Wednesday, August 16, 2017

In A Rut

Since Arya's issues, now two weeks ago, I've been in a bit of a rut. The first week, we were busy busy busy all week and it took me until the weekend to really realize I hadn't ridden, and Arya hadn't been ground worked nearly as much as I had hoped.

Part of the reason I have no time to work my horses.

I changed that on Saturday; I dragged the ring and hopped on Bailey for a jump school. While it wasn't bad... things weren't together like they were the week before. In part, I am sure, because we're both out of shape, but it just seemed like a thousand things weren't right. She wasn't being good in the waterford. My stirrups were too long, and then my half chaps were just totally failing me, as my leathers felt like they were gnawing on my calves. I found one of my velcro back blocks in the sand when I was dragging, and I struggled my whole ride, knocking both of them loose again (though still hanging on by a few bits of velcro). Bailey herself was good; she knocked a rail or two, but I also had put full boots on her instead of leaving her bare, which always makes her less careful. She was hard to rate, and a bit rushy; the waterford worked well before, but it just wasn't working for us that day. I'm tempted to continue to experiment with bits; I don't have an elevator and I can't decide if one would be too much leverage for her, but the waterford also doesn't seem to be the right fit, either.

It would help, I'm sure, if she had more muscle. We did some dressage on Tuesday, and again struggled with a good connection and her being really through, so it's probably largely fitness that is our problem. I just need to ride more, and I'm lacking a lot of motivation even though I have no real reason to be.

The horses like to pretend they are as tired as I am...

On the Arya front, we've only been doing ground work. She's gotten a lot better, though until our last session she really was either choosing to run through the woah cue, or really not understanding it. And when I escalate, her usual reaction is to run, so it's really positive that she is starting to change the habits of old. She had some pre-existing rubs on her chin before we began groundwork, but they're badly placed and are right where the chin of the halter is contacting when I pop on her when she's lunging, or when she tries to lean and run away from me (which happens a lot, up until the last session) so she breaks them open each time we do work, so I've only been trying to work her every other day to give her a break and time to heal.

I admit; I don't feel mentally strong enough lately to try getting on her, so I've been putting off long lining and bringing her back under saddle. My personal life, along with not sleeping through the night due to a puppy going out at 1:15 every morning is leaving me drained, and I feel so disconnected from this horse. I don't know why she reared, really, and while I can conject all I want, the unpredictability of that makes me nervous. Ground work certainly isn't BAD for her, but I am disappointed that I'm not feeling driven to get on her.

What do you do to get out of a rut?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dripping Sweat

So after a day of reading natural horsemanship articles on the internet, casually shopping for 15' leads and natural horsemanship beating sticks and getting some great perspective from you wonderful people and my horsey IRL friends, I went home quite ready to tame the bay beast yesterday.

When I got out of the house to finally do the deed, it was around 7 and the wind had died down, leaving a lot of hot, sticky humidity with nothing to break it. Arya came power walking over in the paddock, expecting dinner. I caught her with a rope halter, pulled off her mask and fly sheet (though I left her boots on, no idea why) and grabbed my whip and some gloves. I dressed for battle (or at least enough).

And I got a battle.

Arya knows a little bit of ground work from our earlier sessions, though I never actually pushed her all that hard with it before now. We stuck with the following exercises:

1. Woah / Change of direction: Arya is super smart, and did a lot of the classic TB "I know what you're going to ask so I'm just going to do it" which is going to be a habit that we will slowly break. She doesn't want to interpret me popping on her halter as a "woah" cue, so that also needs some polishing. She picked up changing direction quickly, and goes left really well, but right was a struggle.

2. Backing: Arya doesn't like to back up, and she didn't pick up on my cues well, though I was experimenting with different ways to cue her to back so my methods did evolve over our session. I need to pick one and teach it, probably.

3. Stepping under: we did a minimum of this, as Arya is still very left handed and is still mastering the basics of staying the hell out of my bubble, thankyouverymuch. To the left she will bend much better, and I could tell that she was really struggling to travel with her head bent in going right, which meant that the whole exercise was a struggle for her that direction.

Arya's default seems to be forward, which is positive; she's smart, and she seems to want to do the right thing 80% of the time, but has a strong stubborn streak. If I got lazy with my cues, or if she didn't think my body was in the right place, she'd try to run through my whip/cue/aid and keep going in the "easy" direction. She doesn't like when I get after her, and her default is to get mad and run and brace in reaction. Especially in her woah/turns, we had a big problem with her invading my space. I think this is 80% physical and 20% dominance issue (she's a very 80/20 girl). Part of it was that she just can't turn and go right without dropping her shoulder and diving into my space; she would earn a poke in the shoulder with my whip for that, which would usually send her forward in a flustered/worried way. I can see we have a lot of work to do in both strengthening her body, but also in her own mental comfort zone working in hand.

It was hot, and she was a stubborn girl; she challenges me when I let my guard down, or if I'm not foot perfect in my cues and I need to make sure I'm looking at myself before seeing her as being rebellious or bitchy. We both worked until we were dripping with sweat, but she recovered well after a bath and some time in front of her fan with some hay before I fed her dinner. It wasn't easy, and at times I didn't feel very safe, but I am eager to pull her out again soon to see how much of yesterday soaked in!

Monday, August 7, 2017

No longer the favorite child

So after being all starry eyed and in love with Arya, reality hit over the weekend.

While a handful of (wonderful, hard working) men worked away on extending the hay storage section of the barn, I had a wonderful ride on Bailey. I set up a bounce-to-two-stride-oxer grid and slapped a waterford on her to combat the diving front end issue from our last jump school and off we went. She was lovely; she warmed up quietly, jumped around on an angle to "warm up" and no matter if I got her in long or short, she made it work. Like a total gem.


I'm not sure when the #feralredhorse became so wonderful and consistent, but even when I don't get on her for a week lately she's just been a total star. Good BB!

However... Arya was fine to tack up. She was a bit on edge but with lots of construction going on out of sight, I was patient and understanding with her. She accepted fly spray in exchange for cookies. She was her normal self.

And then I got after her for walking on top of me, and then not standing when asked. I plopped the mounting block down next to her, hiked up my girth and got on. She went to walk away from the block, like she does every ride. And like every ride, I got after her to make her stand like a civilized horse.

And then she started backing up, reared, and almost flipped over on top of me. I bailed myself off that shitshow and somehow managed to hang on to the reins and land mostly upright so I could continue to hold on to her. Doing this, I discovered yesterday (and even more today) I managed to anger half of the muscles in my upper body. I got mad. Arya lunged for a good amount of time and then I tried getting back on her. She walked fine. She trotted fine for 2 seconds, and then went to go speeding off and I half halted her... and she started to fuck around again. I don't have a good word or words for that feeling when a horse starts to sit down and get light in front and you can just TELL that it's going to go down, but I was like F THIS SHIT and tried to emergency dismount off of her before she started doing the backing-and-rearing-and-probably-flipping thing. So I half fell half threw myself off the horse again, and this time she got away from me and went Arabian-impression-ing her way back to the barn to her friends.

So I once again, retrieve and lunge my horse. This time I worked her hard on the ground work. We lunged and sent around the mounting block, and I carefully slid up on her back (laying on the saddle, sliding off) like I have to rebreak this animal several times, and finally got on her again. And we walked, and halted, and walked and halted a few times... and then I got off.

And honestly, I don't know where to go from here. How does one deal with a horse who only wants to bolt or rear?! I'm kind of thinking that we ground work hard and long line her at least a couple of days in a row, and then work up to lots of lunging with saddle again, and then working on mounting and not trying to kill me.

What would you do?

Edit: I should clarify that she didn't actually go over. I think she was close. The guys working on the barn had music on and apparently didn't see or hear anything going on. And she didn't go up again once I got back on her, which upon re-reading doesn't seem clear. It was one rear, and one instance of me getting scared and bailing (which resulted in her getting loose from me and running home). 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bridle Crazy: Help me style the new kid!

Between the handful of wonderful (Eponia) bridle reviews I've been seeing and everyone on my facebook getting something new - County saddles, fancy bridles, etc.... I want to spend money.

I know, I just stocked up on blankets, and I know I hardly ride lately. But BRIDLES, guys. Bridles are both functional and pretty, and Arya doesn't really have one of her own that doesn't make her look dowdy and boring.

I'd like to blatantly use any readers I have, though, because I can't decide what will look good on the new princess. Here she is modelling what I have put her in so far:

The Fake Micklem:

The Figure-8:

And the french noseband

(ok, this isn't my actual bridle, but mine is so similar. It's thin/no frills black with extremely subtle brown padding and it doesn't do a damn thing for her, promise.)

Honestly? I don't think I've found her look yet. Bailey looks magnificent in her weird anatomical bridles, and Foxie rocked the figure 8 like a boss. Arya doesn't have an inelegant head, in my opinion... but it's not quite what I've worked with before. So far she doesn't seem to have preferences at all; she needs a flash/figure-8/etc because she gapes. She is the most horse sized horse I own, so a lot of what I have doesn't fit her to begin with.

How would you dress this profile?

Monday, July 31, 2017

I need a routine!

I feel like, especially lately, I've been running from dusk to dawn with no breaks and I still feel like I'm getting nothing done.

These weirdos have nothing to do with me getting nothing done. NOTHING.

While I did get some riding in while hubby was away, he came home last Wednesday and it took until this weekend for me to get back on the horses. Both of the riding girls (Arya and Bailey) were a little squirrely and unmotivated; clearly they need a program. I am also suffering from similar effects, so it's time to set some goals and do what I love with some direction. 

Arya's leg still has the tiniest amount of thickening/swelling and I haven't done standing wraps or bute recently. She's still sound, and happy, and a gigantic pig. I haven't been jumping her, but I think I feel comfortable slowly ramping her up in her work; maybe not in duration, but in days. She can do good work for 20-25 minutes and be done; we also have some newly discovered work to do outside of the arena. I rode her out the gate to talk to hubby and she wouldn't go back in, so I had to get off and have a discussion about forward and going and things before getting back on. She doesn't hold grudges, though, so once we were back in the ring she went back to work. I do appreciate that quality in a horse!

Bailey has been doing some jumping our last 2/3 rides; she also rode down the road with a friend. The jumping has been enthusiastic but needs some work; I find she's diving down a few strides out to the base and I am going to try a waterford to see if that works to give me back her face/some control before I start shopping for a loop ring gag or elevator bit of some sort. It could be fitness related, but she's doing it so consistently that I'm thinking she's just going "FUN JAHMPS" and doesn't want to be managed. We went on a trail ride with the neighbor and she was shockingly sane and ok to ride, despite getting eaten alive by deer flies. She started off the ride with some major stupidity; the neighbor was on a paint with a fly mask on and Bailey couldn't fathom that he was a horse; 5-7 minutes of spooking, rearing and trying to nope on out of there, I got off, made them touch noses, the gelding said "HEY BABY" at her and suddenly everything was fine. Oh, BB.

Foxie hasn't been working; I keep meaning to get her legged up but I've been distracted. I have, however, been delighted with a new product we started using with her; it's called EatMoor by ADM, and it really seems to be working. With the humidity hanging out in the "NopeNopeNope" to "I am breathing water" region, Foxie has been looking rough. She wasn't finishing her grain meals well, and her hay intake isn't nearly on par with either of the other girls, though I know her teeth are good. I introduced the EatMoor last weekend and she's now cleaning up her grain and the supplement (which is a powder like wheat germ, and normally she won't eat powder without a fight) and making a much better dent in her hay. She's looking much less angular and her coat is starting to shine, though she is a really entertaining brindle color from not being sun bleached. The stuff is expensive, so I'm already trying to see if I can find a base amount that I can maintain her on; there don't seem to be many alternatives out there for it, much less cheaper ones, so if anyone knows of something, let me know!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Clean legs!

After two weeks of battle with Arya's leg, I finally broke out the bute.

And in a haze of lack of sleep, guess who didn't even take a damn picture. Enjoy Knox and the girls instead!

And guess who's leg is clean as a whistle?

Eyerolls for ever why didn't I just go straight to the bute??

Either way, I'm treating her like she has a tendon injury and we're rehabbing. We did 10 minutes of walking and 10 minutes of trotting last night, and that's it. We'll slowly increase work, and I will watch that leg with an eagle eye.

In the mean time, I know I'm dredging up a fun debate asking, but do you use "support" boots to protect your horse? Or "strike" type boots? Why? 

(And what are your favorite ones, because shopping).

I own some Pro Choice SMB boots, but not sure they're the best. Or if they do anything.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lumps and Bumps - What do you do?

We're sliding into home on week 2 of "Single Mother of 5". The puppy is substantially more potty trained than he was. The older dog has been good, but found a neighbor's chicken hiding in our landscaping yesterday... and did his bird dog thing. Whoops. The mares saw the farrier on Monday (and I really like him, he did a great job).


Horse wise, beyond the farrier, I've spent a lot of time staring at Foxie's butt and Arya's leg. Foxie has been kind of... lean lately. And I can't tell if it's a food thing, or a "I haven't been worked in ages why would I have muscle" thing or what. She doesn't actively eat as much as the younger horses, but even when given a regular hay net vs a slow feed net doesn't "clean up" her usual serving of hay. I tried a couple of days of electrolytes  - no visible difference, but lots of pee - and am doing a course of Sand Clear just to make sure I'm covering all my bases before I increase her grain or add something like rice bran. I've been giving her a flake of higher quality hay in with the regular stuff, but she's still wasting plenty (I can't tell if she's dropping it or sorting it out) of hay, so I feel like I need to increase her night feed instead of adding more hay. I just want the butt to stop looking so... angular. So she probably needs to go back into a lunge routine again, too.

Arya's leg has also been a problem; the girls farted around and she did a whole lot of food-aggressive chasing on Sunday night before hubs left (I was late to feed) and Monday night she had two diagonally swollen legs. The front went down the first night and has stayed down. The left hind, however, is becoming a far too familiar friend. I've been wrapping her in BOT and feeding extra MSM; so far she's been sound, and most days the swelling goes entirely down with a BOT standing wrap over night and re-appears throughout the day when she's out wearing a normal fly wrap.

She's been sound, so I've done some light riding a few days and let her canter a bit during our last ride since we've been sticking to walk/trot only the other rides. We ride in support boots with liniment, and cold hose after. The darn swelling just won't go away, though. It looked pretty amazing this morning - I finally broke down and gave her a gram of bute last night, and another this morning. I'm interested to see what the leg looks like by turn in time tonight. Maybe I can be done doing standing wraps!

Legs. oldest top left, newest bottom right.

It makes me wonder, though; what would you do? When do you call a vet? If it's tendon related, I feel like I'm following the usual instructions - cold hosing, wraps, keeping her from stomping the leg to smithereens and while maybe a vet might not recommend riding, I feel like I'm keeping her stretching and from doing too much running in the pasture. To be honest... I don't want to pay for a vet bill right now. I will if I need to, but I don't want to. You know how it is.

We're all still (mostly) in tact despite me being all by my lonesome, and I'll call it a win!