Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Look Ma, No Reins.

Doesn't she look thrilled.

Like I had alluded in my previous post, I was starting to get a bit burnt out of riding in the ring and Doing The Things. Not that it wasn't fun, because Annie has been working really hard to meet me halfway with my expectations in the ring.

Just, sometimes, the ring is a boring place.

So I took Annie for a little trek around the neighborhood in the snackamore (which is really just Suzie's old leather halter with some reins attached). I am always pretty cautious of over-doing it in the ring, especially because last year thats all we ever did was school. While it didn't seem to burn Annie out, it burnt me out.

Happy ears in the snackamore.
This year, I've decided to take up the opportunity to ride with the variety of trainers that come up to the area and take advantage of the trails we have access to at home.

Still, I do try and get in some solo-schooling, especially because I'd like to retain the things I've learned and to progress on the pieces we put together in the clinics we attend.

Last Thursday, we went out with intentions to school and it was evident both Annie and I were just not into it.

So, mid-schooling session, I tossed my reins aside and decided to just play.

First things first, we tested our brakes.

And then moved on to speed and turning.

And finally, I ponied up and veryyyyy quietly (almost too quietly lol) asked for canter:

I'm sure Annie would've been happy to just trot along lol

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mostly Just Riding

*Behind on posting again, arg!

"Y you do this to me?" -Annie
Following our Not Good/ Good ride on Thursday, we hacked around the subdivision Friday. Annie was super - we had done some despooking stuff in the yard, which included dragging tarps and waving a plastic bag around on the end of a whip. She was not amused, but didn't offer to spook or make a fuss.

The hack out was wonderful - she was calm, quiet, and when she offered to spook at a few things, I pressed her on and towards the object. She got over herself pretty quickly, as if to say, "Oh right, that hockey net isn't scary."

I did find she was running a bit of a fever when we got back to the barn tho (she didn't want to eat grass in the front, which I found weird). Come to find, she was having a mild reaction to her vaccinations we had boostered since she had punctured herself. Poor mare was probably feeling a combination of under the weather and tired from the day before.

I gave her some bute and cold hosed her neck to help with the tiny bit of swelling. The vet who sent up the vaccines called me back later that day to assure me that it was "normal" of sorts, in some horses (to react).

She got Saturday off, although we did do some in-hand work. She has reverted back to staring down the driveway and flipping me the bird about walking down the driveway. She doesn't drag me, but she is obviously excited to go out and will just be impatient (fidgets if I halt her, etc). So we walked up and down the driveway a bunch, did some circling, etc. She was better after the work and I put her back, not wanting to do too much since she was still recovering from her wee reaction, haha.

Sunday we went for a hack with Nicole and AJ, intent on only doing an easy walk ride. We toodled around and ended up stripping the horse's tack and letting them run loose in the arena. Spud and AJ tore it up and we tentatively let Annie loose with them, as she hasn't shown any inclination to dislike AJ (since we ride together almost every weekend). However, Annie took major offence to AJ after rolling around and when she went over to investigate the geldings, she threw some kicks in AJ's direction. And then squatted, nickered, and went into fucking FLAMING heat.

I guess she is a rough lover?

We got the horses separated and luckily, AJ suffered nothing more than some hair missing. Gah, Annie. I apologized profusely to Nicole, offering to bring AJ carrots and apples. Nicole shrugged and said, "Well, now we know not to let her loose with him." I appreciated her kindness, and felt a bit stupid that we let Annie loose, but we assumed it would be OK. Lesson learned, I guess.

The horses were tacked back up, we re-mounted, and went for a little ride around the fairgrounds property. Annie was well behaved, although slightly enamored with AJ. I was happy that altho she was a gross, liquid spewing machine, she was listening to her rider despite having a hunk of horse-flesh with her, haha.

Boyfriend visited Sunday - Monday evening, so no pony time was to be had.

Tuesday, however, it was back to the proverbial grind and I headed out mid-morning to ride. I had been having aversions to riding in the ring lately, not because we've been having bad rides, but because I feel like I lack motivation to school and to do so competently on my own. Before getting burnt out with ring riding and making myself ride because I have to vs I want to, I decided that I'd limit the amount of schooling rides we had that week.

Regardless, we still had a good schooling session. Annie was a bit more "up" hacking out and even called out for friend's twice, which she hasn't done in a very long time. Being that we have hacked with friends 80% of the time lately (due to the bears), I think Annie got used to meeting up with another horse, haha. I figured it would be good for her to go out on her lonesome and she settled into a quiet, sedated walk well before we got to the ring.

In the ring, we ended up working mostly on trot-canter-trot transitions. The ride itself was very tough for Annie - learning to balance herself, hold connection, and also downshift back into trot was difficult for her. Usually, our canter-trot transitions look like we're just falling into a heap. Which, is part of the process I guess, haha. Still, I took the opportunity to work on them and Annie ended up getting frazzled when we started to work on the simple changes. The connection in the bridle was gone and I was now riding a confused llama.

Last year, had I done that many transitions to and from canter, Annie would have lost her proverbial mind. Not only that, but she was actually trying to figure out what I wanted. At one point, instead of coming back to a trot, she collected herself into the slowest, bundled little canter. I reached forward, patted her, and laughed.

We ended the ride after we got a few good canter-trot transitions and I made a mental note to make my simple changes longer in duration (eg. trotting longer before picking up canter). Trying to do them quicker seemed to confuse Annie a bit, especially changing the lead, haha.

Something is missing here...
Heading home from the ride, Annie quietly walked along. So quiet, that I ended up unbuckling her reins and rode her the remaining 10 minutes home with them draped around her neck. She listened well enough, although she did try and snatch a few mouthfuls of grass on the way home!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

One of the Best, One of the Worst.

One week following her injury, Annie returned to work. During the entire process, she never wavered in soundness, but didn't seem to mind the unplanned vacation and copious grass eating in the front yard (it is unfenced, so only monitored grazing is allowed!). 

Eating, eating, eating.
Since returning back to the saddle, we've taken it easy (so to speak) and have mostly just been hacking. The injury to her pastern has held up great with the added movement, but did crack a bit the first two rides, as it was drying out and scabbing over. I wanted to keep the rides light and simple, mostly for the benefit of the mare.

For the most part, Annie was happy to oblige. On Wednesday, I hacked out with a friend who I hadn't ridden with in a very long time and her horse, Geronimo. Long-time readers will remember I used to lease Geronimo, who is a fiery chestnut gelding. 

Annie was pretty good heading out, but got a bit spooky about going up the driveway to V's place. She always seems amazed when I take her places there are other horses. "WAIT. We aren't the only ones in this entire planet?!" No, mare, no we aren't.

New friend, Geronimo.
She took to hacking beside Geronimo quietly, and even ignored him when he spooked at something random. She had a few spooky moments, but otherwise was well behaved. We had intended to hack down to a bridge, but because Annie lacks hind shoes, we ended up cutting the route short to save her from any discomfort. The ride was pretty long - much longer than I had anticipated - but it was a quiet and nice hack nonetheless.

Our re-introduction to riding was pretty uneventful, except for a little melt-down on Thursday. It was raining and I had arranged to ride with a friend. Because I was running behind, S showed up riding her young gelding Charlie. This seemed to rile Annie up, as she couldn't believe her friend came to her house!!! It didn't help that Charlie was spooking, snorting, and fidgeting the entire time S had to wait for us to tack up. I get it - he's a young, green horse so the sights and sounds around him were making him a bit agitated. Unfortunately, it did nothing good for Annie. She fed off of him like a parasite and was very reactive when I finally mounted (she moved and fidgeted and carried on). 

With Charlie, heading home.
It seemed like both horses were feeding off of eachother and when one flinched, the other spooked. Probably not the best hacking out partners, in hindsight, haha. We went to round a corner in the road as both horses were finally beginning to relax and BAM. Charlie came to a screeching halt - a group of people with hoods, umbrellas, and TONS of children were walking towards us in the rain. Annie came to a halt as well and I felt her front half grow a good 10ft while her back dropped to the ground. It was a very uneasy feeling - having nothing in front of you. 

S managed to egg Charlie on, as Annie completely refused to move and was nothing more than a solid statue. My mind screamed at me to jump off, but the bull-headed Scorpio in me told me to give her a whack on the shoulder with the crop and carry on. So, I did. 

And, mare lost her noodle. She went forward, hesitated, went forward, slammed on the brakes, went forward, spooked hard, did a weird pirouette to the right, and scrambled to get her feet under her, and tried to shy off towards the barn. The weird tap-dance she did on the asphalt put my heart in my throat, as it felt like she was going to slip and fall smack dab in the road. During her whirling and twirling, the woman walking called out, "Is she scared of us?"
Uh, I'd say so, haha. 

I don't want to sound conceited, but she is looking amazing this year.
So grown up.
If only the brain would match...
It was weird tho. She's never ever spooked at people, much less tried to EVADE the situation. So, needless to say I was feeling pretty annoyed and frustrated with her. 

The horses carried on for a few more minutes before both mellowed out into a quiet walk. I offered that we should head to the ring to school, as both horses were edgy and if Annie wanted to be a twit about people WALKING, we could school. 

The ride in the arena was wonderful - she ignored Charlie spooking at the far corner, ignored the sound of the wind rustling the trees, and just kept doing exactly what I asked her. She felt steady and obedient in my hands, taking contact evenly in both reins. It was a really, really nice ride. She even offered a few wonderful stretches at the trot, enough so that S called out "She looks good!!". I was pretty damn pleased, especially with the Not So Good Beginning to our ride. 

I kept the school short, since she was being good and because of her leg. I had wrapped it on this particular day, but still didn't want to stress the injury and cause it to rip/bleed. The hack home was quiet, uneventful and both horses were happy to plod along like they had been doing it their whole life. 

Finally getting a badonkadonk.
So I guess she made up for her weird, crappy, not so fun behavior with the excellent school. Has been one of the best since our clinic with Anthony back in May! Still, her behavior left me reeling a bit, and kind of nervous for my next ride. The feeling of feet scrambling on asphalt is unsettling to say the least.

Kind of weird in a way - having one of the best schools on her and yet one of the worst hacks. 


Does anyone else get this way? Their horse is the best of the best and then the next day is a complete friggen idiot? How do you cope when things kind of back-slide, or when you have a bad ride? 

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Weird Silver Lining in Injuries

The best kind of mounting block is the back tailgate, lol.
Last Wednesday, I managed another ride with R and Colby. We had wanted to do a low-key ride around the subdivision and a little school in the ring. The bears have still been hanging around, so it's not particularly safe to wander off into the woods, especially in the evening.

Annie came out quiet and was great to tack - after I mounted up she moved out willingly and then... she felt kind of weird. I halted her, gathered my reins, and asked her to trot. She trotted out on the asphalt and seemed kinda stiff? Unbalanced? Ouchy? I sighed, figuring it was due to our rocky trail ride the day before and trotted her again to assess. Now she felt fine. Ok then.

Cautiously, I continued the ride and noted she felt fine at the walk but every so often just felt weird. Not lame. Not limping. Just... kind of weird.

Apprehensive ears.
R and I rode over to the arena and as I trotted around, attempting to gauge the severity and if it was her hind feet feeling crappy, R called out that she looked fine. I was tentative to agree, and figured it was just some kind of soreness in her hind feet. She felt just fine tracking left and a bit stiff and resistant tracking right. Not wanting to push it, we quit there and headed home.

Back at the barn I poulticed and wrapped her hooves before turning her back out, hoping a few days worth of rest would help. I felt pretty bad about trail riding over the rocks, especially if it had caused her discomfort. I gave her a hearty pat, apologizing while I dumped mash into her bucket.

The next morning I went out and drove Spud, who was much better behaved than the drives prior. We worked hard to establish a trot-walk transition and ensuring he understood standing meant not moving an inch. I was happy with him and when I returned to the barn, I threw Annie on the lunge to see what I had.

Hint: it ends like this.
To the left, sound as a whistle. To the right? A verrrrry slight head bob every few steps. It was so slight and inconsistent I wasn't sure if she was compensating for her hinds or if something else was going on.

I scratched my head and took her through the barn to tie and started to peel off the hoof wraps to find... nothing.

Moving to her front, I looked down and saw it.

A very large, angry swelling bubbled up from her right fetlock to her knee. Upon further inspection of the area, I found a puncture wound hidden under her fetlock hair.

Post-cold hosing (day of discovery)
It was an "old" injury - must've been 24 hours or so old at that point, which means I rode the poor girl while she was injured. Ugh. I was so focused on her hind end that I neglected to look at the whole picture.

I went straight to work, cold hosing and poulticing, aiming to get the swelling under control. The wound itself was a few mm deep and after several walks around the paddock, I haven't found a damn thing she could've poked herself on. But, horses will be horses and I'm sure I'll never know how it happened.

Unhappy, fat leg. :(
Day 1
Regardless, I've fixed a few fences and cleaned up some fallen branches in the pasture - I am kicking myself for not inspecting her fronts and looking closer, so I've spent a few evenings walking aimless circles around the pasture trying to find something because I feel crappy about riding her. 

So far the wound is healing well and aside from a small bit of swelling in her fetlock near the puncture, her leg is more or less back to normal. There is some residual heat and swelling in her fetlock, as well as the jagged edge of the wound has caused the fetlock to look even puffier, but I hope as the wound itself heals it'll shrink a bit. The puncture itself is starting to close over and although the edges will never meet, it should scab over nicely.

Day 2, post-betadine scrub and cold hose.
If anything, Annie seems pretty smitten with this unplanned time off. And in a way, I am kind of... fascinated with this whole pony doctoring thing. At first, Annie was very reluctant to have me handle her injury - she was standoffish and not particularly happy to stand for 20min twice a day being cold hosed. Let's not talk about the several CTJ meetings we had over clipping her fetlock...

Day 4, post cold-hosing.

Her front right is kinda off centered, but you can see
the slight swelling and how the wound has caused the area
to look puffier due to the skin splitting.
But it's served as a good education opportunity and Annie has been happy to let me handle her leg and doctor her. It's not every day we do things like this, and I feel like there is only so much preparation you can do for potential injuries. When you are actually dealing with a hurt horse that really doesn't want you scrubbing their wound, the real education begins. I feel like it takes a level of trust from the horse, as silly as it sounds.

Lots of grazing in the front field, grooming, and cold hosing for this lady.
And so, Annie and I are taking advantage of this injury to expand our relationship and continue building the trust. As weird as it sounds, being able to clip, poke/prod, clean, and wrap an injury is something all riders should be able to do, but a real hurting horse that weighs 1200lbs is no match for us. Annie, while initially apprehensive, has taken to the multiple cold hosings, clipping, poking, and scrubbing.

Proud of both of these girls!
Weirdly, I'm proud of her. I haven't had to doctor her since I've owned her (aside from the trailer saga) and although I feel pretty lucky in that respect, it's good to be able to practice other aspects of my horsemanship. So... silver lining?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Driving In The Rain and Trail Rides

I had wanted to give Annie a well-deserved day off since she had worked extra hard - the clinic and then a few hard (and unplanned haha) schools. It worked out well tho, because it gave me the opportunity to take Spud out. He's certainly pudgier than normal this year, so I have been trying to get him out as much as I can. 

He's been a bit difficult to restart in harness tho - his manners were non-existent for the first two drives and sometimes brakes are negotiable. Nonetheless, I want to get him going again and it's no one's fault but my own his training slid back a bit. Last year I drove him a handful of times and none of which were schooling related drives. 

So. Time for pony to get his butt in gear!

Come rain or shine!
We headed out in the rain after I did some chores and reinstilled some ground-manners in Spud. When he's in harness, he's working. If I tell him to stand, he stands there until I say so. It took a few reprimands, but he stood patiently and waited for me to hitch him up. Since the bears were still around, I didn't want to go too far from the property. 

We wandered down to one of the newer trails I found and had a very frank discussion about brakes. Once we had hit the dirt part of the trail, he tried to fly off in a trot. I did my best to keep him contained and at one point, he felt super hot and I wondered if the scent of bears was throwing him off. Of course, regardless of having the dogs with me (I mean, they're little rat dogs... what would they do to a bear, haha), I got a bit spooked and whipped Spud around and power trotted out of there. 

Once breaking out into the open, I had to wrestle the little demon red-head down to a walk and then we had to do several large circles to remind him that when we turned to head home, it didn't mean he could take off. 

Little shit.

Once he realized we were just going to circle foreverrrrr, he sighed and gave up. The remainder of the ride was super pleasant after that and he trotted happily when I requested and walked when I asked. I have a feeling these little... erm... arguments are going to pop up as I continue to leg him up, but we'll get through them. He's a very... emotional little pony so I just have to convince him to use his pony powers for good and not evil.

By the time we headed home, the rain was coming down hard and I ended up hurrying home to have a hot bath. Our hot summer weather has disappeared!

We all got soaked!
Also note, the little white dog still hasn't left lol.... #fosterfail
I ended up disappearing for the weekend to visit the boyfriend (he's away working) as a rain-storm was heading straight for us and would mean no riding anyways. It was a good call, because it absolutely poured all weekend long and I was happy to be visiting the Boy for a few days!

Come Tuesday, I pulled Annie and Spud out for a ride and ended up running into another lady (girl? what is the proper term here lol) who I have ridden with once previously. I wandered up and down the street while I waited for her to tack up and get ready. 

I did go up the driveway to see if she was ready and Annie spooked and hesitated almost the entire way. The owners have lots of stuff lining the driveway and Annie was sure it would eat her. Oh mare. I ended up hopping off to wait for S to finish tacking up Charlie and then we headed out. It was a bit awkward, trying to pony Spud and remind Annie that the new friend who joined us was indeed coming with us, but I managed to get it done and within a few minutes everyone was settled and we were off marching.

The only picture I have of that ride, aha.
Enjoy Spud's terrible shave job.
I bought some used Oster Clipmasters and am seriously IN LOVE with them.
We decided to head across the highway and walk down one of the old logging roads that parallels the main highway. It is quite rocky, and I let Annie pick her route since she doesn't have back shoes on. She stumbled slightly a few times, but for the most part seemed to do OK over the rocks. I made a mental note to message the farrier for our eight week appointment and also went home and researched what I can do to strengthen her hinds without the need for shoes. I'm not anti-shoe, but I like that so far we have been able to get away with a half set of shoes for this year. When the farrier comes, it'll be something we discuss for the future.

For now, I try and avoid the really rocky areas as best as I can and if we do traverse over them, I let Annie walk along the sides of the trail where it is softer. Her hooves aren't the strongest, so I've started to do research on what products help. Does anyone have any experience with hoof hardeners and what products are better than the rest? 

The day after our trail ride.
She was annoyed she was "leashed" and broke my lunge line to get some
greener grass.
Thanks so much, ya asshole.
Once the road opened up towards the highway, we crossed back over and followed the little trail up to the fairgrounds. I did a few loops of trotting with Spud unhappily lagging behind before calling it quits - I had no intentions of schooling on this particular day. 

It was a fun ride - very low-key and full of conversation. Both horses had initially started out a bit "up" but mellowed out within minutes. Both S and I figured the high bear activity was to blame for the horse's spookiness and from my experience of riding in this area for many years, I do know that late Spring makes for cautious horses sometimes. 

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Schooling with Excavators and Friends

Holy, hello June!

Once again, I am several ride recaps behind and will do my best to catch up and resume our regularly scheduled program!

Different kinds of horse power.
Following the clinic, I gave Annie a well-deserved day off before getting back to it. The communal riding arena was completed and an e-mail went out to the members of the grounds club, asking them to try out the arena to ensure the depth of the sand was adequate.

I went out with the intention of doing stretchy work in the new arena, wanting to ensure that I didn't overdo it following the last two hard rides.

When I showed up at the grounds I was frustrated to see the excavator was still working on the ring pounding posts in. I wandered both horses over (was ponying Spud) and saw they were only about half complete, so grumbled and debated to myself about what to do. Annie felt pretty good - she walked out excitedly when we had left the barn, but I attributed most of that due to the fact we hadn't hacked out around home in a week due to the clinic and prior days off.

The green space I typically ride in extends to the left, closer to the sea-cans.
I decided to take advantage of the green space in front of the ring and put Annie through her paces. We did variations of circles, serpentines, diagonals, and even some leg yielding. I was pleasantly surprised to have a supple, calm, and quiet mare beneath me. She struggled to pick up the correct lead in both directions, but it felt more like she was stiff or something, because she really was trying. I didn't feed into it - just gave her a jab with the heel and asked again.

We did a lot of simple changes and after a few successful ones in a row, I went back to working on big/small trotting like Anthony had directed back in the clinic. She moved out willingly and happily and I quit after getting some successful leg yielding at the trot. Even cooler, she barely even glanced over at the excavator that was pounding posts in and didn't even bat an eye when a semi pulled in with a long trailer (carrying more buckets). I was pretty pleased overall, and promised Annie some trail riding would be in her future since we had been schooling so much the past few weeks. Spud, however, misbehaved whilst being tied and reared a few times just to show me how pissed he was he wasn't anywhere close to the green grass blades. Sorry, dude.

It's the perfect schooling place. Truly.
Following the school at the grounds, I ended up wrangling myself into riding with two other ladies in the area. I typically don't ride with anyone other than N, and usually then it's only on the weekends (when she's home). One of my goals for the year was to embrace riding with others - not that I don't enjoy the company, but that my ride times don't ever line up with other people. For example, I prefer to ride mid-morning when I can, and especially with "working from home" for the last three weeks, I try to get my rides done in the morning hours. The other ladies who ride can't go at that time, because they actually have to go to their jobs (sad for them, I really am, haha).

Anyways, I went out early to do chores and once I got Annie ready, I let her graze until R texted me that they were ready. I bridled Annie up and hopped on - she was a little antsy to get going, but the severity of it has severely diminished, which I am happy about. As we rounded the corner A was walking down the driveway with her mare Lenaya and Annie just about slammed on the brakes! She's not used to seeing other horses except AJ and N, so it was a bit of a surprise (hence the reason I want to ride with other people!). R came out of her driveway with Colby and the three of us toodled our way to the grounds.

She blinked, but she's looking like a real horse now!!
The ride over is fuzzy for me, because I have so many other rides fresh in my mind, but I remember Annie was a bit spookier than normal. Lenaya spooks almost every ride, and it kinda fed down to the other horses. It wasn't unmanageable tho.

We decided to ride over to the fairgrounds, being that it was the evening and the grizzlies were back in the area and we felt it would be safer to stay to the well-traveled trails. Initially, when we arrived, I had intended to do a light school in the ring (now that it was free of equipment) but instead I ended up riding my horse the most out of the three of us! Which, wasn't hard given the fact the other two horses are quite out of shape.

At first, Annie was a bit skeptical of the ring because it didn't have all of it's rails attached and we also hadn't ridden in it in forever, haha. We did a lot of circling, especially because Annie decided she didn't want to leave her friends (she didn't pigroot, but she felt like she would float off towards either horse if given the chance).

Pretty lady <3
She worked out of it easily tho, and picked up her leads effortlessly and on the first try. I didn't push her past picking up each lead once - she felt super malleable and maneuverable in my hands. We alternated between slow/fast canter and did some slight leg yielding at the trot. It was a very low key ride for us, as I didn't want to do anything too crazy. We finished off with a nice stretchy trot - she is starting to learn that she can lower her poll but it takes some time for her to poke her nose out. We're working on it tho.

After that, we wandered out of the ring and took the long way back home. Before we parted ways, we stopped the horses just at the end of one of the streets we'd all branch off from and stood for several minutes just chatting and gossiping about small town drama. It was nice - the horses quietly stood as cars passed and although Annie was a little less than pleased to leave the other two horses behind to head home, she complied and eagerly snuffled at her mash once we got back to the barn.