Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snowing, cold.....

I made it to the barn on icy roads to give Nina her beet pulp and change her medium weight blanket for a heavy one.  There were starlings sitting on her butt when I got there.  They were not happy to be shooed away so I could switch blankets.  I took this pic as I was leaving, all you can see through the snow is the blanket walking around. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The cold is coming.

We have had a couple of really good days of schooling.  Working over poles, working on transitions.  Nina likes having something interesting to do.  I was riding today in a sweatshirt, no vest or jacket.  Very nice.
Tomorrow the cold arrives, high of 20 and snow and Friday it gets really cold, high of 13.  Below zero for several nights.  Then over a week in the 30s, but the sun is supposed to be out so we will play it by ear.
There is the indoor arena, which will at least be dry, but the kids are out of school and it is hard to do anything in the huge outdoor arena with them galloping around with little steering, the small indoor would be suicide.  Besides the indoor isn't heated so as soon as the snow is gone, outdoor will be better anyway.
Nina will get at least a few days off, bundled up for the cold.  Time to dig the big purple Wug out of storage.

Rambo Wug

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trot poles

photo from Horse & Rider (UK)
We are trotting poles. Like in this photo, slightly raised off the ground to encourage Nina to find her feet and use her butt. It will make her hindquarters stronger. She couldn't do this a few months ago, she kept kicking the poles. Now she is going through it well. Several times during our ride for the past few days and I can feel the improvement already.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It is, after all, winter

I will have to get some riding in early this week. 40s and 50s Monday through Wednesday, snow and 34 on Thursday and a rip roaring high of 13 degrees on Friday. I need to find the heavy blanket for Nina, she has been getting by with a medium one.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope you are all having a wonderful day. Nina and I want to say 'Thanks' to everyone who has visited our blog and especially to those of you who take the time to comment.

photo courtesy of Denny Emerson at Tamarack Hill Farm

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and Horses

Rockley Farm posted this for a Christmas greeting and it is so great I wanted to share it.  You can find their blog on my blogroll in the right hand column.

Happy Christmas! from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm excited

I really needed this.  It has been a long time coming.  Nina is finally to the point where I can get back to taking lessons, improving my own riding and bring her along with goals and help.  I love taking lessons, but it's like just setting your money on fire to try to take lessons on a horse that will not cooperate one little bit.  And there is no point in getting so far ahead of yourself when the realistic goals for the horse are walk without a fight, trot without a fight, stop without bolting.
Nina is finally consistent enough about the very basics, move off the leg, keep moving, stop arguing about every little thing, no spooking when the rider pats you etc etc.
I am looking forward to getting some sort of regular lessons with Amy, setting some goals and working toward them.  It keeps me motivated.  The new year is just around the corner.... it's going to be a good one.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A lesson with Amy

I finally got a lesson on this horse, my first lesson in over 3 years.  This is my previous jump instructor, Amy. I have talked to her about Nina but she had never seen her.   Her barn is in Longmont, over 40 miles away but she has agreed to come down a few times a month, as the weather permits, because I think Nina is ready to be pushed a bit and as you can see from the videos, I look like crap and need to get back to regular lessons.  The results of riding on my own all this time.
Amy took my spurs off, she said that I had always had a good leg and trying so hard not to touch Nina with the spur was making me stiff through my legs.  She suggested that if I need the spurs on any given day, go get them and use them, but they are ruining my leg.  We mostly just did some walk trot and talked a lot about this horse and how her progress has been going and where to go from here.  It's a start.  I like this instructor, I always enjoyed my lessons on Scotty with her and made progress and she knows me which will help in figuring out what the horse is causing and what the rider is causing.

EDITED 12/25
I was looking at the videos again, specifically looking at Nina's movement. Amy commented several times that she thought Nina looked kind of locked up in the rear, not anywhere specific, just not quite right. We talked about the fact that she was overdue for a chiropractic visit and I said I would try to get that done before our next lesson, which I will. But I was looking at the videos and she is certainly mincing along on her rear, not striding out like she has been. It occurred to me that she has been barefoot in the rear for almost a month. Her feet look in good shape, but I wonder if she is footsore. It can take a several weeks for their feet to get used to not having shoes. My farrier will be back out in two weeks, we will have to take a good look and make sure she is not sore anywhere before I decide to leave the shoes off.

video

video

Winter portraits

A friend wanted to take some pics of me and Nina, not a good time of year, but what the heck.  This was on Sunday and it was COLD.
I asked Nina to do three things....1. stand still ...2. don't kill anyone ...3. put your ears up.  She said I could have two out of three.  So here we are, me wearing approximately 10 layers of clothes and Nina wearing 2 inches of hair, standing straight up.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

two great rides and I violated the 40 degree rule...

I had a good ride yesterday and survived riding in the cold.  It was 36 degrees, but the sun was out in full force - that makes such a difference especially at this altitude - AND I put some foot heaters in my boots.  I am so miserable when my feet get cold.  Warm feet and I can handle the colder temps. 
I tried the snaffle on Nina, overall she was very good and I liked the way she was carrying herself better in it.  There were a couple of minutes where she grabbed it and started to take off, leaving me thinking 'oh...this is not a good idea'  but she was fine.  I think this bit will be a step up for her.  She did throw a bit of a temper tantrum before I got on, her ground manners seem to be optional when it is cold, have to work on that.

Today it was nice and warm which meant chaos in the arena so I put the gag back on her and had a great ride.  When I get frustrated because progress seems so slow I have to remember that this horse did not want to WALK a year ago and today she was doing halt to trot transitions with no head flinging, moving strongly off of her rear for a big first stride and happy to do it.   We also worked a little on whoa.  She has a nasty habit of grabbing the bit as she stops and rooting hard, trying to pull you loose.  I have been trying several different things to work on this, the main one being that I remember to use my body and not my hands to halt.  I got several nice balanced stops from a trot with no rooting and decided that was well done and called it a day.  I am very happy with her.  And my timing in getting off was good because about 10 minutes later a horse being led by a very small child (don't ask, I will sidetrack into a full blown screaming rant) got loose and went tearing around the arena, scattering the other horses like chickens.   Happy not to be in there too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

rethinking history


I am going to ramble a bit here (ok, a lot) and hope by putting things down in writing that I can sort them out for myself. Bear with me.... or just skip this one.

The little bit of history I have gathered about Nina is, to state in mildly, incomplete and I always assumed not totally accurate. When I picked her up I figured the chances of having a riding horse or putting her down were 50/50. I was just drawn to her and couldn't leave her in the conditions were I found her. But now I am looking back over the last two years and re-evaluating what is going on.

1. She was presented as just difficult. Bolted when ridden, reared when pushed, nasty on the ground etc etc. And I certainly experienced that myself, but I found that she came around pretty darn quickly and I just figured she had been owned by people who agreed to fight with her, which is always a loser.

2. She had a deep infected cut on one hock which I was told was from a kick. Odd that a kick that hard didn't break bone, but one thing I have learned with horses is never say never. When this healed she was very weak on this leg, which seemed like muscle or ligament weakness. This leg is now almost normal, not quite.

3. She had a huge swollen area along her spine on the neck and another smaller one near the poll, very hard, not painful. Both vet and chiropractor said they would not touch either without lots of x-rays but they appeared to be scar tissue from an old injury. Spending a thousand dollars on my $200 horse who might not be with us long seemed like a non-starter so I never got around to that. Massage, Rolfing and Reiki have reduced these two spots to one very small and kind of soft area.

4. Her rearing problem was solved in ONE session where when she threatened to rear, I threatened to pull her over backward. End of rearing. Come ON, really? One confrontation?

5. Her owner rode her in a big honking western bit with a bit port and long shanks and tied her head down with a training fork, which is a running martingale adjusted about 10 inches too short. When I put a metal snaffle in her mouth she was fine with it until I moved it around and then I got a BIG pain reaction. Vet found the same thing and said it might be nerve damage to the bars of her mouth which would be permanent. A rubber bit did not cause problems so we have worked in a rubber bit.... more on this in a minute.

6. Her first chiropractic treatment indicated that she was all out of whack, not unexpected since she moved like a board. She was especially touchy in her withers and poll. Perhaps like a horse that has gone over backward?

7. And along that theme, I have never seen a horse so body sore and stiff. Much worse even than racehorses just off the track who have been racing too hard. Stiff, painful to even turn around, head carried almost to the ground with a hunched look. Again, massage, rolfing and Reiki loosened things up over a few months.

8. No matter how nasty she can get over something when ridden, I have always felt that the underlying cause was fear.

So where is this going? I have been mulling this over a lot the last few days. It started with the bit. I have been riding her in a rubber gag, which a lot of ex racehorse like as the cues feel different and they are less likely to lean on the bit. I have also ridden her in a rubber pelham, which I am not fond of because I am thinking ahead and jumping with two sets of reins is a PITA, I know people do it all the time, but I hate it. What I found with both bits is that she would either grab the bit and pull, trying to pull me loose, or she would go behind the bit, which I think she was trained to do. Both of these bits can encourage this as they are poll pressure bits. They work best with bold, forward horses who do NOT have a tendency to curl up. I have ruled out a plain metal snaffle because of all the above but yesterday I decided to try it anyway. I dug through my bits and found an eggbutt three piece snaffle with a big fat bean in the middle. This is a mild bit without a lot of movement. I stuck it on her and lunged her in it with sidereins adjusted to all sorts of different lengths. It not only did not bother her, but when I adjusted the reins long she stretched forward to find the contact herself. She did pull down a little but not too much.
3 piece eggbutt snaffle
So....how has nerve damage in her mouth healed? How has scar tissue disappeared? How has a stiff, restricted horse become supple and athletic without the amount of riding that this normally takes? How did she give up chronic rearing so quickly?

While I still don't know how long she has been a problem to handle and ride, I have come to the conclusion, ok a guess, that she was in a serious train wreck shortly before I bought her.  Perhaps she was pulled over or threw herself over backwards.  I have seen horses ridden with their heads tied down to their chest do this when they have either just had enough or they panic.   Maybe on very hard ground or maybe she landed in a fence or equipment or something that she got tangled in.   Or maybe she bolted and ended up in a wreck. What I have assumed were chronic problems that I would have to deal with forever were actually traumatic injuries, never addressed and they are healing, getting close to being completely healed.

This helps a little with changing my attitude and giving me more hope that I will have a horse to compete with in the spring and that I am not wasting my time, which is a thought that creeps in often.

This assumes that we don't have such a cold winter that my 40 degree rule doesn't ground us both for months.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

40 degree rule


I like my new 40 degree rule.  It was 38F when I got to the barn, little breezy.  Not too bad but the little breeze was creating some wind chill because the little dusting of snow at the barn, in full sunlight was not melting. 
Nina got turned out and practiced bucking for quite a while.  Got some good ones in.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

temps dropping...fast...

I was teaching a lesson today and the temperature just dropped like a rock.  It was 52 when I left work, 50 when I got to the barn and 37 when I got back in my car about two hours later and 34 when I got home half an hour later.  Whew, really feels cold when it does that. 
It was also spitting rain by the time I was finished with the lesson so Nina got fed, blanketed and patted on the head.  fini
She has been very good this week, hopefully I will get to ride tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

indoors

Kate asked about an indoor arena and THAT is a whole other issue.
Last winter we were at a different barn and Nina was ridden in a heated indoor arena nearly every day.  There were lots of distractions, doors, windows to the aisle and she might spook a little when someone appeared in a doorway, but overall she was fine. It was a solid old pole barn and you really couldn't tell what the weather was doing when it was closed up tight.  Here she is indoors last winter.
The indoor arena at my current barn is a different story.  For one thing it isn't heated so it is at least as cold indoors as out.  It is an old metal building so it is a bit of a refrigerator.  When the wind blows the roof rattles and the doors slam and the wind howls, much worse than outside.  A lot of people going in and out do not bother to close the door behind them so the doors swings and slam. All the noise and echos and the building itself rattling drive Nina crazy and it is just one spook after another.  About the time she starts to settle down somebody slams a door hard enough to deafen you and off she goes again.  She needs to get over it and I will do some riding indoors with that in mind, but all in all I don't consider this a good place to work, regardless of the weather.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

wind wind wind

I managed a ride in the wind today, although I have to confess that it was not the biting freezing cold wind we have been getting. It was fairly mild, I was in several layers of clothes but I was comfortable.  That icy wind we have been getting isn't stopped by any amount of clothes. 
So Nina was pretty good even when a horse blanket blew off the fence in front of her and a tumble weed blew right between her feet.  She discovered quickly that part of the arena was out of the direct blast, sheltered by a shed row building, and the rest was not.  She wanted to stay in the sheltered area and our circles got kind of flat when we stuck out noses out into the full force of the wind.  Not stellar, but not bad.  I used a new conditioner on my saddle last night that made it slippery so it's a good thing that Nina wasn't throwing a fit.  I need to clean that off tomorrow.
I feel like I'm in the winter groove now - I hope.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

playtime

That icy wind was blowing again today and the no-steering riders are out on Saturdays so Nina got turned out.  But today she had a playmate, Tino.  Tino is a 5 year old TB that belongs to a friend and he lives at the barn when he is not in Fort Collins, where his owner is going to school.  We turned them out last year and they were ok so we turned them out today.  Nina had fun, not so sure about Tino.  She was chasing him around and herding him.  He was a little intimidated, he is still kind of a baby.  Hopefully she will be a little nicer to him next time, they both need a turnout buddy.
Here they were last summer, grazing in two little paddocks on the hill.
I love how they mimic each other's body position.... it's that herd thing. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Get my head back in the game

I have been spending way too much time whining about the fact that I am cold (I am) and the wind is blowing (it is) and I already want winter to be over (I do and it isn't here yet). 
I need to pay attention to what this horse needs to keep moving forward with her training.  She goes really nicely for a few days and I forget how neurotic she can be and start pushing her to the next step and the next and the next and she can't handle it.  So I give her a few days off.  When she has had a few days off I am a little nervous and tense when I get on her because she is a little explosive and she is nervous and tense because of her history.  I realized yesterday that I was riding with my shoulders hunched and kind of shoving and pushing at her when she was spooky.  So she got stiff as a board and resistant. What I need to do is ride every day or as close as possible, but not train every day.  Or at least not train anything new or push her along. 
Today I made sure of my own position, was extra aware of my hands and legs and worked her for about an hour... all at the walk.  I gradually asked her to bend more and turn better and walk out more and she did.  She gradually relaxed and ended happy and with no resistance.
I know that it is tiny little steps that keep her moving forward and I forget because when she is going nicely she is as nice and responsive as any horse I have ever ridden.  She just can't maintain it yet because she starts to worry.  I can't just zone out and take a mental day off and expect her to carry on.  She has come a long way, I don't want her to get stuck now.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

back to work

Here is Nina is her partial trace clip.  Last year I had to tranq her to clip her and as soon as the drugs wore off she tried to kill everyone nearby.  This year she stood quietly in her pen while I clipped her.  She was being so good that I decided not to push my luck and when I was this far done with a trace I just evened up the edge by her flank and quit.  Then over the next few days this seemed to work fine, she wasn't very sweaty and dried fast.  I firmly believe in only taking off as much hair as you have too, unless you are in a barn where someone else is doing blankets twice a day.  The more you take off, the more you fuss with blankets.
But when I clipped her, Nina wasn't through growing hair, now she is getting too hot again so I am going to finsh the trace clip in the next day or two.  She will look like a patchwork quilt with differnt length hair - but it's not like we are going on the winter circuit.
Finally got a good ride in today and she was pretty good considering how much time off she has had the last two weeks.  I think I'll leave it there.

Monday, December 6, 2010

completely sound - unbelievable

So, I just got Nina out to roll and lunge a little in the round pen and unbelievably she appears to be completely sound.  I would have thought that would bruise enough to make her at least a little off.  I did cold hose it within minutes and wrapped it as tight as I dared to, so maybe that helped.  I got to the barn too late to ride today and assumed she would be lame anyway.  Tomorrow - back to work.

I think this is such a classy job on the bandage.  *insert rolleyes here*  
Skin colored vet wrap, which looks gross, a bell boot adjusted to be loose and 
....drum roll.... duct tape.  

 She is apparently unconcerned about her fashion image.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One out of four?

Nina now has ONE leg without issues.  Poor thing, or maybe I should say poor me since I'm the one that obsesses over it.  She is very weak on her right rear, getting stronger but not quite right.  Not lame, just weak.  Her right front is where she had the abcess that blew out and left a humongous hole.  It just needs to grow out, but until it does it makes a weak area in the hoof wall so I have to keep an eye on it and still keep it cleaned out.  Yesterday while being a twit on the lunge line she managed to over reach, step on the back of her left front foot and partially glove the pastern.  At first glance I thought she had done serious damage and sliced it but it turned out to just be missing skin.  Nothing left to stitch so I will keep it bandaged until it heals.  I am so thankful that she was wearing bell boots and that I pulled her hind shoes last week.  It could have been much much worse.
I believe that leaves the left rear with no problems.  At least she isn't lame, not even on the latest injury which I would have thought would be bruised enough to make her at least a little off.  Nope, trots out fine.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Beautiful day today

Today was gorgeous and NO wind.  However we are supposed to get 80mph gusts tonight so I hope everything is nailed down good.  I had a lesson to teach this afternoon so I couldn't take advantage of the nice weather to ride.  I turned Nina out and she trotted around for a while and then got a good grooming.  Here she is all snug in her shed, eating dinner and ready for the night.


She do like her window.  Unfortunately, right after I took this shot I closed and latched the window because of the winds tonight.  I'm sure she is miffed.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

We may end up taking the winter off

Seriously, I cannot handle the wind.  November is usually my favorite month, cool days with sunshine, cold nights, not a lot of winter weather.  The wind has been blowing and the clouds have been hanging around ALL month.  Colorado boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year, this November may have flushed that record.
Today I get to the barn and it is 50 degrees.  Wonderful!
Except that the clouds keep rolling in and the wind is blowing with gusts that rock you and it feels like the wind is blowing straight off of a glacier.  Step out of the wind and a sweatshirt is too warm, step back into the wind and a winter jacket complete with scarf and gloves leaves me shivering. 
Nina was tired after her antics yesterday, I fed her and left after dithering around for half an hour, watching the dirt kick up in big clouds in the arena. 
I used to give horses the winter off and not even try to ride, if Nina was further along in her training it would be really tempting.  But she's not, so I will ride as often as I can and not be miserable.  I'm too old to make myself miserable doing something that I do for fun.
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