Monday, July 28, 2014

Get To It


O continues to be endlessly impressive when it comes to her driving training. This girl is just the coolest cucumber on the planet. Nothing has phased her yet!

After two deserved days off (I was working long hours and it was over 100 degrees every day anyway), we got back to work on Saturday with a long lining session. O has worked in her blinders several times, but I wanted her to start to get used to the idea of going out down the road with them on. She has been down the road a million times, but she is a very visual horse and she likes to be able to see what is going on around her. I thought she might be a bit looky and confused, but I needn't have worried. She, as usual, was completely perfect.



The donkeys were extremely confused by a riderless horse, and they all ran around braying their heads off. She was quite unfazed by this, although at the first bray (which was literally about 15 feet from her, and LOUD), she quickened her steps a little. Aside from that, she was happy to walk, trot, halt and stand for as long as I wanted, and had a nice goobery mouth and a good walking stretch going by the end. 


On Sunday, I eyeballed her growing layer of flub overtop her muscles (I cut both girls back recently, as they're both looking quite round), and opted for a lunge workout to actually get her moving and sweating. She was unimpressed by this idea, and opted to poke along lazily. I actually had to encourage her to move forward... I hardly ever have to do that!



Afterwards, I let her have a nice roll in the sand. She stayed down for a little while rolling, and then looked at me with that "it's nice and cool and soft in this sand, do I REALLY have to get up?" look on her face.



"Ok fine if I have to."


Today we broke the tire back out for another drag session, only this time we did it with the blinders on. This is the first time she has dragged something while wearing them, so it was a big deal! I long lined her at the walk and trot for a little while, and then hooked her to the tire. She has gotten over her initial "wait, I can't walk, I am stuck to something", and now marches off with confidence. Goaded on by S, I put a little of my own weight on the tire, and let her pull that around as well. She didn't mind that either! There's not exactly a safe way to ride around on a tire, so that's about as far as I'm willing to go with that, but I think she's not going to have any problems when we actually put her to for the first time. She's just... easy. And easy is not usually the term I would choose for this mare!




And we of course can't forget old Pmare... the poor thing is miserable now that summer is in full swing. She roasts in the heat, and there's not a whole lot I can do about it. She is miserable in a stall, so I can't put her inside under a fan, and there isn't much in the way of shade in her pen. She can go into her shed and under her one tree to escape the sun, but she usually chooses not to. Instead, she just sweats. And sweats. And sweats. She is bleaching out all over, and there's not much to be done. I rinse her off at least once every day, if not twice, but generally by the time I turn her back out she is already sweating again. The sweat makes her itchy, so if I don't rinse her, she is itching her body all over everything. She gets elytes and has access to loose salt, she gets rinsed, and if she has any itches those areas get treated with my favorite herbal anti-itch spray, but beyond that there isn't a whole lot I can do. She also gets a good grooming every day, even though it is probably her least favorite part of the day (she likes to be a feral dirty animal). She's also rocking the bad scissor cut - she has all her whiskers and there's no point in pulling her mane, but I at least keep it trimmed with scissors to an acceptable length. I keep her tail properly banged too. She might be retired but I refuse to let her look like a scraggly wild animal!



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What a Drag!



O continues to truck right along with her groundwork like it's nothing at all.

At the recommendation of the trainer, I picked up two 10' PVC poles from Lowe's to use as makeshift shafts. I walked alongside her dragging them for a little while, rubbed her with them, slid them in and out of the tugs, and then let her drag them, one at a time at first and then both by the end. I lightly secured them with baling twine, just so that they wouldn't fall out, and could also be released quickly.




Not surprisingly, she didn't care at all. Looked at one, looked at the other, and then forgot about them. Because she's awesome like that.

One of my friends saw the picture and said that the britching is too low, so I raised it today. I also punched some more holes so that I can lower the tugs some. It's a good training harness but it's not an expensive one by any means, so it needs a lot of adjustments. Lowering the tugs will help her drag them easier - I had to help her on turns by pulling on each pole so it wouldn't poke her in the neck, and when I got behind her to drive I only turned her in big giant arcs. Some fiddling will help fix this. 


And today, even bigger news! She dragged a tire with no fuss at all! I managed to get my hands on a singletree, and finally was able to use it. We went through the same process as the introduction to the drag poles, and within no time she was dragging it by herself with me long lining her from the side. The only hesitation she had was when I first moved behind her to continue the long lining (I had been leading her at first). She felt the weight and stalled, wiggled her butt sideways, and looked at me like, "well now what do I do?" A few clucks and she moved right off, and that was all. She walked AND trotted while dragging it! How's that for her first proper drag!



 So far, she:
  • Wears full harness while lunging, w-t-c, including crupper and blinkers
  • Wears full harness while long lining, w-t-c, including crupper and blinkers
  • Long lines down the road in an open bridle
  • Has dragged a tire in an open bridle, w-t
  • Has dragged PVC 'shafts' in an open bridle, at the walk
  • Backs and goes sideways on the line lines
  • Halts and stands immobile
  • Stands immobile for tacking/setup of exercises/etc.

All of it with no fuss, no drama, no nothing. There's a ways to go get but she's doing great. We're off to a halfway decent start if I do say so myself!


 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Long Lining in Harness!


We're continuing to progress with our groundwork! O has worn the full harness three times, and the blinders twice. The first time in harness, she just walked and trotted on the lunge, and the second time I lunged her in an open bridle so I could canter her and let her get used to the crupper at the canter. She was not bothered by it - she did a few good-natured dolphin leaps in the canter, but nothing beyond feel-good crowhops. She put her ear on the crupper, came to terms with it, and moved on.



It still had one hole that needed to be tightened, and I did that today - it was at normal length for her long line session today. 

I'm going to be doing a lot of work in an open bridle, so I want to make sure she also knows how to work in the blinders for stuff she always knows. I made some adjustments to the bridle, including raising the blinders and removing the decorative drop. The drop flaps on her face a little and causes some concern on her part - she can be pretty headshy about things popping in her face, understandably. As I understand it, there is discussion about it being kind of a major faux pas for driving a single horse, but I really don't have any idea. I've read up on the history of the vanity of drops to try and make pairs with stars match completely, so it makes sense, but it does look pretty... so I don't know.

Anyway. I opted to lunge her first, which she did fine with, and then we moved on to some basic w-t long lining stuff, all stuff we had done before. She did pretty well! She did lift and move her head around a little, which I think she was doing because of her limited vision. She also stumbled on several rocks, which I think she didn't notice in time. Other than that, she did great.












I'd like to do more long lining stuff with one of the lines around her butt, but unfortunately my lines are way too short for that. I can drive her like this, with the lines through the turrets, and I can drive her with the lines low on my surcingle if I am walking behind her, but I can't drive from the side like that. I don't think she'd care either way, but I really do need longer lines if I am going to try it.


And my old hound seems to be hanging in there... eating well, taking her meds, and getting around with pretty good energy and spirits. Here's hoping she continues to hang in there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Harness!


You'll have to forgive my radio silence for the past several days. My elderly greyhound (who you've seen on and off through my blogging experience over the years) had a really terrible week last week. Unfortunately she was crashed by a vet who decided to take a certain route of care without consulting with me first, and now she is in outright kidney failure. We're not really sure what is going to happen, but this is terminal and at some point it will kill her. Whether that happens in a few days or in a year, it's impossible to say.

(Gogo and Ti in 2010)

She had a really good day yesterday after a few really bad days, but today she's not looking so great again. Lots of meds, sub-q fluids, and an emergency diet change after she stopped eating altogether seem to have helped until now, but we don't really even know if she is going to make it long enough to retest her bloodwork in a few weeks.

Ti is my first dog, and I've had her since she was 3 and freshly retired off the track. She has been in my life through college and all of my subsequent moves, jobs, relationships, and so much more. It is very hard to watch your companion age and start to wear out. I trust her to tell me when she's ready, and I'm ready to make that choice for her when the time comes... but I hope I get a little more time with her.


If you could send along some good thoughts for her, it would be much appreciated. I am very, very attached to my old doodle and I'm really not emotionally ready for her to go.


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In much brighter news, O had several days in a row off while I was attending to Ti's medical needs, but she also drove down the road in the long lines for the first time, AND she wore a harness for the first time!!!

I've ridden on this road 892910873392021938 times, so I wasn't worried about going off property and down the road, and true to form she was fantastic. For a horse that is so new to long lining - and SO hot under saddle - she is incredibly quick to pick up on an idea and is incredibly mellow in its execution. We walked and trotted down the road back and forth, and she walked out away from the property without hardly any of her usual barn sourness (which manifests as walking super slow, looking back over her shoulders, walking in really crooked lines). We trotted along quietly up and down the road with me jogging along behind her, and she is so very chill about this that I have absolutely no trouble keeping up at a wheezing jog (note to self: maybe try running a little more).

She was so good that I dared take a short video while we were trotting along on the way home. Don't try this at home kids... also please ignore my wheezing. I'm not very in shape!




Yes, that is my crazy redhead being decidedly un-crazy. I have a theory on this: she has a lot of bad associations with riding, and carries all of that baggage around with her all the time. She has no bad associations with driving of any sort, so she just jumps right in without any problems or evasions. I want to continue to cultivate this in her, and make sure everything progresses smoothly, because I've seen just how bad she can be when she has a bad association with something.

 We also progressed to our next step: an actual harness! I managed to get my hands on this one and I'm pretty happy with it. It's actually quite nice for what it is and will serve us just fine for now. The one thing about it is that it is sized for regular horses, and O is a very small horse (don't tell her I said that). I had to punch a lot of holes in everything, and will need to punch even more. Even everything on the bridle is too big - the blinders are huge on her and I had to punch all sorts of holes to keep her bit from falling out of her mouth. She's a big bodied horse for her size, but she is only 15.1 after all.... about cob size. I'll have to keep that in mind for sizing in the future. 



 Driving people, what do you think? Does it look ok or do you see something glaringly funky? Something I should change/fix?

The traces on this harness are removable, so I ran the breeching straps up through the breastcollar and back again to keep them out of the way. Since the harness is a little big all over, that worked just fine, although the straps might have to be cut shorter in the future. They are loooooooooong.

True to form, she went, "Ok more stuff on my body... whatever." She goosed herself once with the crupper, and then forgot about it, but I left the crupper really loose (way too loose really) just in case. I'll punch more holes and tighten her backstrap up with care. She had never worn a crupper before today and I think that will be the one thing so far that she'll object some to. I lunged her for a little bit in harness at the walk and trot, but not the canter yet - which is probably when she'll be goosey about the crupper, if she is going to be goosey.

She was not very amused by the blinders. I can't blame her for this - she is a VERY visual horse, and she has to look at things and be able to see in order to process. I led her around for awhile, and she got the hang of them, but they were confusing to her. She figured it out, true to form, and was lunging within short order, but I'm definitely going to continue to do most of my work in an open bridle. She needs to be able to do both, but since she learns new things better if she can see them and process them, I expect I'll do everything in an open bridle first. There seem to be conflicting opinions on this, and there are reasons to have your horse in blinders later on when they're broke, but since O is a very visual horse I'm pretty sure that I'll do everything in an open bridle first until she learns it, so she can see and process things. I never really thought about the pros or cons of blinders (or even why you'd use them, really.... I never thought about them at all until now!), so I'm doing my research and asking my resources for guidance. What do you guys think?



I also spent a long time this evening chatting on the phone with the driving trainer I was able to locate! She is sending me some more information about continuation with stuff that I can do on the ground with her until we can proceed with some lessons!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Double Lunge


O is making great progress with long lining. She thinks it is a piece of crumb cake. Therefore, it was time to up the ante and try double lunging!


I've not actually ever double lunged O before. I also hadn't ground driven her with the lines up on the higher surcingle turrets, so that was a good test to see how she felt about the lines sliding around over her back. True to form, she didn't care.
I've lunged her with just the lunge line on one side going from the bit to the surcingle and back to me, but she really hated that (it made her bend properly) and she curled dramatically behind the bit and ran.

This is her second time ever double lunging. Yesterday was her first. She understands the idea much better with two reins, and while she does get a little curled and strong a few times, she figured it out quickly and it was easy to bend and adjust her and keep her neck stretched out better. She can get very hot and strong on the lunge, so it was great that I was able to keep her so mellow. For only her second time doing it, I was pretty happy.



(Note to self: check video to make sure all video transitions are uniform. I don't know why it messed those up but I'm way too lazy to go back and fix them!)

I also managed to locate a reputable driving trainer within a decent driving distance! I'll be giving her a call to speak with her about further progression!



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Absorbine Botanicals Review


One of the great things about blogging is the fact that I have a small platform upon which I can share ideas, review products, and give honest opinions about horse related things. And I LOVE when companies send me their products to test out and review! The fine folks at Absorbine were kind enough recently to send a few fellow bloggers and myself some samples of their new Absorbine Botanicals line, and I had the chance to use it over the past week and see how I liked it. 

I always have Absorbine products in my barn - they're kind of a go-to staple. Who doesn't have bottles of Showsheen tucked into their tack room and trailer? I have clients who absolutely swear by Absorbine's All Natural Hooflex. I always had Gogo wrapped with Absorbine liniment after super hard workouts (and you gotta love the gel!), all of my horses have Absorbine hoof polish on at shows, and Absorbine's Santa Fe spray helps keep O's coat looking great throughout our blazing Texas summers. I have lots of other products from other companies that I love too, but I always have Absorbine stuff in my barn. 


My package arrived a few days ago, and I was eager to try it out!

 (Cat not included)

That said, anytime I try a new product on O, I have to be careful. She has SUPER sensitive skin and swells up like a balloon if something doesn't sit just right with her. I was careful to follow all directions, just in case. I love using products that are full of herbs and essential oils versus harsh chemicals if at all possible as well. There are 12 herbs and oils in the products, aloe vera and arnica included. You know I'm a huge fan of both of those! 

I first tried the Body Rinse. It's super concentrated, and has convenient measure markers on the side of the bottle, so if you are spatially challenged like me you don't eyeball off the wrong amount. After a hard workout, I rinsed her off with water, then filled a gallon bucket and squirted in my set amount of Body Rinse. I then sponged it all over her body, legs included. The product has a pleasant smell to it... it kind of reminded me of my grandfather's aftershave, but it wasn't overwhelming. O thought it smelled awesome, and stuck her nose right in the sponge for a closer smell. I did not rinse her following application as per directions - we'd just have to see if it sat well with her or not!

The next day, voila! She was soft, shiny and clean, with no signs that it bothered her at all and no feeling of residue. Perfect! 

 (Nice and shiny the next day)

Following her workout that next day, I used the Massage Foam on all four legs. Can I just say how much I LOVE the idea of a foam application? There's no mess! Gel is sticky and gooey and messy, and liquids spill out on the floor more than they ever get on the horse (and splash in my eyes half the time as well, especially when I put them in spray bottles). The foam was no drip, no mess, rubbed right in, and didn't leave me feeling like I had stuck my hands in a vat of Nickelodeon Gak. (If you weren't a child that grew up in the 90's you probably won't have any idea what that feels like... just think of cold chemical snot.) In the past, undiluted products straight on O's legs have left her with HUGE elephant legs the next day - and if a product doesn't sit with her, you can tell right away as she starts chewing on her legs. We had zero problems with the Massage Foam - no fuss, no muss, no swelling and no reactions, and nice tight legs the next day to boot. (O's legs are always clean and tight following workouts anyway but to have them not react to a product is great!)


Overall, I think it's a really good product. I still love herbal products like Sore-No-More and Zephyr's Garden liniment, but both of those are expensive and you can speed through them quickly. Absorbine's Botanicals line is a great cost-effective alternative.



(One more side note to add: I did not try these on Pmare, as several of the herbal ingredients are not safe for pregnant mares. For topical use only, it's unlikely that they'd affect her in any way, but I'd rather not take chances. That would definitely be the true test, if I could try them on her, since her skin sloughs off with just about everything chemically that I've tried on her. Anything that keeps her from swelling up and losing skin and hair is great in my book!)


Sunday, July 6, 2014

End of June Analysis; July Goals!


It's JULY already! When did THAT happen!
The most astounding thing of all is that we've reached the beginning of July with not a SINGLE triple digit day. The hottest we've seen so far is about 96. And it has been RAINING. A LOT. Admittedly, the humidity has made up for the lack of super hot weather, but what can you do.


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June Goals:

1) Continue to play with bitting options - which bits for which things?
 Well, we came up with some things. I would really *like* to go back to our snaffle eventually, but for now she is working decently in the double (mostly off the double jointed snaffle, which she quite likes), and going in the combo bit for more complicated work (including any future jumping).

2) Keep doing more flatwork! Flatwork flatwork flatwork! 
We did LOTS of flatwork! Lots and lots of it. We're plodding along making slow progress, but it is progress. She's such a tricky critter.... every time I figure out how to troubleshoot one of her evasions, she throws another at me. If I troubleshoot that one, she goes back to the first evasion. She is truthfully hellbent on using all of her energy and intelligence to figure out how to *not* do what she is asked to do. I'm completely convinced at this point that this is entirely due to her mental hangups under saddle.... she's just SO GOOD about everything else. Everything else, she's happy to jump in and get to right away.

3) XC schoolings - there are a few to choose from!
I had a few to choose from, and I ended up picking none of them. Partly because I had to work (and it was Future Hubs' birthday on one of the dates), and partly because I was not particularly enthused about it. I didn't feel that she was ready, and I wasn't really as into it as I thought I might be.

4) If we have time, start trailering over to the local jump arena and use their facilities for gridwork!
Didn't do that either... same reason as above. She wasn't really ready for it.

5) Did I mention flatwork? Do more flatwork!
See above!


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It's interesting..... in the past two weeks, my seriously burning passion for doing ALL THE DRESSAGE THINGS has fizzed out. Don't get me wrong, I love dressage and want to be doing it, and I'm glad we broke through some barriers.... but once again I'm feeling the curious call to give other things a try. Dressage, you sure are fine, and you sure are important... but there are SO many other things to do too!

And why not give everything a try if I can? I've never had a complete jack of all trades horse before, a horse that could literally do almost any sporty thing that I can think of, and having that kind of critter in my yard makes me want to keep trying MORE new things! As athletic as all of my excellent warmbloods have been, they were all specialists in one or two things. Gogo wiped the floor with most everyone she competed against in eventing, and did pretty well in dressage, but she was no speedy jumper (a tidy and talented one yes, but slow and easy), never saw a cow in her life, and couldn't make a turn tighter than a very, very slow 10 meters. She was the ultimate specialist - not quite fast enough to do jumpers, not quite fancy enough to do straight dressage, and I didn't DARE take her out on rough terrain because of her frail little legs, but she PERFECT for eventing. O, on the other hand, is not a specialist in anything, but can do a little of EVERYTHING... and that makes me want to try all sorts of things that I haven't done before!

To recap, so far we've tried: eventing, dressage, jumpers, endurance, roping, cattle work, barrels, and poles. She is good at all of these things on a lower level scale (and could be great at some of them on a higher level scale if we picked and worked on them). And there is one thing that we haven't done yet that I DEFINITELY want to give a try: Driving.


I LOVE to drive, and I've always loved it. I've always wanted to have a horse that drives, but I'm just never had the time to have one trained to do it (and when you're bouncing around from place to place, having a big huge cart to tote around isn't really very practical). I ground drove Metro a lot while he was in rehab, and Gogo as well... I even bought a harness for Gogo years ago, so that I could start lunging her in it. Alas, I never even got to try it on her, and it was sold long ago. Gogo also had an explosive spook in her, and once she was airborne she would do 180 degree spins. You can't exactly do that in harness and not kill yourself and everyone else around you. She also had a tendency to panic when she was constrained sometimes (she broke more halters that I can count), something else that you just can't have with a driving horse. An explosive personality is not one that is suitable for driving.... it's just not safe.

O, on the other hand, has the makings of a knockout driving horse. She'll whoa and stand forever, doesn't care if lines and things get tangled around her legs, doesn't care if things get dragged behind her, gives to pressure in every direction, isn't spooky (and if she does spook, she stops and lowers her head and looks at things instead of exploding or running or going sideways), and has zero kickiness in her. Under saddle, she can be very strong and zoomy, but she is borderline lazy when she is long lining. As far as I can tell, since she has no bad associations with it, she feels no reason to get her panties in a twist about it. In fact, I can't believe how quickly she has picked it up!

I've long lined her a grand total of four times now. I confirmed with R that she had never had it done before, so I started from scratch. The first time was just teaching her how to walk with me behind her (and I definitely don't recommend just starting out doing this without a helper, but I wasn't worried about O), which she was a little confused about but did well - she has all her verbal commands, so it wasn't hard for her to make the connection. The second time, we practiced walking, turning, and halting, and tried a few steps of trot - she was a little startled by this ("why are you chasing me!?") but she settled quickly. The third time, she was walking, trotting, turning at both speeds, halting, and backing up with a ho-hum kind of air about her, as if it was all old hat. The fourth time, she was happy to take a contact and work up a nice foamy mouth, something she rarely gets when under saddle (she has a tendency to clamp her mouth shut when she is tense), and do all of the aforementioned work with ease. She's a completely cool cucumber about the whole ordeal.








Yes, go ahead and laugh at that outfit. It's classy, I know. Super, super classy. At least my horse looks super shiny and beautiful.

Also, one of my lines is twisted around, something I didn't notice until now... that's not proper, don't do that.



Today, I introduced her to the drag tire. She got to look at it, sniff it, watch it bounce around as I rolled and dragged it, and then lunged next to it. It won't be long before she'll be ready to start dragging stuff behind her!




Here's where my knowledge of driving training ends. I have driving basics myself - meaning I can name parts of harness, can harness a horse, can put it to, and can drive it with reasonable decency (it's a lot like dressage, really!), but I am in no way qualified to teach a horse to pull a cart. I've put out some inquiries to local trainers, but there aren't exactly a ton of them around. We'll see what I can dig up locally!



Given all of these things, my goals for this month are going to look a little bit different!



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July Goals:
1) Continue to solidify long lining basics - walk/trot, whoa, turns, backing, and walking down the road/on the trail
2) Find a good local driving trainer!
3) Possibly search for a decent training harness - nothing fancy, just comfortable and useful - and start to lunge/long line in it
4) Introduce dragging
5) Continue with bodywork!


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If I do say so myself, my ladies are looking pretty nice. P has this lovely hi-gloss shine, and O has this really interesting metallic undertone shine to her... it's similar to that Akhal-Teke metallic sheen. It's almost underneath her coat... light doesn't reflect on her coat, it looks like it reflects through her coat. Whenever she turns and catches the light, it moves through her instead of across her, and underneath her coat she glows glittering red like she's on fire. She has super fine, super thin hair that lays flat on her almost as if it was painted on, so perhaps she has that same flat hollow hairshaft? If you go back and look at the long lining pictures, you'll see it a bit better there. It's crazy beautiful!