Friday, 4 June 2021

Vet Day

 Wednesday was vet day.

Cisco got his teeth floated. He had some sharp edges (more on the right than the left) but otherwise he was good and I was told he can stay on the every two year schedule he's been on. 

The corner feeder made a good nose-rest. He was probably dreaming of noms.

All gelding owners know to take advantage of sedation and go searching for beans! I removed a couple of pea-sized ones before I did a smegma transplant - his boy parts have been a bit stinky again.

I had hoped to hop on Phantom while Cisco was having his post-dental nap but it was far too hot. I worry about her breathing in this heat, and I don't think she's completely lost her winter coat, so I'm also worried about her overheating. The vet had also mentioned that she's had a whole lot of heaves cases this week due to the high pollen count. 

Thus, no one got ridden. But they both got their tails washed, before they got hand-grazed.

Always a bit of a gong show - Cisco eats super fast and won't lift his head. Phantom is much pickier and slower, and walks backwards as she eats. Trying to keep them somewhat together can be a challenge!

It looks like the heat should break on Friday, then it's back to perfect riding temperatures.

Wednesday, 2 June 2021

The Return of the Drama Llama

 Although I was on vacation last week, I didn't get much riding done. It was a combination of a few things - super windy/rainy days, a three-day migraine, and minor car issues. I got a quick ride in on both horses on Tuesday, which was also farrier day, managed a ride on Friday with the migraine so I felt pretty weak and didn't do very much, and on Sunday when it was pretty warm so I didn't do much again.

I cut Cisco's head off, but there was a line of grey horses lined up for the farrier. Phantom had already been done and was back outside.

This week, we are experiencing a short-term heat wave, with temperatures around 30 celsius. That's just about as hot as we get in my area. 

Tuesday was the first hot day. I was at work a bit late so went straight out to the barn and arrived a little after 7 (it hadn't started to cool off yet). 

When I got out of the car a horse whinnied and I thought it kinda sounded like Phantom, but thought, nah, there's no reason for her to be yelling. 

I went out to grab Cisco and Phantom whinnied again - yes, it was her I had heard earlier. Odd, but I threw a halter on Cisco and left Phantom in the paddock and didn't think anything of it. 

Except she kept on screaming. 

Which meant that Cisco had to reply as I was getting him tacked up. Over and over and over. 

I peeked outside a few times to make sure she wasn't running around (way too hot for her to do that) and she was always standing still, usually eating, but constantly calling. I realized that the other two horses that live with them weren't in the paddock. Pete is Phantom's bff and he isn't ridden all that often, so I wasn't sure where he was, and Lucy was usually in a lesson at this time (but Phantom doesn't care about her!). I'm pretty sure she was mostly screaming for Pete and not Cisco, much to Cisco's dismay. 

A pic from this winter of BFF's Pete, Phantom and Cisco. Lucy isn't part of the cool club.

When I arrived in the arena with Cisco, Lucy and Pete were both being ridden. However, they were done, and walked out of the arena as we came in. Cisco kind of lost his brain about the fact that his friends were abandoning him. Some groundwork ended up being required, during which some cuss words may have been aimed towards his general direction.

All I had wanted for this ride was a quick w/t/c, then go for a hack outside. I was hot and tired, and hadn't even bothered to put my half-chaps on. It appeared that my drama llama hadn't read the memo.

However, he stood rock still when I got on, which was my first surprise. Didn't really expect that.

Our walk warmup was slightly better than I thought it might be - he was stretching down - when he wasn't screaming back at Phantom and whoever else had decided to get involved in the conversation. 

I eventually girded my loins to pick up the hot mess of a trot that was inevitable based on his mindset. But it didn't happen. 

He picked up a relaxed, soft trot - with a straight transition that didn't have flinging shoulders towards the gate. 

I totally didn't expect that!

He gets to stay a little bit longer...

So, after all that drama upon our entry to the arena, I ended up having the relaxed ride that I had been wanting. 

I don't know how much the heat had to do with Cisco's relaxation, but I think we are finally getting to the point where his training is able to supercede some of his outside worries. I mean, it's only taken four years!

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

She's Legal!

 Guess who is now old enough to buy her own booze and vote?

Phantom turned 18 on Friday, which is the age of majority in the province in which she lives. She's officially an adult. 

Is a birthday party a party if there aren't balloons? No! So guess who got balloons for her birthday?

It was just windy enough that the helium inflated balloons had a hard time staying upright so we had to more to a less picturesque location than originally planned.

Obviously, Phantom wasn't too concerned about the balloons. Once she booped one of them they were no big deal.

She was far more worried about the lack of acceptable cookies.

I had picked up a pack of strawberry turnover cookies. They were deemed non-edible. I had to dig a bag of regular horse treats out of my car to make up for her disappointment.

The old grey mare is getting older. Hopefully, I get a few more birthdays to get the cookie selection right

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Just Do It!

 It's long been my goal to start seriously jumping again.

Twenty-plus years ago when I had my gelding Farly we did the 3'3" hunters and jumpers. He was a super honest and brave horse (except in gymnastic lines - it took a couple of years before he would reliably go through without running out in a one-stride, which often left me wearing a standard). He was also very rideable and adjustable, so he was very easy to place to the jump if I saw a distance, and at 3' and under he didn't worry if I screwed up.

Probably 1998 or 1999.

He had to be retired from jumping at the age of 13 due to a suspensory injury that turned out to be affected by ringbone that was found around the same time. Here's a tip - don't buy a horse you want to jump that has tiny quarter horse feet.

I had him for another six years before he went to the big field in the sky due to laminitis. I took about three years off from riding before I was given the chance to ride Phantom for a friend of mine. 

Phantom actually quite liked jumping. She is quite brave and bold. Unfortunately, she is not so rideable between the jumps. She dislikes any backwards contact or hanging on her mouth. It will cause her to become erratic in her pace, blow her leads behind, and make it difficult to get to the distance you saw. Then, to top it all off, if the distance was icky she would jump like a deer - and not in a good way. Of course the goal is to not have to pull backwards or hang on her mouth, but when you need to balance your canter quickly before turning into a line sometimes things happen, and it just never went well.

I gave it a go for a few years. It got a bit better when I found a bit she was happier with, but after I fell off  twice at a clinic due to her deer-style of jumping I kind of lost the desire to jump her. (One day I'll look for that video.)

I think this was the last time I seriously jumped her, which was in 2014. I don't think we had jumped for a bit at this time.

Then she decided that my jump saddle didn't fit her and must never be used again. She was happy in the dressage saddle, so we stuck with that.

She also would land 90% of the time from a jump on her right lead and I've always wondered if there was a physical reason. After dealing with Farly's ringbone I didn't want to risk ending Phantom's riding career early due to an injury that I could have prevented if I looked at the signs.

Farly went lame in 2000, so over the last twenty years I've maybe had 2 or 3 years of consistent jumping, and done just a few handfuls of small jumps otherwise. I'm a whole lot out of practice, and a whole lot worried about doing anything bigger than minuscule. 

But I really want to do it again.

I'm not in a position to take regular lessons, which means that there isn't the drive to do it regularly. I won't jump if I'm by myself, and though my mom is quite happy to watch me and call 911 if needed since Covid hit I haven't really taken her out to the barn with me. I ride at a barn with a bunch of eventers, so even though jumps are set up for half of the week, they are often tricky exercises that are not suitable for a green horse who isn't super brave (not to mention his rider). If I move jumps around I have to move them back, and that takes time that I often don't have.

Thus, I haven't jumped Cisco very much.

Cisco actually likes to jump. He's gotten better and braver the last few times that I've popped him over some little things (we're talking like twice in the last six months). He is far more rideable between the jumps than Phantom ever was. His stride isn't very long (I doubt it's anywhere near a 12 foot stride) and his canter can get really bouncy so my two-point position is horrible - thankfully I have no issues sitting in the saddle between the jumps. I find him really fun to ride.

On Monday everything lined up to do some jumps. There were a few little ones, someone responsible was riding with me, and I wanted to do something else instead of flatwork with him. 

We trotted over the couple of crosspoles with no hesitation at all from him. There was one more jump to try - a vertical.

I totally admit that I have a mental block about verticals (don't get me started on oxers). It's totally just because I haven't jumped one in years, but I was worried about it. I realize that there's no logical reason to be worried, it's just a different jump, but I think I've always found comfort in crosspoles - even those ones where the cups are set at the top of the standards and the horse has to do a really tight jump to stay in the middle - I always liked doing those.

I yanked up my big girl panties and trotted Cisco towards the single rail vertical, which was probably no bigger than 18". It was his first vertical, and he totally didn't care. I had a slight panic coming into it, my supervisor told me to breathe, I took a deep breath in, and just waited for the jump. Cisco popped over it and loped away with no concerns.

\We did it the other direction, which he had so little concern about that he barely jumped it, so we had to do it again.

Since things were going so well, I figured I might as well start working through my other mental block - cantering into jumps.

I know this is because I'm a control freak, and I don't like it when I don't see my distance into the jump and don't know what's going to happen. With Farly my eye got pretty good, but I'm so out of practice I don't trust myself. I know that I need to practice over poles on the ground. I also know that I am pretty accurate off the right lead, but for some reason I have a much harder time on the left lead.

I totally chose a short approach turn on the right lead - something I hardly ever miss.

I swear this canter felt much faster than a crawl.  And I think you can see a bit of his bounciness.

And we nailed it.

I was going to end it there, but my supervisor said she thought I was going to canter the vertical, so I should do it again. 

I succumbed to peer pressure. 

There was a slight moment of panic coming into the vertical where I didn't see my distance about five strides out, but, instead of panic riding and chasing Cisco into it (and probably past the distance) I just waited, and realized that it was going to be a wee bit short, but it would be okay. I was quite proud of myself for that!

Now, I get that getting over these tiny little jumps is no huge feat. When you haven't done it in ages it's just such a mental thing. Add-in being a perfectionist control-freak, and it's even harder to get over that hurdle (pun intended).

Next week I'm on vacation and I have no plans with the ponies that will prevent them from being ridden for the week. I'm going to drag my mom out with me and attempt to start Cisco on a small gymnastic line. My goal is to jump twice next week, and then at least every other week after that. The jumps don't have to be big, I just have to start doing them. 

My other tip to all those reading - don't stop. It's so hard to get started again.

Monday, 17 May 2021

Another Month To Go

Early on Friday morning, I received a long awaited email - "Your new boots have arrived at the studio!".

Yay! Cue excitement!

That email was followed shortly by another email - "Just to confirm - you did order them to be fully sheepskin lined, right?".

Ummm, nope.

They are supposed to only have the sheepskin lined foot, not the whole leg.

"Oops." (I'm paraphrasing. That's not what they actually said.)

Boo. Cue disappointment.

They've got to remake the boots. So it's going to take another 4 weeks. 

Not the end of the world, the month will pass quickly. I didn't need them for a specific date and I have something to ride with in the meantime.

If you happen to know someone with super short legs (41cm/16") that are wide (39cm/15.3") with a larger than average foot size for their height (7.5/38) and who lives in a cold climate, let them know to keep an eye out for the Celeris sample sale for a great deal on a pair of winter boots.

I'll be watching them when they get added - I have a price in mind that I'd be willing to pay for them - probably about 70% off.

In the meantime, the new pair better be worth the wait and fit perfectly!

Friday, 14 May 2021

(Another) New Toy

 I'm weak. I totally admit it.

My friend T got a Pivo about a month ago. I was really impressed with how well the videos turned out, especially outside. I looked at them online, coincidentally there was a sale, (there's always a sale lol), signed up for the 5% email code, and then looked at my credit card statement and decided I should be smart and I don't need another camera system - I already have a Pixio - which had yet to return from it's required repairs in France.

A few days later, they sent another email, this time with a 10% off code.


A Pivo Silver arrived a week and a half later.

It was kind enough to arrive on my day off so I had some extra time to play with it at the barn. I'm quite interested in all of the other modes that the app offers, although I don't know how many will work with a horse.

Overall, I was super impressed with the Pivo.

The plan is to use my old phone, a Samsung Galaxy S8, which still works fine, just a little slower (it also has a crack across the front camera, so I'll just have to use the back camera, no biggie). This way I can just leave everything at the barn in my tack box and not worry about draining my new phone's battery more often. 

The S8 is not on the official Pivo recommended list of phones, but it is on the community-recommended list from real users. 

It worked beautifully!

Phantom was kind enough to strike a pose for the camera at the end of the ride.

I rode outside in the field that I normally ride in, which is maybe 50m across. The Pivo was about 10m from one side, and it was able to keep track of me about 40m away. For the most part the only times that it lost me was when I rode too close to it.

The picture quality is only as good as your phone. I was super impressed by the quality from my outside, evening rides; I don't know that it would be that good inside. I had assumed that the Pivo Pod would fit on my tripod, but I forgot that the screw on the tripod is larger as you are supposed to put some type of head on the tripod. I keep a quick release plate on the tripod, and have ordered a plate for the Pivo, but for the first day I dragged a barrel out and plunked the Pivo on it. Thus, my pictures aren't totally level, but no complaints.

I know, I know, I already have a Pixio, why did I need another recording device?

I try to ride outside as much as I can in the summer, generally in this field. If I want to use the Pixio I would need a total of 4 tripods to set up the camera and 3 beacons around the field, and there is often times when someone drives through the field, or wind will gust, and I don't want to risk my expensive system falling over. Not to mention the huge PITA factor of setting up and taking down 4 tripods.

Also, there have been many moments when I've been working on groundwork or on something in the barn and I want to record it. Again, the Pixio could be a pain to set-up - especially in the barn. The Pivo is small enough that it can live in my tack box. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. It doesn't matter if you have a great camera if it's sitting at home and you missed the moment.

I haven't had time to go through the full videos, I just grabbed a few screenshots. Do I have time to review and analyse more video? Hell no! Quick screenshots? Yes!

For my fellow Canadians - after the conversion to the US dollar, the Pivo Silver starter pack came to $202 CDN. I was lucky and didn't get dinged by customs for extra charges. It ships from China, and took a week and a half to arrive to me in Alberta after landing in Vancouver.

I've admittedly only used it once, but so far, so good, and I'm happy I've got it!

Monday, 10 May 2021

Who Has Seen the Wind

 My little boy is growing up!

Friday turned out to be a fairly blustery day. One of the joys of riding in a Cover-All arena is that when it's windy, the canvas gets pretty flappy. This arena also has an unused, exterior ventilation shaft in the scary end of the arena that gets pretty creaky in the breeze. There are quite a few people who don't like riding their experienced horses in the arena during a wind storm because it's so loud and spooky.

One of the benefits of owning a deaf horse - Phantom doesn't give a shit about a noisy, flappy arena. 

Phantom had her tail washed and released from its winter wrap. I banged it shorter than I normally do and really liked the result. 

Cisco, however, gives a lot of shits about being in a noisy arena. He's gotten much better about it, and I certainly don't shy away from it, but we often have to avoid the scary end of the ring on these days. I'll ride him in there, but I don't feel the need to die. 

Now, I totally admit that I timed my ride on Friday night so that I knew there would be someone else riding at the same time to reduce Cisco's stress about the flappy arena. I'm not stupid.

Cisco was initially a little suspicious of the scariest corner with the vent in it, but unlike in the past, there were no attempts to scoot coming out of the corners. He was helped because we can't ride right into that corner due to a temporary (I hope) round pen that is set up in the corner, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

He had really good energy through the ride - up, but not in a llama way. And totally listening to me. Bending and moving off my leg without any issues. He wasn't super round and over his back, but if I was planning to jump I would have been really happy with the energy and focus. 

I liked the results of Phantom's tail so much that I did Cisco's tail too. But I might need to go shorter. Also note the mud - I expect the clean tails to last like two days. 

After trotting for a few minutes we took a walk break on a long rein. And Cisco marched me down into the scary end of the arena. No direction from me.

That's huge. A completely different mindset from him on how to react when things are loud and clangy.

He did it a couple more times through the ride so it wasn't a fluke. I was shocked but very pleased - I had anticipated a bit of a gong show of a ride and it didn't go that way at all.

We also nailed our sticky left lead canter transitions. I totally admit that I wasn't riding them very well - I kind of threw it at him and dug my heel into him and then unsurprisingly he'd drop his shoulder and would just trot fast. I've been trying to remember to ask with a quick, light aid, and expect to get a response from it (which is how I ride Phantom). On this ride, he gave me three immediate, mostly straight with no flailing shoulders trot/canter transitions from a swipe the leg back aid. With the first one it took me a couple of strides before I realized he was already cantering, it was that prompt. 

I even tested the transition after I feared I had broken it - I was asking him to do a walk/canter transition on a 15 m circle and then stay on that circle and not fall out - he was struggling with it (his tougher side) and I wasn't always getting a good walk/canter transition. So I thought I might have broken the trot version. Nope - he nailed it. And then nailed the turn that we had struggled with on the circle. He got huge scritches and I hopped off pretty quickly afterwards. 

Considering that I was expecting to have a tense, spooky ride, I was really pleased with my ride. It wasn't perfect, but Cisco did a lot of things right.

My Pixio parts return from their European vacation on Monday or Tuesday of this week so I should be able to get some video this week - I'm really eager to see Cisco go.

And a Pivo should be arriving with my name on it too. Oops. 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Review - Decathlon Warm Breeches

 I think it was back in December when I found a new-to-me retailer of equestrian items. Decathlon is a multi-national company that sells sporting goods for something like 65 different sports. They only sell items under their own house-brands - the equestrian stuff is branded Fouganza - so their prices are quite reasonable. They seem to have three different levels of equipment - 100 series is suitable for beginners, 500 for intermediate, and 900 for advanced. The quality (and thus the price) goes up with the level.

I ordered a pair of breeches - the 180 Fullgrip Women's Horse Riding Silicone Seat Warm Jodphurs - Navy (yeah, their descriptions suck). The 180 means that they are part of the beginner line. They were priced at $60 CDN, and at the time shipping was free. I was hoping that they would be warm enough to wear them in the depths of winter, although I expected to still have to wear thermals under them.

I really like them.

Fit - I would say that they fit true-to-size. They aren't super skinny and fit my um, athletic thighs without issue. They are a good length on me, so if you are tall you might find them too short.

The silicone seat is just the right amount of sticky. Not so sticky that I can't get out of the car, sticky enough that I know that I'm wearing fullseats. I don't notice a difference between them and my Pikeur fullseats with the simulation leather seats.

As to them being "warm" breeches - well, they are warmer than my regular breeches, but not nearly as warm as my Kerrits winter breeches. I've been wearing them a lot in the current spring weather we are having where it's a little above freezing so I don't want to wear long johns anymore, but in my regular breeches my thighs would still be really cold.  They aren't warm enough on their own for our prairie winters, but for those in warmer climates who think they get winters they might be just right. 

The fabric has a bit of a brushed finish on the inside. It is not super stretchy. The ankle has a stretch insert but I find that if I am wearing long johns it gets a bit snug in this area. 

It has a single zippered pocket on the front right (good size), and a phone pocket on the right thigh that zippers closed. My Samsung S10+ with a case and Pop Cap just fits inside and the pocket can be zipped up.

They are not fancy breeches, but simple. They kept the cost down by having a simple waistband. It's on the inside, no one sees it once they're on, no concerns from me.

The main reason I keep grabbing these breeches first - they are probably the most comfortable pair of breeches that I own. That includes the couple of pairs of riding tights I have. 

I don't know why - if it's the fabric, or the cut, but I love wearing these breeches. 

I have no idea how long they will last, but at $60 I wouldn't be too disappointed if I only got a couple of years out of them. So far, they have been washed every 7-10 days and have had no issues with showing any wear.

I would definitely buy these again. 

Once I get my recent car repairs and vet bills paid off, I'll probably order a couple more things from Decathlon. They have some breeches that look like they would be good for summer, a leather halter I like, and once you start looking at activewear from other sports, it wouldn't be any problem finding enough to get free shipping.

In Canada, you can find them at They have stores in eastern Canada, mostly in Quebec. In the US, shop at

Monday, 3 May 2021


 I've been having really good rides lately on Cisco.

Like really, really good rides. Cisco has been a VGB - Very Good Boy.

His VGB status was at risk when he did his llama stare into the scary end of the arena while I got ready to hop on.

Between his magical soundproof ear bonnet and the Equibands, my horse is finally going the way I've been wanting him to go for the last couple of years.

He's finally going straight! 

It turns out there are positive benefits to straightness. They include:

  • being able to easily bend around circles and turns in the correct direction because his shoulders are already underneath him and not needing to be corrected from whatever side they've flung out to.
  • being able to move laterally off my leg in either direction, on a straight line or on a turn, because his shoulders are already underneath him and not needing to be corrected from whatever side they've flung out to.
  • being able to move forward within the gait without the need to fling shoulders out to one side or another.
  • being able to do a frickin' walk/trot transition without flinging his shoulders to the right every.single.time.
Shocking, I know!

Ever since I started using the Equibands he's been going better and better, and I feel like I'm finally getting the responses from him that I expect to get, without drama, without babysitting, and without having to constantly correct and micromanage. He's just been simple and steady.

Tonight, after some leg yields at the trot that just got better and better, I decided to try them at a canter. Again, they got better and better - actually, a really good attempt on our stronger right lead, and a couple of good steps on the weaker left lead. I think I've tried this once before with him and didn't really get anything.

So I thought I'd try the shoulder-in at canter. I haven't done much shoulder-in on him yet (my groin injury last summer would not let me school any lateral work without me very much regretting it) but I've been working on it. 

I ride a pretty good shoulder-in to the right, and can only ride a really shitty shoulder-in to the left. I have to really work on my positioning when going left.

We tried the canter shoulder-in to the right first - and by the third time, he had a pretty good idea and was able to give me 5 or 6 steps before he tangled his legs up.

Unsurprisingly, to the left, nothing really happened. Meh, it was a stretch goal. We'll work on it. 

The VGB got lots of treats after his ride tonight.

We've still just been riding with only the abdominal Equiband. I lunged him this weekend with the butt band on for the first time, which didn't result in any airs above the ground. But I need to get the right tension figured out - the band kept riding up and ended up just under the top of his tail. It was snug but I probably need to go snugger. I need to play with it.

Because he's been such a VGB, most of our rides have been a short school, followed with some toodling around outside. I've been trying to ensure that I take advantage of the nice weather before the mosquitos arrive and drive us back inside. Although I think I saw one this weekend so that time might be coming soon!

Hopefully, my Pixio arrives back soon so that I can get some video. I'm really excited to see a difference!

Monday, 26 April 2021

The End of the Staycation

Phantom is continuing to deal with her enlarged boob. She's guaranteed to need at least 7 days after her vaccinations every year. She's being her normal Princess and the Pea self - with a blanket on she minces along at a walk, take the blanket off and she is happy to walk forward and go for a trot next to me. Nighttime temperatures are still feeling well under freezing, but I changed her into her unlined rainsheet from her lined Rambo shell in the hopes that it wasn't so tight across her chest (by which I mean it isn't tight at all).

Cisco, though, was good to take for a spin on Saturday evening. He was still a bit sensitive when I groomed his neck so I didn't have solid plans for the ride, it was going to be a get on and see how he felt kind of ride.

I felt like I was forgetting something when I walked back to Cisco to put his bridle on. And then realized while doing up his bridle I forgot his soundproof ear cover. Oh, well, guess it was going to be a good day to test the difference (he spooked like 3 times at the beginning of the ride, he hasn't spooked since he started wearing them inside).

He felt perfectly fine at a walk and trot, maybe struggled a wee bit with the left lead canter. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and just did a large circle, because I had one thing I was hoping to do - ride with the flag!

I'd say that he wasn't at all bothered by it, but his mouth got pretty busy, so there was likely some stress going through his brain. But he was a super boy about it. We walked and trotted with the flag, first unfurled just a little bit, then about halfway. Our biggest problem was trying to steer with one hand - guess I really haven't done that on him! He figured it out after the first couple of laps. 

It wasn't until I was in the saddle and something felt different that I realized I had also forgotten to put on my half chaps. The tops of my boots kept getting stuck under something (saddle pad or flap?) so short ride it was!

I didn't push it and stopped while things were going well. I don't anticipate that he'll be concerned when the flag is fully unfurled, but I will have to start at the beginning when I switch it to my right hand. Then, canter - which will probably mean more steering issues!

Sunday, 25 April 2021

The Middle of the Staycation

 As per normal when she gets vaccinated, Phantom is suffering from some swelling in her boobage.

It sucks when you can only afford to get a boob job on one side.

It's definitely far from the worst she's ever been though. This year and last year she had the single-shot Vetera 6-way, which still leaves a large lump the next day, but it's a soft lump, rather than the hard, hot lump she used to get with whatever we used previously. Last year it seemed to cut her recovery time in about half - from up to 10 days to just 5 or 6. She was quite happy to walk forward on it yesterday, so I'm hoping that it will be the same this year.

We went for a walk (inside, because it's stupid cold after a beautiful sunny day - supposed to get down to -7 tonight and feel like -12) and then we did some work on clicker training..

Well, an attempt at a visual version of clicker training. 

Phantom generally really likes clicker training - she's a bit of a treat whore. Since she can't hear the clicker anymore, I'm trying to figure out a way to be able to use a visual or tactile "click". It has to be something that I can do consistently and quickly so that I can reward the behaviour when it happens and not too late.

I decided to try raising my left arm and making a fist. Eventually, I'll try to do the same with my right arm as it got awkward at moments not being able to hold the target in my left hand.

I had someone take a conformation shot of Cisco so that I can compare after a couple of months of Equiband use.

Phantom knows the idea behind touching the target well (my target is a piece of pool noodle shoved on a stick) so we started with using something she knows and does well to see if she would get the idea of the new visual "click".

I think that she did figure it out, although she oddly wasn't super into targeting. It could be because her boob hurt, or possibly because she had had bute syrup squirted into her mouth before we went over the arena and she usually won't take treats for a while afterwards (probably like drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth). She definitely seemed to stop and look for the treat when I made a fist so I think she was getting the idea.

We also tried it with a flag on a dressage whip that was available. I didn't think she would have a problem with it but she was a little wary of touching it in the beginning, then figured it out, but didn't seem to have much desire to really get into it so we ended after a bit more with the pool noodle target. 

Cisco, on the other hand, was totally into his clicker training session.

When I first started him with clicker training he didn't seem to have much desire to figure it out, but lately he thinks it's the best thing ever. He's not the kind of horse who needs to be let loose to blow off some steam very often, so when I want to just play with him I've been trying to engage his brain.

The only usable picture was the very first one she took. For every other one the model wasn't co-operating!

If let loose and alone in the arena, he will just do 15m circles in front of the gate. Rarely will he go down into the scary end by himself (maybe in summer when all the doors are open and he can see horses outside), and he seldom will go even halfway down the ring. 

I've been working on giving him a mark to stand on, that I can then slowly move down the arena. We started off with a tarp, then I dropped my lead shank into a circle, and also tried a welcome mat I had bought to do this with Phantom years ago. 

The idea is that when he stands on the mark, I release the pressure and he gets to just hang out for a moment. Then I'll send him out, and if he returns to the mark he gets to chill again.

He very quickly picked up the idea. I'm sure that the application of treats when I clicked probably helped.

I've been able to get him to X while loose in the arena with this method. It's still a long ways away from having him trot up into the scary end by himself, but it's still a big improvement on the small circle he normally stays to.

We also worked with a flag. Not chasing him with it - I have no need to get him all ramped up and spinny - but getting him to chase the flag. 

Again, he figured it out really quickly. The first day we were in the indoor round pen, which is currently in the scariest corner of the arena. It didn't take too long before Cisco was trotting after the flag with his head down and nose reaching out, heading into that corner.

The next day I took out a full-sized flag (in obnoxious yellow) instead of the handkerchief on a whip from the previous day. Again, he wasn't concerned about it flapping around and was much more concerned about showing me how fast he could touch it to get a click and treat. 

It's a piece of fabric stapled onto a stick - not fancy, but it does the job!

I managed once to get him to come down into the scary end to touch the flag, but after that he stuck next to the gate with the open door behind it. Meh, baby steps. He wasn't worried about me standing in the middle flying the flag, he just would have rather have been outside. 

I grabbed him and led him around at walk and trot with the flag held aloft, kind of where it would be if I was riding. He might have been slightly more worried when it was on the right side than the left, but still, minimal concern on his part.

Coming up next - riding with the flag!

Thursday, 22 April 2021

The Start of the Staycation

 So far, I've done pretty good on my week of staycation, horse-wise. I took Sunday off as my sit on my ass day since the arena was booked all day and it wasn't nice enough outside to want to do anything outdoors.

Cisco had a wonderful school inside on Monday, a lovely hack on Tuesday, and a short ride in the hot sun on Wednesday - which was also vaccination day (for the horses - I get my first jab next week). Phantom had a nice trot on Tuesday and did a bit more on Wednesday since she was feeling pretty good. 

A friend just got a Pivo and this was her first time using it for a ride. It caught this clip of me on Phantom. I thought it did a pretty good job, although it kept losing the horse when they passed the Devoucoux sign tracking left.

Since they both got their jabs on Wednesday, it will be quieter for the next few days. Phantom always needs a week off because she'll have a huge lump at the injection site, so I'll be buting and ice packing her for a few days. I'm hoping that Cisco will be good to go under saddle this weekend, even if it's just a walk ride to get him moving around.

I was hoping to get him back on the trailer for a drive this week, but in typical spring fashion, the weather is swinging back and forth between "beautiful make sure you put on sunscreen" and "glad you didn't take your winter coat out of the car". Yesterday was a hot, sunny 20 degrees, which turned into snow overnight. Blanketing horses for these conditions is fun. Thankfully, I swapped blanketing services with someone - I stripped everyone down in the morning so that they wouldn't bake in the sun and she was out in the evening to put rainsheets on. She got the worst end of the deal - the wind had picked up and putting blankets on was apparently a bit tricky!

These temperatures are in Celsius, so yeah, it's a big swing.

I asked the vet if we need to investigate Phantom's deafness. She said with her age and the congenital possibility we don't need to look into it unless we start to see some neurological issues. 

I finally caught her not noticing me until she saw me on video. Sound up to hear her nicker when she sees me, which is pretty typical of her. Also - I hate hearing my recorded voice.

My broken Pixio parts are on their way to France for repairs. The tracker watch had fallen apart on me while I was wearing it and one of the tripods had broken off in the screw slot of a beacon. It's still under warranty, thankfully.

I have to give the company a shout-out for their service. When shipping it, generally I would have to pay to have it shipped and then if it is under warranty they would refund me the shipping costs. That's what I did when I shipped the robot back last year, it all worked out with no issues.

They recommend that I ship it back via Canada Post, and the amount that they refund for shipping is based on what it should be via CP. If you send it back a more expensive way, you will only get back what it should have cost if you went with CP. Last time I think they actually refunded me a couple dollars more than what I paid, which was around $70.

There are moose on the loose! Not a great picture (at dusk, through the car window), but I saw this pair on back-to-back days just down the road from the barn. I think since I've moved to this barn four years ago I've seen moose every April.

This time, I went to the post office, to find out that Canada Post will no longer ship anything internationally that contains batteries. It looks like it changed last fall. A quick estimate from a couple of couriers showed that it was going to cost upwards of $120 to ship back these two parts.

So I sent a message to Move N See to inform them that I couldn't use Canada Post, with a screenshot of the new restrictions regarding batteries, and asked them if they had any recommendations on a carrier to use. 

Two days later, they sent me a waybill for DHL and had arranged for a pickup. I didn't have to pay for any shipping upfront. Awesome!

It's supposed to arrive in France tomorrow, so I might have it back by the end of next week. Last time it came back to me I think within two weeks of me shipping it. I really want to use it so that I can see how Cisco has changed since we started using the Equibands!

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

The Last Week in Pictures

I've been out to the barn after work quite a bit lately- which means no time to write up blog posts.  So here is a week in review in pictures post instead.

Friday - beautiful evening, I rode Cisco outside in the field and had a lovely ride. He was sweaty enough that I had to hose him off and we stood in the evening sun to dry off while he ate his dinner.
Saturday - the forecasted chance of snow turned into a full-on blizzard that I had to drive into after work.
I stopped off at the grocery store on my way home because I was not leaving once I arrived. This was in my car in the parking lot.

Cisco's new Lemieux Acoustic Ears bonnet arrived. It fits much better than the BR one we have been using.
I had another wonderful ride. The Equibands are making a difference!

Tuesday - I had planned to ride but I apparently overtightened my girth the day before and Cisco was a bit sensitive behind his elbows so I decided not to tack him up. 
I had found a mark where the girth strap lies in each side after the previous ride. I know that I was surprised that the girth went up an extra hole when getting ready to get on - I usually try, and if it doesn't go up easily I don't make it happen. Cue guilty horse mom moment.
We did some useful groundwork instead, then I put him into the new roundpen to work on something else. He started off quiet, then someone walked a mare past him to her pen and he decided he was a now an Arabian stallion. 
Can you see the difference the Equibands are making? Lol. 

Phantom decided that she is going to lose all her winter hair in the next couple of days.
Wednesday - Farrier day. Unfortunately,  since so many people are working from home these days, they kept showing up to hold their horses instead of getting the barn person to do so. So there was a wait list until my guys could get done.
No worries, I had the day off so I took Cisco for a quick spin before he got his toes trimmed.
Then Phantom got her new custom shoes. As custom shoes do, it took a while until the fit was perfect, which is hard for a princess to approve.
Her eye looks sore but it's just a bit more pink than usual from the sun. She is now sporting her sunglasses as the next few days are supposed to be beautiful. 

Then she got tacked up and we went for a stroll. She needed snacks for her walk.
And to top off the day, I took this fantastic picture of Phantom mid-cookie begging.
I might get a bit of a break this weekend between family commitments and more potential snow (which means I won't be able to ride as the arena is booked for a clinic) but next week is a staycation so hopefully I'll manage to do some proper write-ups!

Thursday, 8 April 2021

Equestrian Hack - Cell Phone Trailer Camera

 Now, I'll admit that I haven't used this in an actual hauling scenario. But I've tested it, and there's no reason it shouldn't work!

Chances are high that you've got an old smartphone at home that you aren't using. Well, why not put that phone to use as a trailer camera!

You will need your (likely) newer cellphone that you can create a wireless hotspot with, some sort of bracket so that you can attach the old phone to your trailer, and an app installed on both phones - I used a highly rated one called AlfredCamera, though there should be other options (search along the lines of security camera apps).

Put both phones on the same wifi network, log into the app on both phones using the same email address or Google account, and voila, you can see video!

My old phone is a Samsung Galaxy S8 (though I have an S3 somewhere I'd rather try). You can choose to use either the front or rear camera.

You can record short videos to your phone (30 seconds) and it has a microphone feature to be able to yell at your horse to knock it off when they start pawing at a stoplight. The Alfred app is free, which means it has ads, but you can pay an annual fee to get rid of the ads and record video up to 120 seconds for about $40 per year Canadian. 

I left my phone in the car parked in front of the trailer, wandered back and stuck my arm through the door to check that the video would work from the tow vehicle. No problems!

The hardest part about using this setup will likely be figuring out how to attach the phone in your trailer. I have a bracket that I had bought to use with my Pixio that I used on my trial run, but I don't think it's the best option - it might be within nose range. I'm going to see what else I can figure out. 

My trailer has this odd ledge across the front that will work to clamp something onto, but it might be a bit too close to a nose to be safe. 

Is it a perfect option? Probably not. Is it a cheap option to see what's going on with your problem traveller? For sure! It will cost you some data and whatever it costs to attach the phone to the trailer (assuming you already have a spare phone). If you are driving across the country it might not be the best camera system, but for short, local drives, it's worth a shot!

Let me know if you try it and what your results are!

Equibands - So Far, So Good!

 I've had a couple of more rides with the Equibands - a total of three so far. 

The second ride was after Cisco had had a few days off from being under saddle, although he had a chance to run around in the arena on Saturday, and then we spent an hour or so on Sunday practicing trailer loading. So he was a little bit up, which caused him to have short quick steps at the beginning of the trot. It took a few minutes to have him settle into longer, slower strides, and since we are still in the early stages of using the bands there was only a short few minutes before I ended the ride. Not that he was bad or anything, he was just a bit fresh, but overall he was much better about not flinging his shoulders around as he normally does when in the arena by himself.

I asked my dad if he had enough scrap wood to make a mounting block for outside the barn. A week later I delivered it! It's the perfect height - well, for me at least!

The next night I rode him outside for our first proper outdoor ride. We've been out a few times so far this spring but have only walked along on a mostly loose rein.

We walked around the yard as our warm-up before heading to the empty field to school. It's the perfect time of year to ride in the field - the ground is soft with only one squelchy spot, and the grass is short enough that you can see the gopher holes.

I was expecting him to be a hot mess and bulging everywhere with far too quick a pace, but he surprised me by immediately picking up a steady trot and for the most part keeping it. Sure, at times his shoulders fell out to the right on a left turn, but that's a constant issue that we deal with. Rather, that I deal with, as it seems to happen on every horse I ride. 

He's still working on finding his balance with the bands - he wants to stretch his head and neck down, but is sometimes too low and starts to fall a bit onto his forehand. I also want him to stretch his head and neck down, but I need to push him into the contact a bit more and not let him get so low. Shortening my reins and engaging my core gives me a lovely, round trot, that neither of us can maintain for very long. 

Cisco was also much straighter and steadier this ride, which allowed me to have many more moments of getting a proper bend. It's hard to get a right bend when you are pushing out through your right shoulder, and even though that is his default move when he gets stressed (like on the first ride outside of the season) he was really good about swapping bend when changing direction or on turns. 

I haven't got any recent horse media, but I will soon because my boots are only a little over a month away! Hopefully, Covid doesn't cause any significant delays in shipping! (Yes, I have a countdown on my phone's home screen.)

He still tires pretty quickly while wearing the Equibands, although I ended before he started getting  behind the bit as he had the previous two rides. We trotted for 7 minutes on the first ride, 8 on the second, and 10 on the third (total trot time as per the Equisense). We haven't cantered yet with it, but hopefully will this weekend.

So far, I'm impressed with the Equibands. Well - Equiband, because I've only used the abdominal band so far. I'm generally not a person who uses gadgets, so I am feeling a little bit of guilt over using it. However, I don't think that it creates a false frame like draw reins or short martingales do, and it doesn't apply any pressure to the horse's mouth at all. It's all about teaching the horse to carry themselves using different muscles than they possibly do normally, and if it can be done without drilling them to death then maybe it's a good thing. 

I need to take some before pictures of Cisco so that I can see if his body changes. I'm hoping he gets beefcake status this summer!

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Feel The Burn

 Tuesday evenings ride, which had almost identical circumstances to last Friday's ride (late, alone in the arena), was much more relaxed. Cisco felt a bit stiff to the right, which he hasn't really felt lately, but it seemed to get better as we went. Our canter transitions were also some of the best we've had in a while - they've been sticky for the last few weeks. This was only the second ride since his chiro appointment a week earlier, so I'm not sure if he is still feeling the results of it. 

Still distrustful of the scary end of the arena though.

I didn't use the Equibands for this ride as I was wanting to set us up for success, and based on the previous ride I wasn't sure how successful I would be. 

But we used them on Wednesday! How did it go?

Cue evil cackle.

Oh, Cisco felt the burn. 

I only used the abdominal band, as recommended by the company (use the abdominal band for the first couple of weeks then add the butt band). When I first got on, something about my saddle felt different. I couldn't figure out what it was - was it sitting back more? I checked the amount of space under the gullet and there seemed to be quite a bit more space than the night before. I'm now wondering if he was lifting his back that much more than normal and that's what I felt. 

It was a very short ride - a 10 minute walk warm-up, and another 12 minutes or so of a bunch of short trots. 

At the walk Cisco definitely walked with his head lower than normal. He was by no means steady in the contact - his head was at all different levels while he was trying to figure out his balance. He's a horse who tends to start with a very high head, and it was generally level with his back or lower. Big change.

At the trot, I felt a big difference - he felt like he had way more stuffing than he normally does. Same as at the walk, he wasn't steady in the contact, but was much rounder and lower with his neck.  He gave me some lovely short moments of reaching for the contact and almost being a bit heavy, which for a horse who is generally happy to shorten his neck and get a bit curled up is kind of a big deal. 

As is typical with him, when things get tough or worrisome we lose our right bend (mostly due to pushing into my leg) so that wasn't where it needs to be, but I figured that it would be best to concentrate on just going forward and encouraging him to reach into contact.

This was a huge change in his way of going, so I kept the trots short. He was being really good and trying and I don't him to get sore and resistant. On the last trot he was starting to tuck behind the bit and get a bit fussy and I figured it might be enough for the first day. I found a couple of chances to click and reward when he stretched his nose out and called it a day.

So yeah, I noticed a difference!

I'm excited to see how much he changes over the next couple of months of using the bands. He's already got a big booty, what's it going to look like by the end of summer?

I would have had video to show but my Pixio fucking broke just as I was going to get on. The tracker watch fell apart while on my wrist. I haven't looked at it to see what happened yet - I'm quite pissed off. It's still under warranty so I'm guessing it will be going back to France (along with the beacon that had the tripod bolt shear off inside it). I'm hoping duct tape will work in the meantime. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

New Toy

 The clinic that had booked the arena continued on Sunday until mid-afternoon. Originally the day was looking beautiful and sunny and perfect to go for a ride out somewhere. That changed significantly by the time the day arrived. 

Both horses were lying down when I went out to get them. They were both using dirt pillows.

Instead, we had extremely high wind warnings, rain, snow, and a big drop in temperature. The good news was that it wasn't going to happen until late afternoon, so despite me parking my butt on the couch and starting a new farm on Stardew Valley I still made it out to the barn with time to do something sort of useful with the ponies. 

Storm clouds coming in,

A couple of weeks ago, I was being lazy and doing some internet surfing. Someone had reviewed Equibands, which I've been interested in trying. That led me down the rabbit hole of more videos and reviews, and when I read that it was supposed to be good for wiggly horses, my brain responded with "my horse is wiggly take my money please". 

And then somehow a set magically showed up in the mail a week later.

Don't you hate it when that happens?

It was honestly an impulse buy that I kind of immediately regretted. Even more so the next day when I got a response from the company about the difference in sizes and they said I should go with the regular size - I had ordered small. 

I ordered the small mostly because the regular is on backorder everywhere due to Covid. The small was immediately available. The size chart says that the regular is recommended for horses over 14.2hh - Cisco is just over 15 so it wasn't a huge difference, and he's relatively compact. The dimensions of the saddle pad are the same if not bigger than the saddle pads that I currently use so it would fit my saddle. 

However, the response from the company said that a saddle pad that is too small would not place the band in the appropriate location - it could slide forward. Thus I started having doubts about my choice, just as I got my shipping notice. D'oh! Too late to make any changes.

He doesn't have a head because the blanket on the wall had been there for 25 seconds and he is always determined to have it on the floor within 30.

Reality is, I think it's fine. Based on the pictures I've seen it's not a hard and set rule as to where the abdominal band has to sit - the general area will work just fine. I honestly would be more concerned with the larger size and think that the band would squish backward on Cisco as that is where his very round tummy starts to narrow and taper. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't appreciate that in his junk.

The recommendation is that you handwalk the horse the first time that they wear it to make sure there aren't any explosions. Sunday was the perfect day to finally do so.

Cisco didn't seem to care too much about the band around his stomach. I probably still need to tighten it more, but I was in a bit of a rush to make sure I could be done before the storm started. I have to figure out the whole 50% less tension in the rubber band thing.

Did I notice a difference on his first wearing of it? Maybe.

He walked slowly. Which is not really a Cisco thing. He usually tries to take me for a walk,

In fact, at one point, Phantom, who was also walking with us, and who is a confirmed slow walker, was well ahead of Cisco. That's almost unheard of. 

Was he slow because he was having to work a bit harder? Don't know yet.

I'm going to try to use it under saddle this week. I'm hoping for a horse that will become straighter, push more into the connection, and use his left hind a bit more. We'll see over the next couple of months!

Monday, 29 March 2021

Don't Give Him an Inch

 I didn't really do much horse-wise this weekend. I rode Cisco on Friday night - let me correct that - I tried to ride Cisco on Friday night and gave up after 25 minutes.

The arena was booked for a clinic all weekend. On Friday and Saturday it wasn't available until late evening. On Friday I had enough energy to make it happen so I arrived at the barn at about 7:45pm and hopped on around 8:30.

This was Cisco's first time in the arena by himself for a while, so I wasn't anticipating having my best ride ever, despite putting on the magical soundproof ear bonnet. To add extra stress to my horse, the arena lights were turned off when I took him in and the arena was pretty well black. 

Last time this happened, Cisco stared into the dark and was convinced he saw death down in the depths of the arena. This time, he wasn't too concerned. I'll give the credit to the bonnet yet again. 

The warm-up walk was fine. He was a bit looky in the end, but went into the corners happily enough.

The trot though. Ugh.

I think he was just a wee bit too full of himself to be able to settle while by himself in the ring. It wasn't that he was spooky, he just kept dropping his shoulder towards the gate on every single turn we made, everywhere in the ring. He even did it on a 15 m circle right in front of the gate. Super annoying.

I schooled it for about 15 minutes - it got mostly better, but give an inch and he would take a foot every time. 

It was late, there was no one around, I was annoyed. I hopped off and stripped his tack and sent him out for a run.

There were some bucks and leaps, so maybe that was what he needed. I'm still believing in the magical properties of the bonnet, as in the past this would have been a much worse ride. He didn't actually have any scoot-spooks, and had some short-lived moments of reaching forward for contact instead of just giraffe-ing the whole time. 

I might have purchased something to make Cisco work a little harder. More info to come!

Friday, 26 March 2021


 I've been starting to use a different nickname for Cisco when I go out to catch him - but I had to amend it from my first version.

Everybody has their little names they give to their horses that they use when they are by themselves. Farly was Farles, Phantom is Princess or P-Diddy. 

The name I found rolling off my lips when I went out to get Cisco one day recently was C-Man. 

It took me a couple of days before I realized that if someone overheard me using that name they would probably hear it slightly differently.

I'm going with C-Dog instead.