Monday, 30 July 2012


So several things have been going on the past few weeks, not including getting a new trailer and going to our first horse trial (oh, the adventures)!  Since I spoke a little bit about the trailer before, I’ll gloss over that for now and focus on this past weekend.

Trailering down was fine, Koda was very relaxed in the new trailer.  We trailered him loose so that he could move around as he saw fit to be the most comfortable for such a long haul, and kept the divider secured to the wall so essentially he was travelling in a small box stall.  We stopped every few hours to check on him, give some water and hay, fuel up, and switch drivers.  After the 10 hour drive, we arrived at the show (yes, 10 hours… and that’s one of the closer ones!).  During the drive we were texting back and forth with an acquaintance of mine who we were staying with (got to love friends with RVs!), and she let us know that the parking was atrocious.  They had gotten stuck twice by parking where they were directed even after protesting that would not be a good idea. 

We arrive and there was no one really around to let us know where to park, which stall was ours, there were no signs, nothing.  Luckily, our friend joined us and showed us where to set up with Koda and park the trailer (sadly, on the other side of the grounds…).  I’m still fairly new to the show thing, this being only my second season, so I spent the evening going over details, prepping my dressage test, cleaning tack, etc.  The next day came and I got to have a bit of a sleep in since my dressage time was in the afternoon and stadium was around 4pm.  The moment I finished braiding, Koda dropped down and rolled, the little turkey!  I had not brought a slinky with me, but was able to borrow one from someone.  After this, I tried to relax in the trailer… tried.  I wasn’t really worried about our dressage, it was a simple walk-trot test where the most difficult thing we did was a 20m trot circle.  I was extremely nervous about stadium since Koda has not had as much exposure to it, particularly any decorative jumps or standards. 

Then the heavens opened.

Accompanied by thunder and lightening.

And then it started to hail.

Our stalls were completely open pens with no shelter for the horses, so I tossed Koda onto the trailer.  Of course, now my test was postponed, but it wasn’t actually announced, or if it was, we didn’t hear it.  So now we’re all chillin’ in the RV, everyone else is fine, I’m freaking out since I have no idea what’s going on, if the tests have started up again or not, etc.  While we were in the RV, we watched three truck and trailers get stuck while trying to get out of the already slick paddock in the pouring rain.  Eventually they got out with the help of the bob cat and gravel, leaving huge ruts in their wake.  Why they were heading out in the middle of the storm, I don’t know… not exactly the smartest choice, but to each their own. 

Once the rain stopped, I grabbed Koda off the trailer, tacked up, and headed over to warm-up to see what was what.  Apparently they were just going when people were ready, so was told to warm-up and away you go!  We had an ok warm-up, but the field was still very slick and there was standing water or deep mud wherever you went to ride.  At this point I was happy our test was only walk-trot!  We went into our test, and it went alright for my greenie and me.  Biggest comments were needed more submission from Koda, but overall a very steady and consistent test scoring 6s across the board.  Not sure how that translates to US scores, sorry!  One thing that kind of was off for this test was I was in such a rush and panic that I didn't take the time to realize/check that my stirrups were at jumping height and not dressage height!  Here are some shots from our test, you can tell that he relaxes slightly into it as the test goes on.

This is Koda, the giraffe...

Note the mud spatter on the boards.  We were riding through a puddle!

Follow the circle in the grass, and you'll be alright.

That's a little better bud!  Relax!

Riding by the "judge's tent"

Almost there...

Good boy!

Stay tuned for day 2!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Change of plans!

It was much too hot to trailer over to G's for a stadium school (and it was really late!) so we stayed at home, did some flat work and went over our cross country again.  Our flat needs some work, but after watching some of the video SO shot, I now know that I need to push Koda FORWARD in all of his gaits (except the walk... strange) so that he will really step under himself.  What I think of as too quick of a tempo actually works for him.  Also, I'm developing warm-up strategy, and even though our canter is in need of work, he works better after getting a quick canter out of the way. 

I'm still worried about our stadium, but really the fences are going to be a MAX of 2', which he can pop over easily, just don't want to have a bad run and turn him off of the entire thing.  He seems to really enjoy our little cross country course, always ears pricked looking for the next obstacle.  When he's put in a ring, he almost immediately loses his forward.  I ride with small spurs and a jumping bat so hopefully we'll have the tools we need to get our stadium done.  If all else fails, it's only a schooling run for us, so whatever we do we'll get something out of it!

For your viewing pleasure, a flat video and two cross country.  Notice in the second video he doesn't "jump" nearly as often as the first, the smart lil pony.  He's all about efficiency.  We actually increased the height of one of the jumps and he still just trotted over it (about 20" height, 24" width at base).

Monday, 23 July 2012

Predicting the Weather

Moving from the east coast to the west has had it's on changes to handle, and one that is being a rather big pain is the weather.  When a storm is rolling through back home, you knew it was coming and coming fast.  If you heard thunder, you had a few minutes to pack up before the heavens opened and you got drenched.  Out here, its slightly different.  The thunder could be rolling but you could wait hours for the storm to come, or it could end up not coming by at all.  When the storms do come, they're usually fast and furious with a lot of rain all at once then quitting (although there are exceptions to this like last week's 36 hour deluge).  It makes predicting the weather, and ride planning very difficult.  Yesterday the farrier came out and while he was trimming we had heard thunder.  The sky was blue, but you could see some thunderclouds off to the north, yet nothing really to worry about.  Since it was blazing with heat, I planned on riding later on in the evening.  I was dressed to head out and BAM!  The rain just rolled in, pounding down.  This also effectively caused my riding areas to be way too slippery to ride in... sigh. 

Tonight is the first night with the new trailer!  We're going to head over to my friend's place who has an outdoor arena and jumps.  I'm hoping to string together a course tonight of 6 fences and see how we do, perhaps start with a gymnastic and move on to the course.  I know Koda's stamina is up and it was really interesting to hear the farrier's (let's call him K) opinion on him.  Koda's papers state that he's an arab-quarter horse cross, 50/50.  From K's point of view, Koda moves like an arabian, walks like an arabian, and seems more anglo-arab than quarter horse.  We surmised that his dam was most likely an appendix than pure quarter horse.  It's always nice to hear a professional horse person compliment your horse's way of going and confirmation.  Especially nice in this case since Koda is the first horse I have bought solely on my own judgement with a clear eye on what I wanted. 

Either way, I'm hoping that tonight goes well!  Will update with some photos and possibly video (SO is coming with me tonight). 

Friday, 20 July 2012

A Different Approach

Tonight the footing wasn't too bad in our riding area, so we stayed in and schooled our dressage, focusing on staying steady in the bridle and being all around consistent.  I don't think Koda has ever had this type of riding/training done with him before, so he's being introduced to higher expectations than just doing the gait itself (walk, trot, canter).  From the get go after our warm-up, I wanted him to be as soft and flexible in the bridle as he could manage.  I'm playing around with repetitive patterns and constantly changing what we are doing to see how he reacts to each.  Not surprisingly, he responds better to the repetitive patterns, even if they are more complicated than the other movements when we're constantly changing.  On a recommendation, I bought the 101 dressage exercises book (wonderful!) and have been picking and choosing ones to try.  Right now my favourites are - thread the needle and the trotting oval (warm-up).  Tonight, Koda really got down to work while doing the thread the needle, which is essentially you ride a reverse just past the corner as you go down the long-side, ride a 10-15m circle at A (or C) then ride another reverse down the second long side, so that you remain schooling in one end of the arena.

After we sat in that exercise for a while, we moved onto our 20m circle.  Since I was really trying to keep Koda soft, I wanted to keep the movements simple or slow so that I had the chance to react immediately when he softened to me (easier said than done...).  While on the 20m circle I used an exercise that I was taught on my first horse, Dillon (he was in my old header, love you Dill <3) which is trot your circle, alllllmost come to a walk, and right at the point where they're almost going to walk, push onwards into the trot.  I haven't thought throught the physics and reasonings behind it, but it really helps my timing of my aids, along with really helped engagement.  During this exercise, Koda really put in some lovely work and I discovered one of his 'tricks'.  He LOVES to toss his rider off to the right (or I get crooked) going to the right.  Something I'll really have to watch since I am right-side dominant, so when I get tossed to the right and I don't realize, those aids become heavier, so we fall out of our circle.  All in all, it was a great ride, although I need to be very careful when I give him a break or respite from working, since it will take me a few minutes to bring him back to work.  The ideal situation for us - go from the warmup ring straight to the competition ring with no time in between. 

While I was putting him away and checking on the rest of the critters, I noticed something that is not good:

warning, slightly gross

I think he caught a cold from the major weather change we had the last few days.  It went from a high of 33 Celsius to 36 hours of rain with a high of 16... not good.  He was fine while riding except for three snorts during our trot warm-up, so will take a look tomorrow and go from there.

And since I don't want to post just a snotty picture, here's a nicer one:

Got to love timers on cameras!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

We Interrupt This Training Week...

...for 36 hours of rain, straight.  We have been dying for rain up here and am glad we got it, but thunder and lightening on Tuesday, extreme downpour all Wednesday making anywhere to ride covered in standing water (no arena at home and wasn't comfortable hauling down the dirt/mud/slime roads).  It's funny how doing barn chores makes the weather seem not such a big deal.  I'm watching the farm right now, and the worst part of chores was driving to and from.  It didn't bother me tossing hay while skirting deep puddles throughout the field and the pony's paddock. 

Today our entries went up online and ours is in!  Slightly startling to see it there, but we'll do our best.  Our aim right now - end with a number and not a letter :)

Because of the rain, tonight will be some road work since they'll be drained by then, hopefully.

Hope everyone is enjoying their Thursday!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Getting down to business

Tonight was our first real lunging session.  I was very happy to see that when asked, Koda can move quite nicely although he does have a touch of ADD, it seems.  When I first put him on the line he was very up and ready to go, trotting and cantering about.  I let it go as he got his monkeys out since he wasn't charging about, nor pulling on the lunge line.  When he started to slow down, pushed him on a bit then started our warmup and exercises.  We did some basic stuff on the lunge, transitions and some spiralling in and out at the trot.  The interesting thing to notice was whenever I gave him a bit of a break, or changed direction, he lost at least part, if not all, of his focus.  Every time we changed direction, he was a bit of a monkey, moving out rather quickly without being asked, and looking around instead of focusing on the work.  He would come back quicker and quicker as we went, but there were still those moments of "oh look!  what's that? GAH tree!" etc. 

I like using lunging to be able to gauge my horse's progress particularly since I'm training and riding mostly on my own without any eyes on the ground, and when I do have eyes, they're focused on their own horses or do not know what to look for.  We did some canter work and by golly that horse has a nice canter in him, just need to ask him for it!  His canter to the right is absolutely lovely (once balanced, he tends to throw himself into it with his head down and on the forehand for a few strides) yet his left is something to be desired... The first time he went into his left lead, his head was extremely low, he threw himself into it from a freight train trot, and it was just all over unbalanced.  We worked on trot-canter-trot transitions both ways, and eventually the left side did have a few moments of balance.  Just need to practice and build up those muscles.  We were only on the lunge for 35 minutes tonight, which is perfect since I really don't like to go over 40 minutes when lunging. 

Tomorrow will be transitions under saddle and run through of our dressage test.  I'm very glad that our test is only a walk-trot test and most technical things asked are a free walk across the diagonal and 20m trot circles.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Whole Bag of Stuff

It's been a while since I've posted and there are plenty of things going on!

1) Koda and I jumped our first "real" vertical that was higher than he could step over.
2) I need to find a good farrier quick as the one we've been using can't come up for another week and Koda's hooves are not looking good, they're long and he's stumbling and dragging all over the place.
3) Need to work on the left side, our nemesis.
4) According to Koda, my trailer is much too small for him (it's a tiny too small plus it gets much too dusty in there on our roads!) and that he needs something bigger (which I was thinking about getting anyway) so I am looking to hopefully trade in said trailer and get a new trailer all within budget before July 27th. 


I'm hoping that the farrier issue will be sorted out shortly, a friend of mine uses a local guy who is heard to be very good, patient with horses, and knows his stuff.  She was having him come out to do her horses, and I mentioned I could trailer over if that would make it easier.  Just waiting to hear back from her to see if all is a go.

Riding work is not a problem, although would love to get his hooves trimmed so that I don't have to continually guess if the sticky-ness on his left side is in part to him wearing down his hooves oddly or if he's really weak on that side. 

I guess the biggest thing would be the trailer issue.  Koda will pop right onto our BO's trailer, not a problem in the world.  With a buddy in there, without, when it's light, when it's dark, with food, without food, whatever, but when it comes to my trailer... nothing doing.  He's not dirty about it, he'll get the front feet in then it seems like he just shuts down.  My trailer is about 6" shorter than hers, and the stall is about 10" shorter.  Koda is a big guy, 16.1, so I'm thinking that along with it being a stock combo (the dust gets in and must make it extremely difficult to breathe) I need to get a trailer that is a horse trailer, large size (7' at the minimum, 7.6' preferred) that is an actual horse trailer, not the stock combo.  Not saying that this little trailer hasn't been great, it has!  But, Koda isn't a dirty guy.  He has been slowing being more and more difficult to load in this trailer to the point that last night he wouldn't get in, yet would pop right into the BO's. 

Oye, horses.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

First Baby Cross Country Adventure!

Well, more like popping over some rather large logs that we found lying around the farm and putting them in a kind of course, but it's better than what we had before!

Please pardon the downcast photos, we have a rather large fire to the east of us and the wind was blowing the smoke all over.  Luckily it wasn't too bad, just enough to make it a little "foggy" and keep the bugs off (always a bonus).  My gracious SO came out tonight, so we have some shots of us actually jumping. 

Intro to our fences, he sniffed it then over he went

Off we go!

Or not... darn bending lines!

There we go!  And he's actually jumping, not just striding over.

Single log fence after a sharp turn.

I love this horse.

You may notice, we have a canter!!!!  It's not the greatest in the world, but salvageable.  I need to really sit up between fences to keep him together (particularly on the left lead) or else he'll just fall apart running along on his forehand.  Trot-canter-trot transitions are in our future.  Was so proud of my boy tonight, he was incredible, locking in on each fence as we came along (had issues with the left bending line, but got it in the end), no hesitation, just went on over.

Monday, 9 July 2012

New Trails

Last night the BO and I trailered over to G's place to go for a ride.  Her trails are absolutely lovely!  They wind along field roads through canola fields (yellow as far as the eye can see, thought they were mustard seed when I first saw them) then cuts into some woods, up and down hills (finally some hills!), to a river, along the upper banks of the river, and back to her yard.  It was a lovely ride, yet since the BO wasn't feeling too great (arthritis pain) we kept the ride to a walk.  Koda is showing how much of an interesting character he has.  We'll lead out on trail, blaze trails through the bush no problem, but will absolutely NOT put a foot in water until another horse has done it first, unless it is to drink from it.  Yesterday was our first deep water crossing (up to the stirrups) and he would only go if one of the others went first.  The moment the other horses went in, he'd splash right in not a problem.  This will have to be worked on, but happy to know that he will go in albeit behind another horse. 

Yesterday also showed that I need to swap my current reins for extra long reins on Koda.  With his extremely long neck (or maybe I'm just used to riding shorter-necked horses?) I was at the buckle when we were going down a short, but steep bank, and he could have used a bit more length.  Luckily I have a pair in my trunk, so will haul them out on our next ride.  Talking about switching up tack, it's about that time to get the show bridles out and fit them to Koda, make sure everything is in order and broken in to the point where it is completely comfortable for both of us.  I have two choices for a show bridle and am not sure which one to use at this point since one has a thicker noseband (not sure if it'll suit) and is plain raised and padded (my preference), and the other is a plain raised fancy stitch bridle with regular noseband but has a flash attachment that we don't need. 

Which would suit this head best?  Plain and thick nose band, or fancy and regular? 

Up next - mane, tail, and coat maintenance!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Back in the tack

After a few days hiatus from the saddle due to Koda's head injury and me being down with intense migraines in the evenings (strange things... but they've stopped so I'm not complaining!), I swung back up in the saddle last night for a long hack with the BO.  I'd planned to head out earlier in the day to get some fences built, scout some logs for cross country jumps, but it was incredibly hot, couldn't believe it!  I live 600km north of Edmonton, and it still made it up to 32 degrees yesterday (90 F).  It's supposed to hit that today as well. 

Either way we tacked up and set down the trail, BO all in trail gear, ponying her pack horse, me in my english get-up, with Koda in a fly bonnet.  I was doing some walk-trot work, leaving the group, coming back to the group, and just enjoying the company on the trail.  As we moved onto a field road both Koda and Dandy (BO's horse) became very alert watching a clump of trees.  We keep riding since the horses aren't stopping or anything, and BO sends the dogs in to flush out whatever it was.  We're expecting deer.  Out comes a young black bear.  We stop and watch the dogs chase the bear for a bit, then turn around.  It was really neat to discover that Koda wasn't backing down from this bear, he wanted to keep going instead of turn back!  Very cool, and good to know.  So we headed back and decided to do a long trot down the road for a little less than a kilometer.  While we walked back, Koda and I hopped down into the ditch and popped over a few low trees that had been blown down.

Once we got back to the yard, we herded our little escape artist duster back into his pen, then settled everyone down for the night.  Koda's cut is looking better every day, no swelling, treated it with wonderdust and swat last night, put on his fly mask and he was good to go.  I've discovered that Swat is the BEST product for up here to use on the clusters of no-see-um bites our horses get.  I tried using vetrolin, but the only thing that really helps heal, soothe, and keep the flies off is swat!

Today is hopefully going to be more productive with finding some nice logs to pop over :)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


It's inevitable that when you leave your horse for a long-weekend away (Happy Belated Canada Day!) your horse will invariably injure themselves in some way or another.  During our 12 hour drive back north from Calgary, SO received a text on his phone (mine is currently MIA) from our BO stating that when I did check that night to check over Koda's face since he had a small cut under his right eye.  When I got there, I checked it and seemed ok, no swelling, a little heat, nothing major.  So I quickly cleaned it out, applied a dash of swat and put him out with his flymask.

Did night check again tonight, and it was much worse.  One third of his head was minorly swollen, and it was hot to the touch.  Luckily for me, my superman SO came with me tonight so while I was doctoring Koda, he took care of all the night chores.  To treat it I had to make do with what I had on hand.  First off, I soaked the swollen area including the cut to help bring the swelling down along with open the cut for cleaning and disinfecting.  Once the swelling had gone down enough and the cut had reopened, I cleaned out all the crud that was in there.  Had to use the tweezers to get some of the bigger hay bits out.  I was extremely impressed with Koda, when I was soaking his face he was a little twitchy, but when the tweezers and major poking around was going on, he was as still as a stone.  After the cleaning out, I applied triple antibiotic ointment, slathered on some swat, and on went the flymask again. 

Tomorrow I think I will try doing a peroxide wash with a q-tip, water rinse, wonder dust, and swat.  I'm hoping that the swelling comes down soon, although Koda doesn't seem the worse for wear.  Once the swelling and tenderness is gone, we'll be back on our training regime in time to make it to our first HT.

Anyone have other options or ideas to treat a cut under the eye?