Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Groundwork for both of us

 So Gwyn got hock and stifle injections while I was away for my work conference and when I came back she was still NQR. To that end I've continued keeping work load stress light and focusing on things that are less high impact.  Like ground work. 

This prompts a "stay in School, Gwyn!" correction lol
I would really like to be lighter with my aids and I do think that starts from the ground and can be applied in the saddle. We have a trainer coming out regularly (some of the boarders REALLY need to work on it) and I leapt at the opportunity. 
Super soft and paying attention like a good girl
We worked on backing up with as minimal an ask as possible. We worked on groundwork after the riding portion of the lesson and I think Gwyn had a hard time remembering what groundwork was because we had to get fairly loud in the aid. But when I went to practice the next time at the barn, we did groundwork first and she was SO sensitive like I remember. We just had to knock that rust off. Literally just a finger wiggle and she'd step back. 
Super super cute Goober. I just love her expression here. 
I also asked for her to give and turn on the haunches. We also got a new mounting block at the barn that's the biggest we could buy in plastic molded and I wanted to see if it was good for getting on bareback. Gwyn is big and I'm stiff, so if I could use it, then I won't have to need the tractor. 

While riding bareback my plan was to work on some of my physical therapy homework, namely using leg aids without using the back of my calf, which is causing strain in my old knee injury. Since I also like low effort riding, I didn't bother to use a bridle and said 'Fuck it' and just clipped my mohair reins to the rope halter. If I'm supposed to be working on turning her with just my seat and legs, let's just jump in the deep end and take away my ability to pull on her mouth. 
On Sunday, Trainer C came out again for another session. This time I came in with a plan. I'm going to be out of commission for my surgery in 10 days. Let's pick something that Gwyn is okay at and make it excellent.  Namely, I want to be able to place her very specifically so I can get on her on the trail if I get off. I can't mount from the ground, so positioning her to use stumps and logs as mounting blocks is useful. 
Thinking ear
So we played a game. Make the Goober Mare walk down the pole with left legs on one side and right legs on the other without being up in her business. 
Pushing back but attentive
This was a big brain day for both me and Gwyn. I think to a some outside observers it looked like we were doing nothing but wow, fine tuning into her body was super cool. Like watching her contemplate taking a step with a super soft ask because the muscles in her pecs were twitching back and forth but her weight wasn't actually shifting yet. It was so subtle. 
Thinking some more, softening. Lots of opinions
I was able to get her front feet straddling the pole with little issue. And learning just how loud I am and how quiet I need to become was a good lesson for me. Her back feet were tricky. You can see in these pictures, it's not just the angle I'm taking the photos at, but home girl here likes to have her hind end shifted just that touch to the right. Goober is crooked.  I have my suspicions as to why (hmmm, that bad left stifle?)
"Fine, I'll play the silly game"
Anyway, this is a game in straightness and delicate communication. And low effort say, if you're recovering from surgery and need pony time. There was a lot of licking, chewing and yawning as Gwyn thought about what we were doing. And then would lift a foot. And think about where she was setting it down.
Listening and being allowed to relax after finally getting all four feet placed properly
I was not able to get her straight straddling the pole with all four feet. C did. I was able to get her to take a couple steps, but eventually the crookedness won and she decided tripoding was preferable to straddling. 
Softening and thinking
At one point she even just straight up stood on the pole (it's landscape poles, so flat on a portion) rather than straddle.
Weight shift onto the front right foot, thinking about moving the front left but mind where she's looking.

"I tap the pole"
The big thing I need to work on is not being late in reaction. I keep the pressure on too soon and I don't correct. Gwyn reaches a point where she thinks she knows what the rest of the answer is and she rushes to guess and I'm not quick enough to correct correctly. So that's something for me to work on. 
Also, key words are patience. I need to wait and recognize that she's thinking about it and that me pushing too hard is going to create an incorrect answer on her part.  And that it's okay to choose to walk away and reset. In fact it's probably a good plan to do that if we get to a point where I don't feel like I have enough control each foot to move it where it needs to go.
Those hind feet are ballerina style in line
Things for me to remember are that I want her looking in the direction of travel and that hind feet connect to eye line the same way backing a trailer is connected to which way you turn the steering wheel. If I want the left hind to move right, she needs to be looking left. 
"Don't wanna move that hind leg back over!"

I like that I have some homework to do with her while I'm recuperating from surgery. I'm looking forward to seeing our communication get finely tuned!

Monday, April 18, 2022

Trailer Improvements and EasyCare Hi-Tie Review

I've been thinking for a while on ways that I can improve my trailer for the work that it does. Namely, I camp with it, I go to shows and I go day tripping for lessons or trail riding. It is very multiuse (and occasionally helps me move furniture). 

Gwyn knows how to high line, but not every place I camp at now has two trees or poles that I can string my kit between. I can use another trailer and mine but that's not a guarantee that I'll have an amenable neighbor. 

I also have the set of panels that I made in Michigan. They were good at first and worked, but last year at both Don't Fence Me In and at the Wine Ride, Gwyn just ignored them completely, breaking 1-2 at each ride. So now it's much smaller containment. I needed a new solution that allowed me to be independent while also being good for Gwyn.

Enter the easycare hi-tie. 
Tucked in for storage and travel
A friend had gotten two installed on her trailer and I lusted after them before finally going, "wait... I can drop the cash on this, it'll be useful and it will improve camping overall. It's not frivolous"  Yes, I have to convince myself to spend money on some things.

So when I dropped my trailer off for servicing before my work trip, I also asked them to install the Hi-Tie. We figured out the best location together and when I got back, the trailer was ready to go with a fun new addition!

I need to use a small stool just to reach it from the trailer.
It locks in two positions with a pin (parallel and perpendicular to the trailer wall). As I'm writing this I'm thinking I might want to make sure I don't lose the pin, just in case, so I might add a leash that connects to the handle. 

There's a cotter pin on the bottom as well to keep the main pin locked in. The fiberglass arm has some flexibility but not a whole lot. 

You can see most of the pieces here.
I added the line to the end so that I could see how it all worked together prior to being at a ride or lesson and feeling anxious about time. I'm glad I did. I'll need a mounting block to get the black piece up on the arm. It velcroes on with fairly sturdy velcro, and I consider that to be a safety feature because it will release if enough force is on it, given how my trailer safety ties have worked. 
This is about at its longest length. Gwyn likes to lay down and this would let her.

I'll come back with more feedback once I've used it, but I'm very excited to have it now. I think it'll give me a lot more flexibility for ride camp options. Camping in the middle of a meadow? NO PROBLEM! :D  Do I want Gwyn to have a little more room to move during a long show day if she's tied to the trailer? Boom, movement.  It also lets me tie her to a different place than her hay and water, which is absolutely a safety feature.  I don't think I'll use it for grooming at a trailhead just because the time spent at the trailer is minimal and this is one extra step to set up versus just using the tie ring.

Claire (Erica wanted a name less like her deadname) tells me that the whole unit is very satisfyingly engineered. That's high praise coming from a non-horsey engineer. She was impressed by it. 

I have other projects. Like reflooring the dressing room of the trailer. I long since pulled out the carpet due to mildew and mold and the wood here is dry but warped a bit. I want to put something like vinyl flooring down instead. I'll need to sand it to level it out first though.

The warped bits are just to the left of the tire along the seam line.
The interior of my trailer also needs a good powerwashing. I don't intend to use the trailer for at least a month so I've got the mats pulled out. I've swept and now it's ready to be scrubbed. We'll call these pictures "before" so I can revel in the after pictures when they come. 

You can see the mat lines. That's not rust (it's aluminum on the floor) it's just super caked dirt.

After I got done doing a 360 deg inspection of everything on the trailer AND figured out how to fix something that's been majorly bugging me, it started to rain, pour then hail. After that ridiculous weather was done we were treated to a brilliant rainbow! It's a double rainbow AND a supernumerary one (where it starts repeating within the inner curve of the primary rainbow)  So pretty!


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

BCHW Wine Ride Oct 30 2021

(Finally getting around to this draft) 

BCHW: Back Country Horsemen of Washington

The BCHW put on a wine ride (most) every year. It hadn't been held in 2020 due to obvious reasons but with lockdowns easing slightly in October, the wineries were willing to have riders come back. The basic weekend is this:

Friday: Arrive. Park in a GIANT field  that's definitely not level, dinner fundraiser provided by management. Plastic non-stem wine cups with the logo provided for saddle bags. Enter the raffle if you want.

Saturday: Wine Ride!  Pick a long or short loop and ride from winery to winery. Decide which wine you want to try. If you're buying, provide your rider number. Your purchases get labeled with your rider number and delivered to camp for you to pick up that night.  Climb back onto your horse, ride to the next winery. Repeat until your horse rolls its eyes and carts you back to camp because despite taking your time, you get drunk or tipsy from all the wine.   Pick up your purchases at ride camp at dinner that night.  Maybe win raffle items.  Everyone drinks more. 

Sunday: Pack up and try to strategize leaving when it's not busy with everyone else leaving too.

The friday I arrived was amazing. I pulled in the middle of my couples therapy appointment which I found amusing. There was decent cell coverage in camp since we were in the middle of touristy Zillah, WA. The town has decided to make wine tourism it's thing

I was parked almost on the hill, but lucked out with a mostly flat parking spot to get set up. We had some lovely views of the surrounding countryside climbing up to the top of the hill. 

EDRA donated to the ride and asked all members to post something by their horse showing that we were endurance riders, both as a show of "likeminded groups supporting likeminded groups" and also to showcase that you don't have to have an arabian to do endurance.  Gwyn always gets a lot of attention. She very much enjoyed the grass in this field. I ended up removing the panels though as she figured out they didn't do much. Instead I strung up the high line and that worked far better. I won't have to worry about this in the future, my trailer now has a Hi-Tie arm.

You can see not everyone lucked out with a flat spot. But also sunset was gorgeous. Vineyards in the distance.

Mt. Adams was prominent on the horizon.

On Saturday we all got up and ate a hearty breakfast, forward thinking about the liquid calories that were incoming. Because this was halloween weekend, some people decided to dress up (myself included).  I went as the Grim Reaper, complete with Scythe. We had a large group that we were planning to ride with.

Ride management sent groups out in a staggered manner. We chose to take the longer loop, it also had the wineries that everyone wanted to visit. Cortney has a few favorites from having done the ride in years past. She marked which ones would be more likely to have the wines I would like (I've got a sweet tooth)

We did some road riding as well as some vineyard riding. Per USDA rules, we were only allowed to ride through the vineyards and orchards if harvest was complete or was several weeks away. There were signs posted about this and ride management was VERY FIRM. We were doing this by the grace of the wineries, so we better respect their rules. 
It ended up being both a cold and hot day. When the wind blew, it carries the chill of the snow. But the sun was SO WARM if you were out of the wind and in a sunny spot. Very strange day weather wise. 
In some orchards. I can't remember if this was apple, cherry, or pear. 

Coming into the first winery. The BCHW has put in hitching posts just for this ride at nearly every winery we visited. I believe the wineries are open to people riding in for tastings year round, you would need to stick to the roads otherwise.  

Gwyn took to hitching post time like a charm and seemed to enjoy the breaks. We would ride 1-2 miles, then she'd get a break. Here it really felt like she was enjoying the view.

You can tell that the greenery in this area is only because of irrigation. Otherwise the landscape was brown and dry. 

You can see ride camp in the distance and the hundreds of horse trailers, many of which had multiple horses and riders per rig. It was a MASSIVE undertaking!

I did purchase some wine and I'm at least grateful I now know what to call the stuff I like. I picked it up after dinner and carefully loaded it into the truck. The temperatures that night were going to drop significantly, more so than the previous night. Trudy loaned me her propane space heater and now I'm contemplating getting one of my own. It was almost luxurious to have. Gwyn got her back on track for the night.

The next morning was clear and cold and it was time to pack up. I didn't delay, but I also didn't hurry. I didn't have to wait in too long of a line to get out of the field and most people had left earlier so my path to get out was relatively clear. It worked out well. Then it was heading home time so I could take my kids trick or treating that night!