Thursday, June 25, 2020

Lesson 12 - homework is assigned

I have been able to ride only 3 times since A rode 2 weeks ago, and the first time was super short as my back said "Nope!" and required a day to recover. Gah, it sucks to get old. On Tuesday I tried again and things went much better. We did a short walk ride, which wasn't entirely fun thanks to Mia insistence on turning around to go back to the barn. Eventually she got a pop on the nose when she tried to do a reining horse spin because that is not okay. She used to enjoy going out, I really don't know what changed. Does she want to work in the arena? No, she wants to just go to the barn aisle. Does she want to work hard? She will when she has to, but doesn't seem to. Ugh.

Thursday was a baby dressage day, with some light walk/trot/canter to see if my back would be upset, and it was not. Friday was a short, hard dressage ride outside followed by a short hack down the driveway, and a fight to get her head back towards the barn without jigging/trotting/spinning to head that way, and then straight back to the arena to work since she wanted to go to the barn so badly. *sigh*

Sunday was my lesson, and while I had a ton of homework I wasn't able to work on, I was ready to work. A immediately commented that Mia is using her hocks very nicely and evenly, the Legend is doing a very good job. So there is that. At one point A said "Man, she is really being a bitch today, look at that side eye!" Yeah, thanks. She definitely doesn't want to work today. Our ride was a lot of over flexion to work on getting Mia off of my leg right now. No more being nice, no more giving her the benefit of the doubt, if she doesn't move then she gets a smack with the whip. At one point, A walked next to us and smacked Mia for me when Mia wouldn't respect my leg.

We do have a lot of homework, which is good because it is going to be a few weeks before I can take a lesson again. Firstly, I am using too much aid for too long. When I apply my leg, I wait a stride or two before I remove it. She wants one ask to equal one try. Which means I am going to be applying my aids all of the time instead of asking and leaving it on until I don't want it anymore. I am also changing my rein aids to focus on the hind end. When I flex or overflex her, I am to give and soften when she yields her hindquarters instead of the yielding her hindquarters and softening at the poll. She wants me to wear the biggest spurs I have so that I can get Mia to respect my leg with minimal movement from my legs, I have to curl my leg up and in to use the spurs I wear 95% of the time.

She said we are solidly schooling 2-3 levels above where we are showing right now, and we were even able to get a few steps of piaffe (!!). She thinks that Mia will top out at 2nd/3rd level dressage which will equate to a Prelim horse, which is what I was aiming for anyway. She things we may be smacking against the petering factor, where Mia is petering out because she may not have more in her to give. Or at least if she does, she may not have it right now. Our goal is to change her response and my riding a bit to make her Training level tests be as perfect as possible and then move forward. Perhaps Mia needs a little more time to build muscle before we ask for more, not to mention 2020 has been one hell of a year.

My next lesson won't be until after July 6th, possibly not until July 13. I am excited to see if I can replicate some of the progress we made in the lesson during a regular training ride. Here's to finding some motivation, now to see if I can keep it!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lesson 11 - a short post

The past few weeks have been weird. Thanks to pulling a muscle in my back, and it not being better after 2 weeks, I was not able to ride. Sometimes I couldn't even walk! During this, I spent a lot of time and money trying to see if we could help identify the source of Mia's personality change. So far, I have cut back her way grain, removed the weight supplement (which was no longer needed anyway thanks to grass), removed the protein supplement, made horse crack cookies, tested her for lyme (which came back completely negative, something the vet said is uncommon around here), had her teeth done, dewormed her, got a massage therapist out, started her on Mare Magic, and had the vet out for a full eval with lameness.

The dental visit was interesting, as it was with power tools. 1cc of Dorm was not enough for Mia, I had to hold her head down so the dentist could work and even with that Mia lifted me off of the ground different times. Next time we are going to mix in something else! Her mouth was completely unremarkable, just some sharper points and basic maintenance. The vet visit was completely uninteresting, Mia isn't back or body sore. She is in excellent condition. The vet says sometimes she recommends hind shoes but Mia is barefoot her whole life and doesn't want me to change that. The only thing of note was Mia's left hock is a little stiff so we added in a loading dose of Legend to try to loosen her up a little.
Mia does not like the dentist, and needs a LOT of sedation
Since I couldn't ride, I offered let A ride Mia and she was more than happy to hop aboard and give her opinion on how Mia is doing.The part that made me laugh was A's agreement that while in the past she has said Mia could never be bad, she agrees that Mia can be difficult. Ha! Mia is a redhead Appy mare, of course she can be difficult sometimes. She also was difficult to work with at the start of the ride, though she came around towards the middle of the ride.

A riding
The takeaways was that I am doing a pretty good job of riding Mia, as A couldn't tell just how little Mia was respecting my right leg (bad leg). She also couldn't tell just how much Mia pulls on the left rein, so I do a good job of making it look effortless. A spent most of the time getting Mia flexed, counter flexed, and over flexed to get her hind end working. She confirmed that Mia does take a good while to get warmed up, and that her first right lead canter is pretty bad although it does get better.

Mia is difficult to stay consistent in the bridle, even with A, so that is homework with some new tricks. I am also now supposed to start wearing spurs again to really get Mia to respect my leg. She said Mia's canter may not get much better than where we have made it due to Mia's confirmation but we can give Mia all of the tools we can so she stops fighting herself.

A riding, engaging those hocks
It took another 9 days after the lesson for my back to release and for me to start riding again. Unfortunately I had this post all typed up and Blogger ate it which set me back and I didn't recreate it until I had my lesson today. So....lesson 12 is coming right up! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lesson 10!

The good news? We FINALLY had a lesson! My calendar says March 10th was our last one, so long ago! It is no secret that we (and everyone, actually) have had some great progress and major lack of motivation in the quarantine time frame, I was super curious how the lesson would go. To top it off, Mia's personality still has not returned to normal. She is still barn sour, not cooperative, happy to refuse treats, and is just off. On Monday I had her tested for Lyme and I should have those results by Friday. I also cut her grain back, took her off of the protein/muscle supplement, added Mare Magic, and increased her Pentosan injections. Does she have too much energy? Possibly, our ride last Weds was insane. Is she in heat? She doesn't seem to be, esp for this long of a period of time. Does she hurt somewhere? Maybe left hock? Ovarian cyst? *sigh* She won't tell me.

If her Lyme comes back negative, we are going to to check her hocks. The vet couldn't squeeze an exam in during her drop-in to the barn on Monday so she just grabbed blood. She will come back if Lyme is negative, since Lyme can present as weird lameness she wanted to rule that out first. If the hocks aren't an issue, we will test for ovarian cysts. At least we have a plan in place and are ready to move forward

Fencing fixed for unappreciative mares
Last Weds I rode "baby dressage", I was looking for a good, positive ride on Mia and got it so I called it quits after about 25 mins. As I tried to cool her off in the outdoor, she kept veering to the barn. I took her out of the outdoor and walked her in the grass field next to the outdoor and Mia immediately turned her ass around and marched to the barn. The first time I said no and turned her back around. The second time I let her walk all the way back before saying "No", we were not going in the aisle. Needless to say, she wasn't happy.

Hurrying back to the barn means more work, so I started doing some fitness work to help really drive home that going back to the barn does not equal rest. After about 15 mins, she still wouldn't just relax when heading in the general direction of the barn so I started some gallop sets. The only real place to do gallop sets is a quarter mile area that runs from the road, up a big hill, and to the pastures (or continue up the hill to the outdoor). Usually after 2-3 gallop sets, she is pooped. We did six and she was still fighting me to A. Go faster or B. Go to the barn at the first opportunity. It was a miserable ride and it took forever for her to turn as directed vs turning to the barn which was my milestone to stop. I won the battle, but at a great cost.

Very large rubs after not being prepared for fitness runs... Ouch
On Sunday, we had lesson 10 and I was super excited. Not only do we get a lesson, but A gets to see Mia's naughty self. In the past A has said repeatedly that Mia is so agreeable, she has a hard time imaging Mia being difficult. Ha! She is a red head appaloosa, of course she can be occasionally difficult!

The lesson highlights? A could tell we did work on our homework. Mia is naturally carrying herself more straight and is much, much more fluid in her lateral movements. We had several moments where Mia was her old self and worked beautifully. A missed my snarky, sarcastic self and my commitment to our homework. She wants me to change my half halts, I use my seat exclusively for them. She wants me to use rein/leg at the same time instead because Mia isn't always listening to my seat when things are hard. She agreed Mia isn't her normal self, and is the one who thinks the left hind hock may be bother her. She got to see Mia's barn sour self, and also Mia being a freight train.

Pasture size doubled, now with grass!
Our homework was only to work on the new half halt cue, which then went awry as I tweaked my back pretty badly by moving rocks and I haven't been able to ride since Sun pm. Here's to hoping tomorrow I can ride, I have homework to work on!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Just one day at a time

Horse life during Covid is not enjoyable for many. With my 2 hour time slot at 7p-9p, I find I am often going out with varying levels of motivation. Some nights I am gung ho, other nights I just putz around. I also spent more time than I would have liked fixing the fence line in Mia's pasture.

How I found her, right hind woven between the fence strands
First, Mia got caught up in the fence because it was hanging low. She stepped over it, but got her back leg woven through the strands and I am very fortunate to have found her when I went out to ride. I know how bad things could have gotten if she struggled to free herself, considering the struggle I had to free her and I had my set of hands. If no one had found her until morning??? Luckily she had rope burn, some swelling, a contusion, and only one bleeding cut.

This is not well strung fenceline... 
So being the person I am, I fixed that section of fence with new t-posts and insulators. Then Mia was getting out on the other side that had no electricity. She was literally stepping through the (only) 2 strands of fence. I spent 2 hours clearing heavy brush/thorny branches away from the fence line so that new fence could be run that would support electricity. Then the electricity was hooked incorrectly so she got out again, so I had to help to do it properly. It is frustrating, because this should not be my responsibility. The farm SHOULD know how to properly use and maintain fence line, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It is for Mia's benefit, so I am doing it so she can be on grass, but I am frustrated all the same.

Someone is shedding like crazy
With the fence fixed (mostly, there is still a good bit of work that needs done in the lower field in the top pic), I was able to start riding. We would have good days and blah days. We did some good dressage, we did some blah dressage. We started doing fitness as a way to just "go". Then 2 weekends ago, Mia had her feet done. When I rode the following Monday on the trails, she kept turning back towards the barn when we came to a split in the path. I didn't do much about it and figured maybe her feet were bothering her. The next Wednesday, Mia was much worse and when we did a little fitness in a field, she was very much ignoring any kind of half halt or transition request when we were headed the direction that would lead back to the barn. Somehow I developed a horse who was testing out the barn sour mentality.

Someone disagrees with my accusation
I didn't have a crop, so she got yanked in the face a lot while we worked on reminding her that she has to listen to my aids regardless of where we are. I was not amused! We stopped when she was sweaty and did as I requested. When I went out last weekend, she was more agreeable but we rode only in the outdoor arena as I didn't feel like fighting. On Monday? Monday she got an attitude adjustment. After grooming her, I walked by to go to the tack room and she pinned her ears at me. Out went the plans of riding and in came the plans of ground work. Lots and lots of ground work with yielding before free lunging her until she was soft and responsive. It took longer than expected, but eventually Mia seemed to decide that I was the boss and she would gladly follow where I went and with happy ears.

A clean mare 
We will see how tonight goes, fingers crossed for a happy mare. I am fighting my own moodiness, in addition to SO's. I do not need hers as well. Enough already!

Happy birthday App. You are so very dearly missed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I'm lucky and I know it

Our state has implemented even more restrictions and extended the lockdown, which has made things even more difficult. Masks are now required in business, lockdowns until mid May, life essential business only, it is some weird times indeed. It has affected the barn even further, which I keep reminding myself that while incredibly inconvenient, I am still lucky.

The majority of the boarding barns in our area are closed to non-essential personnel. If you don't work there or are an essential medical provider, you don't get in. Farriers and vets are the only people allowed at most barns, and some barns are not even allowing farriers. Yowsers. Our barn is small, with only about a dozen boarders. While things are very strained, they haven't shut the barn down. At the last update, we were allotted time slots and you could only go to the barn in those slots. My slot was 6p to 9p, because I still work an 8-5 during the week. Only 2 boarders are allowed to be at the barn in any assigned time slot.

After the mask restriction was put into place, the barn tightened the times even further. The barn is now shut until 11a, closes again at 3p and stays closed until 530p. Our assigned time slot went from 3 hours to 2 hours. My time slot is now 7p to 9p. At least I can still go 7 days a week if I desired, even if the times are far from ideal. I read blogs and FB posts from others whose barns have shut down completely and every time I feel unhappy with my time slot, I think of those people who can't see their horse.

Life at the barn is continuing on, you don't have to wear a mask while riding if you ride outside or if you are alone in the indoor. And while it gets dark at 8p and I don't get there until 7p, if Mia isn't dirty then I can have at least 30-40 mins to ride outside. And as long as I don't mind riding in fairly dark twilight, I can ride as long as I want outside. It is also helpful that it is getting lighter later every day, even if spring is being psycho about the weather. Warm, cold. Sun, snow. Calm, 50mph winds. Make up your mind already!

The drive to "get better" isn't as strong as I would like, but I realize the quarantine is affecting everyone differently. Mine is apparently taking away some of the drive and replacing with a decent amount of blah. We have had some decent dressage rides. 2 weeks ago I had what felt like an AMAZING ride. Mia was soft, responsive, and easy to ride in dressage. When I watched video later, I saw that was because Mia had faked me out. My reins were WAY too long, she was totally haunches in during the right lead canter, and she was plugging away on the forehand.

Our next few rides were much harder, but I stepped up and held her accountable anyway. While the ride wasn't as amazing, I think we rode much better. I made myself make her be accountable and some of the results were definitely showing. We have done several rides outside, including some fitness, to avoid riding with others. We had a trail ride where I rode bareback in a halter and Mia was foot perfect. We had a trail ride where I just let her walk with loose reins and closed eyes as I tried to focus on what exactly was bugging me. We did some w/t/c rides in the front field, where the canter became nonstop leg yields left and right. If Mia is showing ill effects from the shutdown, she isn't showing it! She is such a good mare.

Here's to hoping things clear up and life can resume safely. If nothing else, we will be super ready for shows next year!

Monday, April 13, 2020

How to fill our time?

With the lockdown starting on March 6, I tried to avoid people. On March 14 and 21, I went to the barn at 4p because normally everyone is gone. The barn was packed on both weekends, as everyone was using it as a way to get out of the house. I went on trail rides with the ladies each time, but made comments about how I didn't expect people to STILL be at the barn that late.

Where did the silly hoomans go?
The weeknights were not much better, with people who are not the normal "night crew" being at the barn when I got there at 630p. I avoided the barn on the weekend of March 28 as I seemed to be the only one taking the "self quarantine" serious, which was a good idea because apparently the barn was packed again. Finally there was an issue at the barn and they implemented a pseudo lockdown. Most barns in our area are closed to boarders, however our barn is trying not to do this and offered this option first. Only 2 boarders at a time are allowed out within an assigned 3 hour time slot. My time slot is from 6p to 9p. It sucks on the weekends, but works on the weekdays so whatever.

Pic from Dec
The farrier was allowed out at least, though we had to trim in the driveway. We have been warned that if anyone abuses the time slots or cannot play by the rules, the barn will close indefinitely. While it really sucked on Saturday after the farrier as wasn't allowed to go on a trail ride by myself when we were done, I understand. I was there outside of my time slot. 

Pic from March. I see muscles! 
I am slowly getting my drive back and am looking forward to being ready to kick ass when we get to the other side of this. It started raining again so I can't go XC jumping at the barn but I plan on setting up some jumps in the arena and working on some fitness, height and repetition. Before the shutdown, we were already at a solid 5 min canter and two point set. I know I can get that back in no time. 

Work in progress, no need to be green!
I also took the opportunity to clean and service my horse trailer. The poor thing hadn't been washed last year and had become legit green on the back doors. Definitely not the image I want for our show season this year!

I'm ready to get back to my goals and really get stuff accomplished. Covid may be cancelling everything, and maybe I won't get a show until July, but we'll be ready when it finally happens! 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lesson 8 and 9 - before the world spun into chaos

I had a bunch of words typed out, but they were all no longer applicable. Talking about our show plans, what we were working on for our April 19 show, and our plan of attack to kick ass doesn't apply anymore. And then the world fell apart with Covid and quarantine. So....updates?

When we left you last, Mia was lame. After a week of rest, the farrier was out and didn't see anything despite my waffling on if I DID see her being lame or not. So we went with the "ride it until it is good or breaks" mentality and Mia has stayed sound. We did a short week of fitness before we had lesson 8.

Lesson 8 was very good! We were really focusing on power and control and that carried over into our first jump lesson with A. I warned A before the ride that I had have had tons of jump lessons and I haven't had one that was worth the $ since the early 2000's. I always fell like I have a babysitter and am simply paying a jump crew. I told her that I was really looking forward to A's lesson bc her dressage rides are SO informative. She took that as a challenge, set up a grid and worked us! It started as a small one stride to a two stride to a 3 stride.

A has changed so much about our rides in dressage, it was no surprise that she changed our jumping. I ride 90% in two point when jumping. I drive with my seat at some of the bigger jumps, but otherwise I am in two point all of the time. Freedom of movement for the horse, she can balance herself at all times, I am not in the way. A wants me to sit the canter more, 50% of the time at least. Her argument was that I can't control Mia's tempo with my seat bones if they are out of the saddle, I would have to rely only on my hands and/or weight/balance. It should easier to simply use the skills from dressage to control her canter when approaching her jump bc that is what we have been working on. Anytime I am near/can see a jump, I should be sitting down to control Mia's tempo. Makes sense, but it was SUPER hard for me to do. Fighting muscle memory is legit hard!

The jumps stayed small, nothing over 2'9", and the two stride was taken out so we could work on pacing. We worked to get Mia's canter size changed between the jumps WHILE I am sitting down between the jumps. While it wasn't a perfect lesson (I blame the severe rust on our skills), it was definitely worth the money and I am now looking forward to taking another jump lesson!

Lesson 9 was a dressage ride and it was a much more laid back ride than normal. We really focused on getting power, straightness, and getting it faster and with less fuss. We discovered one of my habits of throwing my connection away during a down transition has come back so I have to focus on not doing that. We also worked on a cool "butterfly" exercise that I have done a couple of times since. We ride the centerline and turn to the rail, do (something), turn up centerline 1/2 to 3/4 down the arena and ride back up the centerline doing (something), turn back to the rail and continue.

Sounds easy enough, right? I thought so too, until we are doing things like lengthened trot on those straight sides. Or leg yields, counter canter, haunches out/in, collected trot, collected/lengthened canter, etc. When you only have about 25m to do the movement before getting control back to make the 10m circle, it gets interesting and difficult fast! We can only fit about a stride and a half of lengthened canter before we are pulling back up, but actually getting it and getting it back is a great accomplishment.

We were already under a stay-at-home and social distance order for lesson 9 on March 10. On March 13, all non essential business was shut down and all lessons were cancelled. Then all shows were cancelled. Then only life essential businesses were allowed to be open. *sigh* You know. You are in it with me.

It took me several weeks to get back to riding with purpose again, as I went through a mini depressive state. I think everyone did. Since then I have done some fitness rides and I jumped some of the XC jumps! We didn't jump any of the biggest ones, but we jumped all but 5 of the XC jumps at the farm. Mia was fabulous, as expected, and seemed to really enjoy the change of pace. Our last dressage ride on Monday made me super happy. Mia didn't fight, she changed her gait speeds via my seat, she picked up/dropped gaits via my seat, and felt straight in her canter in both directions. If the ONLY thing we accomplish this year is having a dressage test that doesn't say "haunches in" under the canter section, I am going to be so proud.