Monday, February 29, 2016

Quiet Weekend

So I ended up drilling Penn too much on the work we did in lesson with DT in my rides last week. He started getting a bit anxious and above the bit and not cooperative, and I'm starting to learn that means he's feeling overfaced that day.

Over the weekend, I just wanted quiet, soft rides. DT had me ride him much more up than I have in the past, which is totally where he needs to go. However, since Penn is young and green, riding like that all the time is not something I can do to him, and I forgot that I need to find a happy medium. Not every day can be up and working day, but nor should every day be long and low.

Our ride Saturday focused a bit more on a longer frame and lower poll. I tried to make sure his poll didn't drop too much, but I wanted him to find his confidence again. We had a lovely quiet and calm ride where I got to touch on everything from training level and leg yields.

Relaxed after a good ride.

Penn got fussed over for the rest of the day- I pulled his mane and the farrier reset him. After all that, I braided his mane back over to the right (I let it out for a couple days and his hood pulled it back to the left). They're loose braids and just a couple crossovers because I don't want to damage his mane, but I do want to teach it to stay over! I think it'll be braided for the rest of winter while he wears his hood.

Sunday we rode outside because it was gorgeous and sunny and almost 60 degrees. It was super windy, so Penn wore the ridiculous orange ear bonnet. Last time I rode him outside, the wind was blowing his forelock around and it ended up in his ears and he really did not like that at all. When the first gust of wind blew in his face, I think he was expecting to have his forelock in his ears, but once he realized it wasn't, he happily trucked along, NBD. I think the ear bonnets help to muffle the wind too (as well as other sound). So, I guess Penn will be wearing Mikey's blue ear bonnet for horse shows.

Ridiculous braids and ear bonnet.

I think I only worked him for 15-20 min Sunday. He was really soft and responsive, and he did everything I wanted fairly well. His right lead canter is really coming along as the better lead- I am still pushing him up and forward in the canter because that gait needs the most work, but it doesn't seem to phase him the way the work in the walk and trot does. His leg yields were good too- they tend to be more bracing and quick and not sideways outside.

Part of the reason I didn't work him all that long was because I wanted to make sure we got to go for a walk in the woods. It's good for everyone's brain! There's a wee 15 min loop that goes out the back of the ring, out past the pastures (and past the scary smelly pigs!), then loops through a gentle trail through the woods (you can still see the barn and the horses in the fields), comes out on a gas well road, and then you ride a short distance on the actual road and back in the front driveway.

Looking through the trees at the horses turned out.

Penn went on his first solo trail ride! I tried to find someone to go with me, but while there were people out riding, none were interested in a short hack. I'm not about to do away with downtime (or seeing something besides an indoor arena), so we went anyway.

Happy to go for a walk.

He was really super- he was brave past the pigs, held his ground when a herd of deer went charging through the woods, didn't balk at walking through mud and ponding water, and walked on a loose rein. I don't trust him to walk on the buckle yet, but he'll get there!

Proof that he foamed! He foamed all weekend, yay! He also grunged up his bit, haha.

A goal for the fair weather riding months is to work in the outdoor in the evenings and weekends, and go for this walking loop whenever we're done to relax. Eventually I'll branch out to a bigger loop, but for now this one is fine!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Quick Canter Video

Just a short video clip for today. I rode last night, and Penn was good. I had an incredible right lead canter, so I asked one of the ladies to video it for me. What happens when you break out the video camera? The work quality goes down!

This isn't bad, and I am quite happy with the very clear diagonal pair in the canter since his canter has always been a bit muddled. The first canter had a lot of shoulder popping action- Penn was up and through for several long sides, and I was rewarded with sit and very free shoulders (for longsides at a time instead of like 2 strides at a time). This video doesn't have as much free shoulder motion because I think he was getting tired by that point, and of course I was trying to get the job done again under video pressure, haha.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

In Other News...

Alright, so this news has been in the works for a little while now, and I almost let it slip in my last post.

Penn is going to be staying at Winter Barn permanently! So what was Home Barn, is now Trainer's Barn, and Winter Barn is now Home Barn.

A couple weeks ago, I chatted about it with BO. She had mentioned if I wanted to stay it would be totally cool, and we could come to an arrangement on board - this barn was supposed to be temporary partly because it's more expensive than Trainer's. Basically, I could work off the difference. Works for everyone - I still pay what I was before and they get more help for stalls!

Trainer messaged me out of the blue two days later and we chatted about me staying. I needed to think about it, because I know my spot at Trainer's would be filled about 2.5 seconds after I let her know (she has a VERY healthy training horse business, enough that she's building a stall expansion on her current stall expansion).

Everyone who needed to be told first now knows, so I'm free to tell you all!

I like this pic even though Penn and I both leave something to be desired.

I'll have both Trainer and DT available to me - not that DT wasn't before, I was free to haul there if I wanted, but now they'll both be coming to me once or twice a month each. It's s little more per lesson to have them travel to me, but that's ok. There won't be weekly lessons, and I haven't done weekly lessons in ages anyway. If I need an ad hoc lesson, I can always haul to Trainer's Barn and get one.

I have a few mixed feelings about not being where Mikey is buried, and I still want to plant a tree there for him, but I won't be there to actively take care of it in the beginning... so I don't know if I'll still do that. I'm sure I can come visit his grave any time I want though.

A large reason for me staying instead of going back to Trainer's Barn are the number of people that always seem to be hanging around this barn. Not that Trainer's Barn didn't have people there, but I would usually ride completely alone in the evenings. She has a bunch of training horses, her own competition horses, a handful of retired/lightly working horses, and the rest are students who show and take lessons... In winter, the barn is kind of abandoned since there isn't an indoor and most of the horses either go south, go back home, or find winter places to board. In summer, lessons and riding happens in the morning while I'm at work. There are 4 other dressage only riders at new home barn- two don't show, but the other two are working towards getting out to the recognized shows either this year or next year, so hopefully I won't be going alone to those soon! I'm really excited that I'll have company for the last two shows in the winter series we're doing. :-)

Other perks include: an indoor year round, excellent footing inside and out, hot/cold wash stall, bathroom, lounge, heated barn in winter? I just got super spoiled!

I will miss Trainer's riding trails... this barn has some that I'm starting to explore and learn where they go. I'll still be hauling back to Trainer's Barn for big group trail rides though!

Anyway, I'm super excited to be staying!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lesson 2/20 with Dressage Trainer

A pretty weekend at the farm.

I had a lesson Saturday with the other trainer that comes to winter barn. I'll call her DT (for Dressage Trainer), since my regular trainer I call Trainer on here.

I explained to her that I was having trouble with Penn jumping on and off the contact, and that I have trouble getting his poll to stay up- he tends to dive. We went over what Penn knows how to do (shoulder in, haunches in, leg yield), and where he's going (ready to go recognized first level by mid May).

She had me start by going down the quarterline and asking for leg yield to the wall.

In the first few minutes she gave me the following observations/directions:

  • Do a lot of work in shoulder fore- Penn's hind end shifts in, especially to the right.
  • Do less wiggling and moving on the inside rein - quiet it down because his head gets wagging and his nose twirling.
  • Too much inside hand is causing Penn to tilt his head in, and his whole head is shifting in.
  • Open the inside hand if I need a bit of inside flexion (he was a bit distracted because it was the first time the arena doors have been open and he could see out 3 sides of the indoor).
  • Do less for Penn! He has to carry himself.
  • Follow the nod in walk with my elbows.
  • Make sure I don't lock up while turning.

Then more specifically in regard to the leg yields:

  • Do a lot of straight lines on the quarter line and center line- he seems to try to guess what we're doing and just doesn't know what to do.
  • Turn a little sooner to get on quarterline and centerline.
  • Get on the quarterline, and stay straight for several strides. He hits the straight line and is already over his outside shoulder moving out.
  • Turning into the quarterline going left: be very careful with my left shoulder it tends to drop back in the turn and stay there. Hence the already shoving him out feeling.
  • Work up to leg yield on the straight lines- go down quarterline and stay straight. Go down the next one and leg yield towards centerline for just a few steps to make him think about not going out, then leg yield out to the wall.
  • In the leg yield, Penn's hind end is leading. I tend to put my leg way back to move over, which then shoves his hind end into leading, so keep the leg initiating the leg yield closer to the girth. We reset my feel of what the leg yield should feel like- to me it felt like I was dragging his hind end behind me, but she said nope, it's right where it should be. Soften outside rein (the one we were moving towards), but half halt with it when needed to help the shoulders stay a little ahead by slowing everything down.

A lot of those bullets are condensed from the time we spent walking and addressing the leg yield, and then trotting and repeating. I had some really, really nice leg yields left that just flowed and were wonderful.

In the trot:

  • Focus on keeping the poll up - it takes much more inside leg than I think is required. That means I also need to regulate the tempo more often by half halting the outside rein and core every few steps to reset him. I'll half halt, he'll slow and steady himself, and stretch to the bit without lowering his poll for about two steps, then he falls forward and down. Half halt again, repeat. Make sure I find a release in the half halt.
  • Keep an even feel on each rein with less pounds in each hand. Use and release!
  • Relax the outside hand on circles, just a little. I'm smothering him again.
  • When tracking to the right, the half halts need to be more from the core, because adding the outside rein (like how the left needs it) is way too much and he half steps into walk. The right rein seems to be where he needs the help in both directions (heavy on the left).
  • Hands up and even and together (omg, they've crept down!) and beware of the outside hand getting higher.
  • I posted the trot in the beginning, then switched to sit trot. It was the best sitting work I've had - easy to stay with and ride, even when the motion was big.
  • Lots of trot-walk-trot and trot-halt-trot transitions.

In the canter:

  • The diagonal pair in canter is unclear- they don't step the same. I believe she said the front hoof of the pair lands first (it's really what makes the most sense in an unclear pairing that's bad).
  • Our first canter was to the right and on a circle, and her first response was "MORE!" then "Do something! Medium!" So then I was like, "ohhhhh" and kicked him into gear.
  • Let him go large around the arena- rebalance on circles as needed, but he tends to drop the poll even more on them, so for now, avoid them and think about getting him rolling.
  • Kick on with the inside leg to lift his poll, outside rein half halt. Think medium canter. As soon as his poll comes up, his neck gets out of the way so his shoulders free up and his animation is quite nice and the diagonal pair clears up.
  • More canter needs to come from the seat, not just the leg.

General comments:

  • Trot to the right is better, canter to the left is better, which surprised her. It doesn't surprise me - Penn has always been quieter to the right, so he maintains the tempo in trot better, but the canter ends up underpowered. Going left has always been a bit zoomier, so the left trot needs more regulating and the the left canter has more oomph and is clearer in rhythm.
  • Penn's hind end is slow off the ground, so I need to think about slowing down the front end (keeping it on the ground for longer) and speeding up the hind end.
  • DT provided an excellent eye for me when it comes to "how much connection and throughness is enough." I really need more eyes correcting me so I nail down the feeling, because right now it feels like above the bit. She also nailed me every time his poll dropped down a fraction of an inch. I appreciate that!
  • She recommended finding long gentle hills to canter up to help build his butt and back. I agreed and said it was already on my spring list.

To clear up what we did as a progression since I summed everything up: walk with leg yields, trot circles and leg yields, walk rest for a lap, canter large right, trot stretchy circle, walk rest to change directions, canter large left, trot stretchy circle.

The canter - this was the best canter work I've gotten from Penn. Hands down. I think this was what Trainer was getting at, but DT explained in a way that made it click in my head as to what's right and what's wrong.

The trot after the first canter was incredible - popping shoulder and lift and suspension. Then he got carried away and dropped his poll. She made me halt and he promptly dragged me into a wall, rubbing my leg (my boots!!!) against the kick boards. I yelled at him out loud, "you son of a bitch!" and pulled his head to the wall and she laughed so hard while I apologized for my outburst. Redo please!  More outside leg into the halt. We played with trot-halt-trot after coming down from canter to the left- keeping the poll up in the halt. When moving into trot, I need to keep my hands soft, but in my effort to stay soft, make sure I don't get left behind. I had to think about leaning forward into the trot so I didn't drop back.

After each canter we did a stretchy trot, and he did his wonderful thing of reaching down (my "peanut roller dressage horse" we joked), and the second trot stretch was so good, she was like, "if that's not a 9, I don't know what is!" And I said he usually is a 6.5 to 7 for them, only because of tempo. She agreed there were some small tempo issues (his recent stretchy circles have been a ton better than what we did at the show), and recommended I play with them and practice keeping the tempo with my seat. Quite obvious to me that's where the tempo control has to come from, but it is something to spend some time working on. I'm pretty sure the lack of control comes from my difficulty maintaining the tempo in posting trot. I never had that problem on Mikey, but Penn is a very different horse! I need to make sure that when Penn comes up from the stretchy trot, I do a lot of reset half halts to bring the poll back up all the way. No cheating and only bring it up partway.

Some of her comments as we worked: "I hope I don't have to compete against you." "He's going to have a lovely medium trot." and "His changes will be very expressive!" I particularly like the competing one, only because: she has a number of fancy imported warmbloods to show, she's a score short of her silver medal, and she's been to Finals.

We didn't have any contact issues until the end, and we both agreed it was Penn getting tired more than anything. He never curled in lesson, and she helped me find the poll up and face on the vertical to slightly ahead feeling. I tried my best to memorize it! He spent the ride truly stretching out to the bit.

All of the half halts come from a very upright shoulder in my part - even more so in canter. Without that very up shoulder, I would never have gotten his poll up. I keep the "pushing back a recliner with the space between your shoulder blades" thinking - and that's exactly what I needed to get the lift. It was a large reason I went to sitting trot- I find it hard to maintain that level of up in my shoulders while posting.

I'm actually quite keen to have another lesson with DT, which surprises me. I think she was saying the same things Trainer says and this is a logical step forward from Trainer's directions before she left - "ride lower and quietly until the end of January and then push him up - you'll be impressed with what you get." I'm very happy that we clicked better this time around - the last time I rode with her was in 2007 and I was working training level (barely) and she hadn't gotten her Bronze yet. We're both much more educated now- especially her since she's a PSG score away from her Silver and she's a certified instructor through 4th.

One of the boarders I've known for ages said it was the most fluid work she's ever seen from Penn. I have to agree, everything felt fantastic. I wish I had video from lesson so I could compare it to video from the shows. Penn's movement at shows looks a little mechanical to me. This work just flowed and he floated- I want to see it! I'm hoping to keep this train going for the next two weeks so the next show has some big improvements! If we can replicate this, I should get an extra 1/2 point to point on each movement, which is an extra 5-10% at the end of a test!

Looking cute before I put his clothes back on and put him out in the field to get muddy on Sunday.

I rode him again Sunday, but outside where we've been having some major connection issues (I wanted to repeat lesson to cement it in my head, but the sun was calling to me!). Things worked out better in walk, but it kind of went to hell in trot. I finally got a decent leg yield and kicked him into canter after it- and promptly said "Up! And more! Medium! Collect and Up! More!" We did several laps of the big outdoor and when I brought him back to trot, he was like "ahhh, ok, I can do this now!" And we had some nice trot work. So apparently, cantering nice and big unlocks him and wears down his nerves (for now until he gets fitter!) Funny though, the bigger that canter is, the easier it was to bring him down to a better trot, and a better stretchy trot. He was more willing to keep his tempo.

We went for a little hack through the woods after with BO's daughter to finish out a great weekend of riding!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Penn wore this sheet for one day and this happened. *facepalm*

Between work and cold and frustration, I didn't really plan on doing any ride recaps. Penn's jumpy contact frustrates me and makes me think he's regressing. In the past, I have tried: More aggressive riding- which led to him getting really nervous. Less aggressive riding which I'm pretty sure I took as "ride like a passive lump and stop moving with the horse or doing anything at all to help him in any way." I tried riding outside the other weekend- he spooked hard at the dog 20 feet away and kept ducking behind the contact which made him feel like a bomb. I tried making the work more complicated, "fine, if you think this 20m circle is boring, let's leg yield and lengthen and shoulder in and 10-15m circle and... and... and..." That one worked halfway decently.

Oh! And he had his teeth done, and nothing was overly amiss. So we can now safely rule out teeth troubles. He was a bit better after having them done though.

One of my rides last week, he was having none of the leg yield work. I eventually changed it to shoulder in down the long wall, lengthen the trot across the diagonal, repeat. I changed shoulder in to the leg yield zig zag from 1-3. He really responded to that- it seems the lateral work mixed with a forward moment kept his brain working. That same day we did a mix of 1-2 and 1-3 canter work - canter at A, 15m circle early on the long wall (I ride in a small arena so I just went far enough down to get a 15m circle that wasn't in the corner), then lengthen the canter down the long wall, collect well before the corner, across the next diagonal, and then either simple change over X or trot at X and have the next lead by the time we got to the wall, repeat. His brain totally clicked on when I asked for more canter. He was like, "Wheee! Fun!"

So I think mixing up the forward and come back is going to be key for him.

"Hi, my name is Penn and this is my friend Fiction."

"I enjoy licking him and pulling his clothes."
Yupp, I stood there and watched Penn lick Fiction's neck.
I am so glad he found a friend that tolerates his ridiculousness.
In all fairness, Fiction likes to take off Penn's hood, so it goes both ways!

This past Monday I was messing around with the idea of giving him more to do, so I worked's Karen's figure 8 bending exercise on a tight 3 loop serpentine. That gave his brain something good to think about. Or maybe it made me ride every step? Another thing I did was stand there and ask him to bend his head right and left. Man, he was on the struggle bus. I figured, if he doesn't get that he can bend his head right or left, how is he going to be ok changing his body? We now include this move in our warm up, and then do it in walk. He really struggles with it, and the worse side flip flops depending on the day.

The ride was good, then took a downturn when I opted to do some sit trot work. I decided, "Screw it all, I am going to ride you!" I have a nasty habit of locking my body when I try to "be quiet". In walk, I steadied my hand and made sure to find the nod of his head in walk before taking my inside leg and kicking him up into the bridle. He of course giraffed and tried to trot away but I insisted on walk. He eventually gave in, but got heavy. Fine- he was heavy but steady. Trot on. I insisted that yes, he must move off into trot without giraffing. Then once we were in trot he was a heavy speed demon. I took a good hard look at my position. I was trying to tuck my butt under me, but my lower leg felt like it was water skiing in front of the girth. Looking down, sure enough, there my toes are in front of my knee. Bracing. I brought my leg back just an inch or two, enough that I found his sides with my ankles. I changed my seat from tucking (and I'm sure goosing) to that 3 point contact while letting my thigh get longer. I worked hard at absorbing the bigger trot Penn has started to develop (my abs protested so I think I got that right). I tried to keep my hands steady but loose, and I shortened my freaking reins because I realized my hands were creeping into my lap too much. Neck length comes from long arms, not long reins! After a few insisting moments, Penn became steady on the contact again, but heavy. But I had access to his body again, so yay!

I suspect this is going to be his training cycle- good contact, we ask for something a bit harder or new, it goes ok for a little while, then he'll get jumpy off the contact, then heavy yet steady, then good contact again. That's a very normal training cycle I think.

When I watched his sale videos, he was steady and heavy and I was like, PLEASE HALF HALT THE HORSE. When I test rode him, I half halted and he was like, 'why yes, I can stop laying on your hand!' Then he got a bit jumpy off the contact and Trainer got after me to 'stop being so nice to him and ride!' And then we dealt with heavy and steady, then a couple months of good work and then we made it harder again. Cycles people! Horse training is a cycle of the same thing- degrees of connection.

Penn says, "Why do you keep doing things to me?"
In my defense, his mane was trying to return to the left side of his neck. We can't have that.

I had a wonderful ride Wednesday night. I pulled out 6 poles and my cavaletti blocks and finally worked him through that stuff.

Like this, but not. Because my phone died. The right spacing for Penn? 4 lengths of the muck boot, and some extra toes.
I'm pretty good at walking the distance off, but my muck boots are a size 11, and pretty much a foot long, so when looking for 4'6" spacing... well they're kind of perfect.

I started with all poles on the ground, and walked him through several times. He does not have the best multiple pole track record: hitting every single one; tripping over the first one, attempting to jump the rest, running to get away from it all; just speeding through them as fast as he can.

After some walk work that included bend changes and walking the poles, off to trot we went. I did some more of the serpentines, and tried to insist he maintain contact. Then off we went through the poles. I can't say I didn't have falling down flashbacks and some jumping fears- Penn's past performance in this department does not inspire confidence.

He did ok- we had some crookedness and speeding, and eventually he settled into the rhythm. I tried some halts after the poles and was ignored. So he may have found the wall. I asked for rein back and he didn't want to, but grudgingly did it eventually.

I got off and changed it so the 3rd and 4th poles were raised, and the rest still on the ground. I walked him through that, and his little brain went, huh? He paid much more attention and tried to work out how best to approach them.

So you know how I don't jump anymore? There's good reason. Because my eye for distance and pace is bad as soon as you involve jumps or poles. Poor Penn. A couple times we were coming up to the poles and I panicked and tried to do too much in front of them, he tried his best to respond and tripped all over his face. Sorry buddy :-(

At this point, I had Penn's attention, but I wanted to make it harder, so I added in canter. Trot the poles, several strides out, canter. Canter large around the arena (keep the harder stuff simple, plus we were sharing the ring), come back to the quarterline and trot once we were straight, letting him balance himself and use the poles to force him to do it. That made little gears turn in his head. all of a sudden, he was a light horse in the bridle, but still connected and soft, and he suddenly had great respect for the downward transition.

He was doing so well, that instead of quitting, I opted to raise the 2nd and 5th poles (the entrance and exit pole were still on the ground, the rest were raised). I put him through those, just maintaining trot because he was tired, and he did very well. He started reading them many strides out and adjusting his step, as well as taking loftier steps before entering the poles. He stopped trying to speed through them (not that he had been, but he toned down the tempo on his own), and worked very nicely through them. I made him do them a couple times each direction, then a stretchy trot... which is probably the best stretchy trot I've ever gotten out of him. He could stretch down more, but he maintained his tempo, stretched, and didn't fall on the forehand.

Throughout our ride, his contact issues went away and stayed away, he became light and manageable, and he respected the downward transition from canter instead of dropping out of it like a stone or dragging me through it. I like this exercise for him. I'm going to try it again Friday if the poles are still out, and get the last set of poles up. Then, in a few months, I'll break them into two sections of 4 poles (because I only have 8 blocks- I need to make more!). Since he's reading the loftier step before the poles, I want to encourage that step to continue for longer outside the poles- so let's break up the poles into two sections, and then put 4 steps of trot in between sections. Then make it 6 steps. Then 8, until we're down the whole long side. I don't like putting 2 steps in between the poles themselves, only because I raise just one side of the pole, so I don't want him constantly stepping higher with just one side of his body.

Very happy with our ride. Penn was tired! I don't think I've worn him out since I've been at winter barn (wear out in a good, relaxed way). I need to make sure I keep cavalettis happening once a week!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Getting Crafty

Remember that white Irish Knit sheet I bought a couple weeks ago?

Well since Penn has been wearing it overnight, it is now poop stained, despite several washes.

Best I could do while trying to stand back enough to get a big picture, but also hold the blanket open, haha.

Seeing as how we just can't have that, I decided to dye the blanket navy. Could I really make it any worse than it was before? Nah.

Enter RIT dye + hot water.

Navy dye in a tub!

Insert blanket. Plus funny stick that Husband widdled from a random piece of wood from the wood pile.

Stir constantly for 30-60min. What? I may not have followed that to a T. I opted for fully submerged.

Blue!! So pretty. Cold hosing the excess dye out of the blanket (See blue going down drain).

After dying and then cold hosing until the water ran clear, it was time to put the blanket in the washer with warm water and soap.

Last look at that nice blue color.

I watched it wash, and a lot of the purple in the dye came out and went down the drain... uh oh.

While not that lovely deep blue color, it is still better than poop stained white.

Next was taking care of a rip in the shoulder. I should have mended it first, but I was anxious to get it clean (no one wants to mend before washing out poop) and then I wanted to dye it so I could pick the right blue thread (which ended up not mattering).

Iron on patches and extra sewing with a machine to make sure it holds!

There was no mending the blanket with thread- the knit was coming apart and the loops had torn, so it wasn't possible to weave them back together. I sewed up the edges as best I could, then found some iron on patches and went to town!

Another side project I've been wanting to do was making a strap for Penn's head bumper. I had been using a stirrup keeper as a strap, except that's not long enough to meet the cheek rings on Penn's fancy show halter.

So much fancy.

I measured over his head, from snap to snap, last weekend and decided to make my strap while I had the machine out.

When I bought my trailer, I thought I wanted mangers for hay, so I bought Baker Crossties and Husband cut them to length. I've had these approximately 18" long pieces just hanging around for 5 years. Time to put them to use!

First I overlapped about 3" and sewed the ends together.

I did some number crunching and guessed I needed 4" of material on each end that doubles back because I needed 25" from snap ring to snap ring. I used masking tape to hold the fabric in place so I could make sure the length was right before I sewed either end closed.

All measured and ready to sew!


All done!

One finished sped-head.

And on to the final products, on the horse:

He's so freaking cute. 

Pretty with his sped-head! 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Odds and Ends

Here are some topics that I didn't make it to their own posts in the past week (work has been hell- at least one to two hours of OT each day for the last two weeks), but I'd still like to take note of:

1. Penn got his clip updated last Saturday!

"Mom, why do you do this to me?"

And we did it without drugs, and with only one meltdown... at the end? I walked in front of him with the clippers running to trim the other side of his face (I had already done his entire body, ticklish bits and all, his bridle path, and one side of his whiskers and goat hair) and he freaked out, dancing sideways while I held his lead rope and engaged the chain and waited for him to stop. When he finally stopped moving back and forth, I tried to continue stepping around him, and he freaked and tried to back out of the crossties. A hind shoe slipped on the concrete and sparked and then it smelled burnt in the barn, haha. He did hit the end of his chain and respect it, along with the crossties (which are the sliding rope type, so they can't break out but there is give and can be released quickly in an emergency). WTH Penn? I'd already been clipping you for a half hour.

2. I tried Vetoquinol's Zylkene at the last horse show. One of the boarders at winter barn was at a farrier clinic and met with a Vetoquinol rep, and she managed to wrangle 4 packets (4 days) of their calming drug from the rep to bring home for me to try. The product uses casein to induce a calming effect on the horse when their nerves would normally be high (for Penn, this is the rampant diarrhea when trailering). Everything in it is natural- there's nothing that would make it drug test. It's meant to be used in high pressure situations that bother the horse, and you shouldn't see a change in personality. It either works or it doesn't, and it seems to work in 7/10 horses.

You feed the product 3-5 days before traveling, and the morning of travel. The first night Penn ate it, he did not stall walk. At all. Then it all went to shit and he was just a terror all week. He had diarrhea in the crossties the day before the show- in his defense, he'd already been in the crossties for a while because of a timing issue with lessons, and then I braided him and fussed over him and then made him hang out for a little while longer so he wouldn't churn in his stall waiting for the other horses to come in. All during that time, there were little kids running and yelling, a drone camera flying, and the normal barn activites. Only one diarrhea poop was impressive. He didn't poop as much in the trailer, but there was still a little bit of diarrhea on the way to the show. Everything was looking good on the way home. I'd say the product helped a little bit, and I'd like to try it again.

We had done 3 days before the show and then the day of, so I wanted to try 5-6 days before the show and the day of. I contacted the rep and asked about getting more, and that's when it all went downhill. I found out that I can't buy it direct from the company under any circumstances- I knew they didn't sell direct to owners, only to vets, but I thought if I had a vet RX for it, maybe they'd sell direct to me. I HATE paying vet upcharges on things like supplements that already cost enough as it is.

I asked how much vets usually sell it for, and the rep said between $7.50 and $10 per packet, but it's at their own discretion. No wonder he didn't want to part with 4 days of sample!

I contacted the vet office that hosted the clinic and asked if they sold the product- they said yes, but the vet would have to see my horse (they are not my usual vet). Coincidentally, the vet is going to be at winter barn for dental work (which I opted Penn into), so no issue there. I asked how much it cost per packet... $15 per packet. HELL NO. The smallest box is 20 packets, which fed at 5-6 days before the show and the day of barely lasts 3 shows. I was totally appalled. To have the rep quote me a low of $7.50 (which makes me think the product costs the vet somewhere between $3-5 per packet), and then this vet charging $15, I was speechless. I said no thanks, that's too expensive for something that didn't work well enough.

I am going to call my vet and ask if they would get it in, and mention the price quotes that the rep and other vet office gave me... and I know my vet will do better than that and be down in the rep's price quotes, if only to beat the competition!

I wish the company would let owners buy direct with a vet RX. Right now, the drug is legal and they don't want it abused. I get that, but at price of double or triple the cost of the product? I'm being blocked out from buying it. Bad business move I think.

3. Penn is going to see the dentist! Or rather a vet who does dental work. When he gets relaxed, he's started to click his teeth together. Like, he's slack jawed and they're clicking. Another thing is that he's jumping off the contact a lot- someone commented at winter barn that it's like he doesn't trust the contact. His last owner said he saw the dentist last summer, but I'm going to have him looked at this Friday (2/12) anyway, just to rule out any mouth issues. It's a vet that's doing it, so they sedate and everything, and while I'm not crazy about the whole sedation thing (I don't think they need it for teeth floating) and I'd rather a dentist look at him (dentists see teeth a lot more than certified dental-vets), but she's already coming out and I don't have to hunt down a dentist. Trainer's dentist is good, but difficult to talk to. I know nothing about teeth and floating, so I need easy to talk to.

4. Riding. Penn and I went on our first trail ride at winter barn with Hawk and Fiction. The two horses have quite the bromance going on. They are each other's security blanket out on the trail! I'm glad we got to go and do something different, I think Penn needed it!

Penn and Fiction definitely have a bromance going on.

It seems when I try to practice things from the training level tests, I get a jumpy horse and he bounces off the contact. When I do things like the below:

  • leg yield from the wall to centerline, change directions and shoulder in down the long wall, go around the short wall and repeat.
  • take the leg yield zig zag from the 1-3 test down one wall, go across the next diagonal and lengthen the trot, repeat the other direction.
  • canter at A, 15m circle in the corner/early on the long side, lengthen the canter down the long side, collect, go across the next diagonal and either do a simple change at X or trot at A and then canter when we get to the wall, repeat the other direction.
He really gets on board with the work and seems to enjoy it and his fussing instantly stops. Especially in the last one with the canter work. He loved that! The leg yields are getting sticky, and I tried Karen's figure 8 with extra attention to the change of bend last night, and he just about had a fit. I worked it in trot with walk at the change and the trot became a short strided disaster. I don't know if he finds the circle work boring (I would) and that this other work is more exciting (it is), or if there's something else going wrong (I'm sure there is).

I'm doing something wrong here, and I can't put my finger on it. I should be able to trot circles and changes of bend in posting and sitting trot, and it's just not working. I lose the bend in posting trot (because I suck at seatbones when posting) and I lose my forward in sitting (I think I'm restrictive by accident). He's certainly strong enough and well trained enough now to do a figure 8 with change of bend without getting nervous! The dressage instructor is going to be back 2/20, and I'm going to take a half hour lesson with her since my own trainer is in Aiken right now. We didn't click all those years ago (a reason I stuck with just Trainer), and I'm not that hopeful now, but I need some help. We'll see what she has to say!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Trailer Upgrades!

Since I have the best husband ever, he upgraded my truck and made additions to my trailer back in January. The week he worked on the trailer just happened to be the coldest week of January. Oops.

First off, I had to empty my entire trailer for husband to do the work. This also meant de-stink-bugging everything (I must have pulled hundreds out of my stuff).

Copious amounts of stuff. (not pictured: water jugs, broom, pitchfork, standing saddle rack...)
How did it all fit in a 4'x6' tack room? (a couple items go in the horse compartment)

After Husband finished the trailer, I had to sort through it all and decide what was going back in... obviously the muck cart, pitchfork, brooms, trunk went back in. Things like: hunt breastplate with standing martingale attachment, XC boots, never used open front boots, and XC crash vest were sent to the horsey boxes in the basement for storage. Things like my horsey medical supplies needed condensed and sorted. Broken and empty bottles needed to be thrown out, same with broken halters and torn blanket bags. My super awesome rain coat was sent to the closet because it fills with stink bugs in my trailer and so I refuse to wear it.

One complete set of jump stuff (saddle, bridle, 5-point breastplate, SMBs, ankle boots) remains in the trailer for trail riding.
There are two additional bridle hooks next to the door, I just didn't take a picture of them.

The horse compartment. No worries, everything is securely bungeed and ratcheted in!
Fuzzy edges due to it being a sunny day reflecting on snow after Snowstorm Jonas.

Ok, on to the improvements! (come on, a clean and tidy trailer is an improvement right?)

Who could forget when Husband messaged me and said my tackroom door fell off?

With all of the in and out of the tackroom in frigid temps, the hanging-on-by-a-thread door fell off. It had been allowed to slam open in a previous life, which meant the hinges pulled the screws mostly out of the framing, it hung crooked (and closed hard). Husband made a new oak frame (shown above) to replace the rotten one. He added some metal edging where the door had lost its original.

Bam! The door hangs straight and closes easily with its new insides!

The next major upgrade? New radio system for the truck. We have trailer cams, and I used to use a screen with an ethernet cable that ran out the door to a phone jack on the bumper. Now it's all built into the truck! He also added a camera to the back of the trailer so we can back up in the dark without hitting anything (and stare at tailgaters), and then he added a back up camera to the truck to make it easier to hook up.

The screen turns on automatically when the truck is put in reverse. The big red button is an override so we can look at the cameras while traveling forward. The little black buttons are toggles and then direct buttons for each camera. This taped on system is going to go away in the next few weeks- husband is ordering a custom face plate for the empty cubby behind the buttons so the buttons are locked in place (and so it looks nicer).

Another good thing is the loss of the ethernet cable and phone jack at the bumper:

Real plugs!

So the big plug closer to the hitch is the electric, but the smaller plug to the left is for the cameras in the trailer and the one behind the trailer! You can also see the truck's back up camera attached to the top of the license plate.

New radio system all lit up (coming home from the last show). It's Penn radio!

Now for photographic proof of just how bright it is inside the trailer, mostly thanks to two truck batteries in the tackroom (which Husband charged the piss out of and they seem to be back in good working shape!). When not hooked up to the truck, I can use them to create an electrical current the same as what's in your house to light up curly cue light bulbs (which are protected from horses by metal cages). Husband also replaced the small, not-as-bright, trailer lights with LED so they used less power.

All the lights on. Every light in and on the trailer. Obnoxious, haha.

Husband replaced the ramp light with a super bright LED flood light.
Now I think this is a welcoming box for the horse to climb into in the dark!

Tack room- filthy from a day of muddy parking.

Lighting improvements:

Look! I can see the hitch in the dark to unhook!

LED flood lights point backwards to allow for night time tying to the trailer (something I haven't done since 4H!), nighttime packing (I used them to pack for the last horse show since I packed in the dark!), or help in seeing what's behind you when backing up in the dark. They automatically go on when the truck is put in reverse (only when the truck lights are on). There are also toggle switches in the tackroom for when it's not hooked up to the truck.

View from behind the trailer with the lights on.

A more normal view of what it would look like without all the other lights on, haha.

The other thing he added were the orange tag lights you see by the wheel wells.
There are 4- one on each end of the wheel wells.

Husband did a good job!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Schooling Show 1/31

Poor horse always looks like he's behind bars at these shows!

Since this is coming so late after the show, I've had a decent amount of time to think about it and do a bit of rearranging of my thoughts and have a couple rides that I found enlightening.

The weather was PERFECT for traveling. No snow, no rain, just sun! And almost 50 degrees!

Warm up was atrocious. The host barn boards something like 50 horses I think... and I think all of their owners decided to ride on Sunday, because I couldn't get a thing done in the warm up ring. I shared it with 6-10 other riders (maybe a 70m by 40m space?), and very few of them were actually riding in the show. Many were passing way too close to us (Penn doesn't like other horses near him when he's being ridden), so every time I got Penn's neck thinking long again, a horse would come by and he'd shorten his whole frame and pin his ears and try to lash out with his teeth. I got cut off a number of times, and one girl was passing so close that I took my whip in my inside hand and stuck it straight out to the inside to encourage her to give us more space (it didn't work).

Basically, my warm up was an unproductive disaster. I couldn't do anything from the plan I made earlier in the week. I was warming up during the lunch break, and they drag the warm up and show arena at that time... so I got to start by working in the show arena for a little while while they dragged the warm up. That worked out because Penn wanted nothing to do with the lounge or flower boxes or anything, so I got to school him near it.

Then we went to the warm up and had a horrible spooky angry tense warm up.

Then we went back to the show ring to just stretchy walk around the "warm up" area in there. A little trot, but I was mostly thinking about the upcoming disaster.

It never happened. I took my courtesy lap around the ring, showed him the judge off both eyes, and went back to prep to enter at A. Penn suddenly became all business and rose wonderfully to the occasion. I still had to make bend and spooky corrections to him, but he found his thinking cap.

Here's all the tests, and I wrote down my comments as I watched and from what I remembered.

Training 1 Sheet - 64.348% - 5th place (out of 16)

I liked the forward in the trot and canter to the left- he could still use more but it's on it's way. The second trot and canter (to the right) was lacking. The right has always been the quieter direction, so I have a feeling that as I've been getting him to tone it all down and not rushing, the right eventually got stale and too quiet. I don't remember if I was battling him in the second trot to stay focused or what, but I'm going to say yes because I tend to slow it down when he wants to get speedy or distracted, and he was doing quite a bit of head fidgeting. At 2:40ish, that head nonsense was him trying to scream and me telling him to shut the f-up. The right canter was a mess. He's been coughing lately, and now he does it so much that he taken to pulling his head around and I'm not sure if he truly needs to cough or has found I go go easier on him when he does (if I insist we work through it he coughs or sneezes a couple times and then stops altogether). He gave the judge a big old flinch in the right canter at the end. But look at that square halt to end it!

Screen shot for the win.

Anyway, on to test 2:

Training 2 Sheet - 66.731% - 2nd place (out of 7)

I thought his entering centerline was awesome when I rode down it. It FELT awesome- I let him go more forward and he just filled up. I can see his poll was much too low though. Oh well. Once again, sticky off the halt, but not as bad as test 1. I need to clue him in faster as to which direction we're tracking. The first diagonal I tried to push for a bit more step for an extra point (since every test from 1st & up you do some kind of lengthening across the diagonals), but it backfired on me in that he buried his head down and then we got that nagging thing going because I was holding him up. I remember this left lead canter being spooky to start and difficult to keep balanced and keep going, hence how he falls out of it right after the circle. I did my homework from the last show and practiced bringing him back from the stretchy trot properly- yay! I think it worked well. However, I should have started sitting the trot a step or two sooner so I didn't collapse into the walk, which didn't help him at all. More horrible contact with the bridle in the medium walk. Somehow he still got a 7? Definitely my fault- he quiets in the stretch because I've relaxed my hand and wrist and I'm trying to follow him and encourage him down. The next trot circle and long wall... hmm. I donno, he needs more uphill and less curl, but I'm not sure a half halt and a ton of leg would have fixed it. Maybe that means I need a more effective half halt. I'm unwilling to give him somewhere to go with my hand, and that could be because any half halt I do there is ineffective. The second trot diagonal worked out better for me and I got my extra point (a 7) for the bit more effort. I like the canter, I still want more though. I never got him back that well from the canter, so in turning him I made him curl into his chest in my effort to keep the tempo. I paid for it in a not square halt.

And onto the last test:

Training 3 Sheet - 63.864% - 2nd (out of 8)
I put a lot of thought into how I enter the ring. I don't hurry because the judge has rung the bell- 45 seconds is a long time. I plan and if something falls apart on the way in, I circle back and try again. It irks me to watch people lose points for poor entrances because it is easy points. I watched one rider circle to left at A, the judge rang the bell, and she pulled the horse into a 90 degree right hand turn to go down centerline. I've watched people come in on extreme diagonals and then straighten out at A. I've also watched people stand (halted) at A, the judge rings the bell, and they kick the horse into action and kick into the ring. Come on now people, plan better! Get your correct gait going correctly beforehand, use all the space available to you in front of the ring so you can enter as straight as you can! Now if the plan falls apart, that happens. I know how many times it's fallen apart on me!

Anyway. I didn't like how the first trot loop felt (I swear, as much as I practice it in an over-wide arena at home I will never get it right in public!), and I was still fighting with Penn when it came time to canter. I am pleased that we managed to canter straight out of the corner though. That's a first. What to do after the canter circle haunted us again and I fought to keep the canter, leading to us falling into trot, well before X. Walk was good as always, next trot loop left something to be desired. I had to go back and watch the video twice at the right lead canter transition- the judge said it needed to be clearer. I'm thinking, he didn't shuffle, what the heck? Well he did spook or get discombobulated or whatever, so at the 3rd stride he took a funny step. I need to get my butt down in the saddle and support Penn in the canter. Shoulders tipping, wth! I think I was trying to encourage more canter. I don't remember. Once again, we zoomed past C because he naturally wants to break there (but into a heap) and I want it to be good and so I push him past it and then oops, now the movement is late and I make him break in a heap in an effort to make the movement happen.

So I think the previous week's work of dealing with a spooky bastard came out in these tests. I'm trying to let him stretch his neck (yay!) but I'm doing it with a completely locked elbow and wrist (because I'm expecting to have to catch and suppress the spooky). Along those lines, his head bobbing in the walk is making me batty, and it was pointed out to me this past weekend that I'm not following the motion of the walk with my hands/arms/elbow. As soon as I followed, he quieted.

My sitting trot suffered because I was trying to let him go more forward (bigger trot) and I was just stiff as a board because I was expecting spooking. The poll low/curling thing... I'd rather have that than spooking, but I know it was coming from my desire to let him stretch and trying to keep a tempo, so I never added leg back on to keep his poll lifted. The canter needs more forward and jump, just as the judge said. Just as Trainer said back at the beginning of January.

It irks me that the judge circled "rider subtlety". Penn requires such a quiet, sensitive ride that I pride myself on being quiet unless I'm shutting down some nonsense. I agree (and am working on), finding better contact in trot and I'm trying to find better bend. It seems Penn is vetoing bend right now, and so I ride a bit more aggressively, and so we don't get that relaxed feeling. Anyway, I guess I couldn't be subtle enough for that judge on that day. Ah well.

Yes, my ring geometry was not good enough. Once again, I stand by the fact that this arena is around 25m wide instead of 20m, and I just don't have practice riding accurate shapes that large... simply because I don't find them useful! Blah blah, I know I need to sit down with a 25x40m scaled down arena and figure out where my end points on these circles are. They just ride so big.

**warning, math content!**
I actually just broke out an online tool that does my circle math for me because I'm too lazy to multiply the diameter times pi:

       20m (65.62') diameter = circumference of 62.832m (206.151').

This ring is 80' wide, so:

       80' (24.384m) diameter = circumference of 251.327' (76.6m) circle.

Hmm, let's assume Penn takes 12' canter strides. That amounts to an extra 3.76 strides for this bigger circle, which doesn't sound like a lot. A 20m circle at 12' canter strides should take 17.18 strides to travel, which means I should be taking approximately 21 strides to canter my circles (if you want to get specific, it should be 20.94 strides). Let's go back to the video! *pause for watching* I took 26 strides in the both circles of T3. T2 has a 26 and 29 stride count (I knew one of those was too large as I rode it). Next time I'll ride them a bit smaller and count my steps. Not much smaller, because I don't think Penn actually canters on a 12' stride. How very interesting!

That is one of the reasons I love dressage- if you sat there with a calculator and a list, you could work out how many steps it should take you to do things (if your horse takes standard steps). Then apply that to the geometry drawn on a piece of paper, and it's all spelled out for you with the letters!

Anyway, I am still pretty happy with Penn for rising to the occasion and putting in some nice tests. I will try not to do him a disservice next time so they can be better! I want some more blue ribbons!