Tuesday, March 29, 2016

4 Odds and Ends

So I have 4 items that don't make up a post on their own, but together they do!

1. A great trail ride with Hawk and Fiction! Hawk showed me around the hay fields and up on the ridge on Easter. We had a great ride on a very beautiful day. When we came back, I hopped Penn over an 18" crossrail in the arena since I was in my jump tack. He completely overjumped it the first time, and then hopped over the second. That was enough for me, haha! Quit before I fall off from the combined effect of 1) not jumping seriously in several years, and 2) jumping a horse than has jumped less than 20 fences in his life. A side note, someone had set my cavalettis up on the highest setting to put up a tiny vertical last week and we jumped that a couple times! Wahoo, we're getting a little crazy, haha.

Looking around.
Attempting to fit Penn, Fiction and the beautiful scenery all in one shot. Nope, haha.

2. Penn has a lot of white ticking coming in. I noticed some white hairs in Penn's coat last fall, but there weren't too many. I gave him a vetrolin bath Sunday and took him out to hand graze and brushed him while he dried. As I brushed, I noticed a ton of white hairs near his flanks and then more and more white hairs over his rump and on his barrel. He has some white hairs in his tail (not anywhere near enough for a skunk tail), and I know Alla Czar passes on rabicano/sabino coloring to his offspring. Anyone know if rabicano white hair ticking gets bolder with age? Either way, it looks like it's manifesting stronger with this year's summer coat.

It doesn't show up far away, but there's a lot of white hairs in this bay coat!

3. I'm shopping for a new white saddle pad. I love my Classic Equine pad, but it's got a couple funny spots that I can't get washed out, they don't make that saddle pad anymore, and the drop isn't enough for Penn's saddle anyway. Saddle pad requirements: white, prefer no trim colors (I use bleach), square corner, no bigger than a 22" spine with a 21" drop (I like close fitting pads and these are the measurements of the BOT dressage pad that I do like the fit of). Also up for consideration: one with the half pad attached (and I will forgo the bleach).

I've had some excellent recommendations, and I did more hunting on my own. I'm torn between the Warendorf Dressage Saddle Pad and Equine Comfort Grip Tech Dressage Pad from Dover (plus some others sprinkled in the mix). Please vote for something.

Warendorf Pad- I love the black trim too (it would match Penn's fancy boots), and at $29.99 each, I could buy both!
A little concerned about the lack of curve in the spine.
Equine Comfort Grip Tech Dressage Pad- I like the puffy nature of the pad and I wouldn't use my half pad under it.
Possibly affordable at $114.99. The drop isn't quite long enough though. 
ECOGOLD CoolFit Dressage Pad - A more expensive version of the above? At $194.99, it's out. Plus I can't tell if it's puffy, and I'd want to use this in place of a regular pad and half pad.
Circuit Sheepskin Square Saddle Pad - Combines the pad and half pad. Not terribly excited about it (I wish it had a square corner), but I feel like $129.99 is a good price for something like this.
Total Saddle Fit Six Point Pad - I love love love this one, and I've wanted it for forever. Mikey was going to get one for the wither freedom, but I'm not so sure Penn needs it, and at $189 + shipping - possible return customer discount, this is expensive, and more than I want to spend.

4. I'm shopping for turnout boots. BO will put turnout boots on horses (yay! but I still have to check with her to make sure), and Penn is starting to interfere behind even more when he's out on his own (mid cannon height on the inside of the leg), and I'm terrified that he's going to hurt himself (he nicked himself this weekend and his leg had some slight fill). I'm mostly just looking for hind boots- he's good about the fronts. I was going to put Mikey's old DSBs on him, except I'm concerned that in the summer they'll hold in too much heat and then get waterlogged when it rains or gets too muddy. I'd like to stay away from fleece and neoprene simply because of the heat build up- he's going to be wearing these for at least 12 hours at a time. I really like the Equilibrium Tri-Zone® Airlite Allsports II Boots, but they're so expensive! I'd use them for trail rides too so they get more use than just turnout (also Penn hated the Roma ankle boots I put on him for our Easter trail ride), but it's still tough for me to justify that much money for turnout boots when plain splint boots would probably do the job. Also, the cost prohibits me from getting another set for his front legs. Any favorite turnout boots?

Possible solution to protect Penn's legs?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Lesson 3/26 - TRAINER IS BACK!!

TRAINER IS BACK!!!! *jumps for joy* I've missed her, haha.

Finding lightness and hop in the canter.

She had me do a quick run through of where we were at, during which Penn tried his best to make me a liar. I had said, "He's doing so well! I can't wait for you to see him!" and then he proceeded to be a distracted, kinda-sorta disconnected little bugger.

She was still happy with him. The first thing she noticed was that it looked like he grew... behind. And is now a bit croup high. Le sigh. As I said before, I measured him a week or two ago, and he is taller behind (by less than an inch). One can only hope that his front end will catch up, but seeing as how he just turned 7 and his grandsire was slightly downhill (and many of his grandsire's characteristics overrode the significant amount of TB in him), I'm not going to hold my breath. I may buy him platform shoes though. No, really. One of the farriers at the barn found these awesome clear plastic type composite shoes that are super thick (and super light) and they have a lot of shock absorption going on (plus some wicked tread!). She's experimenting with them on her own 17.3 horse before suggesting them to clients.

Alla Czar, Penn's grandsire.
He was a top hunter sire and made it to PSG himself. So I'm still hopeful?

Trainer also said that before she left, his front end was quite developed and he was weak behind, and now his hind end has caught up and surpassed his front end. Basically, the hind end motor is big and roaring to go and his front end can't get out of the way fast enough, which is where a lot of my unsteadiness in the bridle is coming from.

We spent most of the lesson using haunches in to give his hind end more to do so his front end can keep up. The weak hind leg is the right hind and the idea is to make it keep up and work harder, especially to the left because he tends to stand wide behind and fishtail out on bending lines (all those notes of "loss of outside hind", I just didn't know a good way to fix it other than to "outside leg him to death"). He understands my leg can mean to move the hind legs over, but he doesn't understand that it can also mean step more forward and under.

First we practiced on a circle- 15-18m in walk and trot: put Penn in haunches in, then "bring his shoulders around" without losing the outside hind, almost like a turn on the haunches but don't really turn on the haunch. Back to haunches in, bring the shoulders around. Lather, rinse, repeat. Do. Not. Lose. The. Outside. Hind.

Once that idea was planted and taking root in my brain, we moved on to the main exercise:
  • 10-12m circle at the start of a long wall.
  • Find haunches in on the circle.
  • Send haunches in down the long wall, just inside of the rail.
  • Bring the shoulders around and into half-pass. Do not lose the outside hind!
  • Half-pass for 3-6 steps.
  • Switch back to haunches in.
  • Do the exercise in walk, then move on to trot.
  • Trouble-shooting: DON'T LOSE THE FORWARD MOTION.
This was hard for Penn to the left. The right hind is on the outside and now it has to step under AND keep up. Poor Penn. He took it well and became very steady in the bridle when he wasn't fidgeting his whole body around in the half pass.

Trainer also got after me to pull drop my elbows down, basically lengthening my arm from shoulder to elbow, to take the tension out of my wrist (and do other things like get me to sink down in the saddle). Guess what? When you feel your collar bones being pulled down by your elbows, you can't break your wrists and interfere with the bit-to-elbow idea AND you have to sit up very straight. It's not the first time she's gotten after me about it, but it does make the biggest difference in my riding (along with the pushing a reluctant recliner back with my shoulder blades for a half halt, that's a good one too). She had to remind me about it as I asked Penn to do things besides trot around. Urghhh.

While the left was hard, and none of the half passes of true quality, it was a hell of a lot better than to the right!

Oh, the right. I got a charlie horse immediately in my left leg (the fail is on video but the video is turned the wrong way and my video software doesn't seem to like the file). Penn was not happy to half pass right or bring his haunches back around after. And I was in pain. So he may have gotten pony club kicked with my left leg because that's all I could manage, haha. He responded and I didn't have to do it again.

Interestingly, going to the right needs more right leg than left to make it all happen. Again, the right hind leg is the "slow" leg and it did not appreciate having to step under. Trainer had me find the motion of the hind legs and nudge each side in rhythm with them. This helped keep the forward motion that I lose when Penn and I both get frustrated. It's still a muddled concept in my brain that I'll probably spend a half hour during my next ride in walk trying to get it right on my own. That's a normal process for me- I spend some quiet time the next ride working it out on my own, then have Trainer check me in our next lesson.

She assigned the trot work to the right as homework, and we moved on to canter to the left on a 18m circle before Penn and I both fizzled out. Same idea: bring the haunches in and create the steady elastic horse (checking self carriage with the inside hand), then canter without losing the haunches in feeling. Once the canter is established, find the self carriage again and work on bringing the shoulders around to "straighten" the canter. This should create a light, connected horse.

Penn is such a good sport- I ask and ask and ask things of him and he just keeps trying. He never says no. I had to think about making the shoulder motion more of a pirouette feeling, but then he really got hoppy and light and connected! Then we stopped before we lost it, haha.

Trainer told me to work on the trot exercises and do my normal canter work while paying extra attention to the outside hind, but absolutely do not drill the canter like we did. Work it that way once this week. Trot builds muscle, canter builds wind, and what we need is muscle, so work it mostly in trot for now.

I got 3 other people to sign up for another lesson next weekend. I wanted another lesson before the final horse show in our winter series (it's big ass ribbon time!), and Trainer needs more than one person to take a lesson to make the trip to our barn worthwhile. I'll spend this week working on destroying me and Penn with the haunches in, and I'll need some help smoothing it all over before the horse show!

Here's a video of the final canter work that we did:

I'm so glad to have Trainer back! She came back and kicked our butt, haha.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3-21-2016 Stephen Birchall Clinic

Stephen Birchall came to DT's barn Sunday and Monday this week for a clinic. I've heard great things about him from Austen (here, here, and here) and Emma, so I jumped at the chance to ride with him.

Standing so quietly!

We did our little intro schpeel: Penn was just broke to ride last year and I got him last August. I've been showing him all winter and we're scoring in the mid 60's at Training Level and I'd like to move him up to First in April. I have issues with him bouncing off the contact and bending left.

The first thing Stephen did was commend me for dressing neatly and nicely for lesson. I think George Morris would be proud, if he was a dressage rider.

Stephen had me trot for like a circle, then stopped me and asked me to put up my stirrups one hole on each side. He wanted my leg to have a bit more contact with Penn's side to make it easier to bend him, and he wanted my heel down and didn't like how much I was reaching for the iron. I didn't notice much difference in leg length (they're still long!) but I did have a much easier time getting my leg on at the right time.

One of the things he had to continually remind me of was to keep my thumbs up (sorry!!! bad habits) and he took away my whip (not that I use it often, but I always carry it because I'll need it the one time I don't!). It was easier to keep my thumbs up without it, so maybe I'll ride without it for a while.

Warming up, we did a lot of walk/trot transitions on a figure 8. He said he thought Penn's bend left issue would be a lot worse from how I described it, because he didn't see a whole lot of issues. Some yes, but not horrible. He had me squeeze and release my inside rein as a reminder to go with my inside leg to outside rein. Not a take and release, but a squeeze the hand and release. Something clicked in Penn's brain and he was like, "Ohhhh, you mean supple and bend? Sure!" He had me pay extra attention to the pace of the walk and trot- Penn was in turbo mode on Monday since he was at a different barn and I think that was partially why Stephen took away my whip. In posting trot, he had me even out my posting and make it steadier, which translated well for Penn. All of these things will translate so well when I take him back to my winter dressage series- I have some good ammo for Penn's turbo mode and counterbend tendencies.

He had us do some shoulder in at trot and was very pleased. He made me watch in the mirrors for my angle and reminded me that the three track isn't much angle. It was really neat to be able to watch in the mirrors! Maybe we can talk BO into getting some at home!

We moved on to canter, and he had me do the same suppling motion from the trot- squeeze and release the inside rein, and reminded me that if I take the inside rein, I need to give the outside (something that Trainer and DT reminded me of too!). He had me stick to a circle then go straight ahead in shoulder fore. Why hadn't that ever occurred to me? I did it all the time with Mikey. He suggested shoulder fore to combat Penn's tendency to hit the straight line and splat down the longside. As soon as I got a smidge of angle, Penn had A TON of hop in the canter. And it was easy to get it to happen once Penn realized what I was asking.

After looking at the canter, he wanted to have a look at the leg yields. This is the first time ever that I didn't do one in walk first- we skipped straight to trot. He had me shoulder in down the long wall, turn up centerline and leg yield to the wall (in whichever direction would let us keep tracking the same way). The leg yields to the right were perfect. He praised me for waiting for Penn to sort himself out on centerline and then asking for the leg yield (thank you DT for making me do that!). The ones to the left were also good, but they don't have the same fluid motion that the right does. He does weird tripping/front foot dragging in them. Maybe because he was spooking at the people sitting in that corner? Who knows.

He had me do a couple thinking medium trots on the diagonal. From Mikey, I have a tendency to keep pushing down the diagonal or else it all fizzles out. After the first one that I pushed Penn through, he would chime in with plenty/support/maintain after the first few steps and then have me make the gait bigger on the next diagonal.

We finished with Penn learning to walk-canter-walk. I told him that I hadn't taught them to Penn yet, and that I sucked at the canter-walk ones to begin with. He said to make sure I don't collapse my shoulders or lose the straightness of the horse in them. Which, durrrr, that makes total sense. I totally don't remember how I taught Mikey to walk-canter. I feel like I just kicked harder? Not the best way to teach Penn. He had me prep by my putting my outside leg on to let Penn know something was going to happen. Penn promptly shifted his hindquarters in (Stephen loved Penn's response even though it's not what we were looking for, he just loved how responsive Penn is to the leg). He also had me collect the walk A LOT. Something else that has dropped out of my head.

The first transition was a little inverted (totally A-OK with that though), but I had the right lead canter after a step or two of trot. Coming back to walk wasn't the greatest. Cued again for canter and Penn lifted up and right into canter! Wahoo! That was definitely our most successful one. The rest were a step or two of trot into the canter. The downwards ended up being the problem. We tried a smaller and smaller circle into the walk, so he had me leg yield out and pick up the canter on the leg yield, canter a circle, then go straight down the long wall. At B he had me do a 10m circle as best I could, and in the step before getting back to the wall, ask for walk NOW. Penn dropped right into walk! He said to work on the downward transition using the wall to back Penn off since horses don't usually want to run into the wall.

Overall Stephen said:
  • He loved Penn. He's a more thoroughbred type that is slightly croup high (I did measure him with a stick last week, it's true by about a half inch... sad face), so I'll have to work extra hard to get him to engage his hind end and bend his hocks and stifles to combat that. He loved that Penn tried so hard and responded to very light cues and worked so well off the leg. He asked if I hauled in and remarked what a great brain Penn has considering he's green and in a strange barn on a very windy day. I said he's been that way since I got him- at home or away, inside or outside, in the ring or on the trails, that I essentially have the exact same horse in all of those places, and that I lucked out when I got him. "Damn girl, he has good feet too! You did get lucky!" might have been uttered :-) Haha!
  • Since Penn is a thoroughbred type, he warned me to keep up with Penn's nutrition and feed program and don't be afraid to throw food at him. He's in good weight now, but as the work gets harder to keep an eye on it. Stephen's thoroughbred types eat a ton to build the muscle for dressage work. I told him no worries, I had an OTTB before Penn that we threw food at like no tomorrow and he was still on the thinner side- he worked it all off for his 3rd level work.
  • Penn is very capable of doing second level work right now, but I need to focus on building his strength for it. Every week, build a little bit more.
  • He complimented me on having a great seat and position and how I sit so quietly on Penn- thank you Mikey! With a horse as sensitive to cues as Penn, I have to ride very quietly. He reminded me about my thumbs and to do a bit more sitting up through my shoulders to keep encouraging sit and lift from Penn.

I put together a video that is made up of 5 video clips from my lesson. Mom was my videographer using my phone, and I told her she didn't have unlimited space, so some of the better movements were missed. And at one point she managed to bring up my cat pictures and turn my phone off... At a break she asked me what she did, and Stephen had a good laugh about my cat pictures, haha. The clips hit the following points (in order):
  • Shoulder in left
  • Shoulder in right
  • Suppling the right lead canter and shoulder fore in canter
  • Lengthening trots
  • Walk-Canter-Walk transitions (the canter-walk in this video is probably the best one I've ever done).

I had a really good time riding with Stephen. He is fun and hilarious! DT is planning on having him out frequently. I asked her to let me know when he's coming back because I'd like to ride at least once, if not twice.

Penn looked like a little kid all dressed to play in the snow in his shipping boots, hood and blanket, and head bumper, haha. My mom had me take a couple pics of him and send them to her... and I think the one with his tongue out is going to end up on the fridge... hahaha!
Derp face and oh so adorable face.

I rode outside last night, sans whip, paying attention to my thumbs and working the squeeze inside rein when I lost Penn's attention. I put him on the 3 loop serpentine and did a bunch of walk trot transitions. There's something about the thumbs up that really helps (go figure, proper equitation helps!). I kept my stirrups at the shorter hole and finally felt it- I felt like my knees were up in my eyeballs, but I found it easier to get my leg on my horse. Of course they were right where Stephen put them, haha. I got some fabulous trot and canter work on the serpentine, and I took that trot to the trot poles since they were still up. Penn was SUPER through them- up and lofty. Until he decided there was something to spook at to the outside and the poles were hard and so he jumped out of them, haha. I made him go back through twice more (and make it to the end). I never expected to have to keep him in them- not only are there blocks at the end of the poles, but when Hawk and I set them up, we changed a jump grid to cavalettis and left the standards outside the poles, so it's basically a chute. Oh well, Penn was really super last night so after 25 min of work he got to quit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Exercises from Last Week

Last week we had some good rides. I'd like to record two exercises we did so when I look through my old posts I go, "Oh yea!" and remember to do them again later.

The first exercise is a 3 loop serpentine at canter with changes of lead through trot. I rode it with the end loops being on the right lead, the center loop on the left. Penn does not like to switch from right to left (easy direction to hard) and enjoys plowing through me in the left to right ("Left is so hard, OMG WE'RE GOING RIGHT, I KNOW WHAT TO DO!"). Using the changes of bend in the serpentine to make it clear to Penn that I wanted the left lead after the right lead really helped and I was able to make the change in 4-5 steps. For the other change, if he plowed through me as we approached the change to the right, as soon as I got to centerline, I'd put him on a 10m circle left to find some balance before bending right and picking up the new lead. I'd put an extra canter circle into the middle loop since we weren't spending as much time on that lead. After a few times up and down the serpentine, he became very light and responsive and stopped plowing through me... until he got tired, haha.

The next one is an oldie but goodie, the trot cavalettis:

We of course have worked these before, but this is the first time outside and with 8 poles instead of 6. Working the poles inside seems to generate more lift, whereas outside, he seemed to just lift his legs out of the way and got flatter faster. By the end of the poles, it felt like the distances were too short for him (set at 4'6" and him being 15.3, they really shouldn't be too small!). If I remembered to add a half halt coming in, and a reminder half halt around pole 4 or 5, it helped a lot and he rebalanced himself. I ran out of butt power pretty quickly, which meant I didn't get to really fix it like I wanted to... but whatever, that's a losing battle so it's best to quit and start again another day where you can pick up where you left off, but with a fresh horse.

Screenshots from another video that started out well until he dragged one of the poles with him:

1: I love this balance!
2: Look how high I can lift my feet!
3: Slowly sneaking downhill that will lead to dragging the 6th pole with us.

Next post, my lesson with Stephen Birchall!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Video Experiment

So I said in my last post that I dragged Husband out to the barn and he videoed from the ground and I videoed with my helmet cam. Well he finally got the video software working last night - it decided it didn't agree with several of the Windows 7 updates and he had to figure out which ones to remove. I was able to do an overlay so both videos played at the same time, so a duel vision video is out there!

The main point of this whole experiment was so I can see what his frame looks like when I think he feels good.

Here, look at my favorite picture of the evening to break up this block of text.

I wish the software would let me "crop" the helmet cam video into a portrait view that I could have made larger off to one side of the ground video. Maybe it does let you do that and in the five minutes I spent fiddling with the overlay settings didn't find it. It was 11:30pm by the time I sat down to mesh the videos together!

**edit: I mentioned it to Husband this morning via text, and he did the smart thing and Googled how to do it. The first thing that popped up is a YouTube tutorial that shows exactly what I wanted to do... I was looking in the wrong spot, it's apparently a video effect, not an overlay setting. Oops. I'm going to go ahead and post this anyway, maybe I'll make a new video and post again, haha.**

We'll do better next time- I think this was a worthwhile experiment, but it'd be a little better if the helmet cam was looking down more (possibly see my hands and less of the arena, haha). Since I've done this once, I can give Husband direction like: "Keep me in the right hand side of the frame so I can cover the left side with the helmet video." For this particular video, the program let me drag part of the overlay out of frame, effectively "cropping" one side of it away (so you don't have to stare at the side of my face, haha).

More text-block-break-uppage.

I had to let the computer process overnight. When I tried to play back the video before finalizing it, the whole thing got jumpy and weird. Too much video trying to play at once and the computer couldn't handle it. So I made all the adjustments I could and sent it off to render and process and whatever else it does after the rendering stage. I slept through most of the rendering stage and all stages after!

BTW, matching up the two videos isn't too hard- the indoor had a lot of references (the wood beams running up the walls, the arena doors) that I could use. I imagine doing this kind of thing outside would be MUCH harder (we don't have a solid rail so I can't even use fence posts). I'll give it a whirl anyway!

I like this picture too, except I wish he was a little more uphill.

So it's about 15 min long, and here's some backstory: I had zero warm up before the video starts. I got on, did a lap around the ring so Penn could stretch and look out the arena doors, we did a check of what the helmet cam could see, I went back to the rail, and off we went! I didn't expect that many distractions that evening- 3 people were riding outside, children were running around the barn and near the outdoor, horses were coming in for evening feed, the tractor was out and about, and the place was in general a busy place! While that's bad for video, it's good practice for being in public and dealing with distractions.

The main video blacks out when I canter left for the first time- Husband's camera has a file size limit so that's when it stopped the video, saved the file, and started a new file.

If you want to skip the walk work, trot begins at 3:40.

My own thoughts: it looks a lot better than it felt. He still needs to be steadier in the bridle, but his poll is more up (but not as up as DT had me ride) and that's a plus. I think I need to make his trot bigger (not faster), but that's a little beyond his strength level right now. He needs a more uphill balance, but I think this is fairly appropriate for his level of training. I need to make his walk leg yields steeper and slower- just do a bit more insisting. The trot could use the same, but I need to half halt stronger to get more over and then it'll be ok. I was very pleased with the single turn on the haunches (12:25) - it's not second level worthy, but it's installed and functions decently. I mostly did it because I wanted to change directions but I needed to stay away from X. There were spots I remembered felt really good and were on the hairy edge of too deep. For the most part, I think I've done an OK job at reprogramming what's too low and what's not through enough.

So just for comparison, here's my T-2 test from 1-31-2016:

Ohhhh I just had an idea. Once the weather gets better and the sun is up more so we can be outside, I'll have husband stand at C like he's a judge, then I'll wear my helmet cam, and we can ride a dressage test from both views too! Hopefully other people get enjoyment out of this too, and it's not just me haha. You'd all get spammed if I could convince Husband to come out more often than he does, so you can think of him as a Video Spam Filter! :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Inside hind leg = ACTIVATED. Now to get that pesky outside hind to keep up!

So on Wednesday, I dragged Husband out to video Penn. I wanted to compare my view to the ground view. So I slapped on my helmet cam, he recorded from the ground, and I'm going to try to smash the two videos together so they play next to each other in a "what Jan sees and what people from the ground see" experiment.

The ground video is good, the helmet cam video is a little too high even though I had husband check it, oh well. It is a large field of view (170 degrees) and Penn is little, so his head and neck take up a tiny amount of the frame, haha.

I know there's more to dressage than what the head and neck are doing. But right now I'm enabling Penn to drop his poll too low and having trouble finding when he has enough connection to the bit, and when he's behind the vertical and too deep, because everything that isn't too deep feels above the bit to me, even when I glance at his neck and make sure the top muscles and base of the neck muscles are crunching evenly. I figured a compare video would do!

But I couldn't get the video editor software working last night, so you all will have to make due with the couple still pictures I had husband get after we videoed. We videoed for about 16 minutes? Then I rode for another 15-20, picking at the shoulder in a little. We started to the right since that's easier, and Husband got lots of great shots. By the time I was ready to go to the left, Husband had filled an 8GB memory card (between the video and still shots) so these are single direction shots, haha.

The left was more exciting- I wanted to use shoulder in to find my bend again. While that worked, it also made Penn a little edgy and excited. I worked the pattern of shoulder in down the long wall into canter on a circle. This worked out well to the left with some jumpyness, but when I went right to try to make the canter transition better, Penn just about zoomed out from under me and we had a big fight about being behind the bit and running away. Then we had to discuss holding the trot- he'd hide behind the bit and then try to canter off instead of bending properly.

I made an effort to relax and give, Penn relaxed, we got a little bit of quiet trot before I asked him to lengthen across the diagonal, which he seemed to relax into, we recollected and walked and called it quits for the day.

You might have to turn up your brightness on whatever device you're viewing on- sorry! When I edited these pics on Husband's computer, I guess his monitors are super bright so they all looked fine to me... and when I uploaded them to Facebook, they all came up dark on my phone... sorry!

Reaching in the shoulder in!

More shoulder in.

Look at that neck muscle, nice even bulging!
FYI, he did not have this nice round arch in his neck at the last show. It was flat as a board.

More shoulder in, though this looks more like shoulder fore... and some loss of bend.

Definite three tracks here, but again, more bend I think.

Gee, it's like the same picture over and over again!

Can I get an AMEN for that neck muscle working double time?

Hoppy canter! I need to learn to get my butt glued to the saddle and keep my lower leg from swinging.

He needs to find a better uphill balance in trot (aka, please sit), and I think shoulder in is the way to go. As long as I don't let him drop his poll and bear down (which is not his tendency in lateral work), he holds himself relatively well and light in my hand. I only need to encourage more uphill at that point. Only, haha. I think that will come with time- I'll fry him if I say "SIT MORE NOW!" Also, the shoulder in needs better bend. It comes and goes. He's on a three track for sure, so I have to be careful how I get more bend. His three track isn't that far off the rail- he's a little guy! Either way, most of our early work was on tempo and firming up his steps because his legs moved like wet noodles!

His canter is naturally very hoppy, so the biggest issue was clearing up the diagonal pairs and his tendency to 4 beat when the canter got too slow. Now I need to clear up the little bit of a head bop he gives in the canter, so I need a more effective halt halt. Or I can just learn to sit his canter properly. Or both.

Anyway. I'm hoping to work on the video tonight so it's ready for viewing soon!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy Birthday Penn!

I almost forgot to share! Today is Penn's 7th birthday!

I tried to feed his adorable face an apple and he spit it back out. Extra mints it is!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Quiessence Part II

Ok, so Quiessence gets an A++++.

Because I had this view:

Floppy ears!

For both rides this weekend. Which is pretty standard, except I've never had so much floppy eared goodness. Majority of both rides had floppy ears. We got to ride outside both days, one warm and sunny, the other cool/windy/rainy. I thought the warm and sunny day might have been a fluke, but the cool and windy day didn't bother him. To be honest, he was too quiet! Attentive, but really super quiet. He usually plays with me a little in the outdoor- hiding behind the bit and being looky. Not this weekend! He was an extra happy camper to work.

Short trail ride with Fiction on Saturday!

It has really helped his in the barn behaviors already - very little stall walking (even though he trashed his stall Friday night, aka tromping all over his hay instead of eating it). There was a pee spot and poop piles Saturday morning, instead of the usual churned unidentifiable mess. He ate all of his breakfast, for the first time ever (except when we used a feedbag). He usually loses interest or gets distracted before he finishes. Instead, he ate all of his breakfast, and stood there, waiting quietly, for me to get the horses all set to turn out.

When he was in the barn on both days: he called a couple times, but nothing like the frantic screaming he's prone to doing. He stood quietly in the cross ties and even went to sleep (while alone in the barn!). It was warm enough Saturday that he sweated quite a bit under his saddle, so I hosed him off when we were done. Since we've been at this barn, I usually have to have a discussion with him about walking into the wash stall, and staying in it, before I can actually get around to hosing whatever part of him needed washing. Saturday, he walked in, took a quick peek, then stood quietly while I fiddled with the hose and getting the right temp, etc. Then I made him stand in the barn with horses going in and out for probably an hour while he dried fully.

I am super happy with Quiessence. It worked a little too well!

So the dosage he got: The bag said to feed 1 scoop per 250 lbs of body weight until a difference is noted. Then the horse should get 0.5 scoop per 250lbs of body weight as maintenance. Penn weighs about 1000 lbs, so he should have gotten 4 scoops to start. I couldn't fit 4 scoops into his baggies (I use snack size and there was already a scoop or two of his other stuff in there), so he got 3 scoops instead. I noticed a difference already (I see him almost every day and know him pretty well by this point. Also, other people like BO noticed a difference). I filled his supplement baggies according to the following plan: 3 scoops for the first week, and then 2 for the next two weeks. I'm hoping that at the end of those two weeks I can drop him down to 1 scoop for maintenance (especially since 3 scoops did the job so quickly). At the 1 scoop level, I would buy the 50lb bucket from SmartPak, which is 400 scoops. With my USEf discount, it would cost $207.05, or $0.52 per day, or about $188.93 per year to feed it to him. I am looking into a couple cheaper options, but for now I'm going to stick with Quiessence. It comes in pellet form, and I love pellets and gladly pay more for that.

Just two short ride recaps:

I ran through the trot work from 1-3 on Saturday and had our first successful leg yield zig zag! And after he got through that, on the short side he got extra bouncy and puffed in the trot! Super excited. Along with floppy ears, he was so light in the bridle in canter, and fairly light in trot. All his canter work was great, his trot work was good, and we went for a short walk in the woods with Hawk ad Fiction.

I rode the entire 1-3 test on Sunday (except the stretchy trot because I forgot it... I see some errors in my future), and it went really really well. I was excited that he made it through all the canter work- I've been afraid that there's too much canter. The left lead canter shallow loop was tough for him, and I had to put in 4-5 trot steps at the simple change from right to left to make sure he got the correct lead. I'm not sure how many trot steps are allowed before points start being majorly deducted. From my previous education, it's anything greater than one. Though from watching other people ride that part of the test, it looks like 3 or 4 might be acceptable? I'm sure a better change with more steps is better than a hurried one with one step.

I leave you with what I found when I got to the barn on Sunday: Penn sleeping in a pile of hay that Cappy the pony was trying to eat.

"Nom nom, eating and laying in hay while the disgruntled pony looks on."

Penn thought about getting up when I got close enough.
Cappy was already coming to see me to look for treats.

Nah, Penn decided to give the hay a good roll before getting up.
Cappy is still hopeful for treats.

Penn gets up, which exposes the very nice fluffy green hay on the ground.
Cappy says, "Nevermind! I can get to the hay!"

Saturday, March 12, 2016


At jenj's recommendation, I'm giving a magnesium based supplement a try for Penn's nervous behavior- Quiessence.

Lifted right off SmartPak. Sorry. But hey, if it works, I'll buy more of it from them!

It supports the muscular and nervous systems, which can cause a calming effect. It's supposed to help metabolic issues as well, but Penn doesn't really need that part. Hopefully it will help his stall walking and keep his traveling nerves at bay (oh yea, I forgot to mention- he screamed up a storm at the schooling show... while Fiction was right next to him). I'm really hoping that his stall walking isn't an ingrained habit yet, since I've heard it is basically impossible to stop once it starts.

I'm still interested in trying the Liquid Titanium Mask, but I'm not sold on it yet. I couldn't find many reviews of it- one good review and one thread on COTH that ripped the product line to shreds.

I was able to start him on Quiessence right away because as luck would have it, the new girl at the barn works for Dover, and had a 5lb sample bag of it in her trailer that she wasn't going to use! I asked her about the mask, and she said to get it from Dover if I want to try it, because they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If I don't notice a difference, bring it back. I quote, "I've had stuff returned for less than it not working!"

I truly think he'll grow out of his nervous behaviors, except for the stall walking. Everything I've read on that is once it starts, it will never stop. I'm not sure if he'll grow out of the spinning in his stall around feed time (he waits fairly quietly for feed then spins up a storm after when the horses start to go out). Luckily, we can avoid that by turning him out first! The calling for other horses, nervous in the barn by himself, trailer diarrhea- I think with time and life experience they'll stop. I never worried about any of it before (Mikey had similar nervous tendencies for the first couple years I had him), until I googled ways to prevent horse diarrhea when Penn moved to this barn. I never thought about negative side effects other than dehydration, but scary things like colitis came up as reasons why you need to get it under control ASAP. #scaredhorsemom

Either way, I don't want him stressing. We will see how it goes!

Friday, March 11, 2016

3/6/2016 Schooling Show

Real geldings win pink!

Alright, so I wanted to think carefully about what I want to say about this past show. I had a million thoughts running through my head, and I wanted to put them in a pot and let them simmer for a while so I could come to a good, constructive conclusion. A few good rides after doesn't hurt either!

The sewing machine and I have become friends.
I sewed some darts into Penn's mesh sleezy because the nose stretched and was way too big for his face.

First off, I did not get the scores I wanted. They were not abysmal, but they are not up to our usual standards. They were the lowest and next to lowest scores I've gotten with him at Training level. Trainer took time out of her super busy Monday to call me after the scores were posted online and ask "What the hell happened?!" It wasn't a good day. This of course makes writing about the show harder.

I've come to the conclusion that it's all my fault: of course it is, I'm the one riding the horse, and my feel is off. I've said that numerous times before. I had some 'eyes on the ground' watch me in the week before the show (not trainer eyes, but eyes that have seen a lot of dressage and have been helpful before), and I don't want to blame those eyes either. But if they saw what my video showed and said it was fine, I'm hella pissed off!

Penn continues to get more spooky the more places we go. Maybe it has something to do with winter, maybe it has something to do with a lack of outside riding, who knows. Maybe it was the judge's heater. He's never had a huge aversion to C (as in, I can't mask it or stop spooks from happening), until the last two shows when the judge had a heater running (complete with red hot coils). He jumps off the rail, won't go into the corners near C, and counterbends and no amount of inside leg will solve it. He is on a mission to go to the inside and get the hell away from the judge. He's looky otherwise, but nothing I can't manage, so I'm going to blame the heater and wait for it to get warm and go away.

Fiction and Penn

Next, I've gotten derailed somehow from my last lesson. I will not believe that DT had me ride him as disconnected as I rode him on Sunday. I know my feel is off- my feel for the right amount of throughness. I tend to ride deeper than I should, and DT helped me bring up his poll and get him out of that deep mess so he could use his shoulders. Everything above that deep point feels disconnected to me, so I rely on others for now to check me, and I try to memorize the feeling. My first test was a spooking awful mess. I thought my second test was great, it had a similar feel to what I had in the last week and what my eyes on the ground said was 'enough connection and throughness'. In the third test Penn struggled a little and got tired, so his poll dropped on more than one occasion and I couldn't kick it back up. The scores were very low for us (59.348, 62.885, 63.864), but the more he dropped his poll, the better the score. I was "WTF man!" until I watched the videos. They were abysmal. He needed to drop his poll so he could stretch to the bit.

He had little to no impulsion. He was not connected at all. His nose was poking out, which is fine, except it's not poking out in a good way. His head and neck are very triangular, not a nice curved shape. His body shape reminded me of a teepee instead of something round. His movement was less mechanical, which is good, except it reminded me of a western pleasure horse. As in, it was very flat and he was even dragging his hind toes in trot. Nothing like the nice trot I had in my quick canter video post. Maybe it's because I'm sitting the trot. I've made a huge effort to sit on him less, so I've been posting at home. I need the security of sitting trot in public right now because he's a bit looky. I really need video of him at home so I can constantly double check myself- I really want the SoloShot3 even more now!

Someone is finally wearing all of the trailering things! Sped head, show halter, cooler, shipping boots.

The judge pointed out the couple things I've been having an issue with and I'm not sure how to fix without screwing up the rest of him (every time I try to fix it, his gaits become very irregular). He's getting more and more counterbent to the left and I'm losing his outside hind all the time when tracking left. I'm losing it on diagonals and straight lines now, not just circles. The issues are obviously connected, but I need a lesson to help me out. I needed a lesson before going to this show, if only to set me straight on the ideas we worked on last time.

Penn on the left, Fiction on the right. Nomming and sniffing noses in the trailer on the way home.

I hemmed and hawed about sharing my test videos, and I just don't want to. They're awful and I'm embarrassed to have missed the mark so badly. I'll share the test papers though because I think they're fairly spot on. I also haven't had a chance to download them and I want to post this eventually!

T1 - 59.348%, 5th out of 16

T2 - 62.885%, 5th out of 7

T3 - 63.864%, 5th out of 8

Lots of notes about "tight back" and bend issues. There is one note I really disagree with- T1, movement 5- "trot between B & M". Her comment was "a little late". Umm, it's between the letters... and I sure as hell didn't canter into the corner because I have to actively pursue that around C. I watched the videos, I trotted between the letters like I'm supposed to. This was the first one, so there wasn't another transition location to compare to (since ideally you make the transitions between letters in approximately the same place both directions). Penn had an uncharacteristic loss of stretch in T3's stretchy trot. The centerlines weren't our normal good ones- I had a lot of trouble keeping him straight, and he tried to back up after the halts instead of trotting off.

Trainer comes home 3/16, and will start teaching again 3/21, so I'm hoping I can see her Good Friday or the day before Easter. DT will be out around 3/19 (which is difficult for me because I work at the barn Sat AM and I need to be home by 1pm that day), and I'd like to see her again to get her take on where I'm at with the work she wanted (I'm debating asking if I can haul to her on Sunday for a lesson). I also signed up for a clinic on 3/21 with Stephen Birchall. I'll be getting a lot of lessons before this series finale!

I'm still in the lead for the T1, T2, T3 championships, but I don't want to win just because I've been to all the shows (they sum the scores from every show and whoever has the most points wins). I'm keeping my own Top 3 average score of the classes, and I want to be in the top there too. If you calculate via "top 3 average" instead of "total running score", I'm in 3rd in T1, 2nd in T2, and 1st in T3. T1 has always been our weakest test (and the biggest class at each show), so I'm not heartbroken over that. There's quite a few people who have ridden it 3 times and even with 2 goof tests, I'm still in 3rd according to the "top 3 average".

Riding Tuesday night.

I've had some good rides since the show (though who knows, maybe I'm on crack and they were terrible), and I'm feeling better about where he's going.

  • Tuesday night I kicked him up and through with my inside leg quite a bit and rode with a bit more pace than I normally would have. He leaned on the bridle a little, but his poll was still the highest point. Being so insistent on carrying a deeper feel (in sitting trot too) and more pace, most of my counterbend issues went away. I rode T1 before quitting and was happy with how it went.
  • Wednesday night I rode outside as it got dark, letting him be a lot lower in the poll than he should (it was more of a stretch and relax ride for him). I rode the trot a lot bigger than usual and he really lifted his back and swung and became nice and lofty. I did a horse switch with a new girl at the barn- she rides the AA hunters and had never sat on a dressage horse, so we swapped. Mostly just a have fun ride.
  • Thursday was good. We touched on the canter one loop from 1-3, which he did wonderfully to the right, and had a very tough time with to the left. I did some simple changes like in 1-3 as well, and the one from left to right works mostly well (I have to get him to hold himself up in the trot steps and not hurry so much), but the one from right to left does not work well- I can't seem to get the change of bend across to him. That follows the counterbend issues from the show and the difficulty riding a canter one loop to X on the left lead. 

We'll get it all working again soon... I hope.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Fenwick's Liquid Titanium?

Has anyone heard of the above? Bonus points if you've used the products and would like to tell me about it!


The ear bonnet, available in dark gray or black.

They seem to be like Back on Track, offering items for healing random body parts. Except they deal with helping nerves and anxiety too, if the 3.5 minutes I spent reading the website is correct. Bonus: no break in period and they can be left on 24/7. Extra bonus: machine washable and dryer approved.


I am still working on Penn's nervous moments- it's nothing that is dangerous, it's mostly just annoying and I want to shut it down before it gets worse. He spazzes out about things that we've covered already (clippers- I decided to clip his fetlocks and bridle path before the show last weekend- he had a meltdown about the fetlocks and was cool with the bridle path), and being alone in the barn or trailering still makes him nervous. (Trailering with pal Fiction was good though! Less diarrhea, but his tail was still caked in it when he unloaded)

I'm intrigued by the mask- could it help with his stall walking? That happens mostly out of nerves I think. His stall changed to one with a window, and that has helped the stall walking dramatically, however he still walks up a storm as soon as someone appears for feed time. Trailering: he's going to be going by himself a lot, and I don't have a good solution to the trailer diarrhea yet. I hauled him with Fiction over the weekend, and used Confidence EQ a half hour before loading. That pheromone has helped him when it comes time to stand in the barn for a while by himself, but I don't want to get hooked on a drug, and I wished it worked a little better. He definitely had less diarrhea (no liquid! but not solid), but I don't know if that was more because he had a friend, or if the Confidence EQ stuff helped.

He settles fairly well under saddle, so the ear bonnet would come later (if at all) if the mask helped dramatically.

I'm grasping at straws here, so opinions? I have BOT stuff that I'm not sure works well or not. Or maybe I should just forget about it all? I'm nervous that his on the ground nerves will eventually carry over to under saddle nerves.