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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

First Ride of the Year

I worked last night in our veterinary ER. Charles had to work in the human ER as well, so it wasn't like we were missing out.

This is going to sound like it doesn't have anything to do with anything, but bear with me for a second:

I LOVE cats. I freaking LOVE them. They were my first Great Love of the animal kingdom, and I love the complexities of their temperament, which happen to be some of the same complexities shared by horses...mares in particular. My cats have chosen me, not the other way around, but I have never regretted letting them be the ones to decide. My cats love me because they saw something in me that they were drawn to at first sight. They never really tell me what that was, but they make sure to let me know exactly how happy they are that I allowed them to be a part of my life. And this has just added to my non-abiding love for this species.

With my two. Astarte is the calico curled up with me, my Puerto Rican shorthair and our most-travelled cat, and Aengus is the tabby nuzzling my hand. We adopted him a month after moving to Maryland. His favorite things are playing fetch and tag; Astarte's favorite things are rump pats (where you pat her on her back in front her tail) and eating
Chipotle carnitas! (in minuscule amounts of course)

Last night at work, we had a young male cat that came in with a urinary obstruction. Our intern took care of him, de-obstructing him and quickly and efficiently placing a urinary catheter while I ran his anesthesia and monitored him. He slept through the procedure like a babe and woke up uneventfully afterwards but had a bad reaction to the sedatives that had been used as a pre-anesthetic. He was very disoriented and convinced that he fit through the holes in the door of his cage. We gave him the antidote to the first sedative he had received, but this only seemed to make him more frantic. He was a really good cat - despite being so confused, he never once offered to bite or scratch us.

Midnight hit when I was transferring him to our Intermediate Care Ward. I had just given him the antidote to the second sedative we had initially used on him and he had almost instantly settled down to being the quiet, laid-back fella that had first presented in our ER. Yay for antidotes!

And since I couldn't be with Charles for it, yay for bringing in the New Year helping out the one animal that I love even more than horses: a cat! (My husband is THE best and still managed to text me a photo of himself and his ER buddies at midnight. So I technically still got to see him as 2014 arrived!)

It was a late night and I woke up dragging. It took me a long time to just get out the door to go to the barn, and even once at the barn, I just stood around and chatted with Kathy and Phoebe for an hour before I actually went to get Lily from the field.

She was at the round bale, happy to see me.

I tacked Lily up in the Wintec and decided to do another arena ride since it had just been dragged. The footing was perfect.

I set Runmeter (thank you Karen!!) and Pandora and, since Lily had been napping in the cross ties while getting her ready, hopped on without letting her run around in the arena first.

We did a long walk warm-up alternating between a loose rein and collection, then moved on into the trot, just working on straight lines and circles. I let Lily do whatever she wanted with her head and neck, I just wanted the correct bend and impulsion. We ventured into some spirals at the trot but both of us were kind of "meh" about them, so we went back to straight lines and circles.

Once Lily was propelling us forward with a nice medium trot, feeling all loose and slinky-like beneath me, I decided to try out a variant of another exercise in the 101 Dressage Exercises book. It is Exercise 72, called One-Stride Transitions. It calls for transitioning within 1 stride from walk to canter and back again. Umm, yeah, we're not there yet. But it inspired other variants.

I had Lily work on halt for 5 seconds, trot for 5 strides and back again all the way down the long sides of the arena. We reversed directions and repeated to the other side. This worked beautifully to get her withers up and her hind end up underneath her. I then asked for walk to canter transitions: 5 strides of walk, then 5 strides of canter. She gets VERY impatient with collection exercises involving the canter, but she did a FANTASTIC job with this exercise going to the right. She NAILED those upwards and downwards transitions at precisely the moment I asked for them. We did one turn around the arena and I then unleashed her into her most extended trot (so far) and sent her across the diagonal to change direction. We then slowed to a walk...and Lily started going sideways, anticipating that canter cue! So going to the left, her weaker side, I had to modify the exercise. We walked until she went straight, THEN I'd ask for the canter. Her canter in this direction is not as balanced, so I asked for her to pick up her inside shoulder and sat down to assist with balancing her. We circled in a super collected canter...I had no idea she could collect that much at the canter; she's never done it before with this ease.  We completed the circle and I then asked for the walk. Rinse and repeat. Since we were doing more strides at each gait, we did two turns around the arena to the left. By then she was all, "CANTER!! I WANNA CANTER!" I laughed at her and said, "Noooo, I want you to put all of that energy into the trot." Lily said, "Okay, but just stay out of my way." I asked for the trot and she gave it. I stayed out of her way, just posting along quietly, and she gave me one of her most powerful trots to date. We did giant Xs using the entire arena, changing direction each time we crossed the diagonal, 4 times. By then she started showing the very beginnings of losing momentum, so I asked for a walk and let her stretch.

After walking around in both directions, I asked for the trot again, and we gave the spiral-in, spiral-out exercise a whirl again. The spirals weren't as stellar as during our last ride, but they were better than at the beginning of this ride.

We did this exercise again, once in each direction:

And then I cued the canter as we crossed the diagonal to change directions to the right. Lily picked up the canter immediately.

I then worked on extending and collecting at the canter. I had never asked her for this before, but decided to give it a shot given how much she had been able to collect with the walk-canter exercise.

The idea was to get her to lengthen her stride down the long sides of the arena, then collect on the short sides. It didn't work out the way I had planned, which just means she's not yet ready for what I wanted, but I was pleased with her attempt: when I released her down the long sides, she lengthened her frame but remained balanced, and when I sat down around the corners to complete the short sides, she gathered herself up. Her stride and speed never changed, but her frame did. We switched gears to a trot, crossed the diagonal, cued the left lead canter, and repeated in the opposite direction. Same results. I was happy with it anyway; it just means we need to work on this more. I continue to be impressed with her improvements at the canter and the huge difference in her balance and quality of gait, even when I'm riding her.

We put in a good 5 solid minutes of canter work, which is another indication of her increased stamina: Lily used to be more than happy to return to a trot after one turn around the arena at the canter. It's pretty awesome to me how much the conditioning work on the trails is improving EVERYTHING for her.

I asked for a halt from the canter, which she obliged. Rein-back and dismount. I immediately took her pulse. It was 64. I walked her on foot for 10 minutes, then re-checked her pulse: 48.

My mare is FIT, guys!!

We did 3 miles in 49 minutes. Our average pace was 3.7 mph, but this was including all of the walking we did at the beginning of the session. Our fastest speed was 7.59 mph during our final canter exercise. I had no problems at all with Runmeter during this session. I'll play with the various apps everyone has recommended and let everyone know which one ends up being the winner for us. :) Thank you for the suggestions on what has worked for many of you!

My BO was handing out baggies of baby carrots for the horses for New Year's. Lily nickered happily when she saw me coming with the carrots, so she got to do a lot of stretches with baby carrots afterwards. :) She always makes me laugh because she loves the bow stretch so much. If I stop with the stretches but she wants more treats/carrots, she'll continue bowing repeatedly on her own until I give her one more treat. Today she bowed, then PAWED with one front hoof while she still had her head between her knees (that takes some mad skills) to get my attention so I'd give her the carrot already!

I need Charles to film her in action so you guys can see. I've tried to take photos but they don't do Lily's efforts justice!

I then treated her legs (we are now just using Eqyss Microtek Shampoo and a combo of Desitin + Lotrimin + hydrocortisone ointment every other day, and the scratches are pretty much completely gone) while she noisily ate her beet pulp + grain + forage mash. And then she received a million hugs and kisses, and I turned her out for the night. It was a GREAT first ride of the year!

And sorry for the lack of photos guys. My phone's camera is still dead and I won't be able to take it in to be checked out until the weekend. :/


  1. I love cats. We have four. All are rescues.

    Nice ride to start your year and it sounds like your year will progress well, based on today.

  2. Lol River does the same thing with the bowing stretch! What a great way to bring in 2014! :)

    1. It was fantastic! You brought in 2014 even better though! Your new barn sounds amazing! :D

  3. Now I want to go out and do more arena work today with Goose! And that's saying something because I normally don't *want* to do arena work two days in a row these days! Thanks for inspiring me!

    1. You're welcome! Love when we can inspire others. :)