Thursday, March 31, 2011

And Away We Go!

I rode Ben today!

Today was his second day in our cross ties. For those who wonder, the ties are set on the tie-blocker rings- with longer lead ropes (14 footers)- so they are perfect for teaching green horses how to cross tie since they give. IF the horse happens to freak out, nothing will break- the rope slides through.

Ben, for the record, stood in the ties like he has known how his whole life. Who knows, maybe he has! Also, his manners are better in the ties than in his stall.

So, we groomed and tacked, then went into the round pen. We worked on lowering our head for the bridle- not his favorite task. But patience and persistence, peppered with lots of "good boys" reassurance, he did it.

I attached the sliding reins loosely again- the second he feels even just a little weight on the rein he stops fussing with his head- which he does even when he's on his own in his stall or turned out. I find it interesting- its as if the contact is a distraction from that- it certainly isn't force because he can still helicopter his head if he wanted to- they are that loose.

So, we did some longeing- the shortest session ever. At one point Ben stopped paying attention because he heard hooves walking outside- he did slip and he did fall on his side. He just layed there for a second, sort of stunned. He got up, shook off, and we pretended nothing happened- physically, he was unharmed. Funny enough, he concentrated for the duration of our session. *wink*

When done with that, I hopped on him after 2 short mounting exercises- reminding him to stand still at the block. I could almost see the light bulb go off in his head "ohh yea I'm supposed to stand here and wait" LOL

I got on, sat there for a bit, and then asked him to move forward- he was very good. We walked around a lot, changed direction, did some steering, and halting, and did some trot.

I think we're ready for the arena. I think it will be easier for Ben anyway, since the space is a bit bigger - our round pen does feel a bit too constrained to continue to work in there. So my new short term goal is to get out and ride in our arena over the next 3 days.... and of course, find someone to snap a few photos of us in action!


Generally speaking, Ben is a pretty easy going guy. I have noticed that there are things that do bother him, and yesterday, one of those things happened.

I have seen Ben react to loud sounds that he cannot see. His reaction is usually to spook in place, or get antsy, and start helicoptering his head around and around. I have yet to see him fully blow up.

Yesterday, someone was power washing their trailer at dinnertime.It was loud, and it was coming from behind Ben, and it was something he could not see. So the nervous antsies came out.

After awhile, most of the horses calmed down, but I could see Ben was still a bit agitated. I figured I may as well try to work with him, at least to get his mind off it.

This proved to be a really GREAT idea. As soon as I tied him up in his stall, he still was a bit antsy, but it was to like 5 mph antsy vs 40mph. The more I interacted with him, the better he got.

So, I tacked him up in his surcingle, bridle, and boots- and took him to the round pen. He dropped to about 2mph- a little jumpy/out of his skin, but no blow ups or anything like that.  Let him longe a bit and then put the side reins on loosely. He was all focused then, 1 mph. He chewed on the bit a little bit more than he had in previous sessions- so i'm thinking it was a combination of having changed the bit (bridle issue- LOL i NEED more tack!), and still being a bit nervous about the sounds going on around him. Today I am going to put him back in the original bridle- I think he likes that one more.

All in all, I was very happy with how he focused right back to the human in the midst of having a minor, green -equine meltdown. It is very nice to know that he seeks comfort in people, and can focus even though something scary is going on. He thrives on that interaction.

Hopefully today or Saturday I can ride him.The round pen area and arena was over-watered the other day- so 1 day they were useless, and yesterday with his nerves, and not knowing how he would react, I decided ground work was the better option. But today, the footing should be fine, and now I know how he will be- so I plan to work him under saddle. After a ride or two we'll graduate to the arena and start riding in there.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Its Nice to Share

Ben had a 2 step session today. Step 1 was a quick walk in the round pen tacked up in his bridle, surcingle and loose side reins. He was very good for that. I was going to tack up and ride, but another opportunity struck and I had to take it.

Normally, I am in the arena or round pen alone. So Ben hasnt had the opportunity to share the arena with multiple horses. But as the riding season kicks into gear, more boarders are out, which means more traffic. So, being able to share the arena is an essential skill.

Today I got to walk ben around the busy arena while 3 other horses walked, trotted, and cantered around us. At times we were passed by horses on both sides, different directions. Ben was nervous at first, as they typically can be. His idea of showing his nerves was to raise his head, and maybe take a step or two sideways to look. He was very controlled and took it all in stride.

I really like how he reacted to that stimuli, and I am glad I had the chance to give him that experience on our home turf. There will always be another day for riding!
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Totally Unprepared for Today

This weekend was so much fun! On Saturday, I went up to Vancouver, BC to see Cavalia for the 2nd time- first time was about 5-6 years ago. It was awesome- even hubby loved it. Definitely reinspired me to get on the ball with my horses- they are (and I am) capable of doing much more than we are currently doing.

With that thought in mind, today, I got to the barn early, helped clean stalls (love doing barn chores!) and made up grain bags for the week. Note to self: must go to the feed store on Saturday!

From there I hand-walked my mare, Piper, for about 45 minutes.

That, unfortunately, re-triggered my hip problem. I thought it was healed, or close to it. Dang it. So I took 1 tylenol and that seemed to numb the pain enough for me to continue on my way. I think I am going to splurge on a joint supplement or something to see if that works- I ought to try, I'm going to get an ulcer with all the ibuprophen i've been taking.

Next up was Ben. I set him up in the round pen as a lesson was going on in the arena. He got to do his thing while I gathered my tack, boots, helmet, longe line, brushes, etc. I got in there and after a quick groom got him saddled up and sent him off on the longe. He got sweaty really quickly- very out of shape and very, very hairy. The air is mildish, so its just not a good combination for the poor guy right now.

It soon dawned on me that i took the wrong bridle, and I forgot my stirrups for my saddle. So I had a sweaty horse and missing tack and an aching hip...I took that as a sign to call it a day. We went for a long, slow (for my sake) cool-down walk in the arena and outside.

Through all this Ben was a good sport. I appreciate it, bud!

I hope to continue on tomorrow- I really need to get this guy going, in some capacity. The good news is that I found my stirrups and bridle in the tack room, so I'm ready for the week. LOL

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Special Visitor

Ben had a special visitor today! My friend Nancy has family in town from Tennessee. Her young nephew (4?) from the moment he could communicate, expressed his deep love an interest for animals, especially horses.

Today was the first day he got to meet one up close- and that very first horse was Ben!

Fearless, this little half pint walked right up to Big Ben and proclaimed "His Nose is HUGE!!!" He touched his legs, and hooves and was amazed. I found the mounting block and let him get closer up to Ben that way- he laid his head on Ben's side, stretched out his arms and gave him a big hug while saying  "he's so warm and nice!"

This little guy is a horseman in the making. And thanks to Ben & the other horses at our barn, he had a fantastic first outing. Thanks, Ben!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Fun

Ben and I had another great day. A friend of mine who boards at the barn came up and saw Ben for the first time since he came to the barn. She was amazed at how different he looks.

Ben, of course, put on a huge show. Rolling, flipping his nose in the air, doing some bucking and playing,  pushing the jolly ball around, and even pawing the mountain block, testing its sturdiness. He mixed all that play with being a total sweetheart, stopping by our end of the arena for some cuddle time.

Shortly after my friend left, we got down to business. First thing was to put on leg protection. I was short on time, so I opted for our Woof boots and bell boots. The little white flecks you see in the picture are the brand stamps- not scar or anything. Ben stood great for his boots- even the backs.

From there, we did a short longeing session. Ben was as good in the big arena as he was in the round pen Friday night. He did great transitions, and moved nicely.

I hope to be able to climb on for a couple of rides this week, but I'm not sure that will happen. I seem to have some sort of hip injury which is really cutting into my running and riding. While I *think* I could possibly climb on the horse- i'm not sure if I can actually sit on him, or get off, LOL. Since I have to take it easy, we'll likely be focusing on ground work this week, unless some miracle cure for my hip happens.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Polo Friday

Ben & I had a great time today. First, I let him do his thing in the round pen- he had to roll, and roll, and roll some more. Whinny, snort, buck, spin. He was then good to concentrate on the tasks at hand.

First things first- groundwork. Move left, move right, move back, forward. Halt. Then comes grooming. What a stinky, smelly mess. I can't wait for him to shed out so he can get a bath.

Once the dust and dirt was knocked off I let him sniff his polos and on they went. He stood completely still, kind of bending his head down and around to watch- it was quite funny. When I let him walk out he did the typical spanish walk for a few steps.

From there I longed him briefly- the work we did prior to our mini-vacation must have really stuck- because he was quite responsive- walk, trot, halt, and both up and down transitions. I did just enough to practice the transitions, then changed direction and did those directions.

Observation: Ben moves much more freely to the right, and halts worse to the right- selective hearing in that direction, lol. To the left he wants to break gait from trot to walk, and is a little more stiff through his body. He also responds to the halt command better to the left.

He got really sweaty from a very small amount of "work" - poor dude- he really has to get going on shedding out that coat. Thankfully, it seemed to loosen a bit during our work and was coming off in droves with the shedding blade.  YAY!

In addition to massive amounts of body grooming, I also worked on his mane a bit- he doesn't care at all about mane thinning.

All in all, I was quite happy with what we did, and the amount of knowledge he retained and displayed. For being quite a spunk during the day, he really controlled himself during work and had great ethic. I'm proud of him!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Freeze Firing?

Thought I'd show you a picture of Ben's leg. My phone camera didn't do too bad of a job, considering I took the picture in his dark stall!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

...And We're Back!

It has been over a week since I last posted about Ben. I was sick for about a week and then rolled right into a vacation.

Ben has been chillin' out for the past couple of weeks. The weather has been really poor, so I hear. I've also got reports that our Ben has been quite the spunky character when being turned out/ brought in. I suspect that is because the footing outdoors isn't all that great so he's not burning much steam off.

That is all about to change, because he's going to start lightly working as of this week. :)

Yesterday was my first day back at the barn- so I got to see my boy. He's still very hairy, but has begun to shed out- he's very behind by comparison to the other horses at the barn. I also, finally, was able to clip the lumps on his front legs. They look very much like old splints, and I suspect he got them by the way he moves. Ben will be getting his very own sport boots to prevent interference.

Anyway, clipping the spots revealed something very interesting. The lump on the left leg looked quite normal- just normal black skin over a cold, hard splint. The lump on the right leg is a different story. Once the hair was gone, revealed these white, dime-sized perfectly circular scars. The barn manager and I thought we saw some long white hairs on that particular lump when Ben first came to the barn, but honestly we couldn't be sure because of the light. We just figured it wasn't a big deal.  I've never seen anything like it- these scars. I definitely need to take a photo of these things. I wonder what they are, how he got them?! He's not lame on that leg- so whatever it is/ was hasn't bothered him- it is just the strangest set of scars I've ever seen.

It very vaguely reminds me of pinfiring marks, or something man-made. The marks are so perfectly circular, the skin looks like it is painted white in perfect little circles. However, the circles are not aligned, nor do they go down the cannon like pin firing. It seems really hard to think that he'd get an injury like that himself- it really looks man-made.

If he still has them in April, I'm going to ask the vet to look when he's up for the routine visit, just out of curiosity. I'm not very knowledgeable about treatments done at the track, let alone at the standardbred tracks- maybe he got treatment for something. It certainly looks like something  he wouldn't have done to himself.

I'll try to get a good picture and post it this week. If anyone has ideas, I'd love to hear them- I'm very curious!!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barely UpRight

You knew this was coming. It had to be. Icing on the stress-cake.

The Flu.

Saturday I was able to make it to the horses- it was freezing and snowing and I had to prepare their grain bags. I wasn't feeling great- but I thought it was allergies from all the saw dust flying around the house.

Turns out I was very, very wrong. About an hour at the barn, I started to feel even worse. I basically finished everything as fast as I could and got home. By then, the aches, pains, and internal chill and deep chest cough had fully set in.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday - all a haze.

Today I am somewhat upright. My 102 fever, peaking at 103 last night, has broke.

All good things from here, right?!