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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Saturday, January 31, 2009

End of January Analysis

It's the end of the month, so it's time to give my current training program, goals, and Gogo's current status a thorough going over, and it's also time to make plans for February.

January Goals:
1) Be able to ride a smooth, consistent stretch down and back up at walk and trot.
Well, I didn't expect this to totally resolve itself in one month. I have a small mental block about it, because in the past especially, when we're working well and I go to stretch, Gogo's just mentally done and gone and I can't ever get her back to where she was before - which makes me want to not do it when we're working well. That being said, even though I did not do it every day I did try to incorporate it more often into my daily work. One of my problems is that I tend to stretch her at the trot when we're done, and she's been giving me some AWESOME stretch but that is going to make her associate it with the end of a workout. It's LOADS better than before, but we'll still keep working on it!

2) Ride First 1 Monday 12th, Ride First 2 Friday 16th, Ride First 3 Friday 23th, Ride First 4 Friday 30th.

Did NOT stick to this at all. Part of it was that my schedule changed, part of it was I didn't always remember, part of it was that she wasn't always ready to put together a full test. The only test we ever actually schooled was Training B (the eventing test). Ah well. We schooled all the individual movements, just never strung them together.

3) Be doing steady, consistent canter shallow loops (counter canter exercise) – not just coming off the rail and then diving back in!
Another FAIL! This goal changed on purpose though. It became clear that taking Gogo off the rail at the canter meant in her mind that we were going to either run off across the diagonal or go shooting sideways in a disjointed shallow loop back to the rail, and the concept of going straight to X and then transitioning to trot was WAY beyond her. So, the goal changed to going straight across the diagonal with no wild lead changes, and no wild shallow loop diving - just straight, and smooth transitions. She's been doing AWESOME with that.

4) Do body stretches (especially stretching her stiff side) before every hard workout (not a goal, just something I want to do every time).
This was, again, something hard to work into my schedule, with my dressage lessons being right in the middle of the workday and me usually being subsequently late for them. I did the best I could though, and I will continue to incorporate bodywork into our daily rides.

5) Be able to nail lead changes while jumping!
Gogo, I have to say, has been doing AWESOME with this one. Finally, it feels like we're consistently getting our changes CLEANLY from the right to the left, for the first time ever. We've always had them going the other way, but right to left was about 50-50, 50% being clean and 50% being crossfiring and running. Now, it's about 90-10, with the 90% being accurate changes when asked. I think she's just getting more balanced on that side of her body with all this correct dressage work.

Here are my new goals:

February Goals:
1) Continue to develop consistent stretch down and up at the walk and trot
2) Jump a larger gymnastic - building to 4' if possible
3) Have accurate, balanced, smooth trot-canter transitions (she tends to pop up into them)
4) Develop trot and canter lengthenings on a 20m circle
5) Develop shoulder-in and haunches-in exercises further

I know they're pretty basic, and some are a little vague, but there are some very important things to work on in there, especially concerning the fact that I'm probably only going to be doing Novice and Training level dressage tests this summer. I may not get to do any dressage shows at all. Therefore, the most important things to work on are smooth transitions, quality of gaits, stretchy walk-trot, simple serpentines, and lengthenings.

As for the jumping, I'm looking at trying to take some jump lessons somewhere else. It's really friggin' hard to do jump work here - we just don't have the jumps! I'll keep you updated on how that develops. Because you can dork your way around a Novice course with fairly simple jump schoolings, but Training? No, you need to be out doing real x-country work all the time, and it needs to start now.

Training Pyramid Evaluation:

1) Rhythm: Check. Gogo maintains a beautiful four-beat walk, two-beat trot, and three-beat canter at all times, and maintains a steady, clear tempo.
2) Relaxation: Check, with occasional lapses. Gogo gets easily tense, so the focus of my entire ride always centers around her relaxation. Wen she is relaxed, her strides are even and swing through the back, her tail gently swinging, her poll loose, and her breathing relaxed. She makes smooth transitions, is easy to position from side to side, and willingly reaches down into the contact as the reins are lengthened when she is fully relaxed. When she is not, none of it comes together. Our most important element.
3) Contact: Check, when relaxed. When Gogo relaxes, she gives me the feeling that she is taking my contact out, and offering a supportive handhold with me instead of me bringing her back in. Good contact is when the horse accepts and responds to seat and leg aids while maintaining a round outline with a mouth that is relaxed and accepting the bit. A sign of good training is that the horse's back is rounded, his hindquarters are engaged, his poll is the highest point, his jaw is relaxed, and his nose is a hint in front of the vertical. Gogo's main faults here are that she likes to stay perfectly on the vertical often times (and she's perfectly on contact, so this is acceptable to me at this point), and occasionally her lips and jaw reflect tension somewhere in her body by being more open and active than they should be. It's not noticeable unless you're standing right next to her when she works - she's not gaping her mouth or anything! - but it just doesn't always look relaxed to me.
4) Impulsion: Check, and developing further. "Free-flowing energy initiated by the rider causes the horse's back to swing, his quarters to engage, and his forelegs to articulate," which is defined as impulsion. Good impulsion is mirrored through a horse that appears to have an innate desire to go forward with active, lively steps. Gogo is currently stepping deeply underneath herself and is becoming over time more and more active and energetic in her hock engagement. Impulsion is becoming second nature to her, and she carries her own forward energy instead of me asking for it. It is further developing to a higher level, but she definitely has engagement and impulsion.
5) Straightness: Developing further. Being a horse, Gogo is obviously naturally crooked, her body tending to be soft to the right and much stiffer to the left. A horse is truly straight when the hind foot steps in the line of the front foot (or sometimes a little deeper to the inside in the event of collection). I am making an effort to make sure I stretch out the right side of her body especially well before I ever even get on. I am focusing strongly on developing both sides of her evenly, and we are making more and more progress every day. Interesting to note, her more upright foot is coming down further and is starting to match her other foot more evenly the further her body develops evenly on both sides. Amazing how that happens.
6) Collection: Starting to develop. This is the pinnacle of the Training Pyramid, the ultimate goal for the dressage horse! When all of the previous elements are present, collection just happens! It involves the lowering of the croup, lightness of the forehand, and an active and engaged hind leg. Collection is possible in all gaits, and is achieved by collecting exercises and refined by little half-halts. "A rider on a horse doing a great collected canter feels as though she can let go and the horse would still maintain perfect rhythm and self-carriage without any interference from the rider." Oh yes! That elusive feel! Gogo gives me moments, such sweet moments of collection which she cannot yet maintain for long periods of time, but from what I've felt she has a tremendous talent for it, and is built to do it. She's going to be a super UL dressage horse if her eventing career fails for whatever reason. Hell, I could just do both anyway!

(Always remember that the Training Pyramid is not meant to be worked on in that way that you master one level and then move on to the next level. These all work together in harmony, and even Grand Prix riders and horses reevaluate these basics every single day.)

We're on our way to collection. We're on our way to 2nd level. We're on our way.

On a side note, another trim tonight.... her feet are so super sexy. Love it.

OH WAIT. PS. I have a goal for myself too: EAT HEALTHIER. I'm a pretty skinny little thing to begin with, and I'm losing weight ALL the time here, but honestly? I'm eating donuts and hot cocoa and starches and carbs and cheese in huge amounts of excess and sometimes no veg and hardly any fruit. Goal for me for February? EAT BETTER FOOD! Hold me to it kids, I can't freaking RESIST my junk food! I am not doing this to lose weight, oh no. I'm not even going to ask myself to give up the junk food, just eat more of the healthier food. I just feel as though I moniter every little thing that goes into Gogo's system so carefully and ask her to be such an athlete, and then don't do the same for myself. It's just not fair to her to ask that of her and not do it myself as well. I owe that to her for sure.


It's Ice City out here. They weren't kidding about New England ice storms, seriously. Gogo almost did the splits going out to turnout two days ago, and I also fell on my ass while leading her. Thank god she just stood there and laughed at me! Dangerous... won't be doing that again.

On a better note, I've had two very successful dressage days, one being a lesson on Thursday and one being a ride on my own on Friday. I was in kind of a funk yesterday and didn't know that I wanted to ride (thought about riding today instead of yesterday, and giving her the day off yesterday instead of today), but once I got out into the barn I found that I really did want to get on and ride. I love that.

Thursday, Gogo just warmed up WELL. It's not often that she does that, and Vicki and I are trying to come up with ways that encourage her to start off the workout well so that we can progress to more complicated things faster, and not spend the entire workout on the warmup. Before, it was common to spend 30-45 minutes just trying to get her to relax and give her back to me, and some rides I'd never get it. Lately, it's been so much better, better than it ever has been before. It's like she gets it suddenly... she's growing stronger in her topline so it's easier for her to work correctly. Using her neck against me was such a vicious cycle before, but it feels like we're really breaking up that resistance. She warmed up perfectly, and we did w/t/c, trot lengthenings on a straightaway, leg yields, shoulder-ins, a million transitions, and canter lengthenings on a 20m circle (which is part of the Training B test). She was going so well that Vicki ran to her office and whipped out her Omnibus (or well, last years... they've done away with the paper Omnibus this year, which is good and bad in a lot of ways) which has the Training A and B tests in them, and we ran through Training B. The only major blooper we had was when I was coming into the first canter transitions and I surprised her in the corner by not setting up for it, then poking her a bit hard with my spur. She bucked! I noticed that this past week though - I've not been using my spurs on her hardly at all, in any situation, so those few times when I have poked her, she has objected quite loudly. Our stretchy trot circles still need finessing too, because picking her back up still causes a little bit of tension (she thinks she's done, I assume). We're making progress there though. We had a totally perfectly balanced, square halt at the end, and we ended on that!

Yesterday I was kind of funked out all day, and wasn't sure if I really wanted to ride or not. I decided that I did in fact want to ride once I walked out into the barn and breathed in that good horsey smell, so I pulled her in from turnout, spiffed her all up, and got on. And she was GREAT. After a good long trot and canter on the buckle, we did some walk work (which is currently the Golden Ticket to progressing to better work), then moved up into trot and canter, where we got some fabulous mediums, some awesome canter-trot-canter transitions across the diagonal (her nemesis - she wants to do flying changes ALL THE TIME), some gorgeous leg yields, a whole mess of serpentines of varying sizes and shapes, and some really high quality shoulder-in. We even did some stretchy walk and coming back up, and got an awesome stretchy trot at the end. YAY MARE. I felt much better after I rode, which is an awesome feeling - sometimes getting on Gogo in the wrong mood is a BAD IDEA, but in cases like these, it's good to just get on and go for it. I'm glad I did, because we had a really high quality, productive workout. Hell, it was only a half-hour into it and I was going, all right she's perfect I'm done! Which NEVER happens... it's almost always an hour before we're ready to be finished!

Yay mare!!!!

Today is Lendon Gray's Weekend Educational Program (or well, this whole weekend is, but I'm working tomorrow so I can't go). Vicki's giving a lecture at 9 called "Riding A Winning Warmup", which is obviously something I really want to hear, and there are a few other lectures I want to attend, such as "Keeping the Dressage Horse Sound" and a few others, maybe. I'm only going for half the day, I think, so we'll see what else is open for me to do!

Tonight I'm going over my January goals and creating some new ones for February, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wild Woman!

It's been one week since our huge distaster on the lunge, and seeing as it's Wednesday and lunge day, I figured it was time to revisit the issue. Since my chambon is obviously broken, I asked if Vicki had one I could borrow, and she did. Well, it's NOT the same as my own - hers is a piece of string with a nylon strap attached to it. That's it. I had to use double-ended snaps to clip it to my surcicle, that's how barebones the whole thing was. But at the same time, I liked how it didn't have any give. Going to the left anyway.

Yes, going to the left Gogo was quite exceptional. She was almost exceptional going to the right too, but given the fact that she didn't go outside today due to the HUGE ICE STORM that dumped sleet on us all day, she was feeling a little uppity and made a huge leap into the canter near the end of the workout, just because she was fresh. (This was the direction she panicked going last week, I might add.) She hit the chambon, which was NOT forgiving like mine is, and totally lost it for a minute - bolted straight backwards with mouth agape against it and almost fell over, then galloped off for a few panicked laps around me before I could drag her into the middle of my circle to stop her (there were no downward transitions in this runaway moment, I just had to figure out a way to stop!). I stopped her, lowered her head, stood there and let her chill out for a few minutes, then walked and trotted again. And we did BIG TROT... big, worried trot. We also did some big, worried canter, but after a few minutes of quiet transitions, she settled into it a little better, and calmed down. I just wanted to make sure she was relaxed and not thinking about last week's incident, or whatever else she was thinking about that was worrying her, and we finally got a few good sneezes and a loose and swinging back, if only for a few ending minutes. Back in the barn, when I went to pick the arena dirt out of her feet, I found that in her moment of panic, she had ripped one of her back ergots clean off... CLEAN OFF! In its place was a big, raw, open fleshy area that was not bloody but definitely oozy. Oh Gogo....

These moments of hotness, irrationality and flight behavior are really cropping up as of late. In all honesty, I think I really have to be downright honest and blame the Ultium for it. I LOVE how she looks on the Ultium. I LOVE how her topline is filling out. I do NOT love that this is a really high-octane feed and is definitely contributing to her irrational acting out. She's a wild thing and always has been, that's for sure, but she's REALLY been acting out rather violently when something worries her or she doesn't understand something. I mean tonight, just for that brief time, she REALLY blew up. She almost ripped my arm off tearing away from the pressure on her mouth and poll. And she's been HOT lately. REALLY, REALLY HOT. I like the forward energy, I just don't like the explosions that seem to be coming with it.

But here's the other problem. WHAT kind of grain would I switch her to? Do I even want to switch at all? Will she calm down in the summer when it's hotter? Will she be wilder? Is she too fit? Is she not getting enough work? Is it this, is it that? I don't know.

Tomorrow, dressage. Friday, dressage. Saturday, off. Sunday, JUMPIE!

Lazy, lazy lunger.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Your girl, she's a renegade, a hurricane that keeps you there safe...

Not horse related: everyone in the world should go download the song "Look Up" by Stars. Because I said to. Because it's so wonderful it makes me cry.

So anyway. Dover FAILS! Remember when I said something about ordering a sheet that never turned up? Well, it turned up. It's been in the Lake Erie College mailroom for two months, just chillin'. WHY they sent it THERE is a million miles beyond me. I haven't lived on campus for three years now, and I KNOW I've ordered other stuff from Dover since then.

My schedule seems to be fussy on Mondays sometimes... meaning it changes when I don't mean it to. It's generally supposed to be a dressage day, but it NEVER seems to end up being one, or at least a successful once. Sundays are jump days, because all the clients that come that can't seem to steer around jumps aren't around on Sundays, but this particular Sunday all of the jump standards were PLOWED IN by the snowplow guy. Literally, plowed in. Gone. So covered with snow that you couldn't see them. I should have gotten a picture of the enormous mound of snow covering them. The other thing on Sunday was the fact that Vicki was doing a Pony Club clinic - a MILLION Pony Club kids and their hairy little ponies trailered in and took dressage lessons with her all day. This clinic ended at 4pm, which was lame because on Sundays I get off of work between 2:30-3pm. So instead, I went on a conditioning hack out on the roads for an hour. I wanted to go for two hours originally, but the gorgeous day disintegrated pretty rapidly once I was out there, and with the incoming clouds came a huge plummet in temperature. I did about 10 minutes of trotting, mostly in an effort to keep both of us from freezing to death! Winter needs to be over, seriously. I'm not totally sure about trotting around on paved roads for any length of time either. I don't really know what kinds of hurt this can cause in the barefoot horse, but I personally have felt the shin splits I get from jogging/walking on pavement for any long period of time, so hm.

Monday was supposed to be a dressage day, like I said, but once again it did not end up working out that way. Instead, Elisa (who actually owns the jump standards) went and dug them all out with a shovel, and declared Monday night jump night for the week. And I said what the hell, me too! The problem with jumping with these two is that they have a four year-old and a horse coming back from an injury, so the only thing they set up was a crossrail with a pole before it and after it (set up for the trot) and a tiny square oxer with a pole before and after it. Boring. The distance they set the oxer up for was confusing to Gogo at first, and not set for a horse with an enormous stride and a hot head, and she flailed through it a couple of times before finally putting it together. She and I really need to do some more complicated gymnastics, because things like this aren't helping.

And today we had a dressage lesson, which actually went quite well. She started off very relaxed for a change, then became more up and tense as we started to work on more complicated things. It's becoming increasingly obvious... sometimes, my horse really just does NOT take a half-half well. Sometimes, a half-half just causes her to drop her back, disengage her hind end, and crank her neck in and up, which is just an ugly feeling and an ugly picture. But when she's totally through (and I mean she has to be TOTALLY through), half-halts go through to her and compress her quite nicely. I guess that's exactly how everything is with her though.. done at the wrong time and it's a disaster, done at the right time and it's brilliant. Gogo, can't you ever be mediocre? Anyway, we attempted to challenge her with an exercise that really unfortunately got the best of her at the trot, but that she finally understood at the walk. We started going down the long side in shoulder-in, let the shoulder-in come off the rail and into the second track, and then bring the shoulder-in back onto the track with the positioning still there - sort of thinking about it like doing a reinback in shoulder in, so that the haunches are still the first thing that make it back to the track. It REALLY engages the outside hind leg, and encourages the horse to really take the outside rein. This was WAY too much backwards thinking for Gogo however, who, in her Gogo way, panicked about it and threw herself around for awhile in an attempt to escape my outside rein. We slowed it down to the walk and tried again, and she continued to be a bit panicky about it until she finally got one or two really good steps of it, and with a lot of hearty praise suddenly realized that she understood what I was asking and could do it perfectly. Mares! That's just how she is though - if you introduce something new it really needs to be in bite-size chunks, or else she doesn't understand and completely acts out against it. And the second she makes a step in the right direction, you HAVE to tell her she's done the right thing, because she instantly relaxes when she realizes you aren't going to snatch her in the face or rip on her or whip her or whatever other number of horrible things she's had done to her in the past that these fearful responses must trigger in memory. Patience, patience, patience. And then, after we finished with that exercise, I just went off and did transitions between all three gaits. A million of them. It's good to end with something simple that she knows well, that gives her confidence to do. And they were AMAZING, and the quality of her gaits was AMAZING. We finished with that, and a few more textbook shoulder-ins. She felt SO good at the end. I love ending a ride with that.

Gogo is a brave horse. She's not a nervous, flighty animal, not in ANY sense. She really just does have moments of total panic under saddle related entirely to memory, I think. Not to mention she is totally prone to fits of belligerence. God, but she's been hot here. Hot, hot, HOT! I really think the Ultium has a lot to do with it. It really just is a high octane feed.

Tomorrow, we're going to see if we can dig up a chambon and revisit the lunging incident from last week. And trust me, I've learned my lesson... if this new chambon breaks, LESSON OVER!

By the way, I got an e-mail today with a link to an article about biotin. Being as OBSESSED with feeding the hoof as I am, I found it super informative and think you all should go read it too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gogo the Fattie

I have a few pictures of Gogo when I first got her, when she was about 200lbs overweight, and I wanted to put them up for comparison, seeing as I was talking about her really not being emaciated right now thanks very much guys and her saddle fitting her when she was a tub of lard. I'm sad I don't have any straight on conformation shots, but there you are.


And now, as a comparison, here is Gogo actually being emaciated after I got her back from Death Trainer Lady:

Compare these two the photos from the ones yesterday.

It is 1 degree outside and not even 5am and I have to go out and be in the cold barn. Suck as.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

She's not emaciated, come on!

Everyone is going to drive me nuts talking about how skinny my horse is. SHE IS NOT TOO SKINNY! There is NOTHING about her that says "skinny" to me right now. Hell, I won't even give her "thin." I'd say she's a 5.5 approaching a 6 on the BCS scale, and I DON'T want her fatter than that!

PEOPLE. FAT HORSES ARE NOT HEALTHY HORSES. Why do so many people equate a wobbling tub of lard on four legs to an athlete? A big, fat horse is going to have a hard time dragging its big, fat self across the diagonal doing tempi changes, and at the end of them it might very well break and be crippled from carrying all that extra weight around.

Yesterday, Gogo was clipped and had a bath (because it was *almost* warm enough to do that... and I'm cruel), and today I took a few conformation pics of her. Now tell me, dear readers, is this an emaciated, starving animal or is this a perfectly healthy, musclar athlete?

Yeah. That's what I thought.
By the way, do I do a DAMN good clip job or what? I made hundreds of dollars last year clipping horses... and then my clippers exploded and I haven't been able to fix them. I used a borrowed pair this time. And just look at how fuzzy her ears are, I love it!

Well at least yesterday Gogo was wonderful under saddle. Vicki had attempted to see what would happen if we raised her bit a hole on her bridle, and Gogo seemed to just be holding all her tension in her mouth for the first half-hour or so of the lesson. I asked Vicki to lower it a hole, and instantly I had a soft, supple, and relaxed horse. Weird how it works that way. We worked on a few nice shoulder-ins, some steeper leg yields, transitions, some canterwork, and near the end, lengthenings. Her lengthenings are getting HUGE.. so huge in fact that Vicki has taken to calling them mediums instead of lengthenings. She also went so far as to call my trot immediately following my lengthenings collected. YAY COLLECTION. The transitions between the two are becoming crisper and more defined, and the trot following the mediums ALWAYS is improved from whatever it was before. We tried something to, a whisper of shoulder-fore going into the mediums, maintaining it through the mediums, and maintaining it through the downward transition, and it really helped, both ways. Vicki said that was the most up she'd seen her in her shoulders to date. Yes!
The interesting thing about Gogo's lengthenings is that when they are done at the right time, meaning when she is totally relaxed, they ALWAYS refresh her and improve her trot and canter, and everything about her becomes freer and fresher. When done at the WRONG time (when she has tension), it causes her to invert, rush, and blow past my half-halts, creating more tension and the desire to rush. So I have to be careful... or else everything falls apart. Just one more reminder that especially with Gogo, everything fails without relaxation.

Today the saddle fitter came, and she took a look at my Prestige. I have a Prestige 2000d which I bought when I first got Gogo. I was lucky enough to find a used one at Rick's Heritage Saddlery (BEST TACK STORE EVER for used saddles, they have HUNDREDS!)for only $900, and it was in AMAZING condition. I was also lucky enough to be living close enough to Rick's to be able to do that! It fit her amazingly when I first got her, mostly because she was morbidly obese, and it still fits well now but not *quite* as. Colleen (the fitter) checked it all out and said it was a hair wide, but that because I use a Supracor pad with it that it shouldn't be a problem. Vicki had originally wanted me to have the saddle looked at because the back of it seemed to be bouncing a little, but Colleen told me some very interesting things about Italian saddles versus German and English made saddles. Prestiges are designed by a man who sees the back of a horse like a clotheline with two pillars of support at each end - if you put something in the middle of the clothesline, it sags, but if you put it closer to a pillar of support, it holds it up much better. Therefore, Prestiges are designed to have more weight distribution over the front end of the saddle. German and English saddles are designed to have even weight distribution throughout the entire panel. She told me that we don't actually know which is the more correct fit, and that every horse is so different anyway that it's more imporant to focus on individual fit as opposed to sticking to a certain school of thought. The back panels of Prestiges are also rounded as opposed to gusseted, which does cause for a little rocking and rolling sometimes - a fact which apparently is not cause for concern. It doesn't seem to bother Gogo any, so there you are I guess. She also found a knot of wool in one of the panels that she went in and pulled out, and found that my used saddle had been reflocked no less than three times, with three different kinds of wool - a huge no-no in the saddle fitting world! My panels thankfully are all still flat and smooth, so it doesn't seem to be causing any problems, but I will keep my eyes out for further issues. The best part - she refused to be paid. "You're a working student," she told me. "I didn't do enough to get paid!"

I also asked her about jumping saddles, and how I had narrowed my choices down to a County or another Prestige. For those of you who don't know, which I assume is all of you, I was promised a new jumping saddle from my parents for my graduation last May. Guess what... no new saddle yet! I think if I pester my mother a little more she'll remember this gift and maybe I can actually get a jump on this. I currently have an ANCIENT County that outdates me by at LEAST 10 or 15 years, and just doesn't fit Gogo all that well. I got it for $600 when I was 17, and I bought it because it was black and I liked black tack, no joke. Colleen told me that she has yet to see a County model that really works with a horse like Gogo who has higher withers, so that solidifies it - we're going with a Prestige Eventing model, in black of course! Problem is finding a used saddle that fits her, fits me, AND comes in black. Can it be done? Well, I got my $3000 other Prestige for $900, so....

One final thing before bedtime - my USEA year end awards arrived today!

I'm ranked as the 4th place 2008 Adult Beginner Novice Rider and the 4th place 2008 Adult Amateur Beginner Novice rider in the entire nation. That's pretty freaking sweet, especially considering I only got points at four shows and still managed it. The people who were in first and second did like, 15 shows, not even kidding you.
I also have awards from Area 8 which will be on their way in February probably. SO AWESOME.

Tomorrow we have Pony Club kids coming in for a clinic ALLLLLLL DAY... so I won't get to jump until like 5pm. Or I have to do it at 6am... which is just not gonna happen with stalls and turnouts and feeding to do as well, all before 8:00am. Ugh... now I need sleep.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Big Hodgepodge of Things

There was a whole bunch of stuff I meant to blog about this week but did not, so I'm attempting to get a jump on that and remember all the little blurbs of stuff I had in my head....


1) Gogo had her 4th trim this week, on Monday specifically. It was nice because I had ridden her out on the pavement, so she wore her feet down a little for me already! It was a hair over two weeks, and I have to say I much prefer the two week schedule to the three week schedule. I'm getting better and better at this! Once again, I didn't ever manage to get any really good pictures, but I have a few decent ones.

It's becoming fairly easy to wield the tools now that I'm building a bit of muscle memory about it. By the way, her cracks look AWESOME. They aren't going anywhere anytime soon, I don't think, but they look very tight right now and as long as I keep touching up the roll there's no reason for me to believe that they won't stay tight. I've been reading about Pete Ramey's special soaks he does for horses with chronic cracks... perhaps I shall look into this more and maybe give it a try. Or maybe try the tea tree oil thing that was suggested to me....


2) Supplements. Supplements are always an interesting topic to me, as is anything relating to nutrition. Currently, Gogo is getting regular Cosequin and Mare Magic as her two oral supplements, which I get from Smartpak. I LOVE Smartpak, and I'll totally keep using it if my other plans don't work out, but I was thinking about both supplements and wondering if I should change them.
Mare Magic is red raspberry leaf in a pretty package. That's all it is. And it REALLY helps. It's not something that prevents mares from coming into heat. What it DOES do it make her heats much more tolerable and much less crampy for her - she stays loose and giving in her back, whereas before she'd hold a lot of tension just behind the saddle, and it also keeps her head MUCH more level during that 'special' time.. lol. Mare Magic, in monthly Smartpaks, is $10.95 a month. Now, that doesn't sound so bad, right? But think of it this way: the actual bags of Mare Magic are either 8oz ($19.95) or 32oz ($55.95). There are 16oz to a pound, so that's half a pound and two pounds. Online, you can buy bulk red raspberrry lead (the kind you make tea out of) for between $9-10 for a pound. 32oz is supposed to last 240 days... so 16oz would last about four months. Which equates to about $2.50 a month. $2.50 a month or $10.95 a month.... well, that's easy. Buy bulk, screw Mare Magic.
Regular Cosequin is good stuff. It's REALLY good stuff. Now, however, they have a new product on the market called Cosequin ASU, which I keep hearing is a far superior product. Directly from that website: "Cosequin ASU goes above and beyond the traditional glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate products on the market. Cosequin ASU contains NMX1000™* avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) formulated with FCHG49®* glucosamine hydrochloride and TRH122®* low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate. Plus the addition of high purity MSM! This sets Cosequin ASU apart from any other joint health supplement for horses. And all in a tasty, easy to administer powder!" Cosequin ASU is also more than double the price of regular Cosequin. Hm. The options here are to find it really cheap somewhere and buy it in bulk (not huge amounts of bulk, just enough bulk to save money), OR to try another product I'm interested in: Promotion EQ. Go read that website... does that not sound too good to be true? You get a FULL money back guarantee if you're not satisfied, so what do you have to lose? I recently talked to someone in person who is a total believer - had a very lame mare with stifle issues who had been on Cosequin for many years and was still lame, to the point where they were going to euthanize her. She put her on Promotion EQ, and within a few weeks, the mare was running around the pasture. She no longer drags her toes, and she's not lame (not rideable either, but not in pain). So I'm very interested in that! I don't think it currently comes in Smartpaks though, so that's the other problem. If it doesn't come in Smartpaks, and I'm not going to use Mare Magic anymore, well.... sorry Smartpak.

What I'm going to do I think it order one more Smartpak, and then next month order some Promotion EQ and bulk raspberry leaf. I reaaaaaaaally love the ease of Smartpaks, but..... well......


3) I am very angry right now at Dover. In November I ordered a sheet for Gogo, and.... well, it's January and no sheet. I finally was like, all right, this is ridiculous, and I hunted for hours to find all the tracking codes and things to see where the package ended up (or didn't end up). THEY SHIPPED IT TO OHIO. IN NOVEMBER. I did NOT put Ohio as my shipping address... I put Michigan!!!!!!!!! So right now Dover is on my shit list, and I shall have to call them and yell at them. On the other hand, isn't that sheet pretty in ice blue?


4) I cannot wait for the summer months to come. Why? Because there are some awesome clients here who keep saying things like, "oh you want to go conditioning? I know ALL the places to go, I'll totally go with you, I'm not afraid to gallop!" and "Hey want to go swim your horse in the ocean with us? We go every year, it's great!" And one more thing: "Hey, Heidi White is coming for a clinic, want to go with us? You can stable with us for free at my friend's house!" NO WAY! I totally want to go to the Heidi White clinic. I've heard she is refreshing, insightful, kind, and really intelligent, and breaks down exercises carefully so each rider has success at them. The clinic is in June, which works out perfectly because I have no shows at ALL in June... sweet!


5) Dude. My grandmother called me the other day and was like, "I know you're poor and you want to horseshow. How much money do you want."

AWESOME. More on that later.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Karma A Go-Go

First off, I want to thank everybody that expressed their concern for our horrible mess of a workout yesterday. We all have lapses of judgement, and we learn from the mistakes we make. Gogo was fine and happy today, and we had a pretty good ride, so it seems that I've been forgiven for confusing her and stressing her out.

And hah! Well it seems karma did in fact get the best of me today after yesterday's disaster. Gogo went out with the first shift of turnouts, and when Shannon went out to get the tractor to drag the ring, she discovered that Gogo had figured out how to REMOVE the paddock gate (a huge metal one) by lifting it off its hinges. Thankfully the gate was still secured, and she was still in there, but still. It took both of us to lift it and put it back on. I put her back out there, and when I went to go bring her inside, I found that she had taken it off AGAIN. BUT, she only actually got it off the top hinge, and had bent the bottom hinge. Shannon and I wrestled it off again, and tried to put it back on, but both of us jumping on the gate with our full weights wouldn't manage to push it back down all the way again. Oh Gogo.... removing gates is her very favorite thing to do. She takes her stall gate off at least once a day. I didn't expect her to do it to the paddock gate though... I didn't think she physically could!

I've been slightly remiss in blogging this week. It's been emotionally tumultuous for me to put it lightly. None of it is horse related, so I'll keep it out of this blog, but it's been pretty miserable and I've spent a lot of time around Gogo just being in general miserable but so happy I have her for company. Yesterday was sort of a culmination of emotions and unhappiness, I think. Today was a much better day, and I'm very thankful for that. I'm also happy to report that Gogo seems to have forgiven me and we had a very nice ride today after all. Something I always need to keep in mind with Gogo is that she does get tense, and she holds onto that tension, so THE most important thing to remember with her is that relaxation comes before ALL else. If she isn't relaxed, none of the work will be good. No, that's not quite the term.... the work might actually be very good (or a huge disaster, either one), but when it's good and there is still some tension, it becomes very fragile. And she is very prone to huge explosions. We decided today that she's just like an emotional teenager - wants to party all the time and do nothing else (jump, x-county), hates to do her homework (dressage), and is very prone to acting out and having tantrums when she doesn't understand things or feels she's been treated unreasonably (whether or not she actually HAS been is another story). But when she's good, she is SO GOOD. SO AMAZINGLY GOOD. And when she's bad, she is just AWFUL. There is never mediocre with this horse. And I LOVE IT. I wonder as she mentally matures more if she'll be a little more reasonable about her tantrums. I feel like probably not.

Last Sunday I attempted to get back into the regular swing of things with my jump day, but it had been so miserably cold that I didn't want to push it too hard. All the jumps has also been plowed into the area behind the barn by the snowplow guy, making it literally impossible to get them out, so I figured I'd settle on a cavalletti exercise I had been wanting to do as actual jumps.

It's a rollback exercise - I've actually done it before with actual jumps when she was younger, and it was way less of a success then than it was this time. What you do is approach the first pole at a canter (or trot), then roll back to the neck pole, switch leads over the next pole or immediately after, roll back to the next pole, switch leads and roll back to the next pole, then the next... etc. This was with five poles. She's been nailing those lead changes lately - yesssss, one of our monthly goals! - so I wanted to test out her ability to change leads in a tighter situation as opposed to changes on a gradual serpentine or a long straightaway. Well, the exercise was a resounding success at the trot, obviously, and at the canter she got a little fired up about her changes in a happy way. As usual, she got all her perfect changes from left to right, but she misfired with her hind end several times going right to left. Only Gogo can do a balanced 8-metre volte while cross-cantering, seriously. She got rather sweaty, and we spent a good long time cooling out... she needs to be clipped again! Overall I felt it was pretty good, but we'll revisit this one for sure.

Monday I was super awful stressed and unhappy, and I felt it was just unfair to get on her and ask her to do some dressage, so I got on her and went for a conditioning hack. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and it was amazingly refreshing to just get off the property and do a good 40 minute hack. When the good weather comes a few of the clients have already expressed their desire to go out conditioning with me (yeaaa!!), but for now I'm stuck with paved roads in the local quiet neighborhoods. We unfortunately live in a very suburban area with no real open spaces nearby, but we have some awesome long, gradual hills that are going to be great for conditioning in the winter months. We walked and trotted up these hills, and she was so happy and cheerful, and so was I. Gogo therapy is really the best therapy. Horses have always been therapeutic in that way for me... and I really appreciate having a good snuggle with her. Nothing makes me feel better faster than that does.

Tuesday was another dressage lesson with Vicki. It was very interesting... she started off all right, then became increasingly tense and hot, which culminated in a huge explosion of a full on rear and 180-degree turn on her hindlegs in protest of whatever I was doing to upset her. That's the first rear she's done since she flipped on me last March... I thought we were cured of that stuff! After her blowup, we did some walk work to let off some steam and let her cool down, and after that she was just as cool as the proverbial cucumber, and Vicki said she had never seen her back that loose and swinging. We didn't do too many complicated things - some gradaual leg yields, some small lengthenings, some transitions (including some killer walk-canter-walks) - and that was about it, but she felt sooooooooooo good by the end. Mares...

And, well, you know about Wednesday. (Death.)

Today was another dressage lesson with Vicki, and considering how horrible yesterday was, today was a pretty great success. We started off with some walk work again, doing a lot of serpentines and loops, essentially preventing her from every being on a straight line during the entire warmup. At the trot, we started to do the same thing on a bigger scale, but it was creating tension in her and that was the last thing I wanted, so I backed off and just asked for transitions... lots and lots of transitions. And lo and behold, that worked. I think the key with her just really has to be relaxation, and I think the way to get there is to just take it slow and simple until she gets to where she needs to be. Vicki was talking about how she wanted to find ways to speed up my warmup so I can get onto the more important things, but I think that doing a really correct w/t/c is more important to me than trying to get through that as quickly as possible so we can move on to other things. I mean, I want to move on to other things, but the fastest way to do that is to just do simple, quiet things with her to get her to relax right off the bat. After I was totally done with her, Vicki adjusted my bridle and put the bit up one hole and told me to pick her back up and go see what difference that made, which was against my better judgement but I figured we'd give it a shot. We did a decent trot and walk, but I had already lost most of that fluidity. I told her I didn't want to do it either, but she insisted it would be fine. Gogo was certainly all right after I picked her back up, but she wasn't supple anymore, and I felt bad. Won't be doing that again.

I have a video! This is something I took while lunging Gogo (before the death and disaster happened) to try and capture her weird mouthy motions and head twitches on camera. Don't try this at home kids! You'll see a few things - first, she's CRAWLING along because she knows I'm not paying as much attention to her forward motion as I should be while I'm holding a camera; secondly, you'll first see her do something weird with her tongue and mouth, and then near the end of the video you'll see her twich her head in a small way. It's very odd.


Gogo has also changed stalls this week, which makes me an unhappy kid. She had the end stall, the only stall in the barn with two windows. It had a big high ceiling, was out from under the hay loft, and was walled off from the other horses - had a stall gate, but no bars or anything so she couldn't touch anyone. Now, she switched with a horse named Rico to a dark stall underneath the hay loft with no windows at all, a much lower ceiling, and the ability to chat with neighbors. She's been watching the horse across from her banging on his stall door with his teeth at feed time, and I actually saw her put her mouth on the stall door like she was going to do it too.... the first time in her life I've ever seen her put her mouth on ANYTHING. She's just not like that. She got a stern talking to about it too!

There's so much still I want to write about, but this is getting reeeeeeeeeeeeeeally long and it's 1:30 in the morning, so I really should go to sleep.

Gogo enjoying her early morning turnout and hay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I have so much to write about, but I'm so exhausted. All I can say about today is that sometimes you have a workout so disastrous you just want to go curl up in your bed and cry.

Yeah, it was one of those days. Gogo is amazing, talented, intelligent, brave, and BULLHEADED. And the tough attitude combined with her past history, well.... sometimes her fuses are very short. Our lunge sesson today was going very well until my cheap ass chambon broke. Literally, the leather just ripped apart.. she wasn't even doing anything. Me being stupid and not just calling it quits right then, I rigged up the lunge line in a way that I ALWAYS used to do, so that it runs from the bit back to the surcingle in a siderein kind of way. She, on the other hand, once this setup was complete and she was back out on the circle, completely curled under, then panicked when she pulled away on the circle and the line tightened, so much so that she was bolting and rearing and smashing herself into walls, literally spinning in circles so many times she was almost choking herself with the lunge line. By the time I had calmed her down, and I hate to say it but I kept trying to push her back out onto the circle so she could just chill out and get over it (backfired... only made her more upset, and she repeatedly threw herself around and tangled herself in the lunge line), she and I were both completely lathered in sweat. I finished the session with a long walk, bursting into tears, putting her in the washstall and hosing her off, putting her under a cooler and the heat lamps for over an hour, and begging her forgiveness with lots of hugs and cookies.

She was so upset, and I felt horrible. I still feel horrible. I made myself a stiff drink, chatted with Shannon about the difficulties of an alpha mare with baggage, and took a long hot shower. Now I'm just leaving you with this brief update. I literally have about 80 million things I need to blog about, but I just had to get this out of my system.

I feel horrible. She is the best horse ever, and I wouldn't trade her for the world.

Monday, January 19, 2009

January Appreciation TOO!

Daun just blogged about appreciating the beauty of snow and January and winter, and I thought I would jump on board and put some January pictures of good ol' Connecticut up here too for you all to enjoy.

Not many of Gogo - just the one, the gray pony is Hermione - but lovely nevertheless.

New England is beautiful.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Changes in the schedule!

Oh craps! Well, our event schedule has slightly changed - the Area I Championships this year are NOT at Walkers in October like they were last year; instead, they're at ENYDCTA in mid-July. Mid-July people! That gives us like.... 1.5 seconds to qualify for them. We have two shows scheduled in May (King Oak Farms and Riga Meadow), and the qualifications for Areas are 1st-3rd at one event, so that can be easily done. However, people in Area I are... numerous. And serious about their eventing. Looking at the results from King Oak Farms from last year in May, there were six - count them, SIX - divisions of Open Novice ALONE. With about 20 people in each. That's 120 Novice riders at one show guys. That's insane.
So we'll need to really be on top of things in order to qualify for Areas that fast. Our eventing schedule has therefore changed a little bit:

2009 Eventing Show Schedule:

May 9-10 King Oak Farm H.T. (MA) (Novice)
May 30 Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T. (CT) (Novice)


July 3-5 Stoneleigh-Burnham School H.T. (MA) (MAYBE... or maybe not)
July 11-12 ENYDCTA/Old Chatham H.T. (NY) (Novice Championship)
July 19 Riga Meadow H.T. (CT) (Novice, or Training??)

August 1-2 Apple Knoll Farm H.T. (MA)(MAYBE... or maybe not)
August 16 Kent School H.T. (CT) (Training)

Sept 9-13 American Eventing Championships! (IL) (Novice)
Sept 26-27 Stoneleigh-Burnham School H.T. (MA) (MAYBE... or maybe not)

October 4 Kent School H.T. (CT) (Training)
October 10-11 Ethel Walker School H.T. (CT) (Training)

Now, this is all very money dependant. If I can find the funds, I'll do what we're ready for. If not, well.... hmmmm. I've already got about $1000 saved for this coming show season alone, but if the AEC entry fee itself is $500, and that doesn't include travel or hotel fees.... hmmmm again. We'll have to see what I can work out. I'm clever, I can come up with something....

Today Gogo was lunged in the chambon, the first work she's had in two days due to this horrible cold snap. Ugh, I HATE the cold! And my horse was a bit on edge after all this cold weather and no turnout, so when I first asked her to trot after warming up at the walk, she exploded forward, hit the chambon really hard, reared, and shot backwards into the wall, where she proceeded to rear again and then stop to face me, snorting in confusion. I moved her back out at a trot, and off she went, totally chill from then on out. Mares.
The bad news is she was doing her weird head/mouth thingy again. She will be totally relaxed otherwise in her body, and then twitch her head, stick her tongue out and dramatically lick the right side of her lips, and mouth at the bit like she wants to spit it out. Maybe when she hit the chambon that hard whatever little irritation she had earlier was re-bothered? I don't know. I lunged her both ways to see if maybe it would go away, and she sneezed really hard a few times, but it didn't seem to totally stop ever. It sucks because the rest of her lunge work was sooooooooooooooooooooooooo good.... sigh. Tomorrow she's going to have a modified jump school - lots of cavalletti and then a hack out, because I see no need to stress out her muscles in this freezing cold weather, especially after a light end to this work week - and then Monday back to work. Shannon and I were talking about freejumping her too... that would be superfun.

Mount Holyoke college has a few schooling jumper shows coming up that I'd like to see if I can go to. They have Thursday afternoon H/J shows, and they have Saturday Sizzler Afternoon Jumper Shows as well. Their next Saturday Sizzler isn't until March, and the next Thursday afternoon show is this coming week (and next week too) so I dunno if I'll be able to get to those. The point of the Thursday afternoon shows is to start late enough to accomodate after school/work situations (3pm), and they said they'll work with your schedule, so maybe! I'd love love love to be able to get out there, so hopefully. I'll just have to ask and see. Here I can do all the gridwork I want in the world, but setting up a full course? Just don't have the space or the jumps for it. Getting her out to Mount Holyoke would be great for her, if nothing more to just get some coursework in.

The final thing I have to write about today is that we had a client get-together today in the apartment and talked about goal setting, and Vicki gave us all packets to work on. They're great! I have a lot of ideas about creating more in-depth blog posts about daily work and daily goals as well as weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Goals are GREAT for me because they give me focus and something to look forward to. I'll have to type some of this up so you can see it (and use it too! Apparently it's Lendon's, but she has said that anybody can use it, so I'll let you use it too when I get it posted!)

Wait, one final final thing: my tats. I've had some interest from people wanting to see them, especially the new Metro one, so of course I will oblige!

The new M (and the older Q that I got when I was 20 for Quincy):

They look a little funny right now because the Q was just touched up yesterday and they both have goo on them, lol. Also, my skin is very red and irritated and you can see where the tape from the bandages was... haha.

The oldest of my tatts, my tribal that I got when I turned 18:

Man I was tan here.

A kind of artsy naked shot of my top back ink and my lower tramp stamp, which is the Trakehner brand which I got at the age of 20 (although upside down in this pic):

And the second most recent ink, my favorite silver fern done on my left outside hip when I was 22 and studying abroad in NZ:

This one is amazing because I went to a place called Powerhouse, which is a very awesome almost exclusively freehand studio in Palmie. I had a design, and my guy was like well that is very cool, but how about I make it cooler? And off he went with his marker, and drew up this fancy design on my hip that made sense in his head but not in mine (hard to tell what it was going to be). I trusted him and let him just create his own personal individual artwork on my hip, and when he was finished I was just floored. This pic is a little bit red and swollen because it was about 5 minutes after it was finished, but you can tell just how awesome and well done it is. Totally freaking sweet.

Also, when I was in NZ and not around horses all that much, I actually had time to do things like not wear barn clothes all day and get to do crazy fancy things with body modification and hair:

Alas, when I said goodbye to that lip ring, I said goodbye to a huge level of my indie sweetness. I hated to take it out, but lip rings and dirty barns and sweat and filth = infections and chronic pain, so there you are.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Tribute to Metro

Three years ago today, an era ended. A time for patience, for love, and for the quiet bond between two best friends came to an unceremonial end on a cold January afternoon, the whole world devoid of light and happiness in that moment in time. The sweetest companion I have ever had closed his eyes for the final time that day, and the overwhelming emptiness that followed was tinted with bitterness and remorse. Could I have done more for this dear creature? Did I do something wrong? Would anything have been different had I tried something else? These questions still linger in my mind sometimes, but I have come to accept that I will take them to the grave with me - there sometimes can be no answer to the questions we need to know the very most.

Metro wasn't the most athletic horse I've ever known. His stride was short and his shoulders were flagpole upright, leaving him with a jackhammer-esque trot that jarred teeth and caused headaches. But when I first met him, and rode him for the first time, I instantly knew his huge heart would make up for all those shortcomings. He was huge, dark, and handsome, and I didn't care much what he looked like. (If only I had known then what those awful upright shoulders and stumpy pasterns had in store for him!) I was looking for a schoolmaster, someone who could teach me the dressage and eventing ropes beyond what my other gelding was physically capable of, and could also just be a good companion when I needed a shoulder to lean on the most. My other horse, Quincy, was slipping gracefully into retirement, to be kept until his dying day as a pasture potato (and I kept that promise to him), and I needed a competition horse that I could learn on. Metro was everything I could have asked for and more. No, he was never going to score more than a 6 or a rare 7 for his gaits and impulsion, and no, he was never going to go beyond anything more than Training level eventing, but I did not care. In that trip to the fridgid wasteland of Alberta in January of 2004, I had found an everlasting friend whom I instantly connected with. I knew right away I wanted him to be mine.

The vet checks, the transportation arrangements, the insurance details - so many things I hadn't ever delt with before, especially because Quincy was a free unload upon me - it was an all-new experience. Finally, it was all set, and he was on his way in March - a five-day trailer ride from Alberta down to Michigan. He was conveniently set to arrive right around the time of my birthday. The day of my birthday dawned - March 12th - and no word from the shipper. Convinced that he wasn't going to arrive on my special day, I sulked about the house and went over to my then-girlfriend Michelle's house for some birthday moping... until my phone rang. It was the shipper, and he was only an hour away. Could there be better words for the excitement I felt then? I doubt I shall ever feel it again for any horse arriving that I've purchased. He unloaded fine off the trailer, and the shipper placed his lead rope into my hands - my very own, at last.

We learned together. He taught me more dressage than Quincy ever could, even throwing in the accidental canter pirouette once in awhile, and on top of that, we jumped. Looking back, I know it wasn't much of anything special, but to someone like myself who then had fairly limited jumping experience, it was everything I could have ever dreamed of. He carried me safely through my first ever cross country schooling, and I was instantly hooked. Thanks to Metro, I shall forever be a cross-country adrenaline junkie. I have a great memory of the first five minutes of that first cross-country schooling: we were warming up over a crossrail set up as a warmup before heading onto the actual course, and the grass was very slick from the morning dew. As we turned after that first fence, he slipped, and fell to the ground... or well, more like laid down rapidly. We were both unharmed and landed very softly, thankfully, and I stood up right away. He, on the other hand, suddenly realized just how close the grass was, and started to chow down, not even bothering to stand up. I cracked up, and it took some convincing to get him up... he just wanted to eat!

Through it took a little while to get used to each other, it all came together at our first event, where we won our division easily on our dressage score. What words are there for the bursting pride in your heart as you go to collect your first huge blue ribbon? I had won a few dressage classes previous to this with Quincy, but nothing ever before compared to this. We placed well at every event after that that we ever went to, from Michigan to Virginia and back again. How can I thank him for all the times he saved my ass, the times he made critical decisions on his own, the times he carefully took care of me when I was unsure? He gently carried me through all obstacles we faced, giving me the confidence I had previously lacked before ever sitting upon his great wide back. We were really going somewhere, he and I. We were the perfect pair, the ultimate team, the best of friends taking on challenges together. And then, he started going off a little.

Lameness? I had never before been in close contact with a legitimately name horse before - I knew about lameness, I had read about lameness, but my own horse? I did not even consider that it was possible. Three different vets all told me it was arthritis in his pasterns, and to keep moving him. I did. The vets told me it was a bad shoeing job, and to have his feet done again. I did. The vets told me to give him injections, supplements, plenty of turnout, movement. I did. He terrified me once by breaking out of his stall the day before my birthday and getting everyone's morning grain, thereby spending a terrible following week in the hospital. He had a series of little colics. He ran around like an idiot in the field. And still, he was lame.
May rolled around, and due to his continued lameness we scheduled an appointment for him at the MSU clinic with a specialist. The specialist took one look at his x-rays and deemed that this was not our problem. He then went on to palpate the bad leg, and when he came to the suspensory, Metro leapt all four feet off the ground. The outlook? Grave - a gigantic hole in his suspensory ligament. All I had been trying to do for him, all the hard work I had done, all it had done was damage him further. Words don't describe the sinkhole in your stomach when you discover all you've been doing to help has been crippling your dearest love all along.

And so we embarked on eight months of stall rest. Improvements were had, and setbacks were had, but the most important thing of all grew from this time - a feeling of incredible trust and love that reached a new level that I had not discovered before. Together, side by side, we walked every day down the road for 20 minutes at a time, making friends with random people in cars and the neighbors along the way. We discovered that nice neighbors will leave daily piles of apples at the end of their driveway for us every morning. We discovered how thousands of tiny frogs leap onto the pavement after a heavy rain. We discovered how the sun moves across the sky when you are walking in the summer light. We discovered how warm and soft a summer downpour feels upon your skin. We discovered what it was like to match strides with one anothers, and our fates became tied up in one. On the days he was feeling good, I was on top of the world. On the days he was sore, I was miserable.

And so we walked on, into the fall. He called for me whenever he saw or heard me, and ignored most everyone else, save for a few people (my friend Kathryn, who cared for him whenver I was away, being the most notable). I meticulously cared for every aspect of his life, willing myself with every ounce of energy to do the very best I could for him 24/7, hoping that perhaps love alone could cure him, even if nothing else could. He began to go more than a little stir-crazy when the snow started to fall, and some bad farrier jobs left him more lame than ever. I began to realize that perhaps my friend would never be sound for anything ever again. Setback after setback made me feel empty and ashamed of myself. Could I be doing more? I willed myself to try harder, to find an answer, to cure him myself if I had to. But nothing I did ever helped beyond making him happy - the ligament weakened and eventually partially ruptured over time after a particularly crippling farrier job and the addition of heavy bar shoes. The lateral branch, the one with the original injury, had been healing nicely, but the medial branch did not handle the weight alone very well, and finally gave. The rest of the ligament was on its way as well, and with tearful eyes I recieved my final MSU instuctions for him - "If he was my horse, I would let him go."

And so it was that three years ago I let him slip away from me, to a land where there was no pain and there was no stall rest and there were no injections and supplements and coldhosing and bute and supportive booties and ultrasound machines. I let him go because I knew that even though I would always ask myself if there was something else that could have been done, that there was not. I loved him with all my heart and micro-managed every aspect of his care, and that was all I could have done for him. It is somehow harder and easier at the same time to let a horse go when you chose as opposed to losing them to a freak accident, like I did with Quincy. I knew it was my choice to put him to sleep, and therefore I knew I could somehow live with that. But the memory of his death will always hurt - when the vet tech took him from he and they first stuck him with the needle, he ripped away from her and bolted off as if he knew what they were doing... as if he did not want to die. He fell in mid canter half-pass, a true dressage horse to the end.

Without his bravery and unwaivering steady mind, I would have never discovered my love of eventing. Without his suffering and crumbling feet that had been beautiful and bare until I put shoes on him, I would have never even considered the barefoot movement. Without his sacrifice, I would have never found Gogo seven months after he left this earth. Without his utter devotion to me, I would have never known what it was like to truly, completely, fully be needed, really needed by someone in this cold, lonely world.

Rest in peace, Cookieman. I cannot write anymore about you. I miss you more than I know how to say.

Today, I also had an M tattooed above my Q, which is over my heart. I'll have pictures for you tomorrow.

I miss him so much.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gogo's Dream Schedule

It's cold. No really. It's really freaking cold. My Weatherbug right now says it's 4 degrees without windchill. The horses did not go outside today... we handwalked and lunged everybody instead. Gogo got two long handwalks today, and I was going to lunge her in the chambon but wow, it really was just TOOOOO COOOOOOLD. She got wrapped behind tonight and had a hot grain mash, and drank plenty of warm water all day. It was nice to just slow down and hang out with her and snuggle for a little while... I need that for tomorrow.

Someone asked me what Gogo's longterm plans are, so I thought I would write a little bit about that tonight. I have a very hazy schedule sketched out in my head that I want to put down on paper (or internet!). Obviously, this is a completely tentative schedule, and one that I'm sure will only work if all the stars in the world align and money and success suddenly come raining down on me (which I am inviting them to do, lol). I'm NOT going to push her to do anything that she's not mentally or physically capable of, so if we're not ready, we're not going to do it. I HOPE that we'll able to roughly stick with this, but obviously only time will tell.

2009 Plans:
Eventing: Run Novice, qualify for AECs and Areas at Novice, finish year running a Training or two
Dressage: Show First Level in spring, by fall be hopefully ready to show at least Second 1-2

2010 Plans:
Eventing: Run Training, qualify for AECs and Areas at Training, finish year running a Prelim...... also complete a Training 3-Day at the end of the year (some good information from the Ocala T3DE can be found here, and some more information can be found here.... I will explain what it is further in a later post, if you'd like to know more!)
Dressage: Second Level

2011 Plans:
Eventing: Run Prelim early in the year
Dressage: Second/Third? Level
Breeding: Breed mid-summer!

2012 Plans:
Breeding: BABY! (And yes, I've thought this out a liiiiiiiiiiittle too much... this will be a D year for Holsteiner fillies, so I will insist that she pop out a little filly and I'm going to name her Disturbia, for her mother's tendancy to be a little... weird.)
Other: Start to slowly get back in shape, see how well and how fast she comes back from foaling and nursing and weaning and go from there! You better believe I'll still be sitting on her bareback and walking around right 'til baby comes (which is good for them anyway... hard to have a baby when you're an out of shape chunkaloo)

Prelim, Third level, and then?

For those of you that didn't know, I actually have a college degree in Equine Reproduction, so it's sort of my forte, and I'm REEEEEEEALLY excited to breed her.

EDIT: As pointed out by Beckz, it seems a little weird ot be breaking up her competiton schedule like that, but there is a reason for it. Gogo is currently 7, and in 2011 will be 9. IDEALLY, you want a mare who is going to at some point be a broodmare to have at least one baby before the age of 10, at which point if she successfully carries the baby to term and all is well, you can go back to competition for a few more years. Trying to get the older maiden mare pregnant is SO difficult, and especially if she's an old show mare who has been on chemicals like Regumate or Depo (Gogo is not and will never be), you'll potentially dump thousands of dollars into trying to get an old body suited for something it doesn't know how to do. However, if you breed a mare at least once at a younger age, her body has already been conditioned to maintain a pregancy and will therefore have a MUCH easier time concieving and carrying to term if you choose to breed her again later. A lot of top mares are often bred once before being started under saddle, and then go on to have a competitive career, at which point they can then be bred again at a later date. This also shows what kind of produce the mare will create, and whether or not she will be a good investment in the long run.
So I am breeding her at the age of 9 to ensure her reproductive soundness at a later date. Once a younger mare has carried a pregancy to full term, she will have a much easier time concieving and carrying when she is older.

So who am I going to breed her to, you ask? Well, there are several options but I think my favorite by far is a Holsteiner stud called Cicera's Icewater. I have a DVD of him somewhere that I requested and MAN this horse can MOVE and he can JUMP, and his babies are all very nice too. VERY nice. He was competing at Prelim with Team O'Connor, but I think he's back home currently. Here is some information on him off of West with the Wind's website:

"Cicera's Icewater is the American Holsteiner Association 2002 approvals tour Stallion Champion. At the time of his approval Icewater was the highest scoring and highest bonited Holsteiner stallion ever approved in North America. He is also approved and licensed RPSI and GOV (Oldenburg Breeders Societ/ German Oldenburg Verband). He stands 16.3+ hands. He is a leggy, refined, modern type. At his AHHA approvals he received 53 bonits: type 8, topline 7, front legs 7, hind legs 7, walk 7, trot 9, canter 8. The German judges loved his huge, elastic gaits! For his pedigree he was awarded the absolute top score 10! He is one of only two stallions ever have received the score. In 2003 Cicera's Icewater competed in the Five Year Old Young Jumper Championships, and placed in the top 15 at the East Coast Finals at the Hampton Classic. In the spring of 2005 Cicera's Icewater completed his stallion performance requirements in eventing with Team O'Connor. Icewater placed in the top three of all five events that he competed at, with notably excellent dressage scores. Icewater is also approved RHPSI Stallion Book I, with a total score of 60, with bonits such as "8" type, "9" canter, etc. Icewater is by international show jumper Corofino (by Corrado I), out of State Premium Mare Cicera, Stamm 474A, Cor de la Bryere - Liguster. Cicera is full sister to the late Cicero that stood in the US and to the international show jumper and extraordinary sire Cavalier Royale (see link at the bottom of this page and read about his impressive progeny!). Several years after his premature death at 17 Cavalier Royale is now also a leading sire of eventers 2006, (he is, for example, sire of Cavaldi, second place at Fair Hill CCI*** 2003, and Starlight). Cavalier Royale had no less than THREE entries in Rolex 2007, including the WINNER Ben Along Time. Cicera, the dam of Cicera's Icewater, and full sister to Cavalier Royale, is also the dam of the young international Grand Prix jumper Kira (by Carthago). Ridden by Ludo Philippaerts, Kira (a maternal half sister to Icewater) came third with a double clear round in the 2004 $91,488 Grand Prix of Cannes, one of the most coveted Grand Prix in Europe. In 2003 year she successfully competed in the international Audi-Championship for Young Horses. This proven pedigree with depth heightens the predictability of passing on awesome performance and looks! Icewater's sire Corofino I competes in international show jumping under Italian colors, and is one of the Holsteiner Verband flagship stallions per frozen semen. His full brother Corofino II recently qualified for the German Championship of five year old stallions. Corofino has sired a number of approved stallions, successful jumpers and excellent dressage performers, and is especially known for passing on outstanding rideability. If you are looking for an EXTRAORDINARY MOVER that also can jump, here you go! Icewater comes from Holsteiner Stamm 474A, one of the best and most successful motherlines in the world. This motherline Stamm 474A has produced close to 40 approved stallions plus international sport horses. At the 2004 Holsteiner Verband approvals no less than two stallions from Stamm 474A were approved. Icewater's first foals are a living proof of Icewater being an outstanding refinement sire of modern type: they are very elegant, refined, athletic and correct and most of all they are destined to excell in performance."

He also successfully completed a CCI*, and was third, I think... his dressage scores from two different judges were a 71% and a 73%... which is AWESOME.

And this is the part that just makes me think they're a match made in heaven:


Now, we've all been mad at FHOTD for her irritating posts as of late, but her basic concept is one I stick to - breed the best to the best, and that's it. Don't breed crappy quality horses. Don't breed mediocre quality horses. Breed QUALITY horses only. Gogo is a lovely mare but she has her downfalls too, as does every mare, so I'm only going to breed her responsibly and for my own future pleasure horses, ones that will be guaranteed a good home for life. And she really DOES have the potential to throw some pretty high-quality offspring, especially if paired to a matching stud who will build on her strengths and enhance her weakesses.

Gogo's Physical and Mental Strengths:
- Incredibly intelligent
- Independant, bold, level-headed and calm
- Excellent feet
- Textbook shoulder angle, perfect for scope over fences and reach in dressage
- Huge natural gallop
- Three high-quality gaits, exceptional canter
- Very nice hind leg
- Nice short, strong back
- Overall body angles very desireable and correct

Gogo's Physical and Mental Weaknesses:
- Can be very opinionated.... need a stallion with a tractable mind!
- Forearm a little shorter than desireable
- Upright LF foot (not genetic as far as we can tell)
- Offset front cannons
- SLIGHT (VERY slight) toeing out in front.... which I'd rather have over toeing in!!
- A hair flat in the croup
- Weak topline, neck put on slightly upside down (her biggest and most noticable fault in my mind)
- Slightly narrow in the body and chest
- Needs more room in the throatlatch area

So the biggest improvements that I'm looking for are a much improved topline, more depth to the body, and nice correct legs. Icewater's topline and legs all scored 7's, which is acceptable. His foals all look to be very correct in the topline, and it's kind of hard to tell with the legs but I see no glaring faults on any of them. And not all of them are grey!!! I would love a steely grey that stays steely grey, or maybe one with lots of dapples, but I have zero desire to ever own a fleabitten grey. I pitch fits over Gogo's TINY little socks.... can you even IMAGINE me with a grey horse? I'd be killing myself every day and my hands would be perma-purple from all the whitening shampoo!


On an unrelated note, we seem to have an Adequan problem here. Gogo last summer went through the initial loading dose of once per week for four weeks, and then moved on to one shot per month.... but I have recently heard information saying that once monthly Adequan is apparently a waste of money, and isn't actually recommended by the company. WTF, why did nobody mention this to me before? Apparently, what IS recommended is once every two or so months, doing the entire loading dose thing over again.... flooding the body with Adequan, I guess. Well, I can't exactly afford to do that, so I was going to ask around and see if it might be possible for me to go every three months and then maybe do three doses for three weeks instead.... which is the same amount of money as the once a month thing, only more effective, apparently. Gogo is actually moving better than she ever has, and isn't giving me any indication that she might be feeling her little bit of arthritis, so hmmmmm.

Adequan. Stop trying to confuse me. Money is tight enough around here as it is.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life, and I don't want it to come. At least I have it off.....

Picture of the Day

For Beckz:

(© Brant Gamma Photography, a photo I've purchased but don't have scanned, so this is off their website... hope I'm not breaking any laws here!)

Showing Gogo's huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge horizontal reach. Yeah the jump is tiny, but seriously, she just hiccuped over this fence and this is what it looked like. It felt like she cantered over it. This makes it hard for her during stadium to make the striding in tight lines.... usually, she just leaves out a stride if she has to. And I'd way rather have her take off a little long than chip in, so....!