Sunday, February 3, 2013

Chinooks are a treat!

We are so lucky to have a weather phenomenon called a "Chinook" to break up our cold & long winters. Every so often (sometimes once a week) we get a pressure system that brings warm air from the coast over the mountains and brings our temperatures up as much as 20 degrees (celcius). This week we went from a freezing -25 (not including the wind chill) up to a lovely +6 yesterday and today. Through the week we got quite a bit of snow too... So nice weather + snow.... = sidesaddle in the snow!
Had a lovely ride out in the snow on Oliver. He's such an easy going gelding that I thought maybe I'd break out a sidesaddle and try him outside. Not a foot wrong and he was EXTRA springy in all that deep snow. His trot felt a lot like riding the piaffe on Robin's Owen. So much fun!! His canter was HUUUGE though and a bit tricky to ride, so we didn't do much of that. What a gentleman though, just having so much fun riding him. Here's a short video taken from before Christmas, we hauled over to a larger arena and had a bit of a sidesaddle play date. I'd say he's pretty natural at this whole sidesaddle thing! :D

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cold nights = Tack cleaning time!

Last night the temperatures here were a frigid -25 celcius, not including the wind chill. I believe that was closer to -40-ish at times... yuck! It was definitely too cold for my lesson kids to ride so we went with a plan "B". We did vital signs, heights, weights and descriptions of all of the horses in the toasty warm barn instead of riding. I was having a look at my collection of saddles in the basement and determined that some looked a bit on the dry side. Mostly the ones that don't see a lot of use. I got the good leather conditioner out and went to work! My favorite product is this stuff, Belvoir leather balsam made by Carr & Day Martin. It's got beeswax and lanolin in it, actually smells quite nice and leaves your hands nice & soft too! Most leather seems to just inhale this stuff and it makes the leathe super supple.
Personally, I find using a cloth to clean tack to be a bit of a pain so one day I found an old holey sock and stuck that on my hand and used that for cleaning. Then one year I got some of these cotton "roping" gloves as we call them (prevents rope burn on your hands) and thought... hmm... those would be perfect for tack cleaning!
They work great for really getting your hands in & around the saddles to clean & condition. I find it really interesting to compare the english saddles (mostly made in the UK) to the western saddles (made here in N.America). The leather on the english saddles is just like butter, it seems to stay relatively supple and doesn't crack. Some of the saddles look well used but really, don't let on just how old they are. The westerns are a different story. The leather is a lot different and not quite as supple as the english leather. It seems to tend to get surface 'crazing' easier too. My poor old Great West Saddle seems to be a bit of a project to keep from going downhill. I gave it a really good cleaning & conditioning but I think it has deteriorated some since I first got it. I think it had seen a lot of riding & use in it's life, so it's understandable. I think the main reason the leather is so different between english & western saddles is how they tanned them. Must be. I really don't know much about tanning, other than the chemicals they used to use to tan english leather were quite toxic... and are now banned I believe. Perhaps that's why our modern day saddles don't seem to last as long as the old saddles of 100 years ago? I wonder if they maybe used different breeds of cattle to make saddle leather in England vs. N.America? Not sure if that would have much to do with things or not. Different climate too? I think on average, N. America is a lot drier than it is in the UK and perhaps that damp weather helped keep the leather nicer? Though I do hear a lot of people saying that they have trouble with mold & rot over there. We have dry rot here, everything may look fine and then you notice that stitching has just disintegrated. Aside from conditioning saddles regularly, I'm not sure what to do about that. I'm wondering if I should perhaps be using a different cleaning/conditioning product on the western saddles than the english saddles? Lexol instead perhaps? I'm leery to use oil and such as I've heard bad things about it rotting the stitching. Lots of tack cleaning food for thought when we're stuck inside in the winter!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Loooong winter....

Some days the winters here in Canada certainly do seem loooong.... I guess they are long considering it's usually cold & snowy starting from sometime in October all the way until April. It certainly is pretty though...
It's lots of fun to go for a ride out in the deep snow (good for the fat ponies too!) on the days that are nice enough. We are lucky to get chinooks here that bring in warmer temperatures and can take us from -20 to +5 overnight (Celcius). It can be a bit tricky trying to blanket the horses appropriately though - always adding layers, taking them off, adding a neck piece, taking it off... In the greenhouses at the college they've starting seeding the bedding out plants for the summer. It's always nice to see them start to grow and know that spring IS coming after all! I "spring" up the house by buying copious amounts of forced bulbs and enjoying those.
Some tips for surviving the cold Canadian winter... GOOD winter boots are a MUST! I've got several pairs and have finally found my favorites! I've tried the "Muck Boots" and they are good, until your feet get a little damp (they don't breathe) and then your feet get COLD! They are good to stand around in, as long as you have good thick socks on, they seem to have soles that insulate from the bottom well. Not a big fan of riding in these though as they have zero ankle support or grip on the calves. The Mountain Horse winter boots are nice, though bulky. I prefer them for riding as they have more grip and good ankle support. But for standing around they are AWFUL! My feet really freeze in them if I'm not actively doing something. My favorites so far are the boots I got for Christmas. They are the "Middleburg Fleeced Lined" boots from Dover Saddlery. They were quite tight on the calf when I first got them but I forced the zipper up and they've streched out well. They are warm for riding & standing around, not too heavy and GREAT to ride in! Highly recommend them! Gloves are super important! I love the SSG silk liners, they help draw moisture away from your skin. Overtop of those I put on the SSG winter mittens - the leather ones that have a thumb & a pinky finger separate from the rest of the fingers. SO warm & nice to ride in. A good toque (that's a winter hat for you non-Canadians! haha) to keep your head warm or a fleece headband that fits inside your helmet & over your ears when you are riding. Underbreeches (Mountain Horse) and fleece lined breeches (Kerritts) are also a staple for me! I have 3 pairs and I wear nothing BUT those to the barn all winter long, -20 and all. They keep you warm! For a nice extra layer I bought a pair of winter riding chaps, kinda like snow pants with a full seat breech on them. They're nicely fitted and not too heavy. Though I do feel like I should almost have a pair of suspenders on to help keep them up when I'm just walking around in them. I'm not the hugest fan of riding in them though as with the loose leg at the bottom, they do slide around a bit in the saddle. I won't complain about that though when it's -20! Lots of layers on the top or a down vest/coat will keep you toasty warm. And to finish it off, a silk scarf around your neck. Helps keep the cold air out and is surprisingly warm! Doesn't get all damp & frosty nor is it itchy or bulky like a lot of scarves. The ponies all get nicely blanketed, some have clips to keep them from getting too sweaty when worked and we all end up making do nicely!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A special gift!

I have to say I'm thoroughly spoiled by all of my lesson kids & their parents. Over Christmas I received lots of nice things & cookies! One of the families had told me that they had a special present ordered but it wouldn't be there in time for Christmas. Well it finally came last week and to say the least I was stunned! I think it looks absolutely perfect tucked in the little display alcove together with my ribbon jars and trophies! What a very thoughtful gift!

Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm back! I'm back! It's been way too long!

Sorry everyone, I'll try to get back to posting. The last few months have been insanely busy and blogging definitely got put on the back-burner. So not to worry, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! Over Christmas we moved all of the horses to a wonderful new barn. I think it was almost as bad as moving to a new house! I can't believe just how much stuff we have accumulated but I guess that comes with the territory of teaching riding lessons and owning 6 horses. (Yup... we're up to 6 now... LOL). The horse trailer was absolutely JAMMED full of tack, jumps, blankets and various other equipment. I feel a bit like a tack hoarder... We had lots of help though so it went smoothly and we got everything set up nicely. We are just loving the people at the new barn and the arena is fantastic! Who knew an extra 10 feet in width and 20-30 feet in length would make SUCH a difference but it sure does! So nice to be able to set up a full course and not have to feel like you are doing rollback turns everywhere you go! lol Not to mention the lighting is excellent, no more "scary corners" or weird spooky shadows. The footing is great too, it's really amazing to see the difference that really good footing makes in the horses too. A lot of the issues that were coming up have all but disappeared. Horses are carrying themselves better, more spring in their step and really using themselves a lot better than they were. Horses are happy and so are the riders! We are especially excited for the fields & outdoor arena (HUGE outdoor arena!) that we can use when summer comes! We've already been enjoying the 160 acre hayfield when the days are warm enough. It's a good workout for the horses to go for a trot through the deep snow. It's also a nice treat to have lots more paddocks so we can separate horses according to personality and feed requirements (i.e. We have a diet pen for the fatties). All of the paddocks are a nice size open to pasture turnout in the summer and have big shelters so everyone can get out of the weather. So here's an update on the herd... So there's my main mare Brigit, my nearly 20 year old WB mare. She's having the winter off and has been living at a friend's place, enjoying a huge field and a free choice round bale with her new friend Rusty.
Enjoying her round bale. (Who knew 2 horses could make SUCH a mess out of a round bale in only 3 days! lol)
And Kodi, the slightly sassy 1/2 arab that loooves to be ridden sidesaddle and jump!
Then there's Copper, the little Appaloosa mare we have on loan for a lesson horse. For a pony she has a HUGE stride and LOVES to jump!
(as I'm typing this I have the Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer going through my head.... "you know dasher & dancer... donner & vixen....." One of our new lesson horses is Oscar (the grouch), a coming 7 year old TB gelding. He was left behind at our previous barn by his owners and hadn't been ridden in years. One of the other ladies at the barn started working with him and he just had such a great attitude we decided to try him as a lesson horse. Turns out he's a star! He badly needed his teeth floated and didn't have much topline to speak of when we started using him in September but he's starting to look great now! And he looooves to jump! But has enough patience to pack the walk/trot kids around too! Oscar when we first starting riding him.
And a few months later! Look at those cute knees!
And today, taken at his very first horse show! He certainly has some scope!
Then we've got my new guy (now named Oliver) a 4 year old Canadian Warmblood gelding! He's just an absolute pleasure to ride, such a great mind! And yes, we've tried him sidesaddle!
And last but certainly not least is our project pony Ricky or "Ricochet". He is a Connemara Welsh cross and THE most fun to ride! He was unstarted when we got him in September and is by far the easiest horse I've ever started. Within a few months he could walk/trot/canter around the arena with ease, picks up his leads and we've started him over fences. No pony attitude here! Just a perfect little gentleman.
So that's the herd (for now haha).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tail tube or brain teaser?

I've been having a lot of fun with my new gelding, he's incredibly patient in the barn for a 4 year old and just oh so mellow under saddle. Such a treat to be around. I figured I should maybe go pick a few things up for him so I went on a bit of a shopping trip today. He's now got his very own fancy padded hunter bridle and matching martingale. Looks pretty swanky in it too! Now this horse has THE most amazing tail I think I've ever seen. Touches the ground when he's standing in the stall and is thick as can be. I figured I should maybe put it in a tail bag to keep it nice and see how long I get get it hehe. So I bought one of those "tail tubes" that has the 3 separate sections to put the tail in and then you braid it and "voila!". Well... I think that's easier said that done. Slippery tail + slippery fabric = how in the world does this work?!?! After a good while of fighting with it, I got it in and it looks pretty decent. Lets hope it stays in for awhile so I don't have to re-do it anytime soon! I think this winter might involve quite a bit of trailering out to other barns...with bigger arenas. Our arena is just so darned tiny. I'm grateful to have an arena but this guy is just SO big we seem to make it down the long wall in a few large canter strides. I kinda feel like I'm trying to drive a large yacht round a small duck pond on this guy! The one thing I've got to figure out for him is a new name. He came with the name "Cocoa" and I'm just not sure it suits him. He's a big, fancy boy and needs a name to suit him. His sire is "Beau Soleil" and his dam goes back to Northern Dancer. So far I haven't come up with anything good. Hopefully I will figure it out soon so I can quit calling him "the moose" or "Mr. Brown" or whatever else comes to mind at the moment lol!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A new sidesaddle mount?

Well since Rain didn't work out as a sidesaddle horse, I ended up listing her for sale and finding a great family for her. Couldn't let that money sit in my pocket for too long, so it promptly burned a hole in my pocket and I found an absolutely gorgeous Canadian Warmblood gelding. Meet "Cocoa" (yes we're going to change his name! lol) a 4 year old, 16HH gelding by a stallion called "Beau Soleil". Definitely love his attitude already, he's a pretty mellow guy and has a lovely floaty trot and an amazing canter. We just picked him up last night and I'm itching to go to the barn tonight to play with him. And yes, hopefully he will be my next sidesaddle mount!