Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sweet 13!

Not me! Greta! (This blog is about her, after all. Who cares about the horse's human slave?)

Sadly, I was not able to get any pictures. I was a total fail as far as going through with the little party I had planned. No "My Little Pony" hats, no carrot cake, no people and horsey friends getting together. Oops. It was Saturday, I had a portfolio review, yadda-yadda-yadda, excuses, excuses.

But because she had been inside for a few days during her birthday due to the MORE rain we've been getting (I really don't mind it at all, it means hay prices will go down next year which will mean a lot of horse-related prices might go down too!) so she enjoyed getting out and about. The ground was almost dry, so we did do some schooling outside the covered arena, which she always likes! My new riding crusade is to NOT ride so much from my hands. I read, and it has worked, to keep your seat centered, your leg contact consistent, outside rein steady and following, and give and take with the inside rein. Don't force the horse onto the bit, let them figure it out. Greta's been figuring it out, although because she's used to being ridden more from the hands tries to take this to her advantage by not going the extra mile and just bringing her head up and counterflexed with the outside rein pressure. Yeah, nice try, honey :) But it's just trial and error, it won't happen overnight. But nonetheless, we are still making progress!

Also, Saturday: when I brought her out, she was walking fine, chipper as usual. I go to clean out her back feet and I notice that her legs had filled up just above the fetlock to around mid-cannon. My heart began to race, I feel the mild swelling. No heat, no pain, nothing. I put some liniment gel on it, I thought "I'll see how she is after a extra long walk warm-up." And her legs went down to cool and tight. Still uneasy, I asked the BM and she said "She was probably tying up from being in for a few days." Wow, I'm smart.

I keep checking in on them everyday and they have not seemed to be causing her any problems, nor have they swelled up again. So that was weird. And then I brushed her teeth today (yes, I do that twice a month because it'll keep her chompers around for a longer time) and there was something like a raw spot above one of her inscisors. I pressed on it, no pain, no pus nothing. She's been eating fine, taking the bit fine. But I'm still keeping an eye on it, making sure it doesn't swell or become infected or anything. Perhaps I am just a worrywart?

AND Greta and I have moved to the team tack room. Getting my stuff in and out is so much more easier and it gives me an excuse to make her a tack trunk to put in front of her stall. I feel so fancy :)

I would like to think Greta feels the same, but she could probably care less. I do love how she'll stick her head into the tack room (it's like a walk-in closet) to just watch me. Today she let me ride her in from the other side of the pasture to the gate with just a halter and seat aids. And then she let me groom her and tack her up while not being tied to anything. Yes, I break the rules here and there, but the point is that the trust between the two of us is flattering!

Here is the tack trunk so far, all it needs now is the protective coats sprayed on all over the outside and insid. It's actually a 50-year-old army footlocker. If you look closely on the bottom of the lid, it reads the locker's serial number and "US ARMY". Stamped on the top was "U.S." but... we painted over that. Greta wouldn't last a DAY in the army :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Interesting input on "spooky" horses

From Jennifer and Beth Baumert in Dressage Today:

Problem 2: A Horse that is Afraid or Distracted
Riding the Symptom: While your horse is worrying about a tractor or his friend whinnying in a paddock, it's easy to get distracted yourself. The tractor and the whinnying are totally out of your control. You can't force your horse to be attentive. Instead, change your focus and notice the real problem.

The underlying issue: Concentrate on the elements of the problem you do have control over, which is your horse's lack of suppleness and that fact that he's no longer on your aids. He has undoubtedly stiffened his body, probably lost his bend and might not be round anymore. If you focus on putting him on your aids in a supple way, you will automatically start solving your problem.

Think of the unbelievable distractions that horses manage to deal with at the Olympics and other high-level competitions. It's not that these horses are braver and quieter or that the riders are stronger, but those horses have been trained t focus on the rider instead of on the distraction. Those horses have learned to trust their riders and have confidence because the rider has never punished them for what amounts to being a horse.

When I first got my best Grand Prix partner, Weltgraf, I couldn't even ride him outside. But, at the end of our career together, I could have ridden him in the Macy's Day Parade. My problem with Graf was not solved in a day or even a year. It was a long-term project. He didn't become brave because he was older. He's still as hot as he ever was, but he learned to trust me and turn to me as his partner. When I asked him to go on the aids, he found his balance physically and mentally.

If you're having this problem, and something is spooky at one end of the ring, it's not a failure to stay in the safe area of the ring. The point is that you want your horse to go more on your aids. You may get to the scary area today, or it may take longer. You'll never get it by alienating your horse or forcing him. I don't believe in facing the horse with his fears. Don't tackle anything unless you're going to be successful.

Rider position: Keep your body in the shape you want the horse's body have with clear aids asking for flexion and bend. Keep your outside aids there but passive so he will want to go to them. Then you will be clear about his flexio, the positioning of his nek and the bend throughout his body. Also, be clear about his line of travel, his rhythm and his speed. Working on these qualities helps him relax and focus on you rather than on the current distraction. (See "Exercises for Problem 2" below.)

Exercises for Problem 2
For a horse that is afraid and distracted, don't just ride around. Any exercise requires you to use your aids and help him concentrate on you instead of the distraction. All exercises put him on the aids, but my favorites are the figure-of-eight and the serpentine because both require frequent changesof bend. Be sure your aids shape him in correct bend to the right, half halt before your change of direction and then shape him to the left.

The result: When the horse is correctly bent, his body will begin to relax. As he becomes more supple and on the aids, he'll start to turn to you and forget his other concerns. If you're consistent in your methods, he will, over time, turn to you sooner. He'll develop trust and confidence in you, and it will be mush easier for him to turn to you rather than turning to his distractions.

Baumert, Jennifer and Beth. "Are You Riding the Problem or the Symptom?" Dressage Today May 2010, pages 51-52

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Boring 8-minute Riding Video... with music!

"Here I am, a rabbit-hearted girl, frozen in the headlights.... I must be brave, I must become the lion-hearted girl, ready for a fight...." 'Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) by Florence + the Machine

Yeah, it's a boring 8-minute riding video. With music!

Greta is a bit iffy about the outdoor arena, so we worked in there yesterday. We had actually been walking around in there for almost thirty minutes to get her to be okay with all of the arena (see below). Then we did about twenty minutes of trotting around at that end, and then the first half of the rest of the workout is on this video. My camera didn't catch the rest :(

As for the other end, which to her is VERY scary, it was just a continuous walk to it, she's back away, we'd circle around and go a bit further, and then we'd keep doing this until we got further and further and finally right up the fence. Once she was comfortable with the fence, we walked back and forth along it, and then trotted some circles by it. After the workout in the video, we did a walk, trot, and canter once around the entire arena both ways. She was still a bit iffy about that end of the arena, but she did not try and push past my hip and leg pushing her into the corners and along the rail, and she kept the looking outside to a minimum. Patience is a virtue!

But do enjoy anyway!!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The wild child's mane has finally been pulled! I have tried the actual pulling comb way, but she would not have it. And honestly, I don't blame her. Having your hair ripped out of your scalp doesn't sound like a fine time to me. So I hit up handy dandy Google, and I have now resorted to the SoloComb and QuicBraid. Oh yeah.

But it's actually working quite well. The QuicBraid smells like Playdough, though....

It looks uneven in the picture, but that's the angle she has her head turned. It really is even. She likes to watch me like that when I'm tacking up, because if it's not tack in my hand it's usually treats... or the hoofpick and brush. She's my cute little stalker!

Our ride today was really good. I'm hoping to get some footage of us in the outdoor arena tomorrow, just for kicks. And she surprised me when she actually hung around for a bit when I turned her out, just snuggling. Gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling :)

Don't you just love her freckles? And that big splotch of them on her barrel? I think it's adoro!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Look mom, NO HANDS!

I was wearing a helmet, right? It really started out as an self-induced exercise in the round pen to start using the "scoop" of my seat to control the pace of Greta's canter, and not so much the reins. It has definitely helped! Even though Greta is in major heat right now (aren't they supposed to be about out of that when they're almost 13?) she's still been doing very well under saddle. There are just a few scary points around the stable now, like the shaded pen with two minis in it and the shop where the tractor and flatbed are kept. Just those two places... hmm. We just work on those places on the ground, and I have a feeling she'll be less attuned to them once she's out of heat. That's the way it usually goes haha! The big thing to remember during this time of the month is to stay calm and praise and encourage a lot. You're supposed to that anyway, but still....

Anyway, so the canter exercise moved the arena and I included more seat exercises both on a loose rein (and on the few occasion without hands) on "steering" with my seat and not necessarily with my hands. So far, it's been good!

And her trot looks so much better to me than even several weeks ago. She looked a bit downhill in this video though, maybe that's just me? Give me your thoughts, as always!

Oh, and because of the whole flaming heat situation we did not go the Wolfgang Clinic Sunday, because of her flightiness towards those scary minis and tractor, and how she was last time we went and she was in heat, it would NOT be logical to go. She'd be stressed out, so I'd be stressed out, and in turn we'd just get nothing accomplished! We'll go the next one, I suppose, so long as she's up to it! When you're with horses, it's hard to be on your time: you gotta be on "horse time" sometimes. I love that scaredycat mare too much to try and push something on her when she's not ready to handle and I'm not ready to handle her when she can't handle it!

Tell me your thoughts, give me your advice! You guys are awesome!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Belated Easter!

LOL That's my girl. She'll take some kisses and then she'll go "Eh... I've had enough. Okay, bye!"