Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn Trail Ride

Yesterday there was a local cow sorting/working cow event going on. Unfortunetly, I was unable to make it and it put a bit of a damper on my mood. But I had agreed to go on a trail ride with my friend Heather and Milo's girlfriend Missy. We saddled up and headed out.

It was a good time. We talked about things and just let our horses relax at a walk. We headed down a road that I had thought that I recognized, and after a ways realized I didnt, so as we turned around to head back I looked to Heather and asked "You wanna lope up this?" she eagerly answered "Yeah!"

Usually Milo is a little coiled up when we lope on the trail. Always thinking about what is around the corner, if the scary stump is going to jump out and eat him, and just generally a little hesitant. But when I asked him to pick up the lope up that hill, he bounded right into and picked up an easy relaxed lope. It felt incredible! About halfway up, I squeazed and asked for a little more,  and he gave me more and held that new speed evenly and relaxed too. 

At that moment, loping into the setting sun, all of my distractions, stresses, dissapointments and everything else from the day just melted off of me. It was just Milo and I enjoying a beautiful evening together.

When we made it to the top, we were both out of breath. We eased down to a walk and joined with Heather and Missy again in conversation on a side trail.

When I put Milo away later that evening, I suddenly realized that I was as satisfied from a ride as I ever could be. Dont get me wrong, we love working the cows and I have had some really nice rides from him recently, but it was one of those moments where you just know this is why I ride.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bringing Milo Home I

So as I may, or may not, have previously posted, my boyfriend bought a house and property that we have been living in for the past five months. It has 2.7 usable acres and the plan has been to get it cleared and ready to move Milo on.

This is what the property looked like when we first moved in:
Sorry, the panorama shots get more in it, just click on the images to get a bigger size.

We spent the summer burning that mound of stumps and debris along with the help of our friends (lots of bon fires)

Our friend was able to fall a few pesky trees for us.

This past weekend, Wes' cousin Jason who operates with Saw Enterprises, came out to begin clearing the property. This is a shot of the property the first day that Jason began working on it, 09/23/10

And on the third day that hillside looked like this:
And on the fourth, looked like this:

The barn will be placed up on that hilltop, with Milos paddock running off the far side (where the trees currently are), and pasture to the back (to still be cleared) and to the front.

This will be the front pasture (where the mound of stuff we were previously clearing was). The house will overlook it :)

Jason also began working on the soon-to-be arena.

From the left side of the CAT to the end of the property line (imagine the trees on the right side gone) and further back. It will finish at about 100x70.

And this is the new HUGE mound to burn. Jason will be back to finish after hunting season in November, think we can get rid of this pile before he returns?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Now You Cant Go Biting Cows!

Saturday I was able to bring Milo out to the Chimacum Cow Sorting again with Heather, which was, as always, a blast! The event had been canceled last weekend due to bad weather, but it was sunny and dry this Saturday, so the cow sort was on!

I warmed up Milo and he was feeling frisky. Staring that things that were scary (picnic table, panels) lol. But was able to get his mind working.
It was pretty windy out-hence the crazy hair :) He worked well for me but was a tad on the lazy side. The ground was hard too so I loped maybe 5 strides, than stuck to trotting.

My friend commented on this photo saying I look like I work for the mob. Haha! Milo sure looks good though! So after the brief warm up, we were finally able to go into the sorting pen. Milo did well, and it seemed each new time he went into the pen he got more and more excited and into it.

Milo started to get a little fed up with the cows. They dont have much of a "bubble" and sometimes you literally would have ot ram into them to get them to move. There was a mom and calf for instance that were #1 and #3 and they were near impossible to split apart. Eventually, in our third or fourth time in, Milo finally had enough of the disrespectful cows not moving form him, he took a big chomp at one! I like the enthusiasm Milo, but you cant go biting cows!!

Milo would wait intently for his next turn in the pen.

Finally in our last round, this time in with Melissa and Grace, we finished at 68 seconds. The best time of the night. Later, I had heard that our time was beat by three tenths of a second! Its ok though, Milo did a great job and it sure was a lot of fun, and good practice for the show coming up in only two weeks!

What I love about sorting cows so much is not only how happy my horse is with his job, but how relaxed a rider I become and how much fun I am having too. I dont have to worry about my equitation, I mostly just have to get out of my horse's way! Not to mention the people at the events are a lot of fun, relaxed, and down to earth. Just the type of people I want to spend my time with. No one is overly competative, we are all there to have a good time and learn something new.

All in all, it was a fun and beautiful evening. Cant wait until we can do it again. But next time, at the show!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More on Saddle Fitting

This issue is one that I am constantly working with. And reading about a lot.

Back when I got my first Crates saddle (a FQH bar tree) I had a saddle fitter out to check the fit of the saddle. She thought it fit great. Wide enough for his shoulders, and followed the shape of his back well. Awesome, cause I had gotten a good deal on it too. She had me using a Reverse Wedge Cashel Pad to even it out, with a wool folded over pad over that. Right away, I noticed that he was getting similar dry spots to the one above. I asked the fitter about it again, and she said not to worry, we will just add shims to the needed areas. So I rode with the shims for a few months, but noticed that the dry spots were still there. She told me that it was fine, he would soon develop muscle there and the dry spots will go away.

I than started to notice that the shims were making the dry spots even larger. I called her again, and she said it was nothing to worry about. I talked to a few other people at the barn about it and they suggested to take out the shims; smaller dry spots were better than larger ones. So I rode without them until my saddle sold (needed a smaller seat size).

Than I bought my current saddle. Another Crates with FQH bars and a 16" seat. Seemed to fit him well just like the other one. Noticed the exact same sweat pattern with dry spots. Spent a lot of time experimenting other padding options. Rode in an impact gel pad a few times - dry spots. Tried a Professional's Choice pad - dry spots. Rode in just the Cashel pad - dry spots. Went to just the folded wool blanket - dry spots. Tried the wool pad with the shims - dry spots. Currently, I have just been riding in the folded wool pad.

Ive noticed that where the dry spots are, there is also an imprint of the woven wool pattern from my blanket on Milo's back. Woah. That means there is excessive pressure there. That is why the dry spots are there: because there is too much pressure there, and adding more padding only increases the problem. So buying a new saddle pad isnt the problem.

Ok, so now my saddle is too narrow across the shoulders, and too narrow along his back. Makes sense, Ive been working on his topline and he has broadened. But do I need to buy a new saddle? I think that since this was a problem with my last Crates, it could just be the design of the Crates saddles, that they are too narrow for his back shape. Ok, looks like I will have to be putting on other brands of saddles to determine if that is the problem or not. And unfortunetly, I dont feel like getting the assistance from the saddle fitter is going to help, as she kept suggesting to put more padding to an area that actually needed less.

I will need to be putting more research into other saddle brands (reining style) rather than other padding options.

Tuesday I tried a Cow Horse Equipment saddle from a fellow boarder. It is considered a FQH bar, but was also too narrow on Milo's shoulders. Seemed to fit his back well but didnt get to ride in it very long to see any sweat pattern.

Wednesday I tried my friend's Billy Cook Ranch Reiner (or Ranch Cutter, cant remember). It is considered a FQH and actually fit across his shoulders very well. It wasnt perfect, but it was the best one so far. Milo felt about as good as he has been in my saddle, still worked up into the saddle and lifted his back. He was a bit hesitant to lift at the trot, but he did seem distracted, so not sure if it was just him acting up or if the saddle was doing anything. When I took it off to look at the sweat pattern, there was nearly two dry spots on each side. One in the normal spot (but did not look like it was due to being too narrow-so shiming there could be an option) and one right below. The second one looked like dry spots from excessive pressure.

Well that gives me an idea of the Billys at least.

I am also really wanting to try a Bobs Custom on him. There is one I may be able to try on at the reining show next month, its a Todd Bergen. Im also considering Reinsmans, Dale Chavez, and a Bob Avila. Of course, all these name brands mean $$$$. But if its all we can find that is broad enough for Milo's shoulders that may just be what I have to do.

I found two Western Washington Bobs Custom Saddle dealers, one in Bellingham and one in Enumclaw. So maybe my best bet will be to haul out to one (or both) of those locations and try a wide variety of the Bobs and Reinsmans on him. I think my next step will be to call the two dealers and determine what kind of selection they have, if they take partial trade ins, or a layaway type program. *Sigh*

Ok reining friends out there, what saddle do you use? How do you tackle dry spot issues??

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breaking it Down

I think that MTG and Show Sheen dont mix well together...Yesterday I pulled Milo out of the pasture and proceeded to the barn. I had braided his tail on Friday: show sheened to remove knots and tangles, than braided, and added MTG to his dock where he had been rubbing a bit. Oh man, was his tail ever tangled yesterday, and matted too! I cant think of any reason why it was like that except maybe a bad product combination. And Milo is not one that fusses with his tail when its braided. And it was all stuck together, not just tangled. I didnt think to take a picture until I was about done detangling it. Today I need to wash it because I didnt even finish fixing it all yesterday and I dont think anything but a good wash and detangle will help.

Moving on, I just wanted to say that when I got to Milo it was so sweet, he was so excited to see me - running up to the gate, and following me until I haltered him. But I did take notice too, and decided a good longe would be in order before getting on - it was a good idea. He did a little blow up on the longeline, but after getting it out of his system he was fine.

I had the good fortune to be able to ride in the outdoor arena too. It had been groomed before the rains over the weekend, and while the outdoor usually is a bit too deep, the rain packed it down just about perfectly. We rode for about half the ride with Heather and Milo's girlfriend Missy. I had Heather watch our turnarounds as I cant see when riding which foot he's pivoting on and I want to be able to start feeling the difference. He was pivoting on the outside. What I found ended up working to get him pivoting on the inside was asking for the turn a bit differently.

Now to train for the turnaround I spriraled down into it than would step out after a few steps. Repeated over some time, and Milo seems to know the footwork. But the problem is pivoting on the outside (wrong) foot. When I would ask, I would lay my outside leg on him, bring my outside rein onto his neck, and since still in the snaffle (if needed) I would use direct rein pressure to the inside to encourage a little more shoulder lift. So generally, his head and neck would be bent to the inside a bit. But after realizing he was turning on the wrong foot, something needed changed to get him balanced over the inside. I ended up changing the cue a bit -still lay my outside leg on him, but instead of direct rein on the inside, I would lift a bit with even pressure on both, and have his nose tipped slightly to the outside. Voila! He pivoted on the inside! Only for a few steps than he would want to switch to the outside. But I was trying to be quick on rewarding (and feeling) the correct inside. I know that the form may be a little flawed by doing this, but Id rather be balance on the correct foot and keep his front footwork correct, if that means his nose is tipped out a bit than so be it.

We did some trot work, than moved into the lope. He picked up the right beautifully, and literally felt like he was floating across the arena. He was so balanced and round it felt great. He just works so well in the outdoor. But I think part of it is that I like to ride in the outdoor versus the indoor, and I think that he picks up on that.

We loped the other direction and tried to prepare for some lead changes. (Mental note: needs to listen to my right [outside] leg more for turning at the lope). We did some clean simple changes, than when asking for the flying, it never worked. I think I may need to think about this a while and try and figure out what is going on. He seems to understand the cue for a change to the left, but to the right, he doesnt seem to understand - or more, he seems to know what Im asking but doesnt know how to do it in his body. When I ask for the change to the right, he only speeds up a stride or two, than I have to bring him down and ask again for the change at simple. Its puzzling.

I also worked a bit on our speed ups for the reining pattern. He gladly speeds up, but pins his ears flat back and tries to hollow how his back. I think this happens from working on the drill team, where Im asking him to go faster, but cant pay attention or ask for roundness. I think this is just another thing that needs more time.

Finally, our stops. He just isnt sitting down like he usually does. I havent pushed the issue too hard because a) I dont want to hurt his hocks b) we are only going to be showing on a beginning reining pattern, so I think some lenience on perfection with maneuvers will be made. Any suggestions, my reining cow horse friends?

And for some fun, I was feeling a little creative after the ride yesterday with my camera. Here are some photos I snapped. Enjoy.

What can I say? I like my equipment :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wool vs Fleece

So as days are getting colder Im thinking more about getting Milo a real cooler. I currently have a cotton blend throw blanket that Ive been using as more of a towel to dry Milo off with during the winter when he gets sweaty after a ride. Im thinking its about time I get him a real cooler to aid in cooling down. Especially since I plan to be working him often this winter and showing, I will need something that will be more effective than what I am currently using.

Upon first searching for horse coolers, I found the commonly used fleece type. Available in a wide variety of styles; square, fitted, etc. I was searching ebay for a cheap one, and just before I bought one, I noticed a thread on a forum I frequent about using wool coolers. Upon reading further I found that a lot of people use the wool instead.

So I started trying to search for wool coolers instead. Oh man, they are a LOT more money. Maybe cruising craigslist may yeild cheaper results for a good used one.

Next I considered what style I would like. The square or the fitted. Square to me seems like a better option to cover the neck and absorb wetness there versus the fitted which covers only the body.

So what is your take? Do you prefer the fleece over the wool? Or do you like the fitted style over the square? Why?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Singing the Blues

Rain in Washington. What a surprise. Milo and Jake pouting over the weather:
Yes, Milo doenst like to get wet. And since it was raining all day, yes, Im sure Milo was standing under the shelter all day. Never fear, however, I did put his lightweight rain sheet on after the ride. Now Mr Milo only has to suffer being rained on his head and neck. And since it is predicted to rain for quite sometime now, I took Jake's fly equipment off (hope Patty doesnt mind). Jake sure was happy though when the mask came off and was trying to rub all over me!

Milo was a fiesty boy right off the bat (probably from standing under the shelter all day). I kept thinking "I need to longe him before I get on". And what did I do? Not longe him. I swear, being human makes me mentally handicapped.

So I got on, and wouldnt you know it, no focus from Milo. Of course I got frustrated and tried to force his attention on me. Which, naturally did work.

I couldnt understand what I needed to do and I basically fought with him the entire ride. It wasnt until I was driving home thinking about everything that it hit me like a pile of bricks. I was trying to make Milo do what I wanted; not having a partnership. I got that sinking feeling in my gut. Sometimes I really dislike being a handicapped human.

For God knows what reason, I decided yesterday was the day to perfect everything that wasnt. Of course that means I drilled and drilled and overworked things. And as the ride progressed, Milo gave me less and less, which frustrated me further. I dont know why I get days like that. I think its because I get it in my mind that we have x amount of time to get something perfect. That is where my problem lies; trying to perfect something by skipping the training steps required. Fortunetly for me, I dont do this too often, as I typically realize what a douche Ive been and work hard to correct myself.

I think that the weather is getting me down (Milo too). But I have to get over it because Ive got at least seven more months of it ahead. Oh joy.

Edit: Im sorry for the "downer" post. But when I feel I am doing something incorrect/wrong, I feel like I need to admit it. And being human, it happens.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Grumpy Face

Milo is a grumpy face to other horses in the arena. When we work alone, he doest pin his ears or excessivly wring his tail. But when we work in the arena with other horses that we pass or they pass us, as they get closer Milo flips his head up and pins his ears are them. For the past year I have just tried to push him back into frame and keep working. This isnt working so well.

Im wondering if there are any other things I could try instead to tell him its unacceptable. Moreover, Milo needs to pay paying attention to me and not worrying about other horses around him. Last year at a drill team practice we were joining up with another horse - we were jogging toward each other than at the center supposed to turn up together and ride to the end. Well, the other horse, who was much larger than Milo, kind of body slammed into him. That seemed to only exacerbate his pinning ears problem and being defensive about his space.

I thought maybe I could tell Milo "unacceptable" by maybe stopping everything when he does it and maybe backing up and going the other direction. But I also dont want the backing to become a discipline, or something he will end up not liking. Not to mention I dont want him to learn that we stop when we get close to another horse.

Than I thought maybe working him harder past the horse may teach him that when his ears pin he works harder. I could see this becoming a problem too where when he get next to another horse we speed up. Not what we want.

Lastly I thought that when he does it I could one-rein stop him and disengage his hindquarters. Thats what Ive done when hes gotten unruly about other things and it seems to get him using his brain again. Than, of course, when we pass a horse and he doesnt pin his ears or mind them at all give lots of praises.

You know, this is one reason why I love this blog, it gives me the chance to think things through and get to a conclusion! Not to mention receive outside opinions I hadnt thought of before!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What am I Talking About?

For those less savvy in the working cow horse arena, this post will be some knowledge on what the heck Im talking about when riding/working Milo for these events.

The National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) is who is responsible for working cow horse competition. It is a celebration of highly-trained working cow horses. The competition includes reining, herd work, and fence work. Some shows also have steer stopping.

In reined work, the horse executes a pattern including stops, spins, lead changes, speed changes, and circles. The purpose of this portion is to show how well trained, balanced, and resistance free the horse is. While not a timed event, the winners are determined by a scoring system based on each maneuver and the highest points win. Here is Shawn Flarida a WEG Competitor with five NRHA Open Futurity Championships, on Whimpys Little Chic executing the famous sliding stop:

In cow work, the horse works one cow and "boxes" it at the end of the arena, demonstrating the horse's ability to control the cow until releasing to to run down the fence line. The competitor must turn the cow down the fenceline at least once both directions, than control it in the center of the arena in a circle, again both directions. The rider is given a period of time to execute these manuevers correctly. The winners are placed based on the judges' highest marks. Here is Boyd Rice and his horse Mr Playinstylish turning the cow into the fence in junior working cow horse finals:

Herd work comes next where the entrant seperates a cow from the herd. This portion is much like cutting, where the horse seemingly does all of the work on a loose rein, keeping the cow away from the herd. The horse should anticipate the cow's move and easily block the cow. The exibitor is given a designated amount of time to show off the ability of your horse, so picking a "good cow" is crucial to getting high scores. Bob Avila and Light N Fine keeping the cow away from the herd:

Finally, steer stopping is an event much like calf roping, but without the final tie-up of the cow at the end. The horse is expected to set up the rider for a good catch, than stop straight and smooth, stopping the forward motion of the steer. This too is a timed event, fastest clean run wins. This event is unique to the World's Greatest Horseman competition.

Now for Milo and I, plans for high competition are none. But I do like the technical qualities needed for reining and cow work, and do find the overall Working Cow Horse Competition very exciting. I would very much like to try my hand at cutting in particular and cow work, including more one-on-one interaction with a cow instead of working them as a group, which is what you do in sorting.

Dont get me wrong, two-man sorting is a lot of fun too. The object of that competition is where you and a partner sort a group of numbered cows from one holding pen to another, in numerical order based on the number initially called out. It is a lot of fun and has a time limit. The goal is to get all cows into the other holding pen one by one in correct numerical order as fast as possible. It is high energy and lots of fun. Milo and I with Donna and Cash two-man sorting:

Not only are these events fun and exciting, they are great for the horses too. Especially for a horse that is really "cowy" and loves to work the cows.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Can a horse's back change that dramatically in the matter of a week or so? I think that Milo's has. Ive been working on poles, backing, anything to help raise his back up and develop a stronger topline. Yesterday I put the saddle on Milo (hadnt been on in four days) and I sear it fit better than it ever has before.

When Milo was growing there was a period of time when I was riding him in a semi QH bar saddle and it was too narrow. It ended up creating these bulges on his shoulders. The saddle fitter said it was due to the pinching saddle. Its been about 8 months now of conscious saddle fitting awareness that I have been working on reducing the bulges and building up the hollows on either sides of his withers, along with developing a stronger topline.

This new saddle I got about maybe two months ago fit well when I first got it, sits a little downhill on him (well, he is downhill) after removing the reverse wedge Cashel pad I had previously been riding him in. Lately I have only pu my folded over wool saddle blanket on. I read somewhere, I think it was Clinton Anderson who said it, that less is more. A well fitting saddle doesnt need anything else to make it fit. Anyways, the saddle fit well on his back, but was a little tight where those bulges still are. However yesterday I really noticed how reduced those bulges have become and that he is filling in the hollows on the sides of the withers.

This does make sense, Ive been working on keeping him really relaxed through his poll, neck, and topline, therefore relaxion would reduce tension (Milo holds his tension at his poll and where those bulges are). Combine that with the pole work and working him consistetly on lifting his back and using his core, means a changed topline. I was really happy to see how well the saddle was fitting.

On to the ride yesterday, I was really aware of my seat, but not too focused on it to cause any tension. I think my last bareback ride really helped secure my seat a bit better, and I wasnt bracing in the stirrups, I actually had very steady quiet legs. I began by a relaxed walk, stretching him out and getting ready for our work to come. I than moved into the jog and worked on our squares a bit and keeping him working off my legs well. In these two gaits I was really having Milo hold himself up and have some self carriage. I didnt have to do all the work for once! He was holding himself in frame and working nicely.

When I moved into the working trot, he needed a bit more assistance on my part, which is fine, and I had to go two handed and keep my hands steady where he needed to be. I really only needed my hands for support for him, as my legs where asking him to stay rounded and collected. We worked at the trot for a while, went over some poles, did some circles and worked off my legs nicely. When I pushed him into the lope he was so balanced and ready he transitioned into it so smoothly! None of the head in the air, crazy trot steps. It was really nice. It took a lap or so at the lope to get him back into a relaxed and low frame but once he got pushed into it he held it nicely. I ended up trying to work on lead changes again, but he just wasnt getting the flying cue. Its ok. I brought him down to simple changes instead and tried to get some solidity at that.

Once during loping to the right, I swear Milo had what I had been told through the comments, may be "catchy stifles". His inside hind just didnt seem to swing through in the lope, it seemed to get stuck. He recovered and we continued but it is really puzzling me. I think a phone call to the vet may be a good option just to see what he thinks about it. I tried researching about it online but didnt find anything.

But in good news, during our lope (to the left) Milo was the most relaxed and round he has ever been at the lope for about three solid strides. It was amazing! To top that off, I had a really secure and quiet seat, coupled with my quiet and steadier legs. I was also sitting more balanced and centered and wasnt leaning forward (it at least felt like I was correct). There was a long time during our lope work that he and I just felt like a real team. He was working really well, and I was riding that really well too. It was a very proud moment I must say :)

And lastly, Milo again pleased me when he stood quietly ground tied in the aisle-way. He just ceases to amaze me.

He is getting his hooves trimmed this morning (love my farrier for being able to trim while Im not there - and Milo too for being a good boy for him) but should be fine for a ride tonight. I am really hoping to hit the trails sometime soon before the last fragments of good weather is gone. Milo deserves a ride without having to work too hard, especially since he has been so consistently good. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Upcoming Winter Series

I received this year's Winter Buckle Series information for the upcoming Reining/Cutting/Sorting shows at the Tacoma Unit. The dates are:
October 9th & 10th    
November 6th & 7th    
November 27th& 28th    
January 8th & 9th
January 22nd & 23rd

February 12th & 13th

At these shows I will be showing in the Beginning Reining Class and the Green Novice Sorting. I am so excited! And one of the best parts is that in the reining I can show either one or two handed (so I can show Milo in the snaffle so I dont have to push him into the shank) and can either do a flying or simple change in the pattern, so again if he isnt down with the flying change I can still show simple. Thats great! I dont have to push him too hard if he isnt ready!

I was wanting to show this series last year but I felt Milo just wasnt quite there yet. I believe he is now.

So the countdown begins for an exciting (and remember, FUN) winter show series ahead!!!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oh Those Simple Joys

Yesterday was the typical Friday: work, clean pastures, and if I had enough energy, muster some up to ride. Well I did, in fact, have just enough energy after cleaning two pastures to ride my horse (plus the knowledge that the indoor arena was empty was too good to pass up. And since I had cleaned pastures it was 6:00 before I was done and Milo was able to get some dinner in his belly. I think he was pleased with that.

The barn was deserted except for one last rider untacking in the aisle-way. I put the saddle blanket on, and paused, than took it right back off and replaced it with our embarrassing pink bareback pad. As noted the day before, I was riding like a flopping fish on Milo while trying to regain correct position and balance on him. So my thoughts to help regain my seat were to work more bareback and build the correct muscles back up, as not having stirrups mean I cannot brace in them and therefore actually have to work my core. And I think as mentioned before, Milo has been known to be a bit touchy bareback since he knows I am unstable (ie crow hopping into the lope - bad Milo) so having the support from the bareback pad to remain stable seemed like a good option.

I must say, I do believe that we can ditch the bareback pad soon. I had been working on my bareback seat over the summer and I know I have gained a lot of it back. Yay me!

Anyways, we started the ride with just a nice long loose walk, changing directions and working off my legs well. Milo was feeling pretty good and really stretching his back and neck. After a warmup with this, I asked for a jog, where Milo stayed balanced and relaxed. Again, we just kind of mosied around the arena, working off my legs and staying soft and supple. I than pushed him into a working trot and worked myself with the posting (again I must add, Ive come a long way since he beginning of summer!), and continued on a long loose rein, as well as Milo staying round and soft.

It was great. For a while I just focused on his movement and mine. One two one two one two...up down up down. He was working really relaxed and well, as was I! I didnt even feel the burn yet! LOL.

I pushed him into a lope (mentally noted that that needs work too, it isnt 5 crazy trot steps, head in the air, than I finally pick up my lead) and here had to go two handed to push him back into frame and use his hind end. It took maybe a lap or two and he finally relaxed down into the lope and did his "freight-train" blowing (its his snort with every stride- the BO calls him the freight train coming up behind her LOL). He was starting to drop his shoulder in the turns so we worked on that a little bit. Wow after maybe a 5 minute work at the lope my legs were screaming at me. But I had been focusing on staying centered and balanced and not leaning forward. Plus I was bareback, screaming legs was expected :)

I transitioned him down to a jog and gave myself and Milo a bit of a break. Once my legs felt about 50% better, I pushed him into the lope the opposite direction and this time he went right into it relaxed and working. It was a great feeling. After my legs couldnt take it anymore, I brought him down to the walk and cooled out a bit. Did a little on our turnaround but hes doing very very well at pivoting on the inside hind I didnt need to work much on it.

I jumped off and rubbed his face. It was a great ride. Just listening to his hooves pound the dirt and feeling his concentration on the job was fantastic.

To end the day great, I had ground tied Milo in the aisle-way and walked from him all the way to the end to shut off the lights. He stayed stock still. Even with all the temptations of things to smell, and an empty grain bucket only a few feet away enticing him to lick the last contents, Milo stayed still and just watched me walk back to him. He got a seriously "Good Boy" for that.

And that, my friends, is why I do the things that I do for my horse. Because he tries so hard for me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Apple Cider Vinegar - For Joints?

At the last cow sorting I went to last month, a friend of mine tipped me off about using Apple Cider Vinegar to aid in joint health. Now Ive heard of and used Apple Cider Vinegar before for abcesses and it worked like a charm for that, but I hadnt ever hear of it for joint health.

So I did a little google search for using it in horses for joints, and learned, according to this site, that ACV has many uses around the barn including as a fly spray, topically to reduce swelling, and for combating thrush. They also listed all of the benefits to adding ACV to your horse's daily diet:
  • Promoting healthy joints
  • Enhancing skin and coat health
  • Balances the horse's pH.
  • Boots immune system health.
  • Helps to dissolve calcium deposits
  • Improves urinary tract health.
  • Stimulates proper digestion.
  • Helps horse to resist internal and external parasites.
  • Contains beneficial enzymes
  • Flushes the body of toxins.
  • ACV has natural antibiotic properties.
  • Helps to calm a nervous horse.
  • ACV makes horse blood unsuitable for insects, and acts as a repellent.
  • May help improve and relieve arthritis.
Wow, so many benefits. The ones that stand out the most to me and my particular usage for Milo include promoting healthy joints, boosting immune system, helps to dissolve calcium deposits, beneficial enzymes, natural antibiotic properties, and relieving arthritis. This $2 bottle at Wal Mart may be mine (and Milo's) saving grace!

Now, does this stuff really work? My tip off friend said that it is all they added to their barrel horse. In her late teens she was becoming unsound and was developing arthritis. They simply added ACV to her diet and she is back to running barrels.

Interesting. So if this is so beneficial for horses, what about people? I happened to mention my curiousity of ACV in addition to Milo's diet to Wes' Mom who said that she herself has used it to help with joint pain. She even had a dietary pill form of it and gave me the bottle (but I dont think I need it in the dietary form for either myself or Milo). She said that it really helped to reduce swelling for her.

Very interesting. Now, currently Im giving Platinum Performance Ortho-Chon to Milo twice daily. And as you can see at that link, it is not an inexpensive product. However, it does help Milo's soundness. The one thing it hasnt corrected is the fluid pockets in his hocks. Something I have come to the conclusion of as something that will just be a bleminsh now, as my vet cannot give me any other recommendation as to how to reduce them. But if ACV really does reduce swelling, dissolve calcium deposits and provide antibiotic properties in reducing arthritis, it may very well reduce/remove the fluid in his hocks.

At such an inexpensive price tag for something I can pick up at Wal Mart, why not try it out?

Administering: hmm this could be tricky. When using ACV for abscess soaking, Milo did not care for the smell. So ACV in its liquid form probably will not go over so well simply being dumped onto his grain (nor the taste Im sure). Back to the conversation with Wes' Mom - the ACV in pill form. That may do the trick, especially if I can crush the pills into a powder and put it on his wet grain. What about dosage? "For a healthy horse, use 1/4 cup (60 ml) of unpasteurized ACV on his feed grain per day. Dilute the vinegar 50/50 with water before adding to the feed." (Quoted from this site) Well that may work in liquid format, I just dont think Milo will accept it, although it is worth a try I suppose.

But I am more interested in the pill format. I havent found any sites about ACV in pill format and suggested dosage for horses. Im leary on purchasing those designed for humans, as well Milo is not a human and the dosage conversion may not be accurate or appropriate.

Have you used ACV for your horses/yourself before? What administering techniques have you used for your horse? Do you know where I could find information for recommded dosage (in pill format preferably) for a horse?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Milo trips on the front and the rear. Its a bit unnerving to ride because you dont know when it will happen and when/if he can recover from it. Ive been doing a little research about why he trips and what I can do about it.

First reason I found was lacking balance. So I did a search on how to spot balance and decide if that was an issue for Milo. While we all know that he is downhill which could be effecting his tripping on the front, it doesnt explain tripping on the back. I found this article from Horse and Rider online by Bob Avila on how to spot balance in a horse. And was intrigued by the way the #1 horse looks in his mid stride. It got me thinking about which of those three horses Milo would be most closely related to. So I reviewed the video that was taken a few days ago and tried to get a still shot of Milo in mid stride. This is what I was able to get:

compare to the stud used in the article:
Ok please disregard how much more fabulously Mr Avila is balanced than I am, and I know I got the strides opposite. But aside from that, they are very very similar. Both are reaching with their front legs still and driving from the hind. I think the stud is more round through his back and relaxed than Milo, who looks yes coiled but also a bit tense.

Interesting comparison? So maybe Milo isnt lacking overall balance. What could be causing the tripping then?

Second reason I found was shoeing issues. While Milo isnt shod, he is still obviously trimmed. Here is a good example of correct front legs:
Photo credit Here is Milo (sorry, best image I could find was with his polos on):

First thing: his right is twisted in and not straight. He also has a club hoof on that same leg (as per the farrier saying so). Ok, so that could explain the front end tripping, what about the hind?

Well, the last reason I could find was pure laziness. I could see that. I had read that horses can do something called "forging" where they drag the tops of their back hooves. Something to combat that could be doing some pole work to encourage picking up his hooves. Well, I have been working on poles and it still happens. The only thing I can really think of is that I am requiring him to work more off of his hind end more-maybe this could be putting undue stress on his hocks (something we already have found is weak)? I dont know if the problem goes that high, however. It always feels like he just didnt catch himself with his hoof. Maybe that assumption is wrong.

What are youre thoughts? Have you had a horse that trips on the hind? What was it caused by? How did you combat it?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Change in Plans

I was so eager to get to the barn yesterday after spending the labor day weekend in Twisp, WA for three days and not seeing my boy! I made it to the barn and Jake's (the old QH Milo is out in pasture with) owner was out, I was meaning to talk to her about who was cleaning the pasture. Turns out she will be, which is ok by me as I have two others to clean weekly.

As I brought Milo into the barn to ride, the BO approached me saying the horse, Cody, who was going to come to pasture with Jake (putting Milo up into a night stall/paddock and daytime pasture turnout) was not coming after all, so I could either keep Milo down at the pasture with Jake, or move him up as originally planned.

Well the thought of being closer to the barn was of interest, but not the part of people handling my horse for turning in/out (bad experience with this one-old BO helped develop some bad leading/ground manners in Milo during just turning in/out), nor having to introduce him to two older mares who may not like him. Or the fact that one horse has gotten tangled up and hurt pretty badly in the fencing out there, and lastly, the pond that is out there, a possible concern for the cold winter months. So I opted to keep him in the lower pasture with Jake, which pleased his owner knowing that I am at the barn 3-5 times a week and will be there to keep an eye on him. Not to mention by Milo staying down there, I save another $50 a month.

But even in the pasture conditions, I think my plan of a trace clip and blanket should work out fine. And I do like the idea of him having 24/7 access to a full run in shelter (the other option only included the shelter overnight, with tree coverage during the day).

Continuing on to our ride last night...Milo was a good boy. A little lazy. I longed him over poles to get him thinking about using his body properly and lifting his back. Than I got on and asked for the usual flexing to both sides (and for the first time in a WHILE) he just hung on the rein and acted like he was going to go to sleep. So I made him move his feet. Dude, flexing is way easier than having to flex AND disengage in the hind. That seemed to wake him up.

On to the ride, he did worked well, just lazy. Wasnt reaching for the bit like he has been, I was really having to tell him to lift himself up and use his core AND stay soft in the bridle. But he got a but better as we moved along. His circles were a little all over the place, I think I may want to set some cones up for a visual and get them even again.

Ive been a lot more concious about my riding too, and staying more cenetered and balanced Which is making me use other muscles! So I got a pretty good workout yesterday-maybe more than Milo he had hardly sweat at all. An issue for me though yesterday was getting used to my new boots. Remember these?

Yep they came in a few weeks ago and Ive been trying to get them broken in. These are such a stronger leather with a thicker sole its been a real pain to break them in. But, what better way to break in a set of riding boots than to ride in them? I will have to readjust my stirrups however because not only does the thicker sole make a difference but also my adjusted body position. Not a big deal though, but I do think these two factors probably effected the ride yesterday.

Now to the best part, Milo's flying change to the right. As I may have mentioned before, Milo's last three changes have all been to the left. It was the only side he seemed to understand easily. But yesterday I was only going to ask for the change to the right. He has to understand that the cue works both sides. When I first asked, I remembered to stay balanced and to not lean. I asked and he BUCKED than changed to the new lead. No no no buddy thats not how we do it. I disengaged his butt around and around. We DONT use our hind end to do THAT.

Got him going again in a nice lope than set him up again for the change. Asked, and he changed! There was a little uncertainty on his part on how to coordinate his hind legs to the new lead so it felt a little funny, but he did it and he changed from the back. Good boy!! Lots of praises for that one than he got a nice rest.

I later moved on to our turnarounds as part of his cool out and was focused most on keeping him in a forward motion throughout the turn (he tries to rock back into it thereby making his energy backwards not forwards, and pivoting on the incorrect (outside) leg. With just a few small circles into the inside direction, I asked for the turnaround and he went around twice nicely pivoting with his inside foot. Same to the other direction. What a good boy!!

I got off and gave him a good pat. He is such a smart boy.

Lastly, back up at the barn, Milo got to make sweet talk to his girlfriend Missy. And Missy went right into heat. Oh joy. Sorry Heather! They are so sweet together though. He nickered softly to her, she peed. He licked her face and her shoulders, she peed. She swung her butt up to his face and he got confused and striked. Repeat that once more. Poor Milo didnt seem to understand what exactly she was doing (which I think was the reasoning behind the strike). But he still loved her anyway, with those sweet soft nickers LOL.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Clipping Horses

As the winter is growing closer, Ive been thinking more and more about my "game plan" to better combate those tricky cold months. And like most active riders, my biggest pet peeve (and concern) is the time it takes to cool out my horse after a workout.

My first winter with Milo we gave him a neck clip, where we just clipped the hair under his neck and chest. It helped a lot to cool him down and was easy to maintain-just kept a midweight blanket on him and he was stabled in a stall/paddock. Last winter, I did not clip Milo. I wasnt planning on showing, and while I still rode about 2-3 times a week, I wasnt working him so hard that the cool down wasnt as much a concern. Plus the fact that he was stabled in a large barn with a stall/paddock and didnt grow as thick a coat as the year before.

So to clip or not? This winter I do plan to show him (not competatively, but he will be worked for frequently) and have been considering clipping him to aid with the cool out period as he will be worked more. Yes, I do want to clip this winter. So the next questions come up; What clip and why? and When?

Two factors I need to take into consideration for what type of clip include how he will be boarded this winter and the workload he will receive. Milo is going to be in a stall and large paddock overnight, and a large pasture with tree shelter during the day. I also plan to ride 3-5 times a week. Almost doubling our load from last year. Why increase the work load? To keep him in good physic for working consistently this winter and performing at reining and cow sorting. Not to mention he will be ready to go for summer activities!

After knowing these two factors now, I was cosidering the blanket clip because it removes the most hair in the necessary areas without completely compromising his natural coat. Not to mention he doenst look entirely goofy as other clips can look.
Unfortunetly with this clip, it would require purchasing a neck hood since all of the hair is removed there. Not an investment I necessarily want to make.

So if the blanket clip is out, what other clip could I do? Maybe the trace clip:

This clip would remove the hair where he would sweat the most, still leaves enough hair on the areas the blanket does not cover and shouldnt be a difficult clip to do. Plus, Milo should be fine in his living conditions with this clip and only a midweight blanket. Only downside, it is kind of goofy looking. But if thats what it takes, so be it I suppose. A trace clip seems to be the best option for Milo and I.

Final question: When to clip? I have read that late September is the best time to clip. Thats coming up in just a few weeks now! Milo is beginning to shed his summer coat, therefore by the end of September his winter should be coming in more. This time of the year may be better too because it means his hair will grow back well enough by spring for winter shedding.

I dont think I want to give him a very close clip either, more mid range, if that makes sense and is possible. Just enough hair removal to make cooling out easier.

Now, am I going to clip? If I can borrow a set of clippers from someone (I only have a small handheld battery operated clippers) I am pretty confident I could perform the clip as I did his neck clip (with the aid of a friend). However, I do know of a gal at the barn who gives her horse a full body clip. About a month ago I approached her asking if she might we willing to clip Milo and she said she probably would be.  Now I just have to ask her if I can solicit her services in the coming weeks. Fingers crossed!