Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Day in the Life

When I first took this job I had no idea why C wanted me to move down here a month prior to my starting date to “learn the job”. I thought it was going to be pretty simple and easy to learn…boy, was I in for a surprise. A full year later, I’m still learning and it seems like there is literally a never-ending supply of work. It amazes me how many things there are to do and how there’s no way to ever be completely finished with the work. Some days we get more done than others…other days we struggle to just get the basics done (horses ridden, cleaned up, and fed). When C is out of town there’s hardly a chance to sit down, but I can’t complain, because being busy is fantastic. I just thought I’d take a chance to really sit down and think about all the things me and my fellow employees do and think about on a daily basis.

We have ten horses in the barn right now that need to be worked 6 days a week. There is one other boarded horse who is semi-retired and basically all we do with her is feed her, bathe her several times a week, and turn out/bring in. For all 11 horses, we are responsible for keeping them clean and clipped at all times. This is ears, bridlepaths, muzzles, fetlocks, white socks, tails, and chin hairs. Manes must be pulled regularly as well. Fungus is a problem throughout the summer and winter and we must keep infected areas clipped, dry and treated. They literally must look show ready all the time. This is a little easier in the summer because we have the liberty of bathing, but even in the winter it’s important. We usually have the competition horses clipped in the winter and they all get daily “shines” with Vetrolin water. As far as bathing, we alternate between Pine-Sol (excellent for fungus and smells good too), Cowboy Magic Rosemary Shampoo, Ivory Soap, and Vetrolin. We also use Vinegar Rinses once a week. Sheaths get cleaned about every 4 months, and I like to get everyone done at once.

On any given day a horse may be flatted, jumped, trotted or longed in the Pessoa
rig. We usually jump school about once a week and trot 1-2 times a week. We save the Pessoa for the winter for the most part, when the ring is frozen and our only option is longing in the paddocks. The Pessoa is excellent for building muscle, stretching backs, and teaching a horse to figure out where his feet are without the added weight and unbalance of a rider.

My daily routine (which changes, well, daily) looks a little like this:

7:00 a.m.-Drop feed, bring horses inside

7:15 a.m.-Turn out daytime horses, start getting first horse ready to be ridden

7:30 a.m.-C or one of us gets on first horse

8-12: horses get ridden, and I usually try to get one horse bathed while I get the next horse tacked up

12-1:30 p.m.: Lunch break. On busy days I won’t take lunch but will instead get another horse ridden or bathed, or run errands to the bank/feed store/etc

1:30-2:45 p.m.: Get remaining horses bathed, put away saddle pads/boots/supplies. Boys clean tack. Clip horses up when necessary, rinse out wash stall, do laundry, give medications

2:45-3 p.m.: Make feed. Boys clean stalls and top off water and hay.

3-3:30 pm: Tidy up loose ends and put finishing touches on the barn (sweep, clean tack room, etc)

3:30 p.m.: Feed.

Naturally things don’t always go according to plan. There are always loose shoes, farrier visits (we have three different farriers who shoe for us), vet visits (we use two vets, one who comes to the farm and one who we have to ship to), chiropractor visits (we use two different chiropractors), and product reps (I love when they come to visit! New products are exciting!). We also tend to use the afternoons for a lot of therapy. We use the magnetic blanket, the Equissage, and the laser predominantly. Of course we would use the afternoon and any spare moments to ice horses, cold hose, soak a sore foot, wrap feet, wrap legs, treat cuts/wounds, or do massages and stretches on some of the horses.

Then there’s buckets and feed tubs which need to be cleaned daily (or every other day). Brushes to wash. Fly sheets/fly masks need to be either rinsed or washed daily. Boots need to be hosed and hung to dry after the morning. Feed room needs to be dusted and organized, feed to be unloaded. The tack room is always a disaster and we try to sweep it daily and organize the stack of papers that are always on the desk. Then we have to order supplies/supplements/shavings/hay. Meds need to be re-stocked continuously. Trailer needs to be clean and organized and show-ready always. We have three tack trunks that need to remain cleaned, organized and ready to go.

At night, we feed and start turning out. Bandages coming off of horses need to be re-rolled and stored. Several of the horses wear bell boots. The horses who stay inside need to be hayed and watered.

I’m sure I left stuff out. The boys for example do a lot of mowing, weed-wacking, dragging the ring, moving jumps around, cleaning the cobwebs, scrubbing the stall walls, changing light bulbs, etc etc etc. It never ends.

But I love it. I get worn down sometimes and often just want to have an inside job with normal hours. But then I remember how much this job fulfills me and how ecstatic I am at the end of every day. I relish it. And every day is different, so it doesn’t leave much time to get bored.

If you read all of that, kudos to you. *wink* By the way, had another stellar ride on Pop today and did a bit of canter (he felt stronger in the trot). The long and slow warm-up really helped him again and his canter was just dreamy. It was one of those rides where I literally didn’t want to stop..I just wanted to keep riding and keep riding forever. I had one of those canters where you feel like you could just go do a bunch of one-tempis and not miss a beat. Granted I refrained from one-tempis (haha) but that feeling can’t be beat.

Lizzie had an amazing dressage test today and I can’t wait for her cross-country. She is undoubtedly one of the hardest working, most dedicated and most talented young riders in this country. I’m so excited for her to show the world what she can do!
God Bless and stay cool!
PS: Champers had his first endeavour outside of the round pen tonight! He was very good and walked/trotted around the paddock. Love the little man!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Poppers Back to Work

Poppers is slowly coming back from his mystery injury that more than likely occurred in the paddock as he was rolling...after several days of lasering, cleaning, hand walking, and cold-hosing, he was finally jogging about 95% sound on Monday, so I got the go-ahead to get on him yesterday. He felt really good, if slightly unwilling to really engage that left hind. We just did about 10 minutes of walking to start, getting him nice and deep and through, doing some little leg yields to straighten him and get him even on both reins. Then we did 7 minutes of consistent trotting, long and low. Changes of direction, big circles, leg yields. I was grinning like a kid in a candy store afterwards because he felt so GOOD. The extra walk work really helped loosen him up and get him to let go in his back, and the trot work was so fluid and forward and lovely afterwards! It felt so great to be back on him and he seemed happy to go back to work.

Today we did basically the same routine, 10 minutes of walk and 10 minutes of trot...he felt a little more unwilling to push off that left hind but after several minutes of long/low work he felt better. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a bigger improvement. Again, he was lovely to ride and made me smile from ear to ear. He's just so fun. He is due to be shod early next week which will more than likely mean a few extra days off, so I'm not in any hurry to get him back into regular work right now..we'll just take it slow and work on basic stuff that has a tendency to trip me up (forward, straight, through). If he felt good enough to canter tomorrow I might celebrate with a flute of bubbly :D Cross your fingers.

The Bossman is away for a few days coaching at Young Riders (go Lizzie!!) so we're getting the opportunity to ride all the horses in the barn this week. We have 10 horses total in training right now so the workload is definitely high but we love every second. It's good to be busy, although with this heat wave continuing on its merry way we're definitely trying to get everyone worked by 11-11:30 a.m. It makes it more difficult to get Champ ridden because I have to do him close to nightfall, and my evenings have been booked lately. I did ride him last night and he was PERFECT, w/t/c and halting both directions with no fuss. He's about ready to venture out into the great unknown (aka the paddock) hopefully this week.

Stay cool and hydrated! God Bless!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Poppin' in the Dressage Arena

Today me and Poppers had a lesson in the dressage arena to familiarize us with it before Sunday. I hadn't really ridden in one since....probably 2006, the last time I evented. It's funny how small and cramped you feel when you're in there, and how quickly the letters come up. You really have to visualize your movements before you do them and plan ahead. I anticipate the movement terribly and usually will do a transition before the letter, so I really tried to focus on being correct in that aspect. Pop has more of an opportunity to get behind my leg in a smaller ring, so it's very important to keep reminding him to go forward. C really had me work on my arms and hands today...I definitely have a tendancy to break my wrists and end up with them in my lap, elbows locked, with too long of reins. Which of course leads to Poppers bracing and shortening his stride. When I shorten my reins, focus on elasticizing (word?) my elbows, and putting my hands out in front of me with thumbs on top, it's almost funny how quickly he softens his neck and is willing to go more forward towards my hands. These are just little things I need to continually remind myself of! That and not leaning in the direction he is drifting from. For example, when we come down the longside tracking right, his haunches would prefer to go right and his shoulders I sit off to the left in a subconcious effort to "convince" him to put his haunches in line. Naturally that just makes him more crooked and my aids ineffective, so I have to really focus on putting my weight back in my inside stirrup and riding him straight.

Our left lead canter is my biggest concern for this weekend....I have a hard time keeping him through and forward to the left because he likes to get crooked in his body and lock on the right (outside) rein. Also in the walk it'll be important to keep him marching but not let him jig or get tight.

We have our last jump school tomorrow and I hope it goes well :) I'm more than a little nervous about the stadium but I'm sure we'll be fine.

He's such a good man :) I'm so lucky to have him! Now if we can just beat the heat the rest of this week! It's been brutal..95 by 10 am every day this week!

Stay cool! God Bless!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Jumping Lesson on Videos

I wish I had more time to write about the lesson and everything I learned...but I don't. So here's a brief synopsis and I'll try to elaborate later :)

Warming up:

Cross-rail...he is supposed to trot to this nice and forward and jump it out of stride. He prefers to put in a canter stride but as long as he lands going somewhere, it's not a big deal. Granted, when you land and do nothing (as I am doing here) then you get scolded!

Other direction:

Over a little bounce to a vertical:

Vertical to bounce, took my leg off because I couldn't find my spot. I have to continually just ride forward and not worry about the spot, because the second I start taking back, he'll hold.

Same fences, second time through:

This was the best course we did, I think...except for that last fence, the skinny. I definitely missed my first turn to it because I didn't have him up in front of me...

So then we came around and practiced that turn:

All in all it was a good lesson and I think we made some positive steps :) We entered a Novice CT for next weekend, which I'm both excited and nervous about! And yes, I know my hair looks incredibly sloppy, I get a massive migraine when I put it up in my helmet in this heat. Lame excuse, I know...I'm working on it ;)

God Bless!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Poppers instead of Fireworks

Letting the video speak for itself because I'm headed back to bed...still trying to get rid of this fever so I can be ready to go to NYC on Thursday!