Friday 29 March 2019

I'm Lonely, Oh So Lonely

I finally figured out why Cisco is so spooky in the arena.

It's because he's alone.

Lately, I've had a good mix of riding alone and riding with other people, and a few times where we've started alone and part way through the ride another horse has entered the arena.

There is a marked difference in Cisco's relaxation when he is by himself versus when he has company.

When alone, he is fussy, distracted, worried, spooky, and overly reactive to noises.

When in company, he can concentrate, he's not overly worried about noise, and he's far braver in the scary areas.

We've had a few rides that have started out super tense, then another horse enters the ring, and all of a sudden Cisco is chill.

Wednesday was one of those days.

I lunged him before getting on. He had lots of sass with some playing up during the initial canter transitions.

I got on. We had three spook scoots before we got to trot (pigeons were being extra flappy and annoying, a person came in and the person door scraped the ground, and the other one was when the raven outside croaked).
I hate the pigeons.

At a trot, he was either too fast or too slow, and his mouth was very fussy. There were fleeting moments where he almost reached forward and down into the contact, but then he would get distracted and start fussing again.

And then a couple of other horses came into the arena. All of a sudden, the spooky end wasn't going to eat him, the birds were no big deal, and when the people door opened again he barely flinched.

Much happier horse.

We did a (very) short bit of canter, and I had plans to do some more canter, but he suddenly offered the forward and down stretch at a trot, to the point that I had to put my hands forward quite a bit for him. It wasn't straight, and it needed way more impulsion, but it's the best attempt that we've had since getting started again this spring. I went with it.

I was going to be done after his nice trot, but I really wanted to try a crosspole and see how the saddle felt.  The only jumps set up in the ring were at weird angles to each other so I had to use a shorter approach than ideal. We only did it twice, and both times I felt really secure in the saddle, even on the second attempt where he totally overjumped it - although I totally grabbed mane.

So, I apparently just need to organize ride times with someone else forever to keep Cisco relaxed.
My new riding posse.
Since that's not practical, does anyone have any suggestions on how to get Cisco more comfortable being by himself? Other than time and miles?

Thursday 28 March 2019

Don't Run With Scissors

Isn't it amazing how horses can always sense when we have great plans and find a way to foil them?

I got out to the barn on Wednesday a little before noon so that I could have both horses ridden before their dinner time. They both are in diet paddocks so dinner is a big deal to them. And they both live with other horses, so if they are absent at dinner it gets difficult (and lengthy in time) to make sure that they get their full hay amount. Thus I try to ride before dinner on my days off, and by the time I get out on work days they've already eaten.

Anyhoo, I went out to give Phantom her Ventipulmin before riding Cisco so that it would have a chance to kick in for our later ride. It's spring and it's muddy. She had obviously been on the ground at some point. But her face was weird - she had mud around her eye, and it looked like it was wet mud that dripped down her face.

Oh wait - it wasn't mud. It was red. So it was blood.

It looks like she cut the top corner of her eye. There is no soreness, oozing, or weeping from the eye itself, so I think she just missed the important bits.

Phantom is a drama queen. She is a horrible patient who dislikes anything that makes her uncomfortable. I knew cleaning this wasn't going to be easy.

I loaded up my pockets with treats. This is where clicker training pays off.

I used baby wipes soaked in warm water. The goal was just to remove the blood - I was pretty sure that I would be lucky if I managed to get that far.

She wasn't as terrible as she can be, but I didn't really get to the sore part very much. There was no way that she would let me do anything other than just lay the warm wipe on top of it. Just doing that resulted in drama.

You know what's hard to clean from gray horses? Blood. 
Whenever Phantom gets a cut she tends to blow up. I looked at her about 4 or 5 hours after I had first seen it, and there were no signs of puffiness around her eye, so I'm hoping we're in the clear. I left some bute out just in case it's fat in the morning though.

She also broke one of the plastic buckle things that the stomach straps on Rambo blankets attach to. Pretty sure that when I bought the blanket it came with a spare one, but that was like 6 years ago, so I have no idea where it would be. I'm hoping a local store carries them or can get them in a timely manner so that I don't have to order online and pay for shipping that exceeds the cost of the pieces.

I had planned to still ride her but ran out of time. Apparently, she and her buddies got some exercise in though - they were scraping the winter poop in the paddock with the skid steer and the horses were all being idiots and running around. I was worried about Phantom's shoes if she was galloping through muck but they were still attached. I hope that equals free lunging and she isn't too silly when I get to ride her this weekend!

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Got the Saddle, But......

My flaps for my Wow saddle arrived and they are perfect! Yay!
Ignore the messy tack cart.
The saddle sits too low behind and I need different panels! Boo!
Yes Cisco, that saddle does make your stomach look big.
Of course, saddle shopping just couldn't be simple.

The flaps arrived on Friday last week, so I picked them up from the post office on my way home from work and dashed home to put the whole thing together. Which is much easier to do when you use the right size of bolts. Ten minutes of cursing because I couldn't get the bolts to catch was solved when I went to the Wow website and discovered that I was probably using the wrong ones, and when I grabbed the slightly longer bolts (that I thought went through the multi-layers at the front) the panels and flaps went on super quick.

Wow flaps can be adjusted in two different positions. Mine can be set to the standard position, or rotated back, which equals about an inch difference. I was actually quite worried about the size of the flap and thought it looked very straight, so for the first ride I set it to the standard position. Nope - my knee still sat a solid inch behind the knee blocks. For the next ride I rotated them back, and my knee sits in the perfect spot right behind the block.
The first ride before I rotated them back.
So the flaps are perfect. I don't know that I've ever ridden in flaps this short - I don't usually have this much stirrup leather below the flap!

The saddle looks rather ridiculous though perched on top of Cisco. My fancy new Lemieux pad doesn't really fit it very well either. I'll be shopping for pony sized saddle pads in the future.

Maybe an excuse to get this holographic saddle pad from Punk Ponies? (Can't decide if it's hideous or if I need it.)

But you've probably noticed the problem. The saddle sits far too low behind.

I added some air to the rear Flair panels between rides 1 and 2, but it needs more than that. I'm pretty sure that I will need panels with rear gussets in them to bump the back up. I'm not going to find those used within the next short period, so I'll end up ordering new one$$. It might also need a different headplate in front.

It's not really all that surprising, as when I used the gauge last fall there were times when the correct setting seemed to need the deeper gusset setting. 

Update - I just heard back from the fitter, and I can put way more air in the panels than what I have in there. So I'm going to try that today first before completely panicking and eating my weight in chocolate.

The good news is that I feel super secure in the saddle and Cisco's canter is the best it's been.
An 8.0 for regularity at the canter ain't too shabby!
Time for some trial and error to get it figured out. I'm not ready to give up on it yet. There are still lots of things to try, and believe me - nothing is going to fit this horse very easily!

Monday 25 March 2019


After Tuesday night's twit fest from both of my horses, I was really hoping that they would be back to their normal selves on Wednesday.

It was another glorious day. I arrived at the barn just after 1pm and went right out to take off Cisco's blanket. Good thing I did since he was already a bit sweaty underneath.

Phantom was going to get ridden first to avoid conflict with her dinner time.

As I suspected, with it being daylight, she had no concerns about strange lights. She was her normal self in the arena. I was expecting her to be a bit silly at the mounting block, but there were no issues.

In the light of day, lit extension cord outlets are not very scary.

We did our trot sets again. I admit that I'm pretty sure I struggled more than she did at the trot on this day. I kept thinking that the set should be over, and there was always about another 40 seconds to go. I guess I need to do trot sets for my own fitness as well!

By the time I hopped on Cisco the jump lessons for the evening were starting up. Like last week, it had a bit of a warm-up ring feel to it, with 6 horses all going in different directions. We got a short canter in each way, but there was too much traffic to be able to do much.

Unlike last week, it was tough to continue riding while the group was doing the exercise of the night. So I took advantage of that to teach Cisco another life lesson - the one where you get to stand in the middle of the arena with your newfound buddy, but then have to leave him and go out and do some work. I tend to ride by myself quite a bit so this lesson has been somewhat neglected.

He wasn't at all terrible about it. He was pretty sure that he didn't have to trot forward after standing for a bit, but he quickly came to the realization that sucking back wasn't the best option.

Cisco's redemption for his bad behaviour on Tuesday was when grooming before and after riding. With the sun shining brightly in the sky, the temperature outside was somewhere around 15 degrees. Since the temperature inside the barn was much cooler, I decided to do my grooming outdoors. There is still too much snow and ice surrounding the hitching rail so we had to park on the cement pad at the end of the barn to be able to get the full effect of the sun.

And park, he did.
Standing out in the sunshine post-ride to try to dry off. 
I think he moved one front foot to the side so that he could stretch down to smell some poop. That was it. I kept the lead in my hand, but it was completely loose. I probably could have thrown it over his neck while I brushed him, but I totally did not expect him to stand that quietly.

So both horses redeemed themselves for the hijinks the night before. Unfortunately, due to having to adult for the rest of the week (oh, how I wish I was independently wealthy!), I only managed one more ride on Cisco that week, and thus I'll be starting off the new week with fresh horses again when Cisco gets ridden on Monday and Phantom on Tuesday. Oh well, the next 9 days are looking pretty good for saddle time, so I'll have to try my best to get out on almost all of them.

Thursday 21 March 2019

My Dramady

I had great plans for my Tuesday ride. It was a glorious 15 degrees and sunny when I left work, and I drove home with the window down and the sunroof open. I rushed to put my contact lenses in and get changed so that I could get at least one ride in before it cooled off for the evening. I didn't even put my long underwear on under my breeches (although I know that there is a pair in my car just in case).

By the time I got to the barn, the temperature had already dropped to 4 degrees, far cooler than it was when I left the city. No worries, at least the sun was still out.

Things started well. I fed Phantom her Ventipulmin and then brought Cisco in. I tied him up further down the barn than usual as other people had their stuff laid out in our usual spot. I groomed him and everything was fine.

Then the barn drama kicked in for the rest of the night.

Not the type of barn drama that involves gossip and mean girls. Nope, this was all horse drama. I had a drama llama tied up in the barn, and later a drama queen in the arena. Apparently the Oscar award nominations are already open for next year.

For some reason, while I went to get my tack, Cisco decided to start the dance of his people, otherwise known as the idiot dance. No idea why, and thankfully it's not a normal dance. It might have totally been an attention seeking thing, as it didn't appear to be nerves.

So I decided to wait him out. He's a very smart pony, and I don't want him to figure out that tap dancing will get him attention or untied.

There were many moments where he stood still for a few seconds, staring at me standing mostly with my back turned to him, and it's like he wanted to stand still, and then the devil by his ear would speak and the dancing would begin again. We laughed at him lots - he was trying to be big and bad but wasn't really good at it.

I'm sure it only took about 20-25 minutes before all four feet stayed in the same place for a couple of minutes, but it felt much longer. Unfortunately, that used up most of our time so I ended up lunging instead of riding. He was actually pretty chill in the arena so I was happy that when the dancing ended the thinking started.
Cisco practicing the box step.
So I was sure that I was going to have a nice, simple ride on Phantom. I tacked her up and took her over to the arena.

Since it's finally warm out, the annual flooding has started. This is only the second year that the barn owner has been in this facility, so she's still figuring out how to deal with the flooding from the snowmelt. She had some landscaping done last year, and it's definitely helping, but the path to the arena came up very wet and muddy this weekend. She put up some railroad ties to try to dam the water and had a sump pump going to try to move it where she wanted it.

We made it into the arena through the mud, in the dark, with no issue. I prepped Phantom to get on and led her to the mounting block, which positions her butt towards the door.

She saw something outside the open door that spooked her, and she zoomed past me and the mounting block to stare at it.

This is what it was.

That is the lit up end of the extension cord that was powering the sump pump, resting on a railroad tie outside the arena door. Seriously.

There isn't much that gets Phantom concerned, but if it does, it's probably either something above her head, or a light where there isn't usually a light. This isn't the first time that a light has caused chaos for her.

I shut the door (at this point I wasn't sure if it was the light or not, but based on how she reacted when we walked back to the barn I'm pretty sure it was the problem) and tried to get her to the mounting block again. She's a bolter in these situations and was positioned like she might take off as soon as I swung a leg over. I had to position her on the side of the block.

Then I spent the next 8 minutes at a walk, on a tight horse, who was thinking about leaving anytime we got in the half of the arena near the door. It was 10pm and there was no one around - not worth the risk of falling should she bolt without warning as I know she can do. So I hopped off and free lunged her. She stayed in a 30 m circle at the opposite end of the arena, which she never does.
Good thing I like her, despite her green spirulina nose.
When we went back to the barn she gave that extension cord the hairy eyeball and gave it a good sniff. Total drama queen.

I'm out during the day on Wednesday, so I shouldn't have the same problem with Phantom. Not that she'll forget about it very quickly - she has the mind of an elephant for things that she perceives to be "bad". Cisco is going to be tied in the same spot in the barn for the next few days - hopefully, he's traded in his dancing shoes.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Weekend Update

Saturday night was another late night at the barn as I was determined to get both horses ridden after work.

Since it was after dinner and Phantom's stomach wasn't controlling her brain, she was back to her normal laid-back self. We were able to have a sane ride which was mostly spent on a longish rein since we are still working on trot sets to get her fitter. She seemed good with the two minute intervals so I plan to move up to three minutes on our next ride. I know, that's crazy talk, right?
Barn kittens are just too darn cute! Phantom's fly mask was a great toy.
Cisco had some bad moments and some good moments. The good thing was that the bad stuff was at the beginning of the ride - actually, mostly the groundwork before I got on. He was pushy and distracted through the groundwork so I threw him on the lunge line. I'm pretty sure that some extra energy was the cause of his lack of manners. After a couple of sassy canter transitions he chilled out a bit and was really good to get on.

As we were in the arena by ourselves, the scary end of the arena became scary again. Le sigh. I stayed down at the safe end for a while to try to get him to relax before pushing the issue. He was fussy with his mouth again - I need to get his teeth looked at to make sure that's not the problem. It's probably just where his tension manifests though.
Carefully selected screenshot looks good (it would look better if I was sitting up more).
Eventually, I decided to push the scary end issue. Since we had managed to school the corners in our last ride I'm pretty sure that the corners aren't really that terrifying. At least until the next time they  make noises in the wind. Then I expect to start all over again. But right now, I know we can do corners.

So I repeated the same exercise of riding straight into the corner and halting. This time I added a shallow serpentine down the long side to try to keep him thinking a bit more. The first few times he was hesitant as we returned to the track leading into the corner, and thought about turning the other way. And then the moment finally came when he thought about turning left away from the corner, but changed his mind and totally took me right into the corner. That was a great feeling.

The video, however, tells the truth. Le sigh.

The canter was nothing to get excited about - it was a bit too zoomy to be able to much with it. But he picked up the sticky right lead right away and trotted very politely after the canter. Definite progress from a few rides ago.

I was hoping that the calm version of Cisco that had been around all week was going to continue for this ride. That wasn't the version that I started the ride with, but he ended up much closer to it than I thought we were going to. So overall I was pretty happy with the ride.

Proof that we can go into the scary corners on a loose rein.

My happiness ended when I got home though. I parked the car in the garage, and got out and heard a hissing sound. Sure enough, when I checked in the morning, my back tire was flat. And when Pony Grandpa and I went to change it later in the day, we discovered my front tire on the same side was also completely flat. No idea what I ran over on my way home from the barn, but I had a hole in one tire and a hole and a screw in the other one. Yes, I am that lucky.

Friday 15 March 2019

Dings in His Armor

Cisco has been my first horse who's been hard on his blankets.

I've had two mares - they didn't engage in hijinks that would do damage. My other gelding was always the dominant horse in his turnout, so nobody messed with him. I don't recall ever seeing him playing with the other geldings (they were likely terrified of him, although I think he just exuded dominance so he never had to be nasty).

Last winter was the first winter that I owned Cisco and that he was blanketed. He was turned out with a couple of other geldings, one of whom became his BFF. I saw them grooming each other all the time. I also had seen him having many games of bitey face with whoever would indulge him.
Grooming with his BFF Tsunami.

His blankets had a couple minor mishaps through his first spring with me - mostly things like the darts in the shoulder being pulled apart. Fairly easy to repair.

I decided to cover his winter blanket up with a Kensington fly sheet to try to prevent major damage through the winter. This suit of armor would hopefully take the brunt of the gelding play and allow the winter blanket to last longer.

I also tried a Kensington hood at one point.
I chose whatever colour was on sale. It didn't really matter if they matched.
That was a complete fail.
He'd been wearing it for two days.

Another two days later it was almost buried in the snow.
The Kensington has done its job. Cisco's winter blanket has only needed minor repairs over the last two winters - the top of the tail flap was pulled away, and there have been some small tears in it.

However, the armor has taken some major dings, despite the fact that Cisco is turned out with a couple of mares this year.
Completely missing a 3" square on the shoulder.

I have a feeling that most of this damage has been caused by playing with his neighbouring geldings over the fence. Most of the damage is around the neck/shoulder and the butt.

This is actually the second Kensington - I swapped it last spring when I decided that the first one needed to be repaired. It's now patched up, and I should probably swap them out again so that this one can be rejuvenated.

I also picked a used one up this summer. I haven't needed it yet, but I'm pretty sure I will in the future. Anytime Cisco wears a blanket for turnout, he's going to be wearing his suit of armor over top of it for a very long time.

Thursday 14 March 2019

Role Reversals

I think someone has switched my horses. The white-gray one has been the crazy one, and the gray-gray one has been steady and reliable.

My work schedule usually has me off on Wednesday and Sunday. I actually like this schedule, as I like having a weekday free. On days when I don't have to get up early the next day (generally Tuesday's and Saturday's) I try to ride both horses after work. Since I usually don't get out to the barn in the evening until close to 7pm, that means that I don't leave the barn until somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 pm on those nights.

This Tuesday was one of those nights. Which also means I slept in later than I usually do and didn't get out to the barn as early as I wanted to on Wednesday.

I didn't start my ride on Phantom on Tuesday night until about 9:30 and finished at 10:15. She was pretty good - forward, but not ridiculous. Wednesday afternoon's ride, however, was ridiculous.

She decided that she had two speeds - fast and faster. And I couldn't convince her otherwise. Part of the reason was that the big overhead door was open for the first time this year. I think that the main reason though was because it was approaching dinnertime, and for a horse who is perpetually starving to death because she is in the diet pen, dinner is a big deal.
Phantom already has her sunglasses on. The sun has been very bright this week!
After we zoomed around the arena I tried to take her for a walk down the driveway to cool out. We made it about halfway down - at which point she stopped and stared at someone walking dogs across the field. I turned her back to the barn, and she shortened her neck and jogged the rest of the way. Ugh.

She's usually the reliable one, who is in no rush on a long rein when we go for a walk. I think that her stomach was making the decisions on this day.

I had a pretty good ride on Cisco on Tuesday. I rode during a beginner jump lesson, so I couldn't really school as much as I would have liked. But there were some good things that he did - the pre-ride groundwork seemed to relax him, he wasn't spooky at the scary end, he stood wonderfully at the mounting block, and we got the right lead two out of three times.

And we jumped this.

Yeah, it's tiny. But it had the flower boxes under it, and he was super about going over it.
And then we soared over this one.
On Wednesday, I also got stuck riding during a jump lesson. This time I was stuck with staying on the track due to the pattern that the group was riding that took up most of the center of the arena, and then someone was lunging in the free end.

Again, the scary end wasn't scary. So I decided to see if I could school the corners.

We did the very simple (but very effective) exercise of trotting straight into the corner and halting, waiting for a couple of seconds, then put on the correct turning aids and turn out the corner, pick up the trot again, and repeat in every corner. Works great for horses who want to drop the inside shoulder and think that they get to decide where to make the turn.

I've done this exercise before in the easy corners, but I don't know that I've ever been able to reliably get into the scary end corners to school down there. We tend to go around that short end of the arena with his nose to the outside as he ignores my inside leg and bulges the shoulder to the inside. I want to fix this, and figure this exercise will be the fastest way to fix it.

It totally did.

He was super about going into the corners - no hesitation, and was able to relax at the halt. When I could ride a deep corner, we stayed right out on the track with the correct inside bend, and this set us up for being straight(ish) down the long side.

He's also been a bit behind my leg as of late, so next we worked on just big trots down the long side. Halt in the corner, an attempt at a rollback turn, and trot forward to the next corner. I wanted to feel him taking me down the long side, instead of me pushing him down the long side. It wasn't necessarily a pretty trot, but I started to get that feeling.

Throughout this, we were getting a bit of a warm-up ring feel in the arena. The lesson riders were riding a diamond shape, all three of them at the same time. There were moments as I was trotting down the long side that a row of horses were cantering diagonally towards us and bouncing off the track just in front of us. I could feel some hesitation from Cisco, but he kept going forward.  This was a good experience for him, as I'm pretty sure his first warm-up ring will be a little overwhelming.

It was not going to work out for me to canter, so I figured I would also take him out for a walk outside. Somewhat surprisingly, he was super chill about it. I thought that he would do a bunch of stopping and staring, but he walked out on a loose rein, happily looking around. He didn't even spook at the signs at the end of the driveway that he spooked at every time we passed them last year.

I was so confident in how relaxed he was that I even brought out my phone for a between the ears video.

A total role reversal from my horses today. Phantom is generally the steady, reliable one, and Cisco is the anxious fretter. It's kind of nice that they changed, but I sure hope Phantom changes back quickly! Cisco can stay this way forever please and thank you!

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Hyper Aware

I consider myself fairly techie.

So how did I not know that my phone can take hyperlapse video????

This might be at real life speed, hard to tell with how Cisco eats.

I'm going to have so much fun with this.

Fair warning!

Tuesday 12 March 2019

That's So Raven

Sunday's ride on Cisco had some interesting things happen. Interesting in how he reacted to a couple of moments, that finally give me hope.

I lunged him in the scary end to start with. No issues there - he wasn't overly concerned about the corner. If anything, he kept gawking at the safe end of the arena. He was by himself in there, so he was probably hoping that a buddy would walk through the door.

After lunging I wasn't happy that his attention was still mostly directed towards the door, so I did some groundwork with him to hopefully get him to focus. He'll pay attention while I'm doing something, but as soon as I stop to let him think it over he does the "Squirrel!" thing and turns into a staring llama.


He stood very well when I got on, which is often an indication of how the ride is going to start. He stood completely still while I fussed about a bit before asking him to walk on.

I have figured out that he's a bit better about the scary end if I slowly work my way into that end and don't push the issue. And oddly enough, he's actually better about it on a slightly loose rein at a walk. At the faster gaits he cranks his neck to the outside and drops his shoulder, and I just don't get the reaction off my inside leg that I need to correct it.

We actually started off pretty good this ride, until he heard the bird of death. The ravens are back. And of course they have to sit outside the scary end of the arena and make their cawing raven sound. Over and over again. (Listen to a what a raven sounds like here - the first sound under the picture is pretty close to what I was hearing.)

I am now renaming the scary end Poe Corner.

Cisco, being sensitive to sound, was pretty sure that whatever was making the sound was going to kill him. Thus he no longer wanted to go down to Poe Corner.

Do you push the issue, which means that you will have a super tense horse? Or do you forget about it for a bit, go off and do something in the safe area, and gradually work your way back to where the terror kicks in again?

There's no single answer. It all depends on your horse and how you think they will react.

I chose to try to give Cisco something to keep his busy brain occupied and would occasionally take us past Poe Corner, but not make a big deal about it.

Someone had set some trot poles up. Pole work has kept Cisco focused in the past, so I thought I would try it. There was an option of doing the three trot poles on the quarter line, a single pole at C, then the flower box on the diagonal. Simple lines, but enough stuff to think about where his feet were. We'd have to start and finish out of the scary end, but weren't spending too much time down there.

We couldn't actually get on the track by Poe Corner, but I didn't make a big deal about it and just worried about finding a good line and rhythm to the first element. He really rushed out of that end over the trot poles the first time. After that, I switched to the flower box first - again he rushed a bit. And then jumped it. Hehe!!

So I kinda went with it and kept repeating it. He definitely was taking me to the flower box, and I liked that feeling. I had to bring him back to walk a couple times when he got a little too strong, but otherwise, I just kept my rhythm and refused to get sucked into hanging on his face. He jumped it pretty well every time and landed in a nice canter. And because it's been so long since I've jumped more than one thing at a time, I totally forgot to continue riding to the single pole after the flower box. Oops. I'll need to work on that.

Of course, he totally sucked back when heading down into the scary end, and the first time he jumped the flower box that way he sure dropped his shoulder and fell away from that end of the arena on the landing side. I kind of expected it though so I was somewhat prepared.

The interesting part came at the end of the ride. We were walking on a loose(ish) rein and I was trying to decide if I should do just a bit more trot. He had been fussy in his mouth and retracted in his neck throughout a large chunk of the ride and I really wanted to try a bit of trot and see if he would relax and stretch down and forward a bit.

As we walked into Poe Corner though, he looked right at the scary scaffolding, like he wanted to go over for a look. Anytime he wants to look at something he's generally terrified of, I'll totally let him.

So he turned towards it, stopped and reached out to sniff it. And stood there. I reached down to give him a scratch on the neck, and he flinched but didn't move.

That's when I hopped off. And made a big fuss out of him and took my time loosening my girth and putting up the stirrups. And he wasn't in a rush to get the hell out of there.
Standing relaxed in Poe Corner. Scaffolding just in front of him.
I hand walked him around a few more laps. Just before Poe Corner, something made a sound. He did the splat on the spot, then immediately relaxed and again approached the scaffolding.

In my mind, this is a significant improvement. He's always kind of held onto whatever it was that spooked him, even on the ground. In the past, he would have run past me and tried to leave and then turned into a giraffe in front of me.
Oh hai! My first attempt at getting a picture in the corner. 
Now that I think about it, his reactions the last little bit have been much better. He still goes splat, but hasn't scooted for a bit. There have been some walking scoots, but I don't think he's broken gait.

I still want to try a sound-reducing fly veil, and I know we have a long way to go, but it gives me a bit of hope that he won't always be so reactive. And I had also been talking with a couple of other riders earlier in the day, and they were talking about how much their much more experienced horses also hate that same corner. So maybe Cisco has a bonafide reason about being worried about it!

Monday 11 March 2019

It's Finally Spring!

I took Saturday off of work so that I could go to a local new and used tack sale to attempt to sell some of my excess tack. Since all my saddles are now black, I could get rid of some brown tack. And since all my saddles now have long billets, I could get rid of some long girths. Well, at least four of the six that I own. And since I forgot that I owned a few things when I went through my tack trunks, that stuff could go too.

The sale was okay - some stuff I thought would easily sell didn't, and some stuff I didn't think would go did. I definitely went home with less stuff than I left with. I walked around and checked out the other tables only once. I had my tablemates energetic 4 year old daughter with me, so she was a good deterrent to me actually looking at stuff. It was more a dash down all the aisles, at least until we found the sparkly unicorns.

After the sale was over (and I had a quick nap) I dashed out to the barn to let the horses have a chance to zoom around. I hadn't been out since Monday, and the weather is finally looking good so I should be able to get a bunch of riding in.
Cisco hoped that if he threw his empty dish at me I would throw it back with something in it. Didn't happen.
It was way colder than I thought it would be out there. By the time both horses were done, I was frozen. My thighs took two hours to thaw out. Lemme just say, Under Armor 3.0 base layer long underwear is awesome. This was the first time this winter that I wasn't wearing them (I had on a pair of the merino wool blend long underwear from Costco) and this was the first time that I was this cold. Obviously, the Under Armor ones are doing their job.

On Sunday, however, the sun was out in abundance. The air temperature was somewhere around freezing, and anywhere that got full sun felt warmer. I actually saw puddles of water on the ground!

Is it sad that I was so excited about a puddle that I took a picture?
Phantom's ride wasn't overly exciting - it's much too early on our slow road to fitness to be able to do much. We did a total of 10 minutes of trot in 2 minute increments. I usually try to do 3 or 4 rides with the same trot sets before moving up to the next set. She was forward again for this ride, but not as ridiculously as she was last week. She thought about bolting out of her bolty corner when I tried to trot around on a loose rein at the end, so she lost that option.
Phantom had been having a snooze under the beautiful blue sky when I went out to get her. Of course, she perked up while I tried to turn my phone on.
I'm going to have to clip her again this week. Cisco got reclipped just before the cold weather kicked in at the end of January, but I didn't redo Phantom at the time because I was waiting until I got her looked at by the vet. Well, the cold weather kicked in the day after the vet visit, so it hasn't happened yet. Her hairs are all like 3" long all over her body, and she has barely started shedding (she's usually one of the last ones to shed). Next week's forecast has highs of 7 and 8 in it, and she's going to sweat just walking in that weather. 

I'm still thinking about my ride on Cisco. Hopefully I'll be able to find words about it for tomorrow. It wasn't terrible by any means, but there were some moments that I'm most likely overthinking about.

And then on the way home, I'm pretty sure it was a snowy owl that was flying along the road next to me. Pretty good end to a good (but tiring) day.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

Saddle Update - Almost There!

One of the parcels that I picked up on Monday had the headplate and Flair kit for the Wow saddle I am building for Cisco.

Last night I put the headplate onto the seat.

It's a 5U headplate. This is how wide it is in place.

I also have the wide panel configuration. (dxwg = extra wide gullet) This might give you a better idea of the width.

That's a 2L pop bottle that doesn't touch the sides almost until the cantle.

I ordered the Flair kit so that I can make the adjustments myself. It's a bit daunting, but I'm generally pretty good with this type of stuff. If I get myself into trouble I can try a somewhat local fitter who I think used to be a Wow dealer, and is certified to fit Flair panels, or hit up the Schleese fitter when they come out to this area.

Flair air panels
Lots of tubes and little pieces. Thankfully it comes with an instruction manual!
I'm just awaiting the flaps, for which I received notice today that they are shipping from the UK. At least a month earlier than I expected them! I didn't think I would have this saddle going until the end of April, but with all luck I might have it ready in a couple of weeks. Of course, that means I have to pay more money towards it earlier than I expected!

I also have received the Lemieux saddle cover and saddle pad that I ordered a few weeks ago. I ordered them from Horse Health in the UK, who appears to be the main distributor for Lemieux products. It arrived super fast - I ordered them on a Wednesday, and they were received on either the Monday or Tuesday the following week. Yes, shipping wasn't cheap - I think it came to about $40, but considering that it would cost at least half that to ship within Canada I don't think that's too bad. (It actually would probably cost close to $40 to ship these within Canada. Shipping is very expensive here.)

 It has a nylon outer and a fleece inner layer and drawstrings to tighten it up.

The girth pockets can accommodate both long and short girths - the bottom is not closed so a long girth would slip through and hang down.

The bottom of the flap part has a reinforced opening that you can slide your long billets through so that they don't have to be tucked up underneath.

It's currently covering my flapless saddle, but I'm pretty sure that I am going to be more than happy with it.

And lastly - the Lemieux saddle pad.

It's definitely purple! Blackcurrant, to be precise.

I really like it, and not just because of the colour. But it helps. It's got a suede finish on the top side. The billet/leg patch is more of a cordura material. The girth strap is split on the inside so that if you have long billets you can put them through a specific slot if you so desire.

I bought the small/medium size and I'm just hoping that the front of the pad isn't going to be too forward for my small jump flap.

2/3's of a saddle and the saddle pad.
Here's hoping that it all works out and I can start flying over itty bitty jumps with Cisco this spring!

Tuesday 5 March 2019

Monday Rides

The sun came out, the planets aligned, and I managed to get both horses ridden on Monday. I mean, I had to use a lieu day at work to get it done, but it happened!

I didn't take the day off just to ride  - the plan was that I needed to go through my tack boxes in the garage and figure out what I wanted to take to the tack sale this weekend. I got through the easy ones that didn't need to be completely unburied, but I know I'll need to dig out the other ones. There are a couple of things I can't find and it's driving me nuts, and a couple of things that I want to get into use in those trunks. Probably some things to sell, too.

I left that for the end of the day. I was taking the best part of the day for myself!

I arrived at the barn just after 1pm. The ponies were soaking up the sunshine while standing in their shelters - there was a bit of a breeze that was quite nippy. I dragged Phantom out so that she could have her Ventipulmin in preparation of our ride. She was not impressed until she saw the bucket outside her pen. She ate and then went right back out and I grabbed Cisco.
No horse media today, just barn kitties passed out under the heater.
Another person was tacking up and we headed over to the arena together. I hoped that another horse would mean that Cisco would be a bit chill since this was his first ride in almost 5 weeks. I lunged him first in the scary corner without too many issues, then a few times over the flower box from yesterday, then hopped on. He stood perfectly still and waited for me to ask him to walk away - that boded well for the ride.

I didn't do much with him - neither of us had done anything in a while, so we stuck to walk/trot. He stayed pretty relaxed, which also meant he was behind my leg, which I wasn't prepared for (meaning I didn't have a whip). He's been so overly forward for the last few rides I didn't think this was going to be a problem. I'll be better prepared next time.

The other horse left the ring, and I stayed on for a bit, curious to see how he reacted. He was a bit more reluctant to go into the scary corner, not bad or anything, but I did notice a difference. They had also left the gate open when they went out (with a closed door behind it) and I made sure that having to go past the open gate wasn't going to be a problem. Again, there was a slight difference, but nothing to make an issue out of.

He stayed relaxed while I walked him out, so I walked him out a bit longer than I might have otherwise. I remember watching a Carl Hester demo, and at the end of the demo they stretch the horse long and low, and he talked about not riding them like that for just a lap at the end of the ride and then done, but ride it for a few minutes so that they get used to carrying themselves that way. So I was going with the same kind of idea - Cisco was walking along relaxed, so I wanted to keep him walking relaxed so that he got used to it. At least, that's the theory.

And then came my ride on Phantom. Ahh, Phantom.

She was feeling just a wee bit good. Her run around the arena yesterday did nothing to make today's ride easier.

She walked around doing her trail horse impression while I chatted with someone for our warm-up. Then we picked up the trot. A very zoomy trot. That only got zoomier the more we trotted.

And I'm a really crappy horse trainer because I just giggled through it all.

She steered - mostly. Dodging the sunbeam totally doesn't count. She came back to walk every time - eventually. When we went over the flowerbox and she overjumped it she came back to trot - a quarter of the arena later.

About halfway through the ride I said screw it and just rode the trot in 2-point and let her trot fast. Which got bigger and bigger and more up in front. So I made her do one lap in a proper frame and contact, and then called it a day. She's not at all fit, and I don't want to tempt a tying-up episode by letting her do too much too early.

I also had two horse parcels sitting at the post office that I picked up today. One had blankets - half-priced Weatherbeeta rainsheets. I got one for each horse, and they're both the same, and it's the same one that I already have for Cisco. So at some point this spring I'll have them dressed all twinsie like.
Not quite twinsies, because Cisco has to wear his suit of armor over his rainsheet. A currently very tarnished suit of armor.

The second parcel had the headplate for my Wow saddle and the Flair adjustment kit. So now I just need to wait until the end of April for my flaps and then I'll hopefully be ready to get Cisco jumping tiny little jumps.

It was a great horsey day. Too bad that pesky job thing is going to get in the way again.

Monday 4 March 2019

Sunday Energy

Last week sucked for horses.

I only made it out on Monday night (at -31 degrees Celsius!). For the rest of the week, I either had to work (Tue/Thurs), had horrible stomach cramps (Wed), or it was super cold (Fri & Sat).

The good news is that it looks like we have survived the worst of the cold, and by the end of this week we are supposed to start getting normal temperatures. Next week's temperatures all have daytime highs just over the freezing mark. It's not bikini weather, but after the coldest February in 40 years, and the 4th coldest since they started recording these things, we'll take it!
It's still cold though.
This week has a couple of doable days for riding. So on Sunday I made sure that both horses had a chance to get their zoomies out in preparation for me to be in the tack on Monday.

Neither horse was impressed with me since I brought them in at dinnertime. They had a bit to eat first - I had asked the girl doing chores to just give their pens 1 flake per horse, and I would throw the rest in after I was done with them. The horses counted those single flakes and definitely knew that they had been shortchanged!

Cisco came in with the brain hamster spinning on its wheel. He was basically doing the fingers stuck in his ears going "lalalalala I can't see you" and trying to push through me and being obnoxious. We didn't dally for long in the barn (I let him eat his soupy meal first) and I took him over for a lunge.

There had been a jump clinic during the day so there were jumps set up all over the arena. The only spot to lunge was right in the spookiest of corners. Perfect!

Cisco was super buzzy, but not in a spooky way. Just a very forward way. Which I don't mind at all. Once the hamster started to get a little bit tired, I put his brain to work, asking for lots of transitions. I even tried quick canter/trot/canter transitions, with various degrees of success. Mostly successful going to the left, not so much to the right because a couple of horses had entered the arena and they were super distracting and it's hard to canter when you are gawking at the other end of the arena.

I actually liked the look of his canter. His stride seemed longer and he seemed more relaxed through his body, instead of the shorter, head up in the air type canter I see all too often.

When walking him out I noticed the flower box set up from the clinic. It seemed like a good thing for Cisco to have to go over!
Tall flowers to tiptoe through.

Of course, he wasn't sure about it, but tried really hard to figure out what I wanted from him. It wasn't too long before I was lunging him over it at a trot, and he made really awkward movements over it - not sure if he should jump it, or just trot through it, so kind of combination of both.

I had given Phantom her Ventipulmin when I arrived at the barn, so she was ready to go for a run when I brought her in. I'm happy to say that it seemed to make a difference - she was puffy after galloping around, but not short puffy.

She had a ton of energy. 

She's has this thing these days about revving up coming out of that left corner going down the long side as you can kind of see in the gif. She kept cutting it closer and closer to the jump, and then had to start scrambing out of the turn so that she didn't run into the fence. I checked her shoes at one point to make sure they were both still tightly on. Silly mare.

I'm hoping that Sunday's escapades will mean decent rides on Monday. And that I won't be super sore on Tuesday. Not holding out for that one though!