Saturday, January 29, 2011

18" By spring? No way.

...because we are way too impatient!

Our flatwork was crap today. It was my fault. I got too intent on getting transitions perfect and stressed her out. Then we rode in the big field and she took off on me! I got her back fine but she was like "BIG SPACE! WEEEEEEE!" And refused to listen to my half halts.

I canter her over a 12" cavaletti. We trotted it a lot.

While we were still in the arena, Erica, the teenager who owns TicTac, was whispering to Andrea. I didn't suspect anything. She set up a crossrail for us to school. She said it was 15", same as we were doing Thursday. That liar. After we were over it, she announced it was 18". Sneaky sneaky!

After a while I got bored with the cavaletti and the 15" jump (and it was a jump, not an x rail!) and I decided to try trotting an 18" jump.

Obviously, we LOVED it. That video is of our first time over it.

To be so new to this, she looked very nice in my opinion. And I think my position and my release improved. It was SO much fun, we did it a few more times!

We are going to practice in open spaces more. Monday I think we are going to do a small course in the small arena. I want to focus on flatwork in the big field and get her listening and realizing just because it's a big open space does not mean "GO". I have a feeling her old owners ran her when they had big spaces, and she feels like that's appropriate when it's not.

She does best when I *don't* try. When I don't focus on getting things correct. So I resolve to just chill and have fun.

I'm so excited. Just bubbling over. Who knew jumping would be so much fun for me? Who knew I'd get over my nervousness just like that?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Aye yi yi.

So today I wrapped her all the way around. Went out and Andrea came out to "harass" me - and I was thrilled for it! We worked with no contact on her at all, and focused on a dropped head. But the toes were dragging, dragging. And after I got off, we noticed something we hadn't really noticed before: Her toes are incredibly worn down on the back. Agh!

Obviously this could become a big issue. Andrea mentioned we might need shoes with toe clips; but I'm not ready to throw shoes on yet. I'm very pro-barefoot. If I can fix this without them, I want to.

As an immediate and non-permanent fix, we considered bell boots. they won't cover the toe, but they might encourage her to lift.

She has way too much toe right now though, and I suspect that's the cause behind this dragging as of late. She was trimmed kind of funny from the start by the previous farrier, but here we are at the time for a new trim, and the feet are longer of course, thus this problem is arising because there was too much toe in the first place.

For now I'm going to encourage her to pick those feet up as much as I can and cross my fingers that a balanced trim will do well for her. I found an article about toe dragging in relation to an incorrect trim for the horse in question, and I was encouraged by it that this is fixable with a trim. I watched her in the pasture, and she doesn't drag them constantly. Every now and then she drags. Almost like she forgets she has that longer toe, and doesn't lift enough to compensate for it.

Best case scenario, that's the problem, just too much toe in the first place. Worst case scenario.

There are a lot of worst case scenarios; I don't want to go through them. Let's just think positive!

I might wrap her again tomorrow. Maybe in the back. But definitely in the front. For now, while I am not sure if the toe dragging is her need of a better trim, or a self-carriage issue, I want extra protection on those front legs because they're undoubtedly working harder.

Tomorrow we are going to do a lot of transitions, ground poles and cavaletti. Over and over and over again. My plans have shifted in light of this issue and I want to do anything to try to get her on that hind end and make her use it.

I also wonder if it might just be laziness? I believe we overcompensated for her lack of free choice hay, and she seems to have put on a few pounds. She's being backed off the amount she's been getting now, and Andrea mentioned maybe putting her on some all purpose with less fat than the Safe Choice. It could well be that she's just feeling those extra pounds. She's definitely been lazy in her transitions, which was definitely not her style a week or two ago. I don't think that's the cause of the toe dragging *entirely*. The toe dragging has been an issue for a couple of weeks now, but progressing more (the closer to trim time...hmmm?). Before the transitions got lazy.

Perhaps it's all linked. She gained some weight and feels lazy now and her toes are too long, further encouraging her to not pick up her feet. Would make sense.

Not to mention it's been FREEZING the past few days, and even I feel so cold and stiff I don't want to work. I usually have a good post on me at the trot, but Andrea had to keep telling me to post out of the saddle more. I couldn't feel my face!

*Added Later*

The more I research on various causes of toe dragging, the more I'm thinking it's just the long toe and unbalanced feet. After all, she JUST had a PPE and everything was fine, and she has done nothing to cause injury to herself. Her workouts have not been hard enough to cause injury in the least - especially not as attentive as I have been to when she has exerted her energy for one session. So that's unlikely. Let us hope!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Perfect Flying Lead Change!


Amber mare was glad to see me today. Rain has kept me away, but today the sun came out at mid morning and I was able to ride.

Contact and softness was not the best today, but she was using her hind end more nonethless so I was satisfied with the quality of her work still. We had a lot of nice canter. We had a few nice walk-trot transitions. Trot-canter, not so much.

What I was blown away by was the perfect, absolutely PERFECT flying change of lead she delivered today at the end of her workout. The first one she seemed a little unsure, and it was not smooth. She nearly broke down to trot. This time I was sure she could do it, and I committed myself to the change. I felt her wanting to slow down, so I put on leg and started giving her aids for the new bend. She just switched right over, dead in the center across the ring. I squealed, hugged her, praised her profusely, and let her be done.

I barely had to ask. It was almost like a common sense thing for her. Change direction, change lead, makes perfect sense to her. Which is encouraging. The best dressage horses have a natural "sense" for how they move, how they carry themselves, and I see that in her more and more each ride.

Right now I'm picking up on what she's doing good on each day, and we work on it. We have plenty of time to put it all together.

Have I mentioned I am ready for SPRING! I can't wait to give Amber a good bath and start shedding her out. She will be gorgeous with her summer coat, I think.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Better and better!

I think I know what was wrong with Amber yesterday.

It was extremely cold, so everyone was inside all day. Amber likes her stall in foul weather, but she doesn't consider cold to be foul weather, and she wanted to be outside. Today she got to go out and she was much more cheerful. I love how she comes over when you call her name! She seemed glad to see me, and I tacked her up and we got to work.

The head was better today. She still 'bobs' a little. She gets down on the bit for a few seconds, and then something will catch her eye and I have to get her attention back. But give and release (without throwing away the contact) seems to do wonders for her.

Her hind end was working today much more than it has been. Andrea said she could tell. She was a little softer at the trot, but still has a way to go. However, progress is progress. We've been at this a week. While I've ridden her for a few months already, we never did 'real' dressage work. She's new at this, and I keep that in mind.

Canter transitions were okay. Not as nice as yesterday, but the quality of the canter itself was better, and she even did a nice 20m circle for me. Her circles are 100000x better now. Going across the diagonal is 100% better. Her leg yields are improving. She's learning fast and I think she likes it!

Her only thing is learning patience. When we were cooling out, she saw some people standing around in front of the barn and wanted to get pissy with me because I wouldn't allow her to go over to the fence. She's an attention hound, and not being able to go over there made her mad. I was determined that she could pull in that direction all she wanted, but I would spin her around all day until she stood still. Finally, she gave up the fight and NOT at the gate. And I got off. Hopefully it will get into her head that she finishes a lot quicker when she behaves.

I notice she gets a little more rushy and on the forehand towards the end of our workout. Little less easy to get back. When she gets this way, I make her work properly, then end the session. She's not conditioned and what she is doing is hard for her, so while I want her to understand that she doesn't get to say when we are done, I also don't want to overwork her, so I try to be attentive to when she's tired and has worked enough for one day.

I need a cooler though! She worked up a sweat today in 30 degree weather. She stayed in her stall until she dried off.

That's Tater, the barn mascot. He decided that the feed room is his stall. Isn't he ADORABLE?


When I went to put my saddle pads away, I was unable to do so because this fluffy ball of cuteness had decided to take a nap on top of them!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Ah, the joys of owning a mare.

Amber was in heat today. Some of the mares who are visiting for the Special Olympics went into heat, and thus Amber has as well.

When I got there she was making rude faces over her stall door. Andrea said she'd been doing that all day, and also threatened to kick when she was being fed! Fortunately, Andrea gave her a pop on the butt for it and it seemed to set things straight.

When Amber saw that being nasty was getting her nowhere she straightened up. She was pretty good under saddle today. She got a little on the forehand, a little rushy, but I was able to get her back pretty quick. We did get some nice work and she was more on the bit. We had several wonderful trot-canter transitions...and a few not so great ones. Overall, despite her being in heat, she was very nice for me today. One tiny little crow hop that was really nothing at all was the only thing "bad" she really did.

One of the barn cats cut us off in mid trot though, and it's a good thing Amber has excellent brakes! That kitty was getting in the way a lot today.

I'm going to *try* to ride tomorrow afternoon. I work 5-8, filling in for someone, so maybe after lunch I can get out.

Number one things to work on for *me* are remembering to squeeze and release, and push her into the outside rein, and get my freaking HEELS down. Things to work on Amber with are using that rear end! Transitions, and accepting the bit. ;)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flying Change!

...of lead AND attitude!

Amber was just amazing today. She accepted the bit, acted like a perfect lady. less soft at the trot, but she'll get there. What *really* impressed me was the butter smooth, collected canter she gave me! And then, I had this impulse to take her across the center of the ring and see if she's change leads. She did. I pulled her up and gave her the biggest hug and then I started screaming like an idiot "ANDREA! COME HERE!" and cantered over to the barn side of the arena.

I was so excited. I didn't even ask for it, she did it BEFORE I asked.

I love Amber so much. She is just the most wonderful thing ever. I'm so proud of her...I can't stop telling everyone about her. Stranger or someone I know, I always find a way to brag about her.

Also, Andrea and I were chatting about the possibility of doing a mountain trail ride in the future. Take a bunch of students up and let the adult riders/advanced teens kind of chaperon the less experienced and younger riders. Split the cost and make it reasonably affordable for everyone to go. She would just have to find the trailers and trucks to borrow.

I would love to do that. Stay a couple of days and ride. God, that sounds wonderful to me right now.

Just in general, I am so happy with my life right now. I honestly think Amber is fueling 90% of this happiness. Every time I see her she just makes me smile.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Nothing but fantastic!

My last two rides have been AWESOME! The loose rein really did the trick. She got her head down and really tried to listen. I put the polos on the front and she had way too much front action though and didn't want to engage her hind end.

Today's ride was GOLDEN. No polos, and she was such a good girl. She circled without rushing, and she had some nice, easy, relaxed canter work. I was so proud of her!

The trick is to praise, praise, praise. Amber is very praise oriented. She likes to hear she's doing the right thing. Then she relaxes.

She also gave my friend Mindy, who hasn't ridden since she was a small child, a quiet little ride today. I lead them around and Amber was as quiet and mellow as you could wish for. She'd be an awesome leadline horse for kids.

Honestly, she has been nothing but wonderful from the moment she got to the barn. They are building a bigger tack room out of an area that was used for storage, since the current tack room is quiet small. They're going to use the old tack room as the new feed room, and I think the tiny feed room will be the storage room.

Amber was totally calm despite lots of banging and the loud power saw. Didn't bother her a bit.

Also, at first I thought the way she walks up to me in the pasture might be because she's associating someone coming to catch her with going in to eat, but Andrea said she honestly thinks Amber really is just that friendly and likes to interact with people. I think so too. It really does make me feel good when she sees me coming and perks up her ears and starts to walk over to me. Whoever bred her definitely gave her a GOOD start. Despite having a rough owner later on, she was started out the right way. That makes a huge difference.

Also, she keeps a very neat stall. She is not a mess maker at all. I was glad to find that out, because having had to clean stalls of horses who are super messy in their stall, I know how irritating it can be for the one who cleans the stall (in this case, Andrea).

And more good news, she lost that hay belly! She's a little chubby, but it's winter so that's a good thing because she needs a little extra fat. Everyone keeps telling me how pretty they think she is, and I'm just too proud of her. I think she will be a very popular horse out at the barn, and I'm glad for it because nobody likes to have the horse everyone hates! And we all know that EVERY barn has that one horse that nobody likes (or at least, except their owner).

My friend took pictures today, and when she gets the chance she's going to send them to me, so I will post those when I get them! :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Work, work, work!

My ride on Amber today was good! She was a little quick in some spots, a little "looky", and one shy, but otherwise we got nice work. We did a bit of cantering, and cantered over a ground pole which she JUMPED!

I think I over ride her sometimes though. I had to override Jack and I forget Amber was roughly ridden before and gets very upset if one overrides. She will start to get very quick, and will start to chomp and snatch on the bit. This happened once today, and to get her back I finally talked very soft to her and rubbed her neck and then she got back into a nice working trot again.

Tomorrow I'm going to go about this a different way. I'm going to start her on a very, very loose rein and keep her on it until after she has trotted for 5-10 minutes. At that point, I will start to collect her a little more. She's way too sensitive in the mouth so I want to ease her into contact for now. I'm a little concerned it has something to do with her wolf teeth. Which, really isn't a problem, I can just schedule them to be pulled. I will be asking the vet when spring shots time comes.

Anyway, my plan for tomorrow's ride is simple. Do the above, and work on trot/walk transitions, and canter/trot transitions. Also, consistency in all three gaits. Especially getting into the corners. I also want to try for one flying change. If it doesn't happen, no biggie, but I heard she will do it so I'm just curious.

I think this will be our plan for the next couple of weeks, taking a couple of days to lunge in side reins.

Hopefully she will start to realize that contact doesn't mean I'm going to be rough on her.

Also - full size bridle does NOT fit. Cob size worked perfect. I think some of the fussiness today may have also been due to the fact that the full size had the bit too low in her mouth - even on the last holes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Yum, side of wormer anyone?

Unfortunately for Amber, today was worming day. Actually, it's not unfortunate for her because if she had human intelligence, she'd be glad that she has an owner who cares enough to keep her updated on a worming schedule.

I got out and I was alone at the barn; Andrea was out to lunch. I put my new toys away in my box and couldn't find a screwdriver to hang her stall nameplate, so I hung her salt lick up since it's just a tie-up. My helmet cover was a huge waste of money. That thing 'fits most helmets' would only fit a small child's helmet. It's going right back for the $10 I paid for it!

I went out to catch my girl. My heart was warmed when she recognized me, pricked her ears and started towards me. She has the best disposition. She seems very, very happy to have more pasture space, grass (even though it's minimal in the winter and dead), and dry ground. I think the turnout situation is going to make her 10x happier. And a happier horse = better work under saddle.

I popped her in her stall to see if Andrea would come in time because I wanted to ride.

Unfortunately, she didn't, so I decided to just worm Amber and call it a day. She was very well behaved about it, but the faces she made were clearly "What the HELL, mom?!"

So she got lots of treats to help clear the taste from her mouth, and then I let her back out with her new friends. She already gets along well with them.

Look at those bright, happy eyes!

I'm so excited about her. I just know she's going to be a winner. After investigating her pedigree, she's obviously got some nice lines, and her lovely personality and natural good movement is the icing on the cake.

I've decided this year, since she's still young yet at 7, we will probably hit up some local schooling shows to get her used to the atmosphere. I will be unlikely to go to anything rated, unless I really feel like she's ready. I don't want to rush her, and we have plenty of time. I'm going to make it a point, however, to have some fun and not just school all the time. I think that will be the best thing for her mental and emotional state. I'm a firm believer that horses do need to practice and work hard, but that all goes sour when they don't have the opportunity to just be a horse. Especially when they are "teenagers" and "young adult" horses. ;)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bareback ride!

So amber settled in great. She ran through a rope gate when the draft mare got into a scuff with her (i would have done the same thing if a horse weighing a ton cornered me!) But she was no worse for the wear.

I took her out and groomed her. Lead her around to let her look at everything. All I can say is the goat they havr nearly caused her to have a meltdown! He was making lots of noise though. She was totally chill when we walked away. She will get used to him.

I decided to ride even though I dont have her bit yet. I hopped on bareback with a halter. Just chilled while the girls who also owned horses there chatted with me. Amber was very well behaved and despite weird weather, wind, rustling trees, and a shiny blue garland waving in the wind, she,didnt get upset at all. Just grazed quietly while I talked.

I just need to remember not to ride near that goat any time soon.

The girls that board there are very nice, a little younger than me, but I think I will have lots of fun with them! Im glad to have riding buddies.
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