Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Long Lining & Fairfax Girth Rides

Wednesday 7/27
So long lining has become my new "I don't want to ride or do anything but the horse still has to work" activity. It was so hot last week, I only worked Penn twice in the evening.

Remember the wiggles he gave me going straight in the long lining video?

I decided to attack that first before double lunging, so I stuck Penn on the 5 loop serpentine and off we went.

Surprise surprise, he bulged and folded to the left when he knew we were going to be turning left, so he's essentially counterbending into the lefthand turn. He does that to me under saddle all the time.

This has been a bit tricky for me to solve on the ground: he's bulging left, and pulling the right rein only makes it worse. Tapping on his left side with the left rein gets quite a dramatic temper tantrum that I definitely don't want to get worse because he'll be rearing next (nope nope nope nope). So I got a little creative.

Every time he would bulge left, I'd give the left rein entirely and pull him onto a 10m circle right until he stopped trying to go left. Then I'd set him up, do a change of bend where it should have been, and 10m circle left.

After traveling up and down the ring once, he gave up on that and was happy to go straight until I told him otherwise. I debated doing the exercise in trot, however that would require a bit of running and it was too hot for that. His double lunge work was good, but he continues to be looky. I got after him a little and he went back to work nicely. Very happy I opted not to ride that night!

Fairfax Performance Girth - Short Event

Penn's new (to us) girth arrived last Thursday! It's all very exciting. It had some big promises (copied from their website):
"The first girth to be based on scientific research and proven to improve the horse’s performance by:
  • Dramatically reducing pressure (up to 82%)
  • Significantly increasing range of movement (up to 33% in forelimb protraction compared to the horse’s normal girth)
  • Eliminating gait asymmetry
Team officials were so impressed by the girth they asked us to keep it a secret and delay its launch until after the London Olympics because they thought it would give Team GBR an added advantage. 
It is also the only girth to be tested using pressure mapping (by Pliance) and gait analysis (by Centuar Biomechanics)."
The girth comes in a bunch of varieties, per your needs: dressage girth, event girth (same as dressage but it has a D ring and extra buckle in the middle), long girth, short stud guard girth, long stud guard girth. The dressage, event, and long girths also come in a narrow gauge option for horses who have small chests and rib cages. If the horse measures less than 20cm across the flat area between elbows, they need the narrow gauge. Penn is on the hairy edge of that when I measured him. I had to go with the standard girth no matter what because the narrow gauge wasn't an ebay option and I wasn't about to drop $400+ on the girth to get one new.

The cats were adorable last Wednesday.

Friday 7/29
I got to use the girth for the first time on Friday for our ride. Penn didn't give me his usual angry face when I hooked up the girth, but he wasn't happy either: "There's something different, I don't know what to make of it, but I don't think I like it, but it's not the same..." Basically his face went through a ton of emotions but he didn't completely pin his ears like normal.

I got on, and Penn started off with some weird stopping stuff- like, I put my leg on, he takes a couple steps and stops. Then I put my leg on again and he repeats. He started doing this to me on the long lines Wednesday, so I think it's something bad carrying over. I got him out of it and it didn't resurface.

I started by walking our serpentine and then trotting it. It seems our session Wednesday held because he wasn't nearly as bulgy with his shoulder. He wasn't particularly bendy, but at least he was straight.

I ran him through his paces and asked him to be a bit more up, and he was fine. Super looky out the doors though. He never lost his throughness when he'd stare, but it makes me wonder what I'm doing wrong. He never used to stare this much, and I can't drill him all the time to keep his attention.

However, even though he was a bit looky, I was able to post the trot the entire time. I've never been able to post the trot and keep the throughness while he's been that looky. He felt very solid under the saddle. He wasn't hard to bring back from the staring, just hard to prevent the staring. He wouldn't invert to stare, he'd just turn his head. In fact, he was so nice and through- his back was up, the muscles at the base of his neck were engaged, and he was reaching for the bit. The only thing that was different was the girth. So, one point to the girth?

I get the feeling it should be further forward, but that would mean I have to put my saddle further forward, or pull the girth forward, neither of which I'm doing.

Saturday 7/30
Saturday was supposed to be long and low in the outdoor day, however, it was pissing down rain and I didn't want to get wet, so I tried in the indoor without much luck. He just wanted to look out the doors, so I made him work somewhere between his new working frame and long and low.

Truck's new tires are on.

Side note, Penn got put in 'time out' Saturday morning (I wasn't working because I was at the mechanic having my trailer inspected and my truck tires changed!). The horses spent the day outside even though it was raining, except Penn. (I'm totally cool with that, It was a lot cooler than it's been- 80ish degrees- and I'm funny about their backs getting rained on and then tight). So anyway, apparently Penn decided to lose his marbles when it was time to come in for breakfast. He was jumping straight up in the air, bucking, kicking, trying to run the other horses, and almost kicked another horse in the head. BO's daughter knew I was riding after the mechanic, so they left him in his stall in "time out" so he could get ridden before being allowed out. I didn't know any of that when I got there, I was just like, "Hmm, you're in. They must know I'm psycho and wouldn't want you out getting rained on. Cool." I plopped him back in his stall when we were done (he happily munched hay and was chill after that).

I revisited our leg yields in this ride. I walked them all first, which actually turned out well. The first level zig zag- I really got a feel for how you have to be counterbent coming out of the turn to make it happen- when I did it right, he had an excellent steady leg yield right. It did peter out as we got closer to X, but it was a much steeper leg yield because I was doing it in a small ring, not standard. In trot, I revisited the leg yields from 1-2 and shallow loops from T-3 (since I haven't ridden a shallow loop in ages). I ended up working the leg yields from the quarterline to the wall in trot- Penn wasn't focusing well and I needed to make them easier.

I used the leg yields to get into canter, and then cantered whole laps around the ring. That didn't work out so well- he wanted to shoot across the ring when he caught sight of anything outside any arena door. I prepared for it as best I could the next time around the ring and he eventually did it less and less. I rode a couple shallow loops in canter, and then stuck him on a circle to do a bunch of trot/canter/trot transitions, most of which worked out really well. I'm so pleased that even when he's looky, I can still get him to hold himself up in the downward transitions. We did a quick stretchy trot to finish up and then I let him quit for the day.

So, maybe a second point to the girth? I donno. It's certainly NOT magic, but the looking isn't new. Being able to post the trot and adjust/correct him is new though. He also was iffy that morning when I did up the girth instead of outright offended.

Sunday 7/31

The goal of our ride today was to go outside, do long and low work, and be good. Check, check, check!

I rode him in the pelham, as Trainer suggested for our long and low day. Took him outside, hopped on, stuck him on the rail like we were in a pleasure class (note our outdoor doesn't have a wall of any kind, just an oval shape). I wanted to do long and low using the entire ring because we've been stuck on some variety of circle for the past month and haven't spent much time going straight, or doing simple things like mind numbing on the rail work. He kept jumping around, on and off the rail, and I kept having to put him back on it. He was a bit looky in walk, so I put him to work in trot to give him a little more to focus on.

I really thought about what my hands and legs were doing and saying. When long lining- I'd never pull my inside rein to circle or turn and keep my smothering hold on the outside rein. Why would I do that riding? I've had so many instructions over the years, "the inside rein turns you in" then "the inside rein does nothing" "the inside rein helps with bend" "turn from your outside aids" and so on. This has really caused me to positively SMOTHER the horse with my outside rein and to never give it in the slightest. Well, on a circle, you have to give the outside rein a little! The outside of the horse's body needs to get longer. Our outdoor has curved short sides- not flat sides like the indoor. So I pretended that the ends of my arena were large circles. Give the outside rein a hair, open the inside rein since he wants to stare outside. Well of course he fell in. Add some inside leg to a supportive, yet not a brick wall, outside rein. He happily stretched down, stayed on the rail, and focused. Whaaaa? The bend wasn't great, and I had to constantly remind him of it since he wants to look around, but I'd just remind him and he'd go, "Oh yea!"

I did a circle or two each direction in trot, changed rein across the diagonal for the new directions, then went off to canter left first. Same thing, don't smother with the outside rein, inside leg on to keep him from falling in. He cantered laps around the ring, did a large 35m circle, then I took him across the diagonal and tried to do a simple change to the right lead... that didn't work out so well since I'm pretty sure he was tired from all that canter (but he didn't fall into the trot like he used to). I didn't even ask for a simple change, instead I rebalanced the trot properly and asked for the right lead when we hit the rail at the end of the diagonal. Off to canter! The right lead is much better balanced than the left. He happily trucked along for a lap or two before I decided to bring him back to trot nicely, then to walk.

Long rein and quit for the day. He did about 15 min of work, but he did exactly what I wanted, and I behaved by not smothering him!

No point for the girth. I donno if the girth had any play in him being good, or if I just decided to help him out by trying to be a better rider.

End Thoughts:

The fairfax girth definitely sits better on Penn than his TSF girth. He seems to like it more- hooking up the girth isn't quite so offensive anymore. It's not even tightening the girth that's the problem- he's angry about it as I'm pulling it under his belly and before it reaches the billets. He isn't reaching around to bite the crossties now. If it does actually feel better, I'm sure it will take time (and a chiro adjustment- he was out in the sternum last time so I'm sure he's out there again) for him to learn it's not horrible. Or he may just be this way. So far, the girth is definitely not a magic solution. However, I've had some noticeable improvements: he's much more through and absolutely carried bigger gaits this past weekend. I was able to post the trot because he took direction well (maybe it was all the long lining we've been doing, maybe he's just getting better again, maybe it was him being more comfortable with the girth). I'll certainly keep using it! I'll be keeping it, if only because it does fit him better than the TSF girth and he's not quite so offended by it. Further review of the girth TBA.

Tonight we have a shortened lesson because I mistakenly scheduled the farrier for a lesson night... so lesson at 6:30, farrier due in sometime after 7.

Tomorrow is going to be quite exciting, I found out about a Wednesday night obstacle trail practice at a local farm through Facebook, and one of our trail ladies is going! I asked if Penn and I could tag along, she said sure! I'm so excited to take Penn and to play with tarps, bridges, and pool noodles off property! I'm quite sure I will be the only english riding rider there, so it should be fun!


  1. Have you read any books on long lining? I found out that Stinker has been long lined and I know someone who has been doing it for 40-50 years, but I want to educate myself first.

    I'm glad Penn likes the girth. Hopefully the rest of the negative behavior will disappear shortly.

    1. I haven't read any books- just a couple lessons with my trainer. It's been enough to get by, but I would really like a lesson with someone who does advanced work on the lines- I can get shoulder in and leg yield, but I'd like to lesson with someone who can do much more. I would just go to that person and ask him/her to check what Stinker knows, then teach you. A book won't be able to read your horse like a person would!

    2. That is my plan but it will be a month and a half before I see them again so I figured in the meantime I could read up on it. Because I'm too excited just to wait...

    3. Haha! I originally set out to learn via youtube. I originally felt pretty good about applying Robert Taylor's methods on my own, but then chickened out when one lady got all crazy on me about how horses will try to flip themselves over the first time. I'm going to guess she wasn't the most adept at it because for Mikey, Penn, and a number of trainer's horses, it was largely a non-issue (except for troublesome mare! but she had issues). Here's the link to his first video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6EDQw4tgkA

  2. Interesting on the girth! I've wanted to try it for a long time. I mean, I feel like if the equipment gives you a 5% improvement, it's probably worth it. Would be interesting to go back and try your old TSF girth after a week or so with the Fairfax.

    1. I feel bad, you're the one who originally showed it to me, and here I am with it now! Def at least a 5% improvement, and I like the way it fits vs the TSF one anyway. I'll have to try going back to TSF when Penn is a bit more consistent in his work- some days are good, some are bad, and I may get a false comparison! This girth is a 22" BTW, and Penn wore a 20" TSF, and the fairfax girth uses the same holes on the saddle. There's that much padding! The website isn't lying when they say to get the next size up because of the amount of padding on the girth.

  3. Ooh that trail obstacle course sounds fun!! Also exciting that you're seeing improvements with the girth. Anything that helps, right?