Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Body Clipping Blues

Well folks, it's that time again. With T-minus eight days until we ship back to Painesville it's time to bid farewell to Johnny's fluffy winter coat and say hello to body clipping!

The always wonderous wolly mammoth already got a chaser clip when his coat first exploded into roughly three feet of hair way back in October, but I was reluctant to clip him further when I knew he was just going to be coming home and sitting in a field for a month over winter break. Why cause more work for myself changing blankets and worrying if he's warm enough when I'm not even riding him right? With his full winter coat, I can sleep better knowing that he's not shivering to death in his stall or out in the field. It was a good decision on my part, because the last few days here have been miserably cold. I believe the temperature was dwindling somewhere around 4 degrees the night before last.

The good news is that yesterday and today the temps went back up into the low-mid thirties (yay heat wave!) and therefore both Emmy (who wasnt blanketed at all this year until it got down into the teens) and Johnny went naked today to enjoy the warmer temperatures. Johnny's hair has all grown back in where he was orignally clipped and let me just say that his hair sure does grow in the wierdest patterns. Only his winter coat for that matter. For example, "normal" horses hair grows downward on the neck, so that when you brush from the head down to the shoulder, you are brushing the hair flat, correct? And so does Johnnys, in the summer time. In the winter though, his hair grows backwards up his neck so that in order to brush it flat, you have to brush from the shoulder up the neck to the head. His hair also does this along the top of his back, where is suddenly changes directions and also grows up, from haunches to withers, instead of down.

This horse is so weird.

Needless to say, it makes body clipping him very interesting, especially since he has roughly the attention span of a three year old child, which means that total body clipping is a lengthy process that takes 3 or 4 days to accomplish, all the while with Johnny looking like he got in a fight with a blender.

Emmy on the other hand, will continue to stay fuzzy and naked even though she is going to stay up a college for a couple months. I made that mistake last year, leaving a blanket on her while I was away and it never really got taken off...poor horse had indents in her hair from the edges of the blanket.

What is everyone's views on blanketing and/or clipping? How do you deal with your horses winter hair?


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dopping a line...

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been having a bit of a personal catastrophe lately but I just wanted to stop by to say that Emmy AND Johnny are both shipping back to college after winter break. Dad, who has been cleaning her stall and taking care of her, majorly threw his back out last night and therefore can't clean the stall for a while so we decided to send her with me for a few months until he's back on his feet. The vet is coming tomorrow to pull a new coggins for her and the stall is already arranged and set up at the barn!

Johnny, in other news, has been thoroughly enjoying his time off! I think he is going to come back to school with a much fresher attitude after a month in the field!

More later.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Embracing the Inner Cowgirl: Cross Training to Curb Bordem

Yep, it's offical, I have definetly lost it.

Since being home from college on winter break I have probably only ridden Johnny 4 times in the last two weeks. There are a few very valid reasons behind this: 1) I promised him a break from his 6 day-a-week training schedule that he's been on at school 2) I have no where to ride him (i.e. no arena) 3) The ground is frozen and not quite covered with much snow, therefore it is slippery and icy instead and Johnny, with his new front shoes, is a klutz to begin with so the last thing I need is a broken leg. And lastly...4) I miss Emmy.

So, since Emmy is now naked and shoeless, I have been riding her around on the trails and such, mainly just walking with a little jog here and there. She offically has not been ridden in almost 4 months so shes REALLY out of shape and her feet still get sore from the lack of shoes, but she doesn't slip much on the snow/ice so she's pretty sure footed. I started riding her western a couple summers ago when she was mysteriously lame for 3 months and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. She's not much of a western mount...although she does have a pretty nice jog and a reasonable lope (sometimes). Despite the fact that she went back to being a Hunter later that year, I think that in her old age she's come to quite enjoy the western, there is NO WAY I'm wearing breeches in this weather.

Anyway, the point of this entry is to tell about how a reconnecting with a childhood friend named H inspired some new cross-training for Emmy. H and I grew up riding and eventing together, but when the barn we were riding at kind of fell apart business-wise, our entire group of friends packed up our things and our horses and we parted ways. Thanks to Facebook, we managed to reconnect almost 4 years later (3 years since the last time I saw her at a horse show...she had a yearling QH showing in halter) and exchanged phone numbers. Before I knew it she was pulling into our barn drive Tuesday and we were saddling up for a snowy trail ride and a trip down memory lane.

H has gone a long way from our early eventing days and made a 360 into the Quarter Horse world. Her family had since moved out to the township, purchased a few acres with a barn and gone horse shopping in Pennsylvannia where they came back with three QHs. She now has a coming 5 year old, 3 year old and a 2 year old, all foundation bred for roping, cutting and reining. I told her how I kind of missed the days of us riding western through the woods when we were kids and she admitted that she missed having a well schooled horse to jump with. In the end, we made an ultimatum with each other "If you teach me how to jump again," H told me "then I will teach you how to rein and cut cattle." Fine by me! I've always wanted to get back to my cowgirl roots...

It wasn't until I was oogling over an episode of Heartland (best TV show EVER) where they were team roping when it really hit me.

I have ALWAYS wanted to learn how to rope.

See? I told you...offically off my rocker. I blame her entirely.

Next thing I know, I've got an old practice rope and Emmy all saddle up in the front yard. Surprisingly, the spooky little mare was totally fine with me swinging the rope around...she didn't even mind so much when I accidently hit her in the head with it, nor did she blink when it went flying past her face onto a fence post. It wasn't until I went to coil the loop back in that she decided she'd had enough of the roping game...besides, that thing crawling towards her in the snow was DEFINETLY going to EAT HER.

It actually wasn't too bad of a spook...just a classic Emmy spin sideways, but as strange as it sounds it gave me joy to see her react to something. She's 22 (going on 23) years old and a dead broke hunter mare. The past year or so has been...oh I hate to say it...but it's been kind of boring with her. Not that I don't appreciate a good, well trained horse, but she is literally "broke to death" in her old age...and who can blame me, right? I can't help it if I like a little spunk every now and again. Even though neither one of us is ever going to be competetive, or even good at this whole roping thing, it's something new for us to work on, and trust me, Emmy's bored with her retirement and ready for a challenge. Despite the fact that she goes outside all day and always has plenty of hay and toys in her stall to occupy her, she is still slowly eating her stall door in protest.

I'll let you know how the whole thing works out ;)


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Photos Op!

Some photos from the farm, horse show and trail ride!

Emmy, my retired hunter mare, being beautiful

Emmy. I'm pretty sure that this is going to be my next painting

Best friend horse show love.

Pumpkin the mini looking studly.

C getting ready for our trail ride!

C and Abbie

Me and Emmy

Me and Emmy again

This was such a cute picture but C got her finger in the corner...I tried to crop it out...this was totally candid.


(p.s. Emmy does have a mane...for some reason since she's been retired its just gone crraaazzzyyyy and flips which ever direction that it that missing middle section? Yeah, its on the other side of her neck. Don't ask. I tried to fix it. It won't comply.)

Really Mother Nature?

Sorry I haven't updated in so long! Johnny and I have been home for a week now and we are both getting back into the swing of things around here. of coarse, poor John has to be re-initiated into the herd of horses, which meant that Mikey and Doug found it totally necessary to gang up on him and chase him into a fence while the other kicked at him. We have cattle fencing (not my choice...) because we also have cows, so when Doug ran Johnny towards it, he slid in the mud trying to stop and slammed full force into it. I just so happened to be riding Emmy down the drive and witnessed the whole thing. Johnny got his hind foot stuck, slipped again and flipped over, flailing on the ground trying to get up while Doug bit at him! I kicked Emmy into a gallop (poor girl is barefoot now and we were on gravel!) and did the worlds best flying dismount off her when we got to the fence. Sometimes I'm pretty sure that I should have been a rodeo queen instead of a hunter rider. Johnny managed to free himself just as I got over to him and he jumped up and took off across the field at a trot. I checked over all of his legs and he seemed fine execpt for a wire cut across his back leg. I cleaned it up, iced it, and bandaged it for about 3 days. There is still some swelling, but he seems fine.

Yesterday, my best friend C and I decided to take the horses to Chagrin Valley Farms for a local hunter/jumper schooling show. Of coarse, with his recent injury, there was no way I was going to show Johnny, or even jump him for that matter, but I figured that it would be a good time to flat him around the rings and make sure he wasn't lame (no indoor at home). The forcast was calling for snow, but the morning dawned just fine so we loaded up the horses and went anyway.

BAD idea. The show itself was great...C's horse Abbie FINALLY got around her jumper coarse (for some reason she just HATES Chagrin...she stops at least once every time in the ring) and Johnny hacked around just fine. It wasnt until we went to pull the trailer up to go home that we realized it was snowing outside.

Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, but it was starting to get dark and it the the kind of fine blowing snow that covers the roads and makes it almost impossible to see. The truck and trailer were sliding all over the road and when we almost got stuck going up a big hill, I told C that there was no way her horse was going home tonight...she could stay at the farm with Johnny.

THAT required a bit of re-arranging because we are definetly at full capacity stall wise, but there was no way that it was safe for C to trailer another 40 minutes home by herself. We ended up relocating the pig up to the top of the barn, (yes, our barn is very old and its 2 levels) putting the donkey in the pigs stall because, quite frankly, he's the smallest equine we have and the only one who would fit in there, and then putting Abbie in the donkeys stall. Pumpkin, the mini who wanders around the aisleway (dont worry, its gated at the end) was FREAKING out over the new-comer. He tries to be super studly and impress the its very very funny.

Anyway, we scrounged up some dinner for Abbie (luckily I have quite a collection of grain types and Abbie just so happened to eat the same thing as Johnny) and then left for the night. I went back out at midnight to make sure everyone was still alright and alive and they all seemed to be doing fine.

This morning C met me at the barn and we went out for a trail ride.It was cold but super fun to be able to ride together like we used to when we were kids. Our horses were always really good friends too (Emmy and Abbie) so they enjoyed each others company :)

I've got some pictures that I will put in a seperate post!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Heading Home

I've got everything for Johnny packed up and ready to ship home with him tomorrow. E rode him again today while I packed up his trunk and managed to get his right lead canter twice! I coached her a bit on how to set him up for it, but she managed to get it after a few tries. I was so excited because it means that Johnny's actually learning the cue and not just anticipating the way I ask him things :)

More tomorrow when we get settled in!!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back on his far, so good

Johnny's had almost a week off now since his first colic episode at the beginning of last week and has shown considerable improvement since Saturday's illness. We made a few diet changes and he's been getting mineral oil out the wazoo to hopefully get his digestive system working properly again. I'm going to start him on some Probiotics but I don't have any up at school (usually Emmy is the one with digestive upsets!) so that will have to wait until we ship home this weekend for winter break.

Yesterday I put him on the lunge for about 15 minutes and let him play a bit. He was getting SO bored not being ridden and it was starting to reflect a little in his sour attitude. He gets exceedingly pushy when he's cranky -.-
Anyway, so I stuck him on the lunge for a bit and boy was he fresh! Usually he is one of those horses that you have to fling a whip at to get him to go anywhere and so I brought one into the arena just in case, but as soon as I picked it up he was adios; squealing and leaping and attempting to buck and kick out. Unfortunatly he's so uncoordinated that it wasn't really working. It was actually really funny to watch because he would canter and then buck and kind of trip himself and have to trot a step or two and then canter again...poor horse lol. The good news is that we cantered on both leads right away and he seemed to have a much fresher attitude afterwards.

Today E and I hacked him a little and he was excellent! E rode first and he looked to happy and relaxed going around that his back was actually swinging and he wanted to drop his head down a bit. His left lead canter has gotten soooo much better! After she trotted and cantered a bit I got on and worked on his right lead, which he gave me easily on the second try. After that he got it right away when I asked him, cantered down the long side and around the corner before breaking. I don't usually push him much...I'll take what I can get at this stage!

He was really, really soft and supple today though. His sitting trot was really good and he was bending right away off my aides and moving away from my inside leg when I asked him (he looovvveeessss to drop his inside shoulder.) His right canter (funny thing...) is actually better than his left lead as far as the quality of the gait goes. Strange that the lead that was so hard to learn is actually the better balanced one... We also got a really nice simple change left to right across the diaganol. I played with him once a while ago to see if he would do it and he did right away, so now I work it into our daily "right lead canter" work. He learns A LOT from repetition and then tries to anticipate what you want, which I'm spinning to my advantage with this whole lead change thing. If I can routinely canter him across the diaganol and ask him for a simple change, we might be well on our way to a left to right flying :)

As for me, I'm getting ready to start packing up the apartment and heading home for winter break. Johnny is shipping home Saturday and I will be right behind him with a car full of stuff. It's back to the farm for us in just a few days! I will miss my indoor

Now it is time to start packing!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

What a week...

So it's been a little bit of the week from hell here lately. Johnny managed to colic twice this week for no apparent reason and on top of that I've been studying like crazy for finals and getting all sorts of loose ends tied up with classes. Not to mention that the temperatures this week plummeted down into the low 30s during the day and the 20s and high teens at night. We got our first snows this week and the ground has started to freeze over. Not ideal conditions for the late night camp outs at the barn with a sick horse. The good news is that Johnny looked better again today (although I'm still holding my breath because last time he was fine for 2 days and then got sick again.) I've got a few new pictures to add to this blog, mainly because I don't really have anything else to update.

Johnny in his stall (and very muddy) a few weeks ago

John's nameplate above his stall. All of the horses have matching ones :)

John's post-colic mush. All he gets is a couple handfuls and a whole bunch of water and mineral oil.

Johnny and Fino in the pasture today. There's like no grass left, but Johnny's trying anyway.

More updates as they come.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Goal Setting

Sunday night I finally sat down to renew my USEF/USHJA membership (seeing as how the new competition year begins...oh...TODAY) and while doing so, decided that now would be a pretty good time to set some showing and training goals for this year. This has always been a little hard for me to do because of the job I work in the summer. I'm an "A" Circuit groom for a hunter barn and therefore spend a lot of the summer traveling and not very much of it riding...last year while working the Cleveland show I had a days that went from 4am to midnight...4am-6 or 7pm at the horse show, then home ride 2-3 horses before dark (usually I was on them until long after dark...we have a single light on the back of the barn that makes a good 25 meter circle work able after dark) then clean them up, turn them out (nght turn out) and then clean 4 stalls. I usually got home around 11 or 11:30, ate, showered and went to bed only to do it all again the next day. Not that I'm complaining...I LOVE my job because I get to meet so many great people and work with so many great horses, plus I've learned a ton just by watching the horses go in the ring, but all of that plus traveling to away shows makes it hard to keep up with my own riding, training and showing goals. Since I pay for my horses myself and my parents decided to have 4 children who were pretty bright and therefore went to expensive private colleges, just paying for tuition is hard, which is another reason why I have to work as much as I can. In years past it's been a hard balance for me to find, but this year, I'm pretty determined to make it work.

After getting Johnny, I joined the Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Ohio (SPHO Ohio) and started looking into some of their shows. Since I joined at the end of the year, most of the shows had already passed. I looked back into them this year when the new show list came out, and unfortunatly the closest one for me is over 2 hours away, so I picked one show (The Grand Circuit Classic) within the association that I might like to try and go to, one rated show locally that is my favorite (The Chagrin Valley Classic, better known formerly as the Cleveland horse show or the Merrill Lynch show) and one BIG HONKING goal that is really going to be a challenge, The Standardbred National Horse Show. I spent all night paging through the online prize list from last year, jotting down notes and numbers. There are a zillion divisions that I would want to enter but because the show is about 7 hours from here, I can probably only afford to show in one or two (I also figured that if I'm going to haul Johnny 7 hours I should also make it worth our time to go there...) because of the costs. I have no idea how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to start by setting aside tip money from every show that I work this summer and see where we end up come time for the National. If I can afford it, then were off!!

Goals for Johnny this year include:
 - Firmly establishing a right lead canter (which he suddenly seems to have remembered how to do...we've been getting it right away all week!)
- Improving both canters on the flat (stretching down and coming rounder) and to and away from jumps (holding a consistant rhythm)
- Further improvements to the trot (again, stretching down and lifting his back as well as establishing a more forward and reaching "hunter trot")
- Once all of the above is accomplished, competing over fences and staying in the canter for the whole coarse with simple changes if needed.

Goals for myself for this year are pretty much centered around IHSA shows for right now...there are a few position things that I would like to tweak as well:
- Making it to Regionals (already almost qualified!) and qualifying again for Zones
- Making it through Zones and qualifying for Nationals
- Winning at Nationals. I was 4th last year and this year I REALLY want to be champion or reserve...preferably champion! lol
I also want to work on some position things for myself to improve my rides:
- Landing better in the heel over fences...I've been working on it and its getting better
- Keeping the eyes up and looking to the next fence...this will in turn help my shoulder from getting ahead
- Riding FORWARD to decisions.

We will see how this all goes...riding class today (hopefully riding my little buddy Cruz again!) and then a lesson with Kris on Thursday where I will go over these goals with her :)

Til next time,