Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sheath Cleaning Article

I was googling information on sheath cleaning as it's something I know I need to do but am in NO way looking forward to it. I do not know if Jr. has ever had this procedure done. He was fairly tolerant to my cleaning of the nether regions during his bath yesterday but I have not attempted to touch the sheath area.

Just have to share this link: Article

There are two articles there, the first is informative, the second is a delightfully humorous instruction manual to the process. Worth a read.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Spring Cleaning and Gait Check

Spent over 6 hours at the barn today. I turned Junior and Max out while I cleaned the stall, bleached buckets, and worked on my tack box. I stopped at Home Depot on the way to the barn and picked up some black handles to screw to the sides of my tack box. I'm constantly trying to find better ways to organize my barn storage. Everything gets covered in dust so quickly from the shavings so I try to keep everything covered either in my hanging zippered bridle bag or in the box. I took the whole box apart and de-spidered everything. I culled some items from the box to take home to store, took out the fly sheet and put it on the blanket bar, swept and brushed everything down. We'll see how long I can keep it that clean!

I tacked up and rode but it was 86 degrees so we didn't work long. We've made excellent strides in many areas, but here are the things we're working on:

At the walk we are working on slowing down. He tends to walk faster than he jogs and prefers to look around while walking rather than drop his head. His walk to stop is not quick enough and he tends to pick his head up when he stops.

The jog is our best gait right now. He is able go go into a cute little pitty pat jog and drop his head nice and low. I can steer him around tight corners and he'll keep that frame and speed fairly well. From that gait his stop is very good and he will jog off from a stop pretty efficiently. He can pick up his leads well from a jog in both directions.

The lope is coming along. He is SOOO much better balanced than he was. I don't have to manage his shoulders nearly as much and it's easier for me to feel when he does need some assistnace. He's got nice muscle tone now so he lopes along more easily and evenly. The speed is decreasing well, and he's getting more consistent with his head set but it's not quite low enough for WP yet.

During our rides we also work on horsemanship elements like pivots and transitions. We've been working on lead changes more now, too. Sometimes I hit the buttons just right and sometimes I swear he moves the buttons on me!

Today I spent a large portion of the ride without stirrups. We even loped both directions one handed without stirrups. It felt really easy but I sure can feel it in my butt, thighs and lower back! When I was cooling him out I put my feet back in the stirrups and they felt too short. I wonder if it's time to drop my stirrups a hole or two to give my a longer leg. I'll ask KAT at our lesson on Tuesday.

He sweated up quickly, even on his face, so we walked a while and then walked back to the barn, un-tacked and did a real long bath. I haven't cleaned his sheath yet, I've never done it before. I cleaned between his cheeks and the area around the sheath, but I want to get some gloves and sheath cleanser before I venture to that unknown territory. When I got him back in his stall he yawned several times and then it was time for his evening feeding. I left him damp in the stall so I'm sure he rolled as soon as he was done with his dinner. It was a clean stall, though.

Here are some pictures I took today. Have a lovely holiday!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pony Rides

My mom, sister, cousin, and aunt flew in from Minnesota for the weekend. We played lots of cards, ate too much, and drank margaritas, but on Sunday we went out to the barn so I could show off my boy. My sister has been allergic to horses since she was 16. When she was younger she had friends with horses and rode a lot, but one day her boyfriend took her for a ride on his dad's horse, Rambo, and she wasn't able to breathe. SO, we took lots of precautions. She is, of course, on medication, but with as severe of an allergy she has, we needed to do more. First I needed to uber-clean my apartment and my car to try to eliminate the allergens....and cleaning my car upholstery was WAYYY overdue, so it was a good excuse. It really takes months to get ride of allergens but I'm sure it helped a little. At the barn she wore a bandanna to eliminate some of the airborne dust and allergens, she didn't touch anything in the barn and I quickly got Jr. clean, tacked up, and outside. I lunged him in the indoor first (he hadn't been out since Thursday due to rain) and then rode a little so Mom could see the difference in him since her trip out in November. Other than my mom who showed QH in the 60's, none of my family are really horse savvy so I didn't want to bore them by riding around in circles, I just did enough to show mom how good he is now. Then we took some pictures outside and then took him over to the outdoor. I convinced my mom to get on him, and yes, everyone mounted had to wear my helmet. I kept him on the lunge line just as a safety measure and so Mom didn't have to steer. I wanted her to feel how nice his jog has become so we did that and she looked nice and balanced so we asked him for a little lope, too! He was really good! Then I led my cousin around on him a little...she was not interested in going any faster...and she remarked how much core strength it took, just at the walk. She does a lot of Pilates. Then my sister, clad in her bandit mask, wanted to get on! I led her around and I had to ask her three times if she was ready to stop! We are all sad that she is so allergic as I know she really loved to ride as a kid. The TOG came when we were tacking up (they were just unlocking the front fields when we drove in) to let Junior out so he said if I wanted to put him out in the field after the ride he'd come and put him in before evening feeding. I un-tacked him and let him out. I tried to encourage him to run around since he's so pretty when he runs, but he wanted none of that. ALL of his turn out buddies were at the All American Youth Show all weekend so the barn was empty (16 horses gone to the show) and there were no other horses out.

I was very proud of him. Not that I expected any less, but I get worked up worrying about things so it's nice to see that he took the pony rides in stride and was not bothered by the novice on his back asking him to slow his jog and to lope. His attitude is SOOOO much better than it was over the winter. I know I keep saying that, but the difference is just so incredible and it makes me love him even more.

My sister and me with the sign we made for my niece and nephew.

Mom, jogging.... and Junior with the end of the lungeline in his mouth...see I didn't really need it...

My sister in her bandit mask...and Junior trying to eat the line...

Mom and me getting my cousin ready to be led around....and Junior being very patient and adorable.

The weather says it's going to be a week of high 70's and low 80's so it's finally SUMMER!!!! I will be spending lots of time at the barn! Have a great week!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New considerations for Turn Out.

We have a bit of a sunburn. And by "we" I mean Junior. He was out a good long time in the sun yesterday and was a bit pink around the muzzle/face when I got to my lesson last night. He did not really look BURNED, just a bit pinker than he did on Monday. I checked and the UV index was only 2 today so I didn't request that he be kept in. It's going to be yucky for the rest of the week and I wanted him to have some TO time before it rains this afternoon, and Thursday, and Friday....

How do I plan to prevent this in the future? Two ways. I will be taking some human sunscreen to the barn on Friday when I go out. I will read labels and fine face-safe kind with a long staying power. I will apply the sunscreen daily or as often as I go out to the barn. I will not expect/depend on the TOG to put it on for me.

I also purchased a fly mask recently..

Unfortunately they were out of the tasteful black/tan so I had to get the blue/white plaid. I tried it on him and he looked embarrassed.
Once I myself get a chance to turn him out in it to see how he deals with it, I will ask the TOG to put it on him before turn-out. I'm just nervous to do that if he starts to try to get it off. I do wonder how safe it is for turn out? I'd rather put it on loosely so it'll pull off if he gets into trouble and have to go retrieve it from the pasture than let him get hung up. He's turned out in a single-ply leather halter. Have any of you had bad experiences with fly masks? I've not used them much, but between Junior's bald face, shaved ears, and eye cyst, I feel it's the best thing to do. Have I mentioned the cyst yet? I don't believe I have. More on that another day. Nothing to be alarmed about.

Lesson was pretty good. Did a few gorgeous pivots, did a few that were complete fails. Must figure out what I do differently...

If any of you have advice, cautionary tales, or other gems about sunburn or flymasks, or anything else I post about, please feel free to share!

Happy Hump Day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Nice little ride.

Not sure what made this happen, but Junior was really awesome today. He sort of ran away from me in the field, but he was running WITH Zippy and it seemed like they were back to being BFF. He did let me catch him after not too much, though. I decided to take it easy and just ride around the farm instead of doing a real schooling session, but changed my mind when I got near the outdoor and decided to ride just a little in there. He was ON. He went right to work and did everything I asked. His turns (even when we cut the arena to avoid the really packed part) were nice and he kept his body in alignment. His lope was so good I only did one lap each lead. His jog was super slow and soft and he didn't stumble ONCE so I know he was using his body correctly, not just dragging like some horses do at the jog. The footing was pretty bad because I guess there was a wedding at the farm yesterday (somehow I managed to leave before it started I guess) and they had used part of the arena as a parking lot..... and then didn't drag it yet.... They're not the most proactive about dragging....

Anyway, he was so good in our short little session that I just praised him and let him walk towards the gate. He was very interested in a baby that was turned out with it's mare. Both of them came over to the fence but I didn't let Junior get that close. Then we went all the way around the farm, jogged a little in the field and even cantered a little down the fenceline. He did a little spook sideways along the fencline along the road (fence between us and road) but I didn't lose my seat at all and I just pointed him right back to the fence. I don't know what caused it. Maybe the car jus seemed a little too fast or something. Who knows. Didn't really phase us.

Tomorrow I'm taking his winter and mid-weight blankets to the landromat so I can get them clean and put away. I'll store the winter one at home in my spare closet and keep the mid-weight at the barn for a month...just in case....god forbid I actually need it!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Week in Review

Sunday: Show
Monday: off
Tuesday: Lesson...

Chatted with KAT before my western lesson on Tuesday about what I observed during her rides on Junior at the show. Watching how she rode and then feeling how different he was for me right after she rode made me realize that I need to be more consistent and ride him with more expectations. SO I started the lesson asking for softness at the poll, asking him to bend and counter bend and also using my spurs to remind him to round his back and take his weight off his forehand. THEN when he's keeping consistent frame and is moving smoothly and bending as I ask him to, I encourage him to relax his neck but keep the body working. He was very good for the whole lesson. He's still doing a little of that head tossing that he did at the show, but it's right after I reprimand him that I get the smoothest lope with the best frame. I'm getting better with my hands, too. I tend to react too fast and bump the curb, but I'm getting better and taking up the slack slowly and then vibrating the pressure until he gives. This is one reason I do not feel ready to put a ported bit in his mouth. Just like I waited for "real" spurs until I thought my legs would stay quiet.

Wednesday: off
Thursday: Ride...

I started our ride the same way as Tuesday and he was really good. I was able to finish off with one-handed work at all gaits in both directions. He had three stumbles and all three can be blamed on him not being in balance. The first one was when I asked him from the jog to a halt (by a verbal whoa and seat, not by reins) and he tripped to a stop. Once was coming down from a lope and once was at the jog.

I just wish he'd ride like that at a show....

Monday, May 4, 2009

First Show

I need a "Show Mom". And a mini-van.

I had forgotten how much work showing is, how stressful and exhausting it can be, and how much STUFF you have to haul around! It's pretty tough to do on your own! My mom used to do all that stuff for me at shows, get this, get that, wipe that off, find me something to drink...etc. I saw an ad on Craigslist last week, someone was offering themselves as a "show mom" for beginners or lone adults..... There wasn't a spare inch of space left in my car (Honda Civic 4-door) after I loaded out. I forgot that I took TWO loads to get there. If I had played Tetris more as a kid perhaps I would have been able to fit it in better? All those tack bags I bought were well worth the money. They kept everything safe during the jostling and I knew at a glance which bags were mine. I ended up taking FOUR saddles since I sold my old icky black English set (and some other stuff I had lying around) at the 4-H fundraiser tack sale (woo hoo!) so I actually MADE some $ this weekend. Neat. That money, of course will pay for horse things. Go figure.

Junior continued to be good but towards the end of the afternoon on show day he decided he'd had quite enough of this standing around stuff and started acting like a barrel horse at the in-gate. Now I know to take him back to his stall if we've go 5 classes in between our classes - I'm learning. He was pretty great in the show pen, it was just getting there and getting out of there that were problems.

I started out the day lunging him in the outdoor ring with DEEP sand. He was antsy before English Pleasure (probably because I was nervous as heck) so I rode him in the outdoor. He was a bit hot but not awful. We didn't place in the class (10 riders) which didn't surprise me because he kept breaking his walk and starting to jig. He took his leads really well and generally did a good job. Not a consistent frame, but decent. I've gotten some bit advice from readers so I'm going to have a conversation with KAT about it. I'm a big fan of using the least severe bit possible, but I'm also a fan of the horse responding to the bit so it looks like I need to try some new things.

I was a nervous wreck after EP. I'm sure the fact that I hadn't really eaten much and only had a little (bad gas station) coffee and only got about 5.5 hours of sleep had something to do with it. I think it was also the stress of doing it all alone. KAT had to stay by the show pen all morning because all the show kids were in classes. All the show moms were busy with their kids so I was kind of left in the barn alone to figure things out. There was a fake tail hanging on my stall (KAT's request) that I didn't know how to put in. I needed to chalk his face and I didn't know how, and I wasn't sure what to do about his hooves since they needed clear polish but the footing was sticky so I didn't understand the necessity. So after EP I lunged him for a bit and he was fine lunging and then as soon as I walked him through the waiting area he got all uppity again. I un tacked him and scratched my next class which was Open EP Walk/Trot. Thankfully I dropped it, there were FORTY entrants. Instead I ate some almonds, drank some water and tried to relax. Junior was content to hang out in his stall. My nerves got much better in the afternoon. I talked to KAT and she was going to ride him during the break right before the Western classes. I took him out and lunged him AGAIN until he was very tired and was begging my to let him stop. He was hot so I hosed of his legs and chest to help him cool down. I got him and me all ready and we were waiting for KAT when the break began. He rode well for her. We mounted and adjusted my chaps during the Lead-In class and then we were up for Horsemanship. We're not really ready for pattern work but the posted pattern was all stuff we'd worked on at home(walk, jog, pivot, lope circle left, change leads, halt, back) and I was pleased that he did reasonably well. Not a polished performance, but respectable. The pivot wasn't clean, but the lead change was decent. I asked for simple, luckily it was our bad-to-good leads which he does rather well. The back was a joke. I should have asked him slower. Instead of backing straight he turned himself a 180. Not cute. I placed 2nd...out of 3. The 3rd place horse bucked on the rail work...

The break between HMS and WP was too long so he got super agitated standing around, started acting like a game horse at the in-gate. Even starting crow hopping and tossing his head violently, backing up evasively and stomping. I should've just taken him back to his stall after HMS, but by the time he got annoyed it was too close to our next class (and I wanted to watch KAT's BF win both of the reining classes) so I'll know better next time. Again, my own Show Mom would've said "Okay, there are 5 classes before your next one, lets let him rest." He did decently in pleasure. Again, not polished, but fine. His lope was the slowest he's ever been for me, but I needed to keep him on a shorter-than-pleasure rein. We finished 4th....out of 4. I'm sure the fact that he was dancing so much in the in-gate that the steward let me in early wasn't helpful for the "pleasure" judging, but oh well. We did not place in the 16 horse WP Walk/Trot (big surprise) class but he was pretty good for the class. It took the class ages to exit the pen and he started hopping around so I just circled him back and walked him back and forth at the back of the pack so he didn't have to stand in the crowd.

So my anxiety about him being a total jerk is quelled. He even loaded really well for the ride home. Don't know if horses think this way or not, but it seemed he was more than ready to be done with this crap and go home. He unloaded beautifully and KAT said "Well, if nothing else it looks like his trailering issues are gone." Over all I feel pretty good. It would have been awesome if we had done better in our classes, but considering it was our first show together and I was a bit of a wreck, I think he did admirably. I received many compliments on how cute and beautiful he is and my barn mates all told me they just love to watch him work. He really is the "barn favorite" his previous owner said he was. Though I really miss showing with Cari, it was fun to have my little cheering section for the western classes. There are only 2 of us who ride western so everyone else was done showing by the time we were in Western. Luckily I had a few show moms ready to help me when I finished my last class. Junior was D-O-N-E DONE and I needed someone to hold him so I could get off. They un-tacked him while I settled up my tack swap account. And then I changed and started to load out with the much appreciated help of the show moms. I need to get me one of those....

I think our next show is going to be even better. I won't be as nervous and I'll know more about how to manage him: either move him around or put him in his stall. I will hopefully be more organized, too with how much stuff I need to bring and how to keep it easier to access. I ended up having to go to Target to buy a chair. Can't believe I didn't think of that.

Here's the one photo I got. The camera was dirty from being in the barn. EVERYTHING was covered in a fine mixture of dust from the aisles and shavings from the stalls. I promise all the black was clean! He looked so cute with his mane all banded like a Western Pleasure horse! And yes, I neglected to tuck the off-billet into it's keeper. I haven't watched the video yet, and I'm not sure if I even got a Western class because I gave the kids the camera and they came back and said "We're not sure it was do you know if it's recording?" Oh well, yet another reason why I need a Show Mom....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Better Day - Pre Show Update

Though Lany's passing is weighing heavily on my mind, yesterday and this morning have gone rather smoothly. The memories flood in and I lose my composure a little too often. I've only told KAT, thinking it best that the barn mates don't worry about me. They're all so nice I think they would dote on me more than I can tolerate if they knew of my grief. I am very grateful for them nonetheless. Plus I can't talk about it without losing composure so I'll just refrain. Of course this weekend contains a million reminders of Lany. The smell of the bags of shavings in my car took me to the county fair where it would drive Lany nuts not being able to help me (4-H rules prohibit professional trainers at shows) and she would make damn sure the English classes got as much recognition as the western, even if I was the only one in the division. Seeing ribby horses with stained tails, rain scald and chipped feet remind me of how she used to get so mad when horses like that would be at shows. Makes me mad, too, but there are horses a lot worse off out there and I'm not the judge and jury. I'll keep to myself, thankful my baby looks pretty awesome, despite his face clip...

We loaded in to the fairgrounds yesterday afternoon. It was pouring down rain and we even had to spend a few minutes in the "tornado shelter" while the sirens were going off. Junior arrived around 7pm or so (can't really remember) in the first trailer load. I was told KAT had to put a chain over his nose which made me a little uneasy that he might be a handful, but he unloaded perfectly calmly and led into the barn (in the rain) quietly and into his stall. He was very interested in what was going on, but he wasn't upset. He did roll right away in his beautifully clean bedding and quickly realized that these stalls are MUCH smaller than the giant ones at home by slamming his hooves on one of the walls. I put him next to Max but Max came in a later trailer load (our barn has 16 horses at this show...and a 6 horse trailer) so Jr. was all alone at first. He loved that he could see through the bars of all the stalls so he was content to watch things happen around him. I took him out to the arena and lunged him around 9pm. I put the chain over his nose just as a precaution but he was VERY good. He was a little snorty and didn't like the corners of the arena so he raced past them, but he quickly got over it. He listened VERY well to my commands, even better than he did at home the last time I lunged. The only thing was when Howie (old school horse) left the arena Jr. started calling over and over. He was still obeying me, but he was calling and calling. I lunged him again this morning and he was the same, but not as loud. Snorty in one corner so I let him stop and investigate. The announcer tested the system and Junior certainly noticed, but didn't react poorly. I wished he had continued talking but he just did a "test, test" and stopped. There is a HUGE difference in how he behaves for me now than when I brought him home in September. He is listening and trusting me instead of ignoring me. This is all very encouraging for the show tomorrow. The plan for tonight (I'm home right now ironing and doing laundry, then a much needed nap) is to lunge him, then have KAT ride him. It will be encouraging for me to see him behave for her and if he's being naughty it'll be better for all involved if my nervousness isn't worsening the situation. After KAT rides him I'll get on and we'll see how it goes. It's been fun so far. I'm jealous of the kids with show moms, though. I'd sure like someone to clean my boots and tack my horse for me. Oh well, I had my kid years, now it's grown-up time.

I'm sure I'll have a lot to report after tomorrow! Now to that nap...