Saturday, August 29, 2009

Completely OT

I was just looking at this website and wanted to share these with you. The website is

I guess we know who rides the big horse in this marriage:

This just made me thankful I didn't think of having my senior pictures with one of my show chickens!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Captain Destructo and the evil villain: McNasty!

We had a pretty good lesson tonight. He seemed really relaxed in the stall and was really good through the lesson. KAT was highly complimentary on his jog and he was really good about the lope. We worked on slowing him down but maintaining the impulsion from behind. There were only two of us in the lesson so it was a short one, but we ended by doing a pattern (jog, halt, pivot, lope R lead, halt pivot, lope L lead, halt, back) and KAT was surprised at how much he's improved on his pattern work. During my rides this past week I've been working on halting, pivoting, and then trotting or loping off, trying to keep his weight off his front end by showing him it's easier to halt if he does so. I've already really seen an improvement in his frame and his quick halts. His pivots are much improved, too. He still wants to move his back feet too much when pivoting to the right but still showing improvement. He still dances around, anticipating the next move, so I wait until he's still before I ask. Luckily the last show we're going to this season has only rail work for Equitation and Horsemanship but his halts on the rail will still be improved. KAT also said we might want to do the "balanced rider" class which is with a saddle but no stirrups. I was kind of excited that she thought I could do that! I do work without stirrups occasionally and feel pretty confident that way.

I don't think I've mentioned this before, but sometimes I catch him cribbing on his feed tub. KAT said she's heard it a few times too. He puts his teeth on the back corner of his feed tub when he does it. Last week he finally got his old feed tub off the wall. He'd been working on that for a while, both pulling on it with his teeth and banging up underneath it with his knees. The barn replaced it with a new tub this week but they used the same beat-up holes in the concrete block so it's already coming loose. He broke his Stall Snack a few weeks ago, too. I think he pulled on it hard enough to break the hole in the top of the little green stick so the rest of his Himalayan salt probably got scooped up with the manure. He'll get a new one this weekend. I really don't want him cribbing, obviously. First I'm trying a good coating of McNasty on the sides and back corner of his feed tub. I doubt it will prevent him from eating his grain, but that stuff really is nasty! I caught a bit of it when I was spraying it and my eyes watered and I can STILL feel it in my throat a little! I guess I should've stood further back! He put his mouth on the tub after I sprayed it and he didn't crib, but lifted his head up and curled his lip back a few times then went to get a drink. I didn't hear him do it again before I left the barn. I know there are other options, Quitt, Miracle Collar, etc., but I'd like to start with simple solutions and see if they work...

I think I'm going to put him on SmartCalm which has Magnesium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine), Inositol (a relative of the B vitamins) and Taurine. There are a few horses in the barn who are on it and KAT said she has noticed results in them. I was reading the testimonials and people respond that it works well for "ADD" horses and I definitely have one of those! Any thoughts?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


My English lesson went pretty well on Thursday. The outdoor was too we so we had to ride in the indoor and it was like a sauna in there. I hadn't eaten much for dinner so it was a hard lesson. There was a point I slowed down to a jog because I thought I might pass out! I rode with the slow-twist snaffle and a training fork. Suddenly at the end of the lesson I figured out how to get him to lift his shoulders and drop at the poll. I decided to keep that going and rode the same way on Friday and Saturday. Saturday I even dropped the training fork and he still did really well. I am strongly leaning towards showing English at the September show, but we'll see.

Today I went out and turned Jr. and Max out in the mud lot since the front fields are still to muddy. Shoe-pulling mud. There was no manure wagon so I didn't clean my stall. Instead I cleaned and bleached my buckets, Max's buckets and Mighty's buckets. Noone else was at the barn and the weather was so nice and cool that I took my chair out of my trunk, set it up next to the field and read my book for a while. (Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan's Curse) It was a really nice way to spend an hour. Twizzler, one of the barn cats, jumped into my lap so it was even more enjoyable! I really didn't get much reading done as I kept looking up at the horses and Twiz kept demanding I pet her.

Once Max's girls got there we took the boys in and we rode. The kids wanted to ride in the indoor so I rode with them instead of going out to the outdoor alone. It was a decent ride. After three days of letting him canter at a normal speed it was tougher to get him to slow down to a lope. I have a western lesson tomorrow so I should get some time with KAT to help me with that.

The view from my chair:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"Pig Horse"

Junior's been riding fine. His rhythm is back to normal at the lope and he doesn't seem to be resisting my corrections. Maybe he was a little sore somewhere. Wouldn't surprise me since he runs around like a fool in turnout all the time. I've been riding every other day or so and not too hard since the humidity is nasty. I rode for about an hour last night because it was cooler and the breeze was really nice.

KAT had finished a lesson, I rode by her, and she said "Wow, your horse might need to go on a diet." I had to laugh because I haven't yet asked her to tell me what she thinks of his body condition, but I guess I didn't have to. I do respect all of your opinions that he's not overweight, but when you can feel (or not feel as the case may be) his ribs and you can see that he's getting a positive crease at the top of his tail, and can see the crest on his neck and feel it, it's harder to tell. I looked at the body score chart and then had KAT go over the spots on him and yes, they are all rather too fleshy. He's a nice square horse so I think he hides it well, but once you get your hands on him it's more apparent. I should have taken my need to drop the girth a hole on the off-side (so that I had enough to tie!) that we were getting tubbier.

So we'll be going on a little bit of a diet, just for a bit. He seems to hold his weight really well over the winter since I pamper him with blankets, but I'll increase it again as soon as the grass is gone. Then perhaps next summer I'll slightly drop his feed when the grass comes in so that we try to maintain a steady weight instead of this up and down we've had for the first year. We were feeding him 2 scoops when he came home, but his previous owner's scoop must have been smaller than ours (yes, I KNOW you're "supposed" to weigh it) because he ballooned quickly. Then we dropped him to one and he maintained well at that until the summer grass came in. I know this yo-yoing isn't healthy so I'll try to manage it better. Going to weight-tape him tomorrow. If he doesn't improve I might start pre-bagging his feed. It's not a step I want to do since I'm paying for full care, but if I have to I will.

After my ride last night a mom and her little girl who had just finished their lesson came over to give Mighty (the stall next to Junior) a carrot and the mom told me "My daughter calls your horse Pig-Horse!" "Oh, that's.....nice." "Yeah, he's always sticking his nose out of the stall so we can feed him carrots!" "Yes, well, that's his trick. He begs." Kind of makes me want to put a sign on his stall that says "Please do not give Junior any treats!" since I give him lots of carrots myself, but I don't know if that's really part of the problem or not. But now that I think of it, if even a quarter of the lesson students give him treats you know, because he sticks his nose out (see my video "Junior wants a Cookie"), that's like 5 more treats a day, plus what I give him, plus what Max's mom gives him. That sounds like a lot.... I will have to consider this. I have a lesson on Thursday and I'm going to ride in my English tack. He's been doing nicely at extending his trot and at my last lesson KAT said "Wow, if he can do THAT at a show you'll be in the money for sure!" IF is such a frequent word for us!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Test and Weight

A reader named Kristina gave me a very nice comment on my last post and included a simple test I could do on Junior's back. So, Kristina, I tried what you suggested today and I'm not sure about the results, since I've never done it before. I can take a video clip of it this week so you can help me interpret the results if my description does not give you enough information. Here's what I saw: I did the test (with the older style hoof pick with the red rubber coated handle) while he was just standing in the stall so he could move away if he was uncomfortable. He had no real reaction but if I pushed harder he contracted his muscles when I got to his loin, kind of how people react when they're tickled?, but he didn't flinch or move away. He reacted the same on both sides but if I used the rubber end of the hoof pick the reaction was less, even when I pushed harder. He never took a step away from me but he would shift his weight when he contracted. Does that mean good or bad? Would you like to see a video of the test?

And now on to something else:

When I brought Junior home last September he was a little underweight. Not anything alarming, but a little slim for my taste. He put on weight quickly and we actually cut his feed at some point during the winter (I can't recall when that was) because he was starting to get portly. I think he's "okay" right now, but with all the summer grass it seems he's bulked up again. Here are two photos from last September during the first week I had him:

Here are pictures from recently, the in-stall photo is from today.

I know it's not a drastic difference but what do you think? Is he getting tubby? Should I adjust his feed or just let it go since the grass will be diminishing soon? Your thoughts?

Oh, and our ride tonight was the best it had been in a long time. I had no issues with the turns since I was more aware of supporting him. From the very first lope-off his lope was the slowest and most even cadence that he's done in a good while. He kept his frame without a lot of fussing and we did some lope-offs one handed. It was a good ride but I kept it down to 30 minutes because of the heat.

Mountain > Mole Hill

My last post included a description of something that's been going on with JR that was slightly worrying me. We all know that I tend to worry unnecessarily about many little things. Thankfully this was simply one of those times. However, by describing what I was feeling (in amateur's terms) a reader decided to leave an alarming comment essentially telling me I needed to get an equine chiropractor and vet out immediately or I was going to make it worse. Initially I was both scared shit-less and pissed off. First of all, I HATE "Anonymous" comments and I have now removed that option from commenting. If you have something to say, be ready to back it up. It's like when I got the all caps comment telling me to turn my horse out every day whatever the cost. That's good advice and I had already decided to put him in turnout, so why did you yell it as an anonymous face on the interwebs? Who are you to be the expert? Why did you find it necessary to yell it? And about this latest Anonymous comment, are you a vet? Do you have experience you could tell me about? Isn't "My horse acted like that once and we were able to correct it with chiropractic and some exercises given by a vet" a much more helpful and valid comment? There are horse people who know it all, horse people who don't know anything, and horse people who know some things and are happy and humble to learn more. I am the latter and have very little interest in those who think they know it all. NO ONE KNOWS IT ALL. Yes, I yelled that.

I have a blog-friend (she can "out" herself if she wants to) who just got some comments posted on her YouTube videos telling her all about the things she was doing wrong with her riding......the comments were by a 14 year old girl. What business does a 14 year old girl have telling ANYONE they need to work on their riding!?!?! I was so angry I wanted to tell her to STFU but I refrained. It was tough, but I knew lashing out at her would only make her defensive and I didn't need to go there. My friend may delete the comments if she sees fit.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. If you've been a long-time reader you know that I often refer to my beloved equine as the 8-Legged Moose. Though we've come a long, LONG way since I got him 11 months ago, he still has 4 left feet and I am still an amateur rider who lacks training experience and a certain amount of confidence. I do not always possess the ability to convince my horse to perform to his potential. This is one of those cases.

I'd taken the rides easy since the last post. He never felt like he was in pain or refused, he just felt weird, so I spent my short rides trying to interpret what was happening. I know (but did not mention) that part of the lead switching was because I had been experimenting with lead changes on him and he would start to anticipate those changes. He really does want to please me so sometimes he takes my corrections (using my inside leg to move him back over to the wall combined with asking him to collect) as CHANGE. To me this is an understandable miscommunication and I don't punish him, instead I work to make my aids more clear for him. This answers a LOT of the lead-swaps because they happen when I ask him to change his balance. The other part of this mystery goes back to his 8-Legged Mooseness. He was not well schooled at the lope when i got him, and I have a video I took the first time I tried him out where he is very slow to take the lope and doesn't keep it very long. He's gotten TONS better , but what it boils down to is that I am not good about supporting him. (from what I've been told he didn't start any arena work until the summer before I bought him and has gone from very little arena work to doing respectable patterns in less than a year) The whole concept of keeping the body straight through the turns, bending appropriately is still a foreign language to me. My beloved Banee was so hypersensitive to leg aids that the slightest touch would send her into Tempe changes - I learned to keep my legs off and NOT use them. I steered only with my hands and my weight. So though I've been riding for over 15 years, I'm still an intermediate rider. Combine a rider who is still learning how to balance a horse with a horse with zero balance and what do you get? A horse that breaks his stride in the corners, misinterprets sloppy cues, and a rider who doesn't know what's wrong. That is why I take the advice from my trainer who is there, who can see and feel what is going on and can help me. NOT a faceless nobody on the Internet.

KAT lunged him yesterday morning at my request to see if she could see anything immediately concerning. She didn't see anything but didn't put him in a lesson so she could further evaluate later. In the evening I hopped on him while she was half-way through a lesson. He was better than he had been on Saturday and actually gave me a lovely posting trot and I felt like I was floating along the arena. It's so nice when things you've been working on start working! When her lesson was done she said she could see how he was losing his cadence in the really tight turns I was making in serpentines and circles. She hopped on him and messed around with him. She said she could feel how he was over-correcting when asked to bend and so was losing the cadence but she showed (reminded) me how to keep him aligned better. So I wasn't imagining it, but it wasn't really him, it was me. My lack of confidence sometimes keeps me from riding with enough authority to get the job done. Watching KAT be as capable as she is and watching JR not only listen to her but keep his pleasant demeanor reminds me that I can be a little more insistent. I got back on and tried what she said and his turns were fine and he didn't swap once. I've also been holding off on the lead changes. I only started them because the last show had a flying change in the horsemanship pattern and we failed miserably at it. We're still working on slowing his lope and some days are better than others. He did finally drop his head and lope along to the right and a decent pace so I patted him and cooled him out. The other horses had left the arena and he gets very cranky about having to walk around the arena when the other horses have left him. In his mind they must be going off to do something really fun that he's missing out on. So I un-tacked him and sprayed him off really well and scraped him cool. He was covered in mud when I got to the barn. Just enough rain to make the right kind of mud that he just LOVES to coat himself in. On the way back into the barn he insisted on carrying the scraper so I let him. He dropped it half-way to his stall and actually picked it up when I asked him to. He dropped it again but was more interested in trying to visit with Rocky through the stall door than he was in the scraper so the game was done.

So, Dear Readers, comment away. I really do enjoy your comments AND your (constructive) criticisms, but please, remember that my descriptions can not possibly be enough for your definitive diagnosis. I do have a very capable trainer/instructor who is well educated and has a lot of experience. She's honest and fair and I am not afraid to ask for her help, nor am I afraid to ask for a second opinion if what she says doesn't feel right. I am and will always be learning.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Leather Stretches

Remember that I've been having issues getting Junior to stop quickly? And that we've been continuing to have issues with getting him to respond to adjustments during the lope? We found part of the problem last night. I've noticed that the curb strap seems loose after watching Myler's A Whole Bit Better video. The curb strap is traditionally adjusted to be two fingers away from the jaw. Mine was more like four. KAT had adjusted the strap for me when I bought it so I wasn't sure, but this just couldn't be right. It wasn't. It wasn't even making contact. The strap I have is leather with a flat chain middle and the leather must've really stretched. Once we adjusted it, there was a big difference in his response time to my cues, and he's doing SO well with staying in-frame and on-task when we stop. The lesson went well, but he's been feeling odd at the right lead the last few rides. He doesn't frame nearly as well as to the left and he swaps lead and breaks rythym a lot. Not sure what to think about that. That lead used to be his good lead.

We finished the lesson and during the cool down I dropped the reins and just used my legs to steer him around the arena, including some tight turns that aimed us to and over a groundpole. He did super good but at one point he was finished with the game and refused to turn right. I stopped him and made him turn on the haunches to the right to make him work harder for ignoring my initial cue. If I learned anything from that weird guy who taught the gym-class riding lessons for the U of Minn. it was "Ask, tell, make."

Anyway. My busy work is done for the summer (thank heavens) so I'm back to being on my own schedule for the rest of the summer. I've got a list of things I need to do for work before classes start, but I can do those things when I choose, and I've signed up for a show on September 20th. I'll be a little busy with the first week of classes the week before it, but I've got over a month to get lots of good training in. This will be a one-day show where we trailer in early in the morning, show, and head home after we're done. We do have stalls so we don't have to spend a day tied to a trailer. At this point I'm considering only showing western classes. My reasoning is two-fold. First of all, with having to trailer in early in the morning (not sure how early, but I'm guessing it's before dawn) will make me very, very tired and "tired me" is "cranky anxious me" which isn't much fun. So if I wait to show until the afternoon I won't be as stressed, can eat something and relax and be more awake by the time my classes come. Second, I still haven't found the right bit for English. We need less pinch but we also need independent side movement so I can help him life his shoulders when he goes astray. I'm pretty sure I know what we need, but I don't want to drop $50 on a bit and then be wrong. Plus we haven't ridden English since the last show (other than some posting trot in western tack) and we're just not practiced enough in it. Yes, I could remedy that a bit, but I keep thinking it would be a much less stressful final show of the season if I just stick to one discipline. Then we'll have a good 7 or 8 months to train for next season. It's a ways off, I'll reserve judgement until we get closer.