Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Busy busy busy!

A lot has been going on, life is back to busy, busy, busy!

Since I live in the east, here is an obligatory snow photo from our master bedroom over this past weekend. We ended up with 6 inches at my house and 8-10 inches at the barn by the end of Tuesday.
The snow was pretty, but my drive to the barn was not.
I had a lesson each weekend for the past two weekends. So two weekends ago first:

I'd been having trouble with my canter halfpass and a general unwillingness to connect in canter, and a lack of "jump" in the canter. Something that's drilled into us is to use the outside rein, outside rein, outside rein, and ride the horse from the back. We forget we have an inside rein that can still direct the horse, and remember to ride the whole horse, not just the back. Also I shorten the right side of my body. Badly.

We worked the canter on a circle in the middle around X to start. Medium canter on the circle: make sure I'm using my seat to ask for forward and with quiet shoulders (bam, the canter was up and forward as soon as I quieted my shoulders. Ask for collection, softening the seat to give his back somewhere to go. We repeated this until it was comfortable. Each direction we started adding in shifting the hindquarters in and out on the circle while we switched from medium-collected-medium-collected. That got a whole different response from Mikey- he blew up at the pressure to move his haunches and stay round and through. So we kept going until he didn't respond badly. We moved off the circle into collected canter, around the short side, and then set to the half pass, just for a few steps to the left since that's all Mikey is comfortable doing correctly, and the length of the arena to the right.

All the while, using the inside rein to complete the bend in the body. He was bent through his back but he never bent through the neck (we're not talking see the inside of his face, we're talking being able to see a quarter of his eyeball). As soon as I softened the outside a smidge and worked the inside rein along with the supporting inside leg, he softened and came through wonderfully.

Tracking left was tough, tracking right was incredible. Something we paid extra attention to was being very picky about the transition from walk to canter. No ignoring my outside leg, not bouncing around. I ask, he canters promptly and through. If not, back to walk, reconnect, half halt, ask with whip on the outside hip.

I tend to smother Mikey with my left rein, something that would become painfully obvious in my next lesson... long lining!

I had wanted to teach Mikey to long line because I am an overweight rider. I wanted to be able to work him through all of our movements without me sitting on him, but I wanted something more active than lunging. Long lining is also excellent exercise for me. I think straight lunging has it's place in early training and if your horse is so full of himself, it's safer for him to play on the line for a few minutes than buck you off. I don't like doing that, I got dependent on lunging my horse when I got him and was nervous about him bucking me off (in my defense, he managed it 3 times in 3 months). I make a point now to just go sit on Mikey no matter what and then ride him forward forward forward in walk/trot/canter until I've worked off whatever head of steam he has. But I also understand that some people can't afford to take a fall, so I think it has it's place. But that's not the point here. The point is I'd like to work him from the ground doing something more effective than lunging in side reins.

Enter long lining. I asked my trainer to teach us how in my next lesson. I had gotten a nice set of cotton lines from Schneider's Saddlery and hadn't used them yet. She got him started since he was a newbie too. He had a little bit of a fuss, but got the idea and soon she had him doing haunches in, shoulder in, and leg yielding like a champ. She ran him through walk, trot and canter, then said, "Your turn!"

Something that happens when you change your reins from 3' long to 20' long is that when you make a mistake, it is painfully obvious. I realized just how heavy I am with my left rein, both directions. I realized just how much Mikey doesn't like to bend his body tracking right, he bulges the haunches in without moving off the two tracks. I also realized how much I don't utilize my inside rein. Like I don't touch it, ever.

I was like a drunk driver and poor Mikey was my car. I was that little kid that pulls the right rein as hard as they can, yet the horse still doesn't turn right. I ran him into a wall. I was doing half turns in walk to change directions, and during the one, doing some excessive fumbling with my lines. So excessive that I blocked him from being able to turn left or right, and kept urging him forward. At the last minute I realized I was about to run him into the wall and pulled him the new direction. Sorry Mikey, your mother is learning :-(

By the end of the lesson I could turn, (for every ounce of pressure I put in the inside line, I had to let an ounce go from the outside line... so the horse had somewhere to go... so he could turn. Durrrrrr it took me some trial and error to figure that out sadly), change directions in walk and trot, circle in canter (I was not feeling the running in knee high Muck Boots chasing my horse in canter), and shoulder in to the right in walk and trot. My left rein failings come into light most when I try to shoulder in left because it simply doesn't happen. His shoulder in right is to die for though. I'm going to wear my helmet and helmet cam sometime to show you all. It's beautiful- 3 track, light in the front, beautiful bend through the body.

The nice thing about long lining him is that I can't help him like I do when I'm sitting on him. I get a true through horse who must carry himself because I can't carry him from the ground. All of my failings are out there, but that's fine. I'll figure it out and get better. I'll also get quicker.

So Tuesday night I long lined him again. My plan is going to be to long line him in the evenings during the week when I'm usually riding alone. I get more exercise, he doesn't have to carry me around, and I don't end up being that guy who can't steer in the arena.

Dressed up to long line! Ignore his pile of blankets in the background... I'm a bit messy when I'm alone in the barn.
 Today my steering was better, but I had trouble walking down centerline or the quarterlines. Who knew straight was hard? I did some poor leg yielding as well. I'm learning! I also was reminded that a shouted "Good boy!" makes this horse try a million times harder. It stopped a pending temper tantrum. He was all fussy as I asked him to yield left, he took a step in the right direction, I shouted "Good boy!" and all his fussiness disappeared and he became a hard worker.

His future includes flying changes, piaffe and passage on the long lines. My trainer will probably be working that as I don't think I'll be competent enough fast enough. But I can work a video camera!

This is my new treadmill. It's one hell of a treadmill. I need to find an old pair of sneakers.
By the way, look at those butt muscles! I hope by the end of this mine look like that.
Also compare his hocks, you can see his right one is a bit thicker than the left.

Other things going on in my life:

  • The vet will be out to see Mikey Wednesday. His hock is still swollen. He's not lame or unhappy to work but we can't get the swelling to go away (sweating with furazone, wrapping with poultice, banamine, bute, laser treatment, work, rest). We wanted to try surpass, but the vet stopped stocking it and didn't want to order it for me, which pissed my trainer off because she liked it because it works. Anyway, from what I understand, they are going to do x-rays, drain the fluid and do a steroid shot tomorrow.
  • We are refinancing our house. I hated getting our mortgage the first time around. I repressed the memory. It's back now. We can save some absurd amount of money in interest by refinancing to a lower interest rate (and therefore payment), but still pay the payment we've been paying since we bought the house. Yay for doing the adult thing and prepaying on the house.
  • We have been getting calls nonstop to buy my old truck. Yet no one actually makes it out to see the thing.
  • I am making bracelets now as I have some design problems with my browbands.
Sparkles for sale!


  1. Sounds like you and I share a lot of the same issues under saddle. These sensitive horses require so much from us as riders. Interestingly, while I was in Florida last week I got a chance to talk about sensitive horses a lot with some BNT. It's interesting that they all say that sensitivity is what it takes to really be a top horse, but can be one of the most difficult things to work with. In the case of the head trainer at the barn, his top horse (currently competing small tour), struggles with the containment. I guess that's pretty common. The "I can take this. I can take this. I can do it. OMG! I CAN'T DO IT! *EXPLODES*" reaction. We talked about it because I said I get a much smaller version on my horse, too. It was interesting to watch this guy very calmly and tactfully work with his horse. When the horse's brain fell out on the floor, he calmly, but assertively, got the horse's attention (through demanding flexion, or using a disengaging half halt) then asked again. He demanded that the horse stay with him, often saying "That's not my problem, buddy. That's your problem. You gotta figure it out." As he stayed calm and directed the horse calmly to the right answer, the horse would see the right answer, take it, and go.

    Really enlightening.

  2. Yes for sure- I wouldn't call him sensitive because he's very very tolerant. But he likes his set of rules and when you change them he doesn't react well. Usually I just have to wait it out and get his feet moving forward again and quietly reset and ask again. A pat or vocal good boy does wonders too. Those darn want to please thoroughbreds! That head trainer sounds a lot like my trainer. The "That's not my problem, buddy. That's your problem. You gotta figure it out." is almost verbatim from her mouth, haha! She just has me be a supportive rider, keep asking the question and then wait for Mikey to go through all the wrong answers!