Sunday, December 20, 2015

Kota Kanters!

I finally managed to get some extensive footage of Dakota! He is the most adorable little man. R is doing a wonderful job with him. She's working on getting him not to run into canter, and she said he likes to pick up the left lead going to the right (which he always used to do on the lunge as well). She does a slight leg yield left before asking for the right lead, and today he picked up the right lead on the first try every time. R will be out of town for the holidays, so I'm going to work Dakota in her absence. I hope I ride him half as well!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Detective work

About two weeks ago I noticed that over several days, Clair was acting crabby when I saddled her. I palpated all over her back, and she seemed fine. Then one day when I was riding, she suddenly stopped dead for no apparent reason. I asked her to go forward, and she backed up, over and over. My first thought was that it was a disobedience, but she had never done anything like it before, and we hadn't been working on a stressful movement or anything like that. I remembered her crabbiness in saddling and wondered if it was physical discomfort. So, instead of getting after her, I just sat quietly at the halt until she relaxed and walked forward on her own. We did a few trot circles and ended on a good note. I noticed when I tacked her off that she was completely dry-mouthed, which isn't like her. A few days later I came out to ride, but when I went into the pasture to get her, she was not herself at all. Usually she's happy to see me, but that day she just stood still with her head down. I listened to her gut and heard good sounds, so I decided to lunge her lightly. Again, she was crabby tacking up, and then on the lunge she was lethargic and didn't want to canter. And she was still dry-mouthed.

I was starting to think ulcers. At our previous barn, she had been on forage only (free choice round bale plus a flake of alfalfa morning and night). At the new place, we had started her on 3/4 scoop of Complete twice a day, plus grass hay and alfalfa. I wondered if she would do better on less grain. I asked to reduce her Complete servings to 1/4 scoop twice a day and double her grass hay. I also started her on Cool Calories. And I gave her a week off. I figured if she was still feeling poorly after a week, I'd give her a round of ulcer meds.

Happily, after the week off, she was back to her usual, cheerful, busy self: greeting me in the pasture, caring not at all about the girth, and foamy-mouthed. Relief! In the future, I need to notice sooner if Clair loses the happy; grumpiness probably means something's wrong.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Remember the little blond horse?

Dakota is doing just fabulous! Here's some video from tonight. He's so bendy! He's cantering full circles under saddle now, too. I missed getting canter video tonight; was in the barn tacking up Clair.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Monsters in the indoor

It has taken Clair a few weeks to get used to the indoor arena. I don't know why it worried her so much -- it's really not a spooky arena at all. She keeps giving the hairy eyeball to the north door and a couple different sets of jumps along the sides. I've handwalked her around the perimeter I don't know how many times. She's much better at this point, but I still have to remember to sit back in canter lest she suddenly puts on the brakes. Silly mare.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Recent video

Clair is such a good girl. She can have a week off, and I can hop back on her and pick up right where we left off. She very rarely tenses up or goes on the muscle. She's a thoughtful mare who seems to enjoy her job. The only real fault she has is her tendency to go low and curl behind the bit. She does it out of habit, when she gets tired, or when I ask her to focus on a more difficult movement. Last fall, clinician Suzanne advised me to use the arret to ask Clair to raise her head and open her throatlatch. I've been doing a pretty good job of using it many times during each ride. I do it as softly as I can to still get a reaction. And when she reacts, I don't care if she sticks her nose out or up. I just want her to understand that UP is good. I've also been using the Pessoa in the high, crossed position, which seems to keep her from wanting to go low. You'll see some arrets in the videos below.

My current focus is canter-walk and trot lengthening. She has a super lengthening in the pasture -- now to harness that under saddle.

Monday, September 28, 2015

New digs

I lived in Lubbock from 2004 to 2006. Except for a bit of a rainy spell during the first winter, it hardly ever rained at all. The barn I was at back then only had an outdoor arena, and it was rideable pretty much all the time (except during dust storms).

My husband and I like to joke that we brought the Willamette Valley rain with us to Lubbock when we moved here in May 2014. West Texas had been enduring a four-year drought up until the very moment we arrived. We've had oodles of rain ever since. The month of June was crazy. We had thunderstorms almost every day, with downpours of three, four, and five inches at a time. The playa lakes overflowed. Cars floated away. And, worst of all, I couldn't get to the barn!

I loved the private barn I was at. It was peaceful, and the care was excellent. The horses were out 24/7 with a run-in shed, and they loved it. It's hard to even consider moving horses when they're thriving. However, for a good chunk of the spring and practically all of June, I couldn't make it out there. The roads were either literally under water, or else they were a sticky, car-entrapping goo. Even folks with high-end four wheel drive vehicles were getting stuck.

In addition to me not being able to ride, Dakota's lovely new person R wasn't able to ride either. I really, REALLY didn't want to lose her as Dakota's lease. She's so sweet with him, and he goes so well for her. She has even cantered him under saddle a few times. My guilt about not having enough time for him was dissipating! So, reluctantly, I decided it was time to move to a new barn.

I looked at several, and settled on a nice mostly-jumping barn. It has been run by the same woman for many, many years, and it had great reviews on Facebook and Google. There's an enormous outdoor arena for flatwork, another for jumping, and a full-size indoor arena, plus hackable land nearby. The horses are out on a huge dry lot most of the day. They come in for feedings and at night. I wasn't worried at all about Dakota going into general turnout -- he's the most submissive gelding of all time -- but Clair can be the mare-iest mare of all with other horses. Luckily, she settled right in without biting or kicking anyone. She struts around like the queen of England and everyone stays out of her way. Many of the geldings have googly eyes for her.

One of the many advantages at this barn is that Clair and Dakota can't see the arena from turnout or from their stalls. So when one of them is working, the other must simply cool his or her jets. They were pretty herdbound to each other at first, but they're getting over it. I can't abide screamy herdbound horses. It's very cute how they have to check in with each other, nose to nose, whenever one of them is returned to turnout.

It's nice to be back at a barn with lots of other riders. A quiet barn has its own advantages, but I do miss the social aspects of riding. It's also good for the horses to work with others in the arena. All in all, we're pretty happy!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dakota gets a person of his very own

Today a young lady came out to give Dakota a try for a possible lease. It went perfectly! They loved each other. She's a very soft, balanced, tactful rider. She also already knows how to deal with his head-shyness. She has a bunch of experience competing in both English and Western as an undergraduate. She'll probably want to ride him a few more times before committing, but I have a good feeling about it! The guilt is already starting to fade :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

When a GSP wishes hard enough

Yesterday our GSP, Duke, and our beagle, Annie, were very fixated on the birds in the giant maple tree in our backyard. In the late afternoon, my husband took this picture of them hanging out together, staring upwards.

About ten minutes later, we heard a big, birdy kerfuffle high up in the tree, followed by a small thump on the ground right next to where the dogs were. Annie immediately leaped forward and grabbed something. Ted and I asked in tandem, is that a bird? After a moment Annie dropped it, and Duke grabbed it and started trotting proudly around the yard. Ted went to get something to put the probably dead bird in. When he got back, I got hold of Duke and pried his mouth open. What tumbled out was indeed a dead bird, but the interesting and horrifying thing was that it was decapitated. What could have done that? Definitely not a cat -- with four dogs running around, cats stay out of our yard. At that time of day, could it have been a hawk? Surely not an owl during the daytime.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wonderful canter work, and pony snuffles

Between having the flu and hosting my mom for ten days, I haven't been getting to the barn as much as I'd like. The good news is, Clair can have a week off, and I can just hop on her and pick up as if no time has passed. She's such a doll! Today I decided to work on getting her canter departs more elevated, with less of a jump forward. After warmup, I put her on a twenty-meter circle and starting asking for canter-trot-canter, with just a few steps of trot between canters. She picked up on it right away, and boy howdy, did I get some fabulous canter. She got more and more collected until it felt like I was sitting on a bouncy rubber ball. I started leaving out the trot steps and just asking for a big half halt back to forward canter, and she felt so powerful. That'll be the canter I need to get nice canter-walk transitions. Such great progress!

Before I left I walked out into the pasture to take a few pictures, and I got this fun video of many pony snuffles. They are both very sweet, people-oriented kids.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Success with walk-canter!

I've started schooling Clair on walk-canter transitions, and she is a genius-- she picked it up during the first session where we tried it. Now we need to work on canter-walk. With that and some more work on counter-canter, we're just about finished schooling all of second level. Her medium trot is starting to come along, too.

I'm so torn about Dakota. I've come to the point where I have to admit I don't really have time for him. For the first time in my life, I have a truly third-level-capable horse (and even more, I think), and I need to keep my eyes on the prize: my bronze medal. I've kept Kota going all winter, mostly with lungeing in the Pessoa, and some walk and trot under saddle. I still haven't even put in the canter under saddle! He's strong and balanced on the lunge, and knows his leads, so I don't think it will be a big deal. I do have to say that now that he is fully fattened up and fit, he has a lot more opinions than he did when I got him, and he was so skinny. I had hoped he could be a beginner's horse, but my opinion now is that he needs a pretty confident rider. Not a pro, by any means, but someone who knows what to do when challenged. He does like to trail ride with a buddy; I haven't tried it on our own yet. And he has fantastic gaits and build for dressage! He moves more like a blond Lipizzan than anything.

He can be a pasture ornament for the time being. I love the little bugger and wish I could find a lease situation for him.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This is what I aspire to

I wish FEI-level riding today looked more like this: lightness in the bridle, invisible aids, pure harmony.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January videos of Clair

I can't believe it has been six weeks since I posted. It just doesn't seem that long. We've had some challenging weather on and off, and I have only an outdoor to school in, but even working two or three days a week Clair and I have been making steady progress. I'm starting to be able to collect her canter. And, as you'll note in one of the videos below, she's starting to evade up and out instead of hovering behind the bit. I'm not correcting the up and out evasion very much because I'd rather her take a strong contact and sometimes bull through, instead of not taking the contact at all. We're working on simple change through trot, shallow counter-canter loop, trot lengthenings, and turn on the haunches. My leg is less floppy but still needs tightening. We have another clinic with Suzanne May February 27 to March 1.