Monday 24 December 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all from Kachina and I!

I am off out of town to the in-laws for a few days but when I return I have some year end updates plus a recap of our fun barn Christmas party last night (alcohol and horse swapping were involved)!

I really need to take some new Christmas photos

Thursday 20 December 2018

Back on Track in More Ways than One

Sorry for the very scattered posts as of late. I got burnt out on dressage for a bit there and my blog went downhill accordingly, but I'm happy to say that I'm back!

To summarize, things in my riding world were at an awesome high in August. I finally succeeded in competing in the Cochrane Dressage Show on Aug 4-5 which went well, both in terms of ribbons and breakthroughs in the contact (some of which didn't quite make it to the competition ring). On August 24-26 I participated in a 3-day Equestrian Canada Dressage Judging Clinic which was intense but educational and inspiring. While I was in Calgary for the judging clinic I had a lesson with a local judge on her horse where I learned that my contact and position had improved and I also finally figured out what a successful stretchy trot felt like (both judging clinic and lesson briefly summarized here). On August 28 I had a fantastic lesson with Elaine where we worked on more direct influence of the front legs with the reins. It was an entirely new concept for me but had fantastic results and we reached a new level of quality in our canter and canter transitions as well as walk/trot (no link, never fully posted about this lesson).

After that things went downhill. It started innocently enough with a so-so lesson with Elaine on August 30th. I was being told quite different things from the lesson two days prior and it was leading to some resistance and confusion, but nothing terrible. In early September some drama at work also escalated and I got close to giving up on Kachina's groundwork issues, both of which made my non-riding life suck. On September 15 I participated in a sidesaddle clinic which was supposed to be fun but being on a strange horse in a strange saddle made me more tentative as a rider and that was a bit of a struggle (it was still a cool experience though). On September 16 I had another lesson with Elaine and this one seemed to completely destroy our ability to trot (a few weeks later I finally got video of the broken trot and the off feel is more to do with the tension in her back than her actually going lateral). We struggled off and on with the broken trot for a few weeks after that. On Oct 13-14 I rode with a new clinician A. I never finished posting about this clinic and I am not going to now, but while we did some good exercises (including introducing walk-canter transitions), he also told me that I wasn't a "real rider" because I looked down to check my posting diagonal, and he told me that I "am going to cripple that horse" because Kachina was at the end of her trim cycle and her feet were a little on the long side (they really weren't that long, she was perfectly sound, the farrier was booked for a trim literally the next day and there were some extenuating circumstances that had pushed the trim date back a little but he didn't want to hear any of that and kept criticizing me over and over and over and over). I left that clinic feeling very angry and discouraged. In general I probably could have brushed off any of those experiences individually but combined one after another it made me pissed off and sapped me of any motivation to work on dressage. It didn't help that my bank account was hurting after paying for these ultimately bad experiences and I didn't like how negative my blog posts were becoming (hence why some never got finished).

This downhill trend on the dressage front coincided with my foray into jumping lessons. I don't think the two were connected, the timing just happened to line up. I was grateful for my weekly jump lessons to keep me coming out to the barn and riding. I always need a little extra motivation when winter first rolls in but this year I needed extra motivation even more. The jumping lessons were just what I needed, positive experiences where I focused on letting Kachina move forward to obstacles instead of micromanaging every step. The focus on forward and less contact also helped us work through the broken trot issues. The combination of issues at my job and our new dog meant that there were some weeks where my only ride was my weekly jump lesson. I know that my love for dressage runs deep so I kept working on the jumping side knowing that my motivation for dressage would come back when I was ready.

Last weekend it happened. I had to cancel my jump lesson on Friday but on the weekend I came out to the barn and I was SO EXCITED to work on flat work. My jump lessons have been fun but I got to the point that I really wanted to get the instructor and jumps out of the way so I could better focus on improving the quality of our movement without any interruptions or distractions (a jump is just a distraction from flat work ;-) ). I had the arena to myself and worked on feeling the connection through my elbows instead of my wrists, staying centered in the saddle, using inside leg and outside rein to work on shoulder-fore/shoulder-in so that I could get inside bend without pulling on my inside rein, I worked on straightness at the canter (her haunches wanted to fall in) and stretchy trot. All in all it was a GREAT ride! I have a post in the works about how jumping has helped my riding and I'm going to keep up my lessons (though slightly less often) but I'm so happy to have my heart and mind back where they belong in dressage-land =)

Whether it was for a few days, a few years or anything in between, have you ever needed a break from your discipline to recharge?

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Update on Colic Surgery

To clarify, Kachina is fine, this is an update on J, the fellow boarder's horse who I drove all night to help bring for colic surgery.

J is doing great! She is home from the vet and currently on stall rest. Her owners are keeping to the vet's strict instructions for feeding, hand walking and monitoring bowel movements. She seems bright but content and it was great seeing her eat her hay with gusto when I went to see her this weekend.

J at home

Incision site, staples to come out soon

I'm so glad things are going well! =)

Friday 14 December 2018

Peace & Carrots Visit from Forever Ago

Continuing my overdue posts from this summer/fall...

I had some fun adventures between my rides at the Cochrane Dressage Show. One was my cross country trail ride that I already wrote about in my main post, the other was a blogger visit!

On Saturday KateRose from Peace & Carrots picked me up from the show between two of my classes and we went to visit her horses! I've met Kate a couple times now, but this was the first time I got to officially meet Apollo, Henry, and Mystic!

The barn she boards at wasn't too far from the show grounds but it was an area I hadn't been to before. I love driving through some of the horse pockets surrounding Calgary and passing different facilities. Once we got to her barn I insisted she give me the grand tour because I'm snoopy like that and love seeing other stable set ups. I think it's always hard to get a proper feel for a place from limited blog photos so it was cool to get the complete picture. It was a nice and also quiet facility.

All of Kate's horses were out in the big pasture that had a very diverse herd of horses in it. There was plenty of room for everyone but it surprised me that they didn't really act like a cohesive herd and had different groupings of horses scattered around, some playing, some grazing, some just chilling by themselves. I've heard that Apollo can be hard to catch but he belied that by walking right up to us. Apollo is a big dude! He's not all that tall but just every part of him is big from his head to his neck to his feet. He definitely looks like more than 1/4 draft. I led him while Kate rounded up Mystic and Henry and he walked very politely beside me. While I knew Apollo was the big guy, Mystic and Henry were surprisingly tall to me. Kate is so tall that any of the photos of her with her horses makes them seem to shrink in comparison. All 3 horses seemed friendly and well mannered, though Mystic did not love being so close to Henry and had mare feelings.

Hanging out in the pasture

I only had about an hour and a half that I could be gone from the show grounds before I had to get back to prep for my next ride. The limited time plus the fact that Kate had already ridden all 3 horses earlier in the morning (what an overachiever ;-) ), meant that we didn't really do a lot with them, just brought them in, said hi, and let them graze.

Horses snacking while we snacked

Because of the schedule, Kate kindly offered to bring snacks so I could eat while we visited. Offering me snacks is a generous offer to start, especially because my celiac disease makes finding options a pain, but Kate went all out and provided a feast! She brought homemade bean and avocado salad, a bag of tortilla chips, a huge bag of fresh cut veggies, and even canned mimosas! It was the best horse show lunch I have ever had, thanks Kate!

Next visit I will definitely have to see her ride!

Thursday 13 December 2018

Cochrane Dressage Show 2018

Now that I have some recent updates out of the way, time to go back in the vault and post about some very old stuff that has been sitting in draft mode for far too long.

Last weekend I competed at the Cochrane Dressage Show. (okay, it was Aug 4-5, I wrote most of this post soon after the show but then failed at publishing it until now, at first I was waiting for the pro pics but the prices were high and I couldn't justify buying them so sorry for the lack of media)

Just being there with Kachina was a huge win for me. I have been trying to ride at this show for 5 years and it has become my white whale! (Quick summary: 2014 - First year I learned about show but was horseless, 2015 - entered but Kachina came up lame a week before and I had to vet out, 2016 - was having saddle issues, 2017 - show wasn't held due to one organizer leaving). It is a well run show, a Bronze rated show but a nice friendly environment, and it takes place at the most beautiful facility where the arenas are cut into the side of a hill with fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains.

It's only been two weeks since our last show but in that time I have been working on the contact and connection so I really wanted to get some updated feedback, especially from this judge who I know and respect. I entered 2 training level tests and 1 first level test each of two days for a total of 6 tests. In some ways it was nice that I was already out of the running for year end awards, I was able to just focus on riding the best I could but wasn't overly concerned with scores.

I hauled up Friday night after work but got there late enough that Kachina just went right into her stall for the night when we arrived.

Kitted out for the night in her brand new Hansbo Sport Sweat Rug
(I wanted to see if the magnetic/ceramic mumbo jumbo would help her and we
needed a new dress sheet anyway since she grew out of my beloved wool one)


Lunging was allowed only before 8am so I took her out in the morning for one more quick lesson with the side reins. We only worked for 10-15 minutes total but I think the side reins really are helping her to figure out this new contact. I then brought her back to her stall to groom and braid.

The mountains peaked out from the clouds a bit Saturday night, view from the show grounds

I started my warm-up about half an hour before my first test and planned to stay on her for both morning tests as they were only about half an hour apart. My warm-up went pretty well, she was being her usual self at walk and trot, but apparently we lost our canter transitions overnight because the first few I did were pretty terrible. We did some practice but I knew drilling it too much would make her more tense so we got a bit of good work and went down to the ring for Training Level Test 1.

Training Level Test 1
2nd/2 AA

Our first test was disappointing to me. I could feel that I got tense in the show ring and didn't ride my best. Kachina always responds to my tension but the blame was squarely on me for this test. I generally do 3-4 tests a day so the first one can be a throwaway. It used to be Kachina who needed a test to get the hang of the show environment but she seems seasoned enough now, instead it is me who needs to figure out how to keep things together in front of a judge. It wasn't a bad test, but just not what we were capable of. Really it is a testament to how far we've come that we can achieve a 60.0% at training level when we aren't at our best.

We did a little focused work between tests but mainly I just got myself into the game before our next test.

Training Level Test 2
3rd/4 AA

I was actually pretty happy with how this test rode and was surprised that it scored lower than my first test of the day. In looking at the scores the big thing that dragged us down is that no matter how good the stretchy trot circle feels to me, it doesn't look that good in the judge's eyes. Of course there is no stretch trot in training 1 so that one low mark makes the difference. For my first two tests I focused on the forward and activity because of the feedback from my last show, but this judge really wanted the relaxation so I dialed the energy back a bit for my subsequent tests and that seemed to help my scores.

Over the lunch break I had a fun adventure with KateRose and her horses while Kachina chilled in her stall. In my second warmup I focused more on First Level movements like the lengthen and leg yield.

First Level Test 1
4th/6 AA

58.7% is definitely not a 'good' score but I was okay with it. We are still green to First Level and for trying it out for only the second time, plus being a rated show, my expectations weren't too high. Also I was happy to see that at least I wasn't last in the class.


Sunday morning was more relaxed and I had plenty of time to get ready. On Sunday my First Level test was before Training Level which was not ideal. However my warm up went really really well. In fact I put in my best First Level test pattern of the year in the warm up arena! Unfortunately we peaked to soon and some tension creeped back in the competition ring (I think it actually had everything to do with how I was riding and nothing to do with the length of my warm up). I still need to figure out my mental game better when in front of a judge.

First Level Test 2

Having just over an hour between tests is the worst case scenario for me. Since Kachina can be a little cold backed I don't like to take her saddle off between tests unless there's at least a couple hours, but it was warm and she really didn't need an hour of schooling. Instead, as soon as my first test finished I turned Kachina up the trail that led to the cross country field for a low key hack. I had been meaning to explore the other parts of the facility so this was a good opportunity. The trail had some fairly steep sections but it had nice footing. We wound around the hillside facility and first passed by the indoor arena (which is tucked in a hollow and almost invisible until you reach it), then kept climbing to the cross country course at the top of the hill. A cross country clinic was going on so we kept a respectful distance away but it was fun to hack around. I've never actually seen a cross country course in person before (they are few and far between in my area) so it was cool to see the set up and how the footing was maintained. We utilized a straight bit of galloping track to do some trot sets where I focused on keeping Kachina straight and between my aids. We then started the walk back down. It turned out to be a great way to spend the time between our tests and it set me up well for my next class. I just wish I had had my phone to snap some photos.

I am standing near the start of the trail in this photo
Competition ring lower left, warmup to right, cross country course behind and above me

Training Level Test 1
1st/2 AA

Mentally I was in the best place for this test. It was my easiest test and I was relaxed and feeling good from my trail ride. I went in and rode my best and it showed. The judge commented about what a positive change it was from the day before and I was really happy.

After this test I stripped tack and let Kachina chill in her stall for a while. We were both pretty tired by this point and the weekend had gone well so I only did a short warm up for my final test.

Training Level Test 3
1st/1 AA

Our last test wasn't much to write about. It felt solid, but not as good as our Training Test 1. I think the fact that we were both tired meant I didn't push Kachina for much. It still felt pretty good though.

I was really happy with my ribbons but wasn't expecting anything more. The scores weren't posted but the rider in the stall next to me had been figuring out the placings all weekend and figured she knew who Champ and Reserve were going to be in our division (which didn't include me). I really didn't mind much so I started packing up the trailer. I stopped long enough to go out and cheer when they announced the winner and was told that I had to go get my horse! I had to quickly throw on my show coat and Kachina's bridle to reappear for the award ceremony. It turns out that I got Training Level Champion! They ended up calculating the winner by highest score instead of highest average so that is part of why it was a surprise. Some of my scores were low but 64.35% was apparently the highest score in the division all weekend so I'll take it! Sadly there was no giant ribbon but there was an embroidered saddle cover. I love having something that says "Champion" on it =D. Of course Kachina wanted no part of the picture taking after being rushed from her stall but we got it done.   

My ribbon haul and saddle cover

Champion photo, my pride is evident
PC: BM Images - free image used with permission

Training Level Champ and Reserve
PC: BM Images

After note: This show was a super proud moment for me and part of me is holding onto that feeling. However, looking back now more critically, including looking at the photo proofs shows me everything we were doing wrong that I have since learned to do better. Most of this post was written shortly after the show but I know that we can and will do even better next time.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Introducing Aegir, the Canine Companion

This is only horse related as far as it is one of the reasons that I have been riding and blogging less recently. On November 4th my husband and I adopted a dog from the local SPCA.

Sunset photo when we took him for a walk before adopting him

His first day home, he relaxed and lay down immediately

Neither of us are "dog people" or "cat people", we are "all animal people". We started with 2 cats because they are easier and suited our apartment life at the time, but the plan was always to get a dog as well as soon as we were in the right situation. The right situation took a while to develop: first we had to get the house + yard (2015), then we had to re-fence the yard (September 2018), then we had to find the right dog. We weren't picky on breed or age but we wanted a medium to large size dog. While both of us have been around dogs, neither of us have owned one before so we knew we simply weren't capable of taking on a young puppy or a dog with serious behavioral issues or very high exercise requirements. We also needed one that would be okay with our cats and potential future children. We wanted to adopt from a rescue rather than a breeder but unfortunately our basic requirements eliminated many of the available dogs.

Drinking his mug of beer (SO bought him the toy)

After a couple months of looking, we found the one:

Aegir is a 5 year old Newfoundland cross. (We don't know what he is crossed with but suspect golden retriever given the shape of his head). He was surrendered by his previous owners and had a torn CCL that required major surgery and rehab, that was complicated by hip arthritis and his massive size (110 lbs). The local SPCA and vet clinic did an amazing job giving him the care he needed before putting him up for adoption. He is recovering from surgery really really well but his rehab is continuing and he will need some management throughout his life. His medical needs were definitely something we had to consider but ultimately we decided that we could provide a better home for a dog with medical issues than behavioral ones and we felt we were up for the task. Despite his physical challenges, he is the sweetest dog. He has a playful side especially outside in the snow, but is also happy to nap beside you for most of the day. He loves his daily walks and exploring with his nose, he would also like to chase all of the deer we see. We joined an obedience class at the local dog club and he is a quick learner. It's also really nice to have an adult dog that doesn't chew and is already well housebroken. We are still getting to know him but he is fitting in great so far and is clearly becoming attached to both of us.

He really loves snow....
...Rolling in it....

...Leaping through it....

...Burying his nose in it...

...Sniffing it in the air

We still have divided dog and cat zones in the house as the cats are a bit intimidated by how big he is, but they are adjusting and we hope they will coexist peacefully in time. (Neither side has shown serious aggression, but Aegir wants to approach the cats and they would rather he kept his distance, we are taking a super cautious approach to make sure nothing goes sideways).


Aegir is the name of a sea giant from Norse mythology. We named him that because all of our animals have mythological names (Apollo, Wendigo, Kachina), and we felt the sea, giant, and Norse connections were all appropriate given his Newfoundland breeding. We don't know if he actually likes water or not so his name might end up being ironic, but there won't be any swimming opportunities for him for at least 6 months (winter in Canada) so we'll have to wait and see.

Luckily he enjoys winter

I don't know if he'll be a barn dog yet either, that would be pretty nice but I want to get to know him better and have some solid commands at my disposal before I bring him into that kind of environment. If anyone has any tips for making a good horse-savvy dog please let me know!

It's pretty adorable when he curls up on the couch with me
even though there's barely enough room for us both

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Jumping Clinic Recap

This weekend was my first jumping clinic .... ever? (Back when I used to jump as a kid I took weekly lessons but I don't think I ever actually did a jumping clinic)

They did a really cute Christmas theme with mini trees in the arena
and ribbon wrapped around the jump standards

My current weekly jumping coach was organizing this clinic at my barn and encouraged me to join. I was resistant at first because I'm not really a jumper, but I ended up signing up for one day for the following reasons:
- it was affordable and easy to attend since it was at my barn
- I ride at a hunter/jumper barn now and have several friends who were participating in the clinic, I figured it would be fun and comraderie-building to join in for once even if it's not really my thing
- Two months of slowly working on jumping once a week was enough for me to think that I probably wouldn't die or overface my horse
- I knew the clinician and knew she liked to also focus on flat work and equitation (which I am always up for)
- Karen's challenge to try something that you think is above your level
- I figured the atmosphere of a jumping clinic (lots of people and horses, group lessons where you alternate working and standing around) would be beneficial for Kachina

Well guess what, we did it and we didn't die!

Sorry, most of my media is blurry screenshots from a fb video
This trot between jumps has some nice uphill impulsion! (though not round)

I was paired with 3 riders that are barn friends and fellow boarders. I thought they were way above my level and was a bit worried about bringing the group down. I know they can and do jump higher than I have with Kachina but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the exercises in the clinic (which were admittedly low in height) Kachina and I had no issue keeping up. Though I was a bit tentative, nothing had to be lowered or simplified for us and we actually made it through some of the rounds more smoothly than other horse and rider combinations.

Boing over trot poles

The clinic definitely pushed our limits and showed me that we were capable of more than I thought. We started with some flat work and trot poles and gradually worked up to the below exercise. Light blue is trot and royal blue is canter. The red cross rails were set as a one stride distance and the black verticals were a bounce.

Final jump exercise

I had a lot of firsts with Kachina:
- first one stride combination
- first bounce
- first time cantering the approach to a fence
- first time changing directions over a fence
- first time doing a 'course' with more than 3 jumps
- first time having that many trot poles before a fence
- first time cantering poles (the black bounce started as poles on ground)

And you know what? She actually did all of those firsts extremely well! I had to work on my half-halting early on so she wouldn't rush the poles but once we started the actual jumping we only did a couple repetitions on each exercise as there wasn't much that had to change. Sure we could have been better, but there were no badly missed distances, no run outs or refusals, no loss of steering, no serious faults of any kind. For a horse so green to jumping Kachina was an absolute superstar and we didn't want to drill anything too hard.

Decently balanced canter on first canter approach


I'm also proud of myself. I spoke up to let the clinician know when something was new to us but I still gave everything a try and didn't let fear get to me. While I had tried to borrow a jump saddle for the clinic, Kachina didn't like it so I ended up having to ride in my regular dressage saddle. The blocks on my dressage saddle prevented me from raising my stirrups and that impacted my jumping position but I stayed generally steady and kept clear of Kachina's back and mouth over the jumps. I also had a proud moment during the flat work part of the lesson when the clinician told another rider to watch me because "she has nice hands". I've really been working on my hands this year so that was super nice to hear. I was even wearing my white gloves so that any bobbles could be clearly seen against Kachina's black neck.

The clinician had some feedback for me based on some of our runs: sink into my heels, half halt in the turn before the fence but release more over the jumps themselves, keep hands up (I have a tendency to pull my hands down instead of back when Kachina starts rushing), and sit up sooner after the fence. None of that was news to me but all good reminders of things to work on. I don't feel like I really learned anything new at the clinic (so I'm glad it was cheap and I only did one day), but I'm also glad I went. It was a fun day and a good challenge for me. It also further proved to me and everyone there how awesome Kachina is =)

Sequence showing our first time adding the yellow fence, I like our trot approach in
and my initial position but not sure why I fling myself forward in the last frame

Have you ever had a confidence boosting clinic?

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Challenge Accepted

I read a couple blog posts today where bloggers issued some great challenges:

Karen at Contact said:
"So I challenge my blogger friends - challenge yourself! Try something you think is above your level.
Post your results!"

Austin at Guinness on Tap said:
"I want to challenge all of you to get out there this weekend and find your own horse-related joy. That might be galloping on your very own good horse, spending some quality time, or perfecting that lateral movement. In any case, share with me what your favorite things to do with your horse are, and whether you've ever been able to share that with another."

Challenge accepted! I can guarantee that I will not be attempting one-tempis or galloping in the field (the former because we don't even have single flying lead changes yet and the latter because that simply isn't safe when a layer of snow and ice covers the ground and hides the gopher holes) but I will be doing something!

I actually need to think a little on the horse-related joy one, horses and riding bring me so many good emotions in so many ways: peace, contentment, achievement, pride, excitement, focus, love, happiness... I'm not sure what part of horses gives me the most unadulterated joy though. Trail riding in the sun ranks pretty high on my joy scale but I'm not sure if I have a winter equivalent. That's a really good thing for me to ponder and attempt!

One version of horsey joy, no agenda, just having fun in the sun

In regards to trying something above my level, I am signed up for a group session in a jumping clinic this weekend! The clinic schedule and groupings were just posted today and while the riders in my group are friends of mine, they were not the people I was expecting to be paired with as it is not a beginners group. I'm a little intimidated because they all focus on jumping while I am the dressage rider who is dabbling with fences. My weekly jump instructor is the one who made the group assignments though so I am going to trust her judgement and go for it. It'll be a friendly environment but will be a good way to test my comfort level a bit and see what we can do!

Never thought jumping would be a thing we'd do but here we are
This gif is from two weeks ago

Stay tuned for how both of these challenges go!

Tuesday 4 December 2018

I Drove All Night

This post title is literal, not just a song lyric. Also, while this story hit close to home for me, it is not truly my story so identifying details have been omitted. 

Last night at 7:12pm I got a call from my BO. Thankfully she started the conversation with "It's okay, Kachina's fine" but she then explained that another boarder's horse was colicking and the vet was recommending they haul to the clinic. This boarder did not have their own horse trailer and BO's trailer had been left in another city last week due to really bad roads. I immediately volunteered to come out to use my truck and trailer to get them to the nearby vet clinic. 

Times like this make me really glad that I keep my truck and trailer well maintained, mostly hooked up, and gassed up. I was ready to roll in record time. Thankfully we made the half hour haul to the vet clinic without incident though the mare was in rough shape when we got there. Her heart rate was quite elevated and she was clearly uncomfortable, dancing around and kicking her back legs.The vet sedated her and the dose barely lasted 15 minutes, not a good sign. The local vet did a rectal exam and immediately asked the owners if referral was an option. "Referral" only means one thing around here when it comes to equine medicine, referral to Moore Equine surgical center. Moore's is an amazing place that does fantastic work, but it's also more than a three hour haul and treatment there never comes cheap. It's a terribly tough decision to make on more than one front: Can your horse make the trip or are you prolonging their suffering and risking them going down in the trailer? How much is your horse's life worth to you financially? Do you actually have the required funds available? Is your horse mentally or physically capable of recovering from such major surgery? These are hard questions and there isn't a lot of time to answer them. With the nearest surgery center so far away it usually doesn't work to "wait and see", it's basically all or nothing and you have to decide as soon as humanly possible. 

Even if you want to go for the surgery, logistics must also be considered and that can be a whole separate challenge. Horses rarely colic in the middle of the day on your day off when the weather is nice. Do you have the ability to take time off work on short notice? Will you stay in Calgary during the surgery and recovery or do you have to drop your precious horse and leave? Are the roads safe or are you risking more than you might gain by driving through blizzard conditions or crippling fatigue? Do you have a truck and trailer that can make the journey?  

The people who had to make all these decisions were the owners of the horse, a young teenage rider and her non-horsey mom. They were understandably upset and overwhelmed. I knew I couldn't make any of the hard decisions for them but I really felt for what they were going through.  I had it in my power to at least deal with some of the logistics side of things for them so while the original arrangement was just to haul them to the local vet clinic, I quickly volunteered to haul them all the way to Moore's if that is what they decided. 

I know first hand how much colic can suck. I know how minor cases can strike fear into your heart of what might happen and also know how nasty hard-to-treat cases can masquerade and hide how serious they are until it is too late. I know how devastating a loss from colic can be. Four years ago my heart horse Ellie colicked, but unfortunately by the time it was clear that it wasn't a simple impaction, surgery wasn't a viable option. She was bad enough that she likely wouldn't have survived the trip and a full torsion was suspected which even surgery may not have been enough to get her to recover from. I knew then and I still know now that if referral had been an option in that scenario I would have taken it. In contrast, this horse colicking yesterday was an excellent candidate for surgery if they could get there soon enough, but finances and logistics were the problem. These people standing in front of me were not people I knew well, but I knew they had no access to a truck or trailer that night and I knew the mother was exhausted from a long day, if they weren't given a way to get to Calgary they would have to wait until morning and the local vet strongly felt that morning would be too late. I was careful not to pressure them one way or another but I made it clear to them that my truck, my trailer and myself were at their disposal if they wanted to have the choice of surgery for their horse. 

The decision to head to Moore's was made around 8:45pm. We got to the equine hospital around 1am. After an intake exam and thorough discussion of all the options with the vets there, we left around 3am leaving the mare in the capable hands of the clinic staff. I arrived back at my house at 6:20am which left me just enough time to shower and pack a lunch before I had to get to work at 7:15am. 

The owners have been updating me throughout the day as we are in this together at this point. The mare was treated medically for the first few hours but went in for surgery early this morning. The surgery went well, they did not have to cut into the intestine but they did need to remove it and squeeze out both gas and blockages. There could still be complications but as of this writing, prognosis is good and it seems the trip to Calgary was the right call. 

Am I tired today? Yes. Was it worth it to drive all night to help a horse and family I hardly knew? Yes. There are so many crappy situations in this world that I feel powerless to change. This was one crappy situation where I could help and I'm so glad I did. If this mare makes it home, seeing her and her girl together will be all the reward I need, but if the colic karma gods are watching, please take note. I know that in choosing a life with horses I will be up against the colic monster again myself at some point and any mercy is appreciated. 

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Thankfulness and Positivity

I have a clinic recap to come from this past weekend. It was the second clinic in a row that I came away from frustrated and dwelling on lines crossed, but in very different ways. I need to write about it because it is having an impact on me and my overall riding story. However, I don't want to dwell on negativity. Also, Canadian Thanksgiving was just over a week ago. In the spirit of thankfulness and positivity I want to put out a post today with 10 things I am grateful for.

I am grateful for how well deer coexist with humans in my town

Yep, that's how close this one was to my car

1. Kachina got a trim yesterday where we were able to get all four feet trimmed in 45 minutes without stressing out Kachina, the farrier or myself. This is a huge win considering Kachina's recent backslide in terms of foot handling. I completely changed my approach a few weeks ago and this showed that I am on the right path. Her feet are also looking much better this year compared to last year.

2. The weather has been spectacularly warm and beautiful this week. I thought our nice weather was over for the year and so this has been a pleasant surprise.

This was October 3rd, but today feels like summer again

3. I am dreading winter far less this year compared to past years. Boarding at a barn with heat, stalls, and good lighting makes the cold and dark so much less oppressive.

4. With the incoming winter weather, the barn has started to get busier in the evenings. That in addition to the weekly group jump lesson that I just started means that Kachina and I are less frequently alone and we are both enjoying that.

5. There are some perks to the new barn that I wasn't expecting, for example I don't have to haul Kachina for her fall dental work because my normal vet is scheduled to come out for a full day of dentals at my barn, all I had to do was add her to the list and then come out to hold her.

6. We had both my parents and my in-laws over to our house for Thanksgiving supper this year and I felt privileged to be able to host. Cooking and baking for a crowd gets more enjoyable and less stressful each time I do it.

I made a banoffee (banana toffee) trifle for dessert!

7. My husband has always wanted a hot tub and we recently got one. I wasn't sure how much I would like it but it's actually pretty awesome for warming up and relaxing after a long ride/evening at the barn.

8. Kachina has been taking to the jump work really well and it's a great change of pace. I think the cross training is good for Kachina but even better for me mentally.

Blurry screenshots

Look at her rocking back on her hind legs

9. There might not be as many options as I would like, but I am in a position where I can make some choices about who I do or do not want to ride with instructor-wise and I need to appreciate and utilize those choices.

10. The recent clinic did have some good components: I now have a walk to canter transition and a better trot to canter transition. I also have a better feel for when I am using my elbow or wrist in the contact which will hopefully help me to self correct and use my elbows more consistently.

11. The gross lateral trot and canter have not reappeared for a few rides even when upping the intensity. I hope we can keep them at bay permanently.

12. Two pairs of breeches recently died completely (after many years of use) - this might sound like a bad thing but I have forced myself not to buy breeches so many times because I had 4 workable pairs and as much as I wanted new ones I couldn't justify it. Now that I am down to 2 pairs I have a legitimate excuse to buy the nicer, more technical, prettier breeches that I have been lusting over. (Also pretty sure group lessons is also a good excuse to up my riding outfit game).

13. The colder weather has given me a reason to bust out the Dubarry boots I splurged on last spring, I <3 them.

14. My horse is sound, I am sound. I too often take this for granted. My heart goes out to all of those in blogland who are struggling with injuries or illnesses. 

Hey look, I made it past 10, life is pretty good!

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Jumping Video

As promised.. jumping media!

This video was taken on Kachina's second day ever jumping! And it was also the first day that we did more than one jump in a line. We had a couple biffed attempts but several nice ones as well and this one looks pretty good considering how green to jumping we both are!

Monday 1 October 2018

2018 Q3 Review & Q4 Goals

2018 Q3 Goal Review

1. Bring Kachina into Barn 5 Days/Week
Fail - I have other commitments in my life and I just have to admit that I cannot commit to being at the barn 5 days a week regularly. I did make sure to work with Kachina in the barn as much as possible though. 

2. Test Ride Every Two Weeks
Semi-success - I did this for the first half of Q3 but then show season was over so the priority was gone

3. Develop a Good Stretchy Trot
Semi-success - We worked on this and I improved it a bit but it's still not "good". On the bright side, I rode another horse with a great stretchy trot and now I understand what I am working towards. 

4. Commit to a Weekend of Stall Time for Kachina at home
Semi-success - I tried this but it wasn't very successful. New approaches are in progress. 

5. Go on Two Trail Rides
Semi-success - I did a nice trail ride in Cochrane during the show but the charity trail rides I had planned on in Battle River and the Cypress Hills didn't work for various reasons (work, sick husband, swollen ankle). Trail rides at the new barn haven't really happened because I haven't had people to ride with (I could do it on my own but not as much fun). 

6. Canter/Gallop in Fields
Fail - I don't even have a good excuse, I just didn't do this

7. Participate in Judge's Clinic 
Success - my one and only full success this quarter! I did this and it was super informative.

2018 Show Season Stretch Goals

All of these were stretch goals (because only so many show dates, and horses wreck plans), but something for me to aim for within Q2 or Q3 (show season is Apr-Sept)

1. Debut at First Level
Success! - I showed First Level at two shows. I didn't quite break 60% but a couple 58s and a couple 59s shows we are on the right track and now need to work on refining everything. 

2. Score Above 65%
Nope - This didn't happen, but I did score 64.4% at Training Level at a Bronze show and it was the highest score for the level so I'm not completely disappointed. 

3. Earn an ADA Wild Rose Award
This involves getting scores of 63% or higher at 3 different shows at Training Level or First Level.
Nope - We only went to three shows total and only got a qualifying score at one of them. Will have to try again next year!

2018 Q4 Goals

1. Keep Working with Kachina on Tension in the Barn
Consistency is important but there's no point continuing with a specific plan for a whole quarter if it isn't helping. I will commit to keep working on this but the exact approach and results may need continuous adjustment
Current plans
- Starting group lesson next week so Kachina learns that we can have company in barn
- Changing feed schedule of magnesium
- Modified headstall to focus on bridling
- Specific order of tasks in barn

2. Keep Working with Kachina on Foot Handling and Trimming
This is very interrelated with number 1, however it deserves extra focus. Some degree of pawing etc can be tolerated when I am saddling Kachina or grabbing a broom etc, but she simply must be able to deal with having her feet handled or it will create a hazard for herself, me and any farriers.

3. Experiment with other Disciplines
I have a lot of respect for well-rounded horses and riders and think cross training has many potential benefits. I feel like Kachina now has a solid enough base of dressage that we can do more branching out into other riding styles without confusing her too much. For this fall/winter I am taking lessons at my home barn so Kachina and I can learn the basics of tackling poles and small jumps. Hopefully that will lead to some fun new adventures next summer.

4. Make myself a Riding Road Map/Progression Plan to follow 
I used a Progression Plan from December 2016 to June 2017 and it helped keep me focused on what to work on during my rides. At that time I used it primarily because I didn't have a lot of access to lessons. Now, I do have more potential for lessons and clinics, from multiple people, but I'm at a point where I am not sure if I'm getting the value and direction I want from those lessons. It was good for me to take a leap of faith and fully try a trainer's approach for a while but now I want to re-take a more active role and be less of a passive student. I think having my own new Progression Plan in head will help me determine what I can work on myself and what I need help with so that I can better choose the type and frequency of lessons that will contribute positively to Kachina and I. 

5. Try Clicker Training Again
I tried clicker training previously with limited success. I am a big believer of positive reinforcement but Kachina isn't super food motivated so shaping behaviour by rewarding progressive attempts to volunteer the behaviour didn't get too far. Instead I have used food to reward Kachina for correct answers to traditional aids (e.g., I ask her to halt while leading, she gets a treat if she halts nicely). Being at the new barn gives me new options to set up clicker training scenarios though (like using a stall which I didn't have before) so I think it deserves another shot. I also want to make the reward praise plus treat instead of just treat because I have learned that Kachina values knowing she got the right answer more than just the food itself, and I may have missed that part on my first attempt.

6. Improve my own Fitness/Strength/Weight
My weight has crept up again over the summer and I want to get it back under control. I can be a more effective rider if I am in better physical shape. 

7. Have Fun
Progression and training is important but things will be a lot easier and more enjoyable all around if I make sure that barn time can be fun for me and fun for Kachina as much as possible. Hopefully group lessons, experimenting with jumping, and clicker training can all be fun. If they aren't fun then we will try other things that bring out joy in both of us. 

Friday 28 September 2018


This week I attempted my first real jump with Kachina! It even went really well!

No new photos so you get a bunch of randoms
Pretty girl in her paddock

Quick background:
- to my knowledge Kachina has never been taught to jump at all
- the only jumps I've done with Kachina in the past was one obstacle at a cowboy challenge back in February 2016 (which we didn't really prep for and it was in a western saddle and she knocked it down the first few times so it doesn't really count), and a few flying leaps over muddy creek beds on trail rides (which I would have preferred to walk through calmly)
- in August I started weekly lessons with a hunter/jumper instructor at my barn (SC) to try some cross training. We started with walk poles, trot poles, and raised poles. This was our 4th lesson.

I got a hammock stand this summer, it was a great spot to enjoy the nice weather

Nachosaurus! For my 30th birthday I got the best present ever of this amazing chip holder

After doing some trot poles, which Kachina has really gotten the hang of, SC pointed me to a teeny tiny x-rail with a front placing pole. She first had me bring Kachina up to it to look at it (zero cares) and then had me trot to it with me just looking to the far end of the arena and keeping my hands up. SC suspected that Kachina would just trot over it and that is exactly what happened. We trotted over it twice without me doing anything, and then on the third approach SC had me cluck right before the jump (still trotted over, but cantered after). The next time through SC had me cluck and squeeze with my legs and Kachina jumped it and cantered away. We had a bit of a walk break and went over it twice more without me doing anything (trotted over jump, cantered after). That's where we ended the lesson.

For my Dad's birthday we went for a flight in this open cockpit biplane

It was a super productive first jumping attempt. Kachina stayed calm throughout, and seemed to think her way through the exercise and what her feet were doing. She stayed straight and looked to the jump without rushing it. I was talking with SC at the end and we both agreed that it was pretty cool that Kachina would jump when asked but otherwise would trot the obstacle. Especially for a dressage horse that is a good adaptability where I can either jump small obstacles or use them as cavaletti.

Cat in a grocery bag
Cats passed out to an intense level (only time I've seen the white one sleep like that)

I never want to jump high or as a main focus but I like that learning to jump will give us more freedom to try new adventures. Kachina seemed to enjoy it and jumping isn't as intimidating for me as I expected when my horse tackles it so sensibly. SC and I plan to keep working on things nice and gradually so we never add too much pressure.

We were super lazy with the garden this year but got 11 pounds of potatoes!

Husband turned a bunch of the potatoes into this tasty Shepherd's pie

This is obviously entirely too premature but since I love long-term plans, I have my sights set on a few outdoor events for next September. You fellow bloggers introduced me to the concept of a pace and chase and there is fun pace and chase at the Cochrane Ag facility (my favorite place) that has a beginner division where all obstacles are simple logs and less than 2'. There is also a foxhunting club in Calgary where there is no fox, no hounds, but they organize rides at venues where you can ride through fields and trails and all jumps are optional (so can ride around it if it looks too high or intimidating). I saw social media posts about both for this year and they look like fun events that I think of more as "trail riding at trot or canter with a few obstacles" rather than specific jumping events. I am putting absolutely zero pressure on myself when it comes to jumping, we will only do it if it stays fun for Kachina and I, but it would be pretty cool if we could slowly build up to doing something like that. Prix caprilli dressage classes are an option as well.

I need goals and dream to get me through the winter that is coming
(this was last weekend in central Alberta for a wedding)