It is challenging to even write when the weather is crappy for this long… it has basically rained almost everyday for over two weeks. Bleh. At least at the farm, we have decided the constant rain has streamlined the drainage, so its definitely drying out a lot faster these days.
Good Morning all!
It has been a while since I have posted here, so I will take advantage of the biblical rain that we have been receiving and catch you up on Gracie and my progress.
This post will be focused on our major point of contention right now. Cantering.
As you know, Gracie has a bit of an attitude when cantering… she will take a stride then pop up, then another stride and add in a little buck, sometimes she gets really upset and starts to throw herself around…
While this has not been very helpful in our team’s progress toward winning ribbons at competitions; it has certainly helped me develop a much stronger seat. The lessons Gracie has taught me have already served me well in competition.
Back in April we competed at our first competition off site. We had a bit of a rough start in the stadium course. This involved a loose girth and a saddle that LITERALLY rotated to the side of the horse. I knew that if I got off to tighten the girth I would be eliminated and that was not an option. I took stock, straightened the saddle and decided to push on. With a loose girth I had no faith in the saddle not slipping around again and, we had six jumps to clear in order to finish. Here is where Gracie’s lessons about my seat saved the day. The entire stadium round I glued my butt to the saddle. Heels down, ankles, hips and, shoulders all in line. My spine was the glue holding that saddle in place. We rode to the base of each jump and there was no “jumping position”. When we finished I got off and checked the girth. Sure enough, I could fit my hand comfortably between it and the horse.
Thanks for the trials by fire Gracie, YOU got us through that one.
Not long ago the vet came to visit the barn for yearly check ups and vaccinations. It turns out that Gracie’s poor teeth were in need of some attention. Amanda was curious how she would respond to the bit with fresh dental work, since poor dental care can affect their attitude. The next Tuesday was my regular riding lesson with an instructor so, I was interested to see how Gracie was feeling. We did the usual warm up of walk and trot both directions until we both settled in. Then I decided to ask for a canter from a plodding medium trot. Lo and behold we actually had a smooth departure! I started think that all our problems were solved. Then a couple strides in she picked her head up and started throwing it around. She became very unbalanced and we got back to the trot. Maybe it wasn’t her teeth causing issues. Even though she does seem more accepting of the bit at the walk and trot.
Hmmmm, maybe I am just to big? Maybe I am sending mixed signals with my weight? She only gets out of sorts when I get bounced around in the saddle. I wonder what happens if I ask for a canter while off of her back. Let’s try asking from a half seat.
Off we go, establish a nice medium trot and get up in a half seat…. ask and, BOOM! The departure was a little rough. Was it because she expected my weight to be there? Did I give extra leg when I got to my position? who knows… Either way, we are cantering and her head is down! One, two, three strides and no attitude. We make it two laps around the arena before her shoulder starts to drop in. No bucks, no head tossing, no attitude at all! Looks like we found out how to get her to canter nicely.
I still have no idea why she gets upset when I sit the canter but, there is always more to learn. Hopefully Gracie and I can continue to figure out this canter thing. At the next competition our canter circles will not be our downfall.
All in all, Gracie and I have had a spring full of learning and lessons. I hope a recap of the summer has just as much progress to report.
|Gracie in her fancy leopard tail bag|
I’ve recently been writing a lot about Knots. While he has been in the picture for over two years, he never featured much in the day to day goings on, because I tried to focus the blog on Jellybean. Obviously the blog has evolved a bit over the last couple of years, and now I try to make an accounting of my general horse activities.
In that vein, I have been spending a lot of time working with Knots since Sarah and I discussed riding goals for the year. I have been feeling really patient and we have made some progress. I haven’t been in any hurry, and I am really excited about every tiny improvement I might feel every couple of weeks. I am especially grateful for every little improvement when I am unwilling to make the time to ride everyday. Jellybean is the same way. She is still very green and I don’t really think of her as a grown up horse. However, she always surprises me with her intelligence and general willingness. And I am very happy!
Onto another facet of my life, I am overweight. I have spent some time focused on calorie counting and eating healthier at different points of my life, but I often become discouraged when I reach a plateau. Then I drop my routine and climb back to where I was located prior to my efforts. This has happened a few times, even when I was doing really great until I wasn’t.
How are these connected? Its the same trust in the process. With my weight loss, I expect and need instant results. With the horses, I am willing to wait however long it takes them to understand the lesson at hand. This article clued me in on the idea. Why am I unrealistic with my goals, but extraordinarily patient with my goals for the horses?
This is a really interesting through track, and I will definitely be thinking more about it. If you have some thoughts on this quandary, feel free to leave something in the comments!
|Jellybean looking good after a jump school|
Another day, another attempt at dressage progress.
Friday Maggie and I hauled over to Sarah’s for some dressage skillz. We are getting to be pros at hauling, so we managed to spend most of our time trying to groom the ponies instead of being late.
We even arrived early, and had the horses working on the lunge line by the time Sarah arrived. I was working Knots in the side reins and trying to push him into the bridle on the ground. He wants to suck back when he feels the pressure on the reins. I didn’t do any cantering on the line, just some forward trotting.
We chatted with Sarah a bit and told her a bit about the horse Maggie was riding, then I started pumping Sarah’s brain about riding with side reins.
I remember her mentioning riding him in side reins often as he learns to use his back better, but I couldn’t remember the specifics. Basically, mount with the side reins unattached. Then focus on pushing him forward into the side reins. Sit up tall (always lol). She also suggested I keep up my contact and forward forward forward.
We walked and trotted and cantered in her nice sand arena (with a slight hill too!), which made Knots tired and try to break to the canter. I worked hard at getting as much trot as possible without breaking into the canter. We also spent some time on straight lines and escaped the safety of the 20m circle (as an aside… who would have ever thought of 20m circles as safe?).
We then took a short break and worked on cantering. Sarah was very pleased with Knot’s acceptance of my leg during the cantering. His haunches were drifting in, and I was able to move him over without a change in the rhythm! I didn’t quite get how magical this moment was, but Sarah pointed out she had never seen it happen before. I try not to argue with professionals 🙂
After the canter work we walked around a bit and chatted with Sarah a bit more as we untacked and showered the horses. Then it was time to run home and take care of a random injury. Just another day in the life.
|Dogs are not very helpful.|
We talked briefly about the state the horses were in, and then repeated our warm up while Sarah watched. Then we had a brief chat and then started working on more transitions.
|Really flat. May have hit this one.|
|Still flat, long spot.|
|I look like I jumped ahead.|
Some pictures from a cross country schooling the other day when I was trying to fix some positional errors and I realized that I just wasn’t making the progress I wanted.
Two days later, Maggie and I had a lesson with Amanda and I talked with her about this dropping in front of the fence problem I have. Basically as I ride up to the fence I drop the reins right before takeoff, which leads Knots to take a long spot. I am also have positional problems as I am driving him into the bottom of the fence as my seat bones come down and my leg comes forward. Go figure, this also means that I am either getting left behind or jumping ahead.
During the lesson we worked through a serpentine jumping exercise, where I focused on sitting on my zipper and flipped my hands upside down. Instead of holding the reins normally, I opened my palms upward and then placed the reins. It takes away my strength to pull, makes me more aware of the reins, and allows me to follow him better.
This made a big improvement in how we were approaching the fences. Knots was very very calm, and we mostly got out distances. This lesson gave me a bit to think about, and I have attempted to replicate this exercise two separate riding occasions. I really feel like summer is here when I am riding more than once a week!
In my subsequent rides, I have felt more relaxed and in control, and I feel like this is a great set up for us to go cross country schooling. Whoop! All I’m missing is some pictures of us going over a jump in this relaxed way I am talking about… soon.
Friday was the day. The temperatures were in the low 80s and the sun was shining. The ponies had no idea what was coming when they ate their breakfast. The vet arrived around lunchtime and got started working on the barn horses. I fit my guys in and they got the luxury treatment ;).
Jellybean got off easiest. She was due for shots and a coggins. Unfortunately for her, she was a little bit sassy, and the vet doesn’t tolerate crazy when he can so easily sedate. She got a quick shot of calm and then the rest of her shots and blood draws. And she was all done!
|Causing a ruckus|
Knots was pretty straightforward as well. I just wanted the vet to check his teeth and see if they needed some attention. Well go figure, they did. So he had to wait until the end of the day to see if there was still time. Eventually, there was time, so he was also sedated and then floated. The vet also cleaned his sheath so he should be very comfortable. Fresh teeth and clean downstairs.
Gracie was the real complication.
She needed shots and a coggins. I asked the vet to check her teeth. She also needed a float. I also asked the vet to check out a couple of weird things on Gracie. She had a weird mole thing. It started as a tick-like growth and has been expanding. The vet suggested it might be a sarcoid and we decided to remove it. He also suggested I send it off for biopsy, which would differentiate between a sarcoid (remember Oberon had one?) and a melanoma. We opted not to pay the fee, since it will come back if a sarcoid, or not if melanoma.
It needs to be sprayed with a liquid bandage for a few days and she should recover just fine 🙂 Onto the teeth! Nothing too exciting, but hopefully she will be a bit more comfortable and maybe even gain a bit more weight.
Gracie also had a weird swelling in front of her right udder. I asked the vet to check it out, and he mentioned the first line of inquiry was an ultrasound, which should start out at 100 dollars. He suggested it could be a tumor or edema, and that it may be uncomfortable for her. So I think once we save up some more money, we can call him back out and check it out.
This leads to another aside about Gracie. I think we are at a point where we are going to start investigating if there is a physical reason that Gracie has such a tendency to buck when she is cantering. I definitely think it is somewhat strength related, but my previous hypothesis of training issue is starting to seem less likely. We’ll see how it goes as we move through the summer.
All in all, a stupidly expensive day at the farm. Hopefully this investment in preventative care will allow us to skip some emergency vet visits this year.