Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Balance, of a sort

I have managed to get over myself since being so annoyed last week, which is a relief.  It is great when you can annoy yourself.

Positive rides certainly help with the attitude adjustment and the last couple have been really productive.

Our lesson on Saturday was mostly focused on jumping and I had an epiphany.  I had mentioned awhile back that Odin stopped at a couple fences, and by stopped I mean he sort of putters out and then is like, I don't want to heave myself over this from a standstill.
From earlier this year, results of standstill leaping

So that ties into two different things I figured out Saturday.  One, baby horse doesn't really respect the leg.  This shouldn't come as a surprise since you couldn't even *touch* winter Odie with your leg.  You literally said trot or canter and he did.  Now lazy summer Odie needs more help but doesn't have a confirmed leg= GO NOW.  Hence when he sucks back and you squeeze, nothing really happens.

And why does he suck back you might reasonably ask?  That was the second part of the epiphany.  Because he is becoming subtly gate sour.  He didn't stop at one single fence on Saturday but trotting the jumps away from the gate was a bitch (were a bitch? Grammar is hard).  He would lose momentum, I would squeeze and cluck, he would continue to lose momentum at a slower rate, and then step over the jump and lumber off.  

Trotting the same jump the other way?  Yippee ki-yay MF.  Not overly excited or anything, he just jumps nicely and canters off in a horse like manner.

At the canter he doesn't do the slowing thing, presumably because as an energy efficient machine he has figured out it is easier to stay in motion at that speed.

Anyways, a problem defined is a problem on its way to being solved so that is good news.

And besides that, he jumped everything at trot and canter, wasn't either a freight train or a crippled old plow horse (thanks horse beating stick!) and I got a beautiful, perfect right to left lead change coming out of a line.  With requisite dolphin squeal so we all knew he was about to do something important.

Monday morning's hack started operation There Will Be Forward.  As soon as I got on, it was ask with leg, demand with crop.  It only took a few minutes for him to realize I meant business and lo and behold, I had a horse I could do something with.  Canter transitions were much better - also helps when I don't float the reins at him when asking - and I only had to pull the crop out once more midway through as a reminder.  Otherwise he was all yes ma'am I can do that right now I am here to please.

Still a tendency to get heavy on the forehand but as long as I am paying attention and correcting quickly, that is improving.  Per my trainer's instructions he gets corrected by either a quick pop of the outside rein accompanied by leg or we come to a halt, back up, and trot off again.  With leg.  Always with more leg.  I use both corrections in order to keep it from getting too predictable.

Then we did a little bit of lateral work where I got to practice sitting on my left seat bone more.  Why is that so hard all the time?  And we were done pretty quickly with a pretty soft, obedient horse.  Which left time for plenty of grooming and pets and snuggling.  Great way to start the week!

Friday, June 17, 2016


Fair warning, I think this whole post is me bitching about things, most of which are really minute and petty.  I want to document it for my record but not sure anyone wants to suffer through it.

So I did two early morning rides this week and had a polar opposite horse each time.  Spoiler alert, neither one is the horse I want long term.  But that is the game with babies, right?
With their cute tongues out

Well I guess I should start all the way back with Monday, when I rode after work.  The weather here had been crazy and stormy all day so I almost didn't go to the barn.  But I figured it would be quiet (wrong) and cooler (sort of wrong) and hell, I like riding my horse so fuck it.

I get to the barn with a tiny hope I could ride outside since our footing drains pretty well, but that hope was in vain.  Well ok, I will ride inside.  I bring Odin in to tack up and peek in the indoor.  All of the poles and jump standards are piled in two giant stacks in the ring and the long suffering barn manager is in there painting the walls with a huge extended rolling painting thing.  I confirm it is ok to ride in there, he offers to stop painting but baby horse is not spooky so let the man do his thing.

It is like a sauna in there as I get on, with all the rain and wet paint humidity.  Smells nice too.  As I start riding, another boarder pulls up to the barn.  Immediately their car alarm starts going off.  This lovely ambient noise continues for my entire ride.  It stops for 15 seconds, or 30, or a minute or two, then goes off again.  Repeat ad naseum.  I guess something broke in her car so she decided the best place to deal with that was the barn.

Then the next storm hits with crazy rain and thunder and lightning to further set the mood and add to the humidity.

So here Odin and I are, trying to ride with noise and painting and mugginess and giant piles of shit.  PS out of all of this, the only thing that phased him was one of the giant piles of shit.  He snorted past it a couple times and then was fine.  I wish I could ask him why the other giant pile wasn't scary though.

The rest of the stuff wasn't scary but it was super distracting.  And the car alarm was making me insane.  After a quick w/t/c, I called it a night.  He did everything asked and I probably had 80% of his attention so I was happy.  With him.  Not with much else.

Wed morning I did my on the horse before 6am thing.  It was cool and dawn was breaking as I got out there and Odin was feeling way too good!  The quick changing morning light created lots of shadows in the ring which is good for his education so that made me happy.  But he is fit and his stifle feels good (YAY!) and it was the coolest temperature we had ridden in for a week so he was quite a bit of horse.

He did his spook/bolt and I set him back HARD because that is not going to become a routine thing.  He was appropriate chastened  - I love when a horse takes a correction to heart - and we went to work.  And work it was, I had to ride my ass off since he really wanted to dance and squirm around the shadows and otherwise lay on my hand and drag me around, especially at the canter. While he is fit it is still hard to hold himself together at the canter so it takes a lot of core and leg and balance and timing to help him appropriately.  Except for when he does it perfectly on a floaty rein and I can just sit there, but Wednesday was not that day.

We were able to canter ground poles too although the shadows make, um, extra poles to jump sometimes and when we ended I felt we had done some good work although I look forward to the day it is a little bit easier.  I also had extra gratitude that even when he is a bit much, he is never scary.

This morning was mostly a bust.  For some reason they were feeding a full hour earlier than normal which means the feed truck pulled up to the outside horse pens just as we were getting started.  I have ridden him during feed time before but never in the outdoor while he watched his neighbors get fed.

Another great learning opportunity but not what I was hoping for today when I had limited time and 8am meeting.   Odin's reaction was also not what I expected, because I figured being upset about feeding would make him hot and flighty.  But maybe that was Fawkes' carryover because instead he was a 100% pouty brat who wouldn't go forward for anything.  I should have gone back for a crop but I figured he would get over it.
Sir Pouts a lot

I was wrong.

He spent 40 minutes sucking behind the leg and making crabby faces and trying to watch the feed truck instead of listen to me.  When then truck finally left, there was much less arguing over keeping his attention in the ring, but he still didn't want to play.  I could keep him going at the trot, which is a hollow accomplishment at this point, but I could barely get him into the canter, much less keep him there.  How on earth do people ride less sensitive horses?  Legs of steel?

There was much hitting with the end of reins for motivation but the effort was still minimal.  On the positive side, the few times we were able to canter all the way around the ring was the nice floaty canter.

I finally had to call it on an ok note because I had to leave, but I will not be forgetting my crop again. Odin thought we had a fine ride and was happy to get to his meal.  After all, it isn't his problem that I couldn't stay and ride longer.

An odd week where nothing really aligned to go well on any given day but luckily all the bad things didn't align either.  And since Odin did his full behavior spectrum this week, maybe he got it out of his system and will be just right for our lesson tomorrow!

Monday, June 13, 2016

A friendly reminder

Just a friendly reminder that while my horse is the shit, he is still a horse, and a young TB at that.

One minute you are trotting along

And then all of a sudden you are feeling so fly like a G6!


I can haz flail

This is fun!!!!

Not even touching the ground!
Silly baby.  Not even sure what set him off.  I think it was a "spook" because he was bored and/or feeling lazy.  I love how he can flail everywhere and not really throw me around.

Things are overall good on the horse front.  Friday I went to the barn before work because it was supposed to be nearly 100 and I have just accepted that I am summer heat intolerant.  This was my first early morning riding experiment.  I was on by 5:50am, rode until 6:30, and still made it to work by 8.  It was a great temperature and although Odin seemed a little confused, he was excellent.  There is one notoriously early rider at the barn who got there after me and gave me a disgruntled vibe, but whatever.

I don't love the 5am wake up time but I will definitely be doing this often when the temps are above 90.

Odin has started getting crooked during transitions, especially upwards, so we are working on our straightness there.

When the lady asks you to go forward, let your butt drift in.  Humans love pretend lateral work.
We have started doing a bit more lateral work but I think the crookedness is more lazy summer pony than confusion since it generally clears up once he is awake and moving.

During my rides we try to do lots of cantering to build my fitness and form and ability to actually weight my damn outside stirrup- I struggle with this both directions because I am equal opportunity uneven.
Sometimes we get it together

Not much else exciting going on.  Had a brief lesson Saturday morning before the temperature got insane, and training rides while I am at work.  We haven't been able to do much jumping lately which is bumming me and Odin out but I keep reminding myself that all this flat and pole work is making him super smart and the jumping will be easily added on.

Monday, June 6, 2016

It's the little things

Take me with you!
Like when you go to get your horse and he hears you coming and hurries over to the gate, ready to play.

Like when the barn manager entirely re-levels and replaces footing in your horse's pen

When you carry a crop for the first time on the young horse and find out how quickly he learns to respect your leg

When you manage, for just a moment, to get your upper body exactly where it needs to be and feel everything coming together.

Trotting in and cantering down the line quietly, not perfectly straight, but right on the money with rhythm.

Walking bravely to the field even over (gasp) multiple different dirt colors with only the barest hesitation

When you don't curry his face enough and he backs up in the cross-ties and shoves his poll against the brush, making sure you get the message

Having him walk politely all the way from his run to the barn without trying to drag you to the grass.  This still only happens rarely, but it does happen now!

Hand walking a friend's hurt horse and watching him roll.  And roll.  And roll.  Then consider just staying in the sand and not getting back up because it is nice and warm.

All in all, everything is going pretty well in horse world.  Odin is learning at his unhurried pace.  Our lesson Saturday morning was basic but was one of those shining rides where several different things you are working seem to come together at the same time.  He was able to carry his own head around, hold his leads, move off the leg, etc.  I still need (forever and always) to work on outside aids at the canter.  More weight in outside stirrup, more control of the outside shoulder.

I watched his training ride Sunday and she makes it look so easy but turning at the canter is still hard for the youngling and you need to really be there for him or he bulges and/or lead swaps.  She worked more on his lead changes and while he experimented briefly in hind-only tempis he quickly settled down.  He squeals pretty loudly when he gets a clean change that he considers hard work, which cracks us all up.  Another reason he might be a jumper I suppose.

Vicious Maya snapping at flies

Dogs are doing well right now.  Maya is acting totally fine but needs to go in for follow up blood work.  Jasper went to the ophthalmologist and got the best news we could hope for!  I mean, it isn't great - he has a chronic autoimmune eye disorder - but it isn't pannus and most likely isn't degenerative.  He can hike and be in the sun like normal.  There is no treatment, but as it hasn't been hurting him, it will mostly likely continue to be a little ugly but not painful.

A few too many "most likely"'s in there, but it really was the best case scenario. So at least we can play outside again.

Happy goober dog

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

When life gets in the way

I had a pretty good run in May of having plenty of time to ride and not having a bunch of competing life priorities.  It appears that time has come to an end for the moment.

While I did get plenty of riding time in over the long weekend, I am starting to feel the strain and my rides are getting noticeably lazier.  The rapidly increasing temperature hasn't helped my motivation or work ethic, and Odin is feeling it too.

Saturday we had a good jumping lesson - still keeping it small but he is jumping really well.  He did stop a couple times the first time he was aimed at something and we need to prevent that from becoming a habit, but nothing too concerning at this point.  The rest of the time he loped around like an experienced guy, even cantering down a line of cross rails.

Sunday he got a training ride where she worked on his lead changes, which he did perfectly.

Monday was hot and Odin was tired.  I think in general he has been a little bit crankier.  Maybe the weather getting warmer, maybe as his work demands get a little harder, who really knows.  The horse is still super friendly but it has been little things like not wanting to walk in the cross ties, making more grumpy faces than normal when tacking up, kicking at the leg.
Lies, it is all lies.  I am perfect

He was generally obedient but I couldn't get him forward for anything.  I had to pony club kick him into the canter!  My sensitive-don't-touch-my-sides-TB - booting him along.

Anyways, I have had minimal energy to overthink this, which might be for the best.   I have seen many horses go through kind of funky, cranky phases and they usually adapt and get better.  Going from 50 to 80 degrees can't have helped.

In the meantime, I have two sick dogs.  Jasper has developed pannus - an autoimmune eye condition - that refused to respond to either the antibiotic eye drop or the steroid eye drop.  So tomorrow he goes to a specialist.  We have been told that he needs to stay out of sun (impossible) and would be healthier at a lower altitude (um, great) or he could go blind.

He loves hiking
I have no idea what to do.  He is only 7ish and HATES to be left behind when we go hiking.  It seems so unfair, he was abused prior to us adopting him: missing tooth, missing toe, all the toes on his one foot were broken at some point, he has had two ACL repairs, he has arthritis in his back, and now this?  This dog has no luck.

These were not an acceptable alternative
Then because that wasn't upsetting enough, while hiking on Monday Maya collapsed only a mile into the hike.  Maya is a 5 year old border collie/cattle dog mix that gets exercised by a marathon runner and who thinks 18 miles is a reasonable day.  But Jon had to carry her back to the car.  The emergency vet thought it would be heat stroke, but nope.

Her liver enzymes were 5 times normal values and everything else was fine.  The vet had no clear ideas and by the time he was done evaluating her she was back to normal and wondering when she could go hiking again.  The assumption is she had a seizure but whether that is tied to her liver values is unknown.  She is on antibiotics and liver support drugs for a week, then we retest.

Currently no real diagnosis or path forward.  I guess her liver values could indicate liver failure or could indicated almost nothing.  It is confusing and stressful.

Summit of Bear Peak a week earlier

So tonight, I figured Odin and I could both use a break.  We saddled up in the hackamore (his first time) and took a trail ride with two other barnmates.  I think it was good for us.

Baby brains and stressed out adult brains sometimes need a break!