Friday, November 29, 2013

Vacation time over, back to work

With Mia progressing under saddle, I was time to have the vet was out and took a look at her teeth.  I knew Mia was due but the TWH had also been making a grinding noise and wasting hay.  Since this is very unlike him, I figured we might as well have everyone looked at.  The vet really liked how Mia is coming along, you can almost not feel ribs which is a complete turnaround from when he first saw her.  When we got her she was very ribby, a good solid 3.5 on the BCS scale and she is now a comfortable 4.5 to 5.  He worked on her teeth first and though she had a set of extremely sharp front molars, the rest of her teeth were in good shape.  We did find she is one who will likely need tranq'ed for floating, she was tranq'ed lightly and she still kicked out, moved around a lot and gave them a hard time.  The TWH had a sharp hook in his back molars that Dr A took care of and said the rest of his teeth were fine.  Hopefully he stops wasting my hay, it is expensive!  The App didn't even require a touchup, everyone will get done in March and then hopefully we will be back to the once yearly schedule.

The TWH has had an adequate vacation, being worked lightly since last month and having no real work since the beginning of September, and is now cleared to go back to work.  The past couple of weekends I have ponied him as I rode the App around the 3 mile loop and I have ridden him a couple of times these past few weeks but it was finally time to get back to work.  I rode the TWH Tuesday and while I am impressed in how he has maintained some of his transitions, he is isn't the same exact horse I hopped off of in September.  The biggest difference is his attitude, I think he seems me as The Leader but not as His Leader anymore.  I think this has to do with his confidence, since bringing Mia home the TWH is now constantly reminded that he is at the bottom of the list and he has reverted back to being slightly standoff-ish and randomly spooky.  Because, of course, just a couple of weeks ago I was just telling someone how I didn't even consider him randomly spooky anymore.  I am going to have to work really hard at boosting his confidence again and get him back to being my trustworthy partner.  I think we will get there, hopefully it will only take a few rides to make the progress.

We started our ride at a nice walk, putting him in a frame and getting him off of the inside rein.  It took a bit longer than I expected, he is obviously rusty.  He had really good lateral control though and was quite responsive to just my soft leg.  The trot transition was pretty bad to start, he wasn't just picking it up but was instead gaiting for 6-7 steps before trotting.  That was easy enough to fix though, we spent most of our workout doing 1/4-1/2 circles of walk to 1/4-1/2 circles of trot to help quicken and improve his transitions.  Overall it went pretty well and at the end his transitions were decent.  His canter transition was awesome and his dreaded canter/trot transition was actually really good!  Going to the left, his bad side, he would give me a couple of gaited steps before trotting but was picking the trot right up.  Thankfully I am not going to have nearly as much work as I was afraid of to get him back into tip top shape.  Phew!  That leaves more time for fun stuff like jumping!

We rode for about 40 minutes before calling it a night, he is resembling a musk ox with his winter coat and I worked him into a sweat.  40 minutes is also a decent amount of time to start with in having a "real" workout anyway.  I threw him under a cooler and parked him in front of a hay bag to cool off while I brought everyone in for feeding.  This morning he was no worse for wear and his suspensories aren't inflamed or sore, sorry TWH but vacation time is over!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gift exchange!

This is what I get for being so busy lately, I haven't been reading everyone's blog and when I checked in on Tracy not only is she doing a 5 day challenge where she answers questions but she is also doing hosting a gift exchange.  Cool!  While I don't have a lot of readers, maybe someone will want to participate.  Send her your email with 2 ideas for small gifts under $20 and then she will send it to someone and send you someone else's idea.  You buy and ship it out and then share what you got on your blog.

To participate, go to  Someone is going to learn who I am, no axe murders please!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Time for our first lesson

On Thursday H came out and I took my first lesson on Mia.  H was quite impressed with how Mia looked, she had gained a good bit of weight since H had seen her last.  I hopped on and I told H the story about getting her and what I have been doing with her.  How I am taking things really slow with her to lay a very firm foundation that, hopefully, has no holes so things will be easier as we progress.  H saw fairly quickly Mia's current weak spot, her shoulders.  She loves to drop her inside shoulder and plow along instead of keeping herself upright as she makes a turn, something I have been slowly working on.

After some warmup H had us start doing exercises to fix that shoulder, H called it "ice-capades", do as slow of a trot as you can get and then make as small of a circle as possible.  Keep your outside rein firm and fixed and make Mia bend to the inside. As soon as she holds it herself, give her a release to encourage her to keep the frame herself.  Overall it wasn't a bad exercise.  I wouldn't want to do it for long periods because of how small of a circle we stay on, however Mia responded pretty well with it and was staying much more upright by the end of the ride.  Success!

After some walk/trot transitions we figured we might as well try to canter under saddle, something I hadn't yet done.  I didn't expect anything bad out of her, Mia just is rather forward and very unbalanced.  H set a pole down on the ground for me and after trotting over it a couple of times, I verbally and physically asked for the canter.  She gave a couple of scrambling steps but picked up a pretty nice right lead canter.  Of course, by nice I say there wasn't any bucking/leaping/killing me because that there also wasn't any of was steering.  We made it around the circle the first time but the second?  She came so close to the arena wall her whiskers brushed the wall.  H said she was so concentrated on what she was doing, she didn't look at where she was going and, of course, had completely blocked out what my rein and leg were saying.  At the very (very!) last second she adjusted course and just my boot hit the wall.  Oh baby horses.  After that attempt I rode with a much stronger outside rein and fought to get the turn a quarter of a circle ahead of time with fairly good success.

Thankfully the left lead is much, much easier and while we still had the huge, unbalanced canter, we also had about 70% steering where the right lead had maybe 20% steering.  After several canter transitions we called it done as Mia is certainly not in good enough shape yet to have a full hour lesson with H.  H really liked her, she really liked her movement and said Mia will be very eye catching in the ring.  She has a lot of front end movement and a lot of hock action on top of her chrome hind legs.  I am glad things worked out the way they did, getting a third horse seems to be working out quite well.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Going for a trail ride

Sorry for the long delay, between being super busy and losing power, it has been crazy here!  My goal last weekend was to finally ride Mia on the road.  I have walked her around the pasture a couple of times now and she is doing really well, she is now remembering how to steer and stop which is really nice.  On Saturday I decided it was The Day.  A friend, we will call her RB5 even though she doesn't ride much, was supposed to come over but had to cancel but waited until she was supposed to arrive to actually cancel.  That sucked, now it was 445p and it was going to be dark at 530p.  I hurried up and saddled Mia up and asked SO if he would come walk with me.  He said yes until he realized I was riding a horse in which case he bailed on me because Mia walks too fast.  ARGH!  I wanted someone to come with us on our first ride out in case I was catapulted and now everyone had bailed.

Because I am super stubborn, I said FINE and went off by myself on a greener than grass horse.  It was really, really hard to keep a relaxed seat as by this time I was a buzz of energy, afraid she was going to have a huge spook at any moment. We went .7 miles down to the first large intersection and then came back and by the time we turned around I had finally relaxed.  Enough that we even trotted a couple of times!  I kept them very short, only about 50 feet at a time and as soon as she stopped plodding along and started to pick up her step I brought her back to a walk.  Good girl!  We made it back in one piece and it was a great experience for both of us.

This past week didn't allow much riding time but I did ride Mia twice and she is becoming MUCH more confident in the contact.  We worked on keeping her inside shoulder up instead of dropped around corners and we are making progress.  Add the fact she is riding with her head down at a normal level and accepting contact, I would say the steering is now 100%!  At least until we canter lol.

This past weekend was super busy, there was tons of housework and horsework plus I gave 3 lessons on Saturday and on Sunday went to a used tack swap.  I found some amazing deals again, last year I found a Back on Track saddle pad for $5.  This year I found a Mattes correctional half pad with shims for $40!  Score!  When things finally settled down on Sunday I went for a ride around the block and rode the App and ponied the TWH again.  They both need to become fit and ponying is becoming a very easy way to work 2 horses at once.  When I did it last weekend, I trotted only a third to a half of the 3 mile loop.  This time I trotted half to 2/3rds of the loop.  The App decided that he was in no way an old man, despite having his workout he was as ready to go when we got back as when we started.  My little energizer bunny, he always has been.

Sunday is also when we lost power and we aren't expected to get it back until at least Saturday.  We will see how it goes, right now we are running on generator power.  As long as nothing else runs, I can run the arena lights to ride.  Keeping my fingers crossed as I have my first lesson on Mia on Thursday, I really don't want to have to reschedule!

Hopefully I will have time to blog more next week, things are just crazy around here.  I was even 5 days behind on reading everyone's blogs, something that I don't usually get behind more than a day or two on!  I will finish catching up and hopefully have lots to talk about after my lesson.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Learning to canter

It is time to start teaching Mia to canter on the lunge line.  Through the years I have found the easiest way to train this is to have the horse go over a pole on the ground or over a small jump and to say CANTER a stride before they go over it.  Ideally they don't know how to deal with the pole so they will canter over the pole and voila, they learn how to do it without chasing and it is a fairly natural progression.

Mia is doing really well on the lunge line, I have even been successful in adjusting her speed on the lunge at both the walk and the trot.  I also tried side reins on her and while we did have some baby moments where she hit the contact and just stopped, she is starting to figure it out.  I have lunged several times this past week and while these past couple of sessions she seems to has forgotten how to Whoa, overall she is doing great.

To start our canter training I had a standard on the outside of our circle and put a pole on it at about the 2 foot mark.  This way one end was on the ground and the other was 2 foot in the air.  Instead of hopping over it, however, she just kept trotting over the part on the ground.  Erm, no mare.  I put the end on the ground on top of my 2 step mounting block so one end was 2 foot and the other was about 18" and while she was actually going over it, she was doing it at a trot.  Erm, no mare, you are supposed to CANTER away from it, not just give big trot steps!  It took a while but with a chase to the jump she would offer a canter stride or two after the jump so I would then stop her and give her a pet or a treat.  After doing this a couple of times I called it a day as she was getting stressed and was already a little sweaty.  Someone is out of shape!

The next day I lunged with a pole on the ground instead it raised into jump, with the intention of putting it on a standard when we got into the canter work.  To my surprise though, a pole on the ground was more than enough to get her to cantering and raising the pole wasn't needed.  Impressive!  After she started learning to canter at the pole I had to work on letting her know to canter when I asked versus when going over a pole, no need for volunteering a canter.  I kept her session short and when I was finally able to get her to canter an entire circle each direction, after asking for it, we called it a day.  Overall the session went really well, much better than expected.  She isn't taking off and I didn't have to chase her almost at all, just when we started the session to help her make the transition to a canter at the pole.  At the end of the session I would ask for the canter before the pole and within 2-3 strides she would give it to me even if it was after the pole.

Lunging with side reins was another session and was quite amusing to watch, she just couldn't figure it out.  When I ride, I keep a very loose rein and even when asking for contact I am not asking for any type of frame and am pretty forgiving with the contact.  Side reins are more of a fixed object and it definitely took her a little bit to figure it out.  I started her on hole 5 (I use 12 on the App and 10 on the TWH) which put her nose just a tiny bit in, just to keep her slightly contained. I sent her out at the walk and had to really push her forward as she stopped as soon as she felt the contact.  Eventually we got the walk and some trotting down when she volunteered a canter.  It was quite amusing, in fact.  Every time she would relax and lower her head in the trot, I would have her walk as I want to encourage this behavior.  She was fighting the contact pretty hard this particular time and volunteered the canter.  She took 1.5 strides before she hit the contact and came to a four legged screeching halt, she certainly didn't expect that contact!  Eventually she relaxed enough that I called it a day and while we didn't get much canter in, accepting contact was more important.

This morning I lunged her and she has come SO far in just a week.  She now canters on command 90% of the time and while I am fighting her conveniently forgetting the halt, she is lunging really nicely.  After doing some fast/slow walk and fast/slow trot, she quite nicely gave me some canter transitions and was able to hold the canter for 3 circles before falling into a trot.  That is a record so far, she is really getting better with regular exercise.  It was fairly light, as dawn was just appearing, so I decided to mix it up and see how she would behave outside.  I looped the line over her nose as a tiny bit of control and sent her out at a walk.  She gave me a walk and then a half hearted halt.  Awesome, this will be easy I thought!  I asked for a walk and she did.  And then she trotted, and then went faster.  And then picked up the canter and then did the sit-n-scoot maneuver where she had no intention of sticking around and was going to take off.  Oh great!  I had about .75 seconds to drop the lunge whip and put a second hand on the line before she hit the end of the lunge and became my big fish on a line.  Oh baby horse, you gotta learn.  I *just BARELY* was able to hold her before she randomly slammed on the brakes and looked at me with a expression that appeared to wonder what I was doing.  Like "OH, Hi!  What are you doing, I forgot you were there."  I put her on a very small circle again to get the walk and halt back and after several circles I let her back out and she did really well.  Then I got greedy and asked for a trot, basically it was a repeat of above except I was a little more prepared and she was pretty confidently in my grasp this time.

This time, after getting her back, I booted her forward and tried to get her to soften.  Just my luck however, the TWH decided that her antics meant that HE needed to start feeling jolly and he spent almost 5 minutes running, bucking, kicking and galloping all over the pasture.  Thanks dude, that helped a lot.  Not!  While he was being an idiot, however, karma decided to help me out.  She was prancing, trotting, cantering a little, everything but walking.  As she brought herself into a nice prance, her left hind slipped a little and I could see it happen before it did.  Her left hind went under her a little and then backwards.  Her right hind couldn't catch herself and down she went, quite slowly.  I figured her haunches would sit down but to my surprise she tangled her front legs and fell all the way down to the ground!  She laid there for a half second before popping backup and looking at me with a Super Surprised expression on her face.  It was priceless!  She had no idea how I did that to her.  I walked over, pet her and told her to listen from now on.  I sent her out and, to my surprise, she did!  We were able get a decent walk, trot and even canter with her being soft and responsive.  We finished with a halt and she followed me back to the arena without even having a lead on.  Talk about a win, I hope she blames me and doesn't try being a butthead when outside again!