Trailer Update – Getting Closer!

Well, I finally loaded Joy in the trailer, tied her up, and closed the divider. Yay!

She handled it well. A tiny bit nervous, but no shenanigans. When I opened it back up, she calmly stood and waited. And when I untied her, she simply dropped her head to eat the hay on the floor.

I was so nervous though. Felt like my heart was going a million beats per minute. Eek!

I want to try locking her in one more time, and have her stand in there by herself for several minutes, before trying a short trailer ride around the block. I want to see if it is being alone in the trailer that triggers her to explode, or if it’s something else. I don’t know if it’s the noise outside the trailer, or movement of the trailer, or physically leaving her buddies that causes the rearing and bashing herself behavior.

We’re going to try to isolate the specific cause and then see if we can get her over it. If she handles a few minutes of standing quietly locked up, even with noises outside, then we’ll try a short trailer ride. If she doesn’t, then we’ll go back a step and get her used to more noises outside while not locked in.

Then again, maybe she won’t even bat an eye at it anymore. I don’t know why she freaked when we hauled her home. And I’m not sure when, or if, it will occur again. Maybe I’m fretting over nothing? Maybe all she needed was to get used to being in there and hauling won’t be an issue now? Maybe she’ll explode the second the trailer moves?

I don’t know. We’ll just keep plugging away at it until she figures out it’s not a bad thing.

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And, one step backward

I tried getting the same feeling of connection with Joy out in the field the following ride. it didn’t go so well. I did get a few steps at the end that felt sort of connected and more relaxed in the contact. It wasn’t as solid as it had been yesterday.  I’m positive the issue was the straightness, but I couldn’t identify exactly why she wasn’t straight… only that she didn’t feel straight.

However, Ava… holy cow that horse is awesome! We’re out in the field doing trot work and I half halted her to set her up for a small downward slope in the trail… and Ava floated. That big, lofty trot she used to do. It feels so neat. There’s so much space between foot falls that it really does feel like you’re floating above the ground.

Ironically, I got tired before Ava did. Staying centered and balanced on a big trot takes a lot of strength. I end up feeling like I got a cardio workout when we’re done.

 

One leap forward

I decided Joy needs a better routine for overall fitness.  I had been focusing on arena work so that I had better control in scary situations.  I think we’re at a point where Joy is trained enough that we can handle a majority of the scary situations out there (except cars,  those are still demons that eat horses).

My new plan is to build up her stamina and endurance by doing circuit training in the back field.  One loop walk,  one loop trot,  etc. Eventually build up to doing a full loop at canter both directions (or at least most of a loop)

Yesterday,  I hopped on and we headed out to the back field. On the buckle most of the way out (except for the scary mud we had to cross). Got to the back field and walked a loop with Joy forward,  but relatively calm. She was looking,  but not overly reactive. 

At the end of the first loop there’s the new house with the weird piles of building material,  dirt,  etc. Joy got a little tense,  but I let her observe the area for a while and then she was fine. 

At the start of the second loop,  we trotted.  It started off more like a jog trot.  I was nervous.  I pushed her forward into a working trot and Joy settled right in.  We passed the scary bushes,  the weird tree,  no issues.

I figured that since I finally have a few nice straight lines bordering the field,  that I’d try to work on pushing Joy into the contact to see if I could get her to push up through and into it from behind.  I started off too wishy washy in my contact,  but once I gave her a solid spot and said “this is where we are meeting”  she settled right into it with what almost seemed like relief.  Her head and neck dropped,  her shoulders seemed to elevate some,  i felt her back swing more,  and best of all her nose stayed verticle (not behind the verticle). Eventually I’d like to be able to put her nose slightly in front of verticle.  I couldn’t get it yesterday.  I’ll keep trying. 

We only got a little over a quarter of a loop before Joy was breathing hard.  When we dropped into walk her back was really swinging!  It felt neat!

We did that a few more times and I was able to get that same feeling.  I was really,  really happy with how Joy responded.  Not only did she stay focused and relaxed,  but I feel like that’s the first time I’ve successful gotten her back and core engaged for more than one stride.  And it’s the first time I’ve really gotten her to meet the hand and willingly stay there. 

Hopefully I can duplicate this next time, and then be able to build on it.  Usually I get something to work and then next time it elludes me.  So we’ll see…

I’m definitely making this a core component of my training from now on.  If I can keep her using herself correctly,  and then slowly build up her stamina,  we’ll be golden.

Wish me luck!!

Nothing cues quitting quite like a canter does

I thought Joy was reacting badly to the leg.  She kept crow hopping. I tried to keep my leg off,  but it didn’t seem to make a difference.  I thought maybe the whip was accidently hitting her,  so I dropped it.  She still crop hopped. I worried it was a balance issue,  a saddle issue,  a saddle pad issue,  a back issue…  I was worried, but nothing seemed wrong other than this hop step behind. 
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Next ride,  still hopping.  She was tense,  excited.  I tried to refocus her attention. I accidently bumped her with the outside leg and she promptly picked up a canter.  One circle around and back to trot.  Then we had a relaxed and attentive trot.  No more hopping behind. I think she was anticipating the canter.  We usually canter,  then we quit.  Oops.

She was fine the rest of the ride.  No hops,  no skips.  I’ll have to change up our routine more. 
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I figured out the loop around the back field is 1.17 miles start/end at my barn.  Ava is now trotting about half of that (quarter trot,  quarter walk,  etc).  We even trotted down the slopy part in a balance frame.  I’m feeling more optimistic about her future.  She doesn’t feel lame.  She’s powering through from behind.  She is moving much better in the pasture free,  and bearing more weight on that left hind when left to her own devices. A few more weeks,  she should be fit enough to trot an entire loop. 

I need to do this with Joy also. I’ve been doing too much arena work and not enough just fitness/endurance work.  Plus,  break up her routine and get her more comfortable in the open field.

First Quarter 2016 Update

I’ve been trying to ride both Ava and Joy at least 4 times a week. It’s good for me because I need the saddle time to work on my strength, position, and riding.  I’m exhausted after riding both of them. I don’t know how people who ride more than 2 a day do it. Times like these, I’m glad I’m an Adult Ammy.

Ava:

Approximately three weeks of riding 2 to 5 times a week. We’re doing straight lines and a few small hills.  I’m only incorporating small amounts of trot work still. Mostly walk for 30 minutes with one minute of trotting, twice during the 30 mins. When we first started, she was hitchy at the trot. I could feel it when I posted off the right diagonal. The last couple of rides she’s felt smooth and even between the two diagonals.

It seems like this is working well for Ava. Not only does she move better already, but she seems happier and more relaxed in general too. She’s almost back to her lovable, happy self again.

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April 12th – The left hind doesn’t step as far forward as, nor does it articulate as much as, the right hind.

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Joy:

I’m really focused on canter work this spring. I left off last year with being happy if she even fell into a canter at some point. This spring we’re working on balance, promptness, and understanding the canter aids. I’ve started carrying a whip to encourage a more prompt response to the aid. We’re currently crow hopping into the canter, but at least she’s picking it up promptly.

She’s also just starting to allow me to rebalance her once we’re in the canter. We aren’t flying around the arena pell-mell as much, or feeling like we’re going to fall or trip at any moment. I’m actually getting a positive response when I half-halt with my seat. She still loses her balance a lot, but we’re getting a couple strides here and there where we can exist in a semblance of balance. It’s a huge improvement for her!

We’re also starting to be able to pick up the right lead canter with right bend. Not every time, and not elegantly, but it’s improving bit by bit.

I’ve taken Joy on a few solo trail rides this spring. We passed deer, dogs, construction, etc. She’s been nervous, but sane. Yesterday I took her for a trail ride with my neighbors. I was able to ride her on the buckle almost the entire ride. I feel like this year she’s finally developing her own confidence in herself and her rider. She seems more sure of herself, more confident, this year.

And last for Joy, we’re still working on the trailer. I’m dreading closing the stall partitions and then trying a first haul. It makes me so nervous, and Joy is really good at picking up on that. However, I so badly want to start taking her to new locations, take lessons, and start showing. Right now she’s comfortable in the trailer as long as there isn’t something really loud going on outside.

Farm Update:

Hubby has dubbed the place “Poopy Farms”. Unfortunately, the name seems to be sticking. I’m going to have to make up t-shirts with a farm logo for Poopy Farms.

Hubby cut down the remaining scrub pine tree’s in the pasture. These were the major cause of so many cuts, puncture wounds, and scraps that they had to go. The picture below is about half of the line of pine tree’s hubby cut down and hauled out.

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Joy thought she’d lend a helping hand.
(all of the stumps were cut to ground level after we hauled the tops to the burn pile.)

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The newly pine free pasture!  Yay!

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Side Note:

Joy was snoozing in the pasture the other day, laying down. She let me walk right up to her and scratch her withers for a good 5 minutes. I have never, to this day, been able to walk up to Ava while she’s laying down (not unless she’s really sick. As in, it’s a bad sign if you can do that to Ava). But Joy, she was happy as a clam to snooze and get wither scratches! I really love this pony!

Ode to Pony

I’m an older adult on a small pony mutt.
In the world of dressage this makes me a nut.

I dream of a day I can wisk pony away, but fear judges will struggle for nice things to say.

My goal as dressage diva is hard to maintain when my steed is the size of a smallish great dane.

I’ve trimmed and I’ve primped her to look good in a braid,  but her weird pony mane can only look frayed.

I wrapped her in polos and even white bells, but instead of Valegro its Ms. Tinker Bell.

Riding a pony can be quite the thrill, there’s nothing quite like it, it quite fits the bill.

But its hard not to feel just a touch of animus, when even the OTTB’s have more street cred than us.

😂

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Craziness

Yesterday the mares spent the day resting up for their grand shenanigans.

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Joy, who is normally a very sane and reliable pony, was the embodiment of a fire breathing dragon last night. I had forgone lunging due to how well she’s been the past two weeks, and was arrogantly sliding a leg over her when things first started to get out of hand. First we’re bolting off, then comes the mini-rearing, then bolting, then up and down, and forward with slamming stops. I get her back in line and proceed to try every trick I know to relax her and get her to focus. Slowly, it starts working. Very slowly… She’s  starting to relax. She’s starting to bend and release her body bit by bit.

That is when a not particularly loud car goes by…

And… we’re in the air, we’re bolting forward, we’re leaping around like a wild cat has attached itself to her ass and she must free herself or perish.

I jump off at that point, went and grabbed the lunge line and had a heart to heart with Joy about her station in life. She was not particularly happy with me.

After the little lunge lesson, I hopped back on. I was attempting to work on some connection at the trot, but she was still tense and when Joy gets tense she curls. So instead, we went for a trail ride. Alone. Probably stupid considering how energetic she had just been, but she seemed to have regained her brain and I wasn’t going to get anything accomplished in the arena that evening anyway.

She’s not quite relaxed by herself on trail rides yet, but she’s (usually) very sensible about things that scare her.  We walked all the way out to the far edge of the back field, past the new house they’re building with all of it’s equipment and building supplies, down toward the brush line and then back up along it. Finished up with a jiggy walk down Fellah’s lane to get home, so we did a little more work in the arena (to reiterate that we don’t rush home for dinner).  I was really happy with how well the trail ride went considering last year at this time I was still working on steering/stopping and we hadn’t left the confines of our fenced in pasture. Now we’re trail blazing by ourselves! It was fun.

Then I rode Ava. Far less drama than Joy’s ride, thankfully.  I was tired, and I wasn’t sure how much more tossing about I could handle. I did get the usual head flipping, “I don’t wanna”, “are you sure I can’t bolt back to the barn now” behaviors from Ava, but nothing overly crazy. We’re basically just walking up and down the middle of the pasture. Then we trot up and down the middle of the pasture a few times. Then walk some more. Trying to keep it straight lines. The vet said she has to lose a bit more weight before she’s at a healthy level, and exercise is the best option. It’s either this or the $125/month medication which I can’t afford. I still think that left hind is bothering her.

 

But then I see her in the field doing crazy stuff like this:

She doesn’t seem bothered by it in the pasture. She’ll barrel down the entire length of the pasture and come screeching to a halt in the stall.

Spring Thunderstorm

It hailed. The horses can go in and out of their stalls at any time. Instead, Joy was freaking out in the paddock going “It hurts! I don’t know why it hurts, but it hurts!”

I grab her and pull her inside. She gave me this look like “Wow! It stopped hurting!!”. She dove into the hay I had put down and happily munched it as buckets of rain and hail poured down.

I had to coax Jessie into her stall with a bucket of grain as a bribe. She would rather stand in hail then spend a minute locked in the stall. I locked her in anyway.

Ava, the smart one, stood dry and calm in her stall.

A week later, snow is fiercely wipping around on 40mph winds. I bribe Jessie inside again and quietly sneak through the other stall so I can slide Jessie’s outer door shut without her knowing. Jessie hears and starts to bolt out, but stops when I block the door with my body. I half-thought she might run me down to get out. She used to do that. I see the thought cross her mind. She stands, watching me as I shut her in.

A day later the skies are clear, the insects are coming out, the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming. All of the horses and dogs are outside rolling in the dirt and grass. Lazing in the warmth of the sun.

Two days later and everything is covered in snow. The dog bowls and puddles are frozen. The barn cats are huddled together for warmth. Jessie stands alone in the pasture, her butt to the wind. I try to coax her in with hay. Joy and Ava are already eating theirs in their stalls. Jessie acknowledges the offering but refuses to budge, so i bring it to her. I believe she’s nearly got me trained.

I found a big piece of plastic in Ava’s stall today. It looked old, and doesn’t match any of our bedding bags or other things we keep in the barn. No idea where it came from. Not sure where Ava found it, but apparently no one is worse for it. I had one hand with a flake, plastic piece in the other. I toss the flake in Joys stall and think “Wonder what would happen if I shake the plastic vigorously?” Joy – continues to eat hay. Ava – OMERGHAD!!!!!

She had the good sense to look abashed once she realized what it was.

I shook it some more, rubbed it all over Joy, flung it around her legs. Plastic is not something Joy fears.

My Grandma died Saturday night. I was cleaning stalls Sunday and trying not to cry. I was fine all day. I’m not sure why cleaning stalls would be the trigger. My Grandma was quite the woman. She was a petite woman. Small in stature, small in size. I bet she never broke a hundred pounds in her life. But she was tough. She was the type of lady that could skin a coon, kill a chicken, keep a myriad of little hellions running around safe, all while cooking a Thanksgiving meal for a massive family. And she’d do it all with a happiness and warmth that exceeded all human possibilities.

I judged all other grandma’s against her. Will yours clean up dog vomit with the aplomb of a field medic that had seen combat? Mine did. Did yours make the worlds greatest dill pickles? Mine did. Did yours let you go milk the cows and feed the calves whenever you visited? Ok, maybe somebody elses grandma did that too, but it was uber cool of her.

She left this big hole in the family.

Ironically, the last conversation with my grandma she told me, “If you put it on the horses feet, it’ll make them dance pretty”. Maybe she would’ve said the same to anyone, but before her mind went she used to know I was the only horse crazed grand kid.

It is snowing again today.
Tomorrow it’ll look more like spring.