Breaks

Well I fell off the wagon a little bit. I’m trying to not beat myself up over it. I fell into another bad mental slump. Now that I’m having more good days than bad, I’m trying to get back to doing all the things.

We’ve had some rain in the past couple of weeks. Somehow, it always ended up being on my riding days. That or it was close enough that the arenas were too we to ride in. (seriously socal, I grew up riding my horse through puddles in the arena. It’s not going to make us melt…) No new lessons for me but not for lack of trying. They kept getting rained out. I did get some rides in on Cav. He’s been having some issues with his right hind. It seems to kinda… disappear randomly. He also has issues with his right lead canter.

His owner is aware and she’s working on getting the vet out to see him. In the meantime, I’ve been very careful to try to be as thorough as possible in our warm ups. I only ask for as much right lead canter as he seems to be able to do. At least he’s very clear on when he’s not feeling good. He doesn’t have a ‘no’ in him so if he says no, that’s all he can do.

Scarlet is doing good. I got a whole bunch of fancy horse treats from Emmie’s Edibles. I unfortunately cannot remember which blogger I saw link her cookies first but I got like 80$ worth of various cookies. Scarlet is very very pleased.

There are a bunch of options. I got the originals that have little dried apple slices inside them, Delilah’s dots which are little cookies with sprinkles, pill pocket treats and b-day cones. Scarlet’s bday is coming up soon so he’s going to get a nice treat then. The treats are super nice. They’re all handmade and Debbie was super easy to work with. They shipped fast and honestly smell great. If they weren’t so hard, I’d be tempted to eat them myself!

Cav likes them as well. He only gets them after a ride though because he actually gets belligerent once he gets them. He gets pushy and begins trying to search for more good treats.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. Nothing much but hanging in there.

Lesson!

I had a lesson! Long post ahead cause I have a lot to say.

It’s been forever since I’ve been in regular lessons. First, I am not at a barn with trainers that I want to take lessons with. I was taking a few on and off before Scarlet showed his neurological issues. After that, I was worried about money trying to treat him. And then just never really had the heart to look for lessons.

Now, I’ve gotten a half lease and have some of my riding muscles back. But I was really feeling like I wasn’t improving as a rider and I was getting frustrated with what I felt like were holes in my basics. I’m a decent rider, even good depending on the day. I know I’ve got a good feel for horses but I want to be better.

I looked up some trainers in the area and there was one dressage trainer near to my barn that had really good reviews. I also got a few recommendations from my neighbor and a lady at the barn about her training. So I decided to contact her. She had several horses she was able to do lessons off of and we managed to sync up last Friday morning. Now, I’m not switching to dressage but I personally find it important. I see it as the foundation for other disciplines you want to do and also like weight lifting. You can go so far without lifting, but if you want to be better, you have to build strength.

Puppy to break up the text

I met the trainer, who we will call J, the week before to get a tour and talk to her to see how we might work together. She was very nice and seemed like someone who I could ride with so I scheduled a lesson. At the beginning of the lesson, I explained to J that while I’ve been riding for a long time and consider myself a good rider, I know there are holes in my basics. My goal with lessons is to fix those so that I can do things correctly for both me and the horse. Once my basics are better, I’m open to moving onto learning more.

I rode an appendix named Zoe. She was much taller than she looked. It was also my first time riding in a dressage saddle ever. It definitely felt weird after a lifetime of riding in all purpose or jumping saddles. My legs felt so long and it was really only my calves pressed against Zoe’s barrel. My stirrups felt too long. J said they looked fine but after starting to trot, I couldn’t really keep the stirrups so we shortened them one hole and that helped a lot more.

So the big thing I struggled with was posting. Posting in a dressage saddle is so different. Between the long legs and blocks on my thighs, I flopped about like a fish for a bit. J explained, through her nifty walky talky system, that I needed to focus on just letting Zoe’s momentum carry me up out of the saddle. I could post as small as possible if I just let her momentum carry me. It took a lot of focus but after many loops and circles I figured it out.

J said I had good shoulders and a good downward transition. I’ve been doing downwards on Cav just kinda sucking up through my pelvis and very light hands. That’s apparently very good and worked well on Zoe. She liked that I didn’t immediately force her to transition within one or two strides but rather let her set herself up correctly.

Nom nom

The next thing we tackled were my arms. J said she could tell I’d ridden primarily green and sensitive horses as my arms were training arms, with my elbows held further away from my sides to try to make my hands even more soft. She wanted me to relax my arms and let my elbows fall next to my sides where they would be if I was standing on the ground with my arms next to my side. She wanted me to focus on that and see that I can keep soft hands and forearms while having more correct arms.

She also said I need to turn my hands a lot so my thumbs face upward. J wants me to practice by turning my wrists far enough that my thumbs actually point out and then let them relax back upward. All this took so much mental effort from me which felt weird. There’s so much that you do subconsciously while riding so having to do that stuff consciously was very odd.

J assured me that all this change would be difficult but to not worry about making sure all of them were good at once. When I’m practicing during my rides, she suggested I focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to do it all at once.

To finish off the ride, J gave me the choice of cantering or working on leg yields. I decided leg yields as I was interested in doing that with a trainer over the canter. The two aids she wanted me to focus on was the inside leg pulsing for sideways and the outside rein to keep the shoulders balanced under the body. That’s not how I’d been asking Cav to move sideways so I really had to focus on not moving my hands toward the outside. When I did that, Zoe happily escaped through the outside shoulder so I figured that out quickly.

We turned down the quarter line and moved toward the rail several times at the walk and then moved to the trot. Trotting has always been my bane with leg yields. Do I sit? Do I post? How do I coordinate my legs with my posting? (Which now that I think about it is probably related to fixing my posting mechanism.) She suggested timing the aid to sitting down. I did that and it actually felt much more comfortable. I got some good steps out of Zoe both ways and we called it there. It was such a good lesson.

Ears

I was super eager to test out all that I’d worked on with Cav. I rode Sunday this weekend and immediately I felt a difference. Posting in a jumper saddle helped me figure out what I had been doing. I’d been posting from my feet, not my thighs. With posting with his momentum, my thighs stayed glued to the saddle and my legs didn’t swing around as much as they do sometimes. I had never felt more secure on Cav. I literally felt stuck in there. My elbows and hands were interesting to work on. I can’t ride with a crop while working on my hands. It just interferes. Luckily Cav doesn’t normally need one. He didn’t pick up much on the leg yield cues but I think we will need to work on that. He’s never been super great at responding to my leg asking for sideways.

I’m so happy to have already seen a huge change from one lesson. Well both happy and embarrassed. It’s one thing to think you’ve been slacking on equitation and quite another to have it so clearly proven. But I’m working to get better and even every other week lessons will go a long way to helping me improve as a rider. I’m super excited to see what other things we can fix next lesson!

Frustration

Not frustration with Scarlet or Cav. Both were good. Scarlet’s been enjoying the fact that I’m letting him hand graze every day I have the time for it. He loves grass and I just wish I had a place where I could see him every day but still let him live in a pasture. But California, its not really much of a thing unless you have your own property.

Cav was super chill this week. He was very hunter-y and rhythmic on Tuesday. My back was hurting so that was great that I didn’t have to do too much to get us to have a little ride. He’s been improving at standing at the mounting block lately. He’s been waiting (mostly) for me to ask him to move off rather than just walking off once I’m on. He’s still off on his right hind. His owner is trying to get him on the schedule for the vet but she thinks this will be a chronic thing and he will just have to deal with it for his whole life.

The frustrating thing is the horse search. Everyone who is on the horse search right now is having the same frustrations I’m sure. The market is wild and everything is expensive. There have been 5 horses that popped up in my area over the last week or so that I inquired about. One I never heard back from. Three of them were from the same seller. I received initial video links and asked for conformation photos. Haven’t heard anything since. Another is really close to me and I was super interested. But still, haven’t heard anything back after the initial videos and pictures.

That’s frustrating. I’m seriously here with the take my money meme and I can’t get anyone to respond. It’s frustrating sometimes to the point where I’m thinking about just giving up and not buying anything until I can afford a talented baby and training to get that baby started. We shall see. Hopefully something works out for me.

Saddle Woes

Tuesday when I was riding Cav, he said an emphatic no to cantering on the right lead. He’d been fine for the rest of the ride so I was confused at his reaction. He felt fine at the walk and the trot but when I put him back in the canter, his ears were pinned and his tail was swishing. So we finished the ride there and I told his owner about that.

She didn’t see anything odd with him and he was fine for her. He did show soreness around his shoulders though so she thought it might be my saddle. She had a half pad with foam pads she wanted me to try with my saddle the next time I rode. I went out to ride on Thursday but she forgot to put the key back in the lock box. Oops. So I rode Friday instead.

I did take a bunch of pictures of my saddle on his bareback on Thursday and it was very wide. I think it might be a bit long for his back as well. It didn’t fit Scarlet either but it worked with pads. I couldn’t afford a better saddle at that moment.

On Friday, I got the pad out and tried it under my saddle. It made my saddle fit better but when I asked Cav to do anything more than a walk, he told me no. Loudly. So off I got and I tried his owner’s saddle. I had to get off to adjust the stirrups again. A whole six holes down and her saddle works well enough for me. Its about half a size to small and the flaps are regular, not forward like I truly need. But Cav was fine both Friday and Saturday in the saddle. I haven’t felt any pain in my knees or back, just muscle pain. So that will be what I ride him in for now.

It doesn’t make sense to buy a new saddle for a lease horse. I won’t lie and say I didn’t seriously consider it. I even looked on resale pages for saddles. But everything I found was at least $2,200 or more. That’s a lot of money to drop on a saddle that may or may not fit my future horse. And it’s money that would be coming out of my new horse fund. So I’ll keep going with Cav’s owner’s saddle as long as it isn’t actually hurting me to ride in. At least I have something that works.

Scarlet is really loving the grass we have right now.

Back at it

I live! I joke because it was actually an incredibly easy recovery. People kept saying how it was going to be so difficult for me to recover, getting my wisdom teeth removed all the way in my ancient years of 30. In reality, I was sore but my pain level really never crossed a three. The surgery prep was hard for me because of my needle phobia. I had a panic attack right there when they were putting my iv in. That wasn’t fun.

I had hoped to only miss a couple of days of riding. I ended up missing over a week of riding time. Not because of pain but because eating was quite difficult with the swelling so I was super weak. I was able to go out and take care of Scarlet somewhat. After the third day post surgery, I took him out to the turnout so he could move around some. I had to sit on the mounting block outside the arena and rest before I could walk him back.

Scarlet taking his sweet time finding a spot to roll while I’m sitting on the mounting block.

So the first week post surgery was just walking Scarlet as much as I could and slowly eating more as my mouth allowed. By the time the 2nd thursday post-op rolled around, I was no longer exhausted from grooming and walking Scarlet, so I rode Cav again. He was very very good for me. I’ve been keeping my rides to 30ish minutes, more for my sake than his. I’m still a bit weak and so out of shape. On Saturday, we got some amazingly straight trot diagonals. I was very pleased with him. He’s always been quite wiggly on diagonals so these were incredible and I didn’t feel like I had to fight him for the straight.

Not much of an update but now I’m back to eating close to normal, though being uber paranoid about getting food stuck in the holes left behind. I should be able to ride all my days. I’m also considering trying to find a dressage trainer to take a lesson or two a month with. I’d like to improve as a rider and I feel like I’m missing some foundational flat pieces. So hopefully I’ll have more to share in future posts.

Titles Are Hard

Yeah I just gave up trying to think of a title for this.

Things are going well enough over here. The ground dried up enough for this last week to be a normal week of walking Scarlet and riding Cav.

Scarlet is doing great. I’ve been contemplating scheduling the vet to come out and do another acupuncture/pemf treatment on him. The little bit of acupuncture she did on his leg while out for his dental made a huge difference. I don’t think an overall treatment will change things for him but it would be nice to keep him as good as he can be. We’re walking between 10-20 minutes and he has his moments of being too spunky but he’s mostly good.

Cav hadn’t been ridden much for about a month before all our crazy rain as he’d smacked his leg hard in his stall and we were worried about the bump. But when he never was off and the vet said its just superficial, we started him back in full work just in time for the rain to shut it down for about 10 days. I had the first full ride on him and we just did a trail loop with a bit of trot and canter in the arena. The following Tuesday was when I next rode and he was so stiff and sore. He’s a very forward horse so when he was very resistant to moving off, I knew he wasn’t feeling great. I carefully loosened him up with lots of turns, serpentines, and stretching. His owner mentioned she’d worked him hard the day before. Thursday he felt better but I still kept it focused on stretching since he was out of shape.

Saturday I wasn’t feeling a real ride so I figured I’d do the trail loop and then just enough trot and cantering to call it a ride afterward. We did the trail and were almost back at the barn when he spotted two horses halfway back along the mile loop. They were trotting and for some reason, that broke his brain. He flipped out. He did this weird rear and buck move which was actually easier to sit than either one alone would have been. It felt like what people do with toy horses to pretend they are running.

Normally when a horse does that, I pull their nose to my knee and boot them in a circle. But on the trail, there are tons of holes and I can’t avoid them. So I somehow muscled him forward. We trantered into the barn and when we got to a flat space, we did some trot side pass circles until he was willing to stop. He was super tense and stupid so I went to the arena to ride him down. It took a long time to get the brain back between the ears. I ended up being on him for an hour and fifteen minutes. I made sure to not ask him for hard things, just things that would make him think as he is still out of shape. But apparently he has enough energy to be stupid.

I got him tired but I was equally tired. I ate a huge lunch and then passed out for two hours right afterward. My legs and butt were so sore the next day. I’m not too annoyed at him though. I’ve been riding him for months and that’s the only blow up he’s ever had. And it didn’t come close to unseating me. I am contemplating how we could safely work through that issue. It’s not a great one to have since I can’t control who else decides to be on the trail.

That is unfortunately the last ride I will have for a while as I’m getting my wisdom teeth extracted this week. So no riding for me until my face resembles a face and not a melon.

What’s All This?

What's all this? What's all this?
How I feel a lot of the time lately.

Tis I! Resurrected from the grave of procrastination and lack of motivation.

Yes it has been a long time since I posted and even longer since I was consistent with posting. Which I’m disappointed by because by most metrics, I’ve actually had a lot to talk about. But having a lot to talk about also seems to put a block on me mentally with trying to get it out. Its a bit frustrating.

So, lets do a bit of a 2021 catch up here. Scarlet’s doing great. Walking and trotting when he feels like it. A pill sometimes with the cold mornings and feeling too good. He got a broken tooth removed during his last dental and I was reminded that he’s a terrible dental patient. Still leasing Cav. Riding him is going well. His owner changed his bit and I don’t love it but it works. I just feel like he’s not connecting with it as well as the previous. Not my horse to make these decisions with though. I have gotten compliments on riding him which always feels weird. I don’t consider myself that good of a rider but then I get people telling me I’m doing well and I just look at the gap between myself and where I want to be and wonder who the hell they’re looking at. Did NaNoWriMo again and won again. Got a huge raise at my job to top the year off. Not to shabby an ending.

He thinks my photo taking is silly but he humors me.

Now we are on to 2022. I don’t do resolutions and while I always have goals, I’ve never put them out there before. So lets see how this goes.

Goals for 2022:

  • Scarlet
    • Stay as healthy as can be
  • Riding
    • Continue leasing Cav
    • Consider dressage lessons
      • Find a dressage trainer focusing on rider biomechanics/improvement
    • Maybe add more lease days per week
  • Writing
    • Write 2k words a week
    • Blog at least once a week
    • Finish draft of either PWF or Nano-2021 novel
    • Edit finished draft
    • Beta reader(s)
    • Write query letter
    • send out one query before end of the year
  • Work
    • Get promoted to QA2
  • Fitness
    • Get back in shape
    • Fix eating habits
    • lose weight

This is quite the list now that I look at it. I’m glad I have a whole year to work on it.

Getting a Feel For It

Trying to stay consistent with blogging and epically failing. I’m still getting a post up but I kept delaying because I got Pivo video this week and I wanted to find time to edit it and post with this. Did not find the time and figured I’d post before I get that. Videos next time!

Cav and I have been feeling each other out. He’s getting much better at the downward transition from trot to walk. He does still need support into it but even when I don’t, he’s not dumping 100% of his weight onto his front end. I have managed to get him to do canter circles both ways. He currently doesn’t respond to turning aids the same in both directions so I had to figure that difference out as well as supporting him through the circle. But we’ve got it. Its still a 30+m circle but we will get there with more practice.

I’m still quite sore each day. I keep telling myself I need to stretch and then I forget about that promise until I’m done riding again. My hip flexors are not happy. Not only am I out of riding shape but I sit in a chair all day for work. So not the best for my body.

I got my Pivo over the weekend and forgot it on Tuesday. I brought it Thursday but was trying to use an old phone so I didn’t break my current one. But the software wasn’t compatible so I didn’t really get much video. It would just stop tracking me after a while. Cav showed his good boy side though while I leaned down from the saddle and fussed with the phone. He just stood there. He doesn’t walk up and side step toward something well but once you’re standing, he’s happy to stay there.

Saturday I used my current phone and got some video. It’s not fabulous but its there! I will probably just do a Friday post with the edited video (please cross your fingers that I find time for editing this week!) from my Pivo and also some video clips of me riding Dante!

L and I met up for lunch and then went to her barn to ride Dante. I rode him when he was a scrawny 3 year old but was worried I’d ruin him so I didn’t really ride. This time, I really wanted to at least try to ride him like I knew what I was doing. Dante is so tall. I know this, but its been a while since I stood next to him. He’s a gentle giant though and was quite happy to get cookies for a smile or two.

L rode and got him moving. It was wild to watch Dante move with a completely different viewpoint than I’d previously had. Of course I’d admired his movement before but I’ve watched a lot of horses going in circles in ad videos recently so I had more to compare it to. He just has so much suspension in his gaits. Even with my potato riding, his default is so nice.

And I did ride a bit potato-y. In my defense, we met to ride on a Saturday which is one of my lease ride days and I’ve only been riding 3x a week for two weeks now. So I was tired and out of shape. I still did wtc each way but it was pretty much all I could do to manage my own body, let alone his. Dante wasn’t being a brat to me. He just knew he had an easy rider on top. lol.

Being able to compare Cav and Dante (truly no comparison) gives me some ideas of areas I’d like to work with Cav on. It was fun to experience another ride. And it was awesome to see L’s face in person again.

The First Week

Before I get in on the first week of riding, lets do a quick catchup on Scarlet. He’s been doing great. We’ve been keeping the walking up. He definitely isn’t getting as much attention on Tuesday and Thursday as I have limited barn time before I have to go to work but he doesn’t mind as long as he gets his grain and treats. We’ve been doing ~30 seconds of trotting and I haven’t seen any weird leg puffiness like the last time we tried it so I call that a win.

He’s definitely lame at the trot but it’s not soreness lame. He is compensating for the lack of feeling in his right hind. He lifts it extra high in order to compensate for the fact that he has less feeling. Definitely not a great movement but its not so bad most of the time that I worry about him moving faster on it. He really has adapted to it over the last two years. Yes two years. It will be exactly two years since I fell off him on the 14th. Kinda hard to think about.

So now that we’ve checked in on Scarlet, I wanna talk about Cav. Oh man riding multiple days a week makes my body hurt. Obviously its a good thing because I’m building back muscle but I don’t remember my hip flexors being this sore. I need to stretch more.

Cav has been a good boy. I’ve not asked for much as I’ve just been feeling him out. I’ve been trying a few serpentines and circles to get him flexed. He’s tight on the right side and falls through his shoulders quite a bit regardless of the direction we are going. He cannot canter a large circle. It was probably about 30m and he made it between 1/2-3/4 the few times I tried. He’s not used to someone sitting on his back during the canter so I’ve been alternating between half seat and a very light seat while touching his back. He’s not consistent with his leads. Switching directions is hard and I have to ask a few times to get it right. I think I need to start adding in a circle right before the canter while we work on building up strength.

But he’s very good despite his weakness and greenness. He wants to do well. I can feel he’s a little anxious but each time he gets the right answer, he settles in. I think that will go away more as he gets more confidence in what he does. He’s started reaching for the bit more at the walk and trot. Not a lot and we are still working on not leaning or floating but its progress. I’ve worked a bit on the downward transition from the trot to the walk. Just asking him to not dump off on his front end when going to the walk. He’s lightened up a lot on one side and getting better the other direction. I need to do some research and find good exercises to help encourage a horse to do more from his hind end.

I ended up going on a trail walk on Tuesday after we had a huge downpour (for our area) that shut down our arenas. He was completely fresh as it was cold and he was 100% good on the trail. He’s a naturally forward horse so we walked out the entire time but anything spooky he just looked at in an alert manner but never freaked out. I was very impressed with that.

I did get my Pivo and tripod at the end of last week but there was more rain on Friday morning and only one arena was open on Saturday. I didn’t want my tripod to be in the way of everyone so I decided to not try it out. Hopefully I’ll get some video of us riding this week. Not sure if I will try it on one of the weekdays or wait for the weekend so I have more time to fuss around with technical difficulties. We shall see!

News!

So last week I teased you all saying a bit of good news was on the way. Well here it is!

I found a partial lease at my barn! Meet Cav.

I’d been riding Uno once a week for about a year and a half now. And I’m extremely grateful to Holly for letting me ride her boy for so long and for free. It really saved me mentally. Riding is so important to me that losing that still kicked my ass even though I still had Scarlet. But she recently moved to a new barn. While its not that much further, it threw a wrench into my mornings to have to go to two barns. One to ride and one to give Scarlet his meds.

I initially started looking to purchase a second horse. We’d found space in our finances thanks to some good moves up in both my and my husband’s careers so it was something we could afford. I even sat on a possible and had to say no to him. But I don’t know if any of you know this, but the horse market is nuts right now. Nuts. I thought I had an okay budget for a horse at 5k. I didn’t expect anything super quality. Young and green was fine. Any breed was fine. Color, sex, didn’t care. All I wanted was for it to be started enough that I could to a test ride at wtc. But right now, that budget is not getting me much. Granted, I am in SoCal. Things are more expensive here. I can see a ton of options on the east coast but given the state of the world (sigh…) I didn’t feel super comfortable traveling far away to do a test ride.

After about a month of searching and asking on possible ads only to find that they were more than double what my budget was, I was lamenting the market’s state to a lady at the barn when she said that the assistant trainer was thinking about leasing her horse. Since I’m out so early in the morning, I rarely see anyone else. It took a bit of time and syncing up twice but I was able to talk to AT and she was interested in leasing to me. She knew who I was and knew that I’d ridden Uno previously.

Last Thursday I stayed out a bit later and told my work I’d miss my morning meetings (eek! Such a bad employee!) so that I could meet up with AT and try Cav out. He felt good to ride, moved forward nicely. Green in some aspects but it will be a fun challenge for me to see what I can do with him. So we agreed on a half lease that started this Saturday. I still want to purchase my own horse but this half lease means I can ride multiple times a week and also put more money into my horse purchase fund. Hopefully something good will come up when I have more to spend.

A little background on Cav. He’s 9 and hasn’t raced since he was 4. He was retired and tossed into a field for about four years before AT purchased him. He had a lot of behavioral problems when she got him. Couldn’t stand at the mounting block, bolting and rearing. Those are all ironed out now and he’s a much more chill boy. But he’s also had a lot of time off. He had a popped split that took 3-4 months to completely heal, some foot soreness issues on and off. She said in the year she’s had him, he’s probably only been worked for half of that and not consistently. But she doesn’t have enough time in her day to fit him in as much as she wants. So a half lease will benefit us both. Cav gets worked, I get to ride and she gets to have one less horse on her schedule.

The first ride on Cav I didn’t do anything fancy. I wanted to make sure my saddle would fit him well enough and figure out his buttons. I did have to stop during our walk warm up and change out from AT’s half pad to my half pad. Her’s had shims on both the front and the back and mine only has them on the front. The way my saddle is, the back shims were tipping me forward so much I had to struggle to not flop on his head. After the pad change, the balance was a lot better so I continued with the ride.

Cav currently floats above the bit without really touching it. He lowers his head at the walk but lifts it super high at the trot and canter so my whole goal for the ride was to get him to touch the bit and lower his head some. We did manage to do both. After circling and gently encouraging him, we ended the ride with a light touch on the bit. It will get better with time. But his canter was a lot of fun. Definitely a more uphill canter than what I’ve been used to riding. It will be interesting to see how that changes with more strength and teaching him how to really push from behind properly.

All in all, I’m super pleased with the decision to get the half lease. It will be a lot of fun to ride more and see how he goes with more rides. I even purchased a Pivo so I can get a lot more media. Hopefully it will get here in the next couple of weeks so I can get some early video and compare that with later ones as we get more used to working together.

Glamour shot with the nice ears.