Thursday, July 12, 2018

Summer Summer Summer

It's been hot, it's been humid and I've been spending very little time inside. Which is good!

Bailey has been working regularly, much to her chagrin. We've been mixing dressage and jumping, and enjoying the fact that my trashed hay bales from the fateful hay barn partial flooding of Spring 2018 have resulted in having a fun jump to play with. I've been building it up, and tried it as a corner, a big solid "table" and recently moved the top bales to the side to be a airy-in-the-middle oxer type creature with poles on top. Having 5 "standards" has also made jumping that much more fun - four has been a bit limiting, but having a 5th fence, even if it doesn't move, has been super fun.

On the flat, she's been a bit lazy. She wants to bounce and stare around, but I got after her and really made her work the canter on our last ride and the horse I jumped a couple days later was amazingly light and uphill and steady in her pace... resulting in a magical jump school. I need to remember that the whining and the "work is hard" tantrums are worth it.

Hi Yes my eyeballs are sweating why are we doing this

Arya has been battling the bugs and putting in a few more rides under saddle. She's been progressing slowly, but the moments of feeling like she's really on board with me are really worth it.

Obsessed with these photos

I still struggle what to do with her when she gets behind my leg or starts to get silly. She's been offering a lot more forward lately, and I've been struggling to keep her out of the canter so we can do some trotting. Her MO now is that she either:
- Doesn't want to trot so she either sucks back and does a tiny trot, and then tucks her chin into her chest and  canters, or
- She strongly bends herself out and when I open my inside rein and apply my inside leg to say, um hey stay in this stratosphere plz, she pops up into the canter and gets defensive because she knows it's not what I want and is like GOSH WHY DO I HAVE TO STOP ALREADY even before I start trying to woah her

I've been allowing a lot more canter than I have been before, and she does have a lovely canter. I can be a bit more in her face with the half halts at the canter than I can be at the trot, which makes it a semi-comfortable gait. I do get a bit defensive, as she gets very skippy and swishy with her back end, but so far (knock on wood for me, plz) she hasn't gotten bucky or particularly light in front, so she's been getting a lot better about keeping her feet on the ground.

Much sweaty. I guess we're achieving those mythical wet saddle pads!
On Tuesday, instead of fighting the wanting to run up into the canter, I asked for it earlier and tried to just continue to ask her to work while cantering, and trying the trot work second. It worked decently, but not perfectly; she still misinterprets the inside leg squeeze on her barrel as a forward aid on principal, but I did feel like we got some lateral thinking. Shockingly, it actually went better to the right than the left barrel-movement wise, though she jigged the entire time which was obnoxious.

We're getting some good downward relaxation, but still not achieving true connection. It's a work in progress, especially with a horse so tightly wound as Arya is. I have faith that we'll install more willing lateral work under saddle soon; we've been doing a ton of yielding fore and hind quarters online, which seems to be translating slowly under saddle. Her online work has been improving in leaps and bounds since the Tik clinic, so I expect I'll see more under saddle if I keep the faith and be persistent.

It's less than exciting to say that all we can do is walk, trot and canter most of the time in control, but not usually on the bit or with any relaxation after a year, but I keep telling myself she's not a horse you can rush, and we're repairing a relationship as well as doing some big building block learning at the same time. We'll get somewhere, at some point... I hope ;) Either way, I adore her almost blindly in a way I haven't loved a horse possibly ever... and maybe she will bend under my unending love and determination!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

WW: Arya's 1 Year Update Photos

I'm a bit late, but happy 1 year of being a Minnesotan, Arya!

Here are some images I took to share with New Vocations along with her last update.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Life in Shambles, As Per Always

Wow, I've been a bad bad blogger. Again.

Arya and I have been doing some ground work with our new stick and string, and I finally got my kimchee together and got on her over the weekend (vs just ground working) and found that she had not backslid too badly under saddle. She did a little willful misinterpretation of my leg, but overall was quite decent to ride.

Arya's general thoughts on stick-and-string wielding humans
I have been riding Bailey as well, on the flat and over fences.

I've felt really guilty lately, because Bailey has been playing second fiddle to Arya.

Honestly, she doesn't seem to mind. She's never been jealous of me taking another horse out, and as long as she's supplied with snacks. She's out of shape, for sure, and a bit overly attached to her sisters (especially Bizzy, who she hung out with while Arya was gone) but our rides, on the whole, have been pretty great.

It's very strange to realize that Bailey is my "put me right" horse now; she's the horse I get on to focus on myself and my riding, and any issues she has we generally can work through. She jumps, she dressages, and she kind of goes down the road (spooking all the way, but manageable). I am constantly surprised that she's rideable and does things I ask without too much argument.

Case in point was this weekend, when I whipped her out for a jump session early in the cool morning (generally a recipe for leaping and silliness) and had set up a very scary hay bale corner for her jumping pleasure. She spooked at it several times while flatting, and I made her walk up and sniff it (she sampled the hay, because fatty). When I finally pointed her at it, I was already trying to remember where my crop was, because I was sure she was going to stop and be a shit.

Instead, she happily galloped it, and jumped it with what felt like several feet to spare.

Other than lacking a bit of fitness, she really is in a great place mentally - or, I guess I should say, she's grown up to be a surprisingly great horse. Gone is the uncontrollable horse of her youth, which is very heartening, as it makes me feel like I have a chance to have the same with Arya. We've had a tumultuous first year together, but I am keeping the faith. After all, I kept the faith with B through bolting, spooking, rearing and general noping-the-f-outing and she's grown up to be a most wonderful girl.

Hopefully Arya someday learns to do this
The day to day struggle will remain, of course, having the time. With all of the mowing and general work there is to be done, I need to keep fighting for ride time, and not lose it entirely to the farm. So far my pastures are holding up, but I need to get the last two pastures sprayed (with fertilizer) and need to weed whack and get a better dragging schedule set up so my arena stops growing so much grass. Farm problems are kind of the best first world problems though, and I'm still grateful for our little piece of the dream! Our hay is ready to be cut, so if anyone has some spare fingers to cross for a week of sunny weather, I'd be grateful. I'm so excited to have our first crop!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Not Panicking Part II

So I left off down in the dumps about my relatively crappy ride on Sunday. I panicked, and threw several fixes at her all at once, and got back on her on Tuesday. I'm not sure if it's the bridle, the ulcer meds, the change in fly boots (and bute to kick the tiny bit of swelling out of the window) or the fly bonnet, but she was back on Tuesday and did some lovely WTC work and we continued to work on bending.

We did some review work on loading, and I got my trailer fixed up as best we could, and I rolled out Thursday afternoon trying to keep my anxiety levels under control for the clinic with Tik Maynard. After being failed by google maps a few times, we finally made it and unloaded at the farm, and I got Arya settled. We walked, and she was rude, but she didn't seem too horribly anxious, despite being alone in the barn.

Our lesson with Tik was bright and early Friday morning, and I got there early and tried to not be too anxious. I don't have media, unfortunately, as I was the media for the rest of the riders, but here are the main take-aways from our lesson. Arya came out very distracted and walking all over me, and Tik took her from me almost immediately.

The main things we worked on were:

1. Sending/change of direction
2. Woahing
3. Backing
4. Crossing front or back feet
5. Being less/non-reactive to the whip as an extention of the arm.

And I got a lot of really good nuggets as he worked with her, as well as watching her improve in her focus and ability to think-before-reacting:

- Start off with super high expectations of the horse, and those expectations go super low the minute the horse starts trying for you.

- Move the feet when distracted (my reaction is to pop the line)

- Using standing still and attention/pets as a reward

- The horse should have 100% of your attention when they're in your space. You can take your mind off them only if they are out of your space (4' radius, Tik parked her out at the end of her line)

- Halting can happen by pulling the head in or by pushing the hind end out. Teach both ways.

- Use your grip on the line as a barometer to relaxation; how hard are you gripping the line, how much force does it take to create a change.

- The stick follows the line of the circle  - open arm, don't point it at her, that will just send her backwards.

- Use body and stick as a right angle to push the front end.

Arya started out very hot and defensive of the stick and wasn't really taking direction; she just wanted to go out on the line and bolt around like she knew what she was doing, gosh. Tik kept her engaged and thinking, and moved her feet in a variety of ways, not just doing one thing at a time. She was nervous about the whip and slowly chilled out reacting to it, which was definitely progress. Tik waived it above his head and would toss it over her neck as she moved, and she slowly got less defensive about it. She still didn't seem to get the whip cue on her hind end meant "move your hip away from me" vs "bolt" so that will be one to work on. I was surprised and excited to see that she can move sideways on the line, and I think the cue Tik used was very clear in body language as to what was desired.  By the end, Arya was much softer through her body and was really trying, and I think it was a positive clinic that left me with some really good tools to develop at home, so that we can travel more and I can re-assert control and feel safe with her more easily.

There was some really positive take-aways for me, mentally, too:

- Everyone, including Tik, thought Arya was very very smart (and also very sensitive). This is going to be a challenge because she is super smart, and being fair to her sensitivity is going to be a bit like the Eddie Izzard joke about shower temperature gauges in this clip:

- Rushing her isn't going to go well. He asked me if I had an agenda or plans with her, and was very happy that I have another horse to ride and have fun with, because that's the program Arya needs; she needs time and patience. I'm willing to give her both, and I'm very happy that this was reinforced for me.

- Tik liked her. Which makes me happy, because I adore her, and I think she's a very magnetic horse. I'm excited to keep working with her and making things better.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Not Panicking

First off, thanks for the links and posts on my Organization post, that I probably have forgotten to reply to... sorry. Life has been life-ing and I have been struggling to keep my head above water.

Morning noodle dog

After nearly a week and a half off riding, I've been working on bringing Arya back. After her first semi-messy ride last Monday, she has had a few really really decent/awesome rides. We rode on Thursday and it was one of those awesome encouraging rides, and then it all came crashing down yesterday. She reverted nearly 100% back to "bad Arya" complete with spinning, threatening to rear and refusing to bend/melting down when I put my leg on. I immediately got off, and tried to work her on the ground to improve her bending, thinking she was stiff or out in her neck or something, and also worked her in the spot of the arena where she had acted up, thinking that because she had spooked there she's just decided she's going to die in that spot.

Well, I got on and again... naughty. More spinning, more tantrum. I got off again (waiting for a good halt, at least) and felt down her legs, and thought I felt some fluid in her tendons just below her knee. She had been wearing fly boots, and for some reason, they do sometimes bind on the horses, so I decided that we'd try one more time and just walk. So we walked, and she did get better by the end of things, and was willing to bend and not jig/have a tantrum. I don't know what it was; the previous day, my husband and his buddies had shot on the property, but the mares only spooked a bit, trotted a few steps and then settled down and didn't seem to care. I thought I heard fireworks that night, but again... any time I checked on the mares and they didn't seem overly riled up. I figured she either threw herself out of alignment or gave herself ulcers or was being a GIANT baby about a tiny bit of swelling in her leg. That, or she was seriously riled that I changed her regular bridle to the micklem bridle, which really didn't work well with the D ring.

Always with this picture

Either way, it wasn't the ride I wanted to have when we're going to a clinic on Thursday (admittedly, we're probably just going to do groundwork) and I am full of anxiety today. It's another cooler, windy day and unless it gets warm and less windy, I may give her a day off today and try to pack two rides in Tuesday and Wednesday, and hope that we can revert her back to her workable behavior before we leave. Because I'm sensible, I, of course, threw a handful of supplements at her last night (bute, nexium, ulcer/electrolyte pellets) with her grain, and hope that she turns her B tendencies way down in the mean time.

I really don't want a horse that only rides well in tropical weather; it's not going to work out well, when we live in the great cold north. And I really just want things to be fun and keep her moving forward. She's got so much potential, and she is so freaking smart I don't even have words for it. I've missed having a horse this smart and while she isn't giving and forgiving like Bailey... she is a total joy to ride and I'd like to have fun with her.

Fingers crossed we can banish Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde/the devil and find my good, willing horse back before Friday morning. I'm totally not panicking, why?

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Attempted Organization Try.... who knows

I've been super busy the last few weeks; we've had grueling heat, tons of rain, a broken tractor, endless lawn to mow...

Memorial day weekend we did fence posts in humid, nineties weather. We had a gas powered auger for the corner posts and a gas powered T post driver, and the work would have gone super quickly except it was stupid, intense hot. I've been trying to clean up and catch up all this week, and discovered a rather annoying hole in my organization scheme;

My med kit is a hot freaking mess.

Admittedly I just threw everything in bins and tried to bring in the freezeable stuff before it froze last fall. And my med kit got savaged by Foxie's and then Arya's injuries, and I didn't really have any interest in organizing once we put Foxie down. So it's badly in need of some organization.

Currently, I have bins with a bunch of stuff standing up or laying on it's side, but nothing has a place, and I have to dig to find shit, which means that generally I don't put the top back on until later and things get lost or dirty or whatever.

So my "organization" is really like... putting a table cloth over a bear to hide it. It's out of sight but still kind of a big deal.

So, brilliant internet friends, how do you organize your med kit and store it? I consider standing wraps to be a part of my med kit most of the time, so I'm hoping I can find some storage that will, at least, hold a set of four and some standing wraps, but I can keep them in their bin (bins are fine for standing wraps)... help?

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Arya: May the Second

So when we left off, Arya tried out some magikal tack.

Thursday, 5/17 - Arya got her teeth done, and thus got a day off.

Friday, 5/18 - Arya trotted several circles in a row and even was allowed to canter a lap, though started to get silly towards the end. She goes left really well right now, and I started asking for her to give to the bit using pressure and release. I also continued to focus on applying my leg and calf more. She is feeling more balanced, and seems more and more resigned to her life as a horse being ridden. She still wants to get stuck, and especially going right, wants to counterbend like CRAZY especially when she wants to be bad. She got a little up and did some small spooking at a truck hauling a big empty equipment trailer, that rattled, but was generally quite good.

Sunday, 5/20 - Arya continued her lessons in giving to pressure, not losing one's mind when doing stuff and I also focused more and more on inside leg to outside rein. To the left, she really seems to be getting it, but to the right, she continues to be mentally/physically blocked. She leans hard on my leg and hand and continues to do her super dramatic counterbend when she wants to get shirty. We trotted quite a bit, and did one circle of canter, but again struggled with even a full circle of trot going right. I may stick her on the lunge line again going right and try to see if we can figure out bending right without a person up (thinking lunge line inside, side rein outside... or just breaking her to long line, already).

Thursday, 5/24 - More inside rein to outside leg on this lovely balmy day. Groundwork was obedient, and she cantered without breaking quite well. Once we were riding, going left was really quite good. We trotted and cantered pretty normally and Arya did some chewing and thinking at the trot, and gave me some softening when asked. Good girl! Right continued to be tense, but I didn't feel like she was scheming to buck me off; more that she wanted to rush because she was anxious and felt like she couldn't do what I wanted. We'll probably lunge this weekend as we're fencing pasture and I probably won't have time to ride much.

After Thursday: Arya lunged a bit but basically ended up with a week off due to heat, then several days of thunderstorms, and then I shot a clinic over the three day weekend.

Monday, 6/4 - We're back to the beginning, pretty much. Ground work was obedient and we're mixing in more and more canter, as well as transitions. Once on, left felt like her right side on a good day, and going right was an utter mess. She jigged, threw her head, rooted, counter bent, and tried to rush off into the canter, but she was, surprisingly, manageable, though she couldn't even with my leg, much less contact. Going left improved a lot. I tried to stay steady and just keep asking for what I wanted, and we had two big improvements - several circles of trot that I could actually ride vs manage, and I was able to talk her into bending through her body and giving to the bit at the trot several times. I was thrilled with this, and let her quit and have a bath after that much mental effort. I am excited to get back on and keep working on this new-found talent!