Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Little Things I Love

Hot damn Lucy goose!
I know we are all here because we love horses. At least I hope so. We think they are beautiful, strong, awesome companions and partners. They do all kinds of crap for us and we do all kinds of crap for them. Some may be great jumpers or brave trail blazers. But there are other things I love about them. Some things I just look at and sigh in content.

I love feeding time. I love giving my horse's delicious, nice, hay (even though I am allergic). I love to feed them their grain even more. Happy horses munching away is music to my ears.

I love watching them have a good roll. Some, like Lucy, can roll over and over and over. While ones like Vegas try their damndest to get over once.

Watching them graze and play in the pasture is another. Sometimes they look goofy. Sometimes they look majestic.

I love the ears forward, locked onto a jump feeling.

I love the feeling of them listening to your seat.
I apologize for the draw reins and lack of helmet. I know better now, thank goodness.
And I love feeling their warm breath and whiskers next to my ear.

Damnit. I love horses.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Let me see you stretch

So, part of Bacon and I's new routine includes stretches. Not for me so much, but for her. Every day (if I remember) I try to do stretches with her in hopes to treat her more like an athlete. I read a article recently that examined the effects of stretching and the effects of creating a round topline. They only did stretches (no other riding) and each of the horses showed improvement after a few of months. I like improvement. Give me some of that.

The stretches I have been doing are all of the stretches on the Evention video. Bacon has started to become accustomed to these now, though she still gives me confusing looks after making her reach to her hip for a carrot.

But I have also read info that is somewhat conflicting as far as stretching goes too. Another study showed that horses that were stretched 6 days a week had detrimental effects (lowered range of motion). These were focused on stretching of the limbs. Three days a week seemed best and increased range of motion in the joints (stifle, shoulder and hock were most significant), but did not increase stride length. So, hmmm.

In the first article, they were working on rounding and lateral stretches to strengthen the abdominal muscles in the horse. These were chin to chest, chin between knees, and chin between fetlocks, and chin to girth, chin to hip, chin to hind fetlock. These were done 5 times a day(!!) 5 days a week for 3 months. That's a lot of stretching.

So, my question is, do you stretch your horse? Have you seen any benefit from stretching? How often and what exercises do you do? Bacon's favorite stretch seems to be the last one in the evention video. I am hoping that I provide the correct stretches for her, and that they further improve her performance and comfort.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Shelter Pups Review

My grandma was totally and completely devastated when she lost her little chihuahua best friend, Dot. I didn't know how I could help her get over her loss but I had to try something. My grandma's birthday was also a couple of days later, so I needed a wonderful present. I went to searching for custom pet ideas, and came across a cool company called Shelter Pups.

I was immediately intrigued. They make custom stuffed dogs and cats made out of wool. The company is in the ol' USA and had great pricing compared to some of the other custom stuffies I had seen. Some of their proceeds go to shelters and rescues, and their turnaround time was also much faster than others at around two weeks. After browsing some of their examples, I knew I had to have one made of Dot.
Dot as a stuffie!
The process was really easy and cute. They are currently priced at $125 each and I thought that was a fair price. You start the process by submitting a few photos and explaining about your pet. Any unique markings? What is/was their personality like? After paying the $25 deposit fee, you are notified that they will get to making your pet as soon as possible, but it could be anywhere from 7-12 days. I was delighted to learn from an email that after 5 days, they had a finished product.
One of my favorite examples on their page.
When you go to view and "adopt" your new pet, it sends you to a page with their name and pictures displayed along side the new stuffie. They pose it and wrap it in blankets, just as Dot was when she was alive. If it is up to your standards, you make the rest of the payment and they ship it right away. It was awesome and I was so excited to see it in person and to see my grandma's reaction. I had it mailed to my grandma's house and was fortunate enough to be in Arizona with her when it arrived.
Look Emma, cats!
She gasped when she pulled Dot out of the box. It had her exact markings and look on her face. The nose was soft and lifelike and wool clean and well sculpted. All throughout my stay in Arizona, I would see my grandma holding her new little dog and looking at her. It brought me some relief to know that she had a little bit of joy come back into her life.
A happy grandma!
All in all, the process took 9 days. I couldn't have been happier with the final product and I loved the whole process. They made it easy and fun and I hope that some day, after I lose my pups, that I can have them created as well. They even have dogs and cats that people never paid for or wanted available for "adoption" at a cheaper price on their website. I encourage you to consider them if you are ever looking for this kind of item!
Straight out of the box and into grandma's heart.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Western Pessoa System

And what did we learn today, Bacon?
When Vegas had issues with a sticky front end a few years back, a trainer friend had me trailer her over to his place so he could show me a method to help move her forward and use her butt. I had been concussed at this point, so I was not allowed to ride, and given strict orders to keep up this new method I was about to learn daily for at least 2 weeks.

The trainer saddled up Vegas, tied a pair of long split reins to each side of her girth and wrapped a lariat around the base of the horn. He told me that she may not respond to well to it, but not to worry because he had never had a horse never figure it out. The lariat was then held around the back of her butt and he had attached a lounge line to her as well. He clucked to her and when she planted her feet, he gave a tug to that lariat sitting about a foot above her hocks.
Lariat just barely putting any pressure on the sensitive creature.
Off she went! She did better than I expected her to do, but still through in some bucks in protest of having something hanging out around her hind end. He just continued to urge her to go forward with the rope. Any time she tried to fight or slow or get sticky, a tug tug, and she tucked her butt under and pushed forward. The session didn't last long, but gave us a great start and gave me something to do while I sulked about not being able to ride.

We did our buttwork session every day for a month. When I got back on my horse, it was the most balanced, soft, and slow moving she had ever felt. She collected and held herself and it was magic. I was so surprised, but also excited. She was no longer sticky either. It was just so cool.
So western.
Part of western days with Bacon now includes this same method. It is pretty similar to the Pessoa system, though I have control of the hind end pressure and it is not connected to her mouth. Instead of split reins, I use side reins, still set at the longest point. We do a little bit of this style lunging in the beginning of our ride in hopes that I can have her using her hind end even more and stepping under herself more in the trot. Though her hip angle is pretty steep and sets her butt underneath her, her hocks are camped out, so I have noticed that it is harder for her to get that steep step under in the trot.

I have to be a little more careful with using the butt rope with her, as she is more sensitive, and if I increase the pressure too much, she is more likely to speed off and fall on the forehand. Most of the time, it just lingers above her hocks as a reminder that there is something there. If she doesn't immediately canter when I want her to, I give the rope a tug. If she ends up cross firing or counter cantering, I give it a tug. So far, it seems to be doing fairly well, though I have only used it a few times.
Reeling out the lariat and lunge as the horse increases the circle size.
Here are a few tips for those interested in trying this method themselves:
- I like the use of the lariat. It is stiff and tough, which makes it less likely for them to lean against.
-Be careful when doing this the first time. Often horses will get the rope stuck under their tail, and then clamp the tail down. Eventually this pisses them off even more, and bucking may occur
-Hell, bucking may occur anyways, because you have a rope around there ass. Keep it loose to start and work with what pressure works best for your horse. When in doubt, let them buck it out a little bit. Unless it gets a little too dangerous!
-USE GLOVES. You probably do anyways for lounging, but it is especially important when holding a lariat. You don't get any extra points for major rope burns.
-Like anything else with ponies, this takes some time. It is hard to finagle the lounge line and lariat and watch and work your horse. It takes time to have your horse develop from this.
You have to play a little bit too.
And there you have it. It may be a little rough or westerny for some tastes, but if done right, it is a very effective and kind way of teaching a horse to use their bum. Let me know if any of you give it a try!
It is always fun to have helpers too!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Oh Vegas

Nuzzles from yearling Vegas
Something that weighs on my mind a lot is the cost and maintenance of four horses. It has been doable for us and still is, but I feel like maybe it would be easier with one or two less. And that makes me so sad because I love them all so much. Bacon is not going anywhere, because we have a partnership that I cannot explain. Lucy was gifted to us, as she was one of Blake's relatives horses, and happened to have passed away while on a cattle drive with Lucy due to an aneurysm. Blake's great grandma asked if we could take her, and with Blake needing a horse more appropriately sized for him, it was a great option. Pandora has been Blake's little creature and great for any kids to come and ride. And that leaves Vegas.
Our very first show (my third, last one was 6 years before that). I was a little excited and nerdy looking.
There is a lot to love about Vegas. She is beautiful, sound, has competed and is a very easy horse to care for. She has great feet, and generally goes straight to work, after many a battle when she was a youngster. Why would we want to sell her?
Before I went to see her for the first time.
The first day she came home.
I feel like she is a great horse. A wonderful horse. She doesn't really care if she is in work or not, but I feel pretty bad when I see her mostly sitting around. I know she doesn't care, but I do. I poured a lot of sweat and tears into her and brought her up from a 9 month old after losing Booger. She never had that partnership that Booger and I had, or that Bacon and I have, but that's ok. But I wonder if someone else would.
One of our first rides.
It kills me to think about selling this friend of mine. We have quite the past, and we had some fun when we dabbled in all around schooling shows. We even won some stuff, including a bad ass neck ribbon. I was the first person to sit on her. I installed her buttons and did our training. I watched her grow up and mature. I am sad to think that I may never know what her ending will be. Will she be well fed and cared for? Will she be treated right? I have never sold a horse and that is one of my biggest worries.
Showing trail. We either did great or very poorly.
Kisses after winning all around reserve walk/trot champs
So, here I am. My stomach twists and turns daily while I think about selling my unicorn. I have this feeling that it is the right thing to do. No matter how much I hate it or how sad it makes me. I may be sobbing as I write this post. I don't even know how I would sell her, as I sob and explain to the possible buyer how great she is. But we could be 3 Mares. A little More Money. And possibly a happier pony.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Gone for 9 Years

How can you not love his knee high socks and sword blaze?
Back before I was crazy mare lady, I owned my first horse. A gelding named Booger (APHA Total Tenacity). I have mentioned him here and there on the blog, and quite frankly, I need to make him his own page so that people can view his sweet sword blazed face and laugh at my dorky 14 year old self.
One of his last pictures
It is hard to believe it has been 9 years since I last said goodbye to my handsome guy. He was so full of personality and willing to do whatever crazy plan I had set in store for him for that day. We play jousted with rings on posts, we tried polo (and got kicked out because he would body slam the other horses going for the ball), we trail rode through the sagebrush and chased rabbits as they would pop up on the trail. We even tried to jump a little bit and went to one horse show. He taught Blake that horses were, in fact, as cool as motorcycles.
3 year old Booger takes me for an adventure.
He was a great best friend when I had a rough day of bullying at school. He was there when my grandpa had to go through difficult surgeries. With his major wounds, he taught me how to care and medicate and hope and wish. He carried me away from thinking about my mom in prison or my dad out of work. He probably had the saltiest mane of all the horses at the barn thanks to my tears, but I don't think he cared.
Our hair matched.
9 years ago I got pulled into the office of my high school as soon as the bell rang. I learned that Booger had broken his leg and I desperately tried to get a hold of my dad so I could get excused from school to go see him. I swerved and stepped on the gas pedal, eyes hot with rolling tears. I met with the vet who gave me the saddest face and spilled out the grim news. Blake was called from his school and he was already there, arms wrapped around my stoic horse's neck. Booger dripped with sweat and placed some of his weight into my arms as I hugged him tight and told him I loved him and that it would be ok. His right front leg spun away independently from his knee the one time I looked down at it. His other leg was beginning to buckle and I was pulled away. He tried to follow me as I walked away, scared and confused. Sometimes I wish I would have stayed with him, but I don't know if my heart could have taken seeing him fall to the ground.
A dirty Blake in a Slipknot shirt kissing a pony. 
That day was one of the worst I had ever experienced. Blake stayed with me and cried with me. I am glad that I had him when I had no else with me in Idaho. He later went out and cut some of Boog's mane and tail for me. He told me he looked just like regular Booger, but tears filled his eyes again. I still have his mane and tail in my fireproof box, locked away with pictures of my grandpa. It still smells just like him. I am not sure what to do with it, but some day hope to have something made. I was so lucky to have him in my life, especially when I did, and I still smile when I think about his cute little face!
I miss you so much, my friend

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Werkin' on them Dressage Skillz

Fancy prancing. In all the patterns.
Horse dancing is hard. I don't know if that is why I have this disdain for it, because it frustrates me and my pony, and if we had to choose we would much rather jump things. Anything. But, this year is a fresh new year and we need to get better at this. And, you know what, if I feel the right feels during a ride, it isn't too terrible. And that, my friends, is progress.
We likes the progress. And the bend!
Last week, I got the Bacon out for a dressage day. We kept is super simple, and that was the first ride that she relaxed quite a bit. I tried to not pressure her or ask for a lot. Just, a bump bump with my inner calf in hopes of creating some bend. And it worked! I finally realized that I had been just pressing and pressing my calf into her, and after reading one of Emma's posts, where she mentioned legs off unless we want and mean something, I went DING DING DING. A little bump bump, and I could get the ribcage pushed out around my leg and see a corner of eye. Whoa.
Oooo, more bend! Even in the bad direction!
She remained responsive, yet pretty soft and calm, so it was a quick 30 minutes and I patted her and put her away.
We stretches.
Yesterday, we did much of the same. Bump bump here and bump bump there. She isn't perfect yet, of course, but the fact that I am getting any bend and not just shoulder diving and motorcycles around is pretty cool. We also worked on stretching and although that is hard for a giraffe, she is starting to realize it feels pretty good. Especially at the walk. When I would bring her up, she would kind of lose the contact and invert and curl and then come up and then back down. I realized that if I pushed her a little more forward, she more easily found the contact and remained there (for the most part!) Another huh.
I curl under? Yes? No? Damnit. I stretch? I giraffe?
Once we picked up the pace, she started to get a little fiery, but not too bad. I tried to remain giving with my elbows (when I remembered) and to try to keep my legs off (unless bumping) and when she got too strong or fast, I would half halt. My half halts are pretty big right now, mostly because she isn't too sure on what they are because I SUCK AND NEVER USED THEM UNTIL NOW but she is figuring out the concept and responding better and better. I may have to throw multiples in a row at her, but then she would come back and be soft for a few strides and I would be tickled purple. Yes, purple, because it is better than pink.
Madam, I decline your request to go slower. FU and your half halts.
Alright, fine. I take it back.
And cool things happened when I stretched up tall and softened my thighs. Because my horse would have a very nice downward transition, you know, without me bracing on her. I attempted some sitting trot, but I am really not very strong yet and that was very very difficult. I think part of the difficulty is that it feels like Bacon is moving a lot more this year thanks to some joint juice instead of being tenser and taking tiny steps. I am trying to ride it this year, and I am just having a harder time. It may not be a HUGE change in the way she moves, but I can tell you it is doing something.
Me attempting to sit the trot. Yeah.
Smile for the camera!
We ended trying to do some stretchy trot. I tried to ride this as keeping the contact and slowly trying to reel her out and down, and whenever she came back up, I would try to follow that contact up and just try to bring it down again. You want the contact Bacon, and you like it. KEEP IT. FOLLOW IT WHEREVER IT GOES. She stretched the best she has before for me in the trot. It wasn't a great big stretch, but heck, I will take it!
So nice. And look at the paint shelter coming along in the back!
Blurry, a bit fiery, but still cool. AND SHE HAS SOME CURVES!
We are making changes and trying different things this year, and hopefully it will get us somewhere pretty cool. And maybe we will be able to break the 30 barrier for a test, but even if we don't, I like what I am feeling compared to last year. And maybe someday I will get to wear my bedazzled spider stock pin at a show, and everyone will remember just how cool and nice we looked.
Damn, this stretchy stuff is hard mom!
Oh hey, there goes that girl with the spider stock pin. And her cool leggy bay mare. They looked awesome in the dressage court today. I hope I beat them.
I am going to have to sit back to be the winner in the long run, but we are working on it!
That's the dream, folks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Saggy Breech Syndrome

I've got a problem. A problem with my pants.
Something here isn't right.
You see, I have no ass. Well, you can't see, because if you tried, you probably wouldn't find it. If I was a super hero, I would be No Ass. I kind of had an ass and legs last year at the beginning of the year because after a losing battle with Prednisone, that's what happens. I weighed the most I had ever weighed in my life, and I hated it. But, my pants fit. My Aztec Diamonds fit perfectly and they were awesome.
If I stand wider, they kind of look ok.
And now, I have noticed due to this Lyme disease crap, I stop eating in the summer and usually that equals weight loss. Last year, I lost more than the 18lbs I gained and I ran into a problem. None of my breeches fit. And going into this year, I have lost 6 more pounds since last year, and now it is even worse. (Boo hoo, right?)
I could also be No Waist.
My beloved Aztec Diamonds are super baggy. I can belt them up as much as possible, but now it kind of looks ridiculous at the top. Like I have a peen in my pants. But my husband can assure you, there are no peens to be seen. My cheap Ovation breeches I bought last fall sag. The size 26 full seat Ariats I bought off of ETT look like I threw a hot dog in a grocery bag. Even my husband commented on how baggy everything is. And he tends to not share his observations like that because it may lead to me buying new breeches.
Yeah, that's attractive.
So is this.
Some people tell me I am lucky. I lose weight without even trying, that must be awesome, etc. And while that may sound nice, it doesn't feel too nice. It isn't just fat that is going away. I can stare into the mirror and see muscle wasting too. I have been eating well lately, but I have no desire to eat anything. I walk into a grocery store or go out to eat and do not want to eat any specific thing. I just know that I am probably hungry, and that I should eat. I can see my husband get frustrated because I will stand in an aisle at the grocery store and just stare at that food, hoping that somewhere I can find something I really want again.
Size 26 is a LIE
I am sorry for your eyes.
I am worried that I will buy more breeches, and they won't fit either. I can't really try any on here because we don't have any tack shops that carry a large variety of breeches. I would really like to own another pair of Aztec Diamonds, but I do not know which size to get. My current pair are size 10s. I don't know if going one size down will be enough (fingers crossed they are, because I don't want to be No Ass and No Legs). The good news is that I still have some meat and jiggle to work with, so that is good. The size 24 Tailored Sportsmens I have that were extra tight now fit pretty well, and I am glad I held onto them. The new Horze jean breeches I got (size 26) fit pretty darn well too.
Hey SmartPak, my crotch isn't down there.
Soooo, what do I do? Sell the breeches that are too big? What if I gain weight again (a problem with having Lyme, you are either gaining or losing weight all of the time)? What sizes do I buy? Where can I buy an ass? What breeches are good for this body type? So many questions. Who has the answers? I hope your super hero names are better than mine.