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!