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In A Rut

I’m in a rut. After my horse show high faded, I found myself with less motivation and more excuses. With the weather turned chilly and blustery, it’s harder to leave the warmth of my house; With daylight savings time over, I will now be at the barn in the dark. And what, exactly do I have to work on again? Those small stepping stones seem too elusive to articulate these days.

But I mustered up enough motivation to go out to the barn on Saturday. Miles was a filthy, muddy mess and he argued about being brushed… which was annoying. Eventually I cleaned up the beast so he at least looked mildly presentable, tacked up and got on.

I had the entire large indoor to myself, but I was too lazy to put out any poles or anything, so I decided to focus on bending and circles. It went okay: Miles didn’t get as stretchy/bendy as I would have liked, but he tried.

We also worked on smaller circles, and I got frustrated. To this point, we’ve mostly only done 20m+ circles (as in wall to wall of the arena). But I think it’s time we got ourselves a little more balanced and handy, so I tried some 10-15m circles. Again, Miles participated but it just didn’t feel great. We’d start the first half of the circle going well, then he’d bulge out and I was barely able to keep him on the intended track for the last 1/4th of the circle.

After about 25 minutes I realized I was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, so I stopped. There was no reason for me to pick a fight — Miles was doing what he was asked, I was just not in the best of moods. So I hopped off, brushed him and put him back with extra hay and treats.

I had planned to go out to the barn on Sunday as well, but my back was really hurting and I had other plans so I skipped it. See what I mean about less motivation and more excuses? Ugh.

In other news, since I sucked it up so terribly during the Two Point Challenge, I decided to try to do No Stirrup November! Some of my friends at the barn want to do it, so hopefully we can all cry together… or probably they will laugh as I struggle to do one lap of trotting around the ring. But whatever, at least it’s something to do!

By Viva Carlos

New Kicks

Miles had his first farrier appointment since I purchased him last Thursday. I was pretty excited, as it had been a year and six months (almost to the day) since I last saw my farrier, D. He helped me out so much with Visa and is just an all-around awesome guy, I had missed him!

The appointment went great — we kept Miles’ shoeing mostly the same, the only major change was going up a size in the back. Miles fell asleep in the crossties and only woke up when the staff started to feed dinner hay. Love this horse! I gave him Thursday evening off after his pedicure, and Friday I had prior plans so I didn’t get to see the beast again until Saturday morning.
I went out early and all the horses were still turned out, so I trekked to the field to bring Miles in. He was easy to catch and as we started walking back, I noticed that the usual clip-clop-clip-clop sounded more like a clip-thud-clip-clop. I looked back and sure enough Mr. Miles was missing his right front shoe. Insert obscenities here.
Miles grazing
Oh so innocent…
I looked around the field and found the offender right where Miles had been standing when I got there. I swear he probably pulled it five minutes before I brought him in. UGH. Luckily D the amazing farrier was able to stop out Sunday at noon to tack it back on. Of course by then Miles was fairly ouchy, but as soon as the shoe was back on he moved better. I put him on stall rest for today in hopes that went I go out tonight he’ll be as good as new.
I guess it’s Miles’ way of saying “thanks for owning me for one whole month!” Silly horse.
Miles lost shoe in field
Miles Sept 2013

New Clothes

Here in fly over country we experienced a gorgeous fall weekend, with mostly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60’s by late afternoon. Fiancé (it’s still so exciting to call Sam that!) and I trekked out to the barn on Saturday after some early morning rain. Although I had to ride inside, we had some company and Miles was great. It was tough to get him moving at first, but he perked up and we had a really nice hack.

I focused on adjustability at the canter, using the natural shape of the ring: shorten in the turns and lengthen down the long side. We did this both directions, and Miles did great! I think the key is to use more of my entire body to ask for the shorter stride, rather than just half halting with my arms. When I slowed the rhythm of my hips and arms, Miles shortened quickly and easily; and when I swayed my hips for a bigger canter and let my arms flow with his stride, he opened right up.

We had another great ride on Sunday, where I really focused on our partnership. I am very goal-oriented and sometimes it’s hard for me to not do specific exercises to work towards a specific goal. But I realized last week that I am hindering our progress by riding this way right now. Miles and I hardly know each other, and before we launch into the very specific skills, we need to master the basics of how we communicate; we have to walk before we can run.

So I did some ground poles, but once we got good spots and even striding, I called it quits on that topic. No arguing over adjustability over poles! Then we worked on transitions to the canter, from both the walk and trot. At the beginning of our ride, they were very rough. But of course as soon as I asked Sam to watch, they were all perfect. So we ended on that fabulous note.

But the big project of the weekend was new clothes! As I previously mentioned, I ordered some blankets from SmartPak to try, so Mr. Miles was subjected to standing in the crossties while I played dress-up.

Blanket #1: SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket (Heavy)

I loved the fit of this blanket on Miles. The length was just right, front to back and floor to ceiling (so to speak). The front closure made it easy to adjust to his narrow chest and small neck; plus he looks very stylish in hunter green, if I do say so myself.

Sam appeasing Miles so I can take more photos.
Why am I wearing this stupid blanket?! It’s 65 degrees out!!

Verdict: I’m definitely keeping this one!

Blanket #2: SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Blanket (Light)

I was excited about the 10-year guarantee, so I just had to try it. I ordered a 78 since that’s what I measured the pony at. And while I love the sheet itself, and several of the features, I don’t love the fit on Miles. What do you guys think? (Sorry in advance for terrible cell phone pictures!)

I love the front closure!
Front to back length looks good.
But it looks a little long?? What do you think?
Of course, these blankets come in 3″ increments, so the next size down is a 75, and I just don’t think it will be long enough front to back. Plus they are currently out of stock. So what do you guys think? Too long, or does it fit okay?
Miles Trot Sept 2013

Back to Basics

Now that Miles is officially mine, I wasted no time doing things the way I like to do them. Out went the size 84 fly sheet, the Beval Loose Ring Snaffle, chain lead rope, SmartPaks and Equine Senior grain. I want to get back to basics and start from the ground up; I’d rather add things back into the program (like supplements or a stronger bit) if he needs them, but I don’t want to continue to do things just because that’s how they’ve been done in the past.

My mom came down for a visit this weekend to see the rock in person and visit her new grandpony. We went out to the barn on Saturday, and started off with a short hack in a new bit (just a plain D-Ring Snaffle). Miles went around great in it, I was very happy to note. We are starting to get more of a frame, as well as some decent bend. By the end of the ride he was really moving up and under himself at the trot — it felt great!

Originally I thought that Miles might be just an easy peasy ride for me on the flat, without much challenge. And while he certainly is easy (I have every confidence that just about anyone could get on him and go around) I think he will challenge me to get the best out of him, which I am very happy about. I’m already looking forward to a private flat lesson to get more figured out, and to get some exercises to work on!

I can also already feel how Miles is making me a better rider: telling me when I am being too stiff, when I am looking down and when I am collapsing my core. Again, the more I ride him, the more I’m realizing that he’s going to be such a great fit for me!

Anyways, after our hack we did a spot-bath with some Head and Shoulders. He had a few areas with dandruff/light fungus, but it was too chilly for a full-bath, so I just focused on his face and flanks and showed off how awesome he is about getting his face rinsed (Mom was very impressed!). We took some conformation shots while he was drying for future comparison, as well as some “glamour” shots. You’ll see those later!

Once back in the barn, it was time to try on clothing. When Visa passed, I don’t think I threw a single thing out, so we had all sorts of blankets to try on. I had one stable blanket and one stable sheet, which promptly went into consignment, as I only use turnouts now. I also had a full set of StormShield New Briton blankets (light, medium and heavy) in size 80, all of which didn’t fit. They were close, but just a smidge too big, and the fit was all wrong for my lanky high-withered Appendix. But we did luck out and the size 80 medium Weatherbeeta I had fit just fine — yay for one less blanket purchase!

We also measured Miles’ height and weight: Approx. 16 hh, 490 kg.

On our way home we stopped at the tack store in hopes that we might find some nice blankets on consignment, but the only one there worth anything was a Rambo and I couldn’t justify the $225 (used) for it. I know everyone loves Rambo blankets, but they are just so expensive! So Miles got Stud Muffins and a new lead rope instead.

I ended up ordering blankets off Smartpak: SmartPak Ultimate Turnout Blanket (Light) and SmartPak Deluxe High Neck Turnout Blanket (Heavy). I’ll let you know what I think when those arrive!

Bill of Sale

Meet Miles!

I have a confession to make: I have been keeping a secret. I’ve had a horse on trial since Labor Day… which is why I conveniently left out Monday on my “Labor Day Weekend at the Barn” post. After my last trial ended on a bit of a bad note, I decided to keep this one quieter. So I’m sorry I left you out of the loop — but don’t feel too bad, because I left everyone out of the loop. Except my mom, because she has spidey sense and called me out on it.

But today, I’m finally letting you in on the secret because after 514 days, I am officially a horse owner again! And is my pleasure to finally introduce:

Milestone “Miles”
2006 Appendix Quarter Horse Gelding

The History

Miles’ history is a bit of an unknown. At some point, he was some sort of a rescue case and landed at a big hunter/jumper barn in the area. He was sold to his current owners as a Thoroughbred, but he has no tattoo and doesn’t totally look like a Thoroughbred and definitely doesn’t act like one. His old trainer, my trainer and my vet all agree that it’s unlikely he’s 100 percent Thoroughbred… and our best guess is Appendix, so that’s what I’m going with. He is, unfortunately, not able to be registered with AQHA. Miles’ age is also technically unknown, but my vet confirmed that he is about seven.

I first saw Miles in June at a horse show I attended, where he showed in the 2’6″ Intermediate Children’s Hunters and Equitation classes. I actually even tried him back then too. But I was adamant about having a trial period at my barn, and we couldn’t come to an agreement about that, so I passed… especially since he was out of my price range. But, after Trial Horse went home, my trainer got a call that he was still available, that his price had been reduced and that the owners were willing to do a trial!

The Trial

We picked Miles up on Monday and promptly had a lesson. We jumped bigger than I’ve jumped in months (I estimate some 2’3″ oxers!) and he was perfect. We got lead changes both ways, walked outside the ring and down the path in between all the empty paddocks. We even went up to the scary grass arena right next to the road and he didn’t spook once!

Throughout the week I had good flat rides, and he passed all of the mundane day-to-day tests like wash racks, grooming, etc. I had another lesson on Thursday, which I briefly mentioned in my Engagement(!!) post where I was an idiot and crashed through a jump and fell off. But Miles was a champ, and I got back on and jumped the same line and he didn’t even think twice about it!
We also had the vet check, and everything was pretty good. Miles is a little underweight, and we worried a bit about why. He’s a young horse, who has been receiving great care at his previous farm. We checked his blood work, as well as did a fecal, but all came back normal. So my vet began to worry more about a slight heart murmur she had heard, and recommended that I get an echo-cardiogram… which of course can’t be done on-site. After working out all the logistics, we were able to transport him to the Equine Hospital for the test.
And in true Miles fashion, he was fabulous. Stood around for over an hour while more than 25 vets and vet students (no joke) poked and proded his rib cage with stethoscopes and the ultrasound stick. And Miles just stood there… and eventually feel asleep — no sedation needed here! Luckily the results came back totally normal, with no lesions at all and he got the all clear to be a fabulous 2’6″ hunter horse!