Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ho Hum Days & Other News

Don't neglect your quiet work.

Standing on a hill, just looking around? Yupp, that counts.

Penn has not been a "foam at the mouth" type. There have been days I can hear him sucking on the bit, and those are the days he's quiet and steady and relaxed, and generally has a small corner of foam when we're done. There are days where he's so hard in the head and neck and I know it because I can feel myself being overly handsy. These are zero foam days.

Now, I know foam isn't the end all- some horses don't foam and they're working well. Some horses foam like crazy as soon as you put a bit in their mouths, working well or not. Many, however, foam when working well.

Penn has been enjoying relaxed and quiet rides for the past week (even though rides are relaxed, when doing hill work he MUST be connected to the bridle and using himself to make sure the right muscles build!):

  • 4/27 Wednesday & 4/28 Thursday: He did some hill walking with very light ring work (leg yields and basic W/T/C with 15-20m circles).
  • 4/30 Saturday: We had a relaxed but effective lesson.
  • 5/1 Sunday: He did a little hill work and a short trail ride. That turned out to be not so relaxing because the pigs were right at their fenceline that we have to walk past... and while he'll walk past when they're 15-20ft away, I didn't ride him properly (I wanted to look at the pigs because I haven't seen them up close), and so I let him sit and spin and run away... much further than I would ever let him because the footing was a bit slick due to rain... so I had to make a big fuss about getting forward again and he prompted bolted past the pigs... I had a bare amount of steering (I could pick the general direction, but couldn't avoid the low hanging branches). Penn learned about the pulley rein and stopped dead. His walk wasn't very relaxing after that, but he managed by himself and was on a longer rein by the end.
  • 5/3 Tuesday: We did some very light ring work again, did one circuit of our hill work, then went for another short trail ride. Penn got his education about the pigs since the footing was better. He tried to stop early and turn away; I caught him and insisted; he threatened to rear; I cranked his head to one side as a rear stop and spun him in circles while whacking him with the whip on the hip. He had an epiphany and decided to walk somewhat calmly past the pigs. He got lots of pats and good boys, and did the rest of his trail ride on a long rein. Just a wonderful ride really (aside from the pig education part). Did a little extra road walking towards the end.

Happy pony.

  • 5/4 Wednesday: Moderate ring work. Nothing crazy, but more than the basics... test 1-2's leg yields and lengthenings, 10m trot circles so I could practice posting them (I've only sat them because I find Penn leans in too much at posting trot), practiced our trotwork into the canter from lesson, and tried the thinking leg yield through the simple change (fun fact, I had fewer trot steps and zero uncertainty about what lead he was picking up, but he inverted a bit).
As the week progressed, he started foaming more and more each ride. 5/3's work and trail ride had him foaming nicely. Yesterday's ride had a lot of foam and even some audible bit sucking, much more than I've ever gotten from him from strictly ring work. He's been progressively more relaxed each ride as well (pig incidents aside).

Basically, don't neglect your quiet work- easy rides in the ring, walking up and down hills, walking trail rides. Even though Penn hasn't been quite comfortable in his ring work, he is getting better and has been quite relaxed when I've put him to work. Seeing something besides the ring is good for them!

I don't recommend lollygagging walk work in the ring- do it outside the ring. I tried that several weeks ago and Penn was a nightmare after ("what is work? what is round work? what is connection?"). Mikey did very well with the quiet work mixed in too, except I could probably lollygag with him in the ring and not have an issue later... he never relaxed as much as Penn is willing to though.

Penn's work is certainly lacking in some spots- posting the trot lets him go in a tempo that's a bit too quick, which then makes the lengthenings bad... and that's totally my fault because I'm trying to be extra nice to him. But I can feel that his gait quality is good and he's very relaxed, and I think that's a bit more important right now. He's not going to win any fitness medals at this rate, but he is building needed back and hindquarter muscle to really excel at first level. We can work on finessing the movements later when he has the strength to carry on for an hour.

A good zig zag, but it could be better, if only because we can't consistently produce it.

Other happenings:

1. I'm also attempting to fix my own fitness level- when I was dog sick a couple weeks ago, the only thing that I could eat that wouldn't make me sick or give me heartburn were clementines and other fruits. I went a week with only eating fruits, veggies, some meat and I felt fantastic. I added back the dairy and grains and wanted to die. Wheat based products especially triggered my asthma, among other unpleasant side effects. I'm not talking like cakes and cookies, I mean a simple sandwich on bread triggers it. Pizza is the devil's food since it causes full blown attacks where I spend days not breathing properly even with an inhaler. (Side note, almost every woman on my mom's side can't eat wheat or dairy, and there is a very high crohn's disease rate- a cousin's son was diagnosed with it at age 7 and almost died.) So after a couple attempts at eating grains, I'm on my way to cutting out all grains... Also all alcohol- it sometime causes the same reactions. I like cheese too much to go dairy free. I'm adding back select foods as a test to see if I react to them. For example: I really do enjoy a bowl of cereal (I have a favorite oat based one)... especially now that I found milk that doesn't make me sick- FairLife milk is lactose free, has more protein than regular milk, less sugar, and fewer calories. The best part of cutting out grains and most dairy? I dropped 10 lbs quickly and easily and don't feel constantly bloated.

2. I gave my first injection! Ahhhh! It wasn't as bad as I thought. Penn's Adequan came in yesterday and he needed his first dose, and no one was there to give it to him (BO can't because of her insurance). I've watched a lot live and got some tips a couple weeks ago when Penn got his first injection. I watched a video as nerve prep (it's the stabbing part that bothers me). In the last 20 years, it's just something I've never done. I've boarded with Trainer for a long time, and she was a vet tech for many years, so why let me risk botching it? Before I boarded with her, we'd always have the vet inject anything the horse needed.

3. Tonight Penn gets a massage and then the farrier will be there to fix one of his shoes. Just a minor shoe adjustment, but one that needs to be made ASAP so we don't have a bigger issue. I think Penn is going to have to move to a 5 week cycle because we're 4ish weeks in and his feet have grown so much this spring that the shoes are too small looking. We're barely halfway through the cycle and I already have a problem with a slightly turned shoe. I'll have to talk to the farrier about a couple things- shorter cycle, maybe a slightly bigger shoe, hind toe dragging (he said to keep him posted about that).

4. Penn will have a light work (probably paying a bit more attention to the trot into canter and the simple change) and short walk (hopefully- the weather may not cooperate) Saturday, and then we're off to our last prep schooling show Sunday!

5. Oh, the vet had a cancellation and Penn's chiropractor appointment was moved from May 17th to May 9th! Yay!


  1. Sounds like great progress and great reminder about the easy days and getting out of the ring

    1. Easy days are something difficult for me. I'm very much the type to work on something until it's perfect. That was mitigated somewhat by moving to a barn with an indoor. I don't have to worry about having good footing to work on whatever exercise, so there's no pressure to work hard when the footing is good because it's always good somewhere!

  2. So much going on. It sounds like everything is going in the right direction.

    1. So much going on is the story of my life. Every time things quiet down I get bored! I'm very hopeful we're moving in the right direction!

  3. my horse had probably gotten foamy on her bit fewer than 5-10 times in the three years i've been riding her - right up until a couple weeks ago with my first lesson back with Dan where he really drilled me on straightness: two hind legs into to reins. ever since then i've been chipping away at the straightness, and whadya know, the mare is consistently foaming on the bit every single ride - even when she's a little touchy or resistant. kinda wild!!

    1. That's a thought too! Penn struggles with straightness as well, I'll have to pay extra attention to it and how that effects him! I know the couple times I've carried a whip since my first lesson with Stephen, it has effected my thumbs up/hands together/connected bit to elbow feeling. When I have that feeling, we have great rides with some foam (I haven't been riding with a whip as much since he took mine from me). I know Penn's also between the aids on those rides. I'll have to see!