dancing horses

dancing horses

Monday, July 31, 2023

Mid Summer Lull

 After a flurry of activity this spring (clinics, lessons, a show), things have been quiet. 

lush pastures with all the rain

This was deliberate based on finances. With the vet bill, saving for a new saddle and just trying to be fiscally responsible with my decreased income from retirement, I decided to not do too many things this summer. 

It is impossible to be bored though when you own a property with horses. It's been pretty much raining since early June. We had a torrential rainstorm about 2 weeks ago in which 3 months of rain fell in 12 hours. It was horrible and a few people died being swept away when rivers burst their banks. We actually fared well so I am grateful. 

my drainage worked so the barn didn't flood but it was close. 
Quaid is probably wondering how he's going to come out

driveway needed some work

this is a daybed that usually has water with the spring runoff

My ring was impacted quite a bit. I lost a lot of rubber and spent some time raking and putting it back (4 tractor bucket loads). 
what wasn't washed away was pounded to a hard finish

Quaid at liberty playing in the water. 

My ring drains really well but the puddles stayed for about 5 days. Despite the heat wave that followed the storm.  But after lots of dragging and adding in sand my ring is back to normal. 

Much better. 

It's nice to have the time to work on things. 

The bigger issue is hay. With all the wet cutting hay has been impossible. We were told that we were getting some last week. I told them that we were really low but I was assured I'd get some. I called on Wednesday because I hadn't heard and was told that they had given all to someone else. It seems that this person showed up with lots of trailers and took it all. I was pissed because I didn't have any hay so they let me come and take some out of the barn. However, it looks like I'm getting the hay in the next few days so phew. I'm so happy that I have grass pastures. It has really saved me. I will be so relieved when my barn is full of hay. When I boarded I never gave it a thought.  Now every plan is made with the caveat that I might have to cancel to get hay. 

Ah well, enough whining. The horses are doing great. Carmen is looking fit and feeling fine. Quaid is continuing to be his sweet self- taking things in stride. Our ground driving is looking really good. It's been hot so a lot of my afternoons are spent sitting on the deck reading a book and sipping a beverage. It's a good way to enjoy the summer. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Momentous Non-Events

 How did it get to be July 15th already? 

Time sure does fly when you're having fun. I wanted to share a few developments that are happening around here. 

every morning is foggy. It does make for nice moody photos though

Last week my farrier came to do the horses. Carmen needed new shoes as we had worn out her older ones. I was excited to take off Quaid's shoe and pad to see how his hoof looked underneath. 

The answer was that it looked great! The hole is barely there and has grown out to his toe. That is pretty good for 3 months post surgery. 

March 10th a few days post surgery

July 11th 

The pad was ditched and he was just shod in new shoes. Since his sole has been covered since February I was glad that the ground was soft from all the rain. You can imagine how closely I watched him to make sure he wasn't sore. It's been 4 days and he's showing no signs of lameness or soreness.  I'm hoping to transition him to barefoot again this fall but for now I'm just glad that taking off the pad was a total non-event. 

Back in April when the horses had their spring appointments the vet thought that Quaid looked pretty immature and advised me to not back him. I totally agreed. He had taken a big growth spurt and had that weedy look of young horses (and teenagers). 

End of April

When he was on stall rest/reduced turnout I had kept his feed a bit restricted to keep the energy low. He did have free choice hay but still looked pretty ribby. With the restrictions lifted he was able to build up some muscle. I ended up doubling his feed too. Grass+Exercise+more food all worked to get him looking much better. 

End of June

I taped him last week and he has gained 150 pounds since March.  I tried my Spanish saddle on him and the fit was pretty good. I sent the photos off to the saddle fitter and she thought it looked good. It was a huge difference since end of April. 

Quaid has been doing really well with our training sessions. I have introduced side reins and he is doing well with them. Before I hook them on I have them fastened to the surcingle so that they flap around. He is getting used to having things flop at his side.  I have been bringing up the saddle too and putting it on near the end. I've put weight in the stirrups, hung over the side and even sat on him (with Julia holding him) and he is curious but not worried too much. 

Yesterday, Julia came and I rode while she worked with Quaid. She put the saddle on him and worked with him for a bit.  After a good school,  I hopped off Carmen and untacked her. She hung around the ring while we took Quaid over to the mounting block. I set my phone up on a post and here's what happened: 

 As you can see, being 'ridden' was a total non-event. He didn't mind it at all. At my second dismount you might be able to see how he adjusts his stance to keep him balance. I'm really happy that our first ride was not stressful for him. 

I am thrilled with how good he's being about all this. I am not planning to do much riding with him this summer but will continue to play with this so it just feels like part of what we do. 

getting a pony ride. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Control Issues

 I know that an update is far overdue. The truth is that it's been raining non-stop for days and it's starting to get to me. 

I've been doing my best to squeeze in rides in between the rain but it's not easy. That is, of course, a first world problem. 

even the hens are seeking higher ground
I am, however, getting worried about getting hay. I am getting near the end of my stack and we'll need a number of dry days before hay can be cut. But I guess I'll file that under 'things I have zero control over'. 

I need to be more zen like Ripley

Not that you can tell, but I didn't actually write this post to bitch about the weather. I wanted to share some learning that is really starting to take root. It's interesting how, when you're learning something, that you see that lesson everywhere. In my case I've seen it a lot in my lesson, blog posts and from other online learning. 

Back in May at the Obstacle Clinic, Mike and Nikki reviewed (as they always do) the idea of teaching a horse to control his own feet. The idea being that once a horse knows the task (like the balance beam), you shouldn't have to micro-manage them but give them freedom to make a mistake. Then correct the mistake and repeat. In this example, when Quaid walked off the balance beam half-way over on Sunday (a point at which he had been over it multiple times) I would back him up and then ask again. The backing up was a little uncomfortable (not a lot) and the going over properly was easy. 

doing a good job, even if this angle makes him look like a donkey

Carmen has been a bit spicy since right before our show. Not out of control but definitely opinionated. My riding is at the point where I can prevent her from doing her 90-degree-spin-and-bolt manoeuvre. Which is great. Except that I found myself doing this often is whatever spot of the day was 'certain death' (it moves around). 

screen grab from a lesson when a dog sneezed

What I realised was that every time we hit that spot I had to micromanage her through it. 

Every. Time. 

Clearly this was not the lesson I wanted her to learn. That she could go by a spot (like a sneezing dog) only if I had maximum control over her. So I decided to change things up. The first part of the ride I would micro-manage. That way she knew what I wanted and that I could get her through. 

And I knew she knew. And that she knew that I knew she knew. Y'know? 

Then when we went by I would keep my cues the same but everything soft. When she spun and bolted I simply allowed her to canter and we would canter a 15/20 metre circle until that felt like work. I would then bring her down to trot and go by that spot again, without making my cues any harder. My thoughts were that she needed to make a decision about how she was going to travel by and that there were consequences to choices. 

In my next lesson after I had this realisation (fyi all photos of me riding Carmen are from that lesson) Jane was really helping me to get Carmen off the inside leg and for me to let go of the inside rein. 

"you won't know she understands bending to the leg if you always use your hands"

Which is pretty much the same principle. 

In my rides after that lesson I realised how much Carmen pushes against my inside leg. When she does respond it's because she chooses to. I noticed that going through a corner it would not matter how much leg I had, she would not bend until we were through. Instead she would be looking out. Going down the side of the ring with the trees I could feel her entire weight shifted to the inside. That is not good from a bio-mechanic perspective. It will not help her to carry herself. 

I don't know if you can tell but all of her weight
is subtly shifted to the inside

If my leg cue is always at a 8/10 level there's not much more to go up without significant tension on my part. So I dug out my spurs. My incredibly mild and soft spurs.  The ones with the little ball that rolls along their sides. 

The first ride I asked with my leg and, when nothing happened, turned my spur into her side. Carmen reached around and tried to bite my foot. Which tells you everything you need to know about her thoughts on who is in charge. I laughed but did not give up. I did my very best to be very clear and simple: if she bent with the leg no spur. If she ignored leg, spur. It took maybe 2 rides and then I was able to stop wearing them. 

bending. Look Ma, no spurs

It's a bit of difficult thing to learn: ride every stride but don't micro-manage. I can feel Carmen getting more confident in her choices. If you are up by my ring you may even hear me say 'it's your choice, make it a good one'.  It's not easy to 'let go' when you ride a horse that can turn 90 degrees and be at mach 10 in a millisecond. It definitely unseats me. I have been doing some rides in my Spanish saddle to help. But the other day she did a spin and bolt and as I got my seat back in the saddle I gave her a big kick and put her into a canter. I didn't even stop to be scared. 

the result is that she's like butter. 

I think letting her make these choices is giving her more confidence too. She doesn't have to rely on me to control her feet- she's doing that. I am merely giving good advice. 

Anyway, that's where we are right now. 
What are you working on? 

If it doesn't stop raining soon I'm going to need different tack.