Thursday, August 30, 2012

Riding my boy

Honorary little sis put a LOVELY new bling browband on his bridle:) (that we're borrowing from said little sis!)

I've been a little bit lax riding the muffin head this week.  Today was the first day I hopped on.  The farrier was here for the 2nd go round of horses to work on, and I managed to avoid having to hold any horses, woo hoo!  It was hard to get Tiki OUT of the barn because the farrier sets up right in the entry/exit way, so I put on the dressage tack and went out into the front pasture where I usually do trot sets.  There are 2 "front pastures".  The one that's really flat has a bunch of mares out on it right now, and that's normally where I do my flat/dressage schools.  The other one is much more undulating and has longer grass, so I wasn't sure how it would go.

Susan, the dressage trainer across the street was telling me about how eventer Simon Eades asks a horse to "come round" and get on the bit.  His technique is to keep the hands up, close, and absolutely still.  You then resist with the hands and use the leg to ride the horse UP into the contact.  Okey dokey.  I let Tiki walk in the pasture for a solid 8 minutes, then picked up the contact.  I resisted ... closed my leg ... and he violently kicked out his RH.  Nice.  We went back and forth like that for a good minute or so, and then he finally walked forward.  I couldn't get a really good read on how well that worked for him because he was fresh, there were 3 horses turned out in the pasture we were working in, AND he is normally pretty fresh in that pasture anyway!

I trotted until I felt like he was pretty light.  His poll was definitely up, and he was flexed, but he did feel really tight through the neck, not so much through the back.  I asked for w/t/w/t/w/t transitions, and worked on leg yielding at the sitting trot.  I did shoulder-in left, shoulder-in right, rinse and repeat a bunch of times on a long, straight line.  I worked hard to have moments of straightness in between the shoulder-ins, and he was surprisingly good!  It was super hard to keep him consistent because of all the up/down hill track, but it felt really good.

The canter was nice; STRONG, but nice.  My butt was super glued to the saddle, and I had to keep a ton of leg on to maintain the canter on the downhills.  BIG half halts to keep him in control, and I used my lower back and thighs to keep his stride smallish;)

Finsished up with trot/halt/trot/halt/etc.  Backed him a few steps up a downhill with his neck soft and flexed and he was GOOD, so let him be finished.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring.  Y'all will find out this weekend, I guess!:)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Ending up the week on a good note, thinking about next week!

It is so hard to get a good pic in the washrack!

Ended up well yesterday:)  Tacked up in the dressage tack and headed up to the ring!  It was ROCK hard:( I decided to do a lot of walk work and not so much trot/canter because of it.  Muffin was still feeling extremely tight.  Not sure why, it's beginning to frustrate me a little bit.  When I tacked him up, he was up to his old tricks and was shaking his head violently and twitching his skin where the flies were landing on him.  Longtime blog readers will remember he sometimes shakes his head so violently, I was worried he might have a touch of head shaking syndrome.  I think what he has is a touch of "Pissy Red-Headed Pony" going on.  I have found through common sense and trial and error, that when he gets like this an ear bonnet helps tremendously.  So, I braided up the forelock, stuck on his goofy mint green satin ear net with the silver bling and up we went.

I began by walking over cavs on the medium setting.  I just kept my reins long and walked both directions over poles and cavs until I could feel that shoulder unlock and he began to stride out.  At that point, I began by warming up with an exercise recommended in "101 Dressage Exercises" to help out a horse with a dull stride.  For roughly 10 minutes, switch between a working walk and a SLOW trot.  Try to switch each time in the same spot, and just keep at it.  Well ... I did.  And I don't think it helped Tiki with ANYTHING.  He didn't feel more loose, he didn't feel softer, and he didn't feel one little bit better than normal.  Hmm, chalk that one up as a dud!

Moved onto trotting 2 big spiral circles.  He felt ok; a bit stiff through his body, but I just kept working on his mouth with my hands, and working on his body with my legs and he slowly began to feel a little bit better.  Another "101" exercise I wanted to try was my favorite kind; simple in the execution but difficult in reality.  Tiki actually didn't do quite as perfectly as I thought he would.  It is:  Walk a straight line, halt.  1/4 turn on the forehand.  Rinse and repeat until you've completed your square.  I was being EXTREMELY picky about things of course:)  He tried to be a little hollow through the back, and he was a bit wiggly performing the totf off the rail like that, but as I completed the second square, he got better.  Interesting exercise; it can also be performed with a turn on the haunches.  We will definitely be practicing that!

Ended up with a nice trot/canter transition, cantered one lap, did a 20m circle, then reversed across a diagonal with a nice long trot before the right lead canter.  Repeated on the right lead, pulled off a lovely halt/back and let him be finished.

Methinks next week will involve a day in the cc saddle with no stirrups.  Maybe a dressage school in the front pasture?  Not sure as of this particular moment:)  Saturday I will be running my VERY FIRST ever 5K!  I figure if I'm asking my horse to be athletic and light, I can do the same for myself.  I've lost enough weight that I'm down a pant size, 2 more to go!  I'm on the right track, just have to keep on it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fight the tight!

My simple, but versatile course

After a weekend that went by WAY too quickly, began Monday the usual way by cleaning stalls.  Didn't ride Tiki because I had to ride the "other" horse later on, and had to put in bedding so I got finished a little later than I wanted anyway.

Tuesday, I dropped all my jumps down to poles, and rolled the cavs down to the medium setting.  My dressage trainer was there riding one of my BO's horses, and she said Muffin looked really tight in his butt.  To combat that, I worked him over the cavs and poles at the walk, getting everything looser.  At the trot, he was definitely quick and short, and I worked on getting him to soften his jaw and relax.  I did my shallow serpentine exercise, concentrating on changing his bend with my legs more than hands.  He relaxed into that VERY nicely, and after a little canter each way the trot felt a lot better.  Trotted him several times over all the poles and cavs until he quit trying to canter through the bounce.  Before I "jumped", I picked up the left lead canter, came across a diagonal, counter cantered the short side, then did a simple change through the walk on the long side.  Repeated on the other lead; he was VERY good.  The canter felt fantastic; very light.  I began to canter into poles, working on keeping him as soft and slow as I could.  He was super:)  For every lead change I needed, I came down to the walk and picked up the new lead out of the walk, just to reinforce "slow".

Today I walked hills.  Changed it up a little bit though; on the downhills I halted, then backed up.  Marched straight up, then halted/backed every time.  He was a good boy!

Tomorrow no riding; it's grocery store shopping day!  Friday will be a dressage school.  I will probably find some inspiration in my "101 Dressage Exercises" book.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just Jump!

A friend sent me the sweet bracelet with that gentle reminder

Had 2 extremely successful jump schools Thurs/Fri!  It was literally the first time he's jumped since the horse trial, and he was a fantastic little muffin:)

I set the jumps up right when I arrived at the barn, and as I walked in to get started on stalls, I noticed the long list fluttering on the bulletin board ... the farrier list.  CRAP.  I ALWAYS end up working longer on farrier day, AND Tiki was on that list.  I hate riding him the day he gets shod because he's always a little tight afterwards.  Oh well.

Only 30 mins later than I wanted, I got to tack up and ride, yay!  The footing hasn't been too horrible because we've had some rain recently, and somehow I managed to set up a REALLY versatile course, yay! I had a simple enough course; outside single (3'3 x-rail), 2 inside singles (coop and 3'3 xr), a cavaletti on the highest setting on each end, and a one stride combo set 18' apart with a cavaletti on the middle setting at 9'.  The combo was a 2'6 xr to a 2' vertical, set on the opposite long side.

I warmed up completely minimalist; w/t/c 2 times around each way.  He was SO lazy, my leg was already killing me from riding a client's horse (LAZY), and I went for a run the previous evening so I felt half dead and I hadn't even jumped a jump yet!  Trotted into one of the cavs and I felt like HE was dead too.  Just didn't take me to it at all and tried to land in a heap.  Cantered them, and he was better cantering, but he was still extremely unimpressed.

Began to just JUMP.  I strung together about 16 jumps in a row, I just kept on and kept on.  I alternated between long, straight approaches, and some super tight jumper type turns on the angle.  I even did a serpentine type of track and was just wonderful.  He lands the right lead probably 90% of the time, and I asked him for a flying change EVERY time to the left, and he nailed them all:)  His first time through the bounce combo doing vert/cav/xr he yanked the pole on the vert down with a hind leg because he was trying so hard to back off it.  Got up and reset it, and he jumped it fine from then on.  Finished up on a good note, and he was DRIPPING.  It was slightly hot outside, but not the brutal heat we've had lately.

Friday I did exactly the same thing except I set all the tall xr up to 2'6 verts.  He was JUST as good, except I think my leg was even MORE dead! Jeez!  I was dying after trotting around half a lap, lol.  Pathetic, just pathetic.  Didn't do any of the tight type turns this time, just worked on long straight approaches and tried to find good distances.  Again, he landed right most of the time, and I asked for changes to the left and he was happy to oblige.  He jumped everything super, but I was pretty inconsistent with my eye:(  I have GOT to work on that some how!  I KNOW I'm going to miss, but it's like I'm incapable of fixing it, blech!  I'm much worse when I haven't practiced ... I just need a couple of more horses so I can practice more often!!;)  At LEAST when I waited, I WAITED and kept my leg on.  Also, I didn't jump ahead anywhere, where we were long I closed my leg and he went; where we were deep, I waited and kept my leg on.  That's SOMETHING, right???

At the end of it all, I was satisfied with what we did.  Next week will involve a dressage school, hills, and a course of poles.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Exactly one year ago today:)

Well, not really lol.  But I DID ride a horse today that's NOT the Muffin.

Friday I rode him in the draw reins one more time; I decided to reinforce what we'd done on Thursday, and let me tell y'all ... it was one of "those" days where I ended up NOT arm wrestling, but LEG wrestling.  He was pretty good in my hands; fairly soft and feeling nice and light.  Very supple, very responsive, and super nice.  Canter work was SO much better than Thursday; so much better in fact, that I decided to school The Change.

For those that caught one of my early January posts of this year, I proclaimed that 2012 is to be the year of the Lead Change.  He can do them, he DOES do them, now he needs to do them on command.  On course, I don't always get a change, and sometimes I get just a half a change, so he needs to be better at those.  I pulled out an old exercise I've done before; canter across diagonal, counter canter, canter diagonal, canter correct lead, canter across diagonal, flying change, rinse and repeat.  I even had a POLE there.

Began on the right lead and he swapped left perfectly, right on cue.  He had a lovely counter canter both ways, and then I cantered him on the left lead to the pole and asked for a change.  Half.  Fixed it, cantered pole and got another perfect r-l change, asked for the l-r and got half.  I kept on and kept on, feeling my frustration BUILD as he kept either flat out NOT doing anything, or only getting the front from l-r.  10 minutes later, I began just hauling him up hard after he missed the change, turned around, and came again left lead because I was just becoming exhausted.  It was HOT outside and he were approaching 40 minutes on the flat.  He was DRIPPING.  I was trying different things; spur, no spur, half halt outside, half halt inside, bend to the left, bend to the right, FLING my hips to the outside, kick his guts out with the outside leg, sit STILL and do virtually nothing.  AGH!!!!!  When he FINALLY got just one stinking clean change from l-r, I dropped the reins, and praised him like he was a total rock star.  DAGGUM!!!!  That was NOT a good or fun ending to what began as a pretty nice ride.  I HATE schooling changes.  That's precisely why I've decided both of us need to master them; they're hard for BOTH of us.

Rode a cute gray arab today that began as a total hot mess, and ended up pretty nicely.  He is one LAZY slug, though, so my legs will be SORE tomorrow:(  Jumping my boy tomorrow and Friday, just low stuff; nothing over 2'6.  It will be his first jump school since the horse trial; I think we will have FUN with it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Just a little bit ghetto

Let's face it.  Of the 3 dressage tests I've performed in public, all 3 of them have had nearly identical comments ... "Above the bit", "Needs to be better in the bridle", "Needs to be more on the contact".  Not to mention the fact my boss said something that stuck with me the other day:  When you identify a problem in your training, you have to attack it right then.  You can't let the horse go around with the wrong shape because then he builds the wrong muscles and it becomes twice as hard to fix the problem.

It's been 4 years (almost).  He needs to be better confirmed in the bridle.  He can gallop around a novice 3 day course like it's NOTHING, he can jump clean around a 3' stadium course, HE CAN W/T/C ON THE BIT.  Lol.  So on went my ghetto draw reins!  I've used them so infrequently I always forget to snap a pic, but not today!  I got one for your viewing pleasure:) My poor horse was HATING me.  I let him warm up for a few minutes then got right to it.  I just did 10 m circle at end of the ring, reverse across a diagonal.  That was my exercise for about 15 min, then I did transitions on the 20 m circle, and then he cantered.  Poor boy tried as HARD as he could to not yield, but finally he had to give in and get round.  He gave me a little bucky bucky, but finally settled in and accepted that he could NOT be above the bit.

I popped off 2 perfect lead changes, trottted the 20m circle, then cantered both leads one more time and let him be finished since the sky had gotten ominously dark and the thunder was clapping a little more forcefully. Provided it's not super storming tomorrow around 11, I will do one final dressage school for the week.  Originally I had planned to leave off the draw reins and see what I had, but I feel like maybe I need to reinforce the lesson today and use them one more time then give him the weekend to think about it.  He got his Adequan shot on Tuesday so he should be feeling pretty good this week.  Next week we will jump our first jump since May Daze!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Buck Davidson clinic tomorrow!

Decent trot pic!  Hey there, handsome;)

I had PLANNED to ride Muffin today, but one of the dumb dumb horses at the barn decided to get hung up on the barb wire fence behind the hot wire in her pasture, so I spent my riding time taking care of her instead:(

Yesterday I did longe him.  I've come to the conclusion that I need to give him a day in the draw reins.  It's been over a year since he last got schooled in them, and he needs them for the canter work.  The trot looked great, but he gets inverted at the canter still, even with the side reins tightened up pretty good.

Tomorrow I will get finished a few minutes early and head over to a local farm not far from where I teach so I can finally see Buck Davidson teach in person!  The farm is a dressage farm, so not sure if there will be any jumping involved, but Buck is Buck!  I'll be excited to see whatever he has to say:)

So, I guess Thursday will be draw rein day and Friday will be the "see if we can create what he had in draw reins" day.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

So lucky

I am the luckiest girl in the world.  I have ridden a LOT of horses in my life time ... 100+ for sure.  Many of them I didn't really enjoy riding; Tiki was purchased from a PICTURE.  No vet check, no video, no moving pic just a standing picture.  He is the BEST horse in the world!  I just love him like crazy.  I rode Thursday in the ring and put him on contact.  He fought it a little, but then softened up and moved off my leg beautifully.  I leg yielded a bit, trotted a single pole and concentrated on forward and soft.  Added in canter at the end and made him canter a circle, canter the single pole, and stay off my hands.  He did so very nicely.  I think about HOW far we've come ... I remember how tough it was to get him just to trot slow-ish, and where he is now ... it leaves me speechless:)  I figured 2 days was enough for this week, will sit on him 3 days next week, still in the dressage tack before adding back in pasture/jumping work.  Love my boy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


You REALLY want me to move??
THERE'S that beautiful red neck:)

Who can resist this face??

I rode the Muffin Man!  All the stars had to align just perfectly; Monday I gave him a good anti fungal bath.  Tuesday I had to clip off his long whiskers, goat hairs, and bushy tail hairs.  Today, I rode:)  I have decided to do so in dressage tack for this week and next so I'm not tempted to jump.  As I bent down to brush off his legs, his right front just looked ... off to me.  A little swollen on the outside, just above the fetlock.  I trotted him and he was completely sound.  No heat, no tenderness ... it just feels a little thick.  I thought maybe I was imagining it since I really haven't looked at his legs in almost 2 months so I tacked him up anyway and took him up to the ring.

I couldn't properly longe him because my longe line is still in the trailer, and I couldn't find any of Joyce's, so I just secured the reins under his stirrup leathers and let him go!  Uh, GO!  Haha, he slowly meandered off, staying RIGHT on the rail.  I think I managed to chase him up into the trot for about .2 seconds, but it was enough to see he's definitely 100% sound.  After climbing on he felt AMAZING.  Perfect:)  Pretty much all I did today was just some nice stretchy trot; circle then reverse through center of the ring, rinse and repeat.  I cantered about 10 steps each lead just to see what things felt like and all was well.  Tiki for sure seemed happy to be back to work and it was SO nice just to be back in his saddle.

I have no plans due to a severe lack of funds at the moment, so I will slowly bring him back to work and just get back to doing our thing.  So grateful just to HAVE a horse, I will not dwell on being stuck at home for the forseeable future.  I cold hosed his leg for about 10 minutes after the ride, just in case, but he didn't put a hoof wrong the entire time.  Hoping that tomorrow it doesn't look thick.