Friday 29 May 2020

Tiny Sticks

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I set up a small crosspole out in the field and popped over it. Well, she popped over it a few times, then hopped off to make it smaller so that I could actually get Cisco over it since the first two tries ended in walking over it after he stopped. 

I think we popped over a crosspole once this year, but it could have been last October. When choosing how to jump it I had the option of jumping away from the barn and towards the murder box (horse trailer) that was parked on the edge of the riding area (trailer-in lesson people) - I knew he would suck back a bit, but he'd be rideable on the landing side. If I jumped towards the barn I knew that he'd be stronger and less steerable on the landing side, and there were many gopher holes that I had to steer clear of. Thus I chose to go away from the barn.

Crappy quality video sent to me via text

My friend dropped one side down, we got over it a few times, then she made it really small, and we continued to go across it. Cisco wasn't sure so I rode very defensively and managed to only have one completely crap jump when he Superman'd it heading towards the barn. But overall, not too bad for my wussy horse.

On Tuesday this week, I was riding during a novice jump lesson. There were a couple of single small crosspoles, so I snuck in where I could and popped him over them. 

And he was really good!

Just a very slight hesitation on the first jump, but otherwise was pretty sure of himself. He landed really nicely and we cantered either around the turn without falling in or halting at the end on a very light rein.

He even got bored and started just trotting over them. Perfect!

So maybe he didn't add the stride so much as just didn't jump.

We tried one attempt to canter in, which is totally a me issue. I picked the right lead and a shorter diagonal approach, which is usually my best approach. I realized about 3 strides out that it was going to be really long and kind of froze up (but grabbed mane) and prepared for the worst but Cisco just added and loped over. 

I left it there before I really messed things up.

And then we went for a trot with Blue and his 5 year old rider. 

I want to start working on some simple lines, trot in and canter out, to get me more comfortable with cantering jumps again. My eye isn't very good at the moment, nor is my two point, and Cisco's canter isn't very adjustable yet. I need to keep things super simple for a bit until both of us have a bit of confidence in ourselves.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

A Training Opportunity

My rides of late have been pretty good.

Phantom has still been enjoying her semi-retired status, which mean short, infrequent rides. She's been looking pretty good lately - now that it's warmed up her lingering slight offness has mostly disappeared. She felt quite good on Sunday's ride. A little slow to warm up, but once she was going she felt even and ready to work.

Cisco has been trying really hard lately to be a Good Boy. Our right bend has gotten way better, to the point that I might have changed his good side to the right. Which means that we both now share the left as our weaker side. Crap. 

Looking at his buddy Blue who just entered the arena. Another distraction.

On our Sunday ride I really liked the feel of the right lead canter. It was a canter I really felt I could do something with.

Oh, but that left lead.

On this particular day, the canter itself wasn't the real problem. The problem was that Cisco really wanted to leave, and it was much more convenient to do while on the left lead.

We've had a bunch of rides lately where we've ridden inside for a bit and then rode out of the arena to toodle around outside. As most horses do, Cisco would much prefer to be outside than inside. When the gate is open, he figures we should be heading out.

On Sunday, someone had left the arena while I was riding and left the gate wide open. Somewhat annoying, but a good training opportunity for Cisco. Just because a gate is open doesn't mean we get to through it.

The gate is on the short side corner. Tracking right, we ride past the gate. Tracking left, we head straight towards the gate. 

We first tried a left lead canter at the gate end. Cisco used his Spanish horse ability to whip his shoulders to the inside and sharply turned to the gate when I asked for the transition. Twice.

So we went down to the far end. It was better in that his shoulders didn't fall in, but he also didn't want to turn left to do a circle. There were a lot of turns that were made by pulling on the left rein.

But I stuck with it and it got better. We were able to finish on a lovely turn off my outside aids.

And then I made him halt in front of the gate and wait. He wasn't real happy about it, but he did it.

I could have gotten off and closed the gate. But to me it's just another training opportunity to take advantage of. 

Monday 25 May 2020

The Race Begins...

Phantom and Cisco have been living in the same paddock for the last couple of months. It's not the first time since I've owned them both that they've been roommates, but I think it's been about 2 years since they've lived together.

For most of the time that I've owned him, whenever I've gone out to his paddock, Cisco has left whatever he's doing and come to meet me near the gate. I wasn't sure if this would continue after I started riding him, but it has. 

Phantom makes me work for it. She doesn't walk away, and always seems happy to see me when I get out to her, but she's not leaving her pile of food or coming out of the shelter unless she thinks there's a possibility of receiving something yummy.

Until recently, that is.

Over the last few months she has been making an effort to come to me. Not all the time, but often. Usually talking to me as she approaches.

It's probably because she isn't getting ridden a whole lot and she usually comes in and gets fed and put back out. 

It started this winter when she was in the paddock next to Cisco. Phantom would see me when I went out to catch him and vocally remind me of her presence. She would get brought in for her dinner when he got turned out again. So I think she figured out the routine and knew that when Cisco returned her dinnertime was imminent, and she started coming to me when I went out to get her. 

Not always, of course. It still has to be her idea.

Now that they are living in the same paddock, whenever I go out to grab her, Cisco thinks I'm there to grab him. He'll meet me at the gate, follow me across to where Phantom is, then stay on my left side as I lead Phantom on the right back to the gate (which pisses her off because once the halter is on I belong to her and she doesn't like any other horses around me).

Over the last few weeks Phantom has been walking towards me when I call her.  She's not putting in more effort than it requires, so eager beaver Cisco still has time to get to me before she does.  I said to someone recently that I'm waiting for them to start racing each other to be the first to get to me.

On Wednesday night this week, Phantom was positioned mid-way along the fence line opposite the gate, and Cisco was in the far corner. My plan was to bring them in one at a time for the birthday treats because the gate is in an awkward position to bring two horses through. Whoever came first would get brought in first. 

Phantom saw me and started walking. Slowly, but deliberately. Cisco stayed in the corner - very much not his habit. Odd, but whatever. 

When Phantom was about halfway to the gate, Cisco picked his head up, and took off at a huge trot, passing Phantom (who didn't change her pace at all) and presented himself in front of me. 
So I guess there is now a race to see who gets to come in first. I can't wait to see if Phantom decides to enter the competition!

(As I was walking out there I thought about videoing going out to get the horses just in case this happened. But no, it wasn't going to happen, it was totally hypothetical, so I didn't. Dammit!)

Thursday 21 May 2020

Birthday Girl

Phantom turns 17 today! One more year and she gets to drink and vote!

We celebrated her birthday the day before because we are supposed to have a bit of a monsoon all day Thursday. The dirt roads to the barn have been in poor condition this spring and after 2+ inches of rain I'm probably not going to want to drive on them for a couple days.

I didn't get organized enough to make popsicles for the kids this year. I also didn't want to stand in line to get into the dollar store to pick up some of her favorite cookies. So I wandered the aisles in the grocery store on my weekly trip trying to figure out what I could make work. I had to go down the cereal aisle so that I could come back up the cookie aisle (one-way aisles due to Covid) and I was inspired. I finally decided upon brown sugar-flavored Mini-Wheats. I was pretty sure they would be a safe option.

They were! Well, all except one Mini-Wheat. Apparently Phantom doesn't like soggy cereal. Can't say I blame her. 
She flat out would not eat this Mini-Wheat. Cisco, however, had no issue with it.

The kids got to eat their birthday party treats and then I chucked them into the arena for a quick play. I'm pretty sure they're going to spend most of the next 36 hours standing in the shelter so they might as well get some exercise.

For once Cisco took the lead and Phantom followed. He was quite full of himself and sassy and Phantom was content to just lope behind him.

Happy birthday Phantom!

Wednesday 6 May 2020

My Majestic Unicorn

Both horses just got hand walked on Saturday evening. I haven't done much wandering with Cisco in the past, so I was actually really pleased with how well he was paying attention to me. I did the walk fast/walk really slow/suddenly halt routine with him and he stayed right with me despite looking around at everything. Apparently, he can multi-task.

Along one part of the trek I thought I would try to get some pictures using some evergreen trees and the cloud formations as the background.
I was aiming for something like this, but, you know, with a pretty expression and better lighting.
So, of course, this was when Cisco decided to spook.

The wind was coming up a bit which was blowing through the trees ahead of us. I was standing on the downhill part of the side of the road - not a great position for when your horse wants to jump into your arms for comfort. I was also trying to get the camera of my phone to open with one hand (the other was occupied trying to prevent horsey from jumping on me) - my child-sized hands make this difficult at the best of times.

Thus, these were the pictures of my majestic unicorn that I captured for posterity:

The hand is saying "keep your head away from my head".

Suspicious horse.
At least they make me laugh when I look at them.

The photos of the night were not a total wash - I caught this glorious sunset when I went out to put out some more hay for the ponies.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

Wonky Boob

As it goes every year, Phantom ended up with a lumpy reaction to her vaccinations. But when you can see the lump as you drive past the paddock on the road, you know it's going to be bad.
This was pretty easy to see from the road.
This year she got a 6 way injection instead of the 4 way injection/nasal flu/rhino that she's had the last few years. I kind of thought that the lump might be worse this year.

It was definitely bigger. But it was different than what it usually is. Normally it's a hard, hot lump that changes into fluid after about 4 days or so. This time, there seemed to be more fluidy right away. And there wasn't the heat or hardness that there normally was. And thus, Phantom was not as uncomfortable as she usually is.

In fact, she was quite perky. And was quite happy to go for a hand walk with me. A bit slower than usual maybe, but I was by no means having to drag her behind me.
Day 2

Day 3
She got bute and ice packs for a couple of days, and the lump changed considerably. I'll wait until I see how long it takes to completely go away before I decide if I will do the 6 way again next year or go back to the shot/nasal option. 

Monday 4 May 2020

Vet Day

Thursday was vet day.

Cisco got off easy - he just got his vaccinations. He hasn't reacted too badly in the past to his annual jab, so I'll plan on giving him a couple of days off and see what he's like on Sunday.
Waiting for his turn. That's his buddy Blue inside the barn waiting for his shots.
Phantom was lucky to have me spend my hard-earned money on her for this visit. She got her jab as well, so she'll have a week off until the huge, sore lump that she inevitably will have goes down. For the last few years, she's had the nasal flu/rhino and a single 4-way injection (WEE/EEE/WNV/tetanus). They now do a 6-way injection with everything in the one jab, so I decided to try that one this year. She's going to react to it no matter what, but hopefully no worse than normal with the 6 way.

Next, she had her teeth floated.

She's not very good about getting her teeth floated. Never has been. Hand floats or power float, hasn't made a difference. She will fight through the sedation and has always needed a top up (or 3) to get done (except once).

I always warn the vet that she's not a cheap drunk. I suggested that he look at her file as to what was used for her sedation when she floated two times ago as that was the best she had ever been.

Phantom was sedated, the speculum set up, and he started. And immediately said that he would have to work fast because she was already not impressed.

Her teeth weren't that bad so it didn't take very long. He commented that she did not like her tongue touched and that seemed to be what really ticked her off. At times she would actually pull her tongue right back which I guess isn't very common. He said that might be useful to mention next time she gets done.

Once the procedure is done, Phantom goes back to her normally chill self. Which means that she takes forever to come out of her drug-induced nap.
Just a wee bit of an awkward stance.
The wall in the aisle held her up for the first half-hour. Then I popped her into a stall to finish her snooze. After about an hour and 15 minutes, she had perked up enough that she was rooting through the bedding for loose pieces of hay, but since she wasn't pounding on the door to be released from jail, I knew that she wasn't fully awake.
Thank goodness for wall pillows.
I took her out for a short walk. The site of her vaccination injection was already starting to swell a bit so I wanted to get her moving. She was perfectly capable of keeping up with me and keeping her balance, so I turned her back out. She crabbed at the boys when they approached her and made them scatter so I figured she wasn't too dopey.
That's Cisco creeping at the gate. 

I brought her back out of the paddock shortly after to eat her grain. She really wanted it, but was still half asleep. Reminded me of those videos of toddlers eating with their eyes closed and generally ending with them falling asleep in their plate. She didn't fall asleep, but it took her twice as long to eat as she normally does.

Phantom gets the next week off and hopefully I'll be on Cisco either Sunday or Monday.

Saturday 2 May 2020

Go Play Outside!

I've been having some great rides as of late. The weather has been perfect riding weather, the ground has mostly dried out from the spring thaw and the rain hasn't hit yet, so I've been trying to spend as much time riding outside as I can.

My friend T got a new horse a little over a month ago so we've been meeting up to ride together. Our rides are generally spent in the arena for 20 - 30 minutes, then toodling around outside. It's been fantastic.

Wednesday was jump lesson day at the barn. I usually try to avoid riding in the arena during these lessons, and since it was so nice, I decided I would ride outside and do a bit more than toodle.

I rode Phantom first. This was only her third ride in the last month, and first ride of the season outside. Thus I hoped it wasn't going to be more exciting than it should be.

It wasn't. She was wonderful. We wandered around the yard and to the neighbours for about 20 minutes to start, then came back and trotted around the big field next to the arena. I haven't figured out where all the gopher holes in the field are yet so we kept it to just a trot, but it was enough for her to sweat under the saddle and need to be hosed off.

T finished her lesson just as I was getting on Cisco, so she and another lady joined me for a short toodle at a walk. Then I took Cisco into the field to do a bit of work.

I was actually really happy with him. After being behind the other horses on the walk, he walked away from them into the field without any issue. Again, we kept things to just a trot, and for the most part he steered where I wanted him to go and maintained an even pace that wasn't too outrageous. Our sticky right bend was pretty non-existent, but that's going to be his default under stress for a good while to come.

He did lose his brain at one point. Someone had trailered in two horses for her lesson. One was staying overnight for a morning vet appointment, so was put in a paddock, and was whinneying. The other one was being put on the trailer, or as Cisco likes to refer to it, the murderbox.
Guess who had a good roll after being hosed off?
We were walking, he was trying to keep his brain in his head, but after the screaming horse and the horse banging inside the trailer, having the truck start up behind us broke his brain for a moment and he bolted. We were back to walk within about 12-15 strides, so it wasn't the end of the world.

We walked a stressed lap of the field before I said screw it. I did the TRT Method turns that we've worked on over the last couple of years and felt Cisco soften a bit through his body through the turn. We halted, and a couple seconds later he let out a deep breath. And with that, his brain function was restored. We walked another lap of the field on a loose rein with his head half as high as it was on the previous lap. I decided that was a huge win and a good place to end the ride.

I'm really enjoying these laid back rides outside. We're supposed to get some decent rain next week, and with that the mosquitos will probably come out. That will end the enjoyment of riding in the grass!