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Preparing for horse camp

Preparing for horse camp

Horse camp! Kasane and I are going to Horsemasters Horse Camp! We went last year and had a ball. She was amazing and we learned a lot. Camp is only three weeks away and I’ve been working on getting myself and Kasane in shape. We’ve upped the number of rides per week. We’ve made huge progress in our work (just what we’ve learned about trotting and cantering could be a bunch of posts).

The coolest thing about camp this year is that my mom is going with me! Since she moved to North Carolina, she has been riding Rajiyyah and doing very well. It has been awesome to be able to ride with Mom. She has made great strides in her riding.

Last year at camp, one of the jumping instructors said that Kasane could teach me. She could give me confidence. In some cases she has, although I still have anxiety about jumping even small stuff. I’m working on that, too, in lessons. My current home work is to trot over a ground pole without rushing it.

She is such a cool horse to ride. For a while, it was difficult for us to pick up and maintain the correct lead at the canter. She would switch leads, some times on the front or on the back. Her lead changes were due to subtle shifts in my position. Looking down was enough of a weight shift for her to roll into a canter if we were trotting. She is so sensitive to my position and cues that she pushes me to be a better rider. Flying lead change will not be a problem for her.

Woohoo camp!

Rainrot season again

Rainrot season again

Not specifically rain rot, it’s more like the creeping fungus infection that the horses get on their feet when it’s been rainy and muddy. Rajiyyah has it pretty bad on her legs. I picked up her feet to clean then out and the underside of her back leg fetlocks felt crusty. It felt at first like she had a cut back there but it wasn’t a cut. She had nasty scabs that were partially covered in mud from the wet conditions we’ve had and partially crusted with the nasty scabs scratches causes. Her poor fetlocks were swollen from this stuff so much that her tendons didn’t have any definition above her ankles. Poor little girl.

We’re into the first week of treating and it’s looking better. I trimmed the longer hair from her fetlocks and have been washing the area in betadine shampoo, drying it, and then putting chlorhexidine salve on it. It seems like it is so slow to go away.

Riding Rajiyyah today

Riding Rajiyyah today

I rode Rajiyyah today for the first time in several weeks. She was surprisingly good. Last time I rode her, the barn owner suggested that I needed to either keep constant contact with her mouth or ride on a very loose rein.

After doing some ground work, we tacked up. We started on a loose rein and walked around the arena. She relaxed and seemed to enjoy herself. Her neck was loose and relaxed and her head bobbed (which is great because it indicates she is relaxed). After a little while, I took up contact with the reins and she put her head up and hollowed her back. Her stride became short and choppy. I followed every movement she made with her head and neck. If she raised her head or stretched her neck out, my hands raised or reached forward to maintain steady contact. She eventually relaxed and accepted the contact (HUGE improvement!) at the walk and then at the trot. When she accepted the contact, I could see her neck muscles relax and her head lower. Instead of being upright and her back hollow (which feels like riding a horse whose feet are not underneath you), her feet felt underneath her. Her back swayed and she took longer steps. It was awesome. 🙂 The biggest breakthrough was getting her to do the same thing even at the trot. it wasn’t continuous. The trot has always been a lot harder to get her to relax. This was the first time she relaxed even a little bit at the trot. Most of the time there was only a glimpse of her accepting the contact, but it’s a huge start. Every time we ride, we’ll get a little more and a little more consistent.

Visiting the mares

Visiting the mares

On the drive out to the barn, my headache of two days went from mild to bad to worse. I get sinus headaches with migraine-like symptoms (light and sound sensitivity especially). My head was way too sensitive to go riding.

I still went out to the barn since I hadn’t been out all week and it was driving me crazy not seeing my girls. I walked into Kasane’s field and out to her. She looked up to greet me and then kept eating. I massaged her all over and gave her good scritches. She is so funny when you find the right spot. She stretches her neck and has the nose going. If I step away from the spot, she’ll move so my hands return to the spot she wants me to scratch. I massaged her for probably 30 minutes. She was in heaven.

I told her good night and walked back in towards the gate. About 3/4 of the way to the gate, I heard a nicker and turned around. She was trotting up to me, nickering, with her ears forward. She came up and stood next to me and I gave her more scratches. There is something so uplifting about having your horse come and nicker after you. After a few minutes she wandered off again and ate grass. (At least until I gave her some extra hay. Then she nickered again.) She has her human well trained.

I also went into Rajiyyah’s pasture and rubbed my hands all over her. She wasn’t as itchy skinned as Kasane, but she seemed to enjoy it. She got a little worried when Lucy, the very sweet 17HH Hanoverian, comes over to investigate. Lucy is queen bee in Rajiyyah’s paddock and she does move Rajiyyah around the pasture. Nothing really mean, but they do squeal and buck at each other periodically. I loved on Lucy too and then shooed her away. Rajiyyah was happy to have some quiet time away from Lucy. Lucy investigates everything and wants to see everything because people are cool and you’re people and she just wants to see what you are doing). Rajiyyah followed me back to the gate and stood there with me for a while. When she was ready to walk back to the water trough, I stepped out of the pasture.

Nothing like an evening with the girls to make the world seem right again.

Adventures when riding with contact

Adventures when riding with contact

I usually ride English so I’m riding in a loose ring snaffle bit. Kasane has a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra 4 3/4″ snaffle with small losenge like piece in the middle of the snaffle. Rajiyyah’s bit is a similar design, except it has a copper mouth piece. When I ride Kasane, we usually ride with light contact so there is a direct line from my arm to her mouth. The connection is made by the give and take we have when we ride — she moves, my arm moves, etc. Kasane has learned that it’s okay to have contact and she accepts it. So when I pick up the reins with her, she gives (usually) to a very light touch.

Rajiyyah is a completely different critter. When you pick up contact with the reins, she gets defensive. Her neck tenses and her gait feels short-strided and hard. It’s like riding something that feels scattered, as if her feet are any where but underneath her. (It didn’t help that the Evil Monster was over in the scary corner of the ring on Sunday. It took a lot to rider her in circles at the far end of the ring. She didn’t calm down back there, but she did at least do what I asked when she tried to look out and I asked her to bring her attention back to me.)

When I ride Rajiyyah on a very loose rein, she relaxes and is a completely different horse. If I pick up contact, she stiffens and the pounding, short-strided gaits emerge. We’re doing therapy with her to help her have fun under saddle. She has the potential to be a very cool little mare. Every now and then I see hints of it. We’re taking this one step at a time.

I’m a good rider but I’ve only ridden horses who were not finished. No learning opportunity to regularly ride a horse with more knowledge than me because I’ve trained every horse I’ve had. When my knowledge ran out, I didn’t know what else to do. If I didn’t have other people to talk to and learn from (and often learn with), I’m not sure where I’d be in my riding. When I was in Tennessee, I didn’t have many people to ride with or to talk to about riding. If I didn’t have Jennifer (dressage instructor), Chris (barn owner, natural horsemanship person) and Jon (hunt seat instructor, barn owner), I don’t know what I would do. I’d be at my wits end with both of my girls because I’m at the edges of my knowledge on what the next step needs to be to help them.

Helping a horse find joy

Helping a horse find joy

When Rajiyyah first came to my barn in March, she felt odd to ride. Instead of having her legs underneath her, she felt like her legs were scattered. This feeling was very similar to riding a green horse who feels braced and ready to flee. Her back was dropped and her head was up. She was defensive. With some contact and encouragement with seat and hands, she would eventually come down and ride okay.

It wasn’t easy. I had to really ride her to get her to be there with me, truly with me. Even when I did get her to accept contact with the bit and round down, any little thing she saw outside the ring would bring the head up and the back would drop. She felt completely unbalanced.

June and July were largely a wash (literally) for riding because of the rain. She had a lot of time off because of the rain and it’s fungal side effects like rain rot and scratches. She had almost a month off.

When I did get back on her, it was so frustrating because it seemed like all of the progress we had made since March was gone. She was back to being defensive and putting her head up. It wasn’t fun to ride her. It was work. I knew it had to be the same for her too.

My friend Chris at the barn had a brilliant insight. We did some ground work with Rajiyyah and worked through some of her stiffness and resistance. It felt like we made some progress — she stood with me and was truly with me, not going off and eating or startling at the deer in the woods. Head down and calm. So I put the saddle on her and we went to the big ring. To try an experiment.

Chris had me get on Rajiyyah but not ask her to do anything. Instead, I was simply on her back as a “trusted passenger.” Rajiyyah was allowed to go any where she wanted to and was rewarded when she investigated any thing in the ring with a rub on her neck. If she stopped to eat grass, she was allowed to eat for three seconds before I asked her to move along. (She got to where she would stop, grab a bit of grass, and then start moving herself after three seconds. Smart mare.)

Eventually, instead of purposefully steering Rajiyyah, I would look and focus where I wanted her to go. For example, put her nose on a white barrel in the middle of the ring or walk up to one of the white chairs I had placed in the ring. Almost all of the time, she did it.

Rajiyyah was allowed to be in charge and go where she wanted without me interfering too much. I might think about where I wanted her to go, but I usually didn’t reinforce it with aids. She explored every barrel, every jump standard, every piece of poo on the ground. She learned that she could trust me as a rider to be her partner. (I do a similar exercise with green horses during their first rides.)

The incredible thing was that during that brief ride she didn’t feel defensive at all. She walked out freely with her feet underneath her, her head down and relaxed, ears forward, and back relaxed and swinging. It was amazing. She was having fun.

We had fun.

Chris recorded our second ride using this technique. Again, Rajiyyah was amazing. She was relaxed and having fun and exploring everything in the ring. This time she didn’t stop for grass so much and kept moving a lot more. While this video doesn’t look like much, it shows how relaxed and engaged Rajiyyah was. It was also the first time Rajiyyah had ever been ridden in the rope halter.

There is a courageous horse in that little white package. A courageous, smart, inquisitive horse who has the makings of a great trail horse. I’m so glad we’re learning to play.

Trim time

Trim time

It had only been eight weeks since the mares had been trimmed. Last week their feet looked okay. Friday their feet in serious need of a trim.

The farrier took off almost half an inch from both girls’ feet during the trim. Very impressive. Rajiyyah’s feet had grown so much that the hoof wall had overgrown the shoe. Here you can see Rajiyyah’s right foot nearly trimmed compared to her left foot which hadn’t been done yet.


Kasane’s feet were also very long. She takes special preparation before she’s shod. The farrier and I do everything we can to make sure she has a good, safe experience. She gets a tube of Quitex 1-2 hours before she’s done and she gets worked in the ring so she has a chance to get rid of excess energy. (Nothing like asking an energetic horse being asked to stand still without fidget-fidget-fidget.) She was feeling very relaxed and mellow during the shoeing. She pulled her front right once while a nail was sticking out (which could have been nasty, but luckily no one was hurt). That was it and she had sparkly shoes on her little double ought feet.


Week six of rain and rain rot

Week six of rain and rain rot

I can barely keep up with the rain rot on Kasane and Rajiyyah — much less help them heal when the rain keeps coming down. They are kept in some times, but that doesn’t help because the rain may come up in the middle of the night. I can’t put a sheet on them because that will just keep reinfecting them by getting the fungus on the rain sheet and then rubbing it back into their skin. I got to the barn and I just wanted to cry. I just knew that Mom’s mares were also going to have rain rot and how am I supposed to take care of all of these horses. (Mom doesn’t expect me to take care of her mares, but I feel like I should at least brush them some times and check in on them to make sure they are okay.)

At least it wasn’t raining at the barn, even if it was raining on the drive out.

I spent two hours at the barn and that helped a lot. It felt like I was at least doing something, even if I can’t ride. (Kasane has lost so much muscle because I can’t ride due to the rain rot and I can’t work them because the ground is too wet in the rings.) The rain rot is progressing on her back. First she had it from her withers to the middle of her back (just before her hips — her croup). Got that mostly cleared up just in time for the rain rot to get bad on the middle third of her back. That’s now in the large lump nasty part. The hair is coming out which means it’s healing. So that’s good, she’s still sore there, though. Now the last third of her back near her tail is getting rain rot too. I’m treating it aggressively. Without the rain, it would have been healed in a week. With the rain, it’s taking almost a month and a half.

Rajiyyah’s feet have been similar with the rain rot she has on her heels (called dew poisoning; caused by the same fungus). I have one foot cleared up just in time for the gunk to show up on another foot. I’m treating all of her feet. She also now has rain rot on her right hip in an area the size of two hands.

Mom’s mares at least don’t have rain rot. Sahra has one foot with some of the dew poisoning on it, but it’s only 2-3 spots. I treated it any way. Mom’s girls have hives. Sahra has them so bad she looks like someone did braille with mosquito bite-sized lumps on both sides of her neck. Kenya has them around her belly on both sides like a waterfall of bumps. I asked the barn owner to give them antihistamines for a few days.

I don’t know what caused the hives. Sahra, Kenya, Kasane, Lucy, and Rajiyyah all have hives of some degree. Lucy and Mom’s mares are the worst. This same kind of thing happened last summer. Maybe it’s an allergic reaction to fly bites? Unfortunately because of the rain, the fly wipe and other anti-fly treatments wash off.

So… we’re looking at fly sheets to help keep the flies off. Any one of them without rain rot can have a fly sheet. I’m holding off on one for Kasane. no point in having a fly sheet when she’ll just get it full of rain rot and I’ll have to disinfect it every time before it’s put on her (not to mention it will get gross and filthy from the rain rot treatment.)

I felt much better after grooming and loving on the girls. Something about going to the barn and having Kasane see me and nicker and whinny and then follow me along the fence line when I was in a pasture with the other mares. She makes me feel loved. 🙂 Everything seems right with the world when I’m with the girls.

Summer grooming time

Summer grooming time

It was raining when I went to the barn. No riding or working in the rings because of the mud so I spent the afternoon brushing and loving on Rajiyyah and Kasane. They are both shedding their summer coats. Rajiyyah kept nuzzling me over the top of the stall door.

Rajiyyah and Kasane

Both Kasane and Rajiyyah have rain rot. Kasane has it all along her spine from her whithers to her croup. Rajiyyah has it on the back of her white feet. Both of them are looking better, but with all of the rain we’ve had over the past month it’s made it really hard to get under control.

It’s also that time of year when they shed their spring coats and summer coats come in. They get all itchy from shedding and love being groomed. Rajiyyah was a hoot. She kept moving her head to rub exactly where she wanted to be scratched. Mostly along both sides of her neck just behind her head. She turned her head sideways and had her upper lip out twitching. She was in absolute heaven.

Kasane has also been shedding and, like Rajiyyah, gets into being groomed. Her happy-scritchy spot was on her shoulders. If I moved from that spot, she would step backwards or forwards to makes sure I was currying her exactly where she wanted. She was so cute.

There is something meditative grooming the girls. Even if I haven’t been riding much because of my calf and their rain rot, being able to spend time with them has improved our rapport.

Claimed again

Claimed again

Two weeks ago when Mom brought down her two mares, all of the mares on Rajiyyah’s aisle of the barn were getting attention except Rajiyyah. She was very jealous. I stepped into her stall to groom her. She looked so happy to have the attention. The second I turned around and looked at Liyah, Rajiyyah flattened her ears and shook her head. As soon as I turned back around to Rajiyyah her ears came forward.

I think I’ve been claimed.

Farrier on Saturday

Farrier on Saturday

Yesterday the farrier did Prize, Kasane, and Rajiyyah. Prize has a regular trim. Kasane and Rajiyyah both get front shoes. Rajiyyah is a pro at it, but this was Kasane’s third or fourth pair.

Before the farrier arrived, I gave Kasane some Quietex (contains L-Triptophan, think same mellowing agent in turkey). We went into the ring and lunged for about 20 minutes to help her work off any extra energy.

She was a little gem for the farrier. she stood like this was just nothing new. She periodically watched him and rested her chin on his back. Only on the last foot with the last nail or two did she have any problems. She was reaching the end of her patience and that was fine. I was really proud of her for being so good.

Even though she was so good, I discovered that my leg was really bothering me after standing around for so any hours. (I was at the barn for 7 hours.) After the farrier left, I was going to ride Rajiyyah, but was barely able to lunge her for a little bit before my calf starting hurting.

New mares at the barn

New mares at the barn

Mom brought down two of her mares to board at my barn. The new girls are Cedars KenyaCatchMe (Botswana x Cedars Farah Moniet) and RSA Sahra Nazeem (BB Akeem x Ilehnisa Azeem). Kenya is Kasane’s half sister by the same sire. Kenya is also Rajiyyah’s sister with the same dam. Sahra has some similar blodlines to all Kenya, Rajiyyah, and Kasane. You might say she is their second or third cousin on the dam and sire sides.

Both of these girls are very sweet and so trusting. Kenya is the spitten image of Kasane, bright bay with a paint brush fleck of a white star between her eyes. Sahra is a dark chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail. (She has the nickname of Goldilocks at the barn.)

It’s an honor to have both of these girls at my barn for the time being. Mom gave me permission to work with the girls a little and maybe get them started under saddle. It will be intriguing to see what Kenya is like after working with Kasane and Rajiyyah. What will their sister be like? I’ve worked a little with Sahra at Mom’s before. She is incredibly smart and learns fast.

Yikes. Four horses to work with. Two of them to start under saddle and two of them to continue their riding education (and my own). Lots of fun but where do I find the time?

Rajiyyah returns

Rajiyyah returns

The Grey Wonder Mare has been here a few weeks now and has settled in. We’re riding now with a sparkly new dressage saddle (yay clearance sale rooms at tack shops!), a brand new Collegiate Jessica Dressage saddle. Very comfy and fits her well.

It’s interesting riding a mare I had five or six years ago. I’m a light rider with quiet hands and good leg position. The first time I got on her, she held her head up and seemed defensive. A day or so later, the vet came for spring shots, so everyone had their teeth checked. Poor girl had some sharp points on the back of her teeth. She had her teeth done and then a week off from riding to let her mouth heal. The next ride, my riding instructor watched me and gave me suggestions for encouraging Rajiyyah to relax onto the bit. She did very well. By the end of our ride, she was relaxed and walking along with her with good body movement and sway (indicating she was relaxed and feeling good). Progress!

I brought her out to play with her yesterday. I decided to try working with her as if she hadn’t left. So picking up where we left off when I had her in 2007. We started with free lunging in the big ring. To my amazement, she remembered everything (except whoa, of coarse — we’re working on that). She had a blast.

Grey Wonder Mare returns

Grey Wonder Mare returns

Tomorrow, the Grey Wonder Mare™ returns after a six year absence. I’m going to babysit her for a few months for my Mom, who is in the process of moving. I have Rajiyyah’s old bridle and halter (but not her bit, which Mom is bringing). My current dressage and all purpose saddles have been fitted to Kasane, so they won’t work on Rajiyyah. Mom is bringing my old Ashley and Clark all purpose saddle — which was the same saddle I used on Prize. How funny is that? Things truly come back some times.

It will be interesting to work with Rajiyyah again after all of these years. I have learned so much from the horse community here in NC. My riding has improved a lot and my horsemanship has too. A while back when I visited Mom, I took a riding lesson on Rajiyyah. The instructor, who also used to school Rajiyyah, said that Rajiyyah really seemed to like how I ride.

It will be interesting having the Grey Wonder Mare™ back. I’m so used to my Bay Wonder Mares™ I’m not sure I’ll be able to find a gray one out in the field.

One thousand posts and counting

One thousand posts and counting

This post is the 1000th entry on Y Ceffyl Du. It’s only taken seven years to get here. I’ve blogged the tales and tribulations of four cats, five horses, and major events in my life. Here’s to Isis, Basette, Stella, and Ambush, who have passed and are missed. Their antics and memories are chronicled here.

Here’s to Rajiyyah, Logan, Kasane, and Prize, two still in my life and two with other people who love them dearly. And Kiesha, the only furrball left of the original four.

It’s amazing to think that I’ve stuck with this blog enough time to last seven years and 1000 posts.

Pretty neat.