Monday 22 June 2020

Cautiously Optimistic

I've been feeling a bit lot burned out with horses lately. I love them, I very much enjoy having them around and riding. Recently, though, it's felt much more defeating and complicated than fun. A good part of my feelings aren't necessarily the horses themselves - it's trying to keep horses where I live.

Being a few hours drive and a ferry ride (or two, or sometimes even three, depending on the route) from the city means everything - including hay and services like vet and farrier - comes from elsewhere.

Add in COVID travel restrictions, a pony with heaves, a mystery lameness or two, and training a (too small?) green baby pony on my own, and yes, there are definitely days where I question my sanity in living here and owning horses.


For now, after a vet visit last week ( I had been wait listed 6 months!) and a first couple of pony training sessions with friends I'm feeling cautiously optimistic things are moving forward again.

Bridget's evaluation went well. She was having a good day (maybe all the OTC stuff was working?) and the vet couldn't hear anything going on in her lungs. Yay! After listening to my description of what's been happening (short of breath/dry cough, some days just walking with a rider is hard) and how she looked on the day he saw her ( 'fantastic!' ) he thought seasonal allergies could be a consideration and antihistamines might be worth a try rather than the Ventipulmin she was on a couple of years ago with the other vet.

Fingers crossed, that was last Tuesday and she's been feeling great since then! I'm so, so hopeful it's the antihistamines helping because they are very reasonably priced compared to other things we've tried, easy to refill,  and I can give them on an 'as needed' basis.

She was feeling great!

I have a great ride on Saturday where she was running away with me and generally being super cheeky and refusing to walk. I know that's not normally a ride anyone would be pleased with, but I was just so pleased she was feeling so over the top good. I cried happy tears, and a lot of them. I've missed Sassy Bridget and the contrast to the week before where I wondered if I would even be able to ride her anymore was just so crazy.

Whoa, Bridget, Whoa, lol

And what about Sophie?

Sophie. OMG

So. A couple of friends and I used to informally meet for rides at the arena all the time. I think I mentioned one of those friends has time and is willing to hop on Sophie now and then for me until I get my own self sorted out and/or make some decisions. I have good friends.

 I made a concentrated effort to make it to the area three times this week to meet up with the girls, and I brought Sophie twice so if friend wanted to do something with her, she could. It's been about 3 months since I last hopped on in the round pen, so imagine my surprise when after a quick recap from the ground, R just popped on in the giant outdoor and went for a ride with me!

I'm so very proud of little Sophie - she was like "Oh yeah, this, I know this" and off she went just like she'd never had a break and we ride in the big spooky outdoor all the time. After following Bridget for a bit, they went off on their own, even incorporating some poles and things to walk over. Sophie was gaining confidence the whole time and I could be wrong, but she seemed pretty pleased to be included in our activities rather than my normal go to of sticking her in the round pen to wait until I'm finished riding Bridget.
Creeping us from the round pen on a normal day

I'm forever going to be appreciative of all of it, because not only was Sophie such a good girl, it was so neat seeing someone else on her and being able to see how she looks under saddle from the ground (relaxed, willing, happy, fancy!)

Sorry, no pictures because I didn't take any and I need to check with R if she's cool with sharing here.  I think we're going to keep this arrangement for the summer at least, though, and I'm certainly going to hop on now and then for short bits too,  so there will be lots of opportunity for pictures of Sophie doing things in the future!


Monday 15 June 2020

Getting By With A Little Help

In very good news, my new 'schedule' is working perfectly - with my husband's help on some weekday evenings with mucking and feeding I've now got time to ride 5 days a week. I'm very lucky to have someone so supportive in my life.

In not so great news, B continues to struggle a little. I've tried the Alpha Omega stuff and Zev and while I think it's helped a bit, it's not a replacement for the vet prescribed stuff that got her feeling 100% last time. So, for now, our rides are on the flat walking with just a tiny bit of trot if she's feeling spicy. That's actually the toughest part - she's bright and cheerful and wanting to work, but gets out of breath and/or coughing very quickly if it's too strenuous.

She's on a diet again as well. Her grazing is limited now. Despite how cute a round pony is, the extra weight does her no favors health wise.

In hopeful news, the vet is still scheduled to come on Wednesday. (I know I keep going on about it, but seriously I have been on a wait list since before Christmas with no other options!) I'm glad B has only been having a bit of a flare up for a couple of weeks now, otherwise I would be panicking.

In other good news (OK I will stop saying '' now, I'm annoying myself) Sophie has been an absolute star coming back into work after being off since March. I've longed and long lined her a few times at the area and we're still going for lots of back country walks together. She's very good about going out solo without her friends, and is getting quite good about being left at home alone too.

I'd actually say Bridget calls more than Sophie does, which is just weird as B has never cared about other horses before in her life.

I've opted not to take her to the clinic because they're honestly so expensive ($125/45min) and I didn't get a ton out of the groundwork last time. I'm sad to miss out, but I am not at a place to ride her in one yet, so I think it's better to wait.

And oh yes, the elephant in the room - RIDING my baby horse. I've been having a minor crisis re:  I gained weight in my home cooking quarantine life and feel like I'm too heavy for her. The 20% rule and a height/weight tape says I currently am just a little over with tack.She currently measures 14.1 1/2hh and about 750lbs.  Cue some tears because I can certainly address my weight, but I can't make the pony grow bigger, and I really was thinking she'd grown. At 4, she's still quite a bit smaller than her siblings, so just bad luck and the gamble you take buying a baby.

Looking pretty proportionate right now.

This break from a regular riding routine has also done me no favors confidence wise. That combined with my worries about my weight means I'm not feeling great about the idea of hopping on Sophie at the moment. Totally at odds with this past winter when I surprised myself by not being worried at all and super keen to ride!  Anyway, I've experienced the ups and downs of this enough times to know that this isn't about Sophie and more about my own self belief and treatment of myself. I'll get back to a good place soon.

Husband was kind of pushing for a horse I can ride now and feel great on, but I LIKE the horses I have. Shopping for something new sounds like torture.

<3 this face with the forever crazy hair

In a really cool coincidence, the day after I had a big meltdown re: all the above and resolved to do what I can to make it work, I was out riding and bumped into an old horsey friend who has time on her hands and lots of experience with young horses. We're going to meet up a couple of times a week and she's going to continue the under saddle stuff on Sophie until I get myself in a better place.

So, the moral of today's story? Sometimes you've just got to admit your weaknesses, make a plan, and ask for help.

S has zero problems asking for a bum scratch.


Wednesday 10 June 2020

Setting Goals

This spring, setting goals is probably living dangerously. But, it seems I must be needing some structure in my life because goal setting seems like a legit activity for today. (Though perhaps at the end of the day we'll end up filing this in the category of 'Wishful Thinking'. Attending events and buying more ponies, how much wine did I consume last week? lol)

Anyway, in spite of the opinions of my husband and a few of you pony enabler blog readers out there right now the thing that feels right for me is to work with what I've got.


There's a food baby in there, not an actual foal

- We really need to get on top of her fitness/COPD. Vet visit is still on for next week and I'm getting very nervous. While her coughing isn't as apparent and I've been giving her some OTC 'meds', some days she's short of breath just walking (no rider) on flat surfaces. Fingers crossed hard a refill of the prescription stuff does the trick for this flare up and she'll be happy for riding a few more years yet. Basically she means everything to me so she needs to live a healthy life forever :)

-  Other than that pretty significant negative, she's looking great on just pasture and vitamins and is bright and cheerful hanging out there. She's quite enjoying her job of informal Sophie babysitter. So we're winning there.


- Also looking fantastic. Finally, at 4 years old she's filled out enough to get an idea of what she might mature to. She's bum high again, but she's got a butt at least now, and some muscling starting through her chest and topline. I've added some alfalfa cubes and spirulina to her diet and I think it's helping, so I'm going to continue with that. I also need to start researching now the best way to give her unlimited hay this winter given our boarding arrangements (compressed hay in a net in her shelter?)

- I've been good about getting her off property 4 -5 times a week the past two weeks. Continue that intent, even if some days  it's just taking her up to the barn for a grooming or a visit to the round pen.

- She's still a bit of a jumpy, spooky little thing. She's quite brave when it comes down to it and never refuses what I ask, but I could work and research on keeping that initial startle response minimal. The little jumps in place and quick refocusing to me are great given how dramatic she used to be...but they are still not are not going to be my favorite thing to ride constantly. Something to pick cowboy trainer's brain about.

- Cowboy trainer clinic in July?

- Remeasure with proper measuring stick. I think she's grown.

- Make a suitable plan for continuing under saddle work with Sophie. This is less an issue with Sophie and more me needing to respect Covid/hospital considerations and my husband's availability to spot us and his concerns re: safety. Maybe this means sending her out, maybe just long lining for time being, maybe push out until timing is better.

Bridget last week: How can she possibly go on the bit when she's got to look cute for the camera?

- Keep up level of activity. Working from home has made it so easy to get out for lunchtime trail walking and running from our house, and of course get out to the barn daily. I can go for proper hikes with my husband on a regular basis now too. It feels really, really, nice. I struggle with sitting still for any length of time so this new more flexible working situation suits me well. To do: Finish up plan/proposal for long term work from home schedule.

- Weight. Despite all the hiking and walking and portion watching, the extra weight creeps off so, so slowly. Horse relevant because Future Me would never jump or event either pony seriously at my current weight and maybe that's something I'd want to do.  Need to focus more that I am doing the right things and progress is happening. I need to be patient rather than just hating on my body and my previous self for not managing it better.

- Stay positive, delve back into mindset books and resources. I've been feeling pretty down on myself/my riding and that accomplishes nothing.

- Trailer! Have final money saved for purchase, make list of what I want to look at. Organize trip to interior of province later summer to pick up when hopefully travel restrictions are less of a concern.


Saturday 6 June 2020

A Little Wishful Thinking

This past week started with a riding friend of mine sending out a link to a super fantastic cross country clinic, happening soon and geographically quite close to me.

And...I'm not sure if I'm having some kind of riding crisis or this whole quarantine thing finally has me a little twitchy, but I really REALLY want to go. I was maybe three rides back into a schedule and even at 99% walking, B was like "ughh...the arena...can we NOT?" which reminded me pretty quickly of all the reasons I bought Sophie to be dressage pony prospect extraordinaire.

This post brought to you by pictures of happy ponies in fields

 Anyway, the thought crossed my mind that maybe Bridget would enjoy a return to tiny level eventing and so put her on a back to work program this past week.

The thought was short lived however, as her COPD flared up again yesterday and I felt all the sadness that goes with that. The vet's still coming next week so I'm sure we'll get a better handle on it, but that combined with the general lack of fitness and time I doubt we'd be ready to go trotting and cantering around even tiny things in 3 weeks.

My husband, after an initial WTF look when he found out it was an eventing clinic I so desperately wanted to go to, talked further sense into me when he gently reminded me Covid is still a thing and the ferries are still asking for essential travel only.  Also, remember that last xc clinic where I decided dressage was my new thing? Lol. Can you blame my brain for wanting to forget Bridget and I parting company 2+ times a day for three days straight? Why do I only remember our great placings the last year and not the crazy anxiety that only got worse every show?

Anyway, I've accepted the clinic is not meant to be and that there is always next year. I recognize dressage shows are a happier place for me. But, apparently I really miss xc schooling...or my barnmates...or galloping in an open field, or probably just all of it.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do and went home and came within half a second of putting an offer in on a lovely connemara mare with perfect breeding for eventing.

I still have the ad bookmarked.

Send help.


Thursday 4 June 2020

My Bubble Isn't Just Made of Luck

I'm not the person with the words or solution to any of this, but I can certainly lend a voice of support. I grew up in a very diverse family, given the time and place. The color of anyone's skin wasn't on my radar at all.

For the most part, as an adult, I have been lucky to live my life in my little bubble where I've surrounded myself with like minded people who accept each other, believe every one matters equally, and it matters not who your partner is, whether family is by blood or love or both, if or where you go to church, etc.

Every once in a while, that bubble gets punctured just a little. School age, I was first introduced to the idea that my aunts, uncles, cousins, step sisters couldn't possibly be my 'real' ones since our colors are all different.  Those questions still persist now, and while I think people are less judge-y and more genuinely curious as to how we all came to be a family, I still think it's insulting.  Then there's an ignorant comment here, a rude customer at work there. The hate on the news, the anger at immigration policies and foreign investment in local real estate.

Still, the world is mostly a good place, right? People like me aren't the problem, right?

But, as has been pointed out to me, yes, I am part of the problem. My happy little bubble I exist in isn't just made of luck and my silence on that topic and willingness to avoid a potential confrontation could be taken as ignorance at best,  complicity at worst.

What I can do here is share a couple of links to people and organizations much more qualified to speak on the topic than I:

LWilliams has an excellent post with a ton of resources here.

For my Canadian friends, here is a another list of resources for you.

Monday 1 June 2020

Getting Things Done

As the title would imply, I got a LOT of things done this weekend.

Friday, we traveled down the coast and moved out of my rental down there. I thought it would just be a couple of hours of cleaning, but apparently in 5 years I managed to accumulate more things than I thought. Let's just say my tack and riding clothes are about double what I thought I had...apparently I've been keeping an entire set of everything there for the odd time I ride at my coach's barn, and obviously I have everything here too. So, that was kind of eye opening :D

It is a pretty ferry ride, though. I can't believe the snow in the mountains is almost gone already!

We still managed to make it an easy day trip. It was pretty disappointing to see the ferry full of vacation goers, but it was nice to get out, and I'll miss it there. 5 years ago I somehow found a pretty cheap rental in one of the more exclusive waterfront areas of the coast. Let's just say I'll probably never be able to afford to live in that neighborhood ever again in this life time! We had fun checking out the yachts and fancy 'cottages' one more time, but it's honestly a huge weight off my shoulders to not be split between two homes and all the assorted financial commitments that go with that. I'm much happier living in our much more modest neighborhood here with my husband.

I also quite enjoy being able to afford to keep both ponies together here and have grazing for them - prices for all things equestrian are also significantly more there and with the cost of land being so high turnout options are pretty limited.

I spent a good part of Saturday sorting all my stuff into sell/giveaway/keep piles and attempting to fit the stuff I just can't part with into my space in the laundry room. The laundry room here is huge, but  at this point more resembles a tiny tack store than anything else. We do have a basement storage room that I might need to re purpose for exclusively horses but we're thinking this isn't our forever house. I'm not sure an in house tack room will really up our resale value lol

While going through everything, I found a big envelope full of ribbons and old test sheets and show programs from our last proper show season. It really made me miss showing and all the accomplishments that go along with having a structured program and goals. Fingers crossed hard next year we will all be able to resume a more normal lifestyle including more opportunities to get out with our horses.
For now, we rest ;)

And finally, Sunday I RODE! The outdoor arena is nearly finished and Bridget and I got to be testers.

So much new sand.

The ride itself was depressing, but fun. We're both so out of riding shape and both of our bodies weren't totally with the program. I could feel my heels creeping up and my right shoulder tipping forward and I'd correct it only to feel myself back at it a few strides later. Those were my two worst habits and I was so hopeful all that time with EC's eagle eyes on me had eradicated them forever! But, I guess when your life includes sitting at a desk and many hours of hiking each week the heels and the shoulder will be a thing to watch forever. My general floppiness was also pretty depressing. Bridget is also out of practice so falling out through the shoulder and defaulting to a counterbent pony banana who can only turn left is a thing again (Although we can partly attribute it to my lack of effective management in the saddle too).

Never mind, though, not sure why I'm even focusing on that - it's pretty normal to be out of shape if you haven't been riding! The real focus of the day was just getting out there and we did.

 I kept it to a short, easy ride in the ring and a nice long rein hack home.

It was super fun to be back in the saddle after such an inconsistent spring. I'm forever grateful for Bridget. I probably hadn't ridden since a short hack three weeks (!) ago and just hopped on in a very different than normal looking arena (the middle fence got taken out and the perimeter landscaping has had a few changes) and had zero issues. She seemed quite happy to get out and have a job.

On another pretty great note, we left Sophie at the barn alone in an old round pen (no risk of fence smashing!) and she happily stuffed herself with grass and didn't make a peep. Turns out she is a pony after all - apparently food solves any problem :D Can I also hope this wasn't just a fluke and she's maybe growing up a little?

"Oh hi, there! Sorry, did you go somewhere? I was busy eating."

Since I have the best husband in the world who now has time on his hands, we've come up with a plan to make riding more realistic this summer. He's going to help me with waters and mucking, moving ponies and cleaning pastures every second day, so I'll have more time to ride on the alternate day. (I SO appreciate having this space, but I think I've mentioned just due to the layout and paddock sizes, in the summer picking paddocks is a minimum of an hour to an hour and a half every day. Add in rotating fields, feeding and cleaning waters or a quick grooming and I'm usually there two or more hours and out of time to ride. We tested out doing paddocks together every second day instead and it worked well - about 90 minutes and we were done! If we do that, then 3-4 times a week I will have nothing much to do but ride!)

Because picking poo out of long grass is an experience we both should share, lol.