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!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

From all of us at Wyvern Oaks to all our bloggy friends, we hope you're having a wonderful day with family and friends!

Photo shamelessly stolen from MC, because I didn't plan well enough to take Christmas Haffie pictures. If you want to see all her lovely pictures of our ponies decorated for the holidays, visit her blog

Friday, December 12, 2014

I got nuthin' but strep. Again.

Yesterday I woke up with a super-sore throat AGAIN... got to see the doctor first thing, and sure enough, I have strep again. WTH? I'm never sick, so to get this twice in two months is just weird. So now I'm on extra-super-heavy-duty antibiotics, just in case I'm a "carrier". Awesome. Pass me the yogurt, please.

I cancelled my lesson last night, which means I have exactly one ride (tonight) before the show. Thankfully Paddy is the epitome of an ammy-friendly horse, so I'm hoping that judicious application of carrots will encourage good behavior and saving my ass at the show tomorrow.

A girl can dream, right?

Since I have no other pics to share, here's one of hubby with all four of the boys. We managed to get 7 of 8 ears pointed at the camera... not bad, considering!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If I self-identify as a dressage queen, does that mean I don't have to ride in the rain?

I had plans to ride tonight when I got home. Big plans. The last show of the season is this Saturday and we're slated to do the 2015 1-2 test, which is approximately 934761831289 times harder than the old 1-2 test. It's the same movements but they come up faster in the new test. Plus I'd like to have a better trot lengthening and more consistent leg yield. Obviously we're not going to miraculously improve since the last show, but a little better would be nice. However, improvement requires riding, which is what I did not do tonight because it was raining.

As I was putting out hay I thought about how it wasn't really raining that hard and it wasn't that cold and now we have lights for our tiny pretend arena so dammit, I should ride. Plus, the weather is supposed to be worse tomorrow and it might be muddy by then so really, I should ride. While I was mucking, it started raining harder, and I thought about how maybe if I just did a short walk ride, that would be better than nothing. I thought about how we could just do a little leg yield down the rail, and that would help. But by the time I was done I was pretty soaked, and Red - who generally will not let anything stand between him and food - would not come out of the barn to get his hay.


So I gave up on riding and decided to play horse dress-up instead. I tried Paddy's new special "stock horse" cut blanket from SmartPak on him. They're made especially for horses with square builds.

Alas, Paddy is apparently not square enough. That's the SECOND blanket that doesn't fit him. We tried the Rambo Optimo but it didn't work either - went down past his knees. Haffies are impossible to fit, I tell you. 

So I tossed Cash's new Wug on Paddy to see if it would work, since their wear the same size. Paddy's problem is that his wide shoulders are hard to fit, plus he's short. The Wug pulls a bit in the shoulder, but otherwise seems OK.

Fits in the neck area, and this closure style rocks. Red has the Rambo version of this blanket and I love it.

So, gotta send the special "stock-cut" blankie back and get him a Wug. Hopefully the third blanket's the charm!

P.S. It's still raining.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I'm having a love affair... with my right rein

I’ve been hiding this for some time, but I finally have to come clean: I’m having a love affair with my right rein.

Logically, I know I need to get over my attachment and just let it go, at least a little. I mean, Paddy needs some space, and I understand that. He needs to be able to find his own balance, and my attachment is holding us both back. But it’s so hard to give something up … when you’re used to holding on so hard.

What’s worse is that my husband knows - my trainer told him at our last lesson. He said he knew that I’d been trying to hide it from him, but that it was totally obvious, even to him. But he loves me, and says that he accepts me, flaws and all. Still, he hopes that in time I’ll learn to let it go, at least a little.

And I know I should let it go. I mean, it’s damaging to my relationships – with my trainer, with my husband, but most of all, with Paddy. The fact that I can’t let go… well, it’s stifling our communication. It’s keeping us from making any forward progress, and that’s never a good sign.

So somehow, some way, I have to train myself to do without. I’m not going to go cold turkey – I just don’t think I’m strong enough, and it wouldn’t be good for Paddy either. But just a little less every day. A little less of a death grip, a little more of a gentle friendly relationship. I know it’s what Paddy wants, even though he doesn’t ever really tell me in words. But I know, deep down, that it’s the right thing. For both of us.

Do it for the Haffie. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Mauldin)
Sigh. Why is this sort of thing always so difficult?

Monday, December 8, 2014

We take naptime VERY seriously here

We keep a very strict schedule here at Wyvern Oakes. Every day around noon, the boys take a nap. 

Herro! You are interrupting naptime, human.

Taran guards the nappers (they switch after about 30 minutes, with Brego and Paddy guarding while Taran has a snooze).

I was sleeping, you know.

Three in a row.

Does this camera angle make my butt look big?

Does your horse have a napping schedule?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I got my butt kicked in a dressage lesson. IT WAS AWESOME!!!

I've managed to get back into regular dressage lessons, and we're just progressing in leaps and bounds. Our new dressage trainer is really working on my position, and of course, when I ride better, Paddy goes better. Amazing, isn't it?

Our warmup currently consists of a lot of walk work, getting him moving both his shoulders and haunches away from my leg, and getting him to halt off my seat. We often spend 20-30 minutes just walking, trying to get him to listen to my leg and seat to a point where trot work can be productive. We're working on ways to make our warmup more productive, but Trainer keeps telling me that some horses require 2 hours to warm up and not to be impatient. Eeek!

Eventually we start with the trot. We stay on a 20 meter circle, and work on a few steps of trot, transition to walk. Over and over again. If he stays balanced and not rushy, he can trot a few more steps. The moment I feel him try to speed up, take the bit, etc, that's the moment I ask for the downward transition. The goal is to get him balanced and listening to my seat, so that I can just THINK downward transition and he'll balance back. This is the critical part - I CANNOT pull on him. He's got to be listening to my seat, and the hands/reins are just there for steering. If I start pulling at this stage, he'll just get heavier and heavier as the ride goes on, and ignores my seat more and more.

Usually during this stage, he decides to get with the program and really go to work. For the next 10-15 minutes, we work on keeping him on my seat aids, not pulling on the reins, keeping him on my leg aids (or rather, off my right leg lol!), and not pulling on the reins. If I've done it all right, we end up with him being really up into the bridle, balanced, and suuuuper flexy-bendy. This is where we do our best work - we can work on leg yields, shoulder in, and baby lengthenings. Of course, if I start pulling, I can undo all the work we've done to this point in a matter of minutes. It's a good incentive to keep my hands still!

If we haven't fallen apart yet, we move on to canter. In our last lesson, we did a TON of trot-canter-trot-canter transitions on a circle. It's easy for him to get flat and rushy at the canter, so this really helped us both work on staying balanced because everything came up so quickly. It felt awful and I was exhausted by the end, but looking at the video, it's not as bad as it felt.

I was really happy we had schooled all the canter transitions in the lesson (despite my legs feeling like Jello after), because at the show, Paddy broke to trot in the middle of a canter circle. No biggie, we quickly reorganized and got back to it.

I'm starting to collect so many little nuggets of riding wisdom in these lessons that I've started a new page, "Dressage Wisdom," to track them all. What are the best dressage tips you've gotten?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our First Level debut

On Saturday, we went to a very small dressage/CT schooling show. I hadn't expected to go to the show - it was Thanksgiving weekend and my parents were in town, plus we were a (very very) late entry. But the very nice folks at Rolling Ridge Stables found room for us in the schedule, so we went!

I was kinda excited about it for a couple of reasons. First, since we didn't get to go to the local GMO's championship show, I hadn't gotten to get all fancy with the new coat and braids and such. I decided that even though this was a teeny schooling show, I was gonna deck Paddy and myself out to the nines. Secondly, our lessons have been going REALLY WELL. We have tons to work on (SO MANY THINGS), but each ride is so much better than the last, and I was curios to see how it would go at a show. Finally, it was on my secret bucket list this year to show first level, even if we sucked. I figured that this was as good a venue as any to pretend that we could do a first level test, lol!  I picked 1-2 instead of 1-1 because there's less canter in 1-2 (and we all know that canter is not yet our strong point) and because there's leg yield in 1-2, which we're pretty good at if we have it together.

Warmup. We only looked this good part of the time...

Rider needs more leg, less hand. In other words, DON'T PULL ON THE REINS.

For our first test, we did Training 3. The wind was whipping and there was some stuff to look at, but for the most part he was pretty focused on me. As you can see in the video, he's not relaxed over his topline or through in this test. That's still a huge struggle for us, and if I start pulling, he pulls back and it just goes downhill from there. You can see I'm riding pretty defensively, BUT! I felt like overall I did a better job of applying more leg and less hand than in many of our previous tests, even if it didn't necessarily look as pretty. We also had some really nice canters, which I am very proud of, although you can see where he starts to fall on his forehand and race. As always, a work in progress. 

Paddington Bear, Training-3

We scored a 62.4 - the scoring was stiff but very fair and accurate, and honestly I prefer harder scoring at a schooling show. In the comments we got "Rider needs to more effectively keep horse on the aids." LOL! So tactful, but yeah - ride with your seat and legs and STOP PULLING ON YOUR HORSE.  

We had one test (Fuzzypony on Taran) before First-2, so I went and tried to get Paddy more on my seat aids and remind him about laterals. As usual, our second test was much better, and I am SUPER PROUD of this test. It wasn't an amazing debut into first level or anything, but he was SO obedient and tried SO hard for me.  I really could not have asked for any more.

Paddington Bear, First-2

You'll see that I'm still too strong with my reins, but I did try to let go when I realized what I was doing. You'll also see the bobble in the right lead canter circle, where he broke. That was unfortunate, but he just couldn't hold it together so we took a few trot steps and fixed it. Our trot lengthenings were quick instead of forward, but since he wasn't truly over his back, it was all he could do. Our canter lengthenings... well, we survived, even if we did careen around the end of the arena after! We did get really good scores for our canter departs and our trot half-circles, and even 6s on our leg-yields, although I totally lost his haunches on the leg yield left. Getting him off my right leg is a struggle - we can do this movement well, but only if he's balanced and on my aids. And I just can't get him there consistently - yet. :) 

Still, he is the Best. Haffie. Ever.

We ended up with a 61.3, which I am super extra happy with! We had some 4's and 4.5 on coefficient movements (stretchy trot fail, anyone?), but he tried so hard on everything else, and those points are rider error anyway. The judge commented that he wasn't strong enough for some of the movements today, and she's absolutely right. He's not strong enough to be balanced all the time, and I'm not together enough to help him, which makes the laterals and lengthenings difficult to perform. It will come in time, though! We were the only ones to ride 1-2, so we got a blue "participation" ribbon. 

After, we tried to get some pictures, but Paddy wouldn't have it. I think these are the ONLY pictures I have where his ears aren't pricked at the camera.

Haffie not interested in pictures with cousin Taran after ride. Haffie want to go back to trailer and eat.

Haffie not amused by mom holding up earz.

Trailer is that way, mom.


* All photos and video courtesy of Otter Tails Photography (a.k.a. MC)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Do not feed fingers to the Bregos

If you watched the Brego Rocks the Quintain video from the other day, you saw the short clip at the end of hubby feeding the Black Rhino a treat. Honestly, it's sort of like watching a great white go after a bait fish.

Alas, Black Rhino teeth and hubby's fingers don't mix.


Fortunately, it's just a flesh wound, and hubby has learned that care must be taken when hand-feeding Bregos. Brego doesn't mean to hurt anyone, of course, he just gets so excited about a treat that he sort of forgets what his teeth are doing. As for me, I'll be feeding Brego treats out of a feed bowl. I want to keep all my appendages, thanks!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I wish he would spend this much time vacuuming the house

In his defense, Hubby says that the Brego is dirtier than the house, and needs vacuuming more. He also thinks that we might need a heavier-duty vacuum, since vacuuming a Brego is like vacuuming a thick shag rug.  


Monday, November 24, 2014

Brego rocks the quintain

In between fox hunting, dressage lessons, and jump lessons, Hubby has been working with Brego on jousting training. It takes a pretty special horse to joust - we have found that the bossy horses do best, as they are not intimidated by another horse barreling down the lane directly at them. Brego thinks he owns the world and everything in it, so that's covered. They also have to be OK with the sound of armor, both on their rider and on other riders. Paddy probably won't ever joust, because the sound of a full set of armor really bothers him. Brego only wants to know if perhaps there is a treat tucked somewhere in all that armor. Surely, there must be... somewhere?

Training a horse to joust is a multi-step process. You have to introduce the armor, a few pieces at a time (more armor = more clanking + heavier rider). Getting a horse used to having things swinging around his head also takes time, since many horses don't like it when things magically appear in their field of vision. You need good halt-canter canter-halt transitions, and horses must learn to stand patiently at the end of the lane for each pass. When you have those elements, you can introduce the quintain. The idea is that it gives the rider target practice, and it also allows the horse to experience the sound of a lance hitting. Here's Brego's first few passes at the quintain.

Brego still has a way to go in his training. He's already done "honor" passes (no targeting) against me on Paddy, but I don't have the armor needed to do a real pass where the riders actually try to hit each other. We're hoping to meet up with some of hubby's jousting friends in the next month or two so we can have a real practice against some opponents. Given how easily Brego has handled all the "scary"  jousting experiences, we have no doubt he'll rock the actual joust just as well as he's done everything else!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Championship show is cancelled. Pout.

I got email yesterday that our GMO's year-end championship show this Saturday is cancelled, due to lack of entries. I am really disappointed - I was super excited that we managed to qualify, especially since Paddy had so much time off due to his injury. Blarg.

On the bright side, the weather forecast for Saturday is 100% chance of thunderstorms with the potential for severe thunderstorms. So I will enjoy sitting at home in my warm, dry house, instead of being soaked and freezing at a show. They do say there's a silver lining in every cloud...

I mean, who DOESN'T want to show in this weather???

Friday, November 14, 2014

Prettier than Pikeur

After visiting the local Dover store and trying on every jacket, then heading to the regional dressage championships to try on even MORE jackets, I finally came to the realization that any jacket I bought would have to be tailored. I visited a local tailor, and she told me to find a jacket that fit me in the shoulders... anything else could be fixed.

After trying on so many different jackets by so many different manufacturers, I came to the conclusion that the technical fabric jackets just aren't for me.  I had tried on the Pikeur Diana and I really, really liked the smooth, crisp, professional look of the jacket. I figured I would find one in my shoulder size (turns out I'm a 10 in European sizing), order it, and have it fitted. But... BUT... I saw a beautiful brown Kingsland jacket at the dressage championships. It was too big for me in the shoulders, but GAWD it was just so pretty. The velvet collar and pockets, the detailing on the cuffs, and incredible Italian stretch wool looked so classy and was very comfortable to wear. It was also shorter that the Diana, but not super-short like a lot of the newer jackets are, so it didn't look odd on me.

Sooo, I found the Kingsland on sale, in black, and ordered it from the UK. Since the style was 2013, it was super-duper on sale, and even after I paid shipping AND for tailoring, it was a very good deal.


And y'all, this coat is just SO PRETTY. These pics don't do it justice, but I'll be wearing it next weekend at the year-end show so hopefully I'll get some better pics of it in action soon!

So classy-looking.

Pocket detail, and I love the little detail around the waist.

Even the cuffs are pretty!

"Attitude is the little thing that makes a big difference". Yes, yes it does.

The whole thing.

Fitted perfectly!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yak-affie attacked by hoard of voracious moths

The title of this post may be slightly misleading. I attempted to clip Paddy the Yak last night. This was his second clip of the year.

Technically I suppose I succeeded, since he is in fact clipped. However, the results are somewhat less than stellar.

Always start with a clean-ish horse. Bonus points if you wait for three hours for him to dry, then decide he's never going to dry in the next month, so wtf you can clip wet, right?

And before you ask, yes, my blades were sharp (sharpened the week before). I used two sets and switched out when they got warm. Alas, we are still plagued by stripes (don't worry though, the spots are all-natural).

The end result, two hours later. Paddy looks as thrilled with his moth-eaten-look as I am. I intentionally made this picture small so you can't see the lines. Oh wait, you can, even at this resolution. Fail.

Yak Haffie hair is interesting stuff. He looks palomino from even 10 feet away, but when you look close-up, he looks shimmery coppery chestnut.  And the clipped hair looks like a mixture of chestnut and white - nary a palomino hair to be seen.

On the bright side, we have a week and a half before our next show. Hopefully he can grow out the lines before then?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Magic trainer dust

Before Paddy's two-week all-expense-paid (directly to the vet) vacation, we took a lesson with a new dressage trainer who is quite a bit closer to us than the eventing trainer that we often ride with. The lesson with the new trainer was a huge eye-opener for me - she teaches VERY differently, even though her end goals are the same. The number on take-away for me was:


No really. Don't do it. Don't even THINK about doing it. Because apparently I do this constantly - try to "take" the contact instead of following what he gives me. I needed a recording of someone saying "Don't pull back!" approximately every 10 seconds, that's how bad it is. But... BUT... when I follow and am soft, don't half-halt, don't move my hands, don't pull, stay steady and even in BOTH reins, and allow him to come to me, he will. Eventually. After 35 minutes or so. And then he's abso-fucking-lutely amazing - which makes it totally worth it.

And how did we accomplish this miracle? Quarter and half-turns on the haunches. Constantly moving his shoulders around, at the walk. At first, he mostly ignored my leg. Then he moved better off my leg, but threw his shoulders around (this is where not being even in both reins became glaringly evident). Then he ignored me some more. And then... THEN... miracle of miracles, he started moving his shoulders STRAIGHT, and evenly, and I held on to both reins (but didn't pull), and he moved off my leg, and came up over his back, and I felt like a fucking centaur because it was all about my leg and body and had nothing to do with the reins, except to keep him straight.

And then we picked up a trot and worked on making sure he was listening to my seat half-halts so I DID NOT PULL ON THE REINS. That took some doing, and she had me move my hands up instead of back - I didn't worry about his head or his back or anything else, just that he responded promptly. And then I had a horse that I could trot on a light rein, in 10 meter circles, both directions, and at the slightest change of pace or loss of balance I could sit up and tighten my core and NOT PULL BACK, and he would respond. And our leg yields? Fucking amazing. He felt like a Grand Prix horse.

And that inside leg to outside hand? Nope. Both reins equal, at all times. Don't drop the inside rein, DON'T YOU DARE.

So yeah. COMPLETELY different way of riding. I SO want to take, to half-halt with the inside rein (or drop it completely, 'cause I'm really good at that! As a reward, you know.) But instead I am to give, to soften, constantly, and to wait for him. I need a Costco-sized dose of patience that I am struggling to find, so thank goodness trainer reminds me constantly to just wait and soften. I need to take some of this magic trainer dust home so I can replicate the amazeballs work on my own.

This weekend, we were able to take a second lesson with her. This time we worked on moving his haunches, because he was a leeetle too eager to throw his shoulders around. He moves his haunches off my left leg really well, right leg, not so much. Again, we made sure he was off my seat and leg at the walk before moving on to the trot. Interestingly, the walk was not as good this time, but the trot was so much better earlier on in the ride. Yay progress! We really worked hard on not falling in, on having a supporting leg and hand in every change of direction, and on owning one rein (he kept looking around so I found it hard not to pull on the reins but keep his nose straight). We also worked a lot on transitions, especially on me following the transitions with my hands and not blocking him, either up or down (i.e. DON'T PULL ON THE REINS), but instead using the concept of "hip to hand" to get the transitions (i.e. roll my hips up by tightening my core to get the downward tx.) In the trot work, every time he would get heavy, I'd half-halt with my seat and put on inside leg. If he went behind the bridle, or above the bridle, more leg. Basically, every problem was solved with more leg and less hand.

This is a strange concept for a horse that tends to run around like a lunatic. It's like reverse rider psychology.

Toward the very end, he felt so light and balanced that I asked for a right lead canter and... whoa. Magic. Balanced, uphill, light, totally maneuverable. What's interesting about the new and improved canter is that we did not achieve this by doing tons of canter. Instead, we made sure that he was straight, balanced, and on the aids in the walk, then the trot, before moving to the canter. It's like we needed the building blocks before he could actually hold a good canter. Super interesting. Hubby manage to get the left lead canter on video, which wasn't as nice, but still... soooo much better than it's ever been before.

Look! Haffie is making progress! Now I just need to bottle the magic trainer dust and sprinkle it on before every ride.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Now that Paddy appears to be sound and ready to work, we're looking toward the local year-end championship show that we've qualified for at Training level. Nothing exciting, it's not even recognized, but formal attire is required, and so is braiding.

For the record, Paddy has the world's THICKEST mane. I've been happily neglecting it since sometime over the summer, so it's about 8-10 inches long. Also, I suck at braiding.

So here's the first question: Do I fake some braids for the show, then let his mane continue to grow out over the winter with the goal of doing a double running braid for future shows? Haffie association rules allow them to be shown with a long mane, and the USDF seems to allow breed standard for manes (as long as they are braided in some way). Or do I suck it up, pull it to a normal length, and do regular button braids for the rest of his life?

Braids are nice...

But the froof is hard to beat!

I'm also in the process of getting Paddy a lifetime registration with the USDF, because I entertain fantasies of showing at rated shows. To register him with the USDF, I have to choose a name to show him under. His actual "official" registered Haflinger name is Arno in Action. And while Arno in Action sounds fancier, to me, he's Paddington Bear. I contacted the Haffie association and I can register him with whatever name I want for USDF, as long as I include his Haffie registration number and registered Haffie name on the USDF registration paperwork. If he's mentioned in the Haffie publication, he'll be listed as "Arno in Action (shown as Paddington Bear)". If he's mentioned anywhere else, he'll be listed as "Paddington Bear".

So, do I register him as Arno in Action, or as Paddington Bear? Big decision time!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The lame game

As I mentioned last week, Paddy came up lame on Tuesday the 21st. We’d had a great workout on Monday, then he spent Monday evening carting around a Western saddle for 3 hours for the video shoot. When I went to ride him Tuesday, he was definitely short on the right hind. I didn’t find any heat or swelling anywhere, no scrapes or cuts, and his feet looked fine. He wasn’t broken-legged abscess lame, just looked very uncomfortable across his hips. My first thought was that the Western saddle had tweaked something, so I gave him some bute and stuffed him in a stall overnight.

Wednesday he wasn’t any better, nor did he seem improved by Thursday. That’s about the limit for me seeing my horse in pain, so I made an appointment with the vet, sadly cancelled our rides for the dressage show, and  went through all the “what ifs” in my head. Let’s be honest – we are just now really coming back strong from the soft tissue injury earlier this year, and the thought of going through rehab again was pretty crushing.

Unfortunately we had to wait until Tuesday to see my favorite vet. In the meantime, I had a massage therapist out (something I’d been meaning to do anyway), and she found that he was very tight all over, except for the saddle area. Well, at least the saddle fits him? It was super interesting to see how he reacted to the massage – on the entire left side of his neck, he was tense and cranky. He even kicked a few times, which is something he NEVER does. The right side of his neck apparently felt better, since he took a nap while she did that. He was clearly sore over his hips and did a lot of face-rubbing as a release. There was very little yawning or licking, but the therapist said that wasn’t uncommon, he just wasn’t sure what to do with everything and the kicking and face-rubbing was his way of expressing himself. It’s funny how individual they all are!


After the massage, he apparently felt good enough to “spook” at a chicken and gallop around during his quiet turnout time (up to then he had been content to walk around and graze). By the time the vet saw him on Tuesday, he was markedly better, but still not 100%. She immediately pinpointed that he was sore on BOTH hind legs, the right moreso than the left. They did a thorough lameness exam, including flexions. He flexed very mildly positive on both hocks, and also on his right stifle. However, the vet felt that since there was no fluid or swelling on the stifle, and since he was getting better, that the stifle issue was more likely to be muscular than a joint issue. The hocks concerned her way more.

Drunk Haffie is a cheap date

So yes, I injected both hocks. I know some of you won’t agree with that decision, but I’ve been down this road with several horses and I am comfortable with it. I am also starting him on loading doses of both Legend and Adequan, in hopes that those will help his joints even more. I’ve tried (very expensive) feed-through joint options in the past, and really haven’t had much luck with them – but I’m sure everyone’s mileage varies on that. This is my vet’s recommendation for his best chance for long-term joint health, with the goal being very few actual joint injections and maximum joint support with other options.

I lurve my vet 'cause she lurves my horses.

The best news is that we had a light ride on Saturday and then a full ride on Sunday, and he was AWESOME! His stifle didn’t seem to bother him at all, so I think the vet’s assessment that it was a muscle problem (possibly caused by wearing the Western saddle) was probably accurate. We’ve got another visit from the massage therapist this Thursday, and I’ve got stretches to work on before each ride to help him stay limber. I’m also considering a BoT sheet for him to wear before rides… anybody (Lysette, I’m looking at you!) use those, and have any recommendations?

I’m totally relieved to have my horse back, and I’m glad for this little wake-up call that my Paddington needs a little more maintenance to help him be his best. I’m more than prepared to make sure he gets whatever he needs!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Paddy plays a Western horse on TV

Early last week, we helped out with a shoot for a fake political ad. The video team has been working hard since then, and the video is now public. So, here you go! A little silliness for your Friday.

Protect your server farm with adorable Paddingtons!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In which I try my hand at being a groom

This last weekend, I had signed up for yet another schooling dressage show. We had big plans, even - we were going to move up to first level. The canter was coming along, the leg yields... oh, they were nice! Sure, I knew we would blow a few things, but I was excited about not having to ride yet another 20 meter circle.

And then last Tuesday, Paddy came up lame on the right hind. He wasn't better Wednesday, after stall rest and bute, and I made the call to scratch from the show. Hubby was out of town (of course), so he couldn't ride Brego in my place, so I conned MC into taking offered MC our two ride times. She's been taking lessons on Brego when hubby can't make it, and since I've ridden Brego exactly once during tryout weekend, it made way more sense for her to ride him. She decided to go, which meant that I got to play groom for both her and Fuzzypony, who was taking Taran.

It's been a looong time since I've groomed for anyone. In fact, I'm completely spoiled, because MC and Fuzzypony often groom for me. If you've never had someone help you out, it's kind of life-changing. There's someone to make sure your horse is spotless (even if you just toweled him yourself), someone to check your girth one last time, someone to wipe your boots, hold your water and your tests ('cause you need to go over them at the last minute), and someone to call tests or take pictures or celebrate or commiserate. And this time I got to repay the favor, at least a little.

Water for competitor, towel for boots, camera... not pictured - paper copies of dressage tests (they're in my pocket). I kind of wanted a carryall or something!

You know what the most amazing thing about grooming was? I WASN'T STRESSED. I got to tell my friends to relax and get themselves ready while I tacked their horses.  I made sure they had their gloves and whips, polished their boots after mounting, and got to be there ringside to cheer and provide a tip or two during warmup (we were trainer-less for this show). I also got to take pictures and video during the tests, which made me even MORE grateful for all the pics everyone has ever taken of me.

Oh, and all you pro photographers out there? I'm giving you more money. Taking good pics is HAAAARD - I don't know how you guys do it!

And finally, I got to cheer them on and congratulate them on some SUPER NICE tests. MC got a 69.25% on Intro C, which was not only good enough for first place but also landed her HIGH POINT AMATEUR for the entire show!!!! She also got a very respectable second place with a 59 and change on Training 1. Fuzzypony got a 61.4 on Tr-3, which qualified her for the championships (WOOOT!) and a 58.something on her first ever First-1.

MC sporting her ribbons

It was also super fun to sit on the sidelines and chat with other competitors. Everyone wanted to know about the big handsome black horse, so I filled them in a bit. I actually got three offers to buy Brego, including one lady who told her husband to "get out the checkbook," even though I told her he wasn't for sale at any price. Paddy may have a rival for biggest fan club!

All in all, a great show, and I really enjoyed playing groom for a change. Plus, couldn't be more proud of the Wyvern Oaks crew!

Friday, October 24, 2014

This kind of talent takes years of practice to perfect

Cash usually gets tired of wearing his fly mask partway through the day and scrapes it off somewhere. But the artful arranging of a flymask on his favorite scratching tree?  That takes talent. 


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Paddy hones his acting skills

One of the fun things about where I work is the completely ridiculous YouTube videos we make to advertise. This is one of my favorites:

All our talent comes from in-house - the guy in this video actually sits two desks away from me and is awesome to work with in real life.

A couple months ago, the video team approached me about using our horses in a shoot. They cast it, scripted it, and earlier this week we shot the video.

The talent gets bathed and primped by MC. She and Fuzzypony were on hand the whole time and helped get everything ready and wrangle the critters. We definitely could not have done this without them, so thanks to both of you!


The video itself is a fake political ad. The premise is that you should vote for Beau Hayfield, who is awesome at IT security. He's just a good ol' boy working on his "server farm"... which is where Wyvern Oaks and Paddy come in. 

And obviously, you need a server rack on a server farm.

Brego (the shadow on the left) was like "WHAT THE EVERLOVING FFFF IS THAT?!?!?"

Server on the server farm. Har. Har. Har.

The awesome video crew.

More awesome video crew, with Paddy and other horses (bribed by hay) in the background.

Gotta lasso that server!

Every farm needs a dog! Thea (the yellow lab, trained and handled by MC) played her part perfectly.

In between takes. It was funny - I ended up resetting the hay bales for this take because everyone else thought they were "kinda heavy" :)

Paddy was super good for the entire three hour shoot. He stood patiently wearing a Western saddle for most of that time, letting a non-horse-savvy guy lead him and sit on him. In between takes I would give him a treat, so he was always looking right at me, ears pricked, during the takes (I stood behind the camera so he was looking at it). At one point they wanted to get a close-up of him swinging his head around and looking into the distance, so we rattled a bucket of feed. Of course he did it perfectly on the first take - the entire crew laughed about that! He also patiently picked his foot up and set it down about 20 times so they could get a shot of him "stomping" his foot down. SUCH a good boy!

And here's what I spent most of the shoot doing - trying to stay out of the frame while making sure Paddy did what they wanted. You can see me squatting up against the wall, holding Paddy's head in just the right position.

It was interesting to wrangle animals on a set, especially since I wasn't the one actually in the shoot. It was fun, but certainly not something I'd want to do for a living! I don't think Paddy minded it though - he got about a pound of treats in the course of three hours of filming!

I'll post the video when it comes out - should be very soon!