Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moar Clinic Pictures

Moar than you ever wanted to see, I'm just warning you...

I had about 2 minutes to lunge Miles before we started-he travels like this alllll the time on the lunge if I don't push him (which I never do at first). It's a good stretch but I'm pretty sure he just likes to sniff sniff sniff.

Picking it up...he is not amused.

Walk walk walk while Cheri and I talk about our history and what I'm looking for out of the day. Miles is very "meh" about all of it.

Trying to fix blasted hand/wrist/arms avec horizontal whip. Felt soooooo awkward.

Looking slightly better, beginning trot work.

Miles is relaxed but not so forward yet.

Working on holding the outside rein. Miles is not a fan.

Cheri approaches us for beatings! Forward Miles, forward!

Forward win, collection fail.

Getting there!

Across the diagonal, I think, or a circle. Hello LeanyMcLeanerson. Look at mah baybee reach though!

Oh my hell was I getting tired now...Miles was too, from the looks of it.

Sweet precious air, and a walk break.

Time to fail at turn on the forehand work!! No more pictures of this.

Miles says, "You wanna hit me with that whip now, muthaf%#*er?" Meanwhile, I am apparently trying to stand straight up in my stirrups, oy.

Trot Trot Trot

Spiral-y circles

Kinda sorta like this one. Finishing up.

Sneezy says we did it!

Judy put the black and white and framing effect on this one. Still, it is my favorite of the day...we are both tired and happy:) I was so proud of him.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Clinic Review

Despite earlier protestations that this would not become a weight loss blog, I have some serious thinking to do after seeing 2 pictures from the clinic-thinking, mind you, not anything crazy like taking action just yet;) Yes, I was heavily padded because that arena was fricking COLD on Saturday, but still, I don't like the way I look on my horse, bottom line. Only 2 pics for now; I know Judy took more, but she's a busy girl so I'll post them as I get them.

Headless! I really like the light here, though. Early in our ride, before Miles' engine went full speed ahead.

Still, if I work even half as hard on a semi-regular basis during our rides from here on out as I did on Saturday, it will help tremendously. Miles just tries so damn hard and is such a sweet boy, I want to make our work as pleasant as possible for him. Though, he looks pretty happy here, no?

Grrrr, still working on those arms/hands. Smiling like a goober, for sure.

He's so damn cute I just want to put him in my pocket. He is happy in his work, he tries hard for me, he's very sound and sane and really, everything I would want him to be. Throughout most of the clinic, I felt balanced and effective as a rider...the best was hearing Cheri's corrections (post to your hands, hold that rein, half-halt NOW!), executing them, and getting immediate feedback from my horse that it was all working. I was so HUNGRY for feedback! She said she saw real potential in Miles as a dressage horse and myself as a rider, and encouraged us not to throw out the idea of using a bit yet (she recommends KK bits; hello $$ we don't have!)-even if it takes a year or so. She also said we would "make an impression" (ha ha!) if we wanted to show, but of course you can't show dressage in a bitless bridle:( I loved hearing all of it, naturally. Yet, we have real work to do, oh yes we (I) do. A summary:

Outside rein-though I try to ride "inside leg to outside rein", I've not been doing it correctly. The outside rein anchors us to the rail, and allows us to ride our corners and circles with wonderful stability and connection. I've been throwing it away too much and once I rode effectively with it, our ride improved 100%. Though we never got to do any canter work, he felt so wonderful and straight and connected I feel sure there were times during our ride when I could've asked for that right lead (we worked a LOT on our right side) and we would have had no problem at all. Something to try this week.

Oh my broken wrists. I need to double check myself every so often and ride holding my whip horizontally with both hands, to train my muscles what straight wrists, thumbs up feels like (damn hunter training). I also need to close my fingers, and I knew this-particularly in the beginning with Miles, I kept my fingers very loosey goosey, as he was most comfortable this way. Now that we are working into contact, I need to not do that. Also, my whip is not ideal-I dunno how long it is (longer than a jumping crop yet not long enough), but I probably should invest in a proper dressage whip. That's IF I want to carry one at all-I actually was much more effective with my hands without it, and Miles does not need it to go forward (Whee! Such a motor he has!). What we may need it for?

Lateral work. Our couple leg-yields we attempted were absolute crap. When Cheri learned we've never done turns on the forehand under saddle (Oops-honestly it's not really occurred to me) we worked on those. This was....challenging. Between the bitless bridle and my stubby leg, Miles had a hard time giving me even a couple steps at first. It's 100% my fault, as I've not done this sort of work with him before. So, we sort of blew his mind and I felt like a shit, backing up my leg with the whip when he wouldn't move. Of course, because he is a smarty pants, he got it after a little while, but when I finally asked him to go forward he was very tense and...yeah, he was freaked out. I've never hit him behind my leg before. I hated it. I don't want to do that anymore-yes the instruction was coming from Cheri (and she's right-he needs to take my leg seriously in all instances, whether we are trotting or at a halt), but I wish I would have prepared him better. So, I'm going to do more groundwork on this with him, and use my fist as my leg to help him understand what he needs to do, and work on it under saddle as well.

After our turn on the forehand work, I allowed Miles to walk forward; his head was high and his steps were short with lots of tension-there was that sitting on a powder keg feeling I loathe. Cheri recognized it right away, of course, and immediately had me send him forward into the trot. After a couple minutes, this turned into our best work yet:) We spiraled in and out, 20 meter circle, than 15, than back to 20, than 10-I've never felt so connected to my boy. I'm so glad he forgave me and let the past 10 minutes go, to work with me and for me.

When we were done, he was sweaty and tired, but happy. He hammed it up with Cheri, totally charming her, and she called him a golden retriever:) I felt great.

Yesterday I gave him the day off, but he was fine-no soreness or anything (wish I could say the same!). We took a walk around the barn property and I let him graze for a bit. Can't wait to get back on tomorrow.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Whew...We Did It!

Quick update tonight, because I'm tiiiiiired, and sore, all in the best ways.

The clinic today was...awesome. Yes, Miles and I worked harder than we've ever worked before. I worked harder than I ever have on any horse since I was probably 20 years old...and now I remember why.

Dressage equals forward forward forward. I know this intellectually, but I've not put it into practice with Miles. I mean, we don't shuffle along, but I don't PUSH him to use himself nearly as much as I should. The power I felt under me today was unreal, and it's really there for the taking-I didn't have to nag him to get it. That power, of course, means I have to ride better, and use MYself better. Forward also fixes lots of other problems (like straightness) when you combine it with little adjustments in the reins. Cheri was awesome about fixing some of my equitation issues, the worst of which is apparently my broken wrists. Oops!

More to come, and hopefully pictures, but I'm honestly spent. I'm going to be in a hurt way off for me and my lovely steed. I'm still going to go out and walk him and love on him though, because he's probably going to be feeling the same way:) He actually YAWNED after we were done, just to make a point, ha ha ha.

I've never felt closer to him then today during our ride and after we were done. He tried so hard to work with me and do what I asked, even though we were riding in a way that was quite foreign to both of us. My sweet, honest boy. He got lots of compliments, well deserved. Fabulous day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

U Read This Now! Vol. 2-Old Dog Edition

Just a little detour...I found this gem from News from Aspen Meadows, about her elder dog and triumph over squirrels.

Let me say I'm a vegetarian, and I adore animals and love the squirrels in our neighborhood. I HATED it when Mojo and Lebowski would occasionally be victorious in their quest to rid the parks we frequented from rabbits, groundhogs, and yes, squirrels. I love what she wrote, though, and when I read it I had tears in my eyes, remembering my old girl, who was a hell of a hunter almost to the end. I wanted to share it with other dog lovers who can relate.

Here Goes Nothing

Our big clinic debut is tomorrow, and really, it couldn't come after a worse week. The weather has been so god-awful; we finally had sun yesterday and today, but before that was 2 solid days of non-stop rain/sleet/hail. This made the pastures so horribly muddy that neither Miles or LaShore came down to eat or drink all day yesterday before I got there at 4:30. So, I had a thirsty, starving, slightly stocked-up TB on my hands, on a day when we HAD to ride. Sigh.

Miles on Sunday, before the sky let all hell rain down. Pasture not great, but note dry spots! No standing water! Yeah, not anymore. This was also the last time Miles was passably clean.

I made sure his immediate needs were taken care of first, of course. By the time we made our way up to the arena he had eaten his grain and a full serving of soaked beet pulp, plus some alfalfa and had drank half a bucket of water. We got inside to find all the mirrors put up (that's been an ordeal and a half for the barn, but it boils down to the fact that this was the first time Miles had seen more than just 2 mirrors), and the arena footing concrete-hard from the trucks going in and out to do the construction.

More sighing commenced.

My boy was not so comfortable. Lunging helped a bit, but he could barely hold his canter and even cross-fired in his hind end, which I've not seen from him in a long time. Ride I did, though only at the walk and trot-he felt "ok", but so different from the forward, free-swinging, uphill horse I had on Saturday. Even so he was a good boy, I have to say, even as he decided to "challenge" the handsome dark bay TB in the mirror:) I couldn't figure out why he was doing his ugly face and snake neck, and then it dawned on me....ohhhhhh. Ridiculous Miles. Nonetheless, I was so proud of him for not freaking out and being more curious than anything about the new setup-1/3 of the arena looks much, much different and he was great about it.

This handsome creature is a threat and must be destroyed!

So, suffice it to say we are woefully unprepared for Saturday and 45 minutes of hard work. I'm going out to ride again tonight (please please please let the arena have been dragged), and I'm going to bute him tonight and tomorrow morning so that he's as comfy as possible. Wish us luck ya'll.

Seriously? So cute. He kills me.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Oh My Pony...Brag Time

Well, not so much bragging as waxing poetic, however briefly, about our lovely little ride today.

The setting: Beautiful blue skies and warm sun, with some occasional brisk breezes and absolutely perfect footing in the outdoor arena. We rode in our hackamore for the first time in a couple weeks, since the wonderful lady who lets us use her bit-less bridle was there today to ride her own sweet Dusty boy; I think it's just bad form to slap her horse's bridle on Miles while she's there, yes?

Anyway, Miles was relaxed and happy and comfortable. We lunged for about 2 minutes in the indoor and then I mounted up. Judy and LaShore were also there, so we walked our ponies outside to the outdoor arena, where we had such a great time. Trot work in both directions was super, although he was making me laugh as he tried to rest his head in my hands (as he liked to do occasionally with the bit-less); when he found it significantly less comfortable with the hackamore he would shake his big moose head briefly, sigh, and resign to holding himself up. This, along with the awesome footing, made his gaits feel better then ever. I literally could just *think* canter to the left and he stepped into a floating, rocking horse gait I could ride all day. Ah, so that's what uphill feels like:) He was feeling so good and forward I could almost hear him asking to move up into the canter as well...we've had a nice rapport going on lately.

To the right? Well, we're still struggling with the lead-it's obviously the thing I want the most help with at the clinic this Saturday. I can get him moving forward and straight and bending nicely in the corners at the walk and trot, but if we don't get the canter RIGHT when I ask for it, he drops his inside shoulder and we pick up the wrong lead. Ah, well, we are at least WORKING on it, and he was sweet and compliant and happy to try and do what I asked every time. I won the Best Horse For Me Lottery with this one, for sure.

I'm going to continue to alternate both the bit-less and his hackamore to see which we like best. Judy said she was talking to her cowboy friend recently about our bitting issues (and I say cowboy with lots of respect!), and he mentioned that geldings and stallions have a set of teeth where the bit lies, and some boys have more prominent teeth here than others, or the teeth sit in a more inconvenient place for the bit. With these horses, the only way they can be comfortable in a bit is if it sits HIGH in their mouths, really pulling their lips back. I don't know if I would ever want to ride him like that, but it might be interesting to see if that really is the issue. Wev, there's no time-line for this stuff, and I'm having fun experimenting with our bit-less options right now.

Here, have a video of Miles and LaShore gallivanting-I took it from my car as I was leaving the barn, so it's horribly far away, but it makes me smile, especially how LaShore is trying so HARD to get Miles to engage, and in the end he just kind of...walks away:) This is how they behave when they're not being perfect riding partners for Judy and myself, har har:) Also? Thank GOD the pastures only looked like that for a couple of days. It's amazing what a little sun can do. For a pasture, for a person, for a horse.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We've Got Wood-Also, Miles Loves Miles

So sorry for the bad pun. I'm a perverted juvenile at heart.

First thing's first-I have an Etsy shop! Well, my husband and I do, since I'm about as creative as a rock. Thankfully, the husband is handy, and has made some beautiful stall signs for myself and some of my barn peeps. I thought why not share with the masses? Check out our store, and if you would like a gorgeous wood plaque for your horse's home (or your own), want to support our struggling household, and keep Miles in all the sugar cubes to which he is accustomed, consider putting in an order. MichiganWood is the name of our store-here's some of the signs we made for Miles and his best mate-I think they turned out splendidly, though we're still working on the wood burning.

End hard sell.

In other news, Miles Loves Miles. Is anyone surprised by this? Two of at least a dozen mirrors went up in the indoor arena this weekend. Miles gawked and snorted and sniffed at Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome in front of him. He proceeded to check himself out every. single. time he passed his reflection...I don't know if he was flirting with his doppelganger or just puffing up to make himself look even more gorgeous, but he was a world-class show off for sure.

As we would approach the mirrors, his step would get quicker and quicker until his reflection came into view, where he would then immediately slow down and pick up his feet a little higher, with ears and tail at full attention.

Seriously, how can you not laugh at such ridiculousness?

I love my goofball. He's still feeling his spring oats, for sure, but he's brave and bold and forward and feeling great, which I can hardly complain about.

The bitless bridle has been a fascinating experiment. The first day we really rode in it, at all three gaits, Miles was more forward than I've felt him in a loooong time. It was great, for sure; I think the hackamore was/is more nose pressure than he needs, and he may have been a little worried about really pushing forward in it (or it could just be Spring, the jury is still out). Still, his little engine was working overtime, not to mention his out of shape rider. It was kind of fun, though, I'm not going to lie, when he would break into a canter on a circle because he was chugging along so well. Probably not a great thing to let him do all the time, but when he's that forward I want to encourage it, even if it's a fluke. The downside to the ride? He was very stiff, and we struggled a bit in our corners and I ended up doing a whole lot of circles and leg-yielding to get the little Engine That Could listening to my aids.

The second ride with the bitless was the day the mirrors were installed, so that was fun all on it's own:) Still, after a bit of lunging, I felt confident enough to mount up. He was spectacular. His motor was considerably diminished, probably due to the fact that he wanted to check himself out for as long as possible, but he was listening to my aids so much better.

I've found he's a bit heavy in my hands for the very first time in the bitless as well-I literally haven't had a horse lean on my hands since my first mare Chamie. Well, he's not really leaning on me (at least not a lot), but there's definitely some weight that has never been there before. Interesting.

The Clinic is coming up on the 26th. I'm both super geeked to get some actual instruction for the very first time since I adopted Miles, and terrified that she will order me off my horse before I screw him up for good. Hey, my anxiety these days is rarely rational.

Were you hoping for pictures of Miles checking himself out? Yes, me too. Oh well...I have a feeling he will not be tired of himself the next time we venture to the indoor, no worries there.

Spring is coming...Miles is going to be nekkid for the first time in a loooong time this week as temps are supposed to be in the 50's and up. Whew, it couldn't have come a moment to soon. What a Winter. I hope you all have similar warm days with your ponies to look forward to!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Brief Update-Trust And Other Things

Tonight I found out a couple things:

1) Miles hearts Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle. Rode with it briefly today, and we both love it. More details and pics to come.

2) Miles also hearts mares, and spring, and occasionally acting like the stereotypical OTTB. He was a feisty thing tonight! Our adventure started with 2 lovely mares in the barn, who had his full attention, wink wink nudge nudge.

I then took him to the arena, where the ice continues to sliiiiide off the roof intermittently and CRASH to the ground. I lunged Mr. Fresh and Horny in scary corners and over little verticals, where he continues to improve his skills at the trot and canter (argh, pictures, video, I know!).

I'm kinda proud of myself at how I handled Mr. Happy Go Lucky tonight. I don't know if it was his previous handling (I think, and I hope so), or if it was me, but every time he spooked or got a little fresh on the lunge, he proceeded to throw his head up reflexively, as if expecting a good yank. I've noticed this behavior on the lead line as well at times. Tonight, the lunge was soft between us, and I felt him start to relax more and more as he realized he was allowed to freak out, within reason, as long as he respected me and stayed on the circle. He did so well, on both counts.

I haven't lunged him in anything but his halter with a sheepskin noseband for months now, and I've NEVER disciplined him for spooking (which honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times he's spooked on the lunge). Still, in the beginning, I did lunge him in a rope halter, which is a bit more severe. He's so, so, SO much better at lunging now that there is rarely a time when the line is taught between us, but it wasn't always so. Regardless of the reason for his head tossing, we really worked together tonight, and he saw that I wasn't going to punish him for silliness. By the time I got on him (really, just to walk and cool him out at that point) he was a bit tired, yes, but his eye was soft and I just *felt* something passing between the two of us.

It was nice:) So nice I totally forgot about the camera in my pocket I brought along in order to update the blog with some long overdue pictures GrumbleGrumbleGrumble.

Ah, well, you can't have everything I guess. Still, I'll take what we had tonight every single time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not Dead...

Though I've got nothing, to be honest. This week was gawd awful on a number of fronts. However, it's over! My birthday is later this week, and winter can't last forever. Right?

Thursday I tried the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle on Miles that a boarder lent me, and he seemed to love it. I didn't ride with it, but I did lots of flexing and groundwork so we could both get used to this new device before I get on. Miles didn't bat an eye, and was pretty responsive; I really dig the "face hugging" aspect of the bridle, and Miles was very relaxed when I applied pressure and asked him to give. Even when it took him a couple seconds to respond, his head stayed low and he was never anxious. Can't wait to ride him in it this week.

Aside from a couple quick rides, I also lunged Miles over a couple small verticals. He's getting much better about adjusting his canter stride before an obstacle, instead of breaking into a trot over the jump if he doesn't get there just right. I can tell he enjoys this type of lunging much more than our normal routine...he just loves learning and doing new things. I hope he never, ever loses that attitude.

If I'm not careful, though, at this rate he's going to be in great shape while I bounce around on him like a pasty sack of potatoes. I've got to push myself more under saddle this week.

I'm posting this picture for myself, and anyone else who needs to remember that one day, the grass will be green and the days will be warm. I can't WAIT to see Miles' coat bleach out again, no joke.