Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | July 8, 2015

A new found love…

Hello all! I let my blog posting go again 😦 And here we are, about halfway through summer!

Summer has been incredible. I am busier than I anticipated. This summer I decided not to do summer school. I have worked summer school every year since I graduated, but this summer I was very inspired to have some “me time”…or more like some “me and Cloud time”. Just one of the many things I have to thank Debbie for…without her, I wouldn’t be so motivated to be with Cloud and progress in our riding. But more on that later….

So although I am not doing summer school, I still seem to be so much busier than I thought I’d be. I did some housesitting, and I picked up one extra restaurant shift a week. I also started working out with a personal trainer, and I’ve been trying to spread the love and spend time with Lambeau AND Cloud. But between riding lessons, working out, and working at Emil’s… I have a lot more of a schedule than I thought I would. It’s alright because I am still doing most of the things that I really wanted to do this summer, it’s just that I have more of a schedule than I thought I would.

The best part of summer is how much ‘pony time’ I am getting in. I am riding about 6 days a week, minus a few days when I was housesitting and a weekend that I went camping. Mondays and Saturdays I ride first thing in the morning and Wednesdays/Fridays I ride after my 8am workouts. Tuesdays and Thursdays I am taking my lessons at my usual 4:30pm time slot, unless something comes up on mine or Debbie’s ends. I’d love to ride in the mornings every day, because it’s cooler (although this has been a delightfully cool summer!) and to keep Cloud on a regular schedule, but Debbie’s mornings are pretty full. And Sundays are usually Cloudy’s day off because I work the midday restaurant shift and don’t get out early very often.

Summer is also incredible because I am doing a lot of 2-a-day barn trips. On the days that I ride in the morning, I come back in the afternoon to feed Cloud dinner. It’s never a too-long visit, but it’s just nice to see him again and to give him an extra coat of fly spray to go into the overnight.

Our rides have continued to be pretty stellar, although we did go through a rough week not too long ago. While training with Debbie, she often mentions 2 steps forward, 1 step back….there are lulls or plateaus, but they usually come just before a great breakthrough. But this felt different. Cloud seemed cranky and actually pretty naughty…like purposefully naughty. Well, with Debbie’s help we realized that the issue stemmed from a bout of crazy salivation. Cloud had been coming in from the pasture and was very slobbery…He would spit up massive amounts of water. Debbie had mentioned that Dusty, Cloud’s pasturemate, was drooling too, and Martin (farmhand) said he saw the pony drooling too. Debbie’s theory was that the extra salivation was uncomfortable to Cloud while I was riding, which made him act out. We talked to a fellow boarder’s vet who came out one day, who said that with all the rain we had been getting, the clover was likely the culprit. So nothing to worry about, and the drool/slobber just stopped one day, and sure enough Cloudy Boy was back to himself.

So I am between lessons this week. Yesterday afternoon we had a lesson and we have another lesson tomorrow morning. This morning I went out early for a ride. I am LOVING these cool summer temps! It wasn’t even 60* when I rode this morning. An old student of Debbie’s who is visiting from out of state came out yesterday with Debbie to watch my lesson. Debbie was very excited to show her Cloud and I, which makes me feel very proud 🙂 We had a good lesson. A newish development is that I am sitting the trot the majority of my rides. I warm up and cool down in rising trot, but everything else is sitting trot. And it’s gotten so easy 🙂 We kind of touched on a little of everything we have been targetting…lots of transitions, 10 meter circles, shoulder in, traverse, walk pirouttes, and half pass at the trot and canter. We also did some counter canter and some canter/halt transitions. I think Debbie was putting us through our paces for our audience! All went pretty well! I’m excited for our lesson tomorrow.

This morning I got out early and was able to ride during Debbie’s lesson with Melanie and Dusty. Her old student came out to watch that lesson too. Melanie and I chatted as we got our horses ready and also after our rides. Debbie commented to her old student about the comamarderie amongst her students at our barn. We all enjoy riding together and watching each others successes, and we all can’t get over what Debbie is teaching each and every one of us.

Melanie and I also talked about motivation. I think that the biggest compliment that I can give Debbie is the motivation she gives me, and all of her riders, to ride our horses and practice what we are learning. I see it in all of her riders, but obviously I have the biggest insight on it from how I feel. Debbie has made me realize that, although I have always loved horses and loved Cloud, that I think I only *liked* riding. I never lacked motivation to come out to the barn and see Cloud. I loved grooming him and caring for him and grazing him and spending time with him…but my riding has gone through ups and downs. There were many times that I had to convince myself to tack up and ride.

I think I always wanted to be a good rider, but never felt like a good rider. I have ridden with several trainers and, sure, I’ve learned a little bit from them. But I never felt like I understood things. I never had a trainer who made it all make sense and made me feel like I’m a good rider. So where is the motivation to ride?? Things like blue ribbons and being competitive always seemed out of reach for me. More recently, since beginning riding dressage, I always felt like the upper levels would always be out of reach for me. I never learned enough from past trainers to feel like I would move up the levels. Nowadays, I’m not really sure if I will get back into showing, but I feel like if I do that I will have real goals…things to work towards, instead of staying at the same level and the same tests and hope to raise my scores a couple of points.

For me, the biggest thing to come from my lessons with Debbie is a love for riding. I have always, ALWAYS loved Cloud and loved horses, but riding was just a small part of that. Riding could be fun, but pretty often it was frustrating, reducing me to tears when I just couldn’t get something right or when Cloud wasn’t understanding what I was trying to do. And if it wasn’t frustrating, it could also be boring…when I’d give up on the tough stuff, I would ride around giving Cloud a long neck, feeling good thinking that we were both relaxed and therefore enjoying the ride, when really my horse was completely strung out and not utilizing his body correctly. And for me, although it wasn’t frustrating, I had little motivation to ride that way because it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t interesting and it wasn’t challenging. I was stuck in a terrible limbo…either not understanding how to progress, or not trying to progress and being bored.

I don’t know if I’m explaining myself correctly, but the proof is in the pudding…besides the obvious results that have come from riding with Debbie (his muscles, my muscles, the movements we are achieving, the harmony between us)…there is also a lot of evidence of the motivation Debbie has instilled in me. Since riding with Debbie, I have purchased a new saddle and bridle. Back when riding was less motivating, I didn’t ever have the desire to spend money on a good saddle or a new bridle. My saddle was pretty good for the price I paid for it, but it is nothing in comparison to my new saddle. I love my saddle! And I never would have bought it if I had’t started loving riding. My bridle was fine, but it was old and needed replacing. I also rode with rope reins and no gloves, but now switched to leather reins and gloves. Speaking of gloves, I have also gone through a fashion makeover at the barn. I never used to care how I looked when I rode. I rode in old breeches, old non-riding tshirts, paddock boots, and half chaps. Since riding with Debbie, I feel like a good rider…and wanted to dress the part. So I bought some new breeches and a blingy belt, cute riding polos, and tall boots. Now I look and feel like a good rider 🙂

But the biggest evidence of my change in motivation is definitely my riding schedule. I don’t have to talk myself into riding….I look forward to riding every single day. I don’t get out to the barn and find excuses not to ride (Cloud could really use a bath, I’m tired I just feel like grazing….). Rather, I ride and then bathe/graze/groom/etc. I’m never too tired to ride…it’s more often that I’m tired, but I don’t realize it until AFTER I ride and I go home and crash from my busy day.

Again, I can’t emphasize this enough, I have always loved Cloud. And I’ve liked riding. Certainly I’ve gone through some good times enjoying riding, but I have never felt as motivated as I do now. I love riding, and Cloud loves our rides too. This motivation isn’t just for Cloud and I, either. Debbie has some of the most motivated and dedicated riders in the barn. Just last night after my lesson, I was hanging out with another one of Debbie’s students. She was telling me how much she loves riding, even though she has had a very stressful week at work. And as she tacked her horse, I was in awe of how much you could tell her horse was ready to go ride. As Lee turned to get her saddle, Sogno side stepped closer to her, as in to say “here you go, put that saddle on me”. When Lee took off her halter, Sogno dropped her head for the bridle, and when Lee lifted the bit to her mouth she reached and grabbed for the bit herself. This is a horse who went through a stint of sticking her head high in the air to avoid being bridled.

Alright, enough gushing. I just love my trainer! And I love my summer with Cloudy Boy. Can’t wait for my lesson tomorrow 😛

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | April 15, 2015

Birthday Boy & Lesson Report 4/14/15

Yesterday was Cloudy Boy’s birthday! He is 23 years young! I’ve actually been calling him 23 all year, because of the thoroughbred bday thing, but yesterday was the real day 🙂 Cloudy Boy has taught me that older horses can be pretty bad-ass! He’s had his aging ups and downs, but since getting started riding with Debbie he is so healthy, strong, fit, and fancy! Here’s to many many more years of being young at heart!

Today was my first lesson of the week. I haven’t ridden since my last lesson (Thursday), unless you count the five minutes it took me to diagnose an abscess on Saturday. Cloud’s foot was in pain on Saturday, but if there’s one thing Cloud has taught me, it’s my way around an abscess. Once I figured out it was an abscess, I began aggressive treatment…going out in the morning, soaking his foot, wrapping it with Ichthamol and Animalintex pads. He actually was way better on Sunday. Better enough that I was looking for where the abscess blew, but couldn’t find it. I still don’t think the abscess blew out, so maybe it was just a flare up and went away. Anyways, I’ve been very proactive and have been treating it anyways.

So I wasn’t entirely sure if our lesson would be a go or not today. I had a good feeling that he was fine, but I just didn’t know for sure. So I got out to the barn and brought in Cloudy, who was walking normal. Groomed him as best I could with the time I had, and tacked him up. We were just finishing tacking as Debbie came in.

Just as it only took a few laps around on Saturday to know that he had an abscess, it only took a few laps around to figure out that Cloudy Boy was feeling fine. His walk was great right off the bat! Debbie and I chatted for a bit while I walked him to warm him up, just to give him time to show us if anything was going on. Plus we’ve become great friends 🙂 I asked for some advice as I begin searching for a new bridle. Boy was I shocked when we started talking about double bridles!!! Debbie said that if she had a schooling double, as she used to when she had her barn, she’d probably have already had me try it out. But for now, she wants me to stick with a single bridle…but we talked about how this summer could bring about a ton of change and progress, and that double bridle may be in the works this year. I’ve ridden in one before, on a horse that I used to ride (Harley) in dressage lessons with Shelley before I moved Cloud to the barn she taught at. I didn’t really know what I was doing, though. I mostly held the curb reins and used the snaffle reins to ride.

So that was the chat laps, and then we picked up the trot. We started with some simple changes of direction and riding circles. We took some walk breaks and practiced walk pirouettes, which are coming along nicely. Seeing as Cloud was perfectly sound and more than ready for work, both Debbie and I were pretty excited to get back to the simple changes that we were working on last week.

We started the pattern from last week, first trotting down quarter lines, doing a walk transition, then picking up the trot again while maintaining straightness. Then I picked up the canter and we did the same exercise…turn on the quarter line, make a trot transition, then pick up the canter. For some reason, Cloud picked up the wrong lead a couple of times, because he wasn’t waiting for my cue to canter. But we worked it out. So Debbie got to thinking out loud, and put out a challenge for me. She ‘thought out loud’ that a good next step would be to divide the quarter line into 3rds, and do a counter canter transition in the middle. But then she said, “No, I don’t want him to get confused”. Well, that put the challenge out there, and I confidently said from the saddle, “We can do it!”. 🙂 First step was to get the timing. We went back to trot/walk transitions. I would turn on the quarter line, and immediately ask for the walk, walk a few steps, pick up the trot, then 2/3rds of the way down the quarter line fit in another walk transition.

We managed that pretty easily, so next we did canter with two walk transitions, but stayed on true canter at first. We turned onto the quarter line, and of course, the challenge is that the the quarter line goes by really quickly when you are in the canter, so I had to shorten the stride in the canter, and really plan ahead for the walk transitions. I turned down the quarter line, gave him a stride, then sat deep to cue the walk transition. Walked a few steps, then picked up true canter again for about two strides, then walk transition, walk a few steps, then a walk to canter transition before the quarter line ended. It only took a time or two before we had that master….so onto the challenge.

We got it right on the very first try. Boo-yah!!! Turned on the quarter line, walk transition, walked a few steps and changed the bend, picked up counter canter for 2 strides, walk transition, walked a few steps and changed the bend, back to true canter…all before the end of the quarter line.

Holy moly! I can’t wait for our lesson tomorrow to see what the next challenge will be! We had so much fun tonight, and I think Debbie was shocked at how fast we are moving through these stepping stones to our lead changes. I know I am! It’s a mix, because I feel like our foundation is so strong now that I am confident, but I still am surprised at how far we are going with Debbie’s teaching! She is the very very best!!!!!!!

Before I left, I wrapped Cloud’s foot just one more time, since we had a hard ride. So I will go out in the morning to take off his wrap, but then if all goes well I want to leave the wrap off for the day tomorrow to see how it goes. It’s been fun this week getting up early and going out to the barn 🙂 I’ve been feeding Cloud breakfast and taking care of his hoof…and it’s tiring because I have to get up early and get ready quicker, but I really like starting my day with a barn visit! Makes me day dream about summer plans!

Alright, time for bed! Good night!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | April 12, 2015

Big Update

Hello!! I have been wanting to type a blog post for AGES, but to be honest every time I sat down to type I was overwhelmed by how much there was to type. And so here I am, ripping off the bandaid and tackling the task…but I am tired and not sure how long I will be able to type! So, as I say to my kindies and first graders, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset!”

My last post was in October (yikes), when I had just started lessons with Debbie. I was cautiously optimistic at that point. Any trainer can make some quick changes in your riding and show results…but only the good ones can keep the changes coming, and boy, Debbie has. I absolutely cannot say enough good things about her…as an instructor, as a person, and as a friend. She and I see completely eye-to-eye on horses and riding. When we started lessons, we started at square one. It was a lot of talking and explaining how my body is supposed to influence Cloud, and why. She fixed me from my head, to my fingertips (literally), to my toes, and everything in between. The changes were so significant that she made me feel like a beginner….but only for a little while. There was a string of lessons where I would correct one issue and then seem to fall apart in another issue. Like, I would fix my core, but my legs would go wobbly. Or I would fix my hold on the reins and my posture would slump. But it didn’t take long before the changes in my body started to influence Cloud in amazing, amazing ways. It’s like I finally was giving him all of the directions he needed and I unlocked the fancy dressage horse in him! But we haven’t stopped there! Debbie has continued to raise the bar and challenge us, doing tons of lateral work and riding fancy patterns. This week she introduced a new challenge for us…canter lead changes. This is something that I’ve always been interested in learning. A few years back I asked a trainer to teach me changes, but we didn’t have the success I wanted. I could get changes sometimes, but for the most part it was clear that Cloud wasn’t getting the right message. He was trying to do what I asked him, but I wasn’t asking the right question. So I am very excited to be tackling this challenge with Debbie…because I know she can break it down and teach it to me right so that I can ask Cloud the right question! We are starting (as you should) with completely mastering simple changes. This week we worked on trotting down quarter lines, asking for a few walk steps, then trotting again, all while maintaining a straight line off the wall. After that got simple, we started cantering down the quarter line, breaking all the way to the walk, then doing a walk-canter transition. Talk about FUN! Cloud and I both were having a blast 🙂

So that’s the update on the trainer…more on that if I can manage to get some more blog time in on a regular basis. The other biggest news is…I got a new saddle!!!!!!!! I think Debbie deserves credit on this, as well, Because for one, she was there when the saddle fitter came out to give me direction, and two, riding with her has definitely restarted my passion for riding. I know it’s weird, because I’ve never lost the passion for horses or for Cloud, but sometimes the riding can get boring when it’s not challenging and I’m not learning something new. So last summer I was going through a lull, where I just wanted to BE with Cloud instead of riding. I spent a lot of time grazing him, grooming him, and riding awfully lazily, not really asking much of him. Since starting riding with Debbie, I am riding every day/evening that I possibly can. At least 4 days a week, sometimes 5.

Then, on top of my renewed excitement for riding, the corrections she made in my body position got me to thinking. If these small changes in my position can make such a difference in the way Cloud goes, could a new saddle do the same for Cloud?? Here’s my saddle history in a nutshell: I bought Cloud when I was a senior in high school. Buying a horse really actually wasn’t in the cards for me at the time, but I met Cloud and fell in love and couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to him. So I begged my parents and they could see that this time (as opposed to the 10,000 times before that I had begged for a horse), that I NEEDED this horse. He wasn’t just any horse. Thankfully, my parents saw that and helped me buy a horse, at probably the worst time to buy a horse in one’s life (you know, college). Of course, buying a horse means you need stuff. My Aunt in Florida was kind enough to supply me with my first saddle. And boy, did I love that saddle! The saddle was hers when she was younger. It was in pretty darn good shape considering its age. It was a jump saddle, and I used it for probably 3-4 years before it needed some repairs and my parents decided to buy me a saddle for my 21st/Golden birthday. I was still jumping at the time, so I bought an all purpose. It was a not-fancy brand saddle, but it was brand spanking new and I was in college so super fancy wasn’t an option. It was a good saddle, too! But then I made the switch to dressage…wish I had made that decision sooner! And so I found a cheap used dressage saddle that magically fit my high-withered extreme-narrow thoroughbred “like a glove” (my vet’s words). It’s a Dover brand saddle, so again nothing super fancy, but actually a really pretty saddle, and it suited our needs at the time…but I knew deep down that it wasn’t the best/perfect fit for me or Cloud. But when you buy a horse as a senior in high school, and have 6 years of college/grad school to pay for, while working minimum wage part time jobs and trying desperately not to lean on the parents TOO much, we had to make do.

But now I am a grown up (even if I don’t feel like one) with a grown up job (and a few extras!) and once I got the idea in my mind that a new saddle could make a difference…I made it happen! I know it is crazy to buy a new saddle for a 23 year old horse, but it is what it is. I set out to find a saddle that was a good fit for Cloud, but also with the potential to fit future horses.

I knew right away that this time, I wanted an expert (or two) to help me find a good saddle for Cloud. Up to this point I have fit my own saddles, and although I know the basics, I think I’ve just gotten fairly lucky. So I got in touch with Kate Ballard at Barrington Saddlery for a fitting. It was such a fun day! I was nervous that a Master Saddler (she’s one of 5 in the United States!) would scoff at the idea of fitting a fancy new saddle to a 23 year old horse, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. It did not take Kate long to fall victim to Cloud’s charm!

The first thing she did was take his tracings. And then we talked options. Of course, she told me that Cloud has a pretty unique/distinct shape to his back. Not only is he high withered and extremely narrow, but he is also in his, err, geriatric years, which has distinct effects on a horse’s back shape as well. So the long and short of it is that Cloud would need a completely custom made saddle to actually fit his back. The downside to that, besides expense, is that the saddle would only fit Cloud…it’d be very difficult to use on future horses and pretty impossible to sell, too. So I decided, and Kate and Deb agreed, on option 2…find a saddle that is a close fit, and use a Mattes pad to fill in the gaps.

**SIDE NOTE** During this initial stage of the fitting, Kate commented to Deb and I that “You can tell this horse is ridden correctly by looking at his muscles”. PRIDE!!! And kudos to Deb, of course!

After the decision was made to look at saddles versus get a custom saddle started, in came the saddles! We started with 3 options. The first saddle, I believe it was an Albion, was strapped on, and into the arena the team went! I couldn’t stop looking at the saddle on Cloud’s back. My Dover saddle was pretty, but a fancy new saddle looked so pretty on him!! I got on and walked off and instantly felt like I was riding a different horse! It felt so foreign! The saddle felt good to me, but after walking around for a bit Kate summoned me to the center of the ring and checked how the saddle sat on him with me in it, and it was pressing on his spine. So that instantly took that saddle out of the running, and we swapped it out for a Patrick Keane.

**SIDE NOTE** When I first got on Cloud, I asked him to walk off from the mounting block. I asked him to go on the bit right away, instead of our usual warm up, because we were on a mission. As soon as he was on the bit and using his back, Kate called out from the center of the ring. She said “Oh my gosh you have me so emotional! I’m all choked up! He’s wonderful!” 🙂 It was really cute. I think a lot of people see Cloud on the ground and see an old guy. Yes, he is beautiful and his color is certainly breathtaking, but everyone can see his age. Cloud really transforms under saddle. Kate’s not the first person to be blown away by the transformation, but it always warms my heart a lot.

Again, it felt different when I got on, but really good! I walked him around a bit, and Debbie commented that she liked the way my leg was positioned in the saddle. I went to the middle and got the green light from Kate…the saddle had clearance from his spine. And so we picked up a trot! I won’t lie, it felt uncomfortable, but I could tell it was good uncomfortable. Cloud’s shoulder was freer, his movement was bigger, and I was trying to adjust! Debbie put me through my paces, we did lateral work, canter work, halts, and lots of transitions. One of the cool things about this saddle was it was a mono flap, so less leather between my legs and the horse, so I could tell that he could really feel my signals.

Basically, the saddle chose us. We stopped at that saddle and didn’t look at any others. I hopped down and we led Cloud back to the groom stall and untacked. I fixed him his dinner so Kate and I could do business. I ordered my saddle and Mattes pad, and asked about stirrups, leathers, and a girth. Kate was so sweet and threw in the irons and leathers for free! And the leathers are really nice too! She loaded up her van, and I was able to pick my saddle package the next day! Kate was awesome, she set the tree to the narrowest setting and even had the inserts put into the Mattes pad to fit Cloud’s back. It was so exciting to pick up my new saddle! But, you wouldn’t believe it, I picked up my saddle and didn’t even put it on Cloud’s back for 2 days!!!!!! It was a weird timing thing, and I was super busy with work. It was hard, I felt like a little kid who got a brand new toy on Christmas, but didn’t have the batteries for it!

It worked out though, because when I finally was able to put it on him and ride, it was my Spring break! Isn’t it beautiful???

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It has taken some getting use to. Cloud moves so much different in it that I’ve had to find my balance with his new found shoulder-freedom! Plus, I’ve just had to adjust to a different seat! It has been so great though, I am so happy with my purchase. No buyers remorse here!

Alright, so I guess that’s pretty much up to speed. We’ve been riding tons, having so much fun with Debbie, and loving on our new saddle together! So now I’ll just update on today, and we will go from there! Today…I was completely off of work…no school or restaurant, but I am house/dog sitting, so I didn’t have complete freedom of my day. The plan was a barn trip in the morning, and be home by lunch to be with the pups! And so I left for the barn in hopes of a ride and maybe a quick bath (Cloud got his first bath last weekend, and I’d really like to get on a regular schedule of weekly baths).

I got out to the barn and got all of my stuff ready, then went out to retrieve my pony. Two things stood out to me right away. First, Cloud’s pasture buddies were busy by the fence munching on their morning hay, but Cloud was in the middle of the pasture grazing on grass. Pretty unlike him, but he was eating so I wasn’t worried about it…just noticed that it was odd. The second thing I noticed was that Cloud didn’t come when I called him. I have a whistle that I always use to signal to Cloud that I am here, and then he will come over to the gate. He looked over at me, but didn’t budge. So I walked out to him, again thinking it was odd, but nothing looked wrong.

I brought him in, but stopped to let him graze while I picked out his tail. I’m really trying to get in the habit of finger-picking his tail instead of brushing, but boy does it take a long time. Then I brought him into the barn and gave him a good grooming. Cloud has been shedding for weeks! Every day it’s a huge pile of hair! Tacked him all up and headed to the arena. He had walked just fine when I brought him in, but I noticed a slight limp as we were walking to the arena. Instantly I thought abscess, but the only way to find out was to go in and hop on him. I started walking him on a loose rein, and it took about 3 laps…each lap his limp got worse until he could barely put weight on his foot. BINGO. Foot trouble. If it was his joints bothering him, it would get better with movement. Not getting better? Likely an abscess. I hopped down and felt the foot and felt a ton of heat near the coronary band.

So abscess first aid time. Had to borrow a few things from a friend :), but also had a lot of what I needed. First step was a warm Epsom salt soak, then let it dry, applied Icthamol to the coronary band and packed the sole with an Animalintex pad, wrapped and duct taped. Wish I could give him some Bute to ease the pain, but Bute is anti-inflammatory and you want the heat to work its way out, not suppress it. Cloud is back out in his pasture. He doesn’t do well in a stall during the day by himself, and I know he’s smart and will take it easy on his foot outside (I think that’s what he was doing when I got there…staying out of the mud and trying to limit his movement), so why ask for a stall for the night?

Hopefully the abscess will work its way out quickly since I caught it quickly. The plan is soak again in the morning, then wrap, then wrap again at night. Will do 1 a day soaks till the abscess blows, and keep it wrapped until then PLUS when it closes up. I really really hope that I can get it cleared up in time for my lesson on Tuesday! Cloudy usually is a pretty quick heal on abscesses. He’s a tough guy, he just needs it to blow and then usually he’s sound for riding.

Well, there is your update! I know you probably don’t believe me, but I hope I will update more now. I’ve wanted to update for so long, but it just felt like there was so much to write (clearly). I hope that now that the initial post is up that it will be easier to sit down and write when I get the urge to. Plus, school is winding down, maybe not as fast as I want it to, but fast none the less. I’ll have a busy few weeks, but most of my IEP meeting will be done soon. And then there is summer…and believe it or not, I am not planning on doing summer school this year! You can thank Debbie for that, too! I am so happy with what I am doing with Cloud right now that I am very excited for a summer to spend with him! I have been working my butt off for years, and will still be working at the restaurant…I feel like Cloud and I deserve this summer 🙂 So in the summer I should have plenty of blog time!

Okay, good night y’all! PS. Sorry if there are typos/things that don’t make sense/run-on sentences. Too tired to proofread!

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Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | October 31, 2014

Goldilocks and the 4 Trainers

Oh, hey!! Pretty sad that the last time I updated was summer break, and today was the first snow of the year. But I guess it’s not as bad as it sounds, seeing as it is October!!

Time for a whirlwind update. I think rather than backtrack to the last time I updated, I’ll just update on where we are at now. Y’all can fill in the blanks for yourselves!

One of the biggest happenings with Cloud lately has been weight. Since our spring vet report, I have been trying to put weight back on Cloud. It has been tricky with him being pasture boarded. Cloud doesn’t quite fit the typical mold of a pasture boarded horse. Apparently the pasture board stereotype is an easy keeper. So through my frustrations of Cloud’s weight I have been on the verge of putting him back in a stall, which would allow me to feed him the hay that would best meet his needs. But so far I just haven’t gone there….I am way way too thrilled with what pasture board has done for his joints. Plus he really seems happy as a pasture horse. He has adjusted so well and his demeanor seems very chill and relaxed. Another benefit is that I’ve noticed a pretty significant decrease in cuts and injuries. Cloud tends to hurt himself in a stall! So I’ve been doing the best I can to feed him what he needs without putting him back into a stall…which has meant another grain change, adding hay cubes to his diet, and 3 times a day feedings (I help). Right now I am very happy with his weight, but am not ready to tone things down with winter right around the corner.

The other big news is that Cloud and I have found yet another dressage trainer! For those keeping track, this is our 4th dressage trainer since making the switch to dressage in 2008. When we moved to Prairie Oaks, my plan was to go at it on my own for a while. Tracey had really really helped us and set me up for some success on my own. There is a trainer, Deb Sedlacek, who frequents Prairie Oaks, and so I have run into her quite a bit at the barn. My first impressions of her were that she was a very very kind woman, and a really great trainer. Her students have nothing but great things to say about her methods. I was really blown away by how friendly she was to me and Cloud, even though we were not her students. She always talked to me and saved a mint for Cloud, without any pressure to take lessons from her. I don’t know, I was just surprised by that.

Anyways, I watched her give quite a few lessons and started to get an itch to try her out. Cloud’s weight was going good, but my riding schedule was off since school had started and I felt like lessons would get me back motivated in the saddle. I kind of got into a routine of coming out to the barn and just being with Cloud rather than riding. I spent a lot of time grazing him, brushing him, and feeding him, but was lacking in saddle time.

Finally told myself to stop making excuses and set up 2 lessons with Deb last week. I was pretty blown away from the get-go. It is hard as I have had so many dressage trainers to not look back and reflect on the positives and negatives of each, and compare the good/bad/ugly. I definitely look back on my first trainer with some resentment. She was a very qualified rider, but somehow she turned Cloud and I into a hot mess. I think I’m pretty lucky that I stuck with dressage after her. I look back on my time with her and feel very sorry for trusting her with Cloud and I, and listening to her. Poor Cloud didn’t deserve her methods. My second trainer was nice and tried her best, but I don’t think she knew how to undo the tension that had erupted between Cloud and I from the first trainer. It just made me frustrated. I look back on my time with her and feel sorry for her for having to try to correct the problems that the first trainer had created. Under her supervision, I started to realize that something major had to change to restore my relationship with Cloud and restore his confidence and trust in me.

That was a big turning point for Cloud and I. I knew that he still loved me, but our relationship under saddle was strained. I made some major major changes in my mentality towards Cloud. The result was going back to Parelli and natural horsemanship, rebuilding our relationship on the ground, giving him a break in the saddle, and moving him to a luxurious barn which allowed him to be a horse again outside and to be happy and healthy. I look back on our move to Cliffwood Farm and our switch to being Parelli-focus with relief and pride. It was exactly what he and I needed at the time. I had broken a lot of trust with Cloud, asking him to do too much and not giving him clear instructions. I was trying to learn dressage, but not from the right trainer, and the result was tension, both physical and emotional. Changing my methods and focus and changing his environment was a big deal, and I saw instant results. Cloud and I have always had a good connection with each other, and I saw that connection be restored as we moved to Cliffwood and changed my mindset. I felt relief at that time in our lives.

At Cliffwood we met Tracey, and I owe her a TON. She came in just at the right time, with a training style focused on rider biomechanics. She seemed to know just what was wrong with Cloud and I under saddle, and how to fix it. Tracey undid the years of ‘bad riding’ that I had put Cloud through. She taught me to relax my body and take tension out of the equation, which built Cloud’s confidence in me. We started to do amazing things. It was like the slate had been wiped clean.

Tracey taught me a few basic rules which really stuck and really helped my riding relationship with Cloud. But when I left Cliffwood, I decided to do things on my own with what I had learned from Tracey. I appreciate the time that Cloud and I have had, using what Tracey taught us, to restore his faith and confidence in me as a rider. I think what made me lose a little motivation/interest in riding as of late, however, was boredom…I accomplished what I needed to accomplish with Cloud in regards to trust and riding tension-free, but am now ready to do more with him. Tracey would have helped us to do more, once we got past our problems, but now at the new barn I saw Deb training and am ready to give her a try.

Our first few lessons have been great. I feel like Deb is the perfect trainer to pick up where Tracey left off. So far, I can tell that I understand her instructions and methods much better than any of the other 3 trainers. She has a very understandable teaching approach. She makes things make sense in my mind.

I will post more on her lessons as they get more underway, I don’t want to jump the gun and assume she is going to be my best trainer so far, just after a few lessons. But I’d like to think that I have learned enough from my dressage trainer past to only get better and better instead of going backwards. The most important thing is that I trust Deb to keep Cloud and I moving forward without tension and without sacrificing the trust he has for me!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | June 29, 2014

Trust your gut!

Hello!! It has been so long!

My summer break is in full swing, and I am really loving it. Last summer I was working a TON, and this summer I am only working one job, summer school, which runs Monday through Thursday from 8:15-12:15. It makes for a very nice schedule for Cloud and Lambeau. For those who are wondering, yes, I ‘left’ my job at Main Stay. I had held my farm relief position for 4.5 years, and I truly loved it…which is why I did it for so long. But eventually, I wanted my weekends and holidays back. So I worked for them until they could find my replacement, and now I am a ‘back-up’ for their current farm relief. There are times when I miss the quiet mornings at the farm, feeding the animals and doing chores, but overall it was time. I really love those animals though, so sometimes I miss it! But I look forward to being a substitute.

So I started out the summer with a week completely off. Talk about weird. I am used to working 6-7 days a week, and having a whopping 2 days off of work a month. And suddenly I was faced with an entire week off to do as I please! I got Lambeau back into a routine of being my running dog, and Cloud and I spent lots of time together. He got a much needed bath, good grooming sessions, daily rides, and some Parelli playtime. My tack trunk got organized, brushes got cleaned, etc.

Summer school is heading into its third week now (out of 6) and the schedule has been perfect. It’s so nice to have all this time to split between my dog and my horse (and friends and family too haha). It has been a pretty nice summer as far as weather goes. I know most people don’t welcome the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies, but I’ve never been a huge fan of heat. So far it’s been pretty cool.

This past week was a little rough for Cloudy Boy. On Monday I got a call from the barn owner while I was at summer school. The farmhand, Martin, wanted me to know that Cloud was limping pretty bad. So I hurried out to the barn from summer school. Sure enough, Cloud was very resistant to putting his weight on his right front (his ‘problem leg’…fused fetlock, and the source of most of his trouble).

I grabbed his halter and brought him in. There was another boarder there taking a look at him too. I pulled off his fly leg wraps and bell boots and sprayed him with fly spray so he could stop stomping, because it was making him pretty uncomfortable. I didn’t see anything obviously wrong, so my immediate thought was that Cloud had an abscess working in his hoof. I asked the other boarder if she had any Epsom salt, because I knew I didn’t from cleaning out my tack trunk the other day. She went to grab some for me to borrow.

In the mean time I picked out Cloud’s hooves (again finding nothing obvious wrong) and felt the right front hoof for heat or a pulse and didn’t feel anything, which made me start to doubt the abscess. Then Martin came over to check in with me. He told me that when he saw Cloud limping, his fly wrap was hanging off his leg…that made me start to think maybe Cloud really had injured himself. It was a little slick out from rain, so it made sense. Martin also said he felt heat on Cloud’s leg above the fetlock. So I felt his fetlock, and sure enough there was a little heat above the fetlock. It really wasn’t much heat, and certainly in hindsight it was not enough heat for how bad he was limping, but combined with the fly wrap hanging off his leg, I started to believe Cloud had slipped in the wet grass and tweaked his fused fetlock.

The boarder returned with the Epsom salt and I told her I had changed my mind. There was a part of me that wanted to treat both the fetlock and the hoof, but then I wasn’t sure that I would know what actually was the problem. Plus I didn’t want to soak a hoof if it didn’t need to be soaked.

And so I started the regimen for treating his fetlock. I cold hosed his fetlock and stuck him in a stall (the barn was so nice to put him up!) and ran to the tack shop for some supplies. I came back and cold hosed again, then poulticed him. I decided to wrap all four legs, just cuz I guess. I poulticed the front two, and put linament on the hinds. I figured his legs could use a little pampering from all the stomping, and his three good legs were doing extra work with all the limping.

I took him back to his layup stall, and Cloud planted his feet. Haha even though walking was painful, Cloud wanted to be outside with his friends. Ah, my well-adjusted pasture horse! I gave Cloud his evening grain with a gram of bute, gave him some kisses and cookies, and left for the night.

Tuesday morning I woke up bright and early to head out to the barn and take off his wraps. I fed Cloud his morning grain with a gram of bute, then unwrapped and cold hosed. Cloud was still limping, which was a bummer. You always hope for a quick fix! I talked to Martin about leaving him in a stall to rest for the day, but figured it wouldn’t really work out. I told Martin to turn Cloud out if he freaked when the other horses got turned out. Sure enough, Cloud was not going to tolerate being alone in a stall when he is used to being outside with his friends.

So Tuesday and Wednesday were spent inside/poulticed/wrapped overnight, cold hosing 3 times a day, and outside limping during the day (with extra fly spray to try to help him out), and a gram of bute twice a day. By Wednesday night, Cloud wasn’t getting any better, if anything he was getting worse.

I poulticed Cloud and gave him his grain/bute Wednesday night, but left him outside (instead of wrapping Cloud’s poulticed leg I just put paper on it, so he could stay out). The rest wasn’t doing him any good and I didn’t want to overstay our welcome in a layup stall if it wasn’t helping him. The drive home I contemplated next steps. If it really was his fetlock that was bothering him, the care I had give him for 3 days should have made pretty good impact, and I was getting nothing. Clearly I wasn’t treating the right injury.

I called my vet and left a voicemail. Here’s how I started the voicemail…”Cloud is walking like he has an abscess, but he has heat above his bad fetlock. I’ve been cold hosing 3x a day, giving him 2 grams of bute a day, and poulticing in a stall overnight, and he’s getting worse not better”. Andrea called back pretty quickly…and the gist of her phone call was, “You told me your horse has an abscess and you’re treating his fetlock?!? Call me back after you’ve soaked and wrapped his hoof for 24 hours.” LOL. Gotta love her humor!

Thursday I went out in the morning to remove his poultice. Per doctor’s orders, and because we were now treating an abscess, Cloud was taken off of bute. Bute will actually prevent an abscess from coming to the surface. I didn’t have Epsom salt or an animalintex pad (poultice pad for the hoof…I could have packed it with poultice but I just figured I’d wait till I could get the pad cuz it’s simpler/cleaner), so I just dry wrapped his hoof to at least keep it clean in case it happened to burst on its own.

After school, I made another tack shop run for new supplies, then headed to the barn. I soaked Cloud’s hoof while he ate dinner, which was a spontaneous wonderful discovery of how to keep him busy while his hoof soaked!

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After soaking, I groomed Cloud to give his hoof a little time to dry, then soaked an animalintex pad, and wrapped Cloud’s foot with the poultice pad on the sole and ichthamol on his coronary band.

Came out Thurday, and Cloud was still limping, but it did seem a bit better. Did another soak and poultice wrap, and extra cookies.

Came out Friday, and my horse was sound. No limping at all. Brought him in, soaked his hoof for good measure and to clean it off to check it out. When he was done soaking, I inspected the foot…..

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Oh, hello abscess! What a sight for sore eyes! I was very excited to see the abscess and see that my horse is feeling relief, but I also felt extremely guilty. My gut instinct on Monday was that he had an abscess, but I talked myself into thinking it was something else and wasted treatment time. Poor pony! Abscesses are sneaky little buggers! They bother horses so much that I feel like owners often talk themselves into thinking it’s something worse. I swear if it was someone else’s horse, I would have been standing there telling them it’s probably an abscess, but because it was my own, I worried myself into being fooled! So I am saying this once and for all…if your horse is walking like it has a broken leg, and there’s nothing obvious wrong, it’s an abscess!!!!! BUT, I have no credentials…so call your vet! Haha! Oh and BTW, my theory is that the heat in Cloud’s fetlock was a result of him limping around, which probably put stress on his fused fetlock. I guess it was good that I treated that heat, but I wish I had started treating both!

So for the next few days I will be putting ichthamol on the abscess and wrapping it to keep it clean until it heals over. I am eager to get back to our summer routine! I love taking care of my horse, especially when I make him feel better, but I’ll be happy to get back to playing/riding too!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | March 31, 2014

Spring Break in Review

Well, tomorrow I head on back to the daily grind as a school speech-language pathologist. Let IEP season begin (wait, it hasn’t already???)! As far as Cloud goes, spring break was pretty great!

As you may recall, prior to spring break I was housesitting/dog- and horse-sitting, so I was not riding Cloud for two weeks as it was just too much and my responsibility was with the animals under my charge. It was interesting timing, having just moved Cloud, but the way I saw it, he would have a chance to get to know his new pasture buddies and settle in a bit. And the good part of the timing was that my spring break started the day the family got back!

Spring break started a little rocky for my ‘get back in riding shape’ plan. The first weekend I was just busy with my Main Stay job and spending time with my boyfriend on his days off. Then Monday hit, which was Cloud’s regularly scheduled spring vet visit…not really good time for our first ride back to work. Our vet, Dr.McGowan, has been with us for over 10 years now, and she is pretty great. The first thing she said when she saw Cloud was that he had dropped some weight. Her initial concern was that the weight drop had to do with the move, but when I told her that we’d only been there a few weeks she dismissed that concern and turned the blame on me. She feels that Cloud is one of ‘those horses’ (as she put it) that loses weight when he’s not regularly worked. She said it does not make sense, but she has known a few horses that drop in weight when they are not ridden. All the same, her recommendation was to boost his grain, add extra helpings of beet pulp, start riding, and look into a crib collar in case his increased cribbing (the fencing at the new barn does not have an electric strip on the top board) is contributing to his weight loss. He hasn’t worn a crib collar in years. For one, he has those lumps on the side of his face that rub his hair off/chaff under the famous “Miracle Collar”, and for two, I’m not the hugest fan of the collars. But since it could be impacting his weight, I guess you gotta do what you gotta do. Other than his weight, there’s nothing major to report. Blood was drawn for coggins, shots were given, teeth were floated, and his sheath was cleaned. Mr. Wobbly Legs had no trouble aiming a few good kicks at our favorite vet.

Then came Tuesday, which I spent at Main Stay for staff/instructor/various meetings the whole day – another day outta the saddle.

And then there was Wednesday…our farrier was out for his usual reset. But, dum-dum-dum-DUM! I rolled outta bed and made it to the barn in time to ride before his shoes were reset. I had planned on a slow start back into riding. In the past, especially in winter, we have had to spend our first few rides literally just walking and loosening his stiff joints. But not this time! Pasture board is really suiting Cloud well, and we were able to jump right in to rides mostly trotting with walk breaks, and a little canter as well.

I rode Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. My main focus was my body position and getting Cloud started back up using himself correctly and being loose/flexible. With that in mind we stayed off the rail. We did a lot of circles in the middle of the arena (completely off the rail, love how wide the arena is!), centerlines, cutting across the arena, figure 8’s, big serpentines, shallow serpentines, etc. It felt really really good to be back working, and I just was in a crazy bliss state following each ride.

Unfortunately, I have not ridden this weekend 😦 😦 😦 My family has suffered a loss and I spent the weekend supporting my family. I will be back in the saddle tomorrow and hope to have a good solid week in the saddle.

Before I go, I’d just like to do another little update on our new barn. Due to the wet conditions as our Chiberia snow is melting (yeah, it’s not entirely gone yet), Cloud and his buddies Dusty and Frodo have relocated to an all-weather paddock. It’s smaller, but not too bad, and they have a really nice shelter that Cloud took advantage of when it rained. I have continued to just be thrilled with how he has adjusted to life as a pasture horse. Instead of feeling guilty or worrying about him, I’m actually feeling really satisfied. What is more natural than being outside and living in a herd?? Certainly his old joints are reaping the benefits. He is pretty calm and content, too. I know when he is unhappy, and he is doing so well here. Who knew???

I am happy too. I do miss my friends at Cliffwood, and my tack locker (lol), but the new barn is pretty great too. The boarders are super friendly and all so different, which is fun. I like talking to the barn owner’s daughter, she is definitely a fun person! She loves her horse as much as I love mine, and I always connect to people like that!

Oh, and per vet instructions, Cloud’s feed rations are on their way up. I made gallon ziplocs to increase his feed over 10 days. The barn’s farmhand, Martin, and I worked out a deal with Cloud’s grain. Cloud is the only pasture boarded horse that gets 2 meals a day (apparently most pasture horses are easy keepers haha), and since I am usually out at night when Martin feeds Cloud, I have taken over Cloud’s PM feeding, with Martin as a back-up if I can’t come out (like Tuesdays when I teach). This saves Martin time, since most days I was telling him I’d feed Cloud anyways. And I am the type of person who enjoys whatever extra that I can do for my own horse instead of having someone else do it for me. With Cloudy’s new rations, it makes for a nice long, quiet, peaceful visit between us two. Bliss.

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Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | March 14, 2014

Move Update

It has been a couple weeks since the big move, so I am due for a post….let’s start from the beginning.

Moving day was set for March 1st, and so the week leading up to the move my friend Eryn had her truck and trailer parked at Cliffwood for us to refresh Cloud on trailer loading. I’ve never kept it a secret that Cloud is not a great trailer loader. He’s certainly not the worst, but he’s not easy. He does better with practice though, which made it easier when I had my own trailer, and so I was glad that Eryn was willing to leave her trailer there for us to use.

The day she dropped it off she stayed and coached us through our first trailer refresh session, which was nice because she was a Parelli instructor, and it’s also great to have someone there watching, because they can help you correct your mistakes as they see them. The first session went pretty well and was very interesting. When you take a step back and look at a ‘difficulty’ as a ‘challenge’, something that could be frustrating became interesting, which means that I didn’t lose my cool or get upset, I kept on working. The first day we got all four feet a couple of times, but mostly it was his two front feet. And when he’d give us all 4, then he’d take 2 steps backward and go back to not going in at all. Very interesting.

That was on Sunday. We didn’t get a chance to work on the trailer again until Tuesday. Our method for trailer loading was actually to stand behind the trailer and ask him to load himself, instead of pulling him in or going in with him. On Tuesday, I went out not sure what he was going to give me, and he loaded himself with all four feet over and over and over. No troubles at all. Sweet. And so the rest of the week we did two more practice sessions that were about 10 minutes each tops.

Moving day (Saturday) came and I was anxious, so he obviously could figure out that it was the day, but he loaded after a couple of 2 front feet loads. But the whole process took maybe 5 minutes. It was nice! Thank you again Eryn! 🙂

Ah, so then we moved. Leading up to the move I was STRESSING about the pasture board. The new barn owner had offered a stall to us…we could get a stall for the first month, or even the first few weeks, or just use a stall for the coldest or wettest nights. It was all up to me. And I just couldn’t figure out what was best to do. The weather was still shakey, let’s be honest I still don’t even know if winter is ready to quit, and I was just nervous about making the call to put him straight to pasture board. So a stall kind of seemed obvious, right?? But, no. Here’s what held me back…Cloud is a pretty sensitive horse. He’s sensitive to his environment and really likes a routine. I felt that if we moved and he went straight to pasture, that he would learn that the new barn ‘routine’ is pasture board. If I put him in a stall, he would learn that routine, and I was nervous that it would then take longer to adjust to pasture board, if he could adjust at all.

So it was tough. But I decided to put him straight out to the pasture. And I stressed. A lot. I checked the weather compulsively, I thought of Cloud every time I took the dog out at night and felt the chill. I worried about how he was getting along with the other horses, and if he was scared at night. Okay, I know that’s over reacting. He’s a horse, he’s been out overnight before (in summers), but my mind was just racing worrying about my boy.

The first week I stressed. Every time I went out to the barn I’d spy on him before going to see him, just to see what he was doing. The farmhand, Martin, said that he was screaming and pacing the first 2 days, but I was confused because every time I pulled in he was settled and calm. I figured out that Martin was seeing him upset at transition times…when other horses were going in and coming out, so Martin started bringing Cloud in for his grain at those times (the horses that he is out with don’t get grain, so it’s actually easier for him to bring him in anyways), and it settled him down.

Overall I am pleasantly surprised. I just didn’t expect it to work out so well. I don’t think I brought these thoughts to the surface because I was trying to think positively…but I truly believe I didn’t think he would be able to adjust to pasture board. Especially this time of year. Cloud definitely took the move better than I did. I think he actually likes being out so much. He was pretty cooped up (see also: spoiled) this winter because of the extreme cold, so I think he likes being out and moving around all the time.

In the past, Cloud moves into new barns okay, but he’s usually pretty nervous until he gets into the new routine. In previous moves, bringing Cloud in for a ride, he’s usually dancing and calling, and anxious. And it usually takes him a while to get used to a new riding arena. At this barn, he’s been so calm. I just don’t know if it’s my new attitude/approach with him, or that he’s tired from being outside all day/night, or if he’s just really that settled in.

I don’t know, but I am thrilled. Things can only get better from here as the weather gets better. I still definitely have concerns…I worry about the snow melting/mud (although so far I can already see that this pasture drains well! Yea!) and I worry about storms. I know I’ll hate thinking of him out in the rain. 😦 But we’ll see. I think it’s funny Cloud is adjusting better to the new barn/living arrangements than I am!

So currently my riding has been halted. I spent our first week at the new barn spending hours out with Cloud, organizing, grooming, riding, doting. But then I started my usual housesitting gig, and I had to put the long barn trips on hold. My responsibility is to the animals that I am watching, especially the dogs who aren’t used to being cooped up so much! I have been going out to see Cloud just about every other day to check Cloud’s bell boots and shoes and give him a treat, before heading back to the house. It’s nice that Cloud’s so close to home because it’s not a long trip to check on him before coming to take care of the animals. I like that I feel that Cloud’s getting a chance to just settle and be with his new friends over these two weeks. And next weekend when I finish up house sitting, my spring break starts, which will set us up nicely for getting him back into shape!

I’m very excited that things are working out so well for us at the new barn. I certainly miss Cliffwood and my friends there. Everyone I have met at the new barn has seemed nice so far. I’m sure when I get back to my regular riding schedule I will befriend some of the boarders.

Alright. Until we meet again!

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | February 17, 2014

100th Blog Post

Happened to realize as I went to add the post that this is our 100th blog post on Loving Cloud! Exciting!

Of course, I wish I had more time for posting. I feel as though every post opens with “long over due for a post”! And this one is no exception, as we are past due for an update, especially with some big news coming up!

In short, since my last post rides have been low in quantity, but high in quality…which is not good, but not bad either. This winter has been vicious! And I’ve had a busy year at work that seems to keep me busy many weeknights. But the last week or so I have done a better job at getting my work done ahead of schedule so I can keep up with my riding schedule. So I feel like my riding schedule is back on the rise.

I’m really happy with the quality of our rides, despite the lack of saddle time. With inconsistent riding and inconsistent turn out (Cliffwood doesn’t turn out if it’s under 15* or if there’s a lot of moisture/snow falling), Cloud has been pretty ‘fresh’ (i.e. wound up, energetic, crazy :P) when I get around to riding. Really, this happens a lot in the winter, even when I do maintain a steady riding schedule. The lessened turnout time, and the snow making it difficult for him to really stretch his legs, just makes Cloud feel restless. It’s like his energy level has a meter that just keeps getting to full!

Cloud and I have a history of exciting winter rides. Most memorably was December 8, 2003 (yep, I even remember the exact day!) when he spooked, bolted, and I did my best impression of Superman…straight into the frozen arena ground. Who can forget the experience of 2 broken arms, afterall??

Obviously that was a long, long time ago…back when I was still learning how to retrain my OTTB. He was still a young guy back then (yep, in Cloudy years, 11 was downright young!) and very spooky. But even still, we’ve spent many a winter, including last year, running around fighting each other as we both tried to cope with his uncontrollable need to expend energy!

This winter is much different. We rode with Tracey last winter, but we were kind of just getting started with her. This winter, I’ve got a good feel for her training methods and I am a changed rider. Saturday I went out and the barn was busy, but I was surprised to find the big indoor empty when I went up to ride. Cloud likes to pretend he’s afraid to be alone in the big indoor 🙂 He’s good alone in the small indoor, but riding him alone in the big indoor can be a challenge, especially if his energy meter is full, like it was on Saturday.

A lesser-me would have probably retreated to the small indoor to ensure a nice quality ride, but I saw it as the word I used in the above paragraph…a challenge. A chance to put our training to the test and face a big empty ring without worry. I spose the reason I would retreat to the small indoor was less fear of falling off and more fear of a frustrating ride. I can usually handle Cloud at his worst after all of our years getting to know each other.

So I mounted up and began to walk a warm up. Sure ’nuff, our first lap around when we got to the far side of the ring, my senior citizen started a sideways jig characeristic of a hyped up racehorse. Here comes our challenge! My first thought was ‘keep it relaxed’. AKA don’t let my body and aides tense for a battle. I rode the jig and made a quick game plan. Literally, a game plan. I would treat his jitters like a game. I made up the rules to the game in my mind. Obviously with a horse you can’t tell them the rules, but you can use your aides to show them the rules until they understand.

The game was simple…the aim of the game was Cloud to focus on me and not the ‘scary’ empty ring. In measurable terms, I wanted Cloud to walk, and walk relaxed (ears on me, head hanging low *side note* did you know that’s where the saying ‘level-headed’ comes from??) for a lap, including the scary far side of the arena. So the rules were simple…if he walked, we continued on the rail, if he trotted, he had to turn…most likely away from ‘home base’, which is the gate to the barn where he always wants to be when he’s alone in the arena.

So that was his rule…walk. My rules were to keep consistent and keep relaxed. Consistent was to turn him right when he jigged, even if it wasn’t a full out trot. If it wasn’t a nice relaxed walk, we were turning.

Here’s the beauty of the game. It took maybe 5 minutes of consistent turns-when-jigging. Then Cloud blew out air, snorted, and lowered his head and walked. It was that darn simple. And then, as a reward, Cloud was able to trot. The result of this simple little game were that Cloud was listening, even when we started trotting. It was such a simple idea, and it was efficient. He got the message, relaxed and listened.

Tracey has taught me a bunch of different exercises for different reasons, including to relax him and make him listen when he’s amped up. But the keys to most of her exercises are relaxation and consistency. And with that formula, really, there’s a thousand different “games” you can play to get your horse to listen. Ah, enlightenment!

Alright, better get to our news before I run out of steam for the post! This will probably be a shock, I know it was for me, but Cloud and I are moving at the end of this month, which is coming up so, so fast!

It started with a friend moving home. She lived out of state, and didn’t want to spend the money to come home and barn-hunt for herself, so she had me looking, and visiting the barn that she was going to. Looking into boarding options for her, I was realizing how much $$ I could save myself on board.

When I moved to Cliffwood, I was living at home with my parents and it was fine. I had the money to spend on board with money to spare. This summer I moved out of my parents house, which was still okay because in the summer I make a lot more money because I make my base salary plus extra work that I pick up in the summer. When fall hit, I started to feel the bills, haha. I could still pay all of my bills, but without too much leftover for ‘extras’ and savings.

So when I saw how much I could potentially save on board, the wheel started turning, and I couldn’t stop them! At first, I really wanted to move Cloud with my friend’s horses, because it’d be fun to spend so much time together and because she could really help me with my Parelli stuff, but the barn that she chose for her horses just wasn’t a good fit for me. Cloud is a sensitive horse to his environment, and I can usually tell which places he would be happy at and which he would not. It’s not always obvious things, I can’t explain it but knowing Cloud as well as I do, I know the type of things that make him happy in a barn/living situation.

With that barn out, I had 2 solid options I was looking at. I went to visit the first option and was sold. It had just about everything Cliffwood has, and offers pasture board. Yep, we’re giving pasture board a shot! I have always boarded Cloud on stall board. He has been at some barns which basically do pasture board in the summer, but has always had a stall for the elements. Certainly, I never would have thought we’d be giving pasture board a try…but for the amount of money I can save, I feel like it’s worth a shot. The worst thing that can happen is I realize it won’t work out and we go back to a stall.

I definitely am anxious about it. I talked to Joe (farrier) about it at length, and at one point, when I think he’d had enough :), he told me to stop being a protective mom and that Cloud will adjust. And he’s probably right. When I am feeling doubtful about my decision, I remind myself of Main Stay’s horses who are 99% pasture horses…they come in for the most extremes (think Chiberia). Almost all of their horses are seniors, and many of them were stall horses prior to coming to Main Stay and they have all adjusted. Granted, I do feel that Cloud is a more sensitive horse. But there’s hope that he could adjust. Maybe even hope that it will be good for him…he could benefit from the added movement. Every winter when he is cooped up more, he gets pretty stiff. Maybe the constant turnout will help his joints.

Obviously, after experiencing the muddy conditions of Silver Fern and the detriment to Cloud’s hooves, I am pretty concerned about his hooves and pasture board. Luckily, I have a friend who has boarded at our new barn and she can attest that their land is better for draining and that mud doesn’t stick around there. A big concern is this crazy snow and it having to melt, but the owner of the barn suggested I move sooner than later, as their pastures always fill when the nice weather hits. He’s also offered to let me pay stall board if I feel I need a transition period with a stall.

So I am 50% excited and 50% a mixture of negative emotions. The excitement is of course for the money I will save and for some thing ‘new’, which is always a little exciting. The negative comes from leaving Cliffwood, and fear of it being the wrong decision. I was told by Kara at Cliffwood that we would always be welcome back, so I guess I need to get over the fear. Oh, and I forgot to mention the new barn will be closer to home! I will be about 15 minutes away, instead of a half hour. Of course, the new barn won’t have the convenience of being close to Main Stay. But for the most part, I will be saving on drive time.

I guess I’ll post more about the new place as we get closer/after the move. I feel like we are always moving around haha. But in reality, we typically have only moved barns due to location, as Cloud has moved with me to college, back for summers, then to grad school, then back to Illinois. Looking back, Cloud has been to, I think, 10 barns. This will be his 11th. Pretty crazy in 11 years of owning him! But, like I said, most of it was due to moving around, especially in college when I brought him home every summer. I really wanted Cliffwood to be our forever home. Certainly, we have never experienced such quality facilities, quality of care, and just a positive atmosphere. We were treated like valued customers, and I really feel like they love me and Cloud. They are great people at a great facility, and if anything were to change, I would move right back! But for now, we need to give this new place a try, and I am hopeful that all of my experiences at so many boarding stables, both good and bad experiences, have coached me to know that this is a good fit for us, because I feel that it is. It’s the pasture board option that I am a little unsure of. But only time will tell!

And so we prepare for the move! I am sad to surrender my nice roomy tack locker and move back into my trunk. I am probably going to move my trunk in the week of the move so that I can get organized before the horse moves in. I also need to pick up grain. The barn feeds all horses, including pasture horses, 2 times a day which is a definite bonus! Most pasture boards don’t feed grain at all, in which case I’d be making morning and night trips to feed Cloud. The barn feeds ‘Safe Choice’ as a barn grain, which is a good grain but is low calorie, so I will be providing his senior feed. And most importantly, I need to refresh Cloud’s trailer loading skills! My friend who will be moving us is going to bring out her trailer next weekend for a refresher, and I will talk to Kara about letting her leave the trailer for the week to do some daily loads. I’d like to make our move go smoothly 🙂

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | December 22, 2013

Lessons Learned

My riding lesson with Tracey last weekend was rescheduled for this weekend due to cold temps. I had to feed at Main Stay this morning, but I decided to reorganize my day so that I could get out to the barn early. I wanted to watch my friends’ lessons with Tracey, and be sure to walk Cloud for quite some time before my lesson since the horses have been kept in due to icy paddocks. My long day at the barn turned out to teach me more than just one lesson….

Today I had a big eye-opener/reminder that I need to get back to my groundwork, because it is so so so so valuable. The first thing I did when I got to the barn was groom Cloud so that I could go watch lessons, and be able to tack him quickly when I was ready to ride. It was a busy barn morning since the weather was pretty nice, and all the grooming stalls were filled in the West Barn. I volunteered to give up the crossties/groom stall and ground tied Cloud in the middle of the aisle. It has been a while since we’ve even practiced our ground tying. When Cloud hurt his foot, I started using cross ties to keep him from moving around when I was wrapping his foot. Since his injury, I just got back in the habit of using cross ties. Which is a nasty habit. I’m not a fan of cross ties. Despite being a while since we’ve ground tied, Cloud was a rockstar! He only tried to exit back to his stall once, but it’s always a good reinforcement/opportunity to correct, I used the porcupine game to put him back where we started. This was part 1 of the “Importance of Parelli” lesson today.

So then I went up to watch Nancy’s lesson with George. It was nice because I really took in a lot of good information. George and Cloud are pretty different horses, but it’s interesting to learn about Tracey’s ideas for a horse that does different things than Cloud. Exactly what I was looking for by showing up to observe the other lessons.

I my second reminder of the importance of natural horsemanship towards the end of Nancy’s lesson…..another girl was riding her horse getting him warmed up for her jumping lesson. She is a nice girl who trailers her horse in for her lessons and works at the farm as an intern. I had noticed before that she rode in Parelli reins like I have, and I’d seen her do some of Parelli’s games. And today, I am very glad that her horse has been trained in natural horsemanship! Her horse suddenly spooked or bolted and leapt sideways, which would have been alright, but her saddle slipped sideways and she had no choice but to bail. Things got pretty hairy as the horse took off at a gallop. Poor Nancy had to jump off George, who held it together as best he could. The horse galloped around, positively freaked by his saddle, which shifted to under his belly. The flaps were making a loud noise, and the stirrups were smacking his sides, until they released from the saddle. This poor horse was so terrified…but after a few laps, he came towards me and responded when I told him to whoa, but then realized I was not his mom and took off again, but found her and ran to her. He was shaking head to toe, but she was able to grab his reins and remove the saddle. I shudder to think of how the episode would have ended if she hadn’t clearly done her work with him in groundwork and established such a good relationship with her horse. It was very obvious once he was able to start using his left brain that he knew to go to her to save him. And then beyond that, once the saddle was off, she right away started playing the friendly game and even the touch it game to calm him down. And she was able to have a great lesson after the whole thing, mostly thanks to her being able to settle him back down. This was a big eye opener to me to not let my Parelli training with Cloud get rusty. It really is important! …And I was going to get ANOTHER reminder….

After Nancy’s lesson I went to get Cloud and walked him around for about 40 minutes before my lesson. He really needed to stretch his legs. When it was my turn for a lesson, we were able to get right into it. I was very excited to show Tracey how much we’ve been working on our tension problems! And it paid off! We started with trotting and cantering a warm up. The canter had him feeling very fresh, but Tracey was impressed by my ability to relax and ask him to slow. Once he was warmed up, we started doing three loop serpentines. Those were easy, so she made them harder by having my canter short bursts in the pattern. He got pretty jazzed over it, but every time he started to rush or anticipate and canter, I was able to settle him. Especially with a few pointers from Tracey. She reminded me that if he doesn’t slow himself that I need to be more specific and make it happen, but without getting tense!! At the end of our lesson Tracey told me that she had never seen Cloud so relaxed. Our hard work has paid off!

On our way out of the arena, I stopped to put on Cloud’s cooler. Cloud went to rub his face, which I always discourage when he has his bridle on because I’m afraid he will step on or step through his reins. I usually give him a soft “kick” (usually it’s more the action than physical contact, and I do not hurt my horse in doing this) to make him lift his head back up. Today I did that, and as he lifted his head back up, my foot tangled in the reins. There was a time in Cloud’s life that he really overreacted to things like stepping on his lead rope, he used to rear up and cause a big scene whenever he would feel the pressure pulling him down. But Parelli teaches horses to give in to pressure. If you push them, they move away, if you pull them they move towards you. So when Cloud felt my leg pulling him downwards, he stood still with his head down while I released my foot. If he reared and reacted the way he used to, it could have been a very scary situation! Tracey said if my horse didn’t love me so much I could have easily broken my leg, or worse. 

And so as 2013 winds down and I start thinking of my horsey resolutions, I already know that regular Parelli sessions is on the list! 

Posted by: bizzylizzy262 | December 13, 2013

Amazing Things

Well Cloud’s heel is all healed up, faster than any of us imagined. Kara, the barn manager who first cleaned up the injury, said it definitely made the top 5 of the worst horse injuries she has seen. Way to go Cloudy Boy! A week and a half ago, I had Joe come out to cut off the hoof flap, which managed to hang on. I thought it’d have more healing to do once the flap was gone, but by some miracle the hoof was completely healed-over under the flap! I really think that having that flap of hoof still on helped the healing process.

I’ve been back riding for about 2 weeks. Time to get him back into shape. We have our first lesson post-injury this Sunday. I am excited! We are just doing a half hour, because we are both still getting back into riding shape.

I feel like breaks I’ve had in riding have allowed me to come back better than before. Before I was trying to change the muscle memory my body already had for riding. Taking an extended break this fall, and then by accident post-injury, I am coming back to riding and putting my body in the right position, and keeping the tension out of it. It actually worked out perfectly. It’s much easier to start out fresh than to battle the muscle memory.

I rode tonight. It was in the single digits again, but luckily the arenas are heated, and kept at a nice 40*. It’s warm enough for me, but cool enough that Cloud won’t get too warm. I do not miss the cold while riding! And the best part is that the ground is not frozen, which was terrible for Cloud’s joints.

My ride tonight was amazing. I am a different rider through and through. I am keeping my body straighter and looser (no tension). Before, when Cloud was not following my body’s steering, I would get even more crooked…to the point that Cloud was learning to wait for me to get super crooked, and learning entirely the opposite of what I was after. Now if he’s not following my lead, I concentrate on not letting my body go crooked, and backing up my message with my leg. I am barely using the reins to steer, and he is getting so soft and supple. I remember not too long ago when he would get HEAVY in my hands, so much that my shoulders would ache…and my response to that was to get heavier right back, and tense. Now if I feel him getting heavy, I give him slack in the reins and we work back to the right position.

Sometimes, especially when he’s feeling frisky, Cloud will rush down the long sides of the arena, especially when he is heading towards the barn door. Again, this used to prompt me to tense up my body and get heavy with my hands. Tonight he started to rush down the long side, and instead of getting tense I told myself to do the opposite, I gave him slack in the inside rein and stroked his neck, an action which made me keep my body relaxed. Just that motion of giving slack and giving him a reassuring pet, he relaxed his body and stretched his neck, so then I could sit back and slow my post and put his energy to good use.

I am making tremendous personal break throughs. I don’t care if we are able to perform a dressage test, or ready to go before a judge…I care about our connection and being partners with Cloud. I am more connected to him than ever in the saddle. And he is so relaxed, which anyone who has known Cloud for a long time knows that he is not a relaxed horse. I don’t mean that he is spooky or uncontrollable, but we were a tense mess before, and now we are so flexible and smooth and harmonious.

I am gushing. It’s just a cool feeling to know that what I am doing now is making me a completely different and better rider. It’s almost like going back and starting all over again. And this time, I have a new focus, and one that counts.

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