Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful

I'm thankful for so many things this year. My family, my boyfriend :), my health, my job even though it's driving me crazy, the phone interview I have set up on Monday for a new hopefully better job haha, but one of the things that I'm especially thankful for is my incredible pony. She's been my partner through a job change, a break up, two different apartments, and an insanely horrible instructor. She's always been there for me as one of the constantly awesome parts of my life. 

Finally I'm thankful for Youtube. Yes you heard that right. I'm so thankful for the free information that we have available to us. It's saving me riding wise right now since I took October off of lessons and probably won't take lessons through the rest of December either. I know that I need expert advice but between my budget and the move to a new barn it's just not going to happen for a bit. So I went to Youtube.

For anyone looking for some good instructional classical dressage videos I HIGHLY recommend ArtToRide.


My Blogger app won't let me post the video so the link will have to work. This is just one good video but there are many more available and thanks to these I've made HUGE progress with Katai.

When I first started consistently riding Katai in June she looked like this.
Yep, unbalanced, inverted, very on the forehand. 

She's always been very tight through the back and shoulder and inverted as these pictures from before I started riding her show.
Very not good right.

She was getting even more like this during the last few months I was riding with J. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately I have no pictures or video from those lessons but after a month of no lessons with me riding her she looks like this.



I'm not an expert, very much need lessons and it's because of what I filtered out of lessons with J that I'm able to get this but J has told me several times whole watching me ride my pony this way that I'm going to ruin her. Doesn't look like that to me. To me she looks like she's stepping under herself, swinging, relaxed, forward, soft, building top line, reaching, etc. Look at just how much more free she is through her shoulder and how her under neck muscle is slowly fading.

So this is my goal for the next couple months. Slow, consistent, relaxed work where I continue to help her find her rhythm and develop the right kind of strength.

I hope all of you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cold Weather Boogie

I give anyone who rides through the winter, or by that matter that extreme summer heat in those areas where that is the toughest time to be outside, a lot of credit. Whether your winters get down to 40 degrees or -40 degrees the extreme difference makes it difficult to want to be outside much less try to handle a horse that wants to bounce off the walls to stay warm. With that being said I do live in an area with extreme cold and after my ride tonight I thought it might be interesting to share some of what I do to make riding through the winter work for me.
I live somewhere in the general vicinity of where the arrow is pointing above. Yes, it's pretty far north and yes it gets extremely cold. At the beginning of November I was really happy that we were still having 40 degree days but last week that changed. Last Monday I was dressing Katai up in her 100 gram blanket and wondering if that was too much but by the end of the week she was in her 300 gram and I was hoping that was enough. Tonight when I rode it was 7 degrees with a windchill below zero.

At the place I am boarding currently there are two extremes. The tacking/grooming area/viewing area (since it's all one room) which is kept at about 60 degrees and outside. The arena is not heated at all so other that being out of the wind it can be quite frigid. To keep Katai heathy and try to keep her from getting injured with the temperature change I bring her in, pull her blanket immediately and groom quickly. I use a quarter sheet and once I get her out to the arena I start getting her moving as quickly as possible. 

To keep myself warm I layer.
I'm wearing two shirts under the hoody. You can't tell from this picture but the breeches are these really thick polar fleece breeches that a friend gave me when she stopped riding and I'm wearing my Under Armor long underwear underneath. The Under Armor is 3/4 length so that it doesn't get too bulky with the socks. 
Don't I look awesome. This is, minus that heavy duty mittens, how I go get my horse. With the jacket I'm wearing four layers, five with the sports bra, on top and two - three on the bottom. I have winter riding boots but tend to do better with thinner socks that give me room to move my toes than if I wear too many sock layers. I pull off the hat, mittens, and sometimes even the jacket while I groom and then put the jacket back on along with riding gloves. My ears do ok while I ride as long as I keep moving and I can ride in summer riding gloves also as long as I keep moving. Then it's back to the warm grooming area as soon as possible and back off with some of the crazy bundled up layers.

All the clothing sucks but it does keep me warm and I always feel so much better after a ride even if I do dread going out in the cold.

Katai also gets bundled up and so far her layers are working. The sheet and 100 gram combo came off to be replaced by the 300 gram early last week after a snow and drop in temperatures so it was covered in icicles and after being consistently worn for a few weeks was ready to be washed. Both the sheet and liner got washed in the machine on cold and hung up to dry. The liner had a small rip in the top right near the tail where I'm sure one of Katai's new and bossier paddock mates got a little over zealous about getting her to mind. I patched it up since I'd rather keep up on these things rather than let them get to the point where they NEED to be patched. The sheet also had a small L shaped tear in the tail flap and other minor signs of war games. 

Mares...

I also brought all my leather tack home for a good cleaning and was admiring my new girth.
Isn't it gorgeous! I actually like that it doesn't match and with the extremely worn saddle seat it actually sort of fits in. H was slightly horrified that I didn't get black to match my saddle but I've never been that into matching things like that. I'd rather have things that complement each other and I think this color girth with this saddle looks incredible. I'm going to try to do a review of the girth and how it works but Katai is SOOO fuzzy that the girth just sort of dissapears so you won't really be able to see how it fits. I'll still see what I can do though because it is awesome and what a difference it is to not have her saddle pulled forward and, most importantly for my little monster, to finally have her elbows clear.

More to come on our amazing progress!





Monday, November 10, 2014

Barn Update and Blanket Followup

So the new barn is awesome, like really really awesome.

                 The barn she'll be in

The atmosphere is so different than my current barn with everyone smiling and welcoming me and enjoying the fact that I own a pony. The owner was accommodating about not feeding her grain (she owns ponies and understands the risk of founder) and we even agreed on a discount since I provide my own supplements with a little grain included to keep Katai happy.


I set up the tour thinking that there were two 10x10 stalls available which is smaller than I would like but for a 13.2 hand pony probably wouldn’t be too bad. However, I found out that one of the 10x12s (which have their own private tack lockers) had JUST opened up so I took that one instead. I also discovered that during the summer the horses only come in for their meals and are outside the rest of the time which is even better than I thought it would be.

   The other heated barn with attached heated arena :)

Stall board will be a huge adjustment for me. The most I’ve ever kept a horse in a stall before was during the night time on the most frigid days of the winter when with the wind chill it was close to -30 degrees. That was only a few days a year and only overnight. I’ve always felt that horses are healthier and happier when they get to be outside all the time but there are a few things that have been making rethink that idea.


One issue I’ve been having with pasture board is the lack of supplementation by the barn owner/staff. I’ve been managing but as much as I would like to I just can’t make it to the barn everyday and there is absolutely no way I can make it to the barn twice a day. When I can get there consistently 4-5 days a week it’s not too bad and at least she is getting the majority of her weekly amount. The problem is with weeks like this one where I planned on going out Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday but now we are getting dumped on with snow both today and Tuesday so I doubt I’ll make it out. That cuts the days she is getting supplements down to 2-3 and that’s just not enough especially with the huge difference in her when she doesn’t receive her supplements.


The other issue is blanketing. I work really, really hard to make sure she has the appropriate blanket on at the appropriate time and always make an extra trip to remove wet blankets but it is extremely tough sometimes. Again, on days like today when there is a huge snowstorm I just can’t always drive out there and risk my safety to check if her blanket is getting wet and the barn owner certainly won’t check. Stall board will fix this as although they won’t blanket her they will remove a wet blanket which is really the bigger concern at this point.

I really think this is a great opportunity for both of us and I’m looking forward to feeling like a “real” boarder!


In other news my blanket system is working great. She’s been wearing the 100 gram for a while now and I ordered the 200 gram last week. It’s supposed to get here today just in time for the colder weather, we are supposed to have lows in the single digits this week. I also ordered two bridle tags, one that says 100 gram and one that says 200 gram to attach to the liners so that I can keep track.


Pony is going to be cozy AND styling and, really, what more could any girl want :-)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shout Out

Just a quick post to give a shout out to the blog Pony Eventer. Go subscribe and watch as Sinead Halpin and Forrest Nymph take over the world! 

Er, compete in eventing in a spectacular, pony fashion :-)



Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Take Your Vitamins

When I have an issue or something I’m unhappy with I tend to research and read everything I can get my hands on. This is true with everything in my life but especially with my horse so when I noticed a few concerning things with Katai I went to the internet.


Katai has always had really tight muscles. When she is nervous she literally turns to stone and the same happens when she is resisting. She is fairly tight through the back as well and would react strongly to minor things. While doing some searching on COTH I stumbled across some information on Magnesium and Magnesium deficiencies. Most of the things on that list applied to my pony including the metabolism things and the hoof health. Magnesium isn’t an especially expensive supplement and it’s not something that will hurt them if they get it when they don’t need it, you just won’t see a difference in that case.

I started Katai on a loading dose of Magnesium last fall/winter and OMG what a difference. She went from tight reactive pony with muscles of stone to relaxed quiet, almost to the point of seeming sedated pony and was much softer. At that point I went to the maintenance dose and continued to see incredible things. She’ll still spook and she still resists and is her normal self it’s just that it takes the edge off and she doesn’t fly off the handle at small things. She is also more able to concentrate on me and so our communication is worlds better. Since then I’ve kept her on it and the couple times I’ve not been able to give it to her for awhile, such as when I went to KY, she went back to being tight and reactive. I’ve had several other supplements suggested to me since then, such as Mare Magic, but all of them are basically a form of Magnesium. Right now she is getting Magnesium 5,000 in pellets that I ordered from Smartpak in the 80 day bucket.

also ordered some Omega treats awhile ago and although she won’t eat the treats whole she will eat them if I cut them up into her grain. Once they are gone, hopefully sooner than later because have you ever tried cutting up horse treats, I plan on purchasing a powdered form to add to her grain instead.


Finally, and most recently, I added DMG  http://www.vitaflex.com/res_growdmga.php .It is supposed to help with horses that are muscle sore and particularly horses with PSSM. It also has a form of Magnesium in it so I reduce the dose of straight magnesium she receives. It is also a cheap supplement and I am still just trying it out to see if it works. I ordered it from Smartpak in the 28 day bucket for about $10 so I can see if it works at all. I do have to say that last night when I massaged her, and just working with her in general, she seemed WAY different and looser. She is certainly not diagnosed as PSSM, although I may have the vet test next time he is here, but with her muscle tightness and some of her resistances I guess it wouldn’t surprise me. Hopefully the DMG will help with her tightness since it is certainly something I can afford to keep her on.

The current barn actually grains pasture boarded horses but since they are all loose together and there is no guarantee who will eat out of which bucket they can’t do supplements. Because of this I make up baggies with about a cup of Senior horse feed from Purina and the three supplements listed. There are far better grains for easy keeper horses but they are tough to get in this area so for now this system is working out ok. The main problem with the current way I do things is that she only gets her supplements when I’m at the barn. Each baggie has the amount of supplement she should get for one day but I can only make it to the barn around four days per week so she is still always short. This would be one good reason to switch to stall board and something I am taking into account as I make the decision.



More news about the new barn possibility to follow!

 

Blanket Management

After reading Jen’s post over at Cob Jockey I wanted to answer her question in a post of my own. Growing up with horses I never blanketed unless it was going to be below zero and even then we only blanketed two of our horses, one who had trouble keeping weight on and one that didn’t grow a great coat.  I started really blanketing when I got Sora who not only dropped weight but also didn’t grow much of a coat. She was also a freeze baby and would stand outside of the shelter shaking and looking miserable at 40 degrees or below. I never rode much over the winter so I wasn’t concerned with keeping a horse comfortable in work.


Katai now is a different story. She is a fluffy pony that has no trouble maintaining weight and who would grow an incredibly fluffy coat if allowed. Last winter I blanketed her pretty regularly through the beginning of winter to keep her coat a little less dense since I did plan on riding through the winter. At that point I had a sheet with no fill, a medium weight blanket with 200 fill, and a heavy blanket with 300 fill. I did pretty well for most of the year but around the middle of winter when it was apparent that it was going to be extremely cold and long I wasn’t riding as much I slowly transferred her to being without and she developed a great coat midyear.


The problem with having a horse that does grow such a warm coat is that if I do want to ride, which despite what J might think I really do, she will sweat like mad and I will never, ever, ever get her dry. I’ve already begun blanketing to try to keep things reasonable and in the next month or so I plan to clip. Clipping her is made trickier by the fact that after last year’s attempt to desensitize her failed I waited until the last month to begin again. Luckily she is taking to it really will with some help from H and is already close to the point where I could start soon. When I get to that point I want to make sure I have what I need to keep her warm.


To handle the cold and give myself as much flexibility as possible I, like Jen, have decided to go with the Rambo liners. Currently I only have the 100 weight but I plan on getting the 200 weight as well. Katai is amazingly good with blankets and her main sheet only has one small snag on the tail flap after being used consistently for two winters now. That sheet is a Saxon that I bought on clearance from State Line Tack at the amazing price of $45. 

           The sheet in it's first year

I will be able to put the 100 and 200 gram liners under it which will be awesome! I also have a 300 gram blanket from Just For Ponies that cost me about $125. The beauty of this is that since I could also put the 100 and 200 gram liners under that it gives me every weight from 0 – 500 or even 600 all for about $290. That is basically six or seven blankets for the price of one :-)


I will do a more in depth review once I have had longer to try this system out but at this point after wearing her cheap sheet with the 100 gram liner under it for about a week she has kept everything in excellent condition and both the sheet and liner have stayed nicely in place.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Causation

Whatever’s not working at the current barn has become irrelevant because it is clear to me after my ride last night that I need to leave. I’ve been questioning if it is J’s teaching style, my riding style, the pony, or the other people but it just doesn’t matter because it isn’t working. 


Last night, after giving Katai a week off, I went out to ride her and I was able to relax because I didn’t have to worry about my lesson on Wednesday and the complete disaster that they have become. I had been toying again with the idea that maybe this just isn’t what Katai wants to do and had thought about possibly finding her another home with a kid but when I saw her pretty face and fuzzy ears last night I was strongly reminded that it doesn’t matter. I’m with her through whatever happens and we are going to be a team for a good long while. 


brought her in and took my time grooming her. She’s been blanketed so she wasn’t dirty but she was enjoying being brushed since I’m sure she was itchy under her blanket. Her feet have also been concerning me and showing signs of Thrush again, probably because she stands in manure at the round bale all day and never moves around enough to dislodge the crap in her hooves. I cleaned them out as well as I could but I’m going to wash them out tonight and get them really disinfected and clean.

I tacked her up and went to the arena but there were two lessons so I took my time just walking around with her and showing her things that she’s been squeamish about. I tried to spend some time just hanging out with her and took my time tightening up the girth. 


After about 10 minutes one of the lesson people left so I brought Katai over to the mounting block and climbed up. She was initially a little tense and quick. I just rode her long and low with loose reins but expecting her to be reasonably straight and to listen to my leg cues. She did relax a lot and I was doing ten meter circles off my seat and legs with my reins on the buckle.


Eventually I did some trotting in both directions and since this is where J’s been putting the most pressure on us I knew she would lose it but actually after just a couple circles in each direction where I didn’t demand anything she relaxed enough to reach down into contact and even slowed just off my weight cue. I decided to quit on that positive note.


I brought her back into the crossties, got her untacked and was actually doing some clipper desensitization when this is where the story gets really good. I was just putting her blanket back on when J comes out if the arena and marches right over to me. She said, “I noticed you were working her in hand a lot tonight.” I kind of paused and said, “Nope, I was just hanging out waiting for the arena to clear out a little.” J then says, “Well if she’s that against you maybe you should take a driving lesson with me.”


I went



First, why is there nothing between me riding my horse in a third level frame which causes her to fight me and deciding that driving is just better? Did she not see that when she was ridden low, loose and relaxed tonight she was great? Again, Katai is an intro/training level horse and at this point I am an intro/training level rider which to me means we should be working on intro/training level things such as relaxation, rhythm, going different speeds within the gait, stretching, long and low, and working on other things like desensitization to clippers and riding on the trail. NOT transferring most of her weight to her hind end and trying to work on half pass or only allowing her to go forward when she is straight. Second, I know J probably knows how to drive but that doesn’t mean that I would go right into taking lessons with her and finally if there was ever a time to say green on green equals black and blue this is it! An instructor who doesn’t regularly drive teaching me, who has never driven a horse, to drive my young admittedly difficult horse just seems like an extremely horrible idea that is fraught with peril. Add to that the fact that I’m sure we don’t have any equipment that would fit her, I’m not sure that driving is something I’ll ever be comfortable after seeing my sister in a driving accident that resulted in three broken ribs, and the fact that I certainly can’t afford to go buy a bunch of driving equipment.  Finally, even if she is just talking ground driving its silly because Katai is the ground driving queen! I did a ton of this before I ever climbed on her back and she does it just as well, or poorly, as she rides at this point. Since I’m not scared of falling off or getting hurt when I ride her I guess I just don’t know what that will accomplish in the long run.


At any rate I’m going to stop my whining. I am really looking forward to this new opportunity and think I have a couple of barns picked out. I boarded Sora at one previously and the other I’ve heard great things about. That one I’m going to go tour on Friday and I can’t wait to look around! They have only stall board available and while it’s not something I ever thought I would do I also think it would be a great opportunity.


I typed up this post at work today on my lunch but need to add a postscript. I went to the barn right after work to see H ride in her lesson since its been awhile. She was doing really well! Afterward though when I told J that I needed to give my 30 day notice she fought me and declared, after I stubbornly refused to listen to her trying to get me to dump my pony at an auction, "You're going to regret this, that pony will never be worth anything."


Yep, I made the right decision to get out of there.


More positive and wonderful posts to follow including pictures of the new place as soon as I can get them!