Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Good News, Bad News

I have good news, and I have bad news (that is simultaneously good news?).
Unrelated shot of ol' grandpa Jack who is looking pretty okay for 23 and long-term retirement :)
The good news is my teeny dog is feeling much, much better. Friday we went back to the vet for bloodwork, changed her meds up, and by that evening she was mugging me for food again. As of this morning she's back on normal rations, and seems no worse for the wear -- although a touch slimmer, which is actually probably good long-term, since dachshunds trend towards too heavy and she has some patella issues, so lean is our friend!
At the vet's on Friday
With my mom, who is Indy's favorite person in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD.
The bad news is since I last checked in, we've gotten a TON of rain. And it's not done yet. The silver lining in that bad news is that we needed the rain, so yay for it not being a drought? Just makes it hard to get any riding done. Also I lost a boot to our super sticky clay mud bringing Ruby in from turnout last night and almost faceplanted in several inches of muck, haha.
Before all the rain (or rather, literally while it started) Thursday evening I was able to work Cinna briefly. I had planned to ride, but between the rain and a farrier appointment for the geldings, I opted to just lunge in a lunging cavesson. The front moving in had her a bit wild, but she still tried really hard to keep her brain in her head. And with the exceptions of a handful of exuberant canter transitions, she was pretty great! Much better about a long walk warmup without immediately wanting to jig into a trot. She also offered up some nice stretchy trot at the end, for which I praised her effusively. No media of this, of course, because I wasn't interested in ruining my phone in the rain for a rather boring workout, lol.
Snapped some pics for spotty pajama bottoms' new mom, cause he'll be heading to his new home soon!
Aside from a good grooming (which was immediately wasted by them rolling in the mud), the horses had a pretty quiet weekend. I was hoping to maybe trailer out for a ride, but even if the rain hadn't thwarted that, I forgot my coggins expired last week sooooo no going anywhere until I have the vet out. We're supposed to get more rain and then massive temp drops again this week, so no idea when things will dry out enough to resume riding -- but on the plus side, it's now daylight both when I leave for work AND get home, the horses are shedding, and our long term forecast shows way more 50 degree days than 20 degree ones, so I'm content :) spring is about sprung!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Spring in Winter

We enjoyed an unseasonably warm day yesterday (and today, whaddup 70 degrees?), which meant riding! It's been a rough week for me emotionally, one of my dogs is sick and I'm hardcore riding the roller coaster of "she's getting better! No she's on death's door! No wait, better again!"
"I love to give my mom ulcers" -- Indy, probably
Tuesday I was so worried about her that I didn't think to ask DH to drag the arena until 9 pm, which he cheerfully did (God bless him). But when I left work last night and it was sunny and 65, I knew I needed to saddle up and spend some time with the horses.
The best Valentine
After sorting out the dogs and changing into breeches, I waded out into the muck to catch Ruby. Thankfully she was relatively clean, so we got tacked up and headed over to the arena quickly. Because of the warm weather, the goats were in the paddock adjacent to the arena, and they were also pretty sure it was dinnertime. Which meant they were "talking" to us, which Ruby seemed pretty intrigued by. About the time I swung on, DH showed up (with animal crackers) to play with the goats. It gave us an excellent chance to work on Ruby's ability to focus on me even when there were interesting distractions.

That side eye tho hahabaha
She was really good, even when Cinna and Jack started playing bitey face and zooming around their dry lot (and when the baby goats were actually climbing DH like a jungle gym lol). We did a lot of easy work on figures and lateral work in the walk and trot, and lightly touched on the canter. We're still having trouble picking up that right lead consistently, which is frustrating. She's been a little touchy about having her poll handled this winter so I'm wondering if a chiropractic adjustment might be in order, just to rule out any potential physical discomfort.
I kept things pretty short with the ride, because I knew we had to move round bales when I finished, but there was actually still daylight when I was done -- spring is coming guys!! DH was too busy playing with goats to take any media (also i looked like a slob so I didn't want photos of me lol) but maybe we'll try again tonight!
This horse is pretty damn cool guys. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ice Sculptures

The pendulum of Missouri winter swings -- this time to freezing rain and snow, perfectly timed to absolutely ruin my three-day weekend. Blech. But I'm sick again, so I guess I can't be that upset? The ice did make getting to and from our GMO's annual award banquet a little hairy -- that's a white-knuckle drive I truly hope I never have to experience again. My term as president runs through the end of this year, and we've got some increased involvement by some younger, newer members that makes me really excited about the future.
Since the weather and my health are teaming up against me, enjoy the photos of my "frosted" ponies (and property)!
Ruby has a new turnout buddy, and it's going well so far -- part of my multi-step plan to address our trail shenanigans from the last ride.
It's supposed to warm back up this week, so hopefully we'll return to riding soon! I'm dreadfully overdue for some actual media of me RIDING the horses (vs ground and between the ears shots), so maybe I can sweet talk DH into taking some new pics this week? Did anyone else experience this lovely (/sarcasm) phenomenon of frozen precipitation ruining their weekend plans? Commiserate in the comments! (or tell me how nice it was for you and I can sit here and be jealous, lol)

Friday, February 9, 2018

DIY Smartpaks

So I'm sure the concept of DIY smartpaks isn't uncommon -- I'm certainly not claiming to reinvent the wheel here, haha. But my horses, like many, receive some extra supplements on top of their usual grain/ration balancer. We have gotten to the point recently where it's gotten annoying to scoop individual powders/etc at mealtime, so I started exploring DIY supplement pack options.
In the past, when I boarded my horses, I either bought (or the barn provided) some little tupperwares to mix up a week or so at a time. That system works just fine, but when I started exploring options to get enough for all the horses at home (well minus Trigger, he doesn't get any supplements, lol), it started to look like it might get annoyingly cost prohibitive to get tupperware for everyone -- don't get me wrong, while I can afford to drop $40+ on little tupperwares, why would I, if I could find something less expensive? (#cheapskate) So I poked around a bit on Amazon until I found these: while this particular model is marketed as souffle cups, you can also find them listed as jello shot cups with lids, hahaha. I clicked around to a few different options, but finally chose the ones linked above because I could get 100 4-ounce cups for less than $12 delivered to my house in less than 48 hours.
Getting my supplies prepped!
Working on Jack's cups.
They arrived last night, so I quickly whipped up 3+ weeks for each horse in less than half an hour. I sorted them into individual bins, and also set up a discard pail to put the empties in for re-use -- they're not terribly flimsy, so I do hope as long as I don't hulk-smash any of them, I should be able to reuse them for quite a while. I did notice putting them together that some of the lids stuck together, so at the end I appeared to have more cups than lids. I'm sure the extra lids will show up as I work my way through the cups, lol. These 4-ounce cups hold a decent amount -- Ruby's PM feed includes three supplements, two powdered and raspberry leaves, and the cup still wasn't completely full. Obviously if your horse gets a high volume of supplements, this might not work well for you (although I think there is a 6-ounce option too?).
Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this for about a $3/per horse investment (well, $6 for Ruby because she's getting both AM/PM supplements, lol). Hopefully I'll be reusing these DIY smartpaks for a long time!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cinnamonster Superstar

I thought I'd have to wait for today for temps to finally become tolerable, but I was pleasantly surprised when I got off work last night and my car dash read 35 degrees. Unexpected, but certainly not unwelcome! I didn't let myself get too excited about riding until I got home and checked the footing in my arena -- I was concerned the snow from Sunday and then freezing rain from earlier this week might have melted into slop, but it was perfect.
Random snow pockets, but otherwise great! 
Continuing with my plan to alternate riding the girls, I grabbed Cinna from turnout and tossed her in the crossties. She's getting so personable and really maturing lately (FINALLY). She definitely still has dumb baby moments, but I'm starting to be able to trust her more. She no longer attempts to vacate the area every time I bridle her, which is so appreciated haha. DH called as I was finishing tacking up, so I told him I'd be riding Cinna (I figured he'd get home right about the time I was finishing up). His call actually distracted me so much that I walked her out to the mounting block without my helmet and had to backtrack to go get it.
Getting so white, sob.
She stood like a rock at the mounting block while I fiddled with my gloves and phone holder (also a new appreciated habit we've worked on!), and I climbed on. She flicked an ear when I first turned some music on, but she settled right into work. For the warm up we just focused on walking and bending. Once we were ready to trot, I tried to make sure I was riding at "neutral" and let her do her own thing as long as she maintained a steady tempo. More than once she wanted to get rushy, but she accepted half halts politely and would return to the tempo I wanted. She was pretty active in the mouth, even though I switched back to the bit she normally prefers for this ride. It is about time for our annual vet visit with floats, so possibly she's experiencing some teeth discomfort.
Too tired to play king of the shed, thankfully.
She was super good to canter, and we didn't have any hint of that sticky "can't bend to the right so I'm gonna plow into the fence" nonsense. She did get a bit tired the second direction (right) and broke to the trot once, but picked the canter right back up when asked. I rode through a few test elements from intro, and we had some good moments and some horrifying moments, lol. We need sooooo much work on centerlines. All of the work. We cannot trot a straight line off the rail to save our lives. But the transitions are coming along and she let me adjust the circles very well. We also worked on the free walk a bit, and really stretching down and lengthening her steps. She's very much like her mother in that when she gets excited, she reverts to the stereotypical Spanish sewing machine gaits, so relaxation and covering ground are going to be perpetual works in progress.
"Good girls get cookies, yes?"
We also worked on some stretchy trot for the first time. Midway through the ride she reached into the bridle really well so I lengthened my reins a little to see if we could stretch further -- and she zoomed off, haha. But later in the ride she offered again, and this time she truly stretched down without increasing the tempo. We had bobbles, to be sure, but even after she'd pop up, I could shorten the reins, ask again, and she'd try. I rode for about 40 minutes and was super pleased with both her attitude and the quality of some of the work, so I decided to cool out we could walk a bit in the pasture.
Phone did not even begin to do this justice, it was gorgeous.
I'm not sure why I keep thinking that's a good idea, but I need someone to slap me upside the head next time the thought crosses my mind. She was fine walking out (a little spooky and prone to stopping), but totally manageable. However when I turned her around and started walking back to the barn, all hell broke loose and she lost her mind. We quickly surpassed my "safety switch" in that she became more dangerous than I was comfortable with in a non-enclosed area riding alone, so I dismounted and then we worked in hand. She started very bargy and concerned, but she gradually relaxed until I was hand walking her with slack reins. Obviously getting off wasn't my first choice (as I don't want her to think misbehaving gets her out of work), so we walked back into the arena and I mounted up again for some more walking. I had already cooled her out so I didn't want to do anything complicated, so we just worked on halting from my seat. By the end of the ride I was holding the reins on the buckle while we did multiple walk - halt transitions.
Minus the bobble in the field, I was super pleased with the ride. It's hard to maintain any consistency in the work right now, but she always comes out trying and retains the lessons from ride to ride, so I really couldn't ask for anything more! (Well I mean, if someone wanted to build me an indoor, I wouldn't turn it down, but aside from that ;) haha).

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ruby's No Good, Very Bad Day

Well this is gonna be a fun entry to write.... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  For any of you who get tired of hearing how good my horses are, don't worry! They have their terrible days too. And apparently, Saturday was the culmination of quite a bit of pent-up naughtiness on Ruby's part. While it'd be easier to gloss over it and move on, in the interest of authenticity, I'm going to lay out everything I can remember here (I should have written all this right after it happened while it was fresh in my head, but alas, I did not).
She looks so cute and innocent.
Saturday was supposed to get up to about 50 -- not super warm, but better than the previous days, so my goal was to get both horses ridden. When by noon it was still gloomy and early 40s, I started to worry. Finally the sun peaked out and it felt decent outside, so I went to tack up Ruby. She was fine in the cross ties, and we tacked up in her normal gear (Megan had a super interesting post last week about "range books" that professional shooters keep, and how she tracks her own rides. Of course this inspired me to get more detailed about my own ride tracking IF MY NOTEBOOK WOULD EVER GET HERE). We headed over to the arena and I turned on a Pandora station. She warmed up well, despite the boys playing a vigorous game of bitey face and Cinna doing airs above ground next to the arena fence, we did a handful of figures at the trot and canter. She was being excellent, the sun was shining, and I was a little bored of the arena, so I figured we could hack out on our trail as a reward (since you know, Ruby LOVES the trail and is always a super rockstar out there)..... Ha. Ha ha.
The last time I smiled on this ride.
As we headed through the back pasture, I decided to take a quick picture to send to some friends. While I had my phone out and only one hand on the reins, she spooked HARD and rocketed off. I turned her in a small circle and sorted the phone situation out, then pushed her back forward in the direction we were going. She got jiggy and tense and was on high alert. I figured she'd hit her stride once we entered the woods. Silly me. This was only a small taste of what was coming.
Meme genius from Aimee
Once we were into the woods, she got even worse. She couldn't travel in a straight line, couldn't walk, basically couldn't horse at all. She danced from side to side on the trail, constantly testing the rein for enough slack to take off again. There was angry bit chomping and her ears were swiveling around at mach 10. The incessant jigging was starting to annoy me, so every time she broke from the walk, I'd make her stand, and wouldn't let her walk forward again until she could stand on a reasonably loose rein without angry bit chewing. This worked fine for a few minutes, and then she totally lost her marbles and started rearing.
Not interested in participating, kthanxbai.
Super. That's a fun new thing. This was about the time I was majorly regretting my life choices, and also the fact that not only was no one home, but also no one knew where I was. I gritted my teeth and soldiered on, praising her when she'd flat walk, and making her halt when she tried to jig. I thought maybe some of the problem was that she was anticipating heading back to the house, so I would switch directions and make her walk back the way we'd come for a bit, then turn and go back. This worked okay for a little while, until she decided that she could not and decided to run us both into a tree.
Unrelated media because I was too busy staying on to take photos. 
Finally we got out of the woods and into walking in the grass, which at least had the benefit of nothing for her to smash us into. We did a few passes up and down the driveway of the abandoned church, and she threw a few hissy fits when cars drove by us. Finally I felt safe enough to walk her back through the gap over to the house, and back to the barn. She booked it up the hill and started screaming for her friends. Yeahhhhhh. Sorry Ruby, that's not gonna fly.
These fun nippers were on sale at TSC so I can so some more trail clearing this spring!
So I took her back into the arena and we worked for 20 minutes solid at the trot and canter -- diagonals, quarterlines, centerlines, so many 20 m circles, an exercise I made up on the fly where we trotted like 12 m circles across the short side and overlapped them so that it took me four small circles to get from one side to the other, etc. We actually had really, really good work the second time in the arena, so it's a bit of a shame she had to be such a moron on the trail to precipitate it, but I guess that's beside the point. To cool out I hacked her back in the field again, and miraculously enough, she had regained enough of her brain to walk quietly.
The face of a very tired pony who made poor life choices.
By the time we finished up and she was cooled out, my legs felt like limp noodles. I made the executive decision to skip riding Cinna when I was already exhausted, so she just got a reasonably long lunge -- for which she was perfect. Apparently, they decided to switch personalities for the day! Thankfully that was DH's last Saturday at work, so I shouldn't have any future issues of trying to ride when no one is around. While it was a frustrating ride at the time, I'm not mad about it --horses are like people, they have off days. I have some theories on what precipitated some of the anxiety and I'm going to make some changes gradually this spring to see if I can suss out and fix the root cause. And at any rate, the fact that we rode for well over an hour and she still had 'go' (and I didn't die either, haha) tells me we could probably manage the exertion of some lessons, so I'll have to see about getting something on the books as the days get longer!
Unfortunately temps dropped again and we got snow yesterday, and the weather looks fairly crummy this week, so no idea when I'll get some solid saddle time again. But the days ARE getting longer, so just holding out hope the temps will gradually increase along with them. Could really use it cause last months electric bill was INSANE haha. How was your weekend? Any good rides? Superbowl parties? Inquiring minds want to know!