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.