Sunday, 31 December 2017

Plan B.

Why do horses always find a way to make us go to plan B, or C?
Guys, my horse is going to be the death of me, or more accurately, the death of herself. You know how Savvy needed to be separated because she just wouldn’t leave Meyla alone and ended up constantly getting kicked and injured? Well, separation is not a success. It seems at night for whatever reason she tries desperately to get back to Shiraz and Meyla’s side of the fence.
Spotted pony has a few spots that don't belong.
I have considered that something real may be scaring her. We have a very high coyote population. I searched in the snow for tracks and saw tons of rabbit tracks and some older, slightly snow covered tracks that looked like it could be fox or coyote. It also could be nothing and Savvy just losing her marbles because she does not feel secure separated from the group.

New self-inflicted wounds trying to get through a fence.
Regardless of cause, wonder pony continues to get injured, making the whole point of separation moot. So back together they all go and I will have to try plan B which is nighttime shipping boots on her back legs.
When Meyla kicks, she is like a big old truck. She pins her ears and slowly starts to turn and aim that big old ass. You can almost hear the ‘beep, beep, beep’ as she backs in for the kick. So much warning time is given, but Savvy is so stubborn she just gets right in there and tries to kick back. Iceland must be one harsh place because an Icelandic’s coat is no joke. Her legs are covered with over 2 inches of hair and she just doesn’t get hurt. Savvy, on the other hand gets a lot of damage. Most of her cuts and scrapes are on her back legs, so perhaps shipping boots will help prevent some of these injuries?
So. much. hair.
As a side note, I have found an extremely useful topical that those of you in very cold climates might appreciate. In the fall I bring all of the freezable items in from the unheated tack shed to the house. However, I have been using this one particular topical antiseptic so much, it accidentally got left out in the cold and I have discovered it can tolerate this and still work! It has been -30 (and colder) all week and this spray can of Scarlex has continued to work at that temperature!

Manitoba winter approved.
I have found this antiseptic to be extremely helpful as a first-line of treatment like morning feeds when I first discover a small cut and do not have time or supplies at the ready to wash and do a full treatment. Being able to just grab this from the nearby tack shed and spray on the antiseptic I feel has made a difference in what these many leg wounds evolve into on Savvy. Finding a wound treatment like this that can handle -30 is gold to me.

For now, it is back to a herd of three. Horses. No, not horses, SAVVY. Man is she ever lucky I love her.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Lessons Learned

Last year around this time I was working on "Operation Jump All the Things".  The goal was to teach my cute little Arabian pony how to jump and then hopefully compete in cross country derbies in the 2017 season.

Well it worked. Believe me, I am as shocked as y'all about that one. I figured out more than just how to stay on a last-second refusal this year and I feel like a different rider now than I was a year ago.

Even though I made it through the year reaching my goals, it doesn't mean there wasn't a whole lot of doubt, frustration and even some tears along the way. But sometimes the best lessons come from the struggle and I am grateful for what I have gained this year.

I feel I need to record these gains. Perhaps when things start to go south in 2018, I can read this again, pull up my nickers and carry on.

My own personal little nuggets of gold gleaned from 2017:

1. I can ride more assertively.
This year my progress in riding more like a leader has drastically improved. Some of my early videos make me cringe to see just how timid I could be but seeing that change throughout the summer was also evident. Still far to go on this one, but very happy to be more aware of my riding and learning to ask for more from my horse with a higher level of confidence.

2. Ride every letter like it is a jump.
This bit of advice was taken from a friend's coach and it helped me focus more on cleaning up my tests and preparing better for each letter. Dressage was hard for me this year but we steadily improved every time out.

3. Commit to the jump and stop fussing.
This in part is helped by #1. I learnt to prepare my horse for the jump and then stop micromanaging so much for the entire approach. And believing we were GOING OVER THE JUMP was huge too, as in the beginning my mind was thinking "omg, we are approaching a jump--is she going to jump it?"

4. When the shit hits the fan, breathe, think and proceed.
I think this was the best lesson I learnt this year. Yes, refusals will happen. Yes, I will get nervous/scared/want to quit/take up knitting. I can and will assess the situation, take into consideration the rules and circumstances and then chose the option that I can most handle at the time. I had a few bad moments on xc in 2017. Some of them I pushed on and made lemonade, but some of them I let fear take over and gave up. That feeling after giving up was the greatest motivator. I decided I never wanted to feel that regret and disappointment in myself again and moving forward know that taking a moment to find a way to push on will not be regretted.

5. Losing is not okay.
Okay, let me explain. It is not all about winning. BUT. I did learn this year that I used "it's all just for fun" as a crutch. It was my go-to when I felt not good enough as a rider. Well, it is not just for fun for me. I take riding pretty seriously and want to do well. I am competitive and I am learning to be okay with that and commit to trying my best.

6. Make it matter.
Finally, I learnt that showing up is not enough. If I don't put my all into training or a competition, what I get back will be just as pathetic. It is okay if I want to go out and have fun, but I have learnt my effort put in will often dictate the results, and to own that responsibility.

2018 is looking like it will be just as exciting and challenged filled as this past year. Shiraz will be learning everything Savvy has just been through, only in this case Shiraz will have the benefit of a more confident rider guiding her along the way. ;)

Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all of you a wonderful Christmas.
May all your dreams come true in the year to come!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Shiraz, next up and coming jumping star

I have been so sick this week. This morning was a finger-numbing -20 degrees Celsius (-4 F really?). To make it worse, the horse(s) had broken three boards between the pasture dividing Savvy and the other two.

Repairs took forever because I had to scavenge the wood pile covered in snow for boards, walk back to the house for a working drill and then fix the electric wire that pulled out when the boards were broken. I guess Savvy has found new things to kick now that the pony is not in reach? Or maybe it was Shiraz kicking back now that Savvy can't get revenge.

I was really kind of in a funk and feeling so unwell. I considered cancelling my lesson but this one was going to be Shiraz's intro to jumps: I needed to ignore the freezing temps, my funk, and my bronchitis (with a lot of help from Tylenol and Benylin) and just buck up.

Brace yourself for awesomeness ;)
The lesson was made even better when a very good friend of mine asked if she could come and watch. These super fun milestones are made better with company who knows how much it all means to you.

Going into this lesson I had not ridden Shiraz for (ugh, I am embarrassed to type it!) two. weeks. Yup. It has just been too cold and busy and all the excuses. No worries, apparently Shiraz is a fucking unicorn. She was a bit looky to start off but went right to work and was an absolute sweetheart. We started off with two trot poles quite far apart and quickly moved up to cantering them in both directions.

Then out came the standards and my friend and I silently squealed like 12-year-old school girls. Hang on to your panties; this lesson just got awesome. Shiraz did not bat an eye (nor lift a leg much) at her first pass through the ground poles to a little cross rail. There was never actually the feeling of 'jumping' per se but I was nonetheless so thrilled with how she was trying to do what ever it was I was asking of her.

After trotting the line many times, C had me work on asking for the canter on the landing. It was completely uneventful and so much fun. I was really happy with the whole lesson because we kept it simple and C did not overface me or my horse. We're in no hurry right now beyond getting Shiraz out and seeing new things, building my relationship with her. I do have my overall grand plan in mind but there is time to take it slow. I have seen plenty of jump in this horse lunging over obstacles at home but I guess I will have to wait until next year to feel it for myself!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Simple Pleasures

Who needs summer weather and xc courses to have fun when you can be inside cantering your baby horse around in circles?

I do. I need the summer. But these simple rides are pretty fun for me right now. Basically once Shiraz steps up to canter my brain shuts off and I have no idea what my coach is saying because, 'weeee!' obviously.

In all seriousness though, we are working on so many things! It is the part of baby horse training that I love the most, getting in there and showing them that their bodies can do things! All the typical green horse issues like showing her there are other options besides falling in, reaching for the bit, using her hind end, et cetera.

At the same time, I am trying to stop bending at the wrist, figure out why I cannot keep my lower leg still, and two-point even though my leg muscles abandoned me on their annual winter vacation.

In most of my previous rides, Shiraz would start off hot to trot so to speak and either offer up a trot upon moving off from the mounting block or a bouncy walk if I held her in. This past ride was a bit different in that she instead baulked at my leg and refused to trot until I gave some taps with the crop. Even then, it took a few circles to convince her. Perhaps she has realised lessons are hard work? I feel her pain on this one but telling me no is not an option.

Getting Shiraz in front of my leg is the number one goal at the moment. I tend to fall in the trap of being happy with 'good enough' in my rides on my own.When it feels good and relaxed, I do not ask for that extra effort and therefore end up inadvertently rewarding movement where Shiraz is not using her body correctly. I need to expect more every time so I am not building incorrect muscle memory and delaying basic progress.

Canter work is going really well. She responds nicely to the cue and almost always gets the correct lead. Transitions downward are fuggly AF though, but considering I am not getting her to use her body correctly at the canter yet, there simply is not the balance to transition nicely. 

Even though Shiraz is still so very green, her training is ticking along at a lovely pace. She has work ethic and when she doesn't, it is not too dramatic and easily fixed. I am getting a feel for her now and can read her so much better. After an open book like Savvy, it takes a bit more attention to know how far I can push. Where Savvy would kick out in protest or toss her head in distaste, Shiraz will just sort of tense her jaw, stop licking or hold her breath. She responds nicely to me breathing deeply and will often give a big sigh when I let out a deep breath.

And now, ready or not, we are moving on to jumping at our next lesson. I can't wait!!

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

How to solve a problem named Savvy

Or alternate title: Stop hurting yourself you stupid cow.

Look who needs to be separated. Surprise, surprise it is none other than Crankenstein.
The transition into winter has been hard on all of us. Short blustery days and dark coming far to early makes finding horse time a bit tricky, especially without an indoor or at least outdoor lighting at home. I have been trailering out with Shiraz once a week to the indoor arena. Besides that, I am able to spend some time in the backyard on my lunch breaks. Unfortunately I have been using that time to do barnyard chores that are easier done with daylight rather than riding much.

Savvy is feeling the neglect. With little to no grazing time due to snow covered paddocks, combined with less time spent occupying her busy brain with people time, she has become, er, less than pleasant to her fellow paddock family.

She has always been adamant that she should be leader and pushes our beastly little pony constantly trying to take her spot as queen 'o the land. And, she always loses.

For the past few weeks though, it has been escalating to the point that every morning I was preparing myself mentally for what new cut she would have that day. The carnage was getting too much for me. And pony? Never a scratch. Savvy probably couldn't kick hard enough to get through pony's buffalo coat.

A new mark for every day of the week.
 I considered putting shipping boots on her back legs at night (as that is when most of her injuries would happen), but that would not solve whatever damage she could give back. In Savvy's frustration with losing to Meyla, she would then take out on Shiraz who she is above in the pecking order.

My only solution at the moment is separating them. I don't like a horse to be on their own, but there are shelters in both paddocks and they can hang out over the fence. It is frustrating to have to separate my little herd. The paddock space the three of them had is huge and there is never a lack of food to fight over.
To make up for showing you gross injury pics, here are my kitties being super cute.
The fact that Savvy has to be so relentless in her pursuit for supremacy over all is problematic, but it also leaves me in awe that she accepts my role as her leader. 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Becoming a Working Pony

Don't you just love it when life keeps popping up road blocks that get in the way of your meticulously devised plans?

Truck is still problematic in its functioning capabilities.

Coaching was unreachable/unavailable at times I was able to ride.

Snow. just. snow.

No problem, I am inextinguishable.

When I finally got out last week with Shiraz and over to the indoor, she showed me that on her second visit here that the overhead door was old news, other horses coming and going were okay and rolling in sand is her most favoritest thing of all things.

I still had no lessons arranged at this point, but miles of any kind are our friend. I started out the same as her first visit since that worked so well to set a relaxed mood for the session. I am hoping to set up an 'outing routine' that helps her feel more like she knows what to expect even when at new places. She is pretty laid back but still very young-minded and occasionally has slow meltdowns. Even though she is showing me she will probably be fine, I would rather take steps at prevention, cause that's how I roll.

So at the arena I walked her around, then saddled up and lunged. The last time I rode at the arena, it was more just to get up in the saddle and see if she would be okay. This time I was able to settle into a bit of work, knowing she was totally fine with the environment. I played around with contact and bend. She has no idea how to use her hind end yet, but as she relaxed into work I was able to encourage a much better step under from behind at the walk and trot. Circling to the right is hard and bending almost nonexistent, although I did manage to get her to soften and move off my inside leg for moments of our circles (usually in the same spots of the circle as she tensed or relaxed based on parts of the arena she was worried about).

We cantered as well which was heavenly. I don't want to compare, but I will! It's just that Savvy's canter is SO much work. First of all, it took so long to get her to that point and even now that she 'knows how', it is the kind of canter that has a great deal of up and down to it and is a real workout to ride. I mean, it is a gasping for air, burning core muscles kind of ride because there is so much movement to follow. And Shiraz just steps into a smooth, gentle rocking horse canter and I could probably have tea time up there and not miss a beat.  
This week I finally made contact with my coach and had our first lesson. We worked over four poles on a circle and got some great bend happening, even on her tougher side after a while as Shiraz started relaxing into the exercises. Her clumsiness improved throughout as well - after a few bad steps on poles she started to realise that paying attention to her feet was a good idea.

A few people in the eventing group locally mentioned breastplates were a good idea on xc. Do we look legit now?
Pony was worked hard and near the end of the lesson I was having a hard time even getting her to trot any more. Poor girl. She's going to need some massage and stretching after this lesson.

After I got home, I realised I had spent the whole time in my lesson listening to my coach, not worrying about spooks or anything. It was such a great feeling to just sink into full concentration of my positioning, her steps and shape, being lost in the work completely.

I am hoping the weather cooperates this weekend to take her for an outing in the park. I have this grand plan in my head of getting hubby to come along and bring our dog so we can have a lovely walk in the park together, but so far we haven't been able to make it happen. Fingers crossed I can make this happen while the snow is not too deep for hiking.