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.