Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Major Changes

I'm gonna interrupt the regularly scheduled (horse) programming for a brief personal announcement -- although since my personal and horse life are so intertwined and codependent that changes to one invariably affect the other. This is no exception. If you've been following along for a while, you may remember when I wrote about DH being promoted to captain, and then over the next few months I lamented how his changed work schedule was impacting my barn time as I tried to juggle things.
I'll tease you with a beach photo ;)
While we were in Hawaii, DH got a very unexpected but exciting phone call -- he was promoted to major. He had interviewed for the position before we flew to Seattle last month, but there were several other majors interested in transferring to his prison, so he just chalked it up to good practice interviewing and better luck next time. But apparently his dedication has not gone unnoticed, and he was selected.
Recycling old photos from when he was a COI --receiving a medal of valor for saving a mental health workers life when she got taken hostage by an inmate. 
I can't even begin to describe how proud I am, and what a big deal this is. To go from COI to major in less than nine years is unheard of, especially at his age. And particularly being promoted at the biggest institution in the state. He beat out experienced and well-qualified majors who wanted to transfer, so the amount of trust upper management has in DH's abilities and skill set is humbling. Of course it helps that he's been the acting major there since his previous boss transferred out 5 months ago -- a situation that caused no small amount of stress for us as he took on increased responsibilities and hours with no corresponding increase in pay. But all's well that ends well, right?
A promotional photo of him that DOC uses for advertising, haha. 
This week is his last week on his old captain's schedule (goodbye 4 am wake up calls four days a week, I will not miss you!), and he'll transition into a "normal person" work schedule. I'm not sure who is more excited for him to have weekends and holidays off, him or me. I'm already planning weekends at VHR, and he's scheming for more days on the river.
Adjusting to his new schedule won't be all sunshine and roses -- for the last nine years, he's always had a weekday off (useful for scheduling appointments and errands so he didn't have to burn PTO), and for most of that time, he's also worked four 10-hour days, leading to less commuting and more time at home for projects. He's already worried about how a 5-day work week will impact our tentative construction plans for this year, but since it's a permanent schedule change, we'll just have to go with the flow and figure things out day by day.

At any rate, there's your proud wife brag -- since he is way too humble to toot his own horn, I will do it for him! Super proud and happy for him.

Are you ready to hear about the beach ride? Cause that's what I have up next in my queue.... ;)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Sunny Sundays are for Shenanigans

After an ungodly amount of sleep Saturday night, I felt more or less human Sunday morning. I (slowly) did chores, and all those miscellaneous little tasks that had been bothering me. We have an excellent farmsitter, but I'm super type A so I wanted to re-do some things my way, haha. After I had things back in a semblance of order, I went inside and showered while the horses enjoyed stuffing their faces in the hay feeder and sunbathing.
Sunbathing ponehs -- shhhhh let's not talk about how round Cinna is haha.
I had previously made arrangements with my former BM to come down and help her with a training horse on Sunday -- we've worked together enough that we have a solid system in place for me being her "hands on the ground" when she is doing initial backing, and introducing new concepts to young horses. Before I left, her latest training project had been sat on for the first time, and done some walk/trot on a lunge line. While I was gone, they solidified W/T off the lunge, so I popped down to the barn for the training horse's first canter under saddle. It was the best kind of training event -- a total non-event, as the sweet little mare picked up how to canter with no fuss, and on the correct leads even!
My fancy monogrammed grooming bag that I got as a prize for No Stirrup November!
The hardest thing for me about having all the horses at home is the lack of the social aspect of a boarding barn -- by nature I'm a very social person, so being alone all the time riding and working my horses gets monotonous. Luckily, with the barn only a mile away, I can still hang out! I spent some time catching up with some of the boarders, and then stuck around to help take some sale photos of one of the horses in training, soaking up the gorgeous sunny day. Before I knew it, three hours had flown by (which was always my problem at the barn, time getting away from me, haha). I reluctantly said my goodbyes and headed back home to put some rides on my horses!
It's discount candy cane season ya'll -- I got eight boxes for like $2 haha.
As I walked in the door to change into breeches, DH was heading out to the gym. That put a mild crimp in my plans, as I was hoping for some media, but I figured he would be back by my second ride. That meant Ruby was first up to work, since she is trustworthy to ride while no one was home. She was much less dirty than Saturday, so I whisked as much of the dust off as I could and saddled up. I tossed her out on the lunge first just in case there were going to be any dramatics, but I needn't have worried --  she was all business. I hopped on board and planned a simple ride focusing on steady rhythm and geometry.
We had a brief hiccup in the beginning of the ride, as the goats decided to play king of the shed -- this is not my favorite game, because it's very noisy and distracting. Ruby has also only ridden by the goats a handful of times, so they're still a bit new and terrifying. We stopped to look at them for a minute, but then we went back to work. Aside from one brief spook into the canter, she settled right in to work. And after dealing with the goats, she didn't even bat an eyelash when two roosters decided to have a fight (complete with spurring each other and leaping through the air) 20 feet outside the arena gate. If there's one thing our farm is good for, it's desensitization to random shit... haha.
Something new that we worked on that she took to like a fish to water was figure 8's across the short side of the arena -- since my arena is a hair over 20m wide, the circles were about 10.5m(ish). The first few she was confused and struggled to find her balance, but once she sorted out what I wanted, she was a rock star. I need to be better about incorporating lots of figures into my rides, so it's not just "go around in circles on the rail". I'm really bad about not being inventive enough to make sure the horses are actually paying attention and taking direction from me! We also played with a trot lengthening up the long side each direction -- I asked for those early on in the ride, because I knew her lack of fitness would keep things short. She worked up a light sweat, so we walked out until she was dry, then I untacked and turned her loose.
Still keeping a watchful eye on the goats.
I grabbed Cinna next, and got her tacked up -- by this point, I was expecting DH to be home, and he wasn't. I tried calling, but he didn't answer. I was stumped -- I assumed he'd be home soon, but I didn't want to get on without letting someone know I was riding. I headed out and tossed her on the lunge to kill some time, and focus on working on the lunge at the walk, since that's still a weak point. By the time I was ready to get on, I still hadn't heard from him, so I messaged some friends his contact info and told them if I didn't check in in an hour, let him know. I took a deep breath, and climbed on!
Eyeballing those very sketchy goats.
"Who? Us?"
The goats at that point decided it was a great time to play a tag team game of running and climbing on the arena fence, and Cinna was definitely on alert. I got her attention back, and we just worked on some easy figures and changes of gait. She was very, very active in the mouth, which is becoming a theme in this bit, so I swapped it out after the ride. I just focused on keeping my hands stable on her neck at the trot, and letting her sort out her head and neck while I focused on my position. She got a little snotty in the right lead canter and decided she couldn't bend (similar to last time, I think, where she almost ran us into the fence). So we cantered around for a few laps until she realized she could, in fact, bend, haha. She was pretty stiff for most of the ride, so I just focused on relaxing and keeping her steady, and constantly asking for some bend, and rewarding when she gave. It was a pleasant ride, although she worked up a bit of a sweat. DH still wasn't home so I cooled her out in the arena, and then turned her back out to roll and coat herself in dirt.
Tired bebe horse is tired. But rocking her sparkles!
About that time it was time to get started on evening chores and dinner, so I had a low-key evening. I'm just glad I fit in workouts with both girls when the weather was nice -- while short, it was a start! Hoping to work fitness up to having some lessons in the not too distant future! :) Last night the girls had to trailer up to the barn for a quick farrier appointment, and the temps had dropped 20 degrees, so I gave myself the night off from riding. Hopefully today will be a little warmer, and Wednesday is supposed to be back in the 50s!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Back to Reality

Bear with me, I'm so out of practice with this blogging thing that I'm gonna have to ease back into it ;) haha. As some of you may know (but others may not!) I'm finally done traveling for a bit and hopefully can get back into a groove with the horses again. Going in to this winter I kind of knew December and January would be a wash, between weather and spending 3+ weeks traveling (plus all the time prepping the farm for travel, which is sometimes more stressful than the actual traveling), so I didn't let myself feel (too) guilty about the horses going essentially feral. And while I did manage to squeeze horses into this second trip (more to come on that later, I'm still sorting through the thousand or so photos DH took!), I also came back refreshed and ready to hit the ground running with Ruby and Cinna.
Seeing my "CHAMPION" backpack every day might have been slightly motivating, haha.
I flew home from vacation on a red-eye Friday night, meaning A) I got ZERO sleep on the plane because that's just not how my brain works and B) we got home early afternoon Saturday when it was sunny and 50s. That was SUCH an improvement over how it was when we left (it didn't make it to double digits the day before we flew out) that I was determined to get something done with the horses. Also I knew if I sat down I would PTFO and I was desperately trying to stay awake and adjust to this time zone again, lol. Unfortunately the warm weather coupled with precipitation while we were gone meant the horses were MUD MONSTERS, ughhhh.
After I essentially had to comb out a third of her dead, matted mane. It desperately needs to be shortened. Or roached. Cannot deal with all this hair.
I was probably overly optimistic when I dressed in riding clothes, because about the time I got Ruby in the cross ties and looked at all 16+ mud-covered hands of her, I realized I did NOT have the energy to deal with cleaning her up and then riding (plus doing something with Cinna after). But I did want to do SOMETHING, so I knocked the worst of the mud off, and took her out to lunge. I expected some dramatics, considering the time off and the weather, but she was insanely perfect. Every transition was prompt and polite, and she picked up a lovely soft canter -- not even a hint of zoomies. In deference to her winter coat, the weather, and a general lack of fitness, we kept things short, but she didn't put a hoof wrong the whole time, so I stuffed her full of cookies and tossed her back out.
Also need to update my review of the Horze brush apparently, which is falling apart after a little more than a year of very light use. Disappointing!
I grabbed Cinna next, and was rewarded with another really good lunge session -- we had one minor exuberant transition/tantrum and then bolt one direction when I asked her to canter, but considering how often we still get those even in regular work, that's barely noteworthy for her... haha. She was anticipating the trot a lot when she first got out, so I think in the future I need to be more mindful of doing plenty of walk work on the lunge. My notebook for ride/work tracking still isn't here, so I'll keep making those mental observations here, so I can copy them over once it (finally) gets here (hopefully this week??). She was solid in switching directions this time though, so I think that button is more or less installed, although there is always room for refinement.
Even a smidgen of lipstick after our short session.
After working the horses and running some errands, I managed to eat dinner at a normal human time (although we won't talk about how long I slept in on Sunday, haha). Sunday was also a beautiful day, but that's a topic for another post! ;)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

WW: Paradise

I'm alive. And I will actually have horse-related content to post about next week, promise :)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Incremental Progress

So one of the things I'd like to do better in 2018 is track my workouts with the horses and write about them. I half-heartedly started and stopped doing that a few times in 2017 (and of course I tried to semi-regularly chronicle them here), so I'm trying again. I bought a dedicated notebook for this purpose, but it won't be here for a minute, so I decided I can just use the blog for the handful of workouts I manage to squeeze in this month, between weather and traveling.
If it's pretty maybe I'll be more apt to write in it?
After I rode Ruby last week, temps dropped again, so my Thursday and Friday were quiet -- relatively speaking that is, because Friday one of the dachshunds gave us another health scare, although all seems to be fine now (knock on wood).
I initially had high hopes for Saturday, because early last week they were forecasting it to be over freezing. As the week went on, the forecasted temp got lower and lower.... Boo. Saturday morning I had some errands to run, so I was hoping by the time I got home it would have warmed up enough to ride. Tragically it only got to 25, but I tried to make it work anyway.
Apparently 20 was still warm enough to sunbathe!
I opted to work Cinna, since I figured she needed it more. I caught her and headed over to the grooming area, which set off a chain reaction -- the geldings crowded the fence behind the grooming area, which is like the 10 square feet of turnout that puts them out of Ruby's sight in her turnout, so naturally she needed to start running the fence line and screaming. Because, horses.
I finally realized the quickest way to make that stop would be to just start working Cinna, because then Ruby would be able to see her. I was on the fence about riding (the wind was pretty biting) so I tacked her up in the western saddle (with a dressage bridle, because #identitycrisis), grabbed a lunge line and my helmet (just in case), and headed into the arena.
It was freezing so I took like 5 walk photos, and that's it... Haha.
Things started off relatively fine, and Cinna gave me some stellar, cadenced and quiet trotwork to the left (I distinctly remember thinking I should video it, but my fingers were still recovering). Then we changed directions and the wheels came off. She had several explosive buck-and-bolts, and got pretty agitated about something (imaginary) that she saw in the back pasture. I really wanted to prevent her from turning into a sweaty mess, so I reeled her in on the line a bit and we worked walk-whoa-change directions quite a bit. She's not as solid as Ruby on the whoa/switch yet, but she's definitely making progress! After watching some of her athletics on the line, I opted not to get on -- DH was working and wouldn't be home until well after dark, so it seemed smarter to just wait. Self preservation?
A chain on our handwalk was another example of self preservation... Haha.
I wanted to accomplish a little more with the workout, so I stripped the tack and threw a cooler on her and we hand walked the trail. She gave the hairy eyeball to the neighbors goats and sheep, and then attempted a bolt when some jerk was hotrodding down our road and she could hear but not see him. But by the end of the walk she had majorly chilled out, and I opened the back gate so I can access the trail from the back pasture next time, instead of walking around by the road. I think if I reverse the direction next time we work it, she can get all her dumb out in the field/isolated trail section, and then be calm by the time we walk by the goats and the road. Maybe?
At any rate, even though it wasn't necessarily what I wanted, it was still a productive session, and I'm glad I layered up and made myself do it. Especially since Sunday was literally nothing but buckets and buckets of rain (we have standing water on probably 60% of our property). The good news is we needed the rain (although maybe not all of it at once?) and the forecasted temps this week look super nice (above freezing, hooray!). I'm hoping the arena dries out in a reasonable amount of time so maybe I can ride more this week, and cajole DH into some new media!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Snow Bunny

Hey-o, after my whinging post yesterday, I actually managed a ride last night! Be proud, it was still cold AF and I'm sure I looked like a moron, but we got it DONE.
We are absolutely not talking about all the NON dressage barbie clashing going on here, hahaha
When I left work, it was randomly 27 degrees (wayyyyy higher than the forecasted temp for the day!) so I booked it home and prayed the temps wouldn't drop too fast. I layered up and headed out to the barn -- I opted to ride Ruby, since I figured the odds of dying were lower ;) she seemed annoyed when I stripped off her warm winter blankets, but settled quickly when I tacked her up and added a cozy quarter sheet.
She warmed up fine on the lunge to the left, but when I asked her to switch to the right she was pretty sure she'd never actually lunged that direction and just COULD. NOT. On the plus side, there was some very impressive lateral work as she danced around the arena with her head pointed at me and her haunches out at the end of the arena. There was also some bucking and kicking out, which I was giggling too hard at to get adequate photos or video of, sorry....haha.
Wild poneh!
She did eventually settle down, so I hopped on. Shockingly, the top layer of my footing wasn't frozen, although I still limited 85% of the ride to walking. We worked some figures, and a little lateral work. Initially she was way too lit to work on halts, but she did eventually settle in and act like the Ruby I know and love. She also gave me some super fun and adjustable trotwork, particularly to the right! Because of the temps, we only did a few circles each direction at the trot, and I opted not to canter at all. Cinna half-heartedly pinned her ears at us over the fence a few times, but there was significantly less angry lunging into the panels, so I think that's improving as well!
The far side of the arena still has some snow.
Overall, I'm glad that I braved the weather to put in a small amount of work. Ruby seemed to enjoy it also, and I kept it light enough that she didn't break a sweat. Hopefully the weather continues on the upswing or I grow some balls and manage to keep on riding with lots of layers!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Life Below Zero

While the title might be slightly melodramatic, things have been pretty quiet at home as the Midwest grapples with more than a week of arctic temperatures -- it's probably sad that yesterday's high of 20 felt like a heat wave.
Especially when the day started at -13 without the wind chill factored in.....brrrr!
New Years weekend was particularly frigid, with highs in the single digits and wind chills consistently well below zero. I wore pajamas for three straight days and only got up off the couch to do chores (my insulated bibs over my pajamas worked out better than I would have thought, haha).
The dogs never mind excessive couch time though.
For me, limited to a (snow covered) outdoor, this weather means no riding. Especially since even if the high on a given day is 20, it's usually much colder by the time I'm home getting ready to ride. The horses are still turned out every day, bundled into their winter clothes, and they seem quite happy to be stuffing their faces with hay...but I'm anxious for this cold snap to move on so I can feel less like a slug.
Ice actually formed on the hose while I was filling troughs, which has never happened to me before??
It's the time of year for people across the country to weigh in on the "how cold is too cold to ride" debate -- Jen shared a really excellent post from Dr. Yates that I've seen more than once in my news feed this week. We are forecasted to get above freezing this weekend, so hopefully I can hop on, even if it's just for a leisurely stroll on the trails in a hackamore.
At least my #2017bestnine gave me some joy looking back at some of the great memories!
It's hard for me to get motivated to set any kind of 2018 goals or make any plans for the year when I feel so stagnant (I was gonna say frozen but I thought that might be too cliche, haha). Hopefully the (slightly) warmer weather will be the catalyst I need to get excited about things again! And reading everyone's blogs is definitely helping -- so many of you knocked your goals out of the park in 2017 and are setting even more exciting ones for 2018!
Digging the new saddle organization I've got going on (hunt seat saddle just out of frame to the right lol).
However this is not working for me at all. Back to the drawing board.....
In the meantime, while I wait for it to warm up, I'll be over here, organizing my tack shed and trying to figure out a more effective bridle storage system ;)