Friday, January 8, 2021

Riding the Baby Racehorse

The switch from Gem to Eeyore was pretty smooth in a lot of ways. They are built very similar being table backed, wide and down hill. They are both forward thinking, sensitive horses and both have opinions about all the things. Eeyore is much braver than Gem. He has yet to spook at anything. He is also naughtier in that he will buck whereas Gem has never, ever offered to buck, bite, kick or rear. All in all though, the change felt comfortable and learning Eeyore wasn't a massive shift. 

Hamilton though is completely different than anything I've ever sat on. The most obvious is that he is pretty much a blank slate and has zero buttons installed. He has a lot of awesome traits installed already such as absolutely impeccable ground manners, but when it comes to being under saddle he really is clueless as to what I'm asking from him. 

But other than the obvious lack of training, there are other things that became immediately evident once my butt hit the saddle. For starters, he is huge but also incredibly narrow. Like I felt like my knees were touching while I sat there. Eeyore is comfortably wide - it is like sitting on a couch with a lot of real estate to catch me if I get a little wonky. Hamilton feels more like being on a balance beam 8 feet in the air. I will say though that my leg tends to naturally fall nicer on Hamilton. I think eventually I will get used to it and find my balance point which can only benefit me in the long run. 

It is a small picture, but I am grinning from ear to ear. And like...at least one of us is looking where we are going.


His movement is also very different. His long legs translate to a naturally longer stride. While he isn't in a rush to go anywhere, the fact that he covers 1.5x the ground with every stride than Eeyore does makes it seem like he is flying even when we aren't going anywhere at all. I can only imagine what he will feel like when we unlock his giant body and get him moving openly and freely. 

Along those lines, he is also less earthbound than my prior two mounts. Both Gem and Eeyore have a hard time defying gravity and naturally pull with the front versus push with the hind. Hamilton was born more uphill with a natural loft to his gaits. The first time I trotted him I asked Dusty if he was lame. It felt so different than anything I've experienced to date. He just....boings. 



Brain wise Hamilton is everything I was looking for. Gem was always a mental ride more than a physical one and Eeyore isn't a whole lot better. Eeyore comes out with a plan already in place and when I waver from it we have issues. Or when life gets a little hard. Or when he thinks we should be done but we aren't. It is a constant struggle to keep him mentally engaged in the task and not plotting and planning something that I will more than likely not enjoy. 

Hamilton, on the other hand, shows no inclination to have an opinion about much at all. He is very drawn to the in gate but beyond that he really just does what is asked or at least his version of what is being asked. No temper tantrums. No debates. No issues. Sure he knows next to nothing and gives the wrong answer more than the right but it is only because he doesn't know the right answer. Once he figures it out, he makes sure to give me what I want. I'm sure there will be rough days and frustrations, he is an animal with his own brain, but he is an inherently easy going dude. 

First time with ground poles? No problem!

His biggest flaw at the moment is a lack of a go button. He'd rather stroll and stop to smell the roses, which to be frank is perfectly fine by me. I really have no interest in yet another zooming monster. My electric butt will likely change this, but I am working really, really, really hard at staying soft and relaxed to avoid teaching him bad habits. 

Having two completely different beasts to ride is going to be very challenging in a great way. I'm looking forward to continuing to plug away at Eeyore while getting a bit of a break when I ride Hamilton. Its a different type of learning curve with him and one I am really excited to partake. 

First Hamilton selfie


Monday, January 4, 2021

Back in the Saddle

Sunday was the type of day that reminds me why I moved south after all. The sun was shining after what seemed like endless rain, the breeze was blowing lightly and it was nearly 60F.  Technically, I haven't been cleared to ride yet. That was supposed to happen at my 6 week post op appointment but that appointment got pushed back almost two weeks due to the holidays so Sunday was nearly 7 weeks and well...I felt REALLY good and wanted to take advantage of the daylight and dry skies. 

First, I rode the Land Whale. Now he had every right to be a total twit about things. He has been living the semi feral life for three months and well...I've written about him enough for you all to know his OPINIONS about things. But really? He was amazing. He came ready to have fun and since my new approach with him is purely to have fun, things worked out really well. All I had to do was see things from his point of view.


Vacation didn't do his waist line any favors


That doesn't mean we didn't work on things. We still worked on the circle, making sure he was in front of my leg and bending softly however I'm not drilling it and I'm sneaking it in in between fun things like jumping two verticals I set up on a 'V' pattern in the center of the arena. We both stayed relaxed and soft and while he still tried to rush things, then lag behind then rush again he also didn't throw any tantrums, so it was a nice return to work. 

Then I hopped on Hamilton for my first time. He also hasn't had much done with him in the last few months and in true Hamilton style he was a Good Boy about all the things. He stood patiently to be brushed, he girthed up without trying to eat me, he accepted the bit and stood patiently while I fumbled with the straps. 


Introducing Hamilton to water.


I need to write a post about the differences between my chestnut boys because really they are night and day. 

My time spent with Hamilton was mostly me learning how on earth to ride this new beast. Everything felt foreign to me. My main goal was to remain relaxed and soft with him and allow him to make his mistakes without punishment, instead focusing on rewarding the right answers. We only did walk and trot with one tiny canter attempt, but his movement is so big that I sorta freaked a bit and decided to wait until a lesson to canter him too much. Or at least until the arena wasn't half under water. 

It was a great way to spend the morning and the perfect first rides back for all three of us. I really can't wait to see where the three of us end up. I have an all new outlook on the horses and my riding and I think its going to pay off big time. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

How Hamilton Joined Our Herd


By special request here is the story of how Hamilton came to take a 17 hour long trailer ride to join our family. It’s a bit long winded and starts long before I got him. 

Eeyore came out of rehab over the summer in the best spot I’d ever had him. All the long boring walk and trot work had mellowed him out and I was super excited to ride this newer, less anxious version of him. Then we added the canter back in and he returned to his anticipatory “all I want to do is canter!” self though to a lesser extent for sure. 


Back in action and back to his difficult self 


Mix in my own issues dealing with complete loss of motivation, vacillating wildly between tears and anger, and a back that felt like my pelvis was breaking any time I tried to sit and I wasn’t riding very often or very well. Things came to a head when I took a lesson I barely dragged myself to and then promptly got lawn darted into the dirt. I laid there and cried, not something I’m prone to do and not something I’d ever done in the dozens of unplanned dismounts with Gemmie, and then got back to half heartedly finish the last lesson I took in 2020.

I knew on a logical level it wasn’t Eeyore’s fault. But I also knew that Eeyore was a much different horse when ridden frequently which was something I wasn’t capable of at the time and that in my current state I needed something inherently calmer, less opinionated and more smelling the roses in nature. 
Does better in consistent work. This was taken at the trailer before the lesson he threw me



Thus the seed was planted. 

About a month later a local friend texted me in excitement that she saw a lifelong dream of hers come true: she had gotten two OTTB mares - one for her 9 year old daughter and one for herself. I invited them over to use my arena and we all rode together. Her mare had been off the track for a few years with some re training but had sat in the seller’s pasture for a long time. The daughter’s mare was 4 and fresh off the track. 

Take a wild guess who’s horse was the absolutely worst behaved of the three?

Did you guess Eeyore? You’d be right. 

I worked him through it but it was no fun whatsoever and I spent the majority eyeing their well behaved mares with an envious eye. Were they foot perfect and highly trained? No. But they also weren’t throwing temper tantrums, flinging their head around or trying to bolt off to Neverland. A good brain and a solid work ethic goes a long long way and I was sitting on the losing horse that day. 

Still love him


Thus the seed was watered. 

Then another month went by and an acquaintance of mine asked if she could shadow me at my office. She is an amazing rider with advanced dreams and we spent the time between patients chatting. Turned out she was horse shopping. I was a bit surprised since her current horse was a seeming rock star and I knew had cost over 35k. How could a horse that well bred and that expensive not be perfect? 

Turns out that while he was bred with two Grand Prix jumpers as parents, he hated jumping. He’d do it and rocked at the lower levels but had no interest. He loved dressage so he was off to a dressage home. As we spoke she told me about her first horse who she had on trial for a month and was a saint. He lived with her and all was well. She then paid for him and a few months later he started rearing and was retired a few months later. 

I go into this detail because at the time I was very die hard “I bought the horse he must be perfect and work out”. Even when he wasn’t. Now here was someone much younger than me who I looked up to riding wise and she had two horses that failed to be what she needed/wanted. One lived with her for a month before purchase and the other cost more than my car and was purpose bred to the hilt. Turns out horses can just plain suck no matter what. 

Thus the seed was fertilized. 

A few weeks later I was suffering from severe anxiety that wouldn’t allow me to sleep. I went a week with no more than a couple hours a night and my skin was crawling. I stayed up late scrolling Facebook and saw an ad for a lovely, skinny chestnut OTTB who needed a home ASAP or off to the kill pen he’d go. 

Looking a lot better than when he showed up at dawn. I took this about 4-6 weeks after he landed with us. 

Now typically I’m no sucker for these ads and scroll right on by but something about his super kind eye caught my attention. He was described as a horse in no hurry to go anywhere, unflappable and kind. I messaged the seller, got his jockey name and more info and next thing I knew he was paid for and shipping arranged. 

He showed up way skinnier than I thought. Think emaciated and go even skinnier. But his eye was kind and nothing fazed him: not the dogs, the wild kiddo, the quad etc....

Hamilton has continued to remain that same guy too. He may be running a bit wild in the pasture but the moment you approach he stands still and walks calmly alongside you. He has been led everywhere all over the farm with never a hoof put wrong. He is the opposite of Eeyore who even in hand throws tantrums and will pop up if he doesn’t want to do something. 

He looks sharp in hunter green and fits in Eeyore’s bridle 

Hamilton is the exact thing I wanted. Needed I suppose. A clam horse with a willing attitude that goes along with the plan no matter what else is going down. We’ve played with him over poles in hand and Dusty has ridden him in the arena. He is an all around easy going guy who while not particularly enthusiastic about much beyond naps, is so much fun to be around because it is never work. It’s simple and easy and fun. 

All the things Eeyore is not and things that I need to continue in this insane hobby. 

Thus the seed has sprouted. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Blog Hop: 2020

 I’m still kicking and to be honest I feel better than I’ve felt, both mentally and physically, in close to a decade. I’m writing this on my phone which by now everyone in blogland knows sucks so hang with me as I try to type this out. This blog hop is amazing and the perfect way to sum up 2020 so I’m hopping on board. Thanks Alberta Equest for this  

What’s the best thing that happened to you in 2020?

Personally: 

My hysterectomy hands down. I’m not sure why it got so bad over the summer after I recovered from COVID but by the start of fall I couldn’t stand upright fully due to the pain. My period never stopped even on hormones. I stopped riding early fall when all I could stand was two point and Eeyore bucked me into the dirt clearly declaring that my ineptitude wasn’t going to be tolerated.

Starting drum lessons, a life long dream, has been pretty awesome too


I had surgery middle of November and I couldn’t be happier. I have no pain. My emotional state has returned to normal and all my hormone induced depression is gone. I haven’t been cleared to ride yet but for the first time in a long time I’m itching to get back in the saddle. And...tmi....but for the first time in 8 years sex doesn’t hurt. I think I’m tiring the hubby out. 

Horsey: 

This one is harder because I accomplished exactly nothing horse related all year. I think maybe the best part is everyone is currently sound, healthy and happy. Eeyore is back to moving as good as his body probably can move, Pete is 32 and acting like a 5 year old, Gem is fat and happy and Hamilton has gained a lot weight and looks really good for not being in any work. 

What's the worst thing that happened to you in 2020?

Personally: 

My health took a complete nose dive this year. It started with getting COVID in June and ended with my hysterectomy. All summer and fall I had terrible depression, my marriage was falling apart because of it and I was really really low. Thankfully I found the cause and fixed it but damn it was scary as hell going through. 

Horsey: 

Eeyore had just as bad of a 2020 as I did health wise. His started after a mild colic episode that led to the discovery of his grade 3 heart murmur. It was horrid timing as I had just had the best XC schooling of my life at Windridge and was prepping to run starter there shortly after. Trainer was even talking moving up to BN by fall. After we had the echo and were cleared or full exercise he got cellulitis from a spider bite front left and a week later tore his front right annular ligament putting him out until October. 

Keeping this Goober sound is a full time job


What was your biggest purchase in 2020?

Personally: 

Hmm.....I mean the scope to diagnose the problem and then the hysterectomy to solve it cost me over 3k so I guess that. Business wise I purchased a digital X-ray machine that I’ve been needing for 7 years. Fun stuff wise nothing at all.

Horsey: 

It’s a toss up between the new to me 3 horse trailer (which we haven’t gotten to use yet) and Hamilton. Hamilton cost considerably less upfront but we all know the horse is the cheapest part. 



What was your biggest accomplishment in 2020?

Personally:

Surviving. Also I lost a bunch of weight and am down to my high school weight which makes me happy  

Feeling good in your own skin is a great feeling. 


Horsey:

Maybe getting Eeyore through his rehab without incident. If missing a month of work due to COVID had a silver lining it was that I was home and had plenty of time to fit those 5 rides in every week. I’ve never been more than a 2-3 rides a week person so I’m not sure I’d have been able to do it had I been working.

What do you feel covid robbed you of in 2020?

Personally:

My sanity. Between the stress of watching my business go negative week after week and still needing to keep my employees paid, dealing with Wyatt’s change to virtual school and my own health issues it was really hard.

Horsey:

Nothing really. Injury robbed us of the progress we had made and the potential move up to BN but COVID had nothing to do with it.

He came out of rehab looking Schmexy. Hoping to get him back here by spring


Were you subject to any covid impulse buys in 2020?

Personally:

No. I’m frugal at heart and a saver. I love having a nest egg. 

Horsey:

I did buy a new horse and a larger horse trailer for family outings but neither had anything to do with COVID.

Unexpected silver linings in 2020?

Personally:

Even with all the crap I’m sorta glad I went through it. There were so many symptoms I had for years that I just thought were normal. Like did you know you aren’t supposed to have uterine contractions every time you pee? Or gaining two whole pants sizes right before to period isn’t normal? I’m really looking forward to feeling good again.

On a business note, I couldn’t take the time off after the hysterectomy they wanted me to. Not after having missed so much for COVID. So instead I took half days and folks....wow. I felt like a human again even while recovering from major surgery. It turns out that being doc, boss, mom and teacher was slowly killing me. Effective March I’m only working until 2pm so I can get Wyatt from school and go home. I’ll be able to run, ride, do his homework and cook a real dinner. I can’t freaking wait.

Horsey:

Hamilton. I really wasn’t in the market for another horse but holy crap folks is Hamilton perfection. Dusty hopped on and rode him after not riding in 8 years and Hamilton not being ridden since his last race in July and he was amazing. He is going to be a really fun horse once he gets into work. I can’t wait to see where life takes this baby racehorse and I’m thrilled I took the chance and got him.


Monday, November 9, 2020

Watch Out!!! Wild, Crazy, Baby Race Horse Coming Through!!!

Hamilton's feet have adjusted to the barefoot lifestyle enough that easy work on soft ground is now acceptable to him. When he first came to us he was tip toeing around in the pasture and if he saw a rocky spot (mostly by the pasture gates) he would get the most forlorn look on his face before creeping ever so slowly through it. Nowadays he canters up to the gate at meal time and while he still tenderly walks across the gravel areas, he is growing in confidence. He is even walking normally on the cement aisleway.

Given this, I figured it was time to play with him a little bit. Dusty in particular wanted to introduce him to some ground poles and low jumps to see where his brain is at. We both are figuring that it would be nice to introduce some of these things on the ground first rather than from on his back plus I am having my hysterectomy next Monday so will be out of the saddle until 2021 so playing on the ground is where it will be at for a while. 

We started with some ground poles and trotted him through. Or well tried to..... Hamilton isn't in much of a rush to get anywhere.


After a few times through that, we added a small vertical



Eventually we worked up to a vertical to a cross rail



And then the poles to the jumps


As you can see he really wasn't very excited about the whole thing. As far as I know he has never seen nor gone over any poles in his life yet he just nonchalantly went over everything we asked without a fuss. 

What I adored seeing was that after he went over something new he would lick and chew and you could see him thinking about what he just did. It didn't always translate to a better effort the next time but he was thinking about it and I really, really liked that. 

I also really liked the fact that he never got flustered, never rushed and never spooked or got nervous. That may change once I am on his back but so far he has given me no signals that he will be anything but awesome to ride. 


Thursday, October 29, 2020

A Rare Product Review: Sport Horse Essentials Hoof Oil

When you never buy things it is hard to write any reviews of products on the blog. Plus, I don't know about you but I get real tired of reading all these fake positive reviews people post just so they can get more free samples. This product was something I bought myself, the company has no idea I even exist and I am getting nothing for writing this. Take that for what it is worth. 

Eeyore has crap feet. Which is ironic since back in 2018 I was all "I'm not going to look at OTTBs because their feet suck" Ha..hahahahaha....Hamilton has amazing feet. Ahem...moving on. Eeyore has crap feet. They flake, they crack, they lose shoes, he over reaches and pulls shoes if we don't trim him a very specific way, the shoes have to pinch in at the heel or else he pulls them, he has thin soles and ouchy feet without front pads and well....he has crap feet. He gets a reset of his custom made steel shoes and leather pads every 5 weeks and still his feet are crap.

Back during the start of his rehab I thought maybe throwing more money at him may make a difference. I saw an ad on either FB or Instagram (can't remember which) for Sport Horse Essentials Hoof Oil and thought "why not?" I had already tried numerous other concoctions over the years including keratex, wonderhoof and other assortments with absolutely no difference, but this wasn't super expensive so again...why not?

The blue bottle behind it is their fungus spray which I can't recommend because it has done nothing for my guys


Of course then his entire life style changed to stall rest in a dry fluffy stall, a hay based (instead of grass based) diet, he went back into leather pads up front and no hard impact exercise. I applied the hoof oil daily for the first month and then dropped down to the days I rode which was a 2 on 2 off schedule throughout the summer. The first time the farrier came after I started use, he remarked that Eeyore's feet looked the best they ever had and he may actually grow a decent hoof through this ordeal.

But you know...too many variables had changed for me to know which one made the biggest difference for him.

Eventually Eeyore was released back outside and we re introduced the canter and then small jumps again. I continued to use the oil 3-4 times a week and the farrier kept remarking how great his feet were doing. 

Then I stopped using it. My personal and professional belief is that you can't give an honest, unbiased assessment of a new supplement while using it. You want it to work, so you convince yourself it is. When patients ask me about xyz supplement I instruct them to take it for at least 60 days and then stop for 30 days. At the end of the 30 days take stock of how they feel. It is easier to know when off it if you feel worse than when on it, in my opinion. So...I stopped using the hoof oil for an entire 5 week cycle. 

He still had pads, he was outside 24/7, he was being ridden fully including small jumps. The only thing that changed was the discontinuation of the hoof oil. 

Farrier was out yesterday and texted me that Eeyore's feet are beginning to flake and crack again and the hoof wall isn't as strong. He asked what changed in the last 5 weeks. 

I am now back to using it 3-4 times a week and have started using it on Hamilton too as we transition him to a hopeful barefoot life (farrier thinks we have a good shot at barefoot for Hamilton). 

The hoof oil is super easy to use, takes no time at all to dry and well...my horse seems to do well with it. Since he has pads I only apply it to the outside hoof wall on his fronts, but I do apply it to the sole of his hinds. If you are in the market for a topical hoof supplement, I encourage you to check this one out. It has been the only thing that has made a visible difference in all the lotions, potions and feed throughs I have tried over the last 2 years and has earned a permanent spot in my grooming cabinet of curiosities.