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 🙂

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