Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lesson 2 of 2: Motion is Lotion

For my second lesson on Sunday we only did a half hour with our dressage instructor since Tia has already gone once.  Tia's usually a pretty easy going mare, not super demonstrative or emotional, but man the look she gave me when I went to tack her up again was pure evil.  She was not a happy camper.  It was very close to the look she gives when you try to pull her mane.
Pic from before my jump lesson, forgot to put with the other post

TS, our dressage instructor/chiro, has adjusted Tia before but never seen her ridden.  As I warmed up at the walk, she talked about how a lot of hunters tend to be very stiff and locked in their neck.  They go in that hunter frame, but don't use their neck correctly and their neck muscles tend to be very ropy and stiff.  And unfortunately Tia is a good example of that. She's happy to go along in a hunter frame, but if you ask her to really round up and go in a more dressagey way she actually comes up lame.  TS said that's because she's trying to use muscles that she hasn't in a very long time and has to change her way of going.  TS said that the only way to get her to change and get through it was to get her to move correctly. Our plan for the lesson was to work on unlocking Tia's neck and trying to develop a deeper, dressagey frame.
My trainer said that with her long whiskers Tia looked like a goat, so we started calling her goat mare.  I did take the not so subtle hint and clip her.

TS had me go into the trot, and do a lot of the same exercises she had me do with McKenna last time.  Post on the inside diagonal, push Tia out, exaggerate the bend.  To the right Tia was lot better than the left and after a couple times around the ring she really started to soften and give.  It was like once we worked through the "scar tissue" as TS put it, she unlocked this gorgeous flowy stride.  She was super light in my hand and I could feel her back come up and start swinging. I'm really sad we didn't get pics or video of it.  The canter was the same, I could feel her come up to me and she had (at least it felt like) this ground eating, hack winning stride. TS checked her neck again after the end of the lesson and said she could feel a difference in her neck muscles even after that short of a ride.  Made me feel pretty happy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lesson 1 of 2

I wasn't really thinking earlier this week when I scheduled a jumping lesson with my trainer on Tia for this morning that I was riding in a dressage lesson with McKenna this afternoon.  But once I realized I figured, what the hell, it'd be good for me and I really don't need to be able to walk tomorrow. Unfortunately when I had our dressage instructor/chiro check McKenna before the lesson she declared the mare very out in her back and poll so I didn't ride her and she got an adjustment instead.  My BO, who owns Tia, said she'd pay for part of my lesson if I wanted to use Tia.  So I did. But that's a post for tomorrow.
Tia's opinion about having to go twice in one day

My jump lesson in the morning started with a stiff Tia, but after a good long and loose trot warm up she felt pretty good and was raring to go.  It was bright and sunny, but windy and only around 40* so it felt pretty cold. We started by attempting to trot a crossrail but the big mare kept trying to canter it. I had to really focus on keeping my posting rhythm the same and not giving my hand away to keep her with me. 

The jump then went up to a 2'ish vertical that we cantered.  My job was to have a good pace and impulsion coming in, bend and balance in the corner, then let her go and support her to the fence.  It was a bit rough at first, my micromanagement tendencies were in full force, but we had a couple pretty nice fences.  Changed directions and did the same thing to the right and had a bit more of struggle since Tia tends to overbend going right and I had to work a bit harder.  But once we got it it felt really nice. 
Throwback to summer 2013 when Tia and I were jumping big sticks

We finished by putting a small 2' course together, just an outside line, diagonal, single outside, other diagonal but considering it's the most both Tia and I have jumped since last summer it was pretty exciting.  We accidentally added in the line, but it was a well done add and my trainer was fine with it since both of us are rusty. Tia did get a bit strong going downhill to one of the diagonals and I had to hold her a bit, which pissed her off, but oh well mare. When we went back to fix it she got over herself and it flowed really well.  I was super happy even though we were jumping tiny that I could go out and put together a fairly nice round after so much time off.  And I talked with my BO and trainer and hopefully I can take her to a show next month.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Wraps and Whips

McKenna got to make the acquaintance of both a dressage whip and standing wraps yesterday.  I'm pretty certain she's had exposure to both (maybe not a dressage whip, but some type of whip) at the track.  She's got an old splint on her left front so I'm 99% certain she's at least had front wraps on.

Bad mom for not noticing before tunout
When I pulled her out of her stall I did just a quick glance at her before turning her out in the indoor to get her yayas out while I did her stall.  I watched her move around at both the trot and canter and she looked fine.  When I put her in the crossties to tack up I noticed her right hind was slightly swollen and there was a cut and scab on the inside of it.
Not super big, but big enough
 She was fine about me messing it with it, and it wasn't hot so I decided that because she looked sound in turnout I'd still ride.  If I'm being super picky, she was maybe a touch hitchy when we first started our warmup, but by the end of the ride she felt more than fine.  We had some really nice trot work and our first few steps of an actual leg yield. Left lead canter wasn't a problem but the right lead was where we went off the rails.

McKenna's started this fun new habit of getting twisted and sucked back in our right lead canter transitions.  I almost have to crank her head around to the right because it's like asking a brick wall to turn right.  She also completely ignores my leg and a couple of times I had to thump her pretty had while growling at her to get any forward movement. I finally gave up today and had my friend hand a me a whip.  A few light taps behind my leg worked and suddenly she remembered she could go forward.  The actual canter itself was pretty nice, so we just focused on the transitions. We are supposed to have a lesson from our chiro/dressage instructor on Sunday and this issue is #1 on my list of things to talk about.

Once we were done I cold hosed the leg and put some antibiotic cream on it.  I was waffling back and forth over to wrap it because I was worried she'd get mouthy and pull or eat the wrap off overnight.  I decided I'd go for it and wrapped her.  She wasn't very happy about it but oh well mare.  For extra insurance I sprayed the wrap with some no chew spray my BO has for the horses that like to eat the wood.
Buddy's wraps are a touch too small, and Phoenix's were a touch too big

I ran out this morning before work (the perks of living 8mins from the barn) to check on her.  She was super good girl and the wrap was in perfect condition.  I pulled it off and while there's still a little swelling the cut looked good. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Viva Las Vegas

As of 10:15 this morning everything is set; tickets are bought, hotel rooms reserved, and flights purchased! I'm headed to the World Cup Finals in Vegas in April as a wonderful birthday present from my parents.  I'm just going for the Saturday and Sunday classes, but will then be flying to my parent's house in San Diego for a week.  It'll be the first time in 11yrs that I'll be celebrating my birthday at home with  my family and I'm really looking forward to it. I went to the finals in 2007 and 2009 and it was a blast.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Happy 7th Birthday McKenna

Valentine's Day was McKenna's 7th birthday.  I had to work in the morning but then ran out to the feed store and bought her a bunch of birthday goodies.
A bag of grain, a new lead rope, a lickit, a thing of minty muffin treats, and some dewormer
Unfortunately she wasn't super impressed with the minty muffins or the lickit.  She is the queen of oral fixation and has to taste test everything that comes near her mouth, food item or not.  But as of last night, she hasn't seemed at all interested in the lickit.  I think the problem with the muffins is that they are really sticky and hard to chew.  She's got a tiny mouth, and I've noticed in the past if I give her a big treat or hunk of carrot it's hard for her.  I started breaking the muffins up in smaller pieces and she seems to be able to eat them better. She loves the mint on top of the muffins!
Give me muffins!

For her birthday she got lunged outside in the super-nice-for-this-time-of-year 60* weather.  Then she got a bath and some time to graze in the sun.  I decided to be nice and not dewormer her on her birthday, so I waited till Sunday for that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Day in the Life of This Ammy

I'm joining Tracy's blog hop on the day in the life.  When I'm not a slave to my ponies, I'm a lab tech for a major university in the biomedical research labs. So here's a peek into my how my days usually go:

5:50 am: Alarm goes off.  Grab phone and start checking social media

5:53 am: Cat jumps on me and yowls for breakfast
I know you're awake
6:25am: Check weather report and grab random clothes that will hopefully work with whatever Mother Nature's planning.

6:45am: Meet coworker to car pool into work.  Chat about work/life/bad drivers/how much we need coffee.

7:30 am: Yay! Made it to work before the boss.  Change from random clothes into scrubs.

8:10 am:  Chat with my favorite post-doc researcher about whatever piece of equipment isn't working/whatever lab inspection is coming up/what grad students are not following protocol

8:15am:  Rember that I'm supposed to collect tissue samples from some lab mice by 9am and start running around like mad
Who's a cute little mouse...you are!

8:37 am:  Where the f**k are these freaking lymph nodes?!

9:03 am: Speciems bagged and tagged. Thank God the pick up guy is late.

10:45 am:  Chat with my manager about whatever piece of equipment isn't working/whatever lab inspection is coming up/which grad student is not following protocol/what special project she wants me to start

11:30 am: Lunch! I can finally sit down and play on my phone.

12:20 pm: So much paperwork and reports.  And I better start praying to the printer Gods that I can get everything printed and filed.

1:20 pm: Find coworkers and figure out what still needs to get done then do it

2:30 pm: Dress out and quickly walk past the glass fronted offices before the management can see and ask us to do "just one more little thing" before leaving

3:35 pm: Briefly pet the cats at home, change into barn clothes, grab a snack and back out the door.

3:45 pm: At the barn giving kisses to the ponies!

4:10 pm: Indoor arena is open so out goes McKenna for some play time while I clean her stall.

4:25pm:  Little lunge before our ride, praying the mare gets her crazy out before I get on

5:10pm: End of ride cool down and pats for ponies

5:25pm: Dinner feeding and getting McKenna's breakfast prepped so the morning feeder just has to dump her feed bucket into her stall.

5:35pm: Mare is tucked into her stall with a big pile of hay and a warm blanket

5:45pm: Staring into the fridge trying to figure out what I want for dinner

6:15pm: Mindless internet surfing and tv watching

8pm: Yay, now I can go to bed like the old person I am.  But I'll just read a little bit before falling asleep

10:15pm: Crap I should really go to sleep.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Jump On It

At my lesson last week my trainer and I were talking about a clinic coming up at one of the big H/J barns in the area.  It's with Melanie Smith Taylor, an Olympic gold medalist and World Cup winner.  Trainer really wants to me to do it, but since there's no way McKenna would be ready for even the 2' group in a month trainer suggested Tia.  I hadn't even thought about riding/taking another horse, and while I'd still like to do it I don't have the $$.  But I am planning on going for one of the days to audit.

Trainer and I then talked about me just riding Tia a little, maybe doing a lesson or two on her to get my jumping legs (or should I say eye) back.  The really nice thing about working with the same trainer for 10 years now (holy crap makes me feel old!) is that she knows I need to jump a height consistently or else it gets big and terrifying.

So on Thursday I grabbed Tia and off we went.  She had run around like a crazy mare in turnout, which is very odd for her, and was nice and forward when I got on.  She only has one person riding her 3-4 days a week currently, but its an older ammy who just plunks around over some cross rails and showers Tia with treats, so she's a little out of shape. Tia is a completely different ride than McKenna and I felt a bit like a fish out water for a good chunk of the ride. But we managed to do a halfway respectable w-t-c. 

That's a big scary fence....really

Saturday in between the rain showers I was able to do a quick jump school.  I had a cross rail, a 2' and a 2'6" vertical set up.  But as we were warming up that 2'6" started to look very big and scary so I lowered it to 2'3".  We were a little more in sync for flatting and trotting the cross rail and then moved to cantering the verticals.  I was actually really surprised and happy that I was able to just let Tia go and find the distance herself and stay out of her way.  We had a few fences (especially a tightish turn to the diagonal fence where someone wanted to bulge her shoulder out and get very crooked) that I had to micromanage but we were able to get some pretty nice distances and flow.  I still felt a bit like a sack of potatoes on Tia, but for not jumping anything more than cross rails for 7 months I was really happy.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

All The Poles

I'm apologizing in advance for big pics with no captions. Blame mobile blogger. Also pics are from last week as there's no photographic proof of my lesson.

After last weekend's canter pole excitement I was determined that we could show off our fancy new skills in our lesson this week. Unfortunately right as my lesson started it began to rain and we had to move inside. While McKenna is normally better behaved inside (not as many distractions and/or spooky things), doing poles/jumps inside tends to make her more nervous. 

I had warmed up prior to trainer's arrival so we trotted a lap or two while she set poles (one on each long side) for us. We started cantering just one of them and halting on a straight line. Mare got a bit strong but after she bumped her nose into the wall she realized stopping was a good thing. We then moved on to cantering a circle after the pole really exaggerating the bend because she was convinced she was a motorcycle.

After we proved we could go both ways trainer used our little rail raisers and put one of the poles up to 1' and told me to go for it. Our first canter fence! McKenna didn't realize "the jump went up" and demolished it the first time. But after that she was foot perfect. 

Towards the end of the lesson she had a tantrum because she was tired and done. She started flinging her head and her bonnet was flapping up and down. It was pretty funny and distracted me from gettting mad or picking a fight with her about her head. I was told to just stay steady and ride her through it and she finally quit. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Visiting the Old Man

Went back out on Sunday to spend some time with Phoenix.  PO and her husband were gone so I was able to have interrupted pony time! As I was driving up the long ass driveway three deer came bounding out from the pastures, across the driveway, and over the fence to the neighbor's property.  All the ponies were on high alert, staring after the deer.  I wasn't able to get my phone out fast enough to take any pics :(
Hi Mom!

Phoenix was very happy to see me, and after stuffing peppermints down his throat we had some cuddle time.  He's always been a pretty affectionate horse and loves getting attention and cuddles but he seemed way more into being loved than usual. I'm going to take that as he missed me, and not the peppermints left in my pocket.
Please be my friend
 One of PO's cats was hanging around the barn, following me and demanding her own cuddles.  The only problem is this is a sneak attack kitty; she lures you in then strikes when you least expect it.  PO has an awesome party/karaoke/bar (like an actual bar that came from a former whorehouse around the turn of the last century) room on the property and hosts great parties every few months.  JaJa, attack kitty extraordinaire, always manages to sneak into the room and then goes after everyone's food.  Phoenix really wanted to make friends with her, but she wasn't having any of it.

Derpiest of the derps

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Turning a Fail into a Win

We've had a pretty mild winter this year, drier, warmer, and sunnier than normal.  The weather was foggy in the morning all last week, but would burn off in the afternoons.  I rode McKenna on Thursday, starting inside because she had had a few days off.  She was good, a little excited but listened to me and offered no baby moments.  It was sunny and I hadn't worked her outside for a few weeks so outside we went.

I had heard the neighbor's lawn mower going, but McKenna has to grow up and deal with distractions at some point.  Right as we walked outside one boarder pulled up and then one of the 4H girls' dad drove up in his work rig, a big excavating truck.  The boarder tends to leaver her border collie in the cab of the truck when she's at the barn and McKenna's spooked pretty hard at him barking and running around the cab before.  Then the neighbors started their tractor and were grateing new gravel for their driveway. 

I decided to hand walk McKenna around the ring a few times till she stopped looking like a deer in the headlights then got on.  She was so tense and obviously distracted but she couldn't decide what was scariest. We did another two laps at the walk then I got off and told her she was good pony for not freaking out or trying to kill me.
She says "I wasn't scared". Don't believe her.
Friday I was able to get off work early and get out to the barn to ride in the sun again.  She seemed to be calm so instead of starting inside then going out, we just headed to the outdoor.  But again, right when we walked down the barn aisle one boarder's horse (the same one with the barking dog) ran out of its stall.  Luckily she was right there and caught the horse but her other horse, in the stall next to the escapee, started rearing and freaking out.  So of course McKenna freaked out and bye, bye cool and calm pony.

I threw her on the lunge and she spent  about five minutes being a complete spaz and running till she was blowing.  Once she came back to reality she was pretty lazy and just loped along so I stopped her, got on, and put her right to work.  Lots of circles, figure 8s, transitions to get her baby brain focused.  She was still tense, but didn't really pull anything naughty.  We finished by trotting over a little pile of poles and a small cavaletti.

I got lucky Saturday and other than my BO doing some spring cleaning of tack and blankets I had the barn to myself.  A quick lunge and I got on outside.  She was much more relaxed and willing so we did a quick walk-trot including the pole piles and cavaletti before cantering.  We did a few circles then added cantering the pile of poles.  This is only the second or third time cantering poles and every time before she would be strong/rushy/nervous/a baby.  But yesterday she was quiet and calm about it.  Even when I couldn't find a distance and sat there like a lump she just quietly figured it out and kept going.  My BO said she was looking great and I was able to convince her to video us with my phone.
She still needs some strengthening in the canter, especially going left, but that will come.  I'm just so happy we went from beyond freaked out baby on Thursday to quiet, calm pony on Saturday.