Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 - A Year In Review

Wow what a year 2016 has been.  Not nearly as bad as it has been for others but I am sure glad to see it go.  Where did we go in 2016?

January:

I spent the whole damn month redoing our farm house which resulted in virtually no riding time.


February:

I posted my first/only before/after post of my remodel and got the farm listed for sale.  I rode during a showing to try to get in horse time and ended up with an offer within 48 hours of the farm being for sale.  Even though it was for sale for 6 months the year prior.  And I squeeze in a trip to see barns in PA before picking the one I am at now.

March:

March was a little sad as I did serious packing and downsizing.  The horses got all of their health stuff done for the season in prep for their move and we start to diagnose App being NQR and I practice solo trailer loading of both horses in prep for the Big Move.

April:

April was the Big Move.  The horses were moved with so little problems it was seamless and we found I could actually fit my entire barn in my 2 horse trailer.  Then made the final trip to PA.  I had my first rides in PA, though it took Mia a while for her brain to arrive from MI, and App is officially retired after an ultrasound and xray.

May:

I determine Mia doesn't like her HSS baucher bit, her HSS loose ring, her eggbutt french link, or, or, or and I went back to her copper eggbutt.  We had our first XC jump schooling in PA, our first lesson in PA AND our first show in PA.

June:

We had our second lesson in PA which didn't go nearly as well as the first lesson and talked about boarding vs at-home care.  And I still stand by it, I do not want to go back to at-home horses.  I loved the ability to have them "right there", but the amount of work far exceeded the joy and pleasure I got out of having them home.  Oh yeah, and I fell off again.

July:

Mia's dressage starts to spiral out of the circle of good and into the circle of "this needs fixed" and I start using a pelham.  I test out 4 saddles in the search to find a new jump saddle and have another XC schooling.  Mia gets sick and I get an awesome stall plate from Olivia.

August:

August wasn't great.  We lost a third of the month from Mia being sick, missed a show and Mia's dressage continued to go downhill when I didn't ride in the pelham.  We had our third lesson which went pretty good.

September:

Mia started going better in her copper eggbutt and I stop using the pelham.  We had our 2nd show which went really, really well despite not placing great.  We had a CWD saddle rep come out before buying a used County Innovation and finding it didn't fit well, but felt amazing.

October:

A total reflock was done on the new saddle and we go to our 3rd show in which Mia doesn't show up to play, resulting in our worst dressage score to date.  I get my saddle back and get my 2pointober time up to a new personal record of 7:09 and aim to go higher before the end of the month.


November:

I finish out October with another new personal high of 8:01 in two point!!!!!!  Then Mia gets sick again and we lose an entire month with her being NQR with fat legs, random fevers and lethargy.


December:

Mia has decided to show back up and play when we work on dressage, though I don't get too much riding in due to the cold and weather and finish out the year trying to fall off when I ride w/t bareback and declare a new thing, No Saddle January.

Here is to a better 2017 for me and for all!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just some updates, Saddleless January is going to be a thing

Things are par for the course.  Last week I only got to ride twice due to the in-laws being in town, woohoo?  Mia is actually being really good, not great but she isn't fit so I don't expect great.  I have been working on contact and basic fitness for both her and I and it is coming back, slowly.  On Friday the in-laws came out to the barn with SO and I and I did some fitness work.  8 minutes of two point from Twopointober?  Fat chance!  HAHA!!  It will come back, I hit 3 minutes and that was good enough for me.  Take aways?  Since, you know, I should be documenting my rides?  Mia needs to relax over her topline again and soften her poll.  She needs to keep some bend and contact in the outside rein without my forcing the issue at the start of each ride.  She needs to move bigger, not faster.

The good?  Mia is doing very well in steering with just my seatbones (When did that start happening?!).  Mia is staying adjustable in her trot and, when sufficiently warmed up, can go from a working trot to an extended trot to an almost western trot almost exclusively from seat and legs. Her canter is going wonderfully as long as I sit up and BACK.  She can't keep a nice, balanced canter for too long, just a circle or so, but that is so much better than the dumping on the forehand, going fast and ignoring my suggestions which is her go-to.  Her canter is by far her weakest gait so any improvement is appreciated.

Speaking of appreciated, the new farrier trimmed my appys on the 17th.  He wasn't able to do much since it had been only 5 weeks since their previous trim, but I had to do what I had to do to get on his schedule.  I felt so much better after his trim, I had zero desire to "fix" anything he did.  Maybe I finally found a good farrier here?!  He said that their heels were still way too high, something I had been trying and trying to get the previous farrier to fix.  Even with my "direction", old farrier wasn't taking them down enough.  New farrier said that by taking all of the toe and leaving the heel, the angles are wrong and pointed out bruises on Apps soles from just standing around.

When both horses walked off, they even sounded better as they walked down the aisleway.  It has transitioned into the arena as well, the first night I rode Mia, she felt WAY different.  The arena was half frozen so I couldn't fully evaluate her gait but the second time, wow.  She is really moving out and isn't nearly as stiff behind.  Even another boarder noticed a difference in her gait.  I am discouraged that we spent most of last year with poor hooves, but I suspected it was happening and couldn't do much to fix it as the old farrier does ALL of the horses at the barn.  It wasn't until the new boarder came with her own farrier that I felt "okay" using a different/her farrier.  And now I am being avoided by the old farrier.  Go figure, politics. My horses' well-being is more important than how the farrier views me, and the barn isn't upset because I am still using a farrier they approved to come into the barn.  Weird, yes, but such is boarding.  Apparently they allow only "approved" farriers.  I am just glad I found this second option.

On Christmas, I went to the barn and just did some w/t on Mia bareback with a halter.  She was a little more spirited than I would have preferred, so I didn't do any canter, but she behaved well enough.  I did notice I was not as secure in my seat as I should be, looks like more bareback riding is in my future again.  I used a saddle in most of No Stirrup November, apparently that wasn't good enough for my balance so Saddleless January is going to make an introduction.  Haha!  Monday I tried to go to the barn, I really did, but everything was covered in ice.  Living on a mountain does have some downsides, when going 10mph down the road is still too fast and people are sliding, perhaps one needs to stay home.  After going about a mile towards the barn, I turned around and went home.  Not worth a car wreck to just play with the horses.

Last night I went out and rode sans saddle and felt soooo much better and secure.  I can only guess the ride where I kept trying to fall off woke my brain up and now it "remembers" how to balance lol.  We did some w/t/c and I am very pleased with how it went.  We even got some laterals in, after we picked up Mr Spanky.  Funny how Mr Spanky never had to be used, just picking it up was enough to get Mia off of my leg.  Ha!  More bareback riding tonight, I figure at least 10 rides should be done before I deserve a saddle again.  That should show my no good, lazy body how to remember to balance properly.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Time to ride, just in time for bitter cold

Wow what a two week time span.  Last week I was traveling for work and had no time to ride.  Well, I did ride quickly on Saturday but it was just a be-bop kind of ride, hop on/off.  When I got back, I went out on Sunday I lunged her to get some willies out so I could ride on Monday.  On Monday I went to the barn to ride and got caught in a surprise (to me) snow storm.  I left the house at 530p and it was barely flurrying.  No worries I thought!  By the time I made it 20 minutes into my (normally 45 min) drive, it was snowing really hard and the roads started to get slippery.  By the time I made it 40 minutes into the drive, I was going 30mph or slower as the road was now slippery, but to the barn I persisted.  I made it to the barn in 50 minutes, which wasn't too bad.  Except things were really slippery by then.  I got App and gave him a brushing and his bi-monthly shot of Pentosan.  While walking him back out, I almost busted my ass. Yeah....  I grabbed Mia and brushed her down and figured I probably shouldn't stay and ride.  By this time there were inches of new snow on the ground, things were slippery and it was still snowing HARD.   So I put her out, almost fell down, again, and made my slow trek home.  My little car really wanted to go into the ditch at one point, and seriously thought about it a second time, but I was able to convince it to stay on the road and I made it home in a little over an hour. Snow tires for the win!  We ended up with just over 4 inches of snow in the 2.5 hours it took me to go to the barn and back.  So yeah, Mondays ride was a fail.

The cats were very concerned when I got home and I shared my story with them
Tuesday I lunged her again as I hadn't ridden still and I wanted to enjoy my ride and that meant ensuring I didn't end up with a rocket on a string.  I had Mia do fitness lunging, having her trot for 3 minutes, walk for 2, trot for 3 minutes, walk for 2, canter for 3 minutes, walk for 2, canter for 3 minutes, walk for 5.  That did amazing things for her mentally and she was much happier at the end of the session than she was when we started.  She isn't nearly as explosive as most horses, but she was just so much more relaxed and happy after lunging.  I really do think she enjoys a bit of work.

It does make for a pretty picture though
Last night I was finally able to ride and since I won't get to ride until this weekend thanks to the single digit highs we are having, I was taking advantage of it.  Mia started out totally unable to go into the outside rein.  As soon as I let go of the inside rein, she tilted her head to the outside and wanted me to pull and hold her.  Uh, no.  We walked for about 20 minutes doing laterals, turns, serpentines, corners and pirouettes until she finally was soft and in my outside rein.  In taking the time to do that, she even started responding to my seatbones again and would make nice changes of direction with simple pelvis tilts.  How cool, I didn't expect her to remember that until she was back in work.  Training for the win!  She surprises me at times with the buttons she decides to suddenly remember.

I decided to alternate between sitting and rising trot, to really encourage her to slow down and try to get her to use her hind end and I think it worked.  She didn't really push off of her hind end, and she isn't really strong enough to hold me in sitting trot for long periods, but she stayed light in her front, responsive to my seat and didn't fuss much with her head.  Everything I was hoping to accomplish.  For a horse that had virtually 2 weeks off?  That is great.  She even gave me some great canter transitions, no bolting, no leaping, no dumping onto the forehand.  Just some sit, pick it up, stay balanced and a decent down transition.

It is cold outside, snuggles required to make it better
It is very obvious that both of us are not currently fit, I need to start cardio stuff again because....sheesh, yeah, I just do.  Mia needs semi regular work to be strong enough to hold these better gaits and to stay off of her forehand.  Not sure how well we will accomplish it during the winter, but I am sure going to try.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Better, actually better this time!

Wow all, it has been busy.  Mia has had her on again/off again lameness/not quite lame/NQR for over a month now.  I mean, I really love that hasn't been super cold and I just get to brush my horses and not do actual riding.  (Sarcasm).  Imagine my surprise then when I went out the day before Thanksgiving and not only was Mia's legs not blown up but Mia didn't have a fever and Mia wasn't lethargic.  Score!  Thanksgiving miracle!

video
Random video because jump!

On Friday I finally hopped on (Yes, this past FRIDAY.  THAT is how long she has been NQR.  Did I mention I was off of work last week for vacation and got to actually ride zero times until Friday?) and Mia felt fantastic.  Really great in fact.  I had my kite on a string again, ha!  I tried to ride outside but the footing was very sloppy due to rain/melting and had puddles everywhere, I was concerned about her slipping with the antics she was pulling so we went inside.  The new footing is amazeballs and worked out wonderfully to let Mia just go.  She had SO much energy.  This time, however, I just asked her to be forward and let her go.  No galloping, as others were in with us, but no real work.  Just steam blowing and it worked well.  I let her trot trot trot her little heart out.  The last time, I let her go at her own pace.  This time, I monitored her pace but let her just go forward.

When I went out on Sunday, her legs were nice and tight, she wasn't lethargic and had no fever again. Finally.  Mia was much more manageable under saddle and while we didn't do any "real" work, I was able to get her to come onto the bit, stretch forward and down and do some lateral work in the trot. Like on Friday, she trotted a long time before settling down but then I actually had a horse that was willing to listen to my aids.  We even did some canter work and, despite some leaping, Mia did very well.  She alternated between having a semi-balanced canter and flat out running away, but it was better than on Friday so I took that as an accomplishment.

video
The start of lateral work

Monday we worked on some lateral work and overall she did well.  I wasn't riding with spurs so I ended up needing a whip to remind her to move off of my leg, but it went well.  I think the finished video shows decent improvement.  She is moving off of my leg with much more enthusiasm and isn't trying to be angled so much.

video
Finished lateral work

Last night I rode and didn't do too much but Mia decided she had enough, she did NOT have a desire to play anymore.  We started out well enough, some laterals at the walk and trot.  Some collected trot with a little power (which didn't really happen) to some stretchy trot to some canter departures.  It all was decent enough until we hit the right lead canter.  Her weakest link.  As much as we tried, she decided she just could not collect and carry herself or keep her head out of my face.  Since I let her stay on her forehand on Sunday, I must need to allow it now.  No.  We have danced this dance before...

We ended up doing walk/canter quarter circles until she decided she could canter without bolting and she could stop without diving onto her forehand.  I then used my clicking noises to reward her when she put her head down and at the 45 min mark of our ride, we were finally able to get a decent canter circle.  I finished with some trot circles and when she stopped pulling on me and going faster, I called it a night.  She sat under a cooler before getting treats and going outside.  She apparently forgot that it was easier to try versus fighting me.  I didn't want to work her that hard, as she isn't really fit, but she gave me no choice.  Alas.

This weekend will hopefully be an easier ride because I won't have time to ride for a week after that.   Next week I am out of town for work.  I rarely travel for work anymore so I can't be too upset, it is just not ideal timing with her being off.  At least it isn't during show season.  Let's see if she remembers to not fight so hard with her upcoming time off.  Ha!