Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Exercise VS Turnout

For a long time I worried about my horses' fitness after long periods of no riding. This stemmed from having horses at a boarding barn, where they spent more time inside than out especially in bad weather. When we moved Barry and Sherman to the new barn and they had nearly 24hr turn out we were amazed at the increase in energy and loss of stocked up legs. I joked that almost 20yr old Barry had found the fountain of youth. He was a handful to ride.
After seeing the benefits of turn out we decided not to go back to a place with limited turn out unless that was the only option. The horses we have now, still show some of the same effects. Dottie and DaVinci do lose muscle at their age, but their legs stay tight and they are still ready to work when asked. The younger ones seem to maintain better muscle.

When spring comes, we don't have as much ground to recover in terms of their fitness. Mother nature provided her own work out for them. I can attest to the fact that walking through snow can be tough. So the horses being out on it full time, means they are exercising. Just like with people, the horses still have to build back specific muscles used only during riding, but at least they have the support of winter toughened muscles during the process.

Recently on Facebook someone asked about whether her pasture kept horse would need to start back at square one in the spring or if the winter romping was enough exercise to maintain his fitness. Surprisingly, the response from the vet told about a study done to answer that question. 3 control group were set: Pasture kept, stalled w/ no work, and stalled w/ 5-10hrs of work a week. They established a baseline with an exercise test for each horse before the 14 week program and then did the same test at the end. The researchers used GPS to track estimated distances each traveled. The Pasture kept group traveled more distance than the other two and had greater bone density. Heart rate and temperature stayed comparable to the stalled horses. Overall it showed that stalled horses with no exercise lose fitness, but pasture kept horses remained as fit as their stalled w/exercise companions.

Definitely makes me feel better about the lost riding time this winter. The aspect of greater bone density reminded me of an article Mom read about making sure foals got enough turn out. The article, sorry no link, talked about turn out giving the foals stronger tendons and bone. They also learn to handle terrain and build supportive muscle. I can vouch for Roscoe being able to run across the various terrains found at the barn.
I figured since so many of us are stuck in snowy situations this was a good time for this post. We had to hang our hay bags so they did not get buried in the snow, but as soon as we could we put them back on the ground. The horses walk those bags all over the turn out which I prefer to them standing around. Though Mother Nature is doing a great job providing an exercise program, I hope we can get back to steady riding soon.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Naked Ponies... and A Love Affair

We actually got out of our Artic freeze for a day. I decided to let all the horses go naked. They needed a break after wearing 400grms for so long. I brought my fancy camera out to play with and focused on the Red boys. They definitely had trouble in their eyes.

Double Trouble
Through the woods and over the hill
Even cut off he is awesome
Cruising Comrade
Across the field
Look at that stretch
Stepping Out
Multi Directional
Working on pair action
Working Butt and Ab muscles
Proving they are the male variety :/
Oh, your still watching?
Girl watching
Roscoe's reading Conehead belly spot
Resting, They are so close in height now
Not to be left out
Rosemary and her tree
Showing the boys how it is done
Look Familiar?
Pretty Girl
After I took pictures, I started to hear squealing while I worked in the barn. I looked out to see Dottie and Sonny sweet talking each other. He was rubbing on Dottie's butt and softly nickering at her. Dottie said yes she was in season, but not yet open season. Sonny said okay, but showed her he was ready and able even in his thirties. Eventually we pulled him out to keep the calm. I came home today to find Mom and Peggy put them out together. And today Dottie said it was open season. Sonny answered the call to duty not once, but twice. Happy girl was satisfied the rest of the day. We have a feeling that Sherman used to service her too. I guess we can be happy both these boys are shooting blanks.

Lover boy

Almost ready for action

Monday, February 16, 2015


We have had very cold weather lately. Add wind and it is down right miserable. Yesterday, we had an early start in order to make it to work on time. Mom was adding liners to their heavy weights, my sister was making food and I was filling hay bags. The horses were soaking up the sun while they could.
Peggy came out a little later and started passing out the filled hay bags. Everything was moving like clockwork. While finishing the last few things, Peggy came up and said that she had to go get the girls. All of us were thinking about she was talking about her escape artist chickens. Then I saw her reach for halters. UH OH... that means she is talking about Dottie and Rosemary. I told my sister to go help her, not thinking there would be a problem. I carried out the last hay bag, passing my sister who was getting carrots and walked out to see Dottie and Rosemary running down the driveway. Oh Shit! I ran for the fence and watched them turn left and head up the road. Those damn girls were going visiting.
Double Trouble

Just up the road is a herd of Arabians. Both herds can see each other and spend time communicating long distance. I guess Dottie decided a freaking cold, windy day was perfect to have a face to face. When Peggy and I hit the road, we could not see them anywhere. The Arabs were in their barn. I just started cursing. Poor Peggy felt so bad. I sent her back for a car and sent my sister up a side road near the Arabs. Then I called work to say we would be late.
Eventually Mom, Peggy and Larry picked me up in the truck. I was beginning to feel like we needed to head back to where my sister was headed. So after going down the road and turning around we went towards that side road. As we approached we could see my sister leading Rosemary and the Arabs' owner leading Dottie. After relief hit, I laughed and said I was surprised he had a halter that would even begin to go around Dottie's head.
My sister said she found them eating the grass in his yard, but with only carrots she could only keep them in the area. Of course she did not have her cell phone, leaving the rest of us stressing.

All together it was only 20 minutes, but boy did those girls worry me. I have heard too many horror stories about loose horses to not stress. Plus DaVinci was ticked at them for leaving him behind and Roscoe was screaming for his girls. When they were tucked back in the field eating hay, we could laugh about it while rushing to work.
Onto the next adventure, which looks like snow.
And this is how we feel about snow :(

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Age is only a number. What those years mean is an individual choice.
Sometimes there are things that just warm your heart. With horses these mean so much. With my new schedule, I only see the horses at night. Most times it is cold and hard, limiting what we can do. It has been tough and a bit lonely. I hate the fact that my Mom and sister do most of the the daily chores in the morning and that I miss out on the camaraderie of working together. By time I get there, Peggy is done for the day and only pops her head out to say good night. Luckily my horses are willing to fill the gap, especially Rosemary. Since there is not a lot of work left for me, I feel like I need to ride.
After Rosemary's great response to a night ride, I decided to try Roscoe. It helps knowing Peggy and Larry are still awake in the house and keep watch.
Just like his mother, Roscoe let me have a night ride. No moon though so we walked in the slightly crunchy arena and ventured to the trail head. To dark for anything more. So good for his first time.
My super baby with a wild mane
I put the western saddle on for a little more security. The arena was too crunchy to do anything more than walk, so that is what we did. Roscoe acted no differently than if the sun had been shining. And even though I did not have spurs he remembered our last ride with them. His bending was so much better. Then we left the arena to walk toward the trail head. I had no plan to go out because the moon was absent. Roscoe was super. I asked him to walk on and he did, trusting me. That means so much to me. Now I can't wait for better weather and less crunchy footing to get some more in depth work. At 3 1/2 his maturity amazes me.
While I rode Roscoe, Sonny came out and observed. He has seemed really interested recently. Saturday Peggy told me she had thought to start riding Sonny again. I agreed that it was worth a try. And to clarify, the "riding" would be walking around for like five minutes because he is over 30 and has not been ridden in years. Today we were going to put the treeless on him and take him for a hand walk on trail. But after saddling him Peggy thought he would be disappointed if no one got on him. Considering he had not moved or objected to the process so far we figured,why not. Sonny used to be ridden in a bitless bridle so we just put leadlines on his halter with a long lead for Mom to hold.
Just walking into the arena, you could see Sonny perk up and get a hop in his step. Peggy leaned on his back, but again there was no reaction from Sonny. She swung her leg over and sat on her boy with a smile.
Back together again!!!
They did a lap around with Mom leading before deciding to unleash them.
Sonny and I go way back. My friend owned him before Peggy and many times we rode together. Some of those rides we switched horses, so Sonny and I did many a trail ride. He is not an easy ride because he has flair that does not always take in account a rider. He may do a leap and just expect you to stay with him.
One Happy Pony and One Happy Rider
Well when Peggy took control, I could see the old Sonny start to come through. He tried to hop into a trot, but Peggy said no. It was so great to see him so happy to work. Peggy walked him over a few poles with no issues. Deciding not to push her luck, Peggy dismounted soon after.
They love a challenge at any age
We untacked him to see if he wanted to roll in the sand, but he was more interested in following Peggy around. Peggy jogged a bit and Sonny trotted right behind her. When Peggy tired, I took over giving him longer trot periods. He followed me in circles, over poles and changing directions. When I stopped he halted right by me. Cookies kept the experience positive.
I am a big believer in keeping horses in work if they can and want to. It does help keep them young and healthy. Yes the level and intensity of work many decrease, but the challenge is still present. Sonny has watched all the others go to the arena and work. He decided he was done missing out. Now he will join the work list. For all of us it was the most heartwarming moment to see him go out in the turn out and show off his "saddle mark."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Moon Craziness

We can always tell when a full moon is coming by seeing the crazy acts start happening. Winston gets hungry and cranky. Rosemary gets frisky and Dottie gets a lighter step. The Red boys play rougher, hence the new bites on Roscoe. DaVinci gets hyper aware. It can even make people have some craziness too.
Love seeing the horses all together, just missing the red boys for obvious reasons. Sonny is deciding which grey boy to push around. The girls push him around and the grey boys push the girls around. No one reigns supreme here.
5 out of 7 making a great herd
I rode Roscoe in the time approaching a full moon. He was a bit distracted, so I decided to to throw something new at him. I did say people can be crazy to :) Roscoe was introduced to my little friends, right spur and left spur. The spursuaders were in the car, so I just used the inch nub ones already in the barn. I still carried the whip as my gas pedal. Roscoe did not react badly to the spurs. I engaged them to get him to bend. It was very cool to apply the spurs and have him immediately give me a correct bend through his body. He seemed surprised his body reacted that way. It seriously helped to focus him. When he showed he would not overreact, I used the spurs to get him to step under on a small circle. That exercise moved from the arena to the trail where I circled him around trees. Roscoe learned to not worry about what Comrade was doing and to just focus on what I was asking. I love having a new tool to help grow his skills and our partnership.

A few days later with a full moon shining, I walked into the barn to find a stall full of horses. Larry had given Sonny his candy hay and dinner and left the door open to the girls and grey boys. He told me Rosemary had gone into the stall. When I looked, not only was Rosemary there but Dottie and Winston's front half too. The girls had chased out Sonny. Then Winston pushed the girls back to get to the candy hay. I had to chase them all out and get Sonny back in. Not easy at all. Once I did that, I decided to ride Rosemary. I bundled up and put her quarter sheet on. Unfortunately, we found that the arena was way too hard. I walked around, but there was no hope.
My intrepid steed
Determined to ride after a rough work day, I pointed Rosemary towards the woods. The moon was so bright, the trail was pretty well lit. Rosemary was awesome and just marched along. She did look sideways at the barrel jump, but had no extreme reaction. It was a crazy idea that turned out to be one of the most enjoyable rides I have had. If you ever have a safe chance to ride by moon light, do it.

Last night Rosemary fell victim to Winston's jaws. He gets aggressive when hungry and the moon make him ravenous. Mom came in to find a huge hole down to the fur in Rosemary's 100gr blanket. The one blanket I can't find a replacement for, figures. This is a few weeks after he ripped a massive tear in same blanket of DaVinci's. I swear the next full moon I am putting a muzzle on him to protect blankets. We had to order liners to use under sheets to replace the damaged blankets. Luckily Schneider's has them on sale.

I hope the moon craziness is over for this time and will go better next. Anyone else notice changes in their equines in the light of a full moon?