Friday, July 29, 2011

Little slice of heaven

(sad pic up top. My 3 bridles, covered in dust and cobwebs. The closeup shows how bad it is. Got to ride everyday so that doesn't build up again!)

Finally riding my boy after a little 2 week sabbatical was like heaven. I NEVER feel happier than when I swing my leg over his back and settle into the saddle. I'm optimistic that now that summer time is getting back into school time, I can consistently get back to work with my boy. He felt great today, all things considering. I opted for a nice, solid 30 minute ride consisting of mostly a nice, stretchy trot. I didn't wear spurs, and I put on the cc saddle and the hunter bridle. He felt nice and forward with a touch of sassy, but not stupid or angry. Sometimes when I hop on too outside of our usual routine, he gets a tad resentful. This morning, it was about 7:30 that I got on. Gave him a handful of his breakfast, then headed up to the ring.

He was actually pretty lovely considering the lack of work:) Worked on straight and relaxed. Tried to get him to take the reins and stretch long and low. He did a few times, yay! Had 2 poles thrown in center of ring, perpendicular to "X". Trotted over them, did a little shoulder in, then changed direction each time as I reached the end of the ring. He was a little stiff in the neck and poll, but as I said, the hollow mouth D is not the best bit in the world for him. I need another of the Myler D-rings, but they're $$ and I have other things to worry about right now.

The canter was a little "worse". He felt very enthusiastic and swishy at the canter. I was "up" in my 2-point a little bit. There was a cavaletti on the lowest setting on a long side, and he kept trying to run at it. I cantered up to it, halted, backed, then walked over it. Rinsed and repeated a couple of times until he quit hollowing his back and flinging his head up at the halt. Let him quit when I cantered up quietly, said "WHOA", and he backed himself off and stepped right over.

I felt like it was a great way to gear back up and let him think about it for the weekend. Monday begins "Countdown to Poplar Place"! I've got a xc schooling to schedule, a lesson with Janet, a lesson with Gigi, a lesson with Susan, and hopefully a lesson with a local jumper trainer, Heather Ray. Lots to do!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Deciding to add a "feature" to the blog:)

So, I think a cool weekly thing to do would be to feature a "Tip of the Week". Whether it's a money saving thing, or a grooming tip, or a riding tip ... if you would be interested in sharing with everyone your cool Tip, just shoot me an e-mail;

Today's Tip of the Week:
Instead of spending $$ on fancy anti-bacterial medicated horse shampoo to clear up skin funk, spend $3.48 at Target or Wal Mart and buy the big refill of anti bacterial hand soap (the "off brand"). Works just as effectively (especially when followed up by an application of Shapley's MTG) and saves oddles of $$.:)

Last week was a total loss in terms of exercise. Tiki had his 2 missing shoes put on Monday, and even as late as Friday STILL looked gimpy trotting across the pasture:( Not that I had the time or energy to ride him anyway. So, gave him the weekend, and took a look at what I had today. FINALLY, I saw a sound horse:) Very glad I opted to longe him today instead of hop on and go for a hack like I'd considered. He was bucking and squealing like a wild man, lol. Once I could finally get him to show me a nice trot and quit bucking, he looked nice and even both ways. Not sure I can squeeze in a ride tomorrow or Wednesday, because I will be auditing (and envying) honorary little sis in her Greg Best clinic she's riding in. Hopefully I will come away with a few useful pearls I can use for the Muffin, and get back to it full swing on Thursday. I think I will skip the xc schooling this week. Neither Tiki nor I are fit at all, it is still dangerously hot, and we can go up there ANY time. I think instead, I will try and ride in a Gigi Nutter clinic next week; I think we can be ready for that in time:)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A week of work, work, work ...

Sigh. Just working my tail off during this last and FINAL week of camp! Sadly, Muffin went the entire weekend with no shoes. Monday he finally got a pedi, and yesterday he was uber tender footed. Today he looked a little better but still tight and short strided. Therefore, I am not stressing about not riding this week. May get to go cross country schooling at Calimar next Thursday or Friday with a trainer friend of mine and a few of her students. My very loose and flexible "goal" fence is at the bare minimum, a solid novice level hanging log in the fence line. My "we're a rock star" fence will be the Training level baby corner that up until now, I've only stood next to and sat my camera on:) But, since I'll once again be coming off a break and a week's worth of riding, my REAL goal is simply to ride well, stay on, and build the Squeaky boy's confidence.

For those that haven't read my comments on the previous post, Kody (my son) is completely fine. I think much of his reaction was due partially to his dramatic nature. I thank God every day that Kody has remained healthy and never sustained a major, traumatic injury (currently knocking on wood!) so he has no real barometer when it comes to pain or trauma. Which of course is just fine by me! I'm feeling much better about the whole thing; it took a few days but I've regained my equilibrium. Hopefully Muffin will start looking better tomorrow; I knew he'd be tight and sore because he lost some good foot, for sure. Not to mention, the ground is hard as a rock and has a bunch of rocks. Love my pony; grateful these were only lost shoes numbers 4 and 5 in nearly 3 years.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Darkest day of my life:(

Seeing as how my muffin man still is lacking 2 shoes, I'm going to step away from him for a second. As y'all may or may not know, I am the assistant trainer for a local big name trainer. I run her lesson program, coach the IEA team, and do summer camps every summer.

The light of my life, my 9 year old son Kody, is my entire world. He is the reason I get up in the mornings. He is bright, funny, outgoing, and talented. He is more of an artistic/performer type kid as opposed to an athletic kid. He hasn't shown a HUGE interest in horses ... he's enjoyed the few times he's ridden, but the walking down to get the horse, lead them up through the grass, groom, tack up, etc. hasn't been his thing. I haven't pushed him because horses are MY thing, and I refuse to push my dreams/desires etc. onto him.

So, that said, Kody participated in camp this past week. I decided that since he'd been asking to ride again that it was high time I make him learn to do some things instead of the "playing" around with it he had been doing. This week has been great. Monday, he started out hanging onto the front of the saddle at the trot and leaning over like he was in 2 point. By Friday, he was sitting up, hands low on the withers, posting with his heels down and looking pretty darn good! I even had him try a little canter down the long side of the ring; Red is a saint with a canter that feels not too much different than his trot:) Kody told me "No, no, no!" but I convinced him to try, and he nailed it.

Later that afternoon, the kids hopped on bareback. I put Kody on Ducky because he's a pony and has a trot that's smooth as glass. Long story short, I pressured Kody to trot; I ran with him down the long side, he did GREAT, and that was that. As Kody walked away from me, he was trying to fix where he'd slid off to the side a little bit, and started getting panicky. It escalated to him screeching, Ducky trotting, him screaming, and Ducky getting up to a canter than yanking his head down.

I knew he was going off. I steeled myself for it. He was crying and screaming, and then he hit the ground with a sickening CRACK! When he hit the ground with that much of a noise and then complete and utter silence, I sprinted to his side; I've been teaching for 14 years and made the journey many times. But I have NEVER in my life felt like I did in that moment. I'm crying as I type this. By the time I got to his side, he was writing in pain, saying, "MY HEAD, MY HEAD! OWW, THAT REALLY REALLY HURT". I kept a level head, knowing that he's my dramatic child, and assessed his condition. He was really knocked for a loop. I calmed him down, wiped his tears, removed his helmet, and checked him out. I felt reasonably sure he was just fine, so I once again forced him to do something he didn't want to; I put him up on Red and led him a lap around the ring. His instincts took over and he sat up, still weeping as I led him around, and then I let him off.

After he recovered his wits about him and calmed down, we were finally able to go home after the other campers left. He took a shower, and it was like instant transformation. I had my baby back. I have been beating myself up since it happened. I had a nightmare about it last night. Kids fall; it happens. I KNEW that if he was to continue to ride, he would eventually fall off. I'm kicking myself for pushing him to trot. It was NOT my fault that he ultimately fell; it WAS my fault that I made him trot, then he lost his position. It was then just complete and utter panic that escalated into him coming off. I will never push him like that physically, ever again. In the long run, why did I CARE if he trotted right then? He doesn't love horses; he will never ride for the Team in any discipline. I should have just let him do his thing, and I wouldn't be watching him like a hawk right now. I learned a lesson, that's for sure.

Anyway, I'm sorry! Just had to get the incident out of my mind by getting it on the computer screen. I'm so incredibly grateful he wasn't hurt. I'm so grateful I made sure his helmet fit him perfectly. He is taking it easy for a few weeks and not being too adventurous. I love my child more than I love my self, and I will do anything for him. I'm sure I will stop beating myself up soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The power of observation

Anyone living remotely in the south knows how hot and humid it has been. Wow. Since I've had the goal in mind of going to Mud Creek Ranch again on Saturday, I committed to riding Tiki more than 3 times in the month before the show. Last week I did well; rode Tues-Friday; Friday was actually a "2 ride" day.

This week has been much more difficult. I've been waking at 4:30, arriving at the barn by 4:50. I then do stalls/morning feeding/turnout/bring in until 7:50. I then go back to the house, get Kody, pack a lunch, and head to Patchwork where I do camp and then lessons. It's much nicer not to have to go BACK to Joyce's and do that extra hour of work, and I'd intended to go back in the afternoons and ride, but with the temps and humidity, it's actually dangerous to ride:( So, I've held off, realizing that Tiki IS fit. Not recognized horse trial fit, but clinic/schooling show/lesson fit. He can maintain that level of fitness by 2 or 3 rides per week. So, plan was to ride today/tomorrow/hack Saturday at Patchwork before heading over to MCR. This is how today went:

Walk into the sweltering ring and realize the footing isn't actually TOO unbelievably hard. Checked out the gymnastic and saw the vertical was 2'9, and the oxer was somewhere around 2'6/2'9. Decided to got for it. Also, separated the 2 halves of the coop, intention being that I was going to jump one of the halves as a skinny:) Here's where my title comes into play ... I have watched my classes in that last show over and over. I've been watching countless videos of pros riding jump courses. I've been watching countless videos of local hunter pros jump courses. I've been watching the videos my friends post on Facebook watching them jump courses. You get the idea. This is the problem with going at it alone and believing in getting lots of different opinions. I just have to be better at taking in the various points of view and making my OWN system. I knew what needed to be done today, and I was determined to do it!

As he moved up to the trot, I could feel the "fresh swishy swishy" going on:) That was fine; all 4 feet stayed on the ground, so no big deal. I had a nice light contact, kept my leg on, and he took a few minutes to drop down and relax into the contact. After about 4 minutes, I heard, "ker clunk, ker clunk, ker clunk, thud". CRAP! I stopped him, checked the right front, and sure enough, a clean loss. I almost stopped and got off, but the foot was perfect, so I decided to continue on to the small jumps. Cantered both ways, and trotted him for a minute to make sure his foot was fine, then cantered into the outside line, still set as tiny (less than 2') jumps. I sat UP, kept my butt tucked under, leg quiet, and sat lightly with my shoulders a little in front of my hips. That was what felt so much better. Sadly, totally missed to the out jump, so had to come in and actually count my strides so I knew where I was. Did it twice more, and tried really hard to be a metronome. I was actually very successful:)

Decided to canter the single coop section, which is about 3' across. Cantering in, he didn't understand the question and tried to duck out, and ended up jumping air. Stopped, showed him the jump on a straight line, then came in at a sitting trot. That worked perfect, so I came in once more the other way and he was perfect, so I stopped there. Bath, venice turpentine, and a call to the farrier. Not holding my breath he'll make it out tomorrow, so planning to cancel out outing on Saturday:( She'd already told me she may cancel anyway due to low entries, so maybe this is God's way of telling me to stay home this weekend.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Training, here we come!

Jumped a 3'3 jump something like 5 times in a row ... and didn't fall off! 2 out of those 5, it was an awful jump, 2 out of 5 times, it wasn't SO bad, and once it was pretty ok:) You wouldn't think 3" would be such a big deal, but that can be the difference between "easy" and "impossible".

I rode honorary little sis's morgan boy yesterday afternoon. Sparky (AKA Sparkplug, Napolean Dynamite, Spanky, etc.) is an adorable, sassy little morgan gelding with a long barbie doll mane and a VERY athletic hind end:) He isn't particularly YOUNG, but he is GREEN due to a pretty major injury a few years ago. He jumps in beautiful form, is athletic as all get out, but has a bit of an unpredictable stop/runout. Not to mention that sometimes canter transitions involve a little squeal and buck every now and then. I used to keep track of the number of horses I'd ridden. Somewhere around horse #82 I gave up that little habit, and just concentrated on having a good ride on whatever horse I happened to be on. It was a mental competition; I just wanted to ride more horses than ANY of my friends. Since giving birth to a child and FINALLY getting my own horse, the urge to ride other horses has really gone away. Love my muffin; trust him with my life.

Nicole and I set up a gymnastic; trot pole to a cavaletti, short one to a tall crossrail, slightly more 'normal' one to what would become a vertical, 2 'normal' strides to a crossrail oxer (not a swedish oxer; a crossrail on the front set of standards, vertical rail on the back set of standards). Nicole and I switched horses for the flat. Tiki was wearing his hunter bridle with the hollow D-ring, and I had the straps ready to tie the stirrups with! Upon settling into Sparky's saddle, it became apparent how soft and squishy he is! He is WIDE, and he is COMFORTABLE. Figured out his buttons and had a nice, uneventful warm up. I REALLY enjoyed my ride; some horses (like Mick, Audrey, and Sedona) are NOT fun for me. Sparky and Star were both quite fun and enjoyable:)

Didn't waste a second and allow my stance on "flatting unknown horse ONLY" to be changed, so once warm, I hopped off and ran up my stirrups, lol. Climbed back aboard the Tiki man and trotted into a small cav stack vertical, cantered out over the cabinet. AGAIN with the super soft jump and lovely, slow rhythm. Either it's the heat, or my boy has figured out jumping from a relaxed, soft gait is easier than jumping out of a tense, frantic one. He was so LIGHT! Usually "hunter bridle" doesn't really produce "soft and light". Trotted the coop and worked on staying right with him in the air, then began over the gymnastic. Nicole had me grab MANE and HOLD it the entire time, and let him figure out the jumps and distances. Because I know Tiki has a slight left drift, and I'm so used to jumping with an automatic release, I only grabbed mane with the left hand, and kept my right hand out in an opening rein, keeping him in the center. Didn't even realize I was doing that! Finally got through it holding mane with BOTH hands, and he jumped perfect.

Raised the 2nd crossrail to a 2'6 vertical, and opened out the oxer a little bit, making it wider but not taller. As muffin went through, it felt weird jumping up and over the vertical, then out and over a low but wider jump. He felt really great, though. I approached the jump in my 2-point, and kept letting him speed up coming in, so Nicole had me go through a few times until I stayed the same and didn't let go of the mane. Raised the oxer to about 2'6, and the vertical to 2'9 and went through 2 more times ... he was lovely, and I felt pretty darn good. Nicole had quit with the 2'6 with Sparky because he was honest and straight, and he deserved to end on a good note. I let her put up the 2'9 vertical one more hole to 3'. I totally saw her try and be sneaky and put it up 2 holes to 3'3; I let it go. Truth is, I felt pretty good, and it's always nice having eyes on the ground. So I went with it!

First time through, he jumped so high up over the 3'3 that he put in 2 and a chip to the oxer. He landed off that jump and just FELL to the left, very hard. Came again, and again opened my right rein; again Muffin landed short, and scrambled to the oxer. Well, shoot. Again, and my hand slipped off the mane, but he got the correct striding. Nicole finally just said, "If I just shut up and don't tell you to grab mane, will you do it?" Lol, I said yes. So, she stood silently while I came in a 4th time bound and determined to hold mane with both hands and sit still. FINALLY, he landed off the 3'3 jump and went straight ahead and didn't fall left. Nicole was silent, and then told me to go ONE more time, and NOT let him get fast coming in. Haha, I went with it. Regulated my pace perfectly, trotted the cav, one nice stride to the crossrail, one stride to the 3'3 vertical (HELD that mane), 2 forward strides to the oxer. He was straight, he was balanced, and it felt amazing. Quit there.

Analysis? It is super hard for me to just HOLD MANE:) Once I quit opening my right rein, my horse quit falling left. My position felt good; I of course fell back in the air a few times, but not a whole bunch. I only caught him in the mouth once when he jumped through the 3'3 combo the first time. I love my horse; he really does have a sense of humor. I'm not perfect by any means, but he helps me ALL the time to become a better rider. Since I'd hopped on bareback with a halter and hacked him in his pasture yesterday morning before I did stalls, I counted our gymnastics ride that afternoon as my 5th ride for the week and didn't get up at o'dark thirty to ride this morning. I'll do that all NEXT week:)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My boy has come so far:)

(The first longeing pic is August of 2008, the month I got him! Check out the difference in his NECK and the way he carries himself:) Please ignore the crappy pic I managed to snap today!)

Remember how I said I'd be sore today? Uh ... YEAH! I'm so sore that stairs are quite torturous! Wimped out today and longed the Muffin Man. It was so hot and steamy today that I longed him in his pasture in the shade of a huge tree. It was a good work out for him because there was a nice little incline that he had to work on. I worked on keeping his rhythm consistent, and keeping him working hard on the uphill trot. Had him do some transitions, shortened the side reins until the contact was equivalent to regular rein contact, and made him go FORWARD.

He was very good. Super quiet, yes, but good. I like to use simple, simple, simple for longeing, so I put him in the hunter bridle with the hollow D-ring. Definitely will ride tomorrow, just have to decide if it will be in the dressage saddle or the cc saddle. I SHOULD make myself do cc saddle with stirrups tied, then dressage saddle on Saturday. Debating getting up at O'dark thirty on Saturday to ride BEFORE lessons.

Even though it's worth noting that I HATE cleaning 12 stalls 5 days a week, I do really enjoy doing my ONE horse's stall;) I like keeping an eye on him; I always know if his tummy is fine (had diarrhea at one point; Joyce had put him on beet pulp). I keep an eye on his water intake (He gets Sr. feed and Joyce is now wetting that. His water buckets are now cleaner, and he's actually drinking LESS); I'm able to see he's not dehydrated because he has the same, normal amounts of pee. It's good for me to be out a MINIMUM of 5 days a week, because I get to see him sleep every day (where he got the nickname, "Squeaky Tiki", lol!), and get to make sure he hasn't torn himself up playing in his pasture like a dum dum (he currently has lost his flymask in the pond:(). I'm grateful for the opportunity to get to care for him during the week:)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Humid ... and HOT ... and HUMID ...

Lol, welcome to GA in the summer! I cannot WAIT until we are able to move further north. When we were coming home from VA, you could literally feel the change in the weather as you crossed the TN/GA state line. It was practically instantaneous. Ugh. Rode the boy today; it was right at 12:15 ... utterly miserable! I rode for about 20 mins with frequent walk breaks, and he was dripping sweat by the time we were done.

My legs are going to be S.O.R.E. tomorrow! I typically ride with about a 3 hole difference in my cc saddle. My 'hacking' length, my 'jumping' length, and my 'xc' length. Today, I jacked up my stirrups 2 holes from 'xc' length; I've actually never done this before! It was GREAT to get me in my heels; torture on my thighs! I did a lot of 2-point; I 2-pointed until I couldn't any more. Even my posting trot was so tough; I was spurless again, and he was super quiet today, so I was focusing on keeping my heel under my hip, and keeping him moving forward.

I LOVE that little Beval 'wonder bit' that I use for stadium jumping. It is just enough of an elevator lift to keep him nice and light, but not so much that I wouldn't ride in it every day. His trot felt super amazing today. I kept pushing him forward into my hand, and it didn't take much of anything to keep him on the contact. I wasn't planning to canter much, but I really wanted to work on my hands, so I cantered more than I had initially planned. I kept my reins short and allowed my shoulders to be in 'hunter princess' placing rather than 'dressage queen' placing. He actually felt really nice; he never got heavy, he never got quick, and he was super responsive to ALL my aids.

As I said before, I took frequent walk breaks because I could barely breathe in the thick, humid air, and I was DYING with my stirrups so short:) The canter felt so nice, I decided to jump the teeny cabinet jump out of a canter, and on a circle. I was tracking left; cantered up to it, and he landed left every time. His rhythm NEVER got fast; you could set a metronome by his tempo. I actually felt pretty secure JUMPING in the short stirrups; didn't feel my leg swinging back. Tracking right he landed cross cantering a few times, but those were on the jumps when he got in too deep. I came off the circle and popped over the coop about 3 times, just working on his responsiveness ... that felt pretty awesome every time. After coming around the circle one final time and hitting the cabinet perfectly one final time, I gave him a nice big pat and ended on that note.

Took a walk down the driveway and next to the road to the adjoining pasture that borders Joyce's property. Turned around there and came back. Just hosed/sponged with apple cider vinegar since he got a full bath yesterday. I DON'T like to bathe with soap every day; I find the horses are more prone to skin ailments when you strip away all the natural oils with soap. In nearly 3 years, my horse has had mild rain rot on his ears twice, a light case on the front of the hind legs once, and a pretty "good" case of it on the front of the hind legs once. Treating with MTG and bathing with hand soap for less than a week cleared it right up every time. I think my grooming regiment is pretty good.:) Dressage saddle for my sore legs tomorrow, most likely with some no stirrup work!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

^Insert clever title here^

Haha, I'm just not that creative at coming up with good, eye catching titles! Oh well, I guess my talents lie elsewhere. Had a MUCH better ride on the muffin today. Had a little more sympathy leading him into the washrack today, and even though he was a little booger eyed, he was fine going in. I just took my time and didn't slam around in there, and he had no issues. Tacked up in the dressage saddle again, and carted up the longe line to get out any "zoomies". Footing was GREAT since we had a nice rain shower yesterday.

Absolutely NO zoomies. I could barely get him to GO on the longe line:) I'm pretty sure he was in last night, too, so good on him. Hopped on, and stood straight up in my stirrups to get in my heel a little more than I have been lately. No spurs today. He felt simply divine. I'm so proud of him for figuring out the whole "contact" concept. I'm sure it helps that I've pretty much stopped just dropping him, and I keep my leg on more consistently. He felt nice and light and relaxed; a little stiff in the neck, which is totally normal. Got him to loosen up his jaw and relax the neck a little by flexing his head back and forth. I've figured out where the LONG reins have been coming from. I have short arms. When I get "in the backseat" for dressage, I HAVE to have longer reins so I can still bend my elbows. I just need to get a *little* more forward for my jumping, and it will be easier to keep my reins shorter.

I did my "thread the needle" exercise with a twist; instead of reversing through a half turn, I reversed with a half turn in reverse. This was cool for him; went back and forth until I felt him loosen up even more, then cantered the short side from a sitting trot. Beautiful upward transition, nice downward, and he felt right on the same wavelength as me. Half turn in reverse, then a canter on the short side on the right lead, and it was pretty much identical to the left lead. GOOD BOY. My plan was lots of trot work, VERY LITTLE canter, and all worked out well.

Tomorrow ... don't know! CC saddle maybe. Want to do a lovely pole course, but I don't want to rush it. Maybe I'll work on MY fitness tomorrow and spend some time in 2-point and with no stirrups. Will work some more/longer canter work on Thursday, then probably the pole course on Friday. I've got a hankering to go watch the xc at Chatt Hills on Sunday ... just have to convince the hubby to let me go with no guilt trip!