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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh woman, what did you do NOW?

Oh Gogo, you never cease to amaze me!

I've had a great week with the Mamcita, despite Mother Nature's absolutely bizarre behavior - 75 degrees one day, 45 the next! Monday was our usual 45 minute bareback hack around the property, complete with indian bosal and beautiful fall weather. I have to say, she definitely is liking it now that she's figured it out, and she happily responds to the lightest of cues, much to my delight. (She also does this in a bit.... she just wasn't really getting it last time I rode her in the hackamore.) It was 70 degrees on Monday, and I had half hoped to trailer her out to the beach after work and play in the water, but I had the chiropractor to go to at 6pm... not enough time in the day sadly.

Tuesday, we worked on dressage-y things, and despite being turned out in a huge field with some fresh ladies for several hours beforehand, Gogo still had major energy to burn when I got on her. Unfortunately, I didn't get on until nearly 5:30, which meant that halfway through our ride, the sun had set fully. It was pitch black when we were finishing, which would have been fine if I had ridden in the indoor... nope, silly me had to choose the outdoor. Oh well, the 75-degree weather made it worth it! I even rode in a tank top. Despite her HIGH energy, Gogo managed to channel nearly all of it into correct, forward movement. (Emphasis on the FORWAD.) I attempted to let her burn a bit of it off in a few semi-controlled lengthenings, but unfortunately this had the opposite effect, and made my half-halt about half as effective. Still, the quality of her movement and her connection with me was otherwise so good that I decided not to pick at her about it. Instead, we just went forward. She still gave me a nasty head toss or two when we picked up the canter for the first time, which is obnoxious. Once she settled into it, she stopped, and didn't do it again in the next few transitions, so I can only chalk it up to major freshness, but still. I think I will be outfitting her in a running martingale the next time we do serious flatwork, just to give her the hint. (We always use one when we are jumping real courses or at shows for this reason!) I am quite certain a standing would make her go over backwards, so I'm not about to give that one a try. Other than her WHEEE factor, she was great.

Since she worked so well on Tuesday, and I imagined she would be fairly muscle tired on Wednesday (boy was I wrong), I decided to hack up the road after work. I need to be careful about doing that at this point, though... it gets dark so soon! I definitely did not want to be out later than I was, and made the executive decision that I will now just have to get my butt up earlier and ride BEFORE work instead of after... it's just too DARK too EARLY! I threw on her western tack for our little jaunt, and spent the vast majority of it at a walk. As usual, I trotted her for a minute to see how she feels on pavement - she felt great, as usual! Hooray! No sooner had we dropped back to a walk than the sky completely OPENED on us. Total downpour... totally soaked everything. It did not stop pouring until several hours later in the evening, which meant that my entire ride back to the farm was nasty and very wet. Ah well... it happened. At least the rain gave Gogo a semi-bath, which was nice since she had rolled about twenty times in the wet dirt shortly before I got on. This entire property is on a hill, so we never get actual mud, but the dirt near the pasture gates gets just moist enough to leave a nice crusty coating over any horse that rolls in it. Mmmmm... tasty.

Yesterday, I tossed on my jup tack, and Gogo and I spent some time cruising around doing basic fitness work for us both. It still amazes me that before her injuries, when asked for a change she would almost always crossfire going from left lead to right. She always did her auto changes with no prompting from me, but asking for one? It was difficult. Now, post-injury? Perfect, quiet, smooth changes in both directions, no problem. Sweet! I do have to be careful and judicious with these, seeing as a) I still need to be able to school counter-canter when she's strong enough and I do NOT want her to become a change-machine, and b) the more she does them, the more she speeds up. Slow and steady my friend! We also managed to pop over two tiny crossrails IN A ROW! That is a first! It was set as a really really long three stride, but we got three, four, 3.5, awkard. Neither of us is particularly graceful about it at the moment, and she is getting REALLY hot to the fences which I don't want. I still think I'm going to hold off on any serious jumping for another couple of months, until she gets some of her real dressage strength back. There's no sense in pushing it now, especially with how enthusiastic she gets.

And then today? I walked in as usual, and did my usual rounds checking buckets, eyes, legs. Good morning, New Barn ponies! Good morning, Red Barn ponies! Good morning, Gogo! Um.... wow that is a huge leg! I had left her unwrapped yesterday, seeing as her legs looked freaking fabulous after she came in from turnout, and the left hind was tight and beautiful. The right? Huge and hot! I was very alarmed until I circled around to her other side and bent down to get a better look at it. The swelling was on the front of her leg, near an old white scar she has which now was sporting a fresh cut and a big goose egg. There was also localized swelling on the outside of her fetlock. The lump on the front of her leg was definitely painful to the touch - she jerked away pretty hard when I palpated it. Oh Gogo, what did you do?

Well... the tendon sure looks good, at least!

We jogged her out and thankfully she's sound. I didn't expect her to be lame, but you never know. It wasn't alarming enough to stop her treadmilling or turnout, so I coldhosed, iced, gave her some bute, and let her go out. Actually, moving around for four hours in the chilly air did the most for her, and when she came in all four legs were icy cold and tight - save for the one particular lumpy spot, which was warm and still a little swollen. I coldtubbed her (so much more effective!) for a half-hour, and gave her a good grooming while I waited. A fresh pair of wraps and her medium blanket later, and she was ready for night-night. I hate that it's going to be cold enough tonight for her medium!!

Oh Gogo. She's fine, and she'll be fine, but still. We'll see what it looks like tomorrow!

I at least got some other things done instead of riding, like cleaning my locker...

... cleaning out my trailer...

... and giving her stall a little bit of fall charm.

I hate that the change in seasons means the sun is setting before I leave the barn at the end of the day...

... but at least you can tell the ladies apart from each other when they're in the field now that it's cold!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Alpha Kappa Bellboot

Gogo had some BIG news to share with everyone: she joined a sorority!

This is not just any sorority, mind you, but a very exclusive one. You have to be bay, and a mare, and wear black bell boots, and be in nonstop squirting heat, always.

And Gogo is the ringleader. She is THE most bay, THE most mareish, has THE blackest bell boots, and has THE squirtiest pee.

Yes it's true - finally after a YEAR of either total stall rest or very limited turnout, Gogo is back in a BIG field full of mares! I have been desperately waiting for this glorious time all year long! Not only does Gogo get to go be a real horse again with real horsey company and get to move around in a big space, but it also frees up space and time in the lower turnouts for the solo horses. Everybody wins.

Unfortunately, the grass turnouts are closing for the season on November 1st, which is very late for this time of year. (Maybe I'll make it stretch an extra week.) We had a great run with them this summer and they held up great considering how young they are. Rotational win! Still, grass is grass and needs some recoup time before the snow falls. It was now or never if I wanted to get Gogo out with the girls - they had grass to distract them, a big space to get out of the way if anyone decided to be stupid, and totally unseasonable weather to send their hormones into a tailspin. Just to be safe, I gave Gogo 1.25ccs of Ace yesterday - the field is far larger than anything she's ever been turned out in before (probably in her entire life), and I didn't want to give her the opportunity to pick up speed and be unable to flag her down. We let her loose with Annabelle first, the lowest ranking mare, thinking that there would at least be some moments of ear-pinning and squawking. Nope... instant love. INSTANT! When Diosa, the other mare, came back from her off-property adventure, we added her in to the mix. I expected there might be some general mare obnoxiousness, but there wasn't! Instead, Diosa made a beeline for Gogo, and Gogo did the same. As soon as they touched noses, Diosa started peeing. And peeing. And peeing. All doped up as she was, Gogo gave her the full stud treatment, rubbing and sniffing her all over. She did strike out drowsily at one point, and then turned her butt to her in order to make a dominance point. Diosa took the hint, but that didn't stop her from spending the rest of the turnout trying to pee all over Gogo every time she got close.

Today, Gogo went out without drugs, and magically also came into heat overnight. She saw Annabelle coming up the hill to the turnout (she was the first out), and nickered nonstop until they got to each other. When Diosa came up the hill, she and Gogo RAN to see each other, peeing all over the place. So much pee... so much mare-love.

Later on, Gogo found it amusing to scream nonstop for Annabelle when she saw her, but still make nasty faces at Hootie the gelding (same color as Annabelle). Clearly, my horse is a lesbian. Well, like mother like daughter....

This is such a big step for her. That extra movement really does seem to make a difference, as her legs were beautiful and tight when she came in. But I have a feeling that she's going to get verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry attached to her friends. She hasn't been out with a friend in two and a half years. I can't believe that!

MARES! I love them!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Waterhorse

I would like to know when November decided to cut the rest of October off and just jump right in the game. It's been freezing and cloudy all week! Also, WHAT is going on with my "posted at" times? Pretty sure I am not writing some of these posts at 3:45am. Maybe I have it on the wrong timesetting, but I don't think I am techno-savvy enough to figure out how to switch that.

Anyway. I've been a bit of a slacker when it comes to writing this week... I've been very busy and a bit mopey due to the cold weather. I seem to be making my yearly transition from violently active warm-weather athlete to cuddled-in-warm-armchair cold-weather hibernator. I did manage to squeeze in five great rides on the woman this week, and gave her two days off, despite wanting to do nothing more than ride and sleep (mmmm.... warm bed). Starting with last Sunday, I hopped back on Gogo bareback for a 45 minute jaunt around the property, just to start her moving again after two weeks of being off. I tried her in something new, a rope indian bosal from the same lady who makes Tamara's tack, just to try something for light trail riding that doesn't involve a bit. I thought for sure she'd love it, given her history with contact issues, but I was wrong. Apparently, and thankfully, those days are long gone. I can honestly say that she really just seems to do better in a bit. She was responsive to the turning aids in the same sensitive way that she always is, and stopped with a verbal "whoa", but as for actually stopping from a rein aid? Nope. Didn't get it. In her usual way, when we got to trotting up the far hill, she broke into the canter and frisked about. However, with the hackamore, she had enough the ability to put her head between her knees and get halfway up the hill before I managed to slow her down. I thought they had a little more sting in them... apparently I was wrong. Oh well, it will be good for trail riding at least...

((Gogo says, uhhhhh....))

After work on Monday, I tacked Gogo up for our weekly road hack, and set out to try and beat the sun before it went down (so early these days!). The best way for me to really assess Gogo's soundness is by sitting on her and trotting her on a hard, flat surface, and I take advantage of my time on the tarmac by spending a minute or two trotting on a loose rein on both diagonals. Even though she was doing her typical look-around-side-to-side-nonstop while trotting, which makes it a bit awkward for steering, she felt exactly the same going from one diagonal to the next. Sweet! I kept the trotting to less than a minute or two, and spent the rest of the time cruising around on the buckle, admiring the fall foliage. Gogo was a crazy half-saint as always: at some point, she and I walked around the corner near a house that was flush with the road, and in the yard was a GIANT blow-up ghost, RIGHT there, hissing with air and waving its giant arms around. It couldn't have been more than three feet away from us. Did she even bother to cast it a passing glance? Nope. What DID she spook at? The yellow mailbox, a few feet down the way. Mares. The whole ride totalled an hour, and it was perfect.

Tuesday we had an excellent work on the flat. Warming up in the early morning chill, we walked around the hills of the property for 15 minutes, and then moved into the outdoor to do some walk/trot work. It wasn't complicated, and I didn't canter due to her level of fresh (didn't want her to go galloping and leaping off after two weeks off), but we did some basic lateral work and some bending and stretching. She also gave me some amazing moments of suspension and lightness when I asked her to move out in the trot down the long side. Every lengthening prior to her injury always had a bit of a rushed, groundbound feel to it - not bad per se, but more covering ground without cadence. These were UP and forward, with power. I think there's a lot to be developed here!

Wednesday, I had the best day of all. Despite the fact that I was off and had every right to sleep in as late as I wanted, I bounced out of bed at 4:30am for no reason at all and woke up a sleeping Chris with, "I am going to go take Gogo to the beach for a sunrise ride!!" (I am lucky to be dating someone who takes my totally random early morning whims in stride) Somehow, I managed to get myself, my trailer, and my horse ready and out the barn door by 6:30am, when it was still dark. When I showed up to the barn, I fed Gogo, and then collected all her tack outside of her stall. She saw me coming in with the halter and had OTHER ideas, promptly turning her butt to me and slowly backing in my direction, which is exactly what she did the morning I went to take her to see Dr. C. This brings the grand total of times she's done this behavior in her life to two. Both times, she got the snot beat out of her in response, so hopefully this will be the last... bad, bad mare. Not tolerated. She was on her best behavior after it though!

Unlike the last two times we went to the beach, this time she was totally relaxed, and she plowed right in to the water like she had plans to swim across the Sound to NYC. Running dogs, people casting fishing lines, drydocked catamarans... nothing phases this mare!

If you turn the sound waaaaaaaaaaaaay up on this video, you can hear me yelping when she went in deeper than I expected and soaked my feet through my boots. Salty wet fail!

Just look at that sunrise. It was amazing! And yes, I MAY have been wearing a scarf at the beach.... it was not quite 40 degrees.

Two days off, another light 45 minute bareback hack yesterday, and one final day off today in order to get us back on track, and we are back to our regular schedule. Stay tuned for more adventures, there are some BIG ones coming up!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure...

Kahurangi National Park, NZ.Where Nicole and I got hopelessly lost after the trail ceased to be marked somewhere on top of a mountain. We were god knows how many kilometers away from civilization with no contact to the outside world, and had no way of surviving a freezing night should we have to. One of the few times that I realized how utterly unprepared we were should something go wrong, and one of the only times I've felt truly frightened and unsure of which way to go. Thank god we stumbled upon a cabin somewhere along the way where other trampers were, and found the path home again... yikes. (Still awesome though.)

(PS: I am still alive, I promise. Lots to write about, no time to write!)

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Year of Glamor Shots


The fall shot is not of great quality as I was both handling her and taking pictures by myself, and the lighting was kind of exciting but not particularly flattering. It wasn't exactly gleamingly highlighting her sexiest features... and the angle gives her a big lumpy head (but check out that happy SMILE!). Seeing as it's getting colder and colder, and our leaves are at full color peak right now, AND that she already rolled a million times in the stone dust paddock, it's probably not too likely that I'll get another good chance at a fall set of shots. Oh well, she still a hot mama!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ain't Nothin' Gonna Break My Stride

I am very happy to report that Gogo, by some miracle, checked out totally fine at the vet yesterday. I was up at the horrible hour of 4am in order to clean the barn at home, pick up my roommate's horse, pick up Gogo, and collectively shuttle everyone up to see Dr. C by 8:30am. After they looked at Hootie, we pulled Gogo off the trailer and watched her go.

She, as usual, looked totally awesome.

And, of course, the legs looked great.

We went over the scenario about why the legs were big and what on earth there was to be done about it. She probably had some fill from getting banged up, and probably had some from standing in a much smaller stall, but Dr. C said that as long as it goes away when she moves, and stays down and normal even if just for a little while, then she wouldn't be worried about it. If she's not lame, and they are doing the same thing they've always done (fill together, go down together, go away with movment, NOT go away with bute/wrapping/icing/etc) then it's all right. By the end of the evaluation, some of the fill had come back, and we talked about her body temperature and the fill, two things that seem to go hand in hand. Her great hairy self runs very hot, and the warmer she seems to be, the bigger the legs seem to be. (I also have a front leg that has one spot that fills too for whatever reason, so if that bit is filled as well, it is more temperature related than anything.)

One thorough evaluation later, and the prognosis, diagnosis and prescription was as thus: "Stop worrying. She's fine."

Thank god for that.... I was considering trying a tube of Ulcergard for myself.

I also made the comment in my last post that I was going to do some sort of outrageous clip on her if she passed muster at the vet, because I needed to do SOMETHING to cool her down. Even naked, she was still too hot and hairy, and the legs are just too ugly to ignore when she's roasting like that. So, out came the clippers, and the creative side in me just got rolling.


I'm going to tell you it was easy and you can do it too, but actually it was mildly complicated and took about two hours. WORTH IT, however. I apologize about the awkward pictures.... trying to take comformation pictures by yourself on the grass with a hungry horse is kind of hard.

Gogo looks shocked...


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not much to report.

I don't have much to report on the Gogo front. Since the escaping incident, she's been, you know... the same. Big, fat, warm legs which magically go away and come back on their own, perhaps in relation to her own temperature. (The warmer she is, the bigger and warmer they seem to get. Perhaps it's time for a clip.) I have stopped her turnout and work under tack for the time being, so she's just getting treadmilled and handgrazed for the time being. I stuck her on the lunge today, which is my only really accurate way of assessing her soundness at this point (how she travels in a circle right and left), and crossed myself in the hopes that she would behave. She did (bless her heart, that girl has her voice commands like no animal I've ever seen), and she looks exactly the same left to right - totally fine. My eye for hind-end lameness is good, and I'm clearly not giving anyone the benefit of any doubt, so if there was anything serious to be seen I would have seen it. Then again, I am not a vet and if there is something very subtle there, it needs to be handled under a professional's eye. I just can't quite get over how UCKY the legs look. They're huge! Nothing makes them go down either, barring movement that is faster than a walk. I am taking this as a good sign, as wrapping/coldhosing/icing/anti-inflammatories/poultice/sweating has not, at this point, done anything at all, and if there was inflammation then there would have been at least SOME change in theory. As of tonight, I iced and then left them open and to the mercy of the cold night. Perhaps the freezing weather and her freshly clipped legs might do a bit to take them down a little. I am glad that the fill goes away with movement, but it is definitely coming back after a short while. They seem to have a mind of their own - one minute they are somewhat filled and cold, the next hot and enormous, and it doesn't seem to relate to anything in particular. It's driving me crazy.... I can't get it to just GO AWAY. It feels like something HAS to be wrong, because it's just too bizarre to not be something bad.

But still, she's sound. I can't give up on that fact, and the fact that as soon as she's jogging out, the fill goes away. But I am pretty sure that until Dr. C scans her legs up and down and gives her the go-ahead, I am not going to lose this queasy-ill feeling in my stomach and my brain.

I am not sure I'll be able to event a horse that has me on pins and needles every time something goes mildly wrong. Oh Gogo.... can't this just be simple and easy. Really.

Gogo says, I escaped from my stall, destroyed the barn, gave myself huge ugly legs, and now I have to go back to the vet?? WHAAAAAAT??

In other not-related news, who wants to magically sponsor no-name-nobody me for 2011 and buy me this beauty?? Only $25k and she's Gogo's TWIN - they look the same, move the same, jump the same, and are related through Lemgo. And from the sound of it, they have the exact same personality to boot. Come on, you know you want to!! Don't you want to hear all about TWO kooky mares instead of one?? And how I'll need to invest in Mylanta?? ;)

Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day (Can't Stay Silent Anymore.)

I don't normally bring my personal life into this blog, but today is National Coming Out Day for those of you who didn't know and who are less homosexually inclined than I. While I wouldn't normally care, and don't really think much about my level of gay (do YOU think about your level of blonde?), I can no longer stay silent about this recent wave of gay teen suicides stemming from harassment and bullying in and out of the school system. Yet another young kid, a 19-year-old in Oklahoma, took his life yesterday after attending a meeting in his local town hall that expressed anti-gay sentiment. I have stopped being able to keep track of the number of suicides that have happened over the past few weeks, but there have been at least eight: hangings, bullets to the head, jumping off enormous bridges, overdoses. Even a 13-year-old in California hanged himself in his own backyard last month after a bullying incident, his mother and brother right there in the house. Has there been an upswing in gay teen suicide recently? Or is it just getting more media attention as we realize how serious of a problem this is? Either way, this can't go unnoticed, and this can't go on.

This isn't just a 'gay' problem. It's a bullying problem, and not enough is being done to stop it. Parents are failing to put a good tolerant base on their children - but this is a moot point, as prejudiced parents will raise prejudiced kids. Schools are not enforcing strict enough rules and are not doling out harsh enough punishments to kids that are caught bullying, or are reported by their classmates - but enforcing harsh rules only makes a bad kid hate harder, and if a bully knows a target child told the enforcers what happened, then that child might be a continued target for harder harassment outside of the realm of school. So what do we do? How do we make it better? How do we show these kids that we're there for them?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't know how to enforce cruel punishments for bullies (I think hanging by the skin of your scrote for a couple of hours is a good start), and I don't know how to get through to a close-minded child who was raised to be that way. (Maybe hanging their parents by the skin of THEIR scrotes.) But even if I can't do anything to reform a defunct school system or fix the broken pieces of society, I can at least reach out to those who find themselves the target of bullying and harassment, for whatever reason. No matter if you're discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, height, disability, class standing, or anything else, I just want to say I love you, and it's going to be okay.

It sucks right now. It really does. I know how it feels, I really do. As a youngster fresh out of the closet ten years ago, I remember feeling the harsh sting of rejection from those around me. I got called plenty of names: dyke, carpetmuncher, queer, homo, fag. Those names never really were hurtful to me as they were some of my peers, as they're kind of, you know... accurate, I guess. And I own those words, so they can't hurt me if I use them on myself. But I didn't just get heckled, I got physically harmed. I saw others get physically harmed. My gay idol, a friend of mine named Wally, was a beacon of strength to me in a dark time - he was the first out and proud gay guy I'd ever met, and he was violently flamboyant. I saw him get beaten bloody right before my very eyes by people we knew, but even after that, I never saw him without a smile. He always seemed so strong to me. If he could stand up to the torment, I could too. We both went out separate ways, and each went through our own dark times. His seemingly endless strength failed him, and he put a bullet through his head. I didn't.

I've known other suicides too. Heroin overdoses. Gunshots. Hangings. Drownings. Because they were gay. Because they felt alone. Because nobody told them otherwise. Nobody told them that it was going to be okay. Nobody told them that they were okay just they way they were. Nobody gave them a hug and a smile. Nobody reached out to them.

I don't like to talk about these things. I'd rather forget they ever happened. But I know there are kids out there going through the same things that I did, and worse. I can't stand by and know what they're feeling and not do anything about it. I need them to know that someone knows what it's like for them, and that it's going to be all right. You can get through this, no matter how hard it is, no matter how bleak it looks. You can. Find what moves you, find what drives you, and hold fast to that. Find those that love you for you, and surround yourself with them, be they friends, family, whoever. For me, I had Quincy, and he pulled me through my worst times. Paint, draw, hike, take your dog for a walk, go for a long drive. Whatever gives you strength, hold on to it.

There will always be someone out there who hates something about you. You could even be the Saint Mother Theresa, and people will still hate you (paging Pat Robertson!). What you have to do is love yourself for who you are, and surround yourself with those who love you too. That will build you up against hatred so that it can't get in to affect you. And know that there is help out there if you need it. There will ALWAYS be someone who will listen. Always. You aren't alone... we're here. Bullies are cowardly and unsure, using those around them to lift themselves up and feel better about their miserable existences. Don't let your life go because of what a coward thinks, because you are beautiful and you are better than that.

I can't be silent about this anymore. And neither can any of you, if you have gone through something similar, for any reason - even if you just got called four-eyes in grade school, it's still bullying. Stand up with me, and reach out to someone who needs help. We can't let this happen to anyone, no matter what age they are. We can make a difference through our love. We have to fight the dark away. Love who you are, love who you're with, and love those around you. Love is our strongest weapon against the hate. Where they want to separate, we join together.

Love. And listen. You can make a difference through just those two things alone.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Brooding - what would YOU do?

I seem to be stuck sick at home today. All our wet weather combined with the October chill has sent my already stressed self into the thresholds of sickness. I am not feeling THAT poorly, but given the fact that today it is only 52 degrees and drizzling nonstop, I opted to stay home and nurse this thing right out of my system. I've has plenty of bronchial stress in my life, not to mention a life-threatening bout with pneumonia as a teenager, so I'd really rather keep myself as healthy as possible given the situation.

All this time in bed has given me far too much to think about. I've gotten some good things done, don't get me wrong, but the rest of the time I've spent brooding over my horse's recent schedule, and what we are going to be doing in the near future. And once again, I'm at a loss.

Readers, what would you do?

I am at complete odds with myself when it comes to working my mare. One minute I am all for a six day work schedule, complete with bits of dressage no matter what (during hacks, jumping, etc.), and then the next I am completely backed off, wondering if I should only be trail riding and nothing more. Most of the time, I am somewhere in the middle, wondering if I really should be doing more arena work and less out over the varying terrain, or doing less work period, or more work period. I'm completely at a loss.

My problem is this: I want to strengthen her without over-stressing her limbs. I want everything to get stronger, tendon and muscle alike, but I don't want to do anything that might hurt her. How much is too much? How much is too little? If I do too much, I run the risk of over stressing and possibly reinjuring her. If I do too little, I run the risk of losing the strength I've gained and potentially hurting her when I start her back up in heavier work. But I would also be giving her extra bonus time to just chill and be a horse. But since she can't go out in a big turnout yet, is it worth it to do less, or is it better to keep her moving? And do I want to work on a consistent surface, like an arena? Or will the varying surfaces she's been on do better things for her and build better muscles which can help her general locomotion altogether? I just want to have some fun with her, but what are the risks of that? I also just want to do some real work with her, but what are the risks of THAT?

I'm so at a loss. One day I am so sure, and the next I have no idea. What is too much, and what is too little? How can I go about all this without worrying constantly about whether it is in fact too much or too little? It's just these next few months that I am worried about. Once we get to December, she'll have a let-down of two or three weeks, and then we'll start up in all seriousness for next year's season. But what do I do right NOW? If I only trail ride and dork around, am I risking injury by not asking her to work her body properly? She is such a naturally crooked horse that it takes serious and steady dressage work to straighten her out.... if I only trail ride, how crookedly is she going to be marching around? Will she stress her limbs if I don't balance her body? But if I DON'T get out of the arena, will THAT stress her limbs by only doing the same thing over and over again? And will it fry her brain? (Yes.)

I really don't know what to do. I plan on giving her a few days off to just hang out while I sit and mull this over. I've not had a personal horse that made it to this stage of rehab yet, and I'm so terrified that at any second, it could all come crashing down. All I know is that today, I have a sound and happy horse. From here, I really just don't know where to go. What would you do?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Seahorse A Go-Go

Yesterday afternoon, Gogo made her triumphant return to the sea! The last time she went was in February of 2009, so it had been awhile. Her behavior this time around was much better, although she did freak out my honey by threatening to bounce up on her hind legs for no good reason while she was being held and I was going to retrieve my helmet. (Honey has no horse experience... so I can imagine this wasn't much fun. All I saw was a swinging tail from behind my trailer while I peeking out of the tackroom.)

But after that little blip, she was exceedingly well behaved. Or well, mostly. Our little team of Gogo, myself, Ti, and honey all trooped down to the water at Penfield, and while at first Gogo wasn't so sure...

... she soon stepped right in. She was a little bit up at first....

... but she held it together. After a little splashing in the water and some reassuring pats, she settled right in like she had been to the ocean a million times before.

And she tried to drown herself.

We didn't do much, and I wasn't on her for too long - about half an hour. I felt that it was plenty, and I dismounted after we had had our fill of walking and splashing in the water. Honey and I tried to get a cute picture of us standing with the ocean as our backdrop while I was still holding Gogo, and this was the point when Gogo decided to be really really REALLY naughty and lay down in the sand with ALL my tack still on.... bad girl!!!!!!!!

My tack is no worse for the wear... just a bit sandy.

Other than that, and a bit of eye rolling and head twitching when a roaring boat came way too close to the beach and sent huge waves rolling towards us, she was perfect.

And the legs? Ice cold and tight.

I love it.

It was perfect.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

End of September Analysis

WHAAAAT?? September is over?? Wait a minute, when did THAT happen??

September was pretty decent for us. There wasn't a lot I wanted to do in terms of working Gogo - trail ride, and that's really it - but all our goals were met with ease and confidence. The leaves are really starting to change, pumpkin-flavored food is abound, and there is a crisp chill in the mornings that sets my heart on fire. I love autumn!

September Goals:

1) Daily turnout in the medical pen (POSSIBLY to move into the next size paddock, but this may wait until next month) save for days when I will not be there to monitor
Success! And actually, she did so well that I had her going out even on days when I wasn't there. There wasn't one day in September that she did something stupid in the paddock. Best of all, we never had to use drugs after the first day. Now that it's October, she is set to go out in the next size paddock, which I plan to start tomorrow. Freeeeeeee as a biiiiiiird!

2) Jump our first crossrail in a year!
Success!! This was truly awesome. We didn't jump much, and we only had about four or so jump days in our schedule, but we did a handful of small crossrails, lots of trot poles, one or two canter poles, and a tiny vertical the other day. Sweet! I am not planning on doing much jumping in the next few months, just little stuff to keep her brain happy and maintain a low level of fitness over fences, because I don't feel she needs much schooling at this point. (Although I am badly in need of a tune-up myself... lessons anyone?) What's the hurry? At the start of the new year, I plan on stepping it up a little bit, but I don't need to now. Although I suppose I will be sad to see all the fancy jumps in the outdoor going into storage for the season... those won't come out until next April in all likelihood. Oh well.

3) Return to a 5/6 day a week schedule - dressage, jumping, hacking out (schedule still in the works but I have a good idea at this point of what I want to be doing)
Success, mostly! I have been a little back and forth about this, and alternated from only wanting to do trail riding to wanting to do a full schedule with bits of dressage every day, but it seems to have found a happy medium and I like it that way. I want to work her enough to strengthen her but not wear her out. I want her muscles and tendons to get stronger without overdoing anything. It's a delicate balance.

4) Trailer off property for our first real TRAIL RIDE in a year!
SUCCESS! This was my favorite one of all. We trailered off property THREE TIMES in the past month, which may not sound like a ton but in reality is three more times than we've trailered off property for fun in a whole YEAR, so it's awesome! We've been to Baxster twice, and to Larkin once. I am hoping to get to the beach possibly today, or maybe tomorrow, depending. A Saturday might be all kinds of frightening craziness though, so I'm not sure.

5) Just enjoy my mare. It's fall, it's beautiful out, the brunt of the rehab work is over and it's time for fun!
Success! It's all about the fun isn't it! ;)

October Goals:
1) Go trail riding on the BEACH! (Safely, of course... no mad gallops, no deep sand riding... the rule is stay below the high-tide line anyway so I think we're good for footing!)
2) Possibly take a few dressage lessons? (Vicki? Bettina?) And maintain last month's weekly schedule
3) Have Gogo adjusted chiropractically
4) Move into the next size paddock (step up from medical paddock)
5) Be a better record keeper!! (I was a slacker this month and my day-to-day written record keeping was not very good. I am normally great at this so I need to get my butt in gear!!)

Hopefully, our weather will stay nice and everyone (barn cats included) won't be stuck inside looking out anymore...

Friday, October 1, 2010

NOT a WEG post!

I am pretty sure that half the people I know are all at the WEG right now. Blog posts, Facebook updates, texts and e-mails all regale me with tales of world class riders and horses all dancing together under one Kentucky sky. And I... am sitting here in a rainstorm in New England, very clearly NOT at the WEG. I almost had an opportunity to go, but it was too last minute and our staffing situation is too fragile for me to risk leaving right now, so here I am. It's all right though.... I honestly would have never been able to afford it. The prices for tickets alone are ridiculous and I unfortunately have more important things to waste money on, like feeding myself. (Who does that.)

Rather than grump around (although I did afford myself a grump day or two last week when I found out my ingenious plan to make getting to the WEG work actually wasn't going to work at all), I put my time to good use. After my anti-arena bareback dressage-hack on Monday, I did some actual real dressage on Tuesday, and given all our wet weather found myself riding in the indoor arena for the first time in seven months. SEVEN! I somehow managed to avoid it for that long. I never ride indoors unless I have to. I do appreciate having the ability to have indoor access in the winter - an expensive luxury, especially here when land is scarce and property taxes are high - but if I don't HAVE to be in there, I won't be. My outdoor is totally flooded at the moment, so I really have no choice. I thought she would be spooky, freaky and wild, but she was honestly very quiet. Apparently, the door grelins were not around for our ride... or maybe her brain just settled down a little with all the steady work and turnout. Either way, she was quite magnificent, and while she didn't give me anything outstandingly amazing, I could not have asked for better behavior on her part. The work was fairly simple - walk/trot/canter, circling, some small lateral work at the walk, and transitions - but she was really quite good. It's interesting to note - I haven't ever gotten to that sweet spot with her that I normally do during our dressage rides in the past year, but the overall quality of the work is much more solid and higher. When I put up a contact and ask her to go for it, she does. Last year she would have fussed and fussed for 45 minutes and then finally gotten to the sweet spot, the perfect relaxation and harmony that I love finding in this mare. This year, it seems, she's grown up a lot mentally and going to a moment right before breaking into the sweet spot, but never quite gets to that point. There's more of a positive tension in the rides, more muscle action. I think we'll eventually get to that state of serious relaxation and ease, and the work is generally of a much higher quality anyway so I'm happy with it at this point. I went back and watched some of my dressage tests from last year, and I am shocked at how much better she moves now overall. I'll have to see if I can get comparison videos up here, you won't believe it.

Wednesday, I received an early morning phone call from Bettina stating that she and the ladies (her clients at my barn) wanted to treat me to a lesson with Wendy Murdoch, a clinician specializing in rider biomechanics. She was coming that day to do some work with a few of our ladies, and I was totally floored by the gracious offer. Seriously, could these people be any sweeter??

We have one tiny partially failed blip of the lesson, and nothing more:

The sound on my camera isn't working either... video fail. What I like best about the video despite the technically issues are the couple of strides she takes right before she halts. She has SUSPENSION! And it just happened that way, it wasn't asked for or done on purpose. She's a fairly flat mover who uses her energy efficiently, so to see that was exciting. There's promise for collection after all!

The lesson went very well. It was completely focused on me, and had pretty much nothing to do with Gogo. Wendy first realigned my pelvis, which has a tendency to tip dramatically forward, and had me walk a few circles to get used to it. I was amazed to find how much more secure my seat was - and it had nothing to do with strength in my abs. It was all in my spinal alignment. Next, Wendy took my right leg and twisted it, shook it, wiggled it, and moved it around until it loosened up a bit and she was able to put it back in the stirrup in a different location. "You were taught to wrap your legs around your horse weren't you!" she exclaimed. Yes, indeed I was! She then told me that the way we are taught to do that isn't actually biomechanically possible, which wasn't a surprise to me. It seriously torques your knee if you overdo it. She had me walk and trot around like that, with one fixed leg and one incorrect leg, and it was amazing how much more stability I had in my fixed leg. No wiggles, no bounces! I wasn't rising up off my stirrup anymore! She went ahead and wiggled my left leg as well, the one with all the hip issues, and went about it in a completely different way. Once I was realigned and rewiggled, I went off to walk and trot with this new balance. It was very different! It felt much better, but I had a difficult time maintaining it. My legs just wanted to slide right back into their old spot. I think I will need to practice with it quite a lot, and Wendy gave me some on the ground homework which involves standing facing a wall, placing my legs hip width apart and my kneecaps touching the wall, and posting with my hips. It's HARD! Never thought there would be a day when I'd need to relearn how to use my hips while posting. I've got some real work to do!

The only unfortunate thing about this lesson was that it took place on Wednesday, my usual trailering out hack day and the only nice day we had all week. It looked like this all day:

Which was amazing, but depressing since we were in the indoor. Shortly thereafter, the rain started to fall, and it literally had not stopped since. Road are closed and flooded, things are washing and blowing away, and the horses have been stuck inside for two days. Apparently, Mother Nature is making up for all the rain we didn't get all summer. I had hoped to possibly get a few horses out today, but I just looked up and it is torrentially pouring once again. Great.

So for the third day in a row, yesterday we were stuck in the indoor. I had on my jumping tack and the world's tiniest gymnastic set up, and it was interesting trying to translate what I had taken out of my lesson in dressage tack, and apply it to the following day in jumping tack. Weirdly enough, I think my jumping equitation is about as good as it's ever been... on the flat. Over fences, well... there's some work to be done. But I am aware of my faults and I know how to fix them in theory, it's just lessons and practice from here on out. The exercise I set up was simple, just three trot poles to a small crossrail, but after a few good times through it I put up a very small vertical and gave it a try:

A little awkward, a little sloppy for both of us, but successful and quiet. Sweet!!!

Today was a total washout with all the rain, so my scheduled hack didn't end up happening, but that's all right. She'll have today off instead of Sunday, and I will hack out up the road either tomorrow or Sunday, and hopefully head to the beach on the other day.

I might not be in Kentucky right now, but I sure have some....


Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure....

Kincardine, Ontario, Canada.

Where we often took our boat in the summertime while traveling up Lake Huron. Kincardine is an awesome little town that calls to my Scottish heritage with summertime bagpipe parades in full kilt attire. Yes, we are flying a Canadian flag on our US vessel - when traveling into a foreign port it is customary to fly a courtesy flag on the bow while also flying your own home country flag at the stern, 1" of flag for every 1' of vessel. (I know, it's weird.) We always knew we were arriving safely in Canadian waters when my father would call for the kids to get the flags out.

They keep telling me they're selling the Sapphire and I keep telling them that they just can't. Truth of the matter is that she's 13 years old now, and I haven't even seen her for at least three years - maybe even four. But... they can't sell her, that's like selling off a member of the family! :(