The bugs - mosquitos, black flies, gnats, flies and more flies - stable flies, face flies, green-headed flies and now the dreaded B-52s - have been really terrible this year. We've had a lot of rain, with intervals of heat - perfect conditions for all sorts of flying tormentors.
My horses and I got in some nice rides in the outdoor arena - which is mostly grass, which means more bugs than a sand arena would have - in the spring, but have barely been outside to ride since. The horses are outside almost all day in the bug-infested pastures, so I expect they haven't minded too much being inside in the shady, somewhat less buggy indoor. Some days the bugs have gotten so bad that the horses had to come in early from turnout.
Finally this week we've gotten some cooler weather with a good breeze, and we finally managed some nice rides outside. Tuesday in the afternoon I rode both Red and Pie outside, and Wednesday morning Dawn and Missy and I enjoyed some nice weather in the outdoor. There was a great breeze, and so long as we weren't walking, the bugs weren't too bad. It's heating up again, so we'll be inside for a while, or not riding at all because it's just too darn hot. The horses deal better with the heat than I do - I just get exhausted and red in the face - but all of us don't care much for riding when it's in the 90s.
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We had hoof trims today, and all four horses were excellent - Red's been perfect for his trims two times in a row. He used to be a beast for the farrier, but has steadily improved. My new strategy with him, which I've used with success two times in a row, is to completely ignore him while he's having his trim and just go about my barn chores. If I'm out of sight for a bit, I come back into his line of sight from time to time to let him know I'm still around - he pays close attention to where I am, but doesn't fidget or give the trimmer any trouble.
Everyone's feet were chipped up, even though we're on a 5-week trimming cycle. But everyone stayed perfectly sound - all the chipping was cosmetic. Missy's feet are rapidly improving, and she's very sound. The central sulcus cracks in her fronts are completely gone, her heels are coming down and strengthening, her feet are shortening and her frogs are stronger. When she was walking to me yesterday at bring-in, I was pleased to see that she's now got a nice heel-first landing.
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Yesterday I switched the saddle I rode Red in. I've been riding him in the Black Rhino western saddle I got for him a while ago. Lately, he's been somewhat sticky about forward, and I was suspicious that the Black Rhino wasn't fitting him as well in the shoulders as it had been. So I rode him in my Kieffer dressage saddle - this saddle was actually reflocked for Red several years ago, but I had been riding him in the western saddle for the extra security - he's got some fast moves and can be spooky at times.
The Kieffer seemed to fit pretty well - good shoulder clearance and nice and level. So we rode in it, and Red seemed much happier and more forward in his gaits. The saddle also felt good to me, particularly at the canter. Oddly enough, this is the same saddle I ride Dawn in - she's shaped a lot like Red, but is narrower through the shoulder and withers, and also a bit downhill whereas Red is uphill, so I use shims at the front with Dawn which make the saddle fit her well.
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I've been thinking about how important I find our trot work to be. I'm a big believer in good work at the walk (as well as good backing), before much trot work, and good work at the trot before doing much canter work. If you don't have what you want at the walk, you won't get it at the trot, and if you don't have it at the trot it's guaranteed you won't have it at the canter. Everyone has their own definition of what "good" work is, but for me it's about consistent softness through the entire body - not just head and neck - and the horse using itself from the core and hind end with a relaxed top line.
Straightness/bend are also important - they're really two sides of the same coin - and again I want them to come from behind, not the head/neck/shoulder although they get into the act too.
Good quality, forward, soft, engaged trot work is also really great for developing the correct musculature of the horse, over time with gradually increasing amounts of work. It's good for developing the human core muscles, too!
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I ordered some My Pony sunblock for Missy - her nose is mostly white, so she could use some sunblock and most of the commercial ones I've found are nasty and greasy and get her nose very dirty. Someone recommended it to me, and the reviews also seem good, so we'll try it out and see how it does.
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The ride log page is back up and running. I find it's a handy way for me to keep track of what we've done and how far we've come, and also of horse health maintenance and issues. I've eliminated the ride number counter, though - too obsessive . . .