Monday, June 25, 2012


I meant to publish this on Friday and completely forgot...

Starbuck definitely did something painful to her right front leg, she's got a little swelling right above her pastern on that leg but the vet says it's nothing to worry about, especially since she's getting better.  So bute and rest for a week.  I'm sure she'll be psyched about having a little vacation and I'll try to get a lesson in on one of Marina's horses at some point.  Also, it'll give us a chance to work on "boring" stuff like ground tying and lowering her head on cue.

As far as the fly thing goes, it apparently is an allergic reaction (sweet itch or similar, thanks to an anonymous reader for the tip!).  Treatment consists of frequent showers using a Chlorhexidine shampoo, aloe vera straight from the plant on the bites and fly spray to keep the flies from biting in the first place.  Here are some "before" shots of her neck and cheeks where the reaction is the worst, sorry they're kind of gross but I want to be able to compare in a few weeks to see if it's working.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Starbuck's been a little lame in the right front leg since Monday, it's only noticeable at a trot going clockwise but it's very definitely a limp.  So between that and the fly thing I called the vet and she's coming out tomorrow to take a look.

I made up some homemade fly spray, 500 ml apple cider vinegar, 1/2 a little bottle each of citronella and lavendar essential oils, 1/2 a bottle of skin-so-soft and 300 ml water.  It smells funny, very floral but not terrible, I sprayed it on Starbuck today and so far so good.  I'll see tomorrow how effective it is.  I also sprayed her entire stall with insecticide.  I think the fly spray I've been using up to now has helped some, but she's still rubbing herself raw, so it's time to up the anty.  Let's see what the vet says.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Since Starbuck has been trying on some new tack lately I took some photos to show it all off - we have a new halter, leadrope, fringed headband for the bridle and of course my new and improved saddle with less filling and D-rings on the back!

The fringed headband is ostensibly to keep flies out of her eyes but is also terribly Spanish-y, don't you think?

She's been an absolute martyr to flies lately, I think she must be allergic to the bites because she gets huge bumps where they bite her, then scratches herself against her stall until she has big bald spots all up and down her neck and chest.  She also rubs her face on anything with an edge and has a couple of sores where she's rubbed herself raw... it's superfrustrating because I'm already showering her more often, spraying her with flyspray twice a day and being really concientious about getting all the poop out of her paddock every day, but the two paddocks on either side of hers don't get cleaned out regularly and the flies seem to go straight to her.  And to make matters worse, everyone who sees her looks at me like I'm somehow abusing her and doesn't seem to believe me when I say it's the flies.  My next step is to nuke her entire paddock with industrial strength flyspray to see if that helps and if the bald spots haven't gone away by a week from now I'm going to call the vet.

Anyhow at least she's gotten used to the flyspray, at first it was really really scary and she's still not totally cool with it, but she at least mostly stays still while I'm spraying her.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


We cantered today!  And we took our first ride outside the stableyard!

Side note: Yesterday I longed Starbuck old school style, using just the rope halter and while it took a while for her to chill out and tune in to me, in the end I got her listening to me well enough to ground drive some figure eights and do some nice lateral work. It was fun to go back to basics and have to focus more on our connection than on her posture and way of going, or just on getting the crazy out before riding.  I think she had more fun, too.  Anyhow I'm not sure if that had an effect on our lesson today or not, but I think it's important to keep things mixed up.

So this morning we had a lesson with Marina and right from the start Starbuck was working nicely - really focussed on me and responding to my aids but relaxed and soft.  Today was the first day we joined in with the rest of the girls trotting in two-point and sitting trot, and also the first day we didn't cut the corners so as not to pass the scary side - she didn't even seem to notice when we rode close to the bar.  We worked over a cavalletti square in the center of the arena, too, crossing it in every way possible - straight through the middle, from corner to corner, in one side then making a 90º turn to go out the next, etc...  Marina complimented us on Starbuck's posture and then later on on how well she was working.  And it's true, the last two weeks have made a huge difference!

When the other girls had their turn to canter, Marina asked me once again if I wanted to try the same exercise they were doing but at a trot.  They were cantering in a 20 meter circle around the cavalletti square twice, then cut in to cross the square through the middle, then changing leads and do the same thing again in the other direction, returning to their "place in line" at a canter.  So I nudged Starbuck into a brisk trot and on our second circle around the square she broke into a canter for a couple of strides.  It was so quick and easy I almost didn't believe it, but when Marina told me to pet her and keep going I knew she had done it!  We repeated the same exercise a couple of times and each time she cantered just a little while longer - the second time we got three good strides in and the third time was long enough for me to really sit into the canter and enjoy it - maybe six or seven strides!  Each time, Marina told me to pet her, then cross the cavalletti poles immediately afterwards and trot her back to her place in line and let her walk for a while.

Later Marina explained her logic to me.  The whole concept is for the trot to be fast enough for her to get a little out of balance, so that these first strides in canter are her idea - making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.  Then as soon as she canters, taking her across the poles takes her mind off it by giving her another task to focus on right before I reward her by letting her rest.  This is why I'm so thankful to have Marina's support - I never would have thought of doing it this way but it works!  I was so proud of my little girl and so happy about our progress, Marina had to really get on me about going across the poles the last time I was petting her so much.

At the end of the lesson we joined my friend Belen and her horse Cancunen on a walk around the stableyard and into the parking lot.  Starbuck often spooks there when I'm leading her, so I was a little apprehensive, but she did great and was so cool with all of it that we decided to keep going past the stableyard gates and down the road a ways.  Not too far since there are some very noisy dogs at the end of the road, but we went about 300 meters and back, then doubled back through the almond grove next to the road and rode a few loops inside the almond grove.  Since she had done so well I didn't want to push it, so we left it at that and rode back to the stable.  Not bad for a morning's work, huh?

Oh and also I got my saddle back afterwards, I took it to Manacor to have some of the stuffing taken out since it's always been a little tight on her and now that she's starting to fill out her topline I think it was starting to pinch her withers.  And I also asked them to put some D-rings on the back to be able to attach saddlebags to, so we're ready to roll!  I'll try to remember to take a picture :-)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I realized that it's been a really long time since I sat down and wrote out some new goals, now that my old ones are sadly out of date.  I achieved some of them, others were harder than I thought they would be and a few just kind of got forgotten about.  Like training for harness work - I think I can hold off on that until she's really solid for riding.  Obviously I didn't canter either, we're still waiting for that one (although I think it'll be any day now).  I know I'm being a little chicken about this, but just the other day she halfway fell down AGAIN during yet another ugly canter transition on the longe line due to a big scary child rustling in the bushes and as far as I'm concerned if she can't do it right on the longe I don't want to try it ridden.

So on the one hand I feel a little lame for making goals which I then fail to meet, but I think it's important to keep doing since each time I'll get just a little more realistic about them.  It also feels really good to look back at them and think "Oh, yeah, I was so worried about THAT!" about something that she now does really well - walk to trot transitions anyone?  Anyhow here goes!

Next week:
Mount up at the mounting block instead of inside the arena.
Be able to work at a walk and trot for at least 15 minutes on the scary side of the arena without spooking.
Ride all the way around the stableyard including the parking lot and the woody part at the end.
Get three consecutive steps of sideways or leg yield.
Get Starbuck to swing her head around and kick at flies less and focus on me more.

Next month:
Do a mounted trot-to-canter transition (on purpose).
Take a short ride outside the stable as far as the paved road and back.
Be able to leg yield in a straight line facing the arena wall for one full side of the arena.
Be able to take three consecutive sideways steps off the wall.
Be able to open the arena gate while on Starbuck.
Be able to ride a full lesson on the scary side of the arena.
Get Starbuck to use her hocks more and her forehand less, thus working correctly through her back.

Within 3 months:
Take a 2 or 3 hour trail ride.
Be able to walk, trot and canter in any part of the arena with minimal spooking.
Start training shoulder-in.
Be able to do sideways and leg yield fluently and correctly.
Get Starbuck working round and balanced.
Maintain gait and speed without nagging.
Wear and tie up to a hobble.

Within 6 months:
Take a 4-6 hour trail ride.
Leg yield at a trot.
Be able to do shoulder-in fluently and correctly.
Get Starbuck mostly soft, round and balanced with relaxation and rhythm in all gaits.
Teach Starbuck to trailer load calmly and take her on her first short trip.

1 year:
Be able to take Starbuck on all day trail rides.
Make small jumps and be able to do training level dressage tests correctly.

2 years: 
Take Starbuck on the Camino de Santiago or to Gredos for a five day ride.
Ride Starbuck in some kind of show.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cat gifts

This happened yesterday and I thought it was just too funny not to share:

Next to Starbuck's paddock and stall I have one of those resin garden trunks to keep stuff in (bran mash, first aid kit, cat food, halters and lead ropes, etc...) where several of the barn kitties hang out, waiting for me to dispense said cat food to them.  So yesterday when I got to my trunk I noticed something small and grey in front of it which upon closer inspection turned out to be a dead rat.  I was just grabbing a shovel in disgust to throw it away when up trotted Tigretón (the little yellow barn cat), sat down right next to the dead rat, pawed at it a little and then looked up at me all proud of himself.

I guess that's just his way of chipping in for groceries ;)

Monday, June 11, 2012


It's funny how things change.  A month ago, I constantly had to talk myself into riding Starbuck and spent a good five minutes after mounting up just walking around doing breathing exercises to get my butterflies to subside.  Now it's almost the opposite - my instructor even gave me a little hint the other day that I shouldn't overdo it too much.  Except for yesterday when I had a bad bellyache (too many cherries I think) and decided to stay home for once, last week I rode on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on Wednesday did a fairly long lungeing session with two lines.  So I don't feel too guilty about giving the filly the day off yesterday.

It's not just renewed willpower, either - I just have found almost every day after lungeing her or working her in the roundpen that I really want to ride.  And then I mount up and find that she's working better and better, paying more and more attention and spooking less and less each day, and it's such a good feeling to know that we're inching closer to our goal of being able to go on trail rides and that all our hard work (we're coming up on a year in July) is paying off in such a gratifying way.  And not just that she's doing the things I cue her to do and doing them well, she's really starting to relax when I ride her and even enjoy herself with some of the things we do, like trotting over cavalletti.

Anyhow I wanted to take down some of the highlights of the past week before I forget them since Thursday's lesson was marvellous but Saturday's ride was even better!

On Thursday I joined a lesson which really went quite well - Starbuck was paying a fair amount of attention to me instead of the other horses and the scary people enjoying their drinks on the bar's patio.  When it came time for the other girls to canter one at a time around Marina in a circle so she could critique their seat, she asked me if I wanted to just trot really fast to see how the filly would do with more pressure than usual.  So I did it and apart from one kind of half-hearted buck when I kissed at her (which is our "get ready to canter" cue) she just buckled down and trotted as fast as we asked her to.  Later when I asked Marina about it, she said that after seeing her work well under pressure she thinks that we could try for a canter any day now :D  For the rest of the lesson I branched off with three of the less-experienced riders and led them around the arena at an easy-going trot, threading through the jump standards and over cavalletti and making circles and serpentines of different sizes, while trying to keep all of us out of the way of the rest of the folks riding.  It was a great concentration exercise both for me and for Starbuck and she showed herself to be completely up to the task, even in the "scary" spots!

Friday we did some serious longeing (using a Body Wrap since her trot's a little strung-out) but once again I really felt like riding so afterwards I just pretty much cooled her down in the saddle at a walk, doing a couple of circles in trot only when her attention strayed from me.  I think it's good resistance work for her to just walk around the ring for 30 minutes or so carrying me, and it also gets her used to maintaining that forward movement without me having to nag her constantly.

Saturday was our best day yet, even if it started out with what seemed like a disappointment.  I had planned to ride around the stableyard with Belén and Cancunen after doing some work in the arena, however Belén had the opportunity to go for a trail ride with some other folks who were just heading out so I told her not to worry about me and go with them.  For a little while Starbuck and I were all alone in the arena which tends to freak her out, but we kept on working and after a few minutes, another rider joined us.  With the other horse around she was much braver and instantly relaxed, and I took advantage of the lack of people to walk by the scary side of the arena.  The first few times we side-passed rather than walked by it - she wanted to make sure no nasty monsters were going to jump out and eat us!  But I conciously relaxed my body, then took a deep breath and relaxed some more, and kept her walking back and forth until she finally dropped her head and let out a big sigh.  To reward her I let her keep walking until we were a little further away, then stopped her and gave her withers a good scratching while she rested.

This next one is something that I think only fellow riders will appreciate - When we started off again after a minute I noticed her moving a little strangely and looked back to see if anything was the matter.  And lo and behold, she was pooping!  And walking!  At the same time!  Without me even having to insist!  I was really surprised, it was only this week that Marina told me to stop letting her stop to poop while riding and I had only spurred her on once or twice when she stopped, but I guess she's a quick learner.  So I gave her lots more scratching and told her how smart and graceful she was and let her walk just a little bit further before asking for our next trot.  There's apparently a charming saying in Spanish, "Caballo cagado, caballo domado" (literally "Shitted horse, trained horse" which loosely translated means that a horse who poops is trained).  I wouldn't be surprised if this wasn't a one-time freebie and that I'll still have to work on this some more, but I was still really proud and happy about it.

I also decided to ask her to trot over some canvas which was folded up near one of the jumps, it's blue so I guess maybe someone used it to simulate a water obstacle but at any rate she slowed down at first and I let her have all the rein she wanted to look closely at it, but then she kept going and trotted right over it in both directions.  At the very end I took her over to the scary side and walked her in about a 15 meter circle - just tight enough for it to be difficult to do right - on both reins until she got soft in her poll and dropped her head, then I hopped off, let out her girth and gave her a good long rubbing.  Once again she had that jelly body - just completely relaxed - so all in all a fabulous day, even if we didn't get outside the arena!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

First ride outside the arena!

We did it!!!  A lot later than I had initially thought and now I think I could have done it a lot sooner, but I finally worked up the courage to ride Starbuck out of the arena and around the stableyard!

Yesterday's ride was a good one, we started out a little lazy since she wasn't moving very well with her hind legs, thus falling onto her forehand and stumbling a fair amount.  So we just worked on lots of walk and a few trot transitions in the upper part and non-scary side of the arena until she was completely relaxed.  Then we went over to the scary side where my friend Belén and her horse Cancunen were doing some canter exercises and walked in a 15 meter circle inside their circle.  With Cancunen on the outside protecting her from all those invisible monsters she did fine, however once they headed off to cool down and we were all by ourselves Starbuck got nervous again, with lots of jumps and spins and stalls.  I was at least able to keep my seat and keep her more or less headed in the direction I wanted her to go most of the time. 

We were making some good progress and she just was starting to relax when someone came out of the bar holding some shopping bags and it all went to hell in a handbasket.  She tried out all her moves at once - sideways jump, 180º spin and a dash in the other direction but luckily I trained her to do a one-rein stop and was able to get her and myself under control.  Even so I ended up with one foot out of the stirrup and sitting on altogether the wrong part of the saddle.  I was so mad!  So I steered her over to the upper part of the arena where she doesn't freak out and asked for a brisk trot which I made her keep up for a good 5-7 minutes until she was obviously listening to me (this time she didn't stumble) and when I slowed down to a walk I called out to Belén who having finished her lesson was passing the arena and told her to wait up, that I'd join her for a walk around the stableyard.

I was a little worried as we walked through the arena gate and past the tying posts - Starbuck got a little tense and flicked her ears back as if she were asking me what to do, so I just rubbed her withers a little and kept her going the same speed as Cancunen as we walked all the way around the paddocks and back to the arena.  And after that first little question to me, she didn't bat an eye!  She was totally calm, even when we walked by the stallions and one of them lunged at us, and even seemed to enjoy the change of pace.  I'm so excited since this means that in the future we can cool down this way and hopefully will be able to go on our first trail ride soon!  Wooooooo!!!!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Twins (and a cute kitty)!

On Sunday I went to a horse show with some friends since some of the kids at my stable were competing, and in the interval between the ,8 meter jump course and the 1 meter jump course we took a walk around to check out the digs.  And what do you know?  I found Starbuck's twin!  I mean she's not really a twin, her parents are different horses and she's not even the same breed - Starbuck's Thoroughbred / Zweibrucker and this filly (her name is "Cariñosa" which means "Affectionate" in Spanish) is a PRE (Pure bred Spanish, in other words Andalusian).  But I was so struck by the similarities (especially with how Starbuck looked when I first discovered her) that I had to take some pictures.  I've mixed in some old pictures of Starbuck so you can play a guessing game to try to see which is which (OK, at least one's a dead giveaway but the rest aren't so easy - I'll publish the answers in the next post)!

I also finally ran into my beautiful kitty cat again who I'm in love with, she's now had her kittens (which I'm pretty sure are in the next plot over so I can't get to them - booooo!!!) and she's ravenously hungry so I gave her lots of kitty food and picked some ticks off her as she ate - yes I keep not only horse food but also cat food at the barn, I gotta keep my barn kitties happy!  Then I watched as she drank from the horse water buckets, I've seen the other cats do this too and always think it's so cute... especially with Rodrigo, the paint horse in the background, I just had to take some pictures :)  As you can see her colouring's really interesting, she's a calico but with grey and yellow tiger patterned spots instead of the standard cafe au lait and black spots. I'm actually glad her kittens are out of reach since if I found another little girl like her I'd just HAVE to take her home.