Archive of ‘Equestrian’ category

Cold Weather Riding

The forecast in the next week or so in north Texas is COLD! Highs will be in the 40s and lows in the 20s, plus it feels colder because the air is humid. Mind you the temps in my hometown in Montana are MUCH colder with highs in the single digits and lows well below zero, but consistently freezing weather in north Texas is pretty cold. At times like this I try to remind myself how miserable it is to ride when it is in the 90s and humid in the summer so I can motivate myself to take advantage of not roasting. It can be difficult.

I wish I had photos from winter rides during my childhood. I can remember helping friends move cattle and 20 minutes into the ride I couldn’t feel my feet. By the time we were done moving the cattle or whatever task we were seeking to accomplish I likely couldn’t feel most of my face, my hands and below my knees! I didn’t ride regularly in the winter as a kid. Usually the winter was when I participated in some school sport like basketball or volleyball. My horses always got the winters off to get fat and hairy and have some down time.

We never had a horse colic in the wintertime, either. My parents had a very successful program for winter horse management. The horses had plenty of shelter and hay to keep warm and dry plus our stall runs and pastures had access to Ritchie horse waterers which NEVER froze. Horses don’t like to drink freezing cold water and if they don’t drink enough water they can get impactions in their gut which cause colic. It is vital that they have access to clean, not-freezing drinking water at all times.

Now that I live in Texas, winter is my favorite time to ride. It generally doesn’t get much below 40 for most of the season, so with enough clothing it is comfortable to be outside.

Sterling decked out in his winter riding attire.

When it really is “cold” I use some extra horse clothing to keep them warm while I ride. The quarter sheet covers their hind end, which is where some of their largest muscles are located. Quarter sheets are usually made from some type of fleece or wool fabric so when they do get hot it wicks away the moisture. I keep my horses under lights all year (this tricks their body into not knowing when the seasons change so they don’t grow thick winter coats) so they don’t get super woolly. Because of their lack of winter coat they need blankets when many fuzzy horses don’t. It seems cruel to take off their warm blanket to go ride and not cover them up at all, so I use a quarter sheet.

Bundled up rider, but less bundled up horse.

When we really get to working I will remove the quarter sheet so as to not overheat the horse, which can be worse than getting cold. It is much easier to get a horse warm than it is to cool them out in the winter time. At the horse show we went to a couple weeks ago many riders used a quarter sheet right up until they went into the show ring and put it on as soon as they came out. The older the horse is and the harder it is working, the more important it is to keep those muscles warm and prevent cramping and discomfort.

My tack room is heated so my horses also don’t have to deal with freezing cold bits in their mouths. When I go to fox hunts I often put my bridle in the floor board of the pickup under the heater so when we get to the hunt they get a nice warm bit in their mouth.

As far as keeping myself warm, I’m a big fan of layers. Especially in Texas where it often feels really cold when I first go outside, but as I start moving around I get warmer and warmer. Layers allow the removal of extra clothing so I don’t get too hot. And my favorite way to keep my ears warm under my helmet is with “hunter hair”. Hunter hair is accomplished by putting your (long) hair in a ponytail with hair covering your ears and a hairnet over your whole head to keep your hair in place. You flip the ponytail up and put the helmet over your hair. This makes your hair an ear warmer! Brilliant!

You can kind of see my hunter hair covering my ears. It works much better and is far less bulky than any type of headband to cover your ears under a helmet.winter r

If I still lived in Montana I’m pretty sure my horses would still get winters off and I would spend the season gaining the festive fifteen from eating too much and not getting enough exercise. I’m looking forward to lots more winter and spring rides before hot Texas summer returns.

Farm Friday 12.22.2017

Y’all. I have purchased about 4 Christmas gifts and didn’t do cards yet. #christmas2017fail  Oh well. I still love you all and wish you a VERY Merry Christmas!

It rained a couple inches this week so I kept the horses up for a few days to allow the pasture to recover a bit. Simon took full advantage of the mud to pursue a new hair color. Or to become a mud monster.

 

Jaguar came out of his stall quite lame yesterday and scared me half to death that he was foundering. My kind neighbor gave him some bute while I was at work and I packed his feet last night. It seems to be more of a sore feet from the rain issue than founder. This is Jaguar with his hoof pack booties on in festive green. He seemed much better this morning and it’s raining again so all horses are in the barn for a couple more days.

 

The First EVER Winter Frost Fire Horse Show

This past weekend my grey unicorn and I were back in the show ring and it was a GOOD weekend! The Winter Frost Fire show was held at The Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas. This was the first year to hold a show at this venue on this particular weekend. I loved that it was so close to Christmas, but since it was the first year for the show and amidst the holidays it was not a huge show. I don’t love crowds and have yet to attend one of the really big Texas shows so this suited me just fine.

Sterling is still dutifully toting me around as I try to figure out how to properly ride him around a course of 2’6″ jumps and by golly this weekend I made it happen more often than not for the first time ever! I intend for this blog to be interesting to read for my friends and family who don’t ride so I’m not going to go into great detail, but rather give a fun overview of the weekend.

Sterling in his festive braids waiting for his turn in the ring.

 

Since it was a small show I also took this weekend as an opportunity to practice my mane braiding skills. Most ‘A’ show riders hire professional braiders to braid their horse’s mane so that it looks perfect. When I showed Quarter Horses as a kid this wasn’t an option so I always banded my own horse’s mane (this is done for western stock horse events) and when I got the chance I would braid my English horses. I am a self taught braider so my technique was rather rough and inconsistent. My horsey bestie is a fabulous braider and we have practiced together a few times and she gave me pointers so I was able to braid Sterling myself for this show and it wasn’t embarrassing! She put the pom pom in his forelock and a snowflake charm on one of his mane braids, but I did the rest.

My perfect unicorn!

I showed in the Modified Adult Division at this show over fences that are 2’6″. My goal going into the weekend was to keep a consistent canter around the entire course and NOT try to find any distances myself, just leave it to Sterling. I’m so proud to say that I stuck to it about 90% of the time around all 6 jumping courses. There were a few times when I had a brain freeze and threw him away right at an oxer or thought I saw a distance and made him get close to a fence, but they were few and far between. We came home with TWO blue ribbons over fences! I’m riding much more consistently and I think I’m starting to actually be able to feel the proper ride. This has been the hardest part of learning to jump for me is learning the feel. Everything else has come to me so naturally when I ride, it can be maddening that I think I’m doing something right when in reality I’m doing something very wrong.

Sterling has been a saint through my learning process. Not many green horses would put up with the mistakes that I have made over the years as Sterling and I have learned this whole jumping gig together. Thankfully he LOVES his job and while he can be a goofball on the ground, he is nearly always the same horse under saddle. He LOVES to jump and he LOVES to horse show. I am by no means a proficient rider over fences, but I do think I’ve reached a turning point and can finally start working on more of the polished nuances of riding a course rather than just trying to get around without embarrassing myself, my horse and my trainer.

Posing in front of the award winning Christmas stall decorations of JNL Stables.

I even kept it together and had as good of a second day showing as I did first day. I made a mistake in the walk to canter transition in the flat class that probably cost us the blue ribbon, but even that was better than the last show. All in all we won two blue ribbons over fences, three second place ribbons and one third place ribbon in addition to our second place in the flat class. I’m SO happy with this show being our conclusion to the 2017 show year! Hopefully we will be able to move up to the Adult Amateur division in 2018.

The final night of the horse show was a $10,000 1.35 jumper class with a leadline division between the first jumper round and the jump-off. What in the world could be cuter than a little girl on her gray pony with all kinds of Christmas bling AND Santa?

Cutest little leadliner!

Practice Makes Perfect

Sterling and I have been showing at regional and rated shows for about 3 1/2 years now. Pretty much all three years we have been showing over 2’6″ fences because I was basically starting at zero. I REALLY want to move up to bigger fences, but the only way to to do that is to ride better and to ride better I need to jump more. The primary barrier to that has been that the trainer I ride with at horse shows is located about four hours away from me and I really only see her at horse shows. To remedy that I started taking more lessons with a couple of trainers close to me who have similar approaches to riding and jumping to my horse show trainer. I still don’t get lessons as often as I should and now that fox hunting will be starting it will be even harder, but I’m committed to doing it both for me and for my horses. I want to bring Coco along correctly and not put her through the misery of my beginner mistakes that Sterling was such a saint about dealing with.

In that vein I had a lesson on Sterling last Saturday and it was SO FUN! The barn is a primarily jumper barn so the jumps are much wilder looking than hunter fences. Sterling has always been a brave jumper (he isn’t brave in any other aspect of his life, though. Remember trail rides?) so wasn’t phased by the crazy striped poles. He even jumped a liverpool with no hesitation! Most horses freak out the first time they jump a liverpool because they are moats of horse-eating scariness. Not Sterling. Other than me riding like a dufus he was perfect.

This is a liverpool jump. I don’t think we were jumping anywhere near this height, but you get an idea of what it looks like.

I made a ton of mistakes throughout the lesson, but he marched right along and WE JUMPED AROUND OUR FIRST EVER 3′ COURSE! This trainer had given us some lessons when I was first starting to jump Sterling and she commented about how much more forward he is now, so at least I’ve done something right along the way. We got our strides down every line and didn’t have any hard chips. A few close spots and a couple Tara-why-are-you-looking-down-and-not-forward moments, but I did better at keeping him forward and even used too much leg a couple times.

This isn’t from our lesson, but it is a pretty pic of Sterling at the horse show in Katy last weekend. Hopefully we can continue to get more lessons in and move up to bigger fences at the shows sooner rather than later. He’s such a good boy!

Photo by Jerry Mohme. It looks like we are in a forest, but we aren’t.

Britannia Farm HORSE SHOW!

Sterling and I FINALLY got to go to a horse show this past weekend! It was an eventful trip getting to Katy. If you saw any of my social media posts you’ll see that my pickup broke on the trip down on Friday. Thankfully it was fixable in a day and the Firestone crew was AMAZING! We didn’t get to the show grounds in time to ride on Friday as we had intended, but such is life. I did lunge Sterling on Friday evening and he was surprisingly chill after standing on the trailer for 10 hours!

We hadn’t been to a show since February so I wanted to see what kind of horse I had early Saturday morning. We got to our ring well before the show started and hacked around in the dark. There was one other horse in the ring at the same time and all was well until the other horse started acting up and rearing. Sterling can be greatly influenced by the demeanor of horses around him so we got out of there and ended our morning hack on a good note. All seemed well!

I tacked up about 45 minutes before my division was slated to start and headed to the warmup. He was looking around a lot, but he seemed happy. The more we worked the more agitated he became. As a kid I would always show my horse in a different bit than I used at home. It was a way to “tell” my horse that this was a show and not just practice. It worked well for the western horses because they would go nicely in an easy bit and I would use a slightly stronger bit at the shows to better get their attention. This method evidently does NOT work with Sterling! We went over a few warm-up fences and he was clearly getting MAD! There were two trips until mine so I hurried back to the stalls and put his “practice” bit on. It didn’t completely change his demeanor, but he was most definitely not angry about the bit in his mouth any more!

I made a few rider errors on Saturday and we had a close spot (a “chip” in jumping horse lingo) in all of our courses so got 2nd out of 2 in all 3 over fence classes. The other horse was really fancy so we were also 2nd in the hack. Sunday was MUCH better! Sterling was very calm and never agitated by the bit in his mouth. I made a couple mistakes and he was spooking at a wheelbarrow by the judge’s stand in all our trips, but the last one was pretty solid and we won that round!

This is a video taken by a fabulous barn mom of our last trip of the day and the round that we won.

Now that Sterling and I are both a little bit more seasoned at the hunter horse show gig I know that he is quite sensitive and if I try to make a strong fix during a course, he will respond with a strong reaction. I have to correct quietly and when in doubt (which is usually the case!), just leave him alone. I’m pretty darn lucky that he’s been as tolerant of my learning curve at the same time he’s been learning!

 

Horsey Blog Hop | 10 October Questions

Every once in a while I see a blog hop list of questions and I can’t help myself but participate. This list is from In Omnia Paratus, however I first saw it on HelloMyLivia.

    1. Most equestrians quote fall as their favorite season to ride. Are you one of those that does? Or maybe not; what is your favorite season to ride, if so?

I love spring and fall, probably equally. Spring is great because the weather is nice and the days are getting longer. Fall is great because the weather is nice, but sadly the days are getting shorter.

    2. Do you clip your horse in the fall? Or maybe you wait a little longer?

I’ll probably have to clip Sterling if we go to very many horse shows. I’m not using my own horse for fox hunting, so don’t need to clip Simon yet.

    3. Have any costume riding events in October on/near/around Halloween? What will your horse be dressed as? What about yourself? What would you dress as if money/time were absolutely no issue?

I generally hate dressing up in a costume. None of the shows I’m going to have a costume class, but a few years ago I rode Jaguar at a show and dressed up as a rodeo queen!

I really was a rodeo princess when I was 11, so I actually did win that sash!

    4. Is your horse afraid of any autumn colors? Or maybe has a certain quirk that appears only in the autumn?

The only thing I can think of that changes my horses’ demeanor in the fall is just the drop in temps. Cooler weather generally makes horses friskier!

    5. Pumpkin spice. It’s everywhere right now. Find any natural pumpkin [squash] spice-esque recipes for your horse?

We used to get rotten pumpkins from a nearby church’s pumpkin patch for our goats and chickens to eat. This often resulted in random pumpkin plants growing around our property so all our animals are fans of eating pumpkins raw!

    6. We’re getting to the end of the calendar year, any final few “big-bang” shows to look forward to?

Yes! Sterling and I are headed to Katy this week for the Britannia Farm Fall Classic. Hopefully we will make it to a couple more shows before the first of the year.

    7. Winter is coming. What are you doing to winterize your trailer/rig/car?

Making sure that my hand warmers, extra socks and coats are stored in the trailer for me and that there are coolers and blankets for my horse! Thankfully winter is generally pretty docile in Texas.

    8. Do you have any autumn traditions you/your horse follow?

Deep cleaning the barn to get the cob webs and dust out since they are more likely to be stuck inside during icy weather. Fox hunting, OBVIOUSLY!

    9. October in many places marks the beginning of deer hunting season. Does this affect your riding at all? Do you wear blaze orange or modify your schedule to accommodate the season?

October his cub hunting season for fox hunting and the beginning of November is the opening of formal season. I opt for a red coat rather than orange. We do have to be aware of deer hunters when we are fox hunting and we generally avoid properties where deer hunting is active.

    10. What are you most looking forward to goal-wise as the final months of the calendar year approach?

I’m so excited to finally get to show Sterling again! I’m hoping my riding has improved and I don’t cause him to chip a bunch of fences. Coco is coming along in her flying lead changes so hopefully she will be ready to go to a horse show next spring!

 

Natural Horse Medicine

While they cannot actually speak, horses are really pretty good communicators. I say that as a human resources professional with an advanced degree in communication. I think horses more often have a benefit from not having words. Non-verbal communication is more accurate than verbal because it tends to be more honest (I’m sure you know PLENTY of people who could/should talk less).

For a while now Coco has been fussy when she’s brushed on her right side near where the saddle goes. She will kick at me with her left hind foot. She’s usually fine for tacking up, getting on and riding her. However she pinned her ears and refused to canter or bucked every time I asked for a canter yesterday. It didn’t matter which lead I asked for, she was PISSED! The timing was PERFECT for her first visit from a chiropractor/acupuncturist/veterinarian.

Sterling was seen by a chiropractor a couple years ago and was found to be pretty OK, but none of my horses has been seen by anyone other than my regular vet in a few years. It is always a little nerve wracking to wait and see what they will tell you! Coco flinched a few times during the evaluation, which I knew meant something was wrong, but you have to wait for the doctor to tell you what is up until after they finish the evaluation.

Well, it turns out Coco has a few issues, but nothing career-ending. THANK GOODNESS! The likely culprit for her kicking at me while brushing her is an ulcer. This would also be why she was such a brat about cantering yesterday. She will start getting some Tums immediately and will have a longer treatment with omeprazole followed by a change in her diet to (hopefully) prevent future ulcers. Other issues Dr. Barbie found were soreness and heat in both front heels, so she needs shoes. She was a bit off in her sacral area so got a chiropractic adjustment for that soreness. All in all her issues should be easily treatable and not terribly expensive.

Coco looking out over her domain.

 

Sterling tends to do the same kick-at-me-when-being-brushed-on-the-left-side thing so I had Dr. Barbie do an eval on him as well. Turns out he doesn’t have significant ulcers, at least not anything near what Coco has as far as pain level. He will benefit from some aloe added to his diet, but nothing major. She did confirm that he has soreness in both of his front feet. She suspected saddle fit, so we put the saddle on and all looked well. He definitely needs more than a thin saddle pad with the Antares saddle, but it wasn’t anything she was concerned about. I told her my regular vet indicated this spring that Sterling was showing signs of arthritis in his coffin bones and she agreed that is most likely what is happening so he will need coffin injections sooner rather than later. Getting older STINKS for horses AND people! He also got an adjustment to his sacral area and she was surprised he was doing lead changes with no issues considering his soreness. What can I say, Sterling is a lead change dream!

My big grey (frequently brown) goober.

I’m so glad I had Dr. Barbie come look at my horses. I am a strong believer in preventative care for horses and people so hopefully we have identified some issues before they become major issues and given their sporting careers a boost in duration.

Casey Moves Back to Montana

I got the news yesterday that Casey has officially moved to his new home in Montana! It was bittersweet for him to return to Montana, but I’m SO EXCITED for him and his new family.

Horsey Glamour Shots – with the saddle

My goal with every horse I “have” (technically Casey belonged to my Mom, but he was “mine” for a year) is for them to be a better horse that what I started with and therefore have value as a good riding horse. To my mind this is the best prevention from a bad situation. A kind, talented, well trained and rideable horse is far less likely to end up in an abusive home, at a kill-pen or just not cared for.

Horsey Glamour Shots – passenger side view

When Casey arrived in Texas he was very nicely trained, but still young and didn’t have a lot of hours outside an arena. He would inherently get more time outside from fox hunting, but I also wanted him to be a nice trail riding horse. He has an AMAZING brain. He’s generally unflappable and has that fabulous Quarter Horse smarts, so I had a great animal from the start. Mom also wanted me to work with his flying lead changes in case she wanted to try more reining or even western riding with him later. I am pleased to have accomplished all of these goals. We went on quite a few trail rides, which he took to very well. His lead changes aren’t quite automatic, but they are definitely there and just need some polish. I haven’t shown a finished western riding horse, so I don’t know if he has the talent for that event, but I do think he would make a nice reining horse with more training. He stops nicely, turns nicely and doesn’t have trouble doing lead changes. He looks at cattle so might even be able to do working cow horse!

Horsey Glamour Shots – driver side

About three quarters of the way through hunt season Mom made the decision that she wanted to sell Casey. We agreed that he had a better chance of going to a nice show home if he stayed in Texas so I marketed him here. Only by word of mouth until early August, then I posted a Dreamhorse ad. It is somewhat ironic that he sold to a family in Montana, but the best part is that he now belongs to a family I’ve known most of my life. Casey will get to do some ranch work, he will continue to do some showing and he will be loved by a little girl. There is a quote/meme you often see on social media about how every horse deserves to be loved by a little girl at least once in it’s life.

I completely agree and am THRILLED for Casey and his little girl!

Simon’s First Trail Ride

First off, I took zero pictures. I had no idea what to expect from a 3yo OTTB on hundreds of open acres for the first time and carrying my phone seemed like a recipe for disaster. I also didn’t have a safe way to tote it around since it is giant and I only had breeches pockets.

Some of Boot City’s family recently bought some property outside of Waco so horsey bestie and I headed down with our OTTB’s and her adorbs Welsh Cob mare to hit the trails with the fam and a neighbor. I was a bit apprehensive how he would behave as Simon had “come to life” on our last ride at home and went so far is to attempt to buck a couple times. Simon has a very level topline so it doesn’t take much for him to put his head down and let ‘er buck. Thankfully he’s quite lazy and very gangly so his attempts so far have just been entertaining. We also cantered for the first time since January on that ride. It is amazing how a horse that is SO awkward at the walk and trot can have such a lovely and balanced canter. Nevermind that you must ride EVERY stride or he will just stop. #lazyOTTB

Suffice it to say that he was a rock star on his first trail ride. It was the perfect environment for him and we couldn’t have dreamed up a better first experience. The company was calm and quiet, which was important to me for his first few outings. I want him to be comfortable with his pals on the trail and not be worried about any of them running away from the group or running up on the group. Once he is comfortable just ambling along a few times we will move up to trying some speed and taking forays away from the other horses.

On this ride he crossed a concrete creek bridge. Saw a few deer. Heard gunshots (it is dove hunting season in Texas) in near range for about 20 or 30 minutes. Rode through a group of cattle with calves. A couple birds flew out of cover when we rode by, but not big noisy birds. The property is lovely and has some nice roads throughout so we stuck to the paths. He never wanted to go faster other than speeding up his walk, but he wasn’t his completely slow ambling lazy self. He also stood tied to the trailer like a gentleman with his two girlfriends while we had lunch.

The laziest and sweetest OTTB!

We will be back down for another ride in the next few weeks, that is for sure! I might even get brave and take Sterling sometime to see if perhaps he does better on trail rides if he’s in a small group or even alone since he’s a hot mess in big groups. Many thanks to horsey bestie for coming along and bringing an extra horse and to Boot City’s family for hosting us and providing a yummy lunch!

Horses Out and About

The ponies and I had a very productive and fun weekend!

We kicked off Saturday morning by heading to a lesson at the barn where I bought Coco when she was only a few months old. Her flat work has been going really well and I know she’s ready to jump, but I also know that I need some eyes on the ground to give me feedback to bring along a youngster. Being that this barn raised and trained her dam (as well as multiple half siblings), stood her sire, and two grandsires I value their input both as professionals in the hunter/jumper world, but also their knowledge of her bloodlines. They hadn’t seen her in person since she was a baby baby, so it was fun for them to see her grown up.

Coco handled the “new” place quite well. She looked pretty hard at some jump standards in the corners of the ring, but she didn’t say “no” to anything. She also handled the traffic in the arena much better than I would have anticipated. One of the down sides to keeping horses at home is that they don’t get much time in an arena with other horses. It took Sterling a year or two of showing before he stopped panicking about horses coming up behind him on the rail. I could feel Coco’s energy when horses would jump nearby, but she was never naughty.

We did lots of flat work, walked and trotted through some ground poles and ended the lesson by trotting and even cantering over a crossrail. The trainer’s feedback was that she jumps cute, even over such a tiny fence. She also really uses her hind-end into the canter transitions. Coco will definitely be a talented jumping horse, so hopefully we will get a solid base and get to start showing over fences next spring!

Pretty (and very sweaty!) Coco after our lesson.

 

The norm lately has been a lot of rain and random storms. Saturday night brought over 1.5″ of rain at our house! My horsey besties and I had planned a trail ride at the Trinity Trails in Fort Worth and we didn’t let the rain deter us! It was misting a bit when we set off, but it cleared up and turned out to be the perfect weather for a Sunday morning ride on the Trinity Trails. Plus the weather seemed to deter others from heading out so we didn’t see more than maybe 15 cyclists and that was it.

All of our horses thought the stripes in the parking lot were walkovers. It was funny.

It is delightful to live in (near) a city that is so welcoming to trail users. The Trinity Trails system has many miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that allow you to ride right up to downtown Fort Worth. We got some pretty amazing photos!

This is Casey’s “but I want to eat all the grass not take a picture” pose! Downtown Fort Worth is in the backdrop.

Casey behaved really well. He looked at lots of things, but never spooked. There was a donkey on the other side of the river from us and he really talked to us when we rode by him! Thankfully we have Pablo at home because donkeys often scare the pants off of horses when they bray.

It’s so nice to have this much green grass in August. You wont hear me complain about the rain, that’s for sure!

Does your town have trails for riding, running or biking? Do you ever take your horse out?

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