Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lope from a Halt

Yet another great day!  I am blessed to be able to enjoy these days.

Sharon and I timed our arrival to within 3 minutes of each other - guess we have it down to a science now.  We spent the first hour reviewing our show premiums for the Santa Rosa and Rancho Murieta shows while Todd was giving a lesson.  When they were done Sharon and I turned Blu and Nazz out in the arena and free-lunged them.  I was at one end and Sharon was at the other end of the arena and we let the boys get their P (sounds like Hiss) and V out running around.  That was a change of pace from a regular lunge, and since I can't do that yet anyway, it worked out fine.

When they boys were ready to get haltered up again we took them back to the cross ties and saddled up.

Today I graduated!  I was able to get on Blu first, without Todd needing to work him.  Yay!

I liked it too.  I hadn't realized how much work Todd actually DOES during that warm up time.  OK - well, truly I do realize it, but he makes it look so effortless.  It was a great learning opportunity for me because Sharon and I had our lesson together which meant that we each had some time to ourselves without Todd's "eagle eye" on us.  Which meant that I had to work out my own issues at times.

Like when I couldn't get Blu to jog.  He would dive into the center of the arena any time I asked him to transition from the walk to the jog.  Huh?  I knew I was doing something that was causing it.  Not sure how to explain, but he was definitely moving off my legs and hands, and I had to figure out what I was doing wrong.  I thought back to a ride I'd had last summer.  I needed to stop and 'reboot' Blu.  Which was really stopping and 'rebooting' ME.

And it worked.  I was able to get Blu to jog off nicely, multiple times.  Though wouldn't you know, at that point Todd looked over and said I needed to collect Blu more.  Sigh.  But hey, I was happy I'd gotten him to jog.  So I worked on collection next.

Then it was time to lope.  Yay!

We had some very nice transitions.  And some not so nice.  But overall they were good.  And best of all was when I mentioned to Todd that I'd been watching some of the live feed from the Scottsdale Arabian show this weekend and saw in the Junior Horse class they were having them lope off from the halt.  Todd's response?  Of course - they have to be able to lope off from any gate, including from a stand still.

It's been years since I've done a lope from a halt, and when I did, it was on Cre who knew our cues so well they were barely there.  And they weren't 'proper' cues.  I learned today.

So there we were.  Blu and I.  At a stand still.  Todd had me collect Blu so that he was coiled super tightly.  He had all four feet underneath him (I know, I know...but you know that visual of an Elephant when they're standing on a ball?  It feels kinda like that.) and Todd told me to have him move forward.  I thought he meant at a walk, which confused me, but I tried.  Turns out that wasn't what he meant.  Instead, after he was collected, I needed to let him LEAN forward and then when I released him he'd have no other place to go BUT the lope. It's all about the setup.

I had my 'ah-ha' moment.

So I collected Blu again (Elephant on a ball) and this time I urged him to lean forward and THEN I released him and he went IMMEDIATELY into a lope.  First stride.  It was AWESOME!

What a high note to end the lesson on!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My First Lope (in 3 months)

Last weekend was awesome!

When I arrived I enjoyed some quiet time in the sun with Blu.  He was hanging out in his paddock so I joined him.  We just relaxed together and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  

When it came time to saddle up for my lesson I was happy that I could put the saddle on myself without pain.  Though Todd (and Sharon) is still doing the lunging for me - the constant tug on the lead line pulls my back at an awkward angle and I'm not-so patiently 'saving' my back for actual riding.  And I can now mount from the shorter mounting block.  Soon I should be able to do it all.   Baby steps.

Todd still got on first

Is it ok to say how amazing my horse looked?  He moves so nicely.  A nice Western Pleasure jog and a smooth, slow lope.  Ahhhhhh :-)

Then it was my turn!!!!  I walked and jogged Blu around the arena for about 10 minutes - at one point Blu broke from the jog to the walk because I'd lost my concentration when I looked over at Todd to tell him how amazing his jog was (while making silly faces).  That'll teach me!  But seriously, it was SO cool to ride.

I suppose after 3 months it's ok to not be the smoothest thing around - but here I am at my first lope.

When my lesson was over it was Sharon's turn!  She and Nazz really click.  They have a lot of fun, too.

Blu gets his grain at dinner

On Sunday the weather was gorgeous once again - and we had another great lesson.  I'd used up the memory card and didn't bring my laptop so I couldn't empty it.  No pictures or video of that lesson.  But it went even better than Saturday's.  Probably because it was no longer my "first" lope!  I could have ridden for hours, but Blu's farrier, Wayde, was waiting (very patiently, I might add).  So when my lesson was done I brought Blu over so he could get his new "tennies." (and used my phone to take these pictures.)

Hammering in a nail

My view while sitting on an overturned bucket

Crimping the nails on a rear shoe

I hung around because Blu has a hard time standing still when his back feet are worked on - not sure if you remember me mentioning it last spring - and someone has to hold Blu.  I was going to hold him while Wayde worked on his feet but it turned out to not be necessary.  Blu stood still for the whole thing.  (Good Boy Blu!)

By the time Blu's shoes were on, Sharon was finished with her lesson and we turned the two boys out together in the big pasture.  They got to spend the rest of the afternoon playing together and I got to spend it driving home!

Friday, February 17, 2012

I'm Going Riding!

I've been going to Physical Therapy once a week for the last month to help me improve my core muscle strength which will help my back.  Because, frankly, my back hurts.  I've learned a dozen different exercises, some of which involve an exercise ball or rubber bands.  But all revolve around my back.  And I believe they're starting to pay off!  At the very least, this last week I was able to stand and give a presentation for an hour.  Prior to the Physical Therapy I wouldn't have lasted 15 minutes before I needed to sit to ease my back.  Courtesy of PT I had some things I could do while standing in front of a room full of people (without them knowing) which allowed me to stay on my feet for the full hour (in heels, no less).  Thanks Sutter Physical Therapy!

And it feels like forever since I've been in the saddle.  I know I got to ride a couple weeks ago, but it was only for about 20 minutes and I only walked and jogged.  I itched to do more.  This weekend, assuming the weather holds, I'll get to.  Do more, that is!

I'm starting to count the weeks until the show season starts (for me).  I've been watching the videos of the 2011 Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show (one of the most amazing Arabian Horse Shows in the World) waiting for some videos from the 2012 show.  That show runs from Feb 16 - 26th - I've been to the show, twice, to watch (and shop) but never to compete.  Someday.  In the mean time I eagerly wait for the Golden Gate Arabian Horse Show  in Santa Rosa at the end of March.  That will be our first show of the 2012 season.  Followed closely by the Arabian Horse Association of Northern California Show in Rancho Murieta (which Sharon and I always call the "Rancho Show") April 12-15.

So, even though I haven't been riding, Blu is still in training.  My trainer, Todd Azevedo, has been doing an amazing job with Blu throughout the off-season.  I just hope that I can catch up in the short time I've got available in the saddle.

Wish me luck!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Annie Goes To The Vet

I really should write more about the dogs since this is "The Horse and Hound" time I'll try to make it a more positive story.  But for now, it's about Annie's vet visits....

A month ago, when Ken and I drove into the garage after an outing, the dogs were waiting for us as usual. But Annie acted like something was hurting her.  Her tail was between her legs and when she moved she cried.

So, of course I called the Vet immediately.  Loomis Basin Vet is wonderful because it's usually pretty easy to get an appointment (they have a bunch of Veterinarians on staff) and they have longer hours so we don't have to leave work, or make it an emergency appointment.

If you've ever met Annie you know she can make her presence known. But to see her in the waiting room, shaking like a leaf, is just heartbreaking (though kinda funny, too).  And like many dogs afraid of the vet, when you go from the waiting room to an exam room, she thinks it's time to go home and gets happy again.  And then the shaking begins again when we go into an exam room instead of the parking lot.

Annie's trying to make herself as small as possible and fit in the corner of the exam room.  And she's not looking at me, either.

The vet was great with her, taking his time to get to know her (it was their first time meeting), feeding her tiny bits of a yummy treat and waiting for her to come to him.  However he couldn't find anything wrong with her.  He checked her ACL (thank goodness it wasn't that) and flexed her legs (I had no idea how flexible a dogs rear legs could be - did you know they can be extended back and be parallel to her back?).  After a thorough exam he said we could do x-rays to examine her hips or we could give her Rimadyl for 5 days and see if she improved.

Considering she was acting perfectly normal at this point I opted for the Rimadyl with the thought that if she started crying again we'd bring her back for x-rays.  And we would do blood work if we had to continue the Rimadyl.    She was a trooper and was wagging her tail by the end of the appointment, too.

Annie being the good dog that she is, promptly got better.  Not a yelp, cry, hold her leg up, or lack of appetite to be seen for weeks.

We figured she must have pulled a muscle running after a Squirrel.  (She's ALWAYS on the lookout.)

But things couldn't be that easy.  Last week Ken and I came back from a Super Bowl party to find Annie in pain again.  I tell you, hearing a dog cry is awful because there is no way to tell them it'll be alright and know that they understand.

We did our best to comfort her and called the vet again.  We got the Rimadyl prescription refilled and brought her in for x-rays.  We were able to get an appointment with a Vet Annie had seen before.  Also super nice (alright - I've never met a not-nice vet, so maybe that isn't very descriptive).

This time when I walked in the vet's office she started whimpering and shaking even more than last time.  Knowing that she'd not been out of my sight during the last visit, and that the vet couldn't have been nicer so I knew she wasn't whimpering because they'd beat her.  Sheesh!  :-)  Sill Hound.

However this time I knew I'd have to leave her behind because they would have to sedate her to take the x-rays.  Maybe she knew this visit was going to be a bit different and that is why she was shaking so much.  After the exam, as I was leaving her in the room with the Vet, Annie looked at me like I'd betrayed her with my very existence!  Those eyes!!!  Made ME want to whimper.

Alas, I knew she was in wonderful hands so I headed home.

It was good news when they called sooner than expected letting me know I could pick her up.  They didn't have to sedate her as much as expected.  She had multiple x-rays taken, of her hips and her foot.  The foot x-ray was because she thought she saw an area where Annie had been licking a rear toe and that it might have had a cracked toenail with some discharge.  The didn't see anything wrong.  With the hips or the foot.  One of those "the good news is that we don't see anything wrong but the bad news is that we don't see anything wrong so we don't know why she's in pain" diagnoses....

When they brought Annie out to me in the waiting room she didn't wag her tail, or act like she even liked me.  And forget about it when we were home.  She wouldn't have anything to do with me.  Betrayed.  That's how she acted!  I can laugh because she was back to her old self by the next day.  (I know most of it was the sedation wearing off - but I'm sure some of it really was because I had the nerve to leave her behind.)

What's the bottom line?  I paid a hefty vet bill for multiple x-rays, blood work, medication and exams but we still have no idea what is wrong, or if ANYTHING is wrong.

Don't get me wrong, I'm THRILLED that she appears to be fine again (she hasn't whimpered/cried since Super Bowl Sunday)!  We're just keeping a close eye on her (and kept her crated during the day all last week - Ken came home at lunch each day) now.  And she's getting Rimadyl for two weeks (thus the blood work) for pain.  If she acts like she's in pain again they recommended we talk with an Orthopedic specialist for another opinion (though we have had 3 different vets and a radiologist say they can't see anything wrong - oh and that her hips look great - no signs of hip dysplasia).

I got the cold shoulder!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spa Day at The Claremont

My good friend Becky had her 50th Birthday Party yesterday.  She choose to spend the day in style and invited her girlfriends to join her at The Claremont Resort in Berkeley for Brunch followed by Spa treatments and topped off with a party at her house.

The Claremont Hotel in Berkeley

At 9am I dropped Ken off at their house so he and Andy could do their thing, which included getting the house decorated and ready for the party in the evening.  About quarter to 10 the girls headed off to The Claremont.

The Menu

Becky's Brunch was in a pretty room with panoramic views of the Bay.  There was a long table and I chose a seat about 2/3 of the way down the table from Becky.  No one had chosen a seat there and I thought it would be fun to see who ended up around me.

Becky at the head of the table.

Jean and Susan sat on either side of me with Julie across the table.  We had a lively conversation covering many different subjects.  Brunch was a leisurely affair, with splendid company, tasty food and Mimosas for all.

Jeanie, Andy's Mom and Sister

Shortly after noon it was time for the Spa where a number of us booked different services.  I chose an 80 minute Therapeutic Massage.  Let me just say "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

It spoiled me and it will be very hard to ever do a 50 minute massage again.  Heck, I even thought the 80 minute variety was over too soon.  (Though today I'm a bit sore so they probably have a reason for their length limits!).

After my massage I (we all were) was able to partake in the other Spa amenities.  They have a Sauna (I only lasted about 5 minutes - it was HOT), a large Jacuzzi with huge windows overlooking the Bay, and my FAVORITE: a Deluge Shower.  It's basically like getting to stand under a waterfall and have water pummel you.  The water comes out of a 4 inch pipe directly overhead and it comes out so fast that it fills the basin at your feet faster than it can drain (and it has a 12" drain).  I ended up going in that twice, and talked a few others into trying it, too.  Can't recommend it highly enough!  Oh, they also had showers with something like 10 shower heads, 3 at your feet, 3 at your middle, 3 at your head/shoulders topped off with a large rain shower head in the ceiling.  I probably spent another hour and a half enjoying those other amenities.  I left The Claremont at 4pm.

And the day wasn't over yet!  There was still the evening party!  With weather that couldn't be beat, the back deck and house were filled with friends.  The party was a roaring success, too.  And imagine Becky's surprise when a Mariachi Band appeared!  One of her friends brought them along and they played for over an hour.  Awesome!

Wish I knew their names to give them credit - but the Mariachi's were great!

Fun from morning till evening.  Becky has set the bar high for 50th Birthday Celebrations!  Guess I better start planning mine now!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No Pain While Riding and a New Colt

OK - So the new colt isn't mine.  It is my friend Nancy's!  

Nancy and the colt

She picked him up on Friday and brought him to Todd's for the weekend.  Sharon, Nancy and I all spent time getting to know him.  

Todd showed Nancy some 'baby' steps

It may be hard to tell from the photos, but he's a Buckskin - they shaved his face and neck so she could see what he looked like under all his winter fuzz.  (That style of clipping is called a Cardigan Clip I think.)  His body should end up being about the color of his muzzle, with a black mane and tail. 

Wonder if he'll grow up to be a Cutting Horse?!

I'm also going to closely follow Nancy's progress with the colt because if things work out right that might be MY next step in the horse business!  In the mean time, I'm continuing to work with Blu.

My first time back in the saddle with Blu 1/28/12

And that brings me to MY fun!  I am thrilled to say that I had NO pain riding this weekend.  I started off on a different horse, one that was a bit older and more sedate.  I even mounted using the 5 step block so I wouldn't torque my spine.  I followed doctor's orders and started at the walk.

I tried some different stretching and strengthening exercises.  After 10 minutes I felt it would be ok to try a jog (truly, I couldn't stop myself).  Because I had to give some solid kicks to get the horse into the jog, I could feel my ankle protest a bit.  But once in the jog there was no pain in my back.  Hooray!  I got off after about 15 minutes in the saddle. (A record, I'm sure)

Saturday was dental day at the ranch, too.  Our vet was there for most of the day working on a bunch of horse's teeth (watch a horse get dental work and you'll RUN to your own dentist and thank him for the tools he uses).  Blu was going to be on the list but since I was planning on riding we put him on the list for later in the week.

After all the lessons were finished Todd pulled out Blu and I sat on the sidelines watching.  Blu looked AWESOME!!!!

When Todd got off he looked at me and asked if I wanted to get on.  Did I!!!

Oh, to be back in the saddle on my horse!  Tod has been doing such an excellent job with him.  His jog is slow and his head set is really nice in the bosel.  It just makes me smile to think about it now.

Low res video - but you can tell how he moves.

Dinner was a trip out for Sushi.  Yum.

Sunday morning at the ranch was busy.  More lessons.  Nancy worked with her colt having him tie quietly and later, load in the trailer.  No issues.  When it was time for Nancy to head home he loaded up like an old pro.

A little after noon I had Blu saddled and Todd mounted up.  He put him through his paces and then I rode.  We had a walk/jog lesson, with plenty of bending and turning off leg pressure.  I'll have to wait for weeks until my next trip, but then I get to lope.

I've got a little less than two months until the 2012 show season starts up.  It'll be here before I know it!