Weekly Roundup 9/29-10/5

Sunday 9/29: Sue rode, gave a very good report. No “bridling war” with just the hackamore so I guess that’s settled. Pearl does seem to be aware that there is a difference between what she can pull with me vs. Sue, so hopefully she doesn’t start to get too strong for Sue in just the jumping hack…but if she ends up needing some “winter brakes” she can go back to the shanked hack I use for jumping.

Tuesday 10/1: Triple header! Angie appears to have left [:(], but still got to ride-walk my pal Captain.

Even walking is a privilege on those beautiful "perfect riding weather" fall days

Even walking is a privilege on those beautiful “perfect riding weather” fall days

Next barn and on to the next two! Opted for Derby first, because even without Christy there to hold my hand walk me through, I wanted to get the feeling of transferring what I learn on other people’s horses onto my own.

Nothing like a nice blindingly shiny bay

Nothing like a nice blindingly shiny bay

Since we had some not-so-ideal camel walk moments during our last ride, I wanted this ride to start off by insisting on FORWARD from the very beginning. Derby is no dummy…one round of kiss + desired amount of leg –> more leg than I’d ideally want to use –> love tap with the pony-beater and he was like ohhhhhhkay fiiiiine. Good boy Derbs! Gave him a couple laps of trot to clear his throat and ascertained that he was having a better air day than last week. Did some walk-trot-walk-trot transitions to really reinforce the yes please go NOW. Once we were getting a more consistently forward trot, started working on further improving the quality of said trot. Did some of the bend/counter-bend that we’d found helpful in our lesson the other week, and while I don’t think we were as “there” as we were under instruction, could still feel and apply the difference. Lots of changes of direction, to keep him mentally engaged and for me to practice-makes-semi-acceptable the “turning with outside aids” concept. Did a further experiment and made the canter work sort of the midpoint of our ride. Didn’t do much more than a couple laps each way because I’m not sure of his fitness level + the breathing thing, but it did brighten him up a little. We cantered the single pole a couple times– I’ve got Sarah’s blessing to jump him and I know he’s dead quiet, but despite being 23 with 10 years of riding under my belt I’ve got more than a little bit of “middle aged beginner” mindset in me, so I like to take things extra cautious. He was a total rock star, obviously, and seemed to enjoy it. After a breather (for both of us!) we went back to trotting. About that time, barn owners started throwing hay (they do it with a tractor because the paddocks get pretty far away from the hay storage). Sarah warned me he can have a bit of a spook, so made sure we both were paying attention to each other. He did get fairly looky– so cute when those teeny little ears perk straight up!– and bulgy, but no actual spookage. Actually, the bulging in away from the tractor end was a good thing, because it highlighted the difference between him throwing his body to the inside and me pushing his barrel back out, so we did lots of circles at that end. Thanks, Derbster! After we scared the tractor off, ended with just trying to get a nice flexible trot and move those shoulders around. It seemed to have worked, because when C came into the ring with Remy we got a “he looks nice!” So we ended on that note…with a focus on me pushing to keep some energy through the final walk transition instead of letting him do the you said walk I’m done I’ma fall on my face thing. Still a different ride than I’ve become accustomed to, but feels a lot more like I’m “getting him” better each time.

Last up: Miss Squirrelly-Pearlie. Some days I can tell exactly what kind of ride we’re going to have before I get on her (in a more specific way than her being her general agreeable self…that’s fairly constant). This was one of those days. I generally have her do her carrot stretches in the arena when I first bring her in, before sticking her on crossties. Like pretty much all horses, she likes her food. So when she’s too busy staring off into the distance to notice that I am literally poking her in the lips with a carrot trying to get her to come back from outer space and stretch her neck please, chances are she’s got something on her mind. Pearl is often fondly referred to as the Energizer Bunny or the Perpetual Canter Machine so whenever she seems a little spacey, it’s usually time for a Canter Forever (TM) day. She’s not hugely fit these days so it’s not so much bottled up energy as it is her saying “c’mon Mom, we’ve done your thing all week, how about we do mine.” What she could really use is a good blast in a field somewhere but a) pretty sure that does not qualify as “light work” and b) no access to said imaginary field.

"No for real, there's something out there I need to be looking at...can't you see it?"

“No for real, there’s something out there I need to be looking at…can’t you see it?”

We also tried another experiment. Sarah has in her drawer o’ bits a Sprenger Duo, which is pretty much exactly what I modeled our overcheck-and-Sealtex concoction off of. I initially had a bunch of other, easier to find bits further up in our list of options in hopes she’d settle for something in budget…but let’s be honest, given the choice, which would a pretty princess prefer, a $30 bit or an $80 bit? Yeah.

Had a nice long warm-up walk…then straight to canter, for two reasons. Primarily because I like to mix it up in an attempt to keep her guessing, but also because now that we’re starting to get places, I want all our trotwork to be really quality work, and it’s not setting her up for success if I ask her to settle in right away for some focused work when she’s clearly a little scattered. We haven’t done any canter work in our lessons but she’s got a nice enough canter naturally that it’s not going to set us back any if I let her canter around on a light(-ish, depending on how many cats are walking along the arena fence or other variables) rein…after all, when I first started riding her that wasn’t even possible to safely accomplish, so clearly something is working.

IMG_20131001_183309

So, we stepped off into a canter. She did pick up the wrong (left in this case) lead at first…a reminder for me that left is her “default” lead, and also why bending is important! I don’t know if it’s just because I’m so used to her (probably mostly that) but I find her canter just so incredibly comfy. Granted I am obviously not in full dressage seat, but I do play around with more hunter/eq-style sitting in corners, short sides, etc. And she is obviously so happy to just float along… man I can’t wait to get her out on an XC course again. We cantered for about a billion years…mostly just letting her do her own thing, but with circles, slight pace changes, going deeper or cutting off corners to make sure she was still paying attention. We also did the single pole a few times. I’m hoping to have at least slightly improved my eye by the time we start back over fences. We had a couple awkward chips (except she doesn’t really chip when it’s just a pole, she just drops to trot for a stride) and one long spot plus subsequent minor yahoo-did-you-see-that-mom-let-me-show-you-my-porpoise-impression moment but the rest were good and I could keep her balanced before and after. She probably would have kept going for quite a while longer but she’s got to breathe at some point…hard to work on our “no crappy down transitions” homework when she’s in go mode but I at least waited til she’d gotten enough out she wouldn’t get pissy about me stopping her ’cause I’m so mean, plus I kept her on a smaller circle so she couldn’t just yank down along the long side. Walked a reasonable length of time, then same dealio the other way. Happy mare. When she felt ready to settle, back down to walk. Walked enough to reset the canter mindset– when she is like this, it’s much easier to have her walk and find her thinking cap than it is to trot we’re trotting nope eeeaaaasy troooot whoa trot hey we’re trotting. Blah blah obedience score: 0 and yeah we’ll work on it later but at this point it makes more sense to just take a second to get her in a productive frame of mind than it does to wear her down. Still had a, um, brisker trot than would be ideal– when we have days like this it’s not til the next day that she’s back to chill-mode– but enough focus that we could work on things like changing direction, spirals, regular circles, trot poles, and at the very end making her trot smaller with my seat before asking her to walk. Walked out inside because it was pretty dark by that point…sigh.

Bit verdict: she likes it! Conventional wisdom with a “normal” horse is it takes a couple rides to tell how a bit switch is going to work, but the difference between Myler Pearl and Duo Pearl was immediate. No headtossing or ducking behind the bit, no more fussing than the “oh that’s hard” we were getting with the GhettoNathe. I think we have a winner. [I had a dream one time last year that I found the magical bit for her and it was a disc that just hovered in her mouth, but I don’t think they make those. Yet.] It’s probably better than the GN because it’s flexible as well. Sarah’s is a 5.5″ and ideally I’d like to get a 5.75″…it’s just on the verge of what I’m comfortable with, and unfortunately those tumors ain’t gonna get any smaller. It definitely works for now though. Thanks again, Sarah!

Did the usual hanging out in the aisle thing with a side of watching Liam eat dog biscuits. Yum.

“You had BETTER not be mocking me”

Aaaaaand got the go-ahead to work with Prior when Kim can’t come out, who, not gonna lie, I have pretty much been eyeing like “ooh that one looks like fun” the whole time I’ve been here. Very red-TB-mare type but a sweetie. Woohoo!

Wednesday 10/2: Sue had to cancel her hack day. Non-horsey but horse-related: Barn-to-Barn Fly Shuttle (alias Camry) went in for the first of many repairs: new brake pads and rotors. To be followed later by new tires and replacing the broken strut on the right front side (because it’s nice for my horse and my car to have matching broken “corners”). Not to mention the steering fluid leak and the gas tank float that makes the gas pump shut off early, neither of which I will bother to fix… oh the joys of driving 400+ miles a week.

Thursday 10/3: Had a much more focused pony, even without a ride in between. Brought out the trusty jump standard videographer again but warmed up first. The arena had just been dragged (scraped? flat; no harrow marks) and it gave me an idea. A lot pretty much all of what we’re working on right now is based on being able to move my horse’s shoulders around, so we do a lot of shoulder-in(ish). There’s a mirror at one corner and I’m getting decent at feeling it, but I like any type of visual aids. So, here is our “regular” walk (toes at the right end of the picture):

IMG_20131003_124434

 

And here’s our shoulder-in (toes at the left end).

IMG_20131003_124353

Not quite a perfect 3 tracks, but significantly different than walking in a straight line. Go Pearlface!

And video from later

Much better than the last video.

Friday 10/4: Sue rides, can’t remember if it was a lesson or not. Found out via the facebooks that poor Miss Prior colicked bad enough to necessitate a trip to the clinic 😦 I’ve never broken a horse before even laying a hand on it before, sorry sweet mare… will put the kibosh on looking forward to things in the future so universe you can just chill the fuck out. Thankfully she is now home and on the mend but how horribly scary.

Saturday 10/5: Sue rides Pearl. She called to ask a saddle pad question and also mentioned the horses had been in the day before…they were in Friday as well. Combined with the Prior episode, that was enough for me to put on my big girl panties and ask that Pearl still get turned out on rain days, since her paddock has a shelter in it. I hate asking for “special” treatment especially given what happened last time, but Pearl is a horse who needs her routine. Thankfully (everybody knock wood!) I don’t think she’s a colicker (read: she’s been in situations that if she was, she’d have colicked a zillion times by now) but she’s definitely edgier when she’s in at being-out time. She needs to stay safe and pleasant, else she might not be suitable for Sue and then we’d be up the creek. Plus her hind ankles get stocked up and icky. Barn owners were happy to accommodate, so phew!

Carson and I went to visit her mare Addie, who was rehomed in August to M– meeting her was literally the only positive thing about boarding at Barn W. Addie is doing great in her little herd of grey and dark bay mares. C and I took turns riding. In contrast to my last couple of non-Pearl rides, Addie is very forward and it’s largely nervous energy. She’s a very good example of a hotter horse needing supporting leg, rather than tricking you into taking your leg off her because she’s already zipping along. She was pretty clearly “hey wait you’re not the person who’s been riding me the last couple months” so we did a lot of practicing stilling my seat to slow her down at the walk and slowing and supporting her at the trot. She’s a fun mare and I’m sure can teach me a lot for when I inevitably end up with my own greenie OTTB. Need to try and get out there more…good for Carson to see her, plus M has generously offered her fleet of mares for more saddle time. They can hurry up and invent those magnetic programmable cars any day now…it would be nice to be able to work more hours or catch up on sleep instead of staring at the windshield 60-90 minutes one way any time I want to ride a horse. Someday.

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