Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And back to work...

A post on the show is coming but I really do want to wait for more pictures to surface. I can talk about last night because in the indoor arena, almost all I got was grainy and blurry anyway!

So last night I felt like being productive but I was worn out from the weekend and knew it wasn't the best night to get on greenies, so we did more ground driving. I think the ground driving is very helpful for the VLC. When he wants to resist the bit and balk, you are right behind him. That option simply isn't available. Therefore, he has to get over himself and go forward, and he does. I have a friend who knows how to ground drive much better than I do, and she's giving me lessons in how to do it effectively.

Then we decided to do the same with Casper, the Cowgirl Spirit horse that I am working with. Casper is just one of those great green horses who truly wants to learn and loves the attention. She caught on to everything we asked so quickly, whether it was body language on the longe line or her first ground driving session. I admit, I've become a
fan of ground driving. I like it better than longeing because you can go in a straight line and do maneuvers like serpentines that you could never try on the longe. You can use the whole arena and aren't torquing their heads around. It's just more tiring for the human because when they trot, you trot. But hey, I needed more exercise anyway!

Honey and Bessie are home and back on vacation for awhile. I am sure they are both thrilled!

One preview from the SAFE show...this is me on Class, a Cowgirl Spirit pony who is available for adoption now. She is a Quarter pony and is six years old with no soundness or behavioral concerns. She is just under 14.2 and would be great for a Pony Clubber or other young rider with supervision. She still needs finishing (this was actually her first show class, ever) but she is willing, easy to ride, and has seen and done a lot this summer with the drill team.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

That annoying, frustrating thing that you can't fix!

I wish I could learn to have an eye for distance. I don't have it. I've NEVER had it, and because of that, I've never tried to jump anything bigger than 2'6. I had my trainer at the time try to train it into me, with all of the usual drills involving counting, or practicing seeing distances while on foot or driving the car or whatnot...it just didn't help much. My depth perception isn't great or something. I can see a polo ball and whack it just fine but that's because it's right next to my horse. Trying to look ahead of me, I don't see my jumping distance until it is too late to adjust nicely.

(That's a great big reason someone else will be showing the VLC)

There are riding flaws that can be fixed with work, and riding flaws that seem to be insurmountable. I used to pump at the canter as a child; that turned out to be a matter of no trainer who had been able to explain how not to do that. I finally figured it out myself and stopped doing it, but there's no such easy fix for the distance thing.

Do you have a frustrating riding flaw that you just can't seem to fix that is preventing your ability to progress in your chosen discipline? I hear a lot of dressage riders who are having issues with sitting trot given their bad backs, for example. What's yours, if any?

I will have a full report on the SAFE show but I'm waiting for pictures. It seems to be my show to end up riding barely-broke grey Arabians. Go figure. I still can't figure out my own fear issues...it's like, certain horses I'm just immediately confident and fine on, and others I just know I'm not going to be able to do it anymore. It doesn't even have anything to do with how they're acting. It's just weird. But more on that later...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Nope, not dead, just busy!

I've been busy and so the VLC's only been getting ridden about once a week, although we did have a super nice ride in the french link happy mouth bit I borrowed. He definitely prefers that bit, as many of you predicted! I am not taking him to the SAFE show because (a) they don't have any stalls and I don't think that's a good first show situation for him and (b) they decided not to allow stallions. We will find another schooling show for him to go to in the next month or so. However, as you can see from this (admittedly crappy cell phone pic), he continues to be, um, not exactly a wild and crazy guy. (The misty effect is my friend's finger...LOL!)

The new plan was to take Honey to the show, but I have noticed Honey's back bothering her and the vet
determined yesterday that he'd like to see her get an adjustment before we proceed with any further under-saddle work. Karen came and picked her up and I did climb on her with a halter and lead rope bareback and show her how quiet her OTTB was now. Honey is such a sweetheart!

The nice thing is that she will have a home with Karen no matter what her physical issues are. My vet suspects an old pelvic or hip fracture as she flexes a little sore on the ankle (what I thought was the problem) but very sore when she is flexed "high" to stress the hip/pelvic region. He also felt she had some arthritis in her neck (she does have an obvious old neck injury, with visibly asymmetrical muscle development). She trots out sound without
weight and a little off with weight, but I noticed her getting sore toward the point of the hip and we decided to have her examined. I'm glad we did, and I hope that a chiropractor can help her be comfortable and happy for some light trail riding, which is all Karen would like for her to be able to do.

Bessie goes home on Tuesday and the plan is to give her a break until the baby's weaned and then resume training in October. She is steady as a rock to ride - just needs further education about what the aids mean. Her former owner is theorizing that she may have been packed with, which actually makes a lot of sense as she has no reaction to the girth or anything that you do on her or anything that happens around her. (The last time I rode her, several cats bolted through the round pen. She couldn't have cared less. She is a superstar!) However, as one of my roomies pointed out, dead deer don't use leg aids. Nope, guess they don't. That really would explain a lot of her mysterious training level - bombproof to ride, but totally uneducated! Her filly Libby got halter broke this last week and is learning to lead. She was not thrilled at first, but learns quickly and is figuring out giving to pressure very well.

Bullwinkle also got halter broke, but he is pretty disgruntled right now. Of course, he also got shots and weaned and his first trailer ride and I think the combination of all of those things have fried his furry little mind. He is on his way to his new life and I'm very happy for him!

With horses leaving, another project has arrived. Casper is a three year old APHA filly that was rescued and given to Cowgirl Spirit Rescue Drill Team. She has matured incredibly over the summer - she was a classic example of something that might have chronologically been old enough to ride, but one look told you she just wasn't there yet. Now she has filled out and looks ready to carry a rider. Since Casper is small and Juliane feels too tall on her, I'm taking over her training. She has had 3 or 4 rides on her and has been very cooperative so far. She's great about most things and has already attended a couple of CSRDT events as a "spokeshorse" for the rescue! This one is going to be a lot of fun. I'm not sure what her niche is going to be yet, but we will find out.

I also climbed on another old broodie this week to evaluate her under saddle. Well, she's not old, she's only ten. She's had some very nice babies but was also a sweetheart to ride - despite the fact that she most likely has no post-track training, she rode off very quietly and even stood motionless for me to mount. Also, no herdbound behavior which is unusual -- usually when you take one of these broodies away from the other horses, they act like the sky is falling, but not this girl. Like Bessie, she was actually lazy which I am coming to appreciate more and more as I get older. ;-) She is looking for a new home which could be breeding, riding or a combination of both. Both sire and dam are stakes winners. E-mail me if you would like to know more.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What does cross-training mean to you?

Thought this would be a fun topic...

Most of us have heard the term "cross-training." The general idea is, you shouldn't school your horse day in and day out to do Discipline X or pretty soon he's going to get sour and hate Discipline X. You should mix it up, do something different, and give him some mental breaks. I agree with this 100%, but I'm curious to hear what that means to you and what you do with your horses.

My old show horse Jack competed in pretty much all of the typical open show events. We did showmanship, hunt seat and western and he won a lot of high point trophies. While Jack was well trained enough to dink around with the other WP horses, he truly loved to run so we did things like gallop in my back hayfield and occasionally run barrels and poles at the shows. He wasn't good at barrels or poles - he was a big horse and not that great at pulling himself together for a fast turn - but he liked it. So we did it. At home I whacked polo balls around off of him, jumped a little, and used him to pony young horses.

(I've always hit polo balls off the show horses. I think it's good for them and most of them find it interesting. I will have to start that with the VLC. I am just not sure they make a mallet that long...)

Of course, I know that if I were keeping the VLC at some nice h/j barn and I went to whacking polo balls around off of him, people would think I had lost my ever-loving mind. In those kind of barns, cross-training means that you do a little dressage sometimes with your hunter.

To me, the perfect horse is something like the VLC's famous uncle, Favor Mr. Sabre. FMS is a full brother to the VLC's dam. He was AQHA Amateur Versatility Horse of the Year in 2001. He has points in halter, ranch versatility, barrel racing, reining, trail, hunter under saddle, working cowhorse, western pleasure, western horsemanship, hunt seat equitation, western riding, pole bending, showmanship, and breakaway roping. I love the idea of a horse that can win western pleasure and barrels at the same AQHA show. I'd very much like for the VLC to mature into exactly that kind of a horse. (By the way, if anybody has a picture of FMS, I've always wanted to see one and have so far failed to locate it. Super special bonus points for video!)

So, I'm curious, what does cross-training mean to you? What do you like to do with your horses that is totally different from what they show/compete at? Have you jumped your cutting horse or taken your warmblood team sorting? Do you have one of those fabulous all-around horses who does it all and does it well? Do you agree that cross-training improves performance and keeps their mind fresh, or do you think it's possible to confuse them by doing things that are very different? Does your horse like to do a lot of different things, or does he/she seem to get frazzled when you deviate from the norm?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Heat Wave!

You guys in the South and SW are gonna smack me for whining about the 80s but...it's been in the 80s and it's hooooot and huuuuumid and I don't waaaaaant to ride. Or clean stalls or do much of anything else except maybe spray myself with the hose while watering!

The good thing about heat waves is it makes all the green horses safer. After all, who really wants to explode in the heat? Not that Bessie was in any danger of exploding anyway. Bessie is just making us laugh. Tonight was ride #3. I've been trying to teach her to associate clucking with moving forward, since she has no reaction to leg pressure. Honestly, she reminds me of a draft horse. She just does not care HOW hard you squeeze. She can stand there and go to sleep through as much squeezing as my legs can provide. Nor does she care if you smack her on the butt. So now I am working on verbal cues and I think she is starting to figure it out. You can turn her and "unstick" her front end but it's not that easy. She is a big, heavy mare and about as easygoing as a Barcalounger. Which will be great for safety with her 12 year old owner - but we do need to create some semblance of forward motion!

One nice thing is the baby has settled down about Mom being ridden and now calmly walks along behind us. I think this is a good experience for her, too. The big challenge is grooming Mom. Baby is SO in love with being groomed that she squeezes between any grooming implement and her mother. :-) I'm glad she's so people friendly though - maybe she'll forgive me for tomorrow night, when we plan to put them in a stall and get a halter on baby, who wants no part of that idea.

I'm also pleased that Bessie seems to have figured out that she has a reverse gear. The first week, it was truly funny. She just would not back up. I mean, you could push on her chest for all you were worth and she would just give you a look like, WTF are you trying to do? I employed Mugwump's hoof kicking trick and what do you know, we DID get those front feet unstuck. She even did it willingly under saddle tonight!

In other news, for those of you who remember Footloose, the OTTB mare we rescued literally minutes before the truck to Mexico was loading last fall, her new owner took her for her first ride tonight. I'll let her comment on that but apparently she was awesome! Hopefully she will have a new career as a low level eventer. I think she'd like that, she's super calm outside and nothing seems to bother this mare. She is just naturally good minded and no amount of training can replace that! The really cool thing is that she wasn't sound last fall, but after time off doing nothing but eating - she is. Pretty cool outcome for a mare who almost slipped through the cracks.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Best and Worst!

What is your horse the best at?

What is your horse the worst at?

Here are mine:

The VLC:

Best: Best darn natural, slow, round lope I have ever ridden. And, really, nothing upsets him.

Worst: Staying on the rail. He's just lazy and will cut in if I'm not paying attention, in the manner of a 26 year old school horse on a hot summer day. Solution: I just need to pay attention - it's a lot easier to catch them two inches off the wall than when you are daydreaming up there and all of a sudden you are in the middle of the ring wondering how you got there!


Best: She has totally mastered halt and stand still. I mean, she will halt on seat and I can drop the reins and she will stand there motionless until next week. She does not fidget at all. It is really impressive. She stands still like a cowhorse!

Worst: Still working on bending right. She still wants to drop her shoulder and put her nose to the outside. I would like to get her off site to a better arena for some rides soon so that we can work on proper circles. That would help a lot!

So what is your horse's best and worst?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let's talk about pain!

As one alert poster observed, I ride like my back hurts. Yep, I do, because it does. 24/7 to varying degrees. It hurts a lot when I get up in the morning. It hurts enough to make tears come to my eyes if I have to stand in one place for long periods of time. Riding actually helps loosen it up but I have some degree of back and neck pain 24/7 and it's been like that for a long time. I can trace it to an accident at age 15 where I went ass-over-teakettle into an arena wall, but really, all the wear and tear since hasn't helped any.

This is not unusual. Most of us realized around age 30 that our bodies no longer felt the way they used to, and if we've had some painful spills, that was even more true. By 40, the arthritis and age related stuff starts to set in as well. I have a bad back, a locking knee, and ankles that crack like a 16 year old OTTB's when I walk stairs.

Most riders my age tell the same tales. Riding is not easy on the human body, particularly if you've ridden competitively or trained for a living. You can always identify the trainers at a horseshow - they are lamer than the oldest schoolie, hobbling from show ring to barn area with a perpetually hunched back. They all look like they need 2 grams of bute and possibly a shot of vodka to chase it. Now, add the fact that most of the professional horsepeople I know either have no health insurance, or no time to go to the doctor (I have the latter scenario) and - let's be honest here - we horsepeople are infamous for hating the doctor. I freely admit to the statement "I go to the doctor - if they drag me there unconscious while I can't protest." I tend to treat my aches and pains with lots of Advil, applications of horse liniment and the occasional shot of vodka. That's pretty typical. I have pointed out MANY times that if we only took as good care of ourselves and paid as much attention to rehabbing our injuries as we do if it's our horse with the problem, we'd be in a lot better shape - but it seems like almost none of us do. (Why is that? Why is it so many horsewomen, for example, have their horse's nutrition down to a science, yet can't put themselves on the same strict plan and lose the extra weight or just plain eat more healthfully? I mean, hell, I'm guilty. The horses have supplements for whatever they need, but do I take a vitamin? Uh, no.)

So as we age, we're not only dealing with increased fear issues, but most of us are dealing with pain issues. Yet we want to ride. None of us want to take the doctor's advice and take up a kindler, gentler sport more suited to aging bodies. And hey, we all saw the video about the 102 year old cowgirl...if she can do it, why can't we?

What's your pain issue? Do you know why you have it (i.e. a specific accident) or is it just wear and tear related? Have you been good and received actual medical care for it, or are you self-medicating? Does it affect your riding? Are you doing things like yoga or pilates to help regain your lost flexibility and strengthen your muscles to help deal with it? Why are we all so bad about taking care of ourselves?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Can I get an order of coordination with a side of balance?

Today I want to talk about coordination and balance - two things that often seem to desert us as we age. I noticed this recently when the VLC was having a stubborn streak (I caaaaan't go forward with a bit in my mouth, I caaaaan't, I caaaaan't) and I really needed to carry a whip and/or smack him with the end of the reins.

Well, I felt like I needed three arms. If I reached back to whack him on the butt, it was like I simultaneously lost my balance and didn't know how to steer all at the same time. I'd whack him on the butt to move him out of the balk but then he'd veer toward the middle before I could gather my reins back up and react. Now, bear in mind this is a Quarter Horse who really has to be ridden "pitched away" - aka on a very long, loose rein. I cannot, as I would on a Thoroughbred, simply grab up my reins so that they are short and I have more control. (But then, a Thoroughbred would probably not be balking in the first place!) He does move off of leg - when he wants to. I need to fine-tune the moving off of leg part so that I can ride him the way he needs to be ridden (aka all leg/seat and no hands) but in the meantime, he just needs to keep going forward and deal with the fact there is a bit in his mouth. So I decided to just go back to the round pen and that actually worked great. I didn't worry about steering - I just worried about keeping our forward momentum. Once you get the forward, they pretty much have to go to the wall in the round pen. He still wants to put his head on the ground, but he really isn't making the fussy faces about the bit that he used to.

Yeah, yeah, I know. He needs his mane done big time. Anyway, I bet I'm not the only person having these balance/coordination issues so what have you done that has helped? I keep hearing yoga and want to try to start that when my schedule eases up. What else?
Then I did the first "real" ride on Bessie. I've been on her and she's eaten hay and ignored me but today we took her and the baby to the round pen and, with Stephanie as my ground person, we walked both ways and reversed. Bessie was fine, but we have established there is no response whatsoever to leg. None. I suspect her riding was limited to "follow the leader" trail rides, which I am pretty sure I could do with her tomorrow. She doesn't react at all to the saddle, cinching, flopping all over on her back, etc. But when it comes to the aids? She's clueless. The only way we got forward motion is Stephanie giving her a tug, or Stephanie beckoning to her..."come on Bessie, come here!" LOL.

We had a bit of a laugh about this - I remember Mugwump's blog about how, when she worked for the Big K, she was supposed to get on the first ride and lope off. We would all like to see someone get on Bessie and lope off. Josie said she would not bet money on my being able to make her trot. I think we are going to have to work on longeing to teach voice commands and get some fitness level on this mare. She's quite, um, well-fed, and had a sweat mark from the girth after 10 minutes of walking with a rider. :-)

See, this is why I think Thoroughbreds are easy. You always have "forward" with Thoroughbreds!