Friday, June 10, 2016

This Week's Happenings

So you guys are getting spammed by horse show posts this month (this is not one). We're going away this weekend for a 2 day, 2 show weekend. But first, let's recap this week because there are some notables (pictures are only kinda sorta relevant):

Penn is spoiled rotten and he got a Mio flysheet from SmartPak.
This is his first time wearing it. He was super grumpy when he wore it in the field that night and ripped one of the straps from the webbing... I sewed it, so now it's patched... just like all of his clothes. #thisiswhywecan'thavenicethings

1.  Lesson 6/7

Trainer got to watch our 1-3 video before lesson, and she asked me, "If you could change one thing, what would it be?" I said the balance in the canter. It's so hit or miss for us, and all of the places we lost points were due to balance in the canter issues (in one way or another).

Trainer confirmed that we had all the scores we needed for championships, and our plans for the next few weeks, and then started tearing down our canter a little (full band-aid rippage will be after the last show this month, which is on 6/26, and then we'll build it back up for championships).

Basically, I do a lot of the balancing for Penn. I think that's pretty obvious. That is the biggest thing holding us back right now, so Trainer had me work on keeping him in a longer, lower frame than usual. Basically we need several "frames": Working (highest, most uphill balance), Training Level frame, lower than Training level, stretchy trot. Right now she want us to work a bit lower than training level, but not as low as a stretchy trot. We're working with such a low frame because that is the one place I can't help Penn's left/right balance. We're working to get me to do less (half halts with the shoulder and seat are still totally ok and needed), and to get Penn to start self carriage. He also needs to learn that while my right leg means turn left, it also means step up with the right hind and connect to the right rein. He needs to learn that my leg means all the things!

We started in trot first on a 20-25m circle, encouraging the stretch down. Penn is fairly balanced at this, so then while he was somewhere between long and low and stretchy trot, I asked him to spiral in on the circle. He immediately jumped off the bit, looking for me to help him (which I didn't). I put my inside leg back on and pushed him back out to the outside rein. Repeat the spiral in. As soon as he lost his balance or got to a 12m circle, I'd push him back out. Repeat.

Next, while still on the circle and in the same lower frame, I asked for shoulder in, haunches in, shoulder out, etc. All the lateral things. As soon as I asked for shoulder in, Penn steadied himself and sat down and lifted his shoulder, all from a very minimal cue from me. We flip flopped between lateral and straight on the curved line.

The final step in the trot: without shortening the reins, sit the trot, half halt and bring his balance back up to the Working frame. Once there and steady, push for more trot. Just a hair- it doesn't have to be dramatic. Half halt, post, stretch down again.

Holy shit guys, he held himself up! He was so steady. So pliable and responsive to faint cues! We changed directions from the working frame in a half figure 8 to the outside of our circle, and he just floated through it.

In the canter, things are a bit different. He can never stretch too far down in the canter. He needs to develop a stretchy canter. This was so hard for Penn. We moved out to a 30-35m circle because Penn couldn't balance himself on anything smaller. It took 4-5 circles for him to stretch down, and then another couple for him to really start balancing himself. I have to be careful I don't end up sitting into my left seatbone going left- he makes a hole there and I sink into it and am not longer effective. I need to keep my hips squarer so he can keep himself squarer.

After Penn got his act together a little, Trainer had me move his hindquarters around- push them out, push them in, push them out, push them in, STRAIGHT. Out, in, out, in. Then she said to find a countdown I liked (I picked 5 strides), and make a collection and uphill balance shift happen in those strides. The count is to make me make it happen. 1- start the shift in my shoulders with a small half halt, 2- small half halt, shorten the inside rein a few inches (stretchy canter let it out 8+ inches longer than I usually carry, much longer than the trot work), 3- small half halt, shorten the outside rein, 4 & 5- the biggest MFing half halt through my seat and shoulders and LIFT!  This all sounds very complicated I'm sure, but really it's not (and I'm not good at keeping to the exact rhythm, but that's the kind of thinking I go for because it all happens so quickly and it makes me get the job done). Hold that canter for 3-5 strides, stretch back down and hindquarters in/out/in/out.

My legs were exhausted! It's all worth it for sure though- I had some of the most divine canters! Before Penn couldn't hold his balance anymore and went past the bit in an effort to find my hand support that is. Just a strength issue since I've never made him carry himself this much. He caught on so quickly, it won't take long to master a stretchy canter and the transitions between working and stretch.

All of this work kept him moving to the bit, lengthening his neck, but not past the bit, and did away with any lingering hiding behind the bit he would do. It made him so much steadier in the bridle and on his own feet in the trot and canter.

This stretchy work is more basic work that should have been done a while ago. However, Penn came to us wanting to put his head between his knees and lean with very little balance of his own. He and I would have ended up doing somersaults like this roll cage car, just sans roll cage.

I'm supposed to do most of my warm up in this lower frame, and at home, most of my work in general until he gets his balance. I'm really excited to try this lower frame this weekend in warm up- I think it'll really sharpen up the tests as long as I can keep him connected from the warm up to the show ring. Maybe I should practice quick stretches in trot so I could swing past the judge, stretch down the long wall, shorten and collect, enter at A.

SO MUCH FLY PROTECTION. Just need boots.

2. Penn's new saddle is on order.

His current one is a Stubben 1894 18" 29cm tree. I ordered the exact same saddle in a 31cm Thursday morning. I made a quick trip to the tack shop Wednesday night because they had a 30cm saddle in stock (but 17.5" seat), and I wasn't sure I wanted a 30cm... considering Penn grew out of his 29cm in 6 months. It's a good thing I tried that saddle because Penn fills it completely and then some on one side, and it fits well on the other side. So if I ordered the 30, I'd be ordering again in 6 months, or it just wouldn't fit when it came in. Also, I realized his muscles aren't developing evenly. The new saddle should be here in about 2 months.

Anyone want his current saddle? I'm not actively trying to sell it until my new one comes in, but if you're interested, send me an email at codexdressage at gmail and I'll let you know when it's officially for sale! Obviously, it's still in excellent condition. I'll probably end up putting it up for consignment when my new one comes in- tack shop seems to be ordering a ton of these saddles, so I expect it won't be there for long since it's readily available.

I got this fabulous silver pad for $32 when I went to the tack shop! I love it. I could even use it at a show in a pinch too. I think I can use a seam ripper on the logo in the corner and it'll pop right off.

3. We're back to trying things for tummy problems.

Penn had horrible diarrhea on the 20min drive to Trainer's for lesson last time. Like, I washed his butt before we rode. It was bad. He had more cow pie like poop (and lots of liquid) this past weekend. It seems his diarrhea is back. Trainer is very concerned about him getting sick (I am too, don't worry!). She gave me the scenario we're going to face for Championships: an 8+ hour trailer ride where temp differences from start to finish are 20 degrees different. He's going to be feeling a little under the weather with diarrhea, which will compromise his immune system, and he's going to get very sick very far from home. We need to figure out how to 'stop him up' without drying him out and making him colic.

Trainer suggested Succeed, and I priced it and it's over $100 for 30 days. I'm not opposed to it since he'd be on it for about a week before shows, during the show, and for a few days after getting home. Except I haul him all the time- to shows, to lessons, to just go hack with friends at Trainer's barn. He'd need to be on it all the time! I also can't get it immediately. Other options include Bio-Sponge, Probios, Platnium's Probiotics, SmartDigest, etc. Most of these things I can't get before going away this weekend. I'm not eager to do Bio-Sponge- we tried that when he moved to this barn, and while I think it helped, it didn't take care of the problem.

The best I could do was go to Tractor Supply and get him Probios Soft Chews (they were on sale, more cost effective than the powder, easier than the powder, available, and had decent online reviews) and a bale of compressed alfalfa. I have omeprozole for this weekend already. He'll carry on with the alfalfa no matter what since it's just good to have more ruffage in his belly (I'll have to talk to BO about getting him actual bales because that's cheaper to buy than TS's compressed bales).

I tried U-Gard before, but I'm unsure how well it worked for his diarrhea. That was always hit or miss and I couldn't identify a trigger, other than he got in the trailer... which triggers it at seemingly different severity with no clue as to why each trip is so different. A 20 min trip with a buddy had poop in majority of his tail and down his legs. A 4 hour trip had clean hind legs with some in his tail, but loose poop all weekend and into the week after he got home. Another 4 hour trip with a buddy for part of the way seemed to be fine, only the usual small amount of poop in his tail. I'm not concerned about ulcers at this point- it's the diarrhea. Suggestions?

Edit: What about it being a possible training issue? What if I loaded him every time I was at the barn and fed him part of his dinner or some alfalfa or other tasty treat? He's obviously anxious about the trailer, yet still willing to get on, so maybe I can associate it with positive things like really good food?


  1. I need to bookmark this for later. Stinker and I struggle with all things balanced related. I'm sure we will have these exact problems when we start cantering.

    I have zero suggestions for the diarrhea but I hope you find something that works.

    1. It was a really good lesson!

      We're working through a couple of ideas, so hopefully one combo works for him!

  2. You know my two cents already, but I just wanted to lol at Penn's fly protection. I thought about getting Fiction boots but I know for a fact they won't stay on.

    1. Haha. I don't think I'd want to mess with the boots.

  3. Oy good luck with getting him sorted. That would definitely stress me out too. Is it worth investing in the succeed now just to see if it even does what you want? Then at least you have that in your back pocket.