Socializing

One of the perks of having two horses is that you can turn them out together. There were some concerns about letting Chicolina loose on Snoopy because she is a very dominant mare, and he’s a little idiot who doesn’t even defend himself. However, in March I decided to take a chance and put them together in a medium sized all-weather turnout (pastures were still closed at that time). I stayed with them the whole time for a couple of weeks to be safe.

chicdeckeThe first time, nothing happened. They said hi, then went about their business, getting together for mutual scratching every so often. It was on the second and third day that I had to step in and set down some ground rules. I doubt that Chicolina was ever socialized properly, at least not as an adult horse. On the second day she thought it was a great idea to chase Snoopy round and round. Little fool that he is, instead of just kicking her (which I’m sure would have put an end to it), he let her. It got dangerous when she then went on to corner him and bite and kick him.

 

I tried just stepping in and separating them for a couple of times, but that meant I had to stay in the turnout the whole time, standing between the two as a physical barrier. Since the idea was to turn them out and be able to do something else while they’re outside, this wasn’t a long-term solution.

 

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When she started chasing him again, I picked up a big lump of dirt and threw it at her hindquarters. For once in my life, I hit my goal. The little whack on the bum threw her off and she left Snoopy alone for the rest of the day. On the third day, while I was still in the turnout, she went after him again. This time I was close enough to interfere directly. When Snoopy galloped past me with Cheeky at his heels, I jumped in between the two and chased the mare off in the other direction, yelling and making a fuss. Turned out this was the magic formula, as that was the last time she chased him.

 

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We had a little relapse this week when she cornered him and bit him because she wanted to be the first at the gate, but generally, they are super happy together and enjoy each other’s company. Snoopy is still extremely submissive, but she no longer takes advantage of that.

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Quick Show Update

I took Snoopy to a show this Sunday and we did two jumper classes.

 

One was a style class. He jumped a clear round. It wasn’t perfectly smooth from start to finish, but a good round nonetheless. We ended up placing 6th (again!) with a score of 7.3 out of ten. The winner scored 7.7, so we weren’t far off either.

 

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The second class was a normal jumper class (time and faults), and it was pretty massive for the category/level. Unfortunately, they hadn’t designed the course very well in the sense that there were only two situations where you were able to try a shorter route to save time. Apart from those two instances, it was all long ways so you had to make time by the sheer speed of galloping. I went only moderately fast, simply because I didn’t want to risk Snoopy having a rail because I was going too fast.

 

He went clear, like he did in the first class, and it was a really smooth round. We always got the right distance and he was cool as a cat. In this class, we placed tenth, and I am perfectly happy with him. He seemed to enjoy himself, and not once did I have the feeling I had to push him. He was always pulling toward the fences, he had a perfect rhythm and jumping the bigger oxers, he let himself fly beautifully.

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Sweet Itch

Chicolina suffers from Sweet Itch, which is not too common for horses of her breed and size. In her case, it is probably connected to emotional distress. For a long time, she wasn’t really looked after and during that time, she scratched off her mane and tail. She looked bad. As soon as I started working with her, the scratching got less and less and her hair grew back. Looking at her now, you can’t tell she has the disease. But it takes a lot of effort to keep it that way.

 

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Cheeky before I got her

First of all, as soon as it got warm and the flies and mosquitos made their appearance, I put a special rug on her that also covers her belly, neck, and tail. It’s a super light, but tight mesh material and can stay on all the time. She wears it inside and outside 24/7. We had a couple of very hot days recently with 35°C+, and because she was sweating so much, I left the rug off when she was inside (she scratched a little, but not too bad). But generally speaking, during the summer months, she is rugged all the time.

 

When I turn her out, I put a special face mask on that connects with the rug so the insects can’t get in her ears and mane. This really helps and she can enjoy the outside this way, instead of running around the whole time. I usually turn her out in the morning, and when it’s not too bad insect-wise, she sometimes goes out in the afternoon as well. I also try to keep her stable as clean as possible to not attract flies.

 

 

I can ride her in the outdoor arena or go for a hack as long as she’s got a bonnet on. She tends to headshake when it’s hot and there are lots of flies, so when I have the option, I ride her outside on days when there is cloud cover, and it’s not too warm. I’m thinking about trying to use a net over her nostrils to improve the headshaking situation.

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Chicolina (background) fully rugged

 

Still, every couple of days or so, the urge to itch will come up again. For these instances, I have a soothing shampoo that I wash her with, and then I put on an Anti-Itch Spray, which also helps. Sometimes, like at the moment, all of that will help a little, but not enough. For those times, I have a homeopathic drug (Berberis D6, not sure if it’s got a different name in English) that I feed her and that helps with the hypersensitivity.

 

Hypersensitivity is actually what it all comes down to with Chicolina. She is hyper sensitive to touch and kinesthetic stimulation, in addition to the obvious allergy to mosquito saliva. In the beginning, she’d wince as if you’d put a Taser on her every time you touched her nose. This is not a problem anymore, and I hope that with time, her symptoms will get better and better.

 

There are other treatments for Sweet Itch out there as well, like fungus vaccinations and blood therapy, but since my more conservative approach has worked out well for her, I’m saving those options in case there is a turn for the worse.

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Last week’s show

Last weekend I went to a show with both horses. It was Chicolina’s first time. The weather was great, and both her and Snoopy did a really good job.

 

P1020695Cheeky was up first. I rode her in an entry-level dressage test. Going in, I was well aware that she wouldn’t get a great score. She’s only been under the saddle for a little over three months, and there are still a ton of things she can’t do yet.

Since she is nine years old, I can’t ride her in the young horse classes that she should be in. But I didn’t bring her to get a ribbon anyway. I just wanted to see how she’d react to the atmosphere, and my modest goal was to not get disqualified (which, by the way, happened with then five-year old Snoopy some twelve years ago). Nothing to worry about with her. She was cool as a cat, relaxed, and responsive. We ended up on a decent score and I was more than pleased with how she behaved.

 

P1020717With Snoopy, I rode a teeny-tiny 95cm jumper class. It’s been ages since I jumped lower levels. But because my life outside of pony-land is so stressful right now, I’ve decided to take the edge off when I’m competing and enter classes I can easily succeed in even if we have a bad, bad, bad day.

We did, however, have a good day. I was one of the first competitors, and though I didn’t opt for shorter ways, I let him fly around the course cross-country style and we ended up placing sixth. He had a blast, and it was almost a bit too easy, but this way we didn’t have any awkward moments and just enjoyed ourselves.

 

Because of grad school, I won’t be competing as much as I’d hoped I would, and I’ll only do dressage and jumper classes because there is just no time to condition two horses to event. This season is mostly about getting my competitive spirit back after not competing for almost five years. I’ll ride small classes where we can have some fun, and then I’ll wait and see how I feel (and what my schedule looks like) in 2015.

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Canter Issues

The first time I encountered a problem when I started working with Chicolina was when I asked her to canter. The first couple of sessions, she simply wouldn’t do it. I tried different ways you usually teach a young horse to canter under the saddle, but nothing worked. She’d strut off in an extended trot, but she didn’t seem to dare take that first stride. Once, I managed to push her into canter: it didn’t last more than a couple of strides and I wasn’t able to steer her at all.

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Thankfully, we had a dressage clinic around that time, and I decided to ride her on the first day, even though we don’t do much yet (in terms of proper dressage). With the help of the trainer, who pushed me to push her a bit more, we got her to canter several times, and for longer than a couple of seconds, too. Steering was still tricky, and one time she ran straight into the wall because her head was way up high and she didn’t listen to me at all.

 

But what we figured out in that session was that she needs me to have her more on the bit in general, and especially when it comes to canter. Since she is super sensitive and fussy in her mouth, my instinct had been to give her the reins in order to make her comfortable. But she needs a much more consistent connection on the bit and then I have to drive her hind legs toward my hands (duh – I know). This way her head stays in a nice position and I am able to tell her where to go without her panicking.

 

Our canter is still a bit rocky, but like all other things with her, it is improving steadily. Now she is even developing some “forward-thinking” herself. What this experience proved again was that when you’re stuck, it’s good to bring in someone from the outside, a fresh pair of eyes, to find a solution.

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New Horse In Town

A couple of months ago, I got a second horse which means I have less time, less money but also much more fun than before. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another horse, it just happened and I got lucky (again), because like Snoopy, this could be a great one.

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It’s a mare and her name is Chicolina. She is brown, almost black when the light is right, and she’s a tad bigger than Snoopy. At nine years old, she hasn’t really done much. For the past four years at least, she has not been ridden, or done any real kind of work if I am informed correctly. I’ll spare you the details; let’s just say this horse’s life has been a big old mess so far.

 

In late December, I lunged her for the first time because I felt bad for her not being looked after. She looked like a broom back then as she is suffering from sweet itch, and had scratched off most of her mane and tail. But she liked the attention and she enjoyed the work, so I kept going. I didn’t know for sure how much she had done schooling wise, or if she’d even been broken in properly, so I treated her like a young horse. I took my time, just lunging and working her in hand until the end of February.

 

Early on, I had a feeling that this might be my kind of horse. When I started my Masters program, I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy a second horse before finishing my degree, but that promise was easily broken… In March, I took over Chicolina’s reins officially. At the end of February, I began “re-breaking” her, which wasn’t hard, because she must have been properly broken in as a young horse (can I just say, I hate that term, I’ll write an entry about it soon). Canter was a bit of an issue at first, but it is consistently improving. She stopped scratching for the most part, and instead of a broom, she now resembles the blood-type sport horse she is.

 

As far as her breeding goes, I’d like to think she will make a good eventer, but we just have to wait and see how she develops. She has Holstein jumping and dressage blood on her father’s side, and on her mother’s side, it’s all Anglo-Arabians and thoroughbreds. You see why I am thinking about eventing again.

 

I’ll keep you posted about Chicolina’s progress, as well as Snoopy’s.

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About Snoopy

Since there is an “About Me” section with my bio on here, I thought I should write bios for my horses as well.

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Snoopy was born in 1997 in England. He doesn’t have a pedigree, but we guess that he’s a nice mixture of Arabian, pony and probably some sort of hunter as well. He’s a gray and when I got him in 2002, he was still almost completely black. As a four-year-old, he was brought over to Germany and spent his first summer here out in the field with other young horses. He was broken in that fall and I first tried him out at the dealer’s yard in December (just before my 14th birthday). It was love at first sight for me, not for Snoopy ;) But my dad chose another horse because he thought Snoopy was too small, and too pricey.

 

Thankfully, the other horse didn’t pass the vet check and I convinced my dad to buy Snoopy, even though we couldn’t really afford him. We took him home on the 14th of January 2002. For the past twelve years, I’ve trained Snoopy myself with “ground support” from a number of great trainers, and got him up to medium level in dressage, show jumping, and eventing.

 

At seven years old, someone stabbed Snoopy’s hind leg with a fork and punctured a tendon. I spent almost a year nursing him back to health. The vets weren’t even sure I was going to be able to ride him again, but after a final two months out in the field in the fall of 2004, I slowly started to ride him again. Thankfully, he came back better and stronger than before, and hasn’t had an issue with that tendon since.

 

When I was trying to qualify for the German national Young Rider championships in eventing, I made some mistakes with Snoopy’s management: wanting too much, too soon because I got carried away. Unfortunately, my trainers at the time didn’t warn me and ultimately, I lost Snoopy’s trust across country. He still places in every small-ish class I ride him in, but when the fences get bigger, he just doesn’t trust me enough.

 

So instead of forcing it, I decided to only ask for as much as he is willing to give. For a while I thought about turning him into a dressage horse, but in Germany, riding an English-bred horse that’s not obviously a dressage horse is rather frustrating, so I buried that idea. I’ll probably ride some nice eventing and jumping classes this season and see how far he’s willing to go. At 17, my priority is to keep him healthy.

 

He is the most easy-going, happy little gelding you could wish to meet. The only thing that freaks him out are carriages; other than that, he’s bullet proof. I love him to death. He was, and still is, the love of my life.

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Merry Christmas

Sorry for the lack of updates in the past months. I was crazy busy with university and studying, Snoopy, and teaching. One of my goals for the New Year is to blog regularly again.

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Because it’s not like I don’t have anything to write about. I’ve finally found great new coaches for my dressage and jumping training as I’m prepping for the new season. I’m teaching even more now, and not just regular school lessons anymore but also jumping lessons. And with a little bit of luck, I’ll get to ride a four-year old youngster for my jumping coach next year.

 

I wish you, your families and your horses happy holidays and a great year 2014.

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Cowboys Don’t Cry

It doesn’t take much to make me cry. Crying is my universal response to all sorts of feelings. I cry when I’m sad, I cry when I’m happy, I cry when I’m afraid, embarrassed, stressed, angry, tired, and so on. It’s nothing unusual for me to shed some tears, and I personally don’t have a problem with it.

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The problem is that other people can’t handle it, especially in an Equestrian context. There is this stigma that “cowboys don’t cry”. Whenever I cry, there’s someone telling me to stop because it makes them uncomfortable (I guess). Or they keep asking me what’s wrong, assuming I’m crying to get attention and to be consoled.

But that’s not why I’m crying. I’m crying because I feel strongly and somehow these feelings need to get out of my system, otherwise I’d implode. So when I cry, I don’t want people to make a fuss about it. Ideally, I’d want them to ignore the fact that I’m crying because that way it will be over the quickest.

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When I am allowed to just let these feelings, these tears out, then all will be over after a couple of minutes and I’ll be able to go on as if nothing happened. But when people either ask me to keep it in, or they make a big deal out of it, it’s going to be that much more violent when it happens.

I really wish people were less afraid of and less bothered by other people showing their emotions. It shouldn’t be such a big deal. Some people keep everything inside, and that’s fine, but people who are more emotional shouldn’t have to be ashamed because of it.

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Horse Girl – The Next Generation

There is a twelve-year-old girl at our barn that reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age. She doesn’t have her own horse, but she’s there every single day anyway.

 

Girl-and-horseShe takes care of and rides the riding school’s Shetland ponies. Two of those are teeny tiny Mini Shetland ponies and she won’t be able to ride them much longer. The other one is the little stallion I mentioned in an earlier post. By now, they are a pretty good team and she really gets him.

 

I think it’s really important to keep girls like that motivated to stick around and wait for that magical day when they finally get their own horse. So I give her free lessons on Felix, and the other day, I let her ride my horse for twenty minutes (his warm-up). She had never ridden a big horse before, and also never a horse that’s not a school horse. She had to get used to the way Snoopy listens to and obeys his rider; he’ll react to even the slightest shift of your weight. She figured it out though, and it went really well.

 

flat,550x550,075,f.u4It took us a couple of minutes to get Snoopy to a walk again when it was time for me to get back on. He has done this in the past. When a new and rather inexperienced rider tries to get him to walk after some trotting and cantering, he gets a bit antsy. I guess he is still the little stress head at heart that we bought almost twelve years ago. But she did exactly what I told her to, and with a little help from me we were able to calm him down again.

 

I am going to try and let her ride him for a bit every other week from now on. She can’t ride him for a whole session because she isn’t able to get a proper outline yet, but I’m going to let her do his warm-up. Hopefully, this will help keep her around horses in the long run.

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