Monday, January 20, 2014

Sound, sound, sound

This weekend I finally carved out some time to ride the horses, which is really good because I don't have time right now lol.  This week I am leaving for 4 days and won't be able to ride either so I had to get some saddle time.  RB4 came over and we tacked up the horses and had a pretty good ride with lots of chatting.

I rode Mia first while she meandered around on the TWH.  Mia was pretty well behaved, especially compared to her last ride which was super zoomy.  She was much quieter in the bridle and pretty steady in her striding.  We started with some baby lateral walk work, in which she is getting much better, and some circle work.  I am still working on ensuring she will hold herself when going in a small circle instead of falling in on her shoulder, blowing through the outside shoulder or flat out ignoring me.  She had to get a good jab to the ribs a couple of times but she decided that it was probably best to support herself and after a few good circles, we bounded into a trot.  Her trot is so cool, it is so easy to sit back and be a passenger on her.  I can only assume it is partially due to her conformation, with her being definitely uphill I think it would be difficult to lean forward much.  It is awesome.  Her trot was pretty nice, she is moving along with a fairly low headset (which I prefer right now to help get rid of her upside down neck/underdeveloped topline) and she didn't fidget with her head much at all.  She kept a pretty steady pace, maybe tonight we will work on specifically changing our speed in the trot.

We finished up with some canter, while it isn't great the canter is coming along.  We started the bad way first, cantering to the right.  She is heavy, out of balance and fast this direction and during our last ride she gave me a slight indication of a better canter.  The first 2 times I asked for a canter she gave me the wrong lead so I put her on a very small circle and asked for the canter while coming out of the circle.  She gave me the correct lead, success!  I used a ton of rein to hold her back and with some strong leg we were able to get a semi-decent canter out of her.  It looked almost normal!  Yay us!  After a quick break we went the other direction and there was a most definite, obvious kick when I asked for the transition.  Mia got a very sharp correction in the reins and spun until her nose touched my knee while I jabbed her with my outside spur.  Very. Bad. Horse.  It was a pretty big kick too, just like when we rode in the pasture a couple of weeks ago.  After I thought she got the point across I asked again and she gave me a really nice canter.  It still required a lot of rein to keep her from plowing along but there were moments of brilliance.  More work to come, I am planning on riding her again tonight so we will see how she behaves.

The shining star really is the TWH however.  He is just amazing since coming off of injured reserve, in our last ride RB4 was gushing about how much better the TWH is moving now that his suspensory is better.  This time she rode him and she had more of the same to say about him.  She doesn't ride the same way as I do and is mostly a trail rider now so she had a hard time getting a great canter out of the TWH however she said he feels SO different from this summer.  She said he now feels like a wave that you just ride along, you can't always feel where he is in his canter because it is so smooth.  Kinda yes, kinda no but I do agree his canter is SO much better than last year.   I really do agree that he must have been slightly off for a good while because I don't know when he has felt this good. This show season is going to be awesome, I can't wait to show him off!!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The success of a cold person - what to wear to keep warm when you are part reptile

I was asked again last week how I stayed warm during this last cold snap since I am always so cold.  It was several days of a high of zero or 1 degree, it was cold.  I am a very cold blooded person, I quickly get "ice cold turkey butt" and can't make the 10 feet walk from the car to the house without a jacket.  I am the one that will stand and shiver and calls it "burning calories" because I do it so often.  It has taken a good 10 years to perfect my system and I think this year I have it down.  Most of the items I use are not super cheap but are easy enough to get as gifts.

Starting from the top, I have a hat.  I have actually 2 hats, one is a sheepskin hat with ear flaps similar to this one but contoured a bit more.  This is the hat I use when it is windy out and I need to save my cheeks and ears as I despise scarves, it was bought as a gift and I have no idea the maker but it is awesome.  My other hat was hand made by my grandmother, it is a felted wool hat.  It looks like this minus the ribbon and I have rolled the front brim up.  Highly recommend getting one (Etsy is a good place to find them), it is windproof, waterproof and super warm.  You can't even see daylight through the hat!  It is my "everyday" hat and unless it is really windy, it is what I am wearing.  When riding I use an ear band I got from Farnam one year at the Quarter Horse Congress and with it I use a Cozy Cover.  Even with wind I am pretty warm!

Below that is your body core, you have to have this kept warm and layers is the best bet.  Depending on what I am doing, I am either wearing Under Armour base layer or a tshirt.  If I have a base layer, I have a long sleeved cotton shirt over it and jacket and that is it.  I use the 3.0 base layer and it WORKS.  3.0 is made for extreme cold/sedentary activity and for medium activity it works really well for me.  I can go on a trail ride in the snow while windy and I won't get cold.  No seriously!  I can't jump wearing the base layer as even without a jacket (when it is 15-20 degrees out in the indoor arena) I am too warm but can do dressage.  Seriously.  If no base layer then a tshirt and a heavy weight sweatshirt is being worn.  Not some Wal-Mart special, go to your local Salvation Army or Goodwill and walk through the sweatshirts and feel for the heaviest weight ones you can find. They need to be thick and have some weight to them.  On top of that I wear my Carhartt jacket with arctic lining.

For gloves, it is really hard.  For riding I use either my Heritage or SSG gloves.  SSG when I am riding inside, Heritage when I am not.  When not riding, it is a different story.  I have gone through over a hundred pairs of gloves/mittens.  No seriously, I really have.  Hands down the best ever mitten is the Frabill mitten.  I found them by researching the coldest sport I could think of, ice fishing.  Sit on a chunk of ice, in the snow and try to catch a fish on a string?  Those people are crazy.  But they use these and I can see why.  Windproof, waterproof and I can put my COLD hands in my mittens and within 20 minutes my hands will be at normal temperature.  Seriously!!  I recommend a medium unless you have really large hands.  Their gloves are good if you are working your hands but not if you are sedentary, they will not keep you warm.  These are expensive, ask for them for Christmas or your birthday!  Believe it or not, these Kinco's are surprisingly very warm too and are a nice, cheap alternative.

Below that is the legs.  These are harder to manage.  Base layers are a must, I use Under Armour again, this time 2.0 however for Christmas I got a set of 4.0's.  I had to mail them to exchange them for a size large and they will be here on Weds, I am certainly looking forward to them.  Merino wool base layers are okay at best.  Most base layers are okay for light use but at heavy duty warmth they fail.  I use my base layer with everything, flannel lined jeans when doing chores and under my polar fleece breeches when riding.  When riding, I also have an awesome pair of really heavy Russell Athletic sweatpants I wear and they are amazing.  When doing chores and it is below 15 degrees, I then put on my Carhartt bibs with arctic lining.

Finally you come to the feet.  Again I looked to ice fishers and found the PERFECT boots.  Cabela's has the best boots that contain 2000 grams of thinsulate.  2k!!!  About 10 times more than most boots, the Inferno has lasted me 4 years so far with no sign of letting up.  When it is above 15 I don't even lace them up, I just have them tied so I can slip them on.  When I am sedentary or it is below 15 I will lace them up and with a pair of cotton socks and optional wool socks, I stay warm.  It is truly amazing.  They also seem to be made of a different material on the sole as they don't slip on the ice nearly as much as normal boots, kind of like snow tires.  I got them for my birthday and they are probably the best gift I ever got!  For other weather I really, really like my Bogs.  Mid height make them easy to get on and off yet high enough to slosh through water and snow.  I have a pair of Muck boots too but prefer the Bogs as my Muck is too tight in the calf and I had to cut the back seam to get them comfortable.

This is how I stay warm, when I was bundled up I was sweating during chores.  The only thing that was ever cold was my chin/nose/cheeks, I call that a huge win in my book.  I hope the posting helps someone.  I have been there, done that and tried again on so many products.  It has taken me a long time to acquire everything that works for me, maybe it will save someone from spending 100's of dollars on stuff that doesn't work.  If anyone has any questions or wants to share what works for them, post them in comments!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

She has something special

So this weekend has started the big thaw, the temps were actually at or above freezing for the first time in while.  There is good and bad about it, everything is sloppy, slushy and wet.  The rain we are having has no where to go so my barn is flooding and so is the front of the arena, it sucks.  On the plus side I can feed the horses in the morning and can do it in a jacket versus my snow pants/heavy coat/thick hat/Inferno boots.  In that regard, it is really, really nice.  I wanted to try riding horses today however with a third of my arena being flooded and the roads being a compact sheet of ice (it hasn't thawed enough yet), it isn't happening.  I did go ahead and work Mia last night, though, before the rain came and flooded everything.  And I finally brought my camera :-)

I decided that since Mia's feet are a trim away from being normal, she is a comfortable 5 on the BCS and she has some balance in the canter now, it was time to see what she can do over fences.  I got off of work a little early on Friday and quickly set up a jumping chute and set to work showing Mia what it was about.  Despite not having someone to take pics for me, the pictures I was able to get make me really happy.  Ever try getting a horse to free lunge over jumps they have never seen before plus take decent pics?  Not.  Easy.  A lot of my pics are taken from video stills.  Every single one of the pictures came out with bad lighting and out of focus but it gives me a really good idea with what I am working with. 

I started by walking her through chute and having her step over the 12" crossrails.  After doing that a couple of times I unhooked her and sent her through at a trot.  While she looked at the jumps, she went over everything.  From there it was just time to start increasing the height.  I set the first/set jump at an 18" crossrail and the second as a one stride that was a 18" high vertical.  As she went through, she discovered it was much easier to squeeze between the wall and the standard than to jump the poles.  Nice, way to be smart mare haha.  Alas you must JUMP the poles. I moved the standards much closer to the wall and after knocking the standard down in an attempt to still squeeze in between the standard and the wall, she figured it wasn't that bad to go over the poles.

After a few successful jumps, I set it up to a 2' vertical and she jumped it quite nicely.  At 2'6" she knocked the poles down a couple of times as she started to figure it out but then started really jumping nicely. I moved it to a oxer to help her jump a little more roundly and I am glad I did, it helped her with some scope and made for much better pictures lol.
At 3' my eyes started opening wider, she was jumping very well.  There was the green moments where she would bring the whole chute down by either refusing the jump or knocking the poles down but overall things were very positive.  Additionally, every time she would jump well or at least give a good effort I would stop her and give her a treat.  Since she is very food motivated, I really think that made a big difference as she wouldn't get treats when she refused.  She wants treats! 
3 foot
When I moved the poles up to 3'6" she had her first bad refusal, she went into the chute but when she saw the fence and pulled up at the last moment, knocking the fence and then the entire chute down.  I gave her a pretty good slap on the rump to send her over the knocked down poles and then set about to putting everything back up.  I made the oxer a little more narrow and when I sent her through again I chased her pretty hard and she jumped beautifully.  After that, she made 3'6" look easy.

I sent her over a few times as she knocked the hind pole over with her hind feet a couple of times but after jumping clear 3 times I called it a night.  It was such an amazing experience, she jumped SO nicely and the pics and video I got prove it.  While I wish the pics were more clear and crisp, you can see her form which is exactly what I wanted. 
I am so happy with these pictures and they make me so very happy that I purchased her.  This is exactly the form over fences I was looking for in a horse and I think I hit the jackpot. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Some rides before the freeze

Have I been able to ride much?  No.  No I have not.  But I did ride before the super freeze that has hit everyone, today was a high of one degree.  ONE!  Not as bad as some people but damn it is cold in my area.  Not only did I bring the barn cats in the house, I also brought the chickens in the garage to keep from freezing.  Everyone should be able to go back outside by Thursday, the countdown begins!

On Saturday I was determined to ride so I had RB4 come over to force me to ride.  I rode Mia first, it was in the 20's and I wanted to get the harder ride out of the way.  For having a week and a half off, she was pretty good overall.  She was certainly a big bundle of energy and riding her is SO different than riding my boys.  The App's firecracker personality doesn't come close in comparison, Mia is SO forward yet not rushed.  Lots of suspension without being a pogostick.  In our ride Saturday RB4 said it almost looked like she is giving an extended trot, I can only think that this must be what riding a big warmblood must feel like.  Sit Down!  Sit Back!  Hold On!  Her steering was pretty spot on and even with her zooms she felt pretty balanced in our serpentines.  I never did end up with her nice slow trot but that is okay, I likely need to just get more accustomed to her faster trot to reinforce the "in front of leg" mentality.  Yikes!

After a good 20 mins of fighting with her to stay contained, I finally just gave up and let her canter and then kept her cantering.  I started her bad way first, cantering to the right.  She is suddenly having issues picking up the right lead and it is requiring me to make a small circle and ask for the canter when coming out of said circle in order for her to get it.  It is odd because she didn't have this issue when we were learning to canter, I am curious if I am contributing to it at all but RB4 said she didn't see anything obvious.  We are going to have to work on it more.  After getting the canter, Mia's canter was much improved over the past few rides.  She no longer feels like she is desperately trying to keep herself between me and the ground (which is extremely uncomfortable and hard to ride) and was moving with semi decent balance.  Enough balance that I actually sat her canter for the first time instead of riding in a half seat, go us!  We are still having steering issues in the right lead canter and there was one time where she actually hit the wall with her left front because she was simply refusing to turn, at least it was her and not me hitting the wall.  She seems to hit the centerline on a circle and just goes straight instead of continuing the circle despite my inside leg, inside rein and outside rein.  It was the same issue we had in the trot and it finally resolved itself so we just need more practice, it is just frustrating.

After a good 3 minutes of cantering I let her drop back to a trot and Mia was much more relaxed.  Apparently that was the workout she needed to help her brain function better so I took the opportunity to go the opposite direction.  The left lead was much easier and I was able to even slow her down a little before calling it a day.  Our big accomplishment was in the cool down ride though, we started doing some baby lateral movements in the walk!  A bit of the shoulder in which is easy(ish) but then we got some haunches in and even some baby half pass.  Yay us!

When I was done I seriously regretted leaving the TWH last, I should have ridden him first so I had gas in my tank for Mia instead of blowing it on Mia and being drained for the TWH.  Alas, that was my mistake and not his so I tacked the TWH and hopped on.  RB4 let me know the "collected" walk I was trying to get is just a tense, inverted, short strided walk and I should knock it off lol.  The real magic, however, was in the TWH's trot.  In our last ride we worked really hard on transitions because the TWH had gotten really sloppy.  The lesson apparently stuck well as RB4 commented his transitions were excellent and not only was he picking the gait right up, there is no shuffling at all.  She asked if I thought his ligaments were healed and I said yes, she agreed with me and said he was looking amazing.  She said his trot has some extension, he is even flicking his toes out.  While he didn't have true suspension, he had more loft in his trot and he looked like a "real dressage horse" (whatever that means hahaha!).  If I had known I would have grabbed the camera, I would have loved video of the ride.

TWH's ride was kept short to only a half hour, since he is SO much hairier than the others he takes so much longer to cool and dry when he gets hot.  And other than needing to become fit, he didn't need a long schooling ride.  I am so happy with him and am really excited about getting everyone in shape so we can jump something.  I can't believe it is already January, time is flying by!