Monday, July 25, 2016

Long Lining Demo

Long lining: An excellent tool to have in your tool box.

I'm prefacing this whole thing with: I am not a trainer. My own trainer started Mikey on the lines for me, then handed him off about 20 min later after he had a good grasp of it and had run him through all of his paces. I long lined Mikey a TON before helping her start a very troublesome mare who definitely gave me a crash course in when to let go and how to read the horse for when shit is going to hit the fan (rearing, spinning, bolting). I believe someone else started Penn on long lining as he seemed very chill with the whole deal when I tried to start him. Mikey and Penn gave me good experience in the basics, the troublesome mare gave me troubleshooting experience for sure (she had ZERO self preservation instincts). PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, use your trainer to help you get started. If a trainer is not available and you still want to try, use a dead broke horse to get going and keep it simple! Horses seem to either react well to long lining, or they lose their shit and can seriously hurt themselves. This post is how I long line and is based on my experiences with two well behaved horses and one very very naughty mare.

Several of you have expressed interest in learning to long line, but lament that there isn't a trainer to get you started (again, see above!). I took my helmet cam to the barn with me to show you how I do it.

Dressed to play! Also, matching!

You will need:
  • A dead broke horse, or one that already knows how to drive or long line. Most horses that know how to ride and steer usually take well to it.
  • A surcingle (a saddle will do, but I've never done it with one)
  • Saddle pad of some kind (I like using a half pad and regular pad because surcingles just never seem to fit right).
  • Two long lunge lines - I prefer these ones from Schneider's because they are all cotton, clip together if desired, and are the longest lines I could find at 24'.
  • Snaffle bridle, sans reins.
  • Horse leg protection (optional, but I recommend it)
  • Gloves
  • Helmet (optional, I don't wear one normally to long line, but would never judge if someone else wanted to!)
  • Whip (optional, I prefer a very long dressage whip, almost driving whip length)
  • A trainer (preferred) or willing victim friend to help get you started.

Too much on the forehand, but still an attractive picture.

Getting Started:

Before I took Mikey and Penn into the ring to get going, I rubbed them all over with the lines. Mikey was always funny about ropes/tapes running the length of his body (made measuring for blankets interesting). I didn't want either horse to panic about the lines touching them. I unrolled the lines and draped them all over and across as much of the horse as possible. No idea if either horse really needed this, but it made me feel better.

I use the bottom ring on the surcingle. Yes, your hands are near the top ring, but putting them through the bottom ring seems to keep the horse steadier. I want steady since Penn's problem is unsteady. I also hold the reins like I would regular reins, not in a driving hold.

The first time you long line, use a completely enclosed space. If you have an indoor, use that, and close all of the doors so there aren't any distractions for the horse (I didn't close them in my video because Penn has done this many times before). We started troublesome mare in a smaller flat field. Not ideal, but it was the best space available.

Stretching while I get my shit together and attempt to take pictures of him.

Hook up your lines while you have your friend hold your horse. Get behind the horse, far enough back so they can't kick you (a reason I like my 24' lines), and cluck and ask the horse to walk on while your friend leads the horse forward. Don't aggressively slap them on the sides with the lines- work up to using the lines as your leg. Have the friend lead the horse around for as long as it takes for the horse to become comfortable and understand going forward with a person behind them. I had my friend slowly walk away from Penn rather than stop and let him pass her by. It was a non-event for him though. He was mostly confused about why there was a person up there to begin with. If your friend has long lining experience and you've never done it, let your friend hold the lines and you walk by the horse's head. After the horse gets it, swap places.

Things to remember:

  • This takes A LOT of coordination.
  • Keep a good pace behind the horse. The horse shouldn't be pulling you along, but there shouldn't be excessive loop in the rein either. Keep a steady contact.
  • The lines act as both hand and leg. Direct pulls act like your hand, taps/slaps against the horse's side act like your leg. I rarely use the the whip- mostly just to ask for canter while on the circle.
  • Every cue you give will be amplified by the time it reaches the horse. Heavy in your left rein? You'll be dragging the left side of your horse's face into a wall. All the time. Small corrections with your hand may cause the horse to turn one direction or another when you're just trying to stay straight. Straight is excessively difficult.
  • You will have to "ride" every step. "Constant vigilance!" as our favorite Auror says. If you use the right rein, you have to give the left by an equal amount. Everything is the same as if you were sitting on the horse.
  • Hands together, just like you were riding. No pulling hands out to the side or splitting them up. You'd never steer with them 3-4' apart while on the horse, why would you do that here? Shorten your lines or encourage the horse to walk faster so you keep a steady contact. When turning, let the outside line slide and give instead of splitting up your hands (for small 90 degree turns I give my hand since it doesn't require much slide), then shorten the lines as appropriate as you straighten. This really helps you learn to keep your elbows at your sides and use your core to half halt.
  • You can let the ends of the lines drag on the ground, or carry them in your hand. Starting out, let them run on the ground (and don't clip them if you got the ones I recommended). I usually only clip them once I'm on my circle, otherwise I'll hold them in my hand or let them drag. Let them drag for your first few times so you can easily change rein lengths as needed.
  • REMEMBER TO ALLOW YOUR HORSE TO TURN! You will run him into a wall otherwise. Poor Mikey. The way the lines amplify your cues, the horse will not be able to turn to stop themselves from running into a wall. I made this mistake several times the first time I long lined Mikey. I had to haul on his mouth to get him to stop so I could organize myself so I could allow him to turn.
  • Keep it simple and if either of you are getting fried, quit immediately. Don't mentally (or physically) exhaust the horse. It's easy to do on the lines because the horse can't lay on your hands or use you as a crutch. Penn never goes for longer than 20 min. That said, you can probably spend 30-40 min just walking behind the horse doing stupid basic steering figures so you can learn to steer all over again and stop drunk driving.
I recorded getting started with my helmet cam. I'm a bit further back than I usually am, mostly because I wasn't sure what it would look like in the video. You may have to turn up the volume- I couldn't get the video editor to turn it up. It was 93 degrees and muggy on Sunday when I recorded this, so bear with the puffing as I talk to you.

Things to do your first time long lining:

  • Stick to the walk. You could spend an hour behind the horse practicing steering. And then spend another hour the next day practicing steering again. Repeat until you're not inadvertently driving drunk most of the time. Have fun running behind your horse for trot and canter. Try it at least once after you've got the basics down. I can't stay on my feet in sand, at the proper pace, and attempt to steer or work the horse correctly all at the same time, so I don't trot or canter off the circle unless it's to go straight for a couple strides to move down the ring.
  • Walk basic figures: 10m teardrop reversals (like in the video), diagonals, centerlines, quarterlines, 20m squares. Pay attention to your geometry and the horse's projected track vs the desired track. Don't try leg yielding or shoulder in or anything fancy until you can steer.
  • Pay attention to if you have a heavy hand (I bet you do). Is your horse's head always cocked one particular direction? I'm heavy in my left hand and outside hand.

On the circle:

You can see in the video that Penn's hindquarters are in for most of it. That's an issue I have because I'm way too heavy on my outside rein. I smother with it to try and get the turns to happen. I am not excellent at working on the circle. I can do enough to get Penn to balance and hold himself up. This is where you'll notice your horse's biggest weaknesses. Penn's canter was so unbalanced as of Jan/Feb this year that he couldn't hold himself up for more then a quarter of a circle on the lines. He'd fall and trip all over himself (that's how much I held him together). He can hold it well for about a circle now- I tend to bring him back to trot early to make a good transition happen.

Blooper reel: I asked for canter while attempting to take pictures and he didn't appreciate the stale hand. He took off and bucked. This was just before, I was so mad that my rapid fire missed it!

Pay attention to bend, circle size and shape, and walk with the horse. None of that standing still in the middle stuff. This is an active participation activity. Spiral in and out is a good exercise to do, and it takes a lot of coordination between shortening/lengthening the lines and giving correct instruction to the horse.

Better canter. Still a little zoomy and wanting to lean over the inside shoulder.

I mostly pay attention to keeping Penn as uphill as I can, and standing up and not leaning over his inside shoulder. You'll have to half halt and urge for forward and it will be like you're riding.

You can double lunge with the outside rein coming up over the spine, or behind the haunches. I like the feel that over the spine gives me, but behind the haunches encourages more stepping under. I have trouble with the outside line creeping up under the tail, especially in canter. I think this is because I'm too heavy in my outside rein.

I don't have as many tips for working on the circle, mostly because I'm still working that part out myself and I think it's very horse specific. I do know that I now despise working with a single lunge line and side reins. They feel stale and dead to me after having a feel of each side of the bit using double lines. Right now, I'm trying to encourage forward so Penn gets uphill, but it's a fine line between uphill and then running and being downhill. We're working on a strength issue right now, both on the lines and under saddle!

So proud of himself.

By the way, when I get pictures of him working on the lines, I usually hold them like the fillis hold on a double bridle. I feel like since if I use one, the other should give, this let's me have a small say in what's happening as I attempt pictures.

Troublesome Mare:

I debated with whether to include this section about the mare, however, I wanted to share my experience of when the shit hits the fan.

I wrote about the troublesome mare a while back. In fact, I worked with her on the day of Penn's PPE. She was having a problem with moving forward and Trainer wasn't comfortable sitting on her anymore, so she opted to swap to long lining to get the mare moving forward on her own. Trainer walked her forward for me, but as soon as she'd move away, the mare would violently react to my gentle tugs to steer:
  • Rearing - I'd take the lines, and just like you would on a horse that's starting to rear while you're sitting on them, attempt to break the upward motion by pulling the head to one side. I would work her back and forth until the upward motion stopped, let her rest, then politely ask her to move forward again like nothing ever happened. Crude? Yes. Effective? Yes. The mare never got further off the ground than a few inches.
  • Spinning - She'd spin and wrap the line around her neck 2 or 3 times. I removed all pressure from the situation and just try calming her with my voice. I'd unwrap her carefully, reset, and ask her to move forward again.
  • Bolting - As terrible as it sounds, I simply let go of her after making an attempt to stop her. Getting dragged is NOT worth it. We'd catch her, then reset so she wouldn't learn that pulling away would make us go away. She'd gallop full tilt for laps around the field, and never once stepped on the lines, just FYI.
These were all responses to simple cues like pulling the right rein to turn right. No tapping with the line, nothing. Basically, the goal was to remove all pressure, let her decompress for a moment, then start again. After 20 min of this, she eventually gave in to walking and turning right and left, but we could see her wheels turning to try and figure out how to get out of it. Don't start with a horse like this one, use the most broke horse you can find.

Just like air conditioning?

I hope this answers anyone's questions about long lining and how I do it. Please please please, if you decide to give it a try, don't do it alone and use your brain about how much is too much, and quit if things are going wrong.

Nom nom, more zucchini please!
Who knew? Horses like zucchini. And Penn happily ate it. And he won't eat apples.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Shaved Legs

So by now you've noticed that I've been planting Penn in front of a fan to dry his legs after hosing him down so I can put his boots on and turn him out.

There was this almost proverbial moment.

Basically, my evenings become long because I drive 40 min to the barn after work, tack up, ride, hose down horse. By this point evening feed has started and they're starting to turnout for the night, so I need to make sure Penn eats and gets all his stuff on for turnout. Oh yea, and put away all my stuff that probably got spread all over the place because that's apparently how I roll at the barn. And after all of this, I still need to drive 40 min home.

This includes letting him eat his 4lb of grain and then drying his legs so his boots can go on.

I try to do things while other things are happening- hose down horse, put in stall to eat dinner (at least he's finally not the slowest eater ever!), then put everything away while he's eating. Then I grab a towel and fan and rub Penn's legs down after he's done eating.

I'm sure this is something I should be doing anyway, but I don't. Ever since I started spraying Mikey down with generic versions of the original yellow Listerine, all that skin fungus/crud/nastiness that develops on legs/ears/under the jaw cleared up. It stays away as long as I am religious about my Listerine spray. Seriously, give it a try! It makes them sleek and shiny too. I'm going to be trying a new mix of the original yellow with one of the mint flavors as a fly spray (I originally started Listerine as a tick repellent), because I've found the yellow version is about as effective as most fly sprays if not more effective. (Not against the pterodactyls that fly around, but I don't know anything effective against those!)

I found a post on Chronical of the Horse by Lauren Sprieser. Some backstory here: I started casually searching for an upper level dressage trainer (Trainer knows and even told me to go find someone who knows the FEI stuff because Trainer won't be able to help me with that stuff) a few months ago. I forget how I found Lauren, but I ended up liking her program and website so I liked her page on Facebook and so I get all her updates. For the record, I've never met her but I'd really like to ride with her to see if she might be a match for Penn and I once we're looking at 3rd/4th and above. She rides Grand Prix herself, just won the Maestro Cup at Dressage at Lexington on a 78.9% (the class was NOT a freestyle class, it was the regular GP test). She has a group of students (ahem, 5 of them), who are working on the FEI levels. She seems to have a lot of experience bringing along her own horses to the FEI level as well as keeping students moving along. BO was asking for names of people we'd be interested in having in to clinic, so I put her on the list.

Anyway, I saw she wrote something new for COTH, so I read it. It's a neat little piece about grooming for shows (as well as product endorsement, but whatever- I want to know what people use!). She mentions that all of her horses' white markings are shaved year round.


I hate hairy legs. I can't stand feathers, unless it's full feathers because the horse is full Friesian/Shire/Clydesdale/Gypsy Vanner/breed-that-has-full-feathers. I've never shaved my own horse's legs. Mikey never had enough white to try it out, and I always left the legs hairy for winter even if the rest of the horse got clipped.

Since I'm towel drying Penn's legs every week night, he has a ton of white, and I'm not showing again for another month, I decided to give it a try and then some- I shaved the white and up to the knee/hock so there's even less hair to keep dry under the boots.

Look who's shaved, sleek, and shiny now, sans bath!

Penn was a total rock star about clipping. I approached it a little differently this time: Cords freak him out when they're dragged across the ground and they're associated with clippers. This time, I pulled out all the clipping supplies before I took him out of his stall. I borrowed the super long extension cord that lives with the leaf blower and got everything plugged in and made sure it hugged the wall. I got Penn out, hooked him into cross ties like normal and brushed down his legs. I opted to put the chain over his nose, just to be sure, and then unhooked him from the crossties and ground tied him instead. I stood to his left first (he's not good about them in front of him or on his right...), and turned them on. He was not sure about them, but I was easily able to shut down any efforts he made to leave. I rubbed the clippers on  his neck and shoulder while they were running, then moved on to his legs and started clipping.

The worst thing he did was stomp his feet (I assume the clippers tickled), but squeezing his fetlock joint with my free hand took care of that. He wanted to hug the wall on his right when I was on his left, and vice versa, and I decided that it wasn't an inappropriate action because he's still standing and not leaving and it makes him feel better. When he has more experience I can insist he stand in the middle of the aisle.

Since things were going well, I tackled his overgrown bridle path, ears, and whiskers. He was worried but stood like a perfect gentleman.

I turned off the clippers and made a huge fuss over him, telling him he was a good boy and stuffed him with cookies. His expression change was hilarious. So while we're clipping, he's unsure and worried looking, and as soon as I told him "Good boy!!" and started patting him after I turned off the clippers, his expression did a complete 180: "Was I a good boy? I was? OMG YES I WAS A GOOD BOY!" And he all of a sudden looked all proud of himself. I loved that- and I wasn't the only one to see the expression change. That's the exact right feeling I want him to have when we're done clipping (or done doing anything). He had zero jumpyness after we were done, which has never happened before. He stood quietly as I shuffled things around to get him tacked up for a trail ride. I did not put away any clipping stuff while he was out though- I wanted the good feelings to continue and barely moving the cord worked well to start and I didn't want to mess it up.

I manged to get him ready for turnout BEFORE they were done turning out! Wahoo!

I'm not saying I did a perfect job- I didn't. I found some lines that need to be taken care of before they grow out. Whatever, my horse was very good for clipping!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Lesson 7/19

Tired pony about to scream for his friends post-lesson. (I was drying his legs...again).
He is looking SO BEEFY!

I was hopeful walking into lesson. Trainer asked how he's been, I said he respects the pelham nicely, however he started getting jumpy off the contact, and I thought it was because the pelham is still too much bit for him, but it definitely served the intended purpose. I told her how Friday's ride back in the snaffle was horrible, and I long lined him Sunday because it was so bad.

We were both pleasantly surprised by an agreeable Penn. He didn't bounce off the contact at all. We had some moments to start where he just needed more thoughness and connection, but some inside leg on and he met the bridle nicely. One of the doors was extra spooky (we were inside again), but instead of running through me when I put inside leg on, he thought about it, then gave and moved out towards the spooky door.

I trotted around a little then she had me serpentine up and down the ring, getting in as many loops as possible in the 40m or so long ring. I did it originally in posting trot because he was so well behaved, but switched to sitting after a few turns because I can be more consistent.

It ended up being 5 loops.

Penn basically needed more to do than go around the ring or figure 8 or whatever. Any time he'd bobble or invert in the turn or across the ring, the half circle became a volte, then he was allowed to continue.

  • Keep sitting up.
  • Keep the elbows in.
  • Keep the elbows pulling down on the shoulders.
  • When going around the bends, especially to the right, sit more to the outside and think about pulling my inside seatbone across his withers in order to actually use my seatbone correctly.
  • If he gets looky/inverted/not quite through, open the inside hand though the turn while giving the outside rein (just like if you were long lining- take one and give the other).
  • Turns to the right- slow the pace down a hair and use the opening inside rein.
  • Think about half passing around the turns to the right, it'll mess up the serpentine but that's ok. Careful not to get the haunches in on the turn, more just a working pirouette feeling in trot on a small figure.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Penn really responded to the serpentine. He was all business. He stayed wonderfully uphill and through. Trainer was super happy with him and kept remarking how much better he was than two weeks ago. I thought it was really great that we were able to put some straight lines in our work. I haven't been able to ride on a straight line in a while because he just hasn't been cooperating. They weren't the longest lines, but they were a start!

The serpentine eventually became a figure 8 using 2/3 of the arena (cutting off the end of the arena with the spooky door). Trainer had me think that same half pass around the turns. There wasn't enough for Penn to do again, so before the change across the school, we'd volte. Eventually she had me trot across the change, canter, half halt and trot, volte where we were before, change, repeat. Then it got more complicated by adding a medium trot 15m circle after the volte and before the change.

Kind of looks like owl eyes sideways. The actual pattern doesn't have as flat tops/bottoms as this picture shows, but I'm drawing in Excel so you'll have to deal with it!

We didn't get to it, but the next step would be to working canter on a 15m, medium canter on a 20m, half halt then the trot work. Basically just keep throwing things at Penn to keep his brain engaged.

Figure 8 madness!

Then you could make the change of direction happen through walk. Or add in leg yields or shoulder in or anything really. Basically the whole point is to make an entire dressage test happen like, bam bam bam!

The figure 8 pattern caused a lot of good stuff to happen- it was a great mix of within the gait and changing gaits transitions combined with enough forward thinking gaits to offset the collection I was asking for. Penn never got upset or anticipatory of the pattern. He just became sensitive to the half halt (good thing) and I actually had to tone down the half halts that brought us back from medium to working trot because I was applying them and almost getting medium trot to walk. The canter to trots were light and Penn didn't lay on me or fall on his face (I got a "Damn straight!" as praise for an excellent transition). Trainer got after me for having a 'rogue' left elbow- I take and take and take with it without giving it back.

We ended up finishing a bit early. Trainer didn't want to push him anymore because he had been so good, and I'm totally cool with that. Penn was so good.

We talked about when to move him up to second level- and agreed that we couldn't get it done properly in the shows I already have planned. Penn just won't be 100% ready, which is totally cool. I swept Mikey up through the levels faster than I should have because I was medal hunting in a limited time frame (Mikey was getting older). Penn is young with more potential than Mikey, so I'm very OK with playing at this level for a while and getting second level solid. The figure 8 madness should lend itself to getting the canter adjustable, and then using that same idea to make the simple changes through walk happen. I'll probably go back to a handful of the winter schooling series shows and Penn will go second level for the first time there.

I think this more uphill connection is what dressage trainer was getting after all those months ago when I rode with her. However, Penn wasn't ready for that in February/March, and I didn't know what to do with it. When he started getting funny about it, I let him lose connection because it made him more cooperative. I thought I was doing something wrong, when instead he was just saying "This is hard." I absolutely needed a ton of help (and still do!), more than I was going to be able to get at that particular time since dressage trainer was only coming once a month and Trainer was South for the winter. All in good time though as Penn is now ready for the increased collection that makes him more uphill.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Majyk Equipe Infinity Series DSB Review

Since I didn't take pictures of them clean and new and never worn.

Penn has been wearing his Majyk Equipe boots (purchased from Riding Warehouse, who had the best price) for about a week and a half, and I think I have enough information to do a review.

All white and new.

Purpose of purchase: Turnout boots for Penn. I didn't get them to ride in, so mine are seeing extra wear and tear. I do trail ride in them though.


Construction/Durability: The boots just feel tough, right out of the box. They have an awesome flexible/hard shell with a ton of holes. There is a strike plate along the inside that feels tough. The elastic feels resilient, the velcro has awesome easy pull tabs at the very end, the edges of the boots are smooth, and the foam lining is soft and has a ton of pin holes. Between the holes in the shell and foam, you can see daylight through the boot. Totally on the right path for breathability. So far the boots have held up well, even after a couple washes (more on that later). They're being worn about 14 hours per day, every day, in the rain/shine/heat/mud and everything is still in excellent structural shape. I would expect them to last at least 10-12 months, being used for daily turnout.

I'm terrible at this. I took pictures after the boots had been worn, and not even after they were washed!

Fit: I bought him Mediums for the front, Larges for the hind. They fit well with excellent coverage and stay in place, even after many hours worth of use.

You can kind of see daylight. I was using an already set sun to try to get a good pic. Fail again!

Making good on product promises: Excellent. The company promises protection and cool legs. Penn's legs have been cool to slightly warm after wearing them for overnight turnout. No puffiness in any leg when they've come off has made me REALLY happy. This was my biggest concern when I got them. You know the leg sweat marks that show up under boots on the fetlock joint after a hard work? He doesn't have those after wearing these boots all night. We've had some pretty hot and humid nights too (keep in mind that he doesn't wear them until it's time to turnout and they won't turnout if it's blazing hot out still). They absolutely do not hold any water.

9 nights of wear, so around  126 hours of wear.

Cleaning: OK, this is my one beef with the boots. The inside cleans up really well and doesn't hold dirt. This makes me happy because that's the part that matters since it sits directly on my horse. The outsides leave something to be desired since the DSB only comes in white (the XC boot comes in black or white). I can't get the elastic or the edges stain-free. I scrubbed them with a stiff brush and microtek shampoo, put them in the washing machine on gentle, and scrubbed them again with a furniture detergent (not all on the same day!), yet they will not come clean.

Sunday morning, pre-washing machine. Post washing machine didn't look much better.

The washing machine is the worst way to clean them. It barely did anything. I scrubbed them by hand after they got out of the washing machine and got them mostly clean. Maybe I shouldn't gripe about it since they do have a lot of hours of wear (esp since it's dirty hours in turnout), except the only option is white unless you want to get XC boots for a bit more money.

After scrubbing by hand on Sunday

I may try to dye the edges and elastic navy or black. I hate the stains, so I just want to cover them. We'll see, I don't want to damage the boots though, or cause the shell to discolor.

Verdict: I really like these  boots and I wish I would have followed my original thoughts earlier in the year and gone with something more expensive like these instead of trying the Davis Splint Boots. I give them 4/5 stars, because of the price (I spent $164 on all 4), these ones only being available in white, and the difficulty in cleaning them. That said, they look sharp on Penn from a distance while he's outside, and he doesn't get a reaction from wearing them so much. Sensitive horse approved! I'm not sure I'd be happy with them if I intended to use them for riding. The dirty elastic and edges would bother me too much.

As a side note,  I wash them at least once a week, and that never go on wet legs. I always towel dry Penn's legs in front of a fan before putting him out for the night. His legs also get cleaned 5 days a week, which cuts down on any sweat or dirt that might accumulate between turnout sessions.

If you're looking for a turnout boot in hot climates, this is definitely something to try!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Weekend Horsing and Pokemoning

The shit almost hit the fan Friday night.


I ended up riding Friday night instead of Thursday. I was excited to use the snaffle again. It didn't go as well as I hoped it would. Penn just didn't cooperate. I rode him inside to cut down on distractions and I'm guessing it helped, but he wasn't my usual good boy. He was bouncy off the contact and unwilling to find bend. I had none of the sensitivity that I had with the pelham.

However, a drastic improvement was his ability to accept my input. I could half halt in trot and put leg on and he'd attempt to balance himself instead of trying to run away. It would only last for a step, but he at least answered me. I could put my inside leg on and send him to the outside rein, even if it was shitty and tense. All of his work was much more uphill, which I'm sure contributed to his unwillingness to work with me ("What do you mean I have to uphill AND connected to the bridle??"). I had to be very sure of my core, shoulders and elbows. Everything in trot had to come from core and elbow, or else he'd blow through me. He tried to give me a big fancy show trot, which was a nice thought, except he's not strong enough to hold it, so he'd end up laying on my hands and getting on the forehand. Then he'd be offended when I'd ask him to carry himself.

The trot was a shitshow, but the canter was actually halfway decent. All of the arguments from trot went away, as long as I made sure to manage every step from walk to trot to canter and support with that core/elbow feeling. No excuses, just connect. I was able to get him to stand up and get off his inside shoulder, and have a smidgen of adjustability. The right was definitely better than the left.

Always breaking something and putting it back together huh? To be honest, he feels like a more uphill version of the horse I bought last August. The only downside is that he was so much steadier before we asked for more collection and uphill. It was bound to happen, I'm not upset by it. We need to more collection and uphill movement to keep moving forward in his training.


After morning barn chores, I trail rode with Hawk and another girl on Saturday. Penn is so super about the trails. It's really great because I can relax and do some Pokemon hunting while we walk.

Husband has been hard at work on our driveway's new retaining wall. The old wall fell apart (old railroad ties) and it had a weird non-paved or supported section behind the side parking spot. Since we have too many vehicles, Husband is walling that section in too.

The back wall is now 5 timber high.
The side wall steps beautifully down from five timers to three. At the moment, with it all dug out, it looks like a very welcoming XC fence and I have the urge to jump it!

Can't wait to show you guys the final product! He has to pound some more rebar in this week, then he'll start filling in with gravel. But the wall itself it set, minus some rebar, and it's beautiful!

Team Mystic is the best!

Saturday night was fabulous- Hawk picked me up and we went on a locally organized Pokemon Go Bar Crawl. Hawk and I are super nerdy, so this was a ton of fun. Picking up Dragonites at the starting bar, getting team wristbands (go Mystic!), meeting fellow trainers and gym battling on the street, sampling various Pokemon themed drinks, hunting down the elusive Mewtwo cocktail, and catching more pokemon of course! So. Much. Fun. We met some awesome people. The players on the crawl were just so happy and friendly.

The incredibly tasty Mewtwo. I had two of them and they were strong!
My Snorlax is the bomb and enjoys body slamming rival pokemons and beating them in one hit.
He was in charge of a gym a couple times Saturday night! He's CP 1845 now though.


I was out way too late Saturday night. A 2:30 bedtime doesn't help you get to the barn for morning chores at 8:30!

I decided on Friday/Saturday that Sunday would be a ground driving/long lining day. Penn can't fight me there and we have to use a snaffle bridle.

I started off by working Penn on a large square. He didn't want to find inside bend (like always), so the corners really made him. He decided to be spooky and looky at the indoor arena doors, but I was able to get after him with huge half halts on my outside rein combined with taps on his side from my inside rein. He wanted to run away (like he does under saddle), but my half halts were big enough that he had to lift his front end and move to the outside rein and find inside bend. We had some lovely leg yields back out to the wall/track. I did this to the left first. After a few rounds where he decided he'd be willing to focus and listen, I sent him out around me to lunge him with double lines.

Mikey working on the lines after he was cleared to go back to work.

I love lunging with two lines. There's a direct communication with each side of his body. When I lunge with just one line now, I feel cut off of unable to communicate with him. Unable to half halt, move him in and out on the circle (a whip won't move him out, he'll just run).

Anyway, I started with the outside line behind his rump, and he gave me some lovely uphill trot work. No fussing, no shenanigans. Lovely.

I moved on to canter- no reason to drill a good trot when he's getting a good workout anyway. He found his sassy pants when I'd kiss for canter- it's hard holding yourself up into canter. Especially when he wants to invert into it. He'd have a little tantrum where he'd try ripping the reins out of my hand (silly horse, I'm not sitting on you!) and then giving his head a shake before standing up and cantering like a gentleman. It isn't the best canter work by far, but he is carrying himself. He can't go more than a circle, so I plan appropriately and bring him back to trot on my own terms in a balanced transition. I can't get the outside line to stay just above his hocks in canter; it likes to slide up and be under his tail where it can rub his dock (bad). So at this point, I flicked the line over his back. I don't like doing it this way because it allows him to travel more on his forehand. We did a couple more canter transitions and I let him stretch out on the circle in walk to catch his breath.

From over the winter when I was sick and couldn't ride.

Changed directions, repeated the square. Little bugger was spooking harder to the back door of the arena going to the right, and he got a couple sharp reminders about inside bend and leg yielding towards the door. He still wanted to react every time, but each time he got away with less. We repeated the trot and canter work, then I let him quit. He only worked hard for about 20 min, but it's more consistently hard work.

Barn owner's daughter has always wanted to learn to long line, so I handed her the lines and said, "Off you go!" He was more than capable of cooling out in walk while she tried to get the hang of it. He tried to spook and step in at the back door with her too, and she over over corrected it, much to Penn's dismay. I was cool with it though because she kept her half halts working and Penn sat the hell down and lifted his front end and poll in walk. He could probably do with some more of those to get him even lighter and thinking even more sit.

He walked her around at the beginning- she had trouble getting the hang of steering and making him stay on the wall, and keeping the right feel in the lines. I told her to manage every single step, just like you would riding, and don't drop the contact with him since you'd never drop it riding either. She said it's a lot harder than it looks! I sent her off walking a teardrop pattern- go around the short side, 10m half cirle E-X, get straight and back to the wall and ride your corner, repeat B-X. I love this exercise because it works everything- steering, getting straight, getting into the corners, getting straight again and again and again. She got the hang of it and had a lot of fun. She said she really got the feeling of using her core for the half halts and keeping her elbows bent and tucked in next to her sides (which is something she struggles with). Penn is super easy to long line and knows the job very well, so kudos to whoever taught him!


I have a lesson tonight. I'm hoping our snaffle ride on Friday and long lining Sunday sticks with him and he's more agreeable today!

When I came home Saturday to get cleaned up to go out, Felix was passed out like this in the cat tree.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Riding Recaps and Horsey Products (Plus Pokemon, tires, and cats)

I've become kind of addicted to this. I finally got to do some egg hatching on a trail ride last night. It was very effective, and informative about how much walking we actually do on trail rides (3-5k!)

Things continue to look up riding wise. Penn learned a lot from the weymouth. The pelham's action isn't quite the same, so he's finding he doesn't has to be as cooperative and it can be tested a little. I try not to let him get away with it, but I still aim to be just as soft as I was with the weymouth. It's working out pretty well, but I'm finding he's starting to get his poll too low/curl in the trot. When he curled with the weymouth, he was looking for me to hold him up and I wasn't there (since that's the whole idea). I think something similar is happening, because the work will get hard, and he'll drop his poll in an effort to lay on my hand, but then I can bump him back up with my inside leg and a half halt from my seat.

He is so sensitive to it that I'm really glad we got our couple rides in it and can go back to the snaffle tonight. There's just something I don't like about how he goes in it- it's like he's afraid of it, yet super willing to go to the bit. His level of uncomfortable with the bridle is something I'm not comfortable with. This bit wasn't the end goal anyway, so it doesn't matter. It's was a helper bit. It's probably the level of sensitivity that I'm not used to. He's always there waiting for instruction and I'm quiet and not saying anything. He loves being told what to do (and busy fingers on the reins), so yea, I bet he was uncomfortable with the silence. We both need to become comfortable with it!

I had a few totally awesome moments when I rode on Monday: I was playing with transitions within the trot like we did in lesson. I got Penn fairly relaxed and trotting around (sitting trot), and then I'd give the biggest half halt ever, combined with my legs bumping his side in rhythm with his hind legs, and really slowing down my seat. He'd respond by shortening his whole frame, bringing his poll up, sitting down, and really trying to collect. He can't hold it for more than 5-7 steps, which is totally fine. Once he realized I'd let him out of it, he started relaxing a bit more and trying harder and fighting me less. I'd send him forward after and he'd be a little more uphill in his working gaits. It was totally cool to mess with.

The canter is coming along- it's sometimes hit or miss though. Sometimes I have nice balanced transitions up and down, and he's well balanced within the gait. Sometimes he's hauling butt within the canter and leaning on his inside shoulder (I can really feel that now!), and I can't quite get it back properly. The downward transitions at that point are not great, but they're still better than in the snaffle. I'm sure I'm doing something in the upward transition that let's him get all wonky. Trainer got after me in our weymouth lesson for giving away the reins in the upwards in an attempt to be soft. Instead, I need to allow him forward, but give it some structure too. Tossing him away entirely is probably what allows wonky canter to happen.

I have three bridles hanging in my locker right now (which is totally crazy): We have the 'good boy' bridle: his new FFE bridle with a HS loose ring french link bradoon bit. We have the 'bad boy' bridle: the black HDR bridle with damaged noseband (sans flash) and the rubber pelham. Finally, the trail riding bridle: the Micklem with the Korsteel equivalent of the HS bradoon.

Late evening trail ride on a 90 degree day. It was nice and cool on the ridge.
The sunset was super pretty too!

Riding in the last week or so has pretty much gone like this: Work day in the ring, trail ride, work day in the ring, trail ride, etc. I'm switching it up by ride, not by day. It gives me a very easy way to even out Penn's workload. A tough mental day followed by an easy trail ride, and vice versa (sometimes with a rest day in between). I'm still trying to make riding days Sun, Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat. The weekends work out well since I work both mornings at the barn now, but the weekdays have been varying a little, which is fine. Doing it this way stops me from drilling him. Yay!

Other fun news:

Fancy white boots!

Penn's Majyk Equipe Infinity Series Sport/Dressage Boots came in, and he's been wearing them for turnout since last Friday night. Knock on wood, everything seems to be going well. When I took them off Saturday and Sunday mornings, his legs were tight and cool to the touch and not sweaty. There hasn't been evidence of sweating or swelling under the boot during the week either (confirmed by BO's daughter too). I'm going to give them another week, then I'll do a review. I'm using them for trail riding too since they cost enough and that way my fleece boots don't get mucky.

#ProjectBubbleWrap commenced last Friday night.
So far so good!

My truck tires are here! I actually couldn't find them after they were delivered because the tracking said, "Left next to front door." And well, they weren't on my porch, or next to the garage door (where all of our previous tire purchases have been placed). You might be asking, how hard is it to find tires shipped to your house? We've got too much stuff in the driveway right now- Husband is tearing out the old retaining wall for our driveway and putting in fresh timbers. No cars can be parked in that area right now because the driveway isn't supported, there's gravel piles everywhere, we have Husband's parent's open trailer (for fetching timbers and gravel), and the old railroad ties and new timbers are hogging up the space by the garage. Also, there's a hole in the ground were we used to park Husband's 1972 Super Beetle. Basically, the driveway has lost all parking organization and we do something new every day based on where we went that day, what was purchased for the wall, what construction went on, and where we're going the next day. That's how I couldn't find my $771 worth of tires that were "Left next to front door." I may have panicked and it's a good thing FedEx was closed for the day because they might have gotten an angry/hysterical phone call.

This is not next to my front door. This is on the driveway, 30-40ft from the house, hiding behind gravel and my truck!
Either way, they're safe and sound in the garage now.

The cats are getting along really well. Sophie and Felix seem to be bonding strongly. Penny is still mostly tolerant (but she does play with him), but she's not a snuggler in general (with humans or cats). When she wants to snuggle, she always seeks out a human. Everybody needs to go to the vet though- check ups for everyone, boosters for Felix, yearly vaccines for the girls, and Penny has been hacking for several days now and it sounds like a hairball that won't come up. I also want to talk to the vet about Felix's... smell. I'm going to try giving him a bath, but he's starting to smell like ass all the time. And it lingers on your clothes and hands after petting him. Anyone have something like this happen? I'm going to change his kitten food- right now he's eating Purina One because that's what the shelter was feeding him. I don't think he's been rolling in the litter box either. We watched him pretty closely as the smell was developing, and he never lingered in the litter box.


I "pulled" Penn's mane last night using a new-to-me method. He doesn't care for regular pulling, so I tried a new method that uses an old clipper blade. Basically, you take tiny sections of hair, tease it back like you would if you were going to pull the mane out, and then you use the clipper blade in a straight down motion to cut the hairs as close to the crest as you can. The hair ends up being cut in a feathered fashion- not straight across. It took me a little while to get the method down because the original instruction giver didn't do a video, just hand written notes. I made it a lot shorter than I usually do (oops) but it'll have a month to grow before I need to braid him again, so we'll see how that goes over in August.

Halfway through. It took FOREVER. I'm not exactly pleased with the thickness that remains. I might use my tail rake on the middle section to try to thin it out. I also probably should have straightened his mane (it's been in training braids for a couple weeks now since his fly sheet pulls his mane over to the wrong side).

As a final, "random other item", I bought this this morning:

Black Fairfax Event Girth

I checked Ebay on a whim this morning and found this girth. I've been eyeballing them for a year and a half now and just haven't had the reasons to justify the money to buy it (I found it for $400 new in the USA). Penn uses a TSF girth that I do like, but I don't know if he likes it anymore. He's gotten really freaking girthy. The saddle fits, he's getting his chiropractor work (his last visit had sternum area adjustments), and was negative for ulcers when I had him tested about 9 months ago (plus did several months of Ugard with no difference), and I did some pressure point testing for ulcers and he didn't react. He actually humped his back up when I put the girth on yesterday. I'm really hoping this girth does what it says and helps relieve pressure points. I thought the final price of around $240 wasn't bad for an expensive girth in excellent condition. I was going back and forth between the regular and the narrow version (for smaller chested horses), but I decided to give this one a try anyway... worst thing that happens is I'll resell it.

I did look into the pop rocks that have probiotics (Abler Abprazole Plus) and I'm debating if I want to give that a 50 day ($105) or 100 day trial ($185) or get Omeprazole paste from Horse PreRace. I'd do a half tube for a month (about $150) since this is more on the preventative side than a problem side. I donno, we'll see. I have just under 2 weeks worth of doses of Omeprazole in the refrigerator at home, maybe I should just pop that into him in the meantime.

I have a bunch of other things waiting to be ordered (sigh), but I'm holding off for now. A couple good coupons came through for things I wanted, so I'm leaning towards ordering them sooner rather than later!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lesson 7/5

I am so glad Trainer is so close and is available in the evenings to come teach. We're definitely in a stretch where I need extra help. That tends to happen when we make a step forward in training- things go well in lesson, I usually break things in the week between lessons, then Trainer cleans it up in lesson. I usually can't go two weeks between lessons at this stage. We have progress though, so it's fine.

Next year, she and I will have been together for 10 years!
I'm glad she finally got me to tuck my elbows in.

She had me describe what was going on. I told her how I basically used the "braille method" (our name for horses that learn to jump via whacking themselves or flatwork that ends up with the rider having to explicitly spell out to the horse what we want), on Monday for my ride. He spent an hour pissing around with me and just not cooperating and I eventually manually flexed him in and tried popping his shoulder to push him out. She had me get rolling by stretching him down and he was walking and trotting better than he was on Monday. She had me mess with moving his haunches and shoulders left and right with the idea of "dribbling a soccer ball" - ie, left for a few steps, right for a few, left again. Basically just changing it up to get him thinking about being flexible again.

Nope. We spent 15-20 min working through changes of bend (attempts at bend) and changes of direction and he was getting worse. She described tracking to the left as needing to be straighter and the right more elastic, but I felt the opposite and told her so. She said it's his legs to the left- they're everywhere except under him and while he's stretching down to the right, he's not actually stretching through his topline. He's faking it. He was varying between running forward off the leg and inverting when I half halted to slow him down. He was leaning heavily over his inside shoulder both directions, so when I put my leg on to lift him he'd run while leaning on the inside shoulder. Half halt, invert. Changes of bend were impossible with him like that. We tried spiral in and out. Nothing.

He felt like this, only tenser and fitter so it felt 20x worse because he was also speeding off.

She had us pull up and asked if I still had Mikey's rubber mouth pelham around. I said yes, she said go get it. He's gotten away with not having to cooperate for the past two weeks, and now we're back on track to getting him working again and he's thinking it's too much work and he'd rather not. He's not screaming no, but he's not cooperating either.

I dug around in my trailer and found that I took that bit home. I took every bit home that this horse could wear at this stage of training, and left Mikey's weymouth instead (HS KK Conrad, unfortunately now illegal because of the tilt). I brought that back and said, this is all I've got. She had me pop that on in place of his snaffle. She wanted some leverage to remind him that he needs to cooperate since he was ignoring his snaffle. We did it with Mikey too at this stage- something about changing the rules makes the Thoroughbred types batty.

Not meant to be used by itself.
Stow your pitchforks, the story ends just fine.

Before any of you burn me at the stake for reverting to a bigger bit, for using a weymouth as a single bit, and on a horse like Penn who isn't ready for a double, just stow your pitchforks, ok? I've used a double before. I know you don't crank on it. I know you can't be heavy handed with it; it's a big bit. We've spent two weeks fixing what I screwed up, and now it's time for Penn to play again. Sometimes a bigger bit helps the job get done faster with less wear and tear on everyone involved. How often have you seen me go this route? Maybe once with Mikey. I also had trainer supervision. There was ZERO pulling him into the contact. There was also a consensus that I'd never be able to use it outside at this point because of how feather light I needed to be with just it in his mouth- I needed the walls of the indoor to confine him to the space.

We spent a few minutes at walk letting Penn and me get used to the bit. I pushed him up to it and he bounced off it a couple times before stretching down. Off to trot and he bounced a couple times before settling beautifully. I never had to put more than a couple ounces of pressure on the reins, a far cry from how we'd been manually flexing him to get him to unlock his neck and jaw. He was suddenly completely agreeable, and working through changes of direction and bend willingly. I finally felt what Trainer meant about the left needing to be straighter because I felt his legs flailing. I could put leg on and half halt with my seat and he was listening.

Needs more self carriage. I still love this pic.

He stretched to the bit in trot beautifully- uphill, neck really stretching out in front, the topline muscles in his neck working evenly on both sides, bigger at the base, face on the vertical or slightly ahead. We did a little shoulder in and it was steady and light (and off the seat!). Self carriage was happening and it was amazing.

Canter was good, nothing like the trot, but it really showcased how much I help him in canter and how much work we have yet to do in the canter. I was able to half halt and put leg on, and then put inside leg on to stand him back up. There was no leaning on the inside shoulder. I could mildly half halt and ask for trot and he'd maintain uphill balance into the trot. There was so much self carriage!

With the weymouth, I could actually ride properly and stop dragging him around (for the record, he stopped dragging me around too). My half halts needed infinitely less strength. I was able to be kinder to him and praise him all the time, which makes him try harder. It let him be his sensitive self, and let me respect his sensitivity with equal sensitivity from my riding. It was incredible! Sometimes he got too deep in the bridle, but that's him looking for me to hold him up. I was able to put leg on and half halt and lift his poll.

To be honest, he was more through and connected to the weymouth than Mikey ever was in his double. I remember from one of Austen's posts about Janet Foy: "You need a lot of power from behind to use the double." Penn has so much more power than Mikey ever had. Sorry my pretty red head :-( Another fun tip from that same post, "The double is used is so you use less aid to get same result. Smaller movements to get reaction." I finally had that feeling while riding Penn in just the weymouth. Again, sorry to my gorgeous red head.

More power needed.

We only worked for 15-20 min with the big bit- it really did the job. I'll bring the pelham to the barn so we'll never have to put the weymouth in again until Penn is ready for a double. After the last few weeks of him becoming completely uncooperative with finding collection and self carriage (and then any kind of connection), I wasn't sure he'd go well in a double ever. Not if increased collection made him want to sit and rear. When he's ready, he's going to be incredible in a double. The increased sensitivity that can exist between us is incredible and exactly the kind of thing I'd want to encourage.

He wore out really quickly with the increased self carriage. It's not something I would have him do more than twice a week, and for no longer than 20 min or so. I do want him to be happy riding and working! We're going to use the pelham for 2-3 rides in the next week to cement the self carriage feeling, then go back to the snaffle. He doesn't need a lot of reminder about being cooperative since he's such a willing horse. This is just the first "This is hard!" moment we've had, I'm sure it won't be the last.

I was so super pleased with Penn, and you could tell he was proud of himself too. He tends to just have this face of, "I was a good boy!" He'll have it easy with trail riding or hacking until this weekend when we revisit self carriage and collection on Saturday or Sunday. He missed his Wednesday trail ride because I ended up working 2.5 hrs of OT after normal quitting time. Oh well, he worked hard Tuesday night, I'm sure his muscles, and brain, could use the rest!