Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Cost of Improvement

I appreciate all the kind words on my recent downer post, thank you all for cheering me on!  It was really cathartic to have a big whine and I’m feeling a lot better now.  I had a lazy weekend last weekend and had a fun family visit this weekend.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cost of improvement.  

I haven’t really taken my riding seriously until very recently (like the last six months to a year).   When it occurred to me that I wanted to be the best rider possible for my young horses... I got my butt in gear.  I also knew that I wanted to show and didn’t want to completely embarrass myself.  Now that I’ve been taking lessons with Coach D for 6 months, dressage lessons on and off for 8 months, and lessoning with Mystic’s trainer for 3 months I feel like I have a much better understanding of what it costs to improve as a rider.  I will say that without a doubt that I have improved my riding in the last year of my life more than I have in over 10 years.  But it was really hard work! 

Here's a quick re-cap of what's changed in the past year or so:

A Year Ago

I was comfortable at a walk/trot in the arena with Apollo.  He was crowhopping and sketchy at the canter.  He was coming back from soundness issues and I didn’t want to push him (and I was also a big scaredy).  I would very occasionally ride outside (by the end of last summer I was feeling pretty confident on the trail).   I was almost always alone at the barn.  After some negative instructors and judgmental barnmates I was really happy to do what I wanted, without anyone watching.  I’ve always had a bit of stage fright when it came to riding in front of anyone but last year I would have delayed my ride or not ridden if other people were around (if possible).  

Last Few Weeks
I did W/T/C and jumped fences on Apollo, a lesson horse and Mystic.  I have no qualms about riding outside or riding in front of anyone (save the odd moment of stagefright).  My confidence is the best it’s ever been.  I am not the keenest jumper (would prefer tiny things only pls) but I think as I jump more it will get easier. 

We jumped a tiny jump! 

Apollo jumps a tiny jump! (pre-splint)


Now that’s a pretty huge improvement, right?  Here is what this improvement has cost me...

1)      Well…a lot of money for lessons.  I don’t really want to calculate how much. Please don’t make me.

2)      Being uncomfortable.  A lot.  Riding in front of people.  Sucking at things.  Sucking at things while riding in front of people.  You actually can’t die from being super uncomfortable... I would know.

Apollo says "I will take this bit and prance the f**k outta here!"


3)      Time.  I have spent like 80% of my free time doing horsey things (as opposed to like 50% of my free time as I did before).  Usually this is a good thing. But I have missed out on more  family/husband/friend time than I used to.  Which sometimes makes me a bit sad.

4)   Changing old ideas/habits.  I feel like I’m generally open-minded to new ideas about riding and training.  But I had two ideas stuck in my head that I struggled to let go of.  I sort of always had the idea that if I was completely perfect in my posture that everything else would just happen.  If Apollo ever misbehaved or couldn’t do what I was asking I blamed my position.  Turns out my position is actually not horrible.  But I realized that I actually have to ride and be effective, not just pretty.  It’s been eye-opening to think about the results I’m trying to achieve rather than holding my position perfectly all the time.  To ride well you actually have to ride, who knew.  (…probably everyone)  I also held a lot of tension in my elbows and shoulders.  When I watched good riders it seemed like they moved through their hips but there arms were very static.  Okay… yeah no.  Throw another weird idea in the fire.  I have seen such huge changes in my horses (relaxed, less giraffe-y) by having more elastic elbows and shoulders. This had been a very challenging habit to break.

5) Driving.  So much driving.  I have never spent so much time my car in my whole life.  I think I’m part Corolla by now. 

6) Sleep.  From the 7:30am lessons to the late night rides at Coach D’s barn… Let’s just say I’m not getting the recommended 8 hours. 

I have to be honest; I thought improving my riding would come a bit easier.  It has been challenging mentally, financially, physically and sometimes emotionally.  But the cost has been absolutely worth it. 

I am especially grateful for Coach D.  I have been having a lot of fun with Mystic and I owe a lot of to that to her.  She kind of swooped into my life and believed in me so much that I actually started to believe in myself too.  I have felt confident and competent for all my rides on Mystic, and that’s pretty wonderful.  
I’m looking forward to riding Henry and continuing to improve myself. :)

So cute in her jammies!


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Blog Hop: The Little Things

This is a very timely and awesome blog hop from the $900 Facebook Pony.

I've had kind of a frustrating couple of days recently with lessons/injuries/general burnout.  But I am so grateful for my three steeds.  So here are a few of the little things about each them that I love so much!


He poses for pictures.  I swear.  I have about a million pictures of him and he always look fabulous.  He always puts his ears forward and is lit perfectly.

Henry and Mystic need to take notes.

He is incredibly quiet, especially on the trail.  In the summer I rode him in the ditch between a bunch of cyclists on my right and a stampede of buffalo on my left.

He is the perfect size for me!

He is weirdly obsessed with having his legs brushed.  He stands completely still with a happy look on his face whenever I brush his legs.  It's pretty adorable!

Apollo loves children.  He will put his head down and stay perfectly still for kids to pet his face.  Lots of times kids are a bit afraid of him (because he's huge) but he is a perfect gentleman for them and clearly loves the attention from tiny people.  Two of my friends with young kids are planning to visit him this summer (which is an excellent excuse to buy a tiny saddle for him!).


I am especially on cloud 9 with Mystic today, we went over our very first jumps together yesterday and she was perfect!  Hopefully I will have some photos soon.

I love her brave spirit.  She will try anything.  Mare is fearless!

Just under two years old in this video!

She has the most magnificent tail.  Photos do not do it justice.

Like Apollo she has a special spot that she loves to be brushed.  She is obsessed with neck brushing.  She wiggles her lips and closes her eyes when I brush her neck and it completely melts my heart.

From the moment I met her she decided that I was her human.  And she gets a bit jealous/protective when other horses are around.  (that's my food lady!!)


Henry makes me laugh so much!  He is such a character.  Before I sent him for training he untied himself and walked off with my purse while I was in the washroom.  WTF Henry?!

Henry has a special bond with my husband.  Todd halterbroke Henry when he first arrived.  And Henry is always on his best behavior for Todd.

Henry has the kindest eyes.  It's pretty much impossible to stay mad at him.  Even when he unties himself and takes off with my purse!

Pic of Henry from the trainer's website!  Looking like a grown up

He will roll anywhere and everywhere.  Henry thinks rolling is the best thing ever.

Henry loves his name and as soon as he hears his name his head shoots straight up in the air.  Usually that is followed by an excited whinny or a flailing Henry coming at me at full speed!

I sure love my crew!  Thanks Amanda for the fun blog hop :)

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Weary Kind

This is not a happy post.  Consider yourself warned!

Here is a clue about some recent events.

I took Wednesday, Thursday, Friday off work this week.  I've been feeling pretty exhausted lately.  I planned to bring Apollo to Coach D's place for bootcamp before our show.  I also wanted to catch up on a buttload of sleep.  I have been feeling super emotional about everything lately and I think that was likely because I'm pretty burnt out.  Now luckily for me I've only had happy things happen to be emotional about so far.  I almost cried when I got a text from a friend at Mystic's barn asking if they could blanket her because the weather was turning very cold (how nice is that?!).  And the notes from Henry's trainer have made my heart so happy (cried).  Apollo and I even did some nice jumping in a lesson with Coach D last week and I was pretty darn happy about (later thought about it and cried).  It's good to feel things, but this is not really what I'm like. 

I am a floating potato angel.

A few days ago another girl at the barn was asking what a splint felt like.... Apollo has an old "bone bruise" just below his right knee, so I was planning let her feel it because it feels like a splint (he has never been unsound on it, it's just ugly).  When I grazed his leg to find the bone bruise... I felt a splint. 


It could be old or it could be new.  I brush Apollo's legs all the time because it's his favorite thing.  But his hairiness prevents me from seeing a splint.  I feel his leg quite a bit too, but not every day (although now I sure will be).  He hasn't been unsound at all.  He has maybe felt slightly stiffer in the warm up but that's about.  I suspect it's fairly new because it's actually been shrinking.

Apollo finds his pre-show bowl cut very embarassing.

I called my favorite barn friend/bodyworker/injury expert to check him out.  I trotted him on the cement and in the arena and she agreed that he's completely sound.  She thinks it's likely from him slipping on the ice and clipping himself (or maybe from a kick).  His current workload of 4/5 days a week rides for about 20-30 minutes and occasionally jumping a tiny cross rail is very unlikely to have caused it.

She did find some sensitivity on his check ligament and was worried about how close the splint was to his suspensory.  Her recommendations are to treat it with DMSO and give him a week off.  She's going to treat it with red light therapy as much as she can.  If the sensitivity of the check ligament hasn't improved in a week's time I'm going to call the vet for further investigation (ie. ultrasound etc).

Bad pic of shaved booboo area.

I guess the bright side is that he isn't unsound.  And it's really lucky that I noticed it.

On the non-bright side our show will not be happening.  I know that this isn't really a big deal but I am honestly so bummed out right now. 

In other not-so-great news... I have been considering bringing Mystic home from the trainer's barn.  I originally planned on keeping her there for the summer (so I could hitch a ride to the shows in the big trailer).  I'm really sick of the long drive and the trainer isn't available for as many lessons as I'd hoped.  At Coach D's barn I take weekly lessons on a lesson horse and now I've been put in with a group of girls who are really keen to jump.  As someone who is kind of nervous about jumping it pretty much makes me feel like a gigantic loser.  For example...

Coach D:  Should we raise the fences for the next round?

Other girls: YAAAAY!

Me:  ..... nooooooo

My husband is now 5 months without a job.  I'm just feeling like I don't know know if all these extras horse activities are worth the strain on our limited finances.  Especially when I'm not getting a lot of enjoyment out of it.

But this mare has been an absolute rockstar. 


I guess my three days off  work were not to re-charge my batteries.  Instead I'm enjoying a three-day pity party.


I hope to have good news to post soon.  If anyone would like to drive over to my house and give me a a kick in the ass/motivation speech...feel free!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Right Moves

Bringing Henry to this trainer is the one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (second only to the decision to marry my husband).  This last week has been pretty exciting and eye-opening for me.  

I had kind of a panicked moment the day after I dropped Henry off... I realized that I never asked the trainer about visiting.  Mystic’s trainer works out of a boarding facility so I didn’t think twice about visiting her as much as I wanted.  But Henry’s trainer, RK, lives on the property and the horses there are only there for training (besides a few of his personal horses).  It’s in a very remote location and I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome to come and visit at the same frequency as I visited Mystic.  I sent a quick e-mail to the trainer asking if it was okay if I come and visit.  He said “yes, for sure, visit as much as you’d like.”

Cue sigh of relief.

Back in 2013!

I decided that since it’s not a boarding stable I will give a day or two heads up of when I’m coming to visit Henry.  The property is RK’s home as well so I feel like it’s the polite thing to do.  I let him know that I was hoping to visit Henry last Wednesday and he said that would be fine.  He had a physio appointment but told me to feel free to do whatever I wanted with Henry and to visit for as long as I’d like.  

Husbands are delicious.

When I pulled into the property I saw RK rushing to his truck to get to his physio appointment.  He waved hello and told me he would be back in about an hour or so.   I parked near Henry and starting giving him his dinner.   I saw RK’s truck start to leave down the driveway.  Then... brake lights.

He turned around and came to talk to me about Henry.

He wanted to know more about Henry’s story.  He felt that I had done a great job with Henry’s ground work.  Henry was ok to be touched everywhere and wasn’t fearful about being saddled/bridled/seeing weird things.  But he felt like Henry was not moving quite right.  He described Henry as being very stuck and not willing to move forward.  Once he does move forward it’s usually clunky and awkward looking.  If Henry really gets moving he looks amazing but it’s challenging to get him to that point.

November 2012 vs August 2014

This information both made me happy and made me uneasy.  I always felt like I had trouble moving Henry out because I was doing something wrong.  But now I was worried about him.  The trainer seemed to feel that something was off in his body that was causing him to feel this way.  He recommended Henry see the osteopath who was coming the following Monday.

Fuzzy boy in the crossties in 2013

Side note about the osteopath:  she used to work on Blue!  I haven’t seen her in at least 10 years but I was super excited for her to look at Henry.  She is actually a vet who went off the beaten trail and received osteopathy training for horses.   She also has training in acupuncture, chiropractic, and cranial sacral therapy.  I knew she would be perfect for helping Henry - I’m not sure why I didn’t think of her before. 

I was able to be there for osteopath day on Monday. 

RK had Henry and his friend/pasture-mate Manny loose in the arena when I arrived.   RK moved them both around for the osteopath by swinging a rope.  I thought Henry looked pretty good.  He was moving out as good as I’ve ever seen him.  Henry went just fast enough to keep up with Manny.  Manny is a larger horse so Henry had to work fairly hard to do that.   He wasn’t particularly interested in moving around if Manny wasn’t moving around.  


Then treatment began!  Henry had a fairly large amount of scar tissue from this gelding.  He also had some issues in his pelvis (likely from a very bad fall on the ice he had a few years back).  She was able to adjust both of those issues.  She also recommended some changes to his diet.  And he will be doing a very specific worming regimen this month.

RK moved the horses around again after just so we could see if the treatment had helped.  Only two words were in my brain.

“Holy shit.”

Henry took off first.  Manny couldn’t keep up with him.  Henry’s hind end had like 10 million times more suspension that it did before the treatment.  And he just looked happier and freer in his movement.  When Manny stopped to harass the dog... Henry kept running.  

So this video is from the week before he left for training shows how nicely he can move in his front end but his hind end is still a little stuck.  You can see the ugly clunky movement just starting to come back at the very end.  Imagine the big floaty trot with tons of suspension in the hind end!  I wish I'd taken a video of the change! 


Pretty exciting change!  I’m excited to see further improvements after the worming regimen and diet adjustments.

In terms of Henry’s training he’s been doing quite well.  RK does quite a bit of groundwork with them before he gets on.  He’s sat on Henry twice now and they will be moving on to actual riding this week.

I don’t know what going on with me lately but I’m super emotional (I'm not pregnant..just to be clear!).  Several times when the osteopath was working on Henry and she was asking RK if Henry was ok with certain things (ie. Lifting his feet, handling his sheath, moving his tail).  RK would point at me and say things like “Kate has done an amazing job on Henry’s ground work.  Do whatever you want.  He’ll be a good boy.  She has put a lot of hard work into this horse.”  


I really have put a lot of work into Henry.  But I didn’t think anyone saw it.  Part of me always felt that I failed him because his ground manners weren’t quite as good as Apollo’s or Mystic’s.  He’s not perfect (neither are Apollo or Mystic) but it was nice to hear that I’d done some things right. 


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Peaks and Valleys

I have so much to catch up on writing about (and many blogs to read!!).  I'm off work this week - so expect to hear a lot from me ;)

First up - Henry's move!

Last Sunday morning the hauler arrived right on time.  Mr. Henry hopped right in (good boy!).  The hauler followed me as I had a map to the property on my phone...

Turns out that the map on the trainer’s facebook page is only a map to the small town that he lives near.  Once we got to the town we had almost no cell reception.  I spent a lot of time driving to the tops of hills trying to call the trainer.  I got him on the phone once or twice but couldn’t hear him at all. 

In a moment where I did have reception my husband called me.  My dog Toby was having a seizure.  He didn’t think that Toby was going to make it.  I was pretty upset but tried to keep it together.  I was over an hour and a half away from home at this point and still had to deliver Henry.  I allowed myself a two minute cry and then carried on with the business at hand.

Toby and I last winter (his feet were cold, he was frozen Toby...aka Froby)

I ended up getting a girl from Coach D’s barn on the phone.  She dropped a pin for us at the exact location of the farm.  I owe her a gigantic bottle of wine.

The only issue was that at some point the range road names had all been changed to streets.  Both numbers...totally unrelated to eachother.  Google only gave directions with the range roads.  So that left us lost again.  The hauler was able to call the coordinates from the dropped pin into Onstar and then I followed him. 

A one hour haul took over two hours.  Poor Henry! 

He was a very good boy in the trailer.  When he hopped off he seemed to settle right in (because there was a haynet waiting for him).  The other horses on the property look healthy and happy.  The photos shared below are from my visit with Henry on Wednesday.  He had a pen to himself for the first few days so he could settle in.  

Henry you have a little something on your face...

I have talked to the trainer on the phone quite a bit and he seemed even nicer in person.  He seems super calm and patient – which is just what Henry needs!  He’s a cowboy but specializes in starting warmbloods.  There is a local breeder (who breeds very fancy WBs) who uses him quite a bit and I saw some of her horses there.  The only worry in the back of my mind is how icy it is at the trainer’s property.  It’s icy everywhere right now (including Henry’s previous barn) so I’m trying to not let it bother me.  One of my favourite horses at the dressage barn I worked at slipped and fractured his pelvis last winter.  He was only two years old and was the most sensible young horse ever.  Sadly he had to be put down.

Maybe I was just feeling super emotional that day (uhhh yes) but seeing Henry prancing and eating in his new temporary home made me fall in love with him all over again.  He looked so grown up and fancy.  I couldn’t believe that he was my horse.  I felt really lucky and grateful.  If he wasn't already my horse I would have wanted to buy him!

I wish I could have stayed longer to help him settle in.  Unfortunately I decided that I needed to get back home and see what was going on with Toby.  My husband said that he seemed to be feeling better, just a bit groggy. 

When I came home Toby had a ton of energy and seemed like himself.  I called a few of the emergency vets and they had no appointments available and the wait would be 4+ hours.  

I chatted with my vet tech friend who told me just to take him into his regular vet during the week, unless he had another episode.  Both of my dogs have been a little funny about the new bag of food I got (same brand as usual).  Usually they scarf all their food down very quickly; but ever since I opened the new bag they’ve both been a bit tentative.  I decided to throw it out and buy a new bag/brand all together.  My gut tells me that something was off with it.  Hopefully that was the problem, the bloodwork all came back normal.

Hope you are ok buddy! <3

I have a few updates from Henry's trainer to share tomorrow!  And have a post in the works on my new show wardrobe (which is 95% complete!).

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Seeing A Ghost

So remember how I mentioned that I had some really negative experiences when taking lessons in the past?  Remember how an instructor called Apollo stupid and ugly?

I saw her the other day.

The horse community is super small.  I expected to run into her at some point.  At a tack shop.  Or a horse show.  

I did not expect her to be knocking on the door of the safe haven of my hermit barn. 

I was feeding Apollo and Henry the other day when I heard a soft knocking at the door.  I opened it and there she was.   Turns out she is the coach of one of the other girls at my barn.

I recognized her instantly but she didn’t seem to remember me.   I just said “hello” and let her in.  As I was turning Henry out I looked over and she was petting Apollo.  And was telling him how handsome he was.  And he was massively enjoying the attention.  Traitor!  

I searched myself for anger... I thought maybe I should give her a piece of my mind.  Statements like “I almost quit riding after I took lessons from you.” Or “Every time I took a lesson with you I cried the entire drive home.”  Now those two things are true.  But really...not worth it. 

It wasn’t totally her fault.  And it wasn’t totally mine.  We weren’t a good fit.  When I met her I was coming back to riding after a serious car accident and my confidence was in the toilet and I was in a fair bit of pain (so I’m sure I wasn’t exactly a delight to teach).  And based on her behaviour the other day I think she was not in a very happy place in her life when she gave me lessons.  Gushing over/petting stranger's horses was not in her vernacular when I knew her. 

I took less than 10 lessons from her over 7 years ago.  And even though it sucked... and lowered my confidence in myself even further... it’s part of my story.  It was a long time ago and it's time for me to let it go.  I learned a lot about myself (struggling through issues on my own) and appreciated good instruction when it came along (Coach D = love).    

Seeing her again made me realize one of the small quiet goals that has been floating around in the back on my mind recently.  One day I would like to teach.  I would like to help someone else who is struggling with their confidence.  I have a lot more that I want to do before I give any time/thought to this goal.   Maybe in like 10 years... :)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

February is a Fat Guy in a Little Coat

February is going to be kind of nuts - mostly in a good way.  

All the stuff I have to do is the fat guy.  The amount of days in February is the coat.

I really just like any excuse to start singing the song in my head....

I’m just going to do an update on each horse before my share my slightly insane February goals.


She is doing so great!  We have been working on her canter and it’s really coming along.  I’ll be doing lessons on Thursday morning lessons in February (except the first one, when the trainer is away).   I had a chat with the trainer last week and she thinks starter level is a good goal for Mystic.  She will be doing one training ride a week on Mystic in February.  

I rode in the arena with 4 others horses yesterday (we are usually alone).  She totally ignored them and was completely tuned into me.  Even Apollo would have sped up a bit as horse cantered by him or wanted to drift over to where other horses were.  My girl was a rock star!  I’m so glad I got rid of the DK as she seems to go a lot better in the Verhan (having a more balanced rider doesn’t hurt either!).   


Poor Henry!  I bungled the date with the hauler.  We stood around for an hour and a half waiting for the hauler on Sunday.  Henry’s haul to school has been moved to next Sunday (February 8th) instead.  The trainer was completely understanding about the whole thing.  It was completely my fault, I asked the hauler to come on Sunday, February 1stSunday was January 31st *facepalm*.  

Henry’s been doing quite well lately.  I feel like he is starting to mature and settle down a bit.


Tbt when I brought Apollo home.  I had barn party and had a DQ cake made with him on it. <3


I am going to majorly gush on my big pony for a minute here.  He has been f**ing amazing.  

The logistics of sharing a saddle with Mystic resulted in quite a few bareback rides on Apollo in January.  I would prefer that everyone have their own saddle but we are making due.  

I have been doing quite a bit of lateral work with him in the bareback pad, which has been helping other areas of my riding immensely.  He’s still not 100% fit or balanced so he has a tendency to either fall in/cut corners or get very speedy.  If I start my ride with lateral work he is way more in tune with my legs – so I can actually push him back out if he’s falling in!  I’ve been doing canter transitions in the bareback pad too (who is this brave woman?!).  I let him do about three strides and then trot again.  The footing is super deep at his arena so we don’t need to go blasting around at Mach 1.  Transitions also seem to help him getting tuned into my aids.  

Our relationship is probably the best it’s ever been.  I am so excited to take him to the show and show off how awesome he is at the end of February!  I have like 10 people who want to come and watch.  Normally that would give me a heart attack.  But right now I’m feeling like... I’m horse is f**ing amazing.  Come watch.  Videotape it.  Bring more people.   

Other random Kate updates

 I did two work outs with a personal trainer in January and tried to work out more often with my husband.  I managed to lose a whopping .8 lbs (from 149.2 to 148.4).  Not 8.  0.8. Sigh.  No #goalbreeches for me yet.

I was doing so much riding that I assumed the weight would just fall off of me.  Apparently not.  

I’m getting a tattoo with my friends on February 11th.  It’s not the horse tattoo I want to get eventually, just a small arrow on my foot.  I'm super excited about it... even though I think it will probably hurt a lot.

Okay now onto my very long February goal list!

February Goals
1)      Practice courses seen at show
(bonus points to finding/making fake shrubbery to jump over).
2)      Create a show mantra.
3)      Do all the things mentioned here to prepare for show.
4)      Practice memorizing/learning courses (in lessons with Coach D).
5)      Pop Mystic over a tiny fence.
6)      Run three days a week.
7)      No pop, energy drinks or booze for Kate.  (show day is an exception, red bull gives me wings and I might need liquid courage...)
8)      Visit Henry at the trainers.
9)      Participate in plank challenge at the barn. 
10)   Clean and organize car and lockers. 

Yep.  10 goals.  Holy crap.