Crossing Hurdles

We’re on the cusp of June, and I still don’t have Joy hauling yet. I’m disappointed in myself and my lack of progress. It’s my fault. I’m scared/nervous to take that next step (actually haul her). Joy’s ready, I just need to make that leap.

So disappointed in myself.

 

New goal… take Joy on trailer ride around the block this weekend.

I’m already anxiety riddled!!

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This next part is probably not interesting, but I wanted to write it down for my own benefit.

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I’ve been riding Joy rather consistently, but I’m not sure how to recap it.  I had hubby take video the end of April, and video a week or two into May, and I realized I had turned Joy into a nervous ball of tension by focusing on canter and canter departs so much. So I backed off on that. I’m working on bending and trying to get her equally bearing weight on all 4 legs (instead of loading the left more than the right). A lot of leg yield to the right with oomphf to get her to evenly distribute the weight. But mainly bending. I’m having a heck of a time with the bending. I don’t know if it’s because she’s so compact, or so crooked in her body, or her rider suckers (probably that one), but wow.. it’s a long, slow slog, Every Single Ride, to get her to loosen up and bend through that short little back of hers.

Because of this, I reintegrated Shoulder-In and Haunches-In to the program. Still at the walk. These seem to really help her overall. Not only does it make her think about what she’s doing (she’s got an active mind), but it also seems to relax her while focusing her.

I also introduced Shoulder-In to Renver at the walk. And by golly, she got it after the third attempt. I thought it would blow her mind, but nope… she handled it like a pro. That one seemed to really help her suppleness through her body. Her walk afterward was much bigger and more swingy.

I’ve just started introducing SI/HI in trot again the last two rides. I played with it a bit last year, and earlier this spring, but it was not good. Last ride though, she gave me a few nice strides both directions. It felt like it was easier for her, like she could hold the bend and the forward better. It wasn’t as stilted. Nothing I’d want to show anyone yet, but it’s getting better.

I did notice that in Haunches-In to the right she was tilting her head (both walk and trot) quite dramatically at times. She doesn’t seem to do this going left. After trying everything I could think of to fix it, I finally stumbled on counter flexing her just slightly, and that seemed to help. Then we went back to true flexion and her head stayed fairly straight. I’m not sure if it was a symptom of losing her outside shoulder some, or if she just needed to release her poll a bit, or maybe counter flexing caused me to release the death grip I had on the inside rein. Not sure…

The other thing I tried with some success was when going to the right, I was circling Joy in every corner and her left shoulder kept escaping (sometimes a lot, sometimes a little). So I tried a fellow bloggers idea of holding that outside rein a bit stronger, really steady, and then really pushing her into the left rein with the inside leg. We struggled with that for a few corners, I was about to junk the idea and move on when suddenly it worked. She bent! The shoulder stayed under her, she quieted her chomping, and she navigated the circle smoothly. We moved on to something else after that, but I’m hoping I can duplicate the results again next ride. I’m worried about using this technique again though because I’m not entirely sure I understand the why of it. I’ll have to research it some more. I can get too strong, and this technique could totally play into my need to death grip the reins.

All of this bending work helps Joy’s trot. We start off pretty pathetic, but towards the end her trot feels a lot nicer. A bit more impulsion, she’s not rushing, she feels more balanced and like she’s finding it easier to carry me. Oh, and she’s able to respond quicker to the seat/leg aids. Which, duh! but, sometimes I have to crawl my way to the answers…

Having said all of that… I still really need to get that canter tuned up, refined. Heck, I’d settle for sort of balanced half the time. I keep hoping that the stronger and more supple I can make her, the easier that canter will get for her. But the other half of me is like “Canter will only get better if you canter!!”. Yet, cantering really gets Joy nervous. I don’t blame her. The arena is up/down and on a slope, she’s not balanced, we’ve no room to go straight at any point in the arena… it’s really hard for her. I may have to bite the bullet and take her out back to the field to canter on a straight line. The main issue is that *I* get nervous out there, by ourselves, cantering next to the woods where the deer like to crash through the brush and send Joy skittering in the opposite direction.

Oh, I almost forgot… we’ve also been playing with walk pirouette. Sometimes we get a few steps that are nice. Most of the time I bungle it. She gets the idea of it, but we lose momentum because she’s not really in front of my aids yet. I was happy that she understood the idea of what I was asking for. She tried, and she didn’t get frustrated or upset about it. So that was good. I can’t find a good happy point of being “in front of the aids” and relaxed. We’re either FORWARD to the max and super tense, or no go button but relaxed.

Other than that… we’ve been a few trail rides. Joy surprised me one particular day by throwing a mini-tantrum when I asked her to leave the other horses (to go home). She literally jumped straight up into the air with all four feet. The neighbor who saw this said we got about a foot off the ground. I figure if the pony can toss herself and my fat ass into the air that high, then she might make a decent dressage pony yet. Of course, after that we couldn’t just go home and quit, so I took her back out to the field behind the neighbors house and worked on a big forward trot with connection (which surprisingly she gave me), then I took her home and worked her a bit more in the arena trying to find that sweet spot of long and low yet connected (still super iffy on this. Not going so well). Our following trail ride was a very calm experience, and Joy had no issues leaving her buddies once it was time to head home.

Last thought…  Joy is deathly afraid of the big, black muddy puddle on the edge of the neighbors property. Not that I blame her, but it’s not like I asked her to walk through it.. I just wanted to walk PAST it. Instead, she threw herself backwards at light speed and we almost crashed down the embankment behind us. I think she’s afraid of the water. I already know she hates black earth, but combine black earth with water and Joy loses her shit. So yesterday, we had a dark, water logged, muddy puddle in the yard and I made Joy walk through it several times. It took me jumping around in it like an idiot for a few minutes before Joy joined me, but she finally did. Not sure Eventing Pony is in Joy’s future….maybe… we’ll see.

 

 

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Not even close

I have poison ivy on both arms and one hand.
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I think I like this new bit on Joy. She still fusses, still chomps, but she feels less combative. I’m not sure how to describe it. I used to take hold and Joy would respond with a “You wanna fight, I’ll fight!”. Now it’s met with a maybe, and then a gradual softening. Not that she doesn’t go back to “Hell no” five seconds after she figures out that what I was really asking for was hard, but I’m getting more of a cooperative response overall.

I get on Joy today expecting a bit of a wild ride. It snowed last night, it’s cold today (low 50’s), it’s super windy. This should be crazy town weather, right? I get on and realize Joy’s idea of work today means slowly plodding around the ring and stopping frequently, maybe snatching some grass around the outside too.

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I revved her up too much to start, and she popped in a few crow hops to show her displeasure. Haha She’s so little her crow hop is like a trot stride on a normal horse.

She settled in to work quickly though.

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I cantered Joy and then asked for a trans to trot. Joy wants to put her head between her knees.

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“Uh, what are you doing?”.

Literally, this is all Joy wants to do for the next couple of minutes.

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We’re taking long and low to a whole new extreme! Haha

She did finally bring her head up after a bit.
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I get done cantering Joy and Jessie (the 31 year old mare) starts cantering around the pasture. Not scared, not anxious, just cantering around like “See, I’m better at cantering than you are!” It was funny.

Anyway, we won’t be ready for even a basic training level test for a while, but we’re getting a few more pieces solidified. And we’re actually cantering and picking up the correct lead nearly every time. It’s not pretty, but it’s a canter. Ha.

Oh, and clipper training… Joy doesn’t care about the noise or the vibration. The fact that the thing had the audacity to blow air on her nose? Horrendous! She refuses to go near the damn things now. She is really funny about things touching her nose. It makes her nose itch, and she utterly hates that. She will let you do anything to her and won’t blink an eye, but God save you if you make her nose itch!! So now the clippers are hanging next to her feed bucket and I turn them on every feeding. She doesn’t care about the noise, but if they blow air on her nose it’s the end of the freaking world.

It was cute, in a frustratingly endearing kind of way.

Mishmash of Things

I got a new bit for Joy. I’ve only ridden her once in it, and all we did was walk. I didn’t notice a huge difference. I was hoping she’d find it significantly more comfortable, and therefore have a quieter mouth… but she chomped it as much as the other.

This requires more study. I’ll report back on results as they come.

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This spot in the yard used to scare the bejesus out of Joy at this time last year. She would turn into a horse shaped kite every time. Now, meh… Clover!

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Successfully loading on multiple occasions, while staying calm. Yay!

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Ava is weirdly shiny for a horse that hasn’t been bathed in 2 years. Wish the rest of my horses looked this shiny. Joy eats the exact same diet, and although she’s shiny, she’s not blind you shiny like Ava is. Must be a Friesian thing…

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(She’s wet in this pic.) I think she’s looking much fitter and healthier this spring.

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Our trail rides have been fun. This is our cool down lane. I drop the reins and do rider exercises through here (arms over head, to the sides, hit my hand on a passing tree, lift arms back up, back to the side and rotate 90 degree’s before I hit a hand on the next tree, etc).

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Mr. Stumpy has a hard life of sleeping, eating, and terrorizing feet.

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We have kittens again. This one is my fav. He’s the sole survivor of his litter (dead beat mom). Hubby had to sequester mom and kitten in a room to get her to finally nurse him. Now he’s a healthy, nearly weaned, biting machine.

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He has a hard life.

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Spiders…. I killed this giant beast today.

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This is really how big he was.

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I had so much fun on Ava tonight. We hand galloped through the field. Then I sat up, Ava collected under me, and we did this perfect 10m circle around our riding buddy. I probably broke Ava doing that. Tomorrow I’ll go out, and Ava will be 3 legged, hobbling around.. her left hind laying somewhere out in the pasture.

She’s been going like a top though. I haven’t asked anything of her but forward in straight lines while connected. She’s getting fitter. She doesn’t feel off to me.  Occasionally a bobble on the front end, but the back end feels even to me. She willingly, and easily picks up either canter lead and it feels even (whereas before she would balk at picking up the left, and once in it she felt like there wasn’t any strength there).

I should get her re-tested by the vet, but man, it was over $800 last time.  Even after that, they never did definitively find the problem. It was a diagnoses based on elimination. I hate those diagnosis’. There’s nothing to verify if the base issue is healed completely. I can’t just have them xray “the spot” and give me a verdict, because nothing ever showed up to begin with.

I’ll keep slowly upping her work load. If she even hints at having an issue with that stifle, I’ll back off. My fall back plan for Ava now is Xtreme Trail Riding! All she really has to do is walk over, around, through stuff. I think she can handle that.

Goal setting: Equestrians vs Non-Equestrians

I was surprised to learn that a non-equestrian would consider a goal utterly, and completely, failed due to missing one event.

However, it made me appreciate the goal setting knowledge I acquired while working with horses. And it highlighted the contrast between the equestrian defined goal versus the non-equestrian goal.

Non-Equestrian:

Non-Rider: “I will run the Jiggy 5K Race on April 18th, and my time will be between 15:20 and 20:45 for me to consider it a success.”

Equestrians:

Rider: “Bojangles and I will compete in the Ockalocka Dressage Show on May 28th, and receive scores of at least 60.”
Horse: “(May 28th) I lost my shoe.” Holds foot up.

Be flexible on timelines…Understand that dates are only one small measure of progress, and that these may need to be adjusted at a moments notice…

Rider: “Bojangles and I will improve our half-pass to show more reach and bend by the end of this month.”
Horse: “I know we did that half-pass thing last week, but what is this ‘steering’  thing you speak of?  Why are you putting your leg there?!? I can’t trot sideways AND forward!!”

Accept that progress is not linear…

Rider: “Bojangles and I will consider it a success if we can steer around the arena without spooking, bucking, or airs above the ground.”
Horse: “I don’t see any monsters. I’m quite happy to trot around in a relaxed frame.”

Celebrate the small victories when and where you find them…

Rider: “Bojangles and I will compete at Second Level by the end of next show season.”
Horse: “Oh,  you wanted to start Second Level this year? I now have an injury that will require at least 6 months off.  Good luck with your ‘goal’,  sucker! Feed me carrots!! ”

Never let a set back deter you… adjust your timeline and move on. 

Rider: “Let’s try a few short half-pass lines, again.”
Horse:
 “Oh, THIS half-pass thing! Why didn’t you say that yesterday? I can do that all day long.”

Learn when to push forward toward a goal, and when to back off….

Rider: “Bojangles and I will compete at Grand Prix in 12 years.”
Horse: “I can dance! No, I can’t. Wait…. maybe I can. Nope. I was wrong, screw you. Oh, never mind, this is easy. What? When did I say this was easy. I can’t possibly do this…
I’ve got this!!”

And understand that all those little and medium goals will one day build into achieving your long term goal, as long as you never quit trying…..

http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/how-make-grand-prix-horse

 

We only really fail when we quit.