Saturday, May 11, 2019

Why breed shows and halter horses?

I've sat in front of my computer several times over the past month trying to write this post.  I think I'm on version 6 or 7 at this point.  Emma's recent post had me thinking as well, so I went back to editing yet again. 

Why do I show halter?  Why would you show halter in the breed world?  Don't those horses all look weird?  Wouldn't you rather ride?

All valid questions that I ask myself daily.  And the answers are complicated and vary day to day and year to year - life throwing a wrench in the works, motivation fluctuations and resources. Always with the resources when it comes to horses.  I do still ride a bit, although it is hard to work full-time, ride one horse and fit a halter horse, on top of other commitments, you know the hubby, eating, etc.  ;-)

I bought Spencer a few years ago looking for an older QH (he is 18 now!) that could do western breed type classes (western pleasure, horsemanship, trail, showmanship and maybe hunt seat) at the schooling show level. I had a lot to learn, so didn't feel the need to jump into the breed show world at that time. I had sort of planned to learn with Spencer and then buy something a bit fancier in a couple of years.
Me - having fun at a local fair.  Spencer, not so much.  Likely totally embarrassed by his human.
I did well with him the first year we showed and then life happened.  In a nutshell:
  • my coach retired,
  • there aren't any other western coaches in my area,
  • there aren't any western shows above the schooling show level (including fairs) that aren't breed shows,  
  • I have "issues" that rear up at unfortunate times (confidence, anxiety, fitness/health)
  • my husband got really sick (and is fine now, thankfully)
  • and our finances took a big hit. 
With all of that stuff going on, I had to remind myself that my love for horses covers more than riding, showing - I love doing stalls, fixing fences, feeding, mini scritches, etc. 

One of my favourite pics - this is my friend's horse - he is so handsome!  I didn't even know the photographer took this one, probably why I like it!! lol
I had showed friends horses in the past and kind of got hooked on the sweet show schedule - most halter classes are first thing in the morning and then you are done!  Grand and reserve ribbons are kinda sweet too!
stand still, mother fucker!  me, probably, circa 2016
Once my life stabilized a bit, my friends encouraged me to get a halter horse so I wouldn't have to worry about the riding/trainer/gear issue.   I was on board with that idea and the search for Fred began.  Admittedly, I don't love how halter horses are supposed to be examples of excellent  conformation and yet most that are winning big shows are post-legged hypp n/h creatures that don't have much of a future as a riding horse.   This applies to many horse-related industries though - sadly, there is no shortage of this type of stuff in our beloved horse world.
almost to Fred's farm in Kentucky
I feel that you can still be part of a breed/industry without supporting the worst parts.  Think of all of the amateurs across the board that feed into shows, breeding and the horse industry as a whole. There is a lot of good out there too and fun, let's not forget the fun!  And, to quote Emma from her awesome recent post "But the great thing about these animals is that one size does not fit all. There's room for everyone."
Showing a friend's horse in 2015...?  This is actually a showmanship class at a fair, but I showed this guy in halter at AQHA shows one year.  He is 19 now!
Now that I have Fred, I now try and look at how I want to show and take care of my horse with a view to learning, doing the best with what I have and trying to have some fun along the way.  Would I someday like a fancier horse to move up some levels and win at some bigger shows? Yes, I can't lie, I would like that. Is it in the cards for me? Who knows.  And I'm ok with that.
This has been my motto lately...
The important thing is that I don't need those things to enjoy what I have now.  And that is 3 horses, my own little barn and lots of opportunities to learn and have fun.  It is so hard to not get caught up in the points and awards and the dream of travelling to far-away shows, but it is more important for me to enjoy myself and remember that love of horses that I had as a kid. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Ankle-gate: The plot thickens...

Alternative title: OMFG I hate sprained ankles!

Ok - so this is the last ankle post, I promise. 

I had a physio appointment last night and he was really concerned that I still had a lot of pain while walking.  He pondered the problem and tried a couple of diagnostic methods on my ankle to try and isolate the pain.  He frowned, then mumbled "uh-oh".  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Did you just say "uh-oh"?

Him:  Uh, yeah.

Me: ...

Him: Uh, well, it seems that you have a secondary sprain, above the ankle.

Me: whaaaat?

Him:  Yeah, that happens with a severe injury.  The lower inversion sprain and the pain and swelling that causes disguises the secondary sprain.

Me: So, since it is secondary, it isn't as severe and will heal up quickly. Right?

Him: no.

Me:  Uh, so how long are we talking here?

Him: *mumbles*

Me: ???

Him:  it can take months.

Me: Mother fucker! OMFG!  (then I realize there is a young teenager around the corner)
Him: so, we can tape it for a couple of days to help, but since you can't really exercise the tissue in between the tib/fib, it will just have to heal on its own.  A brace might help too...but...

Me:  *sigh*

So, for those of us that are sort of fascinated by injuries (horse, human), I had to look up a "high ankle sprain"  to read the gory details.  Luckily mine seems to be minor.  A severe high ankle sprain can result in the ligament pulling away from and fracturing the bone and requires surgery!
Started with this...
It a nutshell, a high ankle sprain causes the tibia and fibula to pull apart (gross!) a bit.  From Wikipedia: "A high ankle sprain, also known as a syndesmotic ankle sprain (SAS), is a sprain of the syndesmotic ligaments that connect the tibia and fibula in the lower leg".

and then this, for good measure!  All in one quick fall.
If the ligaments are injured and are not adequately holding the tibia and fibula tightly together, then they can start to splay apart with the high load of weight bearing, leaving the ankle unstable and painful when walking, which is what I was experiencing.

On that note, this is the last we will speak of the ankle.  I'll leave you with a picture of Copper zooming through the snow a couple of winters ago. 

zoom, zoom!  Copper, probably.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monday - I got nuthin'

Man, Mondays are tough!  I'm still grounded by my physio, so very limited time doing anything but sitting around.  I did another round of "please let all of this winter hair shed out now omg" on each horse and then parked myself in a chair on the lawn while I hand-grazed Fred.  That was about the extent of horse-stuff!

I did catch Fred and Copper playing last week and got a few pics. I had to take the pictures from the house, because if I went outside they would immediately stop. 

These two play a lot  and it seems pretty fair. I'm always worried about the little guy getting hurt, but in reality, Fred is the one that gets picked on the most.  He has quite a few bite marks from this winter that are finally growing in new hair.

Sorry about the photo quality - I need a bigger zoom lens - put that on my shopping wish list!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A challenge for the vertically challenged

I'm really short - about 5'0" - maybe a smidge over that, on a good day.  It is sometimes challenging in the horse world when you are so short.
Some of the (very minor) and slightly funny issues I've faced are:

- western saddles - the fenders/stirrups are adjustable, but often don't go short enough.  I had to have a saddle maker cut the fenders on my current saddle so it would work.  Turns out I need a youth sized fender! 

- dressage saddles - standard length flaps are too long - the stirrup and my ankle barely make it past the bottom of the flap, causing my ankle/boot to get caught on the flap. Awkward!  If I ever do ride dressage again, I'll have to look for a short flap saddle.

- trucks - even with power seats, it is sometimes hard for me to reach the pedals or even touch the floor! On one old F150 I tried, the seats were too deep - my non-driving foot didn't even touch the floor!

- horse trailers - depending on the style, it is hard for me to reach the windows from the outside to open/close them for horses.

- getting on a horse from the ground.  This picture illustrates it perfectly:

And finally - the funniest one considering what class I like to show - setting up a halter horse!

For whatever reason, halter horses are all taught to set up in the ring a specific way.  The off-side hind is your place marker. You then use the halter/lead to set the near hind.

Then, to set the front legs, you put your hand on the horse's wither (you can touch the horse) and use your right foot to indicate where the horse should move the front legs/hooves.

In theory, that is how it is supposed to work.  When you have a 16+hh horse and a very short handler, this gets tricky!  I can reach Fred's wither, but I can't put my hand on his wither and put my leg out at the same time!  It just doesn't work!  I was practicing setting Fred up the other day and realized I need to retrain him a bit so I don't look as silly!

Retraining the setup is one of my projects for this spring, so we are ready for a show, if possible.  Here is a clip from a video with the way I will be attempting to retrain him.  I should be able to put my hand on his shoulder and make the adjustments to his front end that way. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Fred - in a saddle!

I was bound and determined to do more than just groom Fred this weekend!  I really want to start working with him as the weather is now more spring-like.

I wasn't sure how much my ankle could tolerate, so I thought handwalking on the laneway was my best bet.  I also decided Fred was going to try out a saddle too!  Whew! Can you handle the excitement?  lol

I've saddled Fred a few times in the barn this winter, but never had him walk around with it girthed up.  Spoiler alert: he was fine.  ;-)  It is hard to take pics of this horse - he wants to be in your pocket the whole time!
I need scritches pleez.  Fred, probably

I threw an English saddle on him - we aren't ready for the big western saddle just yet.  Not to mention the fact that I can't lift and carry that sucker right now. I'd probably trip and break my ankle! lol  (Going slightly crazy since my ankle is not better yet!)   He didn't even react when I tightened the girth slowly.  He is so calm 99% of the time. I really hope that carries over when someone gets on him for the first time.
I managed to get one decent-ish picture. 
We hobbled up and down the laneway a couple of times and Fred was great.  I just didn't feel comfortable leading a huge animal that could jump/spook at any time.  I don't think I could react quick enough if something happened. 

This ankle business is seriously cramping my spring plans!

At the end of the walk, I even let down one stirrup and flapped it around.  Fred really didn't care. He might feel differently moving a bit faster on the longe line - maybe next month I can try that?  *Sigh*
I really need a green saddle pad! Sheesh!
All in all, it was fun to do something else with Fred, even for a few minutes!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Finally! Some time at the barn!

Finally - my ankle is improved enough that I can get out to the barn and get a few things done.  I still have some pain, but the whole ankle/foot feels more stable, so that is good news!

My big focus this weekend was to start really grooming my hairy beasts. They've been a bit neglected the past three-four weeks, so it was time to get some work done! Saturday Fred and Copper got a good first pass with the shedding blade.  No pictures, but trust me when I say a LOT of hair was set free.  And on Sunday, all three got major grooming and shedding.

Copper got his mane trimmed - he looks silly, but his mane was down to his shoulders and is very heavy.  So, first step is to hack off a few inches, then I'll thin and condition it a bit.  I leave his forelock because 1) it is hilarious, 2) I think it helps keep the bugs out of his eyes and 3) he looks like a kid with a bowl cut when I trim it.  lol  He gets a little snack of vitamins/minerals and teeny bit of hemp oil while the big guys have their grain.  It is always a struggle to keep his weight down when he is out with the big guys.

Spencer was up next.  He would rather not be groomed, if he had the choice.  He is such a grump  I took a few pounds (it seemed!) of hair off him, so it has to feel better.  Next grooming session will involve a mane trim and maybe a bridle path if I'm feeling fancy.  I've been trying a bunch of different shedding tools over the years and I can't say that I find a huge difference with any of them.
He is very interested in my hubby and the dog just outside of the barn...
Fred was up next and he has a thinner coat than Spencer.  I did one round on him with the regular shedding blade and then tried the StripHair on him - it worked well on his coat, pulling out dandruff (eww!) and more hair than the blade was getting.  I finished Fred off with a brush and checked a few spots he has - he was shark bait for the black mini (who is now gone! woohoo!) and it looks like most of the bites have hair growing in.  He still looks a bit moth-eaten though, poor guy!

I then turned them back out and they rolled in the mud.  lol  Of course they did. Fred and Copper then decided to play bitey-face, but saw me watching so stopped.

I'm lucky that Fred is so good with Copper, since he is 3x the size!

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Great Escape of 2019

I'm having a hard time finding things to post, since I'm still not doing much horse stuff!! I'm now able to limp out to the barn to feed hay, so I'm hoping this weekend to be able to actually do something more with the horses - like maybe groom them??? Baby steps, Laura, baby steps!

While I was away on my trip, 2/3 sets of sliding barn doors were frozen.  The back door was frozen closed, the middle set is inside, so no problem and the front was (and still is) frozen open! We had all kinds of snow, rain and freezing rain and my Mom just couldn't keep on top of it.  My first priority was to get the back door open so I could get the horses in if needed.
*Editor's note: this all happened before I sprained my ankle!

I was able to chop away the snow and ice to get the back doors open and closed.  I usually have to latch that set of doors, as Spencer is a bit of a Houdini.  I figured just closing the doors would be fine, as it was really hard to slide it open with all of the snow.  That was my first mistake!

Spencer is good as gold 98% of the time - he is older and wiser and doesn't tend to get into trouble.

Except he is really good at opening doors. 

So, one afternoon, as I drove in the laneway, I was met with this:
Oh hai!  You're home!  We are just standin' here.
 It took my brain a minute to process that they were out front, instead of in the paddock!!!  I had to laugh, because they were clearly not worried about being out, but enjoying their day!  They also didn't go on the road, thankfully, as that could've been very bad.  I think having access to a hay buffet kept them from wandering too far.
Hai! I'm eating my special tasty hay! Fred, probably.  Spencer's look implies that Fred made all the mess...
Once I got into the barn, I found Fred happily munching away on 2nd cut hay - which is totally fine as it is for him anyway.  They had pulled all of the blankets onto the floor to get at the hay and trampled all over them.  I did have a mini panic when I saw that Fred was tangled up in a pile of horse blankets.  He seems to have a decent brain for a 4yr old, as he stood calmly while I untangled him.  It was a bit lucky that none of them got hurt, as my barn aisle has a lot of stuff lying around lately.
 Needless to say, they had a fun day and nothing bad happened.  After I kicked them back out in the paddock, I made sure to clear away more snow and ice so I could fasten the latch!

Why breed shows and halter horses?

I've sat in front of my computer several times over the past month trying to write this post.  I think I'm on version 6 or 7 at this...