Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Trail "Road" Ride (at our new home)

I rode Chrome on the roads at our new house!!  :D  I rode him once on the roads at our old house, but he was on a lead most of that trip because he didn't know how to steer and that was only about an eighth of a mile out, so really I kind of consider this our first road ride.  :)  He did awesome!

I rode him up the driveway and he was excited (like he always is when we go up the driveway because he thinks we're going out on the road).

Waiting patiently on a loose rein while hubby takes a picture and opens the gate for us.  :) 

 And then we headed off down the rode.  He was so forward and enthusiastic!

He was looking around, but he wasn't spooky at all.  I wasn't as tense as I look in this picture.  I must have been rolling my shoulder or something.  I have issues with it sometimes...

 It was such a pretty day for a ride too!

We only went for a twenty minute ride because that's how long all of his sessions have been so far.  Even though he was excited and energetic I didn't want him to overdo it and be sore tomorrow.  Not many of my husband's pictures turned out because he was taking them while walking and his back makes it difficult to twist at the waist.  That's okay though.  I really appreciate the fact that he's willing to come with me and take pictures and I love the ones that turned out pretty good.

My husband had to grab the rope (notice he has his halter on) when we got to a pasture alongside the road with two horses in it because Chrome gets VERY excited around other horses!  He just needs to be socialized more.  His head was up so high I think his ears were level with my eyes.  I wish my husband could have gotten some pictures, but he had his hands full.  Once we got even with the horses Chrome was relaxing a little since they didn't neigh or gallop around, then once we were past them he dropped his head and was back on the buckle lol.

We had to turn around right past their pasture so my husband just led us back.  Once we were away from the horses he was back to walking on the buckle with his head down.  I am so proud of Chrome!!!  I can't believe how quickly he went from super excited to head down relaxed again.  :D

By the way I had some rein contact in the pictures above just as a precaution since I didn't know how he'd react.  Once he relaxed I was riding him on the buckle.  He's going to be such a fantastic trail horse!!

 Riding back up the driveway with my trusty pup Jackal by my side!

I had such a great time!!  I love my horse (and my husband)!!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Equine Fitness

I've been doing a lot of research on equine fitness and it's amazing how varied the information is... or missing completely lol.  So I was wondering if you guys want to share your equine fitness programs when coming back from a lay off, injury or a winter without riding. Also for getting a young horse in shape for the first time.

My plan for now is to ride Chrome every other day (four days a week) for about twenty minutes.  My plan was to ride twenty minutes the first week, twenty five the next, then thirty, etc.  increasing by five minutes each week.  However I've read that it should be more like adding five minutes every month because bones and tendons take longer to strengthen than muscles and the respiratory system.... if I add five minutes a month it will be nine months before I'm riding an hour!!  That seems like a loooong time, even for an injured (that has recovered) horse or a young horse with no fitness base.  So what do you guys think?  Or do you have resources I could read that actually give time frames for how long it takes to gain fitness?

I know I'm probably over thinking this.  A lot of people grab a horse out of the field that has never been worked at all and within a month are walking, trotting and cantering an hour a day five days a week!  So how much is too much and how much is too little exercise?  How long to you walk a horse before you add in trotting and cantering?  Do you walk for a week, a month, trot for a month, two months?

Anyway thanks for listening to my rambling.  I'd love to hear what you guys do and why it works.  Thanks!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Ride 21 & More Pictures of Evil Ragwort

Here are some more pictures of the evil Ragwort.


It's crazy something so pretty can be poisonous.  :(  So I'm taking my dad's four wheeler and my trusty Gorilla cart (wagon/wheelbarrow combo) out into the pasture and digging up these nasty things by the roots. I'm hoping if I dig them up and burn them (in the front yard) that not so many will come back each year.  I'm also thinking about asking my neighbors if I can spray their yard since they don't have livestock... those pictures I posted the other day, the yellow field of Ragwort behind Chrome is my neighbor's yard.  If you look closely you can see my fence.  There isn't a huge amount on my property, but it's still going to take a while it get it all dug up.  It's kind of fun driving the four wheeler all over the pasture looking for it though lol.

Pictures are from Wednesday's ride.  I didn't take the camera with me today.  I rode Chrome in the pasture instead of the front yard this time.  He was being kind of annoying because he kept trying to go up front.  I think he prefers being in the front yard because there's more activity and more stuff going on.  He lives in the pasture so he knows every inch of it and it's boring lol.

So I practiced circling and weaving in and out of trees, up and down the slope of the pasture (not very sloped at all, but there is a tiny bit), riding up and down the dirt pile hill and walking over fallen tree limbs.  It kept things pretty interesting, but if I got distracted even for a nanosecond he tried to veer back toward the front of the pasture.  Brat!  He was very easy to get back in the direction I wanted though so it's not that big of a deal.  He's just still so much a baby at times.

It was really interesting at one point I was riding him through kind of a narrow, dark (overhanging branches) spot and he sucked back behind my leg.  Up until that point I didn't even realize he was in front of my leg because he felt like he was walking kind of slow (I'm still learning his gaits).  When he sucked behind my leg his head went way up too.  He was eyeballing rocks and stumps like they were monsters.  It's so funny how sensitive he is when I'm riding.  When I'm leading him he doesn't spook or eyeball anything at all.  He's so confident!!  I guess I've been handwalking him so much that he just feels like he doesn't have back up anymore.  I guess he thinks of me as part of the herd which is why he doesn't neigh when I walk him on the roads.  When I'm on his back he feels like he's facing things alone.  He's not nervous or spooky though, just wary and hesitant.

So when he would suck back and start eyeballing things I just gave him a nudge (I did need the whip today because he was being kind of lazy, but I didn't have to use it a lot, he responded to a nudge and vocal cue well), told him to walk on and made sure he kept his head straight (he was trying to turn around, but wasn't really trying to spook/spin so that's good).  As soon as I got him going forward again he dropped his head and walked calmly through.  :D I think he's going to be an easy one to convince, even from his back.  I still think he's going to make a great trail horse!

I guess the really eye opening part of all of this is that it feels like I'm learning a whole new side of Chrome!!  I've had him since he was five months old (he's almost four now) and I thought I knew every aspect of his personality.  I'm loving learning about his personality while being ridden.  :)  He's still Chrome, just a little more hesitant and wary Chrome.  He still trusts me though and takes my word for things, so it's all good.

I rode for twenty minutes again.  Next week I'm going to increase our time to 25 or 30 minutes.  I did a couple of really short trots, but it was cooling off and the wind was up so we kept most everything to a walk.    Faran was being a dork, neighing and trotting (although it sounds like an elephant running) after us even though we were in the pasture with him.  Chrome did really well with that, but I didn't want to tempt him to take off or anything if Faran started running.  I'm probably overly-cautious, but better safe than sorry.  :)

I hope every one is getting some saddle time!  I'm loving being able to ride again!!  It's been a long wait, but it's so worth it!

Oh and I almost forgot, here is a picture of Chrome after his ride today.  :D  I put him in the round pen with some hay because the other two kind of boss him around and don't let him get his fair share.  That's my Gorilla cart by the way.  It raises up and dumps stuff out like a dump truck.  Totally awesome.  :)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Chrome's Twentieth Ride & CUTE Chrome Pictures!

Okay, so since I totally forgot to post yesterday I'll tell you my plan today.  I've decided to do the Couch to 5k while riding instead of in hand since I can't keep up with him and longeing is bad for his stifles.  I'm going to ride every other day so that his back has a day off to rest and strengthen.  I'm going to keep things at a walk for a while to get him used to carrying weight.  When we're up to an hour of walking easily I'll start adding trot and do the Couch to 5k.  :D  So that's the plan for now.

Now on to today.  I rode for twenty minutes again at the walk, with only a couple of short trots (because I can't resist!).  He did great.  It was cooler today, so when I started walking him up the driveway he was giving everything the hairy eyeball and acting like he was soooo scared.  Haha!!  I've rarely ever seen him actually scared of anything.  The funny thing is that I had just led him up the driveway two hours earlier to let him graze lol.

It was really interesting though because I got to see what he does when he's spooked.  All he did was stop and stare with his head as high as it would go, then he tried to spin around to go back toward the pasture, but I didn't let him get more than a step into the spin.  So that tells me he'll be the type to spin around and run for home..... fun lol.  I guess it's better than explosive spooks that can unseat a rider hehe.

While riding he also walked right over the hay bale!  :D  I expected him to try to duck out and not walk over it, but he didn't even hesitate.  Good boy!  He's also doing really well with standing still (although he has been trying to walk off while mounting so we will have to work on that... although in his defense I used a fallen tree instead of my mounting block haha!) although he does occasionally paw the air when he gets bored or impatient.

So it was a fun ride... although walking around the yard is getting extremely boring!  I can't wait to get out on the trail.  Anyway here are some pictures I took earlier in the day.  I spent almost all day outside.  I love this weather (okay it's a tiny bit cool for me, but that's okay)!

Still sooo narrow hehe.

Gorgeous!  Such a poser!  :D  

Turned his head slightly.  He should get paid for modeling huh?  :D 

 He is getting soooo gray!  It doesn't show up great in pictures, but I'm amazed at how much white pops up every day!

 Playing around with the focus.  

He was in such a cute, playful mood and was following me around.  Look at that tongue! 

Chrome and Faran in almost the exact same pose hehe. 

Look at his mane!  The wind was blowing it up and you can see his white tips!  Wish I could give him a mohawk sometimes LOL!

 Chewing the tips off of saplings... weird horse!

 Eating more saplings... can you tell he was raised by a donkey?  :)

Grazing.  Aren't the flowers behind him pretty?

 Here is a close up of the flowers.

 Okay funny story.  See his expression in the above picture?  I was taking pictures of the flower (above) and all of a sudden he came marching over to me, reached down, bit the flower off of it's stalk, dropped it on the ground and walked away to graze again!  Can a horse be jealous of a flower??  :D  So since he killed my flower I stuck it in his hair and took pictures of him again hehe.


I have so much fun with my horse!  :D

Monday, April 22, 2013

Belated Donkey Day & Chrome's Nineteenth Ride

 Sorry I didn't post yesterday for Donkey Day!  I was out of town with a moving truck getting the rest of my stuff out of our old house so the renters can start moving in.  :)  I didn't get much done with Zep last week because of the bad weather and my back was hurting... however because I am an amazingly awesome donkey trainer I taught Zep how to sit!!!!!

Haha, just kidding.  He was standing up after enjoying a roll and I timed the picture just right hehe.

This week is going to be very busy, but I'll try to work with Zep as much as possible.  :D  I feel bad locking him up in the round pen though...  I guess I can try luring Zep into the round pen when it's time to work with him.... I'll figure it out.

One last thing I wanted to mention is my ride on Chrome today.  My dad had to work all night so he was out doing yard work today to keep himself awake.  I decided to ride Chrome since the weather was perfect.  I put my helmet on, put his bridle on and led him up to the hay bale we've been stepping over to use it as a mounting block.  I lined him up between the bale and a tree (because that's where it was sitting) and stepped up... it was a little short.  I was feeling lazy so I swung my leg over his back anyway and grabbed the tree and pulled myself onto his back LOL!  It was hilarious!  I didn't plan it, but it worked perfectly.

So I followed dad around while he was pruning trees and doing other yard work.  He was driving the four wheeler around the yard.  At one point he started up the driveway and I started trotting Chrome after him.  Chrome loved "chasing" the four wheeler!!!  As we were trotting along we went over the culvert and on the down slope Chrome tried to canter!  He had lowered his head (going uphill), I was riding bareback and he totally caught me off guard to I pulled him up before he could break into the canter.  If I'd been in the saddle and not caught so off guard I probably would have let him canter.  I'm curious what it's going to be like.  I really like his trot.  This is only his third ride that I've done more than just a couple of trot strides and he's doing so awesome!

I just wanted to share that.  Tomorrow I'll share my plans for Chrome with everyone.  I've been thinking long and hard about his exercise program and I've finally made a decision!  :D

P.S.  I rode him for about twenty five minutes, mostly at the walk, and he was still raring to go.  :D

Friday, April 19, 2013

Monthly Progress Report

 This photo is blurry but I love it!  I love his neck when he arches it like that!  So handsome!

A note before we proceed.  I'm going to stop putting height and weight gains on his monthly progress report because he's still 15.2hh and it's kind of a pain to measure him for his weight.  I prefer to just do his weight when I deworm him and not worry about it the rest of the time.  I'm pretty good about eyeballing their weight.  He looks like a good weight right?  So for now I'm going to just do his progress and goals for each month.  I'll probably measure his height on his birthdays (he turns four in a month!!!) from now on since technically he can grow taller until he's seven.  :)  I'm also going to use my trainer's measuring stick (the kind for horses) to see if I get a different measurement.  I've been using a 1 by 2 and a level to measure him for years lol.

Date: 4-19-13
Age: 3 Years 11 Months

Progress:  Since I totally forgot to do his progress report last month it feels like we've done a LOT!  I've been so bummed out over the last week or two that we haven't done anything because of his stifle and my back so I looked back through my blog and we have accomplished a lot.  We went on walks, went for rides in the pasture, trotted, learned how to free longe in the round pen, relearned how to longe on a line, completed three weeks of our Couch to 5k (sucks to start over but I will next week-busy moving stuff from my old house this weekend), played with the four wheeler, etc.  I'm proud of what we've done.  Now that my back is feeling better I just need to get back to it!!  

Goals:  My main goal is to start our Couch to 5k workouts again.  It was definitely improving his strength and balance.  I'm also going to focus on exercises that strengthen his stifles, like the hay bales and cavaletti.  The one thing I'm going to do different this time is walk him everyday, even on his days off to keep him moving.  I'm hoping that will prevent the stifle problems from cropping up again.  My other goals are to get his teeth done, although that might be next month since they are having discounts on dentals (yay!) and to find a chiropractor to check and see if his back is bothering him at all since pain, soreness or stiffness could cause him to not use his stifles in a way that strengthens them.  I don't think his back hurts.... I really don't, but a friend said it helped her horse with a locking stifle, so I figure I should try it.  A visit with a chiro can't hurt anyway.  :D

P.S.  My blog buddy Janine's ( post just reminded me of something else I have to work on!!!  Trailer loading!  Chrome was not exactly easy to load the day we moved, so I need to work on that with him since he has to have his teeth done soon....

Now I have something very exciting to share!

The picture is horrible, but do you notice something really cool?  He's laying down!!!! I haven't been able to approach him without him standing up in three years!  When he was out on the thirty acres I just never saw him laying down.  Since coming here I've seen him lay down a few times, but normally when he sees me he jumps up because he thinks I'm going to feed him, let him graze, groom him or play with him.  Today when I got home I noticed him laying down so I ran out to the pasture as fast as I could (he was laying right by the gate and having me run straight towards him didn't spook him yay!).  It took me a minute to get the gate open because the chain was stuck, but I finally got in and cuddled, scratched and hugged him.  Then I ran to the house to get my camera, ran back to him (startled him awake oops, but he still didn't get up), cuddled him some more, took pictures and fed him crackers for being such a good boy.  Unfortunately the crackers gummed him up and he had to go get a drink.  :)  I hope he finished his nap when I went back inside.  I'm so proud of him though.  He's such a good boy!  Sorry the pictures aren't great.  I was so excited and didn't pay any attention to the settings or anything.  And the one above I was holding at arm's length and had no idea if we were in frame lol.  

 Sleepy Chrome.  You can see by my shadow that I was right next to him.  He moved his head to so it turned out blurry, but still so cute!

And here are the rest of the pictures I took this afternoon.

I think I tilted the camera here because in the other pictures he doesn't look butt high...

I (or rather my husband) was using my target stick (dowel rod with tennis ball on the end) to get him to stretch his neck out, but Chrome decided to eat it..... haha!

 Posing with his head up instead of stretched out.  :)  Isn't his summer coat coming in pretty??

And I let him graze in the back yard.  He loves it!  Most of that is clover and weeds, but he enjoys picking through it for grass.  :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not much going on.....

 Doesn't he look good in purple?  No clue what kind of flower that is lol.

I tweaked my back the other day, so I haven't been doing anything except taking care of the animals.  By the time I've hauled hay I have to lay down and let my back relax.  It's starting to feel better though so I'll try to get back to Couch to 5k with Chrome and clicker training with Zep.  For now here's some quick pictures I took of Chrome.  He is looking so handsome in his summer coat!  :)

 I was sitting, watching the ducks and soaking up some sun, when Chrome came to see what I was doing.

 He dropped hay in my hair and then walked by, pausing to watch the ducks.

 And got a drink before going back to grazing.

I'll post tomorrow with Chrome's progress report.  I totally forgot to do last month's.  I can't wait to get him groomed up and looking gorgeous for his pictures.  I might even give him a bath.  :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Donkey Day (and Chrome's stifle update)

 First a Chrome update.  As you can see in the above photo he is back to his old self.  :D I have just been walking him, letting him graze in the yard (he walks around a lot while grazing), backing up in a relaxed posture and walking him over the hay bales.  Tomorrow I'm going to start over on our Couch to 5k workouts, but I guess I'm going to try running with him so he's not on longe circles.... yuck.  Wish me luck lol.

 And now on to Donkey Day!!  As you can see in these pictures I let Zep out of the round pen because we had bad weather for a few days.  I'll probably put him back in as soon as we can build him a lean-to.  If I could find Faran a home I would just train Zep out in the pasture since I could easily put Chrome in the round pen or out in the yard to graze while I worked with him.

Zep tries to help me out and bites Faran trying to get him to go away.... but little donkey teeth don't make much of an impression on the Hulk lol.  

These pictures weren't taken during a training session.  I was actually guarding Chrome while he ate his supper because he eats soooo much slower than the other two and they try to steal it from him.  They were totally mugging me lol.

 We want FOOD!!

 So anyway, on to the training.  Even though I wasn't training when I took these pictures I took pictures of what we've been working on so you could see.  I just snitched handfuls of Chrome's food to reward Zep for cooperating.  :)

 Petting him on the nose.

The first day I took my target (tennis ball stuck to the end of a dowel rod) out and worked on touch.  He quickly remembered the work we'd done with that.  In the first session I was able to get him to transfer and target my hand!!!  :D

 Holding my palm out flat so he can touch it with his nose.  I'm so excited for him to learn the hand target because that teaches him that my hands are good.  :)

In a later session I started holding my hand up toward his face.  His natural reaction was to turn his face away, but I just left my hand in the air.  When he turned back to face me without moving away I clicked and gave him a treat.  It took no time at all before I was brushing my fingers down his forehead and then putting my whole palm on his face.  :D  I can tell he remembers all of this, it will just take time to gain his confidence again.  Hopefully we will have better weather next week and I will be able to work with him more.  We only had three clicker sessions this last week.  The exciting part was that when he was in the round pen he was walking over to where I sit to train him before I could even get in the pen lol.  He loves it!

  As you can see by his total mugging of the camera he is definitely finding his confidence again.  :D

Zep says bye until next week!!