Friday 28 January 2022

Sass = Spooky

 It's the time of year when finding some incentive to ride has been a problem.

There's been a myriad of reasons - weather (it's either freezing cold or above-average warm but also freezing rain), roads have been terrible this year (I've never seen as many vehicles on their roof in the ditch as I have this year), car problems (very expensive car problems), and well, this week, my uterus remembered that it exists (it forgot for a while).

I had three and a half pretty good rides on Cisco a couple of weeks ago. The half-good ride was because we started one ride in the arena by ourselves for the first time this year, which meant that Cisco was on high alert for anything that might kill him. Like the yellow and black quad parked in the corner, that was most definitely a tiger that was getting ready to pounce - especially once Cisco kicked up some dirt into the boards as we passed it. After I told him how brave he was for passing it, sure enough, a real-live tiger (orange kitty) entered the arena through a hole in the overhead door in the scary end, which in Cisco's little brain, justified all of his concerns.

Cisco creeping me from the shelter.

Thankfully, we are at the stage of training where once a bit of energy has been expelled, his brain slows down and Cisco is able to focus and we can generally have a pretty good second half of the ride. I mean, he still looks for reasons to gtfo and takes a mile if you give an inch in the scary end, but we can get stuff done.

After that ride, the temperatures plummeted so I didn't do anything with him for a week, at which point I decided it would be a good night to do some groundwork. 

Because Cisco tends to be worried when in the arena by himself, I like to do groundwork that activates his brain and focuses on finding relaxation. I use a lot of TRT method stuff. If I leave Cisco to his own devices he just does dizzy circles in front of the exit gate and barely uses any of the arena. 

It was a really good night to do groundwork. Someone had hauled in and was working on some roping (not on cows though). Keeping Cisco focused and seeking relaxation even though a rope was thwacking into a plastic block was a really good exercise for him, and we had some really good results. Which all went out the window when they left through the back door and loaded onto the unseen, but very much heard, trailer behind the arena.

Apparently, holding one's phone up to take a picture also looks like the cue for smiling, which results in a bunch of silly photos.

This brings us to today's ride. I figured that homeboy would have a bit of excess sass after almost two weeks off, but I had timed it right and there were two other horses in the arena, which usually means I'm in for a chill ride. 

I hopped on, Cisco walked about 5 steps, stopped dead, stared into the far end, and grew a hand taller. 

The water truck was driving past the end of the arena (outside), and Cisco could see the wheels moving through the 4" gap under the overhead door. Cue instant panic. 

He stopped and wouldn't walk forward. This was a different reaction than normal. Usually, he keeps moving and just tries to exit stage left (or right depending on which is the shortest path to the exit gate).

Cue tiny circles. 

Cisco's mode of spooking is to lock his neck straight and drop a shoulder to scoot. My way of dealing with it is to take his neck away and bring his head way to the inside and make him follow his nose on a small circle. It also relates to the TRT groundwork patterns. Not being able to lock his neck means that he can't scoot off. 

We followed the TRT way of dealing with a horse that doesn't want to go into the spooky corner. Circle left, right, left, then loosish rein to walk forward. He starts thinking about gtfo'ing, back to a few circle, and walk forward again. Rinse and repeat until they have taken you into the scary part. A bit of the right is easy/wrong is hard method.

And it worked. Quite well, actually. There were some sticky moments on the way, and it took probably 7 or 8 minutes, but we made it to the end, and once there, Cisco realized that there were in fact no horse-eating monsters waiting to pounce, and from then on, we were able to to go down there every time without many issues - Cisco kept his guard up, just in case they were hiding.

This horse is such a dork.

Considering how the ride started, I was pretty happy with how it ended. There was one sarcastic canter transition in the scary end, which involved a buck or two, but since I had had an Advil and a Tylenol that morning (thanks to my uterus) I had no back pain and my butt was glued to the saddle so his antics didn't faze me at all. Otherwise, he tried pretty hard to manage his excess energy and gave me some good efforts.

The goal is to get a couple more rides in now that I've ridden the sass down a bit. Next week isn't looking great for riding, between more cold weather arriving, another expensive repair to my car (hopefully the last one for a long while), and a clinic booked for the arena over the weekend, Cisco might get another week off, and we'll be right back to a sassy, spooky pony.

Wednesday 26 January 2022

Thursday 13 January 2022

Back to Being Busy

 It's actually been a busy horse week!

The cold spell that we've been having (the longest, coldest spell since 1969, with 13 out of 15 consecutive days having daytime highs colder than -20 celsius) finally broke at the beginning of the week. On Monday it actually warmed up almost 10 degrees from when I went home from work in the middle of the afternoon to when I left the barn at around 9:30 that night.

I had gone out a bit later that evening as I figured everyone would be out to ride early. I was right. But I timed it nicely so that when I rode there were only a couple of other horses in the arena. 

Cisco was a very good boy for his second ride of the year. I kept the ride pretty short as I didn't want him to get sweaty, but it wasn't a problem because it was much cooler in the arena than it was outside. The only real issue we had was that he kept ignoring my left leg, and as I didn't have my spurs on my new winter boots, I didn't have any back-up. It got better through the ride, but he definitely seemed to pick and choose when he thought it should apply.

Since the weather has warmed up, it was also time to clip. Tuesday night was a good night for it as I had to be up early on Wednesday for work and clipping only takes me 45 minutes or so. Cisco got done, I still need to do Phantom, but I wanted to get my blades sharpened before tackling her polar pony coat.

The only pic I took of his clip, which was used to judge how even both side of the clip was.

Thursday I awoke to a beautiful day. 

If you were an arctic duck.

For those of us who aren't arctic ducks, it was yucky. I awoke at 6am to rain, that froze and made driving treacherous. Google maps was a sea of orange and red roads at 8am. 

Phantom was not amused at the weather. 

Unfortunately, it was farrier morning, so I had to leave the house. Luckily, the other two ladies who share my farrier messaged me that morning and said that they would go first so I got to stay home until 10 am, which allowed the rush hour traffic to die down. The roads were still pretty icy though when I went out - I've never seen as many cars in the ditch along the highway as I have over the last few weeks. 

After the ponies got their toenails trimmed, I tacked Cisco up for a ride. The overhead door to the arena is being kept open (still warmer outside than inside) and that was a little exciting for Cisco. There is some kind of magnetic pull that makes him bulge towards it and prevents him from being able to go into the corners in the scary end. Thankfully, I had remembered to put spurs on this time. 

He wasn't actually too bad about gravitating to the open door, but if I gave him an excuse to throw his shoulders in that direction, he took it. 

Cisco was a wee bit up when I first got on him, but this is about as bad as he gets. 

I threw one challenge at him (that we should have sorted out long before now, but oh well) and asked him to pick up the outside canter lead down the long sides. We tried this one day outside this past summer, didn't really manage to get the specific lead down the center of the field. But we've been doing a lot of work on the canter transitions, so I was optimistic that there would be improvement.

Tracking right, Cisco got the first attempt wrong, but then nailed the next three. Tracking left was a bit stickier though, and I had to simplify it a bit for him by coming off the rail and angling a back towards it a bit while asking for the canter. It still took a couple of attempts, but once he got the first one he seemed to figure it out. 

We'll test it again over the next few rides. One of the things I want to work on this year is counter-canter, so I'd like to make sure that he really understands the aid for canter leads. 

I've been really happy with how he's come back from his vacation. The barn owner was riding at the same time as me and commented on how well he's going (she hasn't seen him go in quite a while). I still think that the soundproof ear covers were the turning point last year. I had taken the Pivo out as a last-minute decision to try to catch some of my ride, but it apparently wasn't fully charged since I last used it in the fall and it died about 15 minutes in. Oops.

Wednesday 5 January 2022

Blog Hop: Would You Rather

I don't have much horse content for the rest of the week - with the -30 temperatures, and a car that has decided to go on strike, I don't know if I'll make it out to the barn until the weekend. So, might as well join the blog hop!

Spooky or Steady?

Steady, if they have enough go. If they don't, I'd rather spooky. 

Matchy-Matchy or Mismatched?

Matched somewhat? I wouldn't buy the full-on set of stuff, but tend to buy things in certain colors (mostly navy and black) so things kind of go together just based on what I already own. Since I don't often put leg wear on my horses, I only have saddle pads and whatever I wear to coordinate. 

Tall Boots or Half-Chaps?

Definitely tall boots. I always wore tall boots when I was younger, but have been wearing paddock boots and half-chaps since I got back into riding and my calves were a bit more, um, athletic than they had been. My custom Celeris boots arrived this summer and I'm loving riding in the tall boots again. My leg just feels so much more secure and anchored in them.

Indoor or Outdoor?

This one is easy - since I live in the land of ice and snow for half a year, an indoor is kind of required if you want to do much riding over the winter. The reality is that I can ride outside for about 4 months of the year - if it hasn't poured rain, the mosquitoes aren't horrendous, the sun isn't too hot, the ground isn't too hard because it hasn't rained, or it's too dark in the evening after work. 

Bay or Chestnut?

There's something I've always loved about a blood bay. 

Plus, I've already had a chestnut. Haven't had a bay. Need to collect one in every colour!

Hard Shell Boots or Sports Medicine Boots?

Well, if I had to choose one, it would be hard shell boots. They'd probably just sit next to my other hard-shell boots that live in my locker and seldom see a horse leg. 

Free board for a year or 20K for a shopping spree?

My board comes to well under 20K a year, so I'd definitely pick the shopping spree. Rambo blankets for everyone!

Long Mane, Short Mane, or Roached Mane?

Short mane. Can't stand long manes (though Phantom's is bordering on feral horse length these days). Despite Cisco's consistent multi-length mane, I refuse to allow that roaching is an option.

Lazy or Hot Horse?

Hot. I'm pretty chill so I can get my horse to copy me. I end up working far too hard on a lazy horse. 

Private Barn or Boarding Barn?

I'm happy to pay for services at a boarding barn, especially in this -30 weather, but I prefer a smaller, quieter facility. I've been spoiled and can't stand riding in a busy arena. 

Create your dream barn or own your dream horse?

Does this dream barn come with stable boys to clean it for me?

Part of me would love to have my own place to keep my horses at home, but I also know that at the end of the day, I'm lazy, and having horses at home means constant work, and at times, little time to actually ride. So I guess I'll pick my dream horse - he stays clean, is always sound, has great feet and doesn't need shoes, never wrecks his blankets, will jump everything in the jumper ring before heading into the dressage ring for a steady third level test, and stays 11 years old forever.

Roman Nose or Dished Face?

Love me a big schnozz. I haven't met too many dished faces that I've been a fan of. 

Ride an Olympic-level horse or take a lesson with an Olympian?

I took a lesson with a former World Champion (Gail Greenough) and still remember some of the feedback to this day. (Within minutes she nailed me for locking my elbows during a turn which meant that my distance disappeared - something no one else has ever told me, and that I continue to have to work on.) Would do it again. 

But, just because someone has ridden at the top level, doesn't mean they can teach. I wouldn't want to ride with them just because they are an Olympian, but because they have a good reputation of being able to effectively coach riders of all levels, especially amateurs on average horses. 

I'd love to ride an Olympic-level horse, but I doubt I'd be able to get it to trot in a straight line! I'm sure it would be very cool but also a very humbling experience. 

Own a miniature horse or donkey?

Yes to both! A whole herd of them, if I could!

Tuesday 4 January 2022

First Ride - Done!

Mother Nature played her cruel trick on us in the Canadian prairies this weekend. Friday night was a rather chilly -36 celsius when I was out at the barn, and it slowly (very slowly) warmed up through Saturday afternoon and overnight at hit a temperature of -6 on Sunday. That glorious temperature was at about 10 am though - the wind picked up and the temperature dropped through the afternoon back into the -20's. 

That meant that everyone at the barn was out early to get a ride in. For most of us, the first ride in at least a couple of weeks. 

That totally worked to my advantage.

When I took Cisco into the arena, there were about 8 other horses in there. Thus, Cisco was super chill for his first ride since late October. In fact, I didn't really have a functional go-button. I mean, I'd rather have brakes than only gas with a horse who could potentially be very fresh, but man, was I tired after the ride!

This year's first ride after his vacation went much better than last year's. The 2021 ride was spent spooking and scooting at every little sound and every time a pigeon flapped somewhere in the arena, and tension that lasted a couple of weeks. This year, no spooks (also no pigeons), and he was very chill the whole ride. I'm sure that the lack of pigeons helped, but I still swear by the soundproof ear bonnet he almost always goes in. 

I guess he can stay.

The only goal for the ride was to not have a sweaty horse at the end of it. If we only walked, I would have been good with that. But we managed about 30 minutes and threw in a short canter each direction. I was super happy that his shoulders, which tend to fly out to the right whenever he's had some time off, stayed in the general area that I wanted them, even in the left lead canter that we had been working so hard on in the fall. 

So, ride #1 of 2022 is in the books!

However, ride #2 won't happen for a little bit. We're back into the ice age for another week. Things are looking promising for the following week though - I will have to finally clip!

Also - I forgot how chilled I get after I ride in winter. It took me three hours at home to stop shivering, and I just felt crappy. I was starting to worry that the Omicron had found its latest victim, but I feel like this after almost every ride in the winter. Usually, I ride in the evening, and when I get home I'm bundled up under a couple of duvets in bed pretty quickly, but on this day I got home in the middle of the afternoon and had to stay up. This is mostly why I'm a weenie when it comes to the temperature these days - I've got my warm riding clothing sorted out, but haven't yet figured out how to keep the post-ride chill away,

Sunday 2 January 2022

Happy New Year!

 Happy New Year!

I'm a little hungover on this first day of 2022. Not from an excess of alcohol by any means, but from my third Covid vaccination jab that I received yesterday. I woke up at 5 am with chills and achiness in all my problem areas. It's similar to how my body reacted for my first jab, but didn't pack nearly the same punch.

Thus, this first day of the new year is going to be pretty lazy, with plans to head out to the barn later in the day.  

I spent my New Year's Eve out at the barn, all by myself (well, with the ponies). This was the first time in almost two months that I didn't have any time constraints and could spend time with the ponies, being silly, working on clicker training tricks, and in the beginning, just standing and hugging Cisco. It was lovely.

Phantom is in full-on polar pony mode.

Unfortunately, it was also fucking freezing. We are in the midst of a cold snap that started before Christmas and looks to be around for at least another week. It was -24 celsius in the city when I left, but my car read -36 when I arrived a half-hour later at the barn. I was hoping to let the ponies into the arena for a run but it was way too cold.

Ready to fetch a pony.

There is supposed to be a 24-hour reprieve from the crazy cold from Saturday night until some time on Sunday. If all goes well,  hope to hop on Cisco and go for a quick ride for the first time in over two months. I don't care if we only walk for 20 minutes, I just want to get on!