William, Clicker, and a Foal

It’s always difficult to keep an injured horse on stall rest. They get bored and frazzled, and have no idea that they are fragile and breakable (or at least… MORE fragile and breakable than all horses are at the best of times). Most horses will paw and fuss and call. When racehorses get really fit, they are even more difficult to keep in a stall 24/7. William went back down to the track at the beginning of March, so he’s pretty fit by now. And of course he’s always been a bit anxious anyway, so we were expecting at least some fussing and silliness.

But bless William’s little heart, he is being a remarkably good boy. He is calm and happy. Happier even than normal, not just ‘okay’. It’s hard to know what goes on inside a horse’s head, but the boss believes that William knows that his leg is broken and that we are fixing him. He greets his visitors with regal grace and polite inquiry about the possibility of treats? He stands for bandaging, allows Ana to clean the stall around him without crowding her (so long as he gets an occasional kiss or scratch on the neck). He might be the most gentlemanly invalid I’ve ever seen.

After the original injury, when William had to get on the trailer at Woodbine to go to the vet clinic in Milton for surgery, the boss was very worried that he would fuss about loading. The leg was in a cast, and the fracture was not displaced. But it would not have taken much to shatter it. He’s been difficult to load in the past, and I spent a good deal of time last year clicker training him to load quietly (that was a HUGE breakthrough btw… convincing the boss to let me use positive reinforcement!). Normally I do the trailer loading at the farm, but I don’t work down at the track, so the boss had to load him. And I am pretty sure it’s the first time in his life that he used treats, sort of correctly, to work with a horse. (The boss is a good trainer, and kind. But he is quite traditional.) William walked directly on the trailer, quietly, and without jarring the leg at all. For two treats – a small price to pay! I even got an actual thank you and credit for that afterwards ūüôā

At this point, it seems that I have finally convinced the boss that clicker training for trailer loading is a magical thing. He had me work with Reno and Al before they went off to the training centre a couple of weeks ago (where they are reportedly being very well behaved. Amazingly LOL!) and also with Esmerelda (who is too well behaved to even need to be sent to a training centre in the first place – the boss and Ana are both riding her, depending on who has time). It makes trailer loading a much less stressful affair for us all.

On another note… the first of this year’s foals was born last night!!!! A strapping big bay colt by Silent Name. Out of Loula. She was a very good racehorse, and is a gorgeous big mare. She always has lovely foals. This boy is very active, confident, and friendly.

Here are some photos. Click any photo for a closer (and cuter!) view.

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Scratching Itches

William is very happy. Really VERY happy. Harri (his groom at the track) says that he was visibly sad and worried before he went for surgery. And the surgeon apparently reported that he was very lame walking in to surgery, but walked out like a sound horse (albeit heavily bandaged) afterwards. So from William’s point of view he somehow seems to recognize that the humans fixed him.

Handsome boy
Handsome boy

When I went in to see him this morning, he was thrilled to see me. He loves to be scratched, and I know all his good itchy spots. I’ve been scratching them since he was an itty bitty little guy. Most foals are itchy all the time but William was the itchiest we ever had. He could be instantly immobilized with scratch on the neck. He hasn’t changed one bit either. He gets quite silly about it.

"Come here and scratch my neck!!!"
“Come here and scratch my neck!!!”

I will have to try to get a photo of the bandage. It’s huge. But he’s standing on the leg and appears to be quite comfortable. He will have six weeks of stall rest, a vet visit for x-rays, and if all is well another six weeks of handwalking (that is always fun…). Limited turnout after that.

So he has months of rehab ahead of him yet. He’s handling it all very well at the moment. Quiet and well-behaved.
He really is a very sweet horse.

Road Riding

I hate riding on the roads. ¬†Over the years, Toronto¬†has been encroaching, and most of the drivers are now urban sorts who have no idea just how dangerous it is to whip past, inches from my stirrup. Not just dangerous for me, and for my horse, but also for them. Hitting a 1000 lb horse is quite deleterious to the front of a car and generally hard on the driver too. ¬†Our road has now become a secondary route for those who want to avoid traffic on the major highway around the corner. So there is a lot of traffic even though it’s single lane with little to no shoulder, and a lot of hills.

In addition to just plain old common sense, I am also influenced by having had a neighbour’s horse die in the ditch beside my driveway after they were hit by a truck. She was thrown clear and was fine, albeit battered and bruised, but the horse never got up. ¬†It was quite a few years ago now. But it¬†always sort of lurks at the back of my mind.

Our fields and trails on the farm, and on the farms across the road are impassable right now. With heavy clay soil, the horses sink deep into the areas that have melted and are very wet. And if it’s not melted, it’s all still ice from the big ice storm we had in December. ¬†So I have been riding up and down our farm lane since the ice melted off it.

But after riding up and down that lane at least 800 times in the last few weeks, I just wanted to poke my eyes out with a sharp stick. So today, with some beautiful warm weather (finally!) we tacked up Ares and Diego (okay… first I CLEANED Diego, ugh!) and headed out to try our luck on the roads. We headed north and through¬†the rather harrowing tight curve around the ravine. Ana and I both got off and led the horses. Diego was really very good about it all. He’s not afraid of cars, or school buses, or even big trucks. ¬†Ares was a bit more worried about things at the start. ¬†Once around the curve, we headed across a sideroad¬†to the overpass over the 404. That’s a very busy highway. Ares was a bit concerned about it, but again Ana got off and led him. Diego has been over it a few times before, so he was not so concerned.

 

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I thought it would be pretty quiet after that, but it turns out that Friday is garbage day over there. ¬†Apparently it’s also “take your bike out in the sunshine day” too. ¬†And “walk your dog day”. ¬†We were passed by a very large tractor, several school buses, a peloton of bicycles as well as quite a few individual bikes, multiple motorcycles, about 300 cars, and a zillion rattly trucks. A couple of horses in a paddock galloped over to see us, bucking. Ducks flew up out of the ditch. A dog threatened us. ¬†A lady was power walking in an orange track suit. Diego was horrified by her. I’m not sure if it was her fashion sense or the very odd speedwalking gait that bothered him. The ditches were littered with trash. Old real estate signs, broken recycle bins, old clothes, etc. Both horses handled it all pretty well, considering it was their first outing on the road in months.

Consequently, we just walked almost the entire ride. But we were out for 3 1/2 hours and did about 18 km. ¬†I have reset my Garmin watch to kilometers instead of miles. It’s kind of crazy that here in Canada we measure distance riding sports in miles. We do kilometers for everything else. So I figured it was time to bite the bullet and switch.

The warmth and sunshine was lovely. It sure did feel good to finally get out and go somewhere. Even if it was a bit terrifying here and there…

Conflict Behaviour Checklist

I spoke at a fundraiser for a local equine rescue today. It was a discussion about horses that ‘misbehave’, and how to methodically eliminate triggers. I put together a handout with a number of possible causes for conflict behaviours. It’s not comprehensive, and I don’t think any checklist ever could be. But it at least gives a number of common triggers to check a horse for when there are problems. I thought I’d post it here on the blog in case anyone else is interested. I’d welcome additions to the list as well, so feel free to comment.

Horses do not like conflict. They don’t like it with other horses and they like it even less with predatory species like humans. Conflict behaviours during handling or riding (rearing, bucking, bolting, propping, balking, biting, striking, kicking, etc.) indicate that the horse is unable to cope with the training situation. When assessing a horse with a chronic behaviour problem, try to eliminate the following possible causes before¬†assuming that the horse is just being bad:

1. Pain

  • Teeth (direct pain, or imbalance can affect TMJ which cascades to back)
  • TMJ, atlas, or hyoid (pulling back, etc)
  • Feet (long toe, low heel, abcessing, low grade laminitis, bruised soles, lateral imbalances)
  • Lameness (low grade/intermittent lameness can be hard to identify, especially in the hind end)
  • Sore back (saddle fit, kissing spines, muscle damage, SI joint)
  • Ulcers (far more common in ALL equine sports than previously recognized)
  • Neurological deficits (EPM, Wobbler’s Syndrome, brain damage, tumours)
  • Body pain (generalized sore muscles can be a result of any of the above)
  • Poorly fitting tack (saddle, girth, breast collar, bit, etc.)

Identification Techniques
Do a pen test along topline (see below for a video)
Palpate back
Palpate legs
Do yoga stretches
Watch chewing at meal times
Analyze movement on a lunge line, in hand, loose, under saddle.

Outside Help (Get recommendations for the best you can get)
Veterinarian (Equine vet or equine vet with a specialty such as lameness or chiropractic, etc.)
Equine Dentist (Vet with a dental specialty)
Farrier (barefoot or traditional, but make sure the trim is balanced)
Massage Therapist
Chiropractor

2. Physical Inability

  • Immaturity (mental or physical)
  • Lack of fitness
  • Conformation flaws

Many young horses buck during trot to canter transitions. It’s primarily a balance issue, not behavioural.

3.  Fear РHorse

  • Fear
  • Excitement

When a horse acts afraid, they are either truly frightened or have far too much energy. They are not “pretending”. Either trigger is real and should be managed as a valid emotional state. Punishment is not appropriate in either case.

4. ¬†Fear ‚Äď Human

  • Expecting bad behaviour will tend to create it
  • Rider tension causes rider imbalance and resulting body pain in the horse (and the rider!)
  • Rider fear triggers horse fear

5. Training

  • Poor Training (creates fear,¬†confusion, learned helplessness)
  • No Training (never expect a horse to know anything that has not been specifically trained)

6. Riding

  • Unbalanced rider
  • insecure seat
  • hanging on¬†reins for balance

7. Temperament/Personality

  • ¬†When all other possibilities have been eliminated.

 

There are many videos on YouTube that illustrate the above points, and you can search for them individually. Here are just a few examples:

 

[Here is a video of the pen test]

 

[Back palpation]

 

[This video shows a test using acupuncture points to indicate possible ulcers]

 

 

[Checking Teeth]

 

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This and That, and Pictures

I haven’t written much lately. Obviously. Quite a bit of stuff happening, but I’ve just been a bit cranky and haven’t felt like inflicting my bad mood on the world. The weather has been atrocious for months. Snow and ice everywhere, which has severely limited what I can do with the horses. But the temperatures have finally gone above freezing.

Dressy came home on Monday. She and Brooke have been getting along very well together. But unfortunately Brooke was not getting along so well with the boarding barn. And whether it was a consequence of that situation or a lack of attention to the problem, or just being cheap (they charge $750 a month so you would think….) I don’t know. But Dressy really wasn’t being fed enough. She’s not in terrible condition, but she’s leaner than I like to see her. Apparently the barn staff didn’t like Dressy either. Which I wasn’t too happy about. She’s a sweet mare with people. It’s just horses that she grinds beneath her queenly hooves.

Dressy checking out her territory with Diego and King devotedly following her Highness
Dressy checking out her territory with Diego and King devotedly following her Highness

We do have another place in mind to send her (not nearly so fancy, but with someone that I know and trust), so that Brooke can continue on with her. But it will be another month or two before she can go. In the meantime she can lord it over the geldings and they will like it. She seems very cheerful and full of herself.

Dressy
Dressy

With the improvement in the weather, all the huge snowpiles are melting. My driveway has now fallen apart. In a big way. I took the horse trailer out yesterday for a short trip down to the farm to do some trailer training with the young thoroughbreds (Reno and Al). And coming home, I got the truck and trailer buried in the muck. We managed to completely block the main driveway for about an hour. Luckily we have been getting piles of free wood chips from a local tree service and were able to shore up the whole mess enough to finally shift the rig. But it’s quite a mess.

On Saturday, I am taking McCool to a charity fundraiser for Canter On, the rescue that twisted my arm into bringing him home. We are supposed to do two demos. The first will be a talk about assessing problem horses (McCool had some behavioral issues that are what got him into trouble in the first place). I’ve written out an outline of what I think riders should look at before they label a horse as just having a bad attitude. Things like pain, fear, badly fitting tack, teeth/bitting, bad training or lack of training, conformation or lack of fitness, etc.

The second demo is a clicker training session with McCool. He does love clicker. But he’s kind of a pushy, enthusiastic guy. He was like that before the clicker, and we’ve actually made quite a bit progress with it. He’s a lot more polite than he was at first. But I hope that he maintains a reasonably gentlemanly demeanor through the demo. I don’t want the audience to think that he’s become that way because of the training. I wish the weather had been better this winter. With all the ice, I’ve really only been able to work with him inside the barn, which is a bit limiting. And he hadn’t been ridden since November.

I have been riding him this week though, and he’s been very good. He had one moment the first day where he hiked a little bit when I first got on and put my right leg on him. That’s the side where he had two ribs out, and he was very goosey there before the chiropractic treatment. When he hiked, I put my leg back on and just held it there with light pressure until he figured out that there wouldn’t be any pain. After that, he was fine and went forward happily. Forward being the key word. He likes to move and has lots of energy. And it’s not nervous energy either. He loves to explore.

With everything melting this week, the grey horses are looking pretty disgusting. McCool is getting dirtier by the minute. I have no idea how I will get him presentable for this event. One way or another, he’s bound to embarrass me!

Can you tell that I’m nervous about the demo? It’s not exactly that I’m afraid to speak in front of an audience. I’ve been teaching at OCTRA clinics for years (Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association). But I’m so familiar with that material that I don’t need to prepare. This one I had to really sit down and organize my thoughts. I’m sure we will be fine once we’re there. But in the meantime, I’m fussing.

Here are some random photos that I’ve been taking lately…

King
King
Diego
Diego
Ella (Spanish Lady). Veronica's Standardbred mare.
Ella (Spanish Lady). Veronica’s Standardbred mare.
Bandit. A friend's cat.
Bandit. A friend’s cat.
A friend's very friendly cat. Snorkely.
A friend’s very friendly cat. Snorkely.

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One of the Ladies
One of the Ladies

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Ares Loves Ana

Ana's first ride on her own horse.
Ana’s first ride on her own horse.

This week, I signed Ares over to Anastasija. I’ve resisted actually giving him to her because Anastasija is young. She hasn’t been out of school for long, and that’s a difficult time to get a horse. However, she’s been paying his bills for quite a while now, and the two of them are utterly devoted to each other.

Ares is a Standardbred. He was a difficult horse to break to harness, and eventually was sent to the Mennonites for training. They are very competent, but have no time for neurosis. And Ares is a lily-livered little weeble. So he came out of that with a very well-developed case of learned helplessness. When terrified (which is often), Ares goes into a sort of quivering state of suspended animation. He has never ever bolted or bucked. He does occasionally pop a little half-rear when he is completely overwhelmed. But he would never EVER be deliberately bad. When frightened, he just stands, shaking, awaiting his doom.

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He’s a small, stocky horse, with a disproportionately large head. And sort of oddly placed, large eyes. Despite his less that elegant appearance standing still, Ares can move. Really move. He was a pacer on the track, and will sometimes pace under saddle. But luckily his pace is very smooth, so that’s not as much of a disadvantage as it is with some pacers. His trot is huge and sweeping. It’s unusual for a Standardbred, but he loves to canter, does it very well, and that is his preferred gait under saddle. He also has a multiplicity of other gaits. None of which I can identify (though someone with more experience with gaited horses would likely know).

So. When I first got this guy and started working with him, all I could think was “OMG, who is ever going to want this horse?” I could see some potential in him. But first impressions are important, and Ares doesn’t exactly overwhelm you with his elegance, beauty, or presence. Anastasija is a very athletic and very brave rider. She lacks experience, but she’s still young and unafraid. So I gave her the project of riding Ares in the hope that we could at least turn him into a decent trail horse. Which, surprisingly, he took to very easily. He’s not particularly spooky and enjoys going anywhere that Ana goes.

Ares very quickly became devoted to his beloved Ana. He’s like a cartoon horse. Ana goes out to the paddock and calls “Ares! I’m here!!” And that crazy little horse pops his head up and runs to her with little hearts and flowers circling around his ears. He rests his chin on her shoulder and closes his eyes in a swoon. It’s ridiculously sappy.

Anastasija thinks he is the most beautiful horse in the world. And when he’s with her, he kind of is.

Lining up so Anastasija can mount… yes, from a bucket. I think we all fell off that bucket at least once this winter. The real mounting block is under several feet of snow and ice.

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Playing With McCool

SAMSUNG CSCThe snow is reaching outrageous levels here (at least for southern Ontario). ¬†It’s been drifting in across the open field in front of my place. The plow truck is no longer able to deal with it (although it must be said that there could be some operator incompetency involved – I think maybe snowplow drivers in the GTA lack practice with, you know… ‘snow’?). There are huge snow piles between and covering my driveway (or what’s left of my driveway) and the house and barn. ¬†We have to climb banks to get to the cars. ¬†My truck is completely stranded on the house side of the snow mountain. ¬† So we’ve got a front end loader coming in sometime in the next couple of days to try to clear it away. At this point, the hay is running low, and we’d have to lug the bales up over snowbanks and wade to the path to the barn with them, one at a time. So I really hope the loader comes before the hay.

McCool, despite the intimidating piles of snow, has made a couple of breaks for it lately when we haven’t been careful. He’s a very adventurous guy. Shooting across the ice in front of the barn, up over the drift, across the next ice patch, and over the snow mountain to the plowed section of driveway. Wahoo! Then he skids a few times on the ice before returning to the sound of food rattling in a bucket.

Since he seems so determined to explore the world, I took him for a walk today. Just in hand. No riding. Even walking it’s pretty scary footing. The plow cleared the main drive back down to glare ice.

McCool is one of those horses who barges through life cheerfully, mowing down anything in his path. That would include humans if they were foolish enough to get in his way. So that’s what we are working on currently. Good leading manners. Teaching him that humans need a space bubble around them. ¬†He’s quite willing, just uneducated and not particularly sensitive. I’ve already done some work with him, but that was a couple of months ago. So we had a refresher today. His job is to maintain his position, no matter what I do. I want the middle of his neck exactly parallel with my shoulder while I’m walking, and an arm’s length of space between us.

To do this, I start by walking forward and then stop. First just one step and stop before his attention drifts off. If he stops with me, I click and reward. This pretty much gets him locked right on to me like a laser. I keep repeating a few steps and stop. He has to be paying attention and stop with me. I don’t reward him if he gets ahead of me. ¬†I just ask him to move back into position beside me before carrying on with a couple of steps and stop again. ¬†If he won’t move back into the correct position, I do not move, and I don’t struggle with him. I send him forward around me in a circle until he comes back to where he should be. Then carry on.

Once he stops reliably, I make it a bit harder. I stop and step back. If he’s learned the lesson that I think he’s learned, he’ll step back with me, keeping the middle of his neck exactly parallel to my shoulder, and not swinging his hindquarters outward.

With a horse like McCool, who is very confident, I have to be very careful to feed for position. That means that I must stretch my arm out, and put my closed hand where I want his head to be (not pushing into my space, facing straight forward, with the middle of his neck beside me) before I open my hand. ¬†This teaches the horse that mugging the human is pointless. The food is going to be “over there”, away from the human. ¬†If they are going to mug you, or come into your space, it will happen when you back up. Because instead of stepping straight back, parallel to the human, they will tend to want to swing their hindquarters out and just turn inwards to follow with their head.

The next step is speed changes. So I walk slow, then fast. If he speeds up to maintain his position, I click/treat. ¬†(If he gets ahead of me, I stop, plant my feet, and reposition him.) ¬†Then try slow… fast… stop. Then try jogging. That always seems to surprise them the first couple of times. ¬†I usually introduce the cue “ready?” at this point. So I’ll say “ready?” just before I start. (This turns into a verbal cue – “ready? trot!” that I use when trotting my horse for the vets in competition. ) Initially when we jog, it’s only a couple of steps and stop. I’m not looking for speed. Just want two or three steps of trot with the horse maintaining that position exactly parallel to me. It’s really important that I know exactly where I want the horse to be in relation to my shoulder and only reward exactly that position. I use a visual reference point. Like being able to just barely see the point of shoulder out the corner of my eye. That’s what makes them understand the exercise. If I am vague about where I want them, they don’t really ‘get’ what I’m asking for. And even with a treat, they will begin to either get frustrated or just lose interest in what the stupid human is unable to explain to them. Precision and timing are really important, just as they are in all horse training.

Usually when I practice this stuff, I do some circles and turns. But with the ice, we could only find a few spots where we could even jog a couple of steps. ¬†McCool seems to be careful and good with his feet. So his slips were just small and controlled. But it was probably stretching it even to do what we did. It’s just been driving me crazy not to do anything though.

McCool is highly food motivated, and being an Arab, also highly interested in interacting with humans. So he’s all over this clicker training thing. He reminds me a lot of King when I’m working with him. Very intense, and so quick to learn new things that he sometimes jumps way ahead of my lesson plan. ¬†Today, he was really good. By the end of the session, he was in flowing in perfect lock-step with me. ¬†He hasn’t forgotten anything that we’ve worked on, and was just thrilled to be out hiking around. He is not the least bit interested in what those boring horses at home are doing. He is not, in any way, a nervous, herd-bound horse.

I’m not fooling myself into thinking that McCool is always going to be totally easy. He has quite a few opinions of his own. ¬†But I’m really getting to like him a lot. He is confident, smart, and forward. And since he’s had his teeth done, and the chiro and massage work, he’s been exhilarated with life. It’s fun to see just how darned happy he is these days.

[P.S. For anyone who is not familiar with clicker training… no, I don’t feed treats constantly and forever. I use clicker training to teach new behaviours, and to reinforce periodically thereafter. ¬†And I teach good treat-taking manners first, before focusing on other things. Usually with target training (teaching them to touch a target from the other side of a fence, wall, or gate). ¬†]

 

 

 

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Checking In On Dressy

My Standardbred mare, Dressy, went over to live with Brooke at the beginning of January. Brooke rode Dressy in competition for one season a couple of years ago, and the two of them got on remarkably well. Dressy likes to be worshipped. And Brooke worships. A match made in heaven.

Getting tacked up. Lots of purple going on there.
Getting tacked up. Lots of purple going on there.

She spent a week or so just working with Dressy on the ground before starting to ride her again. I think there were a few moments of more than optimal excitement in the first few rides. Brooke made the mistake of thinking that Dressy would be calmer in the arena if there were other horses. Then decided to try cantering the mare while all the other horses were cantering. Ex-racehorses are not always so good at calmly proceeding, at speed, in a crowd. However, Brooke managed to deal with her and decided that perhaps riding alone was a better idea after all.  At least for now.

Dressy and Brooke

Yesterday I went over to observe a riding session in the arena. Jen and Anastasija came with me.¬†I took my camera. But of course it was very dark in the barn and in the arena. I took lots of photos and most are so grainy and dark that I couldn’t really rescue much, even with Photoshop. ¬†But I post them here purely as evidence, not art ūüôā

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Dressy seemed happy to see me (or the carrot I was feeding her maybe). But I think she was just as pleased to see Brooke when she showed up. Apparently my horse doesn’t need me at all. ¬†She’s looking good. Freshly trimmed feet, glossy coat, and in very good cheer.

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She was good in the arena. A little speedy at first, but Brooke got her dialed down within a few minutes. ¬†She walked her until she stretched her head down and relaxed. Brooke commented that she never had to put any leg on the mare to get her to go. Nope. That’s for sure. ¬†All you do with Dressy is think about trotting, and away she goes in a huge Standardbred power trot. ¬† After some walk/trot work, Brooke finally pulled out the big trick. The thing that had her glowing with pride. Dressy. Cantering. “Good MARE!” I said, out loud, and Dressy’s head whipped around to look at me inquiringly. Jen and Ana both cheered and Dressy looked over at them too, ears perked. “Oh yeah? Yeah! I AM a good mare!” She marched over to me for a scratch and then carried on. She does love an audience.¬†

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I was impressed. She couldn’t hold the canter, but she stepped into it almost every time Brooke asked. A couple of times she made it right down the long side and around the end before it fell apart. ¬†It’s not a good canter yet. But it’s far better than I expected after this much of a layoff. ¬† I didn’t see her pace even once tonight. Not that she paces under saddle much, but if you ask for canter when she’s feeling tense, it’s a toss-up whether you’ll get pace or canter. So the sheer volume of canter steps tells me that Dressy is feeling calm and confident with Brooke.

She has her going over a very small set of cross-poles too. Dressy doesn’t appear to be at all concerned about the jumping thing. She was always a very confident jumper on trail, going over logs and banks. So I expect that she’ll do fine once she figures out the mechanics.¬†I tried to get decent photos, but it was just way too dark in the spot with the little jump.

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After she was done riding, Brooke hopped off and stripped the tack to do some groundwork. Dressy was very attentive (clicker training will do that) and very cheerfully practiced a few things. Primarily the new trick they are working on… a bow.

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Brooke’s mother asked me if I missed Dressy. She seemed a bit surprised by how emphatically Jen, Anastasija, and I all replied in unison, “YES!” ¬†She’s a mare with a huge and quite endearing personality. Despite how much I love The Queen though, she is having a great time with Brooke, and getting some very valuable schooling. ¬†She cannot be a distance horse anymore due to her metabolic issues with heat. Horses that lack a career are horses at risk. She’s a strong, athletic, intelligent mare with a big engine and a bit of spook. Not to mention that she’s a Standardbred pacer, which turns most riders off before they even see her. That’s not a recipe for a safe backyard trail horse or a school horse for beginners. While I certainly don’t plan on it, if something should happen to me, this could be her ticket to safety.

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Still No Riding, But Lots of Pictures

The footing here is still dreadful. It has snowed, and in places the snow has stuck to the ice. But there are polished sections of ice hidden under the snow in any of the well-travelled areas, and in the fields there are two layers of very hard, very thick ice over layers of snow. The ice is hard enough that sometimes it will hold a horse’s weight, and sometimes it won’t. ¬†It’s just completely unsafe for the horses. ¬†My hay guy told me that he was asking our local dead stock removal guy if he was busy. And yes… very busy. Lots of catastrophic injuries to horses and cattle from the ice.

So I think the entire winter is going to be a washout for riding. Unless we get a massive thaw at some point. ¬†I work on the computer a lot, so I really miss being outside riding. ¬†I’ve been taking lots of pictures to get myself outdoors. Each batch gets a little better as I understand how to set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed/aperture, etc. to deal with the blinding white of winter scenes.¬†

Twister and McCool have been galloping around in little circles in the side paddock (which, since it was trampled down throughout all the storms, is relatively safe albeit very small). ¬†McCool is looking exceptionally sprightly and cheerful these days. It’s a bit scary to think about riding him again actually! I attribute that to both the extensive dental work, and the chiropractic adjustments. He is one HAPPY guy these days. ¬†Venice goes out with those two boys for the day. I think she gets pretty disgusted with their antics. But it doesn’t seem to have any dampening effect on either of them.¬†

Diego is fatter than I have ever seen him. He’s an A-framed and very lanky Arab. Very prone to worry his weight off. ¬†I manage him as if he has ulcers (no medication, but lots of forage, beet pulp, and probiotics as needed… stress management, 24 hour turnout, etc.) ¬† He has no visible ribs now. In fact, at this point he doesn’t even have detectable ribs. I was poking and prodding at him the other day and couldn’t find them. He’s very round looking. ¬†He’ll lose some of that once the ride season starts. But I am very glad for him to have that buffer.

I am going to be starting a short course on basic digital photography tomorrow. So I am hoping to get a bit better at all this. But here are some photos from yesterday… ¬† ¬†You guys are welcome to critique them if you see errors that I’m making ūüôā ¬† Click on the pics for a closer look.

 

Getting the Settings

I got a new camera recently. It is a Samsung NX1000, which is what is known as a “compact system camera” or “mirrorless camera”. ¬†Although much smaller, it is sort of like a DSLR in that it has interchangeable lenses, manual and automatic settings, and takes much better photos than a point and shoot camera. Well… it is capable of taking better photos anyway. It’s not going to do that until I get a bit more of a handle on how to use it. And, let’s face it, until I get better glasses so I can see when it’s actually in focus! ¬†(Man, I hate getting old. )

I got the camera just before I went to Florida. So I took it with me. But I am used to my little pocket camera that charges from my laptop. And I assumed that I could do the same thing with the Samsung. And I left the charger at home. ¬†The battery did last all the way to Florida amazingly. But died on the second day there. ¬†Whereupon I discovered what a dumbass I’d been to leave the charger behind. ¬†But I did get one or two quite nice photos with it in those few days.

Once I got home, got the camera recharged, and read the manual, I started taking some photos around here with it. I’m still learning, but getting there. We had quite an ice storm over Christmas. The power was out for three days in my house, and for eight days on the rest of the farm. The ice was rather magical to look at. But trying to negotiate it with a camera in hand was very precarious. ¬†And it sure did wreak havoc on the trees and the plumbing.

Jimi – my border collie
Diego in silhouette
Venice (Woizero)
Venice (Woizero)
King
King
Comical as usual
Comical as usual
Diego. Handsome in purple.
Diego. Handsome in purple.
Venice in winter mist
Venice in winter mist
Diego
Diego
Sundog
Ice on the Weeping Willows

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

jimi

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