Thursday, October 22, 2009

Being a "Thinking Rider"

Our first IHSA show of the season is rapidly approaching (just two more days!) and out team held our final practice for the week tonight. I rode first in my hunters class where we worked on being "thinking horsemen" and assessing the root problem that each individual horse was showing as we warmed up. After a quick talk, M sent us all off by ourselves to work on each horses weakness. At the end of the class, we reconviened to show each horses improvement. It was a really good lesson in being a "thinking rider" and coming up with different solutions for each problem and each horse as an individual. Although we didn't jump, it was a good class and a good lesson for us all!

After that, I got my IHSA horse ready. He was a pretty lazy one...not my favorite to ride because he would perfer to just stick his nose out and drag himself around rather than come round and rock back on his haunches, but we did pretty well and got some nice compliments from M. I felt like my sitting trot was definetly better than the last practice. Sitting trot used to be my stong point! What happened? I have no idea....but I've been working on it with Johnny, which I feel like has helped.

I jumped him again the other night. He was pretty good aside from stopping the first time (for which he got his butt kicked...I mean was a freaking 18" cross rail...) and after that he jumped very well. He flatted even better which made me happy :)

I took the night off from the barn today because I haven't been feeling so well. Two of my friends have already come down with the H1N1 strain of flu and I'm trying to avoid getting sick at all costs. Tomorrow I will go ride Johnny and then the farrier is coming to do his tootsies :)

More later. Wish us all good luck at our first show! We are leaving Saturday and showing Sunday down at OSU!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let the Process Begin....

My trainer came the other day for a lesson and we worked through our Intro B dressage test to pin-point the problem areas. Overall, the test itself was pretty decent...the spots where I thought we would run into trouble (turn onto/off of center line and the halt) weren't actually bad at all (Johnny wanted to step right a bit in the hault but he corrects himself quickly when you catch him with your leg) but the places that I knew we would have trouble (aka the free walk) definetly needed some improvement. Not only that, but Johnny still has a hard time keeping his consistant 4-beat walk and 2-beat trot because of his weak left hock. From just a normal perspective, he looks just fine, but when an experienced eye (like a  dressage judge) really breaks it down, you can see that he pushes harder with some legs than others. For example; his walk is more like a onetwo-THREE-four instead of a one-two-three-four because he swings his left leg in a bit when he brings it forward (to avoid having to fully use his hock.) There is no real "soundness" issue with him, just a weakness that hasn't been addressed prior to him becoming a riding horse...probably a little arthritis as well which I've been trying to manage with joint supplements and some yucca and devils claw. I'm also thinking about trying heat therapy on the area prior to work and seeing if that helps own physical therapist reccomended it for me, and my problems arn't so different than Johnnys.

Anyway, in our lesson we worked on establishing the true gaits through some lengthening and shortening exercises to get his back up and his hind legs working underneith him. We also worked on his sitting trot, which is hard for him because he tenses his back muscles and makes it almost impossible to sit to. K had me work ona circle and move around on him, experimenting with a different way to move my hips to get him to break up his back tension. We found out that if you swing your hips more "side-to-side" for a while, he realeases then tension in his muscles and lets his back swing propery...and his sitting trot is actually quite comfortable!

At the end of our lesson, I rode the test again with a COMPLETELY different horse underneith me and we did really well...we even got a real free walk!

Unfortunatly, since then I've managed to come down with a cold and haven't ridden Johnny in two days. I ran him around (free lunged) in the indoor today and wouldn't you know that he cantered just fine on that sticky right lead. Not only was he balanced, but he also held it all the way around the arena, making circles and such also! I am thoroughly convinced now that he really just doesn't understand the leg cue for it (long story behind that one, but long story short...I am not the cause of that problem...really, I'm not.) because he seems perfectly confortable to canter on it and K's theory about his hock weakness being the problem clearly isnt the problem without a rider on his back. I think it may be more of a balance and understanding issue than anything. I'm sure we'll find out soon at least.

First IHSA show is this weekend...I hope this cold clears up by then because I almost DIED in practice today. Two rounds of no-stirrups with a cold doesn't work so well when the crap in your nose and throat is preventing you from breathing properly. I know you all wanted that visual ;)

Til next time!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Standardbred Show Horses

I know this may sound strange coming from the new owner of a Standardbred gelding, but I just wanted to take the time to say how severly under-estimated the Standardbred breed is. Ever since getting Johnny, I've been doing lots of research about the breed and the success that many of these horse have had after coming off the racetrack. Onterio has a really great Standardbred club called "Standardbred Showcase" which hosts an annual Standardbred show. The website has a really great video commercial for the show and the horses shown in it are BEAUTIFUL. For anyone who doesn't think that the Standardbred breed has anything to offer, check out this website and the videos at the bottom of the page.

Here is the link for the commercial on YouTube:

Check it out!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Johnny plays...dressage??

"Hunter pace this weekend?" The text flashed across my cell phone screen.

"No :( " I replied "I have barn tours"


"Hunter show next weekend?"

Reply: "IHSA show :)"


"You're killing me. dressage show nov 1st?"

I started to type "No way...we cant--" when I looked up to to horse trotting circles around me. I was in the middle of the indoor arena and E was working Johnny through some cavaletti exercises. When I first got Johnny, my orginally goal (as had once been with Emmy) was to make him a low level event horse. Eventing was something I had grown up doing. Even when Emmy and I made the transition to hunters after a scary stadium crash, I still rode with an event trainer. It had seemed to fit Johnny well. He was by no means a fancy mover...but he was level headed, smart and almost never tapped the rails on the jumps. He would never be tight enough with his front end to be competitive in the hunters, but he was definetly a safe and servicable enough jumper to play around in the Beginner Novice divisions for a summer. Not to mention that he wasn't afraid of anything (a trait that I ESPECIALLY adored after showing everything's-going-to-eat-me Emmy for 7 years.)

Those had been the goals at least. I worked all summer developing his jump form, teaching him to be quicker, smarter and more aware of his legs. We schooled on the neighbors property over fallen trees and log piles, I put together "gates" from old scraps of wood. I spent so much time riding him that I never really knew exactly what we looked like together until a friend of mine came one day with a camera to help work Johnny through a grid combination.

It wasn't until I saw that pictures that I thought maybe I had been wrong about eventing. Not only was Johnny getting his knees up now, but they were tight and square and he was "wearing the bridle" like it was his job. He had a beautiful soft facial expression over the jumps with his ears perked forward as if he would like nothing better that to spend all day flying through the air. When I brought him to college, he jumped right into his new training program with vigor and enthusiasm. His topline began to come together, this paces evened out and grew steadier. The horse that I had put into the "eventing because he's not pretty enough to be a hunter" category was starting to prove me wrong, so when I my best friend asked me if we wanted to show dressage, my first thought was "No way! The judge will laugh at us." Besides, Johnny had never even done a dressage test.

And as I stood there watching E ride, I realized that there were a lot of things in life that Johnny had also never done. When I got him, he had never been ridden. He had never cantered, he had never jumped, he had never been clipped or shown or had his mane pulled and braided...

Who was I to say that this horse could and couldn't do?

I hit the clear button on my phone and backspaced.

"Pick us up?"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Break

Back from fall break where I went up to New York to visit my boyfriend for a few days. E stayed at school and took care of Johnny, who also enjoyed a break from training. He got hacked just a couple times and the rest of the week he got to enjoy spending time outside and just being a horse. I just got back tonight and so I haven't seen him yet, but I'm sure his brain is in a much happier place right now :)

I talked to K and she is coming out again on Thursday to do another lesson. I'm a college student who pays for my horses myself and therefore don't have a ton of extra money to throw around, but I figure that a few lessons here and there really help Johnny and I, so I can justify splurging a few times a semester when necessary. I'm hoping that by spring semester Johnny will be solid enough that I can maybe haul him to school and ride him in my riding classes every now and then. That would be GREAT for him!

I was looking through old show pictures of Emmy and I and it made me kind of sad to remember how things used to be back before college and the economic recession. I took lessons at least once a week and was off showing almost every weekend. With John being half-leased, I don't get to ride him very much at all :(

Just for old times sake, here are a few pictures of Emmy and me. Most of them are pretty old...taken when I was about 15 or 16.
(I always showed her as Emmy's Last Dance but she is USHJA registered as In Vogue)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rainy Days

So clearly I have been neglecting my blogging because I haven't updated in quite a while. After our lesson with K a few weeks ago, Johnny has been doing better and better, learning to engage his hind end and back muscles. He's also been doing really well over fences (although he did dump E for the first time the other day...but then again she shouldn't have jumped but other than that Johnny has been improving greatly.

We were supposed to go to a hunter pace today, but the weather hasn't exactly cooperated this week. It's been raining for almost a week straight and so we decided to pull out of the event for fear of injuring John's legs.
He hasn't gotten out too much this week either, which also hasn't been so good for him :(

Here are a few photos from today though :)
This is from the only sunny day this week!