Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal's New Mane

Bah. Finals, papers, and speeches, oh my! But in my vanishingly short wisps of free time I have been able to go out to the farm and see the Fuzz. And even give him a hair cut.

Traditionally, you're not supposed to cut a horse's mane with scissors since it looks weird. And I can attest to that, having gone after Royal's mane with a scissors before. It always ends badly. The more prah-pah way to shorten a horse's mane is through pulling, which is exactly what it sounds like. You literally rip hair out by the roots. Ouch. I tried it last summer, and got about 1/4 up the mane before Royal's "Why are you doing this to me?" looks made me feel like a huge jerk. I ended up cutting the rest. I'm usually fine with causing my animals pain if there's a good reason for it. For instance, vaccinations are not fun, but neither is rabies. But pulling the mane serves only a decorative purpose, and I didn't want to put my horse through it.

Enter the SoloComb.

It starts out the same way as pulling, with the grasping of the long hairs and backcombing the shorter ones. But instead of ripping the hair out, you press the lever and it simply cuts the mane. You get the same look without the pain, and I used cookies to make positive associations with the comb. Royal and I were much happier.

Here's was he looked like after I'd been going at it for a while:

And here's what he looks like now:

And all the hair I took out:

Not bad for a rookie, but I'll definitely be able practice braiding now. There'll be plenty of pictures of that too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Horse Blogging #15- If you could speak to any horse, dead or alive, what would you say?

Probably Secretariat to ask him how big his heart was. A tragic oversight meant that his heart was never weighed, but it was estimated to be around 22lbs. A missed opportunity, that.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand, now we're in crunch time. I have two worksheets, two papers, and two finals, all within three days of each other. Eep. But, I'll still be able to go to the MN Horse Expo for the Parelli Demo on Saturday and I'll try to at least see the Big Fuzz a few times during that time. Maybe I'll be able to ride tomorrow, maybe not. We shall see.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Horse Blogging #14- Your dream barn/farm

Lots and lots of lush green pastures, with non-poisonous trees, undulations, and separate stalls for feeding time. A 100' x 200' Cover-All arena, a 200' x 300' outdoor arena, and a large playground/cross country course complete with water, jumps, bridges, and a honeycomb round pen. A small barn with a few stalls, tack room, and feed storage. A small house for me and my dog(s) and cat(s). I think I would be very happy.

Didn't have a lot of Royal time this weekend, since I was busy with school stuff and my summer internship at an equine vet clinic. I won't name the clinic, but I think I will learn a lot both about veterinary techniques and business management. There was one big first in that I drew blood on purpose for the first time. It was a Percheron-cross mare and she was very patient with me.

I did get some time with the Royal Fuzz but it was just hang out time. No riding or anything. That will have to wait for a few days.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Horse Blogging #13- A video of your worst riding

Really? I suppose it would be the video I got of me and Royal cantering on the left lead. He's always had problems with it, although it's been getting better. I filmed this to send to an Instructor, and got pretty much no feedback from it, other than "how has your riding changed since watching this?". So, as usual, had to go and solve my own problems.

Why I don't like it: I have a lot of excessive movement in my upper body and my butt keeps coming out of the saddle. Royal has a tendency to canter on the forehand, which makes nice riding really hard. But, like I said, it's been getting better and yesterday was a nice breakthrough.

After lab (I! Had! Crystals! Go me!), I went out to the farm, hoping to do some riding. The arena still has a few wet spots, but nothing too serious. I put on both pairs of his splint boots, and, just for fun, the royal blue bell boots. Combine the cotton pad with royal blue trim that I use under my Theraflex, and my horse has more matching accessories than I do. He did a bit of the goose-stepping with the hind boots and didn't really know what to make of the bell boots, so my ground warm-up/pre-ride check mostly consisted of convincing him that he could still move like a sane horse with all of this stuff attached to his legs. Once he was suitably sure of this, it was time to ride. I decided to use my show bridle and just kept the noseband really loose. We looked like a Reale Englishe Horsey and Ryder, instead of the unkempt and wild pair we really are.

I tried out the Cloverleaf pattern at the trot, which he started to get pretty well. The indoor is too small for canter; that'll have to wait until I can use the front field. I also played with contact, which Royal had become a lot better at tolerating. He used to basically panic with even the slightest hint of contact; now he just kind of chews on the bit in a perplexed but pleasant matter. It's times like these I wish there were a mirror in the arena, since I can't really see what's going on. Maybe I should sent up a video camera.

The big breakthrough came at the canter. As you can see from the video, Royal tends to canter with a high head, and often goes very fast. So, I use the Game of Contact to try to help him lower his and canter more on his hind end. I wasn't trying to get him to stretch all the way, just stop looking like a llama. It didn't take long for him to start cantering better and give a big snort/sigh going to the right, but the left was a big more challenging. He kept breaking gait, trying to counter-canter, and got emotional. I just hung in there until I felt him start to relax and start to lift his back. Good boy!

Of course, my little cotton pad was absolutely filthy after the ride, even I got Royal as clean as I possibly could. And he had some dry spots, so it's time for more shim experimentation. But he was still a fabulous boy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Horse Blogging #12- Favorite horse color

Bay! All varieties, from Royal beautiful red to a dark chocolate brown. If I were to color a horse, it would be a chocolate bay with a star and opposing mid-cannon bone socks: one on the right fore and one on the left hind. Or vis versa.

Meanwhile, the lovely spring has gone away! It's been cold the past few days and we had some snow last night. This depresses me and I shall make my sad face now.


Plus, I'm starting to get into finals crunch time now so I may not be able to spend as much time with the Royal Fuzz as I would like. Hopefully, we'll be able to play tomorrow.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Horse Blogging #11- Find a horse for sale online that you would want to buy

I'm more than happy with Royal and have absolutely no desire to acquire any more horses. Although, if time and money were not factors:

She's a 5 year old Trakhener-Thoroughbred cross and she would be lovely. I'd be concerned about her being started and competing so early, but if I got her, it would probably just be very easy stuff for the first year or so. Most horses are started quite early and they turn out okay. She does look yummy.

Not much going on with the Royal Fuzz. We did the rest of the spring vaccinations and he was an absolute angel. The vet said he (Royal) was the best he's ever been. Yay for Royal! And my Theraflex pad (which I've had for years) got the approval of the vet. It's a long story, but my barn owner wanted him to take a look at it since she wants to get one. So he did and said it was one of the better pads he's seen. Which is kind of a big deal, considering how damn near everything I do with Royal gets shat on by everyone else. To hear what people have said to my face (not even thinking about what's said behind my back), Royal should be a wild and spoiled hellion with a broken back and blood spurting out of his hooves. Instead of the well-mannered and polite athlete with a healthy back and fabulous hooves that he actually is.

Obviously I've been able to push on despite the insults, but it was nice to get some external validation for once.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Horse Blogging #10- How your family/friends feel about your riding

I think they've all finally accepted that this is not a stage that I'm going to grow out of. Of course, my mom and sister encouraged my riding since pretty much forever, my dad humored me and now fully supports my desire to compete. My brother has been the most stubborn about it. He used to always make fun of me and my passion for horses. He would call Royal a "nag" and urge me to by a racehorse so I could make some money. He also made fun of Parelli. But, now he seems to be okay with it and even wants to come at watch me at shows. I'm somewhat suspicious but I'll go with it.

But, hardly anyone ever comes out to the farm to watch me play with Royal. I have to mostly tell them what I did. That's been the way of things for a long time, so I don't that'll change. It's why I have so many pictures of just Royal and so few of me with Royal. Sigh.

This week is not going to have a lot of Royal-time. I'm fairly busy this week and weekend with work and vet appointments and my internship. I did go on Monday and just took Royal for a walk in his new bridle. I experimented with noseband tightness and while he can chew with the noseband at the proper tightness, he doesn't want to. Damn. Now I have to decide how much I want to practice with it on. I definitely need feedback, especially in Finesse.

Could I get a noseband with elastic inserts please?

Monday, April 11, 2011

April Spa Day

If Royal could see this title, he'd disagree. Spas are supposed to be relaxing and his spa day wasn't. But that had less to do with the spa treatments and more with other factors.

We had a pretty big thunderstorm Saturday night, which meant mud galore. And that the arena flooded again. I went out to the farm to find this:

Who says bays can't get dirty?

So I brushed him off and was just starting to pick out his hooves when I heard a familiar cracking sound. Which could only mean one thing: Needle-Dick was up to his crap again. Royal, bless his heart, let me pick out his feet but it was obvious he was worried about Needle-Dick's issues. He continued to be a good boy and let me detangle his mane and tail, which took a while. I haven't really touched either all winter, so there were a lot a snarls to get out. Luckily, I have a really nice detangler and it looked so much nicer. As did he.

Notice how much thinner he looks than the dirty picture. Part of that is I brushed a lot of hair off, and part is Needle-Dick's gunshots were really bothering him and he was not happy about being tied to the wall. He tends to appear thinner and taller when he's tense.

I tried to see if his new bridle fit him any differently now that a lot of his winter hair has fallen off and it does look different. But, much to my chagrin, I have to tighten the noseband in order to stop it flopping around on his face. He can still chew, but I'm not entirely happy. I'll try to soften it up and make it more flexible, but right now I'm cursing the rules that make nosebands mandatory for showing.

I think he still looks handsome, though.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breakthrough! Splish-Splash In The Pond!

One of my challenges for this summer is getting Royal used to stuff on a cross-country course, namely funky decorations and water. I can take care of the decorations part, but the water part is a real worrier for me. Mostly because I don't have a readily accessible water hazard, and I'm not sure if any of the barns that do will let me practice with it. I'll try calling around to see if anyone is willing to let me ride on their cross-country course, but I'm not optimistic.

In these difficult times, we turn, as we always do, to Renee's Poor Lady's Substitute. I can make and paint my own jumps, build my own gymnastics, and use a saddle blanket as a liverpool. But the water hazard is a bit tougher. There are some areas in the back paddocks that can fill with water and are big enough to be similar to a water obstacle, but that's inconsistent.

Yesterday it was nice enough for me to wander out back to see what condition the pond would be in. With all the melting that's been going on lately, I thought it would be HUGE. Imagine my surprise (and panic) when I saw the pond was not very big, only ~30 feet across at its widest point. I realized my time window was shrinking, so I ran to get Royal. I brought him out to the pond and first asked him to go through it with me on the ground.

The first two attempts did not go well. He did not want to step into the water and was snorting at it like it was full of crocodiles. The third time, he sniffed at it, stuck his nose part way in, and started playing with the water. I backed him up and asked him to try again. This time he walked right in and started splashing himself. He got all four feet in, and started pawing. He got his legs, belly, and head all wet just splashing around. We went through twice, then I tried to get him to trot through the water. Well, he thought it would be more fun to canter, which made me very glad I was on the ground. One more try, and he trotted straight through.

At this point I was feeling confident enough to get on. I tied the lead rope into reins, lead Royal over to a stump, and hopped on. We walked over to the pond, I grabbed some mane just in case, he hesitated for a second in front of the pond, and walked in. Halfway through, he stopped and started splashing again, which was cute but I didn't want him to do it while I was riding. I asked him to go and we walked right out.

I was ecstatic. I kept rubbing his neck and saying "Good boy! Good boy! Good boy!" He munched on a bit of grass, and we walked through the water again. By now I was so over the moon with joy, I squealed, hopped off, and gave him a big hug. We went out to the road to see if there was any good grass. Alas, there was only little nubs and we were both disappointed. But I was still so happy! I rode my horse through the water! Bareback! In a halter! How cool is that?!

Royal trying to get the tiny bits of grass after his swim.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Spring? Spring!

Could it be? Yes! It seems that winter, after a long and terrible battle, has finally released its grip on the upper Midwest and we have lovely mud season weather. Mud Season: You'll be so happy to see the sun you won't notice the mud taking off your shoes.

But all is well in the world of the Royal Fuzz. After the close-call with the Arch of Death (and I did find a new one, so that'll go up as soon as it gets here) and Royal's subsequent touchiness with his legs, things have been going well. Tuesday I went out after lab and, after making sure wasn't touchy about his legs (he wasn't), I hopped on bareback and we went for a walk down the road. The farm is on a little dirt road with a few other houses. The next-door neighbor is the one I call Needle-Dick, because I'm sure he must be compensating for SOMETHING. He has a shooting range in his backyard, which is technically illegal, and is shooting almost every day. I want to tell him that a handgun won't do much for him an a zombie apocalypse, but Needle-Dick doesn't strike me as the humorous type. He also leaves his garbage cans at the end of the driveway all the time, which mean Royal is convinced they are hiding monsters. He does not want to walk past them or will only do so with a lot of snorting and tension. I decided to see how far we could get.

So, we're moseying down the road and about 1/8th of a mile from Needle-Dick's house, Royal spots the garbage cans and stops dead. I decided to use the zig-zag technique and asked Royal to go to the right. Then left. Right. Left. Right. Left. All the while getting closer to the cans. Finally we're right in front of them, and Royal stays on the other side of the road and walks past the cans. I kept his nose slightly tipped to the cans, and once we made it past, asked him to disengage his HQ and stop. We looked at the cans for a while and walked past them again, slightly closer. Stop, disengage, and go past again. He walked in the middle of the road only slightly looking at the can, we turned around again, went past the can, and went back to the farm. I was so proud.

Thursday I didn't have any class, so I went back out. I hoped to do some more riding and also try on Royal's new splint boots. I've had the front ones forever and they're still holding up fairly well, with just a bit of discoloration and rust on the metal. So I got some matching ones for his hind legs. He thought that was very weird and starting holding up his hind legs, one at a time. I didn't have my cell phone with me at the time, otherwise I would have gotten a picture. As it was, I wanted Royal to get used to the boots, so I walked with him back out to my car to get my phone because I really wanted a picture with all four boots on.

Why yes, my horse's color IS royal blue. Why do you ask?

Then followed one of the best ride we've had. I've (finally) realized that I shouldn't be treating him like an Right Brain Extrovert, but a Left Brain Extrovert. RBEs need lots of consistency to relax and focus, while LBEs need to play to become obedient. So I basically became manic after our warm up. Walk, trot, canter, walk, back up, trot, canter, trot, walk, turn on the haunches, trot, walk, back up, walk, canter, walk, canter, trot, canter, walk, turn on the forehand, walk, back-up, walk, trot, walk, canter, etc. All in very rapid succession and being very particular about transitioning off my seat. At first he was sort of fighting me, but quickly became more in harmony with him and starting putting a lot of effort in. I was trying for balanced transitions and when I got a smooth and lovely left lead canter departure (his biggest challenge), I quit there. He got many treats and a good roll in the dirt. Both of us were very happy.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Horse-Eating Arch of Death

Life with Royal is always interesting.

Yesterday, I went out to the farm, planning to ride but also hoping to get another side conformation picture. I had take the first set by the front field where Royal lives, since I can get some good sunlight there. About 15 feet from the fence line, there was a metal archway that we had walked by (and sometimes through) many times before. But yesterday, Royal's tail got caught on one it and he flipped out. He started bolting with this big white thing chasing him and I was powerless to stop him. Luckily I was on the ground and not riding, but my hand got slammed up against a tree and I got some scrapes on my fingers. Once the arch fell out of his tail, he stopped, but was still shaken up. Both of us were. It was obvious the arch was beyond repair, but neither of us were badly hurt.

I was able to do some riding, but he was still shaken up. It took a while for him to calm down and I figured he was okay.

Today proved me wrong. I went out with the intention of doing some more riding and Royal seemed okay. He met me at the gate and everything seemed okay, but upon grooming him I discovered he didn't want me touching his legs. He wasn't even okay with me just rubbing them. I abandoned the goal of riding and just resolved to help him get over his fear. It took an hour for him to let me touch his legs without stiffening or trying to take them away. I thought that he could be sore, but he wasn't snatching them away like he normally does when he's sore. I figured that it was worth it to deal with it now instead of letting it blow up into a big problem later.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Horse Blogging Challenge #9- Any injuries that occurred from riding

So far, I have not had any dramatic physical injuries from my sport of choice. No broken bones, soft tissue injuries, head injuries, nothing. I've gotten plenty of minor bruises and cuts, but nothing that required extensive treatment. I consider myself very lucky and do my best to keep it that way.

Meanwhile, in Royal News.

The world is melting and Royal is molting. He briefly stopped when we had the blizzard and freeze last week, but he's started again. I'll be coughing up hairballs before you know it. I tried to get some conformation pictures for my Equine Physiology class, and they didn't turn out too great. Mostly because I was taking them with my cell phone, but also because Royal was very confused by the whole thing.

Then we went for a bareback ride on the road. Royal's getting braver about going through water but he still wants NOTHING to do with the Horse Eating Garbage Cans. Apparently he was traumatized by Sesame Street as a foal and never got over it. And it doesn't help that the garbage cans in this neighborhood are yellow and green, so that just adds to their horse eating capacity.

Maybe if I filled a garbage can with food and left it in his pasture...