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!