Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Just Call Him Singer

It's too cold to ride in the evenings after work, so I've only been managing to get on Cisco once a week when I can get out during daylight hours. Since the first two rides of the year had gone so well, I was pretty confident that ride #3, a week later, would go the same way.

It didn't.

I mean, all four feet stayed in the appropriate location on the ground. He wasn't "bad", he was just a wee bit spicy. Which for Cisco means I feel like I'm riding a sewing machine crossed with a giraffe. Very much lifted in the front end, but legs feel like they are going up and down in the same place.

I think he's also been talking to Phantom because he was doing a bit of her trick of launching forward, which shifts my weight back, which is a go aid, so then she's all "well, you told me to go" and gets all insulted when I pull her up. 

The good thing about my spicy meatball of a pony is that he is, um, extra fluffy at the moment, so after a couple of canters (in which I kept my hands way up while kicking him forward because bucking was definitely being considered) he remembered how to horse and stretched his head down and started to move across the ground.

Because he actually is fluffy and hadn't been clipped yet, the extra canter that I hadn't planned on doing left me with a sweaty mess to deal with.

The next day he got clipped.

I didn't realize we had vampires in Alberta. His winter hair was covering up the

Which meant that for the next ride, another week later, my sewing machine giraffe didn't get nearly as sweaty when we had yet another spicy ride.

What became apparent on this ride, is that I only really have a sewing machine giraffe when tracking left. Tracking right, I have a regular horse.

I'm not sure why.

It might be a balance/strength thing. Cisco's default when he's had some time off is to lean into his right shoulder, likely because his left hind is weaker. This also means that I have a much harder time connecting him onto my outside right rein. Not to mention my left-handitis where my left hand likes to hang like a dead fish on the rein.

Again though, he got much better after a couple of canters.

Cisco suffered what I believe to be a Bitey-Face injury and took a chunk out of his lip. He still got ridden.

Since the weather is supposed to be a bit warmer for most of this week and I might actually get a couple of evening rides in, I thought I'd give him a chance to go for a run in the outdoor arena, which will hopefully result in a sane horse when I next hop on.

That didn't go as planned.

There was way more snow in the ring than I thought there would be. I thought people had been getting their horses in there, but other than a spot that was being used for lunging, most of the ring was untouched.

Just a wee bit "fluffy".

Or it was, until I had to trudge through it to shake the whip at Cisco, which would send him in a gallop to the other end of the ring, where I would trudge on down to, to repeat the cycle over and over again.

10 / 10 - do not recommend.

I was exhausted. The horse, not so much.

I'll be back on my sewing machine giraffe on my next ride. 

Thursday, 5 January 2023

First Rides of '23

 We're still a couple of weeks away from being able to ride in the new indoor arena. The neighbors have a covered track that we can use for a fee, and since our barn owner has agreed to cover the fee while the arena construction is still underway, I decided to bite the bullet and take Cisco over to see what my chances of dying were going to be.

I wasn't totally stupid - I led him over the first time with the intent of doing groundwork. Having had two months off, and finally some warmer weather, I was expecting to deal with a slightly exuberant pony. 

Cisco mostly exceeded my expectations for that trip. Mind you, I had set the bar extremely low, anticipating him to be a stressed, sweaty mess. There was some stress, but not to the point that he lost his brain. He even gave me some moments of dropping his head and showing some relaxation, although inevitably that would be when a pigeon would start flapping and he would scoot forward. 

The track isn't all that wide, maybe the width of a barn aisle. Thus, it was difficult to do much goundwork that would involve disengaging the hind end. So we were stuck with mostly leading and backing work. 

The only time Cisco got really stressed was when I took him into the indoor "round" pen. There is a room set inside the track that they converted to an indoor pen. It's square, and when the door is shut it's completely closed in. I knew that taking him in there would be a huge ask of him. I didn't want to let him loose to run around frantically as I was trying to promote relaxation for the day, so we just walked around a bit. He went in without hesitation, which I was surprised at, but once inside he got very worried, which showed up as not being able to turn to the right away from me. He got better the second time that we went in, but I didn't want to push it after he had been pretty good so far. 

And then it got cold again, and I couldn't go back over. 

Until this weekend!

On New Year's Day, it was a balmy -5 celsius. I made plans with a mother and daughter at my barn for us to head over to the track for a ride so that Cisco could have a babysitter. Turns out, he became the babysitter for the others!

Cisco was a bit sticky about entering the track - the blue doors that swung open were a bit scary. Once inside, the daughter led her horse around for the first lap or two and Cisco followed. After that, he put his big boy pants on and led the way, serving as a barrier for the daughter's OTTB who might have recognized the oval shape and took quite a while to settle into a walk.

I was ready to trot before the others were so I turned Cisco away from the others and we went by ourselves for a nice, steady trot. We ended the ride shortly afterwards as the ponies were all sweaty (no one has clipped yet) and we were all happy with our first ride in two months. 

Since that ride went so well, we made plans to repeat it the next day. 

Helmet cam footage of a lap of the track.

The horses all settled in much faster, so we did a bit more trot and even threw in a canter. I giggled the whole time we cantered - Cisco felt like an overstuffed sofa rolling down the track. Chonky boi needs to get back to work to lose some of those holiday pounds!

I was really happy with the first two rides of the season.  Boring, simple rides are always good when you've been out of the saddle for a bit!

We probably won't manage another ride until next week though. The track does have lights, so technically I could ride in the evenings, but by the time I get out there after work it's just too damn cold. There is little incentive to layer up enough in the dark to get a ride in on a shadowy oval. It's probably only going to happen during daylight hours until the indoor gets done. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Nope - Not Spoiled At All

As I've said before, I don't know what standing on the Surefoot pads does for the horses, but they sure love them! Especially Phantom - she almost always has a moment where she goes into a Surefoot-coma.

Last night I put her on pads in front and back, thinking she'd only stand on them for a couple of minutes. Wrong! After 25 minutes I pulled her off - reluctantly on her part.

It was interesting to see make some very deliberate moves when she decided that she was done with a specific pad. She clearly was finished with the left hind first and gave it a kick to get it out of her way before placing her foot back down.

She stood in the exact same spot for the whole 25 minutes, with the shank on the ground, while I leaned against the wall sending texts.

The initial set-up - firm pads in front and hard slants behind.

7:23 pm - Where we started.

7:31 pm - done with the left hind.

7:40 pm - now done with the left front and has adjusted her position on the right front.

7:41 pm - stoner pony face.

7:47 pm - still in the same spot. Had to make her walk it off.

Monday, 26 December 2022

Merry Boxing Day!

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope everyone got to spend the day with the people and/or critters that they like. 

My family got together with my brother's in-laws and we had a fantastic dinner with lots of lively conversation.

Santa had been leaving me presents through the fall this year so I've already been using my presents, namely my heated vest and socks. Originally I didn't want the socks, but I've come to appreciate them when driving to and from work on these chilly mornings. I'm going to try the this week for riding. The battery pack for the socks sit high on the outside of the leg, but I think my lace-up winter riding boots will have enough flexibility in them to make it work. They definitely won't fit in my regular tall boots.

Santa also delivered the ponies Christmas present a bit early this year. He was kind enough to bring them a squishier set of Surefoot pads.

I had used the bottom, springier side of the firm pads a couple of times this fall, and both horses went into coma-states when they were standing on them, so I decided that if I could get the medium set on sale I would grab them. Sure enough, around the first week of December, I got sent a code for either 20 or 25% off (can't remember) so I ordered the pads and threw in a set of the pods too. I don't really know what standing on these things does for the horses, but man, do they ever zone out on them! Cisco blatantly shows me that he wants to use them and Phantom immediately has a nap while on them, so I'm happy to buy them another set that they will appreciate.

I think Cisco kept his hind feet on these pads for around 15 minutes this night. He pivoted his front end around to nuzzle the kitty that had discovered my heated vest, but the hind feet didn't come off the pads. 

I spent a wee bit more money on Boxing Day. Since it looks like I'll have to ride outside for probably another month I decided to pick up a quarter sheet. I did not want to spend much on it as I don't think I'll use it a whole lot, so I very reluctantly passed on the Rambo Whitney striped version and found a great deal on a Premier Equine one. 

This afternoon I'm heading out to the barn and am going to take Cisco over to the neighbors to familiarize him with the covered track so that I can get him going aagain.i anticipate having to do a whole lotta groundwork with him before getting on over there. I haven't clipped yet either and am hoping to avoid him turning into a stressed sweaty mess. 

Enjoy your boxing day and try not to spend too much money! (Unless it's a sweet deal - then it doesn't count!)

Wednesday, 21 December 2022


 This winter feels like it should be almost over, but it's barely just begun.

The arena is no where near ready to use yet. It's pretty well just the metal siding and roof that need to go on before we'll be able to ride in it, but the contractors are behind schedule due to a variety of reasons, the current one being freezing cold.

We're in our third (fourth?) cold snap of the season already. The last couple of days have been no warmer than -30 Celsius (plus windchill, so in the -40's). Even if the arena was ready, no one would be using it at the moment. All we are doing is trying to stay warm up here.

And here's how I do that when needing to go outside when it feels -44 degrees out - my Catching Horses Outfit Of The Day.

This is what I've been wearing this week:

I know, so stylish, right? Jealous?

What you can see:

  • Eddie Bauer down filled parka (admittedly not as warm as it should be based on it's original price. Good thing I got it for something like 60% off)
  • My fleece lined riding skirt
  • MuckBoots Arctic boots (only need a single pair of regular socks in these)
  • A fleece-lined toque (knitted cap or beanie for the non-Canadians)
  • A polar fleece neck warmer that I will pull over my nose
  • Head ski gloves (kid sized that I picked up at Costco this fall for $8)
The cat discovered the heated vest and was determined to stay draped over my shoulder.

What you can't see:
  • A long sleeved T-shirt
  • A polar fleece turtleneck top 
  • Heated vest (Santa came early this year)
  • Under Armor base layer 3.0 long underwear
  • Kerrits Sit Tight Wind Pro breeches
Wearing all this is what it takes to stay warm for the 10 minutes outside it takes to bring a horse in.

It is, of course, way too warm to wear inside, so the outside layers have to be stripped off in the barn and put back on again to head back out. 

Thankfully, the current cold snap looks like it should be over in a couple of days. It might even be warm enough to ride next week! 

I saw -1 in the forecast for next week - please be right!

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Wordless Wednesday -Catch Rider

 My horse got ridden for the first time in about 5 weeks. I had a catch rider hop on.

Tess was very at home up there (she's quite certain that she rules the barn and everything in it) and Cisco was very much "there's a cat on my lap (back) so I guess I can't move".

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Helmet Safety Study Results

 The long awaited equestrian helmet safety rating study has been released. And there are some surprising results.

The independent study, done by researchers at Virginia Tech, put 40 helmets from multiple manufacturers through equestrian specific testing to determine their efficacy in preventing concussions and other head injuries. You can read about the new tests that they developed that are specific to the scenarios that equestrians encounter when they fall from their horses here. (Edited to add another link to a video about their testing process here.)

Helmets were given a numeric rating (lower is better) and ranked. And there are some very surprising results.

Two of the top three rated helmets are low-priced schooling helmets, the kind that most riders past the beginner weekly lesson stage of riding immediately overlook when helmet shopping. It's not a surprise that price had nothing to do with safety, but I think that these helmets tested so well is quite a shock to most people.

Also surprising is how low down the list most of the MIPS helmets are. Most of the Trauma Void MIPS helmets are in the top 10, and Uvex has a couple of models just outside at 11 and 12, but Charles Owen and Tipperary didn't fare well at all.

It will be really interesting to see the responses from the community over the next few weeks. What will the response from manufacturers be? Will they respect the results of the study and vow to do better, or will they claim that the study was flawed and their testing methodology is better? Will we see riders trade in the expensive blingy helmets for the plastic mushroom caps that scored so well? Will those inexpensive helmets now be seen as the cool kind to be seen in? Will the manufacturers of those schooling helmets look for the opportunity to run with these results and design these helmets to make them more appealing to riders who want a trendier look but also want the higher safety rating?

This study is definitely going to make me think about replacing my helmets. I mostly ride in a Troxel Avalon, which was not rated, but the Troxel helmets that were rated didn't do well, scoring in the worst 25% of helmets. My other helmet, a OneK Defender, also scored poorly in position #35 with one star. They are getting towards the end of their lives so I will start trying helmets on when the opportunities arise.

Finding a hemet that fits me is a bit of an issue though. Those inexpensive schooling helmets tend to be be round-shaped, and I've got an oval head (possibly even a long oval, though I've never been able to try that shape). It doesn't matter how well a helmet scored if you won't wear it because it doesn't fit and is uncomfortable. 

What are your thoughts about the results of this study? Are you re-thinking the helmet that you currently wear?

Monday, 7 November 2022

What's Up?

 It's finally time to slow down a bit. Mostly because of this:

Yeah, that's snow. 

We went from one of the nicest falls we've ever had, right into the depths of winter. It's snowed three times in the last week, and in a couple of days we'll be getting stupid cold temperatures at night. The ponies are very fluffy and are bundled up in 300g of winter blankets.

Phantom and her cheesy smiles amuse me to no end.

They are also enjoying their mini-vacation. Although the weather was beautiful through October, the new arena didn't get started until the beginning of last month, and due to some inevitable setbacks (mostly delays in materials and windy days), it's still at least a couple of weeks from being usable. It wasn't a problem riding in the twilight in the outdoor ring right up until November 1st, but it's now covered in snow, and if the ground isn't frozen yet, it will be in the next couple of days. If the indoor is not ready by the end of the month there may be mass exits by the boarders. 

I tried to ride as much as possible through October, knowing that this would happen. Cisco's respiratory issues have been better, so we got going again, generally with much more enthusiasm than I planned. His gate-boundness when in the ring by himself got better over the summer in that when I got after him he stopped flinging his shoulders in the direction of the gate at every opportunity, but he replaced it with increasing his speed when heading that way. It was super annoying. He just doesn't give up.

Not a horse, but a cow moose that was just down the road from the barn with her youngster out of frame. The thing under her head that looks like a duck is actually a coyote that trotted past them. I had to watch in case some drama unfolded, but other than the young moose moving a bit closer to mom the coyote left them alone.

Phantom has been good, though she didn't get ridden that much. With it getting dark earlier, and thus colder, I wasn't up to riding a second horse most nights. When I did prioritize her, she was either very good and chill, or super sassy and looking for reasons to explode. On her last ride, she was threatening to be very silly at the trot, so I said to her, you want to trot big? Ok, I'll put you to work! and set her up to do a proper lengthened trot across the diagonal, at which point she burst into canter, and from then on could only canter or do a jiggy walk. She's not nearly fit enough to be able to do much canter and is super hairy and I didn't want to deal with a very sweaty horse so that ride got shut down quickly.

This is, of course, the first year in many years that I am able to ride at this time of year because I'm not having to work crazy hours. Now I just need a place to be able to ride to make it happen!

Wednesday, 5 October 2022

How to End the Week

 It's been a crappy couple of weeks. Nothing really bad, just a lot of little things not going my way.

Last Friday I decided to hop on Phantom for the first time in a few weeks. We are still riding outside - the replacement arena has finally started to be constructed, but probably won't be ready until early November. Thankfully, Mother Nature has taken pity on us and has gifted our area with a lovely Indian summer, so riding outside has been totally doable. Especially with the addition of a couple of lights to the outdoor arena. They aren't bright enough that I'd feel comfortable jumping, and they produce some spooky shadows, but they're more than bright enough to not run into walls or other horses.

The night before my family had enjoyed A night out at the dinner theatre watching a play based on The Beatles. Since I figured that Phantom might be feeling a bit creaky and that we'd be doing a bunch of walking, I put on my headphones so that I could continue listening to the catalog of The Beatles - one of my all-time favorite bands.

We started our ride as the sun was setting and got to enjoy a lovely red sky viewed from between Phantom's ears.

She was indeed feeling a little creaky, so we mostly walked with a few short trots thrown in. She was super chill, and I sang softly to the songs in my ears the whole time.

Towards the end of my ride, a George Harrison Beatles song played, and I decided I would end my ride to My Sweet Lord. 

As we were walking around in the shadowy ring, I heard a few popping noises in the distance. I figured someone was shooting something - it's not an uncommon sound. Being deaf, Phantom didn't flinch at all.

And then I turned the corner, and saw fireworks in the sky over the nearest town.

So I was sitting on my horse, in the dark, listening to My Sweet Lord, watching fireworks. Not a bad way to end the night! 

Unfortunately, I missed the first part of the show, so I didn't get to watch for too long. But it was enough for my soul on that night when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself.

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

Wordless Wednesday - New (Bad) Habits


Cisco's newest thing that he's been doing for the last couple of weeks whenever I tie him up.

Monday, 5 September 2022

The Waning Days of Summer

As promised, there wasn't much happening on the horse front last week. It was just too hot to do much that involved movement.

Cisco got started on his nebulised Dex to help get rid of the mucous in his lungs from his earlier asthma episode. He's only had two treatments so far, so no clue as to if it is working yet. C-dog is feeling good though! I popped him on the lunge to see how he looked on Friday. It's kind of hard to tell how sound your horse is when all they're doing is bucking and leaping on the end of the line. I took that as a good sign since when I had last lunged him he looked pretty sorry for himself.

I hopped on him on Sunday for a very quick ride. The plan was to mostly walk with a short trot to evaluate now he felt. I want to give the Dex a few more days to clean up his lungs before doing much with him. Also, because we can't seem to get through a summer with clean air, the air quality was getting up to concerning levels due to some forest fire smoke that had blown in over the weekend.

He felt pretty even at the trot, and was far less sarcastic about his pace than I expected. He was, of course,  waiting for his moment to try to unseat me, which came as a horse that was being lunged picked up a canter as we were trotting towards it. I was ready for the spin and mostly stayed with him.

Thursday had been a bit cooler and was my day off, so I hoped to hop on Phantom. As I groomed her in the barn and watched the wind send clouds of sand across the driveway, I changed my mind.

She got to go for a play in the outdoor arena though, and she totally took full advantage of it. I don't know if I've ever seen her gallop so fast! She paid for that by not being able to turn very well when she hit the end of the ring - fast with steering has always been her weakness.

Phantom has been getting nebulized with saline, and I'm cautiously optimistic that it made a difference. She recovered very quickly from her zoomies, usually it takes her longer.

The air quality seems to have significantly improved overnight, and the stupid-hot weather looks like it has changed to typical fall weather so hopefully this week I'll get some more riding in. It will be slow riding but that's still better than no riding!

Monday, 29 August 2022

A Quick Ride

Since we had a two-day repreive from the stupid hot weather over the weekend (fear not, it's coming back all week) I was really hoping to get on each of the ponies for an easy ride. For Cisco it would be a see how he felt evaluative kind of ride, and on Phantom I would be more concerned about how well I could walk post-ride. It's only been a few days since I stopped having any back/thigh related pain and I don't feel the need to overdo it on my first ride back.

I decided Cisco still looks a bit too off for my liking to hop on him. The swelling in his leg has come down, but at a trot he definitely looks uncomfortable somewhere in his body. He's not super lame but he's not right. It's only been a week since he stuck his leg through the fence, I'm not overly surprised that he needs some more time off. We'll aim for a walk ride next weekend when it cools down again.

I put him on the hard slanted pads behind and he didn't move for almost 10 minutes. I actually went out and brought Phantom in and walked her past him and I still had to peelhimoff the pads to turn him out. He obviously found some comfort from standing on them.

Phantom hasn't been ridden in at least three weeks. She's been giving me sad, old pony vibes lately, not in a hurry to go anywhere and always ready to take a nap, so I wasn't sure how she was going to feel.

She really wants to nap while being nebulized, but then she doesn't breathe deep enough, so I rudely have to make her go for a walk.

The plan for the ride was a 20 minute spin, mostly at walk, so that I could test out how my leg would feel afterwards. She initially toodled around on a long rein, taking slow, careful steps. I thought that when we picked up the trot she would do a shuffly jog, but nope - that released the Kracken.

I think we made it about half a lap around the ring before she attempted the first bolt. 

We had a total of three bolt attempts over the whole four minutes of trot that we did. It was partly just her being dramatic about the flies touching her face (I had forgotten to put on her riding fly mask) and partly because that's just what she does when she has excess energy. But we survived our 20 minutes and so far, so good for my leg.

It's going to be a quiet week as we all try to stay cool, but it looks like fall weather starts next weekend - my favourite riding weather.