Thursday, 29 November 2012

Movin' Along

We're back in action this week and popped down to the ring a couple of times to try to get some 'proper' rides in. I've been playing a bit with the canter but I have to time it right since she runs out of gas fairly quickly. What a difference going from a 40 acre pasture to a small paddock makes for general fitness. She feels quite a bit weaker in the canter than she did when we were in regular training and she had a big field with friends to play with. I`m sure I feel weaker to her as well, being the trail riding slacker I am. On the plus side, she's such an honest girl that she doesn't really try to cheat and just gives me what she`s got. She will do the correct work if I can manage to get my own act together and ride properly :) We`ve had a couple of good rides the past few days and I`m feeling encouraged. My farrier took another look and found a stone bruise on her right hind. All that worry for a relatively minor problem!
Proof we showed up for work at least ;) :
 
 
Here`s a picture I found from our trail ride the other day - riding through here makes me feel like I`m in Lord of the Rings or something - especially on a dark and rainy day!
 
 

 
We rode the day after a windstorm and there were several trees down that we had to navigate over and under. The following day G and I went out for a hike with the intention of clearing the way, and someone had already beat us to it! I`m continually amazed by the user groups around here that volunteer their time - even in the middle of the week on a rainy day. It`s also not like this trail is located particularly close to anything - it`s an old old railway grade pretty much in the middle of nowhere and not accessible to vehicle traffic.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Hair

Today, I attempted to channel my inner stylist. I started out trying to prepare for a trail ride on the resident Curly horse. Check out this coat!:

I'm not even sure how you're supposed to properly groom this guy - the majority of my brushes come nowhere near getting to the bottom of his coat. Maybe a hair pick a la an eighties perm? Plus, he's a palomino. Living in a muddy paddock. Enough said :) If he was mine, I might be tempted to clip him to make it easier to keep him clean and dry, but it would probably look completely ridiculous! In the summer he sheds out and looks like every other horse - in the winter he is a giant poodle - even his legs are fluffy and curly. So cute. It is such a treat to ride a totally bombproof horse like him, but I always feel a bit guilty, like I should be riding Ginger instead. I'm glad I didn't take her though - it would have been way too challenging of a ride for her. We had a good time but it was almost 3 hours later when we got home and I was freezing! I had originally planned to take Ginger to the ring after but wimped out and instead tackled her mane. Stage One transformation complete:
 
It still needs a bunch of tidying, but I'm happy to see the parts she rubbed out last summer are just about long enough to start blending in. I probably took 4" off her mane and it's still on the long side! I had thought of growing it long and saving the work of keeping it tidy and even,  but I think shorter suits her much better.
 
Off to the ring tomorrow - I am unhappy with how I rode yesterday and am looking forward to getting things back to where we were when we left Alberta (almost 2 months ago! Time really does fly when you're having fun!)
 


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Beautiful Day!

 I'm glad I did all my 'chores' yesterday, because the sun was shining for the whole entire day today! That's a big deal in winter around these parts. I always get a kick out of seeing how busy everything is on sunny days - my mom works in retail and says even the stores get busy when the weather's nice. Shopping wouldn't be my choice of things to do on a beautiful day, but hey, whatever works.  I have to wonder just where everyone goes when it's dark and rainy - do they really all hide inside all day? I don't notice the gym being overly busy, and I'm usually riding by myself. I very rarely see other hikers as well. Maybe I'm just not popular enough to know where the cool kids hang ;)

Today, I took Ginger down to the ring to check out where we are at with her leg. She was feeling good - a couple of days off for her makes her seem like she's on crack. She's had almost two weeks without a real workout and I'm pretty sure she wasn't even part of this world this morning :) Eventually she came back down to earth and I got to see her moving out properly. I'm happy to report she seems  totally fine. I hopped on and had an alright ride, maybe 30 mins or so of walk/trot. Alright because she was wanting to burst out of her skin and there were tons of distractions -the place was busier than I've ever seen. For the casual observer our ride probably looked a bit of a tense mess, but she really didn't put a foot wrong and tried super hard to be good so I can take that and be happy. I sure wish we had Trainer Girl here - she would have been able to take today's ride and make a complete success of it - left to my own devices I always feel like I didn't quite get there. We didn't canter today - I wanted to keep this ride easy in case she is still a little stiff somewhere. Things didn't feel quite relaxed enough to really take  a chance and go there anyways. It's funny, with Lainey when she's feeling up the best thing I can do is put her to work and canter, she relaxes into it and burns off steam, then we are ready for nice trot work. Ginger is the opposite - if the trot feels tight and funny, the canter is going to be truly awful and then she gets really worried. The best thing for an anxious Ginger is a half hour or so of walking with a few trot or halt transitions to keep her attentive to me. Time consuming and a bit boring, but it works!

We hung around and chatted with some friends for a bit after our ride and she was also very good  then - she's grown up this past year and is much more patient. She also isn't herd bound at all anymore - people and horses can come and go and she's not too worried by it. The reason I take the time to write about all these little things is to remind myself we are still making progress. I'm not even sure why I put pressure on myself to keep improving - in real life I am totally uncompetitive and a bit of a slacker ;) When I posed this thought to G, he reminded me that I've previously said "I don't want to let Ginger down" and that "I want everyone to see how wonderful she and the Welsh Cob breed is". He might have a bit of a point there.

On tomorrow's agenda: I'm going to ride one of the barn owner's horses on a trail ride with another boarder, then grab Ginger and take her down to the ring. School is back in session ;)
I don't really feel right about posting about the other horses I ride (even though it's all good) since they are not mine. Suffice to say there are a few needing to get out and about for some miles on the trails and now and then I take them - it's good for them and good time in the saddle for me.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Hoping for a good day tomorrow

The weather has remained pretty stinky this past week. We're living on a hill, otherwise I'm pretty sure we'd be flooded by now. At the barn, poor Ginger has a paddock that's about half flooded - thank goodness her shelter and bedding are nice and dry and the footing in the rest is just wet - not deep nasty mud! I'm not sure there's an ideal way anyone could manage all this wet, but I think Ginger's situation is pretty close, having a fairly large paddock on a slight slope, with a 3 sided shelter in a dry place facing away from the weather. I'm trying to tell myself the weather would eventually mess with my horsey time no matter where I live - In Alberta those snowstorms in the winter and thunderstorms in the summer wrecked my lesson plns more than once. I'm still missing Alberta though- dry and cold beats flooded and windy any day.

G and I pretty much just said we're going to pretend the rain doesn't exist and have gone hiking every day, trying (and usually failing) to find breaks in the weather. I've yet to find a coat that can withstand 2-3 hours of rain and wind so am usually cold and wet by the end and ready for a hot bath. In other words, not all that motivated to get Ginger out. Good timing since she needs a break anyways. I've still made it there daily for at least a good grooming and usually a short walk up and down the road with both of our raincoats done up tightly. She still seems to enjoy the outing, On Wednesday, she was pretty much sound when I trotted her up, but I haven't wanted to push it too soon.  In the meantime, G and I have explored quite a few trails that would be excellent for riding on. There's one I'm particularly happy about that will be about a 2 hour ride that will make almost a perfect loop starting and ending at the barn. There are quite a few sections of old railway grade through a mature forest, they're excellent footing for trot/canter and quite a bit more peaceful than logging roads! I'm hoping we can work back up to that soon if all goes well.

 We're incredibly lucky here in that over 90% of the province is not privately owned. So we have "Crown Land" (because we are historically tied to the British, legally it is land belonging to "the Queen in right of Canada") What it basically means is the province manages it, that it cannot be sold, and as our government advertises, belongs to all of us. Which means that you can basically ride or hike anywhere - even the areas that are actively leased out to something like a mining or forestry interest usually have an agreement to allow public access. I find in Alberta, the situation is reversed - at least in the area I live in there, everything is privately owned and you're depending on the landowner's permission. I'm guessing it's partly because no one really wants most of the land here - it's all steep mountains and lakes ;)

I'm tied up clearing up some paperwork today, then a visit to a friend who had a fall from her horse trailer and manged to break a few bones in her foot. I'm told tomorrow we might see a hint of sunshine for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm hoping I'll be enjoying that sunshine on Ginger's back - she seems to be better, but I won't know for sure until I can get her down to the ring and working properly on some good footing. Fingers crossed it goes well. I have plenty of other horses to ride, but it's just not the same without Ginny!
No pictures - I dont want to pull out my iphone and have it die getting wet!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Carrot Stretches


Ginny is still a little sore behind, so I've been handwalking and lunging her at the walk for a daily outing the past couple of days. Fingers crossed, she seems to be improving, so I am hoping it's just a strained muscle. Tomorrow I might try a short ride and see how we do. No matter what, I'm going to get the vet to give her a once over to be sure there is nothing else going on. Today, however, we hid inside - we've got a crazy storm front hitting us with rain and 60mph winds. One of the joys of living on the ocean, I guess, we get the unfiltered weather coming in from over the Pacific. Since we also live in a forest, it's really not safe to go out in high winds , especially during the first big storm of the season when all of the weaker trees and branches come down. In my quest to get Ginger feeling a little better, I figured today was a good day for a massage and to teach her some basic stretches I learned at a clinic a while back.

IMPORTANT PSA: If you own a Welsh Cob don't actually use a carrot to encourage carrot stretches. Because cobs are little horsey geniuses they'll immediately pick up the concept. And since they got a treat that one time, they'll continuously attempt to do said stretches everytime they think you might be looking in their general direction, then act horribly confused and offended when you don't immediately run over with a treat.

It went sort of like this:

(I've since moved on to cleaning her stall/paddock)
Walk up beside me - then flex head and neck so she is peeking at me over the opposite side of her back. I ignore.
Turn head so she is now pointing at the hip closer to me. I ignore (although it is kind of cute)
She senses my weakening resolve and turns to face me head on -after all, maybe I just didn't see her the first time? Again with the stretches, alternating sides randomly (she's apparently not so crazy about the one up between her front legs at least, so we are saved that)
 After a few minutes she did tire of her new game, but immediately started up again as I was putting her blanket back on and standing near her hip. At this point I'm realizing I've made a terrible, horrible mistake and will now have to live with Gumby the stretchy horse for the forseeable future.
Carrot Stretch Fail.




Friday, 16 November 2012

Weekend Update

I've been slow to post lately since my news has been not so positive - sore backs, nasty weather, and limited riding. But hey, this is real life. A little sunshine and good luck would go a long way though. Just sayin.

I've been doing an awful lot of trail riding these past few weeks. While I strongly believe trail riding has all sorts of benefits, both mental and physical, in our case it's let our flat work get pretty rusty. I'll admit, it's mostly due to my laziness. I hop on and head out and next thing you know I'm slouching along with my reins in one hand and on the buckle. I've even pulled out a western saddle now and then - much easier to lounge around in :). I'm not one if those people out doing trot sets and leg yielding down the trail. Being a smart pony, Ginny catches my lack of motivation and marches along quite contentedly. I've achieved my goal of making her a sensible and reliable horse outside the ring so it's time to get back to 'real' work. With the major work at the club grounds completed, and the ring looking gorgeous,  I was excited to get back to some dressage work.

Western saddle with blingy english bridle - how to offend both english and western riders in one easy getup ;)



Except we've hit yet another snag.

This past Tuesday, I took Ginny up some pretty steep hills. She seemed to handle them fine - not overly tired or sweaty. I always let her take her time if she needs to, but she marched happily right up to the top. We stopped at the top of the hill for some grazing time for her and some time to enjoy the view for me. Once we turned for home though, she was pretty reluctant and slow to return down the biggest hill - she felt like she was sore somewhere. I was a bit puzzled, since she had her boots on, so her feet shouldn't have been sore. My next thought was it's my western saddle fitting a little wide and riding up on her shoulders. She's so round it's been pretty difficult to find a saddle that stays in place on some of the more challenging terrain. I know my western saddle is a close, but not perfect fit. I have a fancy air ride pad for her and that's seemed to work just fine for the once a month or so I use my western saddle. It doesn't noticeably move around, but I wonder if it tips a bit forward on the downhills. At any rate, I got off, loosened the girth a bit and walked her home just in case.

The following day, I took her down to the ring and lunged her in her english tack, which I know is a good fit. She seemed very slightly off in her right hind - probably if I didn't know her so well I wouldn't have even noticed it. She warmed up out of it and I got on for a ride. She felt fine at the walk, but the trot felt not so great. Mostly just tight through the back and not at all relaxed. This is common with her when we do ring work. It usually takes a few minutes for her to relax and start using herself properly. Still, I was wondering about that back leg and couldn't in good conscience continue riding just in case. I got off and walked her home after confirming there was no heat or swelling or obvious pain.

I gave her yesterday off, although I did again act all paranoid and check legs/feet/back as best I know how. Besides her being super grateful for a back rub, I didn't notice anything 'off'.

Today, I again took her to the ring for a short lunge. She's definitely a bit sore on the right hind - it's not noticeable on the straight but on a circle she is short striding a bit :( I'm really not seeing or feeling anything out of the ordinary and I've been poking around everything from her feet to her sacroiliac joint. Of course Google does nothing but scare me - if you search hind leg lameness you mostly get results for hock issues, spinal issues, and of course neurological disease.

I'm going to give her a couple of days off in hopes it's something minor - maybe a sore back from the western saddle or even an abscess brewing. We also did get hung up in a tree branch a few days ago, which resulted in some interesting acrobatics - perhaps she strained something there. The branch was large but had a sharp end someone had cut (probably to clear the trail) that managed to get wedged in my stirrup beside my foot. It was of course tangled up in some other brush so you can imagine how Ginger felt about that. The resulting meltdown was fairly minor by Ginger standards, so it's only now I'm wondering if she hurt herself somehow.

If this continues I'll have the farrier out to see what he can find, then the vet out for an evaluation, and probably send him a video to look at for the time being. We will have to wait 2 weeks until he returns to see him in person though :( Despite being a 'city' of 20,000, we're pretty geographically isolated, so we don't have a large animal vet. Probably 4 or 5 small animal vets, but they'll only come to see horses if it's a super emergency (basically only to euthanize in case of accident). I'm not sure how it works in the states, but in Canada there's a huge shortage of equine vets - unless you live in or near a major centre you're most likely out of luck. After much begging and pleading, we have a vet from Vancouver Island coming over once a month. We're lucky in that he is actually one of the best in Canada (and is a farrier too!) - but it's given me crazy anxiety on more than one occasion when I've been stuck being talked through something on the phone rather than having him here in person!

Here's hoping she's feeling better soon - we're due for some good news and I'm way too much of a worrier :)

Her paddock is on the back side of the barn so we have to go through the barn to get there. If no ones around I usually let her graze out front of the barn while I put her tack away and clean her shelter. I call her when I'm ready. Photographic proof she comes when I call - usually!:

Monday, 12 November 2012

Finally!

I made it back in the saddle for a short ride this morning. The british weatherman on the news this evening described the weather here today as "filthy". I honestly didn't notice - I was loving being back riding too much to care about a little cold rain. Ginger was excited to be out as well but used the extra weeks worth of energy for good rather than evil. She even got us safely over a tree that had fallen halfway down a very steep and narrow trail. I let her figure it out and she found a section where she could pretty much step over it safely and get on flatter ground. Smart pony! G came along for the hike too to make sure I didn't need help. He's a keeper.
My back aches but in the well worth it kind of way.
Oh, and the boots fit and work really well!
I've missed this view:

Monday, 5 November 2012

I feel old!

This past Friday, I volunteered some hours at the club grounds. The project was to replace the perimeter fencing around the main ring and to rebuild the first ten show stalls. I'm happy to report that everyone pulled together and got it done and it looks amazing! I'm not so happy to report that at the end of the day I bent down to retrieve my tools and felt something in my lower back snap. Which led to an embarrassing day or two of needing the wonderful G to help me with everything from getting out of bed to washing my hair while I babbled total painkiller induced nonsense at him. An extra reminder for everyone to look after themselves and keep a strong and fit core so this doesn't happen to you. I was not so smart in my early 20's and am paying the price now. I do hope to be back in the saddle next weekend. For now, I've been watching a ton of training videos - Horse and Country TV and HorseHero.com are probably noticing the increased traffic. I also spent time seriously sulking when the sun came out and I had multiple friends calling to go riding.

Today, the sun stayed out and G and I went for a short walk. G brought Ginger along for me, which was really nice - I think she gets bored standing in her paddock all day and I was missing her! She leads beautifully, but I don't think I could handle holding her at the moment if she spooked. She was so good for him. He even got her ready by picking her feet and grooming all the areas I can't reach right now and she was super patient with him. He's wondering if he really wants another dog to walk or whether he should take Ginger now and then instead. Maybe he should just start a pony walking service :) I was a bit slow and unsteady and sore but it was worth it. It was a really nice afternoon, and I'm left feeling incredibly appreciative of what a good guy G is and what a great pony Ginger is. I'm a lucky girl.

Hoping I feel better soon and I'll actually have something interesting to report!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Boots or Shoes?

Our grey and wet weather continues on. Here's how it looked this afternoon on the way to the trails (at least it had stopped raining!):
Kind of makes me want to stay inside with a bowl of soup, a warm blanket, and a good movie.

After the farriers visit on Monday, I put on all my rain gear and made it out for a couple of nice rides. Ginger was a little bit ouchy on the first, which I attributed to her fresh trim. The second ride a couple of days later got progressively worse to the point where I got off and walked her on the rougher parts. I cancelled todays ride with a friend and instead took Ginger along for my hike to evaluate where we were at. I ended up standing on the logging road letting her graze while I researched hoof boots:(
The difference in the last few weeks is obvious even to me - we'd probably have a great case study here on the effects of keeping your horse on soft, wet ground. No thrush or any of that, thank goodness, I'm pretty vigilant about keeping her feet clean. But soft, wet, easily bruised feet - yep, we're getting those.
Best case scenario I'd get her out of the wet paddock she's in. We do own a piece of property with a pasture, gravel paddock, small barn and even a cute farmhouse. The catch? It's rented. And they're good tenants we'd like to keep. I still not so secetly hope they move, so I can take over and have my pony at home again:) Alternate boarding arrangements simply aren't available - I say thats a business opportunity, G says thats a lot of work and money, besides aren't horse people all crazy? He's probably right. So, I was left today with my sore pony on a rocky, deserted road researching boots vs shoes.
I'm going to try the boots simply because I think she'll only need them 2-3 times a week for trails - she's fine on the roads and in the ring and I expect will be fine again on the trails too when her paddock dries up again. I have a set for Lainey and they've come in handy more than once when she's not shod. The trick will be to find large, round boots to fit cob feet. I've done a bit of research on line and the 'Renegade' brand boots appear like they should come in her size since they do have a wide and a double wide option. Guess who would need double wides? - just don't say anything, we don't want to give the poor girl a complex. I  have some endurance rider friends who swear by the Renegades as well. I'm tempted by the fun colors, too :)
Renegades: (http://www.renegadehoofboots.com )
I may or may not have got lucky, though, because on my trip to the tack store this afternoon for a desperately needed new halter for Ginger, I noticed they had a small selection of boots. Not only that, they are on a 50% off sale. The owner apologized that they're just clearing out the 'giant' sizes no one buys. How convenient ;) So I'm here at home with a pair of Old Mac's to try on Ginny in the morning. I'm not sure about them, the size chart says they may be a bit off as far as fit goes, and they seem pretty big and clunky. Ginger has been known to forge on occassion, so the chance of her catching herself on the extra size of them worries me a bit. It seems to be more of a pasture thing than a riding thing though, so we may be ok. Fingers crossed they fit, because the price is right and I'm already getting riding withdrawls.
Old Macs: (http://www.easycareinc.com/Our_Boots/old_macs_G2/old_macs_g2.aspx)



Random shot of Ginny warming up for our adventures. Her mane is getting pretty unruly - I'm wavering over whether I'm just going to let it grow out.