Tuesday, January 29, 2013

have I mentioned that I haven't been riding...AGAIN?

First, if you haven't done so, check out my new contest and send me an entry!

So far I have entries from Alicia, Jessica, Shannon, Mary, Trena, and Karen. If you think you've sent me one and your name is not on this list, leave a comment here - I found one in my spam folder this morning so now I am really nervous that I have missed others.

I recovered from the plague, had a few chill groundwork sessions with Lucy while my lungs battled the 10 degree temps, and Lucy got her feet done last week.

Then, on Wednesday, her RH leg blew up like a fat balloon. At first she was sore, but the discomfort seemed to be very low in the leg. My farrier had warned me that he detected a bit of heat in that foot - she had thrown it and then gone for almost a week with no shoe on it while I waited for him to come out - but said it was most likely a bit of bruising and may turn into an abscess. For this reason, I didn't worry too much about the swelling in her leg because there was no heat at all, just soft and squishy edema, and if she was dealing with an abscess I wasn't going to panic.

I did as much as I could for her before leaving for NY, and when I  was away, Maddy kept me up to speed. Mostly, the news wasn't good (still lame, still swollen, looking sad, etc), and when I got home on Sunday I went straight to the barn, prepared for battle.

Her leg was a bit stocked up but not terrible. I soaked her foot in hot-ish water, hand-walked her, then did a Furazone sweat with standing wraps for the night to try and get the edema down.

On Monday morning, the leg looked a lot better. I stopped by the barn before work and removed the bandages. I had wrapped the whole foot, too, and when I took the cotton dressing off, it smelled horrible. I was like, well that was easy! but I could not find an exit point where the abscess drained. I decided to play it safe, and treated her again Monday night, again hand walking, then icing, then poultice + standing wraps.

The leg looked good this morning when I checked on her. I took the bandages off and while it's not back to normal, it looks better than it did and she is standing on it normally.

I'm thinking that I might just be able to ride, if she's still doing fine and is comfortable, toward the end of the week.

What a pain in the ass!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Horse Shaming Contest!

YAY! Finally we have 200 followers and I can run a new contest.

I have put a lot of thought into this one. I call it:


If you haven't checked out the website Dog Shaming, um, what rock have you been hiding under? Go look.

Anyway, to enter the contest, email me a photo and blurb shaming your horse (email: axford.k AT gmail.com). What does your horse do that really makes your blood boil? Do they trash their stall? Do they harass the barn cat? Chew on the fencing? Refuse to eat their hay unless you fluff it up each night? Throw shoes like they're the morning paper each day? Break out in hives if you even just mention fly spray? Injure themselves once a week? Horses do a lot of really stupid things and these tend to cost a lot of money and time to fix. This is your chance to get them back for all the havoc they cause. Be creative!

Entries must be in by this coming Sunday, February 3 2013 at NOON. By the end of the day on Sunday, I will post all of the entries and voting will start. There will be two winners: one with the most votes, and one randomly selected winner. The voting will end on Sunday, February 10th and the winner will be announced on Monday, February 11th.

The winners can pick from either a single-sided hand-painted saddle pad or a custom 8x10 portrait of their horse or dog (sorry, no people).
example of a saddle pad

example of a portrait

More examples here on my Facebook page.

To give you some inspiration, here is Lucy's horse shaming claim to fame:

and yes, I really have witnessed her pulling perfectly good hay out of her hay net just to spit
it out, turn around, and use it as a toilet. GRRRRRRRRRRR.

If you don't have the ability to add the text to the image, don't worry. Just send me the image as an attachment and then let me know what you'd like it to say. I will add the explanation as the image's caption.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kenny's new tattoo

Kenny and I spent the weekend in New York meeting our new nephew, Kamden. While we were there, Kenny got a new tattoo, based off a drawing I did of Cairo.

The drawing:

The tattoo in progress:

The finished product:

"Faithful friend" in Swahili. Cairo's registered name is
"Akili", which is Swahili for "intelligence"

Monday, January 21, 2013

I'm ALIVE! (but barely made it)

Good GRIEF. I promise I will get my flu shot from now on because yikes does the flu suck. I have been absolutely out of commission since last Wednesday, which means that Lucy has sat and done nothing! Of course, the theme of Winter 2012-2013 is "Get Back Into Work, Then Take Another Long Break".

My lungs still can't handle the cold air really well, but I was going so crazy sitting at home that this afternoon I went and tried ground driving her for the very first time! I was really excited to try this. I have wanted to do it for a while and finally bought the long lines recently.

Lucy was so chill about the whole thing, I wondered for a split second if someone had done it with her before. But then I remembered the state she was in when I got her and realised that there was basically no way she had been exposed to this before I bought her.

Within ten minutes she was walking, trotting, turning in both directions, stopping, backing up, and starting to go around on the bit. We stopped at that point to end on a really good note! I was thrilled.

She's enjoyed her vacation. I know this because I could
hardly get the surcingle done up. Fattie!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

FINALLY: a great ride

And to think, I almost didn't ride today!!

The day started out with a trip to Rehoboth to visit Lauren and Charlie. Last week, Charlie was very naughty, so I scheduled an intervention, recruiting Maddy to go there with me this weekend and help Lauren work through some of his issues with the same groundwork techniques that have helped Lucy and I so much.

We had a great time and Charlie improved dramatically in just an hour or so of work. He thought about rearing a few times but Maddy persuaded him that it was really just easier to do what she was asking, and he complied! He looked very happy and chill when we were done:

learning about personal space

learning how to stand patiently while we all chatted

looking happy and educated at the end!
We got back to the barn where we met Claire, my friend whom I boarded with for about a year before she went back to school and moved her horse, Boe, to be closer to her. It was so good to see her!

I tacked up and headed to the outdoor, only to realise that someone was out on a trail ride with their horse and I am all about battling some things out, but I decided today was not the day to battle out how to handle a horse out on the trails when we're trying to work in the ring.

So we went to the indoor, where I lunged her briefly and then hopped on, and had a great ride with minimal nonsense!

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

right about here, I was thinking, holy crap I'm having FUN!

Do you see that smile?!

It felt great to fall in love with her again.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

guess where I rode today!

In the outdoor!

I am so brave.

I love London.

of course, we had some Lucy Specials

and she *thought* about being bad a lot

but I was very pleased that we managed to pull of a couple nice canters
in both directions outside!
Cairo's little friend Ryker is here to stay with us for a few days. Here are some photos of them out on a walk this morning:

White Tailed Deer off in the distance

Friday, January 11, 2013

back in English tack

I wanted to wait to do another post until we had another breakthrough ride, but after two fairly questionable rides I am not sure when that will happen! Such is normal when you have a hot horse who hates the cold, and boy I cannot wait til winter Lucy goes back into hibernation.

On Wednesday I hoped we would have as fun a ride as Tuesday, but Lucy was hot and bothered and quite naughty. I did canter her around a bit, which was met at first with many protests but I persevered with Maddy cheering me on and saying "sit back!" and I finally got her to cooperate. That was all in the Western saddle and rope halter.

I really did not like my horse at all during that ride.

That night I went home and got myself all convinced that next time I asked her to canter and she rooted around, I would take a crop and give her a nice convincing whack neatly behind my leg. I envisioned her being quite shocked, probably throwing a buck, but then saying "hmm, maybe I will cooperate". I was ready and even came up with a little rhyme to get myself motivated, which I will not share here because it has a lot of foul language :D

Then on Thursday I got to the barn, tacked her up in her English tack but left her bridle off because I planned to work with her on the ground first, took her over to the indoor, and discovered that another boarder's lesson was about to start. Not only could I not lunge her like I had wanted to or do much with her on the ground, but she now had to behave while someone else jumped around in the indoor while we were in there. Normally this wouldn't be a problem - we've been in the ring many times while someone else is riding/jumping/lessoning, but given her behaviour the day before, I was very worried that she would be bad.

We had just enough time for a quick lunge and then the other horse came in the ring (which she spooked at, just to give you an idea of where her brain was at), so I had to either suck it up and get on, or go back to the barn and wait out the lesson. I decided to put my big girl pants on and get on and see how many brain cells I had to work with. She started out jumpy and stupid so I put her straight to work, shoulder in, haunches in, bending circles, etc. She accepted my aids very nicely and I thought hey, maybe we'll have a good ride! When the person taking the lesson was doing something complicated (flying changes across the diagonal or jumping), I brought Lucy into the middle of the ring where we would be out of the way and made her wait patiently. Then when the lesson student took a walking break to have a chat with the instructor, I put Lucy back to work. She tends to think that after she's been allowed a long rein for any length of time, or stood in the middle, she should be done. If I ask her to go back to work, she pins her ears and acts like an ass for a few minutes before resigning herself to work. Last night she started pulling that crap but I didn't put up with any of it and very quickly she realised it wasn't going to get her anywhere. The first time, she kicked out at my leg and I whacked her with my crop that I had bravely envisioned using liberally but in practice, I realised I would probably die if I actually hit her with it while trying to canter. She was so taken by surprise that she kind of startled a bit as her head went up like, "UM WTF WAS THAT???!" but went forward as I asked, and without any theatrics. By the second time she had gotten a break standing in the middle and then was put back to work, she just got to it without any protests. This was very good :)

She didn't have a problem with the horse in the lesson jumping the jumps we were standing next to, or cantering around. I was happy about that since I could just envision an explosion when the other horse came up behind her to jump down the long side. Nope, not a peep from her!

She was doing so well by the end of it, offering a round (but slightly tense) trot and putting forth a very reasonable effort. At one point I was like, wow this is going surprisingly well and I should stop now before it falls apart!

Two strides later, we were coming down the long side as the instructor went to adjust the height of a jump. Lucy was trotting nicely when she got to the jump being adjusted and absolutely lost her shit, throwing a tantrum where all four legs were kind of running in place (yet she wasn't going anywhere...it was like a piaffe from hell), with a lot of embarrassing farting and even a little squeal if I remember correctly. I kind of just sat there, my hands forward and my leg on, waited for her to get over herself, and when she was finished we continued trotting on as the instructor picked her jaw up off the ground. Yeah, my horse is speshul. The girl taking a lessons' mom was there watching as all this went on and she remarked, "you have a lot of patience".

Anyway, we got to the end of the ring and I really DID finish the ride before anything else happened!

Moral of the story: if you think you should finish the ride, FINISH IT!

At this point I am trying to decide if this is really the Lucy that I am going to have to deal with every winter. Would she be better at a barn with massive amounts of turnout? I really would hate to leave my barn - I am very happy there, the barn owner rocks, I love my fellow boarders and overall it's the best boarding situation I have had so far. The turnout is so small, though. Would she be happier if she could have some space to zoom around, stretch out, continuously move? This year she will turn 7 - the age I've heard so many people say that TB's calm down. Will she magically take a deep breath and chill out on January 24th? Or will she still be a nutter in the cold weather next year?

Not really sure.

There are a few boarding options, none as convenient for me as the one she's in now, which is a quarter mile from my house. One is about 45 minutes away but she could be boarded outside with a run-in in a large grass paddock, big enough for her to stretch out if she needed to. I think a lot of her soreness issues would resolve themselves if she was able to move around and not be stalled at all. I also think her princess complex might take a hit if she had to rough it outside. That is a reasonably priced option as she'd be on pasture board and my costs would be about the same as they are now, BUT is it worth risking another disastrous boarding situation? The farm in question is a beautiful farm that needs some major help in terms of footing and fencing, as it has been neglected in recent years by the owner. My current barn has awesome footing both inside and outside.

So I am trying to decide if it is worth the risk to give up my spot at my barn to try a different turnout situation, or if I just need to tough it out for another couple months until it warms up and summer Lucy returns.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Western Pleasure?!

Another fun ride last night on Lucy. Once again we started with her stretching exercises on the ground, then a nice long slow warm up, then a bit of work at the trot.

This is what she offered up, all by herself:

I don't think that horse has ever trotted so slowly in her life. It was comfy! and fun!

Sometimes having such a smart mare is a good thing :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

last night's ride

I believe there about 100 ways to ask for the exact same result when working with horses. At this point in my relationship with Lucy, I have tried quite a few methods. Some have worked better than others. The most recent method I tried was "ignore it all and put my leg on" and while this moves her past that one instance of acting out, she continues to try and pull the same stunts multiple times during the course of the ride. Talk about annoying!

Last night we worked on her becoming more responsible for herself. I joked with Maddy that I must have to adjust her at least 15 times each trip around the ring. 75% of those adjustments are "slow down" and the remaining 25% are "stop being a complete and utter jerk". Wouldn't it be nice if she could hold her own a bit, and travel around at a constant pace on a loose rein without taking advantage of it and also without me having to give her a half halt (that she mostly ignores) every other stride?

Maddy taught me how to "reset" her if she gets too fast, acts naughty, or refuses to go forward. What I was instructed to do is:

-let go of any inside contact I have
-sit deep in the saddle
-push my outside hand down toward her face, hold the rein, and pull her head toward the wall of the indoor
-at the same time, use my inside/outside leg to push her body around and then straighten her back out when she is pointed in the opposite direction
Your reins only control from the base of the neck forward, and your legs control from the front of the shoulder backward. Coordination is key!

This is a pretty cool tool because unlike a one-rein stop, it does not halt the motion entirely; it instead encourages the horse to move out at the end of the intervention. Doing a one-rein stop with Lucy really pisses her off and on the flip side, I have a horse that is even more unmanageable than she was before I felt the need to stop her.

So I have dubbed this the reset button, though I am sure there is some fancier term for it. We first worked on it on Sunday night, Lucy's first ride after two days off. She was feeling mighty fresh so it was a good time to introduce this concept. Sometimes we didn't go more than two steps after resetting before she needed to do it again because she threw a tantrum or kicked out at my leg.

The kicking out business really annoys me. "No" is not an acceptable answer, ever, and that is a direct refusal to go forward/accept my leg, along with a giant middle finger (the kicking out part). She obviously thinks she is some hot sh*t. This method seemed to work a lot better than standing there, both of us dueling it out with each other, feet flying.

The toughest part is setting your threshold, mostly in terms of speed. If you have a horse that likes to get quick, what is the point where you say, ok, time to reset? I need to work on that myself and be very cut and clear with her for the concept to really click.

Last night she was a lot better but still had her moments. The best feeling was trotting around the ring and her just maintaining her own pace, not getting quick down the long side, thinking of acting out but then deciding not to, etc.

You will see in the first part of the video that I am working with her a bit on the ground, doing the exercises that the chiro prescribed for her after her appointment on Sunday.

Pretty cool!

Sunday, January 6, 2013


On Friday after work I decided to handwalk Lucy down to the trail head behind the barn. I miss trail riding terribly and though I know it wouldn't be smart to dive right back into it before doing more work in the ring first, I don't see the harm in at least walking her around back there so she can get used to the sights and sounds of the woods again.

Well, she was a complete and utter fruit bat, spooking and snorting at things that did not exist, looking freaked out and bug-eyed half the time:

So I imagine we will need to do that a few more times before I can even think of riding her out there, and then for the first few rides I am going to ask Kenny to walk with us, then probably ask a friend to ride out with us.

hanging out with her hay net that is almost the size of her!
 The last thing I wanted to do for Lucy before getting too far under saddle with her after her accident was to have a chiropractor look at her. I was concerned about her hind end from her fall on the road when she got loose. While she hasn't shown any additional warning signs of being uncomfortable, I would rather be overcautious than not cautious enough so I had her adjusted this morning. As I expected, she is still body sore but the chiro said not to keep her out of work. Her turnout area is so small that she doesn't move around much during the day, and standing around in the cold air won't help her muscles at all. I was told to do lots of lateral work with her (haunches in, bending circles, serpentines, asking her to step sideways under herself with her hind end, etc). I also am supposed to back her up to get her to stretch her hind end under herself, and walk/trot over poles to get her to pick her hind legs up and stretch out her SI area.

She also got her feet done this weekend. Her hind feet look atrocious from not having shoes on. We already found out over the summer that she just cannot handle being barefoot, but after her accident she could not hold her hind leg up to be shod because of all of her painful road rash, so I was forced to keep her barefoot. Her feet held up well for the first few weeks but then we got snow, and standing around in all the moisture really did a number on those hind hooves. It's nothing we haven't come back from before, though! I am just glad she healed up so well and had no problems standing to be shod.

On Saturday, I went and visited Lauren and her horse Charlie. Charlie has turned into a bit of a brute since moving up to New England and Lauren has her hands full. Maddy and I are going to visit again next weekend and help her work through some of his naughtiness. You can read more about the visit on Lauren's blog, but here's a little teaser of what went down:

Tonight I had a pretty good ride on Lucy, who had two days off and was feeling fresh. I rode in the western saddle and a rope halter bridle again, and Maddy helped me work with her a bit. We tried a new tactic to work on her little outbursts in hopes of making her into a self-sustaining horse. When she threw a tantrum, sped up, broke her gait, etc, I was supposed to sit on my butt in the saddle, reach down and pull the outside rein so that she turned into the wall of the indoor, push her over with my inside leg, push her around with my outside leg, switch direction, and walk off like nothing ever happened. It worked pretty well because she was never able to get any momentum. The idea is for the horse to be able to go around the ring on a loose rein, and both self-regulate their speed without changing anything, and also not take advantage of the "freedom". The changing of directions works like a reset button. Ideally if we were cantering along and she was bad, then we would change directions and canter off immediately, but to start we are just keeping it simple and walking off from the spin.

Friday, January 4, 2013

quick admin note

I have been getting a whole lot of spam comments lately. I think I am doing a good job keeping up with them and deleting them, but it's annoying.

I like that anyone can comment on this blog and there is no captcha requirement - I hate hate hate captcha with a passion and I don't like subjecting anyone to it, but there needs to be some kind of happy medium to reduce the spam.

umm disgusting.

What if I allowed comments from "registered users"? That includes Open ID, so you could sign in with Blogger, Google, Livejournal, Flikr, Yahoo, Wordpress, and a few others. Would that be sufficient or would anyone be alienated? I looked back at the "real" comments people have left in the past few months and only a few are anonymous users.

Lucy says, "OMG I totally love comments! Yeah!"
On another note, we are at 193 followers right now - Lucy is not surprised since she is so beautiful, and talented, and such a good girl (ok maybe not that last one) - and I think I'm feeling a contest coming on when we get to 200. I am open to ideas - what do you peeps want? Saddle pad? Horsey portrait? Ornament? Stall name plate?


On yet another note, please for the love of god check out this blog: Rockin Roxie

I spent about two hours reading it last night and laughed hysterically the entire time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

unexpected testing of the "emergency dismount woah"

I was home in front of the fire after riding Lucy yesterday morning, perfectly comfortable and warm, but bored off my rocker. I puttered around the house for a bit and then decided to say screw it, I'm going to the barn (again). I could clean tack, or polish bits, or maybe ride again.

When I got to the barn, Lucy came to the gate with a "what are we doing now, mom?" look. I took her out, tacked up in my western saddle and a rope halter, and took her into the indoor.

 I did some ground work with her first and then hopped on. She was great! She's sore on her hind feet (I later called the farrier and moved her next appt up from the 14th to Thursday so she can get some hind shoes on) but she was honest and tried hard. She did exceptionally well in the rope halter. She seemed less nervous, wanted to stretch down even at the trot, and was actually FUN to ride. I did a lot of work on "halt" with her. I had brought some cookies with me that I gave to her periodically, which she really responded to. She's a woman after my own heart: "will work for cookies". She was a bit naughty at the canter to start but settled down nicely and had a good long canter in both directions.

All was going well until we were cantering to the left and a chunk of snow fell off the roof of the indoor with a big loud SWOOSH! and then a THUD as it hit the ground. Cue a very panicked horse. She bolted and as I got a bit unbalanced around the corner at the end of the ring, she threw a nice buck to help me on my way. Thanks, Lu! I tucked and rolled and landed rather gracefully, but here's where the story gets really good:

She took three canter strides and STOPPED.

Oh my goodness, I could not believe it. She didn't yahoo around the ring at all, just stood there like a statue looking at me, trying to figure out if she was in trouble or not. I had two cookies left in my jacket pocket and I got up, talking to her in a sing-song voice to let her know she wasn't in trouble. I wanted her to walk to me but she was hesitant, so I took a couple steps in her direction, hand held out with the cookie, and then she relaxed and walked over to me and got her reward.

So though my butt is sore today from that little fiasco, and I am not exactly happy to have started the new year off by eating dirt, I am THRILLED that she showed such thinking capacity even though she had been spooked by the snow, and it looks as though my crazy emergency dismount practice actually paid off. Amazing.

I knew I had to get on again but first, I did some more ground work with her, especially in the corner where the snow fell off the roof so she would get over whatever goblins she thought were there, then we had a really good w/t/c in both directions to finish up the ride! A fellow boarder videoed a few minutes for me:

Keep in mind that we cantered only once since she was hurt in early November, I believe, before I left for the UK, and this was her third ride (second real ride) since I got back. I think she's doing really well.

I know you all are digging my hot yellow boots. If only the hunter princess Kate of the past could see me now. She would be appalled, BUT, sometimes I just want to get on and ride, you know? Screw the breeches and the tall boots and the hair net ( but only sometimes...).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

7 years old? yeah right!

January 1 marks the birthday for all Thoroughbreds according to the Jockey Club, though I don't really "celebrate" Lucy's birthday until the real deal later in the month. However, we did go out and have a snow ride this morning. I didn't lunge or warm her up at all because the footing wasn't that great outside so she was a little spooky and kind of hot, but we got through it and I had fun riding in the snow.

So Happy unofficial Birthday to Honolulu, who is now 7 going on 2, and Happy Birthday to all our Thoroughbred friends.

WOW do I need a tan!