Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bedding win!

Christmas was a very quiet affair here, there wasn't any family coming up and we didn't have anything we had to get done so we cooked a (rather large) ham and it was just another day.  It was made wonderful, however, by spending the day with my boarder and her family.  She was feeding Christmas morning despite my repeated offers to feed on Christmas so she could spend it with her family.  Her response was being away from them was her present to herself.  Ha!

She came over and had fed the horses by the time I ran out and asked if she would like some breakfast.  She accepted and SO, the boarder and I chatted about nothing and everything for about 4 hours.  It was really nice to just relax and chat, it has been so long since we have had a true lull in activities around here.  About 2p we went back outside and finished cleaning stalls.  It was finally time, however, and I stripped the TWH's stall of the last of the newspaper bedding and, while I was at it decided to cut his stall mats down.  Since the previous owners of this place created stalls that are not the same size, none of the mats fit correctly.  For a year I have been dealing with overlapping mats and decided I was fixing them.  When I put the pellets in the App's stall I cut down his mats and decided to take the opportunity of time to do it to the TWH's stall as well.

It took a bit over an hour to cut the mats down as we had 3 cuts to make and they are thick mats.  All we had was a utility knife, rubber gloves and determination but despite nauseating under-mat urine smell and 30 degree temps we got it done.  I am happy to announce that all of my stalls are now actually level!  No more overlapping stall mats that require being rolled back and cleaned under on a weekly basis.  I now also have a bunch of 4 to 8 foot strips of rubber matting to use where ever I see fit.  Not a bad end result IMO.  I also no longer have any newspaper bedding and I am glad to see it go.

I put 7 bags of pellets in TWH's stall and expanded it in the stall instead of the wheelbarrow.  Unfortunately with the colder temperature it was really hard to expand the pellets and they didn't expand very well at all.  Two days later there are still about 25% of the pellets that are compressed that I have to sift through but I am working through it.  After a couple of days, however, the stall does look really nice.  7 bags is a bit much for his stall but I am going to try to maintain this level.  I am going to compare how the TWH's stall maintains with a large amount of bedding versus the App's stall with a "normal" to skimpy amount of bedding.

In cleaning the TWH's stall, his wet spot is SO much smaller with this new bedding and it takes so much less time to clean.  I was spending 20-30 minutes cleaning the TWH's or App's stall with the newspaper bedding.  Today I cleaned the the App's stall in 8 minutes and the TWH's stall in 7 minutes.  7 MINUTES!  I started cleaning stalls at 7:10a this morning and cleaned all 4 stalls by 7:35a.  It only took me 25 minutes to clean stalls, it is almost dreamlike it is so awesome.  I am very, very happy with this bedding.  I do cringe every time I have to open a bag of pellets but the time saving looks like it is going to be a great compromise.  I am going to put yet another bag of pellets in the App's stall to get it to a level I like, the App is being very "wet" and is ends up with a huge wet spot every morning.  I hope that with enough bedding maybe I won't go through as much?  We will see, overall however I am giving this pelleted bedding two huge thumbs up!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Riding success

It has been a good while since I have been able to take a lesson.  I was doing well and took 3 fairly close together but then I hurt my knee and had to go out of town (twice) plus life left little time for riding.  I finally decided to set aside time to take a lesson and wasn't taking no for an answer but alas the lesson had to be rescheduled.  Twice.  Monday was finally the day, however, and I took a lesson!

The goal was to check our progress in dressage on the App to see how things were going and to hopefully show progression.  I rode the App in dressage several times leading up to Monday and was liking how things were progressing.  Using K's tips I was able to get the App to be forward and using his rear fairly quickly and we have been having good rides so I was optimistic.

We started the lesson and the instructor, I will call K, had me warm up like I normally do, she wanted to just watch.  She had very little to say during warmup but she did keep reminding me to keep my hands together more.  Stupid bad habits.  She was happy with how the App was moving and said he had a beautiful trot in such a small body and that she was impressed at how far he has come since we have been in a "vacuum" for so long.  We had taken a lesson that went well but showed the App's flaws and then no instruction and yet we were suddenly at this level which surprised her.

The App worked very hard and though he showed his appytude at times, he was a good horse who tried hard.  He quickly engaged his hindquarters and with some spiraling in and out we were able to keep his hind end engaged even on some 10 meter circles.  The App loves to poke his nose out and/or drop his shoulder through the turns instead of planting his hind end and pushing through the turn.  We were able to get a great trot almost every time we asked after the warmup and she again commented how she wouldn't expect such a nice trot out of this kind of a horse.  Yay Appy!  Let's try showing this trot in a class sometime instead of being a pogostick, no?

K had us work on some counter canter which is hard for the App.  A few years ago I installed flying lead changes and now the App makes them automatically.  As a result the counter canter is non-existent and that is something we need to develop to progress in dressage.  So much for being proactive on my part.  K had us try tiny serpentines and the App would get it going to the left but almost impossible on the right.  I tried pushing his haunches in and it helped but wasn't working too well.  I had ridden almost 40 mins at this point and K asked if she could try his canter out.  Sure, why not?

K hopped on and dropped the stirrups instead of adjusting the length and rode the App to a crisper trot.  It required a lot of kicking to get him to really engage like she wanted him to, he can be a real pain when he wants, but she finally got the trot she was looking for and he looked awesome.  She was able to keep him from dropping his shoulders through the circle and kept him engaged, it was nice.  She then worked on the counter canter and she was only slightly more successful which made me feel better.  She was able to get him to do it a couple of times both directions though he did switch on her several times.  She suggested trying to push him into a leg yield into the outside wall to get him into the counter canter but said to expect trouble going to the right.  She was only able to get him to do it twice and said to just keep practicing.

Overall the only comments she had for me was to keep working on keeping my hands together and that I need to try to be aware of putting more weight in my left stirrup.  I am not sure that is something I can actually do since I stand with 20 more pounds on my left leg than my right leg due to multiple knee surgeries on my right leg.  I will try harder at it but it may be something I can't fix.  I am looking forward to my next lesson which probably won't be until the first week of January.  I am going to work on TWH next, poor guy isn't going to know what hits him.  Ha!  Hope everyone has a great Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa or Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dressage on the App

I am preparing for a lesson next week so have been making an effort to keep my butt in the saddle this week.  I was really impressed with the improvement in the App's dressage during the last lesson so that is what I wanted to concentrate on for this lesson.  Per the suggestion of the instructor I have been riding with the "legs off" approach where instead of nagging to death (previous instructor's method of go) I simply ask once and the App gets a swift smack if he doesn't respond (my old way of going and current instructors way of going).  It seems to be working quite well actually, the App is much more responsive of my leg and is engaging his hind end in a much shorter time frame than before.  20 mins versus 45?  I will take that!  I am super curious how things will go once I start asking for real collection, that usually results in a super sllllooooowww App that requires both spurs and a whip to keep going.

I have ridden every night this week and am quite pleased with our rides!  I start with long and low walking and progress to some connected walking and then trot.  In the trot I am working on responsiveness and getting him to go forward, forward, forward (reminds me of Rogo's posts lol).  He has been being sticky in the change of bend until the last quarter of the ride.  Thanks to the new instructor's idea, when he fights my change of bend I make a shorter inside rein and brace against the saddle, pushing him forward until he stops pulling and engages his hind end.  Once I have that I pick up my hands again and push forward and voila!  How the heck have I ridden dressage all of these years and not had this trick?!?  I am also using this for when the App feels it is quite appropriate to scream for the TWH, shorten the inside rein and kick, kick, kick to get him forward and once he gives I keep him collected for at least 3 laps.  The last ride he only cried for the TWH twice.  I guess that is an improvement even though he used to not have this issue grrrr.

This weekend I am hoping to try ponying a horse to get them accustomed to it, I would like to bring some kids on a "trail ride" but since no one is of adequate skill yet this will ensure safety.  Am really looking forward to my lesson though, it is good to be back in the saddle.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Final decision - bedding

I have been using the pelleted pine bedding for a month now and have been sold.  As much as I didn't want to like them, I like them.  I like them a lot.  I like they are super easy to sift, I like they are super easy to store, I like that they are super easy to prepare for use and I like that it only takes 10 mins to clean the App's stall.

I have been slowly using up the newspaper bedding in the TWH's stall, I have really come to dread having to clean his stall.  It takes forever, in comparison, and it is still messy.  In using the paper bedding up I wanted to have a pretty clear idea on which option I wanted to go with the bedding.  I have been mentally comparing the bulk bedding in the donkey's stall to the pelleted bedding and I have made up my mind, pellets is the way to go.  Yes they are more expensive but the time and effort savings seems to be worth it.  I am only using a bag a week in the App's stall and a bag every week and a half to two weeks in the pony's stall.  That is better than the 2 bags a week I had originally calculated and makes the cost difference to bulk bedding much smaller.

I like that it is easy to put in the stalls.  No more taking an hour or more (and a pretty physically demanding hour) to fill a wagon and then empty said wagon in the different stalls, making up to 3 trips in a day.  To expand a bag of pellets I simply open a 40lb bag into a wheelbarrow and put a gallon and a half of water over the pellets and let them sit while I clean a stall.  After I clean one stall I take the stall fork and turn the pellets over, at this point about a third of the pellets have expanded.  I clean a second stall and repeat and most pellets have expanded.  I then add about another half gallon by sprinkling the pellets and fluffing and let it sit while I clean the third stall.  By the time I am done with the third stall I dump the wheelbarrow of pellets in a stall and call it a day.  At this point 80% of the pellets have expanded and the rest break down by having a horse walk on them.  If desired you can sprinkle the pellets again in the stall to finish the expansion of the last of the pellets.  It takes no more than 5 mins of effort when I incorporate it into stall cleaning.   If I used warm water or it was warm out then the expansion process should take significantly less time but alas it is cold out already.

The only concern I have is expanding the pellets when it gets really cold and doesn't come above freezing.  Technically I could bring the wheelbarrow into the garage while it sits during the cold periods or I could bring out hot water and then it should expand before it froze.  Not sure how this will work, it will take some trial and error I am sure.  All in all though, I do really like the pelleted bedding and am going to go this route.  I hope I was able to help anyone else going through a bedding ordeal!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fail, fail fail

Ever have one of those days where everything you touch goes wrong?  I had one of those days.  Thankfully enough it happened at the end of the day so the entire day wasn't trashed but it made for a pretty bad night.  It started out by my getting out of work fairly close to on time and deciding to start dinner before bringing the horses in for the night.  As I stood at the kitchen sink washing my hands I gaze outside to see the horses standing at the gate staring at me, waiting for me to bring them in.  Except I don't see them standing at the gate staring back at me.  I see them eating grass outside of the pasture.  Next to the house.  Everyone is out!!!  All 4 of them!  It is dark, dark too, not dusk but full on night time with no moon shining through.  I casually walked outside and said Hi to the App and walked quickly to the barn and started to make noise in the feed room.  Of course no one is interested in grain, they are OUTSIDE and have GRASS.  I grabbed a bucket with grain and a spare lead rope (Thank goodness I love having extras of everything!) and walked up to the App.

The App is the herd leader.  The App controls where everyone goes and at which speed.  If he decides to run around then everyone else will too just because you do what the App suggests.  I had a pit in my stomach as I walked up to the App but he let me put the lead rope over his neck like it was no big deal.  Thank goodness he didn't decide to take that moment to show Appytude and move away from me.  In my mind I pictured him knowing he was outside and knowing he wasn't supposed to be outside and choosing that moment to flee for more freedom with his tail waiving in the night as he faded from sight.  Yes, I was shaking as I walked him back to his stall.

I successfully and easily grabbed the TWH and put him away, leaving me with the pony and the donkey.  The TWH is such a good horse.  I went for the pony next and he stuck his head in the bucket for a nanosecond bite before taking his head out and then started to run away.  That is one of his tricks, one I really dislike.  About a half second later he stopped though, he realized I had sweet feed in that bucket!  I didn't have stupid boring carrots or plain pellets, I was offering sweet feed!  He decided if sweet feed was the offer then he was happy to be caught and went happily into his stall.  I went back out to grab the last escapee and the donkey wasn't there.

I looked around and barely saw a swish of her tail as she went around the house to head to the road.  Dang donkey, what is your problem?  You are dark grey and it is dark out.  I can only see you because I have the outside lights on, do NOT run away from me.  I ran around some things to cut her off and offered her the grain.  She, unfortunately, was not nearly as impressed as the pony and turned around and headed back to where she had been but this time had her ears on the treeline.  She was enjoying this freedom.  I was again able to cut her off and she stopped and stared at me for a moment before deciding to make a run for it between me and the fenceline.  I did the only thing I could think of, I jumped at/on the donkey and hung off of her neck until she gave up.  Thankfully it only took about 6-7 steps to do so but she gave a small rear and a little buck in protest.  I then ordered her to her stall and told her she was a bad donkey.

For good or bad it looks like they pulled on the gate and since the gate post isn't driven far into the ground due to rocks, it was loose and I think it wiggled just enough to be loose enough to let go of the gate.  Needless to say I dug the pole up, put some sand in there too to fill gaps and refilled the hole.  I also now have a pin that goes in a hole in the gate's lock.  It is reserved for padlocks but I am using a lynch pin.

After that endeavor I didn't think much more would go wrong, right?  What had I done to Karma to deserve more?  Well I don't know the answer to the last question however I had to dump the 10 cu ft wheelbarrow filled with pasture poo and then dump the poo box into the dumpster.  The wheelbarrow didn't make it all the way into the poo box before dumping it's contents everywhere resulting in my cleaning poo off the ground again.  Then I forgot SO had placed the back blade on the tractor so when I pulled the tractor out of the barn to empty the poo box, the back blade drug the ground making a mess of all of the mats we store the tractors on, making a mess of the grass and making a mess of everything.  What was supposed to be a 30 min chore night (bring in, feed and dump poo) ended up being almost 1.5 hours as I tried to fix the tractor damage so SO didn't see my dumb moment.  Is it bedtime yet?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First snow

I am finally back from my 35 hour road trip.  I went to New England to pick up furniture and equipment and it was a 16 hour drive there and a 19 hour trip back.  UGH I hate driving!  It was nice there though, I saw a some of my relatives and it was in the mid 50's the entire time so I didn't freeze which was a surprise.  Traveling back west, however, there were indications that being warm wouldn't last.  When we hit New York it was in the 40's but sunny.  About the time we hit Niagara it was in the mid 30's and was misting.  When we went into Canada it started raining hard and kept it up even after we made it home.

Yesterday we went about unloading everything and it was again in the mid 30's and it rained.  All.  Day.  Long.  The winter pasture is a muddy, sloppy mess and it makes me very happy to have the indoor arena for a turnout area so the they aren't in this slop.  Then last night RB3 told me we were supposed to get snow.  Wait, snow?  Where did this idea come from, we would get the white stuff?  No way, I was in 50 degree weather just 2 days ago!  Sure enough at night check last night we were getting wet, fat flakes of "fluffy rain" and this morning we have a good couple of inches of snow covering everything.  In a way I am happy because if things weren't so wet and not frozen we would have easily ended up with a foot or more of snow.  On the flip side if things were more frozen I wouldn't have such slop to walk through.

Thankfully everything is in place and ready, everyone has their heated water buckets in their stall, the winter pasture is up and running, the 100 gal water tank is securely in the arena and I even have the tank heater installed!  I got that one done yesterday, I had ordered one off of Amazon that had really good reviews and is supposed to not tax the electric bill as badly.  It came in the mail while I was gone and so I installed it yesterday and it was just in time.  I was impressed with the little unit, it looks rugged enough and the cord clip is a fantastic inclusion.  The clip fits the Rubbermaid trough very well and it does look like it will prevent ponies from playing with it.  We will see!

Hopefully I will get to ride tonight or tomorrow.  I would like to get back in the saddle again to be ready to take a lesson or two in December.  I keep hoping things will slow down for me since November was supposed to be my slow month and it just isn't happening.  Between going out of town, holidays, birthdays and more my month became very busy.  This weekend *should* be slow, just a farrier visit and giving a lesson, next weekend I have to go out of town again and then I have one weekend before Christmas and I have a house full of guests again.  I just need to put riding as a priority again, this having horses at your own place really does kill the ability to ride.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Donkey in action!

This morning started out like any normal morning with the exception of having the present of 5 dead mice, that is a pretty high number.  Go cats!  I was running a little late but made up the time nicely and got everyone fed and turned out and was working on cleaning stalls.  Our dog stays in the chain link backyard while I do morning chores and this morning while I was cleaning the TWH's stall he started barking a warning bark.  Since the dog is afraid of his own shadow and is only brave when he is hiding behind something I went and investigated and there was a large chocolate lab trotting around the backyard and sniffing our dog.  Our dog was barking but also trying to play, good job guard dog.  I walked over to see if the dog would come to me as it had a collar and tags and it didn't, it trotted away and went into the Electrobraid pasture.

I shook my head and told him he didn't want to push his luck and sure enough he ducked under the Electrobraid and went into the winter turnout and trotted around.  Now the winter turnout is woven wire fencing to the ground except where the Electrobraid is so he is now in a 3 walled pasture.  I told him that was probably a bad idea as I know my donkey was a guard donkey and was told she has a confirmed coyote kill.  I was curious if she would defend her herd.  Not 30 seconds after ducking into the pasture, however, here comes Daisy in full alert.  Her ears were up and she charged forward with a mission.

The dog was in a place I couldn't see him from my angle but I heard a yelp and then some scurrying and then saw the dog fly through the winter turnout and shoot under the Electrobraid and out the other side of the pasture by our property line before stopping to see what happened.  Daisy had chased the dog so aggressively she did a reining sliding stop/rear and turn to stay out of the fence which, thankfully, was on.  Of course then she sounded her alarm bray (very different from a normal bray) and I had to walk into the pasture to make her hush.  It was such an odd thing to watch, to see her so focused was definitely different.  I am super happy that A) she will defend her herd and is on the watch for danger and B) despite wanting to kill our dog she certainly doesn't act like that so I guess we are lucky in that respect.  Go Daisy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

One gets higher, one gets lower

The App has always been a hard keeper in the winter, it doesn't seem to matter how may 100's of pounds overweight I make him the App will still shiver and shake in the cold.  Last year he was almost 250 pounds overweight and about 5 years ago the barn I was at made him over 300 pounds overweight to no avail.  He shivered despite the barn owners insistence that he wouldn't if I "made him the proper weight for winter".  No worries, the App has a whole wardrobe dedicated to him.  Rain sheet, medium weight, heavy weight, quarter sheet, cooler, stable blanket, shoulder protector and more.  Double blanketing is not uncommon for him, why double blankets?  Because he still shivers with one blanket.  So yeah, he has an entire wardrobe to choose from.

This past spring I had a fairly difficult time taking the winter weight off, I guess I chalk it up to good hay, and it took me until almost June to get him back down to the 980 pound mark.  No worries I thought, this means it will be super easy to put it back on!  In September I starting upping the App's grain and then increased his night hay to no avail, he was actually a little thin.  Come October he was actually ribby so I increased his grain yet again and introduced hay cubes a few nights a week in addition to more hay.  Come November I was starting to get concerned as the App wasn't gaining the weight I needed, it was getting cold and I had already had to start blanketing with his rain/wind sheet to keep him from shivering the weight off.  Go figure.

When I was at the All American Quarter Horse Congress I was lucky enough to snag some good grain coupons and I talked to all of the reps about my old man.  The Nutrena guy recommended Empower Boost as a high fat supplement plus their senior feed and the Purina guy recommended putting him on the new Senior Active feed.  I had been putting off a grain switch hoping I wouldn't need to change things however due to the lack of progress I went 2 weeks ago and made my purchases.  I got the Purina Senior (not Active b/c no one seems to carry it yet and it will be almost a dollar more expensive anyway) and since no one carried the Nutrena Empower Boost I bought beet pulp.

I introduced things fairly slowly, 1/2 scoop of hay cubes, 1/8 scoop of beet pulp, 1/4 scoop of Senior feed and 2/3 scoop of Omolene 500 (which is what the boys are currently on).  That gives him about 4 pounds of grain a day plus significant hay and now hay cubes and beet pulp.  Over the course of a week I bumped him to 1/2 scoop of hay cubes, 1/2 scoop of beet pulp and eventually 2/3 Senior feed and no Omolene.  It is a pain to feed as I have to bring hot water to the barn and let the hay cubes and beet pulp soak for about 5 mins.  It isn't too bad as my routine is that I pour the hot water on the cubes and pulp first thing and then do some chores and then get around to feeding.  If I use cold water though?  That stuff has to soak for at least 30 mins.  As a result I have gone back into the house several times to get the hot water I had forgotten.  If this is what I have to do to get the App where I need him then this is what I will do.

When I picked up my new bedding this weekend I found that store also carried the Empower Boost, YAY!  I went ahead and picked up a bag to try it out and am now slowly adding it into his rations for an even higher fat content.  I am pleased to announce the new feeding schedule is working and in more ways than one!  The App has gained a good amount of weight since I started his feed change and has probably gained close to 50 pounds.  I am quite pleased his weight is going up so well since I have been having such a difficult time.

The unexpected result is his better attitude, he isn't standing around with his ears back and he isn't being as much of a bully.  I have had to do regular groundwork to get him to respect the person at the end of the lead rope, something I don't normally have to do, with removing the Omolene he has mellowed out a little more and it is a really nice change!  He still pins his ears at the pony but I haven't seen any new scrapes on the pony so that can only mean he isn't being bullied as badly (pony has lots of scrapes from being bitten and having his coat removed).  I can only assume it has to do with removing the extra sugar from his diet so I think I will bite the bullet and keep him on the Senior feed.  It is even more expensive than the Omolene but if it also cures his behavior problems it will certainly be worth it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Daisy gets her learn on

Back when we were rehabbing the donkey she was extremely lame and needed twice daily bute.  Our hope was to get her pasture sound and off of bute by August or I was going to put her down as a life on bute isn't a good life.  After some good trims and a helpful set of xrays, Daisy has not only become pasture sound but a whole new personality has shone through.  She has had her days where she would rather not be caught and the few days where she figured out how to escape and I had to try to catch a sound donkey (not nearly as easy as catching a lame donkey).  She likes her routine and will give a hearty bray if things aren't "just so", if I am late for breakfast/dinner, if she doesn't get the 1/3 cup of oats first during feeding time, if she ran out of dinner hay "too fast", if she doesn't get her "nightcap" of apple or carrot at nightcheck, etc.  As a result of her newly found appreciation of life I have decided she needs a job.

The job I have picked for her is to pull my butt in a cart.  The reason is that is the easiest thing I can think of for her since I don't want to put additional weight on her as a pack donkey or riding donkey due to her feet.  My goals are that she learns to lunge, learns to move off of pressure if I push her, learns to long line and then ground drive and not care about a dragging pole.  Would eventually like to also start ponying her off of a horse in the arena, that is more of a like to have though.  If I can do all of this then I think I can get her to a cart without too many issues.  

I am lucky in that she learned whoa pretty well so far through normal leading.  She learned to stop when I stop, she (mostly) walks when I walk, turns when I turn and so on.  She has learned to move away from the pressure of a gate and will now walk around one instead of trying to either A) barrel through it or B) stand there and wait for the gate to move.  She also seems to be a learn-through-watching kind of donkey as some things she does can't be coincidence and I can only figure she learned it by watching me with the horses.  So last night I brought her out to learn how to lunge and it went pretty well.  I had just a halter, her lead line and a lunge whip in the arena and she figured out how to walk around in the circle pretty fast.  She learned that "Walk On" with a shake of the lunge whip means walk and "And Whoa" means stop.  She gave me what I asked for about 90% of the time, pretty good for the first time in my opinion!  I had her walk over a pole on the ground (no biggie) and turn around (no biggie).  I tried to teach her to trot/pace on the lunge but she wasn't getting it and I couldn't consistently convince her to go faster than a walk.  Oh well, that will be the next step in the process.

We finished the lesson with yielding to pressure, I want her to move her hips or shoulders away if I push on her.  Currently it happens only about 10% of the time when I ask, the rest of the time she pushes right back which is a typical donkey move.  What I ended up doing is taking my (warm) gloves off and if she didn't move away from a push with my hand, I would push with my fingertips for about 3 seconds, release and do it again until she moved away.  A couple times she got really irritated and I was afraid she may actually kick me as she was throwing her head, swishing her tail and stomping not only her front but also back feet.  In the end she seemed to have gotten it figured out, every time she moved away she would get an ear rub (no treats) and a verbal "Good Girl".  She is now moving away from pressure about 75% of the time, that after just one session!  

Hopefully I am able to figure out a way to make her trot on the lunge line, if not then I guess we will just have to bypass that step and start work with a bridle and learn long lining.  My donkey, she has come so far.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The bedding dilemma again - A new review

I am almost out of the newspaper bedding already, thank goodness though as the more I use it the more I can't wait for it to be gone.  I have gotten extremely annoyed at having to clean the App's stall for a minimum of 25 mins.  I am tired of starting to clean stalls at 7:05a and not finishing until a little after 8:00a.  I used to clean at 7:10a-7:15a and be done between 7:45a - 7:50a, I want those days back.

I have searched high and low for bedding options without any new options.  The only bulk bedding options around are 3 options.  Option 1 is a guy that makes mulch and sells stuff on the side, he is local and decently priced however his product is horrible.  It is wood chards, many pretty sharp, mixed in with super fine wood dust.  I used a 6 yard load when I first moved to MI and hated it, I went and looked at it in Oct and the stuff hasn't changed.  You can buy either the wood shards, a mix of chards and dust or just the dust.  If the dust was a little more wood-chippy then it would work well but unfortunately it isn't so that guy is off the list.  Option 2 is a 100 yard load of wood chips, it sounds like what I want however I have no place to store 100 yards (semi trailer load) of material and they don't sell it in smaller quantities so he is out.  Option 3 is the guy I used last year, he is a 1.5 hour drive away and is pretty expensive with his price increase this year.  I am keeping him as a backup and will just suck up the price increase if I have to.

I have found several wood flake/shaving suppliers which aren't too badly priced but I am not really wanting wood flakes/shavings.  It is another option that I will do if I need to but would rather not.  It would be easier to store than bulk bedding but the for the price it would be cheaper to do the bulk bedding.  I also looked high and low for a corn cob bedding supplier which is what the boarder really wanted to use.  Unfortunately the only supplier I have found is TSC and at $7 a bag it is certainly not economically feasible.  Thus I turned to wood pellet bedding, something that came recommended by several people.  I have called over a dozen suppliers trying to find the best price and it seems it is $5.50 per bag if you buy a pallet of them.  That ends up being 3x the cost of bulk bedding but I wanted to try it out after hearing some of the rave reviews so I bought some for the boarders stall.

I put 6 bags in the stall and expanded it and it filled the stall...just okay.  I thought it could have used another bag or two but the boarder said to let it be, if in a couple of days I felt the same then I could do it but to leave it for the night.  I am glad I did, after the pony walked on it and it finished expanding those 6 bags lasted me 2 full weeks before I had to add one new bag of bedding.  It has made stall cleaning for him a breeze, I can clean his stall in about 5 mins!  It requires virtually no sifting as the bedding falls out when you pick up the poo.  It isn't dusty either, something I was afraid due to the particle size.  The wet spots are easy to see as they are darker and come out pretty easily.  The wet spot sticks together pretty well so you can remove about 80% of the wet spot in one swoop after you move the dry bedding away from it.  Then you simply rake the rest of the wet/dark into a pile and scoop and out it goes.  Pretty easy and definitely easier than bulk bedding.

I have been extremely impressed with the product and, as a result, am going to try putting the boys on it despite the price increase.  I want to see if I will use as much as they say I will, 1-2 bags a week per stall at $5.50 a bag adds up fast.  So far I am not using as much as expected with the pony's stall so I can only hope.  It is also easier to store than bulk, easier to move than bulk and is delivered whenever I need so I went ahead and ordered it and it should be here this weekend.  I will do a follow up on it, I will put the App on it next and am very curious how it handles with a horse that isn't as neat of a stall keeper.  A side note if you are interested in pelleted bedding, I have had several people warn me away from Equine Fresh which is sold at TSC.  I have been told it doesn't break down/expand as well, it gets dark much, much faster and it doesn't work as well as other brands.  I am using Wayne Davis which is a Michigan made brand and have heard Guardian is a very highly regarded brand.  Here's to hoping it continues to work this well!

Weekend to remember Part II

Sorry I was gone and didn't finish my part II, life got in the way.  Hopefully I can get back to normal though it isn't looking promising.  The week of Thanksgiving is going to be super busy as I have an impromptu road trip I have to go on, it is about a 35 hour round trip drive.  Ugh!

So when I read Nuzz Muzz's post today I realized I too have been neglecting my blog.  Bad blogger again!  I am having fun reading everyone else's blog but have been too busy to write in my own.  Alas here is a part II of my weekend to remember.

On Sunday I had 200 bales of hay delivered, I now only need 100 more bales and I will be set for the year and won't have to buy hay again until June/July.  Wahoo!  If that isn't something to be excited about I don't know what is.  Thankfully the boarder, her family and RB3 came over and helped me unload the hay.  As a result of the great help, we made quick work of it and was done in about 1.5 hours.  I did completely and totally fill the barn with hay though, enough that I have a pile of about 40 bales sitting in the middle of my barn between the tractors and the poo box because I have no room in my hay stalls.  Hopefully at the end of Dec I will have room for the last bit of hay AND the hay guy will still have hay left.  That is the price to pay when you don't have a hay loft I suppose.

After hay I loaded the TWH up and picked up RB3's horse and we went trail riding out at a state park that she goes to regularly.  It was a nice ride, the trails are well maintained and everything is clean.  TWH was an angel and his only spooky moment was when he was trying to figure out what the other horse spooked at lol.  RB3's horse threw some fits over a tiny bridge, going into water and down into a stream, at one point she slammed into the TWH and I as she tried to spin away from the stream.  Unfortunately she did a number on my knee and the rest of the next 2 weeks were spent trying to reduce the enormous amount of swelling from a suspected torn meniscus.  Ugh horses.  Finally I sent the TWH through the stream and he put his head down, inspected the mud and water and then walked through with cautiousness but no hesitation.  WAHOO!  After that RB3's horse followed and I had RB3 send her horse through again a couple of times to reinforce the good behavior and we continued.

We came to a small lake/large pond with a sandy beach and TWH walked right in it and we even trotted and cantered in it.  I was so proud of him!  He acted like this was absolutely no big deal at all, just how I hoped he would act.  I helped RB3 with some tips on getting her horse to accept the water and we continued on our trail.  We had fun cantering and even galloping through the fields and into the woods.  I had the TWH gallop up a pretty steep slope that I chose to go up instead of the gentle incline and he went perfectly willingly, almost excited for it, and even watched his feet at the top where some roots were exposed.  THIS is the XC horse I was hoping for and am very happy he has progressed to this point.  We only found one jump along the entire 2.5 hour trail, at the end there was a 2' tree in the path.  Most horses stepped over it but I have a XC horse and wanted to see if he would just jump it.  I kicked him into a canter and gave him lots of rein and while he gave a millisecond pause while he looked at it, he jumped over it just fine.  I sent him over a couple more times for fun and finished up the ride.

I had a fantastic weekend, despite getting lost on the way home (road didn't go where I thought it did, ended up in a residential housing area).  RB3 and the boarder were fantastic in making sure I had a great weekend and they were very successful.  I haven't ridden much since that weekend due to my knee, the time I did I paid for it the next day with a knee the size of my thigh so I have taken a short break. I have more to write about, teaching the donkey to lunge, new bedding and more.  Let's hope I can be better about writing it down!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A weekend to remember, part I

This weekend was simply awesome, I got a lot accomplished and had a lot of saddle time and was surrounded by friends.  I don't think you can ask for a better weekend could you?  I even had good weather!

I rode on Thursday and did the 2'6" bounce grid again on the App to make sure the knee issue was resolved.  After some hard knocks and a pole down, the App remembered to pick his feet up and the ride was uneventful.  At the end I made the bounces into a 1 stride to a wide oxer and the App just soared over it.  The boarder was out with me and volunteered to be my jump crew and was fantastic help.  She really enjoyed watching the App jump and we had a great night.  Friday was the biggest fail day as I didn't end up riding but I did give a lesson and then started cleaning to be prepared for a hay delivery.  I was planning on restacking the first cutting of hay and then possibly riding the TWH, needless to say I only got started on the clearing and I didn't get the hay restacked or a horse ridden.

Saturday was a whirlwind of activity that kept me busy from 9a until 10p but I had a lot of fun.  I gave a lesson at 10a and then had to clean stalls and continue to prepare for the hay delivery.  While cleaning stalls I became pretty irritated at my uninvited guests and had an eviction party for the spiders.  I was successful in killing several but mostly I took down the spider webs over the stalls and cleaned the dust off of the rafters.  The down side of my being sidetracked is that I lost an hour that I could have/should have been doing something else, oh well.  Evicting needed to be done anyway!  I got the stalls cleaned and was able to finish clearing a new spot for hay as I knew I wouldn't have room for all of the hay in my hay stalls.  By this time it was almost 130p and I went in to shower before my lesson at 3p.  Suddenly I realized YIKES!  I need to be on the road around 2p, not getting ready at 2p.  It was so random that I made this realization, I would have been in serious time trouble if I had kept up my course of action.

I changed clothes into something presentable and got the trailer packed to haul out.  I grabbed the App and wrapped him up, much to his extreme dismay.  He was not happy when I took him away from his precious hay bag he was sharing with the donkey.  To my pleasure, however, he loaded onto the trailer without even taking a paused step like he normally does.  He walked on like he has been doing it for over 10 years (and he has) and that it was no big deal (since it isn't).  I was so happy!  While I no longer have to fight to get him on the trailer, he always puts the brakes on right at the trailer and has a sniff and a look.  I typically have to threaten with the stud chain to get him to walk onto the trailer.  Wahoo!  We made it to the farm right on time, I wanted to get there around 2:40-2:45p so I could unload and be ready for our lesson and I got there at 2:40.  I unloaded, unwrapped and was on to warm up at 2:55p.  Good timing by me!

Under saddle the App was forward but not hot.  While this was a very pleasant change of pace from the last show we were at where he was a monster who had no brakes. I was hoping I would have the monster App so the instructor could see and hopefully have some good ideas to help defuse him when he gets like that.  Alas I will have to try again sometime as this weekend he was an angel.  I warmed up at a trot and then did some canter and gallop sprints to help settle him down (aka make him tired) and by the time the instructor came over he was at a good spot mentally.  We went over everything she pointed us at and didn't act badly a single time.  He went in and out of water, we went over logs, coups, brush piles, benches and tables.  He picked his knees up over almost every fence and she liked his jumping.  The things we have to work on is mostly me, I was still riding defensively because of the horse I can have and not the horse I have right now.  When I jump, I tend to jump very vertically and don't close my hip angle.  As a result he jumps vertically and doesn't reach forward even over wide fences.  I also need to pay closer attention to my leg and actually apply it for support when the App is being good instead of keeping all legs off.  I am accustomed to him just going (and going and going) without needing me.  She said I was a nicely balanced and didn't have bad habits that needed addressed, besides the being vertical, at least right now so wahoo!

I brought the App home and I rubbed him down with liniment and gave him carrots and he showed no signs of any soreness that night or on Sunday.  I ended up meeting RB3 for dinner and the boarder brought over dessert and we chatted and talked until 10p.  It was a great day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Guess what I have to share?!?

So I rode last night and was super excited and created a whole blog post and blogger ate the entire post :(  As a result this one won't have near the awesomeness of my previous post.  The boarder was going to come out last night while I rode however life got in the way and she wasn't able to make it.  She is going to try to come out on Thursday now, we will see how things go anyway.  On the plus side she was willing to be my safety so I still got to jump!

I debated a good bit during the day on what exercise I should do, I wanted the App to pick his knees up and didn't want to push him too hard since we haven't jumped since September.  In the end I went for bounces despite their level of difficulty because I really want to fix his current "hanging knees" habit.  I would strongly prefer not to go cross country with the new instructor with him leaving his knees so far down.  Fix your bad habit App!

From spring, see the knees pointing downwards?
The forearm should be level.  VERY.  BAD/DANGEROUS.  HABIT.
I got the exercise set up and again found my arena is just too small to do any real gymnastics so instead I took the first third of the exercise.  The exercise is for horses that rush and need to pick their feet up, bounces don't allow rushing and it really forces a horse to pick their feet up because the horse doesn't have time to do anything else (ie be lazy).  The full exercise is 3 bounces to a one stride vertical, one stride to 3 bounces.  Since I didn't have enough room or poles I made the exercise be only 3 bounces.  This is the book of my exercises, highly recommend it for anyone teaching a horse to jump.
Sorry for the bad pic.  Didn't realize how dark it turned out until too late.
After an uneventful warmup we trotted over the exercise with the poles down for the App to get an idea of what is coming.  I then put the first jump up to 18" and went over it with the bounce poles still on the ground.  While I normally jump straight to 2' I wanted to start small for bounces and then move up since I knew the first few times would be difficult for my lazy legged App.  After going over the first jump a couple of times I put the last jump up to 18" and left the middle pole down.  It forced the App to see where his feet went and he handled it all like a pro.

I then put everything up to 18" and went over it as bounces.  While there weren't any issues, the App certainly did have to repeat the exercise several times to remember to pick his feet up.  He knocked the poles several times, even knocking a pole down with his lazy legs.  After a half dozen times he finally put forth the effort and picked his feet up correctly and thus I put the fences up to 2'.  He knocked the poles the first time through but after that was perfect and put his legs where they were supposed to be.  I repeated this at 2'3" without any issues, wahoo!.  What does it look like to jump bounces at 2'3"?  Pretty unimpressive as I just sit there and rock back and forth.
video

Finally I put the jump up to 2'6" and put him over it.  2'6" isn't that big of a jump, that is unless they are bounces.  Ha!  As a rider, bounces force you to sit up and sit back.  The horse is landing with their front feet and jumping in the air again before their back legs really even touch the ground (you can see this if you go in slo-mo).  As a result, the rider must be perfectly balanced over the horse else things go badly quickly.  Too far ahead?  The rider is then too far behind at the second bounce.  Too far behind?  Hard time trying to recover for the next bounce.  The rider should stay in two point and stay balanced over these types of jumps.  As a horse, bounces get significantly more difficult when you go past 2' because they are jumping with their front feet and finishing with their hind feet instead of rocking back and pushing off with their hind legs.  As a result, 2'6" feels more like a 3' jump due to the effort needed.  Yes, I got video (camera on the wall) AND figured out how to edit it to an uploadable size!

video

2'6" is where we had our first set of 2 poles down, the App got lazy and didn't push/pick up over the first jump leaving him no power to get over the second jump.  A swift tap from the crop got him over the third jump though.  I should have hit him over the first but was too slow and didn't support enough (bad rider!).  The rest of the ride went very well with him not doing more than tapping the last rail with his back legs.  Overall I am very happy with the ride.  The App paid attention and learned/remembered how to do the exercise, the video proved he did pick his knees up and his forearms are level, the App was very willing and there were no fights created.  I am happy with myself in that while I started out jumping ahead, I was able to fix my position and I jumped well.  I will do this again on Thursday to hopefully solidify the lesson and make his new habit of hanging his knees be an old habit lol.

I am also happy I finally figured out how to edit video and keep it as a .avi file for uploading so I can share some of this.  If only I could now have blazing fast internet so it didn't take over a half hour to upload an 18mb file so I could share more of these videos.  Oh well, at least I have high speed internet right?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Back in the saddle again

This week is do or die time, I have a cross country lesson on Saturday (pending weather) and I dang well better get in shape for it or I will be paying dearly!  I have successfully ridden twice already this week and am on track to ride every day so I am one step closer to accomplishing this.

Sunday the boarder and I went on a 3 hour trail ride.  We were going to ride on the rails-to-trails trail that is a short ride from my house however first a bridge is out and then when we finally got on the trail a huge tree was blocking the path that I couldn't move and we couldn't easily get around.  As a result we spent most of the ride on the roads but it was fine and we had a good time.  The horses don't mind, the roads are all sparse to medium traveled dirt roads and I had my orange vest on.  The horses handled the trail ride very well with almost no sweating and with the App not being a butthead until the last hour when he really wanted to trot and was denied. We were also successfully able to navigate over a wooden bridge despite being slippery with leaves and neither horse had a problem with it.  Wahoo!  I haven't taken them over bridges in a long while so I am glad they still don't have a problem with it.

Yesterdays ride was fitness for the first time in over 2 months, blech.  Fitness tends to be boring and can be painful.  We start out with a long walk warm up and then work on 5 mins of trot sets in either posting or 2 point and then move up to 3 minute canter sets.  I didn't end up doing the entire exercise but did 2 trot sets and 2 canter sets.  I still need to ride the fitness exercise again to get my stamina back up, maybe on Wednesday I will have the energy for that kind of riding.  Tonight will be some small jumping exercises if I can get someone to come out and be my safety, the boarder is supposed to come out so I should be able to jump but we will see.  I want to get the App to remember to pick his knees up so I am thinking of a 1 stride to an oxer.  Bounces would help too, maybe a one stride to a couple of bounces?  So many possibilities, so few jump poles.  In any case, progress report tomorrow!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bedding options - fence sitting

I am still undecided what to do about the bedding situation, if money was no object I would go the pellet route and just find a new home for the rest of the newspaper bedding.  Unfortunately money is an object, one I like to have around and thus I am still undecided.  Pellets are a 33% increase in cost over the already 43% increase of the bulk bedding.  UGH!

I really needed bedding in the boarder stall so instead of switching him over to the newspaper I bought some pellets to try out.  I've never used pellets and wanted to try them before committing to a pallet of them.  I stripped the boarder stall and put the bedding in the donkey's stall (reuse what I can!), she now has enough bedding for at least a month if not two.  Ha!  The boarder stall is a 12x10 so I put in 6 bags of pellets to start.  I will admit, I was doubtful when I started.  The pellets didn't swell up nearly as much as I expected and I wondered if I should have used the 2 extra bags I had bought.  The boarder, who has been on pellets before, said to let it stay and if I change my mind in a few days then I could add the other bags.  Am pretty glad I waited, the stall looks pretty nice now.  In a perfect world it would be bedded a bit heavier but this is still a trial and the pellets have broken down nicely.

The plus side for pellets?
Pellets are easier to store, I would have the room in my indoor back
Pellets seem to be less dusty, virtually no dust so far.
Pellets are certainly super duper easy to clean, at least so far.
Pellets can be bought locally and delivered for only $10

The down side for pellets?
Cost

The plus side for bulk bedding?
Comfortable and easy to use
Easy to clean
Easy to store

The down side for bulk bedding?
Takes up a lot of space in my indoor
Can be dusty, not bad, but not dust free
Heavy, pain to move each week
Have to buy from over an hour away, not local

I will keep using what I currently have and try to figure out what to do, I have about 3 weeks before I have to make a decision.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Getting back to it and Donkey is annoyed

As I have a cross country lesson next Saturday I need to get my butt back in gear and get on a horse.  I have finally ridden twice this week, the first being a rather leisurely w/t/c ride.  We didn't really working on much because the horses haven't been worked hard and neither have I.  The App was a bit of a pain but is accepting the new (old) thought process of leg means go NOW and that I will no longer nag him.  He was anticipating in the canter pretty badly, he was ready to do tempi changes without me even asking and did a couple of times. We had a couple of discussions that he shall not throw his head and prepare to take off simply because I am reinforcing a bend and am not asking for a flying change.  Taking off is not the best idea Mr. Appy.

I rode again on Wed and had the App all tacked up when I made a last minute decision and decided to ride bareback. I used to do it all of the time and just don't do it much anymore.  I can ride without stirrups or bareback without an issue, I just don't so I took the time on Wed and it ended up being a really nice ride!  The App was soft in the bride, responsive with the legs and didn't try to take off a single time (who is this horse?!?).  I worked really hard on sitting back as I found in my last lesson that I am very upright due to my dressage riding.  I want to be able to sit back when I need to and did a fairly good job of accomplishing it.  I did have to audibly remind myself a few times but it went well.  I had a thoroughly enjoyable ride and called it quits after about 45 mins and a few flying changes just for fun.

Starting tomorrow I am hoping/planning on riding every day.  SO will be out of town for a couple of weeks so I won't have much else to do.  Luckily RB3 is coming out and riding with me so I have someone to talk to and then the TWH is getting ridden too.  I have cleaned my bridles, my girths, washed my saddle pads and have the saddles in the house for a cleaning.  I am ready for some serious riding!

For my amusing story of the day, I think I am going to start driving Ms Daisy and she is not amused lol.  In a tack lot I bought there is a pony sized bridle and though it is a half hole too small, it fits the donkey.  I also found a small copper mouth bit in storage that fits her pretty well.  I put it on her for the first time last night and let her stand with a bit on and she was so annoyed and it was so cute.  She acted like a 2 yr old trying to spit the bit out but the best part was her ears which kept twirling back and forth in complete confusion.  Ha ha!  I am going to let her sit with the bridle on for a few days and then start working with her on lunging again.  When I start actually driving I will need to get a new setup, this is just an old bride with an old tom thumb but I can work with her for now by attaching lines to the check piece.  I don't want to put out a fortune in new  equipment if I don't actually end up driving her.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A change of heart on bedding

I really like the newspaper.  I really do.  I like that it is really light and is super easy to store and to move.  I like that it doesn't have much to any dust and that it makes the stalls look clean (since poo is hiding under fluff).  I like that I am throwing away less in volume every day.

However.

I don't like that it takes an extra 10 mins per stall to clean.  I don't like that it makes my dirt aisle look littered and even with a FineTine fork I can't pick it up.  I don't like that I have to use so much of it.  And I don't like that I am using significantly more of it than I was of woodchips.

Last weekend I needed to do the weekly bedding fill for the stalls.  The bale I have is supposed to be approximately 14 compressed yards so I expected the bale to last me about 2.5 months for the 4 stalls as I used apx 4-5 yards a month with woodchips.  Imagine my surprise and disgust when I realized I am halfway through the bale already.  And I am only using it in 2 stalls AND it hasn't even been an actual month!  I bought the bedding on 9/28 and put it in Chip's stall on 10/1.  I then put it in Sinatra's stall on 10/8.  That is approximately 37 days (22 days for Chip, 15 days for Sinatra) of bedding and am already halfway through the bale.  I don't even want to know how fast I would be using this if I had it in all 4 stalls, would it even last 2 months?!?  I don't think it would considering I think it will be gone within the 2 months on just the 2 boy's stalls.  Ugh!

This brings me back to the drawing board.  I am eliminating the newspaper bedding, it is not worth the extra effort each day nor is it cost effective like I thought.  Even if I calculate the 43% increase of the woodchips it would be cheaper per month than using this even though the cost per yard is lower.  I am pretty bummed as I really wanted this to work and it isn't.  Ugh.

I haven't been able to find a supplier for corn cob bedding which my boarder is really pushing for, it is what she used when she lived in NY.  The pelleted shavings sounds ok but expensive.  1 bag = apx 4 cu ft expanded which isn't a lot.  I would need 270 bags of pellets to equal 40 cu yards of bulk woodchips. Even with the bulk shavings increase it would be 35% more expensive yard-to-yard to use pellets and that is using the cheapest quote I got for pellets.  I have only found two other suppliers for bulk shavings and one currently only delivers 100 yard loads, he is going to try to find a price on a 40 yard load for me.  The other delivers literal sawdust, dusty, fine, powdery sawdust and I used it when I first moved here.  Not again.  Ugh, why is this so difficult?!  What do other people use?  Anyone use pellets? Is it really as expensive as it sounds on paper?  Do the shavings really dry almost immediately after being dampened for expansion so you don't have a wet stall?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blogger award!

It is hard to believe I have only been blogging since January and I already have followers AND I just received a blog award from Carol!  So I am supposed to tell 7 things about myself and post 15 blogs I love.  Yikes.


Things you don't know about me.  Hmmm..
1.  I grew up in northern New England.  Surprisingly I never obtained the thick accent (was obsessed with pronunciation) so I wasn't made fun of nearly as badly as my brother when I moved to Ohio as a mid-teen.

2. I am a cat person.  I like dogs but I love cats.  I have 3 indoor cats and 2 barn cats.  The job of the barn cats is to kill things, the job of the indoor cats is to entertain me (since they don't kill mice) and thus are pestered very regularly.

3. One of my indoor cats plays fetch and when he is on a kick will be very annoyingly insistent on my participation.  The other cats just like to chase the toys.

4. I have been riding since I was 14 but didn't take a single lesson until I was in my mid 20's because I couldn't afford them.  Learned everything from books, videos and friends.

5. I went from barrel racing/trail riding to bareback trail riding for three years in my late teens because I outgrew my saddle but still wanted to ride.  Bareback riding is phenomenal for balance and strength.  When I could finally afford a saddle I ended up with a cheap english saddle so I started jumping.

6. I am a bit of a nerd even though I don't like to admit it.  And will actively hide a lot of my nerd tendencies.

7. I follow over 60 blogs, most are anonymous though.  And I rarely comment, which is bad, but LOVE to follow everyone and check in at least once every day to see who has updated a blog.  Sometimes several times a day.

For 15 blogs that I are my favorite, hmmm.

1. Eventing a Gogo  I've followed Gogo's saga for almost 3 years and am crushed by Gogo's passing.
2. For The TWH  I follow the page on Facebook too, I hate the "accepted" practices of the TWH
3. Coupons, Deals and More I like her because she shares the ways she saves $$.  I love that.
4. Rogo  I just started following her and enjoy reading her progress and thoughts on dressage.
5. Denali  I have been following Denali for almost 2 years and love reading her updates
6. Boyfriend He is hilarious, I love reading him talk about Mother and his beloved cookies
7. Chrome, Faran and Zep A good training log as she clicker trains her horses and donkey
8. Nuzzling Muzzles  Another blog I have followed for over 2 years. Great stories about her crazy neighbors
9. Pia  A horse with wobbles is becoming a fantastic all-around horse at summer camp
10. Mikey Hilarious stories from the desert, no idea how she keeps the chaos together every day
11. Shame in the Show Ring  Another great blog to combat stupidity/abuse in the show ring
12. Fugly/Mugly Another great blog to combat stupidity/abuse, now with less abrasiveness
13. Blog of Becky  Hilarious.  Absolutely hilarious stories.
14. Jumping Percheron  Love people/horses who do things despite their horse not being "made" for it
15. Sprinklerbandit Yet another blog that I follow because I like the writing and progress

So I found picking the top 15 out of my blogs was really hard!  Hopefully you know of everyone and, if not, you will check them out.  Wahoo!  First award down!

Newspaper bedding review

The most insane part of the month is finally over, my mother has left and I have returned from the Congress.  Gearing up for visitors this weekend and then things look to take a serious slow down, I am actually looking forward to it!  Maybe not for all winter but some slowness for a few weeks will be really nice.

I figured I would give my review of the new bedding since I had so many people interested.  I am amazed and excited that I had people comment on it!  It has been a couple of weeks now and I have both Chip and Sinatra on it and I finally have a fairly solid opinion.

Newspaper bedding in a stall
What it is: recycled newspaper (not magazines/books) that has been chopped into approximately 1/2 inch squares.  It comes in 2 forms, bagged or bulk.  Bags are currently sold at Tractor Supply by a local company that makes the product or the company sells it bulk via a 6' long, 4' wide, 30" high "bale".  The bag is compressed and is the size of sawdust bags and expands to approximately 12 cu ft, the bale is compressed and expands to approximately 14 cu yds.  It is cheaper to purchase it by the bale, TSC sells the bag for $.25 a pound and the bale is $.17 a pound delivered and comes in a 800-950 pound bale.  My bale cost $135 delivered.

My initial concerns of this bedding were:
Layers and layers of wet newspaper.  Paper gets wet easily and then sticks to everything
Heavy wet newspaper.  I have cleaned animal cages lined with newspaper and hated it.
Smell.  Wet newspaper always tends to smell
Everything staying wet. When you clean something lined with newspaper or spill something on newspaper, it never absorbs everything.
Messy.  Tiny little pieces of newspaper flying everywhere as I try moving it to a stall.  Or blowing out of a stall

The guy who delivered it recommended stripping the stall before I use it as to not mix bedding, while you could mix the bedding it is more efficient to not plus it would give me an idea of how it truly performs.  Since I am all about efficiency, Chip's stall was stripped and all of his bedding went into Sinatra's stall.  I put 40 cu ft of expanded newspaper in his stall, it looked pretty deep and was sufficient for what I wanted.  The next day the stall looked clean.  Things were pretty compacted down however it fluffed right back up after  I tossed it in the air or sifted through it.   One thing I quickly found is that the poo is quickly covered by the newspaper fluff so you can't see it.  This is why the stall looks clean, the heavy poo falls to the floor and the fluffy stuff envelops it.  Think whipped cream and throwing a strawberry in it.

Chip's stall
Cleaning stalls does now require a different skill set, sifting doesn't work well with this product.  It requires a combination of tossing and shaking to get all of the fluffy bedding out and find the heavy poo.  I am taking a half scoop and lightly tossing to see if I feel the clunk/heaviness of poo.  If so then I toss and shake until I find the poo.  If not then I toss the bedding a little to fluff it up and put it in a "clean" pile.  A bad thing I can say is that you have to go through ALL bedding to find the poo because you can't see most of it.  After finding the bedding I scrape the fluffy stuff off of the wet spot and then scrape up the wet newspaper.  The wet spot does clump together making it pretty easy to scoop up.

Sinatra's stall
The good?
This bedding is amazingly light and virtually weightless, that makes it extremely easy to sift through and toss.
Also makes it extremely easy to get more bedding as I can fill a wheelbarrow and a full wheelbarrow is effortless to push.
I can "peel" off layers of compacted bedding to bring back to the stalls and fluff it in the stall to eliminate multiple trips.  It only took 1.5 trips of compacted bedding in the 10 cu ft wheelbarrow to completely fill Sinatra's stall vs 4 trips of fluffed bedding for Chip's stall.
The stall almost always looks clean (when plenty of bedding is in the stall.  Do not let this bedding get low, it gets messy from the wet spots).
The newspaper is easy to sift out and when you toss the poo, any clean newspaper will flutter away before going in the wheelbarrow.  This saves on bedding and eliminates waste
The newspaper clumps in the wet spot, making it easy to get rid of and not wasting a bunch of dry bedding finding the edges.
The clumps have an odor but takes the odor with it and the stall is smell-free after being cleaned.
I am using less of the product OR the product I am using is taking up less space in the wheelbarrow.  Undecided on which is true yet.

Waste after 4 stalls.
4 stalls normally makes a full wheelbarrow
The bad?
It looks messy.  While there is always sawdust on the ground, it is kinda tan and the dirt is kinda tan so it isn't very noticeable.  This stuff is white and the dirt is kinda tan so it sticks out pretty badly making it always look messy even when it really isn't.
You have to sift the entire stall to find the poo which does increase my cleaning times
If the horse likes to wee in small doses in multiple spots, you do have to take more bedding than expected.  If damp bedding is left it gets the entire stall really messy pretty quickly,.  This is an issue with Chip, my Mr Pee's A Lot stall is much, much better on this bedding.
You have to keep a lot of bedding in the stall, allowing it to run low will make things go bad quickly.  If all of the wet bedding isn't taken out it won't fluff or toss and gets messy.
You have to learn a new way to clean stalls to match the newspaper, it doesn't sift the same as wood.

Looks messy 
All in all I think I like the product and will likely get another bale and transfer everyone over.  If nothing else it is a good bit cheaper than wood chips, I would be buying locally, it is 100% green as it is recycled newspaper that will decompose significantly faster than wood chips, it requires significantly less space to store and it is super light to handle and compact to store.

I am working on ways to make the cons be better, I am getting better at cleaning so it is taking slightly less time.  I am still experimenting with Chip to try to find the best way to manage him and his wet spot habits, I throw more away due to him by far.  I am now leaving a 3-4 foot bedding-free spot in front of everyone's stall to help eliminate them kicking it out of their stalls, Sinatra is especially bad about doing this.  We will see how it goes.  Picture time!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Updates to come but for today it is in memory

So I do have some nice updates and opinions of the new newspaper bedding that I will share when I come back from the All American Quarter Horse Congress however today is not for that.  Today Gogo Fatale is going over the rainbow bridge to ease her pain.  She has gone downhill quite quickly this past week and Andrea made the decision to let her go to ease her suffering.  I am quite positive there isn't a better person to have tried to rehab her and Andrea gave it her all. I am very sorry for her loss and hope that things get easier for her soon.  I know what it is like to lose a beloved pet, one that you have been trying to save for a long time and you realize all you have been doing is not enough.  To make the hardest decision that easing their pain is more important than you needing them next to you every day.  My heart goes out to you Andrea.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Absent

So I apologize in advance however I will be away until the 17th and won't be able to post or follow your blogs.  I should have a couple of good stories from the All American Quarter Horse Congress next week and I know I will be doing plenty of shopping.  See you all soon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The App finds his engine

On Sunday I had my lesson on the App with the new instructor, I will call her H.  I debated whether to use the dressage or jumping saddle and chose the jumping saddle cause I can do both with it.  Right?  We chatted about the App's past successes and why I want to keep him at 2'6" and not move forward further with him and she agreed, a pleasant change from the previous instructor.  We talked about his performance at the last show and how he can be great or an insane freak and there isn't a way to predict or control which you will get.  I explained the previous instructors suggestions of making the App just go forward or ignoring behaviors and they both failed, thus I had went back to walk then trot then walk then trot and she agreed that is the best way to go about it.  She didn't have any better suggestions for the screaming, however, just to try to make whatever you were doing much, much harder. Ugh.

We went to the arena and I displayed my nice walk/trot/canter transitions.  Her only gripe with my riding is still my hands, I know they are still too wide.  But how awesome that out of my entire body she is only griping about my hands?!  She didn't tell me anything new, the App is great at putting himself into a nice frame with a nice headset and tracks up nicely but he isn't truly "on the bit" and connected.  Or even truly using his back end.  We shortened his reins and tried and tried to get him to push.  He would have none of it, creeping down to a trot that was the speed of a western pleasure trot or cantering to evade the request.  Out came the dressage whip and she first had me work on legs mean FORWARD.  I am to try riding him without any legs applied at all, if I apply a leg he should instantly go forward.  If he doesn't then I should sharply remind him to go forward so he can get into the habit and will carry himself again.  This is in contrast to the last 2 instructors who have told me that I hit him too much but alas we will try this route again.  She then had me hold onto the saddle with my outside hand and make the rein be like a side rein and voila.  It was almost like a switch got flipped, from fighting and creeping to suddenly having moments of true connection!

While doing this, it was increasingly difficult to do everything she was telling me since I was in the jumping saddle and thus I kept dropping my stirrups.  So what was I asked?  Drop both stirrups and put them over his withers and ride that way.  Doing trot/canter transitions through a spiral circle while keeping one hand as a side rein and the other continue to "remind" the App to move forward when a leg is applied.  It was really amazing how quickly he came together using this method, he fought it but became round and connected faster than anyone has ever gotten us there.  We rode maybe 20 mins and we were there?  Normally it takes a minimum of 30 and normally 40 mins to get there.  I was quite impressed .

I had her ride him for her opinion and I don't feel guilty about using the whip because she used it a lot more.  Not truly beating him, as I know that is how I say it "Beat the pony, beat the pony!", but giving one medium tap if he didn't go forward with leg and then one hard tap if he didn't respond.  She was also rode without stirrups and was very insistent that he move forward EVERY time she applied leg.  It will be a change (back) for me but I am willing to try it.  Overall she likes him.  She likes his compact nature and that he is very smart.   She says he still has a tremendous amount of athletic ability at his age and should do well.  We are tentatively hauling out to go cross country schooling the first weekend of Nov, pending weather issues, so hopefully I find to ride in this crazy month.

I have decided that yes, I really like this new instructor and really should have gone this route to start with.  Live and learn!  Also learn to ride in the dressage saddle to play it safe as I now have bruised seat bones from my hard saddle.  Ouch.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Accomplishments

A lot got done in a very short period of time this weekend, I am quite happy with our accomplishments!

The first accomplishment is the winter pasture/paddock is complete!  We are now calling it a paddock because it is certainly too small to be called a respectable pasture so thus it is downgraded to a measly paddock.  We were successfully able to reuse all existing fencing so that considerably cut down our expenses, it only cost apx $75 to make our new turnout.  It is still a temporary paddock so we used t-posts on most of the fencing but they are all brand new, they all have safety caps and the fencing is 60" tall woven wire/no climb fencing so it is pretty safe.  Today horses are enjoying the new grass and eating apples from under the apple tree.  It was amusing when we first turned them out, SO opened the large gate to the arena and the App made a break for it as if yelling "FREEDOM!".  He took about 5 canter strides before realizing he was in new fencing, gave up, looked around and started eating grass.  Crazy horse, you shouldn't be proud of "escaping".

The second accomplishment is using the New Bedding.  After I cleaned stalls on Sunday both the App and TWH needed bedding so I took that as my cue to strip the App's stall and use the new stuff.  The App ended up having only about 11 cu ft of bedding left in his stall and it all went into the TWH's stall.  He'll be happy for another week at least lol.  I put about 30 cu ft of bedding in the App's stall and then put in 10 more just for good measure (have super awesome dual-wheeled 10cu ft wheelbarrow, so easy measuring).  The new bedding is really light and fluffy, about an eighth of the weight of wood chips which is really nice.  It is fairly easy to handle and really isn't dusty.  A little bit of dust when you are fluffing it out of the compressed bale but that was about it.

So this AM I cleaned stalls and while it will certainly take some getting used to, I *think* I did in fact use less bedding than normal.  The new bedding, since it is so fluffy, makes it very difficult to see the poo piles.  The easiest solution I found was to basically toss fork fulls in the air and listen for any thuds and then scoop and shake for the poo piles.  I also found shaking doesn't work nearly as well, this bedding/my fork works better with a tossing method.  It is different, not necessarily bad but certainly different.  For the wet spot it was pretty easy too, it didn't clump into a mass wet paper like I feared and I scraped off the top/sides like I do with the wood chips and then scooped the clumps.  Much, much lighter than wood chips even with all that moisture!  Overall it did take me longer than normal to clean the stall but I attribute that to "learning" how to best manage the cleaning.  It is much cleaner than I expected and didn't become the mess I feared, ie tons of wet paper everywhere, sticking to everything.  I will use it in the App's stall all week and then put it in the TWH's stall early next week.  Keep your fingers crossed!

My last accomplishment is my lesson, but that deserves it's own post.  Now that I have my camera back I will work to take pictures of things for sharing.  I owe that to you at least.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Work, work, work

Unfortunately with winter coming, things have been increasingly hectic which means less saddle time.  I can count on one hand the number of times I have ridden since my show on Sept 11.  Over 2 weeks ago.  Fail!  I am trying to fix that so I have a lesson scheduled for Sunday on the App.  We will see how things go, I got to get my butt in the saddle.

Last weekend we went with RB3 and her SO to a Renaissance festival which was nice.  SO and I haven't been in 10 years, it was fun walking around seeing everything.  I do, however, like the one in Ohio much better.  The people at this festival aren't the same ones that go to Ohio and the "shows" weren't nearly as entertaining.  The jousting was cool however it was very apparent that most scenes were staged.  Watching the knight "we" were rooting for force himself to fall off, that was pretty amusing.  He was hit with a sword and you could see him throw himself off balance, twice, to come off.  I suppose if you didn't know how to ride it wouldn't have been so obvious?  Lol.  The mud show was mildly amusing but lacked real substance but the real "show" of the day was the tremendous amount of cleavage that was displayed.  OMG ladies, that corset is supposed to help squeeze things in.  Yes things can squeeze up and out but you should still wear support!  Your boobs should not appear like a waterfall over the front of your top and I should not need to see your nips through your paper thin shirt.  Ugh.

I have finally finished the very last of our sawdust, every bit of sawdust from my pile is now in stalls and being used up.  I certainly didn't have nearly as much left as I thought, I was thinking I had 3 full trailers left and it turns out I had 1 and a half.  Fail again.  Looks like I will be using the newspaper bedding sooner than I thought!  Luckily it will be delivered tomorrow so when I need to start stripping/moving bedding this weekend I will be set.  I expect to put in it in the App's stall first, moving his existing bedding into the TWH's stall and then eventually moving the TWH's bedding into the donkey's stall and putting the TWH on the new bedding.  I want to have most to all of the sawdust out before I start using the new bedding so I can judge it honestly and not blame shortcomings on mixing bedding.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

We are working away on the farm to prepare for winter and am hoping to complete the winter pasture by the weekend.  We are creating a sacrifice pasture so we can seed and rest our normal pasture, we have the spot now cleared and some t-posts driven in.  We are reusing the fencing we have already taken down from the main pasture, we just need to buy a small roll of woven wire to finish the job.  I wanted to use electric but it just isn't feasible right now. Once we buy the materials tonight we should be set to install and it should be good to go!  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cold is coming

How I already miss my 80 degree days.  Almost makes me long for the super hot and humid days of Ohio, last week it was in the upper 30's in the morning.  That is COLD and not acceptable for September!  It warmed (used loosely) back up to the 70's but is getting ready to go back into COLD again later this week thanks to the cold air from Canada.  I say they can keep it but Mother Nature doesn't seem to be taking directions from me right now.  Brrrr.

The boys are doing fine but nothing of interest has been going on.  I've taken a couple of short trail rides and have done some ground work but have been keeping it seriously slow.  Chores, chores, chores, gotta get ready for winter as fast as we can.  We need to finish making a winter pasture so the horses can tear the ground up and we can save the pasture.  We have cleared out a ton of brush and cleaned up a lot to get ready but still have a way to go.

We are going to try a new bedding which I think is of interest, I am running low on sawdust so I called the supplier to schedule another 40 yard delivery and was told the sawdust went up a bit.  Uh, yeah like 43% over last year went up.  Yikes!  I made some emails and a couple of phone calls and am going to try a newspaper bedding.  It is compressed, shredded newspaper that comes in apx 1-1.5 square inch pieces.  A gal I was chatting with after I first moved here was working with the manufacturer in creating the product and was really pleased in how it was turning out.  She was using it for composting and said that the amount of bedding she was using was halved.  I am not sure how that works, since when I see wet newspaper I see it stick to everything and become a mess but I am willing to see how it works.  I will be getting a 800-900 pound "bale" of it delivered probably next week and will start using it within the next couple of weeks.  Stay tuned, it may get interesting!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Eventing Derby recap Part 2 - App

With only a 45 min break in between my cross country ride on the TWH and dressage ride on the App, I knew I just may have my work cut out for me.  I changed outfits again and saddled the App up and walked over to the dressage warm up area.  It is slightly out of sight of the trailer parking as it is on the far side of a large hill, you can see the trailers when in the actual arenas as they sit on top of the hill.  The App was a little quick at walking but not too bad.  SO had said he wasn't too bad standing at the trailer, had only called for TWH a couple of times and didn't try to pull back or anything so I had high hopes of a nice, relaxed App.

After about 5 mins of walking I tried trotting and the App flipped his lid and took off.  As in I couldn't actually stop him for about 5-6 strides kind of take off.  I steered him out of traffic and tried to "settle" him by letting him canter for a couple of laps (idea from instructor from the beginning of the year) and quickly saw it was doing nothing but revving him up more.  By this time I was pretty ticked and so I cranked his head down where I could control it and did walk-trot transitions where he would walk for 3 strides and then trot for 3 strides, walk for 3 strides and trot for 3 strides, repeat until he stopped fighting.  After about 10 mins he settled down and agreed that he would listen to me and we had some really nice trot and canter transitions.  Things were looking up!

About that time I was becoming pretty exhausted from having to ride so hard but before I could take a break I was called on deck, time to head into the sand area reserved for those who were next.  It is on top of the hill where you could see the trailers and the App flipped his lid again.  He SCREAMED for TWH, jetting sideways, bolting forward, throwing his head in my face and I couldn't get him to quit.  Every 15-30 seconds he would let out a scream that went unanswered and threw off any momentum and poise we had established.  With no time to fix it and no way to beat the pony for his misdeeds, we went into the ring.  I walk/trotted around the outside of the ring (which is, by the way, even closer to the trailer parking) and said hi to the judge.  The App ignored her and screamed and jumped to the side to possibly see the TWH.  Ugh.  I tried going around the parameter a couple more times and the bell rang.  Time to go in.

We rode in straight and we hadn't been in the ring long enough to make it to C and he had screamed 3 times.  I got so flustered and angry with him I actually forgot my pattern and went off course.  The judge ran the bell and said "You were supposed go to straight".  I apologized and said the App had me so flustered, I was so sorry.  She said she felt sorry for me b/c she saw how he was being even in warmup.  FanTAStic horse.  Way to draw attention to yourself!  The rest of the ride?  It went.  Moments of greatness destroyed by screams and tension/threats of bolting.  Really nice free walk until the last quarter when he jerked his head up, half trotted a few steps and screamed.  And the last canter circle he screamed and tucked his butt and attempted to take off again, it just so happened I was able to get him back within 2 strides and finish the circle.  Ugh horse, sometimes I hate you.  I walked back to the trailer and am really not sure when the last time was that I wanted to beat my horse so badly.  There was no reason for him to act that way and I regularly ride him without TWH and he doesn't act like this, lately anyway.

The cross country had its own set of issues but overall went really well.  I made the decision that since my arms and body was so tired that I would try riding in the new waterford bit so I wouldn't be yanked on so badly by the App.  Warmup went well but very fast, as in the App was very quick.  I had a hard time bringing him back to a manageable speed but I had no time to run back to the trailer, I was "in the hole", 2 to go before us.  Off we went cross country, the first 3 fences were easy stadium fences and I didn't know if he actually jumped the first one.  It felt more like a big canter/gallop stride as he was scooting.   Fence 4 was a log which was no problem, fence 5 required 2 90 degree turns and still wasn't an issue after some yanking.  To get to fence 6 required going down the big hill and it took everything I had to get him to stop and walk.  At this point in the course we should be at 1:45 and we were at 0:55 seconds.  Yeah, a bit too fast. I walked him down the entire hill and kicked him into a canter which became a gallop.  Fence 6 and 7 were the only ones I was even slightly nervous about so I gave him a good thwack with the crop and he flew over them without a second glance.  At least I had the cross country horse I love which doesn't even look at jumps and just goes for it.  I wrangled him back to a walk down the second hill and took fence 8 at a trot.  Back up the hill we went and jumped a up little bank and through the water.  He surprised me by actually slowing to a trot into the water on his own.  Of course then I saw a photographer so I made him canter for a picture.  We finished the course without a single issue though extremely fast, we were the fastest on course.

They say miracles do happen.  Somehow the dressage judge did not deduct massive points for the App's screaming sessions.  She really should have but didn't  If I had been in a dressage show we would have been slaughtered, it's happened before.  We did get several 5's and the App's take off moment was noted as "A little quick".  Ha!!  She seemed to really like him and called it a polished ride, what did she see that I didn't feel?!?  The third and forth placers had cross country penalties so in the end we made it to 5th place.  And if I had been able to slow him down we could have gotten 4th believe it or not (as I sure don't!).  It appears I was tied for 6th coming out of dressage and when there is a tie without cross country penalties whomever was closer to the optimum time gets placed higher.  That certainly was not us.  I can't believe that out of 13 competitors we placed so well.

Overall the App left a pretty bitter taste in my mouth.  I am still peeved with him for screaming his head off during dressage but not making a peep during cross country.  I discovered a waterford bit is fantastic to keep the App from pulling my arms off but does absolutely nothing to slow him down.  He showed absolutely no respect for the bit during cross country when I know he respects his french link at least a little.  Not sure what is is store next year but I will either A) not show them at the same show or B) try putting them on opposite sides of the trailer.  Time will tell, lots of riding alone will be in the App's future!