Friday, 24 July 2015

100 Days

Mystic goes for training in 100 days!  Yipeeeee! 

Princess Beefcake <3

I ate some of my own hair....it was disgusting.

The exselle saddle from my aunt fits her like a glove right now.  I do accept that she may still change over the next 100 days, but she has two other saddles that fit her almost as well if it doesn’t work. 

I send my husband e-mail updates every few days that go something like this:  “OMG I GET TO RIDE MYSTIC IN 103 DAYS!!!!” I also sent the first photo above to Mystic’s trainer with a day countdown as well (around the 116 day mark).  Tomorrow we will move out of the triple digits into the double digits!

January 2013

After all the issues with Apollo in the last year I am so happy to have something to look forward to.  I was starting to get really bummed out about riding after all the soundness/saddle fit/behavior issues.  Booking Mystic in for training has renewed my enthusiasm.  I am so excited about this horse!  I clicked with Mystic the moment I met her.  I have never felt that kind of instant connection with another horse.  I feel so blessed that I ended up being her person.

Summer 2013 (note the disgruntled Henry in the background)

The first 30 days will be “full training” with 4-5 trainer rides a week.  I hope to watch as often as possible and ride in the odd training session.  For the following 60 days (if all goes well) she will be in “partial training” with 3 trainer rides a week and one or two rides from me (with one of those being a lesson).  

Wedding model May 2014

It’s starting to feel real!  Which means I should probably start making a proper to-do list of where I'd like her to be before she goes for training....instead of sending caps locked e-mails to everyone :)

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Sum of Our Parts

I strongly considered not writing this post.  This isn’t exactly one that I want to look back on and remember (some parts of it anyhow).

Me and side eye mare on the morning of my wedding (last minute 5am wreath practice) 


I recently had two friends out to meet my herd (on different days). I’m kind of weird about letting people meet my horses.  I know that it would really hurt my feelings if someone said something critical of my horses.  So I don’t usually give people a chance.  #barnhermitrepresent

Friend #1 came out on a Wednesday.  She brought frozen coffee drinks and few saddles for me to try on Apollo.  I rode Apollo briefly in the saddles and then she asked if we could go see my young horses.  Henry was already standing at the fence so he got the first visit.  She gushed on how handsome he was looking and offered to train him/ride him when I was ready to send him.  She’s an amazing rider who has trained with some of Canada’s top showjumpers.  She knew Henry during his first Alberta winter (where he looked terrible) and commended me on the good work I had done nutritionally. 

Mystic heard my voice (creepy mare is creepy) and came over to visit too.  My friend gave Mystic a few compliments as well.  I brought up the idea of possibly selling Henry but how my heart was really struggling with the idea.  She felt that Mystic would be a better all-around horse but if I wanted to compete a bit more seriously than Henry would likely be a better fit.  It was a positive and helpful experience.  So positive, in fact, that I invited friend #2 to come out two days after.

Friend #2 came out on a Friday.  To say that it wasn’t a positive experience would be an understatement.  She initially complimented Apollo’s weight loss in the diet pen so we were off to a good start.  She also was impressed that I managed three horses, a full-time job, dogs and a husband. I called my babies over.  They both trotted happily over to greet me. 

And then my friend starting tearing apart their conformation. 

I didn’t ask for her opinion and it was hard to be around someone who was being so critical.  I really tried to tune it out and cut her off when I could.  But she was relentless.

She smugly said “Henry doesn’t really have the right shoulder to be a grand prix jumper.” 

And “Mystic has the laziest eyes I’ve ever seen.” 

Those are the only two things I heard before I stopped listening. 

I originally planned to brush both babies and maybe lunge them.  I was also going to ride Apollo and let her take a quick spin.  Instead I fed everyone their grain and ushered her out of there as soon as possible.  

As we were leaving she said “No wonder you have time to take care of all of them, you never do anything with them.” 

I was fuming at this point.  I haven’t talked to her since.  I don’t really want to discuss it unless I can discuss it in person and I want to cool down a bit more.  I don't think she meant to be so hurtful....I think she was trying to give me an honest opinion.  However, I didn't ask her to critique my horses or really for her opinion at all.  I thought it was a friendly meet and greet - wrong!

Friend #2 is a decent rider, but has nowhere near the skills or experience (or tact apparently) of Friend #1. 

I’m not perfect.  And I don’t think my horses are perfect either.  My knees brush together when I walk, I have a crooked back, and a somewhat neurotic temperament.  I would fail a vet check!  

Vet check failure + dog 

And if I wanted a “grand prix jumper” I would have probably spent more than 200 bucks and wouldn't have bought a horse from a feedlot.  I just want to fiddle around in the shallow end of the eventing/jumping worlds at some point.  I think the horse/human conformation in the herd can handle that.   

I am not blind to their flaws or my own - but I think we are so much more than the sum of our parts.   I love them with my whole heart, warts and all.   

Ironically, Friend #2 was standing next to 5foot+ fence Henry jumped out of when he was a yearling when she told me he wouldn’t be a great jumper. #bitchplease

Henry says no rude people at the barn! 


Monday, 13 July 2015

Diamond Days

When I told my mom about how awesome my weekend was she told me I had "diamond days".  I couldn't have put it better myself!

I squeezed in a quick trail ride on Friday night after a long day of work.  I found a small treed area to ride through, which added a bit of variety to our normal ditch ride/hay field routine.

Hooray for a patch of trees!

I spent most of Saturday celebrating with my best friend at her baby shower (I become an “auntie” on approximately August 21).  I also saw a friend’s new house.  I feel like there are so many good things happening to the people I love this last week.  

On Sunday I had some good things happen to me!  Apollo loaded into my friend’s trailer like a perfect gentleman and we went on an adventure in the wilderness.  

 Parking lot depart

It was so much fun!  I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my horse.  I didn’t know how he would feel about going through a heavily treed area as we haven’t really done that before (save Friday night, which didn’t really count).  A few weeks ago he brushed against a pine tree in the ditch and was like “OMG!  I’M DYING!”.  But on our wilderness adventure he didn’t mind at all.  There were a lot of low hanging branches so I flattened myself onto his neck and he soldiered through like a pro.  

After all these years I think I found out for sure what he loves to do.  He didn’t spook once the whole ride.  I rode on a loose rein for the whole time, even rode at the buckle a few times.  Our only blip was that he was a bit footsore on the rockier parts of the trail, so I just got off and walked a few times (and lead him around the rocky spots if possible).  

My husband and my friend’s boyfriend joined us on foot with our dogs on leashes.  It was so nice to have an extra pair of hands.  I also felt way more calm knowing my husband would be there to help. 

Horse husband <3

The ride was about 2.5 hours total.  We stopped a few times to enjoy the beautiful views.  I hope there are many more diamond days to come this summer! 


“Joy is an incredible alarm clock. It will wake you up and keep you up and pick you up and gently pull you through a thousand rejections along the way.”  Jon Acuff

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Hand Gallop Blog Hop: Every Day Tack Setup

I am always tardy to the blog hop party.  Thanks Stephanie of Hand Gallop for a great blog hop :) 

It's taken me a year to get my gear set up in a way that his highness, Apollo, approves of - so I should be celebrating it!

Post-ride saddle setup (girth was loosened so everything shifted back a bit!)

Sensation Treeless Saddle  (I believe it's the hybrid trail model, it's a few years old)  I think it's hideous and I hate riding it in.  But Apollo clearly loves it.  He's noticeably more forward and willing in his saddle.  I may have mistakenly called it a "Barefoot Saddle" earlier in my blog, oops. 

There is also a fuzzy equalizer pad that goes underneath the saddle.  They came together when I bought the saddle and seem to work well together.  I couldn't find the brand on it but it's similar to the Skito Equalizer Saddle Pads.

Back on Track Dressage Saddle Pad It helps keep the fuzzy equalizer pad clean and I hope that it helps warming his back up and keeping him loose.  I'm really impressed with the quality of these pads so far.

Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Girth  These are the only girths I will buy from now on.  The leather is lovely and buttery.  My horse has huge shoulders and I notice a difference in his level of comfort between the TSR girth and the girth the saddle came with.  This is a bandwagon trend that is actually amazing!

I'm currently rocking a strange hybrid between the used (brand unknown) "pumpkin" bridle and an  Anky bridle that I bought 8 years ago.  Part of my Anky bridle went missing in my last barn move so I've combined the parts I like into a frankenbridle.  The pumpkin bridle came with huge rubber reins so I'm using those for now.

I also ride in my sidepull occassionally, I purchased mine from Josh Nichol.  I have simple black braided reins that I use with it.

When I'm using a bit I use a Happy Mouth loose ring mullen mouth bit (which is 6").  I had to borrow my instructor's bridle once and he loved her bit.  We have stuck with it ever since.  He strangely seems to respect it more than a snaffle.

We have sort of a strange mishmash of a setup happening right now...but my horse is happy so I won't look at it for too long. :)

Here is a link to the original Hand Gallop post, I'm too slow for the linkz code! 

Monday, 6 July 2015

Speak Softly, and Carry a Magical Buttrope

I finally had time on the weekend to work on trailer loading with Apollo.  I didn’t want to start working on it until I knew I had enough time to get the job done.   My day was wide open on Saturday so I started first thing.

Apollo's chariot.  All doors secured open with binder twine so it's more inviting.

I’m new to hooking up a truck and trailer by myself (I am usually just the person who stands there giving back up directions and awkwardly tries to help at hooking things up).  On Saturday it took me 40 minutes to get the truck hooked up to the trailer.  I could not back up straight to save my life.  But eventually it was all hooked up and I went to grab Apollo.

I really focused on being relaxed and trying not to rush him.  I got frustrated/angry early into the process on our attempt a week ago.  To be honest it was shitty horsemanship.  I want trailer loading to a positive experience (for both of us) and that starts with me being patient and calm.
I had mixed up his grain already so I plopped that in the hay area of the trailer.  He’s a very food-motivated guy so I hoped that would encourage him.  He seemed more afraid and less defiant than our previous attempt.  There were some weird squeaks and creaks when the wind caught a window and that seemed to frighten him. He was very willing to put his front two feet in the trailer but when I tried to move him forward from that place or when the trailer made a weird noise he would panic and shoot backwards.  I think we had two problems:

1)      He didn’t think he had enough room to come into the trailer with me.
2)      He was afraid of backing straight out (he’s always been able to turn around in trailers, so this is new to him).  

He was getting more and more worked up and I decided to change my approach.  Enter: buttrope.  I’m sure it’s called something that sounds more cool and cowboy-ish but that’s what I call it!  My barn owner lent it to me when he heard about our loading issues.

The Chuck Norris of the trailer loading team

I put the buttrope on him and held it in my right hand, with his lead rope held in my left.  I sat in the hay manger area so he had more room.  I would ask him forward with the lead rope and if he didn’t move his feet I would apply light pressure with the buttrope.  I’ve never used a rope on him like this before and he was very respectful of it.  It seemed to really unlock his hind end.  Within a few minutes he was loaded into the trailer, happily eating his grain.  I gave him a million pets and a few cookies.  It took about 40 minutes to get him into the trailer (only about 15 minutes after the magical buttrope joined the team).   

Good pony!

He seemed very nervous to back out.  He wanted to fly backwards in a panic - which is really dangerous.  We practiced going in and out a few times very slowly.  I called it a day there and let him graze near the trailer so he could spend more time hearing the squeaks and creaks.

On Sunday I hooked up the trailer in 15 minutes and it only took 10 minutes to load him.  I tried without the buttrope at first but we got a bit stuck again.  As soon as I put it on him he walked right in.  I intend for it to be a training tool, not a crutch, but it has been an amazing help so far.  He ate his grain in the trailer again and then we practised entering and exiting at a leisurely pace.  I had enough energy left over to go for a ride!  

I’m not sure how long my friend is going to let me use her trailer but I plan to put him in it every day that we have it available to us.  :)

I was beyond upset last week after our embarrassing/frustrating trailering attempt.  But it was a great experience for me to work on trailer loading skills. I have been spoiled by good loaders all my life and now I feel like I know what to do if things go south.