Thursday, February 21, 2019

Sun and Smiles

I had a doctors appointment this morning and after looking at the forecast, and considering what I had to do at work and the drive to get there, I decided a mental health day was in order.

My view from the bathroom when I woke up. The apple tree still has some apples that are finally falling and the deer come to eat.
After my appointment (down nearly 10 lb and a whole %age of body fat! thank you stimulants) I hooked the truck up to the trailer and got ready to go out.  The footing is not good where I can ride at home, except maybe the front pasture, so I sought out some local barns to see if I could pay to come ride. One place, only a couple miles away, was open for haul-ins for $15.

If I can swing my schedule right and get out there every week, they offer unlimited haul ins for $45/month. It's really tempting.

Given that I have a big outing on Sunday with Gwyn, I was hoping to use today as a schooling session to remind her that we load nicely. Eric told me that she'd be great for today and a little shit on Sunday because that's how my life works.

True to form, Gwyn didn't run away when I approached, dressed to ride, with her halter. She stuck her nose in. Then we calmly walked out of the barn (Saffron tried to come with) and over to the trailer. I stood at the bottom of the ramp, she peered in, and then walked calmly on and started eating hay.

Oh mare. Don't get me wrong, I love that she self loads like this now. It is SO FAR from where she used to be, where she needed up to three people to get her on. I much prefer this. But I'll bet you now that she doesn't want to ride on Sunday.

 The place I found isn't on Google maps as a farm/location and I had scouted the drive earlier on my way to the doctor because it's all back roads. They were icy. Like the truck wasn't able to stop for a stop sign, icy. So when I went with the trailer I was SUPER cautious. Thankfully the sun had come out and the temperatures had risen well above freezing. The dirt roads were visible!
 The arena at this place wasn't super big, but it was indoors with better footing than what I had to work with. And I could easily practice some dressage tests. Plus, there was a set of three cavaletti set up in a corner and I've definitely wanted to get Gwyn working on that more so I incorporated it as much as I felt comfortable.
Gwyn loves barn kittens

 The lady who runs this place absolutely fell in LOVE with Gwyn. She was immediately talking about how sad it was her trakehner stud didn't have swimmers anymore because they'd be a great pairing.

Okay lady, sure. Not really planning to breed Gwyn presently.

I wasn't too thrilled with the attention she was lavishing on her, but she was pretty familiar with rider biomechanics and if anything, she might be able to help me there. She did immediately notice that tracking left Gwyn falls in on the inside, but also that I am uneven too, and I sink weight into my right foot while my left barely takes any weight and that probably contributes a ton. I'm going to keep that in mind as I go through reading my new to me Mary Wanless books!

She did offer to help with those biomechanical issues, which I'm hesitantly curious about taking her up on. I know I have issues. Eyes on the ground would be very very helpful.
Still agonizing over how to tame this mane for Sunday...
 I started out just working on reestablishing the feeling of inside leg to outside rein and not having a giraffe under me. We lost the connection a little when I moved into trotting, but were able to gain it back. She kept pulling me to the trot poles and did really well in both directions with them.
 Then I pulled up the Intro USDF tests and did a walk through of each, and then a dress rehearsal. They're pretty quick and easy.

Intro A is like a figure 8 of trotting. Enter at A in a trot, X working walk, track right, working trot. You trot circle at A, go immediately into a trot across the diagonal to change direction and trot circle at C, then walk, walk through the diagonal and down the center line at a walk, halt salute.

Intro B has enter working trot, halt through the walk at X, salute. Trot and track left. Circle at E, working walk before A, free walk across the short diagonal (F - E) to change rein, working trot, circle at B, continue in working trot to center line, halt at X, salute.
 She wasn't as forward as I wanted and I think I'll carry a whip on Sunday. I tried asking for some canter at the end and she just was not having it and porpoised several times. It has been a few months since I asked her to carry herself with any regularity so I finished by asking for a nice forward trot circle without snide commentary from her. We got that and I called it done.
 Afterwards, we headed over to pick up a prescription I needed and Gwyn got to play the "Standing on the Trailer while Mom goes in the store" game. She got a giant apple for waiting.

Overall, I'm really pleased with the work I got done today with her. I'm really excited for Sunday, and hopefully I'll be able to get media. The friend who was going to meet me isn't able to anymore. My fall back is to stick my Go Pro on a tripod before I go in for my test. If it's charged I can just leave it running since there's only one person between my two ride times.

I really want her to have more experience in a legit dressage ring and Sunday will provide that! Now to clean tack and my tall boots!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

For Fun: Favorite Ooops Picture

I saw a facebook post about what happens when you try to take a panoramic of a horse and rider and the results were obviously hilarious and it sent me looking for my own example. Google photos helpfully tried to stitch together a series of photos I took while lunging Gwyn.

So here it is, from one of my favorite places I've boarded (25 acres, huge fields, trails, access to more trails, and access to the Snohomish River, just had to deal with occasional flooding, now it's an A level H/J place, I had to leave when it got sold to them)

Emma has a Brontosaurus with Charlie. I have Sleipnir minus two legs.

Picture ca. May 2013 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cold and Still Icy

After the dressage clinic I was determined to get out and try to school some basic stuff on Gwyn, just working on her reaching into the contact. I had visions of us trotting around the arena. I like to pre-visualize my rides. It helps me mentally prepare what I'm about to try and do physically.

Kaylee also wanted to ride when she saw me heading out to the barn so I waited for her to get dressed before leaving the house. It was fairly 'warm' compared to some of the recent temperatures in that it was almost at freezing and there was no wind.

Kaylee made sure to brush out all the shavings from Gwyn's tail

 Since Kaylee wanted to ride and in her saddle, I lunged first to see how Gwyn was behaving.

Lazy. And while the arena was no longer a full sheet of ice, it was basically like concrete (edit: Eric informs me that that IS a type of concrete -.- ) with pockets of ice and snow. Pretty much the sand was waterlogged and it had frozen. Ugh. No trotting. And definitely not even a forward walk.

 Kaylee at least had a blast and Gwyn was in the "this footing is terrible, I'd rather not move" frame of mind so we really had a chill time.
 An instagram friend was selling one of those awesome rainbow metalled bits in a size and style that fit Gwyn and I jumped on the chance to buy it because pretty.  So we tested that out today.
Favorite View
 Kaylee opted to go inside once she was done. I switched everything over to my tack that I intend to take to the dressage show. All that's missing from this set up is a sparkly brown browband with purple/rainbow accents to match my bridle. I'm also using my nice cushy reins that I got at WEG.
Mom, do we HAVE to practice connection?
 I kept things to a walk and my big goal was to not have giraffe moments and to keep a semblance of bend to the inside without her dropping her shoulder. It all went pretty well. My new portable speaker worked great. I got to ride to music which kept the monotony of just walking bearable.
Gwyn tried to shut the gate on Saffron
 Then Saffron pushed open the gate and I thought, why not ride the hill in the pasture. So we did that too.
The hill is not icy, but the ground has no give to it. I do wonder if the front pasture might be better cushioned if it has more grass. Or if the farm fields are better.

Mare nuzzles <3
Then Gwyn voluntarily walked back into the pasture and we just hung out for a bit. I hopped off so I could bring in my mobile mounting block (my 3 step ladder is frozen into the sand) 

And I officially signed up to ride Intro A and B at a schooling show on February 24. I just want to be able to school some trotting before then and I need to strategize how I'll accomplish that.

Also, should I braid for this? When I talked to the show organizer I got the impression that when they've held this in the past, the adults have gone all out to practice everything, while the kids stick with a nice winter type shirt (no show coat).  Gwyn's mane is in this in between crud from her roach and I legit have never braided short mane before.

I plan to wear my white breeches, tall boots and then I'm torn on wearing a coat or just a nice sweater or a long sleeve wool shirt with a vest. I don't have a legit riding coat, just half of a suit coat from job interviews that could pass. Any advice there?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Forward and SHOULDER IN

Today I had a chance to audit a dressage clinic at Trainer A's barn, given by Hokan Thorn. She's who I've taken a couple dressage lessons from last year and plan to return to once it's not ice in my trailer loading area. Auditing was free and I was all over it!

I arrived in the middle of Trainer A's first ride on her Grand Prix horse, Marco. The second rider was also at a Grand Prix level.

 I don't have a whole lot of media as my preference was to be watching to see if I could identify what was changing in the the horse's carriage as the rider corrected herself from the instruction from Hokan. I was also writing notes down.

I was hoping to see some riders with issues that were nearer to the ones that I face. I obviously wasn't going to relate as closely to advice given to people riding at GP. I will share it here, regardless.

  • Collection is more power and more activity, but never slower
  • Use shoulder in/shoulder fore to shorten the length of the neck and learn to carry more weight on the inside hind leg
  • However you don't want them getting too high in the neck. Still want them to reach into contact
  • Marco and Tango both had huge tantrums when they were asked to increase the activity in their hind end during passage and piaffe without also raising the front

I feel like Gwyn and I could do the exercise on the left. That's not out of our skill set currently and would be a good practice for eventual lead changes in the canter.
He had Tango's rider do the above exercise to warm up and school changes. He really wanted the emphasis on the feel of shoulder in as they were in the corner, right before the cue to canter and was really pleased when the horse was offering a spirited canter depart. He did NOT like the horses to be working in a flat gait at any point except when they were done. 

Practicing 1s on Marco

Tango's rider apparently had trouble with her 2s and 1s so she was schooling them a lot. Either her cues were muddled or the horse was anticipating the changes. She nailed 2s fairly easily but struggled on the 1st going all the way across the diagonal. The rhythm wasn't there. He wanted her to break it down and only do a set of 3. And then when they brought it back to a longer set, he had her think in terms of 2-3-2 going across the diagonal. I could see how mentally reframing it that way might help in the saddle. I'm not sure Gwyn and I will EVER be schooling something like that, however. Lofty goal ;)

Overall, I heard a LOT of FORWARD in a german/swedish accent being hollered across the arena. He did take some time to assist with half steps for piaffe to increase the action in the hind for both horses. Neither appreciated it. Both threw tantrums.

After that Alison brought out her up and coming gelding. In comparison to the hulky beefcake GP guys that had just been in the arena, this youngster was SO NARROW and gangly. He was a 4 year old who'd had a few health issues that he was still recuperating from and so his training was behind. He was definitely baby-minded and kind of adorable in his antics.

She started lunging him and getting him to accept contact in the side reins. He had a bunch of baby moments on the lunge line, including a lot of cross firing in his canter, which really made me sit forward and pay attention because that's similar to Gwyn and I was really hoping that this would be fruitful. And I do consider Gwyn very much equivalent to a baby dressage horse in that she's still learning to seek contact in the bridle.

  • use a leading inside rein around corners with steady outside
  • want to encourage forward, but not curling behind the bit (this gelding's favorite evasion)
    • solution: lift hands to bap him to get him to push his nose out, steady, then push him forward
  • don't want your leading rein to be restricting though
  • always a forward connection when riding babies
  • when turning with baby horses stick to basics (not the shoulder in/fore, it will only encourage more curling behind evasion)
    • turn from the outside shoulder, they should feel the outside rein on their neck
    • keep baby horses bodies straight
    • think 2x4 from tail to the ears

Next up was a self admitted newer rider on a half andalusion. Very chunky mare. She was being ridden in a double bridle despite only schooling 4th because the mare had a habit of running away with the rider if she was just in a snaffle.
Hokan's advice: Ride 4 times in a row in the double, on the fifth day only do the snaffle and see what happens. Alternatively, use a straight driving bit loose ring with no bumpies for spanish breeds.

Rider also described not being able to really get the mare straight or even do the whole shoulder in/shoulder fore to get her working more in contact. 

The mare was very dull and flat to the aids and the rider was struggling to increase the engagement demanded by Hokan.
My notes for her:

  • Lots of inside leg to outside rein plus FORWARD
  • never let the inside leg fall to the inside
  • active hind legs ALL the time (i.e. the feel the of forward even if working in collection)
  • want the horse pushing and going by herself
  • when you say "puff!" she better PUFF
  • more transitions so the horse comes back without losing engagement.
I left before this rider was finished as it was nearly dinner and I'd promised I'd go grocery shopping.

There are things that I want to work on with Gwyn. I know that when I remember how to actually do the whole inside leg to outside rein I have a horse in a much nicer frame. I'm hoping that tomorrow, with temperatures in the high 20s, my arena won't be a sheet of ice and I can actually sit on my horse safely.

There's a dressage schooling show at the end of this month about an hour away. I really REALLY want to go and ride Intro A/B for the miles in the dressage ring. But I need to actually ride between now and then.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Ovation Winter Riding Mitten Review

Video Review here! Taken deep into the freeze.

Long story short, they are a good purchase at a great price and handled negative Fahrenheit temperatures quite well. I was not compensated in anyway for making this.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Consequences of the Polar Vortex

Last I left off, we were trundling through the cold temperatures just fine. I felt guilty about putting the heavier blanket on Gwyn and switched it for the sheet for the worst of the temperature drops. I don't clip her at this point in the season so I feel like I could do more harm by blanketing than not. Anyway. Keeping a horse at home is like a constant series of self doubt regarding your decision making for the health of your horse because you've got no one to blame but yourself. 

Friday Jan 25
 In preparation for the snow storm, and in anticipation that the horses wouldn't want to voluntarily leave their stalls, I pulled out my square bale hay net and stuck a full bale in Gwyn's stall (and eventually outside). She was a big fan of it and each time I checked on them they would always have hay. It made me feel better since I know that grazing is the best way to keep them warm and this was a slow feed tiny hole hay net.

Monday Jan 28
 The snow arrived Monday afternoon. I went into work against my better judgement because I had a client that always sends samples every monday that I wanted to get done. I left early as reports were the roads were terrible. And they were.

I tossed some hay into the run just to get Gwyn out of my hair while I cleaned her stall

As suspected, the horses pretty much got out into the wind and went "NOPE" and hustled back to their stalls. They had the option to go anywhere in the pasture and footprints tell the whole story, lol

Tuesday Jan 29
 Eric tried to go to work on Tuesday but got the Volt stuck in the drifts on the driveway. He pretty much gave up on working on location for the rest of the week, especially once other events happened later. His work told him to work from home anyway.

On tuesday, I opted to stay home. Our roads are notorious for not being cleared as well as the ones closer to metro Detroit. When one of our friends (who did try to get to work) reported that he had slowly spun out and landed in the opposing lane of traffic despite not going fast, I knew I was staying home. Sorry, not sorry, coworkers.

This meant I got to watch the horses cavorting in the snow, since the wind had died down and it was no longer snowing heavily.

Keep the volume down, there's children shrieking in the background.

The polar vortex was imminent. I bundled up to leave the house for chores.

Tuesday night was going to be the worst so far as windchill went. I loaded up their water and hay, with lots of extra loose hay and shut the stall doors. 

Saffron was NOT amused. She wanted to hang out in the barn aisle, not her stall.

Best Spouse (TM) had hot tea waiting for me when I came inside.

Fri Feb 1
 Thursday was another cold night but I left the barn open. It wasn't going to be as bad, more just plain cold temperatures rather than cold + wind. Again, lots of hay. On Friday I pulled off Gwyn's rain sheet as the temperatures were going to shoot up. Friday was mid teens but positive and felt amazing. Gwyn was fat, shiny and happy under her sheet.
Evidence of wind: Snow drifts over a foot deep

Saturday Feb 2
 Temperatures rose above freezing on Saturday. When I went out to check the barn, I immediately stepped into ankle deep water. Water was everywhere. Gwyn's stall was totally flooded, ruining all of the bedding I'd had in there for the temperature drop.

Thankfully all of my hay was on high enough ground.

Sunday Feb 3
 I took advantage of a second day of abnormally warm temperatures to pick up all the poop that had frozen to the ground during the temperature drop. The stalls I left alone except to pile the wasted bedding into one big mound to better facilitate water drainage.
Nosy mare

Meanwhile, Eric brought out our aquaponics pump and rigged it for the pond of water in the barn. It worked!

It just doesn't have anywhere to go thanks to the frozen ground

 He did figure out part of the culprit was a rodent hole at the back of my grooming/storage stall. The water was coming in from off the hill and since it couldn't drain well, it was just backing up into the barn. We will be fixing that hole asap. I also want to regrade around the barn, trouble is we don't have a lot of elevation change to work with to facilitate drainage.

Now this evening the water has receded significantly from 24 hours previous. We're supposed to get rain tomorrow.  -.- 

Gwyn's stall

In front of Gwyn's stall

Grooming/Storage no longer under water! 
Saffron's stall

My grain room has remained dry. My hay is dry. There is dry land for the horses to stand on so they don't get horridly thrushy. I hung Gwyn's hay in a dry spot outside since the weather is mild.

We will get through this. I wish it had just stayed cold. :/