Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A winning day for Charlie

As it was a busy day for me today, after working/riding this morning I ran over to my mom's house to take care of their dogs before booking it back to the barn to squeeze in Charlie's 12:30 vet appointment before work later that afternoon at the dog rescue. It was a deluge outside but apparently everyone and their mother thought today would be a good day for spring horse stuff: there were multiple vet appointments (with different vets), a dentist appointment, and a farrier visit all scheduled around noon today with different odd is that?

I made sure to get there early to ensure Charlie was clean and spruced up for his Coggins pictures (yes, they are doing them digitally now) - which he was, thanks to my bath earlier in the week and the fact that I kept a sheet on him:

The awkward "I'm cute, right? You have treats?" face
That's better
He's really filling out nicely, although I think those withers detract from his neck
Shiny shiny! And his mane is actually laying all on one side for once
Then we waited and waited and waited....the rain was pouring down outside and making it nearly impossible to hear over the constant drumming on the roof of the indoor. I figured the vet was probably caught up in the bad weather, why waste this time? So what did I do? Hopped on Charlie. Bareback (like, really bareback, because I didn't want to mar his sleek coat with pad rubs or sweat marks). The rain was pounding and the wind, whistling. Oh, and there were the two new paint mares, one of which is in heat, in the round pen at the end of the ring due to the storm (they are normally out 24/7 so they don't have stalls). How was Charlie you ask? Perfect!!

Yup. True bareback for once. I'm sure I'll feel that tomorrow.
We only walked, my tailbone wouldn't be able to handle anything else without the protection of a bareback pad, practicing stop/go/stop/back/go and lots of turns and serpentines. He couldn't have cared less about the mares or the rain or the people walking back and forth outside of the ring. After about 10-15 minutes he started to get bored so I got off and we practiced liberty commands on the ground without a lead rope: come, walk, halt, back, yield hindquarters, etc. Wouldn't you know that little devil of mine decided today was the day he would show off like a pro! I had him trotting next to me on command, doing circles, whoaing to a halt within a step or two and backing up with just a hand signal and voice command. Where is the video camera when you need one?!

Then the vet came, he got his shots and coggins bloodwork/pictures....Charlie did great except he decided he didn't want any shots on his left side today (two were given on his right, and then the one blood draw after which he decided enough poking was enough). I'll chalk that one up to the fact that he'd been out of his stall for over an hour, which is time to cue the boredom in Charlie's brain, and the rain and wind was picking up just in time for that last vaccine (I'm sure Charlie was thinking, "Mom! The noise and weather wasn't so bad before, but you didn't tell me it might bite!"). It's ok, nothing can mar my happiness with him today :)

Checking out the mini waiting for her vaccines from Vet #2
Oh, did I mention we lost power halfway through?
Heeeelllo ladies :) He gets along with everyone and loves to flirt, the ham

Monday, April 28, 2014

Flint and Finnagan update

Flint and Finnagan, the two drafts, are doing really well. Flint especially. He has made a complete 180 from the aggressive and touchy guy he was before to a horse that is very sensitive and fun to ride; once he trusts you he will give you everything he has, which I really like. Plus he is very adjustable in his gaits. Can Percherons do dressage? I think this one can. :) Here are a few short videos of both boys from the other day.

Finnagan is nice and comfortable, but kind of blah; it's hard to get through that blocky head. He's very cute, but not my cup of tea for a riding horse although he is more rideable by multiple people than Flint who is definitely a one-person horse. Both are for sale and will stay at our barn until they are sold.

I actually got to ride Flint's mom, Bonnie, today (sorry no pictures but she looks just like Flint only bigger and beefier) in preparation for a prospective buyer who is coming to see her tomorrow and she was amazing. Thirteen years old, having not being ridden for 2 years, I just got on and went and she was practically perfect, automatically going into a frame and everything. What a nice horse! She will make a wonderful backyard/trail horse for someone. The family who owns all of these guys is liquidating due to retirement/health issues so they're trying to find homes for all five of their drafts and their ancient quarter horse.

Beauty day for Charlie and new training horses

Charlie got a much needed bath and beauty treatment today in preparation for his Coggins pics on Wednesday. Even though he rolled 3.5 seconds later he is at least much cleaner than he was and I should be able to touch him up pretty easily. Mane evened out, tail brushed and glossed, throat and fetlock hairs trimmed up....he's lookin good!

And, pose!

All shiny, except for the roll marks
I smell a mare!
Remember I was talking about his tail?
Brushed and polished, so shiny it sparkles!

Back out with his boys. He's the only one who likes the two new guys

In other news, we just got a new training horse in, a Belgian/QH. OMG beefy, loveable hunk! I rode him today for the first time and he was soooo comfy and willing and responsive. He is going to be a ton of fun!

Chewy's a big guy, that's Flint the Percheron on the right
We also just got in two paint mares, 9 years old, who have never been ridden. That will be a different experience, trying to break all the bad habits they've picked up from being lawn ornaments and pets for the past five years.

That's Chewy on the left and the paint girls on the right

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A field for galloping

So that's just what we did...and it was glorious!

Although I let him all the way out Charlie doesn't feel like he's moving exceptionally fast, or at least his legs don't. We covered a lot of ground, though, pretty quickly. Next time I'll try to ask him for more and see if we can't get another gear :)

Everyone else was jealous ;)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blog Hop: Appreciating what you have

After going from being in love with my horse and ready to tackle the world yesterday morning to wanting to rip him a new one after his completely inappropriate behavior with the farrier, I think now is a good time to remind myself of the good things about Charlie.

Thanks L of Viva Carlos for the Blog Hop inspiration. Here are some of Charlie's pros:

He is a great eater and never leaves a scrap of hay or grain behind (need to give meds? no problem! Just throw the pills in with his grain and he'll eat it right up)
He has some definite prospect for jumping
Fantastic feet!
He has a gorgeous coat and a tail that is a million different shades of chestnut, auburn and mahogany
If I fall off and the reins slip or Charlie gets caught up in something he stops and waits to be untangled, sometimes with one foot in the air (god bless you, Charlie!)
He lets me put him in all kinds of jury-rigged tack and accessories

He poses for pictures like a pro
He gets along with pretty much everyone and everything
If he gets hurt he is a perfect angel for doctoring, even if it means scrubbing and flushing a painful wound
Indoor, outdoor, trails? Charlie does it all and he doesn't need a buddy, but friends are fun too :)
Charlie can go English, Western or bareback and can be ridden in just a halter

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Foiled by the farrier

After a long weekend in NJ with Dan and his family I was very excited to get back to the barn and ride Charlie so I made sure I finished up with the training horses around 10 so I'd have enough time for a quick ride before the farrier got there at 11, give Charlie a chance to get his jollies out. But as luck would have it the farrier came 35 minutes Charlie didn't get ridden, and was a complete ass because of it. *sigh* At least he's cute!

In his defense there was a lot of commotion and new horses being worked in the ring, but still. So much for a relaxing ride. I'll try again tomorrow. 

(As a sidenote, I've never really used a chain on Charlie but he was being so horrible I finally put one across his nose for reinforcement. Quickly learned that was the wrong thing to do and that it only made his reaction worse. I should have known, he's so sensitive to face pressure. Will not try that again). 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A new technique with the faux-ssoa

Yesterday morning it was 65 degrees. Today we woke up to this:

Considering the temperature dropped over 35 degrees in less than 12 hours, with a 17 degree windchill (what?!?) and Charlie was in all day yesterday because it was downpouring, I didn't think it would be wise to hop on and go without at least a little lunge session so instead I opted to put him in the faux-ssoa rig. I shouldn't have worried; he was perfectly calm (which is why I felt safe attempting Part II of my ride, as you'll see below).

I rigged it up using a surcingle that we were using on the draft horses, just to see if it would work. Guess what, while it wasn't a perfect fit but it definitely wasn't huge! I had Charlie do a nice trot in both directions, waiting until he relaxed and stretched down before changing directions. He has a hard time with the idea of "forward" when he's wearing the faux-ssoa.

That's a draft-sized surcingle....and a Kate Taylor custom saddle pad :)
Then, since he seemed to be getting the idea of how to use his back while in the rig, I decided to hop on him and try riding him around while it was still on and see what happened. I wanted to try to connect ground to saddle work. It was a little weird at first but it actually worked. I unclipped the upper part of the rig and used it like reins but left the side pieces attached like side reins for lateral boundary support.

By riding him with my hands lightly down by my knees I could help encourage the rounding by providing constant light pressure, but still be able so adjust pressure as needed for balance. I let the hind and side sections of the rig remind him to tuck his butt underneath him as well as not bulge out with his shoulders. It actually worked really well!

Non-traditional and it's not something I'll do all the time (it is pretty limited in what it can accomplish and I think I can do a lot more with draw reins), but I think it helped make the connection for him. I just let him have his head and pushed him forward as he tried to run out and get hollow and then when I added a little pressure and he responded by leaning forward and stretching into it, I released into a light continuing contact. Once he got it we had a lovely round slow trot around the ring.

(Excuse me while I relish in one small moment here: My TB let me climb on him bareback with all that rigging and trot around with nothing but a halter. Can you say proud!) :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gorgeous day, great ride

Today may not have been quite as gorgeous as this past weekend but it still felt like spring. I had to ride my horse!

Charlie continues to routinely come to me in the field when he is called (best trick ever!) and today he got everyone else to tag along, what a cool sight:

Right from the get go Charlie was in a great mood. We rode outside (even though it was windy, which historically has not worked out well for us) but despite that and the fact that the geldings were running around in the adjoining paddock, Charlie was perfect. Soft, quiet, no excited grunting or excessive pulling. I had a horse to work with, so I took advantage of it!

I tried a new exercise today that I had read about in a blog I just started following (Horse Listening*). It's called 10/5 and the point is to do ten strides of one thing (i.e. canter) and then five strides of something else (i.e. trot); then repeat. There are countless combinations, you could do circles/straights, halt/walk, walk/canter. The possibilities are endless and it really helped focus Charlie's brain. Putting an actual number to the strides also really helped me with the cleanliness of the transitions. It forced me to prep for the upward and downward transitions and give clear cues because, man, those canter strides go by quickly and it's easy to add another one...or four....if you're not careful.

After our ring work I took Charlie on a short trail ride and we even hand galloped across the big field out behind the barn (and he came back to me, which is the most important part haha). I couldn't be happier. :)

Charlie is ready. Bigger and better things, here we come!

Happy horse, happy me (and wow do I need a new helmet)

*From what I've read so far, "Horse Listening" has some really great articles with good tips on dealing with common riding issues. I'd check her out!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Life update

Wow have I been busy and I have so much to write about! I've been all wrapped up in my jobs and life that time just kept getting away from me and I didn't know where to start....

First of all I, rather unexpectedly, was offered a job working as an independent illustrator for Michael Aram in New York. It is part-time and I can work from home mostly, so it fits really well with my two remaining jobs (barn and dog rescue, I quit Target). Plus it pays much better than anything else I'm doing and it's fun to be creative again. I can actually get some use out of my degree. I have my sister to thank, she's been working for Michael for over a year, and when their previous illustrator moved on she recommended me :)

For the past few weeks I've also been playing in the pit orchestra for my old high school's production of Singin' in the Rain. I used to love playing in pit and though I haven't played my viola in years, when they asked if I'd be interested I jumped at the chance. It used to be such a huge part of my life. What a thrill to be playing again and to be a part of such a wonderful production. I forgot how good it feels :)

Now the biggest news.......drum roll please......Dan got a job!! It's been over a year of searching and no sooner had I gotten word about Michael Aram than he was offered a job at Roche Diagnostics. The only problem is that the job is in NJ, nowhere near here. Not ideal by any means, but it doesn't make sense for me to leave my jobs and move with him right away. Rather, we decided it would be best if we both try to save up money - Dan can live with his mom and commute in from there - and in a few months we'll be able to move someplace together.

Anyway, he moved out this weekend. It's a big change, and it will take some getting used to, but we plan to see each other on weekends and we've done this long-distance thing before. I'll keep myself busy here, never seem to have a problem doing that, and we'll see where each month takes us!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Insurance dilemma

Although I've only had to use it once (knock on wood) I've always felt good knowing that I had insurance covering Charlie in case he was seriously injured and required diagnostics or treatment. I've known friends who have had it, and those who haven't, and honestly I think it is worth the cost up front for the peace of mind of being able to do anything necessary if Charlie was injured or sick.

My policy through Markel was pretty good: at a cost of $488 for the year it included $5000 of medical/surgical coverage with a $375 deductible, as well as an additional $0 deductible $2500 of additional colic surgery coverage and $300,000 in personal liability coverage. The biggest bonus was that they were willing to insure Charlie for a set amount ($3500) despite the fact that I had no "technical" purchase price.

Last week, though, I got my policy renewal in the mail and was informed they will no longer offer medical/surgical coverage for horses valued at less than $5000, only mortality. Sorry, Charlie, but mortality reimbursement is the least of my concerns; I need insurance to help cover unexpected injuries, diagnoses, etc because I just don't have thousands of dollars laying around in case of an emergency.

Unfortunately no matter how much I think Charlie is worth, I didn't purchase him and Markel was one of the only companies left that was still willing to insure the lower-valued horses. I can't seem to find anyone else that will insure a horse that "technically" isn't worth anything. All of the other companies I've looked at also have a $5000 lower limit.

Anyone have any recommendations? Have you ever run into this or have any advice? I have until May to make a decision, but I really don't think it's worth continuing with the insurance unless I can figure out some way to vouch for his value to be increased to $5000 (which generally requires a show history - negative - and/or trainer evaluation) so I can get the medical/surgical coverage. I can at least get colic surgery coverage for relatively cheap by adding SmartGut to Charlie's monthly SmartPaks but I'm worried about all the other potential surgical and medical costs.

Feeling poor and frustrated.... :(

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Clean bill of health for a not-so-clean Charlie

Charlie got the first set of spring vaccines on Wednesday so Tuesday I spent a long time grooming him and making him look pretty, after all the Coggins involves digital pics now so I wanted him to look good. Well he was clean until just about an hour before his appointment. Then it started raining and he decided to roll in the mud. The Coggins will have to wait until the vet comes back in a few weeks!

(I had taken a picture to insert here but just upgraded my phone and the last several pictures I took seem to have gotten lost along the way. So you'll just have to take my word for how mud encrusted Charlie was on his entire left side) 

He was still able to get his vaccines and a full physical, though, and received a perfect bill of health. The vet said he has awesome legs and feet and complimented his easy (and big) way of going.  She also couldn't get enough of his "watcha-doin?-let-me-help!" personality. He's such a ham. I love him :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring! April Fools?

After having torrential rain since Friday, and a forecasted three more wet days starting tomorrow, April 1 surprisingly dawned sunny and sixty degrees here in Lancaster County, PA. If this is Mother Nature's idea of an April Fools joke I don't like her sense of humor; it would be really nice if this weather would stay. Here's to hoping we will have more nice days like this in the near future!

As for Charlie, he is loving this warm weather and the chance to get back into more exciting work. I'm feeling very guilty for not riding him much in the past couple of weeks, but I just couldn't do more indoor stuff and I've been working myself past the point of exhaustion, which isn't a good way to start a ride with Charlie. (P.S. I apologize for that super long and ungainly last post...the horse is just is a bad idea for me to try to write when I am only working on a few hours of sleep).

Anyway, now that the weather is getting nicer and I've cut back on some of my jobs/duties I'm going to make a goal of working with Charlie more than just a couple of times a week. I hope to split up my time with him between riding and working in side reins or the Faux-ssoa rig to build up his neck and back.

Here are a few conformation pictures I took today:

Topline still looking decent but I want more

Grass!! He's a happy horse