dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Snow Day

Today, like most of the east coast of North America we were hit with a massive snow storm. In the morning my face was being pelted by driving ice and I could not get the front doors of the barn open. They were frozen shut. Fortunately the back doors were fine so I could come in that way. The horses were stuck in for the morning. Irish was not impressed made sure that I knew it. Steele is much more easy going and was fine being inside.

By afternoon it had cleared off so I dragged my son out to help me dig out the dutch doors. Steele had a blast.


look at the snow fly

nothing like a roll to freshen one up. 

Tomorrow I plan to drag out the snow shoes and head into the woods.

In case you are wondering- I didn't take many of Irish. His problem has returned so he wasn't up to doing more than walk about. :(

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Voice of God..?

Three years ago, when our youngest graduated and headed off to university we put the house on the market and started looking for our dream property. I swear we looked at everything for sale that had 5 acres to 100 acres. Nothing seemed right. Finally we found the right one. I fell in love with the house and property immediately. All it was missing was the barn and paddocks.

When we first purchased it I took a zillion photos (no surprise there :) ).

This is one I took from our bedroom window:

I could picture the barn and fields.

This I took this morning:

I know it's rainy but to me it's the most beautiful view in the world.

As you can see the weather has been atrocious. This means that I can only let the horses out into the little paddock beside the barn- the field is too wet and dangerous for them to run around in. I put Steele's rain sheet on so he wouldn't get soaked. As I looked out the window I saw the following tableau:

Steele was mouthing the buckles on his blanket while Irish was pulling on the neck. I'm sure that this was the dialogue:
Steele: "I'm pretty sure that we need to undo these metal thingies"

Irish: "nah, I'll just pull it over your head"

Steele: "ow, it's also connected between the legs you know!"

Great,  I thought just great. They'll have that blanket in shreds. 

I opened the window and yelled: "Irish- oy! stop it!"

Steele stopped and looked around, settling the innocent 'who me?' look on his face. But he couldn't see me. His head swiveled around.
Irish was frozen, Steele's blanket still in his mouth.

Steele: "did you hear her?"

Irish "shh just pretend that we're doing nothing"

Steele: "But where is she???"

Me: "Irish.let.go.right.now"

Irish lets go and pretends to mouth some hay. Steele is still trying to figure out where I am.

I think that it's good for them to know that they are being watched.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Steele is wishing all your horses unlimited treats and attention

it was surprisingly easy to get him to accept the hat. Once he realized that he got an apple slice for leaving it on he was on board.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Update on Irish

I had the most perfect Christmas gift today. Today was actually clear with neither rain nor snow and temperature was 8 degrees Celsius. I noticed this morning that Irish was covered in shavings which meant that he laid down through the night. He rarely does this anymore- I think because it's hard to get up. I check the front of his fetlocks- no fresh sores or blood. His other symptoms had been disappearing as well but I was holding off in case I was fooling myself.

Because everything is a soggy muddy mess the horses can't go in their field but have to stay in the smaller sacrifice paddock. To make this easier on them exercise is helpful.

So after my morning coffee I donned my breeches and headed out to saddle Irish. Ed asked me if I was going to hack and I told him that no because everything would be far to soft. Turns out that this was a good plan. I knew something was up when he started jigging going up the hill. And then freaking out at the 'A' side of the ring. I thought that he was spooking at the place across the street (it is a mess of old cars and sheds). I rolled my eyes because of course he sees this every freaking day. He was absolutely full of piss and vinegar. In fact I briefly considered dismounting and getting the lunge line but I decided that I would just ride through it.

Irish was like he was about 4 years ago. Which means a total brat. He was up and full of himself and very distractable
But he was completly and utterly sound. Using his hind end was not a problem. Forward was not a problem.
Steering? Well that was sometimes a problem. But we worked through it all. I know that when he's in this mood walks on a long rein are not helpful. His Thoroughbred side needs to GO. So we went- mostly trot. It's very tempting to hold on to the reins when he's like this but it doesn't help. The idea is to half-halt and do things to make him focus on me. One of my favourite exercises for this is to do a 20 metre circle with 10 metre circles at the 4 points. Once he burned off his initial energy he settled into work. On his trots across the diagonal he really wanted to lengthen. So I let him. Whee it was fun. Of course he couldn't sustain it the full way so I brought him back. But he hasn't been able to lengthen for a long time.

I was over the moon. It was so tempting to keep riding but I didnt' want to make him sore- after all he's out of shape. So we walked down to the barn. I was grinning.

Merry Christmas to me.
Given that the previcox worked so well I believe that it indicates that his issues were arthritis but I have to check with my vet to be sure. Which means it will likely recur. But that's okay. I'm going to enjoy this.

I should have known when I saw this the other day

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No Sweet Tooth

Every night when I tuck the horses in they get a small treat- a cut up carrot or apple or some horse treats.

However, Irish loves peppermints. His absolute favourite are scotch mints or the green ones (take note if you come to visit). Peppermints are what convinced him to go through water and to self-load on the trailer - there was one waiting in the manger for him each time.

It appears, however, that Steele is not as impressed by them. I had given him one a few months ago when I gave one to Irish. He spit it across the stall. Seriously. I heard it ping off the bars.

But he's older now and my mom had given me some when I visited her last week. She and Irish like the same type of mints. Yesterday I threw one in each of their feedbins right before supper. Irish's was gone in an instant. I was amused watching Steele- he would pick it up and mouth it, drop it in the bin, sniff it and repeat. After a few minutes I could have swore I heard him crunch it. Ah- see all horses love peppermints.

I went in to get their supper ready. When I came out with the buckets I spied something small and white on the floor. After I gave them their feed I went to see what it was.

You guessed it.
It was the peppermint.
About 5 feet away from the stall.

I picked it up and threw it in Irish's bin.
"ooh, another one. " He gobbled it up.

I don't think that he minds that Steele is rejecting mints.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saddle up

Yesterday I took Irish for a ride in the woods. It was fun and the dogs enjoyed it. However, Steele was not impressed to be left behind and he let me know that he expected his own attention when I got back.

After a groom I decided to girth up the saddle. He's had the saddle laid on but never girthed. I didn't make it too tight but he didn't seem to mind the tightening at all. I walked him out of the barn and this is what happened:

'what the? what's on my back?'
'get off--- hey look grass!'

That was the extent of the drama. He didn't even come against the lead line.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which Steele learns about longeing..

I had originally titled this post 'In which Steele learns to longe'. But then I realized that this would be false.

I know that he's just two and that his joints are growing and too much on a 20 metre circle is not a good idea. However, a little would be beneficial for his training until he can do more. The other incentive has been the #$@% weather. It's been terrible- rain, rain, and, just to relieve the tedium, rain. As a result the horses turnout has been curtailed.

Monday there was more than 30 mm of rain so I left them in for the day. Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was hay. :) The next day was just cloudy but the fields were too soaked to risk them being out, so I let them into the small paddock only. Again, Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was 3 kinds of hay: in his stall, in Irish's stall and in the hay box.

I realized that when I came home that they needed to blow off some steam. Unfortunately my riding ring is not fenced (that's on the list for the spring). So I decided that today would be a good time to broach the concept of longeing. According to Wikepedia:
Longeing has many benefits for both horses and riders.
For a young or green (inexperienced) horse, longeing is used to teach a horse to respond to voice commands and the trainer's body language, to accustom them to the feel of a saddle and bridle, and to begin their introduction to the feel of reins and bit pressure. In many training stables, a horse is first introduced on the longe to nearly everything it is going to be asked to do under saddle, including movement at all gaits, response to hand and voice commands (called riding aids), and remaining calm in unusual or stressful situations.
On horses of any age or level of experience, longeing is used to exercise a horse when it cannot be ridden, or when additional work is needed to develop balance, rhythm, and to improve the horse's gaits. It is also useful to help settle a horse before riding, especially a high-strung horse, a young horse, or a horse that has been confined more than usual. However, longeingfor long periods or with the intent to tire a horse out can cause joint strain. It can be used to "blow off steam" or "get the bucks out" before a rider gets on, though proper turnout or liberty work is a better alternative, because the a longeing session is training time, not play time.
The whip is not used to hit the horse but to encourage him to move along.
Steele pranced passaged beside me all the way up to the ring. It was so cute- he obviously wanted to go but knew that he had to stay beside me. As we got nearer he began to blow while he pranced passaged (sounds more dressage-y, don't you think?).

Once we were in the ring I swapped out the leadline for the longe line. I also had my longe whip. In full disclosure I am an effective longer but not a graceful one. I often get messed up trying to manage the line and the whip and keep my body in the correct posture. If I was a superhero my name would be 'The Entangler'. Give me any length of rope, string, hose etc and I will give you a gordian know without even trying! Ed doesn't even bother asking me to wrap up extension cords- he just sighs and takes care of it. I once was rolling up a hose and I felt some resistance. When I looked up I had it wrapped around d'Arcy (my border collie) and was dragging him along. He looked confused but resigned. So I cannot master the art of keeping the longe line perfectly coiled. I have learned though to keep myself clear of it.

But I digress.

I started with simply leading Steele along and then gradually letting out the line and moving away from him. He was a bit confused and came in towards me- I simply kept going and encouraging him to walk along. Once he got the idea I picked up the whip to keep him moving along. Our circle was quite large with me moving around about 5 feet to the inside. It was funny- I waggled the end of the whip and he stopped dead and looked behind me. He knows about longe whips but he wanted to turn around and check it out. I chirped and said 'walk along'. He would go and then slow up, I waggled the whip, he would look and want to go back and we'd repeat. Finally he figured that I wanted him to keep going and he decided to humour me. I let him pick the pace he wanted to go. When he picked up the trot I let him go on for a few rounds and then used my voice and body language to get him back to walk. When he wanted to go too far from the longe line I used a gentle pulses to keep him on the track I chose. Once he took off cantering, I simply went with him, pulsing the line, after a bit he slowed to a trot and then a walk. All the time I was telling him what a good boy he was. :)

After a few minutes I asked him to 'whoa'.
He stopped dead and looked at me. 'now what?'
I wanted to change direction. Up to now we'd been going to the left.
I asked him to move to the other side.
I then hit a big hole in our training.
'uh, mom? you're on the wrong side'
I had forgotten to teach him to lead from the right side. 

So I went back to the idea that he was to lead on the right, forget the longeing.
"walk along' I said brightly and strode off.
He stopped, waited for me to get ahead and then moved to the left.
I stopped, repositioned us and tried again.
He walked a bit with me looking confused and a little miffed. He stopped and this time dodged around me to put me in the 'right' spot.

After a few of these he finally figured out that I actually meant him to go this way with me on the wrong side.
'fine, but it's weird.' 
After a bit of walking I moved away. He slowed down, I waggled the whip. He tried to turn around, I chirped and he walked ahead. I told him he was genius. After a bit I asked him to 'trot' and then jogged a bit beside him. We'd been doing that on the lead line so he knew what I wanted. He trotted off and then scooted into a canter. I let him go a bit and then asked him to trot. He did. After a few rounds to the right, I stopped him, praised him profusely and put the lead line on. We headed to eat some grass and then a nice groom.

I was reflecting on how smart he was and how quickly he caught on.

I'm pretty sure that he was reflecting on how much work he has ahead teaching me.
'she is sweet but a bit slow'

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Good Intentions and all that.....

Remember my statement that I was not going to blanket Steele?? (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/10/trying-on-clothes.html) .

Well we can count that as a giant FAIL.

But I have good reasons. Really.

It's the weather. For the past several years our winter has been less about the snow and more about the dreary drizzly depressing rain. And it's cold.

I hate when horses are wet and cold. I don't think that it's good for them. A wet coat also creates the perfect conditions for rain rot.

I swear it's rained the past 20 days out of 30. Maybe more. Today it was raining again. And barely above freezing.


Now I'm conflicted. I hate horses getting wet and I hate keeping them in. In this weather I let them out into the small sacrifice paddock. That way they don't chew up the grass one and they are less likely to bomb around and slip.

I decided to see if Irish's rain sheet could be used on Steele. Nope. It was HUGE on him. Irish is a size 78. Ed helped me measure Steele- he's a 72. We headed into town and bought him his own rainsheet. I bought a 74 so he has some room to grow. I looked at some various colours but I think that this one works for him.

It fits pretty well. And he gets to stay out in the rain. I took it off when the rain came so strong that they needed to go in. He didn't seem to mind it:

do I have to wear this?

well it doesn't interfere with my eating....

 I look good in everything!

Maybe I do have a blanket problem after all.....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Steele's First Hack

We've been building to this for a while. I am not sure why, but Tuesday I decided was the day. I put a halter on Steele and led him out of the barn.

Walking with confidence I led him down to the bottom of the field, correcting when he got ahead or behind me. He tried a couple times to push me with his shoulder but I addressed that immediately. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill he was walking like a civilized horse- at my shoulder, respecting my space and ignoring the perfectly delectible grass at his feet. For him that's the hardest.

I decided to do the short trail that starts at the bottom of the hill, by the manure pile and other spooky items, through some swampy bits, a stream and in the trees. It comes out at the bottom of the second paddock.

We marched right along. He stopped in the swampy bits to sniff a bit. I gave him a few seconds and then walked on. Steele was like 'oh should we stop and check- nope I guess we're going.'

When he was really uncertain he wanted to walk right behind me. I would be okay with Irish because I know that he won't step on me. I was less certain with Steele but made it all along. I was very impressed- he looked at everything and spooked at nothing.

I imagine he and Irish had a late night conversation that went like this:

Steele: I went on a hack! Just like you. 

Irish: Yes I know. 

Steele: We went by some weird buildings and funny metal things. 

Irish: They won't hurt you but sometimes small critters hide in them. 

Steele: I know. Mom said I was so brave. 

Irish: sigh

Steele: And then there was this mix of grass, water and mud. It tasted funny. 

Irish: That part is scary at first but it won't suck you in. 

Steele: I wasn't worried. Mom said that the first time she took you it took you 10 minutes before you'd put a toe in. I barely hesitated. 

Irish: *rolls eyes* You young foals don't understand the dangers out there

Steele: It was kind of interesting. Then there were bird noises and other animals. Mom said they were squirrels. But I wasn't worried!

Irish: yes I know....

Steele: and then there was this running water. I wasn't sure but mom kept going so I followed. And then we went through more mud. I could hear you calling me! 

Irish: well you could have answered!!

Steele:but you always say that you don't answer me because mom doesn't like it when we call when we're working. 

Irish: working?! You were on a walk! You just wait until she puts the saddle on. Then you'll know what work is. 

Steele: I think it will be fun! I can go exploring all sorts of places. 

Irish: Well that is fun, mostly. She doesn't get us in trouble anyway. 

Steele: I'm sure that I'll be awesome at it!! \

Irish: *sigh* yes, I'm sure. Now go to sleep!

Steele: But I'm not tired, I can stay up all nigh--------zzzzzzz

Monday, December 3, 2012

That darn cat

The weather has taken a balmy turn with today reaching a high of 10 degrees Celsius.

It was a quiet afternoon and Steele was standing contentedly in the cross ties getting a good grooming.

Irish was munching hay happily in his stall.

Suddenly, above us there was a flurry of activity.

Irish, brave soul that he his bolted out of his stall as fast as he could.

Steele exploded beside me in the cross ties.

I did what any self respecting horse person would do. I jumped to a spot of safety and stood projecting a calming 'vibe' and said that magic word 'whoa'. I however, was not holding out much hope.

Steele came up against the cross ties, backed up, bolted ahead and hit them again, reared, shook his head and stood perfectly still looking at me wide eyed.

Steele: 'Did you hear that?' 

Me: 'yes I did, but don't worry'

Steele: 'what is it? 

Me: 'I think it's the cat'

Irish from outside: 'it's a LION. He's followed me from the ring!!!!'
(for reference refer to: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/09/dogs-cats-and-horses-oh-my.html)

Me: 'you're not helping Irish.' 

At this point the cat came trotting across the rafters above.

Steele looked at Martin, looked at me, blew and looked peeved.

We finished our grooming session with no more surprises.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Obedient and Flexible

One of the stable rules that I've been working on with Steele is him staying in his stall when I open the door. He doesn't barge by but if I'm not blocking it he wanders out.  I've been working on it for the past few months.

He knows that I don't want him to but sometimes he decides it's worth it to dive across the aisle to the hay. However, more recently, if I'm in the stall and he starts to consider leaving I say 'uh uh' and he comes back in.

Tonight as I was getting him some fresh water I turned around to see him with all 4 legs inside the stall but his head was snaked around and stuck in Irish's feed dish.

"Steele!!" I exclaim

"what?" he responds innocently. "I'm in my stall"

Irish just sighs.

So there's no excuse for not being able to do lateral work.

I have a  few years to get E-H 'shoulder in with head in feed bin' added to dressage tests. We'll nail that move!

This was when Steele first came to show you how he'd have to
flex his head around

the day he came to live here when I opened the he came right out.