Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Better Balance

In the balanced hooves saga, we've found someone willing to travel here next week to trim the ponies. I still fully intend to learn to trim both ponies myself, but Sophie's feet have a few different things going on right now and some professional guidance will be very welcome!

B has great feet, at least

In the balanced saddle journey, both of Bridget's now too wide saddles sold to new homes. Yay! I've got a dressage saddle for her now that is still a bit wide, but I'm hopeful that when she builds up her topline a bit again that it will be better. Right now, though, it tips ever so slightly forward and I'm not loving it. I've got a riser pad on order, but meh, I'm less than enthused about this saddle. So, I went and bought an older Frank Baines dressage saddle to try. Fingers crossed. Still no jumping saddle, and of course now that means I'm super frustrated about it and  I want to jump all the things!

In the meant time I bought this:

Guess you could say we're getting serious about this trail riding pony thing.

And have been doing our flat work in it. It's actually working super well for us both! B is very forward and happy, and I'm realizing just how much our previous saddles were NOT fitting me. So nice to just sit and let my leg hang where it needs to - no fighting anything.

Of course, my balance needs some help. I'm noticing I'm particularly ineffective in canter to trot transitions, sort of collapsing and falling into it (and letting Bridget do the same) and in general I haven't been using my core as much as I should. Hunching your shoulders and rounding your lower back doesn't feel 'right' without a saddle, so I'm hopeful I'll be better about looking up and keeping my shoulders aligned with my hips. Funny how it's fairly easy to have a wonky position in a saddle and then you ride bareback and it's immediately obvious that there's a better, easier, way to position yourself!
B has no issues with pony yoga balance

While I am very much missing lessons and showing, I'm also enjoying this relaxed schedule and the lack of pressure I feel. I'm having fun riding bareback, so what's the rush to buy a saddle? Dressage tests practiced at home have no tack or attire rules. Maybe I'll get braver and start jumping sans saddle too, who knows :)

Showing her loss of topline due to my lack of a focused conditioning schedule, but LOOK, DAPPLES!

In other horse/life balance news, I've been asked if I would sell Ginger. I'm thinking it's time, and am open to it, provided the fit is a good one. Further discussions pending, but I'm hopeful there will be some positive change in both of our futures.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Further Trailventures

I had yesterday off work due to the Victoria Day holiday, which was wonderful! A bit of a taste of what my 4 day work weeks will be like (if we ever actually hire a new person, my schedule change is now bumped forward to July. First world problems, though.)

So, with a whole extra day to spend at home, I spent time doing all my favorite things. I read part of some good books (The Essential Hoof Book, and Training Horses The Ingrid Klimke Way - would recommend both, but the hoof one is particularly good) I improved our garden a bit, went hiking, and cooked too much good food. Best of all, G and I took Sophie for an epic hike on the trails.

Queen Sophie surveying her kingdom

Sophie was, of course, way overexcited at first about coming for a hike with us. She's so sociable, enthusiastic, and so curious. I feel a little guilty we only get her off property a couple of times a week. I need to improve on that, because she's in her element when she's busy and active.

The excitement lasted about 15 minutes, then she was super chill. She doesn't get excited on an out of control flying a kite pony level, but she certainly starts out needing some manners about personal space and reminders to look where she's walking! Homework for me, a little more groundwork with her would not be a bad thing...

About 45 min in, we hit the baby pony wall...where she pretty much was done and I think would have enjoyed a nap, lol. We let her graze in the shade for a while until she started showing interest in proceeding on our way. She's so expressive - I get a real kick out of it. There is never any doubt what she's thinking and she's not shy about expressing herself. She lets you know right away if she's thirsty, tired, hungry, whatever. To a certain extent, with the tiredness I push her past it a little, because she doesn't get to arrange the day and will one day be a riding pony (also she's 2, not a teeny baby!) but I do listen and let her have a break once can I set it up to be 'my' idea. I want her to continue to view our outings as fun!

The walk back down the hill was beautiful and well worth the climb up...the views are nice and the breeze was most welcome. Sophie walked in and out of several ditches and creeks along the way, and met up with a couple of off roading vehicles and an ATV. We went over a couple of 'friendly' bridges, in that they are the same gravel as the trail, but you can see/hear the water flowing under them. I have a feeling she'll be a little concerned when we progress to wood or metal decked ones, but so far she's showing herself to be very sensible and just all around lovely to deal with.

A fun part of our outing was that I simply took her lead rope off when we got back through the farm gate, thinking she'd like to graze in the driveway while I mucked out and said hi to Bridget in the fields further down. So cute, though, she noticed we were gone immediately and came trotting up and followed me around as I did my chores. Apparently we are more fun and interesting than the long grass by the driveway, and also the other horses :)

Bridget missed us

Monday, 21 May 2018

Three Hour, Three Lake Tour

Even though I am home most days of the week, I'm still finding it hard to find the time to connect wth my local friends. Luckily, the stars aligned and both myself and two great friends were free this past Saturday!

Both were willing to trailer down near my barn for a trail ride, which was perfect. I board in an area where there are unlimited trail networks - we could literally head out for weeks and travel incredible distances without ever crossing our tracks. The isolation here admittedly gets to me sometimes, but on the other hand, it is pretty cool to have so much outdoor space, and the ocean and mountains at our doorstep.

So many options, my barn is located pretty much dead centre of this trail map.

So off we went, with no real plan beyond catching up on all things horses and enjoying the beautiful trails. We all commented that it was a little reminiscent of when we were kids...just hopping on our ponies with no real plan, and seeing what adventures the day would bring.
Happy Bridget ears. I was so happy that she was totally fine barefoot on all the different terrain

A 30 min slog up some pretty steep old forestry roads got us to the top of the hill behind my barn.
Sadly, not much of a view today. The clouds are blocking our views across to Vancouver Island.

From there, we turned off into the forest onto some mountain biking trails

This one is about 15min up a hill and back down. It's narrow and twisty and fun to canter.

Those trails connected us to the main parking and trailhead for a local rec site at Haslam Lake, and a provincial protected area at Duck Lake. After much pondering, we opted to continue along towards Duck Lake, simply following the main Forest Service Rd.
Deciding where to go

Another 30 minutes or so took us past the lake and along the river flowing out of it, where we saw a trail marker heading in the direction we thought we needed to go. While all of us have ridden in the area for years, it's admittedly been a long time since we ventured to this area, so we were a little worried about whether the trails would be horse safe. Back in the day, they were...adventurous...on horseback ;)

This seemingly friendly trail used to have a puddle so big blocking it that my friend's horse ended up swimming!

We were all pleasantly surprised - there have been a lot of volunteers hard at work! The area has really been discovered in the last few years by the mountain biking community. There are a couple of big races with riders coming from all over the world, so the trail network has really grown and improved. Add in the local groups and clubs, and it's really incredible what's been done. I was super impressed with some of the infrastructure...there are brand new horse safe bridges!

I didn't think to take pictures, so here's one of the local ATV club building one of the bridges.

That lovely trail took us back to our favorite trail, an old logging railway grade that goes for miles through the foresr. We enjoyed the shade and lovely old trees for a good part of that trail, before turning off and taking the trail back down the hill to West Lake - the one about a 30 min hack from my barn, and the lake featured in pretty much all my "we rode to the lake" posts :)

From there, a short hack back the the ring. We had a fantastic day, the company was super, and the horses were all happy and really well behaved. Bridget was go, go, go all day and never tired. She's way fitter than I thought!

My friends and I were all saying it's been far too long since we just hopped on our horses without an agenda or time constraints. This ride made me fall in love with our area all over again, and super excited to plan some more trail adventures (though we may have to bring lunch next time, lol)

Thursday, 17 May 2018

DIY Farrier (Thank You!)

Just a quick shout out to everyone for your amazing comments on my previous post. I don't think I realized just how many of you do your own trimming.

It's not a very common thing here at all, despite there being no reliable farrier service available for a couple of years now. We were lucky for many years to have an excellent, reasonably priced farrier living locally, so most of us happily paid him and didn't think too much about it! (He got his license right when I leased my first horse at 11 years old, so there was no way I was 'firing' him after 25 years of trimming my horses!) He used to bug me to just get on with it and trim them myself and just call him if I had a problem...but I was like "You're awesome and I cannot live without you! Plus you only cost $40 to visit" so...yeah, missed learning opportunities there :)

Then I moved south, to the land of all the top class horsey professionals one could wish for. Three years later, by the time I moved back home, Best Farrier had retired to somewhere warmer and drier. So, so sad.

Long story short, I'm very grateful for your willingness to share your experience and resources...I feel far less alone now, and very encouraged.

I just submitted my order for tools (including a quality pair of nippers, thanks for the pro tips!), and I'm actually really excited to do this!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

You're Fired

Following the hilarity that was our pony ponying adventure, I took Bridget for a much less exciting trail ride to the lake, and she was happy again.

Also on Sunday, we had a less fun adventure in the form of a visit from our farrier, in which I had to suck it up and advocate for my horses so much that I was uncomfortable. I'm well aware he is the professional and I am not, but there really were some things I was concerned about, and so I asked my questions respectfully and with an open mind, while being firm I needed better than a vague answer. The immediate issue was eventually resolved, but I was left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, as he made it pretty obvious he wasn't happy with me for asking questions and was very defensive and rude about it to myself and the ponies.

So, I'm going to look into trimming my two myself (with the online guidance and advice of our previous long term farriers who both have moved out of area. Truly, we have no one right now). Both showed me how and let me practice multiple times, so I *think* this is something I can do, but I will of course be educating myself further - I've done a couple of weekend courses previously, and will definitely be looking at options for further education.

As for the farrier who was having a bad day/week/month, in a strange coincidence, later that evening facebook exploded with a bunch of people who were very unhappy with him (in a local area horse group, of course, not actually anywhere the guy could see and respond). While I was a little relieved it wasn't just me who was unhappy,  I really don't agree with trash talking and posting pictures of his work online without actually trying to resolve the issue with him in person. Whether I personally would hire the guy or not, it's his livelihood and when I discussed my issues to his face, he DID attempt to resolve them. Maybe I didn't enjoy having to have that conversation in person, but ughhh, I'm pretty sure facebook isn't the way to go.

Anyone else had a similar experience? How did you handle it? Do you tend to ask questions and discuss concerns with your horse professionals, or do you just let them get on with their jobs and not call them back if you're unhappy with their work?

And...enquiring minds need to many of you trim your own horse's feet? Any good resources you'd recommend for learning?

Monday, 14 May 2018

Ponying the Pony

As mentioned, baby Sophie got out for her first adventure being ponied off Bridget, and it
A better, fairer version on myself would have patiently set up her outing for sure success. Since this is me, it went like this:

At home:
Me: I really do need to get both ponies out more regularly again. I seem to run out of time tho. I should teach Sophie to pony off Bridget and take them out together.
G: Wait until I have a day off. I'll help you.
Me: Thank you, but I think I need to do it now. It's suddenly critical to me that I make this happen, starting today.
G: I'm concerned you might die.

At the barn:
Bridget: Ewww, why are you tying that yellow pony next to me?
Sophie: OMG! We're going sonewhere! I love it! I love you! I love Bridget! What are we doing? Where are we going? SO EXCITED!
Bridget: Ewww. She's so emotional.

Leading them both down the road:
Bridget: Ughhh...It's too hot! I'm starving! I'm fading here. Look at me, I can barely walk this direction. Lets go home and forget this stupid idea,
Sophie: OMG! Let's go! Wait, what's over there? Can I go see? This is so fun, guys! I love you both so much!
Bridget: Sigh. One foot in front of the other. I will survive this death march.

Dramatic reenactment 

At the ring:
Sophie: NOOO, don't leave me over here alone in this round pen!
Bridget: Ughh. She's so annoying. Almost as annoying as my rider. Can she not feel how weak and tired I am? I can't possibly work under these conditions.
Sophie: No friends, I have no friends anymore. They don't love me, I'm going to die alone.

At this point, we took a time out while I got Bridget tuned up, and waited for Sophie to stop screaming. Once both ponies brains reinstalled, we revisited the whole ponying Sophie from Bridget idea, trying it out in the safe confines of the ring.

But first:
Me: Sophie, you need to stand on this side of Bridget while I get on.
Sophie: Then I come around to visit you?
Me: No Sophie, you need to stand.
Sophie: But I like you. I'll just follow you around Bridget. I can help you get on. Don't leave me alone over here.
Bridget: I'm outta here. You two are stupid.

15 min later:
Me: Thank you for standing, both of you.
Bridget: This is stupid. I'm pretty sure that yellow thing is touching me. Uhhh, GET IT OFF!
Me: That's my leg, Bridget.
Sophie: OMG guys, this is so fun! Like, the best! We're all hanging out together! Let's snuggle super close!
Me/Bridget: Sophie! Personal space is a thing!

15min more:
Me: Well, this is going alright. No time like the present to try it outside the ring.
Sophie: YAY! Adventures! I want to go first! I love adventures!
Bridget: I think not, you're just a dumb baby. I am the best at trail rides...In fact, I am the best at EVERYTHING. 
Me: Slow down, both of you. This isn't a race.
Bridget: Race you home.
Me: Honestly Bridget, remember you were dying 30min ago?
Bridget: That was a false alarm. I'm not dead yet!
Me: FINE. You are not dragging me home. We are diverting up the big hill until you both burn off some energy.
Bridget: I can canter in place. Cool, right? I OWN this mountain.
Bridget, to Sophie:

Me: And yet, you cannot collect even a little in a dressage test? And didn't you convince me to give you a rest halfway up this hill last time when we just walked it?
Sophie: Guys, I'm kind of tired.
Bridget: She's weakening! Time to crush her!
Me: I am so sorry, Sophie. Bridget, I'm going to crush YOU if you don't chill out.
Bridget: FINE. 
Sophie: Please don't argue. I love you guys.

So, that's the story of our first solo outing ponying Sophie. It turned into a 60min hack after our warm up in the ring, and Sophie was a very good girl. We tackled some fairly difficult terrain, and Sophie happily figured it all out. Bridget, though, oh my. She's normally not competitive in any way. You'll recall I tried taking her out for fitness rides with the eventers at EC's and B was all "Catch up with you later, I'm going to wait over here and have a snack" It was painful trying to get her to even remotely keep up. With Sophie though, the dynamic is very different and B wants to "win" the "race" at all costs. It wasn't super bad, but a pretty noticeable difference energy wise from her normal lack of motivation!

There's a very steep 'trail' that is a direct shortcut back to the barn. I had thought we would walk/slide down, like we do every.single.ride. Bridget thought a Snowy River reinactment was in order to impress Sophie and keep things adventurous, so launched herself off the top while Sophie sensibly stopped to check the footing. Fun times. My shoulder is still thanking you, Bridget :)
 Sophie is naturally more forward and curious, so while she's not interested in "racing", her natural pace is a bit quicker/bigger than B's, and although she's very polite about pacing herself and staying at my shoulder, I think B senses she'd prefer to move out more and doesn't like it. We've all gone hiking or running with that person who finds it way easier than you, and you want to make them work for it a little. Or maybe that's just me :)

 All in all, though, a successful outing, everyone had fun, and hopefully it was the first of many more relaxed and peaceful ones (cough*Bridget*cough ;) 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Baby Pony Adventures

Oh boy, someone is feeling quite settled in and confident in herself these days.

Not naming any names but here's a mug shot of the problem child :)
Since I do have plans of her growing up to be a responsible member of horsey society, Ms Sophie Banana had a pretty busy few days after she forgot her manners on Thursday night and pretty much tried to drag me the entire way to the arena grounds. Obviously, going places is so fun and exciting she forgot to pack her brain :)

I don't get the feeling she's intentionally testing my boundaries just for something to do, more she's just got so much energy and enthusiasm she's not sure what to do with it all and focusing is HARD. She reminds me so much of my coach's mare (and my barn favorite) Audrey. They're two peas in a pod as far as the whole "I want-to-be-a-good-girl-but-SQUIRREL!" thing they've got going on. My coach sees great humor in this, since I've said forever I want my own mini Audrey, but we both know I meant her athleticism and talent, not so much her extra special temperament :)

So friendly, tho. She comes running when I call her or she sees me. 

Friday, I taught Sophie to pony off Bridget and took them on a big adventure. She's a smart cookie, so really no issues teaching her and a fantastic way to burn off some energy. The challenge was all about keeping a lid on Bridget's opinions of the whole thing (another blog post on that later - it was quite humorous!)
Bridget was so mad...this is the best picture I could get afterwards. Totally holding a grudge,  lol

Saturday, Bridget got a reward in the form of a spa day and trail ride to the lake without her annoying "sister", which she seemed to appreciate. Sophie got a good grooming and a groundwork recap. She's a funny thing, because again, she's not deliberately disrespectful..she just LOVES hanging out and is so easily distracted it plays out a little like this:

Me: Sophie, walk on.
Sophie: I'm walking! I'm walking right beside you! This is so fun! Hey, hello, are you having fun? * turns and presses nose into my shoulder*
Me: Sophie...nose to yourself, personal space is a thing, we discussed this!
Sophie: Oh sorry! I'm a really good girl! I'm listening! Listening to everything! What's that over there? We should go see!!!
Me: Sophie, pay attention! 
Sophie: Sorry! I love you! I love you so much! I love that we're hanging out together right now! We're still besties, right?! Can I smell your hair?
Me: Sophie...nose to yourself...please!

Sunday was hoof trimming day, which again, she thought was far too fun and distracting. She's such a baby, equal parts fascinated with her own hoof getting rasped on the hoof stand and the farrier's hat. I measured her too, and the results were surprising! She looks a bit taller than Bridget, but is actually an inch shorter due to Bridget having withers and Sophie having none. Bridget measured 14hh, Sophie 13.3.

Still so teeny.

I took her for a walk to eat some grass and she was actually really well behaved...I guess she was finally tired enough the reminders of the past few days sunk in.

Long story short, a tired baby pony is a good baby pony. Sadly, I bought a very busy and athletic baby pony, so the tired part is going to take a lot of work!