The Bit Works Well

Dressy went much better in the new Myler bit today. She was happier… I was happier.  She was much softer in the jaw, more willing to bend (not Dressy’s best thing… bending). Less pacing, more trotting and cantering. She did get a little crazy when Diego went out in front on the way home in a somewhat out of control gallop. She wanted to gallop past him. Actually she just wanted to blow his doors off and had her ears pinned flat to her head. But she came back to me when I insisted. Grudgingly mind you. And umm…. well, there was that one mighty protest buck first 🙂

It was warm and foggy today. There is still snow on the ground and it rained on it yesterday, then froze overnight. So the trees were dripping but the snow was still a little crunchy on top. The tree branches are all heavy with the wet snow and hanging low. My tall horse runs me right into all that stuff of course, so wet snow fell down my back and into my saddle. Where it melted into the seat of my pants. Ugh.

 

New Myler Combo Bit

Dressy’s new Myler Combination bit arrived in the mail today.

She likes the Myler comfort snaffle, and is very happy with it. I’ve done a lot of miles with her in that. But she has absolutely no respect for it. I think it’s too similar to her old racing bits and she goes “up in the bridle” with it (pulls hard) when she gets excited. Which is something you like to see in a racehorse, but not so much in a riding horse.  A couple of weeks ago, I got tired of having to use so much muscle when she has a snitty fit, so I put King’s kimberwick bit on her. And wow, she just despises it. She’s fussy and cranky, tosses her head around and pins her ears. It does provide me with a bit more response when I need it, but it’s definitely not the right bit for her.

I rode her in a borrowed Myler Combo bit for much of one season, and that worked really nicely for both of us. I get a good response from her when I need it. But she also likes it and relaxes well with it. I think it’s different enough from a racing bit (due to the nose and poll pressure) that she doesn’t automatically pull against it.

Given how much she hated the kimberwick, and how much I’ve grown to dislike riding her in the comfort snaffle, it seemed best to just break down and pay for the bit that works.

Energy Overload

Dressy is rather full of herself these days. She’s still fit from the season, and the colder temperatures suit her very well. I’ve been riding her quite often, though never very far. I just haven’t really had time to do any longer rides lately. I was hoping that really regular riding would settle her down. Unfortunately, it instead seems to have resulted in a mare who feels just too TOO fabulous. It doesn’t help that I’m always riding alone right now. She can sometimes be a little herd-bound, which, combined with opinionated boss mare-ishness, and too much energy…. well….

Sometimes down at the racetrack you see horses who are very fit and ready to race that are just about out of their own minds with bubbling energy. Hotwalking them around the shedrow can get very exciting, because they will be walking along and suddenly do a crazed, skittery dance. Sort of like a piaffe on crack.

Dressy was attempting some of those moves today while we were out. It’s a very unsettling feeling to be on a horse who has more energy than they can contain within their skin.  Like little lightning bolts are zapping her brain cells. We were only out for about 45 minutes. But it was a memorable 45 minutes. I’ve decided that it’s time to cut her feed back a bit. She’s on a high fat/high fibre feed. But I think maybe a few less calories might be in order.

I am really going to have to figure out an area with safe footing to do some schooling with her. She needs a little more structure in her work.  Circles, gait transitions, all the usual stuff that I should be doing more of with her. The footing has been dreadful in the round pen and the ring with all the slippery mud for the last month. But it’s snowing right now. So I am hoping that the ground might freeze and stay frozen. With no ice.  And the perfect layer of snow (just enough but not too deep). Wouldn’t it be nice to order up perfect weather?

Big Fat Silly Mares

The broodmares and the fillies at work all live out together with a lovely big run in shelter. But we do bring them in twice a day for meals. This morning when I let them in, some confusion ensued, and Loula went into a stall she doesn’t usually go in. It’s generally Dora’s stall. And Dora doesn’t really share nicely. So Dora started to go in after her. And Loula, alarmed, tried to charge back out at the same time Dora charged in.

Now, in order to picture this, you have to realize that both mares are in foal. And both are ENORMOUS. Not just “in foal” enormous, but fat enormous. Loula always was built like a brick you-know-what. And Dora has been eating like any ten normal horses since she’s been in foal. So she’s working on getting as wide as Loula. Neither mare is due until March or April. But they are like Mack trucks.

I’m not sure how wide that stall door is, but it’s not even close to as wide as those two mares combined. And so they got stuck. Really REALLY stuck. It looked like a cartoon clip… both mares with all four feet scrambling wildly trying to go forward. It probably took a good ten seconds before it occurred to either mare to back up. And even the backing up seemed to produce an audible POP when they finally got unstuck.

Neither mare was hurt, thank goodness. And once I realized that all was well, I burst out laughing. A complete failure of equine dignity….

 

Snow!

We finally got a little bit of snow last night. Not a lot, but enough to turn the ground white anyway. It changes the whole landscape entirely. It might last until Christmas morning according to the forecast.

Here’s a picture from yesterday’s ride….

Riding Dressy on a forest trail

And here’s a couple of pictures of the horses at work from this morning…

The babies... Reno, Albert, and Esmerelda

 

Harold and Jasper playing in the snow

 

Motivation

I’m planning to ride regularly this winter. Nothing crazy. No huge mileage goals or anything. But I’d like to try to maintain Dressy’s fitness level as much as possible through the winter. And King needs regular exercise to keep him healthy. So it means riding two horses. Brooke is planning to come every Sunday, as she did last winter. So that means both horses will get ridden on Sundays.

It’s my time and energy that is the problem really. I work until around lunchtime seven days a week, and then have to go back at 3pm to help bring in horses and feed. So I have about a three hour window. If I get home, have lunch, get changed, clean mud off the horse, tack up, ride, untack, and drive back to work, I have time enough for about an hour and a half ride. Assuming all goes smoothly. And that I don’t have stuff I absolutely must do (put gas in the truck, or get groceries, or pick up horse feed, etc.)

I started at the beginning of December, and have mostly done pretty well so far. Missed a few days right at the beginning when I had Dressy’s several injuries to deal with. But I seem to be riding about every other day at the moment. Of course the weather has been quite warm. Strangely warm really. Today it was 6C (about 43F). So the ground was soggy. The soil is all clay around here, so that means that the footing is very slippery and boggy when it’s wet. We can’t go fast, and today was mostly walking with just a bit of slow trotting here and there. I figure it’s still exercise. And way better than the muddy paddock she’s standing around in otherwise. It would be better if the ground froze and we had a layer of snow to cushion it a bit.

One thing that’s helping to motivate me a little bit is the blogger’s race that I signed up for. It runs for a year, and is just a cumulative mileage competition. Using gps tracks as proof of distance. It’s a little depressing to note that some of those bloggers live in places that have nice weather all freaking year long though. Ack. I’m going to have to ride in blizzards to keep up. Well… assuming we ever get a blizzard this year. Maybe it will just be MUD all winter. I might actually prefer a blizzard.

 

Today’s Ride

Some of you may remember my post about my Great Aunt Pat. And also the old photos of Pat with her horse, Bill.  While cleaning up Pat’s place after she died, I happened across a box in her linen closet, and was a bit shocked to discover that it was my great grandmother’s ashes (it was labelled, thank goodness!). Thus we actually had two boxes of ashes.

Both my Nini (my great grandmother) and Pat always loved the pond we have here on the farm. It’s quite large, and really truly lovely. Nini painted quite a few watercolours of it. So we decided to scatter both of their ashes along the shoreline of the pond, or “Lake Marsh” as Pat always referred to it.  I built a small winding trail along the shore last year, and found a lovely and very quiet spot that looks out on the water. So we went out this past Sunday.

Shoreline trail

I rode through today with my camera and took a couple of photos of the trail. Isn’t it pretty?  I think they both would have loved this spot.

View from the Shore

After riding around that trail, Dressy and I went across the road to our regular conditioning trails. Here’s a lovely view. Well… that big hill off in the distance is the old dump 🙂  But you’d never know, since it’s been closed for many years and is all long since backfilled.  As you can see, there’s still no snow of any kind. Hard to believe this is mid-December in Ontario.

 

Brooke Rides Again

So Brooke came over to ride Dressy today. This is her first ride since she had her bad accident this past summer (she was in intensive care at Toronto Sick Kids Hospital for quite a while after a motorcycle crash). She was bubbling over with excitement. Dressy took excellent care of her. We were out for about an hour, and walked almost the entire time. I imagine she’ll be a little sore tomorrow, but seemed to be just fine today anyway.

I rode King, and he was really quite well behaved except for a very saucy moment when he bit his boss mare on the butt. Nervy little beggar that he is. He’s lucky she didn’t take him out. Here’s a little clip of his rudeness…

 

Crisp and Sunny Day For a Ride

Took Dressy out with Diego yesterday. We were out for almost two hours. The ground was semi-frozen with a dusting of snow over it. And it was below freezing. But the sun was shining and there wasn’t much wind. So it was actually a pretty nice day for a ride.

Dressy was still pretty darned snort-brained, and the first hour or so was a rather speedy. She was very high-headed, and as a result, kept breaking to a pace. Even her walk was some sort of gaited thing. Maybe a running walk? I don’t really know. Flat footed, but kind of rolling along. She was clocking a little over 5mph at the walk for one stretch.

Had my helmet cam on for this ride, so I made a little music video for Dressy, since King already has one. The music is Sweet’s “Hell Raiser”. Sadly I must admit to remembering it from my misspent youth. Which dates me dreadfully.

 

Halloween Cat

We have a little cat at work by the name of Halloween. We just call her Hallie, since she’s rather a timid little soul and Halloween is rather a big scary name for such a small and shy little soul. She’s a very pretty little cat. An orange and black tortoiseshell. Her feet and lower legs are black and she has big gold (usually frightened) eyes. We carry feed out to her in front of the shed, and she sneaks out, carefully watching for the slightest sign of danger. No one has never been able to lay hands on her.

She came from a cat rescue place a few years ago. They place feral cats on farms. We got Hallie and Smokey at the same time. Smokey eventually became quite tame, but Hallie never has. We lost poor Smokey last year to some sort of illness or infection. The vet never quite figured out what was wrong. But he was likely quite an old cat. He was at least happy and friendly for the last couple of years, after a lifetime of junkyard cathood.

There is something of a rat problem under the old barn floor. Dusty (the young cat) has been catching and eating so many rats that he is getting enormous, and has started eating rats and throwing them back up for me to tidy up. Nothing nicer than finding processed rat on the barn floor first thing in the morning let me tell you.

Anyway, the boss got completely freaked out by all the rats scurrying around (they are getting very bold!) and decided he had to poison them. I, of course, got freaked out about the risk of one of the cats eating a poisoned rat and demanded that we find a way to lock both cats up until the massacre was completely over and cleaned up.

So Linda procured a live trap (meant for raccoons) and we managed to catch Hallie in it the first night. I found her the next morning, completely traumatized by her imprisonment, and took her upstairs to the little apartment over the barn. Locked her into a bedroom with a litter pan, food, and water. Dusty got the living room (since he’s big, rude, and territorial and not at all nice to Hallie).

This morning when I went up to give her some breakfast I decided to try to touch her. She was crammed into a little hidey-hole on a shelf. It seemed likely that she would take a swipe at me in self defense, so I pulled my sleeve down over my hand to try to touch her. She was too timid to even resist though. Just cringed back. I rubbed her a couple of times and then reached with my bare hand. She froze for a second and then rubbed the side of her face tentatively against my fingers. Then I rubbed her ears. She started to purr. I scratched the side of her neck and she leaned against me. Pretty soon she was purring madly and rubbing hard against my hand. She actually fell off the shelf in her enthusiasm.

Once down on the floor though, she cowered again. I think the sight of me looming over her was too much. So I left her to eat her breakfast. When I went back this evening to feed her some dinner, she was much more confident. I was able to reach right out to her, on the floor, and scratch her ears. I sat down on the floor with her and she twined around me, purring madly. She went right around me, leaning on my back, came back around and put her front paws on my leg. Eventually I picked her up and cuddled her a little bit. She could only stand a few minutes of that, but she enjoyed it. Purring the whole time.

It’s incredible to see a cat that has been so feral suddenly turn around so abruptly. I wonder where she came from and if she maybe had some human contact early in her life?