Sunday, October 27, 2013

I Have Access to an Arena!

If you remember a few weeks ago, I started working at a neighbor's down the road helping exercise their horses (mostly a paint mare named Splash), and cleaning stalls. Its a nice way to get a little extra "horse" money, but its helped make a friendship between myself and some horsey neighbors, and more of the horse community because these neighbors are in the "rodeo scene" - a group of people I am familiar with but mostly never really met.

Aside from making a new friendship now and being able to work their horses, they invited me to use their arena whenever I please. It's an outdoor sand arena with nice footing and holds well against the weather. It's really quite convenient at only a mile and a half or so down the road with easy access. I park at their place, then ride Milo down the road to their arena, which is located at their rental house. That's maybe the only downside: the renters are classic redneck trash with lots of barking dogs (who nipped at Milo's heels today), and typical redneck horse sense. But usually they stay in their house when we come down so its not too terrible. And the accessibility to the arena far outweighs them - how can I say no to unlimited FREE arena access only minutes from my house?

So today was the second time I took Milo to the arena. My plan is to make it down there once a week for a ride (probably on weekends, but we will see if I can sneak an evening ride but its getting darker earlier now), since there is only so much hard work I can do at my house. I am able to work on body control and trotting to keep him somewhat fit, but using an actual arena really is a big deal.

I forgot to get a picture at the arena, but I'll try and remember next time.

I got about thirty minutes of work in the arean, with ten minutes of walking to the arena each way. Milo sure says its hard to work in sand again! He feels like he's swimming in there, but it only further shows the necessity for us to come out and use the arena to keep those muscles strong for work in the sand.

I worked more on the body control I was reminded of at the clinic - which I didnt give enough credit for. One of the best things it gave me was more things to work on! It has helped give me some goals again during my rides and things to focus on instead of aimlessly going around. I also worked on riding squares again, and with the use of proper footing, some speed work again. With Milo being so slow and lazy (especially in there), I used the long straight of ways to ask for speed, then hum him down in the corners. He remembered the cue well, by the second corner he was stepping under himself to slow down.

All in all, a great workout and I am SO thankful to have a good arena so close by I can haul to anytime I like!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Horsey Health

I discovered that yet again Milo is chewing on fence-posts. He simply is finding the ones that I didnt pre-rub with soap to deter him. Obviously, he is pretty bored. So with that in mind and wanting to get salt licks for both boys again, I put one up for Milo Sunday night. By the photo below, clearly he is enjoying it, if not for the salt itself but also for the entertainment factor. 

Moose on the other hand, has hardly done this same level of damage to his. After the first day he didnt appear to have licked it at all and I wondered if he even knew what it was. But today I noticed some lick rubs on it, so he must be figuring it out. His water bucket was also a bit less then normal so that probably shows higher salt intake too.

On other nutritional news, I've been considering adding oil to both the boys' grain. I once had Milo on Black Oil Sunflower Seeds for his coat and the trace oil, but ended up stopping, mostly from convenience. But I have heard about oil for lots of great benefits, weight gain, skin and coat, muscle builder, general gut health, and am seriously considering it, but what to get? Some people get Corn Oil in bulk, but I read that that might offer less then even giving them anything at all. Others feed Vegetable Oil in bulk too, but many standard oils in the supermarket have too much Omega-6 fats in them and horses need much more good fats like Omega-3, or Fish Oils. Without paying a pretty penny for labeled "horse oil" I'm trying to find another way...

But in the meantime I'm adding a few more things into both the boys' diets. Milo has had some squirty poo lately, so I'll add Dynamite Excel back to his feed for a while, Excel offering digestive health and pH stability so maybe a thirty day round would help balance him out again. I've used Excel many times and have always been happy with it.

I also have Dynamite Miracle Clay on hand, which I have used at horse shows before for helping with squirts per Sarah's recommendation. I used it only a few months ago too for balance. After reading more into it however from their website, I learned it really aids in detoxifying, poultices, and even ulcer health! If a week or so of the Excel isnt helping I will put him on some clay again to see...but I also have those prebiotics I've given Moose too so thats an option for digestive regulation too. But one step at a time, I'd like to see which seems to help through isolation first.

Thankfully, I have these options on hand!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Late Birthday Present to Myself

A Rubbermaid Wheelbarrow! Its 7.5 cu ft (not that that matters much) but its exactly what I wanted. My non-horsey Mother asked what I wanted for my birthday this last summer, to which I responded that all I wanted was a new wheelbarrow. She laughed and I didnt get a wheelbarrow. But I've wanted one of these for a long time.

You dont realize how expensive things are until you have to buy them for yourself. I never knew how expensive wheelbarrows were until a few years ago when we bought our plastic green one to mix contrete in and pour a concrete slab. I saw then how expensive the really nice ones were. And after spending a large portion of the summer using a wheelbarrow that was cracked, had a flat tire, and about five pounds of dried concrete, I finally had saved for a new wheelbarrow!

I started work a few weeks ago down the road working and cleaning a few neighbors horses. The work paid off and I had enough for the wheelbarrow! My next goal with my "horse money" is the final four stall mats I need for the winter. :)

Its so pretty!
After cleaning at various barns for many years now, I knew exactly which wheelbarrow I wanted. When I worked at J's where I learned how to ride, he had two of these and they have always been, by far, my favorite wheelbarrows to use. They are easy to use even when completely full, maneuver easily - I can keep a hand on the wheelbarrow and one on a gate or anything else. I love being able to use one hand to move the wheelbarrow. I'm totally happy!

It quickly got christened with its first load.

Yay! Happy Birthday to Me!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Small Bit of Progress

In small efforts to evade the mud that was so quickly invading a few weeks ago, I got my hands on a few stall mats for Milo. While eventually (and that hopefully means about a month) he and Moose will get moved down into the shelter of the barn and the mats will only have to get moved again, I got four set up on the muddiest corner of his current shelter. Ironically, the weather forecast says sunny and sixty for the next week so rain wont be an issue like it quickly was before, however I'm not complaining about the weather at all, and at least I will be prepared now. Moose's shelter doesnt actually get muddy inside so I'm worrying about his stall mats a little bit later. They sure are pricey and most people dont even sell them for a good price used, so a little at a time is the best way I can manage to do it right now.

Milo was wary of us carrying those big (heavy!) black things up to his shelter, puffed and snorted, so I tied him to the trailer to keep him out of the way. But he didnt mind one bit once they were laid down and by feding time he had clearly been enjoying the softer surface!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October is the Month for Clinics

Last time I attended a clinic was last October, so it is only suiting that the next clinic I attended was in October! Finding reining clinics around here (or really anything I am interested in...) is pretty hard, so when I heard about a Reining Fundamentals clinic being held by a local reining trainer who scaled back her operation by the time Milo and I were ready, I was eager to sign up!

I arrived at the clinic, which was at a nice facility I hadnt been to before. Very well kept, but the arena was a little small for the ten participants and clinician. A lot of the clinic taught things Milo and I had already learned and worked on from Sarah including body control. The clinician broke it down into "five easy pieces", however, which gives me a nice little set to practice during each ride. They run like this: basic circle, horse in a banana shape and moving with forward energy. The best thing I got out of this was to continue to encourage Milo to move off my leg more energetically and to remember to keep my legs quiet. The majority of this small exercise is with the reins. Exercise one moves into two; a counter bend - horse travels in the same arc but going in a circle the other way. She emphasized that when working on these five pieces to work the same arc. I got reminders for my rein position to "open the door" more with my hands then I do, which was helpful. Exercise three is probably the hardest, a true half pass or two track. We learned this with Sarah as well, and I was surprised to see how well Milo executed it as we havent worked on it much. As a reminder, a two track, or half pass, is when the horse moves laterally in the direction of the arc in his body, unlike a leg yield where he moves away from the arc. Three moves into four, which is moving the hip around, again in the direction of the arc. A good way to work on this is standing parallel to the arena wall, then practicing moving the hip in a 180 degree turn and facing the other way. Milo, again, pleased me with how well he executed this maneuver. I was happy to see how well he remembered these! Step five is backing in a circle, same direction of the circle as the arc in the body of course. I already dismounted for lunch by this point (I thought we were covering it after lunch), but I'm quite confident in Milo's capabilities for this maneuver as well.

After lunch we worked on the lope departure and the spin. She teaches the lope departure as most trainers do, with the "hip to the eye" as she says it, with the horse arced in the direction of the desired lope departure. This is initially how Milo was taught, but after work with Sarah we worked on loading the outside hock rather then bringing the inside hock in. I explained this to the clinician, and showed her, but to be nice I practiced "her way" as well, and Milo loped off nicely both ways.

I was rather surprised by the abilities of the others in the clinic. I understand it was an intro to reining, building fundamentals clinic, but many of the pairs there had basic control like loping, and basic body control. I think that had the group been closer in training we might have gone a little deeper, but the clinician I think recognized our ability a bit and asked to see our lead change which she didnt go over with anyone else. I showed her a lead change on a counter canter, as the arena was small. I hadnt practiced a lead change with Milo in some months, I dont have a proper arena at home, but he was fine and changed pretty well. She pointed out some things I was aware of (leaning forward in the change, looking down) but otherwise said we were good. She laughed and said "we need to be taking lessons from her!" which was encouraging.

We finally got to the spin work, which is where I was really able to take my money's worth away. As I watched a few other people try before me and listened to the clinician, I already was getting a better idea of how to fix our problems. First, we were told to "wind the horse up" before the spin. Per normal, working in an energetic circle and bringing the circle tighter and tighter until the horse begs to spin - an exercise I have worked on before, but an excellent reminder as often I find myself working on the spin from a straight line, lacking a lot of impulsion from the get go. I got a really good cuing tip from her too: normally I kick my inside leg forward, unintentionally as an effort to "open the door", but my bringing it forward and not just off the side, I'm giving Milo a visual block with my leg too far forward. Also, if I keep my leg on him in neutral as we "wind up", when I take my leg off of him to cue to spin it is a much more receptive cue, which I found totally true as we practiced in front of her. She also pointed out each time I needed to push him back out of the spin when we lost forward motion or he switched to the outside leg. I was letting him take a few steps before getting after him and I was usually just adding more outside leg rather then really pushing him back forward energetically out of the spin.

It was a great clinic, and a rare time when I can walk away from a clinic really feeling proud of what we already have accomplished. :) I am planning on attending her next clinic which is already in the works!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Milo and Moose Updates

Its funny, I have quite a few pending posts that never saw the "publish" button...mostly because I ran out of time, didnt get to add that photo I wanted, or already had a post for the day (I dont like double posting on one day). those moments have passed and its time to give a more accurate update.

Lets see...I will start with the most alarming, which concerns me. Everyone in the country (hopefully) knows about the government shutdown. If you are current on me then you know that I, being a government employee, have been effected. I've tried to stay calm about all this because, well, getting hot headed and stressed doesnt do much considering I cant do anything about it all, but it is worrisome for long term. Even missing one full paycheck gets me behind and we are still paying off the beams for the barn, let alone needing to get the roofing, oh and the other $600 worth of corral panels I have to pay off and pick up for the winter. But I digress.

Two weeks ago I put my feelers out in the local horse world for potential small jobs on the side. I got a few responses back but was able to start one my first day sent home on furlough. The barn is just a mile or more down the road from me, is owned my some local acquaintances, and has riding, mucking, and feeding work needing to be done. I can plan to go out minimum two to three times a week as needed for some weekly cash. Even when I go back to work I can do the extra time down the road and it sure is nice to make more connections with horse people that are close by to me. Their horses are all on the rodeo circuit - barrel racers and roping horses primarily. I told them I'd never ridden "rodeo" horses before, but am more then open to exercising them and learning whats what. I rode a tobiano roping mare named Splash on Tuesday. It is nice to get on horses and not necessarily worry about "training" them as I do when on Milo.

Aside from that, the weather has been horrid here with record breaking rainfall and winds. It calmed down the last two days or so but my shelters have taken a beating and the footing is slick. I cant wait for the roof to go up and the horses to be in a more proper barn.

Yesterday I took Milo out on the trail since it was clear(ish) and hadnt poured in at least a day so I figured the ground would be ok. It was. We had a pleasant ride, I got a little frustrated with Milo's snacking and ignoring my leg aids to move sideways, but was reminded of my ride with Splash where she too leaned in to the left and I corrected it by moving her whole shoulder far off to the right, after a few simple leg requests were ignored. I did the same with Milo and he was starting to hold his shoulder up better. I had to get off a few time for low hanging trees that blew over. I'm hoping I can coax the Husband out with me to cut the trees and they are luckily towards the beginning of the trail. But I reminded myself what a placid horse Milo can be as I led him underneath the low tree branches I held up high enough to clear the saddle horn. I come to expect certain things from Milo now and forget how even those small daily efforts from him should not go unrewarded.

In Moose news, I got him a weatherbeeta midweight blanket for the winter. It was a steal at $45 and is in excellent condition. Its a 51" so is slightly large on him since his Tough1 is a 50", but it will work fine. Moose continues to please me daily, even in the simple act of blanketing him. He's been wearing his orange rain sheet and hasnt been bothered much by it; I can lift it over his head with no fuss, adjust it and he's fine. I have to remember with him too that small efforts daily are a big deal from what he used to be like only a month ago.

Moose has been learning how to move his hip and shoulder over and yesterday I started teaching him to longe. Slow and steady of course, but he was starting to get the idea. I then worked on softening in his face to each side, as he will need to learn that in a bridle if I want to teach him to drive. He has a basic understanding of these things from halter training, but is coming along nicely too. I just love that little guy!

Oh and one more thing. Since I was home on Tuesday I decided to turn Moose out with Milo briefly. Not sure why I decided to but I did. Moose walked in like he owned the place, rolled about six times, then headed into Milo's shelter and nibbled some left over breakfast. Milo stood close to me and watched curiously as Moose wandered around. Then Milo walked towards Moose inquisitively. They both turned butts and I made some growling noises at both of them, but Moose was the one to fire. He double barred at Milo who came running for safety from Mom. Moose rolled a few more times, then approached Milo again, not unkindly. He then casually kicked a leg out to Milo. There was never any squealing or really any excited energy from both of them. Moose basically just walked in and said he was the boss and Milo, surprisingly, conceded to him. I was thankful it wasnt the other way around but decided enough was enough and took Moose out. I cant be angry with him, but I wonder how much I might like to turn them out together....I know they were fine the first night and ate together, but I worry if Moose takes dominance too far and puts himself in harms way. In the meantime, only supervised turnout together will be allowed and Moose continues to have his own paddock. For the winter I plan to have them stalled next to each other with joined turnout but we will play it by ear.