Sunday, October 26, 2014

Breaking in the Round Pen Footing

I was in the mood for a trail ride this morning before it got too hot.  I was only mildly ill, so I thought I could handle it.  I was going to take Lostine out for a ride on the trails, but right when I was about to put the saddle pad on, this truck hauling a long horse trailer pulled up in front of my house, and out came some bouncing, barking, loose dogs.  I was familiar with this couple from last year.  They are snowbirds who found our nice, quiet street and started the habit of trailering here to ride every weekend.  I don't mind that, but the loose dogs are another story.  While their horses are very well behaved, these people let their dogs run all over the neighborhood peeing and crapping in everyone's yards, so I doubt they would be considerate enough to call their dogs off my horses.

Due to the irresponsible dog owners, I decided it would be wise to put off trail riding for a couple of hours.  I decided to ride Gabbrielle in the round pen so that we could break in the new, mushy footing.  Gabbrielle is my best watch horse, alerting on anything and everything that moves.  While she doesn't misbehave, it can be disconcerting when her head shoots straight up into the air and she puffs her chest out to exert her power over trespassers.  You get this sense that she wants to charge them and attack them.  So, I worked on encouraging her to carry her head low and stop gawking.

She's a cinchy mare and gives you snotty, threatening looks when you first attach the cinch.  So, I slowly tightened the cinch while walking her around, but it proved to not be enough.  I tried shifting the saddle on her back before mounting and it wouldn't budge.  However, as soon as I put all my weight in the stirrup to mount, she let all the air out of her lungs and loosened her muscles, and the saddle slid right down her side while I scrambled to climb onto her back.  I couldn't get back down because the mounting stool was in the way and I couldn't see where I was putting my feet.  That's why mounting blocks or platforms are so much better.  You can just hop down onto them if you have to abort the mount, but with the stool, I only have a few inches of platform to land on.  I have no experience dismounting onto a stool.  I dismount onto the ground.

So, I climbed into half a saddle, because the other half was hanging on my horse's side.  I squeezed her forward to get away from the stool, and then did a bareback dismount.  I'd swear that Gabbrielle was laughing at me.  The stunt was very intentional on her part.  It turned out that with all the air out and her muscles relaxed, the cinch could be tightened another six holes.

It's stuff like this that I need to learn about her.  Every horse has its quirks.  I need to learn which hole the cinch should be in for the saddle to be steady.  While riding, she popped her head up at some hikers with loose dogs coming through a corner of our back yard, too far away for me to care enough to yell at them for trespassing.  Then these neighbors at the end of the street behind us were getting ready to go for a trail ride with four horses, and Gabbrielle was distracted by their noises, so I worked some more on keeping her collected and focused on me.

She really is a very well behaved horse as far as being responsive to cues, but I have to learn to sit completely still in the saddle or she will come to an abrupt halt.  There were several times where I didn't even realize that I was slowly leaning forward, but she called my attention to it by stopping.  Once I sat upright and squeezed her, she moved forward again.  She also wouldn't let me rock the saddle while she walked.  She had to stop for that.  I think she was worried I might be falling off.  She also stopped each time I reached up to push the shutter release on my helmet cam.  I'll have to make a conscientious effort to squeeze her with my legs while I take pictures.

I noticed that each time we got past the gate, Gabbrielle wanted to take off at the trot.  So, I worked on stopping her at the spot she wanted to run, and at some point I'll work on pushing her up to the faster paces in different locations.  That's how you break a habit with a horse.  Make them do the opposite of what they expect.

She was shying away from a part of the pen where there is a pile of rocks, some upside down feed troughs, and some tools, so I let her rest there in order for her to feel a release from pressure near that scary stuff, thus making the scary stuff her friends.

Because of the way she is built, I feel like I'm walking on stilts when I ride her.  It's not that she's terribly tall.  It's more that she's so small boned and I get this feeling that we are teetering on her tiny legs, and she doesn't have much a rib cage to wrap your legs around.  She rocks from side to side more than my other horses, so it will take a while for me to get used to her natural movements.  With some horses you get the sense that they could jump, spin, buck, rear, whatever, and you'd have no problem sticking to the saddle, but with Gabbrielle I get the feeling that she could sneeze and I'd fall off.  In fact, I sneezed and I nearly lost my balance.

When the dump truck showed up at my neighbor's house, I called it quits.  That thing is so noisy that I can hear the crashing from inside my house.  It gets my dogs barking.  These neighbors have been hauling in dirt and pushing it around with a tractor for at least the past ten years.  We've been wondering what the point is and why the project is taking so long.  I suspect they want to build another house on their property and are trying to make the land stable enough for it, but the rainstorms keep washing all the dirt away.  You'd think at some point they'd give up, realizing that it is all in vain.

We've been getting eaten alive by something -- we're not sure what.  Mosquitoes are the obvious thought, but now I'm wondering if it's ants or spiders.  My feet, arms and belly are covered in itchy bumps, and I itched both feet until they bled this morning.  I let the dogs lick my wounds in hopes that whatever healing agent they have in their saliva would stop the itching.  Now I just have this general burning sensation.

It appears that Stewie, our Chihuahua mix, may have a fungal infection in his ear.  We started noticing that he smelled like Band-Aids.  Then we saw the his right ear was a little redder than his left one.  Now he's itching it.  We've been cleaning it, but may have to take him to the vet to get some prescription ear drops or ointment.  Has anyone else had experience with ear infections in dogs?


Water Girl said...

Poor Stewie! Sounds like he might have ear mites. My labrador had a nasty case a few weeks ago that took 3 weeks to clear up, but we managed to get it cleared up without a vet visit.
When you clean it, are you getting black, stinky gunk? If so, I would go to a pet store or somewhere like it and get some ear mite wash/treatment. He's not gonna like it, but the easiest way I've found to to clear up ear mites is to clean the ear gently with baby wipes/q-tips, then put the medication and massage the ear canal for about 10-20 seconds. (I ususally follow up with a treat to erase the trauma.) Depending on the wash/treatment you get it may say to treat every day or every 2-3 days.
Good luck! I hope this helps.

Katharine Swan said...

Our white shepherd, Grace, used to get chronic ear infections. That Band-aid smell is awful. If you're going to get him checked for an ear infection, don't clean his ear just before you take him, as they'll need a swab of the gunk in there to check for an infection. They'll likely give you a cleaning solution if you don't already have one, antibiotic drops, and/or an oral antibiotic. They'll also likely tell you to continue cleaning his ear regularly even after the infection is gone. Every time they get an ear infection, scar tissue narrows the ear canal, and makes recurring infections more likely because the bacteria gets trapped down there more easily.

achieve1dream said...

Ugh yes Jackal had a combination bacterial and yeast infection in both ears!!! It got really bad because he wasn't showing signs of discomfort. :-( I think there was two things I had to put in them. I can't remember. Ear mites usually cause a black discharge and infections are yellow. His ears do get red and itchy sometimes but it's allergies. It doesn't turn into a full blown infection every time thank goodness. I need to call my vet and find out what the homemade ear cleaning remedy was that he told me about. I think it was vinegar and alcohol but I'm not sure.