Ready for Spring

Dear blogosphere, we’re all still alive, my sinuses have ceased trickling out of my nostrils and my horses are apparently melting. Every time they’re groomed more of them comes off. I can’t wait for those winter coats to go away, but I can scarcely believe that it’s already shedding time.

A bout of flu left me in bed, unable to ride or groom and barely able to sniffle my way to the paddocks and make sure everybody ate and was sneezed upon, for ever and ever (five days). Magic and Arwen had only one workout each in a whole week and thought it was a wonderful holiday, Thunder ran up to me in delight every time he saw me only to be horribly disappointed, and Skye got fat(ter) and glowered. I edited, read blogs, scrolled through Facebook, watched Frozen and drowned my sorrows in hot chocolate.

Despite the sorrow-drowning, I lost a kilo. Go figure!

… please get it.

 

Late last week I kind of flopped back into the saddle and sat there coughing and not riding properly, and was all depro because I can’t stand being sick, and went to a party on Saturday night (which was such a homeschooler party; we made the worst jokes ever, failed to light the bonfire, played loud music [no, like actually played it on instruments], were mostly asleep by nine, and had the time of our lives) and then I was like okay so life is fun after all.

I think my internal editor just committed suicide.

Craziness aside, I did accomplish a tiny bit (mwahahahaha another pun!). Because of how much Magic hates the snaffle and fears the Pelham, I bought him a Kimberwick. (Tack shopping is therapy).

The Kimberwick
The Kimberwick

The Kimberwick has a very similar action to the Pelham with the reins on the top ring, but this one has a few differences: 1) it has slightly less of a lever action, which places a little less pressure on the poll; 2) it has a lower port, so a softer action on the bars of the mouth and less likelihood of touching the palate; 3) the mouthpiece is thicker than the Pelham’s, so the pressure is spread across a larger area, 4) it is competition legal whereas in most competitions you have to use a Pelham with connectors or double reins, which would be way too harsh for Magic.

Kimberwick fitted; I'll be removing the grackle noseband next time
Kimberwick fitted; I’ll be removing the grackle noseband next time and swapping it for a plain cavesson

It is a little gentler on his mouth than the Pelham and he goes forward into the contact more confidently with this bit, but without leaning on my hands, throwing his head up or opening his mouth the way he does with the single-joint snaffle. He doesn’t pull on me when approaching jumps, and jumps calmly without being afraid of his mouth. He’s also okay in downward transitions, which are a major weakness of him, provided they’re simple (walk-halt, trot-walk, or canter-trot). Complex downward transitions (trot-halt, canter-walk) are the weak spot, though. He does them, but he throws his face in the air, completely loses his rhythm and does a dreadful jarring flailing trot for a few steps before obeying. While I know he’s always hated them, this and a slight curling behind the bit in walk make me think the Kimberwick is still a touch on the harsh side.

Mom these pictures are boooooring
Mom these pictures are boooooring

The quest is on for the right bit for Magic. I’m going to try a French link and if that’s too soft, I’ll have to get complicated and find a Dr. Bristol, Portuguese snaffle, or Myler. Going bitless will be my absolute last resort. I don’t have the guts to ride across country without a bit and eventing is too darn fun not to do.

Arwen just had a (really nice) schooling session, a bit of hillwork (she was an idiot so I made her run up hills until she was too tired to be an idiot) and a short lesson last week, and then I free lunged her today. She spends most of our rides being pushed into a frame, so I like to free lunge her now and then so that I can see how she uses her body normally.

It seems that my attempts to avoid a false frame, mostly by riding leg to hand and encouraging her to lift her back which automatically drops the head into the right position, are paying off. Without any gadgets or even a lunge line on her, she tucked up her tummy, lifted her back, tracked up nicely and even used her neck properly much of the time.

Long and low and ENGAGED
Long and low and ENGAGED

We did a spot of free jumping as well, something I think I’m going to incorporate bi-monthly into her routine. She didn’t refuse a thing and was very sensible about it, but she does struggle a lot with landing on the correct lead when she goes to the right. It’s weird because normally she picks up the right lead quite easily. She managed it once or twice but it definitely needs work, both on free jumping and under saddle.

We had the worst free jumping fail ever. I had two sets of cups on the jumps, one very high and one at around 90cm; I used the very high one to make a cross-rail about 70cm high in the middle, and the 90cm one for a vertical. She took the rail jumping the vertical once and I, on a completely different planet, accidentally put the pole back up to the top cups. As she cantered around to the jump, I noticed that it was enormous and yelled “Whoa!!” but Arwen was all “Challenge accepted!” and cleared it effortlessly.

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It’s at least 1.30m. Crazy beautiful lunatic.

More interesting pony adventures to follow as soon as I have them!

Goodbye Summertime

Summer coats and cosmos blooms
Summer coats and cosmos blooms

Summer did not leave without a fight. At first, when the day began to shorten so that I would open my curtains to the single bright eye of the morning star instead of the fanfare of colour that brought the sunrise, I thought summer would age and fade graciously. But instead, it returned with one last flourish; a final string of those amazing sunny days when the sky was an absolutely unbelievable blue and the breeze smelt of pollen and laughter. It lasted only a few weeks, long enough for the cosmos to bloom, and then summer died in a blaze of white and purple.

Now winter steals across the hills like a stalking wolf in grey and brown. Instead of finishing my evening work before the deep purple twilight, I find myself still working after the moon has begun to smile in the sky. Also, more prosaically, my horses are all as hairy as wild bush brumbies and Magic now has to be followed everywhere by a dutiful human being changing his blankies in case the poor creature catches a chill.

If I’m going to be totally honest, summertime is my favourite. The horses are shiny, the grazing is good, everything is either green or flowering or wet and you can swim in the dam. Also, grooming is a pleasure instead of a dusty chore, your hands don’t get chapped and you don’t have to ride in the semi-dark. Haynets can be thrown back into the foul and demonic lair whence they come and Skye replaces her worrying dust allergies with the merely annoying bug allergies. Oh yes, and no breaking ice on water troughs in the morning with bare, blue fingers. That’s always nice.

Sunset at crescent moon
Sunset at crescent moon

I’m ready for the winter to come, though. The recent outbreaks of African horse sickness throughout the country has made me nervous, and the first frost will kill the midges and signal the end to the horse sickness season. With the midges will die the ticks, the flies, the horseflies, the bot flies (hate those things) and all the other horrible buzzing and crawling things bent on eating my horses alive. I’ll be able to take a break from my ongoing war on parasites.

The parasites will take a lot of the horse illnesses with them as well as horse sickness; biliary and West Nile among them. I’ll also be able to ride in the middle of the day without frying my face and killing my horse. Long, hot, sweaty summer days are the bane of people with epic manes like mine; in winter I don’t have to try and wring out my hair after every ride, or squish the corkscrew curls that appear every time it rains. The horses’ feet, if oiled occasionally, will be healthier because of the drier ground and lack of mud; no more mud fever and thrush to worry about. Oh, and thunderstorms will be gone for the next while, so the risk of lightning strikes will be significantly reduced. Magic’s face won’t get rain scald, either, and hopefully Thunder’s mane will grow back if he quits rubbing it.

For now, my biggest problem is winter coats. I know why winter coats are around and I’m jolly glad they are, or horses would be permanently catching colds. For that reason, I mostly put up with them; Thunder and Skye can be as woolly as they like, no matter how much I hate the dull fuzz and the dust it collects. God made horses fluffy for a reason.

Because purple is so manly, y'know?
Because purple is so manly, y’know?

Arwen and Magic, however, for their sake of their health as well as my sanity, have to have something done about the hairiness. They work harder than the other horses in short, intense spurts, and they both sweat like pigs. In summer, you just hose them off and forget about it. In winter, however, it’s a long maskerade of walking them until they’re dry, choosing riding times carefully and perpetually changing blankets to prevent them from catching cold. Plus, showing a horse in a full winter coat is highly unappealing.

For Arwen, the solution is pretty simple: a body clip and a New Zealand rug. She’s tolerable to clip (although the legs and face sometimes have to be left long, depending on her mood and the behaviour of the clippers) and she always looks nice clipped, being grey. Her sweating virtually disappears, too.

Magic, however, is so ticklish that grooming can be a mission, let alone clipping. Right now, I’m not even prepared to go there. So for him, we’ll have to do it the old-fashioned (and arguably much better) way: grooming. It is possible to groom out a winter coat, with a lot of elbow grease and a sharp shedding comb; the results look far better since the coat is clean and its natural colour, and you don’t have to spend three hours dodging hooves and teeth whilst holding a very sharp, noisy piece of machinery near a very large, nervous animal. It’s a lot more work, but I’m up for the challenge.

The breeze has teeth today. Goodbye, summertime.