Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Finally. Done. A long post a long time in the making

I did something today that I have been looking forward to for 5 months.  Something that has been quite expensive and laborious.  Today,  I turned my horses out.

Back in February we had our 10 acres property surveyed so we could fence off 90% of the property for pasture.  The difficult part is that we live in the middle of an older forest and there are parts of the property you can't walk through without bringing a weedwacker, nippers or a machete.  Even after the property lines were staked, to actually walk the line required walking several feet on either side of the line to get around bushes, vines and branches.  In March we started clearing the fence line, trying to clear cut 10 feet in from the property line , taking down tons of young trees, heavy brush, twigs, bushes, branches, things with thorns, living and dead things.  Progress was ridiculously slow due to the nature of what we were clearing and the fact we did it all with 2 person power.  Armed with nothing but a chainsaw, weed wacker with a blade, a pair of super awesome Fiskars and determination we made progress foot by slow foot.

By late May we made it to the "end" of our western north/south line.  We were excited because that line was the thickest and started to hope that maybe we would get the line cleared by the end of the year!  We started stocking up on supplies that would be needed, buying many rolls of Electrobraid fencing when we got a 10% off coupon in the mail, buying the copper split bolts when we could, asking for fence insulators as gifts and more.  About this time my riding dropped off significantly, if you haven't noticed lol.  I rode to prepare for my show but that is about it.

By mid June we hadn't made the progress we would have liked on our east/west line and were afraid maybe the project would drag on until September.  The remainder of the fence line required cutting lots of big trees, the thing about big trees is that they have lots of branches making it just as hard to clear this line as it was to clear the previous line.  We ended up with some amazing help the last week of June and beginning of July that helped us push through and over the week of July 4th we finally broke through and could consider the clearing our fence line Done.  We were then able to borrow a post hole digger and set 95% of the fence posts by July 7th when our week long vacation was over.

Since then, between hay and fence, it has been a non-stop list of things to do.  Hang the fence insulators, set the corner bracings, run the fence, stretch the fence, build a temporary fence to section off an area full of trash, weedwack fence line, buy gates, dig up existing fence wires, bury new fence wires, dig ditches, take down the old fencing, the list goes on.  Mornings before work, usually lunch hour and evenings after work have been filled with fence or hay prep work making for very long days with little to no fun and/or horse time.  This past weekend was going to be THE weekend.  THE weekend that the fence was going to be Done.  I was so excited about having time this past weekend to work on my project as I desperately need to get back to a more normal schedule and ride more.  While I was successful in clearing the "trash fence", building the trash fence, weedwacking the fenceline and getting the hay for the winter, alas I fell short of finishing the fence.  Again.

With being foiled yet again and still facing the fence project, we decided Monday night was going to be The Night.  We were going to finish the damn fence!  SO and I both got out of work as early as possible and he brought home some chinese so we didn't have to cook and were outside working by 545p.  We buried wire under the new "big" gate and then went to wiring everything up.  Things went fairly smoothly with tightening the fence, running the jumper wires and then zip tying things so they are tidy.  We did have to make a change on our eastern north/south line and add a second set of rollers as it just looked like having a single roller was going to let go and break, that fix took up an annoying large amount of time.  We got it done though and while we added the last jumper wires via tractor headlights and came inside at 945p, we were DONE.

This morning I went out at 6a and moved the last of the old fence out of the pasture, plugged in the charger and tested everywhere.  Everywhere I tested had a very consistent 8600 volts.  Success!  Everything has worked!  Our (very) hard work is paying off by having not a single issue with the voltage!  I doused the horses really well with fly spray and took both of them for a walk along the fence line.  I wanted them to see the fence line and I also wanted to walk the line to ensure that the fence looked 100% correct and nothing was shorting out anywhere.  It was funny as the boys were both fairly snorty at things, they were very cute but were very respectful on the lead line and I had no issues walking through the woods leading both at the same time.  When we finally got up to the front I took their halters off and off they ran!  All of about 15 feet before putting their head down in grass hahaha!  They have now been out in their new pasture for 3 hours and haven't gone anywhere new, go figure.

Tonight we are going to try to finish up the last bit we have, we need to finish building the fencing for our winter sacrifice pasture and then we will officially be Done.  They now have 7-8 acres of room to run around in and will now be outside 24x7 except for when feeding times and when the weather is really bad.  It also means I shouldn't need to feed hay for a while which should help my hay pile tremendously.  I am so happy to finally be done.  So, so happy.  Maybe now I can start riding and blogging again.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ditches do us in

Saturday was the clinic with the TWH, something I looked forward to greatly because 1. I have never gone to a clinic before and 2. It was very affordable!  The dressage was a 45 minute lesson and was on time despite my writing the time down wrong.  I was ready a good bit too early lol.  No worries though, we were ready for dressage and the instructor was quite nice.  Very chatty, I think she talked more about her personal students and how the TWH is very similar to a horse she is working with and the challenges she is facing with that horse, but she was nice.  90% of the ride was working on the trot within a 10m circle and then spiraling out to try to get the TWH to actually connect his hind leg to the front.  It was hard and tiring however we did actually get a few steps of true collection each direction.  She really liked his canter and said it was a better quality than the trot.  She also agreed with H in that he would be a good training level horse and we could go have fun at first level dressage however we quite likely won't be competitive because he just doesn't have the connection due to what he is.  It was a little disappointing hearing it, however it was good that two separate people agree that he will be maxing out in his dressage at no fault of his own.

Our cross country lesson was a bit more of a fiasco as the lesson was at 2p.  I was getting ready and at 1:55 I saw a bunch of people warming up so I hurried up and got over there only to find it was the group that was supposed to be starting at 1:30.  I hung by myself until around until 2:15p when I finally saw the barn owner.  I asked if she knew where the 2p lesson group was, afraid I had missed it somehow.  She went to look for them as I went back to the trailer.  Apparently the previous group was also running late and the instructor was making her way over.  The lesson finally started at 2:40p and I was with a group of 4 others.

Overall the lesson went well.  The TWH rocked the course.  I was a little frustrated again as the instructor gave little to no feedback and basically babysat while I jumped things.  This seems to be a trend in my jumping lessons, something that frustrates me a little as I want feedback, that is why I am taking a lesson.  I could jump stuff myself any day.  I finally asked her how my position was, what could I improve on and she said we were doing great.  My 2 point is good, I have a good release (which I worked really hard to do that day) and my lower leg is quiet and solid.  I KNOW I am not perfect but I didn't get any better help so I guess I am perfect :)

The only issue we had was when we jumped the ditch, something I knew would be an issue.  The TWH doesn't like ditches for some reason and will refuse or stop and jump from a standstill.  The first time we presented him to the ditch he stopped and thought about running out.  I kicked pretty aggressively until he went over and we worked at it 6 more times until he would just pause before going over instead of stopping.  Not too bad IMO.  The fourth time over I landed wrong and actually braced myself for the snapping of my bone, my middle finger was in some mane and hit his neck at just the right angle, I swore it was going to dislocate or break.  Thankfully it appears it is just sprained, but ow!!  Figures it was over the ditches.  The instructor also said he is not stopping as much as I think he is though, he looks like he is pausing and not stopping so while I need to push him, he is not actually refusing most of the time.  So that is good to know.

I was happy with how he rode and he got a nice, deserved roll when he got home.  This week is a lot of fencing work as we are aiming to finish our pasture expansion project by this weekend so no riding is in sight.  The horses, however, should be super excited with the expansion project and they better start clapping their hooves in appreciation! 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making him think

So riding this week isn't going so well since my arena flooded Monday, again.  This time I built a semi-permanent dam with clay and a landscaping pole so hopefully this crap stops once and for all.  Only time will tell.  I rode in the rain on the road Monday night in an attempt to ride the TWH at least some before my clinic and while it was hard to ride much dressage when riding just in a straight line on the road, we did work on transitions and it wasn't too bad.  It rained too hard Tuesday night to ride on the road and I still had puddles in my arena so I had to give the TWH the day off. 

Wednesday I checked the arena and the puddles were gone and while there were some soft spots still, I could now use half of my arena so I took advantage and rode.  When I went to hop on, the TWH had stepped forward a full 2 steps ahead of the mounting block.  I told him to back and he actually didn't, surprising since he listens so well.  He does know how to back on a lunge line so I asked again and might as well have been talking to the arena wall.  That started a quick groundwork session to sharpen his responses and the TWH made a Very. Bad. Choice.  When I smacked him in the chest with the reins when he didn't back by a voice command, he picked his front feet off of the ground.  Very.  Bad.  Idea.  As a reformed rearer, one that was bad enough his owners had considered putting him down, taking ones hoof off of the ground is absolutely Not Tolerated for any reason.  I let hell rain down on him for a good 30 seconds.  I made sure he understood I could kill him if I wanted to and that rearing is never, ever a good idea.  Then I just walked away from him.  He trotted off, happy to be away from the lunatic, but when I walked over to him he came right back to me. 

We did some basic yielding exercises before I asked him to back by voice (instead of body language) and while he visibly stiffened, he didn't rear.  He also didn't back.  I grabbed a lunge line so I had a little more control and it took all of 5 minutes before he remembered how to back by a voice command, even if I was beside or behind him.  Good horse!  For his "test" I stood at his stifle and made him back until his head was at my shoulder, all without stepping away from me, and when he got to my shoulder he very purposefully turned and placed his head in my chest and just held it there.  It was so sweet, like he was saying "I'm sorry mom!  I got it figured out, I know I was bad".  I love working him and watching him think, he is expressive enough you can absolutely see what he is thinking.

The rest of the ride went pretty well.  I only had a circle of arena I could use and I knew I only had a ride or two before the clinic so I kept it simple by asking for transitions and basic flexion and he gave it to me willingly.  Looking forward to Saturday, I don't know if I will have pictures but will try to get some.  One of the bigger reasons I don't post many pictures is my slow internet speed, a 500k file can take a minute or two to upload and a 2mb or bigger can take 5+ mins to load.  Let's not even get started on video, my cattle sorting video took almost 45 mins to upload :(  At least I have "high speed" internet, even if my download speed is .66mb and my upload speed is .32mb today. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Quick update, busy busy busy

Things have been so busy around here that I haven't had much time to ride.  In fact I even went 2 full weeks without getting on a horse, I am that busy :(  On the plus side I am ALMOST done with a huge project, we are expanding our pasture from the 1.5-2 acres we have to be around 7-8 acres.  Now, it won't be cleared, grassy pastures but instead lots of brush with grass however it will be huge and I am ALMOST done!  We are fencing the property from property line to property line, leaving only the very front for a lawn.  The post holes have been dug, cedar posts have been cemented and/or graveled, corner braces have been screwed and tensioned into place and I am ready to string my Electrobraid and hang the fence hangers.  Hopefully  I will be done with that this week and then I will only have gates to put up, a couple more posts to sink and it will be done!

In other news I am currently scheduled to ride in an eventing clinic on Saturday and I have barely ridden the TWH.  I rode quickly last night and while I need to work on the canter/trot transitions again, things went pretty well.  We will see how things go, hopefully I didn't just flush my money down the drain because I was too busy to prepare. Ugh.  Will update soon, hope everyone is doing well.  I am almost caught up on everyone's blogs :)