Wednesday, January 30, 2013

End of an Era

Well our old barn on Base will be torn down soon. Last summer they closed completely, after a few years of only having boarders. Before I was born Ronald Reagan rode at this barn and probably other notables.
I basically grew up at this barn when we moved here 20 years ago. Okay just typing that makes me feel old. I rode in my first show, got bucked off, rode lots of rotten ponies, met my best pony, jumped my first jump and cleaned a million stalls.
Unfortunately, management went downhill and money was short. We left during the management issues and I have not looked back preferring to remember better times. Those memories are priceless even if we have moved onto, literally, greener fields.
So here's to a barn that was a big part of my life and my riding. It was small but mighty and looking back, provided me with some quality training.

Barry and I, 1999 In one of the arenas, used as warm up during shows

Another view of above arena
The Show ring, with ugly pink trailers I did so much homework in.
Cross country, Whoo Hoo
Me and my partner in crime out on the great trails the barn was connected to.
Just inside these doors is where Barry and Sherman's stalls were.
The barn is "T" shaped, this area was where trailers were parked
The show side of the barn, show arena to the left and waiting area to the right. I do miss the arena lights.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Unusual Barn Items

I was puttering around the barn getting things in order so tomorrow will go smoothly in case ice makes time short. As I worked I noticed things we have that may raise questions in other people. So here are some of the unusual items used in our barn:

Although in the past we did feed tea to our horses, now we only use it to heat up water. During the cold weather the horses enjoy having warm meals. Plus it is closer than the bathroom, the only place that has hot water.

Coffee bean Grinder
We have gone through a few grinders. The main purpose was for grinding whole flax seed. Flax is a great source of Omegas and we have used it for a very long time. Pre ground flax used to be really expensive so we ground our own. The only problem was we used it 4-5 times twice a day which is a lot more than most people ground coffee resulting in the death of the grinder. After the loss of a couple higher priced grinders, we decided to go with pre ground flax. The other use was to break pills. It makes a horrible noise, but works great.

Angled Toilet Bowl Brush
Yep, I said a toilet brush (never used in the bathroom.) This brush is the best feed bowl cleaner. The angled portion gets into the edges well. The short bristles make a better scrubber and lasts longer. Best tool ever!

Gretchen bought us the cheapest diapers she could find to use for abscess soaker boots. Cheap so that they would not draw the moisture away. We pour water, Epsom salt and iodine inside, then put on the hoof. Even on Dottie we were able to secure the tabs to hold the diaper on the foot. They are a bit cheaper in price than a roll of cotton, so that helps.

Loofah on a stick
This back scrubber for people is our absolutely best water bucket cleaner. I don't know when or how we stumbled onto this fact, but now we use it almost daily. Great in the cold, keeps hands dry. And when the ties that hold the loofah wear out the released mesh makes a fascinating toy for Roscoe.

Plastic Shopping Cart
Years ago Mom and Dad were driving along and saw an abandoned Big Lots shopping cart. They stopped and picked it up. Now it rolls around our barn holding hay that needs to be rinsed. To help reduce the sugar levels for our ponies we run water over the hay which washes out some of the sugars. We have previously used wire mesh baskets in a wheelbarrow, but the shopping cart is so much better. Any unused hay can stay and breathe in the cart. If only it had all terrain wheels...

Those are a few of our unusual barn items. Did I surprise you? Make you think outside the box? Good. Items that make life easier are priceless.
Do you have any items in your barn not normally meant for the job you use it for? Let me know. I love new ideas.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Door Unlocked

As we are covered in a light snow, it is a good time to think back to the lovely warm weekend. Beyond a stroll on DaVinci, no riding happened at my barn. We had a cloud sit on us for almost a week, then finally open leaving the ground too wet to ride. My only option left was Comrade. Not that I am complaining.
Saturday was a late ride, made later by a completely muddy pony. I hopped on bareback and began to play. Almost immediately I could feel a difference from Mom's training ride. Comrade was into the outside rein going to the right, instead of falling onto his inside shoulder. This made his lateral work almost easy, when I got all my parts in order. I was able to spiral in on a circle and then push him out smoothly. Not something that can happen if he is falling in, so I was really happy. Comrade certainly did his homework in his time off. I told Mom that night that his right side felt so good it made his left side seem like the bad side now. She unlocked some door in him and we can move forward. Plus we have the key if the door gets locked again. For Comrade that key is lateral work while maintaining straightness.
Sunday was very warm, so I decided to jump Comrade in the arena. He is not blanketed and has no clip which means I have to be careful on the warm days. Peggy was my ground crew and jump designer. When we got to the arena, Comrade was so excited to see what she had set up. As I warmed him up and settled him down, I made a few changes. Then I asked him to go over a really small vertical. Dodo boy about tripped over it, he gave it no respect. I asked for more the next time and he at least took it in stride. Then we played over a baby box oxer. This jump made Comrade think, so he gave a nice round jump. Once he started being more responsive I had him connect the small vertical to another vertical at the canter. He could have been a hunter pony the line was so smooth. And I will say we had the added difficulty of dodging 3 dogs running around. During a walk break, I had Peggy make the baby box oxer into an "X" and put up the 2nd vertical. One bad thing, Comrade was not picking up the right lead over the fences and would cross canter when I asked. No bucking at least, but still not good. I worked him over the new jumps and got the better responses I hoped for. Comrade planted and pushed rounding over the jumps instead of being the lazy pony hitting poles. We also found our right lead over the fences, FINALLY. At that point it was time for the final jump, a bigger oxer. I trotted him up and he gave me the best jump of the day. No hesitation. No drifting. All done :)
Our little jumps with Shadow representing the dogs. Left: Final oxer, Middle 2nd vertical, Back Right small vertical, Front Right baby box oxer turned "X"
Monday was my bonus day since I had the holiday off. I had thought to go play in the woods, but my stroll on DaVinci made me later. So back to the arena. Comrade was working well except that he decided to be a bit lazy. Since the jumps we still up, I put him over a few which woke him up. Then I did some canter work. The way the jumps were arranged made me keep him straight better. He surprised me by picking up the right lead when we were going left. That never happens. I let him carry it until he realized it was a bit too difficult, then asked for the correct lead. I know his canter needs work, but he has come so far since the four beat barely moving gait he gave me when I started riding him. We worked on corners and asking him to bend while stepping under with okay results. Then a simple change to work the right lead. It took me half the arena before it hit me. Comrade was not cutting corners. We were staying on the rail easily. I know it sounds like small fries, but he has never not cut corners at the right lead canter. I enjoyed right lead for the first time. I called to Peggy "Did you see that? He did not cut in at all!!" Mom unlocked a really beneficial door. I only worked a little longer since that made my whole day.
Owning, caring for and training horses can take a village. Each person helps make a stronger foundation. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to ride a horse like Comrade and have the chance to help him grow while I learn too. Since money is tight, having my Mom to help with his training is priceless. Comrade is an amazing horse because he not only retains knowledge, but he thinks about what we ask and normally comes back with a better understanding ready to move on. With limited ride time that trait is an asset.
So now I can reminisce and hope there won't be too much snow to ride this weekend.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Confused Unicorn

My lovely Rosemary has developed a horn. Unlike the unicorn I wanted when I was younger, her horn has developed on her eyelid.

Figured it out yet?

Yeah, I am talking about her sarcoid. We have seen some crazy changes just within the last month. It looks like her eyelid is giving birth to some alien. Well I will let the pictures show the full effect.

This was from 12-29-12

This is from 1-6-13

1-6-13 side view
1-6-13 front view

This is from 1-9-13. See the change in only three days.

We have braided her forelock and front of her mane to keep it out of the gooey edge.

This is from today, 1-20-13.

Her misplaced unicorn horn.

Some of this is crusty stuff from where the skin has pulled back.

Back view, the rear part is kind of soft and squishy.
So those are the pictures. Can you believe the changes? I hope to come in one day and find the thing has fallen off. She is growing peach fuzz on the smooth area behind the big bump. That is good.
We continue to watch in almost horrified fascination with fingers crossed that she will not need surgery. Rosemary is still our sassy, drama mama so she is not too bothered.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pleasant Surprise

Like many equestrians, Mom and I have slowly been watching the George Morris clinic. Although I have heard of him over the years especially his critiques of jumping pictures, I really did not know his methods or beliefs. Now I can say I am impressed.

"Carry your hands"
He promotes the French style of hand carriage and explains why in such a way any one can understand. Low hands can cause pressure from the bit on the mouth. By carrying the hands you relieve that pressure and have room to give and take with the horse. George also addressed hand position over fences, which I admit is a pet peeve of mine. I really hate seeing people doing a huge crest release. His correction was to follow by releasing downward, the same way the horse's head goes. Some of the riders really took his advice and a difference could be seen in the horses.

"Don't pull the inside rein"
A fact we all know, but sometimes bad habits die hard. Nice to see riders at their level having the same habits. Always got to remember inside leg to outside rein.

"A martingale is for safety"
I was glad to see him have a martingale removed because it was too short. He stressed that martingales are for rider safety if a horse throws its head. If it is adjusted too short it can cause pressure on the horses mouth.

"Impulsion does not mean more speed"
George asked the riders to get their horses moving with more impulsion. He was quick to slow the riders going fast. Impulsion is forward energy contained with in movement. When a horse goes too fast the energy is lost. In the case of these horses the lost impulsion could mean the difference between making the distance to a jump or through a gymnastic.

Mom and I had to laugh when he talked about having the horse listen and work for the time he rides because the horse has 20+ hours to do what what he wants the rest of the day. Clinton Anderson made almost the same comment. The horse world is such a small place.

In addition to what George teaches, I was impressed with his guest speaker Dr. Deb Bennett. She helps people understand how to read the horse's body and improve their training. I recommend watching her sessions as she has a great way of explaining and describing what she has learned over the years.

Finally I have to say one of the rider's surprised me in a good way. Out of all the rider bio's I looked at, one rider stated her personal achievements were how she rehabilitated and competed her horses. I sensed that she really was happy how her horses have improved. It was refreshing after reading so many others achievements that were show ring successes. Riding is so much more than the ribbons or money won. A happy horse at the end of a day is the highest level of success.

We have a few more sessions to watch, but that will take a little bit. One big thing I can say after watching...I hope I ride as well as George when I am in my seventies :)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Double Teamed

I took Wednesday off from work since I have to work this weekend for inventory. Yippee... not really. Anyway we were able to go to ride Comrade. I really wanted feedback from my Mom about how to proceed with his training.
Comrade was ready to go and did not want walk to warm up. I put him through his paces to show Mom. After watching, she worked with me to get him stepping under better with the hind end. We have impulsion and a kind of connection, but now he ready to move on. Canter shows his gaps quickly. With Mom's help we improved really well in the left lead. Thinking straight, then corner, then move on made Comrade sit and push while lifting his back. In the right lead straight was an issue. Comrade wants to lean on the outside rein creating a constant bend in his neck making me do all the work and allowing him to cheat. I had to think hard about keeping him straight. We made some headway.
Then I handed the reins to Mom. She is more able to close doors, so to speak, that Comrade is using for evasions. She was surprised by how much weight she had to carry in her hands in order to block him. Watching me ride, she said Comrade did not seem that heavy. Contact is a funny thing that can manifest as light or heavy depending on how the horse is at the time. Comrade will start heavy, but then end on a lighter contact. I was glad to hear she was having the same feelings. Mom worked counter bend, leg yield and some shoulder in. Peggy and I laughed as Comrade grunted his way around the arena. All the Cobs I handle grunt when asked to work hard or when stating their opinions. The work was tough and new, but I never got the feeling he was overwhelmed. Where he used to fight learning now he fully absorbs what is taught. When she transitioned down to walk, Peggy noted he still had a happy swish to his tail and hop in his stride.
Mom's opinion is that we have been on the right track. I need to up my intensity and be firmer in how I ask. In lateral work, he needs to be straight in his neck since he uses the bend to evade and cheat. This in turn will help him learn self carriage. He has figured out the connection, but still wants me to hold him. Time for him to be a big boy and learn he can hold himself. For myself, I  have to work on my outside rein to block his bulging shoulder. I crawled back on to see if there was any difference. When I was able to put myself in the correct position and ask the right question we actually got the right response. No bucking at the canter and he only got a bit fast at the trot as he got tired. Just like many horse/rider pairs, Comrade and I have our compromises. Now I have to not accept mediocre answers when I know he can give better.
Comrade worked his butt off and did not have enough juice left to show Mom his jumping skills in the woods. Instead he followed Peggy like a puppy getting scratches as he cooled down. He survived being double teamed and I think he had fun.

And for those of you wondering, Winston is doing great. We put him on Bute for a couple days since he looked so sore, but soon he was running around the field. The swelling is all but gone around his cut and we are still putting antibiotic ointment and honey on it. He may have a little scar to remember the crazy day.
Now to figure out why Dottie is lame... It never ends :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Winston (and Me) Update

I dreaded going to the barn today. Worries crowded my mind on the hour drive. As I turned the corner near the barn, I started counting horses. One boy by the tree, one boy in the field and yay one boy by the water trough. So he was standing. When I parked I saw him walk in that "What mack truck hit me?" kind of way. I went right out to see him and was glad to see he did not have tree trunks for legs. There was swelling around the cut on his left leg, but only a small amount of heat.
Other than his obvious muscle soreness, I could see no new damage. I finally took an easy breath. Winston got cold hosed, the cut scrubbed and dressed with antibiotic and honey. I added B-L to his food to help with pain.
Overall he is doing so well considering all that happened. I am also doing better. It is not something I am going to forget, but I know when you own horses anything can happen. Now for a few pictures.

This is the ladder he ran into. That bend is Winston's work. The steps are probably what cut him.

Hard to see but that is the hole and rake that started the blind panic

His worst injury, cut on inside left front

Front view, slight swelling in the area
After taking care of everyone, I went for some pony therapy in the form of a Comrade ride. We went for a free spirited, jumping session in the woods. Just what I needed. Comrade and I even conquered our new blue barrel jump. It was not pretty, but he went over. His trot work between jumps was awesome. Comrade wanted to get strong but he came back to me when I asked. We ended with another stag jump over the barrels, then Peggy got on to cool him out. He even had foamy butt cheeks.
I am so lucky to have a supportive family and a great network of friends to help when life goes to hell. Now onto the work week and taking it day by day with Winston. Fingers crossed he continues on the up swing.

Still Shaking

Today was a day I never want to experience again. Everything started normal. I fed my ponies, talked with Gretchen and started doing my list of jobs. The list included rounding Dottie and DaVinci's feet and putting tail bags on the four big guys.
Dottie, done.
DaVinci, done.
Winston, done.
And then my day went to hell. I was backing Winston, when he moved toward the blanket rack. I stopped him, ready to move him forward when all of a sudden Winston lost it. The term "blind panic" totally describes him during this moment. He jumped forward, took off and ran into the metal tall rolling ladder. I stood there, helpless as he was stuck and in a panic. Then it got worse. I watched in horror as he fell backward away from the ladder and landed on the wheelbarrow handles. He quickly was caught in the wheelbarrow.
 I figured he would never get up.
 I had visions of broken bones.
All the while I could do nothing. Amazingly, Winston found a way free and he ran off into the field. I walked out dreading what I would find.
He was shaking, but standing on four legs. I saw a scrape over his eye and blood on his mouth. As I stood with him, I realized he was not the only one shaking.
We both walked back to the barn and looked at the aftermath. Winston pooped and snorted and I was in shock. I took off his blanket and quickly checked his back and legs. He ate a cookie and did stretches both ways so that was good. I then put a cooler on him. Of course Mom had used it the day before on Roscoe, so I had to try and adjust straps with hands that were barely working.
I realized I needed help and a second opinion. Peggy was my first thought, but I got her message machine. It was feeding time at her barn. I was still trying to make adjustments to the cooler.
I next tried Mom who was at work. She said she would try to come out, but she said to call Dad. I called Peggy again, but still no answer. Dad was home and he said he would come. That means I had at least an hour before he would show up.
I finally got the cooler on and looked Winston over again. Blood on his inside left leg proved he had been cut.
As horrific as the whole experience was, I was worried I was missing injuries. I really could not believe that was all. My mom called and said she was on her way. Whew...
Just then College girl drives up. I would not choose her opinion normally, but I needed a calm mind to look at Winston. She did not see anything I missed.
I was still tense, so I bagged Rosemary's tail and got the girls ready to go out. Moving around I noticed that by the blanket bar which started it all was a huge hole, which had not been there before. The damn mice had made so many holes they weakened the blue stone. When Winston stepped, the ground fell away and he was caught by the hole and a rake near by.That is what caused the blind panic. It made me feel a little better because I did not read any stress from him when I was asking him to back, so I was shocked at the level of panic.
Winston bent the hand rail on the ladder and demolished the wheelbarrow. I will take that over a broken Winston.
By the time Mom showed up, he had been nibbling hay and starting to relax. She agreed with me about cold hosing his leg, though College girl thought we were strange, so we got the hose ready. He also had a smaller scrape on his other front leg to address. The water showed the first was pretty bad, but not very deep. We put honey on that one and calendula on his other scrapes. Now we hope he heals well.
Winston trotted out a bit when he was turned out and he was still looking good a few hours later when I headed home.
I on the other hand am still shaking and tense. Owning horses brings such joy most of the time and can be utterly scary at others. I hope I never have to see that kind of panic in one of mine again.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in a Big Nut Shell

Since I have multiple horses, I am going to do a review by horse. But first, Happy Anniversary Equinpilot. Last year I started the blog more on a whim after being inspired by Jen, Cob Jockey, and found I have really enjoyed the writing and sharing. So thanks to the readers who have supported me and my horses. Speaking of...

He and I did not manage to make it to any shows this year, but considering he suffered a life threatening injury last year I am happy to just be able to ride him. With holistic help DaVinci found peace of mind even while having Manny duties with Roscoe. I love seeing him so happy with life. Who can ask for anything more? DaVinci gave me some really great rides including lateral work in which he excels and I am still learning. I was a proud owner when he behaved during rides from a college girl, our visiting friend and my niece. He turned 24 in December and is still an amazing horse. After 6 years with us, he is my go to, have fun pony to ride. Never thought I would say that about him. 2012 was his year of quiet understanding and confidence.
This picture with DaVinci ears reflects the peace of his year.

My super pony
Dottie had an up and down year. She battled stifle issues which caused some lameness. We knew she needed to get in shape, so we allowed a college girl to ride her during the summer. Although she helped with Dottie's fitness, she did not do much for her training. Her improved fitness did allow for canter work this year that I absolutely enjoyed. I did not enjoy getting my first kick in like 20yrs from her though. The joys of owning a mare. Like DaVinci, Dottie gave great rides to our visiting friend and my niece. Dottie is now 19yrs old and worth her weight in gold.
Dottie and Lily

Our sensitive boy had a wonderful year. Mom is his main rider, but he and I had a few stand out rides. With the right mindset he and I improved so much this year. We even cantered, woo hoo, which inspired Mom to ask him to canter too. Winston and I finally got to show Mom our new improved riding relationship and I had fun enjoying his great movement. He is not quite the caretaker that DaVinci is with Roscoe, but he does well as a play mate. He definitely had a sweet sixteen year. Now to work on losing some of his chunkiness ;)
Sweet boy

Playful boy
Our drama mama had a stellar show season. She participated in both VA Welsh shows where she was placed Grand champion Cob under one judge each time. Rosemary ended the year ranked 7th nationally and 1st regionally. Sounds good on the surface, but the point system favors the "most showed" pony rather than the best. But I did hear that the Judge from the spring show still remembers Rosemary quite well. While Rosemary's under saddle work was slow, she made great strides in her driving training. She was at home between the shafts which made the process pretty smooth. I think we can now claim to own a driving pony :) Rosemary did show adaptability between riders when we put my sister on her as well as our visiting friend. At 5yrs old we have plenty of time for Rosemary to learn and improve, but she was a super star this year.

Pretty girls
Our baby turned 1 and has grown into a handsome boy. His year was one of limits and learning. We used Clinton Anderson methods to learn how to handle his rearing, pulling and general colt antics. Roscoe had a huge change from early year to later year in his behavior. We saw the difference in each of the three shows in which he competed. He was a big pain at the first, but his great handler managed him well. His next show his breeder handled him after working him on the ground the day before. The fall show he had yet another handler and had a moment of naughtiness then stood great. We are excited to see how he is developing and I cannot wait until we can start riding him. Dealing with a colt is a new experience and one that will continue as long as he is manageable and happy. A video his breeder created has brought some positive comments from a few Cob breeders. We tend to be biased so other opinions are great. 2013 may open new doors for us and Roscoe.
Our Fancy boy

Ah, Comrade. This year was a roller coaster. We had one show rained out and one show where Comrade was lame for two weeks after. Our last show was wonderful, trot wise and horrible canter wise. But with all our issues, Comrade had some great breakthroughs with contact, rhythm and impulsion. I have to keep telling myself that he has achieved a lot with 1-2 rides a week and no lessons beyond what my mom could give. We have addressed saddle fit and experimented with treeless saddles. At the end of the year, Comrade proved he does his homework and gave me some of the best rides ever. These Cobs have certainly won me over. Hopefully lessons and jumping shows will come in 2013.

Whew, 6 horses make for a big nut shell review. Plus I will add that Jenna, the appy mare, has joined the mares full time. Rosemary pushes her around when people are near, but all three will stand in the small run in shed together. So far, so good. Here's hoping 2013 exceeds 2012 in greatness.
Best wishes to everyone.