Sunday, August 31, 2014

A study in orange

When Fawkes was a racehorse, he was apparently noteworthy for being "the orangest horse around."  Obviously he wasn't noticed for being the fastest...

Anyways, successful jump lesson this morning.  I even took a picture of the ring set up so I don't have to try and remember it.  These were the heights for the lesson after mine, we are still chilling around 2'

Outside gymnastics with one strides, single on the other long side, singles on the diagonal
Fawkes was being a very good boy, although I was, for no good reason, riding a bit tentatively.  Cantered several jumps without trotting them first - always a big deal for us.  Then one of the neighboring farms turned their goats out and were herding them around a field.  To play it safe and not let Fawkes react we tried to be creative.  Jumped the line, halted.  Came around the corner and trotted the long side single.  Cantered around to the red diagonal, halted.  Trotted around to the blue diaganol.  Then trotted the red and cantered the blue.  It worked!  With the mixed in halts and trot fences he didn't get worked up and I managed to avoid my defensive maneuvers that freak him out.

After our ride, we got a bath.  In case you think your horse can win the derp award, Fawkes would like you to know about his entry.  In which I was washing his mane, he got bored, backed up and threw his head around, and managed to get the hose stream right in his ear.  He was soooo pissed.  He also spent his entire bath shaking like a dog so I got soaked too.  Thanks buddy.

Because he will be clean for about 30 minutes, I wanted to get some photos.  Then I decided to document his current colors, bumps, chips, and oddities.  So, I present our study in orange:

Princess horse won't eat apples ever since I poisoned apple sauce with bute

His pin firing scars which I still find so strange

He has lots of random white spots like this one behind his right ear.

This is the superficial hoof crack where he stepped on himself.  Ugly, but bothers him not at all.

Conformation shot expert I am not, but look at all the clean and shiny!  The white sock is white!

The sun was sadly behind a cloud because he is so shiny he actually can cause orange-blindness

Random scrapes on his right shoulder.  The face in the bottom right is likely the culprit, although
Fawkes is always asking for abuse.

Hocks that will never heal no matter what bedding he has.  Maybe an air mattress in his pen...

Our super fancy front pads

His tail has natural ombre effect and is basically a fall palette.
I love its colors and how well it deals with my neglect

Are you done yet lady or can I eat whatever you have??

So.....ass cheek chafing or, more likely, rubs from the fly sheet straps.  Oh the indignity.

Little orange ermine markings on his sock!

Lots of white hairs on the left hind.  
Happy long weekend!  We would celebrate with a trail ride if our barn weren't on VS lockdown.  So a hack tomorrow it is.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just chugging along

Vet had an emergency yesterday, so never made it out to our barn. Hope she got there today/gets there tomorrow but regardless, Fawkes seems fine now.  He certainly didn't feel stiff yesterday.

We had a great lesson last night.  As dumb as this sounds, I feel like the saddle, horse, and I are finding a rhythm.  Fawkes is still a bit slow off the leg, but that is something we will work on tomorrow.  We worked on cantering a line of 8ish poles set up as a bounce, then the same exercise was set up with two crossrails in there.  We cantered it in both directions.

Not from the lesson.  Sadly stuck in the indoor due to Seattle...errr, Colorado rains.
Our forever battle against straightness continues.  It starts to sound so repetitive and boring, but Fawkes is a major shoulder bulger and getting that under control is clearly critical to our journey to something resembling a straight line.  One of the things I love about my trainer is when I explain to her how my brain processes something, she changes how she says it to work with my (super crazy) brain.

So when I mentioned I noticed our turns are better when...wait for is a pretty big revelation.....I start using outside leg before we start turning, she has started reminding me to do that.  It really helps as I require an immense amount of repetition to train my body.

Given that I naturally lack things like body awareness and flexibility, it was recommended I try yoga.  I do plank regularly but have never taken a yoga class so maybe it is time to remedy that?

My friend's handsome gelding
The weather was all sorts of crazy - wind, dumping rain, hail, then sun, then repeat.  Fawkes was a filthy mess when I got there.  Freaking pigpen.  Scraped the worst off to make my lesson on time.  Had a laugh with my trainer about barns who insist horse and rider are spotless for lessons.  I get the idea of respect, and admire people who can do that, but my horse loves mud and I have a job that often keeps me late. Sometimes we are excited just to make it to the lesson, much less get fully clean.

Is it the long weekend yet?!?!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New objective

After another fun day of hiking with the pups Sunday morning
Those jerks have the energy to wrestle after 3k of elevation gain.  I have enough
energy to flop over and beg for snacks.

It was cold, I had to wear my "teddy bear" Patagonia R3 hoody

I went Iron Man and took Fawkes out for a hack Sunday afternoon. The key is to not sit down.  At all.  Get home, change clothes, go straight to the barn.  If you sit down after a 7 mile hike, you stay there and convince your husband to bring you St Lupulin and other delicious beers.  Instead, I managed to get a reasonable 45 minute ride in, just having him stretch and do transitions.  I am happier and happier with the saddle the more I ride in it, let's hope the honeymoon phase stays with us.  I did oil the everloving crap out of it which sadly darkened some of the red hues I really liked, but supple leather > color.

My trainer said Fawkes and I looked like we walked out of Dover's fall catalog.
Complete coincidence, I am sartorially challenged.
This picture reminds me that trainer R moved my stirrups up a hole on Saturday and now I am on the top hole of the children's leathers.  Sigh.  Hope they don't stretch (they are nylon lined).  Also, I don't know if this is a "being in my 30s" thing or a "you have no flexibility thing" but damn, it takes a full week for my leg to agree to the shorter stirrups without leg agony.

Fawkes had yesterday off and then we had another ride tonight.  We aren't pushing much until after the vet checks him tomorrow, but I had a small epiphany that Fawkes has developed a deaf ear when it comes to my leg lately.  I am working way harder than I should have to, and he is getting around to responding when he feels like it.  Once we get the all clear from the vet, we will need to have a mini bootcamp on responding NOW.  He is a smart boy, I don't expect it to take more than a few sessions to sharpen up.  Overall, he was pretty good and those trot/canter transitions are slowly improving.

I have started looking into shock absorbing half pads to protect Fawkes' back and think I have decided on the Ecogold.  I was torn because the saddle fits really well and I don't want to add bulk so I was leaning towards the ThinLine, but the super positive Ecogold reviews and their return policy have swayed me.  If it does mess up his saddle fit I can return it, but if not, people seem to swear by it for back protection.  Ah, byebye money!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back under saddle

Rode Fawkes today in a mini-lesson.  I thought we were just walking but instead we did a little bit of all gaits and even some jumping.  I am not going to lie, he felt exactly the same to me as he always does, but trainer R thought he looked more comfortable.  He was well behaved after having basically 4 days off, which is always a nice thing.  One more day of bute and we will keep the riding relatively light until the vet comes again Wed.

His stifle wasn't locking at all so that definitely made me happy.  And the hoof crack that is finally down by the sole is holding up pretty well.  Farrier said it was ugly, but superficial and he appears to be correct since it isn't a beautiful foot at the moment but it is not bothering the horse at all.  Small miracles!

The saddle got the final passing grade it needed.  I can't say my trainer is in love with it, but then again, she is a tough sell and any issues were probably more me than the saddle.  Since I thought we were doing a walking lesson, and because I might be a pod person, I decided to go running yesterday.  For the first time in almost 3 years.  My motivation was really cross training cardio for riding, but regardless, I was a little sore today.

Now the saddle will get the uber oil treatment to break it in because the squeaking, oh the squeaking.

Made a rare trip to a tack store this afternoon but it was mostly a bust.  I did pick up a Kastel sun shirt.  So spendy but I am really hopeful it will help me stay cool.  I also need to experiment with ways to keep my head cool while riding.  I am a serious head sweater - people routinely ask me if I have hosed myself off when I remove my helmet.  Nope, just dehydrating myself through my head.  I have heard you can freeze a wet sponge in a ziploc bag for a cheap fix, so I might give that a try.  Worried about it affecting helmet fit though.

Oh, and a fun mean pony moment.  After I gave Fawkes his bute/applesauce paste and then a bunch of treats to apologize (after getting meds he goes all CSI on his treats because I am untrustworthy), I started to lead him out of the barn back to his run.  He takes about two steps and then drops his head and head butts me into the parking lot.  Not hard enough to hurt me and I swear he was laughing about it afterwards.  Tricksy critter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is Why I am Crazy

Horses, I swear.

The vet came to see Fawkes today and he flexed totally sound, front, back, and stifle.  No popping, no locking, no any indication at all that his stifle bothers him ever.  She did say he is rather stiff when we starts moving but her guess is his back hurts?  Which, ok, I guess I can make a crazy link in my head where his back his bothering him and this causes him to move differently which irritates his sticky stifle?  I don't know.

Draining your checkbook and not even sorry
So we are doing 3 days of rest and bute, then three days of walking under saddle and bute, then she is reassessing.  Which in my mind basically equals nothing.  Oh, and maybe a chiro visit.  I am not sure I agree this is value added, but I figure a week of experimenting can't hurt and we will take it from there.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Doing Better

I am not entirely sure why, but Fawkes' issue of locking stifle has seemed to improve over the last few days.  At least compared to the mess of Thursday.  Friday I just turned him out for awhile and he ran around for quite awhile and didn't have any particular locking issues and today we had a lesson. Trainer R2 said he seemed a little stiff but he warmed up out of it.

At liberty shot on Friday.  I think overall he is looking nice
 The chronology of this issue is pretty simple. When I first pulled him out of the field almost 3 years ago, totally unfit, he would occasionally have trouble unlocking his right hind stifle when I was tacking him up. That stopped pretty quickly and the issue seemed totally resolved until sometime late spring/early summer. I noticed when I was pulling him from his run and taking him to the barn to ride, he would have trouble getting the right hind unlocked. This was most noticeable during early morning ride times, and after he moved around for a bit he was fine.

Left side.  He was super impressed with being photographed.
 There has been no noticeable lameness, he has no problem picking up or holding either lead, he has clean changes in both directions, etc. He does sometimes start stiff, but he warms up out of that.  He also has a harder time stepping under himself with his right hind or moving away from my right leg, so I suppose that could be related to a weaker/locking stifle.  I don't think he is really less fit now than any other time since I bought him.

Offending, and dirty, stifle.
 What I can't remember is if this started right after his last shoe job or not.  My farrier said he hasn't historically been thinking of shoeing him as a horse with a stifle issue so it is possible his last shoeing appointment made the stifle lock up more.  He didn't want to do anything different this time until after the vet sees him, so we might change things up next time.  So anyways, vet is on Wednesday and we will probably try some estrogen shots and pull hind shoes/reshoe in hind if warranted. In the meantime, I am to keep him in work as long as he feels comfortable.

We had an excellent lesson, he was very well behaved.  We are keeping it easy and low key since I imagine he is rightfully sore.  We jumped long side lines and diagonal single fences, just cross rails.  If anything, he was a bit sluggish, but tuned in to me and obedient.  Even when another horse in the ring had a melt down and some humans got into a fight - the joys of boarding!  In the best news of the day, we may have found our saddle:

Equipe expression.  Trainer R will still get a vote, but it seemed to work really well for Fawkes, my riding, and I was happy with it.  Plus I got a smoking deal so I am determined to keep it if it isn't atrocious.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stifle woes

Fawkes had a farrier appointment today and it wasn't fun for anyone.  It appears that his stifle issue is getting worse? Or he had a bad day today?  Because that stifle was totally stuck.  Which makes shoeing your already irritable horse a big challenge.  The less said about that two hours of hell, the better.

Vet is scheduled for next week, not sure if I should ride him in the interim or rest him.  It is very concerning to me that this problem seems to be getting worse.  His workload hasn't changed, nor has his fitness decreased, I don't think.  The farrier commented it is possible his last shoe cycle might have somehow caused it and after the vet takes a look, we can explore different foot care options.

This kind of sucks because from what he said, the best and easiest farrier test is to pull the back shoes.  Apparently barefoot in back horses have fewer stifle issues.  Which would be fine except we only have back shoes because he was wearing his hoof down too quickly.  So would I have to ride him less?  Of course there is no point in borrowing trouble but over thinking and analyzing these things is what horse people do best, right?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What we do on Fawkes' Day Off

Fawkes and I had a jumping lesson yesterday morning and he was great.  I think we have overcome our most recent confidence set back and can start focusing on progress again.  I hope so anyways.  The course in the outdoor hasn't changed, so we just worked on the same things we have been.  My trainer says my riding has been coming along really well and she is very happy.  There was once, the first time through a line, that Fawkes got sideways and sucked back and squiggly and I rode it perfectly.  Added leg, straightened a bit, didn't overreact.  He broke from canter to trot, but still jumped it.  So pretty happy there.

I did send the Prestige saddle back (wow, shipping charges) and now on to the Equipe.

Today I decided to go for a hike.  Maya and J are off on their own multi-day adventure in another part of the state, so Jasper and I went to climb a more local mountain.  The traffic on the way home attempted to ruin our Rocky Mountain High, but it was a great hike. Photo dump time!
Jasper leads the way through a valley on the nicely marked trail,
shortly before it just vanishes and we have to wing it

At least it was pretty clear where we needed to get to,
that high point up in front of us

Stream drinking happy dog

Looking back well after the trail ended and we decided to just go straight up
(hiking hint, straight up is never the easiest way)

Summit ridge, nice slope we climbed there

So handsome

Lots of good mountain scenery

Jasper likes to run around mountain summits

Cool view of Torrey's on the descent

Friday, August 8, 2014

Human NQR

Well, it has been a quiet week here as I have not been feeling great.  I had a lesson on Wednesday morning and the only word I can use to describe how I felt is "weak."  No idea what is going on, maybe I am fighting off some kind of virus?

The lesson went well in spite of me having to stop every 10 seconds.  Not too much to note, we just worked on trying to get straight to single fences on the diagonal and we still kind of suck at it.  Turning right off the rail (controlling left shoulder) isn't terrible but turning left (controlling right shoulder) seems to be getting worse before it gets better.  At least I  hope there is better in our future.

We also worked some more on the line down the long side where we did it in 6 strides one time and 5 the next.  Luckily we pretty much rock at that so it gave me something to feel good about.

The Prestige finally arrived late Wednesday and ugh, there is something weird going on there.  The top part of the saddle is in great shape and it looks like they had some work done (brand new billets) on other parts, but the sweat flaps are really strange.  They feel like they are made of plastic or something, they certainly do not feel like leather.  I guess they might have had them replaced with some really crappy leather? Can leather even be that stiff?  I am pretty disappointed.

Regardless, I went out to the barn after work to give it a go.  Threw it on him bareback and it seems to fit him reasonably well although not perfectly. Then we tacked up and went outside.  There were some, um, sketchy dark clouds coming in but I thought we would have time to ride.  

Like this, but more evil and dark
I didn't love the saddle, but nor did I hate it.  I still felt weak and useless but my leg seemed to stay in a very good place which is a plus.  It was squeaky, which I did not like.  Fawkes went well in it so no problem there.  I don't have time to wait until I am healthy or whatever to make a decision on this so I am going to try and power through a lesson tomorrow morning and see what my trainer thinks.  But I am leaning towards sending it back.  The sweat flap thing just weirds me out.  To that end, I ordered another saddle online, an equipe expression.  Pretty big risk since I have never had one on Fawkes' back but maybe we will get lucky.  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Making the most of the time you have

Scheduling lately has been very problematic - hence the slow blog posts - but I have been really proud of how I have been able to consistently ride Fawkes 3-4 times a week even with other things going crazy.

This past weekend it was a wedding 3+ hours away with an overnight, so I shifted my riding lesson to early Saturday morning (I love love love my trainer and how she works with my schedule) and then we packed the dogs up and headed to the wedding.  They decided to get married in a pretty remote location which required camping.  In theory, this is fine.  But it ended up raining and we had the dogs.  Two muddy dogs in a rainy campsite does not equal happy humans.  Everything is disgusting and I think we are going to just get the car detailed.

Maya is not the clean sort
But anyways, I managed to get a hack in Thursday night, a lesson in Saturday morning and another hack in tonight.  Fawkes has been very, very well behaved.  There isn't much to say about the hacks, except lots of canter transitions, moving off the leg, and focusing on outside aids.

Saturday's lesson was more equitation torture.  I am becoming some sort of sick creature who loves this stuff.  Then we just kept it low and easy over fences.  Two lines where we alternated between 5 and 6 strides to work on rateability and confidence.  He was great, we are getting our groove back.

Recycled photo because I am out of new ones.  Love the front splits.
Saddle situation has gone nowhere.  I have a used Prestige Red Fox saddle coming in on trial from somewhere in Washington state since clearly nothing local is working.  I ordered it Thursday and I think it might actually be coming by Amish cart horse because it isn't scheduled to be delivered until Wednesday night.  Then I get 5 frantic days to see if it will work for us.  This trial process is expensive so I am only doing one at a time, if this one doesn't work I have my eye on a couple more and I might drive the very far distance to another tack shop that swears they have saddles that would work for me.  I have fallen for that before but hey, road trip and a tack shop?  How can I lose?