Friday, 24 May 2019

Quick Rides

I usually have Wednesday's off so I try toget both horses ridden. This week, I had to go to work for a couple of hours for a meeting in the morning, then had a family commitment in the evening. So I did yard work instead of horses. I got to go in late on Thursday (my evening shift) to compensate for the hours the day before, so I had time to get both horses ridden in the morning.

If I rushed.

The arena was being watered when I took Cisco in. That didn't really bother him at all, and he walked around nicely on a longish rein. Unfortunately, when we picked up a trot we started like we did on our previous ride - trotting really fast and wanting to break to the canter.
The barn kittens got their permanent birth control last week. So they've been lying around and extra adorable this week. 
This time I let him. Well, not break to the canter - he didn't get to decide when. We just didn't do much trot before I asked him to canter.

Being made to canter isn't as fun as deciding to canter on your own. It still took him a bit to settle at the trot, but he wasn't as anxious to pick up the canter after we got one out of the way.

It was another day of distractions - a horse came into the arena who is being tack walked and tends to have random explosive moments, and there was a loose horse running around outside that Cisco scooted away from when it ran past the open door. Not to mention the giant snake hose that was stretched down the arena for the person watering.
Green-noser. (I forgot which horse I was feeding and added Phantom's spirulina to Cisco's dish)

It took most of my 40 minute ride but he started to give me some attempts at dropping his head. Hard to do when you are being a badass trying to break to canter.

I rushed after the ride to swap him out for Phantom. I only had about 25 minutes of ride time for her, so it was a quick trot and canter and a bit of a walk in the yard to end. She felt better than she did my last ride - last time she warmed up a bit uneven, but I didn't feel it this time.

I wasn't sure if I would have a relaxed ride on her either. Phantom, who is generally not at all spooky, spotted something in a corner of the arena that made her grow an extra hand high as we approached. I had no idea what it was, and we worked our way around that end of the arena, gradually getting closer to the scary corner. Finally, I figured out that it was an urn of fake flowers that was always there - but they had been washed off by the person watering the arena. Apparently, since they were clean and bright they were worrisome.

Again, I had to rush her outside and get stuff cleaned up and put away. I'm not very good with that - I like to take my time before and after my ride getting my horse ready. But, I got the rides in, and as long as I give out a few cookies, I'm pretty sure that they are happy to be back outside with their buddies. As much as I like to think they like to spend time with me, I'd imagine that the other horses are better to hang with.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Such a Badass

Since it wasn't Cisco's birthday on Tuesday, he got tacked up for a ride

When I had arrived at the barn in the evening, it looked like a 3-ring circus had arrived. I think that the local Pony Club had moved in, so there 15-20 trailers, with a dressage lesson going on in the outdoor dressage ring, and two separate jump lessons were sharing the indoor arena. By the time the ponies had finished their treats and I was ready to ride the majority of the trailers had left but there was still a jump lesson going on inside, so I decided to ride Cisco in the field outside.

The field is where the horse trailers were parked. I've ridden him out there before when there were visiting horses, and he's pretty good about it. Distracted, because there might be a new best friend that he hasn't met yet tied to a trailer, but he's not overly silly and it generally doesn't take him too long to settle.

It took him a little longer to settle this night when riding next to the remaining trailers. The jump lesson ended just after I got on, and horses were being untacked and happily led into the horse murder boxes. Cisco was concerned.

So he went kinda nuts.

What Cisco thought he was doing. (Listen with the sound up)

He kept breaking from a fast trot into a slow canter. Whoa there, Cisco. Get a hold of yourself.

How can I be expected to ride such a crazy horse? He trotted fast, mostly steered, broke to the slowest canter we've had yet, and didn't flip his head all around. Oh no, what will I do with him?

I'm pretty sure he thinks he's being badass. He so is not. I'm sure the day will come when he does figure it out, but he hasn't yet.

I knew he started to settle when he finally noticed the flappy tarp. I was waiting for it. One of those tarp covered metal frame car port things recently popped up by where the boarders park our trailers, which is on one side of the field I was riding in. There was a slight breeze so the end piece was gently flapping. For the first 25 minutes or so he was so distracted by the horses at the trailers that he didn't notice it. He finally did, and scooted and spun away from it. I turned him back, he gave it the evil eye, and that was about the end of it.

He also kept calling to the horses, probably warning them not to go in the murder boxes. It was the most ridiculous, adorable little whinnies - a quiet "eeeeeeeeeeeee" squeal that just made me burst out laughing. One day I have to get a recording of it. Again, I'm pretty sure he thinks it super badass, but it's just so damn cute.
Such a cute slightly floppy lip!
He didn't relax as much as I was hoping when all the trailers drove away, but he was listening to my slowing half-halts off my seat, so I decided to call that a win and ended my ride. It was getting late, and the mosquitos are out with a vengeance.

Oh - and a week into the smegma transplant, we still have no tail rubbing!

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Sweet Sixteen

Tuesday was Phantom's sweet 16!

I wanted to buy her a silly hat to wear and a sash or something sparkly to go with it - you know, embarrass my kid. But I left it too late, and the dollar store I checked didn't have anything suitable. So no decorations. Just cake.

And by cake, I mean pony popsicles.

It's become a birthday tradition. Chop up some carrots and apples (sometimes bananas), pour some unsweetened apple juice over them, and place the rubber dish in the freezer overnight.

This time I remembered that I own a good camera and wanted to use it, so Pony Grandma and I took the ponies over to a grassy area to eat their popsicles so that I would have a nicer background to work with. Unfortunately, the popsicles were harder to eat than the grass was so we had to drag them back into the barn so that they would finish eating them without any distractions.

When I made the popsicles I used a full liter of juice in each dish - it was too much. Neither horse finished their serving. Maybe brain freeze kicked in.

The kids definitely enjoyed their treat. Afterwards, Phantom got the night off, but Cisco had to work - it wasn't his birthday!

Happy birthday Princess! I hope to make you many more popsicles in the future!

Monday, 20 May 2019

The Smegma Transplant Experiment

My old gelding, Farly, used to have a rather gunky sheath. I cleaned it regularly using just water, but I could always smell Eau de Smegma when I walked past him. He would rub the sides of his hips on the walls of his stall so the hair always looked roughed up. And he would sometimes have gray gunk on the inside of his gaskins.

One day I asked my vet about it. He suggested that I try a smegma transplant - basically, take some smegma from another gelding's sheath, mix it up with a bit of Vaseline, and stuff it up into Farly's sheath. The idea is that Farly had something like a yeast infection, and the smegma from the other horse would change the ph balance in there and hopefully get some good flora happening.
Farly, of the stinky sheath.

It was simple. And it worked - well, for about 6-8 months at a time. When it started to stink and he'd start rubbing again I'd start asking my fellow boarders for some smegma and do the transplant again.

Fast forward to current days, twenty years later. I have another gelding who has a stinky sheath and seems to rub his tail and sides almost daily. Time to try the Smegma Transplant again.

I've been meaning to do it for a while, but I keep forgetting to bring out the KY Jelly (that I bought specifically for this task!). I've lined up geldings whose owners have volunteered them to be donors, but they're generally outside and I'd have to haul one of them in. So it just hasn't happened.

Last week, I got my ducks in a row. Cisco was tied up in the aisle, and I gloved up.

My first donor was a big senior gelding in a stall. I put a halter on him, said hi, and stuck my hand up his manbits. And found nothing. No smegma. Nada. The cleanest sheath I've ever felt up.

So onto donor #2, who is on stall rest. And I hit the motherlode. I don't know when his sheath was last cleaned, but it was to my benefit that it's been a while.

I added a bit of lube to the smegma to make a lovely, smelly, smegma paste. And shoved it up Cisco's hoo hoo.
Smegma paste. Ewwww.
Well, tried to shove it up. Because of the lube it kept falling out onto the floor. I shoved it as far back as I could and hoped that it stayed in.

The big question - has it worked?

It's been 4 days since the procedure. Cisco had only a little roughing up at the top of his tail - don't know if it is fresh rubbing, old rubbing, or someone chewing on his tail. Big improvement from the usual rat's nest that his tail is in.

He still has some rub marks behind his stifles. I don't know if they are fresh or not. Next time I'm out I might try to lay the hair down with a brush and water and see if that makes it look better.

Tentative conclusion - the transplant has been a success! He was rubbing his tail daily before the transplant, so to see only a possible rub is an improvement. Time will tell if it is a total cure (or at least a 6 month cure).

Thursday, 16 May 2019

First, the Good

Yet again, the ponies had most of a week off between rides. I felt crappy all weekend and was living on Advil. I managed to get out to the barn on Sunday but it turned out to be just a quick groom and feed kind of visit.

I was off work about an hour and a half earlier than normal on Tuesday, so I managed to make dinner and eat it for once before heading out to the barn that night.

Cisco was a wee bit perky when I hopped on, and since the other riders were finishing up and untacking down in the scary end (which also had the big overhead door open) he was dragging me in that direction for a change. We had one good slo-mo spook as a butterfly flew past us and farted, but other than that, he was very happy to stay at that end of the arena.

I needed some time with my therapists on Wednesday.
He felt a bit better with right bend through the ride - or at least not dumping onto his right shoulder. It still has a long way to go though but it felt like a bit of progress.

The canter felt pretty good - right felt really good (his stronger side, well, mine too), the left was a really good try at a big circle and almost breaking back to trot a few times but he kept going.

Even better, he passed my test - we were able to do our first simple changes! The left to right had a much longer trot than I anticipated as we had to steer around a beginner, but he easily picked up the lead. The right to left I wasn't overly confident that we would get the lead, but he totally did! We didn't get our steering as he fell to the inside as he picked up the canter, but hey, baby steps!

Cisco is a high-efficiency mowing machine. Who doesn't have time to chew.

I was a bit worried about Phantom's breathing as last week she wasn't good, despite having a dose of Ventipulmin. So I made sure she had her medicine before riding - and she was great.

She got the easy ride as I got on at about 9:30pm and didn't have a ton of energy. We mostly worked on transitions, asking her to lower her ears before the transition (and usually afterwards too). She got a bit silly in the canter, but nothing crazy, and we were able to regroup and start over and get a better attempt.

Then I went home and shit got real.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Wordless Wednesday

I wasn't ready for you to go.

I hope you have endless potato chips to eat. 

I'll miss you Shmoopsie Bear. 

Thursday, 9 May 2019


Yesterday morning I wrote up yesterday's post about how much fun I have been having riding Cisco and how much braver he's been. As I was typing I thought "hope I don't jinx myself!".

So then I rode yesterday afternoon. And this happened.
My first fall off Cisco! Couldn't have made it much more graceful!

The first jump was the same size and colour that we had successfully jumped the night before. For whatever reason, Cisco hesitated at the last second (possibly because he had a monkey jumping up his neck?) and I kept going.

This was the first time that Cisco has lost his rider. I knew that this would shatter his confidence. I asked Pony Grandma to knock the poles down so that they were just resting on the base of the standards and we could walk over it if we needed to.

We needed to.

He was very concerned the first time. Many sideways stutter steps before he stepped over the poles, totally holding his breath. So we walked over it a few more times before approaching again at trot.

After that pole got slightly better, I thought I would try one of the same jumps from last night.

At that point I had Pony Grandma knock them all down to the ground. And Cisco leapt over all of them. With far more energy than they required.

Such is training horses. One step forward, ten steps back.

I'll keep them low for the next little bit until they get boring. And then move them up a hole or two and do those until they get boring. And then repeat. Trying to teach a horse who is not at all brave to jump is going to be a slow process, but it's not like I have to have him ready for a specific date.

Hopefully, I'll figure out how to keep my shoulders back though - I don't know if I'm lucky enough to land on my feet a second time!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Riding is Fun?

I realized something over the last couple of days.

I'm having fun riding Cisco.

It's not that I ever disliked riding him (well, maybe once or twice). I think it's that we've developed some trust in each other under saddle, and that I know I can do different things with him and we're going to make it through to the other side.

Now that it's spring and we can do things outside, Cisco has been starting to show some bravery and sensibility about life. I mean, if we come across a bear, I'm pretty sure he's out of there, but for everyday things that we come across (flappy flags, quietly staring dogs, silently judging kitties, mini donkeys) he's been really good about continuing forward.
Or a moose. Glad I wasn't out for a hack when I spotted this one on the weekend just around the corner from the barn that was originally on the road in front of me.
He's also never really done anything overly stupid so I'm starting to trust that the worst he'll likely do is stop and spin, and it will probably just be a scoot. I can usually stay on for that. He hasn't offered any airs above the ground as of yet - let's just hope it stays that way.

I've been wanting to seriously start him over some small jumps. I won't jump without someone else in the ring so it hasn't happened yet. But on Tuesday evening I rushed through tacking up so that I could ride during the last lesson of the night and hopefully piggyback popping over a couple of jumps while the group was cooling out.

Despite having not been ridden for two weeks, Cisco was quite relaxed during our warm up. The scary end wasn't scary because the overhead door was open - so now the scary end was the gawk out the giant window end.

I rushed through the warm up and had someone set a couple of jumps to itty bitty cross poles.

We did the one on the quarter line a few times. The first couple of times he was a little unsure. I was also a little unsure and grabbed a big chunk of mane and felt like I was all over the place. We only did it about 5 times, and he got better and better each time.

So we moved onto the cross pole on the short end, next to the open window.

My biggest concern was that he was going to stare out the window and forget that he had feet to worry about. Also that he would see the open gate in the corner that the kids had failed to close.

But he was super! We did it 3 or 4 times, and when he started to trot forward to it I was able to get my timing and rode it mostly correctly. If correct jumping means jumping ahead of your horse that is. Yeah, I have some work to do on myself.

The last time he trotted nicely forward, I looked to the right over the jump, he landed on the correct lead, and we cantered around the corner and down the long side in a nice relaxed pace. Done!!

This was yet another ride that I was super happy with. We've got a whole heck of a lot to work on, but if I'm having fun doing it, who cares?

Monday, 6 May 2019

App Review - The Equestrian

I recently came across an ad somewhere online for a new tracking app that I hadn't heard of yet. I've tried a bunch of them, but they all have something that I don't like about them. This new one, called The Equestrian, so far is my favourite.

It's set up so that it can be used by a barn so that multiple people can see or add information about the horses. If you are an individual, it has many features that are easy to use and has a familiar layout. It is web-based so you can view it on a mobile device or on a computer and it syncs.

Once you set up your horse, which includes what they get for feed, their pedigree, and special notes, you can start to add to your journal.

Your journal can include expenses (which can be added to a specific horse or can be non-specific), veterinary information, farrier, training, photos, grooming, and many others.

It appears that every activity has the option to have a cost associated with it. The default for adding in a cost is an expense, which types up in red. You can easily change it to income, which will show up green. You can also make any entry public to be shared with your connections, or leave it as private.

You can add a word in the search bar to find specific entries, but you have to search within a specific horse's information. It would be nice to be able to search all horses at the same time.

A great aspect of The Equestrian app is that you can add a picture to every entry. You can even add pictures to your journal that don't have a specific category. The pictures have to be cropped square, like Instagram, and you can only add one picture per entry, but you can keep adding new journal entries to add more pictures.

Your journal entries will then show up as a Newsfeed, which looks similar to Facebook. If you have friends linked, you will be able to see each other's public journal entries here.

It has business applications with mini-apps for farriers and stable owners. There are other business icons like instruction, grooming and training, but these are not set up to be able to add information yet.

The Equestrian is not perfect. But none of the apps that I've tried so far are. I would like the option to be able to view expense reports as a spreadsheet. I'm still figuring out the calendar, but in reality, I'll continue to use my Google calendar that I add my life to.

The newsfeed seems to sort by the most recent entry and not by date, and there is no option to change that. It probably won't be much of an issue once everything is set up and the information from earlier in the year has been entered and I'm only adding current information, but at this point, it's kind of annoying.

Another annoying thing is that when I set the picture for the horse's profile, it crops the photo square, yet on the mobile version the picture ends up flatter and stretched, so the horse ends up looking a little wonky. It doesn't seem to be as much a problem on the desktop version.

It would also be nice to be able to change the category or horse as I am entering information, or even apply a journal entry to multiple horses at the same time. This doesn't appear to be an option at the moment.

The absolute best thing about the app? It's completely free. Even the business parts of it. And no ads!

I think this is the app that I'll be using to keep track of everything. I don't usually do much journalling of daily training (I'll keep that to the Equisense app), but I like to be able to keep track of the vet stuff and my expenses. Being able to add pictures to everything is what appeals to me most about this app versus many of the others I've tried.

It's available for Android, ios, or on the web. Give it a try!

Friday, 3 May 2019

Wow H-Girth

Cisco's new girth arrived from England this week. It's a Wow H-Girth.

It's definitely different looking than a traditional girth.

It's supposed to be good for wide sprung horses who have a forward girth groove. Which is totally Cisco.

I've only had a chance to lunge Cisco while wearing it so far. I was expecting a bit of a rodeo, but he didn't seem to give it any concern.

Before lunging.
These girths are ridiculously expensive - they start at about $450 CDN. I bought this one off of Ebay for about $270. It's in very good condition with little signs of wear.

After lunging.
I'm hoping this girth configuration will stop the saddle from being pulled forward during a ride. It doesn't look like I can get the foregirth option (which moves the point billet even more forward) in an extra short version to match my flaps, and the regular sized one will stick out a couple of inches below the flap. So I'm really hoping this girth will solve the problem.

I'll have to add a D-ring to it for my breastplate, and figure out how to attach the Equisense. And eventually I might want to get a longer back strap to even up the buckles. But the first impression after a lunging session was good - I don't think it moved forward. Now to hope that the saddle stays put while riding!

Thursday, 2 May 2019

What Happened in Red Deer

I was so excited to go. But I'm afraid to say that the Mane Event was a bit of a bust for me this year.

We arrived to catch most of the jumper clinician. Unfortunately, he wasn't the greatest speaker, and they had too many riders with 6 in the group to get through the exercises in a timely manner. Four riders would have probably been the optimal number. The exercises were pretty basic (the topic was something about cavaletti) - some trot poles, the circle of death with poles, and a few low jumps. The only thing I took away from the session was that if things are falling apart, it's better to stop, regroup and organize, and start again. Better to do fewer poles/cavaletti well than do a bunch badly.

The driving guy wasn't very good either - he discussed the tack check he did with each of the participants, but they were on the far side of the ring so the auditors couldn't see what he was talking about. Then he watched them trot around a few laps, and asked them what they wanted to work on. There was supposed to be a theme to the session - something about pressure and your horse, so it was disappointing that he didn't seem to have a plan.

It's pretty sad that watching the dressage was the most exciting part of the day. It's not that the information was new or overly interesting, it's that the clinician had a sense of humour and kept things moving.
The best part of the day was stopping in at the Donut Mill when we arrived in Red Deer. Part of our tradition!
The trade show was okay - some vendors that were traditionally present were missing, but there were some new ones to take their place. The tack shops that were present didn't have anything that I needed for the prices that I was willing to pay, but I did pick up a 15' training lead that has a loop at the end instead of a clip.  There were less freebies than previous years - even the feed company that gave out coupons for free bags of feed last year only gave out $10 coupons this year. If I was shopping for a $100,000 horse trailer this was the place to be - but I most definitely am not.

I entered a bunch of draws, and managed to have my name pulled for one. I won a bag of a protein/amino acid supplement. It's good for helping horses build toplines, which I don't have a problem with, so I might see if someone at the barn wants to buy it.

We left before dinner time since there wasn't anything else we really wanted to see.

So yeah, I was disappointed in this year compared to other years. It's still a great value for the admission ($15 if you buy your tickets online) and I'll definitely continue to attend. I just won't have high expectations on what I expect to see.

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Mane Event

It's Friday, I'm on vacation, and I'm on my way to Mane Event in Red Deer, Alberta! Hopefully not in the snow, but I'm not holding out for that.

Mane Event is an annual 3 day equine experience, with the largest horse-related trade show in the province, and demonstrations and clinics offered by some big name trainers, all available to watch with just the price of admission ($15 if you pre-buy your tickets, $17 at the door for a one day admission). There is a Trainer's Challenge, where 3 trainer's attempt to start unbroken (and in some cases barely handled) young horses over the 3 day period, a pro/am challenge where a youth is paired with one of the clinicians to compete as a team on an obstacle course, and new for this year - an extreme trail contest, and a rodear dog competition.
The clinicians for this year.
They always bring in a selection of clinicians - always a jumper type, dressage, natural horsemanship, barrel racer, and a driver, and then a few different ones each year. This year there is a working equitation person and a ranch riding person. There are also many discussion sessions held, on things like saddle fit, feed, health, or first aid.

The really nice thing about this format is that you can watch any or all of the clinicians in between shopping. The seating is rush seating (and not very comfortable). I've watched some sessions from the disciplines that I'm interested and had to leave because they were so boring, and then I've watched some sessions (mostly driving) that have had some really good information that I've taken home with me. It's a wonderful opportunity to observe other disciplines and store away some new tools in your toolbox.

However, because the seating is so uncomfortable, you don't want to sit for too long at a time. They had George Morris out a few years ago, and I drove the almost 2 hours each way for 3 days in a row to watch. I was planning on going back on the 4th day (it was an anniversary year so they added an extra day), but when I woke up in the morning I couldn't turn my neck from sitting on metal bleachers for at least 4 hours a day over the last three days. So I stayed home.

I usually just go down for one day. I always look at who the clinicians are, and if it's someone I'm really interested in watching I go down for an overnight stay. It's tough to get everything done in one day, and inevitably there are a few sessions that I would like to hit that are scheduled for the days that I'm not there.
It's a big facility. They renovated over the last year, and now the arenas are joined to the main buildings. More shopping space!

The best part, of course, is the shopping. Well, it would be if I ever had any money or really needed anything.

Don't get me wrong - I always find something to buy. And I've gotten some good deals there. We don't get companies there (like C4, Horsewear or most saddle companies) - for tack related stuff, it's all tack stores. So we don't tend to get blowout types of sales.

The amount of free things that you score has gone down significantly over the years as well. One year, when I did attend for all three days, I came away with 8 free rolls of Vetrap. I haven't gotten a free roll since. The guys that always gave out free chunks of Himalayan rock salt every year stopped last year. So now it's mostly pens and sample baggies of feed.

But if you are a horse person, it's the place to be on the last weekend in April. They were smart when they decided to use Red Deer as the location - it's pretty well right in the middle of the province.  It's an hour and a half from the two major cities, and likely no more than about 5 hours for almost everyone else in the province.  The only bad thing about this event is the time of year - it snows just about every year. I've driven through complete snowstorms on the highway, or have had just a few sprinkles of flakes as I'm driving away, but I'm pretty sure it has snowed every time I've been down there.

This year looks to be no exception - we might end up driving home in snow, but hopefully, it won't hit until the next day.

I'm only looking for a couple of things, and only at the right price (cheap). Maybe this will be the year that I don't buy anything - but I doubt it!