Thursday, February 17, 2011

Does anyone make horsey straight jackets?

My vet just needs to come live with me. She comes to my house so often for Firefly, she could probably drive here in her sleep. She came over yesterday to check on her. Miss Fly has been cleared sound for riding! Her tendon is healing up nicely. She's only allowed to walk and trot for the first two weeks and to avoid tight circles and collection for a while. One full month before any jumping. She was really stiff in her hind end when we moved her around the round pen though. Vet said this may be from being out of shape from stall rest.... or she may have a preexisting hock condition. I'm hoping it goes away with time, a 7 year old horse shouldn't have to deal with joint supplements and hock injections! My poor girl. Anyway, I'm planning to build her a stall run soon so she can keep moving, since there's no way I'm allowing her unsupervised turnout in the pasture or arena ever again.

Good news though, my mini Fancy is definitely pregnant! I felt the baby kicking last night! So that's exciting. She's due around June. I wish there were more Fast Tracks in Colorado this year. More and more things make it harder to be gone for all of July, but it would be a bit ridiculous for me to go to Florida since I live 4 hours from Pagosa. This summer will be crazy no matter which one I choose.

Just wanted to add that little update. We had another windy day of trees blowing over and stuff, so no play today, just school work. Which I am almost done with!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dusting off the old carrot stick

Today was the first day of me actually digging out the carrot stick and playing since before Firefly hurt herself. It's been the winter of wound care savvy for me.

I brought Charm to the round pen first. He's my mini gelding who I started driving last summer. He's probably my next best achievement besides Roxie so far, since I raised him from a foal and have done all his training myself. Today, after my slump of avoidance, I knew I'd need to play with him before doing anything with Firefly. Thos darn pneumatic cart tires, I may have not had such a rough winter if I could have still driven him, but they popped before the accidents leaving me with an excuse for avoidaholism. I just invented a new condition, what is my life. :P Anyway, I started with extreme friendly game, which he was always really good at. I could slap the ground from zone 5, but then I remembered (because he backed up into me) that if I move backwards, he backed up to me... Or onto me if I forgot to move lol. Horse remembers things even I've forgotten I had taught him, so that's nice. Then I wanted to see if our yo-yo was any good. He backed pretty fast off of phase 1. Then I tried a circle, and he trotted off in quite nice form. Last summer, his circling game got really good, to where we could do 10 solid laps, bent properly, round back, one ear on me the whole time... off phase 1, no corrections, at liberty. I had started playing with him on the 45' line in open spaces to start doing liberty in open spaces. Today his circles were still that good, so I only asked for three and stopped. It was as if I'd just played with him yesterday, as opposed to October. He is so much fun!!

I put him back, and we jumped a log on the way. He's an amazing jumper, even at 31 inches! I got Firefly out next. She's only been let to run in roundpen so far. She trotted around at the introduction of the stick at first, but in less than a minute she let me throw the string over her back. We did a little refresher course of all 7 games. She was perky, and more dominant after being a bit stir crazy, but overall surprisingly good. She responded just as quickly as she always had. I think many other horses would do more than a head toss when asked to do something if they had been couped up all winter. She remembered just as well as Charm did, and her yo-yo was amazing. It was so funny, I asked her to squeeze between me and the fence, and she didn't want to so she pinned her ears at the stick and squealed at it. I laughed out loud at her and eventually she went. Her personality is hilarious. She is really smart and easy to play with. I called the vet to make an appointment sometime this week to clear Firefly for resuming full work. That was the plan last time I called her too, but we ended up removing more proud flesh and needing more rest. Fingers crossed this time goes better.

In other news, a new boarder came in with a Saddlebred. He's soooo pretty. I have missed seeing the flashy showhorses of the Equestrian Center.

Almost done with school!!! There have sleepless nights and way too much coffee ingested but we're gettin there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Roxie part 3 + paranoia

We just got lots of snow here and the high temps have been about 13 degrees. The horses were mostly in the barn yesterday, so I knew they had to get out today. There's about 5 or 6 inches of snow on the ground, and so far I haven't let Firefly run anywhere outside the roundpen. I considered waiting until tomorrow, but she looked so bored in her stall. I very carefully, slowly, led her to the roundpen. After I let her go, I watched for about 5 minutes to make sure she wouldn't slip and fall in the wet snow. After everything that has happened with her legs, I kind of realized I'm going to be paranoid about them now. I will be that overprotective mother that wants to wrap my horse in bubble wrap. I'll probably use splint boots all the time, shipping boots for trailers, and who knows how I'll practice jumping with her. I know she'll be a log crawler, oh my gosh I cringe when even thinking about her scraping a shin on a log. The other day I was watching an old video of Linda riding Allure in a particularly dry field and he was slipping all over the place. I've watched the clip many times and it never bothered me, I knew it was his responsibilty to stay upright.... but this time it made me really nervous, I felt like I don't think I'd ever let Firefly run anywhere slippery or poorly footed. I'm just too paranoid she'll hurt herself again and then we'll need more time off to recover. My other horses don't have that problem lol. Going to play a lot of personal friendly game with this one.

Roxie part 3

Roxie's owner really truly always loved her, but you know, you can only do what you know at the time. She had grown up with barrel racers... if it isn't working, get a bigger bit. Through the course of the 5 weeks I played with Roxie only on the ground, her owner came to watch almost every day, and as she knew her horse's previous tendencies better than I did, she was constantly astounded at the changes I was making in her horse. She couldn't believe that I could now go rub her all over with the halter and lead in her stall, and find her favorite scratchy spot. Or that the horse who kicked to have her hind feet picked up would pick them both up from one side with a snap of my fingers while loose in the arena.

If you read parts 1 and 2, you know I had been doing most of my training in the park or that little back pen. I now needed to naturally introduce Roxie to the saddle, but I couldn't take the saddle to the park, or do it in front of the barn manager.... so I did it in the back parking lot in the dark after the barn manager left. All I had was the moon (partially obscured by city smog) and a street light at the end of the drive. Oh, and a motion censor light that did more harm than good. It may have taken less time had we not had to jump out of the way of cars coming in off the busiest street in town, and my saddle narrowly missing getting run over. In any case, by the end of that session, the saddle and pad were Roxie's new found friends, and she held still to let me on her from both sides. Of course, only because of about 15 failed attempts lol!!

We did that playing with the saddle and mounting game every night for about a week, until she accepted everything calmly, and stood for mounting the first time I asked.

The next day the owner came to watch me really ride her for the first time. This was the original experience that I think actually got her thinking that Parelli was the way. She sat on the fence as Roxie responded to me lightly and politely during our warm up / pre-flight check. I could jog and Roxie was right there next to me. I could slam on the brakes, and she'd plant her feet in the ground without me lifting the rope. Then the owner's jaw nearly dropped as I simply threw the rope over her neck and hopped on a perfectly still Roxie with a halter and one rein. I explained the importance of Passenger lessons. Our first one was me mirroring her instead of shutting her down while she frantically paced the fence line. After Roxie realized I wasn't getting in her way, she calmed down a lot, and eventually stood still in the middle of the arena. There, the owner saw the nearly immediate change in what a horse does when not micromanaged. She became super interested in every thing I did after that, and wanted to learn how she could be that good for her horse.

Next I made sure the Roxie could calmly walk around the whole arena, one rein stop from both sides, and knew the follow the rail pattern at the walk. Her owner was watching that second ride, when I was guiding Roxie with the halter rein back to the rail as drifted away. I believe the exact words were "It amazes me that you can ride her in just that." Soon after, I gave a very anxious owner her first ride on her "new" horse. I had her do a passenger lesson for both of their confidence, and oh the look on her face when Roxie stopped when she simply said whoa.

Most of our lessons were teaching her how to use the games in daily life, how to get in sync with her horse while riding, and guiding in this new way of using the natural power of focus. There were pitfalls when Roxie would step on her rope and leap into the air, or her owner would hold the snap and upset her, but they were learning how to communicate with each other.

Other than getting Roxie past the inital fear of life itself and flight instinct, I had hit a point where I realized I had never experienced anything like this before. I had never met a horse so impulsive, I had never ridden anything so fast, and I didn't have a clue about how to tackle any of her other problems. Ego status: sufficiently deflated. I set on a journey to watch everything I could find in the Savvy Club vault about RBE horses and how to deal with them. If Vanna was in it, I watched it. (Funny, I resorted to a similar game plan when Xena became mine, except with her I watched every single bit of footage that exists. If Parelli uploaded it, I have seen it. If they wrote it, I have read it. Oh predictability lol.)

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Roxie part 2 + Innate characteristics

Firefly is doing well easing off of stall rest. I have been thinking a lot about the differences between Xena and her. I put Firefly in the roundpen today, after she'd been couped up in the barn for about 2 days. When Xena is in for just 1, then the next time I take her out she acts like she's seeing the big scary world for the first time in her life. Firefly, even after 2 months of pretty much stall rest with hand walking, was still calm and quiet for me to walk her wherever I wanted. So I put her in the round pen, which had a hay bag hanging from a post and had gotten wrapped around it in the wind. Oh and it was one of those days that you think the wind might blow you over. I let Firefly go, and she ran around a lap to play, then ran past the bag and spooked at it. About a second later, her very LBE self came out, and she walked right up and sniffed it. Immediately recognizing the scary item as a hay bag, she began nosing around in it looking for hay. I love how she is innately so calm and curious and confident that scary objects become interesting or boring within about 5 seconds for her.

Roxie Part 2

The next time I played with Roxie was to teach her the rest of the games. Sideways made no sense to her, I think she thought I was asking her to climb the wall in front of her. She tried. Circling she'd go... and go, and go, and go, but took me chasing her hindquarters enough to make ME dizzy to get her to stop. Repeatedly. Squeeze was the game that she needed to play the most - she had been so clausterphobic, that she absolutely could not go in to the grooming area, and had to be brushed and stuff outside tied to a rail. She tried to spurt through the biggest squeeze I could offer her, at all 12 feet of the rope. By the end of one session she'd at least turn and face when she hit the end of the line. And I do mean HIT. I think that day I quit and flew her back to her stall after we more or less got the mechanics of the games down.

Next big milestone I remember doing with her was the first time I backed her through a squeeze. Backing through gates is a big important thing in level 1, especially for this horse who was trained to bolt through them, and had run people over. Repeatedly.

I was working on improving my yo-yo phases with her in our little 15 x 30 pen. I decided to try backing her out of the pen we'd been playing in. She did everything but back through that gate! She tried running through it, she'd get to it forwards, and then back straight up. She'd swing around in a circle and hit it with her shoulders or hip. Eventually I got her lined up just right, after overshooting it about 12 times with her back legs. I asked her to back up, and she couldn't believe it. It was like I was asking her to jump off a cliff! She would toss her head, then leap back away from the gate, then I'd line her up again and lather rinse repeat. Finally, she put one foot across the threshold. When I quit wiggling, you could almost see the lightbulb go off in her head. She thought about it, took one teeny tiny more step backwards, then waited. Then she got a really focused look on her face, and slowly deliberately marched backwards all the way though, and waited to look at me once she was out. It was that seemingly diminutive detail of a moment that "it" hit me... we all have this moment, when even though you believed this Parelli stuff, you finally get how it works, and why you do it. Her expression had changed entirely, it was like I was reading The Miracle Worker all over again, when Helen Keller first understood a word, and that everything had a meaning. Roxie came out the other side of that gate an open-minded, renaturalized horse. I got it... I just caused an emotional change in this animal. This was horsemanship for the horse.

This tremendous learning curve sparked after that an upward parabola of both Roxie's progress and my commitment to Parelli. Each day she learned twice as much as she had the last, until we were blasting through tasks. I'd watch my old Level 1 dvds every night and go to the barn with a lesson plan in mind.

There were PLENTY - and boy do I mean that! - of days where I'd feel totally discouraged that she was just impossible. I knew she was smart, but some days Roxie would get so distracted by some invisible monster off in the distance that I'd think she would never learn to be the calm trail horse her owner wanted. What had I gotten myself into? There I'd taken my horse through an obstacle course with a string around her neck, and promised Roxie's owner that soon enough her horse would ride just like this?!?! We'll never get there!! First time I tried teaching her the figure 8 pattern online she'd take off like a rocket, and I couldn't understand why I had to reteach her to disengage all over again. Or why she wasn't "smart enough" to generalize that lateral flexion works just the same from both sides. Soon enough, she taught me that she wasn't trying to be bad, and she certainly wasn't being thick, she was just trying to survive. And that horses know they are most vulnerable without the use of hindquarters, which is why she resisted bending. Strongly.

Here I will add, as I may have mentioned previously, that I was in the worst most anti-Parelli boarding barn that possibly exists. The barn manager (yeah the one I was an excercise rider for and gave kids lessons for) was vehemently against not only anything natural, but also a minor handling others' horses. If I had another boarders horse in my hand accompanied by that orange stick, I got scolded for doing that ridiculous horse voodoo. Exact quote from the barn manager. I had been doing it since I was 13 because I had lived so close, but she either didn't know, or didn't care, or both. If she even spotted that orange stick, I was told I wasn't allowed to do it in "her" barn. She couldn't control what I did with my own horse, but she would sit outside the fence and scowl. Though she would yell if I jumped anything on my ex-jumping horse Mesa. What this meant for me and Roxie was that we used the back pen out of sight of the security camera, or we waited for the manager to leave before I could play with her. I was a pretty determined kid.

During that first month, I almost never got to use our arena with Roxie. The barn manager's piercing glares seemed to be around every corner for me. Most of our earlier sessions outside of that back pen took place out on the trail. Yeah, the trails Roxie was known for taking off on. Our first walk down the trail, I taught her owner the value of jumping jacks and protecting your space because Roxie was flying around like a kite. We didn't even make it to the park we had planned on going to before deciding it was best to come back. The next day I took Roxie down the trail, across a bridge, and to an open field that most people used as a public arena. It had cones lined up and a few logs here and there. She was extremely right brained and panicky so I tried for some figure 8 around 2 cones. The pattern was really run a few circles, reel horse in like a fish, upon running out of places to go, switch direction to run circles other way, knock out a few cones in the process. I think I got her to do one proper direction change before walking (flying?) home.

Through a couple "Roxie can't you please just do this"s and "Why are you still moving"s and "You don't have to run after other horses anymore"s, we built the foundation that turned into a beautiful relationship on the ground. It had been messy but after a little over a month, we had enough of a language going that I felt I was confident enough to start playing with the saddle.


Part 3 coming soon.
I was right, recreating this story for myself reminds me why I want to follow this program. This is horsemanship for the horse.

Savvy on!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Roxie part 1

Hello everyone! It's warmest it's been all week today: 27 degrees. It's been below zero all week, and I got the joy of feeding and doing chores the other day when it was -19. Looovely. So I'm finishing up school work really fast while hiding from the cold. And also planning out a program for getting Firefly to level 4. Man am I excited. I'm lucky she's such a smart horse, I really am.

Anyway, here is part one of the story that is my driving force behind sticking to the program and becoming a Parelli Professional.


The first time I saw Roxie was the first day she came to the last boarding stable I was at. Some trainer was riding her in a double twisted wire shank bit, she was prancing in place flexed behind the bit, going sideways and half-rearing. It was in front of the mounting block behind the barns, she had BARN SWEET written all over her. I had seen a lot of right brained horses, but she looked like she was about ready to explode. Her owner was watching, presumably wondering if her horse would ever slow down. She wanted to get on her for a minute, but each time she went to get on, the mare would take off.

She was kept in the stall next to my horse Mesa. I thought she was a beautiful horse, but would look much better without the radiating anxiety. In fact, she moved so much it was hard to get a good look at her. She was sorrel with a perfect diamond on her forehead. Her legs were a blur.

I didn't think much of her for a while. Her owner never rode her she just let Roxie drag her to the arena to let her run loose to get exercise. Roxie never stopped, rarely rolled, just ran around with her head in the air. It's like she didn't even see the ground beneath her... she just ran over it. The minute she was let loose (always with her halter on) she ran and ran and ran. I saw trainers try to girth her, this horse would just about jump out of her skin, bite the person, kick out. It seemed to take them forever. And they always had to do it while tied to a corral behind the barn, she did NOT crosstie. Of course in Parelli we don't use them because we need to, but in this barn the tackroom was next to the crossties, and that's just where saddling happened. Usually I'd just throw the rope over my horse and fetch the saddle, or only clip her to one. But it was good to get them used to being so confined, I thought. I mean this was, you know, when I used a saddle. I almost never did. Err... never do, lol.

One day I was riding my Mesa bareback and bridleless, playing with a reining pattern. I had started riding Mesa this way early that summer, it was now August. Of 08. Usually I just had a leadrope around her neck. The habit started because the arena was closer than the tackroom, and as laziness would have it, it was easier to grab my horse from her stall with a lead rope and ride her in only that. It is here that I will interject with a bit of backround on me... I got level 1 for my 12th birthday when I got Mesa. I had completed it with her and then become one of those half-assed Parelli students that now get on my nerves - the type that pick and choose a few techniques but don't really follow the program. I had studied just about every program that existed though. Read every horseman's book, read every single article Horse & Rider had to offer me. I had a Parelli student friend who taught me how to play the catching game, sort of, and stick to me at liberty, so I did lots of that with Mesa. My house was 2 blocks from the barn, so I stayed there basically all day, only going home to feed my minis. I was always "that girl" who was always around. I was the one that took care of people's horses when they went out of town, the barn manager's official excercise rider, the one who gave all the kids lessons on the barn's ponies, that kid who wasn't afraid to get on any horse in the barn. The sad truth of city life is many people treat their horses like they would a boat docked at The Marina: they pay for the slip and come out maybe once a month to ride it as they please, but otherwise do nothing. Because I was around, I was the one that got pegged with taking those horses out. I got to see if they were ridable, and if they were I got to do it. Many of the times this meant I'd go flying, but I was young and dumb and 16 and hit the ground laughing. I remember being projectile catapulted off a gaited horse and laughing before I even hit the ground. That's just the way "us kids" were back then.

Back on topic!! When the following scene happened, I was just starting to get back to religously studying Parelli. Someone at the barn had purchased the Success Series and I had watched the whole things, and been really fascinated with horsenality. This day, I had 5 cones set up, was riding in the lead rope, and weaving my horse around the cones. While I was riding Mesa, Roxie's owner came up to me with an amazed look on her face and said "Wow you have a beautiful relationship with that horse. That's all I want, can you show me how to get that with my horse?" Of course, I said, and did another little demo with Mesa and explained a little bit of Parelli, and how I believed in this gentle relationship training stuff. She pretty much said she wanted me to help her with her horse until she felt confident with her. Now, Parelli isn't really a horse training program, it's a people changing program, but I figured I'd play with the horse just a bit and then get her owner doing it with her. "Okay," I asked her, "What's wrong with her?" Assuming that there was probably one main problem that could easily be fixed. Her owner followed with, "Well.... She takes off, she bolts for no reason, she spooks at EVERYTHING, I can't get her to cross the bridge to the trails, she's terrified of tunnels, she balks at streets and runs backwards, she never walks, she's had 3 head traumas from rearing in her stall, and she's so bad in new places I'm afraid to go halter her right now." What I should have said was the following four words, the last one being most important: Seek proffesional help immediately!!! But being 16 and what Pat refers to as The Young and The Dumb, I said, "Sure!! Sounds like fun!!!"

I figured most of Roxie's problems came from harsh hands and energetic riders (oh and did I mention I had the biggest ego behind the rough and rugged cowboys at the barn?), so I saddled her up the first day and went to take her on a little trail ride. She had the twisted bit in, so I wanted to stay light with my hands. I knew the one rein stop, and that right brained horses should be focused on patterns, so I planned to maybe do some circles and stuff on the trail. She trotted or cantered in place the entire time, it took 10 minutes and a few backwards launches to cross a street, her head was in the air constantly but I really didn't want to pull on that nasty bit. She spun around when I didn't let her bolt back home, she didn't take 1 step of walk in the whole 30 mins I was on her!!! The only way I even survived that ride was bending her to stop the take offs, but it didn't stop her - she just trotted in tiny circles until she hit something and lurched forward again. I came back to the barn with her owner awaiting to hear what I could do with her. I got off (whew! I'm alive!). I said Roxie needed to be completely restarted from scratch, she has 0 relationship with people, no ground skills, she doesn't trust people, and reacts 100% in survival mode. The owner asked when she could ride her next, or if she could ride her while I was fixing her groundwork. I said "I'm 16 and will get on anything, don't mind falling off, and you could not pay me a million bucks to get back on that thing!!!" She said "Okay, seeing as how I'm 40 I think I'll wait." :D

I showed her another round my my fun bridleless riding, and I promised that when I was finished with Roxie, she'd be able to do this pattern bareback and bridleless as well. You train one, you can train em all right? Did I mention I was incredibly arrogant?

I did know, however, in the back of my mind that this horse was out of my league. I couldn't use my own pieced-together method in this one. I dug out my old Parelli level 1 and decided to follow it from the start. My first day starting a Parelli journey with Roxie was pretty interesting! I followed the level 1 box program best I could. The first thing you're supposed to do is just hang out with your horse and do nothing. Roxie was so busy tearing around the pen, she didn't even notice me! Seriously... this was a maybe 15' by 30' pen and that horse was running around like a rabid dog chasing its tail. Next was friendly game... I picked up the stick and she jumped out of her skin. It took me 3 days to get her to let me pet her with the stick, and about a week to throw the rope over her back. You're supposed to rub the horse all over with the halter/rope before you catch them so you don't just barge in and get them... Roxie was a nut in her stall - leaping, bouncing off the walls, I had to halter her from the outside in the beginning! So for those first few days, I'd halter her from the outside of her stall, scramble into the back pen, and try to play there. She would be marginally better going back to her stall, but she still didn't lead nicely or look at me. I was about ready to tell the owner I'd made a terrible mistake, I didn't know what I was doing, and Roxie would NEVER be calm enough to do the things I'd promised.

I taught her the first 3 games that Saturday morning. Move from steady pressure (Porcupine)... I thought my stick was going to snap in half, she was so defensive. She just kept walking circles around me. Move from rythmic pressure (driving)... I think I strained a muscle with how long I had to stand there tapping her before she moved away. After the first two games though, she walked around fairly calmly. It was realllly hot that morning, which made everyone pretty lazy. The next thing is play "Put your nose on something" so the horse knows that where you're telling them to go has a reason, not just do this because I said so. I put every obstacle I could find around in our little pen. This was the first time I actually realized how smart this horse was. Before, she was just a fiery ball of mad instinct, I believed I'd never reach her brain. Once she got the game, her eyes completely changed. OH - we're going somewhere!!! And she'd walk by my side like a partner, trying to find our next destination. There was a patch of white paint on the wall.. I figured she'll never get that one, so I put a bucket in front. To my surprise, she waltzed right past the obvious bucket and put her nose on the white patch! She was for the first time thinking, using the partnership side of her brain.

We were nearly a week into it. It was the first time I felt confident in telling her owner "Don't worry, there's hope!"

Thanks for reading guys! Part 2 coming soon.
Hopefully it will warm up tomorrow and I can play with my girls.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's about to get intense!

Hey world!! It's me that person who hasn't blogged regularly since September because she hasn't ridden regularly since then either.

If you read my post almost a month ago, you'll know that both my horses and I have been having some physical issues. Well Firefly was able to come out of stall rest this week. I've been putting her in the round pen every day to play a bit. She runs around and has fun and acts normal, it's just the skin hasn't completely healed back over the tendon injury yet so it doesn't particularly look like she should be doing too much. I'll have the vet out to give her the okay to get back into real work soon as I can though. Xena's still getting eaten by deer ticks which leave these nasty bumps on her, and I'm not too sure about putting a saddle on top of them. She might be fine bareback though, if I could find the time to warm her up sufficiently.

I was looking back through all the posts I never published here because they were half-written when I abandoned them. The last time I rode Firefly was October 18th. I remember it.... it was raining and most of the horses were in the barn. I saddled her up when it was barely sprinkling but soon as I got on it started actually coming down. But we didn't care. I hadn't done much cantering on her, and I knew that I should get more used to her gaits, so we went around our perimeter at a nice gallop. Not the fastest she can go I'm sure, but it was good to feel how she works. After we had run around, I took her underneath some big trees in the back pasture to keep us from getting soaked, and it had been fun just sitting on her while she grazed.
The last time I rode Xena was a few days before that. The first day, I played with her for over an hour, played with the saddle, pushed her around the front of the barn and pasture, then put her bridle on and got on. She felt like she would be better exploring the front between the barn and pasture than she would have in the arena. So we played some figure 8 between trees, trotted a little, and went grazing. The next day was one of those days that you can tell by the expression when you walk into the barn that your horse is in a good place and you can probably just saddle up and get on. And that was the first day I ever just saddled her up and got on. She was perfect. She was LBI to the max. We walked around the trees, which she wanted to eat. We walked around the front yard, which she ate. Then we played friendly game with Gertrude.... I don't think I've introduced Gertrude yet. "She" is a 1942 Farmall tractor, bigger than my horse, and when turned on makes this ungodly vomit-like noise. I remember Xena didn't care about "her" at all, and was more concerned with leaning over her to snatch an apple off the apple trees.

And then, you know, that's when it all kinda fell apart for us - Xena got sick, I got sicker, and Firefly slashed her legs up. I won't lie to myself and say everything's all better now... but it hasn't gotten worse yet. There's optimism for ya!

Anyway, soon as Firefly is cleared for duty, you all get to watch us (laugh at us, perhaps?) as I try to take a level 2 horse to level 4 in 6 months. It will happen. It will happen if it drives the both of us mad, and I'm certain it will! My confidence is not misplaced though.... for the following reasons: 1. On one post I never published, I had had my second liberty session with Firefly and also had finished teaching her every single thing on the list of stuff in level 2 in all four savvies. That was after maybe 5 play sessions. It was the second time I'd ridden her freestyle and I said I could audition level 2 with her that day and pass. 2. Long time loyal readers (I love you, I don't know why you stick around) may know I reference a horse called Roxie quite a bit. She was an ex-racehorse and to this day probably - no okay, I admit - THE number 1 strongest relationship I've had with any living being, and the biggest achievement of my life. She is the reason I decided to become a Parelli Professional. She was about level -7 when I met her, and after 8 months she was the calmest, safest, sweetest, best trained horse in the barn of 70-something where she lived. She isn't mine though, sadly, or we'd have passed level 4 together some time last year. So whenever I start freaking out about how I've got 6 months left, I remember that Firefly is an already quite calm horse with loads of good training, and just needs time spent learning different Parelli stuff... and I've done this very thing with a crazy horse, with beautiful results.

This brings me to my next warning point for all of you lol! As I drive myself clinically insane with bringing Firefly through the levels and spend likely more time in the saddle than not, I'm going to be writing here what is always going through my head - the horses I've played with in the past. Because I'm sure having the main point of this blog be about a problem horse who when we can walk around and also not die at the same time is considered an accomplishment, certainly doesn't showcase the best of my abilities. I used to work at a barn which held 70-something horses. I worked at the riding school the barn offered. I rode every one of the barn manager's 28 horses. My friend and I were the sole excersize riders for all of them. The way my life in Los Angeles was, is that my friend would wake me up at around sunrise and we'd go to the barn and between the two of us, work every one of those 28 horses before the barn closed at 10 pm. We'd go galloping through the Hollywood hills nearly every day. I certainly wasn't as savvy back then, since it was before having Xena and unlimited time with my own horses, but I will say I was a pretty darn confident rider. Too confident at times I'm sure. Most of the owners of problem horses in that barn came to me for advice. Nearly every one of them now has a relationship with their horse that they can atttribute to Parelli. Xena, however... Xena became mine.

So here we go, story time! Every post will contain some anecdote of some horse I've done something with. This week I'll take you through the whole story of Roxie, since remembering her is usually what reminds me of why I do the crazy things I do.

Thanks for sticking with me!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't you hate angsty blogs?

HI BLOGGERS!!! It's okay, I didn't recorgnize myself either.

Fiction is nice. Fiction doesn't force you to lead an interesting life to create subject matter.

I do enjoy writing, and I feel more like myself when I do it, but then I always end up feeling bad when I don't have anything interesting to write about. Right now, it was kind of the only outlet that felt like it would help.

Anyone remember how happy and progressive I was like 4 months ago? Riding Xena, had just gotten Firefly, doing hill therapy with Mesa, driving Charm, doing fancy online stuff with Ghost, making leaps and bounds with my skittish mare, and generally excited for life? Well I guess what goes up must come down. Not gonna lie, this is certainly not a happy blog post. In fact, this is probably the lowest slump I've ever been in with the horses. Or in life, ever, at all.

Then what's even more been on my mind lately is this ASDFGHJPOIUYTREWDFGH!@#$%^&**&^%$#@ situation with video cameras. I have been ready to film an audition with multiple horses for AN ENTIRE YEAR now!!!! Last Christmas, I got a video camera. Was going to audition. Oh too bad that freaking thing took an expensive converting cord and an obscene amount of nonproductive customer service calls to figure out how to load it onto the computer. Sooooo that didn't work. I have sitting on it, somewhere, wherever the stupid thing is, the entirety of the first night I got Xena. And like some of the next day. Haven't watched it back, not gonna any time soon, and will never be able to get it online. Public service announcement: sony handycams are crap. Well I've been trying to make some videos with my digital camera, but it doesn't work very well. In fact, it's embarrassingly bad. It uploads in .MOV format, which Windows rejects. We have an old 2007 Macbook, so I tried editing them on there. Oh, it edits them alright, it sure does. But it won't upload to Youtube. I have to e-mail them to myself to upload it from my PC (I can almost hear you laughing at how awful this is... almost), which compresses it to such a stupidly small resolution that you can't tell the horse's head from its tail and it cuts out most of the audio. Greaaat. Macbook, out.

And then there's my horses. Have I mentioned the evil demon spawn of the devil plants we have here called goat heads? Yeah I think I've complained about them before. It's like if burrs had rose thorns on them, yeah it's like that only plus artificial intelligence which tells them how to destroy things by clinging to them. They make playing with ropes a literal bloody mess, causes you to want to micromanage the rope so it won't touch the ground, and are just obnoxious. Well not only is it unpleasant to play online at all, it's now below freezing every day and cold hands and goat heads don't mix. /tangent. What I was getting at is that my cart tires popped AGAIN. So I haven't driven Charm since like October. Ohhh you think that's all? HAH.
I got sick in the end of September. I'm still sick. It's effing December. It sounds like pneumonia but doctors just give you allergy medicine that doesn't help. So Starting about halfway through October, I haven't ridden much because I feel like a corpse running on caffiene.
Firefly got a 4" deep puncture wound on her leg the day I turned 18, November 2nd. It took about 3 weeks of my sick self hauling it out to the barn twice a day to walk her, hose the leg, and flush it out with an unseemly looking syringe for that to heel up. The day - I kid you not - THE DAY I went out to catch her, planning on calling the vet to give her the okay, she lacerated the other back leg on a loose wire. Brilliant. It was about a millimeter from the lowest joint in the hock... which loosely translates to "pretty freakin dangerous." So the vet prescribed a few weeks of stall rest for that. The first week I cleaned and bandaged it every day. Then after that, I had to just clean it out and put medicine on it twice a day. You'd think that would be it right? <--- obvious forshadowing is obvious.
NOPE! While on stall rest, she got an abscess on her hindquarters. No, seriously. It burst through a bunch of muscle, and was open about 6 inches long in that big muscle next to her tail. I have never seen so far into the insides of the muscle structure of a horse, nor did I want to. While I was flushing it, I'd sometimes look at her and say, "Honestly, horse, how many times am I going to have to violate an orifice you created with this syringe?"
The tendon was healing nicely, of course vet had to come back out and remove some proud flesh. Actually a lot of it.
My vet now recognizes my number when I call after, you know, calling her twice a week at one point for the same horse. She joked that since every time she comes she leaves blood on my barn floor, she should write her name in it and say "...was here."

EMOTIONAL FITNESS IS A MYTH!!! I'm sure of it!!!! *banging head against wall*
If anything, I've proved Karma doesn't work. Maybe it's just trying teach me patien-- OH shut up.

The puncture wound is just a bit of scar tissue now. The abscess is only open about 3 inches now, and the tendon is... well okay the tendon doesn't look a whole lot better. She's supposed to regain full athletic use of it though, which is nice. If either of us feel up to riding any time in the distant future. Somewhere in there, she rubbed most of her mane out... so between her scabs and scars and such she just looks like a ragamuffin. THEN, and I nearly forgot, Xena broke out in hives again about a week before Firefly's tendon injury. Oh, and this was after she ran herself through probably the same fence that Firefly cut herself on. She still has the hives and slight scar on her chest. Allegedly, they are deer tick allergies. She looks gross. She looks like she's never been brushed in her life, the bumps under her long winter coat are just awful. So yeah, no riding for her either, even if I felt up to it. Things like this make me feel like we didn't really move to a dream ranch of any kind at all... we've moved to a death trap.

The only slight snippen of possible good news? I got accepted to Fast Track 2011 for sure, signed up and going. Possibly the worst news? I have to go to Fast Track. Wtf Alex you're insane! Yeah yeah I know. But think about... I have to take either already super emotional Xena, hope she's not allergic to the campus, and also take her from a sketchy level 3 online to a confident riding horse in 7 months, if I started today. Which I can't because we're both sick. Or Firefly from a calm confident level 2, to a proper Parelli horsey in however long she's physically sound between now and July. Freaking out? Just a little. To add to that (and I swear this is all quite actually happening) the mares we bred this year are due next June. We lost the first foal we tried to breed in 2006, and this is the first year we've tried since. I basically just want to escape, and trade pretty much anyone for their life right now.

Soooooo I've been sleeping mostly. Because there's not a whole lot else to do. I spend too much time on the internet, watching other people enjoy their interesting lives on youtube. In fact, because I realized how I need to get out more, or at least need to meet new people, I decided I wanted to start a real show on youtube because it's something non-horsey to do. So I went camera shopping. Again. It wasn't any better. In fact it was worse. I got a new camera for Christmas which apparently isn't any easier to edit on. Now I need to go be socially awkward an return it and admit to the people at Best Buy that I'm technologically inept and just want a darn camera that works! I hadn't left the farm in 2 weeks before we went camera shopping. And the last time I did was to go to the animal shelter. The only place I ever leave to is Wal-Mart or the shelter. Social life? Sounds nice. But I can count my friends on one hand - 3 I met at the shelter and they live too far away to do anything regularly, and the others spend more time flying back to Los Angeles than with me. I'm an animal person, but when your pets are the only source of entertainment for miles around, even I want to rip my hair out every time I see something with a tail nowadays.

I'm going to die alone making crappy youtube videos.