Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Swim Time for PONIES!

We've had several strange days of serious rain here in North Texas. It's June, and it is WEIRD to see water falling from the sky this time of year, but we're happy to take it whenever we can get it. Rather alarmingly, almost everything everywhere has massively flooded - the lakes have risen 5', cars have been swept away down roads totally underwater, and, shockingly, out entire stock pond filled up and then some! I've never even seen a DROP of water in there before, it has always been bone dry. Now it is probably almost 10 feet deep in the middle, if not deeper! WHERE did all this water come from??

Well of course, we had to take advantage of it. Who doesn't want to go swimming on a hot Texas summer day?

It's a little bit of a boring video, but it's adorable nonetheless.

She was SO GOOD yesterday. She just went on in and did whatever I asked. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Baby Daydreamin' - and Name Ideas!

Even though I have 300-odd days to go until my baby horse is here, I can't help but daydream about some of the things we'll do when he or she is here. This is my first homebred, so I am bound to mess plenty of things up along the way... but I think if I plan appropriately, I will hopefully not make TOO big a mess. I've foaled out, raised, and started enough young horses to have half an idea of what I am doing, but it is just different when it is YOUR baby. Kind of like with first-time parents.... you know you're going to screw it up somewhere along the way, as much as you hope not to!!

While P is Pregnant:
Conception to Month 8: Maintain same feeding program, free choice quality grass hay, 'meals' of alfalfa/timothy pellets + Healthy Glo nuggets, Equine Challenge vit/min supplement, Cosequin, a few pregnancy-safe herbs. Little trail rides to keep her fit as well!
Month 8 to Birth: Alter feeding program to meet last trimester demands. I'm not quite sure yet how I'm going to change this.... I'll have to consider my options. I have a few months to figure it out thankfully!
Deworming: According to fecals, as needed. Also 1 month prior to foaling, and immediately post-foaling.
Vaccines: My vet wants to initiate the EHV-1 vax protocol at 3 months, so P will get vaccinated for that at 3, 5, 7, and 9 months. She will also get all of her regular vaccines 4-6 weeks prior to her foaling date, as per normal.
Foaling: Aside from making sure I have my foaling kit together, I have to decide if I want P to foal out in a stall or in one of the paddocks. The paddock where the girls live is very rocky and not really suitable for foaling, not to mention the fact that it backs right up to the cow pastures and we have LOTS of coyotes around. The paddock closest to the house, however, is full of nice soft grass, and has a floodlight trained on it. It can also be seen right from the house. It would be an awesome place to have a baby. I also have the option of having her foal out in a stall, which is less ideal. P HATES stalls and will surely crash around all night, and O will have to be up and stalled with her since they will probably be pretty upset if they can hear each other but not see each other. The stalls are big and open, and there is no way any coyotes attracted by the smell of the birth could come sneaking around. (I'm not actually worried about the coyotes.... I guarantee you that Momma P would eat a coyote for lunch if it tried to come check out her baby, not to mention the fact that the neighbor's Pyr/Rhodesian would not stand for any coyotes hanging around for long.) If P is up in a stall, I can also have a foaling cam trained on her, and can watch from home. I don't know if I can set up a working foaling cam outside. Since I live 25+ miles away, and S is gone most weekends, it is pretty important that I know exactly what is going on at all times as we get close, because it will likely just be me there and anyone else that I can manage to rope into coming with me.

Baby's First Year:
While I think that daily handling is more important than actual imprinting, I'm sure I will imprint my little munchin because I'm going to want to be all over him/her as soon as she gets here!
Birth to Weaning: Baby gets to learn how to wear a halter and lead all over the place, pick up feet and stand for small trims, learn about clippers (and how to tolerate them everywhere), learn about standing for deworming/shots/temp taking, be poked/prodded/petted all over (in ears, mouth, etc), learn to be brushed, learn about giving to pressure in preparation for future tying/crosstying, baths, trailer loading, have rope/blanket/flymask/bag/etc desensitization.... etc etc. Basically my kiddo will learn all of the basics of being easy to handle on the ground. Baby will also get ample time to be out with momma and Auntie O, learning the general ins and outs of being a horse. It is very important for babies to be out running and playing as much as possible, and my kiddo will be out 24/7 to run and play and be a baby horse. Baby will probably also to go the Oldenburg approvals, though I'm not really sure of the logistics of that. If baby isn't going to look fantastic at the time of the approvals, then we'll register and skip approvals.
Weaning to Yearling: I'm undecided as to when and how exactly weaning is going to happen. Largely it will depend on whether or not my baby is a colt or a filly! I also have to consider whether or not I am going to want to keep my baby on the property or move it away at weaning time. There are still a lot of things to consider here, and I'm not decided yet. That said, regardless of what happens with weaning, my weanling will still continue to live out with other horses 24/7.
In terms of handling, baby will continue to be handled regularly like a big horse (grooming, bathing, vet care, hoof care, blanketing, trailering, etc). Baby will also start to be ponied for short little trips, and will get to experience things like seeing cows and going across water.
I also plan on going to a few local in-hand yearling shows like the Future Event Horse series. Not only is it a good experience for youngsters to be able to see a busy horse show setting in a low-key way, but you get some great input from the judges on what kind of a future your kid should have!

Two-Four Years Old:
Baby will still be living outside 24/7 in a herd, still being allowed to be a young horse that gets to run and play all the time. Baby will also do some more ponying, learn how to long line, kind of learn how to lunge (learn how to go out on a circle around me, but lunging is extremely stressful on young joints so there definitely won't be 'real' lunging going on), learn about being tacked up, and I will definitely sit on baby a few times and toodle around. I have NO interest in rushing anything, especially not with a slow growing warmblood, so more than anything we'll just be introducing the ideas of things to come later on down the road.
In baby's fourth year, we'll be doing a lot of trail riding and learning how to w-t-c and lunge more. Again, no serious rush here, there is just NO reason to. Even though I plan on doing the Future Event Horse series from yearling through 3 years old (if there is reason to), I have no interest in the Young Event Horse series - it is just too much for a young horse. I definitely will not be jumping my 4 year old (going over poles yes, jumping seriously no.) nor will I prep for young horse shows. It's not worth it - I want to have a sound and happy longterm athlete.

Five Years and Beyond:
This is when the meat of training will begin. Even at 5 though, I'm not going to be doing anything seriously complicated. 6 and beyond is more like it!

I'm sure I will alter things, flesh them out, make them more or less complicated as time goes on... etc! The main take-away points are these: 1) there's no rush, 2) there's no rush, and 3) there's really no rush. Baby will learn all of the ins and outs of being a well-handled horse, yes, and learn about being a ridden horse yes, but I won't drill or pound on a young horse. It's just not worth it.

Anyway, back to the present day....
This week I've really been missing riding P. O is of course extremely challenging and exhausting to work with sometimes, and following her bodywork and subsequent few days off, I just wanted to hop up on something easy and uncomplicated for a change. Hey look, I spy an old mare who wants to start going for little trail walks again!

I haven't been on P in a solid year now, not since before she left to go to her lessee's last June. I'm pretty sure her lessee hadn't been on her since last October or so, if not long before that, so it has been a very long time since P has been ridden.
True to her form, all I had to do was put a halter and lead rope on her, jump on, and head out. P is the only horse I've ever had that walks faster away from the barn than she does walking back to it, and with her ears pricked the whole time. She LOVES to go out for trail rides. She might be an old curmudgeon sometimes, but you just can't beat her work ethic. This horse is all business and no cuddles (opposite of O, who is all cuddles and no business).

Such a good beastmare.

I'm also brainstorming for baby name ideas! As per the Oldenburgs, baby should have a registered name that starts with a D (it can be with a C, for P's registered name "Chloe", if it is a filly that is meant for breeding stock, but since this is supposed to be a sport horse I'm planning on sticking with a D name). Since I am a Michigan native, and am trying to tie in both Metro and P to the name, I'm strongly considering either Detroit Rock City or Detroit Motor City for a registred/show name. Metro's show name was Motörhead, which would work well with the second name, but his barn name ties with with the City part well either way.... also I named him for a hokey heavy metal band, and Detroit Rock City is of course a song by KISS, one of the hokey-est rock bands of all time. For the record, I have literally zero interest or knowledge of either band, but the names still crack me up. Detroit Rock/Motor City also fits for either a filly or a colt, seeing as this baby is likely to be less refined and more on the skullcrusher side. And obviously, it ties in perfectly with the Michigan theme. We'll just, you know... ignore the whole Detroit-is-currently-in-shambles thing. Details, right?
I'm not 100% set on that name yet, but I'm heavily leaning that way. (Unless someone else has an awesome name that is full of beastliness and badassery that they want to suggest! Definitely open to them!)

That leaves us with a barn name. I'm considering names like Petoskey or Piston, both of which can be used for filly or colt, and both of which tie in with a P (for P of course) and match up with the Michigan theme. (Bonus points for the geological reference between Pangea and Petoskey - for those of you that didn't know, the petoskey stone is the state stone of MI!) I am VERY open to suggestions for name that have to do either with Michigan or with auto or nautical references. I'd also strongly consider music related names if they tie back in with Michigan. One thing is for certain though, I am not into boring or run of the mill names. It has to be unique!

(A photo I took many moons ago while traveling on our boat down the Detroit River under the Ambassador Bridge, probably on our way to Cedar Point. Yesssss I want The D.)

If you have any more things to add to my stuff-to-do-or-not-do-with-baby list, or have any name suggestions, fire away!

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The Red Queen herself had some bodywork yesterday! Since we've been unable to find anything wrong with her via chiro, dental, and craniosacral work, but that she still gets all twisted up and belligerent under saddle, I figured we needed to see if some of that couldn't be ironed out with some bodywork.

I'm very happy with my bodyworker. She is a new transplant to the area and we've been bouncing clients back and forth to one another. I decided it was high time for her to come give O the once-over!

Not surprisingly, she found lots going on with O, all of which didn't surprise me. She had a lot of tightness in her chest, and tightness through all of her SI area - you could see the muscles along her back spasming as she worked on those areas (pictured). She worked on her for almost two hours, just slowly ironing everything out of her. O was a very good girl for this entire procedure, even holding still for the really intensive work, and downright going to sleep for things like her herbal rub, her red light therapy, and her TMJ massage. She does have some mild TMJ stuff going on, which I knew, but it was really funny to see just how much she enjoyed her massage there... she closed her eyes and was OUT for that part!

I have some homework to do, namely some turning and backing exercises, along with carrot stretches to help unlock her neck and stretch out the spaces between her vertebrae. (Interestingly, I do the same decompression exercises myself when I am feeling all locked up, and they really help me!). She walked off from her massage looking great, but looked a little tight today (which we expected), so she's going to have a few days off to just be able to walk around and clear her body out. I might take her for a light hack tomorrow, but we should be back to work mid-week. She was not particularly good last week, and was being generally evasive and tough, so we'll see how she is feeling post-massage. We'll have her seen again in two weeks for a follow-up session!

In other news, remember my running joke of how Texas has four seasons (Hot, Wind, Fire, and Tarantulas)? Well, it is officially tarantula season.... you're welcome for the nightmares:

They are funny little critters. They just sit there and clean their feet and look at you with their beady little eyes. They also walk around like they own the place, with no interest in anything but their quest for lady spiders. It's pretty alarming the first time you see a bunch of big hairy spiders going for a stroll, but you get used to them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Splish Splash!

It's summertime in Texas, and it is starting to get HOT! Not sweltering yet by any means - it hasn't gotten above 95 yet, with most days still lingering in the low 90's - but anything over 90 is an excuse to go to the lake for a swim! Enjoy this video of our big dogs having some fun!

Of course, we'll be back to our regularly scheduled program in no time ;)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dressage Addict

It's not like this is news to anybody, but... damn. Sometimes I forget just how completely addicting dressage is. 

Dressage is by far one of THE most fascinating things I've ever done, and the more I do it, the more beautiful and intricate it becomes. 

The longer I do it - and the older I get - the more fascinating it is. Every single moment in a ride is alive with possibilities for improvement, every single breath has a feel to it, everything is so quiet and detailed and intricate and intimate, all at the same time. You are trying to have the most subtle whispered conversation with your horse, and every moment of every stride contains energy. You are not executing movements, you are making everything about the horse efficient so he or she can glide through everything you ask like it is absolutely easy. It is not about riding figures, it is about how you can use figures o make your horse as ultimately efficient and rideable as possible. When every single moment has an energetic potential to be even better than the one before... that to me is real dressage. It is SO beyond endless circles and transitions. It is about creating the ultimate harmonious language between you and your horse, so that anything becomes possible.

But, let's be real. Dressage - especially while showing - can be boring as hell if you're not actually doing it yourself. Watching dressage is kind of like watching the grass grow, especially at the lower levels. Being around DQs is just exhausting - they are even worse than hunter princesses, especially when they are menopausal and filthy rich. Riding huge sluggy dumbbloods (and I can call them that because I've had five of them, even though none of mine were huge or sluggy save for Metro) is also exhausting - I don't appreciate feeling like I'm humping a jackhammer every stride. I obviously can't spend $200,000 on a nice big fancy dumbblood either. I also think it is super stupid to put on makeup before you go in the show ring (totally a DQ thing, earrings included. I suppose if you have a $200,000 schoolmaster, then you also have an army of grooms to do your dirty work for you. You never have to even get sweaty.) 

Because of all of these things, I always did loads of dressage at home, but didn't go to a ton of recognized USDF shows. When eventing, my horses and I were always was in the 20's or low 30's (we got a 22.0 once... a personal best and one I am unlikely to ever get again!), and when we showed in USDF shows, we did quite well too, with scores in the high 60's regularly, and a few Reserve Champion ribbons at Training and First level. None of my horses ever broke the coveted 70% at a recognized show, although they did it regularly at events. O is actually the first of my horses to break 70% at a dressage show, although it was only a schooling show. 

All of my horses have been dressage horses first and foremost. Quincy and I jumped a little, but we mostly did dressage work. He fell with me a few times when I was jumping (I didn't know enough about the lasting damage that EPM does to be smart enough not to jump him, at least until he fell with me a few times), and after that I was not very interested in jumping for awhile. Actually, that's an understatement... I was terrified of it. I didn't realize it until I started jumping on some lesson horses instead of Quincy, and the thought of going over even the tiniest jumps made me break out into a cold sweat. Tedi, the best lesson horse ever, pulled me through that, but it did instill a healthy amount of fear in me. Quincy and I instead focused on dressage, showing Training level with fair success and First level with no success at all. Hell, I couldn't sit the trot to save my life... I remember what a huge thing it was to make it through a First level test without feeling like I melt into a blob of jelly off the side of my horse.

Metro and I did dressage as well, same as Quincy (Training-First levels), but we focused mainly on eventing. We did mostly Novice stuff, with a few Trainings here and there. Metro was an angel over fences... he always took extra good care of me, and jumped anything you put in front of him, no matter what. I don't really have any good pictures of our dressage work uploaded, but I will need to go through my old ones at home to see if I can find any. Metro was one cool guy... he had all sorts of buttons. When we first went to try him, I hopped on and was doing canter half pass right off the bat, even though I didn't really know how to do it. I remember doing an accidental canter pirouette on him once, which was super fun. He taught me all sorts of things.

But it was Gogo that solidly cemented my love for the intricacy of the sport. With her, you had to be quiet, you had to be tactful, you had to be centered and you had to be emotionally stable. She really connected all of the dots for me. Because of her history, you could not constrict her with your contact - if you did, she would rear, and she even flipped with me once. She taught me to be soft and she taught me to be humble. She taught me just how addicting dressage could be.

When she was on, she was on. At the time of her death, she was solidly working 2nd level (or had been, prior to her injuries), though collection was not her forte. She was a very flowing outward mover, but compression and tighter turns were not ever really her thing. She was a beautiful, fluid mover.

And of course, how can we forget my two current ladies? When P was in work, she was great. Somebody really put some buttons on her... she was just so easy in everything she did.

Her baby I bred to be primarily a dressage horse that can also be an all-arounder. I definitely want this baby to event, but I primarily want to do dressage at the end of the day, and I bred with that in mind.

Now O... O is completely different. O is extremely difficult in everything that we do. But that is what makes it so fascinating with her, now that I have her in the double. Now that the bolt is gone, I have other evasions (like being crooked or behind the leg) to deal with. But when she is there, when she is really on... man she is ON. She's such a compact little critter, and such a pretty little mover. She could really be an upper level horse, if she can keep her panties on while we're working. Every ride is so detailed, every moment is so intense... it is so addicting to delve deeper into this with her.

Some days I am not completely sure if I really want to event or not. On days like yesterday, when not one but TWO riders were killed eventing (in two different countries even), I wonder why exactly I want to get back into it. Sometimes I don't think I do. Some days I miss galloping XC, and some days just the thought of jumping a crossrail in an arena scares the pants off of me. I'm not sure why that is.

But dressage.... dressage is always there for me. Dressage, at the end of the day, is always what I want to be doing. Dressage is just my THING, you know?

But again, back to dressage being somewhat of a snooze-fest. I always did eventing because while I loved dressage, it was almost... just not enough, you know? Going around in circles forever in an arena is just boring, no matter how intricate and beautiful it is. I want dressage, but I want *more.*

I'm starting to think I should give Working Equitation a try with O, just for fun. If you haven't ever heard of it, don't worry! I hadn't either until last year. Primarily dominated by Spanish breeds overseas, WE has a small but growing following here in the US. It is classically based, and like eventing, it has several different phases. This is so far beyond eventing though... in eventing, so long as you get over the jumps with no penalties, you're fine. But in WE, there's a lot more to it. There is a dressage phase to start, which fluctuates in difficulty depending on what level you are at. Then there is an Ease of Handling phase, where you have to complete a series of obstacles (bridges, gates, tight turns, maneuvering, etc), and you are judged on how intricately and precisely you execute these maneuvers (and you can make it crazy fancy). At the upper levels, it is all done at the canter and done one-handed. Now that's intense. And it gets even better! After the Ease of Handling phase, you have to do a Speed phase, which is basically the same course that you did before, only how you do against the clock, so there is a lot of galloping and tight turning. WAIT THERE'S MORE! In team competitions, you have a final phase where you work cattle. HOW COOL IS THAT?

Now that's something I could get behind. We might have to give that a try, because that's about the coolest thing I've ever heard of in my life.

So what is YOUR favorite thing to do on horseback? What are you addicted to that you just can't get enough of? 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

That's My Embryo!

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like you to meet the cutest embryo you will ever see:

P is at 32 days today, and we checked the embryo for a heartbeat. It was there, tiny and pounding away, like a little black pinprick flashing on the screen. The embryo is that white thing in the middle of the black blob - the blackness is the fluid in the sac. My little future champion is between 1/2"-3/4" right now, small marble or grape size.

(If you want some more details on fetal development, check out this link!)

For the next few months, we don't need to do much. We'll recheck her in the fall to make sure baby is still in there and doing well - we could opt to do 45 and 90 day ultrasounds, but since we have a heartbeat now, it's not really necessary, not to mention the fact that if she loses her pregnancy we won't rebreed her this year, it's just too late in the year and summer is hard enough on her as it is). She needs to keep moving as much as possible in her paddock/pasture (her stifle isn't up for much, if any, saddle work anymore, so this is probably my only way to keep her fit). Her nutritional requirements up until month 8 stay the same, and I'm quite happy with her diet as is (high forage, high fat, very low starch/sugar, balanced vits/mins). I'd like to keep the chemicals and drugs out of her as much as possible while she is pregnant, so we'll use a lot of discretion for dewormer and play other things by ear (like the other day, she had a painful eye that swelled itself shut when a bug got into it - we got the bug out but she needed banamine to help the swelling and pain in her eye. She is fine now, but that obviously was not something we could have avoided!). She'll need her rhino shots - current recommendations for those are 3-5-7-9 months. At month 8, a lot of things will be changing and things will be altered. Until then, her job is to eat and be healthy and keep growing her little fetus!


On the O front, we've been dealing with torrential rain (which is very weird for Texas in June), but inbetween huge storms we have been able to get out and road-ride some more. I don't like to pound her down the road a lot, so I am fairly judicious with what we do, but we are able to get some really quality work done. I really, really like the double on her. I wasn't sure on the first day, but since then she has just been *awesome* in it. She stretches out to the bridle, is responsive to aids, and is starting to get a little more sideways step in her lateral work. We're just doing rudimentary things like leg yielding at the walk (and starting to at the trot), and starting to do stuff like turning on the forehand and some really poor walk pirouettes, but she is learning the idea of moving individually off of each set of aids. I am probably going to have to put spurs back on as well - for being as hot as she is, she is quite sluggish off my leg aids sometimes. It seems a little silly to be using a double bridle when you're just teaching the horse to go forward and sideways, but you gotta do what works for the horse.

I made a splurge purchase and ordered my own curb and bridoon. The bridoon is double jointed, and the curb has a very short shank and a low port. I really think she will like this combo. The bridoon I am using is single jointed, and the curb has a pretty high port and super long shanks. I don't need THAT much action by any means, so something smaller and nicer will suit her just fine.

What I purchased:

The huge shanks and single joint on the bits I borrowed. The curb is way more than I need. And I added a nice touch to soften up the skinny little bridoon: a Fruit Roll-Up! She LOVES Fruit Roll-Ups and opens her mouth happily for her bits, which is a big thing for her. That's obviously not a forever thing, but she is soft and pleasant and thoughtfully mouthing her bits as well as taking a really nice contact in them, so for now it's perfect. Also pardon the figure-8, that was on the bridle originally but got removed and traded out for a plain cavesson:

Also, who thought of the genius idea to combine a Back on Track saddle pad AND a Thinline pad all into ONE THING? S gave this pad to me as a trade-out for my Back on Track standing wraps that I never use anymore. I use this pad all the time now and I love it! I don't think it makes a difference in O - even after hours and hours of hard riding, she has never had any sort of back soreness or problems - but it is so nicely made that I use it all the time. I'm almost afraid to wash it!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Double Trouble

We've had a few more good days this week, complete with some tack experimentation!

On Thursday, we had a very productive lunge. She lunged on Monday, and had two very intense dressage schools on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I wanted to ease up and do an easy lunge session on Thursday. You never quite know which horse is going to show up for you every day (Jekyll or Hyde), but O really had her game face on, and was extremely quiet and responsive. The lunge was very short, only about 15-20 minutes - but she was so good that there was no reason to do any more.

You can see that she was very relaxed at the canter, keeping her speed under control. When she keeps her focus and is quiet, the canter actually becomes quite nice. When she is rushy, it becomes flat and lateral, but when she is quiet, it is pure and actually quite pretty.

She looks crabilated, but she was very chill. She's always gotta let me know what she is REALLY thinking though!

Today I experimented, and borrowed a double bridle. I thought maybe it would be worth a try, although I suspected she wouldn't love having two bits in. I was right... she definitely didn't love that. She even ground her teeth once or twice, very lightly.... she only does that when she is really, REALLY mad about something. At some point we halted, and I asked her for a step backwards. She sulled up against the bridle and stood immobile. She refused and refused to move, until I finally had to get off and back her up in hand. Even then, I could NOT get her to move. I even had full pressure on just the curb once or twice, just trying to get her to respond to ANYTHING, and she stood there like a rock, completely tuned out. (I later backed her in hand with just a light hold on her snaffle, and she skipped lightly backwards with no problem... she's a stubborn thing.) I may have to start carrying a crop in order to help with these occasional in-hand schoolings.... sheesh. When she doesn't want to, she's just not going to do it.

But, other than that moment, she was very good. Eventually I just dropped the curb rein, and she was very good. She was still hovering a little behind the bridle at times, which I don't like.... I think it is time to just go back to her snaffamore. That is the only mouthpiece that she really reliably likes enough to firmly take a contact on.

And now, I'm off to watch the Belmont... will California Chrome make history today??

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Manly, Manly Mare

When Pmare isn't busy being fully encrusted in mud....

.... she is busy trying to sort out her raging pregnancy hormones. We're getting ready to make an appointment for her 30 day preg check, but she is definitely *acting* pregnant. As of this week, this is manifesting in some very studdish behavior. 

Poor O is the recipient of these random, uh.... bouts of affection. She's not coordinated or hormonal enough to do anything crazy like try to mount her or anything like that, but every time they greet each other, P arches her neck, huffs and nickers at her, then licks and nibbles at her shoulder or under her flank like a courting stallion would. O doesn't seem to be bothered by this one bit, but it cracks me up (and makes me feel better about the idea of her still having the pregnancy. This isn't uncommon in pregnant mares at all!). I've been trying to catch a video of it... hopefully I will before her hormones level out and she stops!

June 8th will be her 30 days for her... I can't believe it had already been a month. Only 10 more to go!

As for the red beast, she had a day off on Sunday, a lunge yesterday, and a great dressage school today. Her lunge yesterday was quite productive - the stronger she gets in the canter, the more willing she is to reach out and have some jump to the canter without actually running away.

Today's ride was really, really good. I had to lay down some law once or twice (AKA "no, really, we're really not doing any of this running out of control things anymore"), but once I had, she was more than willing to listen. We rode in a flat area instead of on the hill, which always helps, and once I had her listening I was able to allow her to go a little more forward and push into her contact. She was able to take a bigger trot step without getting hollow or rushing, which was GREAT. She also finished up with a really, REALLY good canter to the left (the right was good too, but the left was wa better), in which she was able to take a contact and roll along, and all I had to do was sit quietly. I think that is the quietest I've ever been able to sit her canter.... I literally just sat there neutrally and let the contact be alive. Good mare!!

Another flatwork ride tomorrow!! I'm really starting to enjoy these with her!!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

End of May Analysis; June Goals!

Holy crap it's June! Time to go over our May goals!


May Goals:
1) Mandatory week off! I've been working her hard and a recent really nasty heat cycle has left her crampy and stilted all over. She deserves some built-in downtime! 
Success! She had a week off, and then when we got back to flatwork we had some serious come to Jesus meetings.
2) Once vacation is over, trailer out once a week for exhibitions at local barrel races (we need some softer arena footing to do canterwork around the barrels - it's very hard to do that on our hard ground/slick grass)
We didn't do this once. Why? Because after our first come to Jesus meeting, I realized our issues revolve entirely around a training problem, and I needed to get back to the root of things in order to fix it!

3) Once a week long, slow, easy hacks/trail rides (possibly bareback/in a halter, or some combo of that)
Success! I did not do it this week just because I spent so much time working on flatwork instead, but I did hack her out in her rope halter. I actually don't think I'll do it again - just because I *can* do it doesn't mean I should. If something were to happen (a big spook or something), I'd have nothing.
4) Slow work on the barrels at home (barrel-ssage) - emphasis on flatwork and rideability, which is critical! 
Flatwork and rideability yes, barrels no! Just plain ol' flatwork, and lots of it. And it was good!
5) Continuing on with canterwork - relaxation and responsiveness!
This is our biggest success. I had to put a huge giant honking combo bit on her, and I had to lay down some law, but we have a canter now that isn't completely out of control. I think I will jump her either in the hackamore or the combo bit, and transition from the combo bit back to the snaffamore for flatwork - eventually I want her going back in just a mullen mouth snaffle as she historically has really liked that bit. I might play around with snaffles too, try my loose ring KK or my eggbutt Cyprium double jointed (which was Gogo's favorite, after the famous bloo bit.)


June Goals:
1) Continue to play with bitting options - which bits for which things?
2) Keep doing more flatwork! Flatwork flatwork flatwork!
3) XC schoolings - there are a few to choose from!
4) If we have time, start trailering over to the local jump arena and use their facilities for gridwork!
5) Did I mention flatwork? Do more flatwork!


 What a month! I really feel for the first time in a long time that I actually had a month where I actually *got somewhere* instead of floundering about. It is a LOOOOONG uphill climb from here, but now, I think we can actually make a real eventer out of her. Every step of the journey is going to be hard. This horse has - and uses - every evasion in the book, for everything. Now that I have her where she can't bolt, she is twisting her neck and going sideways to continue to evade. Once I straighten her, she slows down. Once I speed her up, she's off again, and so on and so forth. She is sound, fit, and stubborn as all get out. But, we can do this. If we work really, really hard, we can do this. 

I took some really terrible selfie video from our ride yesterday, and literally almost all of the video is completely unusable - I had it aimed away from where I actually ended up riding. However, I did manage to get a few stills that show some of the things we got to work on:

We do lots of walking with just the snaffle rein:

 And our trot and canterwork is still a bit tight in the neck, but when it all comes together it looks sort of halfway decent. You can see how floppy the curb rein is for the most part:

And here's a more accurate depiction of what's *really* happening. Being that she has every evasion in the book, now that I've taken away her bolt she has backed off the bit again. Before, she was taking a nice contact, and we do still get moments of that, but when she takes the contact strongly she uses that against me and pulls/runs. I suppose you have to go back a step in order to go forward again - at least now she's not bearing down on the bit and galloping away. She is a twisty little pretzel pony though - she likes to go slowly with her neck twisted and her shoulder popped out, and when you straighten her she tends to try and bolt again. In this picture you can see I'm giving her the option of going back to my contact (despite my puppy paws) - she is clearly not amused with the whole idea but at least she's not bolting. I also was riding her on an incline for this video, something I NEVER do. She was so out of control on the downhill before that I literally couldn't even ride her on an incline at all. Considering that, and considering the fact that I rode her back over to the flat area and had a really good ending to our ride, I'm pretty happy with how it went. She had a deserved day off today!

Poor abused pony, doing that terrible dressage thing!

And yes, that is a clean horse, in a clean pad, with clean polos, and clean tack... aaaaaaand I'm in dirty jeans. Oh well, at least I still always #mindmymelon!