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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Take a deeeeeeep breath....

..... and exhale. Staffing Crisis 2010 is NOT going to be resolved anytime soon. So it's time I just got over it, sucked it up, and went on with my life instead of fretting about it 24/7. I've been losing sleep over the problem for going on two months now, but as long as we are getting through the issue day by day, it's not so bad. That being said, this day-by-day living is horrible for me and I hate not knowing what the future is going to bring. It doesn't help matters much that I'm working Gogo a bit fly-by-night, and have no set plans, goals, or anything else in particular that I want to work towards. I am severely goal-oriented, so when I DON'T have a goal, I don't really know what to do.

What I DO know is that I currently have a sound and happy horse. The difficult part of all this lies within: how do I keep her this way while simultaneously strengthening her, having actual FUN, and NOT over-fitting her for the coming winter? It's always been about getting her to her peak fitness before. Now it's about strengthening her without risking reinjury while we are still only 6 months out. I have absolutely zero reason to rush anything, and right now all I want to do is have a little fun.

Only. That little bit of topline we put on? I am going to have to put up a fight to keep it, as I can already see it diminishing. It's the first thing to go on her, and when I don't want to do anything but trail ride around on the buckle, well... that's not so good for strengthening a topline.

Last week, I was a BAD MOMMY. On Monday, we did our typical bareback hack, 45 minutes up and down the hills on our property at mostly a walk with some bits of trot up small hills tossed in for good measure. Which was great! Except then, Tuesday happened, and more staffing and me being near-tears by the end of the exhausting day (and my honey being in the exact same position and needing a bit of comfort from me too) caused me to not do my scheduled dressage ride. Oh well, dressage is no fun compared to a trail ride anyway, right? Wednesday, my day off, I trailered Gogo out to the Larkin Bridle Trails, which some of you will remember from my conditioning rides last year. We walked, mostly, with a bit of trot and canter, and in general had a ball for about 1:30min. It was good exercise on a good surface, although I have to say that Gogo seemed to prefer walking on the grass next to the trails instead of on the actual path, which can be a bit rocky. I actually thought by the end that I might really want to invest in a pair of boots for the first time in our four-year barefoot career, but then again, I rather enjoy walking on squishy grass too when I can - more comfortable for my body all around. I let her choose her own path, as she does walk on gravel daily but not for any vast length of time and it's not really fair to ask that of her right now (and got forbid she get sore at this point), and gave her a good liniment bath and wrapped her all around when we got back to the barn. She was none the worse for the wear the following day, but I decided to give her the day to relax anyway. And that's when the rest of the week sort of fell apart, and I have her Friday off as well. And Saturday. And Sunday.

That trail ride was some good medicine though:

Love that big honking roping saddle. It's soooooo squashy and comfortable. She goes well in the tom thumb, but I think I'd really rather get her an Indian bosal instead, something bitless without any serious mechanical action. She always loved her hackamore as a baby. Until she, well, figured out how to run through it. Mares. (Bet she'd be super in it now.)

I let her relax all weekend. I needed to reset our schedule, and my brain. This occasionally happens to me, but it's not too disastrous at the moment as I really have no deadlines, schedules or goals beyond by simple monthly ones. But her topline IS changing right now, I have to say, and it's not for the better. If you don't use it... YOU LOSE IT! But all I want to do right now is just have a little fun. I don't want to be in the arena at ALL!

Therefore, I have a compromise.

I will continue with this schedule for now:

Monday: 45 min bareback hack around property
Tuesday: Dressage
Wednesday: Trailer off property for hacking (Baxster Rd?)
Thursday: Jumping
Friday: Either trailering off property for hacking OR hacking up the road
Saturday: Either trailering off property for hacking OR hacking up the road
Sunday: OFF

(This is a severely rudimentary schedule. The complexities of day-to-day work depend largely on her at the moment.)

BUT. All that hacking bareback, off property, up the road? No more lazing around on the buckle dragging her toes. No ma'am, those days are over. You won't get any stronger working like that. I have to put her together and work her. I have to make that topline and buttocks do their share.

I have to do anti-arena dressage.

Yesterday, this plan went pretty well. She was hot and ready to walk me right off her back, but she held it together well and actually did some nice work for me up and down the wet hills in the rain. I was very careful give the footing, and hardly took a trot step anywhere, but the few bits that I did seemed to diffuse her a bit, and she relaxed. By the end, she was stretching fairly nicely, and the nice thing about not having a saddle is that I can really feel when her back muscles engage and round up underneath me. Today I will have to see if I can replicate this... for the first time since March, I will have to ride in the indoor arena as it is still pouring outside and the outdoor is temporarily underwater. How will she handle it? I'm not sure, but it might be pretty ugly. She has to get over it though, there's no two ways about it. She just is going to have to deal with the door demons at the far end.

And guess what happens on Friday. THE BEACH OPENS.

You better believe we're going the second I am out of work. Playtime, here we come!

Saturday, September 25, 2010


A quick teaser because I am a bad bad blogger this week (but I have reason to be, given the Staffing Crisis which continues to be eternally neverending and horribly stressful, and is now entering Month Two):

Is that a..... ROPING SADDLE?



You better believe.... more later!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fun in the setting sun!

Just a little video of Gogo and I playing around at Baxster last Saturday evening:

She's so silly. When we were cantering, she was like NO I MUST PUT MY HEAD IN YOUR LAP KTHX. But other than that, she was perfect.

Our schedule is as follows: Sunday OFF, Monday bareback hack for 45 minutes around the property and up the hill at a walk/some trot, Tuesday dressage, Wednesday hack out off property for 1:00+ w/t/c, Thursday jumping tiny little things, Friday hack up the road for 50-60min, Saturday hack off propety for 1:00+ w/t/c. It's a bit lucid, and it's not very serious. It's just fun, and good for both our brains. My only goals are to strengthen her body all over, give her a good fitness baseline going into the winter, and putting her brains in place for the upcoming cold indoor arena seasons. Other than that, it's all just fun and games, and I like it that way.

Although it's pretty clear that I'm going to need some LESSONS sometime in the next century. That equitation leaves plenty to be desired.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hooves of Steel: The Barefoot Journey, Part IV (Gogo's Competitive Barefoot Career)

((Continued from Parts I, II, and III!))

Eventing a horse without shoes had never been a conceivable idea in my youth. Much like the way I used to use the term "gay" to describe all things stupid when I was an 8th grader and then later found out ironically that I was in fact gay myself, I realized that there may be a new, higher level of horse and hoof care that I never even knew existed. With my last horse, who was dearly loved but insufferably clumsy, he experienced slipping issues while bare behind, and so I had him shod. (Looking back now, he clearly had a lot of unaddressed issues that at that time in my life I was clueless about, but he's an interesting example – not very sure-footed and definitely not graceful. What do you do in that case? Perhaps I should have looked a little further and realized his large amount of daily sweet feed and little hay, ulcery symptoms, wormy belly and my horrible unbalanced riding may have been a contributing factor in his difficulties. Perhaps he would have gained a bit of grace and concavity in his feet for a better purchase. Alas, hindsight is 20/20 every time.) Because he had experienced issues with slipping, and he was my entire eventing experience, I assumed that all horses would slip barefoot, and no one ever stepped up to disagree. Once I had Gogo, however, and I had worked through her eternal rehab issues, I set my sights on eventing – really eventing, really competitively. We had done a few dressage and jumper shows while bare, bringing home a good number of blues already, but why couldn’t she do eventing bare too? She was amazingly surefooted, and her feet were excellent. Why shouldn't I try?

And so try we did. Not only did we attempt, but we also triumphed. Our schoolings at local XC courses were always amazingly successful, and I found her traction to be superb. I never worried about where she was putting her feet, and she seemed to always know exactly where her feet were and how they were getting there. If there were rocks, she skipped over and around them at speed. If there was slippery grass, she balanced herself and made it smooth and effortless. If the footing changed, she figured out how to make it work to her advantage. I knew that as a barefooted alpha mare, she knew exactly where her feet were at all times, and she was going to take care of her body. I was a byproduct of her care simply by my location on her back – she wasn’t going to slip, fall or hurt herself, so I was in no danger either. I felt safer on her than I ever had on a horse, despite her kooky behavior.

At her first ever 'real' event, Encore H.T. in Michigan, Gogo was in first after dressage and went double-clear on XC. She did have a rail in stadium, and finished 3rd because of it, but we found shortly thereafter that the chips and rails she was having were entirely hock-related, and a course of Adequan oiled her machinery well. On XC, she was insufferably green but very game, making some squiggles over the first few jumps but never putting a foot out of place, even after splashing through the water. One thing about eventing and traction is that event horses WILL be getting their feet wet on course, and water WILL make things more slippery, and at a show like Encore which was on rail delay from major storms, it makes the challenge much more difficult. Courses out west tend to be much drier and dustier, making this less of an issue, but out in the Midwest and especially on the East Coast, wet + grass = slippery. Despite this, Gogo never put a hoof out of place, and I was completely tickled with her performance. At her second event, South Farm H.T. in Ohio, she was in first after dressage with a 22.6 (!!), and went double clear again on XC, but also had another rail in stadium (remember the hock issues, we hadn't really pinpointed the problem until this show happened). She still was best in her division with a 26.6, and we had our first eventing blue ribbon. (Her first blue ribbon ever was one for Training Level Test 2 in dressage the summer before, winning the class with a 69.7%!) Her third event was also a success, Hunter's Run H.T. in Michigan - a big show with a maxed-out course and an enormously huge day-long downpour that delayed our XC run by a day. She was in third after dressage with a 33.0, behind another mare and a huge clonking Friesian who eliminated out on the first XC fence. The course was a muddy, sopping mess, but despite it Gogo skipped around XC like she hadn't even noticed. I even glanced at my watch and read it wrong near the end of the course, hustling over the line only to later find out that our time had been 4:03.... and the speed time was 4:03. CLOSE! The stadium warmup was so miserably sopping that I only walked and trotted one crossrail, going into the all-weather arena mostly cold-turkey. She went clean, and our overnight leader dropped the first rail, giving us the win. So awesome! The last regular event before the Area Championships and the AECs was the Erie Hunt & Saddle Club H.T. in Pennsylvania, where Gogo was in second comfortably with a 32.5. We sailed around XC and stadium with a little too much speed, and video of our rounds is a bit funny and embarrassing to watch as I had to trot a large section of my XC.... a comfortable lope was WAY too fast! Our leader also went clean, keeping us in second place, but I was still thrilled. We even won a little prize money!

Two firsts, a second, and a third, and we were headed to the Area VI Championships for BN at South Farm. We were in first after a great dressage ride with a 28.5, and I headed cockily out to XC, convinced that we had this one in the bag. Alas, this was when Gogo decided to give me a little taste of humble pie, putting on the afterburners right out of the water complex to gallop at full speed right past fence 6. D'oh! Major rider error on my part, I stopped bothering to ride and she stopped bothering to listen! She loped over the rest of the fences like she was asleep, but obviously we dropped to the back of the pack. So convinced was I that something was wrong with her that I withdrew, taking her home to thoroughly check her over and make sure nothing was wrong. She was fine, but the message was clear - you gotta be there for me, and then I'll be there for you. Point taken!

The 2008 AECs were upon us. It was hard to believe, but after all our hard work, we were overqualified and totally ready to go. Once again, my mare delighted and impressed me - while our dressage was kind of eh (we managed to scrape a 33.0 together even though we scored a 2 AND a 3 for two very frightening movements right in front of the judge!), she was foot-perfect on XC, loping around the toughest course she'd ever seen with ease. Stadium was just as easy and smooth, and we finished on our dressage score in 6th place, taking our victory gallop just as the thunder started rumbling overhead. We were lucky to miss out on the worst of the "A-E-Seas," although I have plenty of pictures of Lamplight flooding and our perilous journey home which included a dam breaking and the entire highway shutting down!! My mare's feet had done it. They had handled all types of terrain, hills, dry hardpack, soft mush, and everything inbetween without so much as a slip. But this was at Beginner Novice, the slowest and smallest you could go. How would she handle the next level?

I needn't have ever been concerned. After a winter's worth of hard work and dedication, and a few jumper shows later, we were ready for the 2009 season and for our new competitive career on the East Coast, our new home in Connecticut giving us access to opportunity untapped and plenty of close-by events of a different caliber. Wow, these shows had some serious HILLS! And the courses were TOUGH! And LONG! And BIG! Our first event ever at Novice together, King Oak H.T., had me nearly peeing myself on the coursewalk. We had just gotten in our first real XC schooling of the year a week before, on slippery and rocky terrain in a downpour, and I wasn't sure how she'd be on a real course. But once again, my mare came through for me, handling the bright white chevrons, the ditch, the up and down banks, the water with a jump right after, the offset three-stride combination (!!), and the brush fence that was a maxed out 3'7". Swear on my life, when standing next to it the brush touched my boobs it was so tall! Not only was there a long section of grass, but in the woods we had some seriously rocky trails to handle, and she crunched down them at high speed like it was all business to her. She never put a foot wrong. We were in first after dressage with a 31.1, and stayed there through two amazing double clear rounds to get our first win of the season, and our first win at Novice, all at the same time. Three weeks later, I found myself comfortably loping around the XC course at the Mystic Valley Hunt Club H.T., the speed much faster than King Oak's (400mpm vs. 350mpm) but with an easier course. The water complex was a bit hairy, with a moving river full of rocks, but she knew exactly where her feet were and where to put them. First after dressage with a 30.0, we went double clear again on both stadium and XC to take our second win of the season. In June, my favorite event and most memorable weekend occurred - Groton House Farm H.T.! It was the biggest show we had attended so far that season, and I was in a large division chock full of professional riders. Despite that, we tied with a big East Coast pro for second place after dressage, our 31.5 putting us directly behind our leader, another big name pro with a 31.0. Gogo had some spooky moments on XC, most notably over the drop and into the water, but we managed to hustle over the finish line to unofficially break our tie and move into second (our time was very close to optimum, a little too close if you ask me!). Daun came out to watch us tackle the stadium, and she skipped around it like it was a cakewalk, sailing into first place as we watched our leader drop the first rail. The division was so close that it bumped them down all the way to 5th. That victory gallop was one of the sweetest moments of my life, and the win secured our necessary scores for qualifying to go to the 2010 AECs. Gogo's bare feet were easily handling anything I could throw at them, from mud and stones to slick grass and big hills. Sharp turns, high speeds, and big takeoffs (her specialty) were all in a day's work for her feet. I never had to worry about her tossing a shoe and frantically trying to get any showground hack to slap it back on, I didn't have to fret over my stud choices, I didn't have to deal with all the hassle. Nature gave my horse everything she needed, and she did the rest. All I had to do was give her a balanced ride.

((Club foot be damned, these hooves crunch rock!!))

But like all good stretches of time, eventually something bad had to happen to our lucky streak. Unfortunately from there, the season took a major downturn, and Gogo's unexplained spookiness and dull attitude became wildly worse. At the Area I Championships, we had a pretty good dressage ride, but she was lacking impulsion and we only scored a 34.7 to fall into 4th place, the first time she'd ever scored out of the top three aside from the previous AEC. On XC, right in front of everyone and their mother, Gogo locked on to fence four and approached with confidence. She then promptly got to the base of the jump, spun on one heel, and slung me right off over her shoulder, breaking my middle finger (ironically) on the way down. It was severely out of character for her, and we were eliminated for the first time in my life. If you've never seen a Gogo spin, I will tell you this: she could have a competitive career as a reiner, only she's faster. Disappointed, I chalked it up to rider error and slunk on home, ready to tackle another event at Riga Meadow H.T. the following weekend. I can do this, I thought. I just need to give her a better ride. Well, as it turns out, even though we were once again in first after dressage with another 34.0, she once again got to a simple obstacle - the up-bank, which couldn't have been more than two feet high, and something she'd been tackling since the age of 5 with ease and confidence - and she spun out on me, this time going in the other direction. I stayed on this time, and the rest of the course was fine, but I was very upset. It was obvious that this was more than rider error. Something was wrong with my horse.

And I was unfortunately right - Lyme disease and a mild case of gastritis were to blame for this behavior. Lyme is pretty much a given here in CT, and if you live here you will eventually get it, so it wasn't a huge surprise. We also opted to go ahead and inject her hocks at that time, thinking maybe if they were sore they could be contributing to the problem. A year of conservative treatments and lots of Adequan, Cosequin ASU, long warmups and cooldowns, Back on Track hock boots, and as much turnout as she could stand were finally not quite enough. With Doxy on board, and aloe juice twice a day for her belly, her behavior and outlook on life dramatically changed, and my cheerful and brave mare was back in full - if anything, she had a little too much vengeance. At Huntington Farm H.T., our last test before tackling the 2010 AECs, she handled the sopping wet hills like a total champ, but her newfound reach in her hocks bogged her down and caused some slip n' slide before the planks during our stadium round. One rail, and our 29.5 turned into a 33.5 and a subsequent 5th place. I was surprised at her carelessness. She doesn't like to hit rails, and here she was swimming through them like Superwoman. Despite that, I was pleased with her flawless performance on XC, and prepared for our final hurrah at Novice, the AECs, which I had worked so hard for all year long.

The rest is history. A quality dressage test (again, with another brain fart right in front of the judge which resulted in a 4 and a 5) and a score of 30.0 had us sitting once again in 7th after dressage. Walking XC, I was impressed with the excellent footing, which was perfectly manicured and aerated grass. I had been galloping up the wild, wet and wooley mountains of New England all season, so this footing seemed like a beautiful treat. Following my first coursewalk, I was alarmed to hear that one of the Prelim horses had slipped on course between fences and had fallen, breaking his scapula. He was subsequently euthanized. A bit saddened, I moved on to prepare for my own ride, and once on course everything else melted away. She was foot-perfect to the first few jumps, and then went I went to give her a half-halt before the fourth fence, and when she bounced up against it she slipped. It was only for a split second, and it was a fairly common reaction on her part, so I didn't think too much of it. The only noticeable things on the rest of the course were that she had no extra gas when I asked her to move out, and that she was very careful on downhill slopes. I thought perhaps she was just being cautious after her little slide, and the rest of the ride went amazingly. She was perfect, didn't hesitate anywhere, didn't look at a thing, and loped over all the maxed-out fences and combinations (two waters, banks, a coffin complex, a corner and a skinny included!) like they were nothing. I was so proud of her, and delighted to find we had moved up a place to 6th. It was then that I noticed on the way back to her stall after checking the scoreboard just how enormous her hind legs were. Somehow, during that slip, she damaged both hinds, and ultrasound revealed a small core lesion on her left SDFT and sheath damage to the right. We withdrew, packed up our gear, and dragged ourselves sadly home, prepared to begin what would eventually turn out to be a year-long rehab.

Did she slip because she was bare? I can't say it wasn't a factor. Would studs have stopped the slide? Possibly, but probably not. They would have either saved her or severely compounded her injuries. Hooves do need a little bit of give to them in order to preverve soft tissue and joint heath, so glueing a foot to the ground isn't a good option. Why did such a tiny slip cause such extensive damage, especially since I had spent a year conditioning her so carefully? We think we can trace it back to the hock injections, which were less than a month out from the AECs - when we gave her a brand new level of movement in her hind limbs, we were already in heavy training, and her legs did not have enough of a chance to compensate and strengthen. If she had any sort of microdamage that was undetected at that point, the slip had to have pushed it over the edge into real injury. If she hadn't slipped in just this right way, we wouldn't be having this conversation. And clearly, this is all just speculation. We will never know what really happened. Any way you look at it, this isn't just a matter of adding shoes and studs to the equation and ignoring the rest. If shoes were really the answer, I would do it.

But it's so much more complicated than that. So what do I do now?

((To be continued!))

Quickie Picture of the Day

TOO BUSY! Staffing Crisis 2010 has taken over my life for the past four weeks and it is only getting worse. I am struggling to find time to do anything other than worry about it. Things I wish I could do a little more of instead of worry about it: sleeping, eating, blogging, smiling. Not doing much of any of that these days.

Anyway, I do have things to write about and am working on putting up the next Hooves of Steel bit, but for now I will leave you this adorable picture from our ride at Baxster yesterday:

Me n' my hound. Yes, that is a greyhound off leash, oh noes! They said it can't be done, but I do it every day and she doesn't leave my side even if rabbits are jumping out of the bushes in front of her. She is very respectful of the horses and Gogo leaves her to do her own thing, only pinning her ears if she gets too slow when she's in front of us. Which is a habit she'll need to break if she wants to ride out with REAL hounds!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure...

View of downtown Detroit, Detroit River, Michigan.
My hometown. Well, kinda - I live about half an hour north of there, in a small yuppie town. (By small, I mean at least twice the size of my largest local 'city' here in CT.)(And yes, this was taken while on our boat... did I mention yuppie.) Detroit has a tendancy to breed loyal people - look at Kid Rock and Eminem as a small example, an album doesn't go by for either of them where they don't have SOMETHING to say about it - and I am much the same way. Despite that fact, right now Downtown D is a terrifying place to be, and is ranked one of the most poverty striken, most depressing, and most crime-ridden places in the States. I have thankfully so far not been mugged/raped/murdered/jacked/set on fire when spending time there, but that day will probably come. I love it anyway, who couldn't love the Motor City? Yes, even with the collapse of all the giant auto makers - which is why I am lucky enough to own such a nice truck. Thanks, crappy economy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Lovely Day for a Hack


We went on a real trail ride!

I know it doesn't really sound like it's that big of a deal, but this is a huge victory for me. This morning, after a year's worth of trailer rides to nowhere but the vet clinic, I loaded up the Mother Marester and ventured into NY to the Baxster Land Preserve, known around here as "the Racetrack," where the locals condition their field hunters. Over a hundred acres of seemingly endless rolling green fields awaited us there, filled with stone walls, coups, ditches, and even a water complex. We obviously weren't going to be jumping any of those things, but when we are ready, they are there and open for public use. I've been salivating over this place for nearly a year now, and it was worth the wait. I can't wait to come back here and condition, I think you could gallop forever!

Gogo has a hack day on the actual pavement on Monday of this week, and I am delighted to report that not only did she (mostly) behave herself, but I also trotted her for all of 10 seconds and posted on both diagonals, checking her soundness. She felt exactly the same left to right - perfect!! When she broke so seriously in March, the day before it happened was the day I felt she wasn't quite right on the road. It was nice to feel how amazingly sound she is on a firm surface. She followed up this lovely performance with a 'meh' sort of dressage ride yesterday, giving me some serious snark in our canterwork and doing two outrageous reining spins whilest spooking at imaginary beings. It doesn't bother me when she spins that fast - shows she's catty! - but I'd really rather she didn't do that to her legs, and I told her so. She told me to go fall off a cliff, in fewer and less pleasant words. In the end, I got a pretty nice canter left and right out of her, but it wasn't without tension. She may have been a little tired from the day before, but she felt as sound as ever, so I figured that a nice walk in a field was probably the best medicine I could offer. Much to my delight, this morning under her wraps her legs were actually tighter than I ever remember them being since the injury and ICE cold, so all systems were go on our end. She was cheery and happy to hop on the trailer and see where we were off to.

Her behavior could not have been better. Once she got past the baying hounds in the kennel across the road (her first encounter with them, and certainly not her last!), she stepped out and really relaxed. She cried only once, and as if by magic a man conditioning his hunter came cantering over the hill and past us, so I think that settled her too. After he disappeared, we saw no one else, but even so she stretched down into the bridle and picked up her pace from a small, hesitant walk to a rolling, marching one. Really, after the first 10 minutes of being a little unsure (XC jumps! Wind! Chilly weather! Roundbales! Squirrel!), she melted into the most relaxed trail animal you could ever have wanted. That's my girl.

We were out for a little under an hour, just walked with about a minute of trotting on a flat patch of grass just because. For her first real trail ride in a year, I could not have asked for better behavior, and could not have asked for a nicer day.

I can see that this is going to become a common autumn event pretty quickly.

Staffing Crisis 2010 is slightly less of a crisis than it has been for the past three weeks, so I MAY have a little time to breathe (and blog) now, hooray!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How Do You Measure a Year in the Life?

How do you measure a year in the life?

In handwalks?

In ultrasounds?

In coldhosing, in eternal wrapping?

In progress? In setbacks?

In stall rest?

In freedom?

How about love?

A year ago to the day, Gogo and I tackled our tough course at the AECs and slipped up momentarily before the fourth fence. Somehow, some way, during this slip she seriously injured herself, and the rest has been history. The slip as caught on video:

Hard to imagine that in that instant, a year's worth of damage was done. Hard to imagine how miraculous tiny events - like sitting on your horse for the first time in months - can feel. Hard to imagine where we would be had this never happened, hard to imagine where we will be this time next year. I spent today with Gogo just bathing and clipping her all up, making sure she knows just how lovely she really is. She was a bit surley coming in from turnout (she really does seem to hate it, I don't know what else to do!) but once we started primping she was her old cheerful self again. Mares! It's gotta be all about them.

I am entering week three of a major staffing crisis, so nearly all my attention and energies have been completely focused on that, but hopefully I will be able to exhale soon enough and put my head back on straight. Then we'll talk fall. I want to change Gogo's schedule again but I honestly don't think I have more than two brain cells to rub together at the moment, so I need to let my head settle first.

For now, it's time for bed. Congrats to all competitors at this year's American Eventing Championships, you are all champions in my book.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Photo Adventure Fridays

This week's Photo Adventure...

Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio.
AMERICA'S ROLLER COAST. My old summer stomping grounds. I knew this park back to front and in and out when I lived in MI and OH. Pretty sure you are not EVER supposed to take pictures while on roller coasters but the Blue Streak is such an adorable epic that we couldn't help ourselves. (Also on the Blue Streak, if you put your seatbelts and the lapbar realllllly loose and fake the attendant out, you FLY over ever hill! Safety first!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hurricane Fail, and JUMPIN'!

I forgot to mention the other day that I had my first brush with a real hurricane. So unimpressive was this supposed massive storm that I didn't even remember to write about it. Quick, steal food and horde gas!! Dry dock your boats, take cover!! And then we didn't even get so much as a light breeze. Hurricane Earl's new name = Hurricane Fail. Seriously, I was disappointed. And also annoyed because if we don't get some sort of rain sometime in the next century, all my grass will turn to dust. I can't imagine my boarders would be very pleased with that.

Gogo continues to be spectacular under saddle. Following our great dressage ride Saturday, I hacked her for 45 minutes bareback around the property on Sunday, and yesterday opted to give her a 'jump' day. I think I want her schedule at this point to go something like this: 'Jump' day, hack day, dressage day, 'jump' day, hack day, dressage day, day off. Or something like that. It's pretty flexible at this point, the only condition being that if she does good hard work one day, she automatically gets a nice hack day the next. Hacks right now consist of walking bareback around the rolling hills of our property for an increasing 5 minutes every time, and throwing in a little bit of trot if there is a flat place to do so. She did trot a few steps up a tiny incline today - she had SO much energy and felt SO good after yesterday! But I digress. Let me backtrack....

Last night, after a 15 minute walk hack around the property, I set up several trot poles as I have been doing, and then also added the world's tiniest crossrail, pictured right. We have been stepping over bigger logs on the perimeter trail every day, so it was time to try something at the trot - but only if she felt good and ready. The warmup she gave me was excellent, and it felt like her head was really in the right place, so I opted to give it a try. She walked over the jump while on the buckle, seemingly disinterested: "So what, big deal. I walk over bigger stuff every day." And then we tried it at the trot.


I had trot poles set up earlier in the line, but she saw the jump ahead of her and started leaping over them, so I opted to do a big circle around to the jump and not give her too big of a runway. She launched twice, left my butt behind, and celebrated on the other side with dramatic headshakes, leaps and a full-on bronc moment where she came to a stop but continues to bounce up and down with all four off the ground, arching her neck and doing what I quite imagine looked something like this. Alas, we missed that part on video!

Finally, it all came together like this:


On September 12th, it will be a year since the original injury. That is something I can hardly believe. We've come so far, and worked so hard for moments like these. I honestly think she's moving better now than she ever has... she really grew up over the past year. Ups and downs, highs and lows, you've seen it all. In the end, seeing how happy she is and how good she feels, it's all worth it.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gogo Dressage Work 9/3/10

Gogo's progress continues....

Yesterday was the first day I felt like I did something dressage-like and productive. You'll see some yuck moments and some great moments in the video - she was still hot and a little fussy, alternating with moments of total laziness, but we'll get there. Weaning her off the drugs has been a mental challenge as well, but she has definitely stepped up to the plate, so I'm proud of her. And we did our first leg yields at the trot, and circles at the canter! Go us!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

End of August Analysis

I can't believe it... September is here, and summer is fading fast. Although today you wouldn't know it, as it was a steamy 95 degrees with 9583891048592048 percent humidity. Ugh! The leaves are all definitely beginning to change though, which I am certainly happy to see, as it means we finally might have some RAIN and cooler weather coming. This heat is horrible!

August Goals:

1) Build up our canterwork by an increasing 5 minutes a week

Success! We did stop at 15 minutes versus 20, for reasons previously discussed - it just wasn't doing anyone any good to just go around and around the rail for an exhausting length of time. She is sound and holding up to that level of work well, so it's time to back off and start some slightly more complicated work without the intense time factor. It is too hot and there is no sense in exhausting her - she is fit and strong already. Too fit maybe!

2) Once in the second week of canter, solidify fall plans (AHHA, etc.)
I am calling this a success, because I solidified my own resolve and decided against making serious plans for the fall. I have no reason at this point to push her, and it would be silly for me to try and get her ready for anything serious, even if it was just Approvals. Fall plans at this point include trail riding and HOPEFULLY hilltopping. But as I said before, if I'm not completely comfortable with her level of fitness outside the ring when formal season starts, we won't be going.

3) Once in the third week of canter, start to add 30 & 20 meter circles at the trot to our rides
Success! Not much to report here other than damn, it feels good to circle again! A strange thing happened when I started to circle though... suddenly, I found myself fighting urges to throw in random lateral work, transitions to and from gaits and within gaits, and add various levels of collection and stretching to our work. Wait, we can't do REAL dressage yet! But I felt that itchy urge.... I miss it so much!

4) Once in the fourth week of canter, start to hack outside the arena again
Success! Like I said, we did not actually add a technical fourth week of canter, but instead started to hack out again. I've been hacking out every day for the past week and a half, starting little tiny hills and changing footings, and she feels amazing. I plan to keep hacking out little bits before and after most rides as well, both for the mental and physical benefits. Her legs were amazingly tight and cold all last week, but now that the heat and humidity has returned, the light fill has returned. Oh well, I will wrap when I have to, but it was nice to go for a week and a half without them (save for the one day when she was wild last week).

5) At the end of the month, check in with Dr. C - ask about jumping, turnout, etc.
Success! We had a great vet visit and Dr. C cleared us for full work again, so long as I am slow and careful with it. Don't worry Dr. C, I've got time!

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 moniter
2) Jump our first crossrail in a year!
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)
4) Trailer off property for our first real TRAIL RIDE in a year!
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!

Today was our first 'jumping' day, or what I plan on turning into our weekly Wednesday jump session. I took down most of the jumps set up in the arena and made them into two trot poles each, then set out on a 15 minute walk warmup outside the arena. Once in the arena, I trotted her on the buckle for a little while, doing a few walk transitions for good measure. She was listening well, so we cantered a bit, and she was just as quiet - love that! She did scoot off when she cantered by the trainer giving a lesson (the trainer said she thought she gave her a 'look' on accident and Gogo percieved that as a cue to take off) but she didn't get far, just took a few speedy strides and humped her back like a dolphin. Silly mares! One trotting over the poles, her energy level shot through the roof, and it took a few halt halts to convince her to just TROT. She listened perfectly to every single one. I had to smile when we came down the five stride line that had two trot poles for the first jump and an actual jump at the other end that I hadn't taken it down - obviously we were NOT taking the jump, but her ears were so far forward when she saw it that I thought they might snap off. When I steered her away from it, both ears swiveled around wildly in all directions, clearly confused as to why we would not be jumping it. We only did a handful of trot poles, but it was a ton of fun as she was obviously enjoying it. In two weeks, I plan on trying an actual tiny crossrail. Sweet!

And then, we went to cool out on the perimeter trail and found a massive flock of wild turkeys:

A bit hard to see but there must have been forty of them. She stopped, looked, decided they weren't important, and walked on. That's my girl!

And did I mention the best part of all of this? NO DRUGS! I haven't needed them since I started to hack her out again. She is definitely a little bit hot, but she isn't being stupid at this point. Thank god, I was so tired of having to drug her every ride for the past three months!

Gogo's favorite thing in the entire world besides food was also at the barn today - my boss' six year old son. If ever there was a mare obsessed with having a baby, it's this one. She LOVES him and he kisses her on the nose and leads her everywhere, her following along like a puppy. Even my boss commented, "she wants a baby!" Have you ever seen such a motherly, loving look?:

She never takes her eyes off of him. She is a perfect angel for him and always makes sure to keep her feet far from his.

If that isn't the cutest thing you ever saw, I don't know what is!