Friday 29 June 2018

Torture Devices

When I've been riding Phantom lately I'm spending a lot of time working on myself. She responds really well to me riding from my body, so it's kind of fun to experiment a bit and see happens when I change something up.

I'm not feeling super strong in my core these days. It could be because I'm riding in the treeless saddle, which is a bit wider than ideal for me. It could also be because when I ride Cisco I'm not thinking overly much about myself, and just focusing on, well, mostly pace and steering. So at least half of the time that I spend in the saddle I'm not riding as well as I would like to be.

While I was puttering about the interweb earlier this week, I came across a couple of things that I think might help me during my time in the saddle, at least on Phantom. Neither of these are completely new to me, but I think I might put some money into trying them.

First is trying some Franklin Balls. It looks like I can get a pair for about $35 locally. They are squishy balls that you put under your seat bones and can ride a walk, sitting trot and canter with them. They lift you up a bit in the saddle which opens your hip angle a bit, which is something that I struggle with. My concern with them is that because I ride in a treeless saddle, they might place too much pressure on the horses back. With a treed saddle this wouldn't be a problem. If I try them I would probably use them as a part of my warm-up for max 5 minutes, but that might be enough to get my hips to open up.

Second is the Equicube. Well, sort of.

The Equicube is a chunk of rubber that has handles set at 45 degrees on the sides. You hold the cube in front of you with your reins through your ride. You can't fuss with your hands, and it's easy to see when your hands are not level. And it apparently is very effective in making you use your core because it weighs 4.3 lbs.

It doesn't appear to be sold anywhere in Canada. I put one in my cart on the website based out of the US, and it came to $127, which is about $170 CDN. And I don't think that the shipping rate was actually the shipping rate to Canada, so it's probably even more $$$$.

But someone made their own. And posted (sorta) directions. So I'm going to try to make one. It should cost around $50, depending on if my dad has the drill bit we would need or not. If not, the bit is about an additional $15.

We'll see how it goes! Hopefully I will have a new torture device to play with after this weekend.

Thursday 28 June 2018

An Old Friend

This is Pippa.
Apparently the only pictures I have of her are lying down in winter.
Pippa is owned by the same lady who previously owned Cisco. They lived on the same acreage for the first 3 or 4 years of Cisco's life, and would have been turned out together at various times. At some point Pippa went to the barn that I board at to be used in the lesson program.

I'm pretty sure that Cisco saw Pippa last spring before we moved to the new location almost a year ago, but I don't remember. Pippa recently moved over to the new place and lives on the other side of the arena from Cisco, so she is not within sight on any of our daily meandering. He definitely hasn't seen her in a year.

On Tuesday night I took Cisco into the arena for a ride. He was a bit full of himself. For starters, the temperature had dropped 15 degrees from the previous day, so everyone had more energy than they had last week in the heat. When we got into the arena, there was a dressage lesson happening at one end and a jumping lesson at the other end. There were so many things to gawk at.

Since Cisco was on full-on gawk mode, I did a bit of ground work with him before hopping on. This led us down to the far end of the arena, where the lesson horses are tacked up. Which was where he saw Pippa.

He stopped and stared. And then got excited. You know the scene in the movie Elf, where the elf sees Santa for the first time in the store at New York, and he's all "I know him, I know him!"? That was Cisco.


Which became the theme for our ride.

For the most part I stayed out of the end that Pippa was being ridden in, because, well, it looked like a gong-show in the making - 3 kids under 10 all riding medium ponies. Not a good choice to ride my excited green horse through that mess.

Every time that we passed the center at the same time as Pippa he bulged towards her. Heck, every time I changed direction he bulged towards that end.

Again, he wasn't terrible, just a green, distracted horse. Considering he started off the ride snorting at every walk stride, I think he held himself together pretty good. I chose not to canter, as I was trying to stay out of the way of the person who was having the dressage lesson (we apologized to each other after the ride about trying to stay out of the other person's way!) and our canter is nowhere near ready to ride in this type of situation.

At the end of my ride I led Cisco over to where Pippa was standing to let him say hi. She nickered at him, he did his best studly under his breath nickers to her.  And then Pippa wanted to stay with Cisco, so I had to remove him since the kid on her back wasn't done riding yet. Oops.

On someone's blog recently they were questioning whether horses remember other horses from their past. This isn't the first time that I've walked a horse past an old friend and they stop and stare and the nickers start, so I'm pretty sure that they do!

Monday 25 June 2018

The Fish

The Equisense sensor works with an app that you can put on your phone to record the information gained from the sensor. Even if you don't have the sensor, there is a valid use for the app. They have a bunch of exercises available for free if you need some ideas for schooling your horse.
Some of the dressage ideas.

They are located under the "Learning" tab, and are broken down into Flatwork, Dressage, Jumping, Lunging, Hacking, Rider, and Cross Country (which is empty at this point). The exercises are similar to the ones in the 101 Jumping Exercises / Dressage Exercises series, but don't have as much information on how to ride the exercise as the books do. They are rated with a level so you can pick exercises to suit your current riding abilities.
Some of the jumping ideas.

It is a newer feature and the library isn't huge, but they are constantly adding to it. It's nice to be able to look for an idea while I'm at the barn if I feel the need for inspiration. Equisense often does a short video about one of the exercises and posts it on their Facebook page.
Some of the rider ideas - mostly core exercises. I really should do some of them. 

Facebook was where I discovered the Fish exercise.

I thought that it looked like it could be super fun, and have a lot of options on how it could be ridden.
Black = poles (10 ft), blue lines = trot, red lines = canter (bounce distances). My Paint drawing is not totally to scale!
I set it up when I was out late on Saturday night so that I could ride it on Sunday morning, since I had to get early rides in to beat the worst of the heat. It took a little bit of finagling to get the center all lined up, but it wasn't too bad. With 10' poles it worked out to 9' bounce distances down the middle, and also parallel to the vertical poles on the end and middle.
Here it is set up in the arena (that's Cisco's fat tummy on the left)

With Cisco, we trotted through one side of a triangle, with the focus being more on just hitting where I aimed him. It worked out quite nicely and we seemed to find a good spot pretty well every time. 

I did attempt the trot straight down the middle with him, but it was a gong show for a couple of reasons - a horse had just left the arena and he was sucking towards the gate end, he had spooked at something he saw out the door at the other end that we were heading towards, and narrow points of the triangles are kinda hard to do at a trot at the best of times. 

I don't think I would recommend trotting through the center, just leave that for the canter. 

By the time I got on Phantom it was noon and super hot and muggy, so I knew my ride on her was going to be pretty quick. I put my stirrups up a hole and just played over the poles. I haven't done any jumping flatwork in ages, so I wasn't sure how it was going to go when I tried to canter through the middle. 

It actually rode pretty good! 

I mean, there were only two times that I didn't see my distance so I panicked and threw my body at her and said "go" and she was all, "whoa whoa whoa, this is a turtle exercise. Just chill. I gots it." Not bad for not doing canter poles in like two years.

If you enter at the pointy end it's pretty easy for the horse to just slightly fall one way if they feel the need to give themself a bit more space, so you have to ride that part pretty accurately. If you come through the center, you can turn and have the option of cantering through parallel to one of the vertical poles or over the part where the tail joins the body (if that makes sense) and then turn and canter through the center again. 

I would recommend setting this up across the center of the arena so that you can enter from both leads. I had to set it up on a diagonal because of all the other stuff set up in the arena, so it was a little trickier to make sure I did it on both leads.

I really liked this exercise and I will definitely use The Fish again!

Friday 22 June 2018


We are in the midst of another heat wave. Not crazy heat like what the southern states get, but 27/28 C with 17 hours of sun make for long warm days for us. I'm writing this on Thursday, which is the summer solstice. The sun rises at 5:04am and sets at 10:07 pm, so it isn't dark dark until close to 11pm. Long summer evenings are a great trade-off for the cold winters we have to endure. (I went to Florida one year in July and it was super weird to be pitch black at 8:30pm.)
Her boyfriend stands guard.

Last week I kept disrupting Phantom's mid-day naps. She likes to spend lots of time in the shelter when it's warm.

I usually end up right on top of her before she wakes up.

When it's warm like it has been, I agree with her about the afternoon naps. Wake me up when it cools off so I can do something!

Thursday 21 June 2018

First Ride With the New Bit

On Wednesday I tried my new (hopeful) miracle bit aka. the Bombers Bit Happy Tongue Loose Ring.

Did it work a miracle and turn Cisco into a majikal fancy prancing horse?

Not so much.

Do I think it made a bit of a difference and he was more comfortable?

I do.
I'll be sad when the blue oxidizes and changes colour.

When we initially picked up the trot I liked the feeling I had in my hand. He felt a bit softer through his body.

And then I had to kick him forward because he was gawking at the other horse in the arena. Which became the theme through most of the ride.
We had moments like this.
He was still quite busy with his mouth, but I don't think that's going to disappear overnight. He's pretty mouthy in general, and it appears that that's where his tension is going to come out. it has to come out somewhere, and I would rather it come out there than silly shenanigans that involve feet coming off the ground.
And this.
Towards the end of the ride I put a bit of pressure on him in asking for some flexion on a circle at a trot. I haven't really done much of this with him yet, so not surprisingly, didn't really get much results.

There were a couple of fleeting moments during the ride when he did reach forward and down for a couple of strides. I got all excited inside and the angels started singing and I started planning our dressage show schedule for next year. And then he turned into a giraffe again. Was he reaching for the contact? Or was he just sticking his head down? No idea.
But still mostly like this.
I am definitely going to keep using the bit. It will be interesting to see what his reaction will be over the next few rides.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Saddle Musings

The (hopeful) miracle bit arrived on Monday, my last day of vacation. Unfortunately I was feeling like crap so I didn't make it out to the barn. Tuesday was iffy because it was stinking hot out, but the decision was made for me when I arrived home from work with a leaking hot water tank. Thankfully, no real damage done by water, but I need to clean my house so that I can get someone in to replace it. Let's just say that I haven't had lame horses in a while.

I'm going to try to get out early-ish on Wednesday to get a couple rides in before it gets too hot. So I'll have feedback on the bit hopefully on Thursday.

On one of the lazy mornings that I had while on vacation I starting looking into options for saddles to fit Cisco, specifically jumping saddles. I don't want to be in the treeless forever, but I don't mind using it at the moment. I will likely keep Phantom in it (the Princess is all too-happy to tell me when something doesn't fit, and since she's happy in the treeless I don't feel like playing the saddle fit game with her). But I would like to do some jumping with Cisco, and the treeless is not the best for that. Also I really miss riding in a jump saddle.

Cisco is wide. With shoulders and withers that sit back. He's not going to be easy to fit.

I took tracings of his back and withers back in April so that I could talk to the Zaldi rep at Mane Event. Zaldi's are designed for baroque type horses, so I was thinking they might be my best bet. She looked at the tracings, said no problem, and I sat in a couple of models. They felt okay, but not great. The price point was fantastic at about $2500. I could swing that. Since I don't know how much jumping I will do, I don't really want to spend a ton of money on a jump saddle.

What I'm not liking though, is that they come in a maximum width of 34cm. She measured the tracings that I provided as 34cm. Cisco has been in work for less than a year and is not working across his back yet. He's going to get wider.
The red line is the back of his scapula. The yellow line is 2" behind where the gullet generally sits.

I know that the saddles can be widened a bit - is it generally 1cm or 1 size, which would be 2cm? If I could find one used, I might consider it, since the price should be what I would be happy to pay, and knowing that it might be a short-term saddle. But having to widen one would not be my preferred option.

Duett saddles might be an option, and I've seen the odd one come up for sale locally. But I keep reading that they have a pretty wide twist, and there doesn't seem to be an option to customize the flaps, by which I mean shorten them. Their jumping models would not be a good fit for my short legs off the rack. Cisco has some curve to his back, and I believe the Duett's are pretty flat, so they might not work well for him.

Next I stumbled across a page for Wow Saddlery. And I'm intrigued.

Wow saddles are modular saddles. You pick a style of panels and the headplate (the arch over the withers) to fit the horse, and the seat and flaps to fit the rider. If your horse changes shape you can likely just swap out the headplate or maybe the panels. If the rider changes disciplines you can swap out the seat or flaps.

None of these parts are inexpensive (except the headplate), so swapping out parts is still a committment. There is, however, a market for used parts, especially out of the UK where these saddles are quite popular.

New saddles cost upwards of $4500. One could conceivably piece together a saddle of used parts for about $2500.

Why am I intrigued about these saddles?

First, they have something like 11 different headplate widths, in 3 different shapes. Any of these headplates will fit in any of their saddles. One site had a handy dandy printable gauge, which I placed against the wither tracings I took in April. Cisco measured as a 5, which is basically an XXX wide. It's nice to know that there are still wider options.

Second - the seat has a carved out spot for round thighs to settle into. So the twist for a wide horse saddle might not feel so wide. For my short, fat legs, this could be a big deal. The payoff is that you might feel like you sit a bit higher off the horses back, which I'm not sure that I would like.

The tree of the saddle is a y-shape - the bottom part of the y is towards the pommel and the top part would be under your seat. This means no tree points, which could be of significance for Cisco. His big shoulders would be able to slide back nicely and he wouldn't feel constricted and shorten his step.
This seat is about $1050, currently listed on

It also looks like I would be able to get short flaps made. That's a big deal to me.

The girthing system can be changed - a point billet and swing billet, 2 swing billets, long, short. I want short billets so that I can shorten my girth while on my horse - I really miss being able to do this in my dressage saddle!

What I'm unsure about is that the panels come standard with Flair. I rode in a Bates with the Cair panels once, and it felt like I was on a trampoline. Supposedly the Flair panels are better, and if they feel too bouncy they are probably too full. Most people seem very happy with them.
I suspect that these are the panels I might need for Cisco, currently on for about $300.

I've been in contact with one of the only two reps in the country, who is nowhere near me. Wow makes a gauge that you put on the horses back to get a good idea of what panels and headplate will fit the horse, so she would send that to me to start with. Then she can send me a saddle to try for a couple of weeks. I don't know that I'm willing to spend the money on a new saddle, but I might try to buy the panels and seat used, and buy the headplate (not too many $$) and have custom short flaps made new. This would hopefully get the saddle to somewhere between $2500 and $3000 - not chump change by any means, but doable, especially if I sell a couple of saddles I'm not using.

I'll take a couple of months to mull it over before getting stuff sent from the rep. If I try it this fall, I can look for parts over the winter when I don't ride as much and maybe have a complete saddle by spring. Or maybe I'll find something else locally for much cheaper.

Monday 18 June 2018

First Trail Ride - No Deaths Recorded!

Cisco went on his first trail ride on Saturday. And we didn't die. But he was not relaxed at all.

I went with a friend on her mare, Vienna, who was the dominant mare with Phantom and Cisco all winter, so Cisco was more than happy to follow her lead. By follow her I mean his nose was up her ass for most of the ride. Thankfully she is not of the bitchy mare type, so Cisco got to keep all of his teeth.
I remembered that I had Da Brim to put on my helmet.
The goal for the day was a fairly short ride at a walk. I was looking for boring. This was the first time that I had been on the trails on the neighbour's property. The trails are through the trees along a major river, and are only wide enough for one horse at a time. There were tons of mosquitoes - thankfully both of us were covered in bug spray, so there weren't too many landing.

Cisco is very much "I need an adult" when he gets worried. He wants to hide behind me and let me go first, so the way that he stuck behind Vienna for the ride through the trees is not surprising. He was pretty good about keeping to a walk, and we did our first hills up and down. Despite nothing overly exciting happening, he was in a full-on sweat due to nerves. I have no media because there was no way that I was taking a hand off the reins to fumble with my phone.
Dried sweaty neck after the groundwork.
Once we got out of the trees on the way back he was happy to walk a bit behind Vienna and not feel the need to rush to catch up to her. I decided that I would take him into the outdoor ring for a few minutes, partly to take him away from Vienna and let him know that life was not over since they weren't together, and also just to make him pay attention to me for a bit.
As you can see, not a very exciting or long path.
Didn't quite happen that way.

It started off well, and we walked to the far end of the ring. The neighbour was round penning a horse in their round pen, and the running horse set Cisco off. He let out a little "eeeeeee" whinny under his breath. And then he seemed to realize that Vienna wasn't within eyesight anymore. And he lost his brain for a bit. I mean, there were horses all along one side of the outdoor ring, so it wasn't like he was alone.

Stop and stare, "eeeeeee" whinny, think about taking off (but not actually do it), try to make a break for the gate, he didn't really know what to do. At one point he let out that loud snort/exhalation through his nose that all horse owner's know as a red flag that an explosion is imminent. I got him to walk a few more steps and hopped off to do a bit of groundwork, mostly of the pay attention to me type. He tuned in pretty quickly and I left him there.
I fly sprayed him out in the field and he followed me to the gate so I had to harass him.
We definitely have a lot of work ahead of us to make him feel brave and confident in new locations. I mean to take a friend up on her offer to bring him over to her place, which is only a few miles away, and I can use her round pen, arena, or go for a trail ride with her. Hopefully on my next week of vacation - which means I need to get him trailering within the next couple of weeks. So much to teach him that doesn't involve sitting on his back!

Friday 15 June 2018


Cisco seems to have learned yesterday's lesson about not bulging the right shoulder out and turning into a pretzel. Unfortunately, he's a bit of an overthinker. There was no way that he was going to push that right shoulder out, and when tracking left he wasn't going to get on the track because that might have been why he got the spanking. So instead, he stayed off the track and overcompensated by bulging through his left shoulder.

Le sigh.
Stop thinking!!
It took the whole ride to get a decent lap trotting around the track to the left.  I tried not to make a big deal about it, as he's a bit of a worrier. I slowed it down, and did only a few steps of trot until we lost the shoulder, then back to walk, and another transition to trot. Keep it simple. To the right he was great though. We only had one moment when he bulged to the right through a transition.

I only cantered him to the right, since the steering was so not happening to the left I figured the canter would be a gong show.

The (hopeful) miracle bit finally arrived at the tack store from South Africa. I'm hoping to have it in hand on Monday, Tuesday at the latest. Fingers crossed that he has a quieter mouth with it.
Please, please, please love it Cisco!
Phantom had her first ride in a week. And she was fantastic.

She started off more forward than usual, and trying to curl. I figured this ride would be of the burn off some energy sort, so I didn't really ask her to be in a frame. I just wanted her neck long and throatlatch open and going forward.
I blinged up my brown One K helmet with this monogram in copper metallic. I luvs it. 
At one point she motored across the diagonal with her nose tucked in and I sat up, engaged my core, let my arm out and closed my thighs. And her neck came up, she opened her throatlatch, lifted her withers and took me across that diagonal. And then stayed that way for the rest of the ride.

She's been offering this bigger trot the last few rides. I'm pretty sure she's getting to the point that her hocks need to be done, so I don't think it's because she's feeling super fantastic. I'm wondering if it's because I've been working so much on my position when I ride her. Whatevs, I'll take it!
And then I redid the one on my charcoal schooling helmet. This one is in mirrored rose gold. Very pretty.
She's eating her spirulina (mostly) with apple sauce, and what I think is the main factor - because I added stevia sweetener to it. Her breathing has been sounding good so hopefully the management changes I've made will make a difference later this summer when her coughing generally starts. I'm trying to hold off on getting her hocks done in case the coughing starts, as that is going to be the priority to fix. Being the princess that she is though, she'll end up sore in her back under the saddle, so they'll have to get done and I'll have to spend the money anyways.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Mean Mom

Wednesday's ride on Cisco started really well.

He was a little snortier than normal in our walk warmup, and was back to being spooky in the scary end. But otherwise was listening really well, and I like how he was carrying himself.

Which carried over to our initial trot. He wasn't straight, and because he hadn't been ridden in a week he was a bit more forward than need be. But I liked the feel.
Barn pig was hoping for treats

The initial goal for the day was to do an exercise with the turn on the forehand, as found on the Sprinkler Bandit's blog. Basically, it's ask for one step of the turn, halt, ask the horse to stretch a bit downwards into the flexion, ask for another step of the turn, and repeat. The idea is to get the horse to associate putting your leg on with stretching down to the bit.

It was a bit of a stretch goal to get anything out of this exercise, as he's not confirmed with the turn on the forehand, and he's only been offering a bit of downwards stretch in the last few rides. But I thought I'd give it a try.

The stretch down kind of worked - he would either drop his head a bit, or kind of root down and fuss with the bit (still awaiting on that Bombers bit that's going to work miracles). The step got sticky at times, and being the smart pony that he is, he started to figure out that after I asked him to drop his head he would be asked to take a step, so he started doing it himself.  Overachiever.
Totally unrelated to the blog content - I might need a pissed off unicorn mug from the Disney store.
We moved into a walk on the right rein and he was super bent around my right leg. Same at a trot - the circles were actually round for once.

And then we went left.

The plan was to do the same - walk a couple of circles with him bending around my left leg and then the same at trot. Pretty well right away though, the problem that has been cropping up on occasion reared its head - pushing the right shoulder out and running through my aids (speed and outside aids). I needed to fix it.

At a walk I can put my right knee against him and he straightens up. But it's not happening at a trot. I tried first to turn him into the rail when he bulged that shoulder out. That didn't really work all that well. So I moved on to Plan B.

He bulged the right shoulder out, I went whack whack with the crop on that shoulder.
I've got the t-shirt.
After about 4 times, he figured it out.

Of course we lost all of our relaxation. And he didn't want to go on the rail tracking left as he thought that's why he was getting whacked. But man, did he ever straighten up when I put my outside aids on.

Note that this is not my preferred way of horse training. But it needed to be nipped in the bud before he really figured out how to use this against me, especially when we canter, as it will only escalate at the faster gait. Hopefully today's lesson sticks!

Wednesday 13 June 2018

Blown Away

I'm on vacation! Yay!

The weather has been crap! Boo!

I was really hoping to do a bunch of trail riding this week. But it rained all day Sunday (and was really chilly), rained Monday morning, and then we had crazy wind that ended on Tuesday afternoon. There won't be as much outdoor stuff as I was hoping would happen this week.
Indoor crafts instead. I finally put my favourite horse quote above my work-in-progress horse photo gallery.
On Tuesday my car wobbled it's way down the highway to the barn in the 70 km/h wind gusts (that's 43 mph for you non-metric people). I didn't plan on riding, but since the kids hadn't been ridden since Wednesday I needed to do something with them.
There was only one tree on the road to the barn that I had to drive around.
This was the first time that I had been in the Cover-All arena in crazy wind. Holy crap, it was loud. And flappy. I kept looking up expecting to see a big open flap that was creating all the noise, but nope, there wasn't one.

I took Cisco over to the arena for some desensitizing. I figured that his brain would explode with all of the noise and flappiness, so I took the treats and target to do some clicker training to give him something to think about.
You will need to listen with the volume on to get the effect of the wind. And yes, that is my finger on the left side. 

Surprisingly, his brain stayed in his head. I asked him to walk and halt and drop his head and he got a click and a treat when he did so. On the first pass of the scary corner he was a bit worried and tried to rush past me when I asked him to halt, but after that he was pretty good about going into the corner and sniffing at all the things.

He was so unconcerned about the noise and flappiness, that when I let him loose to run around, he stayed in a large circle and lunged around me in the scary end, and went deep into the scary corner.

To me, this was a big deal. As late as February this year that end was terrifying, and it's only been the last few weeks that I can head right down there as soon as I get on Cisco. He still looks for the birds, but isn't so quick to react to them just for being there. And in the past the sound of the vents flapping in the wind was quite worrisome to him. Today it wasn't.

Phantom, of course, could care less about the sounds from the wind and just had some fun burning off some energy. She's still shoeless, but seems a bit more comfortable even without her boot on.

More noms needed.
The wind gusts died down around 3pm. The next couple of days are supposed to be not too bad, and the chance of another big day of rain at the end of the week is dwindling. I might still make it out for a trail ride yet!

Monday 11 June 2018

Driving Lessons

Friday was icky and hot, we were supposed to get a decent storm on Saturday evening, and then rain all day Sunday and Monday. One of the things I want to do this week while I'm off on vacation was deathbox trailer loading practice, so I figured Friday night would be my best bet to get it done at least once this week.

I borrowed the truck and took Pony Grandma out to help me. We hooked up, grabbed both ponies, and loaded everyone up with bug spray.
All aboard!
Phantom travels pretty well. She is probably better by herself than she is when with Cisco. But she's a pretty good babysitter, so I've been using her as a lure for Cisco.

Today I started off by asking Cisco to get on the trailer by himself first. It took a minute or so, and a couple of taps of the whip, but then he stood pretty quietly (with me leading him on). I didn't do him up by himself in there, I'll leave that for next time.
Let's roll.
Then I put Phantom on, and put Cisco back on, with everyone done up. I put their food in a bucket in front of them and put the ramp up. They both stood nice and quietly eating their grain. I left them to settle for a few minutes and figured I might as well go for a drive.
Boy horse ears in the window.
So I drove. A whole 30 meters.
Girl horse ears in the window.
Both horses came off the trailer pretty nicely. And we were done. Another baby step to success!
Happily eating noms.
I'm hoping the weather is decent for at least a couple of days this week so that I can try again. Next time I think I'll take them for a road trip - we'll loop around the barn.

Friday 8 June 2018

Kiss for Canter

Faithful readers may have noticed that I haven't spent a lot of time in the canter with Cisco. This has been a conscious decision on my part. Cisco has carried a lot of tension through the majority of his rides. Partly because he has a busy brain that gets easily distracted and there are so many things that might kill him in the riding area (killer kitties, land sharks, birds of prey). Outside sources make it hard to relax.

Another part is that I think that his bit isn't the right one for him and he is fussy in his mouth. That is where he exhibits all his tension. I'm working on it - hopefully a new bit will arrive within the next couple of weeks.

Such a goober.

I have been super inconsistent with my rides. After a stressful move to a new location after his first week under saddle, I had two and a half months of working nights with no riding, and then we hit the latest ice age aka. spring. There were many times that I would ride for 3 days, then not ride for another 10.

And the last reason that I haven't done much canter with Cisco - because I'm on no timeline but my own. I don't have show plans and have to have him going a certain level by a certain time. So I can take my time and do things when I think we are ready for it. Because you know what is really hard to teach a horse to do? Relax when they are worried. And when it becomes a habit that they are worried as soon as you get on them on every single ride? That takes years to fix.

I dealt with tension with Phantom for the first few years because of the way she was started. I don't want to deal with that again.

But now the time has come. We're ready to get serious about the canter.

I have cantered him under saddle before. About 4 times this spring. And it was no biggie. He's fairly balanced and comfortable to sit. Of course the steering sucks, but hey, our steering still sucks at a trot half the time.

On Wednesday's ride, we added some canter to our ride. He was very good and picked it up each time that I asked for it. He kept the canter (with much kissing and clucking on my part) until I asked him to come back to trot. And we managed a turn across the arena without running into the wall on each rein.

Steering - well, let's just say there's lots of room for improvement.

He was a bit worried after the canter, but settled fairly quickly. I will start adding the canter in at random times over the next few rides so that he doesn't anticipate too much and has a chance to relax a bit in between.

Hopefully the slow work that I've put in will show a payoff!

Thursday 7 June 2018

Pumped Up Kick

Phantom is still missing a left front shoe.

I have hoof boots for her that I bought a few years ago. Apparently her feet have changed shape, as they don't fit as snugly as they did when I got them. I don't need them often enough to bother buying another set, so I'll just try to make them work until I can get the shoe put back on. They're not full-on flip-flops, but they're definitely not as snug as laced on running shoes.
Phantom's pumped up kick. It doesn't actually pump up.
On Tuesday I decided to slap the boot on her unshod foot and take her for a spin, with no real goals for the ride. More to just get her moving around a bit, see how sound she was at a trot, and go from there.

She wasn't super sound. Not real lame either. Probably not noticeable from the ground, just didn't feel quite right. It could be because her boot is a bit loose and she didn't have a super secure feeling when her foot hit the ground.
My super-stylish mosquito netting jacket is a requirement when going out to catch a horse in the evenings.
She wasn't lame enough to get her out of work. I did some easy walk/trot, lots of transitions, and even threw in some rising trot without stirrups for me (one whole lap of the arena). She took a couple of steps that were not as comfortable with some shoulder-in left so I decided that was probably a good spot to end the ride.
The Equisense agreed that Phantom didn't feel right - her symmetry score was only 6.4. 

Hopefully I can get her shoe back on soon! Otherwise we'll be doing a whole lotta walking.

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Lots of Bulges

Since Cisco did so well on his first real ride outside last week, I decided on Sunday to test him and see if we could ride outside without riding him down inside first. When I hopped on him on Sunday, I did a bit of groundwork, hopped on, and headed straight out to the outdoor.

He was definitely more up than he was on the last ride outside. Not crazy up (so far he hasn't done crazy), just a little quicker than I want, and more distracted. His distracted is getting better - instead of immediately going splat or having to stop and stare he can continue to walk and stare.

There is lots of room for improvement in our steering. Once we picked up a trot he was quite bulgey, especially going away from the open entry to the arena. Putting my crop in the outside hand seems to help, and it got much better through the ride, not that I would trust him to not leave on a loose rein.
Yes - barn pig, there is a donut in that tack box. But it is well out of pig range!0

Going right is certainly his weaker side. The good news is that it's my stronger side. I had to repeat a bunch of circles to the right as he would just drop that shoulder and speed off when I asked him to turn, probably in part because the turn took him back to the gate. It took 4 or 5 circles each time to get him to soften a bit and not speed through the turn.

Most of the ride was spent working on just getting him to maintain a regular pace, with varying degrees of success. Mostly unsuccessful.

But for the first time, we had a couple of moments where the trot felt great. Longer, forward strides, just what I'm aiming for. I couldn't make it happen when I asked for it, but I will happily take the glimmer that he gave me.
He was desperate for a roll after his post-ride hose down.

It wasn't the best ride, but it wasn't a bad ride either. On the way back to the barn to dismount something behind him spooked him, but his reaction was a scoot forward of about 3 steps and back to walk. No real biggie.

It was a very long day for me so I didn't ride One-Shoe Phantom. I tried a new approach to get her to eat the spirulina - I put some applesauce in her rubber dish and sprinkled some spirulina and stevia on it. I wish I had taken video of her when she was presented the dish - she so did not trust what was in there. Thankfully she decided to try it and she slurped it up pretty quickly. It wasn't the full dose of spirulina - we will work our way up to that.

Monday 4 June 2018

My Pseudo DVM Degree

I've been around horse for about 30 years. In my younger days, I worked at the barn through summers and weekends. I've spent many, many hours at the barn.

As anyone who has spent some time around horses knows, horses are disasters waiting to happen. They are seemingly all too willing and eager to hurt themselves. And if it isn't trauma that sidelines them, it's something that's happened to their barrel on toothpick bodies because of the stresses we put them through.

Most of us become all too familiar with our local vets.  And some of us joke about our veterinary degree that we didn't have to go to school for. I would be one of them.

Over 30 years, I've had a fair amount of things happen to my horses. Mostly non-catastrophic, and only a couple of emergency callouts. Over the last few years, when I've called my vet and said "I think this is what is wrong with my horse" I'm usually right.
Sunflower was a great study partner. She taught me a lot in the first couple of years of horse ownership.

Here is a list of all the subjects that I studied over the years to get my pseudo-vet degree and where possible, my study partner:

Colic (Sunflower)
Uveitis (Sunflower) (eventually caused full blindness after I sold her, but she was still where I boarded)
Strangles (Sunflower)
Navicular (Sunflower)
Abscess (Sunflower, Phantom)
Broken Splint Bone requiring surgery (Sunflower)
Nerve Damage where splint bone was removed requiring nerves to be cryogenically frozen (Sunflower)
Contracted Heels (Farly)
Puncture Wounds (Farly x 3)
Suspensory Desmitis (Farly)
Ringbone (Farly)
Laminitis (Farly)
Alsike Clover Toxicity (Phantom)
Photosensitivity Reaction due to liver damage due to Alsike Clover Toxicity (Phantom)
Scratches (Phantom)
Splints (Sunflower, Phantom)
Tying Up (Phantom)
Hock Arthritis (Phantom)
Choke (Cisco)
Mild Heaves (Sunflower, Phantom)
Anemia (Sunflower)
Hematoma (Phantom)

The above list is things that have happened to my own horses. I know how much horse people like to see gross pictures, but sadly, most of these happened well before the days of cell phone cameras, so no pictures to share with you.

Being around the barn so much means that I have seen, and in many cases helped with treatment, lots of other things:

Melanoma on grey horses
Infection on neck after vaccinations (I don't think it was a clostridial myositis infection)
Colic Surgery
Neurological issues
Diarrhea/Fever that was suspected Potomac Horse Fever but didn't test as such
Corneal Ulcers or Scratches
Lots of Large Cuts or Scrapes
Proud Flesh on Large Cuts
Retained Placenta
A Chronic Colicker, who was found in a necropsy to have an intestinal lining that should be 1/8" thick was up to 2 inches thick in some areas (or something like that)
Hives (Allergic Reaction)

These are all that come to mind, though I'm pretty sure more things have happened.

How have you gained your pseudo-degree in veterinary medicine?
(Would this be a blog hop idea?)

Saturday 2 June 2018

For Want of a Shoe

When I left work on Thursday I started to feel a bit of nausea. I figured it was a headache coming on, so I took an ibuprofen before dashing out of the house to the barn.

I brought Cisco in with the intent to ride. It was cooler and had been gray and cloudy all day. Cisco led with his head straight up in the air and snorting every few strides. The arena was free so I decided to just chase him around, as my nausea wasn't getting much better.

He did lots of cantering using the full arena. Nothing exciting, he's not much of an airs above the ground kind of guy.

To cool him out I grabbed a dressage whip and worked on our mounting block groundwork. He definitely knew what I was asking him to do, but he wouldn't respond to a lighter tap, and had no sense of urgency to move his butt around. So out came the treats. And within a few minutes he was whippin' that butt around with some light taps. Treats for the win!

By the time I brought Phantom in my nausea was getting worse, and I was just hoping that I didn't puke with one of the many belches my body kept doing. She hadn't been ridden in over a week after moving to Fat Camp and losing a shoe, so I figured she would be happy to get a few zoomies out also. She was.

She popped over this jump that I bet was 2'9" - she was cantering past it, got distracted by someone walking outside the rail so fell to the inside, realized the jump was in front of her, and went "oh well" and popped over it.

Thankfully I felt much better on Friday. It was gray and cloudy all day, and cool. So the ponies were up a little bit. 

Cisco was super about the groundwork and remembered what we had worked on the day before. He swung his butt around much faster with continuous steps from a light tap of the whip, even without the treat incentive.

We walked around the whole arena on a long rein.  His head was up in the air and there were lots of snorts but he kept his brain in his head. We were able to trot on a mostly loose rein and maintain an okay pace, but he was super fussy with his mouth.

I need to work on the leg yields, specifically off the right leg. His go-to evasion is to push out his right shoulder and push that side of his barrel into my leg, so I need some tools to correct it. 

Our first couple of attempts at a walk weren't overly successful. Like we probably went more to the right than the left. Time to drop it down another step - turn on the forehand.

I don't think I've done them with him since last fall, and at that time we only did it a couple of times. So I wasn't expecting much. But he surprised me - I parked him facing the fence so that we would get a quarter turn. I did three turns on each side, and each one was better than the previous so that by the last one he moved easily off my leg with a light contact. Super smart pony!
Fine.... he can stay another week.

I took Cisco out for another trot and attempt at a leg yield off the right leg. The first one he rushed through, so I brought him back to walk right away at the end of it. The second one was a bonafide attempt off my right leg and wasn't rushed. So that was where we ended. 

For the first time in a long time (if ever) he walked with his head down and neck long while we cooled out. So we walked a few minutes more than needed just to let him get that feel.

Despite the rain that we've had the last couple of days, the footing in the outdoor arena seemed perfect. So that was where I decided to take Phantom for her ride. 
Horse Shoe
Phantom got a summerweight suit of armour for trail riding. I'm not 100% sure about the fit - I'm hoping it will be loose enough.

I used the mounting block in the indoor to get on before heading out. She walked out of there on a mission. I was thinking that riding her outside after not being ridden for a week and a half might not be a great decision, but I stuck with it. She usually only gets really silly after we've cantered, so I figured I could at least get some trotwork done. 

This was the first time she had been in this arena and she spent the first few laps at a walk looking from side to side, which cracked me up. Left, right, left, right. 

Eventually, we picked up a steady trot, with only a bit of drunk horse steering. We managed a whole lap and a half before she had a little stumble, and I heard a clank. Yep - she pulled off her shoe. The same shoe that I had gotten reattached on Monday.
 Y u not stay on?

That ended the ride. 

I'll send a message to my farriers and see if they are going to be in the area to tack it back on. The person who put it on this week isn't my normal farrier and I don't think she had it placed quite right. In the meantime, I'll see if I can get in some short rides with a hoof boot on. I have a week of vacation coming up and I was hoping to do some trail rides (not to mention maybe a lesson).