Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lesson Day: Buddy, and Sunny with a chance of cows

This past week has been bathroom week with a side of electrical issues and freezer meltdown - unfortunately, literally on that last. We're now the proud owners of a new chest freezer, the kitchen fan is no longer an light-up-my-life hazard, and the bathroom has been gutted, the new window is in, and it's well on it's way to new paint and tile.

All of which is lovely, but combined with work has meant I haven't had much pony time.  A few bareback pasture-go-rounds when I go out to fly spray and that's about it. 

Sunny celebrated his 10th birthday on Thursday with an escape into the cow pasture.  Someone didn't rehook the electric wire at the gate, and both boys just walked right across a low spot.  Thankfully they were fine out with the cows until we got there to retrieve them.

Yesterday was lesson day.  It was in the 60's and just barely rainy - much better than last week's wind and 90's!  I had a good ride for the most part, although Buddy needs his shoes reset.  Not having had time to ride, I'd reviewed the video my mom shot several times through and tried visualizing myself doing things more correctly than I looked to be doing them.  Apparently it worked, at least in part. 

I made some progress on rating him at the canter and on keeping my seat deep. Eric says I'm starting to use my weight better - which must be why I'm starting to feel more secure.  Unfortunately, I'm still tipping forward too much - anyone know if those core exercise work as far as promoting better posture?

 Surprisingly for a Friday, the barn was quiet.  Buddy got a nice long warm bath post-ride, and I learned to braid a tail.  Not so practical for fly season, but he's inside, and has a fan, so...  Actually, I'm not a fan of really long, drag-on-the-ground show tails period.  One that's nice and thick at fetlock-length looks better - but that's just my opinion, which obviously isn't shared by the majority of the show world!

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  Hope everyone's getting lots of quality family time, horse time and riding time!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Video: Sunny


I'm still having some issues with uploading video - unfortunately, the longer clips are too big, and they're the ones that show the most.  

Kellie asked if I thought the adjustment had helped Sunny - I think so.  He's definitely taking both leads out running  loose.  And even though he's still not taking the left lead as readily under saddle, that's always been his stiffer side.  If I remember to be deliberate and consistent with how I cue him he's taking the left lead correctly again.  And he's back to flexing his neck both ways and stepping across underneath himself easily, so... on the whole I'd have to say, yes :)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Video: Buddy

Lesson Day: Buddy, and are my legs ever tired!

I had company yesterday for my lesson - my mom came along, and took lots of pictures and some high def video that my laptop doesn't like.  We picked up the horse trailer and the boys on the way, all of us already sweaty at 11 AM in 90' heat.  The wind, gusting past 30 mph, kept it tolerable but the flies were sticking and biting, and it felt like storm coming in.

We arrived early at Eric's with plenty of time to get the horses out and fly spray reapplied.  I left the boys tied in the shade of the trailer, and we wandered over to watch the remainder of the lesson before mine.  One of Eric's junior riders... maybe someday I'll grow up to ride as well as she does! 

We chatted through tacking up, and then it was my turn with Buddy.   I decided to try using the Thinline halfpad on Buddy too, right under the riser pad I usually use - not sure how much good it will do, but it's at least some extra cushion and not enough thickness to make a discernible difference in terms of saddle fit/girth length.
No spurs required
I could really tell I'd had some time off, and not in a good way. And I discovered as I attempted to get my foot level with the stirrup to mount that I'd worn jeans with no stretch.  Stretchy is much better, especially when your pants are already sticking to you.


Overall, I'd rate my riding this lesson a C+. It was a good lesson work-wise, but I was struggling to keep Buddy round and consistently rated.  On the positive side of the column, my canter transitions were felt good and were apparently some of my best yet, so at least that was something.  With the heat, I wasn't sorry to have a slightly shorter lesson than normal.  Buddy was sweaty, I was sweaty, and we were both ready for a break when we agreed that I was starting to run out of horse. 

The shade and the fans in the barn felt wonderful.  Buddy got a lukewarm rinse-down, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  I got at least my arms wet, which felt pretty darn good. 

Then it was Sunny's turn - Eric had a break between lessons for lunch, so I had the arena to myself.  I decided to go ahead and use the all-purpose saddle with the Thinline halfpad.  He's too fat to try stuffing any more padding underneath there.  

Can't you just see the enthusiasm rolling off him?

Once more into the saddle muttering at the denim stuck to me.  It wasn't until I was on that I realized I'd neglected to add spurs to my outfit, but I wasn't getting off again.  Which is why practically every picture my mom took has shows my heels rolling up into Sunny's sides.

I really want my spurs!
He was not overly energetic.  But he did find lots of things along the edges of the arena to look at.

A very scary orange cone

We did the usual warm-up stuff - bending and moving hips and shoulders in and out in each direction, small circles, some spirals at walk and trot.  Then right lead canter, which he of course nailed.  Then we reversed and tried left.

Hooray!  I'm still having to be really deliberate about setting him up for the left lead, but he's taking it.  I think he may still be anticipating it hurting, so hopefully it will get better. 

Both directions a couple of times, and that was that.  We packed up, loaded up and headed for home. 

I may have some video to post later - I can't seem to get it to load at the moment.  Maybe I'll have better luck later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We have left! Left lead, that is.

Horse trailer is clean - at least the horse part.  I still have work to do on the tack area.  I put in an easy half hour on Sunny yesterday.  Ended up trying T's old western saddle on him, instead of the all-purpose.  With the weight he's put on, my western saddle is too narrow for his shoulders.  I was hoping maybe the T's saddle would work a bit better.

I had my wish for more breeze - it was a perfect day for riding.  In the 70's with a gusty, cool wind that was just enough to keep the bugs off.  Sunny was a touch amped, but we did lots of bending and trotting and bending and spirals and bending and...  you get the picture.

Eventually, when I felt like he was actually paying attention, I asked him for a left lead canter.  The first couple of times he gave me right, but third time's the charm.  A few canter transitions in both directions and he gave me correct leads each time, so the adjustment seems to have helped. I'll ride again today and hopefully tomorrow, and I have a lesson with Eric and Buddy on Friday.  I'm taking Sunny along and the plan is to just work him in the arena and see how he's going after three days of riding.

I finished up with some side-passing, turns on the haunches, and some stationary lateral flexing.  Sunny's stretching around really well in both directions again!  I called it good at half an hour or so with a much more cooperative and settled pony.

No ride for Thunder yesterday - I'd forgotten my sunblock and was starting to feel crispy.  Nobody was home, either, so rather than push my luck and my lobster-status, I settled for groundwork in the shade with him before I called it quits for the day. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Munch, munch, munch

It's no wonder the boys are round.
The grass is long and lush
If it wasn't for the bugs...

   They'd probably eat the clock round 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Temporary hiatus? Summer vacation...

Not too much going on here - lots of yard work following the hail two weekends ago.  The plants, even the rhubarb, mostly rebounded.  The insurance adjuster's been and gone.  Sunny's time loafing in the pasture resulted in an even rounder pony...

Other than some groundwork and brushing I haven't been doing much that's productive with the four-foots.  Not that they care!  But Saturday I took them both for a bareback spin around the pasture, and tonight I saddled them both up for a while.  Sunny was nice and round - no pun intended - underneath me.  Since he's round enough to make using most cushions a no-go, I ordered a Thinline pad for him.  Not sure if it will provide enough extra cushion with the English saddle, but it's worth a shot. 

Unfortunately for my semi-industrious plans, the first patch of long grass we tromped through released a hoard of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.  They weren't too bad in the sheep-cropped patches and along the verge of the driveway, but any time we ventured in deeper we were mobbed.  The fly spray was doing a great job with the face flies, but it didn't phase anything else. 

The driveway's hard as a rock and so is the road.  I suppose I could have taken them both for a tour of the neighbor's place at a high trot - even had the invitation, as D and daughter from down the road were headed past as I finished up with Sunny.  They stopped to chat for a bit and mentioned the possibility of doing some horse camping later in the summer.  Then they were off to make the full lap mosquitoes and all but they were keeping a pretty good clip to stay head of the bloodsuckers.

So I called it an evening with Sunny after about 30 minutes of bending.  Then it was Thunder's turn, and probably about the longest stretch I've ridden him.  We did circles, figure eights, a bit of backing... he was pretty good, all things considered.  Not always enthusiastic about it - he would rather have been standing by the trailer watching, I think - but cooperative.  Progress, I guess.

Other than the bugs it was an absolutely gorgeous evening, and tomorrow is supposed to be a carbon copy.  I'm hoping for a bit more breeze, though. 

I hauled the trailer back into town with me so I can clean it out, and if it's as warm as today, I might wash it out, as well. 

Not sure how regularly I'll be posting the next few weeks, as summer company is coming and we have a lot of house projects planned.  Isn't summer "vacation" fun?

Monday, May 7, 2012

In which Sunny gets adjusted

My appointment with the equine chiropractor was this afternoon at 3:30.  He was doing a whole string of horses at a local horseman's place, and had agreed to squeeze Sunny in when Dr. J called him. 

I had the trailer hooked up, the horses brushed and fly-sprayed, and was ready to go in plenty of time.  There's very little I hate more than arriving late, so of course I ended up being half an hour early.

Actually, being early wasn't entirely unintentional.  Or due completely to my dislike of being late.  I was kind of hoping I'd get to watch at least one done just to see how R handled himself and the horse.  Even though he came highly recommended by Dr. J, I'm a bit leery of the unknown when it comes to the boys.  Around here, Arabs aren't highly regarded.  They get labeled flighty or spoiled if they're at all reactive, and the stereotype has been known to prompt rougher treatment than I'll put up with. 

R was just starting on the horse before Sunny when I poked my head into the barn.  A tall, lanky sorrel quarter horse wearing a halter that proclaimed him a Blazing Barrels champion was being held by an chatty older gentleman who turned out to be the farm owner.  The barn was otherwise empty, slightly cluttered, and the gusty wind that followed in the weekend storms had doors, windows, gates... pretty much anything that would rattle or bang, rattling or banging.  R was calm and soft-spoken, the gelding was slightly wide-eyed, but as the process went on, relaxed, lowered his head, and licked and chewed and heaved the occasional big sigh. 

I introduced myself, then propped a hip against a handy stall gate to watch.  R started at the gelding's nose, working on his poll and from there gradually backwards, taking his time pressing, probing and occasionally making an adjustment.  He addressed both sides of the horse's neck all the way down to his chest, then his withers and shoulders, and down his front legs.  Then he worked from his shoulders down his back to his haunches where he kneaded and massaged the points of both hips and on down his back legs, stretching and flexing each.  He even stretched and checked the hang of his tail.

R used a pen pressed mid-belly to raise the gelding's back and then did something that made him rock back on his haunches.  Standing square and solid on all four feet when R finished, the gelding was visibly more relaxed and softer-eyed.  Almost sleepy.  He clopped quietly down the aisle and out, and I went to retrieve Sunny.

R followed me up, watching as I unloaded first Thunder, who got tied by the trailer, and then Sunny.  Both of them stepped off politely, Sunny swinging neatly around to wait while I closed the trailer door behind us.

"Just walk him on down to the barn so that I can watch how he moves," R told me.  Sunny walked alertly, lead loose with no spooking or playing, swiveling his ears and snuffling at the horses loafing in their runs.  He tiptoed hesitantly into the barn next to me, eyeballing the empty stalls and quivering slightly at the wind noise.  He was definitely nervous, but not worried about R at all.   

R rubbed his neck and talked to him quietly, and Sunny didn't flinch at his initial exam.  At least, not until R hit a couple of points on back and haunches.  "Definitely sore in the front end," was the quiet statement.  I'd have guessed back end from Sunny's reaction, which shows you what I know!

Sunny wasn't quite so complacent as the previous horse had been - it wasn't familiar territory, and the person groping him wasn't familiar, either.  Watching his expression was interesting, especially when R slid one long finger into his nose to hold him steady while he felt along Sunny's poll.  But other than the occasional encouraging or calming murmur to Sunny, R didn't say much - and he didn't need to.  It was obvious that any momentary discomfort was quickly forgotten in each adjustment's aftermath. Those hands felt good.  If what R'd been doing had hurt, Sunny would not have continued to cooperate so well.

At first, with each new area R started on Sunny would stand very still and tall and roll his eye back to see what R was doing.  As work on the area progressed, Sunny'd relax and start leaning into or away from the pressure to get the most out of it.  And with each section of body that was loose and relaxed when R finished, Sunny reacted less and less to what R's beginning on a new body part. 

When R finished (after about 45 minutes) by applying firm pressure to the same points that had had Sunny ducking his back and cringing away at the outset, Sunny stood quietly, four-square, without any reaction whatsoever.  Even though Sunny never attained quite the completely snoozy look that the quarter horse was wearing when R finished, he was visibly freer through the back and stepping up under himself much better.  And given that it was a strange, very noisy place, and that Thunder was outside, out of sight, and whinnying periodically the entire time, snoozy was probably a lot to ask for!

Back at the trailer, I was happy to discover that Thunder was a) still securely tied, and b) had made no effort to dig a hole to China or to decorate the trailer with cute horsey hoof tatoos.  He was, and from the marks in the dirt, had been, standing quietly.  As it turned out, while we were in the barn another trailer had pulled in.  It was those horses in combination with the resident stud who was pacing his fence line,  that had been making conversation.

When I commented to R that the boys were doing pretty good for crazy Arabs, he just laughed.  He said he works on a lot of them - and doesn't have any more issues with them than he does with any of the other breeds.  Given Sunny's non-reaction, and since R was at that moment shoulder-to-shoulder with Thunder, foot propped on the trailer's running board writing me out a receipt - with no snorting, fussing or other reaction other than some curious snuffling from the normally man-shy pony, I'd tend to believe he just doesn't have too much trouble, period.

So... I'm to turn Sunny out for 3-4 days of pasture rest.  No stalling - lol! And all the water he wants to drink.  After that, I can ride him - when I ask him to take the left lead, I'm not to get after him if he won't take it right away, as he's going to have to figure out that it doesn't hurt.   I think I may try him on the longe line before I ride him so that I can see how he moves, but we'll see how it goes. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's Derby Day! Have you picked your horse yet?

The horses are on their way to the paddock - everybody have your favorite selected?     My family, immediate and extended, always chooses a horse per person, and everyone antes a dollar.  I picked Union Rags earlier this week based on my usual system - I liked his face.  Turns out he's the favorite, which almost guarantees he won't win.  My track record is pretty unbroken in that regard!

I almost went with Daddy Long Legs, loved that book, but someone else picked him first. 

In the more ordinary horse world, not much has been going on the past week.  As directed, I've been doing stretching and bending exercises with Sunny daily.  It took him about 20 seconds to catch on to "touch" with the aid of the clicker, and now he'll stand planted, completely loose, and reach his neck around to touch his sides on request.  Both sides, too, which is an improvement.  And he's stepping across on both sides in back, as well.

On Thursday, in riding withdrawal, I couldn't resist and hopped on Thunder bareback with just a halter and lead and we tooled around the pasture for a bit.  Sunny watched and nickered at us, a bit baffled I think that he wasn't the one under me.

No lesson this week, as Eric headed for Minnesota's Sahara Sands Arabian show with a trailer load.

This morning I woke up to grey skies, ominous skies and shortly thereafter...

That was just the first wave - about half an hour later the sky delivered very enthusiastic reinforcements.

The rain gutters were overflowing.  Needless to say, the flowers I planted Thursday are flat, and since the flower bed I seeded last night looked like a baby river, I think it's safe to say if anything does come up it will all be at one end.

The windshields on both vehicles survived intact, thank goodness, although both hoods have some nice dings.  But the really important thing is the horses came through just fine.  From the looks of the trees as I drove out to check, I think the storm came through just far enough north that the worst of the hail missed them.

Looks like the riders are up, so I'm going to call this a post - Happy Racing, Everyone!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Diagnosis

Hot, sticky and windy - but at least the thunder, lightening and downpour held off until I got the horses unloaded, the trailer unhooked, and myself home.

So... the boys were stellar for their rabies shots - both of them.  Probably because the Dr. J that stuck them was of the female persuasion.  Sunny wouldn't have cared - and didn't twitch a muscle, but Thunder still hasn't come to terms with strange men.  He snorted and danced and curled his neck and just generally acted suspicious all over the place when Dr. D came out to admire him.

In the meantime, the other Dr. J finished up with his previous patient and came out to watch Sunny move.  He had me lead him down the drive to watch him walk, then he had me turn him both directions first on his hindquarters, then on his front end.  Sunny would step across himself nicely going to the right, but left was much stiffer and he was really reluctant to pivot rather than stepping away when I asked him. 

Then it was on to the longe line. No sign of anything in particular at the trot, so we moved on to canter.  Sunny was okay picking up the left lead as long as I let him have lots of line and didn't make him do a small circle.  But as soon as Dr. J asked me to slow him down and make him lope a small circle on a tighter line, he broke.  I pushed him back up, and he'd take the right (wrong) lead and then do a flying change to left, hold it for three or for strides, then break again.

Changing directions to circle clockwise,  he took and held the right (correct) lead on both a large and small circle without any problems.

Dr. J had me stop him.  While Sunny puffed, he probed for soreness along his topline, finding ouchy spots along both sides of his spine, slightly more pronounced on the left, but visibly there on the right, as well.  But he had to press fairly firmly to get Sunny to react at all. 

Then he had me saddle him - he wanted to see Sunny in my English saddle and check the fit in comparison to the sore spots, but wouldn't you know, that's the one that wasn't in the trailer.  Dr. J checked the fit of my western saddle, informing me it sits too high and the bars should come down further, but that it shouldn't be cause soreness where Sunny's sore - which I could have told him, since I haven't ridden Sunny western in... at least two or three months.  Moving on, he examined legs, then got out the hoof testers.  But although he thought there might be a touch of sensitivity in the front left, once he dug around for a bit with the hoof knife and then reapplied the testers, he got no reaction whatsoever from that foot.  Or any of the others.

With the saddle snugged, he had me ask Sunny to flex through his neck by running the leadrope around the opposite side of the saddle and then encouraging Sunny to unwind himself.  Sunny was not enthused.  It's an exercise he's done, and usually will do without any problems, but although he was otherwise cooperative, Sunny obviously didn't want to bend his neck.  He'd turn, he just wouldn't bend.

After more probing and poking, none of which Sunny appeared to mind in the slightest, Dr. J said he recommends Sunny see the equine chiropractor.  He thinks Sunny's out in his neck.  His back is slightly sore, but the soreness isn't located where it should be causing difficulty with the left lead.  His reluctance to bend through the neck means he isn't able to free up his left shoulder, which is showing up as an inability to pick up the left lead....

Dr, J made me an appointment with the chiro for next Monday.  In the meantime, I'm to not ride, but I am to work on encouraging Sunny to flex his neck in both directions to see if his range of motion will improve.  And he said that after Sunny's been adjusted, I'm to continue working on flexing and on making sure Sunny will turn equally well on the hind and forehand, stepping across evenly with the outside foot in each direction.

We have our homework, and a not-too-serious diagnosis which, given Sunny's lack of other symptoms, I was sort of expecting.  Hopefully the chiropractor will put him right - I think, and Dr. J concurred, that since I haven't been riding him as much lately it's most likely that Sunny threw something out fooling around in the lot.  It's showing up when most visibly when I ride because I'm asking him to use himself in a way that otherwise he'd just avoid.

Back at the farm, he and Thunder both rolled to get the sweaty, itchies from the muggy trailer taken care of, then set off and a high trot for the pasture where they could catch a breeze and escape the bugs.  I headed for home and managed to get the back yard mostly mowed before the skies opened up.