Thursday, February 25, 2016

TJP Throwback Thursday: Barefoot

My first horse, my mare Cherry, getting a pedicure in our front yard.  That's 8 or 9 year old me in the stylin' sweatpants and green shoes.

I've never shod any of my horses.  When I come across pictures of my first horse, Cherry, it reminds me of that.  She was always barefoot.  She did great.  We did everything together.  Cherry never had any issues.  When I had her, I remember thinking I wish she would have been shod so I could have cool horseshoes to keep and hang up when she was done with them.  

Barefoot OG status.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Struggle Bus

 Um yeah, explanation below.

Klein and I board the struggle bus when it comes to lengthenings.  They have always been the thorn in our side.  Once Klein gets something, she gets it.  I feel like she half gets lengthenings right now.  I just have to prove to her a lllllittle bit more that she CAN and we'll be good.  We're so close!!  We usually get 6's on them in dressage tests with comments like "minimal change shown."  Yeah, yeah, we're trying.  Klein has gotten a 30 on her USEA Training A test before, so imagine if that test had higher than 6's for the two lengthenings that are in it?  We have been working on Prelim A lately too, and guess what's in that? 

We worked HARD on our lengthenings this past Saturday.  I got some pretty funny pics from that ride but we made some progress!  I know you're not supposed to lean back for lengthenings but I really needed to drive my seat as much as I possibly could to encourage Klein.  Once we get a full grip on them that won't be necessary, but to teach her...fine.

Go Klein mare!  You CAN!

My face in both of these pics.  I know...  But seriously, that is how hard I have my core engaged.  I was trying so hard to make some more sense for Klein.  We also do shoulder-ins on the short side then lengthen across the diagonal.  That has helped her too.  It kind of loads the spring so you have something to unload across the diagonal.  I also leg yield her to the outside and squeeze twice on the outside rein and that is her cue.  She gets that.  I have done some Lainey exercises for lengthenings too.  I can't wait for our dressage lesson with her in April.  Can.  Not.  Wait.

Klein gave me her 110% Saturday.  We will continue to regularly work on these because that is what it will take. 

We had a jumping lesson this past Sunday.  We worked on our accuracy coming out of corners to one strides. There was a one stride with a vertical to a square oxer then a one stride with a vertical to a swedish oxer.  We schooled both each direction.  We had a great lesson and our accuracy sharpened and my commitment to distance did too.  I would say 85% of the time I see my distance and I commit, but 15% of the time my attention will drift for a split second and I lose my distance resulting in me committing 90% to a spot when Klein needs a yes or no answer.  I definitely felt it click coming around one of those odd corners in this weekend's lesson where I committed to my line, saw my distance about four strides out and stuck to it.  I always count down from three out.  When my attention drifts for a second like I mentioned above, my counting is thrown off a little and I make things harder for us.  I feel like a small light bulb came on last Sunday.

Also last week, last Thursday, Klein and I went back to the track near us to gallop.  Klein had a blast.  We did two miles of trotting and then did a two half mile slow gallops followed by some acceleration sprints.  She felt great!

Klein mare getting aerodynamic on our gallop last week.

Today was beautiful and I hurried home as fast as I could without being pulled over to get a dressage ride in.


 I made it in perfect time to get a full hour in and had a beautiful sunset in the background.  She felt amazing tonight.  She was so supple and flow-y.  We worked a lot in sitting trot and worked on sharpness to the aids by keeping her guessing.  I had cavaletti set on a half circle on the middle height at the end of the ring too so we would add that in periodically.  There were a lot of transitions, leg yields, 10m circles, and shoulder-ins.  One of my favorites is leg yielding to canter departs, or shoulder-in to canter departs.  Tonight was awesome.  

The girls were still eating.  Wes won the eating contest and was ready to go back out.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Jennie Brannigan Clinic - February 2016

 I love Klein's expression, she was enjoying herself!

Yesterday Klein and I braved the 6 degree weather and went to our Jennie Brannigan.  It was miserably cold outside and the fact that my truck was even whining despite being plugged in all night didn't help my motivation.  I didn't hook up my truck and trailer the night before either, because I was seriously doubting if I could bring myself to go.  The day before the clinic was super windy and being outside in that is what had me starting to question if I would really be going anywhere the next day.  It was COLDER than when we went to the track the other day.

When I pulled my truck and trailer up I'm pretty sure I could hear Klein saying "This is my stupid human, there are many like it, but this one is mine." 

I tried to tack up outside but when I went to do the last buckle on Klein's girth and my hand hurt too bad to do it I finished getting her ready in the barn.  Just from being outside trying to tack up my fingernails were painful, weird, but true.  The barn wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, neither was the indoor.  So that helped.  There was still no way I was taking my jacket off despite having two shirts on underneath.  I felt like the Michelin Man all layered up.  I also felt super uncomfortable riding with so many layers on.

Open hip angle brought to you by feeling like the Michelin Man.

I had a pretty shitty attitude until after my ride.  I just wasn't happy to be out in that cold.  Jennie said that was the coldest weather she has ever taught in.  Really, that's pretty tough to still come out and spend all day freezing your ass off.  She is an extremely successful rider and being that she's spending her winter in Florida I am sure there are no shortage of riders down there that she could have filled her weekend with teaching in Florida.  Yet, there she was.  And the owner of the barn that hosted it, she is one tough mofo too because she was still teaching that weekend and riding several of her own horses in the clinic.  There were barns here cancelling events because of this record breaking weekend.

We were in the 3'3" group with two other riders.  We warmed up and started trotting a course with all the poles on the ground.  I had been warned that Jennie is very technical.  She's got some razor sharp accuracy and is huge on developing your eye, and you better be looking for your next jump before you even start to turn a corner in its general direction.

Trotting little jumps is always slightly embarrassing for us because Klein disrespects the hell out of them.  But, who's fault is that?  We never trot them.  Obviously, we should.  She WALKED through a tiny oxer.  I'm not joking, she walked through it without touching a thing, and stopped at another small one in our warm up.  Now if those would have started off at 3' or 3'3" we would have no problem.  I couldn't wait to get to cantering the fences.

Walking through the tiny oxer, well, because she can (and her rider let her when I should have given her a smack with the crop).

Jennie built the course up with each round, we went from trotting it to trotting some of it then landing in a canter and making sure to get our strides correct from there, then cantering the whole thing and adding more fences and changing the course as we went.

Here is some of our warm-up:


She had some tight turns in our courses, a couple lines with different striding, a bounce in one course, a chevron in another.  It was great because she had so many elements in the courses.  You had to pay attention and think.  She said she likes to catch people cutting turns and her courses will immediately identify you if you are one of those people.


Here is some more video from the rest of the lesson:

Klein had another stop at this green vertical.  Jennie said it was because I was kind of rushing her at it and to hold her until I see the distance.  I'm glad she pointed that out because in my mind I didn't think I was rushing her, so I would have never caught on to that.  She also kept saying she liked Klein because she makes you ride her.  Funny how things change, Klein used to never used to be that horse. As she has gotten older she has gotten my number a little bit and she is making me a better rider by doing so.  She is making me step my game up.  Stopping for her is extremely rare so when it does happen it just throws me for a loop and the first thought in my head is omg is she ok??  Is something up with her today?!  I've now had two pros tell me to stop getting so caught off guard by it and just go, no one cares, go.  She also said that she could tell that Klein and I have a really great partnership together.

I am glad we went and didn't wimp out and stay at home, despite my shitty attitude.  One other cool thing, Klein was doing some flying changes, our flying change work is paying off!  I'm pretty excited to see that.  Thanks again to my friend for taking video, and taking our quarter sheet when the lesson started, and handing it back to me at the end.  If I was her, I would have probably acted like I didn't know me that day.  Klein was awesome as usual.  Even though we had a few moments we did the best could with what we had overall that day and our moments were 100% my fault.  Because when I fixed myself and RODE my horse, we were good to go.

Jennie is coming back next month and I'm looking forward to riding with her again and learning more from her.  I'm trying to decided if I should do another group jumping lesson or do a private flat lesson next month. I love her technical aspect, because as someone else said, she exposes holes, but the idea of having her to myself for a whole lesson is tempting.  Plus, she has some serious dressage skills.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Mental Toughness

 A track and some xc jumps.  We'll take that, even in 23 degrees.

Of course, for the clinic this weekend it will be the coldest day this winter.  The high is supposed to be 16.  We'll be in an indoor, but still.  That really doesn't make THAT much difference when it is that cold.  Once I saw the weather for this week drop off to a ridiculous level I seriously questioned if I would be dragging us out to this clinic.  I rrrreally want to take a lesson with Jennie Brannigan.  I mean did you guys see her kicking ass last week in the Eventing Showcase?!  She owned the hell out of that xc course.

I've been doing really good so far here in New Jersey.  I haven't been cold yet.  I've been pretty comfortable.  Everything I bought to ride in this winter has served me well and I've actually been TOO warm a couple times and never cold.  But 16 degrees worries me.  That will be the coldest weather I have ever ridden in, in my life.

I'm no wimp.  I've done a lot of challenging things that require you to stfu and man up (the military does that to you).  I've crawled around in a full chem gear suit and gas mask with a rifle for hours in nasty heat and humidity, I've done triathlons where the swim was open water in the ocean, ran half-marathons, worked outside all night long through the entire winter in Salt Lake City driving Wes, had my ass beat plenty of endless times in CrossFit by big WODs, but you won't find me tapping out.  I'd have to pass out and be unconscious before I'd quit.  But a couple hours in 16 degrees had me seriously worried if I could do it.

What do you do in this situation?  You take the next day off work and go ride in some NASTY winter weather to teach yourself to man up.  The next day's forecast?  23 degrees and windy.  Oh, joy.  Just what I was hoping for.

There is a track and small xc course not too far from us so I took Klein there.  Flurries were in the air as we were loading in what felt like 16 degrees with the wind chill.  I started to wonder if I was about to do one of the dumbest things I'd ever done.  We already committed though.  So unless some serious snow started happening, or it started raining, we were going.

The flurries went away, the sun was out, that still didn't count for anything.  The owners of the facility told me I could just ride in their indoor if I wanted.  I was like nope, we came here for the track, we'll be on the track.

Looks amazing if you didn't know what the weather was like when this was taken.  There will be plenty nice days spent here though to make up for this crappy one.

With the windchill it felt like 13 when we headed to the track.  I came around the corner and was hit in the face with one of the coldest winds I have ever felt.  Someone might as well have just punched me in the face.  I started to think this would be a pretty short ride but continued on.

I made sure that I gave Klein a long warm up.  Her quarter sheet never came off.  We warmed up for 30 mins before starting with real gallops. Once we got moving I felt a little better...until we came around the corner where it felt like we were in a 13 degree wind tunnel.

Told you.

Klein felt great, and didn't seem to mind the cold or wind.  We got our gallops in and jumped a couple xc fences.  We'll school the xc for real next time.  We were out for an hour and got seven miles in.  Klein was sweaty by the end of our ride, and surprisingly, I was a little warm.  I think I had one too many layers on.  My feet and hands were fine too.  I realized then that I think we're going to live on Sunday.  If we can put up with that crap for an hour outside, we can definitely deal with an indoor in that kind of temperature.

The best part of all this?  It will be back in the mid 40's this week and 51 by next Saturday.  Of course it will.

Here's some helmet cam from one of our gallops:

Yesterday was some physical AND mental conditioning!  The whole time I kept thinking of this video...

Fast forward to the 3:00 mark to get to the point.  Even if you couldn't care any less about CrossFit, watch it.  It's not specifically about CF, just some mental conditioning.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TJP Throwback Thursday: The First Reunion

Our reunion the day I got home to Hawaii from my first deployment.

I bought Klein out of Canada and had her shipped to me in Hawaii about four months before my first deployment.  I already bought her and had her trip booked before I was notified that I would be going on a little vacation to the United Arab Emirates.  It wasn't a big deal because, obviously, being in the military it's not if you deploy, it's when.  I had a great ponysitter lined up and wasn't going to worry at all. She would have a nice four month vacation living in Haleiwa, directly across the street from the beach on the North Shore where all the sea turtles hang out.

She turned three the week after she arrived in Hawaii.  

 Three year old Klein!  We had just come back from a bareback beach ride before this picture.

I backed her and started her with just the very basics before I deployed.  I spent a lot of time ponying her on the trails in the mountains of the north shore.  Everything had been super smooth with her.  We bonded immediately.  Of course I didn't want to leave her for four months, but, UAE was a great time.  I had a picture up at work of us standing together on the the top of one of the mountains on the north shore.  A lot of people use deployments to escape their everyday responsibilities at home for a while, I wanted to go home to my horse.

I DID get my horse fix a little bit while in UAE atleast:

 Horse races in Abu Dhabi.

 Abu Dhabi track.  No TBs here.

 The view from our VIP suite at the Dubai World Cup in Dubai.  You think I'd go four months without horses???  Ha!

After having to basically hitch hike home from the desert for about a week, my team landed at 5:30am on the rotator.  We went from UAE to Qatar, stopped on some random island where they wouldn't let us get off the plane, stopped in Tokyo, then in Thailand somewhere in the middle of the night, then Hawaii.  I went home, took a shot of whiskey (don't judge me, I just flew half way around the world and it wasn't 5:30am to me) and as soon as the first ray of sun appeared I was on my way to the barn to see my girl.

My ponysitter was under strict orders to leave Klein be as feral as possible, aside from having manners for her feet to be trimmed of course and to be brushed.  This is why she has a lady beard in the first picture and a mane that was completely out of control.  I didn't want anyone messing with her.  She was not to be on a longe line, in the round pen, and sure in the hell no one was going to ride her.  I got on her the first day I was home to just hack around bareback.  She remembered everything I taught her before I left.  We picked up where we left off, after we built some fitness base up again.

I love the first pic because of her face.  Her eyes are closed and her head is resting on me.  I think we were both equally relieved to have each other back.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Klein mare has been feeling amazing lately.  She is so ready to get going with this season already.  Last Saturday I took her out for some conditioning work and someone had turned her boost up before that ride.  She was ready to GO.  We walked some small hills during our warm up then trotted and cantered them.  They are basically small rolling hills that look like big moguls.  They're pretty sweet for conditioning.  After that hacked around then did some sprints from a standing start (she loves these). Klein LAUNCHED into those.  I can't wait to get her going on a regular program.  I'm in the process of writing her conditioning program as we speak, based off our competition goals for this year.

Our moguls.

The next day we did some gymnastics with a line of bounces then changed them into a two stride.  She felt great, and she looked great, see photo below: 

Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the ground...

We'll do some more cavaletti work this week, hack Saturday, then we are jumping in the 3'3" group with Jennie Brannigan this Sunday.  Next week, we hit the track and some xc jumps.  We would have went this week, but the weather hasn't been cooperating.  It still might happen this week...there's a chance and if it presents itself, I'm taking it!  The Other Half tore some of the house apart to find my GoPro this past weekend (which the movers so conveniently buried).  So when we go to the track to gallop I'll make sure to take it so you guys can go for a gallop with us.  

Also, Klein happened to be in cuddle mode Sunday, so of course I had to soak that up as much as I could while it lasted.  When she wants to be cuddled she pushes her nose into my chest/shoulder and wiggles her nose, the proceeds to lean into me, which is why her teeth are visible in the pic below.

 Cuddly Klein!

I'm really excited for this year.  I'm over my burn out on recognized HTs.  I've mapped out our recognized HTs for this year.  I just had a terrible experience when I first got to Georgia that basically was caused by one person and soured me to them for a while.  I was spending a lot of money to show recognized and not enjoy myself.  I felt like I had to babysit a lot and do damage control and that really takes the wind out of your sails.  

Of course I enjoyed every single minute I spent at them with my Klein baby, but I wish I would have just been there with Klein, and that's it.  There was even one where I was competing with a stress fracture in my leg due to the incompetence of some doctors on base (it took them two months to figure out what the injury was) and got food poisoning from the food at the competitor's party AND on top of that still had to deal with the aforementioned person, who will remain unidentified.  It was that weekend that was the last straw for a while.  I paid about $1,000 for the weekend (hotels, food, alcohol, diesel, entry fees, etc...).  I arrived Friday and could not get the trailer loaded fast enough on Sunday to go home.  I wanted to hide and just go do low key things with my girl and not be bothered.

We went to equestrian parks in Florida to hack around, we schooled xc alone at facilities we hadn't been to before for a change of scenery, we did hound exercises with a local fox hunt, we went to the beach.  We had a great time just being left alone.  Klein is so independent.  She has always been that way.  We don't need a buddy to go do anything.  We can go anywhere we want together.  That is one of the things I am thankful every day for with her.  I can take her to some strange place with a setting she has never seen before and off we go, happy as can be.  As long as we have each other, that's all we need, we're good.

We had a great time last year on the local CT circuit competing at Training Level CTs (USEA Training Level Dressage and 3'3" stadium), she even ended up the year end division champ.  It's time to get back to HTs.  This is the face of a mare that loves her xc:

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happy 2nd Retirement/Homecoming Anniversary Wesson!!!!

 All the ponies had some fine German beer in their dinner tonight to celebrate!

Today is Wes' second retirement/homecoming anniversary!  Brook Ledge delivered him to me at 2:30 am from Salt Lake City after a layover in Lexington.  I waited eight years for him.  I just wanted to make sure he was safe and taken care of when he retired.  I didn't care if I never put another harness on him or hitched him to anything again.  I just wanted to know he was safe, well cared for, and had a forever home.  He is such a special horse.

Here is the post from the day he got home (when our home was in Georgia).

This video is in the link, but I'm going to post it here too.  It still makes my eyes tear up when he gets up and just looks around like he can't believe he can just go do whatever he wants.  He was free, no more being a piece of equipment to generate income.

Here is the post about him being picked up in SLC:

And, here is our story:

Happy anniversary Wes!!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mochi Lameness Mystery = Solved

This past Monday our new vet here came out to do everyone's Coggins for the year.  While she was here I gave her the full history of Moch's intermittent lameness.

I trotted her on the lunge line two and a half weeks ago and she once again looked pretty good.  My hopes went up a little but she'd have to maintain that for a lot longer for a few minutes of trotting on the longe line to convince me of real improvement.  Here she is that day:

Since the vet was here I decided to have her take a full set of digital radiographs on Mochs' front right.  For the past two weeks she has looked pretty good and even went running around having a blast in the snow like a crazy pony one morning.  Exhibit A:

BUT, I was still seeing her take an off step here and there so, obviously something was still bothering her and it was killing me to not know exactly what it is.

*sigh* The window into Mochi's future.

 Don't worry, toes are still being brought back with each trim.  Her equicasts also stayed on for this because they didn't interfere with the images.  If they did, we were going to take them off.

 See it?

 That little SOB right there.  A navicular cyst.

A navicular cyst.  As with Navicular itself, every horse is a case by case basis as far as their riding future.  I know some that evented through Prelim while others were only sound on the flat.  Some were sound with medication and corrective trims, others with medication and bar shoes.  I read something the other day where a vet had said that navicular cysts are incredibly common in warmbloods and many end up never being bothered by them.

The vet told me about Osphos.  A medication via I.M. injection that elicits bone remodeling and will relieve her discomfort and help her become sound.  How sound?  We will just wait and see.  It can take up to three months to reach its full effect and can last up to a year before she'll need another injection.  They actually give it to women with Osteoporosis.

We will continue to work with our DAEP on some corrective trimming. I am still very much wanting to keep her OUT of shoes.  If she indicates that corrective shoeing is something she really does need, I'll do it.  There is just no way to tell at this point.  We have all the time in the world to figure out what will work best for her.  My expectations are not high.  No matter what, she's not going anywhere. If she can still jump AWESOME, if she is sound for dressage AWESOME, if she is sound for some light trail riding GREAT, and if she never sound to ride again, that is fine.  She will be the most adorable little spotted pasture ornament out there, and she'll learn some cool tricks.  I did talk about teaching her to drive a couple years ago.  Maybe we'll still do that.  As long as she is comfortable, that's all that matters.

When I told The Other Half he said..."Well, she can be a pet!!!  That's fine!!!  She's not going anywhere!!  We can teach her tricks!!"  We love our Mochi pony very, very much.  She really is such a fun little mare to have around and just hang out with.  She has such a fun, quirky personality. 

After the Osphos injection I had to take her for a 30 minute walk because Osphos can upset their stomach sometimes.  We walked for 30 minutes around our property in the pouring rain while I apologized to her that she is dealing with this and promised her she's not going anywhere.

On one hand, I'm relieved to know what the cause of the intermittent lameness is.  On the other hand, it's a disappointing diagnosis but there is nothing that can change that.  All we do now is look forward to what we still CAN do.

In the meantime, she got some Back on Track Quick Wraps, because no Back on Track Product can hurt!  They're pretty sweet.  The Back on Track Obsession continues!

You're just seeing some of the equicast, that's why her hoof looks strange.

Anyone else out there dealt with a navicular cyst?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Narcissistic Jumping Lesson

I feel like my ankle monitor has been cut off and we have been officially taken off of house arrest!  Very shortly after our arrival to our new home an EHV outbreak of the neurological strain took place just over the border in PA.  People in NJ were on the fence about just how worried to be about it.  While some clinics and shows were cancelled, others were not.  I took the safe route and waited the full month before hauling out anywhere.  Thankfully we have plenty of room to ride both on our own property and the surrounding area, but not taking a horse anywhere in over a month was weird.

There is a barn that is close to us that hosts Sally Cousins all the time.  The owner is an active eventer and instructor that has evented at the upper levels.  So, off Klein and I went this Saturday to take a jumping lesson with her. 

Lessons were in the indoor that day, which is full of mirrors of course.  As soon as Klein walked in, the most beautiful mare she'd ever seen IMMEDIATELY caught her eye.  She had to stop and look at her a couple times.

 Checking out her beautiful self.  I mean who can blame her??

 Still looking at herself...

 I feel partly responsible for this.  I only tell her she's the most beautiful horse on the planet every single day.  Here she is agreeing with me.

We warmed up while the lesson before us finished.  She warmed up great.  Since it was our first lesson with this instructor I didn't have anything specific in mind.  Whatever she felt was necessary to get a feel for us was good with me. 

We ended up doing course work on a 3' course with tight turns, jumps on angles, oxers on a long two stride, and getting Klein to get her nose out in front of her a little more.  Klein was having a blast!  The instructor loved her!

She pointed to one oxer and said after the first fence we were coming around and jumping the oxer on an angle and asked if Klein would be ok with that.  I just smiled and laughed and said "OH YEAH!"  Klein loves stuff like that, and we regularly incorporate it.  I appreciate the instructor asking, that was nice of her.  It feels great to know that Klein is 101% up for anything. 

She also had me work on staying off her back a little longer and letting her stretch out a little more between fences and also making sure I give her an opening inside rein when she needs it for the tight turns.  It's a little tight when you have two oxers with a long two stride between them and they are exactly dead center of the indoor, but we got it done.  First time through we put three in and our instructor was like "OMG, she made that look like it was SUPPOSED to be three!"  A lot of people expect Klein to have this giant stride because she's big, but, she doesn't.  She can fit through a line of 3' bounces that are 10' apart.  She's very capable of adding and subtracting.

Next time around the instructor told me to squeeze her in the air over the first oxer to get her to land on a longer stride.  Guess what?  Two strides.  I had to make sure I had my leg on too as soon as we landed.  Klein felt great through it.  Klein was perfect Saturday.  We had a great time.  We were challenged, we learned, and we had a great time doing it.  We will be in regular lessons with this instructor.

 Cooling out.

We are looking forward to our Jennie Brannigan jumping clinic this month!