July 31, 2015

Cycle of Insanity

When you have 4 consecutive GREAT rides with few issues, you begin to wonder when that streak will end.  Mine ended yesterday.

After thoroughly cleaning the barn, I thought that Miss Ypke deserved a thorough spa day and brought her out to the hitching post. Once out there, the horseflies and wasps swarmed us. Not fun. After she was all cleaned up, I figured a short 10 minute bareback stroll would be nice because it was a beautiful day, so I bridled her and headed to the mounting block. The train derailed from the tracks.

Don't be fooled by the fluffy earzz
It started okay, but then went downhill. She stood by the block just fine, I stepped up, but then as soon as I began to swing my leg over she backed up real fast. Not cool. This ensued for about five minutes before she wouldn't even let me go so far as to touch the mounting block before backing away. 

I tried the most common tactics of having her "work" (lunge) whenever she moved away or asking her to back up farther and quicker than she already was (in hopes of making her realize that backing up wasn't as enjoyable as she initially thought). It got us back to the point where we could stand by the block... which she would then use as a scratching post before backing away again.

After 30 minutes of the previous two methods with zero luck, I did what any other wimp would do: pick the block up and carry it right next to her side.  We went around in a cycle of insanity like that for 15 minutes before I remembered one key thing about Ypke: she doesn't like being poked. 

Not the slightest look of guilt
I got her to halt a couple of feet away and then clucked and said "walk on."  Whenever she didn't respond I would lightly poke just behind her girth area with my thumb with increasing amounts of pressure every three times (luckily she responded almost immediately, so it was really light). Right when she would take even one step, I immediately released the dreaded thumb and praised her. Within several minutes I was able to stand on the block again. While she did try to back away once again, I would tap her girth area as a reminder and praise her when she came back.

After over 50 minutes, I finally managed to begin the ride. Ironically enough, she kept trying to force her way over to the mounting block as we were trudging around. It was a poor, short-lived ride that was just a couple of laps around the arena, but at least we ended on a good note. She has always been fine being ridden around bareback, but today was just one of those days. It was clear that she was in a "I should be in my field right now, so I won't listen to you," testy mood. While it wasn't necessarily an enjoyable time (for either of us), it was rather productive.

It is times like these where I wish I was agile enough to swing myself up rather than needing a mounting block.

July 24, 2015

Blog Hop: Bit of Luck

I think that we all have those tried and true bits in our collection while others we just steer clear of.  Are there any bits that work like magic for your horse?
When I began riding Ypke three years ago, I always rode her in a single jointed eggbutt snaffle.  If you have been reading for awhile, you will know that I was a complete beginner when I purchased her (riding for less than two weeks).  While my hands were never unsteady to the point of flailing every which way or constantly yanking, they definitely left a lot to be desired.  At the time, I never thought about how bits could affect the performance and willingness of an individual horse.  A different trainer noticed her constant evasion tactics of chomping, ducking, or being a giraffe and brought up how many horses are bothered by the "nutcracker" effect that single jointed bits can have.  He suggested that I look into the Myler Comfort Snaffle line for Ypke. Research mayhem ensued.

Myler dee with hooks with stainless steel comfort snaffle with copper roller MB 03
Here is the breakdown of my favorite features offered by the dee Comfort Snaffle w/ hooks and  copper roller that I chose (and really the comfort snaffles in general): 
  • Curved mouthpiece alleviates tongue pressure and allows the horse to swallow easier
  • The sides move independently and are isolated from each other which is especially helpful for a bending cue.
  • Copper inlay bars
  • Hooks!  Some people say they are for leverage, but I personally think that they are great for keep the reins, cheek peices, and curbchain from sliding around the ring and tangling with each other.
The day I tried this bit was actually the day I began clicker training Ypke.  Partnered with each other, the difference in her willingness to work was monumental.  Bit evasion used to be constant throughout our rides, but now it only happens every once in awhile on our off days.  She does still chomp out of habit, but it is noticeably less severe.  Prior to Myler two years ago, I always thought people were exaggerating or bluffing about how a bit completely changed their horse's tune.  After I experienced it firsthand, I can testify that the difference was almost magical for Ypke.
Since then, I have only stuck with Myler and am starting a collection.  Some of my favorites are... 

Myler kimberwick comfort snaffle
I used this Kimberwick Comfort Snaffle in Ypke's first class at her first show.
Myler 3 ring combination
When I first saw the 3-ring combination I thought it looked scary, but I was wrong.  My mom's horse had to be ridden bitless because he HATED bits, as in he refused to open in his mouth and had huge meltdowns. This combination is set up to where it uses nose pressure (like his bitless bridle does) before it goes to the mouth. This bit was the perfect solution for him and now he has 0 tantrums and is quite an easygoing fellow.
Myler comfort snaffle
HBT shank w/ sweet iron Comfort Snaffle and copper roller is her Western bit.
Myler comfort snaffle
I have been eyeing this dee Comfort Snaffle as our dressage bit for awhile now.  The dee ring that I have right now is not legal due to the hooks and copper roller. Wish list!
Which bit does your horse go best in?

July 17, 2015

Lords Hill Farm Miniature Donkeys

Shoutout to Debi, Jethro's breeder, over at Lords Hill Farm for kindly sending Jethro a show halter!

Miniature donkey show halter
So spiffy
It just so happens that it is H.O. Little Red Man's (Jethro's sire) old show halter. Red Man has some End of Year awards and Grand Champion titles... maybe those will rub off on Jethro now, haha.

Miniature donkey showmanship conformation
Jethro's sire, Little Red Man
I often get asked, "WHERE did you manage to find a miniature donkey?" Unlike horses which are frequently sold by owners, you usually don't see many people selling their donkeys. The easiest way to acquire a donkey is through a breeder or a rescue. Lords Hill Farm, located in Snohomish, Washington, is owned and managed by Debi Steltz. Debi goes out of her way for visitors, and happily let me stop by at anytime — even unannounced.

Baby miniature donkey
Baby Jethro
The first time I visited Lords Hill Farm, Debi led us into the large pasture. Immediately, the donkeys began making their way towards us seeking attention. Imagine being swarmed by a sea of cute little donkeys seeking a good wither scratching. I was surprised by how friendly and outgoing most of the donkeys were — it was a great experience. We also were able to see all of the babies galloping around and playing which was absolutely adorable. You would be hard-pressed to find something cuter than a herd of baby miniature donkeys racing around together.

I spent time with each of the little foals and lastly came across Jethro. Right when I met him, I knew he was the donkey for me. Debi invited us over to Snohomish several times to visit him before he was weaned, and each time she happily chatted about donkeys for a couple of hours. It is obvious that she loves what she does and has a strong passion for miniature donkeys. I've had Jethro for over a year now, and Debi still keeps in touch with me and is more than willing to answer any questions that I have. Thanks again, Lords Hill Farm!

July 11, 2015

The Case for the Fjord

A while back I wrote a blog post about the case against the fjord. While their looks can be deceiving, I believe that the good outweighs the bad. Here's why:

1. They are adorable. 

This one is a given, because, well, they are Fjords for crying out loud. At the end of the day, sometimes Ypke's cuteness factor is her only redeeming quality.

Horse eye
A cute pony with kind eyes
2. They are level-headed.

I for one have never seen a Fjord completely lose it (bolt, throw huge tantrums, bucking fests). Sure Ypke sometimes has crazy spooks, but they are far and few. From my observations, Fjords are tolerant horses who put up with A LOT — whether it is getting their mouth yanked on, someone bouncing around in the saddle, or little Mary Jean who insists on running up directly behind and petting their tail. They aren't hotheaded horses, but they are definitely willing to move out when asked.
Horse smiling
Be happy, not hot-tempered
3. They are hardy and strong.

I have never heard of or known of anyone who had a Fjord go lame (except in the case of founder).  Ypke has never had a lame day in her life. This breed is known for their excellent hooves and ability to go barefoot — I can testify because Ypke has strong, beautiful hooves with no issues. While there are sportier builds being bred, I have always liked their drafty structure. Fjords are short yet stout tanks that can carry a surprising amount of weight.

Fjord horse

4. They are bold.

You would be hard-pressed to find a Fjord that spooks at butterflies and plastic bags.  I have always loved how confident they are — whether it is crossing bridges and tarps without a second thought or happily splashing through water. You can literally throw anything at Ypke and she will end up cocking a hind leg, drooping her lip, and falling asleep.

Fjord horse jumping
Kori, owned by Wendy Luscombe, jumping 4'3
Photo taken by: Carol Hill
5. They are athletic and versatile.

Remember how I did that Fjord of the Month interview with Koriakin of Narnia? Kori is a lovely dressage horse who has been shortlisted for the National Dressage Championships and won 12 USDF All Breed Awards among other things. Don't be fooled though, this dressage horse can JUMP.  In fact, he easily cleared a 4'3 fence during a jumping demo at Equine Affaire.  Many people are under the impression that Fjords are just slow, fat, lazy little ponies, so I'll just let that sink in.

I think that about sums it up!  Have you ever met any Fjords that can relate to this?

July 2, 2015

Clipping Gone Wrong: The Ratchet Mess

Last year, body clipping Jethro went well.  Sure, there were some clipper lines, but overall he looked rather sleek.  
Body clipped donkey
Clipped Jethro = Cute Little Man
Jethro is a complete wooly mammoth as far as his coat goes.  His hair is super long, thick, and looks very yacky if left unclipped.  He doesn't shed out easily and with 110* weather, body clipping is a must.
Body clip yak fur
Yak fur
I purchased several new blades and whipped out the trusty 2-Speeders and set to work. Except there was one problem: the clippers weren't clipping away the hair.  No matter how clean Jethro was or how cool and new the blades were, barely anything was cut off.

Body clipping your horse fail
Case in point
Pretty soon, we had a mess on our hands.  There were bald spots, clipper lines, and uneven/choppy hair.  In other words, he is pretty beat up looking with an appearance similar to a diseased donkey.  While there was no bodily harm done, aesthetics-wise he is ugly.
Me: "How do you like your haircut, Jethro?"
Jethro: "Oh my gosh, I love it, thank you so much!"
Jethro: *Goes to stall and cries for 10 hours*

Body clipping your horse fail
Note the long stomach hair in the background
Now, I don't know exactly what happened with these clippers.  They won't cut anything anymore, even short, thin hair. In hindsight, as soon as I realized they sucked I should have stopped clipping, but for some reason I was clinging to the hope that it would get better. 
But alas, have no fear.  I have ordered some heavy duty clippers, and *hopefully* they will work and I didn't just waste $300 but I probably did I can salvage what is left of his appearance and dignity.

Body clipping your horse fail

UPDATE as of July 9: Remember how I said "hopefully they will work and I didn't just waste $300 but I probably did" regarding the new clippers? Well, I definitely wasted $300. They are LOUD, as in there-is-a-chainsaw-right-next-to-my-ear loud and SUPER heavy. They also can't cut through his thick hair. 

July 1, 2015

New and Improved

The Moody Mare has undergone several changes in these past several months - from moving our domain name to getting a makeover (which is still getting some tweaks!).  Due to this, I would love to receive some valuable feedback, so please consider taking this reader survey. The survey will take 5 minutes max, and it is completely anonymous with no mandatory questions.