Monday, December 29, 2008

The Best Training Aid for Cantering your STB and Fun with Tarps!

Time off is a great thing. I get to RIDE! I rode on Christmas Day of course (see previous post) and that was fun. Then I rode Dreamy on Friday for about 30 mins. and then again on Sunday for about the same. Saturday I wanted to ride but it was raining. Instead we had FUN WITH TARPS! Yay!

My two rides were productive....well as productive a ride in the snow on a semi-out-of-shape horse can be. We worked on connection and of course got a little bit of attitude from the Dream Girl, but nothing like she can be. Did some stretchy free walk and working walk transitions. Did some halts. I actually was able to canter on Friday, since the snow had not melted underneath that much. The footing was good, unlike Sunday where all the rain had settled on top of the ground and underneath the snow, so there was some ice and some slush. Only trotting on Sunday.

Anyway, I finally had my best training aid back for the canter! SNOW! YAY! The snow on Friday made her canter so BOUNCY and SLOW! :) Our left lead transitions were fabulous, mostly because she was not rushing and she had to really use her self to stay her hind end was underneath herself and her back was up. The upwards to the right were a bit rough, as she still wants to throw herself into the gait, but the downwards were pretty nice. I did get one nice upwards, which was encouraging.

So we are certainly not setting the world on fire in our training, but at least I am on her and we have not lost any training it seems. And I have tried to schedule two lessons (just 30 mins. since she is not in shape enough to go for an hour) but of course one weekend was the big ice storm and the other was a big snow storm. I have no luck with lessons lately. Oh well. I am just going to sit tight for now, try not to freak out because I am DYING for a lesson, and just wait and see. What the hell....I can wait until March but I don't want to!

So Saturday was our fun with tarps day. Dreamy has impeccable ground manners, so when I say we do "groundwork" it is not like she is being taught how to lead or stand or whatever. Her ground manners have nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that she was well started as a baby out in NY. I give full credit to the STB breeding farm.

Anyway, Dreamy has a phobia of sorts about whips. I ride in spurs, because she gets really jumpy and spooky if I even hold a whip when I ride. (Now, I can hold a jumping bat, but not a dressage whip). And this past summer at one of the open shows we did for fun, we had to walk over a tarp in the trail class. Dreamy stopped, gave it a good look, and LEAPED over it. She only did it because she trusted me, of this I am 100% sure. She did NOT want ANYTHING to do with it, but I encouraged her with my voice (and gently with my seat/legs) and she did it. I was not planning to "force" her over it, since it was not something she had EVER seen before. I figured I would try it once and if she was really upset, I would go around. But she flicked those ears, gathered herself, and jumped it. Too funny. I think we still placed well (a second I am pretty sure) because she did everything else perfectly. But of course, it made me figure I would do "tarp work" with her this winter.

So we worked in the barn aisle, which is about 13 feet wide, after I groomed her. First we did our normal, walk/halt/back/lower head routine. She is fine of course. Then I brought out the whip and touched her all over with it. She does not budge...which did surprise me. I figured she would be touchy. But then I waved it all around, over her head, under her stomach. Yup, nothing besides some ear flicking and a few moments of the BIG EYES. She is really not that reactive of a horse, but she does like to widen her eyes to show the whites and will sometimes do the "flutter" nose noise. That is about the worst of her spooks.

Anyway, so the whip work was fine. Now I think I need to ride with it and not use it. Just hold it there and get her used to the idea of it being there.

Then I pulled out the exciting blue tarp! Again she did not budge but her eyes were as big as saucers. So cute. First I shook it and put it all over her body. She was not impressed with it on her head, but stood still. Then I folded it up to walk over it.....we did that no problem. Then I unfolded it so it was a longer walk over it. Again no problems. That mare will follow me anywhere. I was impressed she did not even try to skirt around it. She just walked over it straight. She has only done a tarp once at that show and while I was "training" her on Saturday she acted like we did it all the the time! Foolish mare. LOL!

Next time I will set it up draped over two standards and walk under it. Dear lord, I need an indoor so I can work on something normal like transitions and connection, rather than play with tarps! One thing is for sure, there is no way you'll ever catch me with a kaorobi fricking stick or whatever it is. Nah, I will stick with tarps and be my own horse whisperer.

Now I have to try both the whip and the tarp while riding. That might be a different story. Now that the driveway is free of ice (unlike the "ring" in the I actually WANT half a foot of snow to cover it all!) I can ride in the driveway with my tarp. Good thing I do not have any close neighbors. :D

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Rides!

I have a tradition to always take a bareback ride on Christmas Day. Not sure why, but I always do. Even if it is only a 15 min. walk around the pasture, I enjoy it. Usually I just have time for Sparky, but this year I was able to ride both mares. Sparky first, of course. She is my first love. :) And I must admit this is the first time I have actually ridden Dreamy bareback...LOL! What a wimp I am! Her withers are not THAT bad.

Here is the view from the round and fuzzy Sparky. Yes her bridle path is waaaaaay overgrown and my inner George Morris screams in protest every time I look at her. But I want to grow out some of it so it is not so nearly goes halfway down her neck! I hear the latest trend in the Morgan horse show world is to NOT trim them back so far.....and of course Ms. Sparky needs to be on top of the current trends, now doesn't she??

Interestingly enough, Dreamy was royally PO'ed that I was riding Sparky and ignoring her. So here she is standing directly in our path and looking very mean. Even cocking her leg! Man, what a baby! LOL! I usually keep the other horse out of the "ring" in the pasture when I am riding, but because I was only going to be on for a few minutes, I just left the other horse free. Too funny!

Sparky was like, "What is up with you Dreamy?" I was laughing and after a few minutes Dreamy went back to her hay pile. Sparky was so soft and warm....I love her trot! And the snow and footing was perfect!

And here I am trying to get a good picture of the two of us afterwards.

Ah well, her nose is not that big. But of course, the camera MIGHT have a hidden carrot in it, so it was nearly impossible to get a shot without the mare sticking her nose into the lens. LOL!
And then Ms. Dreamy gets her turn. She was so good. Her build is funny, in that she is ROUND but has WITHERS! Very hard to fit a saddle (thank god for my Duett, expensive but worth it!) And I have never ridden her bareback, mostly because when I get time to ride I want to "make it count" as a training ride and also because her withers have never looked that comfortable. But I was wrong....they were not that bad and she was comfy to ride!

Such a fuzzy mare! She got the BEST winter coat she has ever had, after five years of owning her! So for now she is a shaggy wild pony. If I can ever schedule a lesson on a day it does NOT snow (Sorry Judy, I am really bad at scheduling and too busy to boot!) I will have to trace clip her, but for now she can be a woolly beast. She'll get a haircut as we get closer to spring, I am sure.

So, after Dreamy's performance, Sparky decides not to be outdone. First she meandered off to Dreamy's paddock and Dengie pile to see if she had left any morsels. Abandoning that, she decided to suddenly gallop FULL TILT at us out in the pasture section. Dreamy was being SO GOOD.......tensing up but not doing she was saying, "OK Mom, do you see how GOOD I am being while my friend here is roaring around the pasture? I really COULD dump you and take off with her, but see what a nice mare I am!"
I was laughing so hard that it was difficult to take pictures. Here is the LOOK AT ME Morgan trot.....I thought I got a better one....where she looks like a park horse. Oh well.

Then the gallop! At almost 27 years old, I would say she is feeling pretty darn good!

But then she started running right AT Dreamy. Not cool. So I yelled at her and she stopped her foolishness. But then she decided to follow us around the entire field. What a weird horse! :D

And here is me and my mare. :)

Again, hard to photograph, but at least she was not trying to eat the camera! LOL!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Scary or Exciting?

So, I am not sure yet if this is scary or exciting! LOL! Now this means we are eligible to compete at rated dressage shows! And maybe even qualify for a USDF All Breed Award! :) :) :)

I do know that it means I have to work my ass off this year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

My horse is eating silage

OK, not really silage, but it might as well be! Dreamy is now on Lucerne Farms Hi Fiber product, AKA as Hi Fi, AKA Dengie. It is a chopped hay mix of timothy, oat, and alfalfa packed in a 40 pound plastic bag.

Just why am I now feeding this?

Well, the Dream Girl has been diagnosed with COPD/RAO for a few years now. The common name is "heaves" and until 2000 this condition was known as COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some fancy group of international veterinarians decided to start calling it RAO or recurrent airway obstruction to differentiate this equine respiratory condition from COPD in humans.

So whatever you want to call it, Dreamy basically has allergies. She has a problem breathing and for years I managed her on 24/7 turnout/stall, a product called Wind by Emerald Valley, and soaked hay in above freezing temperatures. For whatever reason, I was always able to switch her to regular old dry hay when the temps. dropped.

But not this year. :(

Dreamy had a mild RAO attack this late summer in August. She has been on Dexamethasone (steroids) and TriHist (antihistamine) before, so this was nothing new. I figured a round of both and we would be back to normal.

Uh, not this time.

You see, I had a lovely load of MOLDY hay in my barn from the even MORE lovely hay guys I now despise. Yes, that is another blog post around here somewhere. Long story short, just having the hay in the barn was causing my horse problems. GRRRRR.....

So we bought new hay (from someone else...), did the round of Dex and TriHist, scratched from an event at the end of that month, and just took it slow for the weeks that led up to the Nationals in NJ. I was bound and determined that I would have her well enough for NJ. I put her on another product from Emerald Valley, which I cannot remember what it was called, but basically it is echinecea. Dreamy seemed to bounce back fine and we went to NJ without a hitch at the end of Sept.

I first started trying to feed un-soaked/dry hay in November. Within 2 days she was coughing. :( I had this gut feeling that after her episode in August, things had gotten worse. Granted so far I have been lucky to manage her with just supplements and wet hay. I just had this nagging feeling that she was no longer going to be 100%.

So without any way to soak hay in the freezing temps., I had to resort to feeding the Dengie. Here is what the Dengie website says:

Horses suffering from respiratory problems and allergies associated with field-dried hay benefit by feeding our forage feeds. The high temperature drying process eliminates harmful mold spores that can lead to respiratory allergies (heaves), resulting in a chronic cough and decreased physical performance ability. Feeding your horse any one of Lucerne Farms high temperature dried forages will help prevent an allergic cough and to help keep his airways clear.

And truthfully, it comes down to about the same price as the hay I bought after the BAD HAY EXPERIENCE, if not cheaper. I spent $4 a bale on the bad hay, and then ended up spending $6 on the new GORGEOUS hay from NY (thanks Justin!!!!) Dengie costs $12 a 40 pound bag, which right now I am feeding out at 10 pounds per day. That ends up at $3 per day, which is actually cheaper than hay. I have a feeling I may have to up the Dengie as it gets colder. It is confusing because the product says to feed it at a rate of 10 lbs. a day and my vet said to feed it on a pound-for-pound ratio. Now I feed 20-22 pounds of regular hay a day, so there is a HUGE difference between feeding 10 lbs. of Dengie and 20 lbs. of it! I consulted with the folks at Lucerne Farms and they recommended feeding it at the 10 lbs. a day rate and adjust as necessary.

So things are OK for now. Dreamy actually likes the Dengie, which is a miracle seeing as she is the Pickiest Horse Ever. The only bad part is that it cuts down on her "chew time" and then she spends time looking around for things to chew on. I need to get her some poplar logs to chew instead of my barn!! Truthfully, I have snuck in a flake of dry hay here and there at lunch, especially when I am home and it is cold. So far, no problems and no coughing. I hope I can go back to soaked hay in the spring, as much as it is a pain in the ass to soak it.

Man, my horses are spoiled! :) Why is no one surprised? ;)