Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Meds & Supplements

As a side trip from our recaps, I'm writing about the various things Penn gets to supplement his training. I've tried a lot, but finally found a mix that I'm actually really happy with.

Is this a dressage move I don't know about? Kicking pirouette into medium trot?

Penn had been on the following for most of the time I've had him: a feed through joint supplement and some kind of calmer to try and combat his stall walking (he walks a ring into his stall that would mean his stall gets stripped almost daily), and also to combat his trailering nerves. I tried a lot of things: Quiessence, Total Calm and Focus, Mare Magic (purchased as a generic, aka a bag of organic raspberry leaves from smile.Amazon.com), Zylkene.

I kept him on Total Calm and Focus the longest because it worked the best on his "stable nerves" (stall walking, nervousness in the cross ties that resulted in diarrhea, etc), but didn't really negate his trailer nerves. I bought the 180 supply from smile.Amazon.com because it was the best price per day I could find.


Chiropractor:
I should also state that Penn sees a non-local chiropractor every 8-9 weeks. He started seeing this guy in Nov/Dec 2017. He's the only one that has made Penn's hips level at the end of an adjustment. Chiro's adjustments actually hold until the next adjustment now, it's so nice. This guy does adjustments and then vit-B acupuncture type injections into the areas that get adjustments (it helps the adjustments hold).

Hips so even. They're still even now too!

Joint:
I started Penn on Adequan twice a year starting last year. I buy the 10 dose bottle and give him 5 injections 4 days apart in spring, and then repeat that 6 months later. It's not the 7 doses the company recommends, but Penn is young and relatively undamaged, so I think we can get away with this for now. It make me feel better that I'm doing something to support his joints, and it's cheaper per year than my favorite feed through, Doc's OCD.


Muscle and Gut and Calming: (because they've become intertwined in this narrative)
Upon starting training with GP Trainer, I found Penn had trouble building the strength to do the work. I gave him 4-5 months to build new strength before deciding to see if I could help him out.

SmartMuscle Recovery
He stopped feeling funny up front when I got on. Sometimes he would come out very stiff up front and it took a lap to work out, but with this, no more. I am happy with it. I opted to get it in Smartpaks because there wasn't any price difference to having them scoop it (at least for the first 2 months- I ordered AM and PM doses since they were half off).


I mentioned in passing about Penn's trailering problems- diarrhea and then he goes off his feed while he's away too. GP Trainer is sponsored by Uckele, so she recommended one of their products (with her personal reusable coupon code!)


G.U.T Paste
Love it, love it, love it. I can't express the amount I love this stuff. It stopped 90% of his diarrhea. He still has a little bit, but it's SO MUCH BETTER. He gets a half tube the day before travel, and then a half tube each day of travel. He started eating better while he was away too, yay! The bright side: I use GP Trainer's code to get a discount, and then I bulk order it at one of their bulk order discount rates.


G.U.T. Powder
I loved that paste so much that I decided to put him on their daily gut supplement since he has sporadic diarrhea at home too. I added that to his Smartpaks, only because the Recovery didn't meet their $40 for free shipping once I knocked him down to one dose a day. Paying shipping negated any gain in scooping it myself, so I opted to have them scoop it.


Omeprazole/Ranitidine
Penn carried on with the above supplements for a while. He was pretty grouchy, he still stall walked despite the Total Calm (though it did help some), and he wasn't holding weight. He has a very strenuous training and travel life.

At this point, I ponied up and got him a round of Omeprazole. Abba Vet Supply compounds their own product at a really fabulous price (I got 45-10mL doses for $224 in 15-30mL tubes). You need a vet RX to get it, and they don't offer it on their website (you have to call), but they're easy to deal with and fast. Before anyone goes high and mighty on me for using a compounded generic, I've heard from numerous human medical professionals that we overdose horses on omeprazole (but of course not enough that it hurts the horse). Abba's product is supposed to have the same 2.28g of omeprazole as brand name, but it also has ranitidine. There was also a study that said horses had the same healing from a full dose, half dose, and quarter dose. This means that even if the full dose of the compounded generic didn't have the full 2.28g, it should still be effective. Plus, if that didn't work, I'd chalk it up to lost money on a failed experiment and just pony up for the real thing. It's not the first time I've used this particular compound, so I anticipated it working. I opted to do 21 days of 10mL (full dose), followed by 21 days of 5mL.

The results: It did work. Very well. Penn started eating all of his hay. He ate his grain better too. 99% of his stable nerves vanished. His stall walking was reduced by day 10, and by the end, it had vanished majority of the time. He still gets worked up every now and then and trashes his stall, but he's so much better. He had a softer look in his eye by day 7. People who didn't know he was being treated said, "Wow, he looks really relaxed now. What'd you do?" He's still grouchy about having his belly brushed, and the saddle/girth, but I think that might just be him.

So this will probably be a yearly thing I do for him, or maybe just when his stall walking dramatically increases. I give 5mL doses the day before travel and each day of travel. Another plus? I dropped his Total Calm and Focus and he stayed relatively the same in personality. He's a little more unfocused under saddle, but that's no problem. He's still considered a green baby, and I can to work through that.


Total Blood Fluids Muscle
Penn continued to just have trouble with strength and stamina. He'd wear out quickly. Not unusual for the amount of work he's doing, but it still bothered me that 6 months in, he wasn't feeling fully better. I decided to try another muscle supplement and really liked the overall idea of this one (muscle-blood builder-electrolytes), and since I just stopped the Total Calm, I could get this instead (since they're both stupid expensive).
I got it from smile.Amazon.com (I am not having Smartpak scoop it- it's WAY too expensive for that). But sadly, Penn would not eat it. In fact, he stopped eating altogether. He eventually started eating again, but then he wouldn't touch ANY powder in his feed, including his GUT powder. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.


Smartlytes Pellets & Grand Vite
This is where I got mathy. Smartpak has this awesome comparison tool that breaks down everything in the products so you can compare what has what and how much of it. I put the breakdown for Total BFM into Excel and got cracking on how to "make it myself" using other (preferably pelleted) supplements. I put Total Calm and Focus into the comparison as well to see if I could help Penn's focus a bit too.



Adding these two supplements got me super close. Of the 75 various vitamins/minerals/compounds in his original supplement group, I was able to replicate 64 of them at the same or greater value, and only one was missing entirely:

New to the left, old to the right. Not really concerned that the six B vitamins are at a lower value. I'm guessing Total Calm has obscene values for their calming effects. Grand Vite was the best way to put some more of each back into his diet, as well as many other vitamins/minerals.

The one missing entirely, Creatine, is in his Manna Pro Ration Balancer, so I'm not concerned about that. The best part is that the electrolyte and vitamin together are cheaper than Total BFM, and he'll eat both of them! I did put both of them in his Smartpak because the Smartlytes are cheapest in that form, and I didn't want to have to scoop his Grand Vite and G.U.T. powder into baggies (and I loathe powder in baggies). I figured this is already cheaper than what I was doing before, so I'll suck it up and keep the Smartpaks which also let me stagger the cost throughout the year and save time.

He's been feeling full of energy since I made the switch- he's got a lot more stamina, even in the heat. I'm sure that's due to the electrolyte, but he feels physically good too. I'm very pleased with the new combination.

__________________________________________________

So there you have it.

  • G.U.T. Paste (when traveling)
  • Omeprazole/Ranitidine (when traveling, possibly a yearly treatment)
  • Adequan (10 doses per year)
  • SmartMuscle Recovery Pellets (daily)
  • G.U.T. Powder (daily)
  • Smartlytes Pellets (daily)
  • Grand Vite (daily)


And this is the closest I will get to adding all of that up in a cost per year. Ack!

Funny baby horse gets all the things since I ask a ton of him.

I'm sure some of you are looking at this list going, "OMG she's fucking crazy." So what all do you guys do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

5/27/2017 Lesson Day 2: Counting Strides

That butt though. <3

Penn and Utonia hit the jackpot while they were visiting- not only did they get luxury turnout, they also got stalls with runs. Penn spent majority of his stalled time in his run. I had to put his breakfast outside in the run with him to make him eat it! When we came in Saturday morning, neither horse had touched their breakfast or their hay. They were both standing in their runs, snoozing away their grass comas. Sorry guys, we have work to do!

Penn also chose this trip to be best friends with Utonia and screamed bloody murder for her whenever they were apart. *facepalm*

Part of our warm up in our Saturday lesson talked about how to halt from the trot. GP Trainer had me think about walking just one step into the halt in order to find square. She finds the trot awkward to halt from- it doesn't have a foot placement that encourages square like the canter does.
To make [the trot-halt] more like a feather floating down, and less like a brick, ooze him into [the halt].
Pretty sure that's my favorite quote from the lesson, haha.

Square and immobile. Check!

I did a better job in warm up of sitting down in my seat and up in my shoulders (dressage makes no sense, seriously lol) and putting my lower leg on and getting him to keep his belly up. And I did a much better job at keeping his haunches behind him in the canter one loops on the right lead (having the right leg on does that you know).

Penn got a short walk break and then we moved on to the real meat of the lesson: Canter down the long wall. 10m circle at R/S/V/P (whichever is first on that particular wall). Count the strides to complete one circle. Repeat at the next R/S/V/P letter. Make sure the circles are super accurate.

Penn seriously struggled to keep the left lead canter- but he did a ton of work the day before and was failing in a good way- he was sitting and getting tired. We got a base count of strides for the circle- 14-15 strides.



And this is where the video kind of got wonky- the card filled, we got the card cleared, and then the camera didn't quite track me right anymore in the canter work. I wish the video tracked better, he looked and felt awesome!

But we moved on to the right lead, with the idea of adding just one stride to the 10m canter circle. It gave me a really good reference for just how much I am collecting Penn- no "OMG I MUST COLLECT A LOT RIGHT NOW!!!!" It also ratted me out in that I make the first half of my circles bigger, then panic and make the second half smaller as I get to my 16 stride count. I need to make my first half smaller so I can make the second half "normal" sized. It gave me meaningful collection that I can easily replicate on my own, and I love it. Penn was also extremely willing and quiet- no crazy rider hauling on him to sit more, more, more. I wasn't madly trying to squash him.

It was math and geometry and letters and dressage and I love it. We talked on a rest break about using stride counts to center things like tempi changes- you know the horse takes 24 strides down the diagonal, and you need to do five 4 tempis (which is 20 strides), so therefore you know you need to start them two strides onto the diagonal. It's crap like that that makes me LOVE dressage so much. It's how I plan parts of my test. I used this same idea at my next horse show- the counter canter 20m circle into the simple change. I would hit the letter to go straight, count down from 3 and walk. And all the simple changes I rode that weekend were some of the best I've done at second level.

For shits and giggles:
     C = 2πr = 2π(5) = 10π = 31.4m >>>  31.4m * 3.2808 ft/m = 103.0171 ft
     Normal Stride Length = 103.0171 ft / 14 strides = 7.358 ft/stride
     Collected Stride Length = 103.0171 ft / 16 strides = 6.439 ft/stride

A 10m circle is much longer than it seems at 103ft to ride! But his stride was quite short too. I rode 35 meters in a straight line in canter at home for practice the other day:

I have trot steps too, but that's all for another post.

The video continued to be a bit wonky at the trot, so no video there either. We touched the laterals in trot to finish:
  • Tracking right, keep the outside rein against his neck and close my outside leg in SI.
  • Be careful not to get too much angle in the haunches in right.

Pretend his feet aren't cut off, lol.
I apparently learned my lesson about flinging him into the angle going left the day before, because we did a bunch of really great SI and haunches in in the second lesson.


We called it quits and I took Penn for a walk around the xc field, where we jumped a couple super itty bitty tiny logs!

I got a ton of good information on this trip, I was very pleased with both lessons!

Grass coma. Hard weekend of lessons. Tired pony, only kinda-sorta ready to go home!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5/26/2017 Lesson Day 1: Focus on Canter-Walk

M and I ventured back to GP Trainer's barn many weeks ago (and I'm finally editing the video and writing it up!). GP Trainer and I caught up really quickly on what my next outing was and at what level (Loch Moy, 1-3 and 2-2), and then off we went.

Hi Utonia! (this pic is actually from the ride home, whatever, lol). Had to borrow BO's trailer again for this trip- mine was having its breaks completely rewired as part of its emergency tune up.

In warm up, I touched on all the things, but the canter-walk-canter on the diagonal was no good. She said to put a pin in that, we'll revisit it after she sees the rest of his work. One item that sticks out in my mind for the warm up- the shallow loops in canter on the right lead- Penn wants to swing his hips right really badly. I have to keep my right leg on throughout the section near X to really keep them in line. (that was one of my first reminders this weekend that the outside leg has a purpose, doh) At this point, we turned on GP Trainer's Pixio, and I have video from here on out!

The first exercise we did was a 20m circle, with 10m circles at each point.

The entire idea was to slow down the canter, just one beat per minute slower, and collect it from seat and not hand. We did four 10m circles to collect the canter, then asked for a canter-walk transition in the 5th circle. I had to actively not brace in my irons. I needed to sit up, lift my feet ever so slightly (can't brace when they're light in the irons), then ask for the walk. It was super difficult to reprogram myself- sit up and walk instead of sit up-brace-walk. I was still bracing in the very last step.





Next we looked at the canter work from 2-2.

The first two swings through the counter canter/tear drops/simple changes were good- he stayed relatively balanced and the simple changes were significantly better than in warm up and previous lessons. She wanted to see the left lead work again. He just struggles with the strength to hold it, and I struggled to find the right seat to keep it. It's all about sitting back on that right hind and sitting up and not bracing on my irons, haha.

Some notes for me:
  • Treat the last quarter of counter canter like your last quarter of the 10m circle- collect and sit and prepare.
  • Release the walk, don't pull him into it.
  • Sit on right hip in left lead counter canter.




The last bit of canter we attacked was medium into a 10m circle to the walk. I'm not sure if this was her original plan, but it became the plan after he basically ran away and got wiggly in the "medium" canter.

She got after me to:
  • Let go with my hands. Especially let go of the left rein (when tracking left) and stop him with the outside rein.
  • Let go of the reins in the 10m circle.
  • Tracking left: Use the stick on the inside hip within the canter rhythm as I collect him into the 10m circle to remind him to keep coming with his left hind. It's not enough to make him run out of the collection though; it's just a simple reminder. Obviously I can use it on the inside hip right too.

GP Trainer caught me leg yielding out to try and get his attention back as we tried to go back to work to do the left side again. She said no leg yielding out- it's not enough to get and keep his attention and he's just falling to the outside. If I'm going to do anything, bump him with my inside leg to outside rein, but put the outside leg on to catch it right away and stand him up. Don't change the line we're on, but give him something small to do. The leg yield is too slow.





The trot work was just lovely... when I wasn't dragging him onto 10 million tracks in the lateral stuff, haha. We touched on the trot pattern for 2-2, and it was really nice, just minor tweaks to it, and a reminder to not pull the left rein in the left SI- I pull him off balance, out of "frame", and then have too much neck bend. I have to be very very careful to ask for the SI left very gently- it is very easy to whip it off the 3 track and onto a million tracks. I'm not bothering to upload or edit it- it was balanced, rhythmical, and soft. The video would end up being 5-6 min anyway, and I don't know who is going to sit through all of that!

The biggest takeaways for this lesson? When I brace in my irons, he braces back, and that's really what causes the canter-walks to fail because it allows him to disengage his hind end. Everything in the canter deteriorates when I brace on my irons. I needed to get my leg out in front of me before because he was diving down in the canter, but now I need it under me and working, not bracing.

The kids got turnout for the overnight! They were in grass comas in the morning. Not that we don't have grass at home- it's just not as thick and luscious and yard-like at home!

My failures in this lesson definitely shaped our second lesson of the visit, and started my current focus of counting strides!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

5/15/2017 Lesson with MF

MF is a GP rider from several hours away. I've only heard glowing reviews of her when she comes to Dressage Trainer's barn, so when I was finally invited to come ride with her, I said "Ok!" and waited for lesson day to come.

Someone refused to eat his breakfast before we left. I hand grazed him for the half hour I had scheduled for him to eat breakfast instead.

She liked Penn A LOT. Nice neck, good shoulders, nice intelligent head. She noted his back slightly dipped, so to get it truly up, he has to stretch down a bit.

Unfortunately, while I have video of lesson, there's no audio because MF used a headset to speak to an earpiece in my ear from the middle of the ring. I usually post videos from my lessons with GP Trainer, but that's so all can partake in the audio instruction too. I don't have her exact instruction in this, so I'm just going to do a bunch of gifs (and a little video at the end).

She watched us warm up, and immediately said he should be stepping more out with his front legs at the walk. He reaches under with his hind legs nicely, and he has a wonderful angle to his shoulder, so there should be no reason he can't reach with his front legs. He has an 8 walk, don't let him go around at a 6. To make that happen, I had to ride it more forward, but more up too in my own body so he would raise his shoulder and lift the leg more (I also filed this away for his mediums).

She started what became a common theme for our lesson: Good scores come from riding on the edge of control, and judges want to see nice moving horses really MOVE. Average moving horses move as best they can and they're rewarded for moving at their best, but nice moving horses better really move because then the judge will be disappointed in what's brought to the ring. I never really thought about that- Mikey was a good mover in eventing, but a average/good mover in the dressage ring. I always oogled the fancy horses and how I couldn't hope to best them so I had to be super accurate. Apparently now I have a fancy horse who I'll be punished for not riding on the edge!

We moved to trot. She wanted more trot too. I did my usual figure 8 and serpentines to warm up (sorry, not making gifs of those, lol).

She had us leg yield from centerline, but had me counter flex (flex him into) the leg yield as a start for half pass. He got steadier in the leg yield when I did that.


She then had me go down centerline and then go left for a few steps, and then right for a few, then left, then right, etc. Pushing him back and forth makes him steady his shoulders himself. She noted that it takes me a long time to get the leg yield left going from the centerline.

Go left. Go right. GO LEFT. GO RIGHT!

Next she asked me to show her his turn on the forehand... which I had to admit that I barely do with him. She was like, "Oh really? You should do it every ride!" I asked him for turn on the forehand, and he promptly turned, but inverted a bit. I guess it never really occurred to me to have him be round too. So that's where we started.

Well that was bad.

She identified where he holds his tension in his jaw and cheek and did some manual flexing of him. She showed me where she wanted him to stay, and then it was my turn... and she promptly took him back from me when I did my rein jiggling thing. The second thing she stressed this lesson was "rein on or relaxed hand." No jiggling, put the rein on by closing your hand and using your elbow or relax the hand. Hands like side reins yo.

"Stop wagging his head you schmuck."
Ok, she didn't actually say that last bit, lol.

Note for riding Penn: Going left, relax left hand and really hold the right rein with my right elbow. This keeps control of the right shoulder. Going right, he needs the bending right suppleness and less left rein.

The problem in my haunches in, half pass, and turn on the haunches (aka why they aren't happening) is throughness and flexion in the jaw. She said don't be afraid to manually put him there- obviously this isn't the final stage but you have to make it clear that's where he's to be.

Yea, I needed a lot of help. Horse gets a pat though.

So that's where we started- keeping roundness at the halt and through a single step of turn on the forehand. She had to help me keep the flexion and get the over because Penn was looking for any way out except the door I was holding open. He also had to STOP after one step. He wanted to rush through it (the Thoroughbred in him, haha). It got better, and we moved on to a square with quarter turn on the forehand corners.

Ok, that was a little more than a quarter turn.

Then we moved on to turn on the haunches. Penn didn't want to bend and move to the right and it took a lot of reminding him about where to be in order for him to do it. Turn on the haunches should have the hind legs crossing over (walk pirouette does not have the cross over). We finally got some good turn on the haunch right, much better than anything I've been able to produce.

One to the left.
Even with the stutter, it's still better than anything I had produced to date for the TOH right.

MF surprised me by having me canter out of the turn on the haunches right. In my haste to comply, I dropped all reminders for Penn to be round and let him invert into the canter and hurried him so he picked up the wrong lead.

Rider error FTW

We schooled the walk/canter and trot/canter both directions with the same idea- he must connect and not invert. Same thing as the turn on the forehand- we have to fill in this hole too. As I got better at maintaining the roundness (something I will have to do until he will hold it himself as the new normal), his back started really coming up into the transition. If I dropped the ball AT ALL, he'd revert back to his old self and not lift his back through the transition.


Coming from canter to trot, I had to make sure to collect, collect, and shoulder in into the trot. He stopped falling on his forehand and made some nice transitions.

I'm pretty sure she was yelling "Shoulder in!!" into my ear.

She had me do a change of direction through a trot change. The downward was OK, and then she said "don't hurry the new lead, wait for him to soften and come through!" It took a while to establish the new bend, but we got it and the new lead. She had me make the next change with a flying change, which ended up late behind and a bit tense. Baby changes though.

ZOOMish

She also had me work on the stretchy canter. Say whaattt?

This is all the stretch I got, but he's not running off, so win?

She wants him to be able to go forward, come back, stretch down, and lift up. As he stretched down, he wanted to run off. We spent some time working on down without running off- she had me think about moving against his left hind to prevent him from running off on the right lead while encouraging him to stretch down. She said it'll be the work of weeks or months until he can actually give a good stretch without running, so no worries. She had me collect him and then volte into a walk at A... where he inverted through the downward. She said he needs to be stronger, and right now it's good enough but it's flat and not great like it could be. Effective, but not expressive and great.

Effective, not expressive.
I feel like she's standing there saying, "Impress me." lol

We finished by working with the bamboo pole. She asked if he has started half steps, I said no, so we started from the beginning. All we worked on was getting him comfortable working around the pole- it has to be a very low key, low stress thing so he doesn't get worked up over it. To be honest, I'm not sure what she did besides tap legs and make sure he was OK with the pole (my job was keeping him round and/or moving), but he started sitting more in the walk which was pretty cool. I'm not going to do a gif of the work- It's interesting so I'll share the whole video of that part.




And if you're interested, here's the video of all the gif clips (including some that didn't make it to the blog).


Overall, I was really happy with the lesson and MF's ideas. She certainly identified weaknesses I need to address, and Penn was better at the end than when we started.
________________________________________________

Since this ride, I've oscillated on how I feel- I don't like the amount of hand I used (my right arm hurt for a couple days). I do like how regular the canter got. I don't like how he started getting BTV. I do like how the transitions changed for the better. I've mixed her work into my warm up- she said she always starts from the bottom of the pyramid, no matter what horse she's sitting on (green or FEI), and she works on the first part of the pyramid that trips up the horse during that ride.

I do my serpentines that mix in Cowboy Dressage Trainer's bending exercises, but then I also get my elbows into the work faster and I check my throughness with turn on the fore and turn on the haunches. The elbow reminder came in handy at the show this past weekend and keeping Penn's attention.

There were a few days that Penn flipped me the bird over moving off my left leg (in both TOF and TOH). He kept threatening to rear, so I thought, "How did MF help me get him moving off this leg?" Well she poked him. I can't poke him since I already am with my spur, but I could tap him with my whip behind my leg. It only took one or two taps before he complied, albeit unhappily. Now I generally do only a handful of turns because he keeps the roundness. I sometimes have to remind him on the left, but there's much less fuss now.

Overall, I think it was a worthwhile lesson. If I'm invited the next time, I'll sign up again!

Monday, June 5, 2017

So Yea, I'm Behind on my Posts

Lots has been going on, and well, I haven't written! I'm working on it, but I'm held up by the need to edit video, and the lack of time to do that. So here's a preview of posts to come:

A favorite traveling clinician (who we'll call MF), came to dressage trainer's barn and I was invited to come ride. We covered a bit of ground and touched on a lot, but she finished by introducing Penn to the bamboo pole. (One post) 

We visited GP Trainer again. Penn enjoyed night turnout while we were there and was in a grass coma in the morning! It was an excellent visit with some great tips. (Two posts) 

 We went to a recognized show with Austen and it was AWESOME. There was dressaging, wildlife, and cross country schooling. (Two posts) 

I will eventually write all of these and then get back to every day activities because all I've been doing are lesson and show recaps! We've started a 4 week lull- no shows and no lessons for a while (Penn is going to enjoy a week of quiet time with very light work).

Hope that's enough tidbits to keep everyone interested!