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Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Important Members of Team Taco

In addition to all of the previously mentioned important people in Taco's life, there are two especially important people: his veterinarians.  He has two: Dr. Tony Kimmons and Dr. Libby Maddux.  Together they are Franklin Equine Services.  Both of them have gotten to know him well since he moved to Tennessee and they both know how special he is!  They have been essential help for keeping Taco healthy and feeling good.

Yesterday Taco had his annual dental exam. Dr. Libby came to the farm and Taco was thrilled to see her.

 Taco looking so glad to see Dr. Libby!

He was sedated and a special oral speculum was placed over his head.  Then his mouth was gently opened using the speculum so Dr. Libby could reach inside and examine his teeth.  A bright LED magnetic light was attached to the speculum so she could see inside.


She was looking for sharp points on his teeth that could hurt the soft tissues of his tongue and cheeks, and ramps and waves in his bite.  Horses chew in a grinding motion, which often creates points on the inside of the lower molars and the outside of the upper ones.  She found some mild points and filed them down with a tool that looks like a drill with a long bit and a little rotary sander at the end.

Taco does not love this process, but he tolerates it.  He is a very good patient--he unfortunately has had lots of practice.  He could not have carrots after the procedure because he had been sedated, but he got plenty today!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Jumping in the Cold

Despite the persistent below-average temperatures, Taco and I shipped out to a jumping lesson yesterday.  It is the best day we've had in a while: it hadn't rained in a few days and it was a balmy 36 degrees (average is 51!). We met Amy at the nearby farm of another student of hers, since the jump field at home is rather mushy.  Thank you Pam for letting us come use your beautiful, well-drained arena!

Anyway, shipping out required using my rig for the first time in a little while.  I looked it over and all was well.  I started the truck, which I had driven a few weeks prior,  and matched up the hitch on the first try. 

This would be a good time to introduce my rig.  The truck and trailer are by no means new but they are safe and sturdy for Taco's traveling comfort.  My truck, the Beast, a 1995 F250, was a public works/ highway painting truck in another life.  When I got it there was an orange spinning light on the top, which I have since removed.  I kept the backup beeper, though!  The trailer, a 1989 Trail-Et New Yorker, had a previous distinguished career hauling S.S. Skipper, a wonderful Prelim and CCI* horse who competed in the 1990s and who just celebrated his 27th birthday.  They are connected by a hefty weight-distribution hitch with sway bar.  It is a good rig, even if it is not shiny and new.  

My truck has been quite reliable, but yesterday there was a brief moment of great dismay when, after I happily dropped the coupler onto the Beast's hitch ball, the Beast's engine sputtered off.  However, after a conference with Amy over the phone (she was already on her way to our lesson), I waited several minutes and then managed to get the Beast started again.  Ice in the fuel line, we were thinking.

But the important thing is that Taco and I made it to the lesson!  We shared it with Megan and her mare Go With the Flo (not to be confused with Amy's mare Go With the Flo). Megan is hoping to move her Flo up to Training this year, so we are well-matched to take a jumping lesson together.  We also share the same need to practice increasing adjustability in the canter, so we can learn a lot from watching each other.  Amy had us practice a five-stride line quite a few times.  We would have practiced it only a couple of times, except that both of us were letting our horses get strung out after the jump in and had to repeat it a few times to get the concept.  Finally we both managed to produce five similar, balanced strides in between.  Then Amy told us to do it in six!  And I did it!  I do feel that I am getting better at maintaining energy and uphill balance.  Taco is grateful that I am getting a clue, I am sure.  He was wonderful, as he always is.

Then we finished up with a couple of short courses, continuing to practice an uphill canter all the way around.  Not bad at all.  We'll need to do this again before long... four weeks until Full Gallop!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ribbons in the Wind

The past week has seen part of Team Taco (minus Taco) journey to Kentucky for the MidSouth Eventing and Dressage Association meeting, plus some actual riding here at home in Tennessee.

I bundled Carol and the dogs into the car on Saturday morning and we drove to Lexington, KY in time for the afternoon lecture at the MSEDA meeting.  The lecturer was Heather Blitz, an international Grand Prix dressage rider, and her topic was a philosophy of biomechanics and training that she calls Mind Your Riding.  I won't try to recall the entire lecture here, which was about two hours long, but I found some of her concepts especially eye-opening.  In particular, she described a method of maintaining the rider's center of gravity somewhere between the waist and mid-thigh through core engagement and thigh strength and leverage.  She also explained what the horse's forwardness and balance mean to her.  Her definition of "forward" refers to the horse's state of mind and means that the horse is "switched on" and that the horse and rider have a mental connection.  Good balance for the horse means that a medicine ball would balance in the middle of a seesaw with its fulcrum just behind the horse's girth.  She illustrated these concepts, plus several more, with photos and video of herself riding.  The entire lecture was fascinating and I would really love to ride in a clinic with her... so stay tuned to see if we make it!

After a lovely dinner at Lexington's Atomic Cafe and the annual MSEDA business meeting on Sunday morning, Carol and I took our seats at the awards luncheon.  Taco and I had earned my first-ever year-end award.  We were second in the Senior Novice category for 2009.

I will treasure that red ribbon for years to come!

Now that I've returned to Nashville, and the weather has been marginally better, I've been able to ride.  The ground is still rather wet, but I can do some long slow distance work.  I got on and hacked the other day, despite the snowflakes that were drifting around, because I finally had a chance to ride in between the snow and rain and travel.  Taco was a bit fresh but I practiced keeping my center of gravity low and lengthening his strides at the walk, which settled him.  I think we both felt a lot better after that.

I rode today, too, which presented another problem: wind.  It was about 32 degrees and the wind was whipping down at Panther Springs at around 20 mph!  I hate wind.  And Taco was, shall we say, a little wired after I tacked him up in the barn and ventured out the double doors into the wind tunnel that was the great outdoors.  After leading him to the mounting block I peered at his slightly wild-eyed face.  Hmmm.  Maybe a little lungeing was in order.  So I went back into the barn for the lunge line and we hit the round pen.  Wheee!  Lots of bucking!  After a few minutes his eye had softened right up and I got on.  No problemo.  Another winter day conquered!

If the weather holds we will have a nice stretch of 40-degree days without rain for the next week or so, and we can get some work done.  After all, the average daily high around here in early February is 50 degrees, so is 40 too much to ask?  Fingers crossed everybody!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Soggy Week

Team Taco has been laying low this week because of the snowstorm (a big deal around these parts) and subsequent soggy ground.

But the slower pace is not altogether unwelcome.  It is lovely to spend non-riding time with Taco.  He's a pretty fun guy on the ground.  He mugs for cookies and carrots and gets fussed over with nice long curries and hugs and kisses.  It's not that he doesn't get those things when we ride, but I can dawdle over them on non-riding days.  I can't help but think it deepens our relationship.

Here are some snapshots of him in the snow on Monday.  A beautiful horse in a beautiful scene!


Let's hope that after this weekend's rainstorm (yes, another one) things dry out and let us get back to it!  We are entered at Full Gallop March 13-14...