A Strange Ride With Strange Horses

It’s been a while since I posted. Life got crazy and blogging took the furthest, most back seat in existence. I’m just putting trail miles on Aria and taking a mental break for now. I’ve been using the time for decompressing and stress management. Bless Aria’s baby heart for being that level headed youngster (for the most part) that allows me to mentally check out when we ride. I really don’t know how I’d be coping with it all otherwise. Probably with a lot of Xanax. Lol.

The only picture of the poker ride. It was too crazy.

I do have one event that I went to on September 17th that was very enlightening: The Poway Rodeo Poker Ride. I was really hoping to have fun at this event even though I had some reservations about how Aria would handle a large group of new horses. I’ve been pretty categorically throwing us at challenges that could and possibly should cause us some issues. So far the only problem I haven’t been able to tackle is water. I can’t sing high enough praises for her foundation training with R.

Anyway, back to this poker ride. I had a friend and Alex join us for the ride. I figured it would be a great way to spend time with a fellow blogger on our horses. Even though Scarlet isn’t a trail veteran, Aria is a cool cucumber most of the time and I felt that would be a good influence. However I forgot to account for other riders’ and their horses. There was something like 50 horses on this ride.

The cow herd now has 7 babies. Aria needs them all.

Other than a handful of good horses there were times, especially towards the second half of the ride when we split into two groups, that I felt like Aria was the only behaved and chill horse in the group. I was extremely proud of her behavior. We followed a big calm appaloosa for the first half which was great because it let me put Aria’s head in his butt while we descended some of the steepest hills I’ve ever done.

She dealt with A LOT of ruts and uneven footing that normally would have caused a scene but perhaps because of the large group, she simply following the tail in front of her. That made me especially happy because I was expecting a battle and possibly ending up as ‘that rider’ even though I warned the people around me I was on a baby. She did act up when we stopped to let the whole group catch up. She’s not used to standing around and I was forcing her to, which she had opinions about.

How can you not relax when this is your view at the end of your ride?

On the way back I was following a nasty little mustang that I don’t think the rider could handle. It was small and slow compared to the size and speed Aria wanted to go. We kept a good distance because I know Aria has the inclination to goose other horses with her nose. It’s a good thing I’m considerate because this mustang stopped dead in its tracks several times causing us to run up on it, partly from the faster walking pace and partly because several other horses were crowding us from behind.

Apparently the mustang didn’t like that and the first time it happened she kicked out and missed us. The second time I was quick enough to halt Aria well in advance but my friend’s horse ended up passing us and it got kicked by the mustang. I don’t know about you guys but I thought it was known and practiced in large groups of unfamiliar horses that any bitchy horses were supposed to wear a ribbon in their tail for whatever their shitty attitude issue is?

It was so quiet, it was almost too quiet.

I guess I’m still a little miffed about this ride. I wouldn’t have called it fun. Scarlet and my friend’s horse didn’t seem to enjoy themselves and riding Aria was all about managing everyone else’s naughty horses. On top of that the trail was really advanced with lots of steep and questionable terrain. Thankfully Aria is level headed or I would have quit early on. It also clock in at only like…2 miles? We were done in about an hour. Kind of a lackluster event for a $25 ticket.

I think a few small organizational changes could be made and the ride would be a lot of fun. Perhaps a beginner and advanced group that leave at separate times. Having trail guides with horses that are calm and can actually handle the ride would be excellent (there were 2 and one had to turn back because their horse could not cope with the group size). I would personally change the trail location so it’s more friendly to the less athletic horses (some horses were really blowing after the crazy hills. Aria, I’m proud to report, didn’t even break a sweat).

New shirt. It totally embodies the essence of my Iberian mares.

I think in the future I will stick to my group of friends for trail rides. But it was an excellent experience for Aria and I. I think when we do show, this will be evidence that she will be able to focus on our work and not care about what other horses may be doing. She remained calm and cool once I was in the saddle and was only a little anxious when we first arrived because it was a new place with lots of new horses. I couldn’t ask for better than that!

No Stirrups

At my last lesson I told P that I intended to start prepping for No Stirrup November and wanted to do my whole lesson sans stirrups. I hadn’t lessoned in about a month and Aria has grown rather potato-y in that time (as Spanish horses are prone to do when they start packing on fat). I thought a stirrup-less lesson would be easier for us both. HA!

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No lesson media so a random ride on my pretty girl will have to do!

First off, never let it be said that Aria doesn’t rise to meet a physical challenge. She might be tired and ready to collapse after a ride but if you ask her for more she will give it. P definitely asked. We spent a good 30 minutes just warming Aria up on the lunge line. With the extra weight and all the trail riding we’ve been doing lately, she’s a lot stiffer than she was when I first got her. That’s fine. We can work on her flexibility through autumn and winter. It’s too hot for me to want to really work all that hard at our show goals for next year.

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She’s pretending she doesn’t have any energy.

I had to mount using a stirrup because saddles aren’t designed to fit round potatoes and I didn’t want to fall off the horse before I had even gotten on it. That’s a fear that was sitting in my mind. I’m always concerned that I rely too much on my stirrups to keep me in the saddle. I definitely feel this way because the balls of my feet go numb when I ride suggesting I put too much weight into my stirrups. My knees and butt hurt after a good ride, so my stirrup length, in theory anyway, is good. Of course if anyone has some suggestions, throw them my way.

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Starting off a little stiff. No cherry picked pictures today. I’m dumping whatever I have.

Where was I going with this? Oh right, falling off. It’s amazing how you can sit a spook/buck/rear/spin/blot/shenanigans and still believe you don’t have a seat without stirrups. That’s some pretty jacked up logic, brain. But it’s still real. So much so that P just straight up asked if I wanted to work on a lunge line so I could focus on my seat and not so much guiding Aria.

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Very wide hands. This will be a problem the whole ride. Let’s blame…boobs?

I probably shouldn’t have hesitated to accept her offer even though I wanted to decline. Aria was pretty fresh and I know P probably became the new owner of a few gray hairs when she saw my FB post from the previous day of me on Aria bareback with only a halter. Not that I think P questions my riding abilities. I think she just questions my ability to make rational decisions since Aria is still a baby, even if she’s a very good baby (guess who’s going to hit up trails bareback this week anyway?).

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Leaning forward. Makes it hard for Aria to engage her back end.

I do appreciate the dance P and I do. She knows when to push me out of my comfort zone but also knows when to reel me back in because I’m flying too close to the sun. I mean, I had already started my lesson before she suddenly exclaimed ‘oh my god, Karen! You aren’t wearing a helmet!’. Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed because that’s how I always ride. What’s more rational than riding a baby horse without a helmet? The arena is soft and I’m sure with all my extra ‘cushion’ I’ll bounce.

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We’re still so pretty…

FYI, to harken back to an old post I’m actually down 47lbs from the weight I was when I purchased Aria almost 2 years ago. I’m ounces away from my first short term goal weight. So the cushion I’m relying on to save my life is considerably less and probably not as effective anymore because my butt hurts a lot when I sit for too long. My butt bones really miss all that extra padding. Frowny face.

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Doesn’t Aria look like she’s having fun??

Back to the lesson, I started off quite wobbly because of that silly thing called centrifugal force but once I remembered to sit in my saddle things turned out rather well. It is amazing to me how I can sit on a horse and not be sitting in the saddle. I dropped my inside seat bone and it did wonders. I made that my main focus of the ride but I still had to multitask because P was not going to put up with the shit show ride I was giving her.

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Over bending and diving in on the shoulder.

By shit show I mean that Aria was strung out and charging along with no rhythm or structure to her movements. She was going in a circle but only because P had a line on her. We could have been heading to West Virginia and I wouldn’t have known it because I kept focusing on what my seat wasn’t was doing. First I worked on checking her speed and getting her to slow down (which, gasp, helped my seat!). Once she was moving along at mach 1 instead of mach 10 I asked her to round and work off her hind end. She was a little over flexed but I think that might have been because of the lead line.

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Looking supple. Now if I would only look up!

We did some lateral work and counter bending to help straighten her out. Her chest is so wide and her reach in the front is so large on top of being so wide that her lateral work at the trot in a circle is just…insanity. I felt like we were going so fast and the cadence to that step was so big that it took me a while to get used to it. When we work on a true extended trot, I’m going to have the hardest time posting and sitting it.

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Gettin’ there. Workin’ on it. Workin’ on it.

Aria was working in a frame and powering through the lateral work so nicely that I really wished I had media from the lesson. When I feel that kind of movement and know that the movement is working at a level we’ve never worked before I get really excited. I’m very, very eager to unlock Aria’s full potential. It gives me a little thrill when I feel her moving like that, even if I’m a sack of potatoes on a potato. Haha.

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Now we’re getting somewhere.

At this point we came off the leash and started working the full arena with P giving instructions. We did the normal shoulder in/shoulder out for a few laps then worked on lateral zigzagging from the centerline to the quarterline. Towards the end of the lesson I think I was either getting lazy or starting to flag in energy because P barked at me when I was at C to get it together. Perfect practice makes perfect and P and R are not going to let me forget it!

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And we look nice but we’ve lost some of our hind-end engagement. She was probably rooting. 😡

Just as I pulled us back together our lesson wrapped up. P said it was the best work she’s ever seen out of us. I’m going to say it’s because I spend 4-5 days a week on Aria now and we’ve gotten to know each other really well, but I also wonder if the lack of stirrups may have helped. It makes me look forward to our show season next year. It also makes me look forward to getting back in the arena this autumn and really putting our noses to the grindstone.

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Good ride overall. We were both happy.

Growing Pains

I had plans to ride yesterday but I was feeling really drained for some reason. I didn’t even clean stalls (sorry horses, you’re going to be a little stinky until tonight). It was a beautiful day, so I should have taken advantage of it. Especially since the farrier came and everyone had brand new footsies.

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Be lured in by the cute of my dark, soulless eyes.

I like my farrier a lot. He’s very eager to share information and educate owners. Catalina has been dealing with physitis because she refuses to stop growing. We’ve moved her to a 4 week program in order to keep her feet level to help with some of the inflammation. My farrier said she’s dealing with the same issue that many OTTBs deal with. Because she’s currently narrow chested she’s putting a lot of pressure on the insides of her front hooves which makes her uneven. This will eventually lead to abscesses in the front if not managed.

To counter that and keep her feet and angles healthy my farrier removed hoof only from the outside, allowing her to evenly distribute her weight. It was the cutest little slice of hoof ever. I should be expected to see some improvement in her physitis in the next few weeks. He also recommended exercise, so Catalina is going to start going on trail rides with Aria and I to make sure her chest develops really well as she grows and help rotate those baby legs into their proper position.

I don’t know what’s going on here but there are way too many horses are involved. It reminds me of my job. A whole lot of people who think they know what they’re doing working on the wrong equipment.

I promise to get media of the shit show that will be ponying a baby with a baby. Haha! I also asked him if Catalina might need shoes/padding to help the situation. I don’t know anything about the voodoo of hoof trimming but I want to give Catalina every possible chance to improve her inflamed growth plates but alas, he said she would only pull any shoe put on her until her hooves were staying level between trims.

I got up on Aria last week in the heat, hoping that it would help mitigate any desire to be mischievous–uhhhhhh–, and worked with leading Catalina. She wasn’t too thrilled about getting close to Aria while I was in the saddle. They’ve been turned out together quite a bit and get along very well because Aria will discipline when needed but Aria has become very possessive of me and when I’m around them she likes to chase poor Catalina off. That was definitely the vibe Aria was giving any time Catalina tried to walk at our side. Sometimes when my mares are all bitchy I wonder if I own horses or fire breathing dragons…

Aria was determined to steal this baby cow.

Aria also has a monster stride which Catalina couldn’t keep up with. It made releasing as a reward when Catalina stepped forward almost impossible. Luckily she leads pretty well even with 12 feet of rope between her and I. Good baby that she is. I’m tempted to let her run loose during the trail ride, hoping she’ll just stay close to the horses she knows. That sounds like a good idea, right? What could possibly go wrong with a terrorist moose on the loose?

I would love to take Valeria but I’m not sure I can keep Catalina from nursing 100% of the time. I guess it will be an adventure that I’ll have to report about after it happens (unless I die because with all these opinionated Spanish mare that is a real possibility). Either way it sounds like fun. I just hope Catalina doesn’t run a pedestrian over when we’re out there

Have Trailer; Will Travel

Wow, it’s been crazy. We got to 111 degrees last week breaking a high record for the month of August. I read an article that said it was a record high for the area period, but I recall a few Thanksgivings ago when we were 113. So I think their information was wrong.

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104 was our low for the week.

Anyway, the heat really put a damper on any kind of riding or outdoor activities although I did breakdown and suffer a short twilight ride last Wednesday because Aria was begging to get out. I do love that about her. She has a lot of different friendly behaviors but I can tell when she’s asking to go out versus asking for attention (plus she gets very excited if I enter the tack room and it’s not because of grain since we don’t store any in there).

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Karen. Karen. Karen. Karen. Karen…let’s go riding. Please? Please? Please?

Unfortunately even without the heat to kill my riding ability I was also dealing with a sudden lack of horse trailer. The ground on my property is hard as a rock right now and there aren’t any trails nearby. Hauling out is the only way any of my horses get exercised. While it wasn’t money I wanted to spend, it was an unavoidable expense because: have horse, must ride.

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I mean, I guess I don’t need a trailer. I could always be this guy.

I began furiously searching Craigslist and Google. Despite Southern California having the second largest horse population in the country there aren’t a lot of horse trailers out there. I cast my search net as far as Tucson and Las Vegas before I eventually found a few trailers I would consider driving up to 8 hours one way to purchase. Luckily I found a 3 horse slant at a good price in Ridgecrest, California.

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Boron, CA. Home of the 20 Mule Borax team.

A four hour drive wasn’t so bad and I was kind of a beggar, so I couldn’t be a chooser. It took some planning because I had to be in Los Angeles for a couple events at the same time but I love a logistical challenge. My dad met me an hour northeast of Los Angeles and we drove the rest of the way together (there is some cool places like Boron but there’s also some WEIRD ASS SHIT along the 395 and I never want to break down on that stretch of highway. Ever.). The purchase was quick and easy and I returned to LA with time to spare.

John Williams at the Hollywood Bowl. This was during the Star Wars set.

Though I did have to return home that same evening because there was a fire in my friend’s backyard and the smoke was flaring up my asthma like crazy. So. Much. Driving. 472 miles in one day.

Largest fire in Los Angeles history. The San Diegian in me finds it puny.

It was worth it because now I’m the owner of a new—to me—trailer and definitely in the mind set of: have trailer, will travel. It needs the electrical plug checked and the bearings packed but that’s normal maintenance. The worst part of it all will be the trip to the DMV. Ugh. Haha.

Can you tell it’s “raining”? Massive heat spike, then rain. Yup.

I actually have some rides to blog about this week! Expect those in the next couple days.