Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Show on the Horizon

Next weekend is the second VA Welsh show. My goal this year was to take the Cobs to both VA shows, but I was a little hesitant to spend the money for this show. Each Welsh show earns points for the pony depending on how they place and what level show they attend. The whole point system is complicated and in my opinion not well set up. Any way, at the beginning of the year we arranged the ponies show area to be the South east and the breeder, the listed owner, wrote a letter making me the agent. This way the points they earn could at least qualify them for a regional award. After the Spring Fling show, the points finally posted. By this time we had transferred ownership and we were listed as the owners. I was surprised to see the points they earned listed as "Bad." There are different reasons points can be bad and most can be fixed, so I emailed the Society to find out why.
Two weeks  and a second email later, I was still waiting. I told the breeder that Roscoe would be showing solo and Rosemary could stay home. I do not mind supporting the Welsh, but I refuse to spend money on shows when the results, which I pay extra to be recorded, do not count for the ponies. The breeder called the Society and was able to get the mix up fixed, a paperwork error. So I decided to enter both ponies.
Today I mailed the forms and then got a message from the breeder saying she is unable to come. Darn luck!!!
So she has offered to ask around to see if someone can handle Roscoe for us. He is a bit too forward for my short legs to keep up with, but I will work it out if need be. I do not have the heart for line classes and unfortunately do not show them as well as the breeder. We shall see.

Saturday, we will clip them both and next Friday they will get their bathes. Then it is show time bright and early since, boo, the Sec. C/D always go first. We have not decided whether we will wait around all day, for the supreme class. Of course with the rain from Hurricane Issac coming that may decide it for us.

Horse Nation posted this picture and it is perfect for Roscoe's show prep: pulling his mane :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

3 Years Work

I have written about trimming feet, my horses and the Appies, a few times. One of these days I will tell about the horse who started it all for me, but this will be about Rebel, one of the Appies. Rebel is an 18yr old 16h Appaloosa gelding who when I started trimming him was dealing with ring bone in both is front fetlocks. Pain caused him to be pretty violent in his behavior during the trims. After he nearly gave his owner a black eye, we began to use drugs to slow him down.
Over the last 3 years we have gone from doing 1 or 2 hooves at a time to being able to do 4 hooves every 4-5 weeks. It is still a difficult process that takes 3 people to achieve, but we are finally seeing results. Like many horses Rebel has two different front feet, a bit upright in the right and a bit under run in the left. Because I have limited time to work on him (patience is always and issue) I focus on bringing his toes back. I want him to have an easier time breaking over. Rebel also has an issue with landing flat. He tends, especially on the left to walk on the outside of his hoof. The problem I have is he has built up sole on that foot causing part of the problem. Each trim I take a bit off, but not too much because he has had a close call with founder recently. I know of horses, with previous founder, that were okay until their sole was trimmed and the coffin bone rotated.
His right front is the hardest to work on, because he gives us very little time to hold it in the cradle. Some days he is too lame to try anything. It can be frustrating to see what needs to be done, but being unable to do the job. Two trims ago, I had to leave the right front undone completely and with summer growth that killed me. Last trim, he cooperated and I caught up a little.
Saturday was his trim after five weeks. As we walked him in from the field, I noticed he did not slow when we went on the pavement. Normally the concussion causes him pain and makes him more cautious on pavement, so him moving well equals a very good sign. Rebel got his shot and we let it work while I trimmed his daughter. When it was his turn, he did not look very sleepy. Mom decided to help distract him by feeding him pieces of carrots. Plus his owner finally gave him bute for 3 days before the trim. We started on his right front, get the worst done first. Surprisingly I was able to trim his bars, some sole and toe. A major achievement for his level of patience. The left front still has too much sole, so I trimmed what I could and trimmed his toe. Pulling them forward, I rounded his toes and took some of his flare off.
This time after I finished his front feet, I actually felt like my work was paying off and helping Rebel. His hooves are not textbook, but if I had before pictures to compare the change is amazing to me. Here are a few pictures, only front and side view. Bottom view will have to come next time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ear-y Problem

At the end of last week, I went to put on DaVinci's muzzle and noticed he flinched. I noted it, but in that unconscious way. The next day was the horses day off the grass, so I went to take off his muzzle. This time he reacted almost violently as I reached toward his ears. UH OH RED FLAG!!!
My poor boy was so sore at, as best I could tell, the base of his right ear along the back. It took a little bit of time to get him to let me take a look. There was no obvious sign of injury, no abrasions or bumps, but he was telegraphing pain. I pulled out the Calendula and coated the base of his ear. He relaxed some and I could see slight swelling as I compared both ears, but nothing else.  We could only guess that maybe Roscoe pulled to roughly on his muzzle. Over the next 3 days we did not even put a fly mask on him, to see if his ear would start feeling better. Of course that meant no riding either.
Each day his level of flinch decreased to the point that it was more a protective measure rather than pain filled.
Finally on Thursday, we felt he was healed enough to try his bridle. I made sure to put the right ear in first. He did pretty good and we had a great long and low bareback ride on the hills. I think he was ready to get back to work.
Around the base of his right ear some rough flaky texture developed. Maybe he got stung by some bug and caused the swelling. Who can say? Own horses long enough and you figure out that sometimes there are no answers to what happens to them. I am glad that his ear-y problem seems to have resolved it self.
His cute Garfield ears are perfect on DaVinci, but not when in pain.
Onto the next unknown :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trash cans, ATVs and Horses

It's Wednesday!!!

That means Rosemary driving training. Today we extended the road lesson from last week. Only this time she was hooked to the cart and we set out to do the entire length of the road Peggy's home is on, about 1.5 mi round trip. I walked by her head ready with a lead line.
We started on the familiar side road from the arena to the corner where we turned on to the main road. She had to deal with a downhill for the first time in a while. The initial contact of the weight of the cart on her harness breech strap made her a little nervous. Then Peggy settled her and Rosemary started to figure out what she needed to do, sit on her butt and step under. Next was an up hill section with a herd of horses at the top. The horses really got her attention, so I had to attach the lead line. As we neared the horses we heard the rumble of a speedy ATV. Peggy moved the cart to the side and had Rosemary halt as the ATV went pass. Rosemary could care less, she was too busy watching the horses. First couple of hurdles a success.
Thursdays are the neighborhood's trash day, so all the trash cans were on the street. Rosemary did not really look at those. She looked at the darker pavement and pot holes which might eat her. Well as we continued past the horses we saw another ATV coming. This time is was ridden by an adult who pulled over and turned off the machine. Again Rosemary did not have an issue with the ATV. The problem came when the driver restarted the ATV. With the blinders, Rosemary did not see the ATV and since she was looking a trash cans when it growled to life, she associated the noise with the trash cans. She spooked a bit, but settled quickly. After that she gave trash cans the hairy eye as she passed, but no more spooks.
When we made it to the end of the road, Peggy had Rosemary do a turn around. This turn made her cross over in the front while pushing against the shaft to turn the cart. Kind of like a walk pirouette. She did really well. All of us were impressed. On the walk back, we had three vehicles come from behind. Peggy kept Rosemary walking while two of the vehicles passed by, the third turned behind us. Mom and Peggy told her "Good Girl," after each and she twitched an ear like "What did I do?" She thought nothing of the passing vehicles.
Rosemary and her tired butt had to think hard about the big down hill, the biggest she did, by the horses. When she did put the pieces together the difference was apparent. Her back rounded, her shoulders lifted and her gait smoothed out. At the familiar side road, Mom took the reins to drive her back  to the arena.
Whew, I was glad I kept up with her walk. She was holding back though, so next time will be tougher. I took her to the barn and unharnessed her. Then I gave her a massage. She always shows her appreciation, yawning and chewing. Such a great pony.
The view when we came home. What do you think these two are talking about?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Night Ride

Some days I run out of daylight, but still want to ride. That leaves riding at night. At my barn we have no lights near the arena. This can be a good thing because there are no shadows or a bad thing if you do not know the ground. On the other hand at Peggy's there is the safe arena, but the outdoor lights on the barn create shadows. Both situations bring a new, fun level to a ride.
One of the best results of a night ride is that I feel more and am more aware of how the horse is moving. We as people are such visual animals. Take sight away and our other senses are awakened. To enhance the feel, I ride bareback.
On Saturday, trimming my barefoot ponies and an impromptu photo shoot with Dad and Roscoe, caused me to get to Peggy's about 8:30pm. By time Peggy and I chatted and I dressed the pony, it was close to 9. For those worried about safety, my cell phone is always in my pocket when I ride alone. Plus Peggy was right in the house and can see half the arena. Well Comrade and I started working corners at the walks and a few walk pirouettes. He of course was looking into the shadows, expecting bogey men. I quickly was able to feel the preceding tension before an "OMG what is that?" moment and push him through. These rides are not always right for long and low, but neither do I want him to be a camel, head up back hollow. I am okay with a high head carriage, if the body is still smooth and swingy. During this ride, I really felt myself sit deep and around him while keeping my knees soft so he could move between. The push from his hind end is so great that I wish I could replicate it under saddle. His quality of movement is so good, I only need 15min to have a complete ride.
I figure if I can handle him during these spooky night rides, riding at a daylight show should not be too bad.
Riding at night came about from necessity, but actually is very enlightening. If you have a safe arena, ie not too much clutter inside, or a safe field I recommend trying a night ride. You will be more aware of whether your horse drops one side of his back or does not step through as well on one leg or if a spook is brewing. Don't get me wrong I have my moments where they catch me off guard, but overall my confidence and seat have improved.
And I will leave you with a picture of Frankenpony:) Roscoe's fly mask ears were causing a kink in his ears because they were too small. Unfortunately the next size up is too big for his face, so my mom cut the ears off another fly mask and sewed them onto his. After she put the first one on, she realized she did not check to see if there was a Left and a Right. There was, so now he looks really funny. Better than squished ears though.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Drive By's

Wednesday turned out to be a great day weather wise which in turn meant a good day to work the horses. Mom and my sister rode the four older horses and then Mom worked with Roscoe on the ground.
Since it was Rosemary's driving training day, Mom kept the horses in the sacrifice areas close to the barn after they all worked. This turned out to be a good decision because when she went to get Rosemary to load on the trailer, Rosemary decided to play "Catch Me." Who knows what got into the pony, but 15 min later she was caught huffing and puffing from her dramatic antics. Mom let her settle before loading her, which she did great, and heading to Peggy's.
When I arrived, Mom and Peggy were harnessing her up so I went to get the cart. The cart rolls nicely even with its weight. Most of the way to the arena is down hill so it was manageable by my self. I walked into the barn only to be told they were not using the cart today. Figures :( Peggy went and helped me put it back in the trailer, not as easy as taking it out.
Today's lesson was working on the road. Mom ground drove Rosemary while Peggy drove her John Deere green machine. The green machine makes lots of noise, but is not as big as a vehicle. Peggy started out driving towards Rosemary's front end and passed on the side. Rosemary looked but was not worried. After a few repeats, she moved onto coming up from behind. The first time Mom kept her halted on the side of the road, as Peggy came by. Then she got Rosemary walking, as Peggy came. At one point during this part Rosemary did stop and look. Certainly not a bad choice. Whoa is always better than go when driving. Peggy then traded the green machine for her little truck. Again they went through the same procedures and again Rosemary responded well. At the end, Peggy stopped the truck next to Mom and Rosemary. Then proceeded to have a conversation. Some competitions expect the horse and cart to remain still while a vehicle stops and people chat, so it was good practice. Rosemary stood still during the stop, then nabbed a bunch of leaves from near by trees as her personal reward.
Next Rosemary will have to deal with the drive by's while hooked to the cart. Peggy wants to take her further into the neighborhood to improve the chances of running into a vehicle. The more exposure Rosemary gets the better she will be.
That night we let all the horses graze without muzzles for a job well done.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Meet Swayze

About a month or so ago, I saw a facebook post by a friend: 8yr old 17h+ Thoroughbred for sale $1.
I thought at first it was a ha, ha post, but as I read the comments I realized she really meant the statement. I posted that I wish I could help her. That statement alone gave her hope.
Mom and I went to see Swayze and see how we could help. My heart broke when our friend said "I just want to trot."
I remembered from her trial videos before his purchase, that I thought she was ambitious to buy him. He tended to brace against the bridle and move sideways. Tension reigned over him. Mom started by doing a body check to see if he had any areas of pain. Body wise he was not too bad with some slight weakness in his back and over development of the under side of the neck.
Swayze 2011
Then Mom moved onto his tack. His saddle right now is okay, but may need adjustment soon. As soon as his bridle was on, we both noticed he did not like the bit a two piece full cheek. When contact was applied he tensed and raised his head. We also decided to try him with out the standing martingale.
Now onto the ride. Just like a lot of horses, Swayze reflects his rider. She was tense and up, so he was tense. Mom worked on using weight aids to slow and halt him. His owner was amazed as he responded quietly. Swayze has a great walk and a swinging trot. Unfortunately his owner is not yet comfortable with that movement. By the end they both were calmer and more relaxed. His owner felt like there was hope. She told us a lot of other people told her he may not change. Mom and I were both pleasantly surprised by Swayze and his ride ability. Time would be what they need. We let her borrow our 5.5 KK three piece to try the next time she rode, since he really did not like the two piece. Also we showed her some clicker training to give her a fun activity, no stress, to do with Swayze.
The results were great. His owner said he responded well to the new bit and she was feeling much better about their future.
Saturday morning, Mom did another lesson with them both. The main focus was the half halt. Using weight aids, she slowed the walk or trot to a halt. Swayze stayed so soft and long, keeping his head low. Mom is trying to rework the conversation between horse and rider into a calm and confident one. Overall Swayze is looking much happier and his body is changing in a good way.
See how nice his lower neck is looking?

Great walk and Happy horse
Next time I may get on him to see how he is with me. Plus, his owner may come out and ride some of our horses to build her confidence in her own skills. I am so glad she is feeling so much better about her connection with Swayze.

Treeless Eye Opener

Today was a great day and I will break it down into a couple posts.

I am going to start with the end of the day, riding Comrade. When Mom and I arrived at Peggy's barn, she surprised us by saying she bought a treeless saddle. Comrade is super sensitive about saddle fit and wears the second widest gullet put out by Wintec. Whenever the fit is wrong, bad things happen like bucking.
So when she asked if I wanted to try out the treeless, I was willing. The saddle looks really funny, sorry no picture of the saddle alone, and really cushy. It uses a short girth since it is a mono flap. Comrade's dressage girth is a bit too big, but we made it work.
I was really taken back when I sat in the super cushy seat and felt odd. Starting out I went with my dressage length stirrups, but I soon realized I needed to shorten them. Comrade was not sure about the noises the saddle emitted when we picked up a trot and I was not sure how to ride. Mom and Peggy kept saying he looked good. I had Mom take a picture so I could see how I looked since I felt so weird.
After shortening my stirrups, I went back to work. Both of us figured out how to work with the saddle and soon Comrade felt awesome. He was so light in his front end while pushing from his hind end. I was able to get him to open and extend his trot noticeably. He had great canter departs with no negative connotations. The change was amazing. Never before has Comrade come through the shoulder as well as he did tonight.
I even had Mom get on so I could watch. So wonderful to see a happy pony as she asked tougher questions. I told Peggy that even though the saddle looks funny, if it gave those results I would ride in it at any show. And I almost forgot, Comrade even stretched down at the walk on his own. I was talking to Peggy when Mom drew my attention to him chewing and stretching. Those of you who have read my previous posts know that this is normally a rarity.
Overall I was impressed with the treeless saddle for what it achieved if not how it looks. Peggy and I will ride in it again tomorrow. He will need a breast collar and maybe even a crupper to stabilize the saddle long term.
Anyone else have any experience with treeless saddles?

Here is a short video of part of my ride.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Branching Out

As with any Wednesday since Rosemary started driving training, I headed into work early. I knew Mom and my sister were heading to the barn earlier than usual since an appraiser was coming to assess the house. I figured if the weather held they would get to ride.
Now for a little background info on my sister. When my Dad was in the Marines, my mom worked at the base stables as the last two duty stations we lived. My sister used to ride a bit on some of the horses Mom would take care of. After we moved to VA, she did not ride until 4 yrs ago when we purchased Dottie. My 4'11" sister rides 16h Dottie really well. Dottie reads her skill level and only gives what she feels my sister can handle. We tried to put her on DaVinci so she could feel a quality walk, but DaVinci is not for a beginner. So, Mom continues to work with her on Dottie.

Well these are the pictures that Mom put on Facebook this afternoon:

Gorgeous Girls framed by DaVinci ears

And they even trotted
Mom put the western saddle on Rosemary and let my sister ride. One of the first things my sister said was "How come Rosemary's reins are so long?" Mom laughed so hard. 14h Rosemary vs. 16h Dottie, its all in the neck.
Rosemary has an exceptional walk and my sister was able to experience it finally. She trotted her,  once she convinced Rosemary she really meant to trot, and was surprised how smooth her stride is. At 5yrs old, Rosemary took care of my sister almost as well as Dottie. Welsh Cobs have such good minds and are so smart.
After riding Rosemary, my sister then rode Dottie. Mom used what my sister felt on Rosemary to make her feel more on Dottie.
Overall Mom's experiment to branch out worked great.
I did laugh when my sister talked about Rosemary's steering or lack of. A bit of the blind leading the blind and reminiscent of how I felt last week driving her.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Kick #3

Yes, I was kicked again. I thought back and in 20 odd years, before this one, I had only been kicked once. I was riding a pony behind a cranky horse who kicked at the pony and hit me. How is it that this year hooves have found me 3 times?
Ok back to the story. Saturday started with a farrier visit for Dottie and DaVinci. I was really happy to see the hoof growth Dottie had on her back feet. The dogs were happy too. Afterwards, I was determined to ride despite the heavy heat. DaVinci was first in line. We went and worked the little hills bareback. He was LAZY in the heat sagging his back leaving me sitting on his bony backbone. Hill work brought his muscles up where they belong and made me much more comfortable.
Next I hopped on Rosemary. I just wanted to work on her flexion, but it turned into a focus lesson. For some reason she seems to think that when we ride in the arena that is work. When we ride in the field she is turned out in, the rebellious teenager appears. I had to really block her shoulder with my outside aids and kept turning the opposite way she wanted to go. Eventually she figured out that I say where to, not her. After completing a figure 8 with out bulging, I got off. As we went towards the barn I worked her in hand, using the reins to counter bend then bend correctly both directions. She seemed to be listening and giving the right answers. Closer to the barn she was being sticky about yielding her hind end, so I worked on that. In true Drama Mama fashion she flipped her tail and moved around me, but she also crossed over in the hind end so I was happy. By this time we had made it to the sacrifice area just outside the barn. She was doing well and I was about done. Then I slipped and lost the reins. Not a big deal normally, but this time she took advantage. As I reached for them, she took off and kicked out.
Luckily I have plenty of fat padding (Can you believe I am saying lucky to have extra pounds?) because she connected with my ribs on the side just below my arm pit, along the bra line about a, ha ha, hoof's width. I knew immediately that I was okay and went to get the pony. She was standing smugly by Dottie's stall. I led her out again and picked up the training whip (Clinton Anderson's stick w/lash) and began to work some of the gaining respect exercises we have been using on Roscoe. I had her move around me and then asked her for an inside turn, pivoting off her hind end to change the direction. Ideally I should be able to change whip hands and point with the free hand in the new direction and she should do the change. She is not quite there yet and I have to back up the motion with the whip pointed at her. Very rarely does she need contact. Once she was listening and turning well, I asked her to again yield her hind end. It is basically asking for a turn on the forehand on the ground. Using the whip I pat the air to suggest she move. If she moves correcting crossing over, I rub with the whip to praise her. If she does not move after 3 air pats she gets a tap.
For all her drama, she knows what to do and she did it. After going through the desensitisation process, I took her bridle off and put her halter on in order to tie her to the wash rack outside. I cooled her down with a sponge bath. Then I sprayed her and left her to think about the lesson. It also showed her that end of work does not necessarily mean back to her stall and Dottie. I stayed close and kept close watch on her. She is Amish bred and spent a lot of time in tie stalls, so she behaves, but I still took no chances.
While she was in time out, I dug in the medicine cabinet and got the Calendula. This homeopathic ointment is great for bruises and abrasions. We use it on us and the horses. I put some on my sore side for two days and the bruising is not too bad. You can almost see a whole Rosemary hoof print.
Sunday and today I repeated the ground work with Rosemary and though she gave me attitude, she also did the exercises better. Mom and I are going to try to consistently work her and see if we can manage her antics. I have been impressed with the Clinton Anderson exercises with Roscoe and now Rosemary. They gain respect without creating fear.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cherry on Top

I love the Olympics, but the lack of sleep can really make things difficult. Work was particularly tough today dealing with a difficult audit. Eight hours of counting little pieces of silver Pandora jewelry, not fun.  Back at my desk I found that Mom had left a message saying that we would again bring Rosemary to Peggy's without the driving trainer.
So with the rumble of thunder in the background, we hooked up Rosemary. Peggy worked her in the arena for a little while. Then she slid over and had Mom take the reins. I was impressed with how Mom handled the drive. She walked and trotted, when Rosemary deigned to listen.
Mom and Peggy after their drive
Then much to my surprise, they asked if I wanted to try. I did, but I was scared. Peggy stayed with me and Rosemary was more likely to stop then move so that settled my nerves some. The carriage seat is on springs, so no seat aids like in a saddle, My hands were suppose to be as close together as I could get because eventually I should be able to drive one handed. Lots of details to keep track of.
Rosemary knew that I was not completely sure and she would not trot unless I was emphatic. I have to work on keeping track of the wheel positions, Peggy had to remind me not to get too close to the fence. Rosemary felt great and it was amazing to feel how smooth she is between the shafts. We looked a little "drunk," weaving a bit as I learned to handle the reins. This experience was certainly the cherry on top of my day.
my maiden drive

Holy Cow, I am driving

Peggy decided to let her finish with a drive on the road. I got to ride along and Rosemary moved on trotting down the road. She was glad to be out of the deep sand. At the corner, we made a right down a small hill. Rosemary trotted, handling the weight of the cart well. She slowed a few times questioning whether her answers were correct. Peggy slowed her in prep for me getting down, but a big, diesel truck came up from behind. She drove her down onto a grass area, and the truck passed. I hopped down to walk at her head. Rosemary really did not care about the truck or the hills. She seems to only care about the dark pavement, that is weird to her. Peggy trotted her up the hill and down the road back to the arena, halting at a couple points.
I love the experiences owning Rosemary has allowed us to have. The Cobs have won me over.