June 30, 2011

Dressage is for the birds ... literally

Okay, okay, I don't' actually mean that about dressage. However, I could not for the life of me figure out what Rose's drama was on Monday. She was all sweet and calm when I tacked her up. However, as soon as we were outside in the dressage arena she started having a conniption about the judges booth. She's been spooked in the last few weeks from a bird flying out of the booth, but she got over it. As such, it was beyond me as to why she was being such a pain about it. There were no birds that I could see flying in our out, but she refused to stay at task on that end of the arena, trying to careen her neck to the outside, cut to the inside, and slow her pace, all in attempt to turn on her heel an bolt in the opposite direction. WTF!!! To my utter humiliation we spent a good 35 minutes in our "warm up" going in tiny trot circles and trying to produce something called forward, bent to the inside, and contact. In the end I won out over the scary booth, and we got 15 minutes of work. Not my idea of a fun ride.

Afterward I thought I'd investigate the judges booth to see if I could figure out her drama. Apparently it was birds. Nesting birds! Inside the wall of the booth you could hear the babies chirping like crazy. Loud echoing chirps that were freaking Rose out. I had thought the chirps were coming from bushes, but Rose obviously has better hearing than me. Once I figured it out I felt pretty bad. I should have hopped off and investigated from the beginning. Bad horse mom!

The next day I decided we would just have a nice hack in the jumping arena, and give Rose a mental break from the birds. Our ride went great, and then I decided that I would just stay out of the dressage arena until the birds grew up and left. Well, I don't know how fast birds grow up, but when I investigated yesterday all I found was an empty nest with feathers. Maybe a predator of some sort got them?
Dressage arena judges booth

What I could photograph of the nest
I think I shall finish up the week with a hack around the jumping arena again, and we will re-visit the dressage arena next week. Although I think she'll be fine now that the chicks are gone, I just don't have it in me for one more fight this week.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 29, 2011

Oxer - check!

I had a lovely ride on Rose today. I converted last weeks course into a little 1'-9" to 2' vertical course plus one little oxer. It was a 18" oxer with an ex for the front rail. She jumped it without hesitation, and then as I was circling to come back to it she caught sight of the 2'3" flower box oxer that was set up, perked her ears and started to go for it. We didn't jump it, as I really don't want her jumping over 2' until next year, but how great is it that she's so willing to go for it? Here is a picture of our little oxer:

Rose's first oxer jump
I know that photos of jumps is not that exciting, so I am planning to have my dear husband come out one evening or weekend and take photos of the girl jumping. So hang tight...I'm dying to see some action photos too!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 23, 2011

Rose jumps her first course

It may not look like much, but this was Rose's first jump course. She was terrific, and even gave me flying changes after the line *if* she didn't switch over the jump. Most of the time she did get her correct lead over the jump. Days like today I can forgive her for her death corner antics. She is just such a good girl and makes me so happy...most of the time! The only thing in the photo we didn't jump was the flower box, I'm gonna save that for another day. I'm thinking I'll introduce her to a small oxer next week. Woo-hoo!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 20, 2011

Well hello automatic changes. Nice to meet you!

I believe it was last week that Rose accidentally did a flying change on the quarter line. I thought it was a mere accident, and it probably was, so I didn't get too excited about it. She did it a couple more times that week as well. Then there was our ride today! We worked on a lot of transitions today, and toward the end she was using her hind end better and getting off her forehand.

Then she picked up the wrong lead, so I brought her into a circle as per usual and made her counter canter. After the circle I asked for a trot transition, with the anticipation of a simple change to the correct lead, as this usually fixes her mistake. Well, guess who figured out that it is easier to do an automatic (flying lead change) change instead of a simple change! Of course I figured it was a one off, so we started doing some serpentines with the intention of doing simple changes at the center line....and hello automatic change! Every time! Then after that along the rail, she picked up the wrong lead again, but as soon as just began to bring her into the counter canter circle she changed her lead. It was so much fun. I knew eventually we would have automatic changes, but I never figured she'd just start doing them on her own.
Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 19, 2011

Lush Pastures

On Friday I was able to turn Rose out for about 20 minutes in one of the rather lush grazing paddocks. Our barn has a "no single horse" in turn out policy for the grazing paddocks. So, that means you have to turn out with a buddy or a neighbor. Luckily, some other horses were turned out when we finished our ride so Rose got a little grass time. Although I'd like to turn her out longer, I'm thinking that with this much grass it's probably best to keep her turnout short anyway. Upon observation when I went to bring her in, it appeared that she didn't move 10 feet the entire time she was in the paddock. She definitely brought her hoover impersonation, which is a good thing. You can tell from the photo that she's in the midst of another growth spurt. She's bum high and a little ribby. Although we've upped her feed, it's hard to keep up with her metabolism when she's growing, so bit extra grass will be a good thing...in moderation!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 14, 2011

Yeah, Trail Ride!

Today I had hoped to have a repeat of Monday. However, I arrived at the barn at the same time as two of my fellow boarders who invited Rose and I to join them on a jaunt down the gravel/dirt road...aka Trail Ride. I jumped on the offer, and tacked Rose up faster than I probably ever had. We had a lovely walking ride down the road, past lots of houses, a few cars, a bunch of Black Angus, and to an old red school house. Rose took it all in stride, and I was quite proud of her! Afterward she got a big reward of grazing in the finally now open grazing pastures. It's highly likely that I have myself a big fancy trail horse!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 13, 2011

Long weekends are good for the (horse's) soul

After wrapping up the "death corner" week this past Thursday, I was very much looking forward to a break. AR and I packed up our truck and ski boat and headed north to my family's place at Seeley Lake, MT. I needed the mental escape, and after our very frustrating week I hoped that it would do Rose some good too. Oddly, I managed to almost forget that I had a horse. All I had to focus on was cutting my wake at the right spot, engaging my core muscles, leading my cut with my shoulders, pulling through the cut...and right about then I realized that this was actually pretty good cross training for riding. Oh yeah, and I own a horse.

Back home and back to real life. After mowing my lawn, trimming the hedge, planting some perennials, and a few other housekeeping errands I eventually drug myself to the barn. I was excited to see Rose and assure she was still in one piece, but to be honest, I was not excited to get on her. I shouldn't have been so morose about it though. The Rose that I love and adore is back!

I had hoped to ride her outside, to avoid the death corner. Not a good training plan, I know, but I just wanted to have a somewhat productive ride. I justified it by the fact that we will have to spend the entire winter with the death corner. Eventually we would get around to dealing with it again. That was not to be the case however. Just was I was about to mount up, the impending thunderstorm that had me mowing and gardening all morning arrived. So, no death corner escape for me. I hopped up and asked her for a nice forward stretching walk along the rail. We turned the corner of death and, gasp, she didn't spook! She looked a bit, but that was it. I instantly relaxed and hoped that it would be a trend for the day and not a one-hit wonder. A trend it was.

Now what? I didn't have a plan for our ride, as I assumed that we would be fighting over the death corner again. After our initial warmup, I decided we would work on shortenings and lengthening. Rose had a lot of energy and forward momentum, which felt great. She was also being very responsive to my seat. I really  focused on relaxing my leg muscles and sitting into my saddle. Right away she applied the shortening and lengthening work we've been doing at the walk to her trot. I had some of the best sitting trot I've ever had on her. We had tiny little itty bitty trot, and then she's move right away into a nice big balanced medium trot. We threw in some walk transitions and circles as well.

Next I decided to do some canter transition work. She is still struggling with downward transitions from the canter to the trot. We get them but they are anything but prompt and balanced, so I think that this will be a great exercise for improving those transitions, and we worked on this for a bit. However, she had so much energy, I decided to let her burn some of it off through a hand gallop down the long sides. I've tried this before, but she's never lengthened her canter before. Today, she opened up her stride and went for it, and boy was that fun for the both of us!

After a couple laps, I decided to bring her down the quarter line to work on cantering straight. Unless in a circle, she is very wiggly off the rail, so this is a good exercise for her to learn to go straight. As we were going down our quarterline, and she was wiggling back and forth, a funny thing happened. Instinctively I use my legs to help straighten her, and wouldn't you know it she listened to my outside leg pressure and gave me a flying lead change! I went with it and asked her to swap back. She got half of it, then I asked again and she swapped behind as well. We ended up doing it a couple more times, but I didn't wan't to push my luck. We ended on that note, and went for a nice stretchy walk to cool down. It feels great to be moving forward once again.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 8, 2011

The Death Corner

Yep, today's ride was all about the death corner again. It only lasted about 45-minutes today, so that gave us a good 15 minutes of doing something productive. Progress I guess. Today I made sure to get to the barn late morning, before the afternoon rush, so that no one would be there to witness our debacle. In case you are curious, here is a photo of the death corner:

The "Death Corner"
My theory as to why it is so terrifying is that the sun shines in the window, onto the jump standards, which of course resemble a pile of rubble for which mountain lions would be living in. Again, I don't really think that Rose is scared of the corner, I think it is more that it's an excuse to rebel, evade work, and test my fortitude. She has no issue with the rest of the windows or the bleachers. Ugh. As SprinklerBandit commented; Bring on age 6! Hum, that's two years away....bring on the G&T's! At this rate, two years from now I may be attending AA meetings. Just kidding, but sometimes I wonder why I do this, and then I remember days like last Friday and I get a big ole smile on my face. She'll grow up eventually, and in the mean time she'll be out of heat by next week, and that will at least be an improvement.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 7, 2011

6 week follow up.

Today's ride was less than thrilling. Rose decided she didn't want to work, so she decided to throw a fit about the "death corner" again. We spent an hour dealing with the "death corner". Sometimes she'd go past it just fine, and then she'd decide she didn't want to work, and throw a big stinking "I'm a four year old mare in heat" fit the next time around. Frustrating is all I can describe it as. One big long hour of frustrating. I did of course win in the end, and we ended on a good note with the stinking corner. Oh, well. Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully she'll be in a more cooperative mood and we can actually work on something productive.

In the mean time, I thought I'd post a follow up on her leg injury from six weeks ago.
Original Injury April 21, 2011
Six weeks later - June 3, 2011
I always am amazed at these fragile creatures ability to heal themselves. Just astounding!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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June 4, 2011

Rose jumps her first vertical!

Through the course of the week Rose overcame her fears of scary arena corners and judges booths, and we ended up doing some good work on our last couple rides. So I decided Friday we would mix things up and have jump day, which would be her third time jumping. The weather was less than ideal, so we had to work in the indoor arena.

Warm Up
Rose contemplated having issues with the scarey corner again, but I applied leg and asked for contact and she nicely marched forward. "Phew, no fights today" I thought to myself. She warmed up nicely and then I took her over one set of three trotting poles and one set of three canter poles, each set up on the quarter line at B & E. Rose, ever so clever, remembers jumping now, and decided it would be far easier to jump all of the trotting poles than to trot through them. This meant that from the trot she more or less jumped a 9' ditch. My current view is I don't care how she does it so long as she goes forward and over. So I went with her, and believe it or not it turned out to be a nice jump! The next time around however, she decided it was best to trot through the trotting poles. Our canter poles are another deal entirely. Rose apparently would rather jump a double bounce than just canter over the poles. So again, I just go with her and let her do what she'd like, so long as it is forward and over. If she wants to jump them, fine. Plus it is kinda fun.

I left the canter poles as they were, and set the trot poles up to a little ex. She jumped it like a pro, at both the trot and canter. Coming in she was nice and responsive to leg and seat, balanced, accepting contact, and nicely picking up her feet, and going over the jump. After the jump I asked her to continue on with the canter, collect, change lead through simple change if needed (half the time she landed with the correct lead), and continue on to our canter poles. She was doing so well, I decided to see what would happen over a vertical. I set the little cavalleti block to the 1-3" setting and made a vertical.  Again, we started jumping it at the trot, then canter, and in both directions. She was perfect. "Well" I thought to myself "I think I aught to put it up and see what she does".
Rose's first 2' Vertical
I hopped off and set up a 2' vertical. I took a deep breath and brought her around at the trot. PERFECT JUMP! "Hot damn" I thought, "lets try it at the canter". Around the arena we went, continuing on with the canter, going through the canter poles and then around to our little jump. She found her distance, got her lead, and got a TON of praise. I repeated it in the other direction, got a repeat performance, and then decided to end on that very good note. What a thrilling ride!

After our ride, one of my fellow borders commented to me about what a nice jumper she is, and was shocked to hear that that was her third time jumping and her first vertical. Gotta say, that totally gave me the warm fuzzies. Such a nice compliment. 

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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