Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Birthday Wishes and Traveling with a Hunter Princess

It is an unwritten rule at my house that we never, ever celebrate my birthday on the actual day. We just don't. Inevitably my actual birthday will be an awful compilation of work stress, a crappy boss and some mix of karma and the evil powers that be. It ends up being the worst day of the year. So a long time ago I just refused to acknowledge the day and we celebrate my birthday on the weekend before or the weekend after.

This year was no exception. Mother Nature decided to give us a break last weekend and came up with two very nice days with warm, DRY! weather. Saturday was mostly spent getting all my horses feet trimmed by K. the Farrier Fairy.  We discussed the necessity of shoes for Fox this year and basically gossiped for an hour and a half. Then my friend A. came out and we played with our ponies a bit. But really we were both just amping up for Sunday.  When myself, A. and one of my other friends K. found out it would be 65 degrees on Sunday a call to ride together was made. This was my birthday wish to ride my horse with my friends.

So Sunday rolled up and right after I fed the horses I started prepping to get everything ready to go. I had packed my tack the day before so that was done, as well as stuffing two hay bags for Fox and Charm. So really I just needed to double check things and start scraping the mud off Fox for while he's blanketed 24/7 he still manages to pile ten pounds of mud on to himself from the knees down.  It was super warm so I left his blanket off and only made sure he was clean and swapped his regular field halter for his fancy leather one with this name engraved on it.

A. arrives and we start getting Charm ready to go. This is where the differences between me (Eventer Chick) and A. (Hunter Princess/George Morris worshipper) really come in to play.  I threw my pony on the trailer after he was clean and his hooves were picked out. A. groomed Charm, oiled his hooves, wrapped his legs with a complicated polo pony style wrap, then threw on his matching cooler. Then we loaded him in the trailer. I only go all out with full "Here to Impress" gear when we're hauling to a show, even then if its a local show I really don't do much beyond make sure my pony is super clean and his tack is good to go. So A.'s full out Princess Up threw me for a little loop.

We did have a fabulous time over at the barn where my friend K. boards her draft cross mare Birdie.  A lovely arena with real footing. No mud or slick spots to worry about. There were even jumps to jump! After going though our warm up routine that infuses lots of bending I rolled in to our new fitness regime that requires ten walk to trot to walk transitions in each direction.  Then it was time for a little jumping. Just baby fences at barely a foot.  But Fox put in good efforts, never refused, though he paused a few times to look at things.  He even cantered off after a couple of the fences which made me happy.  And I worked on not looking at the fences but rather just waiting and feeling my pony getting ready to jump.

I did discover something about Fox that really hadn't ever come up before.  He absolutely does not like horses coming towards him head on. A. and I were cooling our two boys off, walking together and every time a horse came at us from the opposite direction Fox tried to glue himself to Charm. Good to know for the future.

So what's up for us next? Well not a whole lot. The weather is still ugly and work hasn't gotten any happier or easier so we will work when we can on strengthening Fox's butt. There is a bit of happy news though. Last year I was a spectator at the Carolina International CIC.  This year I will be a VOLUNTEER! Woo Hoo!  Four days of nothing but eventing, eventing, eventing! Bring it on and keep it between the flags everyone!

It's the Knowing and the Learning

This is the time of year that I truly hate the most. It's grey, wet, muddy, cold and dark. The inevitable happens.  I don't get off work at a decent hour so I can't get home with enough daylight to ride during the week so I make hopeful plans for the weekend. Which is when Mother Nature laughs at me and rains buckets.  I can deal with riding in the cold but I won't risk my horse's life or my own riding on slick, muddy ground.

So what's a horse crazy girl to do? Find the nearest indoor. And boy did I find one.  It's not super close, about an hour from me. But I had a week's vacation coming and I was able to take Fox over twice during that week. I wanted to get a handle on this cantering issue that Fox and I were having. The last time I asked him to canter was way back in October when K. was giving me a lesson before Kelly's Ford.  It did not go well that day.

But Superhubs and Cowboy were coming with us as babysitters (as I had no idea how Fox would react to being alone in the indoor) so I figured if I got hurt at least he would be there to dial 911. As you, my dear readers, might know from previous posts Kelly's Ford was an absolute disaster.  Fox had major sensory overload and completely melted down. So taking him new places I'm now a little more careful.

We arrived at this crazy expensive barn, all their run-in sheds were brick! Each of the shed row style stalls had its own attached paddock and tack room.  But the indoor made me want to move in permanently. It was climate controlled, as in it stays a cozy 56 degrees no matter what the temp outside is. BLISS! It just goes to show you what the right insulation can do for you.

After tacking up Superhubs and I headed in to the arena where Fox was huffing and a little anxious. Understandable since I hadn't taken him anywhere in months.  I led him around for a few laps until his head lowered and he wasn't sounding like he was about to hyperventilate. He finally stood still for me mount up and we were off.  We practiced our dressage spirals of death, some walk trot transitions and then it was time to canter. I admit it I was nervous. I did not want to get bucked off.  But I shouldn't have worried.  I couldn't even get Fox to canter.  He'd trot like a harness racer but I could not get an upward transition. I even tried poles on the ground and giving him a good whack on the butt with my jumping bat.  Nope. No canter.  I finally got off and lunged him where I was able to get him cantering both ways.

But this made me curious.  Did he have a physical issue that was causing him pain or was I just being too soft? Later that week I took Fox back to the indoor but had K. meet us and climb aboard the Wonder Pony for the first time.  K. is skilled AND brave. Which was just what I felt Fox and I both needed.  This is where the knowing comes in.  K. gave Fox a good work out and while she had a bit easier time getting Fox in to a canter it was still a bit of battle to do it. She told me what I really needed to know.  Fox has a weak hind end, particularly on the right side which makes it hard for him to maintain a canter.  She gave me some homework to do with him and that is what we'll be working on when we can. Freaking ugly weather!

And the learning? Fox was nervous when we first went to the indoor.  New, strange place. So I walked him so he could look at things and do something normal and routine.  This is why Kelly's Ford went so badly for us.  I failed Fox. I failed because I didn't take him down early that morning and walk him around so he could see everything and know that it was okay.  Instead I tacked him up then flung him in to the crazy warm-up area, which was right next to the XC warm-up area and the show jumping arena.  I never gave him a chance to really look around when it was less chaotic and stressful so I got the Pony from Hell when it was time to warm-up.  This is not a mistake I ever want to repeat.  Not only was it an expensive mistake but it was stressful all the way round and just made Fox and I unhappy on all fronts.

So lesson learned, better management at over-night shows is definitely needed.

Something else that I learned?  You can totally pimp your horse's blanket with zip ties! Fox's medium weight blanket is a 3600 denier Centaur.  Which has a place to buckle on a sold separately neck cover.  I got the blanket for a steal on Tack of the Day, but the matching neck cover was way to expensive to buy outright.  So I borrowed the Amigo Bravo L/M neck cover from his other blanket.  But the buckle system was different on both so they couldn't be attached directly.  Just apply some zip ties and voila! Cozy clothing for your horse without spending extra money on a second neck cover!

Keep it between the flags everyone!