"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Friday, November 30, 2012

Q&A

I borrowed this one from Liz over at In Omnia Paratus:

Save or splurge: 
1) saddle: SPLURGE. Maybe not a splurge for a lot of people's standards, but $1500 on a saddle was a lot for me. Sold my dressage & AP, and still had to make up the difference. The saddle, my Ludomar Alta Escuela, was totally worth it, though. :)
2) board: Trick question. Save by South FL standards, average by MD standards for full board. I could have found field board for a lot less, but the care at this barn is incomparable!
3) halter: Save. The cheapest safety halter Smartpak had.
4) bit:  Save. Purchased new on eBay for $20 (referring to the low port pelham I'm currently using).
5) bridle: Save. It's a Plymouth dressage bridle from Smartpak ($50). Though the Spanish mosquero browband I bought for it cost more than the entire bridle...
6) saddle pad: Save. My fave saddle pad, that seems to be the most comfortable for Lily, is a Union Hill $19 AP pad! In navy blue with light blue trim. The thing still looks new after getting washed every other week for the last year. Want more!
7) trailer: None. Save?


First thing that comes to mind: 

1) Haflinger: Big Boy. Owned by a lady at my old FL barn before the previous manager was kicked out. Big Boy's owner was terrified of him. He had become fully aware of his size and strength after excessive pampering and timidity from his owner, and she was completely intimidated by him. I tried helping her out, but after getting dragged around the arena multiple times while trying to lunge him, I threw in the towel before I got hurt - he needed a professional trainer and proper training facilities with a round pen. He was too big (a large Haflinger at 15hh, and overweight-probably 1300 lbs) and way too aware of it. Not the best first impression of this breed.
2) Quarter Horse: Cloud, my old QH gelding. Adored him.
3) Thoroughbred: Jumpers. I rode so many OTTBs during my jumper days!
4) Warmblood: Big, heavy, and dressagey. I'll keep my TB-type horses, thank you!
5) Welsh Cob: Cute large ponies with lots of bone. One of my favorite breeds.


This or That:

1) english or western: English
2) tall or short: Short
3) trail ride or beach ride: Beach ride!
4) long mane or short mane: Depends on the horse and the mane. I'd love a long mane on Lily, but since she barely grows a mane, it's roached. Love this look on her!
5) hunters or jumpers: JUMPERS!
6) XC or barrel racing: XC
7) outdoor arena or indoor arena:  Depends on the weather. If I have to choose only one or the other, the indoor because you can still ride when it's raining.
8) trot or canter: Trot. Lily's canter is not the most comfortable, and it is her weakest gait-I work HARD to keep her going the way I want her to! The trot is much easier and comfortable, in Lily's particular case.
9) canter or gallop: Canter. I think my wild child days are over. I got all the crazy stuff out of my system after jumping 3' to 5' fences for 17 years. We did a lot of galloping back then.

10) paddock boots, tall boots, or cowboy boots: Paddock boots and half chaps. I owned 4 pairs of tall boots total during my time in the jumper arena- the memory of the torture of breaking in tall boots is still very vivid!
11) horse shoes or barefoot: Barefoot
12) saddle or bareback: Saddle


About you: 
1) How long have you been riding? 23 years
2) Do you own or lease a horse? Own
3) Breed? Age? Height? Name? Andalusian/TB cross, 6 years old, 15.1hh, Tiger Lily
4) Do you have any other pets? Cat (Astarte)
5) If your horse was a person, what kind of voice would they have (you can use a celebrity for an example) I don't know why, but I'm thinking Wynona Ryder.
6) Does your horse have a “color”? If so, what is it, and what do you have in that color? Black, gray, white trim, and any shade of blue. Everything is in these colors: saddle is black, gray and white; my saddle pads are in all shades of blues and combinations of blue, black and gray; my bridle is black; my girth is black; Lily's stable blanket is black; her turnout sheet is black, gray and blue; her midweight blanket is blue and black.
7) Does your horse do any tricks? Kind of. We do stretches after rides, and when Lily sees me with a treat, she will do her favorite stretch (bow) for more!
8) Have you ever dressed your horse up for Halloween?  Not Lily. I did dress up Tamarindo, a horse I rode and trained a long time ago, as a Native American war pony. We won the costume contest!


Favorites: 
1) Breed? Andalusian, Lusitano, Welsh Cob, Mustang, Quarter Horse.
2) Discipline? Dressage.
3) Coat color? Dapple gray.4) Famous horse? The Black Stallion.
5) Horse race/competition? Rolex.
6) Brand of tack? Ludomar.

7) Thing to do with your horse?  Dressage, trails.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ditches

I continue to be fascinated by this place. The people in general seem to be genuinely interested in what you have to say, and when you ask them how are they doing, they give you a real answer-they have no reason to believe that you might not really care. This is probably one of the most refreshing differences between South FL and this area up here. I've always been a quiet introvert, and for the first time since I was a kid, I find myself opening up to random people and yakking away like Charles does at any social occassion. The best part is the people I talk to open up in return. This is absolutely foreign and incredibly exciting to me.

 The trees are officially not green at all anymore-the only remaining green is from the pine trees. I've been seeing red trees. Not burnt red trees, like you would expect, but these amazing, fire-engine red trees. I was trying to get photos yesterday while driving from home to the barn and later from the barn to work, but they just looked darker in the pictures.


MUCH redder in person!!!
Yes, I found a job. I applied at only 2 practices: one a well-known specialty and emergency hospital in DC, which I'd been referred to by 2 different doctor friends, and another huge referral practice in MD. I was referred to that one by BQ-it's only 15 minutes from the barn. As it turns out, the hospital in DC refers cases to the one in MD! I got an interview right away with the MD hospital, and they offered me the position before I went to my interview at the DC practice. I took the MD job. From what I've continued to hear, I made the right choice. It's a pretty impressive hospital. I've worked at one other practice this big, but this place is set up in a way that makes sense-for the techs to do their job to the best of their capabilities, and also to maximize patient care.

However, due to the new job, my schedule has been crazy, which is why I've been MIA from here.  These photos are from last Thursday:

The big field and all the horses. Sorry for the crappy pic-taken with my cell.


Lily patiently waits for me to come to her.


This pic got sent to everyone back in FL :)

Snazzy extended trot in her Simple boots! This was taken in the outdoor arena. She was flipping her toes up like an upper-level dressage horse. Sadly my phone doesn't take video. :/

I led Lily on a walk through the trails off the property, and we discovered this stream! This one is not for crossing (I was told those sticks in the ground mean there are holes, and there is mesh netting on the far bank), but there is another part of the trail where there is a creek that the horses have to cross.

I rode her in the outdoor that day, and she was excellent. Actually much better calmer and focused than in the indoor. We even did some real cantering-she is finally comfortable enough in the Simple Boots to do so without tripping.

On Friday we went on the trails with Tina and Houdon. I did lunge Lily a bit prior to tacking up, but she was calm-no bucking or playing on the lunge, so I took her in to saddle up. We went out on the trail, and Lily was a very good girl. Until we got to the first ditch!

She had never seen a ditch in her life-we didn't have them at any of the parks where we rode, and given that the land was flat (except for the big artificial hill at Wolf Lake), a ditch back in South FL would have been a very unexpected landmark. The first ditch we arrived at was narrow (about 2 feet wide) with a short drop to it (about 4 feet), with a longer, steeper rise on the other side (maybe 6 feet long). Houdon crossed it like nobody's business, and Lily went to follow him, then realized that the ground dropped suddenly and rose on the other side. She stopped dead in her tracks, looking first at the ditch, then at Houdon on the other side, then back at the ditch, with this comical expression that totally said, "How the hell did he DO that??!!" Poor girl. She wanted to cross but she was completely intimidated, and after much unsuccessful coaxing from the saddle, I ended up having to get off and lead her across. She simply jumped from one side to the other, and I got back on.

The 2nd ditch was wider, with less steep banks. Lily *almost* crossed it after Houdon, but then she became very insecure. I didn't want to insist too much and create a negative association, so again I got off and led her while she jumped across.

We continued on our ride, following the skinny leaf-covered trail as it wound its way through the trees and up and down the hills. Eventually, however, we came to an abrupt stop when we discovered that there was a giant fallen tree blocking the trail. Tina led the way back, then we took a different route that led us to a small stream. The stream was shallow (maybe 4" deep) and narrow (about 2' across), and we went right up to the bank on Houdon's heels. And I saw his feet sink fetlock-deep in the mud as he went across...and I knew this would be a problem. It was. Lily is instinctively afraid of soft mud, and the sucking, slimy clay on the banks of the stream was terrifying to her. I could not get her to cross. Again I dismounted and attempted to lead her across, but after 15 minutes of coaxing and arguing with her, and only succeeding in getting her to leap from one side of the bank to the other without crossing, we gave up. Tina crossed back to our side of the stream, and I re-mounted.

I got my workout that day, as, despite heading home, Lily still did not want to go through (or over, for that matter) the ditches on the way back, so again I had to dismount and lead her. I vowed that the next day I would lead her back to the trail on foot and practice crossing the ditches until she wasn't afraid anymore.


Lily going for the smaller ditch

The next day I didn't have to go in to work until 4:00 pm so I had plenty of time to play with Lily. I put her rope halter & lunge line on her, her Simple Boots and her SMBs, and off we went. She balked at the first ditch, and it took a few minutes to convince her, but eventually she jumped across. We did this over and over until she was simply trotting through, then just walking. At the second ditch, she hopped across one time, then walked through the rest of the times. I hadn't originally planned on doing this, but since there was time and Lily was doing so well, I decided to continue our little hike down to the stream. This was probably about 1/2 mile from the second ditch, so on we went. On our way through the woods, Lily suddenly stopped to stare, and following her gaze, I spotted a herd of deer as they silently leaped over some of the fallen trees in the woods, silhouetted against the golden afternoon light that filtered through. It was a beautiful sight. Lily and I stood quietly and watched them, until they disappeared beyond the slope of the hill.

On we went. We made it to the stream, and the banks were even muddier than the day before. I led Lily down the bank, and once she tried to back away from the mud, then obediently came forward, all the way to the water's edge. I gave her slack in the lunge line and hopped across the stream. Standing on the opposite bank, I saw that Lily was going to follow me across, so I turned to scurry out of the way, as my side of the stream was too narrow for both of us.

In that split second, I slipped and went down in the mud, at the same time that Lily became airborne. The next thing I know, I'm curled up in a fetal position, my right foot sticking out from underneath me, and I look up to realize that I had one of Lily's front legs on each side of my head. My life flash before my eyes, amid visions of Lily freaking out at realizing I was underneath her and stepping all over me. But she did not freak out-she simply stood, all 4 legs splayed out above me. I spoke to her quietly, and very slowly got out from under her belly and stood up. She didn't move a muscle, only turning her head to nuzzle me, even though her feet were sinking in the mud and there was no tension whatsoever in the lunge line to restrain her. I don't think I've ever given her so many "Good girl"s!

As it turns out, I think she did step on my right foot on the landing, probably with a hind foot, though she had immediately taken it off, because my foot was quite painful when I tried to put weight on it. Actually, it was so painful I was afraid she'd broken a bone or two in my foot. I had to hold my breath every time I took a step with my right foot. So we re-crossed the stream (I don't remember how we did it; I was still that shaken up over how close I came to dying), then hiked the 3/4 mile total back to the barn, Lily walking with her withers even with my shoulder so I could hang on to the "oh shit handle" and let her pull me along. If I needed a break, I'd say, "hold on, wait." And she'd stop right away and turn her head around to check on me. And then I'd say, "Ok. Walk on", and she'd keep on going, adjusting her pace to whatever I needed it to be.
The trail is NOT well-defined. It kind of looks like the Blair Witch Project woods (beautiful, but you wouldn't want to get lost there at dusk), and like I said before, the very skinny trail is covered with leaves-in fact, the entire ground is covered with leaves. If you're not looking for it, you will miss the trail. Lily, however, found that trail and stayed on it-there is a slight indentation in the leaves to mark it, and I remembered it from the day before. She could've totally gone as the crow flies, straight across to the barn, but this would have been impossible for me to negotiate between the fallen trees, dried bushes, and rocks. Lily followed the trail as it meandered up and down the hills and around fallen trees. I wasn't even thinking about where we were going, I just hung on, leaning against her, and concentrated on taking each step carefully so as not to further injure my foot. When we got to the ditches, she stood and waited while I gave her a long length of lunge line, then I'd quietly step aside and she would go calmly across first without any coaxing or pleading. All by herself. I'd call to her, "Ok, wait." and she'd turn around and stand and wait for me patiently while I hobbled across. Then back to her leading me as soon as I had that piece of mane in my hand.
It was an excrutiatingly painful but amazing experience. I felt like an idiot because just that morning, BQ had warned me to be careful about leading any horse across a ditch or a stream-a friend of John's had been killed when, as he was leading his horse across a ditch, the horse had jumped across and accidentally landed on top of him. OMG. My Thanksgiving was all about the fact that I'm still alive thanks to one Lily-Bird who totally could have trampled me, but who deliberately didn't. I LOVE MY MARE!!!

Work was not fun that evening, and of course we were particularly slammed with emergencies, but whatever. I took lots of ibuprofen and hobbled on without complaining (hey, an ouchy foot was NOTHING considering what could have happened!!), cracking jokes about it when asked by my coworkers, and iced hell out of the foot as soon as I got home.

It's been a week now since the incident, and I've ridden Lily 3 times since then, and worked I don't know how many days in between. It's finally getting better. I'm still not ruling out a hairline fracture in the joint of my second toe, especially given the swelling over the area and the weird red bruising that developed within 24 hours over my 2nd and 3rd toes. The swelling has gone down significantly by now, the bruising is turning green, and I can walk almost normally with shoes on. Riding causes a tremendous improvement in my comfort level foot-wise...go figure.


The new accessory for the winter season: a CVS designer cane! (They didn't have crutches, it was cheaper than crutches, and anyway, a cane is much easier to store)

Looks pretty gruesome in this photo...this was actually an improvement from the day before! It didn't look that bad in person, I promise.

Lily has finally started going out in the big field, and it was a non-event: a group of 6 horses went right up to her to check her out, there was a big squeal from one of the mares, Lily trotted off, and 3 of the horses followed her, surrounded her, then they all calmly started grazing together. That was that. Very cool!


Lily in a corner of the big field with some of her new buddies.

And Lily has made friends. :) Her favorite is a bright bay TB gelding with a star and stripe named Chester. Chester is a sweetheart, allowing Lily to do her favorite thing with her best friends: eat from the same exact patch of grass/hay! He comes right up to me when I go get Lily, looking for treats, and allows me to take her away.

Lily also got her Eponas. Since she didn't have enough wall to nail them on, they were glued-on and then casted to her feet to keep them in place. The trimmer/farrier decided that since Lily has always been barefoot in the back, she would not put the shoes on her back feet. The trimmer was able to make the old puncture wound hole a little bit larger to keep small stones from getting stuck in there. I could finally see the bottom of it (the hole has become shallower FINALLY) but it was constantly getting packed in with dirt. Lily tolerated this, but has been a little more ouchy on that foot ever since. The trimmer gave me some Magic Cushion hoof packing to use on Lily's left hind until she returns for the next trim-she instructed me to apply it every evening whenever possible. I've been riding Lily with the Simple Boots on her hind feet for now while she grows more foot and this has helped a lot. Without the boots, she is fine out in the pasture, but I can tell she's sore when walking over the gravel by the field gate.


Lily's casted feet to help hold the Eponas in place. I'm actually thrilled that we couldn't use nails!


The casting material is only wrapped around the sides of each hoof-the bottom is left open. The hole on the bottom isn't really open-there is a special hoof packing in there that at this point was covered in sand and shavings. The packing is antibacterial and helps provide additional cushioning between the shoe and Lily's foot-this helps stimulate the WHOLE hoof with each stride, which should, in turn, stimulate more hoof growth and sole thickening.

In terms of movement, she was moving nicer with the Simple Boots on her front feet than with the Eponas, but she had started chafing with the boots-I'd been having to wrap her feet to protect her heels. She is still quite comfortable in the Eponas, though; she's just not flipping her feet up in extended trot with them. At least for now. We'll see what happens as she gets used to them. Of course, after 2 rides with the Simple Boots on her back feet, she has started chafing behind her fetlocks, which is very aggravating. Here we go with more Vetrap, which I have to order because we don't have tack/feed stores in the area (yeah, I can't figure that one out...). The Simple Boots do their job, but I don't see how laminitic horses wear them day in and day out without creating all sorts of new problems with the rubbing and chafing they can cause.

With the turnout in the big field, she has finally settled in completely. She loves being out there, but will still let me catch her and come willingly (she's more willing when it's towards the end of the day vs the morning when she's just been turned out), but once she is out of the field, she settles down 100% and pays attention. Initially with the stall rest and then the gradual turnout as she was introduced to pasture, she had gained some weight, but it has melted it off quickly in the last week. BQ had warned me to watch her weight, as they can lose a lot quickly when they are out in all that space with so many other horses. Today I asked if hay stretcher could be added to her meals. Lily looks good right now, but I don't want her to lose any more pounds.

The other evening I rode her in the outdoor after sundown with the arena lights on-this was a first for her, and she did great-no spooking or being looky. Today the outdoor was crowded despite plummeting temperatures and high winds (it was 39 degrees, but with the wind chill it felt like it was in the 20s!), so I put polo wraps on all 4 legs to help keep her legs warm, and took her in the indoor. I could see the vapor of our breaths anyway. We had a great workout, though-even with the frigid temps, she was still her normal, laid-back self, and for once she was all for the more collected work at the trot, so we did lots of shoulder-in, haunches-in, leg yields to turn on the haunches. For the first time, I was able to see how she was doing in the dusty mirrors on each side of the arena gate that leads outside. And I can say now, with absolute certainty, that she did fantastic! She's still out of shape, but her lateral work today was perfect, as long as we did it in small doses. However, while untacking her, I discovered her chafed fetlocks, so I'm assuming that this is why she wasn't all that much into extending today. :(

Lots of Vetrap...

One cold Puertorrican Shorthair staying warm under the clean laundry!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Trot On!!


Schneider's posted that one on their Facebook page, and I just had to share, because I think it's so accurate...especially in my own personal life! *lol* Though I can now substitute "What I actually do" for this:



Cuz we're on full board now (no more needing to shovel poop, though this will mean I will have to start hitting the gym for real again...) and this is really what we felt like today. Like we were Edward Gal and Totilas. :D

That still falls under the category of "What I think I do", but whatever. *lol*

Today I brought Lily in from the medical paddock and tacked her up in one of the wash rack stalls. I'm not sure why, but she hates the wash rack. I'm going to just have to leave her tied there one day while I clean tack across the way or something, to just allow her to get used to it in peace.

I think part of it is that she can't see the other horses when she's tied there. She kept fidgeting restlessly, pooping nervously, and trying to look behind herself. All that is behind her is a wall. Granted, John was picking up manure with the excavator down the aisle next door, and maybe the roar of heavy machinery was reverberating from the wall behind her. But even after John was done, Lily kept fidgeting. However, if I walked away, she got worse, and the ladies talking and tacking up in the wash stall area expressed their concern when I came back from fetching my bridle from my locker. After that I stayed, and Lily reduced her wiggling to simply side passing from left to right and back again.


"I know there are horse-eating monsters behind that wall, Mom!"

I groomed her and got her tacked up, then walked her into the indoor. She was very forward at the walk, trying to walk in front of me, and I had to stop her and have her back up a couple of times on the way to the mounting block. However, once I was on, she was back to being her usual laid-back self, even when John drove the excavator in by the stalls at the far end to pick up manure. Lily didn't care.

A small group of boarders gathered at the gate to the indoor to watch us, as everyone had been dying to see Lily go. I warmed her up as usual at the walk, then had her move up into a trot. Definetely a medium trot. I had her do shoulder-ins at the trot in both directions, which proved to be a lot easier for her than back at the arena in FL. No more tail swishing when asking for it either, and the only time she lost momentum was when I lost the strength to hold myself up and out of her way. BIG improvement in her, and I've done nothing to cause it-she had a 3 week break, and all I did today was basically stay with her without interfering. I think part of it is also that my own body has had a 2 week break from my grueling work schedules which means that for the first time in a very long time, nothing hurts, nothing is tight, so it's a thousand times easier to flow with her.

We did our leg-yield serpentine at a walk, from one end of the arena to the other and back, then halt, and up into a trot. Lily's trot was FORWARD. Not fast with quick little steps-FORWARD. Down the long side of the arena, around the corner, and across the diagonal, and holy Batman-today she came the closest she has ever come to giving me real extensions. She arched her neck happily, ears relaxed, and surged up and forward. It felt like Lily had grown an extra hand, and I could feel her front legs flipping forward and up. Not only that, I never had to change the beat of my posting to maintain her going like this-I was actually getting a split second pause at the top of the posting motion, her stride was THAT long. I don't think I've ever felt this in any horse I've ridden before. We kept going around the opposite corner, and off across the diagonal again. We did this several times, just because we could, me grinning like an idiot.

We did other things, adding circles at each end of the arena before crossing the diagonal again, and then we took a walk break. I did some collected trot with her and more trot-halt-trot transitions, then finished with a long walk on a loose rein.

Everybody said Lily looked good and asked me how did she feel. I said she felt fantastic! I know the Simple Boots probably have something to do with this change as well-even when walking next to me with them on, she is definetely landing heel first, which I'm sure is contributing to this wonderful new trot of hers. No one ooohed and aaahed over her wonderful extended trot, so I'm assuming we didn't look like Edward and Totilas after all... *lol*

I untacked her in the wash rack, then moved her to one of the cross ties in the barn aisle, where she immediately stood still -no fidgeting- while I put away her tack and got out her brushes. I gave her a good grooming, then took her outside for a walk. Jose, one of the stable hands, was blowing the area in front of the gate to the medical paddock, so I took Lily to the outdoor arena, and we practiced walking over the bridge again, then having her wait, standing there, until I gave her permission to come to me.



Such a good girl!!
 I then took her over to this, which was a much greater challenge:



It is kind of a see-saw concept. Only about 2.5' wide, when a horse steps on one end, the opposite end does come up about an inch or two from the ground. Lily did not want to walk on it at all and tried to play dumb, but I treated the situation like we were practicing trailer loading on a ramp, and rewarded her every time she put a foot on the boards. Soon, she was crossing diagonally over the see-saw, all 4 feet touching it, and after that I was able to get her to walk over it length-wise. She pricked her ears and put her head down when she saw the opposite side of the see-saw come up a bit, but she walked forward without prompting. I had her stop right after, and praised her profusely. We left it at that.

We then walked and trotted over ground poles, and kind of just hung out in the arena. She would occassionally stare at the horses in the turnouts, but she was much more relaxed than the day before, and soon she wasn't paying the horses around her any mind at all. Hopefully I can ride her in the outdoor sometime soon-it's supposed to get warmer this weekend.


Pretty girl!
We never did get snow last night, only some rain in Alexandria. It dropped into the 20s last night, but both Lily and I are enjoying the cold. I'm still mystified that she is not showing the slightest hint of a winter coat, when last year I had to body clip her between September and October. Today it was in the low 50s when I arrived at the barn at 11:00am, and Lily had been turned out with her stable blanket. When I took her into the barn to groom her and tack up, I discovered she had just a hint of sweat around her shoulders from the blanket. In my case, I was wearing a thermal shirt and a cotton turtleneck, plus a lightly insulated jacket-first time since we got here that I've worn less than 4 layers!- and I ended up taking off the jacket while I was grooming Lily. I didn't feel the need to put it back on until shortly before leaving, when the temperature started to drop again. Meanwhile, all of the other boarders, the vast majority of them northerners, were wearing jackets and hoodies...and I'm the one that hails from a tropical climate. And Charles didn't believe me when I told him I'd get used to the cold a lot quicker than I could ever get used to the heat I'd lived in my entire life. *lol* We stopped by the barn the night before Dr. O's recheck to wrap Lily's foot one last time, and Charles, wearing 2 jackets, a wool cap, and my gloves, was shivering while I did Lily's bandage, happy and comfortable in my one jacket (Yes, I had 3 layers under the jacket, but all of them were thin layers). I didn't let him hear the end of that one for a few days! ;)

After our little bit of groundwork, I turned Lily out, then brought Beauty, the little black pony mare, out to keep her company. Initially, Beauty had chased Lily, always making sure Lily stayed at the opposite end of the paddock. Everyone seemed to be a lot more bothered by this than Lily and me. Lily is used to being the subordinate, and as long as the other horse isn't actively trying to hurt her, she has no problem respecting their wishes. BQ and I watched Lily get chased by Beauty the other day to her corner of the field, then Lily proceeded to run around and buck several times happily, simply enjoying the fact that she was out and free. I knew this about my mare, and I actually preferred that Beauty wasn't being sweet to Lily (as long as she wasn't beating her up), as it would mean my girl would become herdbound otherwise.

The mares' relationship has changed over the past couple of days, however-Beauty, who used to prefer geldings turned out with her, has suddenly stopped occassionally chasing Lily, and they are now coexisting peacefully. I stayed to watch after I put Beauty out, and saw her walk over to Lily. They looked at each other for a minute, then Beauty walked on past Lily, without pinning her ears at her at all. Lily gave her a certain degree of personal space, but she is not being relegated to the opposite end of the paddock any more. I went back to the barn to clean my tack, and this is what I found when I walked out to the car.


Grazing only about 5 feet apart
Yup, they are definetely friends now.

I left the barn at 2:00pm and still managed to get stuck in the very beginnings of traffic on 495. But the reward for waiting to take the GW is always worth it:



As a kid, October was my favorite month because even in Texas, this was the height of autumn. I had missed this so, so much. I don't think I could ever tire of seeing the golden, red and copper trees of fall.






First Ride

F-I-N-A-L-L-Y!!!

Dr. O came today in the afternoon and rechecked Lily: she found her bruised foot to be 85% better (that was the number she gave), and cleared us for riding! She said only 1 more week of the Simple Boots for turnout and riding, which will end just in time for the trimmer appointment. She was thrilled with Lily's improvement: no more bounding pulses on her right front, and she was very happy with how well the bruises have healed up (yay me!). Lily even walked completely and 100% comfortably on the concrete, barefoot, for the doctor, too.

After the recheck, I put Lily's boots on and then took her for the long walk I'd been itching to give her from the get-go! I took her down to the outdoor arena, where in one of the corners they have a couple of trail class-type obstacles, and eventually convinced her to walk over the "bridge". We then walked over ground poles, then I took her for a 5 minute walk down the trail, only up to the point where the barn falls out of sight. Then we returned and I took her to the square pen, and set her loose to see what she'd do. I clucked to get her to trot, and she went a couple of times around in each direction, tossing her head, but no bucks or wild galloping around. She seemed "up" and relaxed at the same time, a new kind of mental state in her that I hadn't really seen before. Heather, another boarder, who owns Nate, Lily's handsome neighbor, a bay TB-type gelding, came over with her husband to introduce us and show him Lily. Heather and her hubs are triathletes-they are incredibly fit. Heather reminds me of Ines in the way she works with Nate: lots of magical groundwork, and that special quality of horse & owner relationship that borders on telepathy.

Afterwards, I took Lily over to the indoor and walked her around. During all of this time, I had been debating whether I dared ride my mare after 3 weeks of no riding, with no prior lunging on top of that, during one of the coldest days of the season so far (we had snow flurries in the forecast for both DC and MD that night!) The stable hands had a giant flatbed trailer in the indoor stacked with hay, that they began to unload with a forklift, and then proceeded to move the hay over to the loft above the stalls at the far end of the arena. Lily seemed only slightly bothered by the noise and machinery, so I took this as an opportunity to do groundwork with her. Ironically, her main distraction was Nate, whom Heather had just led past the indoor on their way to the outdoor arena. I was having a hard time getting her attention back after that, so, remembering one of Hempfling's tips, while holding Lily at the end of the lead rope, I gave a big hop straight up in the air. This startled Lily so much that she took off at a gallop in a circle around me, throwing in a buck. After the one circle, she immediately came to a stop in front of me, "Mom! What was that?!". I laughed at her, but right away she became distracted by the horses outside again. I gave another hop. She threw her head back, then took a step towards me, looking bewildered. After that, I had no problem keeping her attention. We did shoulder in, side pass, trot from a standstill-halt-back up until Lily started anticipating the backing up, then did a review of personal space, since, after having been spoiled for a week prior to our arrival in DC, Lily had stopped respecting that bubble of space around people. We then did several step & twirl repetitions, where she remained absolutely calm throughout. I was very happy with her.

Dr. O and BQ were both at the wash stall next to the indoor, observing Dr. S rechecking Murmur, the mare with the eye ulcer and soft tissue injuries on one of her front legs. I led Lily over to ask Dr. O if she thought it was okay to ride Lily today. She said it was fine, as long as it was in the arena.

So I tacked up. I took Lily over to the indoor and mounted up. She nuzzled my left foot for a minute, "Oh, it's you." then promptly stepped forward when I asked her to walk. She was a little skittish starting out, despite BQ being in the arena at this point hand-walking her horse Cody. At this point, Alex, the head stable hand, showed up with one of the tractors to water the arena. I dismounted and both BQ and I led our horses out so he could do his job-the indoor was indeed VERY dusty. Afterwards, I got back on, but had a brainfart: I didn't think they'd be back, but Alex returned with the drag. Initially he said that he could go grain the horses and return so I wouldn't have to dismount again, but I told him it was okay-this way he could just finish up since he'd already gone and brought the drag over. Plus the footing would be so much better after!

So I dismounted a second time and waited with Lily outside while Alex finished the arena. It was perfect after that, and after my 3rd time getting on, Lily didn't care anymore: she felt just like she used to back in FL.

We had a very, very good ride. We did a long warm-up at the walk, simply because she was offering a long, swinging gait, then we did some shoulder-in in both directions, 20m circles, some travers, and turns on the haunches. Not a lot, just enough to see how she was doing and finish warming her up. I could see both of our breaths' vapor in the quiet air of the indoor. I had missed that-in South FL, even when it gets cold, you very very rarely see the vapor of your breath. Now, in Tampa it was a different story: during my 6:00am rides in the winter before work, I'd exercise the horses in the big jump field and watch their breath steam in the air like the smoke from a locomotive.

When I asked Lily to trot, she stepped forward comfortably. I gotta say I have rapidly fallen in love with those Simple Boots! Not only was Lily comfortable, but as she warmed up and relaxed more (she was a little iffy about the sounds of the horses in the 2 corner stalls adjacent to the arena crunching their grain, and she was a little leery of the small mirror to the left of the indoor gate to the outside), she arched her neck on a loose rein and extended happily. We had a great workout. I even had her canter a half circle in each direction, just to see how she felt, and to get any bucks out. She put her head down once, but did not offer to buck. However, she did invert at the canter-I think her foot is not yet recovered enough to be cantering. So we will wait for the Eponas before we do any more canter work. Even so, after the little bit of canter, she still was willing to zoom around at her medium trot, and stretch down at the walk during our breaks. I gave her a lot of walk breaks on a loose rein, and felt her back REALLY come UP and swing towards the end. Very, very nice! The last remaining rider, a middle-aged woman I'd just met, stopped by to watch before heading out, and complimented Lily's movement. I stopped to talk to her, and discovered she is a pediatrician! So I told her about Charles and she gave me the names of all of the good hospitals in the area, but confirmed that Georgetown is definetely one of the best here.

It was a truly awesome day, and a terrific first ride at our new barn!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lily's Crib

So we drove up to Maryland to see Lily on Sunday, about 12 hours before Sandy was supposed to hit land.

The drive was long. It took us 20 minutes just to find the correct highway (270, 495, 66, 370...oh boy), and that's WITH GPS. The GPS wanted us to take the I66 exit, but it was closed, so we had to wing it. Finally we were en route (according to the GPS, as we had no idea), and we were able to arrive at the barn about an hour later, as we did run into some traffic on the way up. It's really only 33 miles from the apartment, but it does take awhile between traffic and the speed limits. It took a few days, but I got used to reasonable speed limits (55-60mph on highways) and the fact that everyone stays within those limits. It's another really nice change...in South FL, speed limits are 70mph average on the highways, but good luck to you attempting to stay below 90, as everyone will ride your ass or attempt to cut you off in spite. I don't miss it at all.

The barn is absolutely freaking gorgeous. The turnouts, even the "small" ones, are all what we would call fields by South FL standards. The terrain is gently rolling-nothing is absolutely flat. This is another thing-in Florida, EVERYTHING is FLAT. Flat, flat, flat. Coming from an island with mountains, not that different from what you see in photos of Hawaii, it was always nearly impossible to get my bearings in Florida, first because of the flatness, and second because everything is the same. All housing is the same, all the streets and malls look  the same, the only difference being the number of signs in Spanish increased the further south you went, and the amount of concrete increased the closer you got to the cities. I invested in the GPS simply because I would panick every time I became lost-there was nothing in the skyline other than the rising or setting sun to allow you to orient yourself. Being lost in the middle of downtown Miami with insane drivers cutting in front of you while you're trying to figure out how to get back to 95 was a terrifying experience. It would take me 6 months to become familiar with the area we were living in, but as soon as you took me out of said area, the minute you took me back I'd forget how to get anywhere. This, above all else, was the one thing I hated the most about living in South FL. I shocked Charles's socks off in the car when we arrived in Alexandria at 10:30pm in the darkness of unfamiliar streets, and even in my exhausted state, was instantly able to orient myself and remember how to backtrack as we were searching for hotels, not because I remembered the names of the streets, but because my body was instantly able to remember how the terrain sloped on the way to anywhere.


Semi-private turnout


View of the main field from the area above the outdoor arena

I love mountains. :)

So back to the barn. We walked around the barn looking for signs of life, and were met by another boarder, who instantly figured out we were Lily's owners, just as BQ was coming down the house stairs. Her and the barn owner, John, live right above the barn! BQ reminded me so much of one of my favorite people in Tampa-Marianne, the owner and manager of the tack shop that I worked at for 2 years. Down to the same gravelly voice. She hugged me after introductions, which immediately made me feel at home, and took us over to see Lily.

All of the horses were in, in anticipation of the bad weather that was supposed to start that night. Lily was in her stall, looking a little antsy to be cooped up. She immediately greeted everyone with her gentle nuzzling, and it seemed to take her a second to warm up to me, but then she was giving me more attention than anyone else. BQ had me take her out to walk around while giving us the tour of the barn.


Reunion after 5 days apart. :)

 
Ready for the tour.

 Small hallway connecting one barn aisle to the other. The horses are used to going through here as a shortcut.



  Bridge connecting the house upstairs to the upstairs tackroom. This is right above Lily's stall.


  Wash stall. Note the fan in the corner for when it's hot in the summer. There are 2 of these side-by-side.




 Heated tack room full of lockers for boarders.


 Walking across the indoor with BQ.



 Stalls at the far end of the indoor. These are the big Warmblood-size stalls for the oversized horses. Not that the other stalls are small-Lily's is 11'x14'.




 Opposite end of the indoor. There is a gate that leads to the outdoors, and a sliding garage-type door that shuts out the elements when it's freezing outside.



 Outdoor arena.

 Trailhead. Directly from the property-no more riding on the street!


 Trail. Isn't it beautiful?

I loved it. I was extremely thrilled with my choice.

After the tour, I let Lily loose in the indoor to do some groundwork with her, but noticed that she seemed off to the left at the trot, and especially in specific parts of the arena, which I found odd. Later I discovered that the footing was particularly firm in these spots. I felt my heart sink, but did not mention it to BQ, thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was being paranoid and imagining it.

The next day, BQ e-mailed me, and she had noticed the same thing. Bummer. :/ It was not my imagination after all. The vet, Dr. O, was coming out in 2 days to check on another horse, so with my permission BQ made arrangements to have her check out Lily.

We weathered the storm at the new apartment, staying in the next day, and didn't even lose electricity that night, despite the winds howling around the building. On Tuesday morning, I took Charles to work in the rain- he was starting his training at the hospital- but the wind wasn't bad, so I spent most of the day checking out the stores at the strip mall across the street.

On Wednesday, I drove up to the barn to meet the vet. As it turned out, I was SO glad that I had her check Lily-her left hind was fine, but she was honking lame in her right front. Dr. O used hoof testers on all 4 feet, and the biggest reaction was from the right front. Not only that, her pulses were throbbing in that foot. When Dr. O scraped off a thin layer of hoof over Lily's white line, she discovered some very bloody bruising all along the hoof's white line, to the shock of all of us.

My theory: she bruised the hell out of that foot pawing for 5 hours straight in the trailer at the stop in Savannah on the way to MD.

Dr. O recommended booting her, but I didn't have boots on me, and BQ's Simple Boots were too big. I ended up packing and bandaging the foot as if she had an abscess, then applying my spare Velcro wrap with its rubber pad over it. Dr. O approved. I ordered a pair of Simple Boots for Lily's front feet to be Next Day Aired to the apartment (ouch-that was expensive!) and had them on her by Saturday. She has been very happy with the boots on (no bandage under the boots), trotting off sound, and we have been able to continue turning her out with the boots on. The bruising has improved over the last 4 days, lightening in color, with only the medial portion of her white line (where she puts more weight) still a dark pink. After turnout, I re-apply the bandage and remove the boots. Dr. O also recommended Epona shoes for Lily, possibly on all 4 feet. After talking to the barn barefoot trimmer who uses them (and seeing her work on all of the barefoot horses-she does a beautiful job, and I'm happy to report all of the horses have adequate heels and nicely angled feet!), I'm really liking this option, as these shoes are specifically made to help the foot maintain its full function. The trimmer said she has been very successful in getting the horses to put out more sole with these shoes, which is one thing that Lily desperately needs. The vet's concern is that Lily's thin-soled feet will fall apart if left bare after the ground freezes. The Epona shoes would be a temporary therapeutic aid in the goal to keep Lily barefoot. The trimmer comes out in 2 weeks, which is when Lily will be due for a trim again, so I had her add Lily to the list, to see what she says about Lily's feet. I liked her-she seems very knowledgeable, and even BQ herself uses her.

Dr. O is supposed to come out again on Wednesday of this week to re-check Lily.

Lily grazing in her boots yesterday

"Do you have treats for me?"



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Frankenstorm Road Trip

At 5:00am on the 23rd, I received a text from the hauler saying that they'd stopped for 5 hours in Savanna to rest, and was continuing the trip. He said Lily was eating and drinking. I, however, was not able to fall asleep again, as all I could think about was Lily pawing for 5 hours straight because the trailer had not been moving...after the incident with Romeo at Tree Tops park, she WILL paw in the trailer as long as it's at a standstill.

In the end, Lily made it to Maryland safe and sound, and didn't lose weight on the trip. According to Barn Queen (the barn manager-I will be calling her by her blog name for herself-check it out at barnqueenadventures.com/!), she was somewhat dehydrated, as her stools were very dry. Her appetite was so-so, but I mentioned that Lily always goes into heat on trailer rides, and this always puts her off her feed, and BQ confirmed that Lily was indeed in heat. Over the next 5 days, she sent me these photos, along with detailed reports via e-mail and text.


Out for a walk in the indoor arena, the night of the 23rd.

Slowly being introduced to pasture in the medical "paddock".


Staring longingly at Beauty, the feisty black pony mare.

Hand-grazing with one of the boarders (she quickly developed a fan club!) BQ discovered that after eating the nice grass by the driveway, her poops weren't as dry.

What barn manager does this?? I have yet to hear of another one like this! It gave me a tremendous peace knowing that Lily was in good hands, and so I was able to concentrate on getting the rest of our stuff together.

Instead of driving my car and a U-Haul with the truck in tow, we figured out a better and less expensive option was to cram all of our stuff into a U-Box (similar to the PODS concept) and have it shipped to DC. We also had the truck shipped to DC by Nationwide Auto Transport, who hired Reliable Auto Transport to do the job. The Reliable Auto Transport people did a F-A-N-T-A-S-T-I-C job, managing to deliver the truck safely, at our new apartment complex, before Sandy hit land.

This is what the U-Box looked like when we were done:



This is how big it was:




I think between Charles and Charles's dad, they were able to pull off an Undetectable Extension Spell of their own.

And the house. I'm anal about leaving everything clean, but at the end of the 3 days of packing and cleaning, I was done. The house was as clean as it was going to be after 3 years living in it. I'm still cringing that we didn't paint the 3 walls I'd painted back to their original color, but it was almost $300 for the paint (they wouldn't sell you less than 5 gallons!) and we needed that money for other things. Cross your fingers that the deposit is enough to cover it!

We woke up at 4:30am on October 27th to finish packing the car and start our journey up to DC. We absolutely had to be there by the 28th to get the keys to the apartment. This is the longest road trip I had ever been on, and my first time going up the US East coast. I've gone to many places on the West coast, but not the East. We were scheduled to arrive 24 hours before Frankenstorm Sandy was to hit New Jersey. High winds and rain were predicted for most of the East coast between the 27th and 28th. It was extremely aggravating that the forecast changed from one hour to the next, from one news channel to the next, and from one website to the next. We had friends and family calling us with all sorts of different reports as to where the storm was located and when and where it was supposed to hit land. It was nerve-wracking not knowing.

We left the townhouse at 6:30am, after struggling for an hour trying to arrange and re-arrange everything in the car. We ended up throwing out more things, including our pillows, simply because they didn't fit. We had 4 suitcases of clothes and shoes, our jackets, my saddle, Lily's Smartpak supplement drawer, backpacks with our laptops and important documents, sheets, blankets and a quilt for the bed at the new place, and all sorts of essential odds and ends. Plus Astarte and her carrier, and a litter box on the floor of the back seat so she could go potty while on the endless trip.

Astarte remained loose in the car during the trip, but I took the carrier because it was a place to put her if we needed to transport her safely anywhere.

This is what my Corolla looked like. I started calling it the Mary Poppins car:

This is my favorite photo because it looks surreal, like there was no gravity inside the car. *lol*

Yup. I was really glad we had traded in my MINI Cooper for the Corolla at this point. You can imagine what the trunk looked like! Poor Astarte was trying to find some stable piece of something to lay on.
Astarte eventually gave up trying to curl up in the back and took turns between lying on Charles's lap and napping on the floor of the passenger side of the car between his feet.


I drove. And drove. And drove. The winds were awful in South FL, and I was gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles all the way into Martin County, when the winds started to settle. Once we started going through areas where there were trees on both sides of the road, they served as a wind block and I was able to relax.


Beginning of the trip. Still looking happy and excited. *lol*

I95 in South FL

South FL cypress trees

It stayed between 69-72 degrees all the way north, until nightfall.


We stopped at this gas station as a pit stop for us and the car (to get gas) and arrived at the same time as 2 bus loads of tourists. It was a long line to the restroom.

Little shop at the same gas station. This was somewhere north of Melbourne, FL.

Jacksonville, FL
Georgia was a breeze, but we were surprised to see that there seems to be no fall in Georgia-the trees remained green all the way.


The only sign that we were in GA. That, and the mile markers re-started.

Green GA trees on both sides of the road.
South Carolina was interesting. We saw real cotton fields, which Charles had never noticed on his drive up. The trees started changing colors as we drove further north in the state. We kept seeing these signs for a place called South of the Border. The billboards seemed to be every few miles-these people had spent a fortune on advertising, and most of the billboards were downright silly. We drove and drove, and still no sign of the place.


SC did have a sign to announce entry into the state.

Cotton field!

Some orange and yellow trees.

South of the Border sign. One of the better ones...

We were approaching North Carolina, when we finally saw it:


The place was HUGE. It looked like a Mexican Old Town (in Orlando) on steroids.

90% of the place was desolate. Only some of the rides showed signs of life. Rather depressing after announcing themselves so much.
I guess they spent so much on advertising that they went broke? Who knows...

Charles and I finally traded seats, and he got to drive the rest of the way. I had driven 9 hours so far.


My turn to snuggle with Astarte :)

Since my feet are smaller than Charles's tree climbers, she really had room to get comfortable on the passenger side floor.

In North Carolina, the winds started up again. Around this point, the in-laws called asking if we were going to stop yet. It was only 5:00pm, and we were wide awake and going strong. Plus there were neon signs flashing on 95 announcing that high winds and debris were expected that night in NC. There was no way in hell we were stopping there.

We drove into Virginia as night was falling, and these last 4 hours turned out to be the most grueling part of the drive. Since it was dark, we had no idea of our surroundings, and being in VA, technically we were already home-the apartment was in Alexandria-but we had to drive all the way north.

At one point, the road dipped, but I could see the horizon rise in front of us in a slope. "Charles!! It's a MOUNTAIN!!" "It's just the tree line." he said. "No, that's a freaking mountain!" I insisted. It was. As we continued to drive, I pointed out that southbound 95 was above us, carved into the side of another mountain-you had to look up to see the cars driving by. You'd think I'd never seen a mountain before... I have. But it's been a long time! And it's been 8 years since I lived anywhere with mountains!

We finally, finally arrived in Alexandria at 10:30pm. Now we had to find a hotel that would accept cats... We called Charles's mother with the Alexandria apartment address so she could look for nearby hotels on the internet at home (we don't have smartphones YET) and she found a Red Roof Inn that allowed pets, but it was 7 miles from our exit. We had no idea how bad the weather would be the next day and were trying to stay as close to the apartment complex as possible. Thank God for my GPS...we were able to look up hotels within a 1 mile radius from the apartment (there were MANY). The first choice, a Holiday Inn, didn't accept pets. We went looking for our second choice, and accidentally stumbled upon another hotel from a popular chain that had cabins. This made it easy: we left Astarte in her hiding spot on the passenger side floor of the car, and checked in. We got lucky: not only did they give us a first floor room, it was also in the back row of cabins. I snuck Astarte in the room wrapped in a sweater, and put her in the bathroom while we unloaded our suitcases.

Afterwards we got settled. Astarte went nuts running around the room, her nose to the ground like a beagle, then jumped on the second bed, and I swear, if she'd been a little kid, she'd have been bouncing on the bed.


"MY bed!"

Happy face


Eventually she settled down and just stretched out. She really thought that bed was all for her. *lol*

I think she was the happiest of the 3 of us to get out of the car after 17 hours.


Charles checks his e-mail on his iPad, and later I was able to check the weather forecast.
We had a good night's sleep (including Astarte, who eventually popped over onto our bed and fell unconscious at Charles's feet-she didn't stir when I woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom!) and then showed up at the apartment leasing office at noon to check in and get our keys. There was a small glitch where it seemed for a minute like we weren't going to get the keys (I was horrified! I didn't want to spend another night at a hotel with our car overflowing with stuff...), but it got sorted out and we were able to drop off everything at the apartment, including Astarte, who had been majorly upset to find herself inside the car again.

It was cloudy and cold, and we still had to do storm shopping, as we had no food nor water in the house. But I was not going to be able to see Lily due to the bad weather for the next 2 days, so we took off right after unpacking the car for the long drive to Maryland to see her.

To be continued...