Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Escapoligist Strikes Again!

Trust Kika to mark her final "official" turn out day by making a break for it!

Thankfully L was walking her dogs passed the field and noticed Miss Kika wasn't where she should be, so scanned the surrounding area and spotted her in the middle of a non-fenced cultivated piece of land - hopefully it hasn't been re-seeded with next year's crops yet.
I know nothing about farming, but hope that because we are heading into winter & frosts she won't have done any damage!

The Guru kindly popper her ladyship back in the field and turned to continue on her walk to exercise her dogs before she had to go to work. She wasn't gone 10 strides when she turned to check Kika was where she was supposed to be; only to witness her sneaky head-under-wire, wire-over-withers & trot under all the above to make her escape. Having witnessed the same said escape tactic myself earlier in the year I can but shake my head & fists at the too-smart-for-me-horse!

We had told YO (Yard Owner) that current was weak surrounding their field and although they got a smaller bale of hay on Saturday due to them coming in for the winter this evening the savages had scoffed it all. So Kika figured she couldn't possibly be expected to stay where she was for the day until I brought her in to ride & stay in this evening! Grrr!

Needless to say we're going to have to make extra sure our winter turnout area is triple protected against Horsey Houdini when we let the little darling out there tomorrow. Here's hoping three strands of wire & electricity will keep her where we put her. There is some grazing in there at the moment, but if they do a lot of running tomorrow that won't last them long. We've also got hay ordered off a colleague of L's dad - so we're prepared to bribe Kika to stay in the field if necessary - but as we learnt last year...that will only work so long as there isn't greener grass on the other side of the wire!

In other news, Kika was very well behaved for L's spin in the dressage saddle yesterday ahead of their training clinic this weekend. Unfortunately the cream the vet had put on behind her elbows is proving difficult to wash out and could make clipping tricky tomorrow - but she got two more washes with the isobetadine soap this evening and will have another in the morning before L rides again, then turn out for the afternoon as we supervise and finish fencing while keeping an eye on them - then L will clip tomorrow evening. Pictures will undoubtedly be added after the fact! Have to add to the collection in today's earlier post. ;-)

Rode her myself this evening and she was very good despite being in the stable all day - this bodes well for the winter ahead - especially as all going well she will stay in our turnout area and not be cooped up in her stable all day every day - as then we will both go mad!
I can always feel the difference in her after L has had a session on her back - everything just works much better. I'll be lucky if i can still ride one side of her after the weekend's clinic...fingers crossed i won't undo all the good work that will undoubtedly go into her while I'm away at my "baby" sister's graduation!

Which Clip?

Mentioned this idea a few posts back, a Kika "clip history" as we are now in clipping season and I'm not sure what to do to herself this year, ;)

Her first ever clip 17 November 2007
Full Clip
Didn't get one in 2008, but here's her 2009 clip
Another full clip
November 2009
Last full clip
First Luxembourg clip October 2010
Prob my fav clip
November 2011

Any suggestions for this year's clip? Depending on when L gets her blades back, may clip tomorrow or else it'll be next week some time...all input welcome! :D


Tuesday 30 October 2012

Sunday Stake Driving & Vet Visits

We managed to get the remaining stakes driven on Sunday, while my mother, sister and a friend of her's from uni all kindly helped out by clearing the remaining branches. All that remains now is for L & I to fix up the three strands of wire that'll hopefully keep Horsey Houdini where we want her and herself and her field buddy (L's mare) O, can continue being turned out during the day as of Thursday November 1st when the official yard turnout ends.
Let's hope 'ould Angel Face will stay where she's put this year!
After all our hard work on Sunday neither L nor I were in much state for horse riding so we decided to give her ladyship the day off - it was a much nicer day than the day before and while not warm considerably less cold and still dry with some sunshine.

Yesterday (Monday), I had planned to lunge herself in the new to me pessoa, that another yard friend N gave me on Saturday. She never used it and didn't want to see it go unused so offered it to yours truly. I needed to buy a surcingle to use it and did so Saturday evening as i was at the tack shop anyway to get another bag of feed for Fatty. I also picked myself up a new pair of gloves, identical to the ones i got recently but brown instead of black as i loved the first pair so much!
L was going to help me sort out the correct fitting of the pessoa for Kika, but was running late so i just went ahead and lunged herself in the surcingle without it - I didn't want to set it up wrong and wind up doing irreperable damage to Miss Kika!

Today (Tuesday) the vet arranged to meet me at 1pm on my lunch break from work to take a blood sample from Kika to see how the latest liver treatment was working as we are nearing the end of granules. I left my office at 12pm and didn't get back till after 3pm! Oopsy!
Thankfully I had worked overtime last week and indeed stayed late again today to make up for my prolonged absence.
Vet was held up at earlier call-out and didn't make it to me until closer to 2pm - Kika was in and tied, as evidenced in above picture. However she isn't all that patient and makes great faces!

And stamps her feet like a spoiled petulant child - which i suppose she is...spoiled that is!

She couldn't decide between face pulling & foot stamping - so went for both!
Vampire...of sorry the vet took the blood sample, Kika stood like a pro. I decided to corner vet to check out a rash i could feel behind K's front elbows - more so on her near side then the other. I didn't know was it a form of mud rash or was she sweating so badly under the girth that it had somehow resulted in a rash?!
Vet also wondered aloud as to whether it might be mushrooms (not sure if this is the same term in English) - but then she dismissed that one. She has given me a white cream (missed the name on the tub), isobetadene (sp?) soap to wash the rash with & isobetadene cream to apply afterwards.

Will have to see if there is any improvement from it - results from blood analysis won't be back until early next stay tuned i guess!

Sunday 28 October 2012

Saturday Strains

The better part of Saturday was spent stake driving in an attempt to keep Horsey Houdini from escaping from her winter turnout area this year!
L & I purchased 2m stakes from a Garden Shop, they are supposed to be used for gardening and are slighter and taller than stakes typically used for fencing - but they were cheaper and as we needed so many and are only leasing the turnout area & don't own it - we can't afford to put too much money into it as we might not necessarily have permanent use of it - although obviously we hope that we will! ;)

Last weekend's work
This is the front of our turnout area where we've now "buried" the stakes by at least 40cms so that they are standing between 1m50 & 1m60.

Yesterday's work
Above is along the longside of the turnout area, neighbouring Kika's current field where we drove 7 (i think it was) stakes yesterday morning. We've two left to drive along that side, then 3 or 4 along the back of the field and then we've some young sapplings we promised the land owners we'd protect just inside the entrance so we've a couple more stakes to drive around them also. So that'll be today's job as well as seeing if we can drive the currently standing ones any further now that we're more accustomed to the mini/mallet and hammering.
Although my arms are already fairly complaining about their workout yesterday so we'll see how many stakes get re-visited today!

It was bitterly cold as we worked, temps had dropped to 2C with a windchill estimated at -3C! Such a turnaround from last weekend's 22C - our weather has been all over the place this year - such highs followed by big dips - there is no consistency or adaptation period between - crazy!
I was wrapped up warmly for our fencing, even wearing two pairs of gloves having learned from my mistake last week - so hands are no worse now then they were when i started yesterday, hahaha!
I'm disgusted at my soft lady-like hands that seem to abhor a bit of manual labour - pffft. I guess that's what office work for the last 2 and a half years gets me! ;-)

As i mentioned above, our winter turnout area borders Kika's current "summer" turnout area, so the main woman herself had to come and check out our work as we made the holes for the stakes. 
I think she was sussing out our handiwork to find weaknesses for her escape routes this winter! Grrr!
Of course L's dogs were helping also! 
A real team effort :-)

After a couple sandwiches I'd made for lunch, L kindly gave me a lesson. 

I came to the funny, yet hard to fix, realisation that I have everything ingrained backwards/arse-ways in my brain! :-(
We worked a lot on circles & serpentines to keep K supple, soft & bending. To achieve these circles and serpentines correctly, one is supposed to keep your inside hand soft (guiding horse around), inside leg on (for the bend), outside rein is to be held to guide the horse around (letting them know continuing that way is not an option) and outside leg closed for the same purpose.
Do you think I can get such simple things right?!
Answer = Nope!
I seem to have the mirror image going on :-/ 
I have the nasty habit of "hauling" (for lack of another term) Kika around circles, meaning I use my inside hand and release with my outside hand. My inside leg does ask for the bend but my outside leg does nothing to steady her during the turn. My brain is so concentrated on my inside limbs that it actually feels like my outside leg just sticks out uselessly as the inside leg is on!
My brain needs serious re-programming! *Oh-the-shame!*

Most commonly repeated instructions from L yesterday:
- Heels down!
- Soften your inside hand!
- Hold with your outside rein!
- Relax your body - don't force the movement!
and then just for good measure again as the sneaky beggars won't do as they're told

I wouldn't mind if I could feel progress being made with these instructions, however as she has been saying them to me from when we started working together over a year ago, well the "heels down" one in any case - the others are new'ish!
When i bemoan the fact that I can't seem to get the simple things right and that my feet are sending my brain the message that they are down - when obviously they are not - she just smiles and says not to worry that she has similar issues but that it's easier to yell at someone else to fix them - so small reassurances then. 
It just annoys me though that I can't get a good enough handle on the basics - i should have a better grip on the simple things by now! :(

We intorduced Kika to the concept of rein back, by going from walk to halt. L gave me the aids to use and as I was giving them she'd give Kika a small nudge in the chest to encourage her backwards as I said "Back". We did this a couple of times then moved back onto our trot work. I'm going to practice the verbal command with pressure on chest from the ground when working with Kika to help her make the association when I'm in he saddle.
Our canter work was slightly better also, only one or two incorrect lead strike-offs, but that was my fault for not preparing her properly - I also have to watch myself in asking for canter as apparently i lean forward & 'toss' the reins at her by releasing my hands as i ask with my legs!

What have i said so far about needing to re-program my brain!

When L tells me what I am doing in the saddle it all sounds so silly & counter productive - what makes it worse is that I am not even aware I am doing it or that I have developed such bad habits! 
Here's hoping it's not too late to rectify them!
Where there's a will there's a way right?! I can't be too much of a lost cause just yet...right?!

One last little photo for good measure of her ladyship in her knight-like cooler demanding her feed after she worked so well - pity her rider is an uncoordinated muppet!
L is going to ride this afternoon in preparation for their training clinic next weekend. She's asked me to video it for her on her camera so she can have a before & during the clinic videos for comparison - so i'm not sure if i'll be able to nab any pictures of Kika working with a good rider - but we'll see!
As i said above, where there's a will there's a way! ;)

Saturday 27 October 2012

Coming Cold

In the words of George RR Martins books "Winter is Coming" ...
... and it has well and truly hit Luxembourg today - gone are the lovely high teens/low twenty temps of last weekend, which gave me such lovely leave snaps while walking Kika to dry her off after our workout. I had to rug herself this evening prior to turning her out and noticed as I passed the thermometer on my way home that temps have dipped to 7C, bet it's only gotten colder since, unfortunately - sad times indeed!
Here's hoping it at least stays dry for the Guru & my stake driving attempts tomorrow and Sunday as we continue to try to Horsey Houdini-proof our winter turnout area! The good news on that front is, I found a mallet at home this evening - so the DYI job will hopefully be made easier with that! Plus I shall learn from last weekend's mistake and wear gloves this time - no more ouchy mangled palms for me *nope*

Right onto actual horsey matters and the reason people check into this blog (well let's be honest - it's not for my concise way with words now is it?  ;-) )

Miss Kika
Have to say i love this headshot of her  - even though i have caught her rotten admiring herself in the arena mirrors this evening, hahaha! Vain creature that she is - the proof is in the picture, K!
Although I'm not sure that the colours come across as well on a computer screen as the photo itself looks on my phone - seems a lot darker on here, sorry guys if it's hard to see!

Work has been a nightmare this week and has me knackered but thankfully Kika has been a ray of light in the evenings - despite the darkness which is only going to get worse with the clocks changing tomorrow (Saturday/Sunday night in Europe - again sad times *sob*)!
I only managed to ride Monday, Thursday & today (Friday) and she was good as gold all three days.
L also rode her on Wednesday for me as I knew i wasn't going to make it to the yard and as her mare is unfortunately out of action - she volunteered to ride Kika and has asked if she can rider her in a training clinic while I am in Ireland next weekend - to which I was only too happy to say yes, as it can only be beneficial for Kika - the clinic & L's riding her more! *nod*
She also only had nice things to say about K after their work in the outdoor Wednesday afternoon.

Fuzzy Mc Fatterson
As the full body shot above shows, albeit an incredibly unflattering angle - sorry Keeks, Madam Kika is very hairy at the moment - meaning after 30mins work she is lathered in sweat - it then takes me a minimum of 45mins between the walker and solarium to get her dry enough to turn her back out for the night. She is still living out 24/7 until November first, although if i can catch one of the brothers (yard owners) tomorrow I shall see if i can start leaving her in at night.
I was hoping that the trusty Guru who also happens to own a pair of clippers might be able to sheer Miss Kika over the weekend (around our fencing duties) but she won't have her blades back until the end of the week - so now the dilemma is ....clip Kika before or after the training clinic?!

- Before and she could be too full of beans to get full value from clinic...
- After and she'll be spent 30mins into the session and covered in sweat...

It's bit of a conundrum alright as if the blades don't arrive till Thursday there'll be no chance to ride Kika prior to the clinic's first day on Friday - so the beans theory won't be testable until under clinic trainer's gaze which isn't ideal in all honesty!

So while L's mare is out of work, I've offered her as much Kika-time as she'd like - I feel it's the least I can do considering how much she helps me! Plus she's a much better rider than me, so Kika (and by proxy I) can only benefit from such an arrangement!
I'll ride Saturday, L Sunday, me Monday, L Tuesday, I'll either jump Wednesday or she'll rest, if jumping Thursday'll be a rest day - if not either me or the Guru will ride as it's a day off for all here in Lux that day. It'll be up to L to decide whether she'd like to fine tune her to her (better) way of riding prior to the clinic. Then L will look after her while I'm in Ireland (Friday to Tuesday) for my "baby" sister's graduation. She hopes to ride her in the clinic on Friday & Sunday as she's working Saturday - smelly shiftwork!

Things in particular I have to work on with Kika:
- More impulsion in trot, apparently she's looking a little lethargic;
- Less moving/fidgetting in my canter
- Stengthening my legs and squeezing with my calves rather than continuously nudging with my heels (thereby pulling them up) ... *hangs-head-in-shame* I still haven't managed to crack this one
- Quieten my hands!
I'm after getting into an awful habit of almost sawing rather than closing my fingers on the reins when working on an outline - *more-shame-faced-head-hanging*
- I also need to carry my hands more, they are practically sitting on her neck! Grrr - if only I could keep all/more of this in mind when in the saddle.
(Watch this list grow by 100% if I do get a lesson tomorrow)

We fell back into our "old" problems on Monday evening in our canter work on the "bad" rein. We struggled initially with correct lead strike-off.
I always start my canter work on a circle and when we'd hit the track or turn she'd change behind and become disunited. Thankfully we didn't have either of these issues cantering on our better side - so when i couldn't figure out where we were going wrong I returned to trot work & had a couple of canters on our good rein to keep things changing in our workout. Alternating back to our bad side once our twice to see if we could get it better, not really though sadly it just wasn't meant to be so tried to focuss on more positive work.
 I mentioned it to L the next day as she rode her on Wednesday and she figures I must be moving too much in the saddle and as Kika still (and obviously I) struggle with cantering on that rein. I was/am interfering too much and knocking her off balance.
Have kept this in mind since and when we canter on our "bad" rein, now while carriage isn't how i'd like it - we are back to correct leads in striking off and no longer changing behind - small victories. However as always a work in progress - me more so than her. If only my body could catch up to what my brain wants!

I plan to ride tomorrow during the lull of lunchtime at our yard at weekends as (a) it's quieter and (b) I can work Kika for longer as I have the afternoon for her to dry out.
L and I are meeting about 10am to put a couple of hours work into turnout area then depending on how she feels she's suggested giving me a hand with Kika while i ride (aka a lesson of sorts). I'm making and bringing sandwiches for some lunch and then we'll plough on with more fencing for the afternoon.

Eurgh, as always this post has gotten much longer than I'd intended it to be!
As a way of apologising, here's the final picture I snapped this evening - Alien-Horse-Under-the-Heatlamps-after-work ;)

Beam Me Up Scotty
Again not a great angle for her :(
I'll have to take a more critical look at her tomorrow - but from the last two pictures today she's looking quite heavy in the belly. Plus being so hairy really isn't a good look for her...hoping to get a clip-history type post up tomorrow and perhaps get your opinions on what kind of clip to go for this year! :)

Saturday 20 October 2012

Autumn's Arrival

Our barn driveway today!

Autumn is probably my favourite season, not least because it's my birthday (I'm a whole year older as of yesterday) but the colours of the leaves make it my favourite month - the horse-related downsides are shorter days and hairier don't want to see what a fuzzy fuzzball Miss Kika is after my 2 week holiday!

Speaking of my holiday, it was amazing although I left wanting more! Feels like we barely scratched the surface. We spent two days in Rio de Janeiro, 2 days exploring Iguazu Falls (a day per side), 3 nights in Salta with a daytrip to Cafayete, 2 nights in Purmamarca and the Painted Mountains - GORGEOUS! Then on down to Buenos Aires for 2 nights before a night in Colonia, Uruguay then back to Buenos Aires for two more nights before getting home yesterday. Man is BA - London a long flight, over 12 hours! I have so many photos thanks to the lovely camera I got back in July, I shall hopefully share them with whoever wishes to see them when I get them uploaded onto my "photography" blog - I use inverted commas as I'm no photographer!

Outdoor arena - LOVE the colours!
You'd be forgiven for wondering what the lovely Kika was up to while I was off enjoying myself in South America - well she was in the best of care under the Guru L's supervision. They jumped the day I left (Wednesday), then she had a few days to chillax in the field after the farrier's visit on Thursday. L rode again on Sunday and was very happy with her, she was really looking forward to putting some work into her in my absence as she said she was a pure joy to work with - although she couldn't do as much as she wanted due to earlier mentioned hairiness - poor Kika was lathered after 30mins.
Unfortunately however, boot camp was not meant to be as L became ill. :(
Sad Times - but thankfully it's nothing serious, she just has a poor(ish) chest and as soon as she get's a cough it gets well stuck in and becomes bronchitis.

However this does not mean Kika lazed about for 2 weeks getting fat off hay and fresh air!

L is super smart and came up with the idea of leading K like a packhorse as she hacked her mare in the woods. Unfortunately her girl has hurt her legs due to a poor round of shoeing last time her farrier visited and can only hack in walk - which suited L with 2 horses to work, 2 dogs to keep exercised and feeling under the weather herself.
Turns out Kika is a natural follower (tell me something i didn't know - ginormous chicken that she is! :p) and the 5 of them (2 horses, 2 dogs & L) had a great time exploring the woods together - she paints a funny picture as she says she got weird looks from joggers and other people she met in the woods, teehee.

So that's what we've been at since I last updated, I arrived back yesterday at about 11am local time, having left BA at 1pm their time (so 6pm here) and not having slept on the flights...what can i say my body clock was well and truly confused!
I went to sleep for a couple of hours when I got home then went to the barn around my usual time (7pm) to see Miss Kika and catch up with L. Gave the muck monster a good groom and heard all the above stories. Came home and crawled back into bed at the reasonable time of 9.30-10pm.

I woke bright eyed and bushy tailed today to head back to the barn and see what Miss Kika thought of tack after our holidays. As you might be able to tell from above photos, we're having a lovely mild and most importantly DRY Autumn weekend - yippeee!
It was actually pleasantly warm today, 22C in fact - so poor hairy Kika (and unfit me after 2 weeks without riding) were well sweaty after 30mins work. Turns out I needn't have worried about going away and convincing myself that the sh!t would hit the fan, that Miss Kika would somehow stop being the pleasure she had been to ride of late and would morph back into the she-devil.
As always she loves to prove me wrong and was a right pet for our spin today! Gave her a good hose down afterwards and we walked for almost an hour waiting for the heavy winter coat to dry out so that she could be turned back out.

I couldn't be signing off without a little snapshot of the main woman herself ... however only a headshot though as she really is an awful hairy monster! The 1st of November & stabling cannot come fast enough as that means time to clip!

With L's horse being given the weekend to see if there is any improvement in her legs, she has asked to take Miss Kika for a hack in the woods tomorrow (Sunday) - who am I to say no to that! :p
Might be greatful of the day off after my return to the saddle today - guarantee my legs'll be at me, weak creature that I am!

Monday 1 October 2012

Sneaky Snapshots

To say that I was delighted with Miss Kika this weekend would be an understatement of monumental proportions. Due to a busy social schedule last week I only managed to ride/exercise her on Tuesday evening, but did get to the yard in the evenings to feed her her liver supplement and muesli-nosh. Even if it was after dark feeding by the field by headlights!

Let her loose for a roll after work - she stalked me while I poo-picked after others! Hence wheelbarrow at open door...

I shall try to keep this update brief and I do promise there will be loads of photos scattered throughout - we had a surprising pleasantly warm weekend after the horrible wet week - so I took advantage to be snap happy while sun was shining.

The "when are you going to feed me - I've no interest in rolling" face

Was at the yard early both Saturday & Sunday morning as a friend is away on holidays and asked me to turn out her horse for her at the weekend. Unfortunately I didn't actually manage to put him out in his allocated field at his allocated time-slot as none of his neighbours were turned out and his owner had told me not to leave him out on his own! :(
Sad Times - so he got an hour in the walker each time, which i felt awful about as i know how much horses like their turnout!

"I see the bucket!"

I promise I am trying to keep this short!
Basically that meant I was at the yard a lot earlier then I normally would beat the weekend, Saturday morning is always busy as final lessons of the week are conducted so there was a bit of navigation skills required in the main arena that morning - and I am delighted to say that Kika & I came out unscathed & without causing any havoc! Or at least no one complained to me afterwards about being a nuisance and/or in the way.

Shiny happy post eating ponio

The calmness and willingness to work from Tuesday evening carried over to Saturday and Sunday mornings and we had two wonderful schooling sessions where our canter work has come on immeasurably (or so I think - haven't had a lesson in  while though - so am probably going about it all wrong!).
Our strike off is now correct more often then not, if not we calmly come back to trot and then ask again after a stride or two - and we are better able to hold our shape as I am doing more transitions and less inane cantering trying to coax her into shape. Our trot/walk transition is the next "to-work-on" red flag as she's inclined to be very lazy in walk and flop down into walk from trot completely losing the run of herself & shape. I know this is my fault as I am not holding her together enough in the downward transition and I need to prepare it more - so shall tackle that when I come back from my holidays.

Now on to the rest of the promised photo overload!

Mosying out to the field - enjoying the sunshine on our backs

Fuzzy-Fuzzball as Winter Wollies really evident in this photo
Poor light - but view from the otherside
Was too far away to catch her 'Water-Face'

Stalker-Horse strikes again - aka begging for treats she'd already scoffed while doing her stretches

"But I'm starving!"

Pretending to sulk - and failing due to happy ears

"But I'm really hungry!" (I'm not as mean as she'd have you believe...she had been fed after work!)

Poor starved creature!

And then as the day was so nice, I decided to do another 45mins work on our Winter turnout shifting branches etc. The pile L and I made last weekend had been mostly cleared away so the following pictures are the fruits of 45mins work - I'd have done more & longer but I didn3t have my gloves due to it being an un-scheduled clean up decision ;-)

Thanks to any and all who read my waffle!