Tuesday 28 September 2021

The Try-Guy

 A couple of weeks ago I had a proper schooling session on Cisco and told him that he actually had to make an effort at canter and not go around like a llama. 

Always a llama for the first pass at the end of the arena.

I wish I knew what magical words I whispered to him that night, because ever since then, he has been fantastic.

He hasn't turned into Valegro or anything like that. But something has clicked and he's just become very rideable. He's super willing and has been trying really hard to work with me.

The reason for that schooling session was to figure out if I had broken the right lead canter, the better lead for both of us. 

Ever since that day, the right lead has been lovely. I could ride the right lead for hours.

There's got to be a dressage test where you only canter one way, right?

To the left... well, it's a work in progress.


The canter at the beginning of the ride. The right shoulder isn't flinging out, but I've got no bend to the left.

The alternative method of left lead canter - the right shoulder bulging out.

Unfortunately, it's the tougher side for both of us. For me, I have the left-hand-itis - the left hand that loves to hang on the rein like a dead fish, and a much weaker left leg (also the leg that I pulled the adductor on last summer).  For Cisco, he likes to push his shoulders to the right, so the struggle is keeping that right shoulder falling way out in the circle, while getting him to bend around my left leg. Of course, if I could keep my left leg on reliably, and turn my fricking shoulders to the inside, it might be easier for him. 

Getting better. It still needs more left bend, but he's not dropping onto the left front nearly as much.

With the flinging of the shoulders to the right, it also means that he doesn't fill up my right rein, which means I don't have a very effective half-halt when tracking right. All around, the left lead is more of a struggle than the right.

I think there might actually be a bit of lift on the left shoulder!

But it's coming. I've been keeping the left lead canters shorter with the intent of getting a chance to re-organize before the wheels fall completely off the bus. It's generally easier to start with and keep a good canter than to fix a bad canter. It also gives me a chance to reposition myself in the saddle to give the poor horse a fighting chance of doing what I'm asking of him.

I'll take this trot. (It would be better if I would shorten my damn reins!)

It's working. Every ride we manage to get a few more strides of a canter with a left bend that I can steer off my outside aids. When I remember to put my inside leg on, he tries to bend around it. We'll probably lose it after a few steps, but at least I'm getting the desired response. 

Getting a well-deserved cookie at the end of the ride. I tuck it into his cheek - it's kind of adorable.

Cisco has always been a horse with a lot of try. I've been trying to alternate rides between proper schooling sessions and hacking so that I don't give him a reason to lose his willingness. It seems to be working!

Thursday 23 September 2021

Canadians Senior Horse Owners - Free Offer!

Canadian horse owners - do you wonder if your senior horse has Cushings? 

The only way to know is to have bloodwork done - and bloodwork is never cheap.

But - you might be in luck - your horse might qualify for a free blood test!

Boehringer Ingleheim is currently offering free blood tests (performed by your veterinarian) to see if your horse has PPID. You can go to their website, learn about PPID, and fill in the request form. If it's approved, they will pay for the bloodwork. You'll still have to pay for whatever else your vet charges you for at the time (like travel), but hey, it's something!

Now, it's not all altruistic on the part of Boehringer Ingleheim - after all, they are the manufacturer of the medication Prascend which is used to treat Cushings. But if you are like me, and have a senior horse that is always the last horse to shed out in the spring, it might be a good opportunity to find out if your concerns are justified.

Phantom did qualify for the free test, so it looks like a trip to the clinic will be coming up in the next month - the offer is only good until October 28th. 

Click here for the link!

Wednesday 15 September 2021


 Guess what this is?

This is a horse who, for the first time ever, came off the trailer totally dry! No sweat at all!

The car rides are working!

Cisco was still a bit sticky about getting on. I schooled the loading before putting his travel buddy on, and that was definitely a good idea. Once he's been fully on once he's pretty good about being loaded and unloaded, the tricky part is just getting him to get past the half-way point.

I think this was also the first time that he partook of the hay net. Phantom is hit or miss as to if she eats from it. Tonight she started munching on it while I was loading Cisco. For whatever reason he decided to join in on chowing down, so I let them sit there for a few minutes before closing everything up and heading out. I was happy to see an empty net when we returned home and dropped hay on the floor in front of Cisco.

Cisco (on the right) looks taller than Phantom - but I think it's just because he's totally got his butt squished into the butt bar. Though I might measure him to be sure!

I truly didn't think he would get this much better this quickly. As of four car rides ago he came off soaked with sweat. To come off dry and happily munching hay is a huge improvement. 

We still need to work towards traveling solo but I'll probably leave that until next year. I want to do a few more trips this year, maybe some longer drives, and try to get him getting into the trailer a little smoother. Hopefully his reduced stress will help with that.

Friday 10 September 2021

The Canter Struggle Bus

Cisco's canter has been on the struggle bus as of late. He's been picking up his leads with no issue, and in general the transitions have been prompt and without drama. 

I got some usable Pixio footage (lots of non-usable footage). It's taken forever to be able to get on this horse and walk around on the buckle at the start of the ride.

But once we get into the canter, he's a llama. A left-bending llama.

It's a little dark, but this moment totally shows our struggle with dropping the right shoulder tracking right.

I've been wondering if it's a physical issue, a tack issue, a training issue, or an idiot rider issue.

One training hole that I know we have is not being able to get flexion at the poll without following with his shoulders. I spent so much time trying to get this horse to go on a straight line forward that I kind of neglected to work on getting flexion at anything other than a walk. We've been working on it, and I'm pretty sure that this will help our canter immensely.

On a ride last Friday I decided to tackle the canter. I only wanted him to give me some bend, and not carry his head straight up in the air. Was a decent ride lead canter something he couldn't do, in which case I'd have to look into getting a vet workup done, or he didn't want to do (because it's hard)?

I like the uphill moment, but would like the neck a bit longer and my butt to stay in the saddle.

We went back to doing lots of transitions on a circle. The first couple of canters were ugly, but it slowly started getting better. He started softening his back and allowed me to influence and ride the canter, rather than just sit on top and steer.

Magic colour change pony - he's now a palomino!

We made some progress in being able to ask for some flexion and have him reach down into contact. There were also some lovely, soft transitions into canter.

And then we had an amazing trot around the arena! Forward, straight, even contact in both my reins - it felt fantastic!

I would like his neck a wee bit longer here, but I was starting to ask for some right flexion. Also - as evidenced by these pictures - I can't sit up straight anymore.

Thursday 9 September 2021

Car Ride Breakthrough!

 I think we are finally making progress on Cisco's trailering stress level!

I hooked up the trailer last night and parked it towards the front of the field. By the time I returned with both horses, I had trailers parked on either side of me with haul-in lesson students. An excellent training opportunity!

Full-on sweat after a trailer ride on July 31.

When I first approached with Cisco to the trailer there was something about him that made me think this was going to be a good night.

And then he wouldn't get on.

He initially put his front feet into the trailer pretty quickly. But then would only tap dance in place and wouldn't take another step that actually moved him forward. Lots of foot movement going nowhere.

I ended up pulling Phantom off the trailer and sent her to go graze out of sight and went back to the beginning with Cisco. With the divider moved over, on our first approach he took that extra step in that I hadn't been able to get. But not much more.

We faffed about and after a few minutes got a couple more steps, so I backed him off and reapproached.

And he marched right on, right to the front.

And continued to do so another 4 or 5 times in a row, with me gradually moving the divider back over.

Still super sweaty on August 4.

I then had to decide if I wanted to leave it there or put both horses back on and go for a drive. I figured I might as well, we were there and ready to go.

He still loaded without issue after Phantom was on. So off we went!

We just did the loop around the side roads - it's not far, but they are all dirt roads so I drive like a grandma to try to keep the ride more comfortable for the ponies. We were probably gone for about 25 minutes.

Upon arrival, I lifted the rear curtain and for the first time, didn't smell the steaming, sweaty horse aroma.

Sure enough, Cisco had barely broken a sweat!

Sweat patches on his elbow and a bit on his neck - so much better!

Yes, it was much cooler than the last few times we trailered, but that hasn't stopped him in the past from breaking out into an all-over body sweat. There was still some sweat present, maybe about 10% of what it usually is. I'd be okay arriving somewhere and tacking up this horse instead of the other sweaty horse that would need a bath first.

I'm hoping that this was the breakthrough trailer ride and it will only get better from here! (Probably just a fluke though!)

Wednesday 8 September 2021

Wordless Wednesday - Construction

I'm on vacation this week with a whole bunch of stuff to do. Instead, thanks to my mother, I was inspired to drag out my 30-year old Lego sets and put them together.

I got this stable set when I was 11 or 12 years old. Somehow, I still have all the pieces!