Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Equilutions #2

Last New Year's Day I recorded some goals for the year under the guise of "Equilutions" or equine related resolutions. Here they are, with commentary on how we did, and then I'll give my Equilutions for 2010...

1. Do more groundwork when it's warmer to earn more respect while leading. He's not bad, but we could use some more personal space.
I didn't do this per se, but we have spent all year working on ground manners. He will still lean towards me if he is looking to our right at something extremely interesting (usually another horse) but overall he's doing much better. He will ground tie in the aisle without even a rope on him, at least for a bit. We've started to work on some things that will be helpful for showmanship including stopping and walking when I stop and backing up when I turn and walk him backwards. Turns? yeah...that'll take some help from KAT. We've also used lunging to work on respect and manners and that has helped.

2. Increase Jr's winter wardrobe with some clearance blankets in the spring. Having only one blanket doesn't allow for much temperature adjustment and means I have to wait until spring to launder it again.....
eeew. I bought one new blanket in the spring, a Techno-Fleece turnout and I LOVE it. It fits well and is great for our fall and spring when the temperature goes haywire. Much nicer than my heavyweight Blanket I have from them. We also gained a fly sheet that I've never used, a cool plaid sheet to keep clean at shows, a lycra hood, and of course our fitted cooler we've yet to use.

3. Change his
muley mane to a pleasure mane. This was much easier than I was expecting. I was told his mane was crazy unruly but it's really not. It has a bit of a cowlick in the middle but I'v seen MUCH worse. After the roaching grew out I kept it pulled during the show season and have only combed it since September. It could use a pulling, but it's laying nicely. It will need a LOT of pulling before we show again. It is thick.

4. Get English and Western show tack. Just need an english bit and we're all set. Still working on which bit will be best.

5. Get black pants, chaps, and make a show shirt. Designing and sewing/dyeing a fully custom show outfit is completely within my skills and abilities, however, I don't think I SHOULD until we've proven ourselves in the show-ring. Until I feel like we have some "ring cred" we'll stick with a basic outfit in black and purple that look appropriate and not too flashy. A bay roan paint will stand out enough on his own, I'll let HIM catch the judges attention. I have boots, a hat, gloves, and a blanket from my old show days that I will use. This will save some money for tack, too. I did buy a black show pad because the old one ended up too small to cover our work pad. I'm also NOT planning to do they type of outfit I was once planning. I'm too old. :) and the shows I go to don't really require that level... thankfully!

7. Ride in one
wtc HUS class and one wtc WP class. KAT takes students to shows all summer long so there'll be one or two I can go to. There's a multi-day show in town I think in May that will be good for us. A whole day on the grounds to acclimate before classes on day two. We did THREE HUS and WP classes! We didn't place in the top, we actually placed better in our Equitation and Horsemanship classes. You can read all about the shows here, here, and here.

And for 2010:

1. Start working on Showmanship.
2. Find a new western work pad that WORKS.
3. Have my work saddle taken in to have the buckles replaced and the seat replaced with soft pink suede instead of the icky brown slick leather. When I told KAT I wanted to do this she said "Well then how am I going to tell all the kids they still can't have pink tack!?!" I told her to tell them when they are 30 they can have all the pink tack they want.
4. Have all my tack bags monogrammed.... this is in progress.
5. Get Junior's weight stabilized.

Our ride last night was pretty good. He was playing school horse with one of Max's girls while I was away so I put him to real work right away. There is a new and adorable Welsh pony gelding in our barn named Charlie. He and Junior are turned out together and I guess they are very playful together. Charlie was in the arena with us last night and I had to do a bunch of Charlie-Desensitization. Each time Jr. came near Charlie he would pop his head up and want to go play with him. It took several tries and I even had to smack him with the reins once, but eventually we could jog by and he'd only perk up his ears at Charlie. Such a social butterfly!

And just because: here's Junior's new Christmas Present since he managed to destroy his green halter while I was away. He broke HARDWARE instead of the breakaway crown. Oh, June-Bug.... This is nothing more than a plain black breakaway halter, but i think he looks handsome in it. I went to a pet store and had two small black dog tags with his name on them, one for the halter and one for his black lead rope. They were about $7 a piece and I like the way they look. Happy New Year!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Twas the Night Before (the journey before) Christmas...

I fly to the Arctic Tundra that is Minnesota tomorrow so this will be the last post before New Year's or so.

It seems that all the blogs I read speak of the winter weather lately. It's 20 degrees colder here than normal and the wind is bitter. Having grown up in Minnesota this is not foreign to me, but I still do NOT like it. The milder winters are one of the only things I like better about Ohio.... sorry Ohio. There was ice in the buckets for the first time today. Not solid but the slushy crystalie stuff. I wore long johns under my fleece-lined jeans, my thermal boots, and multiple layers on top. I was comfortable, but I think I'm going to invest in Under Armor this year. I don't like how the layers I wear sort of cling together so I feel a bit constricted.

I went out about 1:30 or so so I could at least have light. I don't know about you, but it it's dark it just feels colder to me. Junior was out in the field with his only remaining pasture buddy, Max is still on stall rest or hand walking and seems to get sore quickly, and of course the little Arab mare trotted over the Rainbow Bridge so Jr. and his girl Zippy are a duo. I brought her in, too since she was standing between us and the gate. She doesn't really LIKE to be outside and will always be the first one trying to get OUT of the field.

We had a very nice short ride. He was very good the whole time. He's really "getting" lots of stuff. It's very encouraging that whenever I find something new to teach him, like the lope-jog-lope transitions I've been working on lately, he gets things pretty quickly. One thing at a time, and I'm sure there will always be another refinement we can work on. I have been riding all over the arena whenever I can, working on keeping him aligned and in frame in bends and circles, as well as being calmer and less anticipatory while working off the rail.

Over the past 15 months I have become a whole lot less Overanxious, but leaving for 17 days is still a cause for anxiety. I know there is no more chance that something terrible will happen while I'm away than while I'm home, but I tend to catastrophize and dream up horrible situations like him getting badly hurt or sick and me having to quickly fly home, or worse, having him suddenly drop dead and me not even able to say goodbye. Horrible thoughts, huh? I know KAT and Max's mom will look after him very well, but that's just how I think.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday Season and you find time to share it with the important people in your life. And whatever you celebrate this season, I wish you a Happy and Merry everything. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I'm BAAAACK..... with an Epiphany!

I was given the golden opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in three years so I took it and that is why I've been AWOL.

Junior survived without me but gave me the silent treatment and was REALLY mouthy trying to see what was in my hands. I have signs on his stall asking people to not give him treats, but I'm not sure it's working. I think I need to make more signs that explain WHY so that people who think it's "mean" not to give horses treats will know I have my reasons. He stopped being mouthy when he hadn't been getting treats by hand. I will put them on his ledge from outside of his stall and he can take them from there, but he does not get treats by hand, ever.

I rode him last night after watching part of a lesson he was in. He really is VERY good for the novices. He packs around with a very pleasant look on his face. The only "bad" thing he does (if the rider doesn't know enough to prevent him from doing it) is that he will beeline himself over to say hello to one of his horse buddies and he's not very cautious or polite about it. The only "bad habit" he's gotten (someone asked me if he was getting any) is that when I get on I need to quickly establish 2 things: A) When I ask for Whoa you WHOA (he sticks his nose out and drags his feet for the lesson kids) and B)No, you may not pack around like a giraffe, you will lift your back and relax your neck. He does not fight me on either of these, I've just discovered that if I start the ride with those two reminders he's great the rest of the ride.

Since TJ gave me her nutrition project packet, I've been trying to make a decision on what to do about his feed. Her evaluation showed he is currently getting 30% more digestible energy than he wonder he's fat! Now, as you know, I am not rolling in the dough, so in addition to making decisions about what is best for Junior, I must try to get the most out of my money. So yesterday I had an epiphany...

My latest Epiphany is that I dropped his feed from a full scoop to 3/4 scoop sometime (I didn't write down the date) between August 19th and September 6th when he started SmartCalm. Considering the 3/4 scoop (combined with his forage) is 30% more digestible fiber than he needs, the full scoop was even MORE energy than he needs. I'm wondering if the change in his attention span is more a result of the decreased energy than the inclusion of the SmartCalm. He is not deficient in any of the ingredients of SC. TJ and I will be working out a plan that I will start implementing in the New Year. Why wait? Well, TJ's project was based on samples and rations including his pasture time, which being December is not the same as it was when the grass was growing. So we're taking her project and we'll be extending the research to include a cost analysis of the feeds she determined were good choices, and a ration that is accurate for the winter. Plus I'll be gone soon for 2 weeks over Christmas and new grain means I have to pre-measure and pre bag and it'll take some time to slowly switch the feed over.... another month won't kill him, even if I am the Overanxious Horse Owner.

I rode him again today and since we had the arena to ourselves we worked on some hard stuff: pattern prep for Equitation and Horsemanship classes. I can do stops and pivots and lots of gait changes along the rail, but when I start moving around the middle of the arena he gets excited. When I ask him to stop he dances around and chomps at the bit. My goal each time is to wait until he is standing calm and square before asking him for another cue. I just try to stay calm and patient with him. I'm sure I need to ride him without a rail more often, but when my riding time is during lessons that is often where I have to stay.

I ordered a cooler, by the way. I had a coupon in the last Dover catalog for their Rider's contour cooler at $29.90. That's the cheapest I've found and the reviews on it were good. Here's the link to the cooler at the coupon price, if you're interested.