Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time for a dental visit!

A few weeks ago the vet was out for spring shots so after a rest in the checkbook, it was time for the dentist come out and took a look at everyone.  I was a little worried Mia, when Dr A was out in Nov/Dec he looked at her teeth and said she had very sharp molars.  He filed them done a little and Mia was quite kicky and tossed everyone around even with sedation.  The dentist I use uses hand tools and doesn't typically sedate horses.  The boys are fine with it but Ms Thang had me worried so I had grabbed a shot of Ace from Dr A when he was out and I gave it to Mia when the dentist arrived.  Time to let her cook!

He looked at TWH first and TWH had some really sharp edges that were creating sores on his cheeks.  Poor guy!  He wasn't nearly as offended as last year though and despite a couple of horrified looks, he handled the procedure quite nicely.  His teeth did take a while, almost double the time of the App's, so I am really looking forward to seeing if he rides any nicer tonight.  The dentist couldn't offer any explanation as to why his back molars were so sharp, it is just a thing and we will need to stay on top of it.  Can do!

We took a look at Mia and she was getting drowsy but was still alert so we moved onto the App next.  The dentist said the App was actually in very good shape, if I didn't want to do his teeth he would be fine.  I had him done anyway, no sense in letting mildly sharp edges get really sharp, but he said the App's teeth are still in very good shape for a coming 21 year old.  Go App!

We finally got to Ms Thang and the Ace had definitely taken it's hold upon her.  She is definitely not a lightweight and needs stronger doses of drugs, unlike the TWH who could just look at drugs and be higher than a kite.  It was enough to knock the edge off, however, and we got to work.  Mia had sharp top and bottom molars, the tops were about a 5 on sharpness from where Dr A had filed them down some in the Nov/Dec visit.  He didn't have a full speculum however and wasn't able to do a full float.  Her bottoms were about a 9 on a sharpness scale, ouch.  Time to file these bad boys down!

Mia was quite unhappy about her visit, she first clamped her mouth shut and refused to take the speculum.   The dentist had to mess with her for almost 2 full minutes before he could get her to open her mouth enough to slip it in.  Then she clamped her mouth down and he had a heck of a time getting the speculum open so he could work, oh mare!  He won out in the end though and got her started.  After he worked a bit, he was about to take a break and Mia actually tried to bite his arm!  He laughed at her and said he knew she would LOVE to tear his arm off but he wasn't going to let that happen with her mouth clamped open.  He gave her a break by closing the speculum but left it on for the entire exam, unlike the boys.  I don't blame him!

Mia fought to keep her mouth shut when he tried to reopen the speculum but eventually failed and we were able to finish her up.  She only tried to get away once and she didn't kick or throw anyone around which is a huge improvement from the end of last year.  The dentist even said to not sedate her next time, he thinks she will be good!  I am happy I got everyone done, just in time to go cross country schooling.  I am gave everyone the night off and am going to ride tonight, I am excited to see if there is a difference in Mia!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Jumping all the things!

I was going to do a dressage ride when I tacked the TWH up however when RB4 came over, she said she really wanted to see us jump instead.  Uh, okay, I am flexible.  Let's jump!  A quick tack change got us ready and we headed to the arena.  We set up a small course (because my arena is tiny) that consisted of an oxer along one wall, a vertical on the other and a vertical in the middle on an angle.

We warmed up alright, RB4 said he wasn't trotting the best but was okay when I was pushing him in contact.  TWH didn't feel super connected and was sloppy in his trot/walk transitions but I also wasn't riding with contact or collection so I dismissed it and finished warming up at the canter.  I started our work by going over a small 18" crossrail and it just kept seeming like he wasn't meeting the jump right even though he should have.  We set the oxer up and when I pushed to the jump, TWH would still not jump properly, adding a stride or taking an extra step before jumping.  This is what he was doing last year when he was actually injured and we dismissed it as inexperience or disobedience, this time after trying to jump for about 5 mins, I hopped off and we gave him a good inspection.  The only thing we found was the inside of his right hock was very slightly warm and may have had very slight fill when compared to his left hock.  He would also very lightly drag his toe in the dirt when walking.  That was enough for me to call the ride, I threw him in a stall while slathered in poultice and given bute for his trouble.  Oh horse, at least we don't have anything going on.  This morning he looked significantly better and wasn't dragging his toe.  I couldn't tell if he had any heat or not (likely not) but he still got more poultice and bute with breakfast.  I am not going to mess around!

After putting TWH away, I figured since the night was still young I might as well work another horse so I grabbed Mia.  I also grabbed my new jumping bridle with another new bit, let's see if she likes an eggbutt better.  After a quick warmup I pointed her at her warmup fence, a tiny 12" crossrail.  She jumped it a bit big but nicely and we moved steadily up from there.  A 18" crossrail became a 2' vertical and the oxer became a 2' oxer with a 2.5 foot spread!  When I can get Mia to the jump at the correct distance and speed she jumps REALLY well.  Our current task is getting her to be just a little flexible, she needs to slow down in front of the jumps overall and to also listen to the speed I request to get her there.  She already has the "locked on" feature and once she locks onto the jump, she wants to just GO.

Our final test of the night was getting her to jump her very first solid obstacle, we put a barrel under the middle vertical and I set her up to jump it.  She looked at the barrel in a confused fashion and tried to go to the left and then tried really hard to go to the right, around the jump.  I was able to keep her pointed at the jump and she came to a nice stop.  Thankfully it wasn't a dirty stop, just one of her fairly typical "I am going and I want to stop now so I just stop" stop's but it still warranted her getting into trouble over it.  She got a yank on the rein and a couple of boots with a spur and when I presented it a second time she jumped to the right and twisted over the jump, but she did it!  Her very first solid jump was easy and didn't have any shenanigans!  We went over it a third time and it was ok, the fourth time I half halted her with my seat to set her up and she listened(!!!), we met the jump perfectly, she jumped perfectly and I called that a night.  What a good mare!

I was very pleased with this jumping session.  She seemed to like the new bit, success!  She also hadn't actually jumped off of a grid before and she saw things she hadn't ever jumped before like an oxer and a barrel.  She still needs to learn how to control her speed and to let me help her place her to the jump but she was amazing.  Cross country schooling is this coming weekend, let's see what we can do between now and then!

Friday, April 11, 2014

This bit? That bit? Apparently the answer is no.

I FINALLY got ALL of the bridles clean, ALL OF THEM!!!  It may have taken me a combined total of 6 nights and probably a total of 10-12 hours, but I had a lot of bridles and the schooling bridles took 3x longer than normal because I hadn't cleaned them in so long.  When I cleaned TWH's schooling bridle, it took me 30 mins to clean a single braided rein.  On the second rein I tried rushing and only took 15 mins to do it.  After it dried, I realized I had to clean it again because it still looked so dirty and grungy, eww.  Note to self, make the horses clean their schooling bridles more than once a year!!  (I am such a bad tack owner).  On the plus side, I have accumulated really good brands of leather over the years so at least it holds up well even when neglected.

After our really good ride on the road, it was time to work on dressage again.  Since I had all of these new (to me), clean bridles to play with, I wanted to try Mia's new dressage bridle.  I currently ride her in a full cheek, copper mouth snaffle and she really likes it.  I started her in a loose ring, french link snaffle and she hated it.  I think she didn't like the loose ring and the full cheek was the only other non loose ring snaffle I had available at the time.  It should be noted that while there is absolutely a place for full cheek snaffles, I really hate them.  I don't like their look, I don't like that the shafts tend to get stuck in the noseband or in nostrils, I don't like that you have to use keepers with them.  I have no intention of showing her in a full cheek so I had bought an Augarian D ring snaffle.  Not a cool Sprenger Augerian but a decent bit anyway (Metalab maybe?)  Augarian, copper, not exactly the same but maybe similar enough, the mouthpieces are also close in diameter so that was to be my dressage show bit.

I hopped on with my new bridle and new bit and off we went.  Mia seems to hate it.  UGH!  She tossed her head, shook her head, pulled on the bit, dropped behind the vertical, rooted the bit.  I pushed her into a trot and she was super strong and super unhappy.  Figures!  It got bad enough that after 15 mins I gave up and got her normal, schooling bridle and put it on.  She pulled a little bit but then settled right into work and stopped fussing.  Oh mare, you realized I spent good money on that bit right?

RB4 had also joined us for this particular ride and brought with her a new bit for TWH.  She had a Myler D ring snaffle laying around and thought it would be a great bit to try on TWH.  I told her that when I was training him, we went through a lot of bits (luckily we were in a large boarding barn and had a ton of bits we could borrow) and he really didn't like a single jointed snaffle.  With his big lips and big tongue, he was much happier in a french link but I was up to try something new.  We hadn't changed up bits for probably 4-5 years so why not try?

RB4 hopped on TWH and started riding him around, as soon as she picked up contact and asked for a trot you could see TWH was not happy.  He was sticking his nose out, gaping his mouth a little and was extremely inconsistent in his contact.  Even RB4 said that he really, really didn't like the new bit.  I grabbed his normal schooling bridle and after a quick switcheroo, TWH immediately changed back into his old self with his mouth firmly closed and accepting of the contact.

Apparently you shouldn't fix what isn't broken!  I am keeping TWH in his loose ring, french link snaffle for dressage and a hackamore for jumping.  He seems to really, really like the hackamore!  I am going to try Mia in the Augarian bit one more time before trying the SS eggbutt I bought for her for jumping.  It is also just a plain snaffle, maybe she will like it?  Maybe not?  I will also try the Myler on her to see if she likes it though I think it is going to be too big for her.  She is a solid 5" bit and TWH is a good, solid 5.5".  I am really hoping I can find something she likes because I don't want to have to show in a full cheek.  Maybe she will now be happier in one of my many loose rings?  Changing a bit?  Horses say no.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Courage success

The number one priority on my agenda for the weekend was to ride both horses.  My number two priority was to put my big girl panties on and finally canter Mia on the trails.  My hesitation?  Her random bucking/kicking in the canter that she has given over the past few months, her unsteady, unbalanced canter she has had over the past few months and no walls to stop her if things go badly.  I kept telling myself it wouldn't be too bad, she hasn't actually bucked/kicked in almost a month now.  She is also rocking the canter in both directions, she is now giving me a pretty nice canter even to the right which is her bad direction!  The final straw was that if I wanted to event with her or even go cross country schooling NEXT WEEKEND(!?!) then I need to grow a set, put on my big girl panties and deal with whatever she gave me.  Time to
Tallahassee from Zombieland
On Saturday I grabbed Mia and also a crop for our trail ride, our last/first trail ride went awesome until the sign incident where she had a meltdown and I almost couldn't get her by it.  I wanted a crop in case it happened again so I had some sort of reinforcement if I had the same issue.  Apparently having the huge spook at the big sign shook her confidence, she wasn't a confident horse at all.  She would go a minute or so and would then either shy away from nothing on the side of the road (STICK!!!!  LEAF!!!  ROCK!!!) or would stop and stare hard at something/nothing.  I used the crop to remind her to go forward off of my leg, staring does not equal ignore the person riding you!  She was fairly decent about trotting until she found something that made her grind to a halt, I guess this isn't a problem that I mind having.  I finally talked myself into it, I trotted her and gave the cue to canter.

Mia responded to my canter cue by trotting.  Uhhhh.... I asked for a canter again, trot.  Well, at least she wasn't taking off I told myself.  I gave her a pretty solid kick in the ribs and brought her down to the walk.  I messed with her head position and made her do some lateral work, if she was going to ignore me, she can try ignoring me through dressage.  After a few minutes I bumped her up to a trot again and asked her for a canter, this time she want into a fast trot for about 6 strides and picked up a nice left lead canter.  It certainly wasn't an arena canter as it was a bit fast and not completely balanced but I also wasn't holding her position for her and it wasn't an actual hand gallop.  She maintained the canter for about 4 strides before dropping back into a trot.  I laughed and told her I will take a going problem over a stopping problem!  She got a treat and a good rest for her effort.

After a walk break I asked for a canter again.  This time she gave me the canter right away but also trotted right away, apparently my not holding her in a frame and making her accountable for herself is hard for our girl!  I asked again and got a canter for about 6 strides before she broke into a trot.  Again, this is not a bad problem to have.  We got to the last third of our ride where there is a pretty decent hill going up in the road.  I took the opportunity to use the hill as a way to canter and she picked up the canter and held it the entire length of the hill.  Success!  While she did shy away from (STICK!!! LEAF!!! ROCK!!!) nothing 3 times in the canter, they weren't bad in terms of a sideways scoot and I didn't feel like I lost control so I will take that victory.

I am very proud of Mia and also proud of myself.  I have no idea why I was so anxious about cantering her outside but I really had to force myself to do it and I am glad I did.  I need to do it again this weekend to prepare for our schooling next weekend, how exciting!  There has been some changes, however, in our schedule.  After schooling I am away for a weekend.  Our May 4th show has been cancelled by the event holder and so I am now bringing Mia to a clinic for a dressage and xc lesson that weekend.  It will be her first time hauling out alone, first time hanging by the trailer all day and first time being required to do something once we get to our destination other than being adorable.  The following weekend, May 11th, is TWH's first show ad it is a big show, a horse trial!  I have my work cut out for me, time to get riding!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Getting this jumping action down pat!

I submitted my registration for cross country schooling on April 19/20th, after doing so I started to panic as I realized I need to be able to trot and canter Mia in an open field while jumping.  Uhhh!?!?!  My ride tonight set to work on that, I rode in my jumping saddle and set up a single jump in the middle of the arena.  My goal was to do extended trot/canter sets and to trot and canter up to the jump and see how she did.

Our warmup started quite well, Mia is handling her speed when I am in two point with much more consistency.  We started our canter to the left and after pushing for more power, she was really moving nicely. While she travels quite definitely with her haunches in at the canter, it is fairly balanced and she doesn't feel out of control which is a huge improvement from when we started the canter just a few months ago.  The canter to the right, however, is really coming together!  It feels like the canter I would expect to get a 5 in, not great but actually not too bad.  She actually has some balance the majority of the time and has been able to slow down from a hand gallop to an actual canter (the majority of the time).  As someone who has their first show in a month, this makes me extremely happy!

I mixed up our session by randomly trotting down the centerline and going over the little jump that was set up.  After barely stepping over the 18" vertical, I set it up to a 2' vertical to get her to jump it.  The first time over it she seriously over jumped it and RB4 said she jumped it like it was easily a 3' jump haha!  Pointing her at it again did not yield the same results and while she was getting a bit close to the jump before jumping it, she never refused or tried to duck out and she jumped it each time.  Success!

I continued mixing it up by jumping it at an angle, I wanted to introduce skinnies and angles as early as possible in her training so that they become no big deal as we move up in training.  I pointed her at the jump while going across the diagonal and it was clear she wasn't sure what to do, she tried to go right and then left before just jumping over it.  She got a lot of petting and a walk break, as a result when I went on the diagonal again she didn't even try to shimmy to the left or right and jumped it beautifully.  The last task of the night was to jump the little 2' jump at a canter.  I picked up the left canter and pointed her at jump, it was the moment of truth.  Could she jump it at the canter with me on her back?  Could she navigate to the jump and figure out where to take off?  The answer was quick and positive, Mia jumped the 2' vertical without even tapping it and while she was a little quick upon landing, she stopped nicely.  Success!

I am so proud of myself and my mare.  My position was SO much better tonight than my previous jumping sessions, it is a boost in my confidence level that I can in fact still do it correctly.  I am both excited and anxious to see how Mia behaves out in the open.  I am really going to have to put on my big girl panties and try cantering her on the road.  I am quite anxious about it as she has a BIG engine behind her but I really need to know how to control it.  I guess I will see how the roads are this weekend, maybe that will be the day.  T minus 32 days to our first show!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bad blogger strikes again - Update time!

The sad part is that I have lots to talk about but just cannot find the time to write it down in a story.  Thus I am going to make some short and sweet comments about the past couple of weeks.  The week after we hauled out for our lesson, the vet came out for spring shots.  I also had him look at the App and the TWH for a lameness exam, I was pretty certain it was time to inject the App's hocks but wanted to make sure first.  The TWH passed with flying colors as SOUND!  He had no sensitivity to his suspensory ligaments and was moving very well.  Go TWH!  The App, however, was showing full body stiffness and Dr A isolated the majority of it to his hocks and stifles.  His hocks were full of arthritis and his stifles are really loose.  I had his hocks injected and was told I have to work him more to get his stifles tighter and to keep him in shape.  Can do!  The App had 2 days of stall rest, a day of being locked in the arena and then started working on a lunge line.  He is now moving SO much better, it is hard to imagine it is the same horse.  I am very happy I had his hocks done, he looks so much more comfortable.

In a continued effort to fix my position, I rode the TWH to work on my position even though it is really hard to jump multiple jumps in my arena.  I set up a row of 3 bounces and have jumped them twice.  The first time I wasn't great but worked really hard on fixing my position.  The second time, however, really boosted my confidence level as I could feel that I was jumping correctly.  Apparently my issues were just being rusty from having so much time off, while I messed up a couple of times, the majority of the time I am nailing the position.  Go me!  The TWH also did really well, making it up to 3 2'6" bounces.  The first time through at that height he struggled as he knocked some rust off as well, he felt like he was lifting his knees to his ears!  He then started jumping higher and more round and we finished on a really good note.

I also took the opportunity to ride Mia through the bounces, with it being the first time she would have had multiple jumps in a row.  We certainly have our work cut out, she really likes to zoom through the fences and she is jumping them really wide however she never refused, tried each time I asked and really seemed to enjoy herself.  We started at 12" then 18" bounces before ending on 2' bounces.  For her very first time over them, she did really well!

Mia's canter is coming along fabulously, the cantering figure 8's recommended by H are really, really helping Mia find her balance.  She can now canter almost an entire circle to the right and keep her balance while doing it!  This is certainly a trick I am going to have to keep in my bag!  We have started putting together our dressage test and it is coming along well, the canter is still our hardest obstacle but we have a month to fix it.

The dressage work for TWH really makes me happy that I decided to NOT got to the April 13th show.  He is making significant progress in dressage and I am confident we are going to be ready for the May 4th show however he just isn't ready for an April show.  He has needed some really hard work to get his trot back to where it needs to be, it is mostly there again but now his trot/canter transition is sucky?!?  Add it to the list!  In better news, however, his canter/trot transition is FABULOUS!  I am so, so happy that I am not fighting that battle anymore AND he is also giving me 10m circles to the right without fighting this year.  Win!  I rode our dressage test a few times last night and I gotta say, we are getting there!  I think we are going to be really competitive this year, I am excited to see how things go.

So sorry it took so long to update everyone, I will again try to promise to be better.  Hope everyone is having a decent spring doesn't have nearly as much mud as I do :)