Monday, December 21, 2015

Change of Plans

Trainer sent me a message Friday and asked if I'd like to move Penn a bit early since I was going to be shuffling him around a bit at the end of December... and I was hauling him over to the winter barn for a lesson on Saturday anyway- she offered me a partial refund on board if I wanted to move him early. I messaged the winter barn owner, who said she had a stall available. I made plans with the farrier to make sure it worked for him, and everything was set!

I think Trainer is working to get all her ducks in a row well before she leaves to go south, and she was possibly bringing another client's horse back to the farm over the weekend and would have been short a stall... but it works out well for everyone that Penn could move Saturday when I brought him for my lesson!

Goodbye outdoor arena... I will not miss trying to ride on you in the snow!
Picture from when I picked up my cavaletti blocks Saturday morning.

I had an uneventful morning packing and hauling Penn by himself. We had a slight discussion about the trailer (I had a trunk next to the back and I don't think he liked that... too bad), and he eventually walked right on and stayed there so I could get the butt bar up. Then he spewed some diarrhea. Great. I cleaned it out of the trailer before putting the ramp up. I strapped in my second trunk, cleaned more diarrhea out of the trailer, ramp up, and off we went! Unloading was good too- I had flipped the lead rope over Penn's neck so he could back himself off when I got the butt bar down. I have a swinging divider, except when I have more than one trunk stacked in the second stall, I can't really swing it to get up to his head to encourage him off. Well the whole, "no flying backwards off the trailer and no moving until I say you can" finally stuck in his head because he wouldn't budge. I had to squeeze up next to him and give his lead rope a little tug to make him back off. Which he did, very quietly and like he's been hauling around for a long time.

I got the bigger stuff out of my trailer and in the barn before my lesson, and the trailer parked in it's space. I got a little confused with ride times, so I had some time to kill, so I did a bit more unpacking and got Penn's feed all worked out with the barn owner. She feeds Nutrena feeds as well, but not the variety Penn was getting. She did a quick look up on her phone of Proforce Fuel, decided that she wanted to try it on a couple of her harder keepers, ordered it, and the feed guy brought it during my lesson! So Penn doesn't even have to change feeds! Yay! I priced getting enough feed for him for the 3 months and with the increase in board, there was no way I could pay board and buy him his own feed. It was very nice of her to stock his usual feed.

I got Penn ready for lesson, with diarrhea still spewing. He did that last time I brought him for lesson... I don't quite get it- I've hauled him all over and while he's pooped a lot in the trailer (not very solid), it's always been solid while we're at wherever we are. The only thing I could come up with is that I've never hauled him alone except for when he came home and for our two lessons in December, and it's never continued because he always came back home (I swear, there is something about that farm- all the horses love it. Mikey never liked leaving either!).

He never showed any outward signs of nervousness (no fidgeting) all weekend, ate all his grain, all his hay, drinking well, relaxed in the field- no pacing or other nervous activity, and wonderful to ride. His stall was a bit more churned than at home on Sunday morning, but the stall walking is normal for him. That's the only nervous habit I could tell. I have a feeling he is quite the stoic dude and definitely internalizes his feelings. I'm a bit concerned about the diarrhea. I called Trainer to find out what drugs I should ask the vet for because if I don't know what I'm asking for, I'll end up with a $200 vet bill of a barn call, ulcer testing, speculating, and then the drugs I need. Obviously if it carries on after the drugs, we'll have the vet out. She said to ask for Bio Sponge, Probios, or the corrective mix. I called the vet office, and the secretary said she'll ask the vet which drug to give me and she'll give me a call back. I think I'm going to start him on a daily ulcerguard or probiotics or one of SmartPak's Smart Digest products. If he's going to internalize his feelings, he's going to end up very cranky. Internalizing makes people sick, so I can only imagine what havoc it will cause in a delicate horse belly!

Arriving at the winter barn!

Lesson was good- Trainer picked at my position a bit - I tend to perch on Penn, especially in canter. Our canter work involved finding more jump in the canter on a 20m circle, keeping both hind legs engaged, and then taking that canter off the circle and into canter half way immediately- just for a couple strides before turning back to the direction we were going and coming back around to the circle to have another go. We worked the right lead pretty hard, then went left and Penn just got tired. I don't blame him- I was tired too. The left half pass only got one or two good strides before I made Penn bail and come back around. His right hind is slow to the left, and after drilling it to the right, it was extra slow. No worries, he will get stronger. We quit while the going was still good.

Trainer wants me to spend the winter getting that jump in the canter going a lot better, and the half pass working better so that when she comes back from the south we can teach him flying changes. She and I both agreed a couple weeks ago that he would learn them as soon as he was physically ready and I would have to rise to the occasion for the 2nd level counter canter work and hold the lead. She said that he already has more jump than Mikey ever did, but for him, it's not enough. We'll use that jump to get the lead change and we'll use half pass to get him thinking about it. He's already thinking in the right direction when I ride one loops in canter- we hit the top of the loop and he questions me about what he should be doing and I have to encourage the counter canter across X.

The biggest takeaway from lesson: in all gaits, I need to get rid of my tipping/perching forward. It's not helping anybody. Instead of perching, I need to tuck my butt more under me and keep my shoulders up, boobs out. Instead of sitting on him, I need to use the upwards tilt of my pelvis and a relaxed knee to sit around him. I also need to find a feeling in the rein where I'm treating the reins like they're made of paper. Basically, start giving a bit more. He's not going to lay on me, so use my leg to bring him up and relax the hand.

This is apparent somewhat at the trot - when I ride properly, he comes through nicely, goes very uphill, and then if I relax my hands and work on keeping his poll up with my leg, he stretches his neck to the bit and opens his throat latch. Add a wee bit more trot to it and he gets the start of a very suspended trot that he's not strong enough to hold... yet! Also, he got so settled into the big uphill trot that he was dumbfounded when I asked for canter. No biggie, I'm sure part of it is he's not strong enough to hold that much up and do a transition to canter without losing some of it.

It is so much more obvious at the canter where Penn is weakest in strength. Once I find that place (I dropped my stirrups to do it) where I'm following his back with my seat and not driving or hindering, the amount of jump in his canter doubles. Trainer had me think about keeping the second beat of canter on the ground longer because Penn is so quick to keep his feet moving. Another comment along those lines were about his lower legs- he's so loose and flexible in his joints that when he steps, the whole lower legs has some wiggle to it as it's going through the motion of picking up and putting down the hoof. It's a strength problem too- one that cavaletti work should help since that requires solid placement of the feet and good strong pushes.

Also, relax left hand!!!!

Penn (all the way on the right) and friends.

Turnout into his new group was mostly uneventful- just some squealing and a small amount of kicking and striking. No one in the herd has exceptional social skills, they're all bottom of the totem pole horses, and Penn is just slow to get out of the way. There was a lot of fancy prancing and about five minutes after Penn got into the field everyone had settled and was back to eating grass. All of the horses in the field have no concept of personal space with each other and love being touchy feely and poking other horses with their noses. I'm sad I didn't have my phone on me to video the fancy prancing! Because FANCY. Penn is turned out with Fiction, and the two of them are the young ones in the herd with two quiet older horses. They were quite fancy trotting around while the older horses just tried to keep up, haha.

The barn owner told me that Sunday morning's turnout was very uneventful- a squeal and they were done.

I rode Penn Sunday and we worked on me keeping my position where it needs to be. Holy crap, when I sit properly he just fills out and floats and is uphill and his back was so UP. There were some trot poles out from the previous day's lessons and I took him through those as his balance allowed. He was so good. I didn't work for more than a half hour because he worked so hard in lesson the day before. I can't wait for Jan 3's schooling dressage show. I have two full weeks of no weather-darkness-pressured practice before it, and he makes such great leaps forward in a couple rides!

He did not cooperate with me trying to take his picture.


  1. Winter barn looks AWESOME! Yay for riding with lights!

    1. It is! It's more expensive than home barn, and I couldn't do it all year round, but it is an excellent place to be for a few months! I am so excited to have lights! And an indoor!

  2. That is all so exciting! I love it when things start clicking.

  3. Last night when I left all four horses were standing in a line at the fence, staring at me. It was the cutest thing. I tried to get a pic, but before I could get my phone out, Penn decided he no longer wanted to be a part of the lineup haha :)

    1. Haha! Penn would do that. They seem to be getting along nicely!

  4. not sure it'll make you feel any better, but a few horses at our farm have had wetter manure lately too. could it just be the fluctuating pressure systems that have been moving through the area? idk... anyway congrats on a successful move!!!

    1. Ehh, it only started right when I put him in the trailer. Good thought though! I've got some medication for him and last night he seemed a little better.