Saturday, October 25, 2014

Lowering the Neck

During a lesson with my trainer last month, we were working the shoulder-in. As normal for us right now, Guinness was over-flexed to the left, and falling off the wall. To the right, he was stiff as a board and felt that moving his shoulder off the wall was completely impossible. These little issues are fixable for us now, but often result in Guinness getting tense and nervous.

Again, the thoroughbred mind in dressage.

This horse wants to do it right, but when he is corrected, he will often panic. In an effort to keep him relaxed and his mind spinning in a productive way, my trainer asked me to do something that should have been obvious, and easy.

"Lower his neck"

And I did.

Something so simple, so direct, is actually so hard. Fighting tension in this horse has been my life for the last three years. Tension rockets his head into my lap, and his back into an uncomfortable U-shape. Lowering his neck has been impossible. In the past, putting him into a lower frame has taken laps (LAPS!) of the arena, and lots of coaxing.

On that day, I simply thought "softer" with my outside elbow and lengthened my arm an imperceptible amount, offering him the space to lower his neck and fill up the space with his topline. And, he took the bait. His back lifted, his neck filled up like a balloon, and his frame lowered. At the same time, his steps took on a little bit more loft, and he was better able to step under and pick his shoulders out of the way.

Lowering the neck. I've got to remember that this tool exists.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A New Look But Old Problems

First off: I'm trying a new template on the site. Let me know what you guys think! Obviously there are still some quirks of code to figure out, so let me know if you run into any issues.

Now, back to Guinness...

Falling temperatures, Indiana mud season, and cold humidity mean one thing to me: arthritis flare-ups. The last two weeks have been a perfect storm of rain and temperature variation. Every day, Guinness has come to work exhibiting some level of stiff and sore.
One consolation? Fall foliage is brilliantly pretty next to a red chestnut...
As I've discussed before, Guinness suffers from some rather extreme arthritic changes in his fetlocks. He has been managed with steroid/HA injections in the past with extremely good results. For nearly all of 2013, he was fantastically sound.

At the moment, I'm torn. Most rides, he warms up out of his stiffness and we have a fantastic ride. Some days, he doesn't. Those days are a reminder that my horse is getting older (17 isn't THAT old!), and he's only going to get harder to maintain. I think, "maybe he won't make it past Second Level."

Then the next day, he comes out limber and happy and we bam out some fantastic starter half pass work.

Arthritis is a total emotional rollercoaster.
Feel better, buddy.
*Did anyone catch the phrase "Giggle Pig" during a recent episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine? I laughed hysterically (not just at that, the whole show is hilarious).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Candy corn, the vegetable of candy

Dressage riders tend to be big sugar feeders. Feeding sugar causes the horse to increase salivation, relax the jaw, chew on the bit, and sometimes unlock more at the poll. It's not a "cheat" necessarily, but a tool to help a horse be more comfortable in the mouth, and sometimes more comfortable mentally.

Many horses don't need help salivating while riding, or relaxing and chewing on the bit. Others, like Guinness, can use all the help they can get. He has a naturally dry mouth, unless stressed when strings of saliva will stream from his gritted teeth. (It's lovely. Really.) I decided at the start of the year to see if feeding him a bit of something could help him unlock his jaw, slobber, and chew some.
Tense, dry mouth. Not pictured: streams of saliva.
I started with his favorite treat, apple slices, fed just as the bit was given. This helped a bit, but I found that every third ride, Guinness would hold the apple and drop it somewhere during the ride. Apples? Not effective, also messy to carry around.

I tried sugar cubes for a time, but Picky Horse refused to eat them (typical racehorse). I could get him to take them with a slice of apple, but most of the time he would work the sugar cube around and spit it on the ground. Messy, and sticky. Also annoying.
But! The days he would take the sugar and eat it, he would come up with some okay foam...
So last month, I went to my local specialty grocery store (Baesler's. You're the best!) and hit up the bulk candy aisle. I tried everything from buttermints, to jelly beans, to spice drops. I knew there had to be a better option out there.
Just some of my massive candy haul... 
On the first try, I discovered he liked *drum roll* candy corn! Of course I couldn't stop there, so I went on to feed him a spice drop. He loved it. Until it stuck to his teeth and he made the most hilarious faces (picture a dog trying to get peanut butter off the roof of it's mouth). After that he refused to eat anything from me at all.


So, I decided to stick with candy corn and feed the rest of the candy to all the other horses. Over the last few weeks, I've slowly been getting him used to eating candy corn, and he is starting to really look forward to it. This is a huge breakthrough, as this animal is distrustful of anything that is fed to him. You'd think I regularly fed him poison. 

The best part? Candy corn is really getting him to chew the bit and soften up. He was already getting better about this, but it's been instrumental in getting him to really foam up nicely and accept the bit even better. I am so excited I finally found something he'll eat! Now, to go hit up those awesome Halloween sales...
Candy corn foam is awesome!
Does anyone else have a picky horse? Do you feed sugar as a training aid?

Monday, October 13, 2014

What's In a Name (Hand Gallop Blog Hop)

Thanks to Stephanie over at Hand Gallop for the fun blog hop idea! I love names, and horse names can be so creative. This has been a blast to follow!

What's the origin of your horse's show name and barn name?

Show Name: Logic Lane
I am incredibly lucky in that my ex-racehorse came with a totally awesome registered name. Maybe it's his British heritage, but his name is completely classy, and not worth changing. I like to show racehorses under their racing names, in case their connections want to track them and to show off how awesome racehorses are.

Logic Lane, while not totally fitting his personality, is awesome in other ways. It's the name of a cobbled bridle path on the Oxford University campus in England. I think this ties in beautifully with Guinness' British racing history. I love it.

Barn Name: Guinness
As a chestnut Irish-bred horse, this name is pretty self explanatory. I have to laugh about it, as both of my dogs are named after alcohol related things (one after a bar, and the other after a winery). When I explain that, I sound like I have a serious problem. Guinness came with the name, and I couldn't bring myself to change it. He doesn't really respond to it, and it is hard for others to spell. That brings us to...

Nicknames: Pig, Pigeon, Pigwidgeon, The Giggle Piggy, GP
As my first horse, Guinness was immediately called "The Guinea Pig." That didn't hang around long before it was shortened to "Pig" ("Guinea" being a bit derogatory of a term, it seemed a bit mean...). Pig is the name Guinness actually responds to, and he even will occasionally respond to "Pigeon." In my long standing tradition of creating nicknames longer than the animal's actual name, Guinness is often known as Pigwigeon and The Giggle Piggy. Barn workers and friends have shortened his nickname to GP to save their hands when writing barn notes.
When it comes to a nickname, though, really anything goes. My poor trainer often receives the clinic schedules with "10:30 -- Austen & His Royal Majesty, King of the Falling Onto The Inside Shoulder" written in. She's even taken to calling him "His Majesty." I'm known to call him "Captain" enough that people at shows have thought that was his name.

It's amazing he doesn't have an identity complex!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

September, the recap (extremely photo heavy)

Okay guys! Buckle up! I told you my last three weeks were completely nuts ... prepare yourselves. (Usually my posts aren't this personal. But, it's been nuts and I wanted to share.)

Fancy horse is ... fat, but also fancy!!
On the horse side of things, Guinness and I have had a month of the most solid rides in our history. Serious progress being made here. Serious. Very proud of this fat redheaded creature.

WWE Live
 Work's nuttiness kicked off with WWE Live. Always a hilarious event for me... (I'm the marketing person for the local university's pro theatre venues/basketball arena/concert venues. School started. Things have been nuts.)

Ran a 21 mile week. Celebrated by ... running more?
Itty bitty Henry Winkler
Got to meet and hang out with Henry Winkler as part of my job. He's dyslexic and was speaking in hopes of raising awareness of dyslexia issues in kids. Don't destroy the confidence of kids with learning disabilities, people! 

Filbert J. Beaver
Traveled to Toledo with Cobjockey, in order to gift our lovely friends with this, the greatest gag gift we are yet to come up with. Meet Filbert J. Beaver, Yes, he's the size of my little husky. Yes, we dressed him up like a groomsman. We are the best friends you'll ever have ... (or worst?) 

Poor Eva ...
Wrecked my beloved Eva on the way home from Toledo. Tiredness and sun in my eyes meant I couldn't see the stoplight. Luckily all turned out okay and no one was hurt. Amazingly. I'm still really thankful for that!

Late nights with the Performing Arts Series ...
Of course, I immediately had to come home after the wreck and launched right into another crazily busy week of events at work, starting with this Performing Arts Series season kickoff. It went well.

Fog and sleepiness on the way to Nancy's
The next morning I piled everyone in the truck and trailer and we headed the 2 hours to my trainer's barn for a working student day! Awesome day, but incredibly stressful due to work things... 

Does this promo remind anyone else of Lisa Frank stuff?
Got back to work to 1000 emails regarding the above show sales launch. Attempted not to shoot myself out of sheer stress ... 

So fast. So pretty. Should not own. I would get so many speeding tickets. (It's the turbo-charged rally version of my car, omigod.)
Went car shopping. Drove lots of speedy race cars. Found out manual transmissions are impossible to find. Begged my way into as many as I could locate.

She's so proud...
Came home to discover my little dog has finally embraced her escapist Husky heritage and figured out how to get out of her crate. It appears she just pawed at it until the rickety front just fell in. Lazy, but effective? (The big black one is adept at unlocking the thing from the inside. He has the real smarts in the family.)

Meet Esmé! Yes, I bought the same exact car I had, only in white. Zero regrets. She's a white Subaru Impreza upgraded manual transmission. God bless the guy who traded her in the week I wrecked my manual, or I'd have been stuck with a boring automatic!

Harvest season rides are the best!
Finally, the weekend hit and Operation Wear Out the Huskies (Operation WOH) commenced. 

And succeeded ... 
Nancy watches Darius closely...
With the dogs worn out, I could focus on my second ride with my trainer for the month. She came up to teach a clinic at my barn. Always fun to spend the day watching riding lessons!
Right top photo, Lyra hates water but was thirsty. The only water access was down a very steep hill. This happened. I didn't push her in, but I really wanted to...
The day after the clinic, my husband finally returned from his month long work trip to Washington D.C. We celebrated by going hiking. 
Such a lovely barn!
Just a few days later, friends and I hopped in Esmé and down to my trainer's barn to watch her trainer give a clinic. He's so fabulous. I always learn a ton from watching him teach.
So flattering, I know ... 
Got home from the clinic to a huge house full of guests for our college homecoming weekend. The next morning a friend and I ran a 5k. I came in 2nd with a time of 24:47 (My friend was 3rd with a 25 minute time!)! Super impressed with myself!

That catches us up to this week! Now, on to the horse related stuff ... 

The scurfy grossness (no photos, promise)

Sorry for the long radio silence everyone. I'll do another photo recap of the last few weeks soon (including details on the car...). They were ... long. But finally things are back on track.

Luckily for Guinness, his workload barely dropped through my disastrous long weeks. I say lucky because the last month has given us some of the most consistent and workmanlike rides we've ever had. Who is this horse who takes up contact immediately, works into the bridle most of the time, and actually tries to contort his body into the difficult bending and suppling exercises I'm asking him? He's been a solid rock to depend on, and months like this truly give me hope that we're on the right path to succeed at 2nd level and above.

Of course, there are always setbacks, and last week was no exception. I showed up at the barn to find an advanced case of the "gross and scabby" developing along Guinness' belly and into his girth area.


Surprisingly, Guinness stood (mostly!) still while I scraped and scrubbed off the offending scurf, skin, scabs, and hair, and treated the whole area with a heavy dose of hydrogen peroxide. (I prefer to use betadine for stuff like this, but I am all out!) Later, I scrubbed him with straight iodine, and called it good, but I decided to ride him bareback that night, to avoid any irritation.

Here's the question... why can I sit the medium trot so nicely without a damn saddle?

Are you serious, lady? You wanna practice canter departs on The Shark? Good luck...
A few days later, and the scurfy grossness is healing nicely. It's in the girth AREA, but not actually where my girth lays. It doesn't look or act like rain rot. I'm totally flummoxed. Any ideas?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We survived!

Well, everyone but the car ...
Just one crazy moment of many in the last few weeks ... and a quick note to say that I'm back! (Dogs and I were totally fine, honest. I walked away from that with some minor bruising. That car, man. It took care of me. The Subaru Impreza, kids. Buy one. Consider this a product review.)