Friday, June 27, 2014

Another hard bump in the road, progress is made

The more I ride and further train Mia, the more I am thinking she is in fact a blend of personalities of TWH and the App.  For a very long time I said I wished I could blend those two horses as I would have the perfect horse, one that would try to reach the moon just because I asked and had the athleticism to do anything we ever wanted.  Mia is very athletic and quick and smart and tries, just like I wanted.  But she also has that stubborn streak like the App and when I hit it, man it is a big bump to get over.

Mia has had almost 2 weeks off, I rode her right before the farrier was out and she was kinda off but kinda not.  Some days she was bad, others not and showed some heat in her hoof and slight swelling in her pastern.  Finally last Wednesday and Thursday she was really ouchy and was almost non-weight bearing on her left front.  As I watched, she was putting her toe down and not wanting to weight the heel, I suspected an abscess was about to burst.  I kept her slathered in poultice to reduce any swelling, wrapped to offer support, buted up to reduce pain and ichthammol'ed to try to draw the abcess out and it finally blew out Friday afternoon at her heel bulb.  I gave her an additional 4 days off and then put her back to work.  As a result of her being off, I also scratched our show on Sunday.  There will always be another show!

Our first ride was a basic dressage ride.  Walk and trot to start.  Mia was all over the place, fully refusing to keep the contact and throwing her head up whenever the mood struck her.  Changing her gait from slow to fast without regard to my seat, randomly stopping instead of transitioning down, all sorts of fun evasions.  This is very common for her, we just keep working on consistency.  We worked on changes of direction to try to soften her up and while it helped, it didn't fix her.  It is obvious 2 weeks off is not good for my mare!

I figured I would canter her to wear her out a bit except she wanted to run into the canter instead of picking it up.  Because why not right?  I grabbed a crop and smacked her a couple of times to remind her that wasn't acceptable before she decided to give me some nice transitions.  Then the transitions were nice but Miss Mare would NOT just canter along.  She was horribly inverted with her head up, back hollow, shoulder dropped, pulling like a freight train.  Oh. My. Gawd. Mare. Just. STOP.  I worked on my normal tactics of lifting the inside rein to get her to pick her shoulder up and possibly drop her head, using my legs to steer her and encourage bend, working at making a big circle and then a small circle, figure 8's when she finally had it.  She yanked on the reins and flipped me off with a toss of her head and tried to take off.  Oh no mare, I sat way back and pulled her to halt like I was waterskiing and held it there.  She stood there head up, head back, mouth gaping, refusing to budge an inch.  She would not give me a release whatsoever, no backing, no softening of the poll, no relaxing of the jaw, just standing there giving me the middle finger.  Thanks horse.

I tried thumping her and she would back a step or two before she would resume her position, it really was a battle of wills that lasted many minutes.  I finally got her to soften her poll a tad so I released and then did a longer exercise of I pull, you give.  I tug, you lower.  I soften, you soften, damn it!  I then kicked her back into a trot and low and behold?  Mia held her head at a respectable level, didn't fight or drop the contact and didn't change her speed.   I asked for a canter and she not only gave it right away, but when I asked her to lower her head from a giraffe position, she did!   I changed directions really quickly to ensure her "good side" had the same results and called it a day.  Ms Mia may have kicked my butt but I kicked hers harder and it appears as though I have won this round.  Thankfully this lesson should stick for a couple of months until we hit the bump again, at least that is our trend but man it is a hard bump indeed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My horses are awesome

Today I had a mini heart attack.  This morning started out normal, I got up, wasted some time on the internet, read a couple of blogs and got ready to start the day.  I brought the horses in, Sinatra was at one gate, App and Mia were at the other so I opened both gates and brought the horses in to give them grain.

Not exact replica of pasture, nor to size, but close enough for the story
When they were done, I kicked them outside and went in the house at 8a like I always do.  I went to work and worked until 1p when I stopped for lunch.  I went to the kitchen sink and washed my hands, as I did I looked for the horses and noticed something odd.  The left gate was open.  Wide open.  Oh crap!

As I ran outside I realized I had opened both gates that morning but I only shut the right gate as I turned the horses out through the right gate.  CRAP!  As I went outside, praying the horses hadn't gone too far and that I could hopefully find them within the hour I had for lunch, I saw the App and company standing by the horse trailer munching on some longer grass I hadn't mowed over the weekend.  PHEW!

I went to the barn and grabbed a hay bag for encouragement but no one walked over to me.  I set the bag down and walked over to the horses and to my delight, no one walked away or scattered, they were quite content to just snack on grass and were completely oblivious to my blunder.  I grabbed Mia by her fly mask and walked her back to the pasture before grabbing the boys and walking them back by their fly masks as well.  As I wanted to reward them for excellent behavior, I threw each of them a decent sized flake of hay so they wouldn't be so upset with the fact I cut their free time short.

I am SO happy my blunder didn't turn out worse.  They could have been GONE given they were outside for up to 5 hours and they didn't go anywhere.  I guess life must not be that bad here after all right?!?  Given the choice of freedom, they will gladly stick around.  I love my awesome horses.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


So much has happened since our last show but things have been so busy I haven't had time to write them down.  So, as a result, here are some of the quick updates!  Mia had her 2nd ever trail ride and she did really well.  She required the bravery of the App to to first under an overpass and again to go over a bridge but she followed quite sanely and didn't lose her marbles.  Yay!  It is very obvious Mia is still super green, she probably walked 30% more than the App did because she couldn't walk a straight line to save herself.  To the left, to the right, to the left, to the middle, to the left, to the right, to the middle, to the right, she hasn't gotten it quite figured out yet but she did so well.  Very impressed!

Mia has had some pretty decent dressage days and things were looking really good for our first show on the 29th!  She still refuses to be 100% consistent in the contact but her tempo is 100% better than it was in January.  After giving me a couple of really bad rides containing canter transitions, she has now given me 2 rides with nice soft transitions that don't involve leaping, running or extreme leaning.  She still has a lot of problem keeping herself upright in the canter, she leans very heavily to the inside of the circles with a nice, low dropped shoulder but we are working on it.  I am tentatively planning on bringing her to a show on the 29th however she is currently lame on both front feet.  I think it is due to needing a trim (which is tonight), her toes were VERY long and then it all chipped off in a self trim during some road rides and I think she bruised her soles.  If she isn't sound by Friday I will not send my registration in, we will see.

TWH is doing really well, we went on a 2.5 hour trail ride last weekend and he was awesome.  We went through water that went up to his belly and over a bridge that ran over water.  We also got lost and ended up on a deer path for over 30 minutes in thick, brushy woods.  Despite being thwacked and assaulted by various limbs and leaves he was great, didn't balk or back down and went through heavy underbrush like a champ.  He is such a good horse!  His next show won't be until August so while I am riding some dressage with him, I am giving him some R&R.  No sense in beating him up any more than needed since I am not planning on riding at rated shows.

App is also doing quite well, back in September he had a huge abscess in his left front that took a month to blow out.  As it grew down, a nice 1.5 inch hole showed the history of it.  This past trim cycle started to show it's extreme weakness and finally during one of our trail rides, the one with Mia actually, the hoof self trimmed enough that the piece just broke off.  It is actually for the best because his hoof was starting to split from the stress of the crack, now it isn't splitting and is just really ugly.  Tonight the farrier should clean it up and he should be good to go.  I rode the App on the 3 mile loop last night and he did really well!  He can be bi-polar and is either really, really good or really, really bad lol.  RB4 came and didn't want to fight with anyone so I put her on TWH and I rode the App, her loss as the App decided to be really good!  We trotted and even cantered and the App just motored along.  He was a little strong in the canter, but nothing I wouldn't have expected anyway.  It was nice riding him again, with 3 horses I just don't have the time to ride him like I would prefer.

Nothing too big is going on for the next couple of weeks of the dressage show for Mia doesn't work out, just some really nice rest and relaxation as we get ready to enjoy summer.  I am looking forward to not going at 100% for a while!

Monday, June 9, 2014

TWH's second ever Novice horse trial Part 2

I watched the Training level riders before handing TWH over to RB4 to do a quick course walk during the break.  The course was big, at least double the size of our last stadium course, there wasn't any tight jumps here!  The only real question was jumps 3/4/5, after 3 there was a 90 degree turn to 4 which was a sharp 90 degree turn to 5ab which was set as a 3 stride.  Eh, nothing we haven't done before!

We watched horse after horse and almost everyone took a rail.  Several took 2-3 rails.  It was odd since it wasn't that technical of a course, but it started to make me feel better about my chances!  When our time came, we hopped in the arena and went around the course.  TWH still isn't meeting the fences where I would like him so we didn't have may "pretty" jumps but they were all solidly functional.  We went  very well through 3/4/5ab, went to 6 through a bending line to 7 and came to 8.  I set him up and he knocked a pole down.  I gave him a very aggressive kick as we made it to 9 and completed the course.  I have NO idea why the heck he took it down.  I set him up, I was off of his face, I stayed off of him over the jump, he was a little forward but not enough I would have expected a rail.  I still don't know why he took it down, I was a little disappointed.  My TWH always goes double clear when the chips are on the table.  This is the first time he has taken a rail down in stadium, I guess we need to work on stadium more!

We meandered down to the start of XC and stood around until we were next, I didn't want to get him too tired!  At fence one TWH needed a good solid kick to remind him that we were NOT going to jump these dang jumps at a standstill AGAIN and then he went pretty nicely into cruise control.  Jumps 2 and 3 sailed by, jump 4 he was sticky at but made it over.  5 was into a new water obstacle, he sucked behind my leg but went in (YAY!!!  Water doesn't seem to be an issue anymore) but he didn't have much impulsion over jump 6 which was a jump out of the water so I don't have a good picture of it.  At least he did it!  7 was easy, 8/9 was a bending 2 stride, 10 sailed by.  11 was a ditch, you know how much he "loves" ditches right?  Thankfully we had schooled it over Memorial day weekend so I didn't expect any issues.  We went right up to it before he came to a dead stop and leaped over it.  I totally wasn't expecting it and got left WAY behind, grabbed mane and clung to his neck, I came really close to coming off!  Damn horse and his damn ditches.  I think I fix the issue and it pops back up again!  At least I didn't hurt my finger again so at least I had that little win.  After getting myself back together I checked my time and was doing well so I kicked him back into a canter and went over 12.

At fence 13 I was on autopilot and a stride away from the jump I realized I was jumping the wrong jump.  O. M. G!!!!!!  We ended up jumping the beginner novice jump instead of the novice jump!!  I circled around the jump judge and said "We never presented at the fence, did I incur a refusal?"  "She said no so I jumped the novice fence and went to 14/15.  16 was a drop to a 2 stride, I had him trot down the drop and he was fine, 17 and 18 were easy peasy.  I was SO happy that I had been working on our conditioning, we made the course in 5:20 vs the optimum of 5:55 but he actually had some gas left in the tank and I wasn't ready to die.  WIN!

Walking back, I couldn't BELIEVE I jumped the wrong jump.  What a stupid mistake, I was pretty sure we could jump a lower level fence but wasn't 100% sure.  We made it back to the trailer and hung out for our results.  And hung out.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally 1.5 hours after cross country they posted the results for review, I excitedly went over to see where we were at.  After stadium we had moved up to 9th!!  But it showed we were eliminated during cross country!!  What??? NOO!!!!  I found the Technical Delegate and asked why, they said they had it marked down that I had jumped the novice jump twice.  I explained that I had jumped the BN jump and then the Novice jump so asked to appeal the decision.  It took forever before they came back and said they would award it to me, the jump judge said the story made sense with how my reaction was, the jump judge wasn't 100% certain which jump I had jumped first.  Yay!!  A half hour later they finally posted the results, after a paltry 11th place we moved up to 5th!!!  Not only that, if TWH HAD NOT pulled the rail in stadium?  We would have gotten 2nd.  SECOND!!

I am very proud of our accomplishment, I think this show was a pretty good test of what we learned at our last show and I think we passed.  Other than TWH's opps in stadium and my opps at fence 13, the entire show went very well.  I am very glad that TWH is willingly going into strange water without hesitation and am a little bummed that he still thinks he needs to stop before he goes over a ditch.  I am glad that our conditioning allowed us to finish cross country with a little gas in a tank for both of us.  Our next show may not be until August, however Mia may be going to her first show at the end of June.  Nothing like a little rest and relaxation!

Friday, June 6, 2014

TWH's second ever Novice horse trial Part 1

TWH's second horse trial at the Novice level is finally in the books.  There were some up times, some down times and a moment of what da? But overall the day was nice.  Saturday I walked the XC course and was a little dismayed to see it was actually LONGER than the first HT of the year, the show bill had said it was a little less.  And that optimum time was almost 6 mins??  Oh boy, we had only been doing canter/two point sets up to 5 minutes, I hoped we had it in us!

Time ran out on Saturday and so TWH didn't get a bath but he wasn't super dirty so nice and early (no, not BRIGHT and early) at 4a I was up and outside giving TWH a bath.  I use that term loosely as I copped out and used the EZ All Total Body Wash stuff instead of giving him a full on bath.  Hey, it was FOUR AM, you can't judge me!  Thankfully he still wasn't super dirty to start with and cleaned up well enough.  I wrapped him up just in time for my super awesome friend RB4 came at 515a to head out.  I love that she is so willing to come to my horse shows with me, even when we have to get up so damn early!  Before the sun rises, yep it is that early.

We made it to the showgrounds without issue, got tacked up and went over to the dressage ring with a good 20 mins before our ride time.  TWH wasn't bending much which is an evasion he has been toying with the past few months, but his gaits were nice and after some transitions, he was giving them to me nicely as well.  The whistle rang and we went into the ring, TWH was nice and straight up the centerline and after we finished our circle, I ALMOST forgot our pattern.  As in I was still going straight when I was supposed to turn, if I hadn't remembered at the last fricken second, we would have been called off course in 2 steps.  I couldn't believe I almost forgot our damn test SMH.  The test actually rode pretty well I thought, he fought me a little in the last canter/trot transition and was a good bit heavier in my hand than he should/could have been however there was no pacing at all and he was nice and square in our halt.  Success!

We had a 2.5 hour break until our next ride, they were doing stadium second followed immediately by cross country 20 minutes later.  Not a lot of time!  Right before stadium they posted the dressage scores, I don't like to know the placing before xc because I think it helps reduce nerves but they were RIGHT there so I just couldn't help it.  I walked over and I blinked.  And blinked again.  I checked and double checked to make sure I was looking at the right line.  Yes, apparently I came in dead last after dressage with a score 42.  Dead. Last.  11th place.

To say it took the wind out of my sails was an understatement, I was crushed.  I knew we didn't have a low 30's test but I expected a mid to upper 30's test.  Both RB4 and I thought that test was much better than our previous test and we had both seen riders ride a worse test while I was warming up.  I had no idea how they came up with the score but it made me not care about jumping so much.  Finally I tacked up and decided hey, what did I have to lose?  We always go clear, what am I going to do, fight for last place?  No, I need to ride and do what I can.  With that in mind we headed over to the stadium course.