Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Day Late...

... but I got the ride I wanted!  Went out yesterday and had a great ride with the BO with her gelding Mik.  We did some nice long trots and one lovely canter through a summer fallow field (beautiful footing) that was absolutely fantastic.  I still can't believe we have no snow and the ground isn't frozen solid yet!

It was kind of interesting watching Koda with Mik.  At the beginning, he would try to nip at him, but I put a stop to that (the turkey) so Koda settled down nicely and kept his head.  Throughout the ride Koda seemed to relax more and more into the ride which was nice to have happen.  I think what happens is he just gets so worked up when Cain or Dandy are out.  Of course the two (Mik and Koda) got a bit competitive when we were cantering through the field, but nothing crazy and easy to bring back.  Mik was getting a bit more worked up every time we would do anything faster than a walk.  Poor guy was lathered by the time we got back to the yard!  It looked like every time the BO touched the reins to slow down his MASSIVE walk so that Koda and I could catch up, Mik's head would pop up and he would resist and fight.

As we cooled out back at the yard, I noticed that even though the sun was setting, I could still easily see clearly across the yard to the collapsed quonset because of the fixed yard lights, which means no matter the time, I should be able to school in the yard until the snow comes!  The footing isn't the best in some places, but right in front of the quonset and right by the trailer are perfect spots to school.  Both areas are large enough to accomodate a 20-30m circle so dressage time here we come :)

While we made our way back to the yard, the BO and I got to talk about, what else, our horses and what we're looking to do in the winter/next year.  As the talk progressed I was happy to hear that she has the same view as me that we can ask our horses (specifically in this instance Mik for her, Koda for me) to do a lot more than what we usually do.  I know Koda has a LOT more to give, but I need to ask for it or else I'll never see it.  It's that demand of proper riding and demand for more from yourself as a rider and asking your horse to give you more at the same time that both of us want to strive for.  As the saying goes, check yourself before you blame the horse for a mistake.

In other news, I am not a big fan of Hallowe'en (something about having to dress up and everything is scary, like it's out to get you or something), so I am going to be a bad partner and leave The Fiance to handle the kids as they come by tomorrow night while I sneak off for another sunset ride.

Love this shot, absolutely lovely
Please note: new bridle!  Doesn't it suit him?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sunshine Award!

I've been nominated for an award!  Thank you to My Life On Horses ( for nominating me for this neat award.  As always, there are rules to follow for each award.
Here's the spiel:
The sunshine award means, bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere. Of course all awards have rules for awarding people.
·         First, the nominee must thank the blogger that nominated her and link to her blog. 
·         Next she must nominate ten bloggers for the award and let them know. 
·         Then, she must answer a list of ten questions and post to her blog.  
·         Finally, the Sunshine Award button must be posted on the blog
Without further ado, here are the questions and my answers
 Do you prefer Mares or Geldings? 
Geldings all the way.  I haven't ridden a mare that I truly like or connect with yet
2. English or Western?
Predominantly an English rider, but I've been known to chase a cow or round a barrel or two.
3. Do you prefer "younger" or "older" horses?
I like the middle of the road horses, those who have seen some but still need a bit of finishing and can still grow/learn in their abilities.
4. Have you ever trained a horse from ground zero?
Nope, but I think it could be fun/interesting... as long as you get the right youngster
5. Do you prefer riding or ground work?
Riding, but ground work can be fun, specifically loose lungeing/round penning (when done not in excess).
6. Do you board your horse or keep it at home?
Boarding at a friend's place.  I actually like boarding since you get that barn atmosphere with other people, can bounce ideas off of others, and just enjoy being surrounded by others who love their horses just as much as you do.
7. Do you do all natural things or commercial stuff? (In the sense of products.)
From reading other blogs, people seem to be tripping on this question.  I think what they're getting after is if you use all-natural products (natural fly spray, natural liniments, essential oils, sheepskin or wool pads, etc.) vs more processed products like neoprene, synthesized chemicals, etc.  I use whatever works and doesn't harm my horse, be it natural or otherwise. 
8. All Tacked up or Bareback?
Give me my tack, baby :)
I did school Dillon bareback when I could (dressage schooling in the indoor in winter was the BEST!), but I don't trust Koda as much with our riding situation.  If there was an indoor at the barn, absolutely I would!  But since there isn't... not so much.  I should look into doing more dressage schooling bareback at the arena this year though...
9. Equestrian model?
I love the way William Fox Pitt handles his horses.  At every competition, he seems to have them completely prepared and ready to tackle the task at hand.  They are all calm, fit, and if they seem to be not on their game that day, he will withdraw (Rolex 2013).  Being such a long rider, he handles himself brilliantly.  It's ironic since this year I'm getting to go to the Royal in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) and he'll actually be there for the indoor eventing!  Sadly, he's leaving before I'll get there so I'm missing out by 2 days.  Damn  
10. What's your, one, main goal while being in the horse world?
Complete as many horse trials as I can with Koda with a number, not a letter.  Would love to get to Training Level, or complete a traditional three day, but would need to go down to the States for that.

Alright everyone, here is the hard part:  choosing 10 bloggers to award this to!  Since all of you are so wonderful, I'm going to take a post out of Andrea's blog over at, and say all of you who are reading are nominated!  Take this post, copy and paste it and have at 'er!

Such a kissable nose

Monday, 28 October 2013

Memorial Ride with a Twist

Today is the second year anniversary of Dillon's fatal accident.  I wanted to go out and have a lovely ride and just relax with Koda as we rode through the fields.  This happened... after a touch of minor fireworks.

I pulled up into the yard and not 5 seconds later, the BO pulls up in her truck.  I let her know I'm heading out for a ride through the fields and invite her to come, she's pumped and says yes so heads to the house to get ready.  I pull Koda out of the field after he gives me a bit of sass.  Usually when I go to catch him he'll either walk all the way up to me or at least meet me half-way.  Not so today.  Luckily he wasn't too far off, so I go to catch him but he decides to swing his haunches my way.  Oh no, mister Koda, I do NOT let that fly so I push him off and away from the round bale.  He trots off, rather reluctantly, then stops, turns and comes back and puts his head down into the halter.

I start tacking up and the BO comes out to catch her horse to tack up.  I then notice that she has not one, not two, but three halters... Ok, not what I was expecting, but I assumed she was catching the others to check them for something.  As we tack up, I notice that the BO is tacking her one horse with her pack rigging!  So our quiet ride of two turned into an experimental ride of one lone rider and one rider plus two pack horses.  We started off heading into the field across the rode and went straight into some trot work.  I immediately knew this wasn't going to go well since Koda just felt like he was on springs waiting to go up or out or somewhere other than where I wanted him.  I would have just let him out on a tear, but the BO's saddle horse would get very upset if Koda went too far ahead.  Since the trotting really didn't go so well, we decided on just going on a nice walking hack around the field.  Easy enough, except when you have a horse that decides he absolutely NEEDS to be in front yet doesn't walk as fast as the other horses... oh Koda... I was insisting on him walking, so he decided to go up.  Nothing major, but more than he has before with me (Jess/Jon, think of what he did at the trailer, but me on him).  We did a quick one rein stop/march in a tiny circle to get rid of that attitude and started again.

After that, Koda seemed to slowly settle into the ride and we finished the hack.  Since there was still some daylight left, the BO and I played around in the yard doing some circles, transitions, and serpentines.  I got some more nice trot out of Koda, but I want to get some good eyes on the ground to make sure what I'm feeling is actually what is going on.  What I want is for him to really push from behind and be tracking up, but at this point I don't think he has the strength to hold that for very long.  Homework for the winter - balance, straightness, and proper transitions.  I got two semi-decent canter transitions out of him, an improvement on what we've got in earlier rides this month so I ended it fairly happy :)

I'm not sure what really triggered Koda's attitude, since it felt similar to when he gave me some fireworks when we went out with the BO and his herdmate Cain.  Perhaps when we're out with them, we either need to keep pace or be infront to avoid this type of attitude, but it is something that needs to be dealt with.  I may do some round-pen work this winter as well since the BO has taken out all of the saplings and old stumps from the pen so that it is now useable!  I know round-penning doesn't help all things, but I do want to work with Koda on that level along with in the saddle.

Either way, plenty more riding in my future and we still have no snow!  I saw a few flakes the other day while I was out, but nothing substantial here yet!!!!  I'm hoping we still have a few more days (maybe a week or two?) left of no snow, but it's inevitable that it's coming.  But for now, I'll enjoy these lovely fall days for as long as we have them.

Sunset shot taken on the way home

Monday, 21 October 2013

Checking In

Nothing very exciting here to report, for the last few rides we've been doing flatwork working on transitions and getting Koda to work in balance.  Since the time off I gave him in September, his canter work has turned into him pulling himself forward with his shoulders and doing a bit of a side-winder canter he did when I first got him.  Goes to show, the moment this horse loses his muscling he'll easily fall back into an old habit.  I'm extremely lucky that I have the yard to ride in as it has a similar geometry of a very long dressage arena.

Along with the lose of Koda's lovely canter, I've lost my ability to sit his canter!  With the new (correct) way my saddle is sitting, I need to re-learn how to sit Koda's canter.  This is where the fun part begins.  When I'm not sitting right, Koda will suck up behind my leg and either slow to a stop.  When I put my leg on to push him into the bridle, we get some attitude pony but he will go and a shadow of his previous canter is there. What I also need to watch is to make sure I don't sit too heavy since that will also cause the hiding behing my leg.

We have a LOT of work to do on balance and correct transitions with straightness, no more side-winding!  Of course, as the weather gets colder, the sun is setting sooner so I'll really only be able to ride on the weekends or trailer out to the indoor at night.  I'm not a big fan of trailering at night because of some issues I had with Celtic a couple years ago since, typically when I haul at night I'm going alone.  Now I know Koda isn't like Celtic at all but we'll play it safe rather than sorry for now :)

And the token Koda photo

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

That "I finally GET IT!" moment

Have you ever had those moments when you're riding and it finally just CLICKS and that concept you've been trying to get finally just works?  I had one of those moments this past Monday while doing a dressage school in the yard.  The concept that just came was one we've all heard many MANY times before: "Leg ON and have a soft and following contact" or "PUSH the horse into the bridle" or "Ride from your leg to your hand", etc.  The bulk of the ride was just simple stuff, doing some lateral work and getting both of us comfortable riding in the yard again and using it as an arena.  Circles, leg yields around round bales, transitions were all on the docket for the ride and I wanted to end off with some no stirrup work for myself to help work on my leg position.

Tired but happy pony 

I dropped and crossed my irons and off we went to work on my sitting trot.  Somewhere in the mix I've lost my soft back and seat so I feel like a sack of potatoes bouncing about on top of the saddle which is no good at all.  Koda is a pretty sensitive guy when it comes to his back and to show his unpleasantness with my seat, he'll shut down and fall behind my leg.  Since I'm focusing on my seat, I end up either missing my timing to get him back in front of my leg or just go with him and slow down (not good, bad rider!).  While we were trotting 20 m circles with 10 m circles in every quarter, I suddenly remembered something I heard at a dressage lesson I audited back in August: "PUSH the horse's head down".  I don't know why, but it really resonated with me and gave it a go.  Lo and behold, the moment I put my legs on (and kept my seat/body soft and hands following), Koda lifted his back, pushed from behind, and down went the giraffe head!

I'm extremely thankful that Koda is such an expressive horse in this instance because it really hammered home what I needed to be doing to ride him correctly and have him going in any type of balance.  I see a lot of no stirrup work and going from posting to sitting to posting in my future.  It didn't hurt that I made a custom riser pad for my saddle as well :)
Recycling the foam from an old life jacket

When I'm in the saddle it settles quite nicely

After that first revelation, I played around with it going both left and right.  He's MUCH more willing to push up under himself to the right but not so much on the right which tells me that right hind is still recovering from its bout of thrush in September.  He's not lame but is just not willing to push off that hoof as much as the other, or perhaps he's just not as developed going to the left than the right.  I know I'm a stronger rider to the right than left so that could easily be it as well, let alone his preference for the right over the left.  

Love this horse

I know plenty of you are doing a two-point challenge right now, but I'm going to put myself into a different challenge.  During this off season, I will end every single one of my rides with no stirrup work of at least 10 minutes walk/trot.  I know I won't be riding that often once the snow gets here so while the weather is good, we'll keep going!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thanksgiving Ride

For those down in the States, this weekend was the Canadian Thanksgiving.  To celebrate, the Fiance and I usually go up north into the Northwest Territories to hike along the waterfalls and have a mini vacation.  Since we're saving money this year (have a wedding to pay for!) we stayed at home and did some day trips instead.  One of the quick trips we did was go hiking along the Rocky Lane trails by the indoor arena.  These trails are absolutely fantastic, non-motorized transport only, and are groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.  There's an outdoor skating rink and a rentals shop for skis and skates which makes it a great place to go to have some winter fun!

Down the trail we go

Happy puppers!

This time we brought Shiloh with us to spend some time with our boys.  Now, we're not completely comfortable having Shiloh off leash yet, particularly on public trails so the Fiance was manning the camera and holding Shi who was running all about trying to mark everything, silly boy.  We went up and down some steep spots, but the footing held nicely

Slowly picking our way down this hill

Was holding mane for this one (is steeper than it appears)

We just wandered about for an hour checking out trails and I've now discovered some great spots for conditioning in the spring as long as the footing holds.  Even walking was good since the hills are fairly frequent!  Of course when we got there, Koda was acting like a complete ninny, calling for anyone and everyone but once we were under way he settled in.  Even when he trotted or cantered up those steep hills, he'd come back to me very easily once at the top. 

Great spot for conditioning

It was great going out with the boys, everyone seemed to have a lovely time on the trails.  Next time we may go out with either Shi or Koda since both together could be a recipe for disaster while Shi is gets overloaded with all the new smells and sounds.

Ever since the private lesson with Kathy Playdon, I've been slowly ramping my riding back up.  I think it's possible to ride at least 2 perhaps 3 times a week during the winter as long as we don't get too much snow at a time (the barn dosen't get plowed out until a few days later for some reason) and it doesn't stay cold for too long.  Talking to others who've lived up here for all their lives, the consensus seems like we may have a long autumn which I am extremely excited about.  If the white stuff can stay away until November, I'll be extremely happy!  We haven't started blanketing yet even though we've been getting below freezing temperatures over night.  I'm quite happy to let Koda fluff up as much as possible but he still keeps a fairly thin winter coat compared to the others.  Once we start blanketing, I think I'm going to play around with doing some minimal clipping with Koda.  I want to do a few more competitions this spring and summer (some dressage shows tossed in there) so will need to ride more throughout the winter than last...  Let's just hope nothing disastrous happens this year :)

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Product Review - Bucas Smartex Blanket

Now I know I have never done a product review before, but with the cold weather just around the corner (had to scrape my car off this morning!), I figured I would let you guys know about the blankets I use for our severely cold winters.  Please keep in mind, I live in an area where getting -40 degree nights and -20 to -30 temperatures for weeks on end during the winter isn't heard of so for those in a warmer climate, this may not work for you (lucky ducks).

When I first moved up here, I knew I needed to get some major winter blankets for my horse.  After some research (thanks COTH forums!) I decided on getting a Bucas Smartex.  I loved that this blanket is rated for a wide range of temperatures so that I wouldn't have to be too worried about my horse over-heating during the day or freezing at night.  The way they do this is the liner is actually a built in fleece cooler that will wick away any sweat created by overheating or if I put him back out and he's not completely dry.

I've had this blanket for two winters and it has held up extremely well.  Koda has some very destructive herdmates (looking at you Cain) who love to bite and rip and tear anything that they can sink their teeth into.  I'm SO happy to see that this blanket is well constructed on the inside and out.  Last winter Koda had lost a lot of hair from his dock because his herdmates were grabbing and yanking on that tail flap.  He lost his tail hairs, but the blanket is still intact and looking good!

Nice and snug in his rug

The thing I found really cool about this blanket is the front closure.  For those of you with horses who think they're Houdini, if you have the leg and belly straps adjusted correctly, I would be surprised if they could get out of this one!  The front closure is velcro, quick clip system (it's almost like a latch system), then some more double sided velcro to cover the first bit of velcro and the metal clip.  It creates a really nice clean look for the front and guarantees that the flap won't fold over and expose your horse's chest.

I'm so glad that I got my hands on this blanket (when it was on sale too, woot!).  This winter I'm keeping my eye out for the matching hood since I'm going to be doing a bib clip on Koda (fingers crossed nothing ELSE happens to the trailer...)

*Disclaimer: I was not paid for this post, just wanted to let people know about what type of blankets I use and like

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A Riding Lesson

I was lucky this past weekend to squeak in a lesson with Kathy Playdon when she came up here to test our Pony Clubbers.  Something that was super cool is instead of taking the fee from me for the lesson, she said to make it a donation to the club instead!

I wasn't really planning on doing too much jumping in the lesson since both Koda and I have been taking it really easy lately.  I also managed to have the Fiance there with us to act as videographer (two in one, woot!).  We started off with plenty of flat work, focusing on fixing my lower back which actually ended up being a problem with my lower leg and saddle seat being a touch pommel high.  We tossed a pad under the cantle and my leg looked a LOT better, but now I need to work on getting used to my leg being back where it's supposed to be instead of pushed forward.  She gave me some exercises I can do to help correct myself and re-train those muscles.  They mostly involve going without stirrups then taking them back and keeping my leg back where it's supposed to be.

After working on the flat, we moved to doing some jumps.  Both Kathy and I agreed to keep it fairly simple since Koda was showing some struggle in the footing in the arena due to his fitness level right now.  It was kind of neat since after we warmed up she just kind of called out jumps to go too and we made a twisty course around.  It's kind of funny, she asked me to start counting down my strides and I did but apparently I count my strides down a bit differently since my "1" is the jump over the fence, so my last stride is 2.  Essentially my count down is "4... 3... 2...Jump!"

At the end, we went over some homework bits for both of us which consisted of working on quick simple changes progressing to flying changes over a raised pole and increasing complexity in our grid work, then for me its all about working on getting my leg back under me for our flat work and keeping a solid base when the jumps go up.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Autumn Photos

As it gets colder here, we have been blessed with an actual fall season this year!  Last year we had perhaps a few days, and then the snow came so I'm so happy that we've been getting this type of weather.  Autumn is my favourite season, still warm (-ish!) with no flies and no snow.  Up here we do have to worry about hunters (geese, deer, moose, etc.) and with the harvest going on the roads are fairly busy but otherwise it's a great season.  I love the colours and the SMELLS of autumn!  Now I don't mean the artificial ones like cinnamon or pumpkin spice although those are rather wonderful, but the actual smells of nature while it's getting ready for the long sleep that is winter.

The colours of autumn and the fact that the horses are getting to be a bit more fluffy (not excluding their owners... ahem) always makes me happy.  Seeing Koda wanderign about in his field with the autumn colours behind him with his dark winter coat coming in is one of the best sights in the world.  I was lucky tonight that the fiance agreed to come out and take photos of us and take advantage of the beautiful colours and light.  Sadly the days are getting shorter and shorter so we had to take advantage of the time we have!

Anyways, without further ado, here are some of the best (and worst...):

Getting ready to head out, such a high-strung arabian...
Take a look at the trailer, it looks almost brand new!  

Down the road we go (my favourite photo)

After hacking down the road and getting some photos while taking advantage of the light, I went back to the yard to do a bit of schooling to make sure both Koda and I still know our stuff even though both of us are woefully out of shape.  I didn't know that the fiance wasn't coming back with me to the yard.  He decided to go off for an adventure in one of the adjoining fields...

to watch the migrating ducks.

and I mean a lot of ducks


I really like this photo even though it's blurry

Once I realized he hadn't came back, I of course start running through all the awful scenarios that could had happened to him.  It's harvest season so the road is fairly busy with smaller vehicles and bigger trucks...  After calling out for him several times, I ventured back out to find my missing fiance, praying he wasn't hurt somewhere.  

Photo op!

Love this pony