Tuesday, December 29, 2015

String Testing Shenanigans

Recently, someone made an offhand comment that they thought Odin would grow several more inches.  While I hope not, I grew curious when they suggested a thing called a string test.

For background, as most people probably know, there is a theory that you can predict the final height of your horse by certain leg measurements.

This is an equation relating to string theory, not a string test.
I posit that the principle is the same.

There are two different tests google educated me about:

  1. Measure from the center of the knee down to the coronary band, exactly where the hair meets the hoof.  The distance in inches corresponds to the final height of the horse in inches.
  2. Measure from the point of the elbow down to the fetlock.  Pivot the string upwards keeping it at the point of the elbow.  Where the top of the string is, that is where your horses withers will be.

Easy enough, right?  Famous last words.

Doing the first test wasn't terrible.  I had Odin in cross ties after a work out and because he is the bomb, I just brought the measuring tape out directly.  (Side note, why are most horses terrified of measuring tapes?) I tried to find the exact center of his knee while he helpfully shifted around, tried to crane his neck to eat the tape, and generally did anything except holding still.

I measured down to the hairline and had an epiphany.

My horse is currently around 16 hands.  He is 4.5.  He will likely grow another inch or 3 (please no).  So I am performing this voodoo test that relies on my ability to accurately measure within a quarter inch on a moving target.  And with about 18 seconds of patience between the two of us.  What was I thinking?

Stubborn if not smart, I approximated my final measurement as 16.5 inches.  So based on this, Odin will top out at 16.2.  You can take that to Vegas.

Things got busy around the grooming area so I decided to save the second test for another day.

On Christmas it was just my husband and I at the barn and he thought it would be fun to try the second test.  Hey, if you are crazy enough to spend your life with me, you might find things like this fun.  Or it is possible I am remembering wrong and it was my idea, whatever.

And with a dedicated horse handler and dedicated measurer, how hard could this be?

First problem, post op I am not supposed to be bending so measuring fell on poor J with me wrangling the constantly moving baby horse.

Second problem, a horse has a pretty long leg.  And J and I are small people with t rex like arms.  Crouching on the ground while holding the tape at the point of elbow on one end and down to the fetlock hairs with the other was a struggle.

Approximate recreation

And again Odin was doing everything in his power to assist this process.  Leaning away from the crazy humans, sticking his nose in it, making sure his feet never stopped moving.

Precision, we has it.

Eventually, we were relatively sure we had the length mostly correct and pivoted the tape.  Then we couldn't figure out if you should just hold it straight up or follow the contour of his body.  If you held it straight up, which was logical, you couldn't see how it aligned with the withers.  If you followed the body contour, I think my horse is predicted to be about 15.2....shorter than he is now.

Finally we decided to just double the length measured and add on the distance from fetlock to ground.  We did it twice and came up with 16.1 the first time and 16.3 the second time.

So I am averaging that and saying 16.2.  Just trust me on this.

YAY both methods came up with the same height prediction!!  Magic!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Progress (and some mystery destruction)

Odin has been moving along nicely, making his first big step forward this last week.

On the longe line he has entirely stopped butt bumping for canter transitions, and now just quietly canters off.  His right lead is great and his left lead is much, much better.  Usually the first transition or two will be wrong then we hit a sweet spot where he picks it up beautifully like 5 times in a row.  Then as he gets tired he starts getting it wrong.

Another plus is that the cross firing has gone way down.  Once he gets the lead he has been able to hold it until asked to trot.

As Colorado has dropped below freezing and shows no signs of warming up, work has been sporadic but mostly steady.  I think it has been two rides and 4 longing sessions.

On Christmas day I put him in the outside turnout which was a little frozen/slick and Odin was not pleased about that.  He still is learning about this winter stuff.
Orange halter!!  And see, it wasn't even that frozen.  

So I threw him in the indoor and he went crazypants.  Squealing and bucking and doing his full on racehorse impression.  It was really cute.

Yesterday we just longed him in his halter and he was excellent.  Besides cantering like a grown up horse he was offering stretching down at the trot even without a bit or side reins.  He seems to have figured out that trotting along with his nose near the ground is comfy.

We included a pole and at first that was highly exciting.  You could practically hear him say WHEEE as he leaped over it like it was 2'6" tall.  Even then he was cantering it out of stride and on the rhythm and it only got better as he settled down.  Held his leads, and was basically a perfect baby horse.

R2 gave him a training ride today and it wasn't quite so perfect although he is really just still learning things.

I say this often but I can't get past how amazing his brain is.  It was about 10F when we pulled him in, we didn't longe or turn him out first, and he went quietly to work.  The mirrors at the end of the ring were frozen which we worth a hard look or two but no shenanigans.

Mostly his issue is getting a little stuck behind the leg.  Until he warms up he really doesn't want to move forward.  Once he is going he is mostly great but he was demonstrating some gate sourness (but this is where we leave and you give me treats.  Why would I trot past it?) and some general irritation at being asked to move laterally and/or forward.

His rebellion is putting his ears back and shoving his haunches inwards and I think once he might even have stamped a hoof.  Not very intimidating and then he looks a little affronted that no one is impressed with his antics.  R2 is a crazy good rider and she just kept going at it until he settled.

It took a couple tries to get his left lead and there was one small kick out, but once he did he held it the whole time.  To the right the transition was good and once he was moving forward it was a great canter.  Again he got a little stuck.  Overall a good ride with lots of good learning!

As for the mystery destruction?  Well, as lows are in the single digits, I put his heavy blanket and hood on.  After one night, the hood looked liked this.


The giant tear goes all the way through

Even stranger - it was on the neighboring horse when I got there yesterday morning.  Only assumption is it somehow came off (through three different attachment points) and got shredded in the process.  Ended up in his neighbor's pen and the barn crew threw it on the neighbor when they came in in the morning.

But that is a lot of damage and THREE different attachments.  I sent it back to Smartpak since it was the first time being used and there isn't anything sharp in his pen so it seems this shouldn't have happened.  He has had his orange hood on for two weeks with no destruction.  We will see what they say.

Oh, and I am healing fine as well.  About halfway there!  Now back to hot tea, blankets, and my newest Netflix guilty pleasure, Lost Girl.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Odin's week in review

There isn't an awful lot to talk about with a green horse going along slowly, especially with me just observing.  But baby horse did have a fairly productive week.

Most days he was working on his longing.  I asked R about side reins and she does always use them, loosely.  Her viewpoint is that the horse should be reaching for the contact so she doesn't want the side reins always maintaining it for them, instead they engage them by stretching.
Video stills are all we have today

In just the few weeks we have had him, as he has regained some fitness and had some training rides, his trot is already changing.  He tracks up pretty well, is reaching under himself better and is finding a nice rhythm.

His canter is also getting better, although there is still plenty of work to do there and there are still PLENTY of ugly canter transitions to go around.  They usually go something like:

Ask for canter.

But oooh, nice trot

Watch ears go back.


He tries trotting faster.

Slow him down.

He squeals cause this is hard.
I had to use stills from both directions to get the full effect

He flails into canter, usually on the right lead or cross firing regardless of direction of travel.
Picking up the left lead in front, and um, so uphill!

Baby buck and kick out in uncoordinated attempt to fix it.

If successful, canter around looking smug until balance is compromised and swap in back.  If not successful, try going faster.
All the leads!


He is clearly trying so freaking hard and his body is just not cooperating with him yet.  Luckily, he has made progress and maybe 25% of the time he now just picks up the canter with a beautiful, perfect transition.

We live in a world of extremes apparently where it is either a hot mess or a thing of beauty.  No middle ground right now.

He is also showing baby step improvement on how long he can canter correctly when he does get his lead.  At first it was just a few strides, now he can do a couple circles right and a full circle or so left. Not every time, but I didn't actually expect this much progress yet, so I am impressed.

R2 then put a couple under saddle rides on him this weekend.  Mostly trot work but also some canter work.  It took a few tries to get his leads but once he did he was able to do about half the arena to the right and a little less than that to the left before swapping.  Adding a human into the mix definitely ups the challenge level but slow and steady we go.

Very good for clipping his bridle path!  Only
objected to his ears being done.
Sunday we were treated to a surprise as (apparently) overnight, Odin decided to grow some.  R2 said he felt like his butt was 2 inches taller than the day before and he was accordingly uncoordinated.

Please stop growing Odin, I like your size now.  Check that, grow your front end to catch up, and then be done!

After he rediscovered all his parts he had a short ride.  He was a little tired, physically and mentally, from his week, so we kept it short and sweet.  R2 took him over his first cross rail since his test ride before I bought him.  He got a little excited but ended up trotting it beautifully and cantering away quietly.

This horse has just been so much fun to be around. Even just hanging out with him on the ground, he is very interactive and kind of a goof.  Maybe not super bright - the other day we had to fish a hoofpick out of his mouth as pulled the whole thing in and we were worried he might swallow it - but sweet and entertaining.  Oh, and because he is a hungry hungry hippo, his current name is Odinpotamus.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Watching from the ground

Early on in the horse shopping process, I learned that I was going to have to have relatively major abdominal surgery in the near future.  I would be grounded for 6 weeks if all went well, longer if there were complications.  My husband and I discussed holding off on purchasing a new horse until after the surgery.  It made a lot (A LOT) of financial sense of course but I really wanted to get started on this new project.
Glad we didn't wait

I figured I would have a couple months to figure out and play with my new horse and then if necessary I could put him/her in training or my friends would put rides in while I was down depending on the horse I ended up with.  Watching the new horse get worked would also give me something to do while recovering.

Well as the buying process took longer and longer, we started inching closer to my surgery date of December 9.  For Odin himself, we had to push the test ride back a few weeks as he was still ouchy on a relatively fresh splint, and then we had a second delay when he was footsore and we couldn't vet him.  We finally managed to bring him home a mere two weeks before my surgery.
Using those hocks during our test ride

I managed a light ride on him most days for those two weeks, wanting to get to know him and him to get to know me.  And also to figure out what he needs while I am off.  Luckily, he made that pretty clear from the get go.  Weak stifles and struggle with canter transitions/inability to hold a lead in back.  As mentioned before, none of this was surprising given his age and current fitness level but it definitely made sense to put him in full training while I was grounded.

My surgery went smoothly and at day 4 I seem to be recovering well.  I have talked to trainer R and yesterday I even managed to sneak to the barn for a few minutes to watch a training ride on Odin by R's daughter R2.   So what has Odin been up to?

  • New shoes!  He had his first farrier visit.  He was near the end of his shoeing cycle when we picked him up and his right heel was definitely under run so we wanted to work on that.  In addition, we added hind shoes to even him out in back and help his stifles.  I am sad to put hinds on in winter - and also sad bank account - but it is worth it to give him a boost in canter work.
  • Turn out - finally got him added to our turn out schedule and once he learned the minis next door aren't tiny horse demons he has enjoyed his play time.  
  • Longing - R has stated that he mostly needs to work on the canter without a human on his back so he is spending time on the longe line.  I am hoping next week to be able to watch some of his sessions.  I loathe longing agnd therefore am not super educated about it. For example, I am not sure if side reins are being used and/or how they might help him right now.  So I will try and learn about that.  
    Fun for no one
  • Being fussed over and complimented.  Trainer R loves every horse so I am not surprised she loves Odin.  But that won't stop me from sharing some of her positive thoughts.  
    • She called him one of the most sensible horses she has ever met.  He takes new things in stride and is more curious than fearful.  Even when something scares him (e.g. minis) he has a small reaction and then chooses to approach it and see what is going on.
    • Smart and trainable.  I will have to get some videos but you can almost see his brain working.  He has been improving in every session.  Partly because he already knew some of this and was just unfit but he has also been figuring out the differences between our style and his previous owner/trainer and adapting himself to it. R2 noted yesterday that he is moving laterally off the leg and bending around the leg about 100 times better already.
    • Easy going and a pleasure to be around.  Horse just loves people and interacting with them.  
And just a couple other notes since even perfect horses need goals.  He isn't very comfortable with crowding in the ring yet and will kick out at horses that pass too closely.  They are warning shots and not actual attempts to connect but we will work on getting him more used to that.  

And in his riding sessions, he is only doing poles at the moment.  We might throw a cross rail in for fun in the near future but even small jumping work will mostly be held until he can, you know, canter more easily.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Before pics

Sunday J came out to the barn to take some conformation shots so in theory we can do comparisons as time goes on.

Who is a good posing horse?

I would like to eat that saddle please

OK, hands are edible too

No, don't take away the hand chew toy
If anyone sees anything special about his current state or conformation, please feel free to share.  Clearly we lack anything in the way of neck muscle and topline.  Otherwise to my amateur eye he looks pretty good.

I am not highly knowledgeable on conformation but my vet and trainer have said that overall they like his build.  Comments I remember are:

  • that he has a good short back for jumping
  • nice shoulder and croup angles (or he will have those once he is done growing? Something like that)
  • Good pasterns, length and thickness
  • well sprung ribcage
  • nicely uphill although he is expected to grow a little more so we will see if that lasts
  • kind of straight behind
He also has great hair, I hope his tail magically stays nice as I neglect to do anything with it.  Hey, a girl can dream.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

My Baby needs new things

While bringing your new horse home right before Thanksgiving might not get you much in the way of good weather, it is an excellent time to shop for new horse stuff!  Woohoo spending more money!

Very little of Fawkes' stuff works for Odin. I could get by with it for awhile but Odin is just that much taller/larger/longer that he would need many of his own things. So courtesy of Black Friday sales, here is a tally of what I picked up for the new kid in town.

This was an urgent situation although the lovely people I board with were nice enough to lend me some in the meantime.  My rules of blankets are waterproof (outside horse), 1000D or higher to try and survive a few seasons, and front clips because buckles in the cold sucks.

Schneiders was having a kick ass sale and I picked up a waterproof sheet, medium weight blanket, and hood for $170. There were SO. MANY. COLORS. to choose from. And since Odin is a really dark bay, practically black, he can wear any color.  Naturally I went for the bright orange.

Here modeling the medium weight, the sheet and hood are matching

Smartpak was having their 15% off sale so I picked up the Navy/Hunter Deluxe turnout in heavy weight and another matching hood: https://img.smartpak.com/product/300x300/17376_Navy.jpg  I think hood prices are a ripoff since they are like 2/3 of the price of the blanket but I figured I might as well get the matching one here.  I actually ordered this one first before the Schneiders sale or I might have just picked up another one of theirs, but total was still pretty good at $180.  


As is probably the case with many still growing, out of shape horses...or some horses just in general...Odin interferes pretty significantly.   So I don't get on him without some leg protection. And because white boots make us fancy: 

Man I feel lucky with this horse, look at that trot already
Riding Warehouse had their 20% off sale so for $50 I was able to get a full set of Woof Wear sport brushing boots.  Now we will be extra fancy!

Ok I guess I mostly only purchased things that started with the letter B.  Fawkes was a true cob and while his bridle mostly fit Odin, the noseband was too short and the cheek pieces were on the last hole.  Which led me to believe my new guy was a horse size.  So in ideal world, I was looking for a decent quality bridle, horse size, monocrown, and in a light color.  I know some people don't like the light chestnut coloring but I think it looks amazing on the dark horses.  

Everywhere with great sales only had darker colors available.  My searching uncovered that Red Barn bridles come in this (terribly named) color called Conker that would be perfect for Odin.  And Ebay had a brand new Red Barn Sovereign bridle in Conker for $90, which is about 1/3 of normal retail.  Only downside?  It was a cob.  Online reviews definitely varied for this brand but were largely positive and stated that the bridles ran large.  For that deal I decided to take the chance.  Plus the ebay store had a return policy.  Odin and I got lucky

I absolutely love this color on him.  And I am glad it is a cob, I am not sure a horse size would even work.  The noseband is only two holes down from the top and the cheekpieces are a hole or two tighter than center.   It did come with matching laced reins which I didn't have on today.  I will give them a try tomorrow but I love my rubber reins so I might be willing to have the color mismatch there.  

And the bridle was ridiculously soft right out of the box.  It isn't a monocrown but otherwise I am happy with my purchase so far.  I will make sure to see how it breaks in/holds up.  

I have started working on getting his mane under control.  And I am indeed wearing a
powderpuff football shirt from when I was a highschool senior a long, long time ago.  
There is still at least one other thing (halter) coming and possibly a few other things I will get once my bank account recovers from this whole experience, but I believe we have all the essentials now.  Luckily my saddle/half pad/girth collection was able to fit Odin as is.  Shopping was kind of fun, but now I need to rebuild my horse savings for awhile!