Wednesday 28 February 2018

Nothing Exciting

I've done great with getting some miles in the saddle over the last week. I've ridden 6 out of 7 days, and should be good to get rides in today, making it 7 out of 8. I don't know the last time that I rode that consistently. The main reason is that the weather has been nicer - around 0 C during the days. Evenings cool off pretty fast, so although I have had plans to ride both horses on a couple of evenings, I'm so cold after the first horse that I have no desire to ride again. So Cisco has had 4 rides, and Phantom 3.

The rides haven't been at all exciting.

I was hoping to get some more canter in on Cisco over the weekend. But there was always a bunch of stuff going on that he wasn't quite as settled as I would have liked.

Sometime on Saturday, the motorized overhead door into the arena died, in a half open position. So it was really cold in the arena when I rode that evening. And when someone arrived and attempted to bring their horse over to the arena, the noises were rather distracting to Cisco. No major hijinks on his part, he just wasn't very settled. That was also the night that we were having some issues staying straight.

When I arrived to ride on Sunday, there were lessons on the go with people who had hauled in. I decided to ride Phantom first figuring that by the time I was then ready to ride Cisco the lessons would be done. But nope - as I was bringing him in another trailer arrived. This one had a couple of kids riding in an evaluation lesson. I rode during their lesson, but again, not a time to try a canter that probably can't be steered.

Cisco's not really bad through all of this, just distracted. He just wants to make friends with all the new horses that he hasn't met yet. The worst things he does are trot quicker, and bulge towards the other horses through the turns. Pretty minor and will go away with some miles.

The video clips are typical as to how the rides are going. Nothing exciting - no breakthroughs, no really bad moments. Just a green horse who needs some consistent miles.

Tuesday 27 February 2018

So Not Straight

Cisco was ridden on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I think these were rides 6,7 & 8 for this year on him. And only somewhere in the mid-30 rides overall.

The problem that has cropped up this week is straightness. Rather, our lack of it.

We are having two different problems. One - through a transition (up or down). The other - being able to stay on the track down the long side without dropping the shoulder to the inside. Now, it's only been the last few rides that when we have halted he hasn't needed to take a step back to balance himself. So I'm pretty sure the transitions will be related to balance and will improve significantly with some more miles.

The going straight up the long side issue - this week he has kind of figured out how to drop a shoulder to the inside, and has been starting his turns earlier than ideal using this method. So then we end up going around the short side of the arena with his head turned to the outside in my feeble attempt to steer, and this sets us up for a crappy, wiggly long side.
Can't stay straight!

He still doesn't understand moving laterally off of leg, so leg yielding, which would be the obvious fix, ain't happening.
Dropping that shoulder before the turn.

I decided to do the exercise where you trot straight into a corner, halt, then turn out and do the same in the next corner. Every once in a while I would have him turn into the wall and change direction just to keep him on his toes.

It totally worked. I mean, it took a few repetitions. And some of the halts (through walk) were ugly. But late in the ride we were able to ride deep corners without dropping the inside shoulder, and because our corners were better, we were able to stay straight down the long side.

I do have to get onto teaching him to move away from my leg though. His steering is generally quite good, and I can keep my hands very quiet when I want to turn or circle. And I think he has some understanding of leg with the steering. Until something distracts him, then he forgets everything.
 One whole step of turn on the forehand.

I'm going to try to ramp up the turn on the forehand and leg yields over the next few rides. By which I mean - ask for like 3 steps of leg yield, and maybe a whole 4 of leg yield. Since we can barely get one step of either at this point, I think that's a good goal to start with.

Monday 26 February 2018

It Was A Good Weekend

The weather finally warmed up slightly. I managed to ride each day over the weekend, and even had Pony Grandma take video. Unfortunately I also worked all weekend , and didn't get home each night until after 10 pm, so you are going to have to wait to see how unexciting my boring rides on Cisco are going.

I also had a call from the tack store that someone had made an offer on a saddle I have on consignment there. It's been there for 6 months so I was happy to accept. I'm really hoping it all goes through. Now I don't feel so bad about buying the Equisense.

Last night I rigged up a strap with a surcingle buckle on Cisco's hood. Hopefully this will be horse proof and it will stay done up. We'll find out through the week!

Hopefully I can get the video edited tonight and have lots of footage of a green horse in an awkward frame to regale you with for the rest of the week.

Friday 23 February 2018

New Toy Ordered

I have no willpower.

I ordered the Equisense Motion.
I totally admit that I'm a geek who loves spreadsheets. I wear a Garmin running watch as my everyday watch. It tracks my steps, sleep, and I use it when I ride, to either track my time/distance, or for interval training. I don't actually run (I go through stages when I try to be a runner, which my brain likes, but my body hates).
These were all my own steps. No riding steps this week.

When I found out that there was something like my running watch but for my horse, I wanted it. And the more that I read about the other people who have one and use it to track data, the more that I wanted it. 

I want to start getting data at the beginning of Cisco's training to see the differences that happen over time. I'm curious as to when he halts and I feel like I'm going to slide off the back of the saddle, is there really elevation there?

I want to make sure that I'm doing 100 transitions per ride. (Does it measure transitions within the gait, or only between gaits?)

I am hoping that I can use it as a tool to help me figure out if Phantom is having issues related to tying up. It will be interesting to see if there is a difference in her synchronicity and elevation after she gets her annual hock injections in the spring. 

It's coming from France - and it's supposed to be here in a week. In the meantime, I'll be creeping everyone's blog posts about the Equisense. I've already joined the Facebook page and read the instructions - I'll be ready to use it when it arrives!

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Still Cold

There hasn't been too much happening over here in Gray Flannel Horse Land. For the last week it's been fairly chilly - not the nostrils freezing shut as soon as you step outside cold, more the I just don't want to have to get bundled up after I get home from work kind of cold. The actual temperature has been hovering around my definitely not going to ride temperature of -15C, and there's always a windchill added to that.

On the news last night they were saying we only had 2 days in February that it got above the freezing mark. That's it, just 2. I'm pretty sure I had to work on one of them, and it rained on the other one. I know February isn't over yet, but for the next 14 days, it isn't looking like that number is going to get higher.

It's supposed to get nicer starting tomorrow - close to 0C, but not quite past it. So I'm going to try my best to ride 4 days in a row. Fingers crossed!

Note that the ponies haven't started shedding yet so they are obviously convinced that they live in the Arctic and are now polar ponies. I won't believe spring is coming until I see gobs of hair coming off.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

I'm Gonna Learn Him

The weather was all over the place last week. Sunday was freezing cold, with a high about -18C. It warmed up on Tuesday to a balmy +3C. Unfortunately this also brought rain, which was left sitting on top of the snow. So any road that has snow on it is now a skating rink, because the temperatures dropped the next day. It started off pretty nice in the morning but the temperature plummeted throughout the day. By the time that I made it out to the barn in the evening it was -17C, with the windchill much colder. Just walking out to catch a horse left no feeling in my thighs due to the cold.

I wasn't up to riding, but had to bring each horse in - one had to be fed, the other needed his hood replaced. So I figured I would do some clicker training in the barn.
Wet, hairy face.

Phantom has done a bunch, and it was just a refresher session for her. Tapping her legs with the whip to have her lift them, then we worked on having her take a step with her hind legs to have them under her more and a bit closer to her front legs.

She loves clicker training and is highly motivated to figure out what I want.

Cisco is not.

At least with this type of work. The goal for the day was to get him to lift a hind leg when it was tapped. I have only tried this once before with him, and got no reaction. This time I was determined to make some progress.
It's too hard to take pictures while holding onto a clicker, a whip, treats, and a horse. So instead I offer you a headless horse pic.

After what felt like 3 or 4 minutes of tapping and getting absolutely no reaction, I decided I would have to spell it out to him. While tapping, I leaned over and squeezed his leg like I do when I want to pick his hooves. Then he got the click and treat. I did this a couple of times, and started to see smoke coming out of his ears - he was thinking. Until he got distracted by something shiny down the barn aisle.

I then progressed to tap tap tap nudge his hip to get him to pick up his foot. A little less direct, but still spelling it out. This seemed to help him start to put the pieces together. Very slowly.

There was some definite progress made, and it got to the point that he would lift his right hind when I tapped more often than not. Not immediately mind you, but within a few taps.
What happened to my head??!?

I debated on whether I should start on the left side or not. I decided that I would, partly because I was curious as to whether what we had done on the right side would cross over to the left. It didn't.

I'm going to do another session within the next couple of days to see how he responds. I haven't figured out how he learns yet - does he need a night to think about it and he'll come out better the second time? Does it take multi-sessions for him to start putting the pieces together? Does he not give a crap about wanting to work with and please his person? (I don't think it's this - he really likes people.)

I'm trying to find the activity that makes it click in his brain and then gives him incentive to try to figure out whatever the new thing is that I introduce him to. Phantom has always been very motivated and engaged. Cisco hasn't shown that yet for this type of work, but has in other work, so I just need to find that one thing that puts it together for him. The next thing I'm going to try is kicking a ball. Phantom loved that one, and I think Cisco will once he figures it out. I just have to figure out where in the arena I can keep an exercise ball so that the dogs can't get at it.

Monday 19 February 2018

To Register or Not To Register?

I've kind of casually looked into registering Cisco with the International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association. He can be registered as a Half Andalusian. It's the kind of thing that I've looked at, priced out, tried to figure out if it would be worth it, and decided it wasn't. And then this weekend I saw a Facebook posting that for the next four months they are having a reduced price on registrations. So if I really want to do it, now is the time.

He was bred by a friend of mine, so I know I can get her to sign off on the papers. The stallion owner is somewhat local and still active, so I don't anticipate any issues there.

I believe it would cost me $160 US (membership for me, registration fee, DNA kit fee).

But why do I want it?

Will I ever show him in anything to get points? No idea. There is a big Andalusian show every year about 2 hours away, so I could go if I so desired. His balls were knocked off many years ago, so there's no chance of any little Cisco's ever needing to be registered.

I think it's because in my mind Andalusians are still not an overly common breed, so it's a bit of proof. You know, of his majikal unicorn pony bloodlines.
Because he is 25% real unicorn.

I've got a couple of months to decide before I would need to get my butt in gear and get the paperwork submitted.

The other thing I would need to decide before sending the registration in is a name. As in a proper show name type of name.

Cisco is a bit too simple. Great for an everyday name, but for showing I would want something fancier. And I would like to incorporate Cisco into it. And maybe keep it Spanish.

Unfortunately, my Spanish sucks. Like, I can mostly count to 10 and that's about it.

So I have asked Google for suggestions. So far the winner is Meter Cisco - which means to make trouble. It seems fitting.
That is supposed to be a hood. On his neck.

Note the innocent face. 

If anybody has any other suggestions, I would love to hear them!

Friday 16 February 2018

Old Timey Photos

Another thing that I got really into at one point was genealogy. I love putting together a bunch of puzzle pieces to discover some long lost information about my ancestors (they were all pretty well peasants and farmers. There's no blue blood running through my veins.).

A few years ago I had a response to an inquiry I had listed on a genealogy bulletin board searching for information on Heuchert's in Saskatchewan. A lady asked if I was related to a Daniel and Katherine Heuchert. Yes, I am - they are my great, great, great grandparents. Well, she had pictures with their names on the back, and she would like them to get back to the family - would I like them? Of course I wanted them!

My great, great great grandparents, around 1905.

It's kind of a neat story as to how I ended up with these pictures - the lady who contacted me -I think her name was Linda - originally lived in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her neighbour was an older lady whose surname was Schmidt. A Schmidt had married a Heuchert, which is where the family connection comes in. When Mrs. Schmidt passed away, Linda accumulated some of her possessions. At some point Linda, who is an artist, moved to New Zealand. She was doing some work for an exhibit she was giving and was going through some old photos and found these photos. A few had names on them, so she was able to search on the internet and came across my post. Thanks to her kindness, the photos were sent to me from New Zealand.

There were only a few photos that had names on them, so I know where they fit in the family tree. Unfortunately, the Schmidt/Heuchert line is not my direct line of descent (Schmidt married the son of the brother of my Great Great Grandfather) so I have no clue who most of the pictures are of.

Along with the pictures were a whole bunch of negatives. I think they were taken during the 1930's and 40's, maybe even a few in the 20's. And some are pretty cool because they show some farm life from that time. Unfortunately, their condition is not always fantastic, and my photo editing skills are pretty non-existent. But were some hidden gems in there. Especially the pictures that had horses in them.
Hanging off the side of a horse.

Some farm life pictures.

More pigs!

Winter on the prairies.

Note the window coverings of the car.

Proud of his tractor.
Harvest time. A lot of these were in the worst condition of the bunch.

That's a dog in the foreground on the right.

And just some random shots that amuse me.
Maybe I shouldn't complain about the cold and snow so much.

Not sure if the coyote is alive or dead.

Cowboys go to town.

The family did own a gas station at one point. 

Wednesday 14 February 2018

We Cantered! On Purpose!

I finally had the first official canter on Cisco!

After lunging him in the scary end, which went well, I hopped on. He was walking nicely forward, and walked even more forward when another horse came into the arena. But only at a walk. Having a buddy in the ring with him chilled him out when we picked up a trot. Forward (or lack of it) was a bit of an issue at that gait.

Or at least until he spooked (at something behind him in the scary end of course) and he scooted forward at a canter, on his left lead. It was in control, his head was up, I wasn't too out of balance, so I rode it forward like it was no big deal. I'm pretty sure his left lead is going to be the tougher lead, so I figured I would go with it.
Who was a superstar? This guy!!
That scoot used up all his energy and he went back to chill, poky pony again. Bear in mind that this was only about the fourth ride since he had almost 3 months off, so I'm not really complaining about quiet. And for once it was actually almost warm out (by warm I mean above the freezing mark. Just above.) so maybe that contributed to less oomph than normal.

I wasn't really planning on asking for a canter today. But since he had cantered earlier in the spook with no stupidity, and there was another horse in the arena to babysit him, and he was pretty chill, I thought, what the hell. With the lack of forward I wasn't sure I would get it, but let's see what happens.

First attempt along the short side - kissed, nudged, rushed him forward - he kind of went WTF? and stuck his head up and trotted faster. Not crazy fast of course - that would take too much energy.

So we regrouped, came around to the same short side, and I kissed, nudged and rushed him forward - and I could feel that it was coming - don't give up - and we're cantering!!

The first canter was only a few strides before he fell out of it. Lots of scratches and good boy's.
And lots of carrots to go with the scritches.
Since that didn't go terribly, I needed to try again. Same thing - on the short side, kiss, nudge, rush -  he picked it up much earlier than the previous time. I encouraged him to canter a wee bit longer before coming back to trot. Lots of scratches.

That was it! And it was no big deal.

How did it feel? Pretty comfy. Pretty balanced. His head was up - not in a terrible, giraffe way, but in an I don't really understand way.
And then I did this to him. Hopefully he doesn't buck me off on our next ride!
No media unfortunately - Pony Grandma was pretty far away from my phone and I hadn't planned this so didn't think ahead. The good news is that I found our video camera, and Pony Grandma is great at recording video of my riding, so hopefully I remember to charge it for my next ride and I can see how it looks.

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Tried Out the New Saddle

Remember how I said it was supposed to be warming up this week?
The bottom of the screen was supposed to be this past Sunday.
Yeah, that's not happening.
The top was what Sunday ended up being. Just a wee bit different.

I mean, it's slightly warmer during the day (before the wind chill is added). But those nights are still pretty chilly.

The one day in the two week forecast that is supposed to be super nice is Tuesday. So last minute I decided to use up a couple more lieu days and take Monday and Tuesday off (added to my normal Sunday and Wednesday) and enjoy the "nice" weather. 

It took a while on Monday afternoon to get as warm as it was going to get. Which still didn't feel all that warm. But I was determined to get in a ride on my new saddle. 
Phantom's hoping for cookies. There were none. 
Cisco got the trial run. I lunged him first since he hasn't been ridden in two weeks (I think). He wore his new/used Prolite girth, which he seemingly had no complaints about. He was pretty good for the short time I was on him - short because my short stirrup leathers were still too long. And they could only go one hole shorter.

I'm going to have to take them in and see if I can get them shortened. 

I tacked Phantom up for another short ride, the first since she tied up back in January. I was just planning on a mainly walk ride, with a little bit of trot thrown in to see how her body reacted. She also got to wear a new belt - a Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec girth. No comments from her on the first ride, I'll have to give her a few rides to let her decide if she likes it.
That's me - bundled up, but still cold.
I tried to swap out the treads on the new stirrup irons to the wedge ones I like before riding, but they don't fit easily. I'll have to take my Dremel tool to them and customize them somewhat. So when I rode, I just had the standard flat treads in the stirrups. And man, were my knees sore after riding! Not a usual problem for me. 

Other than the stirrup length, the saddle felt fine. It felt just like my old one did, which was what I wanted. Once I get the stirrups sorted out, it should be all good.

Monday 12 February 2018

It's Here!

On Friday afternoon I had an unexpected notification that I had a parcel at the post office to be picked up - my new treeless saddle!

It's been about a 4 1/2 month wait for this saddle. I think it was actually ready at the beginning of January but the saddle pads were delayed in arriving. I hadn't received any notice that it had shipped so it was a bit of a surprise.

It is a shortened flap Sensation dressage saddle.

You will note that the stirrups attach mid-flap. One concern with treeless saddles is how to spread the rider's weight from the stirrups. The Sensation saddles recommended way is to have your stirrup leather attach to the bottom of the flap, which distributes the weight over the length of the flap versus a stirrup bar at the top that can create a pressure point. However, I'm too short to use this method. This mid-flap attachment is a discontinued method of distributing the weight, and they offered to do my saddle up with this feature. It got good reviews when I asked on a Facebook forum so I decided to try it.

A fixed stirrup leather means that I need to rethink my stirrup irons. I had a hard time deciding on safety stirrups, and settled on these Icelandic stirrups. They have a 180-degree eye at the top for the leather to feed through, and S-curves on both sides. I am hoping the angled stirrup treads that I like to use will fit in these stirrups, which is the main reason that I chose them. I still have to put the treads in, and if they work, I need to try to find a set in black. My white ones will really stand out in a negative way.

I had a custom cantle design added to it. It's actually navy on black, but the navy is not really noticeable. They had warned me of this, but it was what I decided. I know it's there. 

On Friday night I got out late to the barn so I just had time to get it all sorted out and pop it on each horse for a picture. I'm planning to ride in it on Monday (Sunday the weather got super cold again - when will this end?), and once I make sure it's all good I need to get my old one listed so that I can sell it. 
Short little flaps do not look like a dressage saddle! And they could probably be shorter!
I also have to figure out a way to "run up" my stirrups. With these short little leathers I definitely can't do it the traditional way. I will either do a strap with clips or Velcro so that I can attach them over the seat of the saddle, or I've seen a fleecy stirrup holder thing that I will make.

Fingers crossed it rides as well as my old one does!

Friday 9 February 2018

Pony Approved: Hands On Grooming Gloves

I bought a pair of the Hands On Grooming Gloves during a Boxing Week sale about six weeks ago. The regular price is between $35 and $40 Canadian; I paid $32.

I have child sized hands, and my glove size is about 6.5. The size smalls fit my small hands quite well. They felt a bit snug in the beginning, but seem to have relaxed or stretched a bit.

I really like them. I wear one on each hand and use both hands to curry the pony. It's a bit of an a workout for my shoulders when both hands get going at the same time on their barrel. The knobbies on the palms and fingers are knobby enough to feel like they are doing a good job of getting through thick winter coats, and in summer they should have no problem reaching the skin.

Most importantly, the horses seem to love them. Phantom actually leaned her butt into me the first time I groomed her with them - totally uncharacteristic for her. Cisco loves a good scrub, so he had no complaints about the gloves. His favourite thing is getting his withers scratched with the gloves. I'm trying to teach them both to scratch their faces against my gloved hand when I put it up against their forehead. I could totally see them liking that.
The lip shows the love for the gloves.

I don't know that I will use them during shedding season. I bet they'll probably do a great job of hair removal, or should I say hair transfer - pretty sure that the hair would all be all over my arms, then all over me.

They can also be used when bathing a horse. They would probably work quite nicely, but since the back of the hand is knit your hand would get quite wet, and the gloves would feel quite soggy. Not something I plan to try anytime soon.

I am a bit worried about longevity since they seem to have already stretched a bit. Only time will tell.

Super happy I bought them. I can see them being part of my regular grooming kit for a long time to come.