Saturday, August 31, 2013

Horsey Baby Clothes = Irresistible

Buying cute baby clothes is very enjoyable for many people, family and friends alike.  Buying horse-themed baby clothes for a horse-enthusiast Mama and her little one is even more so.  Several family members and friends have spontaneously purchased cute horse-attire for our little Sweet Pea and I am so glad they did.  I am no exception and also failed to resist temptation at a recent baby clothes sale.  I am new to baby clothes, and everything "baby" really, but apparently you can buy the same or similar outfits in larger sizes so that your little one need not grow out her latest horse-themed onesie until she is 24 months old.

Thank goodness.

Thank you for the present Auntie M!

I may have purchased multiple similar horsey-outfits during a recent school-shopping outing.  Truth be told, I don't regret it.

And I am NOT one of those who likes shopping.  I think that I would be in trouble, if I were.

I have a growing collection, so expect to see some cute horse outfits modeled by Sweet Pea!  I have to dress her up before she grows out of them.  :)

Matching leggings!  (OMG, I sound so much like a "girl".  What has happened to me?)

I have an Ariat shirt on, too.

On the actual horsey front, Harley and I are still having fun together with our short rides.  He hasn't forgotten a thing and although both our fitness levels are not there yet (sitting trot feels like "work" these days), he still offers up his usual goodies like shoulder-in without a hitch, a big, explosive trot down the long side, smooth, smooth canter, and a flying change when I am not paying attention.  Silly boy.  I love every minute!

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Barefoot Horse: A Hoof Post At Last!

August 2013: Doesn't look like much, but these hoof shavings took a lot of work to produce!

Wow!  It has been forever since I wrote a hoof trimming post.  This was not so much due to a lack of trimming as it was a lack of photos.  I continued to maintain Harley's feet while I was expecting our daughter.  Thankfully, this was not as arduous a task as one might expect.  My arms remained reliably strong throughout my pregnancy.  They were perhaps the only part of me that did not transform in some shape or form from day one to the birth day.  Trimming was actually a welcomed activity, especially as my list of activities decreased as the weeks progressed.  It wasn't easy, but it was doable and I believe "relatively" safe under the given circumstances (me trimming Harley).  How did I make the feat (hehe) of trimming my horse while pregnant possible?  Here were my strategies:

  1. Only trim a sane, reliable horse who knows me very well and respects my space and boundaries: check.  Harley was as solid as they get.  He can get fidgety, but he was saintly quiet for all of my "expectant" hoof trims.  Did he know?  
  2. Do not let Harley's feet get away from me.  I was very careful to almost never allow a scheduled trim pass.  I religiously trimmed his feet every three weeks and kept up with the bars diligently.
  3. Only trim a pair of feet on each visit.  This cut my work in half, but required two days of trimming.  Since I couldn't ride my horse in the end, I did not mind the extra time we spent together working on his feet.  In fact, I quite enjoyed it.  I kept the work spaced so that I had a week between front and hind foot trims.  I usually keep this schedule during the summer months anyway, because it is just too darn hot and buggy to trim all four!
  4.  Use the hoof stand.  Enough said.
  5. Use very new, sharp rasps...
  6. And use two rasps!  I had a standard (14"), super sharp rasp for taking down excess hoof wall quickly.  I used my usual shorter (12") Ladies' rasp for the bevel.
  7. Have a back-up plan if I am unable to continue trimming my horse.  I did not make any phone calls, but I am sure that the farrier or trimmer who frequents our barn would have helped me out in a pinch.  It was not my first choice to let someone else trim my horse, because I did not want to worry about a new person affecting my horse's feet (especially with all those worrisome hormones reeking havoc on my sentiments).
  8. Be willing to let his feet grow longer than normal "at the end".
With a little bit of luck, this strategy worked out pretty well.  When our little one arrived early, I was in between front and hind trims, so Harley's hind feet went about six weeks without a trim and his front's only went four or five.  That is not bad at all, especially considering that many shod horses are purposely trimmed at five to six weeks.

There was also an unforeseen benefit to not riding or working my horse for the last two months of my pregnancy: his hoof growth slowed down.  I was really surprised, but he did not have any flaring from excess growth and barely any mechanical separation.  I was shocked about the last part.  I thought for sure that I would have to do some damage control, but, honestly, he was no worse for the wear.  What a relief, because I had plenty to worry about during those first weeks with our daughter.  Not having to worry about the state of my beloved horse's feet was much appreciated.

Unfortunately, I did not have time to take photos of his feet when I trimmed them in June.  They looked surprisingly good, just long.  I wanted very badly to document them, but I was in whirlwind mode and nothing was stopping me long enough to snap photos.  Plus the bugs were killer that day and Harley was not a happy camper.  By July, I sort of got my photography act together.

July 2013 before his trim: This was the second trim since baby.

July 2013: Self-trimming going on here at four to five weeks (heat wave delayed our trim).  Wowsers.

July 2013: Solar view of left hind.  I tried, but I did not have the patience for nice solar shots.  This was the only one that was not totally blurry and unrecognizable.  This is about four weeks of growth; our trim was pushed back a week due to the insane heat wave.

July 2013: Post-trim hinds

July 2013: Harley looking cute, but also wanting for grass (he is not smiling in this picture).  He was not amused by photo ops on this day, because he was already feeling the effects of baby infringing on his grazing time.

August 2013:  Now we're talking!

2-months old: Pink zebras are almost ponies!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dusting Off the Gears

Friday (two Friday's ago now!) was a gloriously cool day and, even more miraculously, the insects were taking a break.  Harley-time was on the cards for the afternoon and I was deliriously happy as I pulled up to the barn.  I didn't waste any time getting my grooming supplies out and marching out to Harley's paddock.  Likewise, he met me at the gate.  Good boy!

I consolidated prep work by feeding him some alfalfa cubes and finishing his grooming in his stall.  Then I tacked him up in his stall and he finished the last cubes just before I was ready to put the bridle on.  Score two for team work!

My partner in crime.

Once in the tack, we warmed up with our walk exercises and then proceeded to trot. Harley's energy felt great, uninhibited and free flowing.  He was reaching into the bridle and clearly asking for more, so I started riding to a point in the arena.  We tooled all around the ring with lots of changes of direction and variations in pattern.  I rode from my weight aids and my eyes.  Harley loves that game.

Since it was such a nice temperature, I thought we should work some canter, so I shortened my reins and asked Harley to step into more contact and carry himself.  As he obediently worked the dust off the gears and adjusted himself to a more dressage-y frame, it dawned on me.  I am thinking about working the canter and I have not worked the walk or trot yet!  Talk about running before you can walk.  It was time for some walk-trot transitions.

And boy am I glad that we went there.  Forward is always the first ingredient and this is no different when you are riding transitions.  I had to really encourage Harley to stay through before, during, and after the transition.  Predictably, it was easiest for him to stay forward in the upward transition, but much more difficult in the downward.  He also likes to try to suck back going right: the reins get loopy even though I have not changed their length.  I did my best to keep my elbows at my sides and give him a steady feel.  I also worked hard NOT to pull on the bit.  I let my legs tell him to lengthen his neck and carry himself by stepping more under with his hind legs. 

This was challenging, especially the part where I had to put more leg on during the downward transition.  Interestingly, my outside leg had to do the heaviest lifting.  I can almost initiate the downward transition off my outside leg alone.  I believe this is because he already engages the inside hind nicely, but has a tendency to lean in (hence his motorcycle-inspired name).  My outside leg stands him up and helps him stay balanced laterally, which improves his longitudinal balance.  Neat.

Even though he loves to GO, GO, GO, Harley needs  reminders to keep the impulsion in the downward transition.  Likewise, he needs reminders to relax and not rush in the upward.  I am sure that as we both improve our endurance this will get easier, because I typically do not like to subscribe to the "more leg" camp, but sometimes it does help work the dust free.