Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bits and Bridles and All Sorts of Things

I've been so busy this past week that I feel as though I have seriously been neglecting my blog, not to mention that my mental list of updates for you guys has grown so long that I can't even remember what I wanted to say anymore.

Let's see what has been going on this week...

I worked another weekend at the horse show (last weekend) and still have one more to do this weekend before I get a break from grooming for a couple of weeks. I feel as though I seriously have spent the last two months at Chagrin, and although I love doing it, I'm ready for a atmosphere change! In other news though, I secured a new job as a barn manager at the place where M (the trainer I am grooming for) is now working out of. It's not a new facility, but it's under new ownership and the owners are looking to streamline the barn work and get the barn running smoothly. They practically begged me to come work for them, which I have to admit, made me feel pretty good. So far, I think that I have the hours and the pay that I was really looking for and I am excited to become a part of their "family" and help them establish their business....not to mention that a steady, sufficient paycheck would REALLY be helpful to my current life situation. It would be nice to finally save some money versus always living paycheck to paycheck, weighing my purchases on whether or not I will be able to afford the next month's board on Emmy (thank goodness the bf pays for Cool!) I would like to be able to put some money away for a new(er) car, hock/fetlock injections for Emmy and a nice joint supplement for Cool...not to mention some horse shows! I start Monday at the new job and will only be working 5 days a week! Woo hoo!! Who knew that barn jobs ever gave you so few days? I've been accustomed to working 6 days a week since I first started in the fancy "A" circuit hunter/jumper world 6 years ago, this is going to be the ultimate treat :)

So, with that news out of the way, here is the update on the el ponias:

Last week, Emmy took a couple of questionable steps on one of our rides. Not that she was really "lame" but she didn't quite feel right to me. I let her get ridden in her walk/trot lesson on Thursday, but since then she has been on turnout only. I got back on her today after almost a week of rest and she felt fabulous! I have put her back into her french link slow-twist d-ring (versus the double jointed happy mouth loose ring that I was working her in) also. The slow twist is what I have always ridden her in, but over the summer I was trying to soften her mouth back up a little and re-school her with the loose ring. It was a nice idea, but it really hasn't been working and I have come to accept the fact that Emmy just needs some extra brakes when working over jump/poles. It's not fair for me to get in a tug of war match with her mouth just because I want to ride her in "less" bit. I would rather bit her up just a little and be lighter with my hands versus trying to stop a run away freight train with a piece of string. There are some things that just are the way they are, and Emmy's bit is one of them. It reminds me a little of that old saying: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

So, back into the slow twist we went today Emmy was actually really good! For one, I had brakes in the corners (halleluiah!), for two, I was able to let the reins out a little longer and ride with a much softer arm, letting her stretch down without her getting heavy and hanging on me. I think that Emmy was silently thanking me for getting my head out of my rear and just riding her the way I always have. Sometimes I feel like she just looks right through me with those big brown eyes and thinks "...idiot."

I set up a course of poles tonight consisting of a single on the long side and a single on the diagonal, with a two stride on the other long side and a one stride on the other diagonal. Emmy started off really good, cantering quietly over the single pole on the long side and then down the single diagonal with a PERFECT, clean lead change, but the more we rode the more it started to fall apart and she wanted to run at the poles. I think this is something that is going to take some serious thinking and mental work on my part to keep my body out of her way to help get her to balance herself backwards without running. I know that her hocks are old, but after watching her run around the arena today in turnout, bucking and rearing and leaping in the air, I have to say that I think her hocks are good enough to canter quietly. All in all, it was a good ride and I was happy with it. I finished off with some transitions (with a few pretty strong half halts) to sharpen her up and get her more focused on me and not so much on "jumping." George Morris would say that the best way to work a horse is with transitions, so that is what I did/am going to do!

Cool on the other hand, has been incredibly spicy the past two weeks with a little bit of an attitude and I have to admit that his attempts to buck me off are getting a) old and b) ANNOYING. He's been off his rocker lately, dragging me around like a crazy horse and then wanting to buck and leap through the air. I had to give him two pretty good gallops over the past week and a half just to make him ride-able. He was pretty decent today, no bucking but he was making nasty faces when I was asking him to go forward. Finally, I got off and got the dressage whip out and after a few swats of that he was trit-trotting around like he couldn't be happier to do anything else. I worked him through the same course of poles as Emmy and he was SO good also!! Not only did he canter them all, but we got the majority of our distances and even (dun dun dun) LEAD CHANGES! The left to right was CLEAN and correct, while the right to left was a change in the front and then I had to circle him and kick a little with my outside leg to get it behind, but by god he got it! The extra circling/kicking made him a little wild going into the last line of the "course" (the two stride) and we practically ate the line for lunch. Either I accidentally set it really short or Cool's stride is getting bigger!

I've decided that we are going to canter poles at least 2-3 times a week and jump 2 times a week (no more than 3) for a little while. The poles are really helping me and him to learn to read each other and work as a team. Cool is a little bit more of a Johnny ride versus an Emmy ride (remember going through this with Johnny? Because I do!) and I really need to learn to feel his canter and not lean at him like I do with Emmy. He's so much lazier than her (on most days) that I really need to take some time to learn what is his best canter and where is stride is the best, without burning him out over fences or making him loose his confidence. At least with working over poles, if I mess it up than no one dies or gets hurt, we just try again!

This is a little like Johnny all over again I feel.

I was wanting to take Cool to a small schooling show next weekend but I'm not sure that he will be ready, especially with the new job starting, I'm still not sure how that will affect my riding time...and this whole weekend (fri-sun) is shot because of grooming at the horse show.

I also want to work on some position things for myself to improve my rides:

- Landing better in the heel over one time I had this going really well, but I'm so out of shape with jumping that its gone caputskies.

- Keeping the eyes up and looking to the next fence...this will in turn help my shoulder from getting ahead

- Riding FORWARD to decisions...STOP pulling to the chip! Also something that I had once fixed but is now gone by the wayside.

- Loosen up the low back and hip...why am I so stiff all the time now? UGH

- Video myself once a week (at least) to keep tabs on the riding and see how the improvements are going.

That's all for now!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A few photo updates

Here are some photo updates from last week's riding:

Oi Vey on the jumping position....George Morris would smack me if he saw this lol. I definitely need to shorten my stirrups a hole for jumping! That jump is also the out of a 4 stride line, and Emmy left like half a stride out! We trotted into the line, so it should have been a 5 stride line, but Emmy was like NOOOO ITS A FOUR! Lol Oh mare, she always thinks she knows best. However, I love her flat photo. That's my 26 year old baby!

In other news, the vet came out last Thursday and checked out Emmy and Cool. She pulled their coggins for the year and check their teeth. Cool has also had a lump on the side of his head for about 3 weeks. I was thinking that maybe it was in infected tooth or an abscess, but he had no nasal discharge and no bad breath. The vet checked him out and agreed that it was not a tooth. She actually thinks that its a mirco-fracture in his skull. Its a very bony lump with some fluid around it. Our vet told me to keep and eye on it and if it seems like its getting bigger than we will take some xrays, but as of right now, she thinks that its a fracture and unless you do surgery, there really is nothing to be done about it. It doesn't seem to bother him at all...I'll try to take some pictures of it for you guys.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Holiday Training Updates

I know that I'm about a week late, but I would still like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

This has been a really phenomenal week for the horses and me...well, maybe even just in general also! The bf had a nice long weekend with the holiday and we spent Christmas morning with my family followed by Christmas evening with his family. My wonderful parents bought me a new pair of clippers, which wasn't necessarily a surprise, since I picked them out at one of the local tack shop big sales (Dad wanted to make sure that they were the right ones) but I am still grateful none the less! My old pair finally crapped out on me while body clipping Cool. The bf limped them through finishing his face and ears but his hind legs are partially clipped from the hocks down still lol. Good thing he's chestnut with big white socks, it makes it hard to tell what a mess they are! The bf got me some wonderful gifts; a warm down riding jacket by Ariat and a pair of "expresso" colored breeches. I've been wanting a dark brown pair for so long! I think they just look so classy. The bf's mother gave us a very thoughtful gift...she had a photo of me, Emmy and Cool blown up and printed on canvas to hang. It's really beautiful.

Aside from all of the holiday stuff though, I've really been cracking down on my riding and Emmy and Cool have been wonderful (fingers crossed!) It's been a little difficult, since we have had non-stop snow since Wednesday, but I've managed to ride at least one horse a day and usually both of them if I can.

Wednesday I hacked them both, they were both pretty fresh from having multiple days off, but they were both good! Cool was pretty fresh but he didn't try to buck at all which I was very proud of him for. I tried to ride lots of figures, circles and changes of directions in the arena to re-organize his energy, versus just letting him barrel around on the rail with me hanging on his mouth. I try really hard to keep my horses mouth's soft and to re-soften them when I feel that they are starting to get hard or unresponsive. Let's be honest, I just don't like to have to work that hard to ride my own horses! The re-direction of his energy seemed to work well and we finished off with a good ride. Emmy was also pretty fresh, but she's much more seasoned and schooled in comparison to Cool, so she is more readily controllable lol. However, the past year or so Emmy has begin to bottle herself up and get behind the bit and hang on me when I ride and jump her. My big goal for this winter is to back up with her training a little bit and really work on getting her to relax and poke her nose out again versus just balling up and hanging on me. It's been a really hard call for me to make with her because I know that she's getting old and I'm sure that her hocks aren't feeling as good as they used to, but I really think that she will feel better in the long run if she stops getting into a little ball....I would think that it would be easier on her joints to get into a little longer shape versus into a ball, but maybe the hanging is because shes having a harder time rocking back on her haunches and carrying herself? She really should get her hocks injected, but I just can't afford it right now :/ Anyway...on with the rest of my weekly riding...

Thursday I set up some poles and a jump for Emmy. I had a cross rail on one long side, a set of 9ft bounce poles across the short side and a 4 stride line of poles on the opposite long side. I rode Emmy first and she was a little bit nutty. We started off with cantering the 4 strides poles individually, working over them in circular patterns versus just a straight line, since lately she's been wanting to just grab the bit and run. I've taken her out of her regular slow twist french link bit and put her into a loose ring happy mouth with a double joint. I think that I want to keep her in the loose ring for flat work and maybe eventually put her back into something a little stronger when I start jumping courses again with her, although that won't be happening for a little while yet. I've shown her in a rubber pelham ever since I started doing the hunters with her 7 years ago. We tried all sorts of different bits before realizing that she just really liked the pelham...and even with the pelham, I think I went through three of them before I ordered her the jointed rubber one. It worked perfectly for her for the last 6 years until she started stopping all the time and I decided that she just didn't want to jump anymore. I gave her almost a whole year off from jumping and just hacked her around for fun, but she started to get bored and sour. So, last winter I started seeing if she wanted to jump cross rails again. When she did readily, I began to work her slowly back over fences. This past spring, I decided to show her again and took her to a local A circuit hunter trainer for some lessons before taking her to a hunter derby (something that I always knew she would be good at). I was expecting to have a little bit of trouble with her, since she's always been a bit of a peeker/stopper when she's not continuously jumping flowers and boxes and walls, but I was completely unprepared for what I got. It took an hour just to get her back jumping an entire course. Once she was back "on it" she was perfect, just like she had always been. But every day was a battle. After a REALLY dirty stop at a show this summer (I can't believe I stayed on...I post the picture of it below) I was crushed with how she had performed and decided once again, that she just didn't want to jump anymore. I gave her the rest of the summer and fall off from jumping, and once again, she got sour. This is a horse who has always LOVED to be ridden and work, but once we moved to the boarding barn, she was just sour all the time. I tried to just let her get turned out and groomed, thinking that maybe she was finally done with being ridden but she stood in her stall with her ears flopped to the side every day. I tried to just hack her instead, she stood in the stall and the cross ties with her ears flopped. I used to go in her stall and just stand with her while she pressed her face against my chest and looked up at me with the saddest eyes. I lamented to my parents about her, hinting at the idea that I thought she was maybe hurting and needed some vet work. My parents consoled me but assured me that they couldn't afford to dish out any extra money for it. I was watching my horse slip away and I had no idea why...nothing seemed to make her happy anymore, her eyes were just so sad. Then one day, I had trot poles set up for Cool and I thought why not and trotted her over them. She immediately perked up, so I kept doing it and suddenly she she started to brighten up again, her ears came forward in the cross ties, she started whinnying to me again when I came into the barn. And I thought to myself, "this horse just wants to jump again." So, Thursday I asked to jump a cross rail. I walked her up to it the first time to let her sniff it, thinking that she would for sure try to stop at it, but instead, she jumped it from a stand still! Something that she never does...after that she was DRAGGING me to the jump. I felt bad to keep pulling on her mouth but she was crazy! She launched through the bounce poles and just seemed SO excited. This is when I hatched the plan about fixing her.

Friday I rode both horses and once again, set up some poles and a small cross rail, this time with a flower box under it. I had trot poles set up on the short side of the arena and then 9ft bounce poles again on the opposite long side. I rode Cool first, he was really good with the trot poles but was wanting to seriously drift left through the canter poles when cantering left. He's also been having some trouble all of the sudden with picking up his left lead. I'm not sure if he is hurting or if his body and muscles are changing and he's just got to figure out his balance again. The left has always been his hard direction. The vet is coming Thursday to check him out and do some routine stuff so I will mention it to her. Jumping him was alright...he's also started to rush the jumps a little bit, which I think is alright for him. I also hate to pull on his mouth when he dragging me, but he does need to learn to half halt. I've been riding him on a really loose draw rein and he's doing wonderful with that! I think his rushing to the jump is really just because he's getting more confident with himself. He used to be very wussy about getting up to the jump so I think that he's just feeling better about himself and its translating into rushing. I think it will end up alright though!

After Cool, it was Emmy's turn. She's only a 15.1 hand horse, but let me tell you, she's got a monster stride when she wants too. I started her with the trot poles, which she was perfect with and then moved on to the canter bounce poles (after trotting them both directions). I let her just canter at first to see if she would back herself off, but as usually, she just wanted to barrel through them. I kind of forgot how big her step can get until that day! I flatted her for a bit, taking continuous breaks to walk her up to the cross rail with the flower box. She really wanted nothing to do with it at first, but I finally got her to stand by it for a little while. (I had her eyes checked over the summer...she can see just fine) I eventually got off her and took the cross rail down to just poles and walked her over it in hand. It took some coaxing, but finally she tried to leap over it. I kept walking her in  hand until she stopped jumping it, then I got back on her and did the same thing. When she stopped trying to jump it, I asked her to trot up to it and did a slow sitting trot. She jumped it the first few times and when she finally stopped jumping and started just trotting over it, I gave her big pats and kisses and put it back up to a cross rail. We jumped that little both directions, but instead of just coming at it from a straight line, I approached the jump on a circle, and on a diagonal, trying to break up the "straight line grab the bit and run" thing (maybe I should do this with Cool too!) when she got heavy on the landing, I circled her over the trot poles and let her correct herself. In the end, she was jumping amazing and quiet. I think we are going to to a lot of this! Just slowing down and getting quiet over very small jumps with flowers.

Saturday I hacked Cool and my friend videoed...I will post some photos below!

I hacked Emmy again the other night and she was super good! I also have a video of that, but I need to upload it still. Both horses have had a couple days off because of the holiday, but we are back to riding today!


As promised...Emmy's dirty stop!