Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Pony Club Goals

 A lot has changed in the 20 years since I graduated Pony Club (that hurt to write, by the way)

D-Rally in 1999 with Clyde
Notably, it's not just one rating. You can choose tracks like Eventing, Dressage, Hunter Seat Equitation or Western. You also have a Horse Management track. From what research I've been able to do, the Horse Management track might typically advance as you advance your mounted rating. And your Horse Management rating should equal or exceed your mounted rating. 

I'm a little weird. 
This rally was held at the Connecticut Audubon Society and Earle Park in Glastonbury Connecticut. I also remember doing my rating here. 

I graduated as a C-1 when I left Pony Club, in the time of you were done once you aged out at 21 years old. I figured I wouldn't be able to pursue riding through college and wouldn't be able to push my rating further. Then they added Horse Masters, and then just rolled adult membership back into the club as a whole. And changed up how the rating worked so people could still advance without needing to jump. And became more inclusive with Hunter Seat Eq and Western. 

Glastonbury Pony Club maintains a riding ring, and a whole ass cross country course.

Now when I look at my rating, it lists me as C-1 EV (eventing) and D-3 HM (horse management).

2005 would be when I aged out

But the chart of learning states that riding certifications cannot be awarded until the horse management for that level has been passed. 

I can technically advance through H-HM without a sound horse. This would be heading into national certifications territory and just looking through the standards of proficiency, they are a beast. But I think if I start aiming for that now, I can get some things created in preparation and have them sitting and waiting. That path would mean doing C1, C2 and C3 HM, then H-B, then H-HM. Because the Standards of Proficiency explicitly state "An H-B member may take the H-HM/H/H-A certification without completing any national level riding certifications."

I worry about Gwyn's capabilities in taking me up the levels given the heights being asked. She's nowhere near jumping 2'9", the level I graduated in. I'm not even ready to be back jumping at that level. Dressage might be a better track for her long term, and I can always collect that rating with her. She's about at D-2 dressage level, I'd say but needs much more work to do D-3. 

I'm going to start filling out my Health and Maintenance Record Book now, with the expectation that it will be used to meet an H-A standard of proficiency. It requires a years worth of records after all. Why not document this road to recovery for Gwyn?

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Healing and 2022 plans

 At the end of March, Gwyn got hock and stifle injections.  She was allowed to rest but was still presenting as lame at the trot.  At the end of April, I had a complete hysterectomy and I am still recovering from that surgery. 

All of this to say, that's why I've been focusing on groundwork lately. It's something low impact we can both do while healing.  

She fell asleep mid-hoover of alfalfa dust, like an exhausted toddler in a plate full of food

I had the vet out for the injection reassessment and was anxious to be there specifically because Gwyn was still not sound. We flexed and trotted her, then moved on to blocking the fetlock and then suspensory in her left hind.

She was sound after the suspensory block. 

So we moved on to ultrasound of the area. My vet found swelling of the suspensory on the left side (and even my uneducated eye could see the differences between L and R on the machine) and diagnosed an injury to the left proximal suspensory ligament.

The bad news is that recovery is 4-5 months. All of my pony club plans, endurance, gone. I'm not riding for a while. 

The good news is that she's got a good prognosis for recovery. There's no lesion or tear. It's swelling but not the worst it could be. I've got a plan for treatment. And I've got the greenlight from the vet to continue the groundwork lessons. On the surface, Gwyn's life won't change.

I'm also planning to stick with Pony Club. They can always use adult volunteers so I'll stay involved and really get to know the members. Maybe work on my HM rating since that's different from the riding rating. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Sweet Sixteen and Happy Gotcha Day

 May 11 was Gwyn's Sweet Sixteen so I pinterest Mom'd it up and planned a photo shoot. We had fun. May 12 is her Gotcha Day. The day she arrived in Washington for the first time from Florida. She's been mine for 11 years now.

If you ever want to make a grocery store floral department employee's day, get balloons for your horse and tell them
"Aww, does your kid really like unicorns?"
"Well, it's actually for my horse..."
"Will she be okay with the balloons?!"

Have some phone photos in order, and then good camera photos in backwards order. I don't even care even if Blogger screwed it up.

It was very hard to get good photos mostly because once she figured out that the balloons were nbd, she was fucking bored and Over It. 

I was grumpy at this tiara though, because tiaras aren't made for horse heads, especially ones that are part draft. But I think I know how to make a product that will make them more stable. It'll just require your 4 legged friend to actually have a forelock.

Oh look! Actual nice face!

And now for the good pictures. Remember, backwards order lol

Generally photogenic as a sixteen year old.

A very prehensile snozz

Ugh, that back half of her mane never grows anymore

I also took some photos of the flowers I got to stick in her mane and forelock

I've been converted to be a mare person. She's the best mare

All in all she was an excellent sport about the balloons. It was super windy and they were moving all over the place.

And to tend this photo dump, the balloons are affixed to her stall for extra desensitization as a birthday gift to the entire barn. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Groundwork for both of us

 So Gwyn got hock and stifle injections while I was away for my work conference and when I came back she was still NQR. To that end I've continued keeping work load stress light and focusing on things that are less high impact.  Like ground work. 

This prompts a "stay in School, Gwyn!" correction lol
I would really like to be lighter with my aids and I do think that starts from the ground and can be applied in the saddle. We have a trainer coming out regularly (some of the boarders REALLY need to work on it) and I leapt at the opportunity. 
Super soft and paying attention like a good girl
We worked on backing up with as minimal an ask as possible. We worked on groundwork after the riding portion of the lesson and I think Gwyn had a hard time remembering what groundwork was because we had to get fairly loud in the aid. But when I went to practice the next time at the barn, we did groundwork first and she was SO sensitive like I remember. We just had to knock that rust off. Literally just a finger wiggle and she'd step back. 
Super super cute Goober. I just love her expression here. 
I also asked for her to give and turn on the haunches. We also got a new mounting block at the barn that's the biggest we could buy in plastic molded and I wanted to see if it was good for getting on bareback. Gwyn is big and I'm stiff, so if I could use it, then I won't have to need the tractor. 

While riding bareback my plan was to work on some of my physical therapy homework, namely using leg aids without using the back of my calf, which is causing strain in my old knee injury. Since I also like low effort riding, I didn't bother to use a bridle and said 'Fuck it' and just clipped my mohair reins to the rope halter. If I'm supposed to be working on turning her with just my seat and legs, let's just jump in the deep end and take away my ability to pull on her mouth. 
On Sunday, Trainer C came out again for another session. This time I came in with a plan. I'm going to be out of commission for my surgery in 10 days. Let's pick something that Gwyn is okay at and make it excellent.  Namely, I want to be able to place her very specifically so I can get on her on the trail if I get off. I can't mount from the ground, so positioning her to use stumps and logs as mounting blocks is useful. 
Thinking ear
So we played a game. Make the Goober Mare walk down the pole with left legs on one side and right legs on the other without being up in her business. 
Pushing back but attentive
This was a big brain day for both me and Gwyn. I think to a some outside observers it looked like we were doing nothing but wow, fine tuning into her body was super cool. Like watching her contemplate taking a step with a super soft ask because the muscles in her pecs were twitching back and forth but her weight wasn't actually shifting yet. It was so subtle. 
Thinking some more, softening. Lots of opinions
I was able to get her front feet straddling the pole with little issue. And learning just how loud I am and how quiet I need to become was a good lesson for me. Her back feet were tricky. You can see in these pictures, it's not just the angle I'm taking the photos at, but home girl here likes to have her hind end shifted just that touch to the right. Goober is crooked.  I have my suspicions as to why (hmmm, that bad left stifle?)
"Fine, I'll play the silly game"
Anyway, this is a game in straightness and delicate communication. And low effort say, if you're recovering from surgery and need pony time. There was a lot of licking, chewing and yawning as Gwyn thought about what we were doing. And then would lift a foot. And think about where she was setting it down.
Listening and being allowed to relax after finally getting all four feet placed properly
I was not able to get her straight straddling the pole with all four feet. C did. I was able to get her to take a couple steps, but eventually the crookedness won and she decided tripoding was preferable to straddling. 
Softening and thinking
At one point she even just straight up stood on the pole (it's landscape poles, so flat on a portion) rather than straddle.
Weight shift onto the front right foot, thinking about moving the front left but mind where she's looking.

"I tap the pole"
The big thing I need to work on is not being late in reaction. I keep the pressure on too soon and I don't correct. Gwyn reaches a point where she thinks she knows what the rest of the answer is and she rushes to guess and I'm not quick enough to correct correctly. So that's something for me to work on. 
Also, key words are patience. I need to wait and recognize that she's thinking about it and that me pushing too hard is going to create an incorrect answer on her part.  And that it's okay to choose to walk away and reset. In fact it's probably a good plan to do that if we get to a point where I don't feel like I have enough control each foot to move it where it needs to go.
Those hind feet are ballerina style in line
Things for me to remember are that I want her looking in the direction of travel and that hind feet connect to eye line the same way backing a trailer is connected to which way you turn the steering wheel. If I want the left hind to move right, she needs to be looking left. 
"Don't wanna move that hind leg back over!"

I like that I have some homework to do with her while I'm recuperating from surgery. I'm looking forward to seeing our communication get finely tuned!