"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wind in Her Mane

It was VERY windy this weekend due to a cold front moving in.

On Saturday at the barn, we were having sustained 14+ mph winds with gusts over 20 mph. It was about 60 degrees in the shelter of the barn but when you were out in that wind, it was cold. At least 10 degrees colder. And I still toughed it out with a single short sleeved layer. Mel does heat training, I do cold training: if I can tolerate temps into the upper 50's in short sleeves, it means less layers throughout the winter. #winning

I tacked up Gracie, deciding I would ride her in the small paddock behind the house in case she decided to be a nut over the wind. However this is what Gracie thought of the small hurricane whipping around her:

In case you don't want to embiggen the first photo...
She was napping!!!Whereas Deja spooked just being brought in from the field by Zoe...
A video would have done that more justice. You guys would've been able to see just how much those trees were moving in the background!

I rode in the paddock anyway. Gracie had a case of the zoomies but no fits. She tried a few times to call the shots when it came to which direction we were going to go, but she complied with minimal fussing when I corrected her. She offered up every single gait: pace, rack, trot, canter, walk. What caught my attention though was how inconsistent she was being with her gaiting. She couldn't hold it for more than half a turn around the paddock, breaking to the trot frequently and then requesting a walk break. This is unusual for her. Figuring she might be a little sore due to the changing weather, I kept her moving for 30 minutes and then just called it a day.

I was worried about them not drinking enough water with the dropping temperature, so I mixed some unmolassed beet pulp with a 1/4 cup of the Omega Max (it's ground flax), a scoop of electrolytes (to encourage drinking later) and a handful of her TC Lite for flavor and made it extra soupy. Gracie LOVED it, taking her time slurping and chewing.

I brought Lily into the barn yard and she too had a beet pulp mash.

She is the noisiest eater...
And that mess around the rubber feeder? She'll clean that up afterwards.

Beautiful view!
Lily takes her time eating, and I later tied her by the fence so I could give her some hay as well. The temperature was continuing to drop and that's when I looked over at her and realized that she seemed very tense. I went over and checked her tail, and it was definitely tucked tight between her legs. Poor clipped mare was cold! :( I threw on her lined sheet (it's about the equivalent of 80-100 grams of insulation) and waited to see if it would help her. 15 minutes later she still looked tense so I added a cooler under the sheet. I waited another 15 minutes and then her posture relaxed. Her tail wasn't tucked anymore. 

They had their dinners afterwards and all four mares were turned out for the night. 

On Sunday the wind was even worse. I took my time puttering around the barn, waiting for the day to warm up and the winds to die down a bit, chatting with Zoe. We had a frost warning for last night so we set up the heated water trough outside. 

I finally tacked up Gracie. With the current temperature changes, the easy keepers are living in their grazing muzzles when outside. Cold stresses grass, which makes sugar levels spike. Our second week at Kathy's, I noticed that Gracie, while not having gained weight, was suddenly getting cresty and developing the fat pads over her eyes again. We had been doing afternoons sans grazing muzzles but I switched her to grazing muzzle 24/7 for now. It worked: the crestiness disappeared. She still eats pretty much constantly with the muzzle on, but it reduces her intake enough to control her latent insulin resistance. Here is one study on how grazing muzzles affect a horse's grass intake and grass choices. Gracie's feet continue to look gorgeous and she is still sound barefoot over rocks. No footiness. 

Kathy mentioned that that morning Gracie had been ravenous, most likely because of the colder temperatures, so I gave her a full flake of hay prior to riding and let her eat while I tacked up. She seemed very content while she calmly munched on the hay. I had tried offering Horse Quencher to Lily earlier and she decided that she does not like it anymore, so I offered it to Gracie. Normally I wouldn't offer her anything sugary but Horse Quencher isn't exactly cheap and one serving (I have the single-serving packets) is equivalent to a small handful of sweet feed, which I've used safely before with her as a carrier for icky powdered meds. Gracie took one sniff and proceeded to gulp down all of the sweetened water in the feeder. 

I took her out to the large front field and longed her for about 10 minutes to see where her brain was at and also to watch her move. She strode out quite comfortably, cantering on the correct lead in each direction with ease, and doing a very forward, springy trot. She even threw in a couple of bucks, which made me happy to have chosen to longe first! She was very responsive to my requests for her to stop and change direction and I noted that she didn't desperately try to eat the clover in this field like she had been doing the night Kathy and I rode in this field. I think giving her hay prior to riding helped. I will probably continue doing this throughout the winter. 

The huge expanse of Kathy's front field.
I asked her to walk forward and she did so happily, picking up her gait as we followed the fence line downhill. At the bottom of the field, she suddenly lifted her withers and charged forward at this incredible speed rack...it felt like we were coasting along over the grass. I hadn't experienced her true speed rack in a long time, and it had never before felt this smooth. I could not help grinning from ear to ear like an idiot, the combination of wind and speed lifting Gracie's blonde-tipped mane backwards as we flew.

It. was. AWESOME.

I let her canter up the far side of the field and we did a couple of laps in both directions to warm up under saddle. I eventually let her break into the trot and got up into 2-point for my next 2Pointober time. Gracie has a lot of shoulder movement in her trot, which means it is swinging and pretty smooth. You can sit it fairly comfortably if you want, as it barely has enough lift to push you out of the saddle to post. It was actually harder to 2-point with her trot than it is with Lily's. I looked at my wristwatch to time myself and knocked out exactly 8 minutes. 

Yes, my abs and thighs were burning after.

After that we got to work on gaiting and Gracie did give me her speed rack again on request. Though sometimes she kept right on going into the canter, and sometimes she broke into a trot. I have to fine-tune the request for it and give her time to get stronger. The rack is her most correct and most comfortable gait, but it is also the hardest one for her to maintain. 

My favorite part of the ride, however, was few times that we cantered up the hill and maintained the canter coming around the top part of the field. Not only that, she was picking up the correct leads at my request and maintaining them. (She will cross-canter if she is uncomfortable.) Gracie has a wonderful rocking horse canter that is pretty easy to collect and with her arched neck and flying mane, it felt like I was riding a dressage-trained Andalusian.

I stopped her so I could take these photos.
She was very good about halting but you can see the annoyed ears:
"You are ruining my groove, woman!"
Seriously, she was spectacular on this ride. I had MapMyRun going for funsies and we covered 6 miles in 43 minutes, with an average pace of a little over 8 mph.

We cooled out walking around the field for 5 minutes. The wind dried most of Gracie's sweat off. I led her back through the fields to the barn yard, where I gave her some more hay and later her dinner. 

Lily thinks she's camouflaged.
Note the wind in the tree! That's how hard it was blowing!
I repeated the same process as Saturday with Lily: hay + mash. Since temperatures were going to drop into the low 30's overnight, Lily got to wear a midweight blanket and Gracie wore the lined sheet. Gracie's winter fuzz is coming in, but it's not very long just yet. 

It was a good weekend at the barn!


  1. Wow, was that wind killer here in New Jersey too!!!

    1. Hate typing on my phone... That was supposed to say the wind was killer in New Jersey too...

    2. Hahaha I feel the same way about commenting from the phone! But I did understand what you meant on your first attempt. ;) and apparently there's more big wind coming tomorrow...

  2. I laughed at Gracie sleeping. And you can see how her mane is being blown forward. Sounds like a cold front is moving in. My last couple of rides Ashke was pretty sweaty, but I really don't want to clip him, since I don't own a blanket that fits. He does pretty good and the barn is heated (they stay in their stalls when it's super cold) so I just have to manage our sweat. I do have a light weight fleece cooler that I can use to help cool him down (which I can also put the BOT pad inside of) after a sweat inducing ride.

    I have a request . . . can you have C (or whoever) record the five different gaits that Gracie has? For those of us who are not familiar with pacing and racking a visual aid would be lovely. And who wouldn't want to watch you ride your lovely mare.

    I am seriously jelly about those fields.

    1. It is so wonderful that you have a heated barn! We don't have those here. Maybe a heated tack room at the bigger barns, but that's it.

      I'll try to have Charles get video in the next couple of weeks. The pace is easy with her, but I have not been successful at getting that rack on command for video. Hopefully it'll be easier now that she's more comfortable. In the meantime, I'll refer you back to that post I wrote for you explaining what they looked like when performed by gaited horses in general. :) http://waitingforthejump.blogspot.com/2014/04/all-gaits-explaining-movement-of-gaited.html?m=1

  3. It was windy in VA on Saturday too. I was riding at the Battlefield and I could hardly get in and out of my trailer to tack up because the door kept slamming closed. Your post made me realize that I didn't even give a thought to how the wind would effect Nimo - which is a testament to how far we've come. A year ago, I might have worried about being on the trails by ourselves, but now apparently it's NBD:) And I second Karen's request for gaiting videos. When I see horses gaiting, it just looks like a bunch of legs and feet flying around and I would like to learn more.

    1. That is absolutely fantastic, Gail! I'm so happy for you and Nimo!

      Regarding the gaiting videos, I did a really awesome compilation of both photos and videos of the different gaits of gaited horses here: http://waitingforthejump.blogspot.com/2014/04/all-gaits-explaining-movement-of-gaited.html?m=1
      There is nothing else quite like it on the internet: I looked! :) But it will give you an idea of what I'm talking about when I say pace and rack. I actually started referring to Gracie's gaits as pace and rack after I wrote that post, as they are the generic terms for the basic gaited horse gaits. (The KMH people have weird names for their gaits. The slow rack is called "single foot" for example. Seriously, what the hell?) It's crazy how complicated the gaited horse people make it seem. Some breeds have extra gaits in addition to the pace and the rack (as well as your w/t/c), like the Paso Fino with the fino gait. But in most instances it's like the TB people inventing a term for the TB's trot and the Friesian people inventing a different term for the Friesian trot just because it has more knee and hock action. It is the equivalent of this in gaited horses. You'll see what I mean in that post. :)

  4. I seriously can't remember the last time it WASN'T windy... and we're surrounded by corn on all sides. It's making starting Booger on trails pretty much impossible :(