Saturday, July 31, 2010

Question Of The Week (i.e. I Have No Time To Write)

If you were a horse, what breed would you be? What horsey traits might you posess?

I would be a mustang, or a Quarter Pony, maybe. I would be a bay or a chestnut with conservative white markings. I would be low in the pecking order. I would be afraid to leave the arena, and I would look for things to spook at. I would be tentative and worry a lot and anticipate, but I would always try, and I would have a good mind and a good heart underneath it all.

Sofie is doing okay. She's definitely still in a flare-up. I think she will need another week or two off. She seemed happy to see me again and has indulged my desire for hugs. We have had fun going on "trail walks", except for yesterday when she decided she did not want to go down the trail, and turned around on me numerous times, forcing me to spin her around until she didn't want to do that anymore. We did make it down the trail, though, only to have issues in the yard when I decided to jog her away from the barn. She got ahead of me, started turning back to the barn, decided it hurt, and kicked at me. I was mad, and upset, and I yelled at her and beat on her neck and made her back up quite a bit to let her know that was not acceptable. I tolerate a lot from her, and I always give her the benefit of the doubt, but after that, I felt really discouraged and questioned whether I was right to do so, or if I was just an idiot for putting up with her for so long. She didn't come close to connecting with me (she could have easily done so if she had wanted to) and I will continue to give her the benefit of the doubt, because I believe that horses don't lie, and hock x-rays definitely do not. It's just very discouraging sometimes. I care so much, and I do all I can for her, and sometimes I can hardly do anything with her, it seems. But I am in this for the long haul.

I have lots of posts in mind for this downtime. If I ever have enough time to make them materialize, you will see them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Departure: NAN 2010

Quick Sofie update: My mom reports that Sofie is doing well and was quite spunky when she longed her out in the yard. I miss my Sofa! I can't wait to see her again.

As I mentioned in the last post, I recently left for the North American National model horse show with 16 of my self-painted models. I'm still not back home yet, but I have the use of a nice little notebook, so I got my NAN photos uploaded and I decided to do a write-up and post some of them.

2010 was amazing. It was like any model horse show in that, at times, it was exhausting, tedious, boring, pointless and depressing. But the caliber of the horses there was off the chain, and I took a ton of pictures (and had to keep going back and deleting some because I was an idiot and only brought my smaller camera card), enjoyed meeting people and was shocked by how well my horses actually fared.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn North (the official hotel of NAN and Breyerfest), which was insanely fun. Also insane. People sell models from their rooms all during NAN and Breyerfest, so there were excellent opportunities for wandering the halls, chatting with other crazy model horse people, getting lost, finding sweet deals, running out of money, getting lost, finding MORE sweet deals and cursing myself for not bringing more money, getting lost some more, and finally making it back to my hotel room after getting lost, forgetting that my room number was 337 and sticking my room key in someone else's room, 127 (hey, I was only off by one digit!). Room-sale-ing before and after NAN was actually the highlight for me, except for maybe the last ten minutes of NAN.

Speaking of. Earlier in the day, I managed to win two Top 10 awards, which I was happy about, although I was a bit disappointed overall. And tired. Very tired. Finally after about a million years, I put my last two horses on the table for the last class of the day. I really wanted to win a Champion or Reserve, but I didn't think it was happening. I did have two of my best horses in the last class, and there were only nine entries, a pathetically small class by NAN standards. But the class size meant they would only be doing a Top 5, so I had even fewer chances to win something. And every horse in the class was nice. A couple were outstanding. I knew one of my horses looked really, really good (I'd randomly found a place on the table where the light hit him absolutely brilliantly, and he stood out) but I was in no way assured of success. So I went back to half-sleep by an empty table and wait for my results. I couldn't half-sleep very well, though. I had that sick feeling of anticipation and really, really wanting something.

Finally they announced the Top 5. I heard my horse's name and started toward the table to collect my ribbon, ecstatic. Then they announced the Reserve Champion. Not him. Oh well, I thought. I'm not going to win Champion. At least I got something at the end of the day.

They announced the Champion. It was my horse. I seriously couldn't believe it. I got to take him to the award table and have his official results picture taken, and I got a revered "cookie" plaque. And my horse's picture will be in the NAN results on their website!

It was an awesome end to the day. The timing just rocked. Things don't often work out that way. I'm very thankful for it.

Picture time! Here is RR Concealed Weapon, the 2010 National Champion in Artist Resin Mini Brindle/Other Color Workmanship:

RR Concealed Weapon, 2010 NAN Champion

Here are my three little winners. From left: RR Greyt Expectations (Top 10 Custom Mini Other Solid Realistic Color), RR Concealed Weapon, RR Child's Play (Top 10 Artist Resin British Native Pony):

My Winners

And here are my other favorite photos from NAN:


Horses and References

Karen Zorn Minis

Polo Pony CM Ruffian!

AR by Boydston

PS ISH CM by Karen Zorn


















Wednesday, July 14, 2010

That's Just How The Hock Fuses

sld 28
Ah, better days.

On Sunday I rode Sofie in the Big Field and she did much better than she had been doing. She didn't really want to trot at first, but with some persistance and finesse, I was able to get her to trot in various directions. She still had iffy moments where she thought about balking or getting upset, or getting a little out of control, but overall, it was a good ride. I rode right up to the breaking point, when she started to rush a little and wanted to trot all the time, preferably toward the barn, but not past it into disaster territory. I got off feeling very good about the ride.

Actually, I haven't mentioned the best part of the ride. I was walking Sofie toward the fenceline she doesn't like, trying to get her to move off my leg without her getting mad (a delicate balancing act), when directly in front of us, at LEAST half a dozen wild turkeys BURST out from behind some rocks and high weeds and flew off into the woods. Sofie jumped a little in place, but she did not spook dramatically at all, or spin and bolt, which was very gratifying, considering the visual assault. I wouldn't have blamed her at all if she had freaked. I've never liked turkeys (I was attacked by a chicken when I was little, and turkeys are basically big mutant chickens), but she has seen them on the trail, and apparently they are her little friends now.

So Wednesday I got to ride with a friend, which was really nice. I didn't free school Sofie very long because she was moving well (she even took the right lead once) and I wanted to see if she would do better with a little more energy, since it was hot. She was very calm and relaxed in the aisle, although she didn't want to hold up her right hind for cleaning. We got the horses tacked up and went outside, and Sofie was kind of sluggish and not thrilled with being ridden. I walked her for a while to warm her up and then started to experiment with trotting. She didn't want to trot, and while I got her to do it, she was just reluctant. A few times she thought about acting up but she didn't. She's been really good about NOT trying to kill me lately, but that doesn't mean she's tackling the work with any kind of enthusiasm.

We were getting nowhere in the yard, so I decided a trail ride was in order. Sofie was sluggish, even on the trail. I turned back partway down the trail, because she wasn't dealing well with hills and I didn't want to subject her to the hills near the end of the trail. So we turned back, and then I made the incredibly stupid decision to turn onto the other fork of the trail, knowing it was narrow, knowing there was a fallen tree lying across it so getting to the end of it was impossible, knowing the ground gets boggy whenever it rains. Sofie was pretty much like "Can we please just go back?" I got to where I could see the tree, I looked for an optimum place to turn around (there was none) and turned her. As she was turning, both of her hind feet sunk into the mud, and she had to yank them out. I could feel a bobbling, uneven-ness behind as we walked back to the barn, but she wasn't dead lame or anything, so I figured I'd ride back to the barn and get off. She perked up as we neared the barn, and I decided to turn her away from the barn to dismount. So I turned her (up an incline, like an idiot), and she stopped, and literally WOULD NOT MOVE. I pressed her on, and she backed up, but she would not go forward. She was planted. I finally got her to take one forward step (toward the barn, but at least it was forward, and I wasn't pushing my luck at that point). I got off and saw she was resting her left hind, which she continued to do in the barn as I untacked her. She had trouble turning and backing (even more than usual) and looked uncomfortable. I free schooled her, and she walked and trotted okay, although she was clearly hiking up her left hind. I felt horrible. She was already having a bad month, and now I'd screwed her up even more. It's just the worst feeling in the world.

Sofie does have a sense of timing; she usually hurts herself right before appointments with equine professionals. The very next day was her appointment with Chiro Lady, which was somewhat reassuring. I was still worried I would find her barely able to walk, or with her leg swollen to twice its size. But she seemed fairly okay. She was happy to see me, she free-schooled fine, apart from being a little stabby with her left hind. She was resting her left hind more than usual in the aisle, but some of the time she stood with her weight on both legs, and she also rested the right hind. She did NOT want to put all her weight on the left hind and pick up her right hind for cleaning, however. In the end I had to pick it up for a second and put it down again (it wasn't dirty, fortunately).

Chiro Lady showed up with her little Sheltie and a vet student who was going on rounds with her. The vet student was a guy (a very nice one, but still) so we were a bit concerned that Sofie had take offense at his presence, but she quickly assessed him as Non-Threatening. Chiro Lady had just been to see a horse owned by one of the fully-Rollkur-endorsing trainers in the area, and apparently he was a mess (gee, what a surprise?). So she was glad to see Sofie standing there calmly. Sofie really enjoyed her chiro work this time around. I mean, she was ridiculously happy to stand there and let Chiro Lady work on her. Chiro Lady was thrilled with her progress and had many, many nice things to say about Sofie. Her sternum, which prompted fireworks from Sofa during the first chiro session, was a non-issue, her jaw isn't tight, her teeth are occluding (I think that's the word) well and she was the picture of cooperation.

Chiro Lady examined her feet and used them as an example of What You Want In A Horse Foot for the vet student, even talking about the under-run heels and various other problems in the feet of the shod horses they'd just been to see, and how Sofie's feet had none of those problems and were, in fact, ideal. I think Sofie enjoyed being a hoof model. It beats the alternative, that is for sure. I have nothing but good things to say about natural trimming. Even with the shorter trimming intervals, it beats the hell out of paying for shoes, and it gives the feet a chance to improve.

Chiro Lady stretched Sofie's legs, even the problematic left hind, and Sofie cooperated fully. She even tucked her butt and lifted her back when prompted (Chiro Lady is much stronger than my mom or I am, that is for sure!). She said Sofie's weight was ideal and that she was in good shape. She was very pleased with the change in Sofie, and she even said that one of our clients knew us in some way, and they had said "What a difference in that horse." It feels good to know that what we're doing hasn't gone unnoticed. Sofie may be going through a rough phase right now, but she has still come an incredibly long way, and I cherish our friendship and also all of the people we've come to know through her.

I had hopes that she would be much better after the chiro, but given the fact that Chiro Lady didn't find anything glaring and Sofie still didn't want to put all her weight on that left hind yesterday, I should have known that would not be the case. As soon as I started walking her through the yard, she threatened to act out, and she repeated her protest several more times. She stopped threatening each time when I yelled at her, but it wasn't getting any better, so I got off after making sure she walked away from the barn for me. She's not the type of horse to suddenly decide to be incredibly barn sour and resistant. She doesn't act up at the walk. She just doesn't. I know enough by now to not blame this on a training issue. We were making huge progress in our barn sourness eradication, but now she's having hock trouble again. In March, it was the right hock, now it's the left one. I don't blame it entirely on the bogging-down-on-the-trail incident; she was having trouble even before then. It's not as bad this time, fortunately. In March, I couldn't even consider riding her until five weeks had passed. We've been able to push through it for two weeks now, but I won't do it anymore. She's not lame, but she can't tolerate my added weight, and I don't want her to have to hate being ridden. She can have some time off, with groundwork only.

Maybe this is a mixed blessing. Yes, it sucks that she can't be ridden right now. But she's moving around fine in the field with her friends, and in the arena while free schooling. And maybe her hocks are fusing now, rather than later. Maybe she'll be rideable again by the time the weather cools and fall arrives. Maybe winter won't be so hard on her.

She was going to have next week off anyway, because I will be going to the North American Nationals (NAN), a huge model horse show in Lexington, KY. Over 5,000 models are entered this year, and thanks to the insane generosity of one of my showing friends, 16 of my models that I painted myself will be competing there. Pretty crazy. Pretty daunting. VERY exciting.

RR Deal Or No Deal
RR Fayted Encounter
RR Night Moves
RR Move On
RR Child's Play
RR Picasso's Canvas
RR New Attitude
RR Santana
RR Drastic Fantastic
RR Into The Night
RR Silver Charm
RR Monk
RR Greyt Expectations
RR Faux Chrome

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gotta Get Through This

After an awesome month, Sofie appears to be going through a flare-up. My ride on Wednesday was an improvement. She started out by being balky and resistant, but I got some trot transitions out of her, and her hind feet didn't leave the ground. After a little work in the yard, I rode her on the trail, which went fine, and then I rode her down the road, where she was pretty much an idiot. We basically did a serpentine. The. Whole. Freaking. Way. She didn't want to walk straight down the side of the road, she wanted to drift and veer into the road, and into people's yards. She only spooked once, towards the end, but trying to keep her straight was tiring. I did some walk-trot transitions on the way home, just to use the energy a little.

When I got back to the yard, I was a bit mad at her, so I said "Okay, horse, if you have enough energy to fight me the whole way down the road, I think you can trot in the yard." And so I tried it, and she did much better. I had to finesse it quite a lot, and kind of gently coax her into doing what I wanted, but I got her to go around much better than she had been. According to my mom, she looked good. I got off feeling great about it, and hoping we were over the worst.

Her trim went quite well, except for her being kind of uncooperative at the start (she always is). But she wound up standing ground-tied while Annie worked on her. Annie has power over Sofie that Sofie doesn't even quite understand. But she knows there will be consequences if she moves. Like backing-down-the-aisle consequences. So the rest of the trim was uneventful, except for Sofie running into the hoofstand and the rasp with her nose.

So yesterday I went back out to the barn. She free schooled sluggishly. Her movement looked okay, it was stiff, but not horribly so. But she was sluggish. Under weight, she was stiff, and she wanted nothing to do with anything that made her use her hocks. Like hills, or turns, or trotting. I did get her to trot, multiple times, and a couple of her trots were actually nice, but for the most part, she was really stiff, micro-striding behind and occasionally tripping because she just didn't want to use herself. At all. She trotted quite willingly on the trail (adrenaline will do that) and she didn't kill me or anything, but it's clear that she hurts. I'm getting what I can out of her with a LOT of finesse and rewards. She's not the same horse that was trotting all over the place, volunteering to canter and complying with my incrementally increasing demands. Last month, for the most part, she felt great. This month, she feels crappy. After the ride, she had a crappy look on her face just standing in the aisle, and she was very upset when we touched her chest. Obviously, what she did when she felt good has built up some inflammation in her hocks, so now she's overloading her front end, which makes that hurt, too.

This is a cycle we will probably be stuck in until the fusion happens. When the fusion is happening, it will hurt more. There's no way around it. If we stuff her with anti-inflammatories, it will slow down the fusion. Even if I could afford them, injections obviously will not help, so there's no point in doing them. Chiro Lady is coming to work on Sofie next Wednesday, which should help, and maybe in the future we will have her out more often. It's important to keep riding, because there's only so much we can do with groundwork. Even if I can only walk her at times, it's better than nothing. It sucks that this is happening now, because we were just to the point I had dreamed about for so long. We had it. And now we can't do much of anything.

But she still looks great. She's comfortable and happy out in the field with her friends. Her coat shines even in the dark, dingy indoor. She doesn't run when I catch her, she doesn't get crabby when we bring the saddle out or tighten the girth. She gives me what she can when we ride, so I know our training is solid. And I have to believe that we can wait until the fusion happens, and it won't take too long or hurt too much. I know what she's capable of, and I hope we get the chance to do it all.

sld 23

Friday, July 9, 2010

Question Of The Week

meg and sofie in turn

I will be doing a full-on post tomorrow. I've come out of my prolonged writer's block stupor, so I've been working on my novel quite a bit, and thus neglecting the blog.

I've decided to try to post a fun weekly question for readers to answer (I will answer them myself also, because I'm just cool like that). Some will have to do with dressage, some will have to do with horses in general. So here goes:

What music would make the best dressage freestyle for your horse?

My ultimate, upper-level, probably unreachable dream would be to do a dressage freestyle to "Telephone" by Lady Gaga. When I listen to that song I can see exactly how it would go, and it would be awesome. But since I don't have the horse for that right now (I love the Sofa, but she would either laugh at or kill me if I asked her to passage), I think the best music for Sofa to dance to would be a Pink medley. Probably a mash-up of "So What", "Stupid Girls", and maybe "Funhouse". I think those songs express her attitude, and it would probably be pretty hilarious to watch. Especially if she had one of her "acting out" moments.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Taking It To The Trail

sld 1

Things have been iffy in Sofieland lately. But I think they're getting better.

After my lesson on Sunday, I rode Sofie. I was tired, and lame (my right thigh was strained, or pulled, or something. And of course riding two horses in one day is a great idea when you can't even walk without being in considerable pain!). But I still managed to ride reasonably well, and we had a pretty good ride punctuated by resistance. She threw in a lot (like, at least half a dozen) of little balky maneuvers, her tail swished a few times, and her attitude just was not all that happy or willing. She only chose to canter once, despite having numerous opportunities, and she trotted at sub-power. A lot of her resistances happened while trotting up an incline or turning, and for the most part, they were very minor and she trotted on immediately afterwards. I took her on a trail ride in hopes that it might improve her attitude, and she did seem to have fun on the trail, but she was no better in the yard afterwards. Toward the end of the ride, she actually lashed out a bit with both hind feet in when I asked her to trot away from the barn. I did finish the ride with a resistance-free trot transition away from the barn, but still, it was definitely an iffy ride. I had hopes that the next one would be better.

It definitely was not. In fact, it was way worse. We made a mistake early on by not doing any sort of groundwork warmup, figuring I could just walk her undersaddle for her warmup and see how she did. was a failed experiment. She walked around fine, and I rode her outside for much of the warmup, with no issues. But when I asked her to trot, she resisted immediately. And she continued to do so, every single time. Which freaked me out, because she hadn't been that bad in a long time, and she just felt like she might be working up to explode in some way. With a dressage whip, I was able to get her to trot a few times, but she was just weird. So I took her on the trail, and she suddenly had a ton of energy and as soon as we got to the place where I normally trot her, she trotted all on her own, and she trotted most of the way down the trail, wherever the footing was decent enough. I also trotted her on the way back, and she was a little less enthusiastic (it was on a slight incline) but she stayed trotting until I told her to stop without getting all mad. So then I thought maybe she would be all right to trot in the yard...nope. She got all pissed off, once again, and resisted in various ways, once by lashing out with her hind feet. So I got off feeling completely upset and discouraged, because we had only just gotten to the point where I could trot her anywhere in the yard, and now I could barely trot her at all.

So we speculated about why she had suddenly gone all gnarly again. Lately, we've been having 40 degree nights, so the temperature fluctuations may have been hard on her. She may be a little bored with yard work, which I've been doing a lot of, and need more trail time. And, obviously, not doing a groundwork warmup is a bad, bad, BAD idea. Groundwork warmups are very important to loosen her up (because even though she gets lots of turnout usually, she's in a small, inactive herd, and she just doesn't move enough), and they also allow us to see how she's doing. Does she have a ton of energy? Does she have NO energy? Is she in a bad mood? These are important things to know. Sometimes I just want to get on and ride, but obviously, that does not work with this horse.

Yesterday it was HOT HOT HOT, so I figured it was a good day to go trail riding, first on the trail, and if she was good, then on the road. When my mom free schooled her, she was rather lazy at first, but when pushed to move, she cantered and struck out with her forelegs and swung her head and bounced around and was generally a butthead. I was like "GOOD, I'm glad you got THAT out of your system!" I rode her directly to the trail, and she didn't exactly want to go through the Scary Bushes in the Scary Corner, like usual, but she behaved well on the trail and seemed to have fun. I rode her all the way down the trail, and even turned her down the other fork, which was in much better shape than it was the last time I tried that.

Then I decided to try riding her down the road. I hadn't done that in a while, because the last time I'd tried that she was an idiot, and I'd kind of lost my nerve (not that I had much to begin with) for road riding. But I did it, and it went well. It's kind of tiring, riding her on the road, because keeping her straight is a bit of a challenge (she wants to look around, and wander around, and....yeah). I returned to my old strategy of crossing the road at a certain point to find the best footing (for some reason, Sofie doesn't like gravel). She looked hard at a few things, but never did anything really wrong, and we went quite a ways down the road. I know she has extensive trail riding experience, but I don't, and I also don't ride her in a tie-down and a Tom Thumb bit, so venturing down the road is a reasonably big deal for me. My major goal is to be able to ride her all the way down the road, down the highway a bit and onto this other road, and then ride her to a farm that has a nice field (and access to a road that leads to all kinds of other fields). I don't know when we'll be able to do that, but I hope we will eventually be able to. I probably just need to get her out on the road more often so we can both get more comfortable with it and trust each other more. Especially since trail riding seems to do wonders for her, even when she's in a crabby phase. Because when we got back to the yard, I worked up the nerve to ask for a trot transition away from the barn, and she did it for me. No drama.

sld 20