Thursday, April 25, 2013


Show of hands: who else is sitting at work watching the Rolex live feed while trying to look busy? This girl definitely is! I just finished watching Becky and Teddy's test- wonderful! She looked so excited after the salute and gave Teddy a big ol pat. Great job! I suppose I'll run back to the lab and try to get some actual work done during the lunch break. Sigh.... I wish I was there SOOOOO badly! Next year! Mark my words!

Needless to say, Kwik and I will ride dressage today. I've printed out the Intro tests, so we'll play around with those just for kicks!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Riding Ninja Photo Shoot

I couldn't wait to get out to the barn on Saturday. J and I planned to meet for a short dressage school/trail ride, and I wore my brand new Riding Ninja half-zip (soooo cute and super comfy!) hoodie hoping I could bribe her into taking some photos. J's mom ended up tagging along for the day and brought her fancy camera and, voila- Riding Ninja photo shoot! Thanks again to SB and the lovely ladies at Riding Ninja!

It was a beautiful day, and our trail ride went pretty well. J's OTTB mare Sierra is a trail rockstar so we couldn't have gone out with a better pair. Kwik was great until he saw a horse trailer parked at the other end of the big hay field. He wasn't bad, but he definitely kept one eye in that direction afterwards, so I decided to hop down and lead him the rest of the way home (mostly because I couldn't find a good place to get back on). We did a short dressage school when we got back to the barn, including some right lead canter (Hah! I love how this is such a big deal!) and ended with the short loop Dogwood trail. 

I had my first saddle fitting on Sunday. I'm happy to report that both my Wintec AP and Wintec Pro Dressage saddles fit to Dena's satisfaction and can get us through until I can purchase something else. She wanted to experiment with a M/W blue gullet in my dressage saddle but didn't have one on hand. I may try to find one and give it a try to see what that does for us. I think the plan will be to replace my jump saddle first, but that's a post for another day.

A came by to meet Kwik after we were done with the saddle fitter, and she hopped on for a short ride. I'm so excited she's going to be working with Kwik on Fridays! She's got some great ideas to help him along and was totally on board when I mentioned more trail experience and incorporating flat work in open fields as goals. I'm definitely looking forward to Friday's report card :)

Friday, April 19, 2013

No Rain Dance

I think my pets don't want me to go on vacation this year. Or buy new tires. Or fix my broken taillight. Adam and I have a 6 year old Corgi/Chow mix named Harpo. Harpo has always had a little hitch in his giddy-up. If he played hard one day, he'd have some trouble getting around the next day. The day afterwards, he'd be back to chasing squirrels outside. Last month, he just couldn't walk by himself. Period. Vet #1 put him on Rimadyl for two weeks. No improvement. Vet #2 thought it might be Lyme and wanted to do a $260 PCR test. I do PCR every day of my life- it shouldn't cost THAT much. So we moved on to Vet #3. After looking at x-rays from Vet #2 and a very thorough physical examination, Vet #3 concluded his mysterious and sudden lameness is most likely due to some sort of immune-induced polyarthritis. Poor Harpo underwent a joint tap (deja-vu, no?) and more blood work, and we should know more today. I really really hope we can figure out what's going on with our sweet boy.

After a very stressful afternoon at the vet, I desperately needed some pony time. Kwik has this longeing thing figured out- voice cues are almost where I want them to be, and he's starting to really stretch down and out for the side reins when I use them. He was also very good under saddle. I didn't do any canter work since I wasn't riding my absolute best, but our trot work was overall, pretty good. It was a beautiful evening, so I took my sweet time. I gave Kwik a bath and we went for a hand graze in the setting sun. I just love those quiet moments at the barn- just you, your horse, and the spring evening sounds. Just what I needed!

World's dinkiest forelock

A is supposed to ride Kwik today, but the sky is looking pretty ominous. Do a little No Rain Dance with me, will ya? Happy Friday!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Guess What We Did?!

After our super awesome breakthrough on Wednesday, I was curious to see how everything would go on Saturday on our own. Surely Wednesday's success couldn't be replicated without Ann's magical presence. Boy was I wrong- Kwik was great! We longed a little with side reins first, and then I hopped on. Since he was mostly warmed up from the longeing, we did a quick walk warmup, and then I put him straight to work at the trot. He was very obliging and happily responded to my request for connection. He was light in my hands and maintained a steady rhythm. We did some circles and serpentines, and we even practiced a little leg yielding coming down the centerline. We finished off with some fee walk across the diagnoal and called it a day. Winning!

We had another lesson with Ann on Sunday, and I'm totally regretting not bribing Adam to come out and video/take pictures. It was that good. Why you ask? We CANTERED! Ann watched me longe this time, giving me pointers along the way. When I got on, we really worked the trot. When he wanted to overbend or travel crooked, we practiced sending him forward and straight. Now that I'm able to keep my horse underneath me, I'm really able to adjust and correct, and as a result, he's become very light in my hands and the quality of his trot has improved. He feels wonderful, and I was having the time of my life trotting around out there. Then Ann walked me through the best places to ask him for the canter, and I asked. He took a few quick steps, but once I found my seat, we found our rhythm and went around in the most balanced canter we've ever had together. We had some difficulties picking up the left lead afterwards, but we finally managed to pick it up, and the quality of that canter felt amazing. Kwik was completely focused, all-business the entire ride, and I felt like I put in a pretty good effort as well. What a fun ride! I trimmed up his fetlocks and his whiskers and stuffed him full of carrots. I'm so proud of my handsome boy!

In other fun news, Kwik will have his first training ride on Friday! I had asked Ann a while back if she had any students that she thought would be a good fit for him and whether or not she thought weekly training rides would be beneficial for Kwik. She immediately suggested one of her long-time students, A. A has worked with several OTTBs and is a very capable rider. She's also small like me and rides like me, which is great for consistency-sake. We chatted for a bit last week, and I'm going to meet her on Friday afternoon. A is going to work with him on the flat, over fences, and out on the trails. I'm hoping we can start doing some conditioning work in the fields/XC course in the summer, and I think A can really help me get him there. Maybe if A can help me get him comfortable working in open fields, we'll be able to participate in the Mock Hunt in early December! Each year my farm and the local Pony Club puts on a mock hunt at the farm. An upper-lever Pony Clubber is chosen to be the fox and there are Tally Ho wagons for the non-riders- the whole thing just looks like a blast. Let project Mock Hunt begin!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On the Bit

Last night we had a dressage lesson with Ann. I absolutely LOVE my trainer. Every ride we have with her feels like the best ride we've ever had, and I feel like we have a breakthrough each time. I had mentioned I wanted to start off longeing, so she took me through her process. She warmed him up at the walk, trot, a little canter on both sides and then again wtc with side reins. Because he hasn't developed all of the muscles necessary to maintain a steady rhythm at the canter, he tends to get ahead of the rhythm and then loses his balance. Kwik is a horse that absolutely despises feeling discombobulated, and when this happens, he usually throws a tantrum (read: bucking and carrying on like a doofus). Ann showed me how to give him little half halts with the longe line in the spots where he tends to lose his balance (brilliant!), and I was so impressed by the quality of his canter towards the end as a result.

Next we moved on to some flat work. She had me imagine my arms were the side reins- steady but giving, elbows bent and against the sides of my torso. We moved on to the trot, and she had me shorten my stirrups. Apparently my inability to sit up in my saddle isn't completely my fault. When Kwik gets strung out, the motion pulls me forward out of the tack. The shorter stirrup length really allowed me to sit up and hold him beneath me. The extra control felt wonderful, and for the first time, I was truly able to ask him to come on to the bit and trot along at my pace. It was a wonderful feeling. Once we figured that out, Ann was insistent he remain on the bit. She made up a little dressage test and called it out to us, calling out "1,2, on-the-bit. 1, 2,  on-the-bit" to help me maintain a steady rhythm. It certainly wasn't perfect, and he doesn't have the strength yet to maintain the connection for long periods of time, but there were definitely some dressage horse moments which Ann would point out with "Enjoy him a little right there!" or "Beautiful!" It truly was a breakthrough ride!

 Now, I can't use the excuse "he doesn't quite understand connection yet." He does, and it's time to ride him like he does. I know there are people who think I'm crazy for trying to bring along an OTTB. I think I'm crazy sometimes, but these are the moments that make this whole process something I wouldn't trade for the world. I'm sure we'll have setbacks and things we need to re-visit, but we are making progress!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Return of the Good Kwik

My ride Saturday was just awesome. For starters, it was an absolutely georgous day. Adam and I got up and walked the mile to downtown Decatur for some coffee, and then I headed straight for the barn. Ann was giving another XC mini clinic, so I planned to ride first, and then walk to the course to take some photos for the riders.

My pony turned around and happily walked straight to me when I went to get him out of the pasture, and we tacked up and headed to the arena. I think he could sense my determination to have a great ride- he didn't put one toe out of line! We did a long walk warm up, and then I asked for the trot. He gave me the most lovely trot- energetic but relaxed and steady. Afer a few laps to make sure this wasn't a fake out, I let the reins slide through my fingers and he stretched out and continuted in the same steady rhythm on a long rein. Good Boy! I wanted to be done since this had gone so well, but I wasn't ready to get off- it was just so pretty out! So, we went on a trail ride. All by ourselves. It was just a little short one up past the pastures and back, but he was great, and we didn't have any problems. Good Boy! When we got back to the barn, I hosed him off, and he was such a goof- sticking his face in the hose, making silly faces, etc. I just have some mad Kwik love right now ;)

I hiked up to the XC course to watch the last session and to take some photos. I absolutely cannot wait until we're ready to do something like this- it looked like so much fun! I'm going to have a private lesson with Ann sometime this week and then again this weekend. Here's hoping the good Kwik is here to stay.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Exciting Stuff

First things first: I can't believe it, but somehow I managed to win SB's Riding Ninja giveaway! I'm so excited I can hardly stand it :-D Thanks to SB for having such great contests! I can't wait to see the 'Tis the Season entries!

The birthday boy was pretty darn good yesterday. I put him on the lunge line in the arena, and we did a quick walk-trot warm-up on both sides. There was no running around like an idiot and no bucking. He was borderline lazy and responded well to my voice cues. Win! Since things seemed to be going pretty well, I decided to clip on the side reins Ann left for me to try out. After he figured them out at the walk, I asked for a little trot. It took him a few laps to relax into the contact, and after a couple of good laps, I decided to hop on for a bit. He was great at the walk- relaxed, responsive to my leg- good stuff overall. I knew I needed to try a little trot, but let's be honest, I'm a little hesitant these days since "Hey, let's do a little trotting" sometimes turns into "Okay, but how about a mad gallop instead?" He still had a case of the zoomies, but he didn't break into a canter, there was no bucking, and he came back to a walk when I asked. Honestly, at this point I think it's just me anticipating an incident, tensing up, tipping forward, and pretty much doing all of the things I'm not supposed to do. I need to put my big girl pants on, take a deep breath, SIT BACK, and ride like I know I can. Hah- easier said than done!

Next up- insurance. In all honesty, I really didn't know insurance for horses was something people bought until about a year ago. Oops. Once I learned such a thing existed, I asked around at my barn to get recommendations and opinions. No one really bought policies for their horses and seemed to think putting away a fixed amount every month in the event of an emergency was a better use of their money. At my new barn, everyone has insurance and will never be without it. After doing some serious thinking, I decided I didn't ever want to have to make a hard decision regarding my horse because I didn't have the money for treatment and I hadn't purchased insurance. So I did a little bit of research and decided to use some of my tax return to purchase a policy. Of course Kwik ended up needing emergency care before I made the purchase, but it is what it is. I'm definitely buying coverage now. My question is: my horse probably isn't worth all that much right now (he's priceless to me!).  Many of the policies I've researched have a coverage limit ($7,500 or $10,000 for example), but the actual coverage amount is not to exceed the value of your horse. Now my horse's value is nowhere near either of those figures, and from my recent experience, procedures at the veterinary hospital involving general anesthesia and the like can reach $6,000 +. If something like this was necessary (thank goodness it wasn't), a policy like this wouldn't help me out a whole lot. His value will go up over time with training and experience, but I want to make sure he's protected in the meantime. So what are the best options for owners of horses on the lower end of the price spectrum? Any advice is greatly appreciated!