Thursday, July 21, 2016

Taran confo shots: BEEFCAKE

It's been a while since I've posted any confo shots of Taran, which is kind of a bummer because DAMN he looks amazing. I know, I say that every time... I keep thinking that he's done changing but apparently not!

Here's the last pic I posted, in April:

April 10, 2016

He looked pretty good in April, but the angle and the fact that he had his neck so arched helped hide a few flaws.

His May pic isn't as nice - he's standing with his head cocked toward the camera so his neck looks a little weird, but you can still see how his topline is getting stronger (especially right behind the saddle) and his butt is continuing to round out:

May 22, 2016

 Unfortunately I missed out on a confo shot from June, but here's the July shot:

July 19, 2016

I swear, he looks like he's gained 50 pounds of muscle! His topline is really starting to get stronger - that divot under his withers is filling in and so is the area right behind the saddle - and he just overall looks much bulkier. His neck is a little hard to see because of his mane, but that big under-neck muscle seems to have all but disappeared.

For comparison, here's what he looked like back in December. 

I did end up changing his feed about a month ago. I'd switched him from TC Lite to TC Senior in May, but for whatever reason he didn't really seem to like the TC Senior (weirdo). So I switched him back to the Lite in mid-June, added a flake of alfalfa AM and PM, and started him on Platinum Performance. He's also been getting a lot of trainer rides in July, so that's helping him build strength and muscle too. Whatever's doing it, his body is still changing SO rapidly!

Anybody else got confo shots over time to share? If so, do a blog post! I love these progressions!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Champion Jousting Haffie (and his handsome sidekick Taran)

With Brego on vacation due to his foot, Paddy has once again stepped up to take on the role of Jousting Haffie - this time for the SCA's (a medieval reenactment group) 50th year celebration, held in Dansville, Indiana.

Fortunately, our road trip was uneventful if long. Both Paddy and Taran are great haulers, and drank and ate plenty during the 18 hour haul.

Crossing the Mississippi River into Illinois at dawn.

Stopping somewhere along the way.

The fairgrounds at Danville have excellent facilities - we'd managed to snag two double stalls for the boys (with stall mats!) so they had plenty of room to move around, which was good because turnout was limited to about 30 minutes per day.

What I thought would be a relaxing week turned out to be super hectic, but SO MUCH FUN. 

I taught a class on dressage in the 16th century. I know that sounds weird so let me explain. In the early 1500s in Italy, riding began to evolve from being solely a method of transportation or for warfare to being an art form. Noblemen began to show off their riding skills in elaborate performances. There are even chapters in riding manuals from that time entitled "How to Ride Before a Prince" which lays out exactly what you are supposed to show off your horse to a prince or other noble person...
"... you shall put your Horse gently forth into a comely trot. Being come against the Person of state, bow your body down to the crest of your Horse, then raising your self again, pass half a score yards beyond him..." (Markham, 1593)
In modern terms: A enter working trot, X halt, salute. Proceed working trot...

There are tons of woodcuts from 16th century riding manuals too, which show exercises that are suspiciously similar to a lot of the things many of us use in everyday riding:

Spiral in, spiral out. (Corte, 1573)

Turn on the forehand. (Fiaschi, 1556)

I could go on and on about this because I think it's super cool, but the upshot was that a bunch of people put together performances "for a Prince," using exercises and patterns shown in 16th century riding manuals. Basically they got to create a DIY 16th century dressage test and perform it. People got SUPER into it - here's a pic of everyone standing around the table with all the copies of 16th century riding manuals I'd brought, picking out the patterns they were going to ride:

I had so many people - most of who were not dressage riders and were in fact intimidated by "Dressage" - tell me how much fun they had, and how they wanted to go home and do more research and put together more performances and ride them. So I'm super stoked that folks will pick this up and run with it, and I can't wait to see other people's performances!

Here's me and Taran in our 16th century Ride Before a Prince outfit. Taran was a superstar and made me look like I knew what I was doing.

It's hard to see in this pic, but this was one of the highlights of the week. I'm cantering a circle around a guy playing bagpipes... in perfect tempo with our canter. It was like riding a freestyle with your very own band that mimics every movement with the music. SO EPIC, I wanted to keep riding forever.

But, on to jousting. Reader's digest version: Paddy and hubby were ON FIRE and won.

Hubby gets help with his armor.

Hubby and I (photo by Tannis Baldwin)

Paddy in Hover Haffie mode (photo by Tannis Baldwin)

Paddy also rocked the mounted combat, and they ended up second.

We managed to get a little trail riding in too, although every time we went out, Paddy would be mobbed by adoring fans.
 Because let's face it, everyone in the entire world is part of Paddy's adoring fan club.

CobJockey also happened to make it out for the event, not once but twice. I'm afraid we may have gone a little overboard (I mean, how often do you put a taxidermy bison head in someone's bed?) introducing her to the crazy, but the steak and scotch probably made things a little better.

Alas, this is the only picture that exists to prove she was there dressed in weird medieval clothes. 

Oh, and I managed to cross another item off my horsey bucket list: one of the ladies at the event offered to let me try riding in her side saddle. Taran was definitely not certain about this prospect, pointing out to me that we've been working for MONTHS on him moving away from one leg or the other, and that if I was only going to cue with my left leg, he would happily leg yield right all day long. I did eventually get him to trot using voice commands, although he stuck to a small jog because his rider had clearly lost her marbles.

Side saddle is rather less fun than I thought it would be, although I now have even more respect for people who can actually do this well. 

Someone even managed to take a decent "family" picture of us:

Well, decent except for the part where Taran forgot to say "cheese." I swear.

And of course, the ONE TIME I ride without a helmet for FIVE minutes, someone took a picture of that too:
He did get the posing down in this one though!

We had a great time hanging out with old friends and meeting new, and the whole thing rekindled my interest in research on 16th century dressage. So you might be seeing some posts about that from time to time... along with more stories of The Jousting Haffieeeee!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Brego hoof update

When last we left our overlarge hero, he'd had both my vet and the hospital farrier out to try to tackle a recurring abscess in his coronet band. We took some rads that showed two pockets of infection, and then the farrier dug some giant holes in Brego's foot to let things drain.

This still squicks me out

Brego seemed to be doing well, galloping around like an eediot, showing no signs that his Holey Hoof was bothering him at all.

And then he went lame again, and another abscess blew. In the same spot. 


I had the vet and farrier out AGAIN. They discussed options, took more rads, and called some of their peers to consult. The consensus is that there must be *something* causing these abscesses, and it's most likely that Brego has a keratoma. Keratomas are benign tumors that form under the hoof wall, for reasons yet unknown. The only way to address the issue (repeat abscessing) is to remove the tumor... which, given its probable location (up near the coronet band), means a hoof wall resection.

You can see the new hoof is coming in completely mangled.

Since there's nothing's showing up on radiographs, my vet wanted to have an MRI done so they could see the extent of the issue before they started surgery. After calls to several clinics with standing MRIs (Brego almost died on the table during flap surgery before we got him, so he is not a candidate for full anesthesia, ever again), we discovered that standing MRIs can only handle hoofs up to 7 inches in diameter - and M'sieur Brego is 8.5 inches in diameter right after a trim. And apparently all standing MRIs are made by the same company, in one size... so an MRI is out.

Sooo... the plan is that Brego will have a standing hoof wall resection done as soon in a week or two, when my farrier and vet can get their schedules to align. They will do an ultrasound and some sort of vein trace just before, so they can attempt to pinpoint the keratoma's exact location so they know how far to go. The good news is that it hasn't affected any bones, so the prognosis is excellent if they can get it all.

Brego will be in a hoof cast for about a month, so the new hoof can start to regrow. He's already on massive doses of hoof supplement to help with hoof growth.  Once the cast can come off, he'll be in a special shoe, probably with metal bands epoxied across the surgery site for additional support. Horses seem to handle hoof wall resections surprisingly well, despite some of us humans (namely me) being completely grossed out just looking at pictures of other resections. I don't know what it is about blood and horse feets, but it's just SO WRONG. But I'm sure I'll have plenty of gross pictures to share, because there's nothing more fun, right?

And don't worry... Brego is milking this for ALL he is worth. Which is currently several carrots per day while he gets his foot cleaned and treated!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Back to square one. Again.

When you start something new (like, say, coming back into work after being a pasture puff for a couple of years), your horse is in disbelief. He doesn't want necessarily want to work ("I could spook instead!") and it takes the better part of an hour lesson to convince him of what his job is and that he has to do it. And then, maybe the last 10-15 minutes of your lesson, he starts to really put in some quality work - like a nice, connected trot. And just when it's starting to feel awesome, your time is up. You've been through the wringer (how much inside leg can you possibly NEED???!?!), and your horse looks like he's just run the Derby. You despair at how hard that was and how you'll never be any good and how COULD HE PLEASE JUST TROT LIKE A NORMAL HORSE and jeez. Why do you do dressage again?

Spooking is the best way to get out of work. 

But each ride, it gets a little better. That connected trot comes sooner and with less effort. He starts understanding his job, and you start understanding how to use your aids with less conscious effort. You're both figuring it out, working a little more smoothly, more like a team.

You know, kind of like this.

Then you add something new and difficult, like asking for bend in the corners AND a nice connected trot, and you go back to square one. Because once again, how much inside leg can you possibly need for bend (more, always more), and oh now you have to actually prepare for the corners and you can't just ride halfway through the corners and use the far wall for the second half (I've tried, it doesn't work) and and and. You're back to despairing about the damn corners because there are four of them (whyyyy so many?) and why can't your horse just keep stepping up with his inside hind and just DO them and not lose his balance and...

Forget corners, just riding in a straight line is hard.

... then you realize, after approximately 123897587123 corners, that you CAN do them and your horse DOES stay balanced and forward and stepping through and in the outside rein and since you're feeling awesome why not add something like a canter transition because hey you need to do those too...

It's a canter transition. Really.

... and you're back to square one again. Only this time, you've lost that connected trot because now he's anticipating the canter ALL THE TIME and trying to fling himself into it and WHERE DID MY NICE TROT GO OMG I'VE RUINED MY HORSE.

Totally, completely ruined. 

So you go back to trot. You try not to get frustrated when really you want to stomp around and pout because JEEZ we could totally do this yesterday but now we can't and how could he have possibly gone and forgotten how to trot in the space of two canter transitions? You remind yourself how to put his trot together, and he relaxes because this is a job he knows how to do and he knows he's right and he's good at it and you tell him he's a good boy when he does it. And you spend the rest of your ride reminding both of you that you CAN do a nice trot and you still love your horse and he's still the best horse ever and he's awesome and he gets all the cookies. And you try the canter again. And maybe it's better and maybe it's worse, but that doesn't matter, because he's still awesome and amazing.

And you try again. And again. And again. You take all the lessons you can get your hands on because you really need eyes on the ground and someone to remind you what to do with your body parts and not to pull and add more leg (you'd think I would have that by now) and talk you off the cliff when you are frustrated. Some days the canter is great, and some days it's terrible, and some days the trot sucks too. But every day is a little better, a little more, until the pieces start coming together...

Having someone yell at you in a heavy Spanish accent also helps.

... and then you add something new. But this is how it goes. You're doing great until you add something new. Sometimes the "something new" makes other things better (like shoulder in is improving his right rein connection) and sometimes the something new causes the wheels to fall off (like w/c transitions have caused our t/c transitions to fall apart. And for heaven's sakes let's not discuss our c/w transitions, because sliding stops don't get you extra points in dressage.)

I'd give this a 10 for the WTF factor.

Progress is filled with lots of steps backwards (speaking of, it would be super if Taran learned how to step backward. As in rein back. Why is this so hard?). That doesn't make it any easier or less frustrating, because I often feel like I'm starting over again from square one. But I'm not, not really, because things that were really hard 6 months ago are (mostly) easy today*. I just keep making the square bigger and more complicated, and asking more and more of both myself and Taran. It's definitely not always pretty, but that little bit better every day? That's what keeps me coming back.

This was a long time in the making. 

*I've probably just jinxed today's ride horribly. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Sort of Second Level

The dressage show scene in Texas is pretty much over between Memorial Day and Labor Day, because nobody wants to ride when it's 100 degrees out. However, I wanted to squeeze in one last hurrah and signed up for a schooling show this last weekend.

I opted to do 2-2, because 2-1 has like 9812738750123 simple changes plus rein back, which Taran currently does not do under saddle. And 2-3 is just... nope. Not yet. But I thought we could fake our way through 2-2.

And fake it we did. We can certainly DO all the movements in 2-2, and sometimes we actually do them really well. Taran has a collected trot, and he has a collected canter. And when he's balanced and on my aids and I'm not pulling on his face, he feels amazing and light, and sooo through his back. A canter/walk transition is as easy as sitting up and adding leg, a medium trot is as easy as opening the door and pushing him up into it.

But we're not there consistently right now. I struggle with feeling when he's engaged and when he's quick and short. I carry him too much and don't demand that he carry himself. If I can't get him through and over his back, and truly connected, the movements are disjointed because they stop right behind the saddle. If I don't keep him straight in canter, he quits or swaps leads. If I get grabby with my hands and forget to use leg... well, I have pictures for that. 

And of course, I did all the wrong things and none of the right things in our test on Saturday. I mean, it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't good either. It wasn't how I wanted to ride. Taran was a good sport and made a huge effort for me, but you can see at every turn I'm not making it easy for him. I didn't go in there to own it, I went in there to survive. And survival is usually not very pretty.

When you start with this as your centerline, you know it's not going to be good.

I think there was an Intro level horse that was this inverted in the halt.

FYI, sitting medium trot is HARD. I'm happy I stayed on, even if I leaned back like a pro. At least Taran looks good!

Shoulder in

Haunches in? Or maybe a leg yield down the rail?

Walk pirouette. I was actually really happy that he didn't plant a hind foot and do a reining spin.

Obviously this is a second-level trot/canter transition.

That moment you realize your're not entirely on the left lead for your counter-canter half circle...  

... watch the hind leg come through... 

At least he can sort of do changes?

I managed to hold it together for the second counter-canter.

In case you've ever wondered what happens when your horse is cantering on his forehand, and you ask for a canter/walk transition with LOTS of hand and take your leg off completely, here you go:

Look, my horse has two legs!

Sliding stop for a 10.

Final halt/salute. I think the judge was as happy that we were done as I was.

If you want to see the whole thing, here's the video. You're welcome for the laugh.

Oh yeah, final score was a 58.84, and we were the only ones in our class so we got a blue participation ribbon. 

Stepping up to second more of a leap, at least for us - I've only done one 2nd level test about 15 years ago, and Taran has never done it. We have a LOT of work to do to make it solid. Better body control for me (my outside leg hangs there like a dead fish, I swear, and could I BE any grabbier with my hands???), a better feel, more strength and straightness for him... when we are able to put those things together, it works. It's a matter of chipping away at the mountain. I have a plan for the summer that involves a LOT of trainer rides for him and lessons for me, so hopefully the combination will put us in a more solid place by the time things start back up in the fall. I feel like I'm just barely beginning to get to the fun part of dressage, but damn, the fun part is harder work than ever!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Update on the state of affairs

Sometimes, life really gets in the way of doing the things we love, like blogging. I've been holding down Wyvern Oaks solo for the last 6 weeks, because my husband has been off in Mexico doing this:

Here's the link to the Washington Post article, and the one from NPR, and the BBC. If you thought my husband was cool because he jousts, his day job is even more amazing. 

As usual, all the shit happens when he's gone. The dogs have started fighting, we had a tree fall down on the fence, and the painters accidentally knocked the hose loose from the washing machine so I flooded the laundry room.


Brego started to show signs of another abscess just days before hubby left, and we waited for it to blow but it didn't.
Suspicious looking.

When it didn't blow after two weeks, I had the vet out. When it still hadn't blown 10 days later, she came back, this time with the hospital farrier, and they took xrays to see where everything was located.

See those two dark lines going down from the hoof wall? Those are TWO rather large pockets of infection.

Roughly an hour of (unsedated) digging later, and we were left with this:

Holy hoofs, Brego.

They think that he had a white line infection somewhere deep in his foot (although the bottom of his foot is currently fine, so we had no way of knowing), and that the abscess last year didn't clear out the whole thing. The hole on the bottom right of the picture goes through to his sole (you can stick a shoe nail through, gag), and if you look in the big hole across the top you'll see a bunch of smaller holes. Those are all infection tracks. I'm flushing everything daily with betadine and copper sulfate, and actually can stick a needle in each of those small holes and flush them. Y'all, holes in horse feet are SO WRONG. 

And I know it's crazy, but Brego has been sound this entire time and is currently out galloping around like a nutcase, despite the swiss-cheese-like appearance of his foot. Vet and farrier will be visiting every two weeks together until we get this all cleared up and grown out. Fun times.

As for Paddy, he's doing fine. He's mostly being neglected, because I spend all my time riding Taran. I did have a great ride at my trainer's barn where he wanted to go zooming at the trot but I made him do nothing but laterals... eventually he decided that was too hard and started behaving himself. It's funny how riding another horse lets you figure out how to ride your own horse that much better.

When not being ridden, he helps me eat weed the garden.

Taran continues to be a rockstar. Seriously, I don't know where this amazing little horse came from - he just keeps getting better and better, a little bit every day.

Let's ignore the fact that I'm being left behind and focus on the amazing trot, ok?

We went to our last show of the spring season this last weekend, a 2-day recognized show here in town where we did 1-2 and 1-3 both days. We spent all weekend getting 2nd place behind a lady on her very nice confirmed 3rd level horse. Interestingly, the judge on the first day didn't seem to like Taran much - we put in two solid tests and we got decent enough scores (64% and 62%) but it wasn't as good as I expected. The second day, we had a new judge at C, but the same judge at E. The judge at C scored us 2% ahead on 1-2, and only .2% behind on 1-3, but the judge at E scored us 5.5% and 3.5% lower. The judges scored within 1% of each other for all the rest of the folks in my class, so it really was just me. Her comments were perfectly reasonable and spot on, but it just seems like the scoring was harder for us. Oh well, I have that judge's name and we won't ride for her again if we can avoid it. We still managed to get a qualifying score on 1-3 for the SWDC and GAIC championship rides (65.5%), so we're now basically maxed out on everything we can do at first level (Taran needs 1 more score for a Performance Award, but we'll get that this fall). Time to think about moving up to Second!

All the ribbons.

Also, have some adorable pet pictures, because I have them:

What happens when you fall asleep mid-stretch.


Not sure when I'll get back to regular blogging, but hopefully sometime soon. Hope y'all are well!