Winter Doldrums

I know I’m not alone when I say “no more winter, kthxbai”, but after this past weekend’s teeny, tiny little taste of spring…?

GIVE IT TO ME NOW. NOW NOW NOW. *flails*

Even with the warm weather, I was entirely uninspired to ride this weekend. I didn’t even bother. Instead, I tested out a new grooming product (B+ for the SleekEz, which is basically a hunk of wood with some sort of weird blade shoved into it…it unmatted his fur, sort of), rejoiced over the fact that he was not NEARLY as disgusting as he has been, and threw him a little birthday party. Simba turned 11 on the 18th, and because I am actually a pre-teen and not twenty three, I stuffed a “happy birthday” tiara on his head, humiliated him by taking pictures, and then giving him a bran mash, which he slurped up happily with his tiara on.

Tolerant pony is tolerant.

I moved him around in the snowy round pen on Sunday because he was being a jackass about…well, everything. Once he got some of his excess energy out he was much more agreeable. I am so, so ready to get this horse into regular work. Next week is one step closer: Daylight Savings kicks in. Also, THIS is one step closer:

Judge my stuffed animal collection. Go on. Do it. I dare you.

IT’S HEEEEERE! Okay, my saddle wasn’t due to me for another FIVE weeks, but lo and behold, it’s here! We received a UPS “hey you need to be home to receive a package!”. T, his wife Q, and I all looked at each other blankly because none of us were waiting on a package (or so I thought!). I looked up the tracking number and my heart fluttered when I realized it was coming from KY. Could it be?!

Aaaand it was! I dove into the box yesterday afternoon and then spent the evening staring at it. Of course, now that I have the saddle…the Skito saddle pad I ordered is off with a local blanket repair person to be re-covered with a different fabric (long story short: color in picture was WAY off from what it actually was…it was more green than blue, so I found the fabric I wanted online, ordered some, and found someone to fix it for me), and his new Taylored Tack headstall had to be sent back because it came in the wrong color (misunderstanding between myself and the manufacturer, but she was so kind in taking it back to fix it!). So, I’m entirely unprepared for the saddle to be here. L is letting me borrow her larger Skito pad for this weekend, and I’ll dig in my box o’ horse crap in the basement for my black dressage headstall (must. match!) for the time being.

So, maybe, despite the incoming cold snap (BAH), I will ride my horse again this weekend!

Weekend Report

Not too long until I’ll be able to get to the barn on weekdays again…spring, please come soooon!

Most of my weekend plans were foiled by the nasty, crusty snow we had up north. The foot and change of snow was topped by an inch or two of ice, which made the going really, really tough anywhere that was not plowed or snowmobiled through. Unfortunately, the trails that back up to the barn are not snowmobile trails — they’re private ones, obviously, that we have to blaze to get out to the state forest. Once you hit the state forest, ย the trails are usually gorgeous because of the snowmobiles. Until then, though, it can be slow going. I wasn’t going to ask my still out of shape horse to trudge through that much ice and snow. That ix-nayed my bareback plans, as bareback is an at-home option only right now. So, I decided to saddle up so we could poke down the road for a nice walk.

Playing supervisor while I did stalls. Dolly the Border Collie making supervising us both. PS: Take note of plastic bag in corner of stall…we tried pellets this weekend. See below for detals!ย 

Poke. I wanted to POKE. Just a niiice little walk.

Simba had other ideas. I did not ride a horse on Saturday. I rode a palomino fire breathing dragon.

It was cold, it was snowing, it was “Monday” morning for him, and we were on the dirt roads, where we can usually move out a little on nice days. Not so on Saturday. So, there was constant discussion:

“Can I go?”
“No.”
“How about now?”
“No.”
“Now?!”
“NO.”
“Pleeeeaaaaasssseeeee?” (commence head tossing and sideways jigging)
“NO. Walk, damn it!”
(insert equivalent of an equine huffy exhale here) “FINE.”

He desperately wanted to just GO. I didn’t trust the footing under the snow on the roads, and with the saddle restricting shoulder movement, I’m not interested in trying to do much more than flat walk for awhile. I have a lot of flat walking to do to redevelop the running walk as is, so the more I can do while I’m in the Duett, the better. It is, however, REALLY FREAKING HARD to just walk when your horse has a firecracker lit under his tail!

I joke about that, but honestly, he is a relatively safe horse. He doesn’t buck, he doesn’t bolt, he doesn’t rear, he doesn’t do high speed spins or any serious spooking…he just wanted to power through my aids and get a move on! He was still (mostly) respectful, just very “loud” about expressing his opinion! I LOVE this aspect about him. I can deal with goofy and opinionated. I’ve had my fill of slightly dangerous and explosive, I think!

“You’ve kind of set off an eternal winter…*everywhere*” (NO THE FROZEN REFERENCES WILL NEVER EVER STOP EVER)

We returned to the barn looking like Abominable Snow Monsters. I cooled him out, gave him his lunch hay, and tossed him back in the paddock. Then I hunked down in the house with the inside critters under a blanket until dinner time because I am so. fucking. done. with snow. Pardon my language, but I am SO DONE with winter. Everyone else is too — this is not an unpopular opinion right now — but holy hell, I have had enough!

Sunday I was lazy. I took one look at the fresh snow on top of the crunchy icy crap, sighed, and decided to just do stalls, “groom” my horse, and high tail it for home.

Speaking of stalls, I did experiment with pellets this weekend. I am not going to mark it as a success until I see Messy Marvin (D’s nickname for him, along with Fabio…because hair. Lots of hair) this upcoming weekend. He was, however, DRY on Sunday when I checked his belly, and I was able to knock off some really disgusting dried pee off of his usually-soaked belly. The pellets were able to absorb much more of the urine and keep it off of him, and keep the stall from being a complete disaster because it’s so easy to clean. I am hopeful that this is going to solve a lot of the issuesThat being said, this does not change my ultimate plan to kick his furry yellow butt outside. Pellets will be a back up for when he does have to be stalled if they do what I hope they’re going to do.

Anyway, now that I’ve sidetracked myself…I did do a teeny bit of groundwork in the driveway with Yellow Horse before trudging home on Suinday. He has been having some issues with backing up softly and with energy, so on top of some very slow walk lunging on the safer side of the driveway, we worked on backing up.

It’s obvious he’s only been asked to back up a couple of steps at once. So, we started with that. When he was softly backing away from me with just a cluck, I asked for a little more. He did not like this. At all. Once he hit a certain amount of steps, he would get sticky and start ignoring my cues until I ramped it up. At one point, I had to give him a good thwack with my dressage whip on the chest to get him to move out of my space. He did not like this, but moved. I let him rest on that one for a moment, before asking him again.

He pinned his ears and snaked his head out at me.

Um. Ex-cuuuuse me?

Unacceptable. I got after him quite harshly for that one and he backed his sorry ass all the way back up the driveway, and then back down. He very quickly realized he had made a Big BooBoo, and by the time we hit the barn again, he was backing away from me off my body language with medium energy with his head down.

Bad pony got forehead rubs when we stopped, and I ended with some easy hindquarter yielding, which he is quite good at. Once he was done, I brought him back into the barn, scraped him off some more, and then kicked him back outside. I realized I had a handful of cookies left in my pocket, so before going home, I slogged my way through the snow in the paddock, where Simba met me half way with happy ears and many kisses (which he now does on command because I am a DORK).

I’m cute. Now give me cookies. Pronto!

I’m not sure if he was just in a crabby mood, or if he just REALLY hates backing up for more than a few steps, or what that was all about, but I certainly got my point across. We’ll be revisiting that again this weekend to see if the lesson stuck. Hopefully, he got the message and is going to be less of a punk.

He’s special…in the best possible way. But he’s definitely special!

Over and out until next weekend, unless I get inspired to finish any of the TEN random posts I have going that are product reviews, stories from BB (Before Blog), and the backstory to the new tattoo.

Happy trails!

Odds n’ Ends (In the Form of Castle Gifs)

Basically, I have been feeling cranky and unsettled this week.

Especially with all this stupid snow. It’s like Mother Nature is going to deny us spring for as long as humanly possible.

But, I get to see Simba tomorrow!

But then I remember he’s disgusting and there’s nothing I can do about it.

I couldn’t choose because Stana is best at “omfg ew” derp faces.

I KNOW it shouldn’t bother me this much, but I was looking at the pictures I took of him when I first brought him home, and while he was still a dirty palomino, it wasn’t nearly this bad! I didn’t take pictures like I wanted on Sunday because there was literally no good angle to photograph him at. I know I’m probably screwed until warmer weather before I can do anything…

Maybe the temperature will actually get close to 40 like they’re predicting (moar snow down south, less snow up north…!) and I can scrub him again?

I’m sure you are all tired of hearing about my disgusting horse at this point, but if you’re anything like the people who deal with me on a regular basis, you’ve given up trying to tell me to ignore it until spring.

Well, even if I can’t get him clean, I’m experimenting with pelleted bedding this weekend. I also plan on a bareback ride through the stupid white stuff on the ground because why not? If I fall off, it won’t hurt quite as much. I hope.

Hush, the lot of you. Don’t ruin my story with your logic.

In other news, I took today off. I was supposed to be running around playing with M, but my car troubles and the evil snow got in the way. You know what I did instead?

Marathoned the Iron Man movies.

Over and out until Sunday!

Footnote: okay I swear this wasn’t supposed to a Stana Katic appreciation post, so here’s a gratuitous bare assed Nathan Fillion for everyone else (Firefly, not Castle).

Makin’ Mama Proud

I is a proud mama today.

This past week was kind of rough — inventory last weekend, on top of a nasty cold bug…followed promptly by a terrifying snowstorm, another stomach bug (my immune system hates me), bad (but fixable) news about my car, and my debit card being hacked. Today could not have come fast enough.

Okay. I take that back. I accidentally left my inventory alarm active on my phone, and guess who got a really startling wakeup at 5 AM this morning? That was a little too fast, thankyouverymuch.

So, I rattled around in bed until 9, threw my stuff into my bag, and made the trek to the other side of the state. Sadly, due to said car issues, I have to stay off of highways. My passenger side tire has a tumor of sorts, and this is Bad News because if it goes kablooie at high speeds, I’m screwed. This meant that I missed a very important baby shower for a very important friend, and I was a sad panda about that. Kate over at The Adventures of Lucy is one of my all time favorite people and I am SO EXCITED that she and her husband are going to be welcoming a little girl into their family! The world always needs more horse crazy little girls! If you don’t already follow her blog, my suggestion is to go on over and give it a read. Her journey with Lucy (also known as Lulu, and occasionally, Lucifer) is inspiring and totally worth reading beginning to end! Some day, with my oodles of free time (har har), I’ll whip up a post about the day I got to ride Lucy!

Anyway, knowing that I was missing the baby shower was just the icing on the cake, so I knew barn time was needed, pronto. I very carefully took backroads up north, and upon arriving, didn’t even bother grabbing the wheelbarrow to do stalls. I ducked straight into the paddock and snuggled into my horse’s shoulder. Smart pony was smart and tolerated her mother hanging on him for quite some time. He’s either learning to like it, or he’s figuring out that if he stands reeeaaaalllly still, the crazy human will eventually leave him alone and go do productive things, like clean his stall and get him food.

I bounced through stalls and did a pre-flight check of sorts out in the paddock with him. Usually I reserve Saturdays for ground work and concentrated training. He’s a space cadet during the first day of the work week, and he needs that time to get back into gear. He was surprisingly soft and responsive to me as I lunged him, asking for changes of direction and multiple gait changes on the end of the line. He threw the brakes on immediately each time I asked him to stop. He backed up and yielded both his shoulder and hindquarters without a fuss.

So. I got on.

After scraping him off, that is. He’s starting to lose hair. I cannot WAIT for warm weather and a big bucket full of shampoo…

We fussed in the yard for a bit, not doing much more than playing. Now, when I say the “front yard”, it’s not the flat expanse of land that most front yards are. It’s a pretty impressive hill. So, we went upppp the hill, and then cantered along the top, and then doooowwwn the hill. He was being VERY good — he wasn’t popping his shoulder, trying to barrel through me to get back to the barn, or any of his normal tricks…so I said “screw it!” and off onto the trails we went!

He is such a little energizer bunny out there. There were lots of reminders to “walk please”, as he would much prefer to gait his way through life these days. The horse that needed lots of leg to go is no longer! I didn’t even have my dressage whip, because it has mysteriously disappeared…aka, I think I left it on the ground last weekend and it is now underneath another foot of snow.

I made a last second decision to head to the rail trail. I really wanted to put off going there until the weather was better, because riding the rail trail is a magical experience that I wanted to reintroduce myself when it was warm and sunny and lovely out. Again, I said “screw it” and turned him towards the rail trail.

Getting to the rail trail is a ride in itself — we head up the trails behind the house, head down a trail that spits us out on a dirt road, and then we can hit the rail trail from that road. Thankfully, the roads were clear and the forest trails were LOVELY from snowmobilers, so it was a nice ride down the hill and down the road.

Once we turned onto the rail trail, he picked up and settled into a nice, swingy walk. He was very much interested in moving out into a gait, but he’s out of shape and I’m out of shape, so we took it easy for the first few minutes.

Then I couldn’t exactly help myself.

I don’t regret it. He was all kinds of thrilled and moved out into a lovely, gliding running walk. He seemed so happy to be out playing! He wasn’t naughty and never quit “talking” to me, but his ears were pricked and he just wanted to go.

It wasn’t long until we came upon a couple of snowmobilers. They were polite and pulled over, waving their hellos as we walked past. Simba tipped an ear at them, and then tried to reach out and poke one with his nose. Okay, so we’re not afraid of snowmobiles. I’ll take it!

This is the rail trail. It is a bazillion miles of long. mostly straight, mostly flat, railroad bed with the ties pulled up. The footing is pretty much awesome the entire time and you can just GO. Awesome place to ride!

We hit the bridge and I decided it was time to turn around. We gaited our way back to where the snowmobilers had stopped to chat with one another, and just as I was about to call out to them, I heard more noise behind me. I pulled Simba over to the side, expecting them to at least slow down. Silly me! They zipped past us at mach ten. and despite being obviously concerned with the zoomy monsters that were flying past him, Simba contained himself to only a few wiggles and a giraffe impression. I gave him an extra big pat after that one.

We walked back down the trail towards the road, and for the first time since getting him, I was able to get a nice, swingy, relaxed walk out of him with a loop in the reins. He was very happy to march along, and a couple of times he even walked with his nose on the ground like a big ole’ bloodhound. I was too busy laughing to correct him…he really is fascinated with snow and will “snorkel” in it if given the opportunity when I’m working him on the ground. Weird pony is weird!

We walked back to the forest trail, and started to make the trek back up the hill. The first climb is a smidge steep, but it levels out eventually to a gentle incline. Today was a day of impulses, apparently. He was still feeling good so I asked, gently, for a canter. He flailed momentarily and I stayed with him until he rolled into a nice little lope. I let him hold it for quite a few strides until we hit the last open bit of trail before ducking into the trees. I got up off his back, kissed, and off he went!

He’s got an awesome gallop, if anyone was wondering ๐Ÿ™‚

We walked him on a loose rein after that, and he had his breath back long before we hit the front yard again. I dismounted and hugged him in all his grossness for being a good, good boy today! He seemed to really enjoy being out and about and took all of the things I threw at him in stride. He contained himself during a scary moment and didn’t even offer to be naughty or come unglued at the thought of picking up speed. Very, very proud of my little yellow monster!

D’s Duett is still proving to be a lovely saddle to ride in, despite my own shortcomings. Cute yellow(ish) horse!

Tomorrow I plan to ride again, but I also plan to try and scrub him down again. His belly is perpetually wet with pee and that just can’t be good for him. The second it gets a little less icy out in the paddock, he is going outside. I also plan on getting my damn camera out for the first time in 2014 and actually, you know, using it to take some pictures. I’m totally uninspired because it’s the middle of winter and no one wants to pay for pictures of the yak-like horses that are dirty…and I really don’t want to take pictures of my yak-like horse that is dirty either! Warm weather needs to come soooon!

Rainy Days and Sundays

Actually, the rainy day WAS Sunday this weekend. Grumble.

I still rode. See?

Wet pony is wet.

We worked in the round pen before I mounted up (in an English saddle…more on that in a moment!) and he is getting much, much more fluid about reading my body language. He is still much better on the end of the line, with the halter pressure as a crutch of sorts, but even then, he’s responding more to my body language than the actual pull of the halter. He got himself worked up into a tizzy over D working baby Flynn on the other side of the back yard, but even then, he tuned back in relatively quickly. I’m enjoying the challenge he’s presenting himself to be in regards to liberty work.

Once he was completely paying attention to me (and after he had gotten himself nice and steamy…dingdong!), I brought him back into the barn to tack him up. It took a bit of fiddling, but I was able to fit him with D’s Duett Companion trail saddle. Now, I don’t like riding English. Usually, I’m riding in a saddle that is a seat size too small and meant to stick up in a forward seat for jumping. I do not do well in a forward seat. Actually, I usually go kersplat when I get forward at all! So, I was a little apprehensive.

I mounted up and was pleasantly surprised by how balanced I felt. The saddle fit my fat ass well (and that’s weird, because my aunt is a much smaller woman, though she reminded me after that this was the saddle that she had accidentally ordered in a too-big seat size) and I felt balanced and secure. Stupidly, I felt a wee bit proud. I’m not a confident rider by nature so I have to work at it, and without the “safety” of a deep seated saddle, I sometimes get tense. I was surprised at how relaxed and balanced I felt, even though the seat lacked depth and I had no dashboard holding me. It’s almost like I know how to ride or something! ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, being brave and all, I started down the driveway to poke around on the roads. It had started raining the second I stepped into the saddle, but I was on already, so might as well. Simba was his usual “ohmahGAWD we’re off the PROPERTY I’m gonna DIE” tense self, but also per usual, he didn’t really refuse to do anything. He just…tiptoed, for lack of a better way to put it, down the driveway. He really does lack confidence. It’s kind of a given that he’d lack confidence in me at this point — I mean, we’ve only been together for two whole months — but he lacks confidence in himself as well. Thankfully, I’m pretty damn skilled at pretending to be confident, so I have no issues with pushing him forward when he’s asking “are you suuuuure…?” He’s very obvious with his body language and “tells” me that he’s going to spook or balk at something about three hours before he actually does it. The conversation goes a bit like this:

“What is that?”
“Nothing. Keep moving.”
“But…really, what is that?”
“It’s a rock. Nothing to be worried about, I swear.”
“I think it’s scary.”
“I know you do. You’re fine. I won’t let it get you.”
“I think I’m going to spook.”
“Don’t spook.”
“I think I’m going to spook!”
“Don’t. Spook.”
“I THINK I’M GOING TO SPOOK!!!!”
“DON’T. SPOOK.”
“I’M SPOOKING! I’M SPOOKING! OH MY GOD I’M SPOOKING!!!”

He has the best bug eyed look. Giggle!

Then he ping pongs in between the reins and my legs trying to wiggle away or spin or something. Sometimes he truly spooks at something and it’s quick — that’s when he slams on the brakes, hard, and gives me zero warning — but that usually doesn’t happen. Of course, I say this as a prelude to this story: we were walking up the road, and something suddenly caught his attention. I was busy waving forward a car that had slowed down to a near stop. It happened all at once: I waved the car forward, and Simba rocked back on his haunches and did a graceful, mercifully slow spin away from the Evil Scary Thing (whatever it was). I squeaked in surprise and grabbed mane. Thankfully, my upper body took most of the beating — my leg caught his side and I didn’t get jostled out of the saddle at all. I promptly turned him around, waved sheepishly at the couple gawking at me from their car, and pointed my firebreathing dragon onwards.

I figured that if he had the energy to sit n’ spin, he had the energy to do some real work. The dirt road I like to ride on has a nice uphill incline, so we started working there. The first few times up and down, we kept it at a brisk walk. When I say walk, I mean WALK…not your little nervous tiptoe, not dragging your feet…march, damn it! Once I’d gotten a good, forward walk out of him twice up and down the hill, I asked him to gait. He gaited off nicely, holding the running walk all the way up the hill. I’m not big on travelling downhill at speed on a horse I don’t know well (read as: at all, ever) so we march-walked back down the hill. I repeated this twice more, until he was a little huffy-puffy. I let him walk until he caught his breath, and then decided to see where we really were with a canter button.

This is where we are going to struggle, I think, more than anything else. I have some canter issues, he has some canter issues, and we may need a professional to step in here. I’ve been bucked off many times at the canter, so my immediate response when I ask for a canter is to tighten up. He’s obviously not been asked to canter properly in a long time, if ever, so when I ask him for speed, he goes “eeeeeeeeeee!” and throws limbs in every which direction. Cute, but bouncy and makes my brain turn off because I get tense. It took us a few (ugly) trips up the hill, but I finally got a canter out of him. He didn’t offer to buck, which was nice, but it was definitely the most uncoordinated canter I’ve ever sat, and I’ve sat some uncoordinated canters before! Once we get really cranking that will be a major point to try and fix.

We headed back to the house just as the rain began to lighten up again. Simba has now learned where home is, so he tries very hard to be the one who makes decisions as to what gait we’re going to get there at. We did lots of stopping, standing, and restarting until he finally, grumpily, relented and walked the rest of the way home. 1, mama. 0, pony.

Saturday was a “fuss on the ground” sort of day. I long lined him, which he obviously knows how to do, so despite him getting his man-panties in a twist when D worked with Tory nearby, he was good and didn’t really give me a reason to keep fussing with him. I did learn, however, that someone made a very half assed attempt at teaching him to park out:

“Maaaahhhhmmmm, stop laughing at meeeee!” Also doggie photobomb by Dolly the Border collie.

Needless to say, this is a little pathetic, but it was nice to see that he kind of knows how. I did some research the other night and the popular way to get them to park on the ground is to tap their fetlocks with your foot. So, I took my training stick, tapped his fetlock a couple of times, and ta-da! Parked…ish.

I have given up on keeping him clean for now. It’s impossible until I can kick him outside, which will hopefully be within the next month. He has, however, just started to shed…I am resisting clipping it all off immediately and just burying him in blankets until it’s warm enough to be naked. I won’t, I promise…but it’s tempting!

In other news, MY BOB MARSHALL IS ORDERED. High pitched squealy noises! I had a day of mourning when I had to ship my previous saddle out (which translates roughly into: I drank heavily that night and cried a lot over the silver nameplate I had kept), but I am keeping my eyes on the beginning of April, which is when I should be receiving it! The annoying blue Skito pad is already en route, and so is the Dixie Midnight pad, so that will be all set. The rigging converters are also on their way after a sneaky buy on eBay instead of having to try and find a pair of black ones through work. Now I’m left with finding a girth (but will leave that until I’ve got the converters; I don’t know if I’ll need an all purpose girth or a dressage girth at this point), finishing off my Taylored Tack bridle/breastcollar set (reins are being made as we speak), and finding slightly wider stirrups than the ones that are coming with the saddle. Is this what clothes shopping is supposed to feel like? Exhilarating and depressing all at once? Between money socked away, Christmas funds, and the saddle sale, I can easily re-outfit the critter. Admittedly, part of it is vanity (must. match. ahhhh!) but the other part is that he’s currently got a lot of Image’s stuff on and, to be honest, I’d like to put most of it away for now.

This weekend will be super busy with pony things and non pony things. I will be running back and forth all over New England. That is, if I don’t die trying to get to work during tomorrow’s Snowpocalypse…sigh. Stay safe and warm, everyone!