Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Not just sitting around, exactly

So I realized the last post I did was last week. But I've been working with Arabee still, just not blogging it, which is too bad since now I'm not sure I remember exactly what we did!

On Saturday the 16th since we'd been down the the arena the night before, I just went out and picked hooves, and then soaked her hind feet in the easy soakers and borax water. I trimmed her frogs (pretty shaggy looking with the time off and then starting back up with road walking) and started scratches treatment. She had them pretty badly on her hind legs especially, just a few spots on her front legs. I sprayed with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon tea tree oil and 1 cup water until I got each spot good and soaked. I ended up with about 1/3 cup leftover in the spray bottle. (I also cleaned up the sole of her left hind foot with the hoof knife - see below)


Tuesday the 20th the AERC paperwork came in the mail. I've read through both December and January's Endurance News, and called the office to let them know Arabee's name was spelled wrong (short one 'e'). They're sending me a new horse letter.


Matt was really busy last week at work, had to work late so neither one of us got outside while it was still daylight after Tuesday.

Saturday afternoon Arabee and I took another walk/jog North on the road. This time I pushed harder, jogging 15 steps by each pole. Not surprisingly, Arabee had already caught onto the pattern, and would offer to trot by herself right near the pole, so I started to switch it up a bit. That mare is so smart!

Apparently back last summer when I noticed she was LAME on the right front, left rear, she had abscessed on both feet. The lameness on the left rear was not noticable at the time we took her to the vet so I was surprised a week or so ago when there was a hole just like the abscessed right front had. I'm surprised she didn't appear lame in that foot longer than she did - the "hole" went all the way around her foot from heel to heel and was 1/4-1/2" wide all the way just inside the white line. It was just barely starting to show gaps from wearing on the road, and the whole channel it created was starting to pack rocks and mud and manure, so I trimmed away the flap so it would stay open and not trap all that stuff on Saturday the 16th.

okay - so I know this is really disjointed..but I'm just typing as I remember how it happened!

Sunday we thought we had plans for the afternoon, but that changed so I was able to treat Arabee's scratches again. I'd hoped to get to ride down at the arena, but it was off and on sprinkling/pouring, and I was not interested in walking down there in that weather! I'll wait 'til I can RIDE some actual trails to push training in the rain!

Anyway, I used a bit of a different approach that I read about for scratches treatment, and I'm waiting until I see it's effectiveness to post about it. I'm pretty excited about it though. Same for the new riding halter I bought. It came Saturday the 16th and while I love the way she responds in-hand while wearing it, I haven't had a good opportunity to RIDE in it yet...so I'm waiting to post pictures and where I purchased it. I am fairly certain I will really like it, though. It's very pretty, anyway!

This week is looking like I will very rarely get any opportunity to get out and ride. Not tonight...nor Wednesday or Thursday. Realistically, not again until Sunday afternoon!! Maybe February will be mild, so I can get some good training in then?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Monday, January 19

Got outside again with Arabee yesterday. Haltered her and just started walking North from our driveway. At every telephone/electric pole we jogged for 10 strides. Then we walked again until the next pole, and jogged 10 strides. Next time I'll go for 15 jogging strides between poles.

We met a lot of vehicle traffic on the way out, just one vehicle on the way back in.

Stopped at the mailbox and remembered it was a holiday - too bad because I am waiting to get my AERC membership stuff back. I had received 2010 membership as a gift, and since I didn't call in until January, they told me they'd send December and January Endurance News too. Can't wait.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday, January 15

Was dressed and ready to ride and out the door at 4:30pm, caught Arabee, saddled up, and started walking towards the arena at 4:43. Met more traffic than usual, since it's a Friday night. Once we were within view of the several horses in the pasture, Arabee started wearing her tail up over her back, and once they all galloped towards the fence and were trotting back and forth as we progressed towards the driveway of the barn, she made me glad I was already wearing my helmet more than once.

Got there, and realized I had to go inside to open the overhead door to get Arabee inside. So I tied her, and as I was almost to the door the girl who was feeding the other horses came out and told me she'd turned the lights on since she knew I was coming, which was nice since it takes a little bit for them to come on. Very nice of her!

Brought Arabee in, and when I pushed the button to shut the door again, she nearly came out of her skin! Looks like I'll have to practice garage doors at home! She calmed down once it was low enough for her to see it, and I walked her both ways around the arena. I took off my vest and hat, walked to the middle of the arena, and had grabbed mane and put my foot in the stirrup when she suddenly pricked her ears and whinnied. Not ready to go, yet, I guess! So I unclipped the reins and sent her trotting and cantering a couple of times both ways at "liberty." She got winded pretty quickly (she's nearly as out-of-shape as I am!) and was asking to come in pretty quickly.

So I got on and rode for a few minutes. Just walking. It was so hard for me to not give her any turning direction with the reins!! The more leg I used, the more she wanted to speed up, so I automatically would go to give her a direct rein to get her to turn so she wouldn't speed up to my leg. I finaly had to push my hands down against the saddle to keep myself from using them! Really, the riding only lasted for 7 minutes and was really not the highlight of the evening, since it took so long to walk past the pasture, and finally get her brain back to where it was safe to get on. I really shouldn't have ridden that long even, because it was plenty dark by the time we got home.

I think we both will be sore tomorrow!

Rode Again Yesterday

I got to ride Arabee yesterday - the temperatures were abnormally high - got into the 50's! Nothing special, just saddled up (no breastcollar or crupper) and rode in the dr. cooks for 10 minutes. All walking, except just at the end we did about 100 ft. of trotting - would've been 75 if she'd have transitioned to walking when I first asked ;-)

I also called the barn owner and asked to ride in the arena. (A huge THANK YOU to you, if you're reading this!) I plan to head down there tonight, and am very much looking forward to doing this! I want to be done riding by 5:30pm, so I can be done walking home by dark. That won't leave much riding time since Matt rarely gets home before 4:30, but that fits well with my plan to take it easy! I am sore enough after just 10 minutes of riding yesterday that really I only want to ride for 15 minutes today anyway! (I'm really not much of a believer in "no pain, no gain" - more of a "slow and steady wins the race" kind of girl, haha)

I recently had a comment by Caitlyn I think, but I cannot find which post it was on. She'd asked for pointers on how I plan to get Arabee to rate and steer and stop on a loose rein. I wish I had a more concrete answer for that! Truly, I am not sure I know how to accomplish this, but I have a rough plan. I think it's mostly going to be a problem of retraining MYSELF to let go and quit pestering her with the reins. And that's where using the arena will really help, because I will feel safer doing that - she can't really go anywhere.

For stopping, it's a progressive thing - first I THINK stop, then shift my weight down, then stop my body motion with her movement, then if she still hasn't stopped, I add a verbal cue. Easy, Easy, Arabee - Whoa. My horse knows whoa - it means stop feet NOW! To me that's a critical safety net, and it has saved me from being spilled off more than once. So if she doesn't stop as fast as she can when I say whoa, I then do what I can to MAKE her stop. So, using this method of gradually increasing how I ask, hopefully she'll learn to stop at the first, most subtle cue. I'm guessing/hoping this type of practice will also work with steering. My old gelding Jack used to go in whatever direction I looked, exactly.

So tonight in the arena I plan on riding on a completely loose rein, and using the above procedure for stopping/slowing. For turning, first I will look where I want to go, then point my body in that direction, then use my leg, then use my leg harder until I eventually boot her over. If she still won't turn, then I suppose I'll resort to rein pressure....but I think I really need to reserve that for last ditch efforts to get her used to turning without the rein. So, that's my rough plan.

It's not like she doesn't have a clue, but she's not as precise as I'd like. I'll keep practicing turning and circles and serpentines and patterns until she follows the exact path I want on a loose rein. This will probably take a long time and many sessions, but I think the results will be worth it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

King...err - Queens of the Road (?)

"trailers for sale or rent, rooms to let $0.50, no phone, no pool, no pets. . . I'm a man of means by no means King of the Road!"

All right, so Arabee and I aren't exactly ruling the road, but we sure have been spending a lot of time walking it. Also, I hope at least some of you are humming that song to yourselves while reading this post!

On Sunday I wanted to see how far 15 minutes of handwalking got us as we traveled south. I'll check the distance with the car maybe today if I remember, but we got past B & S's house to "the roost" and then past the north side of the field about 50 feet. I know this means almost nothing to anyone reading, but in another 5 minutes of walking we'd have probably reached the barn with the arena.

Which probably means that it wouldn't be too much of an advantage to trailer Arabee over there if I am able to ride in it again. By the time I'd get the truck started, warmed up, hitched to the trailer, put the tack in the trailer, loaded her up, drove down there, unloaded her, tacked up, got in the barn, rode, got out of the barn, untacked, loaded back up, drove back home, unloaded Arabee, unloaded the tack, parked the trailer, and unhitched the truck....I think it would take about the same amount of time to just walk down there! And I am out of shape enough it will do me a lot of good to do just that!

I am unclear though about the Rules of the road when it comes to walking your horse on it. Pedestrians are supposed to walk against traffic, with the right shoulder towards the road. Bicyclists are supposed to ride with traffic, with the left shoulder towards the road. My guess is that when I'm walking Arabee, we're Pedestrians, but if I were Riding her on the road, we'd ride WITH traffic, like a Bicyclist would? Does anyone know the law on this? I want to follow the rules in case an accident would happen we'd be in the right.

There isn't much traffic on the road, really. In a little over 1/2 hour of walking, only 4 vehicles came by. The trouble is that half of the time the vehicles were noisy trucks, which are a little more scary apparantly for Arabee than SUVs or cars. Judging from her current reaction - I could ride out a passing SUV or car if it slowed down, but it'd be a little iffy if a truck passed. Right now, I make sure we keep walking, and assuming traffic is clear, we turn around and face the vehicle as it approaches. She's fine as it approaches, but once it's behind her she gets a little fast/bouncy. It's good practice for her to be on the road while I'm on the ground.

Her hooves have been improving also since I've been walking her on the road - they look nice! It's so neat to watch the way they wear on their own.

I'll post more soon about the bitless headgear. I've ordered something, and it should ship tomorrow, but I'll wait until I try it out to post more about it.

Also, on Saturday (posting this since a lot of the point of the blog is to keep a log of what we do) I tacked Arabee up - saddle, breastcollar, and crupper, just to remind her that the crupper was okay. I wasn't dressed to ride, so I just walked her down to the house where Matt was unloading a wagonload of fire wood into our woodshed. He'd just finished up, and he fired up the old JD 50 tractor to put the wagon away. Rodeo time! So we walked (me) and bounced sideways (Arabee) along while he put the wagon away, then followed him back. She finally did calm down, but it took a little bit. It took longer than it should've, I think because she was feeling good and it was fun to snort and prance, and it was cold and brisk.

Anyway, I've been having fun gradually getting back in shape, and playing around with Arabee, even if I'm too wimpy to actually get on and ride in the cold right now! We'll get there, soon enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Still mulling over the bridle choices

I want to thank all who commented on my last post about bitless options. You gave me good things to think about. Zach - if you find the reasoning behind not using an s-hack comes to mind again, please share it, I'd love to hear. Everyone brought out some good points. I'm not convinced that bitless is for every horse/every rider - as Aarene pointed out, a harsh noseband in the wrong hands can be just as damaging and painful to the horse as a bit. I also agree with E.G. that it should not be the bridle that stops the horse. I think the only way a bridle actually can make the horse stop is if the horse is trained to respond to the pressure, or if the rein is tied to a solid post! For me, the goal is to quide Arabee with seat and legs and voice, and use rein pressure only to remind her I'm up there if she gets spooky, or if she needs to turn right NOW to avoide slamming my knee into a tree.

I rode for the first time again on New Year's Eve, and after that it became bitterly cold - too cold for me to ride in the stuff I have. The lined carhartt overalls I have are too stiff and immobile for me to consider riding in. For Christmas I received as a gift a pair of insulated riding pants, which unfortunately were too small, so I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the right size so I can ride soon, hopefully. (or else temperatures above freezing!) So, I've been taking Arabee on walks along the road. I'm fairly certain all of the cars passing by think I'm absolutely nuts, judging by their faces. I walked her on New Years Day, Monday, and Tuesday too.

One of those days I tried on the old English Hackamore I have. Unfortunately, the headstall I have to hang it with is too big, and I have no room to adjust it. The nosepiece of the hackamore rested right on her nostrils, so I had no way to really even get a feel for how Arabee might respond in it. So that means I'm looking at having to get another headstall. I really like the idea of the kind that the browband has an extra loop that snaps around the halter, so you can leave the halter on all the time. But, even with the too-big headstall, I didn't really like the way the shank of the English Hackamore laid right along Arabee's lips - seems it would be very easy for her to grab it, rendering any rein aids useless. So if the S-Hack and the English Hackamore operate on the same principles, I'm leaning towards the S-Hack because of the shank design. I feel pretty leery of trying the halter bridle I talked about. I'm certain it would be fine to ride her in something like that on a steamy hot summer day, or in an arena any time - but I'm just concerned that the halter bridle may not be attention-getting enough on the trail if some horse-eating monster comes along.

I have a return that I will get store credit for as soon as I mail item in. So I have a few days yet to decide what it is I'm going to do. I think my husband is right - no matter what it is that I get, I won't really be happy with it. He says I'm too particular about what I want. I'm taking that as a compliment - shouldn't I be particular about my horse's comfort and my confidence that I'll be able to control her in all situations?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bitless Choices?

I am on a search for a better bitless bridle. I am definitely looking for input - would love to hear your point of view!

When I handle Arabee from the ground, I use a rope halter and a thick cotton leadrope. She takes her cues from my body position, and there is a lot of slack in the lead rope. The only time she feels pressure on her head from the rope is if she is misbehaving.

My goal is to have this sort of feel from the saddle - where Arabee moves off of my body cues, and only feels pressure on her head from the reins if she needs correction.

So, I am looking for a bitless solution that will allow me to give Arabee consistent release from pressure as long as she is going as I ask her, but will give me enough "grab" to get her attention should I need to.

Arabee has been in the Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle and has done well in it. She is responsive, will frame up nicely in it, and in fact does better in the Bitless Bridle than she does in a bitted bridle. (no head tossing, etc).

(photo from bitlessbridle.com) The problem I have with the Dr. Cook's is that there is never a complete release from pressure, even if the reins are completely slack. The noseband has to be done up quite tightly, and the cross-under pieces are always resting against the jaw - that is always an itchy spot when the bridle comes off. So, while very effective, the Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle just doesn't offer the release I want, and doesn't seem like it is very comfortable for Arabee to wear.

So that brings me to this, The Ultimate Riding Halter (http://www.crazyropes.com/bitless.html) This bitless bridle would definitely offer the release I am looking for, and paired with a heavy rope rein, would offer the same feel as I am used to when handling her from the ground. My concern however, is whether it would command respect and attention in a hairy situation. Will the rein attachments provide enough of an advantage over using a plain rope halter to be safe to ride in?

Another option is an English Hackamore, like this one from http://www.statelinetack.com/. I have one that I used to ride my old gelding Jack in - he went very well in it, always happy. The one I have is so old, I'd need to replace the leather straps with new, and I'd probably go with biothane. I've never tried Arabee in it, but it seems that this kind of hackamore has more of a curb type pressure to it, operating on the chin and poll, and would not be as handy for direct reining, so if I needed to turn her quickly with rein pressure, the signal might not be as clear as needed.

Last but not least of the options I've been considering is the S-Hack. The one pictured is from runningbear.com and it seems that this type of hackamore is very popular in endurance. The S-Hack is significantly more expensive than an English Hackamore, though I am not sure why. It seems it would operate on the same principles (chin and poll pressure) as the English Hackamore, but the way the cheek pieces are curved, it may make it easier for the horse to eat and drink along the trail or at a hold.

I am kind of at a loss as to what I should do. Ideally I'd try each of these options until I found the one that worked best for Arabee. (which ultimately, I may end up having to do anyway) Since I'm not made of money, and every single option will cost something, I'd like to make an educated guess and try first the one that is most likely to fit the criteria.

Any input?? Thanks!