Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Trailer Loading

I figured I'd talk about a subject near and dear to my heart, trailering.

My retired horse, Stanley came without a loading button.  Actually he came without many buttons but that's another blog for another time.

I had to walk him 6 miles through the suburbs (literally) past two schools, through people's yards, a construction zone, and over a rail road track to get him to his new home when I moved him.

It was Stanley that taught me all I know about loading horses and I've worked with several poor loaders using the tricks he taught me.   At least he's good for something bless his heart.

Annie was always a skeptical owner until a horse show in April where I latched her trailer tie before the bar was done up on the way home.  Now I've NEVER done  up a horse in a straight load trailer for fear of them backing off, but in the slant load when the horse rides in front or the middle it's not uncommon to latch them, walk back, and shut the partition.  Unfortunately this time Annie was in the last slot so she fell off the trailer and thrashed around before her halter broke and she came off. 

I felt horrible (still do) and I'll never ever do it again. 

So Annie changed into a reluctant loader.  She started to take longer and longer to load even going places on a regular basis.  You needed one person on the trailer and one person behind whacking her. 

I decided that I'd take advantage of the trailer being parked in the upper pasture and load her every day.  I like teaching a horse to self load, I think it's easier to send a horse onto a trailer then to try and get them to follow you.  You can react a lot quicker if the horse decides to back off. 

After a session of about 20 minutes Annie learned to self load, and after a few weeks she now loads up right away.  Last night I moved her into the middle stall with the window down and hay in her bag to finish off the self loading.  I want to load her up, close the divider, then walk around to tie her up. 

Apparently the hay was extra tasty as I had a difficult time getting her OFF the trailer!  

The real test will be when we go to our next lesson and come home again, I'm hoping her lesson will stick. 

Later I will talk about my "technique."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Whack a Horse or Boot a Horse?

This week I've been reading a listserv about dressage that has the occasional heated discussion.  You know the type

 "I ONLY use black saddlepads.  Anything else is abusive."
 "Oh yeah, well I think Yellow pads are best because that's what my trainer says."

"Well the ODG's (old dead guys) wrote in archaic Latin that black saddlepads were the best and I believe in the classics"

"I think that the modern methods of padding are less cruel and my yellow pad is superior."

"Oh really, well I think you're a poo poo head."


There was a discussion about "leg boxing" which in layman's terms is known as "kicking a horse."

Several posters stated that they have indeed kicked a horse that was behind the leg. 

One poster stated that she had never kicked a horse in her life and would never start and anyone that abused her horse in the ribs would be ripped off  and beaten senseless with her dressage whip.

She described an intricate, month long system of training which basically boiled down to teaching a horse that if he didn't go forward she was going to hit him really hard with a whip eventually. 

I added fuel to the fire by stating that I've never had an instructor tell me NOT to kick a horse that was behind the leg and lazy.  She was appropriately appalled and said if any trainer suggested she kick her horse in a lesson she would dismount, pack up, and leave. 

I'm not sure I get the logic behind teaching a horse that if he doesn't go you nail him with the whip being less abusive then teaching a horse that if he doesn't go you will boot him in the sides.  Frankly, I've even been seen doing both (go ahead and report me.)  I also refuse to believe that a rider exists that has once not booted a horse in the sides.

I think that not going forward off the leg is the number one vice in horses and properly reschooling a horse to go forward with either the whip or the leg is the best response.  If you teach a horse the right way that he needs to go forward then you don't have to do either unless he needs a reminder. 

Now, off to the barn to kick my horse a few times.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Opposite ends of the spectrum

Last night I had a jumping lesson at home with my other instructor.  The fences stayed much lower then in my outdoor lessons but the difficulty remained.  Annie was pretty excited to get out of dressage land and she showed her enthusiasm by launching herself at all the fences.  The lines were set for a slower pace since we have a small indoor and I had difficulty rating Annie's pace. 

We also jumped a very difficult line where we jumped three fences on an angle in a straight line.  My eye wants to jump the fences right in the middle and I kept trying to adjust our trajectory after each fence which didn't work out so well.  We back tracked a bit and I rode the line as groundpoles and gave me something to sight at the end of the line (mounting block) and when the fences went back up it rode much easier. 

Now, for something different!

I enjoy Hunters.  It's something that looks easy while being very difficult.  Tonight I'm watching the USHJA International Hunter Derby finals at the Kentucky Horse park.  The derby is an effort to bring hunters a little close to actual hunting.  Large natural fences and the need to gallop more while looking effortless is the name of the game.  It's harder then it looks.  Your pace needs to remain the same and the rider needs to look like they are just along for the ride while in reality they have to control their horse's pace without looking like it.

The derby is a newer division that has had a hard time figuring out what kind of horse does best.  Bold brave horses coming from the jumper world are tidy over their fences but don't look as pleasing to ride (needing a stronger grip).  Traditional hunters look easier to ride but don't have enough ummph around the course.  How do you maintin a faster pace, with an even take off spot, and a round jump all while making your horse look easier to ride?  Factor in the large outdoor course and the derby round being under lights and you have a serious competition.

Tune in tonight or catch it on the replay to catch the action.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dressage Doldrums

We are stuck in the dressage doldrums (a word I love which always makes me think of The Phantom Tollbooth).

Or at least, Annie thinks we are. 

The last few weeks I've been working on my seat in my cursed dressage saddle.  It's a really nice saddle, it fits me really well (at a 16.5) and it fits Annie really well.  It has nice leather, a deep seat, and exposed blocks.  I got it for a song (not really because if I had to sing for anything I'd be homeless). It's my body conditioned to a jumping saddle that hates it.  I can sit my butt in a saddle at a hand gallop but in my dressage saddle I struggle to keep my stirrups.

For awhile I wondered if maybe the saddle wasn't right for me, or maybe it didn't fit Annie.  She'd snark around in it with her head in the air and fling herself into the canter which felt like a jackhammer.  She wouldn't lift her back or go on the bit.  Then one night I rode in it entirely without my stirrups and I had my good pony back. 

It's not you it's me. 

I think it's the deeper connection it forces me to have with my horse, and inability to jam my heels down and clamp my lower leg on when the going gets tough.  So I've vowed to ride in it until I don't suck anymore (see you next year!). 

So the last several nights I've been working on adjustability within the gaits.  I spent months whacking the forward into Annie and now that it's permanently installed it's all she knows.  Which isn't exactly a bad thing.  Except our canter, while excellent for jumping, is more along the lines of hand gallop.  Not so good for the dressage.

She can go more forward at the canter (oh boy can she hang on to your saddle!) and at the trot.  But she doesn't understand that there is a slower gait then the working trot.  So I've been installing the half halt.  A few nights ago I installed half halt1.0 beta version.  Which is actually a whoa.  Oooops.  Now we have half halt 1.7.  She'll slow down while putting her head straight up in the air.  Getting closer.  So now we have a slightly slower trot (with snarky faces), a regular trot, and a steam engine trot. 

The canter.... hmmm..  We have regular hand gallop canter.  Then we have huff and puff and moan and swivel the ears for 7 strides of a very nice working canter because she hates it.   In fact it was so nice tonight I asked for a real hand gallop as a reward.  Luckily we have walls in the arena.  To the right, well, I'm just glad I stay on to the right forget about asking for any flexibility within the gait. 

I have a jumping lesson on the books for Friday to shake things up a bit. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not as advertised

After two days of much needed rain brought beautiful temps for riding and watching the Olympic Freestyle Dressage had me in the mood for a good solid ride I left the barn tonight feeling unsatisfied.  You know that first time you cut open a Hot Pocket after looking at the photo on the outside of the box?  Not as advertised. 

We can canter courses of fences, jump through gymnastics, and hand gallop in a field. 

But can we manage a 20m circle without looking like an ostrich? Nope. 
It started out well, work on really using my outside rein, I imagined that I couldn't ride any straight lines so everywhere we went it had to be on some sort of a curve.  Pretty good.  I still get the feeling that she stands up too much on the inside rein so I concentrated on the feeling of the reins in my hands and if she felt even in them.  I really have to work on keeping her supple and travelling through going to the right which is her stiff direction.  She doesn't step under herself as well. 

Then we worked on our downward transitions.  This is really a weak spot for me and I don't do nearly enough of them so my horses always have crappy downward transitions but oddly enough pretty good upward ones.  Obviously something I need to work on.  Annie let me know that horses stop by putting their heads straight up in the air.  So the key to this is doing multiple transitions.  Nope.  In Annie's mind if you're going to ask her to come back to the walk after 4 strides why bother trotting at all?  Sheesh.  Stupid human.  So we go from walk to jog trot back to walk while making faces the entire time.  Eventually we accomplished some decent downward transitions if you ignored the pinned ears. 

Then we tossed in her favorite gait, the canter.  Or truthfully, the hand gallop.  We can hand gallop 3/4 of the 20m circle, ostrich trot, then back to a hand gallop.  Don't even think about doing it to the right.  Angry ostrich pony face, hi ho silver into the canter, splat out of it.  Since we've cantered once we're obviously going to canter again so insert angry ostrich faces and frequent grabs at the reins to let me know that she really wants to canter again. As I switch direction minding my outside aids and get rocked to the back of the saddle during a transition that certainly had plenty of...lift... but an equal amount of snark.

Since I have to feed on Saturday I might try switching back to my jumping saddle to see how much my lack of skill in my dressage saddle is interfering with her movement. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ditches and logs and sharks oh my!

This week I got to do some more gridwork as well as school XC and it was a fantastically positive experience.  I left my camera at home so sadly no video. 

I found that the poles in the grid rode better this week and I had an easier time keeping Annie straight, we didn't have any run outs and we maintained our forward pretty good.  I was actually able to count out loud through the grid, although it did make my brain spin a bit!

This week's grid was a one stride bounce one stride which we rode from both directions, it went up pretty darn fast.  Afterword I was amazed that I didn't spazz out at the size of the fences.  They weren't Olympic sized, but they were certainly bigger then something I am normally comfortable with so yayy! me.

Next we got to go out and school XC.  We started out going up a bank which rode easier then last time, I am getting the hang of what to do with my body up a bank and was able to stay out of the way a little bit better.  Then we started schooling jumps in the field. 

One thing I'm slowly starting to figure out, but have yet to act on, is Annie's bravery level.  With Nikki I would point her in the general direction of a fence and she would jump it no matter what I was doing.  Since she'd over jump anything that was scary looking and never really stopped at anything I would just take my leg off to avoid making her go faster and sit passive.  Yes, it makes much more sense in my head. 

So there we are trotting toward a shark's tooth jump.  I'm staring it down so it doesn't get up and move away without me knowing it, legs dangling loose.  Yep, went neatly around it.  Annie's not really SCARED of anything but she's not into doing things of her own accord. 

We also got to school the ginormous training level ditch.  I don't seem to have a ditch phobia, and nothing I've ridden had a ditch phobia so this rode fairly confidently for me.  I don't have a lot of experience over things that are flat so I had to figure out how to jump it with my body.  I also got to jump a really big log, which went really well the second time around.  Be Supportive. Be Supportive.  As well as a Skinny, but that was mostly because I couldn't figure out what the smiley face log was.  There I am trotting toward the smaller but very narrow log, trying to figure out if I saw a smiley face in the knots.  Wrong fence. 

We finished up over a combination of the bank and a table type thing.  It wasn't very big at all, but it rode hard for me because I would stare at the bank, then stare at the ditch, then go around it.   After some instruction I lined up a water trough in the distance, and just kept my eye on that.  Jumped up the bank, galloped over the table, presto chango, she's done a line.   

I think putting things together in lines, and actually having enough sense about me to think about what I was doing with my body really made me feel like an eventer this week and not just somebody pretending to be one.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Grid

Here we are jumping the grid.  This is after 3 of the jumps went up slowly from just poles to actual fences.  I found this grid difficult because it was set for a good forward even pace so if you came in too slow or got crooked it rode really bad.  Annie's a good deal smaller then the other horses jumping it so it was extra important that we come in forward enough.  The first time through  I not only didn't go in forward, but didn't maintain, and eventually got crooked and had a run out.  I'm supposed to be counting out loud here, and you can hear me counting through a bit of it.  I have a really difficult time processing a bunch of things at once so counting out loud was hard for me to do. 

The second time in we were asked to canter in which made it ride much much more smoothly.  You can see how it makes the grid like simple instead of a struggle. 


 Hello all,  Life has been busy and I have not felt I've had anything worth blogging about.  Or that my blog is particularly interestin...