Ranger Recap: being bold with big(ger) jumps

Another week, another Ranger recap.

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New ring set up

As I mentioned last week, Ranger has been dealing with some…soundness issues? He’s just been a little gimpy-ish lately. Off but not lame? And, he works through most of it. The best I can describe it is sort of a muscle soreness and the more he stays still, the more he stiffens up and the worse he looks and feels. The more he moves, the better he feels and looks. He was definitely feeling gimpy at the trot though and I was thinking about bowing out of the lesson…

But once we cantered, first of the right, he REALLY loosened up and moved out and started feeling good. And actually felt decent and even then to the left, his less good direction (even on a good day, he STRONGLY prefers his right lead. 9 times out of 10 he lands on the right lead). At this point, I started to feel less bad. So, after cantering we stood around and waited for the lesson in before me to finish jumping and got a  little stiff. So, before jumping, we cantered around on the right lead again and re-loosened up.

We started off trotting in to a pole to a vertical 2 strides to a hay bale combination. The goal of this exercise was to come in slow enough that we were trotting, apply calf NOT heel, and add enough leg to have enough energy to carry us over the hay bales. We were also approaching this on a half circle. First time through we completed the exercise however it wasn’t exactly with the necessary energy. To make it easier on Ranger, we changed our approach from the left to the right (tighter turn due to the set up of the ring, but easier for him direction-wise).  This time through, I added the appropriate calf and off we went at the base of the vertical. I do have to say, last night Ranger was jumping the crap out of his fences. His hind end… So, with that in mind, we approached a third time and  Ranger took control and I therefore did NOT add leg. This meant our speed was BEFORE the pole not at the base of the jump. It worked, but was not what my trainer wanted. So, I had to redirect our energy for our next attempt, really focusing on a quiet approach, energy on the takeoff, calf on the landing, etc.

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You can sort of see the 2 stride combination here (blue winded standards)

Then the bales became an oxer and I screwed up and Ranger saved my butt. Since this jump wasn’t small to begin with, adding the back rail shouldn’t have made THAT much of a difference so I didn’t change much. So I had the same approach, slow/steady, and then sort of forgot to add leg since Ranger had been taking care of me and moving steadily the last couple of times anyway. This time, he didn’t. Somehow my saintly horse jumped it anyway and saved my butt. Thank you Ranger. That jump felt huge as we jumped it in slow motion. Needless to say, we immediately were forced to do it again, using leg this time (my legs WERE on empty). Thankfully, I had enough to get over and Ranger, not wanting to work that hard, helped me out and over jumped the oxer… I love you.

After a quick break, exchanging a quick story of my stupidity and how I accidentally applied for a job a prison librarian a few years ago without realizing it… we moved onto something else. Inside white rails around to the outside line along the fence.

So, the weird thing about this was the approach to the white rails was tight and strange. Basically, right between 2 jumps and the mounting block and don’t jump the wrong thing type of thing… One of those know how to steer kind of thing. But, we could land right and then continue right lead around to our outside line. Again, Ranger was jumping the crap out of these things. After the first one where we moved up for a nice spot, we were a little slow and instead of holding back, I actually listed when I heard my trainer say forward and drove Ranger forward to his next line and, again, moved him up for his line and kept moving up for the 6. I was not only seeing spots, but I was moving up to them, riding forward and aggressively. I guess I need to learn to trust my eye since its routinely there and when it’s not, nothing bad happens with Ranger. And he responded, again, by jumping the crap out of everything. Seriously, he gave me 159.75% last night.

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Strange skinny entrance to white rails (jump 4 on left)

So, we did it again and added in a 4th fence, inside single off the corner with the brown boxes which actually felt huge (especially since a certain pony was over jumping it). The first single was fine, easy even, but the line, not as great mostly due to the entrance to the first jump.  Basically, the line is ALMOST on the rail, but not quite, so I was staying on the rail a little too long so it was impacting the first jump slightly. I mean, it was fine, but a little forced. The second jump in the line was good, but I had to ride him a bit up to it due to the approach from the first jump. Then as I’m turning the corner, something my trainer said made me realize there was a jump 4 and we continued to that. And Ranger sailed over it because he’s awesome and was jumping amazingly well.

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Outside line. The first jump was strangely larger too which made the thing odd… Pony standards top hole! Or maybe there was another rail since we don’t normally jump with extra jump cups…

Our last time through (which may or may not have been the next time as I thought I did the 4th jump 3 times), we finally fixed the line. So, after having a nice approach to the first jump (I’m so glad I didn’t start screwing something else up), we stayed slightly off the rail so that I could have an easier time getting to jump 2. It worked and that just made the line flow so much easier. The 6 was there though Ranger was getting a little tired (or maybe that was me?) so I still had to work to keep us going. Thankfully, since we were landing right, no changes were required and off to jump 4 we went. Wasn’t my favorite jump of the night, but decent enough to end with. Seriously though, that horse gave me his heart last night. Love him so much. Once he loosened up, you could tell he felt GOOD. And wanted to move. Or at least jump.

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The BEST Ranger pony in the world. 

My trainer made an interesting comment about my riding last night. While I am usually accurate and have an abnormally good eye, I am rarely that bold, forward, and confident. Evidently I need to ride like that more often…

Another adult in the lesson before me who was cooling out her horse while I was jumping some commented after how I was jumping some big jumps. Which fine, some where, but… I kind of responded that we do sometimes and that it’s nice to get back to it and I guess it surprised her that I’ve done this before? I mentioned that I had a retired gelding who I did a lot with years ago (which I did. When he was actively in work, we did jump 3’+ in lessons) and also a stopper who I don’t really jump anymore. I just don’t like people making assumptions. Of course, if she were actually there every week, she’s see that tonight’s height wasn’t exactly anything new either…  maybe my confidence was but the height not so much. Of course, it’s Ranger. He can do anything.

Ranger Recap: [Insert Witty Title Here]

Due to the ugly storm we had last Thursday, last week’s lesson was moved to Saturday morning (though, as it turned out, by the time my lesson rolled around, it was clear and sunny… go figure?). Of course, Saturday morning was sunny, windy, and chilly… Of course… But dry? Then last night’s lesson was back to my usual Thursday night time slot. So, this is my attempt to recap 2 lessons in one… With some media accompanying the lesser of the 2 rides… Of course. Because I can’t ever remember to record when everything is perfect. Those rides just need to live in my memory and everyone will just have to believe me when I tell you it was PERFECTION.

 

So Saturday morning.

What better way to start the weekend then with a visit with my buddy Ranger. I forgot his carrots unfortunately so he had to settle for peppermints. He likes peppermints, but I think he prefers the peppermint AND carrot combination. Anyway, we had the choice of riding in or out and despite the cold, I chose out. I mean, we’ve been cooped up inside most of the winter and it’s just nice to be out. Of course, I didn’t actually realize how strong the wind was… Nonetheless, outside we went. After a warmup on the flat where my hand were a little higher than normal (pattern here…), we moved on to jumping and it was a nice let’s hit all my spots again kind of day, the kind of day that never gets recorded on camera… A few months ago I mentioned that my trainer said I really DO have a crazy good eye so there might be something to that and this spot for spot thing might NOT be a fluke, but still.

That said, after the first jump (so this is all random highlights since I honestly don’t remember half of the lesson other than not missing a single spot and getting all my strides so this may not be the first jump but rather the first time doing the outside single because, now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure we started with the log jump while we were cantering after first cantering a small circle around the damn thing. Evil. Evil I tell you. But, it was fine and we jumped it since I seem to actually know how to steer these days), our outside single on the left lead. We jumped it fine, excepted landed on the right lead and a certain Ranger-horse decided that he did NOT want to come back to trot his change so we fought around the corner until he realized I was NOT taking no for an answer and then we got the change and continued to our inside oxer without missing a beat or a the spot or changing pace.

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So, supposedly this is the issue he does sometimes with the kids. Except they DON’T get him back and then he gets fast (they hang on him since he doesn’t comeback to them) and then they head to the next jump speeding on the wrong lead and… I mean nothing happens or anything but… Yeah. So, after that explanation, I was told next time, if he gave me any trouble coming back after the single for the simple change (he STRONGLY prefers his right lead), halt, back him up a couple of steps, then ask for the canter. Of course, unlike the kids, while I had to work for it the last time, I actually got the change and re-settled Ranger and jumped the second jump without any drama which led Ranger to an “oh shit” moment–way too much work… So, the second time through, we landed, he immediately came right back to me, easy simple change, and we were on our way with a balanced canter. His drama didn’t work on me so he certainly wasn’t trying that again. He’s way too smart for that.

I think we added in the outside line in the 6 and got the 6 first time and then added the inside in the 6 and got the 6. I can’t remember what, if anything else we did. But, it was an adding lines/jumps as we went and someone was perfect. Love him to death.

And evidently he’s MUCH happier too. The child he really hates quit. And said child is NOT the one I regularly split trailer fees with which is even better.

Thursday.

For as good as Saturday’s lesson was, last night’s lesson was just…off? I don’t know. It was part me, part Ranger, part just energy? I don’t know. But, I remembered my carrots so all was good in the end. And that’s what matters, right?

On top of that, lots of energy/activity in the barn due to a rated show today/tomorrow… So, baths, grooming, tack cleaning, and braiding. Not really anything I need to deal with. I enjoy local stuff and schooling shows, but rated shows are way out of my budget. Besides, I’d rather ride Ranger than anyone fancy anyway.

Ranger was a bit…I don’t want to say off, but maybe stiff is the right word? He worked out of most of it, but I definitely felt it mostly to the left. If we stayed to the left, he was fine. If we made a bunch of turns and direction changes, that’s where we just couldn’t stay consistent. He tried his heart out for me though. He earned his 4 carrots and an extra several peppermints.

After a warm up on the flat where AGAIN my hands were a mess. Actually, trotting they were first fine then my right hand was a mess then my right shoulder started interfering as well. Actually at one point my whole right side was a mess… My mostly my right hand… I have no idea. When we where circling this was most problematic… So, my right hand needs work. Lots of work. How does one work on a right hand? Especially when the right hand isn’t regularly an issue? But, at the same time, if Ranger was having issues with his left lead and falling in, it might all be impacting my right hand/side issues too… TBC next week…

The lesson before me was doing horse show prep on Ranger’s former BFF Forrest. (I think he is a former BFF as Ranger didn’t even care when he left the ring…) She worked really hard (strides) and all I could say was “I don’t want to work that hard!” I didn’t work that hard in that sense, but in a different sense… Eeek. I started by cantering (left lead) over the natural vertical around to the really skinny green single (REALLY skinny). Both are awkward to approach. So, while it’s only 2 jumps, basically I had to steer. My favorite! And, again, unlike a normal person, I regularly turn late which is often the reason I miss spots, not due to not seeing them. However, I turned early (meaning, on time) for the first, got my change, and turned right at/after the first jump of our outside line and got my wiggly pony to the center of the skinny. And when I say center, I mean the jump. Because this thing had NO CENTER. There was the jump or going around the damn thing.

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green side of the skinny… This jump has seen better days. I didn’t notice until the picture which I guess means I’m not looking at it? 

But, that wasn’t good enough. Instead of doing THAT again, we had to do that whole thing backwards. So, down the skinny (white side) and up the natural. Holy crap. Once I worked out how the hell I was even going to approach the damn skinny (which looked even skinnier from this side (I have to take a picture of this thing–which will prove 1) it is as skinny as I’m saying or 2) it’s not as skinny as I’m claiming [eta: I held of publishing so I could add pictures. you judge. it’s pretty skinny but is it that skinny?). So, we pick up our canter, and my perfect Ranger starts drifter right then left then right then left. And suddenly TIME. SLOWS. DOWN. And I realize I don’t want to jump this damn evil jump. Which means I HAVE TO JUMP THIS JUMP. So, somehow, using all the leg strength and rein and steering power I have, 2 strides strides out, I realize I can actually make him jump this thing so we do and continue to the natural and (which in this direction was easy) jump that nicely. I wish we had that skinny on video because I’m pretty sure it was impressive. My trainer’s reaction was priceless. She was convinced we were going around it, impressed we made it over, but then said the jump itself was really nice. I guess that’s why you ride every last step. Better yet? We did NOT have to repeat that jump! Success!

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White side of the skinny. That one flower box and 2  BROKEN poles. Not full poles, BROKEN poles. The thing is maybe 3ft wide.

So from there we did some other jumps/courses in some orders/combinations I don’t remember. But I think the outside line, the outside single, and that natural jump were involved…

Then the wheels fell off a bit. We ended with the weird turn to the brush jump that a few weeks ago I could not for the life of me figure out how my trainer wanted me to approach that thing. I just DID NOT GET IT. Thankfully, I remembered this week.

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Evil a few weeks ago, no problem this week

So we started off with that, and cantered around to the inside line (6) and then were to continue to the outside single. However, that single was just NOT. Working. We would get our change late (left lead), went slightly wide, and could not establish a steady pace. It would be choppy and then the jump was a mess. The first time through was the better of the 2 approaches.

The second time through the turn was so bad I circled but the canter was still a mess and the spot wasn’t there and Ranger took out part of the jump (I cut that from the video because I just felt back about that incident…). Me being me, I blamed myself though part was his stiffness yesterday. To end on, after telling me he’d be FINE, we cantered once around to establish a steady pace, we simply jumped the single and he felt much better so there really is something to be said about the changes of direction making things harder on him yesterday.

Again, I stuffed him with treats to thank him after.

No paper chase for me today. The people I was to go with tried to talk me into coming anyway, but… They said they were mostly walking and if Batts attitude was better now, I’d go for it, but it’s not. My trainer actually offered me the opportunity to take Ranger today since she’d be at the show which was super awesome, but, honestly? I’m not the most experienced hauler yet and even though it’s only 7 miles, I’d rather not haul someone else’s precious cargo. Besides, I’ve got an out step up stock that works SO WELL for me, but not for everyone. And, at this point, I’ve talked myself out of the paper chase. But, it was an amazing offer that makes happy that I’ve found a good barn family. And there will be other paper chases. Plenty of them. So today I’ll take advantage of the horse show and haul Batt over and ride him instead. And hope he doesn’t try and kill me…

 

Because what’s better than a half clipped mini?

I seriously have the world’s BEST luck with clippers.

Seriously.

My. Luck. Sucks.

This past fall I did a bib clip on Jiminy with my Andis AGC 2 Speed Clippers before he turned into a yak. This was fine until we hit the 70s in November and he started sweating to death. The other thing about Jiminy is that even though he grows a yak coat and SHOULD be able to go blanketless, he  hates being cold and wet and LOVES his blankets. He would also love living in a stall all winter. Being a mini, I wouldn’t mind him using some calories to keep warm though…

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Fall bib clip (his first clip ever, such a GOOD BOY! seriously this pony is amazing!)

So, in November, I decided I’d clip him (my farrier actually had been pushing me to body clip and finds it really helps with mini management) since he was a ball of mini-yak sweat. So I pulled out my Andis clippers and found his yak coat had grown way too thick and, after an hour and a half, I had a mini with a destroyed coat. For the sake of the life of my clippers, the lack of daylight, and my sanity, I gave up.

The next morning, I purchased brand new pair of Oster Variable Speed Clipmaster Clippers. I stood in Tractor Supply debating between those and the Lister Star Clippers and ultimately ended up with the Oster at the recommendation of someone else in the aisle who owns both and preferred the Oster. Plus I read lots of reviews on Amazon, Dover, Smartpak, etc. I did NOT buy Tractor Supply’s 3 year extended warranty because, at that point, I didn’t have an extra $100. Cue regret.

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I fell in love way too soon… 

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Such an adorable clipped pony, even if he is giving me the stink eye…

So, Jiminy got clipped (minus face/legs because why bother? He’s hanging out in my backyard). I meant to clip him a few more times, but I never did. He’s been looking raged lately and it’s been super warm and he’s not shedding out so I finally got around to clipping him again on Monday. Body, legs, and all. He’s not a yak, but definitely needs a clip. It’s been in the 70s and 80s during the day so he’s been hot and sweaty, poor guy!

So, imagine my surprise when I start clipping with my clippers that I used 1x back in November and halfway through part of Jiminy they sputter and DIE. They never got hot. His yak coat wasn’t a yak coat. That was this fall. They didn’t even struggle this fall. Monday I clipped for MAYBE 25 minutes with breaks to clean the hair out and this happened.

So, now my poor 36″ miniature is half clipped. If it gets cold, I have to come up with some crazy blanketing solution.

Such a pathetic state. Terrible pictures courtesy of my husband. Breakfast
remains courtesy of Batts…

I spent $30 to send the clippers back to Oster and I can only hope that they will honor their limited warranty because I cannot imagine I did anything to ruin these clippers in 1.5 uses. Even the lady in the Oster warranty office was shocked. She asked me 4 times how many times I used them. She kept repeating they’d take care of me. I can only hope. If not, I’ll be posting something on their social media accounts… She felt I’d have something back in 2 weeks.

So much for clipping Batt this week… He’s shedding out, but… He looks gross. I can use my Andis clippers on him, but they’re so slow in comparison… I got spoiled in my brief time with my Oster clippers… But I can’t afford to buy a new pair…

Changing plans… the story of one pissed off chestnut.

Once upon a time there was a chestnut gelding known as the Batthorse… Said Batthorse lived a happy life. Said Batthorse ate and rolled in the mud, got really dirty, and hung out with his friends, Subi and Jiminy. Said Batthorse lived the retired life. “Life is good,” thought the Batthorse. Said Batthorse lived the retired life, or so he thought.

Then one day, life changed. Life became bad.  And THIS is the story of one pissed off chestnut gelding.

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“It I close my eyes and concentrate really, really, really hard, maybe I can be maybe this is all just a really bad nightmare. Or maybe I can pretend this isn’t happening. Or maybe I can just fall asleep. Or maybe she’ll forget I’m here.” (ignore poorly adjusted noseband made worse from rubbing then fixed after pictures)

So for the first time since the end of December, I decide to try and ride the Batthorse. We were planning to attempt a paper chase this month, but due to illness and weather, that was becoming a more and more unrealistic goal. Unfortunately, a certain chestnut’s poor behavior sort of cemented his fate and this paper chase just isn’t going to happen. Oh well, this is why I don’t make goals people!

Normally bringing Batts back from extensive time off is easy. He may be out of shape, but he generally has a good attitude about it. This time however… Since the ground has been AWFUL (through the area, paper chases, point to points, and a whole lot of other things have been cancelled and postponed) combined with monsoon rains on Friday (and a flooded basement FML), I decided to haul out to my trainers on Sunday for a ride. Generally she’s at shows on weekends anyway and doesn’t teach so weekends are a good time to ride. This weekend was no exception (yay rated shows).

This thing needs a trip through the car wash… But he loaded without
issue which showed he truly had no idea what he was in store for…

So, the place was pretty empty when we arrived and thankfully the big rig was gone and I was able to pull around (u shaped driveway on a corner so I came in on one road and can leave on the other) — which is good for me since backing up isn’t a strength –especially when I’m rusty.  Unfortunately, that’s where the good stopped.

Mr. “All I Did On My Winter Vacation Was Eat” sort of, kind of out grew his 52″ double elastic girth though I managed to get it on with some choice words. Seriously though, how does he outgrow a 52″ girth? He’s not that big? And my billets aren’t short?  Every year we come out of winter needing a diet. So, grumpy, we headed into the barn, bridle in hand, with a bad attitude. Inside the barn, he was at least curious about his surrounding but got mad that I wouldn’t let him in a stall to eat someone else’s hay. Once our bridle was on, we stopped by Ranger’s stall, dropped off a peppermint (yes, I’m mean, but I did give Batts one too), and headed out to the ring.

OMG. This horse is fat. I mean FAT. I nearly pulled a muscle once I got on. I got used to Ranger who is wide, but not that wide or that fat. But Batts? OUCH.

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“You really can’t be serious!” says the Batthorse. This is the look of complete denial.

I got on an immediately thought things were going to be OK. I mean, he didn’t take off with me. But, I did regret not wearing spurs on bringing a crop. We didn’t exactly have our forward button installed. We puttered around at the walk for awhile, me adding leg, while a certain chestnut pinned his ears at the slightest pressure… Eventually I picked up a trot on a loose rein…

…then the head tossing, flinging began… and continued… but we managed a lazy trot around the ring and all was well. We trotted and trotted and trotted. And tossed and flung and tossed and flung and tossed and flung. I added leg and we tossed harder and pinned our ears but failed to actually increase our pace… When I FINALLY managed a slightly forward trot, we walked and watched a buckskin mare avoid capture for a while. Batts found this QUITE entertaining. Don’t get ANY ideas.

Then we trotted again. Then I tried and failed to cantered. “ZOMG NO!” said the Batthorse, tossing his head in anger and frustration, trying to run me into the fence and losing all ability to steer. Suddenly we were a wild-horse. Trotting a million miles a minute and we WOULD NOT CANTER. So we trotted and trotted and trotted as fast as possible. And I got in mean mom mode and introduced circles. So we circled, and trotted, and circled, and trotted, and circled, all while flinging our head in disgust (meanwhile Buckskin Mare was captured). Eventually, Batty decided that cantering was WAY easier than circles and we cantered around in the slowest canter ever before resuming our circles the to the right before canter to the right and finally being rewarded with a walk break.

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One pissed off pony.

While we rested, we were joined by a couple of pony kids and the recently captured buckskin mare. Whether he was tired, over it, or just feeding off of the ponytude (honestly, they’re well behaved ponies — 1 was up and showed energy by swapping but that was it… and Bucky, well, she’s a mare), but our behavior… In true Batt fashion, we decided to do things our own way.

Determined to spend the last bit of our ride cantering (after a brief chat with a pony mom), I grabbed a crop that I located (or what was left of it) and attempted some cantering… It was…well, I stayed on? After a tiny bit of trotting, we started to the left and did ok? Despite the constant flinging, seriously, did he suddenly become a headshaker overnight? And one or two minor “bucks*,” it was uneventful. On his best of days he’s more comfortable to the left. On his worst of days he’s 100000x more comfortable to the left.

So, stupid me, I save the right for last. And he was PISSED off. And really did try and “buck*” me off (*this idiot horse barely can buck without a rider on his back–he isn’t coordinated enough and can only lift his hind end about a foot off the ground–with a rider on his back he just drops his head between his knees really really hard and fast and thinks he’s bucking even though his hind end doesn’t do anything*). He actually caught me really off guard despite lifting him up at the canter and sitting up and back. Idiot horse grabbed the bit, yanked his head and dropped it so hard and fast between his knees I actually fell forward a bit. If he had gotten me off… We cantered a bit more for that and then backed down an entire long side simple because I was angry. He doesn’t back well–not that he can’t more that he doesn’t want to. Well, he has never backed so well or easily. We ended there and headed inside for a brief shower (and I may have showered Ranger with some peppermints).

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Home. He didn’t think he’d live to see this moment

Despite the long recap, our ride wasn’t actually that long. Lots of walking, lots of fighting, lots of pain for both of us. But, definitely no good Friday paper chase. If our attitude was better, I’d get the rides in to make it happen. But, it’s not, so why push it? There’ll be other chases and we’ll get back in shape when we’re back in shape. I’m not going to kill myself to ride every day the next 2 weeks.

But, if anyone’s up for a trail ride soon, we can certainly do that!

Ranger Recap: looking back and looking forward

Guy, I love this horse.

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I had my lesson last night and though it’s been a really rough week (it’s spring break, it should be an easy week–it wasn’t–this week has been hard work wise and I feel like I’m further behind plus there’s this whole issue of no drinkable water at my house…), but then there’s Ranger and all is right again in the world.

Seriously, I love this horse. When I started taking lessons again last summer on Batts, it was the best decision. At that time Ranger wasn’t even at the barn. Then the Ranger-type horse (the “I can do everything from beginners to 3′ horse”) was lost to a bad colic and she found Ranger. Then there was my lovely crash off of Batts, my trainer’s subsequent ride on him over fences the next lesson and her suggestion that, after having no more success than I had, a comment that it was really impressive that I rarely came off of him considering how impressive his stops actually are (which until you ride him, you can’t actually feel), and the the opinion that even if he were in full training, chances are he’d never actually be reliable (he might memorize these particular jumps at these particular heights at these particular locations, in this particular light, but the second ANYTHING changes, back to square one). Not to mention we were stressing him out. So, we made the decision to call it quits with him and not jump him anymore and let him thrive on what he does best — trails, flat work, galloping cross country in unfamiliar locations, and eventually paperchases. We stopped lessons and his whole attitude at home changed (I could catch him again whereas towards the end of lessons, my husband had to catch him for me as he’d run from me…). Now we can actually take on small crossrails and verticals as long as they’re airy and don’t have anything solid under them–that’s what messes with his brain.

So with Batty out, my trainer introduced me to her new lesson horse Ranger. In the beginning it was all about learning again to ride a  horse that doesn’t stop, but now it’s just about being in love with an amazing pinto thing.

So last night we rode outside thanks to non-freezing temperatures and daylight (though we do have lights that we didn’t need to use thanks to longer days at 6:30!). We spend a good part of the lesson working on an evil combination that should have been easy but my brain said  DEATH. Seriously. I don’t know why. Especially when the 5 year old pony kid can do it. Basically it was a pole to a flower box to a pole to a jump. My brain said NOOO, DEATH. So we struggled for a bit. Coming in the first time we ducked out at/after the pole since there was a nice opening. I mean, why jump the damn thing when you can skip the evil combination? And Ranger basically told me if I didn’t want to, why should he bother. I was in full agreement. There was also a nice opening to the inside where he could duck out that he took advantage of. I don’t blame him! I didn’t want to do the stupid thing!

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Evil combination that wanted to kill me

So, to help us out, my trainer chose to stand at our opening (damnit! Now where could I skip out?) so I had a few options. Go around to the rail, run trainer over, or jump the evil combination. Well, without much speed, Ranger and I chose the combination and made it through without dying, however, it was ugly as everything should have been 1 stride but we sort of added an extra stride between the last pole and the jump. So, we continued to repeat with me trying to add leg. Eventually, we actually completed the combination the way it was to be done with the appropriate pace and striding, and yes, evil combination is much easier when done correctly. Rinse, repeat, several times.

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More evil.

 

Of course, we can’t just end there and trainer had to keep raising the final jump a couple holes. But, to be honest, the nice thing about Ranger is height doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care so why should I? As long a I actually had pace (for striding purpose to made things easy), the jumps didn’t actually matter)… So once we completed things at the planned height, we moved on.

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Inside single and outside line

We ended with something easy, cantering down an inside single towards the in gate and then up the outside line. Biggest challenges where to not get fast towards the gate and maintain a steady pace and then not die and get slow when passing the gate and keep going so that I could get a nice forward 6 in the outside line (I sometimes get too relaxed and then we lose our pace after the gate and instead do the add). But, this lesson that wasn’t the case. Turning the corner I managed to keep him in a steady canter to a nice spot for our canter, kept that pace through our turn, and moved him up to the 6 for the outside line instead of just sitting there for the line (because, without help he’d probably have added). Go figure, 2 weeks in a row my eye is working…

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The absolute best.

But, again, that’s because Ranger is perfect. Have I mentioned lately that I love this horse? With him, anything is possible. Jumping is fun again. And not scary (well, other than evil combination until we get through it). And I have no urge to jump other horses. Just him, because, why not? He’s perfect. He’s the best.

The gut feeling.

2 weeks ago the mid atlantic had what turned out to be a snow/ice event with 6″ of snow followed by probably 7 hours of sleet and some freezing rain and snow. Basically, all of the snow compacted and  we ended up with 5″ inches of concrete. Then there was a hard freeze.

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Evil, evil driveway

Everyone cares for horses differently. Some people lock up during storms (keep in mind, we were expecting a blizzard and were in the 18-24″ category). Some people turn out. My guys live out with 24/7 access to shelter. They always have. Jiminy and Batty would be fine living in a stall somewhere (though with my set up, this really isn’t an option), but Subi has never been one who does well with stall rest.  It brings him back to life on the track? I don’t know. He’s survived stall rest, but normally stall rest requires some help by drugs. As for stalling part of the time?  It’s never been something he’s adjusted to. I’ve tried it when I had access to stalls, but there is a trade off. The trade off being he doesn’t eat. I can stall him to eat (when I had that set up–we worked our way up to 1.5 hours), but anything more leads to too much paces/walking off weight, etc.

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Post storm shed antics.  Batts and Jiminy needed encouragement to leave…

So, with the storm coming, I packed the shed with hay nets (plus they always have a round bale out elsewhere), filled the unheated paddock trough, and basically fed dinner, added blankets, and said goodnight. Come morning, everyone was hanging out in the shed with no intention of leaving. See, that’s the thing. They’re happy to go in themselves and stay put, just don’t force them in. So, we skipped breakfast and didn’t feed until dinner when the mess had stopped.

 

By dinner Subi was bored and had wondered out (the other bums had to be coaxed out to play with treats–they had food so why leave?).  That night and the next couple of days it was super cold with a hard freeze and you could walk on top of the frozen mess–even the horses for the most part. Which caused problems. See, when Subi would walk, it was step, step, step, leg fall through. Step, step, step, leg fall through. So, he’d be really cautious while walking but…

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So on Thursday (3/16), I got home from work (sick), I looked out the window and notice that Subi was moving strangely. He was off, lame, but not necessarily lame lame if you know what I mean? I walked out and found his entire left hind stocked up with some heat around his stifle. He was definitely reactive when I’d mess with it, but certainly not 3-legged and while there was heat, it wasn’t hot or super swollen. Your could really see how off he was on turns (of course) but the more he moved, the better he looked, the more he stood, the worse he looked. I do want to add on thing about Subi. He isn’t lame. Ever.

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Nothing like finding a nice fat leg…

While most people would say I should have gotten the vet out, I didn’t. If it is a serious stifle injury, most horses don’t come back completely from them. I’m not going to put him on stall rest with hand walking (my shed can be converted to a stall so yes, that is an option). I am NOT doing that to this horse. Without serious drugs, he will cause massive injury to himself and others, lose weight, not eat (and he won’t eat on drugs), and possibly kill himself. For what? I just need him to be pasture sound and comfortable and happy. I’d put him down before I’d do stall rest (a decision I made years before).

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So, right now, we’re doing bute and he’s taking it easy. The swelling and heat are finally gone (yay!). Finally! And he’s walking normally again as of this weekend. But, my gut still says he’s protecting himself. He’s not joining in when Jiminy is carrying on and while he’s the mud lover, he’s less covered then he’d normally be and not on both sides. Saturday morning I gave him a nice grooming and after went to groom Batty (and promptly gave up–see evidence below *it would help if I included evidence*) and Subi did canter up to shoo Batty away but he’s not trotting so… I do want to get him out on the driveway and trot him and see where we stand. I do think that he’s just going to be a pasture pet which is fine.

After fighting with squirting crushed bute in applesauce down his throat,
we’ve mastered the bute-stud muffin pill pocket!

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**World’s Grossest Horse** The others side is actually worse, I just don’t have a picture. Take his legs and add that all over…

I don’t know.  But my gut just tells me something is up. And watching him move. And stand. And carry himself… So it might just be a  strain. It might be a slight tear. Who really knows. But, my job is to keep him happy and comfortable. I owe him that.

And we’ll see where he is. We’ll see if he needs something to keep him comfortable long term. Obviously bute isn’t a long term solution. But, that’s ok.

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Best friend. Always.

Ranger Recap: breaking up is hard to do?

It appears Ranger had a really rough week. He may have had some rough days last week too, though I’m not entirely sure since I cancelled my lesson last minute like a completely terrible person (like 20 minutes before my lesson… I’m awful) because Subi was lame, I freaked out, and then there was the issue of what turned out to be a horrible sinus infection AND the flu for me and a 102.something fever. So, I was probably good that I cancelled. So I’ll update on Subi later, though I don’t really know much and am waiting and seeing, but, honestly, I’m operating under he’s just retired forever. We’re not seeking vet care, he’s not lame, but he’s just off? Another post, another day.

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When you’re sick, sometimes a Lasagna kitty decides she is the cure…

So Ranger. Ranger evidently hasn’t exactly been the best behaved horse.  Which I have a hard time believing because he’s completely perfect. Other than 1 bad lesson last fall, he’s really been nothing but perfect. I’ve had an issue here any there with tight turns when I couldn’t ride and he didn’t help when I refused to sit up or do anything, but he’s basically perfect. So hearing that he’s been poorly behaved, well, I have a hard time believing it.

I got on early and basically just walked around while the lesson before was jumping around. I had no energy so walking around made me happy and I could have been happy doing just that. Then at some point, trainer mention that Ranger really needed me this week. And then mentioned 1) that he looked like the happiest horse in the world, 2) he’s had a rough week, 3) every time she says something like this I get on him and he walk around and prove her wrong and 4) he needs me. I love him.

So we warmed up with some trotting, bending, circles, during which she mentions, causally, that he took off with a child during the week. During that statement I noticed that the previous lesson left the gate wide open so if Ranger wanted to take off and take me to the barn at any point, he was free to do so. I was also asked if I wanted to show this weekend, but I’m busy with fun birthday and family stuff. This is super important** Moving on to the canter, Ranger took even move leg and we did a large circle to the right (easy) and a tiny circle to the left (hard side), down by the stupid open gate. We actually kept our canter. By this point, I had no energy left considering 3 days before I was still barely getting out of bed.

 

So, while I took a quick break, I learned more about poor Ranger’s week. In addition to his ring antics, he’s also broken up with his field mate and best friend Forrest as they’re too attached and are now no longer allowed to go out with each other. I guess being separated left Forrest (or Ranger) bucking/screaming/carrying on all day yesterday or today. Life is tough when you break up with your best friend. As a result, he’s been more crabby this week…

On to jumping. I refused to do any courses do to being dead and really didn’t jump much. Honestly, I was just happy to ride. The girls before me were stringing together 7-8 jump courses and I didn’t want that. So I prefaced jumping with that. So we started with a basic figure 8 with a strange approach basically having to cut between 2 jumps to approach jump 1 and then deep in the turn to the rail around the first jump of the outside line to the other inside single. Surprisingly, we did this perfectly the first time, complete with a nice, QUICK simple change. Now, normally I have a hard time with simple changes on Ranger because I die and we trot too many steps and then eventually get our canter back. This lesson, all our simple changes were perfect, single stride canter, perfect. Why? No idea. Because he’s perfect.

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Not to scale, really bad attempt to draw the course. Several jumps may be missing…

So from there we when the other direction. So, down the first single, then between the 2 jumps (really freaking tight), tight turn to the other single away from the in gate. Despite the fact that when I turned I was, for a stride, looking at the WRONG fence, we got to it and got a perfect spot.  In fact, ever damn spot was perfect. **why can’t I ride like this when I’m showing? Even trainer made the comment about how disappointing it is.

So, despite being dead, we ended by going back to our first single (heading away from the in gate) and then continuing instead to our outside line in our 6 stride. Now, I hate this line and have an irrational fear of the last jump. It’s the stupid picket fence gate and straw bale. I just think I’m going to impale myself on the blunt gate. Why? no clue. Nonetheless… I also suck on the  turn to the line. But, I did my first jump, perfect spot because that was the order of the night, perfect change, because, why not, turned perfectly because, again, let’s not question things, and then the damn spot for the first jump was there. So, in order to not screw up the night of everything being perfect, I made a conscious decision to add leg (we were slow and I saw something), ride, and what do you know, the spot was there. And that was the night of perfect spots, on the perfect horse, that people were spreading false rumors about.

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Perfection.

So I promptly gave him a large hug (again — he got lots of pats and hugs throughout because, well, why not?) and stuffed his face with carrots and peppermints. I try to stay out of his way when I ride, but if Ranger likes me, I think it’s because I stuff him full of treats after every lessons.

4 years.

Yesterday marks the 4 year anniversary of a day that really changed my life in ways I had no way of knowing.

4 years ago I came home from work a little early (I had a migraine and I think I just wasn’t feeling work and wanted to lay down) and went out to feed Hayley her “tea.” Hayley got a mid day meal we called tea. Normally Erik fed and he had the routine down, but since I was home first, I decided to feed. So, part of the routine was clearing everyone out of the paddock/shed so I could feed her. I decided to untie the hay nets first and had her bucket waiting in the lawn.

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It was muddy and for some strange reason Batty was hanging out in the shed (he uses the shed when there’s food in it and when it’s raining or snowing). So I went it and starting untying the nets. Hayley runs in and sees Batts and charges out, bucking. ***Please keep in mind, this was my crippled mare.***

On her way out, she bucked and clipped me in the head. Remember that there was a whole lot of mud in the shed. I fell forward, grabbed the shed to stop myself from falling snapped my head back, basically rocking my brain around my skull a few times. But, I didn’t fall in the damn mud. Anyway, somehow I didn’t lose consciousness and got myself out of the paddock  with the hay net (I think the hay net ended up on my bed), but I don’t think I fed Hayley. Details are fuzzy. Looking back, I actually don’t have a lot of memory of this beyond what I’m writing which is freaky.

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Sweet, innocent Hayley. I feel guilty that I never trusted her completely again. And I tea was 100% my husband’s responsibility. I could do breakfast and dinner but not tea. 

So I called my husband, argued with him about going to the ER when he got home (I was in the against column), called my aunt, chatted her for awhile (in all honesty, I was trying to stay awake and alive and conscious), and then I looked in the mirror, saw the shape of a hoof on my forehead and agreed to go to the ER when my husband got home (I’m sure he’d have made me go, but…).

Of course, the idiot ER doctor was the start of my problems. After determining that I had no skull fracture (thank you for being barefoot Hayley — I’m actually paranoid about putting shoes on anyone now — I’d likely be dead) the idiot told me since there was no fracture, I had no concussion. I mean, I didn’t help by arguing I was fine, but anyone could tell I wasn’t. I was told to follow up with my primary in 3-5 days and take ibuprofen if I felt pain. And maybe I could use some ice, but only if absolutely necessary. And there was no reason not to go to work.

So, the next day, feeling like crap, light headed, sick to my stomach, with a pack of ice, no sleep, and near constant ibuprofen, I went to work. By noon, my boss sent me home and wouldn’t let me work my weekend shift. At some point I made an appointment with my primary care doctor’s office and they couldn’t see me until the following Wednesday. I can’t remember if I tried to go to work Monday and failed or if my boss banned me until I saw my doctor. By my doctor’s appointment, I couldn’t drive, walk in a straight line, or, guess what, talk in full sentences. I could get half formed words and that was about it. Holy concussion. And it got worse from there.

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(Weird backwards computer selfie…) Dropping black eye. You can see the mark on my forehead above my eye where I got kicked. If you look at my other eye, you can see bruising is starting and a second black eye is forming. They both ended up black. 

So my doctor was furious at the ER for being stupid. Furious at his office for hearing the words “kicked in head” and “head injury” and NOT getting me in immediately and fearful that the idiot ER may not have order the right scans or failed to read them right (thankfully, in we were clear in both cases as the ER did something right).  So, I was out of work for a couple of weeks until I was cleared… With the warning to avoid future head injuries…

That said, 4 years later, I still deal with some post concussive syndrome stuff. When I’m tired, I lose words. When I’m stressed, I lose words. When I’m overwhelmed, I lose words. It appears, losing words is my lingering symptom. All of this was made worse by not resting right away after the concussion. While I didn’t have any immediate concussion symptoms, they can take a 1-2 weeks to show. That’s why it kills me when people are so sure they DON’T have a concussion (me included this past fall…). The kick was a huge part of mine, but the not falling and catching myself was actually the likely larger culprit for my problems. I saw an improvement after a year, but at this point, I think the rest of it is here to stay.

I’ve also always had migraines, but this concussion seemed to move me from the acute-to-chronic category (8-15) to the chronic category (20+).

 

 

Lesson Recap 3/9 – All things Ranger

For the first time in about 3+ weeks, I had a lesson. And thanks to the glorious weather, we rode outside. Thank you lovely outdoor lights and 60 degree weather! You are all a fond memory since Friday greeted us with snow and Friday into Saturday saw temperatures around 13 degrees…

Since my last lesson before vacation, I rode exactly once (a quick ride on Ranger last week). I also had the stomach flu and completely lost any an all endurance I might have had before vacation. And for some reason after being migraine free for almost 9 (!) days, have had migraines for about 4 of the last 5 days including a really nasty one the day before. Despite all of this, I decided to actually go to my lesson, because, well, Ranger makes life better and I know this. This horse is therapy.

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How can you say no to this face?

So the lesson started with the question: Was he wild when you rode him last week?

Um… no. He was comatose. I barely had enough leg to keep him forward. Granted I was sick, but, he was the usually Ranger, but slightly sleepier.

Oh. Really? He was crazy. I’ve never seen him like that. I guess it was just his rider.

See, I got a text Wednesday night while on my way back to the airport asking if I could ride Ranger while trainer was out of town on Thursday because he was wild. I assumed wild was an exaggeration, because, it’s Ranger and Ranger and wild are words that just don’t go together. And sometimes if my trainer is away at a show and I miss my lesson, I get an opportunity to ride Ranger. I just assumed maybe he was a little faster than usual and this was the case.  Evidently not. But, as usual, he was my perfect Ranger.

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This face = perfection

So, onto the lesson. For some reason, whenever I haven’t ridden, we seem to do MORE flat work with less breaks. It’s not that we were working on anything, just that I didn’t get to rest. So, some circles, cantering from the trot, back to the trot from the canter, changing direction, cantering again, and then oh, wait, canter over that log jump, change your lead, do it again. It was the do it again that I finally said fine, but I need to walk a second. Endurance wasn’t there at that point. First time over the log (weird angled jump by the in gate) I was sort of happy with it (mostly since I saw my spot), but, we were a little long, hence the do it again. Second time through, I never established a great canter. We were more forward and rushed the jump and chipped. Third time through I was able to establish a nice pace early and then just worry about maintaining my rhythm to the middle of the jump (the second time I drifted a bit as I wasn’t focused towards the center of the fence either) and we finally found a nice distance and got to more on. One thing that this trainer focuses on is to steer with both hands together–I’m so used to keeping each hand independent that this is often a challenge–but it makes a huge difference. I think part of the issue is someone years ago ingrained in my head that I couldn’t cross my hand over the mane, but by allowing my hands so work together (instead of fighting each — I have soft hands so fighting in a way that someone with soft hands can fight–so instead of being ineffective?) I can work effectively?

So from here we moved up quickly and my brain got fried. More in a direction sense than anything else. Staying on the left lead, trainer wanted me to canter into the this inside oxer (tight turn — turning before the log jump on the corner)  and take the long ride around to the inside line which was a straw bale jump to something else that I don’t remember. My issue was the path the get to the oxer. Does anyone ever just NOT understand directions? For the longest time stood there trying to figure out if she meant to turn before or after the log jump –meaning turning AT the jump, not realizing the turn was way before the jump, the same place I would start turning to approach that jump. Adult issues. Once we got THAT out of the way, I realized how huge the jump looked. It’s amazing how big jumps look when you haven’t jumped in a while! I’m sure it wasn’t too much more than 2’6″, but it looked huge, solid and built up. Of course I was reminded Ranger doesn’t care… First time through was fine, though I turned a bit late to the first fence. Second time was better. From there we were to add on our outside single. Except as we went to continue to our single, everyone (but me) seemed to get distracted. See, we are near the TastyKake factory and sometimes you can smell TastyKakes when the wind blows. Of course that night your could smell doughnuts. So, a comment was made about the smell, I respond, still looking and seeing my spot, Ranger thinks his job is done, trainer forgets we still have a fence to go and then remembers, meanwhile I’m adding leg determined NOT TO LOSE THE CANTER NO MATTER WHAT. We got the damn distance I wanted, but it was way too much work. Stupid TastyKakes.

From here, Ranger got a little mad as he thought we were finished. See, trainer got up from the gazebo and walked into the ring to adjust jumps/gave him a hug, but the getting up part was his cue that he was finished. We switched from cantering the short ride/tight turn into our single oxer and instead rode it the other direction (long ride) around to our outside line (in a 7) (we may have repeated this a couple of times before the course, I don’t remember), continuing to the inside line around to the outside single around to the inside single (that I didn’t know I was doing or that it existed — I just heard keep cantering to the inside single so I’m cantering until I finally saw I jump– thankfully I saw it eventually — and the spot was good because it felt huge ). We finished by cantering down our oxer around to our outside line, remember to rebalance, and moving up to the 6. Of course, the 6 felt way easier and more comfortable. But, I actually sat up after the oxer, lifted someone’s big head up an inch or two so that he couldn’t pull me forward, and added leg since we were now going away from the in gate. Amazing how those things work.

 

So lessons learned for the evening.

  1. Rebalancing after jumps really helps set up the next line.  If I stay forward, I can’t really do much. If I sit up, I can actually ride? Rebalanced Ranger is really easy to adjust
  2. Setting pace early makes things so much easier
  3. Steering with both hands is useful and helps get all of Ranger where he needs to be, not just part of him
  4. Stop worrying about the size of the jumps. Ranger doesn’t care so why should I?
  5. Ranger makes life better.

 

Plan 2017 because life is getting me down

I’ve been highly unmotivated lately. And busy. And just haven’t felt much like blogging.

The horse world has been getting me down and I think I’m done with parts of it again. I just sort of want to run away and hide and be done with it again. If I could just hang out with my horses, take my lessons on Ranger, and go to the occasional show? I think I could be happy. But right now just doing THAT isn’t in the cards. I’m trying to be vague here. Maybe I’ll say more one day.

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“Are they making fun of me?”

I taught a lot years ago. I loved it at first. It paid for a lot for me. I wasn’t experienced, but I knew enough to do what I did (or at least I thought I did, some days, I look back and wonder what the heck I was doing). But, I mostly stuck with up-downers and got students to the point where they could do more and passed them along. On safe horses, that’s probably OK. People can argue otherwise, but fine. (Side note, it was kind of cool last year at Devon, a of my very first student stopped to see if I remembered her and to say hello. Her daughter was showing in the junior hunters. I’ll take all undue credit for that! And for the very first lesson at 3 years old (and for other subsequent lessons later on) for another former student who is showing all other in the junior jumpers–granted, in her case–much credit should be given for not murdering her multiple times when she was under the age of 10…And she is reminded of this!) It’s what allowed me to have Subi, but it also burned me out. It was also the push that eventually gave me the confidence to take me horses OUT of the boarding environment. But, looking back, I hated how things were done and how I was treated. But, I did it because I needed to financially.

I started teaching again when I needed a little bit more financially assistance. It was different. But, now, a few years later, it’s not? Except it is? I barely teach (I have 4 students, mostly adult beginners, 2 teen beginners), but in the spring/summer/fall–trail rides = $$. But, there is drama now and I have enough drama with my real life (aka work) and I don’t need it! Except the little bit I make still helps cover my horse habit. Everything was fine until it wasn’t (politics). And I could be making everything up in my head, but between work and life, I just feel this big source of anxiety regarding horses now.

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I really do love these boys…

So, having said all of that, I’m focusing my energy right now on what I can control. Like how awesome Ranger is (I haven’t had a lesson since Feb. 16… I was out of town, then trainer was out of town, but I got to ride him last week anyway while trainer was away and he just made me happy despite the fact that I was sick (don’t get sick on vacation, it sucks) and miserable.. .). How muchly annoying Subi is. Idiot horse decided to stop eating before vacation so we’ve gone through ANOTHER grain switch, but he’s eating well again. The feed store people think he’s insane, but are constantly trying to come up with solutions and having employee brainstorming sessions to solve his issues. But, right now, we eat. Tomorrow we might now, but that’s tomorrow’s problem. How much Batty needs to get back into work. But, when nice weather happens during the work week and arctic weather occurs during the weekend, that’s just life.

So, I’m coming up with a plan. No goals, because goals = immediate failure (yeah, about those goals on my performance appraisal… oops), but a plan because they can allow for a change in course..

Plan 2017

Subi

Spring 2017

  • Ground work with rope halter
  • Begin trailer loading?

Summer 2017

  • Begin work under saddle
  • Visit with trailer loading guru for self-loading lesson if necessary?

Summer 2017 Wishful Thinking:

  • Field trips to trainer’s property?
  • flat work lesson or training ride with trainer?

Batts:

Spring 2017

  • Body clip
  • Ground work for better manners…
  • Introduce rope halter/reins
  • Good Friday Paperchase at Fair Hill if I can get off work/find people to ride with
  • Plenty of trail rides

New super adjustable rope halter I can’t wait to play with!

Summer 2017

  • Trail rides/paper chases
  • Visit new parks for rides
  • continue work with rope halter/reins

Jiminy

Spring 2017

  • Attitude adjustment! (Just kidding, but he needs a job!)
  • Introduce bit
  • Purchase surcingle/harness/etc. (any suggestions?)
  • General desensitizing (He has a REALLY good brain so this will be FUN)

Summer 2017

  • Introduce harness/surcingle/crupper
  • start ground driving.