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!