Monday, July 28, 2014

Clinic Hangover

So I'm one day out from the clinic and in a clinic hangover.  At first I was calling it a clinic coma, but I decided hangover was more appropriate.  I'm tired, groggy, slightly disoriented, and feel like I was run over by a truck.  Twice.

All that said, please forgive what should be a horrible attempt at recap-ping this clinic.

Day 1

I showed up to the barn nice an early on Saturday since I was the first ride, and immediately ran into the BO who informed me Mollie had been coughing all morning.  Great.  Because there's no better time to be coughing/breathing so hard that you can't even be ridden than the day of a clinic.  Luckily for me the clinician was very understanding and we had a very "theory" based lesson and really nit picked my position to death so Molls could have an easy day.

Learning how to sit up straight because I suck at it.
 My main take aways from that were:

  • I cannot cannot cannot arch my back.  So stop doing it, self.
  • I need to sit a hair more forward than I think I do.
  • I need to stop worrying about stretching my shoulders back because all it does is make me arch my back.  Instead I need to put my ASIS through my forearms and then think of "opening" my chest.
  • Rolling my pelvis/ASIS forward and through my forearms needs to happen every second.
  • I need to think about keeping my thighs more vertical, my calves a hair back, and my toes forward, not out.
Jean Luc also did some very cool demonstrations that I wish I had on video.  In essence he held up one finger and I put a finger up to his.  We very lightly pushed back and forth so there was a conversation going on like the conversation you constantly have while riding your horse.  He then proceeded to tighten his forearm and I could no longer feel our "conversation" through my finger.  Then he tightened his shoulder, same thing.  Arched his back, same thing.  Basically a very basic demonstration that if we tighten anywhere in our bodies it royally effs up everything.  But he used better language than that ;)

He even got on Molls for a second to show me a few positioning things, and Molls turned into a little midget pony right in front of my eyes.

Lastly I'm including this little video because even though it's sideways and we're just walking, he says things so much better than I ever could.  He's basically talking about how correct riding has less to do with obedience and submission than it does correct technique.  I paraphrased below because his accent can be tricky at times.

"...When you do it right they respond.  Immediately.  Because it's not obedience, it's not submission, it's natural.  It's comfortable, it's dancing the same dance.  Therefore, the second you ask, they respond.  So if they don't, they don't hear you the way you say.  Something is wrong.  It could be postural, it could be the balance, it could be dynamic, it could be the tone.  If one part of your body is too contracted, that does not work."

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Clinic Brain Dump

Oh my god.  Clinic overload.  Excuse the bullets and random blurbs, I just want to remember EVERYTHING.

  • Don't be afraid to ride in the double, and don't be afraid to take contact on the curb.  Remember the curb is a straight bit so will be the best gauge of whether or not Mollie is crooked in her jaw and mouth.
  • Mollie hates riding with the reins 3 and 1, instead she prefers taking on the curb rein when needed.
  • My idea of "straight" through my back is actually a hair too behind where it needs to be.  To fix, think of putting my ASIS (see below) through my forearms.  For some reason that visual really worked for me and put me into correct alignment.

  • I need to keep closer contact from my mid to upper thigh and mid calf.  As I become straighter and in more correct balance my legs touch Mollie in a slightly lower place, which is correct.
  • Horses can feel a fly land on their bodies.  If you ever feel the need to kick or pull something is wrong.
  • Slow, straight, push
  • Absolute straightness is impossible.  Instead of riding "straight" we narrow the column that the horse zig zags in.  The more narrow the column the straighter they become.
  • Slowing down does not bring the back up, but the back cannot come up unless you are slow.
  • When Mollie picks up the trot it should be near piaffe.  I am to stay there until she is trotting squarely, at which point she is allowed to take longer steps until the quality lessens at which point she needs to be brought back to balance.
  • Ride with a whip always.
  • Any tension that I carry anywhere in my body will ruin everything.  Any looseness in my body will ruin everything.  Find the balance.
  • My thighs need to become more vertical, which will happen when I loosen the ligaments in my upper thigh/groin region.  
  • As a horse moves forward their vertebrae move from side to side in lateral flexion/rotation.  By closing the column in which they can move the lateral rotation creates a lift up and through their back.
  • Ride with short reins, always
  • 10-20 minutes of perfectly correct work is always better than an hour of mediocre work.
Hopefully there will be a more in depth post about the clinic soon.  Right now I can't possibly write anything coherent.

Oh, and there are videos.  For now enjoy this one where I straight up DROP MY RIGHT CURB REIN because I'm an actual mess.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Struggle Bus

I swear to god I thought I was going to really ride my horse a lot this summer.  But it seems like every week something manages to get in the way.

This week?

Mollie's pre-heaves/coughing returns.

You know what else returned? Her pink fly sheet.
This has been a yearly struggle for us, and it seems that every spring Mollie gets a cough that kinda looks a little like maybe she could have heaves.  She's never actually been diagnosed, and this is strictly my armchair vet diagnosis, but she has all the classic symptoms.  But they're mild, and seasonal, and usually a call in to the vet ensures I have a tub of Tri-Hist on the way and all is well with the world.

But obviously not this year, because this is the year of shit getting in the way of my riding.  The BO noticed Molls was coughing and had labored breathing now that it's gotten hotter and disgustingly humid.  She let me know, I called the vet, we played phone tag, and I finally heard from her when she told me Tri-Hist had been on back order for over a year.  Kewl.  More phone tag ensued to describe the cough/labored breathing and it was decided that she wouldn't be able to prescribe anything else without coming out to see her, and whatever she did prescribe would likely be a steroid.

I don't know about all of you, but I'm really not a fan of using steroids in my 17 year old horse who is minimally worked and is basically a glorified pasture puff.  I'm also not a fan of having the vet come out and being charged a farm call fee to tell me what I already know (my horse probs has heaves).  So I did what any logical, frugal, horse mom would do and asked fellow boarders for other options.  One of my good friends and fellow boarders is Queen of all things herbal and natural (yet effective) and has tried just about everything under the sun on her mare suggested Hilton Herbs and after some google-ing, review reading, and chatting with a Smartpak rep I decided that was the way to go.  A liter of Freeway Gold was ordered and Molls should hopefully be starting it tomorrow.  Fingers crossed it helps because we have a clinic this weekend and I'd like to be able to do something other than walk :)

Molls post ride.  Molls is unimpressed with shower time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

This is Crap

Remember that time I was counting down the days till school ended and I could ride and blog and be free all the time?

Yeah me too.

But instead I find myself still working 40+ hours a week.  This is crap.

Anyways, yet another photo recap because I don't seem to be capable of anything else.

The reason I've been so busy is because I took a nanny-ing job for the summer.  It was only three days a week, and just one five month old baby, so I figured it'd be perfect.  Until it turned into four days, and 10 hours a day.  Luckily the baby is awesome and I'm being paid well (so I have nothing to complain about so stop complaining, self) but I have a little less freedom than I planned on this summer.

But today I did take the baby on an hour long walk so I could get ice cream.... so there's that.

I'm also dog-sitting Chloe again.  Chloe isn't allowed on the bed.  Chloe gives zero fucks.

Last weekend I ran a clinic focused on working with "the sensitive horse".  One of my students (Montana's dad) is on the board of a rescue in nearby Connecticut.  Most of the horses that come through there are sensitive to say the least, since they've come from all walks of life.  That, coupled with the fact that lots of their volunteers have little to no horse experience makes things interesting.  So I went over for a little clinic.  I was absolutely dreading doing this, because I really didn't think I'd have enough material for four hours, nor did I necessarily feel qualified, but it ended up going really, really, well.

Above is sweet Mia, who they were shocked to see me
A) get a halter on
B) get to walk over the tarp
C) get the tarp on her

What was even better about working with Mia was that not only could I do all those things, by the end of our session all the participants got to do those things.  It was extremely rewarding to see how proud they all were to make that progress with a horse that usually intimidates most of them.

Then I rode the hunk below.

This, is Leeroy.  Yes with two e's.  Leeroy was so out of shape, and so lazy, but was such a good little boy for my demo.  In case anyone is interested, Leeroy is available for adoption and would do best as a trail horse.  He's super lazy, and wants nothing more than to plod through the woods all day long.  He's only about 15 hands but a very stocky boy at that.

Then, there was Cami.  Oh Cami.

I was just about to take this girl home at the end of the day.  I was told Cami would be great for the clinic because she is afraid of life itself.  Terrified of people, and anything to do with them it is always a struggle to catch her and frequently ends with a very tense horse on the end of the line.  The photo above is from the first time I approached her.  I love that picture so much because of the bay, Scarlet, looking on in the background.  She's extremely protective of her nervous friend, and it's like she was watching to make sure Cami was ok.  Go ahead and break my heart why don't ya?

You know when you walk up to a horse and just click with them?  I did with Cami.  Whatever it was about our energy it just worked together.  And I don't say that often.  If I had the funds that sweet girl would be mine tomorrow yesterday.

And no clinic would be complete without playing with a mini baby horse.  

I can hardly handle the sight of him.  I immediately break out in squeaky "baby" voice and just want to squeeze him.

Hopefully I'll be back to regularly scheduled posts sometime in the near future!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Recaps, Part 2

Part two of my recap session may as well be titled: A Case of the Fats.

Hi awkward obesity.

It's no secret my horse is an easy keeper.  She always has been, and I'm willing to bet she always will be.  I am in absolutely no way complaining about this skill of hers to get fat on air, especially when it seems so many others have to work and drain their bank accounts keeping weight on their creatures, but it is a struggle to manage Mollie's weight.

As with anything, there are a few factors contributing to her current level of tubby-ness.

- She is out on gorgeous, lush grass from about 7am-3pm.  That's a lot of grass time for a horse who doesn't. stop. grazing.  Seriously, her nose is buried in the grass for about 8 hours straight.

Small horse, big field

- She is genetically designed to be on the "thick" side.  Yay for Quarter Horse genes.

The most solid little girl.

- Mollie is about the same length from the bottom of her barrel to her top line as she is from hoof to shoulder.  This is evidenced by the photo above, because you could literally fold her in half and her legs and barrel would be about the same length.  Therefore, any weight she carries looks a thousand times worse because she's not very tall.

- It's no secret Molls hasn't been worked regularly as of late.  Granted, now that I'm out of school I've been riding about 4x a week, but I haven't been doing that for long enough to make much of a difference.  Oh, and when we do ride, it looks a lot like this:

Whut is a bridle?  Whut is werk?

So while it's frustrating and mildly terrifying when my farrier mentions the "f" word, you know, the founder one, there are definitely some steps I can take to prevent this.

For one, Mollie is back in consistent work.  With a saddle and a bridle!  We're also really working on ways to cut back her grass consumption.  I did put her grazing muzzle back on her, but as highlighted in my photo recap she got some pretty heinous rubs.

I plan on sewing some fleece on to her muzzle so once the rubs clear up (they're looking pretty good!) the muzzle can hopefully go back on.  In the meantime she continues to get next to no grain (just enough to mix in her supplements) and limited hay.  And anytime she can come in/get off the grass a little early the BO brings her in.

Fingers crossed she's a lean, mean, cow-pony dressage horse soon!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Recaps, Part 1

In an attempt to catch everyone up on our goings-on I figured I'll break the last post up into smaller ones that go into greater detail.

First up, Mollie's foot/mystery lameness/weight saga.  I was going to be a good blogger and take pictures of all her feet/new set up to share with you, but I forgot.  So sorry.

If you remember Mollie had been NQR for a little while now, but it was very slight and there was no heat/swelling/etc.  I have a short video where you can see a slight hitch when she trots, and that was more or less the extent of what was wrong.

I was playing it by ear, waiting to see if anything alarming jumped out and screamed "this is wrong!" but it never quite happened.  I knew if I called the vet out they would find something wrong, but she's a 17y/o horse riddled with arthritis.  Of course they could find something to inject/treat but I knew that wasn't the route I wanted to go.  The other issues were:

1. She's overweight, which never helps anything
2. She's out of shape, so in general not as strong as she used to be
3. Her feet were getting close to being due, and although she's gone longer in between trimmings she will sometimes get ouchy if her heels get too low for her liking

Since the farrier was due to come out soon my plan was to keep riding (she wasn't getting worse with work) and wait to see what he said.

The first thing he said was, "that horse is obese".  The second thing he said was, "She's seriously in danger of foundering."  Fuck.

He did agree that her heels were getting a little low, so he made her a little pad (which I swear I was going to take a picture of) for her front feet and that seems to have made a difference.  She's been feeling great since having her feet done and since I've been riding 4-5 days a week now that I'm out of school.  Between all of those things I think that's just what she needed to be feeling a little better.

While her feet are feeling better, we now have the problem of getting weight off of her.  Again.  But that deserves a post all of it's own :)