, sane-horse day.  The Horse Gods smiled down on me from somewhere and I soooo took advantage of it.

I did carve out a few minutes pre-ride to play with my three year old English Bull Terrier Jasper.  He's still recovering from his last emergency surgery which was number three.  This last one was particularly hard, and my vet keeps telling me my dog is a miracle because he should have died many times over.  He's not completely well. The vet says that he has scarring on his lungs from all the surgeries so if he gets really excited he goes in to this almost dizzy, going to pass out, looks like he's going to have a coronary sort of stance.  It totally freaks me out and scares me blind.  So I tried to spend a little time with the incredible eating machine before my horse obsession kicked in to high gear.

The Queen was horribly dirty in the spots not covered by her turn-out sheet. So I spent a little extra time with her grooming, trying to tame her freakishly thick and wild mane, disparing over her tail that once was huge and thick, and is now a quarter of that size from having lived the life of a mostly outdoor pony, and inspecting with the precision of a gymnastics competition judge all four of her hooves.

Before I put any tack on her,  least the tacking up be in vain, I lunged the Queen to check her level of soundness.  I stared, I squinted, I turned my head this way and that but I couldn't see any unsoundness so on went her tack, and my gear.

I wasn't going to jump, the footing was iffy, and even though it had been warm and sunny most of the day I just didn't trust the footing in my main riding area enough to chance it. And just so I wouldn't be tempted I left my jumps down in the disarray the last rain storm had left them in.  I wanted to work mainly on our transitions. In a word they weren't great. I don't know if I need a sharper bit but she doesn't understand the meaning of the word whoa, or stop unless of course she thinks its the end of the ride then she'll stop on a dime.   She's not bad moving from walk to trot, but back down is harder for her. And I don't even want to talk about the ugliness of our trot to canter transitions.

I actually got some decent trot to walk transitions but the trot to canter still needs a lot, lot, lot of work. And probably some professional help. Seneca just gets so wound up and goes in to her giraffe impression when we start trying to go from trot to canter. I'm sure I'm transmitting tension some how and I just need to relax so she will relax. It's a work in progress.

But the crowning moment didn't come while we were in the arena.  After we were done with the flatwork I rode Seneca out of the arena and down our driveway to go over the big open field that actually belongs to the neighbor behind out property but they let me use it and even let me fence in pieces of it for more pasture.  It's such a blessing to have neighbors willing to just let you use their land for your four legged mowing/fertilizing machines.

I had planned to just walk around the perimeter of the pastures. There is a big water filled ditch that seperates the two largest pieces of the pasture. Usually I can cross where the four wheelers cross, but our neighbor had brought his tractor through there earlier in the spring, gotten it stuck and now that crossing was a little too trappy looking to cross, and the sides too steep to think about jumping it.

I eyed the big water filled ditch that stretched down towards the woods that separated my property from the neighbor who owned the field. The ditch further away from the four wheeler crossing was an easy width, but water filled and Seneca had always been a little apprehensive of ditches of any kind. She would go over usually but needed a lot of encouragement to do it.   I had never jumped this particular ditch, dry or wet, but ooooh I wanted to.  As another eventing blogger described I had a mad, burning, jump lust for that ditch.  I had not given in to the jump lust until today.  I'd ridden near that ditch for over a year, eyeing it, drooling over it, but not quite ready to just go for it.

Today, I don't  know what got in to me, or why I decided today I was going to let the jump lust have its way with me but I pointed Seneca to a fairly easy width with a good take off point, and landing point.  I actually anticipated having to encourage her but she went for it and jumped right over like a four star pro.   I couldn't believe it.  We had conquered the Horse Eating Ditch Demon!  Holy cow.  Just to test this theory I rode over to the ditch that runs along the long drive that leads to my neighbor's house.  I pointed the queen at the ditch and yet again she popped right over not the least little flick of an ear.  We popped back over in to the field and even went on a little mini-trail ride through the woods on a four wheeler path my neighbors had created.  I would have ridden over to their house but I could hear my neighbor running his tractor and I didn't want to push the Queen's sanity.  So we turned around and rode home quiet as you please.

All in all a really good day.

 The horse eating demon filled ditch.