Monday, February 28, 2011

The Horses, Riding, Boarding

Doug and I went to the barn yesterday. We'll be bringing the horses home early this year. We need to find a way to make our own indoor arena viable. My horses are like my children. I need to be managing them. That's all I'll say about that. For now.
We free lunged over ground poles yesterday. Then I rode. Rogo was great.
We're exploring business ideas that would help sustain an indoor. I do know that I don't want a boarding barn. The profit margin in this region is too slim, it's tons of work, and there's potential for barn drama (a few boarders would be okay, but having a lot of boarders wouldn't be a good fit with trying to keep my own riding time, etc.). What other options are there? We'll partner with an experienced and well trained equestrian, so there are a variety of avenues we could take. Breeding, training, teaching, competition and clinic venue, ... 
I don't have any illusions that a horse business is going to be a big money maker, and there's a big risk management piece to be done, but I think with careful planning and a little luck, a fun, satisfying and sustainable business can come together. Does anyone have any thoughts, ideas and / or advice?
I was Director of Community, Culture and Economic Development for Halifax Regional Municipality when I retired early a few years ago. It was a large department with a big budget and I loved the work (events, heritage, recreation, culture, community development, etc., etc.), but hated the politics, so I left. After a break, I started a consulting business with a friend. We do management consulting for municipalities and we have quite a bit of work and have fun together. Life is good. The thing is, I like that work, and I'd like to keep doing a bit of it, but I don't love it. It isn't what I'm passionate about. 
I wake up and fall asleep thinking about horses. I need to build more of it into my life instead of doing other work and paying someone to look after my horses in the winter.
Sorry if this is rambling. I'm just thinking out loud... I think change is coming... Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Two Point To Help Your Equitation?

First, a disclaimer - I don't jump and am very inexperienced with two point (not my teacher's fault - Joan has wanted me to learn to jump and it's on my goal list for the year to learn how to do low jumps). I've just done it a few times, and thus Rogo knows very little about it either.
When I posted about my equitation goals and two week blitz (still doing it, although we lost time re the lost shoe) I got some great suggestions - no stirrups, bareback and two point were the main themes. I've done lots of no stirrups and bareback, although with Savanah, but two point is pretty new to me. As a refresher, as much for me as anyone else, here are the three equitation goals:
  1. better connection- don't throw it away when he gives - check
  2. long, quiet legs, using the inside of my calf if needed, not the back of my heel
  3. legs long in canter, not creeping up and using my heel to hold the canter
As I mentioned, Kacy at All Horse Stuff sent me an exercise and I mentioned it and got lots of comments and positive feedback. Then Kacy sent me more info, so I thought I'd share it and we can all try it, okay? Keep in mind, she was responding to the video I posted a few days ago about cantering last Sept. I was concerned about my stiff/jerky hands, and also I have set a goal to keep my legs long and heels down in the canter. Kacy set the stage by telling me:

"I'm no instructor, but I've taken so many lessons. My favorite and also, the ones I got so much out of-are the ones with my sissy. She trained with Hilda Gurney, Kevin freeman...and went all throughout Pony Club to an A or B level. She's old school dressage, and has evented. She drills certain thing s into my head, each time we ride, or she gives me a lesson. Things I may overlook, as they seem insignificant. But they do matter, and I'm more aware of them now..."

Okay, right off the bat I'm liking this. Hilda Gurney? Old school dressage? ... Yes!
Here is the first correspondence from her, which explains some background and the exercise (I have permission to share):

"I really don't want to come off critical or anything of that sort so, maybe you could do an experiment..and get back to me.
Set your video up again (or did you have someone? Can't remember). Do all you did before...but before you canter, do a little more trot.  On the short end of the arena, on a ten meter circle...practice playing the piano-with your toes for 2-3 strides. Just one circle, then onto the long wall.  It just means, as you sit or the sit phase of post, lift your balls of your feet off the stirrup slightly..or just lift your toes. Its subtle. Its nothing anyone should notice. On the long wall-try two point for 3 strides, then post 3. Note your leg. Then canter, the same, two point for 3 strides....On the long wall, sit the short. Note your leg. I'm interested in what you find!"

Here is the second set of instructions:

"The reason I mentioned the two point exercise at all is I noticed your toes going down(in video) and it caused you to be off balance, not having your leg where it needed to be. Which then can lead to stiffness in the upper body as you arms are doing jobs they are not supposed to!
Two Point will always show you where your leg and balance needs to you won't be able to stand up in your stirrups, without your leg being there! It is a GREAT recalebrating move to rebalance oneself. My sister has me do it along the whole long wall and sit the short ends...trot and canter.
I shake the venue up by sitting two and rising one or even changing the posting diagonal on the ten meter circle to the inside...helps the horse recalebrate himself too.
Tip- sometimes up one notch- in the stirrup department-is the key. If your feet can't at least rest flat in the stirrups, at walk(and be under you too) you're in for a tough go at'll always be behind the movement. (I found out that the hard way trying for longer legs)."

So, I really appreciate Kacy taking the time to watch the video and provide a detailed exercise on how to address the issues I'm having. I tried the exercise, and although two point doesn't come easily to Rogo and I at this point, we did it and it worked! Of course I'm not magically 'fixed' but my heel went DOWN. This is going to be added to our warm up / routine and we'll get better at it and I feel confident it will help with my equitation issues I've been stuck on. Thanks Kacy!
Today Rogo had a big workout - lunging, riding and free lunging. His contact was really noticeably improving today - when he'd want to stick his nose out at the trot I'd stay firm and he'd come right back to me. This is new. Yeah Rogo!  The legs still need work and with ice coming off the roof again and being there alone I didn't do a lot of now stirrups. I could, he's fine, but I'm nervous :(
I free lunged Savanah and Dan too, over jumps and ground poles. A good time was had by all.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday Ride and Dan Update

Doug and I had great rides on Savanah and Rogo on Wed., although they were both a little pokey. Here's a short video of Doug and Savanah. They did the most beautiful, square engaged halt at the end that was the highlight, but unfortunately I cut it off just before that. Editing videos is my nemesis. Doug is wearing a mask because although we water the arena, it's kind of dusty.

Although Doug videoed Rogo and I too, I wasn't able to get any edited into a postable form. My editing program announced that although it was on the same video as Doug's, when I tried to go back to the original to get more it said it wasn't in a recognizable format :( . I'll give you the highlights - Rogo was pokey too, but he's bending nicely and taking more contact. I MUST keep my legs long, still, heels down and use the inside of my calves, not the back of my leg. Kacy at All Horse Stuff very kindly sent me an exercise to try and I did try it and it did help. I'm going to post about it when I get a little better at it, but in a nutshell it involved going back and forth from two point to posting or two point to sitting and it unlocks the ankle - yeah!
I don't think either horse is going to be too forward until we get them outside again, but we'll keep doing free jumping, poles, etc. to mix it up and give them a little more fun.
Jennifer jumped Dan the other day. He went over a couple of cross rails once, about three years ago, and that was the extent of his jumping, so he did very well. Here is a video of them getting started. They progressed to a little cross rail and vertical from this. I'm so happy that Dan is being ridden and having fun. Jennifer is doing GREAT with him.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cantering, At Home September 2010

This isn't pretty riding, and Rogo's head is stuck out a mile, but in the interests of my video record, I'm posting it. For some reason I can't seem to upload videos to my Pictures and Videos page, so I have to post them here and then link the page.

Some videos I haven't gotten around to posting, and many I didn't post because I don't like my riding and, as I think happens with many people, we always did better when the camera wasn't running so I kept waiting for a better video. Now I realize if I don't post these videos I won't have any. I have to have something to look back on, and on the bright side, the crappier the old ones are, the more stunning my improvement will be :) right?

The disconcerting thing is though, that his canter hasn't improved over the winter and if anything is worse. He hasn't gotten nearly as much turn out as I'd like and I wonder if this can affect his balance - standing around in a stall all day? Also, the indoor is small, and perhaps that has an effect...
(We have speakers outside, and the radio was on, thus the music.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Equitation Blitz Is Blown To Bits

The title is a bit of an exaggeration but it is temporarily on hold. We went to the barn today planning a full on assault on training, and quickly set out ground poles and a jump for a free lunging start. Rogo and Savanah were doing great - happy, popping over the jump, floating over the poles, when suddenly in a flash Rogo landed from a jump and was limping big time. I thought it must be just that he landed funny, so I had him stand for a minute and he held up his sore leg. Then he started putting weight on it again and was fine. To make a longer story shorter, he turned out to be missing the shoe on that foot. They just had their shoes put back on a week or so ago :( He was walking and trotting soundly after a few minutes, but it obviously wasn't going to be a work day. I did get on him for a few minutes, but all we did was walk. While walking around he kept a pretty much perfect contact - just in front of the vertical, steady and consistent with no tension or popping his head up. Yeah! Now to get it that consistent in trot and canter when the shoe goes back on (Mon. afternoon).
Here's a really quick clip from my phone of Rogo practicing the left and right stretching exercise I'm teaching him. It needs work, but it's coming and he's cute :)

And now, in shameless imitation of Laurie Skoog at Skoog Farm Journal and Annette at News From Aspen Meadows, here's my dinnner prep for Pad Thai (I don't have much of a horse post and my phone with camera was in my pocket.)

Plated, with a side of Thai mango salad. I love Thai!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Week Equitation Boot Camp - Ride One

I set three goals for two weeks, and I'm going to keep repeating them so I'll drill them into my head:
  1. maintain steady, consistent connection instead of throwing it away when he gives or gets tense
  2. keep my legs softly against his sides at all times; use the sides of my calves, not my heels
  3. keep my legs long and heels down when cantering; don't let my legs creep up to hold the canter (see above)
I got lots of good feedback when I first posted these, with several people suggesting bareback or no stirrups. This is a great idea, but I wasn't able to start that today. The snow was coming off the roof, and even though Rogo barely flicks an ear over this, I'm always a little nervous (it's a wonder I haven't made him nervous). I did a little bit with no stirrups, but it wasn't the day for it. I'll start bareback on the lunge, because the one time I rode Rogo bareback he wouldn't steer and was trotting fast every which way and wouldn't stop until I rode him into a fence. I know - perfect Rogo acting naughty - how can that be :) Winter before last I rode Savanah bareback at walk, trot and canter, in the ring,  on the beach (even a little galloping here) and in the woods four or five times a week for four months. It was wonderful and it got so I hated using a saddle. I really learned to balance with my core. Then Doug started riding her again and I went back to riding Dan and began to back Rogo and the bareback got left behind. It's time to start again and I'm so happy to have the reminders of how good it is.

Another suggestion was two point. I don't jump and don't have much experience with this, but it's a good idea and I'm going to do some.
Doug and I rode together today, so it was great to have a set of eyes to help me. Also the mirror in the ring is handy. For the first time ever with Rogo I took a good contact and then held it, in the same way I would with Savanah, instead of giving the contact away all the time. I don't know why this was such a mental block for me. It was like night and day even on this first day of my blitz. I knew he was ready and could do it or I wouldn't have made it a two week goal - it's me, not him that's holding this up. Sure, his neck got stiff a few times and he wanted to poke his nose out a few times, but really it was fine. It was like a revelation to me!
I gave him lots of opportunities to stretch forward and down (he likes to do this) and he was great. He didn't pop his head up during transitions and the quality of the trot was much better. The canter wasn't great so we'll keep working on that. It comes and goes with him.
That was the first goal. The second one - keeping my legs lightly on - is more vague to me. I keep being told to do it, but as I try to focus on it I realize I don't have a good mental picture of what I want. That's half the battle! The second and third goals are very related, and since I seem to have gotten over the hurdle on the first one (still LOTS of practice needed by both of us, especially in canter) this will be #1 now. Legs long, heels down, inside of calves on when needed and don't let anything make me give it up. I can do this.
Doug and Savanah had a great ride. He's been practicing the beginning of collection in the trot and got me to watch today while they practiced. He sat deep, pushed with his seat and legs and suddenly I swear it looked like three strides of a piaffe / passage combo. I yelled "did you feel that" at the same time he yelled "did you see that". She lowered her hindquarters and took three very elevated strides with lots of suspension in them - wow, so pretty.
We didn't ride either of them very long because they'd been out playing in the snow and were kind of tired. Also Doug was tired because he spent an hour fencing, in snow over his knees, when he got there.
I can't wait to ride again...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Winter Pursuits

First a reference to the 'Why I Love My Horse' stories that many bloggers posted for Valentines Day (suggested by the Literary Horse I believe). I loved these stories! I love hearing about how people acquire and develop a bond with their horses. There was so much interesting background that I learned about many of the bloggers I follow.
I've posted several times about why I love and treasure Rogo, so I won't bore anyone again with it at this time. I can't make any promises about the future though :)
Doug and I did free lunging over a jump and ground poles with Savanah, Rogo and Dan yesterday. They get better and better each time we do it. I can really see Rogo starting to figure out what jumps are. We switched from cross rails to a 3+ ft. jump with Savanah and Rogo and they did great, sometimes going over it together. It was sooo pretty. We do Dan separately. Three of them at liberty at the same time would be too much!
Rogo will totally stay on the circuit to do the poles and jump, and feels very responsible to herd Savanah around it too. He doesn't actually touch her - just gets behind her and uses body language to drive her forward and stay on the track. She thinks it's really funny if she ducks out every few turns. She thinks she's really putting one over on us. Anyway, I'm very pleased with how they are doing, lengthening over the poles and figuring out the jump. It's conditioning them and they're having fun.
I got some great feedback on my equitation goals from my last post (thanks very much - I'm going to use this stuff) and clearly I can't work on equitation without being on my horse :( . My plan when I got to the barn was that Doug would  lunge me on Rogo after the free lunging, but Rogo went so well and had so much fun I was loath to make him do serious work. I remember my goal of fun only days while working on forward. If I can get him going forward better it will solve about 75% of my equitation issues, so it isn't a total loss.
Today we stayed home and had Joan, our original dressage teacher (who I'm now able to go back to after family health issues kept her away for a while), down for lunch and viewing dressage videos from . We had a ball. She selected Arthur Kottas, Stephan Peters, Betsey Steiner and George Williams for this first session. We didn't watch the complete session with all of them (it would have taken too long), but we got a good flavor of each with a young horse. Here are Joan, Doug and Mom by the fire, eating quiche that Doug made, salad that I made and having a glass of wine. Doug made brownies for desert. Winter dressage has it's leisurely days too :)

Tomorrow the two week goals get attacked - connection, long canter legs and legs lightly on at all times.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Great Rides

Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo today. I think Jennifer might have been there earlier and rode Dan - there were tracks in the snow. It was a perfect sunny day, a little cold, but nice for riding inside.
Doug and Savanah are doing so well. I can't believe he was off for a month - they are doing walk, canter, trot transitions and getting them perfectly. An invisible half halt, and then off they go into a nice engaged canter, 15 m circle, then trot and walk. Very nice. He's asking her for a little bit of collection at the trot now too, and she is responding well. She has a great trot and she likes to trot - how much fun is that?
Rogo surprised me today - he trotted very nicely right from the start - Yeah! He would bounce forward from calf pressure the way he should and rarely does early in the ride. I think there may be two reasons:
  1. the ground poles, free jumping, lunging and transitions are working
  2. he must have been out playing and well warmed up when we started (I didn't get there until mid afternoon and there was no one around, so this is a guess)
Instead of taking 30 or 40 minutes to get going well, he went well from the start, but then petered out after 40 minutes or so. This is the opposite of what usually happens. He always starts slow and then is going strong when it's time to quit after an hour, (I don't want to work him longer than that even though he's going well by then, in case I over tire him or make him sour). Once I figured out that he was fading instead of growing stronger we called it a day.
Before that happened we worked on forwardness and connection in the trot, walk and trot leg yield, and canter. His canter felt quite stiff today in that he was hard to steer, but generally it's been better lately, so I won't worry. I may be entirely to blame (partially for sure) in that I felt stiff too - I couldn't seem to connect and go with him. It felt like a fatigue thing with me, only I haven't done anything to be tired. One of those days I guess. Just being with him felt very joyful after the health scare. I'll be so glad when I have him home with me 24/7.
I have a vital new goal to achieve (okay, improve) before show season - good equitation. I know, it should be a given that it's an important goal at all times, but I neglected it with getting Rogo started and now it's kind of a mess. I can get on Savanah and keep a fairly correct position, but for some reason it doesn't translate to Rogo. When I canter on Savanah my legs stay long and heels down. When I canter on Rogo my legs and heels can creep up. It seems to be related to holding him in the canter, but I know this shouldn't be how I hold him in it. Also, I keep a good connection with Savanah and have a good, consistent weight in my hands all the time. With Rogo, I ask for connection and then give it away constantly, as soon as he gives or puts his head up. It seems to be muscle memory because unless I really focus on it I don't even know I'm doing it. I wanted to have light hands in starting him, but I've taken it too far and gone on too long. And my last really bad habit (I'm sure there are plenty more if I ever get these corrected) is my legs. For some reason it seems they just 'float' there at times instead of laying against him giving him clear messages or staying in touch with him. I would love to know of an exercise to strengthen my lower legs if anyone has any suggestions. This is key for me. I need an equitation boot camp! 
Rogo was especially cute and lovey today. After I put him back in his stall he actually asked to be kissed - he puts his nose against my lips and then gives little nudges for a kiss. If I stop, or after each kiss he gives a tiny nudge for another one. I'm embarrassed to say this went on for several minutes. I swear he'd stand all day and do this, and he had hay in his stall. I'm putty in his hooves :)
Conclusion, hold me to this:
  1. connection better established in two weeks (he's ready and can do this - this shouldn't be a stretch)
  2. legs correct in canter 75% of the time in two weeks (they are getting there and I can do it, it just needs focus)
  3. legs quietly on all the time instead of randomly floating some on the time - two weeks
This may seem challenging, to improve all this in two weeks, but I need to focus.

Want To Know About Real Life Sarcoid Experiences?

If so, read the comments to my last two posts. I am amazed and blown away by the number of people who took time to reassure me that Rogo will be fine, and to share their knowledge. I have a range of different examples and treatments to compare to, and many success stories, with different approaches depending on the individual horse and need. Wow - if I was ever glad I started a blog, now is the time (I'm always glad, but this is the best). I had no idea that I'd ever use my blog for this, but I sure see the benefit. There's a community, in the real sense of the word. I read all the blogs of the people who commented and know that they are responsible horse people with many, many years of combined experience. They rally around when needed and are generous with time and knowledge. This is what community is.
I'm new to blogging (less than a year) and feel I haven't really 'paid my dues', but our little horse family has been welcomed into the fold. Does that sound hokey? Too bad :)
THANK YOU everyone for your advice and information. You've made a huge difference.
I don't want to belabor the point, but without my blog I would have been on the internet researching, and in some cases read scary and now I'm realizing very misleading information, and in a vacuum as far as people to talk to who had experienced this. Thank you for saving me from that!
I'm going to the barn later today, so it will be back to training posts and full speed ahead.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Knew A Little More Than I Said About The Lump

I couldn't really bring myself to write the words yesterday. Also I feared writing them would make this into a 'thing'; that writing the words would somehow give life and strength to the __. I'm determined that isn't going to happen, but this is my honest journal and I may want to check back for health care purposes, so here it is.
I know more than I said. I'm just going to factually state it, then move on and go back to our training journal. The vet said the lump below is a sarcoid tumor. It was what I was so scared about when trying to research what it could be on the net. It isn't the type of cancer that grey horses are susceptible to. It's a tumor that can stay the same, or disappear. They can also get 'angry' and grow. If that happens, it isn't good. Removing them or disturbing them has a high risk of  making them grow faster and spread, hence not even a biopsy (so in theory I guess the diagnosis could be wrong? the vet didn't suggest that). It looks innocuous doesn't it?

I'm carrying on completely the same as before except for the immune system support. Please don't send me any stories about this disease that have ended badly (I guess no one would do that). Only positive stories/thoughts or suggestions for immune system boosters! I've gotten some good ideas re the later already and really appreciate them. Then, right back to work :)
Now, back to our training journal. Today my wonderful nephew Alex came to ride Rogo. I wish I had pictures and video, but of course I forgot to bring a camera. Alex is such a great rider. He gets on Rogo and his position is perfect and stays perfect no matter what - legs long and lightly on the horse, heels down, hands and legs quiet,.... I really enjoy watching him ride because I get to see what it should look like. Rogo was slow to get going today, but he may have still been a little lethargic from the tranquilizer yesterday (teeth floated). He went very nicely though after a long warm up. Some days it takes twenty or thirty minutes for him to find his balance and engine.
When the ride was over I showed Alex Rogo's new skill of bending to the left and right as I call out left and right. It's his clicker 'trick' and now he can do bending exercises on his own. Every few bends he gets a piece of apple. We were in hysterics - it's beyond cute. I'll video and post it soon. Next - stretching down.
Thanks for listening. Tomorrow it's all good stuff :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ground Work, Conditioning and The Vet

Doug and I went to the barn this morning. The vet was coming to float Rogo's teeth (Savanah and Dan will be done when we get them home in April), and check the lump.
We got there early and set up a lowish jump on one side of the arena and three ground poles on the other side, then brought in Savanah and Rogo together and free lunged them. They are getting good at this. Rogo knows the routine and tries to herd Savanah around the circuit. Savanah knows it too, but she thinks it's fun to try to duck out every few turns around. Her trot over the poles is amazing! Big bold steps with lots of suspension and very proud and strong. Rogo is more about floating forward - also pretty but perhaps not as showy as she is to be honest :) It was hard to get any good shots because it was quite dark in there today, but here's a shot of Rogo.

After that we put them back in their stalls and brought Dan in. He was a character, but soon settled down and enjoyed the jump and poles, licking his lips and going through things beautifully.
Then Rogo got his teeeth done:

He had a couple of rough spots and had recently bitten his cheek, so that may be why I had the incident of head throwing a couple of days ago. The vet said he has wolf teeth, but they are very firmly seated (?) so he recommended we just keep an eye on them and take them out if they start to cause problems. We'll get them checked again when the horses are home in April and the vet comes to do Savanah and Dan.
I don't know what to say about the lump so I'll say nothing for now. It's a wait and see situation. A biopsy has the potential to make things worse so that's out. If anyone has any advice on strengthening horse immune systems I'd love to have the advice / information.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Riding Rogo and Savanah Today

Today Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo. Doug hadn't ridden in a month - the flu and other things got in the way. It was amazing how well he and Savanah did after all that time off. I'd ridden her a little bit but not much. They did great!
Now, back to me :) I'm quite happy with Rogo. After the period we went through where he seemed to be up and down in his canter all the time, he seems to have balanced out in 'up' and he's becoming more maneuverable in the canter. I think we'll be able to work on counter canter and lengthening / shortening as soon as we get outside into a bigger space, maybe even a bit inside soon. The transitions are slowly improving, the bending is quite good, he is straight for the most part, halts are coming along. I'd love to get some lessons in with Joan to sharpen us up, but all in all I can't complain. I have a couple of areas that really need work, and they're big ones:
  • For the life of me I can't seem to keep a good contact with him. It's not as though he won't give me a nice position and contact if I ask for it well and consistently after he's warmed up - he will. It's that I don't / won't take any kind of a consistently solid feel on the reins. I'm so used to barely any contact that I can't seem to make myself take any. I do with Savanah, but not with Rogo. I pick it up when I think of it, but then I give it away right away. Doug was pointing it out to me today and I hope he is around lots to keep after me about it. It must be because I haven't made the shift from riding a baby to riding a young horse who's more than ready to connect.
  • The other area is the working trot. It's getting better with the shoes back on and the work I've been doing with ground poles, free jumps, lunging etc. but there's more improvement needed. He started more forward after he was backed, but we had some health set backs, I didn't have a lot of confidence and strength, I didn't realize the shoes were an issue, and he learned to be slow. I have to get him engaged and pushing and having fun going forward. It will come if I'm patient and keep working at it.
I watched a fascinating  series of videos of Dr. Hillary Clayton talking about conditioning dressage horses. Some things I want to remember:
  • no more than two days a week of 'hard' work
  • don't repeat the same muscle workout two days in a row
  • young horses should only be worked every other day (you can do easier things with them on the 'off' days)
  • some ideas for conditioning while switching things up: hacking out, hill work (up and down are both excellent and backing up a hill is very good, in small amounts), jumping, ground poles
I've heard a lot of this before, but it really crystallized it for me. When muscles, tendons and ligaments are worked, they get damaged. If you work the same ones every day every day, the damage accumulates - this is the cause of tendon and ligament injuries. If you provide a break between working them the damage repairs itself.
I have to admit that I used to work hard five or six days a week the first summer I showed Savanah, doing mostly the same routine. I didn't know better  and I wanted us to do well. It turned out I had us both so tired that we lost our spark by the end of the summer. I'm lucky I didn't hurt her by doing this :(
Tomorrow the vet comes to float Rogo's teeth. I had to cancel last week because of a snow storm. I'm also getting him to look at a small, crusty lump between his front legs, just a bit in front of the girth. I had myself so worked up about the lump this morning, after being on the internet trying to 'diagnose' it, that I literally made myself sick - fever, nauseous, heart palpitations and racing heart, sore throat... I know I sound like a flake, but it was scaring me. The lump was there before, then went away, but now is back worse than before. A friend sent me a message suggesting what it could be (a stall gall, I hadn't heard of it) that calmed me a bit, and when we went to ride I relaxed and enjoyed being with them. I have my fingers crossed that it's nothing to be worried about.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cheryl Meisner Open House

Cheryl Meisner is a very talented and accomplished Nova Scotia dressage rider sponsored by John Risley, a  successful Nova Scotia business man. She trains and shows in Europe and is currently back in Nova Scotia for a period of time. She's Canada's 5th ranked dressage rider I think. She and her sponsor did the open house today at his beautiful facility in Chester (for free) - so nice. There was a great turn out and everyone loved it.
Although only in her mid twenties at the time, she narrowly missed being on Canada's Olympic team in 2008. Here's a bit of background on that.
She rode a 31/2 year old schooling training level and a 10 year old Grand Prix horse, Tango. Both were beautiful. She talked as she rode, explaining her training as she went and it was really interesting, informative  and helpful. I was really happy to see that her horses were in front of the vertical. I watch training videos ( and almost all the horses, even three year olds, are well behind the vertical). I want to write down some of the key pieces while I'm thinking about it.
I loved watching the GP horse perform. He is so talented and 'on'. She went through a series from 4 tempis to 3 tempis to 2 temis to 1 tempies, crossing the diagonals one after the other for each set. There wasn't a second of anticipation or a foot set wrong. Each series was perfect. Wow. So often I've seen horses start to anticipate in the tempis and change on their own. Not this horse and rider. Also, she makes it look easy.
What really impressed me was that she rode the GP horse in a single bridle in the same very mild snaffle bit she used on the 3 year old, and this horse is quite hot and in Cheryl's own words "not an easy ride". He went perfectly though - many wow moments. I've seen it suggested that upper level horses shouldn't be required to wear double bridles in competition and I have to say I agree. Actually, while I'm on that topic, it would be great if bits weren't required at all if that's what the rider wanted.
The young horse was my main interest. He was very forward, so I asked her in the question period if he'd always been that way, or if she'd trained him to be that way. She said he started very forward, then backed off and didn't want to go forward (a buck, a kick at her leg when it went on, etc.) and she corrected him strongly and quickly (a strong kick I think is what she said) and he got over it quickly. She said when you nag at them with half hearted corrections the problem doesn't get fixed and then you're in a situation of small corrections all the time.
He was such a sweet horse for being so young. It was his first time in front of a crowd of people and she got on and rode without even lunging him and he was super.
I noticed he was cantering like Rogo does sometimes. I don't know how to describe it - he threw his head a bit (Rogo's only done that once, a couple of days ago), and he seemed not to be that steady at times. Seeing another young horse do this made me realize it's just a natural young/green horse thing, not a problem.
Cheryl talked about the importance of forwardness and how lack of forwardness is the cause of most problems or trouble. Keeping the young horse forward and keeping the head up is the key to stay out of trouble with a young horse. When asked what one of the biggest challenges of training a young horse is, Cheryl responded "fear", which got a big laugh. It made me feel better, because I've sure felt that at times when starting Rogo. If a rider like her faces it too, I guess I can forgive myself. She did make clear that this young horse doesn't trigger fear because he has a very good mind (as does Rogo).
After the open house Doug went home and I went to the barn and rode. To make a long story short, it evolved at the barn that we're going to bring our horses home the end of March. Yeah! Rogo was great:
  • I lunged him and his trot is really improving
  • Trot under saddle could have been more forward, but it's improving
  • He's very good at bending
  • Contact needs more work, especially in the canter, and somewhat in the trot, but we're working on it every ride
  • Canter transitions up and down are slightly improving, but need work
  • He did a great canter across the diagonal and change of lead back into the canter, three times in succession. We hadn't done this in a couple of months so I was happy with that
  • We did a little shoulder in and it's coming slowly (be we don't work on it much)
  • He has the leg yield at the walk now, but not the trot. Boy this is painfully slow, but coming.
That's it. Thanks for all the great comments on the past post. It was fun to write and I'm going to follow up on some of the ideas.

    Wednesday, February 2, 2011

    Top Ten Things I'd Like To Do In 2011, and a Bonus Item

    We're experiencing the blizzard that's been hitting the east coast, so needless to say I didn't get to the barn. I think I'll use the time to write Some Things I'd Like To Do In 2011, just for the fun of it if nothing else. As I write this I'm thinking it isn't goal setting, it's more of a wish list to write for fun. Hmmm, a glass of red could help the creative juices,.... I'll be right back.
    There, that's better. Nothing a little Wolf Blass won't fix. Here's what I think I'd like to do in an (almost) perfect world:
    1. Learn how to horse camp (I'm a good back country camper with a canoe), and teach our horses the necessary skills. Go horse camping. Does anyone reading this horse camp? Got any recommendations within a day's drive of Nova Scotia for horse camping facilities? I might start with getting permission to camp in the woods close to home.
    2. Acquire a stylish dressage schooling wardrobe for Rogo and I. We have good show clothes and tack, but as I've said, Doug's worn out Harley t-shirts as riding attire have to go. This of course opens up the possibility of matching saddle pads, interchangeable brow bands ... I know, I know, I'm too old. I at least promise not to buy pink anything.
    3. Develop a business plan that would give me financially sustainable access to an indoor full size dressage arena for winter 2012/13 (remember, it's a wish list). Find close to it for 2011/12.
    4. Get into full time training with Joan again
    5. Ace Training level and make good inroads to Level One. Hey, it's a wish list not a realistic list so hell, through focus, study and training to be schooling much of Level Two
    6. The wine is kicking in - morphing from wish list to dreams - cooking classes in Italy
    7. Dressage lessons in Europe, while there attending an amazing dressage show (ideas for shows?)
    8. Horse photography workshop in Kentucky
    9. Christmas somewhere warm
    10. My sweet boy stays happy and healthy. Make that boys.
    For something completely different, here's a picture of my Mother riding their farm horse (a Percheron) when she was 16. It's around 1940.

    She picked berries one summer and traded for the saddle. Mom lives with us in the winter and goes to her house about 1.5 miles away in the spring. Come March 21, she'll be packing up and moving home. She still drives, so I can't stop her. It's very inconsiderate of her, as who does she think is going to do our dishes when that happens??? Maybe I can convince her to stay longer this year... She takes good care of us :) 
    Mom stays up on everything (politics, news), is a much nicer person than me, and she amazes me with her ability to pick up technology. She reads my blog, is on Facebook, emails, etc. She's 87 and she's my hero. My eleventh wish for 2011 is her continued health.