Wierd Weather and Company

So… I could have sworn that it was almost Thanksgiving? Isn’t it? So why is it in the upper 70s? I’ve taken Scarlet’s blanket off for the past couple of nights. Sure it still gets down to the 40s at night but that really isn’t that cold. And I want to make sure that he isn’t too warm during the day.

I rode for a decent short ride this Friday. I had talked to one of my friends about my plan of getting a lantern and she somewhat talked me out of it. Her reasoning being that the lantern would kill his night vision and the shadows created by it might be scarier than the night. Horses’ night vision is much better than ours. Plus the moon could help depending on how full it is. So I rode for longer on Friday. We got a good walk trot canter in in about twenty minutes and I could still somewhat see when we had finished cooling out.

Saturday is now one of the two days of the week that I look forward to the most. I can spend a couple of hours out at the barn and still have time left in the day. I had planned on putting up a tiny jump and going over that a couple of times after warming up. But when I got there, there were several other people who were planning on riding. So you really can’t put up jumps when you are going to be the only one using them.

There ended up being five people riding including myself. Its good to ride in a crowded arena when you are used to riding on your own. You need to be prepared to make quick turning decisions and keep control of your horse at all times. It was quite fun riding with everyone else. It might have been all the horses riding or it might have been a combination of that, someone putting up a barn in the next property and tilling a field but Scarlet was in full spook mode. The corner that is always slightly scary was super duper scary. We full on planted and lunged sideways several times. It did not get better at all for the rest of the ride. It was annoying but its something you have got to deal with.

We had a really good ride overall. We worked a bit on his anticipation with the canter transition and some on the sitting trot. By the time we were done, he was pretty sweaty. I sponged him off and then let him graze on the lawn for a bit.

So no jumping practice but a bunch of other ¬†good things from that ride. Maybe I’ll get the jumps in on Sunday.

Extra Ride

I got an extra long ride in this week. I took the day off work in order to get my name changed. That took the first half of the day. The second half, I got to go ride.

It was odd being at the barn during the middle of the day on a week day. I normally am able to be there in the evening on weekdays and the morning on weekends. There were a couple of people around. One of the women I’ve never really seen ride before but she was out there riding. It made me feel better because her horse is such a sweetie, always coming up to the fence when I walk by. Its good to know that he probably gets out most days during the middle of the day.

They had also drug the arena since it has finally rained enough to do it without dust just filling the air. They have done it twice since we have gotten two days of a good amount of rain. (Yay! Rain in Cali!) The first time it was just somewhat nice. This time though, they were really able to get in and drag deep. The footing was sooooo nice. There had been a side of the arena that was perpetually harder than the rest but that was almost erased. I felt like we had a better ride due to this.

Scarlet is always so spooky. Even now that he is eighteen, he still spooks like a young horse sometimes. He doesn’t like to go down one of the long sides of the arena. Its really scary to him. I don’t force him to go super close to the fence line since there is plenty of arena otherwise but I make sure he rides the line I tell him to. The neighbor was out working in a shed near the arena. He was making some noise so I was expecting that to be really scary. For our warm up at walk and trot both directions, Scarlet didn’t seem to care. But for some reason this all changed at the canter. Suddenly, that man and the noise was the scariest thing he had ever seen. I will never understand what causes that horse to tick.

For the end of the last couple rides, I have had us work on some side passing and turn on the forehands. I wanted to work on some things we could do while cooling down that were still muscle building. He has been doing fairly well. I added in some turn on the haunches this time and he did even better on those. They are all good skills to cultivate so I will continue to work on these till it is really easy for him to respond.

It doesn’t look like it is supposed to rain this weekend so I’m hopeful that I will get two full rides this time.

Weekend Rides and Rain

After a whole week of not doing more than hopping on Scarlet to walk in a circle and get off, this weekend was something I was looking forward to. Finally I get to do some real rides!

Saturday was great. I took my time grooming him before the ride, just because I could. It was nice to just take my time getting ready. I normally just rush through getting him groomed so that I can get on before its dark but I feel bad about doing so. I got to look him over very thoroughly. It was good that I did so because he had a couple of new cuts on his legs. They don’t look like a big deal so I’m assuming that he and the horses next to him are arguing. There isn’t anything in his pen that he could really catch himself on. I know that for sure since I’ve walked around the whole pen to check on that. They had already stopped bleeding and I wouldn’t have even paid attention if the blood hadn’t shown up so nicely on his white socks. Actually, with the rain and mud that we have had recently, his socks are becoming more of a tan color.

I also noticed that his blanket is rubbing a couple of places on his shoulders and his butt. I think the blanket is a little too big and a little too old. Since there are a few rips, its drooping where it used to not droop. I don’t want the blanket to rub him raw so I’m going to have to take a look at the other blanket I have. I probably need to wash it off to make sure any cobwebs and such are no longer there. Hopefully its the right length and not too heavy. The weather is going from cold to 75 within a day around here recently. I don’t want the blanket to stay on him if its warm like that.

We did have a great ride on Saturday. We rode for around 40 minutes. I was so happy we got to have a long slow warm up. It really helped us both. He had really nice transitions up and downward. I was so impressed with the downward canter-trot transitions he gave me. Normally its kinda bumpy like he is ping ponging between my aids. I know this is caused by him not carrying himself on his rear but we hadn’t been able to fix that. Saturday was just lovely, nice smooth down in to the trot. We even managed to overcome the super fast anticipating trot. We went on direction without issue and when I reversed, Scarlet picked up a really really fast trot. So I rode it out and kept asking him to come back down to the normal trot speed without completely yanking on his face. After 6-7 laps, he decided to go to a good trot and I sat for a couple of strides and then asked for the canter. It was nice to be able to have the time to address the different issues that come up during a ride without being limited to only doing one thing.

Sunday it rained a lot. A lot. We really need it here in California so I’m not upset that it rained but I did not get to ride. I probably could have ridden in the afternoon after the rain decided to stop but I had not blanketed Scarlet again on Saturday since it was warm. I thought I would be able to get the blanket back on him before it rained again on Sunday but I was wrong. Oh well, I brought it upon myself.

Camp lanterns are fairly expensive and many available in stores that I have gift cards to are not the ones I’m looking for. I may end up needing to purchase one from amazon. I should do that sooner rather than later if that is what I’m planning on so that I will be able to ride in the evening soon.

Short Rides

So how about that winter riding? Ha… ha… ha… I was sick on Sunday so I didn’t go out to ride Scarlet then, which is now one of the 2 days a week that I can ride a decent length of time gone. Then it rained on Monday so I didn’t go out then. I went out yesterday and today because I knew that I needed to get out. I also needed to get Scarlet out if I wanted him to have any semblance of muscles come spring/summer when I want to start doing real rides again. I rode for maybe 10 minutes each day.

On Tuesday I was pleasantly surprised that Scarlet was actually fairly good for the ride. There was no shenanigans or spooking unnecessarily. Today was the same. Decent rides as far as my horse’s response to me. It was short. I’m going to be harping on that until the sun comes back up enough for me to have long rides every day. Such short rides. I’m happy that keeping a blanket on Scarlet because it allows me to quickly groom just where the saddle is before I get on. I feel a little guilty about that as I’ve always properly groomed before actually getting on before. I give him a really good grooming after I get off because we have a light for the tack room that allows me to continue when its dark.

I have considered trying to get a camping lantern that is battery powered. If I can get one that is bright enough to give me a decent sized circle, I could ride for a while longer. I’ve done a bit of research about lanterns to see which ones are the one brightest. I’ve found a couple that seem to be good without being extremely expensive. They are Weatherrite 610, Rayovac Sportsman and the UST 30/60 day lanterns. I think a couple of these are available at Target so I might try and go there this weekend to see if there are any at the one here. If I get one, I’ll place it on top of a barrel and cool out using that light. This may not work when it gets colder but I’ll try it. It never hurts to have a camping lantern around.

Since I’m restricted to short rides, the next thing I need to research is what are the best strength building conditioning things to do within a couple minutes of riding for horses. I really enjoy researching horse stuff. I get lost in it for hours. Maybe I’ll find some really good exercises to keep us strong until spring.

Central California Oak Tree Classic

Today I spent the day with my sister doing horse stuff. It was pretty awesome. She had missed Scarlet when he was sold as well. He was my horse but she did know him for the six years that I had him. We started the morning by going out to ride Scarlet.

I didn’t let her ride him much (read: at all) when I first had him. Initially, that was a good idea. She has never been the rider that I was/am. And no I’m not saying this out of vanity. I’ve always been more into the horse world than she was. She likes horses. I live for horses.

Initially Scarlet was too headstrong and dangerous to allow her to ride. Plus she had only been riding for a year at that point. Later on, he probably would have been fine to ride but I still didn’t allow her to. I did toss her up on him and walk her around. But that was about it.

So, hindsight being 20/20, I wanted to make sure that she would be able to ride him. So we went out and rode around. He still isn’t in super great condition, so we didn’t ride for a super long time but we did ride. She enjoyed it though he wasn’t sure what to do with her posting. She rode western primarily so her posting skills are close to non-existent. Not to mention her muscles aren’t there.

After riding, we spent the rest of the day watching classes at the Paso Robles Horse Park. Their Grand Prix class was that afternoon. It was a lot of fun. We toured the whole grounds. It’s a stunning facility, brand new. The stable rows were mostly temporary stabling put up for the show but there are wash racks and 8 arenas, 2 of which were grass.

We got to watch a few classes but what we were really waiting for was the Grand Prix class.We watched the 1.20 jumpers before and I’ve watched 1.30 as well but the jump from that to Grand Prix heights is really significant. It was a great class with 29 rider pairs. The course was really difficult with a lot of difficult striding combinations that caused many rides to drop poles. In fact, only 3 pairs managed to go clean for the jump off round. The crowd was very into the rides as well with audible groans of disappointment whenever a pair had a fault. The winner ended up being Lindsay Archer on Camerone. She went clear with a time of 32 seconds and change on a jump-off course with really demanding turns. It was amazing to watch and I know that I will be thinking about this for a while.

I envy everyone at that show. They have worked hard and reached goals or are working towards them. I wish that I had the ability to be like them now. I don’t. Its the unfortunate truth. I do hope that I can. Circumstances limit me but I’m working on it. Someday I’ll be flying over jumps and I’ll be the one winning classes. Dreams right? That’s why we ride. Because we can’t get that horse dream out of where it got stuck the first time we saw these beautiful creatures.

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Thrush and winter riding

So with the rain yesterday, something I had been hoping wasn’t happening happened. Scarlet definitely has the start of thrush. I had hoped that I was being paranoid but the rain caused his feet to become soft and it definitely highlighted the problem areas. We had trouble with this when I first owned him. We had a 2 acre pasture that drained fairly well overall. There were a few spots that got boggy. Being first time horse owners, we didn’t think about it being a problem that his shelter was in one of those. Since he got fed there, that was where he ended up standing a lot.

Years ago, I used a bottle of bleach water to try and deal with the thrush, per recommendation from my trainer. It never really seemed to help much but by then it would become summer again and I would put it out of my mind. Now that I’m older and (hopefully) wiser, I’m hoping to try combating this the correct way. Now I know the first issue would be to take a look at where he is living. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to board him in a stall, which would guarantee he wasn’t standing in soaking wet, poopy ground. So I’ll deal with what I have to. As more rain comes, I’ll take a closer look at his pen to decide if I need to deal with how the pen drains. I’ve tossed around the idea of seeing if the barn owner would mind me putting in a load of sand to help it drain better. I dont believe she would be but the problem with that is a) I dont have a truck or utility trailer in order to move it and b) I have no idea how much sand costs. My husband is still recovering from how much getting Scarlet and setting him up down here has cost. I couldn’t really talk to him about trying to buy sand now without giving him a heart attack.

So I’m sticking with management of his thrush for the moment. I looked up various treatments and read good things about No Thrush. And I happened to have some that was left over from his previous owner. So I took that out to the barn. After riding today, I cleaned out his hooves really well and then tried to make sure I sprayed the powder in all the nooks and crannies I could find. Hopefully I did a good job. I believe the idea behind the No Thrush powder is that it takes away the moisture that the bacteria needs to have a perfect host environment. Here’s hoping that it works. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on his hooves whenever I go out.

With the time change, I really began to notice how dark it gets. Another factor I didn’t really consider when trying to find a place to board is having an arena with lights. Stupid I know since it was already October when I was looking for places. But I had just finished with my wedding and it was quite a surprise to even have the opportunity to buy Scarlet. I was mostly concerned with affordability and availability at the time. Now I’m a little peeved that I didn’t find a place with lights.

I should be used to not riding in the winter. I usually only got one good ride in a week and then a little bit of walk/trot on the driveway. My arena was just a dirt lot so it bogged down too much in the winter for riding. My trainer had a sand arena but I only had one lesson a week. I should be used to it. But dang it! I just got my horse back! I really really wanted to continue riding him. I missed him so much and love how well his personality fits my own. I knew that I was going to have issues with finding another horse because I would have compared them to my ideal horse, who I had already owned. Its frustrating to have just gotten him and then to be kept from my goal.

And I’m whining. The arena is decent quality and I should be able to ride at least a bit. I’ll need to think about possible light sources that I can bring to the arena so I can at least get a small ride in during the weekdays.

Random funny tidbit: Since its finally cold, I blanketed Scarlet with the lighter of the two blankets I have. Its actually the same blanket I bought for him 11 years ago. Still in good shape too. Only a couple of rips. Strange how some horse things fall apart fast and some last an eternity.

Riding

Now that I have a saddle that fits both of us, I can shift my attention to riding. I haven’t gotten a ton of lessons in the last 6 years. I could really use a tune up but its really difficult to do that in my situation. Eventually I will find a trainer who I can go to or who will come to me. I can’t justify spending a lot of money so I’ll have to do my research and take my time.

In the meantime, I’m my trainer. Its kinda difficult to do since I can’t really see myself unless I have someone videotape me. Even if I do have someone do that, I don’t have the confidence that I will be able to tell what I’m doing wrong. I’m hoping to learn a bunch through reading forums and books. I have such a long wishlist of horse books on amazon now. I’m sure I will eventually own them all but they aren’t cheap. Specifically with horse instruction books, I really like them in physical form. The pictures and graphics included usually do not translate well to kindle and these are some of the most important things for learning.

Basically what I’ve been doing while riding is trying to get us to a good starting point for working on more advanced things again. I need to get Scarlet and me back into shape. We’ve been working on communicating better. I know that my communication is not as sharp as it used to be. He isn’t necessarily not listening but I know I need to be better than I am. Scarlet hasn’t had 6 years off of riding. I have.

I just got in a dressage book since these seemed to have more riding basics and rider instruction than just a flat work exercise book. The one i got is Jane Savoie’s Dressage 101. I haven’t read through much of it yet. Its super thick so I imagine it will take me a while, even at the speed I read. I’ve also been going slightly slower due to really wanting to absorb it. I’m not planning on doing dressage seriously. I don’t have the patience for it. I don’t like something that seems to have fairly arbitrary scoring. (No offense to anyone who rides dressage) I’d prefer to do something where its obvious that you didn’t get it, like a rail falls. But dressage basics are definitely necessary for all disciplines so I really want to absorb how they teach the basics.

I read a couple of chapters and then went to ride Scarlet. I figured I’d test out the first couple of lessons, checking is Scarlet was on my legs and if I could get him to halt correctly. The halt was super important to me since my downward transitions have always been my worst area. I never really understood how exactly you were supposed to ask for them without pulling back on the reins. The explanation of using your legs to keep the energy going forward, squeezing your fists to stop the energy and “stilling” your seat. The stilling the seat is still a difficult idea for me.

Scarlet and I practiced these for a bit during our last ride. We did fine that them though I probably need to be more strict with how prompt I want my halts to be. He will kinda take a couple of steps after my cue. But most of our lesson was an argument about how fast he was trotting. He was fine for our warm up but after a walk break, he wouldn’t trot at a non kidney jaring pace. I believe this was because he was anticipating cantering. He loves to go fast. This was actually a fault we dealt with 10-12 years ago when I first got him. Its funny to have to go through it again. I wonder if we will go through all the vices that we dealt with long ago one by one again.

I need to try and do a just walk- trot ride occasionally just to keep him waiting for my aids before anticipating the canter. It will take time. Hopefully working on some of the other exercises from my new dressage book will help with these too. Not sure if they will but an overall better ride from me will definitely help rather than hurt.