December 25, 2015

Gentry The Skijor Horse

We woke up to fresh powdery snow falling on Christmas morning. By the time we opened our presents and finished our crepe breakfast, there was 6" of new powder on the snow-packed road. Today was definitely the day. The conditions couldn't have been more perfect (okay, the temperature could have been a tad warmer than 16ºF). Everyone put on their ski gear, I tacked up Gentry, and then we headed to our road. The result?

Skijoring was completely AWESOME; even JR and my 69 year old MIL gave it a go and loved it!

Hubs...the guinea pig.

Hubs very quickly decided this was safe and fun and wanted to go faster. I have now been informed that next time we can just start off galloping.
JR giving it a go with Hubs...very slowly at the walk. 
Anything we do JR wants to try and he was being very insistent, so...we let him do it. He was grinning ear to ear. My heart was in my throat the entire time, but I was assured that the rope would be dropped if anything went awry, and of course nothing did. Then my MIL put on her ski's. She was completely stoked and didn't want to stop! I think we have found a new winter past-time and Gentry and our dog Burke seemed to enjoy it too!

On a side note, my dressage saddle harness set-up worked great. And despite my worry that the nylon rope would be slippery, it worked just fine.

•Renee•

December 24, 2015

Gentry Pulls a Sled

Happy Christmas Eve everyone! Given that we have holiday visitors/free babysitting, I jumped at the opportunity to take advantage of the nice weather and progress Gentry's skijoring training. Today we pulled a sled and Gentry was amazing about it. He didn't have a concerned about the sled and seemed to really enjoy himself.
Kid's snow sled, logs, and skijor tow rope

I started out by loading up JR's sled with logs so that the thing wouldn't bounce around. I then clipped the carabiner end of my skijoring tow rope to the sled and held the other end in my hand. First I led Gentry around the paddock while I held onto the rope and pulled the sled behind us. This allowed me to asses if he had any issues with something "chasing him" or the sound of the sled on the snow prior to being mounted. Nope. No concerns whatsoever...beyond the treat filled contents of my pocket. Many treats were dispensed during the course of this training session.

After determining that Gentry's usual easy going nature was indeed intact, I saddled up and decided to give it a go. You guys, I had SO MUCH FUN. I seriously love this horse and feel so grateful that he came into my life and has made riding/horse ownership fun for me again. Here are a few photos from the training session. Hubs was kind enough to pop outside and take a few action shots of us.

View of the sled from the saddle, while holding the rope.

Awkwardly trotting uphill holding the rope.

You can see how I ran the tow rope through the ring on the harness and held the open end in my hand.
The only trouble I had was at the canter. My hands were pretty frozen from my death grip on the rope, so I kept accidentally dropping the rope whenever we cantered. The trot was do-able holding the rope, but certainly was a bit awkward. I am looking forward to when I have a live passenger clipped to the harness who can drop the free end and I only have to use my hands to ride my horse! If the weather cooperates, it looks like Christmas day may be our first ever skijoring attempt!

•Renee•

December 21, 2015

Skijoring Harness & Tow Rope

Steps have been made toward skijoring! This past week we were blessed with 2' of snow, and woke up Sunday morning to 6 more inches of fresh powder. If skijoring is ever going to happen, this is probably the winter for it. Our roads are PERFECT for skiing on.

The fresh snow left me chomping at the bit to get my harness figured out, so after mulling it over for a few days, I came up with a harness design that I think will work well. Hubs took JR skiing Sunday morning, which left me with some glorious alone mommy time (this was actually a tough one as I really wanted to go skiing too), so I headed down to our local ranch store and purchased some rope and a few findings that I thought I'd need to make attaching the ropes easier. When I got back, I spent a few minutes assembling everything and was really pleased with the outcome.

Without further adieu, I give you my Dressage Saddle Skijoring Harness & Tow Rope Set-up:

Side View
Top View
The rope around the saddle is 3/8" Nylon. I attached one end to a metal ring with a square knot, and the other end tied a square knot to a carabiner. The rope runs between the saddle flap and the panel. I did not use the D rings, as this didn't seem necessary or possible. In addition, the breast collar attaches to the D rings, so they are in use anyway.

*Bonus, the rope now works as an "oh s..t" handle! That might come in useful.

Back View, showing Tow Rope Attachment
The Tow Rope is 3/4" Nylon, 30' long. If we ever get into this competitively, then we will need a 50' rope for running courses with curves. I attached a metal ring to the end of the rope and a carabiner. I was conflicted about this, thinking maybe I should use a panic snap instead, but in the end decided to go with the carabiner for human safety reasons. I don't want the thing randomly snapping free mid run.

Once it was all set up, I decided to hand walk Gentry around the paddock with the rope dragging to see how he'd react. Like everything else he completely took it in stride.

"Okay, so it's a rope. What now human?"

Viewpoint of the Skijorer
You will note that I broke from my usual white/black color theme. Shocking right? I figured that we will only ever skijor in the winter and we may as well have fun an be festive. I am now envisioning adding sleigh-bells to the breast collar and using red splint and bell boots up front! Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself; we have to test this setup first! Next up, time to book a babysitter and get Hubs on his ski's. Stay tuned...

•Renee•

December 15, 2015

Snow!

Right after Gentry's skijoring breast collar arrived, the temps SOARED into the 50's and all the snow melted. This was actually great because we got the field cleaned up and a few other outdoor tasks completed this past weekend. Then Sunday night it started to snow again, and it kept snowing. It didn't stop until Tuesday morning. At last measure and we have a total of 24" of fresh powdery snow. It is literally up to the horses' knees.

The "path" to the barn.

While everyone else in our town is probably on the slopes, I am just hoping that the snow will hang around and stay fluffy through the weekend so that we can attempt some skijoring training. I can't wait to give it a go! Stay tuned.

•Renee•

December 14, 2015

Barn Gifts

You know the drill. It's the Christmas season. You come strolling into your barn's tack room, and hanging from your bridle hook, or sitting in your brush box, is your barn present from your barn owner/manager person. These are generally handy things including brushes or curry combs and horse treats. Maybe even a human treat or two.

As a boarder I always enjoyed the generosity of my barn manager's. I also returned the favor and brought gifts for the barn staff. Now that I have a couple boarder's of my own, it was time to start organizing my Christmas spirit. I may have gotten overzealous this year, but hey, it happens.

This year, after being a bit of a lame-o last year, I decided to step it up a bit and I got both of our boarders a C4 belt that matches their saddle pad colors. Both girls are/were eventers/jumpers...so everything in the tack room is color coordinated. Frankly, I love this. I thought a belt would be the perfect additional bling.

Behold the loot (and I don't think they read this blog...if they DO, I hope that they can still pretend to be surprised).

The C4 Belts Arrived! Now time to wrap.


While I was at it, I got another belt for my non-horsey 12-year old niece (because the belts are I hope that cool...and I had no clue what else to get her pre-fashionista city-kid self), and of course one for me. Bonus, I got a black and white reversible saddle pad to add to my vast quantity of white saddle pads. Am I adventurous or what? One entire side is BLACK! Not white!

My C4 beauty!

Not one to hold back in the world of bling and colors...I got all matchy-matchy with my black and white horse and black and white dressage self. I think the combo of my new belt and future stock tie will be perfect for both schooling and the dressage court! Seriously, I do love all the black and white dressage stuff. Maybe it's just because I like a lot of clean saddle pads, but at the same time I hate sorting laundry. Having all of your pads white makes it easy to wash, bleach, and keep white... but, I digress.

Future stock tie...still need to order this puppy. Can't wait!

With all the new loot, we are one step closer to at least looking like we can ride training level. Now we just need winter to go away so we can get back to riding in the arena and start practicing the training level tests. Specifically our canter transitions.

•Renee•

December 3, 2015

The Fall Hustle

Having horses at home comes with one big downfall. It can, at times, be a lot of work. Fall is the main time when that is the case.

It currently looks like this outside:




It started snowing November 4th and hasn't stopped. We got lucky though, winter arrived about a month late for our area. So, although we didn't get all of the anticipated fall projects done around the farm, we did get the most important ones finished.

The list of finished Fall Hustle Projects (aka: get it done before it snows)


  1. Build two slow-feeder Slow Grazer boxes for the run-in shed.
  2. Stack 10 tons of hay in barn.
  3. Spread 1-year old composted manure in garden beds and plant garlic & shallots.
  4. Paint (at least) the south side of the barn - it got primered at least. Still needs red paint.
  5. Replace the last remaining 100' stretch of high tension wire with post and rail fencing.
  6. Install trench drains from barn gutters to outlet in pasture.
  7. Lay geotextile fabric and road mix (3/4" minus crushed rock) in high traffic areas around barn.
We literally finished project #7 the night it started snowing. I am also happy to report that Gentry's snowball rim's in his shoes worked as anticipated and kept me riding despite the snow. He's barefoot for the winter now though. Now that it is snowing, and the heated automatic waterer is doing it's job, I guess there is time to do a bit more than just work, eat, and sleep. For instance blog! 


Stay warm out there!
•Renee•

December 1, 2015

Skijoring inspiration

I got to enjoy some cyber Monday Sunday deals on Riding Warehouse, and ordered a Toklat CoolBack Fleece English Breastplate. It should arrive on Friday, until then all I can do is gaze at this lovely photo and let images of Hubs wiping out gracefully skiing behind my horse dance in my head.


Since I like to do research in lieu of a social life anything else, here is an "inspirational" instructable I stumbled across...

http://www.instructables.com/id/SKIJORING

The instructable has some good safety points. The author is probably one of those scorned lonely guys that like to sit on Reddit and preach about how one should never date a horse girl. But I digress. It was enough to make me briefly reconsider doing this. Briefly. I'm doing it! At least once! I roughly picture us doing this right up until second 16 of the video. I think we aught to leave off the jumps. But then again, I'll be on the horse, not the skis. So I guess it's not really up to me.

Then there is this video of a skijoring comp in Wisdom, MT



This video makes it all look like a fabulously fun adrenaline rush. Before you think I'm that much of a bad ass, consider that at the one minute mark you will see some begium drafts pulling a sled. That's more the speed I imagine going.

Next up is video from the Whitefish, MT skijoring competition showing the novice divsion. Way more my speed.


Lastly I found this video, and decided that maybe JR really does need a pony after-all...even if HE never rides it!


Now that is just friggin' cute!

•Renee•

November 29, 2015

Skijoring, Our New Winter Sport?

Hubs just isn't a horse person. I get it. After ten years I've come to accept that that is the way it will always be.

HOWEVER...

He loves skiing. He is crazy talented, as in skis backward through the trees to keep himself entertained while skiing with me. I am not talented at skiing.

Random Photo off Pinterest..sorry for lack of credit.

The other day I mentioned that I thought Gentry would be a good skijoring horse. Hubs, who usually tunes out my horse banter, was apparently listening and actually sounded like he might be somewhat interested in participating in such an activity. I have always been interested in skijoring, from the riding standpoint, ever since my college days, when nearby Hampshire College held a skijoring competition. Hampsire has the reputation for being the artsy alternative college. They always did fun things...like an Easter Keg Hunt. That was a very long time ago. I am now old and so is my liver. You probably aren't, and will now start planning your own Easter Keg Hunt. Enjoy!

Anyhow, skijoring is actually a pretty popular activity in our area. We even have a skijoring club, the Gallatin Valley Skijoring Association. I've also discovered that it is more than just a random snow country horse activity, but an actual organized sport with rules and competitions on a national level; behold Skijor America.

Skijoring has become a legitimate thing. Given that my lack of indoor arena, an outdoor that is covered in snow, and roads that are equally snowy causing any desire I might have to haul to an indoor to evaporate, has resulted in my winter riding consisting of the occasional weekend trail ride if the weather is nice enough, I might as well consider a new wintertime horse "sport". Clearly dressag-ing in the winter is not happening these days.

This is how it has looked outside non-stop since Nov. 4th.
Winter arrived with a fury and hasn't stopped.

With a little research from the above links, Pat's article over at Pat Wolfe Fjords, and Lida Pinkham's video on youtube, I have figured out how to safely give this a go with my existing dressage tack. The only things I need are a breastplate and a couple ropes. That means I get to tack shop on Cyber Monday...or today!

Given that Gentry has never pulled anything before, I think I will need to start him off with pulling a tire first. I also plan on riding him rather than driving him. I don't know how to drive a horse, or even long line, so I will need to cross that bridge with him before I attempt to skijor and drive myself...but it looks wicked fun and I want to try it. For now, I plan on just getting him to the point where we can pull Hubs around the field or down our road. So, this is my winter training project for this year. Fingers crossed this all goes well! Who knows, maybe next year we'll enter a skijor competition?

Anyone have a good five-point breastplate recommendation?

•Renee•

October 15, 2015

Snowball Shoes

Given the absolutely glorious fall weather we have been having this year, when my farrier asked me this week what I wanted to do with Gentry's feet I was at a loss. If you have ever noticed, Murphy's Law seems to rule my life. I figured if I had him leave the shoes on we would suddenly see a 50 degree temperature drop and the world freeze overnight. I would single-handedly be blamed for the immediate ice age, and deservedly so. Transversely, if I had them taken off, we wouldn't see snow until January.

Dilemma!

Then my completely awesome farrier suggested putting on anti-snowball rim pads in Gentry's shoes and some sort of metal/chemical lumpy (sorry, my post-prego brain forgot what he called it) "foe-spikes" on the heels. What? I totally love my farrier. Now if it does snow, no worries. Gentry has safe traction and anti-snowball rims. If it does't snow, then we can keep riding in this awesome weather and continue on business as usual. Win!

Gentry's standard shoes with anti-snowball rim pads and "foe-spikes"

•Renee•

October 12, 2015

Fall Quick Pic's

I've had Gentry for a year now (year and one month) and I had meant to do a post on that back in September, but clearly I completely failed that. So, I thought I would at least take advantage of the beautiful weather out and take a couple quick pics to compare to last year's October photos.

Despite Gentry being completely filthy in these photos (I did say quick photos..had to hurry during JR's nap-time) he's still super shinny with his BLACK winter coat growing in. Swoon. Now only time will tell if the copper/zinc supplement is doing anything and keeps him from fading. In comparing the two photos he does seem a bit more black in today's photo compared to last years. I also like to imagine that his neck has gotten longer. I'm sure it is just my imagination!

I am planning on bathing him this week during our glorious and unusually warm fall weather and then hope to take some proper conformation photos. Till then, feast your eyes on this:

October 2015
(oh yeah! we are painting our barn...soon to be red!)

October 2014

•Renee•

August 21, 2015

Dressage Show #2

Gentry's second dressage show went very well. We did Intro A & B. Got nice scores in the 60's again, and had a really enjoyable time. We ended up with 1st place in Intro A and 2nd place in Intro B...and we actually had competition!

All settled in and working on filling up the wheelbarrow with hay.

About to enter the court...warming up at the trot.

When we arrived at the show the boys both settled down instantly. Got to munching hay and FALLING ASLEEP! The rest of the day when much the same. Gentry was nice and quiet during warm up, and I even had to ride with my whip. The tests went great and he loaded/unloaded like a champ. In fact, I was SO pleased with his behavior that I decided that this was the last show I'd drag him to this summer. He seems to have figured it out and is taking it all in stride. I really can't ask more from him than that this summer. No sense in putting him in another hunter jumper show doing walk-trot with a million other horses.

Now we can start taking lessons again, and work on our canter transitions. I plan on showing him in a couple schooling shows and two registered shows next summer at training level. Yikes! That is a real legitimate goal, with USEF points and everything!

•Renee•

August 19, 2015

Shoes

I forgot to post this in July. Better late than never?
***

We have gravel roads around our house. They are in great condition and are wonderful to ride on, even right after a rain storm. However, they wear down the horses feet extremely fast! I had hoped to keep Gentry barefoot, but despite having overall great feet they were no match for the 1/2 mile trip down the gravel road to the arena.

After having constant arguments with Gentry about the fact that we DO NOT ride in the grass ditch, I called up my farrier and arranged for front shoes to be put on Gentry at his next appointment.

I am so glad I did.

It was Gentry's first time getting shoes (I assume), and per his general easy going nature, he was a champ about it. He was a little uneasy with the smoke from the hot-set, but otherwise stood nice and quiet in the cross ties the whole time.

Happy Shod Feet!

What I am happy about though, is that he is walking out down the Gravel roads like there is no tomorrow. It used to take us 15 minutes to ride down to the arena, and now it's only a 10 minute ride. That is a 33% improvement. Clearly his feet are no longer in pain, and it was the right decision to make.

•Renee•

August 3, 2015

Once you go black...

...you want your horse to stay black!


October 2014...All Black - Winter Coat Coming In
Gentry is black. Specifically smokey black. He is not black-bay. There is no brown on his muzzle or other tell tale spots. I haven't DNA tested him for sure, but his daddy is a palomino and in his baby pics he looks like a dark dun/buckskin with a dorsal stripe. So, I am 99% positive he is smokey black. However, he fades terribly in the summer...so much that you might think he is dark-bay...except for that black muzzle.

August 2015...Faded Black - Summer Coat in Full Bloom

Though it may just be a genetic aspect of the smokey black coat and a dilution gene that I will have to learn to accept, I am basically certain that Gentry's fading is more so due to a lack of copper in his diet. Of course you can't just feed copper and get the results you want, you have to balance it with zinc. I used to feed my horses LMF Supper Supplement G, which seemed to keep them from fading and must have had the right balance of copper/zinc among everything else. However, it has a lot of molasses in it which is not so great for the easy keeper type. Since noticing Gentry was a bit foot sore and started standing camped under while on the LMF last fall, I switched him to Triple Crown 30%. He's doing great on it and is not getting as fat as he was on the LMF. Bonus. However, with the lack of copper, and hot sweaty summer sun, he's faded, and faded bad.

Supplement Options

This is a road that I have been down before. This time around I wanted to try something different. There are a few pelleted supplements out there for coat color that I assume taste good and are easy to feed. However, being rather thrifty, I have never tried them, but since I have researched them I will will give you my two cents.

1. The big one that everyone always throws out there when it come to dark horses is Ceval's Black as Knight (BAK). Runs about $0.62/per day. Surprisingly, not horridly expensive when you compare products, however, it is basically just paprika.

2. I have never tried BAK, but did try feeding 1Tbs/day paprika (capsicum annuum) to Rose once upon a time, and I do think it worked fairly well (click here to read the way-back post from 2010). Running about $0.09/day, it was inexpensive and she loved the taste. However, it is MESSY and red. Everything that touches it turns red. No thank you, despite the affordability of it, I am not going there again. Also, paprika tests positive for capsicum (pepper), so if you are showing on the circuit you won't want this in your horse's system anyway.

3. SmartPak has a supplement that is similar to BAK called SmartDark & Handsome. Runs about $0.71/day. It is a paprika based supplement as well and a bit more expensive than BAK. So, yeah. Not going there either.

4. Grand Meadows makes a product called Grand Coat, which seems to have a good copper/zinc balance, and does not have paprika in it, so it is safe for competition horses. At $0.81/day, it is the most expensive option I've looked ad. Regardless, if all else fails I would certainly like to try it out, for convenience sake.

5. Uckeley Health & Nutrition, Poly Copper & Poly Zinc
I found various mentions about their products around horsey internet forums, and at $20 total for a 150-day supply, which is $0.13/day, I figured it was worth a try before going a more expensive pelleted route. I picked up one tub of the Poly Copper and one tub of the Poly Zinc powder (since ordering it...I have discovered that they also have pelleted versions of both of these, for a slightly higher cost, but still not bad).

My First Impression

Holly goodness they stink! The second I opened the first container I knew that it might be a struggle to get any horse to eat this stuff. I should have expected that they wouldn't smell good. Hello, copper and zinc. It's not like I ordered carrots and apples for goodness sake. I just didn't really think that one through, and internet forum fanatics generally never mention the downside of something they swear by.

Gentry likes his food though, so I thought that there was hope. The stuff is really easy to scoop out of the container and add to the food. Not messy at all. So, big win there at least. I decided to mix the two containers together for the ease of just measuring one scoop instead of two half-scoops. This also minimizes the amount of time that I have to handle, and thus smell, the stuff. Pee-yew!

It took three days of Gentry trying to eat everyone else's grain, and me chasing him off,  before he gave up and ate his own grain again. I figured if I had to add apple sauce or molasses to get him to eat it, I should just switch back to the LMF grain and be done with the supplements. Not necessary though. We are one week in now, and although he doesn't seem as stoked to eat his food as in the past, he is eating it all.That is good at least. Now it will just take time for his new coat to grow in (winter and then summer) to tell if it is working. Since he's eating the powder now, I will just stick with it for the winter, and then be a bit less frugal and try the pelleted version of the copper & zinc once I run out.

Stay tuned until August 2016 for an update. Will I have wasted my time and money, or have a black horse that stays black? What do you think?

•Renee•

July 19, 2015

Rebecca Farm

The Event at Rebecca Farm is coming up once again. Having this horse show in Montana is a bit like having the statue of liberty in New York. You know it is there, yet you never go, taking it for granted. Sad, sad, sad, I know.

This year several fellow bloggers have mentioned that they are traveling from far away places to attend. I would love to join you guys, however, I cannot make it this year. I really wish I could make it happen, but I cannot.

However, I will throw this out there...feel free to come visit me on your way up to or back from The Event. We are in the southern end of the state, in the Bozeman area, and near-ish to Yellowstone.

•Renee•

July 18, 2015

Big Boy Bit

Gentry's steering has been dialed in for a while now. I no longer feel like I'm guiding a drunk sailor through Amsterdam's red-light district. So, yesterday I decided that it was time he graduated from the D-ring to his big boy dressage bit; a nice copper oval-lozenge loose ring snaffle. I was curious to see how he'd do, so off we went for our ride.

Starting to look like a real dressage horse:
Loose ring and the bling-bling (I need more coffee)

We had the best solo ride to date!

Initially Gentry had some anxiety from being alone in the arena, but not much. He relaxed and got down to work fairly quickly. Whether it was the new bit, or him just becoming more schooled, I don't know, but he stretched onto the bit and through his back more than he has ever done before!

We worked a lot on canter transitions and transitions through gates, particularly the medium walk. That was our big weakness on his dressage test...the "sticky" walk. We have another dressage show coming up the first week of August, so I am focusing on improving that.

By the end of our ride, Gentry was a relaxed foamy mouthed mess. I couldn't have been happier with the little guy!

•Renee•

July 2, 2015

Calling and Rearing Oh My

It wasn't on my goals list, but it happened anyway. In prep for our dressage show last weekend, I rode Gentry more often than I had been since first bringing him home. I think I probably averaged 3 rides per week. That was the average, some weeks there were a few more. It sounds pathetic to me, given that I used to ride 4-5 days a week come rain or shine, literally, in Oregon. However, balancing life with a kiddo under foot, and snow in the winter, has definitely eaten into my self indulgent, therapeutic, ride time.

What does this have to do with calling, you ask?

Well, because I rode so much last month, there were days when I rode alone. In the arena, down in the park, 1/2 mile walking/stretching/warm-up ride from home. That meant Hugo was back at home. Alone.

Dear lord. You would think it was the end of the world!

Not really, it was just annoying to me how often Hugo would call for Gentry, and Gentry would call back. He would also get anxious as soon as we stepped foot in the arena. Tight backed and threatening to try and do little rear pops. He doesn't do any of this with a buddy in the arena, so it was a bit of a surprise the first time it happened.

I was having none of that nonsense, and drove my point home immediately!

How? You want my magical anti-calling anti-arena anxiety training methods? Well here you go. This is what generally works for me. I've addressed these issues before on other horses, and so far these methods have with all of them.

Problem #1: Calling

The second I feel the horse start to call, I immediately pull my inside rein to my knee, I do nothing else and I mean NOTHING, and I let the horse spin in tiny circles until he stops. I probably have to do this once more if I am on a smart cooperative horse that already accepts me as the brave leader, and a few times more if I am on a smart yet stubborn horse. Gentry sorted it out I believe after the second spin. After that I could still tell he was listening for Hugo but could feel him think about it and choose not to call back.

Problem #2: Tightening up and threatening to rear

I believe that rearers are made by bad training, and once you have one, well, you have one because no one else is going to buy that horse from you. So no matter what, I discourage any rear-like behavior the very moment it ever is attempted by a young horse. And in my experience, most young horses do attempt it as some point when they get confused about what to do with their feet, or anxious in the arena like Gentry.

How do I correct it? It couldn't be easier. As the horse is popping it's head up I smack them between the years with my crop (if I am lucky enough to have one in hand) or as hard as possible with my free hand (much to my soon to be sore free hand's dismay). The horse will immediately put their head down and then I immediately get their feet moving and make them go forward in whatever gate or direction they go. It doesn't matter what they do so long as the feet are going forward and not UP! After a couple times of this the young-in's get the picture and generally don't try it again. Problem solved and prevented!

So that was one of our surprise training accomplishments in June. I'm pretty happy that we quickly got past them and have moved on to more fun things like improving canter transitions and the beginnings of shoulder and haunches in.

•Renee•

July 1, 2015

July Goals

Here is our goals for this month

June Re-Cap

Done! - Dressage Schooling Show on June 28 - Intro Level Test
Started - Cantering & Canter Transitions
Done! - Leg Yielding
Continuing on - Pawing in Cross-Ties
Continuing on - Riding alone in our outdoor arena

July Goals

Dressage Schooling Show on August 1&2 - Intro Level Test
Cantering & Canter Transitions
Pawing in Cross-Ties
Riding alone in our outdoor arena

•Renee•

June 29, 2015

Dressage Show

I helped organize a combined training schooling show this weekend that was once again held at Tri-H. This meant that Gentry got to go to his first dressage show. I entered him in Intro B, and thank goodness we were the 2nd ride of the day at 9:08am. It was already 75ºF when we rode! Mid-day the temps were in the upper 90's.

When we arrived at 6:45am, both the boys hopped off the trailer nice and calm. They seemed to remember where we were from last month, and settled in much more quickly. Being a combined training (CT) show vs. a hunter show, everything was much more laid back and calmer in general too.

It was a schooling show, so aside from bathing Gentry the night before, cleaning my tack, and washing my breeches, there really wasn't much show prep to stress either of us out. After he settled in his stall, I tacked him up and started schooling around 8am. He was a little anxious in the large outdoor arena when the barn staff were turning out horses, but he quickly got down to business without much fuss. I was quite happy with him, so I didn't work him too hard, or for the full hour. We schooled just enough to assure that he was listening to my cues and was halting and trotting off nicely. Then they called us in the gate and off we went. My entire goal was that he would trot (not tranter) and stay in the court. Anything above and beyond would be icing on the cake!

See for yourself!



I was so pleased with his test I couldn't resist giving hugs and scratches immediately in the court after our final salute! I was amazed at how calm he was for a horse that hasn't ever seen a dressage court or judges booth. I didn't care what our score was I was so happy with him. The only thing I felt that really needed improvement was our medium walk. It was...a bit sticky, and my score card agreed with this.
Right After our Test. A little blurry, but I love this photo.
Later in the day we got our score. We earned a respectable 64.7% and a blue ribbon! If I wasn't already proud of the little guy before, I couldn't get the stupid grin off my face after that.
At the end of the day with his ribbon.

More interested in the grass than the blue...he's still a horse of course.

Today he's getting the day off, as the weather is still very hot by the evening when I can ride. But he can't have too much time off because we have the next CT show coming up on August 1 & 2. That will be a two-day show and I am really looking forward to it.

•Renee•

June 9, 2015

Visiting Rose

I was in Colorado this past weekend to visit some friends, and I got the opportunity to go visit Rose.

With Rose. My sweet girl.

A little dusty, but otherwise looking great.

Update on Miss Thing:

Rose continues to be the princess that she's always been. She looked wonderful. Did she remember me? If she did she didn't really show any affection. It was definitely just the same old same old indifference to my existence that she always had. I'm not sure if that made me feel good or not. Perhaps it's taken the edge off my pining for her a bit. Had she appeared ecstatic at my sudden appearance it would have been much harder to leave. She seems quite happy where she is at and her current owner is taking wonderful care of her.

Shortly after I sold Rose she had a bad hock injury in turnout, followed by lots of surgery, and then six months of stall rest. She healed and was in work again from July-February. Then she went lame again, had surgery again, and was still not quite right. So they decided to try and give her cortisone injections to see if that fixed the problem. The injection was just last week.

Rose. Oh, Rose.

Come to find out, Rose is one of the 8% of horses that is allergic to cortisone. She currently has a volley ball sized right hind hock from the reaction. It looks much smaller in the photo I took than it did in person.

Where does that leave Rose then? Well her new owner has now scratched rehab, beyond turning her out for a year. If she's turned out then she might as well make babies, yes? YES! I am so excited to see what stallion she chooses and how the baby comes out. Maybe, just maybe, baby #2 will end up in my pasture...just a wild and crazy thought. The timing would be perfect.

•Renee•

June 1, 2015

Gentry's First Horse Show & Goals

I took Gentry to a MHJA show this past weekend! I was the announcer at the show and would be there all day, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and bring Gentry along. EB and Hugo also joined in on the fun. The show was held at Tri-H, the gorgeous barn that I boarded Rose at when I first moved back to Bozeman. It has recently gone under new ownership, and has been opened up to the community for shows once again. Pulling into the parking lot felt like coming home and it was a nice although bittersweet feeling.


Posers - happily my very dated, pre-baby show clothes still fit...barely.
Dang new hips! Time for some new TS breeches. Love that my old
Effinghams still fit perfect though!
My goals for the show were just to take Gentry to the show, throw him in a stall for the day, see how he handled it all, and let him get used to the scene. Anything above and beyond that would just be a bonus.

To justify my MHJA membership, I also entered him in the walk/trot class. I would say that for his first show ever, he was a good boy. However, he definitely needs more experience on the show grounds. We hauled in that morning and the walk/trot was the very first class...and one of the biggest classes. This meant he didn't get much down time to settle in before our class.

Next time, I will haul in the night before, despite the grounds being so close to home. That will give us the added bonus of schooling the night before. Assuming we will be cantering well by then, I will also enter Gentry in whatever flat class has the least entries, rather than the walk/trot...read on to understand why.

Walking down to the event barn

It had poured rain the night before the show, so the show got moved indoors. I am fairly positive that Gentry had never been inside an arena before, let alone among a huge group of other horses or riders. The whole thing kind of blew his mind, but bless his heart he handled it all well, despite obvious anxiety. I decided not to school him in the arena after hand walking him in there. He seemed rattled enough by the other horses, riders, and jumps that I didn't think that it would do us much good. Interestingly, he could care less about the mirrors in the arena. Perhaps a sign that we should just be dressaging?
Schooling in the outdoor after our class

Walk/Trot Class Re-cap:

To my surprise and dismay there were 14 riders in the walk/trot class. I assume people were using this as a schooling round. But sheesh! I think there was only one kid in the class. In my imagination I was going to be in a baby class with a bunch of seven year olds on their ponies, me looking like a total tool on my "big" horse.

The class started well. We had a nice walk and trot going on and our own space on the rail. Then the judge asked everyone to spread out. At that point the other horses started passing us in a huge mob and Gentry kinda lost his mind. He didn't do anything bad and was trying really hard to listen. However he proceeded to tranter instead of trot for the rest of the class. He was fine at the walk, but kept trantering at the trot. At that point I resigned to the fact that we would not get a placing and just focused on keeping him listening and calm to not cause a scene or problems for other riders. Then, after placings were announced the audience made an applause. That was his first applause clearly, and he spooked in place, but didn't' do anything explosive. Just startled.

After that I took Gentry to the outdoor schooling arena (hence the outdoor photos) to see if he could still trot, which he immediately did. So, I am rest assured that the trantering was indeed just his anxiety to the indoor/large class/new situation. I had to get back to my announcing duties shortly there after so he then spent the rest of the day in his stall, eating hay, and just dealing. Which he did well. At 9pm when the show ended and we loaded up to go home, he happily jumped right back on the trailer, and we were home just at dusk.

To conlude, I am very proud of the little guy. I think he handled his first show quite well and I can't wait to drag him to a few more this summer. We have a total of four shows in town to go to!

Kisses for a good job
Oh, and EB and Hugo took 3rd place in the walk/trot. It was Hugo's first show ever as well, and he acted like a seasoned champ. Granted being an OTTB, he's seen the "scene" plenty of times before, but it was a huge trust/bonding moment for the two of them. I am so happy for them!

May Re-cap

  1. Cantering & canter transitions - started working on this. Needs improvement still.
  2. Leg yielding - this has improved a lot, but still needs improvement.
  3. Pawing in cross-ties...still...this is going to be ongoing for a while.

June Goals

  1. Dressage Schooling Show on June 28 - Intro Level Test
  2. Cantering & Canter Transitions
  3. Leg Yielding
  4. Pawing in Cross-Ties
  5. Riding alone in our outdoor arena

•Renee•

May 4, 2015

Cantering & May Goals

Cantering

I finally cantered Gentry for the first time this weekend, post-tendon injury. Given how green he is in general, it was a little rough but we did a few canter transitions in each direction and he got his leads. His left lead is his "difficult" lead to pick up, but given that he hasn't cantered under saddle since October I didn't expect it to be any better than it was.

Creek

After our ride in the arena we went down to the creek so that the horse's could have a drink. This was Gentry's third time in the creek and he is so game for it now. He sees the water and marches right in! He definitely likes to play in it and this time he finally figured out that he can drink the water. It was quite cute. Best of all I actually remembered to ask EB to take a photo of  standing in the creek.

Gentry & I in the creek May 3, 2015


May Goals

Now that we are w/t/c again it is time to focus more on our riding. Woo-hoo!

  1. Cantering & canter transitions
  2. Leg yielding
  3. Pawing in cross-ties...still

Have a great week everyone.

•Renee•

April 30, 2015

April Goals - Recap

April was a fairly successful month for Gentry. We focused on ground work issues.

  1. Politely and promptly picking up hooves. - Success!
  2. No-pawing in cross-ties. - Still in progress....it's hard to work on because he doesn't do it all time.
  3. Girth sourness. - Success! 

Now I will give myself 24hrs to decide what to focus on for May. In the mean time...I have been having  a blast watching the IHSA National Finals live online. You can as well! Here is the link: http://www.theepcogroup.com/live-webcast.html

Go Mount Holyoke College!

•Renee•

April 27, 2015

Ride to the Summit

When Mother nature decides to play a cruel prank and cause you to wake up to 5" of snow that is still falling, what do you suppose one should do?

Laugh in her face and go for a trail ride, of course!

Posers...at the summit.
The Spanish Peaks in the distance are hidden behind clouds.

EB and I decided to explore and ride the boys up a road that goes all the way to the summit of the big hill behind my house. It was a MUCH longer ride that we anticipated, but not too long. Once we were on top I took a few photos and, thanks to the communicative technology of cell phones, Hubs got a couple photos of us from our house. It was a really nice ride and great hill work for the boys. I can't wait to do it again.

View of my house, the tiny thing right in the middle.
The hills behind my house is Ted Turner's Flying-D ranch.
View of our posse from my deck.

Time for our "close-up", courtesy of the telephoto lens.

One thing I love about where we live is that all of our roads are gravel, and there are a lot of roads, and no through traffic! This means, that even when the fields and arena are muddy or snow covered, most of the time the roads are still terrific for riding.

Let me tell you my friends, there is still a lot of leg yielding, halting, backing, transitions, stretching, balance, rhythm etc. that can be worked on while riding on gravel roads. For this reason, I have developed a great fondness for riding on the roads. Never in my wildest imagination would have ever thought that would have become the case. But it has, so there you go. I still prefer working on these things in the arena, but it is nice to know that I still have good footing on the roads in wet weather, and therefore can still ride and work on training exercises.

I am however looking forward to the sunny and warm (70ºF) extended forecast that should arrive starting today!

•Renee•

April 20, 2015

Creek Crossing

That's right my friends, I rode Gentry through our creek for the first time yesterday. It was clearly his first time walking through a creek. There was lots of snorting and questioning of the water, but after EB rode Hugo through it Gentry marched right on through and up the creek bank. I think my blood pressure went through the roof, as it was definitely the first time I've ridden through a creek in years. Probably about 15 years. Wow...I am getting old. We did it twice in total, once again on the way home and that time he continued his position as lead horse.

In other news, I am really sore today. I have actually ridden Gentry three times this week and longed him once. That is four days in a row of work for the little man...and me. His tendon appears to be holding up just fine with the walk/trot work we've been doing under saddle. In fact, the "lump" of scar tissue seems to be breaking down and smoothing out. Woo-hoo! All good stuff.

•Renee•

April 8, 2015

Just a Little Vacation

Vacation Time

It is time I take a little break from blogging. I am not disappearing from the blogosphere all together, but lets be real about this for a moment. Gentry isn't a colt. He's a green bean. A lot of the basics of bringing on a colt have already been covered with him. Despite that he is green and we still have a TON of under-saddle work to take on, with the tendon injury, this year is going to be pretty non-eventful in regards to training. Given that that is the focus of this blog...it seems a little pointless to be grasping at straws to try and post relevant articles three times a week.

Moving Forward

My plan is to pop on here once a month, or more often if we do anything truly exciting, and chronicle what we've worked on/accomplished that month. Also, if the unlikely happens and I end up with a Gatsby colt in my pasture anytime soon, I will be back to blogging full force. I am very much looking forward to that! For now though, it's time I focus more energy on my business and a little less on blogging, when in fact I have very little to blog about at the moment.

I hope that you will all hang around, as I look forward sharing our goings on with you. For my part I will be checking your blogs and enjoying living vicariously through everyone else's show seasons this year!

•Renee•

April 3, 2015

Picking Up Feet

Gentry already somewhat knew how to pick up his feet, he just didn't do it willingly. I would have to lean into him to push him off balance and them physically pick up his feet after which he would try and pull them out of my hands and stomp them back down. Not cool horse. Not cool.

On the bright side he didn't attempt to cow-kick when asked, Gentry just seemingly acted "stubborn" and didn't want to pick them up. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that he wasn't being stubborn, he'd just never been taught to properly and nicely pick up his feet when asked. Well, it was high time that we addressed that little training "hole" and I decided that picking up feet was going on our April goal list.

It took him ONE day to figure this out. Seriously guys, I know that I sound like an annoying person here, but I LOVE this friggin' horse. Here is a re-cap of what I did.

How To Teach a Horse to Pick Up Feet Politely (and Safely)

1. I put Gentry in the cross ties and stuffed small treats in my pockets, then went about grooming him as normal. You could obviously do this tied to a post or something as well, but since I am also working on not allowing him to paw in the cross-ties...I figured I would kill two birds with one stone!

2. When it came time to do his feet I took a deep patient breath (the kind I take when my almost three year old human child is throwing the fifth tantrum of the day because I asked him if he wanted juice...and he didn't, sigh), pinched his tendon right above the fetlock, and waited. Then waited some more. Eventually he tried to figure out what I was wanting and lifted his foot a little.

3. I immediately rewarded with a pat/"good boy" or a treat, and repeated until he got the picture and instantly picked up his foot when I lightly pinched the tendon. Upon setting the foot down, I was prepared and did not allow him to put his foot down on his own accord, but made him wait for me to place it down gently. Then I moved onto the other legs.

4. Once I got him to lift all four feet pretty good, I gave him a break (the uber reward) and groomed him some more.

5. Then I went back to the legs and asked again, working on getting a more polite response each time and of course always pretending to pick his feet once I picked them up.

6. Gentry became willing and nice about picking up his feet really quickly, so this didn't take long and we called it a day.


The Results

The next day (and all days following this week) I asked him to pick his feet up per our usual routine, while he was eating his breakfast. To my delight, he immediately and politely picked all of his feet up, didn't try to pull them out of my hands, and waited until I set them down where I wanted.

I am not used to a horse that just willingly figures things out and sticks with them. He is a rock star. I love it!

***

Now, if you have horse that has never been taught to have it's feet handled and does try to cow-kick you, you will need to precede all of this "refined" training with the good ole' rope method. To do that, grab a helmet, long lead rope and read this old post of mine: Hup, Hup, Hup

•Renee•

March 26, 2015

Ground Work Training Goals for April

Given that I am just lightly riding Gentry at the moment I think it is prudent to work on his ground work...aka manners. Overall, he is a really gentle well behaved horse, but with every horse there are always little things that need attention.

The importance of focusing on the little issues was a lesson I learned when I decided to sell Rose. Looking at her through a potential buyer's eyes, a lot of ground work "holes" needed to be filled in. Once I realized that, I wished I had looked at her through that viewpoint from the beginning, and vowed that I would always look at my horses that way in the future.

Despite the fact that I have no intention to ever sell Gentry, I still want a perfectly well behaved horse. Horses with good ground manners are safer to be around and are more fun because you can take them places without stressing about all the things that they do that could spoil the outing. Not to mention, if the sky suddenly started falling and you had to sell your horse in a hurry it will be that much easier to find a good home.

Here is a list of the issues I plan on tacking during the month of April:

1. Pawing in the cross ties

Gentry is a solid citizen in the cross-ties. He figured them out quickly and is quite content standing in them. That is until he decides he wants a treat, or if Hugo walks past the barn door. Then the pawing starts. He quickly stops with a little reprimand, so I am not concerned that we will be able to overcome this annoying (and dusty) habit. Also, I would like to get some rubber mats for the grooming stall. That will give him less material to work with while he attempts to travel to china.


2. Girth sourness

Gentry has always been girth sour. At his previous home he was ridden in an English saddle and a western saddle. I am guessing the western saddle girth cinching is what made him sour to it. At first he would dance around for the saddle pad and the saddle as well, but with some simple training has stopped with that now. He still gets fidgety when I put on the girth though, so I will now focus on that.

3. Picking Up feet

Gentry has been less than helpful with picking up his feet. He has gotten better, but not great. Sure I could live with how he is now about it, but when I touch his tendon that foot needs to willingly get picked up right away. Someday, when he is older, I would like Junior to be able to groom and tack up Gentry independently. A kid having to fight with an 1100lb horse over picking up feet is just painful to watch. So, feet you must start jumping for joy at the sight of my hoof pick!

I think that this is enough to tackle by the end of April, and I am excited to get these little "holes" filled in and checked off the list.

•Renee•

March 23, 2015

More Saddle Time

The weather was beautiful on Sunday, so I just couldn't help myself and I went for another ride on Gentry. This time EB and I rode all the way down to the arena. Once we got there, my neighbor ST came to join us. She was on foot though, as she hurt her back this winter and is under doctor's orders to stay off a horse for two more weeks. Eventually ST will join us for our little rides around the hood and also help me maintain the arena in the park.

We didn't do much in the arena, as I didn't want to stress Gentry's leg too much, but EB trotted Hugo around a bit. Mostly though we all just stood around in the nice weather and chatted. I was shocked when we got home to find that we were gone for two hours! It's amazing how fast time flies when horse women sit around and talk about horse stuff. Hubs probably wouldn't consider that amazing though...

Once again I forgot to take any photos because I was just so pre-occupied by the fact that I was actually RIDING my horse! However, I have started a list of training issues that we need to work on, but that is for a future post.

Hope your Monday is off to a good start!

•Renee•

March 22, 2015

Green Means GO!

Yep, that is right folks. Yesterday my vet gave me the all clear to start lightly riding Gentry! So that is just what I did. I was even given the all clear to start jumping him in the fall if I want, but I think I will still wait until next winter/spring. Give that tendon a whole year to heal up.

The morning started with a nice cup of Joe and breakfast for the boys while I soaked in some deliciously warm early morning sun. Hubs and I had gotten the trailer sorted out the night before, so once EB arrived there wasn't much to do but groom the horses, load them, and be on our way. Despite not having seen the trailer since November, the boys jumped straight on the trailer and hauled perfectly there and back. My vet took a look at Gentry's leg, EB discussed joint supplements for Hugo's hocks, they both got their shots, but didn't need teeth done (yay) so we were back on the trailer and home lickety-split.

Once home, the weather was still nice so EB and I hopped on the boys and went for a leisurely walking trail ride down to the arena with the intent to ride around in the park for a while. Well, EB would ride around; I would stand there happily sitting on my horse in my tack. Sadly, once we got to the arena the mother of all wind storms blew in, so we just turned around and headed home.

Post ride...all smiles!

Regardless of the short and breezy ride, Gentry was terrific. He was the bold calm leader that Hugo needs off property. I love this horse. He is seriously my rock. I am so glad that the healing process is going well. I also got to ride him in my new saddle finally too. I am very happy with the purchase. It fits both of us really well and is nice and comfortable.

*On a side note, the vet tech that day was one of the gals that were seriously interested in buying Rose. So we had a good time catching up and oddly talked a lot about chickens. Good times!

•Renee•

March 19, 2015

The Waiting Game

I am patiently waiting to start working with Gentry until the vet's okay on Saturday. Seriously, this takes a lot of will power. To ease my pain I longed Hugo today for EB. He was a stinker, as expected (he's been giving EB troubles lately on the longeline), but quickly realized that I was not going to play his game and fell into line. Twenty minutes later he stared at me like I just ran over his dog or something. Clearly the Alpha Mare put him in his place. Fingers crossed he is a good boy for EB next time she is out.

He is looking awesome and very ride-able at all three gates.

In the mean time, I literally have nothing to talk about in regards to training Gentry. Not wanting to put any stress on his tendon really eliminates most things other than grooming and shoving treats in his face. So, in lieu of anything else, I give you this morning's photo spam.


Gentry hadn't yet had his morning cup of Joe.

Okay, I took a serious one too.
Working from home, and having one's horses at home, certainly has some entertaining coffee break advantages.

•Renee•

March 10, 2015

Itching

Itching. I am itching to get on my horse.

No, I didn't get on.
I just wanted to see how the new saddle fit him.

I know he is still recovering...growing new tendon scar tissue and all. But when I see him careening around the pasture at a full gallop with Hugo, all-the-while looking basically completely sound, it is really hard to remember that.

The weather has warmed back up to high's in the mid-50's and all the snow has melted. Things are still a bit muddy, but a few days of sunshine will take care of that. Then I plan on riding. Riding Hugo that is. EB is happy to have the extra help getting him back in shape, and riding him should alleviate some of my desire to hop on Gentry.

The boy's have their spring shots and dental work scheduled for the 21st of this month, and I will have my vet take a look at Gentry then and tell me what he thinks about when and how I can start riding him again. I've more or less decided not to ride him until April at any rate, and I will not be jumping him this year. I really want that tendon to fully heal before putting that kind of stress on it. So far though, I am really pleased to see how fast he seems to be healing up now that he is back on full turnout. Happy Happy Joy Joy.


•Renee•

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