Wednesday 26 September 2018

In Search of Something Brown

My paddock boots are dying.

The left boot has a hole in it, that is down to whatever the inner layer is (feels kind of felty). The right one is in slightly better shape, but has many cracks in the leather.
There's the hole. You can see the inner fabric if you enlarge it.

They were the Ariat Cobalt Performers, and I think I bought them in 2010, so they are about 8 years old. I don't tend to look after my paddock boots all that well - they've probably been cleaned about 4 or 5 times in their lifetime, 2 of which would be this summer since I picked up some Urad polish for them. Once they are on, they're on and don't come off when I need to bathe or tromp through mud.
Complete with fresh mud.

So it's time to replace them.

They were my second pair of Ariat's, so naturally I looked there first. It looks like there are two reasons why I don't think I will be buying new Ariats. First - there seems to be a general consensus that the quality has decreased significantly. And second - the higher end versions don't come in brown.

Not being available in brown = dealbreaker.

I have two pairs of brown half-chaps. And a brown helmet. I want brown paddock boots to match dammit.

So, time to shop online.

It's hard to find options up here in Canada other than Ariat. Especially brown options. The local tack shops don't seem to carry anything other than black Ariats.

The leader at the moment I think is a pair by Cavallo, that I can get from Calevo in Germany. They work out to be about $245 CDN (including shipping), which isn't that much more than the Ariat Heritage paddock boots would be ($200 plus shipping).
They also come in navy, with matching half chaps. One day....

They have elastic laces in the front that you don't do up, because they have a zipper down the back that you use to put your foot into the boot. I'm not sold on the zipper, but it seems to be the way a lot of the boots are going. I won't do the zipper front jodhpur boots as they never seem to fit my foot.

So pretty.
I don't suppose there is anyone out there who wears a size 7.5 in Ariats that happens to own a pair of Cavallos that can tell me what size to get? I'm leaning towards the 38, but I've been seeing discrepancies as to if they fit true to size or a bit big. The 38 should allow me to get some big socks in them in the winter, and I don't know if that would happen if I went down a size.

I am just trying to decide on when to bite and order them. There is a used tack sale in mid-October that I'm going to take some stuff to, and should probably wait until then. But, last time I ordered from Calevo it took almost a month to arrive, so maybe I should start the process now????

I need to place the order before I start finding other things to add to it. I'm definitely adding a few more Haas brushes to my collection, I just have to decide which ones.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

What's Cisco Up To?

So, what's Cisco been up to lately?

Not much.

He got ridden twice last week - the first time was only the 3rd ride in 3 weeks or so, so it was of the just try to regulate pace and remember how to steer type of ride. The second ride we threw in a bit of canter. He was actually really good for the first ride since there were a few horses in the arena, and for the second ride he was spooky and looky because he was by himself.

And then he got a few days off. I had tickets to The Book of Mormon on Tuesday, Wednesday was farrier, Thursday I can't ride due to work. Friday I rode Phantom, and Saturday I stayed home under my warm blanket as it had snowed most of the day and I just didn't want to be cold. On Sunday I rode Phantom and lunged Cisco since it was almost his dinnertime. So Monday was his night to be ridden.
The monthly pedicure happened last week.
Again, he was kind of spooky. Just looking for an excuse to scoot. He thought he had a good reason when the door opened up at the far end and a couple of horses magically appeared through the portal. He was pretty sure that something else was going to come through that door the first few times we walked down there, but he got over it with only a little drama.

It was the kind of ride where he wasn't super fantastic, but wasn't bad either. He had some moments of reaching for the contact, but wasn't overly fussy when he wasn't there. He steered, he went when I put my leg on, nothing exciting to write about.

Cisco is starting to figure out the canter transition. As in, he is starting to associate the aids that mean canter. We've had a couple of immediate transitions over the last couple of rides, which is a big improvement. It's partly anticipation because I'm asking in the same spot, and Mr. Smartypants figured that out pretty quickly. But hey, anticipation can be your friend when teaching something new!

We've got lots to work on, but none of it is exciting. And I hope it stays that way for a while - non-exciting rides can be good things!

Monday 24 September 2018

More Snow

I really need to move somewhere south.

This was what I woke up to on Friday morning:
This was in my backyard.
Yeah. More snow.

I had left blankets on the kids when I left the barn on Wednesday. It was supposed to be warmer than ideal for blanketing that afternoon, but the cold, wet weather was in the forecast before I would be back out at the barn. For once the weather forecaster had it right.

Thus I wasn't too worried about Phantom being too cold. When I arrived on Friday evening to ride, she seemed to be okay, but again her tail was tucked tightly to her butt. Just to be safe I popped her on the lunge line. She was horribly boring so I got on pretty quickly.

She was still pretty tight in her back. Not as bad as she was last weekend, but she was stiff. I also wasn't sure if she was sound - she felt inconsistently uncomfortable on her left front.
I was pleasantly surprised that her Equisense symmetry score was 7.5. I expected it to be much lower.

When I picked up a trot again after a walk break, it felt significantly better. It didn't take nearly as long to work out the stiffness as I anticipated it would. At trot, at least. I only did enough canter to say that I cantered and see how it felt, but it was really short strided.

It was a good enough ride - Phantom felt better at the end than she did at the beginning.

It snowed again almost all of Saturday. I knew the ponies would be warm enough this time because I had put on their winter layers and hoods the night before. But I couldn't make myself head out that night to ride.

The sun was scheduled to come out on Sunday though!
Sunshine = naptime.

It still wasn't at all warm - I wore fleece breeches and long johns when I went out to the barn in the morning. By the time I got ready to ride after lunch, I planned on removing the long johns and swapping into a pair of full seats. But when I went into the bathroom to get changed, I discovered that the heat wasn't turned on yet, and I had no desire to expose my arse to the elements while swapping pants. So I kept the long johns and fleece breeches on, and added my full chaps for my ride (I needed more stickability). Sadly I wasn't too warm bundled up in my layers.

Phantom came out ready to go. She felt nicely forward and a lot looser in her back. Most importantly, there was no sign of feeling uneven.

I threw in some counter canter, which I haven't schooled in ages. I kinda keep forgetting that it's a thing. She was good on the left lead, which was the first direction we went, but the right lead didn't turn out so well - partly because I had some other horses to dodge, but mostly because she was riding up (as per usual).

Again, nothing really exciting for the ride, just nice to have her forward and ready to work.

We've got a couple of days of nice-ish weather scheduled, so the ponies got turned out nekkid on Sunday afternoon. Hopefully I don't arrive to mudballs tomorrow!

Thursday 20 September 2018

Crap Weather = Energy

I started to feel slightly more ambitious over the weekend (and guilty for not doing anything all week while I was off). The weather hadn't improved - it didn't stop raining until Sunday night. But after 4 or 5 days of cold and wet you kind of get used to it. Kind of.
I don't want to get used to snow in September!

So on Saturday afternoon I bundled myself up in some Kerrits fleece breeches, a merino wool shirt, and topped it off with my winter coat. I also threw Phantom's Rambo Duo top layer in the car just in case her other blanket was too wet.

Phantom and her buddies were all huddled under their shelter. Although her neck was wet, she seemed happy enough standing there. Which totally changed when I brought her in, and drama queen that she is she started shivering. I blow-dried the one side of her neck that was wet and left a cooler on her while I groomed. She was a bit antsy while getting ready, even pawing very dramatically - and then she peed in the aisle (which she almost never does), so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt that she was doing the potty dance.

I did notice that her butt and tail were rather tucked up and decided lunging before riding would be smart. She wasn't overly silly, but was definitely a bit more forward than she normally would be on the lunge. Eventually, I hopped on.
Grover, the Gray Flannel Kitty, happily curled up next to me on a heated blanket watching Netflix on Saturday nightl. 

OMG. Was her back ever tight. She started off in a walk with teeny tiny quick steps. And it didn't get a whole lot better before I picked up a trot. At which point it felt like I was riding a ping pong ball. With a time bomb built inside of it. Oi.

The goal for the ride became to just get her moving around and try to avoid bolting. That's her go-to move when she has an excess of energy - she kind of scoots/bolts out of usually one specific corner. I think she thought about it a couple of times so I admittedly avoided that corner somewhat.

I managed a whole 15 minutes of trotting without getting pinged out of the saddle and decided to call it a day. Phantom had far too much stored up energy and she has never been one to release it through a ride. She is far more likely to just get more and more wound up, especially once we've cantered.
Phantom was dressed up in winter gear on Saturday night. I'm pretty sure she appreciated it.

On Sunday I rushed her over to the arena to let her run around before someone else brought their horse over. I knew we didn't have long, but she will expel energy far easier when she is loose versus when she is on the lunge line.

Phantom definitely had lots of energy to burn. It wasn't the silly type of energy, just the want to keep going type of energy. Not that she does laps around the arena or anything - she generally does the gallop down to the opposite corner and stop thing. Then I walk part way down and shush her out of that corner and she gallops down to the next corner. I usually get just as much exercise as she does.

I knew another horse was going to be coming over in a few minutes, so I hoped to get the worst out of her and then put her on the lunge line. Apparently I just revved her up. When the other horse came over, Phantom wouldn't let me catch her. She'd stop in the corner, wait for me to start walking towards her, then gallop down to the other corner. I eventually tricked her by putting my hands in my pockets and pretended to bring out a treat. Then she let me catch her.
Standing in a shelter for 5 days means way too much energy.

She obviously had lots of go still in her so I popped her on the lunge line. Again, she wasn't silly, just had way more go than she usually does.

The crap weather ended on Sunday night. Hopefully she will spend some time outside of the shelter and get some self-exercise so I don't have to deal with this energy again!

Sunday 16 September 2018

Wet, Cold and Miserable

I've kind of been wallowing in a bit of a self pity party this week.

I had been working overnight shifts the last couple of weeks. Just long enough to get into a sleep all day sleep schedule. I've been off this week, and had great plans for the week, but I haven't been able to sleep properly. So I've been tired all week, and feeling crappy because of it (and likely hormones have contributed).

I was hoping to enjoy the beautiful fall weather and spend some time outside with the ponies. Except this happened.
A couple of miles from the barn on Thursday.

Yep, that's snow. In the second week of September. Most of the continent seems to be having an unseasonal heat wave. Not here.

It won't stay past the weekend, but we're supposed to get some more before it warms up. In the meantime, looking outside is giving me little incentive to do anything useful.

I made it out to the barn on Thursday afternoon (after a doctor's visit in which I found out I will need some tests done on my thyroid) and really just wanted to spend some time with my horses. I brought Phantom in first, decided she looked much too sassy, and took her over to the arena to let her loose to play. She was happy to oblige. 

After she finished zooming around, I was hoping to just hang out with her. You know, just put my arms around her neck and hang out there. Phantom wasn't in such a mood to reciprocate.

First, I had to go to her, she wouldn't come to me. Fine, whatever. I stood next to her and linked my hands on the top of her mane and rested my head on her neck. She gave me a whole 3 seconds before fairly adamantly backing away from me, to stand in front of me. So I went back to her and gave her a hug again. And again she gave me 3 seconds before backing up to stand in front of me. 

Then she dropped her head, took the couple of steps towards me, and put her nose against my chest. My heart melted. 

Until she nose-butted me in the stomach. And looked for the treats that she was hoping she knocked out of the dispenser. Cow. 

Cisco wasn't a whole lot better. He got to play for a bit in the arena also. And then he did his idiot dance in the barn. He's been doing that dance lately, I think it's because I keep bringing him in around dinner time. Since he and Phantom are both in diet pens, mealtimes are big deals to them. 
Time for warm clothes already.

The crap weather was supposed to continue through Sunday evening. Not so much snow, but rain with temperatures just above freezing. I bundled the kids up in lined blankets with hoods. They're getting damp, but since they're spending most of their time standing under their shelters they aren't doing too badly. Just storing up energy to be expelled when I get on them again. 

Monday 10 September 2018

Review - Spirulina

For the last three or four summers, Phantom has had some respiratory issues - namely a cough and some laboured breathing while under saddle. I had her looked at one summer (which was the summer that there seemed to be a cough going around at more than one barn by all accounts) and the vet said she might be a bit heavey. It seems to be a seasonal problem, from summer through early fall.

This summer I pulled her out of the field that she had been all winter in late May. That field was fed from a round bale. I wanted her off the round bale to try to avoid problems this summer and because she needed to lose some weight.

I also added Spirulina to her diet.

What is spirulina?

Basically, it's blue-green algae. Aka - seaweed.
It comes as a green powder. Very green.

It's considered a superfood, and some say that it is the most nutrient dense food source on the planet. It's very high in protein and amino acids, and is thought to have anti-histamine properties. It is for this last reason that I considered adding it to Phantom's food. Well, that and the many, many anecdotes online of how it benefitted horses with heaves or allergies.

Being seaweed, it has a fairly strong odour. And likely a strong flavour - I haven't tried it myself, but Phantom was not impressed in the beginning. I started out adding it to apple sauce by itself, then was able to add her grain to it. I tried adding a touch of Stevia sweetener instead of apple sauce to it one day, and that was a success. I've since progressed to adding it to her feed, which includes beet pulp, and she is happily gobbling it up. It took a couple of months though.
Food takes on a definite green tinge once it's been added.

I put Cisco on it also as he was coughing a bit this summer, and since he's not picky about what he eats, I don't have to do anything fancy to have him lick the bowl clean.
Cisco's food before being mixed up.

Do I think it made a difference? Most definitely. This was the first summer out of the last four that I was able to ride her for most of the summer (well, except for the crappy air quality, and you know, lack of time). Most telling is that if she hasn't had it for a few days because I couldn't get out to the barn, she will cough, but once she starts to get it regularly again the cough disappears.

The downsides - everything it touches turns green. Phantom's lips turn green. Where she scratches her leg after eating turns green. The wall where she rubs her nose after eating turns green. My arm after she begs for cookies turns green.

And once that stuff dries, it does not come off easily.
There are a few stall fronts with green nose prints all over them. Oops.

The cost isn't too bad. The first bucket I picked up was from Herbs for Horses - a 1 kg pail that was about $68 at a local store. Feeding about 10g per day would give me about 100 doses from that bucket. When I had to buy some more later this summer that store wouldn't get another order in for a few weeks, so I shopped around online and found some human stuff that was on sale from a health-food store that worked out to be the same price per gram. (There are people who voluntarily eat this stuff out there- amazing!)

I'm definitely going to keep Phantom on spirulina through the summer months going forward. I'm not sure about the winters- she is generally better through the cold months, and I tend to not be out consistently enough for her to receive any benefit from it.

Wednesday 5 September 2018

Blog Hop - If I Had A Million Dollars

If I had a million dollars, if I had a million dollars,
I would buy you a house, I would buy you a house. 
And if I had a million dollars, if I had a million dollars,
I'd buy you furniture for your house, maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman.

(My fellow Canucks will get this reference. For everyone else, watch the video!)

Sorry, but if I had a million dollars, I would not buy you a house. I would pay off my own. Which is due to be paid off in about 5 years, so it wouldn't take up too much of that million dollars. And then I would put some money into it. New kitchen, bathrooms, roof, flooring, air conditioning. Anything that is self-cleaning and self-cooking.

I've got a decent amount already put aside for retirement, so I would put a small amount towards that.

I'd have to get my passport updated, because some travel would be in my future. Europe for sure, probably Iceland, maybe Australia. Disneyworld. On more than one continent.
I'd happily camp out in a valley of horses in Iceland.

And then I would spend a wee bit of it on the ponies.

Ha ha, who am I kidding. It would all get spent on the ponies.

I would still board my horses. I'm happy to pay someone to feed my horse when it's -40 in the winter.

Four custom saddles. A jumping and a dressage for each horse.

But how could I choose just four?

Rambo blankets. Summer and winter.

Custom boots for me. Black, and a fun colour like navy or burgundy.
Or maybe glitter??

A tow vehicle for my trailer.
My Boeckmann would look great towed by a Toyota Highlander.

Weekly lessons on each horse.
Or maybe not.

Regular massages for each horse (and me).

Because I would drop down to a part-time position at work and have lots of spare time, I'd get a personal trainer and a gym membership so that I could work out regularly to help my riding.

And most importantly, I'd get a cleaning lady and a groundskeeper.
This might work too.

In reality, if I had a million dollars, I wouldn't for long.

Thanks to Olivia for the blog hop idea!

Tuesday 4 September 2018

We Toodled

It was a very long week of working nights, leaving me very tired. And very sore.

I had to be out at the barn around dinnertime to teach a lesson. I was determined that I was going to get on a horse. I didn't care what I did once on, but I was getting on dammit.

I had let the kids loose in the arena the day before to get rid of any sillies since they had been off all week. I wasn't sure if Cisco was looking a wee bit off behind, so I decided that I would ride Phantom.

So I brought her in and fed her. And while waiting for her to finish eating, tried not to fall asleep.

I was bagged.

But I was riding.

Grooming and tacking up sounded like it was going to take too much work. But I was going to ride. So, bareback?

When I was younger I used to ride bareback all the time. I'd jump, do flying changes, and barrel race for fun. I think I've only ridden Phantom bareback 2 or 3 times. Which means I've only ridden bareback 2 or 3 times in, oh, 12 years.

The first issue was getting on. The mounting block is tall enough that I could just put my right leg over and be sitting on. Perfect! So I did that.

And Phantom went flying backwards. She was all "WTF?" So I slid off. And she gave me the hairy eyeball as I stood in front of her.

I took her back to the mounting block. First I leaned over her. She tensed for a second but then leaned back into me. Then I put my right leg over and kept my left leg on the block. That was fine, so I did it a couple more times and then took my weight off my left leg and sat on her. She stood this time.
Hard to get a decent picture while on the horse.

When we walked off, it was a very short, tight walk. One of the reasons I wanted to ride bareback was because my back was very tight, so I doubt that I was helping the situation.

The other thing that wasn't helping? I had no frikkin' balance. I felt like I was going to slide off the side. At a walk. Holy crap. I had to hold a chunk of mane for the first few laps.

It took a few minutes for Phantom to relax and drop her head and start to walk forward. It took way longer for me to stop constantly trying to shift my weight to the right. I so need to ride bareback more to try to break this habit.

Eventually I asked for a trot. Phantom picked up a slow, bouncy trot that I sat to (posting while bareback is too much movement for her). I started giggling, and didn't stop for a lap and a half of the arena. It was mostly the overtired, no idea why I'm laughing but can't stop kind of giggling, which honestly, felt really good.

It didn't take too long for Phantom to figure out that I wasn't going to fall off so she could speed up. I managed about 25 minutes of riding before I could no longer ignore the screaming of my right psoas. I didn't canter - she hadn't been ridden for a week and if I was going to slide off over her right shoulder it would be at a canter. I'll work up to it.

I think I'm going to try to ride bareback a bunch through the winter. I've always enjoyed it, and don't really have a reason as to why I've stopped. Hopefully it will help that sitting to the right problem - there's nothing to step into while bareback!