Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A low point followed by a string of highs

In retrospect, adding trot back in under saddle on a lesson night where there were a ton of other horses crowded into the covered arena was not the best decision I could have made. I don't think that ultimately I harmed our progress physically, but it did not give me the space mentally to do so. I can see that now that I have temporal distance. 

Cassie's back though! 

It also meant that I asked Chriss to ride Gwyn for our next session so I could also make sure that my judgement of the situation had more than one data point. I do not regret this because it gave both of us more information! Chriss says a lot that Gwyn and her gelding Quinn are very similar. They have the same kinds of evasions and conformation struggles. When she got onto Gwyn, she was able to confirm this thought and feel what I'm feeling and working against in the saddle. 

Gwyn 'hleped' her organize. 

The biggest thing we learned is that when I describe Gwyn as dropping her shoulder and falling in, it's actually her haunches that are forever trailing to the inside. The horse is not straight. Chriss immediately got to work on a boot camp session to straighten her out. Gwyn was 

After this lesson, Chriss 'prescribed' a couple weeks of me really focusing on asking her to straighten her hind end and travel straight. In just the few rides I've had Gwyn has immediately picked up on me asking. I've not only been trying to correct her biomechanics here, but also my own. So asking with inside leg when I start to feel things shift out and if she ignores it, tapping her hip with a dressage whip. 

After the intensive with Chriss, the next time I rode it still took a few times using the whip as a reminder, but she started correcting off of the leg first by the end of the ride. In my last ride, I barely touched her with the whip. It was amazing. She's traveling much straighter and requiring less reminders about it as well. 

I also had a lesson with Emma and we worked on under saddle trot again and wow. Making sure Gwyn has impulsion to move forward is a current solution. She's really been offering a floaty trot when I get her straight, and using that haunches cue is now starting to transfer to the trot as well as the walk so she's carrying herself even better under saddle. 

Today I had to be out for my appointment with my hoof trimmer so I opted to long line Gwyn prior to the appointment to get some brain work in for her, but also limber her body up prior to the appointment. Firstly, Gwyn was a spicy meatball. Wow. But also WOW. She cantered, not initially because I asked, and she was reaching underneath herself with her hind legs and not bunny hopping in the back end. She was reaching into contact on the lines at the walk and the trot. She looked FANTASTIC. 

You guys, she held this stretchy trot for SEVERAL CIRCLES

When Corrie arrived we were back in the barn and decided to see how Gwyn did without hay as a distraction from her balance and her body. She was stable and balanced through the WHOLE trim. I'm so thrilled we're seeing progress in all these different areas. The rehab has really been great for the both of us. 

Corrie keeps cookies in her pockets and Gwyn KNOWS

All the equine clients had to pose with the reindeer antlers

I'm tentatively penciling in show dates for 2023. I think we're heading into a really really good place. 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Back on Trails in November

 I had a frustrating moment in a lesson where it seemed like all the work we'd been doing was for naught and Gwyn was still lame under saddle and it really sent me spiraling into some self blaming places. Regardless, I knew that mentally I would benefit from a change of pace where I knew I couldn't go wrong. The solution was, of course, a trail ride at Bridle Trails. The trails are all wide, well manicured, and I planned to remain at a walk and not be out longer than the length of the work Gwyn had been doing so far in lessons. Typically lessons are around an hour if you include the long lining, but this would be the first time I'd bump up the under saddle time since rehab began so in the manner of Long Slow Distance, we kept speed and distance low for an increased ride time. I just wanted her relaxed and stretched out over her back in the walk. 

Gwyn loaded like a champ. She'd been off property twice at this point since the injury but we'd done minimal things. Either way, this horse loves adventure and it was promising to be a nice day for adventure. I extended an invite to folks at the barn but no one ended up taking me up on the offer, which turned out for the best, I think. I got a late start and since we'd recently had the time change, I was running out of daylight. Arriving at the parking lot of the state park, a park ranger verified that I knew the park was closing at dusk, i.e. 5pm. I assured him that was fine, I wasn't planning to ride for long. There was one other trailer in the lot.

Gwyn calmly exited the trailer and looked around briefly. I unloaded her as the other rider returned to their trailer. She only glanced at those horses before standing quietly on the opposite side of the trailer. She clearly knew where we were, she did check when other vehicles drove in, I think looking for Cortney's rig, but was unbothered that she was alone. She did creep on me when I went to the porta potty though. 

I opted to ride her in my hackamore. It was going to be a low pressure ride and I didn't anticipate control being an issue. We rarely use the hackamore, but again, she took it all in stride. I hopped on and we headed out on the trail near the arenas. She was a little sticky to start but soon found her rhythm. We needed a reminder that she is quite capable of walking up the tiny little hills at Bridle Trails but it didn't last long before the enthusiasm of being in a forest again overtook any muliness.
I mainly wanted her walking without her head in the hair and we achieved that for basically the whole ride. 
There were happy ears the entire time. 

And a squirrel posed at the top of the tree, with the sun illuminating the forest like magic. 

When we'd gotten back to the arenas I took her into them to practice a little of what we'd been doing in lessons just to practice what I needed. She was not as amenable to arena work but I kept expectations and the ask low and ended on a good note before either of us got too frustrated. 
I did wrap her hinds with a bit of support for the ride, because I was so fucking paranoid. Did it do anything? No idea. But it didn't hurt. I also had her BOT saddle pad, again, just in case, since we were changing up the work demand. 
She actually was sweaty after this ride, which was significant considering we only walked AND it was cold out. But we did do a slow 3 miles over 1 hour, just about, which is the longest she's worked since rehab began.

She was very good though, and we both appreciated the change of pace. Plus I got a beautiful view of a winter dusky sky as we headed back to the barn. And after this, I've gone on to have some amazing, amazing lessons and I'm feeling much better about the direction we're going. 

We've got a lot of work left to do through the winter, but I feel so much better knowing that the trails are an option again and will be beneficial for us both, mentally and physically. We'll stick to Bridle Trails for now, with minimal hill work, and increase distance. Then add in hillier places where I won't feel the sunk/cost fallacy in traveling there for a shorter ride like Bracken, Moss Lake, or Lord Hill.

Friday, December 2, 2022

RIP Ford Prefect


You were a beloved cat. You never put a paw wrong around children, preferring instead to just hide. Your purrs were earthquakes and you loved having your ears scratched deep deep, grossly inside. 

I'm sorry I failed you at the end. I wish our goodbye could have been better planned and not a circumstance of my own error. I'm so so sorry. I keep thinking I hear you at night. We had a routine at bedtime and it's all messed me up. I'm glad I was able to be with you when you closed your eyes. I'll miss you so much. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Pony Club Ratings, The Reprise

True to my original stated goal that if Gwyn was lame, it wasn't going to stop me from working on Pony Club stuff.... I did it!  As soon as our club asked if anyone was interested in C level ratings, I jumped on my chance to get back to being a full C-1.  All I needed was to take the Horse Management portion of the C-1 rating since only my riding level transferred. 

The exam was scheduled for this past Saturday, Oct 29.  I prepped early and often, I had my record book thoroughly filled out thanks to these posts and my habit of always gps logging when I ride or taking at least one photo. All of my rides or horse things needed to be documented for at least 6 months. 

I made kick ass flash cards but should have started on them sooner, honestly. I didn't actually study MUCH with them. I do want to proceed through with the Horse Management ratings so it might be a good idea to start working on these now since it was a major effort to get it pulled together. Those spiral bound note cards are perfect especially if you put the answer on the back so you can flip through and quiz yourself. 
The night before I was going through making sure I had my pin, coat, shirt, etc. Now I'll feel better about putting felt behind my pin to indicate my level (spoilers!)  but this is the first time I've worn some of this gear since I bought it! I found amazing deals during the pandemic and promptly stopped showing. 
For whatever reason I couldn't find any of my belts so I whipped one up really quick that coordinated with my jacket (navy backing with purple and white) thanks to a long ago tutorial on blogger land.
This was also my inaugural test of my hi-tie! It was installed while I was in North Carolina on a work trip back in March and I had surgery and hadn't been out to use it!  Gwyn loved it and had no problems, but she also generally prefers a hi-line over being tied at the trailer.
Mostly tacked up, I went with the purple pad (and peep the blogger made saddle cover) and a shiny pony. 
Spiffy and almost ready to go. I was reviewing how to do safety checks and realized my own helmet chin strap was woefully loose so I adjusted that quickly. 
The other adult member running through her questions with our examiner, Peaches. Also Hazel the morgan mare who did great! 
Part of the exam was applying two stable bandages on diagonal legs front and back so Gwyn got to demonstrate that as well. After this Gwyn got to just chill out at the trailer like she was camping. I hung around, even though I was technically done, to act as ground crew and assist the examiner. And of course to cheer on my fellow teammates!
The junior member performing a tack and safety check on Robyn and Hazel. We all safety checked each other. 
Robyn and Hazel looking spiffy in their riding portion! They also did a dressage C-1 rating. 
Final questions outside as we all recognized that the horses were just done with being in the indoor arena. 
Group photo!
And congratulations to us! We all passed! 
Checking how well I did on the stable bandage.