She does *everything*

Oh wow, I’m way behind. Way, way behind.

I’m still riding Champ, every other day. Not much new there – he’s gaining weight, slowly but steadily, and losing hair, slowly but steadily. Much to his chagrin I’ve switched him over to Dixie’s bridle (with the d-ring snaffle, instead of his unbroken low port curb) and we are working on contact. It’s good practice for me. My hands are steadily improving. So much, in fact, that I am getting baby callouses on the tops of my index fingers, where the reins sit. Not big “I have hard hands and need gloves” callouses, but very delicate callouses from holding the reins correctly for a couple weeks straight.

I’ve ridden Dixie three times this week. On Monday the BO saw me riding and offered some tips on getting her on the bit. She coached me through a couple circles til I felt the bend – yay! I think I must take at least a lesson a month, to keep in mind what I need to work on. Anyway then she got on Dixie and worked her in a couple more circles… and Dixie trotted for her. It was cool – a very flat extended trot – but WEIRD! I’ve never had her offer to trot under saddle with me. It’s official; I’ve now seen every major gait possible from her except a running walk. Sigh – I know a good true RW is hard to get, and I know we’ll get there one day, but it’s kind of discouraging. Like if my racking horse wouldn’t rack, or my MFT wouldn’t foxtrot.

Tuesday I rode Champ, then the vet came and gave everybody spring shots. I figured they might feel stiff and/or icky Wednesday, so I stayed home.

Thursday was WARM! Finally hit the magic 70*F, so I wanted to ride Dixie then bathe her. Our ride was… very interesting. I was all prepared to not let her yank the reins, but she… didn’t. At all. She was completely calm and laid back. She didn’t object to contact at all. She didn’t freak out, hollow her back, and try to bolt even ONCE. We did some very calm peaceful walk work, then some hand grazing, then a bath.

Her life with me is an exciting mix of fun and horrible. She’s coming around to being groomed, all over, every day – that’s moving from “horrible” to “almost pleasant,” I believe. Then I ride her, which is usually exciting and also becoming less “horrible.” Sometimes I hand graze her or clicker train her, which is full on “fun.” But then! Then! I bathed her. Truly horrible.

I am pretty sure she’s never had a real bath before. She’s been hosed down, but I don’t think she’s ever had a warm water and shampoo bath in a shower stall before. She was not thrilled but put up with it pretty well. I broke my own rule about “no magical horse products” and used Expensive Magical White Horse Shampoo… which worked. She’s noticeably more sparkly. Her mane and tail are less dirty but sadly nowhere near white. No pictures til she’s cleaner!

Anyway, I wondered if the unusual calmness was a one-off so I rode her again today. She gave me a nice rack at the beginning, then some good walk work with almost no fighting the bit, then a little pacing, then some more nice calm walk work. I let her walk around on a loose rein for a bit, and she walked over to the corner where the jumps and cavalletti are stored. On her own! She very carefully investigated, giving the hairy eyeball to the wood and sniffing at it like a huge dog. When she was satisfied that the jumps were safe, we walked around a bit more and called it a day.

I coaxed her back into the wash stall. Much snorting and eye rolling but she came right in when she realized I was serious. It’s entirely too early for me to actually SAY this… but I suspect maybe she’s starting to trust me. MAYYYBE.

We’ve got to pace ourselves…

My husband came out and took pictures yesterday! Yay!

I did some c/t to get Dixie to stand still so I could mount. It worked fantastically well. I feel pretty stupid for not having thought of this earlier. (Well, I couldn’t have thought of it very much earlier; I just started clicker work with her in February. But I could’ve tried clickering her last February!) I suppose next I should introduce the mounting block. She is within 1/2″ of being too tall for me to mount from the ground, and I know it’s not good for her back for me to clamber up on her like I do.

She was less awful about the bit. Not great, not like she was in January and February at Hillside, but she wasn’t trying 100% of the time to rip the reins out of my hands. I think, in the absence of any better idea, that I’ll just keep ignoring her bad behavior. Don’t reward it, don’t punish it, and maybe it’ll extinguish.

And look! I have video of the rare and wonderful* pace!
*Actually, it’s common and uncomfortable.

Dixie, pace and rack (?) from Funder on Vimeo.

I think at the very end of the video she breaks into a rack for just a couple seconds. When she switched out of the pace into something more comfortable I quit urging her forward and let her come back down to a walk.

She doesn’t usually pace, but that’s all she did yesterday. I have five more little videos… all pacey. Weird. I’m off to read up on the pace and how to help her not do it.

OW OW OW DAMMIT DIXIE

She stepped on MY FOOT! There is a huge bruise on it. All my toes work so no serious damage was done.

The foot squashing occurred during a huge grooming session. I finally turned the corner with her coat – she’s still pretty shaggy but I can see the summer coat under the extra fuzz. Finally!

I thought perhaps I should try the lunging thing. I don’t generally lunge before I ride; it’s just not my thing. But she was so crazy the other day that I thought it was worth a shot today. Unfortunately it is not the answer with Dixie. It just got her MORE worked up. When I mounted she was even wilder than Tuesday.

I ended up working through it better this time. We hung out in the corner of the arena nearest her and Champ’s stalls. When she calmed down a tiny bit, we started walking in very small circles, near her stall wall, gradually increasing in size. Eventually we were calmly walking the entire arena.

She was horrid about the bit again. Non stop head tossing and yanking. I decided this time to pretty much ignore her. I kept the exact same very light contact no matter what she did, which was a nice hand exercise for me and very annoying for her.

After like 40 minutes she finally gave in and wanted to stretch her neck out. I let her stretch out into very light contact for a couple laps, then slowly picked her head back up and urged her up into gait. We gaited two circles, then back to a walk, switched directions, and repeated. Then we were done!

She’s back to switching gaits constantly. I am going to try to get the Reluctant Photographer Husband to come video us this weekend and figure out what she’s doing. Feels like pace to rack, then either a couple strides of canter or a couple strides of running walk in the turns.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and pretty, then rain again over the weekend. I might take Champ out to the park again while I’ve got the chance!

I do not, in general, believe in magical fixes. But I am mildly hopeful that getting Dixie’s teeth floated will help with the bit. Maybe she has wolf teeth coming in? She’s way worse about contact since we moved.

Another world

The first day I went out to see my horses in their new digs was, of course, the first time I’d seen the new barn in real life. The BO showed me around and asked how I liked it. Did it look like the pictures she’d emailed me?

I assured her it was just lovely, and it is! Yall have seen pics of it. It’s definitely the nicest place I’ve ever boarded, loads better than the Frayser barn. For comparison, here’s some pics of the Frayser barn.

I wanted to begin to try to explain to the new BO how … strange things were at the old barn – in most barns I’ve seen – without sounding like a looney.

“Ok, look, at the old barn, we all got the horse catalogs, like KV Vet and Country Supply. We liked to look through them, like every other horse person in the world. But the only place I’d ever seen, say, stall mats, was in the catalogs. I didn’t know anybody who even had cement floors, much less stall mats!” (This isn’t strictly true – Hillside had a fairly nice modern barn with floor mats and everything, but it was such an anomaly strictly because it was so nice.)

She laughed, and I changed the subject.

Yesterday I saw her again when I was finishing up with Champ. I noticed my name was on the whiteboard, with “70” written next to it, and I asked her what that was for. She said it was the cost to get both horses’ teeth floated by the equine dentist, if I wanted.

“I don’t know when they last had their teeth done, so I wanted to ask you. It’s free for him to look at them, but it’s 35 per horse if they need work.”

I grinned. “Yes! I definitely want them both floated! Neither of them has ever been done and I’m sure they need it; Champ especially has whole grain in his poop. I think he’d really benefit from it.”

She blinked, looked at me, looked at Champ. “He’s how old again?”

“Sixteen.”

“Never been floated? Oh my god I’m sure he’s got caps and hooks and…” She trailed off, blinking at us again, no doubt wondering what kind of heathen she’d let board at her barn.

“Ok, look, I’ve never met a real equine dentist. Two years ago, my friend let the vet float her stud’s teeth when he came out to do Coggins-“

She interrupted. “A vet floating teeth?”

“Yeah, I know it’s not ideal, but it’s like the stall mats – I know they exist, from the internet, but I’d never seen one before. So my friend let the vet float her stud’s teeth and the poor guy bled from his gums for two days and couldn’t eat without Bute. I figured my horses were better off with hooks and caps than having that done to them.”

“Yeah, no kidding!”

“But yeah, I’m very interested in having a real equine dentist look at my horses. That sounds awesome!”

So my horses are finally moving into the 21st century.

Two rides, one injury

Yesterday I rode Dixie and then rasped half my knuckle off. The searing pain in my finger greatly decreased my desire to blog. Today I rode Champ and managed to not injure myself any further. My finger even feels better! Yippie!

So. Yesterday. I got great gobs of hair off of the white yak, but the end is nowhere in sight. Surely this too shall pass? Eventually I figured I’d gotten off enough hair so that the saddle wouldn’t slip loose on a magic carpet of fur. Time to ride!

We usually start off our sessions at a brisk rack for a couple laps, til Dixie calms down and decides to try to listen and cooperate. Yesterday, we started off at a brisk canter. We got in a huge fight about whether or not she’d get to canter wildly, then I decided I didn’t want to have that particular fight. I let her go.

We cantered around the indoor for about 15 minutes. The first three times she tried to slow down, I goosed her back up into a canter. You want to run? LET’S RUN. Eventually when I figured she’d gotten my point, I asked her to slow down and she very politely did.

We rode around for another 30 or 45 minutes. There’s so many things I need to work on, but I don’t feel like I know enough to do them properly, or I only know what I want and not how to get it. Pretty depressing. I kept riding anyway, trying to keep pushing her forward with my legs, keep her straight except for when I wanted her to bend, find some contact. At one point she finally wanted to stretch her neck out and down, so I let her stretch out as we walked. Then I very very carefully picked the contact back up and very carefully brought up the energy in my legs. We got a really nice active walk on the bit! We! Me and Dixie! Wheeeee!

I quit on that high note. I still don’t feel like I have much of a clue about what I’m doing, but… that was nice.

I turned Dixie back out to roll and grabbed Champ. I was planning on taking pics of his hooves and trimming them a bit, but I haven’t found my trimming gloves. I’ve been trimming for like two years now, surely I won’t rasp my hands, right? Wrong. I got both front hooves rolled before I rasped my poor middle finger knuckle. Blood everywhere. I got blood all over my jeans trying to get it to stop, and I almost bled all over the camera before I gave up and wrapped it in a piece of napkin and some vet wrap.

Today I went back for vengeance. Champ did not make me rasp my knuckle – only my clumsiness did that – but he didn’t exactly make it easy for me to succeed. He kept yanking his hooves away and whinnying for Dixie, so I was trying to hold his hoof on the stand and put my finger in the path of the rasp. Hmph. So I went in today to make him sweat for my poor finger.

We did w/t circles for a while, then I decided I wanted to try Champ in the snaffle again. I swapped out his bridle for Dixie’s and maaaaan he was pissed. But he listened fine! More w/t circles, with me trying to get a canter out of him and no luck at all. He doesn’t really canter, he just switches from a very fast trot to a full gallop. I’d really like to have a canter. Yet another thing I don’t really know how to teach my horses. :(