Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Monday, January 26, 2015

The First Sweaty Ride of 2015

It was a dry dusting of fresh snow over dry pavement.  Not at all slippery.
January 26, 2015.  About 25 degrees, overcast, only a bit of wind, snow flurries in the air.  Hey, let's go for a ride!  When your riding buddy has a day off work, you ride, just with more layers! 

We're feeling rather puffy.
The horses moved paddocks today, in preparation for a new horse coming to the stable this upcoming weekend.  Given Red's being-left-home issues lately, and having just had a change of venue (yes, it's only just across the driveway, but still...), I decided to ride Rhio and pony Red.  We've been doing so much of this recently, that it has really become quite easy and relaxed for all three of us. 

The footing in the stable area is atrociously icy, now just dusted over with fresh snow, enough to mask the glare ice.  Perfect.  I very carefully handwalked the boys over to the woods, and then mounted up.  Well, actually, mounting up entailed using my arms to help my left leg bend enough to get my foot in the stirrup, then very ungracefully heaving myself clumsily up (thank goodness I have short horses!) and slithering, shuffling, huffing into an upright position in the saddle.  Darn those extra layers!  Dexterity of all appendages was severely curtailed during today's ride.  I even dropped Red's rope twice due entirely to my mittens (but my fingers were toasty warm!). 

Rhio set the pace at a nice, forward trot.  It's a good thing we all seemed quite happy with that, as Rhio wasn't going to take no for an answer, if I was going to try to tell him we weren't trotting!  He's not been out for a road ride in about a month, and he was one happy pony to be out there, that's for sure. 

We did an out-and-back, 7.2 miles total, staying on the secondary road, since I had Red in tow.  Turning for home, we discovered that yes, in fact, there was just a bit of wind, and now it was blowing into our faces a bit.  S's mare had a good case of the "going-homes," and thought the best idea was a race all the way home.  My boys were more than up for that plan, but us two-leggeds disagreed, and with some discussion, were able to contain the equine enthusiasm. 
Sweaty winter fur

Cooling out, drying off, and tanking up on yummy beet pulp!
Rhio and S's mare were all sweaty, but interestingly Red was only slightly damp on his chest.  I know from experience that Rhio is a good sweater, and Red takes much longer to start to sweat when working.  Even accounting for that difference, it is interesting to see visually how much more the ridden horses were working compared to the ponied, unridden horse. 

I'm so ready to start conditioning!  Ride season is only three months away. 
S. on her mare Jay.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Cold Snap

Last week we had a bit of a cold snap.  I think there was a day or two it didn't get above zero at all.  And, of course, the wind.  Judging from the various posts on Facebook at the time, it seemed a large chunk of the country was having a cold snap right along with us.  It is all relative - a cold snap for, say, Tennessee, isn't the same, in real temperatures, as a cold snap here in Wisconsin.  But I think the ways in which we all cope with our cold snaps are similar.  A horse (or a human) used to the Wisconsin winter is pretty comfortable at the temperatures that are shiver-inducing in more southern climes.  As long as you, and your horses, have been acclimated to the local environment, a cold snap of reasonable intensity and duration is usually not too much of a problem.  For horses, that acclimatization actually occurs the previous year.  Horses seem to grow coat related to the daylight length and coldness of their previous winter climate.  Moving a horse from one region to another in the summer, before daylight really begins to shorten (the trigger to grow winter coat), is preferred, as that horse will grow a more appropriate winter coat for the new climate.  However, in my experience, it seems that many horses don't have a truly appropriate winter coat until the *next* winter after a move.  So, this year, Rhio has grown a coat appropriate to Colorado's cold, where he spent last winter.  Obviously, there is lots of variation between individuals, and many other factors, especially nutrition and overall health, play into this.  And Rhio's coat is adequate for Wisconsin, but it is certainly not as thick as it has been in previous years spent in Minnesota.  He is a bit of a baby about the cold, anyway, and is fairly routinely blanketed, regardless of his coat.  Red, too, was blanketed warmly for last week's cold snap.  And, I went out every day to pamper them with warm beet pulp mashes, extra salt, and some warm molasses water to drink.  "The Experts" say that the best thing you can do is *not* change your horses' routines during a weather change.  But we all do, don't we?  Extra feed, perhaps stalling them, decreasing turnout.  And, truthfully, if you watch your own horses, they change their routine themselves.  My guys spent time in their shelter, out of the wind.  They don't normally spend much time in the shelter at all if the weather is milder.  They hopefully ate more hay (the best way to stay warm), which means they hopefully were also drinking more water (though often horses drink less water in colder temperatures), as additional water is needed for digesting that additional hay!  So, my "pampering" becomes more rational and logical (or so I like to think).  Warm beet pulp is a great conduit for additional water intake, and a nice place to add some loose salt to further encourage drinking.  It's also a fiber-based way to increase calories needed to stay warm, much like hay does.  And, it gives me an excuse to bring them into the barn for a little while, giving them a break from the wind, and I can adjust blankets, check beneath to make sure all is well, etc.  Invariably, upon going back out after pampering, they immediately went to the hay and started eating, and/or went over to the waterer for a drink.  Yay!  It makes me feel good that they are doing great, and I find feeding horses one of life's greatest pleasures.  Really. 

Hiding in their shelter on a windy, cold day

Rhio knows good stuff comes from this tack room!

Bliss - both boys munching away while I perch on a bucket and soak up happy horse vibes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's So Good For Us

Yesterday we had access to an insulated, and sunlit, indoor arena.  Most of you know I do very, very little arena riding.  For one, I haven't had access to one in a while.  For another, I much prefer *going somewhere* on my horses.  But when I do ride in one, my dressage lessons when I was 8 years old (and very infrequently since then) somehow come back to me. 

Both horses made the trip (about 6 miles from the barn) and first off got some free time, sans blankets, in the arena.  Rhio, of course, rolled four or five times - he does love to roll!  They tooled around a bit looking at stuff, and trotted a bit.  Honestly I was expecting a bit more of a rodeo, seeing as it's been so icy and so cold lately and they haven't gotten much kicking-up-their-heels opportunities.  The air quality in the arena was unfortunately poor due to the presence of some diesel fumes from a piece of equipment that had been started inside - but it made for great, interesting light for some photos!

Red and Rhio (mostly Red) have been having some separation anxiety issues.  At home, I have begun handling them separately rather than together, and rode them each once in the outdoor arena before this cold/ice/snow snap hit.  They are mostly out of sight of each other when one is in their paddock, and one is in the outdoor arena.  When Red is the one under saddle, he tolerates being separated absolutely fine.  When he is the one left behind, it is an entirely different story.  Red carries on quite dramatically - which then of course revs Rhio up a bit, and he starts calling as well.  Rhio had serious herd-bound issues over the first few years I had him, and I certainly don't want to regress into that issue again. So we've been slowly working on leaving Red in the paddock while Rhio does something else, although after his accident the first week we were here, I am very hesitant to actually leave the premises with Rhio.  Obviously I will need to have a solution once I can actually start conditioning, as I don't intend to pony Red along all the time!  And then there's the prospect of taking Rhio for a weekend endurance ride, and leaving Red at the barn.... I admit, I am already nervous at the thought.  I wish I knew why/how Red got so much worse with his "buddy sourness" - although it isn't your typical case, either, because he is completely fine if he is the one to leave.  Anyway, I digress. 

Red was first up, and since I sprained my ankle about 3 weeks ago, I decided not to ride in my saddle, where my stirrup would likely put too much stress on my ankle.  With the bareback pad, we worked about 45 minutes "schooling" - which Red clearly is very out of practice with!  It took him the first 15 minutes just to settle and start listening to me and working.  We worked on obedience, bending, backing - all skills he definitely has in his repertoire, but clearly needed reminding of.  He likes to rush through things, and evade by tossing or shaking his head.  I felt pretty good when we ended, and he wasn't too hot or sweaty (we did a lot of walk work), which is exactly what I wanted.  In this cold weather, the opportunity to get them out and moving is wonderful for their mental and physical health (and mine!) but I didn't want to work them too hard and get them too sweaty and risk that heat load getting dispersed as sweat later under their blankets during turn out. 

Riding Rhio is completely, utterly different than riding Red.  Again, I used the bareback pad, but everything else about the ride was unique.  It is so interesting to ride these guys back-to-back and feel the contrast between them so clearly!  Rhio goes in a hackamore, and thus I don't have the lateral control of his head that I do with Red, because Red goes in a snaffle bit.  Rhio's anxiety comes out in his feet - the more he moves them, the better he feels!  So, with Rhio, my first goal is always to slow down (in an arena setting).  Then, I work on his right side - bending, moving laterally to the right with sidepassing, etc - because he has real trouble moving right.  He also doesn't travel straight at all unless I really, really concentrate!  When I began riding as a kid, I was taught to start preparing the horse for what you're going to ask him to do next before you actually ask him.  But Rhio seems clairvoyant - in the preparation, he goes right ahead and does what I am intending to ask him to do!  For example, if we were moving across the arena and I intend to ask him to go to the right when we reach the wall, as soon as I think about going right, he goes right!  The end result is that we look a bit like a drunken sailor if I ride him with the same pattern of intention that I ride Red.  So, with Rhio, I have to really concentrate on being straight, in my body and my mind, if I want him to go straight.  We work on circles (he would definitely fail geometry) and side passing and halt-walk-trot-walk-halt transitions.  We did a little cantering (whee!) just for fun.  I put out ground poles and we trotted over them, through them, and around them.  Then we used them to practice halt, back, sidepass through each section, creating a zig zag pattern.  Then we made circles around a few barrels.  Can you tell Rhio is a busy, busy, busy horse?  Boredom strikes early and often, and I try to keep things new and changing all the time.  No drilling exercises for Rhio!  Forty-five minutes of work for him (yes, with Red whinnying from the stall frequently, and Rhio answering periodically), and I  think all three of us were pooped!  The horses were definitely mentally challenged, as I  asked them to do things we don't normally do, but that we probably should do more often! I was mentally and physically challenged (90 minutes bareback, anyone?).  I am used to my rides being mentally relaxing, a form of meditation.  My horses and I are partners going from point A to point B, wherever those may be on a given day, and they have certain responsibilities and decisions to make (where to put their feet, watch for obstacles, be aware of our surroundings) during a ride.  It feels like when we do arena work, all the decisions and responsibilities are mine.  It's exhausting! 

I usually ride on my birthday, but I might not get to tomorrow, due to weather and footing issues.  So, I am considering this afternoon my birthday ride for 2015.  It was just a great day with my ponies.  I can't wait to hit the trail again this spring, but any and all time spent with my horses is wonderful, uplifting, and rejuvenating, and the outside world simply slips away for those moments. 
Napping post-ride