Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Enjoying My Horse

Not a whole lot of excitement going on around here. It's been nice out which is a huge bonus, but brings me to one sorta update: remember my mention on the wet paddock and Milo peeing in his stall? Well, I have a couple of friends who own a firewood business and they offered a few bags of wood sawdust/shavings for me to have. Awesome! So a few days after the first urine spots were noticed I arranged a time to meet with them and get a few bags. That evening I sprinkled some down in the stall. Can you guess what happened? Milo stopped going in the stall. AND the weather is drying up (a bit, but as I type this its raining so we will see how long that lasts, at least Im prepared for more wet weather). But at least the added sawdust is helping to keep the stall itself much more dry. And a bonus - his stall smells like wood. :)

With the nice weather and Milo being sound from the whatever swelling, I had been able to take him out on the trail twice with my friend who rides the BO's Arab, Middy. Two days in a row we were able to get out and enjoy the trail and weather (one being on Milo's bday). And you know what, I dont have this huge urge to get back in the arena. Although it is dried up now and good for riding again, I have had so much fun getting out on the trail. Which doesnt mean we are avoiding work because the trail presents and allows for periods of "work" on it as well. I can still ask for correct posture and movement at the walk, trot, and lope, work on a simple change, and play around with my body control. It's been really nice, actually, to really just enjoy my horse. 

The other night I stopped by the barn after a weekend shift of pulling carts. I wasnt planning on riding, just needed to get the boy fed and his stall cleaned. I opened the stall door and Milo was outside in the paddock, enjoying the final moments of the nice evening. He poked his head around the corner of the stall, and rested his head in my arms. It was the best greeting I could ever get. I stroked his big soft cheeks and got white shedding hair all over me. But the sweet smell of him and his quiet and happy demeanor just made all the work that followed that much easier, and enjoyable to do. 

In all honesty, I really enjoy feeding him daily, cleaning is stall, and being able to have the quiet one-on-one time with him. I really look forward to when he is home. 

Milo, eight years old.
We live in a beautiful place. Should have seen it in the daylight, those mountain tops are breathtaking
Sawdust in the stall.

And these nest two photos are from maybe two weeks ago. But I never posted them...they sure made me excited.

Look at them skid marks!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Eight Whole Years!

Today Milo is eight years old. Happy Birthday to Milo! That means that we are nearing the FIVE year mark of partnership/ownership. I cant believe how big and grown up I have watched my scrawny little had-been three year old become. What an incredible journey we have shared together. Heres a small recap of some of our milestones:

First ride together...June 16, 2007
July 1, 2007, the day after he was brought home. Stood at 15.1 hands high! 
Second show ever, first show riding. Took Reserve Champion in W/J Stockseat Equitation. 
First trail class, this show was County Fair in August 2007, only two months after having him. Thats right - Milo went English too!
Milo's first clip and our first winter together. 
Christmas Eve, 2007. He was getting stockier! But he would only shoot up and get lanky again. Haha. 
I had my senior photos taken with him.
In 2008 we joined the Thunderbird Cowgirls Rodeo Drill Team, but Milo wasnt able to go into the rodeo due to an abscess. That summer however we attended a few more shows, and the County Fair for my last year. We placed Reserve Champions in the Senior Showmanship, and qualified to go to State. 
Surprisingly, at the State Fair we did out best in the English classes. But it was at State that I realized that rail classes were really not what Milo wanted to do. 
In 2009 I tried out for the Miss Kitsap County Fair and Stampede Rodeo Queen title. We for First Runner Up, but I was OK with that; we still rode on the drill team...
Drill Team Practice.
Rode in our second Parade.
And were able to ride in the rodeo together for our first time. 
In the winter of 2010 we started getting cattle fever and attended our first cattle clinic, getting interested in the reining and sorting. I had found what Milo really loved.
We still rode in the rodeo that, year, but it would be our last. I was much more interested in learning more about reining, and primarily, reined cow horse. 
We started attending more sorting events and were having a blast. But something felt amiss, and that fall (2010) I started working more closely with Sarah in training instead of just saddle fitting.
We attended our first reining shows in a six show series winter of 2010/11 and ended up winning the buckle in Beginning Reining! More reining shows would follow that coming summer...
Leading us to were we are now. I've still got the reining bug, but really want to get more involved in the reined cow horse. Instead of just having show aspirations, I have began having horsemanship aspirations. All the fun stuff like ribbons and shows come with improving horsemanship and our partnership as a whole. I look forward to a whole lot more years with Milo, and further education. 

Happy Birthday, Justa Cool Milo. 

Love, Mom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cowgirl Bling!

Hey, off topic for Milo, but wanted to tell y'all that I started making Cowgirl Jewelry! I have a post on my Crafting Cowgirl blog with some of my favorites, but you can also check out my works at my Etsy shop, The Crafting Cowgirl.

Look around, and I hope you find something you love. If you dont, I take custom orders! Some of these would be gorgeous show necklaces! Wink, wink.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Airs Above Ground

Today my friend and I were planning on hitting the trails. I had my reservations when we first discussed it, because of Milo's swelling. But the BO said that she could not only ride his Arabian, Middy, but I could ride his other Arab, Zaza. So the plan was to ride the two older gals and give Milo some more time off. I as eager to ride the 35 year old spritely mare. We arrived at the barn and I found a note from the BO that Zaza was colicy and would need a rain check. I was totally cool with it and made sure to ask how she was doing. Minor, he confirmed. Friend still wanted to go out and with Milo having had the last two days swelling free and looking sound, she wanted to go. I relented but only if I hand walked him; he would like to get out, Middy would like to get out, I wanted to get out, but there was no way I was going to compromise the soundness and swelling-free state that my horse was in. First though, I wanted to lunge him and see he was sound at all three gaits.

Haha, well Milo hadnt been worked since exactly a week from today, and only got out of the stall two maybe three times for grooming. He was a spitfire of energy (not to mention it was a nice but breezy day out, so the nicer weather was adding some spring fever to his step). I led him to the arena (which from last week's melting snow half was flooded, but the other half was dry and nice) and clipped the lunge line on. Friend headed up to the upper barn to get Middy ready. Milo was feeling good and looking around, and from the top of the hill behind the arena Friend appeared and starting asking me a question. Which, her sudden appearance subsequently sent Milo into a spook. He was feeling so good and showing off moves I hadnt seen before! Friend came around to the front of the arena, again both with the dogs and her sudden appearance causing Milo to spook again. This time though he leaped skyward and gave a delicate yet massive pirouette thing, totally airs above the ground. I held on as he jerked me around a bit, but couldnt help but grin at the moves my horse had never offered before.

We ended up discussing that the trail ride would just need to be planned for another day. The universe was clearly throwing a lot of signs our way that it was not meant to be. I figured I would give Milo a nice workout on the lunge-line and monitor his reaction from it tomorrow. We would ride Thursday if the weather was nice, and if my horse was still tight-legged and sound, and only on a short ride at a walk. I felt I was being a little difficult, but I couldnt help but wonder if our ride last week had perpetuated the swelling I had noticed the weekend before. There was no way I was going to let that happen again. Milo would have as much time off as needed and some gradual reintroduction to work. Fortunately, however, it seems the paddock is trying to dry out a bit so I'm crossing my fingers that that will help keep him tight.

I lunged him for a while giving him a nice workout. I couldnt help but appreciate what a pretty horse I have. Once he got the spooks, bucks, leaps, and pirouettes out of his system, he moved beautifully. Not a single off step and was actually lifting his back and really working himself nicely. Poor guy probably wants to get back into work! Hopefully here soon...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Stocked? Sprained? Or Swollen?

Last weekend (Friday) I noticed some minor swelling in Milo's right rear fetlock. After just riding him two days before and not noticing anything, I wondered what was up. I felt down his leg and no heat was detected. He didnt seem overly tender to my touching it, and was bearing weight. I wondered if the poor weather and slippery footing had caused him to step funny. There was a small and minor cut just above the coronary band, which I cleaned, treated, and then cold hosed the entire fetlock area. I repeated on Saturday and Sunday, although by Saturday the swelling was mostly gone, and by Sunday, completely. Friday and Saturday I made sure he didnt have pasture time.

Monday came around and I didnt ride, figuring it would only further give him some time off the fetlock. Tuesday he was still fine and we ended up going on a trail ride. Mostly at the walk, small amount of trotting, and only a few strides at the canter. No poor footing, no slick areas, only in good soft stretches. He didnt feel off or lame - nothing. I figured whatever it was was good and gone, it was probably just a minor rolled fetlock or something.

Well, this last Friday I pulled him out of the stall anticipating riding again after the few days off since the trail ride. Although I had been out on Thursday and saw what I thought was stocked hind legs (due I was sure to the bad weather, and he urine spots in the stall further backing that theory), and didnt think much of it figuring a lunge before riding on Friday would get things in order. Friday, however, showed one "swollen" fetlock, but again no heat, digital pulse, lameness, or tenderness. It was odd. I sighed and figured cold hosing and some more time off might be the ticket. The mud was still well over a half foot deep still and had a real suction grip to it too. He probably just did whatever he had done before to it again.

This morning when I fed and cleaned I saw the swelling was still there. Same deal. I dont know what to think of it though, it definitely isnt stocking like the other day - they cant just stock up in one leg, can they? Im nervous to lunge him to exacerbate a problem that might be there, but when leading him up and down the aisleway he looks and hears sound. Maybe more time off is still the answer? Its odd to me that there is no heat and no soreness to it, but the swelling still concerns me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Picky Pampered Pony

The weather has been horrid here lately. Last week we had eight inches of snow at my house, then we had rain, then Monday through Wednesday we kept getting snow (while everyone else in the county got more rain). Wednesday I had to use 4x4 to make it home from my final exam in the morning. I wasnt sure I would make it to work but the darned snowplows came through...so I had to.

Anyway, after the six inches or so of new snow we had gotten, it then warmed up and downpoured, the last three days, yesterday in particular was awful. So much snow and so much water leaves a lot of runoff, and a lot of mud particularly in the paddocks. And Milo is not pleased about it.

As a horse who had never ever peed in his stall in the coming on 5 years that I have had him (except when in a box stall at a horse show), imagine my surprise when I started seeing wet spots in his stall that only has mats in it. I thought maybe the poor weather lead to a wetter stall. Then one morning as I'm cleaning it he stretches out and takes a leak, right in front of the door. I managed to grab some shavings from the empty storage stall to soak it up with, but wondered what the heck that was about.

Yesterday I arrived after not being able to make it on Wednesday (school and work), and saw a HUGE urine puddle in the lower end of the stall. Really Milo? You really want me to need to start spending more money on you by buying bedding? I have really appreciated your act of cleanliness and frugality the last few years by relieving yourself outside of the stall.

But no, as I entered the stall with wheelbarrow and pitchfork in hand, I asked him Out so to easier clean the two day gross stall. He refused to get out. The paddock was really muddy (over fetlock deep) and I knew he didnt want in it (obviously from the state of the stall), but I persisted now that I began and made him get out. He dropped his front feet down into the mud and looked back at me, his eyes asking if he really had to do it. Yes, Milo, I'm sorry. He sighed and heaved himself out, quickly retreating to the highest corner of the paddock. I saw too that his hind legs were stocked up, further indication he had quite possibly not left the stall in two days. Not a huge problem, but good to note.

I began to clean then heard the heavy waterfall outside and saw he fortunately relieved himself out there. Perfect timing! But now what to do about this mess inside? I snatched some more old (but dry) bedding from the storage stall, soaked up what I could, and threw down a little extra to hopefully dry up the place a bit and help if he decided it was far to awful outside to go there again. One bonus however is that he keeps all his manure inside, so at least I dont have to walk out into the mud. :)

I wonder though, do I really need to start buying bedding? If so, where the heck am I going to put it? It's like the hay situation only worse. Although I would prefer to buy a ton at a time, I cant store that much at the barn. Same deal for bedding. Where can I store it all? I have a friend whose business is to chop firewood and they have lots of sawdust and shavings available they use for their own horse. I am free to it if I need to. I might have to take them up on that offer, but do what, store it in garbage bags? None of the other horses at the barn use bedding (the others also dont pee in the stall probably because of no bedding), but there is no location I could just dump a truckload full either. This will be a tricky situation to figure out. Maybe if I can just get through this wet season, hopefully he will go back to his old ways? I sure hope so.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Angie, I know you are a Bird Dog, But...

This happened right after our trail ride. I was grooming Milo and loving on him when suddenly I hear a frantic peeping near the front of the barn. I turned around and saw Angie mouthing and pawing at a tiny barn swallow.

"Angie! NO! Drop it!" I screamed to her, ducking the cross ties and racing towards her.

The now wet and sad looking bird plopped out of her mouth, landing on the cold concrete. I sat there for a moment and as I walked towards it, it tried to flutter away, but couldnt seem to. I bent down to look closely at it. It looked injured, but no blood could be seen.

It kept holding it's neck to the side, I think Angie damaged it.

Angie began to whimper and crept in closer. Again, I yelled at her and shooed her off.

Poor Angie though, in her mind, it's what she is supposed to do. See bird, get bird, be rewarded. But Angie, you dont get to go after every bird you see, just those that are shot (and typically of much larger size). These little barn swallows though are just too small, even for Angie's bird soft mouth.

Just this last summer Angie killed a bird in our front yard. It too was small and I'm sure she didnt meant to kill it (she certainly didnt eat it). But still. Sigh. I guess there is no hope of keeping a chicken or two on the property. She would most definitely go after those too.

I started to feel a little bad. A little bad for the barn swallow, and a little bad for Angie, who kept looking from me, to the bird, and back again. She didn't understand why I wasnt happy with her efforts. I scratched her ears and directed her to not go for the bird again, which she didnt, and continued my business with Milo. I hoped the bird would hide under the sink and heal itself.

It was dead the next day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cold but Pretty Trail Ride

Before the other boarder left (whose stall we took), we went out on the trail together and she showed me a few of them, which was awesome because I didnt really know any out there, and I was a little chicken to explore by myself. But I did go out alone after she showed them to me. I had Angie with me though!

Caught Milo in the pasture. Angie found an old basketball. Milo thinks she's crazy. 
"Psht. Silly dog playing with a ball."  You're one to talk there, Milo.

Milo was most comfortable when Angie was out in front. Good bear meat I guess. Whenever she drifted behind us, his head came up and his steps shortened. I would call her out front again and he would relax. Haha.

Milo spooked at this sign...apparently he doesnt agree with Jeanie Schultz for Central Kitsap School Board
We found this little pasture to work in - with a view!
We ended up having a really nice ride and was able to work on loping on the trail, in a relaxed manner. It was a great ride. :)

Before going out, I washed Milo's tail, and when we got back it was so soft and pretty. :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

THIS is the horse I know I have!!

I have held off on saying this because I didnt want to feel like I was whining or complaining about the recent move, because I really am happy with where we are now. But I just kept feeling like it might have been poor timing. You see, right before we left the old barn (and I mean right, like a week before leaving) I felt like I was getting a breakthrough with Milo, especially at the lope. I could ride him all day one handed, maneuvering through traffic in that busy arena, feeling like I had a lot of control with just my body, and for goodness sakes, my horse's lope had slowed down and he consistently kept his head level and his back up.

As soon as we moved, all that seemed to be lost. For the last two months since being at the new place, Ive been having a whole lot more frustrating rides than notable fun or "good" ones. I kept saying to Sarah how the small arena was the culprit and Milo "just doesnt have the room". I was getting pretty frustrated with the situation, and was feeling that the horse I knew I was getting to disappeared. I was needing to ride with so much more hand, more leg, and still we were no where near where we had finished off at at the old place.

I tried regulating my breathing, hearing all the words that Sarah had suggested for me to get into my body. I was ditching spurs, saddle, and lifter bit to try and reconnect with my horse in the way I knew we could. I was looking back on videos from this summer's horse shows, and wishing beyond anything I could just get back to that place we were at. Why were we going backwards??

Sarah said that the universe creates what we need. Sounds foo-foo, I know, but it really is true. There is a reason why the best situation for Milo and I resulted in a smaller arena. Sarah was convinced that this would make me gain the shoulder control she keeps talking to me about. There would be no ignoring it like I easily could in a larger arena. She further said that if I could ride in a small arena, and master all the difficulties that it presents, I could ride in any arena. It's true; smaller is more difficult with less straight long lines, and more fast approaching corners. Its easy to get dumped onto the forehand and freight train around the arena in laps. But this arena, if I was ever going to get further with Milo and I, would make me gain control over the shoulder, and hopefully help me get back in my body.

The last few rides have been real breakthrough for me. I cant state which one in particular was the "turning point", but in roughly the last five rides things have been coming around, slowly but surely, just as Sarah said they would; "it's coming". I knew I had been using too much hand and not using enough of my body. I knew I could direct my horse with my body alone, heck I had been doing that already (but I didnt know how much I really could until of late), so I decided to ditch my reins (for the most part) and hold onto the tails. I obviously held enough that Milo wouldnt be tripping on the reins or anything, but I really wanted to make sure that I didnt touch on his face unless absolutely necessary.

Do you remember my post a few weeks back about just loping? I started scratching the surface in that ride. I began letting myself go and just ride the lope. In turn, Milo started just letting himself go and not worry over the upcoming corners, or a possible snatch on the reins from me followed by a tense body. I felt horrible where at usual places that I might have picked up on the reins, Milo lifted his head away and hollowed out his body in anticipation of tense pressure from me. It took a few times, but eventually Milo started to trust that I wasnt going to do that.

I hadnt learned all there was to learn yet in just that ride. In rides to follow I began to understand more about just how much my body position effects my horse. I started to learn how to use my seatbones effectively, and when needed by the movement of my horse. Sarah had always told me that our bodies are always changing in the saddle to accommodate the horse. I always just wanted a clear "roadmap", if you will, of when and where to use my body. I always wanted to be told the precise moment so I could autopilot it and do whatever it was. I wasnt really listening to Sarah saying that we change when the horse needs it because that would require understanding how my body effects his. And moreover, feeling when I need to help him out. I didnt want to do it, because...I didnt know how I could help. I couldnt feel those subtle changes. I'm starting to now.

For instance, I have said time and time again that Milo's shoulder drifts out to the left and how it is caused by my heavier right seatbone. I've known this, and yet, I could never seem to balance out with my left seatbone without all my weight going onto the left. While it is true that when asking for a turn say to the right, I sit a little heavier on the right seatbone with my hips turned in the direction and my body showing Milo which way to go. So I got the turning part down, but straight wasnt working. For whatever reason, I had not been translating that I could (and should) put some weight on the left seat bone when tracking along the long side to the right. That would tell Milo to turn to the left, right? Wrong; if I'm sitting too heavy on my right seatbone causing Milo to move away (to the left), then I just need to have enough in my left bone to balance it out. That point I was not able to feel. I could think about the logistics behind it all day long, but I could yet get my body to do it.

Finally, I am getting to where I can feel when my horse needs me to balance him out, and make the small adjustment when needed. It's been incredible!

Furthermore, I've been saying how he dives his shoulder down into the corner. A somewhat local cowhorse trainer has been posting short training tips onto her Facebook profile. One video addressed the common "shoulder diving". She explained that the shoulder dive is not coming from the shoulder, but a lack of drive from the rear. No duh! I KNEW this, Sarah had told me this a hundred times (well, maybe not that many times). We had a whole lesson on this where I should sit heavier on the inside seat bone to "hold the hock/leg down" and this is where I could half halt with the outside rein at the opportune time to further reinforce his weight staying over his hind. I had been working on this (scratch that, forcing this) having long conversations (yelling matches) with Milo where we hadnt been getting anywhere with it. Looking back, I know I wasnt using my body to tell Milo how to use his; I was using heavy aids and a rigid body trying to force him to do what I could not feel. Embarrassing.

Finally, it seems, I have figured out how to ask him to hold the hock down with just my body and only very, very subtle half halts - one handed I should add, on a loose rein! I have also figured out the lope departure, through body position only and a light smooch. My enlightenment on the nuchal flip I think has helped too, but I've discovered that that flip too can be found through my body alone - amazing! I'm not going to lie, our rides have been fun. Just yesterday we were working one handed, and I felt so incredibly in tune with him. I could adjust his body back to straight when needed with just body position from me, and I could lope straight and lifted on straight lines and circles. And never once was there a moment (even initially) when he was strung out or racing. He stepped right into a true lope right from the get go! My ride was so fun yesterday, we even worked down the fence as if there were a cow, and wouldnt you know, it was like my horse knew there was a cow there or something. He stopped and turned and loped off (or trotted) time and time again without missing a beat. It was so incredibly fun! I couldnt help but pat and praise Milo, all the way back to the barn, and he got kisses, hugs, and more cookies. I love this horse I knew I had - I love this connection I didnt know I could get, if I just tuned into my body.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

We are Alive! I Swear!

I have had a ton of updates and stories to tell you guys. But a few weeks ago my computer suddenly seemed to download something which slowed it WAY down, not to mention, all of a sudden it didnt recognize my camera to initiate downloading photos. BUT, I seemed to have figured it out now. So, let the posts roll! First, I want to update you guys on my new situation with Milo. Yes, he is still at the same barn here close to home, but he moved stalls and we are now on a self care situation.

I really like where we are, but there were a few things I wasnt super hot on. One, the quality of the stall cleaning wasnt exactly up to par for me (for one thing, the paddocks werent being cleaned, just the stall), and I am picky about the stall. I dont like a whole lot of "crumbs" left behind. So I found myself going back through frequently and recleaning it anyways. Second; the quality of the hay. I had initially seen the hay before we moved in, but it seemed after I got there it wasnt what I remembered (but I could have remembered wrong anyways). It looked like a local grass hay (around here, that isnt very good). Third, I needed to find a way to cut some horse costs here and there, and although I am saving on fuel from him being closer, I was still hoping to cut it a bit more (especially with my truck remaining unreliable, but running). Finally, I was getting pretty irritated with the numerous cuts and blanket rips Milo was sustaining from rough housing with his neighbor, Cabo. On Feb 28 when I came to the barn after a day off and saw dried blood down his face, again, and this time a larger cut on his forehead, I had had enough. The open stall was open now with but not cleaned out of bedding. I grabbed the wheelbarrow and cleaned it all out, then moved Milo over there that day. So I questioned to the BO if I could start a self care board. The Fjord's are on self care so I figured he would be open to it, and he was.

The first step was determining where I would get my hay. I had the option of buying the BO's bales at $8 each, but the quality of it was not what I was aiming for. After calculating self care board cost and hoping to still save some money monthly, I found that $14 a bale was the most I could spend. Sarah gets a really nice Timothy hay from Eastern Washington for $15 a bale, but she didn't have any for sale anyways. There is a hay dealer here in Seabeck only a few miles from both my house and the barn, and he offered a nice second cut grass hay for $14. He had a second cut Timothy available too for $15, but cost and the fact that Milo would need some transition time from the lacking local hay to the rich timothy would be needed anyways, so I settled on the grass. Maybe this will work well for him anyways, and if not, I can try and go for the timothy next month, so long as my total cost doesnt exceed the initial cost I was paying for full care ($310).

After paying for board cost, ten bales of hay (about a month's worth) and grain, I came out just barely under the above initial price. So although the price savings isnt huge, I still feel that this is a better situation. For about the same money I'm not only getting higher quality hay, better cleaning (to my liking with me doing it!), more time at the barn with an excuse to go daily too, and also grain I am more happy with. Milo doesnt get grain as a huge part of his diet. He only gets about a half cup of rolled oats once a day and just to get his supplements down. Pretty basic grain, unlike that he was getting as part of board, which had molasses in it - more sugars then he needs. I can also control the quantity that he is getting (I know the BO is a softy and was giving him a little more).

Anyways, the situation seems to be working out pretty well, here a week or so after trying it out. I clean his stall daily, and at least one feeding I provide, depending on my work schedule. Fortunately, the BO doesnt expect me to drive there twice daily, so he feeds for me either morning or night as I need it.

OK, so now onto some photos!

Check it out Milo!

Clean stall!

New paddock; larger, less muddy (drains better) and on this side of the barn there are only two horses (including Milo) so he gets turnout every other day instead of every third day.

Oh yeah, we got eight inches of snow in less than 12 hours.