Friday, March 30, 2012

Ride Food: Mini Egg Muffins

I can't believe I forgot to get pics of this (actually, yes, I can...I don't end up taking pics of half the stuff I should be), so just take my word for it they look pretty cute.  Next time I make them, I will snap a few pics.

Note: I haven't made these for an actual ride yet...but I've been doing rides long enough that I know what food I like and don't like, and I'm pretty confident these will end up on my "must-have ride food" list.

The original recipe called them "mini egg frittatas."  I'm calling them egg muffins, because they're made in a mini muffin pan.  The idea behind them is simple...scramble some eggs, toss some stuff like cheese, meat, veggies in there, mix it all up, pour it into mini muffins, bake, eat.  They're like crustless mini-quiches.

They probably took me about 15 minutes to put together, due in large part to the fact I kept getting interrupted by stopping and taking care of my box turtle.  Next time, it won't take a whole lot more time than whipping together a batch of scrambled eggs...which usually involves at least chopping/slicing ham and cheese.

And the next morning, I grabbed one of the leftovers...and they were delicious cold!  That clinched it: I'm going to start making these for ride breakfasts.  I already eat cold hard-boiled eggs as the main part of my ride breakfasts, and always have trouble choking down that strong, dry yolk.  (Go figure...the one and only time I ever have trouble eating, it's ride mornings.  Of course.)  These are moist, the eggs are well blended, and they can be as strong or as mild as you want to make them, depending on the additives.

And if I'm already taking the time to make hard-boiled eggs, wait for them to boil (and not forget about them), then wait for them to sit (and not forget about them), making these probably won't take a whole lot more time.  And they don't have to be peeled before eating.  (The only negative is it means I don't get to make deviled eggs or egg salad the way I typically do with my ride leftovers.)

This first batch I made, I added spinach-artichoke chicken sausage that was already precooked and I just chopped it into small cubes, parmesan cheese, and roasted broccoli all chopped up.  They're little, so make sure whatever you add has been pre-chopped into small pieces.

Here's the actual recipe, with some suggestions for add-ins:

Mini Egg Muffins
6 eggs
¾ cup parmesan cheese (the powdery, crumbled kind, not large shavings)
1 T mayo [this is to help bind the egg don't taste it]
1 T Dijon mustard [could be omitted if you don't like the mustard flavor or it makes it too strong]
1 T flour

Various additions:
1 chicken sausage, chopped into small cubes
Crumbled sausage or chorizo, pre-cooked and drained
Bacon, pre-cooked until crispy, then crumbled
Roasted broccoli
Red Pepper
Sun-dried tomatoes
Goat Cheese
Cheddar Cheese
Ham, chopped
Swiss Cheese

Preheat oven to 350*.
Mix eggs until well-beaten.  Add next six ingredients and stir until combined.  Add selected additions and mix to combine.  Pour into a greased mini muffin pan.  A gravy ladle works well for filling the individual muffin wells.  Wells can be filled to the top.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.
Remove from oven and let sit for about a minute, then run a knife around the edges of the wells to loosen the egg muffins.

Makes one mini-muffin pan, or 32 mini muffins.  A typical serving is 6-8 mini muffins.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The 'L' Word

No, not ‘love.’  The other one.


Are horses loyal?

It took me quite a while and a lot of thinking out loud before I figured out my opinion, which is:

Yes, with some stipulations.

I don’t think it’s the same kind of loyalty as given by Man’s Best Friend.  Most dogs are unconditionally loyal and loving, or have allegiances that are easily won by the right bribe.  It’s usually food.  I think they have a pretty simple, “You did something for me, therefore I love you” outlook.

Food and bribery might work to get a horse’s attention, but I also think that it’s the food that they love, not whose hands are delivering it.

With horses, it’s something different.  It’s an allegiance won out of respect and trust.

My pony will come running to anyone that rattles the right feed can.  Doesn’t mean she likes them or will give them the time of day once the food is gone.  (And she usually doesn’t.)

But she willingly comes to me, no treats or bribes required, knowing that coming to me almost always means work.  And she does it.  Happily.

To me, that says, “Loyal.”

The things she’s done for me…I’ve asked her to do stuff I probably have no right to ask.  And she does it.  Because I believe she trusts me.  I’ve tried very hard not to ask her to do what she can’t do, or to put her in a situation that breaks that trust.

My reward is that I can trust her to do what I ask.

The end result of that sort of trusting partnership is a mutual respect.  I don’t let her get into bad situations, she does her best to take care of me.

That sounds pretty loyal.

Maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing (Yes, I just used that work before 7 o’clock in the morning.  Never mind I had to look up how to spell it, and I have a hard time actually saying it…), but loyalty is one of those qualities I hold in very high regard, so maybe this is just my wishful thinking impressing that upon my beloved animals that are such a huge part of my life.

If that’s the case, there could be far worse things in this world to be delusional about.

Or maybe, to some degree, I’m right. 

(Mimi, please keep this in mind next time we part company and you’re deciding whether or not to leave my pathetic butt on the ground and head for the hills or not.)

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Appropriate Shirt is Appropriate

I found the best shirt today.  It's one of those hi-tech, synthetic, "supposed to keep you cool" moisture-wicking fabrics from Under Armour's HeatGear line.  And it's one that isn't cut to fit skin-tight.  I like to be comfortable when I ride, thank you.  Having grown up in the desert, I'm a firm believer in the cooling power of cotton...but I'll give this one a try.

The writing on the back was what sold me.

(By the way, do you know how hard it is to take a picture of yourself in a mirror and have the writing not be backwards?  This is the first mirror reflecting onto a side mirror.)

Most sports gear with any kind of slogan on it is usually geared towards a specific sport...none of which are endurance-applicable.  I finally found one that is.

And if the miracle fabric really does do what it's supposed to do and keep my cooler, this might just be a good ride shirt, since my belief in the power of cotton does not extend to what happens when you get caught in a rainstorm.  (Which has happened to me at rides far more frequently than I'd prefer.)

Synthetic = Much better idea than cotton for getting soaked when it's cold.  When it's hot is another story.  You're talking about the girl that deliberately dunks her head in her pony's water bucket (that long, thick hair holds a lot of water) and has been known to dump a bucket on herself before hitting the trail in an effort to stay cool in the summer.

Yes, I've heard about cooling vests.  I own one.  It doesn't work anymore, dries out in about 20 minutes, then becomes another heat-trapping layer.  Very disappointed.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Little Pony

Today was Pony Spa Day, and I took the plunge...

I cut Mimi's mane.
Please note the "wild pony" eyes. This is the look she
displays pretty much 24/7 through the months of March
and April.  Fun times.
Part of me is crying inside right now.  I know, I know, it's just hair.  It grows.  But there's that nagging little, "What have I done?" in the back of my mind.  Sort of the same thought that has gone through my head whenever I've decided to chop my own hair really short in the past.  (Never again.  My hair is meant to be long.)

It's not like I roached it off.  I won't go that far.  I just cut it to the point that it was at back in our show days.

A large part of me wants that "long, flowing Arabian mane" look.  Unfortunately, the reality is, Mimi got the "crappy Appy" mane/forelock in her POA breeding.

And her mane was three or four different lengths, thanks to the fact she rubs out the middle section of her mane every few months by sticking her head through the bars of her pipe corral stall.  So she had the long, flowing mane...for the first four or five inches of mane.  Then it was the wimpy, rubbed out, really thin middle section.  Finally, the last third of her mane is a different texture (kind of wavy...not unlike my own) and never grew as fast as the front portion.

Cute as she is, the mane was not helping her looks any.  And I can't get braids to stay in for longer than a day or two.

She still looks cute (she always looks cute) and very much like she could go right back into the show ring.  (If you overlook the metallic rub stains, saddle sweat, mud, manure, and yellow tail.  I wanted to give her a bath...then the clouds came in and she was given a reprieve.  Mostly because I didn't want to end up cold and soaked.)

I don't know if I'll just leave it like this, or if we'll attempt to grow it out and and see if she can keep it a little more even.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar/clinic by Dr. Kerry Ridgway.  To those who don't know, he's one pioneers of veterinary science in the endurance world.

He's a fascinating speaker and an absolute wealth of information.  I can't even begin to get into everything that was covered...everything from a horse's natural imbalance, to the muscular system, to ulcers.  If you ever get a chance to take one of his clinics, I highly recommend it.

But one of the things that was heavily discussed was how horses are naturally imbalanced and have a "dominant" side, much the way people are right- or left-handed.  (Interestingly enough, similarly to people, 80% of the horses out there are right-sided.)

What does being "dominant-sided" mean?

In simple terms, one side is stronger than the other.  It's the horse's naturally preferred side, and there are certain indicators as to what that side is.  The horse actually turns away from his dominant side more readily.  For example, a right-sided horse has an easier time turning to the left, and will actually pick up the left lead easier than the right.

This imbalance can also contribute to the high-low heel syndrome seen in most horses.  When grazing, horses will keep their dominant front leg under themselves as the primary support pillar, and place their weaker leg forward.

I don't have access to my notes I took from the seminar at the moment, so I'm hoping I'm remembering this correctly.  The dominant leg is the one that typically grows a higher heel, whereas the leg that is usually held forward is the one that tends towards under-run, lower heels and a long toe.

A further observation I found rather interesting after watching the dozen-horse herd at the barn.  It started with Mimi: I had a very hard time determining what side she was dominant on until I climbed on her and put her through her paces.  (Right-sided, like most horses, in case you're wondering.)  She doesn't display classic high-low.  Both her heels tend towards being high.

And then I watched her grazing.  She doesn't stand still for more than about 30 seconds.  She is constantly on the move, and doesn't spend more time with one front leg as the support pillar than the other.  After watching the habits of the other horses in the herd (a mix of short and tall, mares and geldings, barefoot and shod, Arabians, Quarter Horses, Paints, and warmbloods), I came to a theoretical conclusion:

The horses with shorter necks didn't have as obvious high-low, and they spent more time moving around.  Sure, high-energy Arabian might account for some of that...but the swan-necked Arabs had more obvious high-low than the shorter necked Arabs...and the shorter-necked one is the one that moves around more.

So that got me wondering if the shorter neck makes it not quite as convenient to stay in one place grazing for long periods of time?

I've never heard or seen any kind of research that would back up this's just my observations and I'd love to hear from others as to what they've observed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Hardest Part of Shopping... knowing where to go.

Part of the fun of endurance for me is all the stuff that it can entail.  My motto is, "If you can't ride fast, ride pretty."

I think this picture makes my point:

Note all the coordinating purple and gold and wild tights (from Evelyn).

Although my shopping is down to pretty much a bare minimum now (not much I actually need anymore), I still end up picking up to occasional replacement piece...stuff does wear out over time.

But it's really hard to decide where to shop.  I've had the pleasure of having very, very positive encounters with all of the endurance vendors I've ever done business with.  I'd go back to every single one of them...and many of them, I have.  You can see the "Recommended Gear and Vendors" tab at the top of the page for a more detailed write-up of some of my favorites.

But yesterday, Action Rider Tack got a double thumbs-up from me.  I love browsing their webpage...they tend to stock stuff no one else does, and I'm pretty much insatiably curious about what's out there, even if it's stuff I don't use or need.

After about an hour of browsing, I finally placed my order (proper sharpener for my loop hoof knife, if anyone's curious).  Less than an hour after placing it, I received a notification that my package was shipping out, along with a fabulous, creative customer service email from the ladies at ART, thanking me for my order.

Now that's fast turnaround!  Definitely impressed me, and I'm sure I'll be placing future orders there.  

I have to spread out where I order things, since I like/am friends with quite a few of the vendors out there.  It helps when a specific product is only carried by one vendor.  

But I love good customer service.  I've been raised in a small-business environment where I've watched my parents go out of their way to provide their clients excellent customer service in both the carpet cleaning business and memory art business.  During high school/college, I working in a shipping/mailbox center that emphasized cheerful, helpful customer service.  That has continued to be the case now in working at Renegade.  

So I've pretty much had a lifetime of providing customer service or seeing what good customer service looks like (and bad...I'm looking at you, ASU and Gateway CC...good customer service obviously isn't part of the college make-up), so when I'm on the receiving end of it, it feels really good to know that plenty of other people out there also care.

Monday, March 19, 2012

This One's For the Girls

Warning: Somewhat delicate, feminine subject matter at hand.  To whit: Sports bras and the things they're designed to contain.  If you're of a delicate nature or have no need of such discussion,  please feel free to skip this post.  It may get a bit TMI at times:)

To those that are still's a topic that's near and dear to my heart.

*pause for really bad pun*  (There's a reason I shouldn't write posts past 7:00 at night.  And yet, I still do.  Besides, I'm waiting for laundry to finish, and it's either blog or watch "South Park."  I shouldn't admit "South Park" is on in the background.)

I'm the feminine assets area.  5'4", long legs for my height, short torso...but 34D up top.

The majority of my riding wardrobe has been really easy to find.  Not had a problem with riding tights rubbing, I can comfortably ride in just about any shirt, and shoes have been a success.  But finding effective sports bras has been something of a challenge.

Y'know the old saying about having the choice of cheap, correct, and fast, but you can only pick two?  Sports bras are something like that.  Cheap, effective, and easy to find.

In my experience, "effective" has been about the only qualification I can hope for, with "easy to find" being a distant second.  And I've long since resigned myself to paying out the nose for what I do find.  But it's one of those things that's non-negotiable.  Trying to ride in a sports bra that doesn't work?  Isn't. Going. To. Happen.

One of my favorite brands of sports bras is Moving Comfort.  Manufacturer recommendations are to replace bras every year.  I...don't do that.  Yeah, they're less effective after three or four years...but when I pay $50+ for one, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth.  I also don't pay attention to the instructions of "don't stick them in the dryer."

You can buy directly from Moving Comfort, but they're also stocked by places like REI.  I've gotten quite a few of mine from Title Nine, because of their very generous return policy (one year, no questions) that I've never actually had to use.  T9 stocks the Moving Comfort bras, listed under their own creative names for them.  (I included the MC name in parenthesis when applicable.)

I've had good luck with (given them my star rating):

- the 3-Reasons Support Bra (MC: Fiona) ****
- a cotton version of the Tech Athena ****
- the 2-in-1 Full-Support (MC: Maia)  (love, love, love this one; probably my current favorite) *****
- a front-closure version of the Hallelujah ***
- the Super Lace ***
- the newest addition: MC Phoebe (amazingly found this one on clearance at a sporting goods store and surprisingly effective) ****

I've got a couple others in my drawer from T9, but I don't use them for riding.

I've got my eye on:
- the Trade-Up
- the 7 Wonders
- the Last Resort (a good name for it...I know several people that have been happy with this one, but I'm keeping it as my last resort)

Not a super in-depth review, but this is a topic that is really personal in that what works for one person may not work for the next.  My advice is either buy them in-person where you can try them on (jumping jacks in the dressing room is a good acid test for posting) or buy them from a place with a good return policy.

ETA: So I completely forgot to add my new favorite source for shopping:  Yeah.  Seriously.  For up to half off.  So check amazon first.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Saddle Fit: The Rider Edition

(Author's Note: Wow, this turned into a long post of my ramblings about personal saddle discoveries I've made over the years, because I've literally been working on it, off and on, all day.  I think there's a point to it.  It might just be buried somewhere in there.)

So I grew up with the riding school of thought that said it didn't matter what the saddle was like, you learned to ride through it.  As long as the seat vaguely fit, there was no such thing as taking into account the saddle's natural balance, leg position, and whether or not it truly fit.

When you end up riding in three different saddles over the course of one show day, and spending a lot of time climbing in and out of those saddle in between classes, it's easier to adopt that school of thought, and when you subsequently watch videos of yourself riding, just chastise yourself for not spending enough time working on keeping that lower leg still.

Must ride without stirrups more, was a common thought.

Imagine my surprise when I got into distance riding and learned that, Wow, improper saddle fit was making this a lot more uncomfortable than it really has to be.  Also on the "Why Did I Learn This Sooner?" list was the concept that things like rise and twist in a saddle make a huge difference in lower leg stability and the ability to retain one's position instead of falling forward in a heap every time a certain pony would root her head and yank forward on the reins.

I can stop my horse without completely falling apart, position-wise?

It was a revelation.

Never mind the fact it took several years of distance riding, quite a few hours in the saddle, and going through multiple saddles before all these little revelations finally connected in my brain.

Hey, maybe there's a reason for the fact I'm constantly fighting for a proper position and balance, other than the fact I might just suck as a rider?

But it's made for an interesting look back at old ride photos and such.

Not going through my old show photos, mostly because they're a disorganized mess.  Someday I'll get them sorted into photo albums.  Today's not that day.

But I rode in five different saddles when I was showing:

A Circle Y Western Equitation saddle.  After Mimi and I both outgrew the first one, I got pretty much the same saddle, in a larger size and with more silver.  I couldn't help but have decent equitation in this saddler, especially the second one.  The leather on it was so thick, stiff, and pre-formed, my legs weren't going anywhere.  It was just a matter of keeping my upper body in roughly the same hemisphere as my legs.

When I started, I already had a saddle: a Miller Collegiate Close Contact.  I actually had the saddle long before I had the parents got it for me the first year I started riding.  So I literally grew up with that saddle.  It worked for Mimi and I for several years, and then my legs finally outgrew that saddle.  (I was very excited about this.  I was really quite short for my age until about halfway through high school.  Now I'm just short-approaching-average.  But I've gotten over it, mostly because it means I can still ride ponies.)

That saddle was literally the classic definition of "postage stamp of leather."  No knee rolls, very flat seat.  No wonder the horse I rode for that first year was able to launch me with such ease.  Short little legs didn't offer a lot of grip, and virtually nothing by way of saddle security.

I replaced that saddle with a Stubben and finished out my show career in that one.  Mimi eventually outgrew it, though, and by the time we were done showing, it was definitely too narrow for her.  I hung on to that saddle for a number of years, out of sentimental value, and finally just sold it about a year and half my friend Kaity.  So I know it's in good hands and being used instead of gathering dust in my bedroom.  And it was a step up from "postage stamp": tiny knee rolls and a flat seat.  These days, I've found that while I still adore and prefer an English-style saddle, I like more security in the form of a deeper seat and substantial knee rolls.

And of course I had my Big Horn Barrel saddle.  I used this for most of my lessons and for running gymkhana at the shows.  When I started distance riding, this was what I started with.  It got me through all of our conditioning up to our first NATRC ride, through the first ride, as well as the next one.  All in all, I probably did distance in that saddle for about a year.

Shall we play several rounds of "What's Wrong With This Equitation?" with some of my old ride pics?  (I apologize for the quality...I should have scanned the pics before I stuck them all in an album.  Actually, I did have them scanned.  And then the computer ate/wiped the flash drive they were on.  Nice.)

photo by Jane Gray Impressions
Awww, our first NATRC ride, First of Spring, April 2002, El Cajon, CA.  Gotta say, I don't think I've ever seen the pony have that much knee action.  Sooo, the rider.  This one does a really good job of illustrating the faults I tend to make: I lean too far forward., and my legs swing too far back.  Back then, I was also still in my "jockey-esque stirrup" phase left over from many years of huntseat riding, in which I equated shorter stirrups with great security.  Not always the case...but that one took me a long time to figure out.

The main problem with the Big Horn is it has an extremely wide twist.  Everything else is good...but man, it's really hard to get your legs on the horse and keep them under you.  Which further exacerbates my natural tendency to lean too far forward.

The leaning forward thing: It's my security blanket.  Even though it's gotten me dumped while jumping more times that I can count, and tumbled over the horse's shoulder, and made me eat mane on a frequent basis, I have a hard time giving it up.  To me, sitting back too far makes me feel too vulnerable to sudden forward bursts of speed, or to the possibility of being somersaulted off over the butt ends, which is a far more traumatic happening than a front-ways dumping.  Done both, and there's nothing I hate worse than the backward-flip sensation of the horse shooting out from under you.

But all of this is a compounding thing.  If I can't get my legs under me, I have a hard time sitting deep.  If I can't sit deep, I can't take up on the reins and resist the pulling.  Her pulling on the reins in turn pulls me forward, moreso than I'm already inclined to be.

This was a pretty habitual thing, so you can see why I just chalked it up to "Some people are just more naturally gifted than me and I just suck at this whole 'stable position' thing."

Exhibit B:

photo by Jane Gray Impressions
First of Spring NATRC, April 2003, Warner Springs, CA.  New saddle!  Well, next saddle after the Big Horn.  After surviving two NATRC rides without the pony having a meltdown, I felt more comfortable exploring saddle options that didn't include the pseudo-security blanket of a Western saddle.  One of my knees was also occupying the Complaint Department on a regular basis, so I wanted the flexibility of English leathers again.  Plus, I started riding English...riding an English saddle and the accompanying equitation is as natural to me as breathing.

The saddle I chose was a Wintec Endurance.  I liked the changeable gullet option, since my pony kept broadening out.  Riding in the Big Horn had me spoiled to the whole synthetic saddle/lack of leather cleaning thing.  (I've since ditched that notion again.  I love nothing more than high-quality leather, and I actually find saddle cleaning to be soothing.)

Too bad that new saddle didn't take care of any of the above-mentioned problems.  In the Wintec's case, the twist was too narrow.  I didn't have a good base of support, so I tended to be all over the place, again.  Legs too far back, leaning too far forward, pulling pony making the whole thing worse. 

We're not going to go into training, bits, horse misbehavior, rider error in this post.  I've since figured out what I did wrong, what I didn't know back then, what I've since changed, et cetera.  I'm strictly looking at how saddle fit for the rider can affect riding position and efficacy.

Moving on.

Fast forward a few years and I got a Free 'N' Easy Trekker.  It was a saddle I really liked, especially the option of the movable stirrup bars.  I didn't connect all the dots at the time, but I definitely felt like I was riding better.

Unfortunately, I only ever did one ride in it, and the one ride pic I have doesn't show a good enough angle to actually see if my memory is as good as the reality was.  I ended up selling that saddle when Mimi (again!) outgrew it.  It was marginal on width to begin with...hindsight being what it is, I probably should have exchanged it right off the bat for a wider tree.

Ah, hindsight.

So I went back to the Big Horn.  By this time, I had sawed the horn off (no more jabbing me in the ribs) and replaced the stock courdura fenders with much thinner, more flexible biothane ones.  Ah, much better.  At least on the knees.  It still didn't solve the whole "this twist is way too wide" problem.

I did several LDs in that saddle, and I could manage 25 miles.  But then I started eyeballing the possibility of moving up to 50s, and could not see myself riding 50 miles in that saddle and still being able to walk at the end.

Enter my current saddle.

It's a Duett Companion Trail.  It fits Mimi perfectly, and I feel like I can actually ride in it.  I've had the saddle for five years now, and I'm thrilled with it.  It was the saddle that finally connected the dots for me: proper stirrup position and balance in the saddle makes for a secure lower leg, and a more secure body position.

Still leaning a bit's a chronic problem.  But I've actually got my leg on the horse and in a good position.  Because I'm not fighting the saddle and fighting for security, it also means less fighting with the pony.

And that right there is about as good as it gets for me.  Good leg position, fairly upright.

But of late, I've noticed that I've been feeling a little floppy, for lack of a better term, in this saddle.  Really reaching for my stirrups, lower leg starting to do its "errant waving in the breeze" thing.  Huh???

Okay, so, here's the deal: The Duett is a 19" seat.  I've typically ridden English saddles anywhere from 17" to 18".  The Duett is sized on the small side, and when I got it, I waffled between the 18" and 19".  The 18" felt just right...but I figured that by the time I added a sheepskin cover and rear cantle packs, that would fill in the extra space.

Which worked really well for the past few years...until recently.  This past fall, I embarked on a pretty significant lifestyle/dietary change.  Nothing drastic or extreme, just cutting portions and eating very balanced, sensible, real foods, combined with walking every day and gym workout and/or at-home routines with stretch bands.  It's working: I've dropped 25 pounds since the fall, as well as extra waist and thigh inches.

My saddle is a bit too big for me now.

I solved the problem by shortening my stirrups up a hole.  Ah, that's better.  I've got my base of support and good leg contact back.  And everything else about the saddle still works: good leg position and support, good knee block placement...I've got got a little extra room back by the cantle packs now.

But all of my saddle trials and errors have really shown me the importance of a good trial with a saddle before committing to buying one: It's really hard to know if something's going to work without trying it.

And I've decided that having a saddle that works for me the rider is just as important as finding one that works for the horse.  Because if I'm not riding well, that's going to negatively impact the horse, no matter how well the saddle fits them.

The next round of saddle shopping (whenever that happens) is gonna be so much fun...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

new Tevis article

Y'all know I collect pretty much anything and everything I can get my hands on related to Tevis, especially stories and articles.

Here's a new one up on the Tevis website:

A sensible analysis of the "boogeyman" sections of Tevis, including Cougar Rock, Swinging Bridge, the river crossing, and other aspects of the ride.

Monday, March 5, 2012

bad pony

I think it's safe to say spring is here, based solely on my pony's behavior.  She was bad, bad, bad on Saturday.  Actually, I take that back.  The day started off somewhat inauspiciously when I went to collect her from the pasture and she wandered off to the far back corner.

She was actually pretty good under saddle, apart from offering the most half-a**ed, lazy canter ever.  And deliberately trying to bang my foot and/or stirrup into the railing several times.  And thinking that offering up several unasked-for flying lead changes might mean she finishes faster.

Sometimes I suspect I might have over-trained my pony, at least when it comes to anticipation and ringwork.

She was even good for working on her hooves afterwards.  After the past couple times of trimming, I've not been thrilled with her feet.  Nothing concrete I can pin down, just that they weren't quite there.  I suspect I might have been getting a bit too enthusiastic with the bar and sole removal...again.  It's a challenge, because her bars grow incredibly fast, and after her abscess a year and half ago, I'm paranoid about "stuff" getting trapped up in her sole again.

You'd think an abscess is the end of the world the way I keep going on about it.  But hey, give me a break.  That was the first abscess I've ever dealt with.

So this time, I took a very conservative, "If it can't come off with nippers and a hoof pick, it's staying in there" approach.  I also wonder too sometimes if I keep trimming her feet down to what I'm expecting they "should" be -- Little Ms. Tiny Feet -- instead of letting them grow and expand.  Because it wasn't like she had excess flare to remove, or ridiculously high heels this time.

Once again, I forgot to take pics.  Fail.

But I was happier with how they looked this time.  A couple small chunks of loose sole came out with a nudge of the hoofpick, then I rasped her walls down, paying special attention to balance (I can balance better with a rasp than with nippers, I will say that) and putting a really good roll on her edges.

We'll see what they look like in a week or so.

There's always something to be learned about this hoof trimming thing, and just about the time you think you have it figured out, the horse goes and does something to change it up on you.

But onto the "Bad Pony" part: After we were all done, we wandered out into the trail course to do some groundwork.  I figured it would be fun to let her "play": do a couple circles and hop over a low telephone pole.  She figured it would be more fun to eat.  That was Discussion One, which ended with me popping her in the butt with the end of the lead rope.

Not Happy.

Then we examined the pole.  Telephone pole, probably about a foot tall.  She could trip step over it in her sleep.  Examined it from both sides, then asked her to trot over it.  From one direction, she hopped over it twice, looking pleased with herself.

Reversed directions, trotted at it, and right at the base of it, slammed on the brakes and moved to wheel away.  She was blocked by the fence on one side and me on the other, and she's finally learned that the consequences of running into me are far greater than whatever she's trying to avoid.

So she backed up, then tried to wheel away.  Didn't get anywhere.  Made her go at it again.  Repeat.  Never mind this is something low enough for her to step over from a standstill.  Backed her away from the whole thing and asked her to circle around her.  She shook her head.  I swung the lead rope at her.  She backed up a bit, pinned her ears, then hopped up in a little baby-rear a couple of times.


This used to be her favorite trick as a defiant, attitudinal youngster......about 12 or 13 years ago.  She's a bossy, dominant mare who really hates the "submission" game.  I rarely ask for full submission, mostly because I'm much more into an active partnership type of relationship in which both of us are committed to working together, versus one in which I control every second, every footfall, every thought.  Quite frankly, I want a horse with an independent mind and ability to think for themselves and make smart decisions. ("No, you idiot, you just tried to steer us over a cliff" comes to mind...)

But I won't tolerate that kind of blatant disrespect.  When it comes right down to it, I am the herd leader and I will act on it.

So I popped her on the nose with the leadrope.  I don't advocate aiming at the head in most situations...but she's dominant enough to need an immediate I Mean Business wake-up call.  It worked: she moved away from me, did a couple of circles, then hopped over the log.

And we ended it there on a good note.

I was kind of shocked, and I think she was, too.  It's been years since we've had that big of a disciplinary blow-up and subsequent schooling session.  Guess it just goes to show that horses aren't static creatures who properly stay within the mold we try to craft them into.  And they're all capable of reverting back to temporary "Problem Child" status.

And I think we'll avoid doing too much inflammatory groundwork while it's spring and she's in a Mood.

Someone please remind me why I like mares.