Sunday, July 27, 2014

Awesome Haffie is Awesome!

Paddy's been doing super amazingly well with the addition of corners and big circles to his workout routine. He's 110% and hasn't taken an off step yet, so I breathe a little easier every time we have a sound, successful ride. Fingers crossed that things continue!

Haffie is not impressed about being 110%.

The first few rides, we just did laps around the arena at a walk and trot. I counted carefully - two laps walk, two laps trot, change direction, lather, rinse, and repeat. Y'all, rehab is SO BORING. Ohhh how I wanted to do a circle. Maybe a teeny lateral. Shoulder fore, even! ANYTHING. But all of that was strictly off limits. Besides, I had my hands full with getting Mr. Haffington to do something between mach-one-Haffie trot and Western Pleasure Haffie trot. Seriously, the boy has no rhythm whatsoever. And also, he'd like his rider to hold him up, please. So much easier that way!

So we have been working on rhythm. Lots of sitting trot for me (with posting mixed in so I don't get stiff), lots of half-halts, transitions, and reminding myself to let go of the left rein, dammit. Paddy is very sneaky about changing rhythm too - you'll be going along nice and light, and then one step later you realize he's tucked his nose an inch in toward his chest, and you're being run away with at the trot. HOW does he DO that?!?! Big half-halt with seat and hand (and LET GO DAMMIT), then leg and back to the nice rhythm. Wait till he tries it again, only this time try to catch him before he actually succeeds.

Sneaky Haffie, I tell you.

This is a sneaky Haffie. Really. Even his EARZ look sneaky.

Now, after almost two weeks, I feel like we're getting somewhere. I've added 20+ meter circles in, and I've been asking for more push forward without rushing. The last two rides have just been beautiful - I feel like he's really coming over his back for 5-6 steps at a time, like he's finally relaxing and moving more fluidly. I'm also trying to be very cognizant of my body position and relaxing, and damn if he doesn't move better when I ride better. Strangest thing ever, I tell ya.

I wish I had pics or video of how he's going right now, but I apparently am the only person who rides after work or in the early morning. Lauren's schedule and mine haven't coincided this week, so no pictures to be had. Hopefully in the next week I'll be able to get some - I'd really like to see how he's going from the ground.

You will have to make do with this silhouette of us. His butt's not that big in real life, I swear.

Tomorrow, I'm going to call the vet and ask if maybe we can canter. Maybe please?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I got to ride SimonPants again!

Lauren and I are taking advantage of both being at the same barn and getting some extra ride time in. She’s riding Paddykins for me when I can’t get out and she has time, and I got to ride Simon for her last night. Let me just say it’s so AWESOME to ride an actual trained horse! I mean, I love Paddy, but Simon has all these buttons and this lovely, steady way of going and he’s just so much fun to ride!


If you’ve been following Lauren’s blog, you’ll know she’s worried about Simon’s mysterious hind-end weirdness, where he takes an off step every now and again. We’ve talked about it a lot, and she asked me to tell her what I felt when I sat on him.

First, and most importantly, Simon doesn’t seem to be in any pain. He was super happy to get out and work, very cooperative and tried really hard for me. I swear I’m going to turn him into a dressage pony!

One thing I noticed right off the bat was that my right hip was being moved around a lot more than my left, even at the walk. This is consistent with the vet’s report that he picks his right hip up higher than the left. You can actually see this if you watch the top of Simon’s butt as he moves away from you. Simon’s right hock is the one that’s in the process of fusing, so it’s possible that he’s trying to compensate for the lack of range of motion in the hock with more motion in his hip. Kind of like if your knee didn’t bend, you’d have to pick your leg up from your hip.

Simon is quite stiff laterally, meaning that he doesn’t bend much in his body or neck - especially to the left. Horses are generally more stiff on the side opposite from the side they won’t bend, and this makes sense if Simon is compensating more with the right side of his body and is therefore less flexible on that side. However, when I insisted that he bend, he tried really hard and gave me some super nice soft moments – what a good boy!

I pushed him a little to see what might help him (or make him worse), asking for a little shoulder fore, some leg yield (without losing the shoulders, thank-you-very-much!), and some spiral-in-spiral-out on the circle. I asked for a lot of forward and a lot of inside leg action, even just on the straightaways and in the corners. In our first trot circle, on a long-ish rein with no forward, he mis-stepped behind three times. However, the more I asked for, the less of a problem he had – he only mis-stepped five more times in my entire ride, and always in places where the footing was a bit deep/churned up. It was always the right hind that took the funny step, and it happened mostly tracking right. It was also very, very subtle – more like a “whoops, I forgot that foot!” than an actual lame step. My guess (and I’m no vet) is that he occasionally has a bit of trouble compensating for the loss of motion in the hock, which results in a very subtle funny step that’s hard to see from the ground but can be felt from the saddle. The more he’s asked to engage, the less of a problem it is.

Obviously, the solution is for Lauren to start riding dressage on her lovely dressage horse. Wink-wink-nudge-nudge. ;)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Paddy goes to rehab

Two posts in one week! Gasp!

In my quick drive-by reader's digest post of what's happened in the last three months, I mentioned that Paddy is recovering from a soft tissue injury. I'm pretty sure it happened during a ride where he INSISTED he wanted to trot at mach one-Haffie for about 45 minutes... we were out in a field, of course, not in an arena, but we blasted around and the next day he was head-bobbing lame at the trot. Several hundred dollars' worth of flexions, blockings, and xrays later, and the diagnosis was a soft tissue injury in the back of the foot on his right front. Mr. Paddy-pants got a month of stall rest and small-area turnout, followed by a month of unlimited tack-walking (in straight lines, on the road), followed by a month of trotting (in straight lines, on the road), starting with 5 minutes and adding 5 more minutes each week, till we were up to 20 minutes. 
On the road again... I just can't wait to get off this damn road again....

This month, the vet wants us to start adding gentle corners and big circles - which we obviously cannot do on the road. And she recommended that we use an actual arena* with actual flat footing, instead of our usual riding areas which do not have any improved footing.

*Yes, we plan to build an actual arena. We just don't have one yet, dammit.

I considered hauling out a few times per week and paying to use an arena, but the nearest one is a 30 minute haul and there's a $10-20 arena fee per use. Add in the cost of diesel, and it's not a cheap endeavor. So I looked at boarding. Um, when did board become $600+/mo with 3 hours of turnout/day? I should seriously charge myself more, lol! And then Lauren over at She Moved to Texas was all, "Come board where I'm at!!!" Turns out, they had an individual pasture board spot available for about half as much as most places charge for stall board! There's a decent sand arena and a nice grass arena as well, plus the place is huge and you can "trail ride" up and down the paddock rows. Lauren also offered to help ride Paddy if I can't get out there as much as I'd like (still gotta take care of the boys at home, lol). Of course, it's a H/J barn and I'm the only person there riding in a dressage saddle, but whatever. Paddy's cute and makes up for all my faults. ;)

I took him out on Wednesday, and Simon was there to greet us.

Herro BFF PADDY!!!!

I rode him right after we got there. He was a bit looky (not surprising) and very forward but happy to walk on a long rein and look around. We did a total of 8 minutes of trotting in 2 minute sets, with lots of walking in between. He was hot and sweaty after that, even though at home we're up to 20 minutes of trot - working in any kind of footing is harder than working on the road, lol! But the best part is...

HE'S SOUND!!!!! Totally sound and happy to work. HOORAYYY!

And also he's totally rockin' the tousled beach-boy look. We just need to add some water to the sandbox and he could do the blonde surfer dude thing.

I was a bit worried we might have overdone it, but Lauren rode him the next day and reported that he was 100% sound and er, very forward. That's my boy!

I'm hoping that things will continue in this vein and we'll be able to do 2-4 weeks of trot with corners and big circles, and then the vet will give us leave to canter. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, Paddy is already building his fan club at the barn, lol!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

OMG! A new post!!!

Greetings Bloggy World!

Enough people have asked whether I'm still alive (I am!) that I figured I'd better get off my sorry butt and actually post to reassure everyone that everyone at Wyvern Oaks is OK. Truly, I never intended to take a three-month blogging hiatus, but it's been the strangest thing - I just haven't felt like blogging. At all. It's not that I don't have anything to say. It's not even that I don't have time. It's just that I haven't really been driven to sit down and write. For three months. Whoops.

Let's go with the reader's digest version of what's happened since I last posted:

  • Cash and Red are doing great. Red continues to be put out by what he considers "boring" rides to keep others company, but Cash is happy to go on his weekly short hacks.
  • Paddy is coming back from a soft tissue injury in his RF that happened about three months ago. We're up to trotting 20 minutes daily on a hard surface in straight lines, and this week we get to add big circles and smooth corners. I. Am. So. Bored. Those of you who have rehabbed s/t injuries will know my pain.
  • Paddy's new custom saddle and bridle arrived and they are AWESOMESAUCE. Let me just say that having a saddle custom fitted to your pelvis and leg, not to mention your horse's back and girth spot, is the best thing ever. I have never felt so solid and secure, and NOT been fighting my tack. So nice!
  • I pimped out some fly bonnets for Connor over at Cob Jockey and Ramone over at Viva Carlos. Bling EVERYWHERE!!!
  • Hubby and I went to Australia for a jousting tournament, and while I was there, I got to meet Alicia and Romany over at The Young Horse Experience. She took us on an amazing trail ride through the Australian bush, and let me just say that Rommey is the CUTEST THING EVAR. Also, he's very large when you're used to a Haffie. ;)

As for blogging... I think I'm back! I've missed you guys!

Consider this a drive-by post. More details to come...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

26 things you didn't know about Cash

I started off writing a post about our history, but it became a book. So figured I'd do 26 things about him - one for each year!

Another awesome pic courtesy of Lauren.
  1. Although I've ridden since I was 13, Cash is my first horse. I bought him for $1 when I graduated from college.
  2. He's a registered American Paint Horse. He's dual-registered as a Pinto.
  3. His registered APHA name is Midnight Dollar. I thought this was the dumbest name ever, so I showed him in eventing and dressage as Black Tie Affair. 
  4. He started out life as a reining horse, and won ROM points in the 2 and 3 year old APHA divisions. This early start in life came back to haunt him in later years.
  5. When I met him, he was trying to be a child's all-around horse. He was terrible at Western Pleasure.
  6. He used to absolutely lose his marbles when you went into an arena at a show. Sidepassing, half-rearing, bolting... it was truly a special thing. Getting into the dressage arena without blowing a gasket was challenging for quite a while!
  7. Cash used to be terrified of men. I remember one clinic we attended, the male clinician went to pat him on the neck and Cash bolted sideways/backwards without warning. I'm pretty sure he thought the guy was going to hit him.
  8. When I first got him, he didn't understand that he could go more than one speed within a gait.  The day he figured out he could do an extended trot, it was all he would do for a week! He was so proud of himself for figuring it out, lol!
  9. You could not touch his mouth, ever. We did dressage in a Happy Mouth eggbutt snaffle and getting even the lightest contact was always a challenge.
  10. Early on, I couldn't take Cash on trail rides. I remember one ride where we literally cantered at a walking speed for an hour, bouncing off of trees and nearly getting ourselves killed. Even now, Cash can only go out with one or two other horses, and starts to lose it if he's not in the front.
  11. He's an incredibly sensitive horse to ride. The tiniest shift of weight, or tilting of your head, and he'd respond. It taught me to be a very quiet rider.
  12. He never learned to trot through trot poles. He would canter them, every time, and he never touched a single pole.
  13. We never had a rail down in stadium, ever. NO TOUCHY THE JUMPS!!!
  14. Cash can't stand being clean. He is a professional roller and will often flip over multiple times to make sure he's completely covered. For shows, I would scrub and scrub and use QuickColor shampoo and  blueing to make him white, then keep him wrapped and blanketed, which he hated. As soon as we were done with the show, I'd make a mud puddle in his pasture for him to roll in - and he always got as dirty as possible!  
  15. Perfectly dirty.

  16. He only refused a fence once in his entire career. It was a Training level down bank into the water that took our half of our division. I was so surprised I forgot to ride and got us eliminated. Oops!
  17. Jumping out of the water was fine, however.

  18. Remember that arena thing? I could barely get Cash into the start box XC for more than a second. Fun times!
  19. I once took him foxhunting. I thought it wasn't the best idea ever, but I really REALLY wanted to go. As it turns out, I was right and it was a terrible idea - we spent the entire time fighting. We've never been again.
  20. Cash doesn't know how to eat a whole apple. He will only eat it if you cut it up into bit-sized pieces. Anything else would be uncivilized, clearly.
  21. We retired from jumping after an incredibly successful year in 1999, where we went from Beginner Novice to Training and were planning to move up to Prelim. Toward the end of the year, he was NQR behind, and one of the best vets in the country diagnosed him with arthritis in his hock. I spent several years trying to treat the arthritis, but nothing ever helped.
  22. Cash is not a snuggly horse, but every so often he'll asked to be scratched - usually right around dusk, just after being turned out or as I'm finishing up barn chores. He follows me around oh-so-politely, as if to say, "Excuse me...?" He will actually show me (with his nose) where the itchy spots are (usually his sides or legs), and then he'll sidle up to me so that I'm right next to the itchy spot - usually his withers or his butt. He'll spend 30 minutes or more pointing out the itchy spots, and when he's done, he walks away without so much as a thank-you.
  23. We showed second level once, at a schooling show, but we could do all the movements through fourth level with the exception of flying lead changes. He never quite understood how to do those. We also schooled baby piaffe a few times - so cool!
  24. Cash has 7 spots on his nose. I count them regularly (and poke them as I do), which he puts up with.
  25. Three years after being diagnosed with arthritis, I took him to a different vet for a second opinion, since nothing I was doing seemed to make him any more comfortable. This time, we got a REAL diagnosis - a bone lesion under the suspensory on his RH. The vet suspected it had started as a 2/3 year old during reining training, and it only flared up when the work was hard enough (i.e. jumping 3'+ and doing extended gaits). Despite 9 months off, it never fully healed, but he was still comfortable doing Training level dressage.
  26. Cash was a dressage schoolmaster until he retired at 19, with a mystery lameness high up in his hind end. He lived for three years an at amazing retirement facility called Paint Creek Ranch, and after two years miraculously came back sound. 
  27. Cash has always - ALWAYS - been at the very bottom of the pecking order at every barn I've ever been at. Most of the time I had to have him on private or semi-private turnout so he wouldn't get the crap beat out of him. The only horse he's ever been friends with (where said friend didn't beat the crap out of him) was Saga, who would even share his grain with Cash
  28. Cash usually waits at the gate for a bedtime treat. He just stands politely and looks cute until someone notices him and gives him something. So adorable!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Happy 26th Birthday to my Very First Pony

Cash turns 26 today. I'm amazed we've made it this far, since he's been so prone to all sorts of illnesses. He is my very first horse, bought when I finished college for the low low price of $1. I've had him for 18 years now, and we've done everything from Training level eventing to Second level dressage, jousting, and trail riding. He's been a part of my life longer than just about anyone or anything else.

I don't have a lot of pics of him because he was retired from competition by 2001, and digital pics were new back then. However, Lauren was kind enough to come over this weekend and take some shots of him so I would have some candid memories. As usual, she takes amazing photos and I just love them. Lauren, thank you SO MUCH for the beautiful memories. You captured him - and our relationship - perfectly.

So, so handsome. This shot is my favorite of the two of us.

Love this face!

More adorableness :)

Had to get one shot with the hair, lol!


Happy Birthday to the best Spotted Pony in the whole wide world!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Movin' on up (to First Level)

After our awesome showing at Training 2 and 3 (let's ignore my senior moments, TYVM), a couple of people asked if I'd thought about moving us up to First Level. I admit, yes I've had that thought, since it's really the next logical step.

(Caveat: I suppose the next REALLY logical step is to show him at Training at a recognized show - because face it, a schooling show and a recognized show just aren't the same thing. Maybe we could try to qualify for the regional USDF Championships? But I'm not sure that the year-ends are my goal here. Maybe? There are plenty of recognized shows I could go to, but they are quite pricey, and I really need to think about WHY I'm attending them if I'm going to go. That question isn't yet resolved, so I'll focus on moving up instead.)

Anyway, I sat down and checked out the first level tests earlier this week. Let's just say that we currently have NONE of the pieces needed to put together a first-level test. Sure, we can trot 10 meter circles and canter 15 meter circles (really!), but I'd never even considered asking Paddy for a lengthen  trot or canter, both of which show up in all three tests. Heck, I've spend nearly every ride trying to slow him down, not asking for more! First level also requires a leg yield both directions, and while he's great to the left, he still sort of gets stuck going right.

Oh well, I guess that gives us plenty to work on, right?

That being said, this is not a bad lengthen for a first try. Go Haffie Power!