I’ve started both girls on hill therapy. They are both over weight and need to bump up their exercise a bit. I am still starting them slow and easy because I don’t need any lame ponies. So for now they are trotting each direction for 2 minutes with a 1 minute rest between direction changes and after they are done. This one minute at the end gives me time to make up with Bonnie if she has gotten emotional.

On a side note: I am so so proud of Bonnie! We were gone for 12 days straight when we went to Alaska to visit my best friend Teresa. Then I didn’t make it out to the ponies until the second day we were home. Only to check on their hay and water. I was so tired! But when I re-approached Bonnie was just as easy to catch as she was when I left. And the fly spray continues to be a non issue! Whoot whoot!! Slow and right beats fast and wrong. Every time.

Anyway, hill therapy. Hill therapy is very interesting and can help a horse really learn how to use it’s body. I did it with Billy with awesome results. I’ve changed it up a bit with the girls because I don’t have a hill. To start with I’ll have them trot over a couple of rails, two on each side of the circle. That’s been interesting as they both kind of trip over and trot ON them. So clearly they need to start to pay attention! Then I will move them onto jumping a jump, one on each side of the circle. I’ve started them slow and easy but they will work up 5 minutes each direction trotting or cantering with a 2 minute rest. Hill therapy looks like this:

  • Daily for the first week. By the end of the week I’ll have them up to 5 minutes
  • Then three times a week for the second week.
  • Then weeks 3-6, two times a week!

If you are doing this with a big horse you can’t ride them for this six weeks as they are changing their back muscles. It can make them quite sore and if you ride them you may injure their back or stop the good changes that can happen with this therapy! I don’t ride my minis of course and neither are driving right now. I can still take them for our walks so our schedule won’t change much. If I was driving them I would give them a break from pulling during this six weeks.

Bonnie is doing very well. She backs up beautifully. Her send needs some work as she wants to either freeze out there or come back in, bounding! But I am working on my body language to be sure she totally understands what I’m asking. She wants to be pleasing so if she doesn’t do something I’ve asked then I’ve asked her the wrong question or wasn’t clear.

Sky was interesting today. Last night when we did this she was so responsive and soft on the line. Today she was dragging her feet, breaking down into the walk, tripping all over the rails. I attributed all this to her feeling resistant to what we were doing. She would have rather just stood and ate the hay in the middle. I have hay there for them during our break. They can come in and have a little snack! I don’t want to be giving them lots of treats as they both need to lose some weight. This hay is not their favorite so they kind of munch on it.

I am so excited to see the changes in these girls over the next 6 weeks! This will be so great for Bonnie’s confidence. When I was doing this with Sky on the first direction, Bonnie was loose. When I asked Sky to back up, Bonnie went back so quickly and smoothly! When I stopped asking Sky, Bonnie stopped too. Then when I sent Sky out on the circle, Bonnie just stood there on the edge of it and watched the whole 2 minutes. It was so cute and I was bummed I didn’t get that on video! I think Bonnie will be a great liberty horse as long as I can convince her not to leave me!

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The girls when we were all done with Hill Therapy! I love how they both want to stick with me even after I’ve had them do something they may not really want to do.

Bonnie came to me in seemingly good shape. She wasn’t fat at all. Her feet were not great and needed some TLC, but to just glance at her you would have thought she was healthy.

Now that she has been on the Crypto Aero feed for 75 days (2 months and 15 days) I can see that she wasn’t as healthy as I originally thought. I like my driving horses to have some body on them. She was thin, but didn’t have any muscle tone at all. After packing on some pounds (she’s a little fat!) she is starting to develop some muscle tone and is looking much healthier for it! It’s my opinion that people tend to keep their minis either too skinny or too fat. There are very few in the middle. Those that seriously drive their minis tend to keep them in better health. Because a thin mini can’t drive very far. Neither can a fat one!

I choose to manage weight with exercise instead of the starvation feeding program. So all of my minis are on the heavier side. However I believe this gives them a great place to start building muscle. The two girls and I walk 3-6 miles nearly every day right now. When I get Sky in cart we will trot 4-6 miles a day and both will slim down a bit but keep that round, blossoming look that I love so much!

bonnieshoofbeforeandafter
The photo on the left is before I trimmed her. Photo on the right is today. She was trimmed about a week ago. You can see all the new growth and how it is growing down from her coronet band in a healthy way. I wish I had grabbed this photo a bit further back so you could see how much healthier her heels are! No more underslung…
bonnierightfronthoofcollage
Photo on the left is after her first trim. I was able to get all that long slipper foot off but she had a long way to go… photo on the right is from today, about a week after her last trim. What a long way we have come in a short time! I attribute this to Crypto Aero Feed and consistent trimming, plus lots and lots of exercise!
beforeandafterbonnie
Though at first glance most people would rather their pony look like the one on the top, however when you really get to looking at these two photos you can see just how round and blossoming Bonnie is now in the photo on the bottom. If I had asked her to stretch she still has that nice neck under there… But what I am loving is how round her shoulders are and how nice her butt is now. She is more balanced. I’m not too concerned about her neck. We aren’t showing after all and she will be able to stretch down and collect up when driving just fine. She is already doing this on our walks! I drive both the girls ahead of me down the road on one rein and Bonnie spends a lot of time stretching down and relaxing as we walk. Actually I should take another after photo now of her body as she has changed a bit more from all the exercise!

Sometimes we have to look a bit deeper and be willing to think outside of the box to understand just what makes a healthy horse. I write often about how I have my horses on 24/7 forage and just 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero once a day. I truly feel I’m doing the best I can for my horses, keeping things as natural and close to nature as I can. And in so doing, I believe my horses reflect great health!

If you have been reading my blog for very long then you know I LOVE before and after photos. LOVE them.

So, of course when I decided to start my ponies on a new feed called Crypto Aero I had to set up and take my before photos. I didn’t want to take a bad before photo because I want to really be able to see any differences that may occur this summer while feeding this. So I brushed and brushed the ponies, then trimmed their feet and had my boys come out and help set up some good conformation shots.

Sky's before picture.
Sky’s before picture.

These photos are also helping me decide what to DO with my ponies. I want to drive them all. Sky hasn’t yet decided if she wants to drive again so I’m giving her some time. She is cranky most of the time and is very worried about what is going on all around our little farm. She whinnies all the time and spends most of her time staring off into the distance. She hasn’t ever lived where she can see for so far and she is having a hard time adjusting. She is grumpy with me if I take her out to play right now. Some days she is very happy and bright and some days there is a definite dark cloud hanging over her head. I’m not in a hurry and won’t drive her if she doesn’t want to. This is more about having a nice partnership with my ponies than about what they can do for me.

Captain's before picture.
Captain’s before picture.

I’ve been really watching Captain Planet and have come to the conclusion that he is sickle hocked and both of his front feet are clubbed. He seemed much straighter and truer when he was young so I’m not sure what would have caused these dramatic conformation changes… He has been well cared for and feed healthy feed. No grain or extra supplements that can cause ligament issues. But because of these issues he probably won’t be very comfortable being a long distance driving horse. We have a long long way to go before he is confident enough to have anything behind him anyway… but isn’t he a cutie!?

Zorro's before picture.
Zorro’s before picture.

Zorro is very very nice. He has a nice length of neck, a lovely laid back shoulder, beautiful straight legs and nice feet. I’m so darn excited about him! He is very curious and wants to do things with me. Whenever he sees me he makes a beeline for me. He follows me everywhere and is always very helpful in scooping poop, brushing the other horses, putting out the hay nets, helping me with the other ponies. He isn’t afraid of much so if I can keep that confidence and just build on it I think he will make an awesome driving pony! He’ll be big enough that I can take him into the mountains and we can do parades and maybe even some CDE’s.

Blossom's (?) before picture.
Blossom’s (?) before picture.

I am getting my new mare this week and after a bit of settling in time I will begin to evaluate her as well. (I’m trying to decide what to call her. Her registered name is Ott’s Lil Booger… I’ve been calling her Blossom!)  I’m hoping that she will also make a great little driving pony so I’ll have two really solid ponies I can drive. Provided that they will enjoy it as well. I really am in this for all of us, not just me!

***I’ll write more about the Crypto Aero feed in another post! I’m so EXCITED about this feed!!!

I have spent the last 4 years working hard on Billy’s feet, trying to help him have more comfortable angles, shorter heels, less toe, a concave sole, wide healthy frogs.

It’s been a struggle!  He had so much compacted sole that he was actually lame for a short time.  Sometimes he will have a bit of bulging sole still.  The other day the dog had something in his mouth and I went over to take a look.  It was a chunk of mud with a perfect hoof stuck to it!  It was Billy’s sole, all shed out on it’s own!  This is the FIRST time that has happened since I’ve owned him.  The first!  I was so excited.

I would like to share some before and after photos of his feet.  Just so everyone can see what can be changed and helped.  It doesn’t have to take as long as I’ve struggled with it.  I am a slow and easy changer.  I adopted the rule “slow and steady wins the race” and “slow and right beats fast and wrong” a long time ago.

Below you’ll see how thick his soles were.  His heels were nearly 3 inches tall and it seemed that I wouldn’t be able to trim them as it seemed that it was all flesh and blood there!  This is his left front foot.

hoofcollage2This was his right front foot.  Same heel as the left and just as much sole.billysfeetbeforeThis is from last year. 3 years after I started making changes to the above foot.  I used a concave rasp to help get some of that sole out.  I was able to trim his heels quite a bit and took some toe back.  His frogs widened at the heel.

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Now onto last weeks photos!  This is before I trimmed him.  I love how the sole looks, the frog is wide and healthy.  He is toeing in on this leg so I cleaned up his toe a bit, took that point off so it wouldn’t pull his hoof, pastern and leg in.

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The photo below was after the trim.  I cleaned up the bars and rounded that toe.  I also put a nice rocker in the toe area from underneath and then gave him a mustang roll.

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A side shot of his feet before and after.  It’s amazing how much they have changed.billyshoovesbillybeforeandafter2015Billy on the left 2011 and Billy on the right 2015!

I love all the changes I see.  How about you?

When I first got my treeless saddle I was so excited to give it a try!  We had been struggling along with the Wintec Wide, neither myself, Billy or Chloe had enjoyed it much. We were ready for something different.

Boy oh boy was treeless different!

The first thing I noticed was how high my new saddle sat.  It was like a sky scraper sitting up on Billy’s back. I knew from all my research that the saddle starts out that way, but after 20 hours of riding it will soften and take the form of your rear end. Walla! No more sky scraper!

The other thing was NO MOUNTING FROM THE GROUND. The saddle was slip sliding all over both Billy and Chloe’s back even when I mounted from my pedestal or a fence. I would get on them and the saddle would immediately slide to the side. This had me worried because Billy is a youngster and there may be antics that I will have to ride through. I was wondering just how I was going to do that on a saddle that slides around when we are just standing still!

However, as I mentioned in the other post, I don’t have a saddle budget. THIS saddle was going to have to work. So I set off to do more research. There must be a way to make the saddle more stable!

I found this wonderful article about girth length.  ( Scroll down the page to the article “Is Your Cinch Too Long?” by Richard Sacks.)

And walla! Things started to fall into place. I had been using the girth I had for the Wintec Wide saddle, a 34″ Montana Cincha girth. It was a beautiful mohair girth that would not cause Billy to itch and wouldn’t pinch or cause sores when he got sweaty. But it was waaaay too long.  Because it was so long it was basically making a nice ring around Billy’s body. Allowing the saddle to just roll around and around. Also it wasn’t wide enough to help distribute the pressure on his brisket (see photo below for where the brisket is located). When using a treeless saddle, often you will need to have your girth a bit tighter than on a treed saddle and this can put more pressure on their brisket area, which can be uncomfortable if the girth is too narrow.

So I pulled out chloe’s little 22″ girth and gave it a try! The saddle was so much more stable, I was totally amazed.

My mom bought me the leather girth that Rocky Creek Hill offers for their treeless saddles. They are shorter and wider than the average girth. Perfect for their treeless saddles of course! I asked for a 20″ girth as I felt the 22″ was still a bit too long.

Here is a photo of what it looks like with the beautiful 20″ leather girth.

SONY DSCThere was still a bit of slippage going on that I attributed to my Woolback dressage pad.  It’s my opinion that if you are going to have a treeless saddle it’s best to also use a saddle pad made for the treeless saddles. My Woolback is not. To help with that I got out my scissors and cut a wide patch out of the middle of my pad, along the spinal channel of the pad. Doing this alone, has greatly helped stabilize the saddle even more. I plan to save my pennies and purchase the 5 Star treeless saddle pad.  I have a friend that has one and it’s such a beautiful pad. It’s real felted wool, not mixed with plastic as most of the felted wool pads are.

(I can not use anything plastic against Billy’s skin because of his allergies. He will break out in hives. How horrible that would be under his sweaty saddle pad!)

Another issue that cropped up when I first rode in my treeless saddle were the stirrups.

SONY DSCThere is a BIG flat ring under a flap on the saddle that the stirrup leathers buckle around.  However I found that the placement of this ring was too far back, throwing me forward onto my horses withers and neck. How weird!  It was quite unsettling at first. So I hopped off and tried moving my leathers forward on the ring, but they wouldn’t stay of course… so I lengthened my stirrups two holes and climbed back on. Problem solved! Plus my stirrups still hit right at my ankle bone, as they should.

Another thing I learned in all my researching was that the treeless saddles actually need to be placed further FORWARD than a treed saddle. Since the treeless saddles don’t have a tree there is nothing that can pinch or bang into the horse’s shoulder. Having the saddle farther forward puts your weight on the horses ‘center of motion’ which also helps keep the saddle stable and the horse comfortable.

SONY DSCsaddleplacementThese are just a few of the hints and tips I ran across in my research. I thought it would be helpful to have them all in one place right here so that others can learn from my mistakes and hopefully have a wonderful first ride in their treeless saddle! Also these were a few things that I was not prepared for that kept me up at night wondering if I had made the right choice for myself and my horses. If you are armed with the correct information from the get go things are so much easier and you don’t feel like the treeless saddle people are lying about their product!

Treeless saddles can be really wonderful if you are using them properly.

I mentioned the fact that I have been building Billy’s topline with a few simple exercises in my before and after post. I thought I would share them!

These are the simple things I started with.

Really.

This is ALL I did to start changing his topline.

Backing:

One thing I did was set up a blue barrel with a cookie on top. Then I would back him to the barrel and he could eat the cookie!

To help him with lowering his head while backing, I put a cooking on a cone and backed him to the cone, where he could just pick the cookie up without having to lift his head.

Point-to-Point:

Later I added in hill therapy. But not until he was stronger from these simple exercises.

It’s completely amazing how the simple, little things can make such a big difference, when done on a regular basis.

Please do use your common sense. I NEVER used backing as a punishment and I never backed him very far at one time. This could be very damaging to a horse, so please be careful.

Remember to keep it light and fun!

while i am busy finishing up some photo editing and preparing for thanksgiving this week i would like to leave you with these thoughts, blogs and articles.

billyandpartnershipi have certainly found this to be true for billy and his transformation over the years.

how do horses show affection?

hope.

this photographer shoots pure magic with her camera.

what is your horse thinking?  by temple grandin

some interesting stuff to ruminate over for sure.

we’ll be back after thanksgiving!