Friday, 19 February 2021

Return to Work

 Since my area was the first to get the polar vortex a couple of weeks ago, it looks like we might be the first to get out of it. Daytime highs are back up around the freezing mark - which means it's time to get back in the saddle!

Cisco's new job description is pack mule as I made him carry in Phantom's blanket. She got to get nekkid for a couple of hours in the sun.

For the first time in ages I hopped on both horses yesterday. I couldn't ride two in the same day for most of last year due to my adductor injury (which hasn't totally disappeared yet). After three weeks of mostly sitting on the couch I'm sure I'll be paying for it tomorrow!

A couple of weeks ago I had snagged a couple of BR soundproof ear bonnets for $12 each in a sample sale. I've been wanting to try one for Cisco for ages but I haven't been able to find one locally for cheap and if I had to order it online it was too expensive for something that would maybe work. At $12 and free shipping - totally worth trying it.

They are full size but seem to be a small fit. On Cisco, who is generally more of a cob size, it's a bit of a squeeze to get his ears in without them getting folded up. I was also worried that the bonnet would pop off during our ride (although I got it over his ears it didn't want to rest atop his head), but happily it seemed to stay put under the bridle. 

Even more happily - I think it made a positive difference!

This was Cisco's first ride in about three weeks. He's been lunged a couple of times in the last few days so he's had a chance to expel some energy, but that hasn't made a difference in the past. This is usually when his spookiness is at its highest level. 

On this night we had only three moments where he thought about spooking, but got no further than planting a foot differently. Even when the end door opened up and horses appeared through it - usually this results in a giraffe neck, but he just quietly looked over at them while on a loose rein.

I definitely think the ear bonnet helped. It's going to be a regular part of our kit!

This was also Cisco's first ride after his bodywork on Monday. I think his trot felt a bit more up in his shoulders and he seemed better bending right (when he wasn't pushing into my right leg). Especially considering that when I tacked him up I was so focused on getting the ear bonnet on securely that I failed to notice that I had grabbed Phantom's bridle to put on him. I had a moment just before getting on that I glanced at his bridle and thought something looked wrong about the browband, but it was in the right position so obviously it's fine. Then it took me half a lap of the arena before I realized that I had the wrong reins on, and how the hell did Phantom's reins get of Cisco's bridle. Facepalm. Idiot moment.

The browband is a U-shape on Phantom but Cisco's wider noggin stretched it straight.

He didn't feel great at the canter, which I wonder if it was because of the wrong bit in his mouth, orif  he was still a bit body sore. He was really sticky to pick up the canter on both leads. This can be a problem when he hasn't been ridden for a bit, but our last ride had some lovely transitions with a pole exercise. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and just did a couple of short canters on each direction and basically called it a night. He was getting tired and I didn't want to lose the benefits from his adjustments that I had been feeling. 

Post-ride SureFoot pads sessions. Cisco isn't a horse to normally drop his head and neck like this so this was a good session!

I wasn't planning on doing much with Phantom. I figured she'd be pretty stiff after all the cold. I was planning to mostly walk and then kind of see how the trot felt.

Apparently the Previcox I'd given her the day before had done its magic because she felt pretty good! The fact that she hadn't had a chance to get the sillies out as I usually would do with her probably helped give her some extra forward momentum.

I pretty much confirmed that she is now deaf. Whereas when I had tested her using voice commands under saddle back in October and I felt she heard them, last night she didn't. I don't think I saw a single response to any of my clucking, kissing, hand-clapping, caw-cawing, walk, or whoa sounds. Not a single ear flick. 

Which means I have to find a way to slow her down when she wants to take off at a canter! Pulling on the reins doesn't slow her down - it just makes her get bouncier!

I'm trying to think of some options that I can use under saddle to replace my voice. I'm going to try a neck rope, and maybe see if I can install something like my hand squeezing her crest means stop. I also want to work on some hand signals on the ground. A quick google search didn't bring up too many solid tips on dealing with a deaf horse, so I'll have to be a little bit creative. But I love this kind of challenge! Thankfully, Phantom does too - especially if cookies are involved!

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