Saturday, November 21, 2015

Inspired/Reminded by Chasing the Dream:

So I was reading through my blogroll, and I was reminded by Checkmark115 at Chasing the Dream of two things.  First, that I hadn't talked much about Apollo's relatively recent development:

He hates, hates the trailer I have available to me.

Like rearing and bolting when I tried to load him a while ago kind of hate.

This is SO unusual for this horse - he's so easygoing.  But after the first trip in the trailer, from my first barn here to Council Creek back in January, he decided he hated the thing.  The second time I tried to load him, we'd pulled the trailer into the drive, outside of the pasture where it usually lives.  He was hesitant and a little difficult, but we got him in with the longe whip.  After that, he got worse and worse.  I tried to load him and not tie him - nope, he flailed and bashed his head and freaked further.  I tried to load him and tie him but not close the divider - nope, flailed and freaked out.

I gave it a break for a while, then in late September started working on trailer training without any time pressure or place to actually go.  That was the full-on rear, many bolt, very leap, so pull back episode.  This was about 3 weeks before I got married, btw, and of course, I managed to sprain? break? somehow damage my left ring finger in the process.  Sigh.  Clearly I needed to change my approach, which had been punishing him for doing the wrong thing and praising him for doing the right thing.

I'd put a stud chain on his halter at first, but I realized I could use it better - instead of pulling on it to say "don't do that," which upset him a lot, I just let it do its thing when he pulled.  I changed my mind and attitude to be just patient - I decided I had all the time in the world, nothing he could do would freak me out or scare me (I did put my helmet on, though, just in case), and he would end up on the trailer.  Whenever.  We had time.   So the chain went on, I led him up to the trailer, he halted, I let the chain be a little tight, I kept my back to him and kept the pressure but didn't pull, and as soon as he stepped forward again I loosened the chain and praised.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  The first time it took 30-40 minutes to get him loaded, clipped in, and divider closed, and the "lather" part was literal.

The second time, 15 minutes, no lather.

Third time, 10 minutes, no lather.

Thursday, 5 minutes, no lather.  It took more like 10 minutes, maybe 15, to load him back up at NT's place, but it was a low-key 10-15 minutes rather than a panicked shitshow, so I'll take it.  There was a lot going on, and it was dinnertime at NT's, so I can't really be too upset with Apollo not wanting to load.  Maybe I should be - yes, horses SHOULD be obedient and quiet at all times, and loading is important - but upset doesn't get me anywhere, as we've seen.  I also did it by myself, rather than having to ask for help.  That's actually really important to me, that I be able to load my horse myself, because I don't often have people with me any more.  So more calm, patient loading work seems to be in order, but I am pleased with how well he's come along.

The second thing ... I'm going to leave that for another day, because I need motivation to blog!  :)   Hint: it's made of leather.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Say this with a straight face, I dare you.

So we have a boarder committed to coming out to our barn - yay!  I think she'll be a great fit when she finds her horse and moves in.  I'm excited about it - it'll be nice to have someone to ride with, and she's got a great attitude.  Another boarder might come board with us, but no commitment yet.  I'm pretty pleased; more work for me = income!  And healthier me, and income for the property owners, et cetera.  The barn is, as always, a work in progress, but it's definitely workable and cool.

I took Apollo up to NT's yesterday, where we had a very fun, productive lesson.  We didn't jump high at all - it was all about communication and adjustability in stride and gait.  Apollo has been really stiff lately through his jaw, shoulder, and hip, so we worked hard on that by doing a lot of bending on circles before we started jumping, then asking for clear bend in the corners when jumping lines.  Eventually, Apollo released, and we could move the focus to getting me to take the emergency brake off and encourage him to come on a bigger, freer stride.

I discovered that the key to coming through the course well was having Apollo round and engaged in the Very First Corner - which, of course, I knew intellectually but hadn't really learned physically.  And then, after that first line, I needed to really swing my hips and allow him to keep cantering forward and freely instead of locking my seat up and putting that brake on.  Finally, once we got the brake off, I felt like I was back in the place I was when I left Idaho.  I felt like I had control and confidence and calm, despite Apollo shouting "Vive la resistance!" at every opportunity.  Must, MUST go up much more often for lessons!!

Amusing: for a clinic with Sinead Halpin, the working students had set up a vertical with dressage letter cones under it.  The cones spelled SPAM. No new phenomenon - at Aspen Farms, they often have a jump with their letters and spell ASPEN.  :)  So in K's lesson before mine, NT would say "okay, canter up the 3-stride cavaletti line, then the crossrail, then the vertical in the middle, then go all the way around and come up over SPAM."   However ... when a friend of the barn, who has a wicked sense of humor, came out and watched for a bit, she rearranged the letters a bit and added R and M.   For my lesson, I got "okay, canter up the 3-stride cavaletti line, then the crossrail, then the vertical in the middle, then go all the way around and come up over SPERM."

*dies laughing*  

Apollo gave the cones a hard look on the first approach, much like he did in a lesson with Gary one summer, when he would. not. go. over. a vertical with black dressage-fence-pipe-holders under it.  But this time, I just sat up, put my leg ON, and told him GO.  And he went.  :)  SPERM ain't no thang, people.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Brief thoughts on horsekeeping

1. Comparing horse keeping to mommy wars is insulting and inaccurate.  Insisting that stalls be cleaned daily instead of weekly isn't prissy - it's basic health. Poop or pee in stall?  Take it out.  Period.  It's like not changing your kid's diaper but once a day.

2. Flake shavings - we hates them forever, precious. Yes, they *look* all fluffy and soft to human eyes, but they're difficult to clean, and they don't provide any more soft places to sleep than a more horse-friendly bedding. Like pellets. We love pellets, precious. They clean easily, are soft, last a long time, and compost well.  They don't look golden and fluffy, but I swear, they're a better choice. Especially for a barn that doesn't have a big shed where truckloads of sawdust or fine shavings can be dumped.  Pellets store easily.

3. Yes, we do have mice, despite the cat's best efforts.  If you leave bags of grain out, they will get nibbled. We have a chest freezer for your very own grain storage; I know it might take a minute of thought on how to arrange the bags of grain in it so all five fit, but I swear it can be done. Even without opening the bags and just storing the grain in the freezer.

4. Those who say it can't be done should probably get out of the way of the person doing it.

5. Logic is good, mmkay?  Woo-woo has its place, but that place is after thinking rationally and functionally.