Wednesday, 31 May 2017

May Sandra Clinic - Saturday

Alternate post titles:
"The Clinic that Broke my Horse"
"That Time I Swore Loudly in front of an Audience"
"Physio for us Both"

It was an eventful weekend (Note: This happened two weeks ago now, May 13-14 but the show last week means I'm still on catch up mode).

This is the third clinic with Sandra that I have organized (previous ones in November and February). Since I started working with Sandra, she has started a physio business that specializes in working with both riders and their horses. Sandra has had the knowledge for working with horses and humans for a while, but now that her business is off the ground, she also has the portable equipment to back it up.

I had a lot of people express interest in the May clinic, and I thought I was going to have to have a waiting list, unfortunately when it came time to actually confirm numbers, a lot of people dropped out and numbers were low (see Show Struggles for my frustrations with people who say they are interested and then don't actually follow through). The low registration especially surprised me because a local vet T had generously allowed us to use her beautiful acreage and arena for the clinic so there was no facility charge and the clinic was super affordable. Anyways, the lower price and the open spots made me decide to sign up for a total of four sessions in the clinic instead of my usual two.

The plan was:
Saturday morning - horse physio for Kachina
Saturday afternoon - riding lesson
Sunday morning - horse physio for Kachina
Sunday afternoon - rider physio for me plus riding lesson

I hadn't had any soreness problems with Kachina and I had no particular concerns, but I thought the physio sessions would be a great opportunity to check that nothing hidden was wrong. Also, I really struggle with the lack of regulation and science behind many types of equine bodywork. I'm not saying all bodywork is bad, quite the opposite, but you really have to trust and know your practitioner and I don't feel I have that with anyone local. Sandra went to university for many years to become a registered human physiotherapist, she has taken substantial animal training as well, and she really focuses on evidence-based treatments rather than all that other stuff. She also knows Kachina and what her strengths and weaknesses are. Bottom line, she's a person I trust to look at my horse and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, but I didn't want to lose out on my normal clinic rides. I cleared the plan above with Sandra and she didn't see any issue with us doing horse physio and riding in the same day, she thought Kachina would really enjoy the body work. You can probably see where this is going....

Photo Credit: The Buckin' Photographer
A local rodeo photographer was our show photographer,
she had never taken photos of dressage before so she came out to
watch some of the clinic and take some test shots to prep for the show

Saturday Morning - Horse Physio

I brought Kachina out to the arena in just her halter and Sandra started working with her. I may have forgotten a couple things but here is the list of what was done and what was found:

  • Tongue - the back of the tongue is attached to something else that then leads a lot of the way down the neck. By palpating the underside of her jaw and by doing gentle tongue stretches (actually holding the tongue out the side of the mouth), Sandra found that the left side is tight. 
  • Neck/poll - Sandra has previously shown me the stretch to get the nuchal ligament to pop back and forth over the crest of the neck. Kachina has loosened up compared to last year (super tight), but she's better one side than the other and more improvement could be made. She was also tight and reactive in the poll area, so Sandra showed me a spot to massage. We also did side to side neck stretches which I regularly do mounted with Kachina - reminder to make sure Kachina stretches her neck instead of rotating her head, but otherwise good. 
  • Back/abs - No sensitivity found in back and Kachina was good about pulling up her abs and back when scratched under her belly
  • Hind legs - good mobility to bend joints up, and leg back, but resistance to pulling leg forward so I should gently stretch that
  • Hindquarters - kick mark near tail (suspect recent), and knot in muscle nearby to massage out over time
  • Tail - Kachina good with tail pull (I've done this before with her). Sandra also did gentle tail circles and found that she was very tight, though it may be just because it's a new thing for her, I should do tail circles with her. 
  • Girth Area - Sandra worked on Kachina front to back so this wasn't the last thing, but I'm listing it last because it was the biggest thing. Kachina was extremely reactive to being palpated/massaged in her girth area. A lot of the reactivity seemed to be just with her skin and outer fascia, not the muscle below, but she was super twitchy and kept moving away. Sandra brought up the idea of ulcers, which I'm not really sure what to do about because Kachina is already out 24/7 and has continuous forage with a round bale and slow feed net, and she's on a pretty light workload. My understanding was that she would be a very low risk for ulcers and I'm already doing many of the preventative things. The other possibility is my girth. I've had a lot of girth issues in the last few months. I know that Kachina wasn't a fan of my Total Saddle Fit Stretchtec girth (I used it for a few months and she slowly got more and more girthy), but she has been getting better with my new girth so I thought I was clear. The issues Sandra found could just be remnants from the old girth, but it's tough to tell. I was given instructions to do lots of gentle massage there to see if her sensitivity goes away (Sandra was using much more pressure). 

Saturday Afternoon - Ride

Kachina got a few hours off in a pen to chill after the physio. When I brought her out again she was fine to groom and tack up. I started my warm up at one end of the arena while the previous lesson was ending. I was doing my usual walk warm up with lots of lateral work, getting Kachina to move her hips, her ribcage, her shoulders and her neck in turn. She was responding normally to my leg and all seemed fine.

Then, my lesson started. She was good at the walk and so we quickly went into trot. She trotted well for about 2/3 of a circle, and then she all of a sudden got super super tight. Sandra encouraged me to push her forward and keep trotting, but the tightness felt off to me so I let her come to a stop and then walked a bit. Kachina is a generally tense horse and often goes into tense running giraffe mode, but this felt different and more reactive. After a bit of walking I tried trot again. She made it a few steps and then got super super tight again and shot off across the arena. She didn't buck, and she wasn't quite bolting, but her neck was super retracted so I had no contact, her back was super seized up so I had nowhere to sit, and she kind of did a fast series of stiff legged canter hops that was really hard to sit. I lost my stirrup and struggled to turn her. She wasn't relaxing and her tension seemed like something that was more likely to escalate instead of dissipate. I was pretty sure I was going to come off, it was around this time that I may have shouted "F#%*" quite loudly (Which was absolutely my thought at the time, but I rarely swear and felt really embarrassed afterwards). I ended up having to grab the pommel of my saddle with my hand while getting to get her to turn and stop. After I got myself organized, I tried doing a bit more walk and suppling but she sped up and tensed up again. This time I got her stopped quickly but something was definitely off and I was really unnerved. Sandra offered to take over and I immediately agreed.

Sandra on board
(it's not obvious in this cherry picked image but she was still tense)
Photo Credit: The Buckin' Photographer

Sandra started by doing a bunch of ground work with Kachina, getting her to circle and follow and move off of pressure from her hand. When she finally mounted up she did a lot of walking and circling and trying to get her supple and moving over her back. Kachina was super tight and was stepping short (evenly both sides) and just did not want to let go. After a lot of work Sandra was able to get some half decent walk and trot, but only half decent, not back to normal. We both could feel and see that Kachina was being reactive and defensive, not naughty, so we left it there for the day. I hopped back on to cool her out, mostly just because I knew I needed to get back on the horse sooner rather than later so my fear wouldn't get the best of me. As I walked her out she seemed calmer, but was still moving in a somewhat jerky manner compared to her normal fluidity.

I had had a really good ride on Kachina on Thursday, only two days before. I kept my emotions in check but inside I was pretty upset. I had been really looking forward to the clinic to work on my canter transitions and test patterns, but instead we had gone backwards like 2 years and I wasn't even able to trot a circle. The only explanation seemed to be the physio. Like I said before, I trust Sandra and knew she hadn't done anything damaging to my horse, but it really seemed like the clinic had broken her. Over the drive home and dinner that night Sandra and I talked over what had happened. Sandra hasn't ever had a horse react so strongly to physio before but we concluded that Kachina is a tense horse and we must have just unlocked some issues and brought them to the surface and she was sensitive about it. We also discussed saddle fit and supplements as two other pieces to look into. I was already planning to have a saddle fit assessment done in June so this just made that more important, and I need to get the saddle fitter to assess my girth as well. I've also already been looking into adding some feed to Kachina's diet to fill in some possible gaps. Sandra told me about some other horses like Kachina (horses that tend towards tension) who have benefited hugely from a magnesium supplement so we thought that was also worth a try.

This post is already long so I'll sum up Sunday in a Part II post.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Show Struggles

My earlier post highlighted the successes of the show. It was a good show in general and I do want to focus on the positives; however, not everything was rosy and I don't want to gloss over the negative aspects completely and give anybody a false impression. So, here's what I struggled with:


Number of entries is the single biggest factor that determines if a show is going to work. So many of the costs of putting on a show are flat rate costs, but money comes in by the entry, so a difference of only a few people can make the difference between going into debt or turning a profit.

Two days before the closing date of the show, I only had two entries and I was pretty sure I was going to have to cancel. (I had set closing date the latest I could without losing my deposit on the facility etc. so I couldn't rely on late entries)

As someone who is trying to get dressage off the ground in this area, with both the show, and with the clinics, I have found that there are a few types of people. First, there are the awesome ones, the ones that are thrilled to finally have local dressage opportunities, will rearrange their schedules to make sure they can attend, and will go out of their way to help make events successful. There are a few of these people and they are awesome. These are the people who make me happy to put in the hours to organize clinics and shows, because I see that they appreciate my efforts and I love seeing them do well with their horses. Unfortunately there is a second, larger group of people who say they want to participate in things, but it's a real struggle to get them to actually put their money where their mouths are. I understand that not everyone will be able to make every show, but it's frustrating when people tell me they are interested but then don't enter just because they haven't ridden as much as they wanted to in the last couple weeks. I have tried to spread the message that these events won't be able to happen if there isn't enough support, but it hasn't gotten through to everyone. Third, there is the group that complains. Thankfully this group is small, but I need every entry I can get so I can't ignore or dismiss them. There was one lady who complained at length about how she wouldn't come if there weren't show-supplied test callers, so, I changed things up and offered test callers for a nominal fee, and had to rework my volunteer requirements to make it feasible. Then, she complained about the volunteer hours, I talked to her about options of making it work, and after all of that, she still didn't enter. Finally, there is the group that you don't know about in advance, you don't hear anything from them but they find your prizebook somewhere and suddenly you get sent an entry as a nice surprise.

I ended up getting entries from all four groups, but all of them waited until almost the last possible moment to enter. I understand when people want to wait until closing date to decide which tests or levels to sign up for, I've done it myself, but it's sure a good way to give the organizer a panic attack!

In the end, I had a total of 12 entries (including myself), so it was a very small show. I originally thought I would need at least 20 to make the show feasible, but most of the people who entered signed up for 6-8 tests over the weekend instead of the average of 3-4 that I was expecting, so the numbers added up okay. For a single ring dressage show over two days, 120 tests would have been a full show. My show had 68 tests over the weekend so it was more than half a show, which I thought was decent for the first attempt.


One competitor emailed me two days before the show to say that she was just too overwhelmed with other things and would have to scratch. She didn't expect her money back, which was great because I didn't have enough margins to repay her, but I was sad that she didn't get to participate.

We also had one horse rung out for blood in the mouth. This was the pair's first show and one of their first off property trips so there was a lot of tension on both sides and it resulted in a bitten tongue. The horse is fine and the rider and judge had a productive discussion. A bloody mouth was really not how I wanted to showcase dressage to the people who came out to watch though.

Show Ring Parents

My own parents are the least competitive people on the planet, and they aren't horsey in the slightest, so the idea of "hockey parents" at the side of the horse show ring is a bit of a foreign concept to me. Being a show organizer showed me that these do exist though. I didn't have any issues with any of the actual competitors, but I had a couple parents literally tapping their toes in my show office, impatient for results to come out, and getting upset when "certain goals weren't reached". Trying to accurately tally up scores while people stood around waiting was the most stressful part of the weekend for me (and for the record, all scores were out an hour after the last ride of the day, so I don't think I was excessively slow!)


One of the biggest complaints of the show was one that is really hard to do anything about. The facility was located near to a major train line. Large freight trains rumbled by fairly frequently. Some of the horses were not fans and would get a bit upset. Also, it made it tough for the riders to hear their readers. Luckily the trains were less frequent on Sunday. All in all, if that's the biggest complaint, I think the show went pretty well. I'm going to encourage the facility to plant a line of trees on the edge of the property beside the track as I think that would help quite a bit with the sound and motion. Also, the stabling (outdoor pens) were located near the tracks. Since it was a small show sometimes one horse would be left alone over in that area while all his neighbors were in the show ring. I think a larger show and more horses stabled would help to keep things chill.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Blog Hop: May 10 Questions

I have several posts I want to do about my recent show and clinic and other stuff, but they are all long posts that need some work and photos to be coherent, so for now a quick and easy one! The blog hop that's been going around from

1. What are your summer goals?
I want to finally get my canter transition under control and be able to do a training level test without embarrassing myself. This sounds so incredibly basic but it has been a real challenge to make happen. This summer it's time.

2. Do you have any tips or tricks for fly control?
Like a lot of people, I use flyspray regularly with questionable efficacy. My area isn't super bad for bugs, especially if you avoid riding near dawn or dusk, but it's still a struggle sometimes and I have no special advice.
She does have a flysheet she wears during the worst part of summer

3. How often do you bathe your horse?
Mostly just before shows, so about 3x/year. We don't have a proper wash rack, just a flat dirt patch outside near the well water pump, and the water is really cold, so I can only do it in good weather and when I have lots of time.

That one time she was clean, it really is a rare occurrence 

4. Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Equine related or otherwise?
Next weekend I am going to Calgary to scribe at the Gold dressage show. I have a few shows and clinics planned for within a 4 hour radius, but that's about it.

5. What is your favorite way to beat the heat?
Embrace it. In the winter my body is accustomed to a certain temperature range, and then every summer it needs to recondition to a new temperature range. I find that it helps me a lot if I just embrace the heat during the first hot spell, it's like it flips the switch quicker and then I'm good until the fall. A few weeks ago I spent 8 hours driving when my car's A/C was broken and outside temp was 34C (93F). I think it's safe to say that I have adapted. Disclaimer: while we get hellish hot here, my area does have low humidity, so that helps.

6. Do you do anything to prevent your horse from sunbleaching?
No. I would like if my black and white horse stayed black and white (both colours tend to go brown =P), but the fact is that I'm not willing to compromise her ability to be a horse by keeping her inside or covered. I do however try every year to keep her white nose from getting sunburnt by using long flymasks and baby sunscreen, it's an uphill battle though (she does have a shelter, but she will stand in there with her head out in the sun)
She was not impressed with me

7. How hot is too hot for you to ride?
I would say 38C or higher (100F+), that's not a hard and fast rule, but at those temps I would certainly take it easier.

8. How important is sun protection for you riding or just in general? 
I'm aware of the sun, but I'm not super diligent about protection. I'm lucky to have skin that tends to tan more than burn. On super sunny days or days that I'm outside for longer, I will cover up or use sunscreen, but I can frequently get by for a couple hour trip to the barn without.

9. Have you ever gone swimming with your horse?
I've done deep river crossings with her (saddle pad deep), but never actual swimming. I would like to try, but since I've never done it before I would want to have good controlled circumstances in case anything went wrong (steady depth increase, no current, solid footing below, people to go with, etc.)

She doesn't mind water

10. What's on your summer wish list?
Well I may have just splurged on a fleece girth cover and a matchy matchy saddle pad/fly veil/polo set. I also really want a new stock tie as mine is plain as can be, but I can't decide which one! Anyone have any favorite stock tie brands to suggest?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Show Success

This past weekend was the first dressage show in my community. I was the sole organizer of the show and it has kind of completely taken over my life for the last month, but it actually went extremely well and I'm glad I did it. It was a small show, but it was a great starting point. My goal was to promote and grow dressage in the area and I think I succeeded.

Some highlights from the weekend:

- The judge was awesome. Her scores and comments were fair, she told hard truths when she had to, but in an encouraging way. She was very open to talking to the competitors and everyone really appreciated her feedback. She was also just a lovely person and I enjoyed hosting her for the weekend.
- The local news station came to the show on Saturday and published an article and video on the show. I hate talking on camera, but the article was good and I think it will let people know about dressage in the area.
- Between the news article and some posts from competitors, there was a positive buzz on social media and several new people joined our local dressage Facebook group (we're up to 55 members now!!).
- May Long Weekend in Alberta can be a total crapshoot for weather (it snows every few years), but this year was about perfect conditions, with an average temperature of 22C and a mix of sun and clouds.

The competition ring ready to go Saturday morning under a perfect sky,
not too sunny, not too cloudy

- I had several volunteers help me out over the weekend and they were awesome. One of my scribes has an 8 year old daughter who helped me all Saturday in the office and she was actually a massive help, writing out all the competitor information on the tests (I didn't have stickers), and helping me with scoring and recording results.
- Most of the competitors had positive things to say about the show, and one person even told me that it was the best organized show she had ever been to!

This show did bring out my organized side, here is all the
show paperwork laid out on my table Friday night (at 1am =P )
(The show office had no electricity so I had to do everything on paper)

- A couple local dressage riders rode in the show as their first ever competition or their first show in decades. That made me really happy as I wanted to encourage all local riders, not just the ones who already show.
- We had a few non-local entries too, with two people even coming all the way from Calgary.
- Despite being a small event, we had all of the trappings of a "real" show with sponsors, ribbons, prizes, food truck, show photographer, etc.

A whole box of satin!

Division championship ribbons on the left, class ribbons on the right

- A few people who didn't ride in the show came out to volunteer or watch and said they want to enter next year.
- I ran the show with the goal of promoting dressage, not making money, but in the end I came out ahead by about $92 (preliminary numbers, still need to finalize a few costs).
- I survived! I was absolutely wired the whole weekend and was running on very little sleep and with the brain hamsters running on overdrive, but everything important got done and I even enjoyed myself at times! I am friends with several of the riders and it was awesome to see them do well with their horses.

The first rider of the weekend

Based on the success of this show, I am planning to make it an annual event, so I'll do it all again next year!

Is anyone interested in me doing a series of How To posts about show organizing? I don't claim to be an expert, but I did do it and I'm happy to share some of the things I learned if people are interested. Let me know!

I also have several posts to write about Kachina, I should have more time for blogging now that the show is over but it still might take me a couple weeks to catch up. I look forward to catching up with reading all of your blogs too :-)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Sectional Saddle

Who knew that sectional fit could be as complicated and expensive saddle fit? 😂

A couple weeks ago my SO and I ordered a sectional for our house. There is a full foot difference between my height and his height so finding furniture that feels comfortable for us both is a challenge. I was amazed when we found an affordable option that both of us liked AND that would fit in our family room (though we had to rearrange almost every other piece of furniture to do it). I liken it to finding a saddle under budget that fits the horse and two very different riders.

The sectional arrived this week. Unfortunately, we had missed out on one important component of sectional fit: hallway fit. The first half came in fine, but the second half was a few inches longer. We got it through the doorframe (after removing the door), down the stairs, and then had to stop. We tried maneuvering it every way imaginable but it was just simply too big to turn the corner between the hallway and the room it needed to go in. It has been in the hallway for two days while we tried to think of every conceivable option, but the furniture store is retrieving it today. I've certainly never had this problem with a saddle!

Exhibit A
(and no, we cannot just stand it up, it's taller than the ceiling)

In other news: Last weekend I was in Saskatchewan for a family reunion thing. This weekend I am organizing and riding in another clinic with Sandra. Next weekend is the dressage show I am organizing. In between all of that, I have to go to dragonboat practices (the season started this month), deal with the fact that my car needs a new compressor (thank god for extended warranty), come up with a replacement for the sectional, oh and also juggle that pesky little thing called my full time job. Stress levels are high and time is short. Unfortunately I haven't been doing as much riding as I would like. I am really excited for the clinic and the show, and a lot of my busyness is a good kind of busy, but I still might need a mental breakdown or some heavy alcohol to get me through until the end of the month.

How's your May going? Have you encountered anything that was harder to fit than a saddle?

Monday, 8 May 2017

Monday Musings

Yesterday, on my way home from a family reunion in Saskatchewan, I pulled into the barn after a six hour drive and walked through the cold, wind, rain and mud in my dress and flats to check on Kachina and throw a rain sheet on her (it had been hot and dry when I left on Friday). I'm sure that many of you would do the same, but I can't help but think that being horse people makes us a little crazy :-P

Double rainbow from different day, but I figured they were appropriate photos for this post

She's my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow ;-)

Friday, 5 May 2017

Progression Plan - April Update

I made a progression plan in December to try and keep up the forward progress we were making. I'm finding that this is a great tool to keep my rides focused so I'm going to give regular updates on where we're falling on the list from month to month (this one is a little late, sorry):

Grey - achieved previously
Green - achieved last month
Yellow - working on currently

Good = relaxed + rounded topline + even rhythm + slow tempo (not overly slow, but not running) + correct bend in neck and body + acceptance of bit (eventually this definition will expand to include more, but this is what it means right now)
Consistently = means the movement is confirmed enough that we can achieve it every ride, even when it's a "bad" day, it doesn't have to happen on the first attempt though 

  • Good walk work - achieved in 2015
  • One good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in late 2015
  • One good 20m trot circle - achieved in spring/summer 2016
  • Consistently (every ride) able to get one good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Consistently able to get one good 20m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 10-15m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Good trot circles with good walk-trot and trot-walk transitions - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently able to get good trot circles with good walk-trot/trot-walk transitions - achieved January 2017
  • Good Walk/Trot test patterns (circles, large arena, diagonals, transitions, direction changes, etc) - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good Walk/Trot test patterns - achieved March 2017
  • Good stretchy trot circle - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good stretchy trot circle with transitions in/out - working on it, I really should have separated this into two items because we have a consistently good stretch now, but still need to work on smooth transitions in and out
  • Good trot circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good transitions within trot - I've been focused on doing more test pattern riding, so I haven't worked on lengthened trot recently (I'm not practicing first level tests)
  • Good canter circle - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good canter circle - working on it and this keeps improving, but I'm not quite prepared to say I've succeeded yet
  • Good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions - working on it, right now when she does quiet transitions they aren't on my aids, and when she transitions on my aids, it gets a bit fast and hollow, we'll get them both together at some point
  • Consistently good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions
  • Good Training test patterns - working on it, but until the canter transition is good, the test isn't fully good 
  • Consistently good Training test patterns
  • Add more strides of lengthened trot - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good lengthened trot diagonals
  • Good trot leg yields - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good trot leg yields
  • Good canter circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion
  • Consistently good transitions within canter
  • Good long side of lengthened canter
  • Consistently good long side of lengthened canter
  • Good First 1 & 2 test patterns
  • Consistently good  First 1 & 2 test patterns.

No green this month. I had a lot of good rides in April and I feel I've made good progress on the items I'm working on, but it takes time to build the consistency. I'm more and more confident we can achieve these, it just needs a little longer to happen. 

Have you ever had a month that you felt was really good but it didn't quite translate that way on paper or when comparing it to your goals? I think it's important to remember that not all progress can be measured. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Throwback Thursday

Throwback to 2009 or 2010 when I was riding my anglo-arab mare and heart-horse Ellie and scoring pretty well at First Level.

8s! Four of them! I definitely didn't appreciate those as much back then as I do now

I was going through some old ribbons and tests and found this one. It was just from a schooling show, but 63% is a respectable score. More importantly, check out those four 8s! Also two 7s in the collectives, on First Level Test 4! I would be thrilled to get these scores now, even at training level. This seems like so long ago and a level that feels so hard to get back to, but it's good to remind myself that I was there once. I trained one horse (who had never done dressage until me) up to second level and I can do it again (Unfortunately I can't find my later tests, but we improved at First Level, were solidly schooling second, and then showed at Second once in 2012 before she foundered).

Ellie and I circa 2009

This time around I have a different horse who needs to learn more slowly, and I have more problems with my equitation to fight, but I also have a lot more knowledge about what I'm aiming for and how to get there. We can do it!

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cow Horse

Continuing the trend of posting about stuff that happened over a week ago, Kachina and I actually did some useful ranch work!

It's currently calving season at the place I board so the BO has been checking his herd multiple times a day. One night when I was out, he drove around the field with his truck and noticed a new calf separated from his mother. He came back to the barn and started saddling his gelding. I was tacking up myself at the time so I asked if he needed a hand. Kachina and I aren't exactly experience cow hands, but sometimes an extra body is helpful to direct a cow, even if it's just standing in a certain spot, and we can at least follow directions. I also think it's good exposure for Kachina.

We went into the ~120 acre pasture that has a couple hundred head of cattle, located the cow, herded her to her calf, and then brought them both into the front smaller pasture.

I didn't take any photos during the adventure because I didn't want to drop my phone and/or die, so here's a super awesome paint/map diagram of what we did:

BO's property: cattle pasture fences shown in blue, approximate path in white
(horse pens, arenas and house all in bottom left)

- Circled some hay feeders looking for the cow. BO's description of her was a "big black cow", which could describe more than half the herd, so we had to get close enough to read the ear tags.
- After finding the right cow, we separated her out and started herding her at a walk to B

- There was a group of calves in this area so we went in this direction to try and find and pick up the right calf.
- We got there and found that the calf in question was right beside the fence, but was on the wrong side of the fence at C. BO dismounted to try and get the calf to come under the fence, but no dice, and the calf ran off.
- Kachina was starting to get more tense at this point because cows and calves were moving more quickly around. I started circling her while I was waiting for BO to do his thing, she stayed with me until...
- Once BO was back on, the cow started to run off, and BO started to gallop after her to head her off. Having her buddy come from behind and run past her made Kachina immediately accelerate upwards and forwards to follow. I maybe should have just gone with it, but in the moment I decided I wasn't prepared to have that happen and I brought her back. This led to a lot of prancing and circling while I tried to get Kachina to focus and relax. She half listened to me, but we essentially jigged a lot of the way until we caught back up to BO and his horse near the opening in the fence in the middle of the field. I was worried I was going to be more of a liability than a help with the round up but I decided to keep going.

- this is the area where BO had seen the cow run to so we trotted up to see make sure we had the right cow again
- turns out that the cow at D was a different big black cow so we went over to the dugout at E to search the right one out again.

- BO took the near side of the dugout and I went to the far side to read tags of some potential matches over there. I was proud of Kachina for staying calm when we moved away from her buddy.
- We found the right cow and separated her again to walk her up to F.

- This is where we found the calf and eventually reunited cow and calf together. It took a few tries and some time for them to properly re-aquaint themselves and so we just hung back and supervised.
- Once they were paired up, we started to move them back closer to home, slowly so that the calf could keep up and wouldn't get spooked. We also stopped regularly to see if the calf wanted to nurse because we weren't sure how much milk he had gotten.

- our original goal was to herd the pair through the same entrance in the fence that we had gone through before, but there were several other pairs in this area and that didn't seem like it was going to work well.
- BO decided to instead take them through a gate in the corner at H

- here we had the cow and calf separated a good distance away from the rest of the herd
- there were some removable posts to go through here, but BO had to dismount to open up the gate, I was in charge of holding them in place while he did that. This is where I feel like I was actually useful and not just along for the ride.

- another gate, another place where I was to hold them while BO got it open
- we herded the pair through the gate into the smaller front pasture where BO had been separating some of the smaller calves.
- from this point we were done and just walked back to the starting point

Overall we rode for almost two hours, with a lot of walking but some trotting and cantering. It was clear that Kachina isn't accustomed to this type of ride. I had to be heavier with my hands than I would like at some points, but I was proud of her in general. The one shaky moment at B was pretty understandable, and she stayed with me for most of the ride even though I was asking her for strange things. She was calm by the time I dismounted so I don't think the experience unnerved her too much. She might make a cow horse some day yet! I on the other hand need a lot of work to be worthy of a cowgirl title, I was noticing how much of an art it is to guide the cow's shoulder and get them to move appropriately. I can imagine that it takes a lot of years of experience to get a good feel for it.

A previous time we helped move cattle,
this time we did it in our dressage tack!

P.S. When I told my SO this story, he asked if "cow-horse" is what they are calling hybrids these days (he always jokes that Kachina looks like a holstein cow because of her markings), that is NOT what I meant!!!

Have you ever worked cattle with your horse? Do you find it's good for them even if it's not their primary job?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Mane Event Overview

I'm behind on my posting again, but last weekend (April 22) I went to The Mane Event in Red Deer. I didn't actually go for the weekend, just for half a day, because I also had to squeeze in a trip to Edmonton for some family stuff.

Mane Event is a giant horse expo. It started in Chilliwack BC, then expanded to Red Deer and now is also in London, ON, and Scottsdale, AZ. The Red Deer one is the biggest and it is massive. I tried to see if I could get photos showing the scale, but it takes up 3 massive halls, and all the booths and displays go higher than my head so you can really only see one row at a time. There is a full schedule of events all weekend that take place in two indoor arenas, a round pen, and a lecture area. Then there is the tradeshow. The Mane Event covers every horse discipline imaginable and it's really cool to have so many clubs, associations, and tack stores in one place.

Mane Event is what you choose to make it, here's how I spent my time there:

Dressage AGM

Since a lot of people come to Mane Event anyways, the Alberta Dressage Association decided to hold their annual general meeting upstairs at the facility on Saturday afternoon. I haven't been to the AGM in previous years but I had a special interest in going this year to a) match faces to the names that I have been communicating with related to the show and clinics I have been organizing; and b) be there in case there were any questions when they voted to approve the new rule that created my directorship position. It was really great to meet everyone and hear what all the area groups have been up to. I am glad that I am a formal part of this organization because it is a great group of people who are doing a lot to try and encourage the sport of dressage.

Lateral Work Presentation/Clinic

Shannon Dueck was the dressage clinician at the Mane Event this year. Unfortunately I could only catch one of her presentations but I really enjoyed it. It was titled "From Leg Yields to Pirouettes - How Lateral Work Progresses". She had 3 demo riders of various levels (1st, 3rd, and I1) and she went through lateral work from leg yield -> shoulder-in -> haunches-in -> renvers -> half-pass -> pirouettes. All of what she said echoed things I have heard or read before, but I've never seen it all put together like that and it made it all fit and seem not so complicated. It was a very well prepared and well presented demo.

Trailer Looking

There were at least six different trailer sales places set up with several of their newest and best horse trailers to show off. There was everything from small two-horse rigs to massive 4 horse LQ 5th wheels. It was fun to look at all the features. I wasn't seriously shopping, but I have debated upgrading my trailer to one with a sealed tack room so I was giving it some consideration. Instead of making me want a new trailer though, looking at all the options made me really appreciate the trailer I have. My tack room is exposed to the elements with open stock windows, but it is larger than a lot of other two horse trailers, and the fact that my door doesn't have a lip with weatherstripping makes it a lot easier to load and unload hay and tack bins etc. The latch on my dividers is simple, but it's simple in a way that I don't worry about it failing. Some of the fancy spring loaded contraptions on the other trailers might not stand the test of time as well. I like that my trailer is bright and airy and has no rear tack, some of the new trailers I looked at were a lot darker and seem like they would be tougher to get a reluctant horse to load into. A living quarters would be nice, but it also makes for a much bigger trailer that would be tougher to maneuver, and I have an SUV not a truck and they were all 5th wheels. Just style-wise, I didn't see anything that I liked better than my own trailer overall. And then there was price.... even the most basic trailers on sale were around $20,000. I bought mine for $4000. I think I'll keep it! Looking at trailers did give me a few ideas of how I should maybe modify my tack room to give me better storage though.

Feed Recommendations

There were several horse feed companies at Mane Event. I took the opportunity to ask several for feed suggestions for Kachina. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I got some very different answers. It did give me some information to look into though.


There wasn't anything I really needed so I wasn't planning on buying much, but I knew I'd probably find something. I actually mostly succeeded at saving my money and I'm happy with the three things I did decide to splurge on:

1. Cell phone thigh holder. In the winter I keep my phone in my coat pocket at the barn. Lately I've switched to a vest to still have a pocket, but even that will be too warm in a few months. I frequently ride alone so I think it's important to have my phone on me, but I struggle with what to do in the summer when wearing breeches (I haven't yet found a belt clip that is comfortable. This seemed like the perfect solution. The strap is made from soft neoprene so it shouldn't mark my saddle, and my phone slides easily in and out. When it's related to safety, the cost is pretty justifiable.

2. Sports bra. You don't need a photo of that. There was one whole booth of just sports bras. I am kind of a weird size so don't usually have much luck in finding one that works, but these girls had a great selection

3. Ceramic plate. This small company out of the Crowsnest pass consists of a husband and wife team that make and sell some beautiful handmade pottery and jewelry. They always bring a selection of horse themed pieces to the Mane Event. Two years ago I bought a plate from her that to me is the perfect depiction of collection and extension. I have it displayed in my house and I love looking at it. This year she had another dressage themed plate that I decided to buy. I can see my collection of pieces from her growing over the years.

Plate from 2015

Plate from 2017

The Trip Home

I left Mane Event at 8pm so I knew I wasn't going to be home until midnight at the earliest. About halfway though my drive I pulled over to help a lady who's car was smoking badly. As soon as I stopped, flames started being visible and so I made the call to 911 to get the fire department. While we were waiting, the fire grew quickly. Nobody was hurt which is the important thing, but it was pretty crazy, I've never seen a car just go up in flames like that. I ended up standing outside in the ditch in sleet and rain for about half an hour while we waited for the fire department, kept other onlookers a safe distance back, and gave my statement to the police.

The amount of fire when I got off the phone with 911