Saturday, June 30, 2012

The BIG 5.0.

Fifty followers.

I'm not sure entirely what I expected when I started blogging, but I can say, that I'm glad I did. There have been times that I've struggled with the realization that I've let people "into my head", knowing that I've confessed my fears, failings and weaknesses to the public at large, and worse yet, a small collection of folks who actually know me.

The strange thing about this sense of exposure, is that it's actually kinda nice in the end. It takes a lot of getting used to, yet at the same time, it seems that people are able to have clear expectations and a better understanding of who you are and how you think. Certainly never the intended outcome of this blog, but a nice little side benefit.

So to the 50 people wilfull enough to follow myself and Mr. Moon, I want to say thanks. For understanding, questioning and adventuring right along with us.

Yesterday, coach W had a barn "movie night", which was educational in focus. We all gathered (the regular barn plus the satellite crew) to watch some videos pertaining to horse biomechanics (aka. movement) and the different training styles.

Now we as a barn are taught in a very classical French style. To me, this has never really meant much, as I've sat around oblivious to the fact that there's these rising factions of "rightful" dressage training techniques, and the world is off dividing itself into different parties, all at war when it comes to riding and training.

The competitive world certainly started to open my eyes to this great variety that exists, and how each one applies its methodology. I've often said that I don't like to pick a camp and wage war on the others, without spending some time at least examining each of them. That is the researcher, the scholar in me.

I certainly believe strongly that the classical french way is the best way for myself, and for my horse. That being said, I do think there's methods and training styles that can be stolen from all factions, and put to good use.

After watching the collection of videos, I found myself inspired. The coolest thing, glancing around the room of fellow riders, all whom own a vast variety of type, size, style and experience of horse, was how inspired THE ENTIRE ROOOM was. I mean, literally everyone was watching these horses prance around on the video and wanted to run out to their respective horse and give it a go.

It was awesome. And equally inspiring. You can rev people up, push them forward, with something as simple as a video of beautiful riding.

Yet again I could see this "disease" known as Dressage in action.

I will admit, I had to contain myself from bringing every video home with me and watching it last night. I was equally captivated when H2 gave me a book she had found on creating musical freestyles, where they spoke about this beautiful dance one does with their horse. I too, want to go out there and ride beautifully with my MoonSox.

Inspiration. Belief. Passion. Optimism.

Too bad I have to wait until Monday to express it from horseback.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

I'm jumping the gun a touch on this one, but our lovely country celebrates its 100-and-some-odd birthday this weekend, and as such, everyone has vacated for beaches, cabins and relaxation.

Personally, I'm excited to head to my first Barn Movie Night, where coach W is having us all together to learn the ways of the famous Phillipe Karl! Tagged to that, there'll be good food.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dressage Disease.

There's a heat wave sweeping across our little prairie province right now, the skies brilliant blue, the pavement hot, the tar melting and the ponies sweating. So hot that at times, even the bugs can't seem to be bothered to move about in it, though as soon as it cools they show in swarms.

Monday had been a great ride to me, and while Moon had Tuesday off, I opted to deal with the sweltering temperatures and go to the barn anyway. It was almost unbearable to wear long pants, a requirement for a comfortable ride, yet so not summer appropriate the way shorts or skirts were. The drive out to the barn was blissful, the a/c powering out of the car vents, a nice change from our heat-ridden house.

Stepping out of the car at the barn, it was impressive how much cooler the temperatures were outside the city. It went from disgustingly hot to just hot, with a nice cool breeze playing across the grass and trees. Tolerable for sure.

So as a barnmate finished up her lesson with W, I went about getting Moon from the paddock, and with all the dry weather, was thrilled to not have any mud to groom from him. He just stood there shiny and beautiful, dappling and slightly podgy.

I stood a little while trying to choose what we'd work on, and finally opted for a little dressage. In part because I couldn't bear swapping stirrups again between saddles, and in part because I didn't feel like doing a trail ride. We might as well "work" for a bit.

In the ring I worked on loosening him up and lots of bending. Bending, bending, bending. A few steps of "half-passing" attempts mixed in with our leg-yielding. Around and around. Couple attempts at trot-canter transitions as well.

Which was peculiar. He really still didn't seem to have a nice canter transition, despite how well he had cantered last week. That awesome video I had captured. Why not???

As we went back to suppling and flexing, I suddenly realised that in the video, we didn't DO trot-canter transitions. I had assumed he was so revved, that he didn't want to trot, so I had skipped it and gone straight to walk-canter.

So yesterday, I asked him again...

*BAM* Canter. From walk.

Brought him back. Asked from walk. Cantered.

Huh.

Did it in the other direction.

He walk-cantered again.

Got him to slow down, moving nicely in trot, asked for canter...nothing. Struggling strides. Half-steps.

Huh.

Asked for walk-canter. He strikes off and I get a circle.

Back to trot. Ask for canter from trot...struggling, struggling, rough depart, falls back to trot.

Huh.

Knowing I couldn't solve the mystery myself then and there, and also knowing that my horse had been working for at least an hour now, primarily at trot and canter, I spent another couple minutes trying to get him back to soft (he really does tense up during the canter work), though his right bend remained very knotted. It was weird to be able to *feel* him stiff. Surprisingly, in what was always his "worse" direction to the left, he was able to return to softness for me. So I opted not to push him overmuch to the right, instead praising him and ending on the left with lots of long and low. I had for a little while, considered working him to the right until he would "soften" as I wanted, but then realised that this would be like doing 100 pull-ups, and then not being able to get all the way up on the 101st. And someone not letting you stop until you did one more perfect pull-up. Unreasonable. And let's face it. You're sore, your muscles have been working hard, and it often gets MORE difficult as you go sometimes.

I was soo impressed riding Moon around with how differently he was using his body, that there was little doubt in my mind that he WAS and HAD worked those muscles over his topline and hindquarters significantly during our first 60 minutes of work, that I was willing to forgive his struggles at the end. He deserved a rest.

We neck reined around until he his breathing was back to normal and the sweat was starting to dry in areas. Untacked, threw his gear over the fence and left him to roll in the sandy ring. Oh boy, did he enjoy that!

I had a crazy idea to lead him back to the pasture without holding the lead line. And was pleasantly surprised when he followed me obediently, weaving and doing patterns in the lawn as we went. At one point he stopped to graze, and a simple "Angh!" made him lift his head and return to following me! Finally I stopped in the nice tall green grass and let him graze for a bit.

Of course, when I was ready to put him away, he stopped being the obedient horse that followed me out, and I had to remind myself of patience. I mean, I WAS trying to convince a horse to follow me with no lead line when there was TONS of tall green grass right there! : P

I left the barn as the sun was starting its decent into the trees, the weather already dropping wonderfully and the bugs in full force. Mmmmm...I can remember why I do love summer time.

___________

Driving home, I was thinking about our ride that evening. How a year ago, when I decided to take him to W, it had nothing to do with wanting to do Dressage. I had a horse that was unschooled, green broke if you consider his training level (broke to death in calmness, but not in skill), and ran about like a giraffe. Regardless of what I may or may not have wanted to do with him, I knew that we needed "Dressage" training in the simplest form in order to have even the semblance of rideability.

I had attended and worked on our Dressage training as a means to an end. Physiotherapy I had so often called it. I was doing it because he needed it, if we were ever to be a decent team.

Time had elapsed both quickly and slowly. I haven't a clue anymore how many hours of training I've put on him, how many walk-trot transitions we've done, how many attempts to leg yield. Yet, only a year or so has passed us.

Riding INTO the ring yesterday, felt different. Riding AROUND the ring yesterday, felt different. Walking OUT of the ring yesterday, felt even more different.

Yesterday, everything had changed. Well, Dressage had changed. Technically, it had been changing for awhile, but yesterday it finally dawned on me.

I.was.loving.Dressage.

Not in a "this will make my horse better at the things I want to do", but in the way that I was actually really enjoying the training process. Instead of seeing it as merely a necessity to get what I really want. Suddenly, DRESSAGE was what I really wanted.

_______

The biggest moment dawned on me during my drive home. The sun was blazing in my rear view mirror and I was still mulling over what I was hoping was contact and the start of collection in my horse. It was shaky at best, far from perfect and still included a whole lot of evil rabbit face. But I was falling madly in love with feeling like a RIDER. A guide for my horse. Even when there was no coach present to guide me through it. I was riding the horse beneath me, acting, moving and responding as necessary. Out of skill, not because I was being told what to do.

As the dust billowed around my car down that gravel road, and I mulled over our walk-canter transitions, wondering if it meant that he had enough impulsion and collection to drive solidly forward, or if perhaps it was something else that was not conducive nor helpful to improving our trot-canter and perhaps problematic, I found myself thinking about Tempi changes.

Yes, Tempi Changes.

Somehow, my little infantile dressage head had gone: Walk-Canter is the basis for flying changes. Flying changes are the basis for Tempi changes. Therefore, if we can walk-canter...maybe...

Could someday we Tempi Change?

I could *almost* feel what it must be like to ride a tempi change. Like skipping, beautifully, smoothly on horseback. In the amber-hued dust, I could almost picture Moon tempi changing across the dusty arena, lifting himself high as I rocked gently above him. It felt so real. So possible.

As I reached the highway, I shook my head clear. What WAS I thinking?!

Mr. Moon and Tempi Changes?!

Absurd!! I can't afford to pay for all the lessons needed to school tempi changes!!

Then I realised how absolutely silly it is that MONEY was the first thing I thought would be our limiting factor to achieve Tempi Changes. Haha. Yeah, cause even if I got a raise...

...I STILL wouldn't have the TIME required to devote to riding enough to school Tempi Changes!!! Duh!

As I crossed the highway and continued down the next gravel road, I nearly burst out laughing aloud.

I have, in a year, come from regarding Dressage as merely a necessary tool to achieve enjoyable riding, to suddenly LOVING the act of dressage and the schooling that comes with it. And in this discovery and pursuit, I have gone from desperately hoping to one day have a horse that did not move like a giraffe and *perhaps* has a decent walk-trot transition, to suddenly believing that WE could do tempi changes.

Mr. Moon, the podgy quarter horse I dragged out of a pasture from his occasional trail ride, and I, the adult ammie who didn't get on a horse until her 17th birthday who can't even manage to post on the correct diagonal.

And tempi changes.

?!

Had I gone insane?

Or was THIS the disease that is Dressage? This sudden desire to bring your horse and yourself to some unbelievable, unattainable place, where you suddenly commit eons of hours of training and riding, all in a blissful yet unrealistic dream of someday achieving some high level movement?!

I was insane.

But maybe...I mean, it's not *impossible* for sure...

Right?

_________

Monday, June 25, 2012

Forward, HO!

Ugh. It's so hard sometimes, when the weather is hot, the sun is bright and the bugs are in full force to get out and about to do all those things you know you need to do. I just hate heat. Warm, sure. But never hot. This is slated to be a HOT week.

This morning I met up with H's neighbor for a trail ride with Moon and The Black. We'd never had the opportunity to ride together before, and it was a blast. While I love trail riding period, E is a ton of fun. She's a skilled rider, so there's zero babysitting, and she has no problem trotting for long distances. Speed was a fun factor! And since The Black has such long legs and a fast trot, Mr. Moon could even canter behind him without issue. So I got to ride all three paces, exactly what makes me love a trail ride.

I'm not sure how far or how long we travelled for, but we departed while it was still cool at 9 am, and when I finally crawled back into my car after feeding the ponies, it was 12:30. So an AWESOME pony morning.

What I really loved, was that E and I got to do tons of trotting, which meant nice sweaty ponies that were breathing harder and burning calories. And building muscle. THAT is the best part of a trail ride! I felt like I was right back in my polo days, exercising horses, not just lolly-gagging around.

Unfortunately, both horses were a little foot-sore, seems that their fresh trim and the weather has made them sensitive. I made sure to apply another round of durasole on Moon's hooves to try to alleviate the problem.

Yesterday, I also got to go on a 'nose-to-tail' trail ride for my friend C's birthday. She had a lot of guests who weren't regular riders like us, so it was fun that she could bring everyone along. I of couse, being the type to not need full attention on my plodding horse Jetta, braided her mane while we rode and tucked little leaves into it too. Hey, a girl has to have fun!

I was really excited to find that my trail horse actually had a properly functioning brain under that "dum-de-dum" pack horse mentality. I was able to actually get him to "sorta" leg yield off the trail, so I spent a good deal of time making him drift left and right off the trail, just because I could!

Unfortunately, some random group of people joined us, and the ranch over mounted a little 10 year old on a rather strong willed horse named Goliath. Well, dear Goliath tried to kick my horse a couple of times, and I finally wound up in a tree when dear Jetta decided to get the heck out of the way of Goliath's hind end when it was making quick speed towards us. I couldn't fault her, and finally just passed. How irritating. One other woman was mounted on a horse in heat that kept trying to stuff her stuff into the face of every other horse, often leading to near misses. Thankfully, they sent her to the back of the line and the problem was solved.

Beyond that, I managed to get all of the wood paneling cut for the horse trailer doors, and started lacquering them today! Hopefully by Friday they'll all by finished and ready to go into the trailer! And then the doors can go back on too.

Thursday I'm making my pilgrimage to the US to pick-up all of my parcels, which means perhaps this coming Monday I can start wiring up the new lights! Yippee! I still can't believe I've stayed focused enough to actual complete this project! Not my MO (soooo ADD!).

And that's today's update! Wednesday I'm out at the barn with H2 and C, as there's potential for a part-boarding opportunity, plus watching W coach the lessons of the day. I *might* go out for a training ride on Moon tomorrow, just because he's getting tubby and I want to sweat all that weight off of him. H offered to grazing muzzle him part time for me, but I realize that the biggest issue is me not riding enough. So we'll fix this the old fashion way...

Last thing. Anyone us horse Sun Screen? Does it work? How often do you need to apply it? Mr. Moon's nose is pretty sunburned, dark and sore looking. : (  H has been awesome about putting Dermagel on it, but it's more for healing then prevention. Not sure why he's burning worse this year (okay, it's cause he can stand out and eat grass all day, instead of being stuck with his head in a big round bale!), but I really want to do something to alleviate the burning.

: ) Mmmm. So happy with pony days lately. : )

Sunday, June 24, 2012

There.

I finally got back on.

No, I didn't fall off. I just hadn't been swinging my leg over and carrying on. I was grounded since last Friday, a mixture of being busy, being sick and being lethargic.

I had a post earlier this week, that sat unpublished, the days ticking by and my hand unable to reach for the publish button. It was...too intimate. Not in the R-rated sense. In a..."holy sh*t, what have I been doing all this time?!" sort of way. Deeply personal, the last week's events have finally faded away, and with it, the hidden post.

Things have been blase. Last Friday I had an awesome ride on Moon, and I saw him Saturday and Sunday when I went out to feed. I didn't get any riding in, but it was nice to stand out there and just pet him. Like he was nothing more then a companion, a friend. Expecting no performance, no special behavior. Just sharing our love.

Saturday I also got to visit with a dear friend whom I didn't realize how much I missed until I saw him again. There are some people in your life, that despite extended periods apart, it feels like time has elapsed too quickly, yet not at all. This was one of those instances, and I was a little sadden when it all came to a close.

Sunday was Father's Day, and I am truly lucky. My dad is incredible, and to add to it, offered to help me fix up my car. So I've spent the week hunting down the best bargains on repair parts, and having everything shipped over. The first package arrived today, and I'm excited to see the end to all of this "repair" work.

The BF and I also managed to get the roof back on the pony trailer, and it's really starting to come together. H by some strange luck gave me EXACTLY the wood panelling I needed to finish the doors, and another bought of strange luck allowed my light order that wasn't shipping to be filled a lot sooner then expected!

Work has been...interesting. Changing. Evolving. Just...work.

Thursday I felt a bout of inspiration and chopped off my hair. No, not all of it. Just got some bangs added in. Which to me, is a pretty big deal. Everyone at work on Friday was stunned. They've known me for 3 years, and it really looked different. Then again, for me, it'd been 20 years since I last had bangs!

So then brings us to Friday. When I finally got back on my pony and rode.

I had written a pre-post, about how we were gonna jump and do oxers and be fabulous.

Good thing *that* didn't get posted either!

I would have told you, that our ride was somewhere between crappy and irritating. After a week off, he was...excited. "Run,runrunrunrunrn!" was all that seemed to run through his head.

We tried some jumping and I felt like he was WAY over jumping, not confident, ducked out a bunch of times initially. And then all he wanted was to canter.

I was FRUSTRATED. Capital F, Capital R, Capital U...

So I told him to canter.

The arena was a little soft in spots and the jumps and poles were still out. So we dodged around them. Big canter circles.

And around. Then I brought him back to a walk...and then told him to canter off.

We did WALK-CANTER transitions!

One of MANY canter circles...
Note, my position is finally improved.

And it was awful, but I wasn't even thinking about equitation and my hands or my seat or my body. It was like him and I were locked in this....argument. This horse-human argument, except the fact we didn't speak the same language no longer mattered. We had found a common dispute. Common words.

I'd slow him back to a walk, and then ask for a trot. He'd sass me. I'd tell him to canter depart right from that walk. And off he'd go, rip-roaring around that ring.

Over and over. Walk-Canter. Walk. Walk-Canter. Walk.

We went in both directions. We went quickly. We did tight turns. We went and went and went.

Until somehow, we seemed to settle into one another. We got our rythym back. Our pacing.

Finally, my Moon came back to me. His outburst was finished. He was no longer so worked up. So desperate to run off or run away.

And then we had nice walk-trot transitions. So we gave jumping another try...

It still didn't go well. He stopped refusing jumps, but he still seemed to be over-jumping. I lost my balance a lot, I was sure because he was jumping like a lunatic.

Finally, after two clean, and reasonably nice jumps, I call our ride to an end. He was dripping sweat and probably worked hard enough for one day.

Anyone care to point out that my legs have slipped back? : P

And then...

He did BEAUTIFUL neck reining for me. I mean, whereever I pointed him. So smooth. So supple. The best neck reining he's done to date.

Guess what I asked for next? Turn-on-the-fore. Loose reins and all. Did it.

Finally, he was cool and back to breathing normally. I pulled off his hot and sweaty saddle and let him cool and roll.

It wasn't a great ride, not nearly what last Friday was. But he was still my Moon and we tried hard. There's always tomorrow. Or another day. We're riding for the fun of it now. Not like we got any of those canter leads down anyway, right?

____________
I got home late and replayed the video I had taken of that evening's ride.

40 minutes of video (missed a stretch near the end), and couldn't believe my eyes...

Walk-Canter transitions that were lovely. For a horse that can't canter.

For a rider who leaned too far back...except this time when she wasn't trying.

And more impressive for a horse that can't canter?

We had about 20 walk-trot transitions in both directions (about 12 in one direction, 8 in the other). Of those 20 canter circles, guess how many were on the correct lead???

TWENTY.

I just kept staring at the video camera.

FREAKING NO GOOD LYING HORSE! CLAIMS HE CAN'T CANTER YET HERE'S EVIDENCE THAT HE CAN WALK-CANTER AND DO IT ON THE CORRECT LEAD!! 20 TIMES! THAT'S NOT A COINCIDENCE!!

FRIGGEN' HELL!!!

Do you know what made it even worse?

Watching the jumping video...

And seeing his little canter stride after the first x-rail, where my legs go waaaaay back and then he comes to a halt before the next jump.

Do you really think that he refused because he couldn't jump it, or because *I* couldn't jump it?

Again, the next round, we do the first two okay, my legs stay under me, but the last one they slip back and then Moon deeks around the jump.

Huh.

Then there's the distances. As we finally come cleanly through the pattern, I see that I must have miscounted his canter strides. Because he tries for 2 canter strides and chips in. Pops over anyway, but it's not perfect.

The next time through, he tries 1 canter stride and then trot. Better, but still awkward.

Then I had decided to swap to just the last fence. So he goes for 5 canter strides, can't make it and chips in again. I'm perched on him like I haven't a clue what the hell I'm doing through all of this.

Next time through, he jumps from WAY far back, gets over but it's flat.

The last two times, the "best" times as it had felt, I keep my legs under me properly and he has to jump from the long spot.

Again I stared at the video. It's not that my horse can't jump. Not even close.

It's that his rider can't jump.

Not even close! : P


Now, now, let's not get up in arms to defend me just yet. You know what I love about video evidence? No, not just that I can prove how much I suck. The fact that I can SEE what I need to work on.

So Moon and I? We'll keep jumping. But I'll adjust my fence distances, and I'll do some no stirrup work. Lots of x-rails and just keeping my legs under me. THAT is what I need.

__________

Do you know what I love most about the whole thing? Staring at those videos afterwards??

The fact that I can *DO* this with my horse. Just, learn. Yeah, I can totally screw up the distances and make him jump from a long spot. YES, I can ride soo poorly that he saves my arse by refusing a jump and I'm too foolish to notice at the time. YES, we can rip around the ring like nutcases, doing walk-canter transitions when nobody's trained us. And you know what? THAT.IS.AWESOME.

I used to be terrified of messing my horse up. Too scared to try anything.

Now? Now I know that while I can totally mess him up, I can fix him up too. And I can erase, undo, recreate and alter anything and everything. I'll never "mess him up" when we're together. I might get some things wrong, but he'll look out for me. And vice versa.

A year ago, when I came to Coach W's, she told me that someday, Moon and I would be so in-tune, that I could mess up, and Moon would say "Don't worry ma'am. I've got this one."

Seriously, if we ignore my terrible form, let's all love Moon's lovely tucked legs, nearly clearing the CHAIRS that are my standards. For a horse that wouldn't jump a year ago, I love how much he'll offer me.

I think we're there. I think we're a team.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Disappearing Act

Despite being out at the barn on Saturday and Sunday, the rain and other commitments kept me from riding Mr. Moon. Instead I fed, cuddled him a bit and buggered off.

Then thanks to a sore throat and general malaise, I

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wait for it....

I've been kicking myself for never seeming to have pictures on my blog lately. How boring, right? I'm not sure exactly why it hasn't happened, other then the fact I haven't been taking pictures. That's not to say that I no longer find Mr. Moon photogenic or no longer want to keep photographic proof of his awesomeness. Rather, I think I've been so engrossed in actually riding, that taking pictures slips my mind.

The second is the fact that knowing the camera on me causes me to go all to hell. And I felt like we've been riding so much better that I didn't want to jinx it.

So yesterday I headed out with camera in hand (no H, I wasn't going to let you film!), and after feeding some very awesome and well behaved ponies (with little M's help of course), I tacked Moon up and got ready to do some Dressage.

After riding around for awhile, doing this that and the other thing, I felt like I suddenly found my groove. My attention was 100% on Moon and I was working my hands and body in a way where I felt like I could actually change him and his movement actively. Not a "I sure hope this works" sorta way, but a "This, that, this, now that" natural sorta movement to work with him. As someone who sooo often needs to actively think about every move (which is why having someone shout what to do at me works so well), it was incredible to just feel "natural" together. Riding, not thinking.


So after my audience headed home, I pulled on some half-chaps (cantering without REALLY hurts when those leathers pinch your legs) and put the video camera on record...

As soon as I got back on Moon, he was a dork. I *had* thought we had found some long and low, but no. He was short and high all over again. So we worked. And worked. The earlier connection was gone, but it had given me a patience to keep working at it. It was in there somewhere, and we could find it again.

It took awhile, but eventually I had some semblance of awesome back. Not as good as before, but I'd given him one canter run already and it always goes to his head. I hope someday we're cantering so much that he no longer even cares to get excited about it. Then again, maybe not...

After he softened up, we did some more canter departs.


When W was out on Wednesday, she told me I had a problem with sitting the canter that was opposite of most folks. You see, most people tend to tip forward at the canter. I, tip back.

And after watching it on video, I'm going to argue that "tip" is NOT the right descriptor. I'm practically lying backwards over Moon's back while he canters along. Stupidly.


Now I'd like to pretend this wasn't true, and perhaps delete the videos and embarrassing pictures, but I think we're all human and all develop bad habits. Which we must accept, recognize and improve. This is one (of many) of mine.

The thing that is strange to me, is that I often canter and gallop Moon on the trails and since I never sit the canter, I always have a nice forward position. Yet when you get me in the ring and ask me to canter a circle, I adopt this ridiculous backwards riding style that does me zero favors.

I think about why I ride like this. I remember many, many coaches telling me (yelling at me) to lean back in my canter. I think I'm an unfortunate product of taking their advice to the extreme. I'd been told so often that being forward on your horse when they're departing the canter causes them to be unable to lift their forehand and rock back, therefore if you canter with your weight a bit back, you'll allow them to lift and depart.

Now honestly, I'm sure they didn't mean this far back. But like many things, I took it to the extreme and now have a new behavior to correct. Yippee.

The nice thing in the video however, is that I actually see my initial terrible canter circle (Moon's on the correct lead at least) and then the last canter circle where I thought about W's suggestions for staying forward, and can see an improvement in my position. So it CAN be fixed!

There was, no surprise, one very strange moment in our entire ride. Moon and I were doing a nice canter circle, we did a full loop and as we came around I gave him a nice "whoa". Suddenly his haunches sunk down behind me, and for a second I hadn't a clue what had just happened. But as his his haunches seemed to just stay down and we came to a sliding stop, I felt like I knew.

It hadn't felt out of control, it hadn't felt accidental. It had felt intentional. And when I walked away and looked at the sand behind us, I was left wondering yet again, what my horse's history really was...

Regardless of what he does or doesn't know, what I love in all the videos, is how it starts out just awful. Sitting here watching them I was cringing like crazy. Oye. I *thought* it looked good but in reality it was AWFUL!



Then the video plays on. At 13 minutes, suddenly there it is. I can *see* how W talks about how he finally takes equal sized steps with his front and rear legs!! I can see that I'm encouraging him to lower his head and work over his back. I can see those beautiful muscles moving.


And even in the final walk sequence, there he is, with SUCH extension of his hind legs under him, and reaching and stretching down.


  

Are we fantastic? No. But are we improving? Yes. And in 17 minutes of video, we go from downright awful to pretty damn awesome for us. I guess the take home message in all of this is that you just have to wait for it. Nothing starts out perfect.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What goes up, *must* come down...and back up again.

I have been a blogging delinquent, mainly because things have been a touch busy and a bit blue.

It started with that questionable Anaplasmosis diagnosis last week, which of course was coupled to many literature searches, extensive emails written and read and a great deal of scrutiny in general.

In between that, I had a busy weekend away from home as little baby N was born and I was out on the farm helping out. Monday I found myself heading home in the late afternoon and dragged my 2007 Honda Accord in for its routine oil change. No biggie, though we're approaching 100,000 km mark.

"Routine" is starting to be a curse word to me.

My "Routine" Heartworm test on the dog led to a potentially debilitating and expensive disease diagnosis. So why wouldn't my "Routine" oil change not lead to a $5,100 "required maintenance" quote??

Cause it did.

Yes, I expected that $1100 for new tires. Yes, yes. And probably that wheel alignment. It was the bushings, the ball joints, the transmission fluid, the brake fluid, the power steering fluid, the timing belt, the spark plugs....all THAT stuff I was unprepared for.

: (

Boourns.

So I headed into the week with a bad disease verdict on the dog, a bad prognosis on the car and a dissapearing bank account. Of course, all of this *right* after I clicked "submit" on my order for the remainder of the horse trailer lights.

And was making plans to pick up those new stall mats.

There was Tuesday, crashing around me. The vet wasn't returning my calls, he didn't want to cover a retest, he was admit that we needed $500 in diagnostic services, the yearly vehicle insurance bill showed up highlighting my crappy car and that horse trailer I was paying to register but not hauling and currently not making progress towards hauling as I won't be able to cover the final repair costs nor even the extra fuel to haul it.

Tuesday also came with a farrier bill, a reminder that I needed to buy another bag of horse feed for next month, and a moment where I (gladly) thought my car would be written off by a rather large deer.

NOT how we want to go into summer.

Oh, and there was that fun talk with W I would have to have, to let her know that lessons would be temporarily suspended. And show season would end when it had just begun.

Tuesday ended on a better note. W cheered me up as only a really superb coach can, and I have to admit "coach" and "friend" are becoming close synonyms. I hesitate to say it aloud, but I'm sure the blogging world will keep it a secret... ; )

Tuesday was also an awesome night when every gal from the barn was out, and there's something special about that. Even H brough baby N and dear sweet M along, and I got to meet my new little "nephew". : )

I jumped my first oxer.

!

I know. I say that in passing, like it's no big deal. It is.

It started rough. I left our old grid up and turned it to two x-rails. Moon had zero impulsion and pretty much fell atop the last jump. H2 in her hunter wisdom coached us, telling us to get our eyes up and our leg on. I still fondly recall her saying "Well, he'll remember *that*" after we smashed atop the rails. : ) Something about her militant guidance, the "This is a fact. Now do it" just seems to work for us in that situation. Of course, worked too well and somehow my dear boy headed into the trot poles at a canter.

Whoops, too much impulsion!

We came around again. And made it over.

We kept stepping it up, and while it wasn't perfect (good golly, does having an audience, even if they're not watching make me nervous!!! Reminds me of my early dressage days, which funny, I don't feel nearly as nervous now. Dressage is all focus...jumping is my new freak-out!).

Eventually I turned the last vertical into a little 18" high, 18" wide oxer. And we jumped it!!!

And continued to trot around the corner instead of stopping and me cheering like a dufous.

Okay, I still cheered. And rode around with my hands held out to the sides while gloating very uncermoniously and not AT ALL modestly.

Terrible, terrible me. But I was just SOOO proud to have done that with Moon that I guess I was riding a little high. : P A girl needs to enjoy it once in a while. To hell with modesty! This pony rocks!!

After all that and a good toe trim?? I went home and the BF helped me install all the marker lights on my trailer!!! And I got the door handle on on Monday!

So Tuesday ended pretty well.

___________________

Today was our last lesson day for awhile and I was a little blue. I *did* manage to get ahold of the vet and AMAZINGLY convinced him to pay for our retest...on one condition.

He only agreed IF it came up negative. If it was positive, I'd have to pay for it. So I agreed and went home to get my dog.

When I arrived at the clinic, they wanted to take her to the back room to test her. Nuhuh. Not happening. I'm coming too. If I have to collect the blood myself (I could and I would). I watched the whole thing (did SNAP tests as a summer intern at a clinic YEARS ago), and even went so far as to time it on my cell phone.

Yes, I'm nuts like that.

I wasn't sure how it'd turn out. It really could go either way. She did have a lot of tick exposure...

So we waited. And I watched. Obsessively.

At 8 minutes, we read it. Negative.

The vet continues to stare. "See that faint blue mark?" he asks. "I think that's the weak positive we were seeing."

I pick up the test. I hold it up really close to my face. Tilt it to the light. Squint a little. There's a tiny very, very, very pale blue mark on the upper left side of the center dot. The anaplasmosis dot.

Now, not to sound cocky, but a BLUE DOT appears if it's positive. Not a tiny pale, pale blue speck. That's no positive. And surprise, the BF had spoken with our Provincial Parasitologist on the very thing, and he too said a positive is a clear positive. There's no "weak" signals in these tests.

My opinion on the blue speck?

The very upper left side of the SNAP test is the Control Positive. It's made to always bind and light as a blue spot when the test is performed correctly. Then there's the middle dot for anaplasmosis, and 3 dots below that along the bottom of the screen for Heartworm, Trichenella or something and something else.

So, as time passes, the little "binding proteins" or whatever they are drift down the test strip, since the whole thing works in a wicking action (it wicks the blood down across the screeen and in contact with these little "test spots"). So what we're seeing, is the positive control bleeding into the anaplasmosis spot after 8 minutes and binding with the proteins there. NOT anaplasmosis antigen binding. THIS is why only a blue speck appeared at the 8 minute mark, and it was the side closest to the positive control. It's ALSO why if you wait long enough, the whole center dot would become faintly blue. BLEEDING of the positive control.

But I'm no scientist.

The vet looked at me when I said "It's negative". He stared some more at the test and we wound up with a second bet...

CBC/Chem profile.

Elevated white blood cell count would mean she's fighting an infection. So he did a "complimentary" one (which would be at my cost if it failed). This is where they check the "quality" of the blood for lack of a layman's term. So white blood cell counts, red blood cell counts, electrolyte balances, etc.

It was nice of him, but I very sincerely believe he was hoping that *any* increase in WBC (white blood cell count) could be used to support his "weak positive" theory on the SNAP test. The CBC/Chems from my recollection are not particularly expensive to perform. The REAL expense for those is the very expensive, very technical, very fancy machine that does all the processing. And its maintance. THAT is what you're paying for.

Guess what?

It was 0.7 under the normal range. So essentially, normal. And since it'd been a week since her last +ve test, it should be elevating, not so low.

The vet conceeded that I could call it negative, and sent me away with a copy of her Chem profile printout and no charges.

It was a good betting day.

________

After that it was a "routine" dental cleaning and check-up. I was worried. Everything "routine" wasn't working out, but was today the turning point??

Surprise, cavity-free! And even better?? They had already ordered me a fresh set of invisalign retainers! Mmmm...nothing like clean teeth and clean retainers! (p.s. HIGHLY recommend invisalign for any adults thinking of getting braces).

Anything else work out?? There was that $8 Honda shop manual I bought that turned out to be a genuine service manual that the maintance guys use at Honda. With GREAT descriptions. By 3 pm I had potentially saved $150 on simple maintance products! I bought my own cabin air filters (1 screw to replace), engine filter, transmission fluid...

: )

Then it was off to the barn for my lesson.

Got there in time to groom and tack. Moon rode like a dream. He's REALLY starting to learn to round and work over his back. I was THRILLED. His head is coming down. He's maintaining contact. He's moving SOOO much better. His trot work and walk-trot upward and downward transitions are phenomenal. I'm loving it!!! He's sooo smooth. So refined!

At one point, W had us start half-pass (okay, pretend to half-pass)!!!! : O Say what?! And trot extension! WHAT?! And haunches-fore!! WWHHHHAAAATTT?! And then she said "You need these things to school piaffe". WWWHHHHAAA *boom*  (that was my head exploding by-the-way).

And we even practiced canter.

It sucked. But we did it! ; )

I'm LOVING my boy. He drives me crazy, but he's sooo awesome. Oxers and Half-Pass in two days! I AM the world's luckiest girl.  : )

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jacob Two-Two

The nicest thing about being literally 100 feet away from your horse, is that if you're rained out from your ride, you can go back over an hour or two later when the rain subsides, and still ride. Unlike when your horse is a 1/2 hour away, the round trip is an hour, and there's no way you're wasting 2 hours just driving.

The weather righted itself just as the latest episode of Heartland came on (horse show based on the books for those unknowing), and I was left trying to choose....Horse TV or Horse Riding??

I started walking across the field.

All the jumps I had set up earlier today were still ready, and by some grace, Moon hadn't rolled after his earlier grooming! Things were coming up roses!

I tacked Moon up and headed into the ring. I had used a lesson from "Jump with Joy" a great book by Sarah Blanchard. The thing I really like about it, is that it's progressive. She'll set up a grid or exercise for you, tell you how to ride it, what to watch for, and then tell you how many reps to do. Then give you a rubric to judge whether you need more reps or if you're ready to move on.

We were ready to do a nice gymnastic line, like below...

Photobucket
To start us off, I set it up with the 4 trot poles, to the 18" x-rail and then left the vertical (that's a pole and a ground pole, not an oxer) on the ground. I wanted to make sure we were comfortable as we've never done a gymnastic line before.

In we went, I focused on a fence post in the distance and tried to stay back.

It was...okay. But I was definately getting ahead of Moon and almost throwing myself on his neck. Not right.

We did it again. And voila. I relaxed enough to let him do the jumping and we made it confidently through.

So I set our little "vertical" at 9".

Yup, start easy.

Through we went 2 times, and he tapped the 9" rail.

So I raised it to 18".

He surged a bit heading through the trot poles, but went nicely over the x-rail and a touch of the vertical.

Here I opted to (for the first time since I bought them!) put on his jumping boots! Yup, he wore boots! So not us.

We went again, he did fine. He was actually jumping rather nicely through, start a little fast, settle him back through the trot poles and then keep a nice rythym back out of the line.

...I wondered...

Maybe...

Could my quarter horse actually jump? And maybe enjoy it?

I raised the vertical to the 21" hole, which meant the top of the rail sat at 2'2". Two-Two. The hooded fang. (those who don't get the reference, won't get the reference!).

I breathed. And readied myself. Some of you may recall this winter at W's where I jumped 2', ended going over the jumping block and fell off into the sand. Didn't want a repeat.

...squeeze and we're off...

And up.

And down.

And up.

....

...

And down.

Didn't even tap the rail!

I felt confident, balanced and stayed out of his mouth and from my best guess, didn't get ahead of the movement nor behind!

We did it again.

And again.

And then we quit.

I was in heaven. He seemed...happy. He seemed like he wanted to come in a little stronger, but remained controllable and listened well. Really made it effortless and was smooth. Didn't have to fight him really wandering right or left over the rail either, at least at the vertical. Seemed to drift a touch left at the x-rail, but I'm not sure if my attempts to half-halt may have led to some leftward drift.

Wow.

A year ago, I would have told you that Moon hated jumping. And I sucked at it.

3 months ago, I would have said that he'll never jump much more then 2', did not enjoy it, was scared of it, and I had no business doing it.

Today.

Today, I'd say that my horse needed a few things before we did this. We needed to work on our relationship, and I can say he trust me more today then he did a year ago. Then even 8 months ago when we moved to W's.

I can tell you that I'm a better rider today then I was before. I can also say that H2's coaching, even just for an hour, really, really helped. Why? Because she gave me one very valuable tool: look up, and she and H also assured me that I wasn't destroying my horse by sucking terribly. The other tricks, like staying rythmic and relaxed, helped too. So now I'm going in there feeling more confident. Which in turn makes my horse more confident.

The gymnastic line.

THIS helps. Instead of "OMG! I'm coming to that HUGE FENCE! AURGH!!! DO SOMETHING!!", it's simply "Trot rail, trot rail, trot rail, trot rail, x-rail, vertical" and we're done. It's rythmic. It's sensible and it's progressive.

All things horse and human need to establish their confidence and build their skill in a positive way.

I even, EVEN went so far as to stick bright orange pylons under my vertical and no surprise, Mr. Moon still jumped it without hesitation.

________________

Now, after our success at the Two-Two, I thought he might appreciate a trail ride. Which after trying to buck me off on the road, and then reverting to the giraffe I brought to Wendy back in May last year (Like nose straight up in the air), I managed to regain a half-decent horse. I was REALLY frustrated at this point and was contemplating how much I'd have to pay W to take him from me. I just couldn't deal with riding the horse of last May. I couldn't. I CAN'T.

So my half-decent horse comes back to the sand ring and I think "Well, we should at least work on loosening him up. It's physio, right? He's had a week off of work, we had a bad stiff ride last Sunday at the show, and I really should put the time in to soften him up, get him relaxing and stretching".

Yes, I just wanted to chuck him back in his paddock. How could he go from jumping super star to cow-head in a matter of minutes?!

I worked and worked on getting him flexing and bending at a walk. Finally I asked for a trot transition...

...Holy Floating Batman.

That dreamy walk-trot transition, head nice and low that I've been finding here and there!!

It's back!! Wait. Where'd Stiff-Cow-Head go??

Not in the ring. Around and around we went and he got better and better. I was overjoyed!! Lots and lots of awesome transitions, up and down!! And beautiful halts! And standing still!

Okay, we're done! I'll take it. Floating transitions and 2'2" jumps in the same day?! I'll keep him!

_____________

I groomed him down again, removed all his gear and blanketed him. Yes, mainly because I'm incredibly lazy about grooming tons and tons of water goopy mud off him before every ride. Sheet = clean pony. I'll take it!

Boy was I thrilled when leading him back to his paddock, that he followed me without any lead rope. And followed me around the ring in some serpentines without me leading him, and then stood like a good boy while I took off his halter. And halted until I walked away from him (last time he bolted away, spraying wet mud and poo all over me), and then walked sedately back to his pasture mates.

It's about time.

: )

This horse, this Moon, I'll keep!

Maybe his tantrums are over. Last time I ignore HIM for a week!
_____________

So what's the big deal about Two-Two? 2'2"?

Well, there's those 2'3" hunter courses...

Or...

My dream.

Your dream??

Yes, my dream.

I've wanted for a very long time (since I was a kid, staring at those jumps at the park), to ride Cross Country. To jump those logs and banks and ditches.

And when I got my own horse, whom I could do crazy things like jumping logs and ditches with, I knew that I didn't have the right horse for it. And I love my horse (most days) far more then I love the sport of Cross Country. So I assumed we wouldn't really ever get to do it. Maybe a little "smurf" course to make me feel good, but nothing "serious" and certainly never anything competitive.

Today, landing nicely on the other side of that 2'2", Moon happy and certainly willing to do it again (if perhaps a touch faster), I realized it's not so far out of reach!

My horse, if he ever learns to canter a circle (we're getting there), is a decent (not fantastic, but certainly decent) little dressage horse. AND he's now showing me he can manage 2'2" jumps, which means he might manage a decent stadium round. AND, since he loves trail rides and going fast, MAYBE he'll come together to like x-country too.

I haven't narrowed myself into dressage because of my horse or our training. We've simply been moving towards being better rounded and more ready for these next adventures.

...someone hold me back!

Boy oh Boys.

I have to say, it's a rather unfortunate thing that you're able to read this post, as it means that I'm trapped indoors. And like many of you, the rain is falling again, the thunder is booming, and the lightening is flashing across the sky.

Before I dive head-long into the pony world, I should say that since it is yet still springtime, and of course, rainy and miserable, it seems to be the best time for most creatures to give birth to their youngin. I'm not sure why it always seems to be when the rain is falling or the skies are dark, but perhaps that's what keeps everyone hudled together rather then wandering afar. Who knows.

Regardless, this past week sent us two very special and wonderful births. The first being Baby N, a new little brother of my dear "niece" M, and H's first son. We are of course delighted for them, and I must say, I *knew* it would be a boy! So myself and H2 are looking after the ponies, and I'm on a short country vacation where I can stare out the window and see my pony. Yes, I must admit I could wish H pregnant more often for this "sleepover" opportunity, but since I'd rather she get her hindend back in the saddle so her and I can get riding together, I'll opt for a few more vacations while they introduce the new Baby to the distant family. : ) That way I'm not waiting another 9 months for a horseback ride with her!

Now, speaking of these "babies", there was another special one born, though not of the human nature, though it still requires me to venture over to offer my congratulations...

Coach W's new colt!! Seems to be boys in the air this spring, and we of course, all love a new foal! Being partial to geldings myself, I'm excited for W and can tell she's thrilled herself! I couldn't not share this cutie with you...She expects him to grey-out like his momma, and says she's been an excellent momma and the foal is happy and healthy.

His wonderful name is "Graceson" and I'm excited to head out to the barn tonight or tomorrow for a visit!!


Well then, enough on the babies. There will be time enough for visiting them all later!

___________________

Moonpie.

My pony has, since returning from our last show and being mixed in the larger herd, turned into a true jerk.

I'm not sure why.

Friday I went out to feed and ride, and when I approached him while he was eating, he took off. After that, any time I came near him, he ran away and charged around the paddock at a canter. No other horse cared or even looked at him, and I knew it was all me.

After being frustrated since he wouldn't let me fly spray him, he wouldn't let me apply cream to his very ouchy cracked and peeling nose sunburn, and frustrated when I went with his halter and he continued to run from me, I lost my patience.

I managed to corner him, drag him into the arena and round pen (okay, rectangular pen) him. Every time he'd run away from me and towards the pasture gate, I'd chase him off and send him circling. Any time he would run from me on my approach, I made him run some more.

Over and over and over again.

Sometimes he's stand, but then stick his head over the fence to stare at his "buddies".

More running.

Finally he stopped, turned towards me and stood still.

I wandered over and petted him. Called him a good boy and praised him for behaving himself. But when I went to put the halter on, off he took running again.

So I ran him some more.

Finally after a good 30 minutes of running, he stood quietly on my approach, let me halter him and followed me nicely while I led him around the ring. He was puffing, dripping sweat and blowing hard. Reminded me of my old polo days really.

I walked him out to cool him, and after a bit, removed his lead rope. Made him keep following me. After awhile, he decided he wanted to go back to the pasture gate.

So I ran him even more.

THAT time he decided that he was really done with the foolishness. And stood nice while I haltered him and then followed me without any leadrope. Around and around. Then halterless, he followed me nicely. Then I sprayed him with fly spray without a lead rope, and he stood nice. Then applied dermagel to his nose.

It only took an hour.

Finally I made him follow me around the paddock halterless and leadrope less, near all the other horses, near the water, over the grass. Guess who's the leader?

And then I spent 20 minutes walking him around to cool him out. Of course, I also had to sweat scrape him....though all the dried mud on him turned to wet mud and wouldn't come off...

The sun set, I had a sticky muddy horse, and since he was no longer blowing, I put him back in his field. NOT happy. Since when did my horse behave like this?!
___________________

So when H2 texted me this morning that my horse wouldn't stand for fly spraying, I wasn't surprised. Serious problems, and I've had enough.

I spent the morning catching up on household chores since I'd be spending the night in the country, and then since the BF had gone with me on Friday to get some pressure treated plywood for my pony trailer, I opted to cut and install it.

It irritated me a ton because it was such a tight fit I was scuffing my new paint job! I got so frustrated that I accidently smoked my finger with the mallet, and stompted into the house too angry to bother finishing.

I eventually came back out and the BF helped me install that last piece. So both manger boards are installed, as is the tack floor. I still need to pick up the stainless steel seam my dad made for me to install, but the new floor is pretty nice. I hope to pick up some rubber matting in the USA and cover the tack floor with it, to hide the seam. Likewise, I plan to use the old stall matting to cover the wood in the mangers, as it will be a lot cleaner and keep the food from falling down into the tack area.

I then opened my last can of white epoxy roof paint and put a final coat on the trailer roof. Unfortunately, it didn't have a chance to cure before the rain, but it DID get to dry to touch...hmm...wonder how THAT will turn out...

The whole thing brings me a few steps closer to being done...

_____________________

I headed out to the barn in the afternoon and dawdled around doing "baby" things and playing with the dogs. So by the time I wandered over to the barn, the sky was starting to darken.

I spent a good 20 minutes laying out a gymnastic jumping grid as per my favorite jumping book "Jump for Joy", and when it was all done, went and grabbed Moon.

He moved away from me at first, but a few "whoas" seemed to get him to stand still. I brought him over to the tie post, groomed the snot out of him, and then the lightening was crashing in the distance and the thunder growing louder. Eddie, one of the dogs came over, and I knew that meant it would storm for sure.

Put Moon away, locked up behind myself and sprinted for home, two dogs in tow. Eddie had already headed home, so I was confident we'd make it back before the rain hit...

Except as I get 1/2 way across the field, Eddie who is older and pretty well blind and deaf, is running across the field to me. Must have been scared and went looking for me...

I'm calling to her, but she can't seem to hear and heads right back to where I just was beside the tie post. I dash across the field towards her calling, the other dogs in tow. Not finding me beside the tie post, she heads over to the road, and now I'm running as fast as I can, calling to her. Dash under the fence in a hurry, shocking the snot out of myself since it's electrified.

As I slide to my knees in the grass and mud on the other side, dear Eddie seems to hear me and trots through the ditch water over to me. My own dog of course, goes splashing after her, since my dog LOVES ditch water. "Yippee" the other dogs seem to think.

So Edds follows me back home with the other dogs leading the way and the rain starts to fall. We're not quite home, but it's not raining hard yet. I'm running as fast as I can since I don't want to be soaked, and discover I outran Edds and she turned back in the direction we came from. Probably thinking that's where I went??

There I am, again, running back towards her. I get right beside her, and have to slow jog so she can keep up with me. If I get even a few paces ahead of her, she stops and turns around. Poor girl.

We finally make it home, and I'm dripping wet. The rain is pouring down. The dogs are wet.

Needless to say, I didn't get to ride, I did get soaking wet, and I did get to stare out the window watching the ponies. And hey, I made this blog post...

It's can't all be that bad. Besides, it seems to have stopped raining again, so maybe there's still time for that ride...

; )

Friday, June 8, 2012

IDEXX Don't Know...



This post isn't going to focus on horses, but horse owners out there would probably benefit from the knowledge anyway...

Most people have heard my past rants regarding veterinary diagnostics. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

This is a "Not so good" story...

---

I took my 5 year old dog to the vet clinic yesterday for a routine heartworm test and to pick up this year's heartworm pills. Our climate is such that we don't use preventative medicine for vector-born diseases in the winter, since all creatures, intelligent or otherwise, hide during the deep freezes.



The wonderful "dog tick"... spreader of disease everywhere...


Technology is ever increasing, and there's a current uproar regarding Lyme disease in Canada. Testing concerns, confirmations, new areas becoming endemic and of course, where there's concern in the human population, the concern quickly spills over into our pets. No surprise then that IDEXX came out with a new SNAP test that goes beyond Heartworm. It includes Lyme and a bacteria known as Anaplasmosis.

My veterinary clinic took my dog into the back room, drew some blood (she's an awesome sport) and then brought her back to me. I waited. And waited. Some 5-8 minutes later the technician returned and flashed the little SNAP ELISA test at me. "All negative. Halo's clean," the tech says, promptly going about entering the data in the computer and making up my bill.

I pay and head home. Visit a friend for the evening and the BF calls to tell me that the vet called concerned because Halo tested +ve for Anaplasmosis.

Of course, like all pet lovers, my heart stopped. Anaplasmosis...I knew it was a tick-host disease, I knew she'd been in contact with plenty of ticks, and I knew that if it was like Lyme disease, treatable but dangerous if not stopped early on.

But despite all of this, one thing kept reverberating around my head. Why could I SWEAR I only saw ONE dot on the SNAP test when the tech brought it out to show me?? One dot is the +ve control and tells you that the test is functioning.


Your "typical" SNAP ELISA Test.

Did I just not notice? I hadn't done a SNAP test in years now, but remembered it being straightforward and easy back in my highschool days when I spent a month doing an internship at a local clinic. RIGHT in the middle of heartworm testing season : P That was a LOT of SNAP tests for one lowly summer student.

My dog seemed generally healthy (if a touch fat) and certainly not sick. She had a couple bouts of vomit in the last month, but that's not atypical for her. I had also run her on the treadmill when we got home (unaware she was "sick") and thought I saw something off in her gait and almost hyper extension of her left hind leg when trotting on the treadmill...Was it real?

And what to do?!

---

Well of course the first thing I did was send an email over to ex-vet tech friend H, asking her thoughts on this. Then I settled into the literature. I love literature...All while the BF made it clear we'll do whatever is necessary to make our sweet dog healthy again. Price is no option.

In a matter of minutes, I'd tracked down a paper from a neighbouring province on 3 infected dogs, with a colleague listed as one of the authors. I found an American university that had anaplasmosis specialists, and far more experience in these things then we have up here where it's not endemic. I found a number of publications by Canadian, American and Swiss vets regarding diagnosis and treatment of anaplasmosis.

I also tracked down the IDEXX test insert and FAQ.



H's email arrived in the early morning, backed by some veterinary guidance suggesting a do-over of the test. Experience is that the test must be read within that 8 minute mark. And that the whole scenario is a little a-typical, despite the fact that our dog could very well have the bacterium.

---

So I spoke with the vet this morning and was less then impressed by the responses I was receiving. He had zero idea of how long after the initial inoculation of the SNAP test that he read it. He said 14 days of doxyciclin as treatment, along with a CBC/Chem/Urinalysis/PCR...every diagnostic test in the books. He informed me that he called so late in the evening because there's very little experience with the bacterium here, so he needed to do some research.

He also promised to give IDEXX a call to see what their lab experts suggested.

---

While he was off doing that, I gave IDEXX a call. No surprise, they refused to speak to me about test specifics, since I was a "lay person". Instead they directed me back to the same FAQ I had found earlier that morning.

1. What is the read time for the SNAP 4Dx Test and is it really important?
The test result must be read eight minutes after the device is snapped. The test does not contain stop solution, and after eight minutes, color development may occur that is not related to the sample. Do not report results read after eight minutes.


The FAQ made me even more certain that I'm looking at a false +ve, or at the very least, I desperately need a retest.

As I often say, those that know me, know I hardly sit back and wait for information to come to me. Instead, I tracked down an expert at a Veterinary University and shot him a quick email. I mean, the worst that could happen is that he also tells me that he doesn't speak with "lay people".

Wasn't I pleased to find an email response almost immediately...

Dear Sandra,

Your case is quite interesting. Thanks for your message! :)
I am seated at the dentist's chair, so I will be brief.

Most likely the Snap test was sitting too long after deployed. This test is very time sensitive, therefore it should be read at exactly 8 min after started. Faint dots may show up after the 8th minute mark and they generally are false positive.

My recommendation for your dog would be repeating the Snap 4Dx test and read the results only at the 8th minute, than discart the kit.

Got to go. Please keep me posted. :)

Cheers,
 ~~~~~~

Interesting, right?

---

So eventually a vet tech from my clinic calls back to discuss my "options" for treatment. And instead, I ask to speak with the vet.

We have a good conversation where I manage to corner him into agreeing that his reading of the SNAP test left us with a high likelihood of a false +ve. He debated that it didn't need to be read within 8 minutes until I explained what IDEXX was saying on their site. I made it clear I'd like my dog retested before going ahead with $400 in diagnostics, plus doxycyline according to a human physician I work with, is a very toxic and dangerous drug used in humans only on severe cases. Certainly not on an asymptomatic, otherwise healthy young dog with a questionable ELISA test.

The Vet concedes to a possible need for a retest and says he'll call IDEXX back to discuss read times. Of course, when I asked him if he told the IDEXX rep that he read the test at some unknown time interval after the initial reading, he said "no". Pardon me while I control my urge to beat my head on my desk.

---

I'm still awaiting my call back.


Who doesn't love a good blood smear?!

I suspect if he outright refuses to retest my dog (which if he does, I'll be watching every step from the blood collection to the SNAP inoculation, all with a stop watch on), that I'll take my dog to a more reputable vet for retesting. More for my piece of mind anyway.

The thing most folk aren't aware of, is that the IDEXX snap test in this case is not indicative of an active infection. It simply states whether the animal at some point, current or past, was exposed to the bacteria. Many dogs will have life-long +ve test results, even if they have cleared the infection from their system. That's why the SNAP test is for screening purposes. Not all dogs require treatment either. Much like Lyme disease, we *can* become infected and fight it off with our own immune system. But like all diseases, sometimes that doesn't happen and the disease progresses to a more severe form. Since my dog has never been tested using a 4DX test in the past (always just plain ol'heartworm), I have no way of knowing if she's had this antibody to Anaplasmosis for most of her life. This IS a dog that has had frequent tick exposure her whole life. Not sure if it can be transferred congenitally, but if there's possible...

Never mind that IDEXX doesn't recommend treatment in healthy dogs...

1. Should subclinical (no clinical signs) dogs that test positive for A. phagocytophilum on the SNAP 4Dx Test be treated with antibiotics?

At this time, there is no agreement about whether or not subclinical dogs should be treated with antibiotics. Some veterinarians may choose to treat positive dogs that are not exhibiting clinical signs, while other veterinarians may choose to monitor these dogs.
Until more data is available, treatment is not recommended in dogs that are clinically and hematologically normal.


The research also indicates 30 days of antibiotic treatment, and surprise, the vet later calls back to change his initial treatment plan. It's never a good thing when a patient is two steps ahead of the veterinarian. I don't believe in online "hype", random postings or "Yahoo Questions", but I can assure you that I'm a big believer in published journal articles in places like Journal of Veterinary Animal Sciences, or our own National Treatment guidelines developed by an expert panel of 6 Canadian Veterinary Pathologists and 2 GPs. Just last semester I spent 2 weeks evaluated peer reviewed publications for judging bias and confounders. I'm not standing out in left field going "This is what I want to hear!" or "The Internet told me so!"

---

Here's the thing folks.

It's up to US to make decisions when it comes to our pets health care. Yes, we rely on the world of veterinary medicine, but unless our vets are staying up to date on the current literature or have access to the best expert sources, things may be missed. And it's OKAY to question things. It's OKAY to double check and investigate yourself. It's okay to be a sceptic.

Does Halo have Anaplasmosis? I don't know.




Halo HAS traveled to Minnesota (2 years ago) which has a high prevalence of Anaplasmosis...

But I DO KNOW the best course of action is determining if a properly read IDEXX test will be +ve or not. And if it is, discussing with the veterinarian if it makes sense to treat a healthy dog with a dangerous drug. When it may or may not be a current infection.

This goes for all of our creatures. As awful as it sounds, veterinary medicine is a career. It pays the bills. It covers that trip to Disneyland and the Bahamas. It's a job.

Because let me promise you. If this IS a false +ve and my dog is healthy, I'm most fortunate that I raised the question mark. How many folks out there might be duped into expensive treatments for a non-existent infection?

And yes, it frustrates me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Pictures.

Pine Ridge Equine Park School's Out Fun Show...

In pictures.


Sunday's Post-Freestyle Workout.

Moon's first night at the "Show Barn"!

More post-freestyle prepwork.

That AWFUL freestyle salute. Or "Whatever movement that was supposed to be..."

At least we're cute...

Inverted pony.

Double that.

Say "Cheese"!
The "Classic Evil Rabbit Face" caught on camera.

Freestyle Enterance!

If Moon and I had better form, it'd kinda be cute!

Moon is SO OVER ribbons.

Looks longingly to the paddock and green grass...

Our "Haul".

Meeting his new "roommates".

Consolation Carrots c/o Huckleberry Cat.

My "Red Ribbon" Bouquet, c/o H and M.

Show Ears.

Bringing it Home.

SATURDAY Early Evening:

After putting Mr. Moon back in his stall I was able to enjoy some spare time with friends and family just watching the show. I have to say, I really, really love watching horse shows, and it's so different when you actually have a hot clue what's going on.

Sadly they were sooo far behind at this point, that we opted to bail rather then stick around for the BBQ...considering the patties were defrosting in a big pile for awhile and the BBQ wasn't even started up, it was better then risking an encounter with an enteric...

Instead we headed home, I grabbed some burgers from the local store and we fired up our own grill. The rest of the evening was spent in the backyard just having fun and joking around with friends and family. When night fell, the BF and I headed up town with my bestie and her fiance, and we enjoyed the "Hi Neighbor" festival that's put on every year in our neighbourhood. So we had ice cream, walked through the carnival rides, and then saw the start of the fireworks. But by then, it was time for bed.

__________

Sunday I slept in until 6 am, and then raced down to the barn. I REALLY like the location of the PREP barn, as it's closer to me and therefore a shorter drive. The barns are in need of some upkeeping, but for a facility that large I imagine it's difficult to bring in enough funds. And those funds probably go towards the boarding barns and not these infrequently used "show barns".

Moon's braids were still in (if a little fuzzy) and he was happy to see me. I really, really love how much of a bond we're developing. If I ever thought before that he was "my" horse, I know for certain now. He's so my buddy.

I had bought a bag of beet pulp the day before as Mr. Moon hadn't drank anything (even after all that hot weather) and W suggested Beet Pulp with water or electrolytes. I had just stuck 2 cups of beet pulp in with his regular feed and added a couple cups of water. I had zero clue about beet pulp, but knew people soaked it. Made sense, right?

So Sunday morning I did the same thing, and then went about my regular prep. W showed up and I noticed that HER beet pulp had been sitting there all night in the water soaking...

"Um, W, how long do you soak beet pulp for?"

"8 or 9 hours," W replied.

My heart skipped a beat. I had soaked mine for all of 5 or 10 minutes for the last two days! What if it's now expanding within his gut, and in the next couple hours he'd colic severely from a major beet-induced impaction?! I suddenly thought about that nearly empty pail of water in his stall, how he downed another 1/4 bucket when I refilled it this morning, and the foam sitting on the top of it. A vague memory of "frothy bloat" came to mind from my cattle days, and I was nearly sick to my stomach. What if I just killed my horse? Would I pay for colic surgery? Could I get colic surgery? Is THIS how it all ends? At our 2nd show? After yesterday's awesome dressage test?

I desperately wanted internet access to google the best method for saving my horse. Instead, I silently prayed he'd live through it (it was only 2 cups of pulp!), and kept my mouth shut. And refilled his water again.

Since no-one from our group rode until lunch time, we headed over to watch the jumper rounds.

It was...interesting.

As someone who'd LOVE to learn to jump Moon, and who has never felt confident jumping despite having coaching in hunters and been over 2'6" without dying, it was a real, much needed wake-up call.

Yes, Saturday morning I could get away with trot x-rails. Yes, I'm keenly aware that I need improvement to my form and Moon's confidence and accuracy as we progress. But what we really, really need, is to focus on the basics. K was sitting beside me and speaking of the ol'school training where you had to ride at least a summer circuit of hunters before your coach would even CONSIDER letting you start training jumpers. That's some 11 or 13 shows over the summer, plus the whole winter of training. And that regardless of the height of the fence, the ride should look and feel the same. 2' should be ridden the same as 2'6". And when you progress to jumpers, yes, there's a bit more speed, some tighter corners, but still that look of control, counted strides and pacing.

THIS show was NOT like that.

Riders were flying around the ring like it was a barrel class, cutting sharp corners, approaching the jumps at terrible angles, chipping in, missing strides, losing stirrups left right and centre.

At one point, a rider's saddle slipped, she was dumped and the horse ran around with his saddle half under him, the stirrup dangerously close to his hooves...and he cantered and jumped a good three jumps before being convinced to stop. SCARY.

Riders were checking their horses in the mouth while spurring them to the fence, yanking their faces and failing to crest release. I've watched a lot of jumpers over the years, and I'm not sure if it's been that I've become more educated with time, or if I just finally woke up, but the whole morning made me realise how dangerous, abusive and moronic it is to focus more on height and speed then riding well. So when a rider told me she thought I'd be riding the jumpers with my boy and asked why not, I simply replied "We need to work on our form first.". It's true. Moon and I will stick to our x-rails, trot poles and tiny verticals until I'm capable of riding him calmly and carefully over those fences. And yes, that means we get some coaching.

Finally we left to start getting ready for our afternoon classes. We were all starting with the English Walk-Trot Equitation, and I decided to take the time to experiment and see if Mr. Moon did better with a long or short warm-up. So we used the equitation class for that warm-up.

Let me say, I NEVER plan on becoming an equitation rider. YUCK, with a capital Y.

Of course, it all went bad before I was even out at the ring...

Dressed and tacked, I pulled on my tall boots and started to zip them up...

<Snap>

There's my zipper pull in my hand.

AURGH!! 10 minutes before I'm supposed to be in the class.

A team mate Dee tried looping some braiding wire through the zipper to get it up, and the wire just snapped. My legs are too fat!!!

In the end, it took Dee, T who was visiting and K who was in the 2nd class together to stuff my calf into the boot, squeeze it and pull it up! By some miracle, they made it!!! And I had enough time to grab horse, mount and rush to the ring. I got in the building just as they were closing the gate, and thankfully they let me sneak in.

I could no longer feel my right leg, the one with the broken zipper pull.

Moon was high as a kite. Our walk was speedy, we had to keep circling and passing people, and I have to ask, are you docked marks for pushing your glasses back up your face?! I REALLY need to do something about that!!!

They started the class, we walked and were asked to trot, and as I got a nice transition and was coming up the long side, I saw W standing on the rail watching us. I could see she was trying to signal something, but had no clue what. Of course, Moon then shakes the reins out of my hands, and I get flustered and we turn the corner. Hmmmm...what could W have been trying to say???

They then ask for an extended trot and I send Mr. Moon out...

Who thinks this is now a foot race, and surges forward. I half-halt, he throws his head up, and proceeds to give me a Moon-sized buck (much of the audience I spoke to saw nothing, but I swear it was there!). He continues to surge past everyone, desperately asking me if he could PLEASE canter or perhaps gallop around, as I keep half halting and praying we don't try to kick approaching riders.

I'm thrilled when we're asked to come back to a walk, and since I still can't feel my feet (Heels down? What heels?), I just want this to be over. No surprise, I'm not in the group of riders they keep back for ribboning. ; )

As we walk back to the barn (I still can't remove my boots because I won't get them back up for the dressage tests), W catches me, "You needed to change posting diagonals! I tried telling you!", she says, clearly concerned that she had somehow failed me as a coach.

I start laughing "OHHH!! Yeah, no, W, I don't know those." We both laugh, as this has been a very, very long ongoing issue with my riding. Some horses, I can tell just by the feel. Sometimes on Moon, I can tell. But 9 times out of 10, his wrong and his right diagonals feel the same. Probably because he's so inverted EVERYTHING feels like "bouncy-bounce". : P

It WAS awesome though that K took away 6th place in the class, as she's got very nice form and well deserving of it! And SHE knows her diagonals...

For our freestyle that afternoon, she said "We're going to look funny because we'll be on the same diagonal a lot...", and I assured her that since I always have them wrong, it'll work out right... ; )

We had a short break and then it was off to the Freestyle. Moon felt awesome riding up the alley and around the outdoor ring, and I was revved. THIS was the same test I rode two weeks ago, and I KNEW it. We'd rock it...wouldn't we?

The announcer called our name and we headed into the indoor arena...

As we came through the gate and passed C, the judge pushed back her metal legged chair on the plywood floored judging booth, mounted just above us...

Moon spooked off to the side at the grating sound!

"Sorry! Bad timing!" the judge called down to us as I stared up at her and the offending chair.

I just smiled and carried on. My friends in the audience said it looked like Moon had spooked at the dressage letter like he'd never seen them before...oh dear.

Again like Saturday, we had a ton of time between riders. I always want to be facing a certain way for the test so we enter with the correct bend for our first turn (in theory of course), so I was staying to the one corner. Moon refused to stand, was jigging and pulling some of his worst evil-rabbit faces to date. I was embarrassed, frustrated and tense. I can't think of the last time his head was THAT high above the vertical. Lips pulled full back. Ignoring me completely. Finally they rang the bell and we rode in. Halted crooked and waited for the music to start.

...Off we went...

Somehow, despite all of our practice where the timing was bang on (was at the last show), we were behind. I started to panic. Why was I not where I needed to be? How do I catch up? What do I cut out??

I did my best, cut and added and modified as we went, making 10 m circles on a very tight and tense horse (genius idea there!) and somehow made a short change of direction in time to come down the center line for our final halt.

PHEW.

I was bummed.

That was NOT how it should have gone. He was NOT how he should have been. Not after Saturday's test of wonder. Where'd my awesome dressage pony go? Who was this crazy horse in his place?

We walked out of the ring and outdoors to the warm-up. J.Z. met us and took pictures while we rode around and around. He wouldn't stand. He was tense. I was frustrated. J.Z. gave me some advice, I assured myself it wasn't all bad and then went back to meet K for our Pas a Deux.

The Pas a Deux that I was freaking out about. I just was sooo determined to not screw it up for K that I couldn't remember anything. Over and over and over I tried to memorise it, but couldn't. I was freaking out. Then one of the competitors ahead of us came out of the ring and told us that the arena was larger then standard. So none of their times worked out because the ring was larger then they'd planned for. And larger then the one we'd all been riding in outdoors the day previous!

Lightbulb.

THAT was why my freestyle times didn't work despite the fact Moon was rushing! I felt a little better. At least we were all on the same page.

K and I headed in and awaited again for the judges to signal us. And waited. Moon paced. Got tense. Braced. Threw his head up. We were disconnected and I couldn't find our connection again. I was panicked. I could see K over at the other end of the ring, her horse standing beautifully. I was gonna cost her the 1st place...

We entered the ring and halted. Headed off and began our movements. Moon wasn't perfect, but we were doing it. At some point, K and I ended up on the wrong sides, and had to swap spots on the fly. It worked. We nearly crashed on our first circle, and I was so focused on staying in "my spot" that I stuffed Moon against the rail and we passed with inches to spare. Our extended trot across the diagonal somehow turned into a canter, and my head was going "I'm CANTERING IN THE DRESSAGE RING!" and pretty much turned off. I could hear her calling directions to me, but couldn't hear them. Most people are learning (I threatened our poor groom with a beating the day previous when he said he'd call my test for me!), that I can not focus on what someone is saying to me AND my riding. If the test isn't memorized before going into the ring, calling it won't save me. I just can't multitask like that. When I ride the pattern, I just ride it from some subconscious flow stemming from memorising the pattern, not from thinking about where I'm headed.

That sounds bad, but that's my only way.

Needless to say, I didn't manage any of her suggestions, and we had a few "interesting" moments as I was riding without thinking and cutting movements out of the ride. Or missing movements. Or going off in the wrong direction. It was bad. And it was my fault. With every failed move, I became more distraught and feared K would never speak to me again.

Somehow we managed a REALLY nice synchronized trot serpentine both lengths of the ring, to the point where my little 14.2 hh QH on the outside kept pace with this big 17hh boy on the inside and vice versa. It was pretty cool, even to me. Especially since THIS was what K and I were most worried about. : P Go figure it'd be the only thing to work out!

Except as we were doing our serpentine back, I headed to the right turn and heard K yell "Halt".

My head was thinking "But we've still got moves left!" I mean, we had 6 minutes of music!

Sure enough, the music ended, and K was over at V, I was a couple paces away off center. It was over.

As we walked out of the ring, our boys were side by side. Happily. We walked out on a loose rein and THERE we looked like a beautiful Pas a Deux Riders!!! : P wtf?! Why do these things never happen when you WANT THEM?!

We walked back to the barn together, each convinced that THEY were the root cause of all problems. Each of us apologised profusely to the other until it became obvious that it was truly, no one's fault. It was. And we did our best, did well enough and heck, WANT TO DO IT AGAIN!. Yup, we had survived and both knew that we could do a better job, given the chance. And we were pumped to find that opportunity.

At that point I was done for the day. I chose to scratch Moon from the costume class, since our "Graduates" costume was too much hassle to actually put on after such a long day of classes. Besides, the kids would enjoy it, and enjoy it they did. Probably for the best too, as no one in the class was over 14 and everyone got "1st place" ribbons.

Yeah, THAT would have been embarrassing!!

So Mr. Moon went back in his stall, and I went out to cheer on my team mates. Took pictures of everyone, watched the adventure and enjoyed being part of such a great team.

Finally it was getting late and we all started packing up. There is no sweeter moment then packing in and knowing you had a great weekend with friends. The tack stall became disassembled and everything seemed to dissolve. We were all called back to the indoor ring for the presentation of the "champion" awards, and to collect the last of our ribbons.

I was THRILLED with my 5th place in the Freestyle (I mean, I'll never beat extended canter and half-pass with my little walk-trot performance!) and since it was a ribbon color I never had before, was doubly pleased (5 of 7 or so competitors)! It sounds silly, but it's nice to get at least one ribbon from each show as a souvenir if nothing else.

Which was great when K and I found we got 2nd place (of 3) for our Freestyle! Mainly due to her awesome choreography and song choices! Of course, many comments were made about my tense and inverted horse, and we were both stumped by the "Watch your diagonals" comment that was directed at her, not me. Um...judge get the numbers confused?! Probably not the right time to announce that I didn't even know we were judged on being on the correct diagonal for dressage tests....no wonder I'm so bad at these!!!

I maintain the judge was a little over zealous with the scores all weekend, as while I probably deserved something along the 58.1% on Saturday's walk-trot, my freestyle which was WAY WORSE ridden did NOT deserve the 58.8% it received. Which kinda irritated me, since it then made my Saturday score seem less accurate. Granted, I did get a "What movement was that supposed to be? Leg Yield?" on my Freestyle! NICE!

And when K told me we scored something like 70% on our Pas a Deux...well, the judge was nuts.

I was thrilled to see that our junior riders came away with a boat load of ribbons and were very proud overall. The entire barn, both regular and satellite did fantastic and despite the fact we won no championship prizes, no barn mention and well, nothing at the final ceremony at all, I couldn't help but be thrilled to be part of this team. From the riders, grooms, to the cheering squad and bundle of friends who cheered us on.

We packed the last of the gear and then W and I loaded up to take the first half of the horses home.

...until W's horse seemed to go toddler on her and refused to get in the trailer. At one point I was closing the bum gate because she was in, and she backed out. I felt terrible because I'm sure that it was me closing it that made her back, but it's so hard to judge when you should or shouldn't close it. Oh well. W gave her toddler some firm lessons on loading properly and we thought maybe putting Moon in first would help if it was nerves. I will admit, I was pretty nervous myself, since ground handling makes me want to wet myself on a good day! Never mind loading into a small-ish trailer after a 18hh horse backed out looking more then a little worried...

Of course, Mr. Moon does the ONE thing I want him to do with my own trailer but won't, and saunters right in. Friggen 'ell.

Unfortunately, W's horse was in fact having a toddler moment, as she didn't find Moon in the trailer any more reassuring. She felt she should be grazing on the lawn, and W got to spend a couple moments teaching her that she's a big girl now. Finally they were loaded and we were off for home.

The unload was uneventful, minus the toddler throwing a small fit when suddenly alone in the trailer. W was off quickly, trying to get her settled again while Mr. Moon and I headed over to the tie post.

I think the long day and longer weekend had gotten to most of us, as Mr. Moon wouldn't stand still and I was losing patience with trying to get his braids out. I kept impaling myself in the fingers while he tossed his head, and then realised he was eating the grass that was sprayed with the broad-leaf killer Round-Up! Which is poisonous.

I tried every kind of bribery to get him to behave and stand still, lost my patience once, got frustrated for not being able to do it without bribery and irritated that I kept snipping parts of his mane when trying to cut the braiding wool. I was soo determined to do it because I didn't want him rubbing out any of his mane between now and when I'd next be out.

Finally I finished and tossed him out in the pasture, which was converted to a single group pasture on the weekend. So 4 horses (his 2 old buddies plus 2 new ones) to visit with, and I was pleased (?) to find that it was all pretty boring. Moon was chased off twice, wandered the fence line, sniffed the paddock poo, had a sip of water and then rolled. When he finished, he trotted over to me, said hi, and then wandered off alone in the field.

I was still pretty worried about him since I didn't know if he was still going to die of colic, and since I had now added consumption of Round-Up to the list, left a message for H to let me know how he was when she got home.

When I was in the tack room I was surprised by a lovely note, a bouquet of flowers and a Mars Bar. I felt like I had just won the Rolex! And after a long day, no lunch and a lot of stress, let me say that good friends KNOW you need a chocolate bar!!!

So home I went.

The rest was history. Hanging the new set of ribbons up, unpacking the car and showering. Flipping through the weekend's pictures, putting our lovely flowers out where we could see them, and placing Moon's "consolation" carrots in the fridge. I finally checked online about the beet pulp and learned that the need to pre-soak for hours to prevent it from expanding in the gut was actually an old wives tail, and H texted me to say he was still alive. I fell asleep almost instantly, after one or two emails with W about how incredible the weekend was.

_________________


Sunday afternoon, I would have told you I'd be happy never competing again. Plain and simple.

Sunday night, I would have told you that I'd like to compete again, just not for awhile.

Monday morning, I awoke and wondered when our next show would be!

: )

W, K and I are making plans already to do the July 1-day Sanctioned Dressage Show at the PREP facility again. We know the location now, it gives us 6 weeks of practice (vs. going to the June show in 2 weeks) and it would be slightly less costly and all consuming.

I'm bound and determined to finish that horse trailer, and despite the 28 degree C weather (that's hot) was out bolting down my floorboards. I was obsessed with getting the gaps even so the horses wouldn't be spooked by the road rushing beneath their feet and managed to burn myself with the drill. 2 hours later, the job was complete and I realised it didn't even matter since they'd be covered with rubber mats.

Oye.

I'm feeling like I came out of this show with SO much experience and lessons learned. Things like the fact you need a feed tub for your horse! That Mr. Moon eats about a 1/2 bale of hay a day. That Beet Pulp is an excellent way of getting some water into him when he's not drinking, and that Slinkies aren't there to keep the mane from being rubbed out, but rather to keep you from having to pick shavings out of them! That I need some blanket surcingles for his show cooler, and that we need some tack hooks for our gear. I learned that braiding takes me at least an hour and a half, and that Moon MUST be properly warmed up if we have ANY hope of coming together in the dressage ring.

THAT was my biggest lesson. Riding him about for an hour and a half on Saturday left me with a much better horse then I had Sunday with no warm up. Which explains why he was awesome at the last show where I was wandering around with him all day. Moon is NOT tired after these things. He needs the chance to loosen up and relax, and that takes time.

Pictures will come in the next day or two...J.Z. was enjoying the camera on burst mode, so I have a few hundred awesome photos to sort through and upload! : )

_________________

Sometimes, the best value you get out of a show, is not in the ribbons or rewards, but in those lessons you learn, and the people (and horses) you get to share the experience with.