Sunday, January 31, 2010

Come to Jesus

Lest you think Willow is a darling girl all the time, I thought I'd post about tonight's ride. Now, thinking back on my last few rides, I see clearly that she was building up to an extreme bout of naughtiness. Tonight when I got on, all she would do is throw up her head and threaten to rear. It got dangerous pretty fast, and I was at the barn alone, so I decided not to engage in the fight from the saddle. I hopped off, hooked up the side reins, and proceeded to lunge the snot out of her instead. I made as big of an oval as I could and galloped her 'til she was pooped. Then I got back on and galloped her for another ten minutes. Then I made her trot really big for another ten minutes. She's not stupid; she realized I was furious and was utterly obedient under saddle the second time around. I praised her up and down and then walked her for twenty minutes until she wasn't blowing. She was a steamy mare.

I gave her some bute, and sore or not, she's getting galloped again tomorrow! I let her build up to thinking she's running the show; time to remind her who's in charge. Alpha mare that she is, she's always testing me. It's actually part of the reason I love mares. You have to earn every inch with them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Here comes the sun

Saturday we had an actual sunny day. Not just a few minutes of sun peeking out between showers: sunshine and blue skies all day long. It was glorious.

I took more video of Willow (told you I was addicted). This time I captured a little bit of the very collected canter I've been working on on the lunge. Between 1:29 and 1:31 there's a stride that's approaching the level of collection needed for pirouette. To the right she never reached that level of collection, but I still like how she's working. I also like the collection in the trot on the small circle. It's all good for strengthening her hind end.

She'd had three days off due to me being sick, so she was a little challenging under saddle. But I got some good canter-walk transitions (although I can see I need to half halt again in the walk to keep her from pitching onto her forehand). I also got some good shoulder-in to the left in trot.

Today I worked her in heavy rain and wind with a mondo marathon going on at the nearby shooting range. She was mostly focused and didn't squabble as much as yesterday.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Another Willow video

Here's video from Saturday. Mostly I'm just working on the quality and looseness of the canter, but there are a couple shoulder-ins in trot, and a few canter-walk-canter transitions. At the end there's a shot of Willow's new, improved, foamy mouth.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lungeing (or longeing, if you must)

Earlier this winter, when Willow was dealing with her ulcer and I was frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with her, I stopped riding and switched to lungeing for about four weeks, because I thought the random stomping might be signaling a lameness issue, and it's easier to see movement on the lunge than feel it under saddle. Of course, it turns out that, happily, a course of ulcer treatment and an ongoing aloe vera supplement fixed Willow right up. An added bonus: Willow really started to get her groove on on the lunge. For most of us, lungeing isn't as fun as riding, but you really can accomplish a ton on the lunge.

For a lungeing-only session, my routine is thus:

I start Willow off with very long, training-level-frame side reins. Always, when we start out, these long side reins don't look very long. Willow wants to keep her neck pretty straight and overbend at the poll. I walk her for a bit, and then when I ask her to move out of walk, she always launches straight into canter. (This has been a good clue for me that perhaps Willow is one of those horses that warms up better in canter.) I have her canter and trot for a few minutes, and then I halt her and shorten the side reins. I've been shortening the side reins very slowly over the past year, and now she can handle them being quite short. (But I don't just suddenly crank her in from training level to short: Depending on how she feels, I usually take her halfway, let her walk a bit, and then shorten all the way. If she resists, we don't shorten all the way that day. I keep an eye on the rubber donuts: if they're really stretched, I know she's leaning and resisting.)

Now I ask for a big trot and canter, to make sure she's stepping through into the new frame. I apply little "bumping" half halts if she tries to drop her head and go behind the vertical. She has mostly figured out what I'm asking for, so this has gotten to be much less of an issue. We do lots of transitions between gaits, and after about five minutes I start bringing her in on a ten meter circle, asking for trot and canter. When she's balanced at ten meters, I bring her in to eight meters. Circles this small are really hard work, so I don't keep her in so tight for very long. I use a release onto the large circle as a reward. To the left, on the very small circle, Willow tends to want to travel haunches-in, so I use little touches with the whip to ask her to move her haunches out. (Of course, you need to be cautious of the horse's reaction when they're this close to you.)

I usually finish up by asking for a medium trot. I walk along with her so she's traveling on more of a very large oval, to give her the room she needs. Then I bring her back to working trot for a bit, halt, and we change directions. (I alternate which direction I start her in with every session.) Lather, rinse, repeat in the new direction.

When we're done, I lengthen the side reins back to training-level-length and have Willow trot for a couple minutes to stretch out. The cool thing is, remember how in the warmup the side reins seemed rather short even at this length? Well, now they seem really long. Willow's withers are up and she's giving through the length of her neck. Now she has to reach a bit to find the contact. It's a pretty good indication she's working correctly, I think. We do a couple minutes of long and low, and then I have her walk for a couple minutes.

The lungeing has been going so well I'm doing an abbreviated version of the above before every ride.

In other news, on Thursday I had a doctor's appointment to establish care with a new doctor and re-up a prescription. She decided I needed vaccinations: H1N1, flu, and pneumonia. I haven't had a vaccination in forever. When I woke up yesterday, I could barely move my left arm. It felt like someone hit my upper arm, hard, with a two by four. It woke me up every couple of hours last night. Next time, I'll start on the ibuprofen immediately following the vaccinations!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ireland watch continues

I turned in my passport application today. I'm going to Ireland March 16-23! My good friend Lynda is going with me. We're going to stay half the time in Bantry and half in Galway. I'm starting to eye the equestrian options in Bantry. A half-day ride through the countryside would be amazing. Now I need to figure out the awesome new Canon digital SLR my parents got me for Christmas. I used to be quite the photographer; now's the time to get back into practice.

Willow the Woolly grew out the first trace clip I gave her in November, so I clipped her again Tuesday evening. She just about had a heat stroke when I worked her on Monday; I felt bad. Last night I did some work in hand with her. We hadn't done that in a long while. She was quite good about it. I even got two piaffe steps out of her going to the left. Mostly, though, I was just reacquainting her with the idea. The first two things you have to establish when doing work in hand are submission and trust. Otherwise, explosions ensue.

Willow's starting to offer almost a pirouette canter when I bring her in on a tight circle on the lunge. It's fun to see. I think we're on the cusp of making some great progress this year.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I don't get it

Will someone please explain to me why this ad would make me want to buy a Toyota 4Runner? It starts off with a simple banner for the product. Am I in? I don't know.

A slider appears. I slide it from "out" to "in."

Creepy-crawlies of all types begin to infest the ad, becoming more and more numerous. It kind of makes me think of the scene early in the "Fellowship of the Ring" when the hobbits are hiding from the Nazgul in a ditch, and worms, spiders, and scorpions start to ooze out of the earth.

The end. A few spiders remain. I wonder why there was a man's arm in the ad, just sitting there, and now it's gone.

I have a pretty extensive background in marketing, so usually I can suss out what an ad is trying to accomplish, but this one has me stumped. I now associate 4Runners with being covered in insects and arachnids. That's not a positive association for me.

Does anyone have an explanation?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back in business with video

I finally got my videocamera-to-computer transfer working again. In the end I had to reinstall the software that came with the videocamera, even though it's not the software I'm using to capture video. Reinstalling that software also fixed some issues I'd been having with YouTube. Go figure.

Here's me and Willow lungeing last weekend. That's the radio playing in the background. Rocky, one of the barn dogs, developed diabetes a couple of years ago and is now totally blind. We leave the radio on in the arena at all times so if he wanders off the farm he can find his way back. It's not exactly my choice in music, but it's about the only channel that comes well, and I will put up with Kid Rock if it means Rocky doesn't get lost.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010: The Year We Lighten Contact

I've been obsessively videotaping myself for the past week (sure do wish my new videocamera cord would arrive so I could share the video with y'all). My new year's resolution is to absolutely stop trying to get Willow to lighten by wagging her head. I don't even realize I'm doing it, but it's glaringly obvious on the videotape. Instead, I'm going to be much more solid with my contact, because if I am (be the side rein . . . be the side rein) then Willow lightens all on her own after a few minutes. She's just testing me, and I need to stop getting into little arguments with her.

Second resolution: keep those reins short. I've gotten Willow working really well on fairly short side reins when I lunge, so there's absolutely no reason why she can't do the same thing under saddle. She's got to learn to carry her big ol' self all on her own, and I'm doing her no favors by letting her lengthen her frame every two minutes.

Overall, when I think back to where we were a year ago, I'm just thrilled. Willow has filled out and muscled up, and I'm spending most of our sessions in sitting trot with reliable half halts. (Sitting trot used to feel pretty freight-train-ish.) Her temper tantrums are all but eliminated. Her mouth is foamy after every ride. She's starting to really sit in the canter. She's bendy.

In other news, guess whose barn is getting a hot walker? :) :)