Monday 31 July 2017

A Reason Not to Ride Alone

I didn't have a lot of horse time last week. Monday night I decided sleep was more important, Tuesday night I had a couple of lessons to teach, Wednesday I made it out to the barn, but it was hot and that was the day the arena footing was being worked on. Thursday I usually work during the afternoon and evening so seldom head out to the barn unless I need to patch a horse up. And of course, that pesky job that pays the bills always impinges on pony time.

But I finally made it out on Friday with plans to ride. I was tired, but determined that I would get on Phantom, even if it was for a short walk.

The facility I recently moved my horses to is very quiet. Too quiet. Eerily quiet at times. There are maybe 25 boarders, but in the two weeks that I have been there I am usually out by myself. Kids are out of school at the moment so they are out during the day, and during the week I am generally out during the evenings. It's great having the arena to myself, and no complaints about the barn being quiet. But what I do miss is the safety aspect of not having anyone around. About a year and a half ago I was having issues while mounting Phantom, which I determined were due to saddle fit. Getting flung to the ground before you even had your leg over the horse's back makes one a little wary about putting a foot into the stirrup to mount. This has been resolved and she is now rock solid about mounting. But even now, every time I lift my foot off the mounting block I still have a moment that I think something might happen.

Because of this history, I am not very keen to ride when there is no one around. And I am definitely not ready to ride Cisco without someone present who can call 911.

This Friday, I did decide to hop on Phantom. And spoiler alert - nothing happened. By nothing, I mean she didn't trip or stumble, and there was a horse between me and the ground until there wasn't supposed to be. However, I did end my ride after about 25 minutes for a reason that could have been averted if there was someone around - I had to pee. Really badly.

Now, if someone were out there with me, I would have had them hold Phantom while I dashed into the bathroom and then gotten back on. Since that wasn't an option, I would have had to take her back to the barn, put on a halter, tied her up, done my business, then headed back over to the arena. Way too much effort.

So I had a really quick ride, in which I rode very badly, and prayed that she didn't take a sudden step that I didn't expect. And I was very happy that I was wearing my full seat breeches.
The best part of Friday night was the sunset.

Friday 28 July 2017

Favourite Things #2

Haas brushes.

I have 3 of them. Well, really 4, because I liked one so much I bought a second one for the second horse.

I have a grooming kit overflowing with brushes, some of them from when I first started riding. But I use these Haas brushes every day.

The Schimmel
This brush is a made of coconut fiber bristles and is described a working especially well on white or grey horses. Apparently Schimmel translates to white horse. This is the one that I bought a second one of. It just works so well. Whisks away the dirt on the surface after you have curried and gets into the hairs to remove more. I have tiny hands and don't have a problem hanging onto this brush.
The top one is about 3 years old. The bottom one I have only had for a few weeks. They have added stitching to the strap on the new one instead of just the single layered leather strap.

Which one is the one that is 3 years old? (It's the top one again.)

Red Star
A large body brush made of horse hair and natural fibres. Short, dense bristles. Moves nicely along a horses body. I tended to skip over using a body brush until I started using this one.
A big difference in size!

Kopf-Burste (face brush)
A small brush made of very soft white horsehair. Fits very nicely in my hand. Has an elastic handle so you can keep it snug. Boy horse approved.
The bristles are so thick!

I prefer natural bristle brushes and generally just use the synthetic ones to get rid of wet mud. In the past some of my natural ones have broken down fairly quickly, and after a year or two you only have half a brush left. The Schimmel has been in use for the last 3 years, and is still in great shape with little sign of wear. The other brushes are more recent acquisitions, so I cannot comment as to their longevity yet, but I am pretty confident that provided I don't put something heavy on top and squish them, they will last a long time.

I would love to switch out my whole grooming kit to Haas brushes, but they are fairly expensive at the local tack shop. So whenever I place an order from my favourite European tack shop,, I add one into my cart.

Thursday 27 July 2017

And Then There Were Three

I was very happy when I drove up to the barn on Wednesday to see Phantom and Cisco within social distance of their field-mates. I mean, they weren't standing right next to one of them, but everyone seemed happy and it was again showing progress in having them accepted into the herd.
That's Cisco on the left.

I decided that I would bring Cisco in first. It was a pretty hot day, and since I had been lazy in the morning and didn't get out early to ride before it got hot, I was still deciding if I would actually ride Phantom. I don't do heat well. Plus, I was also concerned that if I brought Phantom in, Cisco would just run the fenceline, and I really didn't want him doing that in this heat.

He came in and stood pretty good for a quick grooming. I need to work on getting him to come forward off a whip, so that when I ride him I hopefully have a way to get him moving when he has his feet planted. So off we went to the arena. Where I discovered that the footing was being worked on. So we toodled around a bit (by toodle I mean walking really fast while screaming at whoever will listen) and I called it a day.
I totally thought the loose pig would be terrifying to Cisco, but he totally wasn't. Also, don't leave bagels at pig height.

I discovered that while I had been in the arena another horse had been added to their field - Phantom's best bud, Ned. They've been best buds for the last 3 or 4 years and are almost always eating next to each other. When I took Cisco back out to turn him out, sure enough Phantom and Ned were side-by-side. With everyone else staring at them from the opposite side of the field. The field was split into two groups again.

Cisco joined them and they are now their own little herd of three. Which will hopefully mean that when one comes in, the other will not be so worried since they still have a buddy. Although when I brought Phantom in, Ned was pretty upset that she was gone.
The Three Amigos

I decided that because the footing was getting worked on in the arena, it was a good enough reason not to ride. So Phantom just came in for food and fly spray. My farrier had magically shown up without warning on Monday and replaced her shoes, so we should be able to get back to work on Friday.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Life Experiences (So Far)

Since Cisco had never left the acreage he was born on for the first 5 years of his life, he has a lot of life experience to gain. Here are some of the things we can knock of the list for the first 3 months that I have owned him.
  • Being inside a structure. He had never been inside anything other than the shelter in his field. The first day he came halfway in the barn and I turned him around and led him out. The second day I used Phantom to lead us in and then lead us around the arena. The barn was much more concerning than the arena. 
  • Opening the big sliding door at the end of the barn. This caused a huge splat, legs splayed way out. So I popped him in the stall next to the door and just kept sliding the door back and forth. It took a few minutes before he relaxed.
  • Goats, chickens, pigs, and mini horses. If he can see them, no big deal. He'll sniff noses with them. They can be terrifying when they are hiding behind the tarp that covers their shelter. I don't think that he is over them, but he doesn't try to leave anymore.
Cute up close, terrifying in hiding

  • Vet day. Got his teeth floated for the first time, and I had them clean the manbits. Apparently he had some chunky gunk in his sheath. He was sedated that day, so I don't know how he will react when I try to clean it. 
Bad picture of a drunk pony

  • Farrier days. I didn't expect problems specifically with the farrier, as I know he has always been done regularly. But the first time he got done I had him done first in the day, then popped him in a stall to watch and hear the sounds of the forge and nailing the shoes on. He seems to be a bit reactive to sounds so I thought this might be the best option.
  • Clipping. I had done some desensitizing with a small, battery-powered set of trimmers, so again didn't really expect a huge issue. I was more worried about the extension cord. But it was no big deal. Since it is summer, the only thing on his body I could clip were his fetlocks, which he stood perfectly still for. I did manage to do his bridle path, which I wasn't sure he would let me do, a bit of a hack job, but good enough for the first time. A couple more times and he should be good with it.
  • Wearing a blanket. He wore a rain sheet for his first blanket, then a stiff fly sheet. No biggie on his part. For my part - he's going to be a blanket destroyer. Well, he doesn't destroy them. Whoever he plays with destroys them. So he will likely be getting all my old blankets that have been in storage for the last 10 years. He won't get the nice things until he can take care of them like the Princess.
  • Bathing. Did pretty good the second time he was hosed off. He hasn't really broken a sweat enough yet to do it anymore often.
  • Hopping over some small cross-country obstacles in-hand. Up and down a bank, over a little log, and over a tiny ditch.

  • Trailering. We got to the new place with little fuss. Still have lots to work on with this, but we are on the right path.
  • And of course, starting to be ridden.

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Favourite Things #1

I have two grey horses. The boy horse is still dark enough that he doesn't have too much white on him yet. But the Princess is mainly white. I don't have any desire to show these days, so I don't get too worried about how clean she is. But what I do get a bit OCD about is trying to keep her tail white.

My barn doesn't have an indoor wash rack, so I keep her tail up in the winter. The reason - one of the first years I owned her, I went out to the barn right around Christmas after not being out for a week. Her tail had gotten caught up in her blanket leg straps, and was acting as a shelf for the poo to sit on. Frozen poo tail. So gross. And so hard to clean in minus 20 weather. So ever since then I put her tail up when I put her blanket on in the winter.

But in the summer I don't worry so much about her tail as I can wash it frequently. She still pees and poops all over it when she wears her fly sheet, but I can wash it twice a week if need be.

So my favourite shampoo? Mane & Tail Spray 'n White Shampoo by Straight Arrow.
It's a dark purple shampoo, and if I forget to wear gloves my hands looks like they are bruised for a day afterwards. I love that it can be sprayed on - it's so disappointing when you watch a big glop of your expensive whitening shampoo hit the floor as it slips off your hand before you can get it on the tail. And it does the best job so far of whitening. I have Quick Silver shampoo, but I haven't used it for a couple of years as it is more expensive and I am saving it for a big occasion. So I can't compare it against that.

I just have to watch that I don't drop the bottle on the ground from the top of my tack box and smash the sprayer. Cause that will happen if you do that.

I currently have a three year supply in my garage - bought the last couple of containers from a local store that was liquidating them at half price. Should be just in time for the boy horse to get a white tail.

Monday 24 July 2017


A definite sign of progress has been seen!

I brought my mom (aka Pony Grandma) out with me on Sunday to make things a bit easier for me. I really wanted a calm, relaxed day at the barn where I could actually achieve something with Cisco. This meant that I would need to have both horses in the arena at the same time. I don't really like to baby my guys too much, but I just wanted a day when neither me nor my horse was in the arena screaming.
Saturday night - staring out of the arena in the direction of whoever was calling back to him

Cisco was first up- the goal was just a quick lunge with side reins on. He listened pretty good, but was silly about a corner and cutting in quite a bit. Phantom was in the arena, but at the far end, so still out of his comfort zone. But I was happy with how well he listened to me.

Then I traded horses with the Pony Grandma and hopped on Phantom. She had socks on in her flip-flop hoof boots, so I was hoping she would be a bit more comfortable doing something other than walk. She was. She would happily do a western pleasure jog.  So we practiced our WP jogging. And I did a bunch of walk trot transitions off my seat. And called it a day after 20 minutes. 

While I was riding, Pony Grandma was holding onto Cisco in the arena. I had told her I would love for him to be able to park for a few minutes at a time, as he needs practice just chilling. In the beginning it was not looking good. He was calling to someone outside, and not listening to Grandma overly well. I was trying to keep an eye on them in case I needed to hop off and rescue my mom. But suddenly, the switch flipped and he just stood with her. Dead quiet. At which point she draped the rope over his back and let go. And he didn't move. And I said "he's not Phantom - don't let go of him!". Grandma is much too trusting of the grand-ponies.

So it was a relatively relaxed day, just as I hoped. And then my day got even better.

When we took the ponies out to their field, the other horses were eating hay along the fenceline, close-ish to the gate. First potential sign of progress - bully Arab nickered at them as we approached. Okay. Didn't see that coming. Was it a welcome nicker or an I'm going to kill you nicker?

We put my guys in, and they didn't run away. And no one chased them. All righty then. I grabbed some of the hay and brought it over to them so that they wouldn't have to try to eat along the fence with the others. And no one moved (well, nasty Arab made a move towards them once, but I was still in there so I growled at him and he went back to his place on the fenceline). They were maybe 20 -30 feet away from each other, and food was involved, and no one was worried.
This pic was taken as I was driving out, at least 15 minutes after turning them out.

I call that progress.

There was a rainbow in the sky to my left on my way home. (A big storm was brewing to my right.) It was a good horse day.

Saturday 22 July 2017


When I took Cisco back to the field this evening, Phantom was eating in close proximity to one of the other mares.  Is this a sign of progress?

Of course, it didn't last once I turned Cisco out. But it gives me a glimmer of hope.
(I can move them into a smaller pen with a couple of other ponies. But I really want them in the bigger field. I will give it another week.)

Friday 21 July 2017


So, the move hasn't been smooth so far.

As of Wednesday, the kids have not been accepted by their pasture-mates. They keep getting chased away by that gray Arab. So they are super attached and dependant on each other. Which means that one of them, Cisco, is super uptight whenever Phantom is not with him. If I bring her in, he runs the fenceline. When he comes in, he is hyper-reactive and keeps calling for her. Sigh.
The herd at the front. My guys at the opposite end, circled in red.

So his training has not made any progress this week. I did a bit of target training with the clicker in the barn and he did seem to calm down a bit and focus a little bit, but that could also be because there were other horses in the barn at that time.

I was hoping that I would be able to put hoof boots on Phantom to be able to get some rides in on her until I can get her shoes put back on. It's been at least a year since I used her boots - and apparently her feet have shrunk. Her boots are too big. She's wearing flip flops. We did a short ride on Tuesday, and she was not happy to try to trot. 'Cause it's hard to run in flip flops, y'all.

The barn manager and owner are away for a few more days, so I am still hoping the kids can get along with the others. I'll give it another week or so before having to decide that changes need to be made.

Thursday 20 July 2017

Treeless? What the What??? Part 2

I came home with a Sensation English Dressage saddle. Black, with burgundy stitching, and burgundy melton underneath. I quite liked the way it looked. But how was it going to ride?

Now, I hadn't been on Cisco yet, and he was the reason I was buying this saddle. But the more I read about it, the more I wondered if Phantom would like it. She was going to have to be my guinea pig so that I could ride in it and make the decision within a week, but I was curious to see how she responded to it. We had gone through a period of issues when I would mount that I concluded were saddle fit related, so I know she has no qualms about telling me if she doesn't like it.

I had someone hold her the first time I got on (safety first!) and rode off. I was expecting it to feel like a bareback pad. But it didn't. I was pleasantly surprised that it was quite comfortable and I could sit nicely in it. The twist is wide, which is a common complaint about treeless saddles. But because it is so close-contact otherwise, it didn't feel that wide. My other dressage saddle that I usually ride Phantom in fits her, but I have very short legs, and a tight psoas and hip on the right. So I can't ride with super long stirrups. Plus the fact that I seem to keep riding chunky horses instead of narrow little ponies, which is what I should be on based on my conformation. So with my treed saddle, I have a hard time keeping my leg back far enough that my knee sits behind the padding of the tree points and knee roll, but sits on top. With the treeless, my leg sits behind this, so it allows me to feel closer.

I have been riding Phantom in it ever since. The last couple of time I have gotten on she has stood still at the mounting block, which has been an ongoing struggle. So that tells me that she is happy in it. I did order a twist bolster, which made a difference in how wide the twist felt. I would consider it a minimal saddle - there's not much there to hold you in, but it feels secure. Because it is soft, there is nothing to brace against - and at times I really want to brace! Especially at canter. But then I have to soften and just try to sit there and realign my position.

There have been no complaints from Cisco so far, not that we have gone very fast or very long. I think I will need a forward girth-groove style of girth for him. But when I bought this saddle, I kind of had a plan of ordering a new one with shorter flaps if I liked it. Because they take 3-4 months for delivery, I grabbed this one in the meantime. And I really like it. So I will likely order one this fall. And even if I eventually come up with the significant funds required to buy a custom saddle, I think I will keep the treeless. Because I really like it.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Weekend Update - Part 2

Well. I'm glad that I had such a good horse week last week while I was off on vacation. There was a reason that I left moving the horses to the new place until the end of the week.

I took my dad out with me on Saturday evening to move my big tack box and all of my stuff. Thankfully the tack box fit in the trailer in one of the stalls just perfectly. (Yeah, it's big.) When we arrived both of my guys were still stuck together, in a corner away from everyone else. They were still being shunned. We just unloaded my stuff, put it all back in it's places, parked the trailer, and then stopped on the way out to give the ponies an apple core and have a quick peek to make sure all their limbs were still hanging from the right spots.

Sunday I awoke (late) to a grey, overcast and cool day. I didn't have to teach any lessons so I had a rare Sunday of nothing scheduled. Which I took advantage of. And did very little for the first part of the day.

I finally decided that since it was starting to rain at about 2pm, it must be time to head out to check on the kids. So I drove out under a very grey sky (smoke blown in from wildfires in the neighbouring province).

My two kids are still being ostracized by the rest of the group. Specifically by the grey arab, who keeps chasing them away. But I know these things take time to get sorted out. Unfortunately, this means that my two are extra reliant on each other and are now BFF's. Who don't want to ever be apart.
Two grey blobs hanging out together.

I haltered Cisco first and brought him to the gate. Phantom followed. But she stayed in where she was supposed to. My plan for Cisco was to just get him in the barn and arena, and see how it went. He's still new to indoor places, and this would be only the second barn and arena he had ever been in, so I didn't have really high expectations for him other than walking sanely in those areas.

He walked straight into the barn, and since there were a couple of horses in the aisle getting tacked up I decided to just undress him and take him straight over to the arena. We went in with no issue, and waled around fairly civilized. Except for the screaming every 2 minutes (him, not me). But he wasn't spooky and didn't care about the pigeons that fly around above. So I let him loose to run around. I gave him a few minutes to be silly, then hooked up the lead again and did some leading and getting his attention on me. Which was quite good.

So after the other two horses came in to be ridden we went back to the barn. We walked through it a couple of times, then I tied him up to give him a quick grooming. He was good while I was brushing him, but did the idiot dance otherwise. Totally what I expected, and it will get better over the next few days.

When I took him out, Phantom came galloping to the gate. Totally out of character for her. This caused the other horses to come to the gate to see what the excitement was. Then the grey Arab put the run on Phantom and Cisco and chased them away. As much as I don't like to see this happen to my horses, I know that there is nothing I can do and it has to be sorted out amongst themselves. If things don't seem to be getting better by the end of the week I will look at other options, but I have to give it a chance.

Once the hubbub died down I went out to grab Phantom. I checked her feet first - she had managed to lose both brand new front shoes within 24 hours. I had even left her bell boots on as I had a feeling this would happen.  I have hoof boots for her, so I will be able to ride until I can get shoes put back on. And the ground out in the field is fairly soft so hopefully she won't get too sore.

She tiptoed in to the barn, with Cisco pacing the fence line behind us. I didn't have any concerns with Phantom going into a new barn or arena, and she proved me right. She internalizes her stress, so the only sign of stress on her part was that she didn't finish up the food I presented to her.

I just did a bit of clean-up on her. Her back-end was a bit poopy and stinky, so I did a quick wash job. During which she managed to step on the lead shank at some point and the clip broke in half. Sigh.

Phantom went back out and with Cisco they went off by themselves. The lady who does the feeding said that she has been giving them their hay away from the others, so I'm not worried about them starving.  I won't be back out until Tuesday evening, so hopefully they have made some progress by then.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Weekend Update - Part 1

It was a big weekend for the gray flannel horses. More trotting, successful trailering, and a new home!

On Friday's ride on Cisco we started, um, slow. His donkey face was on right at the beginning. My assistant gave me a lead a couple of times, bt it didn't stick and he kept stopping. We decided to just put him on the lunge and do some more trot, hoping that the idea of forward would help. We had a couple of upwards transitions that were off of my leg and seat, so he is getting the idea. I just need a way to back it up that it's non-negotiable. So we are going to spend the next couple days back with some groundwork to reinforce the forward buttons. Tap tap with the whip means go forward.

The farrier had been out the day before. Getting his feet trimmed was probably the most relaxed I have seen Cisco so far. He generally comes in and stays quiet, but I haven't seen him just stand and chill yet. He's always watching. But this time he just stood relaxed.

Phantom is the opposite and pretty well chills everywhere. And she only wakes up when the food is brought out. I just left her with all of her fly gear on to make life easier for everyone involved. She stood fine, but I noticed that after hot fitting a new shoe on her left front (before it was nailed on) she was really uncomfortable standing on it. She kept picking it up, and touching it back down, then picking it up again. So I had a feeling that she would be a bit off the next day. And, because I know my princess all to well, she was.

But we had a challenge we had to work on - having Cisco ready to trailer. I wanted to move them to a new facility this weekend, and had to decide if if would be safe to move them in my 2-horse straight haul, or if I should borrow someone and a 3-horse slant.
My wonderful Boeckmann Big Master.

Last summer I had taken my trailer over to my friend who owned Cisco and we worked on getting him on. The first day was about getting him to step on the ramp. Day 2 we got mainly on the trailer. Day 3 we were on! Whoo hoo!

Day 4 - I screwed up and pushed him too much. Don't forget that this was a horse who had never been inside anything. We did the butt bar up. Then I tried to put up the ramp. And he panicked. And managed to back himself off the trailer by going under the butt bar. I must admit I was impressed at how much he was able to flex his back to scoot under there! But this was definitely a setback.

When I bought him this spring I hired a friend who has a 4 horse angle that we could leave him loose inside of.  The trailer was a step-up and fairly dark inside. It took us almost 2 hours to get him on. Although in the end, he figured it out and we were able to use it as a training opportunity and unloaded him and loaded him about 3 times. I think he pawed all the way on the 1/2 hour drive to the new place and arrived soaking wet.

I knew that having him trailerable would be a summer project. I have no problem with taking my time and teaching my horse in steps so that it would be easy in the end. When I got my trailer Phantom would get on and immediately back off. She now self-loads. But I took the time and we practiced loading.  So I have been doing the same with Cisco. He was at the same point as Phantom at the beginning of this week - he would get on, but I was having a hard time getting him to stand. I know that he was still nervous. And I knew that giving him a trailer buddy would make a huge difference.
Both horses are on!

And I was right. Phantom was a rock star of a babysitter, and stood quietly on the trailer all through our practice sessions. Thursday Cisco stood where I needed him to, and we put the butt bar up a couple of times for a minute or two. Friday he was in, secured, munching on some pellets, and very relaxed. (Phantom was a little sulky as I gave her the same inferior alfalfa pellets. Totally unacceptable.)  Saturday - Cisco pretty well hopped right on. We secured him in right away. Then the ramp. I put it up very slowly. No reaction on his part. I shut up the top. No dancing horses inside. Excellent! Let's do this!
What's through this door? More food?

We were off! It's only about a 10 minute drive away (by car with no trailer). However, when you miss the turn, It's more like half hour away. Thankfully I have been practicing my backing skills, so I was quite confident in my ability to back onto another road in order to turn the trailer around and get back on track. Which I did like a champ.

We finally arrived. When I opened up the trailer, both horses were standing quietly, but Cisco was super sweaty. It was a hot morning, but I'm pretty sure nerves were the main cause. He unloaded very calmly, as did Phantom, and they were both turned out in their new field with about 5 other horses.
See those two little white dots in the middle of the screen? That's Phantom and Cisco, avoiding the rest of the herd.

Monday 17 July 2017

Treeless? What the What???

One of the reasons I decided to buy Cisco was that most of my stuff seemed to fit him. My last horse was a 78" blanket, Phantom is about the same, and despite him being shorter, Cisco can wear a 78" as well. This meant less $$$ needed to be spent on a new horse. Bonus!

Well, things fit him two years ago when he was scrawny. Even last summer my beloved Crosby Centennial saddle looked pretty good on him. But this past winter he finally decided to mature (in body only, definitely not in brain). He bulked up. A lot. Especially in his shoulders. So this spring, the saddle was a no-go. So was my Pessoa with an extra wide gullet in it. And my hoop-treed L&R Ellipse dressage saddle for Phantom. Because he's not just wide, but his shoulder extends back pretty far, as do his withers.

Pretty sure my mom won't want her face on the internet.

When an old friend who is now a saddle fitter came to the barn to look at someone's saddle, I introduced her to Cisco. Her first words as she looked at him from the side - "OMG - that back is going to be hard to fit". I cried on the inside a little. I hate saddle shopping. Not only has it been hard to fit my horses, but I have a super short thigh, so I am probably harder to fit. And I'm in an area that doesn't have a lot of tack shops so trying different saddles can get expensive.

And some curve to his back

But surprisingly, she had a solution for me - a treeless saddle. Really. She said that with horses with these shoulders people put a saddle on them that's too narrow, and the horse gets tight and short and goes like a sewing machine. She often recommends these saddles as rehab, and the changes in the horse's way of going can be amazing.

Back to seek the opinions and options on the interweb. The saddle fitter had recommended two brands - Barefoot, and Sensation. I had only seen one treeless saddle in person, an Ansur that was owned by a fellow boarder, so this was a whole new world for me.

My first impression? They're ugly. They look nothing like a traditional english saddle. Now I tend to like new designs, especially if they are ergonomic. But I was having a hard time getting used to the look of these. The least offensive were the Sensation saddles as they at least had a normal shaped flap.

But I kept reading about them, and going back and forth between all the brands, and reading people's opinions and experience with them. And a funny thing happened. They didn't look so ugly. In fact, they started to look kind of cool. Especially those Sensations. And then I found one for sale, sort of in my area (only a 4 hour drive away!). And I could take it on trial. So I drove down on a beautiful long weekend and picked up the saddle.

Friday 14 July 2017

Equestrian Hack

You know those sponge-sticks used for painting? They make great fly spray applicators for faces and ears. Small enough that the horse doesn't object, and easy to control where it goes. Plus they are pretty cheap and can be found at the dollar store.

Thursday 13 July 2017

We Trotted!

I had my first trot on Cisco today! It was on the lunge, and of course not very long, but yay us!

He forgot how to steer before that, and we worked on halt/walk transitions. Then after we trotted I wanted to do a few more minutes of walking, but he figured he should be done. So we needed some help to get him going again. He is showing to have more whoa than go at this point.

But the trot felt good, he felt fairly balanced under me. It looks like popping the shoulder out to the right is going to be his default move - I'm used to that with Phantom. Lots of riding straight around turns to the left in the future.

No pics or video as I was much more concerned about not dying. It appears that death is not inevitable so maybe tomorrow!

Pony Popsicles

It was stinking hot here last week - 30 degrees Celsius. I really dislike the heat. When it's hot I just want to hide in the house with the air conditioner on, watching Netflix and wearing as little as possible for clothing. So I thought that the ponies might enjoy some frozen treats. And Cisco's birthday was coming up, so that was a good enough excuse.

They both live in a pasture with other horses, so it would have to be made in something they could eat inside, which ruled out the hanging popsicles. And it would have to fit in my freezer and be transportable. So I picked up a couple of snack-size rubber tubs.  Then - what to put in it? Miss Picky likes some odd things, but she's fairly traditional when it comes to fruit. I still haven't figured out Cisco too much yet. So I stuck with apple, carrots and tossed in a banana. I actually bought 1 apple and 1 banana at the grocery store (and 2 boxes of cookies for me -they were on sale!). I had some apple juice that had a best before date of last fall, and I figured the ponies wouldn't complain.

Veggies got chopped up with a mix of apple juice and water. A couple of days in the freezer and I was ready to take them out to the barn. I brought both horses in together for the first time and it wasn't the gong show I was expecting. I was worried that Phantom would be pissy about him being within her bubble, but she seemed perfectly fine. What was more of a problem, and I didn't even think of it until we started walking, is that he is Speedy Gonzales and she is a turtle. So I was dragging one behind me on my left and trying to slow down the one on my right. But we made it in without incident.

The pony popsicles were a solid hit! They were licked and chomped, then Cisco stuck his foot in his and flipped it over, so I put the pieces in a bigger dish and he chomped them down faster. Phantom is always a slow eater so she took longer in eating hers. They both didn't finish their dish, I guess they were a bit too much for both of them. The other horse that was getting groomed was only too happy to finish the leftovers.

And no signs of brain freeze were shown.

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Little Bits

I am hoping that Cisco does not turn out to be as selective about things he likes as Phantom (aka the Princess) is. The Princess insists that she must not be uncomfortable. So finding the right bit for her took some time.

My first ride on her was with a single jointed full cheek. And her nose never came away from her chest. I didn't own her at the time, so asked the owner on ride 3 if I could switch out the bit. I went to my Robart's french-link eggbutt. The french link on this bit is not fixed, but swivels, so the horse can place it at the angle they like on their tongue. Immediately better, but a long way to go. She had a lot of tension under saddle, and really wanted me to just hold her head in so she could use my hands for balance. So I spent the next year (of which I only rode maybe 5 months as she lived at her owners and no indoor and it's really cold here in winter!) riding with a longer rein and encouraging her to poke her nose out. I also switched into a Micklem bridle, which I was happy with.

Then one day I actually looked at the horse and realized she didn't actually close her lips around the bit. A bit of online research and I was pretty sure she had the low palate/thick tongue issue. So off I went to find a thin bit. I decided to try a Myler Low Port Comfort Snaffle (MB04). Again, better, but still left some room for improvement. She was very heavy on her right shoulder, and I would occasionally get head tossing when doing tight turns while jumping.

So, off to seek the wisdom of the internet once again. The Neue Schule bits were newish at this time (at least to me), and I was lucky to find the 12mm Verbindend in a local tack shop, and for $25 less than I thought it would be! And the Princess approved. No head flipping, I could take a light feel of her mouth, it all seemed good. So I used this bit happily for a couple of years, but always with the thought that there is probably something better out there.

When I started taking some dressage lessons a couple of years ago, the instructor said a few times that it is a sharp bit. Probably due to the thinness, but what I consider a standard thickness (probably 16mm) is too thick for her mouth. So over the winter I ordered the Neue Schule Tranz-Angled Lozenge Baucher. And yes - I was right - there was a better bit! In this one Phantom pushes into the contact, and I can take a feel of her mouth and she doesn't immediately shorten her neck. So at this point I am not looking for anything different for her.

The Neue Schule Tranz Angled Lozenge Baucher. Say that 3 times fast.

So when starting Cisco I was hoping to use my french-link. It was all going good with him just carrying the bit. But then I started to ask for him to start yielding to the bit. And he decided that this bit thing isn't so fun.  Now, he isn't a tall horse at about 14.3hh. But I am not a tall person. And I have small, child-sized hands. So trying to get a floppy bit into the mouth of a small giraffe wasn't working too well. I took a step back and dug out an old mullen mouth kimberwicke to use. I was hoping the solid bar would make it easier to guide into his mouth. I tried to remove the curb chain, but couldn't find any pliers that were skinny enough, so just wrapped the chain up into a ball with vetrap. And then I spent the next few days working on getting him to take the bit, instead of me trying to shove it in his mouth.

So when I was ready to start to work him again off the bit, I went to an old Sprenger eggbutt. This bit is over 30 years old, has bradoon rings, and I didn't know it was a Sprenger until last year. I think I paid about $20 for it back in 1987. He seems quite mouthy with a bit, but this is all still fairly new to him. Reality is that he is quite mouthy about everything. Lead shanks are his favourite. Taking his halter or bridle off is usually accompanied with "no, don't eat that" from me. But then I noticed that he was getting his tongue over the bit. Uh oh. And he was rooting down.

Google to the rescue once again. I found the Myler site, and they talked about how some horses feel that they can't move their tongue to swallow, so that's why they put their tongue over the bit. With this they tend to have a very wet mouth, which was something I had also noticed he had been having. So I dug out the Myler Low Port Comfort Snaffle and have been using that one, with the theory that the port allows his tongue to not feel so constricted. So far, better responses from him. The rooting down is much better, mouth is not nearly as wet, and I have seen him licking his lips a few times. It's not my favourite bit, as it's thinner than I would like, and well, it has a port, but it's not in my mouth so I really have no say in the matter.

Myler Low Port Comfort Snaffle. The current bit of the boy horse.

I will use the Myler for now, but am hoping to be able to move to a lozenge type snaffle maybe in a couple of months. Specifically the Sprenger KK Snaffle I ordered before I decided to try the Myler. I tried it once for a few minutes of groundwork, but wasn't happy with the response, so into the bit bag it went.

I don't sell my bits; they don't go bad, don't take up too much space, and you never know when you will want to try something different.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

The First Month Under Saddle

By which I mean a whole 6 rides in one month.

I have put my big girl panties on and been been the only one to hop on. And he's been dead quiet. And yes, I do realize that I have jinxed myself and that something will probably happen on my next ride.

Unfortunately life has gotten in the way of consistency, but it allowed me to spend a bit more time on the ground, long-lining to work on steering. It was definitely better the last two days, although changing up his bit also helped.

We have been off-leash a whole two times, so our steering is, well, the equivalent of steering a barge in a storm. It's been a long time since I last rode a baby. We are doing the drunk walk down the long side, and nowhere near the track. But today we had a few definite halt/walk transitions off my aids, so that is progress over the previous day.

I am off work this week, and it looks like life is trying to prevent this horse from ever getting broke once again. Of course I had plans to hop on him every day this week.  But I woke up this morning with a dodgy stomach, had a headache most of the day that I attributed to a tight ponytail, and after getting home around dinnertime from coffee with a friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years, I ended up in bed with the duvet over me and shivered for the next three hours. Yay. Food poisoning or the flu?

So hopefully my week isn't derailed. I was planning on doing our first trot on the lunge tomorrow. So we will see what the morning brings.