Saturday, 29 December 2012

Christmas Holidays

Sorry for being away for so long folks!

Christmas for me means travelling back home across the country (takes about 2 days to get home, plus a delayed plane doesn't help the travelling...).  With all the hooplah that comes with getting ready for the holidays, making sure all the animals (2xcats, dog, and horse) set up for while we're gone, along with making sure everything at home is ready to go (who likes coming home to a dirty house?), things got a bit... hectic.

Also, it was kind of interesting to notice that the last week we were home when we needed time to clean, get the house ready and all that jazz, we had so many different engagements to go to: christmas parties, school hockey game fundraisers, singing lessons (teaching), yoga (taking), and much more.  I was happy to get out to see Koda on a warmer day during the week to give him his Christmas dinner and some grooming.  When I pulled him out of the field, I noticed that his blanket was COVERED in the leftover marks from bites, but NO TEARS!  Not even a loose thread!  I was SO happy to see that my winter blankets are holding up this year.  If you have a herd that is hard on blankets, the top brands are the way to go.  I went through 3 blankets last winter alone before I took the plunge.  Looking at those blankets now and how they can take a beating, I'm not going back.

As some of you may have guessed, I live in a rather secluded area of the country.  To get to an international airport, you have to drive about 8 hours straight.  We usually do this trip in two days so that the second day isn't a huge massive rush to the airport, plus leaves time for some browsing (read tack shop visiting) before we fly out.  Our flight back home was 2.5 hours delayed this time around, making our arrival at some time around 2:30 in the morning the next day.  Thank goodness for incredible parents who always come and pick us up no matter what! 

Stay tuned for more :)

Saturday, 15 December 2012

2012: In Review

Well, this past year has been an interesting one to say the least.  It was the first time for me to go out and buy my own horse with no one else's input.  It was the first time the SO and I had lived in a subarctic area in a hamlet of about 800 people.  

Taking Celtic through a basic grid

January and February was all about the ups and downs of Celtic.  Celtic was just not a fit for me, and as we worked together, we went from some lovely moments to complete meltdowns.  This time was a big learning and realization period, but still wanted to keep working, keep trying, to see what we can do together.  

Second day in his new home!

March and April were some HUGE changes.  In March I finally decided it was time to sell Celtic.  She wasn't interested in doing what I was looking to do, she was too much horse for me, and her mind wasn't where I needed it to be to do what I wanted to do.  She had too much for me to handle, and it was just a bad situation.  In deciding to sell Celtic, I was back on the horse shopping scene.  From a few inside tips from a friendly stranger, I found Shocker (now known as Koda).  I had three rides on him, and he came home with me the next weekend.  We spent a lot of our time just hanging out and getting to know each other.

May and June were a time of Koda and I getting to know each other.  Riding at home, going out on the trails, schooling at the indoor, and doing our first long-ride at Machesis Lake.  During these months, it was becoming even more clear that Koda and I were going to be a good team!  This was also when the SO came out for his annual trail ride.  (Also, surprise!  When we were at Machesis, it was the first time I took a tumble off of Koda when he spooked at a tree stump when we got back from our 4 hr trail ride where he led most of the way... silly pony).   

July and August were an interesting pair of months, including our first real outing into eventing at the Mind's Eye Ranch Horse Trial where Koda really showed how green he really is.  We went home with homework and a plan in place to try and spook Koda in as many ways as possible (this is still on-going training).  We set up the back field as a playground and went to work!  Did some in-hand work over obstacles, then with me in the tack, playing rather conservatively.  This winter and spring we're going to be doing a lot more of what we did during these two months, getting down to business.

September and October were the months where we went to some actual clinics.  The first clinic was a cross-country clinic.  The first day was the worst where our canter transitions were rough.  By the last day we were conquering up- and down-banks (love them!) along with mini cross-country courses.  The second clinic was with Kathy Playdon.  Three things that I got out of it in general are 1.  LEG!!!  2.  Don't be afraid of height, Koda can handle it 3. Work on more advanced flat work/dressage (shoulder in and haunches in at trot).

November and December have been a winding down for the long cold that is winter.  My riding has been tapering off, not because I've wanted to, but more because the weather is making it so.  Thankfully I have some insanely heavy duty winter blankets that can take a beating and keep Koda nice and cozy while it blows -40.  I'm extremely thankful that their paddocks are surrounded by trees that cut down on the blowing snow and wind chill.  

All dressed up for winter

As the new year comes, plans for the future are starting to form.  The omnibus is coming out soon, so will hopefully be able to plan some clinics and shows in the coming season!  Am looking to do some dressage shows (that are only 3.5 hours away, yay!) and doing two or three horse trials, depending where we're at, at Starter or Pre-Entry, perhaps going up to Entry by the fall.  Either way, at the end of the day I am so thankful that I found Koda and get the chance to be his rider.  

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Herd Dynamics

When I went out to visit Koda this weekend, the entire herd was out together and I had the chance to really just sit and watch their herd dynamics.  I know Koda is at the bottom of the herd, so it was interesting to see
how it really worked.  Considering the marks that he gets on his hide, he gets either seriously beaten on, or isn't bothered to move away.  Now that he has his blanket on, there are less marks on him, but more on the blanket.  Thank goodness for high denier blankets!

When he first got here, already showing his lazy side...

While I watched, Cain (the youngest in the herd) was majorly going after Koda.  Ears pinned, teeth bared, but not in that "I'm going to EAT YOU!" way, but more in a playing, irritating little brother way.  Cain would keep snipping, snapping, and bothering him until finally Koda would put up some resistance in the form of barely lifing up his hind feet in a half-hearted kick.  You know when you see the rather roly poly horse try to kick out his hind legs?  That was Koda.. but Koda isn't fat.  It was absolutely HILARIOUS!  There was some minute passage steps with the hind end when he didn't even get his feet off the ground... oh, Koda.  After a bit, he did toss in a few big kicks and the two of them starting sparring and playing around, Koda
more grudgingly than Cain.  They were at it for a good half hour and were still going on when I left!  The blanket was getting a major test in how tough it is.  Luckily, even when Cain got a mouth-full of blanket, there were no rips or tears.  Yet.

During the playing, Mic (head honcho) split them up after a bit when Dandy was starting in on it as well.  Dandy is the sweetest, cuddly horse you'll ever meet, but he can be a grouch in the herd.  Dandy will join in on Cain's games, but much more aggressively.  Mic is a pretty laid back herd boss, only getting into the
mix when absolutely necessary.  JJ is the only mare in the group and is fairly chummy with everyone.  She has been turned out with Koda more so now since she could do with a few groceries as well.  They have become closer which is nice to see.  

So to sum it up, here is our cast of characters:

Koda - new to the herd, at the bottom, reluctant play friend for Cain.

Dandy - Second in command.  Cuddly with people, grouchy with horses.  
Takes his job seriously, self-proclaimed protector of JJ.

Mic - Herd-Boss.  Laid back, will eat with everyone as long as he gets the best bites.

JJ - Only mare in the herd.  Laid back and is friendly with everyone.
(Even the SO!)

Cain - Youngest in the herd, near the bottom.  Loves to irritate Koda.

I love just sitting and watching the horses be horses, learning about their herd dynamics and how they act with each other.  I can't wait until it's warm enough to chillout on the round bales again and just listen to them munching away.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Winter blues and Raffles

This last week and a bit has thrown my area in a complete cold snap of consistently being in the -30s and hitting -40 over several nights.  You know in old cartoons where some of the cars would have square tires?  That was how my car was driving - it was SO cold that my tires were flat on one side while driving down the street.  At that point, you only think about getting from house to car, car to workplace, and back again.  Luckily, Koda was wrapped up cozy in his heavyweight blanket (yay Bucas!) so he was fine, along with 3 round bales for the 6 horses in the paddock to nibble on.  This was the second week of no riding, which is extremely irritating, but what can you do about the weather?

In the meantime, Black Friday deals have been flying left, right, and center.  Since I live in Canada, we don't really have much of that going on, but some stores do offer them.  On thing that was going on from one of my favourite tack stores was a draw for a free bridle.  The way to enter the draw was put up a review of one of their products.  Since I have a few products from them, I put up reviews for each.

Surprisingly, I won the draw!

Now, I never win any raffles or draws, don't think I've ever won any type of prize when it comes to luck.  I was so excited that I may have had a little cheer of joy :)

The company who put on the draw was I got to choose one out of three bridles, and the one I chose was the Wembley Hunter Bridle (yes, I'm not a hunter, but Koda goes in a plain cavesson, and the other bridles were a figure eight or with a flash).

I'm SO EXCITED!!!!!!!

I now may have a bridle or two for sale, will have to go through all of my tack while the weather is still too cold to do anything but curl up under the blankets and watch christmas movies.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

New Experience

This past week has been full of snow, severely cold nights (-30!), and high winds.  Of course, in this type of weather it's all about staying warm and cozy.  Since I had Koda in his fancy winter blanket, I knew he was fine during the bitter nights, so I just stayed in for the week.  P and I were going to hit up the arena on Friday, but when the snow is going sideways for most of the day, it's definitely not the time to be hauling half an hour down the road.  So, Friday was nixed.  We re-schedule for Saturday morning, see if that's any better... nope, still snowing and blowing all over the place.  I live up north where it's wide open spaces, so wind is worse than snow with major white-out possibilities.

So, Saturday morning was a bust as well.  I still really wanted to ride, but that evening we had a Christmas function for the SO's work.  Time was running short, but by 3pm, the wind had stopped and the sun was shining so I was taking my chances and heading out to ride at the barn.  It was -17, so not too cold, and not bad for Koda's lungs if we take a gentle ride.  As I was driving out I realized I didn't have a lot of time to tack up, ride, cool out, untack, etc. so...  I decided to try something new with Koda: bareback riding!  

When I had Dillon, I used to ride him bareback weekly/monthly, as a fun or schooling ride.  I didn't know if Koda had ever been ridden bareback before, so we took it slow.  Did plenty of patting, laid across him, just let him figure out what I was doing.  He was actually really good, only taking a couple steps then stopping, really trying to understand what I was asking.  Finally had him stand still with me draped across his back, so I swung a leg over and away we went.  

It was awesome.

Koda was an absolute gentleman.  We went around the front paddock, through the trees, just playing around.  I don't think I've felt that close with him before.  It helped me realize how sensitive he is to my seat and legs.  The smallest touch (intentional or not!) got a response from him.  I think I'm going to try to do more rides like this during the winter.  The BO had the yard lights fixed so the yard is flooded with light when I get off from work.  

Best part of the ride was after we had picked our way through the woods, we just stopped and watched the other horses in the back field.  Absolutely peaceful, the light was at that nice golden glow before sunset.  Wonderful.  

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Schooling Time

It looks like myself and P are going to be riding at least 2 times a week this winter, perhaps even 3 times regularly!  It's always safer to ride with someone else there, and always nice to have a friend to give some tips.  Today we did a bit more lateral work, and started on some shoulder-in.  Once we were both warmed up well, we took to the fences.  Again, nothing too strenuous, but just had some fun.  When you're under a time crunch with the arena being booked back-to-back, you have to be quick with the setup and take down!    The SO came with me today and took some video for me :)


Warm-up fence, nice and easy:

Koda showing his athleticism (or inbalance?!) of 
doing some counter-canter... unasked for..

We put together a mini course

I really need to watch my canter cue.  After looking at these videos it seems like it's not a left-lead issue, but more of me not being able to ride to the left as effectively.  I need to make sure he is bent to the correct side for the correct lead or else it seems like he will take the incorrect one.  Wish the chiropractor had made it up this weekend (cancelled due to snow), and I think there may be something out on this boy.  Nothing major, just an... inkling.  After our next ride I'm going to do some basic massage and stretches.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

First "attempt" at the big D

So last night we had an impromptu ride at the arena.  My friend P sent me a text saying she had the arena booked, and if I wanted to join? Of course!  So off I went to the barn right after work.  I was off work at 5:20pm and it was pitch black outside.  Gotta love living way up north... I can't wait until the solstice when the days start getting longer again.  Either way, I was off and heading to the barn to pick up my boy and head out.  The BO decided she wanted to come and brought her younger (but much more level-headed) gelding to come this time.  The BO and I have a system for setting out together now.  She gets the trailer, I catch the horses.  She will load them as I transfer my tack to her truck, then off we go!
As we were pulling out of the drive way (snow covered, we have even more of it now...) the trailer was a bit slippy.  I didn't think much of it as it was snowing and a touch icy in some spots.  During the drive there were a few more slippy spots, and as we pulled up around the arena, it was very bad.  I hop out thanking my lucky stars that the BO was hauling (she has no fear, she's hauled through everything).  As we got out she had a grim look on  her face.  Uh oh... not good.  We go to the back of the trailer, and yup, low and behold, one of the tires was flat.
Again, lucky for us, the trailer itself was fine, no one was hurt, and my friend P brought her 3-horse trailer so she could get us home.  The BO took her rig to her friend's place (close by) to have it fixed and to defrost a bit as well in their heated shop.

Well, after that, it was a bit like "well, we're here, let's do this" kind of thing.  I had planned a dressage school, yet had forgotten my dressage whip (with Koda, it's a helpful tool sometimes) plus I hadn't ridden at dressage length stirrups for a while, so it was going to be a bit interesting.  I really should have started doing our warm-up with no stirrups to get my leg draped down properly, but ah well.  We did some warm up, he was being a turkey about the corners again, and was just having a more... arabian day than usual.  Most people don't believe me when I say Koda is half arab, he's a fairly cool and sensible dude... except when he's not.  This boy can pull the diva when he wants to and last night was one of those nights.  After we settled down a bit, I tried a dressage test (for the Canucks, Entry Test 2).  Here are the better bits.  Please keep in mind, I haven't really been working on dressage with Koda that much (should do more) and we were both all over the place.

Here is the better half of the test:

And here is where it goes off.  For some reason, our left lead canter has disappeared!  I'm sure its a pilot error, not holding the bend when I ask or not having the bend at all, so will work on this in the future.

The test was ok for a first shot, but I really want him to relax more into the work.  We're looking at doing fairly basic tests, but we need to work on our connection, relaxation, and that good ol' training pyramid.  Koda has never had to deal with contact or carrying himself properly, so we'll be focusing on that.  Taking a little tip from another blogger, I may try vienna reins on the lunge with him for a short bit to see if that helps him understand what I'm asking for under-saddle.  After the attempt at the test we did some canter figure eights with simple changes, and with some thinking on my part, we had an ok/decent one by the end of it.

I am extremely happy and lucky to have friends that are determined to ride during the winter.  It just makes things so much safer and it really gets your butt off the couch and in the saddle when it's pitch black outside and -20 (celsius).  I know once it gets really cold (-30 and below) Koda will have time off, but for now, it's riding when you can.

Friday, 16 November 2012

What am I doing up here? Oh right... riding

Sorry about my hiatus, I have just been in a slump and it's driving me crazy.  I rode this past weekend, both days, and am very happy with what we did, but need to figure out how to balance what we're doing.  I've never been in the position where all of my rides are back to back with a large gap inbetween.  I know as an athlete myself (rowed while at university and did some coaching) that this isn't the ideal schedule for keeping a horse (and myself!) riding fit.  After our ride on Monday (yay for long weekends) Koda stood around while I taught a Pony Club lesson.  I noticed that after my teaching, his ankles and pasterns were slightly warm and swollen.  Nothing to write home about, but this horse has never had this before so of course I was worried.  I think it's because our riding schedule is so crammed into a few days, then nothing, plus the standing around didn't help him any either.  Does anyone have ideas that I could do to help alleviate Koda's swelling yet still try and keep a 'riding on the weekend only' schedule for winter time?

Our rides were fairly basic, did some lateral work, did some no-stirrup work (poor legs), and worked on a simple line.  I'm discovering that when ridden properly (aka, RIDDEN), Koda will lay down some nice lines to the point of having the style of a lower level hunter!  Of course that isn't what we're aiming for, but I have dabbled in the hunter world a time or two and wouldn't mind going to a few shows like that if they're close by (less than 6 hours away, that is ;) ).  We had a bit of a OH SH!T moment when I waited for the short spot, he went for the waaaaaay long spot and we punched the pole out and almost went down.  Thank you shoulders and training for teaching me to STAY BACK!  If we had a camera, my position would have been that good ol' classic "catching the cab" ride... not pretty, but saved our butts.  Thank goodness I had my long hacking reins on the bridle too.  Koda punched out the pole hard enough to take the cups with us.  My friends were a little shocked and shook up.  I guess it looked worse than it felt since my thoughts were "ok, let's try that again and actually RIDE this time".  This time around, I had my legs on, looking up, compressed the stride just a little to get that nice quality canter and he flew. 

The next ride we did more flat work and worked on trying to bend and relax a bit more.  Koda was still being a bit of a nut about the corners (silly pony) but he settled down nicely and put in some good work.  I think he was a bit tired from the day before so we took it easy, although I did jump over a few sticks that day as well.  I love having a horse that isn't too green about jumping and is game if his rider is!  As you guys know, Koda is green about a lot of things, but I think because of his age there are less antics about new things.  This winter it's all about exposure to new, crazy stuff (going to raid work for all of our decorations), and just work towards him not having a complete melt-down at competitions this coming spring/summer. 

A girl can dream!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Winter Plans

As some of you have most likely guessed (or read) I live way up north in Canada.  Not too far north that I get days of complete darkness, but fairly close to it.  We've had substantial (about 2 feet) snow on the ground for a month now and we won't be rid of it until April or May.  This makes riding in the winter a bit touchy as to ride outside can be cold and miserable, let alone a tad unsafe when it's icey and your horse doesn't have studs in, and to haul to the arena is another hair-raising activity as it's mostly along gravel/dirt roads that get very slick this time of year.  With these two options in mind, it's very difficult to motivate oneself to go and ride when you can oh-so-easily curl up under a nice warm blanket and dream of going to Florida for the winter. 

BUT since I'm kind of a nut and can't go without riding for long periods of time (tried it, it wasn't pretty), we've all decided to ride at least twice, maybe three times a week during the winter.  Now as all of you know, these times of plans will in reality wittle down to 1-2 times a week, but that's still better than nothing.  I'm going to try to use these times to teach Koda new things, really school him on learning new dressage movements, going through gymnastics, reviewing things he should know, etc.  Essentially treat this time as "school time" and then when the shows start up again, those would be our end of term exams!  Oye, I've been hanging out with teachers too much...

This past Sunday my friend P and I met at the arena for some easy schooling times.  I set up a few jumps, nothing crazy, and got down to work.  My legs were dead since the night before a group of us went to the local school and played badminton for 2.5 hours.  I'm not really a badminton player, but it was fun none the less.  So, with wobbly legs Koda and I got down to work.  He was being a bit of a turkey for the first bit, trying to tell me that the corners weren't really just corners, but were quick sand with horse eating monsters right under the surface so we really shouldn't go there.  I'd say the conversation went something like this:

Me - ok, bend through the corner, inside leg to outside hand
Koda - whoa whoa!!!  What is THAT?!?!?!
Me - Koda, it's the corner, we go around it
Koda - *slams on the breaks* No way
Me - Koda, you've gone through these corners a million times, now get ON with it
Koda - imgoingtodieimgoingtodieimgoingtodie
Me - Grrrrr, get IN THERE!
*sloooooooooow hesitant steps into the corner*
Me - sigh, finally!
Koda - *looks at the other corner* Oh my GAWD, what is THAT?!?!

After getting the sillies out, we got down to some nice trot work.  I went without stirrups and worked on really getting him to push from behind and listen to my leg.  His leg-yield to the right is excellent, yet the one to the left leaves something to be desired.  After schooling leg-yield and circles for a while, we took a break to catch our breath then tackled our jumps.  I had a single x-rail set up along one side, and then a 4-stride on the other, x-rail to 2'6" vertical.  We popped the single x-rail a few times to get his mind in jumping gear, then went for the line.  Now, if I had rode it well, it would have been beautiful.  That being said, Koda did his job well and soared over the last fence (pretty sure he cleared it by 6", P was astounded at the height he gave it) while he had a monkey on his back trying to stay on, legs flailing, pretty sure I was "catching a cab" over the last fence.  So we settled down and went through the line one more time, entering at trot then cantering through.  The second time around it was lovely, I actually rode instead of imitating a monkey, and Koda was lovely, gave me some nice round jumps and stayed soft.  At that point my legs were pudding and Koda was getting wet (darn those winter coats!!) so we called it a day. 

He got his mouse-eaten cooler tossed on while I took down the jumps, and then we were on our way!  It was a great ride, was very happy with it and if we can continue to do this 1-3 times a week this winter, we're going to be completely prepared for the spring and summer season.  Now to just get myself a nice new cooler that doesn't have mouse made holes in it...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kathy Playdon Clinic - Final Post!

Sorry it has taken my so long to finish up these posts, life has been getting hectic and in the way of blogging ;)

On the last day of the clinic Kathy set up a really interesting course of two 4-stride lines along the long sides, and a jump at X.  We started off with some flat work, warming up, and Kathy (or Evil Kathy that morning) had us warm up with no stirrups, including posting, two-point, and lateral work.  Now usually this isn't a bad thing, but after the long day of riding the day before my legs were screaming (hence Evil Kathy!).  Not going to lie, when Kathy wasn't looking, I was sitting.  It was really nice to do the lateral work since Koda has had some work with it, but not much.  We did some work on leg yield, turns on the forehand, and in our case, shoulder-in and haunches in.  I had never ridden a haunches in before, so that was kind of fun to do, plus Koda had never done shoulder-in at a trot.  We have some new things to work on!

Once we got to the jumping, we did some lead work over the middle fence, essentially choose the lead you want over the fence and make sure you turn that way at C.  Everyone flew through that exercise, so we moved on to the 4-stride lines.  The lines were more like a short 4 or a long 3.  If you came in at a trot, you could fit the 4, but if you came in at a canter, you really had to compact the stride to get the 4.  Some of the riders had problems getting a smooth four, but after a bit everyone sailed through to the main exercise of the day - jumping on a diagonal.  Not along the diagonal, but you're meeting your jumps on a diagonal.  Similar to the exercise we had done the day before down centerline, but this was a course of them... sort of.  The videos do a better job of describing it than I can.

Overall I was extremely happy with Koda and how we did during this clinic!  After the clinic I asked Kathy of what I could work on during the winter with Koda.  Her responses were in a nut shell: lateral work (once he gets the idea, move it up to trot/canter), transitions gait to gait or within gait, and bump the height up when jumping.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Kathy Playdon Clinic, Day 2 Part 2

The afternoon lesson was all about angles, riding your line, and forward.  We did some work over poles and single small fences, then moved on to the main exercise.  One of the horses was being a stink about the single fences so Koda and I wore our lead pony hats and helped them out.  Again, Kathy tortured us with no stirrup work, and some no rein work as well (eeep!).  Yet, Koda was a complete rockstar and took it all in stride.

After doing the smaller things, we had to go through three different courses.  The first course was very twisty with plenty of circles and turns and roll backs.  Everyone in the clinic rolled through the first course with no major issues, so Kathy upped the ante.  Our second course was a few single fences, then a gymnastic of three fences set one stride apart down center line.  This sounds fairly simple, but the fences down the center were all at angles, so if your turn isn't right on the line you need, your distances will be completely skewed!  Considering this was the second lesson of the day, Koda was getting to be a touch lazy, so the whip had to come out a bit.  Forward, forward, forward :)

Some of the other participants ran into a few issues with this exercise, but all in all we all got through it in the end.  It was my first time to jump a gymnastic like that where all the jumps were on an angle.  I've done a couple single fences, but not something like this!  Was so proud and happy with Koda, how he took everything in stride when I KNOW this is new stuff to him too.  Such a trooper and all-around awesome pony.  I think he's really understanding what his job is now.

At the end of the lesson, Kathy let us set up our own course to finish up the day.  I wanted to go over raised rails (again, not the big guys, but bigger than what we were doing that day), so I did a nice simple course, similar to a basic hunter course.  Throughout the clinic, I've learned quite a bit about Koda's jumping style.  He will go for the close spot instead of the far, his jump is fairly neat and easy to ride, he doesn't respect smaller "jumps", and he is as honest as they come.  Here are a couple videos of our last course.

Clearly, this horse needs more height for a challenge!  We don't have our changes yet, but simple changes are fine for now.  We did try to get the change over a fence, but with the canter I was getting (balanced, forward, overall lovely), I was a happy camper.

I'm just so darn proud of Koda!  This is a horse that hadn't even SEEN a pole before Easter of this year, and without much schooling at all, he's taking everything rather nicely in stride!  Perhaps some people would say, well that's to be expected, it's been so many months, he's at an age where it should be nothing, but for me, it's incredibly satisfying and makes me so happy.  It was really nice at the end of the clinic that a couple people came up to me to compliment Koda.

Such an awesome boy!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Kathy Playdon Clinic, Day 2 Part 1

On Saturday morning, me and the BO pulled out of the lot to go to a full day of clinic lessons with Kathy.  We have both discovered that neither of us are fond of early mornings yet a mug of hot chocolate will always make it better.  Especially with a candy cane as a stir stick :)

The exercises we did in the morning were really quite fun and helped uncover and fix some holes in some of the riders' education.  We did a general warm-up, then started in on doing some pole exercises.  The first was riding a 10m circle over four raised poles.  There was a jump block in the middle of the circle (about 18" high at the most) and the poles had one end resting on it.  Kind of like a mini circle of death exercise: 

Far-away shot of the trotting exercise. 

From there we moved on to doing 20m canter circles with poles every quarter.  Koda and I managed it just fine, but others were having some issues, so we ended up being a lead pony for a few pairs.  Kathy saw that it was a bit easier for Koda and I so I got to ride no stirrups.  My poor poor thighs!!!  I haven't ridden no stirrups at a canter doing endless circles in a long time. 

Once the pole exercises were over, we moved onto a small gymnastic (small because our arena is not that big!): trot poles to a bounce, 1-stride to a vertical.  Koda gets a little put off with gymnastics still, but we managed it just fine.  The jumps went up for us to the point of 2'9", then the last vertical was made into an oxer.  Of course, whenever we were going over the bigger fences, we got no video or photos. 

Felt like flying and man does my boy have some scope!

At that point it was the end of our morning lesson, so we put the horses up in coolers, set them up with some lunch and got some lunch ourselves. 

This haybag is awesome, it's a slow feeder hay net 
Love good herdmates

Stay tuned for part 2 :)

Monday, 22 October 2012

Kathy Playdon Clinic, Day 1

So after the horrendous drive home that turned from a quick 5 hour jaunt to 7 hours of driving hell with your eyes being blinded by snow, I had one hour to take the dog out to walk and play, eat supper, prep for the clinic, and get to the barn.  Luckily, the BO was just starting to load up when I got there so I threw all my stuff into her trailer, tossed the horses on the trailer (yay for good loaders!) and off we went.  Since the storm hadn't made it up here yet, the drive to the arena was normal and we made it there in plenty of time. 

We started the lesson off with some basic flat work with canter poles and trotting/cantering over raised poles in a small cross rail.  When I say small, I mean very small, max 8".  It was really neat to see some of the people in the group get over their fears and do things they would never do.  I really liked how Kathy pushed the envelope for every rider in the clinic, be it either the exercise itself, or take that exercise and make it more difficult by either taking away your stirrups, going into 2-point, or dropping the reins and doing the YMCA! 

I was very proud of Koda and how we rode the lesson through.  I was expecting him to have some issues with the canter poles as we've had some in the past, but we went through with no issues.  The way Kathy had the poles set up was either you could do one, two, or three of the poles, but you must do at least one of them.  They were staggered so that if you wanted to do all three, your space over the pole was very small and your line must be absolutely straight.  We nailed it the first time through, so had to do it without stirrups the second time through.  We ended the lesson with a 1-stride combination and single fence on the other long side.  Everyone went through, and for some of the riders, the fences were raised.  The second fence through the 1-stride just kept on going up and up to the point where I didn't want to ask how high it was (I have a "knowledge of height" issue).  Koda was a rockstar and just kept on going, never an issue.  At the end of the lesson I broke down and asked Kathy how high we had gone, and she responds "oh, I think it was about 2'9." 


I haven't jumped higher than 2'9" and that was only on Dillon who I knew could handle the height and would take care of me.  It didn't feel that big to me, and after talking to Kathy, she mentioned that I shouldn't school below 2'6", unless I'm working on something new that has a tight corner, or is more difficult.

I'm so proud of my boy!!!!

P.S.  Sorry there is no video or photos from day 1, the camera only came for day 2 and 3. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Much Updating!

Sorry I have been absent from the blogging world!  I've been caught up with work, dealing with the on-coming season of winter... sigh... going to a conference, and of course riding.  Was stuck behind the wheel yesterday driving home from the conference in a constant blizzard.  Yes, blizzard.  A drive that usually takes 5 hours took 7. I was not impressed.  Saw some transport trucks that were stuck, a couple people in the ditch, but all in all got home just fine.  Ironically, when I was within 20 minutes of home there was no snow, nothing.  Which was good since the BO and I were trailering to a clinic that evening.  We got there not a problem, unloaded and tacked up for the ride! 

By the time our lesson was over and we were ready to load up (approximately 1.5 hours or so) the snow was coming down.  Hard.  Driving home was a bit hair raising, but the BO is an awesome hauler, plenty of experience, and we got 'er done.  After unloading and making sure we had everything ready for today, I headed home after reading and sending off some texts to the SO.  I was in hot water since I hadn't texted him for about 8 hours and he knew I was driving through a blizzard that day.  He was a little pissed but more relieved than anything to hear from me.  I started the drive home and realized it was going to be a long haul.  I live about 25km from the barn, and usually takes about 15-20 minutes to get there.  It took me double that time to get home.  The roads were absolutely MISERABLE, thank goodness I took the truck with it's 4x4.  Kind of sad when I got home since I've been away for a few days and now the SO is away for a few days.

I'll be writing up some posts for the clinic, with photo and video!

In the meantime, looks like I have to start browsing for a new cooler as mine was eaten by mice.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Today I had the chance to ride with one of my friends from BC (let's call her S).  Her and I don't know each other so well (new friends!) but she knows riding, and enjoys watching and giving pointers.  I was so glad she said she'd come with me to the arena to give a hand since I was also trying out a new saddle.  I picked up a nice Collegiate for a song, so figured why not try it out?  It's a Collegiate Eventer, so more of an all-purpose than my stubben, but wanted to try it out and if it doesn't work, can always sell it again.  We slapped it on Koda, and it fit him, almost perfectly.  I was surprised since it was advertised as a 'narrow' tree, but when you look at it, it's more of a medium-narrow or medium.  Does collegiate run wide?  Either way, this saddle is going to be the "dressage" saddle for now, along with trail ride saddle (very cushion-y seat) until I can afford the dressage saddle I want.

So geared up with the new saddle, off we went to strut our stuff for S.  Koda was feeling good, nice and steady, good rhythm and tempo.  Koda finds it tough to bend and flex, and doing anything but go like a giraffe or move like a 2 by 4, so we focused on circles and bending today.  While riding, S and I both noticed some key thins about Koda:

1)  He is as honest as they come, he will always try!  But...
2)  Koda can be a bit lazy
3)  Going to the left, he will bend all day, but step up and under himself, use his back?  Pffft.
4)  Going to the right he will use himself, try to push off his hindquarters, step under himself.  Bend?  Pffft.

I really found this funny and interesting because the horse I rode for a long time beforehand, Dillon, was similar yet different.  Dillon would try all day and was rather talented, but he was a bit lazy.  He could bend all day to the right, not really to the left, and he moved really well to the left but not to the right.  This is something that I'll have to work on since I'm used to riding the complete opposite way that Koda needs me to ride.  During the winter we're going to be playing more in the big sand box, which I do enjoy after doing mostly hacking out and trail rides all summer, to work on these gaps in training. 

Tomorrow I'm riding again at the arena with another friend, P, so will have some more time to work on these things, plus do a few jumps too!  The pony club up here is having a clinician come up next Saturday so need to tune up! 

Hope everyone is having a good weekend!  Get out there before the snow gets too deep!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Tack Sales and Trailer Organization

It has started to snow up here, and with the first snow and it being extremely windy, I've decided to stay put until I can ride when there's actual daylight without risk of being shot by a hunter (yay hunting season... not.  Not against hunting, just against getting shot accidentally!).  Koda doesn't have his full winter coat grown out yet, plus his coat is really thin to begin with, so he has a light sheet on for now.  Luckily it's still coming up to about +5 degrees celsius during the days, but the nights are getting chilly.  Pretty soon we'll be pulling out the big guns.  I'm debating about doing a bib/apron clip on Koda this year as last year trying to cool Celtic out after a ride at the indoor took about as long as the ride did itself without clipping.  I've never clipped before and am curious about any ramifications with it other than having to blanket.  Anyone who lives in a cold climate or clip during the winter have any suggestions?

Also, it's that favourite time of year for me in that it is tack sale time!  Sadly, this year I really don't have anything to look for!  It's tough being a tack sale lover and having nothing to look for!  Koda is completely outfitted with blankets, coolers, quarter sheets, bridles (don't ask how many I have, I may even sell a couple), saddle pads, boots, halters, lead ropes, lunge lines, etc. (wow, that's a lot of stuff!) and there is nothing missing.  I love this time of year as it's when some of the big sales up here in Canada happen.  One of my favourites is the Greenhawk warehouse sale.  I grew up very close to the warehouse and every year I would go and pick up some major steals.  Favourite brand of breeches for 50% off?  Yes please!  Three quarter length down filled coat designed for casual wear and riding for an insane price?  Check that one off the list.  Plus don't forget their clearance rack that will usually have a 15% off the last marked price as well, best spot to snag some nice Joules polos. 

This year it is looking like I won't have anything to ask my parents to pick up for me.  I'm actually almost thinking about culling the tack herd in my trailer a bit!  Things in there are so cluttered and unorganized it's driving me batty.  I can't find anything.  Since I'm fairly new to being a horse trailer with dressing room owner does anyone have any neat tips and tricks for storage, maintenance, organization, cleanliness?  I am a lover of all things that are shelves, bins, drawers, labels, anything that will keep things organized (at least when it comes to my horse.  The house on the other hand...).  

Before it starts to really get cold I would love to have my trailer completely organized with all things that may freeze in -40 degree weather (farenheit or celsius, it doesn't matter at that point) will be in a bin safe at home, my every day tack being used have an easy access to move from truck to home, and all other horse things be tucked neatly away.  Any ideas?  What are the opinions of leaving tack out in a trailer where it may get to be -40?  I'm thinking no, but some people have done it up here with no issues to be seen yet and am curious of other people's opinions. 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ring of Fire

This week hasn't been the best, haven't been able to make it out to see my boy for one thing or another (Shilo getting neutered, it was rain/sleeting, recovering from the flu) and I finally decided by hell or high water, I'm going for a ride.  I was SO glad I made that decision since it was a fantastic ride!  A little on the nervous/exciting side, and just all around good. 

After a ride in July

It was the first time in a while that we've hacked out by ourselves, so I was happy to see that he was no longer calling for the other horses like he used to.  He just marched out, perhaps more on the alert than usual, but hacked out without a peep about the other horses and was looking at where we were headed.  I wanted to keep the ride low key, so walked for a solid 10 minutes then hit one of our harrowed fields with some of the best footing around.  Went out and did a quick canter with the leaves crunching under Koda's hooves as we flew along the edge of the field with the setting sun on our right side.  It was absolutely fabulous. 

At our first outing off the farm, August.

Autumn is my favourite season, the scents, the colours, the feeling of that snap in the air, it's great!  Experiencing those while cantering along the edge of a field at sunset?  Even better.  Please note, I do wear hunter orange when I go out and am going to get Koda a bright coloured ear bonnet.  The hunters out here are fairly good about really viewing what they shoot, but when you ride a horse that already looks a lot like a moose, every precaution is a good one.

First bank at the South Peace Clinic, September

Either way, we did some walk-trot transitions along with staying straight.  All I have to do is think "right" and BAM we have leg-yield off the right leg, whereas to the left it's a bit of a battle.  I think it's a mix of him being less flexible to the left and me not being as coordinated with my aids to the left, let alone being stronger on the right than left.  We finished off our ride with a short right-lead canter (short since someone was getting strong and excited since we were heading in the direction of home).  As we cooled out and walked home I was getting a touch anxious, not sure why, but instead of getting all tight and bothered I just started to sing that Johnny Cash classic Ring of Fire.  Slightly appropriate since we were riding home and the sun looked like a ring of fire on the horizon!  It really helped relax myself and bring Koda back down from being keyed up after our work.  Kind of cheesy and hilarious and perfect riding home along the road, sun setting ahead of us with our own soundtrack.

Sigh, why is autumn so short out here? 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Dressage Ride

Today I got to catch a trailer ride to the community indoor arena, so Koda and I did some dressage work.  I have tried to do some of this schooling at home or on the trails and in the fields, but it's never really quite the same as when you're schooling in an arena.  Our ride went well, we dabbled in some leg yields (great to the left, overbent to the right), lengthen and shorten of stride, and canter transitions (again, better left than right).

In April, getting to know each other

He was trying hard for me today, was very consistent in what he can give right now.  Gave a little lengthening, but I have to be VERY careful I post bigger along with ask for more with leg and not get lazy and expect his stride to cause me to post bigger.  Our canter work was much better than usual, me starting off in a light 3-point seat.  I cannot wait to get him looked at by a chiropractor or massage therapist!  Usually when we canter, I get a bit of a side-winder going on, particularly if I'm sitting.  In the light 3-point seat, he's much happier.  Either way, our canter was much better today than previous rides.

In May, by the dugout.

I'm hoping to get to do more of these dressage schoolings, either at home in the back field and just do it, or at the arena.  We need more of these types of rides to build the right muscles!  I see how our winter is going to be spent...

June, at Machesis Lake - Where to next, mom?

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

New Addition

Sorry I haven't been posting as much as before!  We have been dealing with a possible new addition to the family.  For a while now, I have wanted to adopt a dog from the SPCA.  We live in an area where stray dogs are found all the time, abandoned dogs or dogs that have been picked up and their families cannot pay the fine for a stray dog found around town.  A month ago I discovered the SPCA facebook page in the nearby large town.  On the page there was a gorgeous dog that just screamed "adopt me!  I am adorable!". 

The SO was a bit more reluctant, but after we met with the SPCA at the local community night, we decided to go a bit further and do some research on the dog we were interested in.  From what they could see, he was an abused dog, but knew some things.  He was respectful of the leash, not aggressive, quiet, no growl/bite/bark in him.  We decided to go visit him in person.  He won us over.  Broke my heart to see him cower whenever a new person came up to him, but with his usual handlers, he was absolutely loving.  We took him for a long walk and decided we wanted to see how he did with our current furry family (2 indoor cats).  We were going to take him on foster the next week, but he was scheduled to head to the Edmonton SPCA as he had been up here for too long.  So, we ended up taking him for the weekend to see how he did.  As expected, the cats just ignored or bossed him around.  He was weary of the cats, but respectful.  He got used to us as well, liking me more so than the SO.  I think that was because he was abused by a man before, possibly, we're not sure.

On Monday, I had to head down to another town for training for my job, and the SO wanted both of us home for now with the pup, so he went back to the SPCA, as we had discussed with them before we took him for foster.  I am going to pick him up again on Friday and he will be coming home with us to stay! 

Here is our new addition!

Name:  Shilo (he's shy)
Age: Approximately 2
Breed:  Mix of shepherd, husky, maybe chow-chow.
Size:  Medium/Large

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Friday Night.... with No Lights?!

This past Friday, me and the ladies went for an evening ride to the point.  During the ride, Koda and I did some trot work, working on balance and rhythm along with shortening/lengthening and some lateral work to weave around the other riders.  Gotta love easy-going herd-mates! 

We left the yard quite late as one of the ladies got caught up at her own farm, but we headed out all the same.  Some of the farmers were out working on their fields, and Koda handled that like a champ!  We still have some tender soles in the front feet, so we stick to the grassy shoulder and fields where he's quite comfortable to move out.  I took the helmet came out with me and here are a few short clips of what went on.

Going through the summer fallow

Heading down the road.  The colours were absolutely lovely

Canter through the best footing around! 
Notice our lovely veer towards the group near the end...

The point

At the point, we saw plenty of deer and a combine working late into the night.  When we got home, it was PITCH black.  We didn't think it would be that dark, but of course the days are getting shorter, and the yard lights are both burnt out.  Luckily we have more lights around the yard that needed to be turned on, then we were good to go. 

In other news, a new clinician is coming up for a weekend in October.  She's supposedly an english clinician, and does quite a bit in Pony Club.  I'm interested in doing the clinic, but I'm curious/worried about how she teaches... it will be an interesting time to say the least!  It sounds like the Pony Club volunteers will get to ride for free and that the Pony Club will pay for the clinic (yay, free clinic!).

Monday, 17 September 2012

Helmet Cam!

Tonight, the BO and I went out again to explore.  Our ponies were a little more tired than last night, but still had some pep in their step.  Tonight was the night for wildlife encounters.  We almost got run over by a deer that was flushed out of the brush by the dogs.  While it ran off, it was just springing off the ground constantly, looked hilarious and adorable all at once.  Sadly, I didn't get it on video, but I did get the bear!  It only looks like a black dot on the camera, but it was running along a tree line away from us.  We watched it go as the dogs (of course...) went tearing off after it.  Thankfully, they heeded their owner's calls and curved back to us.

I tried out the helmet cam for the first time tonight, and checking out the videos, I need to tilt it down one so that you can actually see Koda's ears.


Don't mind the chatting, I tend to talk to Koda a lot while I'm riding. 

Sunday, 16 September 2012


So, some of you may have suspected that me and the SO are fairly active people.  We love the outdoors, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, etc. and for the past couple of years, geocaching.  What is geocaching you ask? 

Here's a video that explains it well:

When we go geocaching, we go more for the adventure of finding a new cool place, those hidden gems that are off the beaten path.  Here are some shots of some of my favourites. 

Group geocaching at James River Falls

Out by the coast

Search high and low!

An all-time favourite spot to go

Don't leave any rock unturned

Take a break and enjoy the view :)

Climbing may be required

The joy of the find!

In the Northwest Territories

Yesterday, we introduced our new friends to geocaching up north.  Since it was also Pony Club lesson day at the arena, we decided to cache there, and I would bring Koda and ride along with them.  The trails by the community riding arena are absolutely gorgeous.  No motorized vehicles allowed, and the trails are maintained for cross country skiing in the winter, and hikers, runners, cyclists, and riders during the rest of the year.  They twist and turn through a small valley beside the Boyer and Ponton Rivers. The great thing about this trail system is that you can go for short hikes (20mins) or longer ones (4-5 hours).  You can also camp down along the river, but please pack out your garbage.  There are plenty of hills on these trails, so it's perfect for conditioning work. 

While they were hiking along looking for the geocache, I took Koda further past, trotting and cantering over the fairly steep but short hills.  It was awesome!!!!  Had the stirrups jacked up properly, and we just flew.  I wasn't sure how Koda would handle going down those steep hills (no joke, in some spots is was so steep that the ground was eroding away, no grass), but he handled it well.  We still had some calling out to friends issues, but that calmed down after a bit.  When I had to head up to teach, we cantered and trotted all the way back, walking up the long hill to the mustering area. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Back to the Basics

Tonight Koda and I did a slow but intense school at the walk and trot.  We focused on flexibility, listening to the inside leg and respecting the outside aids.  Doing spiralling in and out on the circle at the walk, being very conscious of keeping a consistent bend, softness in contact, and overall general consistency.  Spiralling, leg-yielding, serpentines, reverses, etc.were all done at the walk with me riding without stirrups for about 20 minutes.  When we moved on to trot work, I took my stirrups back (at 2-point position with the stirrups at the correct length).  As we did our trot work, we did some spiralling in, larger circles, continually thinking about balance, softness, and consistency.

Our first couple canter transitions were a bit rough, but they improved and we weren't throwing ourselves into them.  We did a simple exercise of pole, 9ft to cross rail, 9 ft to pole.  Rode it well, I need to find the right amount of softness for Koda.  He's not a point and shoot kind of guy, although he's becoming more confident over fences.  When I'm too tense, he'll pull a rail transferring my tenseness to either a trailing hind end or inverted jump.  If I'm too soft, he will root on landing a bit and take the reins.  Another thing to add to the list of things to work on :)

After riding through the exercise at a trot and canter (better in canter) we went back to our circle exercises at a walk, dropped the irons, and re-affirmed our soft contact, bend, and being on the aids.

We're going to be doing more rides like this, along with going out by ourselves more often while we still have the slightly warmer weather!  The blanket season will be starting soon, Koda is already starting to get fuzzy and some of his war marks have grown in with his almost black winter coat. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

South Peace Clinic - Day 3

This day we went straight out to the cross country course.  Koda's feet had started to chip rather badly on the harder ground, plus he was in need of a trim.  The evening before one of the organizer's husbands dropped by and rounded him off.  No more chipping, but the trim was a tad short, making Koda sensitive on the harder ground (so I thought).  We trotted him out in the morning to see how he was. He trotted out fine on the hard packed road, so we continued.  Koda was happy going forward over fences, through the water, etc.  We took it easy in the hard pack areas, and finished off with some pace work on the track. 

This day we FINALLY got all our sh!t together.  Well, more like I got myself together.  We started over some basic fences, and the only one we had a stop at was the coop where I didn't have my leg on properly.  I was so focused on the line, that I completely forgot what was happening below the waist!  Oh, embarassment...

Either way, we did our first coop, bank up, and drop that day along with got to canter along the track (woot!).  It took me a bit to ride him in right to the bank up, but we got it in the end, and he had NO hesitation about the drop, just launched off of it.  Love you Koda!

Enjoy the shots!

Warm-up over the log fence with an immediate down slope.

Our first mini 'course'
Over the log then through the water

Over the coop, then roll back to the water

Back through the water to the log going out

First attempt at the drop, no problem!

After schooling the bank, we got it figured out.

Canter around the track?  Don't mind if I do!