Saturday 30 November 2013

Apologies Again

Forewarning: I am writing this post on my phone and suffer from, what I like to call, "fat fingers syndrome" when attempting to type on touchscreens. Hopefully if/when words are slightly misspelled - you'll still be able to decipher what I am blathering on about! ;-)

I really don't know where the time goes, there simply aren't enough hours in the day nor days in the week to fit everything in! This week has been a bit of a bust as far as saddle-time goes; I rode Sunday evening but then my backside didn't meet a saddle again till Friday evening!  *Le Shame*
Monday I had Round2 of the "competition"/testing to become permanent in my job - it was an interview before a panel of three people, one of which I currently work with - which initially was great to have a friendly face but as the questions about my colleagues surfaced answering was a bit awkward :-/ I'm really not sure how it went, my allocated time-slot was just after lunch, so I'd had the whole morning to let the nerves fester & and honestly felt like I wasn't speaking English properly during the interview let alone the questions I had to answer in French, Spanish & German! Anyways long story short, I was exhausted come the end of the working day and didn't make it to the barn to see the girls. *Sad Times*

Tuesday I got to visit at lunchtime to turn all three out (yep the Horsey Houdini's have been returned to turnout - finally!), I got back out to them that evening as well but as I had to stay late at work I was again unable to get any saddle time but spending quality time with them was reward enough :-D

Wednesday I turned them out at lunchtime but didn't make it back in the evening as I went to a friend's leaving dinner :-(
Thursday I managed to turn them out on my lunchbreak, despite being very delayed in stupid traffic. That evening for the first time this week I managed to do more than put on & take off rugs ;-) Both my little darlings got lunged; Kika in the pessoa as I think she has tweaked a little something in her back and can't get the osteo out till the week after next so I am trying to encourage her to release her back without the stress & fight that comes with a rider onboard - she is still an opinionated madam after all ;-)
Nancy was lunged "sans accoutrements" without any gimmicks as she has to first learn to listen to me on the lunge, she loves to trot & canter but the transition downwards from both these gaits can be sticky and slow to happen initially - she was much improved by the end :-)

As mentioned above, I finally got my butt back in the saddle last night for a spin on Kika. She was an angel. I think a combination of the pessoa work and changing back to her GP saddle helped her relax & be more comfortable in herself.
The Guru has asked to ride both girls in a stage/training clinic next weekend (6th-8th Dec) so we'll wait and see how they both get on and what the trainer suggests we work with them on. Exciting times ahead. :-D

Finally, just before I go, can I please direct you all to EquestrianTrend's blog ( she is hosting her first giveaway for a set of Magic Brushes. I have used these before and they do what they say on the tin!  They are brushes with rubber bristles which work fabulously on horses, rugs, saddle pads etc - they are awesome!! Please check out her fab blog, if you haven't already as I do a shameful amount of plugging for it as I love her blog! Her posts have given me the greatest ideas for equine related gifts for friends & better yet has inspired me to try things I'd never heard of before like the wonderful H2Go which allows us to easily get water to the nags when they are on turnout!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Snow Shoes & Shopping Sprees

Weekend got off to a tricky start as our trip to the Equi-Expo in Saarbrucken (Germany) Saturday morning was a bit of a bust, upon our arrival at the expo-center we were kindly told by guy in Hi-Viz jacket that the Equi-Expo fair had been the previous day and that an entrepreneur/business start-up bash was being held Saturday - why they organised things that way around is beyond me...surely the business thing should've been on Friday & the horsey-thing Saturday, but whatevs!
Yes, eagle-eyed readers with working memories, the same thing happened to me last year - so that is two years in a row we've missed the expo...if we do manage to get it right next year they won't have the stuff I have been wanting for the last two years lol - perhaps we are just destined to not return!

Loot - sadly no longer nicely neatly-rolled up
Instead we went to three tack shops, continuing our country hopping. We went to a nice shop just outside Perl in Germany LINK and two in Metz, France: Padd, sadly they didn't have the horseshoe earrings in shop @equestriantrend but I did get a catalogue and have every intention of ordering a couple of things from them including the earrings. :-) I also picked up plaiting bands for Miss Nancy's mane, an orange Equi thème waterproof hi-viz quarter sheet for hacking in the woods, two Equi Thème fleece quarter sheets for everyday winter excercise (Red for Nancy & Blue for Miss Kika) and a purple halter holder for stable door.
We also went to a Decathlon where I was very good and only picked up a schooling whip for a little over a fiver, mine is busted...I'm very proud of my self-control in there as they had lost of lovely stuff!

I did get some saddle time in over the weekend: Kika on Saturday, Nancy on Sunday & Kika again last night. Both girls have successfully modelled their new sheets and looked mighty fine doing so, although I am biased & a muppet as I forgot to snap a shot of Kika rocking the blue stripes - oh well the brain might function some night this week and remember to get a picture - if anyone want's to see her mug ;-)
When riding Nancy on Sunday, the Guru was riding her mare in the arena at the same time as me - and as always, kindly offered me constructive criticism as I rode. It would appear that I am my own worst enemy and get in my own way when riding. She said that when walking on a loose rein to warm-up/cool-down my position is perfect, but that as soon as I pick up the reins intending to get to work I go to pot! Apparently I am trying to hard to do things right resulting in tension in my body which then breaks the horse' natural striding - darn getting stuck in my head!
Back to the mind-shut down attempts for me - I really need to get over this, but getting mad at myself is not the answer I don't think.
Anyone got any tips/advice?
L has suggested lunge work, her on the ground + me in the saddle - plan is to try with Kika first and see if I can make any progress on that front.
Kika's kicks
Kika got her first "snow" shoes this year, as you may be able to see from my poor quality picture she now has a rubber lining on the inside of her shoes (fronts only as barefoot behind) - this is supposed to help prevent snow packing under her hooves. Last year she was barefoot until January and I kept forgetting to ask farrier to do this in the following months, despite us still getting snowed on in March/April last year - lord was winter long in 2012/2013!
I've just realised you can also see the little "pointes" stud type things at the end of her shoe which gives her extra grip when walking on tarmac - she used to slip something awful after two weeks in new shoes before these.

I have been able to transition Nancy back to shoeless after her summer in front shoes (precautionary due to all forestry hacking we did from June to September) - both the farrier and myself are keeping tabs on the wear and tear on her feet and I shall not hesitate to have front shoes put back on if she needs them, but so far so good for my pocket. ;-)

I forgot to snap a shot of the above in use, another fab recommendation from @equestriantrend's H2Go blogpost back in August. We used it for the first time Saturday evening and find it fantastic - it does exactly what it says on the packaging and is very straightforward to use. There is a handy anti-slip matt to put along the bottom of your wheelbarrow. Fill the blue bag from a house and away you go - easy-peasy!
Thanks so much for the recommendation Missus! If you haven't checked out her blog before, please do - it is chocka-block full of fab suggestions from gift ideas to clothing to everyday equine related items.

PS, aswell as blaying with the water-barrow we managed to fix the fencing on Sunday - so WE HAVE POWER! Now to score myself a day off work, so that if worse comes to worst and the nags do make another bid for freedom I won't be an hour in getting to them. And also just cos a day off would be awesome, ;)

Friday 15 November 2013

Week Re-cap

I am spoiling you guys this week with another update, probably helps that this is the first week in what feels like forever that I have got to spend some QT with my girls & in the saddle. Which is odd considering I only rode last night for the first time since my last update...funny how the mind works!

I was (again - this is becoming a nasty habit) late leaving work on Monday, by the time I got to the yard L (the Guru) had kindly thought to turn the ladies loose in the smallest arena - Kika had a blast running & leaping around like a nutjob. L said she stood in the middle and Nancy hid in a corner as Kika ran around like a lunatic throwing herself in the air in her special leap-buck-way.  When I arrived I joined her in the center and we coaxed the pair of them to walk, trot & canter around in a more civilised fashion, namely Kika not snotting herself & Nancy actually moving - lol. They are such characters!

Tuesday evening was spent "artz&crafting" the plans for my flat which is being built. My mother and I spent two hours deciding where we wanted walls moved, cutting out & glueing showers, baths, toilets and sinks from other plans where we want them in my place. Thankfully L  was able to see to the ladies for me.

Wednesday, the vet came to see Miss Nancy as we still aren't completely rid of of a bump on the underside of her jaw between noseband & throatlash. The vet was out twice during summer/early autumn to check on it and while it has gone down in size it still scabs the odd time - it was made more obvious & is easier to see since we clipped her. So N is on a different antibiotic & I have cream for it, sadly if this doesn't get rid of it we're going to have to visit a vet-clinic to get X-rays and/or a CT scan to try and see what's causing it - shall deff be getting on to insurance for that and they'll whine that I didn't let them know we were treating her earlier in the summer. Eurgh, paper-trails!

I don't know whether it is a good or bad thing that she is showing no averse effects from it and works away as always - I hope she is not being a martyr and sucking up any pain she may be in.  :-/
When it comes to boo-boos I always wish they could tell us what's wrong, although I reckon Kika would be a whiner & forever snivelling about something or other ;-) I couldn't deal with her being able to "talk" to me at feeding time, I can imagine incessant shatter of "is-it-ready-yet", this is just going off her behaviour of kicking partition with her front feet telling us to hurry up in her "special" way ;-)

Ack, sorry gone off-topic again, Lord, I am useless! No wonder my posts gets so wordy! Funny when you read these tomes of drivel, to think that I had such difficulty writing 16 lines on a given topic in the first paper of the test last week - we were supposed to write 20-25 lines. So I am terrified that my paltry 16 won't be enough and I'll fail through my inability to use my imagination & come up with more verbose arguments for and against the given topic.
Sorry off-topic again!

New-new bridle modeling - can you say un-impressed?!
The Guru asked if she could ride Kika on Wednesday and said she was very well behaved if stressed & blocking her back as they were forced to ride in a "crowded" arena with 6 others - Miss Kika get's flinchy with so many other bodies around - guess my poor pony has developed a form of agoraphobia when working. Despite this L said she was a very good girl.
I lunged Nancy for the first time in ages, she was much better than the last time I'd lunged her - her canter work was much improved and considerably more balanced than when she arrived, she listened well to voice commands to slow down - but her walk work (as with under-saddle with me) leaves a lot to be desired. She would much rather be trotting - something to work on :)
Above photo was from our lunging session, image on the right was pre-work & left post-work with camera flash. Either-way her face screams enthusiam, right? *rofl*

Finally we get to Thursday evening, last night. I am super proud of myself & both my girls, I managed to get both ridden, stables done (sort-of, poop removed & fresh straw added - but not done as thoroughly as i usually do, anyways they are done every morning so not the end of the world) and supplements prepared. For the month of November they are getting this horrible looking gelatenous-goopy stuff that is supposed to be good for horses that were out for the summer/near the beach for any sand and/or mud they may have ingested when the grazing got bare. Powder is mixed with boiling water and becomes gelatenous as it cools, so that the little darlings will eat we mix in three handfuls of muesli at this stage and then let cool for 30 mins. It seems to work well, Piggy-Kika eats it straight up, Nancy & L's mare O are less enthused about it but typically have it eaten by the time the next batch is served the following evening.

I rode Nancy first when the arena was more crowded, bearing in mind that Kika prefers a quieter arena - slightly awkward though as Nancy's steering and reaction times are invariably slower yet a lot of other riders chose to ignore the fact she is still very much a baby when it come sto riddenw orka nd get too close for comfort - I know we all go into our own zones when riding - but come on! Common sense should still be used people!
Sorry, rant over!
We got some lovely trot & canter work, her walk work as always leaves a bit to be desired - but everything else was very nice and smooth & calm - can't ask for more from a baby horse in such situations.

Kika was next and we had the arena to ourselves, she she had just gotten new shoes that afternoon I kept things simple & didn't ask for much. Just lovely w/t/c transitions, worked on upping the tempo in trot but not loosing our shape and really tried to concentrate on using my whole leg and not my heel - hopefully progress is being made!

Right that is more than enough waffle considering I am only offering one photo - sorry!
Hopefully there will be more when reports of the weekend roll in, plan is Saarbrucken Equi-Expo tomorrow (Saturday) & field fencing on Sunday. Hoping to also get a few spins in on both days, perhaps some polework on Sunday depending on how electrifying the fence goes - I would rather fix things so that they can start going out again and ride during the week.

Shopping list includes (but is not limited to):
Eggbutt bits - 2, maybe three depending on price
Reins - if i can find the rubber ones i want at the same or cheaper price than I found at Equitana (if not I'll wait till i go back there, it's not like the bridles i am using didn't come with reins)
Excercise sheet(s) - Fleece &/or waterproof depends on price & sizing - preferably Hi-viz reflective for waterproof one.
Warm Waterproof Jacket - my stalwart Ornella Prosperi jacket gave up the ghost earlier this year and a new jacket is needed as winter arrives :(

Then just keeping my eyes peeled for any other bargains to be had, but if i can get most of those things I'll be super happy. :p

Hope you all great weekends, I wish there was some reward I could offer you if you've read this far! *blush*

Monday 11 November 2013

Winter is Coming

Or so the Lords of Winterfell would have us believe, judging by the cold last night and the fog all day today I agree with them. ;)

Panoramic shot of beautiful skyline last night - hope colours can be seen.
Sadly as predicted last week work was mental and I didn't get out of the office till after 7pm most nights, plus I had the first round of civil service exams on Friday which if I can do enough to pass I would hopefully be made permanent in my job - which i really want to happen. I love my work & all the people i work with! *Fingers crossed*

N modeling my birthday gift bridle

This means that I didn't get to ride much last week, I rode Nancy on Monday evening for a quick spin (and took the above photo), L rode both of them Thursday I think and then I made my welcome return to both their backs on Saturday and Sunday. I had so much fun with both of them and spent hours both weekend days chillaxing with them. Having had the few days away from the saddle I could finally appreciate how far both girls & I have come since before the summer.

Not sure how clearly the migrating geese can be seen
I am much more comfortable riding Nancy in an arena now and have more faith in myself & trust in her when we are working to know how far I can push and what I can ask for. I also know when to call her on her crap and not let her kid me into going too easy on her with her big brown eyes and "love-me" disposition. Her canter work in much improved and she is much more balanced, so much so in fact that she threw in a cheeky buck when I first asked her to canter on Saturday. So we did a lot more canter-trot transitions then I would normally have asked from her - not harm no foul & she didn't try it again the next day despite being in a different arena. ;)
Another new Nancy bridle - spoiled sod
Kika & I have re-found our mojo, I had been having a little trouble finding her "go-button" the previous few spins as I struggled to change the way I ride from nag-nag-nagging with my heels to trying to rely more on my lower leg/calf to give the aids. I am far from polished, but i do think clipping her and removing the excess hair has invariably helped my cause. :p

She did have a schooling session curtesy of the Guru, so that more than likely helped more than the clipping, lol, but she was still such a gem both days and was a pleasure to work with.

I rode both girls in the dressage saddle, both days - no idea why - a notion just came over me and I'm fairly paying for it now. They are such different rides, Nancy requires more steadying and slowing to help her balance while Kika is the opposite and prefers the be lazy & cut corners where she can. The switch from one to the other is fun & challenging.

As you'll also see from the above photo, Nancy got another new bridle curtesy of a girl at the yard ordering cob-size & being sent monster-size (Coldblood). We tried it on Nancy's huge head and as it fit with room to spare (the first thing I've ever had for her to do so) I have decided to buy it from the yard friend and she'll order it again in the correct size for her Haflinger - lol! Must get a picture of Miss Nancy in it and actually ride in it myself! There is an Equi Expo on in Saarbrucken (Germany) this weekend, I'm hoping to go on Saturday with two friends and pick up some bits & bobs - literally I want at least two more D-ring snaffles. I have Kika in one and she is much happier in her mouth, Nancy is in a loose ring and I'm hoping for more stability for her with a D-ring.

Don't have much else to say, but I do have two more pictures to share with you that I managed to capture yesterday evening of the sky. The clouds were really angry looking and stormy, but thankfully no rain came - sadly the cold did, so methinks that may have been why they were so ominous.

Sadly I spent too much time this weekend faffing over the girls and satisfying my need for saddle time that I didn't get myself organised to fix the fencing around the turnout area - I'm still none the wiser as to where the electric fencing is being grounded and/or why the current isn't being carried around as it should. So the girls are not going out for the afternoons, which sadly means poor Kika's hind legs are pretty stacked in the evening when I get there - but she's not lame and there is no heat in them. I'll get my backside in shape this weekend and sort out the fencing so that I can turn the Houdini's out again.

Shall now shut up and leave you with the my favourite skyline picture from last night (below). PS: Not one of these has been photoshopped or edited in anyway - not even IG'd - the colours were just that mental, if not more so when you consider these are camera phone photos!

Monday 4 November 2013

Horsey Haircuts

I haven't spent as much time as I'd have liked in the saddle since I last updated, in fact I can count on one hand the times I've ridden since I last updated.
Sadly the Thursday after my last update my mother's brother passed away, while incredibly upsetting for those of us left behind mourning him, his passing was a blessing in some ways. I don't mean to be heartless, but he was "ill" for a long time, in that he was diagnosed with Huntington's (a degenerative nerve disease) when he was in his 30s and despite having being given only a decade to live he battled on for more almost 30 years.
Not only have we lost a valued family member but I feel quite at sea as Huntington's is a genetic/hereditary illness and as of yet there is no cure. Anyone of my maternal family members can be a carrier, we could never show symptoms yet we could pass it on unknowingly to children (should we have any). There are tests that can be done to find out if you are a carrier and/or if you may succumb to the illness - which is not unlike Parkinson's in that you lose control of your nervous system and "shake". However as there is nothing that can be done, I don't see the point in being tested to (a) find out I am not affected in which case my outlook on life wouldn't  change or (b) find out I will be affected and my outlook on life could change drastically. I'd rather continue to live in blissful ignorance, thanks, and enjoy every day as it comes!

That got a little heavier than I'd intended but it does kind of go someway to explaining why I didn't get much saddle time in recent weeks. Actually there is more to the story, upon my return to work last Tuesday following the service the weekend before. Our unit in work were deeply saddened by the loss of one of our proof-readers who had been found dead in her home the day before. Her funeral will take place tomorrow, again in Ireland but sadly I cannot go back again so soon. She was a wonderful colleague and a neighbour across the hall from my office. The end of October hasn't been a great.

Right sorry, that's all the doom & gloom done for for this post! Some fuzzy pony pics to lighten the mood & bring us onto the title of this post. As long time followers of this blog will know, the yard I keep my girls on has limited turnout during the summer & none during the winter. I am lucky in that one of the "limited" turnout options for the summer is 24/7 and that "summer" last 6 months (May 1st to October 31st). I am extra lucky in that the family of a school friend of mine has a piece of land neighbouring the yard I livery the ladies on and they have given me the use of it for winter turnout. Happy days as my horses are "free range" horses & happiest when they are out of doors.

Hairy Kika

Hairy Nancy

Two girls getting pampered before their first night in.

31st October '13

I managed to squeeze in a lovely spin on each girl Friday evening, the Guru had very kindly kept them both ticking over while I was away - they were both dreams to sit on again!
Pampering continued for Miss Nancy

I learned during the summer from someone we met on holidays at the beach who had a gorgeous Friesian stallion (I added photos of him to my instagram account - also apologies to those who have seen the neighbouring picture already); that plaiting their name helps it to grow - I'm not sure how true this is, but it will keep it considerably more manageable.
<<<< Before & After shot, I love how long her mane is after getting.
Actually, it has a long way to go if her new neighbours is anything to go by, sadly no photos yet. But she has a hunky full friesian gelding to make googoo eyes at if she wishes!

I did a fair bit of running around on Saturday, to various tack shops looking for one thing in particular - but as is often the way (and normally the reason I order online vs going into shops) I came away with many nice new things but not what I was looking for! ;-)

All the running around cut my horse riding time short, so Nancy ended up getting a day off as I ran out of time to ride her - I'm sure she was gutted! Kika did provide me with a  funny eyeballing-the-mirror-snap as we warmed up on a loose rein. She then continued in her good vein of form and gave me a very enjoyable spin - poor sod was a sodden sweaty mess when we were finished. She was such a hairy monster that I couldn't wait to get her clipped - I wonder if her energy levels will pick up and require less leg work from me for the rest of winter.

Sunday dawned drizzly & wet, L had offered to turn out the three girls as she was clipping for different people that day so would be at the barn anyways. I had a lunch date in town to celebrate a friends birthday only to come out to a couple missed calls and a voicemail to say that the cheeky sods were after busting out of the winter turnout - fair enough we hadn't yet turned on the electricity, so they had no real incentive to stay in, but still there was grazing for them and the reason we hadn't yet turned on the fencing was that we hoped they'd graze the blades that were touching off the tape.
It would appear they had other plans!

 So I then spent the remaining daylight hours getting rained upon as I tried to cut back, stomp down on the things that would ground the electricity by touching off the bottom strand of our fencing tape.

When I got back up to the yard, probably looking more drowned-rat than human. L asked if I wanted her to clip Kika or wait for another night - we decided to go for it as we both had the time then although as you may remember from last year - LINK
Kika isn't exactly difficult to clip - she falls asleep & prompts people to ask if she has been sedated she is such a dream. :D

I had hoped to avoid clipping Nancy as her coat is considerably less she-bear than Miss Kika's (picture wooly mammoth & you get a good idea of Kika's winter wardrobe) and while it looked like we might get away with it, Miss Nancy has joined Kika in the wooly farm and sweats when worked - this is an inconvenience when the only times you can ride when working full-time are between 7 & 10pm, it doesn't leave sufficient time to dry the little darlings & get both worked and stables cleaned!

Yay dapples!

As Nancy hasn't been clipped before I decided to tie her in the grooming area next to Kika while she was being clipped to desensitize Nancy to the whirring of the clippers.
N was a little eyeball-ey at first but settled down like an old hand and stood quite as a lamb while I faffed about her mane & forelock...went for a different plait this time, luckily when you see where this post is going. ;)

I opted for a carriage/french plait and tried to make it as tight as possible in the hopes that it might hold better when stabled & out in the field so that i won't have to re-plait every night, but maybe every second day. Also, I think the less elastics in her mane the less damage they can do...right?!

I also had a bit of fun plaiting her forelock as I'm hoping to coax some of her mane to grow forward and not have to trim a bridle path but just re-train the way her hair grows...did something similar with K.

As Nancy was being such a doll, we decided to go all out and see what she would make of the being clipped experience. She swapped places with Kika, who stayed tied next door for moral support and I held Nancy as the clippers made their first forray into her coat.

She was a little look-ey at firs and if she'd been whites-of-eyes stressed we'd have stopped and tried again another day. As with most things she's encountered since arriving out here after a few seconds it was no big deal.
Would you believe that we even managed to do her face & lift her front legs to properly get her chest area done - it's so easy to forget she is only 4!

What a gem of a horse - every day she makes my decision to not let her pass me by more worth it!

Shiny first time clipped horse

Her head looks much more refined now that her "beard" has been trimmed away, here's hoping this will make closing her noseband that much easier, ;)
You really wouldn't believe how big her head is - I don't think pictures do it's monsterous size justice....But who cares about headsize when what is between the ears is so honest & level-headed!
We also trimmed the excess hair growing from her ears - with the clippers no less...can I repeat once more that this is the first time she has been clipped and stood relaxed with a hind-leg cocked. A fellow livery passed and asked if we'd given her something, as they knew she hadn't been clipped before, lol!

Her coat is much finer that the she-bear Kika, it was so interesting to see the difference in their coats as they were both being clipped. i don't know why, but Nancy being half-Friesian had me thinking she'd have a thicker coat than Miss's how little I know.

Is how much I love my horses coming across in this post?
I hope so - even with their madcap-escapologist ways!
I don't know which one of them made the bid for freedom yesterday - sadly I think both of mine lead L's mare astray and so neither has been turned out today and won't be until we can get the electricity sorted - I just don't trust them to stay put.

Sorry about the quality - I'm a bit far away & lighting going mental
- if you click image it should enlarge
Following their haircuts both girls needed wrapping up for the evening, thankfully Kika's rugs do fit Nancy although I think just to be the safe side I shall be patrolling the online stores I bargain buy from for 6ft6 horseware rugs on offer.
Better safe than sorry & all that :)


"Are we done now?"

Right, I think that's enough waffle out of me for another post - I've two final photos to leave you with.

Both ladies hair all swept up
Two traumatised faces