Friday, October 6, 2023

Whaddya Mean New Pony??!

Yes, I did mention that I have a new pony, that I expect to do really well in CDE, in my last post. And I know you've just been chomping at that proverbial bit to find out what it is! Or you've creeped my facebook profile or business page and you've already found out. Either way, here's the details: I have a wonderful friend, beautiful soul, kindest lady on earth and just a pure joy - Shannon. Shannon has done a lot of work driving. She's shown Morgans and driven Saddlebreds, Standardbreds (on the track!!) and Morgans. She's got loads of experience on me and I adore how cool she is in the lines. Well, she'd acquired this darling little Hackney pony - The Speculator LF, "Spec", retired from the breed show circuit. I mentioned to her a few months ago that, when she has him driving again, I'd love to come out and try taking the lines. She invited me out whenever I was available. Obviously, I made myself available right away! I packed up my truck with my K-bike after lowering the wheels. I knew we'd be stretching it right to the end of appropriate height, but it worked. I packed Jasmine's harness beacuse it was the biggest adjustment I have. Poor dude, nothing fit quite right. The saddle on the harness was obviously too narrow; we had to tie the top of the hip strap to the turn back because it was adjusted so long. Not sure if he'd ever had breeching on before... But he tolerated it all and around Shannon went! It was so fun to watch her. You could just see that's where her heart was. And then I got to take the lines. It was awesome! So cool! Probably the top end of height that I'd be comfortable driving (at 11 hands!), but it was really neat! A few weeks later, Shannon messaged me. She's dealing with some life changes and challenges (girl, I hear you!) and wanted to know if Spec could come join our herd. I talked with my mom - kind of hoping she'd talk me out of it... no such luck! We decided, if he can be tolerant of the little kids riding, he could come live with us because we do need a move-up pony for them that's bigger than the minis. So, once again, we packed up all our stuff, this time included a tiny saddle, girth and bridle, and away we went with my friend Kelsey and her 8-year-old daughter. We put the little dude in the indoor arena at the boarding facility, which he'd never been in. It's a cover-all, fabric building, and it was windy! He was saddled, bridled and then boarded by Kelsey's daughter. Ali was on the leading end, Kelsey was beside her child and they walked around. Little Spec was very aware of the building, but he remained foot perfect while being ridden. He was far more concerned about his surroundings than the little person on his back. He proved to be tolerant, so I came back a few days later and brought him home. Jasmine was immediately in heat. Phillippe the donkey wasn't very happy about the new intruder, and Spec was equally unimpressed with him. They all settled in fairly quickly and are a good, cohesive herd now. I didn't love the name Spec. I really want him to let go of the hot-horse and high-knees driving that he'd spent his first 16 years learning. I don't particularly want a fire-breathing dragon in harness. The kids need a friendly dragon. Even a LUCK dragon. Ah - there it is. We've dubbed him Falcor and I will show him under the name "My Never-Ending Story" #amIright ??!! I've had him out a few times to ground drive. He definitely thinks he knows what's expected of him and, even barefoot, those knees come up really high! He also thinks the donkey is terrifying in harness! He's fine just naked - they live together! But in harness and put to cart, terrifying. I think he's going to spend a lot of time dragging the old tire around the property this fall - once I figure out an appropriate harness for him... And then CDE next year! Oh, and he's going to go for a month of under-saddle training with Melissa Glowinski so he can be ready to have the kids aboard. So at 16, The Speculator LF, aka My Never-Ending Story aka Spec aka Falcor is now a member of our herd. I own a Hackney pony!
I'd actually been considering looking for a young Welsh to start up as my next driving pony in a few years. Guess that's not what's happening afterall! Happy Horseing!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

In CDE the "D" is for Donkey!

We did it! We made it successfully through out first CDE! What a fantastic adventure with the most wonderful, inviting and encouraging people. The Harvest Moon Combined Driving (Donkey) Event was hosted by the Klondike Driving Club at the beautiful facility owned by the Brown family outside of Vimy. There was, what I understand to be, a moderate turnout of drivers. Most were single-horse entries, several minis and one pair of lovely palomino welsh mares affectionately referred to as the Golden Girls. On Friday evening, we took up our vehicles for measurements and checked in. We had a course tour of the marathon and a look at the obstacles. There was a competitors' meeting that evening and I got all my questions answered.
Saturday morning, as bright and early as my migrane allowed, we arrived on the grounds and got set up for dressage and cones. It was such a delight seeing everyone dressed in turnout for dressage. I was hoping to wear my tophat, but the facility waiver states certified helmet, so I obliged. There will be another day for more fancy headgear. I drove the first dressage test with Phillippe, Ali was just a couple of tests after me. Now, I realized very well that my donkey was not going to have any movement to write home about, but after riding and judging dressage for over a decade, I knew I'd be able to drive a very accurate test. Indeed, the comments agreed. I learned about eventing dressage, how it's scored in penalty points, not in percentage like regular dressage. I'm proud to tell you that we were not the bottom of the barrel! The judge was kind and generous and very encouraging for my little long ears. My score equalled out ot over 65%. Phillippe was not as relaxed and confident as I would have liked, but that didn't matter. It was his first time in the ring. He'll be more confident next time he sees one. From dressage, we went straight to cones. Despite a moment where I got lost (who put 13 waaaay over on the other side of the field??!!) we were clean through the cones, with only 4 minutes over ideal time! In training level - the beginner level we're competing in, we're only permitted to walk and trot. Donkeys just don't trot as fast as ponies or horses. So we trotted the whole thing and had an accurate tour, there's really no way to get him to make time. All we can aim for in the future is to get closer to ideal. So many of the competitors were cheering for us and stopped to watch his cones course. He seems to be quite the novelty. Sunday was a much earlier start. Phillippe and I were asked to be second out on the marathon course, 1 minute after the first driver. This was done because we were not going to be competative on speed and we wanted to be out of the way for the next driver after us. It was a 6 km tour through the property with 5 sets of gates. Training level only requires the first 3 gates to be negotiated. I'd studied the courses the night before so I had my plan in place. Again, I'm very glad to say we were clear through all the obstacles! Phillippe trotted the entire way around and did not feel like he was spent at the finish line. We even went through the water and over the bridge. He felt so brave and interested in what we were doing. Again, everyone who was out volunteering or watching cheered us on! When we crossed the finish line, we were a mere 14 minutes over ideal time!!! Despite that, we finished the competition on a number, not eliminated! In the end, we placed 7/9 in trainnig level.
Ali and Jasmine had a great time too. They had a clean first dressage test - the first dressage test Ali's ever negotiated and she had to do it by memory. Definitely room for improvement but she scored 64% (yes I beat her!!! But that's the only place I beat her!) She had 1 ball down in the cones course and was only seconds over time allowed! That pony just loves to motor!
In marathon, they went backwards through one set of gates which cost them, but overall were only 2 minutes over ideal time. That's pretty impressive for a little $50 kijij pony trained by a teen! I was very proud of them. They did win a junior high-point prize as well. A lovely dash storage bag for her vehicle. I'm very excited to try CDE again next year. I have ideas on what I can do to be even more prepared and perhaps slightly more "competative" - that just means with our basline times and scores, not with anyone else, YET! Besides, I've now acquired another pony who I expect will be very competative!! More on that next time! In the meantime, happy horseing!

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Driving. That is ALL

Did we talk about this? It's been a work in progress for sure. But we seem to have some things figured out! Matter of fact, both Jasmine and Phillippe have even shown in driving classes this year with their first CDEs yet to come! I started the year with a pretty peppy and cooperative pony. Jasmine had a good idea of driving and was pretty confident, just not refined. The donkey, however, was a little different... He was pretty convinced that he really didn't need to cooperate with me or respond to my polite requests. I was disheartened because driving him was something I wanted to do so badly!!! But he was a brute! Thank goodness I have friends, amazing, wonderful friends, who have experience both in driving and with long ears. Sawatzky Equine team had hosted a clinic in early spring - late winter, it was months ago now, for ponies and littles beginning driving. We put the crew in the trailer and headed up! I was gifted with some wonderful tools that included both equipment and a mindset shift. I'll tell you, by the end of the day, I had a LOVELY donkey who was cooperative and relaxed. From there, we've been sailing with consistent and steady progress, so much so that we've participated in a second green driving animal clinic, driving classes (and won 2/3) in this spring's Alberta Donkey and Mule Club show, have driven at a local eventing facility including successfully navigating through their water hazard, participated in a "fun day" hosted by my local driving club chapter, again getting through water, and also cones, gates and a dressage arena! We now regularly do 5 km conditioning drives down the road, much to the delight of the neighbours.
Jasmine has become quite consistent, so much so that I can hand her lines over to green drivers and feel confident that they will have a positive driving experience on their own. Ali's done a great job with her. Although that pony is FORWARD, she's got places to get to, she's super confident, but she's not intimidating. Every once in a while I still get to take the lines on her as well.
Plans from here, as I mentioned, to experience our first CDE. I'm not sure that a donkey can be competative, but the fact that he's game to try is everything! It makes me delighted that we can just go out. I'd had some health complications at the beginning of the year that made riding not the safest idea for me, for 6 months... But!! I had the littles to drive. That saved my sanity, I think. I had figured that driving would be a fun retirement hobby when my body is not up to climbing into the tack anymore. I just didn't realize I'd be additing it to my life this early! Driving is a blast. The littles are so fun and I can't imagine ever not having this in my life. Happy Horseing!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Back in the Show Ring

 Hey, it's been a minute.  How are you?  

Why so long? I'm not an absent friend on purpose.  I've actually been dealing with some health problems since February.  Anemia's a pain.  I actually haven't been able to safely ride while dealing with this.  But now it seems things are stabilizing and I'm back in the tack.  

Fortunately, while I had to take a hiatus from riding, I still had a young horse to play with and two little turkeys to continue training in harness.  

Let's start with the yearlings!  You remember our two fantastic half Arab x warmblood colts from last year?  So proud of them.  Misha (Baryshnikov SE) was sold to a good friend of mine, and now adoringly dubbed "Tater".  He's got a wonderful lifetime home and I get to watch him grow up! 

Uri (Nureyev SE) has stayed with us and has started his show career.  He hauled out a few times for exposure and then made his debut at the Western Canadian Arabian Horse Breeders Championships in Red Deer.  He showed Yearling Colts Half Arabian Sport Horse In Hand Open Dressage and Hunter Types.  It was a BIG learning experience for any young horse but he made me proud.  The first triangle was for dressage type.  Uri was insecure, and didn't show as well as I would have really liked, but he also didn't kick, rear or leave the arena.  So that's a win! He took reserve champion by 1.5% with a really cute little anglo colt taking the class. 

The following day was the Hunter type and he went through the triangle like a pro!  He showed really well, made me proud and took the championship by 5%! 

You could absolutely call me a proud mama!  

But even more than that, he learned how to be a show horse.  He learned about a stall, wash racks, hand walking and lunging in an arena, he learned what the triangle training was for.  And he got better and better!

After a few weeks, we headed to an open all-breed show for more exposure.  I wanted him to go into a new arena with new horses in a different format and just experience it.  I took him in showmanship, halter for yearlings, and halter for arabs, morgans or crosses. The showmanship class was quite large so I used it for a schooling opportunity, modifying the pattern so I could better use it for my training.  He stood perfectly for the judge to walk all around him so I could do my squares - my goal for the day!  

He showed confidently in yearling halter (big class of 1!) and then again in the Arab/Morgan halter class.  We qualified for championship class so got to get back into the arena one more time!  We came home from that show with 2 first-place ribbons and a good baby who laid down in his stall and snoozed while Ali rode her under saddle classes.  I was so proud of him.  

Working forward, we have started to introduce long lining to his lunging in a surcingle and boots, and he's had a bit in his mouth for the first time recently as well.  We will take him to some obstacle workshops in the fall when they come available and plan to continue to show him in hand locally next year.  

So that's the baby horse update! Up next: Driving littles.  I'm obsessed and my head is broken.  

Happy Horseing! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Old Friend Said Goodbye

 Oh Mud Puddle... 

In the summer of 2006, I spent a lot of time working young horses for a breeder of pintabians and Arabs.  That year, I took a couple youngsters for training as halter babies.  My mom had decided she wanted her own young horse again.  But it needed to be something that was HERS, that I wasn't going to take over training and want to show.  I knew if there was a part-bred Arab filly that was solid coloured, I'd want nothing to do with it.  

There was just one that year.  Her name was Mud. 

Ok, she was registered as BG Coal-B, but she was a little stinker from the beginning.  Her name was Mud Puddle and that was that.  She was exactly what Mom wanted.  I had very little to do with her over the years - except to tend to injuries (she is a big reason I became an equine first-aid instructor) and other unpleasantries (vaccines, deworming, etc.)  I commonly referred to her as the bane of my existence, although I loved her because she was so loved by my mom.  She was part of the family. 

Mom aboard Mud with me leading.

Recently a young friend of ours who recently found herself horseless had taken on Mud, riding, adventuring, loving on her, everything a horse should enjoy and it seemed Mud did just that.  

Monday last week, Mud got herself stuck upside down in the shelter in her pen.  Not sure why, or for how long, but it seemed pretty evident that it was a fair amount of time.  I was at work; Mom got her out on her own.  Right away, Mud was showing discomfort, disorientation and was not quick about recovering.  She was laying down a lot, not eating or drinking.  

I came out right after work, with a 5 litre bag of ringers in hand.  We didn't have the equipment to start an IV, but I felt comfortable doing subcutaneous boluses, so that's what I did.  Her body wasn't really showing dehydration and she was passing some small amounts of loose manure.  It didn't look right though, not well digested and the colour was wrong.  We put in a litre of fluid into her neck over an hour or more, then got her up to start walking.  We had given her Flunixin earlier and started alternating walking with resting breaks where I piled syringes of warm water with electrolytes and mineral oil into her mouth.  She seemed tired but stabilized.  

As we got ourselves ready for bed, we talked about doing night checks and who would get up when.  Mom decided that Mud needed to make a decision if she was going to try to improve or if she was going to quit.  It was up to Mud.  

She spent 2 hours with her that night, out of the pen. Mud didn't have much fight to stand, drink, take the syringes of water, just laid down and was obviously uncomfortable.  

I got up a couple hours after to go check on her.  We'd left her out of the pen - just in case she decided to expire, it's sadly more practical to not have to try to move a body out of a pen if it can be helped... I found her in the snow, still alive but having no interest in getting up.  She was becoming more dehydrated and possibly hypothermic.  But I honored my mom's direction.  Mud had her own choice to make.  

A little comfort for a very uncomfortable mare

A few hours later, in the morning, I found her in a different spot. This time she was very dehydrated and hypothermic.  Unfortunately it was also very foggy and it was not possible for a vet to safely get to the farm to help for several hours.  Mud did get up and walked with me up to the driveway. I asked for warm water with electrolytes and tried to get her some syringes.  There was no fight in her, she just let the water fall out of her mouth.  It seemed that Mud developed a displaced colon colic. She strained to poop, laid down and held herself upside down with legs in the air, thrashed around and caused herself to become exhausted.  It was the most painful thing to watch.  We all felt helpless. We pulled blankets off ready for what was coming.  Eventually she laid down and rolled over one last time. I put a blanket just over her body, she was sweating hot.  She was obviously seizuring then. After a few minutes, her eyes were not reactive to touch at all and we knew she was gone, it was just a matter of her body getting that message and shutting down.  

Our poor friend of 16 years left us.  So many questions. Was she colicing before laying down and rolling in the shelter where she got stuck, or was she being silly and rolled and got caught for several hours which caused the colic?  Unfortunately we will never know.  We have learned a lot from this experience though, new things we will put into action on the farm.  

Once again, my sincere gratitude to Chuck McKinney from Just Passing Horse Bereavement Services for his kind, understanding and quick services to pick Mud up and give her a dignified burial.  

Well miss Mud Puddle, I hope that all the gates where you have gone are not latched so you can easily push them open as you so often loved to demonstrate.  I hope there's all the treats and grass you could want.  Thank you for sharing yourself with us.  Even though you were a turd, I love you.