Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Perhaps disjointed.

I can't vouch for the coherence of this entry -- I have several thoughts piled up, and they probably won't come out in any real order or relevance to each other.

Five Star Tack is having a Black Friday sale! OMG. OMG, OMG, OMG, et cetera, ad nauseam. Seriously, though, this is exciting and torturous at the same time. I have wanted a Waverly dressage bridle for a while now. It's the one with the integrated crown, which I think is really desirable, and I'll be honest: the silver Celtic cross is awesome. Plus, Five Star gives back to the horse community by donating portions of sales to things like the True Prospect fire rehab fund, CANTER USA, New Vocations (from whom I almost adopted a horse), et cetera. Plus plus? The leather is high-quality, the craftsmanship is lovely, and it supports a small business. Plus plus PLUS? Five Star Tack sponsors Sara Mittleider! That grabs my loyalty right there. :)

So that's the exciting part. The torturous part? After one of my cats was so sick this month and his resulting vet bills, I can't afford to buy it. Even on Black Friday sale. ACK! I mean, priorities, right? I already have a bridle that fits Rev and that I like. So I'm not trying to ride dressage in a halter. But ... but ... ack, want! Alas. Some other time. It's also on my Christmas list, so maybe it'll work out anyway. I'd sure want my family to know it's on sale, though. *grin* No use not saving money on something expensive.

And of course, I'll need a set of Nunn Finer Soft Touch reins to go with it, and a new bit. I've discovered that the bit I use now is a Danger bit -- the name being a bit of a foulup between German and English. Anyway, I'd love a second one to put on a second bridle, but I'm not sure I want to spend almost as much on a bit as on the bridle, yknow? That's a $100 bit, not even counting overseas shipping. So I think I'd like to put her in a mullen mouth for dressage. I really need to give one a good college try, though. Must see if I can borrow one or get one on trial.

Reveille seems much more present when we work. It's not at all that she's perfect, but she just seems to have her brain engaged a lot more these days. Granted, I could be imagining things; it's been known to happen. I start thinking I feel something but it's all in my head kind of thing. Whatever the case, I feel like she's just more there, more with me. And if it's actually real, I don't know why it is. It could be any number of things -- she could just be growing up. She's fully seven now, and this is about when they start to grow a brain, says TW. It could just be a function of time and mileage.

It could also be because of the work Doug Hannum did with her, too. Almost like she had a headache for most of five years and doesn't have the headache any more since he rearranged her TMJ and her poll and her hip. (I don't think she literally had a headache, at least not how humans understand them. Maybe more like something NQR, uncomfortable when working?) I do know that her attitude under saddle changed the day he worked on her.

I suppose it could be because we're learning to work in the draw reins, too. Those really do help her with her outline, which helps me ride her more effectively. I find it so much easier to ride her these days, now that I have access to her back and her shoulders, yknow? So much easier to send her forward and get energy going. I think a winter training in the draws and developing her neck and topline is going to be huge for us.

Anyway, whatever the cause, it makes me happy. Little mare brain is engaged, and that's a very good thing.

Makes me wonder if the brain engagement will persist through jumping, too. We haven't jumped in a good long while now, because we've moved to the indoor arena, where we can jump but it's easier to focus on dressage. Anyway, I wonder if her brain and attitude will continue in the jump tack ... and I wonder if the confidence I'm finding will stretch to cross-country next spring and summer. I really want it to. I want to eat up the dang course!

And after dinner out with friends last weekend, which included a beer with dinner, I suddenly realize why there's some self-medication going on before xc at events. I should probably be ashamed that I don't drink often enough to remember this, but oh yeah -- alcohol DOES relax the body and get some of the shrill, anxious voices to shut up in my mind. Come on, self, it's only accepted wisdom ... so yes. Packing myself some plain porter for the next show I do, whenever that is.

Oh wait. Yes. The North Wind Jumper show. I heard mutterings that MT is going to be teaching at the show, and therefore there will be trailer/s going from our barn. Which means I can likely go! Hehehe. :) I'll doublecheck with MT and TW this weekend, but I think I will do it if I can catch a ride. Fun!

I am really grateful for my little horse -- she's turning into a wonderful little creature. We're managing a reasonable approximation of a leg yield these days. It needs plenty of work to be a real leg yield, with tempo and consistent angle and relaxation through the neck/back/poll, but ... we're getting closer. This stuff has always been a challenge with my girl.

And today, I got to spend hours at the barn, just playing equine beauty salon, longing, and then riding. And getting to see the oldest barn daughter, who is a riot and a half. :) She's coming back to the state -- yay for being within a few hours, but boo for the circumstance. I'll be glad to have her around more often, though. Things are louder-faster-funnier! with her around.

At any rate, yes. Pony time. I lurves it. Rev's tail is all brushed out, she was curried to within an inch of her life ... and then I rode her and got her all sweaty. Heh. Ooops.

Monday, November 14, 2011

So I only got to have one lesson this weekend because I had family shindigs going on all weekend.

However, I am so, so glad I got that lesson in! I've been feeling a bit clumsy and slightly lost with the draw reins -- I mean, I can use them, but as MT pointed out, I sometimes get them bound up or put on wrong or whatever. I am really encouraged by the progress we're making with them, and I think a winter of training with them will help us a lot. Still, it was good to get a lesson with them.

The things MT pointed out for me primarily during the lesson were tempo and bending. Tempo because Rev's trot would get muddled sometimes, especially when I needed to shorten her because we were coming up on Linda or Margie's rear and in corners. I think one of the things I'll work on this week is that clear, steady tempo, keeping it through corners, circles, lengthenings, shortenings, et cetera.

As for her bending, the draw reins and the work Doug Hannum did on her poll give me a chance to really work that through. She was really counterbent through quite a lot of the lesson, up until the end -- it makes sense, because she takes a while to work into bending, but I'd like to be able to ask for it and GET it, yknow? So lots of +1/+7 on either side in the walk and the trot, suppling, spirals, and figure 8s/serpentines. It's really got to come from my leg and seat more than my hand, and that'll take practice practice practice.

Anyway, speaking of Doug Hannum, he had another look at Rev yesterday and pronounced her good to go until he comes through again. The adjustments took and held, so now we get to work with them and remuscle her -- and me! :)

I really wish there were someone with that kind of magic hands/knowledge for riders, too! I mean, I'm sure there is, but I wouldn't know where to start looking. My left SI joint is out, out, out ... and lord is it giving me fits. Once I'm up and warmed up and generally moving, it's okay, but if I sit for long or stand for a while, the muscles surrounding that hip and the back side of my pelvis twitch and ache. I should really go back to the chiropractor, for sure. But it's so expensive ... !! Blah. We'll see. I'd rather spend money on riding lessons and things for Rev, but I suppose that it doesn't do any good if my own body is rebelling ... and during this last lesson I had some distinct moments of "ow ow ow! ack! this weight aid hurts to apply!"

So we'll see. I also need to make sure I know when the farrier's coming -- should be in a week or so.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New hero. (Longer than I expected.)

Let me warn you now: I am going to gush in this entry. A lot.

Doug Hannum is my new hero.

It's late, and I'm really tired, but I wanted to get this down before I went to bed. Doug Hannum, the equine physical therapist/bodywork specialist for the USET, is in town to give a speech at the Idaho Dressage and Eventing Association's annual banquet thingy on Saturday, and he's working on horses while he's here. Given Reveille's stiffness in general and to the right in particular, I thought I'd like to have him look at her, just to see what he'd say.

When I first decided this, I honestly expected that he'd poke and prod, pronounce her just fine, and tell Gary to have me keep working at riding her. That there'd be absolutely nothing to do for/with her and all her problems are my fault. TW, however, said that he's been really helpful to them and pointed out things that they wouldn't have thought of, so one never knows.

(I feel odd calling him Doug, because my respect for this guy is huge, and yet I suspect he'd rather that than Mr. Hannum, even from some girl in a blog! Anyway. On with it; I'm tired) Doug and his coworker/partner (COTH uses the word "protege," but I am oddly uncomfortable with that word), Grant Showalter, arrived today, and they were out at the barn when I got there. So why not just do Rev right then? I felt odd just walking up and saying 'hi, I'm your next appointment,' so I asked TW for an introduction, and that was my first Really Impressed Moment. When he came to shake my hand, he took his hat off to greet me. Wow. Now THAT is a gentleman.

When I brought Rev in and gave him the basics, he was a gentleman to her, too. :) His comment to her when I told him that she's half Quarter Horse was "Oh, well, you're a GOOD breed then!" Heh. He commented on her barrel (half QH!), and then started poking and feeling around. He identified immediately that she's really stiff in her poll -- yep, that she is -- and that she has some TMJ issues. He also pointed out a hot spot in her left hip. And then he started actually working on her. That was REALLY cool to watch.

Rev's expression for most of it was really relaxed, like she enjoyed being massaged and manipulated around. A few of the things he did got her to flinch at first, like working on her hip, but as he progressed and as the soft tissue got back in line, she went back to relaxing. She started licking her lips and chewing several times as he worked on her. The only things that got a surprised or alarmed reaction from her were when he worked on her hip, when he moved her front legs in huge circles quite quickly, and when he worked on her TMJ/jaw issues from the inside of her mouth. Heh; I can't blame her for that. It was wild to see her expression change, and it was even wilder to see how her hindquarters and loin changed from before to after! I wish I had pictures -- I could see a difference.

Doug also made a couple of comments that made me really proud of my little horse -- he was impressed with how stoic she was through the whole process. She didn't freak or panic, just -- as TW said -- took it like a man. :) GOOD HORSE. Good little mare. :) He also commented that my saddle fits, and that she's not got a shape that's super-easy to fit. Yay us! Yay MT for helping me find the right saddle! Thank you, Collegiate adjustable saddles!

So! After he was done, he said it was okay to ride her, and that I should ride her on a loose rein for 15-20 minutes. Then, he said, her 'computer' would reset itself, and she should be a whole 'nother horse.

Even after watching the coolness of the whole thing, I wasn't really expecting huge results. Mostly because I always figure that her problem is primarily me. ;)

Boy was I wrong! Holy crap. HOLY CRAP. She was somewhat herself for the first 15-20 minutes, but more there, more present, if that makes any sense. And then. AND THEN. Seriously, I thought she was going to poop, her back changed so much. And her neck! OMG her NECK! She suddenly brought her neck up and round and long, and her nose came in. Suddenly she wasn't going like a pony any more. I halted, thinking I was going to have to clean up a pile ... but nothing happened. We walked on, and she kept that frame! OMG.

I am utterly astonished. Utterly. Without anything other than horse knowledge, experience, and his own two hands, Doug Hannum completely changed my horse. What's more, he's a friendly, funny, gentlemanly fellow who is obviously a consummate horseman. I feel hugely fortunate to have had this chance -- thanks to the IDEA and to TW and MT for having him here.

He's going to look at Rev again on Sunday, see if everything held. I hope it does -- I want to keep THIS horse around forever and ever and ever!!

I need to put this guy on my Christmas card list. That is some serious magic he's got there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three and a half minutes

So TSB and I went and rode ponies and took pictures and videos last night. :) In the cold. And I got to see her new digs -- very nice! Definitely nicer, if farther away from my barn, than the last place.

I worked Rev in our new draw reins. I'd ridden Saturday, but before Saturday it'd been a week since I'd ridden ... which means that we had rather a fighty, stiff ride. She'll insist on counterbending, only bend in the walk, avoid the outside rein, avoid my inside leg ... just about argue anything. It wasn't our greatest ride, but then again, at least we've (knock on wood) left the bucking phase when she's feeling fighty.

As usual, getting her to move forward and keep contact is priority one. Beyond that I'm interested in getting her into a submissive frame. And bending -- lateral submission.

Thus the draw reins. Teaching tool, not forcing tool!! I think we're improving, so far. We definitely have things to work on, but that's what the dressage lessons are for, eh?

All this to preface this video. :) It's an extremely accurate picture of where we are in our training right now: starts awkwardly, I look bigger than I am, has some really nice moments, and then one or both of us loses balance, and we lose our contact and roundness. I'm actually pretty happy about my position in this video; I feel like my leg is solid, I don't fling myself out of the saddle to post, etc. I -- as I mentioned -- need practice with my hands and my elbows to be soft and elastic, to encourage contact. But overall, I don't find anything egregious with myself in this video. You can see that the draw reins are relatively loose, too. Which means you can look at the pretty bay horse. ;) She's got a nice active trot going, and she can really get a nice frame for several strides, too. We desperately need work on our corners; that's tonight's focus. I like the relaxed look she has through her back and tail, too. Even though she does keep trying to go with her nose out, like a pony.

Anyway, here's three and a half minutes of trot work, tracking left. You may very well find this astonishingly boring -- the best stuff is in the last 45 seconds. If I knew how to edit video, I'd cut it for you. :) However, I don't, so feel free to let it load, then skip to the end.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Too few degrees.

Well, you're right. I shouldn't have gotten up early, bundled up, and gone out in the 24 degree weather to ride this morning. I am now paying for it with a headache and snifflies.

However, I'm going to do it again tomorrow, except for the getting up early part.

And we had a good time. :)

My lesson partners and I had agreed last week that we'd get together and ride at our usual time, so I had an appointment to keep, y'see. Plus, I really, really wanted to check on Rev, make sure she was warm and dry (she was, but I'm not satisfied completely). Plus plus, I knew I was flirting with disaster -- not riding my 7 year old for a week? Horrors!

So longjohns, winter breeches, layers, layers, and layers it was, and off I went. Twenty. Four. Degrees. That is NOT ENOUGH DEGREES. Especially not for November 5!

Anyway, we played with poles today. I set them, and I don't think I did a very good job -- it was passable and ridable, but it was definitely practice on turns!! Reveille was quite good, especially for it being a cold morning and her having been unridden for a week. She proves her sports-car-ness in the indoor, and I'm getting better at riding more balanced turns. Better doesn't nescessarily mean good, though ... more practice necessary.

I was really impressed with ME's older gelding, too. Her younger gray horse is resting after sarcoidectomy and getting his hocks injected, so she brought her best friend horse. What a good fellow he is! Exactly what I consider an ideal older guy: been there, done that, long-time partner, loves to work even if he's stiff sort of fellow. I hope Reveille has an attitude as good as his when she's 20+. I suspect she'll be the long-suffering attitude sort, one of those "*SIGH!*, a kid? again?" sorts of horses, one who'll tolerate a rider as long as the rider isn't egregious, and then once the rider gets egregious she'll dump them and make them try again. :) I do think she'll be suited for a schoolie some day, but I don't plan on selling her or getting to that point anytime soon.

Anyway, I digress. I am going to have to ride her face off tomorrow, cold or no cold. Illness or temperature. What I would have liked to have done with her today would have been to hop on, go outside, and gallop around the outside arena several times, put a few poles in her way, et cetera. However, too cold! She would have liked a gallop, I think. So tomorrow we're going to break in the NEW DRAW REINS THAT FINALLY ARRIVED! And the sheepskin pad! Man, we get the best swag from The Sprinkler Bandit. ;) Anyway, yes. Focused workout for us both tomorrow, and maybe afterward I'll plop the jump saddle on and let her gallop outside. If it's not frozen, and if she still needs it, and if I feel up to it.

For now, though, warm fire, blankets, fluids, DayQuil, and episodes of The West Wing. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Not much to tell

There hasn't been much going on this week, horse-wise. I haven't been feeling 100%, plus I've had things going on at home, so I haven't been out to ride.

Which, of course, makes me feel terribly guilty! Even though most of the barn is at Galway competing and the barn would be quiet and deserted, I feel guilty. My poor little mare! She must miss me! Gah! Get out the cat o'nine -- or at the very least the wet noodle. Plus, it's snowing today. Not a lot, and it switches from snow to rain and back, but still. I know she's a horse, and a tough horse at that; no hothouse flower she! Still and all, I have this burning need to go check on her, make sure she's warm and dry.


I have progressed beyond just not feeling 100% and am now full-blown sick. I think it's just a cold. It better be just a cold, because I got a flu shot a month ago! Anyway, I'm sniffly, sneezy, coughy, headachey, and am now doing the chills thing. So no going outside for me. I already went for medicine, kleenex, soup, and other essentials, and I am not leaving this house again today unless I have to.

BUT! I miss my mare. She must miss me! Fret! Fret!! (I know. Logic does not apply here. You're right.)

I'll make up for my lack of posting soon, and I'll do with with lots of pictures.