Showing posts with label Phil. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Phil. Show all posts

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Day 13

Day 13 was a ride on my own day. And unfortunately, Phil is often very bad to ride when he's had time off. And he stayed true to form and was kind of a jerk.

All I wanted to do was to do an easy ride where we worked on some of the stuff from our last lesson. Just a few headless snowmen, ten meter circles, and some beginning shoulder-ins. But instead it was a big fight just to get him to be steady on the bit at all. He was snarky, disagreeable, and overly sensitive. Once when I asked for the canter, he kicked out at my leg and bucked into the canter. I was shocked and hollered at him "NO!". He kinda freaked out about that and I had to spend a few minutes to get him to calm down again. I think he got the idea that kicking out and bucking at my leg was a bad idea.

Towards the end, my jaw was set, I was riding my ass off, and all I kept telling him was "Just do two trot circles in each direction that are good. JUST TWO. We both want to be done so COME ON, WORK WITH ME HERE!" He really pushed my patience, but I was able to hold it together.

Until I got him back in the barn and he would not get in the wash rack. I totally snapped. I was super pissed at him for being such a mule about the washrack, and I lost my temper. I'm not proud of it. but I hollered at him, jerked him backwards, and forced him to back into the wash rack. He had just pushed me past my point of tolerance. Usually I can keep my cool through most things, but my button? He pushed it.

I'm embarrassed about my actions, and of course in about 5 minutes I felt sorry for my behavior. But I'm not perfect, and I try my best. Sometimes it just is not good enough.

Day 14 was an actual lesson. I have video. It was pretty good, but difficult.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 11 & 12

I decided not to take my lesson on Day 11.

I thought it would be more fun to have my car break down as I was driving to work. This left me with no transportation to get me to the barn on that day at all. Of course this really bummed me out but there just wasn't anything I could do about it. I was able to get a loaner car later that evening, so I had transportation for Kaswyn's vet visit the next day.

Here's how the visit went. Kaswyn flex tested slightly positive on the left front. But that was all. Doc said he hadn't seen him this sound in years. But I said that I knew he was in pain, and Doc didn't dispute that.

We got x-rays of the foot, and compared the same shots with x-rays from 2010. This revealed four important findings.

#1 The navicular disease had progressed past the point of the neuorectomy, so that pain and swelling of that foot was now being felt by Kaswyn, causing him to favor that foot and not put as much weight on it.

#2 By using the computer measuring system on the x-rays, we were able to clearly see that the angle of Kaswyn's coffin bone had rotated 3 degrees down.

#3 His heels were narrower by 8 mm.

#4 The dish in his foot was more pronounced.

To rule out deep digital flexor tendon involvement, he ultrasounded the tendon. He said it was totally normal.

Doc thinks it went this way - the disease progressed, causing pain the the foot. Kaswyn began favoring the foot, which caused him to bear less weight on it. This caused decreased circulation, and resulted in the narrower heels, pronounced hoof dishing, and rotated coffin bone.

The solution? Better anti inflammatory management and slow change in shoeing. Kaswyn is now on Previcox, the canine pill form of Equioxx, which works just as well, is cheaper than the horse paste version, and is much easier on the stomach than bute. He is also on EquiThrive, a powdered neutraceutical that uses natural products that possess anti inflammatory powers.

Kaswyn is much better traveling to the right, so Doc said to work him to the right on his regular schedule for a week. Then work him a bit to the left and see how he is. If he's better, slowly introduce some left direction work. If he's still bad to the left, stop the left work and go back to the right work only for another week.

Overall the prognosis is good. If we can get him to start using that foot again we should be able to change the angle back and get the heels widened again.

Because of the vet visit I didn't have time to ride Phil. I guess that would have to wait for Thursday. I was going to have a lesson, but decided that since I hadn't ridden Phil in 3 days that I should ride on my own. My trainer couldn't fit me in anyway.

Tough few days, but we got through it.

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 9 & 10

Day 9 was a Sunday, and I had the whole arena to myself. It was delightful! We worked on 10 meter circles, Headless Snowman, and the "scary two point big strided canter on a long rein" exercise. I skipped the trot lengthenings, and to cool down we did the shoulder-in exercise at a walk. It was great because I could take my time and use the mirrors to see if I had his body positioned correctly. An easy and productive day.

Day 10 - a much deserved day off, for both of us! Because Day 11 is a lesson.

Now, a bit about Kaswyn...

He just hasn't been right, even with time off. He was also tripping more than usual, so I had my blacksmith change his shoeing to make him more comfortable and trip less. He rounded the toes off, and it seemed to help a lot with the stumbling. But it didn't fix the fact that Kaswyn looked uncomfortable on that left front again, even with with my custom pastern wrap and time off.

So on Wednesday he goes to have a visit with Doc G. I just want him to be comfortable, and Debbie says she's okay if she can't ride him anymore. Even though I think Kaswyn has some sort of injury again, I don't think Debbie had anything to do with this. I think it was Phil.

The barn manager told me about 6 weeks ago that she noticed that Phil was chasing Kaswyn around the pasture sometimes. This completely sounds like something that Phil would do, so immediately we found a new turnout buddy for Kaswyn - Merlin. This has worked out very well. I turned them both out together a number of times and kept a close watch on them. No chasing, no running. Good boy, Merlin.

Unfortunately I think the damage may have already been done. So now we'll see what we have to do to get Kaswyn pain free. I know that Phil probably just wanted to play, but when Kaswyn is out he just wants to eat and roll in the mud.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 7 & 8

After such a hard lesson on Day 6, I decided to lunge Phil on Day 7. It was a 15 minute, very easy lunge with no side reins. I know some people call this "junk lunging" and think that it should never be done, as it teaches the horse nothing if you don't use side-reins or long lines or something. While I agree that the horse (who already knows how to lunge and is broke to ride) doesn't really learn anything when you do this, I don't think it's a bad thing to have an easy day. So that's what we did.

Day 8 was another lesson. It ended up being a great lesson, and I have video!

We started out just asking for a nice trot. Phil was very good about it, so we went to schooling 10 meter circles down the long side. That's on the video. There were some times when he needed more leg, or a different positioning, but overall it was really good.

Then we did what my trainer calls the Headless Snowman, also on the video. She calls it that because it consists of two circles next to each other, one large, one small, kind of like the bottom two snowballs of a snowman. First we cantered a 20 meter circle to the left, then at the top of the circle, across the center line, we did a trot transition and immediately turned right onto a 10 meter trot circle. It's meant to help the horse be able to stay round, on the bit and relaxed while being able to make transition and change the bend. It's a lot to ask but it's a good exercise. And like my trainer says, if you don't teach this stuff now, when are you going to?

It was interesting. Going from the left canter to the right trot, Phil did a better down transition. But for the up transition back to canter he wanted to poke his neck out and know jump through. It was the opposite the other direction - the down transition wasn't very good, but the up transition to canter was great.

Then onto schooling the beginnings of shoulder-in, again on video. It felt really awkward, but it's just the beginning. I was able to make some progress, and Phil was getting the idea of positioning his body in a new and different way.

Next it was Phil's favorite thing. Trot lengthenings! Yes, they are on the video too. I'll be honest, the ones from this lesson weren't as great as the "That was a 9." lesson, but they were pretty good. I find it easier to feel him come through his back and regulate the tempo if I'm sitting the lengthenings, but my trainer wanted me to post. I think Phil likes it when it sit better too. I'm sure they will improve over the next month.

So here is the video!

Yes we have a long way to go but I like where we are going so far!

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 5 & 6

On Day 5 Phil saw the pony chiropractor, and on Day 6 we had a lesson. It was a pretty rough lesson compared to the last one that ended on such a high note.

We walked to warm up, and then went to the trot. Phil was being super fussy about going to the bit, and was not making a connection. He'd either suck back behind my leg, or leap forward and run. My trainer wanted him to come over his back, relax, and stretch into my hand. She had me put him on a long rein, go up into two point position, and ask him for a long canter stride. Her idea was that getting off of his back would allow him to relax the back and come up under the saddle, the long rein would encourage him to stretch down, and the longer stride would let him stretch his whole body in a big relaxing stride.

Well, Phil thought that wasn’t a great idea. At first he was a little okay with it, but after a few minutes he got a little freaked out by having me lean forward with my butt out of the saddle. I knew what his anxiety was all about. During his previous training, two point position at the canter, plus asking for a long stride forward meant "hand gallop", which also meant "If you're not FLYING around this arena, you're in trouble." And "in trouble" meant whipping and spurring, and that's when Phil would check out. So after a few times around the arena I had to stop him, because he reverted back into panic mode.

Once I got him walking , I explained to my trainer what the situation was, and why I had to stop him. We had a talk about how we were going to accomplish the goal of the exercise without freaking Phil out. Phil needed to learn that my lifting my seat off the saddle doesn't mean anything bad, and that I should be able to push him on a long rein at the canter without having him freak out. Once he can accept this he can come over his back and relax. This will be very helpful in the future when he’s fussy, or distracted at a show, or just tight and not really wanting to work.

So we did the same exercise, on a 20 meter circle, and worked at it just a little at a time. Phil was pretty upset, but we just kept at it in very calming way. I went to slowly raising and lowering my seat on and off of the saddle, and built up to a bigger canter, then back down. By the end of the lesson he was doing what we wanted - long rein, up in the back, and big relaxed stride.

I’m not saying it was easy, or pretty in any way. When we were done, there wasn't a spot in either one of us that wasn't soaked with sweat.

Although it was hard for us, it was a great lesson in many ways. My trainer and I were able to identify a problem, work through it, and reach the point where she wanted us to be. And in the end we got good work done.

There was no video from that lesson, but I'm working on the video and write up for the next lesson. It was great!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Phil Boot Camp 2012 - Days 1-3

Day 1 – Getting there

I was all set to go. Tack was in my car, help was coming to move hay, and a very nice friend was on her way to trailer Phil to my trainer’s barn. I’ve written before about how Phil has a trailer fear, and we’ve worked on it since I bought him. Before I got him he was used to riding in a slant load trailer with no ramp. All the shows I’ve taken him to have been in a slant load step-up trailer. Unfortunately, neither person who had hauled him before was available to help me. I found another volunteer, which was really nice of her and fantastic.

Unfortunately, her trailer was a straight load with a ramp.

Still, I thought we could make this work. With her and Debbie’s help, we started trying to get Phil in the trailer. He got on the ramp a few times, once with all four feet, but after an hour of trying he just wasn’t making any progress. Instead he was getting more agitated and nervous. We weren’t whipping him or being overly aggressive with him, but at that point we all decided we needed to try something different. So we did something that I really didn’t want to do, but that we all figured would work.

We put Kaswyn on the trailer first. Kaswyn had never been in this trailer, but he gets so excited to go anywhere he’ll usually jump right on any trailer. He got half-way on, then stopped for a second so I backed him off. Then I threw the lead line over his neck and said “Kaswyn! Get in the trailer!” He got right on.

Kaswyn kept still and chilled in the trailer, and kept nickering encouragement to Phil. After that it took about five minutes to get Phil on the trailer. It was great! The not so great part was having to take Kaswyn back off the trailer and leave him behind. I felt so bad, because Kaswyn loves going places SO much. It was a complete mind game on Kaswyn, and my friend even offered to take him there and back again, but it would have been really out of her way since she is literally around the corner from my trainer’s barn.

So sadly, Kaswyn went back to his stall. Then we started rolling, with me following directly behind the trailer. We only had ten minutes to drive to my trainer’s barn, and it was warm, so we left the upper doors on the back of the trailer open. Even before we pulled out of the driveway, I could see Phil. He completely bent his head around until he was looking right at me in my car. So I stuck my head out the window and yelled “You’re ok Phil! GOOD BOY!!”, then he turned back around.

This is how it went for the whole drive. He’d flick his ears back, then turn around and look at me, and I’d holler encouragement to him, so he’d turn back around. At one point we turned left at a stoplight and there was a restaurant on the corner. There was a man out there weedwhacking the landscaping, and I yelled “YOU’RE A GOOD BOY PHIL!! GOOD BOY!!” just as we passed him and the guy looked up at me like “What? Huh?” I didn’t even care. It was more important to me that my boy knew I was back there for him and that he wasn’t alone.

We got to my trainer’s barn and unloaded horse and tack without incident. I had to bring both my girls with me, so I set them up in the very nice lounge/observation room to watch movies and eat lunch while I rode Phil. Then I tacked that boy up and headed to the indoor arena.

The arena at my trainer’s barn is super nice. It’s longer than the one at the other barn, but the most important improvement was the footing. Oh, and the mirrors. It’s been so long since I was at a barn that had mirrors I had forgotten how helpful they can be.

First I hand walked Phil around the arena so that he could see everything and get used to the noises and smells in the arena. Then I hopped on and we walked some more, just casual and walking. Once we started to trot, I stayed down at the end that had the mirrors so I could assess the situation. I realized I wasn’t riding Phil properly at ALL.

The main thing was that I was holding him back too much. Our trot circles looked like he wasn’t going anywhere and he was totally behind my leg. I figured out that I had gotten too used to being cautious about riding him in the other barn’s arena. The footing, the hay wagon in the arena, people turning horses out and having to walk through the arena, people feeding and watering horses in the arena, all made me want to have an extreme amount of control at all times so that I could be sure that I could stop or turn or whatever I needed to do. I wasn’t really riding Phil. I was just sitting on him and steering around.

So I really started riding. I pushed him into a big trot. Not a fast trot, or a lengthened trot, but a bigger, more powerful, pushing trot. And it was good. He was so concentrated on working as hard as I asked him that there was minimal spooking or fooling around with his head. The contact was really pretty good, and from what I could see in the mirrors he was pushing nicely.

Then, since I was alone, it was quiet, and I had plenty of room, I added a basic exercise that my trainer likes. At the trot, we made three 10 – 15 meter circles evenly spaced down the long sides. It really helped him to bend and push around the circles. We did that both directions a few times, then we did the same thing at the canter after a walk break. Then a little counter canter, and one or two lengthened trots across the diagonal.

Phil was fantastic. No panicking, no taking off, no disobedience. Just really nice work.

And the girls were so good and didn’t pester me (or anyone else), that we stopped and got Slurpees on the way home. Everybody wins!

Days 2 & 3

Over the next two days it went pretty much the same way. I used the same pattern for each of our workouts, and Phil really brought it to the plate. He was fantastic. And he seems like he is settling in at the new barn really well. He’s been going out in a round pen that has some grass on one side, and isn’t causing any trouble so far. He seems happy, and I love that.

Tomorrow is our first lesson. The plan is to have three lessons a week for the whole month. I am SO excited!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

August Schooling show

Finally, I'm getting around to wrapping up this show!

The main thing that was making me nervous about this show was that we didn't have stalls, and our ride times were about four hours apart. That meant that Kaswyn or Phil had to stand tied to the side or stand inside the trailer for hours at a time. I wasn't terribly worried about Kaswyn, but truthfully I hadn't shown him out of the trailer for years and years, so I wasn't totally sure how he'd react. And Phil... well I know that Phil is not a fan of trailers, so I was really concerned about how he would handle the day.

But I figured it would all work out somehow, so off we went!

Debbie was first with Kaswyn in Intro C. For some reason she was super nervous, and Kaswyn was really feeling it. He was very tense and she was having a bit of a problem getting him to focus and calm down. I kept telling her "Your body is telling him that something is wrong, and that he needs to be on alert! You really have got to relax and calm down." She did her best, but the test wasn't pretty. Even with the tension, they ended up with a 61% and a second place.

Both Debbie and Kaswyn were better in the second test, but still there was tension and inattention on Kaswyn's part. 54.167% and a fourth place for that one.

It's so hard with Kaswyn. Yes, he's very trained, and he knows what he's doing. But he gets so overly excited and over stimulated at shows. And if you're not used to dealing with him when he's like that it can be very hard, and not very fun to ride. I'm not even sure I could have gotten a good ride out of him that day. He just gets all ADD and Tiggers out, and there's not much that can be done except steer him around and get through it.

I think things will be much better for the Championship show in October. We'll have stalls, we'll be there overnight, and I think that kind of situation really settles Kaswyn. He doesn't seem to get his show pants on right with the one-day shows.

Now, onto Phil. He was actually really good for me in his first test. It's very evident by looking at the video that I'm getting his neck too short. It's so hard when I'm mostly riding alone and I don't have mirrors, and I don't get regular lessons. However, looking at the positive I was able to adjust him during the test - meaning that I could ask for more or less trot or canter, and I got it. Of course there was some tension, and connection issues, but mostly I'm really pleased that he was adjustable. We scored a 66.875%, but were 5th, and last in the class. Still, I was happy.

The second test.... well I saw trouble coming before we even started. Phil doesn't like trailers when he has to get into them. He also doesn't like then when they drive by. The banging just sends him into a panic. Our trailer was parked in the field with all the other trailers, and every time a trailer would leave and drive past, Phil would get extremely upset. There wasn't much I could do about it, since trailers driving through pastures tend to make a lot of noise.

Right as I was riding around the ring for our second test, I saw two horses being loaded into a stock trailer. I KNEW that they'd be pulling out during my test. And driving right by the show ring. And there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. I think you can see where they started to pull out, and where Phil heard the banging. It went really downhill from there. It could have been a LOT worse, since he didn't completely check out, but it was kinda ugly. We ended up with a 62.5% and a 3rd out of four. The judge said that I was patient and supportive, but that the horse needed to be more harmonious with me. But she noted that the talent was there, and that the mistakes were costly. I agree. And the neck was too short again, but I had a lot to deal with in that test!

The photographer for the show,, managed to get this one nice picture of Phil before his test.

Photo credit

As for the trailer worries? Well it turned out just fine. We ended up rotating Phil and Kaswyn in and out of the trailer, while the other horse we brought with us stayed tied to one side of the trailer. She hung out under the awning and it all worked out just fine. Still, I'd rather have stalls. I think it's better for Kaswyn. Amazingly, I don't think Phil really cared, unless a trailer drove by.

Overall I'm really happy with the way Phil handled himself at the show. He stood in or tied to the trailer without getting into trouble, he let me adjust his stride and energy in the first test, and he didn't completely check out and bolt out of control in the second test when he was genuinely frightened. I think this is all progress. We are getting there, slowly but surely.

One thing I'm really excited for is that I'm taking Phil to my trainer's barn for boot camp in September. She will certainly fix my issues with getting his neck too short. And hopefully a few other things. I hope I can get some video to document our improvement!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Transferring, converting, uploading...

I'm working on the videos from the show. In the meantime...

Did you guys enjoy the blow by blow updates from the show on Facebook? I hope it was just like being there. Without the bugs, sweat, and hay down your bra.

Videos and commentary will be up as soon as I can get it done.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 2012 Schooling Show, Part 1

Okay, here are the videos from the show!

Debbie riding Kaswyn, Training 1

Me riding Phil, Training 1

Me riding Phil, Training 2


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July 2012 Schooling Show, Part 1

So the show this past weekend was good in a number of ways.

First, Kaswyn was super excited and decided to be fabulous during Debbie's Intro C test. He did his extended trot down the long side and was basically a boob. She ended up trying to half halt him the entire test. She did a good job with it, but of course it wasn't exactly pretty. She got a 53%, but amazingly got second place out of four horses with that. He settled down for his second test, Training 1, and was much better. Sure, there were times he could have been rounder or had more bend, but she did everything she was supposed to do and didn't go off course. He was much better behaved and they got a 63%, but were 4th out of five horses in that one. Not bad for her first time cantering in dressage!

As for Phil, he was really tense and nervous again, so I did what I'd been doing at home, which was really using my leg and seat to push him to my hand. It worked fine in the warm-up, but when we were in the ring he just wanted to blow through my hand. He was very very tense, and we got a 56%. The judge said I needed to allow him to go forward, and that I was stopping him, but if I hadn't stopped him he would have blown out of there! Of course she can only judge what she sees and doesn't know anything about his past, so I agree with the score. It wasn't a pretty test.

I only had 30 minutes between my rides, so I just stayed on him for ten minutes and hung out in the shade. Then I went back in the warm-up and worked on just hacking around. I thought of what my trainer said during one of my lessons - that I should be able to have a cocktail and ride this horse; in other words he should be easy enough to ride that I can just chill out. So I stopped trying to drive him so hard into my hand and just let him be. His connection has been much more solid lately and I found that I could just relax and let him go forward and he'd actually go into my hand, with the occasional hug from my leg. We went in the ring and we had a much more relaxed test. Nice connection, and he really listened to me, and didn't seem overly stressed out. His gaits weren't as impressive, but I was going for calm and relaxed, so I was happy with what he gave me. We got a 63% and second place out of 5 horses. I think during the first test I just drove him way too hard into my hand and it stressed him out rather than made him feel secure in the connection. So that was totally my fault. But at least I learned something. Oh, and I think I was sitting up much better and wasn't getting so far forward. So that's an improvement!

I think at this point what I need to do now is get him straighter and get better bend. I've been working so hard on the connection, which I think has improved a bunch, but now I need to fix the crookedness. There were times in the second test that I knew he was crooked but I didn't want to try and fix it too much for fear that I'd ruin the good vibe that we had going. I think I now have a solid plan for how I need to ride him at shows vs. how I ride him at home. So that's good.

I'm still downloading/uploading videos. So stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lesson for Phil, not me

I had a lesson scheduled for last Thursday, and I asked my trainer to ride Phil first. Not just because of our little incident on Tuesday, but because I wanted her to feel what he was doing. After my last lesson I tried hard to let go of Phil, like we worked on in that lesson. But then I felt that he wasn’t taking my half-halts very seriously, if at all. Once I let him go, he just wanted to go go go!

So my trainer got on him and soon she was feeling the same thing. He wasn’t taking much of a half-halt. She had to be rather firm with him, and give him some big “I mean it” half-halts. Then they were able to get down to work. She ended up riding him for the whole lesson, which is fine with me. You can see the whole video of it here –

And yeah, you saw that right. Phil did a clean flying change each direction. I almost cried. My trainer said that the counter canter was really helping him be straighter, and helping him get over his back and relax a bit, and it just felt like she could ask for the change, so she did. And happily Phil just did the change with no fuss. Like it was no big deal. This is fantastic!!

We discussed his status after her ride. She felt that he was starting to take over a little bit, but didn’t really think it was a bad thing. When I first got him he had no confidence, and was terrified to make a mistake. Now he’s gaining confidence, starting to come into his own, and have an opinion about how things ought to be. And that’s GOOD. However, she said “He must realize that he’s not flying the plane here.” Which means he’s got to be obedient when asked to do something. But we don’t want to squash his confidence. If we do this the right way, he could end up being brave and bold, but also obedient and submissive.

I mentioned that he seems to be hypersensitive, but also selectively deaf to some aids. My trainer agreed, and said that he just needs to realize that he has to listen all the time.  Again, we just need him to be obedient. 

We're making progress.  It's slow and steady, but it's progress.  I've got my name in line for a stall at my trainer's barn for a month of boot camp with Phil.  Imagine the work we can get done with 3 sessions with my trainer a week!  I hope we can work out the logistics of that.  It would be really great for both of us right now! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Like a monkey in a tree

Yesterday I had a very challenging ride on Phil. I had the day off so I went out to the barn in the morning to ride. I decided to give Kaswyn the day off and put him outside with a buddy for an hour or so while I rode Phil. Well, Phil objected to that is a big way. He really thought HE should be going out too. So when I went to get on him he was spastic, crabby, and totally unfocused. I was trying to just get him through the ride without having a huge issue.

We were about five minutes into the ride and I decided to canter him. I seem to be able to make a better, more consistent contact at the canter. I was hoping that cantering would focus him and get him to relax a bit. We cantered in a circle at one end of the arena.

Then a few things happened in quick succession. First, there was a horse walking outside by the door, which he saw as we passed the door. This made him speed up. I gave him a half-halt, which he didn’t accept. Instead he threw his head in the air and dropped his butt, just as we were going through the corner. This caused him to kick dirt on the wall behind us as we were coming through the corner, and that spooked him. He really took off then, for the first time in a long time. His head was up in my face and he was running blind. I look my left rein and jerked it hard, because we were headed right for the wall. He raised up his front end and came down hard, right next to the wall. This completely unseated me. I lost both stirrups. Then he jumped hard away from the wall to the left, sending me off the saddle to the right. I was literally hanging off with one leg slung over the seat of the saddle. But I refused to give up and fall off. I did the only thing I could do.

I climbed that horse’s neck like a monkey in a tree.

Right hand full of mane, left hand grabbing rein, I tried to pull him away from the wall. But now he was TOTALLY LOSING HIS MIND. He was bolting, jumping, scared to death, not sure what the hell was actually happening. I managed to get back in the saddle, but still no stirrups, and he was still jumping around. My hand got tangled in the mane and I raised it up to get it loose, and he bolted to the right.

His head came up as he bolted and smacked me in the side of the head. This knocked me over to the left, and it was a repeat of what had just happened – grabbing mane and neck, hanging off the saddle with one leg (this time to the left), pulling the rein to stop him.

I didn’t want to do it, but I grabbed the right rein and used it to pull me back into the saddle. Then I finally was able to stop him.

I got myself back together, gave him a second to get his mind back in gear, and then I patted him. And we moved on like it never happened. I just remember my trainer always saying “It doesn’t matter.”, when things like this happen. He got scared. We got ourselves into a pickle. The very worst thing I could do at that point would be to punish him. So we just carried on.

It was very hard for me to relax and just ride after that, but I did the best I could. Yeah, it was scary. For him too, I’m sure. But we actually got some pretty nice work in after that. Not perfect, but it was acceptable.

Nobody actually saw the scene.  I kind of wish there was video of it.  I'd love to see how that whole thing looked!  When I told the Barn Manager about it, she said "Well, I heard that's why God gave Arabian horses long manes.  So we can stay on."  So true!  I think I'd have been in the dirt if he didn't have that long mane to save me. 

My eye is very sore where he smacked me in the head, but other than that I’m fine. I didn’t even get a black eye! Yay me! Thankfully we have a lesson on Thursday. I can’t wait. We need it really badly!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Schooling Show

I was a little apprehensive about this show, because it would be the first show that I'd be taking Phil to that we didn't stay overnight the night before.  Although we got stalls at the show (because I'm sure Phil would not stand well in or tied to the trailer) I knew I wouldn't have time to ride in the actual show rings before my tests.  I'd have to just trust that he wouldn't have a complete meltdown.

We got to the show and Debbie and I hand-walked Kaswyn and Phil around the arenas before the show started.  Then it was a rush of activity to get the horses and riders ready.  Luckily we were stalled with my trainer, who had five horses and students there, so we had plenty of help.

First up was Debbie and Kaswyn in Intro A.

They did a fantastic job and won their class with a 70.2%!

Next up was Debbie again on Kaswyn, this time Intro B.

Again they won their class with a 68% (I think) .  They are now working on the canter and I think it's Intro C and Training 1 for them at the next show.  I'm so happy and proud of them both!

Then I was up on Phil.  So, let me just say how happy I am with Phil.  I didn't have time to lunge him before the warmup, as I was trying to help Debbie and Kaswyn get ready for their first test, and then I had to run back to the barn to get Phil ready.  I missed her second test because I was on Phil.  Anyway, I hopped on him and, although he was a little tense, he really settled down and did some wonderful work in the warmup.  My trainer even said that there were many moments where his tail was completely straight.  This makes me happy, and hopeful that once he gets balanced and properly muscled that the tail can straighten out.  

Here is our first test, Training 1.

Overall I was thrilled as how well he handled the stress of a strange show ring.  He really kept it all together and we made it through the test with no major incidents!  Of course we have room to improve. He needs to be more relaxed into the contact, for one thing.  That's just going to take time.  He was much more relaxed in the warmup, so I know it's possible.  We scored a 66%, but were out of the ribbons.  

After the first test I took him back to the barn and untacked him for a about 30 minutes before our next test.  Our second test was Training level test 2.  Unfortunately they were running quite a bit behind for the next test so I was on him for a lot longer than I wanted to be.  I think he was a little tired and kinda pissy for this test, but still I think it went very well.  Again, no major issues, but we need a better more relaxed connection.  We scored a 61.1%, and were 6th in the class.  

And yes, in case you're wondering, this was a huge schooling show.  They ran three full rings all day!  

I'm very happy with Kaswyn, Debbie and Phil.  I'm less happy with my performance.  Phil gets me leaning forward, especially at the shows and, more importantly, in the actual tests themselves.  I think this is because my arms are too short, and I want to be able to give him room in the neck with more rein, but I don't want to let the rein out because of his issue with me taking up suddenly on the reins.  This is getting better, I will admit, but I think I go into self-preservation mode and I get too far forward. It's something I really need to work on.  

I think our next planned schooling show is in July.  I'm trying to squeeze in a lesson this week.  I feel like we are making progress, but I also feel like there is so much to improve upon.  I guess that's what makes it dressage, huh?  

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Well, I completely blew the weekly posts for April.

I tried to keep up with it but it just didn’t happen. We’ll see what I can do about May. I’ve written some stuff that might be kind of controversial. Should be interesting to read the comments. And hear what my trainer thinks!

Speaking of my trainer, the lesson I had with her last week has really changed the way I ride Phil, which is pretty common for my lessons. It seems like every time I have a lesson it’s time to move on to the next level of training with him. We started by just trying to slow things down, went to working to establish a connection, then onto suppleness and straightness, then establishing a half-halt, and now working over the back into my hand and connection.

When I rode him the next day after my lesson, I realized that he was really running through my half halts. I had to do a few really strong ones for him to listen, and then a few minutes later he blew through them again. It was frustrating for both of us. I had been on him long enough but I didn’t want to end the session on a bad note. I took a little walk break and started thinking back to my lesson. What was I missing? I couldn’t think of anything.

I picked up the trot again, and as I came around this one corner I had a flashback. In my lesson, when I had rounded the very same corner, my trainer had said something like “Don’t just give away the contact. Make it feel like he’s pulling you into the contact. OWN this trot.” It was then that I realized I was giving a little too much. I had gone from one extreme to the other; from hanging onto him so that he didn’t rush forward to letting him have too much control.

So I sat down and rode him like I would Kaswyn. I took the contact and pushed him into my hand. I didn’t expect the super steady contact like Kaswyn gives me, but I expected him to come into my hand. When he didn’t, I pushed him there, being elastic but not too giving. It was fantastic!! We ended on a great note, both of us tired.
Then he had a day off, with just turnout. The next day I rode and did the same thing – I owned the trot. Again, it was great. We also did a lot of straight lines of canter. I was so happy!

Then the next day… well, that wasn’t so great. Phil was acting very subdued in the crossties, almost sleepy. I got on him and he felt okay initially, but when I cantered to the right he felt like he had a flat tire behind. I immediately stopped, walked, and called it done. I made my poor pony sore.

I gave him a dose of Banamine and three days off from riding (he was either lunged or turned out), and today I will ride him. I’m very cautious now when it comes to injuries after all that I went through with Kaswyn. When something doesn’t feel right I’m going to listen to my gut (and my butt!) and give him time off if needed. I don’t think he’s hurt or anything but I want to make sure I give him time to recover between workouts. In the future I will be more careful not to overwork him like I did. I don’t want him to have a major career ending injury just because I was impatient.

I’m looking forward to seeing what today’s ride will be. Hopefully we’ll both own the trot.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monday Lesson

I don't usually take lessons on Mondays, but it just worked out that way this time. Lucky me!

My trainer rode Phil first, and I have the last few minutes of her ride here - 

Then I got on and had my lesson.  This video is pretty much my entire lesson.  My trainer's mom came along and was kind enough to video the whole thing, and do a great job of it too!  Big huge thanks to her!  

So, basically I need to trust him, and me, and let him go more.  It's hard not to hold onto him, because that trot gets pretty big and we cover some ground.  But I need to trust him, and he hasn't done any scooting and bolting on me lately, so I guess it's time.  

And I need to fix my right side!  It's like it has a mind of it's own.  That stupid arm and elbow flapping, and the shoulder creeping up.  You can see through most of the video that my right hand and arm are higher, tighter, and out of position.  I'm working on it, but obviously there is still work to be done.  I need to fix it before it causes Phil to be crooked on that side.  So, Right Arm, get it together! 

Oh, and I've come to the conclusion that my arms are short.  My trainer can just reach down and pat Phil's neck and not come out of position, but for me to reach his neck I have to bend forward, even if I totally straighter my arm!  I've got to sit up straighter too.  So much to improve! 

I rode tonight and was able to let go and work on some of the points my trainer made in the lesson.  The hardest part was the last stretching bit.  He wasn't as tired and he kept rushing during this part.  It's hard but we're going to keep at it.  

I'm lucky to have such a great trainer (she hates to see or hear herself on video, by the way).  And such great horses.  Show season, here we come! 

Monday, April 23, 2012

April "It's.. wait, what?"

I missed a weekly post.

I admit it.  This month has been a little nuts.  So I didn't post about showing last week.  I hope I can this week, but I'm not making any promises.

What I will give to you is a promise of lesson videos from tonight.  They are downloading right now and I'll have them up tomorrow or Wednesday.  It was a great lesson.

So here are some photos of Phil, just to appease you.  And because he's cute -

Here is a body shot.  He's looking more muscular.  I like it.  

This is what that cutie did to his sheet today in turnout.  That's not as adorable.  

I'll also leave you with this -

Yeah, so about that.  You know how sometimes you put your half-chaps or boots and and you feel like your full seats are a little pulled down into your boots?  So you have to pull them up a little out of your boots so the crotch of your breeches isn't hanging way low?  Well, I did that and I totally ripped the breeches.  Now, they were really old breeches, like 8 years or something, so I'm not devastated or anything.  The problem was, I hadn't ridden yet, didn't have a spare pair of breeches, and wasn't about to skip riding or go home to get a new pair.

The solution? 

Duct tape, of course!  My only concern was that the tape would bunch up and come off while I was riding, since it was right on the inside of my knee.  Fortunately for me, my legs passed the "ride with an open and soft knee" test and proved to me that I wasn't gripping with my knee.  Here is what it looked like after my ride -

I'm pretty happy with myself. 

So, what do you think?  Anyone else out there willing to take the Duct Tape test?  Let me know, I'm interested!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Outside Experience

The weather was really nice about two weeks ago so I decided to ride Phil in the outdoor arena. We had been working in the indoor arena on connection, accepting the half-halt, and varying stride length at the trot. So I thought that working in the outdoor arena, which is bigger, would give us an opportunity to get some really long straight lines for our trot lengthenings.

It didn’t work out as well as I’d planned.

Phil was SUPER nervous outside. He’s not particularly spooky, or fearful, of “things”, like the jumps that were in the arena, or the trees next to the arena blowing in the wind. He was just nervous that something bad would happen. What that "something" was I have no idea. I’d like to say it was excitement, but I really don’t think so. I’ve felt excitement on Kaswyn, and this wasn’t it.

So instead of getting some nice time outside and continuing to work on what we had been doing, we went back to the beginning of just trying to get a connection. He was so distracted by every little thing – like if someone walked out of the barn with their horse to graze, or turnout, he jerked his head up and almost stopped. Then he over-reacted when I sent him forward and tried to focus him. The cat walking by, or the dog, or a bird, completely short circuited his brain. I swear it’s the worst he’s been as far as focusing goes.

Even though we had to go backwards in some of the training, all of the other work that we had been doing helped. Like the previous half-halt work and, believe it or not, the lengthening work were things I used to help me get his attention back. When Phil would get a little behind my leg I was able to send him across the diagonal or the long side and get more in front of my leg, and that was nice. But I still felt that we went backwards a little bit in our training, which is disappointing.

At the same time, I think it was good on some level for us to work outside. We were able to go out there about six times over the course of two weeks. It gave me an opportunity to experience how Phil would be at an outside show (when that eventually happens), and it gave me a chance to prove to him that nothing bad is going to happen if we are outside. I think we made some progress on that front, but time will tell on that.

I have a lesson scheduled next Monday. My trainer is going to ride Phil! I’m very excited to see how that goes. Expect video on that!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Finally, the show!

So much to say, not enough time to write!

Okay, quick rundown on the show from March 26. We did the same thing as I did last time – haul in Saturday, work in the arenas, back Sunday morning to work in both arenas, then show.

Phil was much calmer this time around, but he was still very nervous. Saturday schooling was fine, as was Sunday morning. But I decided to bring him out at lunchtime and work again since our ride times were right after lunch. He was good in the warmup, but was really agitated in the arena.

Here’s the video of Intro B.

You can see during our first trot circle someone in the aisleway started scooping poop with a shovel right on the other side of the wall and Phil started to freak out. He really wanted to bolt out of control like he used to, but he didn’t. He let me get him through it and we finished the test, but he didn’t make a good steady contact. No ribbon and a 60.63%.

Ride two was pretty much the same. Here is Intro C.

The canter work went really well. I know there is like four seconds of canter, but I was just happy that it didn’t get out of control! 4th place with a 63.5%

Then Debbie showed Kaswyn. This time, Kaswyn was all business and did a fanastic job for her. She actually won her first class, and was second in her second class!

Here is her second ride. We had a video boo-boo on the first ride, so we don’t have it recorded. Don’t they make a pretty picture?

I’m mostly happy with the show, because it proved to both Phil and I that scary things can happen in the show ring and we can get through it without freaking out and bolting like a crazy pony. I think I may have overworked him and made him mentally tired, so next time I’ll do less work. Then maybe our connection and concentration will improve.

Since the show we’ve been able to ride outside a few times. I have to write about that. It’s been an adventure! I really think we’re making progress. I’m going to schedule another lesson soon. I’m really excited!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Half of a halt

I know I talked about a lesson that I took last week, but I haven't had the time to sit down and write about it. I'm going to try and bang this out at work while it's a little slow.. we'll see how that goes!

So the night of my lesson it was a bit of a circus in at the barn. If you've watched any of my videos you'll see that the stalls open right onto the arena. Usually when I ride it's not a big deal because there isn't much going on, but that night it was a full house. During my lesson there was another child's lesson, two other people riding, someone lunging, two people at opposite ends of the arena cleaning their stalls with the wheelbarrows outside of the stalls (and therefore in the arena right on the track) and it was during feeding/watering time. Phil was completely distracted, but this gave us good material to work with because my trainer said "It's time to teach him how to accept and respond to the half-halt, and keep him from blowing through your hand".

First, she fixed my seat. It had only been three months since my last lesson and already Phil had gotten me pitched forward in my seat again. Then she said that I needed to exaggerate my body movement when asking for the transition from the trot to the halt. Like, really lean back, very deep in my seat, and try to use less rein. I needed to insist that he go all the way to the halt, then really praise him. She said I could even say, in a very low voice "Whoa" so that he would get the point of what I was asking.

Since there was so much for Mr. Distraction to look at, it was a perfect opportunity to do lots of transitions from trot to halt. At first I wasn't using my body enough, so my trainer said not to be afraid to REALLY exaggerate it, and that I won't ride it this way forever, or even for very long. Just until he gets the idea that a half-halt off my seat means something.

He was starting to really get it, so my trainer told me to now ask for truly half of a halt. As in, do the half-halt but not let him quite halt all the way before asking him to push off again into the trot. This is for building strength in his haunches and back, and for getting him sharper off the aids. This worked really well, and I've been using it a lot since.
Then we did a little canter work. Phil's canter has improved immensely since I got him and my trainer was really happy with the rhythm. The departs are even pretty decent, so we didn't work a lot on that.

Lastly, I wanted my trainer's opinion of the lengthenings that I'd been working on. Before I had her get the camera out, I set Phil up and asked for a lengthening across the diagonal, and it was a really nice one. Of course, it was the best one of the night. My trainer said "Oh! Well, there you go." Then I had her video some more diagonals, but it was hard with so much going on to get a clean diagonal, and I don't think the video shows him doing any particularly good ones. I'm not going to post the video unless you guys really want to see it.

All in all it was another great lesson. The half-halts and half-of-a-halts have really been great. Phil is really starting to respond to just my weight. At the beginning of our sessions I'm still exaggerating my seat and weight, but towards the end I find that I can be more subtle and still get a reaction.

This weekend is another schooling show. We're doing Intro B and C. Hopefully it will be another successful show!

Whew! Got that done before the boss came around. Some days you're just lucky, I guess. :)

Monday, March 12, 2012


I don't have much time to write, but I have a lesson tomorrow on Phil. I'm super excited because we've been working on changes of stride length within the gaits. So at the trot I've been working him on the 20 meter circle and asking him to take a bigger step and lengthen the stride, and then asking him to accept the half-halt and come back to a working gait. Last week he was doing so well on the circle that I decided to take him across the diagonal and try it that way.

He did really well the first time, but then coming up on the second diagonal, in the corner, he got a little spooked. There was a new horse in the corner stall who was chewing on the wall, and it was making a weird squeaking noise. Even I was like "What is THAT?" for a second. Since we've been working on the whole "I'm not going to beat you for spooking" thing, he was not afraid of me, just the horse, and coming into the corner he rose up in front and sat down behind, in preparation for a spook. I held him together long enough to get him turned onto the diagonal (and away from the squeaky horse), and then I loosened his neck real quick. I used that spook energy and sent him forward, asking for a bigger stride.

And holy sh*t people, I got it. It was HUGE. He went through and over his back, and floated a good four strides before he fell on his forehand. He only quickened his pace a little bit. Then he actually accepted the half halt before the corner and didn't run through the transition. I made a big fuss out of him, and loved all over him. Then we tried it again, this time without the spook, and he totally got what I wanted. Since then we've been working on it, and Phil gets really excited about it. He really loves to lengthen that trot, and it's feeling really good. He doesn't get an entire diagonal of perfect strides or anything, but he's getting it and he's trying.

So I can't wait to show my trainer. I might be totally off base, and what he's giving me is incorrect and awful, but I kinda don't think so. Just thinking of this horse's future makes me SO excited.

I'll get video of my lesson if I can. :) Can't WAIT!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr