Quarter Crack

King loves to be the center of attention. I haven’t been giving him much lately, so he has gotten creative. He’s managed to give himself a quarter crack. Well really… it’s a bit more than a quarter crack. He pretty nearly ripped off the heel portion of his left front hoof.

He has an old wire cut scar that cuts through the coronary band of that foot. It’s like having a scar in your cuticle interfering with fingernail growth. He always has a long groove and a slight crack there. Every now and then he steps on a rock the wrong way and pops it open. But this one is a doozy. Seeping blood. Imagine ripping half a fingernail off and having it drip blood. Very painful.

It’s my own fault. My farrier is very ill with cancer. And I’ve been procrastinating about getting a new farrier. I can and do trim my horses myself. But I still don’t have much strength in my left arm, and with six horses to trim I’ve been getting behind. King’s feet are atrociously overgrown. That puts extra pressure on the crack and encouraged it to split much worse than ever before.

I’ve scrubbed the foot, poulticed it with Animalintex, wrapped it in a plastic bag, wrapped that with vetrap, and then duct taped the whole thing. He’s now in a stall with hay. Two of his favourite things… food and his house. He’s gimpy but happy.

Standardbred Filly Looking for a Home

A friend of mine is trying to re-home a nice Standardbred filly. Bay with a few white hairs on her forehead. Three years old. She’s been backed, but is very green. She’s never raced. Her name is Start It Up. Located near Campbellville, Ontario. Extremely sweet and kind temperament. So far all the training towards riding horse status has been smooth and uneventful.

Here are a few photos.

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She’s free to a good, permanent home. Leave a comment if you’re interested, or email skykingsgirl … at … gmail.com

Moonlight Madness

I took Diego to the Summer Solstice Competitive Trail Ride this past weekend. I was judging, so although he’s a lot fitter than he was, we still only did the 12 mile Moonlight Madness ride. That’s a mileage ride that started just before dark on Saturday night. I’ve done it before, and I always have a ton of fun.

On the way up to the ride, we picked up Sandy’s horse, Benson. Pretty much the world’s cutest Arab. He is a very mellow little guy, but does not think trailering should be part of his life plan. He’s not afraid, just sort of declines to load up. However, Sandy managed to get him loaded in just a few minutes this time, so he’s improving.

The ride manager, Sue Downing, had a spot picked out for me right behind the vet check so I could keep an eye on Diego. I’m using my electric paddock for him, which is a bit risky. If he gets upset enough about being alone, he’s been known to pull out the posts with his teeth to make a break for it. He knows he’ll get a shock and goes for it anyway… diving at the posts and spitting them out as quick as he can. So, given that history, I was very happy to have him close by so that I could watch him while I was vetting CTR horses.

When I took Diego over to get him vetted, he was a bit off. Not much… grade I lame, which is “inconsistent and difficult to observe”. The vet checked him over and finally decided that he was a bit sore in his back. Saddle fit for sure. I knew that was coming. I’ve been using the same saddle as I used on Dressy and King. It’s a bit wide for him, and I’d been padding it to get it to work. But I gave the shim to Ana to use on Ares (who has a bigger fit issue than Diego) and had taken Diego over to the Vivian Forest for slightly longer rides last week. Marginal saddle fit + more miles is a recipe for a sore back.

The vet thought that since it was only 12 miles, Diego would likely be okay. I put the shim back on him and got the saddle fitting a little better. We went out a few minutes after 8pm with three other horses. Sue S. and her darling Arab mare, Peach, Caroline on Freddy, and Emma on her Morab mare.

Peach was not keen on letting anyone pass her, and was quite excited at the beginning. So we went slow, with Peach bouncing a bit in front. Nothing bad, just jigging and fussing a bit. Diego was perfectly calm and happy to follow Peach. He jogged along behind her with his head down, mostly on a loose rein. Nice, because I was able to ride just with my good arm and neck rein him for the most part. I tried taking Diego out in front once or twice, but he was not too keen on that. He really wanted to follow Peach. She had settled down a lot towards the middle of the loop. It was her first ride of the year, and she’s still pretty green, so it was just a bit of excitement at the beginning.

It was very humid, didn’t cool down at all as it got dark. The horses did get fairly warm. But Diego loves the heat. Veronica and Sandy crewed for us, and with all the help, he pulsed down fast and was at 48 within a minute or two, and was down to 40 by the time we got to the vet. He was perfectly sound to trot out. His back was no longer sore. So the shim probably helped some.

I considered keeping him in the crewing area for the hold, but thought it would be nicer to let him relax in his paddock. That would be the paddock with somewhat sparser grass in one corner and SAND. Great. At the end of the hold, we discovered that he was CAKED with sand. His head, his legs, his neck, back, sides, chest…. EVERYWHERE. He looked smug under his sand-caked forelock. Veronica, Sandy, and I had to bathe him completely before tacking him up. Pretty much by feel, since it was dark by then. So we were a little bit late leaving again.

On the second loop we caught up to the farrier (Amber-Rose) on her big Tennessee Walker and her friend who was riding for the first time (and was afraid of the dark… she managed very well despite that!) The big horse (Shallako) led for the whole loop. He was really great. Very confident guy. He moved right out and we did the loop much faster. Passed some horses.

Shallako moves right along, even when he’s walking. So his easy jog (whatever his gait is) was a good speed and suited Diego very well. We had a couple of wild uphill gallops with Sue whooping behind me. Almost lost Caroline in one of those when she lost her stirrups. But she hung in there.

The moon was really bright, keeping the trail visible in all but the really narrow trails. I gave Amber-Rose my flashlight, which I’d covered in the red plastic sheet that came in my ride package (so the light didn’t interfere with the horses’ vision). It’s one of those cheap, tiny LED flashlights. I think I bought 6 of them for about $8 at Walmart one day. I love them.

The forest was absolutely magical. The moon was bright, so everything was silvery pale, especially Diego and Peach who are both greys. There were fireflies, lots of bird calls, glow sticks, reflective safety vests, and coloured lights on the horses. We made jokes about unicorns and Lord of the Rings and cavalry charges in the dark. Giggling madly… Moon-mad riders 🙂

Diego never stumbled or took any missteps, despite moving right along in the dark and galloping a couple of big hills. That’s been another of his issues. I’ve been working on his feet, trying to get his toes back and a better breakover (he’s actually gone down from a 1.5 EasyBoot to a size 1). So I was really happy with that. I didn’t boot him for this ride though. The footing is pretty good in the Dufferin Forest. Mostly sand, with very few rocks.

The last half mile or so was a bit less relaxed. Diego knew he was almost finished and got a little ramped up. Luckily the two horses in front of us blocked the trail, and all he could do was canter at walk/trot speed, bouncing back and forth across the trail, snorting. He was frustrated, but not particularly difficult to ride. No bucking or rearing.

It was very humid/hot, even at that time of night. The horses all came in steaming and hot at the finish. Took some of them a long time to come down. Diego, who is one of those thin-skinned fleabitten greys who love hot weather, cooled off fast and pulsed down in about 2 minutes. Final CRI… 40/40.

Rose brought me a saddle to try. It’s a Schleese. She had it custom built for herself years ago. Adjustable gullet, cutback, dressage/endurance style. Thigh and knee rolls with a deep seat. I will try it on him this week.

On Sunday, I was judging all day. I started the morning by falling out of my bed in the gooseneck (we were in a slightly uphill parking spot) and crashing into the back wall. Managed to wake both Sandy and Veronica who were sleeping in cots in the horse section of the trailer. I make an excellent alarm clock 🙂

Since we’d vetted most of the horses through on Saturday afternoon there weren’t many to do in the morning. Sandy was going out just after 8, so I pulled Diego out of his electric paddock and took him away so he couldn’t watch Benson leave. We ambled around and he made friends with some of the volunteers. He grazed, nibbled at the stopwatch around me neck, and watched everything quite placidly. All of which is an improvement on past behaviour.

After Benson went out, I took Diego back to his pen. He looked around for Ben but didn’t stress. A little later he actually lay down and took a nap. Better and better! No fussing, no worrying, no deconstruction efforts.

The day just got steadily hotter, and by noon I was starting to lose focus and felt a little nauseated. I had to go and stick my head in the water trough a couple of times. I really do NOT like heat, and although I drank a lot through the day, I am pretty sure I was verging on heatstroke by the end of it. There was a new vet at the ride, just observing. I think he was a bit shocked at my cooling efforts. He commented “you really ARE a country girl aren’t you?” I pointed out that although I certainly am a country girl, what he was seeing was sheer desperation since my brain was cooking.

There were no serious problems with any of the horses. We did have quite a few horses that either did not start or did not finish. But mostly it was minor stuff. Considering the heat, that was a very good result. Riders were taking care of their horses.

The air conditioning in my truck was a huge relief on the way home. I was so tired that Veronica rode in the truck with me to keep me awake and functioning. Pit crew have many duties 🙂

Despite my overheating and exhaustion, I had a wonderful time. I absolutely LOVE that Moonlight ride.

Riding in the Vivian Forest

I’ve gone over to the Vivian Forest to ride a couple of times this week. It is a beautiful place to ride. The footing is mostly sandy, and there’s a pond for the horses to drink from (though it’s often full of wet, gleeful Labrador Retrievers, sticks, and tennis balls)

Veronica had her first ride on these trails and was quite impressed by the beauty of the forest. Ella was, in a very Ella sort of way, alarmed by all the raucous dogs at the pond party, not to mention the guitar player. Ella’s alarm is manifested as a slight widening of her eyes and a momentary hesitation. Veronica thinks that it would take a serious predator (a grizzly perhaps?) to bestir Ella into actual flight. One would have to think that this may have contributed to Ella’s total failure as a (Standardbred) racehorse. Actually Ella didn’t even earn the title of racehorse. She was a failure at being a racehorse prospect long before she could go to an actual racetrack to qualify 🙂 However, she seems to be making a terrific start at being a bombproof trail horse prospect.

A Few Pictures of Venice

I took some new photos of Venice (Woizero) today. She’s looking good. Her coat is quite metallic, and she has dapples. Her feet are, of course, appallingly overgrown. She is still much too shy and wild to allow me to pick up her feet, much less trim them. They are starting to chip off a little bit now that she’s spending more time outside though.

(Click on any of the thumbnail pics to get a closer look.)

Wise Affair: Fat and Content

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Wise Affair, this morning. Waiting for her breakfast. She’s now on 24 hour turnout in the big pasture with the two young fillies, Diva and Esmerelda. I had to go out and convince the three of them to come in to eat, since they were apparently not all that hungry. Esmerelda is roly-poly and does not truly need one more scrap of food. Diva, being a lanky yearling, can always use a few extra calories. But Wise Affair looks just right.

Shooing the three girls in for breakfast (Wise Affair in the lead, Esmerelda on the right, Diva on the left.
Shooing the three girls in for breakfast (Wise Affair in the lead, Esmerelda on the right, Diva on the left)

Wise Affair Dreams of World Domination

Wise Affair has a lot of rules. Timeliness is very important. Breakfast must be on time. Lunch and dinner too. She is loudly disapproving of tardy serving staff. First, the whinnies, then she kicks the walls. “NOW!!! I want my breakfast NOW!!!” After breakfast, she needs to go outside immediately. And if we don’t get her out right away, she glares, and whinnies, and paces around her stall. She has dreams of world domination (right after she eats all the delicious food!).

Here is some video from this morning. This is exactly six weeks after her arrival in weak, emaciated condition, with lice and all her hair falling out.

Clicker Training at Liberty, Day Two

I set up my cellphone camera on the edge of the fence today to take video of my session with Diego. My goal is primarily to get him relaxed and focused on me. I don’t really care what we accomplish other than that. The tasks themselves are just a means to an end. So this was a very free form lesson. I just sort of ambled around and rewarded what I liked.

When I went out to the round pen he greeted me cheerfully and immediately put himself in step with me. “Let’s play that game again!” The treats I use are Purina Roughage Chunks. Basically just compressed hay with a bit of yeast. Given the tall grass in the round pen, it’s obviously not the fabulously delicious treats that are making him so interested 🙂

I was very pleased with how relaxed he was both yesterday and today!

Clicker Training Diego

I did a lot of clicker training with King. King actually forced me to learn clicker training since he was such an outrageously extravagant horse (still is, really, but in a good way now). I found myself in very deep water when I first got him as a long yearling. He was emotional, extroverted, and reactive. Not to mention the explosive, aggressive temper when he didn’t get his way. Clicker training gave me a path out of trouble. Though it was a bit complicated by my difficulties in shifting my own thought patterns. It’s hard enough to shift your thinking from punishment-based training to pressure and release (aka natural horsemanship or negative reinforcement), never mind to positive reinforcement. I made lots of mistakes. But I learned a lot. The biggest thing I learned was how critically important timing is.

With Dressy, I was kind of lazy. She had been on the track for years, and she was very easy to convert to a saddle horse. So I just sort of cruised along on her past training. A mistake, in hindsight, since she really would have benefited from a whole lot more groundwork to build her confidence in me. I don’t think it would have prevented her spookiness. But it might have mitigated some of the worst of it.

With Diego, I’ve decided to go back to serious clicker training. We did a bit over the winter. But it was mostly just an adjunct to traditional groundwork exercises (valuable in themselves of course).

He’s been going out into the round pen by himself for a few hours every morning (which is going well btw… he seems to be coping and settled down into it pretty quickly). So I went out and worked with him there. First I just took his halter and gently asked him to step forward. He did, of course, and I clicked and treated. Super easy jackpot. He was a little surprised at that. But happily stepped forward again when I asked. Easy treats! Then I just touched his chin as I stepped forward beside him. He hesitantly moved one foot. I rewarded that. Touched his chin a few more times as I stepped forward and he got more confident with that. Then I just stepped forward and waited. He thought for a moment and then stepped forward on his own. I rewarded that.

Then we walked around and around the pen, with me rewarding every few steps. After he had that down pat, I gradually got a bit more precise about where his head needed to be. Ears parallel with my shoulder. He tried to head butt me once, but I just ignored it and waited until his head was in position. He’s quite clever about all this. Once he got ahead of me and after a few steps realized he’d lost me. He drifted to a halt, looked over his shoulder, and circled around back into position. By the end of the session (about 25 minutes), I could do small circles with him on the inside or the outside of the circle, and back up as well as go forward. All at liberty.

He’s a nice horse to work with. Very calm and deliberate when he’s focused. King is exuberant about clicker training, throwing all sorts of creative behaviours out in a an effort to dazzle you into rewarding him more (“If walking beside you is good, wouldn’t piaffing be better?” “You want me to stand on this platform? How about if I SMASH it with my foot?” “How about if I bite this target and fling it in the air??”). Which can be a little scary for the handler (we had to learn a lot of CALM exercises like ‘head down’ and ‘posing as a statue’). Diego is a quiet thinker. He moves slowly, considering his options. He’s pleased at being good, but not jitterbugging around in glee the way King does. As we worked, I could see a sort of blanket of calm confidence settle over him.

Once done, I opened the gate and we walked across the yard with him in position, still at liberty. I opened the pasture gate but he stopped and waited. I had to step through and pivot so he could come through and pivot with me. It felt very choreographed 🙂

A Few Photos

These are a few random photos of Venice and Wise Affair from the last couple of days.

Venice is my little feral Arab mare. Since she’s now semi-catchable (with patience and a bit of time), I am putting her out in the barnyard during the day. Although it was never too obvious in the photos at the time, Venice was rather underweight when she arrived (though not nearly so bad as Wise Affair). She’s filled out quite a bit, and possibly even grown a bit too. She looks a little taller to me now. Not that I was able to put a measuring stick anywhere near her until very recently!

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Wise Affair is the thoroughbred at work who arrived emaciated on April 26. You can see her at her worst… when her hair fell out here (though she’d already put some weight on by then). We think she’s probably put on a good 150 pounds in a month. Some of that was likely hydration of course. She drank vast amounts of water in the first few days. She still has quite a bit of weight to put on yet. But she is not appalling to look at anymore.

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