Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry (Belated) Christmas!

Hey! I hope that you all had a lovely Christmas and got lots and lots of good loot! As for me, I got quite a good haul this year. In the "horse-y items" department, I got the Activate Your Horse's Core book/DVD, a pair of breeches (which I will be exchanging; they are really more of a riding tight and I am a bit too..uumm... shall we say zaftig to be wearing riding tights) and the Happy Mouth boucher bit. Actually, I accidentally asked for the wrong bit -- so, instead of the double-jointed bit, I got the roller one, like this:

I'm not so sure I like this bit, and Salem doesn't seem too thrilled with it, either. My main concern is whether or not his tongue could get pinched between the roller and the sides. See, the roller can slide back and forth on the wire. I rode Salem in this bit today and he didn't seem too crazy about it. There was a lot of nose-in-the-air and head-tossing and he had zero foam. So, I'm thinking either:

a) Salem does not like the Happy Mouth plastic

b) He doesn't like the boucher

c) His tongue is being pinched

d) He simply needs time to adjust to this bit.

We'll give it another few tries and see how it goes. He was much better by the end of the ride, which is encouraging. If he still hates it after a few rides, I'll see about getting the double-jointed one (or see if I can find a non-Happy Mouth double-jointed boucher...?).

By far one of my favorite gifts this year was the saddle pad that Heather gave me. She bought plain white baby pads for everyone and then bought ribbon and sewed it on the edges of the pads. Of course, she custom-tailored the ribbon to each person's taste. I adore mine! The ribbon is all different shades of blue; it is now my fave saddle pad.

How cute is that? Note how she even did a fancy fold of the ribbon in the corners. She is totally showing me up in the gift-giving department -- her gifts were hand-made, custom-tailored, thoughtful, and gorgeous. She is such a little Martha Stewart!

Now on to the holiday-themed pics. I was planning on having pics of Salem's very merrily-decorated stall. However, said decorations were delivered a one-two punch by Salem and Mother Nature. The gold Merry Christmas garland hung with red jingle bells was torn down by the wind. Three out of the four big red bows somehow ended up in Salem's stall, shredded to pieces. The cute red/white/green striped snowman stocking with the puffy hanging candy canes got ripped off the door by Salem; I put it down on the other end of the stall, and Phantom chewed the loop and the candy canes off. So now, his stall has one giant red ribbon, a few jingle bells, a red felt Santa bag full of treats, and a pathetic loop-less, candy-cane-less stocking thrown unceremoniously over the blanket bar. I try. Just imagine how it looked for the first ten minutes after I decorated it. Oh, well. At least I got some pics of Salem looking very jolly:

Salem must have been a very good boy this year; Santa Claus brought him a blue Jolly Ball, a Jolly Stall Snack holder with peppermint lick-y thing, two bags of carrots, a 5 pound bag of apple treats, and two boxes of peppermint candy canes. Phantom Claus brought him a box of multi-flavored candy canes, reindeer food (actually little cinnamon cookies) and a giant peppermint stick. Yowza, I think we will need to increase his exercise a bit! He and I both have been on a Holiday Heifer-fest lately. We've certainly gained a bit of "holiday weight." Well, New Year's Eve is just around the corner -- maybe we'll both get a gym membership!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dear Santa...

Well, given that I would absolutely hate to break a long-held family tradition, I still haven't finished my holiday shopping. So, tomorrow, I will be running around the mall like a half-crazed (or possibly even completely-crazed) lunatic. Ya see, it's just not the holidays if you don't feel like punching someone in the face! :-D So, in order to lull myself into a state of "holiday cheer," I shall compose a short list of horsey items that I would like Santa to leave under the tree for me this year. (I figured it would look bratty if I just put "The entire contents of the Dover catalog.") I shall start with the ones that I have the highest probability of actually receiving...

1.) Activate Your Horse's Core book/DVD -- I have wanted this forever. Yes, please, I would very much like to activate Salem's core. Salem, however, probably would like his core to be activated, not by exercises, but peppermints.

2.) Horse Training In-Hand -- I feel that my knowledge of in-hand work is only marginally above "abysmal" and I am not happy about it. I would like to be enlightened and I would like to teach Salem more than turn-on-the-forehand and walk across a tarp. *grabby hands* Knowledge, please!

3.) Happy Mouth double-jointed boucher bit -- Right now, we're using a JP Korsteel oval mouth loose ring and, yes, it's a great bit. However, a loose ring does not offer much stability, and that is something that most greenies crave. I've had my eye on this boucher because it's gentle, double-jointed, and very stable in the horse's mouth (also, dressage peeps apparently ♥ bouchers, and I'm attempting to assimilate).

4.) Kim Laube Cowboy body clippers -- I have a set of Kim Laube 305 Speed Feed trimmers and I love them. Now, I need a set of Big Girl Clippers so that I don't have to keep borrowing (and breaking) Jennie's. Plus, once I actually get the clipping skills down, maybe I could do a little clipping on the side and make some extra cash (which I will then spend on more horse stuff, of course).

And now on to the items that I do not have a snowball's chance in hell of getting...

5.) Charles Owen AYR8 helmet -- My current helmet is a CO Hampton that is coming up on two years old. It's a great helmet, but (and this is a very big "but") it gives me an insanely hideous rash on my forehead, no matter what I do. I have been very tempted to stuff the bloody helmet into the trash can and just ride helmet-less...but I guess a rash is better than a traumatic brain injury. *sigh*

6.) Thinline Trifecta Cotton Ultra Half Pad w/sheepskin rolls -- These saddle pads are supposedly infused with magical powers that instantly make your horse rounder and softer, with a free-swinging back. The pad's powers even migrate all the way up to the rider and improve the rider's seat and even make it easier to sit the trot. Sold!

OK, as long as I'm dreaming...Santa, could you please bring me one of these:

..and this:

...and, hell, you might as well just complete the package and throw in this, as well:

Hey, it never hurts to ask! I have been a (mostly) very good girl this year. Ah, know the saying, "if wishes were horses, even beggars would ride." Yup.

Hhhmmm, I wonder what Salem is hoping to get from Santa Claus this year. My guess is a real version of this:

So, what are you all hoping to find under the tree this year? Obviously, I'm guessing there are a lot of horse-y related items that you are just dying to own (you wouldn't be a horse person if you couldn't rattle off at least ten items without blinking!). What do you think you might actually get, and what are you wishing for that you know you won't get...but can't help to dream about?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Progress and Pics

Hooray! I managed to wrangle Jennie into being our photographer today. She got really in to it and snapped tons and tons of pics. Some of them turned out really well. Thanks, Jennie (I mean, Pinkie)!

The last few days, Salem and I have been working on halts and transitions -- so, there's been a lot of walk/halt, trot/halt/trot, etc. I am really drilling that halt -- it usually starts out a bit ugly in the beginning of the ride, but by the end I can hold the buckle of the reins and get him to halt using only seat and voice. Our progress is slow, but it's definitely there. I read on online article that states, if you work a horse thirty minutes twice a day trying to teach it a new behavior, it takes thirty days for that behavior to be learned well. So, we're actually doing quite well, thank you very much. :-)

Heather also suggested that we work on lengthening and shortening our strides during the trot so that Salem will be more "adjustable." This will carry over in to his canter work, once we start adding that back in. She suggested that we really focus on our "brakes" and lengthening/shortening strides at the walk and trot for now, and add the canter in once we really have these things solid. This is completely fine with me -- I would rather spend a long time on the basics and get it right rather than rush through everything and not do it properly.

So, on to the pics! Let me just say that, while we have come a long way, we both have a lot of improvements to make. For starters, I need to lose the "Hunter Perch," get my leg back, and get my f-ing hands up! I swear, I had no idea that I carried my hands so low. Now I know why Elaine is always telling me, "Bend your elbows more!" *sigh* I'll get there eventually. Salem, on the other hand, looks smashing (thank goodness these weren't taken on Sunday, when the bugger reared on me -- but, that's another story!).

Note his tongue sticking out -- silly boy

Even though we're completely crooked here, I had to throw this pic in -- Jennie was trying so hard to get one with Salem pointing his toe!

Look, he even has "slobber" now, which is definitely a good sign!

Ooo, another toe-pointing one ;-)

Isn't Salem looking handsome these days? I love how dark he is now that I clipped off all that sun-bleached fuzz. Plus, he's gaining muscle and filling out very nicely. He's quite a good-looking lad!

Well, I've got a few more blog posts that I've been meaning to write. Things have just been crazy, what with the holiday season and all of its madness --but, stay tuned!

Monday, December 21, 2009


*shiver, shiver* It is colder than a witch's titty down here in Miami! Well, ok, it's not too horrible -- the low tonight is supposed to be 42. Egads! That usually doesn't happen until January or February. Then again, we had 90s in October and a couple nights of low 50s/high 40s in November, then three straight days of rain this week (during the dry season). Stupid f-ing climate change!

So, of course I had to snap a few pics of Salem in his winter gear. Last night, he made do with just a turn-out sheet (the low was 53), but tonight he is wearing a fuzzy, snuggle-y fleece blanket liner underneath and the turn-out sheet on top. Sorry about the quality of the pics -- it was dark, I had no horsey-holder, and Salem was very busy socializing and "Hoover"-ing hay up off the barn floor. What the heck, I am going to just throw the whole lot on here.

Comfy Cozy Blanket Liner:

You can see his pretty "dressage-cut" tail here --
I know it's a bit short, but I like it to be banged at a point
that's full and thick. It's very sporthorse-y, no?

Snazzy Turn-out Sheet:

And here's one of Salem giving his buddy Pirate a
good-night smooch:

So the Ponykins should be just as snug as a bug in a rug out there tonight. I threw him a bunch of extra hay and put hot water in his Senior to make a warm mash -- I'm sure he's got a nice full belly and is all warm and cozy and drifting off to sleep, ready to dream about giant candy canes and fields of fresh carrots.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back to Basics

My goodness, I have been a blog slacker! Of course, this time of year is hectic and jam-packed with shopping, parties, cooking, family get-togethers, etc. That's a good excuse, right?

Well, in the World of Salem, things are going well. We've had some great days, a few Crazy Cracked-Out Pony days, and plenty of days in between. Last week, we had one particularly exciting day when Salem decided that he was ready for some Lippizaner-esque airs above ground. His *buck*leap*buck*leap*twist*buck* combo almost had me eating dirt, but I managed to stick it out somehow. My philosophy about bad behavior is to just ride through it. Yes, I might have to ride through spooks, bucks, and general brattiness for 45 minutes -- but, it's worth it if I can get a nice soft, relaxed 10 minutes at the end of the ride. Salem can be so good sometimes that I forget he's a greenie; so, when he is a bit naughty, I just remind myself that, all things considered, he really is a very well-behaved boy.

Thankfully, the Crazy Cracked-Out Pony days are far outnumbered by the mediocre and amazing days. Last week, I actually made a little fake ditch out of my trusty blue tarp and two ground poles (something I've thought about doing for a while, but was further inspired by the Solo blog). Salem trotted right up to that fake ditch and leaped over it like he had been doing it his whole life. Hhhhmm, I think we have an eventing prospect here!

On Tuesday, Heather got on Salem for the first time in quite a while. She said that he feels much straighter (he doesn't do "The Snake" anymore -- yay!) and that he feels like he's filled out and put on some muscle. However, she found one of the gaps in our training (of course!). For a while, I had spent a lot of time working on installing Salem's breaks. He was doing very well, so we moved on and started working on stuff like serpentines, trot poles, even cantering over the occasional flower box. At the beginning of the ride, if I asked Salem to halt, he would resist me and start pulling and putting his nose in the air. After getting a rather ugly halt, I would just move on, do a nice long ride, and then come back to the halt at the end of the ride. By that time, Salem would be softer and more relaxed, so our halts would be crisp. But, of course, he should halt quickly and without resistance any time he is asked to do so. Heather worked with him a bunch on Tuesday and I could tell that he was really starting to understand. She told me that, when he starts pulling, I need to soften instead of getting into a pulling war with him.

Unfortunately, I couldn't ride for the next three days because of the incessant rain (what is up with this nutty weather?!). So, today was the first time I got on him since Tuesday. I decided that we needed to spend a lot of time getting back to the basics. So, for over an hour, we worked on walk/halt. Yup, that's it. Salem is a smart horse and a very fast learner, but we had to work on unlearning our new bad habit. So, I just relaxed, took up a "we have all the time in the world attitude," and got to work.

At first, Salem was fairly resistant. I would ask him to halt, he would put his nose up, open his mouth, and start pulling me. I kept thinking about softening and doing a give-and-take with the reins so we wouldn't get into a tug-of-war. Let me tell ya, some of our halts were pretty ugly! But we kept at it, and eventually I could get four or five lovely halts before we had a resistant, walk-for-eight-steps-with-nose-in-the-air, not-so-nice halt. I noticed that we got our good halts in certain areas of the field, and the bad ones in other areas. Well, we just kept walking, circling, doing serpentines, stepping over ground poles, and halting all over the place.

Eventually, I figured out that tucking my tailbone and sort of tilting my pelvis helped tremendously. And, after an hour, I had Salem walking around on a loose rein and halting perfectly just by pushing my seat down, squeezing my fingers closed, and saying, "Whoa." It's a small victory, but I'm still absolutely thrilled. All the work that we are doing now is setting him up for the rest of his life, so I take it very seriously. We'll just keep taking baby steps. And, yes, sometimes we'll have to take a few steps backwards in order to move forward -- but we'll just keep at it and continue forging ahead.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tooth Woes and A Pony Show

Oh, dearie has been two weeks since Part I of Salem's Extreme Makeover! Pics will be taken as soon as I am out at the barn with the following:
a.) Camera
b.) Enough sunlight to both take pics and ride
c.) A Helpful Horse Holder

Salem is looking quite sharp these days, so I hope to share that with everyone soon.

In other Salem News, he finally got his teeth floated yesterday. Boy, was his poor little mouth a mess! I don't have the paper in front of me now, but the equine dentist circled/checked a whole laundry list of issues that were going on in the Ponykins' Mouth. He said Salem had not been floated in a very long time (if ever). This explains why he opens his mouth constantly while being ridden. I feel horrible that my riding has been causing him pain, but I am also glad that I didn't just strap a flash on him and call it a day.

To keep you all entertained, here is a hilarious Ponies video done by Jennifer Saunders (from Absolutely Fabulous) and Dawn French (from The Vicar of Dibley) --

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Extreme Makeover Part I

First of all -- as most people know, I am a bit of a prankster, especially at the barn. So, of course, now that I am officially back, I have started setting up some lovely little props around the farm. The above pic is of my latest work (in Jennie's trunk). And I have now proven that Jennie is officially blind as a bat because, after about twenty minutes of watching her walk back and forth to the tack room and not shrieking, I started getting a bit fed-up. It turns out that she thought the bloody hand reaching up out of her trunk was a pink glove! Jennie, get yourself off the road and on to an optometrist's chair ASAP!

And now on to the Ponykins, who has been going through a myriad of changes lately. First, Heather got on him last week and managed to install a Dressage Pony Button on him in one ride! She is a great teacher and he is obviously a super-fast learner (Einstein and Smarty Jones have now been added to his list of nicknames). Now, with a fair amount of leg (and spur) and some soft contact, he willingly arches his little neck and stretches down into the hand. And all without draw reins or any other gadgets. Hooray! Thank you, Heather! I will definitely get some pics of that soon.

Secondly....Salem's feet. I have been pulling my hair out over the barefoot situation, as there is not a single farrier down here who does an actual barefoot trim. My farrier trimmed Salem's hooves exactly as if he were going to put shoes on them. This is not a true barefoot trim and it has lead to mucho flaring, chipping, cracking, and under-run heels for Mr. Salem. Well, one of the feed store owners has done quite a bit of research on barefoot trims, including attending a clinic, and he trims his own five horses. He was kind enough to come out and show me a few things on Salem's front feet. He took off all the flares, cut the bars down a bit, and gave the hooves a bevel or "mustang roll." This takes the weight off the hoof wall, which will cut down on the flaring. He also discovered a small abscess that popped out of Salem's right front coronary band (more on that later). Here are the results:

I'm not quite sure where we go from here, as I can't exactly ask Joe to come out and fix Salem's feet every few weeks. He left me a rasp and showed me how to file them, but Salem will need more than that eventually. I guess we'll have to see what happens...

Moving on -- seeing how Salem had been fluffing up like a little chick (plus the fact that his skin had been getting increasingly flaky despite my best efforts), I decided that it was time for a Body Clip. Now, this was a big deal, seeing as I had never body-clipped and Salem had never been clipped before. To make things easier, I got a syringe full of Rhino Tranquilizers (not really, lol, but the stuff was strong!) from our favorite vet, Dr. Bob Scott. (Heather and I are the co-presidents of his Fan Club and always half-joke about making glittery "We ♥ Dr. Bob" posters whenever he comes.) Of course, first Mr. Salem had to have a bubble bath...

Where's my rubber ducky?

...and I had to take plenty of Before pics. After all, what's an Extreme Makeover without before pics?

(Jennie was originally holding Salem for these pics...until she stepped on a dead frog, threw Salem's lead rope on the ground, and ran away screaming like a little school girl. Salem reacted to this by looking at her quizically, pooping, and going back to munching grass.)

After Salem had completely dried, I put him in the wash rack and got everything all set up. Salem got his syringe of Rhino Tranquilizers and embarked on a lovely little "trip."

Oh, yeah...that's some good stuff

Jennie (who had by now recovered from the Frog Incident) was kind enough to start off the clipping job and let me watch her technique for a bit. I was horrified to see what all of that flaky skin was -- fungus! Despite tons of currying, I had no idea just how much gunk was underneath all of that woolly mammoth fur. Egads!

Eeeeeeeeeewwwwww! There's a fungus among us!

Poor Salem! He is absolutely covered in fungus -- back, butt, shoulders, belly, sides, and legs. The only fungus-free areas are his head, neck, and chest. I am very perplexed as to why this happened -- he gets groomed thoroughly every day, hosed off after every ride, and bathed every few weeks. I use a clean saddle pad every ride, clean my brushes often, etc. and he never stands out in the rain. Anyhow, I am using Malaseb shampoo on him in order to dry it up. The first day, I covered him in MTG, but the stuff is just so yicky. I'm going to switch to Lotrimin (Athlete's Foot medicine) spray tomorrow.

Last but not least -- Gas Chamber Hoof! :-) I got some White Lightning to clear up Salem's abscess. It's supposed to be the best stuff for abscesses, thrush, white line, etc. (it supposedly also kills Anthrax), but it involves a very complex process. You mix the product with vinegar and put the horse's hoof in a plastic bag...for 45 minutes.

Gas Chamber Hoof!

Salem tolerated this very well. Sure, he had on his Worried Eyes and was a bit unsure of himself, but he took it all in stride. Unfortunately, I do not make a very sturdy Gas Chamber because it lasted all of five of the necessary forty five minutes. This was most likely due to Salem's excessive pawing, stomping, and flinging about of his hoof. I guess I'll have to rethink my strategy and try again tomorrow.

*sigh* What are you doing to me now?

Next time, I will have After pics of Salem's new look -- body-clipped, dressage-cut and dyed black tail, and pulled mane. And maybe I'll have some Dressage Pony pics, as well (fingers crossed).