Thursday 4 April 2024

It doesn't feel OK today

Sophie had her bodywork appointment last week. Interestingly, after all my concerns about the saddle, she's not actually sore in a way that relates to saddle fit, tack, or rider. After being so hyper focused on tack and correct work for the pony it’s felt a little weird to wrap my head around it not being that, probably it never has been that. If you press me I still don’t/won’t feel confident about that saddle, but it seems we’ve moved on for now. 

The bad news is that whatever is going on isn’t magically resolving itself with a saddle fitting and massage appointment (or so far, time off). The good news is the vet was here and took a quick look and agreed we are looking at something hind end/back related and has a few things she’d like to investigate, none of which felt like anything I wanted to hear. Some of it felt quite scary, in fact.

 For now we do a bute trial, and Sophie stays out of work until the vet comes back. It wasn’t felt like it was necessary to trailer her over to the clinic now (it would be a long day in the trailer for a sore pony), but that is an option that’s available. I'll probably take her if she's feeling worse or I can't handle the not knowing. 

Of course we can go down the rabbit hole to infinity and wonder if the 'saddle fit issues' or the ulcers last summer or the weird quirky things she does or even why she’s always carried her tail to the left have all actually been caused or at least concurrent with something else…horses are nothing if not walking red flags. 

That being said, she’s bright and happy and sociable and is currently enjoying Head Lawnmower and Baby Pony Protector status.

It's dirty work, but someone has to do it.

It feels very indulgent to admit that this kind of just feels like the one more thing that's finally breaking me. While there are plenty of great things going on, from a riding my pony perspective the last year has felt like a series of setbacks between us both, and prior to that of course I was worried about scaling Bridget back to an appropriate level and keeping her hocks happy with minimal vet intervention. I’m just feeling tired and beat up and like it's been forever since I got to ride and enjoy my horses without any reservations.

Fingers crossed this is just a minor blip on the radar. I'll take feeling dumb about posting here being dramatic and overly worried in exchange for a sound and happy pony any day. But, I thought if anyone understands the stress and worry that comes with your horse not feeling themselves, it’s this community of bloggers and supporters (who I very much appreciate!)


Tuesday 26 March 2024

Life's A Beach

So I went a little overboard with the arena sand. Not in an "I've definitely messed this up!" sort of way, but more like I exceeded the scope of the current project. I was planning to put down maybe 1/2" of bedding sand to compact, mesh and settle with the base for a bit before adding more for footing. 

Two giant dumps trucks weren't quite enough for that plan, so we ended up with a third truck and suddenly what feels like so.much.sand. The amount makes some sense -  dump truck loads are a rather large measurement for our little space and the reality is I wasn't going to pay time and delivery for 25% of a truck, when eventually I was going to need more anyway. Smart financial choices, right?

Bring me all the sand. Seriously, load that thing to the brim.

The critical mistake I made here is not booking a bobcat or tractor to spread such a large quantity of material. In my little budget conscious mind, raking and dragging a thin layer of sand is a doable thing and I was saving money for later. Future Me could not feel guilty about hiring the fancy truck that sprays the sand around evenly once we were talking footing. Now we're kind of in a middle realm where it's not quite enough to be the 'forever footing', but also it's too cushy to just be part of a base layer and I might as well plan to ride on it as soon as it packs a little.

My current reality is that with the extra almost a full truck and the fact that a lot of it ended up at the north end of the space, me and my little landscape rake plan seems laughable.

Going to have abs and arms of steel, at least

Being a crazy and determined and poor horse girl, I did rake an entire thin layer covering the gravel base. Eventually though, faced with a significant amount left, resorted to google and youtube (literally "how do I spread and level sand without a tractor" and found a multitude of how to videos - mostly involving middle aged white guys obsessed with having the perfect level lawn, but also a few nuggets of wisdom from handy people who built their own arena drags and DIY levellers.

Welding is beyond me, and I don't have scrap metal laying around. I do however, have a bunch of wood from house renos. And a truck.

Behold, my thing of beauty, made from old window trim and two old front entrance stair treads. Two gate chains to attach it to the bar from our regular chain harrow:

I noticed the nosy neighbour creeping my latest crazy idea and was fully prepared for him to have some great dinner conversation with his wife about my latest failure once it imploded. 

But NO! It works!  
looks like progress to me

I mean I could dive in and improve it, but it's getting dismantled and returning to the parts shed when I am done, so my commitment level is not high. It works and that's literally all my aching arms need at the moment. 
getting closer to being rideable!

I won't lie, I see all the horror stories online of all the multitude of ways ring building projects can go wrong and I'm having a bit of anxiety about how uneven it is...but also, we're not done spreading it. And worst case, time and a tractor will fix it.

Monday 18 March 2024

Weekend Scenes and Further Arena Building

 We went from snow last week, to summer temperatures this week. The ponies are all well started shedding their winter coats, but I think we were all feeling the surprise destination vacation temperatures (and I managed to get a sunburn).

Cherry blossoms appearing!

The big project this week was that we had a giant dump truck load of sand delivered for the riding arena. I probably haven't discussed here, but this project is taking forever partly because we essentially live on an island and the materials available are the materials available locally. I checked into barging some in from the lower coast and it's just way too cost prohibitive. The local pits sell drain rock, 3/4minus/road base, bigger granite rock sizes...and sand. We don't have the crush rock/limestone/clay/whatever you'd normally use to cap an arena. 

Chief inspector

There are a couple of local arenas I like the feel of, so I'm just trying to do what they did, which means giving the base a winter to settle, then re leveling and adding a super thin layer of sand on top and compacting that. There's a sand locally that has a bit of clay and fines that seems to do the trick as a nice 'mid layer' between the base and the footing. The thing with this plan is that I just spent three days of my life raking and dragging and levelling 1" of sand around a 80x120' space. For the right person, this might have felt very meditative zen garden, but I'm not that person. The temptation to skip this step and just dump some footing on top and call it good felt very very real even about an hour into raking and spreading :) But, it will all be worth it in the end, right?

yellow labrapony loves to 'help'

Other than that, I kept busy prepping the garden and replacing some fence and harrowing and planting more grass seed in the front so the horses can go out there again. 

Is not allowed in the garden but would like to be

Trying to tempt me to forget the garden, she brought me her ball. She's so distracting and cute.

Sophie just had some short rides barely worth mentioning as I'm still feeling pretty cautious about the saddle. I have a bodyworker person coming next weekend so that will be good for feedback.

Reggie is finally starting to level and fill out a little

A little more suspicious of our activities than Sophie is but I like letting them hang out while we do things in the yard, it doesn't normally take too long before they're hanging out and investigating everything. A really easy way for them to see a bit of the world and trust us a bit more.

He'd come visit and investigate then 'scare' himself and run back to his friends (definitely a game and not actually scared)

The boys are still pretty low key as far as any 'to do' lists. They get groomed, they get their feet handled, they go for short walks, they get reminders on basic manners. There's a long list of things I can see  need to be addressed (they're both very sensitive and reactive, Reggie in a 'chaos is fun and exciting' kind of way, Bakari in an actual 'this is worrying' way), but also the nice thing about babies is that there's really no rush and a little bit every day is far more productive right now than 'training' things head on. They're light years ahead of where they were when they arrived as far as trusting us and doing all the things. (I mean slow and steady feels like best case with every horse, but baby ponies brains fill up so quickly you really aren't tempted to push anything.)

Buck is a lot more reliant on his friends so he just grazes and naps up closer to them. He can be curious and he's actually super friendly, but he's a lot more reserved and cautious than Sophie and Reggie are. He actually reminds me a lot of Bridget in a way.

Depending on what I'm up to with Sophie, I have a clinic booked in April that was originally for her, but I think it could also be fun to take the boys for a baby horse outing and short groundwork lesson.

Quick trip to town for lunch, with a Vancouver Island view reminding me why I like it here

Looks like the beautiful weather will be here for a couple more days then we'll be back to the usual. I'm loving every minute of it. It's so easy to feel depressed here with the never ending rain and cold so this has definitely felt like a nice vacation from it all.


Monday 11 March 2024

There and Back Again

 I'm getting to be not so great at this blogging thing this spring.

I was having such a good start to the year, then of course we had a sore backed pony which led me down the inevitable rabbit hole of saddle fitting, tack issues, hormones, maybe we need a vet, maybe a smaller jockey, maybe the ulcers are back etc etc etc. That one can spiral fast (and of course I let it and went to Level 10 Worry rather than 'maybe we just overdid it on the day' :/)

It's still pretty early in the year, but our little detour did still impact a few of my plans and our calendar is clear through mid April. Which is fine, because the spring feelings are strong in the Banana Pony and the chaos levels are higher than ideal in all the creatures inhabiting our little backyard Ponyville.

Not helped by the beginning of March bringing absolutely ridiculous weather and leaving snow on the ground for a week.

Sophie's 'let me outta here' face. She gets out to graze most days but it's just so wet and everything is so muddy it's pretty limited right now. We've had numerous windstorms too, so it feels like it's been a part time job picking up all the branches and fixing fences.

I did of course have Sophie's saddle checked (it got a thumbs up which...I hope is true, lol I have no faith anymore) but I also added this thinline pad because I thought it might be the safest thing that might help but also not impact the saddle fit. I went down the rabbit hole of looking for actual science on any of them and came up pretty empty, but here, take my money anyway, I guess. She also got a new (Stubben Equi-soft) girth which is kind of a 'meh' for her currently, but I think once summer comes or if I clip her it will be a win (she's annoyed by her winter coat getting caught/laying the wrong way in it so we're sticking with her sheepskin crescent girth most days). It's actually slightly fascinating how loose you can leave the Stubben girth though and still have it doing it's job. 

Doing something about that fence behind her is my other current part time job. It's horse safe, but it's on it's last legs. As you might be able to see in some of my pictures, the neighbours on both sides have a lot of stuff piled or built right up against us. We've been slowly reclaiming the space and replacing fences and planting hedges. That rock pile behind her is also a work in progress, I would like to get them installed before we put the ring footing down.

Kitty Judge at E

The obvious of having the vet take a look isn't as obvious as you'd first think because the vet visits us once a month and is very busy in her own practice, so I'm looking at mid April for non emergent appts. But, fingers crossed Sophie seems pretty happy (and has a bodywork person coming to take a look in a couple of weeks) so I'll let it wait.

No turnout plus windstorm meant I had some regrets this day.

Speaking of vet visits, the terrible twosome are in need of gelding. I might actually take them over to the vet clinic on the island for a special trip rather than wait the month or two for a local appt. Buck continues to be a pretty standard baby cob, my guy though is giving signs he'll be a much nicer gelding and that we should get that done soon-ish. Even if the cocky boy thing just who he is, being able to turn him out with adult horses (hopefully Sophie can do the job) will be a win for keeping him in check. I can't even believe I am implying there is any scenario where Sophie would bring chaos levels down, but I think we might have found one!

Fingers crossed for group turnout this spring

I thought the potted plants would look nice, but we're on version 2.0 of 'horses definitely wouldn't eat this plant (RIP expensive palm trees)' and yet they live to tear them apart and pull them out of the pots.

Been keeping track of how much they're growing. This isn't super accurate, just a weight tape and trying to measure height on a non level surface, but you can see the trend.


Tuesday 27 February 2024

Weekly Happenings

 It's been about forever since a Bridget update! You'll remember she's with riding friends across town. I get very regular updates and ride with her new family every now and then, so in my mind she's always right here and good, but then I never actually give the blog proof of life.

Her little girl loves her and they make the perfect pair. Also B may or may not have found herself a new friend.

Meet the new friend, same as the old friend

Kidding, that's not Sophie...but he is definitely her twin and I find it pretty cute. I suspect he keeps much healthier boundaries than B and S did though (the fact he's sleeping peacefully next to her rather than jumping on her is my first clue lol)

The weather has still been unpredictable, but we've had some surprisingly nice breaks. Everyone gets a spa day when the sun shines, because I can't even with their winter coats this year and my lack of blanketing. They just get so gross in the constant rain and mud and being hairy ponies I've yet to find a brush that actually gets down to the skin. The no clipping or blanketing thing is not an experiment I'm eager to repeat.

Is shiny underneath it all. This guy always has little horse proportions, no awkward baby legs. I'm wondering if he's going to trend to the Bridget corgi pony end of the spectrum with the bigger body and shorter pony legs. He is an absolute sweetheart, I keep waiting for him to start being a boy but I feel like this guy would be one of those ones that was a stallion and you just wouldn't know, the whole bitey face, testing boundaries, showing off thing his 'brother' has going on is not in this guy's vocabulary at all. (but they are both getting gelded this spring, don't worry!)

remains completely awkward and his goofy personality only adds to it. We could blame it on the photo angle but really this is his current best angle. In motion is still one of the nicer moving cobs I've seen, so I'm holding out hope ;) 

the regular state of them (and their house) every morning. They are not tidy creatures.

Sophie's been enjoying green grass along with returning to some lighter riding. So far so good, the new girth maybe helps? Don't want to say too much and jinx anything!

is fuzzy

I've been pretty busy with work, but it's good. This is the time of year I work more in order to take more time off when the weather turns nicer so it's all part of the plan! 

Property wise, the to do list remains endless. The neighbours on one side have taken the initiative to build themselves a new fence, which is fantastic but also means we've been busy pulling out the ancient page wire disaster beside it that got left on 'our' side. At this point it's buried about a foot under ground and woven through several trees due to 40 years of neglect. I'll be happy to have it tidied up.

I had a 'genius' moment of raiding the scrap/dump pile for some old pallets and wood and bricks and made the ugliest arena drag. We have a proper harrow, but I really needed something to level the base back out without disturbing what's been compacted,

it worked shockingly well. Fingers crossed a few more times levelling and compacting and then we'll bring in some sand before summer.

Finally, an appreciation post for our cat, who does whatever he can to slow productivity

'Stop typing and admire me!'



Wednesday 21 February 2024

Monday 19 February 2024

The Dude Abides

 And by The Dude, I mean me. It just didn't work for a blog title and once it was in my head I couldn't tink of another title. The T Abides? I Abide...ANYWAY. I have a title. Let's begin.

When we last chatted, the weather had been and was going to be horrible forever. I wasn't feeling happy about that. Sophie also had a sore back and I was questioning saddle fit. I was even less happy about that. I think I had an even longer list of complaints, but I don't recall them so let's take them off the list because  I must have either resolved them or buried the 'trauma' deep enough to forget it ;)

Since we live at the end of the earth, I went with another virtual saddle fitting for Sophie and it was decided that the saddle looks good and is not in need of any changes. Which really gives me no clarity as to why she was progressively getting more miserable with it. I'm trying to set up a travel day to meet up with someone in person, but even finding someone willing to meet within a day trip for me is looking like it's months away. So, not ideal.

Barn kitty proof of life

 In the meantime, it was suggested I play with girth options, because the other place Ms Sophie is/was super cranky about was her pecs, all the way from the center of her chest back under where the girth would sit. It's always been a bit of a touchy area for her (and why finding a blanket with front buckles she doesn't hate is a bit of a thing). It's hard to know with her sometimes what is a legitimate complaint and what is something she should reasonably be able to deal with...this is after all the same pony who has a full on tantrum if she gets a little sweaty and has maybe 2 brushes she finds borderline acceptable to touch her golden self.

Surprisingly accurate

But, there's about zero excuse for letting riding be uncomfortable for her, and she was definitely a bit sore. Feeling constricted/uncomfortable with the girth would cause bracing and a reduced range of motion in front, and that can actually also cause lower back soreness (as well as the tight pecs). This of course could be a pointless rabbit hole to travel down, when maybe the issues originate with the saddle (or my riding to be fair), but hey, it's only money, so I've ordered yet another girth that promises miracles. Wish me luck.

I've dug out every other saddle I own or have access to and nothing is even close to fitting so I have to admit I really don't see anything off about the one she's got. Ordering a nice sheepskin bareback pad is tempting but also might be a dumb way to die with my less than mad riding skillz and a winter fresh pony. We'll see.

For now, while we continue to try various saddles and girthing options in an effort to find something she's consistently happy with, we're doing a lot of in hand pole work and stretches (Jec Ballou's books coming in handy once again), plus long lining and then longeing in side reins one a week or so to help keep her muscles and fitness up. I have some goals this spring and I'm motivated to get back to a regular riding schedule.

As for the babies, they continue to grow like little weeds and they continue to cause chaos and destruction wherever they go. I've put the work in and they're actually really nicely mannered to handle, but left to their own devices one of their favorite games is stealing anything within reach and using it as a chew or stomping toy. 

Caught in the act

They're also not tidy creatures and their paddock and Pony Cottage looks like a bomb went off every morning. "This is why we had mares for so long!" I like to say to G. Even though the little guys are so, so easy compared to the mares I've had...they're forever cheerful and agreeable and generally have no opinions about anything, as long as I don't. Their gelding day inches ever closer and I'm interested to see if group turnout with Sophie over in the neighbour's big field is going to be a possibility in a couple of months.