Scratch That Itch

Allergies. Not mine, which I’m lucky enough to not have, but Aria’s. I’ve mentioned it before on my blog but I’ve never really elaborated on what a pain in the ass it really is. I will even go on record saying that I will never own another horse as high maintenance as her. She is one in a million, truly.

The general rule of thumb is that allergies never come in singles. I learned this from a doctor and when Aria started to rub herself raw and look like a plague victim because of the flies, I knew I needed to call my vet. At the time I was browsing several Facebook equine groups daily and had read many posts asking for fly solutions that often had someone mention allergy testing. When I asked my vet about doing an allergy test, she said she hadn’t done one before but thought it was a good idea and would be more than happy to find a facility to ship the blood sample to.

Red weeping eyes from flies and dust.

The allergy test is fairly simple and there are two methods now for testing. The one I did was to draw blood and send it off to lab to be tested. The other method is, like humans, to test potential allergens directly on the skin. There is some discussion on the accuracy of testing blood and I tend to agree that the second method will produce better results but shaving a huge portion of my horse and having drops of allergens pricked (scraping the surface of the skin) onto them seems like a special kind of hell for an already itchy and sensitive horse.

Chewed up legs from flies and scratching teeth.

It’s also a very cheap test comparatively. My vet used Spectrum Labs. Two weeks later I had a packet with information about Aria and her allergy therapy program. I also received three color coded vials that were meant to last me a year as I went through the various stages of the program. Initially it was a lot of shots. It started 0.01cc every 3 days, then 0.03cc every 5 days, on to 0.05cc every 10 days. So on and so forth until I was giving 1cc every 30 days which is the maintenance mode.

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Sorry, not going to share my vials because it has all my info on it! 😀

On top of the shots you also get a print out with all the allergens they tested and which will be in the vial of serum, minus the food allergens of course. It gives a great overview of what to keep away from your sensitive snowflake. I found out that Aria was allergic to everything I was feeding her.

To begin with I moved Aria to timothy hay because she scored lowest in Pasture (mix). I had her on it for about 10 months and during training to make sure she was getting a good quality hay all year round. Recently though I’ve moved her to bermuda because she wastes less and eats more (she’s got a layer of fat to prove it), leading me to believe she didn’t really like timothy all that much. Fine by me baby horse, my wallet thanks you!

Flies and rubbing making her look moth eaten.

In some cases there isn’t much I can do to keep her away for her allergens. Barn dust will always be around. Certain weeds and trees are out of my control. Luckily shavings out here are all pine but I am a little sad that I can’t use Cedar Rest anywhere on the property. Even though her test says she can tolerate cedar shavings she scored a very high 375 for Juniper/Cedar. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I have a hell of a time finding grain she can eat when 98% of feeds are based on alfalfa or wheat. Nutrena Empower Boost is a rice bran based feed that has been working really well for her so far. Bonus: it smells amazing. I do enjoy breaking feed rep’s brains when I I ask if they have a feed that accommodates Aria’s allergies. Acceptable horse treats are a bit easier to find. Beet Treats are wonderful and the local feed store chain, Kahoot’s, has a horse cookie made of smelt flour which she doesn’t appear to be allergic to. They double as a good human cookie too.

Her shoulders and chest used to look much worse than this.

Nothing is better than going into the feed store and asking for feeds that exclude XYZ and then following up with ‘my horse has allergies’ and getting That Look from people. I’ve pretty much come to embrace how ridiculous it sounds and actually try to use as many millennial buzzwords as I can now. Aria is gluten intolerant and bermudaterian. We all get a laugh.

The one responsible thing I did after receiving the allergy test results was to ask the feed store if they had any medical alert dog tags. The associate was very excited because they did but had never made them before. Aria has a dog tag with the medical alert symbol on her halter that says “I HAVE ALLERGIES. NO ALFALFA. BERMUDA ONLY.” and my contact info. With all the fires we get every year, I think taking a couple precautionary steps is a good idea in the event she is evacuated when I am not available.

The final downfall of allergies is all the scratching can cause injury and leave scars.

I do think the allergy therapy has helped immensely. The pictures here are not even half as bad as she used to look. I can tell when the 30 day mark is rolling around though because Aria will flare up to fly bites (these were taken on shot day). They recommend getting retested to improve results and I think I will because now we have a new baseline. I just have to figure out when is the best time seasonally. Overall the cost for her comfort is relatively low, a couple hundred bucks for the year. I still have to practice good manure and fly management (I should buy stock in Cashel and Pyranha) but now I only have to load her up with Benadryl a couple times a year when the flies are at their worst.

A Solo Aria

Alternate title: Duet? No, This Aria is a Solo.

Sunday was very busy and I had packed my schedule so tight that I actually woke up at 5:30am from the anticipation that I would sleep in and blow up all my plans. I laid in bed for a while to kill some of the extra time before getting dressed and heading out to load Aria into the trailer. It was very cool and we had a nice layer of fog (some very delayed June Gloom hanging out in August). A perfect combo for a brisk morning ride.

*Crickets.*

This would be the first time I took Aria out on trail solo. There’s a little bridle path near the public arena that we’ve ridden solo before but it doesn’t offer anything trail related being a groomed loop to warm up or cool down on. She’d been on this particular trail 3 times before and I didn’t anticipate any issues other than some misgivings about ‘uneven terrain’.

I liked the idea of a very early ride. There would be a few people in case I had an emergency but it wouldn’t be packed like it usually is on the weekends. I wanted to keep a pretty fast pace on trail because I was limited on time. Waking up early didn’t do me any favors in that regard because the grassland preserve doesn’t open until 8am.
When I rolled up there were already a lot of cars in the parking lot and some people were leaving. Now that I know they don’t actually padlock the gate anymore, I’m kicking myself for not heading out there earlier. Lesson learned!

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Do you see that sign? It could be dangerous.

I had groomed Aria at home to kill time so it was just a matter of throwing her tack on. I checked the girth 3 times to make sure there wouldn’t be a repeat slip off. Amazing how it’s never on your mind until it happens and then it becomes your new obsession. I still kept the girth pretty loose but not enough to show daylight by the end of the ride.

I mounted up and we headed off. We were the only ones (I wrote ‘people’ initially XD ) on the trail and I think that made Aria just a little uncomfortable but I shortened my reins and rode her with connection and she calmed down. She’s still not 100% about the loose rein business and often looks for my support, which I am more than happy to provide. It’s amazing how contact and a praise turns her into a little lion full of bravado. It also makes me laugh because she can be such a weenie.

There are two coyotes in this picture. I swear.

This particular trail starts and ends on the same path but splits about a mile in to create a huge loop full of switchbacks and hills. As we approached the split we were greeted by two coyotes. They didn’t mind us and Aria didn’t worry about them. Just two ships passing in the night. Lol. However as we headed down the split we came across a huge great dane and that gave Aria some pause. Can’t really blame her when the dog is barking and almost as big as you are!

Once we passed them I asked for a trot and we worked on making her feel confident. While she will walk out with purpose on trail it became immediately clear she was not comfortable picking up speed. When we approached the area where we had come across cows last time she got nervous. She really was expecting a big lumbering black mass to pop out from behind some bushes. I let her walk that stretch of trail to show her there was nothing ready to ambush us.

We did run into the cows a little further down the path but none of them moved and at our brisk trot, Aria didn’t seem to notice them all that much. Go figure. I did have to slow to a walk a few times as we crossed paths with hikers, joggers, and dogs but eventually we got to a few places where I could ask her to canter. What a sticky ride. If I thought she had sucked back at the trot she really put on the brakes when I asked for a canter.

The fog was just starting to burn off towards the end of the ride.

This was all new to her so I expected some resistance. Half way through the ride she began to understand what we were doing and started to enjoy herself. We even tackled trotting downhill which I had some concerns about because she’s very clumsy but her hoof placement was very solid. The second half of the ride was excellent. We managed to clock that whole ride in at 45 minutes when normally it would take 1.5 hours. I definitely want to use this trail as a conditioning ride since it has so many hills and switchbacks but the next time we do it we’ll just walk. I don’t want her to assume we’ll always run that trail.

The very last thing we did as we left the trail head was to go through a gate that is always clipped closed because of the cows. I’ve been working with Aria on gates but it’s been a real struggle. I didn’t want to end on a bad note but I also wanted to try. She walked up to the gate well, let me unclip with no issue. She got a little stuck trying to turn around so we could open the gate but went through and stopped when I asked. She also backed up and let me clip the gate, not without a firmer aid from my heel though. Overall a good improvement to the last time. That’s all I can ask. As I was pouring on the praises a kind gentleman with two Great Pyrenees that was standing nearby let me know he would have let me through the gate if I had run into problems. It was nice of him to hang around even though he was done with his hike. That’s what I love about my small town.

And that was Aria’s first solo trail. Fun and uneventful. Just the way I like it. I’m so proud of her.

Big Red Beastie

On Friday I had my vet out to check on Ben because his bed sore (that’s what we’re calling it because that’s what it’s become) on his knee had not healed after 3 weeks of wrapping and he had developed a new sore from the bandages AND got the well-known soft tissue swelling that accompanies too much vet wrap. Normally I’d doctor this on my own but the sudden tenderness around his knee sent up a little red flag.

We gave him some laser therapy and debrided the wound to promote healing. It was decided he should go without a bandage for a while which sent me to the feed store for lots of fluffy shavings. My vet also prescribed exercise. Yay! He’s been on stall rest this whole time and has been going batty. He’s also lost all his topline and looks too embarrassing for public. Maybe I’m being dramatic but I’m not happy with his condition and can’t wait to get him moving around again to improve it.

Hanging out with Rocket.

The humidity went away for the most part by the weekend and I could tell because I got home on Saturday around noon and even though it was 90 degrees out it felt perfect for a ride. I threw Aria in the trailer and then in a spur of the moment decision I also add Ben to our activities. No one is ever at the public arena, so I figured he’d be fine to hang out in there while I worked Aria.

I was partially right. While I was tacking and lunging Aria, Ben rolled around and walked a few laps but when I got up on Aria suddenly it was a follow the leader game that involved a lot of ‘drive-bys’ accompanied by kicked up heels and farting. It was nice to see him running around and feeling good but it was impossible to get any work with Aria done. Haha.

Strutting his stuff Spanish Walk style and promising to end Catalina’s world.

After a few good movements from Aria, in between using my whip like a sword to fight Ben off, I decided to get control of the big red beast. For a 21 year old horse he sure acts like a 2 year old all the time. So I clipped a lead line to him and decided to pony him on trail.

It turned out pretty well but took quite a bit of effort because:

  1. Aria has never ponied a horse before.
  2. Ben’s stride is way bigger than the stride Aria prefers to take.
  3. Aria is kind of an alpha bitch and wanted to eat Ben.
  4. Ben didn’t care and wanted his face as close to hers as possible because he’s a nice guy like that.
  5. Why do I do this to myself?

They did eventually settle but they never got into a leader/leadee (not a word? Don’t care) groove. Next time I may need to ride Ben instead. Haha. Although, they’re probably better than Valeria and Catalina will be when I finally get them on trail.

Summer Rain

Over the weekend I made a goal to get on Valeria every day this week. I should have consulted the weather report because I didn’t factor in for 93-95 degrees with 45-75% humidity and thunderstorms. My horses and I are all delicate desert flowers and absolutely zero riding or work has been done all week. Which really sucks because I had just geared back up for riding with 3 very solid, very good rides on Aria. V will have to wait until I can go outside and not get instantly soaked with sweat.

It does look like it’s going to be a bit cooler this weekend (I’m lying. I’m lying so hard but I need the fake hope to motivate me) so the plan is to get outside early and work our butts off to make up for the break. I had a lesson last week with Aria and P after over a month of not seeing either trainer. We didn’t do too badly and I was able to address a few issues I had developed while riding Aria.

Things like how to deal with her rooting. Now any time she roots I immediately ask her to back up in a 10 meter circle. It has done a pretty good job of shutting down that behavior and as a bonus is building up her back end. Alternately I also have to work on dropping her head when she’s ignoring the cue to collect and drop. This one is more difficult because I have to bring her head set up as high as it will go without putting any pressure on the reins and get her to collect enough with that we move at the smallest half steps possible. After a few moments moving like that she’s more than happy to drop her head for me when I ask. Granted these techniques are only needed when she’s really ‘hot’ from having a few days off because 98% of the time she’s a good baby.

She was a little stiff at the beginning of the lesson so we really worked on getting her to stretch and loosen her back. It was some walking and a far bit of trotting but the main focus was getting her to relax and work at a good swinging rhythm. We spent most of the lesson on a 20 meter circle working on shoulder in to shoulder out. Mentally it was a tough lesson for both of us.

It took me longer than I care to admit to get the timing and proper position down so that we weren’t running into fences as I transitioned. I was riding too deep into the corners before the shoulder out and it was pretty ugly for a while before I finally figured out how to time it all. 20 meters doesn’t feel very big when you are making a point to get a few strides of straight forward movement in between shoulder in and shoulder out to make sure your bends are good quality bends.

Before I knew it I had used up all my time (I was so spoiled by ambiguous lesson lengths!). I’m really looking forward to working on the things we did during my lesson, but until this humidity is gone, I think we’re going to stick to trail riding. 🙂

Back In The Saddle

Wow. It’s been a while. Things got a little crazy between the 100+ degree heat, getting whatever cold/flu was circulating the office, and falling into a bit of a funk because half of my horses were injured (Ben is still living life in a full leg stacked wrap because he’s feeling delicate but that’s for another post).

The first horse Catalina has ever made baby faces to.

Looking at my old posts, I’m really behind on updates. Heck, I was behind before I took my little hiatus. Let’s see…where to start? I left off with Catalina and Valeria, so I’ll update with Aria.

Reminds me of that white horse Bugs Bunny rides in Flight of the Valkyrie

Having her home and riding has been so, so good for me. Granted I didn’t ride when I was sick and I didn’t ride when it was over 95 degrees, meaning there was about 2 and a half weeks were she either sat in her stall or was turned out/lunged. In that short time she managed to lose some muscle and pack on fat. Which, isn’t a horrible look for her and means I can finally keep up with her (it’s a bad thing that I want my horse less athletic, right?).

Before she started packing on fat.

We are definitely focusing on getting miles over any real work which is fine for now because I’m really enjoying our rides. Some days we ride patterns and work on geometry and some days I only care that she goes the speed I ask so I can work on my seat. We are focusing on rhythm and timing. Mostly my timing because my cues are not as refined as Aria is used to. It’s good for both of us. I’m learning to cue more clearly and she’s learning to fill in the blanks when I’m not 100% on top of things.

Wearing the finest Bermuda grass fashion.

We’ve been on 4 trail rides! She’s very mellow and level headed on trail, which is a bit contrary to how energetic she can be in the arena. Our first time out was in a large group and she ended up being a supreme bitch to all the other horses, hikers, cyclists, and dogs on trail. It made me laugh but only on the inside because it’s not cool to cackle like a villain when your horse tries to eat a child on their bike. I can confidently report that was a singular incident and she has kept the raging mare caged on all subsequent trail rides.

First time on trail. We did a lot of trotting because of excitement.

Admittedly on our third trail ride I came off. Aria has an issue with uneven terrain. I can’t explain it any better than that. Any slight ruts in the trails or shallow channels created by rain send her into a tizzy and she cannot comprehend how to navigate these vast Grand Canyons. You can watch her start to fall apart when we near any ground she considers questionable. She’ll give it a hard look and try to walk around it. When I don’t allow her to walk around it because I want to stay on the trail and not bushwhack through the surrounding foliage she’ll stop forward movement but won’t stop her feet and we begin to mimic a Paso Fino. It reminds me a little of a toddler stamping their feet in a tantrum at which point I start pony club kicking her to get any forward movement possible.

img_0072a-water-erosion-visible-in-the-gradually-descending-dirt-trail-as-the-morning-was-overcast-and-cool-no-snakes-were-out-sunning

This is what she loses her mind over. Seriously.

Most of the time she’ll scramble over. I understand she’s a very clumsy horse and I think that might play into her concerns. The time I came off we were tackling a rut in the trail that was worn in by all the horses that ride it. We had some poison oak questionable vegetation on our left and a large tree on our right. I should also mention it was very humid and we were at about our 6th mile. Guess who didn’t check their girth once? So Aria is doing her little song and dance and I’m trying to boot her across this 2 inch deep, 10 inches across rut and just as I feel her lift up to get over it she decides at the last minute to scuttle to the left.

Permission to eat the bicycle?

Normally I have no issues with a horse that wants to change directions like that. My seat is pretty good in that regard. Even with a loose girth, which I am notorious for riding in, wasn’t an issue. The huge tree trunk coming at my face was very much an issue though, so in my infinite wisdom of self-preservation I leaned right. Aria continued left. See where this is going? At some point time slowed down enough for me to realize I was riding on the side of my horse, not on top of my horse. I noticed the ground was close enough that I could put my arm out and touch the ground, so I kicked out of my stirrups, let go of the reins, and nestled into the f***ing rut. LOL.

I got up, dusted myself off and stood looking at Aria with my hands on my hips. She’s trained to come back to her rider if you fall, so she’s standing there looking at me with a very worried ‘wtf’ and I reply out loud with ‘wtf horse??’. It was a good way to break the tension because clearly she wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen next. She was a little unsettled by that whole event but after I fixed the saddle and walked a bit down the trail until I found a stump to mount (because we were both so sweaty I couldn’t get a grip on anything, I tried twice) she settled and we continued down the trail like nothing happened. It ended up being a very good experience!

We’ve been out on trail once more since and she’s getting much better about uneven ground. She still wants to put on a whole show but now when I give her the boot she goes forward instead of sideways. I guess she learned her lesson. Haha.

Trailer Loading 101: Don’t Look At Me, I Don’t Know What I’m Doing.

Two weeks ago I decided to tackle the insanity of trailer loading Valeria and Catalina. Sometimes I question my mental health. Valeria is a shady loader to begin with, I didn’t want Catalina following the same sordid path. When I bought V I had Ben in the trailer and she popped in after about 10 minutes, though I was warned it could take up to 30 minutes. The second time I trailered her was also with Ben in the trailer and she hopped in after about 15 minutes. So I was sure that if I put Ben in the trailer again she would go in and then we could coax Catalina in.

Well…you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men. They often go awry. Ben is my best trailer loader. He’s literally the self-loading dream. He’ll cram his big frame into the smallest straight load trailer imaginable if I ask because he’s just so chill about the whole trailering process. However, on this day he had a meltdown in the trailer.

I don’t have any media from trailer loading. Please enjoy the majesty and beauty that is a bitchy mare.

He loaded fine, was chomping away at his hay and then as I was getting Valeria and Catalina I heard the trailer rocking and thrashing. He was losing his mind. I don’t know what the fuss was about and he sort of settled when I called to him but he was breathing hard and shaking. I know better than to go into a trailer when a horse is freaking out, so I let him sit for a few minutes while I talked to him in reassuring tones. When he was calm enough to handle I pulled him out and he stepped off of the trailer like it was no big deal. Go figure. I never did figure out why he panicked.

I tied him to a nearby stall for moral support and grabbed Valeria and Catalina. It’s very interesting trying to lead two horses at once when they both kind of suck at it. Suck isn’t really the right word…more like they have their own opinions about where we should go. I’m totally aware that it was a gift from God that the two of them handled well enough for me to lead them to the trailer. Catalina is easy to control because she doesn’t weigh all that much in reality. Valeria is the bulldozing asshole that tries to go where she wants instead of going where I want which causes pulling on poor Catalina who doesn’t always give to pressure right away.

Andalusian? Don’t you mean llama?

But, I was lucky and I got them both to the trailer doors quite easily. I stepped in and asked Valeria to follow. She thought about it for a moment and decided it wasn’t in her daily planner. We played this back and forth game of me asking her to move forward and her moving backwards instead. I’m sure all of you know the dance. It’s kind of like the Hokey Pokey. One foot in, one foot out.

Eventually Valeria did get all the way in but because Catalina didn’t follow right away she motored out of the trailer as fast as she could. It was time to change tactics and give Valeria a break for being a good girl by virtue of getting in at all. I dropped a bunch of hay at the trailer doors and let Valeria eat while I worked on getting Catalina into the trailer.

It starts young. The Vetericyn give her an angry eyebrow too!

Baby moose is way too trusting of me for her own good. Once she realized I wanted her to step up into the trailer she obliged quite nicely at putting one foot up. It was putting weight on that foot that she had questions about. I’m not perfect at the releasing pressure method but it worked fairly well. I’d pull on the lead line and as soon as any of her little hooves moved forward I’d release. She tried putting weight on the trailer a few times before committing herself. I had her half way loaded in about 10 minutes. Which isn’t bad and in hindsight if I hadn’t covered the trailer floor in Bermuda grass I probably would have had less distractions for the baby moose.

Trailer loading is by far one of the most stressful things to teach a horse, in my opinion. It takes a lot of patience and the realization that all the in and out and back and forth is still progress. My favorite part of the experience is when a horse is comfortable with their front feet in but they don’t want to put the rest of their body into the trailer. They’ll stand there all day stretching their hind end without giving and inch. That’s not the part I like. The part I like is when you see them make that choice to step all the way in. They kind of relax and then take those last two steps in. I don’t care if they back straight out afterwards, it’s that moment were they do something for you, not for themselves that I love.

Hard to believe all that mare ‘tude lives under the surface of this cute face!

It only took a few more minutes but Catalina did get all the way in and then proceeded to stuff her face with all the hay on the floor. I coaxed her to the front of the trailer where the forbidden joint swelling alfalfa was and she gladly stayed put while I went to work with Valeria (sometimes I plan ahead! >:) ). Getting Valeria in was pretty simple once she saw baby in. The only small SNAFU we ran into was when Ben unclipped himself and merrily pranced away causing a bit of buddy sourness to flare up.

I asked the pair to get in 3 times (because 3 times is a pattern and training is all about establishing routine, right?) before I sent them back to their stall. The next day I repeated the effort but this time we actually went somewhere which I will save for another post because it was exciting!

Reflecting on that training session I’d say it went much better than it could have. I can’t wait until Catalina is weaned to work with her one on one because she’s a pretty level headed little horse. As for Valeria, I think she needs a lesson in respecting the lead line. I’m not sure how I want to go about it because there are so many tools that can be employed but right now I’m eyeing a stud chain or a rope halter with knots on the nose band. Neither would be long term and they are my last resort. I need a little extra something to stop the 1,200lb hippo until she learns that trying to get away is futile. Any advice or suggestions?

Bel Joeor Blog Hop: If your horse were a drink…

Sorry for another filler post. I am working on actual posts but it’s taking longer to build the media than I anticipated because I’ve been pretty busy between horses and work. The pressure is on because I’m suddenly the only manager with a very high priority government project. No big deal, right? It’s just the US Navy breathing down my neck. Plus this record heat is kind of energy draining!

Amanda at Bel Joeor asked this fun but difficult question: If your horse were an alcoholic drink, what would it be?

The only horse I can definitively classify with a drink is Ben and he, true to his coat color, is an amaretto sour. Almond liquor is smooth and easy on the palate and looks oh so good in a bottle with that rich golden red-brown color but the sour can really pack a punch and make you reluctantly nurse that drink all night long. If you do end up with a drink that’s more sour than almondy smooth you can always turn to the maraschino cherries which are just as cloyingly sweet as he is.

Valeria is probably vodka. Mid shelf bottles always look classy and refined but at the end of the day they all taste like grocery store brand vodka that comes in a plastic bottle. Which is totally fine if you just want to get the job done and look good doing it but I think after a few more rounds of distilling she could be some top shelf shit or turn into a really nice tequila. Haha.

I don’t really know what Aria is right now. She was gone for 10 months and now she’s a different, more mature horse than before. Maybe I’d peg her as a red ale. Craft beer requires an appreciation for beer that most people don’t have (I’m looking at all you PBR and Coors drinkers out there. Lol). Red ales are a great all around beer and my absolute favorite drink. Crisp and rich with a hint of earthy straw (to match all the hay she wears in her mane). But they go bitter and hoppy when they get stale in the keg. She could have been an IPA but she’s much easier to swallow, so to speak, now that she has an education. Not so skunky anymore. I think she’s always going to be a little on the hoppy side though. Big bold flavors that not everyone can appreciate even if everyone can agree that a cold beer is really good on a hot day.

Catalina isn’t old enough to be a drink yet but I guess we can say that for now she’s an F Bomb. Fireball and Redbull. Right? Right??

Rocking E Cowgirl Summer Blog Hop Series – 10 Questions

I’m a bit behind on this blog hop, but I really want to post something quick since I’ve been so busy. I’m hoping to resume regular posts this week. These questions are courtesy of Allie at Rocking E Cowgirl.

Majestic moose.

1. What is your earliest, clearest horse memory? 
I have a picture from my childhood, I’m maybe 4, and I’m riding a white pony in Bangkok. I think I only remember this because there’s a picture of it. My first clear horse memory that I can currently recall is riding down the Grand Canyon. I was on a nondescript red horse but my dad was in front of me on a black Mike named Elvis that farted the whole ride.

2. Describe the perfect summer day. 

Would be spending the day on the beach in Tel Aviv with my family. But if I go horse centric it would be spending a beautifully warm day with my first horse, a Morgan mare named Hershey. We’d ride out into the middle of nowhere, then nap in the shade, and return home at sunset. Heck the perfect summer day would be any day I could spend 5 more minutes with that horse.

3. Are you reading anything right now? Tell me about it! 

I’m reading a study guide for Security+. Riveting stuff. 

4. Do you follow a celebrity (horsey or non) that you’re embarrassed to say fascinates you?

Hmmm. I’m not embarrassed by the celebrities I follow. I only follow Kat Von D, Taylor Swift, and Gal Gadot. I have a few friends that are ‘famous’ in the entertainment industry (don’t get excited, it’s mostly animation) and that’s sometimes awkward to follow because they switch between personal and fandom posts. 

5.What is your single most biggest horsey dream or goal?

Grand Prix is a goal if I’m talented enough and have the money. If I’m dreaming big I’d love to ride in the Olympics for Israel (because even in my dreams I know I’m not good enough to make the USA team lol).

6. If you were at Starbucks right now, what would you order? 

No Starbucks, thanks. 

7. What is your biggest equine pet peeve? 

“Equestrians” who choose to remain ignorant about horse husbandry. Learn to groom. Learn to feed. Learn to tack up. Learn to ice a leg. Learn every chance you get so you’re not just standing there useless when you need something done with a horse. If I pass you a lead rope, please don’t hold it like its a snake!

8.With everything going on politically and in the media, tell me, do you follow it religiously? Tune it out? Or something in between? 

I don’t know how anyone can ignore it. I have friends, relatives, and acquaintances on all political spectrums. It’s very frustrating but also a great learning opportunity for keeping up on what ‘the other side’ is thinking in an effort to understand each other.

9. If you had to show your horse to a song, what would you choose? 

This one is tough. If it was Ben I’d play Can’t Stop the Feeling by J.T. because Ben really seems to get into the groove of that song when I ride. But for Aria…I couldn’t even say. Maybe something by Enrique Iglesias?

10. What are you most looking forward to this summer? 

Riding Aria all the time, riding with blogger friends, and seeing my Canadian friends!

Catalina – 3 Months

On June 11th Catalina turned 3 months old. In celebration of that today’s post is going to be a photo dump!

Wearing her bedding and food for her 3 month birthday.

The ugly duckling stage is strong.

A little visual of how tall she is. I’m 5’3″ and not slouching in this pic.

Still super rambunctious.

Oh. HAI.

Pouting in baby jail.

Almost shed out of her baby coat.

But she’s still hanging on to some of that orange-y brown.

Derpiest mare stare ever.

A huge change since her first day.

She’ll never be this adorable and innocent ever again.

Lesson post coming next! 😀

Holly Oaks Arena

My last two posts have included picture of the first time I rode Aria when she got back home. However my current riding area is rock hard and not level thanks to El Nino so I’ve been looking for alternate places to ride 4-5 days a week. On my way home Wednesday I stopped by the Holly Oaks Arena that’s about 1.5 miles from my house. It’s been there for years but I never see anyone use it. Naturally I assumed it was because the footing sucked.

Anyone else think the caution sign was an afterthought? lol

Turns out, the footing is actually great. I hadn’t stopped by the place before so I thought it belonged to the housing division that was built behind it but it was actually built by the Ramona Trails Association Volunteers. They keep it maintained regularly too. That’s awesome for me because I had been calling around getting daily and monthly trailer in rates at all the local barns but this little gem is right down the street and free!

It’s huge, which is no surprise. It looks like it was built for running barrels. I think barrels and gymkhana are the most popular activities around here. Well, actually I think people like to trail ride more than anything. The arena is stocked with barrels and cones for running patterns. There’s a bunch of hitching posts littered around the space, a shaded picnic table at one end, ample parking, and a 60’ round pen as well.

A couple of people were riding when I pulled up and I asked them if they would mind if I joined them. They didn’t so I headed home and grabbed Aria. She decided she didn’t want to get into the trailer. With some persistence I did get her in, though she did smash me against the wall once when I tried to clip her in. This is new behavior for her. I used to lead her into the trailer with no issue and now she acts like it’s a scary thing. It’s possible that the quick self-load session we did has made her nervous. It’s something I will have to work on because I like knowing my horse will go in reliably and at the moment getting in the trailer is the only way she’s going to get ridden.

When I pulled up to the public arena the two people that had been riding were preparing to leave. I don’t like riding alone but the arena is well situated. It’s by a road that is highly trafficked during rush hour. It’s also next to several homes that look over the arena. All the hustle and bustle is great for safety and for desensitizing Aria to a lot of different things. I tacked her up and she led into the arena with no fuss, however when the other people left and she started calling for her new long lost friends that she didn’t even know. Haha.

I missed some shavings hiding in her mane!

I started lunging her and other than calling for her “friends” she was well mannered and responded well. She wasn’t stiff so I didn’t ask her to walk for very long. I had her trot for a long time because she was mimicking a giraffe quite well. I had just gotten her working nice a low when a jogger ran by. She bolted, tail flagged, snorting and I just laughed. I’m an awful ‘mom’. I did eventually get out a whistle, her cue that she’s okay and should settle, and she calmed down into a trot for a moment before she saw the jogger again and took off. The second time she settled much better and I didn’t laugh so much.

Once the terrifying jogger was gone—can’t blame her really. Who runs for fun in all that spandex?—I asked her to canter. She moved out willingly and gave a few bucks and jumps but it didn’t take long for her to remember her motto is: lazy. Once we got to that mindset I knew she was good to ride. Our first challenge was the mounting block. It was outside of the arena and the arena gate is on a tension system that automatically closes the gate. I got on her and sidled up to the gate, touching it and moving it a bit. She wasn’t too worried about it but it’s a small space with a trashcan (yes, we did back into it. Twice) on one side and the mounting block on the other. I opted for using my ‘whip’ (it’s a piece of PEX pipe with some electrical tape on each end) to open the gate. It sort of worked and we made it through. Maybe I’ll bring some baling twine next time to hold it open.

Teal is totally this princess’ color.

I only asked her to walk around the part of the arena we lunged in. Once she seemed good there I put her on the rail and intended to do a whole lap before starting. Intended is the key word because half way down the arena we encountered a horse eating barrel. All that backup work that P has been doing with Aria paid off because she motored backwards and it took me a few moments to sit back and push her forward. I made her pass the barrel and leg yield towards it before I rewarded her by turning her back towards the area she was more comfortable in.

We did some busy work to get her mind focus on me and not the scary things in and around the arena. Leg yields, reversing, and turn on the forehand (those are now suddenly gone). When she gave me a good forward moving leg yield I gave her a quick break before picking up a trot. Her trot work was nice. She was rushing and being a total noodle at the start but we eventually worked it out and she was moving forward in a nice working frame by the end. I felt that was a good place to stop because we had already been working over an hour according to my watch.

More rogue shavings to ruin my majestical stoic photo.

A couple of cool down laps around the arena, suddenly the barrels weren’t scary anymore, and I hopped off. For her first time out in a new area she had done really well. I praised her a lot during the cool down and she ate it up. I untacked her and then we wandered around the property to get the pictures I’ve included in this post. Then I had to get her in the trailer. It didn’t go that well but she did get in twice for me. Though I had serious doubts about the second time. Haha. Just means we have some work to do! It was a great first outing. I couldn’t have asked for better.