The life of Iggy

I’ve been a slacker, in large part because I have no photos and it makes me sad to write without photos because I’m apparently 7 and need pictures in my stories.

LOL my boots, my mother would be ashamed

We’ve been plugging along riding again, under our weird, but entirely manageable new guidelines. Iggy is on day turnout again so I usually can grab him straight from his pasture and never even go inside the barn. My SUV’s entire cargo area is now a tack room with various stages of organization depending on day/time/weather/moon stage/what I had for breakfast. We’ve been asked to ride outside as much as possible and luckily the weather has mostly held up so that’s been the easiest of all!

I SWEAR IT STARTS OFF ORGANIZED EVERY WEEKEND

Over the last few weeks we’ve taken a few lessons, both jump and dressage. Nothing to worry about having not been over anything in > 6 weeks, Iggy was like, “No worries, I got this mom” and stepped right up to the plate. My biggest thing with this horse (mainly jumping, but really all the time) is not letting him rush/run off his feet. He’s a forward little guy, but sometimes I egg him on or get ahead and pretty soon we’re like a little matchbox car going faster and faster and faster but not really like… going anywhere. Whoops.

A mini donk for your viewing pleasure

I’m definitely still figuring him out over fences, but it’s much of the same on my end: keep your upper body back, pick up your hands, close your leg. Thankfully it seems to be working because my lower leg has never been more solid and even when he pulled a straight up PONY MOVE the other day, I didn’t budge.

Finally putting on some muscle after losing it all 🤦‍♀️

I’ve been downright giddy over his dressage work. It’s amazing how much easier it is to package up and ride a horse when you’re well sized for each other. Not to mention, finding my glass slipper dressage saddle last fall which thankfully still works for Iggy. He’s going super well in the Bombers Loose Ring Happy Tongue and I actually ended up buying it in the 2.5 ring for jumping as well.

We love it even if we look very unimpressed here

We’ve also been taking breaks and going for road hacks (you might have seen via Instagram). This seems very benign, but anyone who has known me a long time riding-wise knows it’s very much not. After my accident, riding outside an area was terrifying for years. I wasn’t comfortable on a trail ride until about 4 years ago and when I first got Doc, the idea of riding in the fields or galloping on the track was still scary. He gave me a lot of of that confidence back and so when Iggy needed a break last Sunday, a nice walk along the country road it was. Luckily our barn is in a pretty rural, farm-heavy area so it’s (as safe as it can be) safe to ride on the road/shoulder. Needn’t have worried as Iggs hasn’t put a foot wrong and seems to absolutely love going out and having a change of scenery.

Midwest life at its finest

We actually got to ride in our re-scheduled Sharon White clinic this weekend so I can’t wait to share more about that, but figured a general update was in order too.

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Quarantine

Remember that time I rode my horse and blogged and had a life outside of work? Yeah, it was also in the pre-global pandemic times.

Those who have followed along with my brain melting down over on Instagram are probably a little more in tune with what’s been happening, but I’ll summarize because we’re all a little brain melt-y right now.

Someone is enjoying this

Essentially, I work in emergency medicine for a large medical school/health system that staffs 10 hospitals with 250ish physicians and 75 NP/PAs. In a “regular” year, we see about 350,000 patient visits. This is not a normal year. I’m in analytics and business intelligence which in short regular speak means if there’s a metric/data piece, I handle it. I track… everything. And during this time? I track all the things, all the time.

It’s meant some long days, but nothing compared to my clinicians who are on the frontlines, putting themselves at risk. All I can do is sit at home and try to support as much as I can. It’s meant that riding my horse has slowed way down and fallen down on my priority list.

I did discover this diagnosis someone had, which was entertainment for a few days at least

Last week I managed to make it out three times to ride – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We had an awesome jump lesson Saturday I’m excited to write about sometime (maybe) and played with our new bit on Sunday. I probably drive everyone around me crazy, but I just freaking love this pony. He’s so game, so much fun and each ride we figure each other out a little more. I hope we have a chance to get out this summer – I already know he’s going to be a total blast XC.

Unfortunately, Sunday was also my last day at the barn for a while. My (awesome, fantastic) roommate is an inpatient pharmacist who has now been assigned to an ICU floor full of COVID suspected/positive patients. She stays out of patient rooms and does her best, but I have to operate under the assumption that she, and therefore I, have been exposed.

My barn is a fantastic place full of amateurs – many over the age of 45-50. My barn owner/trainer is the primary caretaker for her 87 year old father. Other riders are nurses, scientists, mothers – people who can’t afford to get sick or take it home to their loved ones.

I realized last night there was no way for me to justify going to the barn right now. A shitty decision? Uh, yeah. The right decision? Absolutely, 100%. I would not be able to live with myself if something happened due to my need to ride my horse. It’s a privilege and a luxury, it is not a right. I would feel like the world’s worst hypocrite working in EM with a public health background, scolding people for not respecting quarantine, only to turn around and decide I’m better so I can go see my pony.

Someone had some epic bed head on Sunday

I don’t have a single sign or symptom, nor does my roommate, but in these times… I don’t think you can be too careful.

So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be here, at my computer, working, trying to keep our hospitals open and running as efficiently as possible, staring at photos of Iggy on my phone and waiting for the day that we can all emerge on the other side of this.

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Midwestern Spring

The first weekend that dawns sunny and warm(ish) is always one of my favorites – like a sign we’ve (almost) done it, almost survived another midwestern winter. I saw almost because, inevitably, we will have one more miserable cold snowy spell. My first winter here it happened March 31st and I nearly revolted.

The truth pains me a little

This weekend was that weekend though – sunny, perfect, high 50s (even hit 60 on Sunday) and everyone at the barn had the same giddiness about them. (Side note, once upon a time I would have absolutely mocked anyone who told me high 50s was ‘warm’ or ‘nice out’, but this is what the midwest does to you I guess…) I had a lesson on Saturday, where we finally (!) got to jump some.

Spoiler alert: my pony is perfect. Also, so much fun. He even got elusive compliments from my trainer. We kept it low and simple since we still don’t know each other well and he’s still pretty out of shape. We’re getting there though – a few weeks ago he couldn’t hold his back lead around any corners, but this weekend he only lost it a few times when things got hard and he got tired. Or, uh, I pulled him off it. Mostly I couldn’t stop giggling because he’s just so much fun to ride. Our lesson was mainly focused on overcoming my natural tendency to stick my hands in my crotch and curl forward when I don’t see something/he gets quick/literally anything happens. Which is… not helpful. And then I promptly jump up his neck, which being literally pony sized means I’m at his ears. Instead I think I’m going to be hearing to push myself back, lift my chest, pick up my hands, and stop leaning for the foreseeable future.

This is my barn, pinch me!

Sunday was seriously even nicer out. It wasn’t quite bath temperatures, but I wasn’t able to resist washing legs. I figure if they walk through snow and cold mud in turnout, some cold water isn’t going to hurt them. Even that much was a drastic improvement.

Me, when anyone compliments any of my tack

The barn was absolutely hoppin’ and it was so much fun. I’m at a different barn than Doc was at and it’s 100% eventers and, with the exception of one junior, all amateurs. We have a few other juniors and pros who haul in for lessons, but the boarders are all a super fun solid group of ammies. Everyone was pumped to ride outside and we spent a long time in the outdoor meandering, chatting and goofing off before getting down to work. The ground wasn’t quite dry enough to hack on the cross country course, but even being in the outdoor is an upgrade and I’ll take it. We had an awesome dressage ride and Iggy was downright sweaty at the end of it. He’s apparently set a goal to be the very last horse in the barn to shed out and hasn’t lost a single strand of hair, I’m convinced.

“Bad at the standing still game”: a series

SweatyPants got a looooonng grooming session with all the new products and things I’m trying out after that – all the EquiFuse things, some Pure Sole Hoof Mud for his soft feet, cookies, liniment, BOT and then stuffed full of apples and carrots for being the best boy. I ended up staying to clean tack while chatting and not getting home until close to 7pm and it was honestly just the perfect weekend I needed.

THIS THOUGH!

T-minus two weeks until our (schooling) show debut and three until we get to ride with Sharon White!

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Lessons at a walk

I had already paid up and scheduled my lessons last weekend and was so looking forward to some one on one instruction with Iggs. Until, of course, I got on Saturday morning to find him off at the trot. Like, WHY HORSES WHY.

Well, why is because we are in the middle of switching joint care (Equioxx to Adequan) and his delicate tootsies need front shoes. Good, no acute injuries, but now I had two paid for lessons and a horse who wasn’t going to go do all the things.

Spent most of his theraplate time mugging me for cookies

So, I had a dressage lesson at the walk. Sounds nice and easy, right? WRONG. It was stupidly hard because everything happens in slow motion and it let Kira focus on every tiny thing my body and leg was doing. We did a lot of change of pace within the walk, bending, and working on the transition between the medium walk-free walk-medium walk. The latter being a place that is so easy to give away points in a test. It was actually a great lesson, especially with riding such a new horse. It gave us a chance to slow everything down and figure each other out. There’s no reason (well, rider error) this horse shouldn’t be pulling in 8s and 9s on his walk work this year.

Kira also worked a lot on my leg – within 45 seconds she’d picked out my ongoing issues. Raising my heel to use my leg and turning my toe out: these shouldn’t sound new, because they aren’t. Did we magically solve them? Hah, no. BUT I did come away with a really good new way of thinking about the first one. Essentially, she explained to me that my raising my heel to use my leg is a result of my horse not being reactive enough to my aids. I’m having to raise it to add leg because he’s not listening to my “whisper”. And if I keep doing it, I’m essentially going to untrain my horse to notice that whisper and he’ll only listen to me raising my voice. Lightbulb moment.

I’ve never had a horse react more strongly to BOT products. It’s like sedation for this horse.

Not in that I’m untraining him, but in that I was able to catch myself doing it so much faster. Instead of leg-raise heel-nag, it was ask quietly-ASK LOUDLY-get reaction.

We didn’t have quite the same breakthrough on my toes outward turn, but that’s no surprise. Caroline (Doc’s owner, old trainer) figured out years ago that comes from my hip flexors being tight. The only thing that’s going to solve that issue is stretching and long-term consistent work. It’s definitely gotten better, and hopefully will just continue to.

Old photo, hilarious photo, but plz look at toes 90 degrees to horse

A super interesting thing was also not noticed with my leg (yes, I know that phrase makes no sense but hang with me here). For years, my lower leg has been too far back. “Push your leg forward, Holly” is a refrain I hear in my sleep.

What’s that? My leg two counties away?

Now if you’ll remember, I got my dressage saddle about four days before we retired Doc and my monoflap jump saddle is brand new (and potentially going to work this is an entire other post oh my god I cannot even anymore). And in talking to Kira, we realized that in both saddles… my leg was never out of place. At least in the sense of going too far back. Fascinating stuff.

Which leads me to wondering if my “perfect fit for me” County Conquest was actually somehow shoving my leg out behind me.

It’s long sold and off to a great new home, but it’s definitely left me thinking – did I spend two years fighting my saddle without even realizing it?

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A tale of two companies

As I’ve alluded to the last few weeks, new horse has meant new purchases because he doesn’t fit into anything. Like… that lovely Devoucoux monoflap? Yeah. That one.

I bought it because I was in talks with Devoucoux about how we could make it work, it was a great deal and I was confident in it. Needless to say, it’s been… an ordeal. I’m not going to publicly say all the things I’d like to say but I’m not quite a happy camper. And am faced with now selling the saddle I’ve owned for uh, two and a half weeks. AWESOME.

IT’S SO PRETTY ITS NOT FAIR

Unfortunately, despite it not being a great fit for Iggs, it’s the perfect fit for me and I’m obsessed with it. Meaning as much as I’d like to pack my toys and go home and never touch another Devoucoux… here I am shopping for a different one.

Seriously, is there anything less fun than saddle shopping? (Yes, there is, don’t answer that question)

On the plus side, I went out on a limb after doing all the reading and e-mailing back and forth with the Horse Bit Bank and ordered the Bombers Happy Tongue Loose Ring. A++++++ in customer service for Horse Bit Bank, by the way. They responded to all my emails and questions promptly, shipped it quickly, helped me ensure it fit properly and have overall been a pleasure to work with. Saddle companies, TAKE NOTE PLEASE THANKS.

I’ve now ridden Iggy in it twice and it’s safe to say we both love it. He’s so much happier and consistent in the contact and we had some of our best work last night. So much so I’m actually already considering ordering the Happy Tongue Beval as our jump bit. And I’ll 100% order from HBB again. Iggy was never bad, per say, in his french link loose ring, but he also played and played and played with it, liked to either toss his head or go behind the vertical, and just didn’t seem totally… happy? As opposed to our rides where the head tossing was a minimum, he was so easy and happy to push into the contact, and (thank God for the sake of my sanity) the free walk involved no “CLANK JANGLE CLINK CLANG” the whole way.

Looks sharp in his new breastplate courtesy of Remus and Michele (although the Remus hair seems to have brought the attitude with it…)

We’re off to lesson with Kira Connor this weekend while my trainer and half the barn and everyone I know is at Pine Top (ITS FINE I’M NOT JEALOUS AT ALL REALLY IT JUST HASN’T STOPPED SNOWING BUT IT’S GREAT REALLY PROMISE). I’m looking forward to finally having a formal jump lesson on the Iggster (is it weird I want to read that as hamster and now that might be his new nickname…?) and getting a good baseline of where we’re at right now.

Happy Friday, thank God for that.

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Pony Club

You know what I love about Iggy? He’s little. Holly sized. Fun sized. Cute and snuggly sized. Doesn’t-hurt-your-ankles-to-dismount-in-winter little.

You know what now drives me bonkers about Iggy? He’s little. So little. Too little for all the things, little.

Why has this frustration come about?

Two things: pony dressage reins and 16″ girths.

I said it. I thought I was bringing home a normal, albeit on the smaller side horse. Instead I brought home an oversized Labrador Retriever. You know what you get when you google 16″ girths? Dog harnesses.

Or when you find an actual option for horses, they’re either $200 or made of questionable material and a lack of roller buckles (WHY?). And none of them come in brown, meaning I may be going XC in a very appealing combination of brown saddle/black girth this spring. Much fashun, so style.

Don’t get me started on pony length dressage reins.

(Actually, Nunn Finer makes pony length reins in their soft grip which is what I like and will probably buy, but they’re also the same price as the horse ones which seems wrong for 12″ less material…)

Trying to take conformation pics was a struggle…

My saddle pads are… mostly do-able on him, although he could probably wear a pony size pad too. Cob size bridles abound in my tack box. (Yet his cob halter doesn’t fit in the throat???) Thank God 74″ and 76″ blankets are at least relatively easy to find.

Does this mean I can join the ‘cool ponies who do cool things’ club even if mine technically doesn’t measure? Current members I know of are Jen and Allie, but I feel like membership is welcoming.

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A Weekend of Ponies

It felt so good to have a pony filled weekend in my life again. Of course it wouldn’t be an Indiana weekend without experiencing multiple seasons in 72 hr stretches, but nonetheless it was a great one.

Friday morning started off at the super pleasant temperature of -3° F, aka a ‘feels like’ of -16° F aka too freaking cold to exist. (Canadians, shhhh.) It also started with wrangling all the things as I loaded barn things, work things, dog things and ‘I live in Antarctica’ things to get out the door by 7:30am. First stop was the vet clinic (my vet is a mixed practice, so one side sees Finn the JRT and the other sees Iggy the Small Unicorn) to drop Finn off for a dental. (This was preceded by re-scheduled bloodwork due to my dog deciding the vet is TERRIFYING the week before and needing to be drugged to get in the door… the same dog who went to work with me at a vet’s office for a year…) I got him inside, dropped off, and planned to be back for him around 2-3pm.

My lead rope was frozen into this abstract sculpture Friday morning

From there, off to the barn to meet the large animal vet to give Iggy a once-over, just to establish him as a new patient and get a baseline. There were also two horses seeing him for injuries and about a dozen getting health certificates to leave for Pine Top next week. This also happened at 9am just as everyone was turning out, feeding, breaking ice in buckets and did it mention it was negative degrees. To say it was moderately controlled chaos is an understatement. Iggy handled the whole thing with aplomb, barely opening his eyes as he dozed in crossties. We got a report of “healthy, but out of shape” so like… same. More conditioning for everyone, coming up.

Of course while I’m at the barn in the midst of this, the small animal vet calls – Finn’s bloodwork has come back and it’s… concerning. He had some iffy numbers about 6 months ago, but since it was a snapshot in time, we decided we’d repeat later and decide then. Well this was the repeat and not only were things still not great, they were trending worse. Scratch the dental and instead we got a referral to an internal medicine specialist (who we’ll be seeing next week). This meant back to the vet to pick up the dog (who decided he was traumatized by the entire situation… this is my eyeroll).

So abuse, much torture

Saturday and Sunday were, thankfully, far less eventful and far warmer – mid 40s and sunny which felt amazing. Tim Bourke was in town teaching a clinic at the barn, so I hopped over to watch some lessons both days before riding. He’s a great teacher I’ve always enjoyed riding with and even auditing I got some really good things to take home (I guess I can’t say take home if I was home?).

OMG i have a leg! And dirty boots that need to be cleaned.

Iggy was a perfect unicorn because of course he was. Despite being stuck inside due to ice that turned into soul sucking mud, he was more than happy to go to work. He’s a little more out of shape than I initially realized, so we’ve got some conditioning to do, especially in his hind end. I realllllly want an Equicore system after Jen wrote about it, but with Finn’s vet bills TBD it’s not exactly in the cards right now, so I’m going to DIY some version based on Amanda’s.

For fun on Sunday, one of the juniors in the barn and I decided to stick Iggs. Sure enough, he’s just as little as we thought – right at 15.0h, maybe a touch over. No wonder I’m out here buying cob things and 20″ girths!

SO LITTLE

Our workout plan (…for both of us) starts tonight and I feel like he might not be quite as happy about it as he was when I just came and shoved cookies at him… The price of playing XC buddy.

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Finding the fit

Going from Doc to Iggy has been a change for a multitude of reasons. Some are normal, like the change in gait and style going from one horse to another. Others are physical – going from something 16.1h to something barely 15.1h. And some are personality.

Like going from this…
…to this

Yeah, it’s been a change.

In some ways, an expensive change. Like, jump saddle doesn’t fit, so just bought a new one of those (!!). Full size bridles and halters are too big – two new cob sizes coming up. Then the weather decided to tank this weekend (high of 11 anyone?) which I didn’t notice until Tuesday, which led to ordering a 280g blanket liner with 2 day shipping from Schneiders. Because you know, my horse wears a 76″, not an 81″. (Also kudos to them – I ordered it at 2:30pm on Tuesday with 2 day shipping and it showed up on my doorstep at 11am this morning. That’s Amazon Prime fast.)

Look how pretty she is

And the personality differences are stark. Doc was like a benevolent king – he did not have time for your silly antics, he was in charge, but he was kind at heart and takes care of his people. Iggy is like Kimmy Schmidt meets Phil Dunphy, with an addition of 4th grader not taking their Adderall. He wants to MEET EVERYONE, stick his face in EVERYTHING, EXPLORE ALL THINGS and be in your pocket. It’s mostly cute, so long as he remembers his manners, but it’s also the cause of what I have learned is my new pet peeve in life: the damn horse plays with the french link in his bit as soon as he’s on a loose rein. Just… for funsies. Like it’s a fidget spinner, at the ready.

Mostly I notice it while grooming. Compared to the other horses in the barn (a lot of Thoroughbreds, some Irish, some warmbloods, a few QHs but all much chunkier), he looks like someone dropped off a hunter pony at an event barn by mistake. I’ve had other riders think I was someone’s child on him, his tack is all smaller than anyone else’s and when I accidentally put someone else’s 81″ blanket on him this week, he hilariously swam in it like a kid wearing his dad’s clothes.

Tell me he doesn’t look like a pony

This has become a general rambling, but all to say he’s settling in splendidly without missing a beat (ok, so we had a small come to Jesus last night that I am scarier than being in the dark), we’ve had some fun rides as we get to know each other, I’ve gotten to shop for ALL THE THINGS and will have some mini-reviews coming shortly and we should start lessoning here in coming days.

Unrelated, my mom sent me this saddle pad, which I distinctly remember being my favorite around age 10. Kinda want to lesson in it just to see what my trainer does…

As my trainer put it once he finally arrived – I guess good things do come to those who wait.

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It’s I-GG-Y

You might have seen on Instagram the little (ok, or not so little) secret I’ve been keeping for weeks – a chestnut secret to be specific.

After stepping Doc down (who is loving life as his owner’s kiddo’s horse) I started looking for another lease. Buying just wasn’t right for me right now for about 1000 different reasons, but in part because I really wanted something older, been-there-done-that, to keep learning and growing. It took four months, but thanks to a few people – ahem, Emily – I came across Iggy! He’s a total packer 18 year old Quarter Horse who has gone N/T with his owner, but needed a job now that she has a young one to bring up.

“Hai I Iggy”

I went down to Kentucky before Christmas and meet up with Emily and we went out to try him where he was a perfect angel. The footing was miserable, it was cold and wet and he hasn’t had a real job in a few months, but he happily came out and showed me all his fancy buttons and carted my out of shape butt over a handful of jumps. Jumps where I was unable to see a single distance, where I jumped so far up his neck I was between his ears and where my my entire timing was so hilariously off it was like I’d never jumped a horse in my life before. And what did he do? Took every joke in stride without much more than a, “I do the thing and then I get the cookies so it’s ok hooman.”

Needless to say I was smitten. It took a month and some to get arrangements worked out between transportation, the holidays and a stall at the barn, but he arrived Friday night! He’s the happiest of campers, totally chill and settled right in.

“Do u like my outfit?”

I’ve been on him three times at home now and each time he just comes out better than the last. We rode outside on Sunday and it was incredibly windy with things flapping around, horses leaping and galloping around their pasture next door and he didn’t bat an eye.

Iggs has this amazing personality I’m loving getting to know – he wants to be intimately involved in everything happening at the barn. Must say hi to everyone, must make sweet faces, must stick nose into everything. Must sniff and lick all dogs, must examine all walls, must investigate everyone’s stall. We quickly found out he likes facing other horses in the crossties, as facing him away will result in his bending himself into a U-shape to watch them, making tacking up slightly more difficult.

He’s a little guy compared to all the big warmbloods and Irish horses at the barn, only 15.0-15.1ish and cob sized everything (and i just had to buy a 20” dressage girth OMG), but cute as a button. And damn does he have a speedwalk in him! Plus new size horse means shopping for new size tack and every good tack ho loves an excuse to shop. (Even if Michele tried to sell me her XC boots while I still own her previous pair…) And having a jump saddle that doesn’t fit him (someone please buy it PLEASE I WANT TO JUMP MY HORSE)

Because of said jump that saddle doesn’t fit him I’m spending some quality time in my dressage saddle which isn’t a bad thing for anyone. (Um, except me. I want to jump my pony, ok?!) We’re getting to know each other and having the best time and I couldn’t wait to finally publicly introduce him!

Selfie game needs work but we’ve got time

So bloggers, meet Iggy! (And don’t mind me quoting every Iggy Azalea lyric until forever)

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