Sky has been showing me that she was unhappy with her bit. She was chewing it excessively, gaping her mouth, putting her tongue OVER the bit and pushing into it most of the time. So I thought maybe she would like some tongue relief. I did some research and came up with the Arch Mouth Butterfly Bit. It came a yesterday and today I had a chance to try it out!

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It’s a very pretty bit. I got the German Silver mouth piece and she seemed to like it just fine. When I first offered it to her she grabbed it right up. Then I had to adjust the bridle a bit because her mane is so big and floofy right now, so I had her drop the bit. When I offered it to her again she reached right out and grabbed it. I think she thought it was an interesting taste! The curb chain is too big, but I don’t think I’ll need it, so I just took it off.

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I took her around and ground drove her a bit. She isn’t a horse that likes change so I wanted to check it out without the cart attached for the first time. She was super responsive and soft in it. She mouthed it lightly but mostly had a nice quiet mouth. When she got anxious she did put her tongue over it, but only one time and immediately put her tongue back under it. I think that is because the bit itself doesn’t press on her tongue at all and she found comfort in that!

 

I plan on keeping Sky home for a few months this spring, meaning that I’m not going to drive her out on the road, but am going to be practicing some exercises I’ve learned from Andy Marcoux over at Coachman’s Delight. I’m thinking this will help her start to be less anxious when driving. I’m also going to be building lots of confidence building obstacles to practice with. Anything to help her feel more calm and connected when driving. Plus all this will help prepare Zorro too!

I thought I would do an update of my tiny track and share how it’s working this winter.

I still love it. The ponies are moving around all the time. Right now they are not using the entire track because one side of it is a big, deep snow drift. Once in a while they will try to come down that side and I cringe the whole time they are floundering through it. It wasn’t so bad when the drift was soft but now it’s hard as a rock!

I feed at the opposite side of the track from the water so they have to walk a bit to get a drink. They all look very healthy and I have to fill the trough every 4-5 days which is about how often I filled it this summer so they are drinking enough. I have loose salt and magnesium in the shed so they have access to that at all times. Because it’s so cold and windy the chickens spend most of their days in the horse shed and then go back into their coop at night. Then the ponies use the shed at night… they are usually covered with sawdust in the mornings so I know they are laying down in there. They also lounge around in front of the shed when the sun is shining.

I put wind breaks around the track so they would have something to back up to when the wind really gets to blowing. If it’s 4 degrees out and the wind comes up to about 30 mph then it quickly drops to minus 10, 15 or even 20 degrees. They have two run in shed options but always choose to stand out in it. This morning the wind was blowing so much snow around that I couldn’t see 5 feet in front of me and I found them backed up to the hay stack in the far shelter. They typically don’t like that one when the wind is blowing because the roof is made up of tarps and they flap around a bit. But today they made an exception!!

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This is how they looked after I brought them over to the grain area so they could have their supplements. Even standing under the shelter backed up to the hay they were quite frosty!

It’s amazing to me how the morning can be so windy, freezing and snowy and then the afternoon is bright blue skies and beautiful! (The wind is blowing a bit so it is FREEZING out there!)

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This was in the afternoon! From the above photos to this!

All three of the ponies will get a bee in their bonnets and take off racing around and around the track. I love it when they do this! Bonnie and Zorro play with each other, chasing and bucking and rearing up to play bite. Sky watches them a bit annoyed but will run around the track on her quite a bit. I love watching them exercise in this way!

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Here is a little video of my track! There isn’t any music, just the sound of my feet in the snow and the wind, for those of you that read this while at work 😉

 

I guess I felt I needed one more thing to do in this busy season… I started making felt flowers! I love dressing my ponies up with garlands in the different seasons and this year I found the prettiest, simplest, felt leaf garland for fall.

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I really loved the felt as it has a simple look and is very horse friendly. I started looking up felt flower garlands and ordered one to use for photos. Then I decided I wanted flowers in lots of fun colors and looked around to order more. But I couldn’t afford all the garlands I wanted! Even simple can add up if you want too many of them. So I decided I would just make them myself!

I am loving it! It’s extremely time consuming and tedious and yet I absolutely fell in love with the process (burnt fingers and all) and the resulting flowers. I have spent many hours experimenting with different types of flowers – including ones I made up myself – and so far the daisies are my favorites. Daisies are my favorite flowers anyway!! I also love the sunflowers. These two types of flowers take the most time to make, of course.

flowercollageChristmas for my family is very simple this year. Everyone gets a flower garland! But they can know that I put lots of my time and love into each and every flower on their garland. Now that I am done making all my Christmas gifts I can focus on making some flowers to offer for sale! And I have many  many hours of practice under my belt.

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Here is a simple Daisy Chain Garland with a couple of different colored daisies.

This particular garland is about 3 foot long with 9 flowers and 13 leaves. I love this length of garland because they can also be used as a flower crown.

Sky hardly ever opens her eyes for pictures anymore. She just stands there with her eyes closed. Maybe if she can’t see me I’ll go away!

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Bonnie is my super model!

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I am studying up on my flowers a bit and am going to continue to experiment and try some new ones. I like some to look realistic and some to look a bit more fantastical.

As you know I like to decorate Sky’s bridle with flowers as well. I thought she should be wearing a flower I made so, I changed things up a bit. This is a little sunflower. I love these colors on her!

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I am nearly ready to start taking orders! Watch this space for more on that 🙂

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I know I talk about listening on this blog often. I think it’s so important when you own animals of any kind to learn to listen to them, to understand them and to honor what they say.

I mentioned before that I have had several horses in and out over the spring and summer. Last year I still had Billy when I brought Sky and Zorro home. I had Captain Planet when I brought Sky and Zorro home as well. Sky had quite a lot going on when I brought her home. Much of it physical. But she also had a lot of adjusting to do. She came from my mom’s. They live in a subdivision but the houses are much closer to together than here. They have trees. LOTS of trees. We don’t have any. (Well I’m exaggerating. We have a few baby trees in the front yard.) We don’t have any pine trees or apple trees or bushes to provide cover. You can see for miles. On a clear day you can see many many many miles. This was unsettling for Sky and she spent many hours just gazing off into the distance and being on edge that first summer.

Winter came and went and Bonnie had several laminitic episodes that caused Sky great stress. Sky gained quite a bit of weight as Bonnie went through her agonizing lameness. Bonnie got skinnier and skinnier and Sky got fatter and fatter.

I had a few of my grandmother’s horses come in in the early spring. This caused quite a bit of stress as the filly picked on Sky all the time. The summer went on with Bonnie continuing to be laminitic and then full on foundering. Sky continued to gain weight and Bonnie continued to lose weight.

Then I brought home another mare that had been my grandmother’s. Sky and this mare had lived together for years at my mom’s so I thought she would be happy to have her back in her herd. Boy was I wrong! The mare, Essie, bossed Sky all over the track and wouldn’t let her in the run in shed. I put together another run in shed and thought maybe Sky and another horse or two could use that but it ended up that Sky was pushed out of the herd and had to use it all by herself. This was so hard to watch! I hoped they would work it out over the winter.

Then I had a gal contact me interested in buying Captain and I told her about Essie as well. It’s so much easier for a horse to settle if they have a companion. She wanted one for a pet, Captain, and one her kids could ride, Essie! It’s amazing how these things work out as I had decided to keep both Captain and Essie. Around this time I also had the opportunity to bring home another pony that I trained to drive years ago and have always really loved. So I was trying to figure out how to feed and care for 6 ponies over the winter.

It wasn’t until Essie and Captain left that I realized just how stressed I was feeling! Not only that, Sky’s demeanor changed immediately –  like, overnight! Before they left Sky had been being difficult to catch, she didn’t want to drive, she was cranky all the time, ears pinned, stomping around in a huff. She was spooky and exciting to drive, but I knew she wasn’t happy. The day after they left she came trotting to me, nickering, eyes bright and gave me kisses. She followed me around and when I came in with a halter she met me at the gate.

I am paying attention to how all three of them handled the loss of Captain and Essie; Zorro was a bit stressed to be without his brother, but both Sky and Bonnie are much happier, calmer and more content without them. This helped me decide not to bring home the new pony for driving. I don’t want to disrupt the peace and quiet. Everything feels so sweet right now. I think we’ll just love where we are!

Whoot whoot! My new saddle and bridle and a bigger girth (for my very ‘mature’ mare Sky) came in the mail today! I was so excited. I spent quite a bit of time just sitting and looking them over. I brought in my old harness parts and pieced the harness together, put the bit and the reins on the new bridle and just admired it all. Then I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to go out and try everything on Sky!

Our harness is now 90% Comfy Fit Harness! I bought all my pieces from Chimacum Tack. We have:

All we need is the Comfy Fit Breeching, turn back strap, hold back straps and the crupper and our entire harness will be the Comfy Fit harness. I’ve spend the last year and a half saving up money and buying it one piece at a time!

The first thing I bought was the Deluxe Breast Collar because I knew Sky would be so much more comfortable pulling the cart over our rough terrain with that piece of equipment. That was the #1 piece for us!

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Comfy Fit Deluxe Collar

I noticed that she has had some shoulder and wither discomfort lately and I think that’s due to the treeless saddle that was also a bit too short for her. Since she has gotten so much ‘bigger’ much of her old harness just doesn’t fit her very well anymore. I’m not sure it will fit any of my ponies as they are all bigger than Sky! (I like my minis BIG. An oxymoron, I know.) The short, treeless saddle just creates pressure behind her withers and shoulders and doesn’t help disperse the roughness of our terrain. (Though I am addressing this with the independent suspension kit I have on order from Patty’s Pony Place!! Whoot whoot! It’s all coming together!)

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As you can see the old saddle is way too short. I bought the long pad to go under it trying to help her out some and I think it did help! But I love the new long, wrap around style of the Comfy Fit Saddle. It’s also padded all the way down the sides as well!

I love the look of the Comfy Fit Bridle and knew I had to have one for her as well. And of course after I tried everything on her and took her for a short spin around the yard… I put the flowers on the brow band! The blinders are bigger and round. I love how they are cupped so they won’t rub on her eyelashes. The cheek pieces are sleek and lay flat against her face. The nose band is lined and so soft. The back of the nose band is also padded along her jaw line. The poll strap is contoured to fit behind the ears better and it’s also padded and so soft! It’s just a very pretty headstall and fits the miniature horse head wonderfully!

Old bridle on the left and new Comfy Fit Bridle on the right!

I am so so excited about my harness. It looks so beautiful on Sky and will look just as good on Zorro and Essie as well! I am very happy with my choice to have it lined with brown leather. That look is very striking.

Here is a short video of us playing in the front yard! It’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to drive Sky so she was full of it!

She is so cute!

 

After my last post there were a few questions about different parts of the harness so I thought I would do a post about them! I’ll start with the bridle.

As I stated in my last post I like to have only one wrinkle at the corner of my horse’s mouth. When I was in 4-H I was told to have 3 wrinkles and I remember the judge checking that! But I was told by an old cowboy friend to do that to myself and see how it felt. It didn’t feel good so I started having only one wrinkle or if the horse will allow, no wrinkle. (No wrinkle means the horse really has to hold the bit. When the bit is this loose they can get their tongue over it and that is very painful for the horse!)

The photo on the left is a close up of one wrinkle. Then I took a photo a bit farther back so you can see how the bridle looks. Not too loose and not too tight!

Photo on the left shows 2-3 wrinkles and a bridle that is much too tight. Not only is the bit too high in the mouth but it would be very difficult to get the horse’s ears into this bridle without bending them in half. You do have to slip the ears into the bridle but needing to cram them under it by bending the ear means everything is just too tight.

I like there to be a bit of space between the corner of my horse’s mouth and the bit. I don’t like the sides of the bit to touch the corner of the mouth.

This bit is from Chimacum Tack and is the 4″ bit. However when you measure it with a soft tape it measures 4 1/4″. Her old bit measures 4″. Even that little bit mattered! When I put this bit in her mouth she completely stopped chewing the bit and was less reactive when turning.

Here is a video of how I bridle Sky:

The horse’s eye should be in the middle of the blinders. Not higher and not lower. This can be tricky to adjust and sometimes you need to put a hole in between the holes on either the upper part or the lower part of the cheek pieces. When we were adjusting this harness for Sky many years ago we realized that Sky’s eyes are actually set quite high on her face. We hadn’t really noticed that before!

You can see that her eye is exactly in the middle of the blinders!

In the above photo you can see that her eye is too high inside the blinders. This means the upper part of the cheek strap needs to be tightened up! But if your bit is sitting just right and you have to tighten the top strap to adjust the blinders, then you need to adjust the lower cheek strap down one hole so your bit doesn’t get too tight.

Hopefully this cleared a few things up for those that had questions. If it brought up more questions please feel free to ask!

Today was the day to bathe and trim and clip some ponies around here! I love having nice, neat, clean ponies. Then I can stand back and admire them. There is just so much to admire!

And of course here are some before and after photos!

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First up is Sky! The before photo is from this spring. I thought she was fat then… and yet she looks fatter now! I do love how her topline is rounding out with all the driving we are doing. I can not believe she can be so round with all the exercise she is getting. I feed all the ponies 2 flakes of hay in each of the 4 hay nets plus 2 flakes of loose hay spread out on the track. That’s it in a 24 hour period! And they always have hay left over in the nets. Sometimes they have loose hay left over as well. So they don’t eat everything in site. Sky gets 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets topped with 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L and California Trace. I just recently bought some Mojo to address her soreness. I have been thinking that maybe she is getting arthritis. So I’ll slowly add that in. I won’t feed her California Trace at the same time I’m feeding the Mojo because I don’t want to double up on things. We drive 4-5 times a week between 3 and 4 miles a drive. Sometimes we take Zorro and sometimes we go alone! We have only been able to fit in the one hike so far. Life got so crazy and both my truck and my Tahoe broke down so I didn’t have a tow vehicle to get the to the mountains. But the Tahoe is fixed so maybe next week we’ll go hiking! I did have her blood drawn when I had Bonnie’s done and everything came back totally normal. I don’t understand why she won’t lose weight.

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Next up is Bonnie! If you look closely at the summer photo you can just see her ribs. She is completely losing her topline. No hiking, no muscles! She is getting a bit of a belly and I wish I could give her more protein but I have to be so careful because she doesn’t utilize protein very well. She is bright eyed and loves being out on the track all the time with the rest of the ponies. She walks, trots and canters around all the time, snacking on the little things she comes across. So far so good! I keep my fingers crossed all the time. She is getting the same hay as above and I just lowered her back down to 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets, 1 teaspoon of Thyro-L, and 1/2 a scoop of California Trace mineral. The only exercise she gets is life on the track. I don’t want to cause any mechanical founder by taking her out on the road.

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Now onto Zorro! Boy does he looks good!!! I wish every single one of you could come here and see him in person. He really is a stunning boy. It’s very hard to get him to be expressive in these photo shoots as nothing startles him or causes him any surprise at all! He stands there sighing and so bored no matter what I throw at him, plastic bags, umbrellas, buckets of grain, the cat, Angus…

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He just thinks it’s all so NORMAL and BORING. I got the expression in the above collage by showing him a peppermint with the wrapper half ripped so he could smell it. Then he got to spend some time licking it….

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He loved it!!

Zorro is such a wonderful boy. I keep saying that but it can’t be said enough. When I go outside I can call his name from anywhere and he will come running to me. If I go out to catch Sky for a drive and don’t take him he tries to body block me from getting to her. He stands at the gate with his head resting on the rails just watching us get ready. If I do pick him he is so so happy! He loves going out no matter what it is we are doing. Sky does kicks his butt when driving because she loves to trot and trot. He does his best to keep up but is very relieved when we get to walk a little bit. He is still a baby. He’ll grow into himself! He gets the hay listed above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy hay pellets and 1/2 scoop of California Trace.

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Last but not least is Captain Planet! The track life has made such a difference in him! WOW!! Also roaching his mane was a really good idea. He is heavy but he is built to carry it. He has signs of being IR or at least metabolically challenged so I treat him as such. He gets the same hay as above and 2 Tablespoons of Crypto Aero, 1/4 cup of timothy pellets and 1 scoop of Remission. He is a pet and a companion and does that job perfectly! He and Bonnie will pick on each other a bit. It’s actually funny to watch them. He knows all the buttons to push to make her chase him! But Bonnie doesn’t put much effort into being mean so it’s over almost as soon as it starts.

I just to love my track and so do the ponies!