Wednesday, June 25, 2014

To Bit or Not To Bit?

Bitting can be complicated and it is extremely important. When I was in high school riding hunters and taking dressage lessons everything wore a plain D or eggbut snaffle. Some even used a happy mouth. Pretty much everything we trained in college used a loose ring, hollow mouth snaffle. The little Arab I rode used a mechanical hackamore and that was my first ever experience with that. Turns out what Dr Dunn said was true... Lu is worse with a bit than she is in a hackamore.

I got to the track and learned there a few more bit choices. Ring big, D, loose ring, copper mouth, cage. And now that I'm riding and training my own horse to event I feel as if I've become some what of a bit expert. Twister used to be ridden in the Medieval bit of doom. The fact that I can now ride him in anything less is nothing short of miraculous. I can get through a whole dressage test in a controlled fashion in a french link!

At the same time, however, Twister is a horse that needs to have his bit switched periodically. And sometimes he does his best work, especially jumping, in a mechanical hackamore. I have to be very in tune to how he's acting and feeling to pick the correct bit for each ride to get his best work out of him. Going to shows means I have to have one bridle with the hackamore on it and one with his most recent bit of choice and have a couple other back up bits in the trailer in case I find out during warm up it'd be in our best interest to switch.

Dressage is harder. I have fewer options. So really what I do is school to death in the same bit and hope he remembers that bit means dressage and gives me good work at a show.

Jumping and trail riding..... Is it a trail ride where we just plod along? Or are we going to do hills and jump random logs? (Usually it's the latter....). One time I thought I picked the right head gear and we did a trail ride through some fields and over logs in a hackamore..... needless to say I got R-U-N-O-F-T with and almost fell off. Not my best moment. And in the spring when I'm getting back into riding shape and my legs are all over, the hackamore is the way to go so I don't pop him in the mouth too much on accident.

Twister is also a horse who loves to be heavy on the forehand and occasionally during a canter, yank my arms out. I just got a snaffle gag bit and have been riding flat work in it. He is so light and responsive! I think it might be a good bit for him! But next week who knows.... I might have to switch back again.

Now my friend's mare is so mercurial that somedays she is great in one bit and others you can't ride her in anything, sometimes it's the hackamore (she has like 3 different types!) and sometimes it's a harsh bit and sometimes it's a gentle bit. And no matter what you can't figure her out! But maybe that's just a mare for you. Personally, I think I'll just stick to my geldings and colts!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Chores

All winter long, us horse people pray for heat and summer and sun. But when we are busy hauling water across fields and breaking ice in and on everything, taking blankets on and off horses and dogs, picking ice balls out of shod feet, hauling/dragging/hefting hay bales across snowy paddocks, trudging around in about 47 layers of clothing and that's NOT counting the insulated coveralls and heavy boots. And did I mention how often you are cleaning stalls all winter? Pushing and shoving a heavy wheelbarrel full of frozen poop to the pile?

But all winter long, while you are freezing your can off you forget about all the summer chores, that while being done in 99% humidity with temps over 90 degrees, are just as unpleasant. But, hey, at least you're getting tan, right? Let's see what we do all summer that really isn't any better than what we do all winter:

  • mowing the lawn... which I'm pretty sure needs to be done every other day
  • ditto that on the weed eating
  • cleaning stalls that reek with heat-inhanced urine
  • anything with hay. Maybe this isn't as big of a deal to most people, but I'm very allergic to hay (ironic, right?) and the heat seems to make my allergic reaction much worse. I get hay rash and asthma attacks and snot running down my face in a most undignified manner.....
  • water...when you have to use 8 different hoses to make it from your spicket to your water tub in the back back. 
  • riding. Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE RIDING. I love that it's warm and dry and I can ride anytime I want..... as long as it's before 9am and after 8pm that is..... Sure I could ride anytime, but then both my horse and I want to die. I have such a willing horse. But when the heat index reaches a certain point he stops being amiable. And I don't blame him. I get down right cranky when I get overheated too. Just ask my riding buddies. They probably pack backup Gatoraid just for me....
But if I had to choose one season/time of year and the set of chores associated with them I'd pick summer hands down every time. It might be sweltering, but the days are longer and when it gets too much to bear, jump in a cool water trough and cool off! 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Always Something!

Honestly, I don't even want to talk about the Belmont. That horse is still an awesome horse and I can't wait to see him come back, kicking ass and taking names. It all comes back to the horrible way we breed horses nowadays. Which probably is why my all time favorites are horses going back 20 years or more.

And what is it with my horses this summer? Curtis has skin disease, probably from napping in dewy grass. And it's between his legs and is hard to get rid of. Twister still has thrust. And a bug bite from hell that has his face all swollen. And I'm still working on straightening pork chops feet out (pork chop is Ladies Man's new nickname because he is lazy and fat).

And we are getting ready to race the big horse again.

And I'm going through horse show withdrawal. I haven't been to a show since September and it doesn't look like this broke girl will be getting to a show any time soon, if at all this summer. I just want to jump things!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Trials of Going Barefoot

This summer I made the decision to take my horse barefoot. His feet were a mess, falling apart out from under him. I knew I had to wait until the end of the riding/breaking/training season to do it. So in November, right before Thanksgiving we pulled Twister's shoes and began the battle to keep them off. I knew it wouldn't be an easy journey, but I never thought it would be quite this much of a roller coaster. I'll go weeks where he's doing great, then BOOM.

First I switched his feed to a low sugar and starch feed and took him off the sweet feed. Then I bought some Farrier Barrier and applied it to his feet religiously. It took a few months but I could see changes. First it was the strong, tight new growth at the top of his hoof. Then it was the hoof wall getting thicker. His feet gradually got tougher. But in the past couple of months (we are 7 months barefoot) we've had problems with contracted heels and now it's a nasty case of thrush. The Farrier Barrier is supposed to help prevent thrush but I guess it wasn't enough. So now I'm treating thrust before his frog falls off his foot. If anyone reading this has any remedies I am open to suggestions! I think the thrust is also what's screwing with his heels. It's always something. But it won't be this hard forever.

Going barefoot is not for the faint of heart. It is tough. You have to be dedicated to your horses feet. Always be applying stuff and picking feet. 2 weeks ago I learned how to use a rasp to keep his toes from getting out of control in between trimmings. He gets his feet done professionally every 4 to 5 weeks and his grain costs an arm and a leg. I had to buy hoof boots for doing any riding off the farm. I got pretty lucky finding a pair that fit on only the 2nd try.

For a horse with weak, cracked, falling apart feet you can't pick and choose what you do to get him barefoot. It's all or nothing and by nothing I mean you should probably slap some shoes back on him. I've seen people online saying they want their horse to go barefoot but continue to feed him sweet feed. They only want to buy cheap hoof oils. But I'm telling you, if you do it and do it right it will be worth it. And I'm not an extremest. I don't think ALL horses have to be barefoot. It's not for all horses. But for horses with several issues, it's the best thing. Let the hoof heal and grow stronger and then if you still think you need shoes, nail 'em on.

And the number one tip for anyone wanting to take their horse barefoot: KEEP AN OPEN MIND. Ask for advice and keep it all in mind. Don't make 60 excuses for why you can't do those things that people suggest to you. Remember, you haven't gone barefoot before, but these people probably have. And find a good natural trimmer. I have absolutely nothing against regular blacksmiths. But they care for feet as if they are going to have shoes on. So you want to make sure you have someone that won't cut the feet too short or cut out all the sole.

And remember: NO HOOF, NO HORSE.

 Day The Shoes Were Pulled

One Month Barefoot, before his first trim.
First or 2nd trim

First or 2nd Trim

January, 2 months barefoot

Over 6 months barefoot following a trim

Today, 2 weeks after his trim, after this photo I knocked his toes back a bit.
 See the thrush in both of these?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

3 Hour Tour

On Sunday two of my besties/riding buddies and I planned to go on a little trail ride for one of the friend's birthday. We said we'd start early and we'd only ride 2 or 3 hours. Well, we started early but somehow we ended up riding for 6 hours! I'm sure we went 14 miles AT LEAST. It was pretty awesome, even after the heat started to make me sick. It was quite the adventure. We started by riding up the old dump. It was Twister's first ride in weeks, since before he got hurt. He was great, if not a little out of shape. The view was amazing.

Then we went through the woods and ended up almost in town. So why not just keep going to town? We rode through town and went though the Mc Donald's drive through...... on our horses. That made us quite popular. 

It was pretty much the best 6 hour trail ride I've ever been on. My horse was awesome and what's better than hanging out with your besties while drinking frappes that you ordered from the back of your horse?! I love that I live in such a small town that riding your horse through the middle of it is no big deal. It's the kind of thing I've always wanted to do as a kid. Now I'm all grown up and I finally get to do these things. It's so awesome :)