Sunday, 9 July 2023

And It Continues...

In the continuing saga of why my horse has barely been ridden this year...

The most recent injury - a small cut on the back corner of the eyelid, which resulted in a very goopy eye the next day and suspected it was going to go the ulcer route, but was 80% better the next morning when I showed up with antibiotic drops I picked up from the vet, and a day later seemed almost completely normal.

How I found him on Sunday. If you zoom in you will see a bit of a cut in the back corner of the eye. (This was after I cleaned it up.)

Monday after cleaning. The goop just kept coming back and at some point seemed to cover almost half the eye.

Tuesday morning before antibiotics - just a little bit of goop left, and it never came back. I used the antibiotics anyways just to be safe.

I haven't had to do eye drops for quite a few years and forgot just how strong they squeeze their eyelids shut. It's not actually drops, it's the ointment that you have to try to get under the eyelid. So much more fun.

Cisco tried very hard to be the bestest boy while I played grabby fingers with his eyeball. He moved his head (totally understandable) but never moved a hoof. We discovered that he could totally be bribed to keep his head pretty still if the person holding him dispensed treats into his mouth. If it had happened to Phantom I would have seriously considered dropping her off at the vet clinic with a "good luck, let me know when you're done" and happily paid the fee.

He was at least considerate enough to do it on my week of vacation so that I could drive out twice a day just to see him. So thoughtful!

I was supposed to do the antibiotics for 3-5 days, so ended on day 4 (Friday) since it looked so good all week. It's looking like it was just a case of conjunctivitis but I'll still keep a close eye on it (pun intended). There was never any squinting in pain or cloudiness, so fingers crossed we are now safe from an ulcer. 

Enjoy this picture of a goat pretending that he has a moustache after looking at goopy eyes.



Wednesday, 28 June 2023

Whoa's and Go's

 Cisco has been rockin' the dad bod so far this year. We just can't seem to get going consistently enough to get any sort of fitness happening.

This is how 2023 has gone so far:

January - no indoor arena. Thankfully,  due to the mildest January in recent memory, we got in a handful of rides on the neighbours covered track, which were mostly spent at a walk.

February - the arena was finally ready! Two weeks of riding before a deep freeze hit.

March - hoof abscess / not an abscess / definitely an abscess. A little over three weeks of the diaper/Vetrap/duct tape hoof boot, with a few short rides towards the end, mostly at the walk.

April - got one week of riding in before spring vaccinations.  A week off due to the big lump at the vaccination site. Then teeth floating at the end of the month.

May - the air tasted like BBQ. Two weeks of no riding due to the hazardous air quality, one week of walking, then some easy rides. Also a bunch of stupid hot days.

June - the newest thing to slow us down - Cisco's lip injury.


Cisco has moved for the summer to a different paddock that's away from the dirt road in an attempt to ward off the asthma issues we had last summer. It's going ok so far with his new roommate, but they aren't hitting it off quite as well as I thought they might.

Two weekends ago I put Cisco back out after a ride. The other horses's owner had been out while I was riding and put out some hay for her horse - just the one pile. When I released Cisco, he tried to also partake in that pile (I told him I was going to get him some hay, but did he listen to me? No.)

I didn't see what exactly happened as I was latching the gate, but I think that Cisco put his face next to the other horse's face in the hay, and the other horse lashed out and caught Cisco on the side of his mouth. There were a couple of superficial gashes on the side, which weren't of much concern. But he also managed to split the inside edge of his lower lip. I have a suspicion that he might have bit his own lip, but who knows.

It's right in front of where the bit would sit, so until it fully heals, we're going bitless. 


Cisco loves it. I hate it. My back does not like it when I ride a llama. All of our recent work on stretching forward and down into the connection has not transferred over to our rides with the hackamore.

I'm hoping another week will be enough time for his lip to heal and we can go back to the bit. As much as I don't want to promote the way Cisco uses his body in the hackamore (by which I mean he doesn't), I also want to work on getting him fitter, so doing something is better than nothing.

All of these things have been relatively minor and they've all just needed a bit of time to heal, which I'm thankful for. I'm very aware that things could be much worse.

At the very least, we've had lots of time to improve our walk work!

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

The Big Two-Oh

 Phantom turned 20 years old on Sunday!

How it started:

The ponies celebrated the occasion with a couple of dishes of carrots that were next to a 4' tall unicorn balloon. Phantom, much like me, was far more interested in birthday cake (carrots) than the party decor.


 

Cisco, who will always be the life of the party, really liked the unicorn. Maybe he recognized it as one of his brethren. 

He really wanted to play with Phantom in the arena, but since she is now officially a cranky old lady, she wanted nothing to do with him. It was also still really smokey out so I also didn't want him running around.

Once the cake was eaten and many photos were taken, the ponies went back to the barn so that we could get back to our regular routine.

How it ended:

All the excitement from the party seemed to have gone to Cisco's head. I popped the Flexineb on him and took him outside for a walk while it worked its magic. 

I have no idea what set him off, but we were barely out of the barn when he started calling to someone. Which he continued to do for the next five minutes while I chatted with someone in the parking lot. He was trying real hard to be all big and bad, but it was really hard to take him seriously while he was calling with his squealy whinny that was getting muffled by the nebulizer.

He was an absolute twit to walk, including one time when he thought about scooting off with a snakey neck. I almost went back to the barn to grab a chain lead, but carried on, and he eventually (after many stop and back-ups) he got the message and chilled out.

Phantom came in and picked at her food (totally normal these days). She ate the few alfalfa cubes that I added to her regular ration balancer, and left almost all of the ration balancer. I had to add some oats to it and she ate almost all of it, but not quite. No worries, Cisco would get a second supper.

I took her on our nebulizing walk outside. We took a slightly different path than normal. There suddenly appeared a gopher hole in Phantom's path that I had to make a split decision about - move her out of the way, or, because the hole was only a couple of inches wide, let her continue on the path because she obviously wouldn't be able to stick her foot in that small hole. I chose that one. 

However, I forgot that Phantom will always put her foot into the hole I want her to avoid. 

Sure enough, she stepped onto the hole with a hind leg. The hold must have collapsed, she of course panicked, and in flailing about she stomped on my foot. Hard.

It looks worse than it feels. Still not sure if the nail will survive though.
 

She also managed to scrape about 4 inches of hair off the front of that leg.

Really, it's just a scrape. A two-day old scrape in this pic.
 

 Cue big guilt on my part.

I think she held a bit of a grudge as when I turned her back out she ran away from me and wouldn't let me catch her to put her fly mask back on. 

While this was happening, Cisco was standing at the gate waiting for me to give him the feed dish with the remainder of Phantom's food in it that was on the ground just outside the paddock. His hopes for second dinner were dashed by the goat that always slips through the fence and had eaten everything before I got Phantom's mask on. 

Let's hope Cisco's birthday in July is much less exciting.


Sunday, 21 May 2023

The Air Hurts My Face - Summer Edition

Called it.

Although we had a couple of days of rain at the beginning of last week, it wasn't enough to extinguish the wildfires that are burning through much of the northwest part of the province. 

This week, the winds changed, and the smoke from those fires has moved throughout the rest of the province. 

The air quality over the week has been hit or miss, with most mornings being poor but getting better through the day as the wind continued to blow. This weekend, though, it got significantly worse, and settled in.

Friday started off a bit hazy and got worse as the day progressed. By mid-afternoon the haze blocked out the sun, so although the temperature was 27 celsius it felt much cooler. 

The view at the barn on Friday evening.

I woke up in the wee hours of Saturday morning and checked my air quality app. The area was solidly in the purple hazardous zone. And it stayed like that all day. 

Saturday night. 300 is considered hazardous. The horses live a bit north of that 449 in the top right corner.

This is not good for anyone that needs to be outside, human or other creature. 

I'm definitely not regretting that purchase of the Flexineb last year!

Those trees in the background are usually easy to see. 

Here's a Facebook live session where they talk about horses and smoke inhalation. It's probably the best information that I've found so far with some specifics regarding time and treatment.

So far, my horses aren't showing any negative symptoms from the smoke exposure. They live out 24/7. and are pretty chill so don't run around too much to increase their respiration. I'm trying to wet their hay as much as I can, and have added Vitamin E to their diet (if Phantom continues to eat it. We'll see.).

They'll get nebulized with saline every day for a while. At the moment, the only hand walking I'm doing is while nebulizing so that they inhale deeper. Once things start to clear up we will very slowly start our way back to proper exercise again. 


I wore an N95 mask for the couple of hours that I was at the barn on Saturday. It made it bearable to be outside and did a good job of keeping out the ashtray smell. 

We're expecting more rain again early this week, and with that an improvement in the air quality. I fear that it might be up and down for quite a while though and it will be tough to get the horses back into a regular program.

It looks like we're going to have solid lateral work at the walk by the end of summer!

Tuesday, 16 May 2023

Stretchy

Something that I've changed with my pre-ride routine for Cisco is to use the Surefoot Pads before I hop on. For the last few weeks I've taken the bag that holds a couple of sets of the pads over the arena with us and given Cisco the opportunity to stand on them.

At first, I was hoping to use them as a way to get him to relax in the scary end of the arena, but since that end hasn't really been scary for a while I'm using them in the hopes that he will be more willing to stretch down much earlier under saddle. 

I try to keep it simple - stand on pads all round, then a double stack under each foot, one at a time. Cisco would prefer that he be allowed to stand on them a whole lot longer, but as it adds - 10-15 minutes to my ride I have to end it before he is ready.

It's a bit hard to see, but he's standing on a doubled set of pads under his left front here. 

It is working though! At a walk he is stretching right down on a loose rein, and is much more willing to do so at a trot. 

Walk

Trot

Canter (which had moments where he felt like a reining horse but didn't look that way in the video)

We're in the building stage - building strength and fitness. When he's not strong, Cisco's very wiggly and crooked. So, although we're not doing a ton at the moment, I've been adding some simple but difficult things, like transitions in shoulder-fore. counter-canter, and upping the lateral work. Nothing crazy, just lots of small moments that will hopefully build up.

Lots of cookies for trying hard.

Now, I just need to try to ride consistently! 

Friday, 5 May 2023

Too Close For Comfort

Shit's getting real.

We've had record-breaking temperatures this week. July temperatures in the first week of May.

The fires that were about an hour and a half away from my area? They're now happening really close to home. 

This evening a barn that I used to board at was evacuated. They're 30 minutes from me. That area has a lot of stables in it, not to mention people that have horses in their backyards. The county is one of the most-highly horse populated areas in the country. 

Thankfully, due to the incredible horse community in this area, they were able to evacuate 60 horses in two hours. Other barns are on standby, clear for the moment but ready to go should the winds change. The Facebook groups are full of people ready to head out with their trailers to pick up horses or other livestock or offering a place to bring them to.

The area that my horses are in has so far been spared. There was one fire in the county this evening but it was quickly brought under control. 

That doesn't mean that the situation won't quickly change though. So I'm going into disaster preparation mode.

My Saturday will be spent prepping the trailer to be ready to head out as soon as I can hook up. I'm filling every haynet I own full of hay (we feed off of roundbales, so there are no squares that I can load up). I'll make sure that I have enough water buckets and feed tubs for two horses. The spare leather halters that I've had at home to be conditioned are going into the trailer which will save time going into my tackbox if needed. My spare trailer key is in my tackbox; should I not be able to get there fast enough but someone else can with a truck I can direct them to grab the key. The hitch will be in the trailer instead of with the truck for the same reason. 

I don't know if I have pictures that will be suitable for identification purposes, so I'll take some and make sure I include those little markings that only an owner would know about.

The biggest thing that's going to get resolved this week is Cisco's reluctance to load. It's going to get sorted out. I promise that he will be jumping on the trailer by next weekend. He may not get ridden all week, but he's going to be able to load.

I have no idea if the barn owner has an emergency plan in place. I've downloaded all the apps from the province and the county so that I hopefully get notifications, but I don't know how soon notifications are issued. I want to be informed at the first sign of potential concern, not when we are given a mandatory 30 minute evacuation notice. I'll hound her about what we can make work for everyone. 

I very much hope that all of these plans will be for naught. They are forecasting a bit of rain for the weekend, but it's going to take quite a drenching before the fire risk is significantly reduced. At the very least, I'm going to finally make sure that Cisco becomes reliable about trailering!


Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Burning Up

You know how we keep hearing about how some parts of North America have gotten so much rain that there's been a bunch of floods this spring?

Well, in my neck of the woods, we are the complete opposite.

We've barely had any precipitation this year. Everything is brown and tinder dry.

The perfect conditions for wildfires.


Things are getting kinda scary. Over the last two days, there have been a multitude of emergency warnings screaming from our phones with notices of mandatory evacuations for towns about an hour west/northwest of the big city. That's too close for comfort - I know people in those areas. In fact, the lady that I rode with yesterday got a call from a sibling that her brother's house had just burned down. Shortly after that was when the first mandatory evacuation notice came through, and I wonder if he was in that area. 

There was a grass fire on my end of the city last week, that forced the evacuation of some newer houses on the edge of the subdivision. Thankfully, everything was contained and I don't think there was any property damage. 

That same day, there was another grass fire along the highway that I take to the barn. I saw the scorched earth, and it looks like it must have been quickly controlled. 

It's been windy, dry, and this week the temperatures are rising to high-20's (Celsius, that is). The situation is not going to get better. 

At this point, the wind has been blowing to the west, so our air quality has not been affected. The prevailing wind in this area is from the northwest, so once that kicks in and brings in all that smoke it could cause some issues. 

Because it's been so dry this year, some of the horses that are prone to some respiratory issues are already showing some problems.

I started Cisco and Phantom on an anti-histamine at the beginning of April to see if that made a difference. The vet recommended trying hydroxyzine over cetirizine - it's cheaper and can be given once a day versus twice a day. 

Cisco has been good about gobbling it down in his regular food. Phantom has not. She's smart and has held out for the apple sauce application, which she still won't eat and I have to syringe it into her. She happily sucks on the syringe, but I think that because it smells different she won't touch it otherwise.

I think it's helping them? It's hard to say at this point. Phantom has had a couple of days when she sounded a bit snuffly so she's had some dex nebulized on those days. I need to track it and see if that is linked to the odd day that I don't make it out to give them the antihistamine. 

The plan is to start regularly nebulizing them with saline to try to reduce any issues related to the dryness and likely upcoming poor air quality. I did it with both horses tonight, and it's gonna suck up a bunch of extra time at the barn, so yeah, that's going to be great.

All the grass fires in the area and a change in wind are bringing in the smoke.

Their workload will be affected by the air quality. When the air quality sucks, they don't get ridden (unlike some other horses at the barn).

It could be a really long summer. Fingers crossed that it's a wet one!


Sunday, 30 April 2023

Horse Expo '23

On Friday I left the city (for what is likely to be the only time this year) to head to the middle of the province to attend the Horse Expo. This is western Canada's largest equestrian trade show and exhibition.  There are clinics, demos, discussions and seminars in many different disciplines to attend, all included in the $20 admission price.

New organizers took over the format last year after the previous family That had started the event had some, well, legal issues. The trade show last year was quite small compared to previous years, but this year it was back to almost full capacity, which was nice to see considering the current economy,

Despite there being a full house, there weren't really many tack shops things, especially English equipment. I think every feed company had a booth, as did a myriad of companies schilling their supplements, and there were a bunch of western lifestyle booths.

How about horse trailers that cost as much as my house did? This one was $151,000 (CDN). You'd also need a $100,000 truck to pull it.

It was good for me as I wasn't tempted to spend money I don't have. I spent $10 on another spool of twine to repair my round bale net, and $13 on a Haas hoofpick that I've been wanting to get a second of for Cisco's grooming kit. Oh - and $24 on a dozen donuts from The Donut Mill (if you ever travel between Edmonton and Calgary you need to stop here). But since they weren't bought at the Horse Expo they don't really count.

This trailer was less expensive - a mere $147,000, but had a second sleeping area, and a different layout to the bathroom, that I thought were great ideas. 

I watched the jumping clinic with Robert Gharibzadeh - yeah, I'd never heard of him either. He's from the Ottawa area but is from Germany, is an international level 3 coach, and judges show jumping and dressage.  I quite liked his clinic. He emphasized the importance of relaxation and thinking about the quality of the horses shape over the jump which I liked. There was one horse in the group that was a bit challenging - two strides out from the jump it would take off and charge through the gymnastic line, leaving strides out and hanging legs. Pretty sure I heard an under the breath "Christ" out of him at one point after a scary line. He pulled that horse from the exercise and moved her to just trotting over a cross pole with placement poles on either side and said if it was his horse, he'd be doing these until the horse was bored before moving on to something else. 

Trailer prices have gotten crazy. This was for a standard, 2 horse angle-haul bumper pull with a dressing room. Yikes!

This kitchen is way nicer than my kitchen is though!

I was really tempted to head back down on the next day to see what he set up as an exercise suitable for all the horses in the group as he promised, but driving for almost 4 hours to sit for three hours on really uncomfortable bleachers was not very appealing, so I guess I'll never know.

The next clinic was the dressage clinic with Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu. The theme was lengthened gait; there was nothing exciting about it.  I would have preferred to watch her Saturday session on lateral work, but again, not worth the 1/4 tank of gas.

One nice thing about these clinics is that they tend to be made up of average riders, who don't ride perfectly, and usually have some holes in their training.  I'd rather watch these sessions where I might pick up some tips that will work for me now than the professional ride on a fancy horse at a level I'll probably never achieve. Total props to these riders - there are a lot of people watching them, likely quietly judging them, and they are riding with someone new who has some sort of agenda for the weekend. I know I'd never offer to do it!

The only other session I viewed was about trailer loading. It just reaffirmed that I'm on the right track with Cisco.

The trailer used for the demonstration was a Boeckmann Grand Master, a newer version of my Big Master.

It was a good day away, though I would have liked a bit more stuff to keep me interested as I left at 4 since I'd already seen everything I wanted to see. At the very least, it was a good excuse to buy a box of donuts (of which I only ate half, the other half was promised to my parents).

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Wordless Wednesday Night - Drunk Horse

 I think the drunk horse head in the manger is the equivalent of the drunk human cradling the toilet.

Cisco's teeth are good for another year!



Slowly Getting Going Again

 I'm still working on getting back into regular riding these days. I just haven't been feeling it - after daily visits for Cisco's abscess, followed by most of another week of visits to deal with Phantom's annual vaccination reaction, not to mention my sore body (first piriformis pain, then an unhappy back), I've been a bit worn out. 

I got a couple of rides in last week, and even got the Pixio to work in the new arena without issue. I always had a problem getting it happily set up in the old arena, but so far I'm 2 for 2 in the new space. 

The rides haven't been much to talk about. Cisco isn't fit, but he has been relaxed even when by himself inside. The connection isn't consistent, which will get better as he gets fitter and stronger, so I'm not concerned about it. The rides have been concentrating on getting him to keep his neck long and moving laterally off my leg. 

Cisco looks like an oversized pony after the winter.

I'm also not fit and wish I would sit up more.

The long neck at the canter, especially the left lead, is a bit harder, but at least I'm not pulling back!


If you look carefully, you might make out the grimace of pain on my face when Cisco took a bobble step and the spot in my back that's been sketchy got tweaked. 

I've been off this week and have made a point about letting my body rest, by which I mean I've spent far too much time sitting on my ass on the couch, but it seems to have done my body good. My back has been feeling much better the last couple of days.

Wednesday is also the last planned thing for the horses at the moment as Cisco gets his teeth floated. After that, it should be smooth sailing and we can all get back into a riding routine. (Runs to find the nearest piece of wood to knock on.)



Saturday, 22 April 2023

Weekend Update

 Over the last five weeks, I've had only one night where I didn't go out to the barn.

Cisco wore his diaper/Vetrap/duct tape boot for three weeks until we were given the all-clear from the farrier when he had his feet done on the 6th. She said that things had healed up and his foot was nice and hard so she had no concerns about him going out without a hoof wrap, however, I shouldn't be shocked when his sole eventually falls off.

I took the next night off from the barn and basically sat in a semi-comatose state on the couch for the evening. It was glorious. 

I got a couple of rides in over the weekend on Cisco, with nothing exciting to write about. He was pretty relaxed on the first day, but was a bit concerned about the noises the arena made with the wind on the second day. I had washed his soundproof ear bonnet the day before and they weren't dry yet, so that ride was a wee bit more exciting than it needed to be. 

However, the weather was beautiful, and I made sure that we got to go outside for a walk in the sunshine on both days, which Cisco was perfect for. He also got hosed off for the first time of the year and his tail was taken down from its winter cocoon and trimmed. 

Phantom had been put back into work while Cisco was laid up, by which I mean she got ridden for 30 minutes three days a week, most of which was at a walk. She feels like an old horse these days, a bit creaky, a bit stiff behind and in her neck, but she still has lots of sass and keeps threatening to take off with me. Some easy movement is good for her though, I just have to ignore her not feeling like she used to. Her 20th birthday is next month.

She was guaranteed this last week off though due to her annual temporary boob job. The horses got their vaccinations on Monday, and in typical form, Phantom had a big reaction at the injection site. She was feeling pretty sad and sorry for herself for a couple of days. That meant that I had to go back out to the barn every evening to give her bute and cold hose the big lump. By Thursday night she was feeling well enough to canter away from me when I turned her back out, (which she never does) so that was her last night of bute. 

I thought that Cisco might have a big reaction to his jab like he did last year, and it seemed that it was going to go that way when the muscle in his pecs where he had gotten the jab started twitching only a few minutes later and started to get a bit puffy, but no, he was looking pretty good the next day. He had an easy ride on Friday. He's been feeling pretty good in his body, he just needs to get fitter and stronger.

Hopefully, this week is the end of unplanned time off for the horses, and we can get back into a somewhat regular routine again, which includes me being able to take a couple of nights off a week and rest my aches and pains. I'm currently dealing with a bit of either sciatic or piriformis pain - either way, it's literally a pain in my ass. 



Friday, 31 March 2023

The Reason I Am Currently Exhausted

When last we left off, Cisco had a maybe hoof abscess so Phantom was being forced to come out of retirement and put up with me on her back a few days a week.

The only thing that has changed is that the maybe abscess turned into a definite abscess. Phantom, much to her dismay, is still getting ridden three days a week.

I actually got a couple of rides on Cisco between the abscess being a maybe and a definite. He was surprisingly relaxed after a couple of weeks off (probably because there were other horses in the arena) and on the second ride he ended the ride stretching his neck nicely forward and down.

So of course he was hopping lame the next night.

We did the whole usual abscess protocol. At this point, he's sound and there's been no goop coming out of his foot for a few days, but he's still sporting the Vetrap/duct tape/ disposable diaper boot. He sees the farrier at the end of next week and I want confirmation that it has keratinized enough that we won't risk starting all over again before he gets to go out barefoot - I'm exhausted from having to go out every night to rewrap his foot and would really like to be able to  take a couple of days off.


I actually hopped on him today for a 20 minute walk ride while sporting the boot. He was surprisingly relaxed again, even though he was by himself this time, and confidently marched into every corner of the arena, where he got either a cookie or a wither scritch as a reward. Despite his bravery under saddle, as soon as I hopped off he immediately did the "I see dead people" stare into the far end of the arena.


Phantom has been hanging isnthere.  I'm still nebulizing her with dex before our ride, which seems to work better on some days than others. Our rides are about 30 minutes with about 5 minutes total of trot. She's sassy and ready to go while I'm on her, but as soon as I'm off she just wants to nap.

Too tired to move - at least untiI I wander out of site.

I foresee that things will go much the same way for the next week until farrier day, and then hopefully I can get a couple of days away from the barn before the horses get their vaccinations and required days off right after Easter.

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
evidence.


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.