Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trot poles

I decided to give Boomer a little break today and we just did a short ride and I set up three trot poles in the middle of the arena. We only did walk and trot work. Working on staying relaxed and bending, which was fun because snow was being plowed outside of the arena. Boomer wasn't acting nervous at all, but was very interested in all of the noises coming form outside and would rubberneck around corners to look at the walls where the noises were coming from. After a brief warm up we trotted back and forth across the trot poles a few times. I worked on keeping him at the same pace before, through, and after the poles. I also worked on using my legs to keep him centered. After he gave me a few good passes where he didn't even try to drop to a walk, I called it a day and walked him out. We rode for maybe 30 minutes including warm up and Boomer stayed interested in the poles the whole time. I think I will start to incorporate one easy day per week of trot poles or a small cross rail to keep him fresh and interested during the winter.

On another note, I think I am going to have to order Boomer a new blanket sooner than I had hoped. I was planning on getting one in the spring when they went on sale. However, he comes in with a new little nick on his every day. Today there is about an inch long rip along the seam above his tail. I want to get the iron on repair tape for this blanket, but I'm wondering if I should just go ahead and buy another blanket now and alternate both as they need repair/reproofing. I'm also considering getting him a cheaper blanket. Right now, I LOVE his blanket. It fits him perfectly. It has a raised wither and a bellyband as well as being fitting to conform to his topline- all features that I love. However, if they are only going to last a few months, should I bother to get the $120 blanket where there are others out there for $70 that don't have any of the above features that I like? Any input?


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tall boots!!!!




John got me new boots for xmas this year!!! Currently, I have Ariat paddock boots and the leather is cracked all the way through on the tops of both feet about where my foot bends to have my heels down. Each boot has two pretty solid cracks that are big enough to let in sand while walking in the arena to get on the horse. They have also been losing support lately and were NOT comfortable at all on the endurance ride. So, John has been urging me to find boots I liked. I think he thought it would be a quick, easy process. Well first I thought about western boots. They seem easy to get on, have a rounded toe (looks comfortable), and come in pretty colors. Then I thought about getting trail riding tennis shoes until I snapped back to reality and remembered how goofy they look. Next, I considered staying with the trusty Ariat paddock zip up boots and maybe a pair of half chaps. That seemed like a good idea for a while- until I let my needy little inner child out and she starting screaming for tall boots. You see, I never had tall boots when I was a kid. Well, maybe a pair of rubber ones but that doesn't count. In fact, it makes the situation all the more pitiful. For all the years I rode hunt seat equitation and pleasure as a kid, I was the only one in garters. Everyone else had tall boots, but my mom wasn't about to spend a few hundred bucks on custom boots for an ever growing and hard to fit child. So, paddock boots and garters, paddock boots and garters...
As the holiday grew nearer, John really started getting on me to make a decision. He threatened to go to Cabella's and buy me waist high waders if I didn't pick soon! Imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I saw that Equestrian Collections had Ariat tall boots on sale! I am assuming they were last years models, but they have boots almost half off. Seriously.

I love them. LOVE. Is it normal to love boots this much? I bolted out of bed when I head the UPS man arrive, went out in the snow barefoot to get the box, brought it inside and opened it with the awe of a child on christmas morning. After pulling them out of the box, I ran upstairs to get dressed, fix my hair and brush my teeth. THEN I tried them on. And wore them for most of a day before actually taking them out to the barn.

I was surprised how much tall boots changed my riding. First, I had to drop my stirrups a hole. Side note- I now trust Boomer enough to adjust my stirrups while mounted!!! Another difference in my riding was at the canter. I felt more secure. Not sure why or how, but I felt like those boots kind of sat me down further and stabilized. Interesting. On the downside, I felt like Boomer was a littler duller to my legs. I was also wearing small prince of wales spurs and had a hard time connecting with him. By the end of the ride he was starting to listen better, but he was a little numb at first.

Interesting tip from Jane Savoie: if your horse is feeling dead to your legs and isn't responding to your squeezing to move forward, try removing your legs, moving them back a few inches, and re applying them to the horses sides. You might be surprised at how quickly they jump to attention! I found that alternating bumping at the girth and behind the girth a few times back and forth helped move him forward within a gait.

I took another video of us riding again today and worked on really getting him to move out within the trot. We also worked on a lot of walk-canter transitions. Honestly, I can't bring myself to sit through another few hours of editing, so that video will have to wait to be posted! The trot work was good, his head started coming down more. I have been really encouraging him to push from behind while keeping light contact. Today I started playing with his mouth a little, just small vibrations on the inside rein and he responded be lowering and softening his neck for a few strides. I think that will be interesting to work with a little. The canter transitions were much improved! h e majority of our transitions today were within 2-3 strides, some less! That is a huge improvement from Monday when most of them took a quarter of a circle! I really focused on keeping my body back and my hands down when asking for the canter as those were two things I noticed in the video.

Boomer! Put your ears up!

Hey! The other ear!

Both ears!

Thank you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Progress video

Riding Boomer is going well. I am so happy that I can still ride even when we have snow on the ground! The indoor arena has an overhead heating system on a timer dial that really does heat things up right away. I had it on for about 10 minutes while lunging and by the time I was ready to ride I could comfortably take my coat off. Boomer did well today. He felt willing right away. I have been asking him for more ‘forward’ movement and he is still trying to figure out fast vs forward. Mostly we are just going faster with his head in the air. Cantering is still coming along. The transitions still continue to be troublesome, but the actual canter work is improving. It is much slower and more controlled. I am starting to ask for bend which will hopefully lead to him working more through his back. As of today, he was starting to see the difference between bending and turning and was starting to think about softening and bending around the circle. Our downward transitions are improving, I have been putting my legs around him gently as we transition and he really seems to understand that he should stay forward. Most of the time we get it, sometimes he still slams on the breaks and jars me forward. I am still trying to figure out rein contact when he comes up, I am usually not able to follow to keep contact so I have been pushing him forward and usually in a few strides-half circle he seeks the contact on his own. It isn’t pretty but I think it is on the right track.


I took a video of us working this afternoon and am trying to get that uploaded to youtube and then post it here. I had about 25 minutes of video and I cropped out anything where I went out of frame and most of the walking work, warm up, and cool down to make it under the 10 minute youtube limit.


Honestly, I thought we were looking better than we are. He sure feels better than he looks! I feel him on contact much of the ride and my perspective is that his head and neck are much more relaxed than they look in the video. Sigh... I guess thats why we are about to start taking lessons! There is some good trot work and you can see where we are with the cantering. The first time I ask him to canter on the left lead (bad side) he just starts power trotting and getting strung out. He does that on the first ask about half the time. After that first ask, he usually gives me a better transition. Not a good transition, but better that the alternative. You can see that in the video as well.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

My new obsession!!!

We got a Wii!!! John and I have wanted a Wii for a long time and since we finally got a TV a few months ago we decided it was time to get a Wii! We rented a few games for it and I am not ashamed to admit that I got a horse jumping game. Its pretty much just stadium jumping competitions. You race the clock, win tack and show clothing, and compete at new levels. I have really enjoyed it. John got a good laugh this afternoon after I came home from riding Boomer and started playing with the Wii horses before I even changed out of my riding pants!

I finally rode Boomer again today. He had 3 days off due to the weather and holiday schedule. He seemed a little nutty, but was fine after I lunged him. I worked on getting him trotting on a smallish lunge circle and used a long lunge whip to tap his croup and hocks to encourage him to drive under. He seemed to understand what I was asking for, but wasn't interested/able to sustain it for more than a few strides. Our ride went well. Cantering is continuing to improve. I can't wait to get some real feedback and input on slowing things down and getting things a little less chaotic feeling (and looking, I'm sure!).

It is always a little nerve wracking to take off Boomer's blanket after its been on for an extended period of time. He loses weight so easily I am just always worried about him. Today when I took off his blanket I was pleasantly surprised to find him in great shape, looking well muscled and fit. He was in good shape from the trainers and the endurance ride fitted him up, but I think that the arena work we have been doing for an hour every other day has started to improve his topline. It is interesting how it really takes a few weeks to notice, but once things start to change it is a very visible difference! I am especially pleased to have this kind of result as we have been feeding him much less grain than he was used to in the past.

Friday, December 25, 2009

...but its christmas and there is snow on the ground!!!


This year is my first white christmas!!! So far, we have about a foot of snow. I have been having a blast with all of this! Snow on christmas is the best 'card' to have! "Lets go for a walk at midnight-because its christmas and there is snow on the ground!", "you don't have to drive in the lines-because its christmas and there is snow on the ground!", "lets eat candy all day-because its christmas and there is snow on the ground!" You get the idea.

Charley wasn't amused at first:


I made stockings for John, Charley and myself.

Charley helped:

Here is our xmas ficus:


This morning, we woke up to snow drifts in our yard that were bigger than Charley!!!


After presents, candy, family phone calls, and being lazy by the fire we decided to head to the barn to visit Boomer!

We opened the door from the feeding shed and decided to go around the other way after seeing this:


Boomer seemed pretty hopeful that I had food or would somehow save him from the cold:

We did both:


Charley helped:

Family photo:


It was pretty cold, but Boomer was dry under his blanket and seemed fine, other than a few icicles in his forelock! My goal had been to take out my old 35mm camera and get some great shots of Boomer galloping through snow drifts. Well, the negative wind chill, lack of batteries, and the fact that Boomer wasn't sharing my enthusiasm all led to the above cell phone feeding time photo sequence. Better luck next time.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing for a white xmas!

Currently, it is raining and 32*, so though the weather is currently lame, there is hope for a white xmas! The forecast has been really back and forth this week, I guess the storm is unpredictable. At first they were saying it would snow Tuesday-Thursday and accumulate 9 inches. Then they said no snow, just rain. Now they are saying that we should expect about 7 inches between this evening and Saturday!

I rode Boomer yesterday and Monday and he did well both days. Monday, John came out to watch and see our improvement. Boomer was pretty good about everything we have been working on and nailed the right lead canter transition, but the couldn't seem to get the left lead. he just kept trotting faster. We had to take a little break and move to the other end of the arena, and then he nailed it in both directions. John was impressed that we were doing a walk-canter transition. I was impressed that a) he noticed and b) he knew the difference! After the ride I rasped his hooves a little and clipped his muzzle. I am going to try to make Monday the designated day for extra grooming maintenance. I figure that will help keep things from getting out of hand and will end up taking less time in the long run. His hooves are looking really good. His nail holes are almost all grown out already. I have stopped giving him a biotin hoof supplement because I am curious to see how good his hooves really are. He has never not had the supplement as far as I know and I wonder if it is unnecessary. So, we will see how that works in a few months.

Our ride Wednesday was pretty good as well. I lunged him for about 20 minutes first to see if that made any sort of difference. I think it did help with his excess energy. Boomer has always warmed up the same way, under saddle and on the lunge. He takes about 5-10 minutes to stretch and wake up, the he has a huge blow out of high energy for about 5-10 minutes, and then he is ready to work. So, when I got on, he just needed suppling and stretching rather than to blow out his energy. I don't mind riding him in a long warm up, but I was just curious what lunging would do. His cantering is continuing to improve, especially to the right. I set up 8 cones around a circle so that I had to steer between them and he did very well with slowing down and steering. I was very happy. I actually felt like he was slowing and balanced enough that I could sit back and count his hoof fall pattern with my seat. You know that nice slow one-two-three you feel in your seat as you are rocking your hips forward with each stride? Yeah, we got that!

Boomer is still a little resistant about bit contact and was really having a time of it, throwing his head above the bit. I ordered a full cheek french link snaffle to see if that would help. He (and other arabs) tend to have smaller mouths and lower palates and a traditional single jointed snaffle can really put a lot of pressure on the roof of the mouth. If that doesn't work I think I will have his teeth checked when the vet comes out for spring shots. I have also considered having a chiropractor out as he is just not getting over this stiffness issue on his left side. With all of the pulling back and flipping over he has done in the last year and a half, I wouldn't be surprised if he has some neck/poll stiffness. We do neck stretches during our ride. I make him stretch to the left and right and touch my boot for a few seconds on each side 2-3 times at the beginning of the ride and again whenever he starts to feel stiff. He has really started to understand that he has to stretch AND soften in order to get a release and he has started holding the stretch even after I release. I think he enjoys the stretch, especially to the right.

Less than 2 weeks until my first lesson! I had hoped to get in at least nine rides before then and it looks like I am well on my way to making that goal. I think that our canter has almost gotten to the point where it isn't completely embarrassing. It is at least becoming obvious that we are trying, for what thats worth! Leg yields continue to improve and straighten, with his hind end not trailing nearly as much. Our biggest problem is his resistance to the bit and carrying his head up high. We definitely get good quality work at the walk and usually at the trot, but about 30-40% of the ride he is high headed. I am looking forward to Karin's take on how to get him to round down. I have noticed that pushing him forward actually brings his head down, however counterintuitive that is!
So, lots to work on and lots to look forward to! Next year should be a good one!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back to the english saddle!!!

I rode in my hunt saddle (Crosby Prix Des Nations) today for the first time in months! It was simultaneously familiar and foreign. I have had my hunt saddle since I was about 11 or 12, so I haven't really ridden in vary many different styles of saddles and didn't really realize how much of a difference they could make in body position. The western saddle gives me a great deep seat, putting me back on my pockets and giving me a nice long leg that falls from the hip. However, all of the leather between me and the horse is noticeable, especially the stirrup fenders. I really only had the option of cuing with my spur as my calf didn't really have much impact. The hunt saddle, on the other hand, really pitches me forward into a traditional 'hunt seat'. My legs are inclined to be further forward, with less drop. Even when I sit deep, I am still sitting further forward in the saddle than is ideal. This probably has something to do with the fact that I have grown somewhat since I was 12. The upside to this saddle is that I can really use almost every part of my legs (except for the upper thigh which feels slightly hindered due to the forward body position). Also, it is so much lighter and makes tacking up so easy! It is so light that I can hold it on one arm and put the cooler on the horse with the other hand. Also, I can do that because I am awesome and an expert multi-tasker.

The ride itself was very good. It took me a little while (ahem, the whole hour) to get used to the english saddle again. But we continued working on the same stuff, relaxation, circles, bends, trotting, cantering, etc. His trotting was a little slow and unexciting today, so we pushed a little and I got some quality strides from him. We did more leg yields at the walk and those are getting much straighter. Another HUGE improvement was in the outside rein connection on the circle. I was really trying to get a good inside bend while pushing with my inside leg to keep the circle from falling in and I felt an amazing connection on the outside rein while his hips were tracking around at the same time. Hmmm... How to better describe that... It felt like he was bending with good connection in the front end, keeping up the shape of the circle, and his hind end was really working to push under and almost 'out' in order to keep the circle from collapsing. It was very awesome! Too bad I never have anyone to witness my rides! We did only a little canter work because I wasn't feeling super secure in the english saddle, but I got great, controlled, slower work in both directions right off the bat with no rushing, running, pulling, or other nonsense!

It looks like another big storm is headed our way this week, so tomorrow might be the last chance I get to ride for a few days, depending on driving conditions!

Happy holidays to everyone!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

(enter clever title here)

I rode Boomer again today and it was hard to not expect him to be as good as he was on Wednesday. It seemed like he was a little resistant today and it took us about 30 minutes to warm up and settle in to the ride. He was bracing and tossing his head and would try and fly to the right and get off of our circle at a certain corner. He also thought about bucking once or twice at the canter. Though, I have to say, the ride ended well. After all of his shenanigans, I just gave up on slowing him down and trying to force him to relax and I just pushed him up into a fast trot and made him hold the speed while we worked on circles and figure 8's. After a while he just started to relax down and was ready to get to work. Like I said, it took about 30 minutes... but we got there! Actually, I think I got some of the best trot work out of him yet today. I was really encouraging him up get up into a faster trot without flinging his legs all over the place and racing around. I looked over in the side mirror and noticed that he was really pushing and using those hind legs and his butt muscles were positively rippling!!! I was VERY happy with seeing that! Our second effort at cantering went much better than the first.

After giving it some thought I wondered if he just had too much energy due to excess food. I have been giving him ~3 quarts of grain after I ride him and on Wednesday I added 2 scoops of Cool Calories 100 but did not decrease his grain. He doesn't need to gain any weight, but I am paranoid that he will lose weight being out on pasture. Plus, I want that shiny coat even in the winter! So, I will try next time giving him 2 quarts of grain with his two scoops of CC100. I would rather have him eating less grain anyway.

I have been selling some old horse stuff on eBay lately but there are a few pesky items that haven't sold, like a new rope halter, new travel head bumper, used tom thumb bit, and two used AP/CC baby pads. So, if anyone in blogland needs anything like that, just let me know!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hooray Improvement (and martingales)

Today's ride was awesome!!! I wish my camera was working properly (battery isn't holding a charge for long enough to take a video) so that I could show everyone the improvement over the last few rides! I don't know if it has just taken Boomer a few rides to get back into the swing of 'arena riding' or if wearing a martingale really made such a noticeable difference. To me, arena riding is basically back yard dressage. I don't have any formal dressage training yet, but I pretty much ask Boomer to bend, soften, have contact with the bit and work off my legs. When we trail ride, he gets a loose reins and as long as he goes where I point, he is allowed to be a horse and take care of us.

It seemed like every part of our ride was better. As we warmed up at the walk on a loose rein, he was very relaxed and wasn't looking suspiciously at anything. His bends and circles were good, he was offering frequently to stretch down into my hands. His leg yields are getting better, especially to the left. We mostly stayed on a large circle for the trot work and I worked on speeding up and slowing down using my seat, which he rocked at! He also showed great improvement with moving out on a circle. He used to spiral in because he was so heavy in the front and seemed dead to my inside leg asking him to make the circle bigger, but today he was able to move right off of my leg as soon as I asked. I think that wearing spurs has helped his lateral movement and responsiveness. He was bending well and accepting contact without tossing his head or banging the bit. We worked on the canter more and that is where I saw the biggest improvement. I kept him on the same big circle as the trot and he really seemed to balance better. There were a few moments when I felt like I needed to really open up my inside rein and pick him up, but mostly he was balanced. He was really slowing down more than he ever has before and he even started seeking contact and stretching down!!! I did encourage him to speed up in the canter with my seat for a few strides and then slow him back down to make sure that he understands that there are variable speeds that I can, and will, ask for. We did a few canter/walk transitions and those were much better. he felt lighter and didn't slam onto his forehand and throw his head up. He kept balanced and I kept a leg on him to keep him moving forward as he slowed down. After the canter work he was a little excited, but did well at more small trot circles, backing, sidepassing, etc.

I am super excited with how well our ride went! I think that the 'speed up and slow down' at the trot, plus focusing on cantering only on a circle were the main things that helped with the canter speed. I think that the martingale really helped with the head tossing and kept him from slamming his head up, bracing his neck, and falling forward. I don't think I'll use it very often, but I can see where it could really help us. I didn't use it to pull him down, he just didn't try to toss his head. I never felt him brace against it either, so I feel like we are using it safely and without depending on it or being forceful. I think it will be interesting to see how much of a difference it can make. Right now, it is hard to tell because Boomer has been adjusting back into the routine of 'arena work' and has been continually improving with every ride, so it is hard to tell what is natural progression and what is benefiting from the training tool.

After our ride I put Boomer under his cooler and let him relax a little. I worked on picking some scratches scabs off of his fetlocks. It rained a lot the last week he was in training and he had some scratches on his heels. I have been trying to loosen them as much as I can without water and today they have finally stated to fall off, so I spent some time cleaning up his legs. I also tried to give him his first candy cane. The barn has a tree up in the lounge with candy canes on it for the horses and I couldn't resist! I broke it into pieces and tried the force feeding technique, but he just kept making faces like I was trying to poison him! I tried 3 or 4 times, but he just kept looking offended and trying to spit it out. I ended up just giving him a horse cookie and eating the candy cane myself! My old horse, Fire, used to LOVE peppermints. I always kept a bag of the green ones in my locker and when he heard me unwrapping one he would start to nicker and bob his head up and down. The green mints are better than the red ones, maybe Boomer would like those better too!

I am really looking forward to our next ride and can't wait to see how much we improve before our first dressage lesson! T minus 21 days!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Back to being cold!

I went out to ride again on Sunday and Boomer did very well. He was already improved from our ride on Friday. He was more supple and accepting of the bit. It amazes me how quickly he learns and adapts. We worked more on cantering. In the past, I just let him canter around a few laps in each direction on a loose rein and call it quits. He is to the point now that he has his balance and I can steer him just fine, but he hasn't slowed down any yet. So, we worked on a few exercises to help get him slowed down. First, I had him canter around the ring and drop to a trot for a circle at each end of the ring and at each side. The trot/canter transitions were keeping him excited, so I switched it and made him canter the circles and trot the rail. That was still too exciting, so we started doing walk-canter-walk-halt-back transitions. I threw in a circle at almost every letter (dressage arena letters) and that seemed to work pretty well. At times, he was anticipating the canter and was light up front with his nose up, other times he would not want to walk from the halt-back and was being lazy. The canter did seem more controlled, but not really slowing down yet. I think a few days of that drill will start to work.
I went out to ride today but Boomer had a big bite on his back and was pretty back sore around it, so I didn't ride. It was really cold, 18 and dropping, so I put on his blanket, gave him some grain and hay and called it a day!

I did speak to a lady, Karin, at the barn who is a Dressage instructor and we have made plans for me to have some lessons. She has her bronze and silver medals from USDF and has trained with olympic rider and an olympic coach. Our first day will be January 6th at 10 am. I am really excited. I spoke to her about my goals and I think she will really be able to help us. For the first lesson, I will not warm up first and then for the lessons after that, I can use her warm up drill and warm up on my own to get the most out of the lesson as possible. Also, we talked about my saddle options and I will start out in my western saddle. I get a deeper seat with the western saddle, but my hunt seat saddle gives me more free leg aids. Karin did offer to let me borrow a dressage saddle, so that might be interesting after a few lessons to try. She also talked about me riding one of her horses. She has a 20 year old gelding who is trained in the upper levels.

I am very excited to have this opportunity to train with such an experienced instructor. I really think that taking dressage lessons will help us in several ways. First, I think that dressage is a great cross-training tool for horses of any discipline, including distance riding. Second, I think that Boomer and I could really benefit from some more advanced classical training. We have the basics down, but we need help with things like drive, impulsion, correctness of transitions, and correcting the canter. We have some issues that really get me frustrated that I hope dressage an help with. Boomer tends to toss his nose into the air whenever I take contact with both reins (one rein at a time is OK), he also tends to get very heavy in the front on downward transitions. I hope that we can see some real improvement over the winter!

Before our lessons start, I want to make sure that I can ride as much as possible so that I come to her with the best horse I can. We have three weeks, so I hope to get in at least 9 rides before then! I also hope to ride at least 2-3 times between lessons so that we can progress as much as possible.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Heat Wave!!!

Phew! Todays high was 39! It felt amazing out! This next week is supposed to stay up around the 30-40 range for highs and 20-30 range for lows! Lucky for Boomer, this means a week with no blanket! I love that I have such a nice blanket for him when he needs it, but I really prefer for him to be without it as much as possible to keep the wear on his hair to a minimum.
The swelling on his leg is doing much better. He wasn't stiff on it at all today. I think the swelling should be down 100% with another 3-4 days.
I finally got to ride again since his leg is better! It was the first ride in a week, and the first indoor ride since he went to training, about 8 weeks ago! We were a little stiff and not as supple as I would have liked. He was carrying his head higher than he used to, and seemed a little confused by the rein contact (he gets ridden on a loose rein on the trail). We mostly walked and trotted, with only a little cantering. His canter is still WAY too fast and I'm sure it looks a little out of control, but I try to canter at least twice in each direction each time I ride. I'm sure that isn't enough, but I am taking it slow so that he can get used to his balance and hopefully will start to slow down on his own. At the walk and trot we worked on circles. Lots and lots of circles. One exercise I found in 101 Schooling Exercises for Horse and Rider was to make a group of 5 circles, one in the center and 4 around it. You start on the center circle and ride each of the four circles around it when you get to it. A variation would be to ride from top to bottom (three circles) then left to right (three circles). All of the changes in direction did start to help him get more flexion.
This arena is huge- 80x180! And it has mirrors! Lots of mirrors! Along one side, the mirrors are angled in at the bottom so that you can see your leg and the whole horse as you go by! I think my equitation is still fine, except at the canter, when I tense up. Though having those mirrors makes me realize how much work Boomer and I have to do! He really works in a hollow frame most of the time. I am considering taking some dressage lessons over the winter to see if we can get some feedback and help!
I felt like it was a good ride and a great starting point for our winter riding. I really hope to make some good progress this winter!
Also, Boomer seems to be maintaining his weight well on his reduced grain diet. He gets fed only when he gets worked, so today he got 2 pounds of grain and three flakes of hay. The barn also feeds when the weather is really bad, so for the last few days he has also gotten hay and 1 pound of grain daily. As much as I worry when it gets really cold, I am really liking the pasture turnout situation. I love that he can move around as much as he wants, I love that the two water tanks are heated, I love that he has a herd to interact with, I love that he can graze all day. I love the set up of the facility. The pasture has a feed shed with 20 individual stalls as well as a large feed room. I especially love how well adjusted, happy and calm all of the horses are. As I was catching Boomer today, another horse nearby laid down to nap. It really made me realize how relaxed these horses must be. The barn horses also all seem very happy. Overall, I am just pleased as punch with the new boarding facility! The three huge arenas and heated tack areas are nice too!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter goals

Winter is here for sure. It snowed Tuesday off and on and the highs will not get above freezing until the weekend, then back down into the twenties next week.

Once Boomer seems to be recovered from his kick I am going to get down to business with his winter riding. Obviously, I am too much of a sissy to ride outside if it is less than 40* out. So, I have been thinking of some good winter goals.

Boomer got his shoes off and is set for the winter. I hope to go to another endurance ride in late April or early May. So, from now until mid March I have lots of indoor riding time to keep us both in shape before we start legging up with trail rides in the spring.

Goal # 1: Ride at least 3 hours per week
Goal # 2: Get flying lead changes

Thats it. I know that is doable. Obviously, there are tons of things to do between here and there, but I need to have a real tangible goal for the winter, not just 'improve the canter'. I guess a good breakdown is to spend December getting the canter where I want it: under control with variable speeds and reliable steering. January will be a good time to start working on correct simple changes through the center of a figure-8 of any size. February we will work on starting to introduce the concept of flying changes. March, just keep practicing!

That should give me something to focus on and keep us from getting bored for the next few months while we are stuck inside! Most importantly, I don't want Boomer to lose his body condition over winter because he is looking really fit right now and I like it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Confidence is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear.

I recommend this article by Will Clinging.

I got an email from longridersgear.com (love them!) a few weeks ago with this article published in it and I meant to link it here a while ago when I was struggling with Boomer. Somehow I didn't get it published, but it has really proved to be an interesting read after all Boomer and I have gone through. I feel like we are really coming out on top of this whole situation. I think that I still have some anxiety about riding Boomer, but I also feel that my confidence grows daily.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cute Cute Cute


No snow Monday morning, but it is getting closer! I went out to the barn to check on Boomer and found this:
AWWW!!!
He let me get close enough to sit down and feed him an apple. It was a very sweet moment! I think the high today was around 25* and it was pretty chilly! I brought Boomer up and was disappointed to see that the kick from Saturday had swollen a little. He walked sound but seemed a little stiff on it at the trot. I lunged him at a walk to help him stretch and also get used to the indoor arena (huge, by the way!).

I went by the vets office and picked up a tetanus shot and a tube of Bute paste. His last tetanus was in October of 2008 when he ripped his shoulder open.

I went out to the field and he walked up to meet me (the apples are working!). I was able to give him both the shot and 2g of Bute out in the field with just his lead over my arm. I am just continually impressed with his progression. Basic things are now just that, basic, to him. I remember dreading dewormer day or really anything that might set him off. Now, I can give him medications in the field without him moving away or even tossing his head.

Obviously, the 6 weeks of training had a lasting effect on Boomer. I'm not sure how horses think, but I really feel that what he learned there he has translated to his whole life outlook. John and I joked about it being a religious experience for him. He went there to help solve riding issues, but has come back a calmer, more tolerant horse all around.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter is here!

Brrr!!!! It is supposed to snow here soon! The highs this week might get above freezing and they lows are looking like single digits. I have never felt zero degrees before and I am a little nervous! I sure am glad I have an indoor arena to ride in and I'm betting Boomer is glad he has a blanket on these COLD nights!

Lots of updates!

First, we moved Boomer to a new barn when we came back from the endurance ride. The new place is about $45 more per month, but it has a number of perks. We left the last place because there wasn't really access to trails. There was a hay field we could ride in and woods that led to the roadway, but nowhere to really ride.

This new place has access to a trail system of about 5 miles on around 2000 acres. To get to the trail you have to ride about 3/4 of a mile down a gravel road. Boomer is now on a pasture with a small group. It is about 10 horses on 24 acres. They have a second 16 acre pasture that they rotate to occasionally. Right now it houses the 5-6 small cattle used in their lesson program. I am experimenting with a grain free diet for Boomer right now. I have been considering it for a while now, but at the last boarding place, it wasn't an option because of his paddock size (1/4 acre) and their hay ration (4 flakes per day). For now, Boomer has good pasture and when I ride he gets a pound of grain and 1-2 flakes of hay. I am continuing to evaluate his body condition and will not hesitate to supplement should he need it. I am considering supplementing with grain vs. supplementing with Cool Calories (99% fat, dried powder, works VERY well) in alfalfa pellets/cubes/beet pulp.

Since this is the first time I have had Boomer in such a large pasture I have been working on bribing him to come to meet me when I go catch him. I don't really like giving treats excessively as I have ridden and worked around spoiled, pushy, nippy horses and they are NOT a joy to be around. When I worked for the polo player, his wife would come out and hand feed BUCKETS of treats to 'her horse' over the weekend and it would take me all week to get that mare to stop assaulting me for treats. Really annoying. However, I do like to give Boomer carrots and apples when we travel and are out for long rides. On our endurance ride, I gave him little baby carrots at both vet holds and along the trailer ride home. In a situation like that where he is working so hard for me and it is important to keep his hydration up and guts moving, natural fruit treats are great! Treat digression aside, I have been bringing Boomer an apple every time I go to get him out of the pasture. My hope is that he will start coming to me when he sees me and I won't have to wander around a 24 acre pasture in January following his frozen tail for an hour before I can catch him. The other horses seem to understand this concept already and Boomer at least looked up and turned towards me last time I went out there.

I went for a ride on Saturday with a group of friends and I hauled the 5 minutes to the Kill Creek trail head so that I could easily meet my friends. We rode for over two hours and had a blast even though we about froze our fingers and toes off! The horses were all very good and Boomer really made me proud. He was great with things like water crossings, etc. and helped other horses cross challenges when needed! He was a little rushy when the horse(s) ahead of us would get too far away, but we did work on that and I saw some improvement. He and I did struggle with the correct distance behind the horse in front of us and it wasn't until he got kicked that he actually backed off. He really needed to learn that one on his own I guess. We really had fun and were out for over 2 hours, which I think ended up being about 8 miles or so.

The brakes on my trailer are in need of servicing and John and I spent some time this weekend trying to figure out why they are sticky and locking up. Seems like the electrical plug in the truck bed got moisture in it because the cover got broken off. This is causing the brakes to do a sort of 'all or nothing' thing so when I ease off the truck break, the trailer break just pops open and causes a jerk. Also, after reading the manuel, we realized that the breaks needed to be adjusted after the first 200 miles of driving. We estimate that it has about 1700 miles on it so far. So, once the weather clears *haha* John is going to replace my electrical outlet and adjust the brakes.



Monday, November 30, 2009

Season Finale Pictures



In my coveralls and coat. It was pretty cold the first day. John said I looked like a little garbage man ready for the first day of work.

Boomer was following John around while he was setting the stakes for the pen and kept nuzzling up to him. He only stopped once John gave him a good scratch. It was really cute. I think that was the first time Boomer has sought out attention from John. He really is different horse lately. Six months ago, none of this would have been possible.

John went for a run and Charley took his chair!

When the 50 milers started to return on the first day Boomer got a little excited and got put on the lunge line for 15 minutes. Being able to compare his fitness to the other 'real' endurance horses around us was cool. I think he is looking good!
No, I'm not nervous at all. Why would you ask?

I'm Ready!

Lets go!

We got to see the sunrise and sunset together!

Coming back from the first loop behind the junior/Boomer sponsor!

Going over with my Vet card at our first hold with my dad who came to visit for a few hours! Yay dad!
Boomer was munching hay.


Dad feeding Charley my leftover tuna from lunch. I tried to eat on the ride, but it was hard.

We did it!!!
Boomer taking a well deserved nap!
Someone got bored on the ride home :)
Sweet mohawk, huh?
Oh, you thought the picture before this one was cool didn't you? Well I hope you learned your lesson. My husband gets cooler and cooler. We may never know how cool he can really get, but this is pretty close.

I want to thank everyone who made this possible for us. Mostly, I owe this to John who has supported me wholly in this process. For the last 16 months, this has been my goal- to complete a 50 mile endurance ride. The realization of this goal has made me so proud. John has supported my goal as if it were his own. I also owe a huge thanks to my dad who has supported my horse habit for the last 17 years. Somehow, I am lucky enough to have people in my life who understand how important horses are to me. Another huge thanks goes out to Kelly Lance, my horse trainer. She helped get Boomer to where he is today. Without her, I would lack the confidence I needed to complete a ride like this. She also had a huge part in getting Boomer fit for a ride like this.


Season Finale Endurance Ride


I didn't want to talk about it before it happened because I didn't want to jinx myself... But I have been scheming and planning to attend the Season Finale 50 Mile Endurance ride in Chandler, OK this weekend!
All day Wednesday, I was busy packing and getting food ready. I was also making a Thanksgiving dinner for John and I. I couldn't handle the thought of going without Thanksgiving food! This is by far my favorite holiday. So, I ruined the turkey, bought a rotisserie cranberry glazed chicken from Target, and everything else was awesome. The chicken was darn good too! We had a grand dinner and packed up the leftovers to take camping with us!


Thursday, John did his traditional Turkey Day 20 miler in the morning, then we packed up and got the horse. Once we were on our way, we just settled in for the 5.5 hour drive. Boomer was a great traveler for the most part. He was moving around a lot for the first hour, so we tied him up and gave him a hay bag. He was much better after that even though he didn't touch the hay. One minor mishap on the drive was a pesky little (HUGE) grasshopper in the truck. He kept flying up between the door and me and scaring the beejesus out of me. I tried opening the window, but he wouldn't leave. He finally perched on my seat to my left, I leaned forward while driving, and John smashed him on the seat behind me. Victory.

Once we arrived we set up camp and I took Boomer for a walk through camp to start getting used to things and also so I could figure out how to enter/get a vet card. Boomer was a totally different horse compared to last time we went camping at Clinton Lake. He didn't pace or call to the other horses at all. He just settled right in and started eating and drinking.

Since I was riding on the second day of the ride, I didn't need to check in and vet through until Friday afternoon. John and I set up camp as quickly as possible before sunset, had dinner and enjoyed a campfire. Because of the cold, we had decided to buy a space heater and rented one of the camp sites with electricity. John and Charley liked that very much! I slept in the backseat of the truck and was plenty warm under a sleeping bag and horse blanket. I woke up in time to see the 50 milers leaving camp. It was really exciting to see them all trotting off! Boomer watched with interest but wasn't over excited! I was very proud of his behavior so far. John and I walked around and watched people vetting through, we were still trying to figure this whole chaotic process out! I think that endurance rides are the definition of 'organized chaos'!
At 3pm, we took Boomer down to the vet area to get checked in. We got our rider card and were given a number. At the vet check Boomer did very well except for trying to kick the vet when she checked his muscle tone in the rump. Because of this tension, he was given a B for Muscle Tone and A's for everything else (for those who don't know, this includes: mucus membrane color, capillary refill time, jugular refill time, skin tenting, gut sounds, anal tone, muscle tone, back/withers, tack sores, wounds, gait, impulsion, attitude, and overall Vet impression). His resting HR was 40.
We went to the ride meeting that night and I headed to bed early! At the ride meeting we were told what the loops would be like. First loop was 17 miles out and back-use a hole punch to tag your card. Come back to camp for a 'trot by' check, head out on an 8 mile loop. Vet check and one hour hold. 17 mile loop again, 30 minute hold, 8 mile loop, and finish!
I woke up at 5:40 and gave Boomer a handful of grain. He had plenty of fresh water and hay the night before. I got all dressed, packed my saddle bags with a hoof boot, hoof pick, chapstick, granola bars, an apple, juice, and my rider/vet card, and tacked up the horse. We walked down to the timer table and checked in. We then walked up to the start area and stood around being nervous. Once everyone started, I mounted up and headed out at a walk.
17 Mile loop #1
Boomer was great at first. He was handling the trail like a champ. He was being his usual self that I had been riding out with Kelly. Until we started getting passed. There were a few late starters who passed us first. The the 25 milers started passing us. I wanted to walk the first part to make sure he had plenty left for the finish. In retrospect, I probably should have just let him go ahead and trot/canter. He wasn't so worried about people passing us going the opposite direction as he was the people who were passing to get ahead of us. It was like he would loose his brain until they got out of sight. Then he was back to him self. It took about 5 minutes for him to calm down after getting passed. Things started getting out of control when we got halfway and headed back. Suddenly he wasn't OK with anyone passing us in either direction. Added to this, we were getting passed more frequently than the 5 minutes he needed to settle down. So, I had to get off a walk a ways. Probably walked about 20-30 minutes, maybe more. I was really mad. Eventually, I caught up with a group of 5 riders, three juniors (top 3 junior LD riders in the nation, by the way) and their two sponsors. They let me fall in behind them and mostly kept it at a walk. We probably were with them for the last 5-6 miles into camp. That was a really good thing for Boomer, I think. We were the last 50 milers back into camp after about 3.75 hours and were OK'ed on our 'trot by' to head out for the 8 mile loop. This was where all of the 25 milers would have their hold time and many of the 50 milers were already done with the 8 mile loop and were on their hour hold.
8 Mile loop #1
We pretty much had the trail to ourselves at this point. The only people passing were headed back to camp. I had talked to the ride manager before this loop and she gave me a little pep talk and encouraged me to just let him go at his own pace until he figured out what we were doing here. So, I sent him off in a trot and only slowed him down for rocks or creek crossings. He powered along at a huge trot and sometimes cantered. It was awesome. I went from being mad at him for being an idiot for 17 miles, to having the most amazing time! He steered around that trail like a sports car and was so responsive. His ears were up the whole time and he was focused on that trail. No spook in him at all! I mostly stood up in 2-point position because he was trotting too fast to post efficiently. I would post when he would slow down and I could sit when he cantered. He was doing a great job. We finished that 8 mile loop in an hour and 10 minutes! We came in to the vet check and it took 3 minutes to pulse down to 60 bpm (the criteria was 64bpm). He vetted through with all A's this time and his CRI was 56/56. I untacked him and let him eat and drink for the hour hold.
17 mile loop #2
For this loop, I knew we wouldn't see much traffic again because of how far behind we were. At least we didn't have the 25 milers to worry about from here on out! Again, Boomer trotted and cantered quite a bit. He remembered the trail and began to speed up when we were nearing the halfway point. When we rounded the corner to the hole punch, he was so proud of himself! He was prancing and tossing his head like he was hot stuff! He seemed to be figuring out the point of this ride! On the way back, we alternated trotting and walking. He hadn't been drinking on the first half of this loop and I made him stop to drink at the water stop on the way back. There was a volunteer at the stop, emptying the buckets and waiting for us (yes, we were that far behind) and she helped me get him to drink by emptying a bucket halfway and bringing it to him since he wouldn't walk up to it. He did drink well, but I was still concerned. I let him walk the rest of the way in and got off to walk him for a few miles just to give him a rest. I let him eat any green grass we could find. He still wouldn't drink out of the lake though. I was concerned about him and wasn't sure he would have much more to give after this. We finally made it into the camp and vetted through right away. We were getting really far behind and it was starting to look like we might not make the cut off time of 7 PM. He pulsed down immediately at 60 bpm. We went through the vet check and he still got all A's except for a B on impulsion. His CRI was 60/60. I didn't untack, but I let him eat and drink all he wanted for the 30 minute hold. John ran down to one of the booths selling tack and bought me a helmet lamp. Best investment ever! We would have about 30 minutes of light after we started the 8 mile loop and I knew it would take us longer than last time because he was getting tired.
8 mile loop #2
This last loop was amazing. I think that people were concerned about me going out into the dark but I couldn't not try because of that. We were doing so well 42 miles in! I let Boomer trot for this whole loop. It was a much slower trot and I posted most of the time, alternating diagonals occasionally. As it started to get dark, we were approaching the halfway point. It took 35 minutes to get to the halfway loop, then 15 minutes to do the lollipop loop, and another 35 to get home. The way home in the dark was awesome. Boomer remembered the trail and took good care of us. He lowered his head to see the trail better and just went after it. I didn't have to urge him on at all. He just trotted along. He would slow for the rocks, and speed up afterwards. I was just along for the ride. Because I couldn't see the trail, I had to trust him. My LED head lamp help keep shadows out of the trail right in front of us, but didn't really help me see where we were going. Once, when he slowed down to a walk, I asked him to pick the trot back up and he ignored me, then I heard his hooves on rock. I knew then to let him take care of us. Another time, I saw a split in the trail, the left looked like it was a low rut and thats where we were headed. I steered him right to the high trail and he listened but had to climb up a rock to get where I had pointed him. I hadn't seen the rock ledge and at once knew that he knew the best way to go in the dark. After those two instances, I just dropped my rein hand onto his neck, held on to the horn and let him go. He was unfazed. Right at dusk, there were a lot of angry birds. I don't know what the deal was but every time we passed a big thick pine tree they would squawk and rustle around, then dive bomb us. Boomer didn't even flinch. I also heard a wild pig which really freaked me out. Boomer didn't flinch. I have never had to put so much trust in a horse before. I was just overwhelmed with how well he was taking care of me. Every once in a while I would see a white ribbon and tell him how amazing he was. I really had no idea if we were on the right track or not. Boomer knew and he got us home in time to finish!
The in timers weren't set up anymore when we got in with 40 minutes to spare. The vet tarted checking us right away and put our in time as 6:16. He was pulsed down at 60. His scored dropped for this check. He got a B for jugular refill, gut sounds, and a B- for impulsion. His CRI was 60/60.
WE FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!
I asked the vet if I should be worried about his gut sounds being a B and she said, "No, just feed him"! I think his B scores were because he was hungry, thirsty, and tired. I feel that is too be expected after 50 miles! In the future, I would like him to drink more and perhaps eat a beet pulp mash half way through the ride. I may also carry carrots to encourage him to eat while on the trail.
Overall, 21 started and 16 finished. I got the turtle award which was, appropriately, a flashlight!
After the ride we spent the night and headed out the next morning. The drive was uneventful and we made plenty of stops to rest and eat carrots.

I will post photos as a separate entry because this one is already long enough to be a novel!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Test Ride



Today was the first day I had Boomer back and I was ready to ride! He was a little antsy tacking up before the ride, but stood for me to get on and was fine after that. He wanted to look at some white plastic rain barrels before we started so I let him snort and touch them. After that, we headed out to the trails and gravel road. He was fine through the trails and went where I pointed him. He was fine with me moving tree branches that were too low to pass under. On the road, I wanted to pass the house that started all of this. I needed to know that he could pass that house without backing up into the ditch, spinning around, and generally losing his mind. As we got on the road, he started drifting to the right, towards the ditch. The drifting became more deliberate and he swung his hips down into the ditch. I kicked him with my spurs and he jumped forward and trotted along the road in a straight line. After that, no more problems. At all. For the rest of the ride. I tied him to the hitching post and left him for about 30 minutes and he was dozing when I came back.
To say I am thrilled would be an understatement at this point.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Home Again!!!




Woo Hoo! Boomer is back home!
John and I went out this morning and rode with Kelly one last time. Boomer did great, we had a blast. John really enjoyed riding a horse that actually responded to his cues instead of being a total dead-head. He also enjoyed the trails because they were much more challenging and he got to do more water crossings and steep hills than ever before!
I really love riding with John, it is just so fun for me.
Boomer loaded right up into the trailer and was tied up for the whole ride home and did great. He was a little excited when we parked and started to unload, but listened well. I turned him out, unloaded his food and then spent an hour grooming him. I really missed that quality time just loving on him. I think he enjoyed it too.