Monday, March 28, 2016

APB: Right lead has gone missing

Quick post before I jump on yet another plane - this time San Diego for the hotel but daily border crossing into Tijuana for the work portion.  Try not to be jealous.

Last week CO had a major temper tantrum and threw out a surprise blizzard for Wednesday after being 78 degrees on Tuesday.  I love the dry climate but it seems to lead to some severe weather shifts.

Crazy border collies LOVE surprise blizzards
So last Monday night I was able to ride outside, with a very happy and mostly exciteable Odin.  He was largely obedient just quick and kind of tense with plenty of squealing and jumping to demonstrate said excitement.  The weather was perfect and we were loving life. Cantered both ways with minimal theatrics and got both leads.

Then Wednesday kind of threw a damper on the rest of the week.  And my soul. He was longed every day but didn't get ridden again until my lesson Saturday morning.  Please come back spring, I miss you already.

The lesson was pretty good, nothing super special, just continuing to work on the same old stuff, rhythm and Odie carrying his own head around.  We did lots of circles and turns and figure 8s to help with the rhythm, you could practically see the steam coming from his brain from all the thinking.

Then Sunday he got a training ride and got to do his favorite thing
WHEEE..then some post jumping flails

That was all his first jump, he was a total gentleman after that - video proof!

But interestingly, during regular his canter work, he could not pick up his right lead.  Which is completely opposite of his usual canter issues.  I haven't done enough young horses to know if this is normal or not but he went from favoring his right lead to completely losing it.

Tonight when I rode him it was more of the same and I could feel how frustrated he was by not being able to do it.  Like, where the hell did I put that stupid right lead???  IT WAS JUST HERE 5 SECONDS AGO.
He lands right off the jumps but seems to have confused himself on a regular transition.  Never a dull moment!

Sometimes he looks so derpy.  But shiny!

R2 has the week off of her normal job so, weather permitting, he will be getting baby boot camp over fences and the quest for the missing right lead will begin.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Baby brain strain

Odin had a hard working weekend and it clearly pushed him to his baby brain limits.
I must protest these requests

While I was off living the high life (HAHA business travel is not what it is cracked up to be.  20 hours of travel each way IN COACH for 36 hours in country, jet lag, sleep deprivation, etc), CO weather made it a pretty quiet week for him.  Tuesday and Wed he had trainer rides although Wed's was cut short by heavy winds, then Thursday and Friday it was snowy and trainer R didn't even get to the barn.

So by Saturday, Odie was ready to rock.  First he was allowed running around time in the indoor before everyone came for the day.  Later, I opted to let R2 ride him since I had just gotten home the night before and after 11 hours of sleep was still not recovered.

He was still pretty up while she tacked him up (chewing on the cross ties, dancing, "helping" groom) so she threw him on the longe for awhile.   He was actually pretty good there, mostly holding his leads and acting obedient although he definitely needed this pre-ride.

Nice uphill canter transition
After all that, he was still kind of spazzy when she climbed on.  That is when I realized what a genius decision I made having him get a trainer ride that day.  Not that he does anything bad per se, you just really have to ride and your timing and aids have to be really on which I was not in any position to do (I hopped on a friend's broke horse Ollie later that day and had a nice, easy ride).

It took something like 15 minutes of trotting before he settled down enough to focus. Before that it was more, drop behind the bit, lay on hands, pretend I can't go straight, cock my head, WHY IS NONE OF THIS WORKING?

Oh, is this better?
Then she had him canter in both directions and finally, jump a small course!  He was dead tired by that point and could barely muster any enthusiasm.  R2 trotted him in to everything and he quietly popped over and cantered away from each.
You bet there were some grunting sound effects associate with this effort

I wish I could ride that R2, she makes it look so easy.  I was able to appreciate that even more on Sunday, when it was my turn.  No pictures from Sunday, but Odin was clearly sore and tired from his hard workout the day before.

Understandable, but big boy baby horses now have to come out and work even when it is hard.

We started out with a long walk to stretch out those muscles and he was perfect for the first few minutes of trotting each direction.  Totally lovely, can't wait til he is that horse all of the time.  Then I am not sure if he loosened up or was just having a toddler melt down but he wanted to be DONE.

Trotting poles on Sat, he did this perfectly at first on Sunday too.
There was kicking at the leg, kicking the wall, squealing, ear pinning, head tossing, more squealing.  At one point he cantered three strides directly sideways.  Then he realized how hard that was (and it was also a lovely canter, horse if that is the kind of temper tantrum you throw, please keep it up) and stopped.  I just had to ride through it.  My trainer said I was riding really well so hopefully that is true because Odin never really fully settled.

I certainly wasn't going to get off when he was sassing but I also believe he was actually tired and sore so I tried to walk the fine line there.  He finally started giving me obedient work that was a little tense and quick but what I was asking for instead of trying to blow me off. After he was able to maintain that, take a walk break, and come back and do it a second time in a row, I let him be done.

It was kind of a mouth gapey weekend
Overall, I think it was a good experience for him.  He seems to soak up knowledge and hopefully he learned a lesson or two.  I am very grateful for the professionals I have available and the dedication they have to my horse and how he is moving along.  I have this week in town before my next couple trips, if the weather cooperates I need mad saddle time so I can come along as fast as my horse!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Next Level and Skipping Town

No media from this weekend, but Odin had another good one.  We had a great hack outside on Friday after work.  Laid back and not too strenuous but Odie was pretty light in the bridle and quiet.  We cantered both ways and picked up both leads - although there was a slightly too enthusiastic depart going left, nothing terrible.

Trainer R came out as we were finishing up and said that she feels he is ready for the next step in his training program.  This mostly translates to just a slight increase in what we ask him for and being slightly more discerning in what we accept.

And a smidge more negative feedback when he does something wrong.  Basically, he is ready for a bit more pressure and a bit more discipline.

On the discipline side this mostly applies to the know I hesitate to even call it rooting because he really just sort of leans on your hands but R says it is time to really bump him back up when he does that.  Not like we will be floating his teeth but just really insisting he doesn't lay on you.

She also mentioned that going right - his weaker way - he tends to throw off his rider's balance same and sort of push you to the left as you post.  She plans to investigate why that is more, but he is probably just moving somewhat crooked that way.  So we will work on that.

This tied in to our lesson Saturday where we have achieved massively obvious one sidedness.  Going left, we look hella good. People ooh and ahh.   Going right we are pretty remedial.  People (ahem trainers) cringe.  OK not really, but we both need to get stronger and straighter and find a rhythm.

It is my bad way too, my right shoulder has had issues since I was a teenager so my crookedness exacerbates his.

But we still had a lovely canter and did some trot poles.  On Sunday he had a trainer ride and got to jump.  R2 had to ride her ass off as Odin LOVES jumping and feels that jump height is a suggestion only.

First he leaped the poles, then he leaped the cross rail, then he finally settled in.  After the first time (leap and flail) he did canter away nicely and pays a lot of attention to his leads.  He mostly lands right, going either way, and really wants to swap to left.  R2 prefers the trot change for now since paying attention to all 4 legs for more than 30 seconds still poses a challenge but she believes Odie is going to have beautiful auto changes soon.
From his test ride, he got in awkwardly to his and still leaped it

And hopefully they will have less squealing (what is life without sound effects??). Although I don't know if I want that to go away, I find it infinitely charming that he makes dolphin squeals when he is proud of himself or is doing something he finds difficult.  Personality for days!

And on that note, I have a quick work trip to Europe - leaving tomorrow and coming back Friday.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Slightly less perfect horse makes the human work for it

As we knew would happen from time to time, last night's ride was a bit of a mess.  Which was probably about 50% young horse not focusing and 50% overtired human bringing her life stress to the ring.

But to step back and give credit where it's due, Monday's ride was great.  See, Odin is still learning how to deal with crowded rings.  I imagine to an off the track horse, riding in rings makes no sense.  Hell, oftentimes it makes no sense to me and in theory I have the higher functioning brain in this relationship.
Self serve grazing

Plus, I don't think he spent much, if any, time in an indoor before he came to me.  He started his retraining last May, then was off most of the fall with the popped splint, then came to me at Thanksgiving.  And our indoor isn't very large.  So at first, he was pretty uncomfortable with more than one or two other horses in there and was more than willing to let them know if they got too close with a warning kick.

Side note, I did always tell people that I was bringing a brand new green horse who needed personal space in to ride with them, but I guess their idea of personal space and Odie's were not always the same.

With time and careful exposure, he pretty quickly realized that this was how life worked in the ring and stopped the defensiveness.  But that has morphed into wanting to chase the other horse's around, which also makes sense.  For awhile, if another horse started cantering, we pretty much had to stop and stand in the middle because the excitement just made his little brain fall straight out of his head.

Now he can usually continue to function as long as the horse isn't getting overly excited or acting naughty, but it definitely takes more work for the rider.

Well on Monday, there were up to 7 (SEVEN!) horses in the ring with us at one time.  Our biggest challenge to date.  And he was great.  It is possible that the volume of horses just overwhelmed him and actually made him pay more attention to me.  Because he was definitely listening well instead of trying to drag me to his friends.  And we practiced walking next to another horse, then trotting away, trotting past other horses, turning and trotting past them the other way.....he did it all politely.
Mooching off the barn kids with his Jedi Master

Then last night happened.  As soon as I climbed on, I had a suspicion I would be getting off again shortly.  Odin has pretty good manners for mounting but last night as I was swinging on, he danced sideways into the mounting block.  Then feigned surprise when he hit it and danced the other way.  Hmm, strike 1.

Then as I was walking around, another horse trotted a pole somewhat close by and he squealed loudly and started prancing in place.  Strike 2.

Finally, as I asked him to trot off he surged forward, bumped his butt, and then kicked out.  Oh yeah, Strike 3.  10 minutes in the box.  And by box, I mean longe line.
Where shenanigans can happen safely

Usually it is hard to motivate him on the longe but this time, he was off like a shot.  He literally grabbed the line in his mouth and took off bucking.  I yanked it out of his teeth which offended him but gave me a chance of actual equine control and he spent some time working it out.  He was definitely high as a kite but I am also considering if we need another round of estrogen as he was butt bumping and lead swapping all over the place.  R2 said to re-evaluate this weekend as it could be his stifles or that he was just too wild to control his body.

I had had a really long, tiring day at work which involved 3 hours talking to our IT department as well as my lunch hour dealing with Comcast (HATE) so I was tempted to just call it after longing but I decided to get back on.  This wasn't a terrible decision, but it was certainly a challenging ride.

Longing took the edge off so it was possible to work, but Odin still wasn't in his normal "how can I help you?" frame of mind.  There was quite a bit of rooting and trying to hang on the bit and getting speedy at the slightest provocation.  I was trying to hear my trainer's voice and not let him pick a fight, let him go on a loose rein whenever possible even for only a step or two, and use lots of circles, and direction changes to keep him engaged.  While keeping my damn upper body back and hands quiet.

Always great at snuggling
Let me tell you, keeping your hands quiet when your horse's head is all over the place isn't easy for me! Anyways, we muddled through and actually had some decent work, quite possibly despite my ineffectiveness.  His downward transitions (and there were oh so many of those) were really coming from behind, he trotted poles on the rhythm and didn't jump them, did some laterally work that isn't straight yet but wasn't half bad, and a few times we hit that sweet spot in the trot.  At the end when he was going nicely, I pushed a little too far and almost lost it all, but managed to end on an ok note.

Considering where he started and how we ended, in hindsight I think we did reasonably well, but I did have to pep talk myself because I know if I was in a lesson it would have gone better and I hate being trainer dependent.  But that is why we pay the pros and sometimes you do learn more struggle bus-ing it with yourself.  And neither horse nor human is any worse for the wear!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Perfect horse remains perfect

So last Monday we had a tougher ride.  By Odin standards anyways, he was pretty wild.  Kept scooting forward, dancing, squealing, and otherwise anything except working.

I got off and longed him and at first he was all, ugh, longing, this is dumb and I don't wanna.  Then he finally cantered and blew off some steam and threw a few bucks in.  When I got back on he was much more functional although still kind of unfocused.  Ha, and that is what I consider a backslide ride on this horse.  God I love him.  After that, I didn't get to ride again until Friday, trainer did some longing and riding and he got new shoes.  His feet look awesome, even just a few months in his heels and angles look much better.

Ever since then though he has been a total professional.  He still gets quick in the trot if my shoulders move forward at all, but as long as I stay tall, he holds the pace.  Damn green horse making me think while I ride.  And he has really started to lift in the back, his trot feels entirely different.

Cheesing for the camera

Saturday he had a training ride and got glowing remarks.  He cantered some poles on the ground, offered a lead change (although he isn't really ready for those yet), and was able to canter full laps around the outdoor while holding his lead.  And then was able to go back to trot work, which has been a bit of a challenge as we have been reintroducing canter - the ability to mentally shift back to slower work.

Sunday was another perfect day outside and I was feeling a little under the weather (ummm, hungover) so we had a pretty easy lesson.  But baby horse took really good care of his slow moving human.

Yep, looking at the camera man again

We did big, loopy trot circles and he felt a bit more solid in the contact.  That is still a work in progress but as he finds his rhythm and gets stronger it gradually improves.  Practically every time I ride him he is moving off both legs better and better.  Right is his weaker way but he is getting much better, stronger and less resistant.

Then we had a lovely soft right lead canter.  One big loop and he swapped in back as I was asking him to come back to trot, but otherwise just perfect.

We went on a brief trail ride and then the most exciting news - Odie got a BATH!  He no longer smells like a homeless hippie horse with a BO problem.  There have been many extra snuggles to enjoy this brief time where he is clean and fragrant.  Oh and he was a total gentleman for the bath, even seemed to enjoy his face getting hosed.

Just another week in the life of the best young OTTB in the world.  I have a bolus of travel coming up mid March through mid April so Odin will be spending lots of time with the trainers and I will ride as much as possible between trips. I definitely want as much saddle time as possible so I can keep up with him!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Conformation shots

We didn't get the best conformation shots this month, but at least we got some.  And I guess I can do a 3 month comparison.

This is the best we got to the left, I am just grateful we are on level ground

Somewhat better to the right
Sorry about the ribs, we are fighting a couple battles there- he seems to put calories into growing (stop that please) and he is also a horse with a giant rib cage so his nature is to look ribby.  We are adding more roughage in the form of alfalfa to his diet to see if that will help him fill in.  Maybe some more oats too.  But overall I do think he is getting more of a topline!

When I went to meet him and he had recently been on stall rest
And this was early December

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Everything is awesome

I have been saying recently that if Odin had a theme song it would be the Lego movie's Everything is Awesome because he just likes things.

Another horse!  I love other horses!
Riding?  I love riding! It's my favorite!
COOOKIES??  I love those!
Curry comb, that is definitely my favorite!

Not that he doesn't occasionally get irritated by things.  We are still dealing with some sporadic, probably track related, saddling crankiness.  It isn't just the girth, it is actually more when you put the saddle on his back.  He was vetted and chiroed with absolutely zero back soreness and the saddle was verified to fit, so I am not too worried about anything physical.  I am guessing mental because if literally anything is distracting him (a person walking by, a lead rope in his mouth, horses being led nearby) he forgets to be cranky.

And then sometimes under saddle, he can object to leg when warming up.
Don't wanna
But otherwise, he just loves life and being around people and I am enjoying having a horse that is so damn pleasant.
And handsome

Even if he does occasionally forget humans aren't for chewing on.

We had a really good lesson Saturday morning.  We couldn't turn him out to run (our indoor had been flooded by a forgotten sprinkler and wasn't really usable) and decided to skip the longing and just ride.  I figured it is easy enough to get off and longe if necessary.

While so far it has been hard to identify much in the way of patterns as he is changing so quickly, I have noticed that it takes him about 10-15 minutes of under saddle work if he hasn't been longed before he really settles in.

That was definitely the case Saturday, we even had a mini yahoo moment where we were circling and he locked onto a cross rail and wanted to "bolt" at it.  So he squealed, took one sort of big step, bumped his butt maybe 6 inches off the ground, and then sighed and continued turning.
This is him being fresh

The head tilting is 90% gone but sometimes we still like to revisit it
Our trot work is still largely just the biggest circle we can do while keeping rhythm with lots of direction changes.  And then sometimes more big squares so we can practice going straight instead of turning.

One day I swear, I will keep my shoulders back.  But pretty pony.
And we throw in some other things from time to time with moving sideways off the leg, turns on the forehand, and poles.  This horse must have some Gumby DNA because so far bending around the leg and lateral work have been easier than expected. Going right is harder but as long as you control his outside shoulder, you can usually get it.

Video still but I can't find much to complain about here.
Not that everything is perfect all the time....
Oh yeah, get low, get behind the bit, and gape that mouth.  So lovely.  What effective riding!
But he is starting to figure some things out (props to my trainers for that!), I have been riding reasonably well, and I think we are starting to gel as a partnership.

To wrap up the lesson Saturday we even did some left lead canter work.  He picked it up right away, cantered a beautiful 20ish meter circle, and then quietly came back to walk.  That is happening more and more often and makes me start dreaming about jumping!!

I am still focused on not expecting anything on any given day and I know he is a young horse and tomorrow could be a ten steps backwards day (ahem one of those may have occurred already since Saturday), but I am also going to enjoy these moments for all they are worth.