Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Safety of the Barn

Sometimes you just can't replace it. Yes, 24/7 turn out is wonderful and natural, and it's nice to have outdoor shelters.

But if Siaga had been standing freely outside last night, or in an outdoor shelter, three walled or not, he well could have been dead this morning when I went to feed him.

We had thunderstorms last night. Thankfully, so thankfully, Siaga was in his stall, safe from the lightning that struck a tree not even fifty feet away. There are major wood shards, ranging from one or two inches long to 4 or 5 feet long, all over the place, hanging in other trees or littered on the ground. The tree itself has a giant stripe that winds around it, from the tip of the branch struck all the way down to the ground, where the bark and the outer layer of wood was sheared away by the electricity.

The tree lost almost all of its branches and the roots are split. There's a rather large furrow in the ground where the strike landed.

Because Siaga's stall doors are double dutch and because the top door is missing, there were a few small splinters in his stall this morning but nothing big.

I'm so thankful that I leave the barn open to him and that he is always free to choose if he wants to be in or out. I'm also thankful that the barn is there at all, rickety and old and feeble it may be, but thank goodness it was there.

Here you can see the gouge torn in the ground. Keep in mind I can't fit my arms all the way around this tree.

A shot of the trunk and a pile of the branches that were torn out. Only the branches at the top remain, all the ones down the trunk were ripped off.

The tear spirals down the trunk.

One of the sets of splintered wood torn off the tree. This particular one is about 7 feet long and draped over a fence that boarders our property from the neighbors property.

Monday, February 27, 2012


First the first time in some 7, 8, 9, maybe even 10, I've forgotten, years, I cantered a horse, on purpose. Bareback! haha. First canter ever put the thought of ice cream in my head, this time it was more like oh god just hold on for dear life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pony work!

I have begun the Top Line Improvement Regimen with Siaga. This consists of lunging (proper lunging, not the kind where you let the horse run to get the bucks out (or the Ya-ya's, as my instructor calls it). No, this is the kind with the surcingle, the long line passed through the bit on the inside to a D-ring on the side of the surcingle. We did mostly trot and canter after a warm up walk.

After that we did several minutes of backing up across the yard, and a lot of work to get him to put his head down low to better engage and stretch the back muscles.

And then we went for a short ride. Without the stability of a saddle, it's much more difficult to convince him to go somewhere he doesn't want to go, so I mostly let him pick. Oooooh boy. Surprise, Beth. Your pony likes the corn field, A LOT. When I gave him head, he went out in the field and started around the outside edge, and we crossed the ditches, and eventually he turned and aimed for the other side, then back towards home, with a lot of random zig-zagging in there. I ended the ride on the hill on the road past the driveway, I'm trying to teach him that going past the drive way is a good thing. We have such a problem with that area. If only I could be on the ground and on his back at the same time. xD Then I could lead/drive him from the ground AND from his back and work to get him over that issue. Gah.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Some days....

Are just.. bad. Bad, bad, bad days. But they say one door does not close without another one opening.

I hope this is so, because I lost my equine job today. The story is a long one and not something I feel like bothering to get into, but I've already sent out applications to other places and contacted a few other barns.

On the plus side, I sold my western saddle today, so there will be no more western riding for me. Now that that saddle is no longer an option, I have to either ride in a dressage saddle or bareback. Not that either of those options bothers me.

Anyways. I'm trying to remember to keep breathing and stuff. Turns out it's kinda difficult.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weight: Opinions

So I took a picture of Siaga today (with my phone) from the side (more or less) and would appreciate an opinion or two on his weight. Looks to me like he's back up to par and now it's just up to rebuilding the muscle he lost from inactivity and weight loss.

You can see the hollow that starts behind the upper point of his shoulder blade and sweeps down his back on the side of his spine, this is where he lost most of his muscle content, I think. Or at least, this is where it is most noticeable. His tail head is slightly more prominent than I would like and I would also like a bit more fat on his ribs, but I've never been able to cover up those ribs, even when he got so fat he had a gutter back. His neck is a little lean for my taste, also, but this is mostly a muscle issue, not a fat issue. I think it really boils down to improving his topline and working on that.

First ride of the year! (On Siaga.)

I fought the mud crusade today.

F0und one little rain rot spot left on his hip, but the rest is gone. We lunged and he got out a lot of bucks but I waited and waited on him to put that head down and flex into me instead of out.

For our ride, I worked on the walk exercises K has shown me, even rode some 200 feet or so with my legs stretched out to the side. He's getting used to me using my seat to ask him to walk, at first he completely ignored it and I had to pair it with my usual signals, a slight squeeze or a smooch sound. And I still have to put a hint of pressure on the reins with a "woah" and the "stop" signal with my seat to get him to stop.

When it came time to pass the drive way and go down the hill... oh boy. Suddenly, I'm sitting on a horse stuck in reverse!

It took me about 20 minutes to convince him that we were going to go down that hill. But over all, it was an ok ride.

Getting a good look at him now, I feel confident in saying that he's gained his weight back and now it's a case of rebuilding his muscle tone that he also lost.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Yay riding lesson

Doing better at the trot. I can actually do it without feeling like I'm going to fall off... however, I have to force myself to breathe. I mentioned this to my instructor and she goes "Yeah, you're still doing better than some students I've had, I've not had to remind you to breathe yet, some have gotten themselves very red in the face." That made me laugh, I don't know why the heck I feel like I shouldn't be breathing. Maybe...


Maybe it's just breath-taking. :O

Overall though I feel I did a good bit better, but I'm still struggling with the right movement to move my hips to signal for a walk. I think I have the trot request down, but the walk motion is hard for me.

She wants me to practice on Siaga. I'm still worried about his weight, but by now he's gained back most of the weight and now we need to start focusing on rebuilding his topline. I think that on Wednesday, if it's decent, I'll load his back with padding and the surcingle and put on his bridle and we'll just walk. Probably on the road because I know the grass will be a big distraction.

I've ridden more in the past week than I have all winter, and I feel like it's beginning to show. Do to the pain in my lower back and my hip (the right hip, the same hip my dad, my uncle and other people on dads side of the family have big problems with (crap)) and the pain in my feet from the many hours I've spent on them in my muck boots, I walk with a limp, and I can't stand up straight when I first get up.

But strangely, I don't feel a thing when I'm on horseback. I think it's the fact that riding makes me so happy and my brain releases a ton of endorphins that mask the pain I'm feeling. It makes me want to spend all my time up there, and yet right now, sitting on the couch, my back hurts so much (dear trotting, you are really detrimental to my back when I also have a very voluptuous chest I must deal with) that the thought of standing up to go to bed and lay down makes me want to flop over on the couch and sleep here, which would not be a good thing, I'm sure.

I'm doing lots of stretches and almost-yoga and decompression for my spine and taking ibuprofen like its going out of style and soaking in the bath and just gah. And no, do not say "Welcome to the real world" or "Welcome to life with horses" or whatever. This is stuff I've always had, that has always been manageable and now I'm just trying to ignore it when the stretches and the ibuprofen and the hot soaks don't work.

I'm beginning to think what I need is either just a breast reduction and/or a session with a chiropractor to put everything back in to place. Not that I can afford any of that.

And regardless, I'll keep on trucking.

On the plus side, today I turned over one of the garden spaces at the barn and started the Thyme and Rosemary on inside planters to sprout. :) Felt wonderful to have my hands in the dirt.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Look, no hands!

Kidding, I don't have a picture for you to look at. However, I did a good bit of no handed riding today.

R let me ride around on Brandy, and Brandy spent her time going "Seriously? You want me to WALK? Do you know how much energy that takes?" Anyways, R led me around first and then lunged at a walk, and I did my "homework" from Kathryn.

After that, R put Brandy's bridle on and gave me the reins and let me have at it. Brandy's a good horse for learning on, since she has no desire to even move at a walk. Let alone a trot. So I dropped the reins and let her go where ever she wanted to and did my practices, no hands, legs to the sides, legs up in front, toes on her rump, etc.

R told me "Ok, trot." I was scared to, without someone leading me. But I grabbed the reins and her mane (with enough length in the reins that she chose where to go, I just held on to them because it seemed smarter) and squeezed her into a trot and every time I would unbalance myself she would stop or walk and then we'd try again, when I could hold it for a bit, R told me to drop the reins. I did. Wasn't using them anyways. Then she told me to let go of her mane. I told her it was a big act on my part to drop the reins, already. She replied that if I was going to fall off, the reins wouldn't save me, and neither would a handful of mane. So I worked on letting go, keeping my hands there, but letting go, and eventually with my arms out to the side. No saddle, no reins, at a TROT! :D I was so excited.

But I am DEFINITELY sore now. Though I did a good bit of stretching to free up my back. :) So happy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Meet Rose

This is Rose, the QH mare I had my lesson on. Forgive quality, it's from my phone.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"It's like doing a sit-up every stride!"

So I had my first ever real life riding lesson today. On a strawberry roan QH mare named Rose. :D I had so much fun... but OW!

My core muscles are STILL screaming at me. It was a lunge line lesson, we focused on my balance. No saddle, no reins. She had put several pads and a vaulting surcingle (if you don't know what that is: I'll link you to Dover Saddlery).

The first part of the lesson, she had me sit on a chair, on my hands, so that my hands were under my seat bones, and had me doing various things to show me what the horse feels on his/her back from our seat. She explained that if we get tense, and tense the muscles there, the horse can't feel us anymore, and that's like letting go of the steering wheel of a car to dig in the back seat.

Then she explained how to drive a horse to a walk with the seat and how to ask for a halt. And then... it was time. She had me hold on to the handles of the surcingle at first, but occasionally had me stick my hands out to the side. She had to keep reminding me to lean back. She even showed me how to move Rose into a trot, and I think I got so excited that not only was my face splitting in two with a smile, but I kept unbalancing myself, and she had to remind me further to lean back in the classical seat. Another time, she had me stick the toes of my boots behind me on Rose's rump, and then had me drive her into a walk like that and then eventually back to a halt.

So basically... I learned to ride with my butt today. Oh boy, Siaga is gonna LOVE me when I start insisting on riding bareback so that I know he can feel my seat bones. (I do have a surcingle, but it doesn't handles. I do suppose I could give him some bit of padding though with that.)

Anyways. She told me she was surprised, for how limited my history of riding has been, at how well I held my balance. :O I'm not sure I believe her, but hey, I didn't fall off, so that means something, right?

So now I have riding lessons every Monday, yay!