Saturday, September 29, 2012

Winston Rocks and Flash Hurts

This morning we hosed the horses off before heading to the show.  Flash didn't get a bath yesterday and Winston rolled in a pee pile so he was covered in disgusting crusty mud.  So much for the bubble bath yesterday.

It was very hot at the show and I debated whether to ride in my jacket for my first test (Introductory Level Test B walk-trot).  I ended up wearing it but I ditched it for my second ride at 10:45.  Winston was very good in the warm up so we headed over to the court a few minutes early.  We stood in the shade where he could watch the ride before us.

There was a large paddock with a mare in it next to the dressage court.  Right as the judge blew the whistle for us to start, the mare decided to buck, squeal and race around.  Winston thought that looked like fun and when I told him to get a grip, he reared up.  Not the best way to start your first test in your first show, Winston.  We made a wild trip down centerline, did our halt and salute, and trotted off.  Winston settled down and we scored 6s on his walk and 7s on his trot (and a 5 for the start).  The collective marks were all 7s - except for submission which was a 6.  The judge commented that we had lovely moments. 

My second test (Training Level Test 1) was an hour later and it was miserably hot.  I did a very short warm up, Winston was trotting well and was relaxed.  Even without a jacket, I was wilting big time. 

Winston rocked.  He wasn't perfect and we didn't win a blue ribbon but he did everything I hoped for.  We got 7s and an 8 on our trot work.  Our centerline trot & halt got 7s.  Canter was not our strong point but I knew that.  We are still working on prompt transitions and balance at home.  Bend is not at all consistent -- heck, most of the time its not there at all.  So, I was happy with the 6s we received.  In the first canter transition, he kicked out (but he went) and flipped his head so we got a 4.  He braced in the upward transition to trot in front of the judge so we got a 5 there.  And in the medium walk he started to sag so I squeezed him forward -- and he trotted.  That was a 5 too.  But he was prompt in responding to my leg.  We'll get the finesse part down as we continue to work together. 

Most importantly, Winston and I were a team.  We were there for each other.  It felt harmonious in a way that is hard to describe.  I wasn't nervous and neither was he.  We did our best, together.  After the final salute, I rubbed Winston's neck and then threw my arms around his neck.  I told him he was a rock star.  My eyes glistened and leaked.  I blinked quickly, sat up, thanked the judge and rode out of the arena on cloud nine.

I picked up my test later and read the judges comments.  All fair and accurate but the last remark had me wondering...

The scribe enlightened me on the "lots of personality" remark.  Apparently as we came through the corner towards the judge, approaching C, Winston had a look of intense concentration.  Then he flicked his eye towards the judge and wiggled his lower lip as we went past the judge's both.  She said they couldn't get over that.

Mr Personality.  Mr. Awesome.

Brett had to scratch his ride.  Flash was off in the warm up.  Brett was really disappointed and is very worried about Flash being able to work again.  I told him that the vet had said he could "try" riding in the show but she was dubious.  Its only been three days since he had his hocks injected.  I think he just needs more time.

Oh, and my breeches self-destructed.  Seriously.  When I finished my last ride and was walking Winston back to the trailer I had this funny sensation on the leather portion (full seat breeches).  I reached back and... there was nothing there.  I kid you not.  Just my white undies and white thighs for all the spectators to see.  OMG, how embarrassing!  You think I'm kidding?  This is what they looked like:

I've had the breeches for a few years but only wore them a few times.  I haven't been to a show in a couple of years; since Jackson and I were showing in 2010.  Have you ever had your breeches do this?  I wear this brand of breeches all the time (Trainers Choice) and I've NEVER had this happen, not with the ones I school in and wash all the time. 

I think this qualifies as my most embarrassing show moment. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fitness and Show Prep

First the fitness reports:

Let's not go there, okay?  I lost zippo weight.  I didn't gain either, so I suppose I should be happy given the weekend in Paso Robles but I'm not.  My session with the trainer Monday evening was killer.  My triceps and chest are still sore four days later.  I'm convinced she's the devil in a cute blond body. 

Fitness is definitely improving although vaccinations set him back a bit.  This morning he was sluggish, but his attitude was willing.  I'm not sure if he felt crummy from his shots or if he was sore from the work Thursday -- or both.  We did our usual warm up and then I ran through the tests and called it a day. 

Brett and I both cleaned our tack for tomorrow.  I cleaned and oiled my saddle, the girth and my bridle.  I washed the fleecy girth cover.  I cleaned my "good" pair of paddock boots and my half chaps.  I have new tall boots but they came while my toes were healing and I haven't broken them in yet.  My toes don't love being in closed shoes so I've been putting the boots on the back burner. 

I gave Winston the full spa treatment: bubble bath, shampoo, deep conditioning in his mane and tail.  I'm praying he doesn't roll tonight.  Brett is going to hose off Flash in the morning and I will do the same with Winston if he has gotten himself all dusty.  Right now, he looks darn good.

We BBQed hamburgers for dinner tonight.  Another hot day so we thought it would be nice to relax on the viewing stand as the sun set.  We didn't have any hamburger buns so I made some.  I've never made them before.  They were easy peasy and so good.

Before we went down to the viewing stand, I put an apple rhubarb crumble in the oven for dessert. 

When we went down to BBQ, the horses and donkeys were busy eating their hay. 

Brett got the BBQ going and opened the wine; one of our favorites -- Gelfand's SFR (sh*t faced red) from Paso Robles.

The burgers were wonderful, the buns didn't fall apart, the wine was smooth and dark -- we stayed until the sun set and the full moon was high. 

We got back to the house just in time to take the crumble out of the oven.

I know, I know.  Dinner was not good for the diet.  And I don't care. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting it All Done

Brett and I were up early so we could get morning chores out of the way in time for me to ride Winston before work.  We're heading back into another warm week with highs in the 90s by the weekend.  It was nice to be up before the sun came over the ridge, mucking while it was still in the 50s. 

Brett was up and out the door a few minutes before me so he found the dead chicken.  She was laying by the entrance to the hen house, with no visible trauma or indication of why she died.  She was one of our new chickens, a cuckoo maran - the ones that lay dark chocolate brown eggs.  We lose a chicken or two every year, chickens being chickens - they just up and die on you.  I think its pretty rude myself.  Usually we lose an older chicken and they start acting a bit off before they die.  But not always.  This one was only six months old and had been running around, scratching, pecking and acting like a normal chicken youngster. 

I have been riding Winston with a fleece riser pad after the saddle was adjusted to fit him back in March.  He was very narrow and lanky then, going through a growth spurt.  The saddle fitter left room for him to grow into the saddle so she wouldn't have to come back out and do another adjustment in six months.  Since then, he has grown taller and wider so I decided to see how the saddle fit without the pad.  It fit like a glove so I don't need to fuss with the fleece anymore.

Winston's trot work was dreamy this morning.  He was soft in my hands, forward and floaty.

His canter was... interesting.  The canter itself was nicely forward with a good amount of energy and jump but he just wasn't in the mood to canter.  At least, he wasn't in the mood to make transitions.  It was a disappointing step backwards and we ended up doing a lot of canter work this morning as a result.  Transitions, transitions, transitions.
I love this picture of us -- happy and in harmony.

I need to look up -- and Winston has his signature goofy expression going.
 I ran through the test a few times; forgot the stretchy trot again.  I'm going to try running through the test in my mind before I fall asleep - as someone suggested in the comments.  I've drawn the test and written out the steps so I think I just need to ride it in my mind (correctly) some more. 

We finished on a good note.  Even with the canter transition issues, he was very good overall.  If he is just like today at the show, I'll be happy.  I'm not expecting him to be perfect; I just want him to be honest, to trust me, and to have fun.  We had all of that today.

I stripped his tack, gave him a quick massage and turned him out into the pasture where the others were eating breakfast.  He'd already had his bucket and a flake of alfalfa before we rode.
Flash is moving around pretty well.  Brett hand walked him this morning.

Yes, I know his tail is filthy.  His bucket had the new meds mixed in this morning and he ate it all.  Good boy.

Then it was off to work.  I put in a very long day.  We are struggling, as most hospitals are in Southern California, and despite huge efforts to improve productivity and control cost we are looking at a difficult year ahead.  As a result, we are implementing another reduction in staff.  Needed, necessary, but difficult.  We are asking for voluntary separations to start and hoping that we will eliminate most of the positions that way.  Other issues cropped up in the late afternoon and it was late by the time I headed out to the parking lot and pointed my car towards home. 

I noticed some orange smoke in the sky as I was driving home.  The local station reported a fire in Orange County, on the ocean side of our mountain.  It isn't close enough to us to be worrisome to our community and they are aggressively fighting it.  It did make for a spectacular sunset as I drove across the ridge.  The orange is from smoke, not from the sun.

Is it bedtime yet??


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fingers Crossed for Jackson and Flash

This morning as I was leading Winston to the mounting block to ride, I heard tires crunching on the gravel driveway.  Dr. Thacher had arrived early, due to a cancellation at her first stop.  With large animal vets, appointments are windows of time rather than precise.  You never know when there is going to be an emergency that requires the vet to hightail it out to an unscheduled barn to treat colic or a horse that ran through a fence.  Sometimes it works the other way as well (but not as often).  So Winston and I didn't get to ride today.  I'll be up early tomorrow to get a session in before work. 

Since Winston was already out, we decided to give him his vaccinations first.  We tried having Dr. Thacher give him some love and then the shots so he wouldn't hop all over in melt-down mode like the last time she was up.  He did great with the love part but as soon as she moved to his neck, he jumped sideways.  We decided to put him in the wash rack where he couldn't jump on us.  Dr. Thacher gave him his first shot and he jumped and wagged his neck a bit.  Then she gave him a handful of cookies.  For the second shot, he stood still and the minute she finished he whipped his head around for the rest of the cookies.  He's no fool.  And he loves cookies. 

I put him back in the pasture where he followed me around, crowding into the camera space.  I managed to get him to stay far enough away to take his picture, but he wasn't pleased about it.  He gives new meaning to the phrase "pocket pony."

Next to get shots was Jackson.  He was a good boy, standing still and thanking us politely for his cookie.  Dr. Thacher told me that she has been to a number of conferences lately where there has been discussion of insulin resistant horses.  Typically, these horses test negative for Cushings and insulin (like Jackson) are young (like Jackson) and have laminitis (like Jackson).  The horses are treated with the same medication used for Cushings and they respond well.  So, we are starting Jackson on the medication.  Hopefully, this will allow him to get through the wet winter without flareups and it may, just may, get him sound enough for light riding.  Wouldn't that be great??!  I am cautiously optimistic.  I'm ecstatically happy, trying to be cautiously optimistic.  (It's giving me a headache, this bouncing ball of happy in my heart).

The donkeys got their shots next.  They were good about it, even Tuffy who can be a stinker about vets and farriers.

Last up was Flash.  I lunged him so Dr. Thacher could see the problem in his hind.  He was visibly uncomfortable and the problem was clearly in his hocks -- the left primarily.  Lucky Flash; he had his hocks injected.  It was his turn to go into the wash rack after getting his horsey valium.  He napped through the whole procedure.

Tuffy watched the whole thing through the fence.  Nosey little bugger.

Dr. Thacher got her prep ready and went to work.  She injected both hocks and then wrapped him in bright green vet wrap to keep the injection site clean.  Brett's job was to keep Flash's long full tail out of the way.

Flash will be on bute (pain killers) for the next four days and handwalking.  If Flash is doing okay, Brett can try riding him in the show Saturday.  They are just doing one test and its a low key schooling show.  We'll watch Flash and see how quickly he recovers. 

Fingers crossed for Flash and Jackson.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What's Up With Flash?

We are hoping to get answers on what is causing Flash to be off tomorrow when our vet comes up.  I have my suspicions (hocks) but we will see what Dr. Thacher thinks.  Flash has a history of arthritis in his hocks and has done well this past year on monthly Adequan shots.  He is off in the hind; slightly at walk and noticeably at trot.  There is no swelling, no heat, and no sensitivity to touch.   Brett and I both signed up for our dressage chapter's schooling show Saturday so we are hoping he is sound by then.

I rode Winston early this morning before work.  The air was cool and the sun was just coming up.  Winston was a bit fussy in the contact compared to last week but I think we'll work that out by the weekend.  He wanted to canter in the worst way -- I think the cool air was calling to him -- so he kept popping his head up and wagging it in the air.  Come on, Mom!  Let's go!!  Instead of doing a lot of canter work, I focused on getting his focus back and tried to ride the tests I am doing Saturday.  Intro B is easy; the pattern flows in a very logical fashion and there aren't many steps.  Training Level 1 is a bit more complicated.  I keep forgetting to do the stretchy trot immediately after the canter or I trot the diagonal instead of walk.  Grrr.  I need to get the pattern down by Saturday or we will be going off course and that isn't good.  I don't want Brett to call the test for me.  I want him to take pictures.

We received a package in the mail today from Skoog Farm.  Thank you Lori!

I found this package by the front gate when I drove in from work this evening.

The cane fits Brett perfectly.  And it's gorgeous!!!  All gnarly wood and Flash at the top.

The size is perfect -- Brett's just messing around here.

We set it in the front entry way so everyone can admire it -- and it will stay safe.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Heaven and Hell

Friday, Brett and I drove up to Paso Robles.  Before leaving, we rode the horses.  Winston was perfect; light and responsive, bending and lifting, transitioning into canter with just a hair more than a thought.  I've started asking for the transitions by sitting and moving my seat into a canter motion and we've got it down now so that I think and he goes.  Unfortunately, Brett's ride didn't go so well.  Flash was off again so the vet is coming up to re-evaluate his hocks on Wednesday.

We left home around 9:30 after the morning rush hour traffic had subsided.  Initially Brett said he felt up to doing the driving but by the time we reached the bottom of the mountain he was ready to trade seats.  We stopped for lunch at Taco Lita, a small taco and burrito place in Arcadia.  Brett grew up going there and it is a favorite of ours for simple, but good, tacos.

When we got back on the freeway, close to noon, the traffic was very heavy.  Odd.  A few miles more, in Pasadena, it almost came to a standstill.  We were near NASA/JPL and cars were stopped on the overpass, the frontage road -- and on the freeway.  People were standing, staring at the sky waiting for the space shuttle Endeavor on its fly by before landing at LAX.  We didn't see the shuttle, and a few more miles down the road, traffic started flowing again.

We arrived at our B&B in Paso Robles in the late afternoon.  Orchard Hill Farm B & B was beautiful, sitting on the top of a hill, with views in every direction.  Brett was tired and sitting in the car had been hard on him.  We relaxed for a few hours, then drove to Morro Bay to meet my parents for dinner.

The restaurant was wonderful; great food and sitting right on the bay with windows everywhere.  We watched seals play, boats chug through, and the sun set.  Unfortunately, Brett's shingles decided to flip into high gear during dinner.  The pain comes in unrelenting waves of hours long, deep muscle pain.  We left before the bill arrived (at the urging of my parents).  Brett spent an agonizing night with a fever, chills, the shakes and cries to me to please just kill him; he finally got some relief standing in the shower at 3 am with the water running over him.  It was a horrible night for him and a frightening one for me.

The next morning, I suggested (demanded?) that Brett take his pain meds on a regular schedule and not wait until the pain was so severe that nothing could bring relief.  That seemed to work better.  We had an enjoyable day on Saturday and Brett started to eat again -- especially the breakfasts at our B & B -- fresh fruit (perfectly ripe, sweet melon and berries) and filled croissants, amazing coffee and good company. 

We spent some time exploring a private garden and stopped in at the grape stomping party -- but it was too hot, and we were too tired, to enjoy it much. 

The garden, though, was amazing.  A neighbor (a very wealthy neighbor) of the B & B, sunk over $10 million into creating gardens on her property.  We wandered from garden room to garden room, from a koi pond and waterfall to multiple infinity pools and a huge hamock hanging under an arbor of apples and figs.

Sculpture was incorporated into the gardens at every turn, but in such an integrated artistic way that it blended perfectly. 

There was even had a small herd of goats set in the grass. 

We rested on the balcony of our room Saturday afternoon.  Brett read a bit and dozed.  I gazed out over the vineyards and golden hillsides while I wrote poetry.  In the evening, my son Kyle came up from the university in San Luis Obispo and met us for dinner.  We went to my favorite restaurant - Thomas Hill Organics (farm to table).  Brett was feeling better: he picked at the appetizer and his dinner and then we had a three way fight over dessert -- tres leche cake with strawberries.  To. Die. For. 

Sunday morning, we had another delicious breakfast and long conversation, with the Orchard Hill Farm owners and another couple staying at the B & B, before heading home.  Brett kept his pain pills on schedule and dozed during the six hour drive.  We arrived home just in time to do the evening feeding.  Brett took care of the animals while Camille and I got ready to go to the theater.  Brett was not up to driving an hour more to the theater, sitting through a play, and then driving back.  Fortunately, Camille was more than willing to use his ticket.  I was back home at 11 pm -- a long day, and a long weekend.  But, over all, a good weekend.

Oh, my following list on blogger came back after I hit refresh eight or nine times.  Phew!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Everyone Disappeared!

After work and after walking the dog around the block, I settled on the couch with my iPad to read today's posts on the blogs I follow.... and there are a bunch of them.  I couldn't pull them up so I figured it was an iPad issue and turned on the desktop computer.  I opened blogger and it proceeded to tell me that I am following... NOBODY!!  Really?  I follow almost 150 blogs: horse blogs, poetry blogs, farming blogs, French blogs, food blogs even a couple fashion and photography blogs. 


Has this happened to anyone else?  I'm hoping its a glitch and my blog list will return shortly. 

If you leave a comment, I'll link back over to you and re-follow.  Hopefully, that will work.  In the meantime, I am beyond annoyed. 

Brett and I are going up to the Central Coast this weekend for a wine shindig -- a grape stomping party.  I'll telly you about it when we get back -- I'm not sure that I'll have time or WiFi to blog while we are gone. 

Friday Fitness report: I haven't lost any more weight but I feel like I'm firming up and I definitely have more energy.  Brett said I looked less soggy when I was riding the other day.  Okay, he said it in a much nicer way than that...

We'll see how I'm doing weight wise after this weekend.  Wine, good food, and relaxation do not melt fat.  But, you've got to balance enjoying good food and vacations with exercise and counting calories.  And, for me, enjoying food is a big part of enjoying life.

Have a good weekend everyone.  Hopefully, Google will have remembered who I'm following by the time I get home.

Winston said he'd look for you guys while I'm gone.  He doesn't get the internet friend concept.  His friends are in the pasture with him and he thinks mine should be right around the corner.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

They're All Stinkbugs

Brett went down the mountain today to get a prescription filled for controlling the pain with his shingles.  He has not slept the past three nights.  The pain keeps him awake and he alternates between walking around the dark house and tossing in bed.  I have been sleeping better than him, but not well by any means.  I dragged myself out of bed late -- past 7:00 am -- and felt tired most of the day. 

I made a batch of tomato jam - there were enough tomatoes for two jars; one for me and one for my parents.

Mid-afternoon, I started making a batch of chicken broth to use in the pot pie casserole I was going to make for dinner.  I needed to get a couple carrots for the stockpot so I headed down to the barn, picking some herbs on the way.

I was debating whether I would ride Winston in the evening when the weather cooled (we were in the 90s again today).  It was hot outside and I was tired and sore, so as I walked I decided that I would give my body the day off to rest.  Then I got to the barn.
See Winston's jolly ball?  He had tossed it out of his stall, down the barn aisle.  And that wasn't all...

On the ground outside his stall, he had neatly placed his grain bin, his fly mask and his halter.  The donkeys looked at me from the neighboring stall, looking innocent and adorable.  Uh huh.

The only well behaved equine in the barn was Mr. Flash.

Jackson, out in his paddock, was behaving as well.  I figured I had better ride Winston.  He clearly had too much time on his hands and was getting into mischief. 

At 5:30, I went back to the barn in my breeches and got Winston out to groom.  I didn't close his stall door, forgetting that the back of his turnout was open into the pasture.  No sooner had I gotten Winston to the tie rail than I heard hoof beats in the barn aisle.  Tuffy had gone out of the donkey stall, into the pasture, then into Winston's stall (no doubt looking for food) and then out the open door.  Oops. 

Tuffy saw me coming down the aisle and took off running.  Yee-haw!  Winston started prancing.  I got Winston back in his stall (with the door closed) before grabbing Tuffy's halter and going off to get him.  Finessa couldn't figure out what he was doing on the "wrong" side of the fence and she wasn't happy. 

Tuffy kicked up his heels and ran laps up around the arena and back again, jumping over the wooden bridge.  He's a little donkey and it's a good size bridge -- he cleared it, no problem.  Brett got the camera ready to get it on film... but he just went around the bridge the second time.  He was getting tired.

Tuffy waited for me at the wash racks, tired of being chased and ready to go back in the pasture.  I slipped his halter on and put him away.  Meanwhile, Winston was doing laps in the pasture.  Great.  

My plan had been to do an easy ride on Winston; just enough to get him supple.  But he had other ideas.  It was dinner time, Brett was mucking which surely meant hay was going to arrive any minute, he was in a stinkbug mood, and he was not going to listen to me or anyone else.  

Hey, Winston, did you read my tee-shirt?
"Warning!  I can only please one person per day.  Today is not your day.  Tomorrow doesn't look good either."

Winston was a real pill at first.  He started by "spooking" at the chickens -- an excuse to dive, slide and run.  Except that I felt him thinking about it and caught him at slide.  We went to work.  Work, work, work.   He was quite lovely at the end.  ...and my hair was plastered to the side of my head (to Brett's amusement) and Winston was sweaty too.

And then I made dinner.  We ate late.  Thanks to the stinkbug crew.