Thursday 31 August 2017

Throwback Thursday

Phantom, at about 3 years of age. Photo shamelessly stolen from her breeder's sale ad. (Probably around 2006)

Wednesday 30 August 2017

A Small Epiphany

I finally had enough energy after work to get some rides in! Yay me!

I started with Cisco. He was snorty all the way into the barn, so I decided I would be smart and lunge him before hopping on. Of course he did nothing on the lunge line. Under saddle he was a bit nervous, but tried nicely. He gave me a couple of baby trot lengthenings, but we still need to work on moments at a slower trot. I had a single pole put down and trotted over that for the first time. He seemed to like that - the rest of the trip around the ring after the pole seemed steadier. I guess he wants to be a jumper.

Then I had a short ride on Phantom. I didn't get on her until after 9:30pm, so I had already decided that it would be a quick one just to see how she felt. She has been a bit heave-y as of late, so I am babying her a bit through it in the hopes that I won't have to put her on a steroid.

She did cough a couple of times, but in general sounded better than my last ride. I haven't been really schooling her lately, just trying to keep her moving a bit. Need to try to make her skinny. It will take a miracle. And a muzzle.

I am like many right handed riders, and I have problems riding to the left. I ride great to the ride - in both directions. I still ride to the right even when tracking left. My right hip doesn't move back, I hang on my left rein, my right elbow cocks out a bit - everything that works great when going to the right. And causes horrible issues when going to the left.

I read someone's comment lately about how she had ridden canter for a week with her left hand holding onto the mane to combat her problem. So I thought I might try that while riding Phantom to see if it would help me. Well, actually I remembered another trick - hold onto the reins with only my right hand. (I meant to do the first one, but thought the second one was what I meant to do.)

Holy crap on a cracker. I can sit up when my stupid left hand isn't doing anything.

As soon as I dropped my left hand to rest on my thigh, I feel like I grew 5 inches taller in the saddle. And for a 5 foot tall person, that's a lot. And it was easy. It was just sitting. And then I had to steer with one hand and reins that were too long......

Why can't I sit up like that while holding the rein???? Why??????

So I will be doing some more of that to try to get used to the feeling. And then I guess I will try the hold the mane trick too. I have a feeling I will like the first option better.

Tuesday 29 August 2017

New Belt Options

I haven't done much with the ponies since I went back to work at the end of last week. Sigh.

That whole go to bed really late while on vacation kind of bit me in the butt when I went back to work, and I was just too exhausted to head out to see the kids after work. I was planning on riding on Sunday, but the humidex unexpectedly jacked the temperature up. Then, having to get up at the ungodly hour of 5 am to work on Monday, and managing to only get about 3 hours of sleep, meant I was rather comatose on Monday night. So I stayed home again.

Being comatose was no impediment to online research, however. I have started the order process for a new short-flapped treeless saddle. With that saddle, I will need to buy Cisco a new dressage girth.
Note how the girth billets are pulled forward by the girth. 

I'm pretty sure that he will need one of the curved ones for horses with the forward girth grooves. So I have spent a stupid amount of time over the last few days trying to figure out which one I will spend my money on. Because none of those girths are cheap.

The potentials:

*Prestige Anatomic Shaped Dressage Girth - generally has very good reviews about quality. Would cost about $225 shipped from Germany.
*Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec Girth - costs about $315 shipped. Way more than I want to spend. If I can wait until Christmas, Apple Saddlery usually has a sale of 15% off, which would bring it down to just under $270.
*Smith-Worthington Performance Dressage Girth - don't know if I can get it in Canada, so would have to order it from the US. Current exchange rate and estimated shipping would put it at somewhere around $280.

There aren't a lot of local options, so unfortunately online is the way I will have to go. At this point, the Prestige one is probably in the lead, mainly because of the price. My new saddle wouldn't arrive until sometime in late-November, and from then until Christmas I traditionally get super busy at work and don't have time to ride, so there is a chance that if I wait I might manage to hit a Black Friday sale out of the US. It might be worth it if the exchange rate doesn't tank.

Of course, extra time until I need it means way more time to keep changing my mind about which one to buy.

Monday 28 August 2017

Horse Bucket List

There are lots of horsey things that I want to try before I get too old and too crippled to be able to. I don't have immediate plans to do any of it, and for most of it don't have the contacts required to be able to knock it off the list. But one day.......

Here is my list (in no specific order):

  • Ride a Paso Fino
  • Tolt on an Icelandic 
  • Ride sidesaddle
  • Ride a piaffe and passage
  • Take a polo lesson
  • Be competent at driving
  • Ride in a marathon cart during the endurance phase of a CDE
  • Go pony trekking in the UK
  • Go to Equitana in Germany
  • Ride saddle seat
  • Breed and have a foal
I'm sure there are more but I can't think of them at the moment.

The one thing that has been on my list but I'm in the process of deleting is to start a horse from scratch and finish them. That is what I am working on with Cisco. No where near done of course, and it will take years to be totally removed from the list. But it's being worked on.

What's on your horse bucket list?

Friday 25 August 2017

New Friends

Wednesday was going to be hot. I had a lesson to teach in the morning, and then a couple more in the evening, so if I rode it was going to have to be in the afternoon when the heat was at its highest. So I already decided the day before that Wednesday would be a non-riding day for me, and give me a chance to do a couple of other things.

I decided to clean Cisco's bridle that hadn't been done for a while. And I had noticed that one of Phantom's leather halters had some icky looking crud on it, so I decided that it was finally time to break down and clean the halter. I mean, who cleans their leather halters? No one. The correct answer is no one.

Bridle and halter both got the full cleaning and conditioning treatment. The halter is black with a raised noseband and crown piece. Some of the black on the raised part is wearing away and it's now brown. I really dislike the two-tone look so I will have to investigate options on dying it. I know it's not as easy as one would think.

I was asked if I would be okay moving Cisco and Phantom with another horse into a smaller paddock that needed the grass to be eaten/trampled down. I don't really want them to eat a ton of grass, but I do want Phantom off a round bale for a bit. And there are a lot of weedy type of grass in that paddock that the horses likely won't touch. So I agreed
This lipstick shade is called Beet Pulp/Alfalfa Pellet Soup.

Phantom and another mare from her field, Missy, moved over first. No issues with the two of them being together. Phantom was pretty chill and Missy was the worrier.

I took Cisco over about an hour later as I had been hoping to do something with him. But I ran out of time.
Checking out the new location. That's Phantom chilling at the back.

Phantom decided that she wasn't real impressed with her little brother showing up to her party. She crabbed at him and made mare faces.

But there was someone who was happy to see him. A gelding from the paddock next door, Fox. Cisco always tried to play bitey-face with Fox when I would take him through the barn at the previous place. And within about 2 minutes of Cisco entering this paddock, they were playing bitey-face over the fence.

I fully expect to have to go searching for Cisco's fly mask on my next visit. And I'll probably start in Fox's paddock.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Throwback Thursday

Me on my gelding Farly, probably around 1999.

He's been gone since 2006 but I still miss that horse every damn day.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

We Have Forward!

Cisco apparently has discovered the forward button.  The last couple of rides forward has not been a problem - slowing down is!

This has been (I think) because of some stimuli that has been happening when I have ridden. The first forward ride was the Best Ride Ever (So Far) of a couple of days ago where I discovered that Cisco does understand the leg aid to trot. This day we were helped by the spooky sounds that the wind was making in the arena.

The next ride we were helped by other horses. There were three other people riding and jumping when I arrived in the arena. I just did some groundwork to start until he settled a bit and they were closer to finishing.  He was better than the previous ride with other horses in only trying to stop the first time we passed the horses that were standing around. But then they all left the arena. And he had to stay.

He really wasn't too bad. He just got faster going towards the door end, and then totally bulged out that direction around that turn. Totally typical green horse stuff. Since he wanted to go fast, I wanted to go slow. And since we don't have any adjustibilty of pace at this time, that meant we mixed walk with short trots.  However I had some nice trot transitions just by squeezing my calf!

Tuesday's ride started with a jolt before I even got on. Something spooked Cisco just as we went through the door to the arena. He scooted forward and just missed jumping on my foot.  For my whole ride, he was pretty sure that something was going to jump through that door and yell "boo".

He did scoot at one time. It felt really big. But in the video it was like two strides at most. I thought he might canter and I was prepared to ride it forward, but when you look at the video it's like he decided canter was too much effort.

Despite this blip, there were some good moments in this ride. We had some good corners into the short end and lots of steering with very slight movements of my hands. At the end I asked for a lengthening, and then asked for a slower trot. And he gave me both.  So I left the ride there.

I let him loose in the arena because I thought he might need to get the sillies out. He didn't have any. But he was still looking for the boogeyman to run through the door. So I decided to be a crazy lady and head outside. And spent a few minutes making noise and running past the open door. We'll find out if it worked next time I ride. If need be, I will recruit Phantom to help and have her go back and forth and in and out.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Cisco Is Part Unicorn (For Real!)

Cisco is half Andalusian. This is his daddy, Festivo SCF.

Festivo's daddy was Merlin I.
Merlin I was bred in Spain and is by the sire Estimado V. Estimado V has Carthusian bloodlines, and those horses have a couple of unusual traits. 

From Wikipedia  -
"There are two additional characteristics unique to the Carthusian strain, believed to trace back to the strain's foundation stallion Esclavo. The first is warts under the tail, a trait which Esclavo passed to his offspring, and a trait which some breeders felt was necessary to prove that a horse was a member of the Esclavo bloodline. The second characteristic is the occasional presence of "horns", which are frontal bosses, possibly inherited from Asian ancestors. The physical descriptions of the bosses vary, ranging from calcium-like deposits at the temple to small horn-like protuberances near or behind the ear. However, these "horns" are not considered proof of Esclavo descent, unlike the tail warts."  (

Yes, you read that correctly - some Andalusian's can have horns. And Cisco's grandfather, Merlin I, is one of them.
This is a picture of Merlin I showing the "horn" on his forehead. You know what a horse with a horn on it's forehead is? That's right - a unicorn.

So by my calculations, that makes Cisco one-quarter unicorn. A whole 25%. 

I haven't found any horny growths on his head yet (or warts thankfully). But Andalusians are known to mature late, so maybe it's still going to grow. And at only 25% unicorn, he has to conserve his fabulosity and only bring it out for special occasions. I can't expect him to sparkle all the time.

Of course, with my luck, the only unicorn trait he will have will be pooping rainbows. Because he ate something he shouldn't have.

(All photos have been shamelessly taken from the breeder's websites. Except for the one of my unicorn.)

Monday 21 August 2017

Best Ride Ever! (So Far)

We had another storm blow in on Friday night, and the wind remained through most of Saturday. So there were some spooky sounds in the arena when I took Cisco in for our ride. I decided that I would be smart and lunge first since he had also had the previous two days off.

He was boring on the lunge. Except that he did nice and prompt canter transitions, which is something I want to make sure is installed before I ask under saddle. So that was nice to see.

I hopped on. He was initially quite looky at the open door at the end of the arena - not that there was anything out there but blowing grass. He almost felt like he might scoot away when the door was behind us a couple of times, but he kept his brain in his head and didn't.

The goal for the day was to work on the walk/trot transitions, and hopefully start to get them mainly off my leg. Surprise surprise - he knew them! Other than the first transition, and one more, every trot transition was just off my leg. (That other one I had to add a cluck, then came back to walk and retested and it was fine.) A bit more leg (or heels) than is ideal, but no kicking or clucking was required.
Carefully selected screen grab.

He was also super forward without my input - probably because of the sounds that the wind was making. I don't care why - I'll take it!
And again.

The other problem that I have been having is that we can't get deep into the short end of the arena. He doesn't understand leg to mean lateral movement yet. So I decided to school the corners.

We did the simple exercise where you halt straight on in the corner, then turn and halt straight on in the next corner. Really simple, really effective. Because he is super green we walked quite early before the corner, then just walked the short end.
This is what he thinks of this exercise.

Going to the right we just had to halt in the corners twice before trotting the whole end. And it worked really well - nice and deep into the corners. Going left, he was a bit worried in the first corner, which is where the mounting block is, and where a rather whistle-y sound was coming from the wind. The second corner was great. So we will continue to work on that for the next few rides.
Looking into the corner where the whoooo sounds were coming from. Obviously a ghost.

To finish my ride, I asked for a "lengthened" trot down the long side on his sticky side. And it felt lovely! And it was off my relatively quiet leg aid!

I jumped off pretty quickly after that before something happened to screw up the ride. This was the first ride that things seemed to click and it felt like real progress. And for the first time, I wasn't the exhausted one after the ride.

I hopped on Phantom next. I was exhausted after our first trot set - she was super laid back and behind my leg. Fixed that on the next trot set with some prompt transitions, but for once she was requiring some extra leg. Riding two horses is tough y'all!

Friday 18 August 2017

Miscellaneous Pony Stuff Day

Where does time go when you are on vacation???

I rode both horses on Tuesday and Wednesday. Nothing exciting to report, kinda same ole thing for both of them.

On Thursday I did the local tack store tour with Cisco's previous owner. I have a $10 gift certificate from one store that I won on a Facebook contest over a year ago, but every time I go in there, I can't find anything I want to spend it on. Mostly because their prices are a little high, and I can probably get it elsewhere for more than $10 cheaper. There isn't really anything I need (I probably already have it, and likely more than one) and if I do want something I usually want a very specific thing.

I could have bought a bag of beet pulp from the second store, but I didn't really make space in my car/mobile tack room. So I will have to head back in a couple of weeks to pick some up.
I need to get a pic of Phantom standing alone next to her shelter... preferably with her butt to the camera....

At the third store, I took in a saddle that I want to sell and placed it on consignment. No luck selling it on Facebook so far, so I will pay the consignment fee and hope it sells from there. That store has gone to a mostly consignment format, and I seldom find anything to buy. Although I did buy a fulmer snaffle last time I was there to add to my bit bag.

The final store was the chain store that was having a storewide summer sale. I went in with a list and tried not to look at anything else. Thankfully the breeches I sort of want but really don't need were out of stock in my size. So I just picked up dewormer for now (I'm a bad mom and they are past due and rubbing their tails), dewormer for the fall after it freezes, MSM for Phantom, 3 new lead shanks to replace the 2 that were broken in the first two weeks at the new place, and a spare set of leg straps. I was hoping to pick up a winter liner for Cisco that I could layer with my existing blankets, but they didn't have my size. I could order it online, but the shipping takes up most of the savings from the sale. So I can wait until a little closer to cold weather and hope that they become available in town.

When I returned home I decided to do up a browband for Cisco. I hadn't measured to see if he needed a cob or full size, but the cob size browband that is currently on his bridle fits snugly, so I figured he would be a full. Yeah, I should have measured. It's a bit big. I'll re-do it this winter onto a cob-sized browband when we hit a cold spell and I don't want to leave the house.
It's much sparklier in person. But a manly type of sparkle.

I went out to the barn in the evening with the plan of cleaning some tack, which is something that is on my list of things to accomplish this week. I think it took me an hour and a half to clean Phantom's bridle and one saddle. The bridle was done properly - taken apart, cleaned with water, then with Leder Combi, then Lederbalsam. It looked fantastic. The saddle wasn't Lederbalsamed.

I put Cisco's new browband on Phantom's bridle since I couldn't find my black Micklem bridle at home before I went out. Then brought him in and attempted to get pictures of him wearing said bridle. Sadly, his lengthy forelock covers most of the browband. But trust me, it looks fabulous.
It's hard to take a picture while holding a horse who wants to leave. Or graze.

When I got home I discovered that the short videos of the horses walking to meet me at the gate are sideways and can't be rotated. Sad face. But here it is in case you want to see it. (I was playing music on my phone while I was cleaning tack and was singing at an inappropriate volume based on my singing ability. The joys of being alone at the barn!) Cisco always walks up to me first, then Phantom decides that she better check me out just in case she is missing something. She never walked up to me before Cisco arrived on the scene!

Thursday 17 August 2017

Horse Related Pet Peeves

I admit, I'm a bit of a safety monitor. Mostly because I've seen some simple things end up going very badly. There are some things that I think people are stupid for doing (like wearing flip flops around horses) but they don't affect me personally, so as long as they can live with the repercussions of their decisions, have at it.

When it comes down to something that could affect me or my horses though, that I have a problem with. Some teenagers were parked in front of the stall where I keep my tack, and despite me having to go around the horses that were too close together, tied in front of the door, and walk over the poop no one could bother to clean up, none of them moved, so my bitchy side came out.  Why do people have to tie their horses right next to the tack lockers? I assume they all have fully functioning legs and are capable of walking a few stalls down with their stuff since none of them ride in any para divisions. (My passive aggressive move might be to park Phantom in front of the their tack locker when they are getting ready since she ground ties quite nicely. And hopefully she would poop since she has elephant sized poops.)

That's just annoying, inconsiderate behaviour. Not real safe either. Which was said to them.

But my pet peeve that I see so many people do? Put their bridle on, then leave their halter hanging down towards the ground from the lead shank.
There are three halters hanging down within 10 feet of each other. Also note that the door to the stall my tack is in is the open door on the left - there were 3 horses parked in this area that I was expected to get through. You can probably see why my bitch side came out.

Trip hazards for humans. Somewhere for a horse to hang a leg up in.

If I park my horse in front of a halter still attached to a wall, I always untie it and move it aside. I never leave my own halter that way. It's always unclipped from the shank, and more often than not the shank is also untied.

Maybe it's just because I'm old and have been around horses for too long and I know how fast something can happen. Or maybe it's because I'm a huge klutz and I figure I will likely be the one to break my ankle tripping over someone else's halter. Horses are quite capable of doing stupid things without human assistance - why make it any easier for them?

Wednesday 16 August 2017

The First Canter

I had my first canter with Cisco this evening!

It was totally not intentional!

There had been a pretty good storm on Sunday night with significant wind gusts. The wind moved the shelters, I guess one horse jumped out of their pen, and the door that we have been using into the arena was damaged. So to access the arena we have to walk all the way down and come in through the door at the opposite end.

I knew that when I was tacking up Cisco that someone else was also tacking up and would be joining me in the arena. This was going to be my first ride on Cisco with another horse in the arena, and it was going to be his buddy Ned.

I got over there first and hopped on. We were just doing our walk warm-up, on a light contact (not as mouthy today as he has been). We had just passed the wide open door, and it would have been slightly behind him, and Ned and his rider popped into sight. Cisco stopped for a millisecond, and then bolted to the opposite end of the arena.

My reins were of course much too long to be effective. He was going in a straight line, and his head was up, and after the initial oh crap thought, I wasn't too worried that he was going to do something really stupid. My biggest concern was what would happen when he got to the end of the arena - would he stop and pitch me over the half-wall?
No media from the ride, so just imagine this canter and a rider with a terrified look sitting on his back.

So I just settled in. His canter is fairly comfortable. Just think how it will feel when his head isn't straight up in the air!

He came to an easy stop at the end, turned, and stared at the horse coming in. It took him a few seconds to figure out that it was indeed a horse. And then a few more seconds to realize that it was Ned.

He was pretty good through the rest of the ride. Was very good about steering, but tried to stall out a few times when we tried to pass Ned. Going to the right he feels very comfortable and forward and relaxed. Going left, he falls in more, and can get very sticky at a trot. I think we will work on quickness of transitions over the next couple of rides a bit and see if that helps.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

Favourite Things #3

Phantom has an aversion to anything that makes her uncomfortable. Having her mane pulled is probably one of the top things on her uncomfortable list.

I used to be a purist - pulling a mane was the only way to shorten and tidy a mane. Phantom changed my opinion on this. I tried doing just 5 pulls a day. By the second day as soon as I touched her mane she was dancing all over. I tried clicker training. It would get me a few extra pulls, but not much. I tried the method where you don't actually pull, but just kind of hang your hand down with weight in it until the hairs release - this did work better, but it would take forever to get a mane done.

So then I tried the Solo Comb. Phantom didn't mind the use of it, as it doesn't pull the hair, it just cuts it. You are supposed to backcomb the mane, then press the handle and the razor would cut the remaining hair. What I didn't like about it was that it didn't work well on thinning a mane. Phantom's mane is very thick in the middle (with a whorl under it!) and thin at the top and bottom. So I could get it to an even length, but not an even thickness.
Not my favourite

A friend had a Smart Manes Mane Thinning Rake, so I tried that one day. And decided that I needed one. It doesn't really pull the mane out (but might in some places), but does a fantastic job of thinning thick areas. It won't leave the mane all the same length - the bottom of the mane is left very thin. I just take a pair of scissors and make little upward nips to level it all out. All with no fuss from Phantom.

Since I needed one of these, I took to the interweb to find one. And discovered that they were something like $80. Plus shipping. Um, no.

I was able to keep borrowing my friend's rake for the next year or two. I had found them on the website of a tack shop in my province, but still couldn't convince myself that I needed it that badly. But a couple of years ago, I went to Mane Event, and this tack shop was closing and clearing out their product. And I rushed to their booth on the first morning of the show, and they had one rake left. For 40% off. (Maybe 50% - it's been a couple of years.) Admittedly $50 is still not a small amount of money to spend on a mane comb. But because of the lack of hassle it causes me, I am happy to spend that much. I also picked up another blade for it on sale, so this rake should last me forever.

Here's a Youtube that shows it in action.

Monday 14 August 2017

Time to Play with Ponies

I'm on vacation! And since I can't go to Disneyworld, the next best vacation is one where I get to spend lots of time out at the barn. A pony staycation.

My first day of vacation was too hot to do anything. i just taught a lesson in the morning and then did a couple of tasks before heading home to take a nap. I mean, I am on vacation.

So the ponies got Sunday completely off.

Here are the pony plans for my 10 days off:
- ride both of them a bunch
- maybe attempt a first canter on Cisco
- take Cisco for a little hack around the yard
- clean my tack
- have a trailering practice day
- try some of my old winter blankets on Cisco to see what fits
- head over to visit a friend and maybe take her pony for a drive
- go through Phantom's grooming kit and thin the stuff I don't use out of it
- hit up the local tack shops and only buy things on my list that I need (so hard!)
- take the good camera out and try to get some decent pictures

The weather is looking mostly co-operative (except for the big storm that hit us on Sunday night) so hopefully I can get through my list.

Of course, I really should add clean my house and do yardwork to my list. We'll see....

Friday 11 August 2017

One Month!

Yay! I managed to blog for one whole month!

I have no idea how many people actually read this blog on a regular basis. I haven't yet quite figured out how to read the stats provided by Blogger. Reality is that I am writing it for myself, and if anyone else tunes in, bonus!

For the one or two people out there reading this - is there something you would like to see more of? Besides pony pictures of course! There can never be enough pony pictures!

I hoped to ride last night. But just after I got to the barn a big storm blew in (literally). Strong winds, pouring rain, thunder and lightning. Phantom was going to be my first ride, so she was lucky to be inside and miss the worst of it, and get stuffed with treats since we did some clicker training activities to kill some time until I was brave enough to step out of the barn.

I seem to have discovered the one bad thing about Cisco. He is a blanket destroyer.

Cisco is my 4th horse. I've had two mares - no one tugs on their blankets. My previous gelding was generally the dominant horse in his turnout, so no one messed with him.

Cisco is a bit immature, and definitely not at the top of the herd. He is also very social with other horse and humans. I don't know that I have seen him make a grumpy face at another horse yet.

My guess is that he has a buddy to play with. Geldings love the bitey-face game. Most of the holes in his blankets have been in the shoulder area, so I am thinking that someone is grabbing the blanket. I'm super happy that he has a friend. Not so happy that his clothing is getting destroyed!

The current blanket is a Weatherbeeta Dura-Mesh fly sheet. He didn't start wearing it until the 2nd week of June, and it was brand new at that time. There are probably about 2 weeks that he hasn't worn it while I was repairing it, so he has worn it for no more than 7 weeks.
The right side has three patches. And these are the worst of the holes - there are still small holes that I can't be bothered to patch.
The patch on the neck on the left is new as of yesterday. You can see a bunch of smaller holes to the right of that patch that I haven't bothered to repair yet.

Well, today when I went out to the field, I saw a leg strap hanging down. Great. He pulled it out from the stitched end at the stifle. Not major, relatively easy fix. I looked for the other leg strap to clip it to the opposite side. Wait - where is it? It's half broken off. As in, the strap has been torn in half. Grrrr. Fine. I'll take it off and see if we can do immediate repairs. Hang on - the dart on the left shoulder? The material has been torn away from the binding. And those small holes above the dart? Bigger.

So he's currently naked. I was hoping to use this fly sheet over a winter blanket to protect it come this fall. I don't know if it will survive that long! I thought these textilene blankets were supposed to be strong and relatively indestructible!

I had actually ordered a Kensington fly sheet on Tuesday that I surprisingly found on for a pretty good price. I wasn't planning on using it this summer, and was thinking it might have to be a backup for the winter blanket protection. I do think that I will avoid blankets with shoulder darts for him in the future. His rain sheet, which is also a Weatherbeeta with darts, also has the fabric pulled away from the binding in the dart. I might stay away from Weatherbeeta's for my next few purchases too. So far they haven't been a good match for Cisco.

Thursday 10 August 2017

So Many Distractions!

On Wednesday Pony Grandma and I headed out to the just after lunch. And I finally hit a busy time at the barn! (By busy I mean that there were 3 teenagers out, in different stages of doing something with their horses and lamenting about their teenage angst.) So I rushed through tacking up Cisco in the hopes that I would get at least part of my time in a free arena.

I just did a bit of groundwork and then hopped on. He was again quite mouthy as we were walking, but I think it might be partly nerves as when we walked at the end of the ride he had stopped. But I don't really want to lunge him before I ride so that we have enough energy to keep going forward.  So we will have to see how this works out.

After I had been on for a few minutes the girls came over to start setting up a jump course for their lesson later that afternoon. I was worried how Cisco would deal with all the distractions.  But he was super! He stopped to look I think twice when they were dragging wing standards. But then walked on and wasn't too concerned. He was much more concerned with trying to go over and visit with them!

At a trot we were able to do some more steering and had our first attempt at a figure 8. Well, the first attempt didn't go so well - we kind of ran into the wall. But the second attempt was mostly successful! As long as you don't count accuracy.  Pony Grandma didn't even have to swish the whip once towards us as he didn't really stall out at all. And at the end I asked for a bigger trot (in the sticky spot) and he moved up really nicely. Done! Ride over!
Wait - is that an actual sweat mark?

His only bonafide spook moment came when we were walking out at the end, and one of the girls had gone into the corner behind the half wall to grab another pole. He could barely see the top of her head, so he was watching and a bit worried, and we were turned a bit away when she started sliding a pole out of the rack. He scooted at a trot maybe 3 steps then came back to walk. If that is going to be his big reaction, I will be able to deal nicely.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Monday Recap

Despite Monday being a holiday, I had to work. Boo. But only for a half day. Yay! But it meant heading out to the barn in the evening.

When We arrived at the barn, the sky seemed rather ominous. There was a bunch of rain in the forecast for the day, so it seemed to be inevitable. So I dashed out to grab Cisco, and rushed through grooming so that we could get into the arena quickly. I don't know how he would react if a storm comes in while I am riding, and didn't feel the need to find out that night,

When we walked to the arena, the clouds seemed to have blown away. Yay! So I wasn't in such a rush to get my ride done. First thing to consider - do I need to lunge? Originally I had been thinking yes, as when I had caught him he had been chasing one of the mares who is apparently in heat and being a bit of a hussy. So I wasn't sure if the (non-existent) testosterone was still pulsing through him. But we started with the groundwork, and he settled in nicely so I decided to lunging wasn't needed.

When we were walking he was doing lots of the little snorts, which is always worrisome on a horse that you don't know very well. But there were lots of sighs mixed in, so I hoped it was just noise. He was being quite mouthy and fussy, but we did have a few moments at a walk where I had a nice contact feeling in my hand. Of course, there were also lots of moments where he curled his neck and sucked his nose back as a part of his fussing and I had zero feeling in the reins.  (Pretty sure we will be trying some different bits in the future!)

I started the trot going the sticky way. Pony Grandma had to swish the lunge whip towards us only once in the same spot that he had been sticky on my last ride. After that he still slowed down a bit in that spot, but didn't actually stop.

My goal for this ride was to add in a bit of steering at a trot, and make some turns in different spots than what I had been. And he was super good about that. I mean, our lines down the long side are totally drunk steering, and on the short sides his nose is totally turned to the outside, and we totally can't hit the track. But my circles were mainly the size I wanted and where I wanted them to be.

So I finished with him and went out and grabbed Phantom. On the way into the barn I remembered that I had wanted to order pizza for supper (50% off promo code!), and that they close a bit after 10pm, so I was going to have to hurry if I wanted to be able to pick a pizza up on my way home. Priorities.

She got tacked up within 10 minutes and I hopped on. And I knew right away that despite being able to play in the arena yesterday, she was still a bit full of herself. She marched around on a loose rein (which she never does) and I had to actually slow her walk down. Unheard of. So when I picked up the trot, I was surprised to feel that she felt short. She had looked super sound the day before when she was playing in the arena. WTF?

And then it clicked. I had just ridden Cisco. I think this was the first time I had ridden her after riding him at something faster than a walk. And it's been so long since I've ridden two horses back to back, that I forgot that the second horse always feels odd for the first few minutes. Right. Guess I'll have to get used to that.

So we zipped through a quick ride in which she felt pretty good once I remembered how to ride.

And I made it to the pizza place with 5 minutes to spare.

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Quiet Sunday

Remember how I said in a previous post that the barn is really quiet and it seems no one is ever around? 4 1/2 hours at the barn on a beautiful Sunday afternoon - the only other people were my dad (to fix something for me) and the owner's parents (trying to fix a window in the arena). Mind you, it is a long weekend, and maybe some horse people actually manage to have a life away from the barn. But I wasn't complaining.
I don't have to feel bad about my mess when I am the only person there. I'm usually not this bad - honest!

Cisco came in for his ground work, and he was much better and quieter than he had been the day before. This was despite the sounds of the tools being used on fixing the window. I tried to chase him around the arena a bit, and since he is a silly young horse, he did nothing. He's such a boring little guy.
Look at that hind leg though!

Phantom knows how to play in the arena though. She was supposed to be ridden, but when I brought her in, I thought that she might be a bit perkier than normal. And she doesn't deal with extra perk under saddle very well. It's usually easier to just let her loose in the arena to de-perk herself.

She has always ridden up - she gets hotter as she goes. She can be quite sane while trotting, but once she has cantered she just wants to go. I've had rides where we just could not walk after we've cantered. She just could not. And she free lunges the same way - slow western pleasure jog warmup, then the trot will get bigger, then it's canter, then stop, then canter, then stop, then a big trot that breaks into a canter, then stop, etc, etc.
Gotta warm up before shenanigans!

The other thing she does when she has excess energy is what I call head bucks. She is a really crappy bucker - she does this weird hind leg towards her ear thing. I see only 5 or 6 of these a year in the spring. But what she does all the time when she is feeling good - as she ends the canter she tucks her chin onto her chest and twists her neck and head around. In a self-imposed rollkur position. (Sorry - rather blurry video, but you get the idea of what she does.)

When she has energy under saddle, she kind of does the same thing. She shortens her neck and tucks her nose in, which results in a short, tight back. Which then pings me straight up out of the saddle. And because I'm bouncing on her back, she tightens her back and shortens her neck even more. Why can't she just buck like a normal horse would? (Another blurry video)

So there are times when letting her loose in just easier and probably smarter to do. Today was one of them.

The rest of the time that I was out there were catching up on a few things I've been meaning to do. I had something icky spill on the top shelf of my tack box that needed to be cleaned up - done. Phantom's tail and hind legs got their weekly cleaning. And I put another patch on Cisco's fly sheet as the bugs seem to be bugging them the last few days. (I will hold off on my review of this blanket until the end of the season - I have a feeling that it won't survive past this summer.)

Monday 7 August 2017

Saturday Night Out

Out at the barn, that is!

I worked during the day, and there was a huge dump of rain mid-afternoon. I wasn't sure if I would be dealing with damp (and dirty) ponies when I got out to the barn, but the rain appeared to have missed that area.

The plan was to only ride Cisco that night, as Pony Grandma was able to come out with me, but wouldn't be able to on Sunday. I am definitely not comfortable yet riding him without a helper, so Sunday would just be ground work for him.

But Saturday was a riding night. I hadn't been out since Wednesday when we did a bit of trot. I was hoping to not lunge before riding in the hope that he would have a bit of extra go, but he was a bit too perky and up for my liking. So I did twirl him for a few minutes first.

There were lots of distracting noises outside the arena so our ground work took a hit. Stopping and standing? Mere suggestions that were categorically ignored. Sigh. He's very good about light aids when his brain is in his head, but we aren't at the point yet when he can ignore whatever is going on around him.
Not Saturday night.

Surprisingly though, when I hopped on, he was much better about listening to me. At the beginning of the ride, our steering was, well, not really where I wanted to go. But it got better pretty quickly. And there were a few moments when I wondered if he was actually starting to move away from my leg. Naw. Couldn't be.

When I picked up trot, I went to the left first. The left seems to be our sticky side for some reason. (Maybe because I ride like crap to the left? And he is naturally right-sided?) I went to the left first to see if being first would move the sticky problem to the other side. Nope. The good thing was that the spot that he stalled out in was on the opposite side of the ring from the last ride. The bad thing was that he stalled right into a stop and didn't want to move again.

So Pony Grandma to the rescue. I had her stand in the middle with the lunge whip  and swish it our way when he started to stall. This seemed to help and we made it another 2 laps around without any too much issue. So I switched to the right and we made it 4 laps around at a trot. Whoo hoo!

We changed direction again and just did a couple of short trots just to get the transition, then switched direction and did the same once more. He needs to know that we don't trot in each direction once and then we are done.

I was quite happy with the ride. His neck was inverted through most of the trot, and inside I'm screaming "fix it!". But at this point forward is the most important thing and until we can reliably get that I am not too worried about trying to shape his way of going.

By the time we were done the barn had cleared out. And a shopping cart had magically appeared. No idea why. But I figured it would be a prime training opportunity!

I started doing clicker training a few years ago with Phantom. She loves it. So I have been using it a bit with Cisco. He is quite reactive to new things, but gets over them quickly. I figured the rattling of the cart would be cause for alarm. I was right. He went splat. And then touched it with his nose. And got rewarded with a click and a treat. He quickly started to figure out that touching the scary cart got him some food. Within a few minutes, Pony Grandma was pushing the rattly cart next to us as we walked down the barn aisle on a loose lead. And when she stopped he put his nose on it for the treat.

No idea how that would have played out without using the clicker training. I have found that it gets the horse where you want to end up much faster than it would otherwise. And it has been interesting seeing the difference in how Phantom thinks through problems versus Cisco. She tries really hard to figure out what I am asking. Cisco gets distracted and kind of frustrated. Mind you, he hasn't done as much of it yet, so hopefully that will change as I try more things with him.

Friday 4 August 2017

First Real Trot - Done!

On Wednesday I dragged the Pony Grandma out to the barn again with me to be my 911 caller should need arise. When we arrived at the barn there was a fair amount of activity as it was farrier day (not for my guys), and I was worried that Cisco might be a bit unsettled in the barn. But he stood and almost seemed to relax a bit for a change. He has yet to come in and just park and have a snooze - he is always on alert watching for me. This was one of his better days, but not at all a snoozing day.

I lunged him for a few minutes, then did a couple minutes of groundwork before getting on. He walked and steered quite nicely, then it was time to trot. We started to the right (my better side) and he was fantastic! We did two laps of the arena (well, the half of the very large arena that I was using) and he felt relaxed and balanced and almost steerable.  Then we went left.
He almost looks uphill here! Pretty sure it's a trick of the camera.

We got about half of a lap done and he decided my quarter was up. There was someone else waiting to come in to lunge a horse, and they were being super kind and waiting for me to finish before coming in, but he had seen the horse so was distracted.  He kept stalling out at the same point next to some standards, which was approaching the gate where he had seen the horse. And then he would cut in to the inside right past those standards.

But I managed to get one pass where he didn't actually come back to walk and didn't dive inside so much. So I called it quits there. (Also green horses that don't maintain their pace are exhausting!) Next time I will start to the left, and provided he only has the one day off, won't plan on lunging first in the hope that he will have a bit more time in him.

Since Pony Grandma was there, I put her to work videoing me. And since my video editing skills suck, here is the link to the full video.

As it usually goes, the video looks much better than it felt. The moments where he stalled out felt much longer and stickier than they appear in the video.

But then my critical side comes out - I'm kind of embarrassed to be caught on the wrong diagonal going to the right. Trying to keep him going, steering, and me breathing I guess were all I could concentrate on. More importantly though - WTF are my shoulders doing? Why is my right shoulder 4 inches higher than my left???? Stupid right shoulder! Get back and down!

Thursday 3 August 2017

Just the Start

On Monday night I borrowed the Pony Grandma to watch/assist me again so that I could ride Cisco. I lunged him first (I'm getting smarter!), but he seemed to be in a quieter frame of mind right off the bat. So after getting on and being on the lead for only about a minute I was brave enough to be let loose.

And he was great! Our brakes were working again. And the groundwork I have been doing with the dressage whip has paid off - when he would stop, a couple of taps with the whip would get him going again. And the steering was so much better! I mean, we still didn't make it right into the corners. And I really have to remember that hanging on the rein really doesn't work very well.  For about 15 minutes he walked nicely forward and seemed to be fairly relaxed.

Because it was going so well, I decided I would try our first trot on our own. I really was just hoping to have a couple of decent transitions. He picked up the trot not too badly from my voice, and maybe my leg (wishful thinking!). The whip was not required. But he was much more nervous than he had been on the lunge. Maybe because of the whip. So I did a couple of very short trots and decided I better end it while things were going well.

When I brought Phantom in, he wandered over to the round bale and didn't just stand at the gate and wait for her. He's figuring life out.

Wednesday 2 August 2017

A Tough Decision

One of the toughest decisions I have to make as a horse owner is coming up soon - what colour of browband should I make for my horse? (Note I said one of the toughest decisions, not the toughest decision. Hopefully that decision is still years away.)

It's almost time to make Cisco his own beaded browband. He has been much better about bridling, and has been better about not needing to put his mouth on everything. So he is getting closer to be able to have Nice Things.

Pretty well any colour works on a grey. The horse's colour is no help here.

I tend to like dark colours. But dark colours don't show up very well against a dark browband. So my favourite navy blue is mainly out (but could be an accent colour).

He's a boy. No pink.

Or gold. I'm a silver kind-a-gal.

I do want colour. So not black as the main colour.

Or yellow, orange, brown, or anything flourescent. Yuck.

Turquoise might be nice.

I'm leaning towards purple, mainly because of some beads I saw at Michaels that I really liked. But they might still be too dark.
I want to find a reason to use these.

I bead my own browbands, so if I don't like it I can redo it. But it's kind of a pain to do, so I would prefer to get it right the first time.

Decisions, decisions.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Mostly Settled

Saturday night I went straight out to the barn from work. I was supposed to teach a lesson but it was cancelled. So I had a bit of extra pony time for myself.

Cisco was up first. The night before I had put him loose in the arena, and for the first time since the move he was very chill and relaxed in there. I was hoping for a repeat performance so that I could start working him again. And happily he obliged. He only called out once on our way into the arena, and once inside was very relaxed. I chased him around for a few minutes then did some work with a whip teaching him to go forward like I will when riding.
Wonky stance behind. But standing still!

In the barn afterwards, he was very quiet and standing nicely. So I spent some time brushing his tail and pulled (by which I mean snipped with scissors) his mane. Then back out he went.

Phantom came in and I decided to just clean her up. When she wears a blanket, she poops and pees on her tail. Which is supposed to be white. And since her tail is full of pee, her back legs get full of pee. Grossness all round.

In summer her tail usually gets washed weekly. In winter I put it up since it is too hard to clean it in the cold. But it's not fair to her in summer since she needs it for flies.  She is used to being bathed.

And because she is such a rock star on the ground, she stood for half an hour, ground tied, on the cement pad at the end of the barn while I cleaned her tail and back legs. The only times she moved her legs were because of flies.

On Sunday I brought my mom out to babysit me (and be my 911 caller if needed) so that I could hop on Cisco. Since he had been so quiet the previous two nights I was hoping that he would be good to get going under saddle again. Well, he wasn't too bad, but he was definitely up more than I was hoping.  I did a bit of groundwork, then with the assistance of Pony Grandma, hopped into the saddle. I had been hoping to be let loose from a lead, but he was quite distracted, and we didn't have the brakes that we normally have, so I thought it best to stay tethered to Pony Grandma. But there was improvement with the steering - he was steering more from me instead of relying and following the ground person. And we definitely didn't have any problems with forward! (Note to self- don't be stupid - lunge first next time.)
The snip on Cisco's bottom lip. Makes him look pouty.

Then Phantom came in for a quick ride - quick as in short and also speedy! And I even remembered to pee first. While I had her inside, I didn't hear Cisco screaming for her from out in the field (Ned is away so it's just the two of them and the main herd again).

When I put her back out, he was nice and cool and hadn't been running, or even walking around the fenceline waiting for her. So it seems that they have mostly settled in.
Nope - not a hippopotamus. (And it was very hard to get this shot because anything presented under a pony nose must be edible!)