Friday, January 22, 2016

Words for The Ages

Yesterday as I was working with B on some lateral movement exercises because I was frozen solid and didn’t feel like doing much, I was brought into deep thought when he began his usual resistance in the first 2 strides of each leg yield.

Normally, I get slightly frustrated and just keep asking, trying to find ways around resistance…but resistance is there for a reason. Either he is uncomfortable, doesn’t understand, or feels restricted.

I’m going with the latter.

It all comes down to riding. 95% of the time, it is rider error whenever a horse makes a mistake or acts out. Usually.

As I was making myself self aware of all my body parts while asking him to move his body sideways, I started thinking about all the lessons, instructions, and great horsemen and women I have met over the years.

Then I really got nostalgic, and without realizing it, let B walk around the arena for 5 minutes while I sat there in deep thought.

I have ridden with some incredible people in my time with horses over the years. Most notably; Jurgen Gohler, Nadeem Noon (RIP), Cathy Wieschoff, Janice Holmes (topnotch, one of my favs ever), Brian Sabo, Cheryl Holekamp & Darren Chiacchia.

Darren on Windfall
And of course my current Supertrainer, whom I love dearly.

Ironically though, the rider who inspired me to begin eventing, Darren, rode my favorite horse, Windfall,  and one of my favorite instructors ever is the owner of said wonderhorse horse, Cheryl H. I worked for her for about a year on her farm and with her with Windfall babies & I can truly say in some unorthodox way, I learned the most from her and I hear her words almost everytime I ride.

Photo of le Windfall, by me
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have worked with a woman who is a wealth of dressage and baby training knowledge, who also LET me handle the precious and majestic Windfall. I sat on him (just sat) once and almost died. Just leading him to and from the pasture everyday gave me chills.

Myself and Windfall

Anyways, as I was riding B yesterday, I specifically heard the echo of her words in my head. Cheryl had an…interesting way of teaching. She was old school and was NOT afraid to tell you you were riding like shit. She opened my eyes to a slew of training tactics and made me realize I wasn’t as good as my 20-year-old self thought I was.

Myself and The Queen

I remember one things she said to me very clearly, in an exasperated, shouting fashion, while I was riding one of the babies. They were just learning the basics of dressage and therefore, obviously, didn’t know it all yet.

I can’t quite remember what exactly what I was doing at the time, probably riding like crap, but Cheryl sternly advised me of this,

“WHAT are you doing? You MUST give the horse a chance to learn. You cannot ride with bricks for hands. If they give you give, if you take you must give elsewhere, STOP holding on their face!”

It was like a good slap in the face. What she said made total sense and I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it before back then.

When we take hold in the bridle for any reason, we HAVE to give them an out somewhere or they will resist. Specifically, when you half halt on one rein, the other cannot be restrictive. If you’re asking for a leg yield, why in god’s name would you choke up on both reins to ask for a forward, sideways movement?

THIS exact quote is what I think of everytime I do lateral work with Bacardi.

I have a tendency to pull back  on the reins and not give anywhere when asking for lateral movement. This is so wrong. So wrong. Not only does that halt forward energy, it gives the horse completely acceptable reason to fight me.

One must use a supporting outside rein with a forgiving inside hand.

This is literally the hardest thing for me to do sometimes. Especially when the horse is acting up or resisting. It is natural for us to pull back! when the horse shows any signs of tension. It is up to US as the rider to let that tension ebb away through relaxtion of our own bodies.

Incredibly difficult, especially on a horse prone to rearing and bolting.

However, as soon as he feels me relax, he relaxes. Its like magic.

Cheryl’s words stay with me, everytime.

Is there anyone or anything you think of often, when you ride? What is it?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Frosty Frolic

As promised, I have a fun little post regarding the insanely  cold day we had this past weekend. I of course, chose this day to ride, out of the entire weekend, but thats just how it worked out. I know I had just posted about "not riding at more than a trot when its below 15*" but it was incredibly sunny out and my poor red nugget literally had not seen the sun in two weeks. Despite the frigid temps of 8*, I bundled up, tacked up and headed outside.

Don't worry, I lunged a few minutes to gage his excitement level for the day, and despite wildly flailing over some groundpoles, B was actually decently calm. After 10 minutes, I felt comfortable enough to get on without fear of him killing us.

The ground was obviously, very frozen, but I started off just walking around to feel out the terrain.

I think he's outgrowing my quarter sheet
B remained sane in the membrane, which I was baffled with, but did not argue or question it. Levi got to come out to the barn too, with special permission, and he was LOVING it as well. And aren't they just the cutest most dapper creatures to grace this earth? MAH HART.

I trotted around a little and then let him canter. A few times B felt the wind up his ass or Levi blitzed by him and he was like OH MY GOD I'M A HORSE WEEEE!!

There's some more frisky evidence in this really shitty quality iPad video HERE that Bangor, best BF in the world, took for me with freezing hands. He's literally, like seriously, the best.

Its especially breathtaking at 1:30 when he kinda sorta bolts for like 7 strides HERE

I wasn't even mad, just trying to keep him in check enough to keep us safe. Bolting on hard ground is not conducive to safety.

Overall though, he was really really good. Like so good. Like holy shit good. After those 4 minutes of canter and trot work on a massive loop, I let him walk again and then put him on a smaller circle just to do a little transition work.

Since the ground was hard, I wanted him to stay as collected as possible and balanced so he didn't run the risk of slipping.

I would say we succeeded. It was a ton of pushing from my seat, evident in my less than optimal leg position in still shots, but damn he has got an adjustable canter.


I especially enjoyed the slightly disjointed flying change in the middle of the vid. Getting it done!

Then, since our nosehairs were freezing, I just asked for little relaxed trot and called it a day. we had been outside for about 20 minutes total and that was enough. 

Levi is the fanciest dressage horse

Pretty red baby

I was incredibly impressed with his behavior. He had been cooped up for weeks, it was freezing and we were riding outside for the first time in what felt like 2 months and he barely tried anything. Sure, he had some blitzing...but thats a big change from last winter, or even a few days ago. I think he truly enjoyed the sun and being outside and relaxed into the work. I kept it brief since it was so frigid, but it was a great ride.

Really need a martingale stop

Super trainer leaves for Poplar Place tomorrow and I think she is going to FL at the end of this month (luckyyyy) so we won't get many lesson opps before spring. However, there is a schooling show every weekend this next month and I am having a hard time deciding which to do!

I wish I could do them all, but my vehicle needs some major maintenance unfortunately so I am limited to one jumper and one dressage show. I am just excited I have OPTIONS this year!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

What Do Wednesday: Bodywork

Another Wednesday, another episode of me asking my followers and readers for their input. I love it!

I actually have a weekend update, but I'm saving that for later this week. If you're a stalker you may have seen the videos on youtube already or the pics on FB, but for those who aren't, here's a sneak peak...

My two fav non-humans
Why yes that is my rather insane horsebeast standing still OUTSIDE on a freezing cold (8*) day in which I decided fuck the temperature, my horse hasn't seen the sun in two weeks (literally) and it was very sunny outside, albeit cold as fuck. It was fun actually and he was mostly well behaved for a cooped up red nugget. More on that later.

What I am really here to talk about is bodywork.

Specifically equine massage, but I am also curious about chiropractic care as well.

I will FULLY admit, I have gone many years thinking chiro and massage is complete hokum and avoided both like the plague when the old ladies at my barn scheduled a visit from one of the voodoo magic wizards. Not to mention, each treatment was a solid $100+ and I simply could NOT justify spending that much money on something I was not familiar with that required repeated visits. In my mind, how good could something be if you had to do it every 2-4 weeks and costed an arm and a leg?

Totally close minded- I know, but I still was just like NO. This is dumb, no.

I knew it would be *beneficial* but to WHAT extent? Did it immediately relieve pain, but not keep it away? Would I have to keep paying hundreds of dollars on top of everything else I paid for, every month? Would there be long term benefits? I simply didn't know and was not willing to bet on it.

I know I know how dare I, what a horrible horse mom, chiro/massage is THEE BEST, I am depriving my horse(s) of the BEST care possible, they're athletes too etc etc etc

I've heard it all before. But excuse me for not having unlimited amounts of income to dump in my precious ponies, Judgey McJudgerson's.

However, after years of balking at the idea, my mind has been changed.

I give all credit to Amy, who worked her magic on my broken body with the art of massage. I LITERALLY felt relief instantly and the benefit of that session has (mostly) stayed with me for weeks. I could use a tune-up, but my massive pain is obliterated and all it took was 3 little pressure points that she found with her magic voodoo hands.

Lately, as in the last month or so, Bacardi has shown the smallest hints of NQR-ness on occasion. Its nothing to completely lose my shit over, but its concerning nonetheless.

Specifically, on the lunge line tracking left, it looks like it is physically impossible for him to bend comfortably. He canters with his hind end on the inside of the circle while his head, neck and chest lean outwards. Its...unique. 

I thought at first it was from him playing hardcore outside and maybe slipping in the pasture and having tweaked it. But then it stuck around a few more weeks. However when riding him, the inability to all of a sudden not bend left easily is evident, especially at the canter. *I* personally feel it in his hips...but who knows really where it is. It could be his hips, back, neck, shoulders, hocks, ankle...who the fuck knows with horses. 

Things I wish horses could do when injured/NQR

Again, not to saying this is like life ending shit, just feels slightly off. Of course I am worried, because he is my special, very injury prone child, who has made leaps and bounds in every department,...but also because I know when I hurt, I am a grumpy bitch.

This lead me to thinking really deeply, reevaluating a few things. My saddle is not perfect, this I know. But I have taken every step I can afford to make it right. Hopefully Baby Jesus saddle will fit him perfectly and be the big key to ultimate comfort. I also have taken steps to make sure his nutrition is on point, his feet are cared for, we stretch before and after rides, our tack fits well and I even use BOT products religiously (other hokum I used to believe was just completely worthless) This all seems to help. But when the temps are this low, I know I feel creaky and old, I am not surprised the NQR is cropping up here and there.

But maybe this is our key to success...

Thank you DJ Khaled

...Shelling out lots of money in massage and chiro.

Joking aside, I am willing to spend some money exploring this to see if my assumptions are correct. 

In the meantime, I have taken to lightly massaging his neck  after each ride, where he seems to carry most of his stress & B has responded to it in a way that only supports my line of thinking. I am no professional, but Bangor and I learned a little from Crossfit in regards to self massage and what helps assuage sore muscles and I applied that to B.

He REALLY responded positively 
Quite evident that he enjoyed whatever it was that I was doing to him (fancy fancy terms I don't know), so I did what every horsewoman does, ASKED MY FRIENDS.

I eventually was connected with an equine massage therapist, who doubles as a farrier, in our area that I would have never found without asking around! 

We had a lovely chat and she is scheduled to come out next week and work on my red pony. She is extremely affordable and takes as much time as needed to address any issues she finds, and gives you tips on what to do between sessions. At $50/session...I can deal.

So dear readers, here's where you come regards to body work, what do? Do you believe in it? Do you not? Why? How often do you/your horse get it done? Feed me your secrets!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Winter is definitely upon us.

Know how I know?

Its not the blistering temps, or snowstorms. Not the fact our horses haven't had turnout in 2 weeks or the barn doors are frozen shut. Nor the frozen feet or cold & runny noses.

I know because my horse has become a dragon for real this time.

Last time it got a little cold he played around in the arena giving me a little bit of hell, but was nowhere near as awful as last year.

I wish I could say the same for this week.

I want to start off with a disclaimer; they have been in for two plus weeks straight with no turnout whatsoever. I also had not ridden in four days due to the snowstorm frigid temps and schoolwork. So I know he behavior is half my fault. The other half is always a mystery.

Thursday I had finally been able to carve out time to come to the barn (and try on my Bday gifties!!) for the first time in what seemed like ages.

I knew he was going to be hell from the second I stepped in the barn and he was flailing his head around dancing in his stall.

Poor guy is going nuts.

Being a completely sensible person, I of course decide to still ride my fire breather, but choose to lunge beforehand.

This did nothing for him. If anything, he got more wound up because he just wanted to gallop in a 10m circle and I wanted him to behave on a 25m circle.

I'm so mean.

Despite his rearing and crow hopping fits, I decided to still try and ride him, hoping some rider instruction would give him focus and purpose.

This also was a dumb idea and I should have just waited until the lessons were over and turned him out in the indoor, but I couldn't wait until 9:30 PM to do so.

He literally could not horse on Thursday. Like, at all. Either he was hauling on my arms galloping in a semi-2m circle (we were secluded to the scary corner of the arena because lesson) spooking, or he was standing in place half rearing, half piaffing. Literally.. He paiffed for like 15 minutes straight.

 I tried lateral work, which only enraged him; I tried canter work which only made him explode; I tried I gave up and just sat there wanting to rip his face off for being a complete moron, but kept my cool. The second he stopped and stood still, I praised him and got off.

What a waste of an hour & half. It didn't help that the rain/snow/sleet on the roof sounded AWFUL.

Even after the ride he was still amped and would.not.stand.still in the crossties (hence my photo of the blanket in last post being half blurry)

Friday, for my B-day I had *hoped* he would settle a little bit, but that was a wasted wish.

There was a lesson going on, of course, and we were secluded to lunging in the middle of the arena in-between jumps and I could tell from the start he was soon uncomfortable in that area. I think he felt claustrophobic AF, as I would too if I were a giant horse being asked to lunge in a smaller area with jumps all around.

From the get-go he was racey and carried his head as high as possible, which is the opposite of what I wanted. The horse lessoning also kept hitting the jumps and Bacardi would LOSE HIS MIND everytime and would legit BOLT, taking the clanking as an excuse to runnnnn awayyyyyy.

I was getting VERY frustrated, just wanting to lunge my horse for a few minutes before I rode...but he was getting increasingly nervous as we progressed. I ended up just doing some lateral groundwork and calling it a day after he spooked from a jump pole falling and almost tearing my arm socket out and running me over. Also did not help in the last 15 minutes of work the food cart came around to feed the barn and he lost all focus completely.

This is what I've been dealing with

Not fun. Another waste of a day.

Saturday, Bangor came out with me armed with the iPad to video.

All I really wanted was some video and for my horse to just listen a little bit & get some OK training time in, thats it.

He was actually exceptional while lunging, but we were also alone, it wasn't raining, it wasn't feeding time and this was his third day out of the stall.

I had high hopes when he settled right to work on the lunge and gave me some calm and beautiful transitions with directions.

My high hopes were shattered when he started off flinging his head around in every transitions, every step-whatever and charging at the jumps in the arena each time I went down the centerline.

Which, in a good sense, leads me to believe he REALLY loves jumping now, but I also was not jumping that day and it was REAALLY annoying while trying to get some sort of sense of a good dressage training day.

UGH. The frustration with this horse sometimes!!

After about 30 minutes of tense, anxiety filled horsing around, I FINALLY got his attention with a little bit of shoulder-in on a 20m circle.

Truly, he was just a mess and you can see in the video exactly where he's carrying it.

I will say this week has been one of the worst as of late and I almost didn't want to post video evidence of how awful we were doing, but my theory is that you have the good with the bad and to not hide those bad days.

I also didn't realize how HORRENDOUS my equitation has become and I'm highly embarrassed that I look like an overgrown monkey on top of my horse. I'm hoping git was just my bulky sweater and brown seat patch on my breeches...but I'm pretty sure I was riding like shit. Doesn't help that I am incredibly sore from my knees up (THANKS CROSSFIT) but jesus, my shoulders. Please for the love of god try and ignore my position.

This video is the best out of the 3, and the funniest. I'm talking to Bangor, trying to tell him what exactly I'm doing, because he's learning dressage and its funny.

The links to the other two scary training videos are HERE  and HERE (Bangor's commentary is esp great in this one)

Overall, you can see that B is just a giant ball of anxiety. He's very unfocused and everywhere, apparent in his extreme lack of contact. I'll get him working and slightly relaxed through the back for like 10 seconds then he's like OH GOD WHATS OVER THERE and I got back to shoulder-in shoulder-out, please MOVE, half halt half halt, push with seat oh THERE we are...lather/rinse/repeat.

This handholding is getting old.

There were some nice moments....

...where he relaxed and handled life well. 

Right now, this week, the biggest issue has been holding ALL the tense-ness in his neck. Its just...awful. I really would like for him to NOT develop the underside of his neck, but the way he's been lately....

SO. I tried to get him to move forward. Sometimes, he would just rush and drag his hind end, or flail his face, so then I would utilize my seat and push a little in the sitting trot up into my hands. Once he was moving forward again, I would rise.

Kind of relaxed

Moving forward better
Essentially, the struggle is real to MAINTAIN this week.

As a pair, we haven't hit a training wall like this since we moved in. I know its the combination of being stuck inside, soreness for the both of us (will address in another post) and the cold, but DAMN it hits you hard when you take two steps back.

There for a while, he was blowing me away with his dressage and now I want to slam my head on a table repeatedly.

Canterwork was a bit better. The transitions were exceptionally FUGLY, evidence in the videos, but he settles into it nicely. Canter is his favorite gait and despite sometimes being behind the vertical...

....its the easiest gait to work within for us as a pair. He responds the quickest to anything I ask and he's the most adjustable in the gait. 

To the left he's been reluctant to bend, another thing I will address in another post, but I've found a combination of outside rein, inside leg/inside hand half halt helps him create and hold the bend.

Actually moving his shoulders

Maybe I need to let my stirrups down a notch or two too....

Overall, after some give and take both directions he was able to relax a little and I ended on a good note.

I know winter isn't the easiest for anyone, but I was really getting spoiled with some nice work from B and I'm really missing it, haha.