Monday, May 31, 2021

May Wrap Up

May was a fantastic month for Yoshi and me. He has... 
  • Moved barns.
  • Gone for 17 rides.
    • 5 trail rides including our 1 solo ride away from home 
    • 1 dressage lesson
  • Worn both shoes for 29 days and the left one for all 31 days - I should shut my mouth... we're at 5 weeks this week so he won't be done until next week... don't want to start June with pulling a shoe.
  • Gotten a massage.
  • Tried 3 dressage saddles and ended up finding one we both like.
  • Gotten his teeth floated.
  • Let me clean his sheath. I had snatched the very large bean at one point when he dropped in the aisle of our old barn, but the outside was still very, very dirty. Initially he was really inclined to kick me when I touched it, but he finally let me really clean off the outside thoroughly. 
  • Made a lot of progress on touching his ears all over.
  • Learned how to get along with everyone else in the pasture. 
  • Stood on Sure Foot pads and LOVED them. More on that later. 
We have not... 
  • Made any further progress with clippers. Riding is so much more fun than desensitizing to clippers. 
  • Kicked or bitten me. Excellent goal to continue over to next month. 
  • Made any further progress with ToH or ToF. Like with clippers, not a failure to progress while trying, but a failure to even try. I will do better in June. Especially because the heat/humidity is real and there will definitely be days where I can't get out early enough to make it fair to go for a ride.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Might as well enjoy the process

I just finished up saddle hunting. Given the number of other speed bumps Yoshi and I have encountered on our journey to greatness (ahem, w/t/c under saddle), this one was actually small. He got a massage a week ago Tuesday and I was told, under no uncertain terms, that my saddle doesn't fit. Okay, this was not a huge surprise. I bought it for Leila who was WIDE. But I thought with the thinline pad with front shims it was passable. Apparently not. It's not the end of the world, it is an old Black Country (MW, 17") that I got for $800 at a local tack shop. I do not have strong feelings about it. Zing's last 4 years of life I rode him in an M. Toulouse that my friend sold me super cheap. I HATED that saddle. But he loved it. He definitely had strong opinions about saddles, so combine him loving it with me having exactly zero extra dollars, and I made do. It's not like we were doing anything particularly challenging under saddle anyways, but boy was I glad to sell that saddle after he passed. The just replaced black country allowed me to be in the correct position, but it did not in any way aid me in being in that position. So I was not too sad to be told that it is not the right one for Yoshi. 

I took the saddle down to Good Apple consignment in Ocala (not to consign, their saddles are much too nice for me to think they'd want to take this one...) as a comparison. The owner there was incredibly helpful, and I left with 3 saddles to try. She definitely pushed the wool because she was concerned, as am I, that as he muscles up his back will change substantially. Then I'll be saddle hunting again in 6-12 months. And while buying used and selling used means not as much of a loss, I feel like it is generally not a game I win. Other people who are more patient or better at selling and buying may, but those are not my strengths.

I ended up with a total of four saddles to try; three saddles from Good Apple and one from Highline Tack.
  1. County Perfection, 17.5, labeled W, but measures M. Apparently this was a screw up from the County rep; ordered to fit a horse that it could never be made to fit. And it was originally the W, but was modified to be a M in an attempt to make it fit. This saddle is basically brand new with a nicely used price tag. It never made it onto his back, with the higher price tag I started with #2, #3, and #4 first and never circled back to this one. 

  2. County Perfection, 17.5, labeled M with SR panels. I ended up buying this one. When I sat in it I felt very connected to his back and like it was much easier to have a still and correct leg. The fitter/masseuse came out Monday morning and gave it the okay. He did add a bit of flocking on either side of the withers so that it wouldn't rock down as much in the front. He said to reassess in maximum 6 months and make sure that the flocking doesn't need to come out.                                                                                                                         

    Definitely looks like I could/should lengthen my stirrups a hole. And I still need to bring my head back and shoulders square. I hate looking at photos of my riding right now. I find plenty to be happy with looking just at him, but not much looking at me. He's definitely traveling on the forehand right now, but we're getting more consistently soft and round with a correct bend. 

  3. Frank Baines Pirouette, 17.5, M with serge panels. This is a monoflap in an interesting way. The only monoflap I'd seen in person was a friend's Devocoux. On that saddle the billets came straight off the flap. The front billet for this saddle came off a shoulder panel that she said gives the horse the same "support" through the shoulder as a dual flap saddle would. 

    My first impression riding in this saddle was comfort without particularly aiding position. The monoflap did help me wrap my leg around him a bit more, and it was easy to lighten my seat as needed, but I did fight the tendency to let my leg get too far out in front of me. There were no keepers for the stirrup leathers. Easy enough to fix if I had bought it, but while I was trying it the left leather kept getting bunched up under my leg. Definitely says something about my asymmetry, but also was annoying to try to deal with while riding. 

  4. Stackhouse Monoflap 17, measures M. This saddle was GORGEOUS. The leather was butter soft and overall the quality was beautiful. But sadly it was too short in the flap. It was on the website with a short flap and I should have paid more attention, but I do have fairly short legs so I thought it might work. Based on this whole saddle trying expedition, I also think that I am a 17.5 in dressage saddles. I'd probably been getting away with my 17 because it is a very open saddle. Yoshi actually went best in this saddle, but it was also day 4 of consistent riding, so that may have been more about consistency than the actual saddle. 

Overall the whole experience was not too painful. Good Apple was fantastic to work with and soooo helpful in picking out saddles that might work for us. She also told me to take pictures of him in the saddle as well as me in the saddle and if none of the initial three worked, she could use those pictures to help us figure out one that would. They technically have a 5 day trial period, but she said if there was one I needed more time with to just let her know and I could keep it for longer. 

The fitter also checked out my jump saddle when he came back Monday morning since I didn't have it out at the barn with me the week before. Fortunately he gave it the okay with a fluffy fleece half pad. Thank goodness. Saddle hunting for two would have definitely been more than I could handle in one month! 

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Barns I have known - part 2

Anonymous (Gainesville, FL): After I came back from China, Zinger was back at my dad's (see Summer Song above). I then made a move to Gainesville to prepare for going back to school. I brought him to Eclipse directly after his second splint bone surgery. My mom came with me when I dropped him off, and did not get a good feeling from the barn owner, but didn't say anything to me about it. Turns out she was right. The barn owner had college and high school kids who were new to horses work off their lessons by working at the boarding barn. Turns out people who have no background in horses make for pretty poor unsupervised labor. Care was super inconsistent, and I left after I found him without water twice. 

  • I met three of my best friends at this barn 
  • Access to great dirt roads for trails 
  • Care 
  • Property did not have perimeter fencing. This was fine for Zing, but my friend's mare objected to her acupuncture one evening, and broke the cross ties and went galavanting down towards major roads for a good 1/2 mile before we could catch her 
  • Deep, deep sand footing in the ring 
Set-up: Stall rest 

Why we left: Care! 

Cost: Somehow I've suppressed this one. We were only there for 3 months, so I don't recall. 

Sawhorse Farm (Gainesville, FL): Zing and I spent 5 years here. The barn owner was absolutely amazing and became like family to us. My friend and I showed up to check out her place one morning while she was feeding. She had us climb in the little trailer she pulled behind the four wheeler with the morning hay on it and took us for a ride around the farm. It was a very, very Florida set up. There were multiple barns on the property. The main barn was 6 stalls with a center aisle and the main feed and tack room. There were three 4-stall barns, and four 2-stall barns (if you can call two stalls a barn). They all opened out into the pastures, so there was basically no turn-in/out. Everyone went out at night year round, so you just opened up stall doors and let them in every morning and then opened them up to kick them out at night. The back of the property was more prone to flooding, so most of her own horses lived back there. Zinger was back there for 6-9 months until someone left from one of the drier pastures up front and he got to move there. There were 70+ acres of woods with trails and the farm backed up to a state park with miles and miles of trails. There was a HUGE jump field and a dressage arena. The dressage arena had questionable footing once a lot of people started riding in it - the outside track wore down to dirt. 

She let me work off almost all of my board for most of school, which was fantastic. It was hard work, 24-30 stalls to clean and buckets to dump daily, but it was an amazing opportunity that let me keep my student loans much lower than they would have been. She also generously hauled my friend and I places and even let us take her amazing F-450 and 4 horse gooseneck places. 

Playing with his pasture mate in their turnout. Grey mare (Spirit) supervises from across the fence

Can kind of see his barn set up here - he was in a block of 4 stalls most of his time there

Jump field on a frosty morning 

Sleepy in his freshly bedded stall on a cold morning 

Bareback trail rides down the driveway

The wash rack was right next to the tack room that myself + 4 other boarders used

  • See above, barn owner was amazing 
  • Pretty decent grass 
  • Great jump field 
  • Use of truck/trailer 
  • Cost 
  • Due to the low-lying parts of the property and the woods it was on, the bugs were pretty bad here
  • Flooding in the back of the property, but once he moved up front this no longer was a concern
Set-up: In 14x14' stall during the day under fans. Out at night in a 1/2 acre pasture with one other horse. Hay supplemented for grass during the fall and winter. 

Why we left: Moved to Atlanta after graduation 

Cost: $350 for stall board - so cheap! 

Long View Farm (Ball Ground, GA): This barn came highly recommended from a friend of a friend and it did not disappoint. It was a solid 1 hour+ from my apartment in north Atlanta, but really, any place was. A few of my friends boarded slightly closer to where we lived, but it was still an hour in traffic, and 40 minutes without and the cost was MUCH higher. It was the first and only time I've ever kept horses outside of Florida and it was a bit of a learning curve. The barn was basically at the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains which meant a lot more terrain than I was used to. There was plenty of turnout, but not much grass in the turnout Zing was in because it was on a pretty steep slope. 

Covered arena 

View down the hill, storm clouds rolling in


Zing apparently did not want to get turned out in the snow that morning. When I came to visit he asked if he could come in. FL horse all the way. 

A few more gentle trails were available

  • Covered arena - the one and only time I've ever boarded anywhere with a covered arena. Too bad it came at the time in my life where I was least able to take advantage of it! 
  • Peace of mind. I could only come out 2-3 times a week, much less than at any other point in my life, so it was well worth it to know he was being well cared for when I couldn't see him. 
  • We found THE BEST barbecue place I have ever eaten at on the long drive between our apartment and the barn
  • Good trails - a little rocky and steep for Zing at 23-24, but we would have had such a blast when he was younger 
  • Distance from apartment... welcome to Atlanta 
  • Cost, although for a covered dressage arena and footed jump arena it really was not at all expensive. It was just between my job and his age, we didn't take full advantage of those amenities. If we'd stayed in the area longer I would have tried to find a place with fewer amenities but just as solid care. 
  • COLD! Laugh all you want, but it snowed a lot in north Georgia in winter 2017 - 2018, and I'd never experienced horse keeping in the snow. The barn was beautifully set on a hill top, but the wind chill was in the low teens a few days. 
Set-up: In 12x12' stall at night, out during the day in a 2+ acre pasture with 3-4 other horses. Free choice hay and some grass. 

Why we left: Moved to Tallahassee

Cost: $650/month 

Flying Colors Farm (Tallahassee, FL): This was a semi-private barn but she did board some horses. I have mixed emotions about this farm. It was lovely and the care was excellent. But it was also where Zing died, so I can't think about the farm without those emotions coming through. 

  • Great care 
  • Beautiful arena under shaded oaks
  • A bank and a few cross country logs 
  • Barn owner would haul us out to trail ride when she went 
  • It was a beautiful place to bury Zing
  • Yeah... the place where Zing is buried. His two pasture mates actually died/were euthanized in the two months following his death. One was a retired hunter who was only about 18, but retired early due to a heart murmur that was worsening. They were aware sudden death was a risk with him. The other was a freak thing, he was older (26-28 if I remember right) but was kicked by another horse and fractured his skull and was euthanized. The barn owner planted a cherry tree in the field he and his pasture mates were buried in. 
Cost: $550/month 

Set-up: In during the day under fans. Out at night in a 3/4-1 acre grass pasture with 2 other horses. 

This just about brings us up to present day. Leila briefly lived with my friend who rescued her. Her farm was about 45 minutes away from my house though and there was nowhere to ride other than trails, so I moved her to my prior barn about 1.5 months after I got her. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

Barns I have known - part 1

Moving Yoshi made me think through all the places I have boarded over the years... 4 horses over 20 years at 12 different barns. None were perfect, some were close, and some were definitely unacceptable. 

Summer Song Farm (Fruit Cove, FL): This barn was my first instructor's and then my dad's place. I was with her from the time I started riding at 8 until I went to college at 18. She started out boarding at various barns, but eventually bought her own place. It was definitely horse keeping on a small acreage - just over 2 acres for 4-5 horses. She did a good job managing the place though. The horses spent the days in stalls and would get let out together overnight into the ring/dry lot. She didn't have footing, but brought in some clay to mix with the Florida sand and then dug ditches non-stop to keep it drained even in downpours. She also hand raked to keep there from being ruts on the rail. The ring was the size of a large dressage arena. We would set up courses of 5-6 jumps in there though, it definitely taught you to turn. We only occasionally used the back pasture as a jump field - we had a couple more solid jumps there (roll top painted like a log, solid panel). The front yard was occasionally used for supervised turnout, but it was also where people parked, and there were plenty of things for the horses to get into, so that was a once a week for a few hours treat. Every day for a few hours, everyone would get turned out on the grass out back. In the spring and summer it was longer periods, but in the winter it was definitely pretty limited so the horses couldn't overgraze it. The manure was hauled away by an organic farmer every 2-3 months from the pile in the back of the jump field. 

We had access to good trails, the neighborhood itself was pretty horse friendly, so you could hack on the roads (speed limit 25) or down a trail that ran along the back of properties with a drainage ditch on one side. There were also trails through many acres of woods out the back of the neighborhood. When I was in high school, they started developing these. I definitely didn't stop riding on them, because then the "trails" were even better - smooth dirt roads prepped for development - but I did get chased off of them a few times by men in pick up trucks. I was much braver as a teenager! Zinger and I also jumped some of the large plastic pipes (probably 3' diameter??) for fun. He was a great horse to explore on, he loved looking around new places and was actually so interested in exploring that he was totally unreliable to take us home if we got lost. He would just keep wandering with no plan of returning home. 

My parents got divorced when I was a sophomore in high school, my dad bought the property and moved into the mobile home so that he would still see my plenty. He was right there, I definitely saw him much more because he lived at the barn than I would have if he had moved somewhere else. My instructor continued to manage the place though, but she did stop teaching lessons and sold/retired her horses when I was in college. My dad eventually tore down the barn and built a house where the barn was. 

The small unlabeled rectangles are stalls

Obviously focused on Zinger in the picture, but you can see the arena and stalls in the background

My brother and I are on the back steps of the porch with the dogs while Zing enjoys the grass. This is facing towards the front of the property. Once my dad bought the place, Zing was the only one who got special turnout privileges. He bit my dad's truck and took paint off it one time, exactly the reason why no other horses were allowed up front, my dad was pissed at me, but would've been really angry if it were anyone else's horse. 

  • Great instruction and care of the horses
  • Jumper show rings always felt SO large and easy to turn in! 
  • Lovely trails
  • Large stalls 
  • Great barn family. There was no drama at this barn. My instructor just fostered a very positive, kind environment and didn't tolerate people who didn't have the same mentality. 
  • Very limited grass turnout
  • The ring would get deep/sandy sometimes when it hadn't rained in a while 
Set-up: In during the day in LARGE (I want to say 12'x18') stalls with a few hours of turnout on 1/2 acre of grass with 3 other horses. Out all night with 3 other horses in dressage arena sized dirt lot with hay supplemented. 

Reason we left: Moved to college 

Cost: $350? This was 14 years ago, so irrelevant now I suppose 

Friend's barn (Sarasota, FL): When I moved to college, Zing came with me and the first place he lived was a farm belonging to a friend I knew through Pony Club. I didn't visit barns in Sarasota, I'd never moved him and never boarded anywhere else, so I was in for a number of surprises over the next 4 years. I forget the exact terms of my boarding at her place, but it was clear it was not a friendly thing. Her family definitely wanted to make money off of having my horse there. Which is fine if it had been fantastic, but the whole thing wasn't great. The ring was a deep sand dressage ring, he went out into a sand pasture with no friends that turned into a mud pit when it rained, and I had to drive 50 minutes (one-way) every day to clean his stall. I had to pay for his grain and hay as well and pay them a not insubstantial amount for renting a stall/turnout and having them feed/turn in and out. This was my first experience with fitting bales of hay into my civic... turns out you can fit 3 in with the back seat down. There were trails, but it was paved roads around a fairly quiet neighborhood. This is also where he reared when I tried to force an issue of walking past a cow field on the road. He also broke my heart when we dropped him off there initially a few days before I moved down. When we went to leave, he ran frantically from one side of his pasture to the other, screaming. He'd never done that before, ever. He was a pretty well adjusted, calm horse. I still don't know what was going on, but he never showed that behavior again. I don't think I have a single picture from this place, and the hodge podge of barn, ring, and weird shaped pastures is not worth spending the time in paint. 

  • They were good horse people, so if something had gone wrong with him, they would have noticed and notified me immediately 
  • Some trails
  • Really expensive for what it was (also welcome to Sarasota though, nothing was cheap there) 
  • Terrible ring
  • Terrible turnouts 
  • 3+ hour commitment every day
Set-up: In during day, out at night in dirt lot (1/4 acre?? Very weird shape) alone. 

Reason we left: See cons 

Cost: $275 + buying hay and grain and cleaning his stall daily 

Something oaks (Sarasota, FL): I did visit this place, but apparently missed some red flags when I visited. It was a beautiful set up, large grassy pastures, nice breezeway 6 stall barn, grass pasture to ride in, and SO many trails. But it was executed poorly. Zing didn't get to go out in the large pasture out front, but instead was in a fairly wooded pasture with minimal grass in the back. He also didn't get fed fairly frequently... He was not a horribly hard keeper at this point in his life, but he started dropping weight once he was moved there. Since he had been at a set up without grass and kept weight on, I knew it wasn't that. It did take me a while to realize what was happening and move him though. He maintained okay since I was out there 5-6 days a week and gave him beet pulp + 1/2 scoop of grain every time I was there. The kicker was when he and the other horses got out and got into the grain. The owner was barely apologetic even though it meant an emergency vet bill for me and days of worrying about founder. I did LOVE the trails at this place. I didn't adjust that well to college, so instead spent hours and hours meandering the trails we could access. They were mostly dirt neighborhood roads, but some looped through cow pastures and other property we had permission to ride on. 

  • Trails
  • Price 
  • Uhmmm... you should probably feed the horses people are paying you to feed 
  • Crappy care in general 
  • No grass 
Set-up: In 12 hours, out 12 hours - I forget if it was day or night. Out with 2-3 other horses in dirt lot (maybe 1/2 acre?) 

Reason we left: Terrible care 

Cost: Couldn't even pretend that I remember anymore 

Barn in the city (Sarasota, FL): The name of this barn escapes me. The woman who ran the barn, Brett, did not own the property, she leased it from someone. She was a stereotypical hunter trainer - always had a cigarette in her mouth and always yelled at me about number of strides (literally never took a lesson from her, this was across the ring while I was riding independently). The barn was 10 minutes from campus, which made this one of my favorite barns. It was a hold out in the midst of suburbia, not a large farm, probably 10-15 acres. You could tell that there recently had been other farms around it, but they were all neighborhoods or in the process of becoming neighborhoods. It was partial care - they turned in and out and fed, but you had to pre-make grain and hay and clean your stall daily. There were no trails to speak of, but Zing was such a good reliable soul that we would meander through neighborhoods on sidewalks and then trot around retention ponds. It delighted children who lived nearby and he was always game to get pets or sometimes even get carrots if kids ran back in the house to get them. He actually had more grass here than at the two prior barns in spite of its setting in suburbia. A woman who became one of my best friends would seed her horses field, this was fortunate for Zing because he went out in that same field overnight, on the opposite turnout schedule from her horse. 

The barn certainly was not fancy, the stalls were small and the ceiling was somewhat low, but I loved it here. Meeting the above woman was such a wonderful thing for my college years. She became a great friend and we still keep in touch. She had a truck and trailer and would take Zing and I along when she went places. When she was going through soundness issues with her horse, she would sometimes ride Zing. 

Turnout with one of the retired lesson horses 

  • So close to where I lived
  • Getting to take care of him daily 
  • Grass turnout 
  • Jump field
  • Hunter trainer yelling things at me when I didn't want to be yelled at! 
  • No trails 
Set-up: In during the day, out at night with 3 other horses on 1.5 acre grass pasture

Reason we left: Brett stopped paying the property owner the rent money so eventually he closed the barn and kicked everyone out and sold to developers. I had gotten wind that this was coming so was able to set up a place to move Zing to, but it was pretty shocking for some people. It was pretty sad to see the last farm in that area shut down. 

Cost: $200? or $250.. + buying own hay + grain 

Julie's Barn (Sarasota, FL): I met Julie through word of mouth from someone who had been at the oaks barn that didn't feed the horses. Julie was fantastic. She and her daughters had done western pleasure and had a retired paint gelding. She boarded a few other horses to keep him company. She had a LOAD of grass turnout. No real riding ring, but only myself and one other boarder rode, so the pastures were fine to ride in. Her place was in an equestrian neighborhood with a bridle path around the outside - I think it was 4-5 miles total. She took fantastic care of Zing. I left him with her two summers while doing internships in New Mexico. One summer was right after his splint bone surgery. He was supposed to be good to go by the time I left, but after he stopped getting wrapped daily, his leg started stocking up some, so she wrapped him every day for the first month I was gone and hosed him daily when she brought him in from the pasture. 

  • Quality care 
  • Great trails, riding area 
  • 45-60 minutes one way from school
  • Daytime turnout, brought in during early afternoon due to heat in the late spring, summer, and early fall 
Set-up: In at night, out during the day alone in one of four pastures. Each pasture had great grass. She rotated who went where, but three pastures were each 1/2 - 1 acre. Then there was a 2+ acre pasture that had a large pond and some woods. 

Why we left: Offer to move in to Tranquility and work there 

Cost: $400 + buying own grain (hay was provided)

Tranquility Equestrian (Sarasota, FL): 

I moved here after graduation and worked off part of his board by living there and doing the evening chores. It was in the Polo Club in Sarasota and it was never quite clear if I was or was not supposed to be out on the trails without paying a membership fee. Either way, it had good trails, a footed jump arena, and a few cross country jumps. I was fully in charge of Zing's care, including turn in/out so I could manage him exactly the way I wanted to. 

  • Living with my horse again! Getting to do everything myself with his care. 
  • Trails, ring, turnouts
  • Quality hay - the owners were from Canada and always had alfalfa and timothy shipped down from up north, it was gorgeous. 
  • Cost
  • Lots of high maintenance clients - the apartment I lived in was in the barn so there wasn't really a down time when I was not accessible to people 
Set-up: In during the day, out at night by himself or with 1 other horse in 3/4 acre grass pasture. Supplemented with hay at times because there were horses in it during the day too, so the grass got eaten down decently. 

Why we left: I was living in China and the cost just didn't make sense, even with him half-leased I was still paying a substantial amount to board.

Cost: $800 when I wasn't working there. I forget the exact deal of rent + board that we had worked out when I did live and work there. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Solo Trail Ride

I was planning on taking Yoshi over to my friend's house this morning to trail ride from there. She wasn't feeling well though, but I was already awake and fully loaded at 6:15 AM, so we diverted to a state park about 20 minutes away. I wasn't quite sure how solo trail riding would go; we've gone around trails from both barns he has been at, but never hauled someplace to trail ride alone. Given that this is the biggest spook he's ever done (glad the pivo captured this before it wandered off to film the woods for the entire second half of my ride yesterday). I felt pretty confident at least giving the trails a try. 

He unloaded well at the trail head and immediately started eating grass. Not one of my favorite habits, but taking a green horse out on trails by themselves for the first time? Yeah, we'll finesse those things later. I tied him long to let him keep eating until I had to get his head up so I could do up the girth. Turns out whether or not I can tell from photos, he has definitely gained some weight. My dressage saddle has been relegated to "Does not fit at all, do not use" status (more on that in a later post) so jump saddle with fluffy half pad it is. It hasn't been on him since mid-February, and my 50" girth was really hard to do up. To the point I thought I might end up taking a very short bareback trail ride since the bareback pad was the only other option I had in the trailer. But we finally managed it, and I bridled him and we headed through the gate. The state park has shared bicycle trails as well as horse only and bike only trails. Last time I came here with friends (not with Yoshi), we got really quite lost and ended up going almost 8 miles. The map... meh... kinda shows what is what? Yoshi was not interested in standing still while I examined it, so I just made a mental note to pay attention to where we came from so that I could retrace if a loop was not becoming apparent. I turned on my garmin watch as well to track time and distance.

He stood about as well as he stands at home while I got on from a wooden block and then we set off. The first part of the trail was pretty narrow and wound through shaded woods. He dealt with the woods and scenery just fine but did stop a lot to sniff all the manure on the trail. Another deal I made with him was that he could stop and sniff as much poop as he wanted as long as he stayed sane. Not sure he was aware of our deal, but regardless, he held up his end of the bargain really well. 

We saw a couple of deer in the woods and at the edge of a large open field. He was mildly interested/excited and took a few sideways steps when one took off, but after that was completely not bothered. We were about to emerge from the woods onto the powerline cut when we encountered three loose cows about 30 meters away from us. We all froze for a solid 10 seconds. I was trying to figure out the likelihood of the cows running at us rather than away, the cows were trying to figure out how panicked to be, and Yoshi was... staying pretty damn sane. His head was pretty high up and I could feel his heart pounding, but he didn't give that feeling like he was about to spin and bolt. The cows decided to high tail it outta there, away from us, which made him want to turn around and leave at a walk, but I stopped him from turning. After a minute or two, I could actually feel his heart rate slow down under my leg and I asked him to walk forward. He took a few tentative steps and then stopped again. We waited a bit longer and then I asked again. This time he settled into his nice forward walk and we headed out onto the power line cut. 

We mostly walked the power line cut, but did trot up the hill once. We saw a lot more deer and one mountain biker. The biker caused only a small pause in Yoshi's stride as we headed down the hill towards him. Eventually I found the second part of the loop back off the power line cut and we headed back into the woods towards the parking lot. 

On the way back home we passed over a couple of culverts and by a large pond/wetland that had ibis, a great blue heron, and several egret. The ibis all took off when we rode by, which barely registered in his pace. Once we arrived back to the trailer, he seemed much more relaxed than he had been before. I let him eat the delicious parking lot grass for a few minutes before loading back up and heading home. 

I am SO SO happy with him. What a sane, lovely trail horse. It is really fun and exciting getting to know him. I had Zing for so long I could pretty much predict exactly what he would and wouldn't spook at and how he would spook. He was absolutely against cows and goats. It took until he was almost 20 before we could even pass near cows without passaging and snorting the whole way. If the road was too narrow he would get light in front and try to spin. Other than farm animals, not much got to him, especially once he learned what I meant by "Look over there" when I pointed out dogs that might rush fences as we went by. Leila only occasionally spooked at things, she was in general a much lower energy horse than Zing. But when she did, she had a very tidy rock back and spin that nearly unseated me a couple of times and actually did land me on the ground once. When that happened, she trotted a few more strides to make sure the cows she spooked at weren't after her, but then stood patiently while I caught her. Yoshi? Well, given all that we saw today, I feel fairly safe in saying that stop and stare is his go to spook. There may yet be a spin or bolt in there, but he did not give me that feeling AT ALL today, which is really cool. Even when he tried to turn away from the cows, he basically turned in a small circle, he didn't spin. 

He really was absolutely amazing from start to finish. He had a brief hesitation loading in the dark, but once I let him pause and look at the inside of the trailer he walked right on. He hauled beautifully and patiently stood in the trailer eating hay while I used the bathroom at the park entrance. He didn't hesitate at all loading up to come home. During the ride, we went over some varied terrain and saw deer, cows, mountain bikers, and birds, all NBD. He also felt super sane when we trotted, never gave me the feeling that I didn't have working brakes or steering. We ended up going 5 miles in about 80 minutes with 172 feet of elevation gain (that's a lot for FL!). I would have loved to stay out longer, and we will in the future, but this was an excellent first solo off-property ride. Since we had such an early start, he was back and settled into his field with hay by 10 AM. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Trying to be objective

I looked at Yoshi a week ago and thought "He looks great, he's really finally put on some weight!" And then I tried to pull up comparison pictures. I think I had been doing some deluding myself. I wanted to feel like I had just made life better and better for him since I got him at the beginning of February. But honestly, he came to me in better condition than he was in at the end of March. I think he has gained some weight since then, but we still have a long way to go in both weight and muscle. 

Sales ad picture - Dec or Jan
Very few ribs visible, but also a kind of dark picture 

Feb 5th - the day I brought him home

April 5th - drying after a bath 
Not at all flattering lighting or position here, really emphasizing the ribs

April 9th 
Looking much better than only 4 days prior... think that was a lighting trick again

April 13th

May 10th 
Shot from further behind him than any other picture, making him look a bit downhill

So my attempts to be objective are a complete failure without pictures taken from the same angle with the same lighting with him standing on all 4 feet.

Lesson learned. Now that we're settled at our new place, I'm going to attempt to take monthly comparison pictures. At the same time of day, from the same angle, stood up in roughly the same position. I hesitate to call them progress pictures because I do want to try to be objective about the effects his diet, work, and other factors (massage, chiro, turnout etc) are having on him. I don't want to again assume that I am helping improve him when that may not actually be the case. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

The body is a suspension bridge

Yoshi and I had our first lesson since starting back. It was most definitely needed. I spent about 25% of my mental energy focusing on whether he was taking a weird step here or there. 

This is how he greeted me. Not sure where he found that many cobwebs.

We didn't start out with the usual round at the walk to round halt. Instead, we started straight into the trot and stayed there for quite some time. Trotting forward, feeling him evenly in both reins. Leg yield a few steps off the rail, switch diagonals, leg yield a few steps back onto the rail to get the feel of inside leg to outside hand. This exercise revealed that I am not using enough leg, at all. Once I put leg on he was magically right there. 

Actually managing to keep ahold of the outside rein here, which he instantly rewards

In the corners I, predictably, had to fight pulling the inside rein. Instead, especially to the right, I had to shift my weight out, step into the outside stirrup, and maintain the bend. 

We actually cantered a couple of circles each direction too, very exciting! The canter went okay once I remembered to not pull on the inside rein and turn from my seat. He's so naturally lovely, I just need to remember how to ride. He has lost a lot of fitness in the past 2.5 months. He was not nearly as steady in the contact as he was then. My fault too, I've brought him back the past 2 weeks very, very tentatively. We talked about that. The quantity of work should be tentative, not the quality. So 15 minute rides are great, but he needs to work through his back during that time, the whole time. Even on a long rein. As he said, "the body is a suspension bridge, and if you let it sag it will fall apart very quickly". So correct, short sessions 5-6 times a week are the name of the game. 

The barn owners took lessons too. In order to have dressage trainer come here, he needed 4 people minimum. So they both lessoned and I hauled over my friend's horse from my old barn. The barn owners really liked dressage trainer, which was a relief. It's like showing someone your favorite movie and being really invested in whether or not they like it. The barn owners liked him so much they wanted him to come back every other week. He may not have time to get us on the schedule every other week to begin with, but he said he could do monthly for sure. I may try to go to his place in 2 weeks to stay consistent and make sure we're on the right track. 


I hopped on Yoshi bareback yesterday evening. Work had beat the hell out of me all week, and he delivered the lovely, easy trail ride I needed. There is a definite risk in needing a certain ride or certain behavior, but I'm gradually learning what I can expect from him. On days I'm low on patience and emotionally drained it would not be safe/fair to set out to work on grooming pleasantly and standing still in the cross ties. But it does seem that he is very, very consistent under saddle and will deliver a lovely, pleasant, spook free trail ride every time. A few days prior everyone was really up, I think there were coyotes in the distance. I barely got him saddled but then he was just a little behind the leg once we went to work. No shenanigans at all. 

Last night he tolerated me flinging myself at his (very tall) back after I had to get off to close the gate. Needing to dismount wasn't actually our failure at closing the gate. The gate is set up with large stone columns offset to the outside, so I physically couldn't reach the latch from his back. Only place to get back on was from the 4 board fence. Ungraceful spider monkey moment later and we were off. He didn't quite stand for my clambering, but who could blame him. We need to address that with a saddle as well. I've been ignoring the walking off as I mount, but I need to make the time it's one of my least favorite bad habits. 

Back to our ride last night... Bareback with a large spine really helped me feel where straight was. We free walked to the turn around point. Passively straight, hips equal weight, teeter totter back and forth to find right balance front to back. Weight the thighs equally to save his back and myself. 

Headed to the gate to leave the property. Love this field. 

After the turn around we walked back with connection. Without the saddle it was so clear the second he lifted and gave me his back. Also so clear that I want to shift my weight left. Right seat bone almost on midline sometimes. This then helps/causes my grabbing with the right rein. I was running through body parts fixing them one at a time then starting over. Seat bones? Shift right to move back to center. Core? Right abs are stronger (noticed this during a workouts, remains true on the horse) I think I'm twisting somewhere in my core due to this. I addressed the shoulders above and the seat below, but I need help figuring out the middle part. Which is probably at the root of it all. Shoulders? Right wants to slip forward with elbow back. Rotate right shoulder straight, check sternum on withers. Move back to seat bones then down to legs. Left leg wants to just ride forward and do nothing. Engage both thighs and then calves softly. Back to seat bones then up again. Toss in head, make sure it is softly lifted, straight. Eyes glance down, is poor horse straight in head/neck through all the shenanigans above?

I think I am addressing symptoms not the root. But I hope I am at least feeling a bit more equal to him. He's a very even horse side to side and I don't want to change that. 

True to form, he barely missed kicking my hand when we worked, briefly, on our latest project of touching near his sheath area after our ride. Got one good cooperative reaction to hand resting on his belly after that and then quit. Picking my battles. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wordless Wednesday: Zinger


Trail riding into the state park with picnic lunches 

BN event at Fannin Hill 

Levitating while playing

His canter was the most perfect thing I've ever felt 

3' jumpers at a schooling show in Sarasota 

Dressage + overall BN at Fannin Hill

Sorry about all the times I held onto your face over the jump. Peter Gray clinic at the Holling's farm. He had us show our horses the stone wall before jumping it. Zing wouldn't go closer than about 10' from it at the walk, but as soon as I pointed him at it he said "Got it, but I'm sure not going to touch it." 

Same clinic, sometimes I managed to release. Still staring at the ground. 

Dressage show in high school. We were both such babies in this picture. I miss that face and those pricked ears so much.