Monday, November 30, 2015

Lesson 11/24

I hope everyone had a nice holiday! I was computer-free, so I am very behind in my reading and I have some posts I started that need finishing and posting.

Lesson 11/24
Nap time in the sun. Blanket eater Dix is behind him.
We started with showing our progress on turn on the fore. It's harder for Penn off the left leg. Trainer liked the progress we were making, but the steps weren't consistent when I asked for more than one step at a time. With every step, he was stepping out more and more behind until he was so camped out that he'd shuffle the next few steps. She had me do a single step of turn on the fore, and then immediately walk out of it. Then two steps and walk out of it, etc.

We changed it to walking turn on the fore, eventually riding a box and square figure 8 with quarter turns. Every time I asked for one, I got an improved response to the half halt and a little more sit from each half halt. It made him realize that half halting was a cue that he better pay attention because something is going to be coming up next. We used the walking quarter turn on the fore to transition to trot, and got a much better trot right from the get go- light and relaxed.

I got pictures of the final clip. Left side.
We started dabbling in the lateral world in this lesson! Most of it was centered around me just being able to move either the haunches or the shoulders, we weren't looking for all the correctness right now, just a response that he had some idea of what I wanted. We started with a little shoulder fore, which worked well each direction.

The next exercise was a bit more complicated: 10m trot circles into haunches in right on centerline into 10m right circle, to 10m left trot circle to haunches in left on our arena's quarterline (35-40m wide arena)- the left was VERY HARD for Penn. To the left, it was more leg yield than haunches in, but all we were really looking for was the movement of the haunches.

Penn had some great moments in his lateral work, but I need to get my act together for anything with left bend. It's harder for him, so I contort myself to try to make him find the bend, which obviously doesn't help him at all.

We moved on to work in a more forward trot to get him rolling again, then hopped onto a 20m circle left.

To work on the left lead canter: trot, canter, then immediately trot again, repeat until the transitions work better. Toss in a canter one loop. Then 20m circle at the other end of the arena, transition to trot, canter, trot, canter, trot. Right hind, right hind, RIGHT HIND NOW DAMMIT. Canter. Canter one loop, back on a 20m circle, trot, stretch, collect back up, walk with a purpose. Rest.

Right side.
The right hind is a huge failing in the work to the left. I know it's partially a strength issue for Penn, partially my heavy left hand, and partially my right leg not making the right hind keep up.

We repeated the exercise to the right next. Penn had less trouble with the right lead, so we did more one loops and less transitions. Since the right lead is steadier, it's also quieter, which makes me lazy and I let a lot of the jump leave the canter. I need to work on keeping after him to the right for the jump and stop accepting quiet as good enough.

Our fabulous new wreath that a friend made!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Clipping and Blankets

I'm on vacation from last Friday until Dec 1 - simply awesome! Vacation will be highlighted with a dressage show on Nov 29 (Training 1, 2, 3), and then after working a half day at home on Dec 1, I'm hauling to a lesson with German Riding Master!

Since we're going to have public appearances shortly, a goal for this vacation was to fix Penn's blanket clip. When I clipped Penn last time, the edges were bad.  From side to side, the pattern wasn't even. The blanket clip didn't meet up properly at his tail. Then there are the areas that just didn't get clipped - behind his ears and near his poll, armpits, flanks.

Saturday was the warmest day of my time off, so I opted to fix it all on day 1 of vacation.

I also opted to drug Penn for it so I could clip him in the barn aisle instead of trapping him in his stall. Domosedan is great stuff. Only I didn't realize how much of a lightweight Penn is- I gave him less than Mikey's usual mane pulling dose and he looked like this for a while... long after I was done clipping him.

Drunk pony.
I was able to get all my edges right and difficult places clipped, and Penn was relaxed for the whole thing. Less drug would have been better, and I'll remember that for next time, but hopefully after a couple more times clipping we can do away with the drugs. I like that it took the edge off and helped Penn not worry, and I definitely didn't need him to be as drunk as he was.

Penn also got to rock his new Smart Pak Ultimate Turnout medium weight blanket and hood!

I'm going to get a post going with all my for sale items to help pay for the stupid amount I spent at Smart Pak this week!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blanket Hoarder

Hello, my name is Jan. I am a blanket whore.

So I got an email this morning that Smart Pak Ultimate Turnout Blankets are 30% off. So what do I do? I called and asked them to take another 10% off the medium turnout I bought last Friday (they did). And then I decided to order the lightweight and heavy blankets. And I ordered the medium weight hood last week too, so I will have the entire line (minus the no fill hood) for $501. BAM. I call that a good deal. Especially since every item has a 10 Year Indestructible Guarantee. It rips, I send it back for a brand new one.

This led me to consider the sheer number of blankets I already own. A co-worked just called me the "crazy cat lady of horse blankets".

(cue photo montage)

Mikey and his original (I don't know the brand) medium weight blanket that my parents bought 10 years ago.
Lightweight Weatherbeeta
Schneider's Medium Weight Stable Blanket and Hood
Weatherbeeta Heavyweight Turnout blanket (lightweight outer shell with removeable heavyweight liner) and Hood
Tipperary Turnout Sheet
Mio Turnout Sheet
 Then there's the unpictured:
  • Tuff Rider turnout sheet
  • Random brand turnout sheet that I just got for free because it's ripped and I'll fix it myself
 Then we have the "non turnout" blankets:

Rambo Newmarket Fleece Cooler
Back on Track Mesh Sheet
 And the horse isn't the only one with a blanket.

Nickels is sickly and cold all the time, so when I was in Mikey Surgery hell, mom and I found this XS dog blanket for $10 when we did some tack shopping therapy.
And in the last week I bought another hood and 3 more blankets.

That means I own 3 hoods and 14 different blankets (not counting the cat's). So umm, I think I'll be selling some of them! Some people collect saddle pads or bridles or other tack. I collect blankets.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lesson 11/17

This week's beautiful weather has been great for riding!

Monday 11/16/15
I had a 2 hour early out from work that I needed to use by the end of the year, so I used it Monday to ride.

Had an OK ride, Penn wasn't on task as much as he's been. Most stand out part of the ride? When we were standing around with Trainer, two other horses, and two moms and across the road something went crashing through the Christmas Tree farm. It sounded like a tank. I'm thinking bear. We all decided it was best to get back to the barn.

Walking down from the hill where he's turned out. 

Tuesday 11/17/2015
I used a half day Tuesday to ride and have a lesson.

Trainer asked what's been going on and I had the following comments:
- Some days Penn is heavy in the bridle, other days he's not. Some days we're zooming, some days he's very attentive and listening. It's hit or miss.
- We are still keeping the canter to a large circle. The right lead canter is right on track. The left lead leaves something to be desired. It can be runny, heavy, leaning in.
- I touched on leg yield on Monday with Penn, and he just zoomed off. He mistook my outside leg for a strange canter cue, so that lead me to reevaluate how I ask for leg yield (which I had unceremoniously dumped for half pass and hadn't really touched in a couple years).

The first thing we did was work leg yield in walk. We both agreed that doing it across the diagonal would be better instead of going from quarterline to wall. Penn came to us with a tendency to ooze out the outside shoulder when doing anything, so we felt while it would encourage him to go sideways, it wasn't going to be productive as he would probably just drop a shoulder and lurch sideways.

I next confirmed the cues for leg yield. I know, super dumb of me. I've been riding half pass instead for the last 2 years. I haven't ridden leg yield since I last rode First level. I had to remember I'm not "leaning into it" like I do for half pass (no weighting the inside seatbone). I need to sit square and not encourage bending in the direction of the leg yield... because it's not half pass! Basically my confusion came from what I was supposed to do with my seat and hand and shoulders, not leg.

Everything needs to be straight and square. There is no bend to leg yield. The horse should stay straight, or very slightly counter bent, away from the direction of the leg yield. Ideally, his nose stays in front of his chest. His hind legs should not trail behind. Not even to learn, or you're learning wrong and teaching him it's ok to be crooked.

For some reason, the details of the leg yield in walk work is escaping me. It was tough for Penn, and tough for me while I was working out what to do with myself. But something that stood out was slowing it all down. He can go sideways without any crossover because he's Gumby. As soon as I slowed him down with a half halt and got after his outside hind so it didn't trail, he would cross over very nicely, and didn't have much trouble staying nice and straight.

Keeping with the "wall to centerline" leg yield, we went on to trot. Trotting it was much better. At least it was when I finally softened my inside hand and allowed him to have a tiny counter bend (note to self: you can't use your inside hand to hold him straight. It has to come from the leg and seat).

We did a couple laps of trot around the arena to get it moving, and Trainer told me that he had plenty of throughness at a point where I would have pushed for more. Must. Learn. Appropriate. Throughness. I also need to start carrying just a hair more step in the trot. Not a lot more, but he's allowed to move up a half gear for some more float. However, he can't go up any more than that because he'll fall on his face.

I set up the trot leg yield by doing a 10m circle in the corner before the leg yield (not for bend, just to confirm I had the proper trot). Something else to consider in that circle (and any circle): pay attention to my inside hand (it happens more to the left that right), because in the last quarter of the circle I tend to drop it down and in and then drop Penn and never finish the circle nicely. I need to keep that hand up and thinking almost against the neck so it doesn't wander.

Leg yielding left I tend to collapse my left rib cage and hang on my left rein (hello crooked rider in half pass tendencies!) and Penn trails a bit more behind that direction. Once again, half halt and making his hind end catch up with the front end with the outside leg got him nice and straight and crossing over. Leg yielding left is a bit tougher for Penn- he wants to get quick and trail his hind end. Trainer wanted me to think about keeping his feet on the ground a hair longer because he has a tendency to get flicking with his feet and then the rhythm is disturbed and he gets quick.

Leg yielding right was a bit better. I had to forcibly relax my right hand. As soon as I did that and let him have a tiny bit of counter bend, he floated into leg yield.

Throughout all the leg yield work, Penn was nice and round! No giraffe moments. When I decided to ride properly, it was loose and relaxed and stretching too. We finished each direction with a stretchy trot circle.

Trainer asked to see the canter, and had me describe what I'm feeling. I did the left first. "Runny, not as heavy as yesterday but not as light as I'd like, motorcycling and leaning a bit, and I think if I asked for trot I wouldn't get it and then when it did happen it would be rough and he'd fall on his face."

The first thing she had me do was (surprise) relax my left hand a little. Then she said I needed to find Penn's canter rhythm in my right elbow because it was out of rhythm, so I was effectively blocking his motion. Then she said: pick up canter, release both reins, and pony club kick him up and forward. Then half halt and put him back together. He needs more hop and jump in the canter. He's not quite 4 beating, but he's not on a clear 3 beat either (the inconsistent rhythm comments from the last dressage show come to mind). She said his legs looked like pool noodles flailing around. He's so flexible and has big motion in every joint (stifle, hock, fetlock) that he gets his "crazy legs" going and flails.

Funny how forward fixes (almost) everything. After I kicked him up, he sped off, but I found the rhythm with my right (outside) elbow, applied big half halts to the outside rein while thinking I was pushing back a recliner with my shoulder blades, and he got a ton of jump in the canter and became suddenly balanced and easy to ride. Back to trot in a nice balanced transition. Back to walk. A little discussion with Trainer, back to trot and then canter, and release, kick on, half halt. Trot nicely, back to canter. Kick on not so hard, half halt. Repeat a quiet request for forward more often to maintain a good canter. Trot, stretch, walk. Reverse.

We cantered to the right. Trainer had me do small adjustments, but agreed that the right lead was where it should be for his level of training. The only thing that happened to the right was trouble picking up the right lead. He wanted to bend left still, and then fought me a bit when I asked for right bend and for him to bring his hindquarters around. He got very tense and anticipatory. The work we did to the right was mostly waiting for him to just relax and then asking for canter. That's a big reason we don't canter too many times one direction without swapping to the other direction. I think a good use of our time would be to do the canters on a figure 8: trot a 20m circle, canter, get the work I want accomplished done, trot, trot the change into the next 20m circle, set up for the next canter, repeat. That way he's not getting set in his bend and there's not as much to anticipate. Maybe every now and then repeat a canter before changing directions.

-Start the basics of "circle of death". Don't do the full out circle of death, but put 5 poles randomly spaced out on a 40m circle or something (enough room that I can do a 20m in the middle) and work the canter over that large circle with irregular poles. The full circle of death is those 5 poles randomly and awkwardly placed over a 20m circle and the rider's job is to maintain the canter and the horse's job is figure out his feet.
-More road walking to get him legged up a bit better.
-Turn on the haunches and turn on the fore. Especially the latter to single out the left hind and make it move.

Hand grazing while I watch Trainer work one of her baby horses. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mikey Remembered

Watching my horse suddenly die in front of me has left me a bit traumatized (little things make me think Penn/any other horse is going to drop dead too) and with the following very obvious statements ingrained in my head:

Life is fragile.
Death is irrevocable.

I knew I wanted a horse hair bracelet. I've always wanted one. Trainer cut off locks of tail hair for me, knowing I wanted a bracelet. I started looking at them shortly after Mikey's death and for a while I wold just cry my eyes out when I looked, then when I was finally able to give the bracelets consideration, I didn't like many of them. I didn't want the hair directly next to my skin because hair is delicate and I didn't want my skin's oils to mess up the hair, or me do something dumb to accidentally muss it or pull it or anything. There are no redos here- I have a finite amount of hair.

Someone posted to a local horse group on Facebook on Friday two pictures of bracelets. The poster was looking to have something similar made. I did my internet stalking research and was able to figure out who made one of the bracelets.

Mini Treasured Memories

Square Spiral Bracelet
Spiral Bracelet
I know they're not braided, but I love the silverwork around the hair. I think I'm going to do the square spiral- I like that clasp pattern better.

I think if I have enough hair (I honestly can't remember how much hair Trainer cut off- I know there were a couple mane locks and I think two locks from Mikey's tail), I want to get these earrings made:

Silver Horseshoe earrings.
And both the earrings and bracelet can come with bead charms and I'm going to ask for a charm that says "Mikey" for the bracelet, and then for the beads in this picture to be put on all of them so I have a matching set.

The bead color I want- not the earrings. Though they're neat too.
I haven't ordered anything yet, but I think I will soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

Penn has succeeded in ruining damaging most of Mikey's very tough blankets.

1200 denier blanket? No problem. We'll rip that ass right off.
I bought a cheap Mio sheet from Dover, knowing it would be sacrificed ripped as well.

600 denier blanket? Rips in strips.
Duct tape to the rescue.
We've gone to extreme measures to protect the good blankets.

Note the brown blanket peeking out from under the torn Mio.
All of Mikey's blankets are 1200+ denier. Penn had the brown Weatherbeeta lightweight blanket on for approximately 3 days before putting a small tear in it. Trainer agreed to double blanketing him. The weather appropriate layer on next to him, and his torn Mio on over it to protect the good blanket. If his clothes are going to get torn, let's rip the cheap blanket to shreds and then I'm paying to have a couple blankets seriously repaired instead of every single blanket seriously repaired.

Since you insist on destroying blankets, I will make you look ridiculous.
It's only kinda sorta Penn's fault that his clothes keep getting ripped. He just wants to be everyone's friend, and he must be socially inept because he doesn't read the other horses properly. He keeps coming back and they eventually lose it on him and chase him and bite him and rip his clothes when he doesn't run away fast enough.

A new herd is not an option. He's already in the baby horse herd that isn't as rough as the gelding herd. I'm not going to pay for private turnout, even if it was an option. Though, I think he'd be super happy about that option.

Enter a possible solution:

Smartpak Ultimate Turnout Blanket
Smartpak Ultimate Neck Cover

I got an email yesterday from Smart Pak with a 20% off discount code on their 10 yr guarantee blankets. I didn't particularly want to spend money on blankets when I have so many already, so I thought, "If I think about it later, I'll look into it." Later happened about an hour later. Trainer sent me a screenshot of the email she got and said, "Pair with the USEF discount!"

I ordered the medium weight blanket and hood, saving almost $60 on the pair. I have a ton of layers we can put under it when he needs more, and we can do the Mio sheet over warmer sheets when the medium weight is too warm.

The battle has begun. I wonder how many times I'll be asking for a new blanket this winter? It'll be worth it if it doesn't rip at all, and it'll be worth it if it does.

I did get to ride yesterday - in 40 mph wind gusts. Penn was great. I'm not doing anything fancy or trying to teach him anything new at this point. I just want to maintain what he knows and continue to build the proper muscles. The wind would sometimes goose Mikey or make him spooky and tense. Penn just trucked along, no big deal. I was tenser than he was! The only thing that upset him was when a mini leaf tornado came through the arena and a leaf hit him in the face. He gave some high trot steps and a head shake and was done.

I paid extra attention to the canter trot transitions, ensuring that I was not holding him up with the rein. He was quite good and offered some very lovely canter work. Slow, uphill, through, not heavy. Some head nodding, so he needs more thoroughness, but I didn't have much to complain about.

Walking back to the barn.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2016 Planning

Since riding has died down a bit with Daylight Savings Time ending, it has me thinking about next year.

Screenshot from the video of the last show.
The goal next year is to come out at T-3 and 1-1 at some schooling shows, and be working 1-2 and 1-3 by the time I go to recognized shows. I refuse to pay several hundred dollars to go to a recognized show to ride training level. I don't have the budget for it.

Penn is fancier than Mikey was, end of story. I never tried to qualify Mikey for Championships because in reality I didn't want to spend the money to place last. I was also more keen to get my Bronze which meant not lingering at 1st/2nd level and perfecting them. I decided since I have to revisit all the bronze levels with Penn, I want to try to go to Regional Championships with him because I think we'd have a good shot at being "middle of the pack" there. That means I have to be working 1-3 (the qualifying test) and working it well (62%+). Two qualifying scores from two different shows/judges and I can go. Not so hard... right?

Also... I feel completely wrong to admit it because it's too much to try for, but I want to go to Finals. Who wouldn't? In order to go, you either have to be 1st or 2nd at Championships, or get 68%+ in your Championship test for a Wildcard invitation. Now that's an eek, considering I've never gotten above a 64.2% at recognized competition and I highly doubt I'd be in the top 2. Still, non-achievable goal = set. It's something we can work for year after year anyway!

So the end goal means I have to qualify. And qualifying starts at the regular, USDF/USEF sanctioned shows.

Which also means I need to pick a region to compete in because you can't compete at two Championships and you have to earn qualifying scores in that region. I live in Region 1 near the border between Region 1 and 2, and up to this point, I've competed exclusively in Region 2. I had plans this year to compete in Region 1, which as we know, didn't happen. Since I live on the edge of regions, finding "close by" shows means "finding shows that don't take 10 years to drive to." I need to pick a region, and then I won't go to any of the other region's shows because well, recognized showing costs money and they're not going to get me anything extra.

I used my Excel skills to pull the cities of all the 2015 shows in Region 1 and 2, and then did quick mapping to figure out how far away places are.

Region 1 locations.
The first 2 Region 1 locations are cheap, small, single day shows that I can either stay with family or stay for cheap in a hotel. The 3rd generally holds one two day show and is near several of the wonderful bloggers I've gotten to know :-) The 4th hosts 4 single day shows over two weekends that are not too expensive and I can find somewhere cheap to stay.

Can we talk about how Region 1 Championships are a minimum of an 8 hour 7 min drive from me? And how I would have to fill up the truck twice on the way down, just to make it there? It looks like Region 1 alternates holding Championships with the Virginia Horse Park in Lexington, VA (which is 3 hours closer to me and very close to where I picked Penn up).

The first 4 locations in the Region 1 list are perfectly acceptable driving distances. Between the first 4 locations, there are 7 qualifying classes (two day shows only hold 1 qualifying class at each level). However, I know the show at the Loch Moy tends to hold it's show after entries for Championships are due, and the rest hold their shows between the end of May and beginning of August. I don't think we'd be ready for the end of May (#2 on the list), and beginning of June doesn't seem much better (#4 x2), so that's 4 qualifying classes that are out. Well hell. I mean, I'll probably give them a go anyway, but still, that's pressure I didn't want.

Region 2 locations.
I haven't dug as deep into Region 2. I've only been to two locations, both are perfectly acceptable, however only one group makes use of the first two locations for it's single weekend show. The only perk to Region 2 (besides going to two show grounds I like) is that Championships will be between 5.5 and 6.5 hours away (I haven't found the listing yet for next year's Championships and I believe they alternate between those two locations). The 3rd location on the list is totally not happening for me, even if I would be willing to put up with a cruddy indoor. Their shows are in March. We're not going to be ready for that.

All shows locations within 5 hours of the barn.
Now we have all the shows within 5 hours of the barn listed above. That's a lot of Region 1 yellow.

The list of possibly acceptable drives.
It's looking like it's Region 1 for me. I would have pushed for Region 2 if one of the local GMO groups moved their 4 single days shows from Quentin Riding Club (Region 1) back to Grand Haven Stables (Region 2), because then there would have been 6 single day shows (over 3 acceptable weekends) within 3 hours of my barn, which would be plenty. Then I'd go to closer Championships too.

Then I found this tidbit when doing some googling:
USDF will presume qualified horse/rider combinations will compete in the region in which the rider resides as determined by the address associated with the rider’s membership information on file as of July 1. Riders are NOT required to be a resident of the region to compete in that region’s championship. Riders, who wish to compete at Regional Championships in a region other than their region of residence, must submit a Change of Region Form, at no cost if done prior to July 1. Change of Region Forms may be accepted from July 2 up to August 1, with a late fee of $100; from August 2, up to the closing date of the championship region the rider is declaring for, with a late fee of $300. No changes to region may be made after the closing date of the region in which a rider wishes to enter, for any reason. In addition, all persons living outside of the United States must declare a region by the deadline of July 1 of the current competition year.
Yupp, I have to apply to qualify in Region 2. Looks like it's Region 1. Part of the problem with Region 1 is finding places to stay overnight that won't break the bank once you get into VA and MD. I don't know how I'll do the 8+ hour drive to Championships in NC by myself, that almost takes the fun out of it. Husband can't come with me to that, so Mom will come instead, but she can't (won't) drive the trailer. Maybe I'd be better off taking the slightly longer drives across OH for Region 2 shows for a better drive to Championships?

Either way, next year's horse shows will be picked by shopping from a list of locations in what will most likely be Region 1.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Penn is clipped. No drugs, no rearing. #win

The edges are bad, by his poll isn't done, he doesn't match very well from side to side, he has lines, and there's a couple furry places where there shouldn't be (elbows, bottom of the flank, behind the ears for a couple inches), but he is clipped!

I've never seen this type of blanket clip used before, but Karen at Contact did it to her horse and I loved it. So Penn matches!
Thursday night I rode for a short time and then decided to do another round of introducing him to the clippers. I started by turning them on and having Penn walk circles around me right in front of them. If he stopped, I flicked the whip at him. If he looked at them and brought his shoulder in at me, I'd tap him on the shoulder.

This really only worked for so long. When I stopped him to show him the clippers he was still hell bent on leaving the barn, or backing into the metal stall latches (we had one do that... He needed a bunch of bum stitches). While Penn would stand in the vicinity of the clippers with his butt to the wall, he was happy to back up and run if he was in the aisle as if in cross ties.

Trainer was still at the farm arranging blankets and took pity on me struggling to work a lead rope, whip, and clippers at the same time. She worked the front end of him, and I worked the back end. I stopped him from backing out of the barn by flicking the whip in his general direction any time he gave a backwards step, and she stopped him from running forward.

I'm pleased to say, he'd rather run forward now. Only pleased because forward doesn't involve rearing. By this point, I'm sure he's still afraid of the clippers, but he's also falling back into old behavior patterns of "Oh, if I act up enough, you're not going to make me." It is a fine line. He's worked out that rearing isn't a good answer anymore, but now he's decided the blowing through you is a better answer (still dangerous behavior).

Between us, we got him to stand in the aisle like a normal horse and accept his face being clipped. She just rubbed him all over with the running clippers, then slowly trimmed his whiskers and under the jaw hair. He dropped his head in that "ok, I'll wait for you to be done" way and relaxed a little. He was good and got lots of cookies when we were done.

"Mom, I'm going to stand just like this, bum next to the wall, so you can't make sure both sides match at my tail."
I decided to come out to the farm Friday night and continue our clipping lesson since it seemed like a good idea to do it two days in a row.

Trainer suggested I clip him in his stall because then he couldn't leave. She warned me that if she finds any hair in the stall, she'll kill me (only because it's annoying as hell to sift out). We have rubber mats in the stalls so I took all of his bedding and piled it in the back left corner. We don't keep a sawdust pile - instead sawdust is dumped by dump truck down the barn aisle and each stall gets a huge pile up against the back wall, then it's removed as needed. I love this method. Anyway, I had to move all of that bedding to the back corner as well because he was keen to stand in it to escape from me. Should have gotten a picture, oops!

I tackled the right side of the neck first. Man, he tried everything to get out of it. He backed up until he was hock deep in saw dust. I pulled him forward (because I can't clip into all that dust) and reset him at the front of his stall, where he proceeded to try and run laps in the stall (cue that lovely chain). After a couple rounds of no backing up, no running through me, he stood there and just trembled for a little while. Sorry buddy :( At this point, I'm not sure how much is fear and how much is the old habit of not having to face his fears. I rubbed him all over his shoulders with the running clippers, then slowly clipped his chest and shoulder and neck. I stopped and gave him cookies and a break, and he relaxed quite a bit.

I tried to reset him to finish the right side, and he wouldn't, so I did his entire left side up by his stall door. He's much more confident working from the left side than the right. I'll have to work on that.

He got a break while I cleaned the clipper blades and gave him cookies, and then reset him for the right. He threw the same tantrums he did when we started, except I was able to get him to a point where if he wanted to eat his hay, he could. He tried, but the clippers were too distracting. I got partway through the right side when I realized my clipper blades were starting to dull. I hurried up and finished the right side vowing to order new blades and fix all the edges then. He also had his butt pressed into the back wall, so evening out the clip by his tail was out of the question.

By the end of both sides, he had his head down and a hind hoof resting.

He got lots of praise and good boy cookies, and I think next time I'll drug him. Since I know he'll give up on trying to leave if he's clipped in the stall, I want to give him something to help him relax so it's not such a terrifying experience. I was concerned he'd become a sloppy drunk and risk falling down in his attempts to get away from me, but I think he'll just put his head down and ignore the clippers. That'll let me put him in the middle of his stall and even up the clip pattern and fix the edges and get the couple places I didn't want to risk with dulling blades.

Hopefully drugging him will help with the hypersensitivity that he finished with. I took him back to the crossties to brush him with a soft brush and put his blankets back on, and so I could clean up his stall and put it back the way it should be. He just barely stayed in the crossties and was hypersensitive to any stimulation- someone who came out to the farm to brush her horse, pats on the neck, etc.

I feel bad for him- he's gotten a ton of life experiences in a short time, but he does need to know that he has to agree with whatever I want to do... whether it's loading in the trailer, walking through a puddle, standing in the crossties to be tacked up, or being clipped. I stayed away from clipping triggers like the ears- that's not a fair question until he's relaxed with the rest of it. I'll keep trimming his bridle path and ear hair with scissors. To be honest, as long as I kept my free hand on him, he was never surprised or jumpy about the clippers and just didn't care about any of the normal ticklish spots (flanks, belly).

Overall, Penn took round 4 with the clippers very, very well, all things considered. We had minor discussions (even if they sound bad up above), but I was still able to get my job done. It's not up to my normal standard (plus I hate trace clips now that I've been body clipping for a couple years- I used to very carefully plot them before clipping any hair so they'd be perfectly even and well, perfect). I'll give him a couple weeks to chill while I wait for my new clipper blades to get here, then I'll clean everything up and go over the whole thing with fresh blades Thanksgiving week before the show on 11/29 and hopefully a clinic with the German Riding Master on 12/1.

Back to nomming, sans hair! He needs a mane pull.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Lesson 11/4/2015

I actually managed to ride twice this week, so I didn't completely fail at enjoying the 70+ degree days we had! Daylight Savings Time ending has stopped me from essentially riding during the week, unless I want to do it in the dark.... not really. I have a lot of vacation time left, and I'm using it as half days on my work remote days so I get to ride Sat, Sun, and Tue or Wed (sometimes the day has to move around) every week through the end of the year. We'll see if I end up changing that, but whatever.

I had lesson on Wednesday this week (after Penn had two well deserved days off).

We had a little chat about what's going on, what the judge said etc, and trainer said she hadn't gotten a chance to watch the videos from the show.

I did a little warm up in trot, and the first thing she had me do was ride straighter curved lines and stop encouraging the inside hind so much. It reaches so much already that it's hard for him to get his other hind leg around to take the next step, and he's just not that strong yet, so instead of tracking his legs straight, he whacks himself behind. First time I've ever been told "stop encouraging the inside hind!" Basically, Penn is Gumby and he's wrapping himself up in his legs.

She also had my not put him as round as he was at the show. When he's on the vertical, to be honest, he feels above the bit. I know I have to get used to a new feel, but it was the same with Mikey. I felt like he was above the bit and not through because my only definition of through was at almost BTV. I check myself by ensuring every muscle from whither to poll is engaged and crunching bigtime. The hardest one to get is the one right at the base of the neck, and putting him super through engages it big time, so it's been building quite steadily. Now when he's on the vertical, it crunches almost as much as the other topline muscles, but I still dread him building the under the neck muscles or learning to be "almost" on the bit. That "almost-land" is where Mikey lived for YEARS. When we finally pushed him through, it was ugly and hard work for both of us. Tip: Do not live in almost land. If you know you're in almost land, keep working for more through. Almost is not good enough! It WILL bite you in the ass later. /rant. I just need eyes on the ground to tell me he's good so I can get used to memorizing a new feel of through/on the bit.

We moved on the this progression of exercises:

  • Shallow loops at the trot.
  • Shallow loops at the trot with collected steps at the deepest part of the loop.
  • Shallow loops at the trot with a single step of walk at the deepest part of the loop, but no hurry to make it happen at the deepest part- quality first!

I was very pleased with being able to keep the tempo and get the collected step so easily from him. There were no sluggish steps, just shorter (and I'm going to guess if he and I were both better educated, they'd be a lot loftier too). As soon as I added the single step of walk and then immediately trot on, I felt his hind end engage for a few steps, then he'd step out of it of course. But on the plus side, no swinging his butt around or getting crooked or heavy in the bridle. He simply loaded his hocks for the few steps his current strength level lets him, and then falls out of it when I let him move more forward again.

We finished each trot direction with 17-20m trot stretchy circles using an overabundance of inside neck bend to encourage a better stretch (for now). Smaller circles to break his tendency to get on the forehand or rush or fall out his outside shoulder. Without solid and planned direction, he will fall to the outside.

He got a walk break, and snuggles from Trainer. What the heck? She's really getting soft in her old age :-p (she's quite young still!). She has a no-nonsense policy with the horses- no lipping, face snuggling, rubbing, etc. She tends to bend the rules for the horses she really likes, so long as they maintain their manners and don't shove or bite. She bent the rules for Mikey all the time, giving him kisses on the nose and cookies. She just about threw all the rules out the window for Penn! She was snuggling his face from the mounting block and giving him kisses and he was leaning into her while enjoying the face rubs. She really, really likes Penn. Hell, she even went out of her way to dig out horse cookies for him back in the barn!

The white boots arrived this week, btw!
Our canter work for the day came in the form of this exercise:

  • Get the trot working again on a circle.
  • Trot to canter on the circle, thinking haunches in at the canter (and asking for it a bit) to stop him from losing his hind end to the outside and to make him engage the outside hind.
  • Wait for a balanced canter to happen, applying half halts and lots of give. No holding Penn up.
  • Ask for trot, take a tug with the outside rein (no holding so there's no leaning!) and force him to steady himself on the downward transition, then immediately ask for leg yield in on the circle.
  • Once he softens and moves over freely, leg yield out.
  • Repeat all the above steps once more.
  • Change directions and repeat all the above steps. Then change directions and repeat. No more than 2 transitions to canter in a row in the same direction because he anticipates

Holy poop, this horse has serious pirouette potential baby.

I'm trying to be scrupulous with my inside leg and keeping it engaged at the girth, because I have a nasty habit of just letting it hang at the girth and be ineffective. Right now that's not much of an issue, but in time when we do shoulder in, haunches in, renvers, half pass, anything more difficult than straight, it is going to bite me in the butt. I was trying to break the habit when Mikey and I were working, but he didn't have much barrel to tuck in to.

Anyway, so I have my inside leg on because we're thinking haunches in, and my outside leg is back, and I'm asking for trot and then immediately move to the inside. Little Penn doesn't differentiate between canter and over yet, so he picked up his canter again and tucked his butt neatly under him and offered a couple super uphill sideways steps where the front end very clearly moved around a circle more than the hind. I praised him and brought him a bit straighter on the circle and got my trot, and asked for that to move to the inside. Trainer and I both called out at the same time "Pirouettes are going to be easy!!!" He offered it up, willingly and freely, and did the couple steps easily, when his body is in no shape to do it at all. So very exciting to see the little glimpses of the future.

He really didn't care for the actual exercise- it's whole goal was to canter in a balanced fashion without losing the hind end to Siberia, then he had to hold himself up in the downward transition, and was expected to continue working by doing the leg yield.

We finished by starting mini trot lengthenings across the diagonal. The couple failures in those (breaking to canter) were my bad because I asked for it like I was asking Mikey for extended trot (kick on and DRIVE!!!!). Penn went into omg-mode and cantered off immediately. I'd bring him back on a circle and ask for it again on the diagonal, making it a much quieter aid (slightly asking for it is enough to make him offer something before breaking to canter). At the end he offered 4-5 steps of baby lengthening before trying to break to canter. A couple more stretchy trot circles each way and he was done. A very good boy!

At one point in lesson we were able to confirm that Penn is not a jumping horse. One of my circles off the lengthening took me too close to a little wall jump, and Penn just about stopped dead and gawked at it, and was like, "I don't understand!!! I don't jump!!!" Trainer just about fell off the mounting block laughing. She said he looked like the kid from Home Alone when he slaps aftershave on his face.

I like them. Obviously since he's tacked up and wearing them, I'm keeping them!
Thursday night, I did an abridged version of lesson on my own. He worked very nicely, and I encouraged him to hold a longer lower frame, and be a bit longer in the neck. He liked it, but eventually took to rooting his nose out. Which is why we don't work in that frame often.

Part of the reason I was able to ride twice this week was because I had to stay home a second day this week to wait for this to be delivered:

King size bed!
Husband and I have been sleeping on a borrowed queen bed for 4 years now, and it's really uncomfortable. Well, I finally sold my old car, so we bought a new bed with some of the money.

BTW, king sheets are stupid expensive.
And I washed all my DSBs. There's 12 of them. A set of beaten up Black w/white fleece, navy w/white fleece, white w/black fleece. By the way, Penn crapped on the white ones and the stain is still there. I'm going to wash it again on it's own just to see if it'll come out.

Big washer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

11/1/2015 Dressage Schooling Show

It's taken me some time to get this post together. I wrote down a bunch of thoughts, and then attempted to organize them into something that made sense.

Penn all braided and dressed for an evening in his stall. I thought he looked like Batman, haha.
A couple pre-show stories from the weekend first:

I saw 3 hitchhikers during my evening driving to and from the Halloween party and to the barn to go sleep in the trailer. The most disturbing of which was on my way to the farm, on dark backroads with no houses nearby, shortly after leaving the party. Someone was walking on the side of the road in complete darkness under heavy tree cover (no light in his hands or anything) in the direction I was going. I moved over so I wouldn't be near him as I passed. He turned around and stuck out a thumb, and I realized he was dressed as a freaking scary clown. And attempting to hitchhike (or probably just attempting to freak people out). I just about drove off the other side of the road in an attempt to make sure I didn't hit him so I wouldn't have to stop and see if he was ok.

Saturday night was windy and rainy. I hooked up my trailer in the rain in the dark, changed out Penn's blanket, and tucked into Trainer's trailer for the night. I woke up around 5am to the trailer shaking and promptly freaked out. I looked out the window and didn't see anything and went back to sleep when I realized the wind had really picked up and that's all that was wrong. You'd think a 4 horse trailer with large living quarters would be heavy enough to not shake like a leaf. Nope.

Penn eating breakfast Sunday morning.
Anyway, the horse show!

I am thrilled with how Penn behaved, listened, and performed. I think it was a very accurate representation of where we're at and his consistency level at home. He was a bit more looky than he is at home, and that certainly played a role, but overall he was willing to work through it.

I am slightly miffed as to the scoring (I'll share my score sheets). I know Megan at A Enter Spooking had said she doesn't like riding for L judges anymore, This was an L judge, and a retired one at that. Whatever that means, considering she still seems to be judging.

I know what I felt in my tests. I know what I saw in the videos. I know what the judge wrote. It's 3 different viewpoints. I'll be sending video off to Trainer to look over, and she'll see my paper tests and give me feedback too. Blog world feel free to chime in as well.

Video is probably the most valuable tool in learning and reflecting and gauging how the ride really was. I think from this point on, I'll always choose video over pictures because I'm super glad I had it this time around.

Chilling in his stall, nomming, pre-judgement.
Some of the comments the judge had were: 'needs to be more forward' 'more engagement' 'more self carriage'. Then the more prominent 'unbalanced'.

I felt that Penn was an appropriate amount of forward for his current level of training. I agree with the judge that he needs to be more forward for these tests. She's seeing a snapshot of our current work, and I think she got an accurate view of our shortcomings. But at this moment, yes, Penn could be more forward and I would have a lovely floaty trot, except he can't hold that and he'd end up falling on his face and laying even more on me and being even more unbalanced. So for now, we're keeping the quiet trot that needs "more" and building strength and balance.

More engagement and more self carriage I think are inappropriate for the level since it is only looking for 'steady contact' in the purpose. Unless she meant by her comments that he could be lighter in the bridle and not as heavy in my hand and has a tendency to curl, then yes, I agree. Say what you mean judge! But does the horse need more self carriage and engagement? Yes, duh. We are at the beginning of training. Of course he does!

And yes, he's unbalanced because he's a baby horse and I'm holding it together for both of us (a large reason why I chose to sit the trot Sunday).

Oh, E. She tried to get video. I gave her a crash course on using Husband's fancy camera and tripod and since I didn't get to give it a whirl myself first, my tests suffered from blurry, crooked, and head chopped off where hers didn't, haha. I told her to hold the picture button down halfway before recording to get it to focus, only she focused right in front of her on those white boxes (you'll see them) so I'm blurry most of the time. I also didn't have the tripod legs extended enough to get a bit more height and she didn't know they could be extended more. Oops. That's ok, we'll get it next time.

Without further ado, here's Training Level Test 1:

Let me begin by saying I do not sit the trot this much at home. I post most of the time and force myself to work through issues in posting trot. He needed some extra help, and it's easier for me to give it from sitting trot.

Also, anyone with an eye for distance in videos... I'm pretty sure this arena was set wider than 20m (66ft). If those white fences in the back are 10ft long... that arena is set for 70ft wide at least. If they're 12' long, the arena is set for even wider. My usual track in the dressage arena is about 1ft from the ring wall. You learn to ride very close to the ring edge when you move up the levels because you want all the space you can get! The arena didn't go where I thought it should and the corner letters came up faster than 6m I think. That's ok, this place is a hunter barn with a winter dressage series.

As I watched it, I definitely understood that the judge wanted more forward in the trot. I wanted more from the trot just watching it. The left lead canter was a disaster and I think the 4's we got were deserved. So much shuffling into it, it was runny, then I couldn't hold it together anymore because he's too heavy in my hand and unbalanced and we broke, then I said canter and it was wrong, then I got heavy handed with him about balancing the trot so I could get the correct lead back, and then we were off the rail. But in a snapshot of our training, sometimes the left lead ends up like that. Sometimes it's great. It's been good more often than like this lately, but I think the new arena and location messed with his concentration (and mine) a little bit.

The free walk leaves something to be desired still in terms of stretch. How she gave us a 7, I don't know. And I love the stare he gave the camera when we finished free walking. Little things like that caused him some distraction- in our courtesy lap he had a good hard stare at the lounge behind the judge. In the far left corner there was a gentleman taking pictures and his camera does the very loud clicking that the big professional cameras do... and everytime Penn heard it he flinched, poor guy. Obviously that means Husband needs to come take riding pictures of us so that kind of thing doesn't bother Penn!

This test earned a 59.565%. For as bobbly as it was, I agree. 8th out of 16.

On to Training Level Test 2:

So the judge blew the whistle while I was still making my courtesy lap in the arena, and while I refuse to be hurried along by such things because then you make mistakes, I hurried on my turn in the lower ring to turn up to centerline and ended up overshooting the whole thing, and only found centerline right at A. Bad rider! I should have realized I was setting Penn up to fail and done another 10-12m circle and then proceeded up centerline because 45 seconds is a long time. But I didn't and the entering centerline suffered.

I tried to ride more forward (I heard her comments to the scribe when we'd pass by in the first test), but I quickly forgot about that as I rode according to my plan.

I had tried to adjust my circles a bit to accommodate the wider than 20m ring (let's face it, 20m or 25m wide, who knows, but if you don't touch the both long walls on a 20m circle the judge is going to say you're wrong), and I think if I had done an actual round 20m circle I wouldn't have lost his outside hind in the left lead. The transition downward to trot was abrupt and heavy. But that is the weaker lead for us, so my goal was just to make it off the circle still in canter.

I was very pleased with his stretchy circle. Maybe I am biased because he's mine or it could be the fact that he couldn't do a stretchy circle without falling heavy on the forehand running two weeks ago. While it could have more stretch downward, I'm very pleased at the lack of curl and the willingness he showed to search out the bit when I moved it down. However, I need to show more difference between stretchy circle and working trot to finish the circle. I had an inkling that I'd mess up my downward transition to walk if I tried lifting him, so I let it go. I think he could use to spend more time in a longer frame like this particular stretchy trot (which needs more stretch for the test movement), but I think it's a fine line because he has a tendency to curl and lay on the rider and then be on the forehand, and I think he might revert to that (it's how he was when I bought him) if I let him go too long in that frame.

Took a screenshot and leveled it the best I could. Much better!
His poll absolutely needs to come up in the trot. Ack. I wish I had mirrors. I know I should be able to feel these things, but when I'm fighting the leaning battle and strength battle, sometimes when he feels light to me, he's actually still curled with his poll too low and I think I've won the battle because it's lighter than it was! But that's what Trainer is for. She gets after me about that, and then I promptly forget some of what she says (which is why I try to detail as much of lesson on here as I can so I can go back and reread and go, "ohhhh").

Anyway, I loved this right lead canter. The departs still leave something to be desired (some giraffe-ness), and at beginning training level, whatever. He is a bit bridle lame in canter and I think when I can nail the depart, I'll get rid of that. I have a major problem with the judge's comment on this circle- "on the forehand". I'm sorry, that horse has hop in his front end. He is not on the forehand. Maybe "slightly unbalanced and nodding" would be more appropriate.

I don't know what I was doing on this final centerline. At all. I completely overshot centerline. BADLY. I think I had a Mikey flashback and then Penn didn't turn like my trusty red sportscar and I went, "Oh crud. Salvage mode!" Then he got heavy on top of it and I earned us a poor score through poor planning. That was my bad buddy, sorry!

Of course he needs more balance and self carriage. Baby horse.
This test earned a 61.538%. I don't agree. I think it was a bit better than that. 9th out of 16.

Things I noticed:

The complete absence of half marks. Maybe we didn't deserve half marks, maybe we did. But all 6's equals a 60%, all 7's equal a 70%, and all 6.5's = 65%. That's a big difference stretched over the whole test. Maybe we didn't deserve a 6 or 7 at times, but I think there were times we did a bit better than 6 and could have gotten a 6.5. From what I remember from my dressage lesson/meeting with a dressage judge at the long format I did, she explained that the half marks were very helpful if you hadn't quite done well enough for a 7, but you were more than satisfactory. I've never had a test be completely whole numbers (except for the event tests back when they were only allowed to be whole numbers).

Everyone getting almost the same score. A floppy rider whose horse went around like a giraffe scored 1% less than I did in my first test (yes, I had a major left lead canter disaster though). I took a picture of the score sheets (I'm not sharing that because it has everyone's full names!) and when I looked back at it, the sheer number of ties that showed up in the picture were crazy. There were 35 scores in my picture- 15 of those scores made up 7 ties within 3 classes- and there were 17 classes that day. Both of my classes had 16 people, and both classes had 3 ties, one of which was a 3-way tie! A small class of 4 had a 2 way tie for first. I'm sorry, I'm calling a judging foul. Maybe it was the lack of half marks? Maybe she didn't use them on anyone's test (E didn't have any on her 3 tests either). The average score of the 35 tests that showed up in my picture? 60.206%. That accounts for a full third of the tests ridden that day (remember I said there were 90 rides in my last post).

Not a single person got 70% or above all day. There were a couple in the 40's, many in the 50's, and then the rest were between 60-65%. When I go to shows, I expect a broad spectrum of scores, like a bell curve. You have those who just aren't prepared or they mess up, majority I would think are satisfactory, and then there are a few exceptional. I watched a girl with a chestnut thoroughbred do a beautiful USEA Training Level Test A. She was accurate and her horse was STEADY and not going to put a foot wrong. He had one bobble- a beautiful clean flying change coming across the diagonal when his rider half halted for trot and changed her bend at X. The only major criticism I had for the test was he needed to carry himself more uphill than he did for the equivalent of a first level test. He was very level and at times downhill just a hair. His lengthening canter was good, his trot lengthens a little runny. I'm quite sure a steady test like that would have gotten her in the low 30's at a HT. They were just lovely to watch. She got a 60% (40 penalties). E rode a poor T-A test in the same class (we agreed it was lacking and very inconsistent) and got a 59% (41 penalties). She watched this rider and went "Oh wow, she's going to crush me."

Now, I am not a judge and you all just have to take my word for all of this. Maybe I'm a bit irked that I didn't score better and that's making me call foul. However, Penn felt better Sunday than Mikey EVER did at training level. Mikey carried a ton of tension, stiffness, and lack of throughness when we did training level. It also irked me that Penn only got a 6 for his gaits.

"Hi mom! I got an 8th place ribbon! Aren't you happy? You wanted a ribbon!"
E was disappointed with her rides, and it had nothing to do with scores. She has trouble getting the horse she has at home to translate to shows. She had some fabulous prep rides Fri and Sat, and then everything shut down when she was at the show. She decided she's going to every show in this series, and I told her I'll go with her to the Novemeber 29th one. So we're doing yet another show, unless Trainer vetos me and yells at me to leave Penn the heck alone for a while. I figure, Jan-Feb is for super vacation mode because the weather just won't cooperate with me!

And I am making full use of all of Mikey's old clothes. In the pictures of Penn in the stall throughout the day, he is never wearing the same clothes. *facepalm* Well, at least I'm making use of the bazillion blankets I own!

Braids out, blankets off!