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?