Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Into the swing of it

Well, it's been a very promising start to 2015. Apart from the highly unusual rainfall (we're up over 300mm for January alone and it's not even the end of the month yet!), and the lovely hot days with luscious tropical storms in the evenings, Dragonwood has been kicking off. I took some long service leave and already managed to finish the arena fence (just painting to go now) and get Annie going pretty darn nicely.

Our first clinic for the year with Manu Mclean starts in a few days and I'm excited to see what Manu thinks of our progress. Annie's coming quite a long way in the last month or so after a couple of weeks off over Christmas and regular work of 5 to 6 days a week. Here we are at a little cross country training last week:

She was really super for her first time out on a XC course with me. Not much spookiness and a very willing attitude. I'm very excited about our first comp in just over a week at the fabulous Wallaby Hill!

Annie's feet are really quite impressive at this stage, considering it's only been three months since we pulled her shoes off. Here are her two fronts at the most recent trim a few days ago:

They look small and you can clearly see, even in these photos, the ridge of hoof halfway down the wall. This signifies the drastic change pulling her shoes off and changing her diet. The hoof capsule has definitely 'released' or expanded but the hoof angle has become a little steeper as the laminae connection is strengthened and tightened. Her movement has changed noticeably and she now lands heel-first in front rather than on her toes.

She's now on a fairly modest diet of Micrbeet (unmolassed sugarbeet pulp), Lucerne chaff, Hygain Ice, MSM and Equilibrium. It seems to be working for her and she's maintaining weight without getting hot. As the work goes up I will increase the Ice and Micrbeet and give two feeds a day once winter kicks in, I think. She does seem to need a bit of feed as she's only just got good rib coverage and the other horses are in quite good condition. Then again, none of those lazy buggers are working for a living!

She's coping very well with different terrain, though remains sensitive post-trim for a week or so. My new wonder-Trimmer, Shelly (also a Bowe graduate), has been taking Annie's toes back a little further each trim to encourage the correct break-over and help the hooves get the correct shape back. Her toes are still a little Manolo Blanik, but we're getting there!

I'm really happy with our progress, though the training is challenging! Annie is very used to her giraffe way of going and it's been slow-going encouraging her to come down and round. She's quite into long and low, though, so I'm using that as much as I can to help her engage her core and develop some topline. She can cope with about 10 minutes total of 'real' work where she's engaged and round, and intersperse that time with a bit of tension and giraffing. I think as she gets stronger she'll cope with more consistency.

She's really rather gorgeous, though, and I've absolutely fallen for this lovely girl.

Lucinda Green hits Canberra in two weeks and I'm very excited! The clinic is full and I'm winding up to get everything ready, hoping I can give the participants value for money. There will be a blog each day for those tragics into that sort of thing! With pics!

Heidi the reluctant broody is now finally in foal to the amazing Contenda. That will be a lovely foal, fingers crossed. And, after much soul-searching and indecision, Rose has been retired at the ripe old age of 5. After watching her putting her ears back as she walked down a hill, I realised that her elbow joints really are quite sore and there is really no point pounding her around a dressage arena when she's only going to get worse. She's the most lovely horse and I couldn't do that to her.

Rose went off to Highland Blue Diamond to get in foal and, if luck holds, we should get a positive pregnancy scan in a couple of weeks! Eek!

So, in the meantime, bring on Wallaby Hill where I have the most insane Saturday of driving two hours, plaiting up, dressage, showjumping, then 4.5 hours of EvA95 dressage judging, then walking the XC course and collapsing onto my little bed! Here's hoping Annie is a good girl and stands nicely in her yard for the day!

I'll keep you posted. A big year looms large!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

2015 is kicking off!

Well, already 2015 is looking a 100% better than 2014. After a lovely Christmas and New Year period, with no riding for a couple of weeks and lots of family, friends, drinking and eating, I'm back at work (blah) and riding Annie (yey!). I've really fallen in love with the big moose and look forward to my rides with her.

She's looking pretty nice now:
We had a great lesson with Ben Netterfield yesterday (just got his Level 3 Showjump Coach accreditation - woot!). Just need lots of practice but she's doing very well. I have to go back and read my first posts about her to remind myself of how green and stiff she felt only a couple of short months ago.

I went through my plan for the year with Ben and was pleasantly surprised when he actually thought it sounded more than feasible - positively conservative!! The idea is to do EvA80 at Wallaby Hill and then at Canberra, and if all goes well, up to EvA95 at the next 3 or 4 events to take us through to mid-year.

There's a bit of a break from June to about August, so I'm considering giving her a big break then since she really only had a couple of weeks off over Christmas. Then, I told Ben I was contemplating a EvA105 by the end of the year, all going well. He thought I could do one before then. Cool!

I think Berrima is the best event to upgrade so the November event might be the one to do our first EvA105. I really think we can achieve that goal. Just lots more work and fun ahead. The next 8 weeks is pretty hectic, with lessons, clinics and Wallaby Hill on the horizon.

Annie's hooves have been adjusting remarkably well to barefoot. Below are two hooves pre- and post-trimming to give you an idea of the changes and quality of her hoof:
Near fore pre-trim
Near fore post-trim
Front feet post-trim

Rear feet post-trim
 You can see the ridge about 1.5cm from the coronet band that shows the massive change in hoof brought about by taking the shoes off and changing her diet. I'm still amazed by how good they're doing. Best transition yet! I think a big part was the time of year. A hot dry summer with lots of work plays a very positive role in the hoof's ability to grow strong wall with cohesive laminae.

Given the dry lead-up to Christmas and the fact we have too many horses, we made the decision to put the whole herd in a sacrifice paddock with large bale of hay. We also invested in a large slow-fee bale net to cover it in. It worked remarkably well and stretched the time it took for 8 horses to eat a bale from 3 days to more than 5, with vastly less wastage.
Uno (left) and Rose (right) with the rest enjoying the first bale and figuring out how to munch through the net.

The net in action.

All that's left when we used the net. Less than half a small bale's worth. Amazing difference.

A new bale ready to go with net in place.
But dry this summer has not entirely been! We've had an enormous amount of rain over the past 6 weeks - 175mm just for December, and already over 100mm for this month and we're not even halfway through yet! Dragonwood looks pretty gorgeous though, and I got some great snaps:

Our flooded dam at sunset

A couple of rare guests at sunset - always welcome on our place

Yet another gathering storm
 We also welcomed a dozen little chicks last week. One hatchling from a very large and stupid broody Australorp that survived only by being put under the fabulous Broody (below), a Silky of amazing mothering skills. I brought home the dozen day-old chicks from a breeder and just put them under Broody, who adopted them ferociously. Very funny watching her trying to stuff them under her wings!

It's been a great start to the year. Next installment coming right up!