One Year

One year ago today, I brought home a beautiful, funny, sweet little black gelding, and thought our future held so, so much.

It was cut short.

I tried not to let it get to me today, and I was mildly successful until I arrived back home and promptly locked my keys (with my laptop, camera, and clothing from the weekend) in the car. Sometimes, when you’re teetering just on that edge, it doesn’t take much more than a breath of wind to push you over it.

Today sucks, but it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do, except touch a finger to the tattoo on my wrist that I got in memory of him and the lessons he taught me, and keep chasing the sun.

Picture Perfect…ish…

I have the world’s most disgusting horse.

Ew. Ew ew ew. EW EW EW EW.

I have had it up to HERE with trying to groom a horse that is literally caked in urine. Every time I groom him I think I’m inhaling about three days’ worth of dried pee and it. is. gross. I am taking my portable bucket heater, the two buckets I bought for Image last year, and giving him a very thorough sponge bath with warm water and some soap this weekend. Then…well, I don’t know what to do then because it’s useless to try and keep him clean until I can chuck him outside. He may be equally as neurotic outside, but at least he won’t be pacing in tiny circles. The toys didn’t work, unfortunately, though he seems to be enjoying the Likit Tongue Twister that a coworker gave to me to try. Next step, at this point, is trying pelleted bedding until I can kick him outside. If I lived close enough to blanket and unblanket regularly, I’d already have him outside. I know I’m driving myself absolutely batty over this, but until I can exhaust every avenue to make him a happier critter, I’m not going to stop. If I’ve exhausted every avenue and he’s still being a neurotic fool, then there isn’t anything I can do.

Disgustingness aside, he was his usual self this past weekend. He was, as he has been, kind of a butthead on Saturday and much less of a butthead (though still a bit of a butthead) on Sunday. All of his ride time was after we worked in the round pen for close to 45 minutes. Saturday we did well and he’s starting to understand things at liberty, but Sunday… Dunderheaded me got some great work out of him, and then after letting him rest, decided to push for “just a little more”. Needless to say, we were there for fifteen extra minutes trying to reestablish the “whoa when I say whoa” button in his brain. I’m usually very good at quitting on a good note…except Sunday, obviously.

I finally got a decent stop and approach out of him, and called it a day in the round pen. I tacked him up, pathetically dragged myself into the saddle (cannot. wait. to have a saddle that is stable. More on that in a minute…), and we toodled around the yard while K snapped pictures. We had fun bebopping around in the yard, and K got some awesome pictures despite his disgustingness.

He was being nearly perfect here. Despite his buttheadedness on occasion, I am so proud of this little horse and how much he’s improved in such a short time!
Hnnnggghhh cute!
Shnuggles!
SHMILE!

He likes to try and bully his way through my aids when we’re doing stuff that looks like work (aka prancing around in the yard like tools because I don’t fully trust the trails!) so he and I had some words yesterday about trying to barge his way through my hands and leg aids. Of course, K managed to catch us every time we were having a “discussion”…which was pretty much the entire ride. He wasn’t being a total ass, but he was quietly resisting me.

RUNNING WALK! RUNNING WAAAALK! Sure he’s in the process of getting his tongue over the bit but RUNNING WALK!!!!

That being said, look at that gait! He’s been pulling out his running walk all of sudden with minimal encouragement, and ooooh it’s so lovely when he keeps it! I’d like a little more reach with that hind leg, but I’m not sure his conformation really can hanCan I also mention that we got some good canters in yesterday? Soft, forward, rolling canters that were just. freaking. gorgeous.

We played around on the ground in front of the camera after and got some good giggles at his obvious exasperation with the dumb humans. Once I turned him back out, K started taking some pictures of Tory and Flynn…and he was very interested in her Very Expensive camera lens:

Is dis for EATZ!?

Needless to say, he was shooed away relatively quickly. Goofus!

If you have a minute, please go visit Tullamore Photography on Facebook and give K a quick like for me — she and I share a lot in common, photography wise, and now that I’ve brought her to the Dark Side of Canon cameras and equipment (she tried my camera/lens set up one day and she promptly sold her Nikon equipment to change to Canon!), her natural talent is blossoming even more than it already was. Big thanks to her for coming all the way up from CT to spend the afternoon with us in the snow!

Anyway, he wasn’t ACTIVELY a butthead on Sunday…just passively with the shoulder popping and trying to push through my aids. Saturday, however? He was actively a butthead on the trails. D, the herd of dogs, Pepper the pig (not joking!), Simba and I went out on the trails for a little snowy trail ride/hike. He was a little snorty on the way out, but he was manageable. We just walked because while the snow was the heavy, wet kind that provided a lot of traction, the ice underneath made me a little nervous. It wasn’t until we turned around to head home that he turned into a dickweed.

Back to front: Maggie the Sheltie, Pepper the Pig, Poppi the Papillion, Skylar the Skye Terrier, and Dolly the Border Collie.
Snooooooowwww! Thanks to D for playing photographer on the trails!

His MO when I ask him to stop and he doesn’t want to is to pop up. So, as he was trying to push through the bit to go faster on the walk home, I asked him to stop and stand. He did not like this. He popped up, I spun him in tight circles until he gave to the bit. Wash, rinse, repeat. When we got back to the house, I put his sorry little ass to work. We did circles in the back yard at a decent clip and he very quickly softened up. Once he was huffing and puffing, per my aunt’s suggestion, I threw some quick direction changes in there to get him better focused on me. It didn’t take him long for his brain to engage and for him to be giving me “yes ma’am” responses.

After some talk with D and some time to think, I have decided until the weather gets better, Saturday will be a day of concentrated training at home — round penning/ground work and then schooling in the yard — and then Sunday will be round pen/ground work followed by a day out and about, be it on the trails or down the roads. We’re about to get slammed with yet another foot of snow, so I should have decent footing to play in this weekend. I am, however, going to have to suck it up and start riding bareback for the next 9 weeks…because I sold my saddle (*quiet sobbing*) and have started the process of placing an order for a custom made Bob Marshall sports saddle. Geri Gellert of Savvy Sports Saddle has been nothing short of wonderful to work with since I started peppering her with questions and asking her to do near impossible things like try and find me a Skito pad in a turquoise color:

LOOK HOW PRETTY IT IS!

She’s also been fabulous about working with me to get exactly what I want. I’m feeling a little out of sorts being on the buying end this time around (working where I do means I sell a whole lot more tack than I buy!) and I’m TERRIFIED because this is the first saddle I’ve ever bought myself, but she’s making it super easy and fun!

So, it’s going to be bareback or bust for a little bit, I think, unless J and I can meet up for me to be able to borrow her saddle for a little while until I can get mine. I’m okay with that because…well, because shiny new saddle that will fit us both much better. That being said, I am taking the name plate off of the saddle I currently have and keeping it for myself. The horse that it belonged to before me was a very special critter, and this saddle is just so special to me, that I need to keep a little piece of it.

So, that’s that. I have a post in the works on the tattoo, and that will probably be finished tomorrow during the Snowpocalypse. I had zero clue we were even getting snow until after I got to work and didn’t make arrangements to stay up north tonight. So, impromptu (reluctant) day off will be full of writing and bedroom cleaning. I shall leave you with this amusing video of Flynn and Tory trying to figure out why Simba had suddenly turned blue.

Small (TINY) Hiatus

It’s nothing bad…

I just got this done on Wednesday:

This is my second tattoo and this one hurt like a MOTHER. My first one, on my other wrist, totally didn’t!

and typing with it is kind of a bitch while it’s still healing. So, you’ll just have to sit tight for this weekend’s report and the backstory behind why I went and got stabbed by a needle a zillion times!

Happy weekend, ya’ll!

Monday Morning Syndrome

It was 50 effing degrees on Saturday.

It was also raining and slick as snot because of the melting ice/snow, but it was FIFTY DEGREES IN JANUARY.

It was glorious.

I think I was the only moron in the state that even went outside in the pouring rain, but I wasn’t about to give up a day of pony playtime. I’m not the Wicked Witch of the West (usually). A little rain ain’t gonna hurt either of us! If anything, he looked a little less disgusting when I was done with him. Messy horse is messy.

I honestly didn’t even bother grooming him before heading out into the snow. He was wet and it was still misting, so it wasn’t worth it. Instead, we marched right into the snow covered front yard and started some general ground work stuff.

He was fruity, but not quite as braindead as he was last weekend. I’m less convinced that it has anything to do with the weather or the Pony Prozac, but just a lack of consistent work. He is a bit of a fruitcake when he’s first put back into work after a couple of days off because he’s been allowed to sit, and all that pent of energy kind of bubbles out. His focus is shot and all he wants to do is fart around and be goofy. Typical Monday Morning Syndrome. I can sympathize with that: Monday morning hits at work and I’m a scatterbrained fool for the first half of the day!

The snow, thankfully, was still soft and crunchy in most places in the yard. I ended up inspecting the round pen because he was being dopey on the end of the lunge line…dopey to the point of giving me a VERY nice spook, buck, bolt thing. He jerked me forward, hard, and I went *OOF*.. He felt my body weight hit the end of the line, HARD, and when he spun around to look at me…damn, I think that’s the first time I’ve seen him look remorseful since bringing him home! Needless to say, he hustled his ass quite nicely when I got up, because mama was not happy. Even with that, there was no interest in paying attention to me whatsoever, and with no real flat ground to push him forward constantly, I couldn’t insist on his attention. So, after making sure the round pen was safe, I brought him in and unleashed him.

He zoomed around me without any sort of indication that he knew I was there for a good minute or two before realizing that hey, this running this is hard work! I finally got an ear tipped in towards me, but I kept pushing him forward. It’s pretty obvious that he’s had a bit of work done with him on the end of the lunge line, but most free lunging/round pen work is so lost on him that I don’t think he was introduced to it. As long as the footing stays good in there during the next few weeks, my Sunday morning playtime will also consist of some round pen work. He was starting to tune within 10 minutes or so, and once I got him paying attention and he gave me a good stop and approach, I let him be. He was warm and blowing, but not overly sweaty (though it did start to rain harder as we were working!). He plodded after me as I went back to retrieve his halter and lead rope, a much calmer and focused critter.

D stood in the barn with me while I dried him off a bit and roughed up his fur so it didn’t mat down to his body. Simba stood patiently with me, wiggling his nose all over my body. That could potentially turn into a bad thing but I find it painfully adorable and he never uses teeth…so I’m going to be a bad pony mama and let him keep doing it until he gives me a reason to make him stop because it’s adorable and makes me feel like he actually likes me. Sort of, anyway 😉

I turned him back out and D and I spent the rest of the day hidden inside away from the rain and cold. I was relatively pleased with what I had on Saturday, even if he was a bit of a fruit loop. He was MUCH less spacey and was quicker to come back to earth this time around, which was encouraging to see.

Sunday was, as I thought, much less dramatic. I did have L’s Synergist saddle to ride in, and while it fit him okay, it is definitely not going to work. I’m so used to my lovely treeless saddle and the close contact feel it gives me that having that much saddle between myself and my horse was going to be an issue…but, fortunately for my fussy seatbones, the saddle didn’t fit him well enough for me to be comfortable using it on him long term. It hit him in the shoulders and with gaited horses, anything restricting shoulder freedom is BAD news. So, with that being my last resort, I am swallowing my sentimentality and selling my Bob Marshall so I can purchase a different one. I’m selling the entire package of saddle, breast collar, and pad to fund the purchase of a saddle that will better suit both of us. I am going to cry buckets when it leaves, but I am taking the silver nameplate off of the saddle and keeping that for myself.

OHAI DER WANT SOME OF MAH HAYZ?

He was very good despite some wicked wind, and we were out on the roads, alone. He gave me two good spooks worth mentioning: one was over a tree branch falling, which scared the bajeepers out of me, too. He tucked his bum and scooted something fierce — thankfully, I’ve got a relatively solid seat even in a saddle I’m not comfortable in, and only my upper body got left behind. Simba hit the bit and immediately went “oh there’s the bit we’re not dead I guess it’s okay”. The second one was when K’s mini horse and mini mule popped out from behind of her two big mares…Simba has seen these two critters a handful of times now and hasn’t reacted. Sunday, however, they were Horse Eating Aliens.  He snorted and fretted. I giggled and tried not to call him too many names for being a blockhead.

We did a bit of gaiting up and down the road. I mostly just wanted to see how the saddle fit (it didn’t) and now that he’s back to gaiting as opposed to pacing mostly consistently, it’s time to start conditioning him back into a running walk. His default gait is a rack, which is comfortable, but not what I want him doing. A horse that racks is hollow and not really using his body. The running walk is not collected, per se, but it’s also not a hollow gait…it’s more of a “neutral” gait. It’s also one of the smoother gaits out there. I’d still rank it below a good Paso Corto (Paso Fino) or Paso Llano (Peruvian Horse), but the running walk comes in third for most comfortable gait to ride for long distances. His rack is comfy, but with some tweaking, he was able to pick up a true running walk for a few strides. I am beginning to put together a conditioning program for when the warmer weather and longer days so we can start working back towards slowing him down into a running walk as opposed to the rack.

He’s racking here (watch his head — it kind of shakes back and forth instead of the telltale head nod of a running walk) but it was a fun little video to take 🙂

After this past weekend, I believe I’ll be ceasing to use the Pony Prozac. I don’t believe it’s doing much of a difference for him, after doing a bit of experimenting last weekend. His fruity tendencies are stemming from a lack of work, and his stall walking simply isn’t getting any better. My last Hail Mary will be to throw a Jolly Ball and a Likit thing in his stall to see if that helps at all, but I have a feeling it won’t. I believe my only option after that, come spring, will be a trial run of keeping him outside. This usually would be a no brainer, but with no other horses out there and D’s two inside, it may be just more of an issue. His stall walking wouldn’t bother me so much if he weren’t doing it out of anxiety. He is clearly tense and unhappy in the stall, and that bothers me. He’s doing tiny circles all night long, which can’t be good for his joints. His anxiety and stress is going to end up causing ulcers or something equally as evil, and I don’t want to end up having to treat something that could easily be prevented. If, come spring, chucking him outside isn’t a viable option for all of us (two and four legged) I may need to reevaluate his situation all together. If pony ain’t happy, mama ain’t happy…simple as that!

This weekend I’m hoping my fellow Stana Katic/Castle obsessed friend, K, will be coming up to play. M may be able to come and join us as well! I’m loving the fact that I’m getting to know my horse on my terms…but, even as a self-proclaimed introvert, I need some friends to play with too! Here’s to hoping the weather continues to hold and the ground isn’t too gross this weekend!

Wordless Wednesday

Simba saying hello to Bullseye the Nigerian Dwarf goatie. 

Okay, I’m bad a wordless. So sue me.

Can I just say, that even with the absolutely frigid temps this morning, it was SO NICE to wake up and go give my pony a good morning kiss and hug? He just wanted me to give him his breakfast, but he was good enough to tolerate his mother hanging on him for a minute before giving him his hay and grain. Good critter!

Two more days until the weekend. TWO MORE DAYS.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Yeah, I’m learning that the hard way.

Sunday? Sunday I had a completely different horse. Completely different.

It could have been a combination of things: the weather was warmer, he’d had his tiny dose of Pony Prozac (though who the hell knows if that’s making a difference?), and he’d gotten his ridiculousness out the day before. Or he had just had a bad day. Who knows? I probably won’t ever know, and that’s okay. It is what it is. Let it go.

Idina Menzel, Disney, and kickass female characters? I am in love with this movie — finally saw it today, all be my onesies!

The weather was honestly gorgeous on Sunday after so much cold and ice and snow. It was almost 40 and sunny by the time noon hit, so I did a bad thing: I played before working. I usually am pretty good about “stalls first, ride second” but I couldn’t help myself! It was too pretty and warm and lovely out! 
I didn’t even bother dragging him into the barn before seeing where his brain was at. I popped the rope halter onto his head and immediately started asking him to do things, right in the paddock. I was pleasantly surprised (read as: completely and totally shocked!) by his responsiveness and his focus. Total opposite from the space cadet I had on Saturday!
He is really starting to catch on to some little things. I can back him reliably with my voice and a point of the finger. He is learning to read my cues much better for stop, turn and face, and switch directions. I played with the “walk up” cue I’ve been trying to reinforce, as he has been a bit of a dope about coming into the barn at night on his own. D can open the back door to her barn and her horses have always managed to come in without much fuss, but once Simba was added to the mix all hell kind of broke loose. He is slowly getting with the program! Anyway, I did some flexing with him, but he’s got that down REALLY well already, so I’m not going to drill that too hard. 
His quiet and responsive demeanor made me happy, of course, but he was also connecting with me for the first time since I brought him home. He wanted to be with me, and he seemed to enjoy the forehead rubs and neck scratches he was getting. Funny little yellow horse is funny.
Apparently, I was boring him.

I didn’t waste time dawdling in the barn. I knew that rain was on the forecast for later in the day and I really wanted to beat it. So, I knocked as much disgustingness off of him as I could, and threw my saddle on him. L couldn’t make it up with her Synergist so I decided I’d figure out some way to get on and ride in my saddle. It took us about ten minutes to get it figured out, but I find that if I use a higher vantage point to mount from, the saddle stays put. That means a bunch of things (mostly that I have a fat ass, but we knew this), but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t change my decision to pursue different saddle options. I love that saddle, and it’s awesome for easy rides, but training rides or trail rides that are up and down and under and around things in it can be really tough. The horn is VERY high, and I can’t really bend down to duck under things. If I bend to the side, the saddle slips and that’s dangerous. 

Regardless, I managed to haul my sorry butt onto my horse. He was the most relaxed I’ve seen at the beginning of a ride since I brought him home. We did a little bit of schooling in the back yard in the snow, and he was tuned in and soft…so I said “screw it!” and headed onto the trails.
Then I promptly got lost.
Shut up, the lot of you. I’m embarrassed admitting it, because I LIVED with D for two and a half years as a teenager. I hiked and rode those trails many, many, MANY times, so the fact that I was a bit discombobulated in the snow and got off course…well, I felt like a moron. However, it worked out okay, as I ended up on a lovely, snowmobile-d trail that was perfect for playing. We gaited our way through the woods, and Simba was alert and seemed to be having a good time. I realized about halfway down that I was headed towards the road that lead us to the Mason Rail Trail. Now, most rail trails these days are paved and are full of bikers and roller bladers and runners and such. That’s awesome, but it makes riding on them no fun. However, the Mason Rail Trail is AWESOME because it is not paved and had lovely, flat footing. You can ZOOM ’til your heart is content! Once I realized where I was, I was able to relax a bit and got to play! 
Fluffy pony is fluffy!
I probably shouldn’t have, but with the footing so nice and the uphill incline so gradual, I couldn’t help myself. I turned him back up the snowy trail, gave him a bit of leg and kissed. It took him a stride or two to really figure out where to put his legs, but then he cantered off nicely. Hooo boy, his canter may take some getting used to. He has a true rocking horse canter that isn’t uncomfortable, but has a lot of movement to it. I giggled and laughed the entire thirty seconds we cantered, because his ears were going every which way. He definitely needs canter work, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes…hell, that’s where the rail trail may come in handy! 
I headed back down the trail and onto the dirt road. The ice had melted into a slushy dirt mixture, so we gaited our way back to the main road, and then down another dirt road. I was just passing my friend and coworker’s house when I heard a voice ask me if I’d seen a loose horse galloping about.
Huh? 
K, said friend and coworker, had poked her head out of the barn where her horses were busy being shod (by the farrier I’ll be using for Simba, actually!). Apparently, a loose horse had shown up at her house mere minutes before I rode by! I parked Simba in the driveway just as K’s husband was pulling back in the driveway in his car, calling out the window that he had found where the horse lived. When M climbed out of the car, K promptly took the chunky quarter horse out of the stall she had put him in, handed her hubby the lead rope, and asked him to walk the gelding back. I offered to walk with them, knowing that horses don’t usually like to go anywhere without a buddy. Simba and I lead the way up the road, while I occasionally glanced back to check on M and the unknown gelding. Thankfully, the critter was a perfect gentleman and there were no fireworks. A neighbor of the horse owner’s came to meet M and the gelding, as the horse owner wasn’t home, so I turned around and gaited back up towards K’s. My favorite thing about this whole exchange? I asked Simba to turn around and leave the other horse behind him, and he did so without flicking an ear. GOOD pony!
I was ready to head back home at that point, as my nose was a little cold and I knew I still needed to do stalls. We walked back towards home on a loose (!) rein, plodding down the road like we’ve done it a hundred million times…that was, until a whole herd of horses caught his eye! Two of my longtime friends had just returned from a trail ride with a couple of lesson students, and were walking their mounts out up and down the barn driveway. Simba called to them, and Merlin, a big, hulking black Quarter Horse gelding, nickered back. Simba was just fine with stopping for me to chat with my friends. He stood like a gentleman, even though he was painfully curious about the line of horses walking up and down the driveway.

We said our hellos and goodbyes, and Simba and I headed back home. He and I cooled out on the driveway, playing Herd the Pig (aka I giggled as he stuck his nose on the ground, ears pricked, weaving back and forth after Pepper the Potbellied Pig) and working on his response time to my leg.

I got off feeling elated and like I had a bit of whiplash from the change in demeanor. I am so proud of how he handled everything that I threw at him on Sunday. He is still reminding me of how smart and (after a little bit of protest) agreeable he can be about things. He also regularly reminds me that he can be a bit of a dope about things, so he certainly keeps me on my toes. I reiterate regularly to everyone I talk to about him that he is not a horse for a timid person…which makes me laugh, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a more timid horsewoman!

This weekend is supposed to be in the 50s and overcast. I am SO EXCITED because it’s in single digits right now and I’m 100% done with the cold. Time to fast forward to May, right??

Three more days until pony playtime again…!

Moving Forward

We had a much better day today.

I’m too tired to detail anything out, but I had a completely different horse today when I put the halter on. One step forward, two steps back, right?

More tomorrow when I’m not sleep typing!