Saturday, December 31, 2011

Still beasting!

Amber is still doing sooo well.

I lunged her for about 10 mins before I rode and she was really good, except a couple of moments where she decided she would attempt to defy me and not go in her least favored direction. Her "least favored" direction is so weird...because it's her BETTER direction when I'm riding. And she looks "off" in it on the lunge sometimes but it's mostly because she keeps hitting weird spots in the footing because she's leaning like a motorcycle...

Anyway, whatever, we had an awesome ride. Some nice jumps, including cantering over twice. Pretty good, except I didn't release as much as I should have and I looked down. Oopsie. But it 'twas fun. Tomorrow will just be a flatwork day for her.

She had some really beautiful moments and after she warmed up she was on the bit pretty consistent. She's got the beginnings of it in canter, and if she canters away from a jump she will really get under herself and stretch down. It was pretty warm today so she got a bath, and then warmed up in her new purple cooler while I hand grazed her. She got some conditioner on her feet too. And lots of cookies. And then she had some dinner in a stall that was filled with clean shavings. The "barn dwellers" actually did alright for once. They stripped most of the stalls, because they were disgusting. Heard they had more screw ups last night, and I think maybe they were trying to step up their game today? I don't know.

But they're on the brink of being fired. Just because of some things that I won't mention here because it involves someone else and I don't know if they want me to say anything up here publicly, but yeah...

Victoria and I came to a really good point on the phone last night though. We were kind of questioning why Casey hired them in the first place - no horse experience, homeless, jobless, flags everywhere. And my conclusion, I think Victoria was in agreement too, is that she felt sorry for them, mainly because of the baby. But the problem now is, they're lazy and they think they're "safe" because they've had so many warnings and chances. They think they can do what they want when nobody's looking. And they think that when they get caught screwing up that it will just result in Casey sitting them down again and giving them another chance.

I feel like the best person to have the job would be someone who has horses of their own, even better who wants to move their horses to ***, who knows what they're doing with horses and would know what to do in most emergency situations. Who would actually give a flying flip about the horses, enough to want to provide the best care possible for them, and not just so they won't have to hear from pissed off owners.

So anyway, she gets her feet done Monday, and she needs it bad. That supplement she's on made them grow big time. Chiropractor is supposed to come sometime next week, still don't know exactly when, but I'm really excited and nervous at the same time to see what happens with that. I'm excited because I'm sure whatever he fixes will really make a difference in her, but nervous because I feel like he's going to say something is wrong with her. Blahh.

But it's been a great day today, at there's no use in worrying about next week!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Good Rides, And Things That Piss Me Off.

Mareface has been pretty good the past week or so. I notice that when I'm having good or at least "on par" rides I don't really post a lot. Actually, I've been neglecting to post lately...I just keep putting it off. The 5-2 shift is a tough one.

Anyway...she's been pretty good. A little ADD at times, and occasionally a bit rushy, but no major issues.

We had a really awesome ride that actually started off with her being super witch. Our ride Friday was super awesome. We even jumped a mini course of 3 jumps, and did several singles. All awesome. She didn't get quiet as soft and quiet as I would have liked, but she was adjustable enough and I was happy with that.

We went on a ride down the road to cool out, and it was rather boring...but Amber seemed to enjoy herself. I think she enjoys jumping, probably more than flatwork, but I know her favorite thing is just to ride somewhere new outside the arena. It's nice that she plods happily along when we're alone, but it would definitely be more fun with a friend or friends...

Which brings me to the fact that I REALLY want to try to organize a barn overnight trailride in the mountains for next summer, or possibly in the NC foothills if we can't go that far. I think Amber would looove it. As would I.

I was going to try to do some research on horse-friendly parks. Talk to Casey, kind of try to estimate costs per horse and rider for the trip. Definitely something to go ahead and start thinking about and seeing if there's even signifigant interest.

Back on the side of our arena related work, I have to say I've been making an effort to be less serious about everything lately. Or maybe just less of a perfectionist. And it works. I can't expect her to go perform like some Grand Prix dressage horse or jumper, and I think if I ever have one amazing ride I start to expect that, and I didn't really realize it. If she's looking like a giraffe on crack for a day, I just do the best I can and let it go and let her end on something good. Giraffe on crack days, if she's not trying to run through my half-halts and seat, usually end best on a little jump. If she's really stretching down and striding out, I try to milk that for all it's worth.

And if nothing is going right, plan C is just ignore her, keep her ass on the rail, and ride like she's being perfect. Actually, one day, it felt like she just wanted to gallop around, so I let her. Then, she did excellent. Go figure. I don't think everything is as critical to her training as I think. I mean, consistency is key, but if worse comes to worse and she just needs to run around and let her frustration and energy out, it's not going to kill everything if we aren't doing that every ride.

Now...things that piss me off.

The "barn dwellers". We will call them L and H because I don't feel right posting their names. I can't remember if I've ever posted about them before. If I haven't, they are the couple that primarily care for the horses on the property. They've got a baby. And they live in the barn apartment. They're around 20ish...L is 20, H is probably older. Anyway. They're pretty classless. To a degree, I do feel bad for them, because their situation is not easy. Their job at the barn is for the apartment, and that is their ONLY job.

Neither of them have horse experience, other than what they've learned during their brief employment at ***.

That always bothered me a bit. If a horse colics, they wouldn't have a clue what to do, and I'm not sure they'd even notice the signs. They'd probably watch some poor horse rolling and thrashing, and kicking it's belly, laughing at it thinking it was just playing...that absolutely turns my stomache. And so many other things could go wrong - would they know what to do until the vet got there?

I knew several of the stall boarders were peeved about the cleanliness of the stalls. Amber was on pasture board so I didn't really have that much of an issue with them. They were a bit odd, and I found out H was physically abusing L which was pretty scary and made me not want to be out there alone. But as far as problems with what they did for Amber, they didn't do anything for her, and weren't supposed to, so it was whatever. I felt bad for my friends who did have problems of course.

For the first couple of weeks things were alright. Her stall was okay. Sometimes she didn't have enough shavings, but nothing that was really a big issue. I believe they moved one of her water buckets somewhere and lied about it, because I found her with only one really jacked up water bucket one day, but there's the chance someone else really did do it, so I won't blame them. But at the same time, surely they noticed and might have done something about it. Amber is a big drinker and she can go through two buckets in one night sometimes.

And then Wednesday night. When I got there, it was like 3ish and I noticed Amber's stall was still not done, but the ones around her were. Weird, I thought, but I decided not to say anything yet. I was certain that they wouldn't even try to leave it like that overnight. Especially not with me there! I rode, untacked and it still wasn't done. I put her in there and Victoria was there and I was like "Look at her stall, it's not even done!"

We asked L about it and her response? "Talk to H about it!"

What the hell is that crap? I didn't know what to say. But I was thinking she was going to tell him to get his ass out there and do it. I went and did a mane for a new pony who had such a ferocious mane that he used 3 blades on my cheater puller.

And the stall still wasn't done, but they were bringing in horses.

It was dark already and it was looking like the stall wasn't going to get done. So I grabbed a fork and got to work. I had to strip it. All the bedding was mixed with poop and it was all wet. Amber is NOT a messy horse. Her stall is never, ever bad like that. I was thinking that it hadn't been done the day before either.

L came out and saw me doing it. And didn't apologize or acknowledge that I was sitting there doing their work. I'd been up since 4am, cleaning my horse's stall in the dark that I pay to be done for me. I was super happy.

I called Casey and let her know...she was pissed. I noticed before I left that Dylan, Victoria's horse, didn't have his sheet, which she had asked L to put on when he was cool/dry. I ended up putting that on. The rest of the horses were double blanketed, and it was 50s and 60s.

Also heard that Victoria's horse was given beet pulp that didn't soak...L just put water over it and put it directly into his feet bucket. Wow. And I also heard that they turned out a horse that was wearing an $80 cooler, which of course was promptly destroyed, and they were told that it should be taken off.

And it's like they don't feel they've done anything wrong. Their main goal is to blunder through everything and do as little as possible to get by so they can nothing. I really, really want so see someone more experienced doing their job...ASAP. I don't want to feel as though I have to go and do everything for my horse myself - because that's not what I pay for.

Anyway...vent over.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Little update!

Been super busy and haven't had time to update. Amber's been doing nice. I've even lunged her a couple of times and she was pretty darn well behaved, although she's a little rusty with voice commands (but she hasn't been lunged in a few months).

I've jumped some tiny stuff and she was awesome every time, although Sunday she was jumping off center a little. Still, it's been good. There's been a few grumpy/rushy spots, and she's been a bit of a brat in the field, not wanting to be caught. The last time she did it I got in her face for it after I finally caught her and then gave her some grain. Yeah, mixed signals probably but I haven't had a problem since. I even turned her out right after a ride, went out and caught her and rode again.

I think she's just adjusting to the lessened turn out. But despite being a grouch, she's sounder and working better than ever, so whatever. She isn't THAT hard to catch. I've been working her a little more collected this week and she's been pretty good. She wasn't feeling it as long on Sunday, but she's been ridden Sat and Fri, so she was probably just tired. She got a little rushy one time, I think it was because she got the wrong lead and I had to haul her in because she refused to listen to my seat and half halt. Although she IS listening to half-halts better, but you have to ride her just right to get the best out of her.

Some little things here and there but otherwise it's been good. I think I'm going to space out my riding days more because honestly I think bunching them together is what's got her in such an unusually grouchy mood. I thought she might like it better because she could work 3 days in a row, be lazy for 2 or 3, but I think she prefers little periods of rest in between.

And hopefully when the kinesiologist comes, she will be even better.

Kind of thinking about sending her to Patrica's next summer, depending on how she's doing. If I can get on at Caswell I will probably just send her to Windrift for a couple of months since Patricia trains there, and I definitely want them to work on her jumping over bigger things (so that my horse might be more confident than I when I get to that point!), and even if it's small stuff, and I only want her jumping in soft footing, and Patrica's house only has grass. Plus, I'm sure there are more options for courses there, and she needs experience there, although she's pretty darn good with her leads I've noticed.

I know I want to finish myself a few things before I have Patricia do training with her, are simple changes, leg yields, and collection. She is really good on leg yields. Like, she's crossing over to the point where it's almost a sidepass. It's pretty wicked. I don't really want her to do that right now, because I don't want her to think she's supposed to stop forward motion when I put my leg on her to move her over. Simple changes will be nothing, but I've bee trying for flying changes just for the heck of it and not following through so I need to work on the simple changes. Her collection is coming together, and I think her ability will be better after she gets adjusted...

But it's been pretty good. I took her a sweet potato pie from work today, and alas she spit it out. I thought she would like it...guess not.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Better days.

I had a better ride to a degree on Thursday. She wasn't rushing the jumps but she still felt like she was jumping with extra thrust, and I think I've come to the conclusion that it's my stirrup leathers. No matter how hard I jam my heels down and try to have good form, my leg is everywhere and I think it's because they're too long. Every time I punch a new hole it's like it feels right and then I haven't gone up far enough. Victoria's leathers were shorter than mine, and as a result I think it made my leg steadier (thus, my leg wasn't as prone to shift, and thus I wasn't getting left behind).

Despite getting a little left behind (although not quite as bad as Wednesday), my hands have been great with not catching her mouth when we land.

So I was happy that I went back and jumped again and made sure the jumps were good. Our last jump was the best. I was going to make her trot and canter for a few minutes after that and be done, but she started to run through me - you know, the same old ignore the half halts by putting her nose in the air. Ignore my seat. And by this time my muscles were screaming, so it was even harder for me to adjust my posting. Back muscles actually aren't the issue now, it's my leg muscles. I have gotten really bad about my heels and my leg, and now with more focus on them, they're building back up and they just cramp and ache after a certain amount of time.

I made her trot and canter "acceptably" before I let her be done. I tried to work with her on half halts, with just simple collected walk, extended walk, but I couldn't even get her down from extended walk. She just kept jigging and trying to trot off. Rather frustrating. It's not like I couldn't stop her, although when she gets in such moods, nothing but absolutely hanging about 20 pounds in her face brings her down, and she will try to move off the instant she's released. And I feel like that only makes it worse, and I certainly don't want to be that hard in her mouth, but what choice do I have when she's blasting around the arena just short of a gallop, ignoring my half halts and my seat?

We're doing a lesson next week sometime. I'm just giving her two days off (yesterday and today) and doing some light flat work on Sunday with focus on leg yields, half halts and adjusting her speed. Possibly some transitions as well. Major point on keeping the pressure light on her mouth. My two theories on this are, firstly, that when my muscles start to get tired, I ride retarded and I just follow along at whatever speed and she just ends up being "asked" to go faster and faster while my hands tell her no. So I think I need to learn when *I* am the one doing like crap causing her to do like crap. Secondly, until I reestablish half-halt with her, leave her alone when she gets quick, and just use my seat.

I can't remember if I mentioned it in the last post, and I'm too lazy to go look, but I was pretty distraught so I doubt I did...mareface is officially on stall board now. She seems pretty happy with it so far. There's a couple of horses in her new pasture that I think I'm going to have to teach a lesson about my space and my horse's space when I'm leading her (and it's not Dylan, Victoria, haha! Manny and Peter!), but I'm liking it thus far.

Her first night in I fed her. That ear laying and attitude she learned at Avalon and Halcyon didn't happen, and I told Lizzie not to let her try it with her, and if she did to get in her face and not feed her until she relaxed. She's getting a half a solo cup of grain AM and PM right now, and 2 flakes of hay at night. Pretty modest and I'm keeping an eye on her weight to see how I need to adjust it. Her joint supplement should be here soon too.

Riding on Sunday will hopefully be "back to normal".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Worst. Ride. Ever.

I had an incredibly bad ride today. Like, so bad I really don't even want to talk about it but I feel like I need to post anyway.

It started off with some pretty nice flatwork. Then, I went to jump a crossrail and it all went to crap. The first jump was "okay" but not great. And she just started to rush and, what I felt was overjumping, although Victoria said she didn't look like she was and looked good.

And then I got frustrated and she got out of control, including taking off with me and ignoring me for about half a lap. That's not her at all. And I lost my temper and we had another fight. I was determined to make her jump "with sense", not allowing that I was doing something wrong.

This ended in me nearly coming off twice over jumps, and also causing one of the kids to fall off a pony. Yes. Amber took off a second time, and I put her on a 20m circle because I was like "Well, if you want to canter, you're going to work at it!" And then she took a weird step, dove in and the next thing I see is a little girl and a pony. I thought I was going to come off there as well, and I wished I had soon as I saw the little girl was no longer on the pony.

Seriously, I have never wanted to just quit more in my entire life. I've never felt like a worse rider, and I just felt like a moron. I mean, what adult rider gets so caught up in a temper tantrum that they run children off ponies?

I've got several theories about what went wrong today. It all comes down to, I don't think I was applying myself as much as I needed to. I think I was in her mouth too much after the first jump because I felt like she was rushing and we all know how she reacts to that - rush right through. She needs super light contact that she can go into on her on. We ended up with three refusals, because I started ducking out.

And then we had like, 2 decent jumps, some "acceptable" trotwork and we ended.

I don't understand how I have such an awesome ride over fences and then a few days later, I can't do even easier stuff than I did so recently!

Another theory is that I get too comfortable about them. I put in the effort and it seems so easy. Then I don't go forward as much as I need to. I don't give as much as I need to. Even though I got left behind more times than I want to admit, I can say I never caught her in the mouth once. But I almost feel like being too far back was causing her to want to launch herself a little harder to throw me up in a position that's easier for her.

I'm over-analyzing it and I probably shouldn't.

I'm never having another ride like that though. Losing my temper does nothing but make her upset.

I'm going to just do some stuff on the flat for the next couple of rides. Lots of lateral work, circles, and transitions. And the next time we jump, I'll be paying more attention to myself instead of worrying about if she's going to rush. And if it's bad and she's getting rushy, I'll be throwing my hands up, working her on the flat for a few minutes, trying again, and if it's still crap, work her more on the flat and call it a day. I refuse to push it too far.

I was going to give her two days off, but I don't feel like I should do that after the crap ride today. I feel like we need to end on a good note before we take a mini-vacation.

Our inconsistency with jumping makes me want to go do dressage (which would probably help us, actually!). Something I know. It just feels so easy some days and so hard others, and then when it feels hard I feel like a crap rider because nobody I know has ever had this much trouble with freaking crossrails. Tiny crossrails. Trotting tiny crossrails. Why does it suddenly feel so enormous, because it definitely didn't just a few days ago? I remember I went over one finishing my course and kind of laughed to myself because it felt so ridiculous and small in comparison with the still ridiculous and small verticals.

Still not sure how Victoria talked me into cantering the tiny vertical. She was counting strides with me and as I counted with her I remember thinking "Well crap. It's too late now, I'm going over. If I eat the dust, I just eat dust."

Somehow thinking about that one makes me feel better, actually. Although I felt like I landed a little more forward than I wanted to be, it was a really good jump. And it inspires me to have more good jumps. I just pretended all the jumps were about 3ft that day I and it seemed to work for my position. And again, I'm thinking that's it. I just need to put in more effort with my position. She's not that experienced with jumping, after all. She needs me to be doing what I'm supposed to with my body to help her balance. And if I'm not forward enough, and holding her back towards it, she's off balance and she's going to take off weird (thus "overjumping").

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We're Alive!

...I've completely ignored my computer for a couple of weeks now.

But I have had some really good rides with Ambermare.

I had one really gross ride where I was way too rough, let myself get too frustrated, and I ended up in tears because I realized I was riding poorly and blaming Amber for my shortcomings.

And then we had some rides that were super awesome. Her head is really starting to come down and she's really stretching down in typical hunter fashion after she warms up. She's starting to do it earlier and earlier in the ride, and I haven't really noticed her trying to "hang" on me either - she's just stretching down into the bit. Her walk-canter transitions are a bit poor at the moment. It's frustrating her and yesterday we had one decent transition, though not great, to the right, and she was a little rushy but eventually slowed her gait. The left was crap. She just kept trotting faster, and that's a pet peeve of mine. I eventually got it and she blasted around the arena, ignoring my seat, so I tried to halt halt and she just ducks behind the bit, or threw her head up like a giraffe. Really? So I kept the motion of my seat slow and kept doing gentle but firm half halts. It took us a few tries. Then she wanted to trot like a pacer. It took all I could muster to keep her from speeding away.

And of course when I tried to get her to walk, she just jigged and tried to trot away. This is all just her being confused and frustrated. If she doesn't understand what I'm asking, or if I ask for something too abruptly, she gets out of sorts. Her response when she gets out of sorts/confused is to just run around.

So yeah. Her trot work is gorgeous though. I just think I'll do back to trot-canter transitions for a while. She's just not ready, in my opinion. And her dislike of the left lead, her previously good side, is baffling. She's not hard to correct, but it's like she's trying to find tricks to be on the wrong lead more and more. I have never seen her throw her shoulder out as bad as she did yesterday!

So my plan is to work her more in that direction on canter and see if that helps.

We did have one particular ride where she was really really awesome at the canter though.

That's just bothering me though, because I worry something is wrong to make her suddenly start having trouble with leads. Although Victoria made a suggestion that makes sense - it may just be her changing with fitness and training.

On another note, she is going to be coming off the back pasture soon. Not sure if I'm going to do stall board. I spoke to Casey and another option is putting her in the covered arena overnight to get her off the grass. I'm putting her on a joint supplement, and she's going to get a small amount of grain with that to hopefully balance out her diet perfectly.

I'll just have to think about it. Either way, she's got to get off the grass somehow! It's just too much.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Productive day and leg improvement.

I actually accomplished a lot today.

I did two of three bulletin boards (well, technically two of four) at the barn - the update was quite needed. Not sure I'm happy with one of them, on which I had to use like, 4 different colors of construction paper. Light pink, light blue, white and black. I think I'm going to cover the black with orange or just doesn't mix. The letters are hot pink and bright blue. It looks like this, minus the dots.


Pretty freakin' cool I think. I plan on taking pictures of everyone riding and posting them up there around it, and I hope it will make the wonky colors look a little better.

That's on the outside bulletin board that's right in front of the outdoor arena. The one on the inside where the drink machine area is I did in purple and yellow with a neon yellow and green boarder. It actually looks good. I made that the announcements board. Stuck some cute little shapes I bought up there.

The other side is going to have a foam board on which I made a map of the barn and all the pastures, including numbering the pastures and stalls. Then I have tags with all the horses and little velcro strips on them so they can be moved from pasture to pasture. Casey does a lot of resales, so there are always new horses coming and old horses leaving, which makes the velcro strips rather convenient.

That will be on the bulletin board right beside the announcements board. I actually think I may have misspelled announcements which makes me very unhappy, but I was rushing because it was getting late and for some reason, my ability to spell is lost when I'm trying to staple brightly colored letters to a piece of cork-board.

Anyway...the map will take half of the other board, and the other half will be a nice little place to post show related things - mainly the schedule for 2012 when that comes up.

The last one is in the observatory area at the covered arena. Not sure if I'm going to do anything with it or not. Nobody ever goes over there. Probably because it was disgusting before I cleaned it up, but nobody ever really rides in the covered except in extended periods of gross weather. It's only the size of a small dressage arena. I'm pretty sure it used to be a full size dressage arena back in the day, before it became a covered arena.

I was thinking of just posting emergency information? But then again, that would probably be better suited for the board at the front. It's like, who's even going to look at this board, why bother?

I took a break from that and rode. I punched new holes in my leathers. It felt weird but they're actually a correct length for hunter/jumpers now. It really helped steady my leg and get my heels down. I let her hop over the xrail a couple of times, and it was all pretty consistent and balanced. I think I could have had more release. One time we just didn't have enough impulsion up to it, and her hind end got a little left behind.

She's trying the canter steps in her trot again, but it isn't bad. A half-halt usually gets her steady again.

She's just doing well. I think my back soreness may just be sore muscles because I'm starting to use different muscles in my back. Hopefully that's all it is. I noticed my legs are sore and usually, unless I've been off for a couple of weeks plus, they don't get sore no matter how long I ride.

It was warm today so after I rode I gave Amber a well needed bath. She's been in heat and she had stains from gunk running down her legs where she peed and acted like a strumpet. You know you love your horse when you are washing dried pee and vaginal discharge from between and on their legs. Sigh...

I also washed her tail and her mane. Put some of my oil sheen stuff on them, as well as her body to make her soft and shiny. Her tail was absolutely gleaming it was so clean. The MTG is really making it grow!

I also clipped her ears/bridlepath/muzzle/leg fuzzies. Her legs look kind of retarded because she kept fidgeting because the kids were throwing hay into the empty stalls before feeding time. Felt very satisfied to have her sparkling clean again. I can't stand it to have her looking like crap. She also got the last of the liniment rubbed on her back, which also reminds me the chiropractor is coming in about a week!

On yet another note...I feel totally spacey in this post...Friday I went out. I had her double blanketed because it got in the 20s the previous night. I knew she'd done something even from a distance because her sheet was askew. About the time I got to her, Zeus started to harass her and she galloped off. He kept trying to mount her, uhg! I so wish she could be out with all mares sometimes. I ran him off and caught her, and it was then my heart stopped. The butt straps were wrapped several times around her right hind leg in a knot. Tight. I just knew her leg was toast. I put the pieces together and decided that Zeus had probably been harassing her for a while, either that and/or she rolled and did something - they were adjusted tight as they could go though. They were ripped off the sheet and the blanket entirely on the left side. One of the belly straps had come undone. I carefully untangled her and she walked and jogged out perfectly sound, no heat or swelling. And she has been fine. It's really a miracle.

I fixed the blanket with some twine and just made an under the tail strap in the back. That held up well that night, since it was also in the 20s again, although I didn't throw the sheet on out of paranoia. Eesh. Way to give me a heart attack, horsies.

I was considering moving her up to one of the front pastures, just because at least someone would know she was in trouble if it ever happened again. She is so far out in the back pasture, even when someone goes back there they can't really see what she's doing if she's not near the gate. I decided not to in the end, and just try to do something different with her blankets. I feel her constantly moving out there is extremely beneficial for her joints and muscles. I just wish certain horses could be removed from that pasture!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I liiiieeeed.

Yeah. I definitely jumped a little xrail today...a few times. She seemed pleased but bored with it. I discovered what's killing me over xrails, and why they've become so mysteriously hard for me all of a sudden. I'm bracing on my hands and looking at the jump. I look at the jump trying to insure I'm pointing Amber at the center.

So I focused on throwing my hands forward and not getting to forward and we had some nice little jumps. Much improved.

She was really getting on the bit today. She really started to hang on me when she got tired but she is always like that when she's tired. When she gets tired she's like "Blahh, I don't care!" and she starts to play and be silly and not pay attention. So I worked her longer than I intended because I made the mistake of working her until she was to that point and then couldn't find a good note to end on. We had a good walk-canter transition and a good jump before we ended though!

I actually changed her bit. Pulled out an old bit that I had from when I thought I was going to use it for Jack in the hunters. It's just a hunter D, single joint. I actually think she prefers single joint bits. She's got a really fat tongue and I think the french link was putting too much pressure on it so that any pressure I had on her, even just 1/2 pound in my hands, was irritating.

So I think I'll stick with the change. Definitely have to watch myself so I don't work her until she starts being silly anymore. :p

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Status Quo

We're still pretty much were we have been the past few rides. Kind of plateauing and I'm trying to put together my next move so that we can move forward.

Thinking of adding some very light lunging in side reins to warm her up.

I've decided not to work on our jumping until she's seen a vet and/or chiropractor and whatever is going on in her back is accessed. Her back soreness is getting better, but the hip area remains the same and I'm not sure if it's joints or a misalignment. If it's joints, I will have to find a way to get her on Cosequin. Not exactly feasible in her turnout situation. Still having no luck getting a chiropractor out.

She's by all means sound for moderate flat work. The ear laying is gone, except in transitions (which are prompt and eager, so I don't get it). So I think I'll just keep doing this, trying to improve her consistency and quality in her gaits and her contact. Add in more lateral work. Going to try to work her 3 days a week over the winter, and I think when I get my tax return in spring, I'll just see if I can bum a ride to a chiro. I've thought about using that to take her to another vet for a second opinion. Something isn't 100% still. I think it would be worse if she WASN'T being ridden, because her back soreness is improved since she has been coming back into shape. But I think there's a limit right now and I feel like I need to be cautious about the "how" in keeping her in shape.

So. That's the plan. Since it's becoming seemingly impossible to get a chiropractor to make a farm call as far as our barn is from the nearest ones...or nearest reputable ones...we'll just keep things simple and light for the winter and go it alone in the spring.

Gotta love the Princess Mare.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pretty decent ride!

I had a pretty decent ride today, especially considering the weather was weird and some jerk on a motorbike kept flying up and down the road.

It's a good thing Amber usually keeps her head about such things.

She was a little rushy in canter, but she was adjustable, I just had to make sure I kept her steady. She got the wrong lead tracking left AGAIN! What's up with this? This used to be the preferred direction, and it really makes me worry that something is up with the other hock...but I check for heat/swelling and pain after every ride and they're cool, tight and she doesn't react as though there's pain.

She did get one good walk-canter transition, going left. Weird, isn't it? She's pretty consistent both ways...there isn't either one that I go "Oh that's her bad direction!", because she doesn't have a bad direction, just a direction I usually have to be more on my toes about keeping her together. It's not like it's hard to get her to take the lead. It's more like "Oh, oopsie, wrong one!" and then off we go.

Still working on getting her soft through her neck and back. About the same place we were last time, and I think we will be here for a few weeks before I really start getting consistency.

She is getting some muscle up in her shoulders and hindquarters!

I'm still not sure what we're doing 100% yet. I know next year we're going to putt around at the local hunter/jumper shows doing flat classes, unless by some miracle we progress drastically in jumping. She has some cute suspension going on when she gets collected, so I'm still thinking about dressage. It's always going to be a part of me, and it's always going to be at the core of my riding, competing or not. I don't exactly have any rides to dressage shows though, and I doubt I'm going to be buying a trailer any time soon though...again, not that I don't want to do hunters, because I do. There's just something different about dressage to me.

She's just so responsive to my seat and leg. And it's just something about her when she gets focused, that I just KNOW if I really got serious about it, I could get her probably even farther than Jack. She's a thousand times farther than Jack with her collection and leg yields as it stands already. Of course, Jack was a weird horse. Jack could walk pirouette and shoulder-in, but it was like pushing a brick wall if you asked for a leg yield. I am so tempted to try teaching her, but I'm scared of frustrating her with too much too soon - she's still young and so sensitive.

But for now, we'll hang out with the hunters. :) We do love them too. And dressage isn't necessarily about competing. I could get my fix just doing tests at home. I just think I'd get to the point where I'd realize how much work I'd put in, and how much I'd taught her, and feel like the majority of work perfecting it, not just using it as a training aid, would be wasted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grouchy mare is grouchy.

I could tell it was going to be one of those days, when she saw me and walked in the other direction. This passive-aggressive evasiveness usually only happens when she's in heat.

And she's usually not bad or stupid, she's just "not feeling it" if you get my drift.

She was definitely in a less than happy mood at first. Super wiggly under me and was back to her "canter canter canter nothing but canter" mindset. Wiggled some more. And then finally decided after I had to boot her with my inside leg a couple of times and give her a sharp squeeze in the mouth that she needed to stop playing and focus. And she did wonderful. I'd say 80-90% of our trot work was super round and on the bit. She's a little behind the vertical, but that's normal - she's still trying to figure out where she needs to be. She will stretch out a little more as she learns.

Canter was interesting. Right side was nice, left was kind of crappy. Opposite of what you'd think She got the wrong lead TWICE. WHAT?! That never happens. She got it the third time but she was kind of running through me. We did a little more trotting, working on keeping her really forward and working when she softened instead of losing the impulsion, and then tried one walk-canter transition. Could have been better but I find she learns best when I don't keep trying to get perfection until she's frustrated and confused, and she can get there easily.

When I turned her out it confirmed she's in heat because there was much peeing and squealing and bucking and farting with the geldings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Walk to canter success!

So I didn't ride over the weekend because it was gross and cold and wet. But I did go out for Sunday Funday at the barn...the designated day where everyone comes out and just rides and has fun on their horses or whatever Casey needs to get ridden.

Amber was a little grumpy at first, possibly because it's the first time she's worn the fork in a couple of weeks. I didn't even have contact, but I think she just knows what the fork means and what CAN happen with it.

After she was just a complete crab over the warmup, I took it off and she was a thousand times less grouchy, and she softened a lot better. She is getting to the point of holding the contact, instead of down and immediately up, I'm getting a good 4-5 strides where she will hold it. I really have to keep reminding her 'forward forward forward' with my seat or she loses her impulsion, because I also use softening to get her back together if she starts running out and I need to differentiate between that so she won't think I want her to get slower.

We did get one GORGEOUS walk-canter transition that was perfect. I was super happy about that. I let her be done on that note.

I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and it's become very apparent to me again that this is my last horse. After knowing her, owning her, I honestly don't think I'll ever be happy with anything else. She's just one in a million.

We've got such a close bond. She's so good, so laid-back. She's got so much heart, spirit and personality - you never have to guess what she's thinking. But at the same time, she's so well-behaved. Within reason I don't worry about that opinionated personality causing her to do stupid things.

I think I get used to her being so well behaved. She's just okay with whatever. I do funny things to her all the time for laughs. Stuff that other horses wouldn't tolorate for a second - like the time I stuck my gloves on her ears. Or the time I made her carry my back pack around her neck. She's just like, whatever...I don't know why you like to make me look so silly!

I forget how really wonderful her manners and respect are. When I was turning her out, one of the riders was riding her horse around the back, and for whatever reason, it got all the horses excited and everyone started galloping and bucking and farting like a bunch of morons. Amber's strap on her sheet came undone. Oh crap. Don't need her tripping on that! So I grabbed her halter, and soon as she saw me, in the midst of all the galloping horses, she just came over and waiting patiently for me to do what I was going to do.

Something else that's really touching that she does, that really shows how close we've gotten, is that in the pasture, if something scares her, or if she's getting bullied, she will immediately run over to me for protection if I'm around. I've had to sting more than one butt with a leadrope before when I was leading her in the pasture and some other horse decided they were going to cause trouble.

Before I forget while I ramble - I'm not overly proud of my horse or anything, you know (ha) - her back soreness is a lot better. Hoof-pick test is getting less reaction. Still hoping to have her done by a chiro, but I think fitness is helping a lot.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fork success and lesson!

I had a super lesson today.

Since she's been in such a good mood working lately, and not fighting my contact, I decided we would try to use the fork again today.

Success! She walked off a little tense and then realized that it wasn't restricting her and she was fine. That may be the one thing I am glad Bob advised me to do, because it is a great tool. If she inverts her neck and throws her head up, it's an instant, but still gentle correction. She trotted and cantered in it nicely.

She really, really started to get back to where we once were today. In fact, I think we had moments where we were even better.

Casey said she's moving better than she's ever seen her move, and I am SO happy to hear that. I've kind of felt like we accomplished nothing over the last year due to so many setbacks, but if I really think about it, we have. She isn't hard to keep on the rail now. She is much more responsive to my seat, leg and hands. She works more correctly through her back. Her gaits are all more balanced and she has more impulsion.

Casey wanted us to work on walk-canter transitions. I was going to hold off a couple of months, but Casey thought we were ready to start working on them. I think it confused her the first few times, but the last one she got her canter within 2 strides. Her canters were great today. The only times she fell out were when I stopped asking her to move forward with my seat - she will transition up or down in a heartbeat from nothing but my seat, so it's something I have to be conscious of or I will ask for something without meaning to. We did more two-point than I've done in a while. My back was screaming, but I really need to do it more if I intend to jump because my muscles are non-existent for that.

We did jump a little x-rail at a trot 3 or 4 times. She was super lazy over it, but I'm pretty sure she was just tired from the hard work she did in the rest of the lesson. So Casey had me work on driving her forward into a big trot over it, and of course my biggest problem, not looking at the jump. I look down way too much, and definitely got called out on it today! In fact, I got called out on a lotttt of bad habits that I've developed while riding alone.

So lessons are definitely going to be a regular thing now. I need someone to pick me apart and tell me what they see me doing that I might not feel or notice in the saddle.

Amber barely sweated during the lesson, never really got too heavy in her breathing, and it was warmish out. Stamina is definitely improving, and I can see her shoulder and hind end are toning up.

She isn't trying to break to canter in the trot anymore either - very consistent. No toe dragging under saddle either. She definitely does it in the pasture, but her hoof prints in the arena are showing no drag marks.

I hosed her legs and back and put liniment on them. I've been really adamant about making sure she doesn't get sore or pull anything while the intensity of her work increases. Her back seems less sore when I hoof-pick test it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Collection alert, collection alert!

I rode a few times this week - I completely got busy and forgot to post about all of them, but she has been doing REALLY, REALLY well.

She is no longer ear-pinning at the trot. Transitions are very nice, especially trot-canter. She has been SO consistent with them, knock on wood. Very clean. It's trotting, cantering, not trotting, trotting faster, and canter.

She is also no longer fighting my contact. She's trying to figure it out all over again, but she is really trying to stretch down. I even got her to trot a few strides really, really collected on Saturday. As in, dressage collected. Circles were a little wonky. She didn't want to trot them, she wanted to canter them.

We will continue to work on trot consistency. Canter consistency is pretty good. She gets excited in some places and wants to get quick, but she's easy to settle back into a slower gait. Also going to continue to work towards getting in contact and leg yielding at the trot. She leg yields WONDERFULLY at the walk, so getting that responsiveness at the trot is the next step.

I've decided to set monthly goals for us. Sometimes I tend to skip the small stuff because the big stuff is so much fun! But it's important to lay the foundation for the big stuff, so here we are.

November Goals:

-Consistency at the trot
-Continued improvement on transitions, walk-trot; trot-canter; canter-trot; trot-walk.
-Being comfortable and steady in contact.
-More responsive to half-halts.
-Trot leg-yields.
-25m and 20m circles at the trot.
-Big, wide canter circles.

If we can accomplish these things, some things I have in mind for December are simple changes of lead, walk-canter transitions, canter-walk transitions, and 25m canter circles. Having a lesson with Casey soon, and as far as jumping goes, I will let her access us and tell me when she thinks we have accomplished enough on the flat to start that.

I can tell Amber's fitness is improving. Her strength and stamina are much better. I think getting in shape has helped her back soreness too. Her hind end is toning up a bit too. I really want to build up her hind end muscles, because that will really help her hocks.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Continued Improvement!

So I have finally slowed down long enough to post a blog.

I rode Sunday a little after lunch. She was really good. She tried to pull the arch back and pin ears move, but she settled down. Refused to walk to the arena without a fight yet again. Whatever, she gets her hiney smacked, and still has to go work lightly for *gasp* an abusive 20-30 minutes.

She can be so dramatic about things...

It took her a few minutes to warm up, but she was really, really good. Still rushy in places but she actually tried to stretch down in several places.

Monday, I was going to let her have a day off from arena work, and the intention was to go on a trail ride with Victoria and Shannon, but Victoria ended up working 2 horses so we didn't have time.

Plus, Victoria said Fancy, Shannon's horse, had a meltdown in the corner where I heard the growling, so now I guess a sort of taboo is placed on that area for a while. Good to know I'm not crazy and I DID hear something, and my horse definitely hear/smelled something that just wasn't right.

Amber seems to be getting some motivation for arena work back. She isn't toe dragging under saddle.

She actually walked out to the arena without planting her feet, but she refused to walk in the gate. We were going in a very narrow gate, and I'm pretty sure she just thought she couldn't fit. She BARELY fit, in fact.

I was planning on just walking, but she felt so good I decided to just do some light work for a few minutes. SO glad we did, it was the BEST ride since she's been back in work to date. She was defintiely trying to stretch down, trotting was absolutely balance and consistent. Canter was lovely as were all transitions, walk-trot and trot-canter. Down transitions on canter-trot were a little weird in one place, but the rest were nice. I let her be done early on. It was a little warm but I can tell her stamina is increasing because her breathing was easier and she only sweated under her saddle. She was drenched in the same temps after 20 minutes of work just a few weeks ago.

Also figured out that the ear pinning only happens when I unintentionally start riding in my dressage seat. I think I've pin-pointed the main area on her back that's an issue, and it seems to be a non-issue until I sit a little too far back in my saddle when I'm posting. Posting from my crotch still feels totally weird, but it changes her trot 100%.

After I rode I gave her a massive spa treatment. She loved her bath. She's so stinkin' cute. She was nuzzling me and trying to "groom" me back. I conditioned her feet, mane and tail, shaped up her mane, and rubbed her back and legs in liniment.

By the way, if you read this post Victoria - you NEED to start a blog for Dillon!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A little of everything, including real horse eating monsters.


I intended to just do some of our usual flatwork.

I started with that. The level of her pain is still somewhat uncertain. She is clearly full of drama about it, because I refuse to believe that it's bad enough to warrant her mini tantrums and rudeness, and then you reprimand her and she's acting fine.

She is really irritating me lately about refusing to walk when I lead her to the arena. Like, stops and refuses to move until I resort to giving her a sharp pop on the shoulder. Super rude.

I got on and to my surprise, she did her witchy act - pin the ears, arch the back and hop around and refuse to go forward. I verbally corrected her and she walked off fine, ears relaxed and listening, big, sound walk. THAT is why I am continuing to work her. Because if something was really wrong, she couldn't just walk off like normal.

Her trot was a little rushy in some places, so we did some transitions and it improved. At one point she kept trying to canter so I just let her, and it seemed to loosen her up and her trot improved from there. Canter was BIG strided, slow and nice both ways today.

I intended to cool her out around the back pasture. We got about halfway down the long straight side, and she just stops dead and stares across the pasture. I try to move her and she spins and tries to bolt. I whirled her around and same reaction. Then I hear this deep, low, LOUD growling from across the pasture. I panicked. First thought was bear, second was bobcat, neither of which I want to meet up close on horseback. I broke all my rules about never running towards a barn and asked her to canter. Well, I was freaking and that freaked her out so she started bucking. So we quickly trotted back. I told Lizzie about the growling, and she and her finance went to check it out.

In the meantime, I decided to work Amber a few more minutes, since I didn't want to end on a pacer-style trot and a bucking canter. She did even better...towards the end I let her canter and I just dropped my reins to the buckle, held them one handed, and she just kept the consistency. It was a nice note to end on.

So things are improving with her. The following:

-Her trot quality, soon as she learns that she is allowed to canter a lot faster if she trots well, that will be great.
-Her canters and trot-canter transitions are BEAUTIFUL. Absolutely perfect.
-Her trot-walk transitions are also instant and smooth now.

I still can't figure out what the ear-pinning at canter transitions is about, because she is so much happier canter and is constantly trying to do so. She was really trying to stretch into my hands today, which she hasn't done in a long time, so I'm just going to continue to ride with no contact and just let her do her own thing with that for now.

I've decided not to trail ride any more until next spring. Victoria reminded me of hunting season today. I do think I will make her ride just down the long side tomorrow so that we can give her a positive experience after the scary one today. Now I'm a little paranoid of bears/bobcats and whatnot in the woods...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Knowing about sore backs first hand.

I worked a morning shift Wednesday. My insomnia kept me up tossing in bed fruitlessly until 1am, and I got up at 3:30AM.

When I got off at 2, I was a little skeptical of my idea to go ride. I was like a zombie and I was pretty sure that it wouldn't take much for me to flop off Amber like a sack of potatoes.

But I rode anyway. I was SO sore and stiff. My back was killing me. Like, massive cramps. Amber is a funny horse. Your seat is EVERYTHING to her. If you are too stiff, too wobbly, she will run right through you and be all over the place. I can always tell when my seat is off, because she will be a mess.

I couldn't even help how stiff I was. Unusually, her canter to the right was gorgeous. Big stride, but nice and slow and controlled. To the left, her "better" direction, she was like, flying and I couldn't really adjust her at all other than obviously push her faster, which would have been supremely unhelpful.

It wasn't her at all, it was me. A thunderstorm was rolling in so we cut it short.

I'm going to try to do a little better by her tomorrow. Hopefully quality rest will keep my back from getting sore.

She's definitely improving though. Still a little grumpy in some spots, but not nearly like she was. As always, she is more than happy to canter.

I'm totally thinking about getting some nice western tack second hand next year and doing local western pleasure with her for fun. Sometimes I look at her and think about what a cute western pony she could be. It's not something I'm really into, but it might be neat to do for fun. Plus, I think I'd enjoy having a western saddle for trail riding.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Productive day.

I got out around noon for Amber's farrier appointment. First off, I am DEFINITELY sticking with the Stallings. Her trim is fantastic, and apparently she also won the best behaved horse of the day award. Her ground manners always win us points. Every vet appointment, farrier visit...always well behaved. Proud mama.

It was rainy off and on, and call me a wimp but I hate riding in the rain. So I didn't ride.

I spent the day washing sheets and blankets and wraps, and inbetween cheater pulling manes for Casey and cleaning up some stuff in the barn.

I M-T-G'ed her tail today, and I can't wait to see what happens in the next few weeks. I've heard so much about how fast it makes hair grow. Also need to put some on her forelock where it got nicked with the clippers when I let someone else do her bridle path. It's like, half shaved off still.

She also got a yummy dose of wormer. How tasty. She tried her "pretend to be still and then flip my head so the wormer goes flying", but I got her number the last time I wormed her when I caught Halcyon's people on a worming day. All wormer was ingested.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saving the best for last.

I have been, for whatever reason, completely uninspired to get on my computer for the past 3 days.

Perhaps that was because on Friday, after a craptastic day, I had no idea that was only the beginning...

It's Friday morning. I overslept. I had to meet with a pet sitting clients (incidentally, one of them is one of my managers) who hired me last minute in a pinch as she remembered me talking about my side-job of pet sitting, and her daughter and she each thought the other was making arrangements...they were supposed to meet with me Thursday evening, but they never got up with me. In fact, Thursday was really when the signs of my crappy weekend started showing up, because boyfriend was acting like a 2-year-old the entire day. The supposed meeting with the clients combined with his antics also caused me to be unable to attend Victoria's birthday dinner.

Still on Thursday, we had to give my cats a routine flea bath, especially since they treated the house earlier that day. Spyro behaved well for a cat in a bath tub, but Garfield, already upset from having been kicked out into a strange room during the treatment, was not thrilled with the bath. As I was finishing rinsing him, he leaped up from Jessie's grip and swiped my eyelid and nose with his claws. He must have hit a vein, because my eye was gushing blood for a few minutes. He escaped, sopping wet, through the house, like a large sponge wringing water everywhere...

Back to Friday...I also had to fly out to the barn and take off Amber mare's sheet from the previous night, as it was going to warm up around noon, so I wanted to get that done before meeting the dogs.

So I'm flying towards the barn to snatch her sheet off and fly to meet the clients. I have NO idea where they live, and NO idea where she is meeting me to follow her there yet. And as I'm about 15 minutes from the house, I realize I have left my phone at home. Fantastic. I don't know her number my heart. Fortunately, I was passing work, and was able to get her number from my other manager and use the store phone. We picked a spot to meet and I flew out to the barn.

Except someone locked the gate so tight with the chain that I couldn't get it out. So I had to crawl under the hotwire. I removed the princess's sheet, to find the rain rotty spots had not cleared, so GREAT, now I need to wash the sheet because it's come into contact with that.

Fly over to meet the clients. The dogs were super cute. One was a chow mix, and I DEFINITELY saw pit in there, which we all know how much I love pits and bully type dogs. The other one was definitely a GSD mixed with some kind of hound.

Both were super skeptical of me. Not really aggressive, but just wary of me. I didn't have time to spend with them for long, because I was late for work. On my break a few hours later, I dropped by to feed them. They flipped out on me for about 5 minutes, and after I completely ignored them and refused to back down, they chilled and we were friends. A flicker of hope in the day. They are supposed to eat separately, so I took one out and put a bowl down for the other. Except neither would eat. Awesome. I put their bowls in their kennels, wanting them to have access to it later if they got hungry. Went back to work. For like, 15 minutes my manager left me in charge of shift...except everyone wanted to backtalk and act like assholes. That's wonderful. They did this super mature behavior all night.

Saturday. I was right on time. I was thinking it was going to be a great day. I go to check on the dogs before heading to the barn. Both recognized me, and when I took one out, she had diarrhea. I made a point to mention this to her owners, but she was otherwise acting fine, so I assumed it was just the fact that she was a timid dog and her routine had been thrown up in the air with a stranger to top it off.

I get back in, and realize she had had EXPLOSIVE diarrhea in her kennel, and threw up a few times. That's wonderful. I cleaned it up, but she had ruined her blanket (and shredded it), so I had to throw that out. Finished up and got to the barn with plenty of time to ride. Except my boots were not there...I forgot I had worn them home. So I took Amber and scrubbed her in betadine again and let her dry, and tossed her back out. Washed my brushes and still need to wash one of my saddle pads.

Now skip to Sunday. I intended to spend some extra time with the dogs since I'd been scarce Friday and Saturday, although the owners had only asked I visit 2 times a day. I got there around lunch, and no messes in the kennels. Oh, it may just be a light at the end of the tunnel! They pottied fine, timid dog's diarrhea was gone. By now they were super friendly with me and we played for a while, then I watched TV and let them chill on the couch with me. About 4, I decided to let them out one more time before I fed them up and headed to the barn for an afternoon ride. I took out the chow mix first, and let her potty. Then, I took the GSD mix. The chow mix was not happy about not being able to go back out, and as I got to the bottom of the stairs, I heard her jump on the door a couple of times. When I got back to the door, I was surprised to find the door locked. At first I thought I had walked up to the wrong apartment. But no, this was the right number...

The chow had locked me out. The only lock on the door was a deadbolt that could be locked with a lever. She had hit it. My keys and phone were sitting on the table in the apartment. GREAT. I stupidly tried to call her to the door to see if she could hit it the other way, and even if that happened by some miracle, she was now content to sit on the couch, staring quietly out the window at us. So I go down and knock on the door of the neighbor that lived downstairs. Thankfully, she was home and she helped me get up with the landlord who sent a locksmith out. I doubt she will ever read my blog, but you were AWESOME, and I really appreciated you being kind enough to take me and the pup in for a few minutes while we waited!

By the time the locksmith finished busting out the deadbolt and replacing it, it was after 6 and almost dark. So no ride for me. Owners said it was the one thing they forgot to tell me about the chow mix...

Three days of sheer crap.

Today, things lightened up somewhat. I had an overall good ride on Amber. It started out ugly, but she hasn't been ridden in a few days now, and my equitation was CRAP during the first part, so that only hindered her. She wanted to break to canter for the majority of her trotwork during the first half. When I did ask for canter it was gallopy and unbalanced.

Towards the later half, I added some transitions walk-trot, and it improved us both. At the very end, I had her trot nicely in the bad direction, and when she was moving nice I let her canter. It was GORGEOUS. Huge stride, slow, but still very forward. It was absolutely beautiful. I sounded like a lunatic, I'm sure, yelling praises to her. "Oh that's a BIG stride! Good girl! Beautiful! Keep it! That's beautiful!"

I let her be done on that note and we walked around outside the arena to cool down. She gets her feet done tomorrow, but I haven't been able to get up with Casey because her phone is busted, and I'm not sure if it's just the screen or if it's just not functional at I'm just going to get out super early. If he comes later, I can just wash my blankets in the morning, and/or ride.

I hope craptastic weekend won't become a craptastic week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fork fail.

I tried the training fork today. I thought it was actually going to work at first, because she wasn't fussing about it as we were warming up at a walk, and she was really stepping out and being forward, rather than being a slug that needed leg every second. Then I asked for a trot.

The ears flattened and she just kind of moved around like a crab, mind you I had barely ANY contact, and kind of pig rooted. I'm almost positive this part isn't behavioral, rather something about stretching down hurts something on her back, but I couldn't let her get away with that before I tossed the fork off, so I made her trot a few steps before I got off and removed the fork.

And then, all was well. She trotted around with happy ears. She did pin them during trot-canter transitions, but she also flings her head up. I think in the transition it does make her sore, and then when she gets going, she feels better. I just ride canter in half-seat now days to stay off her back. I've got a really quiet sitting canter, but she still seems more comfortable when my butt isn't in the saddle.

She had really good transitions all around today. It was a good ride. The only "bad" areas were a couple of times where she got rushy, but I put her on a big circle until she stopped rushing and running out through her shoulder, and she soon was trotting nice. She got a little quick in the canter too, but she was very adjustable.

We did the later half around the back pasture. We trotted and cantered some. She had some SERIOUS suspension when she's out in the open. And a super comfy trot. Her gaits on trail rides are much different. It's like she perks up and really "floats". I felt like I was riding some super leggy warmblood, no lie. Now if I could get her to do that in the arena, she would be a SEXY 15h Quarter Horse, haha!

She was listening really well. We trotted up and down hills. I didn't think cantering up and down hills would be a great thing for her back - I can't WAIT to use those hills to condition her when we get the back issue fixed. It's going to be so much fun.

So it started out ugly but then she went nice. She was actually stretching down on her own, exploring the contact - which is why I'm a little puzzled as to why she was fine to do that, but the fork put her in freak out mode. Maybe she just needs to do it on her own. Maybe she knows exactly how far she can go. It might just freak her out when I ask, or when the fork is on her, because she expects me to want to put her in too much contact. An inch could make a difference for her in relation to where her head and neck is.

Casey said something about a guy who might be able to come out soon. I forgot what she said he is, but apparently he does chiropractic amongst other things, but apparently he's really good and he's going from Pennsylvania down to Florida and if we can get 10 people who want to have him work on their horses, he'll be able to make a stop. So something possible there.

She has some little patches of what looks like rain rot on her, so I used a little betadine on the spots and then put Pro-Tect on it. Hopefully that will stop that crap before it starts! I rubbed her in liniment today as well and bagged her tail. I bagged her tail as a test run to see if she will keep a tail bag on, since I want to use some MTG on it over the winter. She spooked at it when I walked her out of the barn, and it cracked me up. She was like, "What the HELL, mom? What is on my tail?"

I also love how when I bring her back to her pasture, all the horses start calling to her. It's like she's everyone's best friend, despite the fact that she is only tolerant of them. They thought the tail bag was interesting, and I suspect it will be laying on the ground tomorrow.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Interesting Observation, And More Trails.

So I did a very quick ride in the ring on Amber. Like, about 10-15 minutes worth. I noticed that she only really gives me that ears-pinned attitude in the corners. She didn't feel any different. But Victoria came out and was like, OMG, she's lame in the front!

I wasn't quite sure what she was talking about, Amber was going along better than she has all week. Then I realized: I've gotten so used to her trying to break into canter all the time, that I don't notice when she's doing it. So perhaps it's just her not wanting to trot. Cantering is technically an easier gait than trot. So it may not be entirely pain related, but her just naturally wanting to go at an easier gait. She gave me some fantastic trot-canter transitions, SUPER clean.

Still got snotty when I asked her to stretch down, and I'm considering just putting her in the training fork for a few minutes and seeing how she feels. If she feels uncomfortable, obviously it will go off, but if she seems about the same or better, I think it may be the answer. It really helped her before. I just think the period where we worked on that was so brief, she just doesn't really remember. Obviously I want to keep it loose and be very cautious about how hard I work her with it on. But I feel like maybe the previous issues were not necessarily due to her stretching down and using her topline (you would think that would make it easier on her back), but rather the fact that the hock was already doing poorly, and had little to do with her slight back issue.

I'm thinking it comes down to the fact that she DOES need adjustment, but it's more than likely NOT the biggest issue here. I've done some research, and she doesn't really show signs of severe back pain. In fact, it looks more like muscle soreness from compensating for her hock. In other words, the hock created the back soreness, not the other way around.

And perhaps she is just on her guard now about softening, because when she used her topline and stretched down, she had to use her hind end and thus the pain. I want to be very careful with my experimentation, but it may work a world of difference in her.

She used to have a HUGE undermuscle in her neck, which is gone now. I will drop my contact if she begins to brace back like that, eliminating her opportunity to brace with that muscle. Perhaps traveling around like that was what caused the hock issue, and the back issues?

Anyway. I can't say for sure yet. Chiropractor appointment is still in limbo, hoping to hear a date soon. She is getting trimmed by Stallings again on the 11th. The one who noted her hip inflammation. Definitely need to fill him in on what's been going on. I've heard mixed opinions on his work, and the one trim he did for her was not a bad trim, but that was while her feet were still gradually being "fixed", so obviously he couldn't fix everything at once. Casey seems to really like him, so I will trust her judgement.

I went on a trail ride to cool out. I was listening for toe-dragging on the harder ground, and I didn't hear any...again, furthering my suspicion it's happening in the pasture. We went around the pasture backwards from the way we went last time, which meant she was going uphill, not downhill. She offered a trot up the hill, and I let her go. She seemed pretty happy about it. Moving fine, ears up and happy. She did want to trot back to the barn on the long side, but I have a firm rule about not letting my horses do anything but walk on the way back to the barn. It was funny. She was about to start trotting and I held her back. She walked a couple of steps and then was like "Okay, we trot now, yes?!". She tried like, 2-3 times and I gave her a firmer squeeze on the bit and she plodded home nicely. Next time I'm going to let her have a little canter down that side going away from the barn, just to see how adjustable she is out in the open. Either way, I'm starting to realize more and more what a really nice trail horse she is.

I thought about it while we were meandering around, and she does have a lot of really good qualities in her. She goes out perfectly calm and willing alone on trails. Not spooky at all. Easy to control at the trot and canter. She also goes just as well with other horses, even tolerating them riding right up her rear end. Remember when Star and Christopher used to BITE her on the butt on trails, and she wouldn't do anything but jump a little in surprise?

She has really nice transitions (although walk-trot is sometimes lacking). She faithfully picks up both leads every time. Stops on a dime. Her soundness issues leave her somewhat lacking, but I think we are close to figuring out what's up.

She is super easy to catch in the pasture and no matter what the other horses are doing around her, she first and foremost respects the human handling her and behaves well. She sleeps while being clipped, even ears, loads, rides bareback, rides with a halter no different than a bridle, stands quiet to be blanketed, and you can throw up in the air and let it float down on her.

I paid $1500 for her. I have to say, Casey gave me an absolute steal. She is an absolutely wonderful horse. Shame on me for focusing on the little things that aren't perfect. I know people who have horses they almost can't do anything with. They will flip out if you do this thing, or you can't get them to do that thing. There are plenty of people who would give almost anything to have a horse that calmly and happily does everything Amber does.

Anyway. I took some pictures on the trail, including this swampy little pool of water that was kind of pretty in a swampy way. I think it's where the water drains off too on the property. I also took a good side picture of Amber's field. I think I'm becoming obsessed with "ear shots". I made a point to get Amber's ears in the pictures I took, haha. I just need new places to ride so I can take new ones. There's only so much to see around the back pasture.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Grand Prix Trail Horse.

I had the best ride on Amber today. We rode around the back pasture. I trotted and cantered in the more wide spaces, and she was happy and moving out. She only hesitated once or twice the first part of the ride because the wind was up and the trees were being scary. We even got surprised by a flock of birds in the grass while she was trotting, and she just jumped in surprise (I think I jumped a little harder), and kept plodding along. Ears were perked up the whole time. I rode her a little later bareback in the arena. Just about 5 minutes. Walk/trot/canter. She was well behaved, especially considering she was in a halter. I'm wondering if this is coming from the mouth. I thought about that after I had put her out. I'm going to check her mouth tomorrow.

I rode her back to the pasture and again she tried to take me around the pasture.

I have to appreciate her aptitude for trails. If she never masters a dressage test, I know people who could never take their horse out totally alone on a windy, chilly day around a field. That's something to be proud of. Even if she isn't entirely interested in doing something I ask, like riding in the arena, she usually does it without too much fuss, even if not perfect, if I don't act like an idiot about it.

She's just a good, level-headed, trustworthy horse. Sometimes she needs her rider to give her confidence when she is alone, so I wouldn't necessarily call her a perfect beginner's horse, but in a group I'd trust her to pack a beginner around.

Thought I'd share that ear shot with you guys. Pretty purple flowers on the trail. Had to stop and get a picture.

Also, I was waiting for it to cool off enough so I could reblanket her for the evening, and I braided her tail. Not such a great braid, but a pretty braid nonetheless.

Victoria is going on another trail ride with me tomorrow before I head to work. Definitely excited to have some company. Trail riding alone is nice enough, but it's more fun to do it with friends.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The possibilities are endless.

I had some hard thinking time yesterday.

The ride I had had it's ups and downs (we did jump, no pun intended though). After she figured out we were jumping, it was like I could not keep her on the rail, all she wanted to do was point herself at the nearest jump. She was not rushing the fences. She was just not interested in anything I had to say about flatwork.

We ended up getting in a huge fight, and while I stayed out of her face, her ears were pretty much tickling my nose. She was smart enough not to pull any tantrums, but at one point I just thumped her on the head because she was just giving me THAT nasty of an expression. The ears went forward and she went on her merry way.

That's what I don't get. If it were a serious pain issue, she wouldn't just go back to work quietly after a reprimand. She'd become more upset and continue to act annoyed.

I got her some liniment gel. I gave her a serious scrub down before I applied it. She enjoyed it, especially the part where I let her drink from the hose and play in it...I didn't enjoy it when she splashed her nose through it and wet me, but it was cute so she was forgiven. I used the hoof pick to find all the particularly sore areas and rubbed her down. I let her dry up a little and put her sheet's been chilly. I let her have today off, and tomorrow if I do anything we will just ride around the pasture.

We jumped some tiny, tiny jumps. Like, raised ground poles. I didn't want to push her to hard. She did jump the outside line one time, cantered through, VERY nice, VERY straight. I realized that the hardest part of jumping is keeping the horse straight and keeping strides even. All this time I thought it was going over it that was the challenge. She had some nice moments, but she was just not paying attention for the most part. After all the stunts she's pulled lately with her attitude about work, I immediately assumed that was the culprit, but I had to remind myself that she is not 100% yet. Though she may not be in severe pain, she is not all together comfortable during the entire ride, and I am still trying to ride Jack when I have a totally different and less fit horse under me. I pretty much had to ask myself, what the hell are you DOING?

I realized that it's not fun anymore. Although I do enjoy jumping, dressage and correctness in my riding, and do want to compete, I can't have fun trying to improve because I am too critical of every move my horse makes. I can't laugh off mistakes and look forward positively about how to correct them. If one little thing goes wrong in the ride, or if it's not a good day, I realize that I end up feeling like giving up hope of showing her entirely, and even on a good day I find myself focusing on the not so great points of the ride.

No horse is perfect. I can't expect her to move like some PSG dressage horse, because she's a 7 year old who hasn't known anything but trails until the last year. My negativity and criticism is going to make her sour to any arena work I try to do if I keep on fighting with her. I can't look at a wrong response as a complete insult to my authority over her, and her trying to be pushy. Nine times out of ten, it's not. Nine times out of ten, it's just her trying to tell me she isn't enjoying what we are doing at all and would appreciate it greatly if I would stop.

I got on her bareback and rode her back to her pasture. She was moving out, ears forward, plodding along beautifully. I thought "Well, she sure can act like she feels great when she thinks she's going back out in the pasture!"

But she didn't think she was going to the pasture. She thought we were going for a late evening trail ride. I expected her to automatically stop at the gate, but she turned and started to go around the pasture.

I think I've already gotten to the point where she's sour about arena work. She's bored, frustrated, and more than likely has as many sore muscles as I do. So she and I are going to go on some adventures outside the arena for a few days. Do some light stuff in the arena, walk trot canter, I don't even care if it's gorgeous and correct, or head in the air, too fast, too slow, and cool out on the trail.

In fact, I'm highly considering taking a break from anything really serious for perhaps 6 months to a year. I've been thinking about competitive trail and endurance. I've mentioned this before...I think she would be pretty good at it. Either way, I think I need to chill out and take some time to stop trying to perfect every little thing, for Amber's sake.

Maybe trail riding is just her thing, and maybe that doesn't mean we can't compete. Maybe the chiropractor's adjustments will show me a completely different horse - I doubt her enthusiasm for trails will change though. Either way, I'm fed up with my attitude towards this lately and I think I'm the one who needs to go out on the trail and chill out too.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rider fail.

Today would have probably been a lot better, but I was in her face too much and completely useless with my seat and leg. The fact that a lot was lacking was entirely my fault.

Towards the end I got it together and got out of her face a little more. We hopped two small x-rails as a reward for her putting up with me, which were very good. However...the second one, I forgot I had thrown my sunglasses RIGHT where we should land. I saw them just before she took off and I pushed her over with my leg. We jumped a little crooked but the glasses were safe.

Ran late for work, forgot my phone at the barn.

I did notice that her back was A LOT less sensitive to my "hoof pick test" after the ride.

The toes are getting worse, but it's still really only happening in the pasture, so I'm at a loss for what I'm supposed to do about that. I still don't think shoes is necessarily the right answer either.

Still trying to figure out who is going to have the chiro adjust their horses. I can't wait. I think I'm going to use the fork a couple of times after she gets adjusted, if she's still trying to run through my contact. That really helped her, and I think she mostly doesn't remember about the contact deal because we could never train consistently. Right now I'm starting to need some light contact with her because she likes to hang on me and I need a tiny amount of tension there to give her a little bump when she tries it.

Promised pictures.

First, Amber looking not so amused with her hair-do.

Front left:

Front Right:

Left Hind:

Right Hind:

Obviously more wear on the left hind. I'm still betting my money on her spine and pelvis being out of alignment.

However, I'm 100% sure this is happening mostly out in the pasture. When she was getting no turn out hardly, it stopped. When she goes out on turnout, it comes back. No brainer. Clearly, limited turnout is even worse on her though.

I'm still kind of swimming in possibilities on what the issue is with contact and trotting. Then again, it's happened before. I just think I might be a little too "loud" with my hands and she is objecting. Trotting, I'm not sure about. The fact that she goes fine and then looks annoyed for a few seconds doesn't necessarily scream pain. Maybe she takes a funny step that irritates a sore place. It's not there in the canter, and I still think that would be worse on her than trotting. She also goes better after we jump a crossrail, which also makes NO sense. You would think that jumping would be a serious no-no, but I can't ignore the fact that she relaxes so much more after we go over one. Maybe I'll add some trot poles tomorrow. Definitely going to do a crossrail or two after she's warmed up.

Nothing makes sense. I'm starting to think it's mostly her having gotten lazy and out of shape.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

And still we climb higher.

This is late, because I didn't have time last night, but Amber did AWESOME yesterday. Her trot was much, much improved. Transitions were also better walk-trot, and got some beautiful trot-canter transitions.

She's not looking as irritated in the trot, and she was getting more in contact with me on her own, without looking pissed. I think the exercise combined with the turnout are really helping her. She's really adjustable, which surprises me, because usually our first priority when she's been off is getting her to the point where she's adjustable, but she's easy to rate, and usually it's me who is telling her to be fast via my seat and I have to check myself. She's super adjustable in the canter. We did a lap with slow, easy canter, then went into a few strides of slow gallop on one side, and then back to a slow/medium canter, and it took almost nothing for me to get the transitions. It was lovely.

Victoria rode Tommy for a few minutes. He went on trial today to his potential new owner in a city a little more than an hour away.

It's really wonderful what she's accomplished with him. Especially if you knew him when she first rescued him. He was in rough shape. He's turned into an absolutely beautiful horse, and she has trained him very well. Though definitely still green, from all I have seen her doing with him, he shows a hell of a lot of potential for the future!

By the way, definitely want to encourage her to start a blog if she happens to read this post! ;) If I'm not mistaken, she's about to buy another OTTB (I'm pretty sure he is off track, at least), who will be another project for her. I know Monica at Chasing The Dream would love to read a blog about OTTB rescues and retraining!

I took some pictures of Amber's feet, to be posted tomorrow because I'm too lazy to go get my camera off the kitchen counter. I also have a cute picture of her sporting a forelock mohawk. Her fly spray is oil-based, and it got in her forelock while I was rubbing it on her ears, and I was inclined to give her a new hair-do. She was not as amused as I was though, haha.

I'm so excited to get her in shape though. She can be such a cute mover when she is working well, and despite some minor conformation flaws, I think she's a beautiful mare. When she gets all muscled up? I think she's going to be SUPER hot. :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Will work for food.

Actually, unrelated, that's Victoria's horse's show name. I forget what his registered name is, but I think Will Work For Food is adorable.

Anyway. When I got out this afternoon, Brady was putting out a round bale. Amber was not amused. She gave me this look like "Lady, come ON!"

She avoided me for maybe 1-2 minutes, and then gave up and came quietly. She was in a fair mood today. I'm starting to think that she isn't necessarily experiencing pain in the trot, although I believe asking her to collect and reach under herself does make her uncomfortable, but rather it's just hard work and cantering is easier, and she knows it. Because cantering requires more from the hind end, and I'm 99% sure that's where her problems are (thus why we aren't doing too much of it), so it wouldn't make sense for her to prefer canter if it's strictly pain in the hind end related. She is super out of shape. We only rode maybe 30 minutes, but it felt like an hour.

I was focused on every detail. I had zero contact other than an occasional "look this way". She has gotten in the habit of hanging on me, and I'm combating that by giving a couple of firm squeezes on the inside rein when she does. I think she is partly trying to find where she needs to be, but partly just being lazy.

I think her irritation with contact is because she has learned what I want when I ask her to soften, and I do think using her topline 100% is uncomfortable for her, and I think the irritation is mainly her saying "I know what you want, but it doesn't feel good!"

Whether it is or isn't that, I don't want create bad experiences for her associated with being in contact, so until she sees the chiro, it's best to leave that alone.

We did get some beautiful trot-canter transitions today. A little runny here and there, but for the most part very clean. Even our walk-trot transitions were nice. Down transitions were pretty good as well. She kept the forwardness going into them instead of dying out. She did randomly stop in the trot at one point because the pony in front of us did, but I booted her on and she sorted it out.

She is getting better about trying to stay up with other horses. I try to just be aware of other horses so that I can remind her who is giving directions. It's not what I will call bad behavior, it's just someone else's poor training. It's what she's learned as a trail horse - because most trail riders in groups do what the group is doing. And she just learned that her rider usually wants her to do whatever the horse in front of her is doing. So she thinks that's what I want. She's not disagreeable about it, she's just like "Oh, I thought you wanted me to follow them, sorry!"

I was very pleased with the ride though. Her feet are looking lovely, despite the slight toe wear, which is still not severe at all. Her pasture is cut off to about 1/4 the size as they just planted the winter grass (much to my dismay, she is on a roundbale for a little while. I just HATE the hay belly she gets, but the forage diet is good for her!). So she isn't walking as much...which is good timing.

I need to take pictures of her feet. They look SO much healthier. And it's all due to 24/7 turnout, because she has not been trimmed since Bob's last trim, and I haven't done anything new. That's proof that providing the most natural style of living for a horse is healthy all around for them. I wish I had a before picture of them...they were so flat, and her frogs were minuscule. Her soles have all exfoliated, and she now has beautiful, cuppy feet again. Her frogs are nice and large now.

I've come to the conclusion that it wasn't necessarily Bob's trims entirely. Surprisingly, his trims weren't bad. At least, he corrected her angles well. I think her lack of turnout affected them heavily.

Also - speaking of feet. Casey mentioned to me, and I forgot to post this, that when Amber first came to ***, remember she was shod all the way around, her hind hoofs were pretty much straight up and down. Like, I thought she was sitting upright when I first got her - oh no. I was told it was worse. No doubt THAT likely sparked some of her back and pelvic issues. I'm willing to bet it didn't help those hocks either.

A lot of factors go into this, and I'm starting to think it's not to be blamed on just one thing alone. I think it's a lot of things. Her being started early and rode hard (I'm still fairly sure of that). Poor hoof care. And, blame going to me, a saddle that didn't fit well. But she's young still, and the insight I now have is going to help us get through this and go on to have many happy years together.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Thanks, rain, for ruining my plans.

I planned to ride today, but it rained off and on pretty consistent. I thought I caught a break, and I was going to just walk/trot her, but soon as I got her in the barn...thunder and rain. So I groomed her, checked her feet, gave her some cookies and put her out. She was not amused that I was putting her out with no sheet, but it was on the warm side, and she was still a little damp from the previous rain, and I'm not looking to need to treat rain rot here...

So I'll be riding tomorrow, weather permitting.

I'm still tickled pink about how much happier she is with her turnout. When she was stalled for so many hours of the day, it was like she was so mentally bogged down that she couldn't even think straight. It was like the littlest things would just set her off. She was still obedient, never really misbehaved badly, but she just had no interest in doing anything.

And now it's like she looks forward to seeing someone coming out to catch her. Because she's had plenty of time to just be a horse, and she WANTS to go do something different. A bit lazy though she may be right now, you can tell she enjoys being handled and ridden again.

I still think the Wintec was the culprit. And it escalated into the back issue, and compensating created the hock issue. The problems started right after I started riding her. Right after I started using the Wintec. And it wasn't long before she would be anxious during saddling. The Wintec was weird with her. It was never just right, but not extremely off. Depending on what her body was like, it was too narrow, or too wide. Her anxiety during saddling is totally gone with the new saddle, which is a huge indicator that the Wintec may have started this whole mess. Not to mention, it sat so weird on her. She is slightly, very slightly, downhill. The Wintec sat me so tipped forward, mixed with the slight downhill build...totally putting her off-balance. The new close contact fits her like a glove, and it puts me in a perfect position. I feel so much more secure in it. Jumping felt so much different the other day. I didn't feel out of balance for a second, even though I'm not at all an experienced jumper, and I haven't jumped in months.

I feel really stupid for not realizing the saddle could/did create so many issues. I questioned the fit several times, some people said it fit, some said it didn't, others said it wasn't perfect but it wouldn't cause us a problem. Having learned to listen to my own common sense and trust my own experience (without dismissing information from those wiser and more experienced, of course), I'm pretty freaking sure the saddle is the culprit. And the other seemingly unrelated problems are resulting from a "trickle down" effect.