Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ulcer Update - Day Three

I went out for a quick visit tonight and Abbey already seems much more comfortable and calm. She has her playful sweetness back and was not touchy when I groomed her. I'm hoping that she's ready to get back to work a little tomorrow, as she has a green light from the vet.

I can't wait for my nibblenet to arrive!

Things are looking up :)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Equine Ulcers - The Diagnosis

Is there a horse blog that exists without writing about health-related issues, especially equine ulcers? I know a lot of people say that this is just the next new fad, like everyone thinking that gluten is the devil, but I am a firm believer that people are now more knowledgeable about this aliment, as well as more willing to endure the expense of treating it when they are looking at a companion animal, or a high dollar show horse who might become literally worthless with a bad case of ulcers.

Abbey has been in regular training 3-5 days a week for the past year, with me riding her an additional 2, 3, or 4 days a week, so sometimes she gets used twice a day. It's a rigorous schedule, but one that she did well with for at least 6-7 months. The trainer and I noticed a shift in her attitude in late summer. Less willing, more frustrated with us asking her to round and carry herself on her back end. Her right hind is the most difficult to get her to reach up and under, so loping to the left feels less fluid and flowing (ulcers apparently cause more discomfort in the upper right hind area sometimes, so that makes sense).

Possible Ulcer Factors
Other than the amount of riding time, there are other possible contributing factors. Here is a list that I have complied that I think have added to the ulcer issues for Abbey:
1. My barn is limited to dry, sandy lots that are not overly large in size. There is no natural forage.
2. In the summer, they are fed grain in the AM on an empty stomach, then turned out into the dry lot with a few flakes of hay each.
3. The Trainer rides during the day, and may at times be on a more empty stomach, especially in the summer when they are only fed some flakes of hay rather than on a round bale.
4. They come in at night, and sometimes have hay already down, other times, get grain first, then hay (grain on an empty stomach can be tough on the stomach, and if undigested, can pass into the hindgut and create ulcerations there as it ferments).
5. I got into the habit of riding her after her PM grain and little to no hay consumption because I didn't want to be at the barn until 9 or 10 each night riding, especially when the feeding is late for some reason. Riding on an empty stomach can cause the acid to splash up an irritate the unprotected part of the stomach.
6. We went to a show in July (although I think this was taken in stride really well, as she settled in fine, and was fine for the next month or so after we came home). Stress can bring on ulcers in as little as a few hours.
7. She had a new volitile pasture-mate for a week in August that really set her on edge and high alert - this was when the most marked changes began to occur. She had a stressed out week, and just never really recovered from it to my observation.
8. She caught a cold in September, which turned into a sinus infection with a fever, and was on bute and antibiotics. Bute can cause ulceration, and antibiotics aren't good for natural flora in the gut.
9. We started working on going over poles for trail, as well as introduced a correction bit (since removed and gone back to the kimberwicke or tom thumb). Stress here from learning something new, being required to round up in the correction bit, and more actual movement of stomach acids from the activity over the poles, especially at a lope.
10. Hoary alyssum exposure and reaction in late November. The first round bales of hay dropped this winter had a large amount of this toxic weed in them, and many of the horses displayed classic symptoms of  edema (swelling) of the lower limbs, usually rear but some of them in both front and rear, fever, intestinal discomfort. More Bute was given for a day or two to reduce the fever and inflammation. MSU has good information on plants toxic to equines in Michigan.

Pre-Veterinarian Diagnosis/Process of Elimination
I have done extensive googleing of this subject, so the statements above are a collection of thoughts taken from people who know way more than me about this.

My trainer wanted to rule out a few things before getting the vet involved:
1. Heat cycle - with it being winter in Michigan, she should not be in heat and any cyclical symptoms should have subsided for the season.
2. Joint pain or lameness that is not being openly displayed when in training. She never feels off, just resistant and hollow. To test for joint versus muscle/soft tissue pain, Abbey was dosed with Bute for 3 days while in regular work. There was not a marked improvement, so the issue was likely not related to soft tissue. This left joint or bone issues or ulcers as the next likely candidates.

Veterinarian Diagnosis Part 1 - Lameness Exam
The Vet came out yesterday, December 16th. He did a full lameness exam, which involved him observing her at the walk, trot, and canter on a lunge line, trotting off from the side and from behind, and flexing one rear leg, watching her trot off, then the opposite foreleg, trot off, other rear, trot, final fore, trot off. He also watched tight circles that required her to cross over in front and behind. He scored her movement on each of these tests (this is way out of my realm of understanding, and I think you have to be around horses for years to see what trained eyes see here).

He also used an accelerometer with a tracker placed on her poll, her sacrum (highest point on her butt) and one on her front right pastern. The accelerometer confirmed his observations of her in the visual evaluation, that she is having some drag on one side on take-off, and harder impact on the other side on landing. He said she was also a little crooked in her hips and we could adjust that chiropracticly.

He measured her hoof angles and exclaimed that he was amazed that the angles were almost identical - we have a wonderful farrier.

The outcome of the lameness exam was that she had a very small amount of imbalance in her stride, but overall she looked good and sound. There was a little sensitivity in the right hock, but nothing that would cause the changes in personality that we have noticed. He thought that if we could clear up the source of irritation (likely ulcers) that the mild imbalance would resolve itself over time.

He did say that we should keep an eye on the right hock and it will likely need maintenance down the road at some point spring, or later on in her career).

Veterinarian Diagnosis Part 2 - Trigger Points
The Vet then checked her trigger points from head to toe, literally. He noted that she had pain in her TMJ area (from clenching her jaw from discomfort). Her poll was non-reactive. Her neck had some stiffness, and two-thirds of the way down her back on her barrel was moderately reactive with her moving away from the pressure on that point. She was also reactive on her gluteus medius, gluteus superficialis and her biceps femoris (all haunch muscles that have been working to compensate and protect her from the irritation in her gut). The ulcer point on her belly was moderately reactive too, not to where she wanted to kick, but she was angry and moved away.

Without performing a scope, which only looks at the stomach, the Vet felt that she has a moderate case of ulcers. He is not certain if they are fore or hindgut, but we will treat for the foregut, and if we still have issues then we will follow up with treatment for the hind. I think she has both (from reading that the hindgut causes problems with the right hind end).

He also checked her ovary points, and didn't get a reaction there, so that is a good sign as some mares develop cysts that are very painful and require surgery.

Treatment Part 1 - Holistic Health
The Vet adjusted her in the neck and through her spine, as well as in her SI joint near her hips and pelvis. She enjoyed the treatment, with licking and chewing and seemed to be more comfortable.

We followed the adjustment with some acupuncture of the TMJ point, as well as the other reactive areas on her barrel, and in her rump/SI/hip region. Three locations got an injection of B-12 as well to stimulate healing in those areas. He also pricked a point on the rear pasterns just above the coronet band that is where the median for the stomach runs. She didn't enjoy the acupuncture as much as the chiropractic, but she tolerated it well.

He and the Vet Tech also showed me some TMJ massage/stretches we can do to help relax that area and relieve some of her tension. (Probably to help relieve some of the owner tension as well, since it always feels good to be doing something!) She gets two days off to let the chiro and acupuncture settle, and then she can get back to training.

Treatment Part 2 - Drug Therapy
We will be treating Abbey for 30 days with omeprazole in granular form. Because she is not exhibiting severe symptoms like colic, we will use something other than the ungodly expensive UlcerGard and GastroGard. He provided me with 90 packets of Abprazole. She will get 3 packets in the AM for 30 days. If she doesn't want to eat the granules, then we will mix them with applesauce and administer in a syringe like a paste wormer.

Treatment Part 3 - Dietary Changes
She also needs to have access to hay 24 hours a day to give her stomach acids something to eat besides her stomach. I just ordered a NibbleNet from Deb over the phone. She was very helpful and friendly, and helped me pick out what she thought would be the best option for our needs. I went with the DoubleNibble 12" which holds 20-25 lbs of hay and has one side with 1.5" openings and the other side with 1.25" openings. I am going to start her on the 1.5" side, feeding one flake on the ground and then pulling some of the hay through the holes to encourage her to eat from the net. After she gets used to the 1.5" openings, I will flip the bag over and feed through the smaller holes.

Follow-Up and the Future
We will reevaluate her in 30 days with the Vet, as well as keep tabs on her in training to see if we notice improvement in her comfort and ability to move forward and be round.

If there is still reaction at the ulcer points, and sour attitude, then we will be more aggressive with the treatment and will go to GastroGard/UlcerGard and look at getting her off of her grain and going to a beet pulp mixture that my Vet mentioned. I hope we don't need to go that far, but it's nice to know that he has a plan if we need to do it.

My trainer said that when they go off the round bales in the spring/summer, she may not be able to have a lot of turnout if she needs to always have hay, as she can't afford to give three horses unlimited access to hay (she has two pasture mates) all year round. I'm not crazy about this idea, as I would prefer for her to be out at least 6-8 hours, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, she is on a round bale, and hopefully that will help with the ulcers healing. If we can get them healed and make sure she has the slow feeder for her hay at night then hopefully we can get her back on track to keep enjoying her training and ready to show this next season.

A Year in Retrospect
It is hard, when I look back at the year, so see the injuries and set backs in health that are related to keeping a horse confined to a stall and with limited space in turnout, as well as the demands placed on them for training and showing. It's hard because I am imposing these unnatural things on an animal that is not really given a choice.

Like a medical person, our job as horse owners is to first, do no harm. That is not always possible, as they are animals prone to injury and illness in these human-made settings. We can learn as much as possible, and do our best to optimize the living conditions for their mental and physical health. So, until I win the lottery and can buy a ranch out west with unlimited access to pastures and varied terrain, I am going to make my beloved barn home the best home it can be for Abbey. Some people might choose to move to a barn with more access to pasture, or choose not to train as hard, or show, but for me in my life, I know I am in the right place on the right path with the people who can support me in my pursuits as a horsewoman and equestrian. I love my trainer, and I love my fellow boarders. These relationships are part of the whole experience, and having come from a very negative barn just over a year ago to where I am now - there is no amount of pasture that can make up for the mental health and safety I feel and I know Abbey feels now.

So, I am coming into this Christmas season with gratitude for the amazing amount I have learned from my beautiful Abbey, and for her huge heart that keeps giving and trying, and for her trust in me as her owner that I will be her voice and her advocate when I know in my gut something is just a little off. I am grateful for the friendships that I am making with fellow horse people at my barn, and for their kind words of advice and support when times get tough. I am grateful for my husband giving me his guarded support for the most expensive hobby known to man, and for a job that pays me well enough to indulge in this passion of mine.

I am saying a prayer as I type this that you and your loved ones are happy and healthy, and if you are seeking a diagnosis for an ailment that you find your answers are are able to heal with love and time. Thanks for reading, this was a long one!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting a Handle on It

It's been a long fall, with lots of frustrations mixed in with some good days. Abbey had a sinus infection in September, a brief battle with hoary alyssum in late November, and since late August has just not been her sweet self. I suspected ulcers, and the vet confirmed a likely case of them today after a thorough lameness exam to rule that out and settled on ulcers after testing her trigger points and doing some chiropractic and acupuncture. The immediate relief she had after the holistic treatment was great to see and we are treating the ulcers with 30 days of granular omeprazole that he has had success with in moderate cases. I will be writing a lot more about all of this in the days to come, but I am looking forward to getting her comfortable again and back to enjoying her job as much as possible. To those of you who have reached out with words of encouragement and support in the past, thank you. This world of loving a horse is certainly a journey rather than a destination.

Merry Christmas to all of you! Wishing that Santa brings you and your loved ones health and happiness :)

Kristen and Abbey

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Jen + Ken - A Video Project

Here is what I spend a lot of my time doing, when I'm not at my real job, or the barn, or the gym, or traveling, or sleeping...

Jen + Ken

Enjoy :)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mother, daughter, and grand pony.

What a busy fall! Work travel, weddings, a sick pony, and just busy! Abbey had a little sinus infection, which is mostly cleared after some SMZs and rest out of the rain. Thankfully it has been nice out for the past free days so she has been turned out. 

My parents came for a visit so I took my mom out for a barn trip and she rode a little. She did awesome! Just like riding a bike :) Abbey was an angel, even being a little under the weather. My mom cried, and so did I. She told me how proud she is of me and how happy she is to see me so happy doing something I love. That is all a daughter ever wants to hear from her mom.

Horses are a gift.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hello? Operator?

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
- George Bernard Shaw
This has been an interesting week, seeing as how I haven't been to the barn really at all except to drop off a payment last week. I rode on Monday to get ready for a lesson last night. Monday was awful, to put it mildly. Yesterday was better, but still pretty bad. Abbey is in what the experts call a funk. What's wrong? Who knows. It could be that she is in heat, and in transitional heat which means more bitch than usual. It could be that she got a new pasture mate last week who didn't work out, and was removed for being an idiot. It could be that normal resistance to learning something new and more difficult. It could be that she's just being four. It could be all of these put together.
All I know, and my trainer has confirmed, is that Abbey is not her normal wonderful self. She is more "lookey" and anxious, and nervous about stuff that normally never bothers her. Monday she was acting like she couldn't understand what the heck I wanted when I asked for a lope. She would launch into a hurried lope, and when I would try to collect her with my spur and reins, she would jerk to a halt. Impressive, except not what I was saying, or trying to say. I chalked that up to me not communicating clearly what I wanted, since I was rusty having missed what felt like months of practice. We argued, and she mostly won. That sucks. But Abbey still knows better. She is normally calm, with nice relaxed gaits that you can rate fairly easily with seat, feet, and hands. Monday she was like a bat out of hell no matter if we were walking, jogging, or loping. Awful.
Tuesday our lesson was better because K had schooled her already. She still was walking to beat the band, so we worked on me learning how to correct that with my spurs (ask twice, tell the third time with a firm whoa and back command, then walk off quietly again). We changed up the bit to a twisted snaffle, pretty skinny, so we could work more on her lateral flexion and getting her neck, poll, and jaw unlocked, and also asking for some tight circles over two logs at a 90 degree angle at the walk and jog. This worked on a physical level as well as mental, because it forces her to pay attention to me, to wait for instruction, and to watch where she is going and work to avoid the obstacles. It helped a little and we ended after getting some better results with that.
It was a frustrating two days, but I know it will get better.
As a side note, K and I went to a ranch horse show on Saturday. I was so excited to see something new and to watch what I was certain would be excellent horse and rider teams. I mean, who would dream of chasing cows around without being a well-oiled team? Apparently a lot of people. It was painful to watch bad riders jerking and spurring what were clearly young and unfinished horses who were barely saddle broke, maybe green broke in the best case scenarios, and definitely not finished except for one or two of them. Most of them were in huge shanked bits that they had no way of yielding to because no one had ever shown them how. There is a lot more to all that cowboy stuff than looking the part, but sadly that is all most of the people there knew how to do. It was just really depressing. The worst part was the trainer that kept telling his clients what a great run they had after patterns where they were never on the correct lead, couldn't tell if it was a turn on the fore or haunches, or even if they were riding a pattern at all, except on that meant spin in crazy circles, jerk the horse's head, speed trot into an off-balance in hand gallop, jerk to a stop, toss head, and jig. What the hell is wrong with people? At least the students have the bad excuse of not knowing any better, but the so-called professional should be horsewhipped. The horses I saw tolerating this kind of poor treatment and misguided riding are truly saints for not dumping their riders and heading for the hills.
I am glad to be learning from someone who emphasizes building a foundation and making progress at a pace that is right for the horse and rider, and doing remedial lessons like I had yesterday to make sure that the lines of communication are open both ways. I wish the best for all those teams, but it would sure help if they were speaking the same language.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Red-Tailed Hawk

Still no barn time this week, which is a bummer. I've been stuck at work most days, but will be getting some Abbey time tonight hopefully!

I will say that while I am at work the view is pretty nice, other than the enormous new office building under construction that now disrupts my view of the sky. The benefit of having four huge windows in my "office" overlooking a green space is the opportunity to see some fun wildlife. Most of the time it's the garden variety of rabbits, squirrels, songbirds, and suburbanites trespassing from the neighborhood behind the office to walk to the YMCA across the street (a HUGE pet peeve of mine, since they walk right right by me sitting at my desk about three feet away, staring in at me. F-ing creepy and strange. Maybe I should do that at their houses...)

In spite of the huge crane and superhighway of gym rats, occasionally we are treated to a special visitor, the red-tailed hawk. The wingspan is massive, and their beauty unparalleled. I got really lucky today with a pretty awesome shot out the side door as our visitor pounced on a mouse or a mole and flew off into the brush. It was taken with a low-end work camera, but the action in the shot is perfect. Not a bad day at the office.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Real Horsewives of Kalamazoo

So, I haven't posted in what feels like forever. Not because nothing was happening, but because a ton was happening. I traveled for work last week to Denver, then to Atlanta to visit my little sister. I got back on Monday this week and work has been relentless ever since. So, needless to say, my horse time and workout time have decrease in direct proportion to the amount of crappy food I have been eating. Blah. I did get to the barn for a very brief ride tonight - it was AWESOME! We are learning spur stop, and my baby is just so stinkin' smart it blows my mind. Love her :)

Sweet Girl
My sister introduced me to the epic saga of the Real Housewives on Thanksgiving holiday some years ago. After the initial confusion/disgust wore off, I was as addicted as the millions of other viewers who only admit being addicts in the tree of trust, when they know they are among other addicts. I have followed each jab, backstab, jealous sneer, manipulative gesture, tearful confession, and what I hope are sincere moments with a forensic approach over the years of viewing this interesting period of documenting human culture. As a former Anthropology major, I shudder to think what future Archaeologists will have to say about this period of our lives... yikes.

Any whoodle, people (my husband and most strait men) wonder what in the hell makes us fans cling to every word that falls from such polished lips. What makes us DVR and then rewatch episodes, dissecting every nuance of body language until we have extracted the very essence of some stranger's being? Well, it became clear to me while I was visiting my sister this past weekend. It has been a while since we watched RHOWherever together, and even longer (never) since we really connected as two adult, married, 30-something women who really just want to have a clue what this whole thing called life means. In our younger years, we knew exactly what it was all about (ha). Now, I think we are both seeking answers to questions that somehow become more pressing as time gets crunched together and speeds past. Tearful topics like having kids or not and doing that thousands of miles apart or who was the favorite of which parent or wishing for more memories of loved ones that passed on far too soon or what song your dad wants played at his funeral (I am SO not ready to talk about that, but he picked a really awesome one, because he's awesome. Also, I think he is just a planner and there's no real need to worry beyond the normal who-knows-if-today-is-our-last menlancholy stuff.) Man, gonna need the tissues again....

I think that what this particular brand of reality television offers, along with the good ole' Kardashians and their myriad of shows, is an opportunity to compare our lives to other people's, take notes, and tweak the parts we don't like - sort of like looking in a mirror. Yes, on the surface it is a superficial mirror, and I don't see much of my material life reflected in my TV screen when I look at them. But when I look deeper I see women who, at their core, want to be loved, accepted, liked, and have a sense of purpose in this crazy world, misguided as they may be. Yes, they are petty, self-centered, manipulative, etc.  and I always wonder how many people would like me if I had to live my life in public like that (probably zero). And when I look at ugly interactions between people that are, to an extent, real, I can place myself there and say, wow, I would hope that I could handle that better, with more patience, love, and compassion. "Hope" being the operative word. I have a bit of a temper.

The most recent episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey found our castaways at a ranch where they were getting some horse therapy. I watched the episode, and the horse played a really small part, but the impact on people seemed to be huge. Even though these situations are staged for the camera, you can't fake a visceral reaction of fear to a 1,000 pound animal, or the glow of self confidence that comes with conquering a fear.

The Horse Screamer

What does this all have to do with anything? Who really knows, but I found a lot of comfort sitting with my little sis on a couch in our PJs, comparing our inherited  mom-isms (would you like me to make you an egg?), judging other people, finding the good and bad in them, and hoping that we find our way without quite so much drama. A little drama just means you care, right? Introspection aside, time with family is invaluable, irreplaceable, and something that I hope to God I have much more of in the years to come. And when I reach my saturation point, I always have my therapist to turn to.

Abbey, Horse Therapist

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Humpty Dumpty

Some days I feel like not even all the King's horses and all the King's men could put things back together again. You know the days, when the ball of yarn keeps coming unwound and the harder you tug at it the faster it unravels. Yesterday was one of those days. I traveled to Denver earlier this week for work, which was awesome. The meeting was one of the most productive I have even been to, and it just really reenergized me for what I do. But then, Wednesday came.

Am I Alice or the Egg?

Life just has that way of hearing you say to yourself, "Yeah! I've got this!" and then saying right back, "Oh? Is that so?!?" Ha. I am sometimes the sort of person who gives into this downward sucking spiral of self defeating negativity when life pushes back at me when I come at it with gusto. Well, guess what! Not this time...

I know all of this sounds vague, because, well, it is. Let's just say that I have had my eyes opened to how shocking people's behavior can be when they find themselves caught in a web of deceit they created and didn't like what happened as a consequence. Thankfully, this person is no longer in my life, although myself and others are still cleaning up the mess they left in their wake. At some point, my huge bleeding heart began to learn that no matter how shitty some people have it, at the end of the day we all have the responsibility to ourselves and those around us to show up, be present, work hard, and reap what we sow. We get to bask in the bountiful harvest whether we sow laziness and hate, or productivity and joy. We get to choose.

I had a lesson on Abbey tonight, and we were sort of coming apart at the seams in the corners at the lope, and really all over to be honest. K helped put us back together with some pushing and poking we eventually got things even better put together than before we fell apart. Sometimes gentle requests don't quite make the change happen, and it requires a firm poke with a spur or check with a rein to say, "Yeah, I mean it when I say stop leaning on me!" I am here to be part of a team, not carry a thousand pound horse around the ring on my inside leg. At the end of the lesson K shared with me how proud she is of where I am today, and how far I have come in the past few months with my riding. That means the world to me. She loves my horse, and she loves seeing us come together as a team. She is helping me work through my anxiety of asking for a lope, or making a firm correction that feels harsh at times.

Because of my horse, I am learning that when a force stronger than you leans with all its might, sometimes all it takes to set things right again is a few strategically placed pokes and prods, hard enough to set things back in balance. The difference in my ride was amazing, and so rewarding to feel Abbey and I working together instead of our bodies fighting against each other. That feeling is enough to give me the courage to take the risk and make a firm correction, knowing that there might be some pinned ears and resistance, but with persistence the change will come and we will both be happier as a result. I have a pile of urgent work on my desk that is leaning heavily on my mind. But guess what? I know I am strong enough to poke that pile of stuff into shape and make something amazing happen with the help of my coworkers and volunteers.

So, life, come at me with all you've got. I can handle it, and to one up that, I can enjoy it in the process. And I only needed one horse and a woman to put it back together again :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Michigan's Perfect Day

It was one if those days that you wish could last forever today. We only get a couple per year, and man do they rock. Hope everyone in these parts enjoyed it!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fender Bender

It was a rainy day today, which I really don't mind all that much. What I did mind was getting rear-ended at a stop light this afternoon. Bummer. I am fine, and so is the other driver. My bumper is a little crunched, and I think I have mild whiplash. Felt a little foggy the rest of the day. Ironically, I had just left the chiropractor. Thankfully, I was able to get back before the end of the day for some X-rays and another adjustment, which I really needed. It cleared my headache and some of the bubble-headed feeling I was having. I have an awesome chiropractor, who my husband has gone to for at least 10 years. Not only is he great at moving bones around, he is quite the brewmaster and is kind enough to augment our treatments with some of his home brew from time to time. It's a definite perk.

I decided to skip the barn and riding in favor of taking it easy on my spine and worked on making some breakfast for dinner and ordering photos from the horse show this past July. I also prescribed myself a couple of beers to help my tense muscles relax - Dr.'s orders ;) Feeling much better! If all is well tomorrow it is back to the barn with me for some more horse time.

Miss A preps for her class

E and L get ready for trail class.

L conquering the trail!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Terrible, Awful, No-Good, Very Bad Day and a Good Ride

Days like today are simply no fun. I woke up after a night of not sleeping, grouchy as can be and the day didn't do me any favors. Spilled my coffee all over my desk, got some crappy emails that made me want to scream into a pillow, and accomplished only a smattering of the many items on my to do list. Cried on the way to the barn out of frustration with my inability to pull it together after eight hours, other than a solid workout, which was much needed.

I arrived at the sanctuary of the barn, working hard to hold back more tears and clear my mind so I could focus on the task at hand. Tacked up, things are good, then BAM! The straw the breaks the camel's back. A barn crab down the aisle asks me if I intend to listen to the music loud enough to hear it while I ride. Really?!?! No, I was hoping to turn it up just loud enough to piss you off and annoy anyone else who hates Miranda Lambert, but not loud enough to keep me company. Of course, I didn't say that. I said, "Oh, is it too loud now?" They replied, "Never mind, it's fine" (a lie). I said, "Oh, no! never mind!" and turned it off and went into the indoor and lost it. Poor Abbey was a tissue.

I was just so angry. What is wrong with people? granted, this person seems miserable most days, and just wants to be left alone. I suppose it doesn't kill me to be able to ride my horse without Miranda's company if it means that her time is how she wants it - quiet and alone. So, feeling even more rotten for being angry with a person who got the shit end of the stick health and disposition-wise, I suck it up and get on my pony.

She was wonderful. We had a really nice ride. I don't know if she knew that I needed it, but I am thankful for the ride none the less. Another gorgeous sunset, a chat with my mom who I miss a ton, some time with my husband watching Breaking Bad, painted my toenails, and got some writing and work done. I will say a prayer for forgiveness and patience tonight, and hope that I can say hello to my grouch and do it with a smile tomorrow. What does it hurt to be kind to someone who really needs it? I have to say, that without the barn and my horse therapy, I would not be able to pull myself out of a funk nearly as easily... easy for me, anyway. After all, everyone we meet is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. Hard to hold that in mind sometimes when you are fighting your own, but worth trying to do.

Best Tissue Ever

Blue Moon

Last night was a blue moon. Here's a little article about it from MSN, so who knows if it's accurate. I didn't even try to take photos of the moon because I need a waaaaay longer lens than what I have to get a good one. (I did try, but the moon looks super tiny, so no post of the photos.)
Abbey's favorite thing after a bath.
I would have liked to have come up with a good metaphor for riding and a blue moon, but nothing really came to mind. What was on my mind was how hard it can be to apply something new, and how it's difficult to remember to have fun when one is going through such a period of time.  Abbey and I practiced our lesson from Monday. Which was a little difficult because K was giving a lesson to someone who has the really bad habit of never looking where they are going, or really sticking to a predictable path. It's especially exciting when they are cantering at top speed. That's the bitchy me coming out, and we all do our best to respect the lesson-taker and give them space to learn what they are working on that day. But it still makes me annoyed.

Any who, my ride yesterday was frustrating because I know that I don't yet have a feel for the new bit, the new one-handed reins, and always struggle a little with when to make a big correction versus asking, "pretty please get your shoulder off my leg". I would rather do what K says and, "get in, get out," with my corrections rather than poking at her like Stewie Griffin, "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mama, Mama, Mommy, Mommy, Mom, Mom....," you get the picture. But, I also don't want to make her dull with big corrections or just piss her off.  So, I am trying to feel that out each time I ride. Even with feeling like I wasn't having the best day, K said that our loping looked really nice at one point, which again is a huge compliment from her. So, I will take it. It was also just a really pretty night, in spite of it being warm and humid. We have some of the prettiest sunsets at the barn, and last night was no exception. As I drove home, the pink blue moon was rising ahead of me (pink shade from the moisture in the air and the reflection of the setting sun behind me) and I just enjoyed the view.

Sunset to the West of the barn.

I still woke up a lot last night with a busy brain, and between worrying about work, traveling a ton in the next month, and how to get Abbey to stand her shoulders up through a corner, I didn't get a lot of sleep. Today is another day, and another opportunity. Thankfully I get to have that opportunity more than once in a blue moon. Ha :) Got it!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to Become a Horse Ninja

My lesson last night was a tough one, mostly for Abbey. K really worked with me on getting Abbey to unlock at the poll and in her jaw to assure that she has a loose and supple spine, and can balance herself vertically, especially through the corners. Abbey tends to lean on her inside shoulder and push her hip out and her left lead is definitely the side she has more trouble with. Just like yoga, ballet, martial arts, any physical activity really, there has to be a flow of energy. If you have a blockage in the flow then things fall apart. Sally Swift talks about it in her book, Centered Riding. This post is about unlocking and finding the flow.

I have been riding in a Kimberwicke for the past few months. I know it's not a Western bit, but it allowed me to ease in to a leverage style bit without too long of a shank or much curb action, even more so because for the most part there is little to no contact the way she is being ridden, unless there needs to be. Yesterday, we migrated to the Tom Thumb with a shorter shank, probably about 3-4 inches of drop below the bar. I rode her, and then K rode her so I could watch her work on unlocking Abbey at the poll, and in her jaw. She also showed me how to school her on standing her up through her shoulders. K would bring her off the rail and into the center and ask for forward movement and then for her to lift up through the bridle by lifting her hand, while she moved Abbey's shoulders over with her leg. She worked at a walk and a trot for this part, and she said to be firm and to ask strongly until Abbey showed an eagerness to comply. This means sometimes there is a fair amount of spur to get her to stop leaning in on that shoulder and move away from the pressure. And as always, the timing of the release is the most important part. There is a lot of ask, but there is an equal amount or more of wanting Abbey to get a release and be allowed to carry herself around the arena, making this the reward.

After K worked with her doing a lot of the shoulder yielding and counter flexing, she went back to loping and there was a big difference. I got back on and after adjusting to having longer reins with the TT bit and working on the should yields at the walk and trot, we worked on her lope again. It was like being on a new horse (a tired one, but a new one). After all that yielding, it only took a little leg support and correction to keep her moving in a fluid strait line. I still had to push her hip in with my outside leg, and support her shoulder with my inside leg, but nothing quite like as hard as I had to before the change in bit and schooling. She was soft, supple, and fluid in her movement. I was calm, relaxed, and able to make small adjustments and corrections versus the all-out hot yoga riding I was doing at the beginning of the lesson.

We had a few really nice loops around the arena at the lope and called it a night. Abbey worked really hard. She is so good-minded, kind-hearted, and really wants to please her rider. I know K likes to train her, and I just love her no matter what, but it sure feels good to learn something new and feel a change in our way of going. The cool down is when I really think about what I learned and try to burn the feel of it into my mind and body.

When I was younger, I think I picked a lot of fights with horses who were probably taking a little advantage of the situation, but who got away with it because I wasn't skilled enough to ask correctly or to school them correctly, and keep my temper. My temper is my biggest enemy in life, and I am so thankful to have the ability to challenge myself to keep calm in the face of frustration and think through the problem. I think if those of us with tempers would approach it like we do with horses there would be a lot more happy people walking around.

Usually confrontation is the result of a misunderstanding, a miscommunication. If the person doing the communicating gets angry and thinks the recipient of the information is just being a defiant jerk, then the shit hits the fan pretty fast. But, if the communicator checks themselves and reframes the request, the result can be a collaboration instead of a knock-down, drag-out fight. Staying calm and centered is the best way to achieve the desired result. You can react and redirect the misdirected energy, but as soon as it is flowing the way you want, you soften and allow the flow to happen. Just picture the Kung Fu master, or Neo in the Matrix, who hardly seems to move while the opponent flails and jumps and spins with all his might. With the right position and redirection, the extra energy is tamed and harnessed to aid the Kung Fu master. I am now a Horse Ninja. (Or, at least a Horse Ninja in Training (HNIT).

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, Monday

Mondays are not my favorite. But I did make it to the gym at lunch, where I didn't die, thank God. I thought I might, but if I did then I would have to miss my lesson with K tonight. So, I hung on, gutted it out, and prayed for the day to come when I have my stamina back. Patience and hard work will get me there. I am more than a little stressed about all that I have on my plate in the next month, four trips out of town and then a visit from my parents :) Crazy, but I know I will make it through thanks to my husband, friends, and family.

Even with an overly full calendar, I do try my best to pause and enjoy where I am at the moment. Otherwise, what is it all about?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Loping Videos!

Some video that L took earlier this week. It's so much fun seeing us. We are way less floppy than I thought!

I accidentally asked for a lope, checked her back, and then intentionally asked after that.

More loping, here you see me wiggling my left foot in one of the corners at the walk. She likes to lean on her shoulders and anticipate the lope, so I'm trying to get her to straiten up and settle down into the bridle.

Nothing exciting here, but you can hear the fire trucks beeping in the background coming to burn the old barn next door. They managed the burn well, so horses are safe. Forgot my marshmallows though.

Setting Goals, Making Plans, and Being Successful

Is it just me, or has this been a long week? This post is a rambler, so, fair warning!

I grew up reading this Emerson quote every day on the fridge. It comes to mind almost daily.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

I made it to the barn four nights in a row, and I will say that I noticed a huge difference in our rides with that type of consistency. I normally make it out Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and with summer being how it is with wedding photography, business travel, and just life in general, hardly ever on the weekends. Three days a week is about where I can maintain status quo with my learning it seems.

Setting Goals
I talked with K after my lesson on Monday about goals and how to get there in a realistic manner (a challenge for me a lot of the time, that whole "realism" thing). I really want to show next year at two or three of the Open shows the barn goes to usually. Cost is, of course, a factor. So is the fact that we have miles to go before we are polished and I even begin to understand the nuances of showing, riding a pattern, etc. I want to strike the right balance with budget, time, expectations, and maximizing the time we spend at the show since it costs so much just to even go to one for the weekend.

Since K is an All-Around trainer her students show the full gambit of classes at the show and we have a great opportunity to learn the many facets of each of the different classes. I can remember thinking, "Why in the world would anyone do showmanship? It's not like it's hard to lead a horse around." Now I think that would be one of the hardest classes because I have no experience with it at all, and seeing how much practice it takes to have precision with only a lead line and body position is something I really admire. Still, that one may not make our list of classes in which we compete.

Making Plans
Right now, I am thinking Western Pleasure, Horsemanship, Trail, and maybe Hunt Seat Pleasure and Equitation. I don't have a saddle or bridle for Hunt Seat, a show saddle or headstall for Western, any show clothes, but I think I might be able to get away with my nice work saddle if I clean it really well. It has a lot of tooling (it's a used Bob's Custom reining saddle and I love it). I am sure our friends will let us borrow as much as we can, too. Show clothes are another huge "investment". (I like to call all my horse purchases investments, but we all know they are sooo not that in terms of money. Comfort and improvement investments, yes, monetary investments with a return, no.) All these thoughts and calculations involving money that my husband and I have not allocated to my horse addiction is stress-inducing, anxiety increasing, and makes me want to cry. Deep breath. Okay.

But, before I can even spend money on show clothes and tack, I need to spend it on training for Abbey and lessons for me, and you know, board and routine care and stuff. Abbey has been in training with K since December 1, 2012 when we escaped from the Little Barn of Horrors and moved to Boarding Heaven at K's. She started out in training five days a week, and stayed there through the beginning of the summer, when we moved to three days a week. She has come so far since December, and in a way I am thankful that we were late in starting her because she was not really physically or mentally ready really until she was almost four. (She had some work done with her, and not all of it was good, but that's for another day.)

We are going to try moving to two days of training for Abbey and a lesson per week for me. I also need to commit to five days a week of riding on a regular basis (my assessment, and I think K agrees). It scares me a little, but I am someone who hates to "fail". I still really hope I can make the dreams for next year come true, but I know that in order to feel good about them, I need to be fiscally responsible, maintain a good life-balance with my marriage, family, friends, work, and be fiscally responsible (wrote it twice to make sure I remember). Fiscally responsible. (sounds bland, doesn't it?).

Being Successful
I do constantly remind myself that I own a horse, a good horse who is kind and sweet and safe and who seems to enjoy her job and my company. I remind myself of the little girl who would flip through catalogues of horse things, circling what I would buy for my horse some day; the not so little girl that would wake up from dreams in the middle of the night of cantering across rolling fields; and the 30-something girl who was excited and terrified when the dreams finally came true less than two short years ago. The fact that I am where I am with Abbey today is amazing to me, and I am so incredibly thankful for her, her health, and our time together that when I remember this, I know that I have met the first goal I voiced to K when we came to her barn. "I want a horse who is safe, and calm, and happy that I can ride and enjoy." At the end of the day, even if we never go to a show, we have succeeded.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Better Day

A short post to day that yesterday we had a much better ride! I changed my approach, eased into the one-handed loping after getting some good work done with two hands. It seems to have done the trick for me and Abbey. She does like to cut her corners a lot, which means a lot of inside leg, but we are working on that.

She does seem to stumble a little every now and then... kind of like her back end just drops out from under her. K hasn't noticed it in her rides, so I am thinking it is operator error on my part. We have a lesson Monday, so K will watch for it then. L took some video and I hope I get to see it soon!

K's little daughter, Miss A, was at the barn last night. She is three and very precocious. She set up the cones and made up her own pattern for her and her little black mini, Noodles. Man, kids are good for the soul! They were adorable, and he is so sweet with her. We all had a blast watching the two of them walk and trot around the arena, and laughed so hard when Noodles decided to take five and drag Miss A back to his stall for a break. She is tenacious and didn't stand for that kind of disobedience. Out they marched and back to her pattern. She loves horses so much and her self-confidence is amazing to behold. I love seeing her at the barn, and she really likes Abbey. "And how is Abbey doing today?", she asked me when she came into the barn last night. SO grown-up, you can't help but smile. And she isn't just parroting, she always has follow-up questions to whatever your answer is.

The barn is a wonderful place, for a lot of wonderful reasons. If I could live there I think I might.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Abbey is a wonderful mare, incredibly non-mareish most of the time. Sweet, ready for affection (she's always ready for some love from kids especially). But.... there is that one time of the month that she gets terrible PMS, or for the uninitiated, Pissy Mare Syndrome. I totally get it. I, too, have the tired, crampy, want-to-pin-my-ears-at-everyone days.

Me: Abbey, show me nice ears for the photo so everyone can see how much you love learning how to neck-rein.
Abbey: (in four-year-old pouty voice) No.
Me: Pleeeeaze?
Abbey: Uh-uh.
No words... she's just so over it.
Abbey: You can't see me, I'm invisible. Invisible horses don't have to learn anything. Now, take me to my hay.
Yesterday was one of these days, maybe even for both of us (possible TMI territory, sorry) and it was a rough follow-up to such a warm fuzzy inducing ride on Monday. Abbey was tense, quick, and nervy as we warmed-up. She just didn't relax, and part of it was from me feeding off of her energy as much as she might have been feeding off of mine from being nervous about doing something new and challenging without the presence of a helpful mentor.

We soldiered on, and worked on practicing the one-handed tricks K taught us, but the spark just wasn't there and I found myself getting so annoyed at Abbey, and then at myself for getting annoyed with her. I am sure most perfectionist types out there experience the same mind-numbing fixation on getting something right that they just keep digging themselves even deeper into doing it wrong. I was having that day. I do try my best to catch myself, stop, and start over fresh. And I have to admit, I am getting better at this, but today was a little bit of a backslide.

We finally took a long walk/jog break from working the one-handed lope departs that looked like (in my mind) a fire-breathing dragon rearing its head, diving towards unsuspecting villagers in the center of the arena instead of the sweet, calm, graceful swan departs we had the day before. After a while of trying to relax into a steady cadence at the jog (not sure we really got there) we tried again. The dragon was back, but only for one depart. After a few strides, we halted, paused, pushed her forward into my hands with both reins, and got a nice swan depart. Hallelujah! Time to try one-handed again... and success! Change direction... dragon-neck. Halt, press, collect, two-rein, swan-neck. Halt, press, collect, one-hand, swan-neck! Whooo hooo!

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. When I got my first dragon-neck depart, I should have gone back to working with two reins to get her collected and correct rather than banging our heads against the wall because I was sure I could make it happen. Pride can be a problem sometimes. So, it finally all came together there at the end, and I was happy with one good swan depart each direction. We cooled down and chatted with one of my favorites at the barn, L, as we walked around the arena. I gave Abbey extra hugs and pats which made me feel better after calling her some not-so-nice names earlier. I think she was just happy to go back to her hay and her stall. Carbs and coziness... I guess all us girls are the same that time of the month.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Loping One-Handed and Rainbows

I started working on riding one-handed in my last lesson a week ago at the walk and jog. Abbey is really doing well with this because she so trained to move off the leg that for the most part the neck reining is just a little reminder to stay in her lane with her head and neck. That is unless we are doing more maneuvering, then I sometimes have to pick up a rein to reminder her.

Tonight we had a lesson, and other than having a really crowded arena with two or three hay wagons on one end, an F350 parked on the other, two young, relatively green horses in there with us, what seemed like a pack of crazy dogs (my trainer has two Aussies and they can be quite active when there is a strange dog at the barn, which there was of course!), and a loud thunderstorm, things were relatively calm. I try not to get aggravated with having to share space when I am taking a lesson, because we all do a good job of sharing the space, but I was a little annoyed tonight since we were learning something totally new that involved our steering. On the bright side, these types of conditions don't allow for any day dreaming at all, and you really have to ride every stride and pay attention, so all in all it is a good challenge. Just a little nerve racking at times.

To start the lesson K taught me a new trick for teaching neck reining, where you take each rein and make an X with them under the horse's neck before taking them back to your hand. This way you have the effect of a little direct rein in the direction you need along with the indirect neck rein.  Think of a bitless bridle with the cross-under straps, only its the reins attached to the bit and not part of the headstall. It works really well, until you forget that right is left and left is right when you switch back to direct reining to make larger corrections. I really confused both of us a few times, and got stuck in more than a few tiny circles from pulling on the wrong direct rein. Something to work on for sure.

After working at the walk and jog, we moved to the lope, and for this we uncrossed the reins and went back to normal one-handed. I had to get used to not having the reins flipped over the top like I am used to from years of English riding. K didn't really give me a lot of time to think about it, just said, "are you ready to lope?" She wouldn't ask if she thought we weren't ready, so of course I said, "Yes?" (I know, so confident!)

I struggle a little with my departs, because I way over-think, and sometimes hold on too much in the face and that shuts her down and gets her a little stuck and resistant, but we worked through it and were able to get some nice departs both directions and some really nice trips around the arena, even avoiding the aforementioned obstacles - didn't flatten one dog, which is always a good thing.  Riding one-handed is really amazing for making your ride through your legs and seat, it's a lot like being on a lunge line. I was able to really sit up, get my shoulders over my hips, drive through my seat, and make corrections with my legs when Abbey wanted to lean on her inside shoulder and swing her hip out to the rail. The reins are really more to aid in collecting her up when she gets a little strung out, and to bring her head back up and squeeze her back together when she wants to drop her neck too low (no peanut pushers here!). The feeling when she was balanced and collected underneath me and between my legs was awesome, just really rocking and effortless. Granted, this ride on cloud nine only lasts a few strides at a time, but I will take it! We will eventually be able to make multiple laps around, but I know that is some ways in the future yet.

K told us we did good, really good, and that is high praise from her. She is a really honest even-keeled person, never gets really high on the highs or low on the lows - good traits for a horse trainer, I think. It also means that she doesn't dole out praise lavishly. You really have to earn it. As someone who is big on feedback, it can be tough not to hear how well I am doing all the time, but it sure makes it special when I do hear it. I have earned my spurs, and now I will work to earn the right to ride like a real cowgirl, reins in one hand eyes up, and feeling each shift in direction through my seat.

As I cooled Abbey down, we sat and chatted about life a little, and K mentioned that she was feeling a little down with some of the new steps she is taking in her life right now. I totally get it, and it goes back to really wanting something to hurry up and happen so bad it hurts, and being angry about changes happening around us that aren't desirable. We all have times in our lives like this, and sometimes it all just piles up. She said she really needed to see a rainbow to make her feel better about all the junk that just won't get out her path. Well, someone heard her and blessed us with a big, beautiful double rainbow where we could even see the violet - really rare. We sat and breathed it in for a few minutes, I snapped a quick photo for her because her phone was dying. I hope the rainbow was for her like my ride was for me. Can't have rainbows without a little rain.
Promise of things to come

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Patience - We don't haz it.

Ugh. Is there anything worse than waiting for things on a computer to process? Talk about first world problems. I am working on editing some weddings, and my least favorite part of it is waiting for the images to copy to new locations, or load into Lightroom. It would probably help if I didn't take 6,000+ photos of each wedding, but I am a digital addict and so spoiled after shooting with film for so many years. Not that I don't love film, and lord knows that was a lot of waiting for things to process, too. But, I will say that there was a lot more magic and mystery with film that I found irresistible.

Go into a dark room with the precious roll, use a can opener in pitch black to rip the lid off, take out the tiny spool of what you hope are brilliant images, thread it on to the developing reel, seal it away from the light and then emerge into the processing room where you measure the temperature of the developer and calculate the length of time the film must process. Pour the developer into the light-proof canister, cap it off, and begin the gentle agitation of the film with a slow twist of the wrist. All the while remembering how you took the photos and how this part of the process is vital to ensuring that just the right amount of silver sticks to the film substrate to assure that your vision comes to life. Times up, and you add the fixer, then rinse the film. Then it has to dry, hopefully without gathering dust. Dust is film's evil nemesis.

After it's dry, you snip it into tidy rows, then maybe make a contact sheet so you can see positive images to view through a loupe and determine which ones are worthy of printing. After selecting the candidates, the printing process starts with test snips, dodging and burning, and on and on... and with that my processing is done in my modern dark room and I can get to work on this gorgeous bride and her wedding.

Whether film or horses, there is certainly a process to follow. The nice thing with both is that there is always room for creative license, and sometimes the most satisfying part is knowing that the final image is a culmination of those small steps, sometimes taken in darkness and uncertainty, that lead to a thing of beauty that is a joy to behold.

Patience is a virtue. Have it if you can. Seldom in a woman... never in a man.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Burro Envy

I have been dreaming a lot lately, like I always am. My new dreams are of living an existence a lot like Linda Carson over at 7MSN Ranch. I visit the ranch on a daily basis... okay, sometimes multiple times a day if I'm in need of a pick me up. Anywho, back to the day dreaming. It involves, you guessed it, burros! How can you not fall in love with their sweet faces, enviable ears, and adorable antics? I love my little Abbey-doodle, but maybe some day she will have some adopted siblings of the long-eared variety. I am putting the cart before the burro, since my smallish suburban yard with a pool is not an ideal equine habitat. So, the dream of land comes before the dream of burros, chickens, and maybe a pig and a goat for my husband.

Until then, I have all the companionship I need. Here's a snap of Abbey giving her best burro-face (much more attractive than the hideous duck-face that is so popular with the sorority crowd).

Horse Show! Photos from the Adventure

I took about 1,000 photos (mostly of my friends who actually showed), edited them down to about 500, and am now working on picking my favorites to print. That is always the place I get stuck... finding "print-worthy" images, or maybe not finding them, but narrowing them down to my favorites. I have almost no photos up in my home for this reason, which is sad as a photographer!

Here are few of my picks... maybe someone out there can help me decide which I should make some art with.

Shadows and Dust


Gimme the Blues

Cat Nap

The Eye Has It

Wild Thing

Perfect Profile

These were all shot on Sunday in the warm-up pen, and you can see that Abbey is really feeling the full effect of the three-days-in-a-new-place-with-constant-noise-and-activity immersion training that takes place the first time you go to a show. We both were feeling it actually. As good as it is for a horse to be exposed to a high-stress environment, it is just as good for a person. It really solidified us a team, a pair. We could count on each other to be there for support when something new a scary happened (like walking into the huge wash rack, or riding past the bleachers - Oh! The horror!) I was on high-alert just like Abbey the first day, but by the time we loaded back in the trailer it was old hat.
Thanks to L and her horse Zane, who Abbey is now in love with since they were neighbors at the show, we had an uneventful first ride in the outdoor. We walked, we trotted, and by God we even loped! We avoided the less spatially aware horse and rider teams and Rail Hogs that plague every warm-up pen. Eventually it was just me and my pony in the center of our own little sleepy universe as the world went by around us. Just standing and breathing can be a beautiful thing.
Sleepy Abbey

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today is my birthday. Just another day, really. It is unusually cold and rainy for August in Michigan, with temps hovering in the 60s and 70s durring the day, and dropping in to the 50s at night. Fall might already be here. I don't actually mind the cooler weather much, because it is such great horse weather (selfish!).
I got an unexpected birthday gift on Sunday, in the form of an email from Abbey's birth mom, AR. Abbey was the first baby she ever bred and mothered, and so there was a definite special connection with her, with a very difficult decision to sell her years ago. I can't imagine how hard that would be.
AR shares my birthday, and was in town to celebrate with her hubby. She drove by the last place she knew Abbey to be, and when she didn't see her in the field, she cried. Her hubby understood how much she was hurting, and so went home and Googled Abbey's registered name... Voila! There was my little blog that I never thought would be read by another human.
AR reached out to me through a comment and asked me to get in touch. I was so nervous. Would she like me? Would she approve of how I am raising her baby? Is she crazy? Will she think I'm crazy? What if she wants to buy Abbey back? (I am a pathological worrywort). Realizing the courage it must have taken her to contact me, and liking to be a person that believes that everything happens for a reason in life, and that there are no coincidences, I emailed her back.
I'm so happy I did. AR is a sweet and kind horse lover, who I have yet to really get to know, but who expressed joy and happiness that Abbey has a home with me where she is loved. She confirmed what I have come to know, that Abbey has been an accident-prone little love bug since birth. She even offered to share stories about her and photos of when she was born. Pretty darn amazing.
I'm looking forward to getting to know AR a more and talk about the little horse that has touched our hearts so deeply. Life is funny, and good, and full of surprises, if you are only willing to take a chance and live it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Trust - a Lesson and a Good Ride

No photos to show, but I took a lesson with K on Wednesday, and learned a TON! Abbey has come a long way in her training, and I was lagging behind. I was holding her in the face too much, and nagging her with my spur too much when I asked for the lope... the result was an angry Abbey who kicked out a few times at one end of the arena.

The solution - trust. I have to trust Abbey and she has to trust me. I have to trust that after we start loping, she will stay loping until I ask her to stop, or encourage her to keep going and be collected with a little lift of the reins and nudge with my spur. She has to trust that I won't keep after her and will just let her do her job and stay out of her way.
Sometimes I feel like a giant whale flopping around in the saddle.

When I finally got out of the way, the feeling was magical. I could sit up, relax, breathe, and by God when I looked in the mirror I looked like a real horsewoman! Amazing! Our ride on Thursday felt like I was on a new horse, when really, it was just a new me. I am sure Abbey is happy to have K help me be a better partner; I know I am.

How I felt after my lesson.

We also started working on neck reining, and at the walk and jog we do really well. I think if I am going to show her next year when she is five, she has to ride one-handed. We will get there, but in the mean time it will be fun to work on getting stronger and communicating even better.

Busy weekend ahead, but I hope to fit in a ride on Saturday or Sunday, or maybe both if I'm lucky.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Show Time!

Abbey and I went to the show, and man, what an experience that was! I have so much to write about, and not enough time right now. Also took a LOT of photos :) It was an amazing experience, and I have been bitten by the horse show bug, so hopefully next year Abbey and I will be in the show pen instead of on the sidelines!

Here is a beautiful shot taken by Eye of the Horse Photography.

Really love it!


Proud mama!

I will post more soon!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Happy Days Are Here Again! or Corneal Ulcer - Day 4

Hooray! K looked at Abbey's eye yesterday and said that she was happy with the way it was looking. The cloudiest spot is really gone, and there is just a vague haze where the spot is, you can see it with the flashlight app on my iPhone.

Since she was in again all day yesterday, I got her out and rode bareback even though that is a bad idea - can't correct her as well without the platform a saddle provides, so we were sloppy and I hope I didn't teach her too many bad habits.But, at 10:00 PM the barn is so peaceful, it was nice.

More antibiotics in her eye this morning, and again tonight, then we pack up and head to Lansing, MI tomorrow for the weekend! So excited and nervous, although tired from getting up so early all week for meds... will sleep well tonight I think!

Things just look sunnier today... a lily and a little friend said "Hello!" on my way to work this morning.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Corneal Ulcer - Day 3

Today it looks even better, the most cloudy spot is getting less cloudy, and overall or might be a bit smaller. I think we are going to the Apple Blossom show this weekend!

Abbey is still on stall rest tomorrow and we leave Friday, so hopefully it's even better by then. I think I am going to be able to stop obsessing over the whole thing tomorrow, and I'm sure K will be happy about that since I've been on the high maintenance side this week 😬.

Took a late night bareback ride, which is not great for my back...Sciatic nerve issues from training for a few marathons (notice I said training not running... Too many injuries!) Also it's difficult to make Abbey go correctly when I'm out of whack and she's confused about my aids without spurs, etc. Just more practice I guess.

Anywhodle, I'm off to sleep! Nighty night blogosphere... Wonder if anyone will read this ever, besides me.