Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Photos: MORE SNOW

So I'm gonna bombard you guys with snow pictures again. Had enough? Yeah, me too...

Maggie wades down to the end of her paddock as I drive in.

Outside Maggie's stall.

Enjoying lunch.

Had to re-purpose the the wheelbarrow to help with snow removal from the front door

And this is the back door...3.5ish foot drift.
 And now, as far as I'm concerned, the ONLY good thing about this much snow: BAREBACK RIDING. Hello, floaty trot!



Majestic.


Good pony.
 I'm hoping to do another dressage lesson next week, but first I have to shovel a path over to the indoor. Guess that's what I'll be doing sometime this weekend. "Real" riding has been suspended until then!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#Blizzardof2015

In a strange turn of events I actually got a snow day on Tuesday thanks to this monster blizzard. On Monday the Governor declared a State of Emergency and announced a travel ban starting midnight on Monday and effective until we hear otherwise - this included the MBTA, the public transit system, which was highly unusual. Technically we were still banned from travelling as of noon Tuesday, but that didn't stop me from going to the barn and to my parent's house...

I now bring you: How to Care for Horses During a Blizzard.

Step 1: Shovel out truck and drive to barn. Thank the Lord that you have 4 wheel drive.


Step 2: Assess the situation.
Large snowdrifts outside the barn...as expected.

Cassidy's stall

Maggie's stall

Rio's stall
Step 3: Start shoveling. The drifts had blown into the stalls a bit and the water tubs outside were essentially blocked, so husband and I dug out a path for each of the horses.
Begin inside stall.

Progress to outside stall. Very thankful for trough heaters and my husband who is a good sport!

Step 4: Admire handiwork.

Nice little path

Cash immediately came out after my husband finished shoveling for him. He seemed to be the only one actually enjoying the weather/  

In fact he actually ventured out past where we had shoveled. The drifts weren't actually very deep at all farther down the paddocks. 

Maggie also ventured out looked around then went and took a drink of her water, which made me happy.

We then gave the horse's their lunch hay, picked stalls, and set up their next meals before we continued to ignore the travel ban proceed to my parent's house to help shovel their driveway.

You see, my parent's house has a VERY long driveway. And no, we do not have a snow blower or a plow. But hey, I have essentially been helping shovel this driveway for about 20 years, so I'm used to it.

That's my truck down at the end of the driveway and I'm standing not quite halfway down.
After finishing the length of the driveway, we let Zipper out for a little free-range pony time. When the banks are this high she's pretty much contained and we can let her just bomb around up and down the driveway.



And then we finished up by shoveling out a small path for Billy and Zipper in their paddock.

'
"You shall not pass!"

Having a path doesn't keep her from trekking through the deep stuff though. 
Fortunately, all the snow that has fallen has been complete fluff. This makes shoveling a heck of a lot easier, makes it less likely that the power will go out (we've had power the whole time thus far and it's been awesome), and it also doesn't drag the electric fencing down at Maggie's barn. That can be a huge problem. 

So Southerners, are you horrified? Anyone else around here get some of the blizzard too?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snowy Weekend - Photo Session and Riding

As the post title implies, it actually snowed. Thus far it had been an unusually snow-less winter here in Mass, but really the only thing around here that you can expect out of the weather is the unexpected. In the past couple years I've given up on expecting "normal" seasons; we've had cool summers and warm winters and everything in between. And now there's a HUGE snowstorm predicted for Tuesday morning and everyone is freaking out because there has never EVER been a HUGE snowstorm here before. Ever.

But I digress...

On Saturday I grabbed my fancy camera and headed to the barn with every intention of taking lovely pictures of my horse running through the snow, mane billowing out behind her and snowflakes decorating her hair. By the time I got to the barn the big snowflakes that I had been watching out my window just that morning had turned to sleet and my horse looked like this:

...eww.
Good job Maggie. That's just one more reason to hate the snow as far as I'm concerned; it makes your horse's white spots look even more gross. So head shots it was!

First let me start out with the most truly majestic shot of them all:

Classy.
There were a couple other classic Maggie faces:



But I ended up with two pics that I'm pretty happy with:



I'm really especially digging this last one - what do you think?

I skipped riding on Saturday because gross horse and went to the gym instead, but I rode on Sunday and it was actually warm enough (read: not too terrible freezing cold) that my phone didn't die instantly from the cold so I could actually set it on the arena wall and video myself!


First off, I thought I had edited out the parts where I turn the phone on and off. Oh well. Hope you like my closeup! Aside from that, other impressions both good and bad:

  • I was not overly impressed with the first part of the video (only trotting)...I thought it felt better than it looks :/ That's why video is good...for reality checks.
  • I was doing better with sitting up tall for a while, but I think I've begun to lean forward again while trying to get more energy in the trot. WHY CAN I NOT JUST SIT UP???
  • Need to keep elbows close to my body, even if I hold my hands wide. 
  • I think, at the trot at least, my lower leg is a lot steadier and is positioned behind the girth a lot better than it was earlier last summer.
  • In the second part of the video before we start cantering I think her trot looks steadier.
  • Canter transitions aren't pretty, but she was very responsive in picking up the canter. 
  • I feel like my upper body moves way too much at the canter...
  • Stretchy trot at the end = pretty good?!
All in all, certainly not a bad ride. Just need more lessons....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

SMTT Equestrian Scavenger Hunt

I'll be honest, I wasn't initially going to participate in Lauren from She Moved to Texas's online equestrian scavenger hunt mostly because I really prefer keeping to my own photos on here. But then Carly from Poor Woman Showing won at life. And then the SprinklerBandits totally owned it as well. So here's my take on it in the same style...because I am just seriously lacking in creativity nowadays.

1. The most magical Friesian of all the Friesians:
The horse on the right is my friend's horse, Rio. He is a BLM Mustang who thinks he's a Friesian. When we are trail riding/beach riding and he sees another black horse in another group he will litterally try to ditch us and go join the other herd. No joke.
2. A 10+ Jumper:
Nailed it.
3. A horse we can all call Shenanigans! on:
What do you mean this isn't how cavalletti work?
4. The (best) worst clip job you’ve ever seen:
One of the college Intro to Equine classes got a hold of poor Hebe (left). I do not understand what they did to his flank...
5. The cutest miniature horse on the planet:
My Zippy pony, DUH!
6. Bitchiest. Mare. Ever.:
My Zippy pony, DUH! (not really..but sort of yes.)
7. Funniest horse meme/cartoon:
I'm breaking my original photos only rule because I just love this pic so much. From The Idea of Order.
8. The most matchy McMatcherson outfit:
Blue is totes our color.
9. A most saintly creature:
She's a mini, she's can be BOTH bitchy and saintly.
10. The Black Stallion Returns… 2015 2002(?) style:
Because half-chaps are for chumps.

Friday, January 23, 2015

First Lesson of 2015!

My last dressage lesson was 4ish months ago, so I wasn't really sure what to expect out of Maggie on Tuesday. But we actually had an awesome time and did really well! Sorry for the severe lacks of pics, but I was a little busy riding...Maybe I can convince husband to come to the barn this weekend to take some video...


We picked right back up with working on straightness on the circle. First though, I had to get enough energy out of Maggie for her to really carry herself at all. What I thought was initially a nice quiet trot rhythm was actually much too pokey for her to really engage according to my trainer. There was lots of uncoordinated kicking at first just to get her to wake up, but then my trainer had me focus more on the timing of those aids - mainly I need inside leg when I rise, in order to encourage the inside hind to step forward and under more. It also helped posting on the incorrect diagonal  while tracking left so that way I could kick when I sat. Much easier to squeeze with your leg when you're in the saddle instead of out of it. Now I know why sitting trot is useful...

Now back to straightness. Here's what Maggie's issue is: Her shoulders aren't straight and she likes to hold her left one back, and her right one more forward, and then she drifts out from the right shoulder. When she does this, her left hind gets stopped short and doesn't track up - therefore she can't truly engage. Sometimes it even tracks diagonally over to the right. When she doesn't track up enough, that's when she throws her head up and pops out of the contact. To correct this, I have to hold steady on the outside rein and lighten the contact of the inside rein, but definitely not throw the contact on the inside twin away. In order to keep contact when she pops her head up I need to widen my hands, increase the contact, and then softens when she gives. Plus I've got to keep her energy up so that she can actually balance the way I'm asking her to. It also helps when I turn my body a little to the right and thereby bring my left hip bone forward and my right hip bone a little back - like I'm showing her what to do with her shoulders with my hips.

Ok, got all that? Dressage is hard guys (but you already knew that.) 

It took me a good amount of time to figure out how to coordinate all these aids and for Maggie to settle into them, but after a bit she got really steady in the trot and it felt awesome - a lot steadier than she's ever been before actually. My trainer was impressed at how steady at the trot she was, in fact. I like to think that even if haven't been working her completely correctly all winter, we have made some progress and perhaps she's at least a little stronger.

My trainer thinks that Maggie is pretty honest in her imbalances - meaning that she's at least consistent and it's lot like first she's imbalanced one way and then the next minute it's a different problem. And it's the same imbalance in both directions; no matter which way we're tracking it's the left shoulder and hind that's lagging and the right shoulder that's popping. It's just more exaggerated when we're tracking left.

Straightness, is really just about balance at this point. And while straightness on a circle seems contradictory, balance on a circle is not. Maggie has not been balanced on a circle lately. In both directions she likes to pop her right shoulder out and drift. To a novice like me, this feels like bending...but she's basically just faking it. She needs to be straight and balanced first and THEN I can ask for bend.

After she got really balanced in the trot (about half and hour into the lesson) we did a little canter work. She was tired enough at this point though that she wasn't super responsive to my signal to canter. I had some trouble with her running into the canter at first, so we worked on getting her to canter out of the nice steady trot, which required some good timing and really strong aids. She also was wanting to fall out of the canter at this point. Poor pony really was getting tired, and me too at this point. I was sweating despite the 25 degree weather. So we didn't end up doing too much cantering, but she does have the same imbalance problem at the canter that she does at the trot. I need to use the same aids and my trainer noted that I also need to give more and follow her with my right elbow. Apparently I was locking up. We called it a night after about 40 minutes total, because frankly that was more work than either of us had done with her under saddle in a while!

I gave her Wednesday off and then hopped on her again last night (Thursday.) It took a fair amount of time again, but after a while of insisting that she have more energy and that she can indeed do what I'm asking of her (which is just to be balanced) we got that same (or at least similar) nice steady trot to the left that we had during the lesson. Changing directions I think I kind of forgot what exactly I needed to be doing because she wanted to pop her head up more to the right. Oh well. Baby steps. I was still quite pleased that I was able to get to at least a similar place on my own!

Tired, but still hungry for cookies...
Looking forward to another lesson the week after next (hopefully)! I love lessons.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well That Escalated Quickly

By random and happy circumstance I now own a Micklem bridle! The girl who had lent me hers to borrow knew someone else selling one the same size and put us in touch. So I got a lightly used bridle without the reins for $80. Not too shabby for something that retails for 200 bucks. At that price if it doesn't work out I won't feel too bad.

Stylin'
On Sunday I rode Maggie for the first time since she colicked the prior Wednesday. I put her in the Micklem and I lunged her on a small circle at one end of the ring while another girl in the indoor finished up her ride at the other end. Maggie trotted out well and got a couple small bucks and squeaks out of her system, enough that she didn't feel the need to unleash after I got on her. She was super forward as expected after that much time off and I spent a lot of the ride working on trying to slow her down with my seat. This still isn't something I'm amazing at, but at least I'm aware that I need to work on it and it's something I focus on during every single ride. It's hard to keep your own rhythm when your pony wants to trot out from underneath you! I'd still rather have a horse that's too forward than not forward enough though! For some reason, she always wants to speed up as she goes around a corner coming off the short side. I try to anticipate this and really try to keep my posting steady and slower so that Maggie doesn't just keep picking up steam. Doesn't always work though. Maggie kind of drifted on and off of contact at times, but for the most part was searching for my hands the whole time. We did some canter too since she certainly had the energy for it. She was super responsive to my aids to canter and picked up the correct lead each time which was great. I worked on sitting up really tall to try and get her to collect a bit at the canter, instead of being strung out. She did pretty good! No remarks on the bridle, really.

Rainy day, slushy rings.
I had MLK day off so I got to ride Maggie in the daylight again, which was nice. Once I brought her out onto the cross ties, I realized how nasty her hocks had gotten once more. It didn't look like she has particularly loose manure again, but it is quite muddy out right now so maybe that's what it's from. Either way, being the second 40 degree day in a row I busted out the whitening shampoo and gave her hocks a good scrubbing. By the time I got over to the indoor a lesson had started. At least there were only two people in there, but one of them was jumping a small vertical. Between the one person jumping and the sounds of some bulldozers doing who knows what behind the indoor, Maggie lost her shit on our first pass around the ring at a trot and started doing the hopping bucks. It feels like I'm on one of those springy rocking horses at a playground when she does that. You know, one of these things:


She can buck in place like no one's business. The first time she did it I actually laughed out loud because it felt so funny. So I kept talking to her, getting her to sloooowww doooown and gooooo eeeaaaasy, but she kept on doing the bucking thing so I decided to hop off so as not to disrupt the lesson. I offered to leave the ring, but the instructor assured me that they'd be done with the lesson soon anyway and the other horses weren't actually bothered by Maggie at all. I made her walk around me for a bit and eventually she chilled out enough to stand still until the lesson was over. 

When I got back on and picked up the trot, she was actually lazy and behind my leg! Little punk. So I did a bunch of walk/trot/walk transitions to get her to wake up again and get forward. We had some good moments, but she still seemed pretty perturbed. Once I got her going again she had enough energy that she held a canter pretty well for a change, though she was rushy and wouldn't lower her neck much. I glanced in the mirrors a bunch as we trotted or cantered past the long side and I noticed she really seemed to be fighting the bridle - she was actually opening her mouth quite wide, which she doesn't do in her regular dressage bridle (maybe because the nose band prevents it?) So now I'm all worried that she actually hates the Micklem and it's uncomfortable for her...

The night before I watched a couple videos about fitting Micklems so I tried my best to adjust our newly acquired one before our ride and here's what I ended up with:

I still think it looks schmancy.

To get the noseband where I wanted it I had to put the "cheek piece" on the second highest holes and actually punch a new hole in the very bottom of the bit straps in order to get the bit to sit in the right place and not gag the poor thing. I actually think the noseband still looks a tiny bit low... I asked the trainer that was giving the lesson and she said she'd like to see it about a half inch higher. I can't put the cheek pieces up any higher, therefore bringing the noseband up higher, with out the bit totally gagging her though! I need longer bit straps.

Does anyone know where I can buy extra (longer) bit straps? I found two potential places so far:
1. The Horseware Ireland website, but it looks like they only come in one size.
2. Horseworld.ie, where you can select either pony or full size. Not sure yet if they ship internationally.

I'm actually not sure what size this bridle this one is specifically. I probably need to get out a tape measurer. I was told it was the same size as my friend's bridle, which was a standard horse size, but I'm not so sure...

My friend's bridle on top, my "new" bridle on bottom.
What's the verdict, blogland? Does it look like it fits as is? Do I need a shorter noseband/ longer bit straps? Recommendations for where I could get longer bit straps?

I've got a dressage lesson at 6 pm tonight, which seriously can't come too soon!


Monday, January 19, 2015

Product Review: Scratch n All Grooming Pad (plus a special offer!)


Back in November, I purchased two Scratch n All grooming pads at the Massachusetts Equine Affaire. These are interlocking rubber curry comb-like blocks that your animal can scratch themselves up against.  At their EA booth, I was instantly  attracted by the video screen behind them playing various clips of animals grooming themselves against it. The videos included a goat which made me INSTANTLY NEED SOME OF THESE FOR BILLY BOOMER.

As a goat, Bill Boomer enjoys throwing himself against walls and fences as a means of scratching himself. I pictured him using these instead and maybe even staving of some of the fence carnage he tends to cause.

The Details:

Size: Each pad measures 5" wide x 6" tall x 1" deep.

Price: $15.99 + shipping for 1 - 3 pads. Tiered pricing for higher quantities: *Best deal is 12 pads for $10.75 and shipping is currently free for this quantity.

Purchasing: Orders can be placed through the Scratch n All Website. There are also a few local shops that carry them, depending on what state you live in.

Materials: The pads are made of high quality resin in order to give the best performance and durability over time and the included hardware is stainless steel. And they are made in the U.S.A!


Installation:

Each pad comes with hardware (four phillips head screws and four washers). I love it when gadgets come with the pieces you need to install them - saves me from having to rummage through my toolbox hoping that I have the right size screws!


I decided to affix the pads to the corner of the door frame that leads from the stall to the paddock outside for two reasons:

1. I think it's really cool that these can be bent around a corner, so I wanted to try out that feature.

2. This is a place where the animals like to hang out anyway and scratch themselves.




It was a little difficult with my small hands to keep the pad in place around the corner while I drilled the first screw in. It might have been nice to have a second pair of hands here, but not necessary. I made do just fine!




Once the first pad is screwed in place, all the others follow very easily. The pad are designed to interlock with one another, so all I had to do was fit the blue pad underneath the red one and it stayed in place on it's own while I screwed it in. 

At first I made the small mistake of tightly screwing all four screws into the red one before fitting the blue pad underneath which made the blue one unable to interlock properly. All I had to to though was loosen the bottom screws of the red pad AND THEN place the blue pad below it, then screw the red one tightly back in place.

You can see the interlocking edge on the blue pad in this picture,

All done!



At first, Billy was a little spooked by these strange new things on the outside of his house.




But he quickly got over his skepticism and decided to see if they were a tasty snack, as goats do.




Alas, they were not tasty. But what's almost as good as being a tasty snack? Something that gives good scratches! It didn't take Billy long at all to discover the Scratch n All's true purpose. Here's a video:





Zipper, on the other hand, was not particularly enthused. Then again though, she's not impressed by much.




After watching the video back, I actually decided to put the red pad underneath the blue pad, as I thought that might make them more accessible to him.

Two months later, the pads are holding up great. I can tell that they're getting used because of the grime that they're collecting, much like a curry comb does after a good grooming session. Just a scrub with a hard brush and some water easily removes that dirt though! My parents can see out into Zipper and Billy's paddock from their kitchen window and my Dad also reports that he sees Billy using them regularly.

Two months later - some dirt and a few hairs can be seen.

I shared the above video of Billy using the pads with Cynthia, the creator of Scratch n All (who is lovely to communicate with, by the way!) and for allowing her to use my video of Billy on the website she sent me four free pads! I put these up in Maggie's stall where I used to have some old bucket hooks that I know she liked to scratch her butt on (because I would always find tail hairs in them!) 

The pads interlock horizontally as well in a cool wave pattern.

I then hid in the neighboring stall and tried to video her using them. All I got was a blurry picture though.


"What dis?"

So far I haven't been able to catch her in the act of scratching...but I do think she is using them. I'm finding the same kind of dirt on the nubs and hairs in them occasionally. I may try moving them to a different location in her stall and seeing if they get more use then.  

Would I recommend?

Yes! There is certainly an element of sticker shock at first, but that's the price of a truly high quality product. I've only had these pads for two months, but Cynthia assures me that these quality products are meant to last - she has only had one customer report that their animal wore them out...and that animal was a long-horned steer named Buckshot and it took him five years to do so. You can see a video of him using the Scratch n All here! (It's pretty cute!)

I also think they are well worth the investment particularly if you have an animal that is a little destructive with their scratching (like Billy on the fence line, or Maggie getting tail hairs caught) because the Scratch n All pad provides a safe area for self-grooming instead.

and now...drum roll please...
A Special Offer!

The first two people who purchase 10 pads through the Scratch n All website will automatically receive 2 more pads free along with free shipping (for a total of 12 pads) when they type "Billy Sent Me" in the "Order Instructions/Comments" section on the order confirmation page. (*This offer is good for 10 pads only and cannot be honored for any other amount.)

Thank you Cynthia for this generous offer! Please take a second to visit the Scratch n All Facebook page for tons of animal stories and videos (I personally thought the video 'Acupressure by Goat' was hysterical.)

Shedding season will be here before we know it! (at least I hope so!)