Thursday, 28 February 2013

Feeding

I've been doing self board these past few months, so it's back to the world of calculating feed amounts and nutrition balanced with cost effectiveness! When I have the horses at home, I weigh everything  and switch it up depending on how much grazing they have. With me boarding at the moment, I have to keep it a little simpler so the barn owner doesn't hate me when she feeds :)

The time has finally come to up Ginny's feed. She has only been getting 3 flakes of a nice timothy hay (about 10-12lbs) and a handful of ration balancer per day all winter since she took a great interest in supplementing herself by digging up weeds and shrubs and eating tree branches and was leaving her hay.


Yum...tree branches.

The barn owner was happy she'd cleared up the back paddock, but it made feeding her the right amount a bit of a guessing game. First, I noticed her topline wasn't looking as good as normal, which could be attributed to being out of work temporarily. Then, I noticed she seems to be growing and needing a bit more hay, and now finally with the blanket episode she seems to have magically stress melted a bit more away and is looking a titch thinner than I'd like. She's a welsh cob, so the stereotype should be a fat, food oriented pony. Not so. She's a worrier plus she will only eat what she wants. She doesn't ever get overly chunky. It's really nice on the prairies because I don't have to worry about her eating too much grass in the spring or gorging herself on the round bale like some. (*cough*Lainey*cough*)

Happy times -summer 2012!

Here, it gets a bit more tricky. With the weather perpetually rainy, you don't want to leave hay out any longer than needed - people don't even bale rounds because they'd rot before livestock ever got close to finishing them. Pasture/farm land is really limited - we're stuck between mountains and the ocean so supplying hay is a fact of life pretty much year round. This is also the land of the wealthy retiree, so prices are higher because the land/rent is so expensive. So, we truck in square bales at $460/ton and a generic bag of feed is about $15. Just typing that makes me feel a little queasy! At that price, we dish the hay out like gold - no one here lets their horse waste hay.

I've opted to leave her hay and grain ration the same, but supplement it with beet pulp until the grass comes in in her summer paddock. Its a lot more cost effective and I'm hoping there will be less waste. I'm at the barn every day so it's no inconvenience for me to soak some for her dinner. I've used it before with success and been pleased - the supplier we buy it from has a type that's really low in sugar, which cancels out my usual concern with beet pulp. It's also of course got plenty of fiber. Fingers crossed she's looking more like her usual fabulous self again in a couple of weeks.

On another note - today is the big day and I'm heading out for a ride :)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

I think she's feeling fine!

I went back up to the barn yesterday afternoon to check on Ms Gingersnap and do some changes to her blanket so we don't have a repeat. While I played with her blanket,  I thought I'd be a nice owner and let her out for a little bit of grass and a stretch. Rather than graze, she elected to do her interpretation of a bouncy castle. She tried to get the other horses into it, but sadly no one else was hearing the music :) It seems she's feeling no ill effects of the mornings' adventure.

Sorry the pics aren't the best, they were mostly taken at a distance with a cell phone:

Arabian tail. And oh so dirty socks.

Please don't do this while I'm riding. Thanks.

Prancy trot - trying to show off for the neighbouring gelding.

Looking for something to pretend to be scared of.

"OK, I'm ready to go back to my paddock now!"

Monday, 25 February 2013

Blanket Wars

I thought my worst fears were being realized when we got a call early this morning.
"You need to come to the barn as soon as you can. Your horse is badly tangled in her blanket and we can't get near her."

G answered the phone so just said "We're leaving now" and didn't ask any questions. I'm panicking and imagining the worst for the 10 minutes it took to go to the barn.

We pulled in and I quickly went to check the situation. Ginny had managed to get a back leg hooked through the front belly strap on her blanket, between the part where the strap doubles when you adjust it. So, on the good side, her foot wasn't cinched up at her belly, but on the down side her fetlock was completely wrapped in a nylon strap and she couldn't quite put her foot on the ground. As a result of the strap tightening, the rest of the blanket was cinched up tight around her. I asked for everyone to just leave us alone since Ginny was pretty worried by the well meaning people hanging around. She thankfully was happy to see me and stood while I walked up and put her halter on. She stood quietly while I figured out what to do.With a bit of maneuvering I was able to free her leg, which was only a little scraped up and swollen - I'm lucky the rough edge of the strap didn't cut into her leg. I brought her out and hosed the leg for a bit. Unfortunately I think she must have done it earlier in the night, since she was pretty dehydrated/tucked up looking. She went right away for water and breakfast, though, so I think she'll be fine. She'll be stiff and sore for a few days, but it appears she was smart about the situation and for the most part stood quietly and waited to be freed.When she first came she used to be funny about letting me touch her feet, so I actually taught her to pick them up and stand still using a rope first. I'm thankful I did that now, I think that may have helped!

I just wish there was a way to get her more trusting of people - she's been getting better, but I guess she was feeling vulnerable with only 3 useful legs and was trying to move away as soon as anyone opened the gate to her paddock:( Luckily barn owner is smart and didn't push it, she just called me and tried to keep things quiet on that side of the barn until I arrived. It makes me sad that Ginny didn't trust anyone else enough to help her :( I've got to come up with a way of fixing that.

As far as to how she got a foot stuck in there? Best idea I can come up with is she sometimes scratches the front of her belly/shoulders with her back foot, like a dog. Since she's shedding and itchy, it makes sense. For now, she can just be naked - it's warmer now and I don't think I'll sleep at night otherwise :)

Clinic Recap

True story - I sat on my bum for 16 hours on a hard chair in the freezing cold this weekend and don't regret a minute of it :)

The clinician is a german dressage rider/trainer who moved to Canada in her 20's and got interested in reining. She also teaches yoga and fitness for riders, so she's pretty interesting. She's very personable and encouraging but has a sharp eye and an insistence on correct work and effective riding - no cheating allowed!

Mornings started with two friends of mine working on mostly on bettering their flying changes. It was a super interesting lesson because one horse is very athletic but wants to be way too forward and enthusiastic, charging off after each one. The other is the complete opposite - not so athletic and very lazy. One rider does jumpers, one dressage. Energetic horse wanted to swing her hind end and leave with her outside shoulder, making the circle bigger and faster, lazy horse predictably wanted to cheat by dropping his inside shoulder and cutting the corners. It was pretty cool to see the clinician break it back down and have them both working on the same exercises - starting from walk. Proper leg yields, then 4 strides shoulder in, 4 strides straight, 4 strides haunches in. Next up 15m circles, alternating with normal bend and counter bend, then transitions within the gait, walk, then trot, and finally canter. Then viola, nice changes. Well, not quite, but after a bit of effort both horses were doing nice work. It was neat to be reminded to slow it down and get it right at the walk first - the lesson today served well as a demo of how even a tiny bit of stiffness or disobedience at the walk comes through in the trot and canter and is magnified when you start asking for more complicated manoeuvres.

Next up were a couple of people starting very green western horses. So we got a bit of a groundwork recap, a ground driving demo, lots of one rein stops and then some neat exercises to use for your first few rides. Clinician had someone with a been there done that type horse basically shadow the green horse, keeping the green horse on the inside of the circle/arena. Kind of like pairs riding. It really seemed to give the young horses confidence and the nervous riders some peace of mind. She then did a bit of ground work while the owners were in the saddle - having the riders ask for the shoulders or haunches and her following it up with a flag from the ground if need be - this made the riders a bit anxious at times and pretty motivated to get it done before the clinician had to "help"!

Then came a couple of english riders just looking to better their skills. She assigned them a couple of patterns - walk a circle at A, then trot the diagonal K-M, then ask for canter between M and C, continuing down the long side and back to walk by K. Than start all over again the opposite direction! This was a neat exercise because it was 'easy' enough for the greener combo to do it and be challenged by making the proper transitions, and as soon as the more experienced combo had proper straightness and bend they were challenged with a bit of lengthening, counter bend and eventually counter canter.

Next up, some more advanced horses and riders interested in reining. Again, lots of work with proper bend and straightness. Some of the same exercises from the morning came into play, except using barrels and cones to mark changes rather than the dressage letters on the wall. For some reason I found that funny - exact same exercises, exact same execution, but different tack and of course the cones make it 'western' :) They did lots of work perfecting their turns on the haunches at a walk and eventually trot (what I was taught as riding squares in my dressage lessons), a key necessity if you want to do spins or work cows eventually, and also a bit of a help to start getting their horses more off the forehand.

The overriding theme for both days was correctness, taking things right back to the basics if need be. At one point with a couple of riders she explained "I can show you some tricks that might win you the blue ribbon at an open show. Or I can show you how to train and ride your horse correctly. The correct way will take longer and be hard work, but your horse will thank you and you'll both be happier for it. So many riders want the quick route, and that's fine - that's their choice. I just want more of you to consider the long term."

This weekend was also a friendly reminder that every horse and rider has challenges - there really is no easy way to get where you want to be, no matter what your gaol the answer is just a lot of time and patience and hard work. I was reminded I'm not alone in my struggles.

All in all, a great weekend with friends and a fabulous opportunity to pick up tips on the cheap!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Round Pens

The weather this morning was absolutely horrible - sideways rain and super high winds. I was dreading going to the barn to muck out -  I was pretty sure Ginny would be just as reluctant to leave her stall as I was to leave my house. Finally, after procrastinating until noon, I got in the old truck (don't want to get the nice one muddy!) and headed up the hill. Defying all the odds, the rain stopped and sun came out while I drove. What a treat.

I pulled Ginny out to give her a good grooming. The poor girl is starting to shed. Since she is the itchiest pony that ever lived, I have to keep on top of things this time of year or else she takes matters into her own hooves and I'm left trying to hide missing patches of mane and body hair for the rest of the summer. I learnt my lesson last year and hope to have better success this year - her mane only just finished growing back to an even length! I was sad to see she's lost a bit of topline and is definitely looking a little out of shape.  No worries, we'll be back at it soon. She was also totally full of it and managed to dig a hole to China while I was absent cleaning her disaster of a stall. It would appear she didn't want to move or leave her stall any time in the last 24 hours, so you would think being tied for 15 minutes of her day wouldn't be a problem!

The place where I board doesn't have a ring, but they do have a round pen. Happy pony  is being naughty and needs to burn some energy. You can see where this is going.

I'll just say right now that I'm not a huge round pen fan per se. I've watched the demos, attended some clinics, and have a few friends that swear by using a round pen to start their horses. I'm sort of ambivalent about it - I've used them before for particular horses that I thought would benefit, but normally in hand ground work or lunging over a large area is my go to if I'm not ready to hop in the saddle right away. Maybe just me, but I find it easier to get her working her properly with a lunge line attached - especially when her default evasion is to try to blow through you and bolt off.

Ginny has never even been in a round pen until today, so I wasn't sure what to expect - especially as I had left my lunge line at the riding arena down the road. She had a blast! She figured out pretty quickly that there was no line attached to her and had a little buck and play - something she would be way too polite to do with a lunge line. She was really good about following the voice and direction commands I would use on the lunge, although the 'whoa' was a little lacking at first so I didn't go there - walk was accomplishment enough for a pony on a sunny day with 3 weeks of downtime to make up for :) I was pleased that she was having fun and was comfortable enough for me to be able to chase her forward a little and get some nice changes of direction. Not so long ago, I think poor pony would have lost her mind over that amount of pressure. My favourite part was when I gave her the same signal I give her on the lunge and she immediately stopped and came into the centre with me to be caught. So cute - I think she thought this was a really cool game and she seemed proud to know the rules. My round penning friends might have been fooled into thinking we had some practice lol. I still don't think it will be a regular thing for us - but it was a fun thing to do on a sunny afternoon.

Sorry, no pictures today - I left my phone in the truck and it went to work the night shift with G :(

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What to do when you can't ride?


I attended the eagerly anticipated doctor's visit. Which started with a really kind talk on why I shouldn't ride for another 2 weeks. (If you must know, it's really unadvisable to take a chance on bumping your head again while you're recovering. As explained to me, my balance, reflexes, coordination, etc are affected. So even though I feel pretty good, I shouldn't be doing sports where a lack of any of the above may result in further injury. He usually recommends waiting 2 weeks after you feel normal. Sadly, it does make sense. But I don't like it.) I started feeling a little anxious about the prospect of 2 more weeks out of the saddle. Just in time for the obligatory blood pressure test. LOL I earned myself another follow up visit, because the reading was high-ish. I'm totally ridiculous, I know. Can`t ride your (healthy, amazing) horse for another 2 weeks? Cue the anxiety attack ;)

To keep Ginny and I occupied and out of trouble, I'm going to have to think of some fun things we can do out of the saddle.

-She's got excellent ground manners, so I don't want to drill those. Maybe run through an in hand trail course or showmanship pattern? We do have friends to meet and practice with.

-Hikes are fun, and we'll do some, but I'm still a bit limited as to how far I can go before I wish I could curl up and go to sleep.

-Ground driving. I can work on a lot of under saddle stuff from the ground if I'm smart about it.

-Since we have ground driven her, I'm considering taking it a step further and having her start pulling things, starting cowboy style. (I don't have a cart but we have plenty of poles and tires available to give her the idea of having something follow her) The lady with the cart and ponies this weekend inspired me.

-I need to come up with ideas/exercises to make the next farrier visit a little smoother.

-I've also got a heap of tack to organize for an upcoming tack sale. I should spend a couple of hours trying stuff on Ginny so I know what to sell and what to keep. I'll save this for a rainy day.

-For curiousity`s sake, I really want to get an accurate measurement of Ginny's height. It's not just me who thinks she's grown in the last few months!

-Catch up on Horse Hero. (Tough one, I know ;)

-Oh, and a clinic to attend this weekend! Don't get too excited - I obviously won't be riding. I'm going to go audit, though, and hopefully get some good advice and inspiration.

 

 
Never mind, looks like I have plenty to keep me busy!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Sunday Horse Day

With the warmer weather here, everyone's thinking about the spring and summer events or goals they want to target and I've been getting multiple invitations to ride. I hate having to say no!

Can we actually go do something today?!
After my daily Ginger grooming and stall mucking I decided to at least stop in at the club grounds to say hi to everyone. The place was super busy. One person had decided to do some gallops of the old cross country course that partly surrounds the ring,  upsetting a few of the horses schooling in the ring. Another person had ponies and a cart and was utilizing the perimeter road, again causing the young horses to panic. I wish I had brought Ginger!

 We've got such a great crew here, because all the action immediately prompted a productive discussion of riding ettiquitte and safety. Some felt that since the facility is open to all club members, you'd best come prepared with a horse that can handle all the sights and sounds. Most, however, felt that we should all be working together to help each other out. The lady with the cart was awesome and stopped to let the spooky horses meet her ponies. The girl schooling cross country slowed it down a bit and used more of the back side of the course away from the main ring. The girl with the really spooky horse had a brave barnmate offer to work her horse for a few minutes and help her out. Riders waited with their horses in the center of the ring while another rider let her very energetic horse have a good canter and short jump school. As a friend mentioned, the vast majority of the time you have the place to yourself, so having to change your plans now and then to accomodate someone else isn't the end of the world.

Oh, and I hear there's a new rule: the metal panels that divide the dressage ring from the main ring are NOT to be moved. I heard people were leaving one open to use as a gate and another rider managed to fall and crash into it lol ;) I was a bit embarrassed to admit it was me.

All in all, a really nice visit with a great group of people. But it would have been better if I was riding!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Spring?

I have conclusive proof that spring is here. I saw a few people mowing their lawns yesterday! Don't be jealous, because of course, in beautiful BC 'spring' just means 2 or 3 months of warmer rain (and a whole lot more lawn mowing!). We're all in denial about the rain though, so spring is still something to look forward to. Fact: I live just north of Vancouver in an area called the Sunshine Coast. Yes, you read that right. The Sunshine Coast. Apparently we are in serious denial. Or we just have an excellent tourist marketing board.

At the moment, Ginger would be far too warm in her turnout blanket, so I'm sucking it up and dealing with a mud sculpture rather than a pony. I'd love to find another nice rainsheet, but with mail order currently being my main method of acquiring all things horsey, things get complicated. It's going to have to wait for our next trip across the water and a decent tack store so I can see the blankets in person. Really though, I have lots of time to groom her these days and nowhere to go, so what's the rush? Why not let her enjoy herself?

In other news, I had a good horsey day yesterday! G is off for a short trip as of this morning and I think had the (fairly accurate) idea I'd be spending a significant amount of time at the barn while he was away. In his worried mind, this would of course lead to me going riding on my hyped up pony all alone in the wilderness while semi conscious with serious concussion side effects. Probably bareback and with a 6 pack or something too :). I feel fine, but will of course wait for the all clear from my doctor on Tuesday before riding.  Apparently G thinks I'm a bit more irresponsible than I really am. Since I usually feel entirely too responsible and boring, I secretly have to like that.  Yesterday G came to the barn with me so I could have a horsey day with him there 'just in case'. We ended up going for a hike with Ginger in tow. Since she knows spring is coming and has also had a couple of weeks off work, she was pretty silly, but in a happy pony sort of way. I was relieved to feel sad I wasn't riding and not anxious at all about the prospect getting back at it. I had a fall on Lainey a few years back that really shook my confidence even to this day, so I'm glad that I'm feeling fine - even with G being so nervous on my behalf. I'm so lucky that he 'gets' my horse hobby and is nothing but supportive and encouraging. Now, if I could just train him to put his dishes in the dishwasher...;)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Blah

I'm still feeling really tired and worn out. Combine that with being stuck in the house the majority of the day and I'm starting to feel a little down. I'm going to be really happy to get back on my horse. I have to admit though, this concussion thing was a bit scary and as the days go by I'm getting less and less confident - I don't want to go through this ever again. The first couple of rides back are going to be tough, I think.

 G, being the protective kind of guy that he is, is currently all gung ho about getting me a 'safe' horse to ride or having Lainey come back from lease. I've tried explaining to him that no horse is really safe and what happened was not a result of Ginger trying to be bad. I know he understands that, and I do respect his concern. At some point I'm sure we will get another horse - something big enough and safe enough for him to ride and athletic enough for me to have a bit of fun with when I have a moment. For now, though, I'm enjoying just having the one. I know he'll help every day, but in the back of my mind I'll still feel like the horses are 'my' thing and therefore my responsibility. As we all know, Ginny will never go anywhere, so talk of another horse only makes me think "twice the work and money!". It's sweet of him to worry, but honestly, it only adds to my insecurities - I'd be happier if he seemed a little more confident in my ability to stay in the saddle! Ginny didn't help her own case with all the farrier drama of a few days ago - even me, with my usual endless patience for her, was a little frustrated after I got home and wishing for a ride on my quiet Lainey horse.

I've been taking Ginny out for short walks and lunged her for the first time in a few days yesterday and she's been absolutely full of it. This is a pony who needs a job.

I got another update on Lainey, apparently she's doing really well and they're showing 3' courses successfully now. Her young rider has done really well to move up so quickly, especially with a horse that's a bit on the green side over fences. I'm hoping they do purchase her next month when the lease is up. I'll miss her but it's such an ideal situation for her.

No news re: that interview last week and I'm getting more and more reluctant to move back to Alberta, so far from G. These past few months have been fun, but I've felt a bit like my whole life is in limbo. (Probably because it is!)


Saturday, 9 February 2013

I have some work to do

My farrier is absolutely wonderful at his job. He's been doing my horses since I was a kid and he was fresh out of farrier school. I'm embarrassed to admit how long that's been - probably pushing 20 years now. He's always travelling to learn and upgrade his skills and I think he'd be in high demand in any part of the country. We're very lucky to have him living in our little isolated town. I know the past couple of years in Alberta I never did find anyone as capable that actually had time for a new client like me! In short, this is a guy that I appreciate and want to treat really, really well.

Can we please give Ginger the memo?

I'm sort of puzzled right now over just what I can do about her random fear of certain people. Yesterday's adventure: since I can't drive right now, awesome farrier called me yesterday morning to let me know he had an opening and he could come pick me up and drive me to and from the barn if I wanted. His thinking was to save G from having to drive me to our originally scheduled appointment today. (See? This is a seriously nice guy too)  Luckily, G was just coming back home and was able to drive me. I feel a little like a kid again, but I have to appreciate how awesome everyone has been. We got to the barn and the horses were still eating breakfast. Ginny had been fed down towards the bottom of the paddock. Since I had left in a hurry, I was wearing my 'nice' cowgirl boots. The barn owner offered to hike through the mud and go get her for me. Awesome! Or so I thought. Ginny took one look at barn owner and headed for the hills. Embarrassing. After a short while, the barn owner was able to walk up next to her, but as she went to put the halter on, she bolted again - this time towards the gate (and me). I caught her with no issues, but was a little embarrassed - I haven't had problems catching her since the first week I owned her. I wondered if it's something about the barn owner, since G can catch her without issue too. She seemed genuinely scared of her for some reason, since a little while later we were talking and she made a sort of gesture with her arm and Ginger reacted and tried to bolt off.

Next up, the farrier. She was awful for him. Absolutely terrified. I apologised again and again, as he tried to give me tips to help get her better for next time. The problem is, I've done all these things time and time again - G always holds her for me while I put her boots on and hose her feet - so it's not an issue with having two people around. I can bang on her feet with the rasp and she basically sleeps. I taught G how to pick feet using her as the guinea pig. She was fine then. I've been out and about day in and day out at busy places - she's met tons of 'strangers' out riding and is much more tolerant than she used to be. I realize from my farrier's point of view he's seeing what appears to be a half wild, untrained horse, so I can see where he's be a little frustrated with the apparent lack of training. After all, it's his safety at sake :(

As near as I can figure, she just doesn't like strange people and some people she just doesn't like at all. Given the opportunity, she'll warm up to most in just a few minutes. Given a good amount of time with no bad experiences, she'll be your best friend - in my case I'm even allowed to make 'mistakes' and be forgiven. I think most people don't ever have an opportunity to earn enough of her trust to get a second chance when she inevitably associates some bad experience with them.. I have to wonder if what's happening is she met the farrier and was suspicious of him. Then she got scared while he did her feet. Then he came back and she remembered. And got herself all worked up again and had another not so great experience. She wasn't bad with the farrier in Alberta so it's not just a farrier in general sort of thing.

As far as the barn owner, she can be a little nervous around horses that aren't her own, so I expect that's what Ginger reads from her. After all, the lady feeds her twice a day so she should like her.

Part of me thinks I should just accept her quirks. The other part of me lays awake at night worrying that if she ever got loose, or ever needed urgent veterinary attention, or intervention of any sort from someone she's not familiar with, things might get really complicated in a hurry.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Two weeks

I had a follow up appointment today and the verdict is that I'm supposed to keep quiet until I get checked again in another two weeks. No running, hiking, riding, driving or TV, - although being the funny guy he is he said watching Antiques Roadshow might be OK.
Also no stall cleaning, cooking, reading etc. I'm not sure what that leaves?

On the plus side, he stuck a bunch of needles in the joints in my neck and froze it, giving me instant headache relief.

I didn't mention to him the job interview I have coming up in two days. I booked it as far out as they'd let me in hopes I'd feel better. It's a perfect GIS job only a ferry ride from home in a city with a pretty cool local horsey scene. Hopefully it all goes well and by then I'm a little more on my game than I am now. If not it should make for a good story :)

Ginny is doing fine. I'm already missing my riding time. I really don't want that fall to turn into a Big Deal in my head, so I'm anxious to get back at it. At least the weather has been horrible, so it's been a little less tempting :)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Tomorrow

I keep saying I'm going to ride tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes and goes with me still not feeling 100%. Yesterday I thought for sure I was all better and was a little bit resentful that we were hosting a Super Bowl get together and my day would be taken up by that. By 6:00 though, I was glad I hadn't been doing anything else. We have a very big TV and the high noise/action was really hard on the head. I was in bed by 8:00 and slept for about 12 hours. Obviously, I'm not better yet. I'm still under orders to not overdo it and G has been keeping close tabs on me. Not that I would intentionally overdo things - I kind of like being able to think straight :) So, once again, I think tomorrow is the day I'll be able to ride. I might even wait a couple of more days and go for a trail ride with G hiking along. That way, if I start feeling not so good  I have a helper. I'm going a little stir crazy, because obviously I haven't been hiking or running either. And, as mentioned above, for the first few days, TV and computer were a no go, and reading a book was also out. So, I made tons of easy recipes for the freezer. We're offically overloaded with soups - just in time for spring lol.

Ginny's had a few days off. G was driving me to check in on her every day and give her treats - and that's about it. That was the big highlight of my exceedingly boring days. Poor Ginny has been hanging out by her gate looking for all the world like a horse who wants her job back. I'm going to have to at least give her a good grooming!