Custom blog header by Bre!

In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Official AEC Countdown: 10 (Nearly 9) Days!!!!!

Okay. First of all I thought you all should know that Gogo has a secret ambition to be a show hunter. Why? Oh I dunno. I have to say, I think that's as correct as I've ever seen her form be. She is always very tidy with her legs, but doesn't often have that kind of bascule, nor are her front legs so evenly matched usually. Lovely. And as for me? Let's just say I need to get it together because I am the STAIN in that otherwise GORGEOUS photo! As you can tell I was on DEFENSIVE OVERKILL. I guess you can't blame me given the entire month of July. Well, at least it's better than it was earlier in the summer, that's for sure. But I have not regained my former poise over fences that I was almost achieving last year. But just look at her go. That was a nice lopey canter for her, really. Can you just imagine when she's actually galloping?

Gogo is back to serious work as of yesterday and has been a right snot about it, followed by a dash of fabulous. Generally, after a bit of downtime I start back up with a hack, but I wanted to get on her and test the gears, and get down to a bit of work given our dwindling time before the AECs! She was understandably a bit body-stiff when we first started out, but some w/t/c on the buckle sorted her out and loosened her up. It took awhile, but she eventually unkinked her body and became quite supple. We didn't do much beyond w/t/c, transitions, leg yields, and a few very minor lengthenings, but that was enough. She didn't have a lot of adjustability within gaits, but she was starting to tire a little by the end, so I called it a day on a perfectly square halt. Today, we went back out for another dressage session and she, for whatever reason, was NOT in the mood to play at first. Given the fact that she's, well, Gogo, I gave her some room to be herself, and she fussed, fussed, fussed, fussed. After about 45 minutes of mediocre fussy work, I finally halted and had her stand there on contact for a few minutes. Sometimes, this is all she needs to really let go and relax for whatever reason, and it worked today. She then gave me about 15 minutes of absolutely LOVELY work - incredibly supple both directions and very adjustable within gaits. We schooled some very nice leg yields, played with shoulder-in, did rapid-fire transitions (which completely blow her mind when she's not relaxed, but really engage her when she IS relaxed), and played with shallow loops in canter. To my great delight, she swelled like a sail and filled both reins during these, and gave me some very good ones going left. Now, given our previous difficulties going right, and our previous difficulties with counter-canter to begin with, I haven't done a successful shallow loop in canter going to the right on her.... well, maybe ever. Today, with minor trepidation and curiosity, I attempted one going right after a few going left, and lo and behold, she gave me an absolutely magnificent one, better than the ones going left, and as we rounded the corner I asked for a canter-halt, and BAM! Perfectly balanced, perfectly square. I ended on that, how could I ask for better? It was like she was gearing up over the past two rides to be perfect at the end of this one. We're dressage-ing for the next two days as well, and then HOPEFULLY getting an XC school in as well as some conditioning work. Valinor is holding open schooling on their course this week and weekend, but - alas - it is three hours away. That sounds like GREAT fun, but three hours....? That's a bit far. I've tried to get in contact with Mistover, but haven't heard back via e-mail, so I will try to call tomorrow instead. Maybe back to Red Rock? I dunno. I need WATER! Real up-down, in-out WATER!

I am happy to say that the weird mystery swellings in Gogo's front legs finally have an actual cause - NASTY SCURF! She had a rather extended bit of time off last week, long than I wanted, because I was so paranoid about the S word and the residual puffiness. It didn't seem to make sense though, her weird puffiness in relation to the S word, because she's been sound this whole time, and literally within 10 seconds of walking out of her stall, all the puffiness vanished. No heat, no residual swelling... just excess fluid, so it seemed. As it turns out, she had scurf forming under her hair, and linimenting and wrapping only served to make it explode. GROSS. I ended up clipping all hour lower legs today (which I didn't really want to do but I HAD to get it under control!), and scrubbing them with anti-gross shampoo. Most of the scurf went away - yay! - but you could tell when I was clipping her that it was REALLY bothering her. She spent most of her time jerking her legs away from me when I went to clip the scurfier spots, which was just tons of fun for me, let me tell you. So PHEW to that. We'll see tomorrow morning if it made any difference in the puffiness. I also managed to pull her mane in a way that thinned it without shortening it at all. Mad skills. Her buttons require a slightly longer mane than typical hunter braids would call for, but it needs to be fairly thin at the same time to really look good. Her mane would really love to be THICK and all over the place, so it's a constant uphill battle of epic proportions. It's actually been laying down all on the right side this week all by itself, so I must be doing something right.

Saturday I managed to get ALL THIS STUFF DONE!:
Take everything out of trailer tack room and vacuum the floor
Go through all boxes in trailer
Remove dirty blankets from trailer
Go through all buckets in trailer – clean everything in them!!
Call IL Ag Dept
Put health papers in CAR!
Organize show clothes
Don’t forget show BELT
Put show pads in trailer
FIND STOCK PIN! (Which was a fail... I seem to have lost it.)
Put show clothes in trailer
Pick up coats from drycleaners and put in trailer
Go through all stuff in trailer, figure out what I need to replace
Get SAFETY PIN for my dressage coat (I need a new one... this one fits horribly!)
Clean safety vest

Sunday I was much less productive:
Get new boot shine for tall boots
Wash/clean Gogo’s boots

And today I managed to get these few things done:
Wash sheets
Put boots (inc. new bells) in trailer
Order needed supplies (Showsheen, poultice, hoof polish)
Clip legs
Pull mane

On our merry way, we are. Once the clock rolls over to midnight, 9 DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(2008 AEC Picture of the Day: Gogo and I getting ready for one booty-kickin' XC run!!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's in a name? (Official AEC Countdown: 10 Days!!)

It's one o'clock at this current moment in time but I am entierly too riled to go to sleep just yet, all thanks to Tarantino's current masterpiece Inglourious Basterds. I absolutely ADORE Tarantino and place him directly behind Tim Burton as my second all-time favorite director (what can I say, I am into weird things). Come to think of it, I'm not sure I have a third favorite. Anything these two produce I will go see, no questions asked. And they always deliver.

But that's not quite the point of this post, though related to be sure. The point of this post is this: what's in a name? Dear readers, how did YOUR horse get their current name? Do you believe the tommyrot that says you should never change a horse's name due to bad luck? I don't, and two of my three horses have had their names changed because of it (informally, anyway, as they did keep their registered names). True, the second of these three had THE worst luck EVER; however the one that DID keep his name died a very painful and violently horrible death, so I'm going to guess that names are not really revelant to luck in this case. And really, I DID show him under a name I created, so in that case... all of them had new names, and all of them had equally interesting/uninteresting ways of being christened.

And their names and how they got them? Quincy was the first.... and always Quincy. Quincy came with Quincy, and I think if I didn't associate it with such a wonderful animal I would simple detest the name. It's so petit-bourgeois, you know? And his registered name? Worse. Quintius. Who names a horse Quintius? Quintius is a shared middle name for a bunch of Romans who amounted to absolutely nothing at all. Not something to live up to, really. But there he was, Quincy and always Quincy. I did show him as Quintius for our first ever show, but the name was just repugnant. At the time, I was a HUGE Beatles fanatic (still am, actually, but I do listen to other music now.... doesn't EVERY high school kid go through a phase where they listen to NOTHING but Beatles music for awhile?), and I happened one day to be going through a dictionary looking for something or another for homework. I was in the Q section, and my eyes stopped at the entry for "queue." Q for Quincy.... Queue for Quincy. I've got it! In The Queue, like from George's good old Old Brown Shoe! "For your sweet love I'm in the queue, baby I'm in love with you!" It fit, and In The Queue he was. I still love the name, totally. So barn name Quincy, registered name Quintius, and show name In The Queue. In The Queue was the only change I made.

The second? Metro. But oh no, he did not come with Metro. Metro was... Blue. Yep.... good ol' Blue. Now, he came from THE most awesome family EVER who had him for his entire life before they sold him to me (the mother of the family pulled him out of his dam!), but he did not have the most awesome name. His registered name? "Blue Rodeo." BLUE RODEO? That is the perfect name for a ranch-bred QH... not an enormous, old-blood Trakehner. I later found out that Blue Rodeo is actually a bluegrass band from BFE, Canada, so I guess it had to come from somewhere. So the name Blue had to go. Now, I was a 19 year-old smartass. Really. However, I did not possess a lot in the way of brains. Metro literally got his show name (and subsequent barn name) as my idea of a snarky poke at hoity-toity German warmbloods with their hoity-toity German names. I mean, how many German fancies are out there with the name Wirklichbeeindruckendpferd? Probably a lot. By the way, that's a rough translation of the merged words "Really Awesome Horse." I thought I'd take a little stab at their fancy German names and dub my own fancy German-blooded animal Motörhead. Yep, Motörhead! One joke for the win! Later it occured to me that there's actually nothing German about that... AT ALL. Motörhead was not a German band in the slightest... they were a British rock band. Not to mention the fact that motorhead is a bit of American slang for - you guessed it - a speed freak. And you can say all you want about flying down the highway at at 100mph, but that only applies to this term if you also happen to have a large amount of ice in your system. Nice. But now that my horse had an unintentionally questionable (albeit INCREDIBLY AWESOME) show name, how to find his perfect barn name? Simple. Flip through a catalogue of Motörhead of songs..... and there was one starting with an M, Metropolis. Ah ha! Metro! Perfect. Why just not name him Metropolis? my poor mother pleaded. It's so much more sophisticated. Nay, I told my mother. Motörhead it was, and Metro for short. So barn name Metro (original name Blue), show name Motörhead (original name Blue Rodeo), and registered name Blue Rodeo. I only kept Blue Rodeo because there is no changing a registered name.

And Gogo? Oh my dear Gogo. This is where Tarantino comes back into our story. When I bought Gogo, she came with the name Revelea. Beautiful, just beautiful, yes? But not very fitting as a barn name, and it certainly didn't fit her personality. I was never given a barn name, so I'm not sure what the original was, if there was one different from Revelea. I came very close to naming her Parlez-Vous?, and having the barn name Vous, which I think I would have been satisfied with. However, I just couldn't get over the idea of having to cringe at every show while every announcer butchered the name - ParLEZZZ VOOOSS? Wrong. (I seem to have made it no easier for announcers with her current name however - at Huntington, I vividly recall them announcing her as "Gogo Foxtail." WTF?) This was the summer of my internship, of course, and it so happened one day while I was pondering names that I happened to also be chatting with my supervisor/assistant manager of the place. She, for whatever reason, was chatting about the owner's kids' ponies names, back when they were little, and she mentioned the pony "Gogo" in passing. "GOGO?" I shrieked. "THAT'S THE PERFECT NAME!" In a twist of fate that completely solidified my decision, I happened to be watching Kill Bill Vol. I later on that same day (which I absolutely adore... back to Tarantino). There happens to be a very awesome antagonist named Gogo Yubari in the film, and when she came on screen swinging her spikey ball and chain weapon I made my naming decision. But Gogo Yubari was too much of a mouthful to say... and somehow wasn't fitting. There is another character in the film that works with O-Ren named Sofie Fatale, and I put the two together. Gogo Fatale. My little femme fatale in horse form. I call it her James Bond Girl title. So barn name Gogo, show name Gogo Fatale, and registered (although yet unregistered... that is another story for another day) name Revelea. I do still love the name Revelea and have it on her show halter, actually. But still. Gogo Fatale is honestly THE perfect name for her.

I think I should make it a tradition to name my horses after Tarantino film combo-names. Maybe Gogo's first filly could be Shosanna Fatale. That would be wicked sweet.

Or maybe just weird cause it's 2 o'clock in the morning. Perhaps I should get to bed.

Tell me readers, how did your horse(s) get his/her/their name(s)? I want to know!

(There is much to write about Lady Gogo, but alas, it is bedtime. I will have more tomorrow, I promise. 10 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The MASTER LIST OF DOOM (Official AEC Countdown: 13 days!)

HOLY MOM. I have a VERY LONG LIST of things to do before the AECs, and I just wanted to share what I have so far (because I KNOW I am missing SOMETHING)!


Take everything out of trailer tack room and vacuum
Go through all boxes in trailer
Remove dirty blankets from trailer
Go through all buckets in trailer – clean everything in them!!
Call IL Ag Dept
Put these papers in CAR!
Organize show clothes
Don’t forget show BELT
Put pads in trailer
Put show clothes in trailer
Put pads in trailer
Wash/clean Gogo’s boots
Pick up coats and put in trailer
Go through all stuff in trailer, figure out what I need to replace
Look up VACCINES stuff
Clean vest

Wash sheets
Make up new Lasersheen
Get new boot shine

Get new tack organized
Get new pieces of bridle?
Take in Patron for repairs

Memorize dressage test
Pick up Patron??

Get needed supplies

Get ride times

Check photo card?
Clean Patron inside AND out
Chrome polish

Take trailer to car wash and wash
Add new bedding to back
Air in trailer tires
Air in Patron tires?
Oil change...??

Get directions to hotel
Get directions to showground
Clean out and redecorate brush box
Wash all brushes
Clean shipping boots
Charge cameras!
Trim feet
Polish boots
Don’t forget cameras!!
Pack clothes and books and stuff
Don’t forget OMNIBUS

Clean dressage tack
Clean jumping tack
Head count – boots, gloves, spurs, helmet
Put helmet in trailer
Metal polish
Don’t forget bits, both!!
Clean helmet
Don’t forget Supracor
Don’t forget ALOE!!!!!!!!!
Inventory ALL MY STUFF, make sure I have it all!!
Give Adaquan
Give Legend?
Pack grain (supps), hay, shavings
Get cat/dog stuff ready for Shannon (litter, food, etc)
Bring extra Showsheen/Back On Track boots/sheets
Hook up
Gas up


Put sleazies on

Wash show pads/earnet
Put pin back on pad
Have coats drycleaned
Patron damage appraisal
Put helmet cover in trailer

That list is subject to change. It gets very empty in the middle because I KNOW I won't get everything that I say I will get done actually DONE tomorrow! And you better believe my truck and trailer are going to the carwash for major cleaning, and the chrome on them BOTH is getting polished - we can't roll into the AECs looking like a right mess now can we? Patron is also going in for repairs on Monday - the back automatic window in the cab is stuck open and refuses to close, so that needs to be attended to. It also now needs bodywork because one of our boarders backed into it as I was getting ready to leave for Huntington (ahhhhh Pat!!!!!), and while it's just superficial bumper work it still needs to be done... probably can't be seen til after the AECs though, oh well.

13 (almost 12) days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(2008 AEC Picture of the Day: Gogo and I with our 6th place, feeling very proud!)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Official AEC Countdown: 15 Days!

The AECs are now only 15 (almost 14) days away. Gogo has had the past three days off due in large part to a major chiropractic adjustment that she had on Monday. It was a sort of last minute thing, but I am REALLY glad I got it done. Something was telling me she needed this one last little boost to put her fully back on track, and it looks like I was right. Score one for me (score zero for my pocketbook).

Dr. A is seriously awesome. I mean, seriously. Gogo was pretty tired and butt-sore as hell on Monday, which was understandable as it was her first big effort since the Doxy took such a hard toll on her a few weeks ago, and the courses were tough. She had some fill in all four legs despite wraps and poultice the night before, and since she's found she has a right leg after all post hock injections, and is figuring out brand new ways to unload it, her left side needed some major work. In fact, when Dr. A ran his hands down her scapula on her left side, she turned around and almost bit him! Gogo, biting a human! I think that's never happened before in her life, I didn't know she had that in her! Her neck and shoulder were pretty locked up on her left side, so he did some major work there, and various points down her mid to low back needed work as well. Her sore, sore butt had some serious acupuncture and B-vit injections done to it, on both sacral points and on several varying places on her left side including points on her low back and hip triads. Those muscles worked very hard, and while there wasn't much to adjust there, it needed a little love. The part that surprised me was that he needed to adjust her navicular in her RH (I didn't know you could do that!), and that there was some crazy stuff going on in her LF that very easily could have turned into a major injury. Her accessory carpal bone (the big one at the back of the knee) was out of alignment, putting stress on her suspensory. As a result, she was sensitive to palpation there (and I about died when that happened... having lost my last one to a neverending suspensory, it's an evil word to me). Dr. A was quick to calm me though, and said that he would see what we could do chiropractically. As it turned out, once he adjusted her accessory carpal bone, the sensitivity went away. Her navicular was also jammed, so he adjusted that too with his funny chirpractor hammer thing. I was SERIOUSLY relieved and eternally grateful to both him and my funny little intuition - as Dr. A said, a misaligned accessory carpal bone is a common way to stress out - and injure - a suspensory, which I didn't know. To play it safe, we decided to give her the following two days off and to ice, liniment and wrap her. Good news - the following day, I palpated the crap out of that suspensory, and she wasn't sensitive in the slightest to anything I did. She also jogged out sound as could be, and the fill disappeared. I feel as though we may have narrowly avoided something that could have turned into a very bad situation. THANK YOU DR. A SERIOUSLY. As per all the other things he adjusted, she's been standing with her head and neck lower than normal, especially when she wasn't feeling well, and after all that adjusting he did, her head and neck were back to the height she always used to hold it at when she scared non-horsey friends for looking so tall (she's barely 16.1 and a half so looking tall really means something... she's a shrimp compared to everybody else here!). I think she is feeling good and comfortable all over now, given her improved posture, but I'm seriously glad I had that adjustment done. She needed it. It cost a little more than he usually charges me, given the tons of acupuncture he did, but I see it as such - I'm not shelling out $400 for shoes every 6 weeks, so $150 every three months is a good trade off!!

The other really interesting thing he did related to the kinesiology he and his wife do. You can read a little more about the kinesiology he did last time here. (And I like that post because it talks about everything falling into place before Groton House, and how I felt like we were ready to play with the Big Boys there and how we had a good chance of doing well. Yea we did!!) I told him about the Lyme, the Doxy, and the aloe juice, and he asked about her diet. Then he did something I didn't expect - he checked her through the kinesiology to see if each feed was actually agreeing with her GI system. Gogo, as of Monday, was eating 2.0lbs of Gro N' Win (Buckeye's ration balancer) and 1.0lb of Triple Crown's Complete, spread out over 3 meals. The Complete, I told him, was just a source of empty calories and could be replaced with anything. The Gro N' Win was the only important part. He took a handful of the Gro N' Win, placed his cupped hand over her croup, checked the energy through his wife, and found it to be good. He checked the Complete through the same method, and found it to be in disagreeance with her system. We checked the other available grains that we feed that I would consider giving her as a source of empty calories, and found Senior to be in disagreeance as well, but the Safechoice was good (it's a low starch medium fat Nutrena product... even though I'm not too keen on it because it's a "least cost" product, which essentially means that as long as the company gets in the required percentage levels of whatever they promise on the feet bag, they can use whatever ingredients they want to achieve those means. And they can and do change without warning, and from batch to batch of grain. For instance, during the beet pulp shortage? Beet pulp disappeared from it. This isn't something specific to Nutrena, any feed company can be guilty of it. I would TOTALLY chose Nutrena over Purina any day, just so you know, I'm not ragging on them at all!) I wasn't really keen on any of them, but figured I needed to go with the one that agreed with her system. He tested the aloe juice as well, and found that to be fine. I know it sounds REALLY weird, but hey, I believe in a body's energy flow so I think there's something to it.
As it turned out, Shannon had been talking about barley as a product that a woman she used to know swears is great for putting condition and topline on horses, and I've heard similar comments elsewhere. While barley itself doesn't have anything particularly glaring in it that would bulk up a topline (lots of carbs, not too much protein, about 11-13%), and as a stand-alone grain isn't good without other supplementation, we figured that on top of the Gro N' Win, why not? We'll give it a shot and see what it does. As a whole, unprocessed grain (except for being crushed prior to bagging), it's simple on the GI system, it's a decent source of energy, and it's inexpensive. If it doesn't work, we'll just pull it easy as pie. I used to feed Metro barley to go along with his Prime... poor guy needed nearly 15lbs of grain a day and as much hay as I could shove into him to keep condition when he was showing. Gogo, not so much! 3lbs of grain and she's likely going to balloon. I'm keeping my eye on that!

So we'll see what they barley does. It's gotta be better than the Complete, anyway! She is now eating this:
6am: 1 flake grass hay, 0.5lbs Gro N' Win, 0.5lbs crushed barley, sprinkling of electrolytes, DMG, raspberry leaf, 50 Doxycycline
6:30am-12pm: Turnout... as much hay and pasture as she can eat! (If she is for some reason in at 9am or 11am, she'll also get a flake of hay at each. We feed hay 6 times a day)
2pm: 1 flake grass hay
4pm: 1-2 flakes grass hay, 1.0lbs Gro N' Win, 0.5lbs crushed barley, sprinkling of electrolytes, Cosequin ASU, 50 Doxycycline
8pm: 1-2 flakes grass hay, 0.5lbs Gro N' Win, 0.5lbs crushed barley
She also often gets grazed at night on the really good stuff, mmmmmmmm.

We're back to work tomorrow with a nice relaxing hack (or maybe not so relaxing.... she has had three days off, you know!), and then back to dressage Friday and Saturday. Sunday we'll go on our conditioning hack, Monday we'll gallop, and Tuesday-Thursday we're back to dressage. I'd like to get just one last XC session in with her, but we may not be able to swing that. I want somewhere with a nice water complex with banks in and out, and I don't think I'm going to be able to find that with Town Hill now closed. We shall see!

15 days and counting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Gogo being a ham after winning a combined test at South Farm last summer.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Huntington Farms H.T. 9/23/09


Or well, almost ;) Gogo and I took 5th in our division at Huntington this weekend due to a bad ride to the planks on my part and a subsequent slip in the mud during stadium, which cost us a rail even though Maresie did her very best to get us out of a bad situation. Oops! Rails happen, and when they're my fault combined with Mother Nature... oh well!

Huntington was GREAT fun. The drive wasn't nearly as bothersome as I expected, and I spent it cruising along with good music enjoying myself. It got wilder and more woodsy the further north I went, and I was reminded of driving through nothern Michigan. Except for the "Bear Crossing" and "Moose Crossing" signs. Bears?? Moose?? I've never even seen a moose, I don't think. I almost hit a bear wearing a giant radio collar with my Durango when I was driving through Sequoia National Park in California. I saw bears once outside a restaurant in the Yoop (that's Michigan's Upper Penninsula for those of you not from there... believe it or not, yes, Michigan is actually two states with one name, separated by water.) But it certainly felt like I was heading into the Wops the further I went.
Gogo settled in like a good girl upon arrival - we were in the upper barn on top of a hill, overlooking the rest of the valley we were in. Huntington has a ton of land, it seems, or at least had permission to use an awful lot of land! The barn had a narrow little entrance door and low ceilings, but the stalls were big and roomy and she seemed very comfortable there. She even only tried to attack her neighbors once or twice, how sweet.

As for me, once I got her settled I headed out to walk XC, where it promptly started to rain on me. From that point on, I'm pretty sure I didn't dry out until I got in the car to drive home the next day. After getting a good look at the course (and getting thoroughly soaked), I gave Gogo her night check, and settled into the trailer for the night. I had one of her blankets spread onto the floor of the trailer (after it was cleaned out of course!!), a sleeping bag and pillow on top of that, and my cooler of snacks, backpack of stuff, and Harry Potter to keep me company in the rain. And it rained alllllllllllllll night. Lights were out by 10pm (unusual for me!), and I awoke the next morning on my own at 6:30am feeling refreshed and ready to roll.

Dressage went well. I did not achieve nearly the level of relaxation that I usually do, even after an hour of warmup (easy there beast... still hot to trot after an hour? Well... here goes nothing...!) but she put in a very solid test even though it felt like if I had needed a half-halt anywhere, I wouldn't have been able to get one! We came away with a test of solid 7's, two 8's, and one deserved 6 for our freewalk. Still, that gave us a 29.5, our best score of this season so far, and putting us in 3rd behind a tie for 1st with two 28.5s. Pretty respectable! A friend I had made at Mystic was in 5th with either a 31.0 or a 31.5, I can't remember, but that gives you an idea of how close the scores were! I can't rememeber where our winner was sitting after dressage, but it must have been right around there. I was pleased with the score and the test, but still got the same old comments as always - needs more activity behind and needs better left bend. Well... I guess the hock injections didn't exactly solve that issue either. Guess it's back to a rider problem... d'oh!

Onto XC, which I was understandably a little nervous about. It had been drizzling on and off, and I was feeling a bit anxious, because how could I not after our past two shows? But I needn't have worried. The course was quite long for Novice - optimum time was nearly 6 minutes, I think Groton House's was a little over 5 minutes, for comparison - and it was very long and gallopy, like a lot of people had told me ahead of time. The first fence was very inviting, enclosed on both sides and simple to look at:

And she jumped it like a champ. From there, it was a nice long gallop to fence 2, another attractive brushy fence with a turny approach to it, which she took slightly crooked but showed no hesitation to. Up into the woods from there, down a long road which put you back out into a small field where fence 3 was:

Again, fairly sizeable, very inviting, and she gave it a very good effort. Up into the woods and down the dirt road again, and around a corner to the biggest field where fence 4 was waiting, which again gave no problems:

Fence 5, which barely missed being included in that picture, was a big swing around to the left, easy for her, another simple palisade/coop type jump, and from there you headed to fence 6, a very sweet tire jump which she looked at in a sort of curious way but never hesitated to on approach. It was like she was going oh, that's nicely built isn't it? And on we went. Fence 7 was a simple palisade, and on we went to fence 8, which was our first real question:

That's the backside of it. Notice the funky hill right before it? I know that seems uncomplicated, but Gogo has this tendancy to gather speed going down hills, and I was not about to be going a thousand miles an hour at the bottom of this little speed bump here only to have her go hmmmm I am going too fast and can't POSSIBLY be expected to jump this! What I had planned to do was come down the short side of the hill at a trot and risk a steering issue rather than risk a speed issue coming over the hill. I needn't have worried, however, because even though she simply would not trot, she came around that shorter side of the hill and was completely game to it, jumping it just fine. Hooray! From here, I don't have any more pictures (it was raining pretty hard at that time and I didn't want to get my camera all wet), but I will describe it as best I can. I wish I had gotten to take more pictures, there are some things I wish you guys could see! After fence 8 was a hard right turn to a one stride combination of simple logs, and fence 10 was a white barn/doghouse, all of which she handled easily. It got trickier from there - fence 11 was a set of airy logs at the top of a pretty steep hill, which you had to jump while you were still going up, and she gave it a mighty effort which I was very impressed with - I'm pretty sure she's never jumped anything quite like that before. The meat of the course started at fence 12, the ditch, which was kind of weird looking. From the ditch, you had just a couple of strides to make it to fence 13, an offset coop off to the right, and then it was onto the upbank, with another offset approach to it - it was basically arcing around these three all going to the right in a circle. The bank was interesting - it was set at the top of a hill in a circular shape, and they called it The Castle. In the middle of The Castle was a chevron from Training the day before, so you had to crank left in order to not run into it when you reached the top of the bank. From there, it was down a fairly steep little section of hill to a set of brushy logs at the bottom, which was complicated to get to because you had a fairly narrow path going left off of The Castle (so you didn't fall off the other sides), and then you had to go right down this steep-ish hill to the brushy log. Complicated for her, to be sure, but she took all of it in stride and was completely game and relaxed through the whole thing. She never hesitated once, even though it went so fast I don't think I had time to register hardly any of it! It was a loooooooooooong gallop down a dirt road from there to fence 16, a set of logs set on a downhill slope, which she hopped over easily. Down a pretty turfed up hill we went, at the bottom of which was the water complex. I had planned on trotting this hill, but again, she came back to me instead in a very controlled canter and so I let her cruise comfortably down the hill that way. She looked at the water for a second - it was a large puddle mostly - but a couple pops with my beater and she trotted right in, and out over the logs right after it. Wheeee down the final hill to the big white at the end, and I came home whooping and hollering like a backwoods redneck at the Friday night hoedown. My friend came in behind me and was equally as pleased with her ride, and we walked back together to stabling discussing our rides. I was thrilled. THRILLED! She was perfect!

I have no pictures of stadium either - bummer. The course was very turny, with rollbacks and some tight turns, and I think it would have been great fun if it hadn't been raining like crazy. Even though the XC footing had been fine, by the time we went for stadium, the ground there was very turfed and very slick. You know when the ground is so saturated that giant clods of grass just come loose when you step on them? It was that kind of slick. The first fence Gogo took in the warmup she knocked, which should have been my first clue that I should take it conservatively. She handled the course well through the 5th fence, but felt unstable in the footing, as did most everyone else, I think. It felt like it didn't have anything to due with her barefooted-ness either, because I know that question will get asked! I saw a shod horse with big ol' studs go sliding vertically into the first fence of the combination, simply because he said no after he had had a rail at the fence before it and just couldn't stop himself in the muck in time to not crash. I saw some earlier crashes too, while I was checking out the course for a second time. Ohhhh well, sometimes Mother Nature has some tricks up her sleeve! Anyway, it was onto a sort of awkward bending line onto fence 6, the evil planks on flat cups - o horrors, flat cups! - which I gave her a decidedly bad ride to. She landed on her right lead, and when I went to ask her to switch left, she cross-cantered. I'm not sure if she ever switched, really - the fence was approaching and I stopped paying attention because I didn't see a spot and I don't think she did either. As a result, she tried to save both our butts by leaving long, and just flopped through it, taking it down with her as we landed. The rest of the course she jumped her GUTS out though, which was super sweet and I was very proud of her. I came out of the ring feeling crappy about the injections - after all, this was the first time in the past 9 events we've gone to that she's had a rail, and this was the first post injections, you know. That theory didn't seem to make all that much sense to me though, and when we went back into the ring for our victory gallop, I took another look at the fence. Yep, there they were, skid marks from two hind feet losing their purchase as a horse tried to take off! Ohhhhhhhh I get it, she likely just slipped in the footing while trying to cover my butt for me and just couldn't quite manage it. But she tried, and that's all that matters to me.

We finished 5th on our final score of 33.5. That's pretty respectable if you ask me for our first time back out, and in very stiff competition too. The top 5 places ALL moved around after stadium, it was crazy! The girl that was in 1st also had a rail, so had we gone clean, we would have moved into 1st for our 4th win of the season - d'oh again! - but as our winner pointed out in a comment on my last post, karma was throwing her a bone after a very bad week, so I will totally agree to the universe's choice here ;) (By the way, I DID notice your horse's huuuuuge ears... I LOVE that, my last gelding had MONSTER ears so I have a soft spot for them, lol). I also have to say I think I would have keeled over dead if we had actually won another one. Winning three is freaky enough for me, and winning three in a row? TOO freaky. Winning FOUR? If we do win another I think I'm going to die of a heartattack.

I can't believe how amazing she was. This pink ribbons means a lot more to me than all the blue ones it's next to. She galloped her heart out, jumped her guts out, and did her very best through some very tricky coursework and some very ucky footing. She wasn't spooky, looky, hesitant, or balky in any way. She really gave it her all for me, and I couldn't be happier with how she was.

The best part? Look at this face after we were done:

That is one happy horse with energy still left in the tank. She was plenty tired today, but yesterday she was still buzzed after we were done and searching for more cookies. She's back to her old self, and I am SERIOUSLY excited for the AECs. The official countdown is 15 days starting tomorrow (Tuesday), and we leave on the 7th. Gogo had a chiro adjustment today, which I will write about tomorrow cause this is getting LONG, and because of it she'll have a couple of days off. It's back to work on Thursday with a nice long hack, and then it's down to business. The wire is approaching, and I can't believe it. How are the AECs right around the corner already??

It was a great weekend, and I'm so glad to have my horse back to her good old self again.


I will have a more detailed post later, but I wanted you all to know this:

We were third after dressage with a 29.5 (our best score yet this year... 1st was a tie with two 28.5s), moved up into 2nd after a PERFECT XC (!!!!!!!!!), then slipped in the sloppy footing on takeoff to the plank during stadium and had a rail to finish 5th (it took me a little while to realize exactly what had happened! I came out of it going, man I can't believe that crash, it felt like she didn't push from behind at all... well she did, she just lost her grip as she was pushing! I gave her a decidedly bad ride to the fence and she did her best to get us out of there, but couldn't. There were marks by the fence from two hind feet losing their grip as we were taking off, and I looked and saw them and was like OHHHHHHH I GET IT NOW! The girl who was in first also had a rail, so had we gone clean, we would have won it. D'oh!)

Even though we moved from our potential 1st place down to 5th, I don't care. That rail was nobody's fault but my own (and Mother Nature's... it rained and rained and rained and rained and RAINED the night before, and during the day too!), and she tried her heart out. She was foot perfect on XC during a very loooooooooooong course with some pretty tough things on it for a horse who just a few weeks ago wouldn't even approach a simple upbank without losing her mind. I am SO proud of her and feel without a doubt that there will be nothing at the AECs that she can't handle.

I also had several people - the winner of our division included!! - come up to me to tell me how much they love this blog and that they're so glad she's back to her old self again. So to everyone I saw and met this weekend, THANK YOU for following and supporting us, and congratulations to our winner and to everyone else this weekend. You guys are the best!!

I'll write more later... as for now, off to work!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Off we go!

I apologize for not keeping up with everyone's blogs this week - I fail! ;) I also apolgize for the fact that you are not going to get a coursewalk before the show begins tomorrow. I am trailering up there today and spending the night camping out in the trailer (woo!) and there will obviously be no magic internets there. Let's hope the weather holds - after over a week of 90+ degree weather and 80+ percent humidity, it stormed like crazy yesterday and is still raining as we speak. Maybe I WON'T get to hack today after all! Blah!

All right, I have much to do before we leave this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed for a big shiney ribbon tomorrow and a happy kid and mare :D

It's redemption time!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Return of the Queen

SHE'S BACK! The Gogo I know and love, the cross-country machine.... oh she's back.

Thursday evening, Gogo, Shan and I all headed out to Red Rock Farm in Rhode Island to get some XC schooling in. I was slightly anxious about it, seeing as our last schooling at Mystic was only partially a success - but this was before the aloe juice and the hock injections. She came off the trailer and out onto the field like an old pro (which is normal for her... but hasn't been so much as of late!), and quietly wandered around behind Shannon while we checked out the grounds. It was a fairly small place, but there was a ton of stuff to school and it was all well built and well maintained, with banks, water, and a lot of varied jumps from teeny-tiny to Training. There was a ditch somewhere down one of the wooded trails, and Shannon stepped over it in front of Gogo. I let Gogo pick her path, remembering all too well how when we went to school at Mystic the other week, the sight of the ditch caused her to bolt sideways repeatedly. This time, she went, oh that's nice, never hesitated, and hopped over it practically ON TOP of Shannon! That's when I knew things were just going to go well.

And they really did. She was supurb, start to finish - acting just like her good ol' normal self again. All the brightly colored, funny looking ones, she never looked at. The bigger ones, she never hesitated at. She never hesitated at anything, really, except for the water, but I can understand why. The water was actually a stream that they had backed up and worked on, and it had a big bank out, a tiny bank out, and an open side, but the water was BLACK due to all the caca that grows in a pond in the August heat. They warned me about this ahead of time over the phone, so I knew it was coming and planned accordingly. She took a little while to convince that she should really go in, but once in, she walked and trotted in and out like a pro, up and down the tiny bank option. There was a bigger, Novice-sized bank next to the little one, and she and I were standing in the water in front of it, just relaxing for a minute. Much to my surprise (and delight, really), she went, okay we're facing that so it's time to go! and hopped up out of it from a standstill without me asking. Luckily at the last second I managed to grab onto my saddle as she was leaping so I didn't go flipping backwards over her butt into the water, lol. Boy look at those HOCKS MOVE! I haven't seen them flexing that much since she was 5!

We also found the actual bank complex, which was great - it had a tiny bank, a medium bank, and a large bank, all with very nice footing, and the medium bank had a two stride option after it. And this was where I found that I REALLY had my horse back! At Mystic, they have several banks, one of which is weenie teenie. Remember the nightmare at Riga, about the banks that she has ALWAYS done no problem all her life? Much of the same there at Mystic - I walked her up to the bank, and she put her head down and snorted at it like she had never seen a bank before, backing up as fast as she could as if terrified. But here? This is how Gogo normally walks up banks:

Woohoo my horse is back!! Don't mind the mad head tossing - she REALLLLLY hates bugs.

And she really just cruised around everything in the field perfectly. Approached every fence exactly the same, even the super scary ones. She didn't put a foot wrong anywhere. She did clock herself pretty hard on a bigger table, as you'll see in this next video, and even though she flopped over the next fence, she came back around to the table and jumped it with all her heart. Awesome.

Seriously, she was perfect. Perfect. PERFECT. If she takes on Huntington's XC course like she did this one.... we'll win. Horses can be unpredictable and you never know. But I am feeling REALLY good about this coming weekend and I can't wait to get her back around a full course. I can't even describe to you how good she feels. This is the Gogo that knows and loves her job. This is the Gogo that locks on to every fence with her ears forward and takes it all in stride, no matter what it is. This is the Gogo I know is in there.

We're ready. Two days.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Attitude X Factor

Gogo is feeling a whole world of better after the injections, aloe juice, and Doxy. And that's great! Except for one thing. When Gogo feels poorly, she gets very, very sweet, and very snuggly. She wants me to take her head in my arms and cuddle her, which is the way she's been for the past several weeks. And when Gogo feels good, she has an... attitude. Now that she's feeling REALLY good, she has a REALLY BIG ATTITUDE. Really.

For instance. All that cuddliness? Gone. I always give her a snuggle when I walk by her stall and she has her head poking out over her stall gate, and even just last week, she would cuddle up to me whenever I'd reach up to pull her face over. Now? Nope. She lifts her head away from me and looks away in a way that clearly says, "Mom. You're embarassing me." She's always been punky like this, so this is no surprise. But I was enjoying the sweetness!
And she's starting to do little things to try and reassert her alpha-ness, like I talked about in my last post. I stop her while leading, and she takes another step forward after she's supposed to be standing still. I lead her somewhere, and she lags behind, or drifts. I ask her to stand still, and she looks at me for a moment, then moves her feet. I've had her for three years... she knows the house rules by now. I am a self procleaimed manners nazi, just because horses are big and quite frankly, I'd rather not be getting dragged around, mauled for food, bitten in the butt/face/hand/boob/whathaveyou, or kicked in the head. One of my unbreakable golden rules is that you NEVER put your mouth on ANYTHING unless it is food that is specifically offered to you. She has never, never been mouthy in any way, so this has never been a problem. Alllllll the horses here chew on the crossties, except her, and when she tried this once or twice this past winter, she got a stern talking to. She never did it again. Until yesterday. AND she had the nerve to do it right in front of me. I was brushing her tail out with her paddle brush (yes, that gorgeous, thick, dreamy, shining tail? Yeah, I spritz on some Showsheen and rip a tailbrush through it. Every day.), and I looked up to see her craning her neck around to look at me. While she was staring at me, she purposely reached over and took the crosstie in her mouth. The flat end of the paddle brush made a very loud WHACK as it made contact with her butt, I can tell you that! She jumped a little, and held still for a moment. Then, she turned her head around to look at me again, and took the crosstie in her mouth AGAIN, as if to say HA! Your beatings cannot stop me! Cheeky, cheeky wench.
She also knows that at mealtimes, you hold still and you WAIT for your food. You don't eat it until you get out of my way and I give it to you, then walk away and leave you to it. You do not paw, bite things, kick the wall, scrape your teeth on stuff, pin your ears, or get in my space. Normally she's very polite about these things. But yesterday? She pinned her ears over her stall gate at everyone around her, made like she was going to kick the wall, then walked over to her feed bucket and scraped her teeth on the wall. Which she has done exactly ONCE before in her entire life. Again, another stern talking to. But what did she do just seconds later, when I walked away? Walked back over and scraped her teeth on the wall again. I walked into her stall as she was still doing it, whacked her one, backed her up into the corner, told her to stand and think about what she had done, and closed her door behind me. I fed everyone else, went and cleaned the back grounds, and then went back to feed her. She was still standing in her corner waiting for me. Sorry mare, but you know the rules! I am no-nonsense when it comes to rules on the ground. Everything is cut and dried, black and white. You can do this, and you can't do that, end of story, no exceptions. Today, she was back to her polite self about her food, but it wasn't without an air of disgust. She is very smart, especially about food - you get fed when you wait for me. If you don't wait for me, you don't get fed until you do. That is easy to put together, if you are a cheeky mare.

Under saddle, post injections, I had some sort of dream fantasty that Gogo would be totally thrilled to be feeling better, and would trot off like a million bucks right from the get go, and all would be fabulous! Ah... no. Gogo has other ideas. Yes, she is feeling a TON better, but since she is now finding it easier to do things with her body, she has an entire army of new ways to evade me. When she DOES get going well, the work is brilliant, but we are back up to our 45 minute warmups because she just isn't keen on playing the game just yet. I have to take a step back for a few days, I think, and just go back to letting her warmup by crusing around and being relatively benign to her. When I start asking her for more than she thinks she's ready for too early on in the ride, she just doesn't play. She won't. I can't make her. But when I stay quiet and just let her be for a little while, she always comes around. Always. And just from seeing her in the mirrors as we pass, she is moving phenominally, flexing her hocks more than she has in a very long time. She feels fantastic. She's just... punky.

Very, very punky.

Tomorrow comes the true test: we are going XC schooling at Red Rock in Rhode Island. It has water, banks, and plenty of varied jumps. And at $25 a school, it also has the right price. Very excited!

Boy I love that wenchista. I do really enjoy when she has this snarky attitude. It's never nasty in any way - never any pinned ears or grumpiness - but it definitely has an air of better-than-thou snootiness to it. Directing this cheekiness into productivity is a very refined art, and it's not easy. I don't pretend to be successful at it day in and day out. There are days that I just can't figure out how to approach it. And there are days when it all comes together and really clicks.

It's something I realy live for, every day.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Today was one big giant WIN! It was as if karma went, well all right, you've done alllllll the things you needed to do to get yourselves back on track, here's all your good luck back now!

First, I want to know who exactly swapped Gogo out for a Ferrari overnight? I did expect her to feel better after her hock injections, but WOW, it's a WORLD of difference. It was noticeable from the get go - she was standing way more comfortably in the aisle while I was grooming and tacking, hardly resting that right hind (or the left) at all... she just stood there, four square, looking cheerful. She hasn't done that since she was 5 or 6. I got on her with the plan to lightly hack, but at the same time test the machinery and see exactly what we had. Right away, she marched off with a purpose, and we headed out to the orchard. After a nice walk, I picked up a trot, and WHOA! I didn't even realize how much she's been pulling herself along with her forehand as opposed to really pushing with her hindend, and today, she was PUSHING. It felt fabulous. I asked her to canter, and she sprang lightly into it, no moments of inversion or hesitations. She moved and turned with the slightest move on my part. She accelerated and decelerated smoothly. I moved to the driveway, most curious about that part - she has always felt different when posting on the left diagonal versus the right while traveling in a straight line on pavement, not lame per se, but different from when you post on the right diagonal. Now? Uniform, straight, and comfortable. I kept hacking up through the neighborhood, and asked her for a final test: walking down a hill. One of the things that led me to believe she did need her hocks done was her increasing aversion to traveling down hills. She was starting to shuffle, insist that we switchback instead of go straight, and slow dramatically. Today? She marched down that hill at top walking speed, in a perfectly straight line, marching with utmost comfort and confidence in herself. Wow.
So it is very clear to me that I did do the right thing. I can't remember her ever feeling this good. She must have as a 5 year old, but wow. Seriously. She was all hot and looky today, probably because she had just had three days off and magic juice squirted into her hocks, and she also spent a good part of her day trying to push the envelope with me. When Gogo isn't feeling her best, she easily relinquishes her alpha role to me and lets me run the show without her input. When she is feeling good, however, she starts trying to reassert herself in little ways, like taking a step forward into my space after I've asked her on no uncertain terms to cease movement, or moving away from her non-negotiable spot at my shoulder while I'm leading her. She wants to run the show, and she would take over in an instant if I let her. Not in a mean way, certainly, but she is the alpha mare, after all. So I have to keep on my toes with her and make sure she minds her manners. I do enjoy when she gets punky like this though, because it DOES mean she is feeling really good.

Second, USEA put out their summer edition of the Eventing 2.0 online magazine today. All thanks to Daun, Leslie contacted me about a month ago and asked if I would write for USEA's blog, which I was very excited to do. However, when I sent in my first blog piece, they liked it to much that they decided to make a whole article about us in Eventing 2.0! If you flip through the online magazine to page 28, you'll see our article and get to read a bit more about Gogo's history. I've already had a flood of e-mails about it. They even went so far as to add in additional pictures of her and I at last year's AEC that I didn't even know existed! The article looks fabulous - the bolded captions are even in baby blue! The only thing I would like to add to it was the final line of the original piece, which was removed from final copy of the article: "And nobody can stop us, any of us, if we really believe in ourselves." Add that on mentally ;) THANK YOU Leslie, and THANK YOU Daun, because I would never have made the contact if you hadn't suggested me to her. Awesome!!

Third, my awards all came in the mail today! I earned a Rider Achievement Award at the Novice level, and qualified myself for the Medallion Club level of this due to having placed in the top 5 placings at three horse trials this calendar year. Gogo and I also each earned a Gold Medal at the Novice level in the new Medal Program, due to having finished three times with a score below 35 at Novice. You can read more about the Medal Program here.


look what else came in the mail today! My custom helmet cover! It's black with light blue stars, although it's hard to tell in this picture. I got this (and Gogo's BoT hock wraps) using a gift certificate from Bit of Britain that I won last year at the AECs. Can I even say how much I LOVE Bit of Britain? I had to use the paper order form you find in the catalogue so I could send in my gift certificate, and I couldn't have sent that out more than two weeks ago. My BoT wraps? On my horse in about three days. My custom helmet cover that I doubted would even get here before the AEC? THE fastest turnaround time ever, here in about two or possibly two and a half weeks at most. I expected at least four to six, minus shipping time. You go, Bit of Britain! Eventers all over the nation LOVE YOU, and THANK YOU for sponsoring the AECs this year!

And fifth, and most exciting of all, my entry for the AEC went out today. YES. I had been stalling on this just because I wanted to make sure she was feeling back in tip top form before I sent off all that money, but everything has just seemed to fall into place so beautifully this past week. It was time. Our official countdown to Huntington Farm is 5 days, and our official countdown to the AECs is 23 days. Guys, that is a little over three weeks away. THREE WEEKS. I AM SO EXCITED YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Tomorrow, we start back with our dressage, and will be dressage-ing through Thursday. Friday, I will hopefully have another XC lesson with Ann to really see where she is now that she's feeling so much better. And then on Saturday, we leave for Huntington Farm in Vermont, and show on Sunday. I can't help but feel positive and excited about this show. I just feel like it's going to go well.

Life is good.

Gogo and I schooling XC last year at Bath Pony Club, looking like happy clams.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The deed is done.

Sorry for my small bits of hiatus. I am currently in Michigan for a friend's wedding (which was THE fairytale wedding of the century, SERIOUSLY), and am headed back to Connecticut tonight. The less often I get to come home to Michigan, the more I miss it. I kind of don't want to go back.

Anyway. Dr. C came out on Thursday after I had already ridden Gogo (and she was fairly lovely but coming into heat so a little bit distractable), and after wrestling with it mentally (and physically, really) for a year, it was finally decided that hock injections were in fact the best and kindest way to approach the changes in her hocks. These changes are not causing lameness at this point, but they will in the future if I am not proactive now. I've done as much as I can otherwise to help her body, but she's given me the signs of needing a little more help than that. With all that in mind, I made the decision to do what I had hoped I wouldn't have to for maybe another year yet. Arthritis is not curable. All I can do at this point is try to keep her as comfortable as possible for the remainder of her years. We'll never know just why this started in her, or how. If I had been pounding on her as a 3 year-old, yes. But she lived in a field until she was nearly 5. Her hind end conformation is pretty correct. When I was jumping her hardest, it was once a week at the very most, over fences that maxed out at around 2'9", and rarely. But, it still happened. And there is no use now in crying over spilled milk. When the systemic solutions were not enough, I went directly to the source of the problem. And when we went into the low joint in that right hock, there was a bit of excess fluid that came leaking back out of the needle, a good sign that there was some inflammation in there. Despite my personal aversion to injections (and how I feel very strongly that they are an American sickness and crutch), deep down I know that I did the right thing.

And I feel better now that it is done. Now, I can stop fretting about it every day. Now, I know that she can get back to doing what she really seems to love - running and jumping - without fear on her part or mine that she will experience any discomfort in those wonky hocks. I'm very interested to see how she feels post-injection. She has today, tomorrow, and Sunday off, and then I will hack her Monday and see just how she feels.

I did the right thing. Whether or not she's running and jumping or just hanging out in a field, I still want her to be as comfortable as possible, and would likely have opted for this in the end no matter what my intentions with her were, sport or otherwise. Nevertheless, I still can't help feeling a little weird. I've talked about this before, but things like this always bring up the morality question: why do we do things to horses that break them? Why do we need things like injections in order to keep them going for our own amusement? This is one of the reasons why I have absolutely no intentions of ever being a professional rider or trainer. At the top levels of sport, somedays you HAVE to go train and ride no matter whether or not you or the horse feel in top shape. Especially right after I got Gogo back from Crazy Trainer, she would have days where she looked like a zombie, and I couldn't bring myself to do more than just play with her on those days. I think that's the right thing to do. She always came out better the next day for it. And yes, I'd lose a day of training, but better that than lose her brain to continual pounding when she couldn't mentally handle it. Last week, when she was feeling especially crappy and before I started her on the aloe, she had a day just like that. When I went to pull her out to ride her, she just looked at me as if to say, please no. And I didn't have the heart to disagree. Sometimes, as a professional, you have to compete a horse (client or otherwise) that you know isn't ready. That you know isn't all that sound. That you know you shouldn't. But you're under so much pressure, and you risk losing money, losing clients. So what do you do? Your four-star horse NEEDS to jump today, but he's feeling exhausted from a tough gallop the day before. You're going to the Pan Ams in two weeks and you can't risk deviating from your rigorous workout schedule. What do you do? I certainly don't possess nearly that kind of talent that I would ever find myself in that situation anyway, but in a similar professional setting on a lesser scale? I couldn't do it. I couldn't make myself.

This is a large part of why I want to go into alternative farrier work. I want to help horses feel and perform the best they can and be as healthy as they can. There isn't a soul around who wouldn't agree with you that keeping a horse barefoot IS the healthiest way for them, but it's just a fact we barefoot folks need to face: people have a point when they say they doubt a horse's ability to go around Rolex without some sort of additional traction. What horse in the wild is going around at a flat-out gallop leaping over enormous obstacles? Shoeing may or may not be the unhealthier way to keep a horse going, but this is where my dream career comes in... there HAS to be a better way than shoes, I WANT to find a better way. We all know the problems that can come with shoeing, so I'm not about to list them. Boots fall off, wiggle, cause rubs. Epoxy custom shoes can fail too. Our healthier alternatives are not yet good enough. I want to find a better way.

We've come a long, long, long way over the domestication of horses. I mean, for god's sake it used to be common practice to take a saucer full of turpentine and hold it to a horse's naval to cure founder. Hopefully in a hundred-odd years, technology will have finally given us our perfect alternative to shoes. And our kids (well, not mine, I'm not going to have any little runts) will look back and go wow, remember when our grandparents used to actually nail stuff to their horse's feet?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One Happy Mare

I have plenty to write about the past couple of days, but alas, this morning I'm up early to be out in the barn by 5:15 so I can have the washrack scrubbed down, the stalls cleaned, the horses fed and turned out and be ready for my 9:00am lesson. The vet is coming sometimes today (hopefully late morning) to give Gogo's hocks the once-over and decide for sure whether or not we need to stick needles and unicorn tears into them. (For the price of injections in Connecticut, that BETTER be what's in them.) For now, I just had to share with you a little short video of my happy, happy horse. I can't even believe how cheerful she's been, it's ridiculous. Even more cheerful than pre-Lyme, really.

She's the best mare EVER.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Udder Madness (or, How Gogo Got Felt Up by a 10 Year-Old)

Gogo and I have had a fabulous couple of days. Call it luck, call it diligence, call it a miracle, call it whatever you want, but Gogo's making a rapid turnaround. She's been absolutely marvelous these past two rides, and her attitude has completely brightened. Either the Doxy has finally started to really kick in, or the addition of the aloe juice and MSM has made her feel right as rain. I started her only two days ago on the concoction (1/2 cup aloe juice + 1 tsp. human-grade MSM mixed in and poured over breakfast and again at dinner), and perhaps it's just coincidence, but when I pulled her back out of her stall after breakfast on that first day, she was brighter eyed than she's been in some weeks now. I couldn't believe it.

That is one happy face. Compare that to this picture taken a few days ago. Astounding, really. With that change in attitude in mind, I tacked up yesterday for my conditioning hack, VERY interested to see what her attitude would be under saddle. Given the fact that we've had more rain and I was scheduled to gallop today, I didn't want to tear the fields up, so I opted to do something I've been avoiding - doing the trot part of our hack on the road. I worry, with all the roadwork that we do, about excess wear on her bare feet, so I try to be careful about it. Her feet have held up to to it just fine, but they're maintaining themselves exactly where they want to be and have not grown excess, so there isn't much wall to wear down. With that in mind, I attempted something decidedly out of the ordinary for me. A former boarder and fellow barefoot enthusiast had a pair of Easyboot Epics for her old horse, and they didn't remotely fit her new horse but did fit Gogo when she gave them to me to try. I've never used them before and wasn't really all that keen to try. I didn't like the design of the boot in back - it seemed like the area below the heels inside the boot had a weird raised edge that looked like it was going to crush her heels once she really got going. Preemptively, I wrapped all four feet in vetwrap and duct tape, making sure to REALLY make it secure on her hinds. I expected them to wear off at some point but I figured we'd give it a try anyway.

Well, of course my ingenious design.... fell off of both hinds before we even began our trotwork. So much for that. Oh well, on with the show, right? Right from the get-go, she strode right out, marching happily away from home, seemingly eager to get to work. No hesitations, no slow walk, no spookiness, no nothing. It felt unrelated to boots... it was more of an attitude thing. I was delighted, but we had far to go. She trotted out well in the boots at first, and all seemed well. Hell, she was striding out better than ever before, even! Yay boots! Except then... she started feeling funny. Then she started limping. Then she started seriously hobbling! I, of course, went OH GOD WHAT DID SHE DO, and stopped and jumped right off. I pulled off both boots, and examined her feet. No damage anywhere, thank god, but she seemed much happier with them off, so I trotted her in hand to see - and she was fine. I got back on and trotted out, and tada! No more hobbling. She moved out in an increasingly forward and happy way without them, so NOT yay to the boots! I abandoned them on the side of the road and left them there, though I did go back and retrieve them today. Safe to say, I will NOT be using them again. They'll go on Ebay and some other person can deal with them. I DO want to invest in a pair or two of boots at some point, I know I will need them SOMEDAY. But until I can afford some Renegades I think she will just go on with her bad bare self. She has yet to give me indication that she can't get along without them just fine.

Our 25 minutes of trotwork ended with a happy, bright, and forward horse. We continued on our merry way for some time, walking along with purpose, enjoying the cloudy, grey afternoon for its lack of serious heat and mugginess (two things we've been getting a LOT of lately!). We ventured down a sideroad we don't often take, and that was where things got VERY interesting VERY fast.
I happened to pass a house with a pool in the backyard, as many of the houses in our area do, but this one on this particular day was filled with a whole bunch of kids having a pool party. When they saw me, all I heard was "HORSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!", and turned just in time to see these kids multiplying and come pouring out of the woodwork - kids streaming out of the house, kids flying up from the pool, kids running up from behind the house... there had to be 30 of them all in all. And here they come, SPRINTING at top speed, ALL of them all at once, all SCREAMING at the top of their lungs. A lesser horse would have quailed at the very sight, but Gogo stopped and stood like a rock and ignored them for the most part. They all ran up in front of me and started shouting nonsensical questions all at the same time, like "What's that thing poking out of her foot?" Um... that's her hoof.
While I am answering all these millions of questions, unbeknownst to me several of these little hellions have snuck up directly behind my horse and are all now gathered mere inches from her hind end. Had Gogo been any other horse, it would have been Kiddie Massacre, but she did not even flick an ear to give me any indication that somebody might be back there, so I noticed nothing until I heard a smack and felt her butt vibrating. I turned out to see the kids were now taking pictures of themselves slapping her on the ass, and apparently the look of horror on my face was hysterical because they all started laughing maniacally. And before I could even open my mouth to say anything, suddenly there's another kid who appears on the OTHER side of her with a dumb question. I couldn't make this up if I tried: the kid asked, "Is this a boy or a girl?" and REACHED UNDERNEATH HER and GRABBED HER UDDER. AND HE PULLED. And bless her lil' Gogo heart, she did not move a muscle. As I am trying desperately to herd their little barefoot selves away from my horse's rear end (pool party remember? about to get their feet crushed!), one of the little ones asks if he can give her a handful of grass. I said yes, somewhat absentmindedly as I am rather flustered at the fact that NONE of the kids are listening to a word I say when I tell them to back up (I was literally completely surrounded on all sides by tiny bare feet), so what do they do? They ALL started ripping up HUGE chunks of their lawn and started shoving it in my horse's face. So now, Gogo is in heaven and going from kid to kid to kid to kid to kid to kid to kid to kid eating their handplucked grass. Her lips brushed one of their hands apparently, because he started screaming that she bit him, but when I asked if it hurt, he said no, so I told him, "then she didn't bite you. Be careful." Now, one of the kids is asking if I'll run her up and down the road. I said no, but I did agree to trot her for a few steps down the road so they can watch. No sooner had I agreed to this and moved off into a trot than they ALL STARTED RUNNING AFTER HER, and were running up to her and SMACKING her on the ass WHILE SHE WAS TROTTING, all the while screaming and cackling at the top of their lungs. Gogo's eyes got pretty big when the entire pack of horse-eating children started chasing her at high speed, but she was completely sensible about it otherwise, and didn't flinch in the slightest as they tried to get themselves killed behind her. I finally was like, okay I havve to go now, bye!! and wheeled away and trotted off in the other direction, towards a big hill. THEY CHASED AFTER US! So we park trotted off as fast as we could up the hill, until we had left the tired kids far behind. We didn't stop til we got all the way to the top, where I then sat and laughed until I almost cried.

On our way home, we marched past the gallop field and the subsequent rocks and scary staircase at Lynnie's house. These have been a source of complete terror for her anytime we've passed them this past month or two, but I was completely astonished to find that she didn't look at them, ANY of them. Nothing was spooky. She didn't even look at the storm drains, and those are ALWAYS very scary. I couldn't believe it. We reached home with plenty of energy left, and a happy, bright horse. Amazing. Really amazing.

And today? More of the same goodness! It was about 965724959322734 degrees outside with somewhere around a thousand percent humidity, so I ended up waiting until around 7pm to do my gallops. And she was INCREDIBLE. I kept them on the slightly lighter side of tough, as follows:

15 minute walk hack/warmup to field
5 minutes trot
1 minute walk
5 minutes trot
1 minute walk
5 minutes trot
2 minutes walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
1 minute walk
4 minutes 350mpm canter
1 minute walk
5 minutes 470mpm gallop
15 minute walk hack/cooldown home

She was incredible. She moved right out in her trotwork and made it seem like a breeze, and hopped up into her canter, completely willing to cruise along on autopilot while I worked on the position changes Ann had me do last Friday. They worked remarkably well, I have to say, and I'll tell you what, my thighs were BURNING by the time I was done! The real test was moving up into the 470mpm gallop. Last time we galloped, she was completely spent after only the first canter set, so we finished with a second canter set and chalked it up to feeling crappy after just starting the Doxy. This time, she sprang forward into cruising speed, and maintained it almost entirely on her own. The only times I had to ask for rebalancing were when we came around the corner and down the steeper part of the hill, and when we had to move out again at the bottom of it. She would flick her ears back at me as I asked her to keep going, and pulled away with the lightest of aids and her ears pricked. The 5 minute mark rolled around, and definitely compared to last week I had TONS of horse underneath me still, but sensibly so. When we went to walk home, fresh in my memory was how she has been spooking like crazy before/after our gallops at the rocks and Lynnie's staircase (particularly this ride), so I was completely amazed to find that the rocks were NOT scary, the mailboxes were NOT scary, and Lynnie's staircase was also NOT scary at all. She didn't look at a single one of them. And the one or two things she did look at, she did the exact kind of spooking I've always loved - puts her head down, gives it a good eyeball, and then moves TOWARDS it instead of away from it to get a better look. When she's been spooky lately, she's been doing the typical run away from it kind of spooking. But not yesterday, and not today. Yesterday and today, she was back to my good ol' Gogomare.

We're on the upswing, and it feels so good. I putzed around with her for a good hour or so after we were done, including giving her a liniment bath and parking her in front of two enormous fans while I trimmed her feet (which look gorgeous, by the way). She's one happy chick right now. I don't know if it is the Doxy after all or if the aloe really is the miracle that Tamara said it was for Aaruba, but one thing is for certain. Something is working.

The uptrend is making me REALLY excited for Huntington, and for the AECs. I always had planned on pulling from Huntington if it seemed like it wasn't in her best interests, and I haven't even entered the AECs yet because I need to know that I can get through another full XC course without mishap before I take her all the freaking way to Chicago, but it feels like it's all falling back into place again. I'm starting to get the show bug again too. I was a little burnt out before from all the work I'd been doing around here and all the sleep I had not been getting in return, but life seems to be working itself all out. The vet is still coming Thursday, and we still have yet to see how her dressage goes with this new regime. But I am feeling really, really good about all this. Horses are a rollercoaster, right? There will ALWAYS be ups and downs. Now, we just have to time this particular up with reaching the highest peak on the coaster right at the AECs, and we'll be all set. ;)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Elementary, my dear Gogo

Man, July just was not a good month for neither Gogo nor I was it? We are still dealing with the fallout from that, but I am thankful to say that the future is very sunny, and everything seems to be coming back together. Life may have imploded for me in July, but August is already looking way up, and September looks even more promising from where we now stand. It's not all back to normal yet, certainly no, but there is progress, always progress.

One of the things I do best in this world is honing in on a horsey problem and sleuthing about to find all possible answers to the issue, especially the physical aspect of things. I am a full believer in ruling out the physical issues before addressing the mental ones, and at the same time take full responsibility for all of them at once. If my horse is skittery under saddle and spooky, does that mean she's Lymey? High? Ulcery? What did I do to contribute to the problem, and what can I do to fix it? My horse is spooky and jittery on XC? Did I hang on her face, knock her in the teeth, chase her to a bad spot, slam on her back, overface her, scare her otherwise? Do her hocks hurt? Is she Lymey, ulcery, high? What did I do to contribute to the problem, and what can I do to fix it?

I never wanted to be a vet. No, I had no desire to play god and kill horses necessarily (or unnecessarily), or cut them open, live or dead. What I HAVE always been interested in is rehab once a problem had been diagnosed, and watching the progression being made. I thrived on taking care of my stall-bound Metro, day in and day out. Meticulously, I brought him back as best I could, and spent all my days wondering how better I could do it. That story ended sadly, but it didn't kill my enthusiasm for therapeutic work. In fact, for some time I wanted to open and run a rehabilitation center similar to KESMARC but with a homey feel, turnouts and such. That idea has long since been abandoned due to the enormous financial undertaking that would require... but discussing my future career options is a topic for another day. The point here is that I live for this kind of stuff. I want to make things feel better.

On Thursday, I had my first really successful dressage ride in two weeks. The preceding week had not been successful in the slightest, and Monday and Tuesday were quite awful as well. The Doxy has had 11 days in her system now, and I'm not feeling particularly as though it has made all that much of a difference. I will still give it another 5 days, and if there is still no improvement, I will pull her off it and save the rest of the Doxy for another time (not that I hope I ever need it ever again!). No need to waste money and eat at her stomach for nothing. Wednesday, it took a very long time to warmup, but I just let her do her thing within reasonable limits, and eventually, after endless 20-meter circles at the walk with occasional halts and reinbacks tossed in, she quieted and moved out without anxiety. We worked on transitions, improving the quality of her movement within movements, shoulder-ins, leg yields, and relaxation. We also worked a fair amount of counter-canter going left - we did several high quality shallow loops, and even went across the short diagonal to maintain counter canter halfway through the short side. She was lovely going left. Going right, I had almost nothing. She traveled very, very crookedly, her haunches way in at all times, and it was a struggle to straighten her. I decided it was foolish to try and do more than simply improve what I had to work with, so we left the more difficult stuff for another day when she's feeling better. This is still why I suspect hocks though. She was not being directly disobedient, she just didn't feel like she could do more beyond putting all our collective wills into simply traveling straight. That was the only real issue I had though, that right canter. She moved out very well the rest of the time, no other hesitations, and I felt very much like I was riding well too.

Yesterday, given how good she felt on Thursday, I opted to go ahead with my original plan for the day, a XC lesson with Ann Bowie at Mystic. All I wanted out of the day was to see how much of this is a rider-caused issue, and to give her some confidence back if I was causing her any reluctance. Ann was very helpful, and we got quite a bit of simple but effective schooling in. Ann made sure to pick apart the pieces of my equitation that are likely contributing to the issue, mainly in the way my energies and balance are centered up higher in my body than they should be. Instead of directing my energy to my legs and having them solidly on, I tend to make too much of a move with my upper body instead of letting it smoothly roll. About 6 strides out, she had me transition from a forward canter/slow gallop to a more collected (term used loosely) canter, and I sat down and put my leg on solidly. This, at first, had the effect of lengthening her instead of shortening her because she had also had me make every effort to have more neutral hands - i.e. not pulling back in ANY way to make adjustments - which, I think, was stressing her out because it's much harder to go pelting at a jump and hope you make it over than it is to bring yourself back before a jump! I had to really think about sending energy forward but capturing it in the contact without restricting her. With equal legs on both sides and equal reins on both sides capturing that forward energy and rolling it into a bouncing ball (that's the best image I had in my mind, a bouncing ball of energy rolling forward with nowhere for the energy to leak out of, such as a slack rein or a weak leg), she adjusted herself perfectly and gamely and calmly went to every fence. THEN, and only then, did I feel major improvements in my equitation over the top of the fence. But before, when I WASN'T perfectly perfect like that, she found the weak spots and she told on me. She bolted sideways away from the ditch the first time, the same ditch she loped over in May. She did the same at the white telephone polls. She chipped in, or she took things long and rushed. I had to REALLY focus and it wasn't until the last six or so jumps that I really felt like I got exactly what Ann wanted me to do. Then, everything fell much more into place. It was really odd to see how randomly spooky she still could be though. I walked her towards one of the teeny little upbanks they have there while on a loose rein, and when she got to the base of it, instead of walking right up it like she has always done before, she stopped, snorted loudly at it, and backed quickly away with a rather terrified expression. I walked her forward again, and after a little bit of quiet coaxing, she hopped up it from a walk on a loose rein (it was about a foot tall... she's walked up banks approaching three feet tall no problem, although they were often times unintentional when I was taking a break and not paying attention!!) That kind of behavior was still very odd to me. We weren't doing anything out of the ordinary, challenging, fast, or confusing. Just your run of the mill walk, like she always has done before. On the other hand, she did chase after a herd of deer that I pointed her at in order to clear them out of the field, and she cantered through a flock of geese standing around grazing in front of a fence, the only sign that she had noticed them manifesting itself into one single, perfect change right in the middle of the group. All in all, the lesson was very good and very helpful, but I will need more of them before I really feel like everything comes fully together and I really can give her the kind of ride she needs. When we got it right though, it was perfection and harmony.

But the continued odd spookiness that has really exploded into a problem in the past month got me thinking again. Gogo has been scoped for ulcers before and came out clean in situations where I felt SURE that she HAD to have them, and the odd weight fluctuations and jumping issues she had last summer all stemmed from her hocks and barn management problems instead of digestive issues. When those two things were addressed, she bloomed again. But, you still have to wonder. Spookiness at things that normally aren't scary is a typical ulcer-type symptom. So are things like going into the ring (or XC course) to do a round, and dropping a shoulder and having a right fit for no particular reason. She HAS been traveling a lot, which can really be hard on them even though she has to be THE best trailerer I've ever met in my life. I don't suspect ulcers because of management issues either - they get hay very nearly free choice, at the hours of 6am, 9am, 11am, 2pm, 4pm, and 8pm, and Gogo gets out on grass for about 6 hours a day (the best I can do, and the most she's ever had really). She's also on a very tiny amount of fortified grain a day: 2lbs of Gro N' Win, recently upped to 2.5 with the addition of another little cupful of Triple Crown Complete to counter the slight weight loss she's had. Or rather, topline loss. Her topline just... isn't looking as good as it was. There are a lot of explanations for that though, so you never know. Her attitude, however, has taken a slight downturn. She's much more sullen than she has been, and it doesn't seem to be corrected with fun things. A good swim in the river the other day was great fun while it lasted, but back at the barn? Very blah. However, I would like to note that after XC schooling yesterday, and today while getting her groom and handwalk, she was MUCH cheerier than I've seen her be in two weeks. Maybe she just needed to get out and run.

Could she be ulcery? Maybe. In the same way that she could have been Lymey, I suppose. I am not going to have her scoped and treat her with thousands of dollars of Gastroguard though, as my evidence is just not hard enough to really suspect it and my pocketbook is not vast enough to spend enormous chunks of money on possible whims. What I AM going to try, however, is something I got from The Barb Wire some time ago. This is a holistic alternative therapy, and given Tamara's gelding Aaruba's difficulty in responding to previous treatments and Tamara's serious knowledge on the subject, I completely trust in the way she raves about how good he felt after just three days of the treatment. All it is is just 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice or gel (I opted for juice as I felt she would eat it better), and a teaspoon of human-grade MSM. You can find these things at your local Whole Foods Market, or even Walmart. Is this curing the ulcers, or is this just helping tummies feel better? We wouldn't know unless we scoped before and after, which is not the case here. At about $2 daily, this is a far more economical option (Gastroguard is anywhere between $30 and $50 daily), and who knows? I've heard many good things about it, so it's worth a shot.

I finally have a hold on all the flyaway tethers that have broken loose from this hot air balloon basket we're journeying in. We've lost a little altitude, but we're retying them on, one by one. The Lyme tether is secured and no longer a concern. The ulcer tether is currently being repaired, and the hocks/eyes tether will be secured next week. The rider error tether is in my hands and is always a priority and a never ending work in progress, but it too will be secured, last but not least. And then, we will regain all our lost altitude with a vengeance, and break through the clouds to fly higher than ever before. It might be a campy little description, but it's an accurate one.

Gogo says, even with my tub of fresh water and my grass AND hay and my flymask and flysheet and flyspray.... I still want to come indoors.