Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow Angels

Coriander LOVES to roll.  Gwen thinks he's kind of crazy...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Acres and acres of snow

The snow came, the snow decided to stay, and now I want to chase the snow off with a frying pan.

We've got a little over 2.5 feet out there, though that's not all from this storm, and it's still snowing. Due to the wind we've got some pretty deep snow drifts too. Anyway, yesterday morning it rained before it snowed so the roads were awful, and I didn't make it to the barn. Yesterday was the third day I haven't seen the quarters since I got them in August. I hate not seeing my horses. I know they're fine, they're in the barn and the owner is there to give them hay 3x a day and grain 2x a day, but I need to actually see them to know they're okay (what can I say, I'm a worrier).

Fortunately my workplace opened late this morning, so after I dug my car out of the snow I stopped by the barn. I had to park on the road and trudge my way up the really long driveway, but it was worth it.

Any day I get to see my horses is a good day!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

This doesn't look good...

Hurricane-Like Storm Aims for Pennsylvania to Maine Thursday, Friday 2/23/2010

A powerful storm of historical proportions is aiming at much of the Northeast Thursday into Friday and will follow up to a foot and a half of snow through Wednesday over upstate New York and western New England.

This second storm will be nothing short of a monster. Even in light of the blizzards earlier this winter that targeted the southern mid-Atlantic, this may be the one that people remember the most this winter in parts of New England and the northern mid-Atlantic.

At its peak, the storm will deliver near hurricane-force wind gusts (74 mph) blinding snow falling at the rate of over an inch per hour. For some people in upstate New York and eastern and northern Pennsylvania, this may seem more like a "snow hurricane" rather than a blizzard.

Cities likely to be impacted by heavy snow for all or at least part of the storm include: New York City, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Binghamton, Scranton, Allentown, Reading, Williamsport and Burlington.

Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll just go around us like all the other storms...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Grown-up clothes

Thankee-sai weather gods, thanks to you I got to ride again today. Here's Coriander in his big boy bridle:

Isn't he handsome in it? He went very well today. He was attentive, relaxed and listening to my leg. He did have quite a problem bending though, it felt like I was riding a 2X4. I predict that there will be many circles in our future.

Take a gander at this:

Yep, that's Gwen wearing a surcingle. She's making huge strides with her emotional control. You can see in the top picture that she's actually walking while wearing it (a first for her). The next picture represents a monumental improvement for her emotionally:

She's actually mid-spook during this picture. Why is this an improvement? Because that jump was it. Where before a spook always preceded a bolt, this time she CALMED HERSELF DOWN. She found something else to spook at a few minutes later and CALMED HERSELF AGAIN. That is huge for her and makes me feel a heck of a lot better about riding her. She was still going around with her head craned up in the air though, so I finished up the day by teaching her to put her head down and relax with the surcingle on (thanks to Mary for the tip).

What a great weekend!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Landmark ride

Coriander went for his first ride with the bit today!

I wanted to keep it as low key as possible, so it was a short ride. We only walked and I essentially rode with zero contact. I wanted him just to get used to the feeling of walking around with me on his back and a piece of metal in his mouth. Someone might be thinking, "geez, easing him into it much?" To which I say, "heck yeah!" First of all, the poor boy hasn't even been ridden in about a month (stupid, crappy weather), and second I don't want to get hurt. Keeping him comfy keeps me safe.

I'm pretty darn pleased with him. He wasn't constantly mouthing the bit, he didn't poke his nose up in the air, and he was cool as a cucumber. He did pretend to forget what leg aids were but I'm going to forgive him for that.

Gwen got some work in today too. She got some practice targeting and dropping her head on cue out in the ring. I think it's really good for her. I let her work at liberty and there are a ton of distractions around. She was initially very anxious and ran the fence line. But once I got her attention with the target she calmed right down. When we were done, she walked very calmly next to me back to the barn.

All in all, it was a pretty good day!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010


It's a beautiful spring day. The grass is lush and green, the trees are full of new, bright leaves, and the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds drifting over the horizon. The temperature is a perfect 72 degrees with a light breeze that pulls along the scent of blooming trees. Just enough to make your skin tingle but not enough to make you feel chilled.

I'm taking Gwen out for a hack and we're having a lovely time. She's calm and relaxed, yet very responsive. We turn into a field full of grass gently swaying in the breeze. Clumps of baby's breath and sweet peas peek out between the waving stalks. Gwen's head comes up and her ears perk forward, she starts to prance a bit, she wants to stretch out and enjoy this flat swath of ground.

I give her permission with a touch of my leg and she immediately steps into a light, rocking horse canter. She keeps her contact with the bit soft, maintains the gait on her own, and we float across the field in perfect harmony.

But the field is coming to an end, and the entrance to the woods is approaching. I sit up and still my back, Gwen obligingly comes down into a trot and then a walk. We ease into the dappled sunlight of the forest, both feeling happy and more alive after our canter across the field.

Someday, someday...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Front wheel steering

No more excuses, we're working on steering even if I can only do it in the barn aisle.

Last night Coriander got reintroduced to the bit. I did very basic ground exercises with him. I put light tension on the outside rein and then asked him to give to the inside rein. Sort of a light introduction to contact. I'm glad that I'm doing this with him from the ground first. He didn't have a fit about it or anything, he just isn't very comfortable with it. He still mouths the bit like crazy and stiffens up against it. He actually poked his nose up in the air to try to get around it last night. He never pokes his nose up, so that was different. He did bring his head back down, but I'll definitely wait to climb on his back until that reaction is gone.

Then it was Gwen's turn. She's working with the sidepull and responding really well to it. This is the third time I've worked with her on this, so I started out standing at her shoulder and asked for nose tipping from one side to the other. As an aside- I don't make my horses bend their necks all the way around until their nose touches their shoulder like I've seen some trainers do. I don't see the point of that. I can't think of any situation in which it would be necessary to ride with my horse's head cranked around to the side like that. Is it a flexibility thing?

Anyway, all I was looking for was a nose tip and release in tension from the rein I was pulling. She did so well at that we started on the next step, moving her feet. Standing at her left shoulder, I put tension on the left rein and pushed on her belly at the girth area: asking her to turn with the rein and move away from the pressure. She's a rockstar, she did really well at this from both sides.

Unfortunately the night didn't end on a good note. It was worming day and they were both not very good about it. I think I'm going to have to try the sugar water trick I read about. Fill the worming tube with sugar water and give it to them randomly so they learn that not every syringe being poked into their mouth is full of nasty stuff.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The weather gods were reinforcing my whining

At least that's what I thought. Comes out nobody likes a whiner.

It was 30+ degrees all day while I was at work. I was so excited, finally I could do some training! I rushed home, grabbed Coriander's bridle and bit, ran to the barn... and it was 24F there. So no bit work today. I know for a lot of people this isn't that cold, but since he's just getting used to the bit I want to try to make it as comfortable as possible, and that's too cold for comfort. So fine, weather gods, I've learned my lesson. No more whining about the weather.

Though I figured out it's not the temperature that's actually getting to me, it's that I can't do any training that's really bothering me. Everything is too frozen and icy, I don't want to risk the horses falling and hurting themselves on it (something Gwen would definitely do). So I'm waiting. I hate waiting. Waiting's NOT my favorite.

It wasn't a total bust though. I got Gwen to stand calmly in the stall today with the lunging surcingle buckled around her belly. That's progress.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Is this Narnia?

This was Coriander yesterday morning, trying to use cuteness to get me to put him back in the barn instead of making him stay outside all day. He's over the snow, he tells me.

I'm personally starting to feel like we're stuck in Narnia and the white witch has cursed us with eternal winter. It's almost halfway through February and the temperature hasn't gone above 29F yet. It's not supposed to get warmer anytime soon either.

At least the quarters have new waterproof turnouts to enjoy. I even managed to get Gwen a plaid one. I rather like that color combination on her.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A rotten, pulsating, cesspool of disease?


Check out this picture of Gwen's leg from a few weeks ago:

See that black line that's running down the middle of the wound there? I think that might have been the culprit in Gwen's last infection.

Check out how the wound looks now after taking Wolfie's advice and putting polysporin on it:
See where it's raw looking in the middle there? That's right where the black line was. I put polysporin on it the night I saw it was infected. The next day when I went to put more on that black bit sloughed off, under it her leg was raw and bloody. Obviously that black bit was an ominous sign that I wasn't paying close enough attention to. Hindsight is 20/20 they always say.

Anyway, I'm paying attention to it now, so hopefully her leg can get busy healing again!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The adrenaline response

Through the magic of Giddyupflix, I recently watched Deb Bennett's conformation video and was reminded of something I only learned last summer. Did you know that there is a trigger point at the base of a horse's neck that delivers a surge of hormones depending on the horse's head position? When the head is down in grazing position the trigger point isn't pushed and the horse gets a surge of calming, feel good endorphins. If the head pops up, as in the appearance of a predator, the trigger point prompts a rush of adrenaline through the body to prepare it for the fight or flight response.

Now take a look at this neck, what does it tell you about the temperment of my mare? From the muscling on the underside of it you can tell that she spends an awful lot of time with her head cranked way up in the air. You can tell she's getting pumped with A LOT of adrenaline A LOT of the time which must contribute 100% to why she's been so difficult.

She's got massive knots on the underside of her neck from holding her head so high. I've been working on massaging them to loosen them up and see if I can get her neck a little more supple but it's going to take more than massage to get her to keep her head down. While I was traipsing around on the internet I found this article, "Head Down - Calm Down," clicker training to teach your horse how to lower its head and relax. Perfect- that's exactly what Gwen needs.

I started with her tonight. I brought her out into the aisle, stood next to her and pressed down on her poll. As soon as she lowered her head, I clicked and gave her a treat. That girl is so quick, she learned to lower her head to a very light touch in less than 10 minutes. Of course we're going to keep this up. I can see a lot of good coming out of teaching her this!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The danger is past

Great news, The swelling in Gwen's leg was down significantly last night and almost completely gone tonight. Apparently it pays to have a huge bottle of antibiotics just sitting around the barn.

I bought Coriander some underwear because his blanket has been wearing the hair off his shoulders (Bleh for cotton lining and no shoulder gussets. Yep, I'm living and learning here). I sincerely hope that next winter the quarters will have a lovely big pasture with a run-in to live in and I won't have to do blanket ballet again with them. Of course that will also depend on what kind of winter coat they grow. This winter they just didn't grow enough hair for the frigid cold we've had and are still having.

I'm tired of winter, I can has spring now?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dear Gwenevere

Baby girl, you know I love you but you are killing me. When I walked into the barn this morning and found your leg swollen up like a balloon and warm to the touch, I almost screamed with frustration.

Really my dear, do you have the WORST immune system possible? How is it that after SEVEN MONTHS your leg still has not healed to the point where it won't open up the tiniest fraction and allow an infection in? Speaking of that, why is it that you get an infection every time you have the most minor laceration? It really is mind boggling.

Maybe you just really like the taste of SMZs? Well you're in luck, because you're going to be getting your fill of them for the next seven days.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Quarter horse meet draft horse

This is what I found when I got to the barn to bring in the quarters tonight, quarter horses and draft horses communing (Okay, yes, only the horses without blankets are drafts, but those were the horses the quarters were talking to). They sure are a super friendly pair of horses.

Coriander has thoroughly caught onto me. He has figured out that Gwen always goes in first and he's not happy about it. Normally, if I act fast, I can get Gwen out the gate and keep him in. Not tonight. He squirted around me and got out of the pasture before I could catch him. He then proceeded to proudly parade himself up to the barn while I scrambled after him with his halter and Gwen. He really was quite pleased with himself. I've said it before and I will definitely say it again, he's a crafty thing.

After we got in the barn and I got him corralled back into his stall I took Gwen back out to the arena to work on targeting at liberty. She wasn't great today, it took her a while to chill out and come to me. She's all riled up about being in a stall next to her brother again and has backslid a bit. But that's okay, maybe this can work to my advantage. I want to try targeting with her in her stall while her brother is cross-tied at the other end of the barn. If I can get her to target while he's taken away from her instead of her being taken away from him maybe we could make some real progress. That might be the key. Then again, it might not but I won't know until I try.

I pulled my crafty boy out tonight and worked on setting up for halter. I need to remember to keep doing this. It takes us a few minutes to get square and if I want to show him we need to get it a heck of a lot quicker than that. It's going to take repetition, repetition, and more repetition. But he's got a good start on ground tying. I square him up, tell him to "whoa" and step back. I can actually get a couple steps in before he moves. My goal is to square him up and get him to stand still for long enough for me to get a conformation picture of him while ground tied. I think that would be pretty cool.

I tried a bit of the exercise yesterday that Mary commented about and I'll work on it again for sure. I can see how it'll work to keep her from mugging me and teach ground tying at the same time. Good stuff.