Friday, June 30, 2017

6/4/2017 - Loch Moy Spring II

On to day 2!!

Day 2 started off very educational when Austen found a fawn in the middle of the XC course.
I totally didn't know they essentially play dead and have zero smell (Lyra didn't even notice it) when they're this little.

Husband and I ran late getting to the show, so I stole Lyra and Austen's camera from stabling, encouraged Lyra to squeeze in the front seat of the truck with me (which ended up with her on my lap and not entirely happy about it- she kept giving Husband the "I can't believe she did this to me" face), and Husband drove us back down to warm up so I could get pictures of Austen and Guinness warming up and then riding their test.

I'll let Austen tell you about her rides, but afterwards she took Guinness to one of the water complexes and I got pictures of them trotting and cantering through it (so fun), and that's when we found the fawn.

I had requested an early ride time on Sunday so we could get on the road sooner (it's a long drive home y'all), so around 11 I wandered down to warm up for my single 2-2 test (which was supposed to go off at 11:13 or something). Holy hell, the judge was SLOW. She took a lot of time between tests to not write all that much ON the test. She quickly got extremely behind. I was careful not to do more than walk until the horse two horses before me went down centerline... Warm up basically consisted of, "Take it easy on the horse because who knows how late your ride is going to be."

When the horse before me finished, I went to do my courtesy lap around the ring and Penn decided to be spooky past the KEH side of the ring. I was able to ride back and forth, from C to K to C many more times than I should have been able to by the time the judge rang the bell. On the bright side, it did let Penn relax a good deal before going down centerline!

Courtesy of Austen
Courtesy of Austen
Courtesy of Austen
Courtesy of Austen
Courtesy of Austen
"Mom, smile at the camera!"
Courtesy of Austen

This test didn't feel as good as the test the day before, but the judge apparently liked it just fine! It was one of the few she liked... more on that in a bit.

His mediums are still not mediums, but I thought they were better than the day before. I got overzealous with my left hand in the left SI, then spacey for the two half circles. Travers right turned out ok though. I have no idea what TOH right she scored, but that was not an 8. I thought the TOH left was better, but she didn't think so. He did his weird uneven up front walk steps throughout the walk work, which cost us good scores on the free walk. Good in the SI right, and I think I was fighting him about being on the forehand in the half circles, causing him to take uneven steps. Good travers left. The canter left felt sticky up until the 10m half circle and return to the track (all I can think about that is, "Look how straight he is!" Counter canter left and simple change were meh, but I really got into the medium canter and Penn gave a good one. Per a tip I heard the night before, one of the ladies said her trainer told her to really move her elbows in a medium to show you're really going for it... I have a feeling this has the side effect of really encouraging/allowing the horse to take big steps. Either way, it worked for me, 7.5 and a "Nicely done!" Right lead counter canter work was good, simple change better but still meh. Canter to trot was a bit sticky, and then I tried to really go for the medium trot and pushed Penn past his balance point causing him to become irregular. The final halt was so good, until he stepped out of it and got crooked.

When I came out of the ring, I wasn't sure it had broken 60%. It didn't feel as smooth as the day before and this judge was being mega tough.

On our way back to stabling, I decided to try and get Penn in the same water complex that Austen played in earlier. Let's just say, Penn is not an event horse. He's way too spooky. I had trouble getting him near the water because he was spooking at the jumps, then he spooked at the water. He wouldn't go straight in, and I didn't want to risk him leaping in (because I know he wouldn't be able to stay on his feet), so I had him circle the water, walking a step closer to it with every step forward. I eventually got him in a chute between the water's edge and a tiny log, and he finally stepped in. Then it was like he's been a water baby all his life, NBD. We walked, trotted, and cantered around it. I giggled like a 12 year old. Whatever, water is always fun to play in! All of the following pics are courtesy of Austen too.

Uhh, I'm not sure...
"Have you SEEN what's down here?!"
First few steps in. I used a log and the water edge to make a chute, haha. No wild leaping!
Praise for the good boy!
More praise.
Grinning like I'm 12. Seriously happier about playing in the water than riding second level.
Wish I had a water complex to work in weekly... #trainlikemichealjung
Splash! More grinning because I'm like, 12.

After splashing around, we had a good "gallop" where we "pretended" to be an xc pair. All in all, super fun, super giggly, such a good time. Come on, we're all secretly 12 year old, horse crazy girls at heart!

Our best XC pair impression. Might be dressed wrong.
Seriously, I was so excited to play in the water and gallop. #12yearoldgirlgrin
Def dressed wrong.

We eventually went back to stabling and Penn got the vetrolin bath he so richly deserved. I am super pleased with him - he came out ready to play for the most part this weekend! Husband and I took Penn for a walk down to the show office to get my score and get some lunch. Score first, obviously!

I was flabbergasted to find out I got a 64.744%, and not only that, but first place (out of 3) as well! I went to the secretary to get my test (they knew me by this point), and she said, "Oh! I remember scoring your test. It was one of the few over 60%. You should stick around for 2-3 to pin, you might get second level champion."

More satin, more wine.
Also, my best scoring recognized second level test (not by much though).
Penn has officially surpassed Mikey. Penn's mistake riddled work is still better than Mikey's best work.

We trekked back to stabling and packed up while 2-3 was riding. Austen was kind enough to strip the stalls while I got my score (which is why Penn went with us, so he was out of the way). I snagged one pic of Penn and all his ribbons for the weekend really quick before we stuck the horses on the trailer to drive back down to the show office to check on 2-3.

Stripped stall, new BOT no bows on, and pretty satin!

Turns out, we won Second Level Champion! I immediately wished I had entered 2-3 instead of 2-2, because the highest AA score was a 56%. We could have managed higher than that I think, and then gotten a Dover medal! #greedy #alwayswantingmore

There were 11 second level rides that day- only 2 were above 60, mine and a 61+% (I went back and looked it up to be sure). There were no class splits for AA/Open/Jr all weekend, so I'm even happier with his placings and champion ribbon. While I may have wished I rode 2-3 so I could have tried to get a Dover medal, I'm glad we didn't. I stuck to the test that was working for us, 2-2, and we had an incredibly positive experience.

The judge on day two was super harsh. A bunch of scores in the 40s, and majority of scores in the 50s. She seemed to take a liking to a few horses... It didn't save her though, the show secretary ran out of Judge Review forms from all the people wanting to tell USEF what a terrible judge she was. The judge also did a few rude weird things- one horse didn't show much of a lengthening so she rang the bell for an error and asked the rider if she'd like to repeat the diagonal because it called for a lengthening, not working trot. We'll leave it at that. She was a bit unforgiving, and I know that sucks for everyone else, but I'm super happy to have my highest recognized second level score from her!

Trying to be artsy in the truck on the way home because I couldn't put it on his face since he was in the trailer when I got it.

We dropped off Austen and Guinness and headed home. Penn made it an interesting drive by opening his escape door from the inside while we were on a highway... We had to pull over on a mountain (going uphill of course), I had to unscrew the lever that opens his door from the inside so he couldn't do it again!

Finally got all his ribbons on his face! He was not sure about that.

I learned a couple things that weekend as I rode Penn through being spooky and a new level:
  • When I want more uphill trot (which is like all the time), I need to tuck my butt even more to further engage my core, (sitting back without sitting back more).
  • Apply the same tuck logic for medium trot. It's easier to absorb bigger motion when I'm making a bigger tucking motion (aka engaging the core more). While his mediums were not great, they were still better and I sat them better.
  • Remember the weight in my elbows- thinking of applying the bit to just the bottom jaw. I donno, this imagery works for me.
  • TRUST PENN IN COUNTER CANTER. He is honest. He will not flip flop his leads unless I ask for it. Straight, forward, do not over apply either leg. Keep him straighter. Penn finally told me off this weekend by hopping as I overcued to keep the counter canter.

I was super pleased with Penn this weekend- he rocked first level, rocked second level, came to play in all 3 tests (we have struggled with the second test in the day and the second day of showing), and generally kept it together like a big boy! Penn got some well earned vacation time (like 3 or 4 days) of no work before we got back to work! More on that to come!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

6/3/2017 - Loch Moy Spring I

Back at the start of June, I trekked back down to VA/MD, picked up Austen and Guinness, and we went horse showing!

Maybe Austen is right, Penn seems to have grown. I should stick him again.

I love Loch Moy. Stabling is beautiful. The rings are great (especially the one we were in that had some new awesome footing!). I love the trek to warm up through the XC fields (ok, that's more annoying when I want to walk down to the show office though, haha). It's just a nice place, with excellent friends!

Schooling Friday with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background.
Picture courtesy of Austen
Picture courtesy of Austen

Penn was good Friday to school- he gave me some sass about the left lead counter canter... basically I put way too much right leg on to maintain the left lead and he says, "WTF do you want, I'm already on that lead!" So not his fault. He was also really super in the strong wind that had picked up.

Lyra!!! We got up close and personal this weekend, bahaha.
Such a happy dog!
Picture courtesy of Austen
Saturday: 2-2

First test up on Saturday was our first try at 2-2. I was kind of nervous- Penn is still lacking in parts of his training and I really didn't want to add a sub-60 score to our record. I was going to be happy with anything over 60%! I also opted to put on Mikey's blue ear bonnet. It was super buggy, the wind was starting to pick up, and Penn sometimes goes better in a bonnet.

My mom is awesome, and I think it's hilarious that it looks like she's coaching me in this pic, haha.
Picture courtesy of Austen
It was a family affair this weekend! Husband was our videographer.
Picture courtesy of Austen
For the love of all, I need to sit up straight.
Picture courtesy of Austen
So much power... that went basically no where, lol.
Picture courtesy of Austen
Weee! Hopping left hind then getting drunk!
Nah, I think he spooked at P. Why P, I have zero clue. All the letters look the same.
Picture courtesy of Austen

He was so good for this test! There are a bunch of places where we gave away points, but it's an early attempt at second level for us. I love how steady the lateral work was, but we gave away points in the two half circles. I had a brain fart during them and forgot to bend my horse properly. The free walk was a mess- he wanted to canter off right away so we had jigging while I tried to settle him. For the simple changes, I counted 1-2-3-WALK from R/P to B. While I started the simple change too early doing that, it gave me a constructive way of collecting him for the walk, and I was happy to be rewarded for it (6.5 and 7). We gave away points in both halts, which makes me sad because we're better than that.

I was SO EXCITED to get the test back and it was a 63.590%!!!! Yea, I was 3rd out of 4, but I don't care, it was his first recognized second level test! We made some mistakes in it too, which made me even happier that it was a 63+%. Just super exited. Newly minted, official (because I don't really count schooling shows), second level horse!

Saturday: 1-3

Much later that afternoon we tacked up again to ride 1-3 for what I hoped would be the last time until September. I got good scores at CDCTA's show at the start of May, but only one of them could be a qualifying score. I needed this test to be my second qualifying score, especially since I did not enter 1-3 on Sunday and I didn't want to have to hunt down another show to ride 1-3.

Of course this test made me nervous because it was the second test of the day, and I've NEVER had good luck with Penn riding a second time in a day. He's usually on board to work, but isn't as good as the first ride.

I came down to the ring a bit late though (last I heard they were running behind and I did not want to wear him out in warm up). I was immediately shuffled off to the warm up next to the show ring so I had 6 min to lay down some kind of warm up... that made me a bit nervous too. As part of my warm up, I practiced walking a step into the halt and I could feel good halts coming, so I was confident about that. His leg yields felt good, everything just felt good.

I shouldn't have been nervous, he rocked it!

The lengthenings need work, just like the mediums from 2-2 need work. 7 and 7.5 for those leg yields = happy Jan. 7 on the stretchy with the comment "Really consistent" = happy Jan. I let him get away from me in the circle-halt-circle though!! He wanted to shift his haunches in on the right hand circle, and then I didn't let him take that single walk step for the halt at X!!! Ughhhhh the points I just gave away!!! Then slow off the halt too, because of aforementioned not square. I realized part way though the first 15m circle that he needed more canter, but I'm not sure I got it. The change of lead through trot happened much faster than I planned- I was late cuing for it, then he felt ready to canter again immediately so I asked for canter quickly. It worked out this time! He started crapping out on me in the left lead 15m circle, like he did at CDCTA's second day, but I got him moving again... that lengthening became "bolder effort" because I was like, "Get the hell unstuck!" Then I promptly forgot where I was going, so the one loop got a wiggle to start. The perk of first level is being able to post/sit as desired, so I posted my final lengthening to try to get the most out of it... which worked ok, he got a 6.5. I told him after the final halt, "Oh you're such a good boy!" and the judge said, "He is a good boy!" Haha!

Austen and I got my last score when we went down for the competitor's party- 68.088%, first out of 5 (2 AA and 3 Open), and a bottle of wine!


The party was good- the two shows this weekend were so small that they only ran one ring each day (with a different judge each day). So it was a small group of us at the party. They had some weak margaritas (who cares about weak though), excellent chips and dip from a local Mexican restaurant, and a few more things that I don't remember.

Austen and I went back up and grazed the horses on the XC course, where I saw a skunk and ran away from it. It was really buggy where we were grazing so we didn't hang out there for too long.

It was such a great day- great people, beautiful weather, a newly minted second level horse, a great qualifying score, and a bottle of wine!

Yupp, looks like the face of a second level horse to me!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Meds & Supplements

As a side trip from our recaps, I'm writing about the various things Penn gets to supplement his training. I've tried a lot, but finally found a mix that I'm actually really happy with.

Is this a dressage move I don't know about? Kicking pirouette into medium trot?

Penn had been on the following for most of the time I've had him: a feed through joint supplement and some kind of calmer to try and combat his stall walking (he walks a ring into his stall that would mean his stall gets stripped almost daily), and also to combat his trailering nerves. I tried a lot of things: Quiessence, Total Calm and Focus, Mare Magic (purchased as a generic, aka a bag of organic raspberry leaves from, Zylkene.

I kept him on Total Calm and Focus the longest because it worked the best on his "stable nerves" (stall walking, nervousness in the cross ties that resulted in diarrhea, etc), but didn't really negate his trailer nerves. I bought the 180 supply from because it was the best price per day I could find.

I should also state that Penn sees a non-local chiropractor every 8-9 weeks. He started seeing this guy in Nov/Dec 2017. He's the only one that has made Penn's hips level at the end of an adjustment. Chiro's adjustments actually hold until the next adjustment now, it's so nice. This guy does adjustments and then vit-B acupuncture type injections into the areas that get adjustments (it helps the adjustments hold).

Hips so even. They're still even now too!

I started Penn on Adequan twice a year starting last year. I buy the 10 dose bottle and give him 5 injections 4 days apart in spring, and then repeat that 6 months later. It's not the 7 doses the company recommends, but Penn is young and relatively undamaged, so I think we can get away with this for now. It make me feel better that I'm doing something to support his joints, and it's cheaper per year than my favorite feed through, Doc's OCD.

Muscle and Gut and Calming: (because they've become intertwined in this narrative)
Upon starting training with GP Trainer, I found Penn had trouble building the strength to do the work. I gave him 4-5 months to build new strength before deciding to see if I could help him out.

SmartMuscle Recovery
He stopped feeling funny up front when I got on. Sometimes he would come out very stiff up front and it took a lap to work out, but with this, no more. I am happy with it. I opted to get it in Smartpaks because there wasn't any price difference to having them scoop it (at least for the first 2 months- I ordered AM and PM doses since they were half off).

I mentioned in passing about Penn's trailering problems- diarrhea and then he goes off his feed while he's away too. GP Trainer is sponsored by Uckele, so she recommended one of their products (with her personal reusable coupon code!)

G.U.T Paste
Love it, love it, love it. I can't express the amount I love this stuff. It stopped 90% of his diarrhea. He still has a little bit, but it's SO MUCH BETTER. He gets a half tube the day before travel, and then a half tube each day of travel. He started eating better while he was away too, yay! The bright side: I use GP Trainer's code to get a discount, and then I bulk order it at one of their bulk order discount rates.

G.U.T. Powder
I loved that paste so much that I decided to put him on their daily gut supplement since he has sporadic diarrhea at home too. I added that to his Smartpaks, only because the Recovery didn't meet their $40 for free shipping once I knocked him down to one dose a day. Paying shipping negated any gain in scooping it myself, so I opted to have them scoop it.

Penn carried on with the above supplements for a while. He was pretty grouchy, he still stall walked despite the Total Calm (though it did help some), and he wasn't holding weight. He has a very strenuous training and travel life.

At this point, I ponied up and got him a round of Omeprazole. Abba Vet Supply compounds their own product at a really fabulous price (I got 45-10mL doses for $224 in 15-30mL tubes). You need a vet RX to get it, and they don't offer it on their website (you have to call), but they're easy to deal with and fast. Before anyone goes high and mighty on me for using a compounded generic, I've heard from numerous human medical professionals that we overdose horses on omeprazole (but of course not enough that it hurts the horse). Abba's product is supposed to have the same 2.28g of omeprazole as brand name, but it also has ranitidine. There was also a study that said horses had the same healing from a full dose, half dose, and quarter dose. This means that even if the full dose of the compounded generic didn't have the full 2.28g, it should still be effective. Plus, if that didn't work, I'd chalk it up to lost money on a failed experiment and just pony up for the real thing. It's not the first time I've used this particular compound, so I anticipated it working. I opted to do 21 days of 10mL (full dose), followed by 21 days of 5mL.

The results: It did work. Very well. Penn started eating all of his hay. He ate his grain better too. 99% of his stable nerves vanished. His stall walking was reduced by day 10, and by the end, it had vanished majority of the time. He still gets worked up every now and then and trashes his stall, but he's so much better. He had a softer look in his eye by day 7. People who didn't know he was being treated said, "Wow, he looks really relaxed now. What'd you do?" He's still grouchy about having his belly brushed, and the saddle/girth, but I think that might just be him.

So this will probably be a yearly thing I do for him, or maybe just when his stall walking dramatically increases. I give 5mL doses the day before travel and each day of travel. Another plus? I dropped his Total Calm and Focus and he stayed relatively the same in personality. He's a little more unfocused under saddle, but that's no problem. He's still considered a green baby, and I can to work through that.

Total Blood Fluids Muscle
Penn continued to just have trouble with strength and stamina. He'd wear out quickly. Not unusual for the amount of work he's doing, but it still bothered me that 6 months in, he wasn't feeling fully better. I decided to try another muscle supplement and really liked the overall idea of this one (muscle-blood builder-electrolytes), and since I just stopped the Total Calm, I could get this instead (since they're both stupid expensive).
I got it from (I am not having Smartpak scoop it- it's WAY too expensive for that). But sadly, Penn would not eat it. In fact, he stopped eating altogether. He eventually started eating again, but then he wouldn't touch ANY powder in his feed, including his GUT powder. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Smartlytes Pellets & Grand Vite
This is where I got mathy. Smartpak has this awesome comparison tool that breaks down everything in the products so you can compare what has what and how much of it. I put the breakdown for Total BFM into Excel and got cracking on how to "make it myself" using other (preferably pelleted) supplements. I put Total Calm and Focus into the comparison as well to see if I could help Penn's focus a bit too.

Adding these two supplements got me super close. Of the 75 various vitamins/minerals/compounds in his original supplement group, I was able to replicate 64 of them at the same or greater value, and only one was missing entirely:

New to the left, old to the right. Not really concerned that the six B vitamins are at a lower value. I'm guessing Total Calm has obscene values for their calming effects. Grand Vite was the best way to put some more of each back into his diet, as well as many other vitamins/minerals.

The one missing entirely, Creatine, is in his Manna Pro Ration Balancer, so I'm not concerned about that. The best part is that the electrolyte and vitamin together are cheaper than Total BFM, and he'll eat both of them! I did put both of them in his Smartpak because the Smartlytes are cheapest in that form, and I didn't want to have to scoop his Grand Vite and G.U.T. powder into baggies (and I loathe powder in baggies). I figured this is already cheaper than what I was doing before, so I'll suck it up and keep the Smartpaks which also let me stagger the cost throughout the year and save time.

He's been feeling full of energy since I made the switch- he's got a lot more stamina, even in the heat. I'm sure that's due to the electrolyte, but he feels physically good too. I'm very pleased with the new combination.


So there you have it.

  • G.U.T. Paste (when traveling)
  • Omeprazole/Ranitidine (when traveling, possibly a yearly treatment)
  • Adequan (10 doses per year)
  • SmartMuscle Recovery Pellets (daily)
  • G.U.T. Powder (daily)
  • Smartlytes Pellets (daily)
  • Grand Vite (daily)

And this is the closest I will get to adding all of that up in a cost per year. Ack!

Funny baby horse gets all the things since I ask a ton of him.

I'm sure some of you are looking at this list going, "OMG she's fucking crazy." So what all do you guys do?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

5/27/2017 Lesson Day 2: Counting Strides

That butt though. <3

Penn and Utonia hit the jackpot while they were visiting- not only did they get luxury turnout, they also got stalls with runs. Penn spent majority of his stalled time in his run. I had to put his breakfast outside in the run with him to make him eat it! When we came in Saturday morning, neither horse had touched their breakfast or their hay. They were both standing in their runs, snoozing away their grass comas. Sorry guys, we have work to do!

Penn also chose this trip to be best friends with Utonia and screamed bloody murder for her whenever they were apart. *facepalm*

Part of our warm up in our Saturday lesson talked about how to halt from the trot. GP Trainer had me think about walking just one step into the halt in order to find square. She finds the trot awkward to halt from- it doesn't have a foot placement that encourages square like the canter does.
To make [the trot-halt] more like a feather floating down, and less like a brick, ooze him into [the halt].
Pretty sure that's my favorite quote from the lesson, haha.

Square and immobile. Check!

I did a better job in warm up of sitting down in my seat and up in my shoulders (dressage makes no sense, seriously lol) and putting my lower leg on and getting him to keep his belly up. And I did a much better job at keeping his haunches behind him in the canter one loops on the right lead (having the right leg on does that you know).

Penn got a short walk break and then we moved on to the real meat of the lesson: Canter down the long wall. 10m circle at R/S/V/P (whichever is first on that particular wall). Count the strides to complete one circle. Repeat at the next R/S/V/P letter. Make sure the circles are super accurate.

Penn seriously struggled to keep the left lead canter- but he did a ton of work the day before and was failing in a good way- he was sitting and getting tired. We got a base count of strides for the circle- 14-15 strides.

And this is where the video kind of got wonky- the card filled, we got the card cleared, and then the camera didn't quite track me right anymore in the canter work. I wish the video tracked better, he looked and felt awesome!

But we moved on to the right lead, with the idea of adding just one stride to the 10m canter circle. It gave me a really good reference for just how much I am collecting Penn- no "OMG I MUST COLLECT A LOT RIGHT NOW!!!!" It also ratted me out in that I make the first half of my circles bigger, then panic and make the second half smaller as I get to my 16 stride count. I need to make my first half smaller so I can make the second half "normal" sized. It gave me meaningful collection that I can easily replicate on my own, and I love it. Penn was also extremely willing and quiet- no crazy rider hauling on him to sit more, more, more. I wasn't madly trying to squash him.

It was math and geometry and letters and dressage and I love it. We talked on a rest break about using stride counts to center things like tempi changes- you know the horse takes 24 strides down the diagonal, and you need to do five 4 tempis (which is 20 strides), so therefore you know you need to start them two strides onto the diagonal. It's crap like that that makes me LOVE dressage so much. It's how I plan parts of my test. I used this same idea at my next horse show- the counter canter 20m circle into the simple change. I would hit the letter to go straight, count down from 3 and walk. And all the simple changes I rode that weekend were some of the best I've done at second level.

For shits and giggles:
     C = 2πr = 2π(5) = 10π = 31.4m >>>  31.4m * 3.2808 ft/m = 103.0171 ft
     Normal Stride Length = 103.0171 ft / 14 strides = 7.358 ft/stride
     Collected Stride Length = 103.0171 ft / 16 strides = 6.439 ft/stride

A 10m circle is much longer than it seems at 103ft to ride! But his stride was quite short too. I rode 35 meters in a straight line in canter at home for practice the other day:

I have trot steps too, but that's all for another post.

The video continued to be a bit wonky at the trot, so no video there either. We touched the laterals in trot to finish:
  • Tracking right, keep the outside rein against his neck and close my outside leg in SI.
  • Be careful not to get too much angle in the haunches in right.

Pretend his feet aren't cut off, lol.
I apparently learned my lesson about flinging him into the angle going left the day before, because we did a bunch of really great SI and haunches in in the second lesson.

We called it quits and I took Penn for a walk around the xc field, where we jumped a couple super itty bitty tiny logs!

I got a ton of good information on this trip, I was very pleased with both lessons!

Grass coma. Hard weekend of lessons. Tired pony, only kinda-sorta ready to go home!