Saturday, February 16, 2019

Feeding and Supplementing the Air Fern

It is no secret that most Morgans are notoriously easy keepers, and Ellie is no exception. She will never be the type of horse who receives the full recommended amount listed on a grain feed tag and could easily live on hay alone, especially as I feed high-quality second crop hay from the field next door.  However, feeding hay alone means she would lack the proper amount of vitamins and minerals.

does this hay make my butt look big?
This leaves ration balancers, which I think are the best invention ever.  It allows me to give Ellie the vitamins and minerals she needs without all the calories she certainly doesn't need.  I have always loved researching feeds and supplements, and I chose Grow 'N Win for her.  So far, the monthly shipments from Chewy have been without any issues, as I cannot purchase it locally.  I actually LOVE the convenience of having feed delivered directly to my house (along with the cat food, too)!

Grow 'N Win with PM supplement
Between the high-quality hay and Grow 'N Win, Ellie really does not need any supplements, regardless of what the multitude of equine companies out there want me to believe haha.  However, I admit I was sucked into Smartpak's ColiCare deal for the $7500 colic surgery reimbursement, and also because I figure between the trailering and showing, Ellie could use digestive support anyway.

However, after all the issues with SmartPak, I choose to move my business over to Platinum Performance.  Ellie is entering her third month on the Platinum Performance GI supplement, and so far I am happy with the switch.  She still has colic surgery coverage, but the limit is now up to $10,000.  The supplement itself it easy to feed, in a small pouch that is easy to store.  Platinum Performance sent a little bucket for the supplements, but I found my old SmartPak drawer fits 28 pouches just perfectly. Ellie eats the flax based supplement without any problems, as she is such a glutton anyway. Other horses I have owned, Dreamy included, have refused to eat anything other than a pelleted supplement, but Ellie isn't picky at all.

To take it all a step further, I bought a one-year subscription to FeedXL when they were offering a half off deal back on Black Friday.  Maybe it was overkill, but it was cheap enough and seemed like an interesting program.  The only thing it came up with was low sodium, which is easily corrected with a free choice salt block.  ;-)

probably not worth full price, but decent enough piece of mind

So far, I think Ellie is on a good feeding regiment for her age and workload.  Of course, as she matures and things change, I will have to tweak it as needed.  And let's hope I NEVER have to worry about colic surgery, but it is nice to have the coverage.

Friday, February 8, 2019

First Official PC meeting

Last night I attended my first official Pony Club meeting.  I suppose it is also technically the first official meeting for the club itself, too, besides the sign-up meeting last month (which I was unable to attend).  It was an "unmounted meeting" at a library about an hour away from where I live now, just a town over from my hometown actually.  So while I knew where I was going, it was a longer drive than I remembered haha.

Overall, it wasn't the most exciting of meetings.  There were nine kiddos in attendance and then me, the only adult member.  Thankfully it sounds like there are other adults who signed up for Horsemasters so I won't always be the weird adult haha.  I have no problem being the only adult, but it is definitely kind of awkward in a way.  I mostly went in order to meet everyone and have some basic questions answered.  The topic for the meeting was keeping records, and of course, that is not something I have ever had problems with.

Exhibit A haha
I confess I have a 5" binder with EVERYTHING from my first horse, Sparky.  Like I believe I still have every single Coggins I ever had pulled from her, starting in 1993.  Yes, I know I have a problem hahahaha.  I think it is partly my personality and partly being a teacher.  And maybe partly because I love binders and organizing!

So, we were instructed to bring our own empty binder, but mine is already...full of things.  ;-)  I started filling in my new PC forms with a pen, and then our DC commented that she had sent us all an electronic copy.  Of course, that meant the hardcopy I was filling in became a draft, as this type A overachiever is totally going to be typing it all up LOL.  




Most of the info is pretty easy to fill out, my contact info, horse information, vaccinations, feeding, etc.  There is a section we have to keep on conditioning, which I already halfheartedly do on the calendar hanging in my tack room.  But this is a log that is supposed to be written in after each ride so I will have to become more diligent.  The section on TPR changes will be a bit of a pain to record, but honestly, it is good data to be aware of and to keep track of (even when I don't have a fancy gadget to do it for me).  Our DC said she would like to bring in someone to talk about conditioning, which would be interesting to hear for sure.

The only part that made me go OH NO WAY was the expense tracking sheet hahahaha.  I much prefer to live in the (semi) dark about what my horses cost me.  Ugggg and now I have to actually track it hahaha.  Shoot me now!  
*sigh*
Part of the meeting was a bit boring personally, as the kids didn't know how to fill out certain sections or because they didn't know the difference between roughage and concentrates.  That is all part of Pony Club though, helping the younger riders, but because there were plenty of parents and an instructor present, my help wasn't needed.  I am OK with that though, as I know some of what I will be doing is waiting or observing since the age and experience range is quite wide.  

I did get to chat with the DC towards the end, which was good.  She seems like someone I will enjoy working with, and she is a teacher as well!  I was able to find out about some of the logistics and how things will be run.  It sounds like I can be as active as I want to be and can choose to do the certifications or not.  I think it will depend more on Ellie and where she is in her training on when or if we do so.  I mean, I think we could easily do the D level ratings this year at least, but at the same time, I am more concerned about bringing her along well and taking advantage of the mounted instructional opportunities than climbing the ratings or doing the rallies.

Overall, though it was a long night out for a school night (let's be real, getting home at 9pm on any night is tough as I am in my jammies and in bed long before then haha), it was worth going and makes me excited to consider the possibilities we might otherwise not have this year!  

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Winter Blues

January never seems to be an easy month.  This year was a bit better, especially compared to 2018, but the weather was the worst.  Between freezing temperatures and lots of sn*w and freezing rain and ICE, I went most of the month without riding.  And honestly, even if I had easy access to an indoor, I probably would not have ridden either haha. It is hard to feel motivated to do much more than basic horse care when it is so darn cold.

The horses are both doing well, despite the weather.  They are eating and drinking just fine, and I did break down and blanket them both in heavyweights over the coldest days.  Dreamy especially seems to appreciate being rugged up at her age.  I didn't clip anyone this winter, so I normally do not blanket, but with low temps and windchill, blanketing seems to be the best choice.
January 6 was the last time I rode in January uggg
After all the super low temperatures, we are suddenly being gifted with a tease of sun and warm weather.  It won't last, of course, but it is nice to think 28 degrees felt warm this morning during chores haha. Yesterday at midday it was 54 degrees and sunny and today promises to bring the same.  It is practically summer LOL!  Of course, there is more sn*w coming on Wednesday night into Thursday, but I am choosing to live in the moment and ignore the long-range forecast.  The wild swings in temps make me nervous about colic, but so far both mares are doing OK.


The one fun thing about January is the abundance of year-end banquets and annual meetings.  I attended banquets each weekend for the entire month and one weekend I attended two!  So many ribbons!  Instead of doing multiple posts about each one (umm boring), I am working on one post about all the year-end swag.  The last banquet is this coming weekend, so I am sure you will all see a post about it soon.
finally got out again on February 3! 
the sn*w was so deep
Show dates are starting to roll in, which is always a nice distraction.  Of course, there are sooooo many things to choose from, so I am going to have to formulate more of a plan as we get closer to spring haha.  

so much snow she is almost touching the barn roof haha
I am also feeling excited about Pony Club starting up, with our first unmounted meeting this Thursday.  I am really hoping I am not the only adult haha, but no matter what it will be fun!  I think we have a mounted meeting later this month, but unless my driveway loses all the ice, I won't be trucking Ellie anywhere.  We do have the driveway sanded as needed, but it is still long and steep and overwhelming with a trailer in tow in the winter.
Dreamy appreciating her blanket
Now to just get through the rest of the winter without losing my mind and we will be good!  Maybe the groundhog is right and spring will arrive early!  :-)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Morgan Dressage Association Scholarship

When I bought Ellie back at the end of 2017, I somehow came across the Morgan Dressage Association's Facebook page.  Promoting Morgans in dressage is a cause I find worthy of support, and of course with a fun year end award program it seemed like something I might want to do with Ellie someday haha.  They base their awards on rated USDF shows, so it will be some time before we are ready to show regularly at that level though.  Schooling shows are life (and cheaper and closer...!)  MDS also has a scholarship program and an interesting newsletter, so overall it seemed worth the small fee.



Besides sending in my yearly membership check, I have admittedly not had much to do with the organization.  However, back in November, I received two different emails from MDA about their scholarship program, as they were extending the due date by two weeks.

Basically, MDA awards three to four $500 scholarships a year, to be used exclusively on dressage training on a Morgan.  As the website states, 
Scholarships must be used to further the training and education of the applicant and their Morgan(s). Eligible expenses include instruction, clinics (mounted or as an auditor) and the expenses to attend those clinics, educational materials such as training books and videos, and other educational opportunities such as symposiums. The purchases of tack or computer software and competition expenses are NOT eligible. 
I ignored the first email, but the second email made me pause.  Generally, extending a due date for applications indicates that perhaps there were not enough entries, as sometimes occurs with horse shows.  

Hmm.

So I pulled up the application just to see what was required.  It is a hefty application, with a cover letter, five in depth questions, and a requirement for two to five photos and two videos.  But it was totally doable, so I dug in and started writing.



I submitted my application back on November 8.  And then waited, as awards would be announced by December 31.  On the 30th, I received an email saying the announcement would be delayed.  No big deal, but of course, I am NOT good at waiting haha.

But just a few days later, I received an email that said I was awarded a $500 scholarship!  YAY!  Maybe we were selected because not many people applied haha, but nevertheless, I am excited to have extra lesson money and specifically clinic money at my disposal this year.  I must provide a detailed listing of how I spent the money by the end of December, and I cannot apply for/win a scholarship two years in a row (so I would have to wait until 2021 if I want to try again).


whoops spelled my name wrong haha
and I'm not sure why it says 2020...
So now I eagerly await clinic dates and the opportunity to start lessons again, knowing I have a little extra financial cushion to reach our training goals this year!  

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Restless

This is the time of year I always grow restless.  As much as I am glad to give Ellie the down time, with just two to three days a week of hacking out in the sn*w, I really miss being able to ride more than just at a walk in questionable footing haha.  I was spoiled last winter with good sn*w, while this year has brought a lot of rain and ice.


so much winter

December distracts me enough with the holidays, but January and February make me crazy (and sometimes March and April, too)!  This is when I start wishing I could board her out over the winter in order to ride productively more often, but that scenario isn't realistic in several ways; the biggest issue being there isn't a nearby farm with indoor I would feel comfortable with boarding.  

Oh, the woes of a horse girl in Maine!  ;-)
the prettiness has long worn off
this was yesterday, which ended up being a sn*w day from school
they predicted rain
we got 6+' of sn*w...
Despite the fact the majority of our rides have been just walking in the sn*w, it is interesting to me just how much Ellie has matured over the past year.  Last winter, she was so green and not yet even comfortable with the entire process of tacking up and going out to ride.  She spooked a lot at everything, gave a lot of snorts and hairy eyeballs, and wasn't entirely sure what I was asking of her each time I pulled her out of her pasture.  I remember there always being a tiny feeling of dread in my stomach, praying each session would go well.  We didn't know each other and Ellie knew next to nothing about riding, so I always felt a little knot of worry, though I hid it under a calm and patient demeanor.
ice, so much ice

Now, she is so much more settled with the routine and within herself.  She knows what I am going to ask and expect of her, she knows she can trust me, and she just does the thing.  She happily stands and waits when needed, she's not fussy at all, and she will walk about through the fields without hesitation.  She still gives turkeys a careful look, but there is no spooking or snorting or spinning haha.  Even this past Sunday, when Dreamy randomly decided to gallop madly around her paddock like a moron while we marched around in the adjacent field, Ellie held it together.  I am still cautious, because you have to be, but I don't have that feeling of worry I did last winter.
Dreamy - don't even look at me

None of this is a major breakthrough, but it just feels nice to have a more confident horse!  Elle has always been curious, but she was always much more hesitant beforehand.  It makes me feel as though I have at least done something right, though we still have a ways to go to get to full maturity LOL.  Progress with horses can sometimes be slow going and hard to gauge, so I am soaking up this discovery!  I suspect this coming year, as well as next, will be big growing up years for her.  
happy ears

So while we are not currently able to work on connection and throughness and her canter transitions, which it kills me a little inside haha, I am finding pleasure in the little things!
best mare

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 Goals

Setting goals as an equestrian is really just compiling a wishlist of hopes of what the following year will bring.  I always attempt to create realistic yet challenging goals that are attainable, fairly specific, and FUN!  I love outlining an idea of what my show season might look like as well, and I happily create a Google Doc as the show dates come rolling in.

My overarching goal of any year is to keep both my horses happy, healthy, and sound.  That really goes without saying, but I ought to include it anyway.  Dreamy is 28 this year (!!!) and Ellie will turn seven.  They both have their own specific needs at this point based on their ages, and I will continue to meet those needs to the best of my ability.
one of Ellie's Christmas presents was a gorgeous sparkly browband from DJD!
I LOVE IT
Training goals
I will definitely continue my weekly(ish) lessons with Beth and hopefully also my monthly lessons with Babette.  Both of these instructors were a huge help in 2018, and I want to continue my riding student relationship with them.  Specifically, I want to improve Ellie's canter transitions and balance within the gait.  I also want her to become reliable to my seat (because she is queen of blowing me off when she'd rather not listen haha and I end up resorting to overusing my rein aid).  And as far as jumping, I want her to be adjustable to fences and consistently listen to my half halts.  I would love to be able to canter an entire small course of jumps confidently and maybe even getting our leads correctly.

Move up to Training level
I would like to feel solidly capable at Training level by the end of the year and have Training 3 feel within our wheelhouse, scoring above 63%. I hope to be comfortably schooling First level by the end of the season, even if we don't actually try a First 1 test.  Doing so would be a stretch goal!
yeah, this was New Years Day
sn*w can go away now
Showing Ideas
While I don't know yet what my exact show plan is for the year, I do have some specifics I would like to follow through with if possible:

  • Complete at least one full unrecognized horse trial at whatever level we are ready for
  • Compete in at least one recognized dressage show at Training level
  • Attend at least one overnight show (maybe a Morgan show, maybe a dressage show?)

New Experiences for Ellie
I hope to introduce more in hand work and lesson again at least twice this year with Sandra B.  I think the in hand work is going to help Ellie feel comfortable with herself and improve her balance.  I also want to do more driving training with her, as I kind of let that fall by the wayside last year.  I hope to get her comfortably pulling a drag by the end of the year.  She is not totally confident ground driving and long lining yet, so that is definitely an area we can work on.  I don't feel a huge rush to hook her yet, because in so many ways she is still super sensitive and not always confident in the lines.  
Dreamy looking really great as she enters her 28th year
I should do a Dreamy post since she gets no blog love!
Start the Horsemasters Program with Pony Club!
This is the one goal I am most excited about!  There are a few pony clubs in Maine, but none are that close.  Atlantic Pony Club is newly formed in southern Maine just last month, and while "local" means I will still be traveling an hour or so to meetings and clinics, nothing is really local to me as I live so far in the middle of nowhere haha.  While you might normally think of Pony Club only open to riders up to age 25, they started a new Horsemasters program back in 2001 as a way to keep PC riders involved as adults or for adults who want to try PC for the first time!  I hope it will give me further opportunities for quality instruction and access to a support network.  Not boarding my horses means I don't have a "barn family" and maybe PC will help fill that niche for me, especially at shows.  I really don't like showing alone!

Of course, like anything else in life, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry and all that haha.  So while these are all goals I am hoping to achieve, I will remain flexible and willing to change as the year goes on.  Bring on 2019!
my horse and I are ridiculous haha

Monday, December 31, 2018

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Thanks to Amanda for starting a fun little bloghop!

Favorite Show Picture
This is from our first dressage show ever, in May at our lesson barn.  It is a crappy screenshot from a video, but I love how Ellie looks like a proper little dressage pony!  Sadly, there were no photographers at any of the shows we did this year, so I was unable to purchase professional photos.


Favorite Non-Show Picture
This is such a sweet photo of my three year old son and Ellie.  She is so kind and this photo exemplifies her personality.




Favorite Thing You Bought
I don't know if I have a favorite thing, but for this blog post it would be my pretty blue AA Platinum MotionLite show coat.  The coat is such a great color and just different enough to stand out in a good way.  Also, it is so super comfortable and breathable, it is the best show coat I have ever worn.  I splurged and bought the hunter green as well.  



Favorite Moment on Horseback
This would probably be our XC clinic with Daryl, because it was so much darn fun (even though it was also a little frustrating)!  



Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle
I would say starting Ellie in harness and working with Sandra Beaulieu on ground work are tied for my favorite out-of-saddle moments!


Favorite "Between the Ears" Picture
I love all between the ears photos, since is there any place better than the back of a horse?  But I would choose this one from the height of summer, in the beautiful Maine woods, on a mare who has become a brave trail partner!


Favorite Horse Book or Article
This one is tough, because I used to be such a voracious reader, but in the last few years I have gotten away from reading.  This saddens me, but it is part of the season of my life right now (small child means no leisure reading time available), but I have been enjoying several Dressage Today articles this year.  I like this one on trot lengthenings and this on shoulder in/half pass.  I also just bought Denny's latest book, which I need to make time to read!  And of course, I spend a lot of time enjoying everyone's blogs, which besides the reading I do for teaching, is probably the most I read all year haha! 


Favorite Horse Ridden (or Groomed/Cared for) Aside from Your Own
Uhhh, I guess I would have to go with Taylor, since I haven't ridden, groomed, or cared for any other horse besides my own two this year LOL!


Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse
Hands down, any pic of this mare smiling.  Seriously, she's ridiculous hahahaha!

plus the fact she loved wearing her hat haha
Favorite Fence You Successfully Jumped or Movement You Conquered
Since we are tadpole jumpers at the moment haha, I am going to go with the canter.  Our leads caused some issues this year and nailing both leads by the end of show season in Training 1 was an accomplishment to me with this mare.



Favorite Horse Meme or Funny Picture