Tuesday 28 August 2018

The Big Smoke

Well, I didn't get much riding in last week. The smoke was back for most of the week, and we had a few days back in the 10+ for air quality - that's on a scale where 0 is desirable. (Remember the picture of the apocalyptic sky from a couple of weeks ago? Fun fact - my city had the worst air quality in the world (urban areas over 250,000 people) that day. Worse than China and India.)

I haven't had any problems breathing, but sometimes have had a bit of a sore throat or a cough. The ponies live outside though, and don't really have a way to get out of the haze.
We've barely seen a blue sky in about 3 weeks. Just haze.
From talking to a couple of people who have ridden their horses on some of the bad days, it seems that the main issue that they have noticed is the lack of energy in their horse. They've been keeping the rides easier, but their horse just doesn't seem to have any gas in the tank.

Some of the local events have been either modified or postponed when the air quality is up around 10. A little local open show moved to another facility so that they could be inside. An event last weekend was supposed to be a 3 day, but they moved cross-country and stadium to Sunday and did nothing on the Saturday.  A Pony Club rally this past weekend was only going forward with the riding if the air quality dropped to 7.

Thankfully our temperatures have dropped well below melty levels, and we've had a bit of rain, with more in the forecast. These helped to drop the air quality this weekend to much better levels. However the fires are still burning in BC, and we could see the return of the smoke and haze anytime.
Fly masks are on because of the late summer flies that love Cisco's face.

I'd love to just take the ponies out for a hack down the road to get them some exercise when the air is bad, but the late summer flies are horrible.  I can't stand being outside with a swarm of small flies around my head. And now I'm going to be working night shifts for a couple of weeks. So the kids will likely end up with a pretty light workload for a bit. Again.

Monday 27 August 2018

Playing with Working Equitation Stuff

There was a Working Equitation clinic that was held at my barn last weekend. I originally was hoping to ride in it, but the cost ended up being a bit more expensive than I was willing to pay for 3 hours of riding and instruction from someone that I'd never seen before. The first day was dressage instruction, the second day was the Ease of Handling elements, and there was a schooling show on the third day. I hoped that if I went out in the evening that the EOH elements would be set up and I could play with them - they were!

I arrived too late to the barn on the first night to ride, but I made sure both horses got to see everything and did some parts of it in hand.

Phantom, of course, loved the bridge. The only thing on the course that she was worried about was the bell that was over her head - it took a few goes before she would stop under it, and not to the side. She does tend to notice things high up and can be odd about them. Ringing the bell didn't worry her, just the fact that it was there.

Cisco took some extra time at the bridge. The last time we did a bridge (and his first time) was back in the spring. It was a teeter totter bridge. Cisco started off well and went across it a bunch of times, but he didn't like when it dropped down. I gave him a break from it and when we went back to it, he flat out said no. Hell no.

So he was pretty sure this bridge was going to drop down too. He started off by saying hell no again. It took a few minutes, but honestly not as long as I thought it would, before we had all 4 feet on the bridge. Then he jumped off the side before it dropped down on him. Another 3 or 4 attempts and we made it all the way across. Once he realized that it didn't tip he was very good about going across - still a bit worried, but tried to be really brave.

Surprisingly, the stripy orange "bull" wasn't scary to either horse. Both went right up to it and sniffed the bull blanket.
The rare breed of stripey orange fluffy cow.
On the second night, everything was still set up. This time I rode both horses.

With Cisco I did everything at the walk. I didn't ride everything as it was supposed to be ridden - there is a lot of backing up and I've only asked Cisco for a couple of strides at a time. So for those elements we just continued to walk forward. I was more concerned with just riding him through and around everything, and not overly concerned with doing it well or correctly.
Cisco finally relaxed over the bridge

The bridge went very well. He initially was worried since I wasn't there to hold his hand (or hoof) and lead him over it. But as he did the previous night, once he made it across once it stuck and he was good to go. I started to add halting in the middle, and since he was still nervous about being on the bridge he danced around a bit in the halt. He kind of stepped off the side and fell off once. But he stepped back on the next time I aimed him at it and next time I asked him to stop, he stood much better.

The only problem came when we tried to do the gate. The gate was very high, and when I started to move it towards him he panicked. I did a bit of work around it, hopped off, and did a bit more on the ground. He did a bit better but ideally would need a couple of sessions with it before I could expect too much.

I had much higher expectations or going through the course with Phantom. I knew that I could do everything at a trot, and probably some parts at a canter (with simple changes). The trot was pretty easy. The canter was omg so hard.
Trying to canter the slalom poles.

Those turns and circles are so tight! At the higher levels the ideal size is 3m circles around the barrels. At the lower levels, it's 4m. No idea what size I was aiming for but they seemed too big to make the turns balanced around the barrels. You really need a horse who sits behind to be able to do these at a canter. I had left my spurs off, so I had no backup when Phantom decided it was too hard and she should just stall out.

She figured out the bell and the cup elements very quickly. She stopped at the end, and backed out really easily. She needs some work about standing still though - totally not surprising. (I'm pretty sure I was doing the cup thing wrong - there are two different elements with the cup and I think I kind of combined them. Still good practice though!)

What was surprising was how hard it was to keep the trot through the livestock pen. I figured that it would be one of the easier elements, and was looking forward to cantering it. But everytime we went through it her trot sucked back, and since the rest of the canter wasn't going too smoothly I figured I'd better not.
The livestock pen with a bit of extra whee to the tiny crosspole.

She was also a bit worried about the gate, but I probably would have been able to work her through it. Except that we knocked it over. Whoops.

I don't know who actually owned this stuff, so I didn't really want to do anything that I thought might be kind of risky to either me or the equipment. So I didn't do the pole or the skewer the ring on the bull with the pole, and didn't push the gate issues. The pole will be easy to practice myself over the winter, but I'll need to find a way to make a gate.

I really liked playing with these obstacles. There's a lot of work to be done before they would be easy at the faster gaits, so lots of room for improvement. I think that riding it at speed would be similar to riding in a jump-off, especially if you have a horse that knows it's job and gets into it. It looks like there are a couple of local barns that might host some regular "play days", so that might be nice to try to hit. And I'll see what I can build to play with over the winter. It'll be a good way to break up the monotony of being stuck inside for 7 months.

If you want some more information about Working Equitation, or want to learn how to set up and ride the elements in Ease of Handling, you can check out the Working Equitation Canada webpage and download the Rules and Tests pdf.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

It Begins....

I sold a saddle this weekend. The treeless saddle that I had originally bought and used before I had a short flap version of the saddle made. It was advertised for about 2 months, with lots of tire kickers, but no offers. Cash offers that is - I think I had four different offers for trades for a different saddle. The offer was, of course, quite a bit less than I was asking, but the money is in the bank and the saddle is out of my house.

Which means it's time to start looking for a new one!

Yay! Said no equestrian ever. Saddle shopping sucks.

A super short rider on an extra wide horse? Saddle shopping sucks even more.
This back....

I'm going to try the Wow saddles. A couple of months ago I wrote about why I was interested in them - see here.
and these short legs = very hard to fit

I've started the process - I paid for the deposit on the gauge this evening, so hopefully it will arrive next week. Once I get the specs for the panels and headplate that will fit Cisco I'll return the gauge and she will send me a jumping saddle to try. I will likely delay the receipt of the saddle for a couple of weeks as it looks like I'll be working nights again for at least part of September. I'd like to make sure I get a good chance to ride in it for a few rides.

I also want to make sure Cisco gets a good chance in the saddle - he's never been ridden in a treed saddle before. I have no idea how he will react!

If Cisco and I deem the saddle acceptable, the plan is to try to find some used parts online over the winter and likely buy new flaps - probably a short flap. There seems to be a large market for used parts in the UK, hopefully, someone will be willing to ship to Canada.

I plan to measure Phantom with the gauge as well - not that I'm planning to get a new saddle for her anytime soon as she seems happy in the treeless. But you never know - maybe a saddle with the right options will pop up for the right price!

Monday 20 August 2018

ISO: Good Smegma

I posted this on my barn's Facebook page for the boarders. 

I was too tired and crampy to ride on Friday night. It was still super smoky out, so I didn't want to do much with the horses. I hoped that when I arrived out at the barn in the evening that the Working Equitation clinic that was running over the weekend would have some of the Ease of Handling elements set up, and they did, so I played with some of the things in hand with each horse. But after that, what to do since I drove all that way?

I stood next to Cisco while pondering this question. And I caught the subtle scent of eau de smegma. Decision made. 

I gloved up and grabbed the baby wipes and some warm water. And dug in. This was Cisco's first real time getting felt up so intensely - he had his sheath cleaned and the bean removed by the vet last summer when he was sedated for his teeth floating, and thus had dropped down. He wasn't going to drop down for me, so I had to get all up in there. 

Thankfully he was a very good boy. My head is still its normal oval shape without any new dents. 

His sheath actually wasn't overly dirty. It cleaned up pretty quickly. But that smell.... 

My old gelding, Farly, had a very similar scent that emanated from his sheath. His smegma was different than Cisco's - Farly had smegma that kind of looked like wet cat food. He would get a discharge on the inside of his gaskins sometimes, so one day I asked a vet what I could do about it. He suggested the smegma transplant trick. The idea is that the new smegma changes the ph in the recipient sheath as the odour is caused by something like yeast. 

For Farly, it worked well for about 6 months at a time. He would stop rubbing his sides on his hindquarters, the discharge would go away, and I wouldn't detect any odour. The fun part was walking around asking for smegma!

So I'm going to try the same thing with Cisco. He's been rubbing his tail a lot, despite just being dewormed. I'm thinking the smell might be the giveaway that something isn't right in there. We'll see how it works! I've been offered a few geldings to violate as "willing" donors, so it looks like getting the material shouldn't be a problem! 

Friday 17 August 2018

Lesson Recap

On Tuesday night I had another lesson on Cisco. In my lesson on Phantom the week before I asked my coach if she had any tips on getting a green horse to pick up a sticky lead. Which I said was probably because he isn't sharp enough picking up the canter. She said she had a great trick she picked up in Holland so I said I would ride Cisco next week and we could work on it.

I walked him around while she finished the lesson before me. I got miked up with her CeeCoach-type system (not sure which brand she has) and we picked up the trot. After what only felt like 3 minutes of trot she told me to ask for the canter - as I approached the wall on the circle, step into my inside stirrup, outside leg back, and tap him on the shoulder with the dressage whip. And use my voice.
One pooped pony post-ride.
First of all, I wasn't ready to canter after only 3 minutes of trot! So I fumbled and the first attempt sucked. We circled a couple of times to steady Cisco's trot, and tried again. He picked up the wrong lead, so rinse and repeat again. And we got it! Still not super clean, but not as much running trot into it.

We did that a few more times, each direction. There was also a jumping lesson going on, so I tried to just go large and just let him roll forward around the arena. There were a few moments to the right where he slowed his pace down a bit, and didn't feel like he was running so much. For the most part though the canter feels like he's running with his lower neck stuck out. But I've just got to let him roll along to find his own rhythm and relaxation. No matter how icky it feels.

After a really good canter to the right we went back to some trot work.

We're starting to have some moments to the right of being able to get right flexion and not fall in with his shoulders and ribcage. Tonight we managed to get more, including some lovely moments on a 3 loop serpentine across the short side of the arena (which is about 30m wide, so 10m turns). A glimmer of how he's going to feel - which is fantastic!
I tied him up and went to mix his food. I heard hoof sounds in the aisle so peeked out - this is what I saw approaching me. No idea how he untied himself and ended up with the lead draped over his face.
My coach kept saying that she loves how much he tries. He's trying so hard to figure out what I'm asking him to do.

We had to stop to shut the arena gate as I led him back to the barn after the lesson. He was pooped - pretty sure he would have been happy to have a nap standing at the gate.

So it was another great lesson. Not much new stuff learned but pushing me to ask more of Cisco than I would otherwise.

Unfortunately. I'm going to have to drop down to bi-weekly lessons. I've had a bunch of expenses over the last month (new hot water tank, furnace repairs, new back door) and need to economize a bit. If I do bi-weekly I'll probably alternate between Cisco and Phantom. It means only one lesson a month on each, but at least that will still give me something to work on.

Thursday 16 August 2018

The Apocolypse

The apocolypse hit last night.

Or so it would appear when we woke up this morning:

Yep, that really was the colour of the sky when the sun came up. Orange. Beautiful, yet very surreal.

Unfortunately, it's this colour because the air is full of smoke from forest fires in the neighbouring province. The air quality is very poor - a 10+, which is the highest rating on the scale. Everything is hazy and smells like smoke.

So I planned on giving the ponies a light day. I know Phantom has respiratory issues and Cisco has had an inconsistent cough through the summer. No need to make them work when the air quality is this poor.
On my drive out to the barn at 10am. That should be a beautiful blue sky.

I took the opportunity to take Cisco for a hand walk to new places. On our last hack down to the neighbour's place, he got really worried about a trailer parked next to a shed that was just past the point I wanted to get to. We made it to that point, but I don't know that he would have gone further. I wanted to be able to get past that point without issue.

So we went for a walk. And for almost the whole way, he led. As in, I walked next to his shoulder with his head and neck out in front and he walked on a loose lead. Which was exactly what I wanted.

We stopped on the way back and had to check out the trailer, and the burn pile and a pile of pallets on the other side of it. Those were scary, and he hid behind me and let me be the brave one, but he came up and sniffed them and got to take a mouthful of grass.
Cisco taking me for a walk. No filter on this - which was at 11am.

Then we went down past our barn and turned down the road away from the horses. Again he led most of the way, and didn't speed up when we turned around and headed home.

When we got back home, I pulled out the clippers so that I could do his bridle path. The previous couple of times that I've tried it, he's not been happy about the clippers up by his ears. Rest of the body, no problem. Ears, nope.

Apparently Cisco remembered our previous sessions. The good parts of them. Like when you drop your head, you get a cookie. The third time I moved the clippers (without actually attempting to clip yet) up to his ears, he dropped his head. I didn't ask him to, he just did it. So he got a cookie. And he continued that way. So I was able to clip his bridlepath with his head down and I could actually see what I was doing. Last time I stuck the clippers up there kind of blind since he was a giraffe and of course it ended up longer than it should have been. This time I got it just the right length.
I also washed his tail and spent 1/2 hour brushing the knots out. I didn't expect it to look this fluffy!

I had intended to take Phantom for a walk under saddle out and about. She had coughed some during the warmup walk in our ride the day before so I figured the smokiness might be affecting her. When I was walking Cisco, the flies were terrible. Like I was constantly swatting them away from my head terrible. Phantom is a princess who hates flies. A hack out on a loose rein would not be a relaxing event for either of us. So she got lucky and just had her bridle path trimmed and fed and fly sprayed and turned back out.

They're hoping that the smoke will dissipate over the weekend. The fires in BC are still burning though, so the air quality might be a problem for a lot of the remaining summer. There might be lots of slow work in our future.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

We Made It to the Other Side

I'm filling out my entry forms for the Spruce Meadows Masters. Because this happened:

Our first jumps!

And by jumps I mean higher than a trot pole, but small enough that Cisco didn't have to actually jump them. Just step over them at a trot.

He was a bit unsure, so a wee bit wobbly at the base, but we made it across to the other side every time. There was only one time that there was an actual "jump" effort, but I'm ok with that. We left point A and arrived at point B calmly and without too much fuss. Just what I hoped for.

Cisco is not an overly confident horse. So I'm going with the Denny Emerson method - super small jumps that they can step over, and keep things calm and quiet. We are nowhere near ready to canter into anything, but we can definitely start to trot over teeny tiny things. (If you don't follow Tamarack Hill Farm on Facebook, you really should. Denny has some wonderful words of wisdom from his decades of riding to share.)

Otherwise, the ride wasn't anything to write about. Except that we were 3 for 3 picking up the right lead canter, which has been a struggle for the last 3 or 4 rides.  I guess he heard that canter transitions are going to be the focus of our lesson on Tuesday night!

Monday 13 August 2018

Cool = Idiocy

We had melty weather at the end of last week - low to mid-30's from Wednesday through Friday. Thus ponies got some time off - after their farrier appointment on Wednesday morning, I parked my butt in places that had air conditioning. Those places include my kitchen (window air conditioner), my car (which has fantastic a/c), Ikea (try the berry cheesecake, so good!), the Nike outlet store (2 pairs of running shoes for work on sale for an additional 30% off!), the huge mall in town that I only go to once a year (way too people-y), and the movie theater (so many fantastic Pooh-isms in Christopher Robin).
Pony pedi's.

Then, in typical Alberta form, the temperature plummeted over the weekend. It rained from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. The temperature dropped over the weekend, with a projected low of 6 C on Sunday night. That's only 6 degrees above freezing. In the second week of August.

The good news is that the heat hasn't kicked on in the house yet, although I'm sitting underneath a heated blanket to type this blog on Sunday evening. I have a feeling that the heat might need to be on to get me out of bed on Monday morning!

You know what else happens when the temperatures drop?

Horses turn into idiots.
Idiots who finally figured out how to play with their Jolly Ball.
On Saturday night I tacked Cisco up to get a ride in. He was a complete turd at the mounting block - would not stand still at all. So I hooked him up to the lunge line. Which turned out to be the right decision, as after about the 10th circle he leapt into canter, and spent the next 3 circles porpoising with straight legs. I haven't seen him do that since the first time he wore a saddle.

At a trot on the lunge he kept doing this straight leg up and down instead of forward trot. Which just sent me into giggles. He was trying so hard to be bad, but he doesn't really know how.

Guess who stood perfectly still at the mounting block after being lunged? He almost stood on top of the block, he was so determined to stand where I wanted him.

I was planning on just walking Cisco off after I got on, but decided to do a bit of trot. There was nothing at all exciting about it, it was more so your brain can get back in your head kind of stuff.

Phantom also had some extra pep in her step that night. I was planning to use her the next day to teach someone how to lunge a horse, and figured it might be best to let her blow off extra energy first. She lunges very well but can get a bit silly when she's full of herself. She was just let free in the arena to run around.
A face only a mother can love.
I must say, she is looking really good these days. I don't mean actual looks, as she is super dirty and has scabs all over one side of her body from last week. She just looks super comfortable in her body. She had a huge overtrack at a trot and is cantering nicely uphill. It's been over a year since she had her hocks injected, and I ran out of Ichon in April or May. I still want to get her hocks done before winter as I don't want to trailer over the winter if I can avoid it, but I think I will wait until late-September or October.
Yeah, this doesn't look good. 
The cool weather isn't going to last - we're looking at 19 C on Monday and right back up again to 27 on Tuesday. I'm planning to ride Cisco in a lesson on Tuesday evening, so hopefully the idiocy will be melting out of his brain by that point.

Thursday 9 August 2018

How to Cure a Horse Who Pulls Back (not a recommended method)

A couple of days ago I alluded to Phantom kind of knowing how to undo panic snaps. Here's the tale.

When I first started working with her she had an occasional pull back issue. No specific thing would set it off, but there were a few broken halters over the first 3 or 4 years. One time we were at a clinic and she was tied in the barn aisle, she pulled back, and pulled right out of her halter. Neat trick.

Because of these incidents, I bought Tie-Blocker rings to use when tying to the trailer.
The Tie Blocker Ring. Expensive, but I got them for a good deal online. 
I used to lease Phantom over the winter months, and would board her at a full facility, and then in the summer we would return to her then owner's acreage. When tacking up I would generally tie to a fence post on the round pen.

One summer the owner had a couple of young horses, one of which was Cisco, that needed to learn how to be tied. I picked up a trailer tie, a nylon web one that has a panic snap at one end and a bull snap at the other end, and we attached that to the fence post using bale twine, just in case one of the young guys had a panic attack while learning how to tie. The panic snap end was the end that would attach to the halter (I don't want a strap attached to the horse with a large clip flapping around on the end of it).
An unimpressed Phantom tied to the trailer with the Tie Blocker ring after returning home from a lesson a few years ago. 
I used that trailer tie to secure Phantom for most of the summer with no issue. One day, she took a dislike to a bird flying by (or some other stupid thing) and pulled back. The panic snap released, the halter didn't break, and she didn't leave. I clipped her back up and she was fine for the rest of the day.

On to the next day. She was clipped to the trailer tie and I started grooming. Again, something caused her serious offense, so she pulled back. The snap released, nothing broke, she stayed.

I hooked her back up. Two minutes later, she pulled back again.

I hooked her up once more. I swear to God, 30 seconds later, she looked at me, slightly rocked back, and the panic snap released. And she stood there with a huge shit-eating grin on her face. You horse people know what I mean. That smug look of pride they get when they think they've been smart.

I thought "fuck this" and hard tied her to that post with the lead shank.  A minute later she rocked back again.

This time though, there was no panic snap to release. Instead, the halter tightened on her head. She went "aww, crap" and took a step forward.

And she hasn't pulled back since.

Not even last week, when I walked away from her after tying her to a stall in the aisle, and she looked in the stall and saw the scariest thing inside that she's ever seen in a stall - a poofy dog bed. She danced around at the end of the shank, but didn't set back and didn't break the halter.
The horse eating dog bed.
Note that I do not recommend this method of curing a horse who pulls back. But for some reason it worked for Phantom!

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Half Chap Zipper Woes

A couple of weeks ago the tab on my right half chap partially broke off. Kind of one side of the part that hooks through the zipper head. I babied it for a couple of weeks, picked up a replacement tab, and googled how to fix it. But I didn't bother to actually fix it. This weekend it broke all the way off.

Apparently ProChaps use some speshul kind of zipper, because I cannot pull the piece out that I need to in order to attach the replacement tab. It's a locking zipper, so I have a feeling that there is something in there that that tab is supposed to release when it's flipped down.
It's too small to grab with pliers, and we can't poke it through from the other side. 
Of course, it's a long weekend and I have a lesson scheduled for the next day, so slim chance of getting it fixed before my lesson.

No issues, I have another set of half chaps. My old, reliable, Grand Prix half chaps. Well, except that one of them also had a broken zipper tab. Maybe it was the opposite leg that was broken and I could use a mismatched set for a bit??

Nope. Apparently, I yank only on the zippers on my right leg. 

There was a standard zipper head on it though. And I could kind of pull it down, but it was jamming and I couldn't pull it back up. I have zero patience with this kind of thing, so off to Pony Grandma's house I took it. 

Pony Grandma figured out the problem right away - the zipper had skipped a couple of teeth. It took about 25 minutes of yanking and poking, but Pony Grandma worked her magic. I rubbed a bar of soap (for lubrication) against the zipper just in case, added the replacement tag I had bought for the ProChap, and I was good to go.
I think most of the elastic panel is stretched out, but they still work nicely.

These half chaps have had a solid 10 years of abuse, and other than that zipper snafu, are in excellent, worn in condition. They need a coat of conditioner after sitting in the garage for the last four years, but have lots of life left in them. And even better - they didn't shrink while in storage. I hate it when that happens. 

I sent an email to ProChaps to see if I can purchase new zippers from them that I could get replaced locally. They're a heavy duty zipper that I like, so it would be nice to have the same kind. My second option would be to see if there is a trick to getting that piece out of the zipper head so that I can put a replacement tab on them. And if those options don't work out, I think there might be a local saddle fitter that does repairs to chaps that I'll try. I'll need them before winter - the Grand Prix ones probably won't do up over an extra layer of clothing.

Tuesday 7 August 2018


Phantom is trying really hard to get out of lessons.

Last week, she came in with some pretty fresh scrapes on her side. Thankfully they were just below where the saddle sits, so although the saddle pad covered them, there was no risk of her deciding to eject me when I got on. She had no qualms about letting me know when I accidentally ran a brush over them that they were owie.
Last week's scrapes. One at the top, and a big one at the bottom.
I might have to be worried that she's self-harming, as she came in today with two more fresh scrapes. Further back from the saddle, but one of them was a bit deeper. I hosed the area off, rode, then sprayed it silver with Aluspray.
Today's scrapes.
Not sure if I should go out and look for something that may have caused the damage, as they happened in different paddocks. Fences are being replaced in Phantom's normal paddock, so they were moved for a few days. She also had a couple of small scrapes on the back of the hind leg on the opposite side. I'm wondering if there's been a girl-fight over the gelding that the two mares are both in love with.
All of the scrapes on her right side.
But too bad for her, the scrapes are a long way from her heart (and the saddle) so she got ridden in the middle of a very toasty afternoon.
The post-ride begging for cookie face. It worked. 
The good news for her was that because I was already super sweaty from riding Cisco, I wanted a short, easy, fun ride. So I jacked my stirrups up to jumping height, and we went around super up and forward. I did 2 point at a canter and did a hand gallop down the (very) long side and she came back beautifully. Don't know what I did, so I'll have to play with that. That's always been the problem when jumping her, and I have a yen to jump some tiny things these days, so I hope I can figure it out. (I think that squeezing with my knees might be the trick. It has to be something with my body, because if I use much hand she either curls up or tightens her back and swaps leads behind.)

With the current heat wave came the late summer flies. Little black flies are everywhere. When I went out to catch Cisco he had at least 30 of them on his head. I grabbed him and looked for blood as I figured that had to be why they were all over him.
Friday's forecast calls for standing in front of an open freezer. Or maybe in a freezer.
When I was getting Phantom ready, she was a bit antsier than normal (meaning she wasn't standing completely still). It was partly because she was in a bit of a snit thinking that she was missing dinnertime (she wasn't), but mostly because of those damn flies.

After putting the saddle on her I went back to my tack stall to put my boots and chaps on. I could hear her hooves doing a tap dance on the cement, and was wondering if she was really that pissed at being in. But then I heard a different sound. So I figured I should probably have a look and make sure she was okay. I popped back into the aisle - the empty aisle. She wasn't there. The different sound that I heard was either her whacking her feet on the ledge at the bottom of the people door that she left through or my saddle scraping the sides. Thankfully, there is grass outside the door, and she dropped her head to the ground as soon as she got outside.

I dragged her back in and clipped her to the trailer tie outside my tack stall that I never use. Not that she doesn't know how to get a panic snap to release! (I'll tell you that story one day.)

Monday 6 August 2018

Hamster Brainitis

I dashed out to the barn on Saturday night in between thunderstorms to take Cisco for a spin.

He is generally very even-tempered, and when he has had 4 or 5 days off between rides (or more) he might be slightly perky for the first few minutes under saddle, but that's it. Nothing to worry about. The hamster is happily curled up and asleep.

Not that night though. The hamster was on its wheel and running.
Maybe he didn't like his no bangs look?
I don't know what started it. He was normal in the barn to start with. Another horse was getting tacked up, and since one of the zipper tabs on my half chaps decided to snap completely off I was slow in getting him ready. That horse left, and Cisco started his idiot dance.

Let me stress - this is his version of Hamster Brainitis. Which is probably about a 3 out of 10 on the Hamster Brain scale. It consists mostly of being distracted and not standing still, getting pushy with his nose, barging with his shoulders, and turning into a giraffe. He's only 14.3 hh, but anything taller than a llama is too tall for me to be able to work with. Everything is mostly annoying and predictable, but not at all dangerous.
No one looks good with a poofy combover.
He was a turd to bridle. Wouldn't open his mouth, and then he'd flip his nose up or into me. There may have been a couple of open-handed whacks against the side of his mouth (which honestly have been a long time coming for that behaviour).

Then he wouldn't stand still in the arena to get ready, and it took a couple of minutes before he stood enough for me to get on. At which point he walked away and was a turd about halting.

I knew I was on a bit of a ticking timebomb as we walked around, looking for something to spook at. But he did keep it together to mostly walk, allthough there was a lot of sarcastic walk happening.

I figured that I would pick up a trot and then decide if I would ride it out or hop off, strip off his tack and let him loose to have a run. We did two big circles of a llama impersonation.

It was the trot version of this. 

I hopped off and let him loose.

And he ran. A bunch. With little incentive from me.

I know I could have ridden it out. But why pick an inevitable fight when I didn't have to?

He had fun continuously playing for a few minutes. After which he looked properly chastised. My mellow pony was back.

Hopefully that will last him for a while. Although the melty heat that we're supposed to get for most of this week will likely help keep the energy levels down.

Now I just have to figure out how to fix the zipper of my half-chap!

Thursday 2 August 2018

Things Are Starting to Come Together

Since my lesson on Cisco 2 weeks ago, he's been ridden 3 times. For the most part I am following the "on the bit or on the buckle" mantra that I found on someone else's blog (can't remember who). He's either being asked for flexion and to not be a giraffe, or he gets a loose rein and I don't really ask anything of him.

It seems to be paying off. Through our walk warm-up on Tuesday, I tried to get him to take the bit forward and down a bit more. He is getting the idea of the down part, but not quite there with the forward part.

We had a bunch of good walk/trot transitions. He has the idea that I don't want him to be a giraffe through the transition, and if he bobbles and his head pops up it might be just for a second and he drops it again. I also like the feeling of him pushing into my hands through the transition at this point.
A crappy gif from a phone propped on a barrel on my ride after my lesson on Cisco a couple of weeks ago.
The trot itself? Well, he was a bit fresh, so the rhythm was a bit erratic. And the door at the far end of the arena, previously dubbed the scary end, was wide open, and since there are horses in the field outside the door Cisco now wants to go there to gawk at the ponies. Which he lets me know about by totally blowing through his outside shoulder on the open part of the circle at the other end of the arena.

Otherwise, it's still at the erratic head down for a couple of strides, pop up, and back down again stage. He's trying. At the end, we had most of a large circle where he was this close to reaching forward and down. Like, one more inch probably would have done it. So I'm very happy with where the trot is going.

Then there was that right lead canter problem from the last ride. It popped up again. I had to use my same turn last minute at the wall trick to get the canter, which worked on the second attempt. Then he was able to do a nice forward large circle and a half. I even managed to put my inside leg on for a couple of strides and he kinda sorta bent a bit around my leg for a whole stride and a half.
I had set my phone on the barrel before I got on and voice activated it when I was ready to record. This is the beginning of the video. Perfect timing Cisco.
I might just do right lead canter for the next couple of rides to make sure that picking that lead up is cemented. I also need to actually start schooling the transition, doing them on a bit of repeat with the correct aids so that I can start to influence the lead. That will likely be the project for next week when I'm off and can get a few consistent rides in.

That and trailer practice, trail riding, cleaning all my tack, re-organizing my tack box, finish washing the remaining winter apparel that hasn't been done, repairing almost all Cisco's winter apparel,  jumping Phantom for the first time in forever, getting a lesson in on Phantom.....  A nice, relaxing week of vacation.

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Left Leaning

Another lesson! Back on Phantom this time.

In our last lesson (which I didn't blog about) we had done a bunch of work on kind of a shoulder-in on a  15m circle at a walk. The goal was to really get the shoulders to the inside, and have her really step towards her mid-line with the inside hind. Going to the right (which is our better shoulder-in side), it was really sticky, and oddly was much better to the left.

On my Monday ride, before our Tuesday lesson, I practiced this again. And had difficulties the opposite directions - going right I had a harder time setting her up, but could really get a response from my right leg in having her take a bigger step with her right hind. Going left, I could set it up easier, but could not get her to take that step with her left hind.
I took my camera out on the weekend to take pics but timed it wrong, just after they had been fed. No pics with heads up.
I was hoping to do a bit of work on this in my lesson, but no. The lesson is only 40 minutes, so there isn't enough time to do everything. Instead, we mostly worked on leg yielding, specifically off the left leg, and more specifically trying to get me to sit properly so that I don't fuck it up.

Our right leg yield is great. I think we only did about 4 or 5 of them.

Left? Well, I sit to the right, Phantom pushes her right shoulder out, I don't have enough connection with my right rein, because that hand wants to either cross the neck or stick my elbow out, my left leg is my weaker one, and that is also the side Phantom doesn't want to step under as much with her left hind.

All of which I am very aware of.
Phantom and her current paramour Diesel were all Lady & The Tramp about their hay pile.
At one point I had to stand with all my weight in my left stirrup - and Phantom immediately straightened herself out and brought her right shoulder underneath her, which allowed us a few steps that she stayed very straight through the leg yield. She wasn't crossing over at all, but the mechanics were better.

I, of course, felt like I was hanging off the side, but was told that I was right in the middle. Ugh.

There will be lots of hanging off the left side of my horse in the future, it appears. Not literally - but it sure is going to feel that way!