Barn floods, commute misery.

I promise someday I’ll get to actually writing my Blogger Secret Santa post, and Maddie I promise I’m appreciative and everything, but I swear I have a really good reason for not writing it yet: it has been raining/commute hell since the beginning of January, and it has gotten progressively worse.

The barn flooded last week, somewhat unexpectedly. It rained pretty hard overnight on Monday, but OK, whatever, it’s been raining forever on and off and it doesn’t flood. 15 feet? Fine. It’ll get to 17 and then it’ll stop, or it’ll stop at 19. Remember, last time I decided I wasn’t worrying until 18 or 19 and I’d leave work at 19 if it came to that. Thankfully, my boss understands and we’ve had this conversation already.

texting with my boyfriend Tuesday morning. Red circle = MAJOR FLOOD STAGE

I made it to work on time, obsessively refreshed my river app, and when it hit 19 feet an hour later? I frantically finished up what I could and headed back over the hill to the barn.  I already had one set of full rain gear in my car (sturdy rain jacket, snow pants, one pair of rain boots, hat, gloves), thank goodness.

The highway to get to the barn is always a little bit challenging in the rain.  Here are the CHP photos of what I drove past on the way to the barn Tuesday morning.  That pile of dirt on the left of the photos?  Those are the northbound lanes.  I was driving south, past the upside-down truck that was flipped over the divider by the slide.  That is exactly as terrifying as it sounds.  I made it through before they closed the highway completely a few hours later.

This was the flooded intersection by the barn.

I drove through this twice: once on auto-pilot heading towards the barn, and realizing too late that I wanted to park closer to home.  I turned around and went straight back through to park on higher ground closer to the house. If it was still flooded, or heaven forbid flooded more, later in the day? I wanted to be able to get home.  Then I walked across the intersection and got water in my rain boots.  It really was that deep. I didn’t think that through very well.

Hello, river.

Normally, the river isn’t noticeable from the road to the barn.  This time, it was very, very noticeable.

Wet.

Bless all the friends who checked on Fetti for me before I arrived: Funder who confirmed that Fetti was safe earlier in the morning, and a friend’s daughter who moved Fetti to the center barn – on higher ground – shortly before I arrived.  Her whole paddock was water, but the matted stall stayed dry.

Very wet.

Apparently I cope with crisis by minimizing.  It’s only a lot of puddles!  Well – when the puddles have a current, it’s flooded.  Also, when you can’t really see the ground at all.

Polite ponies sharing (until later they didn’t)

We moved all the horses to higher ground in parking lots, largely tied to trailers, and hung out there for a while.  Eventually the water started to recede.  Some horses went home.  It’ll be fine!  Others of us made the executive decision to move our horses to boarding barns or private homes.  The Haffies moved to flood-camp again, and I am ever so grateful to my friend for taking Fetti in again despite things not being quite set up for her.  With more rain on the way, we just didn’t know if it might flood again later in the evening, and evacuating at midnight didn’t sound very appealing.  Or evacuating later in the week, with closed roads and no way to get there!

Ponies were at flood camp all week and moved back home over the weekend.

It’s good to be home.

I wish I could say I did lots with her, but.. that brings us to part two: commute from hell.

The slide on the highway remains there.  It normally takes me an hour or so to get to work with a bit of traffic.  They are allowing traffic through, one lane each way.  It’s currently a 2-3 hour drive and getting worse as all the mountain detours literally fall apart.

Road? What road?  Drone video of one collapse.
Another popular current detour? Dropped 2 feet, now closed indefinitely.

My best current commute time is about an hour and a half on windy mountain roads.  I suspect they’ll slide with the rains tomorrow and I’ll be back to either the main road (if it stays clear, super questionable) or a loooong detour around.  Either way, looking at probably 3+ hours.  This makes me cranky, means I’m getting home late, all my current pony time is via headlamp, and I’m waking up super early in vain efforts to try to get to work on time.  Yes, I have places I can stay closer to work. I may well be doing that soon.

I love my forest and my mountains.  I would be a lot happier if I could stop stressing about “can I get home” every day.

I would be even happier if I could get on the horse every once in a while.

Oh, and at least one of our main trails needs serious repair work due to the flooding, too.  Woo, floods!  California has had enough rain, can we stop now?!

But I am not up north in Oroville where they have major catastrophic problems, we just have cranky commuter problems.  Stay safe, y’all.

January: Lunging

I decided to take a page from SprinklerBandit’s book this month, and so we’ve mostly lunged.

hello gorgeous

Sometimes we have lunged in the daylight with color-coordinated outfits and side reins and fabulous boots.  Sometimes we have lunged in the dark, with or without a headlamp.  I don’t have photos of that, for obvious reasons.  Photos this month were fairly lacking.

Fetti is on Previcox still.  I need to get her out and moving regularly to keep her joints happy and to keep me in that routine.

There is debate about side reins and how beneficial they are.  I am no training expert and certainly do not claim to know what I’m doing all the time.  So I decided that I was looking to get two – no, three – things out of this experiment:

  1. Moving forward into the contact.  I’m not always the best rider, but if I can set her up to be doing this on the longe, this will hopefully help us both to do it better once I start riding regularly again.
  2. Balanced canter.  Fetti likes to balance off her nose and forehand rather than use her hindquarters.  This is clearest in her upwards transitions, where her head launches her into the canter.  I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
  3. Real Work / increased fitness.  If this is replacing our six-mile rides, it’s important that she be putting some serious effort into it!

A blurry but reasonable-looking trot.

The side reins are on their shortest setting.  They should be shorter though, I think?  I’m not very good at this yet, and really no one else at the barn uses them so I can’t check in with anyone for help.  I may need to buy new side reins.  (Or see if the other pair I acquired goes shorter. Hmmmm.)

Side reins still loose. Super blurry photo, but you can see her nose-balancing here even within the canter.

Well this is not pretty, but for the sake of accuracy I am including it.

Zoom zoom, falling on the forehand and extended-y, side reins still flopping.

We’re going for walks around the barn too, and I’m getting on occasionally, but mostly this is what our month looked like. Lots of circles, lots of lunging.  Lots of rain and mudslides.  We need the rain, but I’m over it.  Sigh.. spring is coming, spring is coming?

It’s been a rough month for other reasons, and my blogging mojo is still lacking.  We’re still here, just quieter.  Instagram is apparently the place to make sure I’m still patting pony noses regularly.  Winter is always rough.  Here’s hoping we get out of it soon!

Rain, cold, more rain

I came down with a cold about a month ago.  It eventually turned into a sinus infection, and it is this week that I am finally feeling normal again.

Confetti’s back is looking better.  We decided it was likely caused by the electrode.  Last season I rode with the woolback pads in competition; at Quicksilver I rode with regular English pads.  The difference, combined with my lack of core strength + imbalance, could easily have resulted in the electrode shifting and rubbing at the hair.  Lesson learned: competitions will be in the Woolbacks from here on out.

The weather turned super cold the week before Christmas.  Despite my best efforts to take Fetti out for either a brisk hand-walk around the barn, turnout, or work in the round pen every other day, I came out that week and found her quite lame.  I know I’ve said I won’t put her on Previcox until she’s retired from competition, but.. I called up the vet the next day and picked up Previcox on Christmas Eve.  Merry Christmas, pony!  She’s feeling much better now.

Current game plan: keep her on the Previcox through the rainy season (when rides are few and far between, and work is near-impossible in our arena-pond and muddy trails).  Restart conditioning in March (?) when weather permits.  Pull her off Previcox after resuming conditioning.  If she remains sound and her breathing looks good, we’ll aim for a summer LD. If she’s not conditioned enough for it, we’ll shoot for the LD next summer instead and take this whole year to condition.  Breathing or soundness issues = retirement from competition, resume Previcox.  Hock injections are not off the table.

I got a really fabulous gift from Maddy for the Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange. It showed up right before Christmas (yay!), then I left for vacation for a week, got two rides in to start the year off right, and.. well.. I have one sneak peek picture for y’all:

pink + yellow boots!

There is more awesome.  It will be a post of its own, but.

I rode the first two days of the year, and they were fabulous rides!  I am so out of shape, so is she, but she was really good and I was very pleased.  I decided to make a point of getting in the saddle once a week for some real work.  She got Tuesday off (or a walk? I can’t remember!) and on Thursday I learned we were preemptively evacuating the barn the next day, expecting it to flood.  Er.. great.  I did not ride on Thursday.  I cleaned up my tack room, assessed what was going on, figured out where she was going.  Thursday night we turned her out with the “baby” and they went flying around full of energy.

Friday, her previous owners were kind enough to take her in at their place, complete with hauling her up.  She was supposed to be a good older sister and share with the baby pony.  Instead, she kept the shelter to herself and politely kicked the baby out into the rain.  After repeating the process the next day with her sister, she was relegated to solitary confinement.  Bad pony!

pony jail

Although rest assured she was allowed into the bigger paddock when it was not super-stormy, she was not confined to pony jail for a week!

Friday afternoon I heard that the tack rooms might flood, too, and that it was suggested we move our stuff.  My very tolerant boyfriend came with me after work to load up my car; it now holds 75% of my tack room.  I left the hay bales (lifted on buckets) and bottles/grooming stuff, deciding that wasn’t worth the work to move, and it’s high enough in the tack room it’s probably fine.

backseat of car, filled with saddle + boxes + pads + a zillion other things

trunk of car: two more boxes, bridles and breastplates, bareback pad, a small pile of saddlepads, who knows what else

Saturday it rained.  Sunday it rained.  During the week the roads were closed or blocked or just jam-packed; mudslides and fallen trees and more rain made for absolutely horrendous commutes.

blanket not-intact

Somewhere in there ‘Fetti caught her blanket on the panel, ripped it open, and de-stuffed it.  Near-new waterproof blanket is not even worth replacing.  Blanket suggestions, anyone?  I’m currently thinking the Smartpak blanket with the 10-year guarantee may be the way to go.

river gauge height

The river peaked at 20 feet Wednesday night.  That’s flood stage, but the barn doesn’t flood then – just enough to make us all nervous.  Grateful she was up on the hill!

forever grateful for friends who take her in during a storm!

Thursday and Friday the Haffies got to stay in the bigger paddock all together, as they had apparently decided to all get along by then.  (The baby pony still got her own paddock for safety’s sake.)  Hillside paddock romping ensued, and I had a delightfully muddy and more-in-shape pony by the time the ponies returned to the barn over the weekend.

I.. have no idea.

Cat therapy

Pony therapy is best therapy, but cats are pretty good too.

I mentioned that I haven’t been riding much.  I’ve managed a grand total of three rides in the last month.  For someone that usually rides 3-4 times a week, that really, really sucks.  I’m out of shape.  She’s out of shape.  My winter depression is kicking in and my anxiety is periodically skyrocketing.

There are no lights at the barn.  In years past, my best riding partner and I have moseyed around in the dark together.  This year, her riding-pony is not currently at the barn.  I have been largely unmotivated to get on and mosey in aimless circles by myself two hours past sunset.

On one particular evening I was cranky about how late I was getting to the barn.  No ride for me in the dark.  Pat the pony on the nose, clean her stall, refill hay nets.

“Meow!”

Oh.  Okay.  Were you feeling neglected?  Be careful coming into the stall, I’ll be right back into the hay room in a moment.  Right this way, little one.  Except – goshdarnit there’s another hole in the hay net.

I tossed it up on a bale to find string and fix it.  The cat followed, up on the bale, on the hay net. “Meow!!!”  Hello, human.  Why are you not petting me? Let me rub on you.  I am here. I am the center of the universe give me more attention please.  Yes I would like both of your arms.  No you may not try to relocate the hay net.  Why are you worrying about such things?  I am Cat.

And so it was that I spent probably a good twenty minutes hanging out with one of our “feral” barn cats in my hay room, and failed spectacularly at good photos since she insisted on being right on top of me all the time.  I did eventually get the hay net patched by holding it in the air while letting her rub against me.  What an excellent cat.

Black cats don't photograph very well in the dark.

Black cats don’t photograph very well in the dark.

Winter is here

Good news! Pony’s bloodwork is all normal per the vet.

Bad news: I thought she had fungus on her back and was out in the rain washing it off. Instead, it looks like it’s almost certainly a saddle fit/rider balance fail result. Poor pony, I am SO sorry.

Shampoo in the rain. What fun!

Good news: She’s been ridden twice since Quicksilver, so her back is getting time to heal. I’ll run the Woolback and/or bareback for a while until the hair grows in.  In hindsight, I might have been better served by doing the 50 in the Woolback like I did all last season.. but I had it fitted with a thin pad and I’ve been conditioning with both, so I cannot fault myself too hard. Riding balanced would almost certainly have made it a non-issue, but busted ankle plus thin pad makes for unhappy pony back.

Bad news: SO MUCH MUD. I have not been riding much lately.

Good news: Her breathing appeared to be somewhat better the last time I worked her in the round pen for twenty minutes. Maybe even back to normal?

Bad news: She’s still NQR, leg undetermined. It’s looking like another vet callout in the next week or two, and I figure we’ll continue with light workouts (ground permitting) until then. If they’re going to be out, might as well ask about her breathing too! Especially if I can replicate it. Chiropractic after her lameness is either resolved or noted as ‘more arthritis, add more work’.

Good news: Look, a pretty stall sign that was stealthily gifted to me this week!! I will have to hang our TWO signs this weekend!

img_3137

Thanks for all your support. Other things are still in flux, but they’re out of my hands and I can’t do anything but wait and cross my fingers right now.

EVEN BETTER NEWS: I took long enough to post this that I think she’s not-really-lame now! I hope! And I got to ride yesterday in the dark!  Life feels fabulous right now.  Exclamation points entirely justified.  I hope this gets me to start riding – and posting – more often!

Anxious. Waiting, still.

Thursday, 20? minutes in the roundpen, mostly trot/canter. Still puffing.
Saturday, 6 miles with a friend, fairly slowly. Confetti is still puffing worse than our less-conditioned riding partner.

Sunday, mostly-walking pony ride to a beginner rider.

Tuesday, 20 minutes riding in the round pen. There is no reason my well-trained horse can’t do this nicely. 10 minutes solid trot in each direction.

Thursday, two bareback laps around the barn until she said she desperately needed a run. Turned her out for an explosively zoomy moonlight running session with her baby herd-sister.


Friday, vet visit for fall shots. Her assessment is that Fetti is just fat and fluffy. She drew blood for a few tests anyway. I am not convinced that’s it, although I agree she is fat and fluffy, and I’ll take more hair off because it can’t hurt.

Saturday, pony is lame. RH?

Sunday, still lame. It’s still pretty subtle, and I’m still thinking RH.

Tuesday, still NQR. Still subtle. Pentosan injection today, fairly overdue, so hopefully that will help. Who knows?  20 minutes of work in the evening has her moderately sweaty, so in any case, we have our baseline to work from this winter and start from near-scratch on conditioning next year.

Thursday, still waiting on Fetti’s bloodwork results. Today she’ll get worked 20-30min again if she’s no worse; forecast calls for rain this weekend. It’s too cold to bathe and clip today. That will have to wait til next week.

I just can’t quite shake the gut feeling that we’re done with endurance. I’m not giving up, don’t worry, but I am worried and anxious. Rationally, I know that there are other members of the herd contributing to that worry; that is not my story to tell yet and I hope those worries are all for naught, but our ponies could use some good thoughts right now.

Pony clip, post-ride update

Originally this was supposed to be part of the blog hop, but then I waited too long to get it posted.  Oops.  The thought was there!

img_3044My clips have gotten progressively bigger and more aggressive over the past few years.  One year I did just half her neck and her chest.  Last year I did all of her neck, chest, and her shoulder.  This year I also clipped some at her belly.

img_3052Hindsight says: I should have taken off more.  I probably won’t – odds are we won’t be doing long enough rides in the evening to need it – but I hope this reminds me to do so next year!

My clip lines are questionably straight, I definitely missed a few patches here or there, and I’m still using clippers better designed for small areas and not full-body clipping.  But.. for once a year.. and for the amount of mane she has to hide all my errors.. it works well enough.  My balancing act here is that I rarely-if-ever blanket.  Clipping too much leads to others at the barn giving looks of shame in our general direction; heaven forbid my fluffy winter-coated pony be cold!  It occasionally drops below freezing overnight.  I do not think she will be cold.

img_3050Tuesday after Quicksilver 50, Confetti looked stiff and uneven.  Her energy level was still fairly low.
Thursday, she was turned out with her sister just before the major rainstorm came through.  I left word that she could run as much as she wanted, just let me know if she looked sound.  Word came back that she looked good and was chasing her sister all over the arena.  Good pony!  That’s what I like to hear.Saturday she enthusiastically trotted circles for me and looked acceptable.  At least 95% recovered, if not 100%, and feeling good.

Normally that would be the point where I hop on and we go for a brisk trail ride.  The weather did not cooperate, and the rain and mud are not what I want to do my first post-50 ride in.  I know I’ll be flying a super-powerful kite.  Better not to do it while sliding down muddy hills!  If all goes well, first ride back is this Thursday.

I have not given up on LDs or even 50s with ‘Fetti, fear not!  I have concerns about her lungs that need resolved before we go back into conditioning.  Game plan to be figured out after discussion with one or two vets.  I’m worried about her hocks, too, but at least there I’m pretty clear on what my options are and how I want to assess how she’s doing.

img_3040Getting both those issues resolved and conditioning her for a mid-summer ride next year may be overly ambitious.  Not out of the question, though!  We’ll see where things shake out this winter.

Quicksilver 50

My original plan for the year involved skipping Quicksilver. It’s full sun and a lot of visibility, neither of which cater to our strengths. The best laid plans, however.. and so it was that after a year of really half-assed conditioning, one concussion (rider), hock arthritis and starting Pentosan, several weeks of coughing in spring and then again in fall (pony), and selling my Eurolight, I found myself packing for Quicksilver and planning on the 50. No sense doing the LD again; we’ve done that five years now and come through strong every year. Better to try the 50 and pull if things don’t go well.

The Loma Fire started the week before the ride. It got rescheduled. I aborted my time off work and rescheduled the pony’s trailer-ride and re-informed work the days I’d be gone.  I rolled my ankle pretty badly while walking in a flat parking lot, started riding in an ankle brace, flared up the tendonitis in my wrist, went back to riding in a wrist brace, and then really did pack for the ride.

What went well:

  • My farrier came and trimmed the Tuesday before the ride.  Closer than I’d normally do it, but.. the boots stayed on all ride.  Which is good: I’d actually planned to have the ride-farrier glue boots, but then the ride-farrier ended up not showing up at all.
  • I gave her Ulcergard (since it’s now AERC-legal in preventive doses) for a few days before the ride, and for the first time in several years I had a pony that did not stress and that ate and drank appropriately at ridecamp.
  • My ever-tolerant boyfriend helped me mount up and walked a minute or two with me and Fetti both the day before and the morning of the ride.  She did not feel explosive and I was able to let that worry go.
  • I rode with Olivia’s husband all day.  That took a lot of the stress off me of ‘will she worry about other horses leaving’ – no, Fetti was exceptionally polite.  We found a bubble early on and kept it pretty well.
  • When I pointed her at the side of a trail over a tree with one hand loosely on the reins and one hand holding the phone up to report the downed tree, I had a perfect trail pony who hopped up and down the bank with zero direction from me.  I had total trust that we’d be fine.  What a good pony.
  • She peed TWICE on the trail.  Not a lot, but TWICE.

 

What did not go so well:

  • Our lack of conditioning caught up to us here.  I knew that we were treading a fine line and we would probably pull it off based on past rides, but honestly, I did badly with how few long rides we did this year at home.  Or at least – I think that was part of the problem?  It sure would have helped.
  • Right now, she’s fat and fluffy.  Again, I knew both of these things.  I clipped more than in previous years (I’ll post on that later) but didn’t cut back on her hay and/or increase her workload early enough to drop her weight.  This didn’t help.
  • I did not eat or drink well.  Bad rider.  I did some, but not enough.
  • I am not only in worse riding shape than usual, I was riding crooked thanks to my ankle.  Pony did fine with this, but I have a not-quite-bruise from the stirrup leather on that leg, and not-quite-bruises from posting into the knee rolls on every downhill we trotted.
  • Hock(s) & respiration, as detailed below.
Sunrise after ride start.

Sunrise after ride start.

Confetti is an honest horse.  By at least mile ten, she was breathing pretty hard (“panting”) and I assumed it was the brisk pace and the hills.  We slowed it down a bit and watched her recoveries.  It was not a case of pushing her: whenever she asked for a break, she got a break.  The horses moved out well and happily on the flatter sections, and aside from the pony sounding like a freight train, everything seemed fine.  I walked her into the check per usual, she took a few minutes to pulse per usual, and the primary concern was her respiration.  She’s hot, was the theory, and I could believe that.  This is not my hot-weather pony.  But she looked better by our out-time, so we were good to go.

Loose rein, politely following.

Loose rein, politely following.

The second bit was much the same.  Trot where we can, walk when terrain dictates or when Fetti needs a break.  Hit up the water troughs and cool off the ponies.  Walk her into the check from the last trough, pull tack, take a few minutes and she’s down.  Still panting, but.. she’s hot.. and by now it really was getting sort of warm, so I grabbed my crew from his volunteer station and we sponged her down with ice water.  Already I’m a little baffled and concerned.  We’ve done this ride before in hotter temperatures, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to be this aggressive with cooling.  She’s out of shape, though, and we were moving a little faster, so maybe that’s it?  We did vet through, again with an eye on her breathing, but everything else looked good.

Back on out.  She thinks I’ve lost my mind.  Why are we leaving again?  This is dumb.  But OK – we have a friend still, I guess we can do this.  Trot where we can, walk when she needs a break.. which is more often than it feels like she should, but we’re in this now, and we’ve got the time.  Somewhere in this section it clicks that she’s quitting on the uphills and perhaps not engaging her hind end very well.  Hocks.  Damn.  Well, OK, assess: how bad?  She’s fine on flats, just unhappy on steeper uphills.  That’s workable.  We’ve got time.  Fetti’s still breathing hard, but there’s ice waiting for us at the check.  I walk her in, pull tack, sponge her off.. sponge her off.. come to terms with the fact we might be pulling.. hose her off.  Bless the vet check folks who had that offer for us.  It cooled her down and got her through the check.  She’s hot, yes.  She’s puffing still.  But we have three and a half hours to go fourteen miles.  I tell my boyfriend we’ll need ice at the trailer at the finish, and we head back on out.

Tired pony thinks hills are dumb. This is where we went up and around the tree earlier in the ride.

Tired pony thinks hills are dumb. This is where we went up and around the tree earlier in the ride.

Walk anything resembling an uphill.  Trot the flats, trot the downhills.  My knee is bruised from running into the kneeroll so much as I post going down the hills.  Still making excellent time on the flats.  Fetti sounds like a freight train, but her heart rate looks OK, and she sounds just as bad as she did twenty miles ago – not any worse.  She flat-out quit on an early hill – I am done, hills are dumb, why are we doing this – and I got off to see if it would help.  While I am puffing my way up hills, I debate sending our riding buddy on off without us, as I’m wondering if we can actually do this.  End result: one tired rider who is not in shape to hike hills, one pony who dutifully followed along but who was not breathing significantly better.  Well.  OK then.  I got back on.  Time to push her a little bit and insist on walking up all the hills, no quitting allowed.  It didn’t take much, and I didn’t feel terribly guilty for it.  I’ve had to ask harder at home.

More rolling hills and gradual climbing trail.

More rolling hills and gradual climbing trail.

Steep downhill, trot away – and she suddenly feels like she’s going to fall on her face.  Fluke?  Not when she does it again the next steep downhill we try trotting. Hock(s) it is, then.  I hear you, pony.  We’ll walk the steep stuff.  I’m watching the clock, and as long as we’ve got flat stuff we’re making excellent time.  Could almost walk the last few miles and still make time.  Trot the flats, walk the rest, walk once we’re within sight of the finish, and hope that we get through this OK.

Partners.

Partners.

She only needed to get to 64.  We headed back to the trailer, pulled tack, and my boyfriend and I sponged aggressively while letting her eat and relax in hopes she’d realize she was done and could settle.  Her breathing improved, but it still wasn’t great.  15-20 minutes later, it was off to vet.  I am ready to be pulled here at the finish.  I know she’s tired, I know her hocks aren’t 100%, her breathing is still a point of concern, and I have no idea if she’s actually pulsed down given the first three points.

Pulse: not quite down.  Vets assessed, discussed, watched her trot out and commented on how good she looks aside from the breathing issue, and then her pulse was just barely down.  They called it good enough and gave us the completion, but with concerns, and I shared them.  One very kindly said that this may not be her sport.  Looking just at this ride?  I see where she’s coming from, and if these issues cannot be resolved, Fetti’s done.

My gut feeling is that while she was hot, overheating was not the primary issue we were dealing with.  We’ve done hot rides here before.  I’ve never had to use ice on her before, and I’ve never had to hose her off.  She has flat-out never had consistent respiration problems like this at a competition before.  But – thinking about it – she has done it at home this year, and I wrote it off to it being warm.  I’m suspecting that her coughing earlier this year impacted her lungs in some way.

Confetti’s breathing was still not 100% after hauling home that evening, but looked fine the next morning.  As of Tuesday, she was still not 100% sound in the round pen.

This is where things get hard, and there’s a lot of self-reflection.  Should I have done things differently?  Did I miss something somewhere?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  I felt like I rode to her ability all day.  I pushed only the slightest bit towards the end and I’ve pushed more than that before.  If Fetti had been clear about ‘my hocks are uncomfortable’ prior to the last section, we would have pulled, no question.  If I had connected the dots and thought about her coughing this year at any point before the finish, we probably would have pulled and/or had a serious discussion with the vets, probably both.  It never clicked for me.

I’m not sure where that leaves us.  I do know that if I can’t get both issues resolved to my satisfaction, we’ll be done with competition, but I’m not quite ready to say we’re there yet.

Daily Routine

How do I make it all work?

After not riding earlier this week (due to tack fiddling) this is on my mind again.  Well timed!

Important context is that I live in the Bay Area.  The barn is five minutes from my house.  I figure work is an hour away, but depending on when I leave, that can easily be an hour and a half.  Occasionally it’s more.  If it’s raining? All bets are off.

On my guaranteed work-days (4 days a week), I’m up between 5:45-6am.  I generally have to leave the house by 6:15.  Breakfast is optional and pretty rarely happens.  My job isn’t super flexible, but if traffic is good I’ll run errands before I need to be at work.  Same thing over lunch: either I’ll get stuff done so I can be done faster at the end of the day, I’ll go out and do local errands, or maybe I’ll go for a walk/jog.  Three of those work days, I won’t head home until 6:30 or 7, so I probably won’t get home before 8.  Then my SO and I get to figure out dinner – he’ll have been gone all day, too.  I try to be asleep by 9:30 or 10.

One of those work-days is a shorter day.  I try to leave work close to 3.  If I do it right and beat the worst of the traffic, I can go straight to the barn and get there by 4, but more often 5 (and heaven forbid I have to stop home first).  Then I’m at the barn til dark.  This is a short-ride conditioning day.  Brush horse, sort any new gear adjustments quickly, tack up, head out for an hour and a half – four miles takes us an hour, plus 10 minutes on either end to get to and from the trail.  Pull tack. Quick brushing. Clean stall in the dark.  Refill hay if needed if I missed that earlier, refill water bucket while cleaning stall, give pellets & supplements, dump wheelbarrow, head home and figure out if I want dinner.

winter rides look like this

winter rides look like this

One day a week I only sometimes have to go in to work.  I try to get some housework done in the morning if I’m going in early-but-not-super-early, then aim to leave work by 1 or 2.  Repeat the shorter-day stuff, except that maybe I’m moving a little slower and aiming for a 6-8 mile ride instead of 4 (two to three hours allotted instead of one and half).

Weekends are when we try to do real conditioning rides.  Ha!  By which I mean.. if we’re doing 10-20 mile rides, those get pushed to weekends or non-working weekdays.  It really hasn’t happened this year, but that’s a pony-and-rider problem, not a scheduling problem.  I theoretically aim for 12+ mile rides twice a month.  It doesn’t always happen.  Weekends are also when I ride with friends (in the evenings) and try to hang out with my SO (usually in the mornings/early afternoons) and run local errands and do housework and maybe relax and.. prep for the next week, sometimes.

I regularly end up feeling like my life is a lot of juggling where I have to be constantly moving, but I still resent the winter months where I can’t ride much and am forced into lazing around at home.  Balancing act, indeed.

Moving forward

We’ve had some good rides since my lesson.  I don’t know if I ever wrote a version two of my recap (I think I did, and then the app on my phone ate the entire thing and I’ve been super-busy ever since), but I really was pretty happy with what I got out of it.  I can see changes in my position.  I can see a difference in how ‘Fetti responds to me when I am riding correctly.  I’m not delighted that this year went from ‘do rides!’ to ‘do lessons!’ but I am thankful that I continue to learn and grow.

We’ve had a few really shitty rides this week.  For whatever reason, her trail-confidence appears to be lacking.  Spooks, jumpiness, unsettled rides, inconsistencies.  All I really wanted was a few confidence-building rides for me to reassure me that we’re actually capable of completing a ride.  So much for that.

blurry super-worried pony

Warmups are becoming more important.  I can still see stiffness when she comes out, but as she works out of it, I am not worrying too much (yet).  She doesn’t feel 100% even all the time – I’m picky, what can I say – but there’s no sense moving forward with $$$ injections and x-rays at this point in the year.  Maybe next year, maybe not.  The concept of warming up out of stiffness has always been foreign to me; this will be a good learning experience.  How will we do it at a ride? I have no idea!  We’ll figure it out when we get there!

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round pen warm-up

Her speed and stamina are still, generally, in place.  I’m not dissatisfied with what I have seen.  It would be nice if the heart monitor would work more than occasionally so I could get a better baseline.. but it is what it is, and that’s not part of the training plan right now apparently.  Some of what it would take to get her in better shape is within my control, some of it is not.  Learning, slowly learning.

classy bale bag fixes: four different paracord colors visible

A final note: apparently I jinxed the bale bag. Current status: seven holes, re-patching as she unties the paracord every few days.  I’m ordering a new one as soon as they’re back in stock.  Ponies!