May 6, 2017

Summer Dayz

In true Montana style, after snowing last week, it has been in the 80's for the last three days. The grass has grown like crazy and today the trees are finally starting to put out leaves. I seriously have weather whiplash, but I will NEVER complain about the hot weather. I love it so! 
Post Bath, shiny clean boy!

The warm weather has dried up our grass arena, allowing me to ride regularly this week. It has also finally allowed me to give Gentry a few much needed baths. I can finally run a comb through his ginormous thick tail. That is a glorious thing!

Unfortunately, riding regularly alone in the arena has caused an old issue to raise it's head again. Gentry gets bad anxiety about being alone in our arena. I've never had him alone anywhere else, so I don't know if it is just our arena or not. Everywhere I haul him to has horses, so he is content and is easy to work with when we haul places, as he's not concerned with a particular horse. He just doesn't like being alone. I know eventually he will get over it, as he did last year, but it is frustrating to ride a tense anxious horse day after day. At this point, all I can think to do is to put in some tie posts at the arena and pony Daq down to the arena with us when I ride. We have a schooling show in two weeks, and I really don't think we will be ready at this rate. Unless they ask us to ride our test like a giraffe while cross cantering on the wrong lead. Then we will kick some arse!

At the very least, I got some fairly nice photos of G-Love playing in the pasture today. Enjoy the photo bomb.
Hello suspension. Note that the pasture grass is 4" tall and he's clearing that by quite a bit!

Kind of a derpy photo, as he's changing direction, but check out the muscle tone on his haunches! 
Such a cute face

April 30, 2017

Oh Joy! Trailer Loading Dramas

It has been a LONG winter here in Montana. When I say long, I'm not talking about snow in February or March, I'm talking about how we had snow on the ground every day this past week at the END of April. The reality is this is a "normal" Montana spring, but it's been a while since we've had one so I am a bit out of practice. Regardless, it just seems that mother nature is not on my side this year.

Thursday morning, much like Tuesday and Wednesday

We got 2" of precipitation last week between snow melt and rain. That equated to my grass arena becoming completely unusable. Yes, I can trail ride on our gravel road, but that doesn't help much when it comes to getting ready for our schooling show in May. So, I have been hauling into my old barn that I first kept Rose at when we moved back to town. It is also where we hold our local dressage shows, and it's only about 20 minutes from my house.

Hauling in there has been heaven! I miss boarding there so much. As nice as it is to have your horse at home and have 100% control over their care, I really miss the barn. I miss the social aspect of things. I miss being able to just show up, have pony time, and then go home.

The only thing that hasn't been great has been Gentry's sudden decision to not load onto the trailer. All of a sudden one day this past winter, he started balking at getting on the trailer, but he would still do it. Suddenly this week he said a big ole "Heck NO!" and would not get on.

Now, maybe it was because I was trying to load Gentry during a distant thunderstorm, or because the previous haul was to the vet for a float and sheath cleaning, or maybe its just because he's got a bee in his bonnet. I don't know, but it is really aggravating, and I have no tolerance for horses that don't load. After getting him on the trailer and managing a ride, I started planning our weekend.

It was time for loading boot camp.
Trailer floor with mats removed

On Saturday, I prepared to do nothing but get him back on the trailer, willingly. First though, I decided to pull all my rubber mats out and inspect the trailer floorboards. For 18 year old boards they are in okay shape. Regardless I have decided to replace them. There is quite a bit of rot around the screws at the door. Nothing super dangerous, and nothing that is contributing to him balking at loading, but they will need to be replaced sometime in the not to distant future, so I'm doing it now before it becomes dangerous. Having eliminated the floor as an issue, it was time to get his rump back on the trailer.
Minimal floorboard rot, but rot non-the-less

Now, I don't know about you, but pulling a horse on a trailer rarely works for me. Instead, the following is the method that I more or less mastered when I was training Rose to load all those years ago. I enlisted Hub's help as my rump man, to provide some gentle but annoyingly repetitive and persistent encouragement from the back. I put a bucket of feed in the front of the trailer, for a big reward. Then I asked him to load. He could stand there all day so long as he didn't back up, and got big pets and kudos for moving forward. The moment he took a step back I longed him in tiny circles at the back of the trailer. We repeated this a few times until he finally gave in and got on the trailer. Once he was all the way on he got some grain as a reward. Then I backed him off and repeated the whole thing several more times until he was more or less self loading with enthusiasm.

2.5-year old Rose learning to load

That was Saturday though. Would Sunday be a repeat affair?

I was hopeful but realistic about loading him the next day. Best to prepare for the worst and be pleased by whatever you get. To my delight, Gentry had a brief pause but then got right on the trailer, and off we went to the indoor for a ride. After our ride, he hopped right on the trailer to come home, no pause at all. I am sure that we will still have to do boot camp a few more times, but I am please that Gentry is so easy to work with when it comes to these things.

In retrospect, the only other physical factor, other than rotten floorboards, that I can think of that would cause him to not want to load is my driving. Our truck has a manual transmission, and perhaps I'm not shifting smoothly enough, or I am accelerating and slowing down too abruptly? When I hauled him on Sunday I paid a lot of attention to my driving and made and effort to be as smooth and gentle as possible. Given how happy he was to hop on and come home, maybe the whole issue simply boiled down driving skills?

February 25, 2017

Will the Micklem Bridle Fix the Chomping?

After the big saddle purchase, I decided to try out a Micklem bridle that I borrowed from a friend. I really want to get to the bottom of Gentry's chomping issues.

Gentry in the horse size Micklem bridle

The weekend I borrowed the bridle we still had a bunch of wet snow on the ground, so I decided to just go for a trail ride on the road rather than attempt to haul anywhere. Gentry was a mess. He chomped worse than normal. I quickly decided the bridle would not fix the problem, I also had no idea why he was being so bad about the chomping and was acting like a fool anytime I asked for a trot. I was perplexed and aggravated.

Then I got off him.

Poor guy Gentry had huge snowballs on the bottom of his feet. No wonder he was acting up and not happy. So, I can't say that this ride was a fair assessment of the Micklem. Without the snowballs he may have been dead quite. However, shortly after that I went for another ride in his regular bridle and he was dead quite. I am now thinking that my old saddle, which didn't fit him at all, was the cause of the bit chomping.

To be fair to the Micklem, I found it to be a nice looking bridle. In fact, I was surprised by how much I liked it. The horse size fit Gentry perfect, and if for some reason I just wanted to mix thing up I would splurge on purchasing one for him. However, I do not like cleaning and oiling numerous bridles throughout the winter, so one dressage bridle at a time is enough for me. Since he has now stopped the chomping, I will be sticking with our Keiffer bridle. The problem seems to be solved.


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