Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jump prep

After realizing that I really don't have much time before our first possible show, I realized I needed to get back in my jumping saddle. I rode Mia on Thursday and had Friday off for Valentine's day. Saturday I spent a lot of time messing with my arena, it develops plenty of hills and divots as the horses find a preferred sleeping/rolling spot as I use my arena as a run in. It is now fairly level again and ready to support some jumping!

After giving some lessons, I hopped on the TWH to goon our short loop ride, the 3 mile ride. I used the jumping saddle to work on my two-point and put on a new hackamore, I am hoping to jump the TWH in a hakamore since he is so light in the bridle. If Novice is as high as he will really compete, thanks to his gaitedness in dressage, I might as well try something new and be different!

It started out slow, the snow covered road wasn't really slippery but slick enough that the TWH would occasionally slide a hoof as we went down a hill.  As we got to the flat sections we were able to trot without slipping so up into two point I went.  As we go to the second intersection of the loop, I heard snow mobilers coming.  Oh great, is this going to be a repeat of 2011, going to be better or worse?  Because I had brought the dog with me, I stopped and made her sit while I put the TWH's head down and waited.  Thankfully these guys were more considerate than the snow mobilers in 2011 and didn't accelerate as they passed.  I waited to see what the TWH would do and he did nothing.  NOTHING!  No twitch of the ear, no raising of his head, just standing there waiting for them to pass.  That makes me SO HAPPY as this is SO not the horse I used to have.  We kept going and about 10 minutes later they came back the other direction and we had a repeat performance, TWH stood still and didn't care and the snow mobilers were respectful in passing.  Go TWH!

We trotted about a third of the loop and while it wasn't a lot, with his very heavy and thick coat he was a bit sweaty so he got to hang out under a cooler for a while as I reflected on our ride.  My two point is much better than expected but what I really liked about the ride was the hackamore reaction.  As of right now he doesn't seem to have a lot of whoa with it but he has a ton of poll flexion now.  I think I will take poll flexion for now because if he is getting strung out, getting him to flex at his poll flexes most of his issues anyway.  He was nice and quiet in the hackamore and seemed to move nicely in it.  Definitely something we will be trying more often!

I then rode Mia as I wanted to get her ridden a couple of times in the jumping saddle before I put her over any poles.  She was much better this time and was more consistent.  The first time riding her she had a very hard time keeping her tempo and this ride was much better.  No random stopping/slowing.  I am also extremely impressed with myself, I haven't been in two point since September and not only can I maintain the position, I am pretty solidly balanced with a good leg.  Go me!!!  Mia also did fairly decent in the canter, she seems to like me being off of her back.  Mia's dreaded right lead wasn't too bad and I was able to give her the reins for a stride or two and she was able to carry herself decently before falling apart.  That's progress!  Now that she seems comfortable with me being in a two point position, and my two point is pretty solid, I think it is time to throw her over some poles and see how she does!

Friday, February 14, 2014

T minus 2 months!

The past 2 weeks have been really good for me, last week I rode 4 times and this week I rode 3 times.  I tried to ride Monday, I really did.  I even got the TWH out of the pasture, groomed him well, messed with a new hackamore I was going to try on him but by the time I was ready to hop up I was just too cold.  I came in the house to warm up, no wonder I was cold.  It was only 2 degrees out!!!  That was the night it fell to -16, OMG it was cold.  That is the reason I didn't get to ride more but I am working on it.

I have ridden the TWH a couple of times these past 2 weeks and man, he is rusty but he is trying really hard and he isn't nearly as bad as I expected.  His canter/trot transitions are still there!  We are working on getting the trot more balanced so we can start doing random 10m circles with balance and I am really, really working on trying to ride with a shorter rein.  It is SO hard because the TWH is SO much better on a longer rein.  But if I want to move up a level, I really need to put my big girl panties on and shorten, shorten, shorten.  It will only happen through practice, I gotta get going!

I pulled out my 2013 show schedule and started to update it with the 2014 schedule, about a quarter of the places haven't posted their season yet but that is okay.  I got the first 3 shows penciled in, I can't believe the first show is in 2 months!  As of right now my first show is April 13th.  We will see if I get to go and am ready but that is the plan.

With that in mind I realized I haven't jumped a horse since September.  At all.  Such a slacker I am!  I tried putting the TWH's girth on Mia and it was a no-go.  His biggest girth is his show girth (which is a smidge too big) and is a 48".  Dang!  So I hopped online and started my searches and finally found a 54" Ovation girth within my budget and quickly bought it.  It came yesterday so of course I had to hop on Mia and see how it rode.  I had to use my new Mattes half pad to shim up the rear of my saddle, it is a little low on the TWH but is really low on Mia.  Luckily though I did get that cool new half pad so less than 5 minutes later I was tacked up and ready to go.

I started at the walk, giving her a chance to feel my new weight distribution and feeling what my cues felt like with a shorter stirrup.  She did really well at the walk, at the trot she had a harder time keeping the same pace when I would alternate between a rising trot and two point but was doing well by the end of the ride.  She had a quicker tempo when I was in two point but I think a little more time for her to become accustomed to two point will fix that issue.  We then worked on the canter and I have to say, I am really liking her left lead canter.  I was able to let her have her head 75% of the time and we cantered on a nice loose rein.  I think she really enjoyed me being in two point and off of her back, she seemed to move really well.  The right lead wasn't great but it is definitely getting better!  She didn't have any kick/buckiness about her, she didn't immediately dive into the center of the circle or pull any serious antics.  Progress indeed!  It was a pretty forward canter and it was fairly unbalanced but I kept pulling her back to where I wanted her and then letting her carry herself for a couple of strides and I think it is helping.  Yay us!  

Another ride or two in the jumping saddle and then it is time to put her over some poles, let's figure out how to jump this beast!  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

An update on my old man Appy

This winter has been hard on my poor old man App but I think things have finally turned a corner.  It started when he refused to keep his summer weight on.  Why? I have no idea, each winter he loses weight and gets skinny even though his feed is increased, his hay is increased, his teeth are done and he is UTD on his deworming.  It isn't like he is losing weight so that he looks horrible, in fact he is probably declared fat enough to be in "fit shape" to a lot of people but when I run my hands over his barrel I can feel ribs.  Not "when I first got Mia" feeling ribs, where I can feel the outline of each rib, but I can feel their outline without pushing.  Not what I want for a coming 21 year old horse in a winter in Michigan.  In September I started by increasing his grain from a quarter scoop of Equine Senior to 3/4 a scoop and, despite still having grass, I start hanging hay nets.  Down, down the weight goes regardless and by Oct/Nov for the past 4 years I have to break out an extra supplement or two to get his weight up.  This year was no different and I was successful in getting his weight back up with a half scoop of Max-E-Glo twice a day for 2 months, he is in good weight now.

Another issue he has with winter is that he is not a warm animal, just like me!  Even being outside 24x7 this fall/winter, he hasn't grown any more of a coat than he has his entire life living in boarding barns and whenever it gets below 15 degrees he shivers.  It is just how it is!  He has a 50x100 indoor arena to use as a run in shed to block the wind and he still shivers when it is cold out.  As a result I keep him blanketed anytime the temp goes below 15 however, quite surprisingly, even with the arctic blasts this year I haven't had to double blanket him.  Maybe being outside 24x7 is doing something right for him lol?

The last issue he has had is a new one and started last fall, him being sore.  He had an issue with a huge abscess that finally came out at his coronet band.  Once that went away there was intermittent lameness which 2 vets diagnosed as his hocks.  He received a shot of Polyglycan which seemed to fix him up really well but it is 2x the price of the Pentosan I have been using.  Dr A recommended that I double the amount of Pentosan and see if it worked instead.  Well, it hasn't.  Despite getting a Pentosan shot every 2 weeks, plus a scoop of Devi's Claw, plus a top feed joint supplement, my poor App is so lame that he looks very TWH-ish-on-a-bad-day in his trotting.  Very shuffle-y, not really trotting, looking almost gaited as he doesn't allow any suspension in the trot.

I finally gave Dr A a call and ordered a couple of bottles Polyglycan and he had them shipped to me and they were there the next morning.  Holy cow was that fast!  The biggest drawback to this new supplement is that it is an IV injection, not IM.  Now, odd thing about me, I am super needle phobic but I have no problem giving shots to others.  At least IM, I am really uncomfortable about giving an IV shot.  I have done it before through my life, several times in fact as required when being hired help at boarding barns and things go south.  When someone needs an IV shot of banamine and you are the only one there until the vet comes in over an hour and the barn owner is not home and the owner is freaking out, you gotta put your big girl panties on and stick a needle in a vein.  That said, doing it on my own had me queasy but I gotta help my poor App.  So I re-read how-to's on the internet all afternoon.  Read 6 different how-to's and watched 4 videos.  Read several different forums and got up my nerve, it is just a needle and it isn't pointed at me!

I finally went out at dinner feeding and put the App in the cross ties.  Of course he walked with his ears back and was one grumpy man though as soon as I put him in the cross ties he started looking for treats.  I helped him out in that department and slathered him down with alcohol.  I angled the needle parallel to his neck, really high and close to his head to avoid any artery and jabbed, nothing.  I gave him a treat and told him sorry and tried again, this time jackpot!  Blood freely dripped from the needle hub and didn't spurt, a sign I was in.  I gave the shot, checking halfway to make sure I was still in the vein, and he was completely content.  A quick muss of the skin and hair to seal it off and more treats to apologize for the invasion of privacy and all was done.  Success!

A mere 12 hours later, there is a noticeable difference in my App, I saw him trotting again.  Really trotting in the pasture!  When I brought him him for feeding, he walked with his ears up and around, not back and grumpy.  Yay!  Unfortunately this means I will likely need to have his hocks injected in the spring but as a 20+ year old competition horse who has never had it done, I don't think that is too bad.  I am very glad the App is feeling better and I have enough to give him a shot once a month until Dr A comes out for spring shots.  I am excited to see how long he feels this good!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Training update, an outline of Mia's current rides

I have been extremely successful in riding this past week, 3 times since Sunday!  That is where I should be in a riding frequency but haven't been since the TWH got put on injured reserve back in Sept.  Go me!  This week has been all about Mia, I really want to take a lesson with H to get feedback again and I need Mia to be consistent again before I do so.  This weekend I plan on riding both Mia and the TWH, maybe in the next couple of weeks we will be ready for a lesson.  Let's hope the weather cooperates!

My rides with Mia are becoming much more productive and I am starting to be able to do some real work with her.  She can now do baby leg yields to and from the wall, can do a shoulders or haunches in, is staying fairly consistently in a decent frame, can change the speed of her walk and trot on command and is even getting a decent canter.  Our rides are now pretty boring, we start our rides at the walk, stretching her neck down as I have her ride with her head close to the ground in almost a peanut roller frame.  This makes her back lift up and helps stretch her neck out and reinforces the head down requirement I have.  After a few laps of that I pick her up and we do some shoulder/haunches in and transition to some leg yielding from the quarter line to the wall and back.  We then try to get more flexibility in the walk with speed by getting a good, long free walk and then coming back to a normal walk and down to a slow crawling walk and back again.  She has a pretty hard time still with a good forward free walk but we are working on it.

The trot is usually started to the left as that is her good side.  I am asking for real contact now and am consistently getting it (Yay!!), we do several circles until I can feel her relax a little as she is usually either a bit speedy or completely dead when we start trotting.  Once she has a good rhythm going we start some smaller circles and once she has balance we change direction.  Going to the right isn't nearly as easy, she requires several reminders to not throw her inside shoulder, or outside shoulder for that matter.  She also often locks up and goes completely board stiff instead of staying bent so there is usually a discussion or two to remind her to soften and bend.  Once we have that we start riding with lots of changes of direction.  Serpentines, figure 8's, teardrops, all with the goal to keep her balanced as we do all of it.  Overall she does really well, I have to be really quiet and light in the change of bend otherwise she loses her composure but overall she is really good.

We then transition to the canter work, we always go to the left first as it is her good side.  She went from desperately trying to keep me between her and the ground to actually giving me some decent, semi-balanced canters.  Her speed in the canter ends up where I want it to be and she tends to stay nice and soft in the circle.  She has problems going around the entire ring but that will come.  Baby steps after all!

After 2 to 3 canter transitions we switch to the dreaded right, this is her bad side.  If she is going to show sass, it will be here and she usually will show some sass!  She has days where she fights to pick up the wrong lead, and she seems to fight hard to be on the wrong lead too, there are also days she refuses to pick up the canter period.  There are days she will dive bomb to the middle of the circle through her canter transition but will pick up the correct lead, there are days she will kick/buck through the transition.  Once in the canter, the gait isn't that bad.  Mia is much faster to the right but not nearly as fast as she used to be.  It is now a forward canter vs a flat out run.  Sometimes she will give me a nice medium canter but not every time.  We also still have occasional steering problems to the right, she seems to ignore I have an outside leg and outside rein and will plow forward regardless, but we are working on it.  Repetition will fix it.

After 3 to 4 decent transitions (no kick/buck, no dive bombing, no wrong leads), we walk long and low again to relax and finish with basics, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, back and sidepass.  The ride usually lasts between 45-60 minutes and she then gets parked in front of a hay net while I get dinner for everyone.  She sure has come a long way, as soon as I get a girth that will fit Ms Chunky Butt we can start two point/fitness and jump.  I guess I have to go tack shopping, just twist my arm already!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My first bareback ride on Mia

After taking time off, I am finally finding time to ride again which is really nice.  It started in January when the Arctic blast came in and it wasn't above single digits at night and then SO and I went on a mini "vacation" to volunteer at an auto racing event for 4 days.  We were in charge of equipment and were super duper busy for 2 of the 4 days.  We had a good time and the event really appreciated our help.  It looks like we will be in charge of equipment next year too with how good of a job we did this year, fun!

When we got back on Sunday, the horses were all cared for and happy but also sassy.  I could see all 3 of them running and rearing and bucking in the winter pasture and I suddenly didn't have as much of a desire to ride a horse haha!  With everyone having so much extra energy I figured if I wanted a shot at riding I should probably lunge first.  I grabbed Mia and tried to put her to work and she wanted none of it.  Walk?  Eh, not so much.  Listen to slow down?  Nope.  Halt?  Nada.  With her running around like a fruit loop we were getting nothing accomplished so I finally got her stopped, threw a surcingle and side reins on her and brought her out into the main pasture.  It hasn't had anything through it so the snow was still a good 17-18 inches deep, plenty deep enough to make a frisky mare work!  Off she went and around and around and around she went, every time she sped up I would make her run through deeper snow and when she slowed down I would bring her into the path she had made.  Oh that mare.

She started by refusing to walk, only jig.  I let her go to try to blow off steam and then the jig went from jig to canter with no trot in between.  After about 40 circles she finally started to slow down as she was blowing and was getting sweaty, finally!  She then decided she most definitely did not, under any circumstance, know how to go to the right.  It took a lot of convincing to get her to go to the right, she would immediately spin and face me as soon as she had enough room in the line and would then back up and prevent me from getting beside her to push her forward.  Oh mare!

It took a good 35 minutes before she finally settled down enough that she finally gave consistent work.  I got some good transitions and worked on halting (a lot) before calling it a day.  She was very sweaty and I was too, I was wearing my full snow gear and wasn't prepared for running around in the snow!  We went back to the barn and she got to stand under the cooler for a while before I figured I should walk her around.  Since I really wanted to ride a horse, I figured I had a tired horse that needed cooled out, I should ride the horse!  I threw my helmet on and put Mia's bridle back on and with a little coaxing got her next to a step and hopped on.  Bareback!  We walked around the driveway, said hi to SO, walked through some snow, walked out to the road and back without her having any qualms.  No spooking, no shying, no calling out for the boys, no looking for the boys, it was so nice.  After about 10 minutes we called it a day and she got to sit in her stall for another 10 mins under the cooler before everyone got dinner.

I am really happy she wasn't concerned with me riding bareback and that she didn't do anything stupid.  Luckily I would have had 17+ inches of fluffy snow to land in if she had been stupid but it didn't come to that.  She feels so different than the boys, she is very broad and flat across her back where both boys are more peaked and sloping.  That will definitely require an adjustment on my part, it is like riding a small tabletop!  I made plans to ride on Monday and Tuesday, let's see if I can do it.