Monday, June 30, 2014

June recap, hello July

Have I mentioned already that I am so over June already?

week #1: no ride Sunday, probably because she earned a break after the previous week.  7.7 miles total, NQR Saturday with kick marks, snarky and obnoxious all weekweek #2: 9 miles Sunday [feeling juuuust fine], 7 miles total in the rest of the week - but NQR on Thursday, too.  Off feed & mildly colicky on Saturday.
week #3: Off feed (but not colicky!) through Wednesday.  Rode Tuesday slowly anyway.  15.4 miles total this week with Thursday her first day back in real work.
week #4: 20 miles this week, rode through Thursday so a full week of rides for once!  Lame Saturday & Sunday.
So.. sum total of mileage.. is about 59 miles.  Four different lameness/NQR episodes in four weeks. 

June goals:
- weekly canter work in dressage tack - once? but I did get a good canter-work in with the Specialized, so that's something. twice!
- get out to Wilder once, if doable in the first two weeks (18-22 miles) - deemed not doable
- one speed work weekly (possibly in dressage tack?) - twice total? (see above canter works)
- downhill trotting through some of the Fireworks trail - haha, nope

If I were superstitious, I'd blame it on Mercury being in retrograde (June 7-July 2).  Instead, the idea that June is almost over is a very comforting one.  It's been one mishap after another after another.

Sunday is final decision day.  If she's sound and happy and moving well, we'll go for Fireworks.  If she's not, we'll skip.  (Why haven't I called it already?  Several reasons.  Most injuries this month have been minor and self-resolved quickly.  She's not generally an accident-prone horse.  Conditioning is done.  She'll be booted on all 4 feet for the trail.)

It really sucks to miss the one yearly ride that I know I can find a ride to - or worst case, walk her over and call it good.  No trailer means I'm otherwise at the mercy of local riders and friends.  But I'm not willing to ask for a big effort if she's not feeling 100%.

July goals have been postponed until next weekend..

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Costs of pony-keeping

Inspired by SprinklerBandit's recent post about how much our horses initially cost..

Confetti was given to me.  I had two years of leasing and during that time I acquired most of the 'stuff' I needed for day-to-day riding - saddle, bridle, pads, grooming supplies.  Buying tack during a lease isn't really something I'd recommend, but I knew by year #2 that I was somehow going to keep the horse.  Initial cost, then: minimal, and mostly just 'how to set up tack room' stuff.

I'm at an entirely self-care barn in California.  Paddocks, no turnout, no pasture (but lovely trail access).  I pay for someone to feed in the mornings, and to clean and feed the few nights a week I can't reliably make it out to the barn.  Monthly cost: around $250.
I also pay for my own hay and grain and shavings.  Luckily for me, she's a fairly easy-keeper pony.  Monthly cost: around $150.
Add in the Cosequin and aloe vera juice that I add to her grain.. maybe $55 monthly?  I'm not entirely convinced either is doing an awful lot of good, but they're not hurting and it makes me feel better.  Confetti's been on the Cosequin for a year now and aloe vera for about six months.  This is the extent of preventative care that she "needs" at this point.  Joint care is not something to skimp on.  Someday in the future, this will likely turn into 'injections' or 'Previcox' or 'whatever else is deemed necessary' to keep the pony happy, healthy, and sound.

Back at the end of March - great example of our local trails!
The farrier visits every 6-8 weeks or so.  Fetti's barefoot.  Inexpensive, especially compared to shoes/pads all around!
Vet visits twice yearly.  I have a local vet who is inexpensive, straightforward, and communicative.  There are several other vets in the area I would be comfortable calling in an emergency or if something bizarre/complicated came up.  For the level of care we're at now (primarily shots, occasional other emailed questions), I'm happy with my choice.
Dentist visit once or twice a year, $200.  He does hand floats with no sedatives or power tools.

I don't take regular lessons.  I have two trainers I call as-needed for problems or when my 'things to work on' list gets short.

Tack or supplies gets purchased used whenever possible.  I've made a few exceptions, but I have to really like something to purchase it new - unless it's impossible to find used.  Adhuntr, ebay, and Facebook tack sale groups have all been my best friends on multiple occasions.

Endurance is a (relatively) inexpensive sport and we only attend 2-3 rides a year.  It's also a relatively inclusive sport.  Lessons help, but aren't absolutely necessary.  Fancy tack helps, but isn't necessary - if what you have fits and is comfortable, it'll do.

How do the rest of you keep this affordable?  I'm always happy to get suggestions on what others are doing!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pony goes zoom!

After a week of prolonged inactivity and lazy rides, Confetti and I went out Saturday night and absolutely flew down the trail, at least by our standards!

For context.. on our three-mile fairly flat out-and-back rides, I think we've managed to log average speeds of 6.8mph.  It has been practically impossible to get a 5mph+ speed on anything with hills (aka: anything else we do).  On our 2-3 mile sprints, we can get to 6-7mph average, but that's flat.
About a month ago, it looks like we did the same trail at a 5.4mph pace (4.53mi). 

Saturday night we added in some lovely polite canters (!) in the Specialized (!!) and came home with a 5.8mph average (!!!) even accounting for the fact that we opted to walk by several folks.  It doesn't sound like much, and y'all out there doing longer faster rides are probably a bit appalled at how slow we're going, but Pony Dearest has no motivation to keep up a pace solo, and we have only one or two riding friends who care to keep a true endurance pace for the whole ride.

 Good sweat marks and still energetic pony post-ride Saturday night:
Some folks sweep up fallen hay.  I bring my horse over and let her do the work for me.  Everyone wins!

I've been working on a few hard-to-define goals this year.
- sustained speed.  Fetti recovers quickly when she has walk breaks.  Can I get her to keep trotting at home as much as possible?  This should help me worry less at rides when she resents being asked to walk.  We did a lot of this in our handful of back woods rides this 'winter', and it's still very much at the front of my mind.
- cantering.  My form when cantering is less than ideal.  Fetti has a lovely hand gallop, full gallop, and occasionally deigned to feel like less of a runaway.  She's not bad - just very forwards!  In the past week she's given me several rides with little polite canters, and it makes me so very happy to be able to canter on the trail without concern.
- trotting downhill.  Honestly, this is the one I've put the least work into and that probably is going to come back to bite me for Fireworks.  We can trot slight downhills no problem, but Real Hills frequently have her opting to walk down instead.  I think it's a combination of balance issues (mostly mine, but a bit hers) and lack of belief that I really do want her to trot down. 

At this point, I am not looking to get in another truly long ride before Fireworks.  10 miles, sure, but I'm not likely to ask her for a brisk 14-to-18 miles.  Instead, I hope to keep working on the three above points and focus on trotting one or two downhill sections of trail that I know will be part of the ride.

I'm still totally over June, but at least at this point I am genuinely looking forwards to July.

Friday, June 20, 2014

No rest for the wicked

I am so done with June, you guys.  Done.

Last weekend, there was a pile of hay in Fetti's stall.  My first thought was that someone gave her an extra flake of hay.  Then reality kicked in.. this was breakfast.  And her nose wasn't in it.
She was still willing to eat (though very unenthusiastically) when out of her stall.  Clearly uncomfortable, she wasn't biting at her belly or kicking more than usual, but she was doing a cat-stretch (aka parking waaaaaay out).

Not normal.  Very uncomfortable pony.  Turning her nose up at hay to go stretch?  Not good.

There's been a bug of sorts going around the barn, horses off their feed for a few days then back to normal again.  We dealt with that once last year and that, while worrying, isn't overly concerning.  Cat stretches?  Very concerning.  I know some horses do them normally, or do them when they get up, but I have seen this horse do them once before, ever, and Saturday was closer to 10 times, once or twice an hour.  Our working theory is that she had the bug and ended up with a mild gas colic to go along with it.

Good things: She never quit drinking.  Never entirely quit eating, either!  Normal hay would get picked at, but straight alfalfa and her grain still got inhaled.  Normal poops given how much she was eating, and not dehydrated.

Better things: I did not need to have a vet come out!  Bute and careful monitoring was sufficient (and yes, I was in touch with a vet Saturday evening who would have come out if we deemed it necessary).
And on Sunday, when I was painfully bored and staring at Fetti willing her to eat, I decided I might as well work on her hooves.  Four feet were rasped; one dramatic chip was removed as best I could.

Best things: No colic symptoms after early Sunday.  As of Wednesday, Confetti was back to eating eeeeeverything.  Thursday, we went for two(!) short trail rides, one solo, both with big spooks, and I did not eat dirt.  Pony is feeling just fine.  (And given that she was primarily eating straight alfalfa for a few days.. I think I'm lucky she's not feeling even better.)

Other best things: she went into heat and decided to try to make friends with her new neighbor!  Significantly less snarky faces, much happier human.

In less traumatic news, I finally bought a new bareback pad!  One of my long-standing goals has been to be comfortable taking her out on moderate-speed trail rides bareback.  I think we're just about there.  My seat is not quite as good as it needs to be, but it's a heck of a lot closer than it was when I started!  We even managed a handful of polite hunter-canters Thursday night, none of which involved any concern that she'd run off with me.

She did nearly run me into a tree, though.  New pile of scary stuff on the trail, coming back in the dark, almost certainly with strong smells.  It was an honestly concerned spook-spin-TREE, in which my calf was about an inch from the tree.  Good pony.  At least she's feeling better.

Friday, June 13, 2014


Confetti acquired a new neighbor a few days into June.  My lovely, tolerant mare has turned into a beast from hell.  She would really prefer that the new mare go away - in all fairness, that stall has been empty since she moved in at the end of last summer! - and is not being particularly kind about it.

Snarky faces, squeals, snorts, pinned ears, charging the fence.  These are not big paddocks: 12 feet wide, 24 (new mare) or 36 feet (Fetti) in length.  I figured they'd settle in fairly quickly.

Instead, Fetti continues to instigate.  New Mare is not being particularly aggressive that I've seen, but Fetti will not leave it - new mare is also not being entirely submissive.  Saturday I arrived at the barn to find two scrapes on Confetti's chest.  Our theory is that New Mare kicked her through the pipe corral fence.  New Mare is still unscathed.  Fetti was slightly off - tentatively left front but very uncertain - but thankfully no blood was involved, just took off some hair.

She recovered by Sunday, reinforcing my feeling that it was a very recent injury that she was just sore from.  Good good, carry on.  Ten-ish miles at a moderate-to-slow pace on Sunday with friends.  Tuesday we did a lazy few miles.

Yesterday, I turned her out with her sister.  I expected dramatic enthusiastic running from both of them.  It has been an exceptionally not-difficult week or two of rides for the pony.  Instead, she was mellow, even lazy.  Willing to run if asked, but totally content and almost preferring not to.  She also looked just the tiniest bit stiff to me.  We did a moderate-speed few miles with the other Haflingers, in which I rode bareback on a loose rein and got a polite tiny-trot.  It scares me when she starts to act like a lazy normal-horse.

Heading home, I concluded three things: she was definitely NQR, probably RF.  She was lazy/lethargic in part because she needed to poop and pee (both accomplished at the very end of the trail ride).  I'm still not convinced that was all of it.  Trot-circles reinforced the NQR belief.  Subtle, but yep, she's off.

So.. there are a few things going on in my corner of the world.
1. She's expending all her energy going after New Mare.
2. She's insecure and currently physically aggressive towards other horses to a degree I've not seen before - kicking out at other horses walking behind her whose presence has never been a problem before.
3. She's beating herself up going after New Mare.
It's possible that the lameness(es) and new boarder are unrelated, but that seems awfully coincidental for a pony who generally stays quite sound and healthy.

I don't know how long it takes horses to deal with their neighbors and quit trying to beat them up.  I do know that if this persists a few more weeks, I will probably opt out of our mid-July LD that is currently four weeks away.  If she's not 100% at home, it's not fair to ask her to cope physically and mentally with a 25.

Apparently she thought looking like her Appy neighbor might help things!

(I'm not thrilled with her condition in the photo, but my hope is that it's a bad angle and lighting problem... More photos will be had this weekend for a better comparison.)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

May recap, June goals

NATRC ride: done! Relatively successful on all counts.
Additional 15-mile day: check, two long days in a row even!
Canter work: check! Not as much as I'd hoped, but we're working on it.

I'm finding that my canter seat is better in the dressage saddle and tall boots, so last Thursday we did that and worked on cantering where we could. It's not clear to me what exactly the differences are; I think I ride more 'properly' in tall boots since that was drilled in to me for so long. My theory right now is that I should aim to do one ride weekly in dressage gear to work on my canter issues, with the hopes that it will eventually transfer to endurance tack.

Total May mileage: 117.6.  For all that it felt like a lazy, not-doing-anything month.. we still managed to get some solid rides in there.

We're still settling in at around 25 miles weekly.  It works for us - we did *7* miles the week after Mt Diablo, and some weeks are closer to 30.  I'd love to back off her physical workload.  I know that theoretically I'm probably overtraining.  Unfortunately, if I do that.. and I did in December.. I have a very amped-up horse who gets obnoxious, spooky, and naughty.
(The first week of December, we did one ride of 7 miles. The second week, we did two rides totalling 8 miles. The third week she bucked me off.)

June goals:
- weekly canter work in dressage tack
- get out to Wilder once, if doable in the first two weeks (18-22 miles)
- one speed work weekly (possibly in dressage tack?)
- downhill trotting through some of the Fireworks trail

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

busy weekend

Around my barn, Memorial Day weekend doubles as one of the weekends with gunfire and cannons.  Civil War reenactment battles are held very close by, with 6-10 cannons and all the lovely cannon BOOMs to go with!

Friday, we went for a two-hour walking ride with a friend.  Lazy ride, loose rein, barely flicking an ear at the occasionally cannon-y noises (quieter ones, thank goodness).  Horse: reasonably cannonproof for the time being.  Human: jumpy!

Saturday, we opted to leave the barn after the day's two battles had finished.  I rode with some other friends and ended up doing a moderate-paced nine miles with rather a lot of horse left.  Upon our return to the barn, it was discovered that we'd lost an item from a saddlebag.. somewhere on the 7-mile trail loop.  Yikes!  Naturally, two of us headed back out on the trail, jog-trotting along or walking as we scanned the trail and brush in hopes of finding it.  I'm guessing we made it three miles out before turning around due to impending darkness.  Our ride home was dark, dark, and darker to the point where the last half-mile was occasionally blind faith in Fetti's trail skills and my knowledge of every single step on that trail.  Home safe, but we'd prefer not to repeat that again!  (Item was eventually found - another rider had picked it up and brought it over to our barn the next day.)

Sunday, we headed out between battles.  The goal: to be substantially far away by the time of the second battle.  The mares were actually quite good for most of the ride out and really didn't care about battle noises - four days of listening will do that to them!  I opted to point the two of us on a relatively new trail in Pogonip, knowing we had time, and my riding partner didn't object :)  It's a multi-use trail, but we discovered quickly that it was heavily influenced by mountain bikers.  Lots of switchbacks, lots of ups and immediate downs, not an awful lot of flat or even gradually sloping sections.  I noted as we were most of the way out that we'd been parallel to the trail tracks for a while.  How bad can it be, right?

I'm pretty open about this - there are lots of things I think Fetti should be able to deal with.  Trains are not on the list.  We have Issues with trains.  She thinks they're big, scary dragons and wants nothing to do with them.  However, I have come to learn that if I'm off and keep her on a line, she will stick with me (or at least won't leave) while making it very clear she wants to get as far away as possible, please.

Doing her best high-strung Arabian impression.

The other horse we were riding with is less experienced on trails.  Her rider has less experience dealing with the horse and trains.  I made the mistake of thinking that the horse would stick with us, between the rider and Fetti.  We were both off when the train came by, making Big Train Noises, with Fetti going in fairly polite panicked circles around me.  The other mare seemed okay at first, then crashed through the brush with little warning and.. left.  Lucky for us, she redirected to the first visible trail and stopped waaaaaay off at the top of a hill with a handful of hikers.  Her rider was able to hike up after her and retrieve her, no harm done except for the emotional trauma to the four of us!

I normally make a point of not bringing others into the blog.  In this particular case, Fetti's reaction made it very much My Problem, too.  First we thought that perhaps I could hop on and go after the other mare, but a quick half-second evaluation of the horse I had made it a very, very bad idea.  Pony was convinced that her friend had been eaten by the dragon-train.  Train was past.  Pony had maybe 5% of her brain, and that 5% was keeping her going in panicked circles around me.  She would have happily bolted off after her friend, something I have not experienced while on the ground.

Other horse is about halfway down the hill.. walking towards us. Embiggening suggested.

It is not thrilling to discover that a problem I thought primarily existed under saddle does, in fact, present itself on the ground in extreme situations as well.  That said, it was absolutely an extreme situation with some extraordinary circumstances I don't care to repeat.  She needs to be able to cope with other horses leaving her - and we absolutely have to work on that.  Looking at it a week later, I think the other mare's bolt reinforced Fetti's train-fear.  Things might have been very different had she bolted for no apparent reason rather than doing what Fetti would have really liked to do.

Sunday ride total: 17 miles in 5h20min.  For a mostly-walking ride, not too bad.

Photo proof!  I thought once we'd never be able to do this.

Monday and Tuesday I was not feeling very motivated, so all we ended up doing was walking around the barn. But one major accomplishment nonetheless: bareback in a halter! It's not something I'd do if she's at all up or we're going at speed, but for barn-meandering I'm happy to find that it is a viable option.

Heading home. This section of trail was cleared in the past six months; I'm still not used to the view!

Thursday was a frustrating fast six miles with spooks at 75% of the humans we met.  Oh, pony. We hadn't really worked since Sunday, so I knew she was making most of it up and just kicked on for nearly every spook.  She gets edgy when out of work for a few days.. but she was, at least, politely forwards the whole time.  Verdict: three days in a row off is manageable if the day or two prior were Real Workouts!  I'm tentatively thinking I'll do a solid ride Tuesday before Fireworks, then just putz around Thursday and Friday.  Six and a half weeks out.