Saturday, June 1, 2013

End of May Analysis, June Goals, and a bit of Catch-up!

I have to say, I'm really enjoying my current schedule. While it doesn't seem to ever leave me much time for blogging at the end of the day, having a full-but-not-overly-full day is mentally stimulating, refreshing, and enjoyable. I've had lots of time to work the red monster, brush the old bat, and let the little brown angel have some time to herself. Immy had most of the month of May off, and it has really done her a world of good - she's seeking me out for attention in an increasingly demanding way, and is enjoying her time with me. At the end of April, I felt as though we were losing a lot of ground mentally with her - she was retreating into herself with her increasing workload and not enjoying being handled. She needed some time to herself, and I needed to just be her food lady again for awhile. It's been discouraging to see how quickly her stress levels escalate, and how rapidly that turns into belly issues with her... if she can't even deal with the stress of being lightly handled at home, she'll never make a show horse. I'm not giving up by any means, but I think I'll be progressing with her differently now - if I was going slow before, I'll be moving at a snail's pace now. If it takes her a few years to come around, so be it... we're not in a hurry. 

In the meantime, she's back on the lunge... it's amazing to see how she has turned from a zippy, nervous little zoomer into a lazy, plodding jogger who doesn't expend any more energy than she has to! She's SO quiet now! I really thought she was always going to be the one with eternal energy and forwardness, and O was going to be a lot quieter than she is, but those two roles have been totally reversed. O can go and go and go for miles and hours with no signs of tiring, while Immy only expends as much energy as she feels is necessary. It's really enjoyable to work with her on the ground now that she has had some time to chill out - she stands like a rock for everything you do, is totally immobile and quiet, responds to everything you ask her to do, and is in general just a really good girl. In comparison, O is learning to quiet her mind and hold still for longer than 5 seconds, but the moment you leave her, she is wiggling. Immy would stand totally still probably for the rest of eternity if you left her tied somewhere. Comparing her now to where she used to be, she really is a solid citizen. We're just not there yet under saddle....!

She's also gotten, erm... a bit portly in her month off. O is losing weight (understandably, with her workload), so I've gradually almost doubled her food, but I've cut cut Immy literally down to a fourth of what she was eating. When she was struggling with stress and tummy problems, she was verging on too thin. Now, she's roughly the size of a beached whale, and while it looks good on her, I'm not keen to let her get ANY plumper!

Yes, they really are all joined at the hip. They're not normally out on pasture (they live out 24/7 but not on grass), but I do let them out to run and graze when they're not in heat. (When they're in heat, they try to sit on the neighbor's fence to get to his geldings!) P is the ringleader, and she makes all the executive decisions of the group. Immy is usually the first to peel away from them and come to me, but if P leaves, she leaves right along with her. O is the tagalong; she is the lowest ranking of them, and Immy bosses her around. P and Immy have a weird more-than-friends thing going on, and P is unusually studdish with her (lots of posturing, neck arching, huffing and nickering), but Immy doesn't seem to care much. They're such a funny little herd.

Onto O's goals!


O-Ren May Goals:

1) Continue work on the lunge in Faux-ssoa - try chambon/neck stretcher? Lunge over poles
Success! I didn't use a chambon, but I did use the Faux-ssoa lots, and used the neck stretcher as well. I liked the neck stretcher so much that I've used it every ride! It's loose, and it doesn't remotely do anything until she tries to throw her head around. Unlike a martingale, the neck stretcher has give to it, and I like how it doesn't engage until she does. I didn't do any lunging over poles, but I did do a lot of riding over poles.

2) Continue consistent work under saddle - w/t/c, relaxation, OBEDIENCE, steering/brakes/adjustability!
Success! I rode the PANTS off of this mare all month! It's still a work in progress, but she has already come SO far compared to where she was. She takes about ten minutes of riding down when you first get on, but once she gets moving and chills out a little, she really does well. Her biggest problems are contact evasion and buddy sour issues. I had her teeth done two weeks ago, and had a few sharp edges taken down so we can thankfully rule that problem out... now we just have some retraining to do.

3) Free-jump in the chute - see what she's got! 
I did not do this one... too much rain, too much fun riding, not enough time otherwise! I DID however find an old video of her jumping, so I do have an idea now of how she jumps!

4) Start taking a peek at late summer schooling shows - possibilities? 
I have some ideas! Nothing is set in stone, but in August there are a number of XC schoolings that we can go to. In September there are more XC schooling opportunities, 3 or 4 schooling horse trials to choose from, a schooling dressage show, and a schooling jumper show, all nearby. I think it's reasonable to shoot for doing some schoolings in August and possibly a schooling HT or two in September/October!

5) Continue to work on her feet - they have a ways to go!
Still a work in progress! She is currently casted after wearing off a huge amount of foot during all of our rides, and she does feel quite a lot better with them on, but she still needs more help. When the casts come off, I"ll fit her to some boots and we'll see what happens!


O-Ren June Goals:
1) Continue consistent work under saddle - w/t/c, relaxation, OBEDIENCE, steering/brakes/adjustability!
2) Start JUMPING! Small things, grids, poles, etc!
3) More experiments with tack, hoof boots, etc! Experiment in finding out what works best for her!
4) Start conditioning sets (trots, canters)

5) Work on buddy sour issues - going out totally alone, being left behind, etc.


This week, we had some great workouts. On Monday, S and I hacked out early and did some trotting and cantering after walking for an hour. I've been working almost exclusively on straight lines with her, but completely changed tactics that day, and did nothing but little circles, bending lines, serpentines, and changes of direction constantly. Doing this helped to break up her ability to grab the bit and barge forward, which she was trying desperately to do when her friends went trotting in the other direction. She has a HUGE problem with being left, and pitches a huge temper tantrum when she is out with another horse and they get too far away. (Tough cookies mare... deal with it. You won't die!)

If you want a visual of what she does, check out this video of a Mexican dancing horse... imagine this horse in red and not actually trained to do this, and add panic and belligerence in to the mix. The frantic sideways running and stamping around starts at around 10 seconds in, and the hysterical striking out comes at the minute mark or so... add in some reining spins for good measure and you have her in a nutshell when she is left behind.

It makes me laugh everytime I see it, because that is EXACTLY what she does, only not on purpose.

Once she got over herself, she was really very good. She still isn't quite there with taking a consistent contact, and would rather hide behind it or go too deep or too far above it, but she gives me some really promising moments every ride. We're working in canter now more as well, and the cues for that need some serious finesse - she only canters if you lean really far forward and take your legs off. If you try to sit up and cue, she blasts forward in the trot instead. We'll get there!

On Tuesday, we trailered over to one of S's friend's arenas, and we rode for about an hour and a half. I tried her in my jump tack and waterford bit - I hadn't ridden her much in my jump tack before, and was having some braking issues with the famous blue bit (she's still learning that half halts from your body actually mean something!), so I played around and experimented. The bit definitely gave me the brakes I was looking for, but she hid behind the contact (not surprising) more often than not.

You can see how she likes to duck behind and pop above the contact. All I really can do is just give her a set length of rein, keep quiet and push her forward into it. She requires quite a lot of tact... she is not easy.

Unfortunately when I got off, I found that one of the end links of the waterford had pinched the corner of her mouth... great. It's not bad, but it was enough where I decided I better keep a bit out of her mouth for a few days to make sure it didn't worsen. I asked S if they had an English hackamore around in the tack barn to try. There wasn't one, but there WAS a sidepull... worth a shot!

She did REALLY well in it. We hacked up the road for 1.5 hours, trotting and cantering a fair bit of the way, and even going down under an overpass into a stream (very scary). She was perfectly behaved up until this point, and then her buddy walked away from her for a moment... she FREAKED. She absolutely lost her mind when he walked away, and we had to have a long talk about waiting and listening. She improved, but at this point it had taken so long that S needed to get back and get her horses to the chiropractor, and couldn't wait around anymore. I wasn't about to let O go rushing off after him, so I made her wait behind while he loped off without her. OH MAN, I thought she was going to kill herself or the both of us in the process. I was very impressed that I had as much control in the sidepull as I did, because she was prancing and thrashing around as hard as she could in an effort to yank some rein away from me and take off after him. She tried repeatedly to pull me out of the saddle by rooting down and throwing her head between her knees; when that didn't work, she jigged as hard and as fast as she could while trying to go forward. I sat chilly and insisted that she just WALK. Once she finally did, I let her canter on for a ways - surprisingly, she was fairly relaxed and maintained a normal speed on a loose contact instead of bolting off like I expected. When we came back down to the walk, she could see her buddy waaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the distance, but didn't get heated up again. I walked along on the buckle for most of the rest of the ride home, to my complete surprise. The barking pit bulls, braying donkeys, cars, cows, and other distractions didn't bother her, and she didn't try to hustle up after her friend. I was totally impressed.

I think she was a bit tired after her tantrum.

She had two days off to rebound, and today I put her on the lunge as per our June schedule. I wanted to go for another day without putting a bit in her mouth, but still wanted her to get a decent workout on the lunge... hmmm, would a sidepull actually work for that? You bet it does:

I wouldn't use it regularly for anything like this - it acts to pull her head in instead of being a contact that she can stretch out to - but it still achieved the goal of loosening up her back, and she did very well. Good girl. (And we did beat out the storm that was zooming in, as you can see from the background...)

Tomorrow we go back to flatwork!

1 comment:

  1. Wow O's progress is amazing!! And how nice that Immy is doing better with a little time off.