Thursday 26 September 2019

Fine Then!

Cisco came into the barn on Wednesday evening with a bit of a 'tude. He wouldn't stand still while I was tacking him up, he kept trying to flip the blanket off the rack in front of him (and it wouldn't fall off, which probably pissed him off even more) and I was going slowly because I kept messaging people about what had gone down yesterday.

I kind of thought he'd be a bit of a turd when we got into the arena, but he wasn't too bad. I did some TRT groundwork before getting on just to make sure his brain was firmly lodged in his head. It seemed to be.
He had these marks all over his butt, as did one of his fieldmates. Could this be the reason for his idiot dance?

This was the first ride since my lesson last Thursday. Thus the plan was to work on the same stuff we had done on that day - namely teaching Cisco to put together the concept of inside seatbone application means step into the outside rein with the inside hind.

I let him mostly warm-up at a walk on a loose rein.  I wanted there to be a clear distinction of either being on a loose rein or working into a connection. I intended to let him trot on a loose rein, but he apparently remembered our last ride and kept himself much rounder and straighter than he normally did. And slow.

We did just a few minutes of trot before I brought him back to a walk and shortened my reins to begin the real work. By which I mean mostly brain work, not physical work.

We started the same as we did in the lesson - halt, ask for a turn on the forehand type step from the seatbone, but keep him straight and keep a connection with the outside rein.

Cisco definitely remembered the concept. But like the beginning of the lesson last week, he wasn't real happy about it. Backwards and forwards and sideways and stick a front foot out and not move at all and move only the shoulders. And when he did take the step from my seatbone, it was huge and I couldn't stop him - still a hissy fit move.

And then he suddenly stopped. And halted quietly. And waited for me to ask him to move, and took one reasonable step at a time when he did. And it pretty well stayed that way.

At that point he got much praise and more long rein breaks.
Fall is definitely here - it's rainy and cool for the next few days. The "s" word has also been uttered for this weekend. 

We spent most of the ride at a walk or halt, but did throw in some trot. The whole inside seatbone thing at a trot is much harder for me, although after the walk work he is starting much straighter at the trot. He is trying though!

I have to watch myself though - when tracking right and I pick up my reins to put him together, he really wants to drop the right shoulder in, and I want to try to bend him right as the correction. I need to stay off my right rein, and use my right seatbone to straighten him out into my left rein instead. Gotta fight my instinct on this one.

I plan for my next couple of rides to go the same way, adding some more trot. Hopefully his temper tantrum won't last as long next time and we can get right into the "work".

Wednesday 25 September 2019

10 Questions for September

I had every intention of making it out to ride on Tuesday, but since my drive home from work took twice as long as it should have and I have to be up at the ungodly hour of 5am on Wednesday so I need to try to be asleep by 10pm (not gonna happen) I ended up staying home. And apparently missed some significant barn drama that I will likely be somewhat dragged into. Sigh.

Anyhoo, here are my 10 questions answered.

1) Favourite quirk your horse has

Phantom - not so much a quirk, but she has a signature way of turning her head to look at me when I'm behind her that I love.

Cisco - I love that he almost always walks across the field to me when he sees me. I'd like to think that it's just when he sees me, but in reality he's very people friendly so I'm pretty sure he walks up to everyone.

2) Three adjectives that perfectly describe your horse

Phantom - opinionated, brave, treat-oriented (I've been out of school for a while, no idea if these are actually adjectives)
Moar cookies!

Cisco - friendly, goofy, do-gooder
Every. Frikkin'. Time.

3) Plan your next ride - what will you do/work on?

Phantom - the intent will be basic stuff with an emphasis on suppleness. The reality will be trying to get her to slow the f down!

Cisco - we will continue to work on the stuff we were given to work on in our last lesson - namely, putting together inside seatbone to outside rein.

4) Have you ever trained an OTTB? If yes, what was the biggest challenge?

I've never owned or ridden an OTTB long term, so I can't really take any credit for any training. When I was a teenager I remember getting on some mares that were recently off the track and immediately going for a canter around the arena for a few laps until they calmed down, so I've definitely ridden some OTTB's. I also rode one who had been in the Queen's Plate, the biggest race in Canada, during his prime.
That would be me on said OTTB in 1989 in a hunter trial pairs class. His name was something like Bold Regent or Bull Regent - if anyone has access to the Jockey Club archives and could look him up I'd love to see his info! (He ran in the Plate in the early '80's I think.)

5) Have you ever groomed or ridden for a professional rider?

Nope. Never really had a desire to groom as a full-time thing, and not a good enough rider for someone to want to take me on!

6) Favourite horse and rider combination?

Probably anything Charlotte Dujardin or Carl Hester are riding. I love how they manage their horses and they always seem to have such a great partnership with them.

7) Have you ever ridden a horse at the beach?

I don't think so. I live in a place where there aren't really any beaches and never get to go on vacation.

8) If you could experience the equestrian community (ie. ride and compete) in another country, what country and why?

My dream vacation is to ride in Ireland or the UK, maybe one of those rides where you ride to a different castle to stay in every night. I'd also like to hit up HOYS or one of the big events - mostly for the shopping. And Equitana in Germany for the same reason.
This would probably be acceptable.
9) In your opinion what is a piece of equipment that is given unnecessary hype?

Ogilvy pads. Just not a fan of memory foam and I can't see how they can benefit saddle fit.
Also - saddle prices have gotten kind of ridiculous - it's not hard to spend upwards of $6000 on a new saddle. And higher if you actually need some custom aspects to it. If it doesn't fit you, it probably won't make you a better rider!

10) What was the first horse you rode called? Are they still alive?

The first pony I rode was at a summer camp, a sooty palomino named Dolly. Since this camp was over 30 years ago I highly doubt that she is still alive.
Not Dolly, but Sparky - the first pony I leased way back in 1986-87. I would imagine that she's also off in the land of unlimited horse cookies.

Monday 23 September 2019

Great Salt Licks

My dear departed gelding Farly was a sculptural artist.

I always got a kick out of looking in the manger of his stall and seeing what shape he had licked his salt block into. Sadly, cell phones weren't a thing at that time, so I don't have any photos to show his artistic genius.

Apparently, he wasn't the only one.

I came across this site this weekend - The Great Salt Lick Contest.

For the last 13 years, there has been a contest in Baker, Oregon, for the most sculptural salt lick. As per the rules,

"All entries must be salt blocks licked by cows or other livestock. Range blocks licked by wildlife will also be permitted. Blocks licked by humans will not be permitted. Licks may also be subject to DNA testing. Blocks with human DNA will be eliminated and offenders banned from future contests."


"Cows caught using steroids will be canned.

Mad cows will be eligible for psychtriatric treatment."

It looks like the whole town gets behind the contest and has a good time. It's a fun idea (this year's theme is "Expose Yourself to Salt Lick" and has a picture of a flasher opening his trenchcoat in front of a salt block), and most importantly, it's used as a fundraiser for Parkinson's Research when the salt block sculptures are auctioned off. So far, they've raised $150,000.

Here's a video about the contest.

This could make a fun class at a fun show or country fair. I'm pretty sure I missed my chance to claim my horse is the next big thing in the art world (I don't know of any sculptural artists to name here), but maybe he's in your barn!

Friday 20 September 2019

A Lesson on Straight

OMG I got a lesson!

It was almost all at a walk (or halt) and was just what I needed!

I hadn't had a lesson since last summer. A combination of no spare dollars, the instructor coming to my barn on the day that I usually have to work the evenings so no riding for me, and then she got hurt earlier this summer so wasn't able to teach all meant that lessons weren't happening. But things finally got together this week to make it work for me.
No media from my ride, so enjoy these old gifs of my silly horse.

We rode outside in the 20x40m dressage ring on the grass. I've ridden Cisco many times out in that field, but not in the small ring. The small ring that also has a bunch of gopher holes in it.

I told her that my biggest problem was with Cisco wanting to barge through his right shoulder and that I've been working on some shoulder-fore and that when I ask him to move his shoulders in to the right he just barges through my reins.

So we started off with an exercise to get him to learn to step his inside hind into my outside rein. It was similar to a turn on the forehand, but working towards using just my inside bone to ask him to step under with his inside hind, into my outside rein that kept him very straight and caught the step. In the beginning I would have to use my leg as well, but the ultimate goal is just seat bone.

In the beginning, Cisco was not so agreeable about this plan. He went through his list of options on how to get out of staying straight, which included going forward, going backwards, barging sideways, flipping his head, and standing completely still despite my kicks. He actually figured out pretty quickly what my inside seat bone meant - and this exercise worked really well to straighten him.

So then we moved on to doing squares. Halt in the corner, inside seat bone (and leg if needed) to ask him to step under and across with his inside hind. Walk forward, repeat.

The first problem was getting a straight square halt off my outside rein. And then not allowing him to back up. But again, he started to fuss less and we had some good moments.

And then came the trot.

Same idea, more pressure on my inside seat bone, a ton of inside leg, outside rein solid. She actually had me grab onto my breastplate to keep my hands still and not let them do stupid things like cross over the neck. Deep into the corner, flow out.
Post-ride roll - he almost turtled himself when he tried to flip over.
Cisco was straight. But it was exhausting. Because he actually was straight he had to actually work. Again, he wasn't really on board for this plan. I had to use a whole lotta leg to keep him going, then a whole lotta inside leg in the corners.

However, it worked. He was probably the straightest he's ever been. But omg this is going to take so much work.

Cisco seems to think things over when new things are introduced (he probably just thinks about eating, but I'd like to think differently) so I'm interested to see how quickly he gets on board with the new program on our next ride.

Thursday 19 September 2019

It Started Out With a Bang

My drive out to the barn on Wednesday started off with a bang - literally. I was rear-ended when I stopped at a light and the girl behind me didn't. My SUV is hurt - the bottom part of my bumper will need to be replaced. So I'll have to spend some time dealing with this over the next couple of days. Blargh.
Poor car. 
Thankfully the ponies were awesome.

I arrived at the barn later than I had hoped to and ended up having to ride during a jump lesson. There was only one person in it so it wasn't too bad.

Cisco was very chill, but was trying very hard for me. Except for the whole going forward thing. When I ride him I have one of two horses under me - if we are alone in the arena, I have a forward, pretty reactive to my leg, but tense horse. If there are other horses in there, I have a super chill, behind my leg horse. This horse is exhausting to ride. Mr. Tappy spends lots of time making his presence known.

I had dropped the bit down a hole to see if he was more comfortable with it a bit lower in his mouth. Phantom hates a high bit, so I thought I'd see if Cisco was the same. I don't know if it made a difference or not, but he definitely didn't dislike it. I have a lesson on Thursday so I'll see if she makes a comment about the bulging cheekpieces.
7.9 for canter regularity! I haven't broken my horse's canter yet!
Our right lead canter was again much better with flexion to the inside around most of the turns. And then I had some lovely soft right bend at a trot on a longer rein. I was hoping to do more canter, but the next jump lesson was ramping up again and there wasn't going to be a lot of space so I decided to end after his nice trot work.

Phantom was slightly less silly than the day before. To the right she was able to give me some soft trot work, but she's been a bit stiff to the left so she wasn't reaching down or giving me flexion that direction. I did a lot of leg-yields and pushing her out around turns, and it got a bit better. Counter-canter seemed to help her left lead - at least until she started to get silly again. Then we lost everything and could barely trot at a decent pace after the canter.
Not where I like to see it, though I definitely don't live by this score. 
Her symmetry score on the Equisense was terrible. She didn't feel bad though, so I think it's because we really didn't spend too much time on a straight line at a trot without me moving her laterally in some way or another. Not that I'm convinced this score means much regarding lameness - the rides where I have the worst scores are generally ones where I'm doing more lateral work.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Yet Another Week Off and Trying to Ride

Another week off, another week of not managing to get much riding in.

I did my substitute teaching gig both days on the first weekend. Long days, exhausting, but it paid for one horse's board for a month, so totally worth it.

Which meant that Monday was really my first day of vacay. I took it easy, spent some much needed time tidying in the house (ugh, so much more to do), had a lovely nap, and wandered out to the barn in the evening. My plan was mostly just to wash Phantom's brown tail and hope to make it white again, and a bit of quick groundwork/lunge with Cisco. I was successful with Cisco and mostly successful with Phantom.
Cisco had a potential land shark sighting out the back door in the dark. Land sharks no longer are super scary as they once were!
Tuesday morning had me spend far too much time playing Candy Crush before I rolled myself out of bed (got through 20 levels since I had a bunch of boosters - can't let those go to waste). I made it out to the barn around dinnertime to get both horses ridden.

Cisco was nice and relaxed as there were other horses in the arena. Thus he gave me lots of nice work at a trot. I also managed to figure out our right bend problem. When tracking right, if I look backwards over my right shoulder, right bend is easy. Apparently, it's all about the positioning of my body.  So for the next little bit, I'll be getting a crick in my neck and hope not to run into anything when riding Cisco to the right.
Oh, Phantom. Why must you make it difficult? (I'm not complaining that my 16 year old horse is feeling good!)
Phantom was happy to try to work far too hard and forward, as she has been since she got her hocks done. I keep trying to convince her to trot around slowly so that we can work on being soft, but nope, she has other ideas. And she is a very determined woman.

I was happy with both of my rides. I was even happier that I managed to (mostly) stay out of the barn drama that had erupted through the day, I'm just gonna keep my head down and deal with my own horses for the next few days. Might need to take headphones out to give some people the hint that I don't want to talk...

Friday 13 September 2019

Noisy Noises

Life has been busy. I was transferred for work as of last week. I live on the north end of the city, now I work on the south end of the city, and the ponies live north of where I live.  The drive to or from work starts at 30 minutes and gets worse depending on the time of day. I go past the turnoff to the barn on my way home from work, so last week I planned ahead a couple of days and went straight out to the barn from work. That should save me 25-30 minutes of driving time a day, but it makes for a really long day - leaving the house at 8:20am and not returning until close to 10pm. I'm hoping to do this a couple of days a week until it gets super cold out. I don't know that I'll want to haul all of my cold-weather gear out to the car in the morning before I leave.

Thus I haven't managed as much saddle time over the last couple of weeks as I would have liked. I've made it out to the barn a bunch - mostly to change blankets due to the constantly changing weather. Duty visits instead of recreation visits.
Phantom got ridden again by my lesson kid. This is her waiting while kid is in the bathroom face.
Monday's ride on Cisco was short as I needed to make adjustments to the front Flair bags in my saddle. It was sitting lower than what I was happy with, so I did just enough for him to start to relax and then hopped off. I added more air back in the barn while the saddle was still on him so that it would be ready for the next ride.

Which was Thursday. And it wasn't ready. One side had taken the air, the other side had not. And would not. I was really close to chucking Cisco back out and throwing the saddle in the car to figure out at home, but the air finally went in. I think it had a kink in the tube that wasn't allowing the air to pass. It's happened before.
I have to keep my eyes up while walking through the barn - I keep almost walking into spiders hanging down from the ceiling. Rather big ones (for us up north, at least).
When we got into the arena, I wasn't sure if I was going to get on after all. They are building an apartment over the end that has the washrooms and other rooms at one end of the ring. There was a contractor working up there. Using tools. Tools like a saw, a measuring tape, and an air nailer, which also means a compressor. Cisco no likee. Especially the nail gun.

We did our TRT Method groundwork, trying to get him to find some relaxation and drop his head. It took a few minutes, but it started to get a little lower. Just a little. Another horse came in to get tacked up, and Cisco took comfort in the company of strangers and started to actually relax.

He was very good when I got on (carefully timed between nail gun bursts) and we were able to walk around on a loose rein. Then his new best friend left for a lesson outside. Cisco no likee.
The new build. I think it's going to be an apartment, but I'm really not sure. 
We had a couple of extra-forward laps at a trot around the ring. Then Cisco was saved by the arrival of another horse. Our ride continued in a pretty regular fashion, except for all of the construction noise. Which didn't really faze either horse.

It was a good educational experience for Cisco. Considering that he started by trying to go through me when the first noises, for us to be able to walk around on a long rein during breaks is a pretty significant improvement. Having another horse in the ring definitely helped, but then he's always more relaxed when he has company.

This is just another day that shows me he is now able to put scary stuff behind him once he realizes that he's not going to die. It's taken a while to get to this point. Hopefully, he continues to move forward and maybe one day I'll have a brave horse. Ideally before he's 18.

Monday 9 September 2019


Since I've been using Phantom for a beginner rider that I teach, I've been thinking of trying her in a hackamore. She can be really protective of her mouth and doesn't like the reins being pulled back on or being used for balance. The young girl that is riding her is quite well balanced, so pulling on the reins hasn't been an issue yet and Phantom has remained happy. I'm just thinking a bit forward for when she's doing more (which will be a while as this rider needs things to go super slowly).

I own a short shank mechanical hackamore and an english jumping/sidepull noseband. I've used them both on Phantom in the past with no significant issues. But I can't find the english noseband (it's probably sitting right next to the breastplate, stirrup leathers and clippers I own but can't seem to find). So I had to buy another one.
Ignore the very dirty face.

After some research, I decided on the Zilco flower hackamore. It was said to be one that you can ride like it was a regular bit. I ordered it from someone in Britain on eBay, and about a month later it showed up. On Friday night I popped it onto a bridle and took Phantom for a spin with it.

Phantom went around happy as a clam. Forward, relaxed.

And totally on her forehand.

Forging at the trot. Dropped back. God awful canter.

But so happy.

I definitely won't be using it on a regular basis - I've no desire to encourage that way of going. And I don't think I'll use it for the lesson kid - Phantom didn't steer quite as well as I hoped with it. She was fine for me since I don't really use my hands to steer. But for someone who is learning to ride, she just kind of sets her neck straight and doesn't really bend so steering won't be as easy.
I forgot to grab a different bridle - my PS of Sweden bridle was not the best choice for a hackamore. It has a monocrown, so I took the noseband off and had to tuck the straps into the runners on the cheekpieces to keep them from flapping around. It worked, but it wasn't pretty!

Some people can get horses working really well in a hackamore - I'm not one of them. Maybe it's because my legs aren't long enough to wrap under my horse to encourage them to engage their abs, or maybe it's because my horse isn't a purpose-bred dressage horse - stock horses tend to move very levelly. So if anybody has any ideas on how to encourage my horse to lift her back while using a hackamore that doesn't involve me growing an extra 8" of leg, I'm all ears!

Monday 2 September 2019

Horses In the Mist

Fall is coming.

The leaves are already turning yellow, I've seen geese gathering, the horses are starting to fluff up, and I've turned the thermostat up for the mornings just in case the temperature drops overnight.

However, it's still raining. So when the temperature drops in the evening, we get fog.

On Friday evening, the fog starting coming in well before sunset. I had both horses in, so I decided to try to take advantage of it. I foisted my phone upon a friend and asked her to take some pics of me and my ponies in the fog.

It was a spur of the moment thing, so I wasn't dressed real fancy, my horses weren't groomed, we were using my cell phone instead of my dslr, and my friend is not a photographer. The photos weren't perfect - they are a bit too grainy to be able to enlarge them.

I just don't have many pictures of me with my horses. I have lots of pics that I've taken - but since I've taken them, I'm not in them. We have someone at the barn who does photoshoots, and I've thought about hiring her, but with two gray horses, getting ready for an evening shoot is an all-day job and I just don't have the desire.

I think this one is my favourite though it's a little eerie.

It kind of looks like we are all crossing over together. Should I ever get into a devastating car crash while hauling both of my horses, this is the picture to use.

I'm going to start throwing my good camera in the car for my evening trips out to the barn. Maybe I'll get lucky and get a second chance at these pictures. Maybe I'll throw some better boots and a jacket in too, just in case.