Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Funky Steps

I mentioned in my most recent ride journal that Guinness has been feeling a little off recently. Being an older horse, his joints are really starting to feel the years of hard work. Knowing that, I try not to panic when inconsistencies pop up.

"I am 17 going on 18, I'll take care, of you..."
So it's obviously the old fetlock arthritis that is tormenting us? Right?

Well, no. At this point, I think Pig's front fetlocks are basically fused. They haven't truly bothered him beyond some slight stiffness for a long while (Quick!! Everyone knock on all the wood!) Instead, what I think we're dealing with is a variation on the stifle issues from last spring.

If you'll remember, I noticed something funny with Guinness' movement behind after his recovery from our trailer accident. The vet diagnosed the issue as stifles, not hocks. We injected the right side, and went on our merry way.

To update on that, Pig felt pretty great after the injections. I felt some weirdness in July, though it felt more like weakness than an actual issue. I was reluctant to do injections again so close to the last injection date. Knowing he needed a little help though; I accepted a friend's help and tried Estrone. That seemed to help enough to get us through reconditioning. I only did one shot, and never noticed an uneven weakness.

Until this month, that is. And now, the weakness is more of a severe problem like this spring. Unlike before, the issue seems to be manifesting in both the left and the right hinds. It's very funny to feel and hard to capture on video. Here's a clip of Guinness doing his weird stifle dance with the right hind this spring...
"Watch me do the dance of my people. My old and chronically weak stifled people."
It looks uncomfortable, no?

So what's the plan? Immediately, I stopped pushing things. We backed off collection work, only asking for a 1st/2nd level frame. (Goodbye 3rd level, pushing 4th. You were fun for a little while.) The bareback rides have gone a long way toward helping sort out the stiffness before it gets to be a bigger problem. And, I did another round of Estrone injections last week.

One week out, Pig is no longer dramatically catching or swapping a hind. He's still feeling weak in an unbalanced way, but it's obvious that the Estrone is helping a lot. I'm trying to decide if I want to go ahead and try a more regular treatment with the Estrone, or make a vet appointment and get injections done. It's possible the Estrone might get us through the winter, and Pig's lighter work schedule. Once spring hits, we could do both injections and Estrone and really hit the ground feeling great for show season. I'm still undecided.

For this week, the Estrone seems to be working enough to start asking for a little more engagement, think a 2nd/3rd level frame. I'm getting a little resistance from Pig when I first ask, but he's happy enough once he compresses into the collection and feels just fine working there. He tires quickly in that frame, though. I'm trying to be aware of when he's starting to tire, so he doesn't accidentally weight his stifles funny just due to exhaustion.

What do you think? More Estrone? Call the vet and and tell my husband my old man horse stomped all over his Christmas presents? Anyone have a lead on knee replacements for horses?

Argh. Getting old is a PITA.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ride Journal: Dec 7-Dec 13

Joan of Arc is a badass. I shall try to be more like her...
Meridian Hill Park, Washington D.C.

Historical Fact of the Day: The only equestrian statue of a woman in D.C., and a gift to the women of the USA from the women of France. 
True to my hedgehog-addled promise last week, I rode a lot more this week. I wouldn't go so far as to say we were conquering things like Joan of Arc up there, however. We had a lot of ups and downs, and my rides were not very ambitious. 

Dec 7:
Neck wide at base = winning.
I hopped on for the first ride back in a week, hoping that Pig would feel ready to get back to work. Unfortunately, he felt more like he was 1000 years old and unable to do more than an unbalanced old-man toddle. 

In fact, he felt very, very off. I hoped off after 20 minutes (mostly at the walk) didn't loosen him up. I crossed my fingers that his funkiness was due to time off and fluctuating weather patterns, and hoped he'd be a little more supple with our next ride.

Dec 10:
Pictured: Pig looking less derpy than a gorgeous PSG trained warmblood. Marvel, for this is not a regularity.
I would be lying if I said Pig's off-ness didn't put me in a funk about riding. Couple that with oppressive darkness, and I had a hard time getting motivated to ride. When I finally make it back out to the barn, I decided to just ride sans saddle. I hoped that would let me feel Pig's imbalance a little better, and make a judgement call.

I am so glad I made that choice. Pig started out stiff and in a bad mood, grinding his teeth a minute I bridled him, However, being bareback allowed me to feel the places in his back where he was resistant and work on them immediately. I think this helped him feel a little better, as I was working on fixing him up rather than pushing him through a stiff spot. By the end of the ride, we had some lovely work under our belt. Pig was straighter in his lateral work, and starting to push more evenly with both hinds. His canter departs were much more uphill after fixing the push from behind, and he even stopped grinding his teeth. 


Of course, riding bareback in the pitch black darkness of the 1/4 mile from my turnout to the indoor arena is maybe not the most confidence inspiring activity. Despite a rather dramatic spook at a newly installed feeder by both Pig and I, we did make it to and from our little turnout barn fairly unscathed. 

Dec 12:
“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? 
It is the east, and Juliet Pig is the sun."
Thursday's positive bareback ride and the sunny 70 degree weather of Saturday had me excited to get out and ride. I still didn't want to push Pig very hard, so we headed out to a nearby field to let the dogs get some time outside and continue to work on balancing at all gaits.

Pig started off incredibly stiff, but I tried to approach the situation with a lot of patience. I was persistent in asking him to work in a walking shoulder-in both directions until he loosened through the neck and back. Finally, I put him on the bit completely and asked for a trot. He was lovely. We maybe only worked for 20 minutes total, but he was absolutely with me for every second. We even did two relaxed changes on my aids both directions. This was huge, as my aids for a change often get completely ignored when riding outside of the arena. 

I think we all just enjoyed being outside.

Dec 13:
"Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, 
Who is already sick and pale with grief"
Sunday, I didn't ride until I returned from helping a friend ride in a clinic. That meant riding in the dark again. Once more, I chose to hop on bareback and see what a little more feel could do.

Pig was slightly more resistant to coming through, but I think much of that was me. I was stiff, and not weighting my right seatbone as much as I needed to. Once I figured that out (towards the end of the ride, of course), he was much more willing to step up and evenly into the bridle. This makes a whole month of me promising my horse I would do more yoga, and not following through. I'm feeling pretty bad about that. Time to step up.

The earlier work had been so resistant, we didn't even canter after a brief warm up. I wanted to instead focus on just getting both of us working well in changes of direction and bend. Sometimes you have to focus on the little stuff to better put together the bigger picture.

Dressage training, it's like working a puzzle.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Progress Check: Half Pass and Flying Changes

It's been almost a exactly a year since I first started working on the half pass. It's been almost exactly 8 months since I started working towards flying changes.

I think it's time for a little look back at our progress, don't you think?

Canter:
May 2015
This was our collected canter back in May. You can see that it's starting to get where it needs to be behind, but that Pig is still blocked up front and too tight through the withers and back to actually release and go. My half halts, at the start of the clip, are blocked in the neck and back. While the back legs come further under, Pig's back doesn't lift and his engagement is rather false. It's a start. I remember being thrilled he stayed in the contact, instead of just going light and abandoning the exercise.
Nov 2015
This is a moment from a canter exercise Thanksgiving weekend. You can clearly see my half halt go through (hint, watch for the tail). Instead of getting tighter, the half halt actually gets Pig to let go with his neck and lift his withers. In that moment his canter goes up instead of faster. Breakthrough! This video isn't even one of our good moments. It still needs to be confirmed, but the good moments are really good. Now, I just need to stop throwing around my upper body so much. Goodness...

Half Pass:
Nov 2014
This clip is from very early in our work with half passes. Being picky, Pig isn't through (head waggling) and his haunches are leading for most of the movement. He could use more true bend through his ribcage, most of it is coming in the neck and haunch instead. Still, I was (and still am) very happy with this initial work.
Nov 2015
This half pass left has been the bane of our existence for awhile. Pig seems to be weaker this way, and has a hard time staying loose enough to move sideways and forward. We're finally getting there, but you can see where I straighten him halfway through to keep him relaxed and forward. That's been key to getting a better movement. Still, he's much more through and relaxed than in the clip from a year ago. His bend is better, too. (Though the angle makes it hard to see, and it could be more consistent.)

Changes:
These have been all over the place. Typically they come in three varieties: the late behind, the auto, and the disunited dolphin.
May 2015, late behind
Here is a prime example of the late behind change. It's on my aid, but the hind just takes a stride or two to complete the movement (trotting behind a step, gross). We scored a deserving 4 on this. Pig's relative calm attitude about the slip up was unusual for this time in our training. Most of the time he'd throw a fit about being late, and try to bolt into the hind change. I can't blame him. That late trot step fumble thing looks really uncomfortable.
May 2015, auto change, yes this is the same test
Early in our training the auto-change returned with a vengeance. While these were usually relatively clean, they could happen anywhere and with great dramatics. So fun. Stopping an auto change was usually grounds for a complete emotional breakdown from Pig. Not a good idea.
Later in May 2015, the disunited dolphin
Here we have what starts to look like it'll be a really nice change, only to leave our hind legs for a quarter of the arena. This is the opposite of fun to ride. The rest of the day was a nightmare while Pig over-dramatized his life choices. My seat kinda sucks here, and my cue is terrible. We'll just go right ahead and say we both needed work.
Nov 2015, late behind
Fast-forward to today. Pig is much calmer about changes, and has figured out to listen for my aid (most of the time). He's also (mostly) cut out bolting after a biffed change. This particular moment is late behind, but must less so that previously. I'll take it. Other pluses? He stayed through and balanced in the whole movement. Getting there! Downside? I seem to throw my body at him in the cue. It's hard to see, so maybe I'm not as bad as I think?

What do you think? Am I crazy? Is there improvement here? I wish I had more half pass video, as that is really our best movement and one Pig truly enjoys the hell out of doing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ride Journal: Nov 30-Dec 6 (As told by hedgehog memes)

So, um. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I only rode once last week.
Nope, it wasn't because of the weather.
It was gorgeous.
Or that my horse was broken.
Or that I couldn't decide what to do.
Or that I didn't have the energy.
Or maybe...
Yeah, nope. Not that either...
Just that I started a new job, and didn't have a dog-walker lined up.
Fail.
So... Uh. I don't even remember what we did last Monday. I think there were some circles involved. I also believe we were both kinda sore and tired.
Boom. Recap = done.
I apologize for the distinct lack of content. Next week will be better, I promise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday Video Break and Bloopers

In yesterday's ride recap, I mentioned our quick and gallopy Friday morning warm up. In a fun twist, my husband joined me for day at the barn and was able to grab some quick video shots!

First up, a quick gallop with my trusty (mostly) husky sidekicks...

(I apologize, my husband tends to get distracted by the dogs when videoing...)

Go ahead and laugh at my "gallop" in dressage length stirrups, complete with swan neck spurs and a dressage whip. That takes skill, kids. And core strength. So much core strength. I do not recommend. If I was going any faster than a big canter, I'd have been so unstable.

We did a couple of passes in the field before calling it a day. (And aren't those fields amazing? And the footing?!) On one pass, my husband captured this amazingly hilarious blooper...

(No dogs were harmed ... much ... in the making of this video.)

Poor Sonka! He was a little stiff for a minute or two, but quickly worked out of it. So, it's okay to laugh away. Silly dog had grass and mud stuck in his collar for most of the day!

Did you guys get to celebrate the holiday in an equestrian way? Anyone get to go galloping?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ride Journal: Nov 23-29

Wow What A Week!!

Nov 23:
Partners in crime...
We rode in the arena for this ride. I remembered that I wanted to work harder on suppleness in the traver, so I kept that aim high in my mind. We did a lot of lateral work, shoulder-in and traver. Pig was super good. He was half halting right into my hand. All it would take to collect more was tighten my abs and think "put those hind legs UNDER." Boom. He was there. We rode for only 35 minutes, and he was a dream.

While doing some last minute grooming; blanketing; and apple feeding, my phone rang. I had interviewed that morning, and was being offered a full-time job! Success!!
Such excite!
Nov 25:

A friend and I went for a medium length trot/canter conditioning ride through the surrounding hills and fields. We were gone for approximately an hour and spent 1/3 of the time at the walk, 1/2 of the time at the trot, and 1/6 of the time at the canter.

We practiced cantering very, very collected -- trying to match our warmblood friend's big canter. And we practiced trotting extended and connected for a long time. Pig really got into the extended trot. It was hard to hold him together. He would get a little disengaged and his tempo would break down. It almost felt like he was pacing. A solid half halt put him back into a good tempo, and we would try again. I think it helped him figure out his extensions and half halts a bit better.

Afterwards, both horses were drenched in sweat. We used our fancy new barn to the fullest. Pig received a warm water bath and enjoyed hanging out under the heat lamps for a bit. However, it was 60 degrees, so he ended up getting turned out while still fairly wet.
Don't lie. You're jealous of our warm water and lamps... I also won't lie. I had forgotten this was an option and considered just giving Pig a cold bath with the regular hose, like we would have at our old barn!
Nov 27: 
So much fun...
I started this ride outside with some brisk trots and quiet canter/gallops. It felt like the right way to celebrate the beautiful weather and holiday weekend. Pig must have felt great after his conditioning ride and the quick and fast warm up. When we hit the ring, he was 100% ready to work. We did a lot of changes of direction to get him listening to my half halts and my weight.

When we were seamlessly changing direction, I moved on to 20 m circles at the canter. I wanted him to sit and engage more, while keeping bend. Once we were dancing the line between loose engagement and tense trying, I took him off the circle to do half pass and a single flying change. I repeated the exercise in the other direction. This was a hugely successful exercise. I started on Pig's difficult direction, and it was nice to end on the good direction and with clean and prompt changes.
It was nice to have a photographer/videographer for the day, too!
Nov 28:

This ride is when Pig was starting to feel the week's exertions, I think. He felt a little stiff and a little reluctant in the contact. I was stiff in the hips, too. That didn't help. I kept things light and easy, trying to remember to stay dispassionate in my training.

We did a lot of stretches, shoulder-in to the tough direction, and changes of direction. I asked for simple change canter figure eights, which may have been too much. I tried not to nitpick them too much, and quit when we had a decent one.

Nov 29:

Another iffy ride. Pig was again very stiff, only this time I could not establish a consistent half halt. He felt very tight behind, and kept leaving a hind leg in the trot and canter. I had to nag his arthritic back right a lot to get it to keep up.

All was not lost, however. I did a lot of experimenting in this ride. I tried to really notice where Pig was putting his haunches in each direction. In the walk and trot to the right, he wanted to push his haunches in. When I would then ask him to bend that direction, he would throw a fit. He was blocking himself with his own shape. When I pushed his haunches out, he was freed up to be able to step forward and bend. His frustration would vanish, though he did not want to push his haunches out.

Cantering to the left, I had to take care that his haunches did not curl in. That would cause him to lean and destroyed our ability to half halt. My right leg was too strong in the left lead canter, and I needed more left leg to keep the bend appropriately.
I give you: The View from the Back of the Red Dragon
A lot of these issues were probably due to my imbalance in the saddle-- not weighting my right seatbone enough when going left and not weighting my right leg enough when going right. Obviously it is time for me to get back to yoga bootcamp again...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ride Journal Nov 16-22

So far, this experiment in accountability is going well. I've been thinking a bit more carefully about my rides. And I've been taking a few more photos!

"The Week of Half Halts"

Nov 16: 
This place is seriously beautiful...
I started this ride with a light trail ride. After the rain of last week driving us indoors every day, I figured both Pig and I could use a break in scenery. After hacking out to a nearby field, however; I decided to just do our dressage school in the field.

We worked mostly on half halts. Pig has a bad habit of stiffening to a half halt, rather than taking a bigger step and simply rebalancing. The stiffening puts him behind my leg, and really destroys the usefulness of the half halt. This whole ride I worked on really sitting into a half halt, and not moving my seat when I needed to use my leg. I've gotten a little sloppy in my aids. When we have a good half halt, Pig is very consistent and light in my hand. When I don't, he gets stiff and backs off. I can't give as much as I do in these moments, I need to be firmer with my request to half halt and really drive his hind legs under him.

Notes:
- When doing turn on haunches to left, let the right shoulder pop a little bit. Controlling it is stifling the forward motion and the bend right now. We can fix the shoulder issue later.
- When half halting, really think "push the hind legs under" with my hips. I have to change the way I'm sitting to get him to give in his back and bend his hip. At the same time, don't stop sitting.
- Flex to break up tension in the neck, but don't be too quick to give. He needs to relax into the bend.

Nov 17:
Morning light is the best light...
Tuesday I wanted to pull the goodness out of Monday's ride and add to it. We started in the field again, just warming up with forwardness and a round back. We did a little stretching and a little bending out there. Then, we moved to the arena.

I kept the focus on half halts during this ride, but I upped the difficulty level by throwing in some of our 3rd Level work. I did some half passes and a little shoulder-in, just to test the throughness of my half halts. Pig tends to rush these movements when he loses his balance, and I wanted to be able to half halt without losing the quality of the movement. Success.

After this we moved to Megan's walk to medium trot exercise, which should be called The Exercise of Ugly. It is so very, very ugly. I was extremely happy I had a forward horse, as that helped me get into a moderately forward trot from the walk. I only did this exercise twice, but it did help me get a lot more push in my mediums and figure out how to ride the forward without losing the connection. I also was happy to realize I still felt the half halt in Pig's back.

Nov 21:
Stand the horse on an uphill to make him look more... uphill?
After three days off, I wasn't sure how Pig would respond. Sometimes he stiffens up with too much time off. While a bit stiffer, he was very willing and lovely! We rode in the ring, and rode pretty much every movement from 3-2, though not intentionally.

After a long walk warm up, in which I focused on a driving half halt and a supple and stepping hind, we moved to trot work. We schooled the half pass, especially to our tough left direction. Pig tends to lose the bend, stiffen and lose the rhythm, or rush horribly in this direction. I focused on keeping a good half halt. When Pig would stiffen or lose bend, I lifted my left hand to keep the flexion and half halted with my seat. During this half halt, I asked him to move straight (with bend). Once he was collected again, I asked him to move over. I tried to be very careful about watching the right shoulder and nagging at the right hind to stay under us. Sometimes he steps wide with the right hind, which makes the half pass feel impossible. With extra attention, we ended the day with a left half pass that was just a nice as the one to the right.

At the canter, we did the same schooling of the half pass to the left (same issues). We also schooled a lot of counter canter. The first time we came off of a half pass, I made the turn at the end of the ring so that we ended in counter canter. The second time, I tried to do the same, but lost my seat and ended up flubbing my cues so that Pig started to change instead. I sat deep, and instead of getting flustered and auto-changing, Pig sat and walked. Good boy! The next two times we came around, I cued properly for the change and got one in each direction. They aren't perfect. The mirror showed he's not really late behind, but was kind of quickly kicking off with both hinds at once, instead of stepping into it more. I'm not sure what to do about that. To the research!

Nov 22:
Dat neck, doh.
For this ride, the focus was half halts, check the suppleness in traver, and no changes. We started with a lot of supple walk work, during which I really had to nag Pig's hind right to stay under us. He seemed to be stepping slightly short in front, too. That worked out by the end of the ride, but I'll be watching it.

The traver was quite stiff to the left. This is the harder direction, but it took more than normal leg and rein to keep the bend. A few 10m circles (which I am realizing I have neglected a bit too much recently!) helped loosen things up. Our next few attempts at traver were much better. I'm going to need to keep at this to be able to maintain a powerful one. It's a bit weak right now.

From traver work, I moved on to work shoulder-in to renver, without losing the connection or stiffening behind. This went super well, and I was very impressed with it. After every ride this week I had been practicing a stretchy trot, sitting. During this, I worked on changing bend and direction off my seat. I think that work is bleeding over into our collected work, as this transition was 90% off my seat and very relaxed.

At the canter, I worked counter canter hard. I asked for a lot of half halts in the counter canter. This caused a few breaks, but no offered changes! The breaks were 100% okay, too. We are starting to tilt the balance point back further at the counter canter, which often feels like living on the line between canter and break. I'm okay with that, because it's making things better. My half halts in the counter canter have often been a little haphazard, so feeling like I can half halt without a change or a break due to stiffness is great!

Next week? Keep up the suppleness work at traver, watch the front legs for issues, do more 10m circles, and do a conditioning hack.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saddle Work

I bought my saddle (a Cliff Barnsby (AVG) Anky van Grunsven) on Facebook a couple of years ago. Though it was initially very wide on Guinness, I didn't have the ability to do much about it. So, I padded it up and rode in it. Amazingly, Guinness started putting on muscle and weight around his withers almost immediately. Six months after I purchased the saddle, it was no longer a horrible fit for him.

Prescient saddle buying? Is that a thing? 
The saddle the first day I had it. So wide it ate saddle pads...
It's been a long time since I purchased that saddle, and I have been dying to have it looked at. I have felt like the fit is still off slightly, plus it needed new billets. Thankfully, my fellow boarding friend had Annette from Hastilow Competition Saddles out to look at her own saddle. I grabbed Annette and asked if she would mind looking at mine, too.

Annette was awesome. I didn't think the fit on my saddle was that terrible, and I told her upfront "purchasing another saddle is out of the question." She completely understood and told me she thought what we would have work fine with a little help.
The saddle at the end of August. Fit looking okay, but could be better.
After taking tracings (which I've never had done before!), she looked at the saddle. She determined it needed a little more flocking in front (which I agreed with heartily!), and was slightly horrified by condition of split billets. She also suggested we change my billets from standard configuration to a point billet set up. Again, I couldn't have agreed more. She packed up my saddle and promised to have it back in three days.
Saddle fit from the front, prior to refitting. Just a little too dipped down in front. 
As someone who once waited over a week for the Amish guy in the next town over to put three stitches in my bridle, I was floored by her timeliness. Amazingly, she even had the saddle back a day early.

I can't rave about her work enough. The saddle looks lovely. The point billets have made a huge difference in how it sits. No longer does it try to shift forward or cause the girth to pull awkwardly. The new billets are also sturdy and lovely. The reflocking is noticeable when I sit in the saddle. It's easier to sit up and keep my seat in the right place.
Looking great today!
I think I'll keep this saddle around a bit longer. Though, I'm still lusting after a fancy Custom with a super deep seat...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ride Accountability/Ride Journal

There's a lotta money in this photo...
I've been struggling to keep my horse's training/conditioning plan in mind recently. With the time off for his broken splint, I'm kind of floundering. Part of the issue is not keeping a good enough record and reflection journal of my rides.

So that's where you guys come in.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try to do a weekly ride summary on the blog. If it seems to work for me, I'll keep it up. In the meantime, let's call this a trial period.

Ride Journal | Nov. 9-15
"The Week of the Eye Injuries"

Nov 9
The barn is closed in the mornings, so I ended up riding in the late evening. The barn indoor was much more crowded than I am used to. There was one lesson, one training ride, and up to 7 other horses in there at one time. Everything from a training level horse toting around his rider to a rider working on passage was happening around us. Moments like this make me incredibly thankful my little red horse stops and turns on a dime.

Pig started off very stiff and not terribly forward. It was raining and windy, so I wonder if he was a little bit cold. Still, with a little bit of asking, he started to loosen up and give a bit more. We cantered for all of 5-10 minutes, but didn't ask for any real collection. Being late, I didn't push the stiffness issue. We finished up when he loosened up enough to give me a decent shoulder-in in both directions.

Nov. 10
Minor eye laceration. Nbd.
The minor eye injury notwithstanding, Pig was good for this ride. He was much looser than the night before, even though it was still raining and chilly. We cantered a solid 10 minutes during this ride, and he was happy to do canter/walk transitions. Lateral work was good, and connection was fairly stable. We rode for 30 minutes.

Nov. 12
This ride was out of this world. When we left the barn, it was pouring down rain. We explored a big powerful trot on a loose rein all the way from the turnout field to the indoor, arriving completely drenched. Still, no amount of water could dampen Pig's work ethic. He was happily forward into the bridle from the moment I picked up the reins, and very supple. 
At least it wasn't pouring on the way back!
The highlight of this ride was the canter. I stuck to a 20 meter circle, for the most part. After warming up the canter in a low frame, I asked Pig to come up with his frame, really collect the canter, and give me more air time on every third stride. To the left he gave me this amazingly uphill and lofty canter stride every time I asked. To the right he wanted to rush instead of sitting and jumping. By really sitting deep and being insistent with my half halts, I managed to convince him to put in a better effort to the right. We did a little canter half pass work, which led to me accidentally cuing for a change (and getting it, late behind). I decided to try once more and actually think about my aids, and we ended up with one balanced and clean change. The best part? He landed from the second change and just cantered off calmly. Feels like progress!

Nov.14 
Another, more serious, eye laceration... 
After watching a clinic all day, I had this idea that my horse would come out and be as foot perfect as he was on Thursday. That was clearly ridiculous. Once I got down to business, it was clear that my horse was incredibly stiff, especially to the left. On top of that, I had absolutely no real connection and no half halt. Awesome

Though I'm not proud of it, both of us pushed each other's buttons for this whole ride. We fought like an old married couple. I had the thought (more than a few times) "this ride is going nowhere; I should just get off." But I never actually did.

Eventually, Pig and I did find some harmony. I started using both of my legs, instead of just one and at a time. I also finally sat up and started carrying my own hands. He never loosened up entirely (his back felt like a piece of twisted steel), but he relaxed enough to change his bend without completely dropping his brain on the floor. We were even able to school a touch of left half pass (at the trot), and work on keeping true bend.

Though this ride was terrible, it's good for me to remember we were able to work through it by the end. (Patience and self-aware evaluation always win over frustration. If only I could remember that more quickly.) There was a time where this ride was an almost daily occurrence, and I would have to just quit. Now we rarely have this ride, and I do have the tools to solve the issues.

Poor Emma  was visiting to audit the clinic, and had to sit through this ride. I'll let her describe how terrible it was from a spectator point of view.

Nov. 15
Despite Pig's newest eye laceration causing his eye to swell like crazy...
Now that looks seriously painful...
This ride was actually pretty good. Guinness started off stiff, and reluctant in the contact. A little bit of detached and patient work at the walk loosened him up and had him moving into the bridle. Remembering Saturday further, I made sure to install a working half halt before we left the walk.

At the trot/canter Pig was reluctant to stretch, but fairly easily convinced to give it a try. He eventually started swinging his back more, and was very willing in the lateral work. We did a little counter canter and a few up/down transitions. On a 20m circle, we also worked on doing a super collected trot for a couple of strides every 10 or so trot strides. That went extremely well. We didn't school that for very long.

I ended up handing Pig over to a friend to ride while I rode her sales horse. It was tons of fun to see him go around quietly with her. She even did a fair amount of trot half pass, something she just learned on her own horse! Schoolmaster moments make me proud!

Summary:
More days like this and less of cold nasty rain, please! I'm getting sick of conditioning my saddle on the daily.
Pig is just coming back into full work. He's able to give me really good work for for only 30 minutes before he tires. We're back to cantering quite a bit, and schooling pretty much everything in 3rd. I'm limiting the work with changes until everything else is very solid. I need to focus more on relaxation in the warm up, but next week can do a bit more work on super collection at the canter and trot. I will need to keep an eye towards straightness and maintaining the connection in those moments. I also need to only school the super collection on every-other ride. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Introducing the 2015 Body Clip

I know you were all eagerly anticipating this, right?
Sorry for the lack of creativity and fun this year...
Okay, maybe not.

With Pig back in "full" work and the weather in Maryland much more temperate than what we've been used to in Indiana, I felt a full body clip was warranted right off. Poor pony has been sweating just standing in his field, and probably feels much better in his newer, svelter, coat.
"Wait. Why am I back in this barn? 'Just to dry' you say? Don't lie to me!"
This year I approached things much like last. I used dormosedan to take the edge of Pig's nerves, gave him a bath, and sprayed him down liberally with show sheen. The only difference was in the blades I used. This year I bought a faux body clipping blade, the wide Oster 10.

Unfortunately I realized the wide blade doesn't cut quiiiiiite the same as a regular Oster 10, as noted by the awful clip lines. I also barely made it through Pig's whole coat with one blade. I need to find a place that sharpens blades ASAP.
"Guys. I am so drunk right now."
Even drugged it was a pain to get near Pig's ears. This horse is weird. I can do his bridle path with zero issue on any day of the week, but clip on his neck in the same area? All out war. He also gave me a hilarious impersonation of a drunk old man kicking. It was so slow motion, I had to giggle. He held his leg up in the air for a minute as if to say "Hey! Come over here so I can hit you with my foot!"

Sorry horse. Nope.

A quiet night at the barn...
Overall I'm pleased with his clip. The warmer days of the last couple of weeks have made my timing seem right on. Hopefully he doesn't get too cold over his back as it gets chillier. That always makes him very tense.

Of course, my first ride after clipping him was sans saddle, as I had sent my saddle off to be flocked and repaired. Thankfully my creature was just as calm and good as ever.
"Lady, I am perfection incarnate."
Anyone have issues with post-clip shenanigans?