Monday, September 26, 2022

Lesson Time!

 After my last scheduled lesson got sent far off course due to Gwyn eating a bee (like... REALLY mare?!) I was finally back at it on Sunday! I had originally signed up for a Shawna Karrasch clinic this past weekend at Polestar but it was cancelled due to low sign ups. Like... booo, but also hey, money back! And not trailering in every day stress since I'm only 5 minutes down the road. 

We started with working on the ground and really getting Gwyn to stretch down and reach out. A lot of that is making sure I'm timing my cue when her inside hind is starting to swing forward. From there it's working on not nagging her. If she responds to the cue, stop asking as the release. Know where her sticky spots are though (arena entrance) and anticipate/watch the body language for signs she's going to start slowing and ask again. When she gets that floaty trot, it looks magical. 

Photo from a previous ride, I never have time to take pictures during lessons hahah

After doing some work on the long lines we switched to me on board. This lesson was all about me feeling the timing of Gwyn and feeling the feedback loop. So input from Gwyn to me and then me cued to Gwyn. It should be a cycle, but right now I'm a wall and I need to become not a blockade. So it was working on me while also fulfilling PT duties for Gwyn!

We started with me feeling how she was moving, was she straight, where was her front end, where was her hind end? And then asking for corrections, creating the feedback loop. Going to the right she loves to swing her haunches in, so a lot of what I needed to do was ask for her hind to step in and under her (outside leg keeping her forward). I want to feel like I'm funneling her body between my legs and hands. I'm also working on not leg cuing with my heel, which is a bad habit. It should also help reduce my knee pain. 

Going to the left she's crooked more in her shoulder and my focus was on asking her lift her inside shoulder and step over. We did a lot of square turns, and the combo I need to remember is that I want her rocking back onto her haunches (half halt) and lifting the shoulder up (outside leg cue). I have to think the haunches slow while the shoulders keep the same pace.  

What was absolutely neat was suddenly feel that stiffness and shoulder drop when we were near the end and she passed the arena exit and I just lost her for a moment. It's where she always runs out and where she spins out if spooking. Now I need to practice that half halt - outside leg cue. Because the mare will square turn without me in her face when I get that timing right. And of course, this is the basis for pirouette. Basics y'all. I'm actually loving working on these basics because I can see where the holes escalated and widened and I'm fixing and filling them in.
Some other things I'm planning to continue work on from the ground include a 'politeness' ground tying. This is specifically focused on the barn because Gwyn loves to LARP as a vacuum cleaner. Great when she's given permission to do so, less great when I'm trying to bridle her and all she wants to do is hoover wisps of hay. I had been trying to work on her head down cue for bridling and if I want to do it in the barn aisle, I was sweeping meticulously beforehand. Goal is that she will stand in the aisle, regardless of errant hay, and wait.

And of course, working on the head down cue. I've made sure to practice every time I put something on her face and she's gotten much better! Goal here is that she will drop her head to make haltering and bridling possible by my kids. They don't have an interest now, but if they ever do, it'll be nice to have that button preinstalled.

In Pony Club news, I have a date for my C-1 Horse Management rating so I've got studying to do and a record book to fully compile before the end of October!

Thursday, September 8, 2022

First Ride Back!!!

I have no media from this, which is a shame, but I had a GREAT lesson on Sunday with C and finally rode Gwyn!!!!

First order of business was a hoof trim for Miss Gwyn. Once again we did the hay trick and she had no problems standing on three feet while the fourth was being handled. She was very good for Corrie and her feet look fantastic despite the awful drought we're in. I haven't even used Hoof Armor this summer, mainly because I haven't been riding. 

After her trim I started grooming and pulled out her saddle. This mare, you guys. She's generally happy that I show up to the barn, I usually get greeted very vocally, which is a mood boost every time. She also has VERY good cross tie manners. I pulled the saddle out for her and she started dancing in the cross ties. She knew, y'all. Then I realized I tacked up too early and had a half hour before C showed up and we had to sit and wait.
I did, at least, get a picture of her wearing her saddle after the lesson. Much to Gwyn's (and my) chagrin, however, we started with a lesson in bridling manners. She's not bad per se, but she absolutely could be better, especially if my kids ever want to bridle or halter her independently. So to that end we worked on a head down cue. She thought that was bullshit because we bridled her three or four times. 

Homework #1: Asking for that head down and turned to me for bridling and general handling.
She also physically deflated when I ran the long lines through my stirrups to start. Mare is bored with long lining. I don't blame her. But we did get some good work on the long line. The goal is to get her reaching her neck down, but head no lower than withers. Her trot starts to get really floaty when she's working with her body well.

Homework #2: Thinking about the footfalls and really asking that her inside hind be stepping underneath her body on the circle. Always thinking about that nose and keeping her from looking to the outside of the circle.
Sunflowers on my way home
Finally, I got on for my 15 minutes. Again we were focused on controlling where her hind feet were landing which ended up getting her head down and stretching with a lifted back. Slow and steady here. Impulsion is good but she really wanted to offer trot with me. Sorry mare, vet said not yet.

Homework #3: Leg cue with my calf, not heel, I found if I thought whole leg I did better. Wide hands to create a funnel for her but careful not to overbend to the inside when working to the left. 
I came home and reorganized part of the garage and hung hooks so I could store horse blankets

My brain is in such a happy place right now. I got to get on my horse again. My heart is so happy.

Friday, September 2, 2022

August Vet Recheck

My lessons have been mainly working on long lining with Gwyn and really honing in on tools that will be able to translate to under saddle work eventually. 
She tries really hard but I do think that she's getting bored with the long lining. We did do the circle of death in the lesson, on long lines, which was REALLY hard! 
Most of this media is with Trainer C. She has better feel for things but I'm learning loads. And she's really praised me for how well I've gotten Gwyn working on long lines. 


I had a bit of a snafu this week though because I was supposed to have the Vet and Trimmer out at the same time so they could confer and make sure everything is copacetic biomechanically for Gwyn. But the day I had in my books got close and my trimmer pushed me to the afternoon, which I couldn't do because I had on site meetings for work. No worries though, I thought, the vet will be out. So I head to the barn and set up my cell phone as a mobile hotspot so I can attend the 2 hour block of meetings I had in the morning. Vet doesn't show, I call the clinic and they had me down for the NEXT DAY.
So I repeated the process the next day, but at least each time I got to start my day at the barn. 
OH NO. Horse snot across my arm and on my work shirt. How terrible. 
That's okay, we still took cute pictures while waiting for the vet. 

I trotted Gwyn for the vet, who was only slightly delayed thanks to a diaper blow out, which I fully sympathize with considering my car was the site of car sickness over the weekend. Ah. Parenting. Vet was SO pleased with how Gwyn looked. We are sitting right around 3 months after injection with PRP which is when you start seeing more improvement. 

We're now cleared for 15 minutes of tack walking, where she wants Gwyn really stretched and low and heavy in the bridle to help build up her topline. She asked about nutrition and recommended we add in a touch of protein to what I currently feed so now Gwyn is getting just a fractional flake of alfalfa and I'm sure is ecstatic. 

I'm thrilled I can get back on my horse, even if only for a little bit. Now comes the slow topline slog, but at least I can do some of it with a between the ears view!

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Mood Boost

2022 has been a hell of a year. I look back at my 2019 long term plan and I was hoping to actually go to AECs this year. Ha. 

Anyway, a series of unfortunate events between me and Cortney meant that we hadn't ridden together since the end of 2021. Her because of truck issues and then barn building and me because of surgery and lameness in Gwyn. Hell, we hadn't even seen each other but thankfully we have that friendship that memes are made for, where you pick up where you leave off, regardless of time apart. 

So we made plans for Monday. She'd meet me at Bridle Trails with two horses and I would bail out of work for mental health sick time. 

We're squarely in what I hope is the last heat wave for the PNW of the year and it was beautiful blue skies. Felt good to actually wear riding pants and a helmet for the first time in a long while. 
Cortney brought Reign and Splendid. Reign had recently been decked out for an endurance ride so I got to ride the Reignbow :D   Reign has matured quite a bit but is still young and hasn't had a variety of butts in the saddle. I also haven't been in the saddle for a while so we took a few minutes to calibrate to one another in one of the arenas at Bridle Trails. I wanted to make sure I knew her buttons and that she knew me. I also wanted to practice some of the things I've been doing in my pelvic floor physical therapy. My therapist has been hoping I get saddle time so we can see if I've improved. 
I always love Bridle Trails. It's a beautiful state park in the middle of a city. You can hear highway through almost the whole park but visually you feel like you're far away. These trails will be super ideal for Gwyn when we're allowed to do more (Spoiler: We have progress!)
Bridle Trails also has four different riding arenas. Three are clustered together for shows and one is on the pipeline that bisects the park. This arena had a small jumping course set up so I took Reign for a spin around them, further exploding her little pony brain about all the different things you can do in one ride. 

I also tried to keep my PT notes in mind while riding. I have a tendency to collapse my left side. I did pelvic tilts in the saddle thinking about drawing up in front and not using my back. I practiced my kegels. 



In some of the pictures Cortney took of me I do see the left side compression my therapists have noted. And I tried to be cognizant of when I felt my toes curling in my shoes. We did a long stretch of canter and despite my best efforts I did eventually feel bladder control go away. But we slowed down to let muscles rest. This just gives me renewed drive to keep at it though. I feel like I do have improvement and it felt so good to be in the saddle again regardless. 

Cortney and I are already making plans for another outing.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Vet Recheck

Vet Claire came out Friday morning to do another status check on Gwyn. Since it was an early morning appointment, Gwyn still had her breakfast hay and looked relatively confused to see me. Though she's definitely recognizing the vet's pickup truck lol. 

Unfortunately, she's still flexing positive on the hind leg which means still not cleared for riding. However, Claire thinks it's more a weakness issue at this point rather than a pain issue so we have some Physical Therapy to add in to our walking and trotting. Right now we're at 15 min walking, 10 minutes of trotting, with the addition of this set up of cavaletti (one of my big steps, or 3 3/4 of my literal feet) 

The goal is to ask Gwyn to come in at a slower trot to encourage her to lift and use her back. She fatigued after about 3-4 tries over the double set so that's the stop point, where I then just ask her to open up the trot and stretch down, no poles. Rearrange for the other direction. 
I made sure to describe what I've been working on with Chriss in our lessons which Claire was enthusiastic about the game plan, especially with what we've been working on with the long lining. I'm also clear to do in hand lateral work to really ask her to step under herself and weight bear with the hind. Anything to encourage her to really sit back on her haunches and develop those muscles.
She is not yet clear for turnout in the bigger grass pasture yet, so alas for my air fern, she remains in the smaller paddocks. It's probably better for her weight anyway. But I AM clear to hand walk her on trails! That's exciting news. 
I'm discouraged that recovery isn't to the point that basic riding is okay. However, I do see the benefit of what I've been working on. Claire has pointed out that when we do get back to a riding point, Gwyn will be improved from where we left off because we're focusing on strength building basics. 





Saw a tiktok about braiding for long manes and tried it out to see.