Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Very Dressagy Christmas!

Like most horse people, I tend to get a lot of gifts geared toward my horse-habit. This year was no exception!

First up, I joined in Fly on Over's awesome Blogger Secret Santa program. My Secret Santa was the awesome Karen from Bakersfield Dressage! She sent me a huge box, complete with festive wrapping paper and an incredibly sweet card. (Karen! I think the card was my favorite part!! Thanks so much!)

Christmas in a box!!
Karen's a fellow dressage person, but she's just starting to experiment with the outside world of "color." I'm still pretty conservative, and she nailed it by getting us a nice black saddle pad and a set of lovely white polo wraps! I can't wait to debut everything at a clinic or a show. Pig looks lovely in white wraps, but the pair I have for him are way to big. This pair are the perfect size!

At family Christmas, my husband and my mother went together and ended up getting me the expensive Weymouth I talked about in this post. I'm so excited about this gift. I can't wait until Pig is back working well enough to introduce it and see how he does!

Now I just have to decide on a bradoon.... help?!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Happy Update

I want to thank everyone for their comments over the last week or so. Reading each one meant so much to me. Knowing you guys understood just how terrifying that experience was helped make the whole situation a little less surreal.

For the first couple of days after the accident, Guinness' condition was somewhat touch and go. While his attitude was good, I couldn't get a good handle on managing the swelling in his legs. The amount his legs were stocking up was worrying to me. I was pretty confident he didn't have a soft tissue injury, but the amount of swelling made me second guess myself. Plus, my inability to reduce the swelling made me worry about the possibility of developing cellulitis.

Is there a leg in there? I can't tell. Looks more like a red log.

Moving stiffly, Pig wasn't helping matters. Even though he was turned out in the big pasture, he wasn't moving around much. He basically stationed himself at the round bale, and would shuffle from there to the auto-waterer. I hand walked him daily, but it didn't make a dent in the swelling.
Handwalking the elusive mud-yak in it's natural habitat... the rain.
Finally, I resorted to doing compression wraps with Sore-No-More on him for a handful of hours every day. The wraps would bring the swelling down some, but not all the way down to normal.

Swelling down somewhat, legs still feverish and puffed.

The holidays forced me away from the barn. Keeping an eye on a horse from afar might be one of the most stressful things in the world. My BO would only send me texts when his legs were swollen badly, so I assumed that's what they looked like all the time. I did end up driving back one day to wrap Pig, after my BO sent me a photo of his legs looking more like tree trunks than legs. Apparently after that wrapping session, his legs did go down significantly. A friend helped me out by hand walking Pig, which also brought his legs down every day.
Normalish legs! It's a miracle!
After 8 days, Guinness finally seems to be out of the woods. His legs aren't stocking up as much, he's weaning off bute, and he's totally sound. The totally sound part is the best part, because yesterday I hopped up and got to glimpse the world from behind two perky red ears again. From up there, everything finally feels like it will be alright.
Doing rehab rides back the safety-first way, by hacking my hyper horse bareback down the wet road. Yep.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Yesterday was true horror (long post/graphic photos)

This post contains some truly horrifying photos, and they might upset some of you. I think it's important for me to share them, but I understand if you can't look at them.

Let me preface this post by saying this: Everyone is going to be 100% okay.

Yesterday, we had a trailer accident. Driving down the highway, we hit a patch of black ice. The horses in the back (two of them), must have shifted in the trailer because it started to fishtail. The icy roads caused the whole situation to escalate quickly. Truck and trailer fishtailed all over the highway for approximately 600 yards. Several times I thought I had us straightened out, only to lose the trailer again. The roads had no traction to speak of. Finally, the trailer jackknifed hard into the truck bumper, popped off the hitch, and flipped onto its side.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

TOABH - The History of the Horse

Beka over at The Owls Approve is celebrating her Archie's 18th birthday, and asking all of us to get in on the celebration. With a question letting me rattle on about Guinness' history, how could I refuse?!

History of the Horse
Before you met, where was your horse?  Who bred him/her?  What do you know about his sire and his dam?  What do you know where he came from?  Tell me about the time before he had a trainer.
Lucky for me, Guinness is an OTTB with an easily readable tattoo, making his history easy to find!
Guinness was born "Logic Lane" in 1998 in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England. His breeding was arranged by Mrs. T Brudenell (Also known as Amanda Skiffington, or Amanda Brudenell... because England) and Campbell Stud. He is Irish bred, by the Never-Bend grandson Lahib and out of the Mill Reef daughter Reflection.
Lahib (Riverman (by Never Bend) x Lady Cutlass (by Cutlass))won several Grade 1 stakes. He seems to have sired many moderately successful racehorses, but was not a standout sire. He and his sire both do seem to stamp their progeny. Guinness gets his looks from this side of the family, for sure. He's almost a carbon copy of his grandsire, Riverman.
Riverman (Never Bend x River Lady x Prince John)
Reflection was bred by The Queen of England (Seriously. True story.). Her sire, Mill Reef (by Never Bend, making Pig a double Never Bend great grandson.) was a stunning racehorse. Crowned European Horse of the Year, Champion 3-Year-Old in England, and Champion Older Horse, he had a record of 6 consecutive Group One (similar to Grade One in the states) races. His record stood for 30 years. By Never Bend and out of a Princequillo mare, Mill Reef was a fantastic sire. 
Mill Reef (Never Bend x Milan Mill x Princequillo)
Despite her breeding, Reflection never raced. Her other foals were a mixed bunch. It appears Guinness did have one full brother, but records on him are very slim. I don't think he lived long enough to race. Since the mare was immediately put back to Lahib for Guinness, I assume Pig's full brother died before he was a year old. One half brother of Guinness, Shaft of Light (GB) by a Caro grandson (and bred by The Queen), did go on to a successful career, winning over $100,000 on the track.
It appears that Reflection was sold or lent to Mrs. T Brudenell shortly prior to Guinness' breeding. With the royal blood passed from both of his parents, it's really a shame he didn't turn out to be a more successful racehorse. Maybe the double Never Bend/Princequillo lines cancelled each other out?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steps to the Changes | A Better Canter (final version)

(Blogger kind of screwed up this post, and didn't publish it correctly. Here's the final version!)

My last lesson with Nancy focused on the canter I'll need to aim for the changes, and I ended up with a huge list of positional issues to improve before we move forward. For the most part, most of these changes have to do with my riding, not with Pig. While he is the Captain of Evasion, his naturally fabulous canter makes the majority of this work easy for him (when I get it right).

The problems I brought to Nancy were 1) Pig constantly falls on his right shoulder, in all gaits, and 2) We keep flubbing the right canter depart, and I wasn't sure why. Here's a video example of our right canter depart flub...
Did you spot the issues? I couldn't. It turns out, they were pretty hard to spot, but obvious once pointed out.
  1. Instead of pointing my inside hipbone forward and up, I was putting it forward and DOWN. Basically stopping the movement up that the canter depart required.
  2. I'm collapsing my upper body to the right, again stopping Pig from being able to lift up and move through with his body. Oops.
  3. My right thigh is STILL creeping up to my ears. God. Why?
Solving all those problems takes a lot of positional awareness on my part, and is proving to be difficult to do on my own. (Remember, I only see my trainer once or maaaybe twice a month. All my work is on my own.) My upper body collapsing to the right is something I do in my daily life. (Spoiler alert: I'm doing it right now!) It's hard for me to feel when I'm doing it, and harder to correct it without throwing the rest of my body out of whack. My trainer tells me to "lift from the armpits," which helps me lift and straighten my torso without losing the elastic elbows and relaxed shoulders I've been working hard on.

Once I get my torso up, I feel Pig take a bigger jump in his canter. Next thing I know, up comes my right thigh. It starts creepin' up towards the pommel of my saddle, like it wants to be besties with my belly button.

No thigh. My stomach wants no part of you. Stay down.

I fix the thigh issue by taking my leg off my horse, shaking it a touch to relax it (having a spectacularly lazy horse is useful here!), and thinking about pointing my knee at the ground. That lengthens my thigh, brings my heels up a little, and places my lower leg back where it's supposed to be.

Now with my leg in the right place, I realize that my hip bone has started pointing down instead of up again, and my seatbones have lost contact with my saddle. So I think about pointing with my hip up and in the direction of where I want to go. Leading the canter with my hip, if you will. At the same time, I locate my seatbones and make sure they are actually sitting, not hovering.

Now I've dropped my hands in an effort to manage contact, and instead totally losing my pony's cooperation. So, up come my hands and down and uber bent go my elbows. That usually offends Pig, so on go my legs to keep him moving into the contact.

My leg coming on hard will push my thigh back up. In the process of fixing that and keeping my hands up, I forget to keep my torso engaged and up. That means I can't keep impulsion going with Pig. So I pony kick, put my legs where they go, find my seatbones, and shove my torso up and through the space created between my arms.

We get a great big leaping and gorgeous canter stride.

Then my hip bone forgets to stay up. And the whole process starts over again... yeeesh.

Things to do: Shoulder's down, torso forward, hips up, seatbones on, thighs down, legs on softer.
Pig? You just keep doing what you're doing, horse.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Arthritic Horse: A Late Season Follow Up

Earlier in the fall, I discussed Guinness' worsening issues with arthritis lameness. We're almost to the end of the transitional season and into deep winter (whether it feels like it or not!), and I wanted to update on his condition.

It's a little better.

At the start of fall, we had a few big changes that effected Pig's soundness. First the weather, which anyone with an old achy joint could appreciate. Wet and cold weather has a unique ability to make everyone feel creaky. Secondly, with the cold and rainy weather also came the time change, which pushed us out of our glorious outdoor...

The glorious outdoor...
 ... and into our slightly rocky and hard-as-a-rock indoor.

The not-as-glorious indoor.
I know I'm lucky to even have an indoor and work year round, but the indoor footing backed Guinness off more than I even realized. We worked in the outdoor all weekend (sleety mist be damned!), and he was so much more fluid and forward. The deeper and softer footing out there really makes a huge difference. In the indoor he takes 15-20 minutes of warm up to start going nicely. In the outdoor, he's raring to go almost immediately.

His obvious discomfort inside causes me to keep our cantering/trotting work to a minimum. I also unconsciously stop pushing him to be correct or stay on my aids. That allowance needs to stop. If he's achy and creaky, that is even more reason to collect up and stay off those front fetlocks. That said, it can be hard to tell when Captain Evasion is doing his thing, or when Sir Ache is expressing a legitimate concern.

Luckily, the barn did drag the indoor some last weekend. The difference in the footing is subtle, but enough for Pig to be noticeably more comfortable. Maybe I can stay after them to keep it fluffed?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Winter Doldrums: A Photo Journal

Truth moment here, guys. The thing I really want to work on this winter? Teaching Guinness changes. Unfortunately, we aren't quite there yet. We're hovering on the edge of being there, but I have some serious work on myself to finish before we can get there.

That's kind of frustrating.

Add to the hard work of fixing my position the nasty hovering-just-above-freezing-while-dumping-gallons-of-rain-on-me weather we've been having, and going to the barn is just an unpleasant thing right now.
I mean... Do you want to walk a half mile through shin-deep clay mud to get your equally disgusted horse?
I'm kind of over being an active person. Can't I hibernate like a bear?

Fun fact: Bears can eat as much as they want and don't get diabetes. Seriously. I want to be a bear. Or a little dog, she has it pretty easy...
Even though I don't like napping, I have to admit they've been looking pretty tempting...
"But why such long claws, Grandma?"
Being myself, though, the activity has continued. The dogs are still being run, even in the oppressive rainy dark of ... 5pm.

Misty sleet. 40 degrees. Mmmmmhm. Horrifying.
The horse and my position woes are still being worked, though some of our barn etiquette might have been completely relaxed.

What? You don't let your partially clothed horse freely wander the barn and snarf out of the hay cart at will? One of these days, that horse is going to bite down on a napping cat. That day, things will get real.
And some days, we take a much needed break at the local pub for a pint or two.

Yes. My local pub allows dogs. They are sort of local celebrities...
Will someone do a frozen dance to the weather gods already? I have had enough of this crappy warm, muddy, rainy, inconsistent winter! Give me frozen solid mud, deep white blankets of snow, and consistently cold temperatures! Please!
I'm dying for a good snow-ride!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Inside to outside always, right?

Inside leg to outside rein. That's one of the tenets of dressage, right?

The idea being to have the horse lift off the your inside leg and shift his balance into the outside rein. With his weight to the outside, he can then bend and turn to the inside without losing his balance. In addition, you have a great half-halt ready in the outside rein.

Well in my last lesson, inside leg-outside rein was turned on its head.

See, in the shoulder-in to the right, my horse likes to fall onto his inside shoulder. No amount of half halting will get him to lift. No amount of pushing from behind will, either. He just rushes, and falls harder. I've ensured that I am pushing him into the outside rein, and am maintaining the bend with the inside leg. Still he falls in.

He's protective of his left shoulder, see. The barest of touches with the left rein, and his shoulder will dart over. He's quick to throw a fit rather than lift up his right shoulder and have to fill up his outside left.

"If he still falls in after you've brought the shoulder around with your outside rein, don't be afraid to take that outside shoulder out slightly." That's my trainer, full of excellent advice.

I guess when inside leg to outside rein fails you, it's okay to think out of the box and create a new training tool.

So here's what I do...

The minute I realize inside leg/outside rein isn't working, I increase the bend in my outside elbow and carefully take my outside hand OUT. The feeling here is one of guiding the outside shoulder down the line, and widening the front feet.

"He's past pushing into that rein. If you push more with your inside leg, you're going to push him past your outside rein, and past his balance point."

Huh. So no extra inside leg, just outside rein. Interesting...

Guinness reacts to a leading outside rein by straightening slightly, then shifting back to take his balance off his front end. With his weight shifted back, he takes a bigger and wider step with his outside front. Finally, he fills up the outside of his neck and is able to step forward with the inside hind and flex nicely through his poll.

The big thing to remember here? Make sure to keep the inside leg on. You don't want to take it away completely, just not increase its push. The inside leg should stay long and draped on the horse, asking for the bend to stay and the haunches to stick. The other important factor is your weight aid. You'll want your weight more on your outside seatbone. In Guinness' case this can sometimes be so dramatic that I lean off to the outside. A less stubborn and crooked horse will need a less obvious aid. Experiment as needed.

So, using the outside rein independently to place the shoulder. Neat! Another tool for the box.

To apologize for a lack of photos illustrating this post, please enjoy this sequence of photos demonstrating me being awkward mounting from the ground.