Tuesday, August 30, 2016

8/28/2016 Schooling Show

Who is this devilishly handsome horse?? What happened to my baby horse?

This will be known as, that time Penn the Fucking Rockstar came out to play!

Rewind to Saturday night when I went to start the truck to take it for gas. It wouldn't start. The battery was 5 years old and has been acting up, and it finally died. A jump start and $127 later, the truck had a new battery. Husband checked that the alternator was working properly, so no worries there. At least I got to use fuel perks to fill it up! Another horrible thing happened: the battery change caused something to go wrong with the actuators/flappers that control if heat or A/C comes out of the vents... The passenger side got whatever temperature the climate control was set to... The driver got full blast heat, right off the engine. Perfect. It was supposed to be 90+ degrees Sunday (and it was).

Truck getting it's new battery.

Sunday ended up being the longest day ever. I left the house at 7:30am, and didn't come back until 9:30pm, and in that time, it was never ending moving around. I worked at the barn in the morning, then bathed and braided and packed the trailer in the late morning/early afternoon. BO's daughter M was showing this weekend too, so we hauled together. The show was very full- it went from 8am to 6:30pm, and M didn't ride until 5:06pm, and I didn't ride until 5:51pm. We left the barn at 2 and hauled out to the show.


Everything was very uneventful to start- hauling out, unpacking, waiting for our times to come up. However, after M rode her first test, thunder started rolling in, along with dark puffy storm clouds. As I tacked up Penn, the thunder became more and more frequent. No dawdling today! Once that storm hit, there was not going to be a thunderstorm break. It was going to be the end of the show.

I think I have this same pic of him, except from a year ago.

I visited the tack shop that came to this show, and I picked up another half pad. I really like the Toklat Coolback half pad (I get the A/P version because the D version has some stupid fleece fluff that runs down the front panel, which doesn't make sense to me), but I've been having trouble finding it at a price point I like and then in that particular version. It's shimable (not that I need to), and was only $100. I've been wanting a second one so that I can wash my existing one more often than I do (I can trade them out now!). I cut off the tags and used it that day!

Brand new, slightly dirty, fluff!

As soon as I got on Penn, I instantly knew what horse I was sitting on. I had a fucking rockstar to ride. For as fucking solid as he felt, he was fairly looky, which I found disturbing. However, remember that carefully put together and PRACTICED warm up plan? It did the job like it was supposed to. I was a bit lost at first, and then was like, "OK, what's the plan? Right. Here we go." Starting with walking leg yield zig zags (with no contact with the rail), I slowly got his attention back. Shifting his body for the win! We spent about 7-10 min walking I think. Just putting together the leg yields and getting him responding and flexible again. I skipped straight to canter, and did a very abbreviated canter run through- 15m circles, a shallow loop or two, simple change, and a little bit the other way. Penn's canter felt SO STRONG. Like, he's in control of his body and I'm not controlling all of his legs. At this point, Penn was being eaten by flies so a wonderful friend from the barn, T (who had come out to watch), grabbed the fly spray and sprayed him down again. He nearly jumped out of his skin though- he's very hit or miss with sprays and he was feeling sensitive. We ran through a little trot work with 1-2 leg yields, then walked (connected with the bridle) while M finished up her second test. Warm up only lasted 15-20 min, and I still had time to kill. It all depends on how he comes out of the stall. I think this warm up plan is a winner though- he could have very easily swung the other way and been a looky bastard.

It was at that time that I found out we would be riding our tests back to back and closing the show- everyone else had either scratched or moved up into the scratched times (it was hot and a severe thunderstorm was rolling in). The judge was excellent- she kept the show rolling and on time. When I came by, she asked how much time I wanted between tests, and I told her just a walk lap around should be good- I want to be packed up before that storm hit. She said, "Me too!"

And so we were off on 1-2. The cameras were shooting directly into the sun, which kept getting covered and uncovered by clouds, so all the lighting is off. Sorry! You should be able to hear some thunder in both test videos.

Running commentary: He was just looky- I had trouble keeping him straight on centerline after the halt, then I botched the first lengthening. I just asked for way too much instead of letting it ooze out to a natural max reach for him right now. I've been way too effective in finding more sideways for each step of the leg yield- the first one was wobbled between too much over and not enough. I need to practice riding a smooth line. The second trot lengthen was nothing special and took too long to develop into something nice, but the second leg yield was better (it is just better leg yielding left since he's better with right bend). He needs more swing in his back in the walk, however with the lookyness he had that day, I was happy with quiet. The canter transition needs to be a little better. I was very happy with the canter work itself through the end of the test. We still struggle with the transition from lengthen canter to working, which was the weakest part of the canter work, but better on Sunday than it has been in the past.

Pictures from 1-2 (husbands super nice professional camera quit working- it couldn't handle the changes in light and then shooting direct into the light, so these are all from his cell phone):

And the test comments:

68.750% - 1st out of 3. They added up the score wrong on this test AGAIN. They keep dropping the last centerline score, so I'm inclined to believe they dropped it from everyone's this time and that time back in May.

I walked out of the ring, then around to the right and did some leg yield zig zags in walk to get him thinking about work, not being looky. I need to remember to add this to our courtesy lap when we get to the show ring. No hurrying, just leg yield right and left and then right and left again. Constantly shifting his balance right and left is such a steadying factor for this horse. When I came back around, the judge asked if I was ready, and I said, "Sure, I certainly can't make it any better at this point, only worse!" She laughed and said, "That sounds like me!" and rung the bell.

I wish I had video of him coming down the outside of the ring, his trot just felt SO SOLID. It was an excellent first impression trot.

Running commentary: I can't believe I didn't make it to X at the first halt!!! Bad!!! Again, the first trot lengthen was slow to develop and he got a ton better after crossing centerline as I felt him settle and then stretched my hand forward so he could reach more forward too. I had the same problem with the leg yield right that I had in the first test- too steep. I got it fixed and made it to centerline a few steps before X, which allowed me to properly set up for the leg yield left instead of doing my cheating method I developed in the past week. He didn't stretch as well as I know he can in his stretchy circle, and then proceeded to be extra fussy in the next 10m circle and into the halt. The halt ended up being a good reset, because he was back on task after. We got a little stuck in the transition to walk, and then lost some of our march. Penn caught the changing shadows when it came time to medium walk-trot-canter because he became very up and light as he stared at them, which made me ease him into the trot instead of kicking him on at the letter. Too large a 15m canter circle, lengthen needs more cover, into an EXCELLENT shallow loop (trainer's exercise FTW). I thought the simple change was better than a 6.5, because it was significantly better for Penn. The second lengthening was just not enough, so there was practically no change for the transition to working. The second shallow loop was good too. I realized Penn was running out of gas by that point and the second trot lengthen was a struggle, so I posted to try and fake it.

Pictures from 1-3:

Not everything was sunshine and rainbows, lol.
He inverted into the simple change.

And the test comments:

70.441% - 1st out of 1, but it was the First Level High Score!

By that point in time, it was thundering louder and there was lightning.

The storm rolling in.

M had taken her horse up to the barn to untack already, and then we proceeded to do quick pony showers (opting to vetrolin after getting home), and then doing a trailer turbo-pack. T was wonderful- she helped haul things and get horses loaded. It only took two trips with everyone involved to get all our stuff over to the trailer. I was concerned because Penn hadn't drank anything since returning to the barn (and he returned as a sweaty mess), so I sprayed the hose in his mouth to at least give it a good wetting and he did drink a little of that.

We had tack and horses loaded within a half hour of my last test. I hate doing that to them, and normally I would never hurry them like that, however with the severe thunderstorm coming in, we didn't have a choice. It was actually really really bad- heavy rain, and severe lightning. The kind of lightning that lights up the ground like it's daylight, and we had those bolts at least every few minutes. We saw several bolts make contact with the ground nearby (then felt the thunder shake the trailer) on the drive home. The lightning carried on like that for over 4 hours without letting up at all; it was actually really scary. We got home before the true storm arrived at the barn. We ripped the horses off the trailer, then emptied the tack room in a hurry into the barn aisle. Husband had followed us home because the brake lights weren't working properly, so he acted as our tail lights. He parked the trailer (this trailer's parking spot scares me and I didn't think I'd make in the dark and the rain) and then he helped me get my stuff organized... only to pile it into the barn tackroom in front of my locker because there was no way I was dragging my truck, saddle rack, and buckets out to my trailer down the driveway in the rain and lightning. Hell, we didn't even turn our horses out for the night. M said she'd come back later in the evening and turn them out when the lightning had died down.

Husband got me a new addition for the truck- tiny Hulk! My favorite Avenger (when played by Mark Ruffalo).
Tiny Hulk says: "We smashed the competition!"
Awkward posing together.

Overall, we had a very successful show day. I'm very happy with how much more uphill balance Penn has now vs in June. Penn was looky, but we've developed a way to deal with it and still be effective. But as always, there are things we need to work on before Championships:
  • lengthening trot (and transitions)
  • lengthening canter (and transitions)
  • halts- he tends to rest a foot, which is worse in my book than not being square!
  • 1-3: stretchy trot to 10m circles
  • 1-3: 15m canter circle accuracy (I need to do some math and draw out the 4 points in our arena at home)
  • Continuing to strengthen Penn's hindquarters for better engagement and uphill motion.
The warm up I've been using for the past week or two was very effective in getting Penn together for a test and getting him to focus. Love, love, love it. Trainer's double, extra shallow loop exercise made a world of difference in the canter. The change in his balance was immediate. Now it only takes small reminders to get him thinking about balancing himself again.

We have lesson Tuesday night, trail ride Wednesday, a lesson review on Thursday, then we're off to visit Austen and Guinness for a recognized show and fun!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Schedules and Show Prep

Penn is enjoying his pre-horse show nommies.

Let me start by saying I have severe show anxiety. It's much better now than it was when I was a kid, but my least favorite part of every show is when we turn down the drive and the venue pops into view. It makes my stomach churn, I don't know why.

I battle the anxiety by making lists, creating schedules, and then good old exercise closer to the date (barn work if I'm lucky!). Since Penn came to me with zero show and life experience, I took him to 12 dressage shows, 1 hunter show, and 1 hunter pace in the last year. That did wonders for my own show anxiety and the anxiety of teaching a new partner the ropes. Getting out there and showing over and over again really helped make everything a non-event for both of us.

I started carefully constructing our August/September schedule about 3 months ago. Things like the chiropractor and farrier were scheduled long ago to make sure I had first crack at each professional on the day I needed them. A long time co-worker/friend recommended I make up a calendar schedule of what needed to happen before Championships. He had to do something similar to plan for a month long motorcycle trip that he's taking that starts at the Pacific Ocean and ends at the Atlantic (super freaking cool trip, btw). He and I have been trading stress and anxiety stories as we both put all the pieces into place for our own trips.

You'll have to click on this to really read it.
I uploaded this into blogger no less than 3 times because I kept adding and changing things.
And I published the post, then uploaded a new change shortly after. So 4 times.

You'll have to click on this to really read it.
I uploaded this into blogger no less than 3 times because I kept adding and changing things.
And then I published the post, then uploaded a new change shortly after. So 4 times.

A brief explanation:

  • Red Dates: August
  • Blue Dates: September
  • Orange Cells: Adequan injection reminders
  • Pink Cells: Dose with Omeprazole
  • Purple Cells: Ring work, ie test practice, lesson, etc.
  • Green Cells: 'Fun' days, ie trail ride or hill walking
  • Yellow Cells: Horse Shows

It was actually kind of hard to keep to my desired 3 days of ringwork, 4 days of rest/trail ride schedule I mentioned before. With the shows coming up, lessons, and mandatory rest days for the chiropractor, it was basically impossible for me to put 3 days together like I wanted. I did the best I could, and I'll probably keep tweaking it.

I had my first real meltdown on Tuesday when the vet office called me and said the chiropractor was going to be at a conference on 9/14 and that they needed to move my appointment from that day to a day the following week, and was that ok. I'm pretty sure they didn't expect my raging NO response. I told them the whole point of that visit, which I scheduled almost 3 months ago, was so that my horse would be freshly adjusted before leaving for championships. If it happened the next week, I'd be taking an overdue horse to a major horse show.

Flinging his alfalfa! I wanted to throw things on Tuesday too!

I asked for the last available appointment before the chiropractor's trip, and they were able to fit me in on 9/9. That date is still fine, and to be honest, I feel a little better about it since Penn will absolutely be better from any possible soreness by the time we leave for Championships. The office was a little iffy about that day, only because the office schedule showed it as clear, but they needed to confirm with the schedule that traveled with the chiropractor. She's very popular in this area and is usually booked solid for 3-4 weeks from the current date. Everything looks good though (psychotic me called this morning to confirm a time since I won't be able to be there since it's on the fly and not according to schedule!), so I can relax again.

I did a little pre-show shopping too. Horse show = buy all the things because pony needs them, right?

I got him another bale of compressed alfalfa from Tractor Supply (as you can see from the pictures). I've been giving him a flake when I come out to ride. I leave him in his stall and groom him in there while he munches on it. He's been a bit better about his girth, so maybe his tummy is feeling a bit ulcery. I have a bunch of omeprazole that I'm holding on to for our big trip to Championships, so I'll make sure he gets that too. He's been enjoying his treat... especially since I learned he does not like it soaked, at all. As in, he absolutely will not eat it. I'll keep giving him a flake (or half flake if I can break it apart) before riding throughout the end of Championships. I'm not having BO toss it to him daily this time around because he started associating it with his hay. He would waste the hay by tearing it apart looking for alfalfa and trashing it instead of eating it when he ran out of the good stuff... which means he's not only wasting money (hay = $$$$) but he's not getting the roughage he needs either. I might try cubes at some point (they're a ton easier to work with!), but he seems to really enjoy the chopped alfalfa in flakes. It makes him drink a ton too, which is good! He drank about a half bucket with his alfalfa last night.

Speaking of drinking, HolyBully posted about Horse Quenchers, so I decided to order some sample packs from their website. Penn doesn't always drink well at horse shows... He never seems out of sorts from it, but with a 10 hour drive coming up from PA to NC (hello climate difference!), getting water in him is SO important. I'm really hopeful I'll have them in time for this weekend, but if not, I'll have them for Loch Moy the following (I would hope since that's a week and a half after ordering). I got Penn peppermint, apple, and root beer flavors to try. I'll see if he has a favorite (I'm sure it will be root beer since I don't like root beer), and then I'll either get some more single serving sizes or I'll order a small bucket. I won't need it that often, so I'm not concerned about the economies of scale right now when a bucket is only keeps for a year or so. Well, this is all assuming he'll drink it, but the company boasts a 99% acceptance rate, so I'm not terribly worried.

My trailer is set up in a way that I can safely hang a bucket next to Penn's head, and he can easily get to it if I lengthen his trailer tie. The goal would be to half fill the bucket (so water doesn't just slosh onto the floor!), put horse quenchers in, and hang it for the duration of the trailer ride. I've tried offering him water at rest stops, but he's always showed zero interest in drinking. I'm hoping this gets him to drink the whole way down to NC. He'll have a bucket of horse quencher water the whole time he's at Championships, and on the way home too.

I stuffed it back in his feed bin and he ate a hole in it, haha. Looks like a bird nest.

Ooo, also, I won third prize in EventingSaddlebredStyle's Olympic contest, which is two strands from Dark Jewel Designs. I'm currently looking through browband strands to see what I want, but I'm having trouble picking! I know I want a navy colored one, but I keep seeing more and more browbands I like! Thank goodness I can pick two! I'll hopefully have those picked sometime soon so that they can be made and then Penn can model them for you all!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Three Days in a Row

I decided (albeit after the first two rides) that Penn and I should practice going to work in the ring three days in a row each week, through championships. I'm kind of concerned he's going to be too tired/sore and flip me the bird on day 3 of championships (the day of our Region 1 Final). As a general rule, I've been riding him 5 days a week, every ride alternating between hack/trail ride/fun ride and ring work. However, when we go to championships, Penn is going to be expected to do two tests Friday, one test Saturday, and one more test Sunday (the important one!). I don't know how he'll be on day three. I got a good idea of it this weekend, and how I should manage him each day:

  • Friday: warm up and 1-2, warm up and 1-3. Each warm up and test should take no longer than 30 min, an hour of saddle time total.
  • Saturday: morning hack (I'm unfamiliar with the grounds, so I'm hoping this is possible, if not, we'll have to figure out how to go for some kind of walk), warm up and 1-3. Warm up and test not to exceed 20-30 min total. Hack might be moved to evening if 1-3 rides in the morning.
  • Sunday: morning hack, warm up and 1-3. Same idea, warm up + test not to exceed 20-25 min.
I know I'm not leaving much time for warm up. To be perfectly honest, Penn either comes out good and relaxed, and at that point I'm just tiring him out, or he comes out tense and it usually gets worse, so I'm better off riding sooner. I don't always have much luck getting him to relax if he's already tense, the only times I've managed it is when I say, "F it, let's just go ride this test."

Rides this weekend actually worked out time-wise for my current plan. One goal was to simply find a warm up structure that worked, that I could ingrain in my head and fall back on in moments of panic.

Jack Jack surprised me when I opened the trap doors to drop hay.


I went to the barn early Saturday before barn chores to ride before it got hot... I don't know if Penn is just cranky before breakfast, or if he's that dependent on his schedule, but he was a looky bastard. I tried repeating Tuesday's lesson on Saturday to moderate success - he's already more balanced in canter and is willing to hold himself up in the one loops. I like definitely like hitting canter before trot- he's much better in trot after the canter. However, as we cantered, I eventually got angry at him for gawking and shifting his shoulders in at the jump standards that have been in the same location FOR A YEAR, and put my outside leg on and gave him half halts from hell. Holy heck, he lifted his back and responded! Every time he would gawk to the outside, I'd wrap my outside leg around him (slightly back), half halt like hell, and put a little more inside rein on to get him looking the right way again. He eventually stopped gawking and we got some good work in with the shallow loops and double small loops. He'd react every now and then, but applying that same mega half halt and he would be back on task. Trot was fine, just a little reactive... I'm sure he was jazzed from all the stimuli in canter... And from whatever was up his ass that morning.

I took Penn on a trail ride last week, and we did some chatting in the arena after. Penn decided he had enough and started taking off his boots, haha!


It rained Saturday night and Sunday morning, so no skipping off to the barn before chores... I'm not waking up early to ride in the indoor when waiting a couple of hours let me ride outside!

The goal for Sunday was to run through a warm-up routine and then ride 1-3. I'm horrible at riding my warm-up properly at shows. Like, really bad. I get distracted and pick at things and get behind in my routine and ends up missing some. I tested:

  • Lots of walk with a ton of leg yields. I paid more attention to getting the sideways step and clear leg on, leg off than getting 'correct' leg yields. Repeat of centerline to wall yields. To change directions, I half circled from wall to centerline (like 1-2) then full 10m circled the new direction back up centerline to be properly bent for the other leg yield. Penn REALLY responded well to this. I'll have to keep it up my sleeve for later. 
  • I went to canter direct from the walk leg yield, the right lead first. We did several shallow loops that were good, so I did a simple change to the left and repeated the shallow loops. I skipped the double loops because Penn was responsive. I think I can pull them out if Penn is leaning and unresponsive- they're very effective in quickly fixing his leaning.
  • Went to trot, straight into leg yields from centerline to almost the wall- I wanted to practice straightening on my terms. 
  • I did the trot zig zag I described in my last post, and Penn tried so hard to do it, and he did it well! He got a voiced good boy and pat for trying so hard.
  • We did a couple 1-3 zig zags and that's when I found a new way to ask for the change at x: get him to x, stop the leg yield right while maintaining left bend, ask for the new leg yield through half pass left in the first step (almost leading him to the new direction with my left rein), and then swap him to leg yield right in the second step. Correct? No. Effective with no fuss? Yes. He knows how to half pass and he thinks it's hard. When the going gets tough in it, we swap to leg yield to finish the diagonal. He goes, "Oh thank God, this is MUCH easier, thank you." and then I get a good, non-fussy change and leg yield. Half the battle is won!
  • We followed that up with schooling the 10m circle-halt-circle pattern, which he did flawlessly with rapt attention to my aids.
I took him back to walk to mimic the meander to the show ring, then back to trot and off to our test.

I was missing some collection in the trot- my lengthenings were barely there. I was kicking on and really encouraging them along instead of letting them ooze out. The canter was lacking impulsion for sure, and we goofed the simple change. I didn't feel the wrong lead coming until he picked it up. I always have a good feel for what lead is going to happen well before I ask, and as I'm asking, but this threw me a bit because he felt good for the change. I have a feeling I let the transition get away from me instead of following through on it. The canter lengthenings were also tough and I had to really kick on for them. Overall, I was still happy with the practice test.

I banged Penn's tail too. Cut off about 4 inches, which made me VERY nervous, but it looks so much better now!


I got to the barn after work and saw they set up the dressage ring in the outdoor! So excited. BO's daughter is going to the show this weekend with me, so it was set up for us to practice. I was sad that it was only the small arena, considering the outdoor is 100' by 200', so it should have fit a standard ring easily. However, they haven't been grooming it out to the very edges (trying to keep sand from washing away down the hillside), and it's an oval shape, so the corners of the standard ring were off in the grass. BO is looking into fixing it sooner rather than later, but it might not happen until next spring when they can dig and put in kickboards to prevent sand from washing away (and add more sand). You absolutely could ride using every last inch of space, but it's not that important on my list to move the short side corner poles to do it. I was positively thrilled though that the standard ring didn't quite fit in the outdoor. I've been having trouble making it to my approximate centerline in the 1-3 zig zag. I was so happy that I had another 10m of forward space and my 10m estimate from wall to X was too big.

I did my walk leg yield work (zig zags) on the outside of the ring while Hawk was using the dressage ring (there's a ton of space on the sides, and a fair amount on the short sides since the small ring is set up). I went to right lead canter first, did a couple loops, change directions via simple change across the arena, then did a couple loops to the left. No double loops- Penn responded well. Hawk was done at that point, so I did my trot warm up in the ring: simply riding dressage ring corners, a couple 1-3 zig zags, then I worked the 10m circle, turn across the ring, halt at x, trot, turn, 10m circle pattern from 1-3. I always have trouble with losing the bend in the tests, so I wanted to practice.

I rode 1-3 again, even though I probably shouldn't ride it this much. The lengthening trots were much better (Penn was also carrying a good deal more collection than he was Sunday). The zig zag made me super happy since I've been having trouble making them happen in the ring that I kept in mind in my head. I decided to ride the zig zag to X even though this was the small ring, and Penn did it wonderfully. No fuss, he easily met X and swapped back. I'm no longer worried about doing it in the standard ring. I'll actually have to be careful how steep I make it! AND I might be able to make it a hair steeper so I get a couple straight strides across X before swapping to the other leg yield! I goofed the stretchy trot- he was stretching so well that I let him carry on for too long and hurried him back into regular frame. That caused a goof in the 10m circle halt circle work- he wasn't with me and paying attention. The canter was lacking impulsion again. He's just stuck feeling. It feels like he needs to let loose and gallop a little. Even so, there was a lot of jump, he didn't lay on my hand, and he generally carried himself. The simple change was excellent, but a hair inverted into the new lead. The left lead shallow loop was tough- I also rode those to almost X and it was just a bit too steep for him. I had to tap him with the whip a few times in canter to keep him moving. The lengthenings were a struggle to get and then the left was a mess to bring back- he broke to trot then hopped back into canter right away.

I think he was a bit tired partway through the test, so I don't mind the mistakes so much. He just did three days of hard work in a row! I'll take him for a trail ride Wednesday or Thursday, then some hill walking the other day. Overall, he worked for about 45 min Saturday, 25 min Sunday, and 20 min Monday. He got progressively better throughout the weekend, so I'm hopeful that he'll stand up to that kind of time frame.

Future Plans:
Sunday is a schooling show to get back in the swing of things. Then labor day weekend, we head down to VA to go to a recognized show and play with Austen! Two weeks later and it's time for Championships! I opted not to go to CBLM Championships in Oct (you may have seen it on my side calendar). They don't seem to divide the divisions by AA/Open, just Section A/B. A is restricted, B is essentially Open. To ride in First Level Section A Championships, you can't have ridden at Third Level or above. Well, Mikey and I did, so I don't qualify to ride in Section A. I'd have to ride in Section B, against everyone else. Umm, no thanks. I the winner from Section B last year was a 76.016%, and the first sub 70% score was in 7th place. I don't need to ride against pro's on their promising young horses. Maybe I'll try again next year at Second Level because I'll fit back into Section A again!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fun Times

I'm trying to crank out the posts this week- I got backlogged last week when the Chiro post should have gone out, so I ended up posting a bunch late in this week! I would have gotten behind again.

The day after our lesson, Penn was scheduled to go for a walk. However, mother nature decided we wouldn't be doing that - it rained all day and for most of the evening. Now, I'm not afraid to ride in the rain, however, I was going to be riding in the rain, through mud, by myself. Not cool. So I opted to pull out the tarp and a gym tumbling mat and mess with those in the indoor.

So curious!

Penn is very good at being brave. He walks up to scary things, holds his ground while he investigates, then is usually over whatever was scaring him. Well, I can't always let him look at things, and I don't want to teach him that it's ok to stop and look every time anyway. We have to find a happy medium between investigating everything that scares him and me pushing him through everything scary
I decided to hand walk him over the tarp and mat so he could investigate and be brave with me on the ground to start.

So he enjoyed pawing and biting and pulling on the tarp. Not afraid.

Then I got on and had him walk over both again. This time, he looked at them both and pulled his head down to take an extra good look. A little leg and he kept walking while he stretched and looked.

Picture on both!

I made him stand on both, walk on both, from each side and direction. Then I asked him to walk like a proper dressage horse - meet the bridle, no more stretching down to look.

Not proper dressage horse (I can't manage in hand video and that), but relaxed!

We went to the tarp first, where he jumped a little, then walked over gingerly. I made him do the same with the mat, where he gave the same jumpy response. We circled over both until he stopped reacting. Then I changed directions and we worked it the other way. Then we revisited just the mat and crossed the short width instead of walking the length. I rode a figure 8 over it until he stopped caring. Then I reversed the figure 8, had a flinch, and rode the figure 8 until he stopped reacting again.

I think this is a good way for him to find confidence in himself while I'm creating a space that he has to live in. It's like he's claustrophobic when he's traveling like a dressage horse. It reminds me of the western ranch guys who take OTTBs and train them to be ranch horses - the key step in all of their work is that horse is going to work on a long rein with no contact. They have to work it out themselves. Those horses seem to adjust really well - so I'm going to try that to make Penn brave, then repeating the same exercises in a working dressage frame. Certainly can't hurt!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lesson 8/16

I've been making a point to ride outside every ride, as Trainer instructed. Unfortunately, this was bearing down on us on lesson day, so we couldn't lesson outside.

Tuesday was lesson day. We had the usual chat about how things are going. I said his work is hit or miss- he's generally a good boy and doesn't do anything overtly naughty. However, the horse that comes to the ring is either the one who can score 68%+, or the one that is going to be around 62%, and more often it's been the one who scores 62%. He just doesn't have the consistency right now. Previous day's work doesn't seem to factor in, unless I spend too many days in a row drilling him. Previous day's work over time does improve him, or else he wouldn't be making wonderful steps forward, but it could be hit or miss when it really counts.

I told her I've been warming up with leg yields, and that seems to go well, but I'm slowly having more and more trouble meeting centerline on the zig zags, which caused me to lose massive points last time out, and I can't afford to lose those this fall if I want a 68% at Championships.

Where did this lovely leg yield zig zag go?

She suggested we go a little out of order to warm up and work this time- let's hit the canter before the trot and see if that balances out his ring personalities. It's something we tried with Mikey- the canter really loosened him up so we went to that gait after minimal time in the trot, then went back to our trot work.

We started with the leg yields from 1-2, but in walk (centerline to wall), and to basically make them as steep as possible. Penn does not want to step far enough sideways with each of his forward steps. She had me make very clear leg on, leg off cues. This helped A LOT. Now Penn wasn't through and connected, and he had some head tilt, but the goal was to make it clear he needed to take bigger sideways steps. Trainer got after me for a heavy inside hand. We linked them together without changing direction, then changed direction and repeated to the left.

She had me leg yield to the wall, then within the last step of leg yields ask for canter. So I did, and Penn lifted right into canter, didn't invert majorly, but didn't trot at all either. Cool.

Just leaving X in the one loop from May.

She said to just work like I normally would have in canter. Well. Sometimes we just go round and round, or do some circles. So instead, I did the shallow loop from 1-3. Penn promptly bullied right through me and leaned this way and that, but when I said (on the short sides), "Sit the f*** down and GET OFF MY HAND" he promptly obeyed and was wonderful until it was time to go back down the long side, where he laid on me again. Even with all the bouncing around, Trainer loved the jump he carried in the canter. We did a couple loops: Penn leaned hard on my inside rein, and I had to be careful not to get heavy on either rein in my attempts to pull him around. Trainer didn't like the bouncing around and leaning, so she said to make 2 shallow loops fit down the small arena long side. So make the loop about 3-4m in off the rail at it's max, and 14m long. Eek!

The other one loop from May.

It basically amounted to shifting in about two steps, straight for a step, then shifting back out to the wall. It scaled down really well from the 10m wide/48m long one that's done in 1-3. Once that was down, I could slowly smooth it out into actual loops with bend. Penn stopped leaning and anticipating, and finally started balancing himself. Then we did a simple change across the diagonal and repeated the single loop to the right, then the double loops. Simple change across the diagonal again, repeat the double loops until they balance out again. Simple change back to the right, double loops once, simple change to the left. The right is more balanced and doesn't require the amount of attention the left does. I think we switched back and forth a few more times after that. We finished the canter with a stretchy trot and took a walk break.

Starting a one loop in schooling at NC PAHA.

The simple changes were not show quality for sure- he wants to lean very heavily to the left in both changes. This makes the left to right work OK (it could be better), but the right to left is tough and takes much more time to get the balanced trot, then his balance shifted off his left shoulder so he can pick up the left lead. When he got it wrong, Trainer had me circle back in walk and leg yield in without losing the left bend, then ask for canter within the leg yield.

The trot work was similar to the walk- get on centerline, BE STRAIGHT, then leg yield with a purpose. Penn anticipates the leg yield and he wavers and pulls that direction on centerline, then he goes sideways. He wavers just enough that Trainer said it wasn't always clear when I gave him the cue to move over: "Wait, did she cue yet? Was that it? OH there it is!" Just like I need to make sure my working-lengthen-working transitions are clear, I need to make the transitions into and out of leg yield sharp. It's part of the reason my zig zag fails over X- I don't get there in time because the initial transition is late and unclear, which means the transition to straight to the other leg yield isn't prompt either.

Leg yield in schooling at NC PAHA.

Watching the GP Olympics horses work gave me an idea for an exercise for first level leg yield zig zags that I'll have to try this week.

  • Turn up centerline.
  • D- leg yield left to the quarterline between V-L (5m sideways/12m forward)
  • Change and leg yield right across to the next quarterline between I-R (10m sideways/24m forward)
  • Leg yield left back to centerline at G (5m sideways/12m forward)
They would be just as steep as they are in 1-3 (10m sideways/24m forward), but they'd hit all the things we need- steep practice like the 1-3 zig zag, starting and stopping without a wall, and two transitions to the other leg yield, also not on a wall. To be honest, I'd use this in a first level freestyle if I were to do one (and I've been thinking about it more and more- maybe bronze bar?).

Anyway, Trainer suggested getting poles out, lining them up one horse width apart, then traveling down them, doing transitions between and within gaits to get straightness off the wall established better since he wants to lean so much. I suggested putting them in an X pattern over X to aid our simple changes- let the poles hold him off his left shoulder and I can just work on balancing the gaits. Trainer agreed that I should do that too.

She said to repeat our lesson in one of my next rides and see how it goes. I think I'll warm up with a shortened version of our lesson on Saturday, and mix in the poles over X too. Maybe tonight, I donno- Penn was supposed to walk last night but it was raining so I did other fun activities... I'll write about them next!

Penn ripped his fly sheet majorly in two places and I sewed it back together over the weekend. Not perfect or terribly pretty, but effective. There are a couple more places that need to be sewn, but I ran out of white thread in my sewing kit!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Penn saw the chiropractor last Tuesday morning- she's an equine vet too.

(side note, how awesome has the Olympics been this time around? XC was crazy! I was so excited for Michael Jung and Sam though, and Phillip for nabbing the bronze! Dressage has been so exciting too!)

Penn hadn't seen the chiropractor in 7 weeks, and it kind of showed. He had a lot more tension than usual. The vet immediately asked what we've been doing because he was out everywhere. The right hip was down, left was up. The sternum area was twisted- towards the front of the chest was twisted right, the area under the girth was twisted left. Hopefully this clears up some of Penn's girth issues. Neck was stiff too, but the poll was good.

Penn really enjoyed having his poll worked on- he just kind of got a sleepy eye and droopy bottom lip. I wish I would have thought to get a pic of it!

The more important thing: the vet gave me a couple exercises to help him out between visits.

These came with a disclaimer to not do them more the a couple times a week, and for no longer than 20-30 seconds... which is kind of longer than I'd have him hold it, but I'm glad I have a time reference. Basically, you tickle both sides of the haunches on the X I've marked in the below picture. This makes the horse tuck his hindquarters, lift his back, and work the abs (like when you surprise them with cold water on their bum). This is good for horses who seem to have trouble in the SI area (like Penn). It builds the muscle gently, but if done too often will make the horse sore. So less is more approach here. Also, if you try this, be careful, tickling that spot on the haunches might surprise the horse and make him kick at you or run forward. On sensitive horses like Penn, fingers are enough to get the desired response, but less sensitive horses may need something pokey like a hoof pick.

I've tried numerous times and I can't seem to tickle him like the vet did. I'll have to have her show me again, then watch me do it and correct me! I scratched him all over his bum, all he did was look confused, lol!

Sternum Lifts:
Same idea as the crunches, but single hand and right under where the girth goes.

Modified Carrot Stretches:
The vet/chiropractor does not like regular carrot stretches. She finds that the horses get anticipatory about food and end up doing jerky, twisted motions instead of smooth, correct motions. The head needs to stay perpendicular to the ground, and the stretch needs to be smooth an consistent. She showed me how she does them: Stand with your back to the horse's neck, grab one hand on each side of the halter, and slowly encourage the horse to wrap his head and neck around you, back to the shoulder. Don't pull him into it, but ease him into it.

Saturday and Sunday, I was at the barn riding at 7am because it was so flipping hot and humid this weekend. At least I rode before the sun was on the arena. I really liked riding before barn work, so I think I'll keep up with it for the rest of summer. 

We had some nice rides after- the canter is a lot more comfortable for him. We had some especially nice transitions from lengthening canter to working canter when I did test practice last Sunday.

Next up, lesson from Tuesday 8/16!

Happy Gotcha Day Penn!

Penn has been offically mine for a year now! He came home August 15, 2015, but today was the official "I'm keeping him" day.


We've certainly done a lot in a year! Official compare post is coming at the end of the month after our next show on 8/28 (which hopefully goes well so that I have good video to compare/contrast!). This is the same show Penn went to a week after coming home last year, so I thought it was a good place to compare.