Monthly Archives: October 2011

Of rabbits, spiders, and sunsets.

Some stuff I may or may not have known before:
  • When somebody says you’re too “Manitoba lifestyle”. Don’t get insulted. Just go with it.
  • My hair is now blonde. Not much ginger left. My tan is also gone. Except for my face. Thank you working on a horse farm.
  • Relating to the above- sunscreen, sunglasses, hat are good everyday items now that summer is getting started.
  • Beetroot is in everything here. If you don’t like it when you arrive, chances are you will when you leave. Good thing I love it!
  • Bending and lifting with your knees is a very valuable life lesson- especially when you’re spending 8 hours a day de-docking/weeding huge paddocks.
  • Stretching is awesome. Don’t let anybody tell you differently.
  • Working out really does give you more energy.
  • Genetics play a part in whether you’re a morning person or not. Thank you mom, for enabling me to wake up at 5:45 am without an alarm. Not sure if that’s a curse or a blessing yet.
  • Bacon is awesome here too. I know you all were wondering.
  • Graham crackers don’t exist here- they actually have nothing even close. Trust me, I had a good conversation with a store clerk in a super market and she was very confused as to what I was looking for. Weird, right?
  • Baby rabbits are possibly definitely the cutest thing ever.
  • Learn how to drive standard before coming to a country where majority of the vehicles are standard. It might help you out a little bit.
  • There are some huge spiders here, that lurk in thistles and hop onto your arm as you pick up said thistle. Not a fan. I kid you not it was the size of a small child’s fist.
  • It is possible to live on under$250 a week and still save money- sort of.
  • The ocean at sunset is amazing.
  • I’ve learnt that I have a huge obsession with coconut. I looked in the cupboard the other day and realized that all three of my different granola bar boxes contained coconut. Plus I have coconut chocolate ice cream (fantastic). And coconut stir fry sauce. Yikes.

Per usual, the days are flying by and full of work work and more work. I spent two days this week helping Alan de-weed the paddocks. This process involved him weed wacking the large dock plants down, and another groom and I going around and picking up the weeds and piling them in our Mule (golf cart). We spent two days doing this job- it quite reminded me of work at the research farm- also had similar effects for my back. Nonetheless, I survived. Some might argue that this isn’t what we grooms should be doing at work, but I liked the change- even though it was hard on my body. A big topic of conversation right now at work is hay. We’re currently running on a very limited supply- and when you have about 25-30 horses to feed 3-4 times a day, that’s not good. This means that in the morning we feed half a slice of hay mixed with some haylege (god knows what it is- a very very rich type of hay that comes vacuum wrapped and is kinda damp when you open it and smells weird); at lunch we cut grass from different areas around the farm and feed that, and supper is the same as the morning feed. Night check gets only hay. Hopefully we can find some more hay soon- cause running a horse farm without it gets kinda complicated.

I haven’t ridden all week, as I’ve been trying to get my body back on track. I’m scheduled to ride tomorrow while Kyle is away at a show so we’ll see how that goes. I’ve started getting up extra early to add working out back into my schedule. So far it’s been going really good and I hope I can keep up with it. There has been some talk of changing our work schedule (currently the hours are 7am-5pm (never ends up being 5) with a 1.5 hour break for lunch from 12:30 (1pm more like) until 2)- either we would have a half an hour longer lunch and finish later- to allow time for the temp to cool off so the horses don’t get too warm in their rugs. The other option is to start at 6am and work straight until 1pm with no morning break and then break for the afternoon until 4 to feed and put rugs on. Or, keep it the same. No decisions have been made yet, I think we’re going to try out the different options and go from there. Either way, we’re still working long hours 6 days a week and getting paid the same amount ($250 a week (works out to under $5 an hour))- so I don’t really care what the time is.

Today has been full of de-cobwebbing. All the houses, and stables have to be dewebbed as we are having some pest control people come in to spray, which will apparently keep bugs/spiders away. We’ll see how well it works. They only took 6 horses to the Northland show this weekend, so three of us stayed home to manage the farm. Along with our pet rabbit, Mopsy.

Here are some pictures from a recent venture to the ocean side!

MOPSY!!!!

Celebrating with the world in Auckland

The Rugby World Cup came to an end with a great final between the All Black’s and France- and I was in the centre of Auckland when all 300,000 plus people in the city celebrated the All Black’s victory!

Here’s a video of what it was like walking down Queen’s Street before and after the game. The energy was amazing!

Indescribable experience.

3 stars, 3 days, 2 grooms and 10 horses

We left on Tuesday around 11am for Hawke’s Bay, which is about 7 hours away. We loaded up the horses (6 in one truck, and 4 in the other) and headed off. We got about half an hour from home and we stopped for fuel, and to reorganize the horses on the bigger truck and Lesbos was causing some problems. Lesbos is a horrible traveller and this week definitely was no exception. After we got her relaxed we were on the road again. We travelled 4 hours to Taupo, where we made another pit stop and then finished off the last 3 hours of the trip through two major mountain passes. Definitely did not sleep much through there, for two reasons: the scenery was amazing, and also petrifying all at the same time. There was one bridge that was very VERY high up, with a straight drop onto rocks and a huge river- with little to no guard rails and a decently thin road busy with other trucks and traffic.

 We got to the show grounds around 6, and set up shop. We had 5 horses with indoor stables, and 4 in covered yards. And we were very lucky to have the stables closest to the rings- huge blessing. I set up my bed in the back of the horse truck, after it had been cleaned out from travel. With two sleeping bags, two sweaters, and sweat pants for pjs- I was golden for the night. 5:45 am came quickly (as it usually does) and the first day of showing began! After all the horses were fed, watered, mucked out, and the feed dishes washed I began studding (caulking) some of the first horses to go. Then they were tacked up, brought to the ring, flatted, warmed up over fences, and went into the show ring. All the horses went amazing the first day- 9 out of 10 had double clears! After studding, unstudding, tacking up, untacking, putting blankets on and off, setting jumps, fighting with fidgety horses, and dealing with a rather pushy 5yr old stallion (“rather pushy” is the understatement of the year) both Neve (head groom) and I were done for the day- after feeding, watering, tucking in, and hauling everything back to the trucks of course. Everything ran very smoothly, and there wasn’t really any chaotic moments. It really helped that we were so close to the rings.

The next day started just as early, and we had 12 rounds to prepare for. Same routine as the day before, only this time the rounds were close together and a few of the horses were scheduled to go basically right after one another in their classes. The pushy stallion from the day before got pushier, and caused us to lose about 7 studs- which made our plan for the day get a little bit crazier as we had to take studs out of one horse and put them in another before they went into the ring. Needless to say we were working very fast. Again, all the horses did very well and Neve and I were quite ready for when the day slowed down and we could enjoy the delicious burgers that the food stand sold (best thing I’ve ever tasted. Kiwi burgers rock!!).  I met a few people while standing in the middle of the chaotic warm up ring who noticed Kyle’s accent, and then my accent and again had absolutely no idea where Manitoba was. It’s quite hilarious watching their expressions go from “Oh, Canada! Where abouts?” to “Wow, I have no idea where that place is” to “Oh! Well, I’ve been to Kamloops- is it close to there?” in about 10 seconds. Nonetheless, everybody is very nice and one lady even said she planned on googling MB when she got home.

The final day rolled around, and we rolled out of bed with as much vigor as we could find in those early hours. The weather was fantastic all week too- we drove away from the rain (It poured at home the whole week) and only got a few showers and one thunder storm after the show day was finished. The nights were chilly, and the mornings were freezing- but all in all, great horse show weather. The last day was definitely the nicest. Sunny majority of the day with a nice breeze. More studding, unstudding, ringside watching, jump setting, tacking, untacking, braiding, unbraiding, brushing, walking, etc and then the day was coming to an end. The horses were all exceptional and did very well in all their divisions. LC Rodeo Drive was double clear the entire week! After everybody had been skipped out one final time, wrapped, and booted up- they were loaded back onto the trucks and we set off for the seven hour trip home. Neve was in the big truck to supervise Lesbos, and I was with Kyle again in the smaller truck. Kyle and I got about half an hour out when we got a call saying the Lesbos was causing some problems. So we turned back and found the other truck on the side of the motorway and four of the six horses already unloaded and (surprisingly calmly) eating grass on the side. Apparently Lesbos had managed to fall over and basically lie down in the truck- while Shakira, the next horse over, stood there not even caring about anything other then looking at the pretty views outside her window. Lesbos, for some reason, doesn’t know how to balance herself while travelling in the trucks. Everytime the truck shifts gears, brakes, or goes around a corner/roundabout she lets herself fall into the partitions. She is fine once you get going at a steady pace, but stopping and starting are definitely not her favourite. We ended up taking the horses in Kyle’s truck back to the show grounds, while I held two horses on the side of the road along with a kind passer by who held the other two. Shakira and Lesbos stayed standing in the other truck during this ordeal. Once the stallions and two of the geldings were back at the grounds, Kyle came back and we switched Lesbos and Shakira over to the smaller truck while Jolie and Baboon had been picked up by two other trucks that were passing by and offered to transport them closer to home for us to allow more room and less hassle in our trucks. We went back to the show grounds, Neve and I standing in the back of the truck coaching poor Lesbos through the short drive. She was much more relaxed in this truck- whether it was the difference in driving styles, or the smaller area. We ended up putting the two stallions, two geldings, and two mares onto the big truck, and just taking Lesbos and Shakira on our truck for the ride home. Neve came with us, and stayed in the back keeping a close eye on Lesbos for the first few hours of the journey. She quickly settled down and we got home around 1am.  We had planned on being home around 8pm.. but plans change right? Especially when horses are involved. Always when horses are involved. Lesbos only had a few cuts on her hip, and a slightly swollen knee out of the ordeal- thankfully- and doesn’t seem to be traumatized. She hopped on and off the trucks like a champ during the whole thing.

The next morning began at the regular hour of 6:30, as we had clients coming to see horses at 8am. No rest for the wicked! I washed out the inside of both trucks while the others mucked out the barns and prepared horses for clients and later on Steve and one of the other grooms made the two hour drive to pick up the horses that went with other trucks. To be honest, I’ve lost sense of time. It takes me a while to figure out what day it is most of the time. I realized today that I’ve already been here a month and a half! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about how I handle the job, which is good. I’m sure thankful for the skills I’ve learned from my own riding and showing- all those years dragging myself to 4H meetings and events are finally paying off. This job is definitely not for the faint of heart, but I’m starting to appreciate what it’s teaching me more. I actually love the fast paced days spent at the horse show, which doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve always been one for thriving on going flat out nonstop. I’ve also noticed a big difference in my riding since being here. It’s definitely improved, and being able to sit on different horses almost every day is definitely a factor. I’m not doing much more then basic flat work, but I’ve learnt how much each horse can differ in style and how to adapt to those styles. Each one learns and functions in a different way, just like people. My back/hip hasn’t really been appreciating all these lessons and although I survived the show fine I can tell I’m starting to push it a little. Because I’ve been going full speed the past few weeks I haven’t been able to stretch as much as needed and that’s starting to bite me in the ass. The amount of riding I’ve been doing probably doesn’t help either.

I just looked at the clock and saw that it was 9:30pm- way past my bed time. So I’ll leave it at that for now and go stretch. Here are some pictures from the show!

Double J Angelic (Jolie)

LC Rodeo Drive (Nippur) warming up!

Got braids?

BERGER FACE!

My favourite, LC Telepathy aka Buck!

 

Focus.. and dresses.

“You must look at yourself first before you look at the horse. Focus on what you’re doing, and if it isn’t working- concentrate to make a change and see if it helps the horse understand” – Steve helping me work with Tigra on her upwards canter transitions. It’s amazing how much it can help to just take a second and completely focus on what your body is doing. Just a small change in your cues can help the horse, and you, immensely!

I’ve been riding 2-3 horses a day the past couple days as Kyle is away in Australia for the next few days. I’ve been working a lot with Tigra (LC Uphoria) a 4yr old TB cross mare. Steve was happy enough with my work with her to ask me to ride her tomorrow for some clients who are coming to view horses. I find her very easy to work with, maybe it’s because she’s very thoroughbred-ish and I’m used to that type of horse. I also do seem to have a touch with chestnut mares. I rode another 4 yr old chestnut mare, Suzie (LC Umhlanga Rocks) today. This was my second ride on her, and everyone who passed by me when I was working with her said the same thing.. “You look SO good on her. She moves perfect with you! Wow!”. I also rode Tilly (LC Funny Lass), a 7yr old who has lots of talent. She’s been ranked highly in all her age divisions so far (stats are on the website www.lchorsefarm.com). She was a very fun ride, mostly because she’s the first “mature” horse I’ve ridden and I didn’t have to worry too much about her freaking out if a leaf moved on a tree outside the ring.  I ended up riding ChaCha (LC Talent), a 5 yr old mare, as well last minute.

Saturday night we decided to go into Auckland to watch the semi-final match between France and Wales. We got dressed up in our “french” attire and supported France as two of the girls here are French.

Yeah, we went for the glowing blue horns. We got lots of cheers from other french fans and even people supporting other teams were impressed. I have to say, I fell a little bit in love with Auckland- the tiny bit that I saw. It’s a very cool city and I can’t wait to explore it more.

Here are some more lessons I’ve figured out.

  • Car parks close at 12am. And by close, I mean close. Your car is locked in, and you can’t get to it. Now this isn’t a big problem if the number on the sign for security is the right number. But if it is the number of the wrong company, and they don’t have any  numbers for anybody who can get your car and it’s 2am, raining, and you know nobody in a big city- it’s kinda a problem.
  • Taxis are a blessing.
  • Being tall is really handy when you’re trying to watch rugby on a giant tv screen in a public place!
  • McDonalds is just as good, if not better here.
  • Doing anything on three hours of sleep- especially work- still sucks here.
  • Rugby fans love blue glowing devil horns. Who would’ve thought.
  • Riding 2-3 horses a day hurts..
  • As do electric fences. Especially when they hit the right spot and you can feel them travel through your body and shoot out your foot. It still hurts… 5 hours later.
  • Apparently, Canadian accents sound like Texan accents- at least that’s what the kiwi imitation of a canadian sounds like.
Next week I leave on Tuesday to go to a 3* show in Hastings (approx 7 hours away). We’re taking 10 horses and staying there until Friday. I’m mostly excited about having two 7 hours trips in which I can sleep. Maybe it’s just cause I’m very sleep deprived while writing this. If I didn’t have to do night check tonight- I’d be in bed right now.. it’s 7pm.

“My favourite thing is to go where I have never gone”- Diane Arbus

I’ve been thinking (be scared) a lot about how much some people can have such a huge impact on our lives. This thought brought me back to a day that seems so long ago, but one that has always stuck with me. It was the day I stepped onto McMullan’s property for the first time.

I used to think of this day as only an insignificant childhood memory, but looking back on it now- I don’t see how it could be insignificant. Mom and I used to bike down our road, often to the railway tracks so i could find rocks to collect and keep forever and ever. As everyone knows, railway tracks are the BEST place for rock collecting. We lived on the same road as McMullans, and whenever we drove past their place I would stare wide-eyed in wonder at the pretty horse place- and ask if we could go see them. Them being the pretty horses of course. I must have been 5 or 6, very young anyway, before I had begun riding. But back to the rocks..

I can remember this day like it was yesterday. The sun was bright, and it must have been late summer because I remember the dust every time a car rushed past. Along our way down Verley Road, I spotted a riding crop on the side of the road. This short stick fascinated me, and I can remember picking it up and never wanting to let it go. We decided to take it to the horse farm at the end of the road to see if somebody from there had dropped it while riding. I was finally getting to go to the horse place!! I’m pretty sure I asked Mom at least 10 times if I could ride a horse. She, of course, couldn’t give me a definite answer. Nevertheless, maybe I would get to see a horse. We approached the house and I vividly remember a large bumble bee buzzing behind the screen on their door, and gripping the crop tight in my hand. I also remember the old fashioned knocker on the door. I was a very shy kid, so when the door was answered by Charlene- I definitely didn’t say a thing. I just held up the corp to hand to her, and thought hopefully that maybe, just maybe, I’d get to ride a horse in reward for finding and returning this stick. Or maybe they’d let me keep it! No such luck. Only a kind smile and a thank-you. Isn’t it funny how some things stick with us?

I remember being told that only much older girls rode there. It would be many, many years before I went to McMullan’s Stable again. But I never stopped staring in from the road at the front paddocks lined with white fencing, and the jumps set up in the field during the summer. All those years driving past, wondering what it was like to be one of the “older” girls who got to ride in there. Who would’ve guessed that I would become one of those lucky few. I loved that place before I even knew the people who owned it would become some of the most important people in my life. Certainly two people I hold a great deal of respect for.

I don’t think I’ll ever lose my awe and wonder for the people who ride there, and especially not for Charlene and Mike. I always feel my best when riding in that arena. A certain atmosphere surrounds the stable, that I haven’t found in many other places. And now, even half a world away, I can close my eyes and be there. Smell the dirt of the arena, hear the wind blowing against the doors, see the faces of my two beloved coaches, and feel the rhythm of my horse- like a heartbeat. I can’t help but smile every single time.

Kiwi Moment #…?

Survived my first day back at work after spending the last 4 days lying in bed being sick. I was very light headed all morning, but after about 11am I started feeling much better and got some of my old energy back. We had a pretty quiet day today too, that helped. The most excitement we had was bringing in and changing rugs for the three days of rain we’re about to have. It started pouring about 6 tonight and isn’t supposed to stop until Thursday. Yay spring time!

About 4:30 we got a call at the barn from the yard manager who had gone home earlier saying that his sheep had gotten out and he needed us to come help him chase them back. So at 5 he picked us up and off we went to herd sheep. In a storm. With a crazy bird stalking/attacking us. On a giant hill. Sheep make up for their stupidity by being adorable. And so soft. We eventually got the sheep back, after Alan had been attacked by the bird and I almost fell down the hill… numerous times. Balance is awesome.

Top 10 lessons learned so far:

  1. Teriyaki sauce goes in the fridge after being opened, not the cupboard. Unless you enjoy dying.
  2. Grocery shopping for the first few times without a parent or any sort of guidance is often confusing and frustrating. And more expensive then necessary.
  3. Going to bed at 8:30 isn’t a bad thing. Ever.
  4. Kiwis love Canadians. Especially when they lose by 30 points to the All Blacks.
  5. Don’t act too shocked when you see a cat inside the pub. It’s normal.
  6. Rub A535 is never a bad purchase. Especially when you’re me.
  7. Never be afraid of Plan B. Or C. Or D.
  8. If you can light a fire, you will be valued in any house hold with a fireplace in any country where it’s cold, damp, and rainy.
  9. Don’t act on the dreams you have when you’re sick.. they rarely if ever make any sense and should be ignored upon awakening.
  10. Make friends with everyone you can. You never know who you’ll need on your side, or when.
I’m sure there will be many more where those came from. It’s only been a month after all!

Prairie = Desert?

It’s been a long few days! We’ve been working non-stop 12 hour days in prep for the arrival of the owner and an away show. The barn is now spotless and 9 horses were sent off to the show yesterday in two of our trucks. I was left at home to help run the farm with two others, and cover Kyle’s riding schedule. I still have a lingering head cold, along with food  poisoning, which appeared yesterday. I rode a 4 year old stud colt here yesterday, Yoyo, who wasn’t the easiest ride as you could imagine- especially since there was a mare being ridden the the other ring right beside us. Also, since I was very sick with whatever I ate at lunch. However, I survived- and the horse eventually started paying attention to me. It was interesting riding a stallion for the first time, especially such a young one. I’m scheduled to ride two studs on Sunday for Kyle, Yoyo again and Buck (LC Telepathy) who is one of my favourites on the farm to work with. But, seeing as I’m currently lying in bed very sick- I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I honestly don’t mind the break, though.

Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed so far between Manitoba and New Zealand:

THE MOON IS UPSIDE DOWN. Freaked me out so bad the first time I noticed.

Nobody has any idea where Manitoba is, or what the prairies are/look like. I tried describing it to one of my coworkers the other day, and she promptly said “oh! So exactly like the desert?!” No.

This one’s obvious, but there is nowhere that is flat. I mean, it’s hard to beat the Canadian Prairies for flat- but even still. And no such thing a straight roads. I don’t know how people pass, but still they do it.

People really do just assume the Canadians live in -40 degree weather 12 months of the year. It’s not just the Americans that think that.

I know I’ve noticed more, but I’m too tired to remember them. Here are some more pictures!

Courtesy of ChaCha the horse.

Lunch View

We went to the beach for our lunch break on Friday, be jealous.

Daily Routine/ Horse Physio

I’ve had a few people ask me what an average day for me is like (Mom), and request that I write about it on here (Mom). So here it goes, the average day of a groom at LC Horse Farms for your reading pleasure.

6:30 am- wake up and get dressed as quickly as you can to avoid the morning chill. Eat something, and by…

7am- be walking to the barn (a grand total of 25 ft away). Our first tasks in the morning are to feed (but usually this has been done by the head groom earlier); one person goes out to the ‘yards’ where there is another 10 horses to feed them, then we look at the turn out list and begin moving horses into the paddocks. To do this, we grab a halter and a lead rope from the tack room, go to whichever horse we’re turning out at the moment, take off their heavy overnight coat and the fleece underneath that and replace it with a outdoor blanket. Then their feet are picked and the halter is put on. This process is repeated until all the horses (9) are put outside to their allotted paddocks for the day. After doing this task, we move onto putting some of the remaining horses on the walker. 4 horses go on at a time- mares with mares, geldings with geldings, and studs by themselves. There are usually 8-10 horses that go on the walker each day for 20-40 minutes depending on if their being ridden or not. After the majority of the horses in the barn have been moved somewhere, the mucking out begins. There is approximately 20 stalls to be cleaned out. They all get one wheel barrel of fresh shavings put in after being cleaned- at least. Once the stalls are mucked, the barn is blown out with the leaf blower, then swept. The yards surrounding the stables are raked free of any excess hay or shavings and whatnot, and all the horses that are inside get a slice of hay. While all this is going on, Kyle and Megan are tacking up and grooming their own horses to ride. This brings us to..

9:30am (approximately)- The grooms take a coffee break. Yay more food!

9:50am (approx.)- Back to work. Usually by now the head groom has written up what she would like each of us to accomplish in the day. All the waterers in the barn need to be cleaned out, horses hand walked, horses tacked up for Kyle/Megan, different rooms cleaned, various horses bathed/brushed/brought in/etc. Each of us is assigned different things to get done before or after lunch. After each horse is ridden, they need to be hand sponged to remove any sweat marks and then left to dry before you can groom them and put them back into their stall. Their feet are picked when they leave the stall, when they come back from a ride, and when they come in from the paddock. There are to be no sweat marks from the bridle left over on their head, or girth area. If the horse is sweaty after being ridden, it’s bathed. Each groom usually gets assigned 1-2 horses per day to ride or lunge or both. This fits into our assigned tasks.

By 12:30 (usually ends up being at least 1pm)- all horses (including the outdoor ones) should have been fed their lunch (once slice of hay and grain), the feedroom and tack room swept along with the cross ties and wash stalls. Once the barn is organized and clean, we go for lunch (sometimes to the beach) until..

2pm- This is a continuation of the morning tasks. Riding, grooming, cleaning, organizing, grooming, bringing in horses, cleaning horses, taking off blankets, putting on different blankets, etc etc. Myself and another groom have recently been given the job of horse  ‘physios’. Between the hours of 2pm and 4pm we each have 7-10 horses to massage and stretch (about 15-20 minutes is spent on each horse). These are the things we focus on in that time:

  1. Mouth exercise- Use on of three points- top gums, tongue or lower gums. They should be fighting and moving their mouths in a variety of directions, follow the movement with your body, do not block if they want to turn one way or another. Alternate the side of the horse you stand on every other day. Grinding teeth is very good! 45 seconds. This helps the horse to stretch out the muscles at the top of their head, neck and in their jaw.
  2. Massage TMJ joint (along the jaw bone and down the cheek starting under ears) 30 secs each side.
  3. Head on shoulder- Place lower jaw of horse on your shoulder and let them drop their weight on to you. Do not pull their head down. Alternate sides every other day. 30 seconds. This stretches out the muscles up their jaw and down their neck.
  4. Cat Claw down neck muscles (1 min each side), and down shoulder muscles (1 min each side). The horse usually tells you how hard to press based on their reaction. Grinding teeth and moving head lower to the ground in a relaxed manner= good. Pinning ears, tensing, and eyeing you up = bad. Each horse has a different preference. This brings circulation to the muscles and removes any toxin build up.
  5. Fetlock stretch- hold foot up like picking out hoof, holding just the toe. Fell where the horse wants to put this and t hen hold 45sec each side allowing gravity to stretch the muscles gently down. Will work first in lower leg, then upper leg, then shoulder, wither, and into back.
  6. Shoulder stretch- gently pull horses leg forward until extended straight, hold the toe of the hoof just off the ground (5-10cm) and let gravity pull the weight down and stretch itself (45sec each side).
  7. Upper Shoulder/Neck Stretch- Gently pull leg back until hoof vertical, then keep hoof 5cm off ground and let gravity stretch travel through the forearm into lower neck.
  8. Wither Stretch- Gently put finger nail into girth area under stomach pushing up until horse raises it’s back through it’s withers, hold 2sec then release. Then go to wither and run fingernails down spine to push muscles back down. Repeat 5x. With this and the next stretch, be aware the horse will think your finger nail on it’s underbelly is a large bug and will try and kick you off. If possible, keep the pressure on until they put all 4 feet on the ground and then release so they learn that kicking doesn’t equal you buggering off.
  9. Back Stretch- Gently push fingernails into middle of bottom of stomach until back noticeably raises. Then move to top of back and run fingernails alongside the spine to push back down gently again. Repeat 5x.
  10. Croup Massage- Cat claw through croup muscles (top of butt). This is a very sensitive muscle on a lot of horses, so adjust pressure accordingly. 1 min each side.
  11. Croup Stretch- Run fingernail down side of croup gently (you’ll know the trigger point when you find it) getting horse to raise it’s pelvis. 5x each side.
  12. Hip Massage- Toughly run fingers in 30cm circle around hip joint. Direction very important, the top of circle should always go towards the tail (with the hair). At the top of the circle, the horse should drop down through hip, at bottom should be lifting hip. Repeat 5x each side.
  13. Hind leg forward stretch- same as front shoulder stretch except using back leg.
  14. Hind leg reverse stretch- Same as upper shoulder/neck stretch for front legs.
  15. Tail Stretch- Pull tail gently straight back from horse for 5 sec, then release quickly and watch ‘shockwave’ travel up horse’s body- note where it stops as that is where there is still a muscle block. Repeat 3x. This is a big evaluation for where problems lie for future sessions.
  16. *For mares only* Ovary Pain Release- ‘punch’ horse from shoulder to hind quarters everywhere to reduce sensitivity, then pat (watch for grinding teeth or a deep breath to show release of tension (actually works- who knew)). Repeat 3x each side. Find the last rib, massage with gentle cat claws down the rib to stifle area. 20sec or until no discomfort. The connection between the last rib and the hip is what causes pain and inflammation. Notice the inflamed band across the upper stifle in horses that are very sensitive- this is often mistaken for a muscle. Often one side will be bigger then the other.
Some horses really love these sessions. Other, more sensitive ones, you have to make sure to adjust for. This is how I got double barrelled in the side the other day. Mares don’t always appreciate that you’re trying to help them. Luckily she only got my leg and hip, and not my head or ribs.
This process takes us till 4pm, when we begin the supper routine. The horses in the yards must be fed, all the horse inside given hay first and then their grain (third serving of grain for the day), their blankets for the night put on, and the windows in their stalls closed. Then the barn is blown out and swept again, the feed room swept after all the feeds are made for the next morning, tack cleaned, tack room swept, cross ties swept again along with wash racks. We’re supposed to be done all this by 4:30. That never happens. Hopefully we’re done by 5, but more often then not it’s 5:30. Especially now since the owners son comes out to ride his two horses under the supervision of Kyle only at 4:30. And God forbid he have to tack up or untack his own horse. So after everybody is in their stall, with their food, tucked in for the night. We head out too. And then come back for night check between 8:30 and 10pm. Then we’re done until the next morning. Finally.
This whole schedule gets upset on weekends during shows of course. I won’t go into detail because I’m much too exhausted to type it all out. Usually two people are left home to do all of the above (there are usually 4-5 of us working), while the other two are at the show. For shows close to home where we switch horses during the day, one person rides in the second truck to switch. This is supposed to run smoothly, go to the show grounds, unload, reload, come home. But the show is always delayed, or the wrong time always given, so usually it ends up being, drive 1-2 hours to show grounds, sit in the horse van waiting for 1-3 hours, unload, reload, drive another 1-2 hours back. That was my day today. Thankfully tomorrow only one load of horses is going, so we avoid that gong show.