Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Be Good..."

The dogs are packed.

I am not even close to packed.

The horses are set for Peggy. Of course I constantly think of things I need to tell  her. We do so many things without thinking, that it is hard to put it into words.

As I put the horses out this morning, I talked to each of them. This is a practice we started with Barry and Sherman. They need to know the plan and that we will be back. We see our horses everyday, so I want them to know our absence is temporary. And I always tell them to be good and enact the company manners. Overall they seem to handle separations and the changes better when we talk to them.

Now that we have had Jenna in the herd for over 3 months now, the human/horse relationship is a proven necessity. A strong consistent relationship gives the horses confidence in their place. I did not realize how confident my horses are, until faced with the almost debilitating neediness of Jenna. When Gretchen pays even a minute amount of attention to her, she is a different horse. I will never let my horses question my commitment to them.

So don't forget your bond to your horse extends beyond the time in the saddle. Tell them about plans that affect them. They understand more than we know.

Ah well I am off to pack. I will only have limited Internet access, so if you don't hear from me I am searching for spring in Florida :)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Last Ride on Comrade

Not forever, just until I come back from Florida.

Saturday we had lovely 50F temperatures. I started Comrade out in the arena and had to work hard to gain his attention since he was more interested in what Peggy was doing. Leg yield, straight, turn on the forehand, straight, circle, counter bend, and some bell curve. Finally I had a thinking pony.
From there I started using the little jumps to get him using his lazy pushing apparatus, aka his butt. Comrade proved again how little respect he has for PVC poles as he tripped over. I asked for more with a canter approach. He did much better picking his feet up. Next up, a connected line at the canter. He took off at the right spot for the X and the baby vertical, but missed over the last vertical. Ah, it is a start.
I ended by taking him out on trail and putting him over the solid log jumps and the barrel jump. Funny boy actually remembered how to pick his feet up, to the point of over jumping. With him I will take it.
Today was much colder and I only had a short time to ride. Thank you bareback pad. After a walk warm up, I surprised Comrade by taking him onto the side road. Nothing better than a straight road for working lateral.  An added bonus was that Comrade was not thrilled with the harder surface and slowed down. Since mister man likes to rush lateral movements to avoid doing them correctly, this road was perfect. He stayed straight as we leg yielded left, then right. Shoulder in then corner to head back up the road. Not surprising, Comrade did not want to work haunches out. Too much work. I was able to get only a few steps at a time. The good part, he was not looking at the woods or the other horses running around. A few trips up and down the road gave him a nice floppy neck and a big walk. I told him not to get too fat while I am gone. These Cobs live on air, and he has some fine, fat spring air coming.

While we are on the subject of spring, where the heck is it? As I reread our care instructions for the horses last year at the same time, I laughed to see that Dottie and Winston were already in muzzles. We still have heated buckets, blankets and are giving hay outside. And right at this moment we have snow on the ground. Seriously, this winter needs to end. The horses are shedding, the daffodils are blooming and it is still light outside at 7pm. That means spring. Mother nature needs to get with the program.
The grey boys wonder where the green grass is suppose to be

The dogs don't mind the snow. The deck is their favorite spot to play.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dottie in Art

Some of you may remember this picture my sister in law took one day at the barn.
Lily and I were leading Dottie to her stall. Of course I am only a leg an a foot in the picture. So many people saw this picture and saw it as a child leading a horse into the light (heaven). In fact on Facebook someone not connected to me or my sister in law posted the picture with the caption "A child shall lead them." A beautiful thought.
So today as I was chipping away at my to do list, my phone beeps a Facebook notice. My sister in law tagged my in a picture. Hmm, what could that be?


I have to say we could only wish the view out that door looked like this :) I only wish that the artist had taken the loop of lead line that I am holding out of the picture, so there would just be the line to my niece.
When her time comes, way way into the future, I hope she walks off into a beautiful green field with easy access to a cool barn. The picture is great, but Dottie would not appreciate flowers so much.
Overall it is a great gift and a wonderful way to store a memory.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Busy Times are Coming

I wish I could say that I was busy riding my horses, but the weather has kept the ground wet and slippery. We are getting ready for vacation and that means getting the barn set for Peggy to care for the horses. In addition to that, I have to trim all the boys feet. Let the crazy times begin :)

And a preview to the fun times ahead, Roscoe had to have an updated picture for registration. Mom and I quickly groomed the muddy boy and brushed out his mane and tail. He looked as good as he could with out a bath. Roscoe decided that he did not want to participate. Unusual for our camera hog baby. Plus the wind kicked up causing him to have a wild mane. Ah well, here goes some of the shots.
Cute Pony now measures 13h!

Slouching and Chewing :(

Square but looking the wrong way

Just chillin, impersonating a giraffe

Look I can stand with only a little chewing

Wild wind blown look

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Made For Me

Today was a good day, even with the gray skys and intermittent rain. Why?

1. Dottie was able to get another reset for her shoes. Yippee!

2. I noticed Rosemary has had a portion of her mane groomed off by Dottie. So I started shortening her mane to even it out some. Surprise, Rosemary actually fell asleep while I worked. I still have not decided how short I will take it. Now if only Roscoe would learn to fall asleep while his mane is pulled.

3. Peggy found a great deal on a harness for Rosemary. Which is good because she is outgrowing our old one. When I got to her house today, she showed me. This is a quality harness with beautiful details. She has been working on getting it cleaned up and the brass polished. I can't wait to try it on Rosemary. We still have to wait till July to give it to my Mom. I wonder if we will be able to wait that long :)

4. Comrade was back to his spunky self, so I really must be feeling better. Unfortunately, I passed it on to poor Peggy.

5. And the biggest and best part of the day. Peggy got me dress boots and they fit almost perfectly. I have never had a pair that fit so well and I have not even had a pair for years now. Most boots do not work for me because I am so short and have a wide calf. They make boots with wide enough calf widths, but the width starts too high up the leg for the height of mine. These boots Peggy found are short, extra wide in my foot size. I am so excited. They are an English brand called Equitector. Here are some features the website lists:
Now I can't wait to go to a show and try them out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Clinc Thoughts and Shrinkage

As I have started coming out of my sick haze, I have watched the video and thought about the clinic. One big thing all of us decided was that Comrade prefers the 3 piece loose ring with the peanut vs the egg butt revolver. He achieved softness much quicker and was happier. In our warm up he was nice and long in his neck with his crest softly flopping. The egg butt will move on to Rosemary to see how she likes it.
The other thing I realized after watching the video was how far Comrade has come and how well he reads his rider. Although I wish we were more our normal selves for the clinic, ie not sick for me and not babysitting for Comrade, it was great to see him tone it down to a level he thought I could handle. After all the actual reason for me riding him is for him to be safe for Peggy. This clinic shows he is more than ready for Peggy to get back into riding him. I was a total passenger during this lesson despite how well the instructor thought I was riding while sick. Comrade could have taken advantage of my lack of command, but instead he adjusted and listened.
Finally I noticed nearly each time we turned into the center pole sequence from the right Comrade had to skip to make the distance. The left turns and lines were smoother. I think it is because he leans on that shoulder, but it will be something to watch for in the future. I love the advantage of watching video back.
Just cause its cute :)

Okay enough about Comrade.

Rosemary has been on the Chinese herbs for 4 months now and the changes have been interesting. The sarcoid kept getting bigger. To the point we emailed Joyce again to make sure it was still an acceptable reaction.
So here is some pictures of recent changes:

Sarcoid 1-26-13 (after a cleaning)

Sarcoid 2-15-13

Sarcoid 3-3-13

Sarcoid 3-10-13
Can you see the difference? We have shrinkage!!!
It seems to have finished uprooting and now sags on her lid. When we noticed the sagging we also  noticed the softness at the right side. Soon after the sarcoid starting shrinking. The roundness became more pointed. The girth decreased. There is a big scab on the tip, so I have no idea how much is actually there.
So far the reactions are going the right direction. Mom and I are hoping the size shrinks enough before fly season starts that a mask won't be uncomfortable. It is still too big for her to do any driving since the blinkers would rub, but her bridle can go over so she can still work.
It may be the biology major in me, but I have enjoyed watching the progression. The body is an amazing piece of work.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Clinic Recap

Clinic day finally arrived despite a snow storm and getting sick.
I crawled out of bed and left by 6:30 so we could head to Peggy's. Peggy had the truck loaded and the pony brushed. At this point I was not sure I would be able to ride since as Peggy's husband described I looked like death warmed over. Felt that way too. Well I had a hour and a half drive to feel better. Armed with Ginger Ale we loaded up to go to Morven Park.
We conveniently pulled in just behind the clinician. She was very friendly and let us walk Comrade around the indoor before the first lesson started. He looked around at the jumps and bleachers, but it was the mirrors that really caught his attention. At first he called to the pony in the mirror :) Then he kept looking at himself.

Every time we rode by the mirrors I caught him checking the view. I just laughed. As for the indoor, he was perfectly happy inside. We warmed up in a smaller ring next to the one with the jumps. He was soft and long, which worked for me since I was not all there. After a great warm up we moved into the other ring for the clinic.
Yvonne was impressed with Comrade, size and shape wise when she saw him walking the indoor. She said "I could fit on him." Then she was impressed with his trot. He did have a great trot, but it was not his best. I had already told her about our canter issues and Comrade decided to show her that his right lead is his bad lead by not picking it up. We did eventually get to show canter and get her opinion. She believes he is not balanced or aware of his body at the canter. I agree. She worked a little flat work focusing on fixing my issues which will help him. His actions are causing me to fall into bad habits. For example my inside hand tends to cross the withers when he leans. I really have to recognize when he drags me away from inside leg to outside rein.
As we moved onto a jump exercise, she stressed maintaining my dressage during the jumping. Flat work can make or break jumping. That turned my head. It is a philosophy I have long believed in and learned eventing an older horse. She started simple, 3 nine rails then to a small "X." Comrade drifted but never looked twice at the jumps. She told me to keep him straight and let him figure it out on his own. He surprised me because he did not get excited or strong at all. Quiet and jumping are not normal descriptions for Comrade. He did keep a nice rhythm and took most of the jumps in stride. Nothing horrible, but nothing awe inspiring either.
Comrade learned a big lesson though about wooden poles. THEY HURT! He did his normal lazy jump and took down a vertical. The weight of the wood made him think twice. He is used to the PVC poles at home. Yvonne highly recommended using wooden poles with him so he learns to respect the jumps. We ended with a baby course. The good, bad and ugly are in the video.
So in the end,
Comrade handled the indoor like he always worked in one.
We found out he likes to watch himself in mirrors.
Comrade needs wooden poles
He needs short correct sessions of canter to get him using his hind end.
She recommends cross rails to help with his straightness
We are on the right track with his training. Her thoughts reflected ours in a way we don't see often. It was refreshing.
And the biggest thing I learned, Comrade was taking care of me. I have seen him do it with Peggy. He was really careful and quiet today because he knew I did not feel well. I was worse off than I thought.

Overall the clinic was totally worth it and Comrade showed a new level of maturity. And even at my low level of functioning we still had a great ride.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What to Wear?

With the clinic coming on Saturday, fingers crossed the weather does not screw everything, I needed to figure out what saddle Comrade would wear.
When I jump him at home, I just use the Wintec Isabell. I am not jumping mountains so no jump saddle needed, just shorten the stirrups a hole or two. It helps my legs are short.

At the hunter show last year, I used Dottie's Wintec Wide. So I brought her saddle this weekend to make sure it would work. The first day I used a thin pad. Comrade had no problem with the saddle, but it did keep shifting right. Drove me crazy. The next day I used my sheepskin pad. Much better shifting wise, but still a little was happening. I soon found that my right stirrup was a half hole shorter than the left, making me step on it more causing the shift. I solved that by switching the stirrups around. I am still a little torn on using the Wide saddle, but Comrade was great in it and I won't look like a crazy person riding in a dressage saddle for a jumping clinic.
I remember doing dressage tests on Barry in my Pro Trainer event saddle and no one looked at me funny. I don't think I would get the same result jumping in a dressage saddle. Our sport is unfortunately one where image is judged.
I have also decided to put Comrade back into the 3 piece loose ring for the clinic. First because we have worked longer in that bit and I know he likes it. Second because it will show me if he likes one bit better than the other. I won't know unless I go back to the first bit.
The other thing I have to figure out is whether or not to wear the spurs. They really help me remind Comrade to bend and to supple him when he gets spooky. I don't ride in them all the time at home, so I may ask Mom whether to wear them or not.
Decisions, decisions.
Oh, well we shall see. At least I managed to clip Comrade's head and ears. No more bearded winter pony look. Now to find my paddocks and britches...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

"Step on a Crack, Break your Mother's Back"

Anybody remember this childhood game? We played this in hallways that had the 12x12 tiles or on sidewalks. Real easy, don't step on any cracks.
How does this pertain to horses? you ask.
Well it seems Roscoe learned the rules. So when we went for a stroll on Saturday and he spooked at a small patio of pavers, I worked with him to get him to step on the patio. After a few discussions he put one hoof on a paver, then later we got two hooves. At no time during all the time we worked did he step on a crack. He really thought it was not right to walk on those pavers.
Today we went over there again. He was still not sure about the pavers, but it took less time to get him to step forward. Roscoe was willing to eat the grass growing between the pavers though.

Hmm, that looks edible
I ran out of cookies so the session had to end. He never had a big blow up or was really stupid. Pretty good considering the dogs were playing in the leaves, Rosemary was calling, the wind was blowing and there were big orange cones on posts right next to this spot.
Is that my mother calling?
Roscoe finally joined the other horses in the tail bag fashion. We had to order new tail bags because our old ones went missing. I have no idea where they could have gone, but with the mud I could not wait for them to appear. I think Roscoe's butt looks really with his tail bagged.
And just because he is so cute...

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Litte Cool, A Little Warm

A constant question during blanket season for us is whether to dress them where they could be a little cool or a little warm.
16 years ago when we started blanketing Sherman and Barry, the answer was pretty easy because they had a sheet and a heavier weight blanket. Now each of the horses, except Roscoe for now, has at least 4 levels of blankets.

Turnout Sheet: Temperature range of use 50-60F Brands: Weatherbeeta, StormShield
This is the blanket I would have for any horse I own. Perfect for wind and rain. Studies have shown that horses are just fine being naked during the winter, but wind and rain can both undermine their natural insulation. Plus it is a great way to keep the ponies clean too.

Light Weight 100gm fill: Temperature range of use 40-50F Brands: Weatherbeeta, Baker, Off brand
This is the newest edition to our blanketing scheme, but a very useful one. During some of the days where the temperature briefly goes above 50 then drops low again this blanket breathes great. For indoor use we have Baker rugs for some of the horses that fit in this category.

Mid Weight 200gm fill: Temperature range of use 30-40F Brands: Weatherbeeta, Rambo, Off brand
This blanket along with a sheet made our original batch of blankets. As blanket technology has improved over the years, this blanket has gotten lighter in actual weight so the horses are so much more comfortable. With VA weather the horses end up wearing this blanket a lot so comfort is very important.

Heavy Weight 300gm fill: Temperature range of use 30F and below Brands: StormShield, Turtleneck, Stateline, Kensington
This blanket allows us to avoid layering. We used to put a cooler beneath the mid weight to achieve the same level. Though we do not use it often, I am so glad to have this option for the freak freezing snowy days we sometimes face.

Since we only go out once a day blanket choice is key. Whether we let them be cool or warm, they are burning calories which according to Joyce that is what winter is for. We have used many brands of blankets, but now we lean towards Weatherbeeta. Their blankets are broad enough to handle my wide ponies preventing rubbed shoulders. Plus they breathe making dressing for day to night easier. We take into account winds, clouds and sun when we decide. For example today the temperature was close to 40F and the horse were dressed in light weights, but the wind was high and it was getting cooler. I decided to put on mid weights since tomorrows weather looks similar. If it had been sunny with no wind, I would have let them be cool.

Blanketing benefits me and it is a responsibility I take seriously. Fortunately my horses enjoy their blankets which makes the decisions easier.
And for laugh,
Dog blankets too. Kayla's heavy weight and sheet on the left are both like horse blankets with two crossing surcingles. Griffyn's just have one Velcro belly band. They have their own blanket bar to match the horses.