Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Busy Weekend Lowdown

It's been another crazy group of days! Friday was spent getting everything ready for an open schooling show with the show team, getting Dwight's karate gear ready for his tournament, and having the vet out for an emergency (or what I thought was one) with Pilgrim.

Dwight attended the Mid South Regional Championships in Corbin, Ky on Saturday. He was really excited and did great. Chuck took him (which meant no hubby help at the horse show) and the boys had a great day together. He took 4th in Sparring and 4th in Grappling. Chuck said he would have placed higher but in his age division there were 2 abnormally large kids who were a foot taller than Dwight and had 20 lbs. on him. Dwight was happy with how he did (the most important part!) and had a great time.

Faith and I in the mean time were heading to Stonegate Farms for an open schooling show with the show team. Faith had like 11 classes and was exhausted by the time the day was over. She took Reserve Champion of Crossrail division on Chip and did her first Jumper class with Billy. Faith and Chip also took High Point English Horse and got a cool Messenger bag with a big horse head and horse shoe on it. Lora Grace also swept up bringing in 9 blue ribbons, High Point Western Horse and High Point Youth Rider. Emma got Champion of Ground Poles Division, Caitlyn K. and Billy rocked their classes. Rebecca and Peyton brought home several blues, along with Caitlyn H. and Bullet (who got to do their first speed events). Several team members who were unable to compete (Kenzie dislocated her shoulder in a fall and Victoria's horse Leah is recovering from a suspensory injury and will be out for awhile) stopped by to support the team. It was awesome, yet exhausting day. I really missed having Chuck there, not even for the extra set of hands, but for for his support and company throughout the day. I have to say, all the parents were really helpful and supportive which was a huge help. With no Chuck and me busy coaching I didn't get any pics, so as soon as I get copies from Keith of what he took I'll post some!
Hangin' out waiting for classes
So now on to Pilgrim.....Friday Pilgrim was really gassy and uncomfortable. I figured he had just gorged himself on the round bale we put out the day before. Later he started coughing really bad and actually had blood trickle down his nose. I was so worried about him and immediately became a bit of a wreck. I was worried he might be choking and was trying to look in his mouth and throat and saw something wrong with his tongue. He wouldn't really let me look at it and got really irritated when I tried to keep looking. I couldn't tell if he had something wrapped around his tongue (although it was still a healthy color pink so I knew it wasn't cutting of circulation) or an allergic reaction....all I knew is something looked wrong with it. I had called the vet but they weren't sure when they could get out and said to see if he would eat and drink. After putting him in the round pen so I could keep an eye on him, he ate his bucket like a champ and drank plenty of water. He quit coughing and seemed to be feeling back to himself, but I was still really concerned about his tongue. He still wouldn't let me look at it which was making me more and more paranoid. I called the vet back and begged them to come when they got a chance to ease my mind. They came and while Pilgrim thought about killing them when they tried to get an eyeball on his tongue, we decided to sedate him. Once significantly drugged he was very cooperative. We finally were able to really get a look at it and I was able to get a lot of questions answered all at once. He had no new injury or ailment, thank goodness. However, I was crushed to find out that it was an old injury....a bad one! Someone had used a severely harsh bit, probably twisted wire, and pretty much cut half his tongue off. What I was seeing was where it scarred and healed. The vet said it was amazing he still had use of his tongue and was shocked that he would even let me ride him, let alone put a bit in his mouth. I now know the cause of his anxiety about contact with the bit and why we have had so much problems. I always assumed he had had bad experiences with bits and riding causing his current mental state, but nothing this bad. I have a totally new perspective on my boy now.....he is not naughty, not bad in any way. In fact, quite the opposite. He is amazing and forgiving.....to allow me to ride him, be willing to try contact on the bit even though it scares him and reminds him of his previous awful experiences....just an incredible critter. I have a whole new respect and love for my boy now and no matter what happens he will always have a place with our family. I was surprised that after numerous vet visits, teeth floats, etc...no one ever saw this, but then again, I just did as well and it was hard to see without grabbing his tongue and really pulling it out, and he does not want anyone really looking at it. The vet and I both assume this happened when he was started at 3 since they decided after 30 days (due to an injury that we were never able to find out what it was...hmmm) that he would not be a reiner or cutter so they decided to stud him out. Multiple people have asked what we are going to do now that I know.....well truth is, nothing. I'm going to continue working with him and working with the trainer. I will of course tell my trainer about it so she can understand his resistance, but we both knew he had obviously had harsh bits and negative experiences. I think this will just allow me to be more patient and forgiving as we go forward. I think we can overcome this though, he is obviously willing to try and as much as someone tried to ruin him, break him, and make him useless, neither he nor I will let it happen. If anyone ever wonders if horses can overcome adversity and cruelty, I can officially say that some definitely can! Now if we go on to do well in the Dressage world, his story will be all the more amazing. Maybe someone will write a book about him one day =)

This week we will be busy preparing for the Fall Festival at the Farm this Saturday. Next weekend we are taking Faith up to the Horse Park to watch the Maclay Championships. FUN!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

'P' is for Pilgrim and Potential!

After last Thursday I think Pilgrim had some kind of epiphany. I rode him Friday, Saturday, gave him Sunday off and rode him again on Monday. He had dramatically improved! He seemed much more willing and forward, stopped running me to the center and allowed me to straighten him out. We rode all over the arena and for once I was smiling and having a great time riding! It's been a while and it felt great.

I finally had my lesson! Trainer came out today and met with Pilgrim and I. We started out lunging, she put us back in side reins and worked on getting him more forward right off the bat. Then it was time for me to mount up. Once on board she immediately adjusted my stirrups up a notch and changed my leg. It's a big adjustment for me, I am struggling with not wanting to cram my heal down. I have been trying to level my foot out just by feel, but she actually showed me that when I feel like I'm toeing down my heel is still below my toe. Man, I need a mirror! A lot of minor tweaks here and there with me, but will take me awhile to get the muscle memory and make me comfortable with the changes. Things like pressing my leg back from my knee not my hip. All in all, very helpful and I am working on it. A big call out on my part is she immediately noticed that I have a habit of "nagging" Pilgrim all the time with my leg. I am always worried about him stalling out, sucking back, etc..., that I keep just nagging with my leg trying to keep him forward. So, I quickly fixed this bad habit and noticed an immediate change in Pilgrim. Much lighter off my leg when I just squeeze once, no forward movement then a quick tap with the whip. He actually was so great after a few minutes of this that I could just brush my leg on him and he would start his trot! It was awesome!
Pilgrim did show his naughty side, which I was actually happy about. She needed to see the true problems I was dealing with. She had me start to really create contact and then ask for forward. Pilgrim quickly picked up running to the center and sucking back. When I squeezed and tapped with whip I got 3 pop ups in the front right in a row followed by jigging in place for a few seconds. Trainer decided this was as good a time as any to hop on and take him for a spin. She didn't have much better luck to start as I watched from the center of the arena contemplating how long it would take me to call her emergency contact. Fortunately I didn't need too, although he was particularly nasty for several minutes, even running backwards and sitting on his butt and doing about half a rear. Continuously working through it, quiet and soft, it was like the brick wall he kept running into finally crumbled down. I saw a beautiful 15 straight minutes of trot work! I finally saw the horse he could be!
After getting off, we had a long talk. She likes Pilgrim and thinks he definitely has potential. He has his problems. He definitely has issues with contact and is scared of it, resists it, and doesn't feel like he can move forward when he has it. She said it will take finesse and patience to work through it, but definitely can be fixed. I felt so much better after talking with her. I now know I was right about his problems, what I need to work on and what he does too. She was super nice, informative and explained everything thoroughly in a way that is easy to understand.....everything a trainer should be! I am going to continue lunging him in side reins to help him accept contact for the next week and maybe work in a few simple rides working on me and him at the walk, trot, and halt transitions. Then we are going to schedule the first week in November for her to come out and work with us and ride Pilgrim again. I am also going to schedule for me to go out to her and ride one of her school horses to work on me. She would like to take him for 30 days but can't take him til Dec or Jan and is concerned about him getting consistent work through the winter, so we may wait til spring and then hit him real hard with training. We will cross that bridge when we get closer to December. Til then I at least have a plan! I am so relieved!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Lesson That Wasn't

I woke up bright and early this morning, energized for the first step in "fixing" Pilgrim. I got myself ready and the kids off to school. After arriving back at home I made Chuck and I a healthy breakfast and grabbed my coffee....out the door we went. At the farm I fed the cat, double checked the trailer for all the essentials....yes I had sufficiently over packed! I wrapped Pilgrim's legs and walked him into the trailer. He loaded like a dream. For once I was proud of him! I hooked up the trailer tie and closed up the escape door. Chuck had hooked up the butt bar and started closing the ramp up.......then it went downhill. I missed part of it as I was on the side of the trailer, but Chuck said when I went out and closed the emergency door Pilgrim started trying to back out. Once he realized that he was stuck he completely panicked, reared and sat down throwing himself backwards. Don't ask me how, but he managed to go under the butt bar and come out the trailer. My trailer tie release with the pressure, thank goodness.

Needless to say he was hesitant to re-load and when he did he would scramble right back out. Pilgrim has trailered plenty before, but not in this trailer. I have loaded him in this trailer but not closed him up and hauled him. I jinxed myself by telling the trainer the one thing he does manage to do WELL was trailer! Arrggghhh! Long story and day very shortened, I had to cancel (well postpone) my lesson. She has graciously offered to come to me, which I am taking her up on until I can get the trailering sorted out. We worked for over 3 hours relentlessly today until he would quietly stand in the trailer again and not run backwards back out. Of course to top it all off, it was raining the whole time! I'm still not sure how I'm going to convince him he needs to be  in there alone and I will not be riding with him to all our future functions. I have some ideas though. How I've always done trailer training is you work them outside of the trailer, ask them to load, let them rest in the trailer. Wash, rinse, repeat. (This has worked with EVERY horse I've dealt with including a mare who the owners took over 3 hours to load with the help of several trainers/owners at a show. 20 minutes with this process and the horse walked right in the trailer!) I'm not a big "floater" but I actually at the end today ended up teaching Pilgrim to float into the trailer instead of walking in with me. His problem is when I leave, so I figured if he learns to go in by himself and I never go in I may have better results. This did seem to work the best and I'll continue working on this and hopefully have it resolved relatively quickly and hopefully have my lesson rescheduled soon!
Pilgrim trying to be good....in the words of my husband.....deep, deep, DEEP down, real deep, under everything, Pilgrim  wants to be a good boy!

Somehow god was with us today....through everything, Sir Bubblewrap himself managed to NEVER get injured, not one piece of equipment was broken and my trailer is still safely in one piece. 

I also have to thank my husband, whom without I probably would have had some kind of psychotic nervous breakdown during this whole day. He was patient and helpful....working with Pilgrim over and over when I would get tired. I'm so glad he was there!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cross Country Season is OVER!

Faith ran her last race of the season yesterday.....in the rain again. She did great, running it in 7:15, fast enough to receive a trophy! I'm so proud of her for sticking it out and trying so hard all season. She is going to continue running for fun this winter to stay in condition. I'm so glad she did this but am also relieved it's over. One less thing on my schedule!

On a side note, we are on for lesson Thursday. My wonderful hubby even took the day off work to go with me so I can stop panicking about going by myself and all the things that could possibly go wrong. He's so good to me! He wins the husband of the year award in my book!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lesson and Good Food

After a good ride with Pilgrim yesterday I gave him the day off today. He deserved it and it was raining. I am waiting confirmation but it looks like I'm going to head out to the trainers for a lesson on Thursday after I teach my morning lesson. I think I'm going to have to go alone so probably no pics or video but I'll be sure to tell all about it!

My new fave quick throw together breakfast! Whole wheat english muffin with turkey sausage patty, grilled green pepper and an egg white seasoned with salt and pepper.......YUMMY....and only 5 points plus!
Chuck was off yesterday for Columbus Day and I decided to make a new dish off Skinny Taste, Pollo in Pottachio for a special dinner. I couldn't find bone in skinless chicken thighs so I grabbed the boneless....just as good! This dish was awesome, full of flavor and filling. The kids scraped their plates and asked for seconds. We paired it with her Easy Garlic Cheddar Biscuits (Faith ate 5!). Awesome dinner!
I also tried her Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bread. I doubled the recipe so I could make one loaf and 12 muffins. The muffins are great to send as snacks with the kids and the bread is so moist!

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I love taking pictures! Here are a few of my favorite subjects:
So Handsome!
Best Friends
Riley enjoys some outdoor time
Cutie Pie
My two favorite studs
Big Tuna!
The hubby even took over the camera for a bit....

One Lovely Blog Award

I was so excited to receive my first award today!
Thank you Cjay over at Artemis Areia for sending this my way! It was an awesome surprise. The conditions of the award are I need to pass it on to 15 other blogs and tell you 7 things about myself. Fun!

Okay, so the One Lovely Blog Award goes to....drum roll please:

Wylie Eventing
Dressage Mom
Tacky Tack of the Day
Polka Dot Periodical
My Country Genes
Dressage Pony
Appaloosa Dressage
Dressage Training Journal
Memoirs of a Horse Girl
Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider
The Literary Horse
A Work In Progress
Roni's Weigh
A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse

About Me:
1. I worked as a Kennel Manager in charge of Behavior and Training at an Animal Shelter for 7 years that handled more than 17,000 animals a year. While it was extremely rewarding, it was also extremely stressful, demanding (long hours and on call all the time for emergencies) and hard on myself and my family. When I met my wonderful hubby we made the decision for me to leave there and focus on the horses and my family.

2. While I've worked with many other breeds over the years I have primarily worked with Quarter Horses and it's where my heart lies. I've never found another breed I connect with more than the QH, but I am also becoming addicted to Paints.

3. I love paperwork! I could make excel spreadsheets all day long!

4. I grew up near Chicago, but am a Southerner at heart and will stay in the South til the day I die. I would love to visit out west though, my husband says I will love it.

5. I have a brother who is scared to death of horses and wants nothing to do with them. He does have a Siberian Husky that is his child though.

6. I started this blog to practice writing. It is my dream to be brave enough to write professionally one day.

7. I am extremely shy and used to be deathly afraid of public speaking. I used to have to travel and speak at conferences and teach large classes dog training and how to read behavior. Teaching riding lessons over the years has actually helped me overcome my fear of public speaking. At one conference in Louisville, Ky I even got to give a presentation with Dr. Bob Miller on how Natural Horsemanship has changed the future of Horse Training and how Positive Reinforcement was doing the same for Dog Training.

Thanks again!

Skinny Breakfast

Can you say YUM! These breakfast muffins are filled with shredded potatoes, onion, bell pepper, egg whites, and turkey ham (we used turkey bacon since we couldn't find turkey ham at the store). With 2 muffins per serving and only 3 points per serving, not only is it perfect portion control and very filling, but a delicious low point breakfast! I found the recipe for these at one of my new favorite blogs www.skinnytaste.com. She always has super tasty stuff that I can't wait to try!

Bad Boyfriend

So the best way to describe Pilgrim and I at the moment is like that bad boyfriend you had when you were younger that you just couldn't get rid of. You know the one, you cried and fought with when you were with him but cried when you thought of leaving him and told all your friends how wonderful he really was....he was just misunderstood. Well, that's kind of Pilgrim and over the summer we have had an on again, off again relationship. Things got so bad at one point I even had drafted an ad to sell him, but couldn't eat for two days and cried and knew I didn't really WANT to sell him, I just wanted to FIX him. (Cuz you can always fix those bad boys) I did make an important decision and a few realizations.

1. It was time to commit. No more excuses. I haven't been consistent in working him due to overwhelming schedules, but reality is if I REALLY wanted to work him I would find the time. So I decided the only way to fix our issues was to ride, and ride a lot!

2. Admit I'm lost, which is a big part of my frustration. Dressage is totally out of my element...which I love and is why I want to learn. But I can't learn on my own....I need Help! I love Heather but I can't rely on her generosity (besides she's as busy as I am) to help us...so I need a trainer. 

3. Completely re-think everything I'm doing. It isn't working. Dig into everything I know about training and behavior and Pilgrim's personality and try to find a way for us to work together. 

4. Don't expect perfection. This is a hard one for me. Right now I need to be happy with small wins and stop focusing on everything being right. Not getting disappointed when we great forward moving trot work but he wasn't on the bit. I believe a lot of our problems right now have stemmed from me just focusing on fixing everything that was wrong all at once and not just working on small things.

I've been riding Pilgrim everyday for the last week. I've kept a training/riding journal so I can look back and see our progress and see patterns in his behavior. I've also contacted a dressage trainer about an hour away that was recommended to me and we are planning for me to trailer Pilgrim out and take a lesson and let her ride him and see if we can figure out what's going on and make a plan. It may be sending him for training or trailer out every week and ride with her. I have to nail down my schedule this week and make a plan for which day I'm going to get out there. I'm excited and looking forward to it.....and a little nervous too.

With our rides, I started slow and short and each time extending our ride and adding in different things in short bursts. Once he is doing well, the next ride I ask for longer sections of what I asked for before and add short bursts of something new. I also have started completely ignoring any bad/naughty or avoidance behavior. This sounds ridiculous I know, but when I try to correct the behavior, Pilgrim learns to plan for this and it just gets worse. So I am using a behavior trick I know from dog training. Don't laugh....it appears to be working. We have made huge steps in progress this last week! So what I am doing is ignoring the behavior (instead of circling, yielding hindquarters, making him work harder, etc) and just trying again. Once he gives me what I want I reward him by releasing the pressure of asking him to do it and rubbing him. Once he consistently and quietly does what I ask I then can ask him to do it for longer periods. If he does anything naughty, I just ignore it and ask again. For Pilgrim....this works like a charm. He has learned he gets no reaction at all from me, negative or positive when he acts up and gets rewarded (which he craves) for doing the right thing. I have already seen most of his bad behavior completely go away and I am successfully able to walk, free walk, trot, long and low trot, and canter him easily and with him offering to remain on the bit more often. He is softer and more relaxed and I can feel it through his mouth and his back. We still have moments of bracing and tenseness, but much less and when he is I have found that asking for lateral, haunches or shoulder in seems to take his mind off it and put him right back to work.

So Pilgrim and I are seriously dating. We will see how it goes, if he continues to fix his bad boy ways I may even be ready to settle down! =)

Friday, October 7, 2011

One more meet to go

Faith had a meet on Tuesday on a pretty deceiving course. It is all slowly uphill until the last tenth of a mile when it goes downhill. She did excellent with an outstanding time of 7:59. That put her 27th out of 260. Not too shabby for her age. Her last meet is the Championship meet on Tuesday. It's the easiest course she did all year so I think she will do well. She is practicing hard for it, ran just under 2 miles yesterday. She is getting stronger and better endurance the more she practices. Faith is enjoying it so much we are going to continue to run a few days a week in the off season. She also wants to try Track in the spring as long as it doesn't interfere with the horse shows.

Cake Recipe

I've had a special request to post the recipe for the yummy delicious cake I made the other day....so here it is!

Chocolate Buttermilk Bundt Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 325. Spray 10 inch bundt pan with nonstick spray
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
3. Combine cocoa and chopped chocolate in small bowl. Pour boiling water over cocoa mixture, stirring until chocolate is melted.
4. Whisk together buttermilk, oil, egg, egg white, and vanilla in large bowl; stir in cocoa mixture. Add flour mixture, stirring just until no longer visible. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour Batter into prepared pan.
5. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Invert and remove pan, let cool completely.

Per Serving: 150 cal, 6g total fat, 2g Sat fat, 0g Trans Fat, 9mg Chol, 123mg Sod, 24g Total Carb, 14g total sugar, 1g fiber, 3g Protein, 26mg Calc

Weight Watchers Points Plus: 4

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Tuna's World, We're Just Living In It

I'm not in your way am I?
I wanted outside...Now I'm just stuck. What do you mean I'm an indoor cat and have no survival skills? Just unhook me and I'll show you my awesomeness
Beware of Watch Kitty

Make the bed later, I'm keeping it warm for you
Don't move, I'm sleepy
Awesome...you guys bought me a box for my birthday!
I love it! What do you mean the garbage man comes on Monday?