Wednesday 30 June 2021

Wordless Wednesday: Professional Show Pics

 Photos purchased from Penny Lane Photography

(Description of show here for anyone who missed it)

Monday 28 June 2021

Surprise Hunter Show

Naia and I participated in a last-minute hunter/jumper show on Saturday, in the illustrious trot poles division!

I wanted to see how last week's clinic went before planning any other away trips, but after the clinic I saw that a local hunter/jumper barn was holding a show this weekend. The clinic had gone pretty well but Naia is definitely at the stage where she will benefit hugely from lots of short trips in the trailer. I saw that the show was offering a trot poles division and I figured that hauling to a barn 30 minutes away and trotting over some poles in a new arena would be great exposure for Naia.

The entry form was pretty light on details and I'm a definite stranger to hunter land so I sent the organizer a bunch of questions which she very nicely answered: 

  1. Am I eligible for trot pole division with my green horse or is it for children only? I was welcome to show in trot poles, but would be the first adult to enter
  2. Can I show in dressage tack for trot pole division? Yes. 
  3. What's the warmup situation like? They had a warmup arena that would open at 7:30am. 
  4. What time does the show start and is trot poles the first division? 8am and yes. 
  5. Is it okay if I get there at or before 6:30am? Yes, and she provided me with detailed information for trailer parking since I would likely be the first to arrive. 

With the relevant answers provided, I decided to go for it and I submitted my late entry (the options for late entry into hunter/jumper shows are nice for situations like this!)

My preparation for this show was substantially less than for the clinic last weekend, but I did do a ride at my home arena where I set up a pattern of trot poles and made Naia trot them without walking them first. I also contacted my friend who has a small tack shack of consignment gear to get a regulation length crop (my dressage whip would be too long), and some beige breeches. My friend's tack shack is based out of the same barn as the show so when I picked up my new gear I took some extra time to walk out to the show arena and trailer parking field to get the lay of the land. The night before the show I brushed Naia's mane but did not braid or pull it. I traded out my pretty beaded browband for a plain one, and loaded up the truck and trailer. Finally, I pulled out my white show pad, show jacket and show shirt, all of which haven't been used since 2019 (but thankfully still fit!). I knew we weren't going to be the most huntery pair there, either in appearance or way of going, but we would technically meet the rules and I hoped show the judge that we made some effort, even if I wasn't going to subject my mare to a braid job in the dark (the barn lights are on a timer, she is turned out so I couldn't braid the night before, and as it was I left at first light in the morning). 

Getting the lay of the land included seeing whether there would be mounting blocks to use

The morning of the show I woke up early (though may have snoozed my first alarm), got out to the barn, and since I had prepped everything else the night before, all I had to do was catch the horse and load her. It took a bit to load but I took my time and kept consistent with the steps I had practiced and Naia acquiesced before too long. We got to the show grounds close to 6:30 so pretty in-line with my original plan. As expected we were the first ones there. I unloaded Naia and immediately led her around to show her the portapotties, the trailer of colourful jumps, the outside of the arena, the check-in tent, etc. Naia was brave and curious with investigating the strange sights. However we also were completely mobbed by mosquitoes so we fled back to the trailer to douse both ourselves with repellent. This is also where I started to think that the show was a very bad idea. 

(All photos from day before show)
Important to investigate scary portapotties!

Tacking up and warming up did not go to plan. All of the other entries in the trot pole division were students at the host barn so they were getting ready at the barn (which is super far from the show arena), and Naia didn't have any other horses near her. The area was super quiet when I was trying to get her to used to seeing the sights, but once I started trying to groom and tack up spectators started arriving, tents were moved, the sound system was being tested, etc. All normal show stuff but it just happened at exactly the wrong time so Naia was in a bit of a tizzy at the trailer and it took way longer to tack up than it should have. The check in tent didn't open until after I was tacked up so I had to stop there on the way to the warmup arena, and unfortunately the (very nice) volunteer at the tent didn't have her glasses so it took fooorrreeevvveeer for her to find my entry form and number. I regret that I was a little short with the volunteer but my stress level was rising by the second as the time before the show ticked away. This meant that we didn't get to the warmup ring until just before 8am, instead of 7:30 like I had planned (I would have loved to be riding before the commotion started but the warmup arena didn't open until 7:30). Even getting to the warmup just before 8am would have been okay, since I had already done a ground work/lunging warmup and I was 6th in the order of go so I had a little time, except literally right after leading Naia to the warmup ring, all 5 of the other trot pole entries left the warmup arena as a group to go to the show arena. No other divisions were warming up yet so poor Naia who had finally seen other horses, had to deal with being completely deserted by all of them! Understandably she got a little upset so I regretted my life choices some more and took the time she needed to do some more ground work before mounting up. At this point I figured I might have to scratch my first class and just do my second class, but I was at the show already so I might as well try and do at least part of the thing. 

I thought this tent right beside gate to the show arena might be an issue but fortunately it was not

Once I got on, I only had time for a couple circles of walk and trot in each direction before I had to ride over to the show ring. Naia felt pretty good once I started riding though so I figured I might as well try for my first class, it's not like a trot pole class requires a lot of warmup. At the show ring it became apparent that there is a huge difference in the number of spectators between a hunter/jumper show and a dressage show. A big part was the number of children competing, which meant a gaggle of parents, siblings and grandparents attached to each one. Also Alberta has only recently allowed increased numbers of people for outdoor events so I think a lot of people were just excited to go do a thing. For a local show there was actually a lot of atmosphere with people milling around and sitting on camp chairs. Of course the majority of the people were not horsey and were pretty terrible about moving out of the way of horses. I was terrified that Naia would step on someone as I inched closer to the board to learn my courses (they hadn't been posted when I had been by the show ring earlier). Luckily Naia loves people and was okay with the commotion, especially once she was back beside the other horses. I had time to watch one other person go before it was my turn for my first class. 

We walked into the show ring for our first class, trot poles hunter, I showed Naia the fancy wheelbarrow/flower display, and I didn't pick up the trot until halfway into my circle. We then proceeded to trot our trot poles course. She was looky and wiggly in places but was willing to listen to me. I didn't care at all about my equitation but instead focused on giving Naia clear aids and releases. I clucked when I needed to and also loudly exclaimed "good girl" when she gave a good effort. I didn't think it was pretty in the slightest but we went over all the right poles in the right order and I was very happy with her. When I brought her back down to a walk Naia was willing to blow and stretch out and I was happy to see that doing the course had helped her to relax rather than amping her up. 

Show ring prior to show but already set up for trot poles

The same order of go was repeated for the second class so I was the 6th rider out of 6. In between my courses I kept Naia near the show ring with the other horses and alternated standing and walking her around. I was a bit appalled at how little room the spectators gave me but was thrilled with how Naia was handling the atmosphere. At this point I also looked at the ribbons the volunteers were setting up to see if we had a chance of earning one. I could see that they had ribbons to 5th place and since I was in a division of 6 people and I knew a couple had gone off course, I was excited for the prospect of a 4th or 5th place ribbon as a souvenir from Naia's first show. 

We went in for our second class, trot poles equitation, and repeated the same thing as the first class except with a different order of jumps. This time around I focused on keeping Naia a little straighter and my position a little more centered, but my prime goals remained to go over all the poles in the correct order and give Naia a good experience. 

Good experiences include feeding lots of cookies at and after show

After my ride, they seemed to be taking a while to figure out the placings so I started riding Naia back to grab my halter. However halfway there I heard the announcer call for us to come into the ring without our horses. I didn't have any support people at the show and I wouldn't have wanted to leave Naia unattended at the trailer even if I had had time to get her back there (which I didn't), so I dismounted and led Naia with me into the arena, hanging back behind the kids so we wouldn't trample anyone. It turned out that 3 out of 6 people had been eliminated from my first class (1 from falling off, 2 from going off course), and I ended up with a second place ribbon which I was a little surprised at but pleased. However the more surprising part was that even though there was only 1 elimination in my second class, the judge pinned me in first place!  The trot pole division was only 2 classes so my 1st and 2nd places won me the division champion award which came with a pretty ribbon, a purple grooming kit and some other miscellaneous goodies. I was especially excited for the Quic Braid because I use that but it isn't sold locally and ordering spray bottles in the mail isn't always the best idea. I was honestly shocked that we had done so well and was a little embarrassed about winning against children, but it was a pretty cool way to celebrate Naia's first show! 

Pretty ribbons!

Unfortunately, the hardest part of the whole experience was when I had to take Naia away from the horses and people and back to the trailer. She just isn't used to the trailer being our home base yet and it didn't help that a row of round bales separated the trailers from everything else going on. It also sucked that the early divisions were mostly horses who live at the barn so there weren't many horses around the trailers. It took some work to get Naia to stop barging into or away from me and listen enough for me to safely load her in the trailer. I was tired and hot (it was already pushing 30 degrees C by 9am) and struggling at the time. However in hindsight I know this is just part of Naia needing more miles and to go to more places. I also need to feed and tack up at the trailer as much as possible at home so she starts associating it with being "home base". I did succeed in loading Naia and we left the show grounds at 10am. That gave me just enough time to unload Naia at home and switch vehicles before driving two hours for a meeting of my area dressage group that started at 1pm. (Did I mention that I planned this whole show thing while knowing that I already had afternoon plans? No? Probably because I recognize that I am a little crazy and didn't want to broadcast it too much lol. I really wasn't sure I was going to pull off the plan and was prepared to scratch the show or the meeting if I needed to but instead I had a very busy but successful Saturday!) 


There was a show photographer and I pre-purchased a set of 10 photos but I haven't seen them yet so will do a separate post when I get them (probably at the end of the week). As I was leaving the show the photographer did tell me that my horse was very photogenic so I'm hoping that means there are some good ones! 

Thursday 24 June 2021

First Away Clinic - Day 2


Day 1

Day 2 repeated and built on what we did Day 1. 

Naia loaded well, but did have some nervous poops as soon as she got on the trailer, so I knew that she wasn't super comfortable with the hauling process yet, but I will still very pleased that she loaded for me. When we got back to the ranch, she wanted no part of being near the trailers and tried multiple times to drag me to the arena. When I first got her Naia frequently liked to pull a move where she would turn away from me and just start pulling like a freight train. I have mostly eliminated that nasty habit but it still makes the occasional appearance when she is stressed. Clearly Naia needed some ground work out by the trailers so I immediately started asking her to yield her hip and back up, making sure she gave me space and didn't try to leave. She didn't truly relaxed but seemed to resign herself to the situation so I tied her to the trailer for a bit as we waited our turn. 

Not loving the trailer

Once we entered the arena Naia immediately relaxed and gave multiple big yawn releases. It was a pretty amazing transformation. She was as calm and cool as a cucumber when our lesson started. For day 2 we were down 1 person, and one of the riders had brought her more experienced horse instead of the greenie she had brought on Saturday. We repeated the ground work from the day before, but this time AM purposely tried to distract our horses by walking around swinging a rope or waving a flag. This rattled a couple of the other horses but Naia kept calmly doing whatever exercise we were doing no matter the distraction. AM then encouraged me to get Naia a bit snappier with her responses. She was backing up or moving her shoulder when I asked but in a bit of a slow dragging way. AM had me be clear with my visualization of what I was asking for (e.g. am I asking for a backup or a quick backup?), and then gave me some new tools to communicate that to Naia and escalate if necessary. Naia will sometimes be very unreactive to an aid so having multiple aids in my toolbox is great for getting a response when I need one. She quickly realized I meant business and responded accordingly. 

Sunday was also sunnier and I gave myself a full equestrian sunburn, farmer tan plus glove tan =P

This time around for obstacles, I spent as much time with the mounting block as I could. I have played mounting block games with Naia before to get her to line up with the mounting block and stand steady, but a lot of that work happened in the indoor arena at home and with one particular mounting block. Even at our home barn, I found that in the outdoor arena with a different block, Naia would want to swing her hip away or walk off. She hadn't stood great for mounting on Saturday either, so I realized I had a hole I needed to fill. There was one proper mounting block, and one large upturned circular water trough, so I went back and forth between the two of them having her line up and stand. It took some repetition but she showed a noticeable improvement. 

The field we rode in

We again tacked up and did individual sessions in the round pen. On Saturday I had worked with Naia in the round pen with her wearing a bridle, halter, and lunge line. On Sunday I instead let Naia completely loose in the round pen and asked for canter that way. I don't know if it was improvement from the day before, the lack of lunge line, or something else, but this day she was able to maintain a full circle of canter each direction on the correct lead so we stopped there. 

A close up of the flat "open arena", complete with canoe

On Sunday our group session was 4 hours instead of 3 so we had a lot more time for actual riding. We started in the arena again but this time left it fairly quickly. We went back into the small field and worked through the tension that a couple horses had about potentially encountering sheep again (no sheep today), and then went out a second gate into more open prairie, the ranch manager had to bow out at this stage to attend to other things so it was only 4 of us including AM that went out. It wasn't true open prairie, as it was a fenced pasture, but the ranch is 5500 acres overall and the field we were in was probably around 200 acres so there was still lots of riding to be done without encountering a fenceline. For the open riding, AM had equipped us each with headsets so she could still talk to us even when we were more spread out. She encouraged us to do lots of stopping, circling, and doubling back so that our horses wouldn't get too excited or forward, but the goal was to slowly get across the field to a specific large level piece of ground without gopher holes that we could use as our "open arena". Once there, she had us spread out to stand at 4 corners of a square and wanted us to work on turn on the forehand and sidepass. I explained that I hadn't actually done either of those things under saddle yet so she coached me through the basics. I was amazed at how quickly Naia caught on, especially to moving her haunches. She wanted to back up a bit in the sidepass but it was still quite good for a first effort. Next, we rearranged so that 3 of us were spread out to form the corners of a triangle (red lines below depict horse locations), and then the 4th person would do a 3 circle cloverleaf around the the other 3. Once you had completed your 3 loops, you would go replace someone in the triangle and it was their turn to go. 

3 Leaf Cloverleaf pattern

This exercise was so simple but so good in a number of ways. When it was our turn to ride the pattern we did all circles to the left the first time and then all to the right the next time. Initially the goal was just to go and trot, but each time we worked on improving things a little more, by getting a steadier rhythm, or better bend around the turns. The standing part while other horses had their turns was equally good, teaching our horses that just standing on a loose rein while other horses did things around them was also such a valuable lesson. 

Our turn to stand, relaxed enough where I could take my cell phone out for a photo

Our turn to trot - photo very nicely sent to me by one of my fellow riders

Naia felt pretty good to me during the exercise, she was responsive and relaxed and went exactly where I asked her to, but when one of the other riders sent me the following photo my jaw dropped. I would be pleased with this active balanced reaching trot in pretty much any situation, so to see this quality of trot by my 5 year old, on her 30th ride ever, while out on the open prairie in a brand new place made me pretty ecstatic. 

I love this photo of Naia!

Once upon a time I saw a photo of a nicely tracking up trot in the sale ad for a grade pinto named Kachina and thought "I can make a dressage horse out of that". I know that a photo only tells a moment of time and that a trot isn't even the most important gait in dressage, but I did make a dressage horse out of Kachina, and I get the same excitement and hope for the future when I see this photo of Naia. I can make a dressage horse out of this too! 

After the 3 circle cloverleaf exercise, me and one other rider worked some more on just parking and turn on the forehand, while the other 2 did some canter work with their horses. Then we all walked back to the arena together. When we were almost back, the two dreaded llamas decided to crash the party. As well as being tall and weird looking, llamas don't move away from horses the way cows or sheep do, instead they started erratically running at us! A couple people dismounted immediately including AM who tried to clear a way through the llamas for the rest of us. I stayed on initially and Naia was definitely giving the llamas a nervous eye but she was being good. However when it became clear that being charged by a llama was a distinctive possibility, I elected to dismount as well. It turned out to be good timing because as soon as I was on the ground, the two llamas zipped by Naia from opposite directions. We ran after one of them a little way because it was good for Naia to face the danger and feel a little bit in control., but then we escaped the rest of the way back to the arena by foot.  

Walking back to the arena (before the llamas)

Overall the clinic was a great experience and I couldn't have been more proud of how Naia handled everything. AM was very impressed with us as well. She essentially had to reverse her statement from the start of Day 1 about how Naia was a hotter more reactive horse, because all our work really has made her more relaxed. She was also really impressed with how Naia is physically maturing, from a fat younger horse to a well muscled mature mare. I'm excited to work on our new homework and keep building from here! 

Wednesday 23 June 2021

First Away Clinic - Day 1

 On Friday night I had packed up all my stuff so Saturday morning all I had to do was load Naia and go. I arranged for SJ to meet me at the barn to supervise me loading, to keep me calm more than anything. I could visibly feel my nerves in the morning so I focused on being slow and deliberate as I caught and groomed Naia, making sure that I didn't transmit my tension to her. We walked out to the trailer and were able to load up immediately with no issues. Since I had allowed plenty of time for loading, I was on the road with time to spare, which gave me time to stop a couple time enroute to check on Naia (a trailer camera is definitely on my wish list, give me suggestions if you have any!). The haul was thankfully uneventful and we were the first ones to arrive at the ranch, one hour before the clinic start time. 

My truck passed the 150,000km on the drive to the clinic, pretty good for a 2000 model!

In all my preparations for the clinic, there were a few things that I was not prepared for, and that was seeing the herd of sheep and the llamas as I drove up the long drive to the ranch headquarters! It's a ranch, so I knew there would be cattle, but Naia lives across the street from a herd of cattle and I'm pretty sure the ranch she was bred on had cattle as well so I wasn't concerned about cows. Sheep and llamas were a different story though. Luckily the llamas stayed out of sight for the rest of the day so we only had to contend with the sheep. 


Naia was pretty up and looky when I unloaded her from the trailer (but she did unload politely and didn't charge off the trailer). I tried to hand graze her a bit but she was too nervous to eat so I led her around while I closed the trailer doors, took her hay bag out of the tack room, etc. We also wandered over to the fence to look at the sheep from a safe distance. Eventually some of the resident horses that were turned out with the sheep approached the fence as well. Naia seemed to feel better having other horses around so I tied her to the trailer in sight of them and finished getting ready. Once a couple other people arrived I brought Naia into the outdoor arena (just in a halter as AM's clinics always start with ground work). As soon as I started working with her she started to relax. A couple people in our group were running a bit late so we had plenty of time to walk around and investigate the arena and obstacles in it (poles, logs, barrels, a chair, a flag, some pool noodles). By the time the group lesson started in earnest Naia was already in a relaxed and thinking frame of mind. 

On Saturday I was in a group of 5 people and 6 horses (1 lady brought 2 of her horses and so AM used one of them as her demo horse). AM has worked with all of us before so she explained that all of the horses were in a similar stage and were younger and more reactive/hotter horses. I was the only dressage rider, the rest were ranchers who used their horses on the ranch (but they all had multiple horses and the ones at the clinic were the greenies), but a couple of them were also interested in having more well rounded horses that could do multiple things. Our Saturday session was scheduled for 3 hours (a lot of the time the horses are standing or walking so it isn't super physically demanding but the long sessions are great for working on and reinforcing multiple things). 

I had to pass near the sheep on my way to the outhouse at one point and this lamb ran right up to me

The ground work consisted of the essentials: stop (including backup as an extension of stop cue), go, park, yield shoulders, yield hip. None of this was new but it was good to revisit everything in a new environment. I also did learn a different technique for moving Naia's shoulders which was nice. Once we had done the basics, we were set loose to practice those same skills in conjunction with the obstacles in the arena. I chose a bigger log (about 12" diameter) and practiced walking over it, stopping halfway over, sidepassing in front of it, and finally sidepassing over it with the log between her front feet and back feet. We also walked and trotted over some other poles and did some figure 8s around 2 barrels. Naia was excellent. She was relaxed and obedient and even when other horses got upset she didn't seem phased at all. The biggest challenges were the flies (they were really bad), and the fact that the arena was more weeds than sand so she wanted to take snack breaks, and I really can't blame her for either of those. 

After the first 90 minutes, AM wanted to work with each horse individually in the round pen while the others tacked up. Naia was the last horse to take a turn in the round pen so we tacked up first. Naia was noticeably more tense back at the trailer than she had been in the arena, but we succeeded in tacking up and refreshing our coating of fly spray (I had forgotten human repellent so sprayed Naia's Ultrashield over myself as well). We got back to the round pen in time to watch a few of the other horses go. One horse was working on maintain canter (note: maintain is a word AM uses a lot, it means that the horse is supposed to be responsible for maintaining a gait until the person asks them to do something different, no constant nagging). Another couple horses worked on safely introducing hobbles. For our turn, the focus was maintain canter. I have only been asking for the canter transition up until now and so Naia generally breaks back to trot after a few strides, which I have allowed. Maintain canter is the next step and Naia was initially pretty put out by the idea that she had to canter for even half a circle. This is also the stage where I need to start caring about what lead she picks up. Naia picks up the correct lead to the left every time, but going to the right is hit or miss and varies day to day. This was a day where she was not wanting to pick up her right lead at all. Adiva tried some of her tricks without success and so I was given the homework of practicing getting more inside bend on the lunge (she likes to be counterbent when going to the right), and also lunging at the canter over ground poles or cavaletti (apparently they encourage the horse to get the correct lead). The round pen session wasn't long, but it did involve quite a bit of canter and Naia isn't the fittest so she was puffing a bit by the end.  

On high alert at the trailer

Next it was time to go back to the arena as a group and ride! To my surprise I had zero hesitation about getting on Naia even though it was my first time riding her in a new place. She had been so good throughout the clinic so far that I felt confident. Sure enough, there was nothing to worry about. We walked and trotted around the arena, working over and around the same obstacles we had worked with on the ground. Naia was foot perfect and felt great. 

Our last challenge for the day was to leave the arena. An advantage of the ranch venue for the clinic is the ability to go ride in open prairie, that was ultimate goal of the clinic, but since we were the beginner group and it was only Day 1, we started by going to a smaller field adjacent to the arena. Said field had so many gopher holes and badger holes, but steering around them was actually a great way to work on bending and fine control of where the horse's feet went. One horse had a bit of a hissy fit going from the arena to the field but Naia was able to park calmly while they figured things out. We did circles and zigzags all over the field and Naia was strongly focused on what I was asking her to do. After a little bit of time in the field, we hear a couple bleats in the distance (the advance warning was nice), and the herd of sheep rounded the barn and ran up to the fenceline of the field we were in. One of the guys in my group was the manager of the ranch where we were riding so his horse obviously was accustomed to living with the sheep. I made sure to keep his horse between Naia and the sheep when they first ran up to see if she would react, but she seemed fine so we went back to doing our circles and zigzags around the field, Naia would look at the sheep but she never panicked or got tense (though I didn't push her too close to them). The other 3 horses had gone to the corner farthest from the sheep when they first approached but then they started working their way closer to the shared fenceline. This caused some freakouts and 2 of the riders dismounted to continue working from the safety of the ground. Even with a couple spinning freaking out horses, I was able to just keep calmly riding Naia around without issue. I was so so proud of Naia, and proud of my own riding as well for having confidence in my horse and not freaking out myself. Eventually we rode back into the arena and that was the end of Day 1. 

Unfortunately not much media from Day 1, but I do have some more for Day 2, so stay tuned!

Tuesday 22 June 2021

First Away Clinic - Preparation

I didn't want to post about this before it happened in case we didn't actually get there but this past weekend was my first clinic with Naia away from our home barn. 

The clinic was with AM, the horsemanship/dressage clinician. Naia and I have done clinics with AM before in July 2020, November 2020, and March 2021. For each of those dates I was lucky enough for AM to divide the clinic between a few locations and travel to my home barn. This time around, there wasn't enough people for her to travel here, so the whole clinic happened at a ranch about 90 minutes away and I hauled Naia there. 

November clinic with AM

I mentioned in this post that I have been getting my normal trainer SJ to help me with training Naia to trailer load, but that her broken foot put a wrench in those plans. I ended up getting SJ to come out to the barn a few times and set up a camp chair and a footrest for her so she could watch and yell instructions at me from the sidelines while I worked with Naia and the trailer. The weeks before the clinic involved a lot of thought and effort to get Naia ready for hauling while trying to make it as positive of an experience as possible for her, and I think we succeeded as much as possible with that goal, though actually hauling somewhere new is another dimension compared to just loading onto the trailer at home. 

What the inside of my trailer looks like

All of the early work we did with Naia and the trailer focused on the basics of her stepping up into the trailer, first with her front feet and then all four, being willing to pause inside the trailer, and also to calmly come out. However for the later stages we focused on the details needed for the specific way I haul. I have a 2 horse angle haul step up trailer that has double back doors, no escape door, and an interior divider that can be secured in the open or closed position. I also almost exclusively haul solo, so I can't count on anyone else to handle doors or do anything else in the loading process. The final aspect is that I live in a windy area and doors and dividers cannot be trusted to stay where you put them. In order to haul this way, I have developed the following system to safely load and secure horses (YMMV):

  1. Secure back doors open with bungee cords and some super heavy duty magnet hooks
  2. Lead horse into trailer with me also stepping up into trailer on left side of horse
  3. Bring horse's head to far corner of trailer and loop lead rope around window bar, I don't tie at this point, just hold the loose end
  4. Ask horse to move their hip over so they are standing parallel to angled tack room wall
  5. I step back while horse stays in place so that I can unhook divider from back left corner of trailer
  6. Swing divider closed and secure
  7. Drop end of lead rope beside wall where horse won't step on it (I keep holding end of lead rope through steps 3-6 so I am prepared to apply tension if horse tries to leave, but they aren't tied fast and I am ready to get out of the way so there isn't a wreck if they panic
  8. Go to outside of trailer and stand on fender, reach through window bars to clip on trailer tie and unclip and remove lead rope
  9. Close trailer doors
I unload by going in exact reverse order. I generally like to turn the horse around to unload instead of backing out in case of uneven ground, but will do whatever is easier for the particular horse. My trailer does allow the option of hauling horses in an open stock configuration, but there is no way for me to close both back doors by myself when the horse is loose in the trailer, so I need to use the divider when I haul solo. 

Of the above process, Step 4 in particular was difficult for Naia, she was fine to stand in the trailer facing directly forward, or directly backwards, but being next to the wall or at an angle was hard for her. We worked on this in two ways, both by me asking her to park in a stall in the barn with her standing right alongside the stall wall, and by asking her to turn around within the trailer, both towards and away from door, so she got more comfortable at multiple angles. These approaches seemed to help and I was able to fully secure her within the divider a few times before the weekend of the clinic. 

The first time we got the divider closed with Naia, I was pretty excited

I figured this clinic would be a really good hauling experience for Naia because the 90 minute drive is mostly on smooth twinned straight highway so it would be a pretty smooth haul for her, that was long enough for her to figure out her balance, but short enough to not tire her out. We would repeat that haul a total of 4 times (there and back each day) and importantly, each day she would get to come home to her normal paddock. I plan to do lots of day trips with her before I haul her somewhere overnight so that she hopefully learns that hauling is no big deal and she always comes home. Hauling to a clinic instead of a show also had the distinct advantage that AM would be able to help me if I couldn't load Naia to come home at the end of the day. 

Spoiler alert, I was able to load her myself all 4 times!

AM always pushes the boundaries of what I think we are capable of. I was a little anxious going into the clinic because I knew it was going to push my comfort level, both with being the first time hauling somewhere new, and with the general expectations of the clinic, but I was also excited because I knew we had worked hard on our homework from the last clinic and we were as ready as we were going to be. 

Since the last clinic the homework I have been working on has included the following: While lunging I have been more insistent that Naia stay out on circle, which includes that she can no longer stop and turn in when I tell her "good girl" (she used to because I would pair the good girl with a food reward). Also on the lunge I worked on getting Naia to consistently pick up the canter, I wasn't worried about her staying at the canter or correct leads yet, just that she knew a kiss meant a transition from trot to canter. Under saddle I have been working on riding more varied patterns at trot and maintaining trot for a longer period of time. At the last clinic AM encouraged me to transition from loose reins to having Naia accept more contact with the bit so I have been working on that too. We don't ride in any kind of frame, and I'm not asking for any longitudinal flexion yet, just riding with a gentle feel between my hands and her mouth. Our turns have actually gotten a lot better since developing this skill which has been a nice side effect. Finally, this wasn't specific homework from the last clinic but as the weather has warmed up I have worked on getting Naia just as comfortable being ridden outdoors as in the indoor arena. We've even ridden outside on pretty windy days which has been great for both of our confidence. 

Some of our recent outdoors trot work

It turned out that our preparation seemed to work pretty well and the clinic was a great experience, more tomorrow! 

Monday 21 June 2021

Matchy Monday: Steel Blue

 Nope, not Blue Steel, this is Steel Blue

Steel blue is a nice medium blue with grey accents from Equestrian Stockholm. 

Pad: Equestrian Stockholm Steel Blue

Browband: Dark Jewel Designs, same one as for the lilac set, this has blue in it too so it matches multiple sets

Matching outfit on a recent outdoors ride (grey ROMFH breeches match the binding well and the shirt is an Equestrian Stockholm sunshirt)

A different ride, so breeches don't match but same shirt

Thursday 17 June 2021

Throwback Thursday: Naia's Ride #6-#10

 Continuing my catalogue of Naia's early rides. (FYI, I am just planning to go up to Ride #20 or 30)

Ride #1-5 here:

Ride #6

December 5, 2020

Rode in Western saddle and bridle in lesson with SJ. This was the first ride where I was let off the lead line, Naia still basically followed SJ as she walked around the arena but I did do a few circles solo. Still all walk. 

Ride #7

December 13, 2020

This ride was a big milestone for me as it was the first time I rode Naia outside of a lesson or clinic, and with no type of ground person whatsoever. I was definitely nervous so I made a deal with myself that I would ride, but keep it super short to keep it a positive experience. I got on, walked a total of 3 cloverleaf patterns and that was that. The cloverleaf pattern is one that AM and SJ taught me before I started riding. They really like doing endless patterns to keep a horse focused on the aids with frequent turns, but also a repeating pattern so the horse knows what is expected and relaxes into their work. The cloverleaf looks like diagram below. It can be ridden in either direction and the circles can vary in size as required. This ride was also in my western saddle and bridle. 

Cloverleaf pattern

After Ride #7

Ride #8

January 10, 2021

This was my second solo ride. A friend was selling her wide County dressage saddle, and so I took it for a trial. It seemed to fit decently so I rode in it for this ride, though without any stirrups (I didn't plan that one well). In this ride Naia was struggling with the forward so instead of riding tight patterns I did some larger walk circles. A couple people and horses walked by the arena during my ride and I was proud of Naia for dealing with the distractions. I made it another short ride so it would stay a positive experience. 

Trying on the County (later saddle fitter said it wasn't good fit)

Ride #9

January 31, 2021

Another solo ride in the trial County saddle. For this ride I still stayed at the walk but rode 20m circles, cloverleaf pattern, figure 8s, and even walked over ground poles. This was my longest ride to-date at a full 20 minutes (other rides had been 15 minutes or less). 

I love how careful and thinking she is over obstacles

I love this obnoxious rainbow pad

Ride #10

February 5, 2021

For this ride I was sharing the arena with another boarder. She left with her horse halfway through my ride. Naia has gotten good at working through lots of distractions but her biggest weakness is when other horses leave her. I debated getting off when the other rider did but decided to keep going. Naia did have a little bit of a hissy fit and was throwing her head and trying to follow the other horse but I stayed calm and worked her through it. After a few minutes she relaxed and was listening to me again which I thought was a significant win. This ride was also all at walk and in the borrowed County saddle. 

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Platinum Performance for Everyone!

First, this is not a sponsored post in the slightest, just kind of the way things worked out. I now have two animals on Platinum Performance! 

Naia is an easy keeper, she is the first horse I have had where I have had to watch that she doesn't get too fat, so she definitely doesn't need much in the way of extra groceries. However, I do also want to make sure that she is getting all the micronutrients she needs to keep all parts of her healthy. I do have a bucket of Hoffman's Mineral, which I like the concept of, but it provides salt as well as mineral, so some horses (including Naia) don't like to eat it straight. I have bought plain beet pulp before to top dress it over, but that's a bit more of a pain, still not super palatable, and gives Naia more calories than she needs, so I really haven't been feeding it much. I have read several glowing reviews of Platinum Performance so the other day after I noticed that Naia's coat was feeling a little rough, I went as far as looking up PP on the interwebs. It seemed like a good option but I wanted to find a local supplier so I put that on the future to do list and left it there. 

Not exactly in poor condition, but still like to cover my bases

In a parallel storyline, my dog Aegir has been having some issues with reoccurring diarrhea over the past few months. At various times we thought we had figured out the cause or the treatment but every time it comes back things get more unclear. After 4 visits with my normal dog vet, I started bringing him to my horse vet (she also does some small animals), first because she had an endoscope and I wanted to check inside his stomach, and then because she was giving me less wishy washy answers than the dog vet. 

Aegir lying on the couch with me on a sicker day (he always likes couch cuddles but even more doesn't want to leave my side when not feeling great)

On Friday I took Aegir to the horse vet for another appointment. While I was in the waiting room, I noticed that there were a few Platinum Performance products on the shelves, but I didn't see the standard recipe. I figured I would ask about it after my appt. 

Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day so I gave Aegir a treat of a walk along a prairie road allowance after vet appt, instead of our normal neighborhood walk, he thoroughly enjoyed diving nose first into gopher holes and badger holes

I then went in to see the vet with my pup. She listened to his symptoms since his last visit. If things don't improve we will probably have to get a referral to an internalist up in Calgary. She did however suggest one product that could be used to help relieve the diarrhea symptoms during one of his acute phases, a clay product that she said was developed for foals but that she has used with success with dogs and cats as well. At the end of the appointment she went to grab the aforementioned clay product and surprise surprise, it was Platinum Performance Bio-Sponge (disclaimer: don't use this on your dogs without vet prescription and directions). 

The vet did end up having one bucket of the standard Platinum Performance supplement as well so that's how I ended up with PP for everyone!