Wednesday 31 January 2018


We had lovely winter weather this past weekend. Not.

We woke to something like 15 cm of snow on Friday morning. I had drifts of about 2 feet tall in my backyard. Roads in the city were terrible. Thankfully my boss let us leave work an hour early so I missed the worst of rush hour on my drive home. There was no way I was going out to the barn though, which was a good decision as a message was posted that the road in front of the barn hadn't been plowed yet and people were getting stuck.

Saturday the roads weren't a whole lot better - the main roads weren't too snow filled, but they hadn't plowed the residential roads yet. And Sunday morning I woke up to -23 C - but my road had been plowed (I'm on a bus route so my road gets done fairly quickly). I cancelled the lessons that I teach on Sunday morning and stayed in bed.

I bundled myself up in the afternoon to head out to feed the ponies. And took a patch kit out, since I finally remembered. Which was a good thing, since Cisco decided to finally let one of his buddies put a hole in his blanket, as mentioned on Monday's post. I used the Rambo Stormsure adhesive and a cut up saddle cover to patch it. (I picked up a saddle cover at the consignment store to sacrifice for patches. Didn't care what colour, I picked the one with the heaviest material and the lowest price.) I had used that procedure on Phantom's Rambo 4 years ago on the only hole she has put in it, and it has held up so far, so I thought I would use it again. Plus it's something that can be done quickly, and doesn't require taking it to someone else to fix. It won't work if they tear their blanket so that their ass is hanging out of it, but for small tears it works fine.

How to use the Stormsure to patch blankets. And yes - cutting into your blanket does not feel good!

It does need to sit overnight for the adhesive to cure properly though. So Cisco had to wear some old clothing for the night. I dressed him in a 20 year old BMB stable blanket, and because I have no idea how much fill that blanket has, I added his rainsheet. And of course his (dented) suit of armor.
Still one layer to go.
I had to be somewhere for the evening on Sunday, and got home at about 10 pm. At which time I decided to bake another two batches of cookies for the kids. I wanted to use up the apple sauce I had bought for this purpose. But really it was because there were only 3 cookies left, and there was no way that I could split the last cookie between two horses.
I don't want to see this indignant face again.
There is a bunch in the freezer now, so I'll see how well they thaw. Not that I think the ponies will be overly picky about it.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Winter Riding Attire

This winter feels colder than previous winter's have on the Canadian prairies. Maybe it's because I'm getting older. But I think it's because the arena that I'm riding in isn't heated as well as the other's have been. So I've had to change up my riding attire this winter.

What am I wearing while riding?

On the top:
  • A long sleeved quarter zip base layer, usually merino wool blend. I get a new one or two from Costco every year for about $20 so I have a bunch of them.
  • The Kerrits EQ Moto Quilted Jacket - I was trying to find a lightweight, fitted jacket, that wasn't softshell (doesn't breathe), for about $50 in local stores. And I couldn't. So I succumbed to the sale and ordered this jacket. I really like it - as in I want it for non-riding activities. When riding it adds just a bit more warmth, which is all that I need.
  • My helmet (of course) with my ear warmers installed. I might have to take them out if I need to listen to people as they definitely muffle the sound.
  • A fleece neck warmer of some style from the dollar store. I have 3 different ones that I have in my riding bag that I alternate between as I can't stand to use one that's damp from my breath. My jawline gets cold easily so I pull it up when taking a walk break, but it usually falls down when I get going again.
  • Gloves - usually just my regular SSG Digitals. I have child-sized hands, so bulky gloves mean I can't hang onto the reins at all. I'm looking for winter gloves that I like, but haven't found them yet. Plus I'm cheap, and don't want to spend too much money on something I will likely lose really fast. My hands are generally warm enough in the Digital's for one horse, but are a bit sweaty for the second horse, thus colder.
On the bottom half:
  • Long johns of some sort. I have about 4 pairs that I wear, of different materials, and don't find one pair to be any warmer than another.
  • Breeches - it depends. If warmth is the priority, then I'll wear my Kerrits Windpro Bootcut breeches that I also picked up from If keeping my butt stuck to the saddle is my biggest concern, then it's just a pair of my regular full-seats. The Kerrits are warmer but slippery (mine are the knee patch version because they were the ones on sale).
  • Full chaps. I pulled my old chaps out of retirement for use in the winter. Unfortunately, they shrank while stored for 10 years. I hate when that happens. So Pony Grandma worked her magic and added an elastic strip down the sides to make the legs wider. And I cut up an old belt to make the strap across the back wider. They are a bit bodged together, and not the most fashionable item, but they keep me warm, and didn't really cost anything.
  • My regular Ariat paddock boots. I wear big warm boots in the barn, so only switch into the paddock boots for riding. My feet stay warm.
  • I might wear tights underneath everything else on a really cold day. 
  • I usually just wear regular socks. When the temperature plummets, I'll put on socks made of either merino wool or angora. The angora ones are super warm.
In the barn/outside:
  • Arctic Sport Muck Boots. I love these boots. I think the only time my feet have been cold in them was when I had to stand on cold cement for a couple hours for vet stuff. Only one pair of socks required in these boots.
    Mine are this colour.
  • My barn jacket is a hip length jacket from Greenhawk that I've had for a few years. It could use a few repairs but keeps me warm enough.
  • A toque with ear flaps. Or for the non-Canadians - a knitted cap with ear flaps.
  • Gloves - either cheap dollar store ones or inexpensive pebbled palm knit gloves from the tack shop. For the extreme cold I break out ski gloves that I got at Costco ages ago, but they are only good for bringing horses in. Too bulky to do anything else with.
  • On days like farrier days when I'm going to be standing around I usually throw on a pair of sweat pants over the long johns. Warmth is my priority.
My attire is pretty consistent. The trick is trying to stay warm without sweating, which keeps you chilled afterwards. If I know that I'm going to be out for a while after riding (like a clinic or something) then I would take a change of clothes for the top half - changing into a dry shirt and sports bra makes a big difference in being able to ward off the chill.

These keep me relatively comfortable to maybe -10 celsius (14 F). I'd have to tweak the gloves and socks for riding up to -15 (5F), and chances are that any colder than that I'm staying warm on the couch.

Monday 29 January 2018

Dents in his Armor

Cisco has been hard on his blankets in the first 10 months that I've owned him. This is new to me. My other horses have all been great and I have had very few blanket repairs. It probably helps that two were mares, so nobody messed with them, and the other gelding was pretty well always the dominant horse in every turnout situation.

In the past I have been happy to buy expensive blankets knowing that their chances of survival were very high. Thus I have a few Bucas blankets, and Phantom has a couple of Rambo's. They fit Cisco, but I'm not willing to put them on him if I can avoid it.

He doesn't destroy his blankets himself - they get damaged by his buddies. Cisco is a young, social, good-feeling gelding. Which means that he loves to play with other young, social, good-feeling geldings. And blankets made fantastic grab handles to pull your buddy around with. There's no way that I want to remove him from his turnout situation, so I have to find a way to lessen the inevitable damage.
Fly masks also become casualties.

Last spring he wore a Weatherbeeta rain sheet. I don't remember which version it was, but it's 1200D. He did not too bad in it, a couple of nicks, and right at the end of the season I discovered that he had torn the binding away from the fabric in the dart. Nothing major, it cost $10 to get it fixed. He wore this blanket as weather dictated for about 2 months.

I tried to keep him naked as long as possible through the summer, until the bug bites got too bad. When that happened he was dressed in his Weatherbeeta Duramesh fly sheet. I figured the textyline fabric would be durable and relatively indestructible.

I was so wrong.

I think he wore that blanket for about 6 weeks. I was patching it up weekly.
3 patches on this side.

2 patches on this side, and a whole bunch of spots that were too small to patch.
These pictures were taken on August 9th - I don't think he started wearing it until the second week of July. I took it off for good by the end of August, and it needs a bunch more repairs before the new season. I think he only wore the hood for two weeks total - it has a bunch of holes in it.

So this blanket was a fail. 

When trying to figure out what he would wear for the winter, I didn't want to spend money on new blankets when I have a couple of tack boxes of old ones that will probably fit him. 
BMB Stable Blanket, circa 1994. I have two of them.
I decided pretty early on that I would be best to put a Kensington fly sheet over top of his blanket in the winter. The Kensingtons are generally considered to be the toughest fly sheets on the market. I found a great deal on Amazon of all places on a Surefit version. Cisco has been wearing it over top of his blanket ever since the fall. And it's done a great job of protecting the blanket he's wearing underneath.

But - this suit of armor has suffered some damage. There are a few dents in it. 

The good thing about this material is that the holes don't fray to become larger. So there are lots of little spots that are inconsequential. There is one larger slice that needs attention as soon as I am willing to leave it off for a night.

However, I don't know how long this one will last. So I have been keeping an eye on Amazon for another one at a great price. I don't want to spend $200 on it, especially since I got the last one for $127.

Sunday morning one came up, at the right size, for even less. $117. So I snapped it up. It's my second least favourite Kensington colour, Citrus Slate, but I really don't care about the colour.
Yellow stripes are not my favourite. But cheap is.

As soon as the new one arrives I will swap it out and take the old one back to the armory to have it repaired. It won't be dent free, but it can be smoothed out somewhat. 

Now I just need a hood to go on sale.

Updated to add:
I wrote this post up on Sunday morning. On Sunday afternoon I went out to the barn to find a hole in Cisco's armor, that went through to the blanket underneath. And another largish slice along the back dart on his butt.

Good thing I took a patch kit out to the barn with me. I patched the bottom blanket up with the Rambo glue and a patch. He's dressed in other clothing for the night while the glue cures.

The new Kensington can't arrive soon enough! Which appears to be next Monday.

And maybe I should order a second one....

Friday 26 January 2018

Calm Before the Storm

Cisco has been super chill this week. Me doing something with him 6 out of 7 days probably has something to do with it.

On Wednesday I didn't think I would have time to do anything with the kids other than feed Phantom so she could get started on the chaste tree berries and bundle both the kids up in their warmer snowsuits. But it turned out I had time to do something with Cisco. I decided that the mounting block would be tackled.

He had been really good about the mounting block just before we went on hiatus back at the beginning of November, so I didn't think it would take too long to get him back there. He just needed a bit of time spent standing there and not being in a rush to move away. I took over my treat holder so that I could click and treat when he stood.

He was very good about it. We spent about 20 minutes at the block. If he stood still with me leaning all over him, he could just stand there. If he walked forward I made him walk around the block and get into the right position again without me coming down.  Well, trying not to come down - standing above the ground while turning in a small circle made me a bit dizzy. I had to stand on the ground a couple of times before I fell off the block.

There was a jumping lesson going on at the same time, so we also spent some time just standing and watching. He really likes watching everything going on around him.
Phantom's reaction to only getting one cookie yesterday.
I had Thursday off, so I had planned to get out early afternoon to ride him before the forecasted snow hit us. But I slept in. So after I made another batch of horse cookies to replace the already eaten first batch I picked up Pony Grandma and we made our way out to the barn. I was a wee bit worried that I would hit a busy lesson time. But there was only one person riding in the lesson, so I decided to ride Cisco and see how it went.

I lunged him first in the scary end and he was super chill. Probably the most relaxed he's been down there so far. We just did a couple of minutes of trot in each direction and I decided to be brave and hop on. I also stopped lunging early because I was going to be in the way of the person who was riding.

He was good at the mounting block - yesterday paid off. He did walk away before I would have liked but we'll work on that.

The girl who was jumping was on a course when I got on, so we just walked for a bit to stay out of her way. Cisco stayed nice and relaxed.

Then someone opened the door at the scary end. And brought a horse through the hell port door.

And Cisco didn't get overly worried!

Initially he stopped to stare. I let him have a look, then asked him to walk on. He kind of felt like he might scoot, but a couple of strides later the feeling was gone.
Who was a Superstar today? This guy!

The goal of the day was to trot. He picked it up as soon as I asked and had a nice rhythm as we went around. Our steering was crap - lots of going around a turn with his head turned to the outside. But there was someone jumping, a new horse to try to make friends with and a large dog running along the fenceline - finessing steering on our first trot in almost 3 months wasn't the biggest priority!

He did drop down to a walk the first time we passed either of the other horses in his need to make friends with every horse he meets, but didn't really fall towards them, and trotted past the rest of the times. The portal to hell door opened another time and admitted two more horses, and he wasn't fazed at all.

We had a couple of fantastic halts, with much less hand required, so I was super happy to end my ride there. The ride went better than I could have hoped. He did look around lots at everything going on, but it was always soft and not the totally concentrated stare that he often does. With some more schooling I'm pretty confident that I will be able to make him focus his attention on me, but we're nowhere near that stage yet.
Snow ponies. Can't use carrots for noses though.

And now there is a good chance that he'll be off for another 10 days or so. We're getting snow tonight and tomorrow, and depending on how my drive home from work goes tomorrow I won't want to head out tot he barn. Well, that and because the temperature is dropping again. There's a clinic at the barn this weekend, so I won't be able to ride over the weekend. Monday isn't looking too bad, unless the snow that is a possibility becomes a reality. And then the temperature plummets. There's about 6 days of -17 or colder as highs.
There won't be much riding in these temperatures. This is next week until Feb 7th.

So I will be starting from scratch again.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Pastry Chef in the Making

I actually baked this week. Not for me of course, or any other humans. The only thing that would give me the incentive to bake is my kids.

This recipe popped up on my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago. It looked simple to make so I saved it. Throughout the week I actually planned ahead and bought the ingredients and decided to whip up a batch this weekend.

It was super simple to make. Mix up four ingredients, a half a cup each of applesauce, flour, steel cut oats and grated carrot. Next time I will add the flour last to make it a bit easier to mix up.
Not cheese biscuits.

The batch made just enough cookies to fit on one cookie sheet. So, like, two days worth for my two treat moochers.

But the big question to be answered - were they deemed edible?
I found a use for the plastic mason jar I picked up at Michael's on clearance at Christmas. One batch fit perfectly in there.

Oh yes.

Cisco is still getting used to being spoiled treats. So he tends to be a bit dramatic with new food and there is lots of head nodding as he chews (and these are a bit chewy). But he finished and immediately looked for another one.

I think Phantom literally inhaled her first one. I didn't actually see her chew it.

A couple other horses at the barn got to try one and they thoroughly approved.

16 hooves up.

It looks like I'll be baking regularly now.

Find the recipe at Baking Mischief. She has a couple of other ones for horses to try out too.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Back to School

Firstly - Phantom was seemingly none the worse for her tying up incident. She was turned out on Tuesday morning, and when I arrived in the evening she was actually quite perky and walking very forward for a turtle. I gave her another gram of bute, and Pony Grandma hand walked her for 15-20 minutes (PG got a fitness tracker for Christmas and is trying to get her step count up). Phantom's hind legs were stepping up into her front hoof prints, so she wasn't looking too stiff.

I will get her started on Chaste Tree berries today (provided they are still in stock at the place that had them last week), and then give it a week to let it kick in and before starting her back under saddle - slowly.

This means that Cisco is the focus of my attention for the next couple of weeks!

Monday night I got back on him for the first time in about 2 1/2 months. I lunged him first, he was pretty good, and then I crawled aboard. He danced around a bit at the mounting block, and took off at trot at one point when I wasn't planning it. But the main goal was a quick ride where we just tried to remember how to go, steer and stop. We managed this in about 5 minutes and I decided that was good for the day.

On Tuesday I brought Cisco in after Phantom, which is opposite to the normal routine. Pony Grandma was feeding her while I brought him in. Well, attempting to feed her, because she wouldn't eat since she still had the bute taste in her mouth. Cisco quite happily ate what Phantom did not. And then he lost his brain a little when she went out and he had to stay in.

When I lunged him, he started off pretty relaxed. The other horse in the arena left, and Cisco had a very short hissy fit. It only lasted a few strides, and was kind of cute in a he's-trying-to-be-bad-but-doesn't-really-know-how way.

Again, he wasn't very good at the mounting block, so I'll do some work on that. When he was going before he had just started to get pretty solid when I was getting on.
Like this, but with me wearing 10 more layers of clothing.

We stuck to just a walk again for about 15 minutes. Steering was great, most of the time I didn't have to really think about it. The halt transitions were better than the previous day, but still take more hand and a few more steps than I would like. The forward- no issue from Speedy Gonzales. And he settled in nicely and relaxed (mostly) after the first few minutes.

Next ride we'll get back to the trot.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

All Tied Up

This year, I decided to be cheap not give Phantom the Chaste Tree Berries that I have put her on for the last four years after Christmas. Apparently, that was a bad decision.

Phantom has a history of tying up. She did it for about 3 years in a row, only between January and April. The rest of the year there were no indications of any issues.

I never figured out why or what triggered the episodes. During that spring period, she might tie up only a couple of times, but I would sometimes see a bit of stiffness behind after riding, just not full out not wanting to move. It would last for the first few steps after standing and then she would walk out of it.

I had bloodwork done on her once (a couple of days after an episode) and she came back high on two minerals - one was selenium, the other was copper or zinc - can't remember. Lack of selenium and vitamin e is one thing that can cause it, but that apparently wasn't her problem.

Since it appeared to be a seasonal thing, I always wondered if it was hormone related. I had asked this of at least two different vets, who both told me that hormones aren't usually related to tying up, and at that time of year they aren't really in strong heat cycles anyways.

But I decided one year to go with my gut and try a supplement that was geared towards hormones. Red raspberry leaves was ideally what I wanted, but I couldn't find a supply of it that wasn't super expensive in Canada. So I tried Chaste Tree berries.

And that first year, we had no issues with tying up.

I only gave the supplement to her for the spring. Then next year, after Christmas, I used it again. And continued for about 4 years with the same routine, and didn't have any problems with tying up at all.

I've never confirmed that the Chaste Tree berries have cured her tying up. It could all be coincidental, and not at all be related. So this year, when I went to order the supplement, I decided I would not use it. Why? Because it went up in price. By quite a bit - almost 50% more expensive than the last time I bought it.

The last couple of times that I have ridden Phantom I have been wondering if I have been seeing subtle signs of tying up once again. Really, the only symptom that I have seen is that she keeps stopping when I am leading after riding. She has been walking with big steps behind, and no problems walking off after standing for a while. Obviously, I'm just being overly paranoid.


Tonight, during my ride, I had a feeling it was coming. On one of our walk breaks she walked around with her nose on the ground, like if she wanted to roll. Totally uncharacteristic of her.
My face was cold during my ride tonight.
Then, on the last trot set that we were doing, she just didn't feel the same as she had earlier. I can't really describe what I felt, just that it was different. So I brought her back to walk and decided to call it a day.

She walked a bit pokey, but wasn't too bad. I decided to hop off and hand walk her for a bit.

So I jumped down, loosened her girth, and asked her to walk forward. And she crossed her front legs for the first couple of steps.

We walked straight over to the barn. I knew what was coming.

I gave her some bute and let her chill loose in the barn aisle. She wasn't going anywhere.

She would shift her front feet around without moving the back feet so that she could reposition herself. Mostly to try to knock blankets off the stalls. It took over an hour to get her to walk into the stall she was going to stay in overnight. I wasn't pushing her, I wanted to wait until she was ready.
Pony jail for the night. She be pissed in the morning!

So she is staying in for the night, and if all is well will be turned out Tuesday morning. If not I will use one of my lieu days at work and get the vet to come out. Every other time this has happened she has been okay by the next morning, so I am hoping her history repeats itself.

And first thing on Wednesday morning I am going to pick up some more Chaste Tree Berries. I don't care how expensive they are!

Monday 22 January 2018

A Boring Weekend

My weekend didn't go as planned. I had great hopes to ride each day.

Friday night I got out of work late, and had to make about 3 stops on my way home. So I didn't get home until 7pm, and by that time I didn't have it in me to have a late night at the barn.

I did ride on Saturday night! Another quick, easy ride on Phantom, and Cisco was twirled on the lunge line. Both ponies were good, with nothing exciting to report.
Good pony.

I had great plans on Sunday. I had two lessons to teach in the morning, then home for lunch, pick up Pony Grandma, and out to the barn with plans to hop on Cisco for the first time in 2+ months. Then home with time to actually cook dinner and have a relaxed evening.

On my drive out to the barn to teach person #1, she sent me a text message that the arena was being used by a dog training group. They usually meet out at my current barn, which is owned by the person who also manages the barn that I teach at. But next week there is a clinic at that barn, so they rescheduled to the other barn. And no one else was notified.
The helmet ear warmers are working great. Except that I can't hear my watch beep for the intervals when I'm riding Phantom. Thankfully it vibrates as well!
I managed to reschedule person #2 to start an hour later after the dogs were to be done. But person #1 understandably did not want to hang around for another hour and a half to ride.

So now my day was running later than planned. I went home and had lunch, and just could not warm up. When the time came to be heading out to the barn, I just didn't want to. I was chilled, grumpy, and after sitting on the couch for an hour under a blanket, ready for a nap. So I stayed home.

I did one thing for the ponies while at home - I made them some cookies. I had found a simple recipe on Facebook that I wanted to try. I'll post a review once my product samplers get to sample the product.
They look like cheese biscuits, but they're not.

The weather this week is supposed to be pretty good, I don't have any plans and I have an extra day off, so I'm planning to get lots of pony time in.

Friday 19 January 2018

The Princess

What am I up to with Phantom, you ask?
Not getting enough treats. Nope. Not acceptable.

She has had most of the last 4 months off. Of course, there were the two months of me working nights that I didn't bother to try to ride. But before that, there were a couple of months where she had a cough. There's a good chance she has a bit of heaves starting, but I think it's somewhat seasonal, and her bad time is late summer/early fall. It could be somewhat allergy related also.

So I'm taking my time and plan to focus on fitness more so than schooling. I wear a Garmin running watch when I ride, and have downloaded interval training programs to it. We've had a whole 3 rides since the beginning of November, two of them this week. So I'm starting at the beginning.

This week's intervals are 5 repetitions of 2 minutes of trot and 2 minutes of walk, after 10 minutes of walk to warm up. Next week will be 3 minutes of trot/4 minutes of walk for 4 repetitions, then the next week will be 4 minutes of trot/3 minutes of walk x 4. From there I'll increase the minutes of trot each week, and start to add in some canter.
Because I'm in a Coverall arena the GPS kicks in. Note the lack of circles. Remember - not schooling!

That's the current plan. It will work if I can ride at least 3 times a week, and we still have a couple months of inconsistent weather to get through.
Our invervals. Obviously not speedy!

This is also contingent on her cough/breathing. She has coughed a couple of times during each of the last two rides, but we haven't cantered, and that is when she is usually worse.

I'm going to see how it goes. If she doesn't seem to coping very well with the gradual build up of work then I will have to break down and get her looked at and on some sort of medication.

Of course, the other thing that can stall fitness is soundness. Phantom does have some arthritis in her hocks, and generally gets them injected in April or May every year. By the end of February I can usually start to feel that she's starting to get a bit uncomfortable.

In winter, there is also the Pea factor. As in, the Princess and the Pea.

Phantom very much dislikes being uncomfortable. She quite happily expresses her opinion when she deems things unacceptable.
Cashel Fly Mask - acceptable

The first time that the Pea factor came into play, was a cold day in winter a couple of days before I was trailering out with a friend for a lesson with a dressage instructor who was new to me. I groomed, tacked up, and hopped on. Onto a horse who was not sound. Seemingly everywhere in her body.

I jumped down and threw her on the lunge line to see what was going on. And got to watch her do a huge trot and gallop around me with glee. The same horse who was crab walking very slowly when I was on her.
Lunge line converter - not acceptable

I tried again a couple of days later. Same thing - it was a cold day, she was fine when she walked in, I got on, and she felt horrible. My friend who is a vet tech watched her and said "I see it right front... right hind... now left front.".

After her reaction on the lunge line last time, I figured she's not really lame. She's just not comfortable about something. Our tack was all the same that we usually used. So let's look at her feet.
This clip on a noseband? Not acceptable.
I hopped off and grabbed a hoof pick. Now, because it was so cold, the snow and ice in her foot was frozen solid. When I was getting ready I admittedly hadn't gotten it all out because it was just too frozen. But this time I made sure to get the bottom of those hooves completely cleaned. Then I hopped back on.

And she felt great.

Yep, she had too much snow and ice on her feet. And could not be expected to be ridden in that condition.

So now I know that before I ride in winter I have to pick her feet out completely. I occasionally miss an ice pellet, and everytime I have to get off and find that spot, and she's completely fine afterwards. Princess and the Pea that she is.
Le Tixerant Dressage Girth - best thing ever!

This only applies under saddle mind you. If I just pop her in the arena for a play, there is absolutely no sign of lameness despite me not picking her feet out first.

On my last two rides, she wasn't quite right. On the first ride it was the right front, on the second, the left front. Not lame, just a bit up on that shoulder. I have a sneaking suspicion that I missed some snow from under the rim snow pads she has on. So I tried to pretend it wasn't there. She'll let me know if I'm wrong.

(Other Princess and the Pea moments include the time I cleaned her bridle and forgot to put the cheekpieces back onto the winter holes instead of the summer holes to accomodate the extra fluffitude. Two super tense rides later I figured it out. There was the first couple of rides in her new PS of Sweden bridle, that had a clip on the noseband. She went with her head tipped for the whole ride. She loves the Cashel fly masks, any other one I try she removes within 24 hours. I won't mention girths.)

Wednesday 17 January 2018

1 1/2 Steps Forward

Tuesday night start off much more promising than the previous day for Cisco. There were no hijinks happening in the field, so he came into the barn very relaxed, and stayed that way as we made our way into the arena.

There were a couple of new horses in the arena when we entered. The neighbour was riding one and had another one tied at the end (in the scary end). Cisco did his normal attempt to drag me over to try to make new friends, but otherwise didn't really lose his brain. About the horses at least. He was still spooking at everything at that end of the arena.
Redonkulously cute nose of the mini in the stall Cisco was tied in front of while we were getting ready.

But I had come prepared for groundwork.  I asked him to lower his head as we walked at that end, and he got a click and a treat when he did it. This helped him focus and the stuff down there wasn't quite as scary as it had been before. Still somewhat scary, just not as bad.

I lunged him at the good end, which was my plan all along because I just wanted him to relax for once. But since I had the clicker (and treats), could he learn something on the lunge?

The plan was to click when he dropped his head and softened the underside of his neck at a trot. It didn't take too long for him to offer it the first time. Click, whoa, treat, back out. After a couple more times, I could see that he was really thinking. Unfortunately, my lack of coordination meant that while trying to hold a clicker and a whip or lunge line in the same hand meant that I missed a couple of chances to reward him, and he gave up really easily when I didn't instantly reward him. Then it took a few more circles before he would drop his nose again, and I could click. I did see some wheels turning in his brain, and I think he was starting to get the idea.

The relaxation continued into a bit of canter on the lunge. As in, this was probably the most relaxed I've ever seen him canter. And I don't know if I liked it! His stride was longer, but he was kind of on his forehand and the rhythm was weird. I didn't want to take away from the relaxed mode but inside I was screaming "more forward".
Eating his noms.

After lunging I actually fed him for once (don't worry - he's far from starving). He normally doesn't get anything except hay, and well, a bunch couple of treats. In another attempt to make the scary end the good end, I had brought a bucket of food into the arena before I worked with him, so after I was done working Cisco I hung the bucket up on the gate. And left him alone down there.

He ate (of course!) and stood there until the bucket was empty. He looked around as he was chewing but didn't seem too stressed. I figured that as soon as he was done he would come flying back to me at the other end - which he did. (By flying back I mean trot real fast.)
Chewing his noms and giving everything at the end the side -eye.

This night was the most relaxed I had seen him in a while. If I had thought it would gone that well it would have been a good night for the first ride back. But after the last couple of days I totally did not anticipate he would be that quiet. Hopefully this will continue over the weekend, when I do plan to get on him, but I can't get out the next two days so I might be starting from scratch again. Thankfully the forecast is looking much better so I can hopefully be more consistent for the next bit.

And Three Steps Backwards

Le sigh. I got my hopes up that my few clicker sessions had cured Cisco of his terror in the scary end of the arena. Stupid me.

Tuesday started well. I found my chaps, and the missing black Micklem bridle and black rubber lined reins that I couldn't figure out where I had placed. I still don't know where my balaclava-helmet cover thingee is - the bin that I thought had the helmet cover is where I found a bunch of leather strapwork that I totally don't remember putting in that bin.
It wasn't quite this full when I first opened it, but I found more to add to it while looking for a couple of other things.
I arrived at the barn and made sure my chaps sort of fit and went out to catch Cisco. I walked out of the barn and saw all of the horses in his field running around like idiots. No idea why. So I waited until they had calmed down before going through the gate to catch him.
The tail end of the lunacy outside. I wonder who the instigator was...

When I brought him in he was still a bit up, and spooking at everything on his way in. I tacked him up in a surcingle, bridle and cavesson, as the plan was to lunge then long line to remind him that he knows how to steer.

The hamsters in his brain were still spinning on their wheel on the walk over to the arena. There was someone else riding when we entered, and she was riding at the scary end. I took Cisco down there to twirl him for a few minutes and he was totally opposite from the day before. Spooky, bolty, head up, wanting to get the f out of there. And that was with another horse riding around him. Ugh.

We stayed down there lunging for a bit until it got a bit better. I think part of the problem was that it was a bit windy outside, and there were a few creaky noises coming from some vents. That and being up from running around outside.

The other person left just as I was getting ready to long line. He was a bit of a twit while I was getting him set up, but surprisingly good once we got going. He steered really well, he mostly stopped when I wanted, he was a bit mouthy with the bit but wasn't rooting down. It went better than I hoped (and expected).

That was it for him. He got swapped out for the feminine grey model.

Phantom is a little, um, Rubenesque. Her normal girth is a very stretchy Le Tixerant girth that she is quite happy with. Because it is so stretchy, I usually can only get it on the bottom couple of holes when I put the saddle on, and then tighten it to about the 5th hole on each side. Today, I put it on the bottom hole on the right, and tried to pull it up on the left. Wasn't going to happen.

So I grabbed the Pro-Lite girth I picked up for Cisco to go with the new, still-to-come short flap saddle (hopefully arriving within the next week or so). It fit, probably a size bigger than ideal, but it would work.
I wasn't sure she would like it, but no complaints.

The bad thing about this girth is that there is no elastic. And since I'm so short, I have a really hard time tightening a dressage girth while I'm in the saddle (I'm a pro with a long girth). So through most of my ride I kept slipping to the right. Oops.
Time to do something with that mane.

But overall Phantom was pretty good through the ride. I'm starting her back lightly, using a interval training type of program. I have a running watch that I have downloaded a couple of workouts to so it's nice and easy.
The temperature in the arena was just under 0.

I was dressed okay for my ride - long johns, winter fleece breeches, chaps, a long sleeve merino base layer shirt, a fleece hoody, my helmet with the ear warmers in, and a neck warmer that I could pull up around my jawline. I was comfortable through the ride, but cold afterwards.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

Hug Your Pony Today

We had a tough day at the barn yesterday. We lost a horse to the dreaded twisted gut.

In the 3 years she owned him, Leo took his teenage owner from starting over itty bitty jumps to winning a pre-training event this past summer. He was almost 7 years old. His family will be heartbroken over the sudden loss.

I hope Leo is in a big grassy field, with lots of space to gallop and all the fence posts to crib on that he wants.

Remember to hug your ponies. These fragile creatures sometimes leave our lives far sooner than we want them to.

Monday 15 January 2018

First Step to Riding Again

The weather has finally changed for the better. Another 30 degree shift in less than 48 hours meant that Saturday afternoon we hit a beautiful 0 degrees celsius. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day.

And I was stuck inside at work until dark.

I made it out to the barn in the evening to let the ponies loose in the arena with the thought of getting rid of the sillies before getting a few rides in over the next few days. Phantom of course totally obliged, and had a couple of good spurts of speed with a whole lotta head tossing and joyous rollkur through the downward transitions. She's going to put her neck out one day.

I was hoping that Cisco would be happy to zoom around as he goes back to work this week. Despite the fact that he was super spooky in the barn and on the way to the arena, once in there he was pretty chill. We did some more work with the clicker and treats at the scary end and he hung out for a bit down there checking things out and sniffing the ground (significant improvement). When I finally decided to chase him a bit, I literally had to chase him. He was not overly ambitious at all.

Cisco got fig cookies for the first time. By the 4th cookie, he decided that he liked them.

The forecast for Sunday kept getting colder as the week went on. On the morning of, it was supposed to be not too bad in the morning at about -9, but get colder through the afternoon. I had a lesson to teach in the morning, so by the time I got out to the barn it was about -13, with a windchill of -17. I decided that I was just going to lunge Cisco in tack. I was cold after standing while teaching and was not wanting to do more than one horse. 

I haven't tacked Cisco up with a saddle and bridle since the beginning of November. So I'm trying to be smart about getting ready to hop back on him again. (Unlike the Bad Eventer!)

Sunday was lunge in a saddle and bridle day. He was a twit coming into the barn, super spooky again, and was a twit about standing while getting tacked up. I'm sure it took like 4 minutes to do up his noseband as it was head up/head down the whole time. But we eventually made it into the arena.

I decided to lunge down in the scary end. Mostly because there were too many poles set up in the happy end and I was too lazy didn't want to move them.

The work that I have been doing with the clicker training in the scary end has paid off. There were a couple of pigeons on the fence down there that were a bit scary as they flew around, but Cisco was so much better than he was last fall. He still looked and cranked his head to the outside and dropped his shoulder in, and there was one spooky bolt, but he kept going forward, and for the most part did so in a relaxed manner. He seems to be getting much better about continuing to go forward when worried, instead of stopping and just immediately saying "nope".

I was super happy with how he lunged. Hopefully the clicker work will cross over when I am sitting on his back.

Tomorrow - long lining in the hopes that he remembers how to steer.

Thursday 11 January 2018

I'm Not Horsing Today


Tomorrow isn't looking good either.

I have tomorrow off. Maybe I'll clean my house?

Naw - pretty sure it will be a Netflix day.

(It's supposed to be much better this weekend - just need to get through tomorrow.)

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Snow Suit Season

I have one more busy day at work, and then things slow down a bit and I can get some riding in. Except that the weather isn't cooperating.

We are under a snowfall warning. Starting in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, we are expecting 10-20 cm of snow by the end of Tuesday. That's 4-8 inches. I appreciate that it's not nearly as much as the east coast has gotten recently. But also blowing in with this snow is the cold. The temperature drops through Tuesday, and the high between Wednesday and Friday is forecasted to be -22 celsius. Lows in the -30's. Way too cold to ride.

I trudged out to the barn on Monday night to dress the kids up in their snowsuits. They both got a liner added to their blankets, and since they have partially nekkid necks, I also added hoods.

Pony Grandma did a fantastic job of tailoring Cisco's hood to fit him better. It no longer looks like a turtleneck.
What it looks like now.

What it looked like before.

And that was it for my visit. Other than the obligatory cookies, of course. Quick visit in the hope I could get to bed early.

I just realized I should have brought some tack home to clean. Oops. Maybe I will just curl up on the couch on Wednesday (my day off) and watch some of the footage from the Horsemastership clinics on USEF Network and learn something. That, or binge something new on Netflix.

Monday 8 January 2018

Yay! A Ride!

Yay! I rode my horse!

On Friday night I hopped on Phantom for the first time in two months. It was a super short ride, because I needed to be able to walk the next day, but hey, it was time in the saddle!

I hopped on and she was ready to go. I had hoped to do some lateral work on a long rein as part of my warm-up at a walk, but as soon as I touched her with my leg or asked her to flex laterally she was all "I trot now" and would jog. Once we got the first trot out of the way she was okay to walk.
Phantom managed to snag herself a snack as I was leading her to the arena. It hung out of her mouth for the whole ride. Also, note the amount of fluffitude.

She felt pretty good - a little stiff to start, but worked out of it quite quickly. We did a few short trots, mainly just working on not dropping her right shoulder when I changed direction. I threw in a couple of leg yields both ways, she started to reach forward and down, and I called it a day. She gave me a good effort, and I couldn't feel my thighs anymore due to the cold.
After we untacked, she spit out the hay and wouldn't eat it. It was too slobbery.

I'm going to have to figure out how to dress for riding this winter. It was only -9 celsius. I had merino wool long johns under my breeches, and the front of my thighs were freezing pretty early in the ride. I've been scouting online for winter breeches, but I also have that no-spend thing I'm working on. I have my old full chaps somewhere in my garage, so I think I'll have to dig them out.

Her forelock is a bit ridiculous - her fly mask in the summer rubs most of it out, so it grows back super fluffy in the winter.
It will probably be the end of the week again before I manage to get in another ride. The first part of the week I'll be very busy with work, then the weather changes again and we're in for a short deep freeze again.
I think it was about +3 today. Gotta love the 30 degree difference in 3 or 4 days that we get on the Prairies.

Oh- and the owl appears to be getting braver. He's flying a bit lower when there are horses and people in the arena - the person who was in the arena before me said he seemed to be just above the jump standards. He wasn't quite that low when he flew around when I rode, but seeing a large bird soaring above you as you are riding is a bit disconcerting! And rather cool!