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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WW: 3 Months Of Rehab

Photos are very obviously edited because the light was dim in the aisle in front of the indoor, despite turning the light on.

She kind of looks like a hunter pony in this one.

I am happy with her weight at the moment, and her topline is slowly starting to make a comeback.

Her neck is finally starting to come back, too.
She looks weirdly two-tone because she'd just had a bath!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gravel Crunchers

Just a quick update on the Lilybird.

Over the weekend, we did a lot of this:

"What is this brightly colored object?"

She refused to touch it with her hind feet initially. 
Mission accomplished.
She stopped being afraid of the bath mat after I made her chase me while I ran backwards, dragging the mat in front of me. Don't ask me how I came up with that one, but it was the key, as it passively made her follow after the object that was intimidating her. Her ears flicked forward attentively the minute I switched to this tactic. It was so cool to watch her entire mindset change.
 After that, she would happily walk and trot all over the thing. Go figure. Yay for desensitizing that doesn't involve flooding!
Oh, and she was sober. Check out how calm and happy she looks. :)

We also went for a walk in the woods, where I did a short lunge with her in a flat clearing where the grass was up to her knees and hocks. This made for some really fancy walking and trotting, and initially she was a little spazzy about all the brush touching her body, but then settled. We just did one circle at a time in each direction, first walk, then trot, and each time she came to a halt when asked. 

Today we hit the trails for a 35 minute ride, with our two 4-minute trot sets. We did the Bayou Trail again; she crossed the little bridge, the small creek crossing, and then the gravelly creek crossing, without any kind of hesitation. We circled around a meadow that we hadn't visited since January, and she was da bomb-diggity. She didn't even startle at all the deer we saw. At one point she kept trying to trot, and I realized that it was because a giant horsefly was perched on top of her croup, biting her. SUCH A GOOD GIRL!! Recently, while being tacked up outside, one of the OTTBs at the barn completely lost his shit, bucking and bolting, when one of those suckers bit him on the rump. 

I smacked the fly off, and it didn't bother us again. 

We then retraced our steps home.

She was one happy, calm, relaxed mare all the way. Check out her ears in the photos. I was so proud of her! On the homestretch home, a deer leaped clear across the trail barely 10 feet in front of us. Lily was marching along at a peppy walk, and she didn't even pause. Just put her ears up like, "Oh look! A deer! Pretty!" and kept right on trucking. 

Yup, happy pony, happy owner! She got a huge hug and extra mush after this ride.

The following 2 weeks, I will probably be posting a lot less frequently because my mom is visiting from Puerto Rico! We are giving her the Grand Tour of the MD-DC-VA area. She was a military wife so of course she lived in the US for a solid 14 years, and of course she visited often in FL, but she hasn't visited this area of the country before. Very excited! 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Photo

"Off roading". We did a loop around a fallen tree, going completely off of the trail, and kept on going for a bit. She was absolutely fine with this. Footing was flat and firm; no mud.

We did 2 miles in 37 minutes, with our 2 4-minute trot sets. She chose to go towards the big bridge initially, then refused to go over it. (Wtf Lily. We just did this 2 days ago!) I made her circle in front of it until she crossed, then turned around and made her cross over it again. We then headed towards the Bayou trail, where she balked at the little bridge. After a minute of insisting, she walked over. We then did our first trot set, and she seemed happy and fairly relaxed. I even listened to Pandora during our ride, a first on any horse ever. Had the volume set super low so I could still hear what was going on around us, but it was nice to have a little music in the background. 

Second trot set happened on the way back home, and I had her continue trotting over the little bridge...then turned her around (she wasn't thrilled with that initially) and made her go trot it again, going away from home. I turned her around again, and we trotted over it towards home, thus finishing our second trot set on a good note. 

I consider it a good session as long as I'm able to do shit while still on her back. This was a good session. 

Once back, I originally wanted to take her around the barn on the concrete before dismounting, but Heather and Joana were working on trailer loading with their horses, and Lily acted like she'd never before seen a trailer in her life. After 5 minutes of insisting, I got her to walk 5 strides towards it, made her stop on MY command, then dismounted and led her towards it. I removed her saddle while waiting for Joana to be done with Justice, then, with their permission, led Lily up onto the trailer. She followed obediently. We did this twice, then took her to the wash stall for a bubble bath.

I hand-grazed her in front of the trailer afterwards. Lily, trailers don't eat horses.

I just learned that allowing a horse to stop and look at things is a bad thing to do, especially on the trail. I'm guilty of doing this with Lily in the beginning. Now I have to work on undoing it. Any good suggestions on building a horse's confidence under saddle outside of the arena?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Home on the Trails

The day after we got back from WV, I took Lily out on the trail, while I still had the gumption.

During the last recheck, I had asked Dr. R about trail riding. She had said we could, as long as it was on flat terrain, with no ditches or crazy ups and downs. I knew exactly which trail we could do that met all of these requirements, but figured I'd wait until she was back on turnout before taking her out.

I changed my mind.

I had given her 1.8 mls of ace because it was the first time riding her after the trip. Jackie had hand-walked her for me while we were out, but Lily hadn't really done any significant exercise in 3 days. I was originally going to ride in the outdoor, then ditched that plan at the last minute and took her to the mounting block by the trail head.

I can't begin to say how brave of a move this whole thing was. Lily had not been on the trails in almost 5 months and the trails looked 100% different from the last time we were out there. Actually, I myself hadn't been out there in the same amount of time, which meant I had no idea what to expect in terms of the trail's appearance.

There was some hesitation from Lily at the trailhead, where it was muddy and some fresh dirt had been laid down to firm up the footing. I tried taking her around the drainage pipe at the end, but she was not having it. I ended up dismounting and, grumbling, just leading her around. She followed me fine.

There were several moments of hesitation after that, the moments sometimes turning into a literal step-stop-step-stop process. I dismounted again at the little bridge and led her across before she could even think about faltering. It also allowed me to check out the footing first, as over the winter it was extremely muddy there and I didn't want her slipping and sliding in mud with her recovering leg. The footing was nice and firm under the thick layer of grass.

After that, the going was peachy. We rode for a total of 15 minutes going away from the barn, with maybe 2 minutes of trotting, and then turned around and headed back. Of course, heading home Lily was on a mission, so we covered ground in half the time, despite being at a walk.

So I took her down to the big bridge at the end of the little road, the one we crossed so many times before.

There was A LOT of hesitation over this bridge. Lily tried turning around repeatedly, and I made her circle and come back to face the bridge. I made the circles larger and larger, so she was having to get closer and closer to the bridge. Eventually, her front feet were on it, and before I knew it, we were crossing it.

I never had to dismount.

Once on the other side, I turned her around, crossed the bridge again, and headed home. We made it back in a total of 40 minutes.

Over the weekend, I took her out again on foot so she could look at everything with me on the ground. She wasn't exactly thrilled with it thanks to the bugs driving her nuts despite fly spray, but she came along as willingly as could be expected.

On Tuesday, Tina and I re-started Tuesday trails. I gave the goofball 2 full mls of ace, expecting her to be anxious about following Houdan. She wasn't; she was SUCH A GOOD GIRL!! Houdan hadn't been out on the trails in a long time either, and he was quite looky, which was a first. Lily was like, "You're silly. I gotz this." And never once so much as looked at a single log or rock on the trail. We did the whole 3-mile Bayou trail loop, including the creek crossing, in 30 minutes flat.

This time we added the 2 sets of 4 minutes trotting that I had started on the lunge over the weekend as well, and for once, Lily loved it. Once we trotted, she was like:

"Can I trot more?"
No Lily, we have to walk.
"What about now?"
"And now?"
5 minutes walking.
"Ok....It's been 5 minutes."
No, it's been 2 seconds.

We did do our workout like the vet had ordered, but I LOVE seeing her that enthused. Despite 2 mls of ace...

The second bridge, which was blocked off over most of the winter, had been completely removed. The banks of the stream had been filled in with large gravel. Houdan thought hard about crossing, Lily didn't even pause while going across.

Oh, and she didn't take a single sore step on the gravel!

At the next creek crossing, she walked down to the water's edge quietly, then suddenly decided to hop across, catching me completely by surprise. She had never ever even attempted to jump the creek. I laughed. There is a short rise after the creek, and a giant prickly bush was pretty much blocking the path. Lily went right through it when I pointed her at it and ducked down close to her neck to avoid the branches. A la Q and Little Bit.

Isn't she awesome?

The rest of the trail was quite overgrown, and she just plowed her way through merrily. Houdan got quite ahead of us and she pranced, but came right back down to a very, very forward and oscillating walk when asked.

Her leg got cold hosed and iced after that for good measure, and she was fine.

Almost every ride since has taken place on the same trail this week. I've been taking advantage of the dry weather while I can; if it rains enough to make the trail slick, we'll be staying in the arenas or paddocks again.

I've been riding with the dressage whip all the time lately; the only ride I didn't use it on this week was on the first trail ride after the trip. 
She completely ignores its presence now, unless I use it to tap my leg as encouragement.

She has a tiny startle at the beginning of this video, and then she's fine. 

Tonight she nickered when I arrived at the barn, for the second time since her layup started. I didn't ride at all; just put her on the lunge for a bit at a walk and we only did one 4 minute trot set. She was completely sober, the first time in a while that I've lunged her sober. Previously, she had been doing all sorts of acrobatics on the lunge if I didn't give her an ml of ace prior. She'd always come right back down to the gait I wanted her at, be it walk or trot, but it was nerve-wracking to have your recovering mare doing circus tricks on her $2,000 leg regardless...

Tonight however, she was fab. Completely paying attention, tossing her head playfully when asked to trot, but no attempts at cantering or at airs above ground. I asked for a change of direction, had her walk, then asked her to come. She came to me, but stopped 3 feet away. I waited. She waited. And then she closed the distance and reached out with her nose and touched me. This is a first. I rubbed her forehead under her forelock where she loves to be rubbed, and she closed her eyes.

We repeated this two more times. Each time, she closed the distance and touched me. On that note, we finished for the evening.

Maybe someday she will trust me 100% of the time.

An Epic Vacation Part 4: Trailventures

And yes, I realize I'm using one of Andrea's terms, but it is 100% appropriate in this case!

On Thursday morning we woke up at a more reasonable hour (8:00 am) and Liz made us some amazing pancakes with chopped strawberries, peaches, and white & milk chocolate chips. Charles woke up for this, then went back to sleep when we left for the barn.

Liz brought Griffin in, and we trimmed his feet.

All the pretty horses...with long white stockings!

Liz's technique is very similar to what I just started doing with Lily. I had asked to watch her trim and to get pointers, since she has both of her horses successfully barefoot in a Northeastern climate (which farriers love to say is impossible...). Go admire Q's beautiful feet here. She had front shoes when Liz first bought her a year ago.  Her walls are twice that thickness now, thanks to constant movement and proper, regular trimming. Most photos don't do her legs justice, but you can appreciate it in some of the photos taken of us cantering in my previous post: she has nice, large-boned cobby legs with feet that are more than appropriate for her size. Really: ideal proportion. Why don't we have more horses like this in the US?

Griffin's feet are also gorgeous, also with super-thick walls, since he's been barefoot from the start. I realized, watching Liz, that I had never seen anyone roll a hoof in person. Videos are not the same. I took home the mental image of how Liz angled the rasp, and ended up doing another touch-up on Lily's feet Friday. I'm truly happy with them now, and she has been doing great! She hasn't even tripped in the indoor...hmmmm....

After that, both of us looked like we'd been doused with the hose. It was soooo muggy, the humidity just stuck to your skin. Not unbearably hot, but it reminded me of the island. Again. I keep saying it, but seriously: never in a million years did I expect to be reminded of my fave parts of the island while living in the Northeast with seasons. I would've pushed for the move up here a lot sooner!

Griffin went back out with his friends, and we got Q and Little Bit ready.

Little Bit is a pinto Tennessee Walking Horse, owned by Dee, the BO. He is semi-retired due to ERU (equine recurrent uveitis) in one of his eyes. Liz mentioned that this horse missed being worked. You should have seen his face light up when he saw I was going to get him, and then he tried his bestest to stay right next to me while I brought both him and Q in from the pasture.

This horse literally had me at "Hello." I love me a horse with a good work ethic.

My saddle seemed to fit him well. Actually it seemed to fit both him and Q well - no pinching, good back clearance, panels lay flat against their backs. Even girthed up, I could still slide my fingers between him and the panels. A good thing, since this was going to be a long ride. Yay for flexible trees!

I did think of asking Liz for a breastplate for him, as the man is quite chubby from lack of exercise. It would have been better if I had, but oh well.

He looked at me all eager, with ears pricked, when he saw me coming with his bridle. The reaction any other horse would have towards a treat! He reached for his bit when I bridled him, then pouted when I took the bridle off again so I could put a fly bonnet on him. I had the bridle hanging from my shoulder, and while fiddling with the bonnet, he reached for the bridle and took it with his teeth.


I swear he smiled when I put it back on.

Off we went!

We rode out of the barn yard, across the creek, and through a field. The horses were super happy to be out, and I got Little Bit to gait, leading the way. This was my first time on a TWH, and let me say: my next horse will be a TWH. Loved his gait, his conformation, and most of all, his mind. 

We reached the treeline, and then the adventure started as we climbed up the mountain through young forest, initially walking, then trotting, then with spurts of galloping. The trail was very overgrown, and we found ourselves shoving branches aside, ducking low against the horses' necks (sometimes along the sides of their necks, Native American style, as we charged through the woods). Twice we had to get off so one of us could hold a heavy branch up while the other led the horses through. 


Very low branches

Liz rides one-handed pretty much the entire time, so she can use her other hand to push branches out of the way.

Low branches  
We took turns leading. Liz lended me her Camelback. Note to self: get one! Way easier than juggling a water bottle hooked to the saddle.

 Both horses owned that trail. You pointed, they went. It didn't matter which one was in front. Little Bit would canter and gallop for longer if Q was leading, but that was the only difference. I loved Little Bit so much, I 100% for realz wanted to take him home by the end of this ride. ERU can be managed. It would be worth it for a horse that has a brain on his shoulders. The only time he didn't go straight ahead when asked was when we came to a particularly thick cluster of branches hanging right in the middle of the trail while leading. I was going to duck and hang on. He stopped in front of it, took one good look, said, "Nah," then went carefully around it, which meant getting up on the side of the cliff that soared up next to the trail. I'd forgotten what it was like to ride a horse that can make decisions, while still going in the direction I want him to.

After what felt like a long time, we finally made it to the top of the mountain, where the forest was mature and thus there were no more low branches to duck under. The shade was wonderful, and as long as we kept moving, the bugs weren't bad. The "official" trail disappeared, and Liz followed the deer trails instead, across the ridge of the mountain. You could see the forest dipping down on both sides. Awesome!!!

Riding through the mature forest.
This was an old elk farm. The elk are not there anymore, but the 7' fences remain.

Adjusting the saddle and tightening the girth again. Should've grabbed that breastplate...oh well.
I got this video for your (and my!) enjoyment, while leading up a long, steep hill. Yes, it's one minute long. We walk, trot, gait and canter. He never faltered.

Liz managed to take us on a loop, so that on the way back we avoided some of the gnarlier parts of the immature forest. We only had to dismount once. It was one of the most awesome trail rides ever for me. There has only been one trailventure in my life that was remotely comparable previously, and it was when I was 14, still living in PR. There is a horse rental facility on the skirts of El Yunque named Hacienda Carabali (check it out here), where my barn's summer camp took us one day for what I think was a 2 hour ride. Since all of us in our group knew how to ride, we were given decent horses. The trails in Carabali are well marked, but I remember we gaited (the horses are all criollo horses aka Paso crosses) and we did quite a bit of cantering and galloping. It was hella fun. I used to do crazy things with my Pasos, like riding through our hometown on the streets and seeking out construction sites on the weekends (when no one is working) to sneak into so we could ride the paths that had been carved into the mountainsides by the machinery. But nothing quite like the ride with Liz. I'd like to do more of that more often! Once back at the barn, we hosed off Little Bit and Q, who were drenched in sweat.

I then hopped on Little Bit to ride him around to his pasture, and Liz got a video and photos of us:

Big ole goofy grin. :)

After that, we packed up my riding stuff and headed back to the house, so Carlos and I could get ready to leave. We would be giving Liz a ride to Seneca Rocks to meet up with Jeremy, and so we could hike up the trail to the top. It was on our way home anyway.

We drove through rain, and once at Seneca, it was thundering. Liz and Jeremy chose not to go rock climbing this time, and instead went on the hike with us. It was 1.5 miles to the top of the mountain.

See that fin of rock? That's where the trail led to.

Charles and his danger signs...

Liz and Jeremy, sitting on the front face of the fin.

<3 this one!

We hiked back down, and parted ways at the bottom of the mountain, with plans to hang out together again soon! We had so, so much fun on this trip!

Have a ton of photos of the Appalachians on our way home. And whoever says these aren't mountains, I beg to differ, especially after the views from Seneca above!

The Appalachians are beautiful. They feel like home. 

And that is the end of this epic blogger vacation. It's funny to think that without this blog, this trip would have never happened. I wouldn't have known Liz, wouldn't have known about her horses, wouldn't have had this insider's view into WV. The story would have been completely different. 

Thank you Liz, for inviting us over and showing us such a fantastic time! 

And thank you, Lily, for inspiring me to start this blog in the first place. 

Happy blogging!