Saturday, November 19, 2016

A jumping weekend

Last weekend we managed to actually get two jumping lessons in, which was great.  On Saturday, we really worked on my position and Odin's straightness.  The horse has a monster stride in there but is content to take the add, which is really nice at this stage of his training.

Trotting into jumps coming away from the gate is a real bitch.  R2 struggles with it as well when she jumps him.  But trainer R keeps making us do it anyways, freaking trainers, always making you do the really hard things.

The issue is that as you turn away from the gate, Odin sucks back behind the leg.  No matter how much leg you add, he keeps losing momentum.  Then he gets to the cross rail and is like, meh, stumble/lazy jump.  I will cheat by cantering up the long side just to wake his ass up, and it usually works.
We get through, it just isn't exactly pretty

One time we did a crap lazy jump into the line and R was like "canter NOW" so I booted him in the ribs.  This was exceedingly offensive to the baby who promptly squealed and cantered sideways out of the line.  We came back around with more focus and he trotted in and cantered out nicely.

For me, this was the key point of the lesson because it exemplified two things with this horse.  One, he doesn't hold a grudge.  Shit goes sideways, you ask him to calm down and re-focus and he says, sure, no problem.
Our game faces are ready for bigger things. 

Two, the absolute hardest part of riding him is that you need to add more leg and more leg and more leg and THAT IS TOO MUCH LEG.  While it is fine in his head for him to ignore you (for example when you are asking for the canter) for awhile, if you escalate the aid just a hair to much, he gets mad.  His being mad is ears pinned with a squeal and often some other minor objection - butt bump, one leg kick, or getting crooked.

I am guessing this is all just tied back to be green and still getting stronger and whatnot, but I had never stopped to think about it before so it is something I will pay more attention to and see if it merits a change in riding technique.

Then on Sunday, I rode with R2 and she was like, let's give the baby a challenge and let him jump something a bit bigger.  And so we did.

I was incredibly proud of him.  He didn't get overly excited, he didn't misbehave, he just went out there and did his job.  The highest we jumped was 2'3" and the first time over that he cracked his back.  After that he was like, oh, this doesn't require that much effort.  I continue to get the feeling he is going to be a horse who you have to jack the height to get the best form, but that is fine.

I look like I have jumped a horse before, hallelujah.
Also, I can promise you that he was enjoying himself, I call those his concentration ears :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Conformation comparison

Sunday represented one year since I did my test ride on the Odie.  He didn't come home until just before Thanksgiving since he, um, failed his first vetting, but I am calling this the start of our anniversary.  So, our almost one year conformation comparison photos!

He lived in a stall when I purchased him and was much less fuzzy.

December 2015
November 2016

Overall, I think his body just looks more mature, with his top line changes being the most notable (and also fairly recent).  And his face!  I feel like we have lost a lot of the baby face.

If any one else has any thoughts, I would love to hear them, even criticisms would be fine.  I am not a conformation guru so I am always interested.

I have to do a write up of our jumping lesson over the weekend, but I will do that later this week.  Tonight, we took a moonlight trail ride to watch the supermoon rise.  At one point I was thinking, huh, is it weird to take a 5 year old OTTB on a trail ride in the dark?  And he did lose his shit a little bit - when the moon got high enough to create some weird shadows - but all he did was bounce and squeal a little.  His trail buddy is unflabbable and I sat there quietly because he is not scary, and he settled back down.  The walk back to the barn was a little tense and quick, but overall I was so proud of him.

Baby horse is growing up.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Giant leap forward for Odin-kind

Last week a funny thing happened.  I was doing our usual evening post work ride and we moved up into the left lead canter and Odin just cantered around, holding his own body weight up, not diving down onto the bit, not speeding up as we went.....he just cantered.  After multiple laps and circles I came back to trot and wasn't huffing and puffing from the workout keeping him together at the canter usually it.
Downhill cantering over the summer

Huh, I thought, that was a bit unexpected.

So we turned the right and went into the canter again.  And again, he just cantered around like a semi trained creature.  He did not lay on my right leg and counterbend.  He did not fall onto his forehand and hope I would be there to save him (don't worry buddy, I still got you).  He just loped.  After about two laps he did start to lean on my right leg a smidge so I went back to trot.

But the canter has been - and will be for quite some time - a work in progress.  Odin is the most willing horse but his body's ability to execute has been so slow to come along.  We have just been trudging along with lots of transitions and very minute progress for nearly a year.  Then all of a sudden we have this?
Not the same point in time, but lighter cantering from last week

I figured it was a fluke.  But then he repeated it on the next ride.  And the next.  And up to last night when we were stuck in the indoor with 6 other horses and he was still great, even when distracted (he tends to feel the need to protect his space a bit more in the indoor, at least based on last winter).

It would appear we just had a big step forward in our development.  Not that the canter is done by any stretch of the imagination.  Loping on a loose rein is a most excellent development but then we will have to learn to use our back in the canter more, get contact going, and one day actually be able to sit down.

There are also changes in his trot.  Not really the quality, but more the rhythm and effort level from the rider.  Suddenly he seems to find it possible to get into this really lovely trot where he is using himself and holding his own head more than before (not always though, you have to keep the human engaged, otherwise life would be boring!).  I have had 5 or 6 people in the last week be like, WOW he looks amazing.

So it would appear that we had a large increase in strength recently.  Maybe he is finally laying down some muscle instead of throwing calories at just getting bigger.  Maybe it is something else entirely, hell if I know.  But hopefully it is here to stay.

And now we can canter in longer stretches and maybe defeat our lead swapping demons.  Trainer R was like, nice job Odie, you have successfully trained your human to not touch her outside rein in canter.  But that is not going to last!  And in more fun news, the canter upgrade has been long awaited in order to start loping more jumps.  This hopefully means there is going to be some more legit jumping in our future.  He has been jumping the snot out of most everything lately, he must have seen the embarrassing photo we took of him last week.
Really embarrassing.  Trotting jumps away from the gate is the hards

This horse, I am so happy that he is mine.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Life and Times

Not many exciting things have been happening lately, but that is a good thing.  Odin continues to work on the same basic flat work and over fences skills and continues to progress slowly but methodically.

I did have what is hopefully my last business trip of the year late last week, adding a new state to my list - I think I am at 42, courtesy partially of my love of national parks and mostly because of work.  This trip was to Charleston, SC.  The southeast is not my favorite place, way too much heat and humidity, two things I try to avoid when possible.  But people swear by the beaches near Charleston so I decided to stay an extra day and explore.  The city itself wasn't my favorite although the antebellum mansions are pretty impressive.
Ravenel bridge

However, my day on Seabrook Island was spectacular.  I took an Advanced Beach ride with Seabrook Equestrian center.  They trailer the horses over close to the beach and you take a 15 minute trail ride in.  Then it is trot/canter/gallop up and down the beach.  I was the only one out on the ride with two guides.  My horse was lovely, everything you could want on this type of ride.
Sunny was handsome too

He loped around on a loose rein and was happy to step out when I asked.  It was really fun and then I was allowed to hang out on the beaches after the ride.  I found an area with zero other people (yay private islands) and sat down with a book.  Maybe ten minutes later I heard a splash and looked up.
View from my private beach

A pod of dolphins were splashing around just offshore.  Apparently the dolphins there do strand feeding where they chase fish up on shore and then beach themselves to feed.  I didn't see that but I did get to spend half an hour watching them do dolphin things up close...while sitting on a beach.  So it was very neat.

Hoofprints on the beach
Back here in reality, Odin has been a little more alert lately although it hasn't been any cooler.  His first canter transition has been incredibly lackluster so that will have to go on our goal list.  The transitions after the first time are much improved.  He is still just slowly building strength and has a tendency to lean on your right leg.

One ride last week I really focused on this and spent 20 minutes getting him soft and off that leg with leg yields and spirals.  Then when I asked him to canter he stepped off so nicely and softly.  I probably got 10 good strides before he fell in again.  Another thing to just keep plugging away at.

The lead swapping continues to be a work in progress, not much to note.  He is now landing on both leads after fences, where he used to always always land right.  So that is progress.

His jumping cadence and striding is improving pretty quickly.  Sadly he is getting lazy with his form over these tiny things.  I have a note to talk with R about that, I am guessing she is going to not be worrying about that right now.  His form will likely bounce back quickly when the jumps go up.

He did get clipped this weekend since CO is having round two of summer.  I really miss fall weather.  R2 said he was great for it except a bit twitchy on his back.

And I bought Odin a Halloween present with money I don't really have, but I found a good deal on English Tack Trader.  It is a Corsia monocrown and I put it on for the first time last night, but so far I like it.

He seemed just as content in this as in his usual bridle and he looks so damn adorable.