Saturday, January 17, 2015

Big changes for Cash and Red

Some of y'all may remember my post about retiring Reddums. We had originally planned to take him to a nearby retirement facility, and keep Cash at home with us. Five horses really is too many here, and it made the most sense to keep Cash home, considering the level of care he requires.

And then... then we realized just how bonded Cash is to Red, despite the fact that Red bosses him around. When Cash lost his BFF Saga several years ago, it took him months to recover. We felt like, at his age, it wasn't fair to put him through that again, especially if we could avoid it.

Over the past few months, Cash has gotten more and more stressed at any small changes in his routine. It actually got to the point here where taking any of our other horses off-property would cause him to panic, pacing himself into a sweat. Even if Red was right with him, he fretted. Of course, hubby and I often take Paddy and Brego on trail rides, and we usually haul out for lessons at least 1-2 times per week. That meant that Cash was constantly in a state of worry when someone left. In fact, that was the deciding factor in choosing to move them both together - we just can't provide the type of stability that Cash seems to need at this point in his life. I really do think that older horses get a bit senile, and changes in daily routine become very stressful.

But where to take him? The local retirement place doesn't provide the level of care that Cash needs. However, several years ago, Cash was retired at an amazing facility called Paint Creek Ranch (appropriate, since he's a Paint, no?). It was truly horsey paradise, and Cash loved it. Unfortunately, the facility moved from about 45 minutes from us to over 3 hours away, right about the time we bought Wyvern Oaks, so we decided to bring him home. However, Claudia (the owner) is one of the few people in the world I would trust to take care of my horses long-term - she actually provides better care than we do! So I called her and got both of the boys placed on their waiting list. I was warned that it might be a while, but that's expected.

In the meantime, Cash's stress level continued to get worse. Bringing another horse into the aisle for grooming stressed him out. Having to stay in due to inclement weather stressed him out. He would stop eating, sometimes for several meals. I called Claudia and asked if she had any suggestions, and amazingly, she told me to go ahead and bring both boys up right away.

MC was kind enough to make the long drive with me, and help Mr. Schpot settle in. The boys have 16x16 stalls when the weather is bad.

Red took approximately .0003 seconds to settle in and point out that the food pan was empty.

Claudia instantly made friends with Reddums. I think the treats in her pocket might have helped.

Red surveys his new domain.

The boys have settled in well, and Red now acts like he owns the place (of course). Cash is gaining weight daily, and seems to like the more stable routine. Claudia also sends me pictures often (LOVE THAT), and the boys look fantastic.

Poser.

They get brought in and separated for feeding, 3 times a day. 

I have no idea how the staff at Paint Creek got the boys to do this. They are just that good!

Still handsome after all these years

And filthy, lol!

We are hoping to go visit them next month - it's a 3.5 hour drive, so we won't be able to go very often. Still, I know they are getting the best care possible, and that sets my mind at ease. They both deserve the best after everything they have done for us. <3 p="">

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

HORSE BLOGGERS WEEKEND CONFIRMING DETAILS!

Remember last year when Lauren and I invited everyone to a bloggers weekend in Austin?  Well, that's officially happening!  There's even a date...

Friday, February 27th - Sunday, March 1st in Austin, Texas
Now, we're basically two months out so it's time to really confirm details.  We want to create Facebook group or e-mail list of people who are seriously interested in coming whether you are local and would love to meet up for a day or want to fly in and stay with either Lauren or myself.

Before we go any further with the proposed itinerary or reasons you should come hang out with us, please fill out this survey if you are interested in coming.  It's extremely important that we collect all the details so we can pull off this event!

Okay, on to some potential plannings and happenings!  I also want to note that though Lauren and I have primarily worked together on this proposed schedule, there are also other cool Austin bloggers who are certainly included in any fun/hosting they want to (we just didn't want to commit ya'll to stuff against your will... muhahaha).
Come to Austin, we have long horns
Come to Austin, we have long horns
Friday
  • Arrive in Austin per your schedule.
  • Any early arrivers can enjoy south Austin activities... 
  • Lauren can shuttle people from the airport during business hours.
  • I can shuttle people from airport in early evening
  • Dinner provided at Lauren's house (Mauldin Bungalow) for everyone.  Post dinner shenanigans to be determined.
  • Group splits up into accommodations
I will take you to this magical candy shop
Lauren will take you to this magical candy shop. I'll take you to the tack shop.
Saturday
  • Breakfast provided at the Mauldin Bungalow
  • Venture up north to see the amazing Simon pants
  • Tack shopping at Dover Saddlery and/or The Tack Shop of Austin
  • Out to lunch
  • Journey back down south to the world's cutest Haflinger & versatile (also cute) Draft Horse
  • Possible afternoon activity like wine tasting, depending on time
  • Dinner provided at Wyvern Oaks
  • For night owls, go visit some Austin nightlife downtown
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Sunday
  • Breakfast provided at Wyvern Oaks
  • Traveling to/from airport for folks
Of course, this schedule is pretty tentative since we're two months out and subject to change/be added to depending on how many people we actually have coming.
You're responsible for buying your own old fashioned sodas
You're responsible for buying your own old fashioned sodas
What kind of expenses will I have for this weekend?
Since we know that traveling is not super cheap, we're trying to keep the expenses as low as possible for folks.  Here's what you can expect:
  • Cost of getting to and from Austin
  • Money for Lunch on Saturday
  • Money for any drinking/shopping/misc
  • Cost of getting to and from airport if your arrival/departure time is outside of when Lauren or Jen can pick you up (roughly $40 each way)
Am I really invited?
You really are!  We really hope you come and enjoy and have fun meeting other bloggers :)  Please don't forget to take the survey so we can make this idea a reality.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Meet Augustus, our new small pony

It's possible that we adopted a Pyrenees pony puppy this weekend.

Meet Augustus!

The vet says he's 2, but given that he still does that puppy prance thing and has NO idea where all his legs are, we're thinking he's probably closer to a year old.

That's actually a horse-sized muck bucket (used as a water tub), in case you're wondering.

Here's a 60-lb Malamute for comparison.

He and Elias are getting along great - Elias is the boss, and Augustus follows him everywhere and does everything just the same.

Large Malamute on right, Small Pony on left.

Why another dog? Because we're having some issues with coyotes being aggressive, and as Elias gets older (he's 10), he's less and less interested in patrolling and more and more interested in laying in the sunbeams in the barn aisle. Not that there's anything wrong with laying in sunbeams, mind you. Augustus seemed like a good match, so we're giving it a try. He's a bit too interested in the cats and chickens if they're moving, but he also listens very well, especially for a Pyr. There's a lot of training to be done, but he's a good boy and so sweet!

And how can you not love this face?!?!

Many thanks to Texas Pyr Rescue for helping to match us with Augustus!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Brego says: "There is something wrong with this food bowl"

Subtle, isn't he?

(Fuzzypony took the pic, and MC models with Brego) 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Looking back on 2014, looking ahead to 2015

2014 had a few low points, but compared to 2013 it's been fantastic. On the horse front, really the only negative thing that happened was Paddy got hurt in April and had 4 months off, but rehab went great and he's been 100% ever since. We've had a great series of shows, made tons of progress, and overall have worked on a great partnership. Hubby got an amazing new pony who is the perfect match for him. I'm not sure I could ask for anything more!

Looking back on my 2014 goals, here's what I had:
  • Be lighter and more obedient to the aids in dressage.  - YEP! We will always have lots of work in this area, but compared to where we were at the beginning of the year, we have come MILES.
  • Work on first and second level trot work. - YEP! First level trot lengthenings are in the making, and we're also working on collection, which we'll need for second level.  Of course, trotting in a relaxed manner, over his back, with consistent contact and bend is uhhh... a work in progress. But we are starting to have a lot of the pieces!
  • Solidify canter leads until there's no doubt he'll get what I ask for. - YEP! His leads are great and we're getting 7/8 on our canter departs. Woot!
  • Work on balance and collection in canter. A 10 meter canter circle by December would be a nice Christmas gift. :) - EH. We CAN do a 10 meter canter circle when he's very balanced, but he's definitely not confirmed in this movement. Plus we can't canter in a straight line and be balanced, but that's not on the list. ;)
  • Have a great working partnership built on trust and good basics. - YES!!! And this is the best part of Paddy!
  • Put in a first-level dressage test, either at home or at a show, and do a good job of it. - YES! I'm not sure if I'd call it a "good job" but I'm pretty happy with both of the first level tests we did. Lots of improvement needed, but it's a start!
We also qualified for our local GMO's championships (sadly cancelled) at Training, and apparently we are getting a year-end award. That wasn't on the list, but WOOT!

The bestest, squeeziest Haffie EVAR!

We had some goals around jumping, none of which we accomplished. After a
disappointing schooling HT in February, I reconsidered whether or not I wanted to get back into eventing seriously. I haven't jumped Paddy since that show, and oddly, I haven't wanted to. Not even tempted to pop over an X in the arena. It's weird, but I'm rolling with it. 

I also had some Haflinger registry goals, which I failed miserably at because I didn't keep track of my rides and didn't send in my scores. Lazy = Fail. As for my crazy-ass dreams, I didn't do a recognized show in 2014 but am planning on one mid-January, and I didn't do a freestyle at a show but I did do one at home. Alas, now I don't like the music so I don't think I'll ever perform it, but we'll see.

Now, looking ahead for this year:
  • Be lighter and more obedient to the aids in dressage. Because really, can you ever have enough of this?
  • Be more consistent on first and second level trot work.
  • Canter, canter, canter. Strength, balance, and we need to find some lengthenings and collection in there, along with counter-canter, simple changes, and walk-canter-walk transitions.
  • Laterals - we have the start, we need to solidify leg yield, shoulder in, and haunches in.
  • Continue to have fun with Paddy and work on our partnership. I love him more every time I ride him, so really, this is the most important goal!
Show goals:
  • Show at USDF recognized shows, at levels we will be competitive. Right now this means Training, I'm hoping later in the year we'll be able to go First.
  • Improve our scores at First level.
  • Get off my lazy ass and send in our scores to the Haffie Registry. Seriously. Just dooo eeet!
Crazy-ass dreams:
  • Qualify for the Region 9 year end championships, and go if we qualify.
  • Get scores at Training/First toward a USDF rider award.
  • Get scores at First toward a USDF Bronze Medal.
  • Ride 2-1, either at home or at a show.
And I would totally get started on all this today, except that it's 34 degrees and raining here, and our arena has standing water in it. What a great way to start the new year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blogger Secret Santa - the secret is out!

I always have such a hard time figuring out what to ask for for the blogger Secret Santa. See, in our family, you make a list for Christmas and then everyone decides what to get you from that list. On one hand it's great, because you generally get what you ask for, but I also like surprises. So this year, I gave my poor Secret Santa a list of things Paddy and I like (green, treats) and hoped that some kind person would get creative.

And wow... bloggers sure do have an incredible variety of amazing creative artistic skills! Val and his mom at CFS sent me a beautiful package with two super awesome gifts... one for Paddy and one for me!

Not only that, but it came BEAUTIFULLY wrapped. So pretty I almost hated to unwrap everything. Oh, and Paddy and I had to eat some of the mints for easier unwrapping.

For Paddy - a massager thingy, just like the one Val has! Husband likes it too :)

For me - a GORGEOUS handmade brass cutout of me and Paddy! It's from a picture of our first level debut show. SO pretty and perfect, and I decided to hang it on our tree. LOVE IT!!!

I also couldn't resist hanging some of the decorations from the wrapping on the tree. Too cute!

THANK YOU, CFS, for such a lovely, thoughtful, handmade gift. It perfectly captures us this year. <3 again="" and="" for="" once="" organizing="" p="" thanks="" this="" tracy="">

Friday, December 26, 2014

The last show of the year

Our last show of the year was another dressage schooling show, on the 13th. Then work and life exploded and I've had no time to blog until now... end of the year is always so busy!

I had hoped that our last show of the year would be some sort of awesome. We’ve been working hard, making great progress – surely it would all come together somehow.

Best laid plans, right?

To start, I didn’t get to ride Paddy the entire week before. Between holiday obligations and being sick, I missed my lesson and all my practice rides too. Strike one. In addition, the show now requires competitors to have a stall, even if you’re just there during the day. Fuzzypony and I decided to make the most of it and haul out Friday, so that we could get a practice ride in Friday night and leave the boys overnight. Paddy’s not used to being in a stall, and he and Taran are super attached. So when I got him out for our practice ride, he spent the first 30 minutes screaming his head off for his buddy. We did eventually get some good work in, but you know how they say that if your last ride before the show sucks, you’re going to do well? By that criteria, we were going to KICK ASS on Saturday. At least he didn't try to buck me off or anything.

On Saturday, I got Paddy out an hour before our ride, figuring I would give him plenty of time to walk since he’d been stuck in a stall all night. It was a good thing I did, because he powerwalked for 25 of those 30 minutes. He was super distracted and was “that horse,” screaming for his buddy. Awesome! Eventually, we started working through our new warmup routine, and he actually settled in pretty quickly. As usual, he took my requests to move away from my leg as requests to trot, and couldn’t possibly be bothered to listen to my seat. We worked on those things until he was listening, and then moved on to trot and canter. We had some super good work, and then I made the mistake of taking a break about 7 minutes out from our first ride, Tr-3.

The problem with taking a break is that Paddy sometimes thinks he’s done. We only did one lap around the arena on a long rein, but when I went to put him back together, it was like starting over from scratch. He ignored my leg and my seat. I started pulling on the reins (because hey, that always helps, right?), and then it was our turn to go. He grabbed the bit, put his head down, and charged up centerline. From then on, he was calling all the shots. I felt like all the work we've been doing just flew out the window and we were back to our previous train-wreck selves. After he came blasting across the diagonal on the canter/trot transition with me hauling on the reins and leaning back over his ass to get him to trot (about 1:30 in the vid), I almost pulled him up and called it quits. It was truly the worst test we've ever done. But I sucked it up and tried to put the blown movements behind us, and we finished anyway. And that disaster transition? We got a 7 on it. Apparently the judged missed the tug-of-war we had going on, and wrote that she liked our energy. Uh, thanks.


We left the arena, and I knew we had two rides before 1-2 to get our shit back together. I immediately started working him off my seat - ask for trot, immediately walk off the seat. Trot, then walk. Over and over again until we could get it with just a thought. Then I started with 10 meter figure 8s, with walks every half-circle and change of direction. I asked for one canter each way, only half a circle, but very obedient and balanced. We also drilled leg yields and shoulder ins, with 10 meter circles on either end, and lots of transitions. He got no breaks, not even to go into the arena. 

And you know what? It worked. He was SO MUCH better off my seat and leg. He was SO MUCH more obedient (let's just ignore that samba he did on the first halt, shall we?). Our trot lengthenings - especially the second half of the second one where I really went for it - actually kinda happened (canter lengthenings, not so much, especially the transitions back to regular canter). I can see that we are starting to make them work.  Our leg yields were much better than our last test, although you can see where he leads with his shoulder, then is straight, then his haunches, then is straight... lol! Rider needs more practice obviously. 

And here is an excellent picture of me having a love affair with my right rein. Dear right hand: we really need to talk. 

This helps nobody, right hand. Please stop now. 

The moment I felt him start to become unbalanced, I half-halted him with my seat. No, it wasn't forward and relaxed. Yes, he was behind the vertical for a lot of the ride. No, his canter wasn't as balanced as it has been. But we came back from our sucky first ride and we made it happen, so I am proud of that. In some ways it was much better than our first attempt at 1-2, and in other ways, it was much worse. Now we just need to find a happy medium!



We got a 59% and change on Tr-3 and a 58% and change on 1-2. The scoring was tough but fair, except for the 7 on the downward transition in Tr-3 which I think was a gift. Still, those are the worst scores we've gotten to date, so it was pretty disappointing. I know we are doing much better work at home, but right now we're just not consistent.

On the bright side, I really learned a lot about what Paddy needs to put in a good test. We need to do more overnight shows so that we (well, I) can get better at dealing with being away from Paddy's BFF. I learned that he needs a good long walk warmup if he's been in a stall. He also cannot have a break more than about 15-20 minutes from going into the arena, or he thinks he's done and takes much too long to get his brain back in his head. And it's pretty apparent that we will always put in a better second test than first test, so if we are ever going for scores, we need to plan carefully so that the more important test is the second one. 

I also learned that despite having a week off before the show, he's kind enough not to try to dump me in the dirt, even if his generosity didn't extend to being a superstar in the arena. Oh well, you can only get by so much on being cute!