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Steps to De-Stress

After totally wigging out last week about Miles’s stiffness and coat condition, everyone commented with ideas and suggestions. As I mulled them over at the barn on Friday, my BFF N stepped in and helped me sort everything out. She looked at Miles’s coat as I was tacking up and then watched me ride and gave me a few tips. So after all of this, I not only learned that it takes a village to keep myself and Miles from spontaneous combustion, but I also came up with a plan of attack to help not only with our “stiffness” but also with Miles’ poor coat condition.

Step 1: Monthly Bucket Baths

Miles has fine hair, and not the best skin. So when he wears blankets, all the dirt has nowhere to go. To combat this, I broke out an old winter favorite: the bucket bath. For those of you not in the frigid north, this is how you bathe your horse when it’s below freezing. Okay, so it was 45 degrees on Saturday here, but close enough.

Torture is made marginally better by doing it with friends.

So how do you it? You fill a bucket with warm water and put it about a tablespoon of your favorite shampoo. You then dip a towel in your bucket and rub your horse from nose to tail. Bring multiple towels, so as you lift the dirt you can switch to a clean towel. I also like to keep a few dry towels on hand to help with the drying process. Put on a few coolers after you finish, and voila! You might not have a “clean” horse, but he’ll definitely be cleaner than before.

I deserve a cookie for this. Cookie now?! 

Step 2: Beef Up Daily Grooming

Pretty much everyone said the same thing about Miles’s coat: more elbow grease! I whined and complained about how Miles hates to be brushed, especially curried… so I haven’t been doing it as much. And you all said that I need to put on my big girl panties and do it anyways. FINE!

I washed all my brushes, and am committed to currying the beast before and after every single ride. Miles wanted me to tell you all that he hates you, so you better send cookies to get back in his good graces. But in all seriousness, I think this will help a lot. I also added a coating of healthy hair care moisturizer and laser sheen after the post-ride brushing not only to help his coat look the best, but also in hopes that it will decrease the friction from his blanket.

I’m also dabbing on MTG to his blanket rubs everyday. I’ve never used the stuff before, but ya’ll seem to love it so we’re going to give it a go.

Step 3: New Warm-Up Routine

To help with Miles’s occasional stiffness, I’m going to try a new warm-up with him. Instead of slowly building up to the canter with lots of walk/trot work first, I’m going to do a few laps of walk/trot and then go straight into the canter. I’ll stay in my half seat, up and off his back, and let him do whatever he needs to in order to stretch out. Then after that, we will go back to the walk and trot and begin our ride.

I tried this new routine on Saturday and Sunday, and while Miles didn’t come out stiff, it really helped us get into a frame more quickly and we had better transitions to the canter after our initial warm-up. So for now, I think I’m going to stick with it.

SO TIRED after 20 minutes of real work.

Step 4: Insist

Part of Miles’s “stiffness” is really just him declining to participate. Okay, so last Thursday he was probably legitimately stiff, but the rest of the time I don’t think he really is… at least not to the degree that I thought. He’s going around with his head in the air because he doesn’t want to work and go in a frame.

So I borrowed some rubber roller spurs to help make myself clear: I mean forward NOW. And when I ask you not to fall in at the canter, I really mean move off my inside leg NOW. So far, they’re working out well! Miles respects them and they don’t offend him. We’ll see how they work out over fences in my next lesson.

Thanks to everyone who commented with ideas and commiserated that the winter sucks!

Show Me Your Barn

After totally freaking out and losing my mind last week, I’m happy to report that I’ve recovered my sanity (well, mostly), thanks to you all. I really appreciate all the suggestions and commiserating from you all — it really helped me dig myself out of the dark hole of misery and into a plan of action (which I’ll share later in the week!)

Anyways, in case you’re living under a rock, Ashley (Horses: The Process of Learning) and SprinklerBandits are hosting a blog hop: Show Me Your Barn! I love seeing all the facilities of my blogger friends, so I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon.
Timber Run Farm

A View of the Barn

Miles is boarded at a facility about half an hour outside the city, kind of in the middle of nowhere. The owners live on the property, but I hardly ever see them. They have excellent staff including two barn managers, one of which also lives on the property and is at the barn just about 24/7.
There are numerous buildings on the property, including the front office, main barn with 16 stalls, the big barn with 40 stalls (divided into the North and South barns) and the main indoor arena. The feed room is actually also a barn with stalls, but it is purely storage right now. And finally across the river, there is a quarantine barn, which currently houses equipment.
Miles Stall

Miles’s House

Miles lives in the last stall on the right of the North barn. My trainer’s horses and clients are mostly in that section, so that’s where Miles gets to live! He has a wonderful ocean view view of the pond through a window and gets to be part of the action all the time. All the horses get box fans in the summer and boarders can provide heated water buckets in the winter, all at no extra charge. Stalls are cleaned seven days a week, although you’d never know it by looking at Miles’ house… he doesn’t keep things very clean.
My tackroom

The Tackroom

Each aisle has two heated tackrooms in both the North and South barns. They are heated in the winter (score!) and have keypad locks on the doors. I share my tackroom with my trainer and four of her clients. Not pictured is the wonderful couch at the opposite end of all my junk. I’m located in the far right corner, and I’m working hard to contain my hoarder tendencies so I don’t spill over into anyone else’s territory. We’ll just say it’s a constant work in progress…
Large back indoor.

Arenas

I am very lucky in that the farm has numerous riding areas, especially when the weather is nice. We have two indoor arenas, an outdoor sand area, an outdoor grass arena, large jump field, and 15 miles of directly connected trails. Basically, I am spoiled rotten with places to ride.
During the winter, I mostly ride in the large back indoor ring. It has mirrors along one short side and a viewing corner with a heated hut for visitors. The second indoor is inbetween the North and South barns (in the big barn) and it’s quite a bit smaller, so I never jump more than just a small single vertical in there, and it’s a bit darker and spookier, but it’s a fabulous place to ride, especially if there’s a lesson going on in the back.
Timber Run Family

My Favorite Feature

I can’t just pick one! I love all the turnout — there’s enough for individual turnout so Miles can go out all by his lonesome, but be right next to others so he doesn’t feel alone. With two indoor arenas, there is option for indoor turnout during the winter and spring when the weather sucks.
But really, my favorite feature is the people. The staff is amazing — they are constantly checking on the horses, I can text one of the barn managers if I need something and they always respond. And of course, all the boarders are very friendly and I just love the little horse show family we have going on.
wine and cheese

Stressed

This is the post where I’m going to whine about all the things that are going wrong and how stressed I am about it. In actuality, things really aren’t that bad… but if I can’t bitch about it here, then what’s the point? So feel free to skip this entire post. Or stick around and laugh at how easily rattled I am.

The polar vortex finally broke yesterday and I was pumped to visit Miles for the first time all week. As soon as I brought him out and took his blanket off, the joy I had at seeing my pony evaporated. He looks terrible! Okay, that’s probably not true, but his coat doesn’t look good. His clip has grown out, and his face and neck look normal… hairy, but normal. The rest of his body is dull and he’s getting rubs everywhere. His shoulders, his forearms, his butt and his back.
He looks homeless. I couldn’t even bring myself to post pictures because I am so embarrassed.
Miles in his shoulder guard
So then I bring out a new saddle to try, and the fit looks okay… not great, but okay. But I decide to try it anyways and we venture into the arena… where there are little kids on ponies jumping bareback and two other horses hacking. Great. So I start going along, and while I don’t like the saddle, it seems to be the best fit so far. Until I canter.
And Miles feels horrible. Totally discombobulated, like a washing machine almost, with his head in the air, back hollow. I try to get him to stretch out and do anything normal, like bend, to no avail. I stop in the middle of the arena and fight back tears. I switch back to my saddle and after 20 more minutes, Miles feels better, but still, not great.
At this point I’m convinced I broke my pony and I’m practically crying. I didn’t realized just how much he had made his way into my heart until that moment.
So we go back to the barn, and I feel for heat along his legs (none) and palpate his back (no response). So I tell myself it’s probably the crazy weather (it’s suppose to be 45 degrees on Saturday… which, if you’re counting is now almost a 70 degree difference in ONE WEEK) and the fact that he was in his stall for 48 straight hours and I haven’t ridden in four days.
I’m planning on going out to the barn again tonight, so hopefully Miles will be feeling better. And I’m so sick of this stupid saddle search, I might just burn my saddle when I’m done… for good measure!!
Anyways, if anyone has any suggestions for hair growth products, or coat products in general that can be used during the winter, I would be eternally grateful. That way maybe I can solve one of my problems and keep some semblance of normalcy throughout the rest of my life…
And so my coworkers stop looking at me like a three-headed gorilla.

FOO Chronicles: Maggie and First Horse Show

I don’t remember very much about my first few years of riding, but I do remember Maggie. Maggie was a stock-bred mare (probably Paint or Quarter Horse) in her mid to late teens. In fact, Maggie is one of two mares I’ve ridden more than once. So she should probably get a special prize for her amazing personality.Anyways, Maggie was a tank of a mare and kind of cranky, but so very easy to ride. She was the first horse that I rode regularly in lessons, and the horse that carried me through my very first horse show on Sunday, May 17, 1998.

I showed in the Walk-Trot Beginner division, which consisted of Equitation, Pleasure, Stake Bend, Barrels and Keyhole (ridden English or Western). I remember the classes perfectly; probably because it was the only show I ever attended where I wasn’t nervous… to be ignorant and naive again!
I was the best at riding Walk-Trot!
Anyways, Equitation was first, and out of 8 riders, I placed first! I was so ridiculously excited and I remember that nothing could wipe that smile off my face. Pleasure was up next, and Maggie and I managed a 4th. I was a bit disappointed, but I was still pretty pumped to receive my (second ever) ribbon.
The next three classes were all timed and were moved inside: Stake Bend, Barrels and Keyhole. I was worried I wouldn’t do well because Maggie was pretty slow, but I remember my mom telling me she was already so proud of me, so just to go out there and have fun. And that’s what I did! I kicked that poor mare the entire time to keep her trotting and we ended up with a 3rd, 1st and 3rd!
The beginning of a serious satin addiction! 
Afterwards I put Maggie away and fed her about a bajillion carrots. If I remember correctly, I think she ate a 5 lb bag in 30 seconds flat. Like I said, she was a tank. After that I met back up with my best friend, M, who had shown also. We watched a class or two and then they announced the division placings. Lo and behold, I was crowned Champion!
I was obviously a protégé and this Champion ribbon was a tell-tale sign of greatness to come… sort of.
Best friends ride together and win together (I’m on the right)
bay hunter jumper

27 Questions for -27 Degrees

The windchill here in wonderful Fly Over Country is -27 degrees. I haven’t seen Miles since Sunday and I probably won’t see him until Friday. Which means no lesson, no riding and worst of all no fun or interesting blogging material. So instead I present a tumblr equestrian questionnaire mash-up!

weather

1. Favorite thing about riding? It’s the perfect combination of mental and physical, emotion and indifference. I love the feeling you get when you have a great ride; in my opinion, there’s nothing better!

2. Green horse or trained horse? Trained. I don’t think I’m an experience enough rider to train a green horse, plus, riding is my hobby; training up a young horse doesn’t really sound fun to me.

3. Have you ever wanted to quit riding? Yes. I’ve almost quit twice – once in high school and once more recently during my horse shopping experience.

4. Do you prefer to ride inside or outside? Outside! But I won’t ride in bad weather and I’m very picky about the footing… so I do ride inside with fair frequency.

5. How many times a week do you ride? On average, probably 4.

6. Have you ever fallen off at a show? How? Oh yeah. Many different ways. Nothing like eating dirt in front of the judge and having to climb back on for the next class!

7. Do you have a private or group lesson? I like a mixture – but I mostly ride in group or semi-private lessons. I’m hoping to get one private lesson a month this winter though.

8. In your opinion does it make you less of a rider if you don’t own a horse? Heck no! Owning is about money, not about how well you ride.

9. Do you plan on having horses in your life, for the rest of your life? Absolutely. There might be times when I can’t show, ride or own, but they will always be a fixture in my life: someway, somehow.

10. If you could ride any famous horse (dead or alive) who would it be? Why? Well, he’s not quite famous, but my choice would definitely, without a doubt be Visa. I still miss him every day.

11. Does winning ribbons matter to you? Yes. I started riding because I was too competitive to play nice with others. Riding has taught me to be most competitive with myself though, so ribbons aren’t the only thing that matters to me.

12. Worst riding experience? I didn’t really enjoy my time in IHSA… although that was due to the barn and surrounding atmosphere, not the organization itself.

13. Describe a time when you wanted another equestrian to fail at something — I am sorry to say that there have been many times when the green monster of envy has made me wish another rider wouldn’t do well. It’s something that seems fairly prevalent in the show world, especially, and I’m working really hard to get rid of those feelings. We should cheer for each other, not bring each other down. If you want to win, work harder, don’t try to bring someone else down.

14. Describe the proudest or happiest moment you can think of in your riding career – When I placed 3rd in Hunter Hack at State Fair with Visa, I was so excited. We’d worked really hard to get there, and I was overwhelmed with love for my horse and gratitude for all the people that helped get me there.

15. Do you think any disciplines are cruel? Which one(s) and why? I don’t think any discipline in itself is cruel – it’s the “training” methods that some people choose to use that are abusive.

16. Your worst riding habit? Not working out aside from riding. I know it’s technically not a riding habit, but my lack of general fitness really negatively impacts my riding.

17. When you’re in the show ring, what’s going through your mind? Breathe, check your pace and just ride. Remember to flow and make decisions.

18. If you owned a barn, would you try for a laid back casual atmosphere, or a professional fast paced one? Or a mix, and explain! First, I hope to never own a barn, especially a boarding barn. But if I did, I would definitely want a professional casual barn… meaning professional staff with knowledge, but no dress code and no pressure to ride or show with the resident trainer.

19. I give you a $2,000 gift card to your favorite tack store/online retailer, what do you buy? Well, I’d probably put it towards a new saddle right now, but that’s not very fun. I’d love to overhaul my show outfit too, so I’d probably go with new breeches, show coat and helmet!

20. You’re riding in an arena at home with several other riders, and one of them obviously doesn’t know the rules of the ring, even though they’re posted. The others are clearly annoyed, would you do anything? Depends on the age of the rider, and what exactly they’re doing. If it’s dangerous, I would probably say something to the rider, although very politely. If it’s just annoying, I’d leave and ride somewhere else.

21. Worst fear riding? That I will seriously injure myself or my horse by making a mistake.

22. How old do you imagine you’ll be when you stop riding, and what’s the cause? 90, and I probably died. Seriously, I hope to ride for a very long time and be very old when I take my final ride.

23. If you could own any number of horses, would they all be the same discipline or a mix? If money were no object, I would love to have horses in different disciplines: hunters, jumpers and Reiners. But They’d all still have to live relatively close to me, so I could go see them ALL the time.

bay hunter jumper

24. Favorite colors for your horse? Miles looks best in Navy and Hunter Green, but black is fine too.

25. Favorite tack brand? Right now I have a mild obsession with CWD and Vespucci.

26. If given the opportunity would you breeze a race horse? HELL NO. Like, absolutely not, even if you paid me. I am waaaayyy too much of a chicken to try that.

27. Three ‘You know you’re an equestrian when…’
You know you’re an equestrian when you struggle to get up in the morning for school or work, but you jump out of bed before your 5 am alarm for a horse show

You know you’re an equestrian when you have more pairs of riding boots than regular shoes

You know you’re an equestrian when your idea of a Saturday night out is watching the Grand Prix