Sunday, October 26, 2008

Various Updates

Hello all! Just found this old picture of McKinna after a summer bath. Fly sheet, fly neck cover, fly mask, barely-visible-pink-tailbag....It takes a lot to keep a wet white horse clean!

I've got some various updates for you today.

New Saddle
I got a new saddle! We ordered it from Tack of the Day. I don't know if you are familiar with it, but basically they sell quality items at very discounted prices. Previously they sold a jumping saddle whose maker they did not disclose. According to reports, the saddle was pretty nice but the leather sucked. Well they just sold another round, and this time they had it made specifically for them and of higher quality leather. From reports on the COTH forums, it is made on a Collegiate pattern, but not actually by Collegiate.

I like it a lot! It is very soft. A big change from the jumping saddles I'm used to, which are pancake-flat old ones. It's got a soft padded knee roll, it's softer all around, and it has removable knee and thigh blocks which I may or may not remove. It's very comfy to jump in, fits McKinna very well (*almost* perfectly -- it's just a tiny bit snug up by her withers, but it's definitely not pinching). Does not fit Pandora in the slightest, which makes sense since they require two very different types of saddles.

McKinna needs a wide tree saddle that's rather flat in the back; she has a wide, flat, short back with decent withers but a body that narrows pretty quickly as it gets to her girth area. Combined, this makes saddles want to slide forward onto her shoulders.

Pandora is built like an A-frame house right now, haha! She definitely needs some more weight and muscling on her topline. But in any case, her shape is very different. Typical TB back: Pretty curved compared to McKinna's, fairly narrow, shark withers, needs a saddle that fits closely up front but curves enough in the back to hug her body. My older jumping saddles fit her damn near perfectly, minus the fact that they touch her withers when I'm in the saddle :( This I think will be easily fixed as she continues to build weight and muscle.

Friday Lesson
I trailered out to the Friday lesson again this week and had a blast. This time there were two other riders there. McKinna was very well behaved! During warmup she was extremely soft and relaxed for me. Then she started fussing at my right leg and not wanting to bend to the right, so I grabbed a dressage whip for the rest of flatwork and that seemed to fix it.

Her canter work was WAY better. Still quick, still a little out-of-balance, but slower than last time and way more under control. Circles were easier without her totally dropping her inside shoulder.

Then we did some jumping and McKinna was still quite awesome! We put together a course after awhile. After one fairly sloppy course where I couldn't seem to stay in the right place in the tack and she couldn't seem to find decent distances (coincidence? Think not.), we pulled it back together and had an awesome trip. She is staying steady and relaxed coming up to the fences instead of rushing towards them, picking her own distances, and when I ride her correctly she even stands up through her corners!

What a lovely horse she is, even if she was rotten last weekend.

McKinna is going to get clipped today - a modified trace clip. Normally I just clip the underside of her neck down the front of her chest and leave it at that, but she's quite furry and even with that clip she got very sweaty at last night's lesson. So I'm going to do a clip that goes down the side of her neck, across some shoulder, and some belly in basically a diagonal straight line. Shall take pictures since we finally found the camera!

Plateau and Clicker
I feel like McKinna and I have hit a bit of a plateau. We seem to be a tad bored with each other and what we're doing, though it doesn't show up quite as much at lessons. I know we've been stuck at roughly the same level for awhile, and it doesn't help that I am coming back from that pesky broken ankle so I was out of the training groove for a couple months. I know that I need to start pushing and asking for more, but it's hard.

I've decided that the remedy is lessons and trying new things. Variety is the spice of life, right? Goodness knows McKinna and I have tasted all kinds of different riding styles. Maybe it's time for us to explore other things, at least for a week or so.

I think I'll talk Mom into going on a short ride up the road sometime this week if the weather isn't too bad. There's a really nice big hill that's got packed gravel on it that we think would be nice for walking up and back down.

I'm also contemplating doing some more clicker work with her. I know some of you (cough, mugwump, cough ;) tend to be very against hand-feeding treats at all, let alone treats involved with training. Here's a few reasons why it doesn't bother me:

  • I'm working with McKinna, who is not nippy and never has been. Every time we work, I reinforce that mugging for treats does not produce treats. I do this in two ways: when her muzzle is on me looking for treats, it gets some gentle insistent abuse in the form of vigorous rubbing. Also, I work on targeting, where she gets a click/treat for touching a target with her muzzle. This automatically reinforces that treats come from touching something else, not me.
  • It's fun. It makes me AND my horse think in different ways about what I'm asking her to do. It's an amazing feeling when you're both working towards a goal, the trainer trying to figure out how to break it down and watching to be able to reward the slightest try (hmm, sound familiar?) and the horse thinking hard to figure out what the trainer wants. The 'lightbulb moment' is always a total rush because you realize that your horse is actually figuring out what you want all on their own, just from you rewarding a few baby steps. It's similar to regular training: reward baby steps, get the horse to understand what you want. But it makes you think about it in a way you're not used to.
  • It makes training SOME behaviors very easy. Polite hoof-behavior, for instance. It's incredibly easy for horses to grasp the concept when you click/treat for every time they pick a hoof up, then increase demands to every time they hold it quietly for a second, then two seconds, then four seconds, then add tapping and picking or whatever. All of a sudden, there's something in it for them. After they understand, it's very easy to phase the click/treats almost entirely out, or even completely and just give them a kind word and a rub when they behave politely.
  • It's different. It's a shift from what you normally do, and that makes you and your horse both more interested. It's a challenge for both of you. Remember, variety is the spice of life: it's why I've done everything from team penning to trail courses to makeshift steer-daubing by running round whacking my uncle with a bubble-wrapped white stick from horseback. By focusing on something different, you challenge each other and get to work on training while having fun.
The most important thing for me is that it's simply a different, fun way to try things. If you don't like it, you can leave it. But I enjoy knowing that it's something fun. When the clicker comes out, McKinna perks right up. True, it's probably because she knows that clicker = treats. But if she's going to be my more-than-willing participant in a training exercise, do I care if it's for the treats or just because she loves me? No, not really. Because I know that, as I follow the process, I can phase the clicker and treats out, and I'm left with a solidly learned behavior.

Pandora is still doing very well. Her weight-gain has kind of stalled a bit -- grr -- but I think it's because the barn owner ran out of orchard grass and switched to (not the nicest) grass hay. It's a constant battle - that horse could probably put down 3x as much hay as she's getting, and she's getting like 8 flakes a day. I realize the barn owner can't afford to feed her as much as she can eat, which would probably amount to a bale of hay per day. So we added some beet pulp to get some more fiber into her.

At this point I'm considering just buying some of our own hay. Unfortunately that would add up really fast. But if I have to do it, I have to do it. What would be nice is if we could arrange for her and McKinna to be in a paddock (there's a big one out front that's got jumps in it now) with round bales that we pay for, but unfortunately McKinna would probably become a big fatty on that much hay. Not to mention that I think most of the paddocked horses come in during the winter anyway.


I know we can put more weight on by adding more concentrates like grain, or adding alfalfa or oil. But it's very very hard for me to do that when I know that she needs more hay and would put more weight on if she had as much as she could eat.

I should figure out if it would be more cost-effective to feed her lots of beet pulp, or to just buy hay. Is beet pulp comparable to hay in terms of fiber benefits? I know a lot of people feed it as main fiber source to older horses without much in the way of teeth. I could go to hay cubes, but I imagine that would be more expensive than hay itself.

Argh. Okay, maybe I will just talk to the barn owner. I know she will suggest adding more beet pulp, but Pandora finishes her hay within a couple hours of feeding time, and that's just not good enough for me. When she was getting 3 flakes of orchard grass, they were BIG flakes and they took her a long time to work through. Plus it was super nice green stuff.

Okay, massive update over! Thanks for sticking with me through it ;)


20 meter circle of life said...

Try rice bran!! its good stuff. I feed each of the boys 2 cups per day and its not super spendy. My vet suggested it. Abu is the slowest eater ever and Tonka would eat himself to death given the opp. so rice bran is a good way to add healthy fat. plus when they shed come spring wow-za the coats are amazing. I only feed 10% of total body weight in hay, either Eastern or local. I give Booster 2 scoops alfalfa pellets per day day in addition and they each get about 2 scoops of generic sweet grain a day, i think its livestock chow. But its enough to get them to eat the vits etc. I was thinking I will add beet pulp as we get into the colder weather. Equine nutrtion is a headache!!

kickthedeadhorse said...

that's an irish clip! did it to my horse last winter and LOVED IT!! however this fall he got SUPER fuzzy VERY early so i went for a body clip just leaving his legs, face, saddle square and a star on his right side. i think you'll enjoy that clip!

Heather said...

I think that you are right to want to add more hay. I think the biggest clue you mentioned is that she finishes early. I really thin it is important for horses to be able to 'graze' all day, especially if they are stall-bound. It probably wouldn't be too expensive to get a few bales per week and supplement what the barn is giving. I am in Oklahoma and hay is about $8 a bale. I buy from the most expensive feed store, but their hay is visibly better and preferred in a side by side taste test by my horse. The $6 bale was still nearly intact after the $8 bale was over half gone the next day.
PS- I love your blog!

ezra_pandora said...

lol!! Love McKinna and her after bath wear. I'm definitely going to check out the Tack of the Day website. Sounds interesting.

As for the weight building without too much expense, I too heard that rice bran was good for that. Some people at our old barn used it with their horse and it worked nicely.

ezra_pandora said...

Hey there, I tagged you on a book tag that cdncowgirl tagged me with! Hope you don't mind and that you get a chance to do it :)

Sydney said...

Talk to your vet about adding brewers yeast to Pandoras grain twice a day. I've used it on various occasions and it's worked A LOT quicker than beet pulp and works in good conjunction with farnam's weight gain supplement. What brewers yeast does is regular good bacteria and micro flora in the hind gut. Kind of like those yogurts for people. I've had really good luck with it.

Also clicker training/treat feeding. If you feed treats right it doesn't create nippiness at all. The horse has to know when you say to take the treat it's ok, not when they mug you. All my horses know before they get treats they have to do something for them. Indigo knows how to smile so she curls up her lip or turns her head to the side (that ones very effective)

And is Mckinna a QH arab? I swear shes my girl Indigo's twin.

Sydney said...

Forgot to ad, I seen it in your blog about pandora. Will add some stuff I have learned about equine nutrition in university and through experience with a hard to gain weight horse.

Hay cubes can be more expensive but generally if you feed them right you get more for your buck.
First of all weigh one flake of hay. Whatever that weighs give that in hay cubes. You will be surprised how little hay cubes make up for one flake of hay. Remember to always feed in weight, not volume.

Beet pulp is very high in fiber. Since horses diets are molded around fiber intake it is a very good idea to add beet pulp. Theres very little sugar in beet pulp, the use the sugar for processing into human sugars for baking etc.

manymisadventures said...

Thanks for all the input, guys!

The Irish clip is going super well on McKinna. I love it. And yes, she's a QH/Arab.

The jury's still out on the weight-gain aspect. She just got adjusted by the chiro on Tuesday, and he said that he often sees horses put on some weight after getting issues worked out. We've used rice bran before, so if we're still having issues, I may consider adding some.

Are hay cubes basically comparable to beet pulp in terms of fiber intake? Does anyone know?

Sydney said...

That answer is kind of a two fold.
See theres many types of fibers but the ones you want your horse digesting are fermentable fibers such as edible parts of plants: the stems, leaves, seeds, pulp etc. Most if this is indigestible to humans is what a horse needs. Other parts they cannot digest. See they can digest grains and skins and stems because of the cecum and the large intestine: Their fermentation vat. They can break down hulls and skins where humans have a hard time.
Carbohydrates are another. Starch, oligosaccharides or polysaccharides are all very digestable sources of fiber.
The difference between insoluable and soluable fiber is soluable fiber can be digested by liquids and waters and insoluable cannot. Horses can digest a far larger range of fibers that are insoluable to humans.
So in saying this the feed composite for beet pulps fiber compared to grass and legume hay is as follows:
Non molassed beet pulp:
NDF % DM (neutral detergent fiber): 45.8
ADF % DM: (Acid detergent fiber): 32.1
Molassesed beet pulp:
NDF % DM: 44.4
ADF % DM: 22.4

Grass hay, mature cut:
NDF % DM: 69.1
ADF % DM: 46.6

Legume hay, mature cut:
NDF % DM: 50.9
ADF % DM: 39.5

If you have a mix hay, which is common please tell me what your mix is and I can figure it out for you. Generally speaking hay has much more digestible fiber than beet pulp. It also takes less energy to consume and eventually ferment beet pulp.

Related Posts with Thumbnails