2021 Wrap Up

This post is about a three months over due, but let’s just say 2022 has been a doozy! Nothing bad, just super busy in all aspects of my life. Work has been non-stop with some really long days that by the time I get out to the barn I have ZERO motivation to put any brain power towards anything else. One exciting life update in January is I moved to an apartment closer to the barn which will cut my commute time from 30 min to 5 min. The apartment is perfect, located on another local horse farm so its been really fun to be able to look out my front window at horses every day, and perk, it has an indoor so I can easily haul my horses over to school more easily now that my trailer is closer.

I don’t know about the rest of y’all in warmer climates, but January has been a TOUGH month for those of us in the Northeast. Between some uncharacteristically cold days and never ending snow, ice, rain riding in an outdoor has been pretty difficult. Forecasts are looking more promising for a warmer February and maybe I can actually get on my horses more frequently than I have been.

Now looking back at our 2021 goals: it was a good year overall for the three of us! I was promoted in my job and the horses made some really great leaps in their training.

2021 Goals for Reference-

Of our 2021 goals we made some decent progress in them maybe not exactly what I set out for in the beginning of the year.

  1. 3 Recognized Dressage Shows- So we completed 1, but did get to a lot of competitive school shows. I think Montego and I have officially wrapped up our Training Level season and are excited to get into 2022 with our First Level Debut.
  2. Buy a Trailer – CHECK, got my Cotner in May and I do love it. Do I wish it was a bit taller for my giant princess of a horse, yes, but it does its job getting us from point A to point B which is a game changer.
  3. Off Property Experience for Luna – Well this one was a big bust, but we did make it off property 2 times in the same weekend for a clinic. The first time took her about an hour + to load so we are now working on trailer loading as a new goal.
  4. Blog more Frequently- This goal I am pretty proud of myself for sticking to. It might not have been every week, but it was the most frequent I have blogged in a long time. Very excited I have this journal to look back on for years to come!

I have not officially made my 2022 goals yet, but clearly need to get to it because Q1 is almost done! One of my personal goals is to travel 1X a month which has been going to plan. Off to Wellington at the end of March and I could not be more excited. Here is to a hopeful and accomplishing 2022!

Still Here

GOSH! I have seriously slacked off in the quantity of my blogging in this last Quarter of the year. Work picked up and has been so crazy most of my days are working until its dark and then running out to the barn with whatever time I have left to love on my horses. With daylight savings, I wasn’t able to get to the barn before dark and we did not have working lights until this week, so hoping in the New Year I will get to ride a bit more during the week.

Top 7 things that happened in the last 7 weeks or so…

  1. Montego and Luna dress up for Halloween! Our theme was Monster’s Inc. Definitely get yourself a 5yo that lets you put a paper plate eyeball on her head.

2. Montego and I finish out our 2021 Show Season for dressage. Ended up Reserve Champion in the championship show. Overall happy with our show season, definitely completed some of our goals and looking forward to starting First Level in 2022.

3. Luna naturally got injuries. Somehow this horse stuck her leg where is was not supposed to be and got the smallest puncture wound on her joint. Luckily with meticulous cleaning and care it resolved itself pretty quickly, but boy was that fun!

4. Barn got new footing in our ring. Major upgrade from the firm dirt/sand mix we had before. Now we are all enjoying a beautiful black rubber mix that feels like riding on a cloud!!

5. Crazy weather changes here made Luna’s tummy upset and we dealt with a minor colic upset. Luckily a vet call later, some banamine, and fluids turned out to be all she needed to feel better. Seems like she’s a bit sensitive to the weather changes and stopped drinking as much as she should. Now I think I have about every water additive to get ahead of that for the future.

6. Montego got his yearly clipping. He was drugged because this horse HATES clippers and still somehow busted through the sedation in about 15 min. We got through everything, so now he’s all ready for our winter training.

7. It has been 1 year with Luna and 2.5 years with Montego in my life and I am so lucky that they are! They both are really so different but have been so much fun to ride and train. Looking forward to what 2022 brings for us all.

Crossrails, Cowgirling, and Covid

It seems like these past couple of weeks the amount of time that both me and my horses are all healthy at the same time seem to be few and far between. Luna these days seems to be my biggest problem child (another post on that to follow) but last weekend seemed to be one of the few times they were both sound and I was healthy! The weather was perfect both days to put some nice rides on both Montego and Luna.

Starting with Luna, I finally got around to setting up my phone and PIVO to grab some video of us. I’m coming up on a year owning her and while we might not be sticking to my original timeline for training, we have made a lot of progress and definitely have grown our bond this past year. I really feel like I know and trust this for, I often for forget she is only 5 with just how willing to try new things for me. Every time I throw my leg over her, I am fully smiling with how much fun I am having with this young horse. The sun was out so I decided to finally get my jumper hopefully actually over some jumps. I set up one tiny cross rail and raised cavaletti rail in the ring to play around with. The thing sometimes with Luna is she is super curious and nothing really phases her. A perk for sure in some things. Like when forgets the mounting block is besides her and almost completely trips over it to get to the grass. Yes many baby horses would panic at something in between their feet, but not this big dog. But you know when it’s not super helpful, when I am trying to get her to pick up her feet going over rails. She will go over no problem, whether she knocked them down while trying. As no surprise, the tiny cross rail did not phase her. We walked over it both directions and then after warming up at the trot just pointed her right at it and trotted right over it like she’s done it 1000 times before. Every time we went over it she got really big praise and pats. By the end of the ride she was practically dragging me to go over the cross rail.

the tiniest cross rail

We kept it pretty short and sweet but was really happy with our first cross rail progress. Of course the PIVO that I set up to try and capture this moment failed us miserably. Every time we went down the long side of the camera, the tracking lost us and headed straight to the brush pile. I think I need to move the camera angle to the middle of the ring for an overall better filming experience. Still caught a little bit of video that is helpful to see what we need to continue working on. Lots of suppling.

While my ride with my 5 year old was uneventful and very productive, my 14 year old had a different type of ride in store for me. I think I mentioned in some previous posts, but Montego has it out for the baby cows that are back on the property. Although they are in the back pasture and usually we cannot hear them or see them during our ride he knows they’re there and throughs some pretty big tantrums about it. Another lady B in our barn has been getting into dressage again after having her weekly lessons on him. She’s been trying to get some extra rides in between her lessons, but Montego has been making it difficult when he thinks the demon cows are after him. So she walked him around for a little but then the cows moo’d and I had to cowgirl up and give him a bit more of a real ride.

high alert moo demons are back

The last least fun C of this post was, unfortunately two weeks of my early October was cut short riding wise due to catching COVID from a co-worker. While the actual symptoms were over after 3 days, I was stuck in my house waiting for my quarantine to be over. Luckily being fully vaccinated my symptoms were very minor and I was back riding my horses in no time!

Show Recap Dressage at Devon Recognized Show

When I wrote my first recap post of the weekend, I was planning on having part two follow about 2 days after my first post, but here we are 2 weeks later and just getting around to it. After the Amateur Show ended, I tucked Montego back in the barn and me back in my hotel for the night. My ride times for the recognized show were at 3:00 and 4:32 the next afternoon. Knowing that I would be waiting around most of the day, I really was already leaning towards scratching my second test Training 3. The morning came and again the typical routine of an away show, I took Montego out to stretch his legs, fed his breakfast, and cleaned his stall. Refilled hay and water and then set off to watch the upper level riders riding earlier in the day.

One of the most fun riders to watch was Silva Martin. She attends a lot of the local shows, but it was even more fun to see Boyd at the show watching her like just a normal horse husband. Dressed in shorts and slides, if you didn’t know he was an Olympic rider himself, you would think we was just another guy out supporting his wife with his kids. The morning and the afternoon seemed to drag on as I waited for my times. I rebraided Montego and took him for a couple more walks throughout the day before it finally got close enough to our time to tack him up.

Again I chose a short warm-up before our Training Test 2 class because I could tell he was very close to having no gas left in the tank. Our ride time finally came and again we strutted down center line in the Dixon Oval one more time. After having what felt like one of my best rides in Training 2 the day before, this ride felt very lackluster compared. Montego was much more against my hands and distracted with everything going on around him more so than the day before. I think he was just done with the tiny stall and missing his turnout time by then. He still managed to score a decent 64.14% which is better than the last time we did this test at a Recognized show in 2019.

Overall, I couldn’t ask for more from this horse in a weekend. I just didn’t feel like getting him to do another test because I signed up was worth it so we scratched our Training 3 test and headed home an hour early. Totally the right decision because by the time I got him off the trailer at home we would have just started our second test. I know we both would have been miserable if we had to wait around that long.

The whole weekend to me was such a fun experience. I got to check off a lot of items off my bucket list and completed a lot of firsts in my horse journey including our farthest solo trailer ride together, away showing by myself, and completing tests at Devon with great scores. Montego ended up getting a week off and then has just been slowly getting back to work as we begin to enter our final couple of shows for the season.

I was extremely appreciative of the amazing show that was put on at Devon this year and think it is a great event to bring more amateur and lower level dressage riders to this amazing venue. Looking forward to doing it again sometime in the future.

Show Recap Dressage at Devon Amateur Edition Day 1

Living only 30 min from the iconic Devon Show Grounds, I have been quite a few times every year to watch many of the shows that the venue holds. Of course every May I love watching the Jumping Grand Prix and Arena Eventing and every September I get to catch Dressage at Devon with all the upper level riders and breeders that travel in. This year I got the chance to actually ride in those very rings I had watched for so long. One of our local barns hosts an Amateur Dressage show every year, and it had been in the works for a couple of years now, but they finally got it to run at Devon. The entries for this show literally opened and closed in 8 hours. Very popular, and I was very excited to have signed up for both days of showing.

Devon Showgrounds is about an hour drive from my barn, so since I was showing for both days I ended up stabling Friday and Saturday night. I forgot how much work goes into packing for an away over-night show. I had lists upon lists of things to do before I pulled out of my barn Friday, thank goodness I took the day PTO or it would have never gotten done. The ground opened for stabling and schooling at 12. By the time I got the trailer packed, Montego bathed and loaded on the trailer it was about 2:30pm on one of the hottest days of the summer (Real Feel 99). He trailered beautifully, and I pulled into Devon at 3:30. Quickly unloaded him into his stall (one of the SMALLEST stalls I have ever seen) and checked in with the show registration. Got back to the barn, unloaded my trailer and truck into our grooming stall and set up both spaces for the weekend. We ended up being stalled in one of Devon’s more newly renovated barns which had a cross breeze that came in extremely helpful for the weekend.

After everything was unpacked, I got myself and Montego dressed to go school in the Dixon Oval and Wheeler Ring. Montego took it all in like an absolute champ. He strutted around those rings like he owned the place. He has had some anxiety in the past in crowded arenas with multiple horses, but seemed to have no issues this time around. We spent about 45 min schooling, catching up with some old friends in the warm-up rings, and walking around the show grounds before I got him all untacked hosed off and set-up for the night.

I was staying at a hotel super close to the show-grounds so I could do my own night check on him, but then also ended up paying the stable office to check on him 3 times during the night (10pm, 1am, and 4am). It definitely eased my mind a little bit knowing how small those stalls were that he would have eyes on him all throughout the night.

Saturday morning came bright and early for feeding and getting Montego ready for his rides. We had ride times of 10:30 and 11:00 for Training Level Tests 2 &3. The weather was actually surprisingly cooler after Fridays day from hell, so I was really happy that I was not going to over heat in my show coat. This was the first away shows that I did not have anyone in barn with me or a groom staying with me so most of the work and care of Montego was all me. I got Montego braided and cleaned-up right as my barn friends and parents started arriving to help me get ready for my rides.

I wanted to keep our warm-up short and sweet because Montego usually loses a lot of steam with too much schooling before his tests. Once he was quick off my aids I went in for our Tr2 Test in Dixon Oval and our Tr3 Test in the Wheeler Ring. I was extremely happy with both rides, but especially with our Tr2 test. I felt like he was really listening to what I was asking, and I felt like I rode my best dressage test to date. The judge clearly agreed because we won that class with a 70.12%. Our Tr3 class needed a little more suppling, but we finished 3rd with a 66.76%. Both were extremely big classes of 8, so I was really happy with both of our placings.

August and Anaplasmosis

A bit of a catch-up post here as August has seemed to completely fly by and my blogging goal of once a week has been stretched a little further than normal. I finally finished up my busy couple of weeks with our lessons and clinics and shifting my gears from Montego to Luna. Montego’s big Devon recap post will be later as I am waiting for some of the professional pictures to come back, but overall had such an amazing time and was really glad I had the opportunity to compete at Devon.

Luna has had off the past two weeks due to a bout of Anaplasmosis. She came in from the field one night and just was not into eating her hay or grain. Barn Owner took her temp and it was 103.8 so much higher than it should be. I had seen her earlier that day and she was her normal self, so immediately we both jumped to some Tick Borne Illness because where were located its the most common for a fever that quickly with no other symptoms. Of course this had to be on a Saturday Night, so the on-call vet came out, gave her a dose of IV banamine and a big dose of Oxytetracycline to start fighting the fever/anaplasmosis. For those who don’t know “Equine granulocytic anaplasmosis is a seasonal, tickborne bacterial disease of horses caused by an agent that can be transmitted to numerous other host species (via the tick), including people.”1 The symptoms usually present as a high fever and lethargy and come on pretty quickly. The vet mentioned that if her fever still was around tomorrow she probably would need another dose of the Oxytet to wipe of the infection.

The next morning still only ate about half her breakfast and was running a lower grade fever than the day before, but still a fever, so the vet came out again for another dose of Oxytet. Of course being the sensitive flower that she is, the Oxytet completely disrupted her stomach and she was still not super interested in any of her feed which is totally not her. She was still into her hay and grazing, but the amount of grain she normally gets was not sitting well with her tummy so she got about 1.5weeks of Probiotics to help soothe that.

All of this of course was during my two busiest weeks preparing Montego for his show, so Luna got a bit of vacation until I knew she was completely healed and feeling 100% like herself. I ended up using the Equiotic Paste as her probiotic because I knew she was getting the amount she needed in paste form since she had been off her feed. One thing I am learning about her is she really internalizes her problems, so while I do not think she is a typical ulcer prone horse, I want to definitely be cautious in prepping her during stressful situations with probiotics, UlcerGard, and stomach soothers in the future.

Now that we’re out of the woods with the Anaplasmosis, Luna is back in the rotation of work. Both will probably end up with a couple days off this week due to the ungodly amount of rain they are calling for, but I want to get them both back into a pretty regular routine now that the weather is feeling cooler and they’re both feeling good,

My goal is to get Luna off property again in September, we need to practice our trailer loading again though to make sure its a smooth experience. Our jumping trainer is moving to a property about 5 min from us in Mid September until she leaves for Florida in November so my goal is to maybe get Luna over there a couple of times to school and get some weekly lessons before she heads back down south.

thrilled to be back in work

References: 1. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/equine-granulocytic-anaplasmosis/equine-granulocytic-anaplasmosis

Who Turned up the Heat?

I am not a fan of extreme heat. I know the weather in Pennsylvania is pretty mild to the South, but I just do not understand how people ride in that weather all summer. My body does not do well in the heat at all, so on days its particularly hot if I cannot make it out to ride in the early mornings I usually do not ride. This week in PA has been brutally hot and humid so the horses have gotten a bit of a mini vacay. Lots of baths and hand grazing, but no actual saddle time.

105+ real feel

Luckily the heat is supposed to break this weekend and we will be back to our mid 80 days for the rest of August and start cooling down as we head into September. Which is just in time for some fun outings I have planned in the next couple of weeks. One of the local barns in our area does an Adult Amateur show every year with a recognized show the day after. The show always ends up being really fun and has a ton of great prizes so I have always wanted to get to attend. Last year they were supposed to run it at Devon, but with COVID it ended up getting cancelled, which I was super bummed about. However, this year it is on and Montego and I are signed up to compete in both days.

I am really excited to be able to trot down centerline in the iconic Dixon Oval. Definitely a bucket list item of mine. We are showing Training 2 and Training 3 both days which have pretty much been our tests lately. I am excited to see how Montego feels in a new environment with his injections. I expect us to do pretty well, but either way will be a fun experience to have together.

My dressage trainer is also coming up for our monthly lessons the weekend before Devon. Montego will likely be the victim horse I choose to take to both days to clean up some things before our show. I think Luna had a great outing there last month and has made some really nice progress, but its just too hard to take both and ride both at this time. I am hoping to get her to another local barn to school off property in a new ring for her outing this month. We are still working on her trailer loading. She now has accepted getting on my trailer with the divider pushed all the way open, but does not like it when its just a single stall. Other than that, she has been great in the ring. Super willing to get down to work and is really changing the overall way she moves. Much more balanced and overall body awareness.

Not that she was even eligible for RRP because she never made it to the track even for a workout (she is JC registered with a tattoo though), but she would definitely not be a horse that I could have easily flipped around and gotten ready for that event. Talk about growing into herself and really needing this time to mature physically and mentally. She will be 6 next March and I think thats when I will have enough ride ability on the flat that we can really start get to jumping like my original plan for her. Until then, I just adore her goofy personality and getting to know her even better.

5 years not much has changed

Finding that Left Lead

Everything has been pretty quiet recently and just chugging along as normal this July. I do not particularly love the heat this time of year, so I try to plan all my vacations and time away during this month. Montego has been feeling great after his hock and stifle injections. I think the stifles were the key we have been missing for finding a more comfortable canter. I am excited to see how the next month continues with our training before our big show at Devon at the end of August.

always puts up with my shenanigans

Both horses are getting ridden about 3-4 times a week which I do not think either are complaining about. It has been hot and like me both my horses are heavy sweaters and prefer cooler temps to the warmer months. After my dressage lesson in July, I have been riding Luna more in her dressage tack to try and get her to balance a bit better through her entire body. She has really been a horse that I have needed to take a lot more time with to help her figure out where to put her feet and move correctly. I have mentioned before just how much of a challenge I had this Winter and Spring keeping her Left front shoe on her foot through her shoeing cycle. I am not trying to jinx it but she’s been doing much better on that department lately. My farrier thinks a lot of it has to do with her strengthening her hind end and also growing a deeper foot which helps her shoe fit a little more closely. I think her Professional Choice Bell Boots are helping A LOT, but also think she is finally maturing into large gangly body.

we go hard in the matching department

Part of these growing pains are her new reluctance to pick up her left lead under-saddle. Luna is a big runner in the field. Being a baby she has lots of energy that she needs to zoomy out of her. You guessed it, in the field BEAUTIFUL left lead canter, no issues. Put her on a lunge line and she will pick up her left lead canter about 50% of the time from left. She likes to pick it up about 25% of the time going to the right too, so no explanation there. But under saddle, she will not give it to me. She will just counter canter around like its no issue. Probably makes sense she was a shitty race horse if she hate this lead SMH. After taking her to the dressage lesson, I felt she is definitely much stiffer going left than she is right. It is like riding a 2 by 4 that direction. Trainer B sent us home with a couple different suppling exercises to try to even out that left side to be more like the right.

when its hot we go bareback

After a couple of just walk trot rides, I finally attempted to ask for our left lead canter. She gave me the right lead two times before finally picking up the left lead. I praised her a TON and ended on that note. I think the suppling has made a big difference. She just bulges in her should and does not want to pick up that lead. I am having a saddle fitter out again to make sure all the saddles that I found actually fit my horses again, just because I am not convinced her jumping saddle fits her 100% which could also be making a difference.

my favorite personalized moody Luna sticker

As we get into August, I am not completely out of the humid muggy weather, but planning on continuing to get both horses ridden as much as I can with a couple of outings thrown in for the both of them in between. Really happy with where they both are and so grateful I get to have two amazing horses in my life.

July Dressage Lessons

Every month, my dressage Trainer B, travels up from his farm in VA to give lessons to a couple different riders and farms in our area. If my schedule allows, I always try to do the two lessons (one Saturday and one Sunday) when he is here. The amount he has been able to help me progress Montego is crazy in such a short amount of time. I always leave each lesson with usually a huge smile on my face and so much that I have learned.

While Montego is my main dressage horse, he is usually the lucky one to attend these weekend lessons. However, I had scheduled to have his hocks and stifles done the Friday before Trainer B was coming up. So this month Luna was the lucky lady of the lessons. Trainer B has years of experience training and breaking babies, so I have wanted to get Luna in front of him to see her progress. The last time he saw her, he did a lunge lesson at our farm in December, so its been a little while. The farm we take these lessons at is about 15min down the road at a beautiful facility with the most gorgeous indoor arena.

hooked up and ready for the morning

When I brought Luna home from the TB barn down the road, I commented on how easy she was to get on and off the trailer. With this in the back of my head, I assumed that she would have no issues trailering this weekend to a new property for a lesson…but boy was I wrong. Early Saturday morning, I got to the barn to get her boots on and trailer loaded for the lesson. Headed up to the trailer and she loaded right up, but before my friend could get the butt bar up she FLEW back out of the trailer. She proceeded to do that one more time before deciding she did NOT want to be going on a trailer ride today. It finally took 1 hour for us to get her loaded, trailer was completely deconstructed to be just one big box stall and we were heading to the lesson very very late. Trainer B was very understanding and we just worked on some ground work for the remaining 10 min of my lesson time to practice some trailer loading skills on the ground. Of course when it was time for her to load back up again, she did it no issues. She always likes to show off with NO problems in front of my Trainer.

Sunday morning, we started the trailer loading process much earlier with some tricks we learned from the day before. Still had some hesitancy getting on but what took an hour the day before took only about 15 minutes this time around (still with the trailer being deconstructed into a big box stall. Got to our lesson about 30 min before my ride time so it was perfect to let her walk around and cool off from the trailer ride before tacking her up and riding.

rainbow on the way to the barn

I will say I was very impressed for her first off property weekend how she was able to really relax and chill in a new place without any friends. No calling or excessive anxiousness. There were some vultures running across the roof of the indoor, which understandably might freak a 5yo baby out, but she was able to come back and have a sane brain. We just worked on her starting to accept contact in the bridle and getting her gaits a little bit more defined in the Walk and Trot. Trainer B was really impressed by the way she is put together and the amateur friendly brain she has for a 5 yo TB.

what mom makes you wear when you decide to through a tantrum on the trailer

Our homework is to continue having a more forward gait (ride with a whip at home) and getting her used to bending in her neck so she can bend through her whole body. I also added on the need to start trailer loading with her so there is no more flying backwards. I’m keeping my trailer at the barn for the next couple of weeks so I can hook it up and practice with her every day so she gets the idea that even if she loads she needs to stand and be patient until we say she can unload.

Overall, a very successful weekend. Montego will be back in the riding schedule today from his hocks and stifles and I am excited to see how he is feeling.

really not impressed