Thursday, December 6, 2018

No Ceiling Challenge Accepted

all smiles

  I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, CONTACT.  Karen was showing off her impressive skills and her newly tried and found one-tempis.  If you have followed the blog long enough, you will know that once upon a time there was doubt if she would be riding past 2nd level with her handsome boy Hampton.  Clearly those doubters were on drugs because she has gone way above and beyond that with huge success.

  She challenged her readers to throw caution to the wind and try something above your level.  I love the idea of this challenge, especially after just seeing Charlotte Dujardin speak and encourage riders to do the same, make things messy, and have FUN!  So I accepted the challenge.  While counter canter may not be above my riding level, for now, it is above what Penny and I can do.

  Pennys canter is slowly getting stronger, but it still not great.  Basically she has an amazing canter, when she is out in the open and not being asked to sit. She has a huge stride, like 15ft average. We spent the majority of the last two years doing walk trot, poles, and about 10,000 transitions between walk, trot, and halt.  Our canter work started in the late fall and now we are able to really work on it and it feels like we are getting somewhere, slowly.  Back in September, I tried counter canter with Penny and failed miserably.  She just broke, ran off, did a change, and I laughed and laughed at how ugly and incapable we were.  We tried it a few times and determined she just wasn't ready for counter canter and to put that on the back burner.

 So what better time to try again than for this challenge.  Last night I hauled out for a ride and actually had my boyfriend with me for once, so I figured it the perfect opportunity to attempt some counter canter AND get the attempt on video!  Without further hesitation, I give you Penny and I's attempt at right lead counter canter.

  I started with right lead canter going large, riding shoulder fore to straighten her and get her more balance under herself.  Then add a 15m circle to further set her back and help create bend.  Then again down the long side in shoulder fore, and across the diagonal to change rein into the counter canter.  I was only going to ask for a few strides but she gave me such a good feeling we carried on along the short and long wall!   It's a bit hurried, it's a bit unbalanced and hollow, but we did it!  What we couldn't do even one stride of a few months ago, we now did about 20 strides of, and it didn't feel all that terrible!  We can now keep building on this, and have another exercise to help strenghten her canter even further.

 This was such a fun challenge that I might have to do another one.

  So go, give the No Ceiling challenge a try!   

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pretty Little Farm - The Barn

my fav tree

  I introduced the story of my new farm in this post.  If you have been following along you will know that it was not actually moving into my "dream home" when I moved, but that doesn't mean I don't think it will be one day.   Obviously when moving with horses, the horses are the biggest priority.  I can put up with just about anything, but my horses needed a set up that would continue them to thrive, and keep the move as stress free as possible.   When I bought the farm, I had down sized by 3 horses in the span of a few months.  I was going to stick with 3 horses, and I needed my barn to have at least 3 stalls and room for tack and feed.  Nothing fancy, just functional.  Luckily I was able to keep my horses at my parents until May, to give me time to get the barn and pastures ready.

  When I bought the house and got the keys, it was time to really take a good look at things.  The sale was quick and we just did a speedy walk through.  Of course I wanted to check out the barn and land first!  The barn was a decent size, not big, not too small.  It had a little room like a shop and some weird rooms that had reminisce of chicken feathers and shit everywhere.  I picked up these big metal hooks and turned to my mom and said -"hey! old hay hooks, cool, these are awesome and hard to find".  My mom just looks at me and says "ugh, I think those are MEAT hooks".  Oh my god, I just about threw them and the smile ran off my face.  I'm not exactly a big fan of meat, but the thought of whatever happened in that barn worried me.

The barn from the start - innocent looking enough
more garbage
moving garbage
garbage moved from behind the barn
one of the many rabbit hutches
The rabbit hutches out front demolished
The rabbit hutches standing....inside they are full of garbage and shit
oh look, more garbage

  It turns out, in the 80's it was a butcher shop.  The butcher also used to run a sort of trading post from the farm too, and take basically anything as a trade for meat.  I heard the man would routinely throw things into the field, and there was a huge pile of bones and garbage constantly behind the barn. Looking at the barn, and the property, I wasn't surprised to learn this. Disturbed, yes, surprised no.  The barn was also full of rabbit hutches, to add to the horror of this place, there were once around 40 rabbits who lived in the barn and around the property, some severely neglected.  At one point the SPCA was involved and the bunnies and poultry were rehomed.  The interesting thing was the last owner had clearly spent countless hours creating water lines and nice cages for the bunnies, only to completely neglect to feed and care for them.

  Our first task was to take down and remove all of the rabbit cages.  Then, clean all the old hay and rabbit shit out of the barn.  There were also rocks galore in the barn, and those all had to be removed by hand.  I used the rocks to outline my first garden, and it worked so perfectly.  One thing I love about reno-ing this farm, is re-purposing everything and cleaning it to make it new, healthy, and beautiful again.  Under all those hutches and shit, was a nice concrete floor. that covered one side of the barn, the aisle and halfway into the other side.  This would be perfect flooring for the tack room area and aisle.   I was also lucky to have a decent hay loft on one side of the barn.

The outer wall before
the start of the Garden of Weeden feat barn rocks

rmoving the rotten exterior wall
cleaning up the front area
new siding on the front
the meat cooler becoming a stall
Framing Valley and was Indys stall

  Once everything was removed from the barn, the footing was smoothed out.  Then it was time to frame.  My dad and boyfriend did this entirely on their own. I helped hold and fetch things.  We made 2 stalls on the West side, and a stall and the tack room on the East side.  The stall on the East side was Pennys originally, and it was the hardest to get ready.  We had to remove all the old insulation which was full of old rat nests and dead animals.  This area was actually the meat cooler of the butcher shop.  For two days the guys worked their asses off, and the barn began to take shape.  Three cute stalls, with rubber mats layed down.  I used quick-crete in the back of the stalls that had 1/2 dirt floors to even them out and it worked perfectly.  

Valley hanging out in her new stall
Stevie hanging in front of the new barn
Penny in her stall. Notice my makeshift window I made since it was so bloody hot last summer!
Ready for ponies!!
The meat cooler is now a stall!
the aisle way
Indys stall :(
taking shape!

  We also redid the outside of the barn removing the old cheap plywood and insulation, and re-insulating and putting new ply wood up.  Eventually I will do board and batten on the outside.  I had brought my stall gates from my old farm (racing style) and re painted them.  With those hung, and just the finishing touches like blanket racks, hooks, and some style, the barn was ready to welcome horses.  I still didn't have electricity or water at this time, but it would come in time.  No matter how bad I wanted everything done right away, time and especially money just don't make it possible.  But I realized one thing I do have control over is how much work I can do physically myself.  If I can't afford to do something I want, like getting another dumpster for yet more garbage, I can instead just work my butt off picking up and bagging what I can for the dump.

  Although I knew it would be hard work at this place, I didn't realize just how hard, how long it would take, and how never ending the work is.  But seeing my horses sleeping under my favourite tree, or greeting me at the gate at the end of the day makes it all worth it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Same Sire - Compare the Mares

Fresh off the track - hard to believe how much smaller Valley is here!

  My girl Valley and my moms girl Veronica are both by the Thoroughbred stallion Vibank.  Vibank was a fairly successful race horse at a young age then sort of fizzled out.  He was top earning sire a few years back though, and our girls did OK at the track for short careers.  You can certainly tell he stamps his babies as they both have the same beautiful dark bay coat he does.  I am constantly fascinated by analyzing the similarities and differences in these two mares.  It gives me a little glimpse into what a stallion passes and what a mare passes onto their kin.

Vibank PC: Pedigree

I think this is Ronnie in the back? I can't tell lol

Valley at the track

Ronnie at the track PC: Norm F

  So what is similar about Valley and Ronnie?  For starters they are both a beautiful dark bay.  They both have identical small white stars.  They are both SO unbelievably level headed.  You can give them a week, two, a month, or 4 off and when you ride, they are as good as they would be if they hadn't missed a day.  They are both easy keepers and good eaters.  Neither of them are spooky whatsoever.  Both have above average movement for Thoroughbreds.  I would say, above, above average even. They also both go in the same bit, a simple fat D hunter snaffle, in a plain cavesson.

Valley shortly after retiring from the track
Valley last summer - shes way bigger now
Ronnie this spring
Ronnie this spring

Ronnies first show

 What is different about the two Vs?  The first thing you would notice is size!  Valley is 17.1h, and Ronnie is 15.3h.  Valley is a year younger, but shes soooo much bigger.  Their conformation is different too. Valley is uphill with a huge barrel, and Ronnie is a bit sway backed, and sleeker.  Valley is very shy although she is coming out of her shell, whereas Ronnie is super snuggly and loves to cuddle.  Ronnie is a bit spicier than Valley (although never malicious), she can be a bit nappy at times, but Valley is always 100 willing.  Valley is more vocal and insecure.

Valley May 2018
Ronnie Aug 2018

  Since neither have done much jumping, I can't say how they compare there just yet.  I did however just find out, they have another 1/2 sister (a mare by Vibank) who has succesfully competed 2*.  She looks more like Ronnie in my opinion.  I can only hope the jumping ability was inherited from Vibank!

  Although it is taboo to call them sisters when they are technically 1/2 sisters, and for some reason in the Thoroughbred world it is frowned upon, I don't care.  I like to live dangerously.  I will continue to refer to them as sisters and now I will refer to this superstar mare above as their sister also.  Just try and stop me.  Also, I know I am a super stalker of this mare but I also don't care about that either.  She has given me great inspiration for the two Vs.   To know that one of Vibanks foals has gone on to event that successfully is really encouraging.

Valley Sept 2018
Ronnie Sept 2018 PC: Darlene Shantz
Valley Sept 2018 - big girl

Ron June 2018 - more my size

  I forgot one more thing the girls have in common.  They both won every single class they entered this year!  That was only 2 shows for Valley (Trot A Trail Short Course haha) and many classes for Miss Ron in the dressage ring.

Ronnie with some of her satin
Valley with hers

  Can you tell they are related?  Do you own any horse siblings?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Jump Lesson with Penny Sunday Dec 2 2018

my fav carrot faced gal
  I'm just living the dream here getting to do jumping lessons two weekends in a row.  Having been somewhat jumping coach less for a year I am SO HAPPY to have found someone I can ride with on a regular basis, who also is also turning out to be an awesome coach.  I went over the barn where I have been trailering out to yesterday for an afternoon lesson with V, who I cliniced with last weekend.

  Penny had a few days off at the start of last week, with her busy weekend, and then I schooled Weds/Fri and Saturday I took her to my moms for a ride.  She was again a bit excited with the commotion in the barn but once we started warming up for our lesson she settled.  She was much quieter than the weekend before which was nice.

  We started the lesson with our regular warm up, and V reminded me to keep my reins nice and short and be soft.  She had 3 poles set up across the middle of the ring, and we did figure eights at the trot through the poles.  I was told to let Penny go more forward into the poles so her stride opens and stretches more, so she doesn't feel like she has to rush to get the distance.  Penny also falls in left so I was reminded to keep that left leg on through the turn and help her bend and maintain a better balance.

  From there, we added a canter after the poles.  For Penny, we keep the poles and transition quiet.  My body and hands soft, everything very quiet and like glass. We canter around the short end and back around, down to trot and then change rein over the poles and canter the opposite direction.  We repeated this figure eight until the horses were relaxing into the exercise and moving well.  We then added onto the exercise, after picking up the canter, canter large, and on the long side tear drop back to the wall keeping the counter canter.  A simple change through trot, then back to the poles in the center, trotting beforehand, pick up canter opposite direction after, then again around a tear drop with simple change on the other rein.

some of the exercise set up, but at my moms to try with Ronnie

  This was such a good exercise, I had to try it with Ronnie later that night.  For Penny and I, I really had to work on just keeping my hands as soft as possible, and letting her canter into a longer stride and not using too much inside leg.  In the tear drops I was to use as little hand as possible and push her stride longer coming towards the wall before the simple change.  I also had to be careful not to let her rush or do the change on her own.  The exercise helped set Penny up and allowed me to let the exercise do the work for me so I didn't get into a pulling strength battle.  Penny was actually very good throughout this whole thing!  Her rideability is already a huge improvement from years past.

  We expanded on things with the same exercise and then added a waiting line.  The waiting line is where things start to fall a bit apart for us.  I basically take back too much stride, then she is too short and goes crooked and jumps in small then either has too many strides or guns it out of the line.  Our goal is to have 5 easy even strides.  At first we got 6, then 4, then 5 but three good ones and two at the end that were more like rockets.  I had to pull her up once, which was an improvement from the many times last weekend.   V told me to ride her more forward in so she isn't feeling so backed off to start, then maintain and be ready if she does try to run off.  She did the 5 in a decent manner.  Not perfect by any means, but a huge improvement.

To finish, we added two more verticals on the diagonal that we would do off the rail after the exercise.  Our first attempt Penny gunned herself at the jump. Again I just took too much of her back and she got crooked.  She had me do the circle over the poles, then around to the single diagonal again, letting her canter and then just being as soft as can be.   We cantered around the short end, and then down to the fence and actually maintained the pace perfectly throughout and she nailed the distance and jumped beautifully.  We all cheered and V laughed that she didn't think she was going to do it, but she did! I laughed and said I didn't think she was going to either, but she did! We can learn! Yay! haha.  

For the first time ever I have to clip this sweaty lady! Its been unseasonably warm

  We finished the lesson on that great note and had a nice long cool down after.  While we still have a long road ahead of us to get her rideable enough to upgrade this summer, I feel like we have made a great start.  I am so looking forward to have some regular help this winter from a talented instructor.  I gave her a massage later that night to help her relax.  I think it worked :)

totally sleepy after her massage - shes just loose in the barn lol 

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