Monday, January 22, 2018

Something finally happened!

App is doing well!  His weight is perfect now, I am cutting his rice bran down to one scoop and going to leave his blanket off a little more.  His thrush is as good as it can be, he is turned out in a paddock that isn't cleaned and there isn't much I can do about that.  I have asked to have him moved and it never happened because, well, barn politics.  He has 3 weeks until the farrier appointment and his hoof crack is looking good, I am super hopeful we can get rid of it with this next trim cycle!  It's funny, the barn is back to calling him an angel and the best behaved horse on the property.  HA!  You forget....just a short 6 months ago it was impossible to keep him fenced in.  He really is either awesome or an total ass and not much in between!

After month(s) of nothing happening, the planets aligned.  The temperature was above 10 degrees (40 in fact!!), the arena wasn't dusty (just watered as we still wait for MAG flakes) and I had time to ride.  Out came my trusty (dusty) dressage saddle and although Mia wasn't fully amused at first, we had a good ride.  It was structured solely with fitness in mind, we did lots of trot that focused on a long and low headset.  I wanted her back up and her head down to really work over her topline.  We did a ton of directional changes and gait changes, going from walk to trot to slow trot to mid trot to extended trot and back and Mia was SOO GOOD.  She seemed really happy to be doing something after a week of doing nothing, she didn't pick a single argument.  It was almost like picking back up from last fall!

We did 2 laps of canter each direction before I figured I'd ask for a little more canter.  Mia went from perfectly content mare to "GALLOPS ALL THE TIME!" mare.  Luckily we were alone in the arena so I just let her go. It's been since fall since we actually galloped and she seemed to enjoy my allowance.  After 3.5 laps around the arena, she dropped back but I made her canter another lap for good measure before calling it quits.  She was just so happy to be doing stuff, as was I.  I was borderline sweaty and she was breathing a good bit, I'll call that a good start to getting back into fitness.  We cooled down with a hack down the driveway and while Mia was much more "up" and ready to go than I expected, she was good, listened and she got stuffed full of treats.

I had big plans.  This week is supposed to have lows in the 30's, the MAG flake was delivered today, perfect time to work on fitness.  And then Saturday night I tweaked my bad knee again.  Seriously.  SERIOUSLY! ARGH! This time I seem to have hurt my LCL ligament vs my ACL which I have torn twice.  I did go on a group trail ride Sunday which went well enough.  I rode bareback with the thought that having no stirrups would be easier on my leg.  Mia behaved beautifully and didn't put a single hoof wrong.  My leg, on the other hand, was pissed and screamed at me the whole time.  Okay, I got it.  No riding.  The outside ligament is pretty sore to touch and wakes me up at night if the leg goes in a position it doesn't like.  SMH.  So apparently now I am taking a few days off to try to let it rest.  I have my Back On Track knee brace on, taking some advil and taking it easy.  Is anyone else happy to see warmer temps finally?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

In which nothing has happened

So....yep.  Pretty much sums it up right there.  The arena was not ridable for 90% of December due to the extreme dust.  They fixed the arena with different footing right before Christmas but then the holidays happened and then the super extreme cold arrived in which we weren't hitting double digit highs.  At least we weren't as bad as others, many friends didn't even hit single digit highs!  Then it warmed back up but when they had put the different footing down, they didn't put any dust control on it so as soon as the footing dried out, it became WORSE than in December if you can believe it.  UGH!!! The footing issue is slated to be fixed today with 50 bags of MAG flake going down, so crossing fingers I can actually use the facilities I pay for.

Sassy mare is sassy!
So since October, I have maybe ridden in a saddle three times?  Maybe four?  With it being so dusty, riding bareback (and in just a halter 50% of the time) is doing a good job of making sure I don't overdo it when I do ride. Even when we don't do anything but walk, I have been riding at least 2-3 times a week (save the week of extreme cold).  Now while bareback in just a halter we can do shoulder in, some beautiful serpentines, leg yield, and all the laterals.  Riding shoulder in all of the time is really helping her, maybe once we start riding again with a saddle I can work on it harder in the canter again.  Also counter canter.  Plus fitness.  So much fitness needed for both horse and rider....

Broken ponies still get to play in the arena
So what else has happened?  Not a whole lot.  Nothing to note from the farrier side of things.  App had a big fight with thrush and had a split that went through his frog into his heel, rendering him basically 2 legged lame (we call him 3 legged with his shoulder issue).  An aggressive treatment of Coppertox and Neosporin fixed that and he is back to normal after about 2 weeks of uncomfortableness.  He still has thrush issues due to the turnout the barn is keeping him in, unfortunately there isn't a whole lot I can do about that but I am still treating it aggressively.  Mia is doing quite well, the (not really new anymore) farrier has done a fabulous job of tweaking her right front so it is not as clubby.  Small surface cracks have reappeared on that hoof but the farrier says it is because her hoof capsule is finally expanding out instead of being so upright.  Since the hoof doesn't really flex that way, small cracks are showing as it expands but to not be concerned about them.  They will either always be there, as long as her hoof is growing good and wide, or the hoof will accommodate and produce more keratin and the cracks will grow out.  We won't know which it will do yet, I am aiming for the latter.
More treats required. Always. You can see her upright vs normal hoof here really well.
I HOPE, like seriously hope, that I will have more to talk about next week.  This is over a month of doing nothing but toodling around and I am so over it.  It is hard to stay fit when you can't ride!  It is one reason I have stayed bareback all of this time, at least it makes me work harder than riding in a saddle.  And it has helped.  My balance is still on point and I am super secure in all gaits.  Since I have my strength and balance, I just need to add fitness back into it.  Fingers crossed!

He looks so good right now!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A whole lot of nothing going on

What a crazy few weeks.  The trip to visit family went actually much better than expected.  I had threatened them that I wouldn't go back if there were crazy dramas and it must have been taken to heart because no dramas happened whatsoever! 

No zooms here, but she moves so nicely
When I got back, the arena was super dusty again and has been like that ever since.  It was supposed to have been fixed last week but wasn't, now it is supposed to be fixed this week and we are still waiting.  It is now below freezing so they can't even sprinkle with water anymore.  Even walking makes a pretty good amount of dust so I haven't been doing much riding.  *sigh*  I get it, arenas are dusty but I am paying a lot of $$ to have a facility that I cannot use.  Grrr.  Winter blues are setting in.

Those who are not amused about their picture being taken
App is doing much better.  The farrier said she thought it may have been an abscess blow out.  I don't agree because I was treating it as thrush, but it doesn't really matter.  The frog was fully split and went up into his actual heel bulb causing him enough pain to crabwalk.  He is no longer thrushy and is walking fairly normal.  Most days he walks with just a very slight limp, other days he has a very noticable limp but he is still in great spirits.  

He will deny any extra weight
He has also gained a LOT of weight finally!  He is within 50lbs of his ideal winter weight.  I think it is a combination of the rice bran plus the barn keeping hay in front of him 24x7 that has done it.  Win!
Still looking good for a retired old man!
Mia is doing well too.  I am not quite sure how to blanket her this year, she is in a pasture without a lot of wind block, unlike last year.  She never acts cold and she doesn't really shiver, so she is capable, but still.  She was blanketed last night as it was super windy and super cold, single digits with wind chill.  Let's see if she maintains weight, starts shivering, etc.  She is in a lightweight blanket now and I have a mid/heavyweight one if she needs.

The "You haz carrot. Give me now" face
The in-laws are coming in for two weeks this weekend so I suspect I will be at the barn more.  Maybe the arena will be decent enough for me to ride in.  One can hope for the Christmas miracle right?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

No Saddle November

It is supposed to be No Stirrup November, but when the arena is really dusty and you can't do much of anything, why not just skip the saddle altogether?  That's what I've done anyway ha!  I am also horribly lazy and it is simply saving a step in the tack up process.  Both Mia and App have been quite muddy most of the week so I guess it works out.  The extra time I would usually spend riding hard is spent pulling crusted mud off of the horses so the stupid things can be warm. 

The horses get their feet done this weekend and we will see how the report goes.  App still has a crack in his left front but then also got really bad thrush in his right hind. I was treating both with Tea Tree oil per the recommendation of the farrier as I didn't have CleanTrax.  After almost 2 weeks though, the thrush split his frog clear into his heel and was super painful.  I broke out my big guns and the thrush is now gone, we are just waiting for things to grow back.  Things aren't worse, which is good, but they haven't fully resolved.  App is still pretty uncomfortable and walking stiffly.  The barn moved him into a different paddock that is not solid, wet "mud" (ie urine/manure mix) which helps the thrush issue as well.  One day at a time, one discussion at a time.

The arena dust issue SHOULD be being resolved next week.  They are adding a different sand and adding MAG flakes which will help.  I used MAG flakes in MI and they worked really well 85% of the year so I am hopeful it will make the arena ridable here in PA.  Fingers crossed, maybe we can actually start working again!  Right now you can't trot more than 5 minutes before it gets extremely dusty, let alone doing much canter or having a second horse in the arena.  Then the outdoor arena was closed off to night riding under the claim someone left the outside lights on all night, so it is closed off to everyone.  It is a really crappy rule, and I know for a fact none of us "night riders" did it, they only ride outside when I really push them to ride outside because it is cold!  To restrict the outdoor from the night riders is really unfair, IMO, but that is boarding life.  

The rides on Mia are going well, No Saddle November is doing great at really solidifying my seat and balance.  Despite my insistence that I wasn't going to do "fancy" work, we still ended up doing serpentines (which are DA BOMB), stretchy trots and walk/canter transitions.  HAHA!  The lady I ride with at night, MR, says she loves to watch me because it looks like I ride with a saddle but I don't.  Apparently, I don't move.  Aww <3 Way to give me a big ego :)  

I am off to visit family for 5 days, wish me luck!  It is a nice 9+ hour one way drive so it should be be long and tiring.  Here's to hoping it is uneventful.  I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Moving right along, no lesson for us

A hectic couple of weeks isn't too bad when you consider all of the riding I have been doing.  Nothing blog worthy though, just dressage stuffs and who wants three blog posts over "Shoulder in, all the time" and "we are compressing the dressage canter to get Mia to tuck her pelvis", etc.  Boring.  Add to this the fact the indoor is SUPER dusty, outside has been SUPER cold and it gets dark at 5p, and while I have been riding, it is boring and I haven't been inspired to talk about it.

So how has our dressage been?  Shoulder in, all the time, in all gaits.  Mia is now doing shoulder in to the right much easier in the canter.  I have worked hard at not being so grabby with the right hand (Bad hand!) and I think it is working.  Shoulder in is still hard for Mia, but we are working on it every time we ride and every time it gets just a smidgen easier. 

Our serpentines have become super easy now, as long as I ride it properly go figure.  As soon as we pass center line and change the shoulder in direction, *boom* Mia does them easily and without falling in.  Good to know, shoulder in fixes all of Mia's problems haha!  Mia can go from straight, into a circle, and back again without real issues and our corners are usually superb.  I really enjoy our slower tempo, though would really like a little more push.  Baby steps I remind myself, baby steps. 

We have done a good bit of No Stirrup November, although not exclusive No Stirrup as I was working towards my lesson (that didn't happen).  The thing we have worked hardest on is canter.  We have worked almost exclusively along the rail, not doing many 20m circles, to really drive home the shoulder in aspect.  Mia is now doing a very clear, rhythmic 3 beat canter that is SO cool to listen to.  I didn't realize she didn't do it until she started doing it.  She sounds like a huge warmblood coming across the arena, with equal, heavy thud-thud-thud.  Love it! 

Going large in the arena is also super helpful in developing the super collected canter.  We are playing with getting Mia to tuck her pelvis and really sit, I work to get the good canter and then sit up, hold into a half halt and apply lots of leg (like we are in front of a jump).  Mia really sits down and lightens her front end and it is super cool.  She can do it pretty well to the left and only decent to the right but it is coming right along. 

What fun have we had outside of dressage?  Well...not a lot.  We were working hard to prepare for the lesson and I really wanted to show big progess.  And then the lesson was cancelled because it was in the low teens the night of the lesson and the instructor cancelled.  UGH.  Oh well, maybe she will come out next month.  Until then, we had some fun with a hunter pace last weekend.  It was FUN!  Mia hasn't been on many hunter paces, but she is finally a good trail horse so I was excited.  I went with 3 others from the barn and despite it being a walk ride, it was still fun.  I brought my dressage saddle as I didn't expect to be able to jump (expected objections from the others who were walking) however everyone was ok with it.  In the end, 3 of the 4 of us were jumping over things!  I passed over only one jump, that was 3ft, because I wasn't comfortable jumping higher in my dressage saddle.  It was hard enough already haha.  Everyone thought Mia was so cute jumping and they said it was very obvious Mia really enjoyed her job jumping.

She was awesome during the hunter pace and was a rockstar.  She threw not a single fit, loaded right up, she jumped everything, she didn't spook, she didn't avoid water/mud and walked in the front and rear without complaint.  What a huge improvement from 2 years ago <3 < 3 Nothing fun is scheduled for the rest of November, we have to travel for Thanksgiving (boo) so it is just steady building on dressage.  One day at a time!

Friday, October 27, 2017

A lesson recap

On Friday I had another lesson.  Two lessons in 30 days??  Say it isn't so!  And I also have another scheduled!  It was a good lesson, a very good lesson actually.  Not quite up to par with my lessons with M in Michigan, however, they are close!

The instructor, ML, was impressed with my progress over the last month.  Like, super impressed.  She said we had made 4 months of progress in a month's time??  Not sure I buy that, all we did was start to get into actual shape bc Mia wasn't lame/hurt and also work on our homework.  I'll take it though, everyone else said ML doesn't give compliments out lightly so I should really enjoy them.  Okay then.  We have really slowed Mia's tempo down this year, by over half in fact.  The theory is that Mia has long legs and she needs time to get her legs to really under herself.  With a quicker tempo, Mia doesn't have time to fully extend her legs as she is "rushing" to go faster.  With a slower tempo, she has time to really extend and "flick" her legs and to get her hind legs really underneath herself.  Alrighty then.  Sadly I don't have a SINGLE picture of any of my lessons since the beginning of the year so I simply have to trust her on this.  She says Mia looks amazing when doing it.

Our entire theme of shoulder-in, all the time, carried over into this lesson and is my homework for the next lesson as well.  Mia naturally walks slightly haunches in so the nonstop shoulder-in is going to hopefully not only get her more balance and straightness, but also "even" out her natural way of moving.  ML said we have made excellent progress and she can see Mia is really starting to redevelop her muscling and is looking good.  Yay!  Just in time for winter to lose it all haha!

We did a lot of shoulder in (no surprise haha) at the trot and ML was impressed with Mia's ability to go straight, onto a circle and back on the straight without losing balance.  Our serpentines were pretty good as well, as long as *ahem* someone rode them properly.  She also had us work on spiraling in/out with the bigger goal as to bring Mia's head BACK up as she is staying in contact.  When she brings her head up, while doing shoulder in and being on contact, she engages her hind end and really looks wonderful.  If I let her keep her head stretched down (Where I have been working on putting it ALL YEAR), she trails her hocks.  Apparently, Mia got the memo during all of our training and now it is time to step up the requirements. 

We ended with some canter and, again, ML was blown away by our improvement in the canter.  I had someone tell me she hasn't heard ML give so many compliments in a long time.  Trying not to get a big head, I mean, all we have done is get back in shape and did our homework.  Mia's left lead canter is amazing, as always.  The shoulder in is easy enough for her and I was even able to really ask and get Mia to compact, tuck her pelvis and collect her canter for a few strides before relaxing it back out without a huge loss of balance.  It was awesome!  ML said Mia had real elevation going on.  Ugh, I really need pictures!!!  To the right wasn't as glamorous, obviously.  We were able to get the shoulder in, though it isn't as easy.  This is her weak side remember.  Mia will tuck her pelvis and rock back in the canter but loses her balance coming out of it and so it is something to work on.  All in good time.

The comments about me?  Pretty good.  I need to stop looking where I am going, apparently.  This works in jumping but not in dressage.  If Mia were a clock, I need to look at 11 and 1 and stop looking at 9 and 3.  I need to remember to actually RIDE my horse as I am struggling to fix my wayward head and not randomly stop riding when I remember my head is turned too much.  I need to stop being so grabby with my right hand when doing shoulder in in the canter to the right.  The right hand does not create the bend, so stop trying to make it.  Keep my hands together, continue to bridge my reins if needed.  My sitting trot looks really damn good!  Need more strength to sustain it, but apparently it looks really good. 

Lots of work to do before our next lesson (Nov 10!!!!).  Lots more shoulder in, esp to the right, work on encouraging Mia's head up, try to compact her strides to get her pelvis tucked and start some counter canter.  Yikes!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Another update? Say it isn't so!

I know, I was a bad blogger and didn't update for almost an entire month with the last post.  I am very sorry and hope to make it up here.  I don't know how other people do it, I seriously have so little time between my day job, riding the horse 4 days a week and taking care of the house.  Blah!

Can you tell she enjoys this?
It's okay though, I do have some updates AND I have a little time.  First, some pics from the show.  As mentioned, I volunteered and took pics with the good camera at the show.  That meant most competitors had 10+ pics of themselves.  Someone said they were going to video my dressage and when going jumping, I handed the camera off so pics could be taken of myself and others.  I never got the video, or any pics, of my dressage and I have exactly 3 pics of us jumping.  I guess better than nothing?  At least the pics came out okay.
Those knees though <3
Overall I am happy with the pics.  Mia is jumping well, she had no real issues with the course and except from the one pic of me jumping ahead *ahem below*, we look good.  This was the second element of the last 2 stride that came off of a very sharp 45 degree turn.  You were on the rail, you turn sharply off of the rail at apx 45 degrees and jump 9 of the combo is 3 strides away.  I *think* the course would have actually ridden better if you turned right vs left after jump 8 and rode around the arena to get to 9, but not a single person one did that and I didn't have my watch on to check time so I didn't want to risk it.  

Position, stop doing this please
Jump 9 came up quick, she jumped it well but flat and then was too forward to 9B (above).  She met it well but she was MOVING and my position isn't great.  The pic does not adequately convey the energy she was putting into the effort.  HA!

App is such a goof
Back in January, Alyssa needed some help and was offering commissioned artwork.  Well, who am I to pass up helping a blogger and getting my beloved App painted at the same time?  I already have him in pencil, I needed him in color!  I was beyond thrilled to get it last week in the mail, it is PERFECT!  It matches App so well!  I am beyond happy with how this turned out and I am so happy I was able to help Alyssa when she needed it.  This is going in my office so I can look at it all of the time.  Now I need to get my butt in gear and get some art done of neglected Mia, she has not a single piece of art ha!

Mia is doing well, she is finally sound and injury free which is fabulous.  Last week we did some gallops because I was in a funk.  Mia can fly, like seriously fly.  And flying really helps break me out of funks.  I used to do it semi-regularly on App when we were both younger.  It was awesome, you have his walk, trot, canter and gallop.  And then he had this 5th gear, he would literally drop his body down and accelerate through the gallop.  You could actually feel him lowering himself and then the extra power coming from behind, it was sooo cool.  Alas, he is now permanently broken and there are no gallops in his future with me so I do it occasionally on Mia.  Rarely though, only about once a year.  Last week I did it and brought my phone with me to record our speed because this is stuff I need to know.  Mia is certainly faster than App, but how fast can she actually go?

We had a 15 min w/t warmup before trotting down to the road and galloped through the hay field and up the big ass hill.  It is probably a half mile from point A to B?  OMG She galloped almost 38 miles per hour!  That is FAST.  A quick google search shows the fastest racehorse went almost 44 MPH, not sure if that is sustained or not though. And it was SO cool to ride.  We went down and did a gallop a second time but Mia slowed down as we started going up the hill, she had no more gallops left in her and went into a canter so we called it a day and cooled out.  The speedometer app is cool, and pretty accurate when testing in my car.  I strap it to my hand via a armband phone holder when I use it (fitness) and while it doesn't show meters per minute, it works out as I know I need apx 12 MPH for BN, 14 for N, 16 for T and 19 for P.  There are actual ranges, but these are the numbers I remember and gets us close for conditioning.  I confirmed that fast mare is fast!

This Friday I have another dressage lesson, I know OMG!!  A second lesson with a month?!  I am excited to see how it goes and HOPE that it becomes slightly more regular.  Regular lessons would be FABULOUS.  I hope to get a recap of it posted before weeks go by this time too!  Fingers crossed :)