Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Importance of the Chiropractor

September has been whirring by with blinding speed. The month is already nearly 3/4 over and I don't understand where the time has gone. I always look forward to September because to me September means fall, but it seems that Texas as usual has not received that message. The heat index today is supposed to be 106. 106! That's just cruel. How can I enjoy my pumpkin spice treats if it still feels like I'm living inside an oven every day? A client told me the other day that she just wanted it to be cool enough to wear a light jacket, and I told her that she better put that on her Christmas list, because at this rate she's not going to get that kind of weather before then.

Dylan has had about a week off. He had a small amount of puffiness in his leg this week, and it wasn't hot, and he wasn't lame, but it was concerning to me nonetheless. I texted my vet to keep him on the alert in case I needed to bring him in for a recheck, and in the meantime stopped his workouts and started icing and poulticing as per my usual. The puffiness stayed, which surprised me, because if there is anything I'm good at, it is getting swelling out of a leg. I am the champion of such things.

His chiro was scheduled to come out on Wednesday, which I was thankful for, as I recalled a previous incident with Gogo where she also had a puffy front leg without heat or lameness that resolved when her chiropractor adjusted her navicular bone. The swelling vanished overnight and she was fine. 

His chiro came on time, as she always goes, and got to work on him. He's a very funny horse to work on chiropractically, as he is so huge and muscly and also has a giant stallion neck that gets in the way of everything. By now he knows what the chiro is here to do, and he tries to help her - he'll shove himself into her touch to try and show her where the spot it, to the point where he'll lean all the way over onto her with legs quaking. He also sticks out his lip and makes all kind of "right there!! right there!!" faces.

Chiro faces. You can't see in this picture, but he was rocking back and forth trying to help her!
One of my favorite things about my chiro is that she will continue to work on an area until the horse gives her a sign that she has gotten the spot to release. A lot of the other local chiros just get in there and slam around and are done in a few minutes. I've had two others work on O with no effect whatsoever, and saw a third actually lame two horses after he and his assistant basically threw them both to the ground in the name of adjusting their backs. It took me 5 years to find this one but she's worth keeping! Dylan is really obvious with his releases - when she gets a stuck spot un-stuck, he will immediately yawn and yawn and yawn. Sometimes he'll give a little chew or a head shake, but mostly he yawns. If she doesn't get it, he'll either stand there and look at her blankly, or he'll cross his jaw, frustrated that she didn't get it. She always goes back to work on it again if he doesn't give her a sign that she got it. 
This time in particular, he wouldn't release anything all the way down his body. He was just completely stuck. No releases at all. No crossing his jaw either, which was good, but he would just look at her like "you didn't get it." Finally she went back to his sacrum and adjusted it, and then finally he gave her a whole bunch of big yawns. She went back over his body again, and this time he released everything with big huge yawns. For whatever reason, she had to unlock the sacrum first, and then everything else followed.

When she got to his wonky leg, I told her about how it had been puffy this week and I wanted to make sure it got checked thoroughly. Poking around at it, she went, "oooh yeah I can see why," and adjusted his accessory carpal bone and both his sesamoids. With each of these, she got more huge yawns, especially with the carpal bone. He REALLY was glad to get his knee adjusted. I know it sounds a little weird and crunchy granola, but it's the truth.

By the end of the day, his leg was completely back to normal. Swelling gone. And it has stayed that way. How about that. 

I gave him a full three days off following his adjustment, just to be sure, and now today he goes back to work. I can say one thing.... I'll never be without a good chiropractor! They make all the difference in the world! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Working With A Zony

Working with zebra hybrids is an exciting and fascinating experience... it's definitely not something I'd recommend for everyone but I am having great fun with my Zu! 

So, what's it like working with a zebroid? Well, it depends on a lot of things, as every one of them can be a little different.

I'm completely convinced that getting zebroids off to a good start as babies is the number one biggest thing you can do for them. They should be temperament bred if possible, but the biggest factor is impressing upon them at a very young age that humans are good and to be trusted. Then, you must work with them every. Single. Day. "Working with them" doesn't necessarily mean taking them out of their pen and working them. Working with them can mean nothing more than just having positive interactions with them every day, petting and scratching. Actually, I think that this is more important than anything else - taking them out and actually working them every day would probably turn one against you pretty quickly. But just as bad is not working with them at all - if they don't interact with people every day, they tend to revert back to their wild instincts. This was Zuul's problem - he lived out in a field as a stud for 7-8 years without much human interaction. Unfortunately, there comes a point when this is just not able to be reversed.

A lot of breeders will pull their zebra babies as neonates off of the mare and bottle raise them, in the hopes that this will create a better bond with humans. I personally don't believe in this, and there are numerous reports of babies turning into raging psychopaths once they reach maturity, especially sexual maturity. Zebras tend to mature later than horses, between 4-6 or so, so it can come as a huge shock when a sweet baby suddenly turns into an ultra aggressive animal. Anyone who has worked with orphaned foals can tell you that if they're not put in their place, they'll turn into monsters, so I don't know why anyone would want to do this with a wild animal!

What Zu's breeder does is keep all of her babies, including full zebra babies, on the mare. She only breeds animals that are friendly and tame enough to allow their babies to be handled, so that she can imprint on them and also let them learn herd manners. I personally think this is the best way to do it, but everyone has a different opinion on it.

Zebroids can be a really mixed bag in terms of personality. Zebras themselves have powerful wild instincts, and when they feel threatened, they are quick to bite, strike, kick, and attack. Crossing them with a domestic horse or donkey tempers that down quite a lot, but it is still there. Zu acts mostly like  a super intelligent pony, but sometimes he has some very strong zebra-like traits that come out during training.

They must have had a rough night!

As a two year old, Zu is basically going through the same program that the other babies go through, only with differences in approach. There is no zebra training manual out there - there is very little information to be found anywhere! - so I have to rely partly on everything I can get my hands on to read, partly on all of the zebroid experts I have access to, and partly on my own common sense. I am also learning as I go, because I am finding out that things that I expect to work don't always work.

Zu wears the harness with no issues, and has been wearing the bridle with only minor protest. He lunges in the roundpen, but he does not know how to lunge on a line very well. I have long lined him twice, and while it has gone fairly well, he still had moments of spinning around in the lines and getting confused. When lunging on the line, he pulls EXTREMELY hard in the direction of his herd, and tends to cut in on the other side of the circle. When he pulls hard enough, he stops and turns in to the circle. With a horse, it's easy enough to push them back out onto the circle and get them going again without pulling, but with Zu, the more he gets concerned about this the harder he pulls. It's a very zebra like trait to straighten his neck and brace against pressure, and he will escalate instead of figuring it out like the mules do. So, we backtrack to the very, very basics to make sure these are solidly in place before we add in things like long lining or more complicated lunging again

Currently, since I know he works fine with the harness and decently with the bridle, I've stripped these things off of him and gone back to making sure we can lunge without needing to hug the rail on the one side. He wants to be with his herd, so it's very important to me to make it clear to him that I am part of the herd and it's okay to stay with me. He'll be much less inclined to want to leave and go back to his friends if he counts me as one of them, so I try to make sure that above all else, we are buds. Going back to the very basics, we are working on lunging at a walk without pulling. These sessions are very short, and heavily rewarded for good behavior. The last thing he EVER needs to learn is how to pull and run off successfully. I have no doubt it will happen along the way in our rudimentary training, but it's something I want to make sure I avoid at all costs, and make sure it gets addressed if and when it does happen. The mules pull too, but they are so quick to figure it out and stop when it doesn't work. Zu is not that way, and steady pressure is not something he responds to well at all. Rhythmic pressure and release is the only way to go with him.
Basically, every little rudimentary thing needs to be gone over with a fine toothed comb. If there is any question about something, it needs to be addressed immediately. I can't assume that he'll figure it out like a horse would, so I have to stop, break it down into tiny little pieces for him, let him digest those pieces, and then add into tiny crumbs of information until eventually, gradually, we get to an entire piece of pie. But we have to go over the crumbs first, which is not something I would have to do with a horse.

The more he is here, the more his hilarious personality comes out. He is a total clown and a jester, and loves to play with the mules and with Pax. He is more mule-like in his play in that he goes for the legs of the others, and drops to his knees to avoid them biting his in return. He likes to wrap his neck over Uma's and squash her, and she in return likes to rear up and bite him in the crest. Pax is the most common recipient of the leg-biting I think due to her height, which confuses her to no end.


Fine I'll get up!

Definitely the start of a conga line 

What is most important above all, especially at this stage in our relationship, is that every day he gets even friendlier with me. He outright ran to me today and lept off the rock ledge to come to me. Yesterday he grabbed Pax's halter and went to the gate, like he wanted to be played with too. It's anthropomorphizing, yes, but I don't know too many hybrid equines that will see a halter and voluntarily come over for attention.

Help me put this thing on lady!

It may take me twice as long to get him safely broke to harness - three times as long maybe - than it would a horse. And that's okay, because he's worth it! Taking the time it takes is always worth it to me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Instagram Photo Dump

Once in awhile, I realize that I have a WHOLE bunch of photos that haven't been shared here because most of them don't have enough information to make into an actual blogpost. I don't always have a lot to write about, because some of my weeks would have entries like this: "Gave the stallion a few days off. He got really muddy. I groomed the babies. They wore bridles again, like they did last week. And nobody died." Not tremendously interesting.
 So, instead... PHOTO DUMP!

Dylan and O are still the cutest couple around. Seriously. They're just gross. 

Sharing a haybag at twilight. How romantic. Barf. 

Dylan on patrol

Trying to wash Dylan off, but O was being entirely too helpful....
Being ponied off Dylan
So sap. Much cheesy.

Tonka makes a cameo, proving that not only are my horses super shiny but my dogs apparently are too

Well, when they're not filthy that is. 

Having a man conversation. 

It also apparently has become my mission in life to collect All The Zebra Things for Zu to wear. It's not easy to find zebra patterned stuff in pony size but I'm doing a good job so far!

Spanish steps. I suck at teaching tricks so I'm not sure how far I'll get with this one. It's not a Spanish walk yet... just steps. 

Lunging, and looking at Moo! I have a post about how his training is going coming up. 

Wearing sidereins for the first time. He's too young to work in these much but he has been introduced to the idea now!

Zebra halter, zebra boots... yes, apparently Woof makes zebra patterned boots that are small enough to fit 11 hand ponies. Who knew! I've also found harness pads but not ones that fit my harness. I'll keep looking!

Pax has been getting regular grooms as usual, but now she is starting to wear a bit. She has worn it probably 5 or 6 times now and bridling her is a non event - she opens her mouth and takes the bit, and unlike the mules I can just slip it over her ears without unbuckling the bridle. I will need to get a few more headstalls though... adjusting this one a million times for each baby (different bits, different settings) gets tedious. She is still plenty mouthy with it, but she is a mouthy baby in general. Next year I plan to show her in hand in the FEH, and two year olds are required to wear a bridle. So, bridle it is. 

How not to stand your baby up for a conformation shot

I haven't deliberately done a lot of in-hand work with her because she still has the mental capacity of a squirrel with ADHD, but I tested out some of her groundwork skills the other day to see what will need polishing. While she is still quick to play up when the other horses do something to encourage her (like Dylan and O who both go NUTS galloping and bucking whenever she appears), she seems to be slowly moving towards more mentally able to handle it. Eventually she'll be there but she is only 17 months old. I look at her and I wonder how anyone could consider starting 18 month old horses.... they're still so tiny and babyish to me. 
Anyway. I tried out a few of the basic things I feel they need to know in hand, and was pleasantly surprised to find that she knows all of them and did them all well - stop, stand immobile, back up, and yield haunches to pressure on both sides without issue. It's all stuff I never deliberately taught her per se, but things she just picked up over time during formative handling. I know she also trots in hand because we have worked on that before, but as we get into the winter I'll be trailering her out again so we can work on this more in an arena away from home, and in a bridle as well. 

Srirachy had quite the evening yesterday... She got trimmed, which is now a non-event, but I was wearing TERRIFYING GLOVES OF DEATH which scared her out of her wits when I touched her with my gloved hand. She's never smelled or seen or felt gloves before. Then she had to deal with Very Scary Future Hubs, who eventually convinced her that he could pet her neck and she would not die. So much to deal with! She also helped mow for a couple of minutes since our Lawn Boy didn't show up. 

A lot of scary things

Yesterday afternoon... getting SO FUZZY!

The moole on the hill

Being SASSY! And fat and hairy!

I ordered a mullen mouth butterfly bit that was measured to fit both of these littles, because I thought they would like a mullen and it was suggested to me as well. And.... that went over like a ton of bricks. I tried it on Sriracha but could tell she wasn't going to tolerate being lunged in it, so I took it off. I started to lunge Lendri in it, but she acted out violently and stuck her tongue over the bit and out the side of her mouth. She's never done that before. As it seems that mooles apparently have a hard enough time dealing with bits as it is, I went so far as to stop the session, switch back to the sweet iron snaffle, and continue on. She had no more problems, except for being extra sassy that day. Well there you are... no more butterfly bit for these two. 

Even though the babies are doing their baby things.... there is always time for them to do the most important thing, PLAY!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Sand Man

Part of the fun of having your own place is that you get to do basically anything you like to your property, within budget. It's sometimes very annoying and frustrating to have your mares do something like start to completely destroy their fence (yep that needs to be replaced soon), but sometimes when you are faced with certain problems, the resolution of the problem is actually kind of fun and enjoyable. Case in point: adding some footing to one of the pastures.

The mares are the most disgusting animals on Planet Earth, no contest. Pmare in a stall is a force to be reckoned with, and a night of her inside anywhere makes you want to just hang yourself from the rafters with baling twine in the morning when you see what kind of a mess she has cooked up for you. She poops 3x as much as anyone, she eats 3x as much as anyone. She creates mess wherever she goes. 

Especially with all the rain we have had over the past year, we had some soil runoff which left me with a lot of hard (and often rocky) ground in the mare pasture. For the mules and the baby this is actually great, becaue it creates tough little hooves and tough little bodies. For Pmare, being a little unsound in three legs, this is not so great. Most of their soft sleeping spots are now just hard ground. In addition to this, the lot of them has created what I not-affectionately dubbed Pisslandia - they all pee in ONE spot, all together. Those of you who have hard ground and have had horses create a pee bog in one spot know what a gross and non-cleanable mess that can be. After our latest wash of rain, I noticed Pmare was starting to hang out in the soft spots of Pisslandia. Well that won't do. 

Cue the sand man!

Getting squashed by a camera hogging zoodle

They were super into it

New sand brings out the maximum derp in Uma

I don't even know what she's doing

Sriracha being super helpful

I didn't really even have to spread it, they did most of it for me

I got 6 tons of sand for Pisslandia. I actually could stand to get another 6 there, but we will have to see how it weathers the next bout of bad weather. 

The sand is going to do two main things for me:

1) If they continue to piss in Pisslandia, it will actually drain through! Hooray!
2) Now they have a new soft spot to sleep, roll, and stand (especially for Pmare who needs some cushion)

Now for the next projects.... adding sand to the mare shed, building a new shed in the front field, and regraveling the carport/carriage barn.... it's always something!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Current Equipment

One of the things I love about dressage is the simplicity of the gear required to do such complicated and intricate things. You don't need the most expensive set of everything in order to do it. Sure, you can buy $200 breeches and a $1000 pair of tall boots, but you don't *need* them. If you have a well fitting saddle, a well fitting bridle with appropriate bit, and a girth, that is really all you seriously need. 

When I was eventing I had basically one of everything in baby blue (or purple, before I got into the baby blues). Everything. Boots, bells, bit guards, reins, saddle pads, martingale and rein stops... even my spurs had baby blue stones set into them. If it came in baby blue, I had it. I had SO MUCH STUFF. And I have a lot of carriage driving stuff too. Carriage driving basically requires you to have an insane amount of everything... there is SO much gear. Regular plain old dressage is bringing me back to refreshing simplicity, and I'm enjoying it for a change.

Have saddle, have bridle, have boots, will ride. (And of course, helmet and gloves!)

I own surprisingly little gear. It surprises even me sometimes. I only own three really good pairs of breeches. (I have a number of others, but they either don't fit or they're aged and showing it... I should get rid of those). I have a few pairs of schooling gloves, which I think are important and worth spending money on. I have two helmets, a Charles Owen and an IRH - the IRH is the only one that is really dressage appropriate, but it is also aging and will need replacing before long. I only ride in tall boots (force of habit, I think), and am getting ready to invest in a nice new pair - I also always wear a set of spurs. As for shirts, I wear polos when I am at clinics, lessons, or schooling shows, but the rest of the time I just toss on whatever I feel like wearing, mostly tank tops or the occasional t-shirt. I don't have a million pairs of ridiculously expensive breeches or fancy fabric riding shirts, not by a long shot.

DSB boots and polos

Dylan's gear is also very simple. While I have about 50 million polos and boots, all that I use with regularity on him are either his DSB boots or leg liners with polos over them. He always wears bells, and I have lots of pulls ons in rotation as well as a pair of fleece lined ones. He has only one saddle pad, a Back on Track pad with a Thinline pad sewn right into it. It's the best pad I've ever owned, and still looks great, despite the fact that it both gets a ton of use and a ton of washing. Before I had the saddle fitted, he also had a Mattes correction pad, but since he no longer needs that I only ride him with just the saddle pad and nothing else. I've never had a saddle fit so well that I didn't feel like I needed some kind of something between it and my regular saddle pad, so this is new and exciting territory for me. He's going SO well with the newly fitted saddle that it makes me wonder how I ever got on otherwise! His saddle is obviously the Schleese, which is the one he came with that was custom fitted for him years ago. I alternate between the snaffle bridle and the double. I've been considering just showing in the snaffle bridle to start when we go out at 4th, which is completely acceptable. He goes just as well in either bridle, but since I tend to forget how to ride when I'm anxious, I don't want to get hung up on my curb unnecessarily in the show ring. 

Only the best pad ever
DSB boots and bells

Polos and leg liners

Double bridle (and O's lunging bridle next to it)

Picked this up for not very much money! Patent noseband and unnecessarily ridiculous browband
The old reliable... Schleese and girth!

There are things I am willing to spend money on, and things I am not. Things that really are important to a horse's comfort and ability, like well fitting saddles and well made bits, are things I don't compromise on, though I will always look for a good deal if possible. But all the frivolous stuff? Eh. I don't need it. I have more important things to spend money on, like good feed!

I pride myself on being a ridiculously good deal finder. I like nice equipment, but... why pay full price on it? I'll have another post on that later!

So, what do you use for your horses? Do you stick with the necessities, or do you go all out? 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Moole School

School is perpetually in session for my horde of mooles. They're all in various stages of growing up and coming along in their training. In terms of general baby goals for their ages, they are all fully on track to becoming solid citizens, with a few quirks here and there and things to always be worked on. 

Uma is the same age as Pax, so now approaching 17 months. She is still TINY but filling out in her body. She's got that donkey haybelly which, as far as I can tell, is nearly impossible to get rid of on some of them. She came with it, and it looks much better but it's still there. Clean fecals, regular deworming, you can see her coat is good and shiny... she's just... full of hay. I asked the owner of the mini moole that comes to the driving competitions, because he also has a huge gut, and she said that even though he gets a tiny ration and heavy work literally 6 days a week, he just has it and that's that. Boo. 
She has really started to mentally mature a lot more over the course of her yearling year. She is still weird about a lot of things, like you can't just walk up to her in the pasture, nor can you put your hands on her body unless she is tied up, but I think that will continue to get better as it generally has been (slowly). Baby mooles are kind of like horrible obnoxious teenagers. You think baby horses are bad, try dealing with all of their crap but with a donkey brain in there!
Things she does well: halter, lead, tie, wear a flymask, flyspray, stand for hoofcare, stand more or less still to be brushed off, sort of stand for mane clipping, wearing boots
Things she does not do well: body clipping, trailering (haven't tried!), bathing (she likes water but not being sprayed with the hose yet), and not very fond of general touches from people if she wasn't expecting them - just needs more work on that!

This little dude is continuing to impress me. It just goes to show that it is SO IMPORTANT to get your hands on these guys as soon as they are born. It makes ALL the difference. He has no meanness in him whatsoever and he loves people and attention. It is very rare to get that sweet adorable temperament in a zebroid, and it has to be cultivated. He's a testament to his breeder's program. 
He's a million times easier than all of the mules, which is really saying something. It's all because of his early formative training - they were all feral or mishandled, and he was neither. He was handled straight away as a baby, and it makes a difference.
Things he does well: Easy to catch, halters, leads, ties, trailers (although he has not been in my trailer), clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness, wears bridle (but still learning about the bit), lunges in harness, starting to long line and learn about steering, ponies, wears boots and wraps, stands for hoofcare
Things he does not do well: Not a fan of baths (although he loves water), or flyspray (but he tolerates it), needs to be a little more secure by himself (the world is scary when you're alone without your herd!) 

I long lined Lendri off the property for the first time ever the other day, and nobody died! She actually surprised me with how good she was. She has technically been hitched once, but I feel that she needs to be much steadier in the long lines before we hitch again. There is so much that can go wrong when hitching a greenie so the more I can do on the ground the better. I still am not compeltely convinced that she is going to make a perfect driving moole - she is still so reactive to things sometimes - but I am going to give it the full benefit of my time, because she has come SO far and I'm not ready to give it up just yet. 
Things she does well: Easy to catch (runs over!), halters, leads, ties, trailers, mane and body clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness and bridle, lunges in harness and sidereins, stands for hoofcare, flyspray, long lines, ponies, wears boots and wraps, has been hitched once without issue
Things she does not do well: Hates baths! Tolerates it but is pretty sure I am spraying her with acid. Still can be quite reactive and flinchy to basically anything that touches her that she is not sure about. 

I ordered a new bit for Sriracha - it's a little butterfly mullen mouth driving bit that is mini sized. I should be able to use it on Lendri as well, as it is a 3.75" (standard mini size is 3.5"). For comparison, Lendri can go either in the 3.5" or the 4" that I use for Zu, but she does seem to prefer the 4", which is a single jointed sweet iron snaffle. I don't know that Zu will fit into it, but I might try it on him for giggles. I haven't tried the bridle on her since the last time when she stuck her tongue over it and cut it - it was only her second time wearing a bridle and I didn't want to repeat the incident until I switched bits. 
Things she does well: Halters, leads, ties, trailers, mane clipping, grooming, flymask, wears harness, learning to lunge in harness, stands for hoofcare, flyspray, happy to go out alone and do things, wears front boots
Things she does not do well: Not a fan of baths, still sligtly funny about her tail and back legs being handled (although getting better every time), having difficulty accepting the bit and bridle. She's only been not-feral for a few months so it's pretty good, all of it!

Tried the (sans bit, sans adjustment) blinkered bridle on Zu... as you can see he really cares. He was looking around for a minute though going, uhhh I can't see?

How not to wear your flymask