Three Words Blog Hop

Nadia posted the three words she would use to describe Macy, and I found myself relating quite a bit to some of her description of Macy–I could use similar words to describe Eli, but of course not quite the same words and not quite the same reasons.

Agile

Eli is not simply athletic. I put him in some awfully awkward spots and he gets out of them in good form. I can’t ask more than that. And then of course there are his embellishments …

Intense

I would not consider Eli to be a horse for everyone. He can try my patience sometimes with his quirks and reactiveness. If he is having emotions, everyone knows it. The funny thing, though, is that this intensity is reserved for humans. Around other horses, he really just wants to play bitey-face and if a horse squeals and strikes out at him because of that, he walks away without a word.

Devoted

This is a very silly and tricky word to use to describe a horse. I don’t think he is devoted to me, particularly (my presence just offends him the least because I am a cookie vending machine), but I do think he is devoted to doing well under saddle if we are going to be doing that. Everything I ask, he does. Sometimes he does a little extra, but I don’t think of that as an issue. I think we are finally doing what he really wants to do and he tries really, really hard to understand his job. Maybe dedicated would be a better word, but it doesn’t have the same emotional gravity with which Eli approaches his work. I think many thoroughbreds could be described this way.

I tried to get some video last night but the Polaroid Cube is just not good for night videos. Then it ran out of room and didn’t catch the last part of our ride. That’s my fault, though, since I hadn’t deleted like three other videos–it does have a good bit of space for video storage. I couldn’t ride my way out of a paper cup last night, anyway, so it’s just as well.

How to Texas in Michigan Weather

My parents are from Michigan. In what I can only characterize as a stroke of genius, they moved to Texas in the 70s (and it had absolutely nothing to do with the Army. Nope.). So every time I say something about this winter of never-ending ice and wet and cold and fog and freezes, they just retort something about how I would die shoveling snow. Yeah. You’re not wrong, forebearers of Swedish, German, and Scots-Irish descent. My DNA may come from the land of ice and snow, but weathering these dank, dark, Moria-like conditions is not for me. No, really, I feel like I am in a giant cave of stuff I want nothing to do with. Where is the sun?

So, how does a Texan cope in this purgatory of dreary desperation?
1. Spirits. Self-explanatory. Flask optional. Be aware that tequila may make you a little too aggressive about demanding more tortilla chips for your queso …

2. Layer-up: Eli gets to wear his quarter sheet A LOT right now, and honestly I think he appreciates it, which is to say he doesn’t try to kick or buck it off. I wear a puffy vest under a puffy coat and groom while wearing gloves and sometimes I leave my helmet on for a really long time after riding because hunter hair keeps my ears warm. I may have driven home with it on the other day, but I can’t say for sure.
3. Stay layered-up while indoors. I wear my puffy coat at my desk at work and at the dining room table at home. I am just trying to recreate what 85F and sunny feels like. But inside. Where the heat is not turned up enough, in my opinion.
4. Scalding hot Mexican food. Slathered in scalding hot queso. Oven-warmed (or heat lamp, either way) tortilla chips are the appropriate utensil.

5. While we are on Mexican food, jalapeños. I put them on everything right now. On toast. On potatoes. On salads. I think they might be good in Greek yogurt …
6. Scalding hot showers: the only time I am actually warm.
7. Scarves … this goes beyond just layering up. I wear scarves everywhere year-round. In winter, I maybe wear two at a time. Then I can wrap my neck and my face from the nose down.
8. Keep a wardrobe of enough winter layers to satisfy a Sherpa in the backseat of your car because when the weather guy says it’s going to get up to 50 today, he means for like 3 minutes. The rest of the day will be like 36F and you might see penguins.
9. Fire. Fire pits, chimineas, grills, smokers … if you have to be outside, light something on fire and cook meat until it gets that smoky, crunchy char around the edges. And then eat it with queso and jalapeños.

And like any devoted Texan, I have added both “chimineas” and “queso” to my spell-check dictionary.

Procrastination

I have really funny friends, and sometimes we have amusing conversations. And sometimes the culmination of such conversations result in:

I let my art speak for itself.

You know how it is. We are all trying really hard not to suck. Some may try harder than others, and some are in different places in their journey of trying not to suck. And not all journeys are in straight lines. (And there might have been a slightly different expression used during the development of this metric.)

Just imagine one side is the good/happy side, the other is the bad/sad side, and the middle is like Kent Farrington-level competence at not sucking. (Or any admirable rider/horse person of any discipline.)

Most of the time I feel pretty orangey-yellow or yellowy-orange when I am working with or around horses. Can I wrap a hoof? Definitely. Is that wrap going to stay on overnight? Mostly. But I ain’t no FEI groom.

Honestly, at some point I think any horse person has experienced almost every level of sucking or not sucking. But where do you think you’d put yourself on this spectrum the majority of the time? Questions and answers here are just for fun. Don’t nobody take ’emselves too serious now.

In other news, I did not ride last night. I had riding clothes for 50f, not 30f. I am sure I can think of the exact place where I’d put meteorologists on this spectrum.

Relief

When I rode Eli last Monday, I knew he needed his stifle injections before we could do much of anything. Light flat work, sure. But anything more intensive would have been unfair to him even though he felt sound (just no real push from behind while cantering left). So throughout the week he rested and was free to go in turnout after getting his stifles injected. I looked forward to our ride on Saturday, hoping to feel a difference in his left lead — would the right hind be back in gear?

taken by Olivia H.

I had all week to wonder about the results. Of course, I know that injections’ results may not really peak until a week or so after the procedure, but in the past Eli has always felt back in business the first few rides after injections so we get back to jumping by ride three or four. Maybe it’s partly the time off, too, who knows. Honestly I think this winter he has had a few too many vacation days — he likes to work and feels better in regular work, seeming much happier to me, anyway. And we all know Eli is not one to conceal his emotions.

Saturday morning was very mild and the forecast left all of us riders and trainers at the barn with the impression that we’d have to come back in the evening to blanket the horses because of how warm it would be during the day. (Not that we’d all have to come back but sometimes I offer to because Eli can be a wanker about it.) I took my time tacking up because I would not be riding in a lesson, just flatting to see how Eli felt. As I placed my saddle pads on Eli’s back, a very chilly gust of wind from the north blew through the barn. Moments later, the cold air had settled in. It went from 60-something to 40-something in a matter of minutes. And here I am tacking up a horse that hasn’t worked in a week, who will now, no doubt, pass beyond the boundaries of fresh into the hinterlands of spooky. Plus I was cold as I had not dressed for 46F. I had a puffy vest on which helped but the ride that I had just minutes ago looked forward to suddenly seemed a bit daunting.

However, I had nothing to worry about. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, horse. Not only that, but I was able to play with some of the concepts from the clinic that Eli took to right away. Best part? His engine. He had all the power from his hind end that I am used to at our disposal. (Not to say he is especially magically powerful, we were just back to where we normally are.) He responded to my seat. He was light in the bridle. He cantered very well in both directions, without feeling like he was trying to run himself into a ditch going to the left. He could rock back and push forward. He remained quite focused, especially considering the circumstances.

Because the cold front came through much earlier than expected, that answered the blanket question for us. I threw his wool cooler on after our ride. I have already gotten so much use out of it this year — I hadn’t used one in ages and now suddenly I am using it regularly. What the hell is happening in Texas?!

As for Sunday, we had thundersleet here. Yes … I did not know that was a word, either. Most riders I know didn’t ride, including me. I am hoping Eli will feel just as good tonight as he did Monday, and we are supposedly going to get in the 50s today. If it’s chilly by the time I get to the barn, I’ll be using that quarter sheet again. Decades have passed without me having need for either a quarter sheet or a wool cooler maybe but once a year, if even that, and now I am reaching for them regularly.

I have also just added a few new supplements into the mix for Eli — one daily and one as needed, both given orally. I’ll see if I can get him to eat the daily one on a few handfuls of grain and if that works out I’ll just leave it for the barn employees to feed to him with his lunch. He can be finicky about supplements on his feed but it wouldn’t be a problem for me to give it to him daily, and then I’d know he was getting it rather than eating around it. I’d like to keep using both for a while before writing much about them. Supplements are not overnight miracles and to evaluate either before a few months of use would be pointless. For those who are curious, one is hyaluronic acid and the other is magnesium. A number of clients at the barn have used similar if not the same things with positive results, so I am not just throwing stuff at a wall to see what sticks.

Clinic Recap

I did, indeed, get to borrow a horse and ride in the clinic on Friday last week. I rode a lovely bay named Z who could be a little balky just at the beginning of a ride but once he got going he was entirely game and cooperative for everything. He took more leg than Eli, and liked a much stronger feel in the bridle, too, so I was whupped by the end. I forget how light Eli is until I sit on basically anything else.

I rode in a group with two other adult amateurs, and we are all reasonably competent on good days, so the flat work focus was lateral work.

We worked on moving the shoulders and the haunches, both of which are important skills to have while jumping if you expect to keep your horse balanced through turns. In moving both the haunches and the shoulder to the right, Z seemed a bit stiff, and I struggled with getting it done. However, moving each to the left, it was a breeze. I think he knew what I was asking both ways. Perhaps my cues were weaker to the right, or perhaps he is just a stiffer horse on the right … probably a little of both.

These skills came into play once we moved on to first cantering over a pole on a small circle — honestly I have no idea how big the circle was, but it did seem smaller than 20m. And then it seemed even smaller once the pole was a vertical (haha). Everyone was able to get it done both directions for the most part, although I was never able to make the nearest inside turn going to the left. I think by then I was just really freaking tired. Z certainly still had plenty of energy left. He got his feet packed and lots of cookies. I know I will be able to use what I learned on Z when I ride Eli. Plus Eli is balanced a little more uphill than Z is, so maybe it will be a little easier for us. The clinician had a couple of tips about the seat and leg in lateral work that will really help me going forward with Eli, things that I had not tried before. I was able to do a little of these things at the walk with Eli, and he figured them out very quickly and was very responsive.

Friday wasn’t too bad, Saturday was freezing, and Sunday turned out really nice! Three days, all seasons, how Texas-y.

The first issue was when using my seat and leg in conjunction to move the haunches I struggled with sitting on the same hip as the leg, and found when using, for example, my right leg I wanted to sit on my left hip, but needed to be sitting on my right hip. Kathleen explained I have to kind of pull myself down into the saddle with my upper calf and lower inner thigh like doing a sitting trot … ugh, I can’t quite get what she said down into words but I knew what she meant and it worked, tip number one helps me immensely!

Crochet Eli doesn’t need lateral work.

The next issue was related to a quarter turn on the haunches, which I do practice with Eli periodically. However, I had not realized in trying to execute this that the horse taking a step back is okay, but the horse taking a step forward is an evasion. I had it the opposite in my head for some reason and could not think of why I thought that (probably because in general I tend to want the horse to go forward first before anything else). I also need to SLOW DOWN when doing lateral work since we are in the early stages of learning it, so I can feel each step and Eli has enough time to coordinate each step. We don’t need lateral work for competition, so the slowing down thing makes perfect sense to me.

I didn’t get any media of me on Z but at least I am getting this all down on “paper.” That kind of helps me remember it better. I am glad I choose to sit Eli out, because he would not have been able to do the left circle over a pole/vertical comfortably. I may try it with him after the maintenance does its job.

In other news, Eli approves of the Amigo quarter sheet I got him and has now worn it twice without incident. He will be off work until Saturday because of his stifle injections, but the weather is very cold and wet right now so I don’t really mind the break from riding.

Weenie Wednesday: Go Away, Winter

Conrad might be over winter. He is getting a little resistant about putting on sweaters. He’ll try to hide under the dining room table, but then he gives up and submits to wearing a sweater. Then I think once he realizes it’s like 36F he’s okay with having it on.

Pretty much everyone in Texas is hoping for warmer weather soon!

digging in the dirt from patentlybay on Vimeo.

But until then, Conrad will wear sweaters on our walks.

He had a check-up last Friday afternoon and he was quite sore from the rabies vaccination (it’s only given every 3 years in Texas, thankfully!) so the following few days, our walks were shorter and sometimes I just carried him, which he seems to enjoy.

I discovered that Ruffwear does make green harnesses now, and I wanted one that fit better for him to wear over his sweaters, so the trusty orange harness is now adjusted to fit over his sweaters, and the green one is for warm days. So I have a blue Ruffwear harness that is a size too big for Conrad, if anyone is looking for a blue M: Girth: 27 – 32 inches Front Range harness. It is an older version so the adjustable straps are grey instead of matching the color of the harness.

It did get a little warm on Sunday, but the cold weather was back on Monday — cold enough for me to ride Eli in his quarter sheet. I just want it to be 85F, partly cloudy, light southerly breeze …