Monday 28 March 2022

Weekend Rides

 I had a bit of an extended weekend off this weekend with great plans. Of course, I had to wake up on the first morning with migraine auras flashing in my vision, so trying to keep a headache at bay kind of wasted the first day.

There was a clinic booked for the arena on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Nothing out of the ordinary was posted for Friday evening, but this clinician in the past has thrown in some private lessons on Friday night, plus the regular Friday night lessons were happening, so I went out a wee bit later than I would have liked just in case the arena was a zoo. Sure enough, there were two different lessons going on when I arrived, so I timed it perfectly. By the time I got in the ring, I had it all to myself. 

Cisco wore his soundproof ear covers, so there were no ridiculous spooks, unlike the previous ride. In fact, for being by himself in the arena, he was actually really chill. We managed to have one of those elusive forward and relaxed rides - totally not what I was expecting, but I'll sure take it!

The only thing that was out of the ordinary was that he tripped behind a few times. Very unlike him. I couldn't figure out if it was one side in particular that had the issue or not. Post-ride I spent some time with him and the SureFoot pads to see if that was going to do anything for him. We're in the fantastic spring freeze/thaw cycle and there are frozen ruts all over the place, so maybe he took a wonky step at some point. I know I sure did while bringing a horse in that night - I stepped on a frozen tire rut in my softer soled riding boots and it felt like my foot folded lengthwise. It hurt for a bit.

The next night I planned on having a short, easy ride on Cisco, mostly to get him moving around a bit, but not be too concerned about forward just in case he was a bit uncomfortable behind. 

I had taken my Pixio out and dragged Cisco along with me to set up before tacking up. As we were heading to the arena a horse had arrived and was stomping around a bit on the trailer. Well, Cisco lost his brain a bit with that. I had to stop the setup of the camera at one point and do a bunch of groundwork. Thus, I didn't have great expectations for my ride. 

We didn't get into the scary end at all until half-way through the ride. Cisco had to have a good look for the horse murderers when we finally made it down there. 

Luckily, I got saved. From there being no one around when I set up the camera, I ended up riding with 3 other horses in the arena. The hamster stayed asleep in Cisco's brain, which was good because there wasn't much space to ride with a full jump course set up for the next day's clinic and at one point two horses were being lunged where there was space around the jumps. Ugh.

The Pixio was being a bit of an arse, which combined with all the obstacles I had to dodge, didn't give me much usable footage. I got a bunch of crappy screenshots, but that's about it. 

Our left lead canter still sucks. The right one is having some nice moments though!

Post canter he's been giving me some really nice trot. Super soft and bendy in his body and lifting in front.

My ride on Phantom, however, was under much better circumstances. By the time I hopped on her at 9pm I had the place to myself again. 

The old grey mare has felt pretty good the last couple of rides, which is especially great as they've been after I've ridden Cisco. I haven't been giving her any Previcox and have been quite happy with how she feels. 

Our rides mostly consist of straight lines and big circles. Sometimes we canter, sometimes we don't. She gets to pick her frame and how round she wants to carry herself - she isn't the type to go like a llama. At this point, I just want to keep her moving. 

She gave me a lovely right lead canter. I held the reins in a fillis rein style so that my arm followed her head a bit better, which resulted in her having a nice soft back and no bracing in her neck. The right is our mutually stronger lead, but the left one wasn't terrible either. 

On top of it all, she actually stood still at the mounting block! This has been years in the making. When I first started riding her she would back up as soon as I got up the steps, and for quite a while I had to grab a whip to tap her forward before I got on. At some point, I realized that her reluctance to approach the mounting block or stand to let me on was linked with how comfortable she was in her body. When things weren't right, she would get sticky again on her approach to the block. 

Lately, she's been really good about coming to the block, but standing once my leg has been swung over has been an ongoing battle (not that we actually battle about it.)

But on this night, she stood perfectly still for me to get on, while she was getting her cookie, and then let me faff about a bit - all without moving! At almost 19 years old, maybe we've finally got it figured out!

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Oh What a Night

 It all started really well. 

I scraped a whole bunch of hair off of Cisco while getting ready for our ride. Spring has most definitely arrived! (Despite the snowstorm we had a couple of days ago.)

I've had a couple of really good rides lately on Cisco. On our last ride we even achieved the elusive forward and relaxed. Funny how getting a few rides in during the same week helps!

So I figured that I would leave Cisco's soundproof ear bonnet off for tonight's ride. I knew that there would be other horses in the arena with us, and also that the big overhead doors at both ends of the arena were open since it was finally warm(ish). These conditions made for a potentially laid-back pony.

And it all started as such. Cisco looked out the open door at the end and was chill about heading into the corners. He was once again forward and relaxed.

Until he spooked. 

The first spook was at something he saw out the "safe" door. I saw a dog afterward, so maybe it ran past. We were walking and Cisco shot sideways at a canter. The instructor who was teaching a lesson was quite impressed with his movements.

He came back without issue and eventually we trotted into the other end, the normally scary end, but because the door was open, it was a much less scary end. 

Until Cisco saw something outside that caused him to shoot sideways. And I was not ready for this one!

Somehow, I managed to stay on. I think it was because he went sideways, which caused me to lose my left stirrup and be way over to the right, but then he stopped for a second, so I was able to get back in the center of him again before he shot left once more. It was definitely the closest I've come to falling off of one of his spooks. 

Since that didn't work to get me off, Cisco insisted on trying again. And again. 

I've no idea what he saw that caused this reaction. The only thing I could see was the neighbour's horses, all happily standing and munching on hay. Although, one of them was a pinto, so maybe?? (Although Cisco's mom was a pinto and he lives with one.)

As I do have to work the next day and thus can't afford to die tonight, I mostly kept it safe and worked most of the time in the safe end of the arena. 

He actually kept his cool and was a very good boy otherwise. We were ending the ride at a trot on a loose rein, with the plan to just do one more lap past the spooky area and hopefully not die, when one of the riders in the lesson fell off. And didn't bounce back up. Uh-oh.

An ambulance was called, so after tossing the horses into stalls I drove out to the road to direct them when they arrived. They were shortly followed by a fire truck, who was there to direct the air ambulance helicopter to land. 

It's hard to get a decent picture of a helicopter behind a snowbank, bathed in the glow of a fire engine's lights.

The good news is that apparently, a helicopter can land in the field next to the arena. It's actually a fairly large spot - I've seen them land in much smaller areas.

It sounds like the helicopter was ordered before the paramedics even arrived. We don't really know why, as even the paramedics said it was overkill. But hey, that's one of the benefits of our publicly funded healthcare!

The good news is that once the poor girl was on the ambulance and being treated it appears that her worst problem was going to be her elbow. She still got a free helicopter ride though.

Once the helicopter flew away the barn owner and I went out and checked all the horses to make sure no one had gone through a fence. Some of them were a little sketched out but all limbs were intact and no one was bleeding - except for the barn owner's horse. He had jumped into his neighboring paddock when the helicopter landed, which she did think to check on and wasn't surprised by (not his first time jumping a fence when stressed), but she didn't see the scrapes on his back leg until we checked on everyone. 

It was definitely not the night I expected. The moral of the story is that Cisco will always get ridden with his soundproof bonnet on from now on. And that I will end up needing Advil should I choose to forgo it. (My back and neck are a wee bit sore at the moment. I'm sure not helped by standing in the cold watching the helicopter.)

Thursday 17 March 2022

Leadline Pony Extrodinaire

I was recently contacted by a mother of twin 4year old girls regarding a "riding lesson". She had actually been referred to me by one of the other instructors at my barn as their schedules weren't coordinating. It was to be a one-off glorified pony ride, one hour in total, with both girls splitting the time to ride and having some time to pet the pretty pony. Easy money for me.

As the day approached, I started to put some thought into what the heck I would do with them. As it was only a one-off ride, I didn't really need to work on any skills - really, they just needed to hang on while being led around. But that's kind of boring. I needed something fun for them to do.

What horse do I know who is very quiet but has some special skills? Phantom!

Standing on a podium was not one of the skills she demonstrated on this day.

Thus, she got put into service as a leadline pony. And she did an excellent job.

The biggest skill she demonstrated was kicking a ball. I thought the girls would find that amusing, but apparently walking over the trot poles was the best part. Phantom sidepassed quite nicely over a pole for each of them (with my help), and did a very nice job of going from a slow amble to a fast walk and right back to an amble, without breaking into a trot (though it was close a couple of times!).

After the rides she stood perfectly still while the girls brushed her - well, the bottom half of her. That's as high as the 4 year olds could reach. She even dropped her head so that they could gently brush her face.

And before they left, Phantom posed for a smiling picture with the kids.

Phantom made two little girls very happy today. Apparently they were hoping to ride a white horse, and their mom had warned them that it probably wouldn't be and would be a brown horse. I guess that when they walked in and saw a white horse waiting for them it made their day!

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Mostly Wordless Wednesday - I Need A New Duct Tape Colour

 Phantom's tail gets put up over the winter in a casing of Vetrap and covered with duct tape.

This weekend, a nephew of a barnmate saw Phantom in the arena and asked why that horse has a penis tail.

Ignore the poopyness.

Guess I need some new duct tape colours.

Thursday 10 March 2022

NewTack Storage

 Well, it's been another couple of weeks with very little riding. The 23rd winter of the year hit us, with cold temperatures, and a dump of snow (my yard was almost clear of snow, but not now).

Cisco got ridden once this past week. When talking to people before my ride, I had said that I expected it to be a fun ride - as in, hang on, because it's going to get interesting. 

I was right. Fresh Cisco meant extra spooky Cisco. Which wasn't helped at all by someone trying to do some repairs on the quad that is used to harrow the arena and is parked in the scary end. Well, not repairs at this point - more like diagnostics that required revving the engine and turning it off and on multi times. 

Sucks to be Cisco. I made him deal with it. 

He's honestly getting much better about his emotions in the scary end of the arena. He might turn into a llama between K and H, and he might suck back and drop a shoulder if I soften for a millisecond, but he's getting much better about going down there and not actually losing his brain. In the end, we did a bunch of smaller canter circles down there, and if I set him up properly (which meant unlocking his neck before asking for the canter) he gave me some nice moments. 

Someone keeps having his hood undone when I go out to get him. It ranges from one of the velcro closures being undone, to being unattached from the blanket and spun upside down as in this picture, or completely off and me having to chase down the dog who's got in his mouth, shredding the lining at every stop. It's not just Cisco though - other horses in an unconnected paddock are doing the same thing.

And then we got a dump of snow, the farrier was out for their trim, there was a clinic on and the arena was closed..... and no more rides for the week. 

Thus, it's been quiet on the horse side of things.

The non-horse side of things has been a bit exciting though - I bought a new mobile tack room car!

I had a bunch of problems with my 10-year-old Santa Fe in January that got me looking in a panic at my options should I need to replace it. As much as I've loved driving that SUV, I've been thinking for a few years about finding something that was much better on fuel. My driving had changed since I had bought it and I've always hated having to pay for gas. 

I ended up talking with a barnmate about her hybrid car, and was shocked to discover just how good it was on gas. She regularly gets 1000 km on her 43 liter tank of gas. I got 525 km on my 60 liter tank in my SUV, that I had to fill up every 6-7 days. That got me really thinking about my options. 

Originally, I was thinking that I would put down a deposit and order one, knowing that with the current inventory issues I wouldn't necessarily be able to just walk into a dealer when I decided that it was time and be able to drive a new car away. I talked with one dealer, who said that it would be at least a 6-month wait, and in fact, I would be put on a waitlist for the waitlist for a 2023 model, as the new models haven't even been announced yet, but the 2022 models were basically sold out.There were only a handful of the current models available around the city.

I also was pondering the expectation that gas prices were going to hit record highs this summer, and that the interest rate would likely go up in March, and decided to just do it now before I got into a situation where I needed to replace my car on short notice and would likely have a hard time getting what I wanted. 

So I got me a 2022 Hyundai Ioniq PHEV (plug-in hybrid). And so far I'm loving it!

It won't be this clean again for a long while. 

It has a small battery that I can plug into my regular outlets in my garage and it charges up overnight to give me about 47 km of electric range. When it reaches 15% remaining in the battery while driving it switches over to hybrid mode. It will still try its best to run on electric while in hybrid mode, depending on what it deems best (ie. on the highway it will likely be using the ICE (internal combustion engine) but in the city it will probably be using electric).

In the 10 or so days since I picked it up I've driven about 670 km - a little less than typical due to the cold and snow. The range left on my initial tank of gas is still 579 km. That's a minimum of 1300 km from a 43 liter tank of gas - and in the end it will be much better as I charge it every night and get another 47 km of range added every day. I'm hoping for at least 1500 km or about 3 weeks before needing to fuel up, but I suspect it will actually be more like 1700 to 2000 km and closer to 4 weeks - maybe a bit more. 

Sadly, I won't be saving the money I'm not spending on gas - it will all be going back into the car payments I now have. But between the gas money and the lessons that I've started teaching again I think I'll get to eat something other than Ramen noodles at least a couple of times a week. The horses better not get any ideas though....