Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Farm Tangent 2: Protection Animal

While Bailey had a great ride on Monday, I'll save my excitement for a later post in case today's ride changes things (again).

Pictured: Horse with very few survival instincts.

In the mean time, I've been looking at donkeys and mules... not just because they are cute, but because I read somewhere that, beyond being a companion (and probably an easier keeper than buying another horse, at least when my preference tends to be TBs) they serve to help protect their herd. If you read the blog, you know that Foxie is older, and Bailey is silly and stupid; neither of them seems to be particularly worldly when it comes to predators. At our new farm, we will be farther north than I have ever lived, and 30 minutes north of their current, busy boarding barn. I don't worry about wild animals because it's so busy around the farm that there are always people and dogs around. Our farm will be much quieter, and while we are definitely not without neighbors, I still worry; the area we are moving into has plenty of civilization, but it's generally bunched closely together with big areas of wooded, farm or undeveloped land in between.

Technically, we have a good chance to be visited by black bears (though usually just the adolescent ones who are stupid), coyotes and... technically....wolves. Those are in addition to other less scary wild animals (deer, beavers, muskrats, racoons, foxes...), which I worry about less.

However, I have nothing but cursory familiarity with mules and donkeys in general. So, time to crowdsource advice from the internet! Part of me thinks they will be fine (which means we can focus on filling the 3rd stall with J's horse, or another riding animal) and part of me is convinced that they need something to be sensible and worldly, because lord knows they are not.

So, Internet:

What do you know about protection animals? Have you, or do you currently have a protection animal (vs an animal that is just a companion)? Beyond some awesome youtube videos I've seen, do protection animals... actually do their jobs?


Monday, April 17, 2017

Weekend Update & A Birthday

After last week's little to basically no riding, I was more than happy to take my friend J up on her offer to lunge Bailey for me on Thursday. Saturday morning finally arrived and I whisked myself off to the barn early to start taming the dragon (again). After trying to lunge in the freshly watered lower indoor (which was the consistency of a slip-n-slide) I tacked up in dressage clothes and headed up to the upper indoor; it was rainy and had poured overnight, so the farm was muddy, it was still sprinkling and all of my intent to be tough and ride outside was gone. I  tossed B on the lunge line in her halter and got this:

Surprisingly, Bailey (once under saddle) was quite good. I could tell she was really trying to be good - chewing until she looked rabid from all of the foam and being quite through and connected. She was a little spooky, but her canter was particularly adjustable and ride-able. I was quite pleased with her, and she really only got sweaty from her running around vs being stressed or wild under saddle.

Foxie got a quick bareback ride around a pony lesson, and tried to buck me off before doing some very decent trotting work. I can tell she needs some time in her BOT and a schedule to keep her stretching and bending... but that will come.

Because it was the most beautiful day on Sunday, I hauled the hubby back out to the barn to take some photos of the birthday girl (she's 21 TODAY!) and snuck a ride in on Bailey while Foxie got hand grazed by her dad. It was windy, Bails was not even remotely tired from the previous day and the outdoor was apparently full of lots of scary things, because she was quite explosive and distracted. I wasn't wearing full seats, and even a good spritz of saddle tight did nothing for my stickability; we suffered through a quick ride with a few jumps and lots of lid-keeping-on, and I called it a day and let her hand graze for a bit before dinner. I'm looking forward to working her harder today and trying to continue building in the control I need for when she's hot and reactive like this; my riding plans for tonight are probably heading out on XC, but the ground might not be dry enough to do much (stupid spring rain)... so we shall see.

In the mean time, Happy 21st, Fox!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Farm Tangent 1: Atypical Stall Size

Since I haven't 100% decided if I want to start a new blog for the farm, or not (and probably should wait until we've named said farm to make it a blog...) I figure I might as well continue to document the exciting life of pre-farm existence here.

The item that is on my mind today is stall size, because one of my/our first big projects is spiffing up the barn. It's rough and I am not 100% sure what it's going to look like on move-in day, because it looked like this when we visited:

Complete with poo in the stalls (and no shavings, but I am not here to critique the previous owners). Either way, I don't know if I fully trust the brochure that said "2 10x12 stalls!" simply because the two stalls were visually different when we were there. We are moving in May, and I don't plan for the girls to spend a lot of time in the barn over the warmer months for a variety of reasons, but I have one horse who is super annoying to other horses and one horse who likes to lay down (and is 21 with various lower leg damage that makes laying down kind of... precarious) and currently... my stalls don't have a divider between them.

Clearly, the barn needs a makeover to be worthy of my princesses functional for the day to day challenges and, also, to accommodate a future where J's (food aggressive and generally doesn't like to be bothered, especially when stalled) mare Ginny may come to live with us, too. My plans are:

1. Create 3 stalls, minimum.
2. Divide the stalls in a way that still allows for airflow but ensures Bailey can't annoy the crap out of the other horse(s).

After that, my plans are to mat the stalls, work towards matting or even concrete-ing the aisle and (hopefully) building an enclosed area for my tack, blankets and other storage that would be protected from any bird poo and other grossness.

The big challenge is, I think, the 32' width of the barn - I am assuming that I have two 10' sections of wall, and one 12' door making up the 32', which limits my ability to build a standard 12x12 stalls, which was my natural go-to. Assuming that my assumptions hold true... what would you choose, if you were in my boots?

1. Three 10x12 stalls with 9' of space by the door (aka closest to where the photographer was standing in the above photo).

2. Three 10x14 stalls with 3' of remaining space by the door

3. Build uneven stall sizes (example: 2 10x12s, 1 10x14 or larger for gimpy horse)

4. Why leave 3' by the door. Just build three 10x15 stalls and possibly curse yourself to hell / endless stall mat cutting

Follow up question: what is the minimum acceptable stall size in your mind? Does it depend on height of the horse? Or other factors?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Be That Way

After throwing a pity party for myself over Monday's ride, I tried to be less obnoxious and come up with a plan to deal with Her Royal Brattiness for yesterday's ride. The plan included lunging, ground work, riding and possibly adding reins to a rope halter for extra brakes that (hopefully) wouldn't make her rear and waiting to have supervision to go out and do anything actually demanding.

I arrived at the barn last night, took care of some things for vet day today (including ruining Foxie's night with a strangles vaccine) and then pulled Bailey out. I made her stand instead of cross tying her, and was quick to discipline her when she tried to wander off or do anything but stand politely. I casually considered doing all of the things I had planned, shoved her snaffle back on her jumping bridle and said "screw it" and hopped on in jump tack; someone had a few jumps brought out to the outdoor, so I figured we could stick with those and play it safe until I could ride with a friend who could scrape me off the ground. Bailey... well Bailey had her foot to the floor on the gas pedal yesterday and couldn't walk or trot for more than a few steps before offering to pop up into canter. I let her do a few speedy laps at that canter, and tried to get in some walking and trotting that wasn't totally uncivilized. Bailey, however, had no patience for that shit and was only happy when I was pointing her at jumps, which she promptly charged.

She warmed up decently, and I tried to get her into the mindset of halting, and asking for that halt with my body vs grabbing her face (I am trying to not ride her like an asshole, be on to others as you would have them be on to you style). There was a small vertical to oxer line set up and after blasting through it a few times, I tried the old "halt and back up mid line" exercise that I've done in the past with Foxie. At first, we wiggled hard and Bailey, who thought backing up was the worst also offered a little rear when I asked her to keep backing after more than a few steps. I tapped her with my whip, got another little threatening rear, and backed her up again. And again. And right out of the line until she was yielding and backing without arguing. Then she got to jump her oxer, and halt again. We did this a few times until she was anticipating the halt; it took a try to get the timing right, but I was able to "halt" with my body to the quarter step before she planted her feet and then allowed her to go on, which felt like a lovely, lovely half halt.

Me? Charge fences? Nevar.

Because the jumps in the arena were nothing but speed bumps to miss high flying B, I took her out on to XC. I made her walk in the mud, past a goose to do it. She also got "followed" by a large tree branch that got caught in her tail, which shockingly didn't cause a total mental meltdown. I pointed her at a few small fences - a line of little logs out of the dry water complex, then a little white rolltop, then a small raised log. None of these required any of the effort she gave them, and that effort definitely didn't deserve the amount of freight train cantering that came afterwards, but besides some very odd almost-rooting when asked to halt and feeling tense and locked through her body to the left... she wasn't horrible. There is a hole in the bridge to the other side of the XC, so we went via the track to the other side, which involves walking through the intensely muddy and wet ditch next to the track to get back to the more raised area of XC. Bailey, who was a total stink about standing water in the grass last time we were out there, finally shuffled through with a minimum of uncomfortable leaping and was rewarded with some jumps. She was still disgustingly forward, but really took me to the fences (which felt really good) and wasn't so looky I was truly worried I was going to die. Half coffin? No problem. Up and down banks, small and medium? No problem. Logs? No  problem. Another, slightly larger roll top? No questions asked. I trooped her back through the mud (maybe she could be a field hunter after all) and back to the other side of XC. We did a small line of fences to finish, just twice to see if I could get her to stop blasting out of the not-filled water complex and make a better turn to head back over the BN picnic table. The first time was a whole lot of turning-and-hoping-it-would-happen feels, but the second time was a bit more in control. Roll top to logs into the (not) water and then around to the table, which still is a big solid thing, even though I know I was jumping the novice + coops and picnic table last year.

We finished our evening with a long trot around the track (going back to the farm the "long way") and I let her canter and sprint a bit before making her walk home. When we finally got back to the parking lot of our barn, Bailey noticeably drooped like she finally realized she was tired. I'm hoping that knocked some of her over abundance of energy down, and maybe once I feel a bit more in control I can start pointing her at the bigger fences. Only one more month of having a full XC course in my barn's back yard before we move! I am, however, welcome to come school whenever I like (for a fee, obviously, but that's totally fine) but there's something about being able to school two days a week if I want to be that I will miss. It will be a while before hubby can build me some XC, so I feel like a bit of focus on the solid fences now isn't a bad thing. Plus having a horse who pulls me to the fences is a really, really nice feeling... though also feeling like we can stop would be nice, too.


Oh, and that stupid splint? It's still cold, and relatively small. I might get the stuff to paint on it, but in the mean time, we're rocking splint boots like I'm responsible or something.

See it? Right front. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bailey is a Bailey

I was super pumped for my ride yesterday. I groomed my pony to a shine, tacked her up in her dressage tack, booted her like a responsible owner and then... she was an asshole.

She was up, obviously, but hacked out to the outdoor pretty well. I chatted with my barn owner and then we began our walk work, and she was obedient and did some decent lateral work at the walk. The trot was... distracted. Up. Bouncy. I had a hard time focusing her, and she kept leaping up into the canter. The canter was a bit scary for me, which was hard to stomach - she was inconsistent in pace, straightness and was kind of throwing herself around alternating between jamming like she wanted to be out galloping and being spooky and weird. We backed off to trot work, and I got some work I was happy with. I felt like she was tuning in a bit better, so we tried canter again.

And that's when she decided that she was going to exist stage left because I put my leg on and was asking her to bend. Catching her shoulder caused rearing, and she continued to plunge sideways in a way I felt powerless to stop. Except for the fact that I knew she could see that the fence was down where she was heading... but I had a feeling she couldn't see the electric wire that keeps the school horses out of the outdoor arena... and that was still up. I got her stopped after a few scary minutes and got off - I wasn't sure, when my feet hit the ground, if I was going to take her inside to get a lunge line, take her inside and ride her or...what. I ended up kind of spinning her on the ground, and got back on, outside. We re-re-reviewed giving to pressure on the inside rein, and it started to click in my head that someone thought I was being too handsy. I don't know why she chooses to express that feeling by bolting sideways into what would be a very dangerous situation and then threatening to rear a whole lot if I try to shut down the sideways, but I am over it.

I tried to ride with a lot less pulling on her face and she did eventually give me some decent canter and trot... but I'm caught now. I was liking the way she was going in the eggbutt.. but I also feel like I can't stop her. I feel like I'm being taken off with, and I pull and try to mold her into something I can control and then she explodes.

Some days I wonder if this is worth it; if I shouldn't just sell her to someone who can handle an animal with a high caliber body and a (in my opinion, today at least) unstable brain. Maybe someone else could have success with her when I can't seem to.

How do I get control back while also making peace with this animal? I almost want to throw Foxie's pelham on her, because I hate feeling out of control. I can't relax and ride if I don't feel like I can trust that she will stop. She doesn't trust me... I don't trust her. What the hell am I supposed to do with this mess??


Monday, April 3, 2017

Fox's Farm

In addition to riding and seeing the saddle fitter (and for Foxie, a trip down south to the vet for her usual vaccinations and a float) we've also been busy with farm plans. I've had tons of problems trying to write organized posts, so let's see if I can pull this off today:

1. Saddle fitter - the dressage saddle has been truly fit to Bailey and rides wonderfully. I really feel like I finally have my heel under my hip, and surprise, surprise, I can ride a lot more effectively that way. Bailey has been going really nicely in this.

2. Speaking of Bailey, guess who popped a freaking splint between an easy post-gallop ride in the newly fit dressage saddle and Friday. I had a mild mental meltdown despite her being sound. fit and totally unaffected by said splint. I have no idea what to do with it besides stare at it and hope it goes away, at this point.

Oh hai, Mr. Bump.

3. Foxie went to the vet for vaccinations and teeth floating. She trailered well but showed that she's not as eager to go out as she used to be; she's clearly nervous to unload and is very concerned about dropping her hinds down off the trailer. I'd love to get her a ramp, because it breaks my heart. She also was very suspicious of the clinic and the stall we put her in to be floated - almost like she thought something bad was going to happen. However, she is in good weight and her teeth weren't too bad, so all in all it was a positive visit. I keep wanting to write a deep, thoughtful post about the dream I've had since... forever (though it came to true dream status when I had to start considering how to retire a Fox) about bringing Foxie home to live out her days in a comfy grass pasture. However, seeing as I'm low on time, thoughtfulness and generally too exhausted to be more than factual... we'll just say it concisely; this farm is Foxie's farm. Yes, I want a place and to have ponies in my yard. And hubby wants a place where the neighbors aren't too close and he can take the bird dog out to play. But really... this is Foxie's retirement home. The farm will (hopefully) ease the burden anxiety wise and cost wise of keeping a horse until the end of her life. We have final plans in place for Fox - aka when her pain management stops managing her pain, it's time. Until then, she will graze, trail ride, play with Bailey and any other horses we acquire and do some crabby dressage to keep her topline from getting too saggy. It's hard to watch her grow old, but it's inevitable, and I wouldn't want her to grow old on some retirement farm far away from me. She's too sensitive and special for me to trust other people with her. 

4. We bought a tractor this weekend. Or, pending the deposit being deposited, we have a down payment on a tractor. It should be coming up from the Kansas City area once we've moved (post May 3rd) and I'm both excited and terrified. Finding a tractor through the weird twisty world of horse people was an adventure and I'm very optimistic that it's going to be what we need. 

This is my house and barn and arena, Guys. Farm Name TBD

5. I've been staring at feed after weighing the mares' current rations - they're getting about 6.5 lbs of Assurance Performance per day, which despite the relatively good stats really hasn't been keeping the meat on their bones. With Bailey, I'm not too worried as she's been holding a good (though substantially slimmer than she was at our previous Barn) weight, but Foxie has shown she doesn't take change well and has been maintaining on her current ration but not really... flourishing. While I understand that she is 21, I still want her to look better. Purina has always done well by my girls, and I am planning to transition them back to Purina Senior Active, which is a higher fat senior feed with a pretty moderate NSC and a good middle of the road (at least between Ultium and a ration balancer) calorie count. Both mares have been on this in the past, and unless Bailey starts to get too fat on it, we will probably continue to use it. Yes, I am putting a 7-8 year old on senior feed, but honestly... it's just higher fat. And has beet pulp and amplify nuggets. Bailey is hot enough without nutritiative help; I'm fine with keeping her on less grain with a higher fat content. 

Weighing feed like a nerd.
... And that's all I've got. One day things will slow down enough for me to take some real ride media... right?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekend Update & a Poll

We've been chugging along in #Feralredhorse land. Bailey and I stuck to the indoor last Wednesday as it's gotten cold again, and I was in a bad mood, so we were sissies. Bailey has been flip-flopping between being relatively good and being a total shit head. She has been spooky and reactive, and while Wednesday's ride wasn't bad, it wasn't awe-inspiring. Saturday followed suit - I disciplined Bailey while walking her up to the upper arena (where she has more problems, so of course we've been doing a lot of work up there) and then asked her to go through a person-sized door. When I got on her, it was clear she was holding a grudge about me telling her what to do and also was quite a spicy little chilly pepper, energy levels wise. She eventually worked down into behaving, but it's still disappointing that I have to deal with the basics at this point.

Gone is the horse who hacks out on the buckle. I don't know where she went.

Tonight, I'm thinking I might put her into a french link to see how she feels about that bit (I've been eyeballing a 14mm french link on ETT...) and hopefully will be able to get her into a decent place mentally in prep for tomorrow. Tomorrow, we see the saddle fitter in the afternoon and hopefully (cross your fingers!) she's able to get Bailey fitted up 100% with the Vision dressage saddle (or believe me, I will cry) so we can get back to doing dressage in a proper dressage saddle. I spent my non saddle time this weekend oiling the beast, and while it's still not beautiful and soft, I think I'm finally making some headway on getting it softer. Hopefully everything works out and I can keep the saddle of my dreams!

God I hope I can keep it.

Foxie went outside on Saturday (with bucking, because cool and windy) and was a bit spicy, but did some super basic/baby XC stuff (like, walking over a log that is slightly more interesting than a cavaletti) and was super excited by that. She'll get some attention tomorrow while I wait for the saddle fitter in the afternoon tomorrow, so I plan to pass over her tonight. 

Finally, I've been itching to share some farm related news, but realized... I should really make a plan and have an idea of what I want to do with farm related posts. So, if you read this, I'd love you forever if you had an opinion on farm related posts - do I make a separate blog? Relocate to a new space and share farm and horse updates? Or stay here for everything? Please use the poll or the comments to let me know, if you care :)