Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Going Pro.

Most of you will know that I don't mean Professional in the horse world. Or competitive sport world. I mean in the "Pyrography" business. Pyro...what? Wood burning. Specifically, custom woodburned stall signs.

Shortly after moving to W's barn I discovered that there's a real appeal for custom stall plaques and my style of woodburning had some appeal out there. I imagined that I might be able to make a couple extra dollars to fund Moon's show career while meeting more fellow horse-folks. Plus, it meant trips to tack stores and horse barns to promote my goods. Really, seems pretty win-win.

I've been working hard to keep up with my current demand, which I hope doesn't even begin to tap into the market. I had quite a few orders on tap, until the most unfortunate thing ancient spare woodburner kicked the bucket, only two weeks after my new (as in burned less then 5 signs) woodburner died on me. These are non-repairable devices, meaning I was suddenly toolless.

With a couple of large orders due for Christmas, I knew I needed to buy a replacement and FAST. The BF watched me scour online for the best deal hoping for something that would last a little longer. Replacing these things sure cuts into our show fund.

Longer story shorter, he comes upstairs and hands me one of my Christmas presents early. A PROFESSIONAL woodburning kit. This thing is amazing. Replaceable pens (of which there's over 600 styles), dual pen capabilities (just flip a switch), heats up crazy fast, way more comfortable to use...

I'm in love. I really enjoy woodburning, but it's always been a bit of a painful experience. The tools get really hot, my neck and shoulders get a cramp from how hard you have to press at times, you're waiting often for the tool to reheat and you can't do really precise detail due to the design of the pens.

Until now. Gone are the days of thick block text and bulky silhouettes. We're talking ART now.

Yesterday, cold or no cold (which I believe has finally broke and I'm just in the wonderful draining stage, ew, gross), I tried for the first time to actually sketch a horse and burn it with detail. Give me some leeway here. I haven't actually sketched a horse like this in YEARS, I did it quickly and I'm brand new to the woodburner. My shading needs work, but for a first go, it could've been worse...

("Tumbleweed", the beautiful mare at the barn who's up for adoption...thought if it's not too ugly of a woodburn, I'd give it to her old owners as a momento)

Anyway, with our new capabilities, we're officially PROFESSIONALLY in business. I'm booked solid till Christmas, but tell your horse friends that January orders can be placed! I wanna have some more fun creating more unique, detailed and creative signs (though I'll be holding off on the custom photo-based ones until I've master it!). This is truly the best horse-related non-riding thing I can think of!

Remember, it all goes straight to Moon'er and getting him into that show ring. He deserves to show off the star that he is!

11"x7" signs are just $35 (wood supplier raised prices on me, but I haven't the heart yet to raise prices!), and can be shipped anywhere (CanadaPost is saying $12 within Canada...and $10 if you're in the USA...huh?!).

(blurred owner's last name in this example)

Examples can be found on my little webpage:

And please pardon my shameless self-promotion of a business on MoonSox's blog. : ) We all know he'd rather I didn't sell any and instead of showing, he gets to spend the summer with his friends, grazing and getting fat again. : P

Tomorrow, I should be back out to visit with him, and hopefully we get a ride in this weekend. : ) I miss my boy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Being Sick Sucks

Being sick sucks. Especially when you'd rather be teaching your pony to canter. When you're hoping to get some good rides in before you head away for Christmas vacation and the poor guy goes unspoiled for a week and a half. When you REALLY wanna just see him, snuggle into his furry shoulder and wrap your arms around his neck. 'Cause you're sick.

But you can't. He's standing out there in the paddock, probably muddy and snuggled into his warm blanket as the temperatures drop and the ground freezes hard again. He's hanging out with the new horse, and wondering why you haven't even been out to brush him. He really wants a brushing and the carrot that comes with it. And his riding physio. He could really go for some of that. The cold temps make him stiff and despite his dislike for 'work', your riding helps him feel better when he moves.

Instead of riding him, grooming him and reminding him how wonderful he is, you're at home. On the coach. Under a blanket. Hot chocolate in hand. It sounds beautiful, like winter romantic movie. The Christmas tree is even sparking and the house is warm. But it's too warm. You have a fever. You can't stop sniffling, you're surrounded by kleenex and whenever the furnace comes on, you start coughing from the extra dryness. You don't want to get up. Going outside makes your throat hurt even worse, as does going to sleep.

You're miserable. Stuck home miserable, and more miserable because being home miserable means you can't see your pony. How miserable.

At least you have your fluffy puppy. Okay, 60 pound dog. But she's a Husky, so it's essentially a furry heating blanket...or a small polar bear. Hard to tell which. You feel a little better with her around, but she too wants you outside. Playing in the snow. Throwing her snowballs.

You're not. You're on the couch watching reruns of "The Saddle Club". It's for 10 year olds, but hey, you're sick. This is the time you can watch it without the BF wondering what he got himself into. Only watching Stevie, Lisa and Carole, makes you wanna be at the barn somemore. Maybe you should start your own saddle club...nope, that's the cold medicine talking now...

Ugh. Being sick SUCKS. I wanna be riding ponies. MY pony. Not sniffling, sneezing, coughing and generally feeling miserable.

Bahhumbug. If you're healthy, find the Lysol. I envy you right now. I should've armed myself too. Oh loss of pony time... : ( Anyone wanna go tell Moon it's not personal??! Poor bugger.

...wait. Poor me. He's still running around having fun.

Sick sucks. End of story.

Friday, November 25, 2011

White Thursday, Black Friday

I was out again last night to put to practice my Wednesday lesson, and have to say I was happy with the results. He's still twisting like the devil when he comes out of the corner (seems like it's always the SAME corner! Is this me anticipating misbehavior and thus causing misbehavior??!). His trot though is improving so much that I'm able to sit it on the straight away longer and longer! His 10m turns are improving too, and I'm feeling more steady with my inside leg. Practice makes perfect is a truism.

I also worked on lengthening his trot, bringing it back to a normal trot, slowing it, sitting it and then halting for a second before asking for trot again. The more I did this, the more responsive and fluid he seemed to get. LOVE it.

The one thing that stuck out strongly during my practice ride (other then my inability to avoid crashing into others) is that he HATES REPETITION. Some horses you can do the same activity say 5 or 10 times in a row and they're great. By the 5th time, Moon becomes Mr. Sassy pants, flicking his tail, bracing and twisting his head. Doesn't matter what it is. Leg yielding, trotting a circle, serpentines, anything. The first 2 times I ask him to do something, he kinda takes a bit to figure it out. The next 2 he's normally fabulous, either improving a move he's normally not so hot at, or acing one he is. The 5th time though...He's angry that I didn't think the last two were good enough!! : P

Now I'm trying to vary the practice as much as possible, doing 3 reps of anything, and then changing to something else. If he struggled on the 3rd go, I'll come back to it for another 2 or 3 tries, but LATER in our ride. Sassy little bugger ; )

I'm catching an icky cold (the joys of babysitting 2 year olds : P ), and finally just plopped down on his neck and called our ride over. Moon? Bent his neck around and nuzzled my boots : ) Total cutie. He's coming to the fence every time now too, which I love.

Back in the barn, the girl I made the most recent stall sign for was there and gushed over her sign. I SWEAR that's the best perk of the job, seeing how much the owner loves them! I left her with a couple of my new cards and hopefully I get a few more clients in the future.

Yesterday I also got word back that I passed the exam I wrote last week, which means $$ back in the pocket. Happy me. Might be able to do that January set of lessons, since last night W was telling me she plans on revisiting 'canter' next week. : O

Happy me also stumbled across a Black Friday ad in my inbox this morning...I have a short list of 'Needed' horse supplies, mainly for the upcoming show season, that I've been saving for. One in particular is a black dressage girth. Guess who found one of bridle leather, contoured and double elastic ends in black today?! For $27.50 USD!!

Of course, since I'd squirreled $100 away for a girth of exactly those features (this particular one was regular price $99.99), I thought...maybe I'll see if anything else I need is on sale???

And there sat my new show shirt. $8.50.
Did I mention a waterproof/breathable, gusseted turnout sheet for $22.50?
And two dressage pads (one with inserts for saddle fit, the other a beautiful contoured show pad), for $20 and $12.50...
Finally, the old style cavallo pastern wraps, which will keep Moon's red boots from rubbing his heel bulbs. I've been regretting not buying these when I bought the boots, and happy to find them for $14.40, cheaper then cavallo charges.

With the coupon I found, $105 for the whole bundle. The price I was gonna pay for just ONE girth.

My show tack list is down to just a set of black leathers, a show jacket (I've got a hunt coat if desperation kicks in!), tan breeches and gloves.

One of the pads I'm going to dedicate to show's only, and hope to get my sister to embroider "Manitoba MoonSox" on the outer corner. : )

I'm excited to go down to Pembina, ND to pick it up! I'm all about constructive shopping, and in search of Christmas deals, have bought 90% of my Christmas gifts online. Since shipping/duty/taxes are CRAZY to Canada, I have them shipped to my US address. Then I pop down there, pick everything up, pay taxes at the border (no 'handling' or 'brokerage' fees), and get everything for cheaper then I would here. And half the time, I couldn't even find the stuff here!

December 12th is the drive-down date, so it's gonna be like an early Christmas!!! : )

Oh, and I'm thinking next time I'm at the barn I'm gonna ask W about a Christmas party for the boarders! I realize some I know really well and some I don't know at all! : P

Happy Black Friday Everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

We're Unrehearsed

One of my favorite quotes is:
"Hope for the best; expect the worst. Life's a play, we're unrehearsed".

Yesterday, it suited so perfect.

I expected Moon to be a sassy, stiff, obstinate pony for my lesson. Granted, he started out such, but W pointed out a few key fixes to our problems.

1. When he twists his neck, lift with the outside rein and bump with the outside leg. You have to straighten him before you can ask for inside bend again.
2. When he drops his shoulder and starts to break gait coming out of the corner, leg-on. It's easier for him to break then to drive.
3. In 10 m circles, he tries to shift me to the outside so that he can lean; the key is to keep my weight to the inside and 'hug' with my legs gently on his belly. This will also keep my heels down in the inside stirrup, reduce my bouncing and allow me to continue to give cues.

After a few laps, he started to improve and supple-up. He's turning into a lateral monster, actually seeming to enjoy leg yielding. His 10 m trot circles improved when I stopped letting him keep me to the outside, and in turn, my sitting trot improved greatly. We had a couple 10 m circles that were bang-on, and were followed by lovely 90 degree turns into leg yielding.

We moved on to start working with lengthening and shortening his trot strides. This was a challenge, and I had the issue of him dropping out of the trot when coming down the long side of the ring, and then twisting and bracing his neck. No amount of 'bumping' would get him continuing to drive forward, rather he'd collapse onto his shoulders and it'd be a mess.

For Moon, it's not his 'norm', and so he doesn't want to do it. W said that sometimes it seems like he doesn't *think* he can do it, until you keep telling him he can. Then *bang* he's got it.

Finally I asked for the dressage whip. W said to just tap him on the rump when he started to disengage and drive him forward.

So we came around the bend, he cocked his head, braced and started falling out. I *meant* to tap his rump...instead I under judged the maneuverability of the dressage whip...and gave him a smart snap to it instead. He LEAPT into a canter stride or two (W informs me it was the correct lead) and then returned to a more energetic trot.

I was a little embarrassed, but pleased with myself. He's trying to avoid the work and ignoring me as the rider, which is not tolerable. The instant he starts ignoring me and my aids, is the instant we lose our partnership and our ability to move forward. The smart smack to the bum seemed the perfect reminder that when I ask him to respond to my leg, RESPOND.

After that he was WAY more responsive. I even put the whip away and he continued to be engaged and pay attention. He gave me stellar little 10 m trot circles, I sat them like a dream and we started to get the beginning of lengthening and shortening his stride.

W informed me after a couple of lengthening exercises that he's been holding out, and has a lovely long stride when he actually drives. Honestly, he feels so much more lively when he's covering the ground with long driving strides.

All of this is setting us up for practicing our canter again, which hopefully we'll give another go to next week. The thing that occurred to me rather out of the blue the other day, is that he HAS done really nice 25 m canter circles for me out in the field at Teresa's. Consistently. So why not now??? I have a feeling, it's me and my fear of crashing into the arena walls...

After the lesson he got some carrots and went naked in the paddock. The weather was soo warm and all the snow is melting away. We're pretty much back to grass (or mud really), which is abnormal here. W promised to peak in on him at the night rotation and blanket him if he needed it. She told me that his girlfriend actually comes in a 9 pm, but stayed out longer then the others (everyone else comes in at 6) since she's been a little extra hyper lately. I was also told that she *promised* Mr. Moon that he could come inside on the very cold nights, which made me chuckle. She's such a softie, and he's certainly won a little piece of her heart. : )

I've also received 5 more stall sign orders, and had to place an online order for wood since my regular supplier can't keep up with the demand. I went so far as to make myself a little webpage so people could have some idea of what they're getting, and left a couple of business cards at the barn. I'm hoping to be done the current orders by Christmas, meaning a nice chunk of change for my show fund.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bought it!

Moon's new blanket liner that is! I swear Scheider's saddlery is my go-to blanket store now! I love my first one so much, and with so many people saying to get a liner from them too, I did it.

Price was great and I caved and bought a little extra to get the $10 off (works out to be free shipping). Didn't work out to be anything exciting. A bag of treats since his current bag is running low (and treats are expensive here for some reason) and they WERE his favorite brand, a repair kit for his turnout blanket to keep on-hand in case something DOES eventually happen to it, and finally 2 dewormers. Dewormers here are $12 to $22 a tube, and at sstack I bought them for $2.75 each. CRAZY!

Now I'm beyond excited. The weather today is much warmer and all of our snow is melting. Which is sad because the paddocks will be mud again and I HATE cleaning muddy hooves. Ick. But it WILL cool down and I SHOULD be picking up the new liner on December 12th, before the temps drop too much.

I'll probably get a sense tonight of what he thinks of the new living situation and how many arguments he's getting in with "Curly Horse".

So tonight it's a visit with the Mr. and my weekly lesson. I'll likely take a lesson hiatus over Christmas since I'll be gone a lot, and may have to cut out my January one to cover the Christmas presents and such. Not too worried as we'll be practicing ourselves during that time and keeping up our regular fitness routine. Just in time for the show season to start!

Expect an update on our lesson tonight! I'd like to say I expect great things, but I know he's gonna be stiff and sassy. The typical Mr, and I'm missing him enough right now that I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

His Fault; My Fault.

I follow a fair number of blogs online and have watched in the last little bit a number of people either part with or set the stage for parting with their horses. From retirement, trade, or sale, I can count 6 blogs in the last year, 3 in the last week alone...

My heart catches a bit when I hear the news. The logical, practical side of me shrugs it off. You buy a horse, fall in love with a sport, get as far as you can and then sell them to move on to something that can hopefully take you a little further. Sometimes it's because a freak accident leaves you scarred, sometimes it's that age and hard-work takes its toll leaving you with a horse that is no longer happy or capable of performing the task.

I've always been amazed by I Am Boyfriend's owner. She bought a horse from the wilds of North Dakota, soaked a lot of money into him, and wound up with a pasture pet. And she never seems to mind. Oh, she worries over him. She doesn't ride because he's not sound for it, and she spends oodles of time mothering him. Somehow, he's just everything to her, despite not being the mount she went in search of.

She's rare. Many would say that she clearly doesn't plan on making herself anything in the sport. If she did, she'd be looking. When your horse can't do what it needs to do, you find one that can.

I don't mean to sound ignorant or heartless in this post. I understand for most what has led to their decisions, and I respect them. These are people who know what they want. They want to be competitive in a highly competitive sport. One that is so expensive that most of us can only afford one mount. These aren't bicycles or running shoes. They're expensive tools to own, keep and train. If you're gonna make it anywhere, you know it's riding on just one horse, so it darn well better be the best horse you can afford.

And that's why I've come to realize I never plan on being competitive. Not the way competitive people want to be competitive.

Let's face facts. This isn't about MoonSox. This is about me, first and foremost. Before I point my finger at him and say he's not made to be a competitive horse, I realize that neither am I. I know people would say that's foolish, but reverse the tables.

I'm never going to be an Olympic caliber rider. Ever. I don't think I'll ever make it to 2nd level in dressage and I'll be darn lucky to compete at 2' jumpers. Irrespective of horse.

Ignoring the fact that I need my day-job, the fact I can't spend the money on it, I don't have the connections to the big barns, I won't move to where the riders are and I don't want to live the hard life that is required to get there. Great riders spend years as a working student for top riders under grueling hours and thankless work. Good riders can do it from home, soaking a lot of money and time in to it. You don't get competitive because you want to be rich, you do it because you love to compete.

But let's talk about my physical ability to be a top competitive rider.

My equitation is not stellar despite the time I've put in. I'm fortunate to have the appropriate confirmation for the sport: long legged, shorter torso, light boned but reasonably muscled. I don't suffer back problems, knee problems or anything of that sort.

I lack patience, I'm stubborn. I clench my knees and I sometimes slouch. I have a past head injury that makes me skittish around hooves and I started my training later in life then most.

I'm hard to keep weight on, and I'm a fussy eater. My endurance isn't spectacular and shows make me nervous. I sometimes have trouble focusing and I'm a bit flighty.

I tense and I brace.

But I'm fortunate. Most of the time, I can't distinguish my horse's flaws from my own. And I can't separate out our improvements or talents either. Does he have a bad canter because he has a bad canter, or because I'm a big tense rock on his back? Does he run into the poles because he can't jump or because I set them up wrong or didn't set him up properly? Do our leg yields have too much bend because he's over bending or because I'm over asking?

I fix him, then I fix myself. Things are never perfect, but I never wonder who's holding who back. I wonder who's holding who up... : ) I've never once thought "He's not good enough for what I'm asking of him". I've only ever thought that we've both got training to do to improve. Oh, we'll never be stellar, but it's neither of our fault. We both have faults.

And I'm okay with that. I'm better then okay with that. For once, not being great at something is the best gift of all. He'll always be enough horse for me. We'll both always need to improve, we'll both always struggle and we'll both always depend on one another to make it through the ride.

He's my heart horse. If I can only ever afford one horse, Moon will be that horse until the day he passes away. If he sucks at dressage, can't jump and is too sore to trail ride, he's still my horse. I don't pay to ride him, I pay to love him. Riding is merely a perk.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Biting Cold.

The weather is supposed to warm up this week, which will be nice after our -17 and below days lately (1 degree F for my American friends). When I got to the barn tonight much in need of some pony time, I wasn't surprised to see Mr. Moon out in the front paddock with two other horses. The new Bashkir Curly horse and surprisingly, his girlfriend Ebony.

I'm happy to see that Ebony has moved with him as they're very happy companions. I brought him inside and it was nice to see that he was warm and dry under his blanket. I've found the Schneider's one I'm thinking of buying and now just have to place my order and get down there. I've gotten so many positive reviews on my comments page, as well as my own pleasure with my Schneider's turnout blanket, that I think it'll be a good choice.

My main concern with a liner has been with it getting too bulky under his turnout, since the 75" seemed a bit small when I bought it. But having a second look today, it's either broken-in and relaxed a bit, or else he's lost more weight then I thought. So I think we'll be okay to squeeze the 180 gram blanket underneath.

I warmed him up in my little 1/4 sheet and then pulled out a dressage test. I chose Walk-Trot Test A from Equine Canada and gave it a go. The first two times I had to carry the test in my mouth so I could cheat...didn't help that the pylons with the letters were knocked over and I'm not really familiar with where they SHOULD be : P

Regardless, by the fourth round I had it memorized, but Moon was still rushing, not very soft and despite it not even being a real 'test', I was beyond nervous. Go figure! Actual shows next year will be a disaster.

So I calmed myself down with some breathing and centering exercises and then tried again. The first time through I realized I had previously been trying to hold Moon in the positions I wanted. Which just doesn't work with him. So I tried to ask and release more, and was surprise by the improvement in his movement and bend by the end of the test.

The next two times around he did MUCH better and I could actually picture us doing okay in a real test. Not blue ribbon or anything, but better for sure!

I was happy I had brought my video camera along...until I realized the lens had fogged at some point and now most of the video caught is likely blurry or 'ghosted'. Oh well. I'll squint and see if anything can be learned.

As for his neck cover, I need to add one clip to the middle of it in order for it to work with his blanket. I cleaned some of his stuff from his stall (jolly ball, extra halter, etc.) but didn't have the heart to take his sign down. : ( I'll probably be out tomorrow and I'll do it then.

Last night I made him a little jingle bell cover for his halter. I'd seen a similar thing on Jeffer's Equine and thought "that'd be cute!". I only made one for the crown piece, but I added 4 little blue jingle bells so he makes a pretty sound when he's wearing it. Plus, it's all done in a snowman print!

Back out in his new paddock, I noticed that 'Curly' was dominant horse (didn't check if it was a mare or gelding). Kept trying to bite and herd Moon around (Ebony stayed clear altogether). Finally when Moon went to get a drink of water, Curly tried to bite him in the neck.

So proud of Moon when he double-barrel kicked Curly in the side of the neck. FINALLY he's not taking being picked on! (I know, terrible horse owner, enjoying my horse fight others : P ). Then Moon headed over to the hay pile with his girlfriend and Curly stood at the opposite end of the pen. Yup, he'll be happy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Winter Blues.

With friends visiting for the weekend, on Thursday I headed straight from work to the barn. There was a snow-storm on the way in and by the time I arrived the roads were blanketed in the puffy white-stuff and there was a cold wind blowing.

I of course, hadn't thought I'd have the time to stop by to see him and hadn't brought appropriate clothes. Thankfully I could exchange my fancy jacket for a barn one that I always have kicking around the car, however I was wearing little suede 'ugg'-type boots. NOT barn appropriate! The only other footwear in my car? Dress boots that resemble short cowboy boots! It'll do! (Us horse-girls will ride in anything!).

So Moon was happily standing in his field and I led him through the snowstorm in to the barn. His neck was dripping wet and I'm thinking I should check the fit of his neck cover so he can start using it. More yucky weather on the way.

In the barn I gave him a quality grooming since I wouldn't see him for awhile and then grabbed my cavesson to give him a short lunge session. More then anything, I wanted to see if I could see if he was sore.

I started him heading right or clockwise. He went well and I'm pretty impressed for a horse who hasn't lunged in years, if ever before I got him. What was cooler was how much his lunging has changed from when I got him. He used to run around with his head in the air and his neck taught. Now he's actually lowering it and moving with a way more comfortable and relaxed motion.

I didn't see any obvious soreness (he might still be tender when mounted, but we're more sensitive to their movements when we can actually feel them), so I turned him to go the other way.

He Was Stiff. His left hip and leg almost seemed...arth...sorry, I can't even type the word! Probably not that bad, but it was off. And I'm a worry-wart. So to me, it was terrible :P Really, the movement wasn't fluid and I could see it was off. Not sore to me, just stiff. Stuck.

So I started asking him to soften and bend the way my old instructor did, my hand on the lunge as you hold the reins. The whip was timed to help him drive his hind legs more under him, without asking for more speed. More asking for bend until finally...

He pulls the evil rabbit face. On a LUNGE. This is a bit-less cavesson. Just like a well-padded halter really. And there he was going around with his lips pulled back and his mouth open, twisting his head and neck from side to side and down towards the ground. It was somewhere between weird, odd and pretty awesome. Why awesome?

Because it reaffirmed my belief that his open mouthedness is part of him unlocking his joints, jaw and poll. Stretching. He does it before you put his bit in his mouth, he does it under saddle and NOW he does it on the lunge.

And after a few 'rabbit' rounds, he started moving way better. He was tracking up, maintaining the inside bend and able to not rush on the line. I was thrilled.

What did he do next? He started chewing the AIR and dropping his head!

Yeah. Weird.

I know people say that if a horse is gentle chewing the bit they're relaxed, thinking about what they're learning and soft. What does it mean when your horse starts gentle chewing the air???

And no, he hadn't just come from eatting hay or carrots. He was genuinely just chewing air.

Strange horse.

Unfortunately, I was out of time and he was back in his stall to have dinner since W was headed out to collect the rest of the horses for the night.

....and then she broke the bad news : (

There's a new boarder coming to the barn. Who is looking for outdoor board, with just a standing stall for the really bad nights.

...Moon's on borrowed stall time. So when she asked if I'd be okay with him moving out to the paddock to stay with the new boarder when he comes, I couldn't justify for a second saying no. Really, he should have been out there for the last month and a half. I was lucky to have the opportunity to keep him in a beautiful stall as long as I have and I knew that the time would come. I had wishfully hoped that he could have Christmas indoors, but that won't be happening.

Really, he's lived outdoors over the winter for YEARS. W has run-in shelters, he'll only be living with one (max 2) other horses and they'll be well fed and blanketed when needed. So not like he's hard done by. He's going back to his norm.

W said he dad is going to be a little sad since Moon is his favorite horse in the barn and loves getting to bring him out every morning. Apparently he thinks he's the bestest horse : P They might bring him in with the other horses when it's really miserable out, and W is such a softie that I know he'll be well cared for, even outdoros.

Sure have been spoiled, I have : P

So we near the end of the box-stall era. I wish, wish I could afford to keep him in a box stall all winter but I can't justify it.

The thing that worries me now is with the blanketing. He's been in a 220 gram medium weight blanket since it got cold. He has pretty much zero winter fuzz on his body, only on his neck. To put him out full-time now he NEEDS to be blanketed. But if he's wearing 220 grams during the DAY in November, there's NO WAY he's going to be warm in it at night in January when it hits -40. Not possible.

I also can't attempt to leave him naked as 1. I'm not sure he'll be able to start growing enough coat now in time (I mean, they start in September!), and 2. With our training program, I'll be drying him out for years before putting him back out : P

With Christmas coming, I'm not really ready to invest in ANOTHER turnout in a heavy-weight. But on the same note, I don't want him shivering out there. So now I'm thinking I gotta go find a heavy-weight at a good price. I'd do a stable blanket, but it likely won't fit under his mid-weight.

Thankfully, I still get to look forward to the indoor arena, which is why we're there! Tomorrow I aim to be out there riding him (with my video camera!) and back in our regular routine. : ) And keep on the postive!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Totally Unrelated...yet amusing.

Thought I'd share my amusing story of this morning's adventures on my way to my final exam. It has nothing to do with horses, but hopefully still good reading. I hope everyone else had a wonderful morning, and a great Thursday.

P.S. Thankyou all for the well wishes; I think I've at least managed to pass ; )

Sometimes I think I live in a poorly written sitcom.

Take this morning. Final exam morning.

I'm up, showered and studying by 6 am. 6:30 rolls around, I command start my car.
...I command start my car.
...I manually start my car.
...I start...
...My car won't start.

No biggie. I'm a modern day woman. Grab the battery charger/starter, hook'er up and...
...the extension cord is too short.
Find another extension cord. Plug'er in.

I start my car...
...I start...
Nothing starts.

This is okay. This is a'okay.

Unplug charger and put in house. Grab pile of extension cords and dash to garage to toss them in...
...wipe out on snowcovered concrete driveway.

Wait for breath to return. Leap up. Toss cords in garage and bolt back to house.

Realise it's freezing cold out when you're running around outside in a sweater and the snow on your back is starting to melt.

Turn on computer. Start up Navigo, the city's Transit Route planner.
Enter destination. Wait....
Java systems suck.

Write down first route it describes.

Grab coat, study materials, yell at dog to get BACK in her room.
Lock door and bolt out of house.
Run block and a half to bus.

Realise you didn't grab bus fare...
...dump all pocket change into bus. Hope like hell it's enough.
Get transfer. You're out of pocket change.

Try to study.
Realise that bus is passing stops. "There's a ghost in the system" the driver claims.
Watch own bus stop pass by.

Walk back three blocks.
Discover that Navigo has given you the slowest route possible.

Stand in frigid temps with no mittens or hat for 25 minutes. And your hair is still wet from the shower...or frozen.
Curse yourself for not grabbing mittens.

Next bus arrives. Board.

35 minutes later, arrive 4 blocks from work. Loose feeling in fingers and toes during the journey.

Arrive at work 20 minutes before exam is supposed to start.

Discover that you have no work pass. Stand in front of door waiting for security to notice you.
Sign in, get to desk, bash head on desk, cry a little, laugh a little more.

Grab calculator, peruse study materials once more, accept that life's out to screw you.

Head off to exam.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Durasole-y need to study...

My lesson tonight is cancelled and I've spent about 6 or so hours today studying. Ick. I'm feeling more confident but not at all assured that I'll get a passing grade. Thankfully, I got 100% on my last assignment (email came from prof this morning), so I'm hoping that even 50% will suffice for a final passing grade. No one said I had to do great : P

Anyway, I got rather distracted looking at some old hoof pics of Moon (all pics posted are from last January, prior to his first trim). I had forgotten how bad his hooves were when I bought him. Our current struggle with hoof pain has me in search of solutions. I kept remembering someone's post about a hoof hardener...

So today I went searching for it, and there in Miles on Mile's blog I found it: Durasole.
I searched the internet for reviews and stories of "it killed my horse". And didn't find any such comments. It seems that people genuinely love the product and swear by it. If there were only a few reviews, I'd be skeptical, but I've since dug up a few hundred or more positive responses. And no negative ones.

The other product I was looking it (Keratex) seemed to be considered a lesser product to the Durasole. Since it seems to be well liked by Mile's mom, I think I'm gonna order it and give it a try.

It makes sense in how it works, but I'm a little concerned about bringing it across the border. It does appear that some people have in the past...looks like I'll be calling Health Canada again for their opinion : P I'm sure they love me. Better that then winding up in prison, right?

The product is a little overwhelming, which is why I chose not to try it when we previously had some tender-foot issues. Here's why:

1) The hoof needs to be completely dry. COMPLETELY. And clean. And scrubbed with a wire brush.
2) Initially you can either apply it 4 times in a row with a hairdryer between applications, for a week or you can apply it twice/day for a week and so on. A LOT of applications.
3) It contains formaldehyde. That stuff that your biology rodent was soaked in. Poison. Dangerous. Causes severe skin blistering. Do not apply to horse or human!

Previously, this wasn't at all something I could do. Between muddy pastures, twice/week visits and no clean spot to apply it, it wasn't about to happen.
But now...
I can get his hooves clean and dry thanks to the concrete barn. In the morning they'll be dry from a night in the stall, and at night I can ride him in the sand ring till they dry then treat. And I might as well do the crazy blowdryer treatment while I'm at it...the barn has electricity and it's about time Moon got used to a blowdryer...wait, what??!

Maybe the boss will even let me come in a little late for a week...better start sucking up now!
I think I'm gonna do it. The reviews are so positive I can't help myself. If it works, one more person who loves it. If it doesn't, well it's only time and money. And we all know horse-people are happy to spend time and money! : P

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Study On.


I remember now why I didn't ride during the school year. I have a HUGE final exam on Thursday for my epidemiology course at a master's level. Yip, scary stuff. And of course, I should be studying my brains out. But me? I'm browsing the newest sales at the tack stores, investigating horse supplements and prepping feed calculations. ANYTHING but putting my nose to the grindstone and actually FOCUSSING on what I need to know to pass my course.

And it's no different today then it was in my undergraduate years. Thankfully back then I didn't own a horse and could only waste time dreaming about it. Not actually heading to the barn and putting in a couple hours of riding instead.

So I unfortunately think I need to will myself to cancel my lesson tomorrow. Which sucks because with guests out this weekend, Mr. Moon is likely to go unridden until Monday!!! Aurgh. He hasn't had so long off since my last travel stint. The only benefit is that it may give his little feet a rest period and hopefully when I get back on, he's feeling better.

SOMEONE take away my pony-obession for the next two days, PLEASE. I hate studying when I could be riding : P

Monday, November 14, 2011

Toughening Up.

Off to the barn this morning, stall plaques in hand. Moon was looking cute in his winter blanket and freshly fallen snow was covering the mud...for now. Mr. Moon had covered every inch of himself that his blanket doesn't, with the thick, sticky Manitoba-gumbo. A lovely mix of mud and clay. Mmmm.

I hung the new stall plaques on their respective horse's doors and then brought Moon in to work. W arrived in time to oogle her new plaque and prompty had her dad pull out the drill to hang them. Guess which other pony's stall plaque is finally hanging in front of his stall? Moon'er's!

We headed in to the ring together, and Moon was in his sneakers again. I had found my batteries and charger, but like the forgetful person I am, I forgot to snap a picture of them! Let me say, that W's mare was OBSESSED with Moon. We're calling him the next George Clooney...older, but still a ladies man. Then again, maybe it was the ruby slippers...

Moon was sore, even in sneakers. They're still rubbing his heels and sound funny when he trots. Almost too loud like a horse running on pavement : P

W watched us for a bit and agreed he seemed a little off. I just can't bear riding him when he's sore, even a little bit. So I hopped off.

I pulled out my cavesson and lunge line and hauled him back in to the ring. We haven't lunged in months and I wasn't sure he even remembered how. Well, he drifted in a few times, but after some reminders he was trotting around on the lunge like a good boy. Could stand to keep the line a bit tighter, but I WAS happy that his head was lower then it had been earlier this summer before we started with W. Seems he IS learning to use his neck properly!
But even at a trot I could tell he was sore; worse when on more compacted pieces of sand. W had lent me some coppertox to start treating his hooves, as it can help toughen them up. I'm gonna give it a try on his fronts and see how it goes. Can't hurt, right?

On a good note, I'm curious to see how he goes at a canter on the lunge line...maybe once he's feeling better we'll start on that. Plus a couple of poles/jumps without me. 

Gees, I hope he toughens those hooves up soon!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hoof Help.

I have a horse-friend who's been following my blog lately and understands my hoof-woes thanks to some experience of her own with troublesome hooves on her big black horse. We emailed back and forth about trim styles (I conceed I'm probably not nearly as well schooled in these matters as many of you) and she invited me out on yesterday (please note that I technically started this post on Friday, edited it yesterday and am STILL writing it today! Holy busy!) to meet her new farrier.

I can honestly say that choosing a farrier is one of those deeply personal experiences. You kinda have to shop around till you find something you like. I've been looking for some reassurance that I'm making good progress on Moon's hooves, plus wanting to find a fix (if possible) for his flaring. I kinda feel like that after 8 months of trimming we should be making better progress. Time to check out the theory.

Out at the barn I set up some trot poles at 5' spacing and took Moon out to practice our moves. I always love it when you're practicing and find a 'new move' in your horse. Or a fluidity that you previously didn't know was there. Or a way to get a behavior out of your horse that you didn't know of before.

For starters, Moon was much more flexible than he had been in practices for me lately. So either he's less sore because he had a day off, or else the warmer weather we've had has helped. He WAS noticably stiff going right, particularly when I asked him for a 10 m trot circle. While he could do it going left, when asked to the right he'd hollow right up and counterbend. Since I could get him to do it in the other direction and it got progressively worse when asked to do more difficult moves (smaller circles, slower trotting leg yield, etc.), I chose to focus on that side more at a walk to help him loosen up.

I have fallen in LOVE with a new move I'm gonna term "the waggle". Not a wiggle, but a three-stride leg yield where every 3 strides you change the bend from off the wall to on the wall and back. We did this down the long side of the ring and I LOVE how much it improved how supple he was and even helped him slow his trot.

The I started working him in leg yielding in and out of our 20 m circle. When I started asking him to leg yield in, I wound up asking for and getting a strange sort of move. Pretty sure it's not a dressage move at all, but it felt pretty cool to do. Imagine you're leg yielding AROUND a circle, such that the circle was a rope run through your stirrups and you're moving around it from that point, sideways. Like this:

It was pretty weird and cool at the same time, that I had to ask him to do it a few times for me. Again, probably not a real move but it felt pretty awesome to ride.

I did manage to get some leg yielding on the part of the arena where no one had ridden since the harrowing ("The harrowing" sounds like a bad horror movie...). And when I went back to look at Moon's hoof falls, I found this:

Is that good or bad? No one online seems to have a picture for me to know! Does it means he's not crossing over? Taking too short of strides? : P

Last came the trot poles. For one, I did some reading and decided to set them at 5'. I HATE spacing poles. Since every horse's stride is different, there's no true standard. I had read 4'. That's where my jump and placing poles were. And it didn't work. In hindsight, I probably made it worse because I forgot to pull the last trot pole before the jump...

Anyway, tried 5' yesterday and he went lovely. I LOVE the way his head comes way down to balance through them. Funny, since he wants to run at them with his head in the sky then the instant he's at them, way down it comes : P I finally started him doing circles whenever he'd start to rush them and only let him carry on the straight line if he behaved himself : P He DOES love the poles. : )

I finished my ride just cooling him down bareback. He's so much narrower now then he was last winter (I'm not complaining) and boy-o-boy do high withers NOT go with bareback : P Or girls who can't sit the trot ; )

Funny thing? I was going to put them away when I was done riding and another rider plus W and a student came in...but guess what everyone wanted to do? Trot poles! : P

Then it was off to my friend's to watch the farrier work. Short and sweet of it was that I liked her, she seemed competent and she held my two strongest beliefs: 1. A natural trim means their hooves self-trim, which we don't want. 2. Shoes are only for heavy competition or running on gravel. Which we're not doing. Passing grade.

I have discovered that it's near impossible to grade a farrier on their skill set until they've been trimming a horse for at LEAST 6 months. Not saying all problems will be gone in that amount of time, but if you know the horse's background and previous condition, you can assess if they've made forward progress or just gotten worse. So admittably, the horses that I saw her trim did not properly identify her abilities to make that forward progress, but the trim job DID show that she did a good job. No carving out the sole, she didn't take too much off but she also didn't leave them long. She took the time to check her angles and did a nice neat job.

So I had her come out and trim Mr. Moon.

Lesson #1: Worrisome first-horse owners ALWAYS think things are WAY worse then they are. I think the farrier thought she was coming to trim terrible feet. They weren't perfect, but they apparently were better then I made them out to be. : P I *think* that's a good thing?
Lesson #2: Trust your gut. I knew he had flaring and new farrier agreed. Not apparently as bad as I made it out to be, and I conceed they HAVE been improving over the last 8 months. Just not a lot.

Today I was back at the barn and had completely forgotten about yesterday's trim. Out into the arena, trot around a bit and INSTANTLY notice on a 20 m trot circle he hurts. Now I'm not sure if it's foot sore or muscle/joint sore, since I did have him doing some pretty difficult moves yesterday. But he HAS had a pretty laxidazy week all things considered, since he had Sunday, Monday AND Friday off. Normally he gets one day off a week, if that.

Right fore.

So I take him inside and wonder if our new hoof boots would fit with the new trim. And I'm once again sad I can't find camera batteries, because they fit. And look hilarious. Bright red. He had his "I'm such a loser in these, do NOT let the ladies see me" face on.

Back in the ring he was noticably better but not 100%. The hoof boots recommend a break-in period of 15 minutes the first time and increasing from there, so we didn't work long. And of course the lunch cart started rolling down the alley outside the ring by this point, which meant I had a screaming, hungry, attentionless mount to contend with. So I made him do two trot circles in his good direction WITHOUT craning his neck out but rather staying soft and bent in, before calling our ride to an end.

The hoof boots on removal had worn a bit of heel skin, though not bare. We'll see if we continue using them.

So, new trim = sore pony? New work = sore pony? Horse seen galloping around the muddy paddock like an idiot for fun = sore pony? Who knows. In the good news, W DID say he looked great doing it ; )

Other happy-owner moment? I found out one of the woman that boards there helps bring the horses in twice a week...and LOVES Moon'ers behavior on the lead. Total gentleman. : ) Oh, and her and her part-boarder want to go trail riding with me, which means we're going to have a fun and diverse winter! : )

Well, I'd better get back to wood-burning. Signs #2 and #3 are nearly complete...and I burned out my new wood burner... : P

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lost Loves.

I was thinking lately about all the horses that 'got away', as one sometimes thinks back on those past human relationships. I haven't any past relationships of that sort, but I often imagine that this is kinda what it must be like when one reflects.

I imagine we all have horses that we met, rode and loved. Maybe they were lesson horses or a friend's horse or a free lease. You'd buy them in a heart beat and were certain they could be your heart horse. Yet you never in the end were able to make them yours.

I have such horses in my history. A few stand out very prominently that I often catch myself thinking about them and what it would be like if I had actually bought them. I used to ask my dad when I was a teenager, tempted to take my savings and buy one of these magical creatures, work my weekends to cover board and spend my evenings riding. Of course, I didn't have horsey parents and even if I did something as crazy as buy a horse, they'd NEVER let it come ahead of school. Which is why I was always the kid that had to stop taking lessons in December for finals, and May for finals, and March for mid-terms and November...and all summer long as I worked to pay for university tuition...

I do today, appreciate it. I never did make it to vet college like I dreamed, but I did get myself to a place where I do not worry about ever not being able to pay for Moon's care, board and spoiling. I'm sad to have missed out on the opportunity, to be a half-dozen step behind those that rode for years as kids, but I know that's just what life turned out to be for me.

The first horse I ever considered buying, was Bertha. A TERRIBLE name for a horse if you ask me. Even today, some 8 years later or so, I still gag when I hear it. I am forever fortunate to have stayed in touch with the wonderful woman who bought her, but I still can't believe she never changed her name. Bertha thankfully was her barn name. She was an off-the-track thoroughbred by the name of Windlass. I met her when a co-worker of my summer job offered me a free lease and I couldn't say no. My first real long-term lease. She hadn't been off the track long, she was proportioned like OTTBs always are at first (scrawny little neck, all tucked up behind and permanently bent left), and she was a sweet heart. I can honestly say, not all OTTBs are crazy. I loved her, she and I would gallop for miles, and she had just the right level of sassy.

Bertha, Summer 2005

When the chance to buy her came up at the end of summer, I was desperate. I tried everything. The BF even offered to purchase her for me (yes, he did it twice). But I couldn't. I knew I couldn't provide for her. I knew I was hoping to get in to vet college in the spring and I'd have to sell her. And if I didn't get in, I still needed to pay for 2 more years of university to get my bachelors. I needed to study at night and on weekends, as I learned from my less then stellar grades. I KNEW I shouldn't do it. I wouldn't be able to treat her if she was sick. I wouldn't have time to ride her because I'd always be working and studying. I couldn't offer her the training and care she needed. So I let her go. And I cried.

In hindsight, I'm happy. My dad always said to be patient. You can have things NOW because you want them, or later because you're ready for them. It's a tough choice, but I'm proud I didn't do it. She was $2k or $1500, I can't remember any more. She sold to a great person who took it slow and appreciates her. I got to watch them compete this summer and was proud of them. "B" as I've always called her (or more often, "Sweet B") is not the horse I loved so many summers ago. She's grown and changed and I don't feel my heart pulling towards her as it once did. "Sweet B" is long gone, galloped off in those summers of long ago. Bertha stands in her place, and while she's a good horse, she's not my heart horse.

I tried another OTTB after her. It was a couple years later and I was in a place where I could afford a horse. A friend had one that was too tall for polo and I saw an opportunity. I liked the fellow, Griffin. We practiced in the arena, I had walked him in the road and we even went on a trail ride with his real owners. I thought perhaps we had a connection and seriously considered purchasing him. Except for some reason, I could hardly motivate myself to get out and ride him. And I didn't know why. I still don't. It was almost like that guy that you date and he's really sweet, but when you finally kiss, there's zero spark. Nothing. I didn't care if I didn't ride him some days. Sometimes I'd ride for a bit and then hop off and put him away. There was nothing. That's kinda how it ended. I went out less and less. I started to wonder if I even enjoyed riding anymore. I eventually stopped going altogether. His owner asked me if I wanted to buy him and I had to say, no. I just, didn't.

Another year passed. I took some serious private lessons and was enjoying riding again. The urge to have a horse of my own was back and I knew I just had to find the right one.

That's where Krook came in. I decided I'd paid my dues, lost my opportunities and wanted to connect with a horse as I did with "B". I took a close friend on the journey and visited a lot of farms. I fell for a grey horse that bucked. I thought I could change him, but thankfully was convinced to stay clear. I met an awesome little quarter horse that was hardly green broke. My first training opportunity? A big black fellow who'd never jump but was parelli'd out the after horse, after horse. None for me. No connection.

Krook, Fall 2008

And then my friend offered to sell me Krook. A little sporthorse
colt, about 3 years old at the time who wasn't broke to ride. She and a
friend had bred him to be a little jumper but things hadn't turned out and
he was sorta just sitting there looking for a human. Why not me?

I spent about a month with him, hoping he'd be the one. I bought a little rope halter and tried some parelli. I brought a beautiful leather cavesson and lunge line and started working him. I went shopping for strong rope to teach him to tie. I paid the farrier to trim him and held him during the process...

But things went sour. He was fiesty. Full of piss and vinegar. At 3 he was herd-bound like the devil and already growing tall (I think he settled out at just over 16 hands). He'd never really been asked to work and he was NOT going to do so willingly. I tried. I remember having the rope halter on and him taking off before I could untie it. And REFUSING to stand to allow me. I stood in the field and was CERTAIN he'd be wearing it forever.

I remember taking him in to the outdoor ring to teach him to lunge. We'd had a few good sessions but he was always trying to get back to the herd. He'd run through the high tensile fence already, cutting open his leg. Why? Because we seperated him from the herd to get him over it. Didn't work.

So there we were trying to lunge. He'd realized that he was being asked to work and decided that wasn't going to happen. I remember he reared on me when I approached him, clipping the brim of my helmet with his hooves and knocking my glasses from my face, before taking off bucking and kicking. I dropped the lunge line. Put my glasses back on my face. Looked at the blood coming out of my glove from him half ripping off a finger nail in his outburst. He was still ripping around, trying to get to the herd.

I was just a couple years past my head injury. A polo horse that reared on the lead line, breaking my skull open with his hooves. The REASON I was wearing my helmet to lunge in the ring every time. I couldn't get past it. I still can't get past it. Bite me, push me, buck and shy all you want. But DO NOT rear on me. Deal breaker.

I think I went out one last time after the incident. But I couldn't do it. I didn't love him; I kinda actually hated him. He had seemed like the last hope after a lot of searching and a month in, it was time wasted. No heart horse there and I was sad, frustrated, angry and scared. I knew I was far out of my comfort zone and I bailed. Perhaps a little ashamed I couldn't cut it, but also happy to be free.

Time elapsed. I had stopped looking. I took lessons, but the horses never connected with me. So I went in search of another free lease...and found T and my Moon'er. He never scared me. If I didn't see him for a couple days, I'd be itching to get back. And when I saw him, I'd tear up. He made me start doodling in my notebooks at work like I was back in seventh grade. He entered my dreams at night, he was all I'd talk about during the day and I lost all interest in spending time riding lesson horses. All I wanted was him. Like love.

Moon'er, Fall 2011

I'll never say I don't look back. But I look back and see that every horse that wasn't my horse, helped me grow enough to find Moon. Those ex-horses will always be a part of me, because they brought me one step closer to my guy. Mr. Moon is every bit the bane of my existence, probably because he was built for my existence. Everything I wanted paired with everything I never knew I needed. : ) Thanks buddy for waiting for me.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Time to Shine.

Moon'er Spring 2011 (Pre-Lessons)

Moon, Last Week 2011Moon, Spring 2011 Again.

Let me start by saying I forgot to charge the camera batteries. And can't find the spares for the life of me. It's starting to become a pattern. : P Which is why I ordered ANOTHER card for my video camera : P

Regardless, this post will be (new) picture-less. Maybe tomorrow I'll get some for you.

Today when I walked in to the arena one of the people there said "Wow is your horse sweaty". I scrunched up my face and stared at Moon. He'd just been standing around when I was grooming him...why would he be sweaty? And he wasn't. "Um, he's not..." I replied. "Why does he look wet then?" Realization that he's SOOO shiny from his new blanket that he looks WET in the lamplight. : )

I decided today to finally tape him at W's since I had a solid level surface and could get him standing square. Probably a bad idea. No matter how I positioned him or the tape, he kept seeming slightly shy of that 15 hh mark. I normally claim he's 15.1 hh. It's a nice number. But standing there today I knew there's ZERO chance of him being 15.1. I might be able to cock his shoulder the right way to make 15 hands but I'm coming to grips with the fact that he very well may stand only 14.36 hh. And yes, he needs that 0.06. Regardless he's still safely 'horse height'. :P And at 5'9" he's just PERFECT for me.

I also taped his weight since he's looking pretty stellar. In and around 1000 lbs, maybe just under. I'm THRILLED. When I got him he was about 1200 lbs and none of it muscle.

For our lesson, we had fun. Let me say I'm dying to get my new camera cards as I need to catch some stuff on video. His leg yielding feels incredible. So great that I can sit it at a trot and he just floats. Our 10 m circles were awesome today, especially going the way he bends well. I mean, FIRST LEVEL quality at the end of the lesson. We might bicker, argue and have some pretty awful moves at times, but when we've got it, it's good.

I also learned that we're stupidly similar. I was trying to work on our shoulder-in and was having some trouble getting all the aids in right when suddenly I realized my mouth was open, my head was tilted stupid, my shoulder had come up and my face was scrunched. OMG! I had the "EVIL BUNNY FACE!" I always accuse Moon'er of having! Must, learn, to, relax!

We worked on shoulder-in, haunches-in and even canter work on the circle. We figured out what his go-to lead is his left. Oddly enough, he counter-canters on his left lead circling right better then he regular canters on his left going left. Go figure.

Unfortunately W noticed he's coming up a bit short on his right front fore, perhaps because he's a little tender footed from the freezing ground? : ( Makes me worry over him a bit, but we still gave him a good work-out. I asked W if she could put him in to the next farrier rotation and I look forward to seeing the job the fellow does and his thoughts. I'm still struggling with the flaring AND he's managed to self-trim after 5 weeks. A nice chunk out of his right hind.

I was so proud of him today. I can't believe that we're closing in on our 1 year anniversary. Christmas. Even crazier is that sometime this week is our 6 month mark from when we started lessons with W. 6 MONTHS of training under our belts. On our good days, we're schooling first level. On our bad days, we're a pair of doufuses bickering at one another. Those 6 months are MY six months. No one but me has really ridden him (W was on him twice for a couple of minutes) and I'm pretty proud of what we've learned together.

Yesterday after 2 days apart, I walked in to the barn and fell in love with him all over again. He is without a doubt, my bestest buddy horse. I trust him, I LOVE riding him and he's the perfect peanut butter to my jam. : )

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keepin' it Interesting

I often struggle with working "outside the box" with Moon. Not because I have no creative ideas of things to do with him, but rather I have this silly irrational feeling that I must stick to the training program. And NOT DEVIATE FROM IT AT ALL IN THE SLIGHTEST.

Which is truly silly. The nicest part of owning a horse is supposed to be that you can train it how you want. Yes, it's important to seek the advice and coaching of professionals, but at the end of the day, you do as you please.

Today after a warm up and a bunch of boring circles, figure 8's, leg yields and serpentines, I was exasperated. Moon was lethargic which meant I spent most of my time nagging him to keep moving. Not wanting to nag, I started bumping him with my legs. Which while he doesn't enjoy, only yields an increase in speed for a few steps, a sour look from him and a return to a laxidaze pace. Start to end, the cold weather makes him stiff, we're bored of trotting freakin' circles and we NEED to find a way to keep it interesting.

My first decision was to try doing some "Reverse Demi Voltes" that Kiirsten described in her recent post. In all seriousness, the name sounds like a ballerina move and Moon and I are NOT ballerinas (nobody point out the two pairs of ballet shoes and matching leotard in my closet...). Instead, I shall call them "Getting Moon's big ol'butt to the other side of the circle while still going forward".

I won't say we were successful. To be honest, I haven't a clue what we were doing. I watched the video, I went out there, and I gave my horse a bunch of aids that I thought might work. With no mirrors in the arena, no video camera on hand and no one watching, I know my horse ended up facing the other direction. So I'll say it counts ; )

Then I figured, why not try the side pass? And thought I'd put him in front of a wall to keep him from moving forward or back. Pretty sure this is NOT how the move is taught, but I just wanted to be free to mess around with my horse and experiment. In the end, I believe I taught him the horse version of the breakdance move "the worm". Front moved over, hind moved over. Front, hind. If we could do them at the same time, we'd be side passing. But we didn't. In hindsight, I think we did our first steps of turn-on-the-haunch...

After our work on the worm, we did some leg yielding. We don't look like this woman (read her books, she's a dressage goddess), but I think he's REALLY starting to get it. But of course, no real way to know.

Why do I keep complaining about that? Because I misplaced my video camera card and the internal memory only stores 30 seconds. And it's an HD camera so I need a giant fast card that's normally pretty expensive. So today I found one on sale on ebay and bought it. Which means I'm eagerly awaiting the wonderful republic of Hong Kong to ship it to me, so I can actually tell if we're making any progress or if I've taken to imagining things for the pure sake of preventing myself from selling my dressage saddle and teaching Moon how to pull a muck cart (that's humor, in truth I won't quit, but I do need to find proof that our hard work is actually working. And the coach doesn't count. I pay her to tell me I'm doing good ; ) ).

What next? Why don't we attempt the canter? W has been taking it slow and really helping us build muscle and balance. I conceed, Moon and I love to run. And it's kinda annoying not to be able to do so in the indoor. So I've taken it upon myself to practice a circle or two every ride. The key for me, is not letting him rush. When he does, I recollect him, slow him down and ask again. We were able to depart the canter twice of the three times I asked, but he REALLY lacks balance. I'm confident he has a lot of the muscle needed, but I think he just doesn't know how to balance himself with a rider on a circle. Little steps.

By this point, he was done learning. And bored. I admit, I was tired of the circles too. So I set up a jump. And raised it from last week. It wasn't high, but it was higher. Instantly he was more alert and moved at a better pace. I almost think his bending and corners improved too...

The first time, he ran right in to it. I wonder if a pale brown pole in the sand is kinda hard to see...

After his first smack, he knocked it every time through. Still not sure if seeing it had an impact on his performance, but regardless I think we had fun. It was different, something new to do, and we could still focus on being soft and supple. And now I want to do it again.

Tomorrow for my lesson I'm gonna ask W if we could add some poles or something new to our lessons. We just need a change to keep it challenging and engaging for us both.

P.S. Since the snowfall, Mr. Moon's been wearing his blanket...which has made him CRAZY shiny.

P.P.S. So far, loving the Schnieder's Saddlery Blanket, and so's the barn owners. Belly band is UBER nice and well constructed/safe. So far durable, warm and just well made.

P.P.P.S. I promise pictures tomorrow! Camera batteries were dead!
If only we were all rich. I swear, I saved money before I owned Moon. Now, I just can't help but spend my spare change on him. And I spend a lot of time controlling such urges.

Take yesterday. I awoke to our first snowfall. My first thought? Moon needs a light weight winter turnout blanket.


Well, it's not really cold out yet. So his mid-weight is probably too heavy despite the snow, but he doesn't have anything waterproof to keep him dry. So he's either outside wet and cold, or dry and hot. Thankfully his mid-weight is supposed to be breathable and wicking, but really only to a point.

So I spent 2 days searching for a deal on a light-weight blanket. And found none. Found some great deals on mid-weight ones, but I don't need two of the same thing. And all the rainsheets were the SAME price if not more then the mid and heavy-weights. Aurgh.

Then Kiirsten mentioned using sport medicine boots to help with windpuffs. While Moon's windpuff isn't down near his hocks, it's still in an area where smb's might help. So off I went searching for any deals on those...

Of course, we still need a new dressage girth, we need show clothing for the spring, we need, we need, we need.

Let's just say it's not happening. It's gotten to the point where last night I dreamed I sewed my own breeches! Granted, I have the pattern and the fabric, but REALLY!

Since I made W's stall plaque, I've received a bunch of requests to make more. But the appeal of being able to squirrel away dedicated funds to show next year with a little of winter work was too enticing. I even went so far as to ask my Dad who makes and routers the plaques if he'd be willing to continue to make them for me (he's been doing them sorta out of his pure love for me on the assumption that it was a bit of a one-off sorta thing). I'm still waiting for him to reply ; )

When I did the actual math, I need to make about $1000 or sell about 34 plaques (when one removes the $ to cover materials). I currently have 6 paying customers lined up, and am aware of another 2 who are interested. Which is about 1/4 of the way there, though I still have to get in gear and make all those plaques!

I've found two outlets by which I could probably continue to find customers. One is a local tack store in a small 'horse town' near our main competition facility. They take on consignment sales sometimes, and it might work. The other is a new barn that has opened its own art gallery on-site. I have done some purely artistic wood burning of horses and could probably work in some advertisements for stall plaques while I'm at it. That's the sort of place that would be PACKED with people wanting custom plaques.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Breaking FREE!

Today is likely our last day of lovely fall weather. Granted, the weather has been beautiful far longer then it normally does, which I'm sure sci-geeks would claim is global warming. I scoff and assure them that it'll be just as cold and long as it ever is. Just you wait.

Since tomorrow is supposed to be dropping temperatures with rain turning to snow overnight, I wasn't surprised to see that the whiteboards in the barn all proclaimed "Are your winter blankets ready?! Get'em out!" Moon'er's has been sitting in front of his stall since we moved in last month, and I'm EAGER to see him wearing it! Hood and all. So bring on the snow flurries!
W stopped by while I was grooming Moon to ask me what I thought of his current weight. Terrible question to ask me. I cringe when I see overweight animals, horses, dogs, cats, anything. We as people are able to exercise and regulate our feed intake. Our pets however rely rather heavily on us for this. So to me, it's CRITICAL to pay attention to how much your animal is eating, how their weight and body shape is and the level of exercise they're recieving.

Hmmm...critical appraisal of Moon. Well, his haybelly is pretty near gone. While T treats all of her horses amazingly well, given the set-up of her land and group pastures it's not practical to use square bales. So they were always fed round bales of varying feed quality since they harvested their own hay and it was all stored outside. Instead of being able to shop around, you're more restricted to what you're able to pull off your own fields. I totally understand that. W on the other hand can shop around a bit more, and of course, is compensated for the costs since she's a boarding stables. So the hay is all medium square bales, shedded and smells like candy. Granted they don't have grass to graze here as Moon had at T's, but that matters little once the winter snow flies.

So I look at my boy. Personally, I'm thrilled. He's not ribby. I think if I hosed him down, you'd JUST be able to make out the outline of his ribs, soaking wet. With his winter coat, they're not visible but if you run your hands on his sides you can feel them. And they're not covered in a layer of fat. He's muscled, has no hollows over his hips or neck and looks very healthy and shiny. I'm pleased. No need to up his feed unless it's crazy cold out and he starts experiencing more weight loss. W was right with me and said she'd throw him an extra flake here and there as needed but we won't start him on any grain/feed.

It occurs to me, that keeping him indoors, being the easy keeper that he is, is probably cheaper for them then outdoor board in terms of input costs. He eats no grain, less hay then he would outside all winter, he only poops in one corner of his stall meaning very little straw is ever removed and added back. Even IN a 12x12 stall. So about $4/day less in feed then outdoors plus $1 extra in straw = $90 less then keeping him outside : P Go figure. And yes, I realize there's upkeep costs, electricity, wages for mucking stalls...

But I digress. I DID catch sight of some more new signs up...noting for boarders not to help themselves to hay, straw or grain unless they've paid for it. Interrresting...

So I got Moon in his gear to head off on the trails behind the barn for the first time. W warned me of bears, wolves and coyotes, but really, I'm not too worried. Horses normally don't stand around waiting for them.

I'm thinking it'll be a good change for Moon before the snow. Nice break from arena work. Plus, I want to see if he's herd bound and if he'll refuse to leave the sight of the other horses.

I lead him into the breezeway and let go of his reins to close the screen door so W's puppy doesn't run out...And as I reach for the door I see this *look* in Moon's face. He's gonna run.

So I lunge for his tail (yes, I left my horse standing there in a bridle, not holding his reins, facing away from me and walked behind his arse to close a door...dum-de-dumb)...

And he BOLTS.

Most people would let go of the tail. Remember, I'm stubborn. I try to hang on...and nearly get dragged on my face across the parking lot gravel : P Double-dum-de-dumb.

In hindsight, praise the horse-heavens my horse isn't a kicker. PERFECT opportunity and reason to double barrel me to the face.

Moon heads RIGHT for his paddock, runs the fence line with his girlfriend following and dashes into the huge muck heap. I start to bolt for the gate that would contain him to the back 1/2 of the property and see that W's little great dane puppy is running towards Moon. AURGH. Cause I left the barn door open of course : P

And behind Miss Molly the puppy, is W, taking in the entire situation. Moon running up and down the muck piles (it's an entire row of about a year's worth of poop) and Molly headed RIGHT for him thinking this is a new game!

I know that Moon is fine. He's a poo-head, but fine. Not really interested in running off, he just wanted to run with his little girlfriend. And I DID sorta point him out the door and walk away! Molly on the other hand is a baby. All morning I was chasing her off because she'd do figure 8's between Moon's feet when I wasn't watching. She'd walk up and lick Moon's nose. She grabbed his reins, stole his brush and tried to chew his tail. DANGER! Granted, Moon is a total gentleman and doesn't move when she's underfoot, other then to sniff her little puppy face when she reaches up to lick him...

Still, if he's running on a poo-pile like an idiot, she could very well get trodden right in to it. And I gotta save her first.

So I start waving my winter mitten around; "Here Molly! Come play!" And she DASHES to me, grabs hold of the mitten and starts tug-of-war with me. PHEW. I can grab her collar and keep her distracted. Meanwhile, W had climbed the muck heaps and grabbed Moon. We meet in the driveway and exchange escapees. Hers is cuter. Mine's covered in feces.

I thank her again, give Moon a scratch under the chin for not killing any of us, and hop on. What a way to start.

He leaves the barn without a blink. His girlfriend runs the fenceline and he ignores her. Out into the trees we wander, through bogs and grassy fields and mudroads. It was wonderful. We covered 6 miles before getting back to W's, including some road riding. He was awesome. He LOVES it. And he managed to brush most of the poop off his legs in the bogs.

It was perfect. I let W and some of the other riders know that if they ever want to trail ride, I'm game. And so's Moon'er. Just next time, we'll save the adventure for the ride...

Royal's new sign...and blinking for the camera...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mix Master

For starters, I'm spoiled. I came to that realization when standing in the barn brushing Moon'er in a light sweater and jeans. And it was frosty outside. Already there's 15 to 20 degrees C difference in temperature inside to out, and it's MARVELOUS. Yes, it can be unhealthy for the horses and we're always careful about drafts. But beyond that, it's MARVELOUS!

Of course, genius me brought my bridle home finally to clean and oil...and didn't. And then left it hanging on the dining room chair when I headed to the barn this evening. So I broke a cardinal rule as someone who used to work in foreign animal disease research...and borrowed one of W's horse's bits and bridles. And didn't even bother to clean it off other then wiping it over my sleeve. : P Equine herpes virus and all that, right? It's not like they're not all in the same barn...

Oddly enough, Moon almost went better in Tapper's bit. It's a fairly wide double jointed with the thick center piece. Not much different from his own rotary built other then how the joints are made. I also was left wondering if the lack of a noseband had any affect (he hates a tight noseband).

Regardless, he was moving really well. So well I asked for a canter. He still can't do it on a true circle, but we made a couple of attempts and then I let him relax again. Hard work.

After doing my serpentines and yields and transitions I realized that I am kinda bored with the repeating pattern. And maybe Moon'er is too?

So I hopped off and laid out a single raised pole. I mean, it was no jump. Just about a foot off the ground. But he hadn't been over any poles in a long time, so it would be neat. The first time he stopped and sniffed the jump blocks, never having seen them before. Yup, look safe.

Trotted him around and it was hilarious. He was FOCUSED on the jump before we were even coming around to it. I had to remind him we were going around the whole ring, not just cutting in and getting over the jump.

So around we came the second time and his little ears pricked forward. His paced quickened a bit and I tried to keep him lined up well...except I was probably staring too much at the jump and he decided to jump the block instead : P Which wouldn't be a big deal other then the fact that put me stupidly close to the arena support posts! Since they curve inwards as they go up the sides, where Mr. Moon is far from the wall, I'm there half cocked to the side to not have my head and shoulders taken off : P Silly boy.

Third time was a charm. Ears forward he popped right over it. Like a champ. We did it twice more, just because he looked so happy doing it. He'll never be a jumping horse, but I could tell by the way his pace improved, his ears pricked and he stretched out even more that he was enjoying the change of pace. PERHAPS, we need to find more ways to incorporate variety into our routines. I'm wondering if W would consider putting some poles in our lessons or even if their jump coach was still coming around once a month...

So overall, I found Moon went better in Tapper's bit, and when I picked up a dressage whip as a little encouragement when he started to stall out (just have to carry it in my hand) he gave me absolutely lovely movement. it easier to engage the hind end when you have a little impulsion?! : P Sarcasm.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow I'm HOPING the weather is lovely and I can take him out for a hack. We haven't done that in over a month and I think we both miss it. Fresh air, open space and fast speeds. I could tell when I asked for a canter from him, that he just wants to stretch out and run a bit. So do I!

Only worry is that his hind-leg lump from the summer has re-appeared. I suspect that I'm looking a 'windpuff' of sorts and that as long as I'm working him regularly it'll show up. I'll probably bring some poultice out tomorrow and I'm wondering if wrapping his legs for workouts is beneficial? Not sure if they'd really add support or not. He's certainly not lame on it, shows no signs of pain and there MAY be just mild heat in the area. I'll keep monitoring and figure out what to do...

And I've pictures to upload tomorrow! Not any good, but something to look at!

She goes on and on and on...

I was out yesterday to put to practice what Moon and I learned on our Wednesday lesson, which went surprisingly well. For starters, it took only two tries for him to stand nicely at the mounting block while I got on. Granted, the second time he started to walk off before I even tried to get on, but he did a really nice rein back without me even in the saddle. And then figured out he wasn't going to win this one.

It was followed by the boring (to listen to, not to ride) practice routine which I won't drone on about. I WILL say that our sitting trot is improving in leaps and bounds...or bumps and bounces ; ) And so is his 10 m circles!

I was riding in the arena with a new face, who I learned had just resumed lessons after a 35 year break. Her son is dating one of W's boarders and his girlfriend convinced this individual to pursue her longtime dream of trying english riding. Lo and behold, she is. We stopped and chatted a bit and it was great to meet another avid rider.

In other news, I got two more requests for stall plaques. I tried to be reasonable and priced them at $35 and am a little surprised by how popular they actually are. I've been thinking about it, and have decided that I'm going to use the earnings to fund our show career for next summer. Granted, I probably need to make some 20 or 30 plaques to be realistic, but still. I should be able to make showing a little more economic with a little extra hard work. Plus, the girls (and boys) REALLY love them. Which makes it even more worth it!

The last thing...Do you find yourself WAY more talkative when it comes to horses? During my lesson on Wednesday, I realized that introverted me becomes a total gabber-mouth when it comes to horses and riding. I mean, somedays I'm amazed that W doesn't tell me to be quiet. I ride around just prattling on and on. I yap away in the barn. I talk to my horse when I'm alone! And I talk to EVERYONE. Gone is the reserved me. The quiet me. When it's horses or riding or at the barn, there's just no stopping me!

I actually ANNOYED MYSELF on Wednesday I was yapping so much! A few times I mentally heard myself saying "Be quiet already!" and forced myself to stop talking! It's ridiculous. Then again, when one looks at my blog, it's pretty obvious when it comes to horses, I can go on and on and on... ; )

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Perfect Moments

Yesterday when I headed to the barn I was planning on hanging Royal's new stall plaque on his door and waiting for W to notice it. Except when I got to the barn they were leading the horses in for the night and I hadn't a clue which was Royal's stall when he wasn't standing in it!

So I hung it on the tack rack by the cross-ties instead, expecting W to pass by it a few times without noticing.

Man, was I wrong. As soon as she walked in and turned the corner, she yelled "Oh my gawd!" and went running over to it, pony still in hand. I got a hug and much appreciation, and I could tell that it was about to bring tears to her eyes. I know the feeling. There's something about a beautiful plaque proclaiming your best friend your very own that makes your heart swell. I was thrilled that she loved it so much.

It's now hanging in front of Royal's stall, looking just fabulous. And now I can't wait to start working on the next set!

After we finished discussing artistic talent (I was trying to convince W that her horses should start doing those 'animal paintings' like people sell made by monkey's or parrots), it was off to my lesson.

Moon remained pretty stiff to the left, though 'pretty stiff' today is a far cry from what it was 5 months ago. W encouraged me to out-stubborn him when he decided to lift his nose to the sky to avoid having to bend that way, by simple continuing to ask for a bend and lifting a bit with the outside rein to draw him back onto the circle. Surprise, surprise he would eventually concede, drop his head and we'd carry on. Until he'd decide again it was just too hard. He's a stubborn monkey : )

Our 10 m circles, which are meant to lead to our canter work and improve my sitting trot are improving in leaps and bounds. W reminded me that only last week I was going on and on about how great it is to have a horse that improves so visibly. Which means that there's gonna be some pretty ugly moments to start. Yesterday those ugly moments were starting to fade and I actually felt comfortable at times. Added in some sitting straight-aways and was shocked to see that I wasn't bouncing! I'm certainly no pro and Moon'er still struggles to maintain the 10m circles perfectly, but they're really coming along. And I don't doubt that as we continue to practice it'll just keep getting better.

W commented about him looking amazing out in the field that morning, cantering around the paddock in beautiful form. Everyone at the barn has come to discover for a rather unassuming horse, he's a TOTAL flirt. The INSTANT a mare is around he's only got eyes for her and is trying out his finest moves to get her attention. He's known for rubbing his face against other mare's when they pass by the fenceline or casually grooming them. Even when they DO try to rip his face off...

It's beyond cute. He's a little stud boy. Yesterday someone called him gorgeous. I almost started laughing. Um, Moon'er? They went on about his lovely TB features, and W chimed in that he looks more warmblood then QH when moving around his paddock. I proclaimed them both crazy. Moon'er will ALWAYS be in my eyes, that horse I first saw at T's. Dipped back, big ol'hay belly, quiet and kind eye and a little bit of stiff sassy resistance. When people point out his growing topline, easily traceable muscle lines, filled hindquarters and elegant movement, I have to take a step back and realize he's not the horse I spent less then a slaughter-house price on. He's a pretty fine specimen of horse even if he'll always just be my tubby little pasture buddy. He stole my heart not with his looks or moves, but with his wonderfully "Moon'er"-like personality. I don't need him to be anything more then that to keep loving him.

Which saddens me. Here's a horse that's fabulous. Inside and out. I'm not saying he's perfect, I'd be the last to make that proclamation. But he's still an amazing horse, even removing my bias. He's well-bred, relatively attractive, hardy and progressing well through his training. By next fall, I think he'll be a skilled riding horse with some show hours under his belt, hopefully to training level. A horse probably worth 3 or 4 times what I paid for him. Thankfully he was never at risk of going to slaughter (bless T's heart), but his last owner before her called him 'uncontrollable'. If it wasn't for T, I would suspect he would have bounced from home to home and perhaps wound up on someone's dinner plate or craft project.

WHY are so many awesome horses lost this way?! I just wish people wouldn't discount a horse because he's less then perfect at first glance. You'll be amazed what they can grow into.

And every one of them deserves their own little stall plaque, pronouncing the never ending love of their forever owner.