Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More In-hand Work

Yesterday I walked Arabee in hand about 2 miles. Really easy for her, but good to help keep (get) me in shape since I haven't been riding since Thursday due to the girthing/chafing issues. Also good for her to familiarize with the area around that I'd like to be riding for training rides once we both get comfortable. I am just such a big chicken when it comes to riding, I want to know it's going to be as safe as possible, even though I'm sure I could've saddled her up and got her around the same 2 miles that way, I'm hoping preparing her this way will prevent some spooking under saddle.

Towards the end of the walk we worked on crossing this ditch - typically she jumps over these things the first couple of times, then will walk through them. Well, this ditch was a lot softer and muddier than I realized, Arabee just would NOT calmly walk all 4 feet across. She'd walk her front legs in, then leap across, and actually as I continued working with her on it, she began doing spectacular standing leaps across the whole width (easily 10, maybe 15 feet!). She was sinking in pretty deep, so I decided to let that one rest, and I was able to get her to walk through a more shallow section of it that didn't have quite the hoof-sucking mud that the other section did. This was actually a good workout for her! She started to sweat, and was certainly breathing hard. Unfortunately, I'm thinking it was a strength training (anaerobic) workout rather than aerobic conditioning, but it couldn't have hurt anything to build some strength.

We finished up and I hosed her muddy legs off, and paid special attention to her girth/elbow area. I applied some aloe, hopefully that will help some. All the swelling is gone now, and the chafed areas do not seem to bother her as much when I touch them.

My new girth will be here on Thursday. I really can't afford to wait until then to get some good riding time in - I'd like to put in a good hour or two on her tonight, and I could try the fleece backed girth. BUT, if I try that and it rubs her raw, then I'm back to hand-walking. I can't afford to let this problem get worse, but at this point with such little time left, I have only 2 weekends left of training time before her first 25 competition miles, so I need all the ride time I can squeeze in. I hope I make the right decision.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In Hand Work on Friday

Just below is a picture of Arabee's girth area - hairless and swollen. Which, is the reason that rather than riding for 2 hours around the farm expanding our territory, I decided to walk her (with some jogging) in hand to accomplish some of the same goal. It was NOT a workout for Arabee, she never even got her breath up, and certainly didn't break a sweat. (but I did...and had a stitch in my side starting about 1/3 of the way into the mile and a half walk~it was good for rider fitness, anyway) I just hated the idea of trying to ride her, even with the too-big, fleecy girth and making things worse, or raw - and then it would have probably taken even longer to heal. Playing it safe and hopefully can get back on the trail early next week. I will phone order a girth today, it should surely be here by mid-week, and I think if the swelling goes down (which it hadn't yesterday, but looks much better this morning) I could try the fleecy girth for short rides until the new and improved material girth arrives.

Hard-to-see photo of daffodils and honeysuckle in the fenceline along the road. (I didn't take pictures of the beer cans and wine bottles lining the sides of the road.....and judging by the number of Bud Lite cans, that is the beer of choice for "booze cruises" in my neck of the woods....I hate that people do that - I don't mind drinking, and I don't mind driving - but PLEASE, please, don't combine the two, ESPECIALLY at the same time!!!)

This shows a 1/4 mile flat farm lane that goes straight towards the river (river follows the tree line) - good opportunity for wind-building gallops after Arabee is familiar with the area!

We hiked across the soybean stubble and you can see the rows of the harvested corn in the background. The fields follow the river and we stayed close to the cow pasture fenceline. Arabee's looking straight at the barn - Jack didn't appreciate being left behind and was letting her know!
The green field is filled with wild onions sprouting, and we're at the top of the hill, the camera is looking down at a deep ditch we crossed, and the gray field is the same bean field the previous picture was taken in. This hill is pretty hefty and long! We stirred up several deer in the woods on our way up, too. You can't really see it since Arabee's in the way, but just to the left of Arabee's mane in the photo is an old Indian mound - some of the tribes in our area used to build hills, or mounds for burial. I guess people used to find a lot of arrow heads and such here.

It was fun, and nice to be able to show her some of the areas I hope to be riding on soon. I'm working on getting her more and more confident going farther and farther from the barn. She was upheaded and observant, but quite content to stay by my side.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Girth Issues

Arabee has just RECENTLY developed some pretty serious girth problems. Or, it might be the girth, or the breastcollar strap.

I first noticed some small bare patches on Tuesday March 17 that could only be found by her putting one front leg forward, then me gently pulling the skin at the elbow towards the front, so, I'm calling that her armpit. Basically, it was bare of hair there - but the skin didn't seem too bad - slightly tender, but not raw.

The thing is - nothing really changed! Same saddle, same pad, same breastcollar, same girth, same rider......the only difference I could come up with was that it was getting consistently in the 50s and 60s when we ride, and she's been really shedding out alot.

So I have been keeping a close eye on that spot, and I emailed The Distance Depot and they called me back to ask about the mohair girths they have. We talked about it alot, and decided it was probably just her rubbing and shedding in the sweaty areas. I mentioned I might try Desitin, or vaseline, or body glide, to lube her up if she was producing the friction herself. She thought that was a great idea, the Desitin, since then I'd be able to see whether it was the girth or not since it would be white everywhere.

I went ahead and tried the Desitin for our training ride on Tuesday, even though her armpit stayed the same after our 15 mile ride at Versailles (I'd have thought it would have gotten worse at that distance if it was the tack!) so I was pretty convinced it was just the way she was moving (or the extra layer of fat she has!). She even had similar issues between her hind legs. I put a not-so-thin layer of Desitin on the bare spot, and while I tried to keep it just there, I ended up basically just smearing it all over her....not pretty, but I figured it would be soothing.

Sadly, I think that since I was inept at staying in the lines, I will not be able to tell if it was from the tack or not - after Tuesday's ride I had white, smeary goo all over that horse from her shoulder, across her chest, all over the breastcollar strap, on the girth, on the billet strap. So was it the tack?? Maybe, but since I didn't keep the Desitin "in the lines" I feel I can't be sure. (I never was good at even coloring in the lines...) I checked her closely after riding on Tuesday, and other than the Desitin mixed with sweat and dirt ALL OVER HER she didn't appear any worse at all.

She had Wednesday off, and all day Thursday until I went up at 5:45 to tack up. Whoa! Big swelling, both just in front of her girth on her barrel, up between her legs, and it was warm and firm to the touch. Not good! The only thing I can think of is that trying the Desitin on Tuesday and leaving it on (I thought to soothe her skin!) just made things worse. She didn't seem worse after the ride Tuesday, but right away when I pulled her out of the paddock today to ride, it was obvious. I had checked her on Wednesday at the morning feeding, and didn't see anything unusual. What's going on here?

So Thursday I debated whether I should even ride. I groomed her very well, and checked her swollen and hairless areas carefully - she didn't seem affected when I touched, scratched the mud off, or palpated the area - so I decided it wasn't too uncomfortable, and I'd see if I could get the girth farther back to stay off that spot. No problem. I also loosened the breastcollar strap that goes between her legs to the girth so it would hang loose. So I rode for an hour, counting warmup and cooldown. I got off and checked her once about halfway, the girth had stayed in place, and the swelling had gone down slightly, so I kept going. Somewhere between when I checked her and when I quit riding she must have found a new way to rub hair - this time directly underneath the girth. Shoot! So I untacked her and hosed her down between the legs and made sure to get that area really really clean, (as opposed to really clean as usual) but the swelling had already decreased when I'd checked her, and had stayed down.

Again, she didn't seem uncomfortable, but I know it could very easily get much worse. The girth I've been riding in for a month now has been a 22" nylon cloth dressage girth with elastic ends. The breastcollar is a beta biothane from Running Bear (I love it!). After Thursday's ride I put everything but the saddle in the washing machine, including the much too big 30" fleecy backed dressage girth I have. If the swelling stays down tonight, I'll ride her with the fleecy girth, and put a bit of vaseline on the new bare spot. Hopefully she hasn't lost so much weight that her girth is useless (it was too long 2 months ago, and she's really trimmed up since then). But, if the swelling has increased, I definitely won't try and ride. Instead, I'll hose the area down again, and hand-walk/jog along the farm lanes. This won't be completely lost time, since she needs to become familiar with them anyway, but I'm really not fit enough to go as far as she needs to!

Any suggestions? Do I need to switch girths or was it just a freak bad reaction to the Desitin??

It's weird that with all that going on, we still had a GREAT ride. Arabee didn't show any signs of discomfort, and I started off in the barn lot. Matt opened the green gate for me to the pasture where I normally train, and I had him wire it OPEN. This allowed me to work in the barn lot, then trot across into the pasture, work in there on the hills and creeks and mud, then trot back. When I'd get her good and blowing, I'd head North to the new territory that we explored in hand on Tuesday at a nice walk to let her catch her breath. We experienced having to wait on a lot of traffic, from cars, trucks, SUVs, joggers, a horse trailer (with a horse!) and she handled it all very well. Fortunately the only vehicles we met while actually riding on the road (as opposed to waiting in the gate for the traffic to go by) was my husband in his little truck, so he was nice and slow, and she did fine.

I'll probably boot her tonight, all around, if I end up riding. Funny, on training rides that we've hauled out for, she moves right out on the gravel, but at home (w/ no other horses to pull her along!) she is short strided and choppy. I'm still learning my horse, but it's amazing that she'd perform SO differently on the same type of surfaces just because of the presence of other horses. I guess they aren't kidding when they say "ride your own ride" but it looks like it's going to be tough to do that since Arabee does seem to be so "magnetized" to the other horses on the trail - either slowing down if she's in front, or speeding up if she's behind.

Plan A for this weekend was to ride 20 miles w/ Jacke at Versailles, but with the forecast calling for THUNDERSTORMS on Saturday, we were going to do Plan B and try to ride together at her place on Friday, to work the horses together at a faster pace on hills, either 15 or 20 miles. But I wasn't able to find a sitter early enough so rather than haul 2 hours roundtrip to get to ride probably an hour and a half, I decided to stay here and work at home (Plan C!). But, if her girth is worse or the same, I may have to resort to Plan D and work her in hand. Man, oh man - what's next?? Sometimes it seems like it's always something!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tuesday's Ride

Rode yesterday.

Not much to say about it, trotted alot. I had Arabee's attention better, even when out of sight of the barn, which is a definite improvement. Before when we'd get on the other side of the hill she'd get all worked up and forget I was up. This time she only flicked her ears to the barn area occasionally!

We worked on crossing the ditch in some steeper places, a foot or two step down into a 3-4 foot wide ditch, w/ a 1-2 ft. step back up out of it. She didn't just leap across, either! We quit on a good note after that, and to make the point I just hopped off right there at the bottom of the hill by the creek, which I won't do anymore - I had to walk up the stinking hill on foot! Next time she gets to carry me :-)

We really hadn't worked for very long, so I took her in hand down the road a bit and up one of the farm lanes that runs next to the neighbor's house who has close to 5 small yappy dogs. Practiced that until she'd stay at my shoulder (no more spinning in circles!) and then quit for the night.

If the weather is fit (it's raining sideways now against the house, I can hear it slap the window) we'll do more tonight, hopefully expanding the under-saddle territory further. I need to get out on those lanes and trot out. They're flat as a pancake, but at least I'll be able to maintain speed better than I can where I've been riding.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Barefoot Hooves and Competition

I'm interested in hearing from all you barefooters out there:

Do you train barefoot, or booted? Why?

Do you compete barefoot, or booted? Why?

If you boot, do you boot all 4, or just front hooves?

I've got Renegades for the front, and Epics for the back, although I've never actually tried the epics on Arabee yet. Shortly after I purchased the boots, either something changed for Arabee where her feet got tougher, or it was the result of the ground thawing out and getting softer, but she has not needed to use the boots in training since I bought them. She is able to walk and trot with no trouble on gravelly sections of trail, and on gravel roads. Occasionally she finds a loose rock that hits a tender spot, but that is rare, and I only notice it at the walk.

I think I'd like to try competing barefoot, since when I say competing, what I really mean is compLeting....I won't be racing. On the other hand, I am a true newbie, to both barefoot and endurance, so I don't want to put Arabee's hooves at unnecessary risk. I figured for competing I might start barefoot, but carry the Renegades with me and put them on if need be. But, how would I know if I needed to - if she started moving "off"? And at that point, it would probably be too late for the boots to help.

So, any insight into this I'd really appreciate! Thanks!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

15 Miles at Versailles

I'd been looking forward all week to meeting up w/ Jacke and riding at Versailles State Park today, but after getting up this morning w/ temps in the mid-30s, I didn't feel like it anymore! I had an hour-long haul, plus I knew I had to put fuel in the truck (usually Matt takes care of that, but since I've been the one using it lately, I had the honor). Arabee loaded up really well, though she was nervous, and we were on our way. No trouble on the way there, traffic was slim.

Tacked up and I had a bit more horse than I wanted, but she was still controllable. Mostly she was just hooky-necked and looking all around, and I could feel her tenseness underneath me. After a bit we started trotting, and she calmed down pretty quickly. Fortunately after I got in the saddle and we headed down the trail, I remembered pretty quickly why I'd been looking forward to riding out all week and we had a really fun time. Arabee just loves getting out on the trail and looking around. It's fun to watch her enjoy herself.

I was able to ride with a loose rein most of the whole ride today. She was carrying herself in a nice frame it seemed, though its hard to really tell (for me) in the saddle. We walked and trotted the first loop, and then on the second loop I asked her for some cantering. She was VERY GOOD. We cantered a little on the flat, and a little bit on a few uphills - wow what a feeling! I mean, sometimes you can really really feel all that energy going uphill at the trot, but it wasn't like this. I had a coiled spring underneath me cantering up that hill, very controlled, yet on a loose rein. Riding a horse is really an experience of power and partnership you don't get in a whole lot of other realms. It's thrilling when it's right, you know, when you just click and it's smooth because they're willing to accept your leadership and you are able to listen when they're telling you they need to pick their footing, slow down a bit, are ready to move faster, etc.

Tried some new things today. A fleece noseband cover - Just last week she's started showing some rub marks on her nose, so I'm hoping the fleece will prevent that. Also I got my snugpax pommel pack in the mail, and Arabee carried it. It's pretty heavy w/ 2 full water bottles, so I think I'll try to train w/ it from here on out, so she can get used to carrying the extra weight. I was having some trouble w/ flapping, but it was an easy fix by just wrapping the strap once around the breastcollar.

The rubbed off hair in her "armpit" where her legs meet her body in the folds of the skin didn't look any worse. Just in case, next ride, either tomorrow or Monday, I'll try some Desitin on her armpits where she's lost her hair. I don't think it's the girth, since she's got some of the same rubs between her hind legs - I'd say it's just friction of the loose skin and sweat. I may have to use vaseline or body glide to lube her up! If it is the girth, however, using the Desitin will show it by leaving some behind on the girth if it does touch her skin there.

She seems to want to give me trouble loading on the trailer to go home. She's been doing fine getting on to leave home, but coming home she is balky. Got her on and got her home though, and hosed her bottom half off from her belly down, since she was COATED in mud! She enjoys drinking out of the hose. After that I hobbled her in a grassy spot in the sun and out of the wind so she could graze while I unloaded the rest of the trailer. Jack got to eat the remainder of her alfalfa hay bag (yum!) and then I curried her and brushed her and turned her back out. She made a beeline for the waterer, then just jogged around familiar territory til she finally parked herself by some hay, and seemed happy to be back home.

I think I'll have enough horse for 25 miles come mid-April. Now, will *I* have the endurance for it???? I'm pretty sore and tired!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Off Topic

I want to take the time to make everyone aware of an issue that is going on right now that jeapordizes a parent's right to parent their children. View my blog post here. Check out www.parentalrights.org

This is a serious issue that has big time implications, and as usual it has a nice sounding name. It's the "United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child." With a title like that, it actually sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is that if your child doesn't like some of the limits you as their parent place on them, then they could be separated from you. I go into further detail at the other blog post, so I ask you to PLEASE check it out, and be sure to visit www.parentalrights.org

If you are a parent, or care about the future of this country and our children, please take the time to check out the links I posted. Thanks!

Hoof Trim Pictures, Before and After

Took the time to trim Arabee's hooves yesterday. Takes about an hour to do all 4. When I first started, it took that long to do just two, but I don't have to do as much now, plus I've gotten stronger (and the rasp has gotten duller, which means it doesn't take as much hoof at once, which means it's easier to use!)

This is a "before" picture of her left front, and hind feet. Not terrible, but you can see that the wall has lost most of the mustang roll on the inside of the hoof, and that she's got a center crack started which means that she's putting too much pressure on the front "corners" (this is probably not what that's called, but it's the part of the hoof that's about an inch or two on either side of the center front of the hoof). It's probably starting because the wall is touching the ground (the mustang roll has grown out) on the inside of the hoof.

This is a "before" picture of her front hooves. It's pretty obvious the line about 2/3 of the way down the hoof where the new growth has come in after I started giving her mustang rolls in the barefoot trimming style. The new growth is nice and tight, where the last 1/3 of old hoof is sort of bumped out from the wall pulling away from the laminae (called flaring) - The mustang roll keeps the walls from bearing all of the horse's weight and allows the wall, sole, heel, bars, and frog to equally share the weight burden.

This is the "after" picture. It's not great, but you can kind of see where I rasped the hoof.

Basically, my strategy on this trim was to have her prop her foot up on the jack stand, and I rasped about an inch up from the bottom of the hoof. I worked on bringing the bottom of the hoof's angle to match the rest of the new growth at the top of the hoof, then rounding the bottom edge in to meet the outside edge of the white line. I wish I had taken an "after" picture of the bottom of the hoof to show where I stopped rasping. I never ever rasp the sole - it's Arabee's job to wear her sole, my job to help her keep her walls and bars even with the sole. The sole is the road map to help you determine where the wall all around the hoof is supposed to be.
Today or tomorrow I'll try to take some better pictures of her new trim. It had started to rain just as I was finishing up last night, or else I'd have taken them then.
Arabee's hooves are quite sound walking and trotting on gravel and really all surfaces, and she's developed nice concavity to her soles. I'm having some issues with her frog - Unfortunately that week I was sick and I wasn't well enough to pick hooves (or really move) , the thrush bug thought that would be a good time to take up residence. I'm working on treating that, but she's not showing any soundness issues because of it thankfully. It really shows the importance of daily hoof picking in this wet weather.
If I've said it once I'll say it a thousand times: I am so glad that I have taken charge of the care of my horses' feet! It's weird, too - Arabee almost seems to enjoy having me trim her hooves - she gets this soft look on her face and just really relaxes and lets me have her feet however I want them. She must appreciate the results!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday's Ride

I wasn't sure if I was going to get to ride yesterday or not, but fortunately it worked out just fine so that I could.

While saddling up, I noticed in her right "armpit" that all the hair was missing. Uh oh! It's so deep into the folds of the skin, that I have a difficult time believing it is from the girth. But it might be. It also might be the strap from the breastcollar that goes between her legs to the girth. Either way, I was very careful with where I put the tack, both girth and breastcollar, and I didn't notice it getting any worse after the ride. I hope the adjustment I made fixed the problem. I may have to find some sheepskin to cover things up. Other solutions? I think it's strange that it's only on the right side.

Matt and his dad and uncle were hauling manure (cleaning out the calves' stables and spreading it on fields to be disked in as fertilizer this spring before planting) so since those machines were clattering around I chose to stay in the same ol' pasture we'd been riding in.

We started off w/ a walking warmup, circling, turning, flexing, then took to trotting. I'm forced to do a lot of trot/walk transitions, since I don't like to trot downhill at this point in her conditioning (maybe after a couple of seasons of endurance training/competition she'll have the strength to do that sometimes...but I don't feel she's up to it yet).

She was much better about not pulling on the reins and keeping a good speed at the trot, which was pleasing. However, she kept wanting to break into a canter (Jacke, are you sure you want to take my advice? ;-). I decided it may have been that the tack was rubbing her arm pit at the trot, so gave it a rest and we did a lot of hill-walking. Up, down, sideways, over big logs, through the mucky creek, along the creek. It was tough for me to force myself into a whole hour of that (kind of boring, really) but I figure at least I was working on getting her legged up, even though not working on her aerobic fitness as much. I hope that I can get to what's causing this rubbing and eliminate it so she doesn't actually get sore.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday Night's Ride

Rode for an hour yesterday - it was BEAUTIFUL weather outside for a nice quiet walk in the woods. :-) Unfortunately for Arabee, we needed to have a conditioning ride, so that one hour really worked up a big sweat on her! I'm not sure the exact temperature, somewhere between 60 and 70. I was comfortable, though! She'll really be shedding out the winter coat rapidly after working up that kind of sweat.

She was kind of a stinker yesterday. It must have been one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. You know, "if you think you can, or if you think you can't - you are right." Well, I guessed that after having a big workout on Saturday, and Sunday off, that she would be feeling froggy, so either I was right....or I was anticipating a bit of a fight so I got one.

She wasn't really that bad... but didn't really want to stand still when got her out of the paddock, was giving me trouble with the rump rug (I always "remind" her what the rump rug looks like when it catches in the wind, and remind her that the crupper is there before each ride). She was well-behaved at first, bending well, walking out nicely, so we headed down to the ditch/creek to walk around there, then followed it along to where the little tractor path is. For some reason she just hates climbing that particular hill. She wants to rush up and get out of that valley *right now*. My guess is that it's really the only place in that woodsy pasture that is actually out of sight of the barn.

So each time she headed up that hill and wanted to trot instead of walk, I gave her a single-rein-stop, turned back around down to the bottom, then tried it again. It took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but finally she did walk (although quickly) up the hill.

After I won that one we did some trotting, and she kept wanting to break into a canter at the muddy parts. It was a nice, easy canter, but still disrespectful for her to try to decide what gait. So I'd bring her down and we'd trot, and next time we'd get to that spot I asked her for a canter. (first time I'd intentionally cantered out of the arena...I am such a chicken!!!) I took her by surprise since I hadn't asked her to canter in a long time, and she took the opposite lead of the bend we were on, and it was ROUGH. So we trotted, and tried it again next time around. Much better.

She was pretty excited after we did some cantering (that was FUN!) and kept giving me huge trots that I could feel were going to turn into canters any second. She did break gait a couple times, but I was eventually able to keep her trotting when I asked for the trot.

I'm using more rein pressure than I want to have to to keep her at the speed I want to go. I wish I had a video of parts of yesterday's ride - since she was really giving me a lot of energy in her trot (and canter) and I was reining her in, and she was rounded up and arching her neck and breathtakingly beautiful from astride, so I really wish I could've seen it! But, I don't want to use that kind of rein pressure all the time, I'd like her to rate better w/out rein. Really, I screwed up at the trail ride at Clark on Saturday - she was trotting out really fast to keep up with Toby and Phebes when they would canter, and rather than slow her down w/ my seat, I used rein, rather ineffectively, and essentially taught her that it's okay to ignore me pulling on the reins. It's amazing how you really do have to be on top of your game all the time when in the saddle, since it doesn't take long w/ these super intelligent arabians for them to learn a bad habit.

So, tonight's goal is to work on rating, and responsiveness.

I'm also considering breaking out of my comfort zone and heading for the farm lanes. I can so tell that Arabee is sick of riding in the same pasture over and over and over.....but I like the comfort of having the fence. It's a little ridiculous because this is like a 10 acre pasture, she's got plenty of room to get away - but for me the difference is knowing she can't dump me and then gallop back across the ROAD because the gate is shut, so she'd be safe. Maybe I'll see if I can get my "riding parter" to come along, for extra confidence on the first lap, then I can do some trotting laps with just me and Arabee.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Endurance Ponderings . . .

Arabee had yesterday off after the training ride on Saturday. I intend to get a couple of good workouts on her today and tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday off, ride Friday, training ride out on Saturday, then Sunday off again. I think the weather will cooperate.

She was in a good mood yesterday, came up to be haltered, and I groomed her and trotted her out. She'll be ready to ride tonight, and may even be a bit of a handful.

It occurred to me that I didn't use very good etiquette at the training ride Saturday. I didn't clean up after my horse when she left manure while eating hay tied to the trailer. I'm not sure if other people besides horse users use that parking spot, but if they do, I should have cleaned up after her. I hope I learned my lesson and remember to do so from here on out.

I was very pleased with how her feet have been wearing while conditioning totally barefoot. At this point, it is hard for me to imagine booting her for competition, at least for an LD. I feel like it's best to let her wear her feet on her own, rather than me trimming them, so that they wear the way she needs them to be. I took a close look at them yesterday, and so far, they look great. I'll keep a close eye on her, and if things change I do have boots to put on her all around if she's getting too much wear.

My horse has an awesome trot, at least in my opinion! She was really booking it down the trail on Saturday, and I think if I pepper in some cantering to give her trotting muscles a break now and then, and walk the downhills, and if I am able to continue improving her conditioning at the current rate she should be ready for a conservative completion mid-April, which is the goal!

Can't wait til my husband gets home tonight so I can ride! And I certainly can't wait for the first ride in April!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First Clark State Forest Training Ride

Today we headed down to Clark State Forest for our first training ride down there. It was good! I missed two turns on the way to get there though, but fortunately there were good places to turn around. Met up with Jacke and Chris, and the three of us headed down the trail after tacking up and letting the horses munch on hay.

We took the Mountain Grove Loop, and I have no idea how many miles it was, or even how many minutes we were on the trail. Too bad, but I know it was a good training ride for Arabee. It was challenging for her, big long steep hills, plenty of technical lets-figure-out-how-to-get-around-this-downed-tree stuff. She led, she followed, she was in the middle. She sweated, and she got to blowing pretty hard several times. We rode on the road for a little ways, which she was good about, and we even met a 4-wheeler, which was fine, even though I was nervous about it (she hates those things).

Jacke took her heart rate and she pulsed down really quick after the ride. She was hanging for a while, and really started dropping quick down to 60-something when I scratched her sweaty face for her. Nice trick to find out about! She ate the rest of her hay, I ate lunch, then I put her sheet on her (I was nervous about how windy it'd be going 70mph down I-65), but I wouldn't have had to, when we got home she was plenty warm. I handwalked her for a bit right off the trailer, and then hobbled her for some grazing while I took her sheets off, and curried and brushed her dried sweat off.

Turned her back out with Jack, and she was trotting around the paddock, and even jumped the mud puddle and cantered to the waterer. I'd say she was feeling okay even after all those hills!

I'll get her out tomorrow and at least trot her out in hand if not go for a short ride. We'll see, Sundays are always busy for us.

**I almost forgot to mention, but I had her barefoot (no boots) the whole time today, and I was very pleased with how she handled even the gravel portions of the trail. I was hoping she would wear her hooves more than she did so I wouldn't have to trim them myself....but she did great - she even gave me a nice power trot for a good portion of the gravelly section. Good job, Arabee!

Photos from Friday

Our shorty training ride on Friday, in what I've been calling the training pasture. In this photo we're headed downhill towards the ravine, and we can ride up and around the other side, too.

At the beginning of the ride, walking calmly.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hello again!

Well - for me things took a bit of an unexpected turn last week! I started with getting sick on Thursday, and it just kept getting worse until Monday morning! I actually went to the doctor twice. Turned out to be nothing serious, and I started feeling better by Tuesday, and in fact today if I had the time to do it, I'd ride tonight. It was probably the flu or something, had coughing, body aches, headache, coughing, sore throat, extreme tiredness, even some trouble breathing, and did I say coughing?? So, I am very thankful to be past that now!

Needless to say, I have not ridden in over a week! I had been hoping to ride with Jacke and others at Clark State Forest last weekend, to do 15 miles of that trail. That didn't happen, and I didn't even SEE Arabee until Tuesday night. My husband is wonderful, he did all the chores, he did most of the baby care, he took such good care of me, as I was basically asleep or miserable the whole time.

So, I'm hoping to get on Friday afternoon for a quick ride before I hope to re-try the ride at Clark. I haven't yet decided whether to join up for the 15 mile loop, or the 10 mile loop. Arabee's had a lot of time off, but I think she could probably handle either one. She'd be tired after the 15 mile loop, but I doubt the 10 mile loop would trouble her hardly at all. I just have to decide which loop I'm up for, since it'll probably take a bit to get back in perfect shape after the last week. The 15 mile loop would be better for her conditioning. The 10 mile loop would be better for mine!

***** Below is a photo of my family and Arabee taken on Tuesday. It was such perfect weather that we had to take a walk. Cora's just 15 months old now, and is walking along side of us. She's not fast, not balanced, but she loves having the independance! We always go visit the horses first when she takes me on walks. :-)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wednesday's Ride

Our shadow as we headed East on Wednesday night to my "training enclosure" for our ride/workout - part woods, part creek, part ravine, part grassy pastureland enclosure, guessing at 10 acres, with plenty of interest and just enough fence to keep me confident that Arabee can't run TOO far away with me.

Remembering the issues from the last ride due to the slippery footing, I am hoping to work through that. Arabee needs to learn to cope with the slick mud - right now she just freaks out and wants to go fast...but what that does is make her slip around even more. So I kept her mainly to a walk.

We did a lot of hills, alot of ditch crossing, a lot of transitions, a lot of work at going in a straight line - she was good at bending in circles or serpentines.

I constantly had to fight to keep her attention on me again, but this time I won (more or less). About 20 minutes in she would consistently flick her ear back to me if I asked for her to do something. I felt much better once she started doing that, and decided it was time to do short trotting sessions. Since she was still freaking out about slipping, we'd trot for about 50 feet at a time, then walk 25-50 feet, then trot again. Eventually I could feel her relax about it and we were able to trot nearly full laps.
I can tell Arabee is starting to gain fitness - she's a bit more difficult to handle and ready to go. I am also getting the impression she's beginning to become bored with what we're doing. Time to kick it up a notch, she says.

Matt's off tomorrow (they've cut his hours back to 5 days one week, 4 days next - every other week so a 10% pay cut - but I'm not complaining because at least he's still employed. They're doing a lot of lay-offs right now) so I'll ride in the morning. Hope to do a more intense, but shorter session in preparation for Saturday's ride. I'm thinking short warm up, 30 minutes of nothing but trot and canter, then cool down.
This is what she looked like after last night's ride: Muddy, and can you see her tail??? FULL of cockleburrs! I hope they came out on their own overnight....

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday's Ride

So it's confirmed: Arabee hates slippery, muddy footing. Hates it!

I rode yesterday after having given her both Sunday and Monday off due to me being a wimp and not wanting to ride her in high winds Sunday, or below freezing temps Monday with warmer weather forecasted this week! Monday the ground was partially frozen in the shady spots (North sides of hills) and partially thawed and SLICK in other places, and in some places had hoof-sucking mud.

She's not a fan!

Therefore, she was essentially refusing to put her focus on me, and instead her ears and mind were back at the barn, where she would have much rather been. She spent a lot of time traveling with her body curved, but going straight - now that's awkward to ride - and since she was ignoring me, rarely listened to my aids to straighten her.

She was okay at the walk, but once when I asked her to trot up a hill, she veered off towards the left, when I wanted her to trot right, which meant her path went into a big rut (formed from a tractor tire) that was super slippery. She began to scramble to keep her feet, jumped forward and a little to the right to get back out of the rut, and then when she got out threw in a buck because she was MAD. THAT nearly unseated me......and if she wouldn't have stopped when I said WHOA, I would've gone off.

So I highly recommend teaching your horse WHOA. Only use WHOA when you actually want the horse to stop RIGHT NOW. Use "stand" when you want the horse to stand still, but only use WHOA when you need them to stop moving their feet. Continually practice this, and it will pay off sometime. Yes, it will. Reserve "whoa" for you-have-to-stop-right-now, and use "stand" (or something else) when you just want them to "keep" stopping. Don't wear out the "whoa" command - it's real handy having emergency brakes! It saved me from coming off twice yesterday, another 2 or 3 wild strides and I would've been off.

We were able to trot enough on the flat parts to get her breathing up and the beginning of a good sweat, but with the unique part frozen part thawed slickness, we called it quits after 45 minutes after making sure to end on a good note. Since it was so slick, after regaining control and composure, we did a good bit of practicing walking on a long rein, practicing around the creek, practicing across ditches, logs, up and down hills, and staying at a walk and not breaking into a trot. I also practiced walk-halt transitions.

Hopefully tonight I will be able to gain her focus and attention. I've got a longer ride planned, since I won't be able to ride Thursday, and a short easy ride for Friday since I really want to haul out for another training ride on Saturday.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hobble Training Arabee

For Christmas I had received a gift of a set of hobbles. It was one of the things on my list, and I was very happy to get them.

Living on a 100++ year old farm like we do, you really never know for sure where there might be old fence wire half buried underground, or where a stray strand of barbed cattle wire may have long ago been knocked off the fence by a fallen tree, then left to be slowly buried by the tree as it decomposed. You never know. I mean, I know today we do the best we can to keep things neat and put up, but every now and then we find old buried junk, and what's to say there wouldn't be wire buried somewhere, as well?

So, I have been wanting to hobble-train Arabee, so that if she ever does find herself entangled in something, she will know not to fight it, just relax and wait for help. I would hate to have ignored this relatively easy task and have it haunt me later. It was also VERY WINDY today, and I am also pretty sore and tired from the ride we did yesterday, so I decided to take the day off from riding and work on the hobbles.

For several weeks now I have been working with her in her stall with a thick cotton lead rope around one leg at time, pulling on it, moving it, picking it up; basically teaching her it was okay to have that feeling on her legs. Eventually I wrapped the rope around one leg, then loosely around the other, "hobbling" her with the rope, but it would have easily come undone if she panicked. No big deal.

Today I took her out where I normally groom and tack up, in a familiar place, and tested her first with the cotton rope, then when she was ho-hum (right away, basically) with that, I strapped the hobbles on.

I put them on the cannon bone, just above her fetlock. I've seen them put there, and on the pastern, but this spot seems sturdier, plus less likely to get muddy, so I strapped them there. I left her halter and lead rope on, and since she basically stands like a statue when I'm grooming her anyway (she ground ties VERY well) she didn't test the hobbles.

So I decided to test her. I gave her a dose of wormer (and Jack too, March 1st), which she typically doesn't enjoy, but tolerates after practicing her best giraffe impression, and dancing a bit. This time, she DIDN'T move a bit. Yeah!

Then I unbuckled one of the hobbles, and led her to the grass, and rebuckled them. You can see a picture here:
She didn't bother the hobbles much, just stretched her neck to get as much as possible. So I hopped the fence and wormed Jack (he hates it too, but being so old he doesn't put up a big fuss, especially if I keep him from seeing it!) which he backed up after I gave it to him and moved out of Arabee's sight. This she didn't like, and came bounding about. I said, Whoa! and she stopped, and didn't move her feet a bit after that, but kept grazing.

So I tested her some more. I found a piece of plastic, about 6"x12" - noisy enough to be startling, small enough to not be overwhelming. I sacked her out with this, which she picked up her feet, but didn't move beyond the constraint of the hobbles.

I will consider this a success. She needs more practice, but I think a great start. I also want to do this same training with the hobbles on her rear legs, but we'll keep the hobble sessions short and sweet.

I pray she never, ever has a run in with wire here or anywhere else, but if she does, I hope the hobble training will prevent a big wreck.

Abetta Saddle Rigging Credit

Do you remember way back when I was talking about getting a new saddle that I posted a link to a photo of an Abetta saddle with english stirrups and centered rigging? It was really a great idea, I thought.

Well, the person who came up with the idea posted to the blog, and I'm happy to post a link to her blog here! She's got a haflinger, who from the photos on her blog, is a real cutie!