Friday, June 26, 2015

Wednesday Pictures

Meant to post these pics with the video I posted of Wednesday's ride.

Mikey is going to have to start wearing bell boots when we work in the arena. He interferes up front pretty badly when we get working (his fuzzy boots are missing outer shell over the fetlock joint on both fronts). I thought this was restricted to the lower leg, but above the pastern. Apparently not.

Came back from my ride and he had blood all over his leg. This is why.
I have a pair of Dalmar No Turn Bell Boots from our cross country days. They have a carbon fiber strike plate across the back of the boot, and they'll sit high enough that he'll interfere with the boot and not his leg. They aren't much good for keeping shoes on since they don't touch the ground (I can't stand the flip flopping of regular rubber bell boots, and Mikey detests the feeling too), but they'll be perfect to protect his coronet band/lower pastern from his other front hoof.

The sunset here in PA was beautiful on Wednesday.

Mikey grazing. So pretty.
More grazing horses back lite by the sun.

4 Months, 22 Days Post Surgery

Well that count is as of Wednesday, June 24, 2015... which is when I took this video! Make sure you watch in 720 HD :-)

I brought my helmet cam out to the barn, put it on a tiny tripod, which I then put on the mounting block. My helmet cam has 170 degree field of view, but records it all in HD, so the video fish eyes a little, but you can see everything! I promise I will drag Husband out to the barn one of these days to take good video/pictures with his super deluxe professional photographer's camera. Or I'll give someone my cell phone and have them record some work on it. A helmet cam on a tripod is the best I could do! I needed something that remote starts, otherwise I would have just stolen Husband's camera.

Pardon my sitting trot. I'm still working at sitting his smaller trot. Since I was able to replicate my lesson (without crossed reins) and engage the correct seatbones, Mikey found his forward and connection and I was struggling to keep up in the trot.

I also got a flying change, right to left! Yes, it was inverted and late behind. I don't care. He offered it after not doing any since January.

I'm so happy! He is doing amazing. And he's sound and moving well. I feel so lucky.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Lesson Since January = Reins Crossed

I was able to connect with Trainer yesterday for a lesson. First once since January. It's not really anyone fault. Mikey had surgery in Feb and the only horse I was really interested in lessoning on was Cody (sorry, not lessoning on a green bean!), and Cody's prep schedule for Rolex ended up not including lessons for me (they were planned then he'd do something that Trainer wanted to fix in the next ride, so my lesson would be cancelled). Then he just got too fit for me to want to sit on!

Anyway, I got out to the outdoor and we did about 10 minutes of walk while I waited for my lesson time. trainer asked me what was going on with him. I told her I'm having a very hard time maintaining right bend. His jaw locks and no amount of flex right/left softens it. It's just a dead air feeling on the left side when we track right and I've found myself working the right rein to compensate. It's a hole we had last year. We 'put a band-aid on' it so I could get out and do my 3rd level tests, and we planned on fixing it this winter (which got scrapped due to his accident).

She asked me to put him through walk/trot/canter each way so she could watch him go. She's seen him on and off for a couple months now, but hasn't really watched him. I did a lap in each gait, starting left. Nothing spectacular- he felt very average and non-committal to the whole connect to the bit thing. Tracking right was more of the same until I went to canter and asked for a circle right, and struggled to keep him on the circle because of the dead air on my outside rein.

She told me to pull up and that she had an idea.

Due to a lack of pictures, I googled "horse trainer with ideas" thinking I might find some cute drawing.
This is what came up.
She took my reins, crossed them under Mikey's throatlatch, gave them back, and said, walk on!

Everything I talk about now is going to reference tracking right. We never got to the left because it doesn't have as many issues.

So the idea with crossing the reins really makes you ride inside leg to outside rein. That about sums up what we had to accomplish. So now I'm attempting to walk Mikey around with botched steering. Bless his heart, Mikey is just going along with bat shit crazy mom's very poor steering. Crossing the rein really multiplies any holes in the front end. With Mikey and me, it amplified the fact that I lose control of his left shoulder.

So we're walking. Use the left hand to get the horse to go right. Be careful of too much right bend.... only that's not what I have. The hole in both of our training is so bad that if I pull with my left hand, he moves his head left. If I pull with my right hand (so pulling on the left side of his bit) he goes left. Both reins now mean go left. Huge hole.

So the answer is to use right leg to get the bend back and push him into my left hand, only he's so resistive to it that I end up tying him up in a pretzel. I halt, attempt to put his head back on straight, try again, and he's bent off to the left again.

Trainer comes over to get me started because now Mikey's feet have stopped moving forward and I probably look drunk. She holds the right side of his bit and bumps the handle of my whip on his belly as I use my right leg. It becomes a battle for right bend as he's very resistive to stretching the left side of his body and bending around the right.

The next thing Trainer tells me is to use my right seatbone. I tell her I am. She says nope, you're not. Well hell. I know I have trouble with it, and I know all of Mikey's problems are because of my problems. So she has me lift my foot in my stirrup just a fraction of an inch. That helps me find my right seatbone, and Mikey immediately flings himself left and magically has right bend.

Poor Mikey, he was very confused by this point. He's tossing his head and in general pretending he's a giraffe. Trainer said he's allowed to be a giraffe, but he's not allowed to toss his head. Both legs kick on when he tosses his head.

So now we're walking on a circle and around the arena unaided but unable to keep right bend consistently. After finding my right seatbone and getting right bend (that's really all it took for him), I had to send him forward with my left leg without losing right bend... or hitting the jumps in the arena.

Poor Mikey. Those nice cavaletti blocks I made? I ran him into at least 5 of them. He'd try to go around and I'd try to encourage it but inadvertently pull him right into them, so the best I could do is stop, regroup, and try to get him turning and forward again.

For the number of times I said, "I'm sorry Mikey!" yesterday, you'd think he would have a good handle on the phrase!

We went around like this: Mikey swaps to left bend because I put my left hip into him/pulled the right rein/did something wrong, right leg press into him at the girth and lift my foot slightly to engage my right seatbone, Mikey swaps to right bend, LEFT LEG LEFT LEG LEFT LEG move forward! Repeat.

Trainer had me trot on even though I was still driving drunk in the walk because Mikey reacts better with a bit more forward momentum and I was doing a good job shutting down the forward. I finally got some softness near the end of the trot work and got a lot better at not hitting things in the arena.

We took a break (during which I neck reined Mikey on a long rein), and she said before we quit, do it in canter, my choice if I want to do trot-canter or walk-canter. I was like, let's go for broke and did walk-canter.

I have to say, once I set him up for the proper bend in walk and asked for canter when I'd normally put my left leg on to ask for more walk or trot, I had some of the crispest, lightest departs in our career. They weren't round by any measure, but they were prompt, with no shuffle steps to start the canter.

My hip problem became immediately apparent. Mikey was flip flopping leads like crazy. Every time I'd get right bend back and put my left leg on to ask for forward I'd swap my hips and he'd do a quick simple change to the left lead. We went for forward first where he was just straight, add bend, kick on. Apply right to left half halts, left to left half halts. I got a couple laps around the arena, then something incredible happened:

My horse became round, through, light as a feather, and so incredibly uphill. So uphilll. I finally had his shoulders under control. I transitioned to trot. An uphill transition into a trot that was no less uphill. Then we walked and fell apart and he got tons of praise.

I asked to do it once with normal reins to see what I could get without crossed reins. Applying the same idea, inside leg, inside seatbone pushed to outside rein, lots of leg go forward, left to left half halts, and bam, I had my super fabulous uphill horse. I didn't quite know what to do with him at that point so I had some trouble directing him, but he was so good! We agreed it really wouldn't take too long to fill in the hole after such an "aha!" moment.

Part of the reason I was able to cover up the hole last year is the fact that my core is very strong, and the struggle we would have would give us momentum to get somewhere. Between those things, I could muscle my way through the 3rd level tests, but would fail miserably on the flying changes. The other place I couldn't quite hold it together was in my lateral work, so that's why that work tended to fizzle out as we progressed in the movement.

Very exciting stuff. I'll spend a week or two working on it (not drilling the reins crossed as Mikey will eventually have enough of that), and we'll see what we have!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dressage Horse's Day Off

Sunday afternoon/night we got a lot of rain here in Western PA. A lot of rain with a lot of lightning. Since Sunday, we've had another day of a lot of rain. Basically, it's pretty darn wet over here.

I went out Tuesday afternoon to ride anywhere that was dry enough to ride on... I doubted the outdoor would be dry enough to not be slick. I was going to investigate it... but I never got that far!

Dressage Horse's Day Off: Ford a pond like it's Oregon Trail!
There's a pond on the property that's usually small and we barely notice it.

It overflowed just a little. The cat tails mark the normal border of the pond. Where Mikey and I are walking is usually grass.
The pond expanded into one of the fields, and made for nice deep water on top of good solid footing. Trainer took all her babies through it this week as water jump practice.

These pictures are courtesy of Trainer's 8 yr old step son using my phone. There were many pictures that come out with fingers, but he did a good job!

Walking through hock/knee deep water. It's apparently belly deep closer to the cat tails, but I don't remember the lay of the land under the water well enough to go more than 5-10 feet from the fenceline.

Cantering through the pond in a less deep section. 


Back out in his field, clean and almost dry.
I had a blast and Mikey seemed to have fun. Every time he'd go through I'd give him a pat and "Good boy!" I only rode for about 10 min since going through deep water has to be tough. By the time we got back to the barn, Mikey was obnoxious because he'd gotten so much praise and then horse cookies. Oh well, he's earned it!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fly Bonnet Club

I'm joining the fly bonnet at horse shows club.

I ordered the below bonnet from Tack Room Inc:

I use a plain browband and I think the white/navy mix in the middle is so pretty looking!
I originally wanted a black and white or black and gray, or solid black because I really enjoy the formal black and white look in dressage. However, everything of Mikey's is navy, and after I saw this one, I decided we're going to wear a little blue in public!

I've found that Mikey is a bit better when he has a bonnet on, bugs or no bugs. It must muffle sounds just enough for him. Hopefully it does the same at horse shows!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

3 Things

1. We have a new addition to our eventing team!

Less than a day old. She was born in the early morning on 6/10/2015.
My trainer has a client that breeds warmbloods. She thoroughly enjoys researching the proper stallion matches for mares, and it's quite interesting. She tries to match the mare and stallion's movement, strengths and weaknesses (I'm guessing these are things you should always do anyway!) and spends quite a bit of time shopping around for the right stallion. One of my trainer's other clients was traveling out of the country for at least 2 years, and had a nice warmblood mare that she didn't know what to do with. So my trainer took her on a broodmare lease and sent the mare to be artificially inseminated last year in the hopes of getting a quality foal to raise and train to be an event horse.

Yesterday was the long awaited day, a nice healthy filly was born! No name yet obviously, but it apparently has to start with a C due to her sire's name and registering restrictions.

The filly's daddy: Cornet Obolensky
We were all hoping for a gray filly (trainer doesn't want to have to maintain a stallion at a boarding barn and all of her upper level horses have been gray). At first glance, we were like, aww she's adorable, but definitely won't be gray! At second glance, she is going to be gray- you can tell by looking around her eyes, they're black/gray. When she sheds out her baby fluff, she'll be on her way to gray! She only has an adorable upside down exclamation point on her face, no other white markings.

The plan is for the filly to come home to the home farm between weanling age and yearling age, and the mare might be bred again. But the filly will do all the in hand showing (a goal is to show at Devon) and go to mare/broodmare inspection and in general do all the fancy warmblood registration things. But in general, for several years she'll just be loved on and get used to human touch.

2. My cavaletti are done!

And they were trainer approved, and gladly accepted as additions to the outdoor! She has commissioned us to make 4 sets for her, but I can't seem to get Husband on board (we'd be paid for our time and materials), but he has other projects he's working on. I'm trying to figure out if they would turn out as nicely if I did them entirely myself. I did all the measuring, routing, sanding and half the cutting myself, but he did the cutting that required hand held precision and the final assembly (the boards were HARD and the screws weren't easy to get in).

Material costs for 8 blocks (items purchased from Lowes):
  • 2x4x8' Treated boards, $7.94 (2 @ $3.97 each)
  • 2x12x8' Treated boards, $24.94 (2 @ $12.47 each)
  • 1lb box of 2.5" Exterior Deck Screws, $8.47
  • Approximately $1 worth of glue, if that (we had a bottle at home)

Final cost, after tax: $45.31, and 6 hours of labor.

That doesn't include the paint, but I kind of like them as wood. We can't paint them for another year anyway, the wood was still a bit soppy. It needs to spend a summer drying out in the outdoor arena's hot sun!

I am super excited to have them, watch out Mikey!

Some assembly required. The last 6 blocks, cut, routed, sanded, and ready for assembly!
A picture that shows all of the height options next to each other.
A stackable option. I didn't have enough beams to do it, but I want to fill in underneath by putting a pole in each of the full holes, turning the bottom blocks around so the half hole is up and then putting a pole in each of those, so you have a very liney hogsback jump. With enough blocks (another 2 sets required), you could make a nice 3' tall, 3' wide triple bar.
I brought the blocks out yesterday and set them up in the arena as 8 raised trot poles.
I spaced them at 4', which I found to be a bit short.
Yupp, I drove the blocks down to the outdoor. It's a quarter mile walk one way, and I couldn't carry more than two blocks at a time!
3. Mikey is awesome!

Mikey got his hind shoes back Monday, and yesterday was the first time I had worked with them on since before his surgery. The difference was INCREDIBLE. He had a few touchy moments, as if he expected some foot pain, but as soon as he realized he had his support back, he was super and sure about his hind end. All of the iffy hind end movement I've been feeling since April went away. He actually feels better now than he did pre-accident.

I worked him through the line of 8 raised poles, and he was a champ. I've never worked through that many at once (raised or not)- never had the space/poles/time/blocks to do it. The first time through he was like, "ahhh!", then the next time he tried to hurry through, but I kept my posting trot rhythm and he finally settled into a lofty trot through them. I did shorten my stirrups a hole so I had better support through the poles in case he got wonky. Super long dressage legs in posting trot don't give that much support.

Going through a line of more than 4 poles was awesome and it had an immediate effect on Mikey's trot. I've always had a hard time keeping him through and connected in poles, but the sheer number of lofting efforts helped him look for the connection on his own. I'm sure he was poking his nose out a bit, but he wasn't inverting and using the underneck muscles. He usually drags his hind toes in trot. The immediate effect of a prolonged effort was no more toe dragging. He kept the swing in his back and hind end the whole way around the arena. He'd reengage when we got back to the poles, then carry on for a lap, reengage, carry on, etc. He'd seek out the contact and connection immediately after getting out of the poles.

I changed it up to trot through the poles, pick up canter, canter around the arena to the beginning of the poles, trot, do a 10-15m circle to rebalance (he's simply not strong enough right now to hold the engagement and connection and not fall on his face in downward transitions), trot the poles, repeat.

I'd add in a couple canter poles on the far sides of the arena. An interesting thing I noticed was he never rushed the canter poles, ever, after learning not to rush the trot poles. I had that problem the couple times I used canter poles last week. He'd wait and listen to me for a stride size, then sit down and keep to it. I was very pleased.

I tried to keep the ride going with the thoughts and ideas of this video in mind. I found it when I was looking for cavaletti.

I plan on using poles like this a couple times a week (we only work them for 20-30 min) to help get him strong again, try to find that incredible trot he has when no one's sitting on him, and to keep/increase the flexibility in his bad hock. I also plan on using them to get his medium/extended trots better engaged and lofty.

He was simply incredible last night, very strong behind. I'm 99% sure he's going to be ready to go 2nd/3rd level in August! I just need to add his lateral work back in. I assume if the hock holds up to working through cavaletti, it'll hold up to the lateral work.

Looking over the poles before heading back to the barn.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cavaletti In Progress! (Pictures)

So in my last post I said that I decided to build my own cavaletti. I didn't want to make the X kind because:
  • They seem a bit involved to make properly.
  • I didn't want to buy rails (my trainer has like 40 PVC rails from an old dressage arena)
  • I didn't want 2' or 18" heights since Mikey isn't allowed to jump anymore.
  • I wanted to be able to raise one side of a pole.
  • I wanted it to be light and easy to move around (and travel with if need be).
Husband and I traded ideas, comments, and spreadsheets complete with CAD drawings (we're a little nerdy), and settled on the following (all modeled by me using Excel... I don't have CAD on my computer like he does!):

The winning design. Stable and stackable!

They are a bit smaller than the 'inspiration' cavaletti blocks from yesterday's post. Those are about 14.5" square (according to Husband's calculations), and can do the following heights: 6-8-10-12".

Husband estimated it would cost me $110 to make 3 pairs of those red blocks out of wood.
The cost to buy those red blocks is $69/pair. To make them, we would need to cut individual squares out of a sheet of plywood because lumber isn't cut in 15inch widths, then glue them back together because the plywood would be in 3/4" widths, but then it would still be floppy. I didn't really want to use plywood, and there just seemed like a lot more work to make them exactly like the red ones, and they wouldn't be very stable (or pretty).

The ones we're making instead use 2 - 2"x12"x12" squares and 2 - 2"x4"x12" boards. The wood comes from boards, so the actual dimensions are a half inch less than my desired dimensions, so my foot squares become 11.5" squares, which messed up my desired 6-8-10 dimensions. Anyway, as you can see from the above drawing, the block ends up being 6.5" wide. The inside square has cutouts for poles, the outside square is solid for stability and attractiveness for when we can finally paint them (more on that later).

The cut outs for the poles are 1/2" bigger than a regular pole because I want to be able to lay one end of the pole down on the ground, so the hole needed some wiggle room.

The final heights using a 4" diameter pole end up being the following (and pretty close to the red blocks):

Low heights, 5.5" and 7.5".

High heights, 9.5" and 13.25".
They came in at a final cost of around $110 for 8 blocks (4 pairs). This included a 4.5" hole saw, glue, white paint, box of screws, 1-2x12x16' board and 1-2x4x16' board. We had wood glue leftover from a past project, so no need to to buy more. Off we went to Lowes!

We ended up getting 8' boards instead of 16' (they didn't have 16' even though the website said they did). We also ended up putting the paint back because the wood was so damp that it needs to dry out for like a year before we can paint it, so no reason to buy the paint now and store it for a year.

We did build last night, but the hole saw we bought ($37) will be going back to the store. It cuts, but the force you need to hold it almost broke Husband's wrist as it jerked around.

The final cost of the 8 blocks is going to be somewhere around $50, but I'm not sure as we've changed what we bought and we're returning items, etc.

Now for Project Pictures!

Piles 'O Wood. 16 squares and 16 2x4s!

The demon 4.5" hole saw.

Nom nom! Not really. The wood was too hard for it.

Measuring for where the centers of the holes go. Husband ended up using a jigsaw to cut the circles out.

After cutting out the holes for the poles, we ran each edge through a router to create smoothed, rolled over edges. We cleaned up a couple edges with sand paper by hand, and then I had to "assemble" the blocks on the floor to see how it looked!

Since we don't stock 3-4" poles in our house, I used a 2x4 as my pole.

Low Height, pre-assembly.
Mid Height, pre-assembly.
High Height, pre-assembly.
Ultra Height, pre-assembly.
Partially together!

The back is glued and screwed.

Stackable for a neat jump. Looks like a traffic light.
It's a good thing I don't teach anymore, these blocks give me some wicked looking jump ideas!

2 Fully assembled blocks.

Mid height, fully assembled!
We'll continue building tonight, so now that we know what needs to be done and how to go about doing it, it should go faster!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Warning: Whiney Content, then Non-Whiney Content

So I'm thinking I won't be taking Cody to a USDF/USEF show in July. The close date is in 2 weeks, then the show is just 3 weeks after that. He's still on vacation and it's getting close enough that it's not fair to ask him to do the work with only 4-5 weeks prep after being off for two months. And I would really like to ride him for more than two weeks before the show (trainer will be riding him for a week or two first I'm sure). Without an indoor (so riding will be as footing allows) or dressage arena to school figures/ride a test to see if I can even get through a test with him, I'm getting to a point where I don't feel prepared. Plus I haven't even been schooling the movements on my own horse. Or sitting the trot (umm I tried sitting the trot the other day, those muscles are gone and need reconditioned ASAP). I liked that particular show because it was a 3 day show so I would have 6 chances to get two third level scores above 60%. Also, waiting for another show isn't really an option- he's going to be getting super fit again for the fall 3* eventing circuit again come August/September and he'll have his own schedule to keep to.

Oh well. I'm feeling pressured to be ready because it'll be a hideously expensive weekend. If I'm not ready, I'm wasting a lot of money. So I guess I'm not really itching to go. It's just over $400 in entry fees (not bad for 4 days of stabling and 6 classes I thought), plus 4 days of coaching (I'm not taking him without my trainer to coach us), hauling/gas (I refuse to haul a horse as valuable as he is by myself), food, and either hotel or RV hookups. Plus paying my member fees, Cody's USDF HID number (not expensive), and probably for my trainer's membership (owner has to be a member too!) since it's not something she would do on her own. I'm looking at close to $1000 for one weekend I'm sure.

If I was going to take him, I was going to make sure I did it right. Now I'm not sure I can, so I'm unwilling to spend the money. I'll save it and take Mikey in August and September, he should be good by then.

I also wanted to get my bronze on a horse I trained, and on an OTTB. I don't like the idea of borrowing a horse just to get it done with, but borrowing a Rolex horse would have been super sweet! He's not an easy ride either, so I felt better about borrowing a horse just to get my medal.

So now I wait for my horse to get back up to par. I'm worried we'll hit the same wall we did before, and stall out and stop advancing. We spent a whole summer trying to get his changes together last year, and I spent the fall working in an indoor on it and had OK luck at it. When he was changing leads consistently, I couldn't ride him consistently due to poor footing from a lack of indoor, so we'd rush it when the footing was good, so now the changes are a baggage filled movement. I know he's capable of them, but now it's going to be even harder due to his hock injury.

I'm also looking at the impending winter without an indoor arena, again. They're working on getting one at our farm this year, but I'm sure if they don't start soon (by August I'm guessing), it's not happening, and then from November to March, I won't be able to ride during the week for lack of somewhere safe (unfrozen) with lights to ride. To be honest, I'd be happy with a covered arena. Put up a roof, plywood kick boards to keep most snow drifts out and I'd be happy. Don't need footing, we already ride on clay/sand anyway, just drag it or roll it smooth. The ground would still freeze, but it would be smooth and well lit. All I can do is hope. After the debacle this past winter at our winter house, I'm hesitant to look again and I think my trainer might kill me. I have a place in mind, but I'm still afraid to pull Mikey from a barn he loves so much.

Geez, this post is taking a turn for the whiney and depressed. Sorry! I think I'm feeling burnt out from last year's stressing about showing and 'finally getting it done this year', Mikey's injury, and lack of monetary funding. Showing isn't even high on my list of things to do this year. Maybe I should just retire Mikey and we'll take up trail riding 24/7.

So how about the good things this weekend?

Mikey was a superstar on our weekly trail ride Saturday. I took one of the older ladies (not old by any means, but almost twice my age!) and my trainer's soon to be stepson (he's 8ish) out for a walk in the woods. Mikey was quiet and went on the buckle without any nervous chomping like last week. The other lady and I chatted about how both of our OTTBs are quiet and wonderful trail horses, if American Pharoah would win the triple crown, etc. We had a lovely ride.

Mikey got a shave after we got back to the barn. His bridle path was about 3inches long, his whiskers were about the same and getting caught in the buckles of his Micklem, he had that goat hair from throat to chin, and he was starting to grow almost respectable feathers.

On Sunday, I took Mikey back to the outdoor to work over the poles again. I tried setting some of them up on the base of the jump standards, which worked out really well until he wacked them and they fell down and I didn't have a jump crew to put them back up. So I kept riding with them down.

One of my raised rails. It didn't stay that way for long.

Mikey is unimpressed by the exercise as I'm setting it up.

The work wasn't as nice as Thursday's, but Mikey had a lot of try (dont be mislead by the above picture!) and the canter work came together at the end with some nice circuits of poles where we kept the throughness and rhythm for several laps of poles, and it was to the right!

I decided I am going to use Husband's workshop to make these:

The red ones. And not exactly like those. Those have pole settings 6"-8"-10"-12". I don't think with Mikey's hock injury we should be doing 12" high trot poles or whatever. I probably wouldn't even use the 10"!
I figure I'll buy a 12" x 2" x 16' pressure treated board, cut it into 16-1' squares, glue and screw two squares together for 8 "uprights", sand them smooth, drill a 4" hole into them, paint them white, and voila, I'll have 8 "uprights" to either make 4 totally raised poles, or 8 half raised poles, or a mix and match.

I am tired of having poles roll away from me. I don't have a really good way of setting up raised poles either. Making 8 should cost around $70 (after buying the 4" hole saw since husband doesn't have one that big) where buying the 2 red ones above cost $70.

I have sent my idea to Husband, complete with Excel-drawn diagrams of what I want. He has already countered with CAD-drawn diagrams. I'll keep you posted! I'm really excited about these.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Triple Crown

Today, I couldn't be prouder to own an off the track Thoroughbred.

Go Thoroughbreds. Go American Pharoah.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ups and Downs

Happy trail riding.
So I had this big long post of how my rides have been, but I'm going to scrap it for things I learned in the last three weeks:

1. Don't come to ride with an agenda.
2. Don't come to ride with an agenda AND when feeling moody.
3. Spend 10 minutes walking Mikey in warm up. No exceptions.
4. Mix it up- not just go hacking and ring work. Ring work needs to get mixed up too.
5. Long lining really helps when Mikey is feeling like having a discussion.
6. Mikey needs his hind shoes back

About three weeks ago, Mikey went from being super to lead flip flopping to the right, refusing to do trot/canter circles right, looking left when bending right (no matter how hard I sunk my right spur into him and did give and take on the right rein), not able to canter an entire lap around the outdoor to the right since he was fighting me, and in general being a snot face brat to the right. The solution ended up being find more forward with more activity from the hind legs, more jump in the canter, and a deeper connection. Plus some long lining revenge.

I found that days I came to ride and wanted to work on something specific, Mikey changed my plans quickly and I had trouble working the basics. Mikey started evading pretty hard to the right, to the point where I couldn't ride a circle to the right in canter. He'd come across the centerline and lunge forward and drag me to the left, like he does when he evades through a flying change.

The first thing I did was swap his bit from his eggbutt mullen mouth to his french link loose ring bradoon. He tends to lean on the mullen mouth if he's going to be naughty, and he was grabbing the bit and pulling me around. The first time he tried grabbing his bradoon, it flexed in his mouth and I had control back. He was very displeased.

The next thing I did was pay attention to what my hips were doing. I had a lesson last year where I thought my right hip was engaged to bend right, when in reality I was sinking my left into him. It was completely frustrating. Mikey had gotten a couple tune up rides from my trainer, so it was quite obvious to me that my hips were not cooperating with my brain and he was so sensitive to the proper cues that I was shooting him off one direction or another. So in the past two weeks, I rode around to the right with my upper body turned to the inside as if I was going to circle because that forces me to engage the proper parts of my leg and seat for right bend. I have to ride that exaggerated right now to make sure I'm not inadvertantly telling Mikey something I don't want (ie, him flip floping his lead in a weird half flying change on the long sides... since we're also having a look left when tracking right problem too).

So as everything falls apart, I got pissed, he got upset, I shortened his neck because of the amount of evading he was doing, he carried a ton of tension. Receipe for success right?

My trainer came down to teach a lesson at one point two weeks ago while I was down there struggling. She pointed out his short neck and said go back to pushing him down into the bridle and make a deep connection to fully engage in front of his shoulders. That let us get around the arena in canter.

I did two long long sessions with him- the first one was two Sundays back. It did a good job correcting his drifting out to the right and ignoring me. He can get away from me when I'm sitting on him, but he can't when I'm on the ground. He had a major tantrum, then worked beautifully.

Revenge is a dish best served from the ground.
My trainer suggested to work him deep down in the canter, big time half halts to bring him up (like 10m canter circle half halts) for several strides and then stretch him back down, repeating the pattern multiple times in one lap of the arena. The goal being to make him comfortable with anywhere I put him, and make the changes in balance happen within two strides, no fumbling. Doing that really helped, and I had a floppy eared relaxed horse for the last week of May.

I used a half vacation day to come out and ride him. We had a good ride on a lovely day!
Last Saturday, I had gone to be a groom for my trainer for xc schooling, and when we got back the weather was turning to crud rather quickly, so I tried to squeeze in a ride. I skipped most of the deep relaxed walk work that puts him in a good state of mind and he spent the rest of the ride wanting to discuss everything. I was so angry. I ended up quitting on an ok note and took him for a walk through the woods with one of the ladies. I decided he needed to do his hack in a connected frame. He turned that into being a spooky bastard and chomping on the bit like he was going to chew it in half.

A student hopping down a bank. She has a neurotic thoroughbred who was quite the gentleman that day. They hopped around Training/Prelim fences without a batting an eye! He's for sale, by the way.
The second long line session was the next day and we spent most of it having flying backwards tantrums when I asked him to move forward into the bridle, and wouldn't let him drift left or turn left when he completly lost his shit. He finished on an ok note, which was good enough for me because we were both being eaten alive by horseflies. He did a two-a-day that day: 30 min of long lining then a 40 min trail ride about an hour later. Some of the ladies don't know the trails very well and want to go out on easy loops, so I've been taking them out every weekend. It's good for them, and for Mikey and me.

More happy trail riding from about 3 weeks ago.
I spent a large portion of this past week avoiding riding him.

I made homemade apple turnovers one night instead of riding my horse.
I finally went back on Wednesday and had an ok ride. Nothing bad, but nothing spectacular. My trainer had left 4 half crossrails (alternating low sides) set at bounce distances at X, across the short side, with some flower boxes set on the edges. The half cross rails were much too high to encourage Mikey to step over them if I went straight through all four (he'd jump, which is a strict no no for him now), so I made up my own pattern linking the lower end of the two middle rails together as we went across the diagonal. Mikey thought that was a hoot and suddenly became very straight (which is the only way to hit the low end of each pole when moving diagonally through a grid meant to be jumped straight on) and responsive and pliable.

I added in some 10-15m looping turns to be able to mix the flower boxes into our little pattern. We had a good time. I did a little canter each way, and he didn't try anything dumb. Any mistakes he made were quite obviously mine and instantly forgiven. He was a bit guarded about his hind end, which makes my trainer and I think he needs his hind shoes back (he's been tender footed behind out on the trail as well when we need to walk on gravely type surfaces).

Horses that might be bad get to carry their long lining equipment down to the arena.
I rode again yesterday, and we infringed on a lesson with two older ladies who do basic flatwork and don't really jump much. My trainer had changed the jumps in the outdoor to be 4 jumps on the "rail"- one on each short side and long side. Each one consisted of a placing rail on each side of a vertical. She took down all the verticals for this lesson, so each one was set as 3 canter poles. Its a huge arena and I made sure the lessons had right of way, and I followed in line over the poles too.

Mikey had a blast! I spent a long time in walk getting him through, relaxed and connected, and keeping it over the poles instead of inverting. I took that into trot over the poles, keeping the same connected idea and encouraging him to keep the connection or stretch lower as he went through each set of poles. His trot work each direction was great, but I did have to let him take a break every couple laps because his hind end would start to wag and get gimpy. I'm sure it was more a strength issue than a lameness, and after the first couple breaks my trainer noted that he's really trying but really needs his hind shoes back to be comfortable.

The ladies took a break and I used that opportunity to canter the poles each direction. What fun! The poles kept him listening and tuned in to me, and I was able to get him very nicely connected between them (invert over the poles, immediately drop back into connection after with light prompting). They really got his hind end jumping and active. I mixed in a few 10-12m circle between pole sets- mostly when he'd hit the poles and start running.

Trainer commented that he seems to have just needed a change of pace in the arena, and he could use to do the pole exercise again for sure. I plan on doing it again on Sunday this weekend since I'm taking the ladies out on Saturday for our Saturday morning trail rides.

He has the day off today because we had such a productive ride yesterday. He's getting his hind shoes back on Monday! Yay! Then we'll actually have a lesson with my trainer next week for some more feedback and ideas.

Does anyone know of a good arena exercises book that is strictly polework, preferably aimed at dressage? I have '101 Jumping Exercises', '101 Dressage Exercises' and '101 Arena Exercises' already, but I'd like to buy a polework only book if it's out there.

Shiny and fat and happy.