Thursday, March 29, 2018

Throwback Thursday: Video Edition

I had occasion over the weekend to parooze my public videos on YouTube. I wanted to share several of my favorites. Most feature Mikey, but a couple feature my little QH mare, Jasmine!

Bounce Grid: 2'3" crossrail, 2'6" vertical, 3' vertical (Circa 2002, Jasmine)

4 Skinnies, One Stride Apart (Circa 2004, Jasmine). I quickly hid the exercise from my instructor at the time because she would not approve.

Beginner Jumper 2'6" Class (9/20/2009, Mikey). First jumper show, first jumper class ever.

Hopeful Jumper 2'9" Class (9/20/2009, Mikey). I hit a forward groove and left some strides out at the end!

BN Steeplechase at Full Moon Farm's 1/4* 3 Day (6/28/2012, Mikey). Quite possibly my favorite experience with Mikey.

First XC trip at Novice. (7/15/2012, Mikey). Possibly my second favorite experience with Mikey.

Test Riding my Jaguar. (May 2013, Mikey). Fun Fact: This video was featured on a dressage blog that was explaining the differences between working, medium, and extended trot. Also note, the website owner didn't ask permission. (Which I would have happily provided).

And last, but not least, my highest scoring 3rd level test (7/23/2017, Penn). I'm pumped to see what this summer brings, because while there are good portions in this test, Penn is so much better now!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Commercial Break

Life has handed me some supremely frustrating things lately...

Soooo I've got a lot to post about (the SoloShot3 I got months ago, lessons, and a new saddle for Penn), but work has taken a turn for the worse and I'm rather unhappy with the job that I love doing, so I need to put my effort into rectifying that situation.

A new pretty! Penn earned his big boy saddle.
It exhausts both of us.

That means I can't spend the evening editing videos and tracking our progress (not if I also want to ride). I've got one scheduled post for tomorrow (because I set it up over the weekend), but the rest is going to be a bit drawn out as I get my shit together. I'm hoping it doesn't take too long to get things sorted out, but I'm in the "get that resume dusted off" phase.

We are slowly getting our shit together and making progress with this though!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dressage is Such a Slog

Does anyone else feel that way? I mean, I love dressage. It fits my type A personality really well, but I lived on my stupid circle for 3 weeks straight (I believe it's actually called, "a stupid fucking circle." Just doing endless transitions. Shaking him off the bit. Feeling like a failure. Keep going anyway. Being type A is probably WHY I can keep going.

I haven’t written anything lately because honestly, there’s nothing to write about. I ordered Penn’s new double, but I’m having some sizing issues so it’s not ready to be blog fodder yet. Other than that, I haven’t been doing anything with him except schooling him and putting hours in the saddle working on our homework from the lessons in my last post.

Maybe there's some self carriage out there?

I’ve been diligently working on Penn’s self-carriage. Walk/trot/walk/trot etc until the end of time. I’m sure we spend a lot of time walking… but it’s so damn hard! I am also applying more leg than I ever have before. Makes sense, I need to generate the energy for him to convert into shoulder lift. When he doesn’t listen to one leg, I keep digging in with it (or pony club kick it), and put a seatbone into it until he decides he’d rather leg yield away from it. But it never, ever goes away until he responds.

I remember to apply my leg first. Double what I think I actually need. I vibrate my hands. I make sure he stays on the bit. I vibrate my hands some more. I check him for self-carriage by giving a hand away, then giving the other away. I check for the topline of his neck to be blown up like a balloon. I check that my shoulders are up and back and I’m sitting on my tailbone.

Earning my bronze medal. Because at some point in my past, I didn't feel incompetent.

On the bit. Hold yourself. On the bit. Hold yourself. Repeat for eternity.

I am battling his ever shifting balance. Leg on. Put him back on the bit. Leg on, sit on my tailbone, and vibrate the hands because he fell on his shoulder and plowed down. Put him back on the bit.

The right lead canter broke almost immediately upon our return home from lessons. Like, it was completely gone. It was alarming, but the ability to trot to the right without flailing nonsense also disappeared at the same time, sooooo… tracking right was just screwed?

I’d ask for the right lead and for him to sit and carry himself. He’d take two or three strides and then do an awkward trot skip change to the left lead. Back to walk, ask again. I eventually got fed up with that nonsense and double leg pony club kicked him forward on the right lead. You can’t trot and change if you’re hand galloping! That seemed to help a lot- it made my leg a bit more meaningful.

This was super fun. Why can't working on self carriage be this fun?

It is such a SLOG. It isn’t fun for either of us. I feel like I’m going to the gym every day and lifting the same 10 pound weight for a half hour. No switching it up, just keep lifting it while waiting for it to get easier.

On the bright side, before I started all of this, I was panicking because I couldn’t do the 10m half circle to 10m half circle in 2-2 and 3-3 without him falling on his face or bulging or running off (or some combination of those). I have slowly started adding that back, and he’s much much better about it and has stopped flailing through it.

As much as I say this was a slog to get through, about 2 weeks into it, things starting looking up and we had more good in our rides than bad. By the end of week 3 (when it was time to go back for another round of lessons), I was actually happy and was having good rides that lasted about 20-25 minutes. Penn was rising to the occasion and trying so very hard. He's not always right or perfect, but he's giving 150% in every ride in the canter. I can feel the trot is going in the right direction to actually allow a good medium trot to develop.

Maybe we'll get a few more of these tri-color ribbons this year?
We did OK at second and third last year without much self carriage.
Managed to get a champion at each level at some point at recognized shows we went to!

In our last ride before lessons he was holding himself so well in the canter that I started mixing changes back in. The final set of changes I did went like this: tracking right on the circle, canter on the left lead. Flying change to the right lead (which he landed in a balanced canter!). Finish the circle, then go across the K-B diagonal and ask for the right to left change. Get that balanced and be straight on the next long wall, then for shits and giggles ask for the left to right change (which would change to the counter canter). He gave the 3rd change! He lasted a few strides before ending up in a heap when we hit the corner on his weaker lead in counter canter. But he got all the pats and love and we quit for the night. He tried so hard, gave zero sass, and had boring changes!

Next up, more lessons! Because that has become a goal, get down to visit GP Trainer more. I need more help these days since we're in new territory!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2/17-18/2018 Lessons - You Have a Self Carriage Problem (And GP Trainer takes Penn for a spin)

It's been a while since these two lessons, but I don't want to skip over them because they were really good and set me up for the last 3-4 weeks of work.

It started snowing as soon as we arrived. Penn was thrilled to stand out in it.
I was glad I brought some of his waterproof clothes just in case he got a stall with a run!

I made my way back to VA several weekends ago for lessons while GP Trainer was home for a weekend. I was super excited, the counter canter work was going really well and Penn was so much more balanced in the counter canter, and then the regular canter by default.

My first lesson of the weekend ended up being a bit of a drag. Literally. This horse found a new avoidance- dragging me around the ring. I couldn’t keep up with the cues he needed or stop him.

GP Trainer really liked how his work was coming along, everything was stronger looking. As we warmed up, she pushed me to make my simple changes better- ask for FEI response simple changes, not second level response simple changes (something I need to school in all of our work).

I love how smooth the transition to renvers is!
Ok, so this isn't good work, it's just a funny reaction to the half halt.
I love love LOVE the start of this counter canter. So upright! He struggled to keep it but we finished strong!

Things went well, so she had me start adding back the flying changes. We asked for the changes out of CC on a circle, and he was giving me late changes. The left to right change was better than the right to left (as it has been for the last few months).

Tiny and a bit clustered, but clean with no leaping!

We started picking apart the bad change a little bit by putting his haunches in while still counter cantering. He wants to step out with his right hind in the change (the outside hind since we’re CC on the right lead while tracking left), so we need to encourage him to load it and keep it under him without swinging his haunches around.

Late with a disengaged right hind.

Well, Penn disagreed most vigorously. The horse hasn’t “run away” with me before, but he dragged me around the ring in this lesson. I needed to be faster in giving and releasing my aids, and I just wasn’t fast enough. I needed to catch him before he ran off, but I just couldn’t. Running off in changes is a huge no-no for GP Trainer. It makes multiple changes difficult because you know… the horse is running off instead of preparing for the next change.

This was an unexpected response and the only amusing one. GP Trainer let him have that one, If only because he didn’t drop his front end.
None of what happened here was my idea. He just took over.

We struggled to pick up the counter canter after that. It was just depressing and I felt defeated.  As I worked on the change, he started giving this awkward trot skip change (which I know another horse who does it and her rider wasn’t able to break the habit). We ended up quitting on a change that was late, but quiet.

But wait! All hope was not lost. I had another lesson the next day. So I asked, “Do you want to ride him tomorrow?”

She agreed to!

As I was untacking him, I noticed some blood on his hoof... he just seems hell bent on destroying his feet. During one of his nonsense porpoise jumps, he must have overreached and stepped on the outside heel bulb of his front left hoof.

Please stop damaging your legs. All 4 now have various marks and ailments, some of which are permanent.
(this picture was taken under the red heat lamps in the wash stall)

I always travel with a trunk of stuff for wraps- cotton, no bows, vet wrap, duct tape, diapers etc. You probably noticed the blue vet wrap in the first picture on this post- I wrapped up his foot for the night to keep it clean and give it some cushion to keep it from getting sore overnight. The wrap did a good job- it sealed the flap of skin nice and tight to where it should be and he came out nice and sound.


I got him all tacked up the next day (with a new gauze pad + vet wrap + bell boots), and a little sad that I had copped out on riding him myself. But in reality, he has had a trainer on him… 4 times? Event trainer rode him once for fun when he came home, twice when he was ignoring me or acting naughty, and Megan rode him once last summer. Everything else has been me. He’s had a few other riders on him because swapping horses is fun, but not many. I was looking forward to seeing him with GP Trainer!

The first thing she did was put leg on and not take it off. The next thing she did was not let him lean on her hand. No pressure on her hands at all. He had to carry himself.

He did not like that. He pulled the same stopping and backing up that he pulls with me. Her words were, “If you’re having anger management issues over the walk, you’re in for a rough 45 minutes.” As they moved on to trot and canter, he would voice his displeasure over the amount of leg she was applying by trying to kick her leg.

She said she was applying the same aids that I was, just harder and more often. She also said he’s 70% on the bit and 70% straight. He needs to be 100% in both, but he’s talked me into 70%. His self carriage needs a lot of help.

She went back to the counter canter and attacked the changes. He gave her a clean left to right change, and then she started picking at the right to left. He started giving her the same issues I had- not picking up the counter canter, not maintaining it, trying to bolt through her. She got him stopped before he even took the first step into his bolts. It only took one or two attempts and her stopping him to make him stop trying that option. I was secretly happy that she didn’t immediately get clean changes, but she did finish with one clean right to left change.

GP Trainer riding the sticky right to left change.

Then she said, “Go get your helmet and boots!”


I had to run back to the barn to get my stuff on, and before I hopped up, she had me grab the reins by the bit and pull on her hand- she then did this weird vibrating motion with her hands. It is impossible to describe, all I can say is it’s very fast tiny motions through to the elbow that prevent him from finding a spot to lean on the bit… forcing him to carry himself.

It was AMAZING riding after her. He listened to my leg! He was light in my hand! It felt like he could keep cantering on as he was for forever! I asked for a single flying change, left to right, and she said he changed the hind, then two strides later changed the front. A perfectly acceptable mistake.

We did some canter to the right, and while he still swapped leads out on me, he wasn’t bolty anymore, and we got some great “mistakes” as he tried to change leads and sit and got stuck.

He sits so hard when he gets stuck!

She commented that he wasn’t easy, and that he felt very very similar to her last grand prix horse (who was the most successful of the 5 or so she’s brought up). They both have big powerful hindquarters, are built fairly level, and neither want to be completely straight or on the bit. I told her, being compared to that horse isn’t a bad thing!

A few things she noted:

  • In 6 months or so, we can talk about stepping the canter more forward again and letting him float a bit within the canter. He will FINALLY be strong enough in the near to mid future to balance himself and carry more forward.
  • His issues are self carriage issues, not flying change issues. If I don't touch the changes for a month, and only focus on improving his self carriage, his flying changes will still improve because his self carriage will have improved. Even if I don't canter much and spend my time struggling in the walk, I will STILL be improving his changes.
  • All of this work is going to be SO HARD for him. He is going to be exhausted. Rides are going to be short because he's going to run out of gas in the tank.

I'm sharing the whole video of me riding after her- there's so much good stuff about letting him make mistakes, how what we're doing is so hard, and how I need to judge his responses against both of those things. He's going to make honest to goodness mistakes and he's also going to tell me to go pound salt. I have to be smart about deciding which response he's giving me.

I am SO GLAD I had GP Trainer ride him at the start of my second lesson. She got to feel everything, and fix things, and I got to have a great ride!! I ENJOYED my horse again. I asked her if she would be willing to sit on him at the start of our next visit, for as long as she feels she needs to (15-20 min like this, or the whole 45 min), and she said sure (I mean, it’s not like she’d say no I think lol). But this way, she can evaluate him and work on the right to left change, and then I can have a better learning experience because she’s schooled him. We’re to a point that is beyond anything Mikey and I did, so the extra help is awesome!

She gave us homework to keep working on his self carriage. He's not to touch my hand, and if he's leaning on me at all, no doing changes. I don't have a flying change problem, I have a self carriage problem! Simple homework right? Ha!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Turnout Boots

I have a few posts in the queue, but I mostly need time to edit the media, so you get an update on Penn's turnout boot situation instead of riding situation.

Back in 2016, I started Penn's bubble wrap journey:

Project Bubblewrap

Penn goes through periods of severe interference as he progresses through training. If I start working on something new, or a new degree of difficulty, he tends to go outside and fancy prance by himself, forgetting where his feet go. This results in bumps and scuffs. Thankfully, none of the injuries have been too bad. He's also getting to a point in his training where I can't have him sidelined by weird bumps and scrapes. He plays too hard with his "friends" and he's a bit of an ass. His friends have been chosen specifically because he can harass them and they give limited flack back, but I'm not taking any chances!

I ordered him Majyk Equipe dressage boots in summer 016, and they have been wonderful.

I don't think you can get this particular version anymore. This is an old photo from earlier in my blog.

I was EXTREMELY happy with them. It annoyed me that they lost their white color so quickly, but they did the job. They held up to 11-16 hours of turnout at a time, worn almost every day, for the last year and a half. They never lead to fungus or crud, they were easy to wash, and dried very quickly. He was never hot and sweaty under them, even in summer.

Unfortunately, in the last few months I noticed they were on their last legs. Not only were they falling apart (the strike plate and padding under it started to give, but the velcro remained perfect), but the fronts rubbed Penn behind the knee as the nylon edging aged. He developed little lumps, which scabbed and peeled. Months after they appeared, they're finally smooth again. I stopped using the fronts as soon as I noticed the bumps and put him in old fleece DSB, but it was too late.

He has matching white lines on his front legs now. Sigh.

If you remember, a few months ago, Penn stepped all over himself while in turnout.

He ripped a hole in the coronary band on his right front.
Which resulted in bell boots.

A side note about the hole in his hoof...

There is a huge hollow hole in the hoof wall. I've been trying to clean it out as best I can (thanks JenJ for the suggestion of diluted betadine through an old needle and syringe to flush it!), and then putting some anti-bacterial stuff in it (the purple stuff, I have no idea what it is, but a farrier told me to use it). At the front edge of the crack, you can see a vertical crack going down- the wall is going to crack away under the main hole soon (the dark area under the hole on the white hoof wall).
I have him on 40mg of biotin a day, trying to get that to grow out as fast as possible, and it is. We never made it to a 7 or 8 week shoeing cycle this winter, the best we did was 6 weeks.

Penn has a bump on the left pastern that was rubbed raw by the bell boots. I've used other bell boots before, to the same results. He can't wear them all the time, and I'm not asking the barn staff to take them on and off every night (or wash them, because mud), which lead me to search for a new turnout boot.

LeMieux Turnout Boots

I eventually settled on these- I found them in the UK on sale for $45ish a pair, so I ordered 2 pairs of medium boots. I was hoping they would be long enough to cover his coronary band, but at least they'll cover the fetlock and pastern (another one of Penn's favorite places to scratch up)!

Trying them on when they arrived.

They are a neoprene-like material, which I am not happy about, but they have a very fine mesh over what LeMieux calls "airprene", so it's not in complete direct contact with the leg. The airprene is perforated in the same way the ME boots were. The velcro is very strong, but I have trouble keeping the bottom strap's hook velcro clean enough to hold.

Penn has been wearing them for about 2 months now. They're easy to apply and they do keep the leg clean and dry under the boot. We had a winter monsoon season recently (I'm sure it's going to keep happening), and they have kept his legs dry and clean from the mud. They are fairly easy to clean off, hose power will wash off the bulk of the dirt, and a stiff brush with a rinse removes the rest.

He loves the mud. Facepalm.

Penn did develop scratches under one of the hinds- I don't think it's related to the boots themselves. I was MIA for 5 days or so due to illness and weather, so I wasn't out to clean anything. He was wearing all 4 in the mud and only 1 leg developed horrible scratches, the other 3 legs were pristine (a point towards it's not the boots). I put his ME hind boots on so that his leg could breathe, and swapped out pairs of these up front each day.

All clean... except for that blanket!

The only problem is that they take a while to dry, which is why I was swapping out the fronts when he was wearing his ME hinds. I would come out in the evening, put the clean boots by his stall for the next day's turnout, and rinse and hang the current day's boots. I think this is a "temporary" problem, seeing as how it's mud season and cold (45F in the barn), which doesn't encourage the boots to dry fully while he's in his stall. It was 50 and sunny the other day, so I hung the boots outside and they were dry by the time I went home (about 3 hours after washing).

The boots are quite good at keeping his legs clean and dry... where they cover them, lol!

They don't come down low enough to cover his coronary band, which makes me wonder if I should order a bigger size, or if there was another version available before. Some of the pictures show the boots stretching from knee to mid hoof, but I don't get the feeling that these will. I'm debating ordering a pair of larges, just to see if they'll cover the coronary band. We'll always have mud here in PA, so extra sets won't be bad to have on hand anyway!

I'll keep you posted on how they do with summer turnout and heat (I'm excited for the full fly protection that goes with full leg protection!), but so far, I like them. Penn hates the hind ones, he spends a bit of time trying to kick them off each morning. I still like the ME boots for turnout- if these bite the dust, I'll reorder ME dressage boots. I'll just have to put a time limit on their usage- maybe a year?