Monday, January 23, 2017

professional hacker-outers

And.... by 'hacker-outers' I obvi mean we took our horses on another trail ride at OF and it was totally awesome haha (and better weather than last time, so that was nice).

Plus former barnmate R met us there with her mare Birdie, and another OF rider happened to be heading out at the same time, so we made a nice little party. Naturally with Brita's pup Riley too.

big bay club! plus Bella lol
Brita's new lease mare Bella lives at OF, plus the farm has extensive trails and lanes and xc fields so it's super convenient to just go there for trail riding even tho we've got tons of other options in the area. One of these days tho we're gonna have to steal Brita and Bella away to some other venue just to start getting them off property too... In time.

chow down, son!
For now, tho, Charlie continues to travel all by his lonesome. Which is fine. He would be happier with company, but life's tuff big guy, sorry! It's funny tho. I was talking to the horse chiro a couple weeks ago during Charlie's session, sheepishly telling her that we use a feed bucket for hassle-free loading. Tho I said I was afraid it wouldn't work forever, bc Charlie was learning to stretch his head further forward to reach the bucket, while keeping his butt stuck just far enough out where I couldn't close the bar.

And she kinda gave me this look like.... Like wondering how I could simultaneously overthink everything and still manage to miss the most obvious answers. Know what she said? "Emma. Hang the bucket farther forward. Problem solved."

Boom. And the K.I.S.S. principle scores another victory lol.... (bc yup, that totally worked, see above pic lol).

'whatchu doin in there, human?' - charlie
Also along the lines of keeping it simple, I recently discovered that it's actually easier to put Charlie's hay bag on the inside trailer wall instead of the center divider beam. This way he can easily reach it from both inside and outside the trailer. Which is super convenient bc this trailer doesn't have external hooks for hanging nets -- kinda annoying. This works tho.

handsome boy!
Anyway.... brief tangent aside, the trail riding was great! I'm still kinda viewing everything as new experiences for Charlie - riding out with a bigger group, hanging out while some of them worked around us - trotting and cantering toward us and away from us, jumping stuff, etc.

guys. Bella is CUTE.
He's experienced much of the same while riding in our big outdoor at home during jump lessons.... and even the few times we got to work in the small riding field next to the arena... But I didn't feel quite ready to take that for granted while out in these much larger fields. Charlie was totally fine tho, good boy.

actually all the horses were pretty perfect
And naturally we revisited the water complex too. OF's water is hands down my favorite of all the nearby places. It's a big rectangle, with one full side and half another side as flat entrances to the water. Then the other half side and two other full sides are all banks of graduating height up to training level.

In some ways, it might be considered fairly challenging to introduce banks and water at the same time - given that you don't really see drops into water until training, but I always loved it. Isabel and I went up and down and all around it!

throwback to that time i took krimpet xc schooling. also this is the baby bank  that charlie did!
Last time Charlie was out here, he was balky at just getting into the water - so we got in a few times with a lead from Bella to let him sniff it out and process. But I left the banks for another day. Which... was this current ride haha. Very proud to report that for this ride, Charlie got into the water on the first try without a lead (fully acknowledging that other horses were already in the water... but I'm giving him credit for not needing to be nose-to-tail to someone haha).

So we went in and out a couple times, then started going up the little bank seen above. All at a walk, I should say. And he did super well going up the bank (again with no lead). Going down the bank did necessitate a lead - but he did it twice, side by side with Bella, with really only minimal reluctance. And exactly zero theatrics - just stepped down. I'm cool with it!

dusk at the trailer!
Honestly I have no problem at all introducing horses to new things with the help of a lead pony. Especially a race horse who is pretty accustomed to that type of situation. It's a bit like planting a seed. Hopefully that seed will germinate such that next time we visit that water, Charlie will remember. Bc for now I really don't care how we get stuff like that done - so long as Charlie can get the experience, and in such a way that I can praise him for it, I'm happy.

the white roof of this trailer makes it reflect the light SO MUCH BETTER than my last trailer - i like it! 
The rest of the ride was pretty pleasant too - including a bit of our own trotting and circling around one final field, off by ourselves away from the group. Charlie didn't care haha. But DAMN he is awkward on terrain. Like, he needs a LOT of help learning how to move around on uneven ground bc I'm not at all prepared to even think of trotting him down a hill yet. Oh well. Needs more trail riding!!

Bc I kinda feel like trail riding and hacking out might actually be the biggest difference-maker right now for Charlie. All the other pieces are coming along - but for physical and educational purposes, he really needs to be out in nature working on terrain and changeable footing.

Do you make hacking out a priority? How often do you try to fit it into your riding schedule? Do you do more road-type hacking, or out through the woods? Or maybe just the pasture lines around your farm? I'm still trying to figure out the right balance for Charlie - I wish I could take him out all the time, but I also want to be sensitive to how often I shove him on the trailer....

48 comments:

  1. I plan to make it part of the routine! Right now there's ice out in the fields so no hacking. But at this point I'm just thrilled when my ring is good enough to ride in.

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    1. yea it's definitely not the right time of year... which explains why i can't convince anyone to take me out around the supposed mythical trails at charlie's barn lol. awesome that your ring still has good days tho!

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  2. That little grey mare is totally adorable. I'm sold. And I think Charlie will absolutely benefit from as much trail riding as possible. The varied terrain augments conditioning of many muscles in ways an arena just can't give ya! I've had some good looking critters from just trail work alone (see: Q). Bonus that it's fun to get out and see the sites on horseback.

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    1. definitely agreed. he's been moving his body in the same one way for ... years, and this hacking out thing is totally new to him. he's such a blast out there tho!

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  3. Hacking is a huuuge priority for me but I am limited over the winter by hunting season/daylight/weather ughhhhhhh. We're getting closer to when I can get out more and I can't wait!

    Sounds like another excellent Charlie experience!

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    1. yea the limitations issue is so real. i'm definitely struggling with not enough daylight too, since our weekends are usually filled with other things. and at our last barn the woods were state park protected from hunting.... but the trails were also pretty technically challenging in that they were steep, narrow, rocky and often debris-filled haha so getting out in bad footing made it borderline treacherous.

      oh well. soon enough conditions will improve, right?

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  4. I haven't taken the baby horse out on the trails near us but I'm ready to do so with a buddy. There are cyclists and dogs and strollers and all sorts of random things... it'll be an adventure all right

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    1. haha sounds potentially very exciting!! ;) i don't think charlie has seen cyclists yet, tho he's seen strollers from a bit of a distance (at his own home, actually). the biggest question mark he's seen so far is actually soccer games in the giant athletic field right next to our outdoor arena. that can be... exciting too haha

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  5. Hacking out didn't used to be a huge priority for me, but over the past couple years it's skyrocketed up the list! Trail riding is just so good for humans and horses both mentally and physically, and especially for an event horse, I think it teaches them to think for themselves in addition to building fitness. Add to that the relationship and trust-building benefits, and you just can't go wrong!

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    1. agreed 100%. i didn't trail ride at all for years and years and years (not even once when i was up in rochester, and now i kick myself like crazy every time carly posts about hacking out through mendon...) but now i can't imagine riding without the occasional hack about.

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  6. Time on trails is a great way to expose Charlie to new things while keeping it interesting and fun. Having that xc field to play around on in a no stress environment should help a lot (coming from someone who is scared to death of jumping in a big open field :)

    I used a lot of hand jogging on trails when Gem was a flailing mess on terrain. It helped get me off her back and forced her to use her brain to maneuver. If yo ever do it, I recommend using a lounge line for more room so you don't get stepping on.

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    1. that xc field is a boon for sure. having already hacked around it a couple times will hopefully make for a nice easy transition when we get our first formal xc lesson out there - maybe this spring!!!

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  7. Hacking out is always a priority for me. Unfortunately we just had an unseasonably warm week and now everything is covered in ice instead of snow so I likely won't get back out until spring :(

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    1. ughh boo that's terrible. i mean, the warm week maybe was nice but ice is the freakin worst. obvi our winters down here in maryland hardly compare to canada, but that's basically how it always is here: lots of ice, not much snow. le sigh. c'mon spring, we're ready!

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  8. I've not gotten out and about much these last few months -- the mud has been horribly deep :-(

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    1. ugh yea.... same here. and like, we have a couple little places around our own farm - fence lines and such. but with how soft the ground is i almost feel bad chewing it all up with hoof prints!

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  9. So jealous you are riding outside! And I agree- lead pony and confidence building are great ideas for a fun day out. Looks like you had just that!

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    1. definitely was a perfect day! cut too short by early sunsets (grr winter) but we're definitely grateful to still be outside. this tends to be the time of year that winter gets serious for maryland... but idk. it's just so freaking mild!

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  10. I like hacking, but zero hacking has been done for me. At least I have an indoor to ride in. Give it a few months and we will be doing fitness on the trails again!

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    1. definitely! i'm super grateful for our indoor - this is my own personal first winter in years that staying in full work is nbd. but it's kinda hard on the green guy's brain, i think, to be doing the most boring of basics type work (trot in circle plz) in the same unchanging environment again and again and again...

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  11. Hacking is probably the most fundamental part of my riding schedule! I am lucky in that I live in a place where I have great access to riding out, but I also think getting out of the ring is good for their brains. Just like you getting him in the water with friends, it makes it such a low key experience and I think that helps set the tone for all his learning experiences. Besides making them confident, utilizing terrain can build so much fitness with far less footfalls and concussion on those legs.

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    1. this whole region is definitely rich in wide open spaces for riding!! somehow or another my current barn feels so closed off despite being in a lovely part of the country, but we're surrounded by houses. hopefully tho i can get out exploring soon!

      also agreed for that pleasant low-key experience being such a good way to introduce new ideas to the horse. hopefully by the time we get to actual, honest-to-god xc schooling, charlie will already feel like a pro!

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    2. Hardcore cross-country schooling will feel like a cakewalk for him :)

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  12. Hacking out is almost all I do because of lack of access to a ring. :( On the plus side, da Bird goes out and about like a trooper. Over the weekend (Saturday, so gorgeous!!) we did about ten miles, which you can see -- from A to B and back again -- on an annotated map, assuming I did not futz up the link... https://drive.google.com/open?id=1VoK5JWvjzqwoIaPyJ3nBt2ZX7eQ&usp=sharing Bird really, really "enjoyed" the sheep. Most of the route is hard road (including down across the covered bridge) but it's not high traffic (we saw maybe fifteen cars in ten miles) and has pretty good sight lines. Plus you can hear the vehicles coming b/c they're hooptie POS's driven by people who prioritize trim options over mufflers. :)

    I try for variety in our routes, so plain old "out and back" stuff is not as good as loop-style things, and we're working on hill marches for his fitness so that influences where we go though to be fair we don't have a lot of flat options. Right now, it's slippery mud anywhere but the shoulders of the roads so we are doing shoulders of the roads. I hope to be able to add in more mountains (logging roads and trails) as the weather improves... but if it doesn't get better, we'll hit the blue gravel state forest roads along about the end of February. They're not very interesting but the surface is mud-free and will get the job done on the "needs moar mountains" front.

    I'm confident that Charlie's balance and all-terrain skills will get a lot better with practice and it's awesome that you have buddies to ride with -- moral support is so helpful for both riders and their ponies.

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    1. well i definitely love my arenas haha, esp the indoor... but i think there's something to be said for making it work without those amenities too. i like variety in our routes too and prefer loops. tho i often can be a bit of a creature of habit and will fall into going along the same trails just bc it's easy and i know them.

      and like you say - everything is better with a group of like-minded individuals. esp now that i'm not boarding at the same farms as a lot of my friends, organized trail riding is proving to be the perfect way to still meet up and enjoy horses together!

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  13. When Courage came off the track, uneven training was completely mind blowing. He's a footing snob to this day, but I admittedly pamper him and gave up eventing. So. Love Charlie's attitude though. What a trooper!

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    1. ha it's so funny that i'm becoming more of a footing snob too. i blame boarding at an h/j barn ;) charlie is picky too. not like, overtly, but he definitely goes better in some footings than in others. and water and mud aren't his favorite. but we're dealing with it. lots of riding on this rain-sodden ground is helping haha - we basically can't escape the mud!

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  14. I love hacking. It is so good for a mental reset for us. Poor Stinker had to get over his dislike for wet footing.

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    1. haha these silly boys and their delicate twinkle toes.... the joke's on charlie, tho. EVERYTHING is wet here right now. there's no such thing as dry ground outside. so.... he's getting over it pretty quickly lol

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  15. I think hacking him out has some really big positives for the both of you!

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    1. definitely - and being totally selfish, it's possible that i need these rides just as much, if not more, than charlie lol

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  16. We have no choice but to hack out - especially if we want to get to the outdoor arena. It is about a 20min hack away from the property where my horses are, so it is kind of a nice warm up before we get there!

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    1. i kinda love the idea of hacking out before and after each ride, as your arena necessitates. bc walking around for 20min in the arena before starting a ride feels like an eternity haha

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  17. I love getting out of the ring and I'm so excited about our new field for exactly that reason. It's just one field, no trails or jumps or hills, but it's still a break from the norm, and Val really seems to love it. Plus, I do think it's going to be great for his fitness and strength as well. a few laps around the arena feels like we've done a lot, when in reality, it's really not that much. Out in the field though, it's so much easier to do good fitness work without feeling like we're on a merry-go-round.

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    1. your field sounds fantastic. it's kinda amazing what a difference having that "new" riding place can make haha. and agreed - conditioning inside the arena can be so monotonous and boring...

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  18. You know all I do is hack out, haha! I'm convinced there's not much better for a horse!

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    1. ha yup i agree completely!!! it's also just damn fun ;)

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    2. This is the life I want, but can't have because no trailer. Scowl.

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  19. Such a cool dude :)
    I'm a huge trail rider. I expect to be able to ride my horses through/over/past everything & I can. Well, except for Whinney, who thinks trail riding is a huge waste of time & I rarely have the energy to argue with her about it... but she is still totally safe to gallop over uneven terrain & everything else.

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    1. lol that's great for whinney! i am hopeful that charlie will be safe to gallop over uneven terrain eventually... but am more than happy to let him build his confidence and educate himself on the subject at slower speeds haha

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  20. You're total pros! :)
    Hacking out all over the place in every weather and circumstance is my first goal with any of my horses. I feel like those basics apply so much to the rest of their lives and the miles are great for team building and refreshing. I started out only hacking out, now we do other things, so I try to get out once a week for a fun hack, just to change it up.

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    1. definitely agreed on the team building and refreshing aspects, and doubly so on the weather part too. charlie's first real trail ride was in nasty cold chilly rain, and he didn't care at all. which definitely helped us out when a recent lesson was in similarly damp conditions, he didn't bat an eye.

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  21. I hope Charlie isn't spilling any of his food and tarnishing the shine of my favorite bench!! Also so jelly that you have ground to trail ride on that isn't alternating between shoe-sucking mud and leg-breaking ice.

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    1. ha so far your bench remains spotless! and omg it really is the best thing ever. seriously. more than a couple times already i've found myself just sitting on it, chillin with charlie in the trailer while we wait for one thing or another. it's so perfect!!

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  22. He's such a rockstar! I love him. One of the things that bothers me most about my and TC's predicament in the last year is the lack of trail riding/hacking that we've been able to do (um none, we've done none). It's SO good for them and I'm really eager to start doing it again on him or on another horse this spring/summer. Good for the mind and bodies for both riders and horses!

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  23. What a good boy! That sounds like so much fun and great experience. I wish I could hack. Unfortunately, where I'm at, any hacking has to be done too close to a very busy road. Not to mention, giant freaking cacti. I'm not brave enough to take her out alone yet, the picture of us running into a cactus and then her running on to the road keeps flying through my head. Right now, we're just trying to manage the track around the property without Indy losing her mind. Being able to hack out safely is definitely a goal though.

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  24. Hacking out is super tough for me at my current barn. There ARE two 'loops' I can do to be fair, but one is out, then turns into a road that you can wander down but the shoulders suck, then back. And the other loop is straight mountain. Which is great for some things but hard for the general education part.

    There are some amazing places to trailer not too far from my place, but I feel bad subjecting the horses to more trailering than they're already getting, what with weekly lessons etc. It's a balancing act.

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  25. riding/hacking out is a game changer for many, many things!

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