April 25, 2014

The upside of not owning...

I struggle everyday with not having a horse. But it is definitely helping that I have Hugo to play around with twice a week (so long as the weather cooperates). Although there are many drawbacks to not having my own horse, there is one definite upside. Spending money. Not that I have a lot of it, but when I do need a new riding accessory I can more easily afford to splurge now and then now that I am horseless.

Recently I sold the jumping saddle that I had bought for Rose. Given the cash burning a hole in my pocket post saddle sale, I decided it was high time I replaced my uncomfortable and very hot back-up troxel grand prix helmet that I have been using ever since Rose stepped on and killed my nice IRH back in 2011. Wow, I didn't realize how long that it had been. Very sad indeed. Probably time for a new helmet regardless.

So I decided to splurge on the helmet I have been drooling over for YEARS! I managed to find it on sale at Adam's Horse and Pet Supplies, it had free shipping and I managed to find a 10% off coupon to boot. If that wasn't great enough, the helmet came with a very nice pair of free Roeckl gloves worth $45. I was stoked. Free shipping of course meant that I had to WAIT, and WAIT, and WAIT for  it to arrive. However, one magical day last week, while both Junior and I were sick, our awesome UPS man Sean showed up at the door with the happiest box of all time. That might be a slight exaggeration, but...ladies and gentlemen I give you the Charles Owen AYR8 Classic:

No guessing as to what is in this magical box!

Junior insisted on helping me open the box. He was excited to have a new box to play with!
Breaking it in!
Of course I had to wait to try it out until this past Monday, but that didn't stop me from gleefully wearing it around the house for a little while. I swear I only got healthy so that I could ride in my helmet! There is will power for you.

I am happy to report that the helmet met all my expectations. First, it fit my tiny round head. No headaches, no pressure points, even with my ponytail tucked up. I am not an oblong head person, so pretty much CO's are the only helmets that fit me comfortably. This was info I already knew, as I have an old CO GR8 that has been hanging around as another back-up. Given that it was made in 2008-ish, and was a hand me down...it's now being retired for good.

What I love about the AYR8 Classic is that it is velvet, has a button and a bow (I'm an old school hunter princess...that just will not change), a flesh colored strap instead of black (I really wish the clear ones were astm/sei approved, but flesh color is at least better), and best of all it has a great venting system. It was quite warm (about 70ºF) when I rode and I didn't sweat or get hat hair at all. Also, the lining is anti-microbial, so that will be nice too. At any rate, I love this helmet so far and I am so happy with my splurge!

Oh, and the Roeckl riding gloves it came with are great too. They are the first synthetic leather gloves I've ever used (I am a leather snob as well). At any rate, they are quite comfy and I can even use my phone through them. Bonus. They are definitely going to be my new schooling gloves for now, and I will save my leather ones for shows.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

April 22, 2014

Longeline training

I have been riding Hugo about two times a week for the past month now. It feels great to be riding somewhat regularly again. Now I just need to get back in the habit of blogging! Hugo is coming along well. EB and I have had a few "team meetings" regarding his training and I think we have a fairly in sync plan at the moment. I have also come out to give EB some pointers on her longeing and riding of Hugo to help sync our training/riding as well. What does that all mean? I have a lot of blogging backlog already! I even have some tattoo look up research to share. I will get to it all, but let’s start with the first order of business.

The most pressing training item at the moment is developing Hugo’s longeing skills.  As such, Hugo has been going through longeing 101, and he has become a stellar student. It became clear to me last fall that he had never been correctly trained to longe. Unfortunately the weather promptly changed and winter rolled right on in. 

Fast forward to this past month…

It was time to start working on longeing Hugo again. The big challenge with longe training him is erasing his past “training”. His only understanding of “longeing” has been being chased around a leadline by a stick with a plastic grocery bag on it, in tiny circles, until frothy and anxious until then being taught to stop, spin, and face his handler and not move except for going backward.  Unlike training a completely green horse how to longe we have the added challenge of erasing the wrong behavior at the same time. 

The longeing “re-training” game plan:
  1. Hugo has a longeing session before every single ride with either me or EB. Depending on his energy level and cooperation these sessions are 5-20 min long on a 20m circle.
  2. To start off, I had EB come out and assist me.  I stood in the middle of the circle while she walked on the outside of Hugo. We had him walk and halt on the circle. EB’s job was to reinforce what I was asking of him so that he would associate the correct behavior with my words and the signals from the longewhip.  We had a couple sessions like this, and EB also had her boyfriend come out and help her in the same manner. 
  3. Next I began longeing him, still just at the walk, without a helper. He had a few moments in the downward transition to halt where he would stop and spin and look at me. I would persistently put annoying repetitive pressure* on his inside shoulder asking him to walk on. The moment he began to relinquish his shoulder and move on to a walk I praised him and removed the pressure. *I have found that Hugo responds best to gentle-medium annoying repetitive pressure than abrupt abrasive pressure. 
  4. Once he began responding correctly to downward transitions and then moving off at the walk from the halt, I started working him at the trot as well. This is where we are in his longeing training at the moment. 
  5. The next step will be to start working at the canter. He still has a tendency to bolt off the circle when at the canter, so I am slowly working him up to this. The plan is to just ask for short bits of canter, rather than full circles and praise him for that effort. My hope is that he will associate the little bits of cantering on the circle as the correct thing to do, and then I will slowly ask him to canter longer and longer. Eventually the bolting should stop. In the mean time, he no longer gets to be free longed in the arena. This is because his bolting off the longeline is exactly the same pattern as when he bolts across the arena free longeing. It’s just one more association that needs to be broken. So, no more free longeing.
Good boy, halting squarely on the line. He know's his did right too!
Last night when I went out to ride he was stellar on the longeline. He didn't stop and spin once. He just halted nicely and squarely on the line and then continued on when asked. I almost felt like we were ready to work on the canter a bit, but I wanted to end with a big success, and I wanted to canter under saddle some, so I felt it best not to push it too much and leave it for another day. All in all Hugo is a smart boy, eager to work, and very cooperative. I am having lots of fun helping EB with him and I can’t wait until he gets to the point where she can feel comfortable and safe taking him to a show, and longe him amid chaos if need be. That is the goal for the summer!

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

April 7, 2014

400th Post! And, I rode a horse...

At least for one day it seems like spring might be around the corner. There is still some snow on the ground, but it is melting in a hurry. Enjoying the somewhat warmish, cloudy, 50-ish degree weather, I headed out to the barn this evening to meet up with EB to work on Hugo's longeing and also to ride the big bay boy. He is looking great. I think having the winter off just to fatten up was really good for him. His top line has improved greatly and he's tracking up really nicely. He seems to remember where he was with his training last fall and hasn't regressed at all. It's great to be picking right up where we left off. Gold star for Hugo!

Where we left off last fall was:
Hugo doesn't really know how to bend through his body, so I am working him on a lot of circles, leg yielding, and serpentines. He is trying really hard, and doing a great job of accepting contact without pulling on me. Can you say drooling frothy mess? Oh yeah! I was feeling pretty good with him about a half hour into our ride, so I decided to give a little canter a try before calling it quits. He cannot get his left lead canter, but my goodness he has a comfortable rocking horse canter! What a nice surprise. So we will also be working on the left lead a bunch. I'm sure he will get it in no time. He has demonstrated a natural ability to do flying changes in turnout, so clearly it is a training issue, not a physical limitation.

In addition to not knowing his leads, Hugo doesn't know how to pick up the canter correctly. My leg meant nothing to him and he only responded to me making a kissing noise. I HATE THAT! I apologize to anyone that is a western person who likes the kissy kissy canter thing, but in hunter land that is one of the biggest sins in the world. You do not cluck or kiss when you are showing hunters. That is a quick way to lose your class. As such, it is a huge pet peeve of mine. So, yeah, we will be working on erasing his memory of his past western trail horse kissy kissy canter cue and replacing it with the proper leg cue as well.

I feels great to be back in the saddle, and I am looking forward to our (usually) short spring rainy season being over so that I can work with the big boy more consistently. For now though, I am at the mercy of the weather Gods.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


Related Posts with Thumbnails