Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Last Ride

A Beautiful Poem...

A pioneer in life's sunset
To his pony sang this song
I am going west this time old pal
And can't take you along

I'm headed over yonder
To the happy hunting grounds
Where life's sorrows cannot follow
And peace and joy abounds

I've hung up the well-worn saddle
And laid aside my gun
Farewell my pinto pony
Our hunting days are done

The mountains and the valleys
Shall look for me in vain
The pines and dancing waters
I shall never see again

A phantom horse shall guide me
On the oldest trail of all
This the path that all must follow
When we hark the final call

The unknown trail is waiting
In that place where myriads dwell
The land where none returneth
The journey there to tell

Voices long forgot are calling
Life's sunlight fading fast
Life's trails are but faint memories
Life's hopes and dreams have passed

I'll be waiting over yonder
Just across the great divide
By the campfire I'll be watching
Good bye old pal I RIDE.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Moving on up

Well we did, Red and I passed our C certificate Exam. We are now the proud holders of the C level badge (well not really, I haven't recieved the actual badge yet). Every wednesday night I would drive an hour to Sues house in the whop whops. I studied the theory side of the exam with a couple of other girls there. We discussed, we talked, we ate some chocolate cake and we revised all the particulars of the C exam and finally last night we sat it.

Sue didn't give us much warning about when we were going to sit it. In fact she only gave us one day. She also neglected to tell me until lunch time yesterday that Red needed to be plaited. I had work till 5.30 and the exam started at 6.10. and I can't get up to PC till 6. Luckily my amazing friends came to the rescue. When I arrived at Pony Club last night Red was standing tied up in all his plaited glory. Stephanie, one of the older riders had even plaited his tail for me.

Soon we were in the arena, following the direction of the judge. All was going well, its a relatively easy exam, until the judge said "Take your feet out of the stirrups" and then "Cross the stirrups over please, we're going to do some sitting walk and trot". Now I can bareback as well as the next person, it took me awhile but now I feel completely secure with no saddle on Red. But sitting trot in the saddle is a completely different thing. I combed my brains for all the information I had ever heard on sitting trot in the saddle with no stirrups. I relaxed, put my heels down and low and behold TROTTED! And I didn't fall off.

Next it was the show jumping. You might remember that last time I show jumped it didn't go quite as planned. I tried not to think about it as we trotted around the jumps. "We are going to go clear" I chanted over and over to myself (in my head). "You may do some practice jumps" the judge declared. "Here we go" I thought to myself as we cantered towards the jump. SLAM! Red threw on his breaks. He did it twice more before I got him over. Teresa was first, her horse Copper refused at the big barrel jump but was fine after that. Then it was Red and I. The first part of the course was simple and we did it with no trouble, but then we reached the barrels. I rode Red in, legs on, eyes up but he refused. I turned him around and rode him towards its again, he refused. We tried again and again he refused. Now I was getting angry, I turned him around, determined to make it over. He cantered in and I felt him hesitate so I put my legs on hard. He came almost to a standstill and then took a leap. It was one of his huge jumps that clears the heights by miles. I came flying out of the saddle and landed with a thump on his neck, my jaw wacked hard against his head. I felt myself slipping so I monkey grabbed around his neck with both my hands and legs. I then managed to wiggle myself back into the saddle. And with my head pounding Red and I finished the course with no other mishaps.

Cross country was next and we went clear with no problems what so ever. After a bit of theory with the judge we were told we had all passed!

So congratulations my darling Red, thanks for helping me pass. I'll love you forever no matter how many times you refuse :)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The saddle on my horse's back: Part I

I need a new saddle. Its a simple as that. My current one was $200. Yes... one of those saddles. Made of cheap and smelly leather that had the black rubbing off it within a month. Its hard, its uncomfortable and its just plain not nice. It hinders my efforts to stay in the correct position. It also pinches my poor thighs terribly, especially when I'm jumping. Its guaranteed that some pretty purple bruises will appear soon after a hard jumping lesson.

Now don't get me wrong. My saddle has served its purpose. It hasn't hurt Reds back and its only let me down three times, when a stirrup dropped off (this happened twice last weekend). But frankly the saddle has to go. It will be retired into my tack room (which is still in the making) and my new one will replace it.

Now to find a new one. I'm sure anyone who has bought a saddle before will agree with me that it can be a difficult business. Every horse is different, as is every person and finding a saddle that fits both can be hard.

Personally I'm looking a for a close contact saddle, aka a jumping saddle. I really am more keen on jumping then dressage, but thats probably because my dressage has always been the weakest of all my phases. I also have a dressage saddle so that won't be a problem. I want a saddle that has a easy change gullet system so I can adjust the saddle as Red adjusts his muscles. So far these two are my favourites:

The Collegiate Graduate Close Contact Saddle

The Bates Caprilli Close Contact Saddle

I'm leaning towards the Collegiate at the moment. Simply because in the Tack Reviews I've read on the Bates saddle it seems that the leather is incredibly soft and marks easily. But if the Bates fits Red and I better then the Collegiate, then I'll go with that.

In The saddle on my horse's back: Part II - We get the Saddle fitter out to fit these two, and possibly even some other saddles on Red. Keep your eyes open for the next instalment.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Survive summer with your horse

For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere the Summer season is just about upon you. Soon you'll be packing away the heavy coats and jumpers and pulling out the the cotton tops and sunscreen. Here are some tips on surviving the heat and everything else that comes with it.

  • Buy some horse safe flyspray. Trust me you are going to need it. When the flys are many horse are continually stomping their feet to get rid of the irritating little insects. Frequent stomping can lead to tendon, tendon sheath problems and it can also loosen shoes since horses don't have the same twitch reflex as they do on their upper bodies. Fly Masks are also a great peice of equipment to keep those blasted things from irritating your horses eyes. For more on keeping flys away check out this article.

    This poor guy is covered in flys.

  • Are your rugs ready? You may have already put your Summer rugs on your horses but if you haven't pull them out of storage now and check them over. If they need repairing send them off to be done or if you know how to do it yourself get onto it. Send your Winter and Spring rugs off to be washed, mended and waterproofed ready for next time. Also make sure your fly sheets and show rugs are in good repair.

  • Exposed, unpigmented white and pink areas of a horse like the nose can get sunburnt easily. Protect your horse with sunscreen or a nose shade.

  • Along with the rain and sun of Spring and Early Summer along comes Laminitis aka Founder. Horses and ponys who have suffered from laminitis before are more likely to get it again. By clicking on the link above you will be taken to a great page the explains all about Laminitis including causes, signs and treatment. Its a good idea to check it out.

  • Have shade available in the paddocks. This can be anything from trees to a stable. I hear of many people putting fans in their stables and their horses have access to them at all times.

  • Hot and humid weather can be hard on all horses, creating extra stress on the cardiovasicular system which can result in heat stress, and dehydration which can then lead to heat stroke and even death. If a horse fails to regulate its body temperature or when there is excessive fluid and electrolyte loss from sweat, serious medical problems can occur. If your horse is sweating a lot make sure you keep an eye out for heat stress signs such as:
    - Temperature above 40C (normal is 37.2C to 38.2C)
    - Rapid heart and pulse rates that don't recover after exercise.
    - Rapid breathing that doesn't slow after exercise
    - Less sweat then expected
    - Hot skin (this might progress to cold skin if the circulation shuts down)
    - Signs of dehydration which include loss of skin elasticity, sunken eyes and
    ceassation of urination.

    If you suspect your horse is suffering from heat stress call your vet immediately. Get your horse into the shade in a well ventilated area and sponge or spray the large blood vessles along the inside of the legs and belly with cold water.

    Make sure cool, clean and freash water is always avaliable to horses during the summer months. Some horses are very picky about dirty or foreign water. If you think your horse isn't drinking enough try adding mollasses to his water. Some horses need electrolytes during the summer, especially if they are being worked hard and sweating eccesively. Talk to your vet about adding electrolytes to your horses diet. If you can try exercise your horse in the cool of the morning or evening. As well as being nice on your horse it can be nice on you too.

  • Travelling with your horse in summer requires some special consideration. Heat can be unbearable in a trailer or float. If you can try driving in the early morning or evening, or even possibly at night. Offer water frequently to your horse. Avoid covering him in the float. If you are going on a long trip with your horse, let him off the float to have a break or two, take off his hot horse boots so he can air his legs. Plan to miss the traffic, its going to be much hotter sitting in traffic than if your driving at 70km an hour along the motorway.

  • The ground is going to be hard in the summer so remember to think about your horses legs. This is especially important if your horse is old or has bad joints, or if your jumping or doing cross country. If you think the ground is too hard, especially at competition just don't ride. Your horse could be far more worse off if you do decide to ride.

  • Make sure you cool your horse down properly after a ride. Walk him around for about 10 minutes and then hose him off. Scrape the excess water off and hose him again. Again scrape the excess water off. If you don't scrape the excess water off it can make your horse hotter.

  • Look after yourself. All you New Zealanders are going to remember those old slip, slop and slap ads. You know 'Slip on a t-shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat'. Well that informatins still counts, when your riding or working with your horses in the hot sun make sure your being 'sun smart'. If you don't follow these rules your going to get sunburnt which can then lead to melanoma. Trust me you don't want this. I know a few people who've had this and they've had to have big chunks of flesh cut out. Also make sure you have a water bottle on hand at all times. Don't let yourself get dehydrated. Be smart!

So there you have it. Look after your horses this summer. Now that daylight savings is here you'll have more time to ride then ever! Happy trails.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Survive winter with your horse

For those of you in the Northen Hemisphere you are just about embark on the cold, windy, stay in bed, put on a warm jacket and give your horse a heavier rug season i.e. Winter.

Because Winter is never nice I thought I might give you some tips on making it more enjoyable. Since Auckland doesn't get snow I'm not sure if many of these ideas will work in a place that has a lot of snow, but you can take what you want and adapt it to your own enviroment.

  • Get your horse rugs sorted: Pull your winter rugs out from storage and make sure they are clean, mended and waterproofed(hopefully you did this last spring when you took them off). If your like me you'll send your rugs off to be cleaned, mended and waterproofed as soon as they come off the horses so you don't have to worry about it when the time comes to use them again. Store your summer and spring/autumn rugs for the new seasons in a rodent free, out of the way place. Don't be like one of my friends and leave the rugs hanging on the fence throughtout the seasons. She often goes to put them on her horses when its time for the change only to find they are mouldy, rotting and cannot be used. This wastes money and time.

  • Be ready for the cold: Make sure you have sutible horsey type clothes ready for winter. I always make sure I have waterproof jacket and pants, warm jumpers, stockings, wooly socks and fingerless gloves ready for my journeys into the elements to ride Red. I'm thinking seriously of investing in some Ear Warmers. Make sure you have a pair of good fitting gumboots. They will save your riding boots from the mud and a good fitting pair means they are least likely to come off when the mud is really sticky (trust me you don't want this).

  • Dentist visit: Get the horse dentist out to do the annual matinence of your horses teeth. Horses can have a difficult time retaining a healthy weight when they can't grind their food effectively. If your horse is a hard keeper over winter he may have dental problems.

  • Try something new: If your horse is a dressage star why don't you have some jumping lessons? It will be a breath of freash air for your both. Are you an eventer? Try a short competitve trial ride. Maybe go on a hack to the forest or beach with your friends! It will not only be lots of fun, but it might give you the motivation to get out and ride when the weathers cold. Whatever you do don't get stuck in a winter rut.

  • Set your goals: Winter is a great time re-evaluate where you are and to make some new goals for the next season. Set yourself short term goals to work on over the winter and also medium and long term goals to complete in the future.

  • Get fit! When you can't get out to the barn or paddock to ride why don't you pull out the pilates video or jump on the tread mill instead. Keeping fit and eating healthy foods during the winter will help you stay in top gear for the next season.

  • Be a spectator: If your horse is turned out or its just too cold to go riding try to improve your riding skills by watching someone else. Treat yourself to some new training videos or tag along to a friends lesson. We can all learn from others no matter what level they train out.

  • Train! If you are not turning your horse out winter is a good time to train without the constant interruptions of shows. You'll have time to work on those small problems that always loose you marks in the dressage test. Maybe you'll have time to finally do that trailer training you've been wanting to do for so long. Winter is also a perfect time to work on ground manners that may have lapsed over the last season.

  • Tack room clean up: Winter is the perfect time to clean out your tack room, re-organize it and make sure everything is in tip-top condition. Any tack you don't want you could sell on Ebay and perhaps buy something you've been wanting for awhile.

  • Groom to high heaven: Horses that have been turned out still need regular checking and grooming. Daily grooming will keep your horse more comfortable. Hoof care is especially important in winter as foot abcesses, wall cracks and seedy toe are more common in winter.

    Hopefully some of these help you get through the dreary winter season. Stay warm, have fun and happy riding to you all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Birthday to Red!

In the midst of all the rush of getting ready for the ODE Red turned a grand 18 years old. His birthday was on the 9th of November. No, we didn't forget it. In fact I made a special effort to include carrots in his feed which I usually do forget. I was going to make him a carrot cake but I ran out of time, but I gave him extra pats and scratches to make up for it.
Happy Birthday to you my darling Red. I can't wait for whats still to come!
PS. My 18th birthday is tomorrow :) And tonight Red and I are doing a extra hard dressage test that I just found out about today argh! Wish us luck.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Massey ODE - Sunday 11th of November

I just got back from the ODE, in fact I'm still in my cross country gear. I'll go have a shower soon :P The ODE was not a great success overall. We were first in for Dressage in our ring. We were a little late getting to Pony Club so I had to rush to get him ready. My friend Brooke balled Reds plaits for me while I did the rest, but we still only had 10 mins to warm up. As a result our dressage wasn't the best! I coudn't get Red to bend and he went a bit wonky down the straight lines but otherwise it was alright. It was also boiling hot even though it was only 8.30am in the morning and I was sweating profusely under my dress jacket.

Reds head is up in this picture but I still think he looks gorgeous.

Then it was Show Jumping. We had a lonnnnng wait between dressage and show jumping so I unsaddled Red and parked him under a tree with a bucket of water and watched some of my friends doing Show Jumping. Then it was our turn. Heaps of my friends turned up right before I started warming up and I got a bit nervous which didn' t help my jumping at all. We also had a bad warmup. Over one of the jumps my stirrup dropped off my saddle but I managed to stay on. Then we went into the ring. Red was doing a beautiful canter and after we the bell went we cantered through the flags and came up to the first jump. Red did one of his HUGE jumps over the first one, which was alright because he always starts off bad. The second jump he did the same thing and as we were coming around a particularly sharp corner my stirrup fell off a second time and I went off with it. I got up, dusted myself off, put my stirrup back on and got back onto Red. We then went on to refuse three jumps and I was eliminated. Only my pride was hurt but all my friends were very comforting when I walked out of the arena.

I opted in for the cross country because both Red and I love zooming around the cross country course. He went beautifully, although he did refuse one jump which was entirely my fault. I hesitated at it and then I let Red duck out. He sailed over perfectly the next time. I came through the finishing flags to a ovation from my friends. Luckily I felt so good about the cross country that I forgave Red and myself for the terrible Show Jumping phase. I also got lots of compliments on my new cross country colours so that was a bonus.

Coming into the finishing flags, a bit fuzzy but you can still see
how cool we are!

My trainer Sue told me not to invite my friends next time because it makes me a lot more nervous and she also said to warm Red up longer in Show Jumping because he needs a lot of time to work in for it. So next ODE, which is at Henderson, we are going to do a million times better. I'm also going to ask Sue to help develop my warm up for Dressage so I can get Red supple and ready for his time in the arena.

The photographer wasn't there today so mum took a few photos but they are not the best. Have a look at the set of them on the link in the sidebar marked 'Massey ODE Nov 07'.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Chiropracter comes a-visiting.

The Chiropracter came to see and treat Red on Friday morning. Apparently the chiropracter is one of the best in this part of New Zealand. Hes worked all over the world treating horses and everyone I talk to about him say hes incredible. He actually lives in the Bay of Islands but comes down to Auckland and the Waikato to treat horses during the week.

I wasn't able to go to the appointment because it was 8am in the morning and I start work at 8.30 so my lovely dad went out for me. I asked if he would take a couple of pictures and he kindly oblidged. As he brought Red down to the washbay the chiropracter said "He is out on his right side". My dad was impressed. Red has always had a problem with his right side, when I bought him his right leg and the right side of his rump was wasting away and he had a big limp because of it. The chiropracter set to work and immediatley found problems. The lower part of his neck was out, and when he pressed on it Red shot back with his head in the air. WHAM! He punched Reds neck. And then moved onto his back. "Does that really work?" asked my dad, "Well look at this" said the chiropracter, pressing in the same place as before. Red didn't bat an eyelid.

Heres a couple of photos of Red getting adjusted, isn't he an angry old man?

Reds back was out in about 5 places. Something was out in the middle of his back, so a few adjustments were done there. One of the most interesting problems was in his lumbar region. The chiropracter thought that the problems with Reds right side was was caused by this particular outage. He also pointed out the difference in Reds muscles of his hind quaters, his right side is very undeveloped whereas his left side is big, and well developed. Heres a picture pointing out the difference:

The chiropracter said I will be able to start building up the right muscle now, and also that Red will probably be able to canter on his right lead much easier. Which I'm glad about since my ODE is coming up this weekend.

Once all the adjustments were made the chiropracter told dad to seperate Red from the rest of the herd so he would have time to heal correctly. This posed a little problem since it was Guy Fawkes during the weekend and we were worried how Red would react. We always have herd watchers during the night at Guy Fawkes so we asked them to give us a call if he was reacting badly. And at 9pm on Saturday night we got the call, Red was running back and forth by the fence side. So I went out and hung with Red in the paddock for a couple of hours till the worst of it was over. He was pretty calm once I got there. The next night we put him back with the herd and he was fine.

So that was Reds chiropracter visit. We're going to get him out every year to get any adjustments that might be needed done. Hopefully Red will be much happier with his back put back in the right place.

This weekend is the Massey ODE so keep a look out for my story and pictures! It should be good.