Saturday, 23 April 2022

Remember Me?

 Hi there. It's been a while.

I've had a couple of posts mostly written up, but for whatever reason (no internet for a few days, Google Photos not co-operating) I just haven't gotten around to getting them posted.

Or Windows updates when I only have a short time to blog before bed.

Not that much has been happening to write about. 

Just lots of napping happening.

So much napping.

The ponies had their spring vaccinations, which resulted in the annual swollen boobage for Phantom. Cisco was also a bit more sore than usual this year, so they both got most of a week off of riding.

Cisco had some wonky man-boobs this year.

At that same vet appointment Phantom was kind enough to empty my bank account - all on horse drugs. I had to get some more Ventipulmin and Prascend for her, which brought my bill to over $700 - and it wasn't even for the good kind of drugs.

The week after the vet visit was busy with my work schedule, farrier, and a day trip to the Horse Expo, but since I was off the next week, no biggie. I was going to have lots of time to ride the next week. 

Except that I woke up on the first day of my vacation with the start of a head cold, which meant skipping Easter dinner with the family, and having to stick a swab up my nose to see if I had the 'vid. Three tests over four days were all negative, and it progressed exactly like a head cold does for me, so I think I'm still yet to be infected. Nonetheless, I had zero energy all week since I couldn't breathe properly, and until Friday only managed to get out to the barn a couple of times to scrape hair off the shedding ponies. 

So much hair. This was the second day in a row of scraping hair - pretty sure I got more off on the the second day than the first day! 

On Friday I tacked up and hopped on Cisco, with the thought that if I only did 20 minutes at a walk, at least it was something. I figured he would have enough energy to carry us both forward, which he did, but I had little strength in my limbs to influence him. We did a half-hour at all gaits and he was pretty kind to me - he only spooked once.

So, yeah, it's been pretty quiet on the horse front. I'm starting to feel a bit more energetic (just in time to go back to work), so hopefully we'll get some saddle time next week.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Still Here

(This post was written a week ago, but I hadn't posted it because I was waiting for Google Photos to download my pictures, but it still hasn't happened so you're getting a boring wall of words.)

 I didn't get out to the barn on Monday (snowstorm plus a crappy sleep and very early morning) or Tuesday (late workday) so I went out after work on Wednesday, which is usually a day I avoid as it is jump lesson night. But there was a clinician coming in on Thursday and Friday, so I hoped that a bunch of the Wednesday night crew wouldn't be riding and that the arena wouldn't be crazy - and I guessed right!

Cisco was a pretty good boy, other than almost dumping me multi-times due to last-minute spooking when making a short turn out of the scary end. It's like he got around the turn, then caught something out of the corner of his eye and did a splat stare, every frickin' time. And it made me lose my balance, every frickin' time. Every time, I thought we'd made it through the turn without issue, and then splat. Super annoying.

Thursday's ride was on a fairly relaxed horse. A horse who was, yet again, totally behind my leg. I had hoped to have a chill, stretchy ride, but it turned into a FFS please go forward kind of ride. 

It got better on the right rein pretty quickly. The left rein is our tougher side - Cisco's left hind is his weaker one, and when I start pushing the forward we lose the straightness, which I try to fix and then we lose the forward. 

We had a great forward canter into the scary end - he really carried me down the long side and felt really up in his withers. Well, until he slammed on the brakes when he suddenly saw the barn owner pop up in the scary end while digging out flower boxes for the clinic's jump setup that she was doing. To be fair, I hadn't seen her either. But Cisco was a good boy to go back down there with only a bit of wariness on the next lap.

However, after some canter, I went back to asking for a forward trot, at which point Cisco forgot how to move off my left leg. He needed some reminders but it eventually got better and we called it quits.

Phantom felt quite good again. Her walk warmup was pretty pokey, so I figured that she would start with a shuffly trot, but she immediately picked up a trot that felt pretty springy (for her). She was ridden in the morning, when I seldom ride and is apparently a busy time for the western crew. Which meant that I had to dodge 5 riders that spent their whole time on 15 meter circles spread around the arena. (Reiners are far worse than dressage riders for sticking to a circle.) 

Her right lead canter felt amazing for the first few strides - super uphill (again, for her). Even the left didn't feel too crappy. But she was pretty stiff to the right at a trot, which is usually her good side, although oddly she worked out her stiffness to the left and had some nice bending, so who knows what that means.

I'm planning to ride again on Friday night - Cisco will think he's in hell after three rides in a row! Hopefully I'll be able to hop on Phantom as well - will she still feel good after two rides in a row? Fingers crossed!

Monday, 28 March 2022

Weekend Rides

 I had a bit of an extended weekend off this weekend with great plans. Of course, I had to wake up on the first morning with migraine auras flashing in my vision, so trying to keep a headache at bay kind of wasted the first day.

There was a clinic booked for the arena on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Nothing out of the ordinary was posted for Friday evening, but this clinician in the past has thrown in some private lessons on Friday night, plus the regular Friday night lessons were happening, so I went out a wee bit later than I would have liked just in case the arena was a zoo. Sure enough, there were two different lessons going on when I arrived, so I timed it perfectly. By the time I got in the ring, I had it all to myself. 

Cisco wore his soundproof ear covers, so there were no ridiculous spooks, unlike the previous ride. In fact, for being by himself in the arena, he was actually really chill. We managed to have one of those elusive forward and relaxed rides - totally not what I was expecting, but I'll sure take it!

The only thing that was out of the ordinary was that he tripped behind a few times. Very unlike him. I couldn't figure out if it was one side in particular that had the issue or not. Post-ride I spent some time with him and the SureFoot pads to see if that was going to do anything for him. We're in the fantastic spring freeze/thaw cycle and there are frozen ruts all over the place, so maybe he took a wonky step at some point. I know I sure did while bringing a horse in that night - I stepped on a frozen tire rut in my softer soled riding boots and it felt like my foot folded lengthwise. It hurt for a bit.

The next night I planned on having a short, easy ride on Cisco, mostly to get him moving around a bit, but not be too concerned about forward just in case he was a bit uncomfortable behind. 

I had taken my Pixio out and dragged Cisco along with me to set up before tacking up. As we were heading to the arena a horse had arrived and was stomping around a bit on the trailer. Well, Cisco lost his brain a bit with that. I had to stop the setup of the camera at one point and do a bunch of groundwork. Thus, I didn't have great expectations for my ride. 

We didn't get into the scary end at all until half-way through the ride. Cisco had to have a good look for the horse murderers when we finally made it down there. 

Luckily, I got saved. From there being no one around when I set up the camera, I ended up riding with 3 other horses in the arena. The hamster stayed asleep in Cisco's brain, which was good because there wasn't much space to ride with a full jump course set up for the next day's clinic and at one point two horses were being lunged where there was space around the jumps. Ugh.

The Pixio was being a bit of an arse, which combined with all the obstacles I had to dodge, didn't give me much usable footage. I got a bunch of crappy screenshots, but that's about it. 

Our left lead canter still sucks. The right one is having some nice moments though!

Post canter he's been giving me some really nice trot. Super soft and bendy in his body and lifting in front.

My ride on Phantom, however, was under much better circumstances. By the time I hopped on her at 9pm I had the place to myself again. 

The old grey mare has felt pretty good the last couple of rides, which is especially great as they've been after I've ridden Cisco. I haven't been giving her any Previcox and have been quite happy with how she feels. 

Our rides mostly consist of straight lines and big circles. Sometimes we canter, sometimes we don't. She gets to pick her frame and how round she wants to carry herself - she isn't the type to go like a llama. At this point, I just want to keep her moving. 

She gave me a lovely right lead canter. I held the reins in a fillis rein style so that my arm followed her head a bit better, which resulted in her having a nice soft back and no bracing in her neck. The right is our mutually stronger lead, but the left one wasn't terrible either. 

On top of it all, she actually stood still at the mounting block! This has been years in the making. When I first started riding her she would back up as soon as I got up the steps, and for quite a while I had to grab a whip to tap her forward before I got on. At some point, I realized that her reluctance to approach the mounting block or stand to let me on was linked with how comfortable she was in her body. When things weren't right, she would get sticky again on her approach to the block. 

Lately, she's been really good about coming to the block, but standing once my leg has been swung over has been an ongoing battle (not that we actually battle about it.)

But on this night, she stood perfectly still for me to get on, while she was getting her cookie, and then let me faff about a bit - all without moving! At almost 19 years old, maybe we've finally got it figured out!

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Oh What a Night

 It all started really well. 

I scraped a whole bunch of hair off of Cisco while getting ready for our ride. Spring has most definitely arrived! (Despite the snowstorm we had a couple of days ago.)

I've had a couple of really good rides lately on Cisco. On our last ride we even achieved the elusive forward and relaxed. Funny how getting a few rides in during the same week helps!

So I figured that I would leave Cisco's soundproof ear bonnet off for tonight's ride. I knew that there would be other horses in the arena with us, and also that the big overhead doors at both ends of the arena were open since it was finally warm(ish). These conditions made for a potentially laid-back pony.

And it all started as such. Cisco looked out the open door at the end and was chill about heading into the corners. He was once again forward and relaxed.

Until he spooked. 

The first spook was at something he saw out the "safe" door. I saw a dog afterward, so maybe it ran past. We were walking and Cisco shot sideways at a canter. The instructor who was teaching a lesson was quite impressed with his movements.

He came back without issue and eventually we trotted into the other end, the normally scary end, but because the door was open, it was a much less scary end. 

Until Cisco saw something outside that caused him to shoot sideways. And I was not ready for this one!

Somehow, I managed to stay on. I think it was because he went sideways, which caused me to lose my left stirrup and be way over to the right, but then he stopped for a second, so I was able to get back in the center of him again before he shot left once more. It was definitely the closest I've come to falling off of one of his spooks. 

Since that didn't work to get me off, Cisco insisted on trying again. And again. 

I've no idea what he saw that caused this reaction. The only thing I could see was the neighbour's horses, all happily standing and munching on hay. Although, one of them was a pinto, so maybe?? (Although Cisco's mom was a pinto and he lives with one.)

As I do have to work the next day and thus can't afford to die tonight, I mostly kept it safe and worked most of the time in the safe end of the arena. 

He actually kept his cool and was a very good boy otherwise. We were ending the ride at a trot on a loose rein, with the plan to just do one more lap past the spooky area and hopefully not die, when one of the riders in the lesson fell off. And didn't bounce back up. Uh-oh.

An ambulance was called, so after tossing the horses into stalls I drove out to the road to direct them when they arrived. They were shortly followed by a fire truck, who was there to direct the air ambulance helicopter to land. 

It's hard to get a decent picture of a helicopter behind a snowbank, bathed in the glow of a fire engine's lights.

The good news is that apparently, a helicopter can land in the field next to the arena. It's actually a fairly large spot - I've seen them land in much smaller areas.

It sounds like the helicopter was ordered before the paramedics even arrived. We don't really know why, as even the paramedics said it was overkill. But hey, that's one of the benefits of our publicly funded healthcare!

The good news is that once the poor girl was on the ambulance and being treated it appears that her worst problem was going to be her elbow. She still got a free helicopter ride though.

Once the helicopter flew away the barn owner and I went out and checked all the horses to make sure no one had gone through a fence. Some of them were a little sketched out but all limbs were intact and no one was bleeding - except for the barn owner's horse. He had jumped into his neighboring paddock when the helicopter landed, which she did think to check on and wasn't surprised by (not his first time jumping a fence when stressed), but she didn't see the scrapes on his back leg until we checked on everyone. 

It was definitely not the night I expected. The moral of the story is that Cisco will always get ridden with his soundproof bonnet on from now on. And that I will end up needing Advil should I choose to forgo it. (My back and neck are a week bit sore at the moment. I'm sure not helped by standing in the cold watching the helicopter.)

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Leadline Pony Extrodinaire

I was recently contacted by a mother of twin 4year old girls regarding a "riding lesson". She had actually been referred to me by one of the other instructors at my barn as their schedules weren't coordinating. It was to be a one-off glorified pony ride, one hour in total, with both girls splitting the time to ride and having some time to pet the pretty pony. Easy money for me.

As the day approached, I started to put some thought into what the heck I would do with them. As it was only a one-off ride, I didn't really need to work on any skills - really, they just needed to hang on while being led around. But that's kind of boring. I needed something fun for them to do.

What horse do I know who is very quiet but has some special skills? Phantom!

Standing on a podium was not one of the skills she demonstrated on this day.

Thus, she got put into service as a leadline pony. And she did an excellent job.

The biggest skill she demonstrated was kicking a ball. I thought the girls would find that amusing, but apparently walking over the trot poles was the best part. Phantom sidepassed quite nicely over a pole for each of them (with my help), and did a very nice job of going from a slow amble to a fast walk and right back to an amble, without breaking into a trot (though it was close a couple of times!).

After the rides she stood perfectly still while the girls brushed her - well, the bottom half of her. That's as high as the 4 year olds could reach. She even dropped her head so that they could gently brush her face.

And before they left, Phantom posed for a smiling picture with the kids.

Phantom made two little girls very happy today. Apparently they were hoping to ride a white horse, and their mom had warned them that it probably wouldn't be and would be a brown horse. I guess that when they walked in and saw a white horse waiting for them it made their day!

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Mostly Wordless Wednesday - I Need A New Duct Tape Colour

 Phantom's tail gets put up over the winter in a casing of Vetrap and covered with duct tape.

This weekend, a nephew of a barnmate saw Phantom in the arena and asked why that horse has a penis tail.

Ignore the poopyness.

Guess I need some new duct tape colours.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

NewTack Storage

 Well, it's been another couple of weeks with very little riding. The 23rd winter of the year hit us, with cold temperatures, and a dump of snow (my yard was almost clear of snow, but not now).

Cisco got ridden once this past week. When talking to people before my ride, I had said that I expected it to be a fun ride - as in, hang on, because it's going to get interesting. 

I was right. Fresh Cisco meant extra spooky Cisco. Which wasn't helped at all by someone trying to do some repairs on the quad that is used to harrow the arena and is parked in the scary end. Well, not repairs at this point - more like diagnostics that required revving the engine and turning it off and on multi times. 

Sucks to be Cisco. I made him deal with it. 

He's honestly getting much better about his emotions in the scary end of the arena. He might turn into a llama between K and H, and he might suck back and drop a shoulder if I soften for a millisecond, but he's getting much better about going down there and not actually losing his brain. In the end, we did a bunch of smaller canter circles down there, and if I set him up properly (which meant unlocking his neck before asking for the canter) he gave me some nice moments. 

Someone keeps having his hood undone when I go out to get him. It ranges from one of the velcro closures being undone, to being unattached from the blanket and spun upside down as in this picture, or completely off and me having to chase down the dog who's got in his mouth, shredding the lining at every stop. It's not just Cisco though - other horses in an unconnected paddock are doing the same thing.

And then we got a dump of snow, the farrier was out for their trim, there was a clinic on and the arena was closed..... and no more rides for the week. 

Thus, it's been quiet on the horse side of things.

The non-horse side of things has been a bit exciting though - I bought a new mobile tack room car!

I had a bunch of problems with my 10-year-old Santa Fe in January that got me looking in a panic at my options should I need to replace it. As much as I've loved driving that SUV, I've been thinking for a few years about finding something that was much better on fuel. My driving had changed since I had bought it and I've always hated having to pay for gas. 

I ended up talking with a barnmate about her hybrid car, and was shocked to discover just how good it was on gas. She regularly gets 1000 km on her 43 liter tank of gas. I got 525 km on my 60 liter tank in my SUV, that I had to fill up every 6-7 days. That got me really thinking about my options. 

Originally, I was thinking that I would put down a deposit and order one, knowing that with the current inventory issues I wouldn't necessarily be able to just walk into a dealer when I decided that it was time and be able to drive a new car away. I talked with one dealer, who said that it would be at least a 6-month wait, and in fact, I would be put on a waitlist for the waitlist for a 2023 model, as the new models haven't even been announced yet, but the 2022 models were basically sold out.There were only a handful of the current models available around the city.

I also was pondering the expectation that gas prices were going to hit record highs this summer, and that the interest rate would likely go up in March, and decided to just do it now before I got into a situation where I needed to replace my car on short notice and would likely have a hard time getting what I wanted. 

So I got me a 2022 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV (plug-in hybrid). And so far I'm loving it!

It won't be this clean again for a long while. 

It has a small battery that I can plug into my regular outlets in my garage and it charges up overnight to give me about 47 km of electric range. When it reaches 15% remaining in the battery while driving it switches over to hybrid mode. It will still try its best to run on electric while in hybrid mode, depending on what it deems best (ie. on the highway it will likely be using the ICE (internal combustion engine) but in the city it will probably be using electric).

In the 10 or so days since I picked it up I've driven about 670 km - a little less than typical due to the cold and snow. The range left on my initial tank of gas is still 579 km. That's a minimum of 1300 km from a 43 liter tank of gas - and in the end it will be much better as I charge it every night and get another 47 km of range added every day. I'm hoping for at least 1500 km or about 3 weeks before needing to fuel up, but I suspect it will actually be more like 1700 to 2000 km and closer to 4 weeks - maybe a bit more. 

Sadly, I won't be saving the money I'm not spending on gas - it will all be going back into the car payments I now have. But between the gas money and the lessons that I've started teaching again I think I'll get to eat something other than Ramen noodles at least a couple of times a week. The horses better not get any ideas though....

Monday, 21 February 2022

Step Up to the Podium

The weather started to change on Friday night last week. Not much that night - the real temperature drop happened on Saturday. It was just enough that a person who was weary from the week and very much over this pending return to yet another winter didn't really want to do anything that would mean getting really cold. Which for me, would be tacking up and riding.

The fact that there was no one around didn't help. I just wasn't in the mood to have a crappy ride just before another week off. But I had a free arena, so I decided to take advantage of it, in the lowest effort on my part possible.

Cisco was popped in the ring first. It was probably a good decision to not ride as he was pretty sassy. We did some work with his mark to get him further down the arena, which worked until I got it past his comfort point around X. I don't know what set him off at that point, but he got a bit frantic and did that loud blow through his nose thing while staring at the end. Interestingly, once I moved the mat closer and got him to stop on it and he got his click/cookie, he settled right down and just walked the short end instead of the frantic trot/canter.

I had bigger plans though. I had dragged out the podium that someone had made a while ago and stored at the end of the ring. 

I think I've tried the podium once with Cisco a couple of years ago, and if I recall, it didn't go so well. Also, because I'm a sucker for punishment, I had set the podium up quite close to one of the scary corners of the arena. (Mostly because it was too heavy to roll too far out of the corner where it is stored.)

Once we got the chill walk, we made our way down to the podium. Sure enough, he wiggled his way all around it without actually stepping on it, all the while keeping an eye out for the hiding horse murderers in the corners.

Ever alert to potential hazards.

At one point I stepped up on and across the podium - that seemed to give him the idea that he could put his feet on it and he followed me across. Rather awkwardly though, as the podium is not quite wide enough for the horses to get their front feet and back feet on it at the same time, and the corners are cut off, so if they aren't totally straight, some limb ends up taking a step off the side while the opposite limb is on top. 

Once he went over the first time, Cisco figured it out quite quickly. We went straight across a few times (well, not straight, more like drunkenly across), and then I started asking him to halt with just the front feet on. He seemed to start enjoying it, and happily led me to podium upon approach.

The main reason I had dragged the podium out was for Phantom. The last time I rode her I angled her a bit too much towards the lower step of the mounting block, which is what I first used when she first learned to stand on the podium, and she made an attempt to put her foot on it. She's always loved showing this trick off to me, and I wanted to give her something to do that she really liked. 

Sure enough, she perked up on the approach to the podium, sniffed it, and immediately put her feet on it. And looked for her cookie. 

What she didn't like, was walking across it. She was not impressed with that feeling at all.

She was never bad, or refused to do it though. She just took a bit to figure out to slow down and let me guide her straight. 

At the end, I went back to having her stand with just her front feet on the podium. And I got a couple of my favourite ever pictures of her smiling for her cookie.

I need to see if I can Photoshop the background out of these and get them enlarged to put somewhere in my house where I'll see them every morning so that I can start my day with a smile. 

Thursday, 17 February 2022

The Ice Capades

This winter has been tough to get any consistent rides in. After we got through the long cold spell of late December/early January, it's been a constant roller coaster of up and down temperatures - it's either above average warm or super freezing cold. Which, for riding, means 2 or 3 rides in one week, a week off, and try to start back with a very fresh horse again. 

The other issue that this has caused has been icy ground. Like, everywhere. 

Last week's four days of +9 Celsius temperatures got rid of a whole bunch of snow. And also left huge puddles everywhere as the ground is still frozen. And when the temperatures fell over the weekend, accompanied by some very strong wind, those large puddles turned into large, smooth ice rinks. 

I took my fancy Celeris boots out in the hopes I would get to ride in them on Thursday last week, but when I saw the lake path to the arena I left them in the car. Now imagine these puddles all over the yard, but completely frozen two days later, and you get an idea of what we've been dealing with.

The horses just haven't been moving around a whole lot out in their paddock. I mean, they're standing in a round bale of hay up to their knees, so they really don't have much incentive to walk too far from the buffet, which is conveniently located between their bedroom (shelter) and the wet bar (water trough). A full third of their paddock has had no hoof prints in the snow for weeks. 

The lack of movement, (and what little movement there is is likely all at a walk) has meant that horses have been very full of themselves when you try to ride. For Cisco, this means I've been trying to ride a spooky llama.

I also suspect that it has caused some body-soreness in the ponies. Phantom has been stocking up pretty consistently in her hind legs this winter, but it comes down with about 30 minutes of easy activity. Cisco has been a bit resistant to soften in his poll, which seems to be his go-to when he's not feeling his best. 

We've been plugging away at things, but not necessarily having the best rides. Not terrible ones either, mind you. It just seems like the first ride is spent trying to get some sense of relaxation, the second ride we are able to get a little bit of something done by the end of the ride, and I might squeak in one more quick ride before another 7-10 days off due to cold/snow and we get to start all over again. 

There has been very little of note to my rides.

Well, except two things.

First - have you ever watched any videos of the pros doing Working Equitation, and marveled at the part where the horse, who is almost always a PRE, does a canter sidepass over a pole during the speed event?

Apparently, my horse can do that. 

You know the saying "impulsion is created by the spooky end of the arena"? Well, the canter sidepass is apparently created by asking for a canter leg-yield heading into the spooky end of the arena, up the quarter-line, off the outside leg. I was pretty impressed with how quickly Cisco was able to canter sideways, while staying pretty straight. Really wish I had a video of it.  

The second thing, was that on my last ride on Tuesday, I put my big girl panties on and cantered into some jumps.  They weren't necessarily pretty - I cannot see a distance to save my life and keep second-guessing my decisions, but I did the thing. 

We haven't popped over anything since September or October. I had to be quick to get it done between lessons, which meant a rushed warm-up on a horse who was behind my leg, but I didn't have much time to fix that before the next lesson started. 

Cisco was a very good boy and happily popped over all the teeny crosspoles without issue.

Cisco is modelling his new bridle, while keeping an eye out for the horse murderers hiding behind him.

Except once - we jumped into a diagonal line that took us into the scariest corner of the arena. This alone is usually cause for Cisco to back off just a wee bit, but on this occasion, his roommate, Lucy, who was warming up for the next lesson, picked up a rather enthusiastic canter out of said corner, which in Cisco's mind meant that Lucy was obviously escaping the horse murderer that lays in wait in the corner, and he yet again showed me his desire to try Working Equitation by cantering sideways away from the second jump in the line. The runout was all about the perceived threat in the corner and not the jump, so we just circled back around to the first jump and started again, this time going straight through and cantering around the corner to the next diagonal line. 

Continuing on this winter's pattern, I'll get one or two more rides in before the temperatures plummet again this weekend. Once the weather gets a bit more consistent I would like to take the ponies to a vet that does chiro that I've used in the past, but she's over an hour away and I don't like to trailer on iffy winter roads. In the meantime, we'll just keep plugging along. 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Hit Your Mark!

During the winter months, it's not uncommon for me to pop the ponies into the arena to have a chance to have a bit of a play. Our weather is erratic, the ground in their paddock can be icy (especially this year), and when I can't ride somewhat consistently it's just easier to give them a day to get the sillies out without me on their back.

Phantom knows the routine and once she gets warmed up, she pretty well keeps herself going. These days I usually have to stop her well before she has used up all her energy.

Cisco has never really gotten into it. Not because he doesn't have an excess of sass though - it's because he walks into the arena, looks into the scary far end, and immediately decides that he doesn't want to risk getting eaten by the land sharks that are lurking in the corners and that he must stay as close to the entrance gate as possible (just in case a quick getaway is needed).

If he comes off the track along the short end of the ring, he only uses about 15 meters of the arena. Tiny circles, usually back to the gate, or back and forth along the short end - if left to his own devices, that's the extent of his free lunging. 

This video is from last winter. He's a bit better than normal here, but you can see his desire to get back to the gate.

I suppose that I could chase him around with a bag on a whip and maybe he'll go a whole 20 meters away from the gate. But this is a horse who needs to learn how to relax - he's quite capable of running frantically around in a llama posture. As much as I want him to work through some sillies, he isn't a horse who gets too ridiculous, so really he just needs to move around for a bit and that's enough to make him rideable the next day. I'd prefer to have the arena be a place that he enjoys and is relaxed to be in, and not a place that he associates with stress and frantic running.

So, much like being under saddle, I try to put his brain to work, and have taught him how to go to a mark. 

Not the best video as I was trying to manage my phone, a whip, and cookies all at the same time, but I love how it shows you how he makes deliberate decisions to go to the spot, and how much different his posture is versus the first video.

This has worked really well. I'm usually able to slowly move the mark further down the arena, and more often than not, Cisco will continue to seek it out. I can often get him to about 2/3's the way down the approximately 100-meter arena - much better than 15 meters by the gate!

The other thing that this work does is change his posture. Instead of going around like a llama, he is much more relaxed in his frame. I'd rather not strengthen any llama muscles!

We do not need to encourage this posture!

A tarp is the preferred option for a mark, but as I don't always have one handy, I've also used a lead shank on the ground in a circle shape (which is what I am using in this video). I think that the tarp is far more visible - when I move the lead shank down the arena he doesn't seem to find it right away (maybe if I used a clean shank it might help!).

Depending on how worried he is about the scary end he is, we have had some success with clicking for a treat when he gets a little bit braver and goes a little further than normal from the gate. Once he gets the first click he will incrementally go a little further, for which he gets a click and a treat.  But this totally depends on the perceived imminence of the land shark invasion. Today, it was quite windy, and the land shark threat was high, so my attempts to get him to be brave with just a click didn't pay off and I had to use a visual mark.

Who knows, maybe this will develop into a film career for Cisco. He takes a great headshot!

Friday, 4 February 2022

I'm A Sucker

The nice thing about my Andalusian /paint cross gelding is that he is inherently quite lazy. He's no TB that has an endless supply of energy and is fit after a week of riding. No sir. He's of the 15 minutes of work generally brings the fresh horse level down from a 7 to a 2. And two rides in a row is pretty guaranteed to mean a pretty chill second ride.

The downside to this is that I tend to have a horse who is either over-responsive and extra sensitive to my legs or very much non-responsive and exhausting to ride. I much prefer a slightly hot reactive ride over a kick ride.

This look does not usually mean a quiet ride is forthcoming.

I did a bunch of work on getting Cisco sharper off of a very soft leg aid last fall when I was managing to ride with some consistency. It was going pretty well. But, then he got his vacation, and, well, we all know how how much we eat on vacation, and what it does to our waistline and desire to exercise once vacation is over.

It hasn't been too bad so far on our return to work - the lack of consistency due to the up and down weather has meant that Cisco has mostly had lots of energy and been spooky enough in the arena that I kind of wanted a lazy ride.

We got those lazy rides over the weekend when he was ridden 3 out of 4 days.

The first one was on Friday night, the day after he lost his brain upon seeing the water truck wheels in the crack under the overhead door in the scary end of the arena. He was completely chill right from the get-go. The ride was short, simple, and we threw in a bit of fun with a couple of attempts at cantering through some bending poles (well, pylons). Much different from the previous ride.

Totally unrelated to this post, but this was my prize bag from a 12 Days of Christmas contest that my vet clinic ran.

He had Saturday off and we tacked up again on Sunday. There were a bunch of horses in the arena, which immediately sets Cisco's chill level to a "having a beer on the porch with my buds" type of chill level.

So we putzed around for a few minutes of trot. He was being pretty good, no spooking or anything. But after about 5 minutes, I was pooped. 

Yep, he'd suckered me into working too hard again, and him not working at all. 

Cue repetitive transitions again. Walk/trot/walk/trot. I wanted a shouted response from a whispered aid.

And honestly, he gave it to me. Neither of us could maintain it for laps around the ring or anything, but he stepped up to the plate and got the hind end activated. This even applied to the canter - we had a fantastic lengthened canter down the long side each way, and was able to come back to a nice canter on a circle at the end without too much drama. Tracking left his shoulders even stayed in the appropriate alignment!

After the canter? 

We found a new gear at trot.

This was my sports car ride of a horse that I like. Powerful, forward, up in front. I completely had to change my position to match what he was offering me. 

Of course, we couldn't keep it for very long. And by no means did Cisco magically turn into Valegro. His neck was shorter than I would like and we had lost all semblance of straightness, but hey, you've gotta start somewhere, right? He offered, and I said I'll take whatever you will give me, but had to make sure I didn't get greedy.

Post-ride I gave Cisco a chance to stand on the Sure Foot Pads. He had a good session and really seemed to relax into it.

Cisco seldom stands with his ears lower than his withers, so it's a bit of a big deal when relaxes like this while standing on the pads. 

Since then, he's had another week off, as we got a bit of a blizzard that night and it brought some frosty air in with it. This weekend will be nice, but there is a clinic at the barn and I can't use the arena. So I'll be back to the over-reactive horse for my next ride next week!

Friday, 28 January 2022

Sass = Spooky

 It's the time of year when finding some incentive to ride has been a problem.

There's been a myriad of reasons - weather (it's either freezing cold or above-average warm but also freezing rain), roads have been terrible this year (I've never seen as many vehicles on their roof in the ditch as I have this year), car problems (very expensive car problems), and well, this week, my uterus remembered that it exists (it forgot for a while).

I had three and a half pretty good rides on Cisco a couple of weeks ago. The half-good ride was because we started one ride in the arena by ourselves for the first time this year, which meant that Cisco was on high alert for anything that might kill him. Like the yellow and black quad parked in the corner, that was most definitely a tiger that was getting ready to pounce - especially once Cisco kicked up some dirt into the boards as we passed it. After I told him how brave he was for passing it, sure enough, a real-live tiger (orange kitty) entered the arena through a hole in the overhead door in the scary end, which in Cisco's little brain, justified all of his concerns.

Cisco creeping me from the shelter.

Thankfully, we are at the stage of training where once a bit of energy has been expelled, his brain slows down and Cisco is able to focus and we can generally have a pretty good second half of the ride. I mean, he still looks for reasons to gtfo and takes a mile if you give an inch in the scary end, but we can get stuff done.

After that ride, the temperatures plummeted so I didn't do anything with him for a week, at which point I decided it would be a good night to do some groundwork. 

Because Cisco tends to be worried when in the arena by himself, I like to do groundwork that activates his brain and focuses on finding relaxation. I use a lot of TRT method stuff. If I leave Cisco to his own devices he just does dizzy circles in front of the exit gate and barely uses any of the arena. 

It was a really good night to do groundwork. Someone had hauled in and was working on some roping (not on cows though). Keeping Cisco focused and seeking relaxation even though a rope was thwacking into a plastic block was a really good exercise for him, and we had some really good results. Which all went out the window when they left through the back door and loaded onto the unseen, but very much heard, trailer behind the arena.

Apparently, holding one's phone up to take a picture also looks like the cue for smiling, which results in a bunch of silly photos.

This brings us to today's ride. I figured that homeboy would have a bit of excess sass after almost two weeks off, but I had timed it right and there were two other horses in the arena, which usually means I'm in for a chill ride. 

I hopped on, Cisco walked about 5 steps, stopped dead, stared into the far end, and grew a hand taller. 

The water truck was driving past the end of the arena (outside), and Cisco could see the wheels moving through the 4" gap under the overhead door. Cue instant panic. 

He stopped and wouldn't walk forward. This was a different reaction than normal. Usually, he keeps moving and just tries to exit stage left (or right depending on which is the shortest path to the exit gate).

Cue tiny circles. 

Cisco's mode of spooking is to lock his neck straight and drop a shoulder to scoot. My way of dealing with it is to take his neck away and bring his head way to the inside and make him follow his nose on a small circle. It also relates to the TRT groundwork patterns. Not being able to lock his neck means that he can't scoot off. 

We followed the TRT way of dealing with a horse that doesn't want to go into the spooky corner. Circle left, right, left, then loosish rein to walk forward. He starts thinking about gtfo'ing, back to a few circle, and walk forward again. Rinse and repeat until they have taken you into the scary part. A bit of the right is easy/wrong is hard method.

And it worked. Quite well, actually. There were some sticky moments on the way, and it took probably 7 or 8 minutes, but we made it to the end, and once there, Cisco realized that there were in fact no horse-eating monsters waiting to pounce, and from then on, we were able to to go down there every time without many issues - Cisco kept his guard up, just in case they were hiding.

This horse is such a dork.

Considering how the ride started, I was pretty happy with how it ended. There was one sarcastic canter transition in the scary end, which involved a buck or two, but since I had had an Advil and a Tylenol that morning (thanks to my uterus) I had no back pain and my butt was glued to the saddle so his antics didn't faze me at all. Otherwise, he tried pretty hard to manage his excess energy and gave me some good efforts.

The goal is to get a couple more rides in now that I've ridden the sass down a bit. Next week isn't looking great for riding, between more cold weather arriving, another expensive repair to my car (hopefully the last one for a long while), and a clinic booked for the arena over the weekend, Cisco might get another week off, and we'll be right back to a sassy, spooky pony.