Sunday, August 31, 2014

End of August Analysis; September Goals!


August definitely flew by! It was hit and miss in some ways, but if we're exclusively talking about horse-related things, it was a great month. O came SO far with her driving training!



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O-Ren August Goals:

1) Continue self-education - learning about driving, parts, carriages/carts, different sports, terminology, etc!
Success! I have had SO much fun with this. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on, watching videos, talking to people, and even going through sale ads on Facebook pages, trying to guess what type of vehicle is pictured in each ad. I'm getting pretty good at it! I love to read, and god knows it is HOT outside and I have NO interest in being out in it for any longer than I have to be, so it is a great excuse to snuggle up to my pets inside catch up on my reading. Thanfully the temp will be dropping soon as fall approaches.... then I can go back to spending ALL my time outdoors again!
2) Start looking at possible training carts for myself (and possibly a harness upgrade)
Success! I have already been through my training cart (good ol' Janky), which has already been passed on to another newbie breaking her Pasos to drive. I upgraded to a new harness and cart, which all came together as a package deal (and sold my training harness for more than I paid for it.... apparently the people bidding on Ebay thought it was worth way more than I did!). There is of course a part of me that is still oogling over much fancier harnesses, carts, and carriages, but we're totally fine with what we have right now. Someday when I'm rich.... rich enough to buy carriages worth thousands of dollars.... and rich enough to buy bigger trucks and huge trailers to transport both them and my horses at the same time.... someday.
3) Continue doing groundwork, long lining, work in harness etc. 
Success! We have been doing a fair amount of lunging/long lining/work on the ground in order to work on suppling her, especially to the left. There definitely will be a lot of that in our future!

 
4) Continue doing drags with tires/PVC 
 Well technically we didn't do this... but it was because we didn't need to! I hooked her right at the start of the month, and off she went with nary a problem. No need for drags anymore!

5) If all goes well - hopefully she will be hooked by the end of the month!
 BIG success - because she was hooked at the BEGINNING of the month! She obviously took the whole thing in stride - never had so much as a moment of hesitation. She just jumped right in, picked it up, and went on with her bad self! We got SO much farther than I ever dreamed we would in our first month - we're even doing rudimentary dressage work and fitness work, and going around leetle wee obstacle, just for fun. I thought we'd just be getting her used to the cart and learning how to steer and stop, but we're already working through the complexities of contact, proper bend, and hind end engagement. Not bad!!



Pangea August Goals:

1) Walk hacks 2-3x per week (just short ones, soundness pending)
I wasn't able to get more than a few walk hacks in. I did a few very light lunges, and some walk hacks in the beginning of the month, but the old girl is just not sound. She has an impressive stone bruise right now, tucked up right on the side of the lateral bar on her left foot, from our last rain - it poured, soaked the ground and her feet, and then she went galloping around on the rocks in her pen like a moron. Cue bruise.... poor thing. She had her grainfoods cut in half, like O, because she has been ballooning on our very nice hay, which is not helping her soundness either. Not like she was getting much grainfood to begin with, but now she only gets 1/2lb of hay pellets and a tiny handful of Healthy Glo (plus her supplements) 2x a day.... it takes her about 30 seconds to vacuum it up. It's a totally negligible amount of food - so I blame our really nice hay!
 
2) First rhino shot!
Success! And she did not have a reaction, spontaneous abortion, or die because of it, hooray! (She's a very sensitive critter so you never know.) She did, however, develop some bumps and itchies in the past month - any assault on her immune system is hard on her, and it shows. Hopefully it will cool off soon... that will definitely help her.


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 O-Ren September Goals:
1) Look at upcoming show schedules - see what I can go to and volunteer/learn! (Just me... not O!)
2) Continue to do suppling exercises (esp to the left) to help with our dressage work
3) Fitness! She got a bit fat during her training (even with rations cut in half!) - so now that she is further along we need to get back to some fitness work!
4) Set up our schedule - pick days for dressage work/obstacle work/fitness work/etc
5) Continue to do self-education - and keep looking for a local trainer!


Pangea September Goals:
1) Possible casting/changing joint supplements to help her out - she has a hard time when it rains and gets muddy
2) Go on some more walks hacks if sound - just play it by ear


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BOOM! It's fitness time for the blubber butt! We did a quick jaunt up the road with S as our passenger the other day. This was only her second time with a passenger, and she was great for it. S discovered that there is no way to sit idle in a 2-wheel vehicle - she had to sit slightly forward, or else the cart bounced. O was feeling very fresh, and zoomed along at a good clip for the entire trip. We logged around 6-7 miles at a brisk trot, although I'm not totally sure how far we went, as my GPS pooped out on me partway through.It was very hot and she was very sweaty when we arrived home, but she was not even winded, so we have not lost any of our former fitness... just packed on some pounds while we were focusing on simple training instead of fitness work. Considering just how many miles we were logging prior to her starting her training, it's not surprising to see her gain a little weight, despite halving her grainfood rations a month ago. Now we just have to peel the weight off!



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Rollin'


Thank you everyone for your kind condolences about Ti. Losing her was very hard, and I've pretty much been a blubbering mess all week long. I wish it had all gone down differently, but there is nothing to be done about it now. Mostly I wish that we had been able to give her a better final day... we weren't even home for most of it, and when we did get home we immediately whisked her off to the vet because of her blazing fever. It was the clear thing to do given the grave circumstances, there was nothing else to be done... I just wish it could have been better, a day full of cookies and love. There isn't any use beating myself up over it now, but I am stuck on it a little.

Anyway, back to more cheerful things.

O is truly driving like a champ. Last week I posted a video of her trotting down the road, her first off-property drive. She got her motor on, and trucked on down the road at a trot like a little machine. Braying donkeys, running dogs, cars.... none of it bothered her. She just put her head down and went to work!
We also tried to go in the little field across the street where all of our jumps are, and this is where we had problems. The field is a lot bumpier than I thought, and we weren't able to do anything faster than a walk. As we were passing by one of the jumps (that she hadn't seen before), she gave it a hairy eye and suddenly spun on her heel, whipping around in a 180, spinning the cart with her. I was thrown forward out of my seat onto my knees (I did have a helmet on thankfully), but she stopped immediately with a whoa. I climbed back into my seat, and we continued on without any further spooks, but it got me thinking. She has literally never once spooked before like that - I had no idea she had it in her! I've felt her hesitate under saddle before, but she hasn't ever done THAT before. The only thing I can think of is that when I am on her, I am diffusing these kinds of spooks subconsciously, before they even happen. Even just being able to put my leg on her would have kept her from spinning like that, I'm sure of it. I think she probably just didn't have a blocking aid (like leg/seat), and it allowed her to escape out the side door, so to speak. In the future, I will have to keep a closer eye on these kinds of situations, now that I know she actually is capable of doing them.

Aside from that one thing, she was awesome going down the road!



She had several days in a row off while we were on vacation and then grieving for my pup, but we got back to work on Tuesday. We stayed in our upper field, and worked on taking a nice contact and bending properly. Driving is kind of like doing dressage via an out-of-body experience: you're technically doing a lot of the same kinds of things - taking a contact, half halting, bending properly, balancing laterally, lengthening and compressing, and using whip aids like you would leg aids to isolate certain parts of the body - you're just behind the horse instead of on top of them. As such, I suppose it is no real surprise that O has the exact same kinds of resistances while driving as she does while under saddle (which of course sounds like a duh thing, but I didn't really think about it!). Under saddle, she is quite easy to bend to the right, but tends to be very stiff to the left and prefers to dirtbike around turns with her head to the outside and her shoulder popped to the inside. No surprise that she does the exact same thing while driving! I realized I really need to get her used to the blinders so that I am able to use the whip at her shoulders - blinders needed to become a priority, instead of work in the open bridle.

Yesterday we spent probably 45 working pretty unsuccessfully on the ground with the blinders and the whip at her shoulders. I needed to a) make sure she isn't going to kill me/bolt when the whip is used on her while wearing blinders, and b) start to teach her to move her shoulders with the whip aids. Unfortunately, O is still the stubborn beast that she always has been, and when she decides she isn't into whatever we're doing, she sulls up against it and says NO F YOU LADY. NOT MOVING OVER. We'd get a few steps of over, we'd walk on, and then the next time I asked she would lock up and gnash her teeth and absolutely refuse to move at all. This is nothing new... this is basically every session I've ever had with her where there was a whip involved, which is why I use it so infrequently. Kind of like with flatwork, she had some sort of funky mental block about it, and she completely shuts down. I can touch her all over with the whip, it doesn't scare her per se... she just absolutely hates it being used on her in any way, and blocks it all out - you might as well be tapping a brick wall with your whip. Eventually I got after her about it, and she spent some time lunging with the long lines around me in little circles, really exaggerating her bend to the left and spiraling in and out on the circle. She was thoroughly ticked at this point, but the trotting chilled her out, and when we went back to walk work I had a very light and responsive horse. I decided to hook her up and go for a drive, and ditched the whip completely.

After all of the suppling, exaggerated bend, and spiraling in and out on the circle, I had an exceptionally light horse, one that went smoothly forward, had balance going in both directions, and could bend properly without any dirtbiking. I'll definitely be consulting with the trainer about whip aids, because I feel at a total loss as to what to actually do about this problem, but for now I think it's probably a completely reasonable (and much more productive) thing to supple and warm her up on the ground first, and then go for a drive afterwards, when I have a better balanced critter on my hands. That will probably get me a LOT further at this moment, until I can figure out how to stop floundering around uselessly with the whip.







Considering that this is only her 9th drive and her first time driving with blinders, and that I don't actually know what the heck I'm doing, I think she is looking great. I made a few adjustments to the harness, namely letting the traces out one more hole, and I think that helped the cart be in better balance with her. One thing I didn't really expect when starting out is that there is no being an idle passenger when you're driving - you have to ride along in balance with your cart. If you're sitting too far forward or back, you put the cart out of balance, which I realized pretty quickly. I'm sure it is very different in a four-wheeled vehicle, but in a two-wheeled one, you better sit up straight. I had no idea until I found out firsthand myself!





I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that I have some of the classiest barn outfits on the planet. And we're definitely both on a diet... either one of us could pass for a prize market heifer right now.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goodbye Ti


Our return from our quickie getaway vacation was marked by the death of my old greyhound. There are fewer things that are sadder than returning home from a very nice getaway only to find that your old friend is dying. Ti was my first canine companion ever, adopted fresh off the Florida track as a three year-old, and has been a mainstay in my life ever since college. She has lived with me in four states and a dozen different homes, moved across the country more than once, gone on endless adventures with me, and has always, always been there. Kidney disease and cancer were her downfall in the end. We got home from vacation to find a note from the pet sitter saying that she hadn't eaten at all in two days, and she wasn't drinking either. She had a 105 degree fever and couldn't get up. We already knew about the kidney failure, and I had already made the decision to not put her through a lengthy treatment of any sort when we already knew that her kidneys were at least 85% shot already. Despite all we did, the infection returned a month and a half out from her diagnosis and last intensive treatment. When the vet looked her over, she also had a heart murmur, which likely meant the infection was going to seed in her heart as well. I don't believe in making feeble elderly dogs suffer through lengthy and pointless treatments when they already have a terminal illness. She died peacefully in our arms, like a lady - the great lady that she was.









It is hard to lose a friend that has been in your life for so many years. Ti has always been there... always. To have her suddenly just gone has been very difficult. Her beds, her bowl, her collar, her blankets... everything is still here, as it always has been, but she is gone. It just feels so empty without her constant presence. Just.... empty, and hollow, and sad. 

I take great solace in the fact that I have hundreds and hundreds of pictures of her, and memories as well. She has always been here ever since college, and so every photo album I go through has pictures of her in it, always there. They also returned her to us in a beautiful rosewood box, so she is still here with us. I've never lost one of my own pets (outside of childhood family pets), and never have been there for the death of one aside from the horses. It was peaceful and easy, and terribly sad. The finality of death is something I will never get used to. 




The hardest part of it all has been the fact that there is no way to explain to a cat that their beloved lifelong companion is now gone and isn't coming back. When I first got Ti, she had major separation issues in the house - tearing things up, messes, crying, stressing. My solution to this was to bring home a tiny fleabag throwaway kitten as her companion... the rest is history. I named her Snidget, and they were best friends from day one.




Ti and Snidget have been inseparable for years. I accumulated all of my other pets only after I moved to Texas, but these two were with me for my time in Ohio, Michigan, Connecticut, and Texas. After we came home from the vet without Ti, Snidge wandering around the house for hours, occasionally crying and looking for her dog. "Your hound is gone," I told her. "She's not coming back." But there is no way to make her understand. She sits by Ti's bed, stares at it, and cries.

She did at least get a chance to sniff the box of ashes. She went completely nuts at first, smelling and smelling... then she rubbed it all over with her cheek, and passed out sleeping. I hope she understands.



Rest in peace my old Dizzle.... we love you and miss you so much already.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Video Test, Part II


Ok, it really should work this time!


video


I have many things to write about, but we are heading off for a short weekend vacation! We'll be back on Sunday, and I'll be able to catch up then. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

All The New Things



Well readers, that beautiful beefy cart that everyone loved so much was sold, and not to me. I was not fast enough to get my hands on it... bummer. 

BUT, I decided to jump on the package deal set that was for sale. It's hard to turn down a cart, a nice harness, two harness pads, two bits, AND a whip, all together. The shafts on this cart can be removed and replaced with curved ones if I so desire, and tires can be replaced with either big motorcycle tires (like the ones on the beefy cart), or with solid rubber. So I can beef up the cart as much as I like instead of buying a pre-beefed one!

I made the trip down south to pick up all the gear today. It was about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there, and I made the very wise decision to be a total dork and go to the library to pick up a book on tape. Our library is small and puny, and the only one there that remotely interested me was The Lost World (read it and loved it as a kid), so I snagged it. I had a super pleasant drive listening to ideas on chaos theory and Tyrannosaurs eating people. Not a bad way to spend a few hours. 

And it was hard to complain about the weather today... low 90's and beautiful cloud cover:




I arrived at the place, inspected the cart and harness, and found them both to be agreeable. The cart is at least 15 years old (maybe older) but in PERFECT shape - it wasn't used much, and was kept in a garage the rest of the time. It's excellent. The shafts are 80", which is still just a hair too long for her, but overall it's not a terrible fit at all. She would do better with a 78", I think, in the future. 

The harness is very beautiful. It's a little old, and a little worn out in spots, but it's a genuine Smuckers and the leather is still very good. It could use a layer of polish - with that it will look fantastic. There is patent leather on the blinders and saddle, which is just gorgeous. I love shiny, shiny leather. I'm just not into the dull look of synthetic tack. I want my leather soft and shining!




Pre-drive... I made some fitting adjustments before I actually drove off. I also did not actually drive her with the blinders. I've been driving her in an open bridle, and she goes quite well in that, but this is the first time she has had the blinders on while actually hooked. I led her around for a little while when she was wearing them, and she was actually a bit fearful. She is SUCH a visual horse that I think it genuinely concerns her when she can't see everything.This is a slight problem because she is also very whip-shy - seeing the movement of the whip behind her will probably scare her to death, and for that reason I haven't driven her with one yet. I don't think she'll object to the feel of the whip when used in gentle sweeps across her shoulder (I will probably never need it for more than just straightening or mobilizing her from side-to-side, definitely will NOT need it for more go), but I think that she will have a heartattack if she sees it moving around. She'll need to get used to the blinders more, because she definitely will need some whip aids to help with her straightness and bend. (By whip aids I mean gentle brushes with the lash, not anything more!)


The harness is beautiful and it FITS. It still needs some fiddling to get everything right where it needs to go, but it fits! Now we can REALLY get down to business!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Buying Things


It is time to start considering an upgrade to my training equipment! I just can not in good faith keep driving a horse with ill-fitting equipment. It's just asking for trouble!
Shopping for things is always super fun, but I am not exactly made of money, and I am not dumb enough to go crazy buying fancy equipment for a sport I'm only just starting to get involved in. It would be like someone who has just learned how to w-t-c in an English saddle going out and buying a full set of eventing equipment for all three phases... that person might well decide as they learn a little more that they want to do hunters instead, and then where would they be? I need something that we can use for training and learning, something that is versatile. 

I listed my way-too-big harness today on Ebay, just on a whim, while I was window shopping for cob size harnesses. (O is kind of right inbetween sizes... just a little big for cob size, just a little small for horse size.) Within the hour, it sold at the buy-it-now price. Which is great, but it also means that now I have no harness at all! Time to go shopping for something that fits!

I found THE most gorgeous high-wheel wooden road cart on Craigslist that I fell in love with. All of the measurements were perfect on it, AND it came with two sets of really nice harness. I was just itching to go get it, but I had to force myself to stop. Sure, a wooden cart is GORGEOUS, but where would I store it? How would I transport it? What if it got wet, muddy, dirty? If I was made of money, I'd go snag it, but it just doesn't make a ton of sense to have a cart like that right now.

I sat down and made a list of things I need in my equipment. Basically it boils down to wanting a leather large cob/small horse size harness (although I'd take a nice synthetic one too, just not nylon), and a 2-wheel vehicle that I can be tough on and can bounce around in our field as well as go down the road. That probably leaves me with a metal cart for now, which is fine. I need something that can stand a little abuse.

I have a few options locally, three of which I've narrowed it down to at the moment (because I can go to and try all of them out!). All three of these are Easy Entry style carts, which I don't love but I'm not terribly adverse to. One is just a simple Easy Entry cart by itself for a very low price, one is a heavy-duty beefed up Easy Entry cart that I really like, and one is an Easy Entry cart that is the same model at the first cart but also comes with a Smuckers harness (or is supposedly Smuckers), two bits, a whip, and harness pads. Smuckers harness is very, very nice. The beefed up cart and the package cart+harness are the same price, the cart alone is quite cheap. Obviously I'd also need a new harness with either of the carts since mine just sold.




The beefy Easy Entry cart is extremely appealing. It has curved shafts (and two sets of them, one cob and one horse), a custom footrest and dash, and big huge beefy tires. It looks like a cart that would hold up to some serious abuse. You can see how tough it looks compared to the other Easy Entry. The other Easy Entry comes with the whole package set though - the very nice harness, harness pads, a whip, and two sets of bits, a snaffle and a Liverpool. The package deal (cart+harness+whip+pads+bits) is the same price as the beefy cart is by itself, so buying the beefy cart and all of the additional things needed adds up to a fair amount of money. 

There is appeal to both of these. Having a very nice harness would really be great, since O has such sensitive skin and things that are lower grade material tend to rub her raw. I can always upgrade to a nicer cart later, right? But getting my hands on a beefmeister cart like that one is also super appealing - the curved shafts, the huge tires, the add-ins like the dash and the footrest... what's not to love about all of that! 


What would you lean towards, if you were me?


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beep Beep, Noobs Coming Through!


So, it's kind of hot in Texas right now.


Yes yes, I know I clearly needed to fuel up but who wants to get out of the AC when it is freaking 117 out!? 
We thankfully were in a little erm, hot pocket per se, and it cooled off shortly to a balmy 110. Currently today it is cooler with a high of 106, and "dangerous heat warnings," which basically means "for the love of god just don't go outside." 

With that said, the horses either get worked at the buttcrack of dawn, at the last rays of light, or just not at all. We don't have an arena or lights, so we just work with what we have. It's pretty nice out first thing in the morning, if something else isn't already scheduled and in the way. It's not half bad in the evening either - once the sun starts to go down, the humidity is low enough that the temp drops back down to 'relatively reasonable' status pretty quickly.


All the driving and bodywork we've been doing has only helped O. She has a little bounce to her trot that she never really has had before - a little loft per se. Once she gets going forward that is... she is also a LOT quieter than she ever has been before, which is definitely a trait I want to continue to cultivate.


I managed to get a Very Boring video of us driving today! I'm sorry that it is as boring as it is, but remember, Janky currently doesn't even have a seat yet, so I only have a metal pole to sit on. There is only so much bouncing around that my poor butt can handle! I'll get around to repairing it this week.




Beep beep, here come the noobs! Lesson on how Not To Do It: have your old mare follow you around for a little while during your warmup for some exercise. NOT the safest thing to do with a green driving horse, but the fastest speed Pmare ever chooses these days is meandering walk. Later in the video, you'll see her parked in the far right corner, just keeping an eye on things.

I have to admit, being lazy and poking along at the walk/trot is not something I ever expected this mare to do!
 



Janky blew a tire today as I was putting it away, so I will need to repair that (just needs a new tube I think) as well as get a seat made. Having pneumatic tires is kind of a problem as we have some bouncy terrain to work with, as well as have a zillion goatheads. I will probably need some heavier duty tires if I don't want to risk a real blowout while underway.



Poor O also managed to get herself into some fire ants. They leave these horrible little oozing welts all over, which are itchy and nasty and can make them feel kind of crappy if they get bitten by enough of them. She luckily did not feel bad, but she did manage to get some of them under her flymask and rubbed her head raw:



Poor little booboo-a-loosa.