Tuesday 8 December 2020

Teaching Tuesday - ECVM

 Ever heard of ECVM? 

Me either.

But I watched a fascinating presentation on it.

ECVM is Equine Complex Verterbra Malformation. It's a malformation of C6 and C7 of the horse's cervical spine that causes asymmetries in the ribs, muscles, and can affect some major nerves. 

It appears to be genetic/hereditary. And it's showing up in many breeds because it seems to be very prevalent in Thoroughbreds. 

If you are interested in equine biomechanics or physiology I would totally recommend watching this video. It's about two hours long but I was enthralled the whole time. 

Also - good luck not looking for symptoms in a horse you know (or have known)!

Thursday 3 December 2020

Wordless Wednesday - Sunrise

 I went out to the barn yesterday morning after leaving work at 7am. There was a beautiful sunrise, which I thought would make a lovely backdrop for some pics of the ponies. 

Well, at least the sky was pretty.

Friday 27 November 2020

Sure Feet

 The ponies got their Christmas present last night. 

One problem with being home so much with nothing to do in the middle of the night on my one night a week off is that I spend way too much time watching Youtube. Thus, I ended up ordering a couple sets of Sure Foot pads.

It's something that I've been interested in for a while. The idea is that the horses stand on the pads, which are available in different levels of firmness and flat or slanted, and that they receive some kind of benefit from it. It could be fascial release, or working their intrinsic balance muscles as a human would if standing on a bosu ball or balance board, or by having their feet stimulated because the pads press up into their feet, which allows them to feel the ground (or something like that). It's not fully understood how it works on the horse but supposedly some benefits can often been seen very quickly.

Shiny and new. That didn't last for long.

I ordered the firm flat pads and hard slants, which are considered to be a good place to start. There is a practitioner in my area who sells the pads but she only had one of the sets I was looking for available, so I ended up ordered them online through the TTouch website. There was something else on their site that I wanted so I wasn't too put out by having to order online. Full props to their service - I ordered the pads at about 9am, and by noon I had my shipping notice. 

On the day that the pads were due to arrive I started to think about my visit to the barn and how I would use them and realized that Phantom had had borium added to her shoes the day before. D'oh! I didn't want that borium to rip up my new (expensive) pads. After an inquiry on a Facebook page I made "blankets" out of craft foam and gorilla tape to protect the pads.  Seemed to work and was pretty cheap.

How did the horses respond?


I wasn't sure how Cisco would take to them. The first couple of times I placed his front foot on the pad he stepped off pretty quickly without really putting his full weight on it. On the third attempt, he stepped down, and stayed there for a minute or so. He seemed a bit surprised and really inspected the pad with his nose after stepping off. When I added the second front pad he immediately stepped down on it. 

Cisco is not a horse who blatantly shows releases so I didn't really see any big signs of it. There was lots of looking back at his sides, with kind of a "what is going on back there?" look. 

What did indicate that he liked the pads was that when we went for a walk after he stepped on the pads he very deliberately stopped when we got back to the pads, which he did more than once. I thought that was interesting.

I tried the slants on his back feet, but he was a little more unsure about them. He stepped onto the left hind once, but after that would only put his toe on it. We'll work on that, and play with what pad I try back there. 

I was pretty sure that Phantom would have no issue with standing on the pads, and sure enough, within a few short minutes I had her standing on the flat pads in front and the slants behind. 

Within a few seconds of standing on all four pads, Phantom let out four huge yawns, and another yawn a few seconds later. A huge release. I think I saw a couple of small sways in her body also. 

She didn't really want to stand on the pads for too long - maybe a minute and half before getting off. And I kind of got the impression that after that attempt with the big release she was done with them. The fact that she was eagerly anticipating dinner probably didn't help. 

I can't say that I noticed a difference in how the horses physically moved after standing on the pads, but we were just in the aisle of the barn so it was hard to tell. Cisco walked with his head a bit lower and Phantom was walking out nicely with her front legs but I can't say that it was because of the pads. However, they definitely didn't dislike them. 

I can't wait to try them while under saddle. It will be interesting to see if I feel a difference in how the horse feels. I know how much myofascial release (aka the foam roller) works for me, hopefully these do something similar for the ponies. 

Monday 9 November 2020

The Last Outside Ride of the Year

 I started working night shifts last week. This means that for the next 7 or so weeks the ponies will mostly be on vacation. When I work nights I just find it too hard to ride regularly enough to get anything out of the ride, so I don't even bother. The kids are happy to stand in front of a round bale and get fat and furry.

Last weekend though (the 4th), the weather was too nice not to take advantage of it. 

We went from stupid cold over the previous weekend to really nice mid-teens this weekend. If you were in the sun, it would have been short-sleeve weather. Perfect for riding outside weather. 

I generally find it hard to get out of bed when I wake up in the middle of the afternoon, but on this day I looked at the temperature outside and just about hopped out of bed and into breeches. The clocks had changed that night and I wasn't sure how long I would have daylight to be able to do anything outside.

Cisco was my willing victim for the day. I didn't have any goals for the ride, just to get on a go for a walk. He was perfect. 

It was just a short ride around the yard. The gravel road was recently redone and Cisco's not comfortable walking on the gravel. And I didn't want to try the empty farmer's field across from the barn because I was worried that the furrows would be somewhat frozen and risk my horse twisting a leg. 

But it didn't matter. 

I timed it perfectly and finished my ride as the sun was on its way down in the sky. Another half hour and it would have been mostly dark.

This past weekend, the weather changed yet again, and we got a 10" dump of snow. Winter is here!

Wednesday 4 November 2020


I sold my dressage saddle!

I should do the responsible adult thing and use the money to pay down bills. Or I could do the horse responsible thing and put the money aside and take a bunch of lessons next year.

But no. I'm going to do the horse frivolous thing. And I'm gonna get me some custom boots!

I've been looking for tall boots for years. But I can't find anything to fit me. Being a slightly fluffy vertically-challenged person, everything is too tall and too narrow. And the options that I might want to give a shot aren't available locally and I don't want to take a risk on something I'd likely have to purchase internationally and wouldn't easily have quick re-sale value. 

I'm also at the point in my life where I don't want boring black and am happy to pay extra to make it happen. Thus, custom it is!

There's a 98% chance that I'm going to go with Celeris. I've loved the Bia boots ever since I first saw them. 

So beautiful!

What I don't know is how many pairs I'm going to get!

Through to the end of the year, they have a BOGO 1/2 off deal.  After Christmas they've already announced that they will be having a 10% off sale, or pay regular for a pair of tall boots and get a free pair of short boots. So I don't know what I'm going to do!

I could be talked into these Polo boots instead...

If I go with the BOGO deal, it would make sense to winterize the second pair and get the foot with sheepskin lining. You know, since it's winter for 1/2 a year where I live.

But, to use this deal, I would have to buy a boot bag and a belt (you also have to buy spur straps but I was already planning on getting those). That would add about $150 to the cost and put the overall price a few hundred over what I got for my saddle. 

The chance of croc skin boots is extremely high. But not brown. 

In January, there are a couple of different deals that they've announced. Either 10% off a pair of tall boots, or get a short pair of boots free with the purchase of tall boots. 

If I do the free short boot option, then I would get the short boots with the sheepskin. But I would need some new half chaps as mine are starting to wear out (some holes in the elastic panel and I need a zipper replaced). If I went with matching half chaps, the price is pretty close to the same as the BOGO deal. 

I luvs this petrol blue. But I'll save it for my third pair.

Or, I just get one pair at 10% off. The smarter option. You know, as smart as buying expensive boots to tromp around in mud and poo gets. And then have some money left for lessons. I mean, not much, probably only a couple of lessons. 

I've made the really difficult decisions - the colour options. Well, provided I don't look at any more pictures. It wouldn't take much to get me to change to purple!

I'm going to book a Skype call with them to get some quotes and the final pricing and then I will have to make a decision. Feel free to enable me as to why I should definitely get two pairs!

Friday 30 October 2020

I'm the Wanker

 Well. it's been a hot minute since I've posted!

I've been working shifts that are all over the place - super early, mid-day, or late, with not much regularity to it, so I've just been too tired to type anything up. But I've been pretty good about getting onto the ponies and getting some rides in. 

I did manage to write something though - I sent an email of a recent trailering practice to the ladies of the Buck Off Banter podcast. They decided that my story was wankerish enough for them and I was the featured wanker of last week's episode. 

The sweaty horse after the trailer ride and his jaunt in the dark.

My mother had a good laugh at the story in which she was featured, although she was a little disappointed that her scabby knee was only good for a ribbon.

Here's a link to the episode!

Thursday 1 October 2020

New Things!

 I don't know why, but the end of September through most of October always seems to get crazy busy. Such is the case this year.

I got a few rides in last week. Nothing exciting happened.

This week isn't looking so good. 

But when I get back in the saddle next week, I have some new things to use. 

First - I bought a new helmet on International Helmet Awareness day a couple of weeks ago. My Troxel Intrepid schooling helmet was 5 years old so I was looking to replace it. I'd like to get a Mips helmet, but I haven't found one yet that fits me. The ones that are most likely to fit are the Charles Owen and OneK versions, but no one has them locally so that I can try them on, and in Canada, helmets are final sales, so I'm not ordering one if I haven't tried it on.

The new melon lid.

I decided on the Troxel Avalon with the Rose Gold accents. My size wasn't in stock so I had to order it but I was able to try on the plain black version. The rose gold isn't super shiny and in some lights has a bit of a copper-ish tone to it, which I'm still fine with. 

While I was waiting for my horses to eat their dinner in the barn I made the adjustments to the harness and wore the helmet for a few minutes and had compliments from everyone in the barn. So I guess it was a good decision!

Also to arrive that day were my new Franklin Balls. I've been using a set of Franklin-ish balls while I walk at the beginning of my rides on occasion and have really been impressed with how well it gets my hips to open up. I'd like to work my way up to trying it at a sitting trot and canter, thus I decided to buy the real thing. 

I bought the smooth ball set (the orange ones) and the mini roll (the blue peanut shaped one). These seemed to the two that were most recommended in all the videos and articles that I had read about them. I figure that the peanut shaped one will be much easier to keep under my butt at the trot and canter and I won't keep having to get off to pick up a single ball that shot out from my ass. I'll make sure I video my first attempts!

The last new thing is one that I thankfully didn't have to pay for - a new tow vehicle! I borrow my dad's truck when I want to pull the trailer (I don't want a truck as my daily driver as I drive far too much in a week and don't want to pay for all that gas I'd be using) and he decided to get a new one. His old one was fine for pulling one horse, but I didn't like how it felt when pulling two, so I only did it a couple of times for short distances on quiet roads. The new truck has plenty of power to pull the trailer when loaded up. 

My nervous sweater of a horse.

Thus, I now have no excuse about getting Cisco comfortable with trailering. I've taken the kids for a road trip once with the new rig so far - Cisco loaded like a rock star, but he still came off the trailer all sweaty. He didn't have sweat dripping down his legs this time, so, improvement??

Thursday 17 September 2020

A Daily Dose

 Phantom had her hocks injected about 4 weeks ago at a vet exam where I said I suspected it was either her hocks that were sore and she was overloading her front end, or she was sore everywhere.

She definitely looked better after the vet appointment. Much less stompy on her front end. But she still didn't feel as good as I had hoped she would. 

I've let her loose in the arena a couple of times recently to get rid of some energy and I really wasn't happy with how she looked. To me, it still looked like she was trying to unload her hind end, and there were a few transitions from canter to trot that looked like they stung (specifically on the left hind).

While waiting for Phantom's Ventipulmin to kick in I dumped my grooming kit out to clean out the hair. I forgot there was an open pack of elastics in there. Oops.

So this weekend I started her on some Previcox. I had gotten some at the vet appointment to have and see if it helped her over the colder months in the winter when she always seems to be stiffer.

Two days of Previcox and I rode on the third - Phantom felt fantastic. Probably the best she's felt in the last couple of years.

We had easy bend in both directions and she wasn't falling onto her left shoulder through turns. I braced for the downward canter/trot transition expecting it to be ugly but she stepped right underneath herself with her left hind.

I also had a whole lotta sassy speed to deal with. Girlfriend was feeling good!

It might not look like it but this is her sassy walk.

I didn't do too much - she hasn't "worked" in a while and I don't want to tempt fate with her ending up sore somewhere else. Plus she just rides up and gets herself all wound up as I continue riding. With her, it's better to do some short rides until she's been ridden down enough to keep her brain from spinning. 

So it looks like this might be the way we are going to go with her. Last week my vet had sent an email to follow-up with how Phantom is doing after her appointment so I finally replied back with how she felt on Previcox. I asked if I should be spending money to try to fully investigate where she feels sore (which could just be peeling back layers of an onion) or, if a daily dose of Previcox works, do we just go with it? That's what my inclination would be, especially knowing how much my horse dislikes being uncomfortable. I really don't want to have to inject all the things on her body.

My homemade horse cookies work great as pill pockets. Break it in half, and it's soft enough inside to squish the pill in there and then squish the two halves back together to feed. I don't know if Phantom realized there was a pill in there - or she didn't care because it was encased in pony crack!

Phantom's "moar pony crack cookies" face. (This is old - we don't have snow yet!)

Hopefully, this continues past the first ride. It's always hard to tell when there is a bit of extra fuel injection propelling them forward!

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Baby Got Buck

 In Cisco's first three years under saddle, all legs stayed in the appropriate position relative to the ground. Until last night, that is.

The arena had a line of poles across it to split it into two sections for the lessons that were happening when I first got on. By the time I got to cantering Ciso, they were done and I saw an exercise to do using said poles. Basically, we'd canter a circle over the furthest pole at about 30 meters, then the next pole at about 20 meters, then the middle pole at about 15 meters.

To the right - our mutually better direction - it all went very well. I saw all our distances and the turns weren't too bad. 

He's not suddenly a yellow horse - it was the sun!

And then we went left.

Left lead canter is Cisco's weaker side. If he finds something difficult, he just kind of goes "ooh, this is hard" and just gives up and breaks to trot instead of pushing through it. I'm sure that the fact that I don't ride as well this direction has absolutely nothing to do with this problem.

For this particular ride, I was carrying a short jump crop instead of my normal dressage whip as I was hoping to do some 2 point work. I also kept losing my left stirrup - I think my girth may have needed to go up a hole so it was slipping a bit to the right. For whatever reason, I wasn't feeling as secure in the saddle as I usually do. I was also not terribly energetic after lazing around at home for the first two days of my vacation and not eating very well.

We made the first pole of the exercise without issue - a little long maybe, but not too bad. Continued around the circle back to the track and Cisco gave up and dropped back to trot. Grr. 

I regrouped and started again. And again he put on the breaks at the same spot. More grr. 

Came around one more time. I was ready for a fight this time.

He dropped back to trot. I asked nicely to keep going. He ignored me. I dug in both of my spurs and growled at him. And he bucked. Three times. 

I ride in the smallest spurs known to man. He was not abused.

I've long suspected that there's a buck in there. There's been a couple of times that I've gotten after him and his hind end felt a bit lighter, but he's never actually done it. I've also wondered how big a buck he would have, as I've seen some pretty good bronc bucks when he's loose. His leaping through the air kind of bucks are also pretty impressive.

Thankfully, my reins were short enough that he didn't get his head down, so his bucks really weren't all that big. They didn't knock me out of position at all. It just felt like he really rounded his back up under my seat.

Cisco got hauled up, a single spank, and we set off to do the exercise again. Which he completed without stopping. Apparently we both got our point across.

After we finished the canter I realized that my leg was sore again. I don't know if having to use my sticky butt grip caused the pain or not. So I didn't get to really push the canter issue and try again. 

The kittens are getting bigger and more active. No less cute thankfully!

I had taken my Pixio out with me but I didn't set it up because the arena was a bit of a gong show when I had entered it. So no video evidence dammit!

Tuesday 8 September 2020

Made Better by Kittens

 My car was easily fixed last week. We replaced the battery and it started right away. I took it over to the shop and had them run a parasitic draw test to make sure that something wasn't drawing battery power when it shouldn't be and it came back clean, so hopefully it will continue to start without issue.

I hopped on Phantom on Thursday night with my fingers crossed that she would feel sound after watching her on Sunday (she looked not so sound). She surprisingly didn't feel too bad! Unfortunately, despite having some Ventipulmin, she was coughing. She hasn't had a cough in over a year. I'm not sure what changed, but it has been windy so maybe some pollen was flying around? I did just enough trot to see how she felt and then we went for a walk outside. Watching the sun set was a nice way to end the evening.

The other bit of good news is that my groin injury is getting better. Very slowly, but it's definitely better. The bad news is that I gave myself a new injury by doing the stretches for my old injury. Somehow I've managed to do something to my left side and it hurts when I take a half deep breath. 

Yep, I'm getting old.

This will put an kink in my riding plans for a few days. It's feeling slightly better, not as much of a stabby pain. But a belch, hiccup or yawn definitely results in a wince. 

Thus I didn't ride on Saturday. The kids got to play in the arena together instead. Cisco showed some impressive airs above the ground - well, impressive to me. Not so impressive to Phantom, who was decidedly not impressed.

I finally got him a big boy nice halter. A barnmate was selling this practically new halter for a great price so I snapped it up!

I did ride on Sunday though. I hopped on Cisco with the plan of just walking, but I wanted him to walk with his head stretching down. Kind of a fake head down, not into a proper connection, but just reaching down. We've done this before, but it's been a while. 

He was pretty good. It helped that there were others riding with us so he was more relaxed than he would have been if we were by ourselves. He was so good at a walk that I thought I'd try it at a trot. 

It mostly continued at the trot. As we approached the scary end, his head would come up and I could feel him thinking of dropping his shoulder and diving to the inside to cut the end of the arena off early, so I had to shorten my reins and pick up the contact again. But in the rest of the arena he was good about dropping his head and staying relaxed. 

The trot brought out one issue that is usually masked by riding with contact - my horse is very wiggly. Apparently I need to do more work on a loose rein. 

This week was also made better by the barn kittens that have finally come out of their hiding spot. They were born at the beginning of August to a mom who is feral (she stays in the barn but won't let anyone touch her). There are five kittens, all different colours, and they are absolutely adorable. Everyone is working really hard to make sure that they are comfortable with humans.

And no, I have definitely not named my favourite one. Nope, I've definitely not named him Wembley, and no, he definitely did not seem to look at me when I definitely didn't say that name out loud. 

Monday 31 August 2020

It Was a Crap Week

 I haven't really been affected by the disaster that the year 2020 is turning out to be. Up until now, the worst was that I had my workweek cut down to 4 days for about six weeks, but because of a"danger pay" increase and being able to claim lieu or vacation days it didn't really affect my paycheques.

I could blame my pulled groin that has limited my riding over the last few months on the 2020 gods, but that would be pushing it.

Last week was a crap week though.

It started inauspiciously on Wednesday morning. I picked up a bagel at Canada's favourite chain of coffee shops on my way out to the barn - 4 cheese toasted with butter. Due to my medication, I couldn't eat it right away, so it sat wrapped on the seat next to me until I was halfway out to the barn on the highway. When I opened it I thought that the butter looked different today - yeah, it wasn't butter. It was something syrupy - maple syrup maybe? Whatever it was, it was inedible.

Since I was going to ride, I needed to eat. So I drove past the turnoff to the barn into the next town. The first two places I tried had drive-thru lines so long that I couldn't even get into the parking lot. Yes, I could have gone inside if there were any parking spots (there weren't at one place) but I was in a rush and pretty pissed at my morning. So I ended up with KFC at 11 o'clock in the morning. 

I didn't have the best ride on Cisco, it was just an OK ride. I was in a rush because I had physiotherapy in the afternoon and was late getting to the barn due to the bagel fiasco. But I got there and everything worked out.

I also rode on Thursday and Friday. First time I've ridden three days in a row in a couple of months. Thursday was just a walk ride on Cisco around the yard. We haven't done much outside in a while because of the mosquitos in the evenings so it was a good break for him. He didn't lose his shit for once at the leopard appaloosa stallion that always runs the fence behind the trees when people ride down the driveway. He did go splat at a pigeon in the ditch that flapped up next to him and that really hurt my leg and I thought my ride might be done after only 2 minutes, but it got better and I wasn't really sore by the end.

On Friday evening I rode Phantom. She felt better than she did the previous ride, but I was a bit too sore to do much with her. We did a quick w/t/c and then headed outside for a walk. Still no bugs so she stayed happy.

And then my car wouldn't start.

Thankfully someone who lives at the barn is a mechanic of some sort so he helped my jump start it and I got home without issue. But now it won't start again. I bought a battery charger and charged it, and have tried to jump start it with the same power pack that we used on Friday night. It won't turn over. 

Thus my day off this week will be waiting for a tow truck to pull it out of my garage and take it to the shop.

I found out on Saturday that my right-hand person at work is leaving at the end of this week because she is moving to another province. We're just getting ready to head into our busy season. That's going to hurt.

I was telling her about how crappy my week was and joked at least no one has died. Then I remembered that one of the barn girls had just had a bad car accident (thankfully she walked away from it though) - she hit a deer on the highway and rolled her car three or four times. Her pretty well brand new car. 

I enjoy seeing all the baby Belgians on my way out to the barn. They've gotten so big over the summer!

At least, the horses have been without issue through this week. 

Or have they?

Sunday morning was cold and windy. I had to be out at the barn at 10 am to teach a lesson. I hadn't slept well (stress) and my stomach started bothering me. I had every intention of riding when I went out in the morning but when the time came I just wanted to go home and curl up on the couch. 

I grabbed both horses and put them in the arena for a quick play.  Cisco really wanted to be silly but Phantom didn't - because she was lame.

Not real lame, but definitely there. She had a couple of stumbles on her left hind and seemed worse afterwards. 

I fed them and went home. I was done.

Hopefully, getting my car towed isn't a pain in the ass and the repair isn't stupidly expensive, and Phantom's lameness is magically fixed the warmer weather of this week.

Also, it would be really nice if no one claimed the 14 million dollar 50/50 draw from my hockey team that it took them three weeks to actually draw because there was a huge clusterfuck from online ticket sales, and that they redrew the number and I won. 

A girl can dream, right?

Wednesday 26 August 2020

Bit Fitting Webinar

 A couple of days ago, my national equestrian federation, Equestrian Canada, hosted a free webinar called Bit Fitting the Dressage Horse. It was presented by a Lantra certified Bit Fitter.

This is a topic that I've long been interested in so I quickly signed up for it. The fact that it was free and I could count it towards the development requirement of my instructor's certification certainly helped with the decision!

It wasn't quite what I was hoping for, in that she wouldn't give any suggestions for bits for specific scenarios. She said it was because she would need to see the specifics of the horse's mouth anatomy and how they went in their current bit before she could make any suggestions. 

Thus, the information was some basic info. However, there were a few takeaways.

  • The horse only needs to salivate enough to lubricate the bit
  • There is no scientific proof that different metals (ie. sweet iron) increase salivation. It is a marketing claim.
  •  Copper alloys (Sensogan, Aurigan, Salox Gold) were developed specifically for bitting. They are a medium-density metal, which has some softness to it (if chewed on the horse will make marks on it which can be buffed out, unlike stainless steel, which is a hard metal).
  • Leather bits need to be pre-soaked before every ride and oiled often.
  • Inspect your bit regularly!
  • The tongue fills the entire oral cavity of the horse. A bit is accommodated only through compression of the tongue.
  • In an ideal situation, the tongue sits on the floor of the oral cavity and splays out over the bars, which keeps the bit from sitting on the sensitive bars.
  • On a Class 1 bit (any bit where the reins attach to the same ring as the mouthpiece) the mouthpiece rotates backward in the oral cavity upon rein contact.
  • The bit is properly tensioned (the right height in the horse's mouth) when the borehole (the hole that the ring goes through) is 90 degrees to the cheekpiece with no rein contact. Bits have been designed to rotate to the proper position in the horse's mouth with rein contact at this resting tension. (Note that in trying to find images for this, I had a really hard time finding many that followed this rule, and most didn't look like they could follow the rule.)
Enjoy my poor drawing skills from my note taking.

  • On a Class 2 bit (any bit where reins are attached to a ring lower than the mouthpiece) the bit rotates forward in the mouth upon rein contact.
  • The curb chain should be adjusted so that the shank will rotate no more than 45 degrees to the lip line so as to prevent excess poll pressure.
  • Loose ring snaffles should be .25" wider than the horse's mouth measurement. Fixed ring snaffles should be the same width as this measurement.
  • The most common problems she sees are bit tension and bit size.

The most interesting thing that I didn't know was about the bit tension. Princess Phantom likes the bit lower in her mouth than I think is right (but hey, it's not in my mouth!) and I've been wondering where Cisco's new baucher should be sitting. So that night after the webinar I went out to the barn and tacked Phantom up for our ride and looked closely at her bit. It's a baucher - it looks like the rule won't apply to that bit! The boreholes are at the same angle as the cheekpiece because of the shank that comes out of the top of the bit. D'oh! I'm going to send an email to the bit fitter and see if I'm right, and if there is another way to check the tension with this type of bit.

It was good information and worth watching, but it would have been more interesting to learn about specific bits and their action and why they might work in different circumstances. Bitting is not a one size fits all though, so I understand why she didn't want to get into that type of information. Sadly, I don't know of anyone who comes through this area to do a bit fitting clinic. I would love to try a few different ones out without having to buy them!

Equestrian Canada has already made the webinar free to view on their Youtube page. It's worth checking out!

Tuesday 25 August 2020

The Sassy Gray Mare

 As soon as I hopped on Phantom on Monday night I knew she was feeling better.

She was pretty sassy. Maybe she was just happy to be inside and not out in the unexpected downpour of rain and wind that picked up just after I brought her in. 

Cool sky colour from inside the arena at the end of my ride. Everything was completely dry when I arrived at the barn.

But I'm pretty sure it was because her hocks felt better.

She was far less stompy and heavy on her forehand at the walk. When we picked up the trot, her first few steps were slow and shuffly, but by about step six she was picking up her pace. A little too much pace.

The whole ride really was just trying to keep her trot from getting silly. A little harder for me at the moment - I use a lot of thigh on her to half halt her and slow her down, but my left thigh is still sore (getting better slowly) and still hurts to squeeze in, so she wasn't responding as well as she would have if I could ride her better.

Whatever, I'm just happy she's feeling good!

Really, she was sassy and feeling great!

We didn't do a whole lot, a bit of walk/trot/canter, but because of the weather I took my time. On Saturday I had set up my Pixio determined to see if I can figure out a better setup as I've been having issues with it consistently losing me in one corner of the arena. I tried a couple of different configurations on foot and had a friend wear the tracker for a few minutes while she was riding and it all looked good so I was optimistic that I had found a better beacon setup.

I also finally got around to labeling the case for my Pixio. 

On this night, I took my time getting it set up, and was really happy to find that it only lost me once at the beginning of the ride - in a different corner than normal. Success!

It's only been one week since her hock injections so hopefully she will start to feel even better over the next couple of weeks. Now the challenge will be to try to build some muscle again (on both of us) - I need my leg to get better faster so that I can ride more!

Sunday 23 August 2020

Vet Visit - Phantom

 The old gray mare has been feeling a little creaky lately.

Phantom had her hocks injected last August. Her right hind felt like it had a spring installed. The left one just never seemed to take as well.

When winter hit, she decided she was an old lady and started moving as such. She always warmed out of it, but there was something consistently niggling there when tracking left. It felt like left front on a turn, and left hind on the straight lines.

It was so minor though, that I've just kept putting it off getting her looked at. She's been getting ridden once or twice a week for half an hour, mostly putzing around. Lameness was never obvious.

Until recently.

The Equisense agreed with what I felt.

Within the last month, I've noticed that she seems much heavier and stompier on her forehand when leading into the barn. Under saddle, she's also been a bit stumbly. It was finally time to deal with it.

Off we went to the vet clinic early last week. I picked what is likely to be the hottest day of the year to haul her over. Thankfully, she stayed nice and cool on my Boeckmann trailer.

Waiting (rather impatiently) to be able to unload at the vet clinic.

I told the vet what I'd been feeling and that I suspected my drama queen of a horse is either overloading her front end to get off her hocks, or she was lame in all four legs.

At first, it looked like the all four legs thing might be right. She trotted and he could see it on the left front, then the right front looked worse. We took her outside to a sand ring and she looked better on the soft ground.

We did flexion tests and Phantom looked far better than I anticipated. He said if he was doing a PPE he'd say she flexed like he would expect a 17 year old horse to flex. I'm okay with that!

He agreed that we should inject her hocks again and see if that would do the trick. He also gave me some Previcox to use as needed over the winter if she seems to be a bit creaky in the cold again. If I don't think she's feeling sounder after about a month then we might have to look more into her front feet.

I warned them that Phantom is not a cheap date when it comes to sedation, which meant she had a really good snooze after the procedure had been completed. Thankfully we were able to stay inside out of the very hot sun, but it also meant that she had many people laughing at her very loud snoring. 

Good thing there was a wall there.

I plan to hop on her today (Sunday) and see how she feels. Fingers crossed that she's feeling a bit better!

Saturday 15 August 2020

Guilty Pleasure: Riders

 If you rode horses in the late 80's/early 90's there's a very good chance you read Jilly Cooper's Riders. You know, the book with this fairly distinctive cover.

I read this book many times, as well as most of the rest of the series. Well, the ones that featured horses at least. Polo was probably my other favorite.

I've known for a while that they made the book into a TV movie that was aired in the UK. But I've never been able to find a copy of it. 

Something popped up recently in my internet surfing that made me remember these books. I tried another Google search to find the movie and tada - it's on Youtube!

It is admittedly not a great adaptation of the book. The book is long and I'm guessing they had to cut lots out to keep it within the time limit of a movie and not a mini-series. Plus, there's kinda a lot of sexy times in the book. There are many scenes in the book that you can't show on TV. And although I haven't read the book in probably close to 20 years, I'm pretty sure that they totally changed the ending. It ends at the Olympics, which is right, but that's about it.

But, hey, there's horses! 

So, if you have a couple of hours to kill while you're stuck in lockdown, here's the link! Note that it's annoyingly in 10 minute increments, so make sure you have enabled auto-play in YouTube. Don't get your hopes up on this being true to the novel though!

Thursday 13 August 2020

Trying Hard

 A little over a year ago, my ride on Friday would have been terrible.

Cisco hadn't been ridden for a week. There was some fence construction (de-construction?) happening outside the arena and there was a whole lotta power tool noise. Horses were starting to arrive for a clinic that started the next day. The PA system for said clinic was set up but covered in black garbage bags. The letter B was only held on by a corner and thus was flapping in the breeze halfway down the long side. Two of the clinic horses suddenly showed up at the wrong end of the arena without warning.

Nothing fazed him.

Sure, he looked at the PA system the first time we walked past it. And on about the 20th time we passed that flappy B he dropped his shoulder to the inside. But that was it.

All photos are from the next ride that I had on him, which was a very similar ride.

I thought I might be in trouble as I was warming up. He called out a couple of times and there were a lot of snorts as we walked around the arena - usually the harbinger of a rushed first trot. But not on this ride. 

His new Turtle-Top bit has made a huge difference in how he's been going. He's much rounder at a trot right at the beginning of the ride. I have to keep encouraging him to lengthen his neck - it would be very easy for him to duck behind the vertical and hang out there, and I don't want him to learn that it's an option.

We've struggled a little with the connection at the canter since switching to this bit, but this was the first ride that he tried really hard to carry himself like I was asking. Again, he wants to shorten his neck, so I have to keep trying to get it longer. He got it for a few strides on his weaker lead and felt like he was really close on his good lead. I was really happy with his try. I think the longer neck will take a bit for him to find the strength and his balance.

Friday 7 August 2020

What Have We Been Up To?

 So, uh, it's been a while. What's been happening?

A bunch, but not much?

Not many new horse pictures, but I have frog pictures.

I've been managing to ride 3 or 4 times a week, mostly Cisco. My thigh is still sore but not nearly as sore as it was since I've started physio, so I'm still trying to keep my rides to about 30 minutes and have a day off in-between. 

Cisco seems to appreciate his new Turtle-Top bit, at least at a trot. He's been much steadier in the contact although it hasn't solved the mouth opening issue. But I don't think it's as bad. Unless he's stressed - then all I hear are teeth clacking together. 

On Wednesday's ride this week, after a week off, he started off by constantly calling out while we walked around (turnout changes in the paddock next to him that day). I thought he might be rather silly once we picked up the trot, but the first 6 or 7 strides of trot felt amazing. Up in front, slow and reaching instead of his normal rushed and wiggly, and pushing into the bridle. Even better, I rode it well. It felt sooo good. 

And dragonfly pictures.

And then of course it quickly fell apart. I managed to get it back a few times for short durations so there's hope that it wasn't a total fluke!

The new bit has not been a miracle at the canter though. I'm pretty sure the fact that I haven't been doing much canter due to a variety of reasons (hurts my leg more, getting to the end of my 30 minute ride limit, fresh horse who doesn't want to steer, current heatwave, sketchy girl lunging her sketchy horse who has been on stall rest and he ran into a jump standard and she let go of the lunge line so I jumped off and didn't feel like getting back on and also didn't want to be in the arena with her. Those kinds of reasons.) is the main reason that it hasn't gotten much better. I feel like it's really close though.

I've decided to finally bite the bullet and take Phantom in for a lameness check. She's been feeling creaky for quite a while and it's not going away. She was ridden on Sunday and was traveling quite a bit on her forehand and took some occasional steps that were definitely uneven. I'm hauling her over to the vet clinic next week. I don't know how much I'm willing to put into figuring it out though. Hopefully, it's something relatively simple and obvious to trained eyes.

Add in an hour or so of physio exercises and stretches everyday and life has been busy. But everyone's well and ticking along!

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

I've been doing some physiotherapy for my groin pain over the last couple of weeks. I had dry needling done on it (wasn't terrible if you have to have it done) and that really seemed to help the muscle/tendon relax. Since then I've become very familiar with my foam roller (we have a love/hate relationship) and I have some stretches to do a couple of times a day. I also have to work on activating my glutes so that they can fire and take some strain off my adductors.

The good news is that it seems to be helping. Slowly. This isn't something that's just going to go away overnight. It's going to take some diligence on my part to make sure that I keep up with the stretches and rolling and exercises that I'm being given.

I rode for the first time in 10 days on Sunday. My groin was still pretty sore in the saddle so I kept it short, only about 25 minutes. 

What was interesting was how loose my body felt. As soon as I sat in the saddle I felt very around my horse, which was great, but when I picked up the trot I felt very loose through my legs and hips. It's going to be a bit of a challenge to keep this loose feeling but put some tone into my body, without allowing everything to get tight. 

At the canter my butt was glued to the saddle despite Cisco being a little bit giraffe-y. I also thought it felt easier to turn my torso to the right when tracking right, which is usually a problem.

I was more sore after the ride than before the ride, but things have worked out over the last couple of days with the stretching and rolling. I'm still going to limit the amount that I'm riding for a while, ideally riding every other day. Fingers crossed that I can go back to riding more by the end of the summer. 
The ponies are pretty happy with their lack of work at the moment.

I'm thinking of getting some Franklin balls to try to ride with. If I'm going to be spending a bunch of time doing slow stuff in the saddle, might as well try something new!

Friday 10 July 2020

The Best Laid Plans

Since my province went into stage 3 of reopening at the end of last month, I made sure to make a massage appointment this week during my vacation. I haven't had a massage since around Christmas, and oh boy, did it ever show. She said she could have easily spent 90 minutes on my legs alone. There were a whole bunch of areas that normally aren't a problem but this time they were super tight and sore. She also spent some time on my left thigh and the adductors that have been sore for the last few weeks. Which meant they were pretty pissed off on Tuesday when I went to ride.

My plan for that ride was to work on Cisco coming forward at a canter when I was in 2 point off my legs and not my seat. I had set up a few single poles to ride over. We were going to follow the mantra that I picked up at a clinic years ago of turn, straight, forward, balance into the pole. 

It didn't quite go that way.

Cisco was in the arena by himself, which always means he's a bit more up. My leg was more sore than usual once I was in the saddle so I planned to keep the ride short. I skimped a bit on the warm-up to try to get to the meaty bits of the ride sooner (going over the poles). I should have spent a bit more time riding him down at a trot first.

He wasn't bad, he was just a little sassy. I wanted forward, and he gave it to me. Unfortunately, he didn't come back very well. 

Instead of going towards the poles with turn, straight, forward, balance, it was turn, straight, get wiggly, slow the f down. Only at a trot - we didn't make it to trying it at a canter. 

Our canter - well, he went forward off my leg at a 2 point, going up the long side towards the scary end. He typically backs off heading this direction, so I was happy that he easily went forward. And he hand-galloped forward instead up upward (he often gets high headed and bouncy when he gallops). Again, good. Unfortunately, we didn't really get much of a transition to settle back into a canter, and I kept losing my foot position in my outside stirrup and couldn't get it back on my foot properly and we were heading into the scary corner where he's likely to suddenly drop his shoulder and dive to the inside without warning and I didn't want to die because my position wasn't overly secure. 

Yeah, I gave up on that.

I then tried to just get a decent canter before hopefully attempting the poles. We had prompt transitions, so good. The transitions had a bit of rocket power behind them and then never really slowed down. Bad.

And then he started coughing at the canter. When Cisco coughs, his head just drops and he lets out a huge cough and it feels like he's going to fall on his face. Not fun when you're in 2 point. 

Yeah, I gave up on that too. The whole ride.

In reality, I probably shouldn't have ridden. My leg was really sore the next day. I probably should have given it a couple of days off after the massage, and I think I'm going to give it the next week and half or so off of riding. Next week I have three days where I won't be able to ride because of work, and this weekend there's a clinic at the barn and I can't use the arena until the evenings, so it's a good time to take a bit of a break. I also have a physiotherapy appointment booked for Thursday and figure I'll be pretty sore the next day so that means riding Thursday and Friday are out. 

The ponies will be getting ground work though! I've been starting on the piaffe training from the TRT Method, so I'll see how far we can get in the next 10 days or so!

Tuesday 7 July 2020

The Suspension is Killing Me!

In reviewing Pixio footage from Sunday's ride to get a couple of decent screenshots for yesterday's blog post, I came across something that I found kind of interesting.

I never really realized how much a horse's body moves up and down in a trot. 

It was just the perfect set-up to be able to see the suspension in the gait. Cisco was trotting in front of a contrasting coloured half wall, and his butt was pretty well level with the top of that wall when it was at it's highest point. I was slo-mo'ing frame by frame to find a good shot and noticed the difference in the amount of wall that was exposed above the horse.

Here a still of when his butt/back was at it's highest point:

And here is the lowest point halfway through the same trot stride.

You can see quite a bit of the dark wall behind the saddle when compared to the first picture.

Does it mean anything? Nah, I just think it's cool. It was just kind of flukey that he lined up so well against the wall to be able to easily see it.

It's just another way that I'm amazed at how the horse's body works. Think of the amount of pressure that the legs have to absorb to move that barrel of a body up and down with every stride. It's all about that suspensory ligament doing what it was designed to do - act like a thick rubber band that absorbs the shock and releases the energy again.

Cisco is by no means an extravagant mover with a bunch of suspension in his trot. Just imagine what we would see if he moved like Valegro!

Monday 6 July 2020

Continuing On

Sunday brought yet another good ride on Cisco.

I'm going to have to do a year-end spook compilation video.

The other horse in the arena left before we picked up a trot so Cisco started his trot with a bit more enthusiasm than was required. I'm starting to insist that he keep his shit together in these instances. Keeping the pace that I desire is becoming a non-negotiable. I just need to figure out how to control his ability to throw his shoulders around. He's a very wiggly horse.

He was maybe a little bit steadier in the contact at a trot than he has been. Since changing to the Turtle-Top bit every ride has gotten better than the last one, so it seems to have been a good choice. His mouth is still busy, but I think I'm giving up on fixing that. 

I'm working really hard at keeping his neck long and his nose out a bit. He's better at the start of the ride, after we have cantered he wants to get a bit behind the vertical. I'm wondering if it's a bit of a strength issue - he's a bit tired after some canter so he starts to cheat. 

I don't mind his frame, but I wish my hands were higher and more forward.

I'm off this week but the weather is not going to be conducive to do anything fun. We were hoping to head to the mountains for a day trip - Jasper National Park is about 3.5 - 4 hours away. But the highway in washed out last week, and although traffic is getting through, the delays are huge. My brother was already planning to go for the weekend so they drove out on Friday - it took them 7 hours to drive 20 km. We're definitely scrapping the plans for a day trip.

We've had a lot of rain this year, similar to last year. This resulted in poor quality hay in this area. Farmers were not able to get the hay off the field because it kept raining, the grass grew too long and got stressed, and the hay ended up with low nutritional value. 

I've heard from multiple people that this was the first year that they've had to work to keep weight on their easy keepers. This is the first time in my life of horse ownership that I've had to put weight on my horses instead of worry that they're too fat! Both of my horses are currently at a good weight, but I've had to be very vigilant about it. We're all hoping to get better hay this year, but it isn't looking too promising.

Friday 3 July 2020

That Feeling of a Great Ride

You know that feeling you get when you've had a great ride? The one that no matter how crappy your day was or is you have a perma-grin on your face?

I had that feeling after my ride on Thursday.
I definitely didn't have a good feeling before my ride when I had to deal with mud up to his knees.

Cisco started off pretty relaxed and I hoped it would continue through the ride. I got kind of lucky in that just as the other horse in the arena was leaving and Cisco was starting to worry that he would be abandoned another horse came in. He's always more relaxed when he has an arena buddy.
Mostly better - the mud around the coronet band was still wet though.

It was a ride where he just tried really hard to stay relaxed and do whatever I asked of him. At a trot he tried to keep his neck long and I tried to let him. He moved away from my inside leg to keep the circles round, and when I remembered to ride the outside of the horse at the same time as the inside he got really steady and felt solid on the circle. His canter transitions were prompt from a light aid. And when I asked him to drop his head from the giraffe carriage at a canter that I've been getting since I changed his bit, he finally gave me an honest attempt.
Post-ride stare at the new spotted horse along the driveway.

There were a few spooks - a dog suddenly barked, something in the scary corner moved, and one dead person sighting. But every time he came right back to me and settled back into his work. A couple of years ago he wouldn't have been able to let these things go and the rest of my ride would have been super tense.

I was really happy with this ride. It wasn't perfect. But I really felt that Cisco was with me for the whole ride. His attention is so often focused on something somewhere else in the arena, but for this ride he was focused on me.
There's always a derp photo though!

Too bad that I rode in the evening and most of my day was over. I would have liked to enjoy my horse created elation a little bit longer!