Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Toss up

[Insert halfhearted apology for lack of recent pictures before arriving at the issue at hand]

Lesson day again.  This was the first one in Jazz's new English saddle, and it is not what I'd call a lesson to sneeze at.

I have a half hour lesson from 6-6:30 and it's generally on Wednesday, unless there's a cancellation and I have to do a make-up lesson.  Tonight my 6-6:30 Wednesday lesson ended in me finishing up and dismounting my horse at almost exactly 7:00 with a few prospects I'm not presently thrilled about.

It started out relatively standard.  It was absolutely pouring rain, and the sound of it on the tin roof was nearly deafening.  This made Jazz a little distracted, but nothing terrible.  I did some short groundwork exercises and she seemed fine.  I put on her bridle and brought her to the mounting block where she was kind of fidgety, but we also need a lot more practice with mounting blocks anyways.

By then my instructor was there and we started with a really simple, nice walk.  Then she set up some poles (the pole bending kind, not the trot poles kind), and we worked on bending using more leg than rein. It was fairly difficult at first, but then my trainer moved half the poles from the center line to the quarter line so each had three poles twice as far apart.  That started off much better, but once I knew how I should be asking, Jazz stopped listening and began totally ignoring my leg, especially my left leg.  It was getting more and more blatant and head-tossy until my trainer suggested I change tactics.  She had me do a new exercise where I face Jazz perpendicular to the long wall of the arena.  Basically the exercise is to ask Jazz to move sideways, and if she's not co-operating and generally being rebellious, to push her forward into the wall.  This should have been fine, but remember alllllllllllll the rollbacks we did back in the day? Remember alllll the anticipating Jazz started doing, backing up and sometimes actually trying to do rollbacks when I just asked for a stop or one step of backup?  Well a little rein and leg pressure she didn't want to deal with + a nose in the wall = Jazz backing up halfways to Timbuktu.  My trainer suggested if she really runs away backing like that (as in the reins are very loose and I am both clucking at her and squeezing/tapping with my legs), to make it just as much work as what she's avoiding (read: back her up until backing is the least appealing option available).  That did seem to help a little bit with that, and she did have a couple halfways decent leg yields in that exercise.  We just worked on that briefly before moving on, with my trainer explaining that it's an exercise that can be a bit nit-picky and very frustrating to a horse that has difficulty or is just not fully understanding it.
So we tried to go back to the poles and bending.  The wheels fell off a little there.  She was totally blowing past the poles and still choosing to pretend my leg was not there.  My trainer had me do small circles to try and get her back, and that devolved to Jazz drifting in her circles until she was practically running over the other horse in the arena, and generally freaking out and throwing her head every which direction.  It took a long time and a lot of circles to work out all the general knobbing about she was doing and she finally calmed down for two seconds, long enough to end our lesson on an okay note.

Thing to work on #8
This. Just all of this nonsense.

Here comes the un-thrilling prospects part.  My trainer said she wanted to try her in a tie down.  Everything I've seen and done and been taught since I've been working with horses (and more specifically Jazz) makes me very hesitant to immediately turn to big tools the second something's going wrong.  That being said, it's not safe to be riding a six-year-old idiot running around saying "screw you" to the simplest possible exercise (you don't even want to know how many circles we had to do before she did one full one without flipping out so we could stop and I could finally get off and end my marathon lesson).  I also have no knowledge whatsoever on tie downs, martingales (running or standing), or any such contraption.

This is where you readers out in blogland (if there are any) come in.  What do you guys think? What experiences has everyone had with using training tools like martingales? I've done a little research so far, but good descriptions of the differences in action between running and standing martingales and tie-downs would be helpful.  What's my long term course of action if I do decide to use one? Keep in mind I currently have an English saddle but a western bridle with no noseband.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Identity crisis

I was going crazy waiting to post this, but I wanted to be sure rather than tell everyone only for it not to work out in the end.  I have an English saddle! My new trainer mentioned she had an old all-purpose just taking up space in her garage that she was looking to sell, and she brought it to our first lesson together, but she didn't bring the stirrups or the girth.  By the time I had all of that organized, I was taking a short riding hiatus because of Jazz's teeth.  I had put it on once or twice, but she was fighting the bit so much I never got on.  That is, I never got on until yesterday.  

I arrived to the farm in my riding breeches with my knee high english boot socks, and my cowboy boots and a western shirt.  Then I tacked Jazz up with her english saddle and western bridle.  We were quite the sight.  

I had a fairly short ride and Jazz was doing only okay.  She was pretty fussy on the bit (I should mention her ulcer seems almost completely healed over now), which I kind of expected partially because I was sure she'd have pain memories and partially because the insides of her cheeks and stuff are probably still a little cut up so I'm expecting that to be completely better in a week or so.  There was a little head tossing and general aura of 'screw you I don't wanna', but nothing too ridiculous.  Just a nice short walk ride to get a quick feel for the saddle.  

One of the boarders commented on my new Westjet Blue pad

I need to work on keeping my legs under myself better apparently
this is a super blurry picture, but you can kind of see our mismatched saddle/bridle combo

So, I told my trainer I was interested in the saddle and asked how much she wanted (she had told me the price for the saddle, but then threw in stirrup leathers and the girth for my trial so I'm not sure what she wants for those).  I headed back out today and did another walk ride with a little trotting, with a much improved attitude on Jazz's part.  I am so excited for some adventures with my new little English pony!

Jazz was a superstar today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Is there an opposite of wordless Wednesday?

Words-only Wednesday?  Well, that's what I'm going with. So Wednesday is normally lesson day for me.  With Jazz just having had her teeth done, and her ulcer healing, and her ouchy toes, I wasn't sure about my lesson this week.  That is, I wasn't sure until Monday night when I was getting ready to let Jazz go and I ran into my instructor.  I explained my reservations that she'd be ready to ride by Wednesday, and having already cancelled last week's lesson because of Jazz's teeth, I was a little bummed about missing again this week.  My instructor suggested the obvious solution, that I could ride her lesson horse (who does the walk-only lesson immediately after mine normally anyway) for this week.

So today I followed the instructions she had texted and went out into the gelding pasture to get the big bay.  The real struggle was knowing which big bay was the one I wanted.  The lesson horse, Duper, is one of the "triplets" (affectionately nicknamed so by the barn manager who spent much of the winter bringing in the three nearly identical big bay horses with no white markings and attempting to get them in the correct stalls). Luckily, because of the drizzly weather we've been having lately he was wearing a rain sheet.  The instructor said Duper would be the one in the navy shedrow.  So, I ventured into the strange pasture (by which I mean any pasture that isn't the one and only pasture Jazz has lived in in the two years we've been at this barn), confident and looking for the big bay in the navy shedrow rain sheet.  Mickey, another of the triplets, was closest to the gate, wearing a green rambo blanket, so I knew from forty paces he wasn't the one I was looking for.  As I kept walking, I saw the fourth bay gelding in the pasture (he's one of the "quadruplets"), with no rain sheet.  Then I saw the bay in the blanket I was looking for... or rather, I saw two.  Two identical bays with no white markings wearing the exact same navy shedrow rain sheet.  After staring at both of them, and, despite feeling a little silly doing so, calling out Duper's name to see which one responded, I decided on the closer one.  I was fairly sure because he looked a little more familiar, and the other horse had a kind of wavy mane and I didn't recognize his face as much.  I got him into the barn, about 75% sure of my decision, and waited about ten minutes for my instructor to arrive and confirm that I actually had the right horse.

Luckily, I did.  We groomed him and I tacked him up, and after struggling to pull on my field boots, we were off to the arena.  I should probably mention that it was an English lesson, so I got to pull out my breeches and tall boots that have been gathering dust since the end of last summer when I last rode English.  So, I checked the girth, took down the stirrup leathers, and climbed on the mounting block to get on a horse waaaaay bigger than I was used to.  It was a little different being both in an English saddle and feeling very high off the ground.  I've gotten pretty accustomed to Jazz who might just brush 15 hands if she stretched.  My trainer said he might feel more forward and energetic than I'm used to since he's an OTTB.  He was forward, but in a really good way.  We worked on taking a contact and some slight bends to the inside and outside on a 20m circle.  It was really interesting because though it's obviously something you hear about with horse people a lot, I've never really done any work with contact before.  Duper was really responsive and took the contact beautifully; I couldn't have asked for a better demonstration. Then we moved to posting trot, and it was suddenly apparent both how big my horse was and how very long it's been since I rode English.  It wasn't horrible, but there were a lot of nearly-missed stirrups and slightly off-balance moments.  Lots of helpful little tips and hints from my trainer later, I was starting to get the hang of it a little.  It still wasn't the prettiest of posting trots, but at least it was better than my sitting trots.  That got a bit scrambled at times, but also not horrible.  Just work that needs to be done, that's all.  It also occurred to me that most of my English lessons last summer were technically in a treeless saddle, which make it much easier than a regular English all-purpose.

Once the trot was passable, the instructor asked me to canter.  I started off on the left lead, I put on my inside leg, put my outside leg behind the girth, clucked, and he took off into a big, beautiful rocking-horse canter.  I tried to pay attention to everything I'd been told at the canter, keeping contact with my hands nice and quiet and half-halting with my outside rein to slow down, keeping my heels down and my leg on, and working on balance and sitting up straight.  It went really well, and we changed direction and cantered to the right.  It was also beautiful and rocking-horse, and it otherwise felt much the same as it had to the left.  By then my lesson time was up, and I hopped off, thanked the instructor, gave Duper a big pat, and passed the reins on to the girl who has the lesson after me.

Of course, I couldn't leave without seeing my Jazz-horse.  She was good and wet from the steady rain that was pattering on the tin roof of the arena for my whole lesson.  I brought her in, and just like Monday, she was hesitant to come into the barn because of her feet, but they did seem better than they did Monday, so I'm hopeful it will be a nice, short recovery until they're feeling 100% again.  I picked out her (incredibly muddy) feet, gave her a quick groom, and tossed her back out with her friends.  I also brought in my friend's two horses to pick out their feet and look over them quickly because my friend is away.  An all around good day at the farm, especially considering I got to bring in three more awesome horses than normal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Riding? Yes, I'll hold

I suspect the fact I'm getting daily single pageviews of my page but no specific post means I've got a reader or two awaiting an update on little miss Jazz.  My blog has been broadcasting a lot of radio silence lately, and most of the reason for that is that I've had a lot of balls in the air where Jazz is concerned.

My last post was about my first lesson with my new trainer and Jazz's crazy head tossing.  I was trying to downplay it, but I was positive it was primarily an issue based on her teeth.   So, we had an appointment scheduled with the vet today to get Jazz's teeth done.  

Snoozy Jazz. 

She got two doses of sedative. 

Horses are such majestic animals. 

Exhibit A. 

Lots and lots of rinses.  Jazz was apparently saving a lot of grass for later.  
Maybe I should go back and redo my bit it up blog hop... 
Once she was done she just stared at the wall for a while. 

Then she rested her whole face on it and contemplated her entire life for about fifteen minutes. 
Anyways, there were, as expected, some hooks that were most likely the source of a lot of our issues.  Those were sorted out, and Jazz should be a lot more comfortable now.  

What was there and unexpected, was something else.  An ulcer on the right side of her upper lip (which I unfortunately did not remember to photograph).  The vet said she had maybe bitten her lip or something, and it looked a lot like the horse equivalent of a canker sore.  And as a person who suffers from canker sores, I fully understand why she was not having any of this 'flexion to the left' nonsense recently.  

cook2 300x215 Q&A with Dr. Robert Cook, Creator of the Dr. Cook Bitless Bridle (Part 1)
I couldn't find a good diagram of a bit, but a bitless bridle is the same basic idea. Just in case you never stopped to think about the mechanics of bit pressure; when you pull one rein, the bit puts pressure on the opposite corner of their mouth. So, pulling on the left rein puts pressure on the right corner, hence Jazz's all-but-total refusal to co-operate and bend her head left in the bridle lately.  
So, with any luck, her little ulcer will clear up in no time and she'll be right as rain again soon.

Oh, wait.  Jazz also got trimmed on Friday, aaaand she's a tad footsore.  The vet looked at her and said they just seem a little too short.  So that's unfortunate.  She does seem okay on softer arena footing, though, and its not the end of the world.  Everyone makes mistakes, and my trimmer is very good, so a little time will fix her up nicely.  Now all we do is wait.

At least I've got kittens to entertain me in the interim.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Curious progress

Well there's no question about it, Jazz is a different horse than she ever has been before.  Practically every day I'm at the farm now I can just ground tie her outside in the sun and groom her there while she dozes.  Her ground manners are almost all there, with occasional hiccups that are usually fixed with just a minute or two of ground exercises.

Things that are getting better #5 (remember when I used to actually remember to do these?)
Ground manners and more ground manners.  She could not be more chill ground tied for grooming most days now.

That being said, she isn't all different in good ways.  Jazz has always had evasions. It used to be laziness.  When I first started her, she was impossible to motivate.  I sometimes find that hard to believe considering how much she wants to go all the time now. Luckily, she isn't usually terribly stubborn, so she lets go of them as soon as I find an effective way to correct or deal with her evasions, that is until she finds a new one.  They usually aren't terribly big or showy (says the girl who's been sorting out her rearing on the ground within the last couple months), they're just little tests from her to see how she can get out of work.  Lately Jazz has been really improving, which naturally means stepping up the difficulty a bit and asking her to engage her muscles more and more correctly.  This naturally leads to a whole host of evasions, because it's much easier for her if she can derail me from our work by acting out, and she doesn't have to work so hard or engage her muscles so much.  She's a funny little mare with an attitude.

Recently it's been a bit of head tossing.  I think I've mentioned before that her main attitude issue, especially when it comes to contact, is to get huffy.  She just gets sort of frustrated, and starts snorting and moving her head a hundred tiny little moves in every direction at once.  I figure a small part of that is a pain memory from back in November when she needed her teeth done and it took me a week or so to realize it.  That being said, it is a lot just attitude.

Today was my first lesson with my new trainer.  I really like her, she's very good and I think she can really help me get places with my riding.  She seems to have a more English slant, compared to the more Western style of my previous trainer, but there is nothing wrong with that.  When I brought Jazz in, she was just as chill as she has usually been lately, and I was ready to get on soon.  We started out pretty standard, and the instructor had me doing 20m circles and working on going straight and bending to the inside and the outside.  Believe it or not, we had never done counter bending before, but Jazz seemed to be picking it up not bad.  Then we worked on it at the trot, and she also did fairly well.  We worked on trot to walk transitions, because the instructor wanted me to work on pushing her forward into walking, so that she would use her hind end to do the transition rather than pushing down into it with her front feet.  That was one thing that stood out to me as something that would be really good to work on, because traditionally, her trot to walk transitions have been kind of scrambly sometimes as she tries to keep trotting (she loves her forward).

Thing to work on #5
Trot to walk transitions

Thing to work on #6
Bending and counterbending using proper leg and hand positions.

That was when things got a little interesting.  The instructor asked to see Jazz's lope, and I started off on her right lead, traditionally her better side, and she did pretty okay.  Of course after that she was getting really rushy and kind of charge-y.

I rode yesterday, and she was really rushing.  She had almost no rate and wasn't listening to my half halts very well.  I decided to just bite the bullet and let her go, because I still felt like I had breaks, just not particularly sensitive ones.  Also I was feeling young and enjoying the summer sun and I don't really feel the need to justify it further.  Anyways I brought her into a lope that quickly turned into more of a gallop.  It was a blast.  She's pretty quick when she wants to be.  I let her go a couple laps of the arena and then slowed her back down, and we both took a rest for a minute or two.  I then made the mistake of deciding to take a lap or two the other way.  She is less balanced heading to the left on her left lead, and she made a fairly wide, leaning turn at the first corner, and just past the second she started crow hopping.  Whoops.  Maybe that wasn't such a good idea.  Anyways, I stuck it out with no problem (thank god.  I really need to make that post about Jazz the bucking bronco soon). And I did a cool down after that and hopped off, telling myself I wouldn't be stupid and push us like that again.  

So, back to today, she was really rushing her trot after her right lead lope.  Then she started counterbending against me and really cutting corners on our 20m circle, utterly ignoring my leg.  My trainer had me slow way down and move back to the walk, where she was still blowing all the way through my inside aids.  Then my trainer had me do a quick exercise that is basically stopping facing the wall and doing a hind end yield back and forth a couple times to re-establish that yes, you do know what leg means.  Then we worked our way back up, bending again at the walk to get her attention back.  Eventually we started trotting and then it got a little fancy.  Jazz was head tossing.  Not like she was before, though, like actually throwing her weight around and nodding like a trick horse.  It was lucky that it happened in the lesson actually, because the instructor was very helpful in keeping me calm and helping me focus.  She said how it was important, especially with a young horse like Jazz not to overreact to her little tantrums and to be extra sure to just keep doing the work as best I could so she's not getting out of it by acting out.  Not gonna lie, it was a little scary at least a couple times, and I was just doing my best to not picture Jazz rearing up and over like one of the horses at one of my gymkhanas last year.

Thing to work on #7
this newest evasion.

On the lighter side there's five new barn kittens and they finally all have their eyes open.  Here's the best picture I have of one of them.
Update: I have been really terrible at taking pictures of my horse lately.  I will hopefully take more soon.  With any luck I'll have something good to photograph coming up soon!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Trading Trainers

Just a quick post for today.  As I have previously alluded to, I am taking some time off of lessons with the trainer I've been working with most recently.  My trainer also does work as an A circuit show groom, and is taking the summer off from teaching lessons because she won't have the time, but she should be returning in the fall.  I was a little disappointed to learn that I won't be able to work with her over the summer because Jazz has come so far this winter, and she always does so much better in the summer.  That said, my Barn Owner is very efficient and has already lined up another trainer.

My boarding stable changed management almost a year ago (the current operators are technically leasing the property), and the new operators brought with them all their boarders from their previous facility (which was apparently quite nice, but didn't have indoor facilities).  One of the new boarders was interested in teaching lessons, but the manager had already lined up a different instructor (the one I've been taking lessons with) and had promised her the job.  So now, the boarder is taking over lessons at my stable.

 I start with her Wednesday, and I'm really looking forward to it! I'm so excited to progress more with Jazz, especially when she's in her "summer mode".  Plus her new 6-year-old brain seems to be helping out a little.