Monday 20 May 2024

Weeks 2 & 3

Weeks 2 and 3 with Stitch have been a continuation of finding out what he knows, what he likes, and what he has to learn to put up with.

My challenge has been to keep our schooling sessions, such as they are at the moment, varied and not drilled. Stitch has been a very good boy and has been trying hard to figure things out and we don't need perfection in the groundwork exercises that we do.

We're been primarily working on two systems of groundwork. The TRT Method groundwork has been interesting in showing how he wants to use his body. When doing the exercise on his right side where I bend his head towards me and ask him to stay bent right and move around me he has a hard time not falling onto his right shoulder. His front right wants to step out towards me instead of under himself and away from me. Under saddle this will mean a horse who will overload the right shoulder and be hollow left. It's slowly getting better - last night he gave me three good steps before he lost it and the front right came towards me again.

I couldn't deal with the long mane so shortened it up somewhat. He is now also sporting a bridle path, though it was done with scissors instead of clippers.

The other thing I am slowly working on with him is a series of in-hand exercises from a Facebook group called NoBackNoHorse. The exercises are based on straightness training and focus on encouraging a horse to carry themselves in a manner that strengthens their core and back. We're still very much in the beginning stages, which is mostly getting him to walk with his head lowered into a horizontal balance, but we'll continue through the summer with the hopes that it sets him up nicely when we start under saddle.

Despite the rain we had last week, we are still at a high risk of wildfires in this area.  We woke up on Saturday to hazardous air quality due to smoke from the next province over - this sadly seems to be our new normal for the spring and summer months.

He wore the nebulizer and made the obligatory Darth Vader sounds. Not regretting this purchase with our smoky summers.

I needed to make sure that Stitch wasn't going to have any issues getting onto his German car, which is a straight load with a ramp. Getting on was no problem - getting off was! The poor guy's legs were shaking as he slowly took teeny backwards steps down the ramp, but he kept trying and wasn't dramatic about it. He was much better the second time so I left it there for the day.

Stitch has continued to get better about his ears being handled- he doesn't get his cookie when I put him out until he's dropped his head while I grab at his ears. Next, I need to switch to a halter that I pull over his ears instead of flipping the strap behind his ears to prepare him for being bridled.

Phantom met her new little brother. She told him to stay away from her and they'd get along just fine. He took her advice.

He's also gotten much better about being caught. Sometimes I stop a few feet away from him and let him make the decision to come to me and he's been responding nicely. I don't know if he'd let anyone else easily catch him yet, I'll have to find opportunities to enlist barnmates to help me work on it.

So far, the only thing that he's been oh hell no about has been when I asked him to leap across the water filled canyon. By which, I mean the puddle that formed across the outside of the overhead door leaving the barn. Stitch is not going to be a water hippo. It took some convincing, and he tried really hard to find a way that was not going to get his toes wet, but in the end he bravely stepped into the inch of water and safely made it to the other side (a whole 18" across). 

I guess there's some drama llama in there after all.

Thursday 9 May 2024

Tailored Attire

I know there was a reason that I felt the need to inimediately ensure that I had at least a basic wardrobe to fit Stitch when I brought him home.

We had a full day of slushy rain last week and about 30 hours straight of rain this week. The good news is that this should significantly lessen the wildfire risk in the area for atleast a little while. I saw some scorched earth along the highway to the barn this weekend so concerns have been mounting.

Soaked at the 24 hour mark.

Stitch is still in the gangly young horse stage of having more leg than body. He's narrow with no boobs or ass - Kim Kardashian, he is not.

I don't want to spend a bunch of money on blankets that will only fit for a year (actually, I want to spend the money, but for once in my life have decided to be financially responsible). I suspect that in a couple of years he will fill out and will fit into my very extensive collection of 75" attire that I've acquired for three consecutive horses. I just need the basics until then.

The smallest thing I own is a 76" Century rainsheet. Cisco only wore it a couple of times - it was a bit snug on him so it became a backup that I never needed.

On Stitch, it was fine lengthwise when snugged up in front. But his lack of cleavage meant that the buckles sat a bit low. Also, the stomach straps were miles too long. They were knotted to shorten them from Cisco wearing it, not a chance that it would fit Stitch.

So, I did some repairs. Not sure if I mentioned this on the blog previously, but last fall I convinced my mom that we should get a heavy-duty industrial sewing machine. This thing powers through 6 layers of webbing like it's butter. I've been doing repairs for myself and some barn-mates all winter. I love it. 

The beast weighs something like 70 lbs by itself - it's staying at my mom's house.

Originally,  I planned to do the strap/d-ring thing like Schneider's blankets have along the neck to be able to make it smaller. A Google search suggested a different idea of just pinching the webbing at the neckline and stitching there. This creates a dart, doesn't stitch through any fabric other than the webbing, and would be easy to remove once the horse fills out.

Just a little dart did the trick.

The stomach straps - well, they were really long. It took me three attempts to get them the right length. Should have used a measuring tape in the beginning, I guess. First, I cut 6" off them. They were still way too long. Next I folded up about 10" and stitched that above the slider. Still long. The final version involved folding the previously folded part up against the blanket, and stitching through the 5 layers of webbing. That was finally the right length, and when he chunks up I will be able to pull the stitches out and expand the straps. 

That's 5 layers of webbing on two straps, and 6 layers on the back strap where the leg-strap d-ring is attached. Your home sewing machine won't manage that!

Since the plan is to hop on Stitch a few times in the fall and then let him grow until spring, he's not going to be working over the winter, which means he won't need to be clipped, and won't need to be blanketed except in extreme weather, which, realistically, will be more for me than for him. Thus, his basic wardrobe will consist of his rainsheet for the crappy summer days, his new Champion 100g blanket for the cool and wet days, and I'll add a layer to that with a vintage 1990's BMB stable blanket that fits him well enough when we get the -40's that we get every year. 

This was originally Farly's, who wore it for many winters but was super easy on his blankets so it's still in great shape.

He's set, right? Lots of horses live perfectly happy all year round without blankets. I can have a naked horse in the winter for the first time in 30 years and that won't make me a terrible horse mom, right? Right?

Wednesday 8 May 2024

The First Week

I had the last week off from work  which worked out great to be able to spend time getting to know Stitch.

And, I've got to say, he is a pleasure to work with.

His previous owner did a fantastic job of making him into a young man who is light and respectful to be around. He leads beautifully - I've barely had to give any tugs on the lead rope all week. He ties, stands to be groomed, is fine in the arena by himself, and has been adored by the other horses in his field.

He lives in a group of mostly bay geldings. It can be tricky figuring out at a glance which one is my bay gelding! (It's the dead looking one on the left.)

He's not perfect - there are a few things that need to be worked on. 

He's not great about having his ears touched, especially his left one. We've started clicker training to be able to get this sorted out. I am too short to deal with giraffes.

He's a bit sticky about picking his feet up. I think that this is mostly a difference in how I ask for it (squeezing the tendon) and how I suspect he was taught (pulling up on his fetlock hair).  The first few days he stiff-legged it and I had to kind of make him bend at the knee, but there has already been significant improvement.

He can be a bit tricky to catch.

I was warned that he sometimes didn't like to be caught, so went at it cautiously. The biggest problem hasn't been Stitch running away from me, but the other horses getting too close as I'm trying to put his halter on. They don't mean any harm, they're all just overly social, but their presence worries Stitch and then he leaves. It's been getting better as he gets more comfortable with me and I don't think it will be a problem for long.

And really, those have been the only problems to pop up so far.

Not that we did much this week. I had dug a hole I had to crawl out of on the first day when I zapped him not once, but twice on the end of the nose with a static shock. He was horrified, and I had to put a lot deposits into his trust bank to get back to a positive balance. Thankfully, he loves food and can be easily bribed for forgiveness. That meant that we spent most of week just trying to be friends.

He got to wear his new blanket because it was cold and wet for a couple of days. The blanket survived intact - here's hoping he's not a blanket destroyer!

I have a feeling that I could easily flood this horse by throwing a bunch of things at him and he would take it, but he would shrink away from me and it would erode any trust that has been created. So we're adding little bits slowly.

Today was the tarp on the ground. He walked up to it pretty confidently, but then scared himself by kicking dirt onto the tarp. His reaction was to take a step back, snort, and give the tarp the hairy eyeball. I asked him to walk forward, he took a couple of tiny steps with a release in pressure with each one, and within a minute he walked quietly across.

That seems to be how he deals with things so far. Stop, have a good look, take a few slow steps, then walk past giving it a cautious look, and all is forgiven. Little drama.

So far, I'm liking my new little man!