Thursday, 9 March 2023

The Pinch Hitter

Since Cisco was off for a bit with his probable abscess in his hoof, Phantom was going to have to step up to the plate as my #1. She had only been ridden once so far this year, so she is pretty convinced that being tacked up is something that she no longer must endure on a regular basis.

Except that I had the weekend off. So she got ridden three days in a row. 

Oh! The horror!

She had a chance to burn off some sillies on Wednesday night - which she was quite happy to do. I pretty well just stood in the middle, picking the rocks out of the footing that still pop up every time the arena is harrowed and trying not to notice how stiff Phantom looked behind. 

Thursday was the first ride. We did 30 minutes - 27 of which were at a walk on a long rein, and a total of 3 minutes, done in short bursts, at a slow trot. The old mare (who turns 20 in a couple of months) was feeling her age and was stiff behind. 

Phantom thought she had died. Dead.

No desire to move.

While I undressed her after the ride, she squeezed her eyes shut expressing her complete exhaustion. I didn't clip her back up to the tie, and when brushing her face took her halter off and left it off. For 15 minutes, she stood completely still in the middle of the barn aisle, reflecting on what had gone wrong in her life that resulted in this indignity.

Day two brought out a completely different Phantom. This one was chatty the whole time I was tacking up - she kept nickering to me when I left to get something out of my tack box. I have no idea what she was trying to tell me, but I find it hard to believe that she was expressing her joy in being tacked up yet again. And it wasn't for cookies - she spit them out when I tried to give her some. Wierd mare. 

The ride was much the same as the previous one - lots of walking, short trots. She felt better right off the bat at the walk, walking much more forward and loose. The trot also felt better - at least when tracking left. When tracking right, she's not feeling quite as solid as I would like - she's feeling like an old horse. She kept threatening to bolt out of the bolty corner though!

Ride three was on Saturday. I used the nebulizer on her before the ride with some Dex to see if that would help her breathing, as she was rather puffy after the short trots on the previous rides, although she recovered well which has been a problem in the past. It seemed to help, so I will keep doing that before riding.

Phantom's so cool, she's gotta wear shades. Not for flies, but to give her eyes a break from the very bright sun.

This time, we did over 4 minutes of trot, and a wee bit of canter. Very wee. 

Again, she was feeling better than the ride before, but not as good tracking right as left. She happily picked up the canter without drama. We did the right lead first, which is typically her better rein, and oh, was it jarring! Especially the downward transition! The left felt pretty good though.

A girl's gotta nap after a whole 30 steps of canter. 

Things are still pretty cold here at the moment, so Phantom had two days reprieve before I hopped on for a fourth time in a week. It turns out that things were still pretty cold that night, and I don't even think I made it a half hour before I said fuck it and hopped off, landing on my frozen toes. We managed to do almost 5 minutes of trot this time though, and she had quite a sassy walk after a few easy trot leg yields.

I'm hoping to hop on Cisco this weekend, so Phantom will be relieved to go back to her mostly retired life. It's much easier to ride her in the warmer months when there is still light in the sky and I'm not chilled through after riding Cisco, so I'm going to aim for April to get her going a few days a week. I'll get her back on Previcox when we see the vet for vaccinations and see if that helps her arthritic hocks feel a bit less stiff.

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Hurtin' Soles

The ponies recently had their pedicure in the midst of another cold spell. We were spoiled for a few weeks at the end of January and beginning of February with unseasonally warm weather (no where near bikini weather, but warm for Canadian prairies in the winter weather), which means that everything on the ground is icy and hard and there has been little snow covering it up and making it feel softer.

I was out fixing holes in their haynet (again) and Cisco was being all cute watching me while resting his chin on Phantom's withers.

The perfect recipe for hoof abscesses!

It looks like Cisco's big flat feet have fallen victim to the hard surface. When riding him last Monday, he was not quite right. To me he felt a bit foot sore in front, which I attributed to maybe a bit of bruising from the hard ground he lives on. 

I trotted him up the barn aisle on Wednesday, he still seemed NQR. On Thursday, I checked his digital pulses to make sure it wasn't laminitis, and found a strongish pulse on his right foot. Maybe an abscess was brewing?

Friday - picked up his foot and immediately saw an opening towards his toe that very much looked like an abscess had burst through. There was also some funky flaky stuff happening to his sole next to the hole. That had me more concerned than the hole. Is his sole shedding? Or should I expect a big chunk of the sole to come off related to the abscess? Is it an old abscess that he didn't tell me about? Cisco hadn't been lame other than the NQR under saddle earlier in the week, which I likely never would have picked up on if I wasn't on him.

I wrapped his foot on Friday with some Animalintex to see if any goop was draining - the padding was all goop free the next day. I opted to leave it unwrapped after that because a duct tape boot is about as slippery to walk on as a Krazy Karpet on ice. Since everything out here is frozen, I'm not as concerned about keeping it clean as I would be in the spring with mud.

My first time wrapping Cisco's big foot - not my best work. I could use some practice, but I hope I never need to!

My farrier agreed with my assessment and plan after I shot her a picture asking if I should expect his sole to fall off. She said soles have been taking a shit kicking in our weather as of late.

I'm going to keep Cisco out of the arena for the next week at least to reduce the risk of sand getting in the hole. The digital pulse has gone down and he is much more forward trotting down the barn aisle, so I will use those to monitor how he is feeling. In the meantime, we'll stay on the frozen ground and go for hand walks. It's cold enough that I little incentive to ride for the next few days anyways!

There were beautiful blue skies to walk under this weekend. It was still cold though!

Monday, 6 March 2023

Riding Inside

(This was written almost three weeks ago, but wasn't published because I wanted to add pictures to it. That hasn't happened, so I'm just going to publish it super late so I can get caught up.)

I rode four days this week - in the new indoor arena!!

It opened on Tuesday (Feb 7) for us to ride in - we got the message as I was driving out to the barn after work. The whole thing isn't fully finished - there are still some things that will be completed through the spring, but the riding area was ready to go! 

There weren't too many of us that rode on the first day, and all the others that did finished before I went in, so Cisco had to put his big boy pants on and do it alone. We did some groundwork before using the fence rail to get on (very awkwardly) and pretty well just walked. 

It went much better than I expected. Although Cisco was very concerned, he kept his brain in his head and for the most part walked like a regular horse. Well, unless we turned from any direction toward the gate/entrance area - then he tried to break into a trot and throw his shoulders at the exit. His lack of confidence comes out as being gate-bound, which really isn't super fun but is super annoying. I can measure his nervousness by the number of poops he does, and for the fairly short period we were in there, he had four poops, so he was pretty worried. But overall, I was happy with his first ride in the arena.

We also ended up by ourselves in the ring the next night. We did a bit more trot, which tired him out a little bit (he is so not fit) and that negated some of the desire to want to leave. The trot started in full drama llama mode, but by just concentrating on the rhythm he started to relax and lengthened his neck. He gave one big spook though - not at the door with the creaky hinge that was opened and kept creeping me out, nor at the people that went up the stairs and were happily greeted by their dog as evidenced by the sound of happy dog feet in the apartment at one end of the arena. No, it was as we were trotting across the diagonal, and I think that he saw his reflection in the window next to the door in the middle of the long side. He teleported about six feet to the right, I lost a stirrup and was sitting way off to the left, but thankfully he always stops and lets me get back in the middle of the saddle again. This was a three poop ride. 

My Thursday ride was timed so that I could ride with others, and give Cisco a chance to relax in the arena with the company of other horses. It worked. He walked in, looked around all bug-eyed, realized he wasn't alone, and immediately chilled. We were able to walk on a loose rein right away, and there was very little gtfo towards the gate. He felt a bit stiff at the beginning of the ride, but got better and better as the ride went on. Only two poops this time. 

Our next ride was on Sunday, again with some other horses in the arena, so Cisco was nice and relaxed again. Part way through the ride he really relaxed, and the last part of our ride he was soft, bendy, responsive, and trying really hard to stretch his neck forward and down. I was really happy with his try. It was also the seldom seen one poop ride. We don't have these very often. I got lucky and one of the other riders picked my poop up before I got off, so I didn't have any poop to clean up!

Phantom also discovered that she was expected to come out of full retirement on Sunday. She hasn't been ridden since October as I wanted good footing to let her loose in before I hopped on. She had a bit of a play earlier in the week, but was huffing and puffing after a short run so I ended it before she was really ready to be done. 

The plan was to mostly walk, maybe throw some trots down the long sides if all was going well. Of my two horses, the one who is going to be 20 this year is the one that I don't trust at all. She'll bolt with no warning, and once she's started she gets a bit ridiculous.

After 15 minutes of a very quiet walk, we shuffle jogged down a long side, walking through the short end. As we turned the corner I shortened my reins, Phantom trotted three strides, then tried to dive into the middle of the arena. It took me a couple of minutes to shut her down, with lots of surging into the trot, before she could walk like a normal horse again. 

After a few more minutes of very quiet walking, I thought I would try one more time. Slow trot down the long side, walk, and another couple minutes of surging into the trot before we could walk quietly again. It went pretty well just how I thought it would. 

So, it was a good start in the new arena!

Friday, 3 February 2023

The Clingy Babysitter

 Where did we leave off?

The new indoor arena still isn't ready - although we should be just days away. The hope was to be able to ride in it this weekend, but unless a whole bunch of people show up to work on it in the next couple of days I think it will be early next week. 

We were rewarded for having to deal with a freezing cold December with one of the nicest Januarys I can remember. That meant that I got about 8 or 9 rides through the month on Cisco over at the neighbor's covered track. 

We didn't do much on most of those rides. There were a few rides where we mostly walked - Cisco has decided that tracking left is an excuse to have a bit of extra sass. Only tracking left. Right, he's rock solid. Don't know why, this is new. 

We spent a lot of time walking to the left, waiting until he lengthened his neck, used his back and didn't feel like he had springs in his legs with every step. When he relaxed, I clicked and he got a treat, and this actually seemed to help him figure it out very quickly. 

We also mostly walked on one ride where Cisco had to do babysitting duty. On a very windy day, I was joined by two other ladies, one riding a sassy senior mare and the other riding a young green Friesian, neither of whom had spent much time over at the track. We didn't experience the Christmas trees that lined the track blowing over, unlike another barn mate who returned as we were heading over, but the permanently installed car wash strips at one end of the track were terrifying to the other horses in my group. Cisco marched right past the blowing strips. I was quite proud of him.

That pride ended on our next ride, where Cisco turned into a clingy stalker horse. My mom had come out with me, and had brought Phantom over to the track while I rode Cisco. He was beside himself knowing that Phantom was over there somewhere, but he couldn't be next to her. Phantom couldn't have cared less about her little brother and was perfect for my mom to drag around. Cisco actually wasn't bad once we went faster than a walk, but he definitely kept one eye on the lookout for Phantom for the whole ride. 

Another reason that we didn't do very much is that the track was quite dusty. Winters in the prairies are very dry. Any moisture freezes. You can't add moisture because it will just freeze and turn the footing into cement (or an ice rink). So the payoff to having an outdoor surface that is soft and fluffy is that it is very, very dry.

If you were riding by yourself, it wasn't too bad. But if you were riding with others, once you went any faster than a walk you had to space yourselves on opposite sides of the track so that you didn't end up in the cloud of dust that the horses raised. With Cisco's respiratory issues last summer, this is the last thing that I wanted to deal with. 

Although it has been nice to have the track as an option and get some saddle time in, it isn't ideal. It's only 10-12 feet wide - about the width of a barn aisle. You are stuck on straight lines. Nothing wrong with that, until your horse takes off on you and you can't throw in any sort of steering to get them back under control. Or so I'm told - it didn't happen to me, but I know a couple of other riders had some problems. Advantage - fat, out of shape and thus easily tired Andalusian-cross.

You'll notice that I haven't ridden Phantom yet this year. She needs a chance to get some of her sillies out in a controlled environment before I'll hop on her. She is not easily tired, although she is definitely out of shape. She also has a history of tying-up in the spring so I always make sure to start her back very slowly. Once the arena is ready I'll get her going again.

When not riding, the ponies have been enjoying standing on the Surefoot pads a few times a week. Cisco has been starting to show a difference in his posture after standing on the pads and walking with a much lower neck. Hopefully, this will translate over to ridden work (although I doubt it). Phantom has been happy to use the pads as an excuse to have a good nap.

A down-stretcing Llama.

That gets you caught up! If all goes well, next week I'll have some riding updates and maybe even some video!

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Just Call Him Singer

It's too cold to ride in the evenings after work, so I've only been managing to get on Cisco once a week when I can get out during daylight hours. Since the first two rides of the year had gone so well, I was pretty confident that ride #3, a week later, would go the same way.

It didn't.

I mean, all four feet stayed in the appropriate location on the ground. He wasn't "bad", he was just a wee bit spicy. Which for Cisco means I feel like I'm riding a sewing machine crossed with a giraffe. Very much lifted in the front end, but legs feel like they are going up and down in the same place.

I think he's also been talking to Phantom because he was doing a bit of her trick of launching forward, which shifts my weight back, which is a go aid, so then she's all "well, you told me to go" and gets all insulted when I pull her up. 

The good thing about my spicy meatball of a pony is that he is, um, extra fluffy at the moment, so after a couple of canters (in which I kept my hands way up while kicking him forward because bucking was definitely being considered) he remembered how to horse and stretched his head down and started to move across the ground.

Because he actually is fluffy and hadn't been clipped yet, the extra canter that I hadn't planned on doing left me with a sweaty mess to deal with.

The next day he got clipped.

I didn't realize we had vampires in Alberta. His winter hair was covering up the

Which meant that for the next ride, another week later, my sewing machine giraffe didn't get nearly as sweaty when we had yet another spicy ride.

What became apparent on this ride, is that I only really have a sewing machine giraffe when tracking left. Tracking right, I have a regular horse.

I'm not sure why.

It might be a balance/strength thing. Cisco's default when he's had some time off is to lean into his right shoulder, likely because his left hind is weaker. This also means that I have a much harder time connecting him onto my outside right rein. Not to mention my left-handitis where my left hand likes to hang like a dead fish on the rein.

Again though, he got much better after a couple of canters.

Cisco suffered what I believe to be a Bitey-Face injury and took a chunk out of his lip. He still got ridden.

Since the weather is supposed to be a bit warmer for most of this week and I might actually get a couple of evening rides in, I thought I'd give him a chance to go for a run in the outdoor arena, which will hopefully result in a sane horse when I next hop on.

That didn't go as planned.

There was way more snow in the ring than I thought there would be. I thought people had been getting their horses in there, but other than a spot that was being used for lunging, most of the ring was untouched.

Just a wee bit "fluffy".

Or it was, until I had to trudge through it to shake the whip at Cisco, which would send him in a gallop to the other end of the ring, where I would trudge on down to, to repeat the cycle over and over again.

10 / 10 - do not recommend.

I was exhausted. The horse, not so much.

I'll be back on my sewing machine giraffe on my next ride. 

Thursday, 5 January 2023

First Rides of '23

 We're still a couple of weeks away from being able to ride in the new indoor arena. The neighbors have a covered track that we can use for a fee, and since our barn owner has agreed to cover the fee while the arena construction is still underway, I decided to bite the bullet and take Cisco over to see what my chances of dying were going to be.

I wasn't totally stupid - I led him over the first time with the intent of doing groundwork. Having had two months off, and finally some warmer weather, I was expecting to deal with a slightly exuberant pony. 

Cisco mostly exceeded my expectations for that trip. Mind you, I had set the bar extremely low, anticipating him to be a stressed, sweaty mess. There was some stress, but not to the point that he lost his brain. He even gave me some moments of dropping his head and showing some relaxation, although inevitably that would be when a pigeon would start flapping and he would scoot forward. 

The track isn't all that wide, maybe the width of a barn aisle. Thus, it was difficult to do much goundwork that would involve disengaging the hind end. So we were stuck with mostly leading and backing work. 

The only time Cisco got really stressed was when I took him into the indoor "round" pen. There is a room set inside the track that they converted to an indoor pen. It's square, and when the door is shut it's completely closed in. I knew that taking him in there would be a huge ask of him. I didn't want to let him loose to run around frantically as I was trying to promote relaxation for the day, so we just walked around a bit. He went in without hesitation, which I was surprised at, but once inside he got very worried, which showed up as not being able to turn to the right away from me. He got better the second time that we went in, but I didn't want to push it after he had been pretty good so far. 

And then it got cold again, and I couldn't go back over. 

Until this weekend!

On New Year's Day, it was a balmy -5 celsius. I made plans with a mother and daughter at my barn for us to head over to the track for a ride so that Cisco could have a babysitter. Turns out, he became the babysitter for the others!

Cisco was a bit sticky about entering the track - the blue doors that swung open were a bit scary. Once inside, the daughter led her horse around for the first lap or two and Cisco followed. After that, he put his big boy pants on and led the way, serving as a barrier for the daughter's OTTB who might have recognized the oval shape and took quite a while to settle into a walk.

I was ready to trot before the others were so I turned Cisco away from the others and we went by ourselves for a nice, steady trot. We ended the ride shortly afterwards as the ponies were all sweaty (no one has clipped yet) and we were all happy with our first ride in two months. 

Since that ride went so well, we made plans to repeat it the next day. 

Helmet cam footage of a lap of the track.

The horses all settled in much faster, so we did a bit more trot and even threw in a canter. I giggled the whole time we cantered - Cisco felt like an overstuffed sofa rolling down the track. Chonky boi needs to get back to work to lose some of those holiday pounds!

I was really happy with the first two rides of the season.  Boring, simple rides are always good when you've been out of the saddle for a bit!

We probably won't manage another ride until next week though. The track does have lights, so technically I could ride in the evenings, but by the time I get out there after work it's just too damn cold. There is little incentive to layer up enough in the dark to get a ride in on a shadowy oval. It's probably only going to happen during daylight hours until the indoor gets done. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Nope - Not Spoiled At All

As I've said before, I don't know what standing on the Surefoot pads does for the horses, but they sure love them! Especially Phantom - she almost always has a moment where she goes into a Surefoot-coma.

Last night I put her on pads in front and back, thinking she'd only stand on them for a couple of minutes. Wrong! After 25 minutes I pulled her off - reluctantly on her part.

It was interesting to see make some very deliberate moves when she decided that she was done with a specific pad. She clearly was finished with the left hind first and gave it a kick to get it out of her way before placing her foot back down.

She stood in the exact same spot for the whole 25 minutes, with the shank on the ground, while I leaned against the wall sending texts.

The initial set-up - firm pads in front and hard slants behind.

7:23 pm - Where we started.

7:31 pm - done with the left hind.

7:40 pm - now done with the left front and has adjusted her position on the right front.

7:41 pm - stoner pony face.

7:47 pm - still in the same spot. Had to make her walk it off.