Friday, December 31, 2010

The End Is Nigh!

Of the year, that is.

Right now we're getting a mix of sleet, hail, and fluffy snow and coldness. Can't ride Royal until Monday because of his chiropractic work. So, I thought I'd write about a fun day we had this year. There's another barn a mile north of where Royal lives that has a cross-country course. The day before my birthday, they had an open schooling day. I'd been debating all week about whether I should go to it. On the one hand, I didn't have any tests that week (so no hard-core studying), the weather was forecast to be wonderful, I didn't really know when I'd be able to do any X-C schooling for a while, and the barn is close enough that I didn't have to trailer him there. On the other, Royal was very out of shape and I'd have to ride on the highway to get there. But, that morning I decided to bite the bullet and try for it. If I had to lead Royal along the road, that was fine. So I gathered up my helmet and protective vest and went out to the farm. I had debated whether to use my bridle or hackamore and decided on my hackamore since it has a built-in leadrope and I thought that would come in handy.

I did end up leading Royal most of the way there. Being a Sunday morning, the highway wasn't terribly busy but people were mowing their lawns, burning leaves, and we encountered a couple of very vocal Labradors. Also, about 1/10th of a mile from the stable, I realized my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket. We'd mostly been walking through ditches over piles and piles of dead grass so I didn't think there was much chance of finding it. So we continued on. As I walked up to the barn, one of the volunteers asked:

"Did you walk up here along the highway?"
"You're nuts."
"You're telling me."

She offered to trailer me back when I was done, but I declined. I wanted to at least attempt to find my phone. I handed in my registration stuff (somehow that stayed in my pocket) and started riding in the schooling arena. Royal, being the social butterfly that he is, wanted to meet all the other horses, so he wasn't really listening to me. I just persisted and used my reliable "Royal! Pay attention and relax" tools, mainly figure-8s. We did a lot of figure-8s around the schooling jumps, which was fine since I was the only one in there. Once he calmed down and stopped fighting me, we went over some of the jumps. He very much enjoyed that and was very obedient so I decided to go out to the X-C course.

Oh boy.

Royal was fine at first, but then he started throwing a tantrum because there were two pastures full of horses next to the course and he wanted to meet them. I tried to ride him through it, but then he started threatening to rear, so I got off and started working his ass from the ground. And he worked. I sent him over every jump in sight, including the big tables and tire jumps. I also sent him into the water and he had fun splashing around. Once he was calmer (and also somewhat sweaty), I got back on and did more figure-8s, this time around a log and a canoe jump. He settled down, but I was kind of wishing I had my bridle since he was not being very sensitive to the hackamore. We went over some logs and roll-tops and also up and down the small banks. Our last thing was a log to roll-top combination which Royal did very well.

I lead him all the way home and found my cell phone! It was in a nicely mowed patch of grass, lying neatly with it's front screen facing up. And it still worked too. Once Royal and I got home, I gave him a good brushing (he had sweated quite a bit) and lots of cookies. I think we could actually compete in some events in 2011, if I could arrange to school at the other stable 2 or 3 times in the spring.

Since this was primarily a learning experience for me, here's what I learned:
1. Most people try to avoid horses on the road. Some do not. They will hopefully crash and wreck their fancy stinky muscle car.
2. I should try to trailer in next time I go to the barn (Lots of reasons why I didn't that day).
3. Hackamores are not the best tool for X-C riding on a tantrum-throwing horse, but it's still possible if not entirely pleasant.
4. Royal jumps stadium and X-C fences the exact same way. An odd combination of a springy deer jump with bascule and power mixed in. And, he can also jump Training Level tables from a walk.

So, all in all, a very good day with a (mostly) good horse. Hopefully next year more will follow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Less Yakkin', More Crackin'

So, it's raining. And warm (as in high 30s). In Minnesota. Right before New Years. Hey, since all the global climate change denialists like to use the "it's cold, there4 global warming is a hoax! Dur hur!", can I say "It's rained in MN in December twice in two years, thus proving global warming"?

Royal got his back cracked by the vet today. He was at the farm for my barn owner's mare anyway, so I might as well have Royal worked on while the weather is still crappy. The mare needed a lot more help, so she took longer. I didn't mind, since it was interesting to watch. I'm unsure of how I feel about chiropractic and acupuncture. I'm okay with the way my vet does it (obviously, since I let him do it to my horse), since it's not the only thing he uses. Before he recommends chiro or acu, he does a full lameness work-up to make sure the horse would really benefit from it. I first had him work on Royal a couple of years ago when Royal stopped wanting to take his left lead or let me pick up his right hind leg. The vet did the standard sensitivity and flexion tests before recommending chiro. So, today was just a tune-up from Royal. I'm starting to work more finesse-type stuff, so I want Royal at 100%.

No riding for a while, which isn't hard since it's going to get cold again and freeze. Happy happy joy joy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Helmets and Other Veneers of Safety

Ah helmets. I don't think I've ever seen a "debate" where everyone is arguing for the same side, yet there is so much vehemence and not a lot to show for it.

If you think about it, there is only one side to the helmet debate: helmets are good things that save lives. I have never seen anyone say "helmets are bad things that don't save lives" but I suppose at least one person out there holds that view. I just haven't heard from them.

The two "sides" of the helmet "debate" (yes, I'm overusing the scare quotes) seem to be:
a. Helmets are good things that everyone should wear every single time they are on a horse. (Side note: I know there are lots of people who think everyone should wear helmets anywhere near a horse. Even when cleaning stalls)
b. Helmets are good things and it should be up to the individual whether or not they want to wear them.

That's it. Those are the two sides. But side B is always treated like they advocate banning helmets or they want people to end up in the hospital in a coma. Which is patently ridiculous.

Full disclosure: I wear a helmet 95% of the time when I ride. The other 5% are when I just decide to hop on bareback and don't have my helmet with me. I am firmly in the B side of the helmet "debate". But, I never hop on at all, helmet or no helmet, unless my horse is ridable. And by ridable, I mean calm, attentive, and not thinking that there are ninjas on the lawn. I do encourage helmets, especially with children, but I'm not going to insult people or tell them they have a death wish if they ride sans helmet.

I rode without a helmet for a number of years. I recently started wearing one frequently this spring. Those who keep up with horse news may think that I started wearing one because of Courtney King-Dye's accident. But while that did play a role, the main thing that got me to start wearing my helmet 95% of the time was watching the luge bobsled (oops, got the sports mixed up) races in the Vancouver Olympics. Especially the ones where people fell out of the sled. For some odd reason, I watched those and thought "I should start wearing my helmet more often." And I did.

For all the passion in the helmet debate, there are only two horse sports that require helmets at all times while riding: hunter/jumper and endurance. That's it. Dressage, eventing, cutting, western pleasure, vaulting, or any of the other riding sports don't require helmets at all times. Combined driving requires helmets, but I'm not quite sure how much good they'll do if you get run over by the cart. Or a horse, which is the other thing: helmets are not a magical force field of protection. They can only do one thing: lessen the chance of a traumatic brain injury. That's it. While it is important to protect your brain, that is not the only part of your body that can be injured if you fall off a horse. You can still break your neck or back. You can still puncture a lung. You can still rupture your spleen.

I point this out not to discourage people from wearing helmets, but to encourage people to be honest about what helmets can do. When you get on a horse, you can get injured in a number of ways. The best way way to prevent that is to make sure your horse is ridable. If you wish to wear a helmet, great! But the helmet should be a side component of your safety measures, not the main one

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Royal's New Bridle

Well, I survived Christmas with the family and got through it relatively unscathed. Final grades were not what I'd hoped, but not much I can do about it now. Now, on to the happy stuff. Royal got a new bridle and I just had to try it on and it fits! It's a Crown Bridle and I also got a new bit: a Myler loose ring comfort snaffle and he seems to be okay with it. I just put it on to see how it fit and rode around bareback on a loose rein to just let him get used to the feel of it. He seemed to chew on it a little more than usual, but he was also antsy today.

Of course, pictures!

The leather needs some conditioning, but I think it will suit our purposes quite well.

A weird thing happened while I was cleaning up the arena. Royal was walking around loose in the arena when he got really scared by something. He trotted over to me, wide-eyed and tense, and I could hear his heart beating. Without a stethoscope or putting my ear to his barrel. I put my hand right behind his left shoulder and could feel his heart pounding away. Whatever scared him was by the big side door to the arena, because he would not take his eyes off of it the rest of the time we were in there.

Strange, but cool.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Unfortunately, I don't have a cute picture of me and very fuzzy Royal. :( Oh well.

Hope everyone has a good holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And another thing...

I got a delicious bit of schadenfreude yesterday before my lesson. One of the other boarders at the barn is an obnoxious jerk who seems to always find a way to ruin my plans. When she walks in, THE WORLD STOPS, for she has arrived. She always insists on playing her music on her special radio, even if you've already got the arena radio tuned to the exact same station. She always makes comments about Royal and how he's barely trained or I'm a bad rider. I will point out that only one of us can 1. ride bareback, 2. jump, 3. canter, 4. go on a trail ride that does not give the other riders heart attacks, and 5. steer without ripping the horse's face off. It is not her.

So yesterday, I'd just finished saddling Royal when she bursts into the arena, throws open her locker, and puts out her radio. "Oh, I'm sorry," I said while barely hiding a smile, "but I have a lesson in here an a half an hour." "Oh, okay. Well, I wasn't planning to ride anyway. I'll just hang out with [horse] in here." And she did. She still made some snotty comments about me ("We don't want you to fall off or anything"), but for once, I ruined HER plans. Revenge is sweet.

Yes, I know, I'm a totally bitch. But it felt so nice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Done! With Everything!


Microbiology was this morning. I had to do a lot more guessing than I was comfortable with. And I still don't have results for my other finals. Hmm. Usually they don't take this long.

I also had my final (for the time being) lesson with Parelli Instructor Theresa Zenner. It was a very productive lesson that focused on getting Royal paying more attention to my seat and energy. Royal is such an energetic horse that I've always assumed that he would never really pay attention to my seat alone; I would always have to use my reins or a neck string. Well, Theresa put a stop to that line of thinking. First she tried to help me play the Corners Game (go to the corner of the arena, stop, and relax) but Royal was not a fan of staying in the corners. So, we tried a slightly different exercise that worked very well.

The exercise she had me do what simple: she put orange cones in each of the corners of the area. I would walk Royal up to them at a walk, and before the cone, bring my energy down and ask him to stop just using my seat. If he didn't, pick up the reins, and back him up with intention. Not hard or fast, just a strong intention of "we're going backwards" until I felt him focus on backing. It only took about twenty minutes before he really started to get it. It would only take me sitting deep in the saddle, exhaling a little for him to come to a complete stop from the walk.

Next, the trot. This took some more time, but again, it didn't take long for him to start syncing with me and my energy. Next, we got him to do it without the cones, and he was such a smart boy.

Lessons learned: 1. Royal CAN listen to my seat; I don't always have to use my reins. 2. I need to be a lot more consistent and particular in what I expect of him. Not picky or critical, but Royal does well when his brain is being tweaked. 3. I need to expect consistency of Royal and help him be more attuned with me. Otherwise, how will we be successful eventers?

All in all, I'm glad to be done with the Worst Semester Ever and to have plenty to work on over break.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


One more to go.

O Chem went okay. I think I got most of the questions, and for the ones I didn't, I made sure to at least attempt to solve the problem. So, hopefully, I'll be okay. I made a tiny mistake at the beginning which I hope won't screw everything up.

Microbiology at 8am tomorrow, and my brain is huddling and trembling in a corner.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Physio Final - Done

The first and only fair test in that class. Wasn't easy, but didn't require you to memorize every single detail in the text to get a 70%. I think I did well, but not well enough to get the grade I want.

O Chem at 7:30am tomorrow. Eep. I've studied all I can at this point, just have to be awake in the morning.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finals Blitz


Physiology is tomorrow at 4pm. I've already gone through my study guide once, will try to crash through it again tomorrow.

O Chem is Monday at 7:30am. Double blergh. I'm reviewing all my reaction flash cards, and will be going through our previous tests and final exams from years past on Sunday.

Microbiology is Wednesday at 8am. My study guide is 29 pages long, and the exam is NOT cumulative. X( Just shoot me now.

Did get to play with Royal yesterday and he was a good boy. He is slowly but systematically destroying his blanket, so he will probably need a new one this spring. A Hug blanket maybe?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Done with classes!

I had my last two lectures of the semester this morning: Organic Chemistry I and Physiology. I declare this to be a night of rest, relaxation, and Mythbusters before I begin the Finals Blitz tomorrow. I don't have my first final until Saturday evening, and I can spread stuff out as needed. We had a semi-review in O Chem today and I knew how to solve the problems, so I'm feeling pretty good on that front. Microbiology and Physio? Well, we'll see.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1 Class down, three to go!

Writing 3652 is officially done on my end! :D *happy dance* I finished the final proposal and had it bound all fancy-like today, then turned it in tonight! It was about rotational falls in eventing and how they could be prevented, and for once I exceeded the minimum page requirement. Usually I struggle to be verbose enough, but this time I got it.

Big sigh of relief. Now on to the itty-bitty detail memorization.

Finals and Weather Grump Post

All in all, my study guide for Microbiology is 27 pages long, with over 400 total questions. *grump* And that's only the lecture stuff, haven't gotten around to the book yet. *grump* I still have to do a guide for the lab. *grump* So, my total study guide is going to be at least 500 questions, and there will only be 100 questions on the test. *grump grump* Add to my physio and O chem finals, and I am not a happy bunny.

And the weather is making me even more grumpy. Currently it is 3 degrees F, without the windchill. Windchill added, it's more like -8. *grump* I know it's probably better that it's too cold to play with Royal, but dammit, the horse keeps me sane. It's too cold do get anything accomplished at the barn. *grump*

Can the next 7 days just be over now? kthaxbai.

Maybe a picture will cheer me up.

This summer, in Bayfield. How I miss it right now.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I found my t-shirt slogan...

"I survived the Blizzard of 2010, but the Metrodome didn't"

The Campus Connector went by the Dome today, and you couldn't see the roof. I used to be able to see the roof from the ground, but not today. I hear the solution is just to repair the roof and pump it back up, but we'll see.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


(Two posts in two days! I'm off to a good start)

We got somewhere from 18" to 24" of snow yesterday in a windy blizzard-like fashion. In a rare set of circumstances, the whole Twin Cities shut down. Lots of entertainment was canceled, the buses stopped running, and nobody sane tried to drive anywhere. Of course, I had to run downtown, so I don't count myself as sane. Made it there and back in one piece.

The carnage from my Corner of the Universe:

The cats were most upset about not being able to go outside, but right now the temps are in the single digits, so they don't really want out anyway.

I need a t-shirt commemorating this event.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Starting Over

So this is my fourth blog. Yeah, I know. The others were too disparate and I never posted. Posting once a year on one blog, I thought three was too many. So, here I am. I'm not a good blogger, yet I still feel as though I should have one. I've deleted my other blogs so I only have one to focus on.

So, about me. I'm Renee, a junior at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities studying Animal Science. I'm hoping to eventually go to vet school and focus either on horses or behavior. This semester (fall 2010) is near Finals time, so I'm pretty stressed out.

My other big time sink is my horse Royal. I've owned him for over seven years and trained him myself. I am a Parelli Natural Horsemanship Level 2 graduate and am hoping to assess my Level 3 sometime next year. Royal is the greatest joy in my life and I am hoping to some Beginner Novice events with him next year.

So, yeah. Not much, but it's something.