Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thank you Amanda and Tristan!!

Phew what a whirlwind holiday weekend! Does anyone else feel completely out of sorts? Lol maybe it's just me... but anyway I took this week off to recuperate and will hopefully be able to find time to catch up on everyone's posts since I'm abysmally behind on pretty much everything (including a number of my own updates to share...).

But for today I'm talking about the awesome super sweet and super practical (my favorite two things!) blogger exchange gifts from Amanda and Tristan at Bel Joeor!!!!!

such pretty wrapping!
The gifts got slightly held up in the mail bc I'm an idiot and gave Tracy the wrong zip code (something I'm embarrassed to admit happens somewhat frequently...), but they're here now and sooooo awesome! Complete with the sweetest card, and even sweeter MAPLE CANDY!!!!

omg so delicious. these miiiiiiiight already be gone haha
Which obviously had to be sampled immediately (and then again, and then again. lol). Amanda also included a super convenient travel size tin of Bag Balm, infinitely useful for the grooming and show kit. Can't wait to bust this out on both myself (does anyone else's nose get stupid chapped in the winter?!?) and the mare!

tried and true bag balm
Plus do you see that HUGE tin of peppermints?!? Haha, yea, so did Isabel and she may or may not have gone a little nuts about it lol. We'll see how long it lasts before she's plowed through the whole thing.

exactly our color too!!
And finally, these awesome blue essentials - the fuzzy mitt and sponge brush, both additions to my arsenal that might help Isabel decide that maybe that whole bathing thing isn't so bad after all! Plus a blue lead rope bc you can never have too many, especially when they match our XC colors!!

isabel says "Thank you!!"
(and Chesney is hopeful that he'll get some peppermints too haha)
Thanks so much Amanda for these awesome, generous and thoughtful gifts - I plan to get a lot of use out of all of it!! And the ponies are equally grateful! Thanks also to Tracy for hosting the gift exchange - it's been a pleasure participating!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015: The Year That Was

'Tis the season for retrospectives, and I've really enjoyed reading everyone's recaps and summaries of what 2015 brought.

So I'm sharing my own version too, with all our many experiences synthesized into brief bullet points, with pictures summarizing each month. Enjoy!


original wintec top left; various crushed hopes and dreams top right, and bottom row

  • We continued schooling at indoors, making FV our weekly destination of choice. This coincided with me getting serious about challenging my jump height comfort zone.
  • I bought a saddle!! And proceeded to jump 3' for the first time ever in it :)
  • We started playing the game of ever-postponed dressage shows, and actually never made it to a single one...

not 3', but still pushing our comfort level


do we look like hunters?!?


left to right: quarantine....; practically the same thing as horse showing anyway; xc with Peanut!!


clockwise from top left: jump judging prelim @ MCTA; xc schooling @ Tranquility; BN @ MDHT Spring Starter #3; and BBN @ MCTA Jenny camp


clockwise from top left: Waredaca stadium; xc schooling @ tranquility; lattice gate!!; after dressage @ Tranquility; boooo Bates; dressage @ Fair Hill


pictured: mare flies like nbd

  • I had the pleasure of spending time with Austen and Alli at a David O'Connor clinic at Waredaca
  • We put our xc pedal to the metal - first schooling at OF with trainer P, then with Dan at AOPF, all with novice twinkling on the horizon. I tested the move-up waters with a 3' jumper round at Tranquility. We had a rail, but our confidence and execution were exactly what I hoped. 
  • Izzy saw her favorite chiro/acupuncturist again and we were poised for an incredibly fun return to eventing by romping around BN at our home-away-from-home turf OF's starter trials. This was easily our strongest xc outing yet, and we had zero jumping penalties to finish 2nd on our dressage score.
  • Then Novice at Olde Hope! The jumping was actually not very strong, with the mare stuck behind my leg and tentative about the increased technicality on xc (up and down banks, ditch, big jump immediately preceding a drop into water...), but a solid dressage test helped us cling to victory. 

clockwise from top left: meeting Austen and Alli at the DOC clinic; dressage lesson w/C @ TM; 3' jumper class @ Tranquility; xc school w/Dan @ AOPF; OF Starter HT; winning Novice @ Olde Hope


these two should need no introduction by now <3


clockwise from top left: Milagro; Bali's blue ribbon; me and Alli and Max at Fair Hill; Isabel proving she can clear a novice stadium jump when I give her the chance at Loch Moy


if you're fancy and you know it, shake your head!


perhaps a favorite picture from the year (even if the reason behind it still makes me sad)

So. There ya have it: 2015 in all it's glory. As always, thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment! I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for us :)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

new footing!! (and a new-ish arena)

Santa came early to our farm this year, with a big gift that will potentially have a huge impact on how our facilities fare through the winter.

Not sure I've mentioned this before, but our farm is a nonprofit organization. Meaning we operate a bit differently from the farms I've worked and ridden at before. There are pros and cons, but one major pro is our ability to accept donations. In this particular instance, we accepted a gift from a footing company looking to get a double whammy of freeing up space and also getting a year-end tax write off. And the gift? LOADS of high-tech footing.

view from inside the 'new' arena
Over the summer, the farm converted a corner of an upper paddock into an arena that is very close in size to a regulation small dressage court (20x40m), but maybe a hair narrow. The majority of the new footing went into this arena.

arena corner between H and C
We are hoping that this arena, independent of the footing, will handle winter better. It gets direct sun through more hours of the day than our lower arena, which is bounded on three sides by tall trees, and on the fourth by a hill. Plus this upper arena should theoretically have better drainage, just by the physical properties of being on higher ground.

So perhaps it won't freeze as often or as deeply as the lower arena, which becomes unusable for up to three months out of the year.

magnified view of the materials
The new footing itself is interesting too. I don't know the specifics, but there are a variety of materials included in it. Some of it appears to be coarse black rubber, and astroturf is involved - likely those green fibers. There's probably sand too, either natural or synthetic.

pretty darn close to actual-size photograph
It's also a pretty dark color, which will hopefully help it absorb more warmth from the sun and thaw more easily.

corner between A and K
Right now it's a tad deep in the new arena, especially at the ends. Bali particularly dislikes the deep stuff too, poor long suffering baby that he is... But I think they're gonna roll with it for a little while and see how it settles with some grooming and maintenance (and use, lots of use haha).

piles in the regular larger arena
The company dropped a couple loads off in our main arena too, tho as of the time I took these photos it hadn't been mixed in yet. 

'wat r dis?' - isabel
And honestly I'm not thoroughly convinced that there's actually enough. We'll see if they bring any more, I guess. Or, if it ends up not settling in as much as anticipated in the upper arena, we'll transfer some down to this ring?

It's pretty cool stuff tho, even if it's kinda in the way right now lol.

I'm pretty excited at the possibility of being able to ride more seriously at home through the winter, since readers may recall that last winter we ended up hauling out 2-3x a week just to school. I'm not sure a couple piles of dark footing will resolve all the lower arena's freezing problems (it literally turns to concrete) but perhaps it'll help a little bit?

The new upper arena is super tiny, especially when you start packing in lesson students with questionable steering. And it actually doesn't have any lighting currently anyway, so it won't help much in evenings unless that changes... But whatever. I'm still considering it an awesome Christmas present and am hopeful that we'll make good use of it!

Friday, December 25, 2015

merry christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone! My gift to you today are these magnificent gifs of cats dressed up and wrapped for the holidays. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

santa hat shenanigans !!!

'Tis the season for subjecting our creatures to ornamentation and decoration for our own personal glee and photo albums. Muahaha.

tolerant and FESTIVE pony! (an OF lesson pony, maybe Nikki? could be wrong about that tho)

Isabel does... not love getting dressed up. Haha. Hahaha.

"bah humbug" - isabel the grinch
Particularly, she strongly dislikes wearing hats.

oh no, it's going!!
You can't say I didn't try tho! Poor princess and the nonsense she stoically tolerates lol...

..... and gone....
Bali, however, has proven much more compliant with my ridiculous shenanigans. 

christmas cheer?
And obviously I can rationalize my childlike behavior by saying it's all part and parcel of turning him into a broke kid-friendly horse.

cheerful green! just, ya know, ignore that it's the wrong shape, and that it has someone else's embroidery on it lol
He got fully dressed up in another of my new-to-me saddle pads too. This time in a pleasant green with taupe binding and white piping. Never mind that it's got embroidery on both sides that definitely doesn't come close to matching with my own initials, or my horse's show name.

Alas, my leg doesn't bend enough for the stirrup length most comfortable for my jump saddle, so I've been riding exclusively in my dressage tack. And this is obviously not a dressage pad. Whatever. It's the right color and that's all that matters!

infinitely patient pony is infinitely patient
And I'm pretty sure Bali would have stood around all day wearing that thing. In fact I was thisclose to leaving the hat on him for our trail ride too, but would have been devastated if he shook it off in the middle of the woods bc there's no way in hell that I'm fit for getting on and off on random logs with a 5yr old OTTB (even tho technically he's easier to get on than Isabel...).

adorable, right?
So we just settled for some pictures instead.

the ear fuzz gets me every time
I think my favorite thing about Bali might be that he snuggles and cuddles. What a sweetie. Santa, if you're reading this - all I want for Christmas is.... well, a few things lol ;)

Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

an end (?) to the scratches

While our treatment phase will remain ongoing for a while longer, I'm starting to believe Isabel is actually already cleared of the nasty fungus (or whatever it was, we never got a formal diagnosis) that has ruled her RH leg since August.

lens flare can make anything look better, right?
The leg would improve, then blow up with a fresh outbreak, like clockwork, for weeks on end. I initially treated with BM's homemade Desitin mixture, then switched to MTG when things looked under control and we were in the scab softening and removal phase. When it blew back up again I switched to Derm-X, a product that successfully treated a similar outbreak on Kaitlyn's mare Tillie.

surprisingly hard to photograph, but you get the idea
Things got serious after I broke my leg, when Isabel suddenly went untreated for over a week and the leg blew up to cellulitis-size (thankfully she didn't actually have cellulitis) and she was painful and sensitive up to the stifle (tho never lame on it).

horse may appear darker than she is
At that point, BM took over treatment, starting with a homemade tea tree oil and honey mixture. I would have preferred to stick with the medical grade Derm-X... but was satisfied knowing Isabel was getting daily attention in my absence. And figured they'd learn quickly whether tea tree oil was sufficient for scratches that had been established for over two months.

Because naturally (lol puns), it wasn't sufficient. So we opted to call the vet, who pulled out the big guns and put Izzy on 2wks of Doxy and provided a prescription-strength topical nystatin-neomycin sulfate-thiostrepton-triamcinolone acetonide ointment (try saying that 5 times fast).

our weapon of choice
This has proved effective, and the vet dropped off a second bottle after the first was finished, recommending that we go through the entire second bottle too just to be sure. So our current daily treatment plan is: 1) scrub with a betadine dilution, 2) dry leg, 3) apply prescription topical ointment, and 4) leave mare in for 45min to an hour for it to fully dry.

sunshine nap attack
And now that I'm back on my feet again I've resumed responsibility for treating the leg. Which is obviously much easier now that it isn't painful for the horse any more, so she stands quietly. The leg itself looks fantastic - hasn't blown up in a couple weeks and the hair is filling in quickly. Fingers crossed that's the last of it!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bali: inside and out (of the ring)

This past weekend brought a LOT of time with Bali. I've ridden Isabel a couple times since graduating from the walking boot to a brace... but quite frankly I haven't felt a huge rush to get her going again. My few rides proved that she's still GOT IT, but that I most definitely do not.

I'm also not cleared for full capacity yet, and am not really pushing myself or riding super long. So the circumstances aren't ideal for truly legging her up again - instead it kinda just looks like muddling around (but yet I still have all these high expectations of her, so I become unhappy with the muddling). Rather than end up picking fights with her, I'm leaving her more or less in vacation-mode while I get *myself* back in shape with Bali.

not exactly the beautiful silhouette shot i was going for, bali. lol
I see the advantages here as two-fold: 1 - Bali's already more or less in shape and ready to go, but is way less schooled than Isabel. So a 20min ride of just pushing all the buttons has a highly positive impact on him in a way it does not on Izzy.

And 2 - I'm feeling pessimistic about Bali's job security, like he might be on borrowed time, and am therefore motivated to put as much work into him as possible to give him the best chances of either staying with us, or landing softly into a new home.

but work is sooo hard :(
So anyway, Bali and I have been getting a lot of ring time together. Including a couple schools last week, when he was fabulous on Monday (as written about here) and maybe sliiiiiiiightly more quarrelsome on Friday. Nothing terrible, but he needed more correction than he had on Monday.

I had planned to ride him Thursday too, but his lease rider was there, a better solution anyway, and I got to watch them go for a little bit and share some hints that work for me. She's doing a really nice job with him, particularly in getting him going forward off her leg. The next steps for her will be to expect more from him, particularly with regard to inside bend.

so relaxed and quiet out of the ring
Then when I arrived on Saturday morning, I learned that he had just been a total turd in a lesson with an advanced young rider who used to lease him. Complete with kicking out and bucking. Not cool, bro. Tho it was a windy cold day and actually another horse in the arena was misbehaving way worse, so at least he wasn't #1 on the shit list haha.

tentative but happy
And actually it was kinda funny - when the barn moms (we have pretty much the coolest barn moms ever, btw) saw me going to bring him in not very long after he had been turned out they very strongly recommended against me riding him bc he had been so bad. Lol.

Meanwhile I'm thinking - "These are exactly the circumstances in which I want to ride him, when he's being naughty and I can correct it." It also told me something important in how I've been approaching his schooling. Bali never gets as far into his histrionics with me as he does with the students bc I feel it happening sooner and can correct it early.

homeward bound!
My corrections also tend to be scaled to the level of his disobedience. Meaning, in most cases, they're not very strong corrections bc he never gets very far. The idea here is to not dwell, to not make a big deal out of anything, and to not distract from the fact that I'm asking for something and would like him to get to it promptly, thankyouverymuch.

But now I'm thinking this is actually doing him a disservice in the long run. My new idea is to scale my correction to the naughty-level that he would reach with a student who might not feel the early stages of his tantrum. So that I can shut down that tantrum in a BIGGER way - and make it abundantly clear that even that brief moment of sucking back and saying 'no' is not acceptable.

wick and bali #bffs4eva
And theoretically, he'll stop even going there. Maybe. Hopefully. Idk. Anyway, that ride went perfectly fine. I shut him down a couple times for lesser offenses than I would have even the night before, and he acquiesced nicely. The biggest tool in preventing his shenanigans in the first place is inside bend (even if it's not as correct through his body as it should be).

So we focused a lot on that, with many changes of direction and serpentines. He had some straight up LOVELY moments at trot where he actually connected on the bit for a few steps and yielded his shoulders when I asked. Good boy. We finished with a quick solo trail ride around the fence lines and through the jump trail (where I trotted one of the tinier jumps bc how can you resist?).

bali is soooo much slower than wick, who is himself so much slower than isabel haha
Sunday brought more of the same. A quick school in the arena focusing on the same ideas. I think I swatted him with the dressage whip once, maybe, but really he was quite good. We worked again on figures with as correct of a bend as I can get from him. Circles, changes of rein on the diagonal and through half turns, and also lots of simple changes of lead, again and again and again.

Bali was very good - he's definitely trying hard, and appreciates leadership and having a clear understanding of what behavior is rewarded. Plus he's such a physical ride, in that he responds really well to my thigh and knee and core that it's really forcing me to be as correct as possible myself, and therefore get into shape faster.

over hill and dale (and electrical field lol)
Then Brita and I hit the trails. And it was LOVELY. A beautiful sunny day, the most mildest of breezes, with two happy friendly OTTBs putzing along through the woods. Bali is sooooo quiet on the trails. It's such a change from Isabel's lively and electric marching pace haha. Usually Izzy and I are miles ahead of everyone else, but Bali prefers to lag behind.

We tried to put him in front a couple times but he wasn't very happy there - way more tentative and wanting to nap back and get Wick in front of him again. Eh, that's an issue I might press at a later date, but for this ride I just wanted him happy.

And he was so good. Up and down hills, through all the streams (from which he drank deeply each time, good boy), out through the open fields... and even over all the jumps on the jump trail bc jumping in the woods on a 5yr old in a dressage saddle with a recovering broken leg is highly advisable lol.

the woods are so pretty in winter!
If nothing else, maybe we can find Bali a happy home as a quiet trail horse? Unless one of you out there wants to spot me the cash for his board and keep so I can have him all to myself ;)