Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sunday Stills - Missy and I

 Excuse the blurry cell phone pic and Missy's vampire eye . . . she's not a vampire at all, she's very sweet, and my silly smile is very genuine . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Missy and I Do Trail Obstacles

Well, some of the things we did you're unlikely to encounter on the trail . . .

I had a busy horse day - Pie and Red got rides in the afternoon, and then Missy and I rode during the Thursday evening horse get together that happens most weeks at the barn.  Tonight there were trail obstacles - poles, tarps, a couple of platforms and a pool noodle obstacle - two jump standards with pool noodles attached all the way up at right angles - think two giant combs facing one another.

And we also tried out a Western saddle - Pie's fit her pretty well with some minor shimming.  I didn't know if she'd ever worn a back cinch, so I left that pretty loose.  She did well with the saddle and it put me in a good position, although it tended to want to slip back - I may need to use a pad with a bit more substance - perhaps one of my Diamond wool pads.

Missy did great with all the obstacles - we started in hand.  The tarp she could have cared less about, although she inspected it carefully before crossing.  She crossed the big platform pretty easily, but got slightly worried about it once it had dirt patches on the top - some snorting but that was all.  Once the dirt was cleared off, she was reassured.  We did some circling around it in hand until she relaxed.

The pool noodle obstacle was apparently a novelty to her, although she approached it readily and went through it with some coaxing - the noodles brushing her hindquarters caused her to scoot a little bit, but after we did it a few times, she was much more comfortable.

We moved on to ridden work.  She looked very nice in her new headstall and the Western saddle - sorry, no pictures (yet).  Passing by the platform - it was close to the corner with not much room between - was a bit alarming, so I got off and we hand walked around it a few times.  I got back on and she was fine with it.  I like how quickly she figures out that things don't have to be alarming.

She didn't want to pass through the pool noodle obstacle under saddle - I kept her directed towards it but she didn't want to do more than put her head and neck through.  So I dismounted and spread the two sides apart, leaving a larger gap between where she would fit without running into the noodles - we walked through several times in hand and she was fine.  So I got back on, and she walked through easily.  I had someone on the ground bring the sides a little closer together - there was still a gap - and she was fine walking through.  Then we walked through the gap to one side so the noodles brushed her - no problem at all.  We did that a few more times, and she was great.

The method of making a difficult problem a bit easier and then easing back up on a higher difficulty level works really well.  Missy also showed again how well she learns - she quickly understands what is wanted and figures out that things that might be alarming are in fact OK.

We also did some trot work - I asked her to be forward and soft at the same time and she was mostly able to do it for me.  All the dismounting/mounting gave us a lot of practice on our standing still for mounting, and her concentration (despite a number of horses in the ring) and softness were pretty consistent at walk and trot.

I was delighted with her and told her so many times throughout our session - good Miss mare - I think we both had a good time!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mare Day

Today was a mare day.  The boys and I didn't ride, although they were attended to, and I even went to say hi to them while they were in turnout - they were much more interested in the hay than in me.

Dawn and I had a nice short walk/trot ride this morning - it was still pretty cold - in the 20s.  Yesterday, she'd started out a bit stiff before she warmed up, but today she was sound at the trot from the beginning.  She seems to be off the day following a day off, which reinforces my suspicion that she's developing some hock arthritis in her right hind, which is to be expected at her age.  Probably the lower joint of the hock, which will likely fuse at some point, resulting in consistent soundness again.  Until she's reliably sound each ride as soon as we trot, indicating that her arthritis has either abated or progressed to the point the joint is more comfortable, we'll keep our work sessions short - just 10 or 15 minutes of trotting to keep her joints mobile.  The work seems to improve her soundness, and we'll try to work most days.

When I go get Dawn from the turnout, I always also say hi to Missy.  She always looks up when I call and waits for me to walk up and say hi.  But today she actually saw me coming and walked up to greet me!  She's clearly beginning to know that I'm her person and seems happy to see me (no treats either when I greet her so it isn't food).  She seems pretty content all around, which I'm glad to see.  She has made one mare friend, a palomino QH who's in her 20s.  They hang out together and eat from the bale together.  The other mares also tolerate her, which is also good.  This morning, when I led Dawn away toward the barn, Missy made a bee line for the bale Dawn had been on - even though they're stall neighbors, Dawn won't let Missy eat at "her" bale yet.

Missy and I rode in the afternoon.  We worked some more on her softness in walk, halt and backing, and stretching down, both in hand and under saddle.  And we worked some more on her being able to move her inside hind over in response to my leg.  We started on the ground, and she was really starting to get it - she's quick to learn - moving off my right side aid was harder for her but we kept working until she understood.

The arena doors were open - it was in the upper 30s, with no wind and sunny - and she dealt very well with that.  Her softness and responsiveness at the walk, including my asking her to move over with my leg, are very good - well above 75%, so today, for the first time, we trotted.  We didn't do a lot of trot work - she needs to build her fitness and she's only been out of front shoes for less than two weeks - but she was great - just what I'm coming to expect from the Miss mare!  I was delighted with her and told her so.

A good day with mares - nothing is better!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Kind of Day

Today was a really good horse day.  I rode all four horses (I rode all four yesterday, too), and each ride was a delight.

I left home at about 7:30 a.m. this morning.  The barn is only about a 5 minute drive from my house, which is really nice.  I hiked out to get Dawn, we groomed (with a fair amount of nose snuggling), tacked and had the arena to ourselves, as usual.  Dawn has been stiff and a bit off during her warmup trot work lately - she improves during our work, which makes me think arthritis - I believe her right hock - but this morning she was perfectly sound from the get go at the trot on both diagonals.

This afternoon, after bring-in, I groomed Red, Missy and Pie in sequence, and then rode them in that order, starting at about 3:00 p.m.

Red was up first, and was excellent - lots of very nice stretching down trot work with good bend on circles and around corners.  There was a fair amount of activity in the arena, but he was relaxed but very nicely forward.  He's completely sound now at the trot on both diagonals and is really using himself nicely.

Missy was a star, as usual.  Yesterday, she'd been startled badly by the big arena door going up directly behind her and scooted a few steps, so today we hand led by the doors and she watched them go up and down - her eyes got big but she didn't move a foot and I think the doors are pretty much a non-issue.  We did some in-hand softening and stretching down work - she's got it nailed, and her backing is much softer than it even was yesterday.  Then we did some in-hand work on her moving over/bending in response to leg - using my hand to simulate leg pressure.  Today, I just got on without any special preparation and she stood like a rock.  Her stretching down and softness at the walk are much more consistent, and we started working on her bending and moving over from my leg.  We also worked on having a good, forward walk - I carried a dressage whip for the first time to reinforce with a secondary cue as needed.  Her stop off my "stopping inside" is pretty much there.  She's softening and backing much better as well. What a good girl she is!

Pie was last, and he was great, too.  We worked on his bending and stretching down at the trot - his forward is very consistent now and I rarely have to use a secondary cue.  We did some very nice canter work, including two perfect walk/canter departures off my energy/changing the rhythm inside, and some very nice relaxed but forward canter work, asking for stretch down.

Can't ask for a better horse day that that!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fabulous Missy

I just had another great ride with Missy - it was our fifth ride.  We started with some in-hand relaxation and softening work, including some concentrated work on soft backing - this was hard, but every time we did it she improved.

We worked some more on our standing for mounting - it's almost 100% where I want it to be.  After I got on, we just stood there for a while on a loose rein while I praised her.

We did some very nice walk work, with soft stretching down, and some beginning to work on lengthening/shortening work off my seat and energy level, getting a nice, energetic, soft walk.  Her halt is already significantly better - I think halt, exhale and place the feet for a square halt and she's right on it.  We did some just standing around on a loose rein watching everything that was going on.

And we did some softening and backing under saddle - again, this was hard at first but by the end of our short work session she was already getting much better at it.  This also will likely be completely right within a couple more work sessions.

Missy got lots of praise and strokes, and she seems to really appreciate that - well, she likes the treats she gets at the end of the ride, too! She is such a good-natured, level-headed, willing and intelligent mare that she's a delight to work with.  She learns very quickly, and is willing to adopt new habits if I'm clear and consistent about what I want.

Fabulous Miss!