Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rider fail.

Today would have probably been a lot better, but I was in her face too much and completely useless with my seat and leg. The fact that a lot was lacking was entirely my fault.

Towards the end I got it together and got out of her face a little more. We hopped two small x-rails as a reward for her putting up with me, which were very good. However...the second one, I forgot I had thrown my sunglasses RIGHT where we should land. I saw them just before she took off and I pushed her over with my leg. We jumped a little crooked but the glasses were safe.

Ran late for work, forgot my phone at the barn.

I did notice that her back was A LOT less sensitive to my "hoof pick test" after the ride.

The toes are getting worse, but it's still really only happening in the pasture, so I'm at a loss for what I'm supposed to do about that. I still don't think shoes is necessarily the right answer either.

Still trying to figure out who is going to have the chiro adjust their horses. I can't wait. I think I'm going to use the fork a couple of times after she gets adjusted, if she's still trying to run through my contact. That really helped her, and I think she mostly doesn't remember about the contact deal because we could never train consistently. Right now I'm starting to need some light contact with her because she likes to hang on me and I need a tiny amount of tension there to give her a little bump when she tries it.

Promised pictures.

First, Amber looking not so amused with her hair-do.

Front left:

Front Right:

Left Hind:

Right Hind:

Obviously more wear on the left hind. I'm still betting my money on her spine and pelvis being out of alignment.

However, I'm 100% sure this is happening mostly out in the pasture. When she was getting no turn out hardly, it stopped. When she goes out on turnout, it comes back. No brainer. Clearly, limited turnout is even worse on her though.

I'm still kind of swimming in possibilities on what the issue is with contact and trotting. Then again, it's happened before. I just think I might be a little too "loud" with my hands and she is objecting. Trotting, I'm not sure about. The fact that she goes fine and then looks annoyed for a few seconds doesn't necessarily scream pain. Maybe she takes a funny step that irritates a sore place. It's not there in the canter, and I still think that would be worse on her than trotting. She also goes better after we jump a crossrail, which also makes NO sense. You would think that jumping would be a serious no-no, but I can't ignore the fact that she relaxes so much more after we go over one. Maybe I'll add some trot poles tomorrow. Definitely going to do a crossrail or two after she's warmed up.

Nothing makes sense. I'm starting to think it's mostly her having gotten lazy and out of shape.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

And still we climb higher.

This is late, because I didn't have time last night, but Amber did AWESOME yesterday. Her trot was much, much improved. Transitions were also better walk-trot, and got some beautiful trot-canter transitions.

She's not looking as irritated in the trot, and she was getting more in contact with me on her own, without looking pissed. I think the exercise combined with the turnout are really helping her. She's really adjustable, which surprises me, because usually our first priority when she's been off is getting her to the point where she's adjustable, but she's easy to rate, and usually it's me who is telling her to be fast via my seat and I have to check myself. She's super adjustable in the canter. We did a lap with slow, easy canter, then went into a few strides of slow gallop on one side, and then back to a slow/medium canter, and it took almost nothing for me to get the transitions. It was lovely.

Victoria rode Tommy for a few minutes. He went on trial today to his potential new owner in a city a little more than an hour away.

It's really wonderful what she's accomplished with him. Especially if you knew him when she first rescued him. He was in rough shape. He's turned into an absolutely beautiful horse, and she has trained him very well. Though definitely still green, from all I have seen her doing with him, he shows a hell of a lot of potential for the future!

By the way, definitely want to encourage her to start a blog if she happens to read this post! ;) If I'm not mistaken, she's about to buy another OTTB (I'm pretty sure he is off track, at least), who will be another project for her. I know Monica at Chasing The Dream would love to read a blog about OTTB rescues and retraining!

I took some pictures of Amber's feet, to be posted tomorrow because I'm too lazy to go get my camera off the kitchen counter. I also have a cute picture of her sporting a forelock mohawk. Her fly spray is oil-based, and it got in her forelock while I was rubbing it on her ears, and I was inclined to give her a new hair-do. She was not as amused as I was though, haha.

I'm so excited to get her in shape though. She can be such a cute mover when she is working well, and despite some minor conformation flaws, I think she's a beautiful mare. When she gets all muscled up? I think she's going to be SUPER hot. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Will work for food.

Actually, unrelated, that's Victoria's horse's show name. I forget what his registered name is, but I think Will Work For Food is adorable.

Anyway. When I got out this afternoon, Brady was putting out a round bale. Amber was not amused. She gave me this look like "Lady, come ON!"

She avoided me for maybe 1-2 minutes, and then gave up and came quietly. She was in a fair mood today. I'm starting to think that she isn't necessarily experiencing pain in the trot, although I believe asking her to collect and reach under herself does make her uncomfortable, but rather it's just hard work and cantering is easier, and she knows it. Because cantering requires more from the hind end, and I'm 99% sure that's where her problems are (thus why we aren't doing too much of it), so it wouldn't make sense for her to prefer canter if it's strictly pain in the hind end related. She is super out of shape. We only rode maybe 30 minutes, but it felt like an hour.

I was focused on every detail. I had zero contact other than an occasional "look this way". She has gotten in the habit of hanging on me, and I'm combating that by giving a couple of firm squeezes on the inside rein when she does. I think she is partly trying to find where she needs to be, but partly just being lazy.

I think her irritation with contact is because she has learned what I want when I ask her to soften, and I do think using her topline 100% is uncomfortable for her, and I think the irritation is mainly her saying "I know what you want, but it doesn't feel good!"

Whether it is or isn't that, I don't want create bad experiences for her associated with being in contact, so until she sees the chiro, it's best to leave that alone.

We did get some beautiful trot-canter transitions today. A little runny here and there, but for the most part very clean. Even our walk-trot transitions were nice. Down transitions were pretty good as well. She kept the forwardness going into them instead of dying out. She did randomly stop in the trot at one point because the pony in front of us did, but I booted her on and she sorted it out.

She is getting better about trying to stay up with other horses. I try to just be aware of other horses so that I can remind her who is giving directions. It's not what I will call bad behavior, it's just someone else's poor training. It's what she's learned as a trail horse - because most trail riders in groups do what the group is doing. And she just learned that her rider usually wants her to do whatever the horse in front of her is doing. So she thinks that's what I want. She's not disagreeable about it, she's just like "Oh, I thought you wanted me to follow them, sorry!"

I was very pleased with the ride though. Her feet are looking lovely, despite the slight toe wear, which is still not severe at all. Her pasture is cut off to about 1/4 the size as they just planted the winter grass (much to my dismay, she is on a roundbale for a little while. I just HATE the hay belly she gets, but the forage diet is good for her!). So she isn't walking as much...which is good timing.

I need to take pictures of her feet. They look SO much healthier. And it's all due to 24/7 turnout, because she has not been trimmed since Bob's last trim, and I haven't done anything new. That's proof that providing the most natural style of living for a horse is healthy all around for them. I wish I had a before picture of them...they were so flat, and her frogs were minuscule. Her soles have all exfoliated, and she now has beautiful, cuppy feet again. Her frogs are nice and large now.

I've come to the conclusion that it wasn't necessarily Bob's trims entirely. Surprisingly, his trims weren't bad. At least, he corrected her angles well. I think her lack of turnout affected them heavily.

Also - speaking of feet. Casey mentioned to me, and I forgot to post this, that when Amber first came to ***, remember she was shod all the way around, her hind hoofs were pretty much straight up and down. Like, I thought she was sitting upright when I first got her - oh no. I was told it was worse. No doubt THAT likely sparked some of her back and pelvic issues. I'm willing to bet it didn't help those hocks either.

A lot of factors go into this, and I'm starting to think it's not to be blamed on just one thing alone. I think it's a lot of things. Her being started early and rode hard (I'm still fairly sure of that). Poor hoof care. And, blame going to me, a saddle that didn't fit well. But she's young still, and the insight I now have is going to help us get through this and go on to have many happy years together.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thanks, rain, for ruining my plans.

I planned to ride today, but it rained off and on pretty consistent. I thought I caught a break, and I was going to just walk/trot her, but soon as I got her in the barn...thunder and rain. So I groomed her, checked her feet, gave her some cookies and put her out. She was not amused that I was putting her out with no sheet, but it was on the warm side, and she was still a little damp from the previous rain, and I'm not looking to need to treat rain rot here...

So I'll be riding tomorrow, weather permitting.

I'm still tickled pink about how much happier she is with her turnout. When she was stalled for so many hours of the day, it was like she was so mentally bogged down that she couldn't even think straight. It was like the littlest things would just set her off. She was still obedient, never really misbehaved badly, but she just had no interest in doing anything.

And now it's like she looks forward to seeing someone coming out to catch her. Because she's had plenty of time to just be a horse, and she WANTS to go do something different. A bit lazy though she may be right now, you can tell she enjoys being handled and ridden again.

I still think the Wintec was the culprit. And it escalated into the back issue, and compensating created the hock issue. The problems started right after I started riding her. Right after I started using the Wintec. And it wasn't long before she would be anxious during saddling. The Wintec was weird with her. It was never just right, but not extremely off. Depending on what her body was like, it was too narrow, or too wide. Her anxiety during saddling is totally gone with the new saddle, which is a huge indicator that the Wintec may have started this whole mess. Not to mention, it sat so weird on her. She is slightly, very slightly, downhill. The Wintec sat me so tipped forward, mixed with the slight downhill build...totally putting her off-balance. The new close contact fits her like a glove, and it puts me in a perfect position. I feel so much more secure in it. Jumping felt so much different the other day. I didn't feel out of balance for a second, even though I'm not at all an experienced jumper, and I haven't jumped in months.

I feel really stupid for not realizing the saddle could/did create so many issues. I questioned the fit several times, some people said it fit, some said it didn't, others said it wasn't perfect but it wouldn't cause us a problem. Having learned to listen to my own common sense and trust my own experience (without dismissing information from those wiser and more experienced, of course), I'm pretty freaking sure the saddle is the culprit. And the other seemingly unrelated problems are resulting from a "trickle down" effect.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Leap of Faith.

So for the past couple of weeks, every time I go in the arena, I stare at the 18" xrails set up. I watch kids on their ponies jump them. I watch the teenagers on their horses/large ponies jump them. I looked at them long and hard, and they looked huge. It didn't make sense to me - I've jumped 18" jumps before. Verticals, not just x-rails. But I just doubted myself.

Today, we had a good ride. It was freaking humid and we both sweated buckets. Walk, trot, some light canter, and then I couldn't help myself. I trotted her over a rail. I got scared right before it, and started to hold her back, but I sucked it up and pushed her on. Because she was almost stopped, we kind of hopped over it awkwardly, but it was all I needed. There were 2 set up in a line on the side, one on the other side, and we jumped around, trot and canter, for a couple of minutes. I didn't want to over-do it, but she was pretty happy about it. She was tired because it was the end of the ride, but her ears were forward and she was happy to be jumping.

She's pretty comfortable right now. She has some "ouch" moments, but letting her have her head is the key to her comfort. If she stays at a point where she isn't really using her topline to the fullest, but not hollowing out her back either, she moves well and without pain.

We won't be doing any more jumping until after the chiropractor's visit. Going back to working on our transitions. Her trot/canter transition is getting pretty nice. She's not running into it as bad. Walk/trot isn't pretty. She's sluggish in her walk and I have to boot her pretty good to get her awake for a clean trot transition. The trot is more difficult for her than the canter. She never has any ouch moments in canter.

She's starting to square off her toes again. That pisses me off, but she is doing it mostly in the pasture and I can't help that. The footing is soft enough that I know it's not dragging it off. At Halcyon, she didn't go out long enough to drag off much hoof, but now she is out 24/7. Toe dragging is a symptom of back/pelvic pain, of course, so I'm hoping the chiropractor's work will cure that too.

For the next week or so, we will just keep exercising her and keep being cautious about the work level.

Did I mention, during our jumping, I stayed out of her face for once? I let her pick her own pace. She didn't rush them at all.

Oh. My.

I just put in 12 hours. NO break. I was given 10 minutes to eat somewhere midway.

Obviously, since I was planning to ride Amber on my usual 2 hours break...she didn't get ridden today, which annoys me, but it's not that bad. It's just one day. Tomorrow we will pick right back up. She probably needed 3 days anyway, in her out-of-shape condition.

But yeah. They sprang on my shift's manager at the last minute that the president and vice president of our franchise were visiting tomorrow for "inspection", and we had to clean the living hell out of the store. I think my legs are going to fall off. At one point, I was mildly high from all the chemical fumes from the degreaser and bleach.

There was tons of drama...employees not wanting to clean, employees talking one point it looked like some unfortunate back talker would be fired, but everything worked out and we ended up being happy with our massive amount of hours. The supervisor over the stores in our area said to hell with our labor percentage, so our store managers were basically like, take advantage, get some hours, just clean this place up. It does look nice...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Such a good mare.

I wasn't going to ride today, but the weather was SO nice I just couldn't help myself. Plus, when I checked her back, she wasn't nearly as sore as she's been.

I was so glad I chose to ride. She was fantastic today! Easy to adjust, better on transitions trot AND canter. I figured out why my position is so wonky. I'm still riding like a dressage rider, but I'm throwing myself off balance because I'm in the CC (not to mention my too-long stirrup leathers!).

If I do the whole "pop my butt out" thing, fit forward but not leaning, insuring my shoulders are back, I'm ten times quieter instead of wobbling all over the place wondering why I'm so off balance. Even with long stirrups. My half-seat needs work, but it would also probably look better with shorter stirrups!

I'm so ready to jump her again, but she's got to get in shape first and see the chiro. I'm a little scared because of how she over jumps sometimes. But then again, she was overjumping at Andrea's because I was getting in her face too much and riding too forward - basically, giving her mixed signals. Seat said go go go, hands said stop, and as a result, she was disorganized coming up to the fence and was just doing her best not to crash. My fault, I keep telling myself, but I'm scared I'll do it again.

Someone came out to look at Tommy (Victoria's rescue, remember him?). I think the guy liked him the best of the two horses he tried out, but I'm not sure about the trainer he brought with him, but from what I saw, she was a really shitty rider herself. She couldn't get him to pick up his right lead. It was entirely her fault because she was using inside leg/inside rein and just leaving him totally free on the outside, giving him the opportunity - which he took at no fault of his own - to run out through his shoulder and pick up the left lead that he prefers. But she got frustrating and like, threw up her arms and started snatching on him. She just looked like she was giving random aids hoping something would work.

I went on a mini-adventure cooling Amber out...I rode back to her pasture to take a picture for you guys. It was being mowed when I rode up, hence the tractor, but isn't it pretty back there?

Kristen and Natalie with some of the ponies. Lance, the chestnut, who is Amber's long-lost boyfriend. And the black bay I'm not sure who that is. But he is CUTE.

Remember how Amber, for whatever reason, used to be SO tense walking outside the arena around the farm at Halcyon? It took me a couple of weeks to get her comfortable doing it? She was more than happy to walk all around Goldsboro today. Tractors, horses being ridden, chilly weather and all. Did not feel tense, did not care.

Lack of turnout was what was making her miserable. It was literally driving her crazy. She started walking to me in the pasture today, and I almost cried. She hasn't done that in MONTHS. You couldn't pay me to stall her again, save injury or inclement weather.

She is showing a little wear on her toes again, but I think it's mostly from all the walking and moving she does out in her pasture. The footing is so soft in the arena, it's not going to wear her toes, and I don't think she's dragging under saddle anyway, judging from her tracks - yes, I do inspect her tracks...

It looks more like an extreme mustang roll though. And she's due in 2 weeks.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Intact sheet!

I was super happy because not only did Amber keep her sheet in perfect condition, there was not a speck of mud on it. Good girl! Except I think it's a fluke. That sheet will die sometime this winter. Or more likely her blanket, since the sheet is probably only going to be appropriate for early fall, and in double with her blanket on super-duper cold nights. Oh well. But the sheet did keep her warm and dry! I had heard the Tough 1 blankets didn't do much for wet weather, but it rained pretty hard off and on today and if that blanket leaked, she would still be soaked under it.

I rode today, since I missed yesterday. I was riding like CRAP because my muscles are killing me, and she was kind of spacey today. Her trot was CRAP also because she keeps trying to break into canter. Whenever we introduce short canters to her workouts when she's been off, we go through a couple of rides where that's all she wants to do. Then she remembers that she gets to canter sooner and more often when she's giving me quality trot. She was pretty good both ways. Easy to rate. I stole like, 4 strides of gallop just for fun, and she was like ":D WEEEEE!". Transitions still need work. Being out of shape, they're ugly and she runs into them with flat ears and an upside down neck. Flat ears because I won't let her run out through her shoulder and she disagrees.

Not worried about it, because she's doing very well for having been off so long, and still being a little sore. I'm sure HER muscles are also sore from coming back into work. It was also chilly and she wasn't 100% interested in me.

Another thing to work on is her attention to other horses. Having been a trail horse, she tends to think that her job is to do what all the other horses are doing. So I have to be alert when we are the lone salmon swimming upstream, when we are passing a horse moving slower, or being passed by horses moving faster. I make a point to try to do something different than the horses around her. At the same time, I also try to add in work on traveling the same direction and speed as other horses, with her focus still on me and not trying to catch up or pass the horse in front.

She's a lot better than she used to be, for sure. The footing at Goldsboro is very soft, and the only reason I think she's comfortable enough for the mild work she's doing, which is critical right now - being in shape means she will have less aches and pains in the future because she will be able to carry herself correctly with ease. And also it burns off calories, and she needs to do so being on 24/7 turnout.

After the chiropractor makes some adjustments (appointment still pending, Casey is trying to figure out what boarders are going to sign on), I'm sure she will be a little happier about work, and I can increase the intensity of her work. Right now it's just not worrying about perfect form and perfect gaits as much as generally using her topline most of the time, paying attention, making transitions "acceptable", and just getting her doing SOMETHING that will build muscle. Being careful to be light on her back and not do further damage, but build the muscles up to help the soreness. Lack of muscle and uneven muscle on her back is A LOT of the problem here - kind of a catch 22. Don't want to be too hard on her back, but she needs that muscle to help her soreness.

She's got the next 2 days off, but I'm going to go out and take her sheet off in the AM. Already talked to Casey and Lizzy about her blanketing for the winter, and we all agreed it's not fair for Lizzy to have to go try to catch her in that huge pasture to do her blanketing every day. If there's no way I can be there, it's no problem, but I'll be doing it the majority of the time.

I noticed she's a lot quieter for saddling now. I'm starting to think that the Wintec might be the culprit behind the back soreness...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Time to drag out the sheets and blankets.

I intended to ride. But I ended up cleaning out my tack cubby (because I've been throwing stuff in randomly because I'm always in a rush to get back to work), and getting introduced to some of the horses that are new since I was last at Goldsboro by the barn help.

I went out to get her, and the wind was blowing right in my face...the horses didn't hear the grain I had with me. Fail. Epic fail. So I had to walk all the way to the very back to get her. My whole reason for bringing grain was so call her up to the front, not because she is hard to catch. Now, as I neared them, they noticed I had something, and it was every horse for themselves. Every time I would try to catch Amber, some horse would blindside her.

Okay, I'll play that game, fine. I sent them packing with her halter for enough time for me to get her halter on. I quickly fed her the grain and by then, we were being attacked again. Now I could use the bucket, and a couple of the horses got a good whack. Amber just kind of stood there, looking nervous. But she knows that I'm way scarier than any of her pasture mates. I swear she looks like she's laughing at them when they get smacked with the bucket and go running off. She knows if she just behaves, mom will beat up all the bullies for her.

But it was RAINING. By the time we got back up to the front, where all the other horses had now galloped, assuming they were going to get fed grain, we were soaked.

I decided against riding for two reasons - one it was raining cats and dogs, and two, her back seemed a little more touchy today. It seemed to be more muscle soreness than anything, which is understandable - she worked hard for her fitness level the past 2 days.

I dried her off, did some quick trimming on her mane that's growing out (my thinning razor died), and then I threw on her sheet and braided her tail. I WISH I had a tail bag. Definitely going to invest in one for the winter. Hopefully the braid will keep her tail from getting too messed up with the mud and rain.

She wasn't thrilled about going back out. The one time Amber would prefer to be in is when the weather is wet. She kind of stood at the gate staring at me like "Really? Please take me back in the barn." And then she realized that she wasn't getting wet, and she cantered off and stirred up the herd for a couple of minutes, then settled to graze. Now let's just hope she doesn't tear that cheap blanket to shreds. I don't THINK she's hard on blankets, but other horses I don't trust not to try ripping it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gettin' our canter on.

Amber was much the same as yesterday today. Still very lazy, and always hoping I'll let her be done, but hopefully that will change with fitness. At the end of the ride, I let her canter, because she was definitely wanting to the entire ride (but being very good and not trying to break into it as much as I expected, considering the results from previous rest periods). Transitions are kind of ugly, but given her non-existent fitness, I don't mind that - especially considering the canter I got was GORGEOUS. Slow, balanced, stretching down. I rode it in my half-seat to give her back some relief. It was lovely. We went once around, then the other way. The other way wasn't quite as nice, but was still nice. Casey told me we looked good, and that she can tell Amber's movement has improved since we've been gone - I can't wait to see what she has to say about Amber's movement after the chiropractor adjusts her. We're just poking around trying to condition her right now.

I know she can get really fancy when she gets serious. Right now it's a matter of, she's still a little sore (but clearly not as extreme as we thought), but she needs to get in shape badly, plus she's been off 2 months...and she forgot about working and she's kind of not all into it yet.

I'm actually pleasantly surprised that Casey notices a difference in her now compared to when we left. I was thinking we were somewhat the same with a little more learned about contact, but I guess when you see the horse and ride the horse frequently, you don't really see the big picture and the change. Even looking at pictures of her, even out of shape, her muscling has completely changed. She's not exactly homely anymore - remember when I first decided I was going to buy her, I blogged about how she wasn't very pretty, but she seemed to show talent? Honestly, even fat and out of shape, she's turned out to be a really beautiful horse. I'm always having people comment on what a pretty horse she is.

In other news. I found her expensive fly was a miracle I came across it. In that huge field, it just so happened I walked right up on it when I was walking out to catch Amber. What luck. Now I can put it back on so she can hide it better next time...

I just can't stop smiling. I love that horse so much. I am just so thrilled that two weeks ago, I was broken hearted, considering selling her as a broodmare, and now we are w/t/c again. Even if she isn't totally interested in it, she does put in 100% effort for me. She always lets me know when *I* stop paying attention as well, because as soon as I do, she's walking right for the gate, or the nearest person on foot in the arena to see if they have any tidbits for her. In truth, she is in denial right now and thinks she's still a pasture puff, but it's almost like she says "If you aren't going to pay attention to riding well, neither am I." I'm starting to see a lot of what I thought was reaction to pain was her learning how to get one over on me. I'm annoyed that I taught her bad behavior in being too cautious, but I can't really beat myself up, because we are back on track, and I was doing what I thought was best for her at the time.

Hmm...what a good lesson there. If the rider isn't giving 100%, why should the horse?

Looks like we've got a random cool down tomorrow and Saturday. 60s. Then going back to low 80s with a couple of low 90s in the next 2 weeks. October should have chilly enough nights that her sheet can go on. She has a thin winter coat, and I'm hoping if I start blanketing before the serious cold sets in, she won't be too furry...

She's already getting it in, just a few hairs here and there.

I'm going to try to do most of my own blanketing this winter, because I don't want to be a hassle to the new stable help, Lizzy. It's not exactly convenient to be blanketing and unblanketing with her pasturing situation, which I definitely want to keep the same. She loves it out there.

I actually don't mind the long walks to catch her when she's at the back either. It's good exercise, and I've been making an effort to eat better and exercise more as of late, so it's an opportunity for me to do some walking!

It's supposed to rain Saturday, so I'm going to ride tomorrow and let her have a break over the weekend, and ride Monday and Tuesday since it's going to rain Wednesday and Thursday according to the forecast. Sticking to my plan. Light 30 minute work-outs, mostly walk/trot with perhaps a couple of short canters.

Edit to add:

Oh, and by the way. I just found this tonight, bored and lurking on *** facebook. I was stupid to let anyone tell me my Quarter Horse couldn't go anywhere in dressage. I had forgot about this excellent ride we had the day I bought her.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Holy red mares, she's sound!

Yes, MY mare. Amber. I rode on one of my famous 2 hour breaks from work.

I started off walking. Scared to trot. Scared to check to see what level of pain she was at today. I've been kind of stressing over the "what ifs" when the chiropractor comes.

There was no fuss, but her ears were cocked back in a more or less annoyed way rather than her paying attention. I finally plucked up the courage to trot. There was little fuss. In seconds she was back to her old self. I put her on a loose rein. She felt wonderful, and Casey said she looked great, and was almost putting herself on the bit at times. She's super out of shape. Like, 10 minutes of trotting had her drenched.

So my plan is to walk/trot for the next 2 weeks with a lot of transitions, halts, circles and such. Next week maybe adding the odd ground pole here and there.

Then we will see where we are, and add canter, but doing pretty much the same otherwise. And just wash rinse repeat until she's in better condition.

I'm a little butthurt that my stirrup leathers need to have holes punched. Oh, god, why are my legs so stubby? The last hole is a perfect dressage length for me. Except I have no support in the close contact with that much stirrup length. So my legs feel awkward.

Somebody ACTUALLY sweated today! OMG! OMG!

I cannot possibly put into words how absolutely thrilled I am. Walking around in circles is not fun. Even though conditioning isn't exactly super exciting at first either, it's better than walking and walking and walking. And there is a goal in mind, other than just trying to get her doing something to work off some of the calories she's getting in the grass.

She's not really put on any weight, and I don't really see a grass belly either. It's been almost 2 weeks. Her hooves are also changing. Her soles have all exfoliated, and are no long pancake flat. Her frogs are starting to expand. Over the last 9 months, her feet have changed a lot and vastly improved. The hinds are more rounded, angles are better, and there is no weird "bluge" in the hoof - and no, that wasn't an abscess. That was just her hoof growing like this ( on the front. The fronts are mostly the same, except more round. The quality of her soles and frogs, even after the crap they were just two weeks ago, are much better.

I learned what "black sand" is today. Amber was covered in it. When I hosed her, it looked like freaking motor oil running off her. Gross. Casey said it seems to make their coats shiny (when brushed off, of course)...but ew. I would prefer my chestnut not covered in black spots.

Let's talk fake tails.

First, my apologies for the walls of text I've been writing. I didn't notice that blogger isn't inserting a paragraph break when I double space. Oops.

I've never used fake tails before. It's not exactly something that's done for dressage, and that's pretty much the extent of my showing. The show I went to with Gulliver, an open AQHA show (yes, I DID bring a Hanoverian to a QH show...we were sore thumbs, although a little girl was kind enough to say "I like your horse!"), I saw tons and I had never even seen it before that time.

I'm kind of 50/50 on the idea. Amber has a nice enough tail, I'd call it average - it looks a million times better than when I got her, and banging it has improved the look of it.

From this:

To this (super thick looking here):

To this (not as thick in appearance because the growth is thinner near the bottom and I've been mostly trimming the bottom trying to leave the length):

I was clipping the top of her tail. I've mentioned before about how I refuse to pull a tail because that's a completely different area of nerves than a mane (and I am even too lazy to deal with mane pulling). But I'm highly considering putting some MTG on it and letting it grow out over the winter. That way, if we decided to fool around with hunters for fun, we don't be a couple of sore thumbs and obvious cross-overs.

Right now it's at an awkward stage where it looks bushy and half grown out. Not that I need to make a choice right away, because it can look like that and be no consequence to us since we aren't showing immediately. But if I want decent growth over the winter I think I'm going to need to MTG it...

But I will deviate for a moment. I've been thinking about getting a fake tail for Amber for next spring. They are reasonably priced on ebay (but are all of these created equal?). I just don't want to have the ridiculous upside-down V shape tail. I want something a little more discreet that will still give her the big, full tail look.

Or as one of the teenagers at the barn put it, "That's what's winning!". Casey pointed out that it's not the tail, that's the type-y QH hunters that are winning that happen to have fake tails. Fake tails won't win you anything (well, with fair judges anyway), but let's face it - a full tail just looks nice.

Amber doesn't have the most glamorous hind end. That's where the majority of her conformational flaws are. A fuller tail would help to off set these flaws. But after some googling, I'm hesitant. It's like they're the joke of shows. It seems the ones that aren't hundreds of $$, which as far as I've seen are about equal, actually do look worse when braided in. On top of this, I'd need help learning how to put it in nicely...I don't know anyone who does the fake tail deal personally. I saw some that looked nice, and could have been real unless I'd known what I was looking at. How much those cost, I don't know. The MTG might thicken up her natural tail considerably if I bag it.

I just don't want to end up drawing bad attention to her hind end, or end up making her tail a distraction. That seems to be another issue with fake tails.

Monday, September 12, 2011


*LET ME ADD! I finally decided what I'm going to college for. Yay...better late than never right? My parents were starting to think I was going to be bumming around their house forever. I'm about to go for my career diploma as a vet assistant, and also get my associates as a vet tech. After that, I'm not 100% sure. Not sure if I'll go further and specialize in equines, or go forward at a small animal clinic. Either way, I feel better now that I finally decided and stopped bullshitting around.*

First, Amber. I apparently didn't mention in my last post that she developed a MASS of hives/bug bites on her face. Like, both sides COVERED in little itchy bumps. I put some Pro-Tect on it and whatever they were, they are gone. She also managed to lose two fly masks in the field. There goes $30. I'm thinking about getting on the trail wagon and possibly getting a can of gas to replace that I will use searching the field for the lost masks...I had JUST bought her a new one to replace the other one she lost, thinking a more expensive mask might stay on better, but it obviously did not.

I went ahead and got some Pyranha fly spray and she isn't allergic to it, and it seems to work well. The bugs are kind of rough after all the rain we got in the hurricane a couple of weeks ago.

I rode once (due to lack of time) and we mostly walked. She has some funny moments, but was for the most part fine with it. I think she's over her attitude spell, which was really gross overreaction to her pain. My fault for jumping off, treating her like a piece of glass. Like I've said - it's not even me being afraid of any tantrum she'll throw, because you guys know I'll get in her face about things if it's nothing but attitude, but I'm so hesitant to force her to work when I know she's sore. But at the same time, she needs exercise because of her 24/7 turnout. So walking around for 20-30 minutes is necessary. I let her have a loose rein, although I do need to keep some contact in the outside rein because she's quite wiggly now after time off, plus I try to keep a very light, inactive seat on her to bring comfort to her back. We trotted a few strides. She wasn't really happy about it, but she had a better attitude than last time. I can just feel the unevenness and the choppy strides on the hind end.

The chiropractor's office assistant called today, and I told her I'd have Casey call her to schedule since she has the majority of the horses and I have a pretty flexible schedule. All my mornings are free, and it seems to be the plan to make it a whole day with Dr. Ward at the barn.

Something funny though - I was giving princess mare a bath, and I was scraping her off, and something upset her and she set back for a minute. I think I might have accidentally popped her udder with the scraper and startled her, because she quieted down pretty quick when I grabbed her halter and started talking to her, and invisible horse-eating monsters excluded, there was nothing going on around us that would have spooked her. But the funny thing is, she managed to get her lead stuck in the hole on the tying post where the top is bolted to the posts...I can't understand how she managed to slide it like it was, but it took me like, 5 minutes to get it out.

She's super happy though. She's even back to her old habit of mutual grooming. I too get groomed while I groom her. It gets a little awkward when she's snuffling her lip all over my butt when I'm picking out her hooves though...someone was like "Your horse is trying to bite your butt!". No...she's just being herself. What a thoughtful horse to cover me in green grass slobber while I painstakingly scrub the mud off her. Eternally grateful!

Now, some bad news.

Casey got a new TB to the barn...a PRETTY 4 y/o bay mare. She was supposed to go out with Amber's group. Unfortunately, she isn't quite as dominate as Amber and got scared through a fence. Tore up her legs on the right side. :(

Apparently Amber was watched from a distance looking confused. Amber is the type that's not antisocial, but isn't really "into" the herd situation. She'll stick with the herd during the day, and she makes it known that she IS dominate, but she doesn't really go around making her status known unless she's threatened, and she doesn't really get interested in new horses unless they get in her space. I felt a little better knowing my beast wasn't one of the ones who ran this poor mare through the fence.

Casey was at a show, and all her kids got Champion, so at least she had something good that day.

The vet stitched her up and wrapped her legs, and it looks like she will make a full recovery. I doubt she'll be going out back again though. I heard Zeus is moving to West Virginia though...I have a feeling that he's going to need to be put out with a monster of a horse that will kick his butt, otherwise, he might just be in isolated turnout. He is pretty aggressive. And then he turns into annoying little tag-along when he gets his butt kicked by a horse like Amber. He's always near her now and she doesn't want anything to do with him.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And once again, I am correct.

Again today it was proven that the opinions I felt in my heart, and stupidly ignored assuming that my experience was inferior to someone else's, were right.

I had a two hour break from work, and since the barn is literally a couple of minutes down the road, I went to visit the princess.

She was, much to my delight, standing near the gate. She actually came over to me, although the lovely Zeus got in her way. I can tell she's much, much happier already. She doesn't seem nearly as agitated as she was at Halcyon, just a few days ago.

She looks fatter to me, though it's probably just my imagination - she was already a porker.

I tacked her up, and she walked around perfectly sound. We trotted a couple of times around, with some irritation coming from her. It made me feel uncomfortable, and it's not really any fear of being bucked off any more like I used to have, but I think I'm just to cautious of pushing her when she's clearly unhappy.

Casey got on, and Amber actually gave a small buck when she tried to collect her. Casey thinks it's attitude from being at Avalon/Halcyon, but Amber's ugly manners under saddle didn't start until the mystery lameness got so bad. She had a few moments of attitude when she was being stubborn, but was quickly checked on it. Never moved away from the mounting block like she's been. I think the majority of her attitude is from pain (and I will tell you what we found in a moment), but a lot is the fact that I've fed into her that she can fuss and I'll jump off, because I was so scared of further breaking her - not necessarily of her temper tantrums. And the fact that she's been a pasture puff for about 2 months now. She's gotten lazy. With fitness and relief of pain, I don't think it will be hard to cure...I had gotten her to a point where she was pretty motivated.

Anywho, she started to get agitated when we tried to collect her. This had been a subconscious observation of mine for a while, but I never really thought about it, nor put two and two together. Remember how I used to be almost positive it was back and/or hip pain? Her objecting to collection and her stiffness through her neck and back make ALL the sense in the world to point to that. We used a sweat scraper to run down her back on either side of her spine, and we found three significant points. Hips and one place on the right side of her back. No freaking wonder she has been so unwilling and annoyed.

I'm in the process of finding a good chiropractor to come see her - as I SHOULD have done from the beginning, which was my original plan, but I listened to BS. I do think she DID have a hock issue, but quite honestly I think it was very minor, and while it may be an issue in later on, I don't think it's going to cause her to break down, and I don't think it will limit her within reason. But I think it was a separate issue entirely, possibly due to her compensating for the issues in the back and hips.

Casey doesn't think much of Amber being a dressage horse still, although I still think once the back issues get solved, she's as good a candidate as any. Will I compete? Maybe. My love for dressage isn't necessarily tied up in competition training will come from it at the core, regardless of what anyone else says. But I've well learned my lesson on entirely following anyone's doctrine, as much as I respect and agree with Casey on many things.

More than likely I'll end up doing a lot of local hunter/jumper shows, probably some trail riding, and lots of dressage at home to further BOTH of those. I think I've been too caught up in "what discipline can we go out and compete and and totally blow them out of the water with our QH awesomeness" Amber is pretty humble, although she can get fancy when she's working well. I think the happiness of both of us will increase if I accept the fact that SHE would enjoy the laid back life of doing less serious shows. That's just her. And admit to myself that I have a nice, albeit simple, QH mare that, while capable of excelling at bigger shows, would probably be happier just having fun, without too much pressure. And in reality, I'd probably rather do that too. I would prefer the lesser pressure. Because when I'm in the mindset of "we have to go out and win EVERYTHING", that's losing sight of what the real goals should be. And it's just not fun. Because I become overly critical of her work under saddle, and try to jump to things before I've even really got her mastering simpler things. Feeling that she's going to waste if she doesn't to THIS, or she's ruined if she doesn't do THIS right away.

When I got her in December, I got carried away with her being "my" horse, and finally, I could see to the future of the animal I loved as I saw fit - and ended up trying to set her up for a future that she never even wanted. It's not a matter of if she can, it's if she WANTS to. I think I've been so uptight about everything in the last 8 months, that I've just made her bitter about being ridden.

The goal for now is to get her fixed and get her back in shape, and restore her view of being ridden as a pleasant thing, rather than stress factor in her life. She's beautiful to me, and I love her more than anything. That's what counts. If she doesn't end up being the picture I originally had in my head, I STILL think of her the same.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Since there is nothing else new...

I had planned to lunge Amber today, possibly ride if she was looking good, but alas a rather fearsome storm blew in...apparently, hurricane Lee, which, isn't even showing up on my hurricane radar, and the other day it was a tropical storm that was going to miss us. Right. Whatever.

It's been pouring off and on all day. I was like screw it.

It's supposed to be clear tomorrow late morning, so I'm going to do today's plans tomorrow, if the forecast is true.

So...since I can't tell you anything new on Amber, I can tell you about the annual Christmas List. Why, yes, I have already began...

It makes me feel like a spoiled teenager, but my logic is this: Every year, my mother and father have faithfully gone out of their way to give me about a million gifts. At a point, after I got back into riding after I got over my fears, it kind of became like...why don't I pick out some horsey things that I need/want, and probably will need over the next year, and even though it won't have the same "surprise" effect, let that be my gift...because it's very practical and useful. Not that I wouldn't appreciate a surprise gift that I hadn't needed/asked for. But it makes more sense.

And I start making my list months in advance, so that it's absolutely perfect by the time it needs to be ordered. Today, I'm going to go ahead and run my mouth about all this junk I'm drooling over...and much of it, things I actually need.

The "need" list -

1. Breeches. I've lost weight, intend to continue losing weight, and I only have one pair of breeches that actually fit anyway because I apparently perceive myself to be larger than I am anyway. I have two pair that look like sweat pants on me. Will probably still use them for schooling, but it's time to have a new pair of "favorites".

These for schooling, in fawn...because I LOVE fawn/taupe breeches.

On Course Schoolers

And for shows, these in light tan.

Tuff Rider Breeches

2. Clippers! My trimmers are great, but I discovered they don't do bridle paths so well. I do really like them for ears and eyes, because they're tiny and quiet, but her feathers and bridle path will need something a little more heavy duty. I just can't spend a fortune. This seems to fit the package. I mean, I just hate having to beg to borrow everyone else's clippers when I need to do something more than muzzle/eyes/ears.

Andi's Clippers

3. Ten, yes TEN, thinning razors. This things are my best friends. I think I already posted about them before. Amber looks like she has a pulled mane, and it took me all of 10 minutes. I'm getting ten, not because they wear out that fast, but because Casey said she may be appointing me to cheater-pull everyone's manes after she noticed Amber's. Happily...happily...

Razor Thinning Combs

4. Shedding blade. Because I'm so tired of borrowing one every spring...I need to get my own, for real.

Shedding Blade

5. Hair nets for shows, because My hair is pretty wild...although since it's half red, half black right now, I wasn't sure what color to order. I guess I have enough hair I can put the red in one net on the left, and the black in a black net on the right.

Hair Nets

6. EZ Wrap boots. I've heard mixed reviews on this, and after reading a few, I came to the conclusion that these got great reviews mostly from dressage riders and hunter/jumpers. The worst of the reviews came from reiners/cutters, and that's some pretty intense stuff, so I can only but understand that the boots might have not worked so well under such stress. Definitely want these though...been thinking about getting something that offered a little more support than my polos for a while.

Classic Equine EZ Wrap II Boot

7. New helmet. It's going to be time next summer, I may as well get it now. I could have gotten another 1-2 years out of the old purple Troxel, but let us not forget that Jack and I took a spill while I was wearing it: Eating Dirt No cracks, but there could be some small ones that I can't see that are on the inside of the foam.

I think I've kind of outgrown my need to have EVERY piece of equipment/clothing in purple...and let's face it, what could make my head look even more huge than bright purple? (I have a HUGE head, not even counting my hair...23", what is THAT, nature?!)

IRH Helmet

8. Wonder dust for my mini first aid kit. I *completely* forgot about this junk until the other night...Amber's almost out of her wound spray, and I found this while looking for some. Aside from a puff of white on your horse, this stuff is wonderful for nips and cuts. I suspect she will have a few boo-boos being on 24/7 turnout now, and being the opinionated mare she is.

Wonder Dust

And just in case we need a little extra power/something to moisten the area with...

Wound Kote

9. Fly spray. Almost out of Bronco...and about to try a new brand next year. I'm a little concerned, because it sounds like some pretty harsh chemicals...some reviews claimed their horses had reactions, so definitely going to do a test patch before I coat her down, but if she isn't allergic, sounds like good fly protection for her next summer. She will undoubtedly be swarmed upon without any in her field. Don't really relish the fact that I'll be coating her in such intense chemicals, but it seems to only be an issue when the horse is allergic.

Pyranha Fly Spray

And this fly mask, because her old one is a piece of copper leopard, by the way. Isn't that going to be SEXY on a chestnut?

Farnam SuperMask II Shimmer

The "want" list:

Treats, of course - a good source of motivation, if nothing healthy about them.

Band cutter.

Quic Color Shampoo - I'm sure I'll be pink, but Amber will be gleamingly red.

Crochet ear net in navy - super cute with her little group of navy gear!

A nice, classic mini-quilt pad in white with navy trim.

A blue short-sleeve show shirt.

A gold plated stock pin with a horse shoe. So cute!

More breathable purple pad for summer.

Purple I can feed my love of purple while still being sensible. Besides, the chain swinging around the bottom bugs the snot out of her, even though she still works well. To note I only bought it with a chain in the first place because it was $5 CHEAPER. Go figure. It's annoying, anyway, and she doesn't need a chain.

And these adorable socks:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I need to ride a horse to get to my horse.

Seriously. Boyfriend was putting up some hooks for me in my tack cubby, so I decided I'd go rattle some grain and call up Amber so I could fly spray her and put some ointment on her little nips. Except I didn't see Amber, or her "herd", only the three horses who live in an adjacent, smaller pasture. I rattled the grain. The neighboring horses perked their ears, but none of Amber's group was to be seen. I sighed and started to the back on foot. There is a small piece of the pasture that wraps around behind a group of trees - which was, of course, where the group chose to graze today. This really is a huge field - it's magnitude is even greater than I realized. I didn't even see them until I had walked almost all the way back. I didn't want to rattle the grain now that I was in the middle of the field, because, well, I'd walked this far, and I didn't want to catch her in the middle of the field with the rest of the horses trying to get the grain. Yep, they were in that little back pocket. I was wishing I'd taken the trail wagon about that time...but for some reason, I was thinking my grain would be heard by the gate, and it was not. She was pretty uninterested in me at first. Probably thought I was there to take her in. Food always gets her attention though - of course, I got her halter on first. Some of the others were also interested in the treats, but I make a point when I feed any treats in a pasture when I'm actually in the pasture holding a horse, not to feed any horse but the one I have haltered, and quickly pop the lead at any others interested. A 10 y/o girl or a natural horsemanship guru would probably think I'm super mean, but to me that rule has been a matter of safety. Once you start feeding, it's harder to get them out of your space, and out of your horse's space, who may receive some threats/attacks. Fortunately, Amber learned long ago when she knocked me down to avoid the pasture bully that I am MUCH scarier than the meanest horse in her pasture, and if she behaves, I can deal with the pasture bully for her. I gave her a heavy coating of fly spray and sprayed her bites. The one I thought was the worst is actually mostly hair gone, not any abrasions to the skin. Hopefully the hair will grow back. Going to put some of that sheen oil on it that seems to promote hair growth...the one on her neck is a little deeper, but it's smaller, and should heal pretty fast. She followed me all the way back to the gate, head in the bucket, licking crumbs. I took her out of the gate and put her back in, since she was up there, because she has had a bad habit of bolting through gates when she's in a new place, and I was fairly sure I stopped that anyway last time...but she seems to recognize Goldsboro. I told Casey she knows she's finally back home. I took her halter off and reached out to pet her after I let her back in, and she shied away, like she was expecting me to smack her or something. She ended up with her rear end towards me, although like a time a while back, it's mostly her not paying attention, and she had moved well away from me and was looking at something in the distance anyway, so I didn't take it was a threat and didn't see fit to reprimand her for it when it wasn't directed at me and she wasn't near me, nor in a halter and lead. I gave her a pat and she lost interest in whatever she was ogling at, and waddled off to graze. I can tell she's still a little suspicious that I might take her in and not let her back out...but she's got enough manners to let me catch her, thankfully. I'm not sure how she'd feel about being lead by the trail wagon, but it might be time she learned if she's going to live out there...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

She's freeeee!

We had an uneventful trailering last night. She loaded right up, hopped right off, no fuss. When we were waiting, she did have a HUGE meltdown while tied up. Seemed to happen when I walked out of her sight. Have NO clue what that was all about...I moved her to a different spot and she chilled out. Go figure. She stayed in a stall last night, and this morning I turned her out into her new home. She was definitely excited as soon as she saw the horses in the distance and the huge field. She stood there, somewhat impatient, but trying to be a good girl, while I opened the gate. Halter went off and she flagged her tail and trotted off. I realized this could get pretty interesting, considering I think she's in heat. It's hard to tell with her, because her heat cycles are never really apparent except in her conduct with other horses. Definitely wanted to stay to make sure nobody went through any fences. At first the horses didn't pay any notice, but soon realized it was a new horse, and came galloping over. They all galloped around for a minute, and Amber, as always, ate the dirt early on in the chase, but thankfully jumped up no worse for the wear. What is it with her and falling down, scaring the crap out of me? It didn't take long for the other horses to get over it, but one horse, Zeus, who was also at Avalon incidentally, would NOT leave her alone. He kept biting and chasing her for like, 5-10 minutes. She nailed him a couple of times and they eventually settled down and wandered off alone to graze. Amber got a pretty nasty bite on her neck and back. I went to get the wound ointment, but by the time I got back she was a good distance out and I didn't really feel inspired to chase her down, nor did I feel it appropriate to get any grain because I'm pretty sure I'd get trampled in a fight adding grain in a situation where there is a brand new horse in the group, freshly turned out. I'll be out tomorrow to fix my tack cubby up with some hooks, so I can clean them up a bit tomorrow. I was a little concerned, because she was doing some sliding stops and actually ran into the gate, although not full force, at once point. She kept running back to the gate, and she AND Zeus were quivering they had run so hard - which was mainly what worried me. That's her thing when she's afraid of a pasture bully - runs to the gate if she sees a human there, because she thinks they will remove her from the scary situation. But she needed to work it out on her own and find her place in the herd. She's going to be dead tired tonight after her gallop. Kind of annoyed that she's probably going to have two huge bald places for a while, but it's to be expected when introducing a horse to a new group. Especially in a huge field where there's an even bigger "herd mentality" going on. Probably needs a bath, but to what avail? She's just going to be a mudball soon as she goes back out. I really hope she kicks Zeus' butt a few times though, when there isn't a human to run to. She gets way too stressed out and dependent on me when she's in a situation with a pasture bully. Funny, because Zeus was lower on the totem pole at Andrea's. Remember this post? That was Zeus who she was charging at, because I later found out Victoria was leading Zeus in the barn. I'm sure everyone will chill though. She's been kind of strung out as of late. Obviously from lack of exercise and turnout. Monday she's getting lunged, and that's that. Her girth came. It is the cheapest thing I've ever seen, and it's NOT the color that was in the picture...but I'm far too lazy to return it. Isn't that terrible?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Busy busy!

Tomorrow I have sooo much to do. I didn't get my equipment moved today, so I have to go out a couple of hours before Casey comes to pick us up and start emptying my cubby. I'm planning on borrowing the hay cart so I can just load it all on there instead of carrying it out piece by piece, since I don't have my tack box anymore...we are using that for the dogfood now. Since I have the opportunity while I'm cleaning out my cubby anyway, I'm planning on washing my brushes/buckets, and anything else looking less than clean...which actually includes the horse. So she's going to get a bath and chill in her stall, little will she know for the last time she'll have to be stalled for a long time. If I can remember to pick up batteries for the clippers, I'm going to to to trim her a little better than last time. I need to get her coggins and stuff from Lisa or Bob, and possibly my $25 if Bob hasn't done her feet yet...because...well...I paid him two weeks ago and they still haven't been done. Probably won't wash my pads. Too much trouble, and they aren't even dirty really. I'm a little scared to pull her winter blankets out of the top shelf, because there are some monstrous spiders living up there I know...I'm not very fond of spiders... Not looking forward to getting her spare halters out from the bottom box either (which is where I have thrown all the crap I don't use), because it's got a city of spiders in it too... I might also be going with everyone to the Johnston County show on Saturday, just to hang out. Victoria said something about Casey saying I should go to the one next month...I'd have to borrow a horse if I actually ride in the show, because I Amber is jusssst not going to be ready, although she might be good to just go to hang out. I'm pretty excited to see how she reacts to her huge pasture. I'm mostly excited to see the mood change I'm sure she will have when she realizes that she always gets to go back out in the field no matter what (save extremely bad weather that doesn't involve tornadoes and wind). We are supposed to get this hurricane over the weekend...I plan on tagging her leather halter and leaving her out. She stayed in during Irene, although at first I was against it, I changed my mind because it IS a pretty study barn, and all the other horses were going to be in and I wasn't sure I wanted her outside alone in the storm. And fortunately the barn was undamaged except for the ceiling of the upstairs porch. I wouldn't take such a risk again, in hindsight. Brighter days ahead. She's also going to need something more than grass and hay over the winter, and I'm going to look into grain alternatives. Last winter she got that oat/corn/barley mixture at Andreas, and I really liked it. Very simple, foragey type stuff.