Sunday, May 31, 2009

But it's not winter yet??!!

It snowed today on the last day of Autumn. Kim and I were saddling up when it struck. Kate looked confused as. I don't know that she has ever seen snow. So we scooted off to go stand in the shed until it passed. After the squall it was really quite fine, just an incredibly bitter wind. We went for a bit of a road ride, jumping every bank and ditch a long the way. Rascal just about fell on her face up the bank until she figured out that she had to, you know, try. Silly mare.

I just adore Kate. She has a lot of try and the more I get to know her, the more comfortable I am even though she is spooky. I can recognise when she is getting spooky and sit back and get her past now. I got such cold teeth from laughing so much while Kim and I mucked around. It was so like old times, when Kim and I just used to charge around on horse back. I do need to get in and do some schooling, but the weather hasn't been good for more than a quick hack really.

On the wa yhome we could see the clouds coming over and hid in the hay shed which is about half way home. The squall took ages coming over and then i was there, swirling flakes of snow. Magic. Snow is such a rare occurance around here that it just thrills me no end. Kim wasn't so fussed having had a glut of snow when she was in Sweden, but I was stoked. At one point I was standing outside the shed and this gust hit us, that was just thick with snowflakes. Poor Kate having to put up with her mental new owner.

I was out for dinner in Palmy, but when we got back there is about an inch of snow settled on top of the car. Secretly, I have my fingers crossed for more snow because A) its fun and B) If the roads get closed my BF can't get home and I can spend another day with him. Hopefully, the snow is still there so that I can get pictures. I got a text from Kim saying the horses were white so it must have been heaps heavy while I was gone.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sorry it's been a while

But honestly nothing has been happening. The weather has been rubbish, and I haven't really been doing anything. The last two days were beautiful and the horses all got their covers off briefly, which I'm sure they appreciated. Connie has got very naughty since being turned out. Wouldn't stand for her cover to be put on until I threatened to bring her back into work. My Mum reckons she has growwn some more, and seeing as she was still but high it's no real surprise. She is going to be a very big mare though. She looks quite small but she is probably about 16.2hh.

I had a ride yesterday the first one in ages, and I was going to do some walk trot fitness type stuff. I spent like 20 minutes just getting Kate to trot quietly over a rail on the ground. Bless her. And then I found this little log, and a really nice ditch so I played eventer for a while. I need to play with bits, because the one she is using now it probably a little too sharp, but she can be hard to hold in it. I almost wonder if I should step her up to a 3 ring gag with a milder mouthpiece so I can be really kind to her, but I have someting extra for wen she does get on the muscle. I think if I went to a milder snaffle I would end up having trouble holding her. I would rather ride a horse in a stronger bit than fight a horse in a milder one.Interestingly, with the Pessoa on Kate she has stopped pulling angry faces and threatening to bite me when I saddle her up which is good, but I think it's too low on her withers. I have a special felt pad with a cut out for the wither and we will see how that goes. Frankly, I couldn't afford to buy a saddle at the moment. I can't really afford to buy anything at the moment!

Oh man, the weather is supposed to pack up again which is woeful. I do plan to get Rascal and Kate clipped but they both need to be washed first and it's going to be a while before I get the perfect day for that I fear. Still once they are done it will be awesome. I love clipped horses. They are so much easier to look after and get clean. I also intend to clip both Kate and Rascals white socks to try and limit mud fever problems. The bug is definitely in our soil. I add copper to the trough water to help prevent it, but Rascal is susceptible to it. If I clip her socks it will keep her skin drier, and it shouldn't be a problem.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Curse you early Winter :(

So Winter doesn't offically start until the start of June, so WTH. It's cold, really cold. The horses aren't getting much riding. Today we trotted up the road and did some laps and a little schooling in the big paddock up the road. Anyway, It wasn't interesting but at least there are pictures. Holy crap two point is not kind to me. So unfit. Sorry there is really not alot interesting happening.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Splish Splash

Kim is fully out to turn Rascal into a real all round type horse. She wants to event, and as I drive Truckie and can't bear to be at a show and not riding I guess I will event as well. But probably only to Pre-training, though if I take Kate, I should really go Training. To be fair eventing will be great for Connie to get her really forward and as I was planning to have her eventing fit anyway, in the hopes of accessing a bit more forward and a bit more jump, it wont be a huge issue. The training nights are always fun so thats all good.

Anyway, as Kim wants to event the goal for the day was to go to the river let Rascal have a splash around and then to ride her bareback. To be fair Rascal is already a super young horse considering she is only five. She was bred and broken in by Stephen Sport horses and they have done a great job with her, as proven when we went to the river and she just went straight into the water after a sniff. Kate took longer to get in than that.

Kate was not amused from the get go. She was unhappy walking across the river boulders, and completely unamused by the water. She really didn't want to go in. But she did, and I like this horse most for this I'm afraid but I'll go if you ask me attitude. She was stood in the water, just trembling but then 2 minutes later she was blase as. Rascal really liked the water. She had a great splashing technique, soaking Kim, and obviously having a ball, though she did do some pig roots when the water first touched her belly. Kate kept sniffing the water and she had a few very tentative splashes, but she went too hard once and spooked herself with the water splashing up.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Brain Power

Now call me naive, I don't know but until the FSH board I had never ever heard that a horse exchanged information poorly from one side of the brain to the other, or indeed didn't have any connections between the hemispheres of the brain at all. In fact while researching today for this blog, I found out there are magazines that are actually telling their readers that horses have poorly developed Corpus Callosums. Of what little I do know, I'm more than happy to tell you that this just isn't true.

The corpus callosum is a structure, deep inside the cerebral hemispheres, that joins the two hemispheres together and is the pathway for information between the two sides. Horses have a reasonably well developed corpus callosum, and on this information alone I would be content to say that horses have a reasonable exchange of information between the hemispheres of the brain, because in nature you either use it or you lose it.

Frankly, it is easy to see why the myth of disconnected hemispheres developed, because it is a well known fact that horses need to be taught things from both sides. The current theory is that because horses have monocular vision, the information from the eye is only processed by one side of the brain. This is simply not true, however, because horses do have binocular vision in front of them. Poor exchange of information between the hemispheres would seriously disadvantage a horse. Say a plastic bag blows at him form the left eye and wraps around his leg, panicking him. If he cannot exchange information well, he should not be startled by a blowing plastic bag coming from the right eye, but I would bet good money that when he sees that plastic bag coming, he is going to be out of there. This allows the horse, a prey animal, to quickly escape from danger regardless of which eye he sees the negative stimulus in.

Often, the defense of the no connections theory is that a horse will spook at an object, and then be fine with it but when they go the other way they will spook again. However, I personally wonder how much this has to do with how a horse sees. horses do not focus on objects that well and use different parts of their eyes to see. Through the center gives an overall view, through the bottom for objects in the distance, and through the top for close objects. I suspect the spooking has to do with the object coming into focus suddenly, the rider being focused on and tensing up at the object going the other way or the horse having effectively forgotten the object and then re noticing it. I don't think it's a strong enough defense for saying a horse has no connections between the hemispheres.

When you first start training a horse, he will learn slowly compared to how he will learn further into the process. The unit of the brain, and nervous system, is the neuron. This is the cell that passes information from one part of the brain to the other. Dendrites develop from one neuron to another neuron to create a pathway for information. When you are training a horse, you are using the plasticity (ability to change) of the brain to create new connections and new circuits (both simple and complex) which allow the horse to access information related to the stimulus more quickly. This means the horse will both respond more quickly to known cues, as well as learn related cues more quickly, and learn new behaviours more quickly also. The plasticity of the brain also allows the re-training of the horse, with the connections that pertain to the wrong or bad behaviour becoming reduced, however, because the pathway still exists, it is easier to re trigger the bad or wrong behaviour than it is to trigger a novel behaviour.

A good experiment that demonstrated the plasticity of the brain involved horses being in front of a circle or a square. Touching the circle resulted in a food reward and it took some 100 attempts before the horse would consistently touch the circle first. Then they changed the correct behaviour to touching the square. It then took 150 attempts before the horse would consistently touch the square first. The right behaviour was consistently switch, and rapidly the horses, would touch the circle, which was incorrect, before immediately touching the square to get the reward, changing the amount of mistakes from 100 initially to 1. This demonstrates how as the horse learns, he creates more pathways, and is able to respond correctly more quickly.

One sidedness may also arise from training. Most often horses are approached and handled from the left, giving them an expectation of being handled from the left. Horses are well known to like routine and predictable behaviour. If you lunge your horse only clockwise, he learns that the pressure comes off when he trots around nicely clockwise. When you then turn him around to lunge the other way, he balks because to him to correct behaviour is to move clockwise, and he wants to go that way and take the pressure off. To be fair when you teach a horse something, I personally have found they pick it up on the next side much quicker, and the repetitions of the stimulus is all working to strengthen those neural pathways. It's important to note also that most horses have a side in which they are stronger and more balanced, either naturally or because of previous training, and this is far more likely to be the cause of one sidedness than the horses brain connections.

Finally, in a study done by Dr Evelyn Henggi, horses with one eye blindfolded were given a food reward in response to touching a circle. Once this behaviour was established, the blindfold was swapped to the other eye and the horses instantly responded correctly, touching the circle, indicating the information crossed to the other side of the brain and eye. I'd love to hear your opinions on this.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


The weather is about to pack up, so after 10 rides, Bill is going to be turned out until Spring. We got walk/trot out in the open which is what I wanted. It seems a shame, but honestly, I'm ready to just have one horse in work, preferably an easy one. Is it crazy to be sick of riding green horses?? I'm tired of dealing with green nonsense.

Kate is going well. She is basically a good horse. She is a bit spooky, sometimes a biut strong and she really doesn't want to work correctly, but we are getting there. She is as smart as a whip and learns really quickly. I love the way when I feed her she paws her bucket with her front foot, but so much more violently then any of the others, she has left great big muddy smears all over the buckets. We rode up the road alone today and just cantered around this massive flat paddock we have at the run-off there. She was strong but mostly good, even if she doesn't like to cross the white lines.

The kicker?? The saddle that fits her best, is a 17 inch but isn't a flat seat. The Bates I use on the others is a flat seat so it's a little more forgiving, but the Pessoa really isn't. Sigh. So here were go I guess. Actual proper diet time. I don't know if you guys have noticed (Maybe the size of the horses hid it pretty well, they are all big animals) but I'm a big girl. Strong and honestly carrying more around the middle than I should. I'm basically really lazy. I know that carrying the extra weight is hurting not only my ability to ride, but also my self-esteem.

So the goal then is 66 kilos. A weight I have been a few times after a lot of hard work. It's probably fairly small for the frame I have but I have so many nice clothes I fit at that weight. So honestly thats 15 kilos to lose. Which I admit is a lot, but at least now I need to lose weight to fit my saddle, I'm actually motivated to do something about it.

Why a picture of Fred you ask? I was going to write smething about him, but when it came to it, I really couldn't put those words down. I look at that picture though and miss him some. Not the bad things, but I knew his buttons, and I loved the sheer power he had over a fence. And he was a wicked color. you have to agree with that.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A wee jump on Kate

Gah, sometimes I ride Kate and just think man I have so much to fix yet. I rode her in a flash today and it made Kate angry. She bounded a bit and I thought she might buck. She was mainly just freash more than anything. She moved off the inside leg a bit better than the first time, and I got a few nice moments. She is pretty tricky and offers a false frame, but she is still a bit locked in her neck, so I have to push her past that.

Jumped a jump a few times and man, she sighted the fence and just went at it like a rocket, running herself very deep. Sigh. She even did it to poles. She needs lots of schooling with lengthening and collection. The exercise that kept her quietest over the fence was just jumping on a big circle. I have to be very very careful not to change the way I'm riding at all. If I even look at the fence too hard, she feels me tense up and starts to run.

Her new bridle looks lovely though.

Bills ninth ride

Can you feel the enthusiasm?? Don't we look insanely excited? Today was like the first day that Bill walked away from me when I went to catch her. I guess she is over being a riding horse Lol. She went and stood in the corner and looked out, like she didn't notice me. Bless her.

Same deal though, lunge, lunge. Then the flies were so bad I sprayed her with acid. Well homemade fly spray but she thought it was acid. It's one part listerine, one part water and one part baby oil. It's not great but it works pretty good. Certainly helped Bill. And you know really cheap. Incidently, equal parts water, white vinegar, and baby oil makes a really cheap funny smelly show shine that works great in tails.

So we walked around and we trotted around. She was a little doggy today, didn't really want to trot, but I made her and by the end she was departing better. Also today was the first time I used the stirrup to get on (From my barrel not the ground), my first rising trot, and one other cool first.

Check it out!! Leaving the ring. Woo. I followed Mum for a bit and then had a tiny walk by myself. As you can see Bill doesn't really give a continental. She is getting better and better under saddle which I like. And I'm getting more and more comfortable on her.