Saturday, February 26, 2011

Smiling and Content

I always make sure to visit Milo before I start cleaning pastures. 

But even when I do, he gives me the sad eyes when Im not in the pasture with him. 

Waiting on water buckets to fill, I get a chance to love on him a bit. 

Oh yeah, did I mention it has been really cold here the past week?

After finished cleaning, I was able to ride Milo. He worked very well, we were able to work on lope departures, but not the lope exercise as we had before, there were lessons and boarders riding and longing. 

I dont need to go into all of the details of the ride, but Milo was a very very good boy, working straight, lifted and keeping his shoulders in line. We had one nice little two foot slide I hadnt even expected, and he worked really well through some turnarounds too. 

Just one of those great rides that leaves you smiling and content at the end. What a good Milo. 

Have a good weekend Milo! See you Monday. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lope Pattern and Open Arena

The pasture looked so pretty and peaceful when I arrived last night, no hoofprints behind ten feet of here:

I soon discovered why:

It appears the boys spent most of the day inside their shelters, and where even given dinner early, muching away as I arrived.

You have got to be kidding me, I am not going out there, Milo says.

But the halter around his head convinced him otherwise. This is Milo's very unimpressed look:

Aww C'mon Milo! The gate was closed up when I arrived, that means no one is here and we will have the whole arena to ourselves!

I'm not sure that did the trick, or the idea of going into the warm barn, but Milo perked right up and followed me up the long (and slippery) driveway.

And indeed, the arena was empty, the barn was deserted. Funny how a little snow can do that. Some days I really do love my little red F150...

I warmed up Milo a bit and we settled into some work. Mostly, I took advantage of the empty arena to work on the "serpentine" exercise at the lope that Sarah had told me about. In fact, after reading Equine Fitness - A Program of Exercises and Routines for Your Horse I discovered this same exercise being depicted in the book as well. If you dont remember, the exercise is to establish a nice lope (and OMG when I first got Milo into it, his head was dropped, his back was lifted, and he wasnt rocketing around the arena - needless to say it was a fabulous lope) then as you come along a long side, direct towards the inside a bit, then back to the rail, then back following the rail. So it should look something like this:

So yeah, please ignore my special drawing, and the fact that it says "Rectangle", I couldnt find the exercise from the book online. But basically you lope off the rail then come back to it then repeat. As your horse gets better you increase that angle off the rail more and more until you are almost to the other side of the ring.

So the first attempt with Milo left him a bit unbalanced once back to the rail and turning. He almost wanted to break to trot, but I pushed him out of it. By about the third attempt, he figured out to lift up his shoulders to stay balaced all the way through, but I could tell it was hard for him and knew it was not time to increase the angle yet.

I did this the other direction as well (to the left) which was much more difficult to do correctly as Milo kept twisting his head out and bulging his shoulder in. So I had to use a lot of leg, and a fair amount of rein trying to get his neck and shoulders straight. I did get one nice pass through on the fourth try I believe then brought him to a trot to start some cool down.

If I can continue to work on this exercise (as arena access allows) it should help "unlock his shoulders" as Sarah says. I also feel this will help him regain total balance in the lope (he still likes to drop shoulders and lean into turns) and should also help us work on our lead changes (I have ditched lead changes for the time being, I figure Sarah can help us get put together correctly then work on them when we are ready - so what if its a deduction in a class, I dont want to push us to do a sloppy one).

I tossed Milo's cooler on, and took his neck cover from out of the dust. It was supposed to be 18 degrees last night and 32 today, so Milo definitely needed some extra protection. I braided his mane in a few spots to try and combat some of the rubbing the darned cover does, hopefully it works and doesnt backfire on me allowing it easier access to rub the entire braids out!

Oh yeah, and my feet were rather cold after the ordeal. Leather does not insulate!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Straight Shoulders

The snow has been falling lightly so far here in Western Washington. It appears Kitsap County in particular is getting just a dusting while the rest of the western side is getting pounded on a lot harder. Apparently, Milo was eager to get inside to the warm barn...and receive some carrots.

He pranced and puffed a bit as I led him to the barn, not being worked since our trail ride on Monday. I pushed on his neck muscles a bit as shown by Sarah, waiting for Milo to relax and release them. Then moved onto our other stretches and lifts.

Groomed and ready to go, I led Milo and his pink bareback pad into the arena. I was eager to ride thinking that the light snow would spook people from coming out to ride. It did, but the arena was filled with trail obstacles. A boarder on the Washington State High School Equetrian Team was practicing a rather complicated trail pattern in anticipation for her meet this weekend. Just lovely, I thought as I mounted up on Milo. But with the boarder no longer riding, I figured the poles, tarp, bridge, barrels, and cones would dissipate.
Meanwhile, as I began our warm up along the rail, we rounded the scary corner at C and Milo was faced head on with a tarp on the ground, and four ground poles placed over it. I didnt think he would care much as we had worked over and with tarps before. But sidestepping with his neck down and blowing in that almost snorty fashion Im sure all horse owners know and appreciate, I got a feeling that this ride was going to be less then stellar. As I continued easing Milo closer to the tarp, he pawed a bit at it (dont rip it Milo!) and knocked the poles around as well. Then something spooked him (Im honestly not sure what) and he shot forward, sideways, then spun. With my insecure seat, relaxed in an effort to keep Milo calm, my weight was thrown to my right foot, but with no stirrup there I felt myself start to tilt over that direction. My left leg failing me to stay upright, I grasped a clump of Milo's mane and was able to right myself as Milo's spook was over. Yeah, definitely wasnt getting good vibes about the ride this evening.

I walked Milo back to the tarp, to ensure some calm in his mind about the tarp, trainer and BO (who was taking a lesson) both told me to leave it alone. Which frustrated me because he needed to learn to be ok with it. I kept him near it for a few more minutes, and after he stopped blowing over it, lifted his head and licked his lips, I dismounted to fix the dismantled trail obstacle.

Mounting back up, Milo was still feeling really high. At C I did the "butterfly" exercise,  whereby I basically do small figure eight and let the ends of the arena change my direction. I always seem to overlook this first exercise given to me by Sarah, but it really is a great way to bring Milo back to a thinking level before working. It allows him to start to listen to my legs and seat, to thereby gain control over his shoulder, barrel, and hip. After a few minutes of this infinity figure eight, Milo was feeling calm and holding onto his bit well. I walked him out of the corner and began a bit of trot work.

He started rather crooked, exaggerated as he was the first night I put the Turbo Lifter in his mouth at the lesson. With incorporating my outside rein and continuing to hear the voice of Sarah say "more outside rein, more outside rein" I was getting him back on track. I also remembered her advice that when Milo's body is unaligned (namely his shoulder bulging out) I need to look to myself to find the answer. Looking behind my inside shoulder helped push my hip out in the right direction and magically Milo regained straightness through the shoulder.

We were having great work, then I heard the trainer directing BO to the pattern laid out in the arena. Knowing I would most likely be in the way, I begrudgingly halted Milo behind the start cone, and watched her complete the trail course. Natually, when finished trainer wanted her to do it again. This time after seeing the pattern, I could see which areas of the arena I could be working at while she was at a particular obstacle. I managed to continue some trotting work while she rode the pattern again. Then there was a brief moment while BO and trainer discussed the pattern I got to work on the lope.

Thinking about straightness and utilizing my outside rein, the first lope departure wasnt half bad. Our first half lap of the arena (half because of maneuvering obstacles and avoiding the BO on  her horse) he was feeling high again. I bumped him up and into the bridle and after a few strides transistioned to a trot to try again. Lifting my outside rein and performing a momentary half halt before the lead departure, Milo beautifully picked up his shoulder and loped off nicely round and straight. Wow, I thought, as this outside rein and straigtness method was coming together in front of my eyes. Milo loped nicely as we made a few laps, and I got one more lope departure in again (which was great) before BO was directed back onto the course.

Trot work back the other direction (and even incorporating some trot-rollbacks) then the arena opened up for some brief work loping the other direction. The great outside rein and inside leg to a half halt worked beautifully, and Milo loped off lifted, round, soft, and importantly - straight. We even were navigating through all the obstacles easily with no dropped or bulging shoulder, it was fantastic. Bringing Milo back down to a trot then walk, I eased him into some turnarounds. With straightness and great shoulder control, Milo had his footwork down and even added a touch of speed. Cooling down then dismounting, I was quite happy with the ride, especially coming from the beginning thoughts of a terrible ride. Thank you Milo!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's Official - It's Ordered!

I finally got the order placed on my saddle with Dave at About The Horse Saddles Inc. Im quite excited, but also nervous as my Crates saddle STILL has not sold, this is its third relisting on eBay, months worth of craigslist listing and postings on Facebook as well. Heres hoping it sells, if not I can cash out my PTO from work at least.

So onto the fun part then, right? What am I getting??

Im obviously getting a reining model #2 bar, but requested the larger skirt size found on his show saddle models, as well as cut out of the leather where my leg lies - better contact for reining. Aside from the basic structure, its medium oil with basketweave on the skirt, front, and horn. For an additional $100 I could have had it on the fender, but heck, no one sees the fender and therefore I can save that money. The cantle will sport a rawhide rope roll, and the horn will balance the rawhide on the rear with rawhide on the horn. White stitiching throughout, chocolate edges to match the smooth chocolate seat, rosettes with conchos and small D rings on the back with trail tie strings coming off puts the finishing touches on it.

I really like the way this will look. It will be of show quality, but with an air of "work saddle" to it. Not work as in to beat up, but that traditional western saddle feel to it, if you catch what Im trying to say. At any rate, I think it will be just beautiful, but of course I do, its made to my liking!
Dave is starting work on the tree today, and he estimated it to be about six to eight weeks (maybe sooner he noted as well) until its finished. Im quite excited about it, plus it should be ready before my next show in May as well!

Anyone want to by a nice Crates saddle??

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Science Behind the Bit

Milo and I got to enjoy a nice long trail ride with my buddy Heather and Milo's girlfriend Missy. The weekend had been beautiful Saturday and Sunday with clear (but cold) skies, making me eager to hit the trail Monday. The weather promised a nice day when I woke up, and remained that way until about halfway through the ride.

I bridled Milo up in the DM Lifter Bit Sarah left for me to borrow. Its a fantasticlly beautiful bit and I was curious how Milo would respond to it (while he got to work in a DM Turbo Lifter at the lesson, this one is mechanically a bit different). From their website (items in bold to emphasize phrases I found particularly interesting):

With a CONVENTIONAL BIT when the rider pulls on the reins, the pull travels through the reins directly to the mouthpiece exerting all of the pressure directly in the horse's mouth. The chinstrap engages as a leverage and directs more pressure to the mouth. This direct pull on the mouth causes the horse to drop his shoulders because it directs him towards the ground.

With the DM LIFTER when the rider pulls on the reins the pull travels through the reins to point where it splits and gets equally distributed between the mouthpiece and the chinstrap. This new leverage creates a clear signal to the horse to break at the poll and raise his shoulders by signaling him to go up instead of towards the ground.

Now, here is the DM Turbo Lifter, this is the one I rode in at the lesson. What is the difference?

The DM TURBO LIFTER works like the Lifter but with a substantial difference: the position of the pivot point: When the rider pulls on the reins the pull travels through the reins in an upward direction toward 2 [the top of shank] starting a rotating motion of the bit. Because of the rotation the mouthpiece and the chinstrap now engages at the same time. Because of the chinstrap position being so high on the jaw, when it engages it stops the mouthpiece almost immediatly from exerting pressure in the mouth.


The substantial difference is that the DM Lifter takes about 50% of the pressure off of the mouth and the DM Turbo Lifter takes about 90% of the pressure off of the mouth. When riding with the DM Lifter bits, the DM Lifter still feel very similar to a conventional bit, but the DM Turbo Lifter fells very smooth and lite in his action.

So after riding Milo in both of these now (however one ride was on the trail), he seemed to respond well to both of them. However, I do feel that I like the Turbo Lifter on him over the regular Lifter, mostly because I feel it gave him more opportunity to soften and break at the poll before more pressure on the mouthpiece (simply, I felt I didnt have to take as much hold on his face - although I was on the trail, which is important to note). I found the DM Turbo Lifter with swivel cheeks for sale for only $56 including shipping (if you check out their website, DM Lifter Bits, you'll see these bits start at $100.). I asked Sarah if it would be a good investment, and she believes it would be especially for the price. She also said this is the bit a few of her students use to show in and the horses love it. Bonus: the DM Lifter and Turbo Lifter are approved to show in most breed and associate shows.
I will be excited to ride in this bit again this evening in the arena and really see what Milo thinks. So far, I can tell that he likes the tongue relief given by the low port (as opposed to the "nutcracker" effect given by broken mouthpieces) and he carries the bit well (not much fussing with it). I will be sure to give further updates and thoughts on this bit as I continue to use it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

It Always Stems from Me

Last night I had another lesson with the fabulous Sarah. She was due to have a lesson at 4:00 and I would need to retrieve her truck and trailer from her and go get Milo myself to save on time. I was fine with the idea of hauling myself, I've driven Boyfriend's monser F350 many times:

My only concern was the fact that I would be driving someone else's truck and trailer, and if something happened my head (and wallet) was on the chopping board. I drove her Dodge dually and three horse trailer carefully, and was fortunte to have nearly completely clear roads. Milo loaded right up, I grabbed Sarah's bridle with the elevator bit, a brush, and my saddle pad and hit the road arriving back at Diamond Hill Ranch at about 5:10. The earlier lesson called saying they would be running behind and would arrive at about 5:30, just about the same time I would be due to get on. But I didnt really mind sharing my lesson time, so long as I was still getting one.

Sarah poked at Milo, and he showed some great displeasure in the usual area - his first ribs were out again. This just makes me feel awful every time we see Sarah and she finds his ribs are out again. Not only does it make me upset that for however long they have been out Milo has been uncomfortable, but it also makes me feel a bit incompetant to keeping it in place. I do the exercises Sarah shows me to do for him, and Im trying to work him as listed and over his back as possible, not to mention I dont have a saddle to be riding him in, so is my bareback seat really that bad to throw his ribs out again?

Ribs back in place however, we saddled up and off to the arena we went. I climbed back into the familiar About the Horse saddle, and Sarah looked at my position. She was pleased with my newly found seat, but then demonstrated that my hips were still locked. She pushed my knee from the ground and my leg wouldnt move. She then rolled my legs out a bit, as she said "like a frog on a ball". This rotated my hips wider and brought my knee away from the saddle and my calf on Milo's sides. She pushed on my knee again, this time it allowed my femur to move away from the pressure, thereby showing my hip was out of locked position. This would help me gain more control over my seat and work with my whole body and not just my leg.

It was interesting as I warmed Milo up and held my legs on him like a frog on a ball, because just the night before when I rode there were periods of our trot work that I had rotated my legs into this position and felt that it openend my seat better. But being as my knee was away from the saddle and always being taught that that is a big no-no for equitation, I put them back to their locked position. Even warming up Milo now, I mentioned to Sarah how I actually found this position more comfortable for my hips then that of before. While by the ride's end my legs, back, and core were totally and completely tired, I did feel that I was riding more communicative.

The other lesson arrrived and came into the arena. I immedietly recognized the horse and the rider's name from 4H shows and competitions. A very accomplished rider, this girl and her mother had hauled from an hour away across the Hood Canal Bridge to come here. We said Hi, and as Sarah worked on her saddle fitting, I warmed up Milo. He was feeling a bit goosey like usual, with his neck being as Sarah describes "a noodle". Which is expressed as Im written here by his bulging shoulder, his overdeveloped left side, and the fact that he may move his neck, but not his barrel or hip (hence the noodle term for his wiggly neck, or goosey for me). I was having a bit of frustrations with him getting off my left leg (and both cinches were a joined X mohair so my spurs kept getting caught, which Sarah apologized for), and lifting his back. We were working at the end of the arena where the cows are housed and he was a bit distracted.

Sarah turned to me and asked to see a lope departure. Thinking about straightess (but not being effective) I laid my leg back and smooched. Milo pinned his ears and hollowed out, scrambling into a lope. "Outside rein, Nina, outside rein" cascaded the all too familiar words from Sarah. I tried to explain how I was feeling on him: lifitng my outside rein (right side) only seemed to dump him even further into the circle on that overdeveloped and bulging left side. The more I applied outside rein, the more his neck bent (or noodled) to the inside with his nose poked out. With him being so heavy on that left leg all the bumping and spurring in the world wasnt getting him off of traveling inward. Sarah had me try again (outside rein, more outside rein...) but this time had be set him up perfectly straight before the departure. I picked up with my outside rein, pushed him barrel out with my inside leg (difficultly) displacing his weight to the outside for a lope departure from the rear, half halt briefly, then lope depart. It was a much better departure, but apparely I still was supporting with my outside rein. "Pick up your outside rein, Nina. More...more...more...keep picking it up until I tell you to stop" as I grabbed rein centimeter by centimeter, never wanting to have too much feel on his mouth Sarah finally made it clear again saying "He needs something to lean on. Right now you are just messing with him but not communicating effectively." When I picked up what felt like miles of rein and pushing his barrel out, we finally got a nice lope departure. "There, good job, now do that 500 more times." Woah, I said after a few lope strides, bringing him to a stop, then a back up.

"He's backing crooked," Sarah said. He was. He was pushing his hip to the left in the back. She had me push his hip out both ways then ask again for straighness, which he gave a very nice straight back then. She let me mull this over again and work on some transitions again on my own (with more outside rein), trying to get the feel of that last departure I needed to repeat 500 more times now. He was getting better, after after a few minutes she wanted me to work on serpentines with him to unlock his shoulder while she worked the other lesson.

The serpentines...did not go so well. Even though I had a lot more rein and was utilizing my outside rein, Milo still was really resistant to it diving into the new direction change shoulder first, bulging out. He wouldnt get off my left leg or rein and just as I was starting to feel like I couldnt ask any "harder" Sarah had me bring him over to her. She ran her hand down the muscle just in front of his left shoulder, a technique Peggy Cummings does (although I dont remember the name now). Milo braced against her hand, raising his head up and "turtling back" as Sarah says he does. "Right now, his shoulders are locked. We need him to lift his wither but he can't with these locked shoulders." As Milo walked away from he hand pressure, he finally stopped and relaxed, letting her help him release the tension in that shoulder. She then ran he hand down the front of his shoulder, grasping a muscle down in the front and lifting up. Milo backed away from that, as those muscles have been "taught" to do (turtling back) but finally stopped and lifted his wither up, dropping his head. "Good Boy" Sarah said, all the while explaining to me how this was beneficial and how he needed to unlock those shoulders and allow his wither to lift. She went to the other side and did the same on that shoulder. Milo walked out of the pressure, but this time was not bracing against it. She said sometimes the horse has to walk to release the tension, "Your so smart Milo," she said, "knowing you have to walk, good boy." He released nicely, and lifted his wither and her hand in the front.

Sarah then said that she felt Milo needed the "lifter bit" now. He needs something more fixed in his mouth, not joined like the elevator. She directed me to its location in the trailer and I found it, looking at the strange bit I had in my hands:

This bit concept, but stainless steel and without the showy dots.

Always concered about what is being put in my horse's mouth, I asked the mechanices of this bit. She said it works just like the elevator, but is fixed so it will help him stay straight (less noodle effect) and lift at his wither. She said he might be a bit fussy with it at first but he should pick it up fine. She was right. At first, he very dramatically bent his head to the right pushing his neck and shoulder out to the left (basically overexaggerating what he was already doing before). But he didnt mouth it or fight it so much as he did when the elevator bit first got put in (maybe he likes the tongue relief of the port more, or maybe it feels much like the elevator, Im not sure). Said had me hold on the outside rein, then pick up a bit on the left and push his barrel over just as we did before. More outside rein, was the usual command, she stated very clearly again that I have to support him with the outside rein especially in this bit. Its a shank bit and does not have the flexibility of a snaffle. Sarah said this bit was not only going to help Milo achieve more straightness and lift, but it was also going to make me use my whole body more, not just my hands. I thought, gee I dont use my hands that much anymore, I never want to get on my horse's face. But Sarah saw differently very quickly and adressed that I was riding with my right hip forward.

She said that when your horse is drifting out with that shoulder, first thing you need to adress is yourself. Milo is used to you riding with that hip forward. He moves easily to the right because that is the direction of my hip, but moving to the left is harder because my hip isnt allowing him to travel correctly that way. To combat this, she told me that when I feel that shoulder moving out, I need to literally look over my inside shoulder. This displaces my hip to the outside and allows him to follow suit with his shoulder. I did, and she asked if I saw the difference in my horse. Yes, I did, he stopped bulging the shoulder out. But I then said that I didnt feel anything differnt in my body. She said I wouldnt now, its very slight, but eventually I will. She had me work on his, and give Milo a chance to figure out the bit as she turned back to the other side of the arena for the other lesson.

This really was working. I was supporting with my outside rein, and it was allowing Milo to travel straight, even with lift at the wither. We worked on a large circle, then serpentines, then straight lines, all the while focusing on straightness and an outside rein (and my hip). I picked him up to a trot and he moved easily in that gait as well. After a few transitions and one final nice halt and back, Sarah's other lesson was over, and my body was spent. I dismounted and gave Milo a pat. Sarah showed me how to relax Milo's shoulder muscles on the ground as she had done before, and the differences in Milo's posture and neck were amazing.

Absolutely exhausted and tired in every muscle of my body (as Im sure Milo was too) we untacked and loaded up. Sarah said she would leave a headstall out at her place this afternoon (she leaves for a horseshow today) with the bit on it and I could take that and use on Milo now, replacing the elevator. Im excited to ride more in it, as Sarah had said last night, Milo is coming along so much better then the first time she met me, which made me feel great.

ETA: I as thinking back on this lesson again after posting, and realized I missed another key point (so much knowledge coming its hard to remember every imporant detail), and that was that I can be WAY to easy or "nice" to my horse. I feel that I always want to give Milo the benefit of th doubt, a release for even the slightest effort. An example of this was right after we put the new bit on, and I asked Milo to lift up then walk forward. He lifted, but after a leg cue for forward moved his head side to side, hollowed, out, pinned ears, and swished his tail basically saying "no way I dont want to lift and go forward too diificult, I dont wanna." I asked for lift again, and forward this time I got forward but no lift, I somewhat unconsciously gave him back some face after he moved forward. Sarah pushed saying I am NOT to give him his head when he didnt give me his back. I basically told him "Oh Milo, its ok if you didnt lift up, Im just happy you walked forward." This makes a lot of sense, I do that a lot and its always at the halt to walk transition, its basically Milo giving me the finger and me saying tha I appreciate the thought. I was glad for Sarah to sharply address this saying I CANNOT do that.

She also had to remind me to keep some contact on the bit. She said she liked that I want to let him stretch down and she likes that I have softer hands, but he needs to work off of the bit or else the purpose of this bit is not going to be achieved. Its easier said then done, the reins just seem to slip out of my hands on their own. I guess Im just used to giving Milo some rein when he stretches down, which is great, but he still needs to be flexed at the poll with his head stretched too. She reminded me that it is ok for me to pick up on the bit, I just have to keep reminding myself of that when I ride him without the Hawk Eyes of Sarah.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thrush and an Update

So the other day I picked out Milo's feet rather quickly, then had a double take to his underside of his hoof - was that thrush?

Now for those of you who dont know, thrush is a bacteria or fungus (exact is unknown) that is common during wet periods. It can effect the clefts, sole, and frog. Its most commonly discovered because of a black, moist, stinky substance detected when you clean out the hooves. If any grooved or crevaced area occurs especially in the center of the frog from the heel bulbs, thats a sure visual sign of thrush as well.

Now I didnt smell anything foul this evening. I mostly noticed that the cleft areas along the outer of the frog where especially deep appearing, and he also seemed to have a crevace forming down the center of his frog. The entire frog looked rather dark as well, but Im not sure I would venture enough to say black and almost slimy. But I wouldnt be surprised if he had a mild case of thrush forming - heck, when it rains here (all the time) the mud is a terrible bacteria infested wet swamp all around his stall and gate area (this is where Milo spends the majority of his time). I took a few photos of the hooves, but since they were from my camera phone, they really dont give much information as the flash blinded out most of the detail. Thinking back to his hooves now I dont think it would hurt at all to start even a mild thrush treatment.

How does one treat thrush? Firstly, one must clean the entire hoof with mild soap and warm water. Then pat completly dry (let horse stand for a few minutes as necessary to ensure that entire hoof is no longer moist). I have read that iodine directly applied to the affected areas daily is one way to treat thrush. However, I have also heard that iodine can be quite drying. I have also read to make a "Sugardine" paste, wherby you mix Betadine and White Table Sugar into a thin paste, then apply directly into the crevace areas.  Whether or not to boot or wrap the area is up to you. While a boot might help the area stay dry and clean, for Milo, it has been known to cause rubs and sore spots on his pasterns and fetlock. So for him, I think I may just have to stick with application, then directly to pasture (with time given of course after application so "soak in").

While it may be overkill as he may not have thrush, a fifteen minute prevention cleaning shouldnt hurt anything. Unfortnutely, I dont have sugar at the barn, so application of only Betadine will have to do tonight (as I attempt to take better photos as well).

On a final note, I was super proud of Milo last night. He was standing quietly in the cross ties after our ride, I was putzing around in my tack box when suddenly the largest horse in the facility, Scout (who was being worked on leading in the back of the aisleway directly behind Milo and I), in his massive stature, knocked into the pitchforks hanging on the wall sending one crashing to the ground in a loud clatter. Scout spooked sideways runnig into the stall front, then directly out the back barn door. All the commotion jolted Milo straight forward running into the end of the cross ties. I said Woah steadily and reached to the quick release snaps on the wall, but it wasnt necessary. When Milo felt the end of the cross ties, I thought it would send him into a panic, but all he did was to stop  running into it, then come back to a standstill and whip his head around to look behind him. Scout had been calmed down and I patted Milo's shoulder as he blew out a sign of relief (as did I) and we watched Scout's owner return the pitchfork to the wall. I finished up with Milo and tossed his blanket on, and he was back down to his calm self, even leading out the back door with no spook or look. Good Milo, makes a Mom proud.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our Highest Score Yet!

Yesterday was the last show for the 2010-11 Tacoma Unit Winter Buckle Series. We hauled out Milo in the early morning and arrived with some time to get everything and everyone all adjusted. Milo quietly munched on his hay, I filled up his water bucket, then waited around a bit for the show steward to arrive. She came quickly and opened the show office. I entered our class, Beginning Reining, just as I had the five shows before. I asked her what the turnout was like at the last January show (the one I missed due to the abscess) and she said it was a remarkably low amount of people. Wonder if everyone else had injured horses too?

I stretched Milo as our Fitness Route describes, then threw on Sarah's saddle. After everything was just-so and his sport medicine boots were in the right place, I put the bridle on and was off to warm up. The show wasnt to begin until ten o'clock and it was only nine now, but I hoped it wasnt too early to get on.

We were surprised to see in the arena that the far end wall was opened up to allow daylight in (and the very cold, sharp wind unfortunetly). Milo was quite unsure about it our first few passes, but soon he figured out it wasnt that terrible. We had a fantastic warm up - Milo was working over his back nicely, had good lope circles and change of speed, and nice stops too. I was ready for the class to come! Then the show manager announced the current standing for the Series awards. I was tied for first place with another exhibitor, a nice gal whom I had been chatting with throughout the show series. She and I chatted anyways after the announcement, competitiveness put aside momentarily.

I stopped Milo on the rail by Boyfriend who was sitting on the bleachers. We chatted for the next twenty minutes before the arena would close to be dragged. I was a bit worried about Milo getting cold and stiff and didnt want to continue working him as he was at a perfect place to warm back up and show. Then to my surprise, MiKael from MiKael's Mania came around the corner and introduced herself. It was great to meet the lady behind the blog posts and we had small chat before the arena was cleared out.

I kept Milo walking in the warm up arena while the main arena was being dragged. There were two schooling runs before my class, so after the first schooling run I brought Milo back up to the jog. I was second in for the class, so I would have just enough time to get another lope in before it was my turn, which I did and Milo loped off nicely and gave a nice stop too. I watched the first exhibitor, the same gal I as tied with. She had a nice run, good circles, but incorrect lead changes changing on the front then even going down to a trot to correct it. Her horse was tired and didnt put her rear down into the stop as well.

It was my turn now as they called my name, and I walked Milo calmly into the arena. We came around the corner nicely, then halted in the center facing the judge. I had to remind myself that right is right for the first spin (they have kept the same beginning reining pattern throughout the series that I havent even been re reading it before the show. Probably a bad idea, but all I needed to remember was right is right, from my off course I did in the first show of the series). Milo did a nice spin, wasnt totally on his pivot leg and was a bit resistant to move the shoulder over, but it was better then our last show -1/2. We spun the other direction and Milo did much better on keeping an inside pivot foot and even added a little speed toward the end, -1/2. I recentered Milo then adjusted myself for the lope departure, which Milo leaped into. He was a looky-loo to the in-gate when we first passed by, but settled down a bit for the second large circle. He didnt come back to me like he did in our warm up earlier in the morning for our small slow circle, and didnt want to round himself up for it either. -1/2 for the left circles. We had a somewhat decent lead change, then as we approached the open end of the arena he tried to scoot away from it and completely ignored my inside leg trying to keep him on the rail and round. He was a bit better for the second circle, but didnt come back to me again as I tried to slow down for the last small circle, -1 for the right circles. -1/2 for the next lead change, and as I came around the end and set him up for our rundown, Milo was starting to feel good. I good feel him getting away from me and I bumped him back up with my spur just in time as our end cone was approaching. I oiled up the hinge to my lower back and softened it (but I believe I forgot to say Woah again...). Milo gave the best stop he ever has in the show pen with a little bit of a slide, thats far better then a hop-stop. I asked him to back, which he was again resistant to comply well, and then it was over. -1/2 for rundown, stop, and back. This scored us a 67 for our run total, the best score for us yet to date, although I dont feel like it was our best run however this was a different judge then the last few shows.

I finally got past the 66 1/2 score though! I jumped off Milo and walked him out in the warm up pen. About ten minutes later, MiKael and Boyfriend came out to meet with me. She talked with me about what she saw was good and bad, and during the conversation they announced the placings, which I didnt hear. Boyfriend asked if I heard it, then told me I got second of three. The competitor after me got a 67 1/2 placing him first, and the gal before me placed third with a 62 1/2. That meant I had won the buckle!

We walked over to the show office and as Boyfriend held onto Milo, MiKael and I walked in and got to see my score. I was then told that they wanted all of us in the arena for our awards. So back into the arena I led Milo, and was presented with not only my second place ribbon for my run, but also a beautiful Gist buckle for the series!

Good Boy, Milo!!

The beautiful buckle!

All in a day's work, huh Milo?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review, Body Assessment Photos, and a Visit from the Scissors

You know, I really love learning. That must be why I never really hated going to school. Granted, I would have rather slept in, but in all honesty, there were many moments in class I was enthralled with the material. I loved History, and when I learned about genetics in Honors Biology I was having a grand ole time (even did a presentation of HYPP!). So I guess its no wonder why I love to learn more about the passion I love - horses.

I mentioned before about the book that I ordered, Equine Fitness: A Program of Exercises and Routines for Your Horse, and it finally came Wednesday night. I was absorbed in it for the remainder of the evening (to Boyfriend's dispair, he doesnt really get why I love to read what he deems boring material, I also think he thinks its like school books). I learned more about the horses's muscles, how they interplay between each other among other things (I cant reiterate the entire book here!). As my eyes got tired halfway through the book I had to put it down and go to bed.

Last night I was able to finish it, and boy, did I absorb a LOT. Foremost, one chapter in the book talked about stifles, weakness to observe, and exercises to strengthen them. I wasnt anticipating reading exactly about my horse!

Under Saddle - Observe the horse both walking and trotting under saddle, if the toes are dragging with continuous contact with the ground without lifting them out of the footing is a clear sign of weak stifles. A horse that becomes fussy cantering circles is often compromised in the stifles.

This was the most significant passage from that chapter for me. It rang true in every sense for Milo. He almost never takes a solid stride without dragging the toes of his back legs. I always assumed it was laziness, but reading further about resistance to work and reach up nicely on circles, especially at the canter, seemed to peg Milo right on the nose. A test for this I want to try this evening is viewing Milo walk away from me in a straight line. The book says that if the legs swing out before stepping down thats a good indicator of weak stifles.

So, how can this be fixed? The book gave some great exercises to strength the stifle area including lifting the hind legs and holding in the air (horse does it - you encourage with a tickle from a whip, not by picking up the foot), working on poles in a half moon, among others.

I also learned some valuable things about warm up and cool downs, along with the role the "mighty neck" plays, and how to spot a crooked horse. It has also given me a good guide to help put Milo on the best fitness track. She provided four six-exercise Fitness Routes, along with some basic instructions for each route stating that the importance is to work each exercise in the individual route (hope that isnt too confusing). After reading through each exercise I came to determine that the Fitness Route 1 was the best one for Milo, with the exercises focusing on some of his weaker areas. It includes the following exercises to be done each ride for about a month: Tail Pull, Rein-Back up a Hill, Arena Interval Training, Lifting the Hind Legs, Shoulder Rotation Stretch, and Pelvis Tucks. These exercises with help strengthen and relax the back, work the neck (and thereby the back) in three different working positions, strengthen the stifles, relax the shoulder, wither, and back, and strength and relax the lower back.

Fortunetly, these exercises are in the back of the book on perforated cards so I was able to rip out the exercises (I plan to laminate them here at work) and take for reference to the barn.

So would I recommend this book to a friend? You betcha! Its a highly informative book for any horse owner or enthusiast, no matter if you are looking for fitness exercises or not. It has a wealth of information about tendons, ligaments, and muscles and how they work together (and seperately). And even if you arent looking for "fitness" exercises, the exercises can be used alone if you are looking for something new to try with your horse. At only $13.57 from Amazon, it makes it a great deal, a great read, and definitely worth the money.

Now for a little fun, and also to visually track Milo's fitness progress in the following months, I took some photos of different areas I will be working on.

Milo's back on the right side. Looks pretty good.

Milo's back from the left side.

Looks like a totally different horse!  See the large bulge on his left shoulder? This used to be on both sides and much larger. With the help of Sarah though, we have gotten him to release the tension on the right side, but its a slower process on this side. Those bulges were created from a tight back due to improper riding and a poor saddle fit. Doesnt his back on this side just overall looks a lot tighter?

Milo from the rear.

Its not overly obvious, but you can see how he is stronger on the left side versus the right. He also toes out, but overall I think hes got pretty straight hind legs.

Milo's back from top.

Haha, so the clip job obviously wasnt symmetrical, but dont let that fool you as to his back shape. While we can see that left shoulder bulge greater, we can also see that the left side is still stronger, and it also appears from this photo that his hips are at an angle. But not sure if its just a poor photo or really is the case.

It will be interesting to observe any chances to these areas as we start into this fitness program. And if you see anything that I might have missed, speak up, Id love to learn more! :)

Now onto some grooming photos. Milo's mane has been bothering me quite a bit lately. His neck cover had rubbed a chunk out of the mane at his poll area and the blanket rubbed out at the withers, leaving the mane uneven and shabby looking:

So I took the scissors to it (one small benefit to a thin made is it doesnt need clippers to cut!) I decided after two years of letting his bridle path grow out in an effort to bring more volume to the forelock, to give him another one. It seemed to clean it up nicely and took away some of the shabby look, although the length difference is still noticable:

I was advised from a few people to just cut it all to the shorter length. No! I have been working on this mane for a long time and Id hate to see it in a really goofy stage again! Not to mention we will be laughed at by the reiners! But I think it looks a bit better, and Ill at least apply MTG to it weekly in some feabile attempts to help it grow back. (By the way, his mane isnt combed in either picture, I avoid combing it as much as possible to reduce hairs being ripped out. Instead, I just brush off any dirt with the body brush.)

Pretty bridle path! And ears! :D

Thursday, February 10, 2011

They are so Forgiving

This topic has been on my mind for a while, but I never really formulated it in my mind as a blog topic, well until now. I think we can all safely agree that horses (animals in general) can be all too forgiving, but I suppose that is what we love about them too. This post is inspired by the ignorance we all see from those horse enthusiats around us. Im talking most specifically about horses in poor condition, but not necessarily neglected. Those horses with good intentioned owners, but not necessarily the knowledge (or maybe even means) to see to it that their horses are in the conditional that they could (or should) be. But what amazes me more, are those horses in the not greatest of condition are still so unconditionally loving to their human partners, and forgiving for their short comings and ignorance.

I'm talking about the back yard horse owner, the enthusiastic young rider, and even the competitor. Now, I do want to mention before I continue that this post is not to put anyone down, or say that any of the mentioned are abusive, wrong, etc. This post is simply my opinion being expressed about the amazing ability horses have to trust and love unconditionally, even when lacking in some care.

The back yard owner is the one who may or may not have lots of experience with horses. They generally keep their horse at home (hence the title given) and may or may not have the best of living conditions for their horse. They love their horse(s) and give them decent feed, they may seek veterinary care when needed, and generally have less than high quality equipment. This could be the person that feeds well, but doesnt worm. They could be the one who feeds terrifically, but has poor tack and equipment. They could love their horse more than anything else, but have unsafe and hazardous living conditions. And yet, the majority of horses will love that owner, but suffer from a wormy belly, a sore and weak back, and dank living conditions, among other possible ailments that could easily (to ignorant eyes) be overlooked. I think this is a large portion of horse owners. While they might love their horse and believe that they are giving them quality care, most of the time their ailment is simply ignorance and lacking some sort of guidance - be that a trainer, or another horse friend perhaps.

Then you have the enthusiastic rider. The young person who has fanasied having a horse and is now on the early steps of learning more about these fabulous creatures. They could be the rider who has unforgiving and unknowledgable hands, usually banding and flapping around on their horse's back while the (typically) trusty old school horse tunes out the rider's imperfections and plods along. This rider really doesnt "bother" me persay simply because I would like to assume that they are learning how to ride properly, and are not necessarily being "abusive" to the horse. Thats not to say though that we can overlook what is being done to the patient equine, and we need to make sure that we are giving back to the complacent stead.

Now on to the competative rider. This is probably my biggest pet peeve in observing riders. Its hard to watch someone blatently pushing their horse around demanding a "headset", spurring their sides and pulling back, and demanding some sort of "perfection" from the horse that the rider sees fit to win whatever competition they are in. Watching people get so frustrated with their animal either in warm up, during their time in the show ring, and especially after what might have been a ride where the animal didnt work up to the rider's "standards". I hate to see what seems to be a perfectly willing horse come out of the show arena to only be worked into the ground because the rider is unhappy with its performance in the show ring. This is not to say that schooling after a run is bad, because it certainly is not. But taking frustrations out on the horse simply because it didnt do as well as you might think it should have been is wrong. And it amazes me how horses (typically, of course not always) put up with their heads being reemed off, their sides kicked in, and being so overly worked out of frustration. It truly amazes me how these animals will work so hard to please us.

Finally, saddle fitting, or general tack equipment failure is so grotesquely overlooked and ignorance to proper saddle fitting is so common. Im not going to preach how knowledgable I am in this area, because frankly, up until about six months ago I thought I "knew it all" when in reality, I only had the bare bones of knowledge. But it pains me to see people (especially those who are trainers) to be riding and working in such ill fitting equipment and either be ignorant to it's true fit, or simply dont care. I understand everyone has a budget, and people most likely try and fit whatever saddle they have or can get access to as best as possible, but it really irks me how commonly incorrect people are to a true and correct fitting saddle. Its just amazing for me to imagine the horse working as best as it can with a thirty pound saddle strapped down to them and digging between their shoulders. Then to add a hundred fifty (or more) weighing person only pushes those pressure points deeper into their back. Makes my back hurt even thinking about it.

Now, Im sure this post can be taken as me thinking so high and mighty of myself. I really am not. I have very very much to learn in the world of horses, and feel that every day as I learn more, I discover how little I actually did know. I think everyone should make a conscious effort to educate those ignorant, but willing to learn around us. Because we can never give back to the patient horses without educating their owners. And of course, some owners will think they "know it all" and are unwilling to learn, but trying for the horse's sake at least is some effort.

I dont really feel like Im touching on the entire sugject that I have in my mind...but it is a rather vast subject. Maybe we can continue it in the comments with your input? What are your thoughts an opinons on these less then perfectly cared for horses we all see, but arent in such bad condition that you might consider it abuse?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sore Abs

I know it may seem that I complain about my boarding situation on here frequently. In fact, I dont have a problem with my actual boarding situation per se, but rather, the inability to use its facilities as needed when needed. Ie, the covered arena. Alright, you all have heard my complaints about a certain trainer and the fact that I rarely have a chance to actually work my horse in the manner that I would like to because either a) the arena is overly crowded with lessons b) with the said lessons, yeilding the arena to them is required making me work sporatically around the arena based on where the lesson kid is c) not being able to work horse (as depicted in b) especially at the lope because Im sorry, my horse doesnt lope two miles an hour, and hello, he can be a little fresh. She while one boarder may lope with two lessons and another boarder in the arena, I take the courtesy to know that my horse will be a pistol and might not be in the best interest of the small lesson student to have a bullet in the arena, and I dont want to compromise my horse to dart around and navigate through millions of lesson horses, which leads to d) navigating around all the cones, caveletties, poles, and trail obsticals (bridges and gates) that are always left out for whatever lesson is going on. Im sorry, but the arena simply isnt big enough to support that many people riding, with crap scattered all throughout it.

So, Monday night I had a little "run in" with the head trainer. What happened was that she had two green lesson kids on typical lesson horses. Both girls loped by me far too close cutting Milo off on both the rear and front. Not to mention I had yeilded more than enough room on the rail for the girls (I was to the inside track of the inside track - basically working a long skinny oval in the center of the arena). After the second offense, I quietly informed trainer of what was happening. She stared at me blankly as if to say "So..what?" No response from trainer. So I continued that I wouldnt have mentioned anything but when both of them do it, it raises concern. She interupted me saying that the one horse is hard to steer and the girls are just learning to steer. Im sorry, but if they dont know how to steer, why are they loping to begin with? That just doesnt seem right to me. Trainer was clearly miffed that I had confronted her (politely I might add, I put up with a lot of shit in that arena), and I was equally frustrated by the lack of respect she had for me. Finally, about five minutes goes by and she says to the girls to please watch their spacing. Finally those two girls leave and I thought I had a golden opportunity to work on Milo's lope. No sooner do I get him a few strides in, then another boarder comes in, then another two lessons. OMG.

Last night was the same routine. Two girls taking a lesson, another boarder, crap set up everywhere. Honestly, it might be a lot easier to navigate if there wasnt crap everywhere, but with cones set up all the down the center, a trail box set up with poles, and a bridge, it reduces the usable amount of arena space by quite a lot. Not to mention that the lesson girls will go from on the rail (keeping me working in the center or on the inside track) then randomly work the poles in the center (pushing me off onto the rail, but oh look, the other lesson is on the rail while the second one is in the center). Then I heard that the girls were getting ready to leave as was the boarder. I had Milo finished with our trotting work and was waiting for them to get out so I had an opportunity to lope. Boarder leaves, and I wait. And wait. Then another lesson comes, in then another boarder. So theres five of us. I finally gave up twenty minutes later of walking my horse and trying to keep him ready to lope. After this time he was totally out of the frame of mind to even go into a lope that I jsut gave up waiting on the lessons to leave. No sooner do I put him in the cross ties then they walk in the aisleway behind me. Go figure, Murphy.

Am I just a huge complainer? I dont think so. Not when every single day that I want to work my horse, I am resitricted by what I can work on. It is extremely frustrating to say the least. Especially when I have our last reining show of the series on Saturday and I havent even been able to work on my horse's lope. I cannot WAIT until the weather clears and the daylight comes back because I will be all over that outdoor arena. Get me away from the millions of tiny lesson kids, the shit in the arena, and the rudeness and carelessness of the trainer. Rant over now.

If you've stuck with me this far, then real kudos to you. Now onto the fun part, actually talking about my ride! Milo was still a bit distracted on Monday's ride, but is starting to get more symmetrical without my aid every minute. Im gaining more control over that left shoulder bulging out too. Tuesday's ride was almost phenomenal. Besides another lesson horse cutting us off, Milo was focused and working well. He was holding himself up nicely every direction and I only had a few minor corrections on our transitions. Speaking of transitions, this is the only time so far that I lose my own correct position, but its getting better all the time! Last night's ride was a real workout and I even texted Sarah afterwards saying, "You know you are riding correctly when your abs are screaming!" which was definitely the case. My new position is almost becoming second nature, except where the transitions occur, then I still seem to fall forward. But last night was another epiphancy moment, I finally was getting real control over the hinge that allows my lower back to soften and relax for a downwarn transition. And Milo obliged to my soft back with giving me some of the nicest trot to halt and walk to halt transitions, putting his hip down and his back up. He was moving so nicely at the trot as well, I was even on the fence about wanting to ask for a lope. Either the great work from the trot would carry over to the lope work and we would get some nice rounds in, or it would "ruin" what was a great and productive ride, Ill never know. What I do know, however, is that things are getting better, with both Milo and I utilizing our bodys to the best that we can.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Five Horses We Meet

I found this on a public horse forum I frequent, and thought it might be interesting to share here. Feel free to copy and paste if you wish.

1. The Intro Horse.

We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one.

There were two horses that were my "first rides" or "intro horse" I guess you could say. My first memory of a real live horse was my Aunt's brown Quarter Horse. I got to ride her with my cousin for a few minutes. I remember thinking how big and scary she was, but still had the urge to get on. But throughout childhood when I longed for a horse, there was my imaginary Shire. He ran on the edge of the road along our car as we sped down the highway. I would see his heavy footfalls and his powerful strides in my mind, always running alongside the car.

2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he probably didn’t benefit from the encounter as much as you did…

I had many experimental horses. All of J's Arabians. I learned how each horse is vastly different and required a different approach. Rocky who taught me very much, Taffy who taught me patience, Vilya taught me the necessity of a soft hand, Betai taught me how to ride a rocking horse lope (best lope Ive ever ridden to this day), and finally Muneca who taught me the benefits of longing a fresh horse before getting on.

3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise…

Well, it must be most obvious from my last series of posts, that my connected horse would have been Koalt. Koalt was the first horse who I truly bonded with - this was from both sides. I learned what it meant to truly care for a horse, and the incredible feeling when a horse tries their hardest for you in return.

4. The Challenger
Into each horseperson’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisleway on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life…

Well, this horse is also the number 5 horse. Ive faced a lot of challenged with Milo. Not all necessarily bad, or with me trailing on the end of a cotton line, but Milo was the first horse who truly challenged me. And challenged me on a dominance level. He just two years ago was quite unruly and downright dangerous in the round pen. He would rear and charge. This was difinetly a challenge as I had never dealt with a horse like that. But I pushed back fear and rose to the occassion showing Milo that he is indeed NOT the boss horse. But there have been other instances with Milo that just have had me scratching my head in wonder as to what to do.

5. Your Deepest Heart
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires…

Milo has morphed from a dominating, challenging horse to what I would consider my "heart horse". I think he has put himself in that position because of the challenges that we have gone through. We both learned and grew together from the setbacks, the disagreements, and the challenge. But all of that made me open my eyes. The experience has taught me how to push aside what I might "see" on the outside, and really listen to what is going on with my horse. The understanding between Milo and I is something I havent had with another horse. Thats not to say we cannot grow even more, heck, daily as I learn more and more I feel that I truly know less and less. It is all a learning experience, and I plan to have Milo by my side through it all.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Arabians, the Quarter Horses, and the Journey Final Chapter

The story begins here.

I was extremely picky as to who would be able to take my Koalty-man home. They had to absolutely guarantee me that he would never be ridden, and be kept in the best conditions until he finally passed. The third woman interested owned a breeding facility in Yakima. She wanted to use Koalt as an "Uncle" to the weaned babies. I thought Koalt would love that idea. He was a very young at heart horse, and I knew he would love to play with the young horses and teach them how to be a horse. I agreed, and we set a date for her to pick him up.

I awaited her arrival with my Dad. I was housesitting for J at the time, so got to spend lots of time with Koalt that morning, crying throughout it all as I fed him breakfast for the last time, and thoroughly groomed him in the indoor arena. She arrived on a grey day in June with a beautiful aluminum goosneck trailer, and clean padded shipping boots ready for Koalt. I will never forget the look in his eyes when she took the lead rope from my hands. Koalt stood outside back of the open trailer. Standing firm for a moment, unusual for him as he was always an easy loader. She tugged on the line gently, and he looked over his back at me standing behind him. He met my eye with a steady gaze. He sighed, and loaded onto the immaculent trailer. And then it began to rain.

She pulled the trailer down the long drive slowly, and I stood in J's living room window, watching as it finally turned the last corner. My Dad followed soon after. And I lapsed into hysterical sobs.


I realized that I didnt give a great description of who Koalt was. While the photos speak for themselves on what he looked like, they dont give the inner workings of the horse that Koalt was. Koalt was a very young horse at heart. The journey I had with him was amazing. He was an angry, used up lesson horse who really didnt care for people at all. Over the course of gentle persistent work by a young girl, he transformed into a huge teddy bear of a horse.  He could cuddle the best of any horse Ive ever known, loved Twizlers, and was loved by all who met him. He was patient, he tried hard, and he knew who his Mom was. He could be jealous at times, but never stubborn. He taught me more things than I could ever recount. I would not be who I am today without the aid of that truly special gelding.

I am extremely saddened to say, that I havent been able to keep tabs on him. I was in contact with the owner for about six months after she took him, even sending some photos. Then she stopped responding to my emails. I can only hope that Koalt, who would now be 24, is living a happy life in Yakima still.

When depicting this story to others, I always mention how I feel that I failed Koalt. It was and is my responsibility as a horse owner to see to it that any horse under may care receives the best possible care until they finally pass. With the lack of knowledge at present as to the exact status of Koalt makes me feel extremely guilty. I solemny have sworn that such fate will not happen to Milo. I will not make the same mistakes twice.

I find some solace however, in the knowledge that Koalt was swapped from ownership, to ownership. And I suspect he doesnt feel betrayed by me. I assume that in the first few months he was in his new home, he wonderd where that sparky kid was and when she would come see him. But after three years now, I think he has simply  concluded my time with him as just another page in his horse life. One can only hope.

My old friend, I recall
The times we had hanging on my wall
I wouldn't trade them for gold
Cause they laugh and they cry me
Somehow sanctify me
They're woven in the stories I have told
And tell again

My old friend, I apologize
For the years that have passed
Since the last time you and I
Dusted off those memories
But the running and the races
The people and the places
There's always somewhere else I had to be
Time gets slim, my old friend

My old friend, this song's for you
Cause a few simple verses
Was the least that I could do
To tell the world that you were here
Cause the love and the laughter
Will live on long after
All of the sadness and the tears
We'll meet again, my old friend
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye
My old friend, my old friend
Goodbye, goodbye

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Arabians, the Quarter Horses, and the Journey Part 11

The story beings here.

It was a long hard year after I retired Koalt. I continued to ride the bus to Js after school and work off his board, pay for his supplements and farriery. For continuing to want to ride, I started riding the horse who taught me how to ride, Rocky. I also rode Js other horses for some profit, and expanded my riding skills further in riding over a handful of different horses all with needs and quirks of their own.

I always felt that I was betraying Koalt as I would ride the other horses. I would always groom him and tend to him first when I arrived at the barn, but he would told his head over the arena rail and watch me as I rode the other horses. If horses could be jealous, then Koalt certainly was.

I showed Rocky at a few local shows and had fun. I even took Fawnie (who was now purchased by a close friend) to my second year at the county fair. But it was still hard being a young enthusiastic rider, and working to keep a horse I couldnt sit astride on. I loved Koalt, but I knew that eventually I would want another horse of my own to ride. I always pushed these thoughts to the rear of my mind, filing under too painful to deal with, and simply soldiered on working for my retired horse.

Finally, burned out and slipping into a depression in my teenaged hormonal and confused self, I starting bringing those buried thoughts back from the corners of my thoughts. But how could I let go of my best friend? Koalt had taught me how to be a responsible horse owner. How to love unconditionally, how to sacrifice my own wants for the needs of his. He was my closest friend, he helped me get through my parent's painful divorce, the pressures of a teenager's life, and also showed me the simple joys of life. I was who I was because of him. I knew the value of a dollar, the thrill of accomplishment, and how to love because of one simple, stumpy little horse. I cried myself to sleep many nights even just contemplating letting him go.

But I took the plunge, and listed him on dreamhorse as "Free to a Good Home."

Final Chapter