Friday, August 31, 2012

Rollin' with The P

I scampered out to Summer Camp yesterday to see The P and discuss our upcoming transition back to reality.  Also, I wanted to kiss her nose and go for another magnificent trail ride.  All good reasons for a drive. :)

P out front

I knew that Cowboy Man was concerned about having P come home as soon as October, but I'm feeling like I'm ready to commit to that date even if she's not 100% finished.

My motivations are pretty much threefold.

1) Dollars. 
When P went to Summer Camp it was approximately a $5k proposition (3 months room and board plus quite a bit of body work).  I don't know the actual current total because I stopped counting at $30k.  It's a scary number, but it also doesn't consider the money I would have been spending on "normal" training and board, so in reality the additional cost is probably closer to $15k.  Still not cheap.  (I really hate adding up "real cost of horse")

2) Stall Availability. 
There's a stall in "our" aisle at the barn coming available and it would be convenient to move P1 in when she can be close at hand and not on the other side of the farm.  This isn't really a huge factor, but it is giving me a tangible reason to press for a specific date.  Realistically, this is the least important variable.

3) Mental State. 
I think part of me is just ready to see my horse on a regular basis.  I'm ready to see what I can handle and how we work together.  I know that she's not 100% finished or back to a happy neutral place, but man.  It's just been so long (17 months in if we come home Oct 1).  I know that there's a big chance of Pia relapsing with some of her issues, but I almost think it would be easier to send her back to Summer Camp for another extended stay if I could see and feel that we still had lots to work on - and I wasn't capable of productively handling it myself.

In no way is my desire to bring P home fueled by a lack of results, or conflict with CM's theories, ideas or work.  And I also don't regret a dime that I've spent on this process. 

So - that's good.  I'm confident that I'd have no misgivings about sending P back to Summer Camp if it came to that, which makes me feel like I'm thinking (mostly) clearly and not being overly selfish. 

Our conversation was good.  CM is mostly concerned that P hasn't cemented her canter work (she still gets fussy.. maybe still in pain?) and that she's not 100% over her issues.  Mostly that means that while her world has grown considerably, and her mental flexibility is better than ever, she's still aggressive when she's in a stall, and often hangs back from the herd when they move around the property.  She also isn't comfortable to the point of really accepting pressure from her rider.  Most of her under saddle work is still "her idea" and there's not a lot of force.  (meaning she suggests moving up to the trot, or moving back down to a walk.. and she gets a lot of support from other horses).  Of course CM steers and corrects if she goes crazy but 90% of the time he tries really hard not to pick fights or ask for something that might start one.  (to clarify cantering a 20 meter circle would qualify as picking a fight at this point.  So would whapping her with a rein on the butt.)

So, he's nervous that I want to tack her up and start riding First Level dressage tests or jumping around courses.  Even throwing her into a frame and hinting at any sense of constriction would be questionable at this point.  Other concerns include how much Pia would regress once she's back in a stall 12 hours a day and leaves the social demands of the herd. 

All are really valid, probable issues.  Which makes me wonder (a bit) if October 1 really just is too soon and I'd be doing the mare a disservice.  Am I only bringing her home cause I want my pony? What's in her best interest? and am I doing right by her...

We did have a great ride.  First CM tacked up and rode Pia a bit on the property showing me her current gait work (VERY happy at trot... some snottiness with canter work) and we both noticed that the head shaking (and ensuing bucks) always happen on a downhill slope.  Balance issue? pain issue with increased weight on the forehand? hard to know... 

as an aside, I continue to be convinced there are no neurological problems in this horse.  She is striding out beautifully on uneven ground and really pushing from behind.  She's foot perfect over rocky trails and spins like a reining horse out with the herd... Did she look like a neuro horse in 2011? 
yes.  But her feet were jammed in baby shoes, and her body was compensating in weird ways.  Plus two rounds of general anesthesia left her misaligned and uncomfortable.
But there is NO way this horse has Wobblers.

 When we headed off property I decided that I would take the ride and I was glad to be on her back.  The last time I was actually on Pia was that beach ride a while back when she was still noticeably anxious at the walk, got sticky after about 30 minutes of walking accompanied by her weird neck stretch and irregular sweat pattern. 

Yesterday she was loose, forward and relaxed.  She was happy to lead or follow and she didn't even bat an eye when we disturbed some deer sleeping in tall grass who exploded up and bounded away. When I was trotting her out on the meadow she offered a canter and I took it but it was soon followed by some fussy head shaking although I didn't get any bucks.  The good news is she calmed right back down from it and continued like there had been no anxiety (something that would have never happened a few months ago).
happy relaxed mare in shoulder high grass..
 It's clear that she's light years ahead of where she was.  She's confident - and new places are no longer a cause for alarm.  She is still very dependent on the horses around her for support and will pitch a fit if they trot off and I ask her to stay put.  But overall it's obvious to me that her brain is unlocking and so is her body.  Her feet are fantastic.  Hinds are tough and have lost any hint of the negative plane/bullnose she had in spring of 2011.  Her fronts are still in natural balance shoes but she's expanded to a size 2 (not the 0 she arrived in). 

So I'm still a bit at a loss.  She's progressing so well, and obviously so happy.  But something in me still just wants her home.  I think I'm still proceeding with October 1 as a transition date, hopefully with a modified training plan (lots of ground work, lots of riding with a halter, lots of basics).  I need to be creative to keep her mind engaged and learning new things so we don't lose the flexibility she's finally gotten. 

Argh... decisions, decisions...

Love this face...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Flat Hacks

I had a quick lesson yesterday to go over the expectations for me and Prairie in our Hunter U/S  and Eq on the Flat classes.  I know that there are subtleties that were lost on my donkey-showing-extravaganza (aka: the IHSA) so I didn't really want to count on my coaching from that phase of my life (which can be charmingly summed up as having "Tits out butt back" hissed at me from the rail by my coach).

Effective though that may be, I figured maybe I should get a slightly more formal education in Hunter Land and also work through the priority of corrections

Hunter U/S - I get it.  Long and low, nose just in front of the vertical, slight loop in reins, make it look eeeaaaassssssyyyyy.

But then I wonder.  If P2 is tweedling out in the corners... is it better to take a contact, or let her look around on a loose rein (A: take contact)

When they are calling for a transition - Better to package her up for a moment and be late or get the quick transition but not as pretty... (A: depends where you are in the ring and what you can hide)

When P2 is going mach 2 in her ground covering trot, better to zoom around on an inside track or take more circles?  (A: we'll see how the jumps are laid out)

You get the idea.

Not exactly thought provoking questions, but I like to know them.

As inconsistent as our Dressage rides can be - I'm familiar with the discipline and what the "order of good scoring is" as well as where in the ring I can get away with stronger half halts, more outside rein, etc without waving a giant flag in front of the judge that I'm reprimanding my pony....  Although, even my best attempts to mask a distraction can't hide the fact that we just bolted down the longside. (whoops).
For example this fine moment - where I am assuring the judge that "we're ok!" after  her polite inquiry following a bolt down the longside.  Pretty sure we got a 4.
Anyway.  It was fun.  We practiced trotting into the arena (a concept that confused P2 to no end) and S called a typical HUS class as well as a typical Eq class.  (I got a compliment on my sitting trot).

I was mildly disconcerted that when we started our canter work Prairie kept swapping her hinds on the left lead.  She's never (ever) done that except on the lunge when I first got her.  I attributed it to a lack of balance and strength then, but it's never been an issue under saddle so I was a little concerned.  She held true on her right lead, and when I revisited the left lead the issue was gone.  But those first few minutes she wasn't holding a true left lead for more than 3 strides without falling out.  I'm hoping she was just stiff? But she had a light hack on Sunday and Monday off, so I wouldn't expect her to be super sore.  Who knows.  If it's back today I'm going to start worrying.

As for the rest of the week, I'll hack the mare today and work on our lateral work, tomorrow I'm off to see Pia the pretty, pretty princess and then Friday we'll school some low courses.

T-minus eight days!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fun New Tools/Toys!

I've been accused of be spoiled before (although I prefer to use different adjectives myself..) but sometimes it's just hard to argue against the accusation. 

The Boy and I (and the rest of the family) were away for the weekend at a fabulously fun wedding out in Sundance, UT but when we returned home to a stack of UPS boxes, I knew fun was about to be had. 

The first few boxes were from Schneider's and contained the final components of my Tack Locker Makeover.  Last week my Dad spoiled me by grabbing his handyman kit and helping install some shelves in my (less than organized) tack locker.  While it's already a million-gazillion times better, the new racks and hooks should be the finishing touch.

(my husband thinks it's weird that I'm so excited about what appears to be a pile of scrap metal)
 Stay tuned for a final "after" picture, but just so you know how tragic it all really was, here's the before:
if that doesn't look like a mandatory trip to The Container Store I don't know what does...
The other box that was waiting for me was a fun surprise.  Supermom went above and beyond with her birthday gift and got me (and P1 and P2) a fancy-shmancy new camera! 

Most importantly - It's PURPLE.  (whew, must coordinate).
Color is trending HOT for Fall '12
(Apparently she was tired of all the iphone pics/videos I've been settling for on the blog)  ;)

So, from now on, this thing will be in my purse or pocket so I don't have to keep taking blurry pictures of the mares or their accomplishments...  Also, there appears to be a "pet portrait" mode and also 3D!!! I have no idea how the hell that works, but the notion of P2 jumping out of the screen at you, or P1 baring her fangs, is fairly entertaining!

So many fun things!! Very anxious to try them all out and make good use of everything!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

With exactly two weeks to our "real" hunter debut (read: no ground pole classes!) the focus has been on increasing Prairie's softness as she approaches and lands from fences. Also- we've been working on our adjustability and *also* not being scared of weird things under the jumps.

So.. hardly anything to focus on at all :)

Warmed up with some shoulder in and increase-decrease to get her loose, stepping under herself and responsive. Then we bounced over the fences that S had set up.

I tried to take pictures but they were blurry so instead I drew a diagram. Cause I'm so good at that.

This is my outdoor arena. Although not to scale since its about 80m long and that circle-of-death that I've drawn was about a 20 meter "circle" or rhombus or whatever the correct geometric term is for a totally oddly shaped figure. Since I draw like a blind bunny here's what was in the ring:

Outside Line: four regular (not prairie) strides with the Flower-Pots-of-DOOM to the gate with white barrels.

Super Scary Skinny: narrow brush box stuffed with bamboo, flowers, garlands and monsters (two blue standards on either side)

Swedish Oxer: coming out of the corner with big flower boxes in the center.

Everything was 2'6 to just under 3'.

We warmed up over the outside line and Prairie was fabulous. She looked at the fences but stayed forward and every time she sat back and got 4 easy strides.

(cue confetti and balloons)

She was a bit more strung out when we took it heading home, but still, managed four strides without a fight.

Popped over the Oxer with a biiiiig look and then introduced her to the skinny. She squirted out to the inside on our first try. I didn't help much with ,y eye down and very defensive seat- but she bounded over on our second approach.

Perfect. All things are jump able. Time for courses.

Line away, oxer home, roll right back to the skinny.

Dandy. Then we added the Oxer again after the skinny which felt like it maxed out my steering. Then S got MEAN.

Oxer away, hairpin to the skinny, tight right to the barrels.... Hairpin back to the oxer

Wash, rinse, repeat.

We ran out a few times. Mostly because I would be pulling the mare around instead of pushing the shoulder in or I'd be staring straight down at the skinny. Whoops.

We nailed the other two fences just fine - it was just that damn skinny requiring us to be straight, correct and paying attention.

We finished up ok. A few revolutions each way without fuss was enough for me.

Remember 3 months ago when we could barely canter a circle without drama???

I do. And I have to try really hard to remind myself of that fact when prairie is less than perfect....

What a mare.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Scary Skinny of DEATH

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One Mare, Two Mare (Red Mare, Blue Mare?)

It's (almost) official.  I have written the check for Pia's stall deposit back at home.  I've sent an email to Cowboy Man explaining my intentions to bring her back at the end of September and now I just need to have one more conversation with him about his thoughts and feel good about my decision.

The Red Mare is coming home.  Or rather.  She's coming to my current barn.  She's never been there before so it won't exactly feel like home, but that's just quibbling over details.

That means I'll have two (two! 2!) mares at the same barn (technically I think they'll be stall neighbors too... WHEE!).

Very exciting.  I recognize that moving Pia back into a traditional training barn setting might trigger a bit of a relapse with some of her issues (stall grumpiness, aggressiveness, etc) but hopefully so long as we can keep her body happy, we can work through the emotional distress.  If it really doesn't work, or starts spiraling the wrong way... well then I'll gladly send her back to summer camp for more training, or just to live there without training as a trail horse for my semi-regular visits. Frankly I'd like to get to the point where both mare get to go to Summer Camp for a least a month once a year.  I think it'd be good for them.

So if Pia is the Red Mare (based on coat color) I guess that makes Prairie the Blue mare.

Which she sort of is when she's purpley-black and not bleached-out-bay.  Or maybe she's the Blue Mare because her European roots have stamped her with a slightly socialistic political stance..

Who knows.

All I care about is that I have a plan.

I'm ready to amend it at any moment, but - at least we have a plan. 

Very excited to snuggle this nose on a regular basis

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jumping with Gerbils

A while back Supermom referred to one of her own horses as "having gerbils" whenever they were acting like a tweedle.  Sometimes the gerbils are sleeping (relaxed happy horse).  Sometimes the gerbils are stirring about (scooty/spooky horse) and sometimes the gerbils are throwing a kegger (LOONY TOONES HORSE).

Today, they gerbils might not have been having a kegger, but they most certainly were at least having a dinner party.

Holy. Lord. Mare.

I've got to find a way to exterminate the gerbils...

Anyway, I knew the gerbils were out when I arrived at the barn to my Big Huge Warmblood, doing her best Purebred Arab impression.  This involves floaty trotting, a llama neck, snorty nostrils and a completely flagged/inverted tail.


She calmed down while we groomed but the sparkly in her eye was still shining bright.. When I got on, she held it together.  A nice, relaxed, light on the aids warmup including some shoulder-in with her on her butt and some lovely transition work.

Just about the time we started popping over some low jumps, the gerbils popped some celebratory champagne and my nice soft lovely horse left me.

I suppose in fairness she only left me whenever we jumped the dreaded flower pots.  The gate, fine.  The flower boxes - also fine.  but the pots, oh the POTS!  Not to be tolerated.  It didn't matter if we were going away, or going home.  The Pots always landed us moderately inverted and in full scoot. 

This made me irrationally angry since there was no scooting or llama-ing to be seen with the other jumps.  It's like she can only hold it together in Hunter mode for 66% of the time.  The crazy has to come out somewhere and today it was whenever we saw the Pots.

S finally made me start throwing in rollbacks off the Flower Pot jump (both ways) and employing a pulley rein if she was blowing me off and headed for the fence line.

This freaks me out a teensy bit because when P2 is scooting away a Pulley Rein always feels like it's just going to flop her down on her side.  Cognitively I know it won't (I also know I'm not hauling on her that hard), but my physical reaction is to clamp up and think "OH SHIT we're GOING DOWN."

To S's credit, we did not, in fact, go down.  And after a few loops over the Flower Pots, the Gerbils finished their champagne and went off for an after dinner nap leaving us to a few slightly cleaner looking fences.

Here's a quick video (although the glare is bad).  S was trying to yell at me and video with the phone so the framing isn't perfect, but you'll get the idea.

I do appreciate small clips like this.  We're by no means calm and collected, but I swear the ride felt about a millions times worse than this.  (at least a million).

The good news is that when she tunes back in, our canter is consistently better balanced and nice and light.  She's not staying heavy in my hands forever.  That's a huge improvement.

Now I just need to evict those damn gerbils...

Monday, August 20, 2012

Flirting with 4'

I probably should have clarified on the last picture that I had S up in the irons.  (That's why the lovely equitation...) You'd know it was me if I were staring down at the ground through the peep hole made by a chicken elbow... But I digress.  There are more important things to describe than my hypothetical eq. :)

Like Prairie.  Being a beastie.  At four feet.

After our super fun jump sesh with the scary liverpool, I told S I wanted to get her in the irons over some fences again so she could feel how responsive the mare was being.  Maybe then we could collectively identify some goals and strategy for our next few weeks of rides.  In a serendipitous twist, Supermom mentioned she'd be up for a visit with camera in hand - which meant we'd get some good pics of the ride (better than my iphone snaps anyway).

I dragged out a few fences (rolling poles with my feet to do a unexplained explosion in the slug population and their preference to attach to all the poles).  I set up the ever-scary gate, a 3 stride line on the diagonal, and oxer on the far long side.  I figured that was all S needed in order to string endless hunter courses of line/diagonal/line/diagonal/line. 

S warmed up over a few cross rails and P2 demonstrated that she is still leery of jumps (especially small ones) but she also gave S a glimpse of her new found adjustability (so long as she's in the twisted full cheek)
go hocks, go!
She's getting a bit better at sitting back and "waiting,"  but she's still over jumping everything like whoa.

Finally we put up the rails a little and started asking for some courses.  Changes are still.... unreliable, though they are improving if she doesn't get them right away, which is nice to see.  S let her work at a slightly "bigger" stride instead of trying to cram her into a tidy 12' measured pace.  All was well and Prairie was doing fabulously, aside from a propensity to smack the gate LITERALLY every time she jumped it.

Poles? no problem?

Gate? that needs to be hit.

She did better over the gate when we added ground line.
With everything at a nice 2'9" to 3'3" height S got some decently smooth, not horrible rounds in.  Here's a few different shots of the oxer...

Over jumping... and hanging her knees
(tidy little hind toes)
Finally, Supermom made S throw in some rollbacks (a little dodgy at times) and started putting the rails up.  Prairie was NOT interested in jumping at an angle yet and ran out a few times when S anticipated the turn.  But she seemed to be pretty honest, eager, and straight forward so long as S was deliberate about supporting her the whole way.  I don't think we can quite let go of her hand yet or she gets a little nervous and decides to go around the jump.

(the frame worthy shot of the day)
Final height 3'6" in front, 4'1" back rail
The mare makes everything look small - so here's a scale shot with Supermom.  Also, Supermom would want me to say that she's not "that short" the jump is just monster huge.  :)
P2 was a super good sport, and it was fun to put the rails up a bit and make her move.  It's hard not to when she's just so damn athletic with her (not so stylish) jump.  S even commented that one of her last approaches to the big oxer had "zero" impulsion.  Just a weeny, under powered canter and then BOOM.  Big Jump.

That's going to be fun when we master (or maybe just learn about) the other aspects of jumping a technical course. Or when we figure out how to collect our canter... buwahaha

Prairie was sweated through pretty thoroughly so after a few minutes on a loose rein it was off to the wash rack for a scrub down. I will say, I was pretty happy with how quickly she recovered and got her breath back.  At least one of us is in shape...
loosey goosey wind down
Finally, the three of us chatted a bit about where to go from here.  I've decided to take Prairie to a H/J show the weekend after labor day.  It'll be her first "overnight" show and I think a good one for us.  I want to enter in an unrated "Pre-Adult" division (basically 2') but Supermom thinks it's absurd if we do anything below 2'6".  S finally split the difference and we settled on the 2'3" Long Stirrup (with me in the irons).   We've got 3.5 weeks to get a bit more fluid in our courses and we'll be just fine.

Ultimately I really do not expect Prairie to be a super successful hunter, but I do think that she might be fun to spin around a Jumper ring.  I'd enter in Jumper divisions for this show, but I think it's wiser to get our feet wet with some slower, simpler courses with straightforward lines and less scary jumps. 

So, Hunter Land it is.

We'll get a full day of schooling in on the Friday before the show, and if they mare feels rock solid we can always adjust our entry, or add a couple Jumper courses if we're feeling cocky.  Mostly my goal is to get the mare some experience over fences and away from home.  And also get me showing over fences.  It'll be her first show away from our happy little schooling show park and my first time showing over fences since college.  I'm sure that entering an Equitation Division is a brilliant idea (eye roll).

In conclusion September is booking up!  The 7th-9th we'll be in Hunter Land.  The 14th-16th I'm taking P2 to visit Summer Camp for a weekend clinic. Then the 22nd is a quick little one day dressage show east of the mountains (assuming the current wild fires don't burn up the show ground).

Bah.  Of COURSE I just bought nice white full seats and a new dressage coat.  Of course I did, now that I need tan knee patch breeches and a huntcoat.  BAH.  Every time I think "self, now you have everything you need"  I go and enter shows in a new discipline.... sigh.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sneak peek

Because I can't sit on good photos..... Here's a glimpse of our jump school with Prairie today....

Boss Mare.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 17, 2012

Prairie's Hooves - trimming back toe

I continue to terrify myself with the whole trimming thing, but I am also really pleased and impressed with how good Prairie's feet are looking and how (when guided) I can actually make some improvements.

Currently my biggest "concern" is the bull-nosing on her hind toes and making sure that I don't enable a negative plane back there.  Because I was a wee bit nervous about how exactly to balance her hinds, I didn't touch them for a couple weeks and opted to wait for my vet to show up in order to supervise my efforts.

She was hugely helpful in showing me some of the balance issues (so much medial toe) and then watching over my shoulder as I slowly worked some of the excess toe off.  Prairie grows such a thick wall on her hinds it's moderately staggering.  I felt like I was rasping forever...

By the time I brought her foot back in (mostly) balance her foot was looking really, really pretty.  Her hinds have a very nice cup to them, and it was clear that her angles are in a good spot and hopefully won't encourage continued bull-nosing.

I spent a while chatting with my vet about how the hind legs "float" as opposed to being anchored like the front limbs.  Obviously not a technical term, but the imaging makes sense to me.  Also makes sense that hoof imbalance in the hinds can travel right up each joint and over the hips then push down into the opposite foot...

Long story short my vet wasn't concerned about her hinds (whew).  She was really pleased with my work on her fronts but suggested I relieve the quarters just a touch more.  Nothing wild or dramatic but enough of a curve that I can slide a piece of paper under them...

So to sum up, I'm feeling relieved with the hinds, confident up front and excited that it looks like I'll be able to maintain the mare (mostly) on my own (coaching sessions to be continued).  Maybe most importantly Prairie is showing that her feet are staying healthy and strong with their current routine.

Have to love that.

I didn't have my good camera, but in the name of crappy documentation here are some blurry and poorly lit phone photos.  At this point her fronts were about 1 week from the last time I touched them, and 1 day from the hinds' last touch up.

The angle isn't actually that off.  She was standing oddly
I'm pretty happy with this foot, but need to stay on top of the flare a bit more often..

Angles looking good.. toe backed up quite a bit
Blurry so you can see her 'cuppines' but I'm happy (except for her sulcus)

Slightly more bull nosed than her LH, but under control I think
blurry again, WHOOPS

very happy with this foot too
Again, blurry. but same flare issue as the LF

So that's where we are.  Right now my goals are to proactively manage the flare and separation up front a bit more and encourage straight growth in the hinds.  Also, I'm going to keep an eye on those cracks forming in her sulcus... I don't like those.  They don't seem to be ouchy, or infected at all right now - but I'd rather not have a spot for thrush to be hiding when the mud comes back to town in a few months...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

3'9" & Reinless (though, not at the same time..)

Might as well start with a pic of the fun stuff...
 The last couple of days have seen some fabulous rides on the big mare.  My vet was out on Tuesday for a check in on my hoof trimming (post on that to come) as well as do some routine body work on the mare and the pup.

Nothing super interesting to report, but the vet saw some tension in Prairie's neck/shoulder connection which is primarily a result of her tugging on the reins and me tugging back.


Riding sans reins and a few gallop sessions to open her up and get her range of motion used.  

Awesome.  Two things that absolutely terrify me with miss llama-neck-gallop-monster.  But the things we do for the love of our animals...

So yesterday S accompanied me to the round pen where she helped support the mare with a lunge line while I tied my reins in a knot and let go.


There was some scooting and booting and scampering around, but eventually the mare steadied and calmed down.  In theory we were supposed to work 1) on me and my posture (arms up! arms out! no stirrups!) and 2) try to get the mare tuned in to my seat aids a bit more.

The first goal was fine after P2 realized my arms we're not monsters swooping down from the sky and the second goal was... well - not so good.  I ended up getting REALLY frustrated that I was squeezing (and squeezing and SQUEEZING) with all my might - yet no half halt would slow the beast.

It was like as soon as I dropped the reins, Prairie decided that there was no occasion (whatsoever) to pay attention to the wiggling person on her back.

At all.

She finally tuned in a little bit, but I was still frustrated so instead of cooling out around the property I headed for the indoor and kept trying to work our walk/halt/walks on a totally loose rein.

Turns out with the lunge line off Prairie thought it reasonable to turn her attention toward me again and she did much, much better than in the roundpen.  So much so that we moved up to a trot and worked some walk/trot/walk/trot/halt/trot/halt sequences.  Finally I was feeling ballsy so I dropped the reins and went some some walk/canter transitions and eventually worked a big figure eight with a simple change through the walk in the middle.

She was a gem with that so we quit and I felt like we had actually gotten somewhere.  As a reward I hosed off all the sweat and took her out for some good hand grazing.
in love again.

This morning, we pulled out the jump tack for a change of pace.  I also swapped bridles to the latest contribution from Supermom's collection.  Supermom (I guess she's more of Prairie's SuperAunt) paid a visit and brought a ba-zillion goodies.  tack, supplements, some MTG.... it was like Christmas at my house.  And lord knows I'm about the least patient person ever when it comes to waiting to play with new toys.

You may remember a while back when Supermom brought up Pia's momma's halter and bridle for P to use.  Well, the bridle was a gorgeous Jerry's Harness with white padding that looks just smashing on the P.  As it turns out Supermom also has a dark brown version that won't fit any of the arabs so she brought it (and all it's accompanying pieces) up so P1 can have some jump tack of her own when she gets home.

Being impatient I thought I'd see if it fit the big mare, and it does!  Plus it looks fabulous. The leather is incredible and the dark, rich colors suit Prairie's coat in a flattering manner.
New Outfit!!
I threw the twisted full cheek on (the bit we last used at the baby hunter show) and hopped on to warm up.

Or I almost did.

S had dragged out the liverpool so I spent a few moments letting Prairie sniff it and explore and walk back and forth over it a few times.

Once we were unimpressed with the blue tarpy thing, I hopped on and started warming up.

We started the lesson by trotting up the centerline and over the liverpool.  Then we cantered it, then we added a small jump over it.

Then we raised the cups.

Then we raised them some more

Then we dragged the liverpool out front for some more width.

Then we raised the cups again.

And finally we ended up with this monster thing that really didn't feel very big under the big mare.
(I know I already used this pic, but it's my only one)


Oh.  And the mare had about one pound of pressure in each rein.  She was so tuned in to my legs and seat that she stayed right with me and was 10x more adjustable in the canter than she's ever been.

Heck yes bitches!!!

(It was a really fabulous ride).

To the Mare's credit I hardly had to do much.  She stayed balanced and pretty much found her own distances.  The only thing I really needed reminding on was to keep her engine revved up coming out of the turn.

My inclination with Prairie is to hold her in a little, tiny, baby lope and then by the time she strings out at bit we still have a manageable canter.

Having a larger fence to jump made it easier for me to feel comfortable putting some gas in the tank and moving her up.

Man she was good. There was no hint of her inverted, rushing llama impression on takeoff or landing and I could bring her right back to a walk just closing my fingers and sitting up.

It was rad.

She felt... dare I say it... Scopey??

I was pretty thrilled. I haven't jumped anything over 3' since high school - though I can easily say that 3'9" is pushing the edge of Type 1 & Type 2 fun at the moment.  The jump itself felt small and P2 had more than enough power to jump cleanly from every distance I dumped her at, but eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek.

It did tick closer to Type 1 fun after several successful attempts (balanced approach, balanced jump, brakes after...) so the adrenaline junky in me isn't completely dead after all....


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

First Level 2 - 62 %

As frustrated as I was after our first ride on Sunday, I was hoping that our second go would see some increased relaxation since the totally terrifying cones did not, in fact present any real threat in the first test.

I was... mostly right.  We were by no means relaxed.  But we did eliminate any major spooks and anything that warranted a dreaded "3."  In fact we only got one 4 (when we broke stride).  So that's a win.  Also similar to our July outing, our collective marks all ticked up a bit for our second test. 

(forgive the rough, boring summaries, but it's about as much brain power as I currently have..)

Our opening halt was a 7 (over a 6) as was our opening lengthening.  Having a slightly more relaxed horse I mentally decided to "under ride" the second test and go for a better balance.  The theory wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad.

Prairie sorta bobbled away from my outside rein before our 1/2 circle and leg yield which left us unbalanced and the leg yield sorta faltered.  The angle on the video makes it look worse than it was, but I lost the outside shoulder and our straightness.  At least she was moving off my leg!  (we got 6.5's for the turn and the leg yield)

Canter transition was a 6 and "strung out"
But our 15 meter circle was a 7!! a 7! Previous scores at 15m include a 4, 5, and two 6's.  so I was happy.  plus the comment said "fair bal" which is way better than "horrid"

I chose to under ride the canter lengthening, and got a 5.5 with "minimal difference" so boo on that. and a 5 for the transition back to working canter for "min transition."  Given the coefficients that stung our overall score quite a bit.

Then it was a 6 on the free walk.  She felt a bit scattered so I held my reins a bit more than normal, and the comments dinged us for it.  I need to school this with P2 a bit more.  When I give her head entirely she thinks she's on a break and looks around and swings her brontosaurus neck around, which isn't great either.

a 6 for our trot transition because we got a bit braced and a 6 for our stretchy trot (dangit!) since the second half of the circle was less than stellar.

Theeeeeen it was our "4" movement.  Trying to balance a bit better for the 1/2 circle and following leg yield, I really supported the mare with my outside leg and she turned beautifully... then cantered.

Whoopsie.  At least she was listening?

Regardless of the canter steps, we were set up much better for the leg yield and snagged a 7.5 and a smiley face in the comments.
I'm proud of this.  I'm mostly straight and P2 was right there for me.
Canter transition was a 6, the circle was another 7!!!!!! but the non-existant lengthening (again) was a 5.5 and a 5.  Argh. At least I know I proactively chose those scores (sorta).

But we finished the ride with a 6.5 transition back to the trot, a 7 trot lengthening and a 7 halt.

Collective Marks
Gaits                             8
Submission                   7
Rider's Seat                 6
Rider's use of Aids      6
Harmony                     5.5

Overall comments were "lovely horse with scopey gaits. Quite heavy in hand today"

Couldn't agree more.

Here's the video since my play by play skills aren't exactly... illustrative.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First Level Test 1 - 55%

eeeeeeekkkkkk.  55%

Time for the Nitty Gritty:

If you recall, after out July Dressage Outing our goals were as follows:

Getting off our forehand in the canter
Getting off our forehand in the canter
Getting off our forehand in the canter
Canter departs (still)
Straightness in our Halts (we had haunches to the right every time)
Returning to Working Canter from a lengthened stride
Staying lifted through the shoulder on smaller circles/turns

When we weren't spooking or bolting (lol), we did better on all of these things!  Halts we're much straighter.  Canter departs were much better, we had moments of lightness in our canter and despite the mare being "against my hand" I actually felt some adjustment with my half halts and she noticeably came back to me from our lengthenings (true in both tests).  So I have to give the mare credit for that shred of progress.

As we discussed, aside from a decent opening halt, we started off with a bang... and a spook... and uncalled for circle at C.  The problem there is that the entire turn at C, longside and then half-circle-serpentine from E-X-B is all scored as one movement.  I thought I salvaged my trot (decently) and showed suppleness in the turns.  Admittedly a bit on the forehand, but still we managed only a 4 for the whole thing.  I think if it was marked as a separate movement we would have gotten a few more points.

Our opening trot lengthen was mediocre.  I though we got good push and had good balance, but we only got a 7.  If I keep Prairie "up" we seem to do better, but I've been admonished for not "lenthening the frame" at First Level so I was going for a bit a stretch, but what I got was a lot of forehand.  I think I'll go back to thinking "up, up, up."  We go down easily enough...

Our stretchy trot only got a 5.5 which is too bad, because P2 has a bad ass stretchy trot.  we got "tentative" because it took me a few strides to get her down, and then shew was just a little too tense to stay down.. not our best work.

Medium walk was a 6 (scary corner) but we bounced back (a little) with a 7.5 (our highest score :( ) for the free walk.

Trot and canter transitions worked out to a 6.5 which is better than the 6 we got in July.  I do actually think that our canter departs managed to be better this time.  Our circle was a 6 (same as July).

The big ouch came from our canter lengthening (Prairie performed a leg yield here) which got a 3.  the comment was "not completely controlled"  (yes) "crooked"  (yes, yes).  I'm not horrifically worried.  Opening up Prairie's stride is.... easy.  but when she's acting a loon, I think the correct choice was to not push for much.

we got a 6.5 for the canter diagonal/trot transition.  Presumable because she was on her forehand.

Another 3 bit us for the "canter transition."  I won't argue that the transition was pretty (in the video you can see Prairie check out a few strides before I ask for the left lead..) but a 3 is SAD.  especially since I did manage to display a transition and continued on my way.  inverted? yes.  out of control? perhaps :) but look! I got her back!!

or I didn't... since the circle also only got a 4.  WAH.  It felt a bit more contained I guess.

Then (somewhat entertaining) we only got a 5 for our lengthening, since I opted to not really ask.  Something about the whole "bolt" thing made me think "hmmm self - let's skip the lengthening rather than risk sending the mare into orbit".  I had to giggle when the comment next to my crappy 5 was "conservative."  No shit! did you see the mare?!

a 5 for the trot transition where we broke early (this seemed worse than my "3" canter transition but whatever) a 7 for the final lengthening and a 6 to end the halt.

The collective marks are sad, sad sad.  Let's do a side by side from July FL1, shall we?

Collective Marks                                                  July                      August
Gaits                                                                       8                             7.5
Impulsion                                                                8                              7
Sumbission                                                                                          4
Rider's Position & Seat                                           7                               6
Rider's Use of Aids                                                  7                              5.5
Harmony                                                                  7                               5

EEEEEEEEEEEEESH.  Not ideal.  Though, in July FL1 was our second (and better) ride of the day, whereas in August it was our first (and worse) ride of the day...

Without further ado, here's the video.  She does look heavy, but there are moments of lightness. In her quieter moments there is a distinct lack of impulsion, but I was so happy to have her off my hand and contained that I was apprehensive about pressing the gas pedal..

Monday, August 13, 2012

54-40 or Fight!

Very few things from American History have stuck with me in the 13 years since I crammed for that particular AP test, but President Polk's catchy slogan calling for a northern boundary that flirted with what is now Alaska, drilled right into my brain and stayed there.  And while only one of these numbers was an actual score form yesterday (in fairness it was a 55%... ) My weird little subconscious just ripped "54 40 or Fight!" out from the depths of my demented memory and it seemed a moderately (if barely) apropos summary of our schooling show.

In short - we've had... better days.

In slightly longer - I'm still happy with the mare.  We struggled through a few things, improved on others and all in all ended up with a productive (Ha! that's the word riders use when wheels fall off the proverbial wagon) day.

To begin:

My tests weren't scheduled until 4:30 and 5:00pm which meant that there was no reason to be at the barn before noon.  Prairie got to be turned out and roasted in the sunshine for a bit before I hauled in in for her braids only to realize that I had exactly enough waxed cord to sew up 60% of her braids.  Rad.  A quick call to The Boy saw him make an extra stop at the local marine supply store (sail making thread is perfect) as well as the grocery store (snacks are a must!) before grabbing the trailer and meeting me at the barn.

He even held Prairie's giant face while I tucked up her "forelock"  (or what's left of it after I honestly clipped her bridlepath and took away her "comb over" fake forelock...).  He's a gem.  If there was some sort of score sheet for horse show husbands his would look something like this:

COLLECTIVE MARKS                                                         score               notes

PROMPTNESS (without nagging or reminding)                           10            Well timed! 
HUSBAND'S anticipation and preparation                                   8.5         (wife prefers
                                                                                                                   turkey sandwich)
HUSBAND'S correct and effective use of the aids                         8           Good Praise! and use
                                                                                                                   of water bottle
HARMONY between husband & wife and horse & husband         9           Good w/ wife.
                                                                                                                   Horse wants
                                                                                                                   more treats

So at least one of us got great scores... Back to the pony:

P2 was a bit wound up even at home, which did not bode well.  Neither did loading up (at a leisurely 3pm) while horses were being brought in from pasture.  Lots of screaming and pacing and galloping as everyone anticipated their dinner or protested their buddies being taken in first.  P2 thought the world was ending.  Also she was very irritated with her wraps and was rudely kicking the back of my nice trailer.  (bad mare).

But we arrived well and she came off the trailer calmer than she went on.  My plan was to repeat our minimal warmup from the last show so I didn't even get on the mare until the rider in front of me entered the ring.

Prairie was great.  Much calmer, less looky and generally more relaxed than she has been. Although - she really should be since this was her fourth show (fifth outing) at this particular facility..

but while I was waiting for The Boy to return with a sip of water before heading in the ring (since the show was early and I had an extra 10 minutes at my disposal), someone else trotted in ahead of us.  Not a big deal, but as I walked the mare around during the second rider's go - the gerbils started scurrying and I could feel her getting tenser by the moment.

My first reaction was "god dammit horse.  (and god dammit extra rider)" because I really had a nicely calm, supple ready mare before we were delayed.  But then my second reaction was "ooh! now we have to try to diffuse this.  Perfect place for a not so perfect warmup..."

Needless to say by the time we trotted in I had a snorty, prancy, very heavy mare in my hands.  I tried some leg yield and shoulder in to back her off a bit, but the traffic cones (omg the CONES!!!) next to the judge's booth were much more engaging than my little hands and legs asking for some lateral movement.

But the bell rang quickly, and off we went.  Our halt was ok, we moved off well but then we had to pass the cones.  Which resulted in a spook, which resulted in a circle (whoops! -2!).  Not a fabulous start. We recovered (a bit) but had a few more bobbles including some unplanned "leg yield on the rail" in our right lead canter and one more big spook (that rocketed us into our left lead canter circle).  At that point I heard a distant "are yoooouuu okaaaayyyyy" from the judge's booth which I assumed meant that things were looking less than spectacular.  I chimed back that "yes!" I was fine and just giggled at my big, drama llama, cone-phobic beast horse. 

I think I giggled because unlike our first outing where the spooks and bolts were of an undetermined length and outcome - this time I felt like I had total control (well, mostly) of her scoots and I was confident that I could shut them down with a circle, or a discombobulated long side.

That's improvement!!

Our first test ended with a crappy downward transition to the trot (more of a break really) and a crappy lengthening that was more of an unbalanced rush-en-ing.  We earned our paltry 55% but still pulled off a 3rd place in the class.  There were more than three of us in the class.. but not many more.

The judging was MUCH tighter than the first two shows (perhaps more accurate) as I think we were way better off in this test than our first outing where we pulled a 66% out of a miserably distracted and freight-train like performance.  So, again - the scores don't show it, but we're handling ourselves better in tough situations.

I did cringe a bit when I reviewed the score sheet.  The first comment on the back was "brave riding."

That's can't be good.  I mean, I guess it's a nice comment, but it doesn't exactly inspire images of harmony and submission...

I agreed with all the other comments though I thought a few were nit picky given the level ridden.

Like the comment that our final halt was "straight but not square"
that is pretty darn square.
I suppose her left hind was maybe 2" ahead of her right hind, but she was square up front.  So, I bristled a tad at that remark.  When I rode it I was thinking "WAHOO! she's sitting down and forward to the halt"  given our little runaway moments I felt like that was a positive note to end on.  Apparently not.

To the judge's credit there was a lot of this going on:
not cute.
Once my reins got long I was screwed. I tipped forward and we went to pieces.  I can't tell where this was in our test but I think it was our transition up to the trot after our free walk.  the comment was "prompt transition, needs balance."


To our credit, the second test had a lot more of this going on:
slight improvement
I stayed back, and was a bit more effective, but we were still pretty firmly on the forehand/I was getting ripped out of the tack for a majority of the ride.

small victories.

I'll dive deeper into the tests in upcoming posts. but I came away feeling like I diffused some of the anxiety in our second ride, but still need to find a way to get the mare focused when traffic cones are lurking at one end.  Also, I think maybe I need to explore not showing in the super nice chunky KK double jointed D.

I know that no bit is a substitute for true obedience, but having a bit that she respects just a TEENSY bit more might help shut down the scoots a tad.  It won't produce relaxation and I wouldn't expect it to, but I could use some help backing the mare off her forehand when we're away from home.  The KK does just fine when we're schooling, but she's a whole-lotta-mare when she decides to get strung out. 

Also, it was at least 80 degrees so I'm proud that neither of us (me or the mare) passed out mid ride.  Good on us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Final School

Snuck in one final ride today before the show tomorrow- and given our total lack of guidance or feedback this week, I think we're doing ok.

The mare has been great, particularly with regard to our canter work and lengthenings. But our leg yields have been suffering and I haven't quite been able to sort them out. I *think* that I'm fiddling with my inside rein too much so the mare is feeling stifled and shut down. Which results in a still, tense, uneven leg yield.

No buenos.

But rather than fight on it for an hour we worked them at the walk schooled a couple times at the trot (mediocrely) and then ran through our tests.


This test feels pretty solid. Our biggest issue is not plowing onto our forehand durning the 4 mile long canter tour. Everything else is solid. And our transitions were right where I wanted them today.


The early leg yields inserts a certain amount of tension into the ride but we deal with it ok. I need to remember to not ask for much canter lengthening because P2 over delivers and then we end up strung out and I have a hard time putting everything back together.

The ordering of the test is good for us- especially the early lengthenings and placement of the canter transitions right after the leg yields.. I just need to anticipate then and control the outside shoulder...

After successful run throughs of each test I called it a day and took to cleaning the mare up. Prairie was convinced that the soap suds were going to eat her so she spent the whole bath snorting at the pooled water in the wash rack.... Doofus.

Total doofus face.

Then it was back to the dock to enjoy every. Last. Moment. Of summer around here. If we totally bomb our rides tomorrow it's because I spent a little too much time with chips and dip on the dock and not enough time working with P2...

This is how I memorize my tests:

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Double Header

Had a lovely day with both of the mares- a rare treat since they continue to live 3 hours away from each other...

But I thorough enjoyed it. Started off early with P2 and a quick school to review our First Level 2 test. It's a much "tighter" test than FL1 or TL which I think will be good for us but it gives me less time to remember what the heck our next movement is.... Our biggest challenge is the 10m half circle --> leg yield --> canter depart. It flows pretty well when I actually ride and think about the next step. But I get distracted on the half circle and am still trying to lift her shoulder instead of straightening the mare out. Or I'm straightening instead of leg yielding or I'm sorting the leg yield out when I need to have been cantering 5 strides ago....

We finished well but there's quite a bit of polish to be had..

Regardless she's still the sweetest mare ever.

But she's not the cutest! Those honors are still firmly P1's

After my session with P2 I left my boots on and zoomed off to the ferry on my way to miss P.

She greeted me with a nicked and came straight to the gate in search of snacks and scratches.

I mean seriously. What a doll.

She's looking a little skinny which is a combo of her working more (at least a lot more trotting and what not) along with spending most of her time out with the herd at night where she doesn't push her way to all the hay.

Cowboy Man makes sure she gets some solo time in a stall with some flakes, but the social pressure with the herd at night is helping her under saddle work so much we don't want to give it up entirely...

Anyway. Still the cutest.

It was such a beautiful day we headed to a big park that we don't ride at often but it has great views of the mountains and ocean and Pia seemed ready for a "new" territory to explore.

I got the privilege of riding Jewel.

Jewel is a very pretty mustang. Although her current BMi suggests an infusion of Hippo.

Jewel came off one of the Canadian ranges and after being rejected as a possible bucking horse found her way into the herd at Summer Camp. When she arrived she had shoes that someone had put on her feet so long ago that they had broken off their arms and the front toe curves were growing into her feet... You wouldn't know it now. She's foot perfect on the sketchiest trails...

Our ride was stunning. We tromped all over meadows and hills and through bushes and trees. Pia took the lead for most of it which was a huge breakthrough and she was *thrilled* to be trotting over hard packed ground, uneven grass and even on a decline. (declines seemed to bring out even the slightest pain in her shoulders).

It was so wonderful to watch her rock and roll. And it was so much fun to scamper around on Jewel.

The only hiccup came when we rounded a corner of the trailer to a growling, snarling dog off leash and totally ignoring its owner. She made feral charges toward all three horses and thankfully My cohorts were more comfortable standing their ground and staying calm because I was about to bolt my ass out of there.

The guy finally got a hold of the dog's collar and apologized profusely (which I appreciated) before mentioning that he "just got the dog from the pound two weeks ago."

Yes she was a pit-bull, but I know plenty of loving pits. My issue is WHAT THE HELL are you doing letting an adult rescue dog off leash in a public park when you've only had it a couple weeks.

Maybe let her learn her new name first so she KNOWS you're calling her while she's charging at our horses (or a toddler... Or another dog...)


But all in all it was a fabulous day with both my mares out in the sunshine.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lion Taming

I know everyone who lives anywhere but here will throttle me for complaining about temperatures SOARING into the upper 80's, but holy gosh.  When your body is calibrated for a tiny window of 68-72...
90 degrees turns me into a lazy marshmallow.

Such as it is, not much has happened.  Good schools with Prairie late last week and on Saturday.  We both opted to work on our tan lines (and highlights) yesterday instead of working, and today I shared the ring with a lesson so we were relegated to the "scary" end of the arena which was a good schooling "opportunity" but not exactly our most fluid ride.

Since I'm still sweaty, sticky and mostly toasted - I'll spare you the sissy complaints of a overheated Seattle-ite and get straight to the totally unrelated video.

This came to me from D (the miracle pony keeper) who keeps Star looking like she's in her twenties instead of her thirties or forties... (maybe she could work her magic on me in the coming years..)

Anyway - I sorta want to make one of these suits for P1 and P2.  Wouldn't they be adorable!?!?! 
I particularly enjoy the banded tail and floppy ears...

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