Monday, November 20, 2017

Lies Lies Lies

I had another fabulous lesson this weekend, but I realized my perception lies to me frequently.  And by frequently I mean ALL THE DAMN TIME.  I realized by glancing in the mirror when I think Stinker has his head really low, it is about the max I should allow it to be.  I am still weighting my right seat bone too much and collapsing through that side.  My concept of me sitting upright is improving but I still lean too far forward.

It is really interesting and annoying at how much my body lies to me.  But I also have plenty of things to work on this winter.  Hopefully I can make some improvements in myself over the winter and by next spring they will be my new habits.

The sunset plus fresh snowcapped mountains was stunning

I continue to be amazed at what a trooper Stinker is.  I had ridden him Wednesday morning before the storm came through.  It started raining on Wednesday and continued through Thursday evening.  Friday was cold and everything was sloppy from all the rain so I didn't ride.  Then I hauled out to my lesson on Saturday.  The indoor was super busy.  There were jump lessons, other dressage lessons, plus people riding on their own all happening.  I really haven't ridden with Stinker with much traffic.

He started off really nervous, but after a few circles he took a deep breath and went to work.  Trainer was so impressed, because she saw him not wanting to stand at the mounting block and being anxious to start.  Mostly we worked on me maintaining the contact and not throwing it away when he stretches for it.  I was rewarded with some really consistent trot work when I maintained the connection.  Funny how that works.

Always watching

We even did a tiny bit of canter the one way and holy crap it was good.  The rhythm was there, he was balanced, didn't zip off, and came right back to the trot.  I really wish I had it on video because one of the ladies that was riding was watching (I think she was watching because I made her nervous when I said he likes to get zippy) and said "Oh he is so cute!"  Which honestly I think that might be the first time I have heard that when riding.  Another lady was asking me about him after my lesson too.

It felt way better than that

I had to laugh at the end of my lesson Trainer was talking to me about how he was just too tense still and was asking me about things I have done to try to get him to relax more.  His tension has decreased so much that I am fooled into thinking that he is relaxed.  Which in comparison to what I started with he has relaxed, but I do agree that there is still improvements to be made.  I will admit I did have a moment of "Seriously?" before I acknowledged that yes he has improved but there is still progress to be made.  Those darn lies will get you every time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Winter Firecracker

Wednesday morning I snuck in one last ride before the storm rolled through.  Unfortunately, the wind had already started to pick up and Stinker was lit up.  We had a very strong discussion about the mounting block.  He thought standing was optional, I thought he was being a tool.  We agreed upon pausing the prancing long enough for me to swing over.

Best I could manage on my spinning giraffe

There was much prancing and giraffe like behavior on the way to the ring.  I figured I was going to be in for a long ride and I was just hoping to get him to relaxed enough to get some decent walk and call it a day.  Instead, after a few circles and a couple reminders the he can lower his head, he started stretching and reaching for the bridle way more than normal.

Much sass

The trot work was about average, but I was so impressed with how he harnessed the nutty energy and went to work.  Granted he was a butt on the ground and immediately went to chewing on Cowboy when I turned him back out, but I will take it if it means I can get a decent ride in as a storm is blowing in.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Data Data Data

I was originally going to sit on this for longer until I had a larger data set, but I couldn't stand myself. While my saddle was gone I got an equisense.  I have wanted one ever since I first learned about them last year, but struggled to justify the price.  Some how being sad because I couldn't ride made it a lot easier to justify #tackhopro

The app gives you a lot of information.  It breaks down your ride time into walk, trot, canter, and halt.  Records the number of transitions and jumps that you do.  Shows how long you spend going each direction and then breaks that down by gait.  Records the symmetry, which analyzes the half strides in the trot to identify abnormalities.  For example a weaker hind leg will alter the symmetry score (graded out of 10).  The frequency of strides per minute in each gait plus the regularity of them (hint jigging drops the regularity).  The elevation in all the gaits is also measured.

The app gives a lot of cool graphs, but I got side tracked by comparing lunging, long lining, riding, and my last lesson to see if there are differences.  I was expecting to see large differences between the ground work and the riding, because he still carries more tension with a rider.

First up, the differences in symmetry between riding and hand jogging him.  Because I suck at long lining and the programs requires trotting in a straight line I hand jog him on the non riding days.  He averages around a 7 which shows up in green so I am assuming that is pretty good.  It doesn't surprise me that the riding is lower (between 5-6), because I struggle keeping him working correctly on straight lines.

I am not sure what the elevation really tells me.  I did notice there is a drop in elevation when I am riding compared to ground work.  That doesn't surprise me because I am intentionally keeping him in a smaller trot to help his balance when I am riding.

The only other interesting trend I noticed was the frequency of the walk increases when I am riding (not surprising), but there is also an increase in the regularity (surprising).  Based on my understanding if your horse gets a 10 for regularity it is like a metronome.  So while his walk is a little hurried it is more consistent when I am riding.

I am loving having the equisense and I am (clearly) really excited to have all the data.  I also think it will be really interesting to see how the trends change over time.  Hopefully as he gets stronger and we make progress it will be reflected in the numbers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Plugging Along

In the lesson last weekend we kept plugging along and working on getting him more consistent in the trot and started touching on transitions.  Stinker's idea of a transition is dropping his back, tossing his head up, and flinging himself into an up transition.  I have known all along that this is problematic, but I didn't have him mentally squared away to address the issue.

Transition into a giraffe

Previously, if I repeated transitions he would have a total meltdown which was totally counterproductive.  So I mostly ignored them when I was riding and only drilled them from the ground.  This lesson was focused on timing them better.  The timing is a challenge, because after a couple he starts anticipating and it gets more difficult to create good moments in which I can ask.

The whole idea is to have him nice and soft and reaching and then gently ask him to step up into the trot.  I struggle with finding the right amount of ask.  He is so sensitive that I keep over asking and surprising him which automatically sends him into giraffe mode.  The best way to ask is to have him walking on a small circle and then very carefully slide into a trot rhythm while asking him to stretch and soften.

It sounds easy, but it is also a lot to manage.  There was a fair amount of jigging and I started riding backwards (because that always helps), finally trainer got me turning sharper anytime he jigged.  I wasn't allowed to change anything besides turning.  That really helped to smooth things out and we got some good (for us) transitions.

We also started tackling all the ways my body lies.  It is no secret that I have hip issues.  I didn't realize how uneven my hips have gotten.  It used to be that I struggled to open to the right.  Now I basically always have my hips over rotated to the right.  In order to sit evenly I need to think about my left seat bone more which seems to even me out.

Monday, November 6, 2017


So much of the horse world is about snap first judgments.  I am guilty of it.  I frequently make snap judgments on turnout and grooming and muscling of horses when I first see them.  In turn I have a horse who has consistently been thin with poor muscling and a distinctly upside down neck.  I was worried when I was trying to find a new trainer that they would take one look at him and assume it was from my riding/care.

Can't beat a good outfit for boosting confidence

After my first lesson new trainer did mention a few people that were closer to me as possibilities for me to try.  I choose to ignore that and basically begged for her to schedule us for another lesson.  I knew that she was going to be good for us, and I am a firm believer in riding with the best that you can afford.  I would like to think we are growing on her.

Who needs toys when you have feed pans

Stinker is such a character and he tries really hard.  The horse doesn't have a dishonest bone in his body and we have developed a relationship that allows me to say "it's ok" and he listens.  I would like to think that I am a good student.  I work very hard to carry my lessons over into my rides at home.  I listen and ask questions when I don't understand something.  I have a decent feel for the horse and I am willing to experiment with things.  All of those things together make me a fairly good student.

I still don't have things unpacked but they are at least neat now

I think slowly we are changing her perception of us.  She asked me how many rides I had gotten in since I got my saddle back.  I answered two.  She looked surprised.  I guess she wasn't expecting me to schedule things so quickly, but lessons keep me on track and keep me from running off the deep end of crazy.  Then she started looking at him, and asking what I had been doing with him.  She thought he had gained quite a bit of muscle in his hind quarters and he also pack on some weight (his girth is almost too small).

6 saddles for two horses #tackhopro

My hope is that we will be able to continue to build over the winter and keep changing the perception.  I am already counting down the days until the time changes again and thinking about our goals for next year.  This year was all about surviving all of the changes and keeping him happy and healthy, and honestly we have surpassed my hopes for this year.  He looks way better than I hoped for and is in a much better place mentally with full time turnout.

Friday, November 3, 2017

It's Back

I finally finally finally got my saddle back.  I was so excited to actually be able to ride.  It was also nice that Stinker was a trooper and went right to work.  I don't think the saddle is fitting quite as well as I want it too, but hopefully I will be able to get that fixed in the next couple of weeks without having to send it anywhere again.

I was very curious to see how he would do after two weeks of no riding.  I did do long lining and lunging with him, but I limited myself to 3 times a week and gave him a full week off at the beginning.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well he was working.  The trot is slowly getting more consistent.  He is still too inverted and hides behind the contact, but he finally looks like he is moving in the correct direction.  And to make things even better I got a video of some trot work.