Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Blog Hop: Time Quality and Quantity

I have long wanted to ask these questions about the time we work our horses. As people we have expectations for the amount of time we commit to work. For me I am expected to work 40 hours a week. A normal day is 8 hours. Whether I am sitting by a door greeting people (very rare) or busting butt completing an audit, I get the same pay.
Time is a factor with riding, but the quality and quantity can be controlled by us. For some a quality ride could involve barrels and seconds of time and for others it could be a ride of endurance lasting days.

So here are the questions:
Work for my horse is defined as ______________

How many days does your horse work?

Do you feel you have to ride your horse a certain length of time to consider it work?

Do you feel you can still get quality work in a small quantity of time?

For my horses, work is defined as anytime I ask them a question and require an answer. It could be mental, clicker training or desensitization or physical, ridden, driven or in hand. That definition really came about with our purchase of Winston. We could not ride him, so defining work as being ridden was tossed out. Two years of ground work and desensitization has made all the difference. The broad definition of work was reinforced with Roscoe's birth. He has worked since day one. When I asked him to pick up his foot for me, that was work for a foal. So when you see one of my horses' names on our calendar getting credit for working, that could be as simple as a giving the kids a pony ride to as difficult as a jumping exercise or intense dressage session.

In a perfect world, I would love my horses to work at least 3 times a week. Well, reality is more like once a week. With 6 workable horses, it is tough. The squeaky wheel, ie trouble makers, tend to get the focus. I wish I had someone to ride with, so the horses could get more work time. I am lucky to have horses that retain knowledge, but also have older horses who do not retain muscle that well.

Growing up, I thought I had to ride at least 30 minutes for my horse to have worked. That was the length of time for a private lesson. As my riding progressed, my instructor knew that if she felt Barry and I had achieved the lesson, she could end the lesson before our allotted time. That extra time would be added to another lesson. Being flexible with the quantity of time worked has been the best tool I have dealing with the different personalities. Some horses do better with a couple short sessions versus one long session. My early years with Comrade showed a gradual increase in work time as his enjoyment in working developed. The best part is that the times we have asked the horses to work much longer periods,like hunter paces, they have been able to handle it.

I definitely think quality work can be achieved in a small quantity of time. Just think about a horse show. Our horses give us, hopefully, their best in sometimes just minutes. Schooling and learning do need more time, but depending on the horse a concept learned should not be worked too much at first. My instructor always said to end on a positive note, so if my horse did the movement correctly, don't push it too much more. Some horses will question whether they are right or not and may change their answer if constantly asked to do the same movement. The Cobs are funny because they may not get a concept the first ride, but will think about it and come back better the next ride.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting Readjusted

Hot and humid continue to plague our area, but we learn to live with sweat dripping. The horses get that lovely white dried sweat that is oh so attractive. When they are dry, grooming is normal, but if they are  sweaty then we go to the great summer grooming tool: the hose. Roscoe was looking rough and sweaty so I gave him a shower before bringing him into the barn. As I worked on braiding his Shoo Fly tag back into his mane, I came to the decision to utilize the heat and work Roscoe. His reintroduction to the herd went smoothly, so it was time to see how he would be under saddle.
"Let's Go!"

Unfortunately his bridle did not fair well not seeing the light of day for two months and is not usable. I put on DaVinci's bridle thinking it would work for now. Well Roscoe has a wide head, but it is still not quite long enough. It was workable though so we headed to the arena. I shut the gate and hopped on. He turned and asked "Where's my Sugar?" Oh yeah, he was back. Roscoe set off with that huge, swinging walk and I just sighed. The bridle was okay for walking, but nothing more. But just walking was showing me my pony missed working. He was listening and moving off my leg better than he has before. Not sure where he learned that. I was pretty impressed and now know he has a ton of energy to burn. As I started to melt and began thinking about ending, he would move on as if saying "Uh no way, I am not ready to end the ride." My second ride went about the same, only we did a bit of trotting on straight sides. When I halted him to get off, he walked forward after I dropped my stirrups. He never does that. I hopped off and told him we had to be done. Then to pacify him, I had him trot with me. I did a little circle and he did a bigger one around me both ways. He is definitely ready for some serious work. Now I just have to be ready to handle it. I just found out I got a higher position at work, which will mean a little more pay. Hopefully, it will be enough to start some lessons.
While Roscoe is getting readjusted to being back at home, Comrade, Rosemary and Griffyn were literally getting readjusted by the chiropractor. They were over due and I could tell Rosemary was having some issues. Plus Comrade has had this mystery lameness. He has a head bob at the trot, but just barely, and is working great. The best we can see is it is in the left hind.
Griffyn, red at front, patrolling the barn

Griffyn, our corgi, has really maintained well and has so much less atrophy in his right leg. Even my Dad raves about how much better he is acting. Due to the severity of his injuries, he will never be 100%, but he is definitely in less pain.

Pony Ride Duty, such a pretty Cob

Rosemary did need readjustment in her neck and pelvis. I think she has a long standing issue that we will always have to deal with, but the chiropractor said she was still better than the first time. Mom said Rosemary practically fell asleep during the work. Can't wait to see how she feels now.
I asked Peggy if they found anything on Comrade that might explain the lameness. She said "Maybe." The question is whether the tilted pelvis (up instead of flat), is the cause of the lameness or the result of it. So that will be another wait and see.
One ride is NEVER enough, so Dottie was up

The chiropractor, who is a friend too, looked at the other horses and answered a long had question of Mom's. Dottie always carries her neck low and has some hard bumps. We massage and stretch, which helps her, but it is never gone. The chiropractor confirmed it is arthritis and Dottie most likely injured it in the past. Not too surprising since she used to be a fox hunter. I wish I could afford to get everyone a chiropractic visit since the results are so good. Ah well, we do what we can.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Start As You Mean To Go

That was the the thought Peggy and I came to as we drove home with Roscoe in the trailer yesterday. Of course the debate has been on going for the last month. How would Roscoe be when he came home? Would he still be okay with Comrade? How do we reintroduce him? Well we had two long drives to think about it.
The drive there included a passenger for the trailer. Regalia is a Half Welsh mare that is for sale to a special home.

I met her the morning we left because I had to head home before her arrival. An almost 4hr job interview had burned me out. She is a sweetheart and a bit aloof with strangers. I really liked how she is put together and she has a long forelock. Peggy and I hoped she would warm up to us as the drive went along. Turned out Regalia decided to worry us on the drive. She would not eat the wet hay cubes or drink any water. Peggy even went to the grocery store to buy dark syrup and sweet corn to try and tempt her. No such luck. Every stop we gave her the options, but she continued to refuse. The plus side was that she had a cool travel day and stayed dry. By the second stop I pinched her neck and it responded quickly, so I knew she was still hydrated.
Of course by the second stop the truck was making squealing noises. Seriously, we can't make this trip without technical difficulties. Turned out it was a leaky power steering issue. Between the truck and trying to tempt Regalia, we traveled for 13 hours. By that point, it was a matter of checking in with the foals while Lisa backed the trailer up to the barn to unload Regalia and load Roscoe's stuff. Roscoe was in a new turnout and was focused on the arrival of another mare. We left him to his strutting and went to the house.
It is amazing how time flies when you are talking horses. Peggy bugged out to go to bed since she was the driver. When Lisa asked it I wanted to help put the horses away, it was already 12am. Roscoe was acting the crazy stud due to Regalia and had to have his top door closed. Then we had to herd the mares and foals to the field he came out of. It was cool that the mares continue to remember me and let me play with their babies. They also remember the cookies I tend to keep in my pocket :)
These pictures were taken by Lisa back in June during our visit.

Back at the house we managed to talk another 2 hours, definitely a late night. I managed to get up on time and except for an unexpected distraction I had to text Lisa about, we left close to the planned time. We found a little auto shop to top off the power steering and picked up Peggy's coffee. Just having Roscoe on the trailer, we had a weight lift. He was back. Lisa took awesome care of him, but it just is so much better when he is where he is suppose to be.

The other thing that was a relief was that he ate and drank when we stopped. He also cleaned up the corn that Regalia left behind. Peggy gave him another one later on and he brought me the husk to hold while he plucked bits off of it. Yep our boy was back.

Yum, Corn

He was not 100% sure he was going home and decided to reserve  his judgement until he actually saw home. You know we could be bringing him somewhere else and dropping him again. So at the last stop we hashed out where he would go once we arrived. We decided to take advantage of his travel tiredness and start as we mean to go on and turn him out with Comrade. Larry, bless him, got all the horses shifted so that when we pulled up he could go right out.

Roscoe was so happy to be home. I could barely hold him as we approached the gate. Comrade waited and Roscoe went right at him. We all held our breathe as we waited to see the outcome. They squealed, but it was all normal. Roscoe did nothing out of the ordinary and Comrade was not worried. They trotted around, checking out the place. Rosemary was not happy because we separated the girls completely and she could not check in with him. That was for another day.
So turnout is back to normal, he even was by the girls today. Of course the hot wire had to be plugged in again. Now we will have to see how the riding goes. That was the only thing that did not work out while he was away. With the weather and life in general, Jen was not able to ride Roscoe at all. While he gained some butt muscles, he did lose some back muscle. Time to get him back in work.

Oh and the stabilizer system was totally awesome. The mountain turns were easier to navigate and the horses shifting was muted. The truck stopped and started so much smoother.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Post #400: After 9 Years, Amazing Ride

After 3 hard falls, 30 days of training over 3 months, and nine years of sporadic rides, I cantered Winston on purpose around the whole arena. This is not my first time cantering him, but this was for more than a half a circle.

Mom has been working on canter with him for a few rides and did not have any bad reactions from him. In fact he was more ready than she was. That was what I found with him when we cantered. I was a bit tense, but Winston did not care. He was so happy to be cantering. He wanted to keep going and offered the transitions, which were so smooth. Peggy watched as I let him go large, with the arena gate open and Dottie and DaVinci grazing just beyond. Who would have ever imagined this could happen. It was amazing.

Time, patience and building trust has definitely paid off in Winston's case. He is a fun ride now, when before I literally shook when I sat on his back. He enjoys the trails and now it seems he is enjoying the canter work. Great things really do come to those who wait.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Must Have Trailer Accessory

After our memorable trip home when we dropped off Roscoe, we had the initiative to spend the money on a trailer accessory we have always wanted, a stabilizer system. Mom asked the trailer guys about pricing when the frayed brake line was fixed. The system runs just below $600.
So why is this a must have?
This system helps prevent the sway action and distributes the weight more evenly on the tow vehicle. The biggest difference you can see right away, the truck tends to be more level. Normally our truck is slightly lower in the rear when the trailer is hooked. We have to jack the trailer up pretty high to disconnect because the truck rises as the trailer weight is removed. Mom said when she dropped the foot with the system on, she kept waiting for the truck to rise and it did not happen. Because the truck and trailer are level, braking will be easier and there is more control.

Our truck needed a deeper drop than the kit supplied, so the trailer guys had to find a used one. Definitely a hefty set up. I would also recommend a locking hitch pin. The trailer guys said hitches get stolen for the cost of the metal. Crazy what some people will do.

While it was in for the system, I decided to get the tires replaced. I spent the extra to upgrade from 6 ply(Hi Run) to 8 ply (Tow Master). If they last as long as my last set, the expense will be worth it. Roscoe will be riding in comfort for his trip home. The count down begins, seven days and he will be home.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

She's Just Not Into You

I had to laugh when I received an update from Lisa the other day. I was on the computer when my phone started beeping a bunch of text alerts. When I looked it was a stream of texts from Lisa. It seems that none of the bred mares have come back into heat, yay. She is going to tease them for another week to make sure their cycles are not off. Well, while she was checking those mares she found that Roscoe's Aunt through his sire's side, Athanasia was in heat. She is not a fan of Roscoe even though he talks to her. I think it is because Roscoe went after her adopted baby Ffafr, the yearling colt. I know Rosemary gets protective of Roscoe whenever the others go after him. This mare is one of two I worried about kicking the heck out of Roscoe. The other turned out okay, but this mare proved true.
Photo by Lisa: Athanasia with baby half brother Ffafr

Lisa decided to try the breeding and even put tape on Athanasia's nose so Roscoe could mount. He was able to mount but she said she was closed for business. That tail was clamped tight. I guess when he got close to succeeding, she started kicking. Tape can only do so much. So poor Roscoe was dealt his first rejection and was left unsatisfied. Sorry bud, she's just not into you and it is not worth an injury to push the breeding. Too bad, since she is a great Cob mare.
Love those Arab ears :)

I told Lisa this meant she needed to get back in the saddle this year :) Luckily I have been able to get in the saddle more this month. I think the horses have already worked more than they did last month. So things are looking up.