Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Agitation and Allergies

What a week! I apologize for the lack of updates. I'm leaving for Canada on Thursday to get married on Saturday, so things have been hectic to say the least. And, amidst all the chaos, Halo managed to get case #3 of random swollen lymph node syndrome.

These pictures are from last Monday, and it's clear that she's very swollen on the right hand side. I first noticed the swelling when I was out on Sunday.

As of last Thursday, the swelling had gone down a bit.

Last week I put warm compresses on her swelling every time I went to the barn in hopes of drawing out any infection that might be present. However, the lessening of the swelling makes me think that it's unlikely to blow out. I was a bad horse mom and didn't go to the barn this past weekend, but I checked in with the barn owner and she's about the same. Argh. Hopefully I will make it out before I leave on Thursday, and I have a friend who may check in on her while I'm gone.

The vet was out last week and said that he does not think it is Strangles, but to continue monitoring her condition and to call him if anything changes for the worst. Through it all she's still continued to act like her normal perky self, so I doubt it's anything severe. I feel confident that it may be an allergy to something growing in the pasture.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer is Here

The heat has arrived in Texas with a vengeance! It is this time of year that I begin moaning to Casi about hell, and how close we must be living to it in order for it to be this hot. Fortunately Miss Halo is more heat tolerant than I am, because yesterday night it was her turn for a workout.

As usual, I cobbled together an odd assortment of tack for her to wear. I decided it was time for her to have something on her back, but I didn't want to use my english saddle since I'm still worried about it being a poor fit. All the synthetic western saddles were in use, so this was the solution. It actually worked out well. There's not much weight, but it does give her the feeling of the cinch. Also, it's a good thing for her to wear if I decide to get on. Strange as it seems to some people, I do like to get on babies bareback at first.

We did a brief longe workout - just enough to have her walk, trot, and canter on command both directions. She was very well behaved with only one or two bouncy canter strides. Of course neither of us counted on me being a moron and not checking the cinch one last time! As Halo made some lovely counter-clockwise canter circles, the bareback pad began to slide around her big round barrel. I said, "whoa!" and she stopped on a dime, the pad completing its slide over onto her right side. Poor confused filly! However, you can see from her reaction that it was not of any concern to her. I got her readjusted and snugged up between fits of laughter. I am SO glad to have such a mild-mannered baby horse!

After our brief longeing session, I got on for a few minutes. Casi led us a couple of times around the arena, and then we walked independently for a few more minutes near the gate. She's pretty good about steering and following her nose, but the go button doesn't work very well yet. I imagine I may get up on her 1 or 2x per month and do a little bit of walking. In those sessions, when I have an assistant, I'll have someone lead while I teach her the leg and voice cues for forward motion. When I don't have an assistant I probably won't ride, but from the ground I can do long reining to work on voice commands. In fact, I think that is what I will plan to do for our next session.

Halo got a warm water rinse and a mane and tail bath after her light workout, and then we took her height and weight. The baby is now a tiny bit shy of 14.2h at the withers and 14.3h at the hip. She weighs approximately 850lbs. At the end of July last year she was 13h at the withers, 13.3h at the hip, and weighed about 575lbs. I can't believe how much she's grown!

I've been using a height/weight tape to chart her progress, but at some point I plan to do a more accurate check with the following formula:
  • Measure girth in inches
  • Measure length in inches (point of hip to point of chest)
  • Multiply Girth X Girth X Length, Divide by 300, Add 50
  • Example 70" x 70" x 65" = 318,500 / 300 = 1061.67 + 50 = 1111.67 lbs.
This formula is accurate to +/- 3%.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Riding Lesson for Casi

We made it back from our weekend out of town in the early afternoon on Sunday. Though I didn't expect to make it to the barn this past weekend, we ended up going out Sunday evening, and Casi had her first riding lesson on Taz! While he is being leased in my name, his owner indicated that it was okay for me to put Casi on him as long as it was only in the arena, and she was supervised. So that's exactly what we did.

Casi is mostly interested in learning some basic control and a good seat so that she can ride comfortably and safely on the trail someday. I'm hoping maybe by the end of the summer we can go on a trail ride - I can ride Taz and she can ride one of the barn owner's horses. I put Casi in my dressage saddle last night for a few reasons. The first is that it's easier (in my opinion) to learn how to post the trot in an saddle. Secondly, the seat one uses in a dressage saddle is the most similar to western (longer stirrups than used in jumping). And finally, the last reason was because I was too lazy to deal with getting my brand new latigo attached to my saddle.

We got Halo and Taz both out, groomed them, and tacked Taz up. Halo got a lesson too - in patience. We left her tied while Taz was being ridden. Up in the arena we worked on some basics of steering and halting at the walk. Casi learned about how to use her seat to rate the horse's speed, and how much directional control can be had with the leg. Taz is the perfect horse for these basic lessons because he moves so well off leg and is very responsive. One of the things I was most proud of Casi for is that she has a very natural sense of balance (probably learned through mountain biking). I never once caught her bracing on Taz's mouth for support - her seat did all the hard work. If anything, I kept having to tell her to shorten her reins a bit.

I had her walk on the rail, using her inside leg and outside rein to move Taz away from me. He likes to cut into the center to come visit, so Casi had to frequently remind him to stay on the rail. They were doing wonderfully by the end of the lesson. I also had her walk between two ground poles to work on steering, and then I set up a cone between the poles and had her halt at the cone and back up. If anything, she whoa'd too soon the first time! I told her that was great, as it's always better to have a horse stop sooner, rather than later, when asked.

At the very end we did just a little bit of sitting trot, with and without stirrups. At first Casi said she felt like she was more likely to fall off without the stirrups, but was surprised when we trotted that her seat actually felt more secure. Ah, the wonders of stirrupless riding! So next time I will have her work on a little more trotting and learning to post, as well as reinforcing the basics learned this week.

After Taz's light workout, we took him back to the hitching rail and cleaned him up. His owner asked me to put hoof dressing on him when it's been dry out, so we took care of that today. After letting him graze for a few minutes, we put him and Halo out for the night and headed home with the moon rising in the east.

Friday, June 5, 2009

No News This Weekend

It has been a quiet week this week, and you won't hear much from me through the weekend, either. I made it to the barn on Tuesday to work with Halo. A few girls were out in the arena taking a lesson, but we had the adjacent round pen to ourselves. I kept the workout simple since it has been a while. We stuck to walking, trotting, and cantering on the longe line. I didn't tack her up - just wanted to give her a brief workout to get back into things. I also set up trot rails on either side of the pen and had her trot and canter over them. It made her more aware of where she was putting her feet, and slowed her down a bit from her sometimes bombastic canter.

After longeing, we did some brief showmanship. We went back to the absolute basics of just walking, halting, and setting up. I've been neglecting my showmanship terribly, and it shows. I want to get back to where we were earlier this spring. She's started routinely walking ahead of me a little bit, and it drives me nuts. More summer goals! I've been working on a list of goals for the summer, so I will try to get them posted soon and chart our progress from there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Trail Riding and Exciting News

There is a new horse in my life!

His name is Taz, and he's a 1996 Quarter Horse gelding. One of the boarders at my barn is heading to Oregon for the summer (lucky!) and wanted his horse to be exercised while he was gone. I've managed to work out a partial lease on Taz from June to August. While it will be a little rough on my budget, I think it will be extremely beneficial to me to have a horse to ride this summer. It will help me get in shape for riding Halo, and I will also be able to pony her on trails myself so that the barn owner doesn't always have to do it.

Taz is a mellow gentleman, but he is also very athletic. When I tried him out I enjoyed his nice big gaits and forward movement. Although he usually goes western, and has for many years, he has lots of potential as an English horse. I had a blast riding him in my dressage saddle. He moves extremely well off leg, and needs only light contact on the reins. Yesterday we went on a morning trail ride with some of the other boarders. It was my first time on a trail ride in a very, very long time (not counting the cattle drive). Taz is going to be a good trail horse for me. I have some confidence issues on the trail that result from many bad childhood experiences, and I would really like to start working on overcoming those issues. Sunday was a great start to that. The only thing that bothered Taz was one spot on the road where there was a horse-eating power pole, but we made it by after sticking close to one of the other horses. The only thing that bothered me was a big ditch we had to ride through, but I got off and led him through this time. There will be opportunities to challenge myself later as I become more accustomed to riding him.

We rode around the edges of many hay fields, and cut through areas of grass where the stalks were higher than my head even up on Taz - and he is not a small horse!

Now the next project is to set myself some summer goals with both Taz and Halo. For once I'm actually excited about summer despite the hot weather!