Monday, May 30, 2011

What a workout!!!

Boomer and I went for an unexpectedly long ride today!  I showed up at the barn as two of the ladies were just tacking up to go out.  Emily has a 13 year old warmblood and Julie has a 3 year old with just over 30 days on him.  We walked around the pond and grassy jump field and explored and practiced being good.  It is sort of disheartening for me to have as much attitude and trouble from my horse as Julie did from her baby green horse.  Part of life with an Ay-rab, I suppose.  He was just occasionally getting excited and jigging when we headed towards the barn.  We would back up and he was fine.  We walked Julie back to the barn and then Emily and I went back out to trot and work up a sweat.  That went really well for the most part.  I tried cantering in the open field a few times, but that was just too much for Boomer's poor little pea brain.  So, we stuck to trotting and I had him going really well after 20ish minutes.  I did have to get off to tighten his girth and he spooked at the stirrup hitting the girth AGAIN!  It is the stirrup on the off side, so he humps up and jumps towards me and forward which makes it difficult for me to stay out of the way and get over to the other side to show him where the noise is coming from.  He is so dang round that the saddle kept slipping and I had to tighten the girth several times!  

We rode for a total of about 2 hours, with most of it being trotting.  Towards the end, it was ME who gave out first!!!  I have a 'floppy ankle' from a jogging incident in college and apparently, it has lost strength.  At first, my stirrups felt funny, like they were adjusted wrong (they were fine for the first hour and 50 minutes!), then all of a sudden, I realized that my ankle was rolling every time I stood up to post.  So, we ended up walking and heading back to the barn.  It wasn't bad though, we were already heading back to the barn and walking was good for all of us!

The part of the day that really irritates me is that I had to have Emily help me get him saddled.  He still is spooking at the saddle pad, and with all of the wind we are having I need someone to hold him and hold the pad while I get the saddle up on him.  I feel so ridiculous.  My horse acts like a 2 year old who has never been saddled up before and I need help tacking up.  

Though, the ride was really good for him because we went all over the place instead of just doing a lap and heading back.  He really couldn't guess where we were going or when we were going to turn home.  Since we walked back once to drop off Julie, then went back out that seemed to help him stay calm on the walk back in when we were really done.  He walked in on a loose rein the whole way back!    

When we got back to the barn, I hosed him off and then sacked him out with the saddle pad.  I thumped it all over his back, belly, neck and legs.  He was fine with it the whole time.  The ting about Boomer that gets to me is that I KNOW he is doing his bad behaviors on purpose because he ONLY does them before we ride.  He has NEVER pulled back after we were done riding and he is never spooky about his tack/fly spray/etc once we are done riding.  It is all evasive behavior and he is just too damned smart!  I suppose one solution is to lunge the hell out of him, then tack him up, then ride.  But, that just seems like too much of a hassle.  I just want a normal horse!!!  

I'm just going to keep on working with him and hope he continues to improve.  Really, he is already better than he was a few weeks ago when he flew backwards at the sight of the saddle.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yay Boomer!!!

I rode Boomer this morning and he was great!  He felt totally sound!  The saddle fits great and is super comfortable.  I have been lunging Boomer several times a week and trying to build fitness.  It seems to have worked.  Well, he is still obese but at least he is stronger in the hind end and not lame!  

We rode for almost 45 minutes and he was a champ.  I had him in our endurance bridle and bit.  It is a kimberwicke with a low port.  He doesn't love that bit but he does respect it.  On the trail, I can generally keep out of his mouth, but he does occasionally need a slight correction in the first few miles of a race.  In his defense, we generally ride the last 20-30 miles of an endurance ride without a bit at all.  He respects the kimberwicke, but he has a tendency to fuss with it and toss his head at first before responding.  So, I worked on getting the 'right' response from the bit, which is to give and lower his head.  By the end of the ride, he was doing great.  I'm embarrassed to say that it was the first time I have consciously worked with him on that.  

I do have to mention that although Boomer was a champ, he did make a fool of himself after I got off and was leading him out of the arena.  He suddenly jumped forward with a humped back and tried to run around me in a circle.  He kept humping up and acting like he wanted to spook.  I stopped him and suddenly figured it out.  He was afraid of the metal stirrup knocking against the metal buckle on the cinch.  I banged both stirrups against the girth until he realized where the noise was coming from.  I swear, he looked downright sheepish when we walked off again and John and I were laughing at him!  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We have had a ton going on lately, so my Boomer time has been limited.  More on that at a later date!

I have gotten the opportunity to volunteer as a drag rider at a CTR near us in a few weeks!  There is a CTR at a local lake that my friend is hosting.  Boomer and I plan to be the drag rider behind the novice group on Saturday.  We will follow the last group out and help anyone who has trouble on the trail, gets lost, or whatever.  This will be about 20-25 miles at about 4 miles per hour.  I figure that is half walking and half trotting.  I think that will be a perfect fitness test for the fat pony! 

To get him in shape for that I have been lunging him as much as possible since I can't ride often.  I wear Paisley in our Beco pouch while I lunge Boomer.  I lunge him for 20-30 minutes.  A bit of trotting to warm up, then we do trot/canter sets- two laps of each until he has done at least 10 laps of cantering in each direction, then more trotting to cool down.  Paisley generally sleeps the whole time.  His fitness is already improving.  Another few days of that and he should be ready to go 20 miles!  

After that, there is an endurance ride at the end of June, we will take July and August off for the heat, and hopefully we will be back in shape Sept-Nov!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

He remembered!!!

Boomer is so smart!  

John and I went out on Sunday to try on Boomer's new saddle (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and to go for a ride.  I tacked him up in the small paddock.  He cant pull back if he isn't tied!  He, of course, acted scared of the saddle pad.  Once he got over that, I was able to tell that the saddle fits really well!  It was also super comfy!  

We went for a ride around the pond.  We used John's GPS watch and it clocked at exactly 1 mile.  

I was curious to see if Boomer would remember his little lesson in backing.  He was great for the first half of the ride and when we got to the halfway point, he got a little 'up', but stayed sane.  I left the reins loose and let him make his own decisions about his behavior.  All I wanted was a loose rein and a flat, 4 beat walk.  He *wanted* to jig, but he keep his cool.  Once we got to the alley where you can head back to the barn, he turned his head and pricked his ears as we walked past, but he stayed going forward where I pointed.  We went through the gate and turned to go up the hill to the barn and he did get a little excited, but wasn't misbehaving *yet*.  I turned him around and backed him up about 20 strides just for good measure.  After that, he was totally calm and cool for the rest of the ride!  

I was very happy with his behavior and attitude!  What an improvement!  

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hoof Trimmin'

I decided to take Paisley and Charley out to the barn this afternoon before it started to rain.  It was the first time I would attempt to take Paisley to the barn alone.  It was also the first time I was taking her somewhere where I expected/hoped to actually get something done!

My goal was to trim Boomer's hooves and maybe lunge him if I had time.  

I put Paisley in her vibrating bouncy seat (LOVE THAT THING!) and set her under a tree.  I took Boomer to the small paddock about 20 feet away and got to working on his hooves.  I had to take one break to change a diaper, but then Paisley fell asleep and I had plenty of time to get things done!  

I would say that I did a good job on his front feet, but was tired and did a half-assed job on his back feet.  I will try to start with the hinds next time.  I also want to get back into the habit of trimming him up more frequently.  I used to do once a week, but that seems like a lofty goal at this point in my life!  

After I trimmed him, I free lunged him around the paddock.  He looked really good.  Still just a tad weak in the left hind, but most of the time he looks 100%.  I also did some ground exercises with turning on the forehand to get him to cross over with his hind legs and hopefully build up some muscle.  I only trotted him around for about 10 minutes with just a bit of cantering and he was worn out!  He was sweaty and blowing.  So out of shape!  

I really want to aim to get out and work him twice a week in the daytime and then ride once a week on the weekend when John can help out.  I think if we can manage that, I can have him in much better shape and much stronger before he goes to boot camp.  Only 4 weeks and 3 days until Boomer gets a reality check!


In other news:
She smiles!!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Boot Camp Preview!

Boomer is officially signed up for boot camp starting the second week of June.  I'm VERY excited!  
Unfortunately, he wasn't on his best behavior on Sunday and he got a preview of what is coming...
This is a map of the property where we keep Boomer:
You will be referring back to this map during this post.

We like to walk or ride the loop from the barn around the pond and back.  This loop is about a mile, if not a little over.  There are two ways to get to the pond.  One goes between two pastures straight west and one goes north to the property line and then west to the northernmost point on the pond.  The alleyway between the two pastures can be seen if you look for a solitary tree in the middle of the screen.
Sunday, we chose the northern route as the gates between the pastures were open and blocking us from accessing the alley between them.
I should back up.  As we drove up to the barn (John, P, Charley, and myself), John asked if I wanted to ride.  I answered that I was wearing sandals and couldn't.  He asked if I was scared.  I answered honestly- Yes.  He asked if I was scared of riding or just tacking up.  I answered honestly- just tacking up.  He suggested that I ride bareback.

So, I put on Boomer's bridle and we walked around the east half of the property before heading to the pond.  Boomer was being a dream.  He was great for the whole walk around the property, great when we left the property line, great around the pond.  We got to the far west point on the pond and Boomer startled at some cows on the adjoining property.  I decided to hop off, just in case.  The dam we ride on around the pond is about 8 feet wide and has a pond on one side and a 20 foot drop off to a barbed wire fence on the other side.  So, I jump off and we hang out until Boomer is done cow watching.  I hand walked him about 50 ft to a picnic table and attempted to remount.  He stepped to the side.  This went on for quite some time.  He was clearly DONE riding and was throwing quite the fit.  I started backing him and moving him side to side.  Eventually he was much more pleasant and stood for me to mount only to toss his head and act like a twit as soon as we started walking.  I hopped off and backed him quite a ways down the hill along the south side of the pond.  (see the SW corner of the picture- the open area is a gently sloping hill where there are frequently jumps set up)  I backed him down and back about halfway across the open area and back to the picnic table.  We tried again and he was much more reasonable.  Suddenly, I realized what was going on.  We were headed BACK TO THE BARN.  We walked nicely through the small open jump area, through the stand of trees and were just coming along the east edge of the pond, headed north when Boomer started getting light up front, tossing his head, and trying to grab the bit and pull towards home.  Aw, hell no.  I was frustrated because I just wanted a nice calm, relaxing ride.  The training is supposed to be done by a trainer.  I just want to enjoy my horse.  So, I hopped off and started backing Boomer.  And we backed.  We backed north along the pond the continued east until we got to the dirt road and backed north along that for a ways.  I'd say we backed about a quarter mile.  Boomer was sweating and ready to quit.  I hopped back on him and he stood quietly while John helped hoist me up.  We headed back north for about 200 feet until we got to the alley between the two pastures where we USUALLY head home.  I bet you can guess what happened.  Boomer wanted to go up the alley.  So, I got off and backed him some more. We backed along the dirt road north to the property line. We backed through ruts and mud.  We backed through a gate.  We backed around the corner and headed east.  We backed up a hill.  We backed until we were halfway between the pond and home and then I got back on.  Boomer walked off on a loose rein.  He stopped quietly when I asked and hesitated before walking when I asked.  We walked back to the bard and I walked him around the farm on a loose rein before I hopped off for good.

Here are some visual aids:

 He had been just side stepping, but here he went backwards.  Which is what gave me the idea to make backwards a punishment.  

This is how things started.  He kept side stepping away from the table, so I got down to move him over and he would resist and swing his hind end into me.  Right as John stopped filming, I turned him around and started backing him down the hill and then back up to try again.  

temporary success!

This was the last of the pictures, but only the beginning of the struggle.

In all, I think he backed about 1/3 of a mile.  I am VERY curious to see how the next ride goes.  I'm pretty sure Boomer is going to be sore for a day or two.  That was a lot of work for a fat, out of shape pony!  But, in all fairness, he brought it on himself.  I think that it was a good day overall.  While I was a bit disappointed in the turn the ride took, I am very satisfied that I did not let Boomer win.  I really think that we are at a critical point right now where he must not win.  Oh, and by fat, I mean that he has a cresty neck, fat deposits around his tail, and a gully down his back... 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baby talk- Birth Story!

Wow!  I just realized that I haven't posted our birth story yet!  As you all know, we planned a home birth and  had selected a wonderful midwife, Brenda.  This is what I wrote within days of the birth about our experience.  It is raw and somewhat graphic.  If you are not prepared to read about a birth, go ahead and skip this one!  

On Wednesday, March 9th around 8pm I started having contractions.  Almost immediately, they were 4 minutes apart and very intense.  I had had several bouts of preparatory ("false") labor in the preceding weeks, which had really prepared my body and allowed me to skip right ahead to true/hardcore labor when things actually got going.  John went around the house, cleaning and getting things ready while I walked around in my bathrobe and swayed my hips with each contraction.  By 11pm I know it was really the real thing and had John call Brenda to give her a heads up.  We continued laboring for several more hours.  Brenda suggested that we get some rest and lie down.  However, for me, lying down was excruciating.  It felt like the pressure of the bed on my belly was blocking the release of the pain.  Being upright was my only option.  My contractions got more intense and were coming one on top of the other.  I would have 3-4 right in a row with barely a breath in between, then a 4 minute break.  It was very intense.  John was right there with me the whole time.  As a contraction would start he would get down on his knees in front of me and I would lean forward and wrap my arms around his neck for support during the contraction.  At 4am John called Brenda back and told her it was time for her to come.  I remember hearing him tell her that I was asking for help.  I also remember that his voice sounded urgent, almost tense.  I know I couldn't do this alone anymore.  I was ready for guidance.  Brenda arrived around 5am.  I was in the shower when she arrived and when I got out and dried off, I realized that she was sitting on the floor in our bedroom.  John later told me that the way she entered was very interesting.  She sat in the hallway and listened to me while I was vocalizing with low tones in the shower.  She then moved into the room and continued observing.  Once I knew she was there, she moved into the bathroom and sat on the floor in there.  It was a very gentle way for her to make her presence known.  I really appreciated that.  
By the time Brenda arrived, my contractions were stronger and my uterus was staying tight even during my 4 minute breaks and my thighs were shaking.  This was the hardest part for me as I could not physically relax and I didn't feel like I was getting a break.  Eventually, I started thinking about pushing.  I didn’t have a real urge, but the thought was there.  It was more like my body was doing Kegel squeezes.  Actual pushing started happening with a few of the contractions, but not all at once.  At one point, I gave myself and internal exam and could feel the bag of waters.  That was incredible because it made the progress much more apparent and tangible.   My water broke while I was sitting on the toilet just 2 hours before the birth.  After my water broke, things sped up considerably and every contraction demanded that I push.  This was so totally involuntary and got to be pretty overwhelming.  I did not feel in control of my body at all.  Pushing is a feeling I just can’t describle.  It is a whole body effort and it truly connects you to the core of the earth.   At this time, the most important thing to me was knowing that John was right there.  All of the work we had done together became so important.  I knew that whatever I needed was right there with him.  He and Brenda sat on the floor near me and gave me encouragement and support while I pushed.  
Eventually, I could reach inside myself and feel her head.  I was afraid I felt her umbilical cord by her head and requested that Brenda do an internal exam.  She felt and assured me that I was just feeling my own tissues.  This was the only 'intervention' of our birth.  It was quite empowering to be able to lead my own birth and to be the one making decisions about interventions like internal exams.  Shortly after I felt the head in my birth canal, I started feeling like my pelvis was widening- like I couldn’t close my legs.  Interestingly, moving through my birth canal was not painful.  The pain was completely from the contractions of my uterus and abdomen.  

An hour and a half after my water broke, our baby began to crown.  I had moved from the bathroom to our bed and I was on my hands and knees, arms propped up with pillows.  Crowning was very painful and lasted about 30 minutes.  I would feel the contraction start, then about two breaths later I would begin to push.  I was pushing so hard and couldn’t believe I had that much strength.  After each contraction, I could feel her move back inside a little.  With each contraction, she came further out, but also slid back in a little.  The strangest part was feeling my tailbone raise and lower as she passed by.  This process started to be discouraging and my abdomen was getting sore from the contractions and pushing.  I was so thankful when Brenda suggested that I get up off my elbows and brought my back more level, rather than being in a ‘downward dog’ position.  I also made a conscious effort to sort of ‘hold on’ to each contraction after it ended so that she didn’t slip back inside. I made a huge effort to breathe through the end of the contractions even though my body really wanted to keep pushing.  Eventually, I pushed and felt her come out further than before and then I gathered myself mentally and pushed again, she came out a little more, then I pushed again even though the contraction was over, and her head was born!  I could feel her rotate as she progressed and came out.  I needed to wait for the next contraction to push out her body.  While I was waiting, I heard our baby cry out and I was suddenly so shocked and the gravity of the situation hit me full force. THAT was why we were doing this! I pushed her shoulders out and she rushed out with the rest of the amniotic fluid.   There are no words to describe the split second shift from immense pressure, pain, and difficulty to the feeling of relief and awe as she was born.  After her body was born, I stood up on my knees and John handed our baby to me through my legs so that I could hold her.  I laid back into John’s lap and just looked in amazement at our daughter.  Her cord was a little short, so she laid on my belly as I passed the placenta so that she could reach to nurse.  The placenta passed without trouble in less than 15 minutes.  Paisley latched on and nursed right away.  We cut the cord about an hour after she and our placenta were born.  She weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces and came out with a full head of jet black hair.  

Our birth was absolutely incredible.  It went exactly how we would have imagined in the best case scenario.  I am so thrilled that our birth was free of interventions and free of complications for both  myself and Paisley!  I am so happy with how perfectly everything went and so thankful for how respected and protected I felt by the people I had invited into my birth experience.  Brenda showed an incredible calming energy and really made me feel safe.  John’s support was something I can’t describe in words.