Friday, September 30, 2016

End of September Analysis; October Goals!

I have one main major goal for myself this month:

And I think this will be more achievable if I can figure out a better way to structure my posts. I only blogged 7 times in the past month. 7. That's an all time monthly low for 2016. 

I WANT to write more, but sometimes I find that I can't figure out how to structure posts - either they have little or no interesting information (i.e. I groomed the baby horse, again, measured her and she's the same size as last time, again), or having so much information to put into a post that I just can't figure out how to grapple with the thing, and then it never gets done at all. My memory is very poor, and part of the reason I want to blog with more regularity and detail is because I will forget. And this goes for things that happened a few days ago - I will forget. I always write down what I did in my daily calendar, just tiny notes like "WD, schooled 4-1, good changes" and the like, but it needs to be elaborated upon. 

If you have any suggestions on how to order this to make it a) reader friendly and b) writer friendly, please do share! I'll be thinking on it hard myself. 

Speaking of not blogging enough, I didn't do any September goals. See why this is a problem? Then I can't go back and recap and organize. Must be fixed!


O-Ren October:
1) Go on ponying hacks with Dylan 1x a week
2) Continue to be a big fat relaxing preggo momma horse!

Dylan October:
1) Attend Tarrin Warren working equitation clinic
2) Continue putting together 4th level and Intermediate (WE) level dressage tests
3) Compete in our first schooling WE show!
4) Work on fitness through walking - add extra 1/2hr-45mins of walking to every ride
5) Flesh out 2017 show calendar! This is largely already done but I'll have a blogpost on it!

Pangea October:
1) Continue using her as a pony horse for the babies
2) Go on some off property trail rides! It's finally autumn!

Pax October:
1) Be ponied off P regularly
2) Go for some off property trail rides with P!
3) Continue wearing a bit (and doing general handling/baby school stuff)

Lendri October:
1) Continue to do LOTS of long lining around the property and off the property a bit!
2) Order her a Comfy Fit harness (and fit for Zu too)
3) Hitch her again - I'd like to have her driving somewhat reliably by the end of October but we will see how it goes! 

Zu October:
1) Continue working on lunging without pulling - when he pulls he stops and turns himself around!
2) Go on more ponies with P
3) When we're not pulling - start long lining in the roundpen again
4) Wear a bit comfortably

Uma October:
1) Continue general handling 1x week (baby school)

Sriracha October:
1) Continue to learn about lunging (walk, trot, whoa) in the roundpen
2) Wearing a bit comfortably


Other Horsey Projects:
1) Finish up redoing carport/carriage barn
2) Paint and fix pony breaking cart
3) Plan out new shed for the front field


In addition to working all of them, I of course have all my clients and my daily chores to do. There are also other things happening this month, like:
My parents coming to visit
Clinic and show prep for Dylan
New tile being installed in the house, and a new window
HARAS CUP (going to spectate)
Spectating at Mini Worlds (which, I actually already did but it still counts as "this month")
Spectating at a miniature donkey/mule show (for reconnaissance purposes, also for sheer cuteness factor. I intend to show my mules at mule shows so I need to go figure them out!)
The State Fair is here omg corn dogs ohhhh goddd fried oreos ten million super fattening things to eattttt
And of course, the second best holiday of the year: HALLOWEEN!

October is decidedly my favorite month of the year, and it always has been. (March is a close second.) Autumn has always been my most beloved season, but in Texas it somehow takes on a different feeling - more like spring than anything else. Suddenly the weather is so nice and fresh and beautiful, and you can actually GO OUTSIDE again without feeling you want to just die. Summer in Texas is like winter everywhere else. There may be a TON of stuff going on but it's all the better because the weather is actually NICE finally!! 

Completely unrelated picture - a mini mule in heat and a confused zoodle who knows he is supposed to mount but not really sure why or what he is supposed to do up there

Monday, September 26, 2016

Baby Zoodle

Since Zu came from his breeder, I have access to literally his entire life's history without any gaps, something which is really not common for me. I have pictures of his dad, his mom, his baby pictures, all his early training videos, and even videos of him making the weird and hilarious noises that zorses make. (Still haven't heard him make any noises whatsoever here.... he's been silent ever since he stepped on my property!)

Zu's dad is a Grants zebra named Rarity. He's named that for a reason - he's actually a really nice guy who can be handled and even collected in hand. There are three different species of zebra: Plains zebra, Grevvy's zebra, and mountain zebra. Plains and mountain zebras have a number of subspecies and tend to be more horse-like; the Grevvy's is more ass-like and has different behaviors. Plains zebras are the most common, and the Grants zebra is a subspecies. (All photos belong to the breeder.)

Zu's mother is a buckskin pony mare named Jazzy.

And of course, baby Zu himself!

Sport zony in the making!!

One of the realy fun things to me about having these little ponies and minis is the fact that every day is kind of like playing tiny doll dress up with them. They all have their own little color and their own little thing. Zu's thing naturally is everything zebra patterned, if I can find it. His fallback is purple, or purple zebra, since Lendri's color is also purple and it's easy to switch their stuff back and forth between them - they are nearly the same size.

Why yes that IS a tiny pony sized zebra flybonnet. Those are also tiny pony sized Woof boots in zebra pattern. I also have found tiny white bell boots and even a zebra harness pad although I haven't bothered to order that yet.

Just wait until winter.... then we get tiny zebra blankets....!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Indian Summer

Holy CRAP it has been hot these past two weeks. At the beginning of September (and end of August as well) we got a fairly significant amount of rain, and we were told that there was now going to be a cooling trend and we could all rejoice.

Halleluiah! Pumpkin spice for everybody!

Except... not. It's been nearly a hundred degrees every day with 70%+ humidity. The heat in and of itself would not be such a big deal, but when you add in the humidity.... no.

Just no.

It's been too hot to bother working with the babies. I'm in no rush with them anyway, so if they have some time to hang out and relax, that's just fine. The only real priority is Dylan, come heat, rain, or whatever Texas throws at us. Yesterday was the first day I actually pulled Lendri out in two weeks, and played with Zoodle too, although I do try to mess with him a little bit every day.
As for Dylan though, he is not off the hook despite the heat. We don't go full steam ahead when it's a million degrees, but we work regularly.

Speaking of work regularly, I fully intend on making blogging at least 3x a week a high priority in the coming months. I haven't been terribly diligent about it and this irritates me. This is my story and I want to document it, if for nobody else but myself, and I forget things if I don't write them down. Like with this post, I feel too scatterbrained now to consolidate my rides very well, so mostly pictures and some jabbering notes will have to do. But this needs to change. I want to be better! I want to write with more clarity and detail.

Other homestead projects I've been working on.... regraveling the carport/carriage barn!

Dylan's secret admirer sent him a present last week... a beautiful new bridle!! He says thank you very much! <3 <3 <3

The silver is perfect! I have a black show pad with silver piping too!
 I also found a KK Ultra bit on English Tack Trader that I scored for $30. He loves it and once again I feel like I am excellent at finding bargains. I should do a blogpost on that...

Also wearing a mule tape halter... because why not. 

This past week, despite the heat, I trailered out to WD four times. That's about what I want to do per week, plus a hack at home. Especially now, I try to be mindful of his legs and footing, and feel that because I can't get out and bomb around in the field much, his fitness isn't where I want it. It's not critically important that he be super fit - not like an event horse or a driving horse needs to be certainly - but he does need to be strong enough and fit enough to make it through his shows. To bolster this I am going to add in long walk hacks before and after rides. Walking is boring but it's such good low impact fitness work. Back when he was walking the fence 24/7, he was SUPER fit. Now that he doesn't walk the fence at all.... all that walking muscle is gone!

I've also decided that I'm going to plan on showing in the snaffle bridle, especially when we first start showing and I am trying not to look like too huge of an idiot. I asked K what she showed him in and she said mostly it was the snaffle at 4th, but that I should bring the double along and gauge him the day before - if he needs a bit more, I can always switch to the double. As usual, with Dylan I find that if I am riding well, he goes perfectly well in the snaffle. I can tell now pretty clearly when I am not riding well, because I can feel myself starting to rely on my reins instead of my body. He requires a lot of body strength - probably not anywhere near as much as a giant bouncing warmblood, but he is incredibly strong.

I rode on Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I felt great especially on Wednesday and Thursday - I felt like a centaur. We were just *together*, you know? My rides were short and sweet - a few clean changes, a few half pirouettes in canter and walk, a few half passes and boom, done. I felt that he was working well and what was the reason to push when he was already doing so well? On Thursday I also moved 18 freaking TONS of gravel by hand in my driveway, and by Friday I felt like I could barely move. I rode anyway, but could feel that I was relying on my hands and letting my legs get swingy. I just didn't have the physical strength to keep it together after the enormous effort of moving all that gravel. Again, I kept it relatively short - about half an hour. While we did most of the same things - more changes with an emphasis on keeping them clean, a few not-spectacular pirouettes, and some decent half passes, I felt that I wasn't really giving him a great ride even though he was being a good boy for me.

I did get a few video stills from that ride though!

He's basically perfect. Even though I can't grow any more mane on him than that

I decided after Friday to take some really hot epsom salt baths and take a day off!

This coming weekend we have a first: a working equitation clinic with Tarrin Warren. This will be my first clinic with Dylan, and also my first WE clinic. We're in the "beginner" section, because that is where the organizer told us we should go. When I rode at the WE practice a few months back, the people putting it on told me I should go right into Intermediate, but now I'm being told I should actually be doing beginner things, so basically I have NO idea where I'm supposed to be. There is a schooling show on the 22nd, so I am going to ask Tarrin where exactly she thinks I should be - which level she thinks I should be in after she sees us go. That's about the best option I think!

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!