Wednesday, 14 April 2021
Thursday, 8 April 2021
Now, I'll admit that I haven't used this in an actual hauling scenario. But I've tested it, and there's no reason it shouldn't work!
Chances are high that you've got an old smartphone at home that you aren't using. Well, why not put that phone to use as a trailer camera!
You will need your (likely) newer cellphone that you can create a wireless hotspot with, some sort of bracket so that you can attach the old phone to your trailer, and an app installed on both phones - I used a highly rated one called AlfredCamera, though there should be other options (search along the lines of security camera apps).
Put both phones on the same wifi network, log into the app on both phones using the same email address or Google account, and voila, you can see video!
You can record short videos to your phone (30 seconds) and it has a microphone feature to be able to yell at your horse to knock it off when they start pawing at a stoplight. The Alfred app is free, which means it has ads, but you can pay an annual fee to get rid of the ads and record video up to 120 seconds for about $40 per year Canadian.
I left my phone in the car parked in front of the trailer, wandered back and stuck my arm through the door to check that the video would work from the tow vehicle. No problems!
The hardest part about using this setup will likely be figuring out how to attach the phone in your trailer. I have a bracket that I had bought to use with my Pixio that I used on my trial run, but I don't think it's the best option - it might be within nose range. I'm going to see what else I can figure out.
|My trailer has this odd ledge across the front that will work to clamp something onto, but it might be a bit too close to a nose to be safe.|
Is it a perfect option? Probably not. Is it a cheap option to see what's going on with your problem traveller? For sure! It will cost you some data and whatever it costs to attach the phone to the trailer (assuming you already have a spare phone). If you are driving across the country it might not be the best camera system, but for short, local drives, it's worth a shot!
Let me know if you try it and what your results are!
I've had a couple of more rides with the Equibands - a total of three so far.
The second ride was after Cisco had had a few days off from being under saddle, although he had a chance to run around in the arena on Saturday, and then we spent an hour or so on Sunday practicing trailer loading. So he was a little bit up, which caused him to have short quick steps at the beginning of the trot. It took a few minutes to have him settle into longer, slower strides, and since we are still in the early stages of using the bands there was only a short few minutes before I ended the ride. Not that he was bad or anything, he was just a bit fresh, but overall he was much better about not flinging his shoulders around as he normally does when in the arena by himself.
|I asked my dad if he had enough scrap wood to make a mounting block for outside the barn. A week later I delivered it! It's the perfect height - well, for me at least!|
The next night I rode him outside for our first proper outdoor ride. We've been out a few times so far this spring but have only walked along on a mostly loose rein.
We walked around the yard as our warm-up before heading to the empty field to school. It's the perfect time of year to ride in the field - the ground is soft with only one squelchy spot, and the grass is short enough that you can see the gopher holes.
I was expecting him to be a hot mess and bulging everywhere with far too quick a pace, but he surprised me by immediately picking up a steady trot and for the most part keeping it. Sure, at times his shoulders fell out to the right on a left turn, but that's a constant issue that we deal with. Rather, that I deal with, as it seems to happen on every horse I ride.
He's still working on finding his balance with the bands - he wants to stretch his head and neck down, but is sometimes too low and starts to fall a bit onto his forehand. I also want him to stretch his head and neck down, but I need to push him into the contact a bit more and not let him get so low. Shortening my reins and engaging my core gives me a lovely, round trot, that neither of us can maintain for very long.
Cisco was also much straighter and steadier this ride, which allowed me to have many more moments of getting a proper bend. It's hard to get a right bend when you are pushing out through your right shoulder, and even though that is his default move when he gets stressed (like on the first ride outside of the season) he was really good about swapping bend when changing direction or on turns.
|I haven't got any recent horse media, but I will soon because my boots are only a little over a month away! Hopefully, Covid doesn't cause any significant delays in shipping! (Yes, I have a countdown on my phone's home screen.)|
He still tires pretty quickly while wearing the Equibands, although I ended before he started getting behind the bit as he had the previous two rides. We trotted for 7 minutes on the first ride, 8 on the second, and 10 on the third (total trot time as per the Equisense). We haven't cantered yet with it, but hopefully will this weekend.
So far, I'm impressed with the Equibands. Well - Equiband, because I've only used the abdominal band so far. I'm generally not a person who uses gadgets, so I am feeling a little bit of guilt over using it. However, I don't think that it creates a false frame like draw reins or short martingales do, and it doesn't apply any pressure to the horse's mouth at all. It's all about teaching the horse to carry themselves using different muscles than they possibly do normally, and if it can be done without drilling them to death then maybe it's a good thing.
I need to take some before pictures of Cisco so that I can see if his body changes. I'm hoping he gets beefcake status this summer!
Thursday, 1 April 2021
Tuesday evenings ride, which had almost identical circumstances to last Friday's ride (late, alone in the arena), was much more relaxed. Cisco felt a bit stiff to the right, which he hasn't really felt lately, but it seemed to get better as we went. Our canter transitions were also some of the best we've had in a while - they've been sticky for the last few weeks. This was only the second ride since his chiro appointment a week earlier, so I'm not sure if he is still feeling the results of it.
|Still distrustful of the scary end of the arena though.|
I didn't use the Equibands for this ride as I was wanting to set us up for success, and based on the previous ride I wasn't sure how successful I would be.
But we used them on Wednesday! How did it go?
Cue evil cackle.
Oh, Cisco felt the burn.
I only used the abdominal band, as recommended by the company (use the abdominal band for the first couple of weeks then add the butt band). When I first got on, something about my saddle felt different. I couldn't figure out what it was - was it sitting back more? I checked the amount of space under the gullet and there seemed to be quite a bit more space than the night before. I'm now wondering if he was lifting his back that much more than normal and that's what I felt.
It was a very short ride - a 10 minute walk warm-up, and another 12 minutes or so of a bunch of short trots.
At the walk Cisco definitely walked with his head lower than normal. He was by no means steady in the contact - his head was at all different levels while he was trying to figure out his balance. He's a horse who tends to start with a very high head, and it was generally level with his back or lower. Big change.
At the trot, I felt a big difference - he felt like he had way more stuffing than he normally does. Same as at the walk, he wasn't steady in the contact, but was much rounder and lower with his neck. He gave me some lovely short moments of reaching for the contact and almost being a bit heavy, which for a horse who is generally happy to shorten his neck and get a bit curled up is kind of a big deal.
As is typical with him, when things get tough or worrisome we lose our right bend (mostly due to pushing into my leg) so that wasn't where it needs to be, but I figured that it would be best to concentrate on just going forward and encouraging him to reach into contact.
This was a huge change in his way of going, so I kept the trots short. He was being really good and trying and I don't him to get sore and resistant. On the last trot he was starting to tuck behind the bit and get a bit fussy and I figured it might be enough for the first day. I found a couple of chances to click and reward when he stretched his nose out and called it a day.
So yeah, I noticed a difference!
I'm excited to see how much he changes over the next couple of months of using the bands. He's already got a big booty, what's it going to look like by the end of summer?
I would have had video to show but my Pixio fucking broke just as I was going to get on. The tracker watch fell apart while on my wrist. I haven't looked at it to see what happened yet - I'm quite pissed off. It's still under warranty so I'm guessing it will be going back to France (along with the beacon that had the tripod bolt shear off inside it). I'm hoping duct tape will work in the meantime.
Tuesday, 30 March 2021
The clinic that had booked the arena continued on Sunday until mid-afternoon. Originally the day was looking beautiful and sunny and perfect to go for a ride out somewhere. That changed significantly by the time the day arrived.
Instead, we had extremely high wind warnings, rain, snow, and a big drop in temperature. The good news was that it wasn't going to happen until late afternoon, so despite me parking my butt on the couch and starting a new farm on Stardew Valley I still made it out to the barn with time to do something sort of useful with the ponies.
|Storm clouds coming in,|
A couple of weeks ago, I was being lazy and doing some internet surfing. Someone had reviewed Equibands, which I've been interested in trying. That led me down the rabbit hole of more videos and reviews, and when I read that it was supposed to be good for wiggly horses, my brain responded with "my horse is wiggly take my money please".
And then somehow a set magically showed up in the mail a week later.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
It was honestly an impulse buy that I kind of immediately regretted. Even more so the next day when I got a response from the company about the difference in sizes and they said I should go with the regular size - I had ordered small.
I ordered the small mostly because the regular is on backorder everywhere due to Covid. The small was immediately available. The size chart says that the regular is recommended for horses over 14.2hh - Cisco is just over 15 so it wasn't a huge difference, and he's relatively compact. The dimensions of the saddle pad are the same if not bigger than the saddle pads that I currently use so it would fit my saddle.
However, the response from the company said that a saddle pad that is too small would not place the band in the appropriate location - it could slide forward. Thus I started having doubts about my choice, just as I got my shipping notice. D'oh! Too late to make any changes.
|He doesn't have a head because the blanket on the wall had been there for 25 seconds and he is always determined to have it on the floor within 30.|
Reality is, I think it's fine. Based on the pictures I've seen it's not a hard and set rule as to where the abdominal band has to sit - the general area will work just fine. I honestly would be more concerned with the larger size and think that the band would squish backward on Cisco as that is where his very round tummy starts to narrow and taper. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate that in his junk.
The recommendation is that you handwalk the horse the first time that they wear it to make sure there aren't any explosions. Sunday was the perfect day to finally do so.
Cisco didn't seem to care too much about the band around his stomach. I probably still need to tighten it more, but I was in a bit of a rush to make sure I could be done before the storm started. I have to figure out the whole 50% less tension in the rubber band thing.
Did I notice a difference on his first wearing of it? Maybe.
He walked slowly. Which is not really a Cisco thing. He usually tries to take me for a walk,
In fact, at one point, Phantom, who was also walking with us, and who is a confirmed slow walker, was well ahead of Cisco. That's almost unheard of.
Was he slow because he was having to work a bit harder? Don't know yet.
I'm going to try to use it under saddle this week. I'm hoping for a horse that will become straighter, push more into the connection, and use his left hind a bit more. We'll see over the next couple of months!
Monday, 29 March 2021
I didn't really do much horse-wise this weekend. I rode Cisco on Friday night - let me correct that - I tried to ride Cisco on Friday night and gave up after 25 minutes.
The arena was booked for a clinic all weekend. On Friday and Saturday it wasn't available until late evening. On Friday I had enough energy to make it happen so I arrived at the barn at about 7:45pm and hopped on around 8:30.
This was Cisco's first time in the arena by himself for a while, so I wasn't anticipating having my best ride ever, despite putting on the magical soundproof ear bonnet. To add extra stress to my horse, the arena lights were turned off when I took him in and the arena was pretty well black.
Last time this happened, Cisco stared into the dark and was convinced he saw death down in the depths of the arena. This time, he wasn't too concerned. I'll give the credit to the bonnet yet again.
The warm-up walk was fine. He was a bit looky in the end, but went into the corners happily enough.
The trot though. Ugh.
I think he was just a wee bit too full of himself to be able to settle while by himself in the ring. It wasn't that he was spooky, he just kept dropping his shoulder towards the gate on every single turn we made, everywhere in the ring. He even did it on a 15 m circle right in front of the gate. Super annoying.
I schooled it for about 15 minutes - it got mostly better, but give an inch and he would take a foot every time.
It was late, there was no one around, I was annoyed. I hopped off and stripped his tack and sent him out for a run.
There were some bucks and leaps, so maybe that was what he needed. I'm still believing in the magical properties of the bonnet, as in the past this would have been a much worse ride. He didn't actually have any scoot-spooks, and had some short-lived moments of reaching forward for contact instead of just giraffe-ing the whole time.
I might have purchased something to make Cisco work a little harder. More info to come!
Friday, 26 March 2021
I've been starting to use a different nickname for Cisco when I go out to catch him - but I had to amend it from my first version.
Everybody has their little names they give to their horses that they use when they are by themselves. Farly was Farles, Phantom is Princess or P-Diddy.
The name I found rolling off my lips when I went out to get Cisco one day recently was C-Man.
It took me a couple of days before I realized that if someone overheard me using that name they would probably hear it slightly differently.
Thursday, 25 March 2021
I have found the magical piece of equipment that has turned Cisco into a fancy prancing horse!!!
I wanted to try it for a long time and finally found a cheap one that made it worthwhile to see if it would work. I spent a whole $12 on this magikal, prancing unicorn-making device.
What is this revolutionary product that must be made of fairy dust and the tears of middle-aged amateur horse-owning women?
Are you ready for this? Can you contain your excitement??
Here is my secret:
Soundproof ear covers.
Cisco is so much better in this bonnet. He can concentrate so much more, and because he's not worried about something going on around him (like a pigeon that might potentially flap up unexpectedly somewhere in the ring) he's gotten steadier and more consistent. I think he's only spooked maybe three times since he started wearing it, and they weren't scoot spooks, more of a plant a leg quickly for a step kind of spooks. Huge difference.
I know, I know, it could all be a coincidence - he had a chiro adjustment last month (another one this week), most of our rides have been with other horses in the arena, and I've been working on some basics that he should have by now but he apparently picks and chooses as to when thinks he has to do them.
But the few times that we have been by ourselves in the arena or someone has left partway through our ride, or when the murder door opened up at the end of the arena and horses disappeared through it never to be seen again, he's mostly just glanced at it and gone back to work with nary a hissy fit.
I managed to get the Pixio mostly working this past Sunday, which turned out to be a ride I was really happy with.
Canter was much the same - relaxed, trying hard to stay in a relaxed frame, and we had some lovely forward and backs within the canter, including on his harder left side where he usually gives up because it's hard.
This was a ride where he did what I asked so I kept it short. It wasn't perfect by any means (like our ugly, sticky canter transitions) by I'm trying really hard to reward the try, and on this day I thought he tried really hard.
The rest of the week hasn't worked out to ride - Cisco had a chiro appointment on Monday and was told to take Tuesday off. I booked a massage for myself later on Monday, which originally felt great, but after being up for 20 minutes the next morning I made the fatal error of looking down at my phone, which tweaked something in my neck and I couldn't turn my head to the left - 10 minutes before I had to drive to work. Shoulder checking was awkward. I decided it would be smart to not ride for a couple of days, it's much better today (Thursday), but there's a clinic booked in the arena this weekend and the arena won't be free until late evenings (which actually might work out ok for me). I have to work ridiculously early on Friday so I think if I go home and have a nap in the afternoon and then have supper before heading out to the barn I can make it work. I'll make sure I put on Cisco's magic hat!
(By the way - is anyone else having problems with Blogger not playing videos? I had to download them to Youtube to get them to work, they wouldn't work when downloaded to Blogger.)
Monday, 22 March 2021
Friday was the last day of winter. I was off of work early in the afternoon and it was a beautiful 14 degrees celsius out - that meant more outdoor hacking!
This time, I kind of took my time getting ready to ride. There wasn't anyone around at the barn when I arrived mid-afternoon, so I took Phantom for a hand walk down the driveways and through the field we ride in during the summer (she'll get ridden on the weekend). The field looked mostly dry and I was hoping to be able to do a proper ride in it, but my wet shoes disagreed with me.
I timed things right and when I was getting Cisco ready a couple of people showed up with the same idea as me. We all tacked up and went for a ride down the road.
First though, Cisco was a rock star at the mounting block. I've been working on getting him to stand still, including the use of a cookie after I get on. Standing still is not something new to him, but sometimes he's a little fresh and wants to set off once he feels my weight in the stirrup, so I've been reinforcing it.
Usually, when the gate and arena door are open he's a bit of a turd about wanting to leave right away (the block is right next to the gate). I was expecting him to be all "peace out" and have to be quick about getting my butt onto leather, but he stood rock still. Even while I took my time pulling a cookie out that was buried deep in a front pocket of my breeches. I was super shocked, but obviously very pleased.
We don't really have a lot of options on where to go if you want to head out for a ride. We are surrounded by farmland. When the crops are pulled off in the fall we can go out there, and there is quite often one field left fallow in the area during the summer. But they are far too mucky in the spring with the snow melt to have a pleasant ride.
Thus, we are stuck using the gravel roads. Which isn't super fun for a horse with no shoes. And whose feet are too wide for hoof boots to be an option.
|I still haven't brushed his mane.|
At least the roads aren't super busy, and a large chunk of the vehicles coming down the road would be horse people so they actually slow down. Unless it harvesting time - then you get a selection of huge tractors that take up the road and freak me out a little bit, let alone the horses.
Down the road we went. The horses were all well behaved, the sun was shining, and we got in a very short trot where the gravel wasn't as bad (Cisco started off strong but got a bit owie).
We rode down to the intersection and turned around to head home. One of the horses gets a little prancy on the way home, which she totally expected, so she ended up way ahead of us. Cisco is the odd duck who gets slower on the way home, so we ended up way behind, and he really wasn't into trotting to catch up when I asked him to.
On the way out I had noticed that the field opposite the barn looked dry along the side, so on the way back I wanted to try it. I took him in by himself, he happily trudged through ankle-high muck until we got to the edge, which indeed, was nice and dry.
Unfortunately, on the way out I hadn't looked at the field until we were mostly past it. Thus I didn't see the condition of the area where I would exit the field. Which, it turns out, was a lake.
So I had to turn around and go back the way I entered the field to get out of it. The only other option would be the ditches, which had snow on top, but I'm pretty sure Cisco would crash through the snow and into whatever amount of water was underneath. Definitely not a smart option.
I was expecting him to be unhappy about being turned around and having to walk away from the other horses who had proceeded down the road, but again, he shocked me by just going. He had one moment of rethinking his options when he had to walk through the big puddle just before we got back to the road, but I gave him a second and he calmly walked through and back towards the other horses, no rush. For a horse who likes the company of other horses in the arena, he sure isn't worried about them when outside.
We'll be stuck back inside for this week due to the weather. It's cooling off again and there is some potential for rain so the fields definitely won't be drying out enough.
I'm also going to have to make plans to get Cisco out for a real trail ride this summer. We've got a couple of great options about an hour away, but that involves a trailer ride - still an issue for Cisco. Once the roads dry up a bit we're going to start working on that again. This is going to be the year he relaxes in the trailer, I feel it!
Thursday, 18 March 2021
As my video showed from my last post, I managed to get Cisco out for the first outside ride of the year on Tuesday evening. I rushed straight out from work in the hopes that I could get out before we lost the light, tacked up super fast (for me - it's kinda a running joke as to how long it takes me to groom and tack up) and we were able to get in about 25-30 minutes of wandering around the yard and driveways.
My friend T and I are kind of like 12-year-old girls when we are putzing around outside, so once we determined that the horses weren't going to put us in hospital the cell phones came out to take pictures of each other.
T is probably 8" taller than me. Her horse is probably 8" taller than Cisco.
This does not create a great angle for a picture of someone who is shorter in stature. Even worse when that someone is standing slightly in a ditch.
Thus, I present to you, me riding a corgi horse.
One day I'll get a picture of me looking elegant on a horse. One day.
In the meantime, I'll laugh my head off at myself.
Wednesday, 17 March 2021
Friday, 19 February 2021
Since my area was the first to get the polar vortex a couple of weeks ago, it looks like we might be the first to get out of it. Daytime highs are back up around the freezing mark - which means it's time to get back in the saddle!
|Cisco's new job description is pack mule as I made him carry in Phantom's blanket. She got to get nekkid for a couple of hours in the sun.|
For the first time in ages I hopped on both horses yesterday. I couldn't ride two in the same day for most of last year due to my adductor injury (which hasn't totally disappeared yet). After three weeks of mostly sitting on the couch I'm sure I'll be paying for it tomorrow!
A couple of weeks ago I had snagged a couple of BR soundproof ear bonnets for $12 each in a sample sale. I've been wanting to try one for Cisco for ages but I haven't been able to find one locally for cheap and if I had to order it online it was too expensive for something that would maybe work. At $12 and free shipping - totally worth trying it.
They are full size but seem to be a small fit. On Cisco, who is generally more of a cob size, it's a bit of a squeeze to get his ears in without them getting folded up. I was also worried that the bonnet would pop off during our ride (although I got it over his ears it didn't want to rest atop his head), but happily it seemed to stay put under the bridle.
Even more happily - I think it made a positive difference!
This was Cisco's first ride in about three weeks. He's been lunged a couple of times in the last few days so he's had a chance to expel some energy, but that hasn't made a difference in the past. This is usually when his spookiness is at its highest level.
On this night we had only three moments where he thought about spooking, but got no further than planting a foot differently. Even when the end door opened up and horses appeared through it - usually this results in a giraffe neck, but he just quietly looked over at them while on a loose rein.
I definitely think the ear bonnet helped. It's going to be a regular part of our kit!
This was also Cisco's first ride after his bodywork on Monday. I think his trot felt a bit more up in his shoulders and he seemed better bending right (when he wasn't pushing into my right leg). Especially considering that when I tacked him up I was so focused on getting the ear bonnet on securely that I failed to notice that I had grabbed Phantom's bridle to put on him. I had a moment just before getting on that I glanced at his bridle and thought something looked wrong about the browband, but it was in the right position so obviously it's fine. Then it took me half a lap of the arena before I realized that I had the wrong reins on, and how the hell did Phantom's reins get of Cisco's bridle. Facepalm. Idiot moment.
|The browband is a U-shape on Phantom but Cisco's wider noggin stretched it straight.|
He didn't feel great at the canter, which I wonder if it was because of the wrong bit in his mouth, orif he was still a bit body sore. He was really sticky to pick up the canter on both leads. This can be a problem when he hasn't been ridden for a bit, but our last ride had some lovely transitions with a pole exercise. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and just did a couple of short canters on each direction and basically called it a night. He was getting tired and I didn't want to lose the benefits from his adjustments that I had been feeling.
|Post-ride SureFoot pads sessions. Cisco isn't a horse to normally drop his head and neck like this so this was a good session!|
I wasn't planning on doing much with Phantom. I figured she'd be pretty stiff after all the cold. I was planning to mostly walk and then kind of see how the trot felt.
Apparently the Previcox I'd given her the day before had done its magic because she felt pretty good! The fact that she hadn't had a chance to get the sillies out as I usually would do with her probably helped give her some extra forward momentum.
I pretty much confirmed that she is now deaf. Whereas when I had tested her using voice commands under saddle back in October and I felt she heard them, last night she didn't. I don't think I saw a single response to any of my clucking, kissing, hand-clapping, caw-cawing, walk, or whoa sounds. Not a single ear flick.
Which means I have to find a way to slow her down when she wants to take off at a canter! Pulling on the reins doesn't slow her down - it just makes her get bouncier!
I'm trying to think of some options that I can use under saddle to replace my voice. I'm going to try a neck rope, and maybe see if I can install something like my hand squeezing her crest means stop. I also want to work on some hand signals on the ground. A quick google search didn't bring up too many solid tips on dealing with a deaf horse, so I'll have to be a little bit creative. But I love this kind of challenge! Thankfully, Phantom does too - especially if cookies are involved!