Friday, 10 July 2020

The Best Laid Plans

Since my province went into stage 3 of reopening at the end of last month, I made sure to make a massage appointment this week during my vacation. I haven't had a massage since around Christmas, and oh boy, did it ever show. She said she could have easily spent 90 minutes on my legs alone. There were a whole bunch of areas that normally aren't a problem but this time they were super tight and sore. She also spent some time on my left thigh and the adductors that have been sore for the last few weeks. Which meant they were pretty pissed off on Tuesday when I went to ride.

My plan for that ride was to work on Cisco coming forward at a canter when I was in 2 point off my legs and not my seat. I had set up a few single poles to ride over. We were going to follow the mantra that I picked up at a clinic years ago of turn, straight, forward, balance into the pole. 

It didn't quite go that way.

Cisco was in the arena by himself, which always means he's a bit more up. My leg was more sore than usual once I was in the saddle so I planned to keep the ride short. I skimped a bit on the warm-up to try to get to the meaty bits of the ride sooner (going over the poles). I should have spent a bit more time riding him down at a trot first.

He wasn't bad, he was just a little sassy. I wanted forward, and he gave it to me. Unfortunately, he didn't come back very well. 

Instead of going towards the poles with turn, straight, forward, balance, it was turn, straight, get wiggly, slow the f down. Only at a trot - we didn't make it to trying it at a canter. 

Our canter - well, he went forward off my leg at a 2 point, going up the long side towards the scary end. He typically backs off heading this direction, so I was happy that he easily went forward. And he hand-galloped forward instead up upward (he often gets high headed and bouncy when he gallops). Again, good. Unfortunately, we didn't really get much of a transition to settle back into a canter, and I kept losing my foot position in my outside stirrup and couldn't get it back on my foot properly and we were heading into the scary corner where he's likely to suddenly drop his shoulder and dive to the inside without warning and I didn't want to die because my position wasn't overly secure. 

Yeah, I gave up on that.

I then tried to just get a decent canter before hopefully attempting the poles. We had prompt transitions, so good. The transitions had a bit of rocket power behind them and then never really slowed down. Bad.

And then he started coughing at the canter. When Cisco coughs, his head just drops and he lets out a huge cough and it feels like he's going to fall on his face. Not fun when you're in 2 point. 

Yeah, I gave up on that too. The whole ride.

In reality, I probably shouldn't have ridden. My leg was really sore the next day. I probably should have given it a couple of days off after the massage, and I think I'm going to give it the next week and half or so off of riding. Next week I have three days where I won't be able to ride because of work, and this weekend there's a clinic at the barn and I can't use the arena until the evenings, so it's a good time to take a bit of a break. I also have a physiotherapy appointment booked for Thursday and figure I'll be pretty sore the next day so that means riding Thursday and Friday are out. 

The ponies will be getting ground work though! I've been starting on the piaffe training from the TRT Method, so I'll see how far we can get in the next 10 days or so!

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

The Suspension is Killing Me!

In reviewing Pixio footage from Sunday's ride to get a couple of decent screenshots for yesterday's blog post, I came across something that I found kind of interesting.

I never really realized how much a horse's body moves up and down in a trot. 

It was just the perfect set-up to be able to see the suspension in the gait. Cisco was trotting in front of a contrasting coloured half wall, and his butt was pretty well level with the top of that wall when it was at it's highest point. I was slo-mo'ing frame by frame to find a good shot and noticed the difference in the amount of wall that was exposed above the horse.

Here a still of when his butt/back was at it's highest point:

And here is the lowest point halfway through the same trot stride.

You can see quite a bit of the dark wall behind the saddle when compared to the first picture.

Does it mean anything? Nah, I just think it's cool. It was just kind of flukey that he lined up so well against the wall to be able to easily see it.

It's just another way that I'm amazed at how the horse's body works. Think of the amount of pressure that the legs have to absorb to move that barrel of a body up and down with every stride. It's all about that suspensory ligament doing what it was designed to do - act like a thick rubber band that absorbs the shock and releases the energy again.

Cisco is by no means an extravagant mover with a bunch of suspension in his trot. Just imagine what we would see if he moved like Valegro!

Monday, 6 July 2020

Continuing On

Sunday brought yet another good ride on Cisco.

I'm going to have to do a year-end spook compilation video.

The other horse in the arena left before we picked up a trot so Cisco started his trot with a bit more enthusiasm than was required. I'm starting to insist that he keep his shit together in these instances. Keeping the pace that I desire is becoming a non-negotiable. I just need to figure out how to control his ability to throw his shoulders around. He's a very wiggly horse.

He was maybe a little bit steadier in the contact at a trot than he has been. Since changing to the Turtle-Top bit every ride has gotten better than the last one, so it seems to have been a good choice. His mouth is still busy, but I think I'm giving up on fixing that. 

I'm working really hard at keeping his neck long and his nose out a bit. He's better at the start of the ride, after we have cantered he wants to get a bit behind the vertical. I'm wondering if it's a bit of a strength issue - he's a bit tired after some canter so he starts to cheat. 

I don't mind his frame, but I wish my hands were higher and more forward.

I'm off this week but the weather is not going to be conducive to do anything fun. We were hoping to head to the mountains for a day trip - Jasper National Park is about 3.5 - 4 hours away. But the highway in washed out last week, and although traffic is getting through, the delays are huge. My brother was already planning to go for the weekend so they drove out on Friday - it took them 7 hours to drive 20 km. We're definitely scrapping the plans for a day trip.

We've had a lot of rain this year, similar to last year. This resulted in poor quality hay in this area. Farmers were not able to get the hay off the field because it kept raining, the grass grew too long and got stressed, and the hay ended up with low nutritional value. 

I've heard from multiple people that this was the first year that they've had to work to keep weight on their easy keepers. This is the first time in my life of horse ownership that I've had to put weight on my horses instead of worry that they're too fat! Both of my horses are currently at a good weight, but I've had to be very vigilant about it. We're all hoping to get better hay this year, but it isn't looking too promising.

Friday, 3 July 2020

That Feeling of a Great Ride

You know that feeling you get when you've had a great ride? The one that no matter how crappy your day was or is you have a perma-grin on your face?

I had that feeling after my ride on Thursday.
I definitely didn't have a good feeling before my ride when I had to deal with mud up to his knees.

Cisco started off pretty relaxed and I hoped it would continue through the ride. I got kind of lucky in that just as the other horse in the arena was leaving and Cisco was starting to worry that he would be abandoned another horse came in. He's always more relaxed when he has an arena buddy.
Mostly better - the mud around the coronet band was still wet though.

It was a ride where he just tried really hard to stay relaxed and do whatever I asked of him. At a trot he tried to keep his neck long and I tried to let him. He moved away from my inside leg to keep the circles round, and when I remembered to ride the outside of the horse at the same time as the inside he got really steady and felt solid on the circle. His canter transitions were prompt from a light aid. And when I asked him to drop his head from the giraffe carriage at a canter that I've been getting since I changed his bit, he finally gave me an honest attempt.
Post-ride stare at the new spotted horse along the driveway.

There were a few spooks - a dog suddenly barked, something in the scary corner moved, and one dead person sighting. But every time he came right back to me and settled back into his work. A couple of years ago he wouldn't have been able to let these things go and the rest of my ride would have been super tense.

I was really happy with this ride. It wasn't perfect. But I really felt that Cisco was with me for the whole ride. His attention is so often focused on something somewhere else in the arena, but for this ride he was focused on me.
There's always a derp photo though!

Too bad that I rode in the evening and most of my day was over. I would have liked to enjoy my horse created elation a little bit longer!

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

I Got To Break In My Unused Tools

As I was driving down the highway to the barn on Monday evening, I saw a car ahead of me going the opposite direction that was driving really fast down a service road. "What an idiot" I thought. My next thought was "I didn't know there was a service road there". Then I saw the fence boards go flying through the air. 

Yep, he went through the ditch and the fence at a pretty high speed. As I drove past the little car had a whole bunch of smoke coming from somewhere on it, but it was white smoke so I figured nothing was on fire. This is the same highway that two people were killed on less than three weeks ago. People are idiots.

This ditch is at the barn - full of water. Maybe the ditch he drove through had a similar amount of water and that was why his car was smoking. 

My plan for the night was to ride Phantom. It was going to be an easy ride as I was expecting to be pretty sore. 

We toodled around at a walk for 10 minutes before I picked up a trot. Phantom has been starting pretty shuffly at the trot but she started to move a bit more forward maybe a half lap around. Then she coughed, so I said whoa so that she could come back to walk in case there was going to be more coughs. She did a weird little stumble behind but kept walking.I thought to myself, "she didn't grab a shoe with that stumble, did she? Nah, it was a nothing stumble." So we changed direction and picked up a trot again.

About 5 steps in she started head bobbing. I hopped off and picked up her left front. 

Yeah. She had grabbed her shoe. And it was hanging on by one nail.

I twisted it back into position so that she wouldn't stand on a clip and enlisted someone to hold her so I could run to my trailer and grab my tools.

I bought an inexpensive set of shoe pulls and a rasp about five years ago after having to pull Phantom's very twisted shoe off with a claw hammer and fencing pliers on Canada Day (while wearing shorts). I rushed out the very next day to grab tools in case it ever happened again. I've never had to use them so far.

After pulling that shoe off with the wrong tools, I watched a Youtube video to see how you are actually supposed to do it. 

I remembered that I had to rasp off the clinch before trying to pull the shoe off. I don't know how good a job I did of it because the last nail was above the clip and I kept rasping the clip instead of the clinch. But the shoe came off without too much work and thankfully Phantom put up with my awkward efforts.

 So Phantom got herself out of work yet again.

Farrier day is next Wednesday so she'll have to wait until then to get it put back on. I have hoof boots that I can slap on that foot but I don't think that they fit her as well as they used to so we'll probably be stuck with just walking. It's going to be pretty wet for the next week (woke up to pouring rain this morning, wasn't supposed to start raining until tonight) so hopefully her foot doesn't break apart too much.

Then, to top off my night, when I was throwing out some extra hay I stepped in a hidden puddle of muck water and got a soaker in my running shoe.

I should've stayed home.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Weekend Update

I had a couple of good rides this weekend.

Phantom had her first ride on Friday evening since her abscess popped up a couple of weeks earlier. She felt surprisingly even at the trot and was pretty bendy through her body. I wasn't happy with how the first left lead canter felt - I don't know if she's ever felt like that before. Kind of pulling her body forward instead of getting the rear motor activated. It got better, so I'll try not to dwell on it. 

My leg feels a bit sorer when riding her versus Cisco (Phantom's saddle has a wider twist I think) so I kept the ride short and sweet. Like most of her rides these days.
Cisco decided to hang out with me after I turned him back out. Thus there were a bunch of snoot pics.

Cisco was my victim for my ride on Sunday. It took me a bit of time to set the Pixio up in a different location than I normally do - too bad I didn't check to see how much space there was on the memory card. It ran out about 5 minutes into the ride before I picked up a trot. Oh well, another lesson learned.

This was the fourth ride in his new Turtle Top bit. When we picked up the trot he was immediately round and bendy. It usually takes a few minutes (or a bunch of minutes) to get to this point. I've got to make sure to keep him going forward so that he doesn't curl a bit too much behind the vertical though. I can't quite figure out if he's wanting to curl or he's just figuring out his balance and strength.

The canter is a different story though. He kind of turns into a bit of a llama. He's bent around the circle and turning off my outside aids. But his head is up in the air.

I mean, I'd rather his head be up in the air than curled up and his nose towards his chest. I can work with that. Fixing the curling is way harder. 
After riding Cisco has been offering to just stand and chill in the barn without being tied up. I think this is something I'm going to actively try to develop with him.

We did some work on getting the canter transitions with some simple changes on tear drops along a long side. They were much more prompt than they have been - I still need to drop the amount that I ask by like 50%. I've had some nice ones by just swiping my leg back, but more often than not I forget and dig in my heel. I've also realized that I do a chicken arm with my right elbow as he picks up the left lead canter that I need to sort out.

I'm not convinced that this is going to be his bit. I'm not giving up on it yet, and maybe I'll alternate between both bauchers. He doesn't hate this one - yet.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

I haven't been blogging much about my rides as of late. Partly because I've been so busy/tired, that I haven't had the energy to spend an hour typing up something interesting. But mostly because not much interesting has been happening. 
Well, cool skies are interesting.

I've been riding - well, Cisco at least. Phantom has seemingly recovered from her hoof abscess and I'm planning to hop on her tomorrow to see how she feels. She looked a little bit uncomfortable still at the canter on Sunday, but looked pretty good last night. 

My rides on Cisco haven't really been overly exciting. We've popped over some tiny little crosspoles a couple of times, and he's gone over them all on the first approach. He's still a bit wiggly to them and sucks back when we're jumping towards the scary end, but we're getting from one side to the other.

I decided that I would try one more bit for Mr. Fussy Mouth and ordered a Neue Schule Turtle Top Baucher. These bits are a ridiculous price in Canada (around $400!!!) so I ordered it from the UK. After I paid customs it was closer to $240. Still, a stupid price for a bit that I don't know will be liked.
So shiny!

Does he like it? I still haven't decided. Last night's ride was the third ride with this bit, and the best so far. He was trying really hard to keep his neck long at a trot instead of wanting to get a bit behind the bit. The connection at the canter hasn't been as good as it was in the other baucher, but the left lead canter has been stronger, so I don't know. 

He doesn't hate the bit, so we're going to keep using it for now. I thought his mouth was being a bit quieter, but once we popped over a couple of jumps last night he started clacking his teeth together. His mouth is definitely his stress indicator. 

I also finally broke down and put spurs on. Cisco knows how to move off my leg, he just thinks that it's a suggestion rather than a command. The spurs have definitely helped so they will continue to be used. I've just been using my very small nubby baby spurs and might need to go up to slightly bigger ones for a couple of rides on occasion but so far the baby ones have been enough to get my point across.

I've only been riding every second day because my groin is still quite sore after riding. I applied some kinesiology tape and I think it's helped a wee bit. I will need to see my doctor in a couple of weeks so maybe I'll mention it and see what she says - I'm sure it will be go to physio and stop riding, neither of which I want to hear!

Since we had so much rain over the last few weeks, the mosquitos have now come out in force. We tried a short ride down the road last night, thinking that the road would be safer than the grass to not get eaten. They didn't care. The poor horses were covered in mosquitos. Thus our outdoor evening rides will be no more for a while!

So, yeah. Nothing exciting. Just plugging away at the same things with some slight improvement. But riding is happening!

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday - Pony Squeals

I finally caught Cisco's adorable little whinny on video. This is the whinny he uses when he's calling to someone outside of the arena. It can be even more adorable when he does the same little squeal but under his breath and I'm the only one that can hear him. Makes me giggle every time. 

Make sure the volume is turned up!

Monday, 15 June 2020

There's a Hole in Her Heel

On Thursday, Phantom, my drama queen of a horse, was pretty sure her leg was going to fall off.

I fed her when I brought her in before an intended ride. She's a right foot forward when eating horse, so her left hind needs to stay underneath her to keep her balance. She wouldn't keep that foot weighted on the floor. I found a strongish digital pulse but nothing else so I suspected an abscess might be brewing.

It's been really muddy for most of the last week. We keep getting pelted with bursts of rain. On that day it had poured rain for about an hour just before I arrived. 
A farmer's field a mile or so from the barn. Supposed to be a crop field.

The barn would be visible behind the trees. I hope bees can swim!

The roads to the barn have been atrocious this year. This is on the good road.

Yep - it washed out. I had to go through in my rental car (mine was in for repairs).

I had forgotten to put my boots on when I went out for Phantom. Thankfully, she likes me, so she came to me and I didn't have to walk through the mud (though it took some convincing). Also, note that she is fully standing on her left hind and might even be resting her right hind yet would not put weight on that left foot 5 minutes later in the barn.

I buted her and threw her back out. Despite not wanting to stand in the barn with weight on her left hind, she was walking perfectly fine on it. 

The next morning I went out early so that I could have a look at her and if I needed to call the vet hopefully avoid a weekend fee. 

As I walked towards her paddock, she was picking at the grass, walking and standing on all four legs. When I got to the gate, she saw me, lifted her left hind to leave it resting kind of awkwardly, and gave me a nicker. As I said earlier - she's a total drama queen.

Otherwise, she was about the same. Walking without issue, resting it in the barn. Still a strong digital pulse.

Saturday I found a hole in her heel.

I'm still thinking that's it's an abscess. The cleft in the center of her heel has been pushed to the side and the hole is close to the center. I'm thinking that the pressure of the abscess pushed that cleft over.

It was already wet from being outside in the mud. Ugh. Thus I didn't soak it. I flushed it with some betadine as best I could and wrapped it with some Animalintex. Not my best wrapping job as Phantom refused to unflex her fetlock. I tried to wrap up a bit higher than I might normally wrap to keep the mud out, but I'm not sure how well that will work.
I have no recollection of buying fluorescent orange vetrap.

Hopefully, it was indeed an abscess and she should be more comfortable in a few days. I'm also hoping that it stops raining. But that isn't looking so good.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

52 TB Camels

At least once a year, the 52 free thoroughbred Facebook post shows up on my feed. This year it was updated to say that the owner of the TB's had died due to Coronavirus. Somebody obviously put some effort into updating the post and sending it around the internet once again.

However, somebody else put even more effort into this Facebook post that popped up yesterday.

Pretty sure my non-horse friends on Facebook didn't get the joke. But the horse people thought it was hilarious!

We'll see if this one shows up on the regular!

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Walking Under Saddle For Rehab

I'm going to spend this week walking under saddle for rehab. For me, not the horses.

About three weeks ago I somehow strained the adductor muscles (aka. my groin) in my left thigh. No idea how - my ride the night before had been a laid back toodle, and I didn't feel anything until I got up in the morning.

It doesn't bother me through my everyday activity other than being a bit sore when I wake up. And it mostly hasn't bothered me while I've been in the saddle.

Unless I ride both horses.

The last two Sundays I rode Cisco, then Phantom. Everything felt fine on the first horse. When I settled into the tack on the second horse, I felt a bit of pain in my thigh. On the first Sunday, I didn't feel it through the rest of the ride. On the second Sunday, I definitely did. It was painful enough that when I first picked up the trot I did about 3 strides before coming back to walk because it hurt. Of course, being a horse person, I stayed on and completed my ride (thankfully Phantom was feeling perky and I didn't have to use much leg).

I paid for riding two horses on both Sundays by being quite sore through the rest of the evening. Ice packs were applied and Advil was ingested.

Thankfully I was no more sore than normal the next morning. But I don't want this to linger and take months to heal. 

So this week I'm going to be smart(ish) and take it easy. When I ride I'm going to stick to walking. Mostly walking on a loose rein type of walking so that I don't have to use my leg. Squeezing in with my thigh hurts, so I probably shouldn't do that.
The only bottle of Sore No More I've ever bought lives on my dresser and has never seen a horse.
I'm hoping that taking it easy this week will mean that I can do something more next week when I'm off. I'll probably still avoid riding two horses on the same day, but hopefully I'll be able to do stuff faster than a walk.

Has anyone tried kinesiology tape and found that it helped with injuries? 

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Practice Hopefully Makes Perfect (Someday, I Hope)

Cisco has decided that he wants to be a trail horse and schooling is for chumps. 
Not a chump.


On Sunday I took him over to the arena to use the mounting block to get on. From there I was going to ride outside, so I left the gate open. I got on (the block is right next to the gate) and turned Cisco away from the gate so I could get myself organized before heading out. He threatened a crowhop, which I growled at him for. Then we had to stay inside for a bit so that he realized that I got to steer him and decide when we would leave.

We went for a walk around the yard for our warm-up. He was a little high headed, but he usually is for the first bit of every ride. We then returned to the field where I planned to do the rest of the ride. 

But I ran into an issue. Damn gopher holes. There were a whole bunch of new ones, big ones, and because the grass was recently mown, I couldn't see them until we were right in front of them. I don't like that. 

We headed into the dressage court. In the summer they set up a simple dressage ring on the grass. There might still be gopher holes to dodge, but it's easy to remember where they are. 

At the moment there are only a couple of holes, and they aren't big or on the track, so I decided to stay in there. And got my ass handed to me to show me all our problems. 
So many problems.

Despite it being the first actual hot day of the year, Cisco had far more go than I was hoping. And at this point in his riding career, more go means all the old problems that we might have mostly eliminated come right back.

Our corners sucked. Our straightness sucked. Our bending sucked. Our pace sucked. Our right lead canter was decent, but the steering sucked.

Everything got slightly better after 30 minutes of work. But very, very slightly.

Oh well. The only way you get better at things is practice. Over and over and over again.