Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shoes and "Spring Cleaning"

Yesterday I got to the barn to discover that Charlie had lost his second shoe in the last week. Nice. I was really trying to stretch his next farrier visit out to the first week of June, which would be 6 weeks (in the winter he could go 8-9 between shoeings), but apparently Charlie had other ideas. Luckily my farrier was already coming out today to shoe another horse in the barn so it was no trouble to add Charlie to his schedule. 

I was still able to ride him lightly outside yesterday since the footing is nice and soft out there, but today it was pouring and the indoor is way to hard for a shoeless foot. So that meant after doing my normal Wednesday barn chores Charlie underwent a little "spring cleaning" instead (er, sheath cleaning). Dan was both intrigued and disgusted, Charlie didn't enjoy it but he did let me clean most everything without complaint. Fun things I can now look forward to as a gelding owner!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Barn Update

It's been a weekend of deliberation. With June 1 looming next weekend, I knew I had to make a decision soon about whether to stay at my current barn or go somewhere else. The way I figured it, I had three options:
  1. Find another barn in the area that had an opening on such short notice and that wasn't completely out of my current price range (um, right, that will be easy)
  2. Avoid the drama, at least in the short-term, and trailer Charlie down to Melody, Kate and Maddy's barn, for the time-being. It's facility I love, with a great indoor, tons of trail access, very low key atmosphere and (best of all) friends :) However, each trip to the barn would take me 45-55 minutes and it's completely rough board
  3. Keep Charlie where he currently is in the hopes that my barn owner is right and nothing bad will happen before we can find somewhere else to move
Option 1 was quickly out. I'd already checked in to many other barns and they were all either too expensive (no working board option) or too far away. Option 3, at least at the time, didn't seem that great either. I really wanted to avoid Charlie getting caught in any potential crossfire and the limited information I was able to gather from my BO up until recently wasn't making me any more confident that this guy wasn't a nutcase. So that left Option 2. As I said before, I really loved Melody and miss it every day. Plus I have the most amazing friends there who were willing to do anything they could to help me out if I would move Charlie down there. So as of 10:00 Sunday night, I had talked to Kate and was all set to go for Option 2.

Then I heard back from my BO. We talked for awhile about the situation, what her plans were, etc. and she eased a lot of my fears. That woman is tough and she's got her ducks in a row. Though she still hasn't heard back from Palmer River (the potential new barn - which is awesome by the way with 2 outdoor rings, a XC course and a climate controlled indoor), she said things are looking very promising and she hopes to hear from them by the end of the week at the latest. She also has hired a lawyer and, through some fishing, has found out that it was actually a friend of the guy who owns the property who hung the fake Board of Health signs. Low and behold he works for the BOH and this is not the first time he has gotten in trouble for doing this type of thing. My BO has a meeting with his boss tomorrow to file a formal complaint and has also filed a restraining order for harassment against the man who owns the property, essentially preventing him from getting anywhere near the barn/horses until we are able to leave. Apparently she has threatened to do this several times in the past but this time actually followed through.

From what she said today, the man is mostly just old and crotchety and tired of taking care of a barn. That's no excuse for not keeping up his end of their deal and ultimately screwing everyone here, but at least he's not a psychopath. She seemed very confident things would work out ok, and told me that everyone else at the barn was sticking by her, but that she completely respected any decision I made.

So I went back and forth, back and forth, listing the pros and cons of each option, wishing there was a black and white answer (which of course there never is). Moving Charlie to Melody would only cost me about $60 more per month, but it would require a decent amount of money and time for initial set-up (-) and would double my trip length to the barn (-). Would I be happier there? Yes, I think so. I'd have complete control over what Charlie eats, we could do more than just putz around in a ring, and I would be able to hang out with my friends way more often than I currently do (all +). Would Charlie be happier? I didn't know, probably...I'm sure he'd like the turnout a little better and he would surely enjoy the added variety of the occasional trail ride to his workouts. Plus he has sexy ladies like Lucy and Pretty to look at, much sexier than the ponies at the current barn :P  If I moved him, though, my availability to ride would be drastically cut, maybe to only a couple of times a week if I was lucky...

Disney nerd alert: this quote has been running through my mind all weekend haha
Ultimately, I knew deep down that no matter how much Kate and Maddy offered to help me out, right now I live too far away to make it really work to be at their barn. It wasn't even the rough board/co-op part. I know we could have figured something out between all of us and put together a doable shared work schedule. But I knew in my heart that the longer trip to the barn (now 45-55 min each way) would make it really hard for me to find the extra time to take on a rough board situation and get to ride, and I really want (and need) to be able to actually ride Charlie right now. I think the desire to move back down to a place that I loved, with people I love hanging out with, was heavily clouding my better judgment. So, after all of this debating and after speaking with my BO, I have decided to stay at Edinger.

When I made that decision my heart broke a little. I really miss the old barn with Maddy and Kate and I had gotten myself pretty excited about the chance to go back. In addition I would relish the chance to have more control over Charlie's care (not that he's not getting good care where he's at, I'm just a little anal and it's hard not being totally in charge). Plus, I just know Lucy and Charlie would be BFFs :P

I think what really stung, though, was that this week's dilemma brought to the surface many of the living situation/financial issues that have been nagging Dan and I for the past several months....I feel that if just a few things were different, if we both had jobs (even crappy ones) for example, we could afford to move Charlie to Kate's barn or a nice full-board place and we'd have that one less stress in our lives. I know we're just in a rut right now and that it will get better, but it's so easy to think about the "if onlys"...

I think I made the right choice, though, to stay at Edinger. If we do end up getting to move to Palmer I will have an amazing facility at my fingertips and who knows how much Charlie can grow when we have so much more at our fingertips? Plus I do like the people I'm with at Edinger. We may not really hang out but everyone is nice and respectful, and no one is crazy which is always a good thing :) We'll see...

Monday, May 20, 2013


It's not every day that you show up to the barn to find an eviction notice stapled to the door:

Obviously, with the typos and everything, this is not real but why was it there? I texted my Barn Owner right away and when she got there she explained that she's had an ongoing feud with the man who owns the property (she leases the barn from him) and after an unsuccessful two year battle to have him make certain improvements to the barn - namely regrade and refill the indoor ring - she finally told him she wasn't paying him next month until it was done. So he typed up an eviction letter and posted it on the door. What a nice guy!

I figured that would be the end of it, or at least the end of what I would see, and went to ride. Just as I started to canter Charlie past the previously spooky tractor at the end of the ring the end doors were flung open and two men I've never seen before waltzed in and started tinkering with the tractor. Thank god for Charlie's beautiful sane head right now, he didn't do a thing. I didn't know who they were but I did know if they were planning on moving the tractor I'd like to have a bit more warning than they gave with the door. When I said something and asked if they were planning on moving the tractor, they said, "We're gonna try." Hmm....fishy.....

They eventually left when they realized there were no keys but came back as I was untacking. After finishing with Charlie and letting my BO know they were back (she was giving a lesson outside) I then went over to have a quick word with them about safety precautions around horses. "Look," I said, "I don't know what's going on between you and [BO] and honestly I don't really care. It's not my problem. What is my problem, though, is that you threw open the doors to the indoor while I was riding my horse without any sort of a warning and that's extremely dangerous. This is an OTTB and you are really lucky that you didn't cause him to spook and freak out and hurt someone." I told them go ahead and do whatever it was they were going to be doing in the ring, but please do the smart and courteous thing to those of us who are trying to ride and give a warning. Otherwise have fun getting sued. Well, they weren't too happy when I mentioned the word "sued" and then started bringing up all the beef they have with by BO, but I told them I didn't really care. That's between her and them, so I just said politely (well, maybe with a little sarcasm) "thank you" and left.

Apparently this guy is a real dick and bully (I definitely got that impression as soon as I met him) and my BO isn't too concerned that he's going to cause any major issues. However it makes me wonder what he might start doing if he feels too pressured. What if this guy decides he's going to "get back at her" by opening all the horse's doors in the middle of the night so he can blame her for negligence and endangering the public with loose horses? Or something similarly crazy? I really don't want Charlie to be collateral damage. I'm going to see where we are in a few days and then make a decision whether to move him out until things blow over. Whew! Drama!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Outdoor Ring Round 2

Charlie was a good boy again during his first solo endeavor in the outdoor ring, and it was gorgeous weather to boot. I left the barn a happy girl. Here are some pictures and video (thanks Dan!):

So far so good

With some finagling and tying down I was able to rework the ear net and get it to stay

A happy canter...I think he thought we were going to be jumping

He has a super comfy long stride

Good boy!

Here are two videos: trot, canter

Friday, May 17, 2013

Milestones and spring checklist

Today I achieved not one but several milestones with Charlie: not only did we ride in the outdoor ring for the first time, but we also successfully rode with another horse in the ring, and one that was working at the same time. All firsts! There wasn't even a hint of bad behavior. Although Charlie looked at a few things, he never spooked and he did everything I asked without a fight. We got a nice calm walk, trot and canter in both directions and every time I asked him to come back because he was getting forward and excited, he did. I was on cloud nine.

Can you believe it?!
In other news, Charlie got his spring shots on Wednesday afternoon. They actually wiped him out much more than expected, which was a little scary. For several hours after receiving the vaccines he didn't want to do anything but lay down (my BO tried and couldn't get him to stand up), wasn't interested in any food or treats (he's normally a pig) and was just generally out of it. I was at work all evening so my BO said she'd keep an eye on him and let me know if anything changed for the worse but said he didn't seem painful or colicky, just tired and off.

When I got there around 9:30p Charlie was up on his feet, which was good, looking tired but generally ok. He came right over for a face massage, his favorite, and I noticed all of his hay was gone (also good). Since he didn't seem warm and he'd pooped and peed I offered him some grain and he eagerly gobbled it up. I gave him the rest and waited around for awhile, just to make sure he seemed ok, but he appeared to be acting normal again. Since then there don't seem to be any lingering effects, but eeek. I did free lunge him in the outdoor ring for awhile that morning and then I got on, pretty much just to cool him down, but I think I'll hold off on doing any of that next time in case it is why he was so wiped.

Also this week I finally did winter blanket laundry. We've had a stretch of several warm sunny days so I got out the hose and scrub brush and set to work. The blankets still smell like horse, and my arms hurt from scrubbing, but at least the majority of the stains, dirt and hair are gone. Phew!
(Mostly) clean blankets on my makeshift drying rack

Monday, May 13, 2013

Turning a corner

We've been practicing and Charlie has been awesome lately :) I don't know what caused us to turn the corner - whether it was the warmer weather, all the groundwork, something finally sinking in to that baby brain - but whatever it was I hope it continues because I like it! I have something I can work with!

Just for comparison, here is where we were only a few short weeks ago (I'm having trouble linking my youtube videos to my blog at the moment so I apologize but I have to just share the links): Charlie 4/24/13

Now, this is a video from Saturday: Charlie 5/11/13

Charlie is so much more relaxed in everything he does now. It probably has a lot to do with me feeling more relaxed, trusting him more, and trusting myself to deal with any bad behavior he throws my way. Also I'm in better riding shape now (although it's a constant battle for me to remind myself to sit up and back, especially when cantering, old bad habit). I think we're turning a corner :)

The neck stretcher is working really well. I like how it reminds Charlie to keep his head down and not to throw it up in the air without me having to intervene, but I think I'll transition to draw reins within the next week or so. Until I knew Charlie wouldn't fight the pressure, I didn't want to worry about holding on to two sets of reins if he started acting up, but now that he is used to the feeling of the neck stretcher, I can add in draw reins for more control over when pressure is applied and released.

I realize I have forgotten to post conformation pictures recently. Not much has changed. Charlie is still a little on the skinny side, even though I've added beet pulp to his dinner, and we're just now getting to a point where I can work on his topline so that's still not any more developed than it was. I'm sure by next month I'll have some better pictures so I'll update more in that department then, but here are at least a few cute post-ride pics from the other day:

Good ponies get lots of kisses
Happy Lauren
Which is my better side? This one...
....or this one?
See how he has learned to wait patiently?
Sweaty and still skinny, but very shiny

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dirty Horse

When I got to the barn today I discovered that Charlie had done his best to cover himself in nature's fly protectant in the absence of his own fly arm is tired now after all the grooming but at least I can say I have a clean(er) horse! Here's some pics right out of the field:

Really worked it in there, Charlie
Yup, got every square least it was mostly dry

Mmm awesome pee stains....

What's wrong, mom?
In other news Charlie was a very good boy today after having had a few days off, especially considering he had no turnout the past few days because of the rain. Again I got on with no lunging, but he seems to really like that; he went right to work without a fuss. We practiced basic transitions - got a really good walk-canter transition to the right, which is especially exciting since I haven't cantered on him really at all recently - and trotted some ground poles which he loved; overall he was very well behaved.  I say overall because there was one spook-and-spin incident that I unsuccessfully tried to sit (damn birds flying up from behind the already scary tractor at the end of the arena!). I am still working on getting my "horse legs" back so I ended up on the ground, flat on my back, and ended up just as dirty as Charlie. Ooops. I'm sure I'll be feeling that tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

Neck stretcher

Today I tried a neck stretcher on Charlie for the first time. It was one of those things I have been wanting to try for awhile but wasn't really sure how he'd react; from experience it would either work amazingly and he would feel the elastic pressure when he raised his head and learn to relax down instead...or he would have a complete meltdown. However, the past several days I've ridden without lunging first and he was good enough that I decided to take this next step. Since Kate's horse, Lucy, is out of commission for a bit, I asked to borrow her draw reins and neck stretcher (among other implements of horsey torture :P) so I could experiment...and Charlie was awesome!

I did a mini lunge session first just to make sure he wouldn't flip out and could get used to the feel of the neck stretcher, but it was quickly apparent that he really respected it so I got on. We had the most lovely floaty was amazing! I only rode for about 20 minutes but it was a really positive experience. Plus there was another horse in the ring and two others being groomed and walked around in the aisle, both of which historically cause a bolting buckfest, and Charlie didn't bat an eye :) I can't wait until later this week when Dan can videotape.

Also, another proud mom moment: twice Charlie put his head almost on the ground, testing the neck stretcher, and managed to loop the elastic around the bottom edge of his boot. Instead of flipping out he calmly raised and lowered his front foot trying to loosen it, took a few steps, and then just stopped and stood there resting his hoof so I could untangle it and remove the boots. What a good boy!

I've included a (blurry) picture of his initial getup today because it was kinda hilarious with the bridle, neck stretcher and rope halter...poor pony, I really dress him up in all sorts of contraptions :P

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Happy 6th birthday to Charlie! We had a fabulous ride today and it was gorgeous weather. I got on him without lunging (something was telling me it would be ok) and we walked, trotted and cantered with no issues (!) and even explored a little outside. Beautiful :)

Lookin' spiffy

Who me?


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Catching up

Sorry for the huge lapse between the last post and this one. There's actually been quite a bit going on but I've been getting home from work so tired I just can't bring myself to turn on the computer and type an update. Anyway, here's the basics:
  1. Last week I fell off Charlie for the first time. No harm done, got right back on, was actually very proud of him because (a) he started putting his foot down but lifted it right up and didn't step on me when he bucked/reared/I-was-forced-to-practice-emergency-dismounting, and (b) he stopped dead in his tracks as soon as I was off and didn't run experience for me! 
  2. This past weekend Dan and I spent at home visiting my parents in PA. We had a house full of dogs (Emma, my parents' two Goldens and our friend Connie's new labx puppy, who they were babysitting) but it was so relaxing and nice to spend time away with no "plans". Definitely needed the time away :)
  3. While at home I got to visit my favorite place: Equine Exchange. It's a huge consignment store and I could easily spend hours in there (much to the dismay of Dan and anyone else non-horsey who is dumb enough to volunteer to come along). This trip I was determined to find extra-long reins (check! $30), bath supplies (check!) and a fleece girth (double check! Thick fleece with velcro that can hook right into my Professionals Choice girth...$10. Score!)
  4. I finally got my act together and transferred my PA car registration. Now I am $120 poorer and my little Mazda is outfitted in shiny new RI plates...bittersweet :/
Today, Charlie was super amped and put on a nice show for the poor mom whose daughter was there for a pony lesson after only having started riding a few months ago. He was quite sweaty afterward but that's ok, I had planned to give him a bath anyway.  It was a gorgeous day, in the high 60s and sunny, perfect for the first bath of the season. Oh, I had also bought him an ear net because of the flies but, alas, his forehead is a bit too wide and ears too big: it popped off one ear within a few minutes. We'll have to sew in some velcro or try something else I guess. Here are a few pictures until I get a chance to post videos:

Sharing an ice cream at Lapp Valley Farm, New Holland, PA
Taking the dogs for a walk
So fresh, so clean....mmm! grass!
Poor pony, his ears and forehead are too big for the ear net :(