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.