It’s Official

OK, people, watch out!

The entry is in for the unrecognized event at Waredaca on June 21.  While I can’t promise it will be pretty, it’s sure to be a blast.

We have some lessons lined up in preparation, as well as a saddlepad that matches the boots (and a cute little matching ear bonnet, but that could just be overkill).

Words of advice for a hunter-wannabe rider going to her first event?

June 9, 2009 at 10:15 am 6 comments

Boing! Boing! Boing!

Trying to find a saddle that works well for K may be a losing endeavor, unless I want to spend more money than I have.  In any case, it appears mine, funny marks and all, may be the best I can do, so I’ll experiment with different pads and see how that works. 

Last night we went for a mosey with Allie and the amazing Phinny, and Klondike was sort of feeling his oats the whole way.  He’s a great trail horse, but he was feeling a little bouncy, and was not so into the walking.  If we wanted to trot, he wanted to bounce up and down at the canter.  We had one moment that I would actually classify as “bad” (as always, with the disclaimer that his “bad” is seriously laughable).  So when we got back to the farm, we put him to work a little bit. 

Allie lowered some jumps in the back ring and we did some work over them.  First working on trotting everything in very controlled and straight fashion, and landing in a light and organized manner so we could stop on the other side (before the end of the ring? really? hee!).  Then we worked on a little exercise where we jumped some narrow flower boxes (about 2′?) with no standards, so it requires you to be pretty straight and controlled.

When we moved on to cantering things and putting pieces of a course together, he was fabulous, except that he has a tendency to get sort of squirrely sideways on the approach to the fence, particularly when coming off a left hand turn.  This is HUGELY related to me and some crookedness issues I have, but on other horses doesn’t seem to be a massive problem (though Stephen could show it up, actually, now that I think about it).  In order to combat this I had to really concentrate on weighting my left stirrup, using my right leg, and almost thinking about counterbending a little bit.  Actually, sometimes I have to do the opposite too, as to which way I’m weighting my hips, but mostly it was more to the left.    When I get it right, he stays much straighter and we have a better jumping experience.

It sounds like a lot to think about, but I’m starting (just starting, after twenty something years of being on horses), to get more of a feel.  It’s a slight difference, but just feeling what to do, instead of having to run through a mental checklist, is a pretty big deal.  I don’t always get it right and it definitely helps to have eyes on the ground, but I’ll take the baby steps.

After jumping everything and working on those things for a while, Allie put a few of the jumps up to a respectable height (I have no idea about actual height, my perception is very much off) and we practiced first trotting a bigger jump and waiting all the way to the base, then a little bending line in four strides (eek! that comes up fast!)

We had to really work on that bending line.  It’s hard for me to stay organized and typically on landing I’m sort of in a heap, and it takes 2-3 strides to get myself in order again.  But when you only have four strides to work with and the second jump is larger than a crossrail, you sort of need to land in organized fashion from the first one with no downtime.  Once I figured that out a little bit, we had a few genuinely good passes through it.

The cool thing with Klon is that I always feel confident that he’ll go- he may be sideways, he may get a weird spot, but I always feel safe and like it’s not going to be a big deal.  As a consequence, jumps and obstacles have begun looking smaller to me than they used to 🙂

As an aside, I do think I need to shorten my stirrups another hole for jumping, I could feel myself getting ahead of the motion and losing my lower leg a few times (er, every time… ha!)

Hopefully video/pictures soon 🙂

June 4, 2009 at 9:54 am Leave a comment

Yes, I’m Alive!

Really, I’m still here, and still riding Kloninator 🙂

But over the past few weeks I’ve had some personal life upheavals, which included moving, which has put a crimp in things a little bit.  For starters, I don’t have a home computer, and have to get a card reader so I can maybe upload pictures from, uh, the other computers I do have access to.

In the meantime, you will be subjected to some photo-less posts, which is a real shame, because Klondike is as cute as ever.

At last report I was mentioning wanting to change the bit and play with that a little bit.  While I was thinking about trying a happy mouth mullen, it turns out that CANTER didn’t have one, but did have a happy mouth full cheek.  So I tried it with reasonably good results.  Of course, those results also may have been from getting after him (with leg and occasionally stick) when he got really funny with his head, and from using my body better, but I’ll take what I can get.

During that ride we actually did a lot of work at the walk.  I know it’s not as fun as other things, but I really wanted to get to a place where we can do walk/halt transitions with no fuss, and where he follows the contact instead of resisting it.  Much like working at the halt during our last dressage lesson, this takes and enormous amount of leg and usage of the core.  I almost felt like I was lifting his rib cage with my body, but that seems to be what it takes.  By the end of the session he was really engaging at the walk, and I could see his back muscles in use in the mirrors (I LOVE having mirrors), and he was following my hand in a soft relaxed way, when I asked for bending and such.

What wasn’t as good was the transitions to halt.  He really likes to twist or pull on me or otherwise resist as soon as I ask for a downward transition, so we spent a fair amount of time doing downward transitions while on a bend, as an attempt to mitigate that response.  In addition, whenever he got really resistant, or doing strange things with his body through the transition, I’d just kick him forward again right away.

Never has so much work at the walk been so exhausting 🙂

In more recent rides, though, I think it has helped.  He’s not staying “pretty” through the downward transition but it’s vastly improved.  Maybe in a few weeks we really will be able to get through a dressage test without embarrassing ourselves too much!

In addition to all that, I’m trying to find a saddle that fits him, because I can’t help but think it’s all somewhat related.  My saddle, which is a Wide tree that I bought for my draft cross, leaves dents in his back where the panels are, which seems to me to be a very bad thing (he’s gained a fair amount of weight- it used to be too wide for him!).  So last night I experimented with other peoples’ saddles, trying to find something that might work.

The one that seemed the most promising, a Berney Bros. jumping saddle, turned out to not work so well in practice.  On the ground, it seemed it had the best amount of freedom over the shoulder of the saddles I tried, so I girthed up and gave it a go.  Klondike made clear very early that he was not pleased with it, shaking his head and neck and lurching/jumping around a lot.  I had to canter him in circles and really make him work to get him to settle down, but he was never really happy, even when he stopped acting out (and as always, Klondike’s “acting out” is about as unthreatening as it gets, heh).  For some reason the saddle didn’t work for me either, and I have bruises today on the insides of my thighs (one would hope that if one had bruises there, it would be from something more fun), so I understand his response to it.

When I untacked, I found the saddle had left some dry patches on either side of his withers, and since the rest of him was drenched in sweat, I’m assuming that’s a pressure mark.  I think the forward cut of that saddle was interfering with his shoulders, as well.

I’m not sure what to try next- maybe the one used for the other draft cross at the barn, who is wider than mine 🙂  I may also check the tack shop for a used cheapo thing that might fit him better.  If you’d told me at the beginning of all this that I’d be looking for a super-wide saddle for the ex-racehorses, I might have laughed – aren’t they supposed to be narrow with shark-fin withers?

.

June 3, 2009 at 7:32 am 1 comment

SuperKid is… well, Super!

Among my dozens of nicknames for Klondike is “SuperKid,” and last night he was about as super as it can get 🙂

Before I go on, I want to apologize for not writing a lot lately.  But life has taken a funny turn, and I’ve been a little overwhelmed/stressed by it.  Hopefully soon I will be back on a more frequent basis- of course, I am moving and won’t have a computer for a little while, so who knows!

In any case, over the last week, I’ve been experiencing some frustration when riding Klondike.  “Riding” K is pretty easy, but “REALLY riding” is not, so much.  He’s gotten a bit particular about what he wants from his rider, and as we’ve graduated from “basic training” to “OK, let’s prepare for an actual event” I’ve found that things get much harder.  I can plunk around with the best of them, but when it comes to getting better quality gaits, and better balance, and an un-faked “frame”- oof.  Of course I’ve been talking about this stuff all along, but over the last week I’ve felt a bit frustrated about not being able to find the middle ground with Klon and his contact issues.

He obviously loves when my hands are super-steady and as soft as possible- which would be fine, but then when I need to half halt or change the pressure at all, he rebels.  So we’re in this weird place of trying to find the balance between “he has to learn to deal” and me getting softer and gentler and more subtle.  In addition to being mentally torturous, the actual physical part of riding – getting what’s in my head to transfer to my body parts – is not as simple as it sounds 🙂

So our last few rides have consisted of a few moments of brilliance in between stretches of mediocrity, with a few ugly moments thrown in to make sure we have all the bases covered.

Tuesday, after working in the ring, we went for a walk and then up the driveway with some friends, planning on jumping the jumps.  It wasn’t pretty for us- I wanted to trot, he wanted to canter.  When we both wanted to canter, he wanted to either go really fast, or like a sewing machine.  Attempts to straighten him out led to much head tossing, and a couple times we managed to fit about twenty strides in where there should have been two. 

So when I got on yesterday, I was feeling a little flustered.  We went to the big back ring, because there’s a nice little course set up back there and I wanted to work on some jumping.  For warmup, I took my hands out of the equation as much as possible, and just rested them on his neck so they wouldn’t move.  I let him deal with that, and mostly it went OK.  I just focused on pushing him forward and upwards with my leg, and ignored whatever was going on with his head.  Downward transitions are still not so great, but I tried to get them while using as little hand as possible, and just my seat and core, which made them marginally better.

Then we started working over jumps.  The day before I’d gotten some guidance with my horse, where we worked on staying slooow and steady to the jumps.  And straight, too (eek!).  So I worked with Klon over a single crossrail for a while- just walking up to it, trotting a few strides, and stopping in a straight (somewhat) line.  After a few repetitions, I switched to trotting the entire approach.  As we worked, he began to get much more consistent, and was landing in a better canter.  Stopping was sometimes not so graceful, but I was insistent about it and it got easier as we went, until he began anticipating coming back after the jump.

Once that happened, things got really cool- I started going to other jumps with the same thing in mind, just staying steady and straight (err, mostly…)  I was still trotting the jumps, but as he was anticipating coming back on the other side, his canter on landing was quite balanced, and (this is the big news) when I half halted or brought him back to the trot, the usual head flinging began to stop. 

And as we started cantering jumps, he started getting even more receptive to my half halts- I doubt it looked beautiful, but he was listening to them and not acting so insulted, which is a pretty big deal for me.  We finished by cantering a figure eight over a crossrail and a plank painted with a “Finding Nemo” theme- we looped around a couple times in each direction, and we really got to a place where he was coming back and listening, but also with a bigger better quality canter than we’ve sometimes had in the past. 

Most fun was we also did some work on lead changes.  He’s gotten them a few times before, never at my urging (and mostly while cantering on trail rides), so this was the first time I actually asked for them.  They were not perfect, and he may have lept through a few of them, but I was tickled pink, because with my crookedness/leaning issues, I tend to have a lot of trouble with lead changes and generally leave that to the professionals.

After giving him a giant hug and telling him he was wonderful, we went for a quick trail ride.  He’s so funny, because he’s not spooky in the least, and seems to love trail rides, but since our last solo jaunt through the woods involved galloping all over creation to get to our injured barn owner, he seemed to want to go- a lot.  But even when he’s clearly wanting to burst, he tries hard to listen, which sort of cracks me up.  It’s like he’s saying “pleeeeease?  please can we? pretty pleeeeeeeease?” Eventually, when I found some good footing, I gave him a cluck and we had a nice forward trot through the woods, and a little canter around one of the neighbor’s fields. 

I tried to keep ‘working’ while we were out there, correcting our straightness issues and not putting up with any head tossing, but it’s hard to not just surrender to the fun when you’re on Klondike 🙂

I do think I’m going to look around and try a different bit, just to see if that makes a difference.  Also related to tack, it appears my Wide tree saddle is too narrow for Mr. K, as it left an indentation on his back.  So I need to find something to borrow (and apparently, he needs to work harder or get a grazing muzzle…).

May 21, 2009 at 7:34 am 2 comments

When Things Get Overwhelming…

… all I need is this 🙂
A Little Bit of Happy

A Little Bit of Happy

It’s nice to know that when life gets hard, there’s always going to be something in it that still makes me smile. 

Anyhoo, in Important Business, last night we had an interesting ride.  It’s always fun to get some coaching from Allie, because she has a way of making me laugh at myself that feels good, even while I’m simultaneously trying really hard to fix it.  Last night it was my wrists.  In all seriousness, I have the floppiest wrists of anyone I know.  Sometimes they curl in, and sometimes they just flop down.  Whether I’m riding or not.  Case in point:

Ignore the socks! eew!

Ignore the socks! eew!

OK, but socks aside, seriously, look at that.  I’m not even riding.  What the heck are my wrists doing?  I might be the most limp-wristed person ever, in the history of the universe.

In any case, this is one of the things I tried really hard to work on last night, but probably failed.  Along with riding more from my seat and less from my hand, pushing forward and up with my core, sitting up, sitting centered in the saddle, and keeping my hands steady. 

The steady hands thing, especially, kills me.  I try, and I sure feel steady, but the second I grab mane or something and realize how unsteady I actually am, the more frustrated I get.  Of course, when I get it right, Klondike responds immediately, and in a positive way, which is super nice.  But at the same time, remembering my last dressage lesson, I’m not sure where the line is between giving/soft hands, and making him deal with the fact that hands aren’t going to be perfect.

That sounds sort of bad, probably because it’s hard for me to phrase just right.  But part of what happened in our last lesson was that we really worked on “he has to deal” with contact, because when you take even an ounce more than the lightest possible contact, his response is to resist and throw his head around a bit.  At the same time, I do strive to improve my hands and have them all soft and perfect, etc.  So what we have to find is the middle ground, which we do get glimpses of every so often (and when we get them, it feels pretty awesome). 

So onward we go, we will get those pesky downward transitions nailed soon, just you watch.

(in the next edition, we move on from my floppy wrists, to the Complete Illustrated History of My Left Hand)

May 13, 2009 at 2:13 pm Leave a comment

Handy In A Crisis

The weekend started out fairly normally- with the intent to ride Mr. K a few times and really work, to try and get that stifle back in gear from where it was popped.  He actually doesn’t feel bad on it, from his back.  You can see him hitching it up a little funny from the ground, but he hits the ground evenly between his back legs, which is encouraging. 

But because this is all not quite perfect, and because of the amount of money involved in going, we’re not going to be making our debut at VHT in two weeks.  So sad, I know, but we both probably need more time anyway.  So instead, we will be aiming for a local unrecognized event in June (*IF* he is not adopted in that time- he will be available soon, keep your eyes on the CANTER-owned page).  That will save me some money, and give us the time we need to get him feeling better on that right hind.

Sunday we were working in the indoor, because it was actually too bright outside (it’s been raining for like three weeks, I’m not used to it!), when all of a sudden there was quite a hullabaloo outside.  I ignored it for about a minute, until I realized there were loose horses up on the hill- with tack on, which is NEVER a good sign.

It turns out there was a really bad accident on a trail ride, involving several people including our barn owner.  When things like this happen, it makes your heart drop to somewhere near your feet- all you can feel is this horrible heavy weight in your stomach, and all you want is for everybody to be OK.   Thankfully, they were able to call on a cell phone to tell everyone where they were- but no one seemed to know exactly where that was- they were on a reasonably new trail that not a lot of people seem to know.

So we took off through the trails and fields to get back to where they were as quickly as possible.  I don’t want to make light of a really horrible situation- there was a helicopter involved- but I do want to give Klondike a lot of credit- he was absolutely willing and perfect the entire way.  He did not blink at anything, including ambulance and fire truck.   Even though there was not much I could do to help besides direct people where to go, he also kept me from feeling helpless.  He’s very special, and there are few horses I would trust so much.

As an aside, if any of you out there could please keep our barn owner in your thoughts, it would be greatly appreciated.

May 12, 2009 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Because We Have Plans

(warning, icky pic of a wound ahead)

I’ve talked about this before, but it seems like horses know when we have plans.  I had wanted to take SuperKid to a local short course event next weekend, to get out on course so I won’t be so overwhelmed at VHT, and so he has at least one outing under his belt.

So we got back from Rolex Monday, with me totally pumped and ready (I mean really- I BOUGHT an eventing vest.  This means I am COMMITTED and can’t turn back, and will have to actually continue with this even after Klon finds a new owner).  Soo… what do I see when I show up to ride?  He’s still a little funny in front from the (assumed) abscess.

No big deal, I thought, I’d just give him another day.

Then what do I see?  This:

For realz?

For realz?

Yep, that would be a kick mark, directly ON the stifle.  Because it really helps with soundness to get nailed on one of the most sensitive joints of the equine body.  I made him trot around the pasture a little to assess, and yes, he looked stiff on that leg.

Another night off for Kid K.

Last night, it’s back to the barn, and after I’d put my own horse back out because I thought I’d at least be able to ride K a little bit, I got out to the field to find this:

Is there a jaguar out there or something?

Is there a jaguar out there or something?

Gross.  Not only gross, but swollen, and located under where the seat of the saddle goes, so if I’d tried to ride, I’d be pressing directly on it.  There is now an area the size of a beach ball around that injury, on his left side, that is swollen and sensitive.

OK, so no riding.  I figured we could work on lunging skills a little bit, since we don’t ever do that.  Which was all well and good, but as soon as he got out of the walk, it was blatantly obvious he’s sort of crippled on his stifle.  And footsore.  I grumbled a fair bit, brought him back in and gave him some bute, and applied infection fighting goo to his various scrapes and bangs and bruises.  Here’s a few more:

Gigantic Lower Neck Bite #4
Gigantic Lower Neck Bite #4
Can I bang my head into the table now?
Can I bang my head into the table now?

I might just lose my mind.  I have a feeling that the short course is going to be a no go.  And who knows about VHT….

Of course, in the way of all dingbat horses, as soon as he was turned back out, he immediately ran to one of his turnout buddies and pestered him until they were rearing and kicking at each other, then galloping madly back and forth across the field, running so hard you could hear the pounding of their hooves from the other side of the farm.  WHYYYY??!?!?

May 1, 2009 at 10:25 am 1 comment

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