Thursday, January 30, 2014

Chapters in life you’d rather forget

After yesterday’s silly post, this one may require Kleenex.

Those of you who have been reading for a while will remember my OTTB Echo, who I acquired in February of last year and was diagnosed with Headshaking Syndrome over the summer. We tried so many things to treat his terrible pain, but sadly, none them really worked for him. With my vet’s help, I made the decision to send him to UC Davis to be a part of their research program on Headshaking Syndrome.

(For a description of Headshaking Syndrome, visit this post. For a synopsis of what happened, visit this post.)

Echo was only in my life for about 6 months last year. I don’t have a lot of happy memories of him, and we never really had time to bond. Most of my memories of how much pain he was in, how hard we all tried, and how much it sucked to give up and put him on that trailer. It’s a chapter of my life I’d rather forget, or that I wish never happened because it was so awful. But it did happen, and I can’t forget it. But what do I do with the tangible things from it?

I admit, I don’t have much - some print copies of pics from our only dressage show, and his halter from the track. But what do I do with them? The prints were hanging in my office, but I took them down and they are now face-down on my desk. The halter is hanging on the back of the tack room door. I won’t put it on anyone else – maybe it’s weird but I just feel wrong doing that. I don’t want to throw these things away but I also don’t want to make a shadow box or some other box of memories from them. There’s just … not enough. I don’t want to forget, but at the same time I don’t really want to remember. But then I feel guilty that he somehow didn’t mean more to me. A lot of people really went out of their way to find him for me, thinking that he’d be the perfect horse. And maybe he would have been, if only. If only…

Not every horse is a heart horse, even with the best intentions and a bright start. That’s how horses go sometimes. But what do you do with the “things” you collect while they are in your lives?

Photo courtesy of Lauren Mauldin

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thrift Shop parody - Poppin' tags at the Tack Swap

If you haven't heard the song Thrift Shop by Macklemore, give it a listen before reading on...


Hey guys, can we go tack shopping???

I'm gonna swap some tack,

Only got twenty dollars in my pocket

I - I - I'm hunting, looking for a halter

That is f**king awesome

Y'all, walk up to the barn like, "What up? I got an old riding crop!"

I'm just so pumped, I got some stuff from the tack swap

Chaps with the fringe, it's so damn frosty

That people like, "Damn! That's a cold ass donkey."

Rollin' in, hella deep, stunin' in my riding jeans,

Dressed in all pink, 

'cept my bell boots, those are green.

Draped in a leopard fleece, girls standin' next to me
Probably shoulda washed this, smells like that gelding's sheets (Horse Piiisssssss)

But sh!t, it was ninety-nine cents! 
Coppin' it, washin' it, 'bout to go and get some compliments

Passin' up on those muck boots someone else's been walkin' in

Bummy and grungy, f*ck it, man
I am stuntin' and flossin' and
Savin' my money and I'm hella happy that's a bargain, beotch

I'ma take your grandpa's style, 
I'ma take your grandpa's style,

No for real - ask your grandpa - can I have his hand-me-downs? 

(Thank you)Blue gum boots

 and some old clippers

Dookie brown barn jacket that I found digging'

They had a mean Fjord, I bought a mean Fjord

I bought a Rambo blanket, 

then I bought an old Ford.

Hello, hello, my ace man, my Mello

Them hipsters ain't got nothing on my breeches, h3ll no

I could take some saddle pads, make them cool, sell those

But Smartpak ain't got nothing on my worn-out Velcro


What you know about rockin' a GPA on your noggin?

What you knowin' about wearin' a dressage stock pin?

I'm digging, I'm digging, I'm searching right through those strap goods

One man's trash, that's another man's Beval

Thank your granddad for donating those pinks from hunting'
Cause right now I'm up here just stuntin'

I'm at the tack swap, you can find me in the (Ariats)
I'm not, I'm not stuck, I’m searchin' in that section (Ariats)
Your grammy, your aunty, your momma, your mammy

I'll take those flannel zebra sleazies, second-hand, I rock that mofo

The built-in onesie with the socks on that mofo
I hit the barn and they stop in that mofo

They be like, "Oh, that Animo - that's hella tight.
"I'm like, "Yo - that's two hundred dollas for a polo shirt"

Limited edition, let's do some simple addition
$200 for a polo - that's just some ignorant beeeeotch
I call that getting swindled and pimped
I call that getting tricked by a business
That shirt's hella dough

And having the same one as six other people in this show is a hella don't

Show time, come take a look through my closet yo

Tryna get those DQs from a brand and you hella won't
Man you hella won't

(Tack swap... poppin' tags... yeah!)

I wear your trainer's clothes
I look incredible
I'm in this Pikeur coat

From that tack swap down the road
I wear your trainer's clothes 
I look incredible 
I'm in this Pikeur coat 

From that tack swap down the road 

Is that your trainer's coat?


Many thanks to Shyloh's mom for the inspiration for this post. Also to Jen (with one n) from Cob Jockey for help with pics and lyrics.

All pics were stolen shamelessly from the Interwebz. I own none of them, nor do I own the song Thrift Shop. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dressage training pyramid, how I hate thee

Many of you are probably familiar with the dressage training pyramid:

I currently have a hate/hate relationship with this thing. See, Paddy and I are working on the very lowest two parts of the triangle - Rhythm and Relaxation. If you watched our video from our last lesson, you'll notice that we do a lot of speeding up and slowing down. I assure you that's not intentional on my part - if left to his own devices, Paddy would do a nice 12-mph park trot for an hour straight. So our rides have been a constant discussion:


Me: Easyyyy, buddy.


Me: Hey, I'm up here, I want to go slow.


Me: Sit down, shuddap, and walk. Now, trot slowwwww...


In addition to our constant chats about rhythm, we also have huge issues with relaxation. Paddy is a forward-thinking guy. He's not spooky, but he's Going Places, and he's going to get there first. It's kind of a miracle I can now ride him at a walk on a loose rein, because when I first got him that would have quickly escalated into a zoomy trot within seconds of being given any slack in the reins. So we're getting better at relaxing at the walk, but relaxing at the trot is still completely beyond us. (And we're not even going to talk about the canter right now.)

Now, the next step, according to this pyramid, is connection and impulsion. But frankly, I'm not worried about that right now. What I AM concerned with is straightness. Because wow, can he throw his weight on his left shoulder (correspondingly taking his weight off his right hind) and flop around like nobody's business. He falls in to the left like he's cutting a cow, and drifts out when going right like there's a magnet sucking him to the rail. Laterals to the left are a joke, since he just throws his left shoulder out and leaves his hind end trailing somewhere in the next county.

I TRY to keep hold of that left shoulder, I really do. But I swear, it's got a mind of its own. Couple that with the fact that he's very heavy on the left rein, and there's not much to hope for. We've tried loads of different exercises - laterals, turns on the forehand/haunches, 10 m circles, serpentines... anything to get him to carry weight evenly on all four legs and be, you know, straight? All this while I'm trying to keep the rhythm and not tense my body up to match his. Nobody said dressage was easy, right?

In my lesson this weekend, we finally found the magic exercise: squares. More about those later, but wow, they got him straight, and for the first time ever we weren't trotting around at mach one-haffie. It was pretty damn incredible, actually. So I just would like to ask the people who came up with this silly training pyramid to rewrite it a bit. Can we put straightness first, at the bottom? Because that's how it seems to work for us. Get straightness and the horse has rhythm and begins to relax. 

Miraculous, really.

Monday, January 27, 2014

10 things you didn't know about keeping horses at home: #1 - It's not as cheap as you think

On our drive to and from MeadowCreek Park, Lauren and I got to talking about what it's like to keep horses at home. Many of us horse people dream of owning a few acres and having our beloved beasties right outside our back door - certainly I did! Despite being a horse owner for 15 years before buying Wyvern Oaks and moving the boys it, I really had no clue what was in store for us when it came to keeping the boys at home. I wanted to share some of the lessons we've learned over the years, so that if you're thinking about a place of your own, you'll be a little better prepared than I was.

The not-so-classy looking barn at Wyvern Oaks. Landscaping is in the works.

There are a few important things to consider about our experience that may differ from yours:
  1. We live in a part of the world that doesn't see much rain. Therefore, we don't have much grass, which makes supplemental hay (and possibly grain) a requirement.
  2. Wyvern Oaks is only two acres. Because of its size, we have to manage resources very carefully. If you have more land, it's not going to be so labor-intensive.  
  3. We provide a level of care that's equivalent to what I'd expect at a good-quality boarding facility: fed 2x/day, as much turnout as possible, 24/7 hay, blankets on/off as needed, up in the barn during inclement weather. Obviously for many horses that's not a requirement, but it's what all of ours are accustom to and it works well for us.. 
Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the good stuff!

#1: It's not as cheap as you think

Around here, it's roughly $600/mo to board at a good facility. By "good" I mean:
  • Stalls 
  • Daily turnout with a buddy or two on a decent pasture
  • A covered arena and/or outdoor arena with lights, round pen, and other amenities
  • Blanketing included
  • Fans included
  • Grain included, supplements fed for no charge
  • Less than an hour from town
Pasture board is somewhat less expensive, but even then, "good" pasture board with a run-in shed, supplemental hay and grain, and being separated out for meal times runs about $400/mo, if you want to board at a facility that has an arena and such. If you just want to toss your horse out on a 20 acre grass pasture with barb-wire fencing and no hay or grain and no amenities like a barn, you'd spend about $200/mo, and you'd have to drive at least an hour to get there.

Aisle and run-in area

None of this includes lessons, vet, farrier/trimmer, showing, etc.

In comparison, here's roughly what it costs me, per month, to keep three horses at home:
  1. $150-200/horse/month for hay. Cash is a little more expensive because he gets alfalfa, so this is an average. Obviously if I were boarding I'd have to pay extra for alfalfa. In 2011 during the epic drought, this number DOUBLED per horse because hay was $20/bale. 
  2. $100/horse/month for grain. Because I can choose which grain to feed, I feed Triple Crown. It's expensive, about $22/bag (in comparison, I can get a 12% pelleted feed for about $12/bag, but the ingredient list scares me). Cash and Red together go through a 50 lb bag every other day, more or less. Paddy, on the other hand, gets a cup of Triple Crown Lite 2x/day - a bag of grain lasts him almost a month! Cash also gets supplemental beet pulp, and that's an additional $15/bag, which lasts him about 5 days. I'd have to pay extra for the amount of feed Cash gets if he were boarded. Maybe they'd give me a discount for Paddy? LOL!
  3. $200/month in barn supplies. This includes shavings, PDZ, new buckets/feed tubs (they don't last forever), etc.
So we're up to $900/mo. Not bad, right? But we haven't counted in the cost of the barn, which we had to build and was more than a new car, fencing, which needs regular attention (and really needs to be replaced, which is $$$$$), plus things like the fact that you have to have a truck and trailer to make this all work. I'll get to those things in another post, but just keep in mind that the $900 isn't everything. There are loads of incidentals that aren't really included in this number that you need to be aware of.

Run-in area of the barn

And then there's the big one: TIME. It takes one person approximately 1 hour 2x/day to take care of the boys. I'll talk more in another post about what's required to manage small acreage, but know that I spend a lot of time doing this. If I were paying someone to do it, even if I were only paying them $10/hour, it would cost $600/mo in labor alone. There goes all the savings you're theoretically getting from keeping your horses at home! Of course, the flip side of this is that I get 2 hours of exercise lifting, walking, and just moving around every day that I would not otherwise get. This helps keep me fit and strong in an otherwise fairly sedentary life with a desk job. So maybe I should subtract the cost of a gym membership from the total? LOL!

Of course, if you're lucky and you have 20 acres of grass, a nice run-in shed that came with the property, and you can toss out a round bale every week to keep your horses fat, your costs are going to be a lot less. There is certainly nothing wrong with that style of horse keeping, and in fact I'm kinda jealous of people who can do that! I'd have more time for riding if I could spend less time taking care of the boys, that's for sure!

So, questions? Thoughts? What other things would you like to hear about? 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

EPIC XC schooling with Lauren & Andrea

Yesterday, Andrea from Project Runaway,  Lauren from SheMovedToTexas, and I all met up at MeadowCreek Park for a day of cross-country schooling. I'd been planning to go schooling at MCP for a while - I hadn't been there in years but they have a really nice course - if you don't count the train that goes right behind the XC field about every 30 minutes. Going XC schooling was on Lauren's "30 things to do before I'm 30" list, and I'd managed to sucker talk her into coming along with me and taking Reddums. MCP is about equidistant between me and Andrea, and it wasn't hard to talk Andrea into bringing O schooling. Sometimes things just work out perfectly, and this was one of them!

Flying Attack Haffie!

We'd had a "snowstorm" and freeze two nights before, and there were a bunch of jumps with snow on them, as well as snow patches in the shady areas. It was kinda strange - I've never schooled XC with snow on the ground, even when I lived up north!

Yes, there is snow on that jump (!?!?!?). No, we did not jump that one.

Paddington was fantastic. I'm not gonna lie and say that every spot was perfect and every fence was awesome, but he jumped everything I asked him to. We are having really bad issues with falling in on the left shoulder (seems to be getting worse, and we are gonna work on that more in our next dressage lesson) so I focused on keeping him straight and not letting him duck left. Lauren made us an awesome video of the awesome parts of our ride. You can see the train going by at :19, O blasting by us at Mach 8 around 33 seconds (note that Paddy doesn't bat an eyelash at this), and my FAVORITE part - the water - at around 1:00.

 It's funny what you learn from videos - apparently I say "good boy" after every fence! Who knew?

Rockin' the baby ditch.

Haffie in the water! Last time in a water jump he just sort of trotted through it, but this time he really attacked it. Progress!

And just to keep it real, here are our bloopers. Note that they are rated R, for adult language. ;)

I obviously didn't ride the log very well - he was flat and strung out on the approach, and I didn't ride him straight. The ditch at the end was something I shouldn't have asked him to do - I think it was too much for him. He jumped it like a deer the first time, but then refused to go over it again. Eventually I got off and Lauren and Andrea helped me lead him over a few times. He wasn't happy about it, but we made it work. However, since he was a superstar for everything else, we'll just pretend like that never happened!

This ditch has alligators AND lava in it. JUMP FOR YOUR LIFE!!!

Afterwards, we played musical horses. Lauren rode Paddy, then Andrea wanted to try Paddy out too. You'll have to visit their blogs to see vids and pics of that, but they both did awesome and Paddy was very good.

Andrea on Paddy, Lauren on Reddums, and me on... O-Ren?!?! Yep, Andrea let me ride her and she was AWESOME! What a cool mare!

All in all, it was a great day and we all had a ton of fun! It was nice to have such a confidence-building schooling session just two weeks out from our first schooling Horse Trials at Pine Hill on Feb. 16. Hopefully I'll see Andrea at an event, and maybe next time we can convince Lauren to bring Simon out. Woot!!!

I think there are bugs in our teeth!

Thanks to Lauren for all the awesome pics and vids! And be sure to visit both Lauren's and Andrea's blogs for their stories about the day. No spoilers from me, but there are some funny stories to be had. :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Every day I'm shufflin'

Part of the reason our jumping is improving by leaps and bounds is because our dressage is so completely rockin'. I mean, we're barely ready to go Training level at a schooling dressage show, but we are SO FAR from where we were just a month ago.

Last weekend, MC was nice enough to come to our lesson and take pics and vids. It's so nice to have a visual record of where we are and where we might be going. 

Laterals FTW

Trot is coming along

Last week he was really coming over his top line - so pleasant to sit

Here's a bit of a clip that shows a walk leg yield, a bit of trot work, and our new and improved left lead canter (right lead is *almost* as good, but the vid was blurry).

One reason I love having pics and vids so much is because I can see things that I'm unaware of in the saddle.

Jeanne kept yelling at me to sit straight on the laterals, and I was like, Whaddya mean I'm not straight? Oh. Oh, I see what you're saying here. Oops.

Also apparently my left stirrup is 1 hole shorter than my right. Tack fail.

You didn't think I was going to leave you without an adorable picture of His Royal Haffieness, now did you?