Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fun ride

I had an interesting ride on Sunday.  I have been given the opportunity to borrow another boarder's saddle.  It is a Wintec 2000 All-Purpose saddle.  Definitely not what I would choose for myself, but it fits Boomer and that is what matters.  He seems to go well in it.  I could feel him moving out more freely at the trot and if he braced through the neck, he didn't brace his back as well.  I didn't realize he had been bracing his back until I used this saddle on him and I could feel a difference in how he resisted.  Occasionally, he still tosses his head against the bit, not often, but it is his 'go-to' trick when he needs to express himself.  However, with this new saddle, he only braced through the jaw and poll and his shoulders and back stayed free.  Because it is an AP saddle which is a blend between a close contact and a dressage saddle, I didn't feel much difference in my seat or stability.  I was still able to default to tipping forward pretty easily.  But, this isn't about me.  I actually really like the saddle and I am thrilled that I can use it as often as I want!  

One fun thing we did in our ride was work a little on counter canter.  I was so pleased with Boomer's cantering that we just tried a few little serpentines.  His canter has slowed and balanced so much lately!  He doesn't rush around and feel panicky at all anymore!  He was very soft and listening well, so I just asked him to come off the rail and go to the centerline and come back to the rail.  This exercise makes sure he is balanced, listening to me, and staying strong in his hind end.  It requires him to return to the rail on the 'wrong' lead- his leading leg is on the outside of the bend.  It takes a lot of mental and physical work for him to maintain the lead I asked for.  I was very happy with how easily he did that without any anxiety!  I think for our next ride I will do the counter canter serpentines again and I think I will also ask him for some smaller circles at the canter as well.       

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Birthday Charley!!!!

Charley turned 3 years old on Saturday!  He started the day with an early morning jog with John and lots of snuggling.  
He got to open his first present in the morning- an owl from Grandpa!  It makes a noise like a real hoot owl!  Charley thinks it is great! 
His next present was a new Jolly Ball!!!  He had pretty well destroyed his last one and it was so cute to see him excited for a new ball!  I thought he might have some preference for the old ball and left it in the yard just in case, but he hasn't touched it since he got his new one!

I made his traditional birthday meatloaf!  He loves birthday meatloaf!  I just start making meatloaf- mix beef and egg- then I separate some out for him and add a cup or so of his dry dog food and bake it for about 30 minutes.  I then make regular meatloaf for John and I to have for dinner.  It is a fun tradition!

Charley's last present was a Hide-a-toy beehive!  It is the cutest toy!  It is a plush hive with three bees that squeak!  He figured it out pretty quickly and seems to really enjoy 'finding' the bees!  

Plum tuckered out!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Okmulgee Cougar Prowl Pictures

We set up a big tailgating tent this time and really enjoyed having a dry, designated space for cooking and resting. It was overlooking the pond that we were camped next to.

There was a peninsula jutting into the pond right by our campsite that Charley had a blast exploring!

Coming in from first 17 mile loop:

My sweet, hardworking boy:

Waving to the out timer:

Where is mom going?

Waiting for mom at the finish line:

We finished at the country road connecting to camp and could walk in along this road and cool down before getting to the vet area:

Finishing with my new friend!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Okmulgee Cougar Prowl

This ride was very well managed and a lot of fun! The ride managers have been putting it on for 22 years and they really kept things going smoothly even with all of the rain they had earlier in the week!

The camp was beautiful. We camped around a pond and the view was incredible as there was a low fog almost all weekend! The trails were along a river for a lot of the time and the views were great. Apparently, the area was logged in 1906, but there were some areas that were too boggy at the time of logging and were left intact. We got to ride through some of those areas and the trees were magnificent! The ride was a 17 mile loop done twice and then 16 miles on the roads. The 17 mile loop was really very nice with a few good water crossings and a few good climbs. I enjoyed it a lot and met up with another lady shortly into the second loop and we rode together for the rest of the ride. I actually really enjoyed riding with someone for a change! Keeps your mind off the clock! The last loop was a bit dull, but went by quickly since it was on the roads.

Other than our fall, the ride was pretty uneventful. Our times were fairly predictable and very consistent. We finished 7th out of 19 starters. I think 14 finished. So, we top tenned again and finished in 7:45, which is pretty good given the terrain!

Boomer got straight A's on all of our vet scores at every check! That was a first and I was so proud of him! We stood for Best Condition judging, mostly for the experience. BC is awarded based on vet scores, rider weight, and finish time. As we were the lightest rider and were the last finishers standing for BC, we really didn't have much chance, but I was thrilled to learn how that whole process works. Also, I was glad to get the extra eagle eye on Boomer since we did have a rough start to the day.

I am starting to learn how to really take care of Boomer. I know that on his own, Boomer will not drink until about 30 miles or later. I also know that he doesn't really want to eat anything except grass and grain. So, in the past his scores have been low for gut mobility and hydration. My job is to learn how to work with him and get him to perform the best he can. I can't force him to drink earlier (I try) and I can't force him to eat soaked mashes (I try) but I can prepare him as best as possible before the race so that he doesn't crash before he gets to the point where he is ready to take care of himself. I fed him all the beet pulp he can eat plus his normal grain Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the start. I offered it during the ride, but he wasn't interested. So, I let him graze and gave him soaked grain. He didn't drink more than a half gallon the whole ride until the end. It wasn't hot and he wasn't losing much sweat, plus he peed at every vet hold- so I was trying to not be too worried (plus, his scores were fine). Once he did get thirsty, he drank about 6 gallons straight, including a bucket of sponge water. So, I know he will take care of himself once he needs it, but I just need to prepare him in advance so that he doesn't tank midway through the ride. It is a learning process, but I think we are figuring it out! Oh, and no girth galls, tack rubs, or any other problems!

This ride was a very bonding weekend for Boomer and I. I was so happy with him and really made a point of petting him often and telling him he as good. During the holds and after the ride he would nicker every time he saw me. It made my heart melt! He was just as sweet as could be!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cougar Prowl- The Fall

***Warning- Parents, grandparents, and faint of heart: read no further, come back and read tomorrow's post!***

I will preface this story by saying that Boomer and I finished the Okmulgee Cougar Prowl and we are both doing great!

However, we did have a fall. It was by far the worst wreck I have ever been involved in and the second worst I have witnessed (I can tell that story too, another time).

It rained a few inches in the week preceding the ride. It was pretty muddy and slick, but not too boggy. It wasn't raining during the ride, but the ground didn't have much time to dry out.

We were trotting along and had to make a sudden right turn off of a jeep road into the woods. Then two strides later we had to make another hard right into the woods on a slight downhill slope.

I didn't expect the second part of the turn and we just didn't make it.

Boomer started to go down and I could see the ground coming closer. We both fell towards the left.

You know how after an accident, you can only remember things in clips, like they were photographs? Thats how it was for me.

I see the ground coming closer. I am looking up and his shoulder is inches above my chest. Then I have a sensation about my legs being under him, I can feel part of the saddle but I'm not stuck.

I don't remember how we were positioned on the trail after that. I don't remember getting up or where I was compared to him when I got up.

I do know that I ended up on his left side, he was facing straight like he hadn't made the final part of the turn. His right side was facing down the trail.

He flailed and tried rear up twice, trying to run. He kept jerking towards the right, but wasn't going anywhere. I reached out to grab the reins but only got his breast collar. I was repeating "woah, woah, woah" and hoping he wouldn't run. After struggling and trying to rear up twice, with his head facing towards the right, he collapsed.

He was struggling and on his right side. His jaw was jerked open and I realized his reins were stuck. Thats why he couldn't rear up all the way or run. I dropped down so I was below his neck, between his front legs and head, and put my hand on his shoulder to calm him so he would stop jerking his bit. The reins were under him and around his back leg. They had come over his head, were along the right side of his body and wrapped around his left back leg.

He stopped thrashing. I unclipped the reins from his bit, slowly unhooked his leg and straightened the bit in his mouth.

He relaxed his back leg and laid there, still. I just sat by his head and stroked his cheek, talking to him. I looked him over and didn't see any damage.

In the moment I asked him to get up I had the realization that as calm as I had felt thought all of that, if he couldn't get up, I would just breakdown and lose it. Luckily he just continued laying still until I quietly asked him to 'get up'. He just stood up like he understood me and stood there. I checked him over and everything seemed fine except for a small nick on his right front cannon bone. Looked like he got himself with his shoe. It was bleeding but didn't seem serious. I checked our tack and decided we would keep on moving since we were about halfway through our first loop. If he felt off at all, I was going to pull.

I did a quick mental check on myself while all of this was going on. It went something like "I'm standing- legs are fine. Arms seem fine. I can breathe. Wearing contacts- no lost glasses. Helmet is still on."

I got on and we walked down the trail. He felt fine. He wasn't panting or breathing hard. He wasn't shaking or scared. Neither was I. It was so strange. In every other fall I've had, I always get a huge adrenaline rush. My arms and legs get tingly, I shake, and I feel nauseated. I never felt that when this happened. I never panicked or got scared. It was a strange thing to have happen. The whole thing probably happened in 2 minutes or less.

After a while walking down the trail Boomer offered to trot and I sat it instead of posting so I could feel his foot fall pattern and check for lameness. He seemed fine.

He sure was much more cautious about the mud though. When I asked him to walk, he instantly slowed down. When it felt slick, he slowed on his own. He was much more careful and so was I.

At the first vet check I told the vet what had happened and she looked at his leg extra closely. The nick had been rinsed clean in a stream. It wasn't bleeding and looked clean- no clots. She said that he looked fine and passed him with all A's.

Needless to say, John was freaked. He was so worried about us all day. I knew I couldn't make him feel better about what had happened but I did try to emphasize that it was an accident, It wasn't Boomer's fault, and we were both fine.

Looking back, it almost doesn't seem real. It was a very, very scary thing. We were so very lucky that we were in such a muddy area because I could have been crushed had we fallen like that on hard rocks or a packed surface.

The day after the ride kind of felt like the day after Christmas. Sort of a deflated feeling. Almost a regretful feeling, like I had done something bad. Something bad did happen. Boomer and I were both very close to having been hurt badly. But we are fine. It took a lot out of me on Sunday to think about that and wrap my mind around it. I mean, my horse rolled over me and I am no worse for the wear. I have a bit of a muscle spasm in my lower left back area, but I'm fine.

I just keep saying that to myself. My horse rolled over on me and I am fine.

Puts things into perspective. Strange as it was, it was bonding experience for Boomer and I. We both felt the gravity of the situation and we both got through it. Every ride we finish brings us closer.

My horse rolled over on me and I am fine.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Life is really good :)


Thanks to Shanster for making me talk about how sweet life is!

1. What would your prefect day consist of?
Oh, how cliched do you want me to get here? Of course, I would spend the perfect day with my loving family. Watch Charley stick his head out the car window. Ride the horse on one of his really good days. Eat some good food.
2. How would you describe yourself if you were an item of clothing?
Hat? Socks? Flip Flops. Yes. Flip Flops. Not cute flops with flowers and glitter, but like Tevas or Chacos. I'm fun, slightly functional, and an everyday staple.

3. What hobbies are you currently working on?
Does figuring out my life count? Being a better rider. Blogging is a hobby, I guess.

4. Walking in the woods in wellies or bare foot on the beach?
Both. I want to live on an island with a wooded mountain in the middle. I love the relaxing sound of the ocean and the warm sand. I also love the invigorating smell of the woods and the bright green leaves against the black tree bark.

5. Have you ever hugged or sang to a tree?

6. Growing your own veggies or nipping to the supermarket?
I kill plants. Accidentally, of course. But, I would rather buy veggies someone else grew... Too bad the neighbors put up a fence...

7. Have you found anyone exciting in your family tree?
Not really.

8. Slap up meal in a posh restaurant or fish ‘n’ chips from the wrapper?
Cookin' at home over here! I do like fine dining, but I always feel out of place. I wish I could just wear jeans and a t-shirt and order it to go. I'd still tip the same, I promise!

9. Which element do you most resonate with, Earth, Air, Fire or water?
I'm an Aquarius, so I think I'm supposed to say water. But I like the earth. Seems like the most cuddly choice.

10. Do you believe in fairy’s?
Fairy tales? Yes. Tooth Fairy? Not so much.

Alright, I know I'll get some fun responses out of Story!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lesson Report #12

The lesson today went super! During my warm up which was walking on a long rein and aiming for straightness in a slight shoulder fore, I noticed that this week it was the left shoulder that was pushing out. Last week was the right shoulder, so its always something new to work on!

We did a new exercise that Karin learned from a cowboy. Its her western shoulder trick. While walking a 10 meter circle, lift your inside hand up to release the inside shoulder then push it out with your leg. Once he releases, go back to being straight on the circle and repeat a few times in both directions. This really worked! She said it was a way to isolate just the shoulder and get it working for you without him being able to evade with his hips or brace with his jaw or poll. I found that to be a very useful trick in the corners to keep him relaxed in the jaw without pushing though the inside shoulder. So, once we established what lifting the rein meant, I could use it to a slighter degree as we went around the rail in trot or canter work.

We really worked a lot on controlling the shoulder today. Working on being straight is much harder than I had ever imagined! Boomer does great to the left and is pretty straight and easy, staying well connected to the outside rein. To the right, he really tends to just fall in with his haunches. Instead of trying to push his haunches out, I have to correct the shoulders and his haunches will follow. So, I have to keep the slight inside bend, use my inside seat bone to push his shoulder out, my outside rein to keep him on the rail- but not to much outside rein or he swings his hip in, and come firmer with my inside leg if he tries to leave the rail and drift his whole body in. Not sure if it is harder to ride or write!

I did have a few aha! moments today. I need to keep in mind how sensitive he is and sort of play around with the kind of contact and aids he likes. I noticed this while I was trying to move the right shoulder out while tracking right. When I use my whole leg he tends to resist and push his hip against me. So, I sat deeper and used my thigh and hip and he was much more responsive. That might have been the first time I discovered my seat bones. I ride like a hunter equitation rider, so I am generally up off my seat bones. Up until now, this has worked fine for me to be slightly tipped forward and avoiding weighting my seat bones. However, Boomer needs my support there. Karin pointed out that he used to blow through my right leg with his shoulder on turns and circles and now his hip is swinging into my outside leg, perhaps he is almost seeking contact with my seat bone- but it isn't there to support him so he ends up crooked. I think this was the first time I ever rode him off of my seat and I was really impressed. Going right down the long side that has a mirror I was able to see exactly how he was tracking up and how my hips/seat were changing his position. Imagine that he has a light in the middle of his chest and I have a light in the middle of my chest (work with me here). The best I can describe is that my aim was to have his headlight maybe 10* to the right of the straight line and my headlight 10* to the left of the straight line and we ended up with his legs tracking up and a very nice, slight inside bend at his poll. So, I was really almost pushing my hips where I wanted him to go, not where he was headed. In the canter, this felt a little like I was going against him with my seat, but he ended up straight.

The canter work was awesome. I was able to get him going with the same amount of straightness we had at the walk and trot. He felt much more free and balanced. He actually slowed himself down and I was able to move his shoulders over. I can't really describe how great it felt except that I was smiling the whole time! We worked on the canter a lot and Boomer did start to get 'longer' as he got a little tired. To the left, it was an easy fix. We went on a 20 meter circle and I worked on collecting his strides using my legs and core. It was fun. To the right it was a little more difficult because he was reverting back to wanting to race around when he felt he was losing his balance.

At the end we let him trot and stretch his neck down. I guess this is the 'stretchy circle', sort of a funny name, but I'm sure it is the best description/translation possible! He seemed to really enjoy that and got the idea very quickly. We also worked on the free walk along the diagonal, which is a marching, forward walk on a long rein. That also went really well. Karin really likes his walk and I was really working with my hips to get him to really stride forward.

What a fun lesson! We really progressed a lot and I feel like I am riding a real horse. Not a baby, green, silly horse. A real horse who responds like he is supposed to and does what I ask! He is also a really cool horse in that he is so honest. If I ask for something wrong, I get the wrong results. I have to really learn to be subtle and precise in order to get the response I want.

I did have one realization today that was bittersweet. Boomer has really been muscling up. People are noticing. They say he has gained weight or looks taller. I am seeing more muscle at the base of his neck, behind his withers, in his hindquarters, and recently in his loins. Of course, I am thrilled. He looks different and carries himself differently. However, I'm not the only one noticing, my saddle noticed too. It is starting to pinch his shoulders right at the points. I thought I felt it last week, but today I am sure. I did notice in just the last few rides that he has been swishing his tail. I can't say if it is because I am making him work harder and he is 'talking back' or if it is because his shoulders are being pinched. I can't afford a new saddle. I don't want to get rid of my current saddle because of the sentimental value. I can borrow one of Karin's saddles for lessons, but I don't know. I am hesitant to buy a new, wider saddle for fear that he will change back or keep changing or whatever. What if the muscle isn't real and its actually fat from the rich spring pasture and he is going to change back and what if, what if, what if?!??

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I know I haven't been posting much, but things have been pretty slow around here! The hardest part of endurance riding, for me, is the week of rest after a ride!!! It never fails that we have beautiful weather the whole time.

I have ridden Boomer twice since my lesson and had two wildly different rides. First ride was the day after my lesson and he was just NOT. playing. along. Nope. I was so pumped about our progress, excited to keep working, etc, etc. He was really looking forward to a day of pretending to be a giraffe. We got through his temper tantrum, but ended up having almost a 90 minute ride before I felt like we could end on a really good note. It was a long tantrum. In his defense, I KNOW he doesn't do well ridden two days in a row. He prefers to work every other day. I know that and I should respect it. I was just so excited to keep working and riding!
Our next ride was on Monday and I went out to ride in some new gear so that I wouldn't have to try anything new at the next competition. I recently got a new halter/bridle, bit, and boots.
Everything worked wonderfully and Boomer was awesome. I had him in our trail gear even though we were riding in the arena due to rain and I just let him go around on a loose rein as long as he was carrying himself with a rounded back. He actually did really well and we got some great canter circles! Very proud of him! This was after 3 days off. Baby likes his free time.

I got a Zilco halter/bridle in hunter green. I like this bridle because it will make things easier at vet holds to already have a halter on the horse, but it isn't nearly as bulky as keeping a 'regular' halter under my bridle. This material will also be a dream to clean. I used to love cleaning my leather tack. Funny how endurance changes you!

My new bit is a low port kimberwicke. I was using a jointed argentine shanked snaffle. After I started using a french link snaffle for dressage, I have noticed that Boomer no longer appreciates a single jointed bit. I don't blame him. However, on the trail, I want a little leverage and I like having the curb chain-just in case. However, you cant get a french ling mouth with leverage and a curb chain... So, I opted for a low port kimberwicke. So far, he is going awesome in it! It takes so little to get him to round up and respond!

My new boots... Oh, my new boots... *sigh* I LOVE my new boots. I have ridden in Ariat Paddock Boots for ages. Literally, almost two decades. I love the Ariat paddock boots. However, they seem to only last around 5 years. My current pair I have had since college so they are around 4-5 years old. They have cracked around the toes and let in sand and water. I finally replaced them after I rode in them for 50 miles in the rain at the State Fair Express. I replaced them with a pair of Ariat terrains. It was a hard decision to get something other than the Paddocks, but I felt like the Terrains would be super comfortable for the long haul on endurance rides.

Just in case you feel like Mustangs are underrepresented breed on this blog, here is John's new favorite horse:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lesson Report #11

Today was our first lesson in a few weeks. I didn't expect much since we have only ridden 'dressage' twice since our last lesson. I swear, my horse does better with more time off between sessions! We didn't back track at all and we actually made huge strides forward today!

Our focus was on lifting his shoulders by me sitting up and trying to bring him back with my body. It was amazing the difference I could feel in him when I would sit up and open my shoulders with the intention of adding energy 'up'. They say your legs control the back legs and your shoulders control the horse's shoulders. I could really see that working today. I was surprised that I could actually see him lift his shoulders.

The next thing we worked on (and worked on and worked on) was controlling his shoulders laterally. Boomer tends to push his right shoulder out, so we started by moving it in towards the inside of the ring. I just pushed it over with my leg. I also had to work on keeping a slight inside bend at his poll around the ring. He did really well with this but when he would resist he would swing his hips in and I would have to push them back out and straighten him up. We did a bit of shoulder in at the walk and trot also. To the right, he tends to fall in towards the inside so I had to push him out with the right leg and keep his nose tipped in which was easier than going left. He seemed to really get this once we made just a few rounds.

One huge lightbulb moment for me was that the horse I ride to the right is not the same horse I ride to the left. I have to ride them both differently in order to achieve straightness.

We also worked on the canter a bunch. Mostly, we were trying to get him straight and listening to my aids. It was the most we have ever cantered at large around the arena. Karin had me canter him through the corner, then tip him inside at the poll- just enough to see his eye. I had to keep my inside leg and rein on him, which was totally backwards to me and I had a hard time 'letting go' of that concept. But, after about 4 laps around he just relaxed and dropped at the poll and I felt like I was riding a different horse. I could use my inside rein to get the slight flexion, my inside leg to keep him on the rail, my outside rein to lead him into the corners, and my outside leg to keep him moving- if needed. Phew! What a lot of work! Going to the right was easier than the left and he actually felt light and like he was sitting back, waiting to go forward.

We also worked on using the corners to get him to give and soften his jaw. The corners are the only place in the arena that naturally let you 'use the bend'. So we worked on creating the softness and bend in the corner and keeping it on the long side.

Boomer tends to tense after the canter, so we kept right at the trot work and really got deep into the corners to get him to give his jaw/poll. Once he was back lightly on the bit, we worked on trot/walk/trot transitions and I have never felt him be so light and responsive!

Once at the walk, we dealt with his rude 'rooting' habit. After we canter, he thinks we are done (my fault) and want his reins NOW! So, every time he pulls on me, we trot. Or canter. Then we try walking again. Once he softens, I give just an inch of rein. If he roots, we trot. So, I give the rein incrementally as long as he is not being rude. It took about 3-4 laps before he got the full rein. I think that will improve with time.

Obviously, it was an action packed lesson with a ton of huge improvements and a lot to work on! I didn't get and 'homework' but I will just keep working on controlling the shoulders, w/t/w transitions, cantering more, and my own equitation (grrr- sit UP, toes IN, elbows BACK, left hand UP, look UP).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Before and After Video

Here is the latest video of Boomer and I working. It has clips from Jan/Feb before we started lessons and the rest of it is from May 1st, 2010 after about 10 weeks of lessons.

*For some reason after publishing, the video is not showing up centered which causes part of the video to be cut out. Feel free to click the video to watch it straight from Youtube's site*

Because I know it can be a hot topic, I will explain it here.
Yes, sometimes we use draw reins. For the non-horsey readers, draw reins are a training tool that work on leverage. They attach to the girth or saddle and run through the bit into the rider's hands. They are used in conjunction with regular reins. When used properly, they remain loose or 'inactivated' unless the horse raises up above the bridle. They prevent the horse from tossing its head and give the rider more fine motor control with the rein aids. Because they act on leverage, less 'power' is needed from the hands and they get the same results with less force. Some people think they are a short-cut to 'real training'. I started using them with Boomer under my trainer's instruction to help us get over the 'hump' and improve our canter transitions. It really helped and he totally gets the idea and performs well both with and without the draw reins.