Monday, May 28, 2012

Carriage House Schooling Show 2012

Carriage House is interesting. Last year we had a dramatic week before with face wounds and attacking horses. This year, the weather played a staring role. Starting Wednesday, we had pretty much a thunderstorm a day, and they weren't little ones either. I was only able to play with Royal a little bit in the field OnLine Wednesday morning, and on Thursday, the skies opened and we got flooded. All this meant the field was completely unusable (Royal was sinking almost up to his knees and hocks and we gave up and got out after wading 50 feet in) and that we had no jumping sessions other than Tuesday's brief one. I had no idea how we would do.

Sunday started ridiculously early. I worked until 10pm the night before and had to get up around 5am. I somehow managed to get all the stuff I needed in the truck and get up to Royal's place with no issues, He loaded pretty well and we were off. Traffic was really light, being early Sunday, and we got there easily. And ran into our first issue: one of the parking areas had been flooded with all the rain, so they were packing us in as close as possible. I decided to leave Royal in the trailer while I registered and walked the course. That way he couldn't get into mischief with the horses less than 5 feet away on either side. The jumper division had two classes per height, and we had to jump the fences in a different order (for instance, one jump was #2 for the first class and #7 for the second). The courses seemed particularly challenging this year, with lots of doubling back and sharp turns, and the ground was sort of slippery. I would have to be careful.

After unloading Royal, I let him walk around a bit to get used to the place, and I think he recognized the place. And I saw something horrible on a shirt: the logo of Third Reich Stables! What?! I thought schooling shows were beneath them, since less expensive local shows mean less money to mooch off of clients. And then I saw... her. The trailer at Third Reich Stables, hereafter referred to as Psycho McCrazypants. Psycho McCrazypants was yelling at her students/help near the warm-up area, although she wasn't calling any of them "stupid pig" or "worthless idiot", so perhaps she's mellowed out since we escaped. We managed to scurry back to the trailer to meet my parents, and get Royal all cleaned and tacked up.

We got to the warm-up area and it was NUTS. Just insane, almost unnavigable with people going every which way at all gaits and horrible slippery mud everywhere. Psycho McCrazypants had left but other trainers were still there, and yelling conflicting advice to their students. I almost didn't feel safe to do anything but walk, since we were constantly dodging people. Multiple times, I would move out of the way of someone who was cantering at us and into the way of someone who was cantering towards us from the other direction. And a few horses in particular were being particularly rambunctious, constantly having near misses. Then, all of a sudden, almost all the horses disappeared and it was just us with four other pairs and no trainers. Hmm, how interesting. But that meant we could actually do stuff without having to worry about crashes. I still didn't want to canter (too slick) but trotting went well. With a little bit of trepidation, I pointed him at the little teeny cross-rail (He has a tendency to refuse warm-up jumps) and he hopped right over! Good boy! He also went right over the little vertical, the big vertical and the oxer, all completely confident. So we plowed through the puddles and to the jumper ring, and I realized why the warm-up area had emptied out: all the trainers were jockeying for position on the call list, so those of us who came late were just going to have to sit and cool our heels. So I let the poor hassled ring steward know we were read, and she let me know it was going to be a long wait.

So, we waited. The horses who had been difficult in the warm-up were pacing around the in-gate area, which got Royal kind of tense. But I just hopped off, clipped my reins to his noseband, and let him eat. No point getting him all worked up when we wouldn't be riding for a while. I got to watch a lot of rounds, since the trainers (Psycho McCrazypants among them) kept haranguing the steward with "My client has to ride in the dressage/hunter ring soon, so s/he needs NEEDS to do their round next!" so those of us without "connections" just kept getting pushed back. I was very annoyed by what I saw as a power play. I mean, really? They just realized that the client was competing in another ring soon and unless they do their round NOW, they'll miss it? Come on. The ride times for dressage were available before the show, and the hunter ring is fairly flexible. There were no scheduling surprises, and no need to constantly muck up the jumping order. It really reminded me of a horse who constantly nibbles at you, trying to see what you'll let them get away with before you back them up to the end of the line and make them stay there. I could never be a ring steward at a h/j show: the instant a trainer tried to pull that crap with me, my response would be "Too bad. Next time, plan ahead. For right now, Suzy is still fourth in the order. If she needs to do dressage/hunters, she can do her round afterwards." And I would get fired within the first hour. So, it's not a job I'll ever volunteer for. But I digress. I saw a lot of very unprepared people, and all the horses were barely in control in the warm-up and the in-gate were absolutely horrible in the ring. There was a lot of balking and bolting (with one person rocketing around the ring like they were being chased by zombies. We all breathed a sigh of relief when they finished unscathed) and a couple horses refused to jump anything altogether. But after about 45 minutes of waiting (during which Royal tried to steal someone's hamburger. Naughty boy. :) ), it was our turn!

I memorized courses through walking them: I retrace my steps from walking, remembering to turn right after the yellow jump or left after the blue oxer. So, when we started the first round, I jumped the first jump (Royal popped over with no hesitation whatsoever) and turn right instead of left, heading towards the #2 jump for the second course. Oops. I realized my mistake about halfway there and had to double back to the correct #2 jump. The rest of the course went very smoothly. Royal looked a few jumps (especially the bright yellow double combination) but went over everything without stopping, giving us our first show-jumping round with no refusal penalties. Unfortunately, my little brain-fart gave us a bunch of time penalties, but the judge was nice and let us do the jump-off round anyway. I somehow managed to remember the jump-off course (1, 11, 3, 4, 12, 8, 9) and we rode clear, even up the little bank.

We then had to wait another 45 minutes ("She has a dressage ride in 20 minutes! We NEED to go next!"), and then it was our turn again. My dad got video of it:

The course started well. I knew we would have to jump the bank so I rode Royal up to it, going "See? It's a bank. You know how to do banks." The whistle blew, and we were off. The first jump had some scary filler, so I decided to trot it. The related line went really well and he went up the little bank like he'd been doing it all his life. #5 was a new jump and he went right over. He drifted a bit over the combo and you can hear him tap the B element. 7 and 8 went well, even with the sharp turn and then the bank. I wanted to give him the opportunity to figure it out, so we trotted it. I never felt him waver or wiggle; he hopped right up. We just had to tackle the related line to a clear round! I looked at the in-gate and saw the next person trot in. So, no jump-off? Did we knock the rail down? The judge stopped me, told me I was clear and that I could do the jump-off. She told the trainer to get her student out (guess who the trainer was? That's right, Psycho McCrazypants.), and I started my jump-off. It was really well (other than a bit of head shaking between the first two fences), but he got a little strong on the bank-to-oxer line, and I didn't think I could get him rebalanced for the back. If there's one obstacle I never want to tackle unbalanced, it's a bank. So, just a little circle, re-balance, and give a shot. As you see in the video, no problems with the bank or the last two jumps! Yay! The video ends with me talking to the judge. She told me she would have to give me 4 penalties for the circle, since I crossed my tracks. I agreed that was fair, and she gave me some nice advice about how to circle without incurring penalties. And, here's the best part, said that Royal and I looked good out there.


Maybe she said that to everyone. Maybe she was just trying to be encouraging for everyone and give everyone something to be happy about. But I was ecstatic. A judge, who obviously knows her stuff, told me that me and my horse looked good! At a show! Yeah! I was so happy.

All in all, it went much better than I could have ever hoped. Our first jumping show with no refusals at all. Not over the warm-up jumps, or in the competition ring. I think taking him to lots of different facilities has really increased his self-confidence. We keep going to new places and jumping strange jumps, and he keeps improving. I was so incredibly proud of him.

It was such an awesome experience.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Settling In

Royal's been at the new place for a few days now and he's settling in very well. He survived some thunderstorms the first couple days which probably accelerated the acceptance process. It's hard to fight over the pecking order when everyone needs shelter. He's also getting close with Gabby the filly, who looks almost exactly like him. Seriously, it's kinda spooky as we have no reason to believe they're related. But they both are red/copper bays with stripes and two hind socks. We'll just have to call them the twins.

Monday, we started to get acclimated to the place. The bugs were pretty bad, so I put on his fly bonnet and kept the halter and lead rope on. I have to say he looked pretty unique.

Royal's Ridiculous Getup

His butt cut also looked good too. Not good good, but not infected or needing stitches. It'll probably be totally healed up in a month or so.

The main riding area is a former cornfield across the creek, which is plenty big. I got to survey it last week, but I didn't realize how deep it was in some places, especially close to the creek. Royal would sink up to his fetlocks just walking around, and the dirt was just inert. No spring or elasticity. At the old farm, we mostly rode in the arena, which was mostly shallow but fairly springy, or out in one of the pastures. So this is a change for both of us. My jumps had already been put out, and I tried to put them in more shallow places, but Royal was just reluctant. Usually he's pretty eager to jump, especially jumps he knows well, but I think the footing was unsettling to him. He's just not used to it, and being a RBE, any change tends to worry him more than it should. The good news is that it'll pack down fairly easily and hopefully be very riding friendly before long.

Then it was time to explore the road! The property is off a loooooooooooooong dirt road that houses several horse places, so people are used to them going up and down the road. And Royal was happy to go exploring.

We made it about a mile up the road before heading back. I usually hate the term "barn sour" because it's often not true. It usually means a horse who shuffles away from the barn and power walks back. Royal's the opposite: he power walks away from home and moseys back. He really likes to explore and gets less spooky on the journey out. Seriously, we encountered fast cars, ATVs, people loading brightly colored things onto brightly colored vehicles and barking dogs, none of which made him do anything other than blink. The puddles and plastic bag tied to the fence were going to kill him, though. Obviously.

The next day, we tried some jumping. It was suggested to me that I should move the jumps closer to the middle of the field, as it might be shallower there. And it was. I still had to be careful placing them, but Royal wasn't sinking as much. It was a short session, just to remind him of what jumping was in order to prep us for Carriage House. Then we headed out on the road again.

 Gabby says, "Wait, don't leave!"

Bandit and Xena are confused. And Coco doesn't care.

The road is the exact opposite of the field: Very packed, almost as hard as concrete, which is mostly great. One of the ways to strengthen a horse's tendons is Long Slow Distance Conditioning, which basically means walking for a long time on a hard surface. And we have plenty of that. The only problems are the little stones on the road, which would cause Royal to flinch a bit if he stepped on them. I was sort of surprised by this, but then again, the dirt road surrounding the old farm was very soft, to the point of sinking down in some places (which made driving on it really interesting). Again, this is just going to take some getting used to.

We walked down the road for a long time, all the way to the highway. Royal, of course, wanted to keep going, but I was not in the mood for highway riding.

 No, we are not going down the highway. Maybe later.

 As usual, he walked much slower going back home, actually taking in the sights, stopping to graze, look at the pretty tree, and sniffing the flattened/petrified squirrel corpses. Ew.

 There's a sheep farm on the road, which seemed to contain no sheep when we first passed it. When we came back, however, the ewes and their lambs were out and making lots of noise. I don't know if Royal's ever met any sheep before, but he had no idea what to make of these.

We stopped to take in the cuteness of the sheep when two of them left their barn and started running right at us. Royal just about had a heart attack as the Horse-Eating Sheep of Death came at us as fast as their little sheep legs could take them. Luckily the Sheep of Death were contained by a fence, but aren't they cute?

We escaped the Evil Sheepies and made it back safely. I was worried about Royal's hooves considering all the stones he stepped on, so I mixed up a gram of powdered bute with molasses, which ended up being very messy. I'd never mixed bute and molasses when it was 90 degrees and wasn't prepared for how runny the molasses was, and got it all over. On my breeches, the lead rope, the handle of the dressing room door. Blech. Next time, I'll wear gloves. Gabby was happy to have her buddy back and would not stop harassing him as he tried to drink. Ah youth. They'll figure it out in time.

So far, so good. I'm very happy and Royal seems very cheerful. Onwards and upwards.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moving Day

A new chapter in this wild adventure with Royal began on Saturday, when he moved up to my sister's house. It was a sad couple of days at the old barn, with BJ leaving and me packing the trailer. And it was hot. Really hot. July hot. I tried to take Royal for one last walk on the road, but he was not a happy camper. The other horses were crying for him and he kept whinnying back. He did stuff his face with a lot of grass, though.

Saturday morning, it was time to leave. I'd already packed all my tack and supplies from the farm into the trailer dressing room and the only things left were the jumps/toys. It took me a while to figure out how to fit them all in the back of the truck, but eventually I got them all in there.

It was sad to say good-bye to the barn owner; she really helped all our horses heal physically, and I don't think Royal would have turned out as well as he did if he wasn't in good health. You can be the best trainer in the world, but if your horse is not feeling good, you won't get nearly as much done. I really owe her a lot, and it was hard to leave. I've left the other two barns under very bad circumstances (Last Chance Farm* decided to stop taking care of our horses, and Third Reich Stables* threatened to shoot them), so leaving was a very necessary no-brainer. This was different, but I think it'll turn out alright in the end.

*Names changed to protect me from the crazy.

It was a short drive to the new place, and Royal seemed pretty interested in his surrounding. I walked him around the pasture, and he seemed pretty relaxed, sneaking a bite of grass every ten feet. After our little circuit, I turned him loose. The other horses were very interested in this newcomer.

We opened the gate and the only one who went through was Coco the old pony. He and Royal got to know each other.

And decided that they were alright with each other. 

The other three horses were not so sure what to do about the new boy. Two of them are Arabian mares. Now, I love Arabians. They can be so smart and quick thinking, but also so skittish and flighty. An Arabian, most of the time, is a great problem-solver. The other times, their problem-solving strategy is to run around REALLY FAST until the problem goes away. And that's how the three decided to try to solve the Problem of the Unfamiliar Horse. It proved unsuccessful.

Royal haz a confused.

Eventually, my sister was able to catch Gabby, the four-year old, and put her in the pasture with Royal. She decided to maintain her distance, but didn't seem to bothered.

Eventually, Xena and Bandit were herded into the pasture, albeit with some fireworks. Gabby decided to join them while Royal and Coco stuck together. Bandit (the boss hoss) made it very clear he didn't want Royal near his two mares, and kept himself between Royal and them.

Eventually, Coco wandered back to Bandit and the ladies, leaving Royal alone.

They all hung around for a while, then decided to go back into the woodsy area.

They then came charging back, with Royal deciding to take a short-cut through all the trees. It was really cool to see his cantering around, bouncing over all the logs and branches. This proved to be a bad idea, though, as he got a nice long cut on his butt, behind the hip (Sorry, no pictures). It seems pretty superficial, but ugly. For the rest of the time I was there, he was content to hang out around in the herd. They haven't accepted him in yet, but there haven't been any bad fights. We had some thunderstorms last night, so maybe that'll speed it up.

I think he'll be very happy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


BJ went to a new home yesterday, with a new owner who promises to love and spoil him. It's for the best, but it's hard on the rest of us. Me, because I've been his primary decision maker in terms of vet and farrier care over the last seven years; and Royal, who's lived with BJ all that time. Apparently last night, he was very distressed without having BJ in his paddock, and wouldn't calm down until another horse was put in with him. He'll move on Saturday, but it'll be a confusing few days for him.

I kept thinking of a line from Black Beauty: "We don't get to choose the people in our lives. For us, it's all chance." We've tried to be Squire Gorden's to all our horse, using a kind hand instead of a harsh one, and making sure all their needs are met. Hopefully, BJ has found his Squire Gorden or Jerry or Joe, and I think he has.

Still, I'm going to miss the little guy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

MN Hunt Cup Spring Pipe Opener

I wasn't sure I should have gone, at first. One jumping session and a galloping session that went very wrong was not a good prep for going over steeplechase fences in an open field. But, it was only going to happen once this spring and I figured Royal and I needed the practice. And it turned out better than I expected, even with the "special" moments.

I was able to hook up the trailer fairly quickly with a minimum of pushing and swearing, Royal loaded fairly well, and we were on our way. The first wrinkle was that while the same group that put on last year's Hunt Cup organized this event, it was being held in a different place. Instead of the central location of the hunting club, it was being held at the polo fields. I've never been and the GPS took us there in a very weird way, freeway to highway to county road to dirt road to... a stable? Okay... where are the jumps and the rest of the entrants? I looked a little further down the road and saw what looked like jumps in a big field, and slowly drove in that direction, before seeing another trailer turn into a driveway down the road. Phew! The guy at the driveway directed me to the trailer parking, which faced the track and warm-up jumps. Royal unloaded, looked around, and decided he was hungry. I let him survey the facility and get acclimated on the ground. My friend and fellow Parelli student Anna arrived with her mare Piper, and we warmed up together. The organizers had set up a cross-rail and a vertical as warm up jumps, but added a steeplechase flair by filling them with brush. Royal, of course, was initially of the opinion that the brush was hiding demons and was not safe to be jumping. I let him sniff the cross-rail and he decided that the demons were sleeping the jump was safe and he didn't have any more problems with it or the vertical.

When we were ready, we went to the "line" to take our practice run. The problem was that this was right by the starting line, and he could see the horses on course running and jumping, which caused him to start throwing a tantrum. "Why are we standing here, mom? Why aren't we out there RUNNING and JUMPING?" He started pacing and piaffing, making me think we should be trying to go to Grand Prix dressage. We were in a crowded area, so I tried my best to keep him in a relatively small area and dance himself out, but he was in the state of mind where "calm" is less of a mental/emotional state and more of a philosophical concept, like the sound of one tree clapping in the woods. When it was our turn, the timer woman grinned at me and said "You'll probably be going pretty fast, right?" I said, "You may be right."and we took our place at the starting line. We started off at a trot which would be right at home in a harness race and as we turned to the first jump, the right and left halves of Royal brain started fight. Right Brain started going "What is that? More brush? Are the demons hiding THERE?!" and Left Brain went "Oh boy oh boy oh boy a jump!" In the end, with a little help from me going "We are jumping this!" he went over! A little strongly, but he did it. The next five jumps were a bit of the same, which the pictures show, and he was pretty strong throughout the course. The next wrinkle was as we were heading toward the last jump, I heard "Coming on your outside!" and look back to see the other rider on the course galloping at us going towards the big side of the jump (every jump had a 2'6" option and a 3'3" option). I figured that at the speeds we were both going, we would be jumping the jump at the same time. While that would have been cool, it wouldn't have been safe, so I opted to circle to the inside and let her pass. She was doing her timed round and I was just doing the practice, so I could take the time hit. We finished okay, but I was kinda disappointed. I had hoped to be able to improve my position over fences, and since I was concentrating so hard on getting us around the course, I could tell that had gone out the window. Royal had quite a few unique jumps and only my experience with his "special" moments kept me aboard. And the professional pictures (kudos to Sam Stern/Photo Esq. Photography! :) ) confirm it.


Hi ho silver bay!

Oh dear...

Giving the equation devotees a heart attack

A "how in the world did I stay on?" moment

So, yeah, less than happy. Anna rode after me, and Piper was impressed by all the jumps, but they did very well. Afterwards, I sponged off Royal's sweat and played with him on the ground to try to help him organize himself. He did, sort of, and we went back to the start line. This time, there were a lot less horses and people there and we started pretty quickly after we got there. I think the combination of all those helped us have a much calmer second round. This time, I really tried to make sure my leg was more stable. Linda Parelli has a great way to think about it: instead of jamming your heels down and trying to lock them there, think about pushing your knees into your heels. That way, you have structure, but not stiffness. So, the whole way around, I was thinking about my knee going into my heel. And, seeing the pictures, I think it really helped.

Relaxed canter on a semi-loose rein

Alert, yet focused.

Much more stable leg.

Go, Royal, go!

Forward and responsive trot

Boom! Look at that leg! Much better.

A little left behind at the last jump, but a lot better than before

I was much happier with our second round. It was mostly trotting with a little cantering, so I don't know if we were going the appropriate speed. But, a calm, focused, and responsive ride made me extremely happy! Our first outing of the season, and we made a good change from start to finish. We also got a very nice completion ribbon that everyone got. Anna and Piper also had a very good second round. Everyone was a winner!


Aw, our hunt team is back. I think they're so cool, and that I need to give them names.

We got back to the farm safe and sound, and Royal had a good roll when I turned him out. It was such a successful outing, everyone was so nice and supportive, and hopefully the rest of the season is just a good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Smart Cookie

Well, the last weekend seems to have just been a small glitch because this week, Royal has been amazing! I think the weather does get to him, being that he is a combination of thin-skinned desert breeds. So, this week, with the weather being much more reasonable, he's just been a peach.

Friday, we did more stuff with clippers. I wanted to give him a bridlepath and clean up his ear fuzz. He wasn't too keen on either at first, but soon realized he wasn't going to die and stood (mostly) still. We also did some trailer loading and deworming. Combine all the annoying stuff on the same day, that's what I do. That way, it's done and we don't have to deal with it again for a while.

Well hey there, little bridlepath. Where'd you come from?

Saturday, it was supposed to rain, but I didn't care. I hadn't ridden in a while and I figured the rain would provide some "controlled chaos" for my little extrovert. And he didn't disappoint, getting nervous at all the noise, but calming down fairly quickly with a figure-8 pattern OnLine. It only got better with partial disengagement and stretching. I wanted to see how much of an impression our last Game of Contact session made, especially with the rain creating an extra stress. At first, he had trouble. Stopping, gapping mouth, chomping on the bit, all from the last session. But as he kept hunting the release, he got better. I started asking for frame, and quit the session when he held it steady for a few stride and did the BIGGEST STRETCH EVER for a while when I released. Good boy.

Sunday, I had a review session for Biochem and couldn't get out, and didn't get out on Monday until late afternoon. With the Hunt Cup on Saturday, I want to make sure he's comfortable jumping 2'6" out of stride, so after letting him warm up at Liberty, I set up a jump with guide rails. Normally I don't use guide rails, but they had them last year, and it kinda worried him. I think they made him feel slightly claustrophobic, so better let him get used to them. I had them set up in both directions so he could jump the jump in both directions, but he decided to be clever and create his own jumps by bouncing between the guide rails. It was the weirdest thing ever, and I tried to get a video of it because it just seemed so odd. But Royal has a unique relationship with cute stuff getting caught on camera. He'll do it, I'll think it's cute/interesting and try to get a video of it, and as soon as I turn on the video function on my cell phone, he stops doing the cute/interesting thing. And acts like he never did the thing in the first place. So this was the video I ended up getting. (Sorry for the crappy quality)

"What cute thing? I don't know what you're talking about."

Afterwards, we did more trailer loading, but the with the dreaded shipping boots. Gotta get used to those too. That also went really well, with him letting me put the butt bar up and down with no fuss. I also cleaned up the top of his tail too.

I like it.

Today, after my Biochem final, I wanted to do some jumping under saddle. After all, the last time I did that was Spring Break and I don't want to be rusty as we tackle the steeplechase jumps on Saturday. So I set up the cow jump at 2' and a plain 2'6" jump. After warming up, we went for the cow jump with the flashy Holstein spots and "Moo!" painted on the panel. He wiggled to it and jumping it sort of sideways, but I stayed on and he stayed calm. After a few more hops over that, we tried the 2'6". My initial nervousness vanished as we headed to it and Royal jumped smooth and sure. He has a much easier time getting to a good take-off spot when he's trotting, but I think the size of the arena factors into that. There's not much room to adjust as from the rail to the jump was about 4 strides, but he did well. I only needed to ride for about a half hour total, he was so perfect. Tomorrow, we'll try it again with hopefully a ride on the road.

Good boy.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Little Not-Successes

As opposed to "Little Successes", this past week was something of "little not-successes." I don't know if it was the weird weather or what, but Royal was not in a good mood. Friday, I went out to the farm after class to do some Game of Contact stuff, which did not go well. The wind was causing the doors to bang against the barn, which was not to his liking. He did stand for an awkward-between-the-legs-with me-sorta-under-his-barrel shot of his tail, though.

I tried to help him relax with partial disengagement and stretching, which started to help. As I started to try to play with Frame, it wasn't happening. He kept bouncing on and off the contact and it was really hard for me to keep it. Eventually I decided to go back to stretching, but he wasn't having that either. He kept stopping and gaping his mouth instead of stretching down. I could tell he was getting frustrated, but I kept at it until he would stretch down and hold it for a while.

I wanted to end the session on a good note, so I tried to do what Royal loves: go for a canter/gallop on the dirt road. It started well enough, but as we were cantering along, a bird shot up next to us, causing Royal to spin and stop. I was waffling between two-point and sitting (which was stupid. I should have chosen a position and stuck with it), and being caught by surprise, tumbled out of the saddle. I tried to save myself and land on my feet, but it all went wrong and I landed on my left knee. Ouch! It hurt, but I couldn't see any damage to my breeches or boots. It was the first time I've falled off in a long time. Royal, despite being a little freaked, stayed where he was and let me get back on. We walked back a little way, cantered the other way for a while, and walked back to the farm. Interestingly, when we cantered the second time, he gave me a nice soft canter on a loose rein. It's like he remembered I was up there and he had to take care of me. He seemed to be okay, but I didn't feel like we accomplished anything. When I got home, I found these on my knee.

Hmm. So I did some superficial damage to my knee, but my boots and breeches looked fine. Well, good on Mountain Horse and FITS. They may be expensive, but won't show any damage even if you fall off on a dirt road with lots of little rocks.

Saturday was Horse Expo day, cold and rainy. I went to a very interesting Colleen Kelly talk about rider biomechanics. She was pretty funny and suggested some exercises to help with balance. I haven't tried them out yet, but hopefully they'll help. Otherwise it was shopping and looking at the fabulous living quarter trailers. Seriously, if you've got $70,000+, you could get a trailer nicer than a lot of homes.

Sunday I went back out to the farm, but Royal was REALLY not in a playing mood. He played kinda hard-to-get, which is very unusual for me. He almost always comes up to meet me, so I figured he wasn't feeling top great after our last session. We went for a walk instead, but even that was odd. He was interested in grazing, but didn't want to be touched and seemed kinda moody. Hmm. I wondered if he was feeling sick, but his vital signs were normal. Maybe he was just having an off day; it happens.

Tuesday I was hoping to do some free jumping, so we went to the arena and after I groomed Royal, I put on his splint boots. He did the exaggerated goose-step/stringhalt walk after I put on his hind boots, which is normal. The not normal part was when he didn't stop doing it on the right hind. I checked it, thinking it was too tight. No... so then I took them off. He trotted around sound, but stiff. Hmm. I did my little one-person-amateur lameness exam, stretching and flexing. He was okay with the flexing, but not the stretching. Double hmm. But, again, no lameness or excessive heat. I gave him some bute before I turned him out, which hopefully helped him feel better.

But, all I can say is "hmm." We'll see what happens.