Thursday, November 19, 2020

Lesson 19 - I am a stormtrooper

 Our lesson went really, really well despite being 70 degrees in the middle of November. Mia isn't clipped, as she lives outside, and despite our efforts she was pretty steamy at the end of our ride. It also doesn't help that she had over 2 months off due to her weird leg issue. *shrug* Our focus was to reengage Mia, as she had determined that she rather enjoyed not doing the hard work and had a bit of an attitude when asked to do the work. 

The focus of the ride was to get Mia forward, to make sure I wasn't "fiddling" with my hands, and to find the balance of working while not letting each of us push each others buttons. A said she can absolutely see Mia pushing my buttons and I push hers, when we get in this situation, we need to redirect our plans to try to not push the buttons. When Mia refuses to move off of my leg, instead of smacking her with the whip, make a small circle or hyper flex. When Mia gets resistant, I need to not fight with her, but continue to try to flex and supple her and not get in a pulling match. At one point, she asked if I felt resistance and I said "Oh yes, I feel the resistance is strong today!" And as such, she then called me a storm trooper and I almost fell off of my horse from laughing so hard. 

It took almost 2/3 of a lesson, but eventually Mia got on board, was doing legitimate work and A said we were working at a solid 2nd level. We have some absolute brilliant moments, and the trick is to find ways to make those moments last longer and happen more often. One big issue she has is my saddle. I have a Wintec Isabell, a saddle I bought new in 2007 and have ridden faithfully in every since. I have been very, very passively looking for a new dressage saddle for the past 3 years, but my requirements is that it has to make as big of a difference as my jump saddle did. I do not need a new saddle that doesn't make a difference!

We talked a lot about mechanics and one of the key issues is the (older) Isabell's stirrup bars are almost 2" further back than most saddles to help put your leg underneath of you. This was probably very helpful when I started riding dressage, as many, many people ride in a chair seat, however at this point in my riding experience, my legs are too far back. I am on the constant strugglebus to keep my leg at the girth, as they are always behind the girth. It also keeps my leg fairly straight, more Phillip Dutton and I should be more Michael Jung. She is going to bring all of her dressage saddles out at our next lesson to see if any work better, I also went and sat in 18+ consignment saddles in 3 tack stores and really liked the feel of a Trilogy Verago. It was the only one that I went "Wow, that changed my position!"

And then, as things go, despite having saddles coming for my lesson, I accidentally bought a used Verago lol. I should have it next week, and fingers crossed it is as described! It is a 2008 model and needs to be redyed, but I got a really good price on it so it shouldn't be too bad even if I have to resell it. Fingers crossed. The one at the tack store was much too narrow, and this one may be a touch too wide but it may also be perfect.

Also in good news, I have my Pivo all charged up and ready to use in my lesson. Fingers crossed all goes well, it is quite wonky when the battery is low.   So far, the Pivo hasn't given me any major issues as long as it is charged up and I would love to get some media from when A says we are being brilliant! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Lesson 18 - Be careful what you ask for!

 With Mia finally looking and feeling better, it was time to work on me. To say my mood has been low would be an understatement. I work best when working towards something, I am very goal oriented and often struggle when I am not trying to achieve something. On the 19th, I pushed both Mia and myself with a w/t/c bareback ride for a full 30 mins and finished with riding the Novice dressage test. On Tues I asked for a lesson, and to bring the pain. I obviously need a system reset, and I wanted to to see what A could bring lol. Her reply? Jump saddle lunge lesson, no stirrups, over fences at the end. Well okay then, that does sound like an appropriate level of torture!

Someone is feeling MUCH better!

On Weds I rode even harder. I rode in the jump saddle with no stirrups and went over a small cavaletti. We rode for almost 40 mins and it was the very first time Mia has broken into a sweat since this ordeal started. I was quite pleased to see how secure I felt, however, and I felt ready for my lesson!

Thursday brought my lesson (I TOTALLY should have used my Pivo! I didn't even think about it!). I did warn A that I was pretty tight despite stretching due to the workouts I had done that week, including over 60 crunches on Tuesday. Abs were crying! Our lesson kicked off and we did all of the normal lunge line things. W/T/C. Again but with arms in the air, holding our legs up, legs back, hands on hips. I will say, cantering with no stirrups with your hands on your hips while you swing your body to look left and right was legit harder than I expected and was the only balance exercise I struggled with.

Mia was not amused with having to break a sweat. Notice no stirrups.

Mia was moving exceptionally well (FINALLY!) and we quickly started going over the small cavaletti. We found a hole in my training and suddenly I earned my stirrups back, balance was certainly not something to work on so time to work on something else! One thing I have always done, and have even talked about it on the blog, is I have loose hands going over fences. I have never wanted to jerk or grab their mouth on landing so if the horse needs it, on landing they can take as much rein as they want. (Sorry A!!) I do actually know this isn't great, especially over larger fences, but my horses have always been great about not taking the reins all of the time and when I DO need them, I don't slide them or I am a-ok jumping with long reins. A, however, was not okay with this. At all. I got a nice long talking to over this matter. Oops!

After I got my stirrups back, we started trying to install a new program for my arms. My hands have to follow the horse and I cannot slip the reins. The only way it "worked" was when I had my hands way up in a long crest release. I....I have never ridden like this. I have never ridden with a crest release at all, I only jump with an automatic release. Not only did it feel weird, it was quite difficult for me! Not only that, she had me imitating jumpers by pushing my butt up and out while doing the long crest release. Oy vey!!

Why is there a lump on your snoot Mia?

To say the lesson kicked our butts would be an understatement. I finally feel the fire in my belly again though! A said I have exceptional balance and balls of steel. Everything she asked me to do, I did without hesitation (except these changes to my riding style lol), including the time she set up a 3'3" jump. Which we haven't done since spring. The thing to work on is developing a following hand, I am not allowed to let my reins slip if I am not going over a drop fence. She says I probably drive Mia crazy with my constant rein futzing, as I drive A nuts and she isn't a horse lol. I also have excellent position in a saddle, but my two point without stirrups is non-existent. Hmm. Oh, and I am also standing on my toes in two point instead of sinking in my heels? Weird, as I have tons of pictures that show the opposite, but that could also be due to the lack of jumping this year? It is on my homework list!

Weird, hard lump on a soft nose - because why not? I think she just tries to stay broken.

Always something to work on, we are far from perfect My homework is to start bringing Mia back to fitness with lots of cross country or road work. Which is difficult since I can only ride outside 2 days a week now, but fitness is something we can do. I also need to put myself over some small cavaletti more to figure out this long crest release/following hand business. I think I have the perfect use for the Pivo tonight!

Monday, October 26, 2020

The follow up and outcome - All is finally getting better

What happens when your horse is NQR for almost 2 months and no one can figure it out? A lot of motivation loss, a touch of depression, a wonder of what you are even doing. Slap all of this onto the shit show of 2020, yeah. You get the idea. So what has happened?  Let me tell you!

Sep 29

This part you already know. Aug 29 the farrier was out. Aug 30 we went on a group trail ride that I will never do again. Sep 2 I had a lesson. As we warmed up, Mia's right front was clicking. Weird. I mentioned it to the trainer, A, and she watched us walk around the arena and listened to the clicking. 

Sep 29

We stopped, chatted, and Mia was dead lame when we tried walking forward. Her legs were all blown up in weird ways, as seen in the last post's pictures. Had the vet out Sep 7, she thought maybe a ligament issue, give her some rest, bute and poultice every day for 2 weeks. Done. That catches you up from my last post.

Hooves pre-trim - sent to farrier Oct 8

2 weeks later? The same. No change. Had the vet out again on Sep 21(?) and had a full lameness done. She said there is no way Mia had ligament issues, as Mia was basically asleep in the cross ties as she was being palpated. Hoof testers pinpointed nothing. Flexions showed nothing. Lunging showed her a .5 or .75 in lameness in the front, but there was nothing obvious. The vet said Mia isn't lame enough to actually diagnose even if we wanted to try more diagnosis like nerve blocks. She said the swelling was distal limb swelling and Mia was likely footsore due to a hoof angle being off. 

Hooves pre-trim - sent to farrier Oct 8

Since 2 weeks of rest/bute/poultice didn't fix her, I should ride conservatively until the farrier is out with the idea of riding her until she is fixed or broken enough to diagnose. If  the swelling doesn't get better after a trim, I should look at putting some sort of supportive shoe on like aluminum or pads. Perhaps Mia has some arthritis that is flaring up and some additional cushion and support would help. *sigh* Okay.

Can you see the issue?

I rode lightly this whole time, and since I couldn't do much, I might as well work on me so I spent about 4 weeks riding bareback. Mostly walk, some trot, mostly in the 20-30 minute mark, mostly in the arena since it is now dark at 630p which is when I get to the barn. I realized I definitely needed that, as my balance was good but some work at it was certainly needed and I felt much better about bareback riding after a couple of weeks. During this time, I would curry/cold hose/liniment/sometimes poultice her legs before and after every ride. Her legs would sometimes look a little better, but most times they looked the same. Swelling that felt thick, was always random, and didn't really go down.

How about now? Her camber is off!

On Oct 8, I rode and took pics of Mia's feet for the farrier so she could see the angles. She said Mia's angles looked fine, Mia had some toe to remove, and her right front needed to come down a little. Fine. For whatever reason, I happened to glance at Mia from the hind end and it was like the curtains parting, the sun shining in a spotlight, and the angels started singing. All of this time and apparently no one, not me, not the vet, no one at the barn, no one looked at Mia's hoof angles from the rear and that was where the issue was obvious.

Post trim, still have a way to go

Several trims ago, the farrier specifically said she was letting Mia's right front outside wall grow to counter something that was happening to her inside. I don't even remember what it was now. In the last trim, I was leaving and didn't micro manage, and didn't notice she hadn't really trimmed the outer wall. Professions are supposed to know what they are doing! This seems to have been the issue this whole time. Mia is traveling at such an angle, her legs became swollen trying to accommodate the slant. 

Oct 21 - swelling almost gone

The farrier was out Oct 10 and we worked on fixing this issue. It will take 1-2 more trim cycles to completely fix it, but I made sure to convey that I wanted Mia level again. Whatever she was trying to do had months to fix and now Mia needs to be level.

Oct 21 - swelling almost gone

There was a slight improvement on Oct 12 and 13th, and then I left on a 5 day trip. On Oct 19? Mia's legs are much, much better. The swelling is no longer thick feeling, it now feels soft and puffy! A huge difference and one I can live with. I fully expect this to take another trim cycle to fully resolve the swelling, as her leg structure has to accommodate the new balance and that simply takes time. The difference just 2 weeks has made though? I'm beyond happy. Mia is now forward again, something I noticed had stopped, and we even took a lesson on Thursday. More on that in the next post, and Pivo updates!

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Not very superficial to me

 You know what they about horses and best laid plans, right? 

Thurs pm, left front

Thurs PM, right front

I grabbed Mia on Thursday, walked through the entire 5 acre pasture, brushed her, got on, walked about 5 minutes and the instructor came in. A watched us walk around for about a lap and a half because I mentioned Mia's right front was clicking oddly. 

Thurs PM, outside of right front normal

We halted and chatted with A for about a minute. When I asked Mia to walk on, she was suddenly lame. Seriously?!?  
Weds PM, Left front
Her ligaments were sort of thick and lumpy on her front right, so she was able to get out of a dressage lesson while also being "poisoned" with bute. 

Weds PM, right front

The rest of this past week has been identical. Mia gets bute 2x a day and poultice at night when I am out.
Weds PM, right front

Only the inside of her legs have this puffiness and obvious thickening of the ligaments. No real heat, no other swelling, and the outside of her legs look completely normal. 

Weds PM, left front

I had the vet out and Mia was completely non-reactive upon palpation. The vet said she would be very surprised if Mia tore or strained something because of just how completely non-reactive she was, but if Mia was still puffy in 2 weeks we can ultrasound her. *sigh* 

Thermal image, right front

The vet thinks it is her superficial digital flexor tendon and not her deep digital tendon. On the plus side, Mia isn't lame anymore on either foot?

Thermal image, left front

The concerning part of the thermal images is that it is obviously something going on in the tendons, especially the left front which was normal last Thursday. I am glad I snapped a pic on Thurs of the left front, as it looks so much worse now despite having a full week off. 

I am giving her another week off, why not at this point. I did take some video with the new Pivo, that will be for the next post! 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Taking the plunge - I bought a Pivo!

 I did it, I bought the thing. I have been seeing ads for Pivos for a while. I have read several blogs from people who have gotten them, including Amanda at 900FBPony who has given the best insight IMO. Honestly? It was reading her posts and her overall guide that had me finally do it. I am hopeful I will be able to get good feedback, since I operate best that way. The ability to have decent video all year? Yes please! I tried using a remote and small tripod 2 years ago, but the issue was the remote only worked reliably at 25 feet away. Videos were okay enough, but it tied to one spot. Then I would (very often) do a thing only to find the remote didn't start the video. I am hopeful that this is the answer, because more video would be cool!

My instructor also talked about a Pivo, we had been having scheduling difficulties while I was "gone" from blogging and she had suggested a video lesson. I am not sure how much I need that, since I can see my flaws just fine thank you, and I think I would prefer having the instant feedback but it could be an option. Like a dressage test, there is only so much feedback you can get and improve upon after the fact. So anyway, it arrives this Friday. Fingers crossed!

This past weekend was cool in that Mia and I went to a hunter pace, the very first outing of the year. At the end of August lol. Mia loaded up with no hesitation and trailered like a champ. We were in the walk division with a group of 9 others that went from our barn. It was cool to be in a big group, which was a first for me, but it was also frustrating with some people having their own agenda. I do agree that schooling is required when a horse is being difficult, however there are some exceptions and certainly limitations. Some people on the ride lost my respect and that is really too bad. Overall, though, we had a good time and I enjoyed the ride. Mia and I jumped every jump we saw and she was a rock star. She was sticky to only one jump, the rest she was totally dragging me to in her excitement to finally be out and about! 

It ended up being a 6.7 mile ride, thus it was no surprise that the next day she was quite stiff so we just did a long walk ride. We were joined by a lady who is rehabbing her horse and they needed to walk for 20 mins so it worked out quite well. Someone to ride with when I am always alone? Yes please! At the end of the ride Mia was loose and swingy, so while we didn't work on homework, I think it was a very successful ride. We have our next lesson tomorrow and I am excited to see what kind of buttons we get to play with. 

I am trying to stay excited about horse stuff, which is hard when I am going to absolutely nothing this year. It is hard to have a laser focus when your goal vanishes into thin air. The barn had planned to bring a BNT in for a clinic, but even that also evaporated and isn't happening. I know this is temporary, and so many people have it worse, but sometimes it is hard to stay positive and upbeat when 2020 is such a....well you know. Everything is bad, getting worse, and pointing towards catastrophe. 

Here is to hoping for motivation and for the Pivo to help as much as I hope it will. If not, I will have one for sale in short order! HA! No worries, I do plan on reviewing this bad boy!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Lesson 17 - Soften your GD hands!

Yes, an update already! I want to get this down before I forget my lesson again. As said in my last entry, Mia had her hocks done so she was off until this past Monday. Getting her hocks done was an interesting endeavor, Mia is really hard to sedate! She ended up with Dorm and Torb, double what everyone else got, AND was very awake well before the horse that went an hour before her who had much less than she did. The vet said she was happy with the sedation level to get Mia done for hocks, but she would need more if they did much else.  Even with the heavy sedation and a twitch, Mia was still flinching and jerking when getting poked. Sheesh!! The vet did say that Mia's right hock, the one that doesn't really flex, had really good joint space and no real arthritis, but that the joint was really dry. She couldn't even get any fluid to come to the end of her needle hub like she could on the left hock so injections are definitely something that will help.

She is looking good!

Since I wasn't able to have a lesson this past Sunday, I asked for the first possible lesson and Tuesday was available. Mia definitely has springs now, and is challenging to ride at times! She felt as bouncy as she does when she is a firecracker ready to go, except that she wasn't happy going back to work and had no energy. Was definitely a weird feeling! We started the lesson with one plan but immediately scrapped it to work on frame. Mia was all kinds of unhappy about getting back to work and so we spent the entire lesson trying to re-engage her. Transitions (about 1000 of them lol), more transitions, transitions in gait, transitions up, down. Walk/canter. Canter/halt. Halt/back. Halt/trot, so many transitions. 

Favorite view

About halfway through the ride, Mia started really working and being happy again. Her movement is so big now! A said she was striding well under her saddle pad in the back, which rarely happened before. The big takeaways from the lesson were that Mia is absolutely not listening to my leg/spur and that I have regressed and am pulling with my hands again. I need to soften my hands and stop letting her bait me into pulling on her. Ugh, always something to work on! 
You haz treatz for me? I like treatz!

When I flex her, I am also not keeping an even pressure on both reins, I am losing my outside rein and flexing her only with my inside so I need to fix that. I need to remember to ride with my hands forward and push her up to my hands, not pulling on her. The answer is always more leg. Speaking of leg, my homework is to get her OFF OF MY LEG. A was amazed that she saw me using my spur on Mia and Mia was still not moving off of my leg. Either I am not using it hard enough or Mia needs to "remember" how to listen to my leg. 
Big fat eye :( While still weepy, it isn't swollen and the vet didn't see anything wrong

Last night I rode again and the focus of 75% of the ride was getting off of my leg. If I applied it and she didn't move, she got a smack with the whip. It took more than I expected to get her to move every time, especially off of my bad, right leg, but at the end she moved off as soon as I put my leg on in the walk and trot. She also kept her haunches behind her in the canter, something she had been adamant couldn't happen anymore. She is getting today and tomorrow off, as she has now had 3 dressage rides in a row after 2 weeks off (she also had a weird eye problem before her hocks were done) but we ride again on Saturday AND possibly Sunday on group trail ride! Fingers crossed Hurricane Laura isn't too bad for us or anyone else? 

OH! And I bit the bullet and bought myself a Pivo. I love seeing videos to self-critique and after reading posts by others, I am going to try it! Let's hope it works for me?!?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Well hell - Where is the time going?

I had every intention of fully documenting each of my lessons and I am not sure what happened. Let's do a short and quick review to get caught up and then I will try to be better.  Lesson 14 was a dressage ride which went well, but short and easy. Mia was a bit stiff/sore and A was sick. She didn't even charge me for the lesson, despite my insistence to pay her, because it was such a short lesson. 

Lesson 15 was a very good ride, we did some stadium jumping for A to see how we go. She loves Mia's jumping and she loves my jumping position. She had us do some super tight and controlled turns to test our abilities over height (3') and while it wasn't perfect, I was able to do everything she asked. Mia is also one of the most balanced, unbalanced horse A knows, apparently. We found the weaker areas are my not having flying changes over fences (worked on it), Mia can be heavy and fast at times, and A thinks I am using a slight crest release over larger fences versus an automatic release. The last one was surprising and I think I want some pics, as I haven't done crest releases in I don't know how long. I have always done automatic releases with Mia, so I am not sure.

Lesson 16 was the following week and we did some XC jumping around the farm. A really, really likes Mia's jumping and loves her "get it done" attitude. A had me practice "hailing the taxi" when going over a jump with a drop to really think about sitting back. We don't have any jumps with a serious drop, but by practicing over a jump with a small drop will help build muscle memory for when I face a jump that does. The other take away was A seeing Mia freight-training it. I am not sure if A had really ever seen Mia really freight train until that day! There was a lot of water-skiing as I fought for control, especially at the start of the ride lol. 

A recommended doing more canter fitness with gallop sets to help remind Mia to come back when I ask without having to yank on her. She also wants me to change up Mia's bitting for cross country for extra brakes. I do have the wonder bit I used last year, however am trying a pelham bit for now so I still have the basic snaffle. The first day I did the gallop sets, Mia took off and wouldn't come back so I kept going around and around and around the hay field. After the 5th gallop set, Mia was absolutely exhausted so for the 6th lap I had her canter it. I had to really force her to canter, as she was begging to stop, but that is the risk one takes when wanting to take off. When I rode her a few days later in a a field, we cantered and the second I sat up, Mia dropped into a trot. Ha! I did it three times and each time Mia let me know that she will gladly stop when I ask, as she now remembers we may not stop.

The other takeaway we had in lesson 16 was that A agrees it may be time to do her hocks. We tried a round of Legend as a passive approach and while it worked, it only worked for about a month and now Mia is barely flexing her right hock. While I try to put off hock injections as long as possible, she is 13, we work regularly, and if it makes her comfortable, I will do it. Those happened last Tuesday and Mia had the week off. The vet confirmed while Mia had good joint space, her upper right hock joints were super dry so it was the right move. We went on a short, flat trail ride on Sunday and last night we did a short dressage ride. I may have to re-learn how to ride my horse, she has SPRINGS now! She felt like she had the bounce of when she is super geared up, but she was being incredibly lazy and uninterested in working after a full week off. I have a lesson tonight, I'm super excited to see how Mia performs with eyes on the ground! 

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Lesson 13 - the not-really lesson

I am so incredibly happy to say that Mia is 100% back to normal after her personality swing. She is back to being happy, eager, and (her level of) affectionate. It has made riding so much easier as we aren't fighting each other and she isn't actively saying no the entire ride. The barn sour-ness has also basically vanished into thin air. What a relief! I am still riding when I come back to the barn as an in-case, but whatever happened in Mia's little brain seems to have been pacified as we are back to normal.

Things change a lot around here, and it is of no surprise that the COVID situation isn't helping. In an alternate universe, I would be heading to Breyerfest this year. :( Instead, with things getting worse across the various states, we cancelled everything. Breyerfest was cancelled months ago, we cancelled our trip to MI for a family reunion for July 4th, we cancelled both of our car races, we cancelled our trip to Dallas in August, we even cancelled our vacation to FL in November. *sigh* I feel much more comfortable knowing we are staying home and secluded but it is extremely disappointing. I have even made the decision to cancel all shows except possibly the show being held at my barn. No shenanigans are to be had for us!

With our July 4th trip cancelled, I was able to squeeze in a quick lesson. A decision that turned around and bit me in the butt because I woke up that morning with a serious impingement in my shoulder, I could barely use it! Ugh. The lesson was short because I couldn't do much but it was helpful. We worked on "long rein dressage" and going over how A wants me to ask for laterals. Remember how I said A is changing everything about my riding? I mean literally everything. Ha!

A said I ask for too much and I ask for too long. I ask for laterals by applying my aid(s) and not removing it until I am done asking for it. A wants me to ask "every stride" instead, so I have been bumping. Apparently I am still not doing it correctly as "every stride" means every single footfall. I have been putting my leg on for 1 second, removing, and then reapplying. She instead wants me basically thumping with my leg in a more rapid fire motion. I think it is nagging, but she disagrees. To her credit, Mia did respond better with this new method, so there is that! It is going to take some adjustment to relearn how to apply aids, but I am dedicated and am going to succeed to make my mare better.

We discussed half halts again, and how using my seat is a great but Mia needs the more rudimentary half halt of leg/hand and how sometimes using both reins is also appropriate. We practiced as much as we could with my bum shoulder and I was assigned it as homework again.

I have ridden three times since the lesson after my shoulder finally fixed itself, we went on a short trail ride with another boarder and Mia was absolutely perfect. No barn sourness in sight. We did an actual fitness ride with w/t/c. I was a little more concerned about that ride bc the last time we tried some fitness after a dressage ride, Mia refused to stop and I got the worst raspberries I have ever gotten in my life. Which also seems to be scarring, which is nice. Mia told me not to worry though, we had an easy peasy ride. When I pushed her into an extended canter, she went. When I asked her to come back by sitting up, she slowed down. Such a different horse from a month ago!

Yesterday I wanted to jump so even though it was raining, we jumped the couple of things that are outside. That was the ride I knew I had my old mare back. Mia was flexible, adaptable, willing, and happy. Even though the jumps were 2'6" and lower, she jumped them quietly, calmly, and didn't knock anything. We then jumped some of the small xc logs and she came back to me when I asked while also having fun. No bolting over fences like she had been doing. This makes me so incredibly happy. My next lesson is July 12 and I am looking forward to showing off some of our skills!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Lesson 12 - homework is assigned

I have been able to ride only 3 times since A rode 2 weeks ago, and the first time was super short as my back said "Nope!" and required a day to recover. Gah, it sucks to get old. On Tuesday I tried again and things went much better. We did a short walk ride, which wasn't entirely fun thanks to Mia insistence on turning around to go back to the barn. Eventually she got a pop on the nose when she tried to do a reining horse spin because that is not okay. She used to enjoy going out, I really don't know what changed. Does she want to work in the arena? No, she wants to just go to the barn aisle. Does she want to work hard? She will when she has to, but doesn't seem to. Ugh.

Thursday was a baby dressage day, with some light walk/trot/canter to see if my back would be upset, and it was not. Friday was a short, hard dressage ride outside followed by a short hack down the driveway, and a fight to get her head back towards the barn without jigging/trotting/spinning to head that way, and then straight back to the arena to work since she wanted to go to the barn so badly. *sigh*

Sunday was my lesson, and while I had a ton of homework I wasn't able to work on, I was ready to work. A immediately commented that Mia is using her hocks very nicely and evenly, the Legend is doing a very good job. So there is that. At one point A said "Man, she is really being a bitch today, look at that side eye!" Yeah, thanks. She definitely doesn't want to work today. Our ride was a lot of over flexion to work on getting Mia off of my leg right now. No more being nice, no more giving her the benefit of the doubt, if she doesn't move then she gets a smack with the whip. At one point, A walked next to us and smacked Mia for me when Mia wouldn't respect my leg.

We do have a lot of homework, which is good because it is going to be a few weeks before I can take a lesson again. Firstly, I am using too much aid for too long. When I apply my leg, I wait a stride or two before I remove it. She wants one ask to equal one try. Which means I am going to be applying my aids all of the time instead of asking and leaving it on until I don't want it anymore. I am also changing my rein aids to focus on the hind end. When I flex or overflex her, I am to give and soften when she yields her hindquarters instead of the yielding her hindquarters and softening at the poll. She wants me to wear the biggest spurs I have so that I can get Mia to respect my leg with minimal movement from my legs, I have to curl my leg up and in to use the spurs I wear 95% of the time.

She said we are solidly schooling 2-3 levels above where we are showing right now, and we were even able to get a few steps of piaffe (!!). She thinks that Mia will top out at 2nd/3rd level dressage which will equate to a Prelim horse, which is what I was aiming for anyway. She things we may be smacking against the petering factor, where Mia is petering out because she may not have more in her to give. Or at least if she does, she may not have it right now. Our goal is to change her response and my riding a bit to make her Training level tests be as perfect as possible and then move forward. Perhaps Mia needs a little more time to build muscle before we ask for more, not to mention 2020 has been one hell of a year.

My next lesson won't be until after July 6th, possibly not until July 13. I am excited to see if I can replicate some of the progress we made in the lesson during a regular training ride. Here's to finding some motivation, now to see if I can keep it!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lesson 11 - a short post

The past few weeks have been weird. Thanks to pulling a muscle in my back, and it not being better after 2 weeks, I was not able to ride. Sometimes I couldn't even walk! During this, I spent a lot of time and money trying to see if we could help identify the source of Mia's personality change. So far, I have cut back her way grain, removed the weight supplement (which was no longer needed anyway thanks to grass), removed the protein supplement, made horse crack cookies, tested her for lyme (which came back completely negative, something the vet said is uncommon around here), had her teeth done, dewormed her, got a massage therapist out, started her on Mare Magic, and had the vet out for a full eval with lameness.

The dental visit was interesting, as it was with power tools. 1cc of Dorm was not enough for Mia, I had to hold her head down so the dentist could work and even with that Mia lifted me off of the ground different times. Next time we are going to mix in something else! Her mouth was completely unremarkable, just some sharper points and basic maintenance. The vet visit was completely uninteresting, Mia isn't back or body sore. She is in excellent condition. The vet says sometimes she recommends hind shoes but Mia is barefoot her whole life and doesn't want me to change that. The only thing of note was Mia's left hock is a little stiff so we added in a loading dose of Legend to try to loosen her up a little.
Mia does not like the dentist, and needs a LOT of sedation
Since I couldn't ride, I offered let A ride Mia and she was more than happy to hop aboard and give her opinion on how Mia is doing.The part that made me laugh was A's agreement that while in the past she has said Mia could never be bad, she agrees that Mia can be difficult. Ha! Mia is a redhead Appy mare, of course she can be difficult sometimes. She also was difficult to work with at the start of the ride, though she came around towards the middle of the ride.

A riding
The takeaways was that I am doing a pretty good job of riding Mia, as A couldn't tell just how little Mia was respecting my right leg (bad leg). She also couldn't tell just how much Mia pulls on the left rein, so I do a good job of making it look effortless. A spent most of the time getting Mia flexed, counter flexed, and over flexed to get her hind end working. She confirmed that Mia does take a good while to get warmed up, and that her first right lead canter is pretty bad although it does get better.

Mia is difficult to stay consistent in the bridle, even with A, so that is homework with some new tricks. I am also now supposed to start wearing spurs again to really get Mia to respect my leg. She said Mia's canter may not get much better than where we have made it due to Mia's confirmation but we can give Mia all of the tools we can so she stops fighting herself.

A riding, engaging those hocks
It took another 9 days after the lesson for my back to release and for me to start riding again. Unfortunately I had this post all typed up and Blogger ate it which set me back and I didn't recreate it until I had my lesson today. So....lesson 12 is coming right up! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Lesson 10!

The good news? We FINALLY had a lesson! My calendar says March 10th was our last one, so long ago! It is no secret that we (and everyone, actually) have had some great progress and major lack of motivation in the quarantine time frame, I was super curious how the lesson would go. To top it off, Mia's personality still has not returned to normal. She is still barn sour, not cooperative, happy to refuse treats, and is just off. On Monday I had her tested for Lyme and I should have those results by Friday. I also cut her grain back, took her off of the protein/muscle supplement, added Mare Magic, and increased her Pentosan injections. Does she have too much energy? Possibly, our ride last Weds was insane. Is she in heat? She doesn't seem to be, esp for this long of a period of time. Does she hurt somewhere? Maybe left hock? Ovarian cyst? *sigh* She won't tell me.

If her Lyme comes back negative, we are going to to check her hocks. The vet couldn't squeeze an exam in during her drop-in to the barn on Monday so she just grabbed blood. She will come back if Lyme is negative, since Lyme can present as weird lameness she wanted to rule that out first. If the hocks aren't an issue, we will test for ovarian cysts. At least we have a plan in place and are ready to move forward

Fencing fixed for unappreciative mares
Last Weds I rode "baby dressage", I was looking for a good, positive ride on Mia and got it so I called it quits after about 25 mins. As I tried to cool her off in the outdoor, she kept veering to the barn. I took her out of the outdoor and walked her in the grass field next to the outdoor and Mia immediately turned her ass around and marched to the barn. The first time I said no and turned her back around. The second time I let her walk all the way back before saying "No", we were not going in the aisle. Needless to say, she wasn't happy.

Hurrying back to the barn means more work, so I started doing some fitness work to help really drive home that going back to the barn does not equal rest. After about 15 mins, she still wouldn't just relax when heading in the general direction of the barn so I started some gallop sets. The only real place to do gallop sets is a quarter mile area that runs from the road, up a big hill, and to the pastures (or continue up the hill to the outdoor). Usually after 2-3 gallop sets, she is pooped. We did six and she was still fighting me to A. Go faster or B. Go to the barn at the first opportunity. It was a miserable ride and it took forever for her to turn as directed vs turning to the barn which was my milestone to stop. I won the battle, but at a great cost.

Very large rubs after not being prepared for fitness runs... Ouch
On Sunday, we had lesson 10 and I was super excited. Not only do we get a lesson, but A gets to see Mia's naughty self. In the past A has said repeatedly that Mia is so agreeable, she has a hard time imaging Mia being difficult. Ha! She is a red head appaloosa, of course she can be occasionally difficult!

The lesson highlights? A could tell we did work on our homework. Mia is naturally carrying herself more straight and is much, much more fluid in her lateral movements. We had several moments where Mia was her old self and worked beautifully. A missed my snarky, sarcastic self and my commitment to our homework. She wants me to change my half halts, I use my seat exclusively for them. She wants me to use rein/leg at the same time instead because Mia isn't always listening to my seat when things are hard. She agreed Mia isn't her normal self, and is the one who thinks the left hind hock may be bother her. She got to see Mia's barn sour self, and also Mia being a freight train.

Pasture size doubled, now with grass!
Our homework was only to work on the new half halt cue, which then went awry as I tweaked my back pretty badly by moving rocks and I haven't been able to ride since Sun pm. Here's to hoping tomorrow I can ride, I have homework to work on!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Just one day at a time

Horse life during Covid is not enjoyable for many. With my 2 hour time slot at 7p-9p, I find I am often going out with varying levels of motivation. Some nights I am gung ho, other nights I just putz around. I also spent more time than I would have liked fixing the fence line in Mia's pasture.

How I found her, right hind woven between the fence strands
First, Mia got caught up in the fence because it was hanging low. She stepped over it, but got her back leg woven through the strands and I am very fortunate to have found her when I went out to ride. I know how bad things could have gotten if she struggled to free herself, considering the struggle I had to free her and I had my set of hands. If no one had found her until morning??? Luckily she had rope burn, some swelling, a contusion, and only one bleeding cut.

This is not well strung fenceline... 
So being the person I am, I fixed that section of fence with new t-posts and insulators. Then Mia was getting out on the other side that had no electricity. She was literally stepping through the (only) 2 strands of fence. I spent 2 hours clearing heavy brush/thorny branches away from the fence line so that new fence could be run that would support electricity. Then the electricity was hooked incorrectly so she got out again, so I had to help to do it properly. It is frustrating, because this should not be my responsibility. The farm SHOULD know how to properly use and maintain fence line, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It is for Mia's benefit, so I am doing it so she can be on grass, but I am frustrated all the same.

Someone is shedding like crazy
With the fence fixed (mostly, there is still a good bit of work that needs done in the lower field in the top pic), I was able to start riding. We would have good days and blah days. We did some good dressage, we did some blah dressage. We started doing fitness as a way to just "go". Then 2 weekends ago, Mia had her feet done. When I rode the following Monday on the trails, she kept turning back towards the barn when we came to a split in the path. I didn't do much about it and figured maybe her feet were bothering her. The next Wednesday, Mia was much worse and when we did a little fitness in a field, she was very much ignoring any kind of half halt or transition request when we were headed the direction that would lead back to the barn. Somehow I developed a horse who was testing out the barn sour mentality.

Someone disagrees with my accusation
I didn't have a crop, so she got yanked in the face a lot while we worked on reminding her that she has to listen to my aids regardless of where we are. I was not amused! We stopped when she was sweaty and did as I requested. When I went out last weekend, she was more agreeable but we rode only in the outdoor arena as I didn't feel like fighting. On Monday? Monday she got an attitude adjustment. After grooming her, I walked by to go to the tack room and she pinned her ears at me. Out went the plans of riding and in came the plans of ground work. Lots and lots of ground work with yielding before free lunging her until she was soft and responsive. It took longer than expected, but eventually Mia seemed to decide that I was the boss and she would gladly follow where I went and with happy ears.

A clean mare 
We will see how tonight goes, fingers crossed for a happy mare. I am fighting my own moodiness, in addition to SO's. I do not need hers as well. Enough already!

Happy birthday App. You are so very dearly missed.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

I'm lucky and I know it

Our state has implemented even more restrictions and extended the lockdown, which has made things even more difficult. Masks are now required in business, lockdowns until mid May, life essential business only, it is some weird times indeed. It has affected the barn even further, which I keep reminding myself that while incredibly inconvenient, I am still lucky.

The majority of the boarding barns in our area are closed to non-essential personnel. If you don't work there or are an essential medical provider, you don't get in. Farriers and vets are the only people allowed at most barns, and some barns are not even allowing farriers. Yowsers. Our barn is small, with only about a dozen boarders. While things are very strained, they haven't shut the barn down. At the last update, we were allotted time slots and you could only go to the barn in those slots. My slot was 6p to 9p, because I still work an 8-5 during the week. Only 2 boarders are allowed to be at the barn in any assigned time slot.

After the mask restriction was put into place, the barn tightened the times even further. The barn is now shut until 11a, closes again at 3p and stays closed until 530p. Our assigned time slot went from 3 hours to 2 hours. My time slot is now 7p to 9p. At least I can still go 7 days a week if I desired, even if the times are far from ideal. I read blogs and FB posts from others whose barns have shut down completely and every time I feel unhappy with my time slot, I think of those people who can't see their horse.

Life at the barn is continuing on, you don't have to wear a mask while riding if you ride outside or if you are alone in the indoor. And while it gets dark at 8p and I don't get there until 7p, if Mia isn't dirty then I can have at least 30-40 mins to ride outside. And as long as I don't mind riding in fairly dark twilight, I can ride as long as I want outside. It is also helpful that it is getting lighter later every day, even if spring is being psycho about the weather. Warm, cold. Sun, snow. Calm, 50mph winds. Make up your mind already!

The drive to "get better" isn't as strong as I would like, but I realize the quarantine is affecting everyone differently. Mine is apparently taking away some of the drive and replacing with a decent amount of blah. We have had some decent dressage rides. 2 weeks ago I had what felt like an AMAZING ride. Mia was soft, responsive, and easy to ride in dressage. When I watched video later, I saw that was because Mia had faked me out. My reins were WAY too long, she was totally haunches in during the right lead canter, and she was plugging away on the forehand.

Our next few rides were much harder, but I stepped up and held her accountable anyway. While the ride wasn't as amazing, I think we rode much better. I made myself make her be accountable and some of the results were definitely showing. We have done several rides outside, including some fitness, to avoid riding with others. We had a trail ride where I rode bareback in a halter and Mia was foot perfect. We had a trail ride where I just let her walk with loose reins and closed eyes as I tried to focus on what exactly was bugging me. We did some w/t/c rides in the front field, where the canter became nonstop leg yields left and right. If Mia is showing ill effects from the shutdown, she isn't showing it! She is such a good mare.

Here's to hoping things clear up and life can resume safely. If nothing else, we will be super ready for shows next year!

Monday, April 13, 2020

How to fill our time?

With the lockdown starting on March 6, I tried to avoid people. On March 14 and 21, I went to the barn at 4p because normally everyone is gone. The barn was packed on both weekends, as everyone was using it as a way to get out of the house. I went on trail rides with the ladies each time, but made comments about how I didn't expect people to STILL be at the barn that late.

Where did the silly hoomans go?
The weeknights were not much better, with people who are not the normal "night crew" being at the barn when I got there at 630p. I avoided the barn on the weekend of March 28 as I seemed to be the only one taking the "self quarantine" serious, which was a good idea because apparently the barn was packed again. Finally there was an issue at the barn and they implemented a pseudo lockdown. Most barns in our area are closed to boarders, however our barn is trying not to do this and offered this option first. Only 2 boarders at a time are allowed out within an assigned 3 hour time slot. My time slot is from 6p to 9p. It sucks on the weekends, but works on the weekdays so whatever.

Pic from Dec
The farrier was allowed out at least, though we had to trim in the driveway. We have been warned that if anyone abuses the time slots or cannot play by the rules, the barn will close indefinitely. While it really sucked on Saturday after the farrier as wasn't allowed to go on a trail ride by myself when we were done, I understand. I was there outside of my time slot. 

Pic from March. I see muscles! 
I am slowly getting my drive back and am looking forward to being ready to kick ass when we get to the other side of this. It started raining again so I can't go XC jumping at the barn but I plan on setting up some jumps in the arena and working on some fitness, height and repetition. Before the shutdown, we were already at a solid 5 min canter and two point set. I know I can get that back in no time. 

Work in progress, no need to be green!
I also took the opportunity to clean and service my horse trailer. The poor thing hadn't been washed last year and had become legit green on the back doors. Definitely not the image I want for our show season this year!

I'm ready to get back to my goals and really get stuff accomplished. Covid may be cancelling everything, and maybe I won't get a show until July, but we'll be ready when it finally happens! 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Lesson 8 and 9 - before the world spun into chaos

I had a bunch of words typed out, but they were all no longer applicable. Talking about our show plans, what we were working on for our April 19 show, and our plan of attack to kick ass doesn't apply anymore. And then the world fell apart with Covid and quarantine. So....updates?

When we left you last, Mia was lame. After a week of rest, the farrier was out and didn't see anything despite my waffling on if I DID see her being lame or not. So we went with the "ride it until it is good or breaks" mentality and Mia has stayed sound. We did a short week of fitness before we had lesson 8.

Lesson 8 was very good! We were really focusing on power and control and that carried over into our first jump lesson with A. I warned A before the ride that I had have had tons of jump lessons and I haven't had one that was worth the $ since the early 2000's. I always fell like I have a babysitter and am simply paying a jump crew. I told her that I was really looking forward to A's lesson bc her dressage rides are SO informative. She took that as a challenge, set up a grid and worked us! It started as a small one stride to a two stride to a 3 stride.

A has changed so much about our rides in dressage, it was no surprise that she changed our jumping. I ride 90% in two point when jumping. I drive with my seat at some of the bigger jumps, but otherwise I am in two point all of the time. Freedom of movement for the horse, she can balance herself at all times, I am not in the way. A wants me to sit the canter more, 50% of the time at least. Her argument was that I can't control Mia's tempo with my seat bones if they are out of the saddle, I would have to rely only on my hands and/or weight/balance. It should easier to simply use the skills from dressage to control her canter when approaching her jump bc that is what we have been working on. Anytime I am near/can see a jump, I should be sitting down to control Mia's tempo. Makes sense, but it was SUPER hard for me to do. Fighting muscle memory is legit hard!

The jumps stayed small, nothing over 2'9", and the two stride was taken out so we could work on pacing. We worked to get Mia's canter size changed between the jumps WHILE I am sitting down between the jumps. While it wasn't a perfect lesson (I blame the severe rust on our skills), it was definitely worth the money and I am now looking forward to taking another jump lesson!

Lesson 9 was a dressage ride and it was a much more laid back ride than normal. We really focused on getting power, straightness, and getting it faster and with less fuss. We discovered one of my habits of throwing my connection away during a down transition has come back so I have to focus on not doing that. We also worked on a cool "butterfly" exercise that I have done a couple of times since. We ride the centerline and turn to the rail, do (something), turn up centerline 1/2 to 3/4 down the arena and ride back up the centerline doing (something), turn back to the rail and continue.

Sounds easy enough, right? I thought so too, until we are doing things like lengthened trot on those straight sides. Or leg yields, counter canter, haunches out/in, collected trot, collected/lengthened canter, etc. When you only have about 25m to do the movement before getting control back to make the 10m circle, it gets interesting and difficult fast! We can only fit about a stride and a half of lengthened canter before we are pulling back up, but actually getting it and getting it back is a great accomplishment.

We were already under a stay-at-home and social distance order for lesson 9 on March 10. On March 13, all non essential business was shut down and all lessons were cancelled. Then all shows were cancelled. Then only life essential businesses were allowed to be open. *sigh* You know. You are in it with me.

It took me several weeks to get back to riding with purpose again, as I went through a mini depressive state. I think everyone did. Since then I have done some fitness rides and I jumped some of the XC jumps! We didn't jump any of the biggest ones, but we jumped all but 5 of the XC jumps at the farm. Mia was fabulous, as expected, and seemed to really enjoy the change of pace. Our last dressage ride on Monday made me super happy. Mia didn't fight, she changed her gait speeds via my seat, she picked up/dropped gaits via my seat, and felt straight in her canter in both directions. If the ONLY thing we accomplish this year is having a dressage test that doesn't say "haunches in" under the canter section, I am going to be so proud.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lame again

After the super productive weekend, I was looking forward to our lesson on Tuesday. Only when I went out on Monday and she was lame with the full head bob, she felt like I was riding with a flat tire. I thought it was maybe an abscess with the bit of heat and swelling at the top of her hoof so I put ichthammol on her and gave her the night off. Tuesday she was still lame, but not as lame as Monday. Still head bobby at the trot, but not always head bobbing. No issues when walking. A said Mia was definitely sore in the left front, though it is posing as a possible left hind because she is short stepping.

Monday odd swelling
Last night she was still lame, but even less so than Tuesday so I rode a little. She also has this weird swelling on the inside of her pastern, which had me concerned about ligament or tendon issues. It was soft on Mon/Tues, but last night it felt more "thick/hard" and not as soft. She doesn't seem to mind me poking at it, but the swelling is definitely bigger than on her other pastern. After riding, and noticing no difference after turning in small circles or changes in walk and trot speeds, I think I am more comfortable with thinking that it is an abscess and not soft tissue.

Tues swelling still there

Yet another week without a lesson... if only there wasn't 8 weeks until our first possible show. Horses AmIRite

Weds swelling is "harder" (?) and not as soft
The farrier comes out on Saturday and if we can't figure it out by then, I'll call the vet. *sigh* I am hoping it resolves itself, or that the farrier can find the abscess. Fingers crossed!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Homework galore

Right after my last post, I had (of course) big plans to do X, Y, and Z. Then I fell and bruised my right seat bone area. Enough I could legit barely sit. And when I did sit? I had to sit slouched because I could NOT sit up or put weight on my right seat bone. I thought I had bruised my actual pelvis, though FIVE DAYS LATER I was finally able to determine the pain came from the muscles and not actual bone. It was a long ass week y'all. No lesson that week!

I tried to ride while I was bruised, with various levels of success. I couldn't sit down, I couldn't sit up, I sure in hell couldn't sit back, so I did some two point twice in that week. Unfortunately, I had also tweaked my bad knee when I fell so I couldn't do two point very long. Or with stirrups. *sigh* In the end, I gave Mia several days off. She got to free lunge and be fed treats and she seemed content with that. I was finally able to SIT last Saturday, but wasn't able to be productive in the saddle. Instead we just be-bopped around in the ring (hello 22 degrees and super high winds! No riding outside!). Sunday I was able to do a little bit of work, but in the end just walked, chatted with other ladies at the barn and took it easy.

On Monday (8 days after my fall), I felt good enough to ride and so we had a true dressage ride. There were various degrees of success, but the ride went well enough. Mia was SUPER full of energy and we did some long trotting (trotting with head low, as big as we can, for as long as we can) with some canter work. Mia loved that we were doing long trotting again, and was throwing in some super huge extended trot steps. LEVITATION BABY!

On Tuesday our lesson was cancelled because the instructor, A, was under the weather. I rode and worked on homework: walk/canter/walk transitions, lots of transitions, transitions all over the place, gait transitions, speed transitions, all the transitions. Mia did most of them quite well, but wasn't feeling the canter/walk transitions. She was pretty sure they couldn't be done without jigging, and we had a long argument about it. Trot in them? Eh, not ideal but whatever. Jigging? No. Bad mare.

On Wednesday, we went back to work on the canter/trot transition and Mia had obviously taken time to reflect on our Tuesday ride. She was much more willing to w-a-l-k in the transition. I am quite sure A won't like them, as I think I am tensing and I am super collecting Mia's canter which makes her tense, but it is baby steps in the right direction. Mia is understanding the request and trying, so now we just need to fix me for it to come together.

It was also super cool to canter on Wednesday, Mia is so much more adjustable in her body position! When I feel her be crooked, I can put my leg on and she moves her haunches!! I am now able to feel when she is straight! Her right lead is still her hardest direction to keep her haunches behind her, and we still struggle greatly with haunches in the canter/trot transition, but we have come so far in these 3 months. It's hard to imagine that 7 lessons have made such an immense difference!

I really, really wish I had found A sooner, but everything happens for a reason. At this point, I would put her up as tied for the best instructor I've ever had against M from Michigan. She has made such an immense difference in such a short period of time, she explains things so very well, and she seems to really, truly enjoy giving lessons to us. I hope it doesn't end anytime soon, because I think we are going to go really far by keeping up these lessons!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lessons 6 and 7

I've been falling into the "too busy to blog" trap again, and for that I apologize. I should be making a much better effort to document the lessons at least!

I had lesson 6, then a week off due to super cold temps (12 degrees at the barn, yay!), then a lesson, then this week off because I fell and bruised my seat bone area. Good times! Lesson 7 was the better lesson anyway, as lesson 6 was cut short. Mia was stiff, hormonal and moody and while she tried to work, she wasn't very happy and it was pretty obvious.

Lesson 7 was all about developing power. Since I am on track to go Training level (again), we need to increase Mia's power and desire to go forward. Overall, it is coming together. Mia is straight about 50% of the time to the right and 75% of the time to the left. We have found some of the tricks to get her really moving forward (bigger canter and transitions), and she is much more steady on a shorter rein.

The instructor, A, said Mia is now easily doing 3rd level movements for a 1st level horse. I think she is saying that we are now able to do the movements, we need to now create the power and suppleness to match. She said Mia is quite supple for her build, while she will never be as supple as a Totilas or big warmblood, she is developing wonderfully for her body. She isn't stiff and bracing against me for the entire ride, and we are moving much more freely.

A also said that she loves teaching riders like myself, who desperately want more information and who actively works on homework vs the kids who ride because it is something to do. She says she really enjoys our lessons and spends a lot of time thinking about our upcoming lessons. She is putting together a plan for us for spring, to help develop our fitness and training schedule. It's weird, I guess I can say I have an actual trainer now? Someone who is actively developing a path for us, and working with us to get there, it's really weird. I've never had an actual trainer before!

And she is making our canter look like this
My future will include 1 ride a week doing exclusively transitions for 45 mins. She doesn't want us staying in one gait for more than 15 seconds before changing to something else. THAT will be an interesting ride indeed! For now, I am simply waiting for my butt to stop hurting so I can ride. I can currently sit up on my horse, but I can't sit down or sit back. I am able to do two point, which is what I did last night, but I can't jump yet because I hurt my knee when I fell. *sigh* When I do my fitness rides, I am to change my speed in the gait every 30 to 60 seconds, from slow to medium to fast to medium to slow to fast to medium to slow to fast, etc. The rationalization is to really get Mia to think forward and to really build muscle through transitions.

The good news is Mia is sound, happy, and is moving very well. I am doing some sort of moderate exercise 6 days a week and that will be increasing to moderate-high levels as winter finally moves out. I may have my first show on April 19, a Combined Test, so fingers crossed?

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Lesson 3, 4, 5 - all about straightness

Lesson three was fun, we did a lot of lateral movement. We re-introduced the haunches in, haunches out, and shoulder out at both the walk and trot. The lessons have been 50% walk, 35% trot, and only 15% canter and it is actually working very well. Mia is starting to develop more muscle, as am I, so that her tempo doesn't change as much when laterals are used for a longer period of time because she has the strength to do them. I wish I had taken the time to write down more of lesson 3, as while it was building on what we learned in lesson 1 and 2, there was a lot of good information.

I was still doing the walk transition requests slightly wrong, too much hip movement and I was looking like a more like a pole dancer than a rider. Less is more, need to teach myself how to move less and not brace as much. When I ride, I tighten up and it affects Mia's movement even when I think I am asking her to do more. When I was finally able to ask Mia to do a half pass without being tight in my hips and thighs? Mia marched her little self right over to the wall without bracing and slowing her tempo. Who knew, right? SMDH

This makes me super happy!

Lesson 4 was short at Mia had tweaked a muscle in her lower left hind. She wasn't lame, but when we asked her to do laterals, she was very resistant when we asked her to use her left hind. For example her canter went from lovely to feeling like we were circling left, but aimed well to the right while riding a camel. She was super inverted and unhappy when we were doing anything that really worked that left hind. We instead did a lot of walk laterals and played with turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand. It turns out that I don't actually ride a turn on the haunches well at all. When we aren't pivoting on our front legs, we are doing a walk pirouette. Which is harder than a turn on the haunches. Go figure, I never knew! Our half passes were really good when I didn't brace and don't allow Mia to lead with her haunches. Learning exactly how to balance the request was nice.

I am really enjoying learning some of the nuances of the movements, broken down into small sentences. I have done shoulder in with 4 different trainers but this is the first one who has said I have now "Mastered" the shoulder in. I told her I won't go that far, but I understand it inside and out now. Reading helped, watching helped, instruction helped, but having her break it down while I was doing it made it click for me. #Win

We are working it!

Last night's lesson (#5) was really good, it was a canter session and we worked HARD. As we warmed up, A commented that she can already see changes in Mia's movement as after 4 lessons Mia is already walking straighter than she did when we started taking lessons. She complimented our homework skills several times, and said she would gladly fire all of her students if she could get more students like me who want to learn, ask questions, and work hard on their homework.  ❤️❤️❤️

The canter work was about really making Mia work her abductor muscles and getting those muscles to build next. Lots of canter transitions, lots of shoulder in at the canter (HARD!), and getting Mia to really carry herself was on the agenda. We found my outside hand HATES being low and my inside hand LOVES to be grabby. It is super hard to change habits, but slowly but surely we are chipping away.

Look how STRAIGHT Mia is!!!!

My big takeaway from this last lesson is I need to find a way to stop bracing my lower body. I do not need to be a contortionist to ride my mare (who knew!) and I need to be much more open, free, and soft. I also need to really work on re-educating my hands (again) to be softer, steadier, more consistent, and more in the "right place" which is apparently not my crotch. HA!

My homework is canter work, though next week's lesson may already be cancelled. It is supposed to be really cold and I will only have ridden 2x because I am going to Chicago for work. We will see how it goes, though homework never ends  and we will just keep working at all of this!