Friday, October 25, 2019


My nemesis, apparently. And by extension my hands, which seems to be a thing going around blogland today (as I distract myself from writing this by catching up on my feed...)

"Mom, I have not finished eating. Do you see all this wonderful soft hay right here?"
 I resolved this week to work on my hands (and elbows) both on and off the horse. Jim suggested I toss balls and catch them with my elbows bent and practice the give and take with that. So I've been doing that. But I also wanted to incorporate something intentional into my gym trips as well.

"I'm suspicious Mom... why do you have that bucket?"
 So I added a half hour before my T/Th yoga sessions to go run on the elliptical at the Y (thank you included childcare...)   I kept my hands gently, closed fingers on the swinging grips, not the heart rate monitor grips, and focused on maintaining steady contact as my legs moved them.

"It's okay, I'll just stand on my hay before my hoof armor cures, guaranteeing that the hay will bond to my hoof"
 I did this T/W/Th. Wednesday evening I went out to ride after my Monday lesson. I gave myself permission to ONLY work on my hands. I wasn't going to try and maintain pace through seat only, I wasn't going to really focus on my leg. Just on keeping steady rein contact. I felt like my hands were EVERYWHERE. And I'll need to check in next Monday to be sure, but I think that's more what I'm supposed to be doing?  Just by keeping my hands in motion with Gwyn she started dropping and carrying herself more. Probably because I wasn't banging her in the mouth anymore.

UGH. Hands.

 Then I had the shortest ride ever this morning because after getting a coat of hoof armor on I only had about 20 minutes before I needed to start untacking and leaving to pick up Hazel. For that ride the rain held off just long enough. I started to notice that my WHOLE body was moving instead of just my arms and elbows, so I practiced stillness in my core while keeping elbows moving and giving.

 We also walked up the slight hill on the property twice. And I made her trot over those cross rails in a 'course'. She does not jump them. They are too small. For a super short ride, I was pleased that she was walking around with her head lower, and not giraffing. In fact, she was fairly lazy. But also dropping into contact, which I tried VERY hard not to jab her in the mouth by stiff hands.
Pretty pretty colors

Snuggles while I listen to the rain on the roof.

Glorious glorious tail right now. She's gone back to blonde. Let it be known, that mane USED to be the same length. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Anne Gribbons Clinic thoughts

Equestrian's Institute out here often pulls in some clinicians throughout the year and Jim will attend them as part of  his continuing education credits to maintain his instructor certification. He always encourages his students to attend, and I was able to get a couple hours to join him on Sunday to watch Anne Gribbons.

The clinic was held at the most beautiful facility a mere ten minutes from the house. It's a dressage barn and is just plain fancy fancy fancy. They had a lovely deck overlooking the covered arena with a VERY nice heated observation lounge complete with full bathroom, full kitchen and conference room.

For EI members, attending would be free, I'm not one so I paid $25 for the day and it included lunch. Pretty decent deal.

 There was a wide variety of levels represented in the horses from Training (a 5 year old Hanoverian) up to I-2. Three of the horses had come up from Oregon who were all being trained by the same person and two were ridden by that trainer, and one by the owner. 
 Clinics with Jim are interesting and informative because he's watching the horse and rider just as much as the clinician and sometimes gleaning a different conclusion  in how to handle the gaps he's seeing. Jim rarely attributes failings in movements to the horse, he's firmly in the 'the rider forms the horse' camp so we'd be seeing a horse be reticent in performing piaffe and Anne Gribbons was telling the rider to make the horse do A, B, C while Jim is whispering, "Look at her hands and upper body, she has no give on the horse's mouth to let the energy through, it's going to go up."  And sure enough, up goes the horse in protest as that fine balance in having the throughness was not struck.

After watching closely I was able to start to predict as well. And it made me reflect on the last clinic I watched, in Michigan, when piaffe and half steps were being taught and the horse was clearly also having issues.

In many of the horse/rider pairs, the answer was always more leg, to which I got an elbow and an "See? What have I been telling you?" stare from Jim (also something I work on, lol) . The young horse was the only one where Anne wanted the rider to use more half halts to bring him back and stop him from rushing.
A shocking number of riders had terrible posture, their elbows were stiff and the movement from their lumbar back traveled all the way up to their head. These are all problems I'm dealing with as I correct all my bad habits from years of no lessons and it was a little shocking that they weren't being called out on those faults in their riding that could have allowed the horse to perform better. They looked like bobbleheads. It makes me want to go back and review the videos I took at WEG to watch the riders more closely and find the differences.

I went to ride that evening and tried to focus on that flexibility in my back where my head and shoulders remain stable, while my lower back moves.  I think I do better in that, though I was certainly not riding a sitting trot on a giant warmblood bred for GP dressage. However, there was a lot of stiffness even in the walk. One lady rode around looking like her shoulders were touching her ears the whole time and it was the strangest thing I've seen in a rider, much less someone who is apparently not an AA but Open.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Lord Hill and Lessons

We played DnD on Saturday and that evening Eric told me, "So, you're going trail riding tomorrow, right? For your birthday?"  I was confused, it wasn't originally in the plan for me... but yes. I can pick up what you're putting down, husband.

I went for a trail ride.
She's gotten trimmer, I need to buy a new girth... 
I decided to hit new trail from previous just so I could reacquaint myself with the trail system at Lord Hill.  I also wanted to do as much as the pipeline trail as I could because hills. Hills are good for horse butts that need to be strengthened for cantering and climbing more hills for endurance.
Dear folks on foot, you are NOT allowed to use the horse entrance >:[
 It was overcast but not raining (that's today and the next 8 days). Pretty great weather, and ended up warming up more than I expected and the sun even came out a little bit!
Happy Ears
 The colors, while not as dramatic as the northeastern part of the country, were still in good form for the area, so it was a great fall trail ride. I also wanted to test my scoot boots with the gaiters I bought.

 One thing that always eluded me was finding the river access point within the trail system. There's talk of removing horse access and count me selfish, I wanted to get on that trail before that happened. The trail was pretty much all down hill to the water. The parking lot is at the top of Lord Hill so there was a lot of downhill. The blackberries were trying to overtake the trail and it's not rider friendly since nothing is cleared well at my torso height.

Salmon spawning season. 

 But it was a nice sandy shoreline on the river, which is pretty impressive given most of the time it's a ton of glacial till.
 Gwyn wanted to go out deeper but I wasn't willing to let her. She got a good drink of water though.
 Then it was climbing back UP UP UP, which had Gwyn suddenly going "wait a fucking minute..." She tried pulling the stop and act tired on some of the minor stuff and I wasn't amused. She got short breaks and then we continued. There were nice peekaboo pops of color.
 We did encounter quite a few hikers and bikers! Everyone was incredibly polite and followed the yielding rules, which I appreciated. Gwyn did really well with the bicyclists. We pretty much encountered them while they were climbing up hill so going quite slow, which helped her. She wasn't nearly as nervous about them as she's been in the past. She did seem to expect that everyone on the ground would have treats.

This is the Quarry. It's a meadow and steep steep bowl 
 The pipeline starts from the quarry. I remembered that there was a side trail to avoid the first, steep part of the pipeline, and technically, while the trail is physically there, the maps have you take the side trail to get up the initial hill. I looked at the hill and thought, That looks doable.

Narrator: It... probably shouldn't have been doable.
Standing above Gwyn on the pipeline.
 Gwyn gamely started up the slope. She had to stop and blow, but with my urging would take a few more steps, then a few more. Then I started feeling her legs tremble. I looked up, I looked down. We were about a third of the way up.  At that point I realized this was likely not the best idea I've ever had but going down seemed more risky than continuing forward. So I hopped off Gwyn. We climbed that damn thing together, a few steps at a time. But by god it was amazing when we got to the top where it finally leveled off.
I'm on foot, Gwyn is behind me, believe it or not. 
 This horse is amazing, y'all. She was willing to try because I asked. She's a trooper. Some wonderful soul made sure there was a bench at the top of the hill so I sat on the bench because MY calves were protesting the thought of being in stirrups and I let Gwyn regen with the very nice grass all around us. The bench also served as a pretty good  mounting block.
It's like looking over a cliff.... 
 I did realize though that I was running behind the time I'd told Eric I'd be done in so my other plans to do the whole pipeline were tossed and I just oriented to the most direct route back to parking. This, unfortunately, meant more pipeline climbing (but on less aggressive slopes...)  Gwyn was unwilling to trot at this point and I hadn't brought a whip. We made it back and I think she was pretty well recovered by the time we got near the trailer.
 She was a sweaty girl and worked hard. I was pretty pleased with her. The scoot boots worked well too. I don't like how bulky these particular gaiters are, so I've ordered some DIY gaiter supplies that will be more targeted to the problem area. After a consultation with a scoot boot rep, it seems the rubs I did see were typical. We'll have the winter to dial in everything and make sure that a 15 mile ride won't cause issues (compared to the 6 I did on this ride)
Biiiiiig booty
 Then on Monday I had my dressage lesson. There was a hot air balloon just taking off for a sunset/twilight flight as I was crossing the valley.
Looking east toward the Cascades. Lord Hill is just off frame to the right.

I got close enough I could see the flame igniting every so often.
 I was a little more frustrated with myself in this lesson. Pragmatically, I know I'm working to break my bad habits. And once I get it correct Gwyn moves wonderfully. She's fully capable. I just need to be more consistent. I just hate that I'm not better at it.

I need to ride from my seat more and get out of her face, like hauling on her face to slow her down. Doing that immediately causes her to giraffe. UGH. I need to practice. Though reading some other folks who have friesian crosses and seeing them work on similar concepts but at a higher level is oddly comforting. And knowing that if I can work on this now it will be better for us later makes me more determined to improve.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Lesson Takeaways

Imagery that helped me last night:

Thinking heavy elbows as a way to loosen them up.

I need to do that exercise where you bounce on an exercise ball while holding whips and try to keep them from moving.

For pretty much all of my next rides I need to just be at a walk, using a half halt to keep it slow and controlled (but in the way that Emma talked about half halts where you use it as a pause and then continue) but also always asking for that bend to the inside so I can see her nostril. Each step should be purposeful. Make the walk need her to use her whole body.

 And thinking always about not just bending the neck, but haunches to shoulder as well. And I can't forget about using my indirect rein of opposition to check that shoulder when it gets sticky. It doesn't have to be constant, just a shift and then moving the inside rein back to a leading rein position.

Leading rein (L) and Indirect Rein of Opposition (R)

Additionally, Gwyn is too smart, and has figured out the name of the stretch game and is now trying to snatch reins from me in her stretch. We want a gentle catch so I'm not to give all the way, just enough with my elbow movement, no upper body.

Jim got on too. You can see her belly muscles working REALLY hard in this picture.

We also worked a bit on canter departs. Gwyn is getting stronger. It's incremental progress, but it's there and I love it. I don't mind that it's not huge leaps and bounds. For that, to keep her from rushing into the canter I should aim at the wall and cue near the wall so she has to be slower. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

We Didn't Ride the Loup Pro Photos

Dave Honan posted all of the photos from Ride the Loup that he took! He also sent me a few hilarious ones through messenger. I bought five of them.  Aside from the first too, they are uncropped. We got comments all day that I had a great attitude about everything. I guess I did. I really enjoyed myself lol.

Sent via PM with the comment "THIS IS NOT HOW YOU DO A GROUP PICTURE" haahaha

I did end up purchasing this one, lol
 But how can you be upset with this kind of view?

Our nice version of the group photo, lol

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The New Barn

I mentioned previously that I was moving Gwyn to a new barn. I'm looking at potentially having a job in the near future and the prospect of going into winter while pasture boarding and really only having light to ride on weekends was looking less and less appealing.  I started putting feelers out for barns that I felt were affordable still in the event I didn't get this job (still waiting) but also had the amenities that would be nice for winter weather. I found a couple and didn't act quickly enough on several and lost the spot.

The sweet spot price range I was looking at goes quickly around here and I knew I'd need to not sit on my decision the next time an opportunity knocked. I happened to join a cold weather riding challenge and mentioned that I was unsure where my horse would be located (we were sharing our location within WA state) and someone PMed me saying they had a stall opening Oct 1 at their barn not too far from me.
 I headed out midday with Hazel to find a small private farm. They have a max of 8 horses on property. There's turnout every day and horses are stalled at night. There's both a covered arena and an outdoor arena. Most of the riders are some form of eventer or jumper. The facility is less than 10 minutes from the local eventing trainer who has the nicest cross country course around. Her trainers come to this barn regularly to give lessons. My instructor is also welcome to come teach here and Cortney can trailer in for those lessons.

 There are 4 stalls on the exterior of the covered arena (plus one for shavings storage).
This is now Gwyn's stall

 Hazel and the little girl were quick buddies and immediately went off to play together on the swing set, which is in sight of both arenas.
There's a covered wash rack with hopefully hot water once they fix the heater (on the wall on the right)
 The other barn has 4 stalls (plus one for hay storage), tack lockers and a general tack room. I'm in the general tack room and that's fine by me. I've just got my grooming box, helmet, saddle, bridle and breastcollar. I'll probably keep most ointments and stuff in a big bin in front of Gwyn's stall.
The other place was sad to see me go. They have a lot of plans, but between fighting the fungusy gunk on Gwyn's legs and thinking about the fading daylight, it made a lot of sense to move. I hope the other place is able to put in the upgrades they want. I truly wish them the best.

Gwyn's move was anticlimactic. I moved her on Thursday. Hazel came with me while I hooked up the truck and then drove into the pasture to load Gwyn. I've got a new strategy for loading her that minimizes escapes if I'm doing it all solo.

She hopped off at the new place and looked around expectantly. I brought her down to the turnout pens and she walked in and kind of eyed each of the other horses, all of whom were VERY excited to see someone new. Then she cocked a foot and watched me.
In turnout.

Barn owner A was very impressed at how calm she was. And I guess she usually is. We've gone enough places that are new and different that this has just become The Thing we do. And I have the expectation of her that she'll take it all in stride. She's definitely becoming a been there done that kind of horse and I love it.
That night I came back to ride her a bit. Kaylee came with me. The barn was BUSY! We just had a low key ride and again, Gwyn was great and relaxed.

Kaylee even got on!
Friday morning was my 3 hours of no children time so I headed out to ride. The horses had been fed breakfast but hadn't been turned out yet.

Gwyn was a bit swollen. I'm pretty sure it's due to the fungal muck that's all over her legs. On pasture she'd be walking enough to reduce this swelling but being stalled has made it worse. It was slightly warm but not alarmingly so and she wasn't fussed  by it.

So I rode anyway. The swelling did go down with light activity.
I worked on coordinating myself to be asking for contact and bend in the indoor, then realized the weather shouldn't be wasted and went to the outdoor arena.
There was a course set up with ground poles and the tiniest cross rail. So we played trotting a 'jump' course and keeping a steady trot and not rushing anything.

That was apparently really hard work, all 20 minutes of it, so she had to drink from seat puddle water.
And investigate the mirrors.
Happy, relaxed mare

 Saturday afternoon I returned with desitin (40% zinc oxide) and slathered her legs in it. The zinc should help with the fungus crud. I also dabbed some lotrimin in the worst spots too. It's what I use to get rid of thrush too. The swelling already looked better that night, so I'm thinking as she stays dry, and with an antifungal, it should go away.