Saturday, August 29, 2009

The base of the neck

Willow has a really long neck. You'd think, given that nice, long neck, that giving through the whole length of it would be rather easy. It's only those short-necked horses that lock up, right? Ha! Willow just loves to give only at the poll and hold the rest of her neck flat and straight. Or, at least, she used to love to do that. Trainer Leslie has been giving me many training tips on getting Willow to let go at the base of her neck, creating that lovely arch we all seek. As you might imagine, a horse that holds its neck flat and straight by default will travel on its forehand. It needs to give at the base of the neck and lift through the wither to allow the weight to shift back.

In the last month Willow has really changed through the neck. I don't have that flat, locked feeling through the reins anymore. It's a much more rubberbandy feeling now. We did have two weeks where Willow thought she'd try one more time to intimidate me out of this whole giving-through-the-neck thing. She started threatening to rear, and then a few days later threw in some actual rearing. Bad mare! I found that when I felt her gather her rear legs forward underneath herself, if I pitched myself forward and took one rein far down and sideways, pushing with the leg on the same side, I could get her to spin out of it before she went up. "Curses! Foiled again!" Willow thought.

When stuff like that happens, it's so helpful to have a trainer to be eyes on the ground and tell you if your horse can't do what you're asking or is just being a royal beeyotch. With Willow, it was the latter, says Leslie. And here it is two weeks later, things are going great, and no more rearing.

The canter is feeling so great right now. I even got a tossed off "Looks really good!" from the head trainer the other night, and she's not one to pipe up with praise, like, ever. Willow's off my hand, taking the half halts, and starting to develop that lofty feeling in front. Walk-canter-walk is coming right along, as area shoulder-in and travers in canter.

The Ovation wide-calf boots arrived, and fit OK except for being a little gappy at the top. Good enough. I'm still grumpy about having to wear a wide-calf anything.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On losing a dog

Wil Wheaton's dog died yesterday. He wrote very eloquently about it on his blog today. Of course, now I'm in tears again over Marko. Losing a dog is so hard.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Of twitter, arthritis, and wide calves

The last of my resistance was recently worn away, and I now tweet. The final crack in my armor was finding out that Nathan Fillion tweets. How am I supposed to resist that? And once I had my account set up, it was just so freakin' easy to type 140 characters. And to link it up with my blog. Sigh. I never thought I would tweet.

Sam the German shorthair has arthritis in his gimpy shoulder. I was actually pretty happy to hear that. I was envisioning horrible things like torn ligaments, cartilage chips in the joint, and bone cancer. Arthritis we can deal with. He had a shot of Adequan at the vet, is on a course of anti-inflammatories, and I'm going to start him up on a glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate/MSM supplement ASAP. He's already at least 50% improved. But man, was he stoned when I brought him home from the vet. They sedated him for his x-ray. Around mid-evening I carried him out to the yard and set him down. He stood, eyes closed, gently swaying from side to side. I left him for ten minutes to see if he might snap out of it a bit, but when I returned he was still swaying. I picked him up and plopped him back on the couch.

My current pair of schooling boots is falling apart, so I ordered some Ovation boots with zippers because they were on sale at Dover. Now, I was once a slim-calf-sized person, but I accept the fact that I am no longer that person. That person was ten pounds ago. I am firmly in the regular-calf camp these days. So that's what I ordered. And guess what? The regular calves were too narrow. Ack! I don't think I qualify as wide-calved. Seriously. I'm offended. But the price was too good, so I sent back the regulars and requested the wides, which have not yet arrived. If they turn out to be too wide, I am going to be really grumpy. I can't be dinkin' around getting replacement boots. My current boots have cracked wide open where the stirrup hits the outside of my foot, so I have steel pressing against my foot during every ride, producing a giant, permanent bruise. I'm suffering, here.

Last night Willow felt so good through the neck -- loose and adjustable. I could see her crest clearly flip when I changed directions. She's also much less locked on the left rein than she used to be.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Willow update

Willow and I have been having a blast for the past couple of weeks. She's mostly off my hand, and Leslie's got us schooling most of second level. In Thursday's lesson, we started on walk-canter, and Willow surprised us both by nailing it, both directions, every time. I thought that lifting her big self into canter from walk would be a bugaboo for her. Shows what I know. Ten-meter canter circles are feeling really good now, too. All this work should really help strengthen her hind end. Leslie wants to see her stepping well under behind to free up her shoulders.

I bought myself a pair of Rein Bow rein aids and have been using them every other ride. They're loops that clip to the reins and allow you to effortlessly maintain your rein length. I find that they really help when introducing a shorter rein length. Willow realizes very quickly that yanking the reins through my fingers is a no-go, and she stops trying. I love not having to constantly check my rein length. They are, of course, not legal in dressage competition. If you have a horse that's part freight train, like Willow, they're worth a try.

I also switched Willow's bit to a Sprenger WH Ultra loose ring snaffle. It has a little loose roller in the middle link for her to play with, and she seems to like it.

Sam the German shorthair is lame in his front left shoulder. He can bear weight on the leg, but he's obviously very sore. I'm taking him in to the vet tomorrow. Think happy, non-surgical thoughts for us.