Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'm Depressed Lately

Obviously I haven't been blogging much lately, and it's for too many reasons to list. Short version of the past nine months: going grad school in epidemiology, trying to decide between vet school/med school/doctorate program, & Royal is now semi-retired.
I made the decision to retire The Fuzz from recognized competition after Otter Creek HT. Long story short we came in last after middling dressage, one rail in stadium, two refusals & a heaping helping of time penalties on x-c. It didn't help that I was going through a combination of panic attack & meltdown that weekend, so I wasn't at top form mentally. I really tried to get us around x-c with no refusals, but we had a stop at the up bank & a very simple brick-and-blue jump. So, that was surprising. Royal loves up banks, started doing them before I even thought about eventing him. He's never hesitated at an up bank before, so the whole thing caught me off guard. But the other reason I've decided to retire him from recognized competition is his lungs. Since he normally lives outside 24/7, he's not used to the dust from a stable. And the barn I bought him from used sawdust instead of shavings as bedding. He lived there for 3 or 4 years, so all those years of breathing sawdust anytime he moved seems to have affected him in his old age. He coughs whenever the weather changes, especially when it gets really cold. He never seems to be distressed by it, just coughs a couple times & goes back to whatever he was doing, but he coughed constantly at OC, to the point of me nearly scratching him. Luckily he coughed himself out, but it was still worrying. Even more so when the cough stuck around for a couple days after we got back & he was not longer in the stable. Of course, he's 19 now, and I think his age is starting to catch up with him. But now I'm definitely reluctant to stall him for any non-emergency reasons. Obviously I can't know for sure that his breathing problems played a role in our OC weekend, but I can't help but think they may have. And it's a sucker punch to the gut to know that you might done something to cause your horse discomfort. So, I'm not willing to risk it. No overnight shows for us anymore.

If were in Area I or II, we'd have a plethora of one-day HTs where we could show out of the trailer. But those simply don't exist in Area IV, and the last non-stabling HT, my beloved Steepleview, is no more. OC and Roebke's Run both require stabling on show grounds, and everywhere else is too far to go in one day. So, that's it. We're out of options. We can still do a few schooling shows next summer, but I'm not very focused on those either. At this point, I'm too busy with the quarter-life-semi-crisis of WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?! to focus on shows and such. But still, it's sort of depressing to no longer have that in my life for the time being. I used to love planning out the summer with shows and outings, and it's just not going to be the same without a Big Show goal at the end of it.

The other reason I'm depressed can be summed up in one handy-dandy graphic:

The competition world, while admittedly never really having horse welfare at the forefront of it, seems to be ignoring horse abuse more than usual lately, and it's rather pissing me off. People suing the USEF because they got caught drugging their horses, people getting pissed because they got eliminated for spurring their horses hard enough to draw blood, and this shit:

That's eventer Meredith Little, and that is blood on the mouthpiece of her DOUBLE TWISTED WIRE GAG BIT IN THE MOUTH OF HER HORSE WHICH IS STRAPPED SHUT WITH TWO CHAINS! God damn, that is a horrible bridle and I am stunned at this absolute lack of compassion towards her horses. Absolutely stunned and horrified. Incidentally, that was the first of two, TWO!, incidents where her horses were bleeding from their mouths and competition official did both 1. Jack and 2. Squat. I can't improve on the The $900 Facebook Pony's post of the subject ( http://the900facebookpony.com/2015/10/23/when-does-control-become-abuse/ ) but let me just say that this travesty goes beyond Ms. Little and her depraved indifference to inflicting injuries on her horses. At both these competitions, officials looked at her horses (plural!), who were BLEEDING FROM THEIR MOUTHS, went

and let her keep competing. That is a staggering display of lack of concern for horse welfare. Absolutely unbelievable. And those same people had the gonads to be offended when other competitors and spectators expressed concern over the fact that someone who made their horses bleed from the mouth on two separate occasions was not disciplined in any way. Let someone who injured their horse keep on trucking: meh. Express concern over aforementioned horse injuries: HOW DARE YOU!

In a world where almost everyone is carrying cameras at all times in their call phones, you'd think equine competitions would be very concerned about making sure the sport is absolutely squeaky clean with nothing that could be sent to the press or PETA showing blatant horse abuse, but you'd be very wrong. When you stand by while bleeding horses go undefended, you have no moral high ground and no standing to complain when someone poles their horses or puts shards of glass in their boots. You are no better than they are.

Can you tell I'm mad about this?

So, eventually I'm going to get another horse. Most likely an ex-racehorse or a retraining project. And I'm going to have to decide if I want to compete in recognized competitions or not. The fact that I'm even waffling about that saddens me. I love showing, especially eventing, but the thought of having my money and time go towards support organizations that actively aid and shield horse abusers is sickening. And the USEF has basically rolled over and licked the boots horse abusers because MONEY and MEDALS. Ms. Little can brutalize her horses around x-c courses and place well in shows, so she can pretty much do whatever she wants with impunity, it seems. It's common knowledge that pretty much all high level hunters are on drug regimens that would make Lance Armstrong do a double take, but their owners are rich, so nothing gets done. We can't implement true safety rules, like mandating a full medical evaluation after you crack your helmet falling off on x-c because then the pros may not be able to ride a dozen or more horses every other weekend. Hell, half the sessions at this years annual USEA convention centered around how to make sure the pros could make as much money as possible. Never mind that adult amateurs and juniors make up at least 80% of entries in any given recognized event (or any USEF recognized competition of any discipline, for that matter). Never mind that amateurs buy the horse gear that makes it possible for pro riders to get sponsorships. Never mind all the GMOs that would collapse if all the AAs and JRs took their money and time, and went home. Nope, AAs and JRs barely warrant a mention in the eyes of the USEF and all the sport specific orgs.

I did not renew my membership with USEA, but I did renew it with the Central States Dressage and Eventing Association. I'll still do a handful of local shows with Royal as long as he's still got fire in his feet and spring in his step, and I'll do that with my next horse when they're ready, but I'm not showing in anything that involves the USEF or USEA for the time being. They're going have to work really hard to get my support back.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Royal Steals Mom's Laptop

Hi Everyone! It's me, Royal! Mom has fallen down on her blogging duties, which really are to tell everyone how awesome I am. Yes, it's currently Big Snow and Cold time, but still. Every day is an adventure with me, Royal!

This year's Big Snow and Cold has had both less snow and cold than last year, which makes me very happy. Last year, we thought we'd never see the sun or grass foods again, but this year, the snow has come and gone for months, and the grass foods are still there, although they are more brown than green. We haven't had too much mud to roll in, which makes me sad. My body is a canvas, people. I cannot paint without mud. Happily, the Big Snow and Cold is almost over, and my canvas shall be beautiful again. Mom cleans it up, while she mutters to herself. She sounds annoyed, but I know she loves it. I make wonderful mud paintings.

Mom and I have gone for a couple of rides. Of course, I hadn't been out in a while, so I got a little bouncy. Mom kinda lost her balance a couple of times, so I felt bad and stopped. Sorry Mom. I was just so happy to run again. We also did some dressage. Now, I'll admit: I don't get dressage. I much prefer running and jumping. So much fun! But I humor Mom with the dressage stuff. Sometimes it's kind of interesting, and I use muscle I never knew I had, but it's miles below running and jumping. So, I wasn't totally on board with the dressage stuff, but Mom had a secret weapon: cookies. She knows the cookies are my weak point, and gave me them every time I did something good. So, yes, I will do stuff for cookies. I LOVE cookies!

Speaking over food things, Mom changed my grain foods. I didn't totally understand why, but she said some bags of my food had gotten contaminated with cow food. This distressed me greatly. I don't like cows. I call them Scary Moo Beasts, and I do not like them at all. We have a bunch of Scary Moo Beasts as neighbors, and as long as they stay on their side of the fence, I can tolerate them. But they creep me out. All they do is eat and stare, and shuffle to the next place where they eat and stare. What are they thinking?! I never stand and stare unless something is being scary, and I have to figure out whether to run away. For how much the Scary Moo Beasts, they must be plotting something terrible. Luckily, I have shown my superiority over them when I chased them out of the pasture last year. That way, they know not to mess with me. My point is, I'm glad Mom changed my grain foods. My new grain food is quite yummy.

So, that's the latest from me. It's getting warmer so Mom and I can go on adventures again, and she will have many stories to tell you. Until then, I shall eat all my foods and try to keep most of my feet on the ground most of the time.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Fall in definitely here in Minnesota, what with the colorful leaves and crazy fluctuating weather. Royal and I have been laying low, and mostly just hanging out. I don't mind having lots of downtime; Royal not getting younger and I don't see any point pounding on his joints for no reason. It's also been too wet to do much of anything. All the rain in the spring and early summer meant that it never fully dried out, and the back pasture and creek flood every time it so much as sprinkles. So, that means lots of hanging out and walking on the road.

The horses are still happy to say hi. Witness what happens when they're in the Big Field.

And I went up to Bayfield for Applefest and got a big bag of apples, which makes Royal very happy.

So, not much to report here. Just meandering into fall and steeling myself for winter. Hopefully this year won't be as bad, but I'm still stocking up on glove warmers.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Steepleview 2014: Professional Pics

D'oh! I just realized that I never posted the profession pics! Oops. Thanks to Super Fantastic Amazing Wonderful and All-Around Good Gals at D & G Photography for the awesome pics.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Steepleview 2014: Long Version

Optional musical accompaniment to this post:

I didn't eat or sleep normally for the past week. Too many nerves. But Friday afternoon, I was able to get everything packed and ready to go before heading out to walk the course. As usual, everything was beautifully prepared and wonderfully set up. The course was gorgeous and inviting (and counter-clockwise; I was right!). I was so excited that I barely got any sleep before Saturday.We ended up leaving around 6am. I had to stop at a gas station to put air in one of the old tires, and of course, the air compressor was built into the building. So, I had to back the trailer into a parking spot, and the air compressor wasn't working. Further investigation (read: asking the people who worked there) revealed it hadn't been turned on. So, once it was turned on, I was able to fill up the tire and we were off.

We ended up making it to Steepleview around 8:30, which left me plenty of time to get Royal calm and ready. I let him stretch his legs in the lunging arena, and he took in all the happenings. We headed back to the trailer, and I started working on braiding him. He was good, at first, standing and eating hay. But then decided that if he was scared of the trailer, I would stop braiding. Ha! Joke's on him. All that meant was that he still had to stand, but didn't get any hay. Eventually he got the message and I was able to finish his mane and he was able to eat hay again.

He looked so handsome.

I had bought a teeny bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, and I took a swig before heading to the dressage warm up. My parents arrived as we were warming up and took some pictures.

Royal warmed up rather well. He was still a bit fussy with picking up the left lead and bending to the right, but overall tried his best. I got a bit freaked out when one of the riders in our division (BN Rider) go off course, and for a little bit, I thought I'd memorized the wrong test. But as it turns out, she's just gone off course. Crisis averted.

The actual test went pretty well. I think the Bailey's helped me relax, and I just let Royal do his thing. He still had a bit of tension, but not as much as previous tests. Still some fussiness with the left lead canter and right circle, and a little tension in the medium walk, but I was still very pleased. Then I had to take out his braid and we rested for a bit before heading to the x-c warm up.

At first I was worried. He seemed kind of lazy, although I was thinking it was the footing. The x-c warm-up is on a big hill, and the footing was pretty slick. He skidded once and we were pretty much done galloping. We popped over a few fences, and just walked around the rest of the time. He could see the other horses on course and was too pumped up to eat. Then it was our turn. I spent a minute walking him in and out of the start box, and then it was "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!"

He kind of got bug-eyed looking at all the jumps in a little, but I gave him a little encouragement, and he hopped right over. We turned right to

He locked right on and popped over. The ground between this fence and the next one was a bit iffy. I was worried it would be torn up by the time we got there. It was a bit rough, but Royal navigated it well and we made it to

The Best Jump Evar! Our favorite was back! Seriously, I think people would revolt if the Scrabble jumps weren't on the course. Royal's seen it a bunch, so no problems here. We turned left to

Water crossing! I know the jump judges all think I'm nuts since I always remind Royal about Lake Superior. He stepped in cautiously but we trotted though ("moving smartly" as the announcer described it) and out to

The Turkey Feeder. This has been a bogey fence in past years, and they had it out in the open, not too far from the water. Royal peeked at it a bit but hopped over. We had to go through a low area which was also kind of torn up, but Royal cantered through with no problem. And the turbo engines kicked on when he saw

Up bank! At the schooling in July, our group instructor Sarah said "He knows how to jump a bank really well". And this was no exception. Royal did his best impression of Super Horse (which is quite good) and we cantered on to

I was a bit worried about this jump when I walked the course. High contrast jumps tend to weird The Fuzz out, and I didn't know how he would react to it. Luckily there was an almost identical jump in the warm-up (except it was reddish), so he'd already seen it. Still gave it a bit of the stick eye but went over. He tried to keep the rocket engines on afterward, so I had to give him a firm half halt as we went through the woods. Luckily, he responded. We had a bit of a funny moment when we spooked at a log coming out of the woods, but then I felt his entire body refocus when he saw

Lobster trap! Another familiar one, and he glided over. We went down the hill, and I had keep him balanced on the way to

This was at the bottom of the hill, and you can see the ditch in the background, so it was sort of a half coffin combination. I set Royal back on his hocks and he jumped neatly over, and wavered a bit before jumping

The ditch. Usually it's filled with dirt, but they took it out this year. It was a bit of an odd visual. But despite that, he still went over. We went across the land bridge and turned left to

No problems here, but you can see the Hilliest Hill Ever To Hill in the background. Our next jump was on the lower part, but I still got in 2-point, grabbed Royal mane, and let him bring up to the top of the hill. We had to widen out and make a slight left turn to

Tootsie Roll! No problems. We had to go back down the hill (Royal sensibly decided to trot), back over the land bridge, turn left, and canter by the tree line to

Roll top! By now the engines were really on and he sailed over. We went back up the hill a bit and turned right to

Boom! Over with no problems. We went down the hill to

Last jump! He launched over and I let him fly at high speed to the finish line.

And we were done! No refusals, and we were 12 seconds under the time, so no points added. Royal was pretty sweaty, but didn't seem any worse for wear. Although he was less than thrilled with Mom taking our picture.

And I found out that we had been in 7th (out of 13) after dressage with 38.5 points. Which is what I'd been anticipating. Our test had been good but not great, so mentally I'd pegged us at mid-to-high thirties. But we got an 8 on our first change of direction and 7s on our canter-trot transitions and Royal got a 7 on gaits! Fancy boy. And later, I found out we'd been moved up to 6th after x-c. I pretty much passed out that night, and we headed out around 7 the next morning.

I let Royal hang out and graze while we watched the Training and Novice show jumping. It was pretty hot, but there was a breeze keeping it tolerable. Still, I waited to saddle him up and we had a really light warm-up since I didn't want stress him too much.

The course was very twisty, and I knew I was going to have to keep him balanced. He jumped the first jump well, but then I had a majorly stupid brain fart moment. Blame it on the heat, sleep deprivation, whatever, but I screwed badly and turned us way too sharply to the next fence. It came up quick and Royal pretty much had to levitate to get us out of there. I lost a stirrup and he let out a few small bucks, telling me to get my act together. I regained my stirrup and we made it over the rest of the course just fine, twist and turns and all. Adding to the embarrassment, my stock tie came loose and was flapping around by the end of the course. But brain-farts and embarrassment aside, we didn't knock anything down, so we stayed on 38.5 penalties, and 6th place.

Obviously, I was really pleased. Royal was Mr. Superstar, and gave 110% the whole weekend. And I can't think of a better way to end the season. Obviously, we have to work on some stuff, but focusing on dressage and building our strength will really help us. But, this week, it's relaxation time. Royal got a bunch of cookies and mints and apples, and I'll work on getting any soreness out of his muscles. But he deserves all the goodies.