Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Oh come on now.

This arena thing is really starting to irritate me. Marge agreed to have Mr. F out to fix the arena. This is his business, and he said he'd call me when he knew what his schedule was. Four days later I called him, and he seemed a bit irritated that I called to ask him what was going on. He said he still didn't know when he could make it out.

Seriously? How can you not know? Don't you schedule your clients? He told me that it would probably be this week. This week only has two more days in it. So, since I didn't hear from him today I'm assuming it won't be tomorrow. If I don't hear from him tomorrow I'll assume that it won't be Friday. He must work on weekends, because he originally told me that he could do it last weekend, and that didn't work out so well, now did it?

So, again, I'm waiting for someone to do something that they said they'd do. And I'm waiting for a phone call. I'm kind of a pushy person (okay, I'm definitely a pushy person) so if I don't hear from him by Saturday I'm going to call again.

Because I can be a real pain in the ass when I need to be. Just ask Craig. Or Susan...or Marge...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Jewel over at 20 Meter Cricle of Life gave me a blog award! This is super cool, because I've been tagged a ton, but no awards.

Arte y Pico Award

This award comes with some rules:

1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you think deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4. The award-winner and the one who has given the prize must show the link of the “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

So, five blogs that inspire me that also haven't won this award yet.

MiKael's Mania. I don't know if she has this award or not, but she should. Talk about contributing to the blogging community! She posts almost near every day, and always has great info on clinics and fun stories. A must read for horse people, espeically Arabian horse owners.

Freelance Instructor's Diary. Great informational posts about training, and links to her training horses diaries.

I Will Jump Sweet Jumps. Beckz lives and rides in New Zealand. I love looking at her photos - some pics of the landscape there are beautiful!

Diary of a Young Horse. The training of Echo. I wish I had started a blog or diary when I was breaking Kaswyn. It would be great to have it and look back to see how things progressed.

Half Pass Girl. A blog dedicated to dressage. A girl after my own heart!

So there you have it. Thanks for the award Jewel. You're a peach!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Do I even dare write this post?

I think it's finally happening.

Marge agreed to pay Mr. F, the arena specialist, to come out and level the arena. She wanted me to be the contact with him, so I called him to find out when he could come out. He said maybe this weekend, but he'd call me when he had a chance to look at his book and give me a date.

I'm so excited that I'll actually be able to start training again in that arena. If time permits I'm going to be riding Albert too. He's such a little stinker but he's so talented.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Spur Tag

First of all, I made it through the plane ride without getting a splitting headache. And the girls were stars. I was traveling without Craig so herding two kids under 5 can be a challenge, but they were both wonderful. In fact we got four compliments on our way to baggage claim in Cleveland about how good they were and how well I handled them. All the comments were made by businessmen, and since we were traveling on a weekday I can only assume that they'd had their share of flights that included unruly and unhappy children. I'm so proud of my girls!

Anyway, back to the Tag! Jewel over at
20 Meter Circle of Life put out a challenge/tag for all readers about their spurs. Of course, it was at the beginning of July and I'm just getting around to it now, but here it is.

The rules are link back to me and put up a pic of your spurs and an explanation of why you ride with them.

Here are my spurs.

They are what I'd consider medium length dime rowel spurs. I ride with them because I want to be able to use them if I need them. I don't use them all that often but Kaswyn and I have a back and forth issue about my left leg. My issue is that it's weaker than the right leg. His issue is that he chooses to ignore the leg sometimes even when I'm applying it strongly. I'm sure this is from years of my using it ineffectively and him getting used to squeezes that aren't placed right or don't really mean anything. So, in these cases, my spurs help remind him that "leg on" means "do something".

So, as Jewel said, if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged. Let's see those spurs!


I've been fighting a bit of a cold for about two weeks now. Today I laid down with the girls for their nap and when I woke up I knew I needed to see a doctor. The whole left side of my face was throbbing and the top row of teeth were in significant pain. Just what I need - a sinus infection.

Since I'm still at my parents house I asked my dad if he thought he could get me in to see his doctor. No dice. Instead he found a Doc in the Box for me to go to. It was actually a very nice experience, except for the fact that they didn't take my insurance. I left the place with a prescription and a receipt for the $114 I had to put on my credit card. I'll submit it to my insurance and hopefully they'll reimburse me.

I came back to my parents house and watched the girls swim in the pool. Then I cleaned them up and tried to eat dinner. Even with chewing on the other side, the first time I brought my teeth together sent a shooting pain rocketing up through my head. I seriously saw stars. I thought I'd give it another try and just chew carefully, but it didn't work. I had to surrender my lasagna to my dad and heated up some tomato soup. I took some ibuprofen and that seemed to help a bit with the pain.

So now it's almost 3 am and my head is throbbing again. I had to get up and eat a bowl of cereal before I could take more ibuprofen because if I take it on an empty stomach I'll feel really sick. I'm just waiting for that to kick in so I can get some sleep. I've been awake since 1:30 debating on if I should bother getting up.

While I'll be glad to be home so I can see Craig and my horse again, I'm really not looking forward to getting on a plane tomorrow with a sinus infection. If I was flying alone I would just totally dope myself up and feel no pain, but I've got two little girls to look after. I'm just glad it's me and not them who is sick!

Oh, any guesses on if the arena got fixed while I was

a) Gone for a week at my trainers barn for Boot Camp


b) Gone for a week to my parents for a visit and a funeral?

The answer? Of course not! My horse is sound and ready to train. But I have no place to ride. I'm so frustrated I could scream.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dawn of the Pop

Before we left Cleveland for my parents house, I sat the girls down and explained what would be happening so they could know what to expect, and also so I could answer any questions they might have. I told them that Grandaddy had died, and that he had gone to heaven. But he left his body here, and it was up to us to take care of it. So when they saw him at the funeral home he would be in a wooden box.

Lily said "I know, that's called a coffin!"

Yes, I agreed. Then I said that we'd be able to see him and say goodbye, then the coffin would get closed. The coffin would then be taken to a cemetery where we'd put it in a big hole in the ground and cover it with dirt.

Lily said "Oh! Then he gets to turn into a zombie!"

I tried not to laugh, and said that no, Grandaddy would not turn into a zombie. Then she says "I know what you find in wooden boxes - mummies! They're wrapped in toilet paper you know."

I told her that mummies were wrapped in strips of fabric that just look like toilet paper, and that grandaddy would not turn into anything when we buried him. He would just be Grandaddy.

The whole time Macey just looked at me and didn't say a word. However, a few days later at the viewing Macey was very interested in Grandaddy's body. She kept going up to the casket and looking at him very closely. The first time she said to me "Wake him up." I said "I can't sweetie. Remember he died and his soul went to heaven, and this is his body that we have to take care of." "Oh." said Macey.

I told her she could touch him if she wanted to, and she patted him on the chest a few times. Then she said "I don't want to touch his hands." I said she didn't have to.

She went up and patted Pop many times during the viewing, usually by herself but sometimes one of the relatives would go up with her. She was always very quiet and respectful, and it was all at once cute and sad when she patted him and would wave goodbye.

Lily went up once in the very beginning to see him, but the rest of the time she seemed nervous and didn't want to look at him. He looked pretty good, I guess, not scary at all. I just wonder if she was worried that he'd suddenly sit up and try to eat her brain.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ode to Thomas

Today was Pop's funeral in Annapolis, Maryland. It was a very sad occasion, but we all had the chance to spend a few days remembering Pop and all the stories surrounding him. He was very devoted and loving to his family, and was a very hard worker.

Pop had been a waterman all his life, starting out as an oysterman as a kid. He was born on Gibson Island in Marlyland and stayed there until moving to Annapolis with my Nana. Pop was a very quiet man, and was perfectly evened out by my outgoing, bubbly grandmother. When he asked my Nana to marry him, she went out and bought a wedding dress. He happened to be at her mother's house when she brought it home, and asked what it was. She said "My wedding dress." He replied "What'd you buy that for?"

Nana got mad and returned the white dress. She then went out and bought a red one, and that's what she was married in. As far as I know he made no further comments on her dress.

Over the years many family members lived with my grandparents. Nana's sister, Marie, who had married Pop's brother Sherman, once showed up unannounced on Nana and Pop's doorstep. They had three children, two dogs, no jobs, and twenty cents to their names. The house they lived in was small - two bedrooms and one bath - yet they took their family in and fed them, clothed them, and kept them until they got back on their feet. This was a pattern that was repeated many times over the years with cousins, nephews, etc. It's not that they made a lot of money. Nana worked in the school cafeteria, and Pop worked in the boatyards refinishing and repairing yachts. They took in their family because they were happy to share what little they had.

Pop was a very quiet man, and was perfectly evened out by my outgoing, bubbly grandmother. Because he was so handy, Nana would constantly volunteer him to fix things for people. It was always "Thomas will fix it!" and then without a word he would gather his necessary tools and fix it. My dad told a story of their first house, and how it was pink. Nana hated that pink house, and would talk about it all the time. My father traveled a lot and just didn't have the time to paint it. So one Saturday, because Nana insisted, Pop showed up at my parent's house with brushes, a ladder, and gallons of white paint.

He started painting the house, and got to a part up at the top of the front of the house where he had to go to the top of the ladder. He had just opened a new gallon of paint and hiked it up to the top. Just a few minutes later he somehow dropped the paint can, and the whole gallon of paint splattered everywhere. All over the front porch, windows, grass, sidewalk. Then my dad said that Pop began to swear in a way that he had never heard before. You see, Pop was a perfectionist and painted all the time. To spill paint and make a mess just sent him over the edge. I never ever heard Pop drop the F bomb, but apparently he used it liberally that day.

Pop was totally and completely taken care of by Nana. He would sit down to dinner and not say a word or make a motion to take any food. Nana would say "Thomas, do you want some green beans?" And he'd say "Well, I suppose I'll have two or three." Which would be her clue to give him a nice serving. Then she'd say "How about potatoes?" and he'd reply "I'll just have a taste." Again, she'd scoop him out much more than a taste. And so it sent that way for years.

One of the most memorable stories that I heard Pop tell was a story of Pop and his brother Sherman. As kids they lived on a farm that did not have running water or a toilet. So there was an outhouse. One day Pop was in the outhouse and Sherman piled up wood in front of the door and locked him in. Pop had to crawl down the hole and out the exhaust port. Yeah, really super gross.

But Pop had the last laugh. When Sherman Sherman came out, in Pop's words, "I shit on his head." I don't know if that's as funny to people who don't know him, but if you knew him just hearing him say this was hilarious.

Anyhow, the funeral was as nice as a funeral could be. After the service we had a luncheon at the Severn Inn. This is the view off of the back deck of the Inn, looking across the Chesapeake Bay for a view of the Naval Academy.

I'll miss Pop. And because of Pop I will always love the ocean. It's one of the things I really miss by living in Cleveland. Craig said "We live on Lake Erie! "We can go to the beach if you want to."

It's not the same. The smell, the feel, it's just not the same. Now I have an excuse to visit Annapolis, since Pop, Nana, and Uncle Bill are buried there. Nana had always wanted to be cremated and buried with Pop. When she talked about it, she'd say "I want my urn to be put between his legs, because that's where the best part of him is." So that's just where she is.

I hope they're having fun.

Monday, July 14, 2008

2:12 pm

Pop passed away today at 2:12. My mom was there holding his hand, as was my father. They said he went peacefully and calmly.

Thanks for all of your well wishes. He was a great guy, and I'm proud to have called him my Pop.

And to my Nana - Mix up a Manhattan Ethlyn! He's coming to you!


I got a call from my dad on Saturday morning saying that my grandfather, Pop-pop to me, was in the hospital. He had been complaining about not wanting to eat, or being unable to swallow, for about a week. He had an appointment with the doctor on Friday to evaluate the situation and decide how to proceed. The doctor decided that he didn't want to scope Pop at this time because they'd have to sedate him, and since he's 94 they want to avoid that if possible. Pop was scheduled for a barium test next week, but took a turn for the worse Saturday at around 2 am.

It looked very grim on Saturday. He was non responsive in the hospital for most of the time that my parents were there. Pop has pneumonia and was very weak from not eating for days. My parents went home for dinner and the hospital called them an hour later, saying that Pop sat up and was asking for food. They went back over and were able to talk to him. He was trying to eat and wanted his glasses. Things were looking up.

Then I got a call Sunday evening saying that he was unresponsive again. He hadn't produced any urine in around 48 hours and his legs were swelling. It sounds like he's in renal failure. My dad said that he would thrash around a little, open his eyes, move his mouth, then settle back down and not move. It was pretty awful and my mother was having a hard time with it all. She's definitely daddy's little girl and is very upset to see her father suffer.

Pop has said that he does not want to be saved if things go downhill, and doesn't want to be resuscitated or hooked up to any machines. So they are giving him oxygen and are trying to give him his daily medications, but if he isn't responsive to take them or refuses they are not forcing them. My mother has power of attorney and will use that if she needs to.

Now I'm just waiting for "the call". It's just a coincidence that the girls and I are planning to fly to my parents house for a week on Wednesday. My sister is already out there with her two girls and we were all planning on having a great time for the week. We had hoped to visit with Pop, who my girls call Grandaddy, but I don't think I want them to see him in the hospital like that. Of course that's assuming that he lasts until we get there. The way it's sounding he's not going to make it much longer.

So I'm very sad today, because I'm about to lose my last living grandparent. I'm very lucky that I still have a grandparent alive at my age. Most people I know who are as old as I am have lost their grandparents years ago, if they ever knew them at all. I was very close to my mom's parents because we spent lots of time with them when we were kids. My mother says that Pop has a special place in his heart for me because I remind him of his mother. My great-grandmother was one of only two people in my family who had red hair (the other being a great-grandmother on my father's side) and I inherited that hair. And apparently the fiery attitude to match. I guess my great-grandmother Myrtle was quite a pistol, and Pop likes it that I'm like she was.

The fact that my kids have red hair is a bonus too. The last time we all saw Pop Lily spent a lot of time sitting next to him on the couch and bringing him stuffed animals so the two of them could play. He is and has always been a quiet man, so while he didn't say anything you could tell that he was just overjoyed to play with her. And when I started telling the girls that we were going to go see my parents (Nana and Pop-pop to them) one of them would always say "And Grandaddy too?"

I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to explain to them why we can't see Grandaddy. I'm also pretty certain that we'll be attending a funeral. Unless Pop rallies and comes back from this, which he has done before. He's a tough old guy. Maybe he'll pull through.

If you want the truth, I think he's ready to go see my Nana. I'm sure she misses him.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Day 7

Our last day included one last lesson, and I could tell that my pony was pooped the second I got on him. I'm sure he was thinking "Listen, lady. I'm seventeen. I haven't worked this hard in almost three years. I need a break, okay?!"

We started warming up the trot and my trainer was very happy with how he looked. She said he was much straighter and had better rhythm than the first day. She also said that not once did she see uneven strides like she did when he was hurt. My trainer's mother was there too, and she said "Your horse looks go good! He looks like the old Kaswyn again!"

We worked a bit on some trot serpentines, concentrating on keeping the speed and rhythm consistent. The we did some canter work and schooled the shoulder fore counter bending exercise. He has gotten quite good at that and after I do one or two bends he really is able to come over and through his back, especially just behind the saddle. It's very nice!

After a short walk break we schooled the canter half pass. I wish I had asked her to video me, but I didn't think about it. Regardless, the half passes were fairly good, even if my horse was beginning to fade a little. To get him a bit excited my trainer asked for some flying changes. We did two lines of changes every four strides, then schooled more half pass. Then she asked for two lines of changes every three strides, and we got into a bit of trouble here.

Kaswyn has a tendency to to change overly fast from right lead to left lead, and slow from left lead to right lead. There are a few reasons for this, the main one that I feel is that he gets too complacent about my left leg and ignores it a little when I ask for the change. Also I know that my left leg is not as effective or strong as my right, nor does it stay where it needs to be all the time. So when asking for the changes every three strides the changes come more quickly and he just wasn't ready for me to ask for it. Like always, my horse thinks too much and was thinking change every fourth stride when it was really going to be every third. Lastly I know that he gets his weight and my weight so far over his left side that it's hard for him to get off the left shoulder and make the change to the right.

We worked through it though, and when I asked him to walk I could feel him saying oh thank God! We ended the lesson after thirty minutes, and I know he was happy. I would have liked to school some more, but he was tired and I knew he had enough for today.

It was time to pack my car, because my trainer was planning to take Kaswyn home the next morning on her way out of town for a show. I know he's going to be happy to be home, because he'll be back with his turnout buddies, spending all night outside on the grass and all day in his stall napping.

Before I drove home I made plans with my trainer to come back in six to eight weeks and do it all over again. I think we made so much progress! Thinking of what we could accomplish with weekly lessons makes me want to cry. But I didn't cry, even though I wanted to. I know I'll be back.

And if I have my way, we'll be showing next spring. Somehow we WILL get there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Yep. Still having problems moving air in and out of my lungs. Truth be told, the description of my last day at Boot Camp, as well as my last day at my trainer's farm, is not that exciting. But I want to finish it anyway so the series is complete.

But I'll have to finish it tomorrow.


No Boot Camp update right now. I had a huge asthma attack after I got home last night. I'll give details on that plus my last day and lesson at Boot Camp in my next post. Hopefully I can get that up tonight, or tomorrow at the latest.

Right now I'm at work and still struggling to breathe. Not so much so that I need to go to the hospital or anything, but just enough to make it annoying.

Anyhow, check back later!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Day 6

Today my plan was to work on connection and try to be more correct with my right hand/arm/shoulder. Since we have a lesson tomorrow I only wanted to ride for about twenty minutes. As I was warming up at the walk I asked my trainer how Kaswyn was in turnout today. She said they put him in a different place today and that he was much better. For the first five minutes he did run and scream, but she decided to let him work it out. He eventually settled down and ate some grass and was quiet for the rest of the time. So he's finally figured it out, with one day to go. Brilliant.

When I asked for the trot it was evident that I'd pulled an abdominal muscle. I didn't take any ibuprofen and right away it was hurting me. It's completely ridiculous. Never in my riding career have I pulled an abdominal. My abs have hurt before, and been sore after a lesson, but the discomfort has never held on for this long. Getting old sucks.

It really effected my riding because every time I tightened up to use my abs I got a stabbing pain, kind of like when you get a stitch on your side except this was up high and in the front of my body. It was really annoying and I had to keep stopping to take walk breaks.

I'm not sure if it was effecting Kaswyn, but he was pretty resistant to making and maintaining a good contact with my hand. I wasn't happy with the trot work, but it improved after we went to the canter. I ran through some shoulder in exercises and that helped a bit, but he still wasn't where I wanted him to be. I ended up doing a bunch of transitions from walk to trot to canter and back again, then I'd mix them up to keep him guessing. In the end I liked the canter and was satisfied with the trot work, so we stopped there.

Tomorrow is Kaswyn's last full day at the farm. We have a lesson in the evening, then Thursday morning he's headed back home. I'm going to have to take more vitamin I (ibuprofen) before my lesson. If I don't I'm pretty sure I won't make it through to the end!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Day 5

Today was lesson day, so I took 600 mg ibuprofen about an hour before my ride. I try not to take ibuprofen too often because if I take it regularly it starts to hurt my tummy. But once in awhile seems to be okay, and I really needed to be able to not only get through the lesson but be able to work to my full potential.

By the time I got to the barn my abs were feeling better. I tacked up and headed to the arena. It was hot, hot, hot today, but for the most part heat doesn't bother me. I'm not saying that I wasn't sweaty, because I was damp even before the real work started. However I deal with heat much better than I deal with cold. I seem to be able to cool off pretty effectively, but once I get cold in the winter it's really hard for me to warm up. So while I was hot I really wasn't miserable.

I started walking to warm up and asked how Kaswyn did on turnout. Again, even though he was right next to another horse, he was screaming. He did a little better today, but still had to come in early. Tomorrow they are putting him in a different turnout to see if he does any better. It's so frustrating that he has to be this way. But it's only for a few more days and then we'll be home, so he'll just have to deal.

We started today's lessons checking on the things we worked on the last lesson. Since I had done my homework my trainer was able to say almost immediately that Kaswyn was straighter today. She checked our rhythm and straightening exercises at the trot, then watched as we did the shoulder fore counter flexion exercise at the canter. She was really pleased at how much he had improved in just a few days, and I was happy that she could see the results.

The rest of this post is kind of technical boring dressage talk. There are some videos at the end, so if you want to skip the boring parts and just watch my horse I fully understand.

The main thing we seem to need work on is a better connection and more throughness over his back. I realize that this is a very common problem for many dressage riders, but I have to say that now, finally, at this point in my riding I'm able to feel the difference. And I really believe with all my heart that it's because of my saddle. I wish I had this saddle and level of feel ten years ago. I can't imagine how Kaswyn would be going now had I been able to ride correctly back then.

Anyway, now that I've started actually riding my horse and not treating him like he were a delicate snowflake, I can feel when he's not as connected to my hand as I'd like. He seems to want to break the connection more when going to the left at the trot. I don't notice it much at the canter. He is certainly more comfortable trotting to the right and that might be part of the reason that he's hesitant to connect, or just can't maintain it. I think as he gets stronger that it will be less of an issue, so we'll just keep working at it.

After the warm up and checking my homework, my trainer wanted to work on connection and getting the hind legs more active. We worked on shoulder in at the trot and she had me think passage with the hind legs. Below is a video of the shoulder in right. Kaswyn is stepping quite nicely with the hind legs and he looks pretty good.

Then we worked on the half pass at the trot. For non-dressage people, half pass is a movement where the horse is traveling both forwards and sideways. The body of the horse is kept in a straight line and the horse moves diagonally. The horse's body should be bent in the direction that he's going, so that his head is turned towards his path. The shoulders should be slightly in front of the haunches, which means that the horse should not lead with the rear end, but with the shoulders. Also, the haunches should not trail too far behind the shoulders and should be almost in line with them.

Here is half pass left, which also turned out pretty decent.

Here are two videos of half pass right. They are taken from different angles, and the first one looks fairly good.

In this second one you can see my hands and yikes! What am I doing with my right hand? It's all curled and I'm carrying my right shoulder high and tight. My trainer mentioned it early in the lesson and now I see how bad it is even though I tried to concentrate on relaxing it and letting it fall down from my neck. You can also see me lose the connection and Kaswyn get uneven right before I cluck to him. This is why I love to video a lesson! I need to see these issues so that I can have a mental picture of what I need to work on when I'm alone.

We then worked on the half pass zig zag. A zig zag is when you half pass one way, then change the bend and half pass the other direction. Our big challenge with this movement is to keep the connection during and after the change of bend. Also sometimes Kaswyn will let the haunches trail and just as I'm fixing it it's time to change directions.

Here is out first zig zag. He loses impulsion a bit right before the end when returning to the wall, but all in all it's not terrible. Just average.

Zig zag #2 is not as good. He loses connection after the change and then loses impulsion to boot. And you can see my right hand acting dumb again. Yuck.

Now for the worst one. Our last zig zag is a mess pretty much from start to finish. He is not connected at all during the whole movement, except right after I say "Good boy." I had to cluck to him and say "Come! Come!" towards the end because he was really dying on me and wasn't using himself at all. If you care to compare it to the first zig zag, you'll see that in the first one he is stepping nicely under his body with his hind legs, and has a nice bounce and suspension. This last one shows his rear legs out behind instead of reaching under the body. He's also flat behind and not pushing off the ground like he should be, and is even dragging his toes a bit. Certainly not our best effort.

I have tomorrow to work on my own, and then it's another lesson on Wednesday. I'm going to get serious about this right shoulder/arm/hand thing. It's just incorrect and it's got to stop! I'm sure it's effecting my horse. Also we are going to continue to work on connection and rhythm.

Now I'm tired, and I'm going to bed!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Days 3 and 4

I've been a bit busy this weekend so I'm just getting a chance to write about Saturday's ride. It wasn't much different than Friday's ride. We worked on the same exercises from our lesson on Thursday, and Kaswyn felt really very good. I decided to see what his half passes felt like so I did two lines each direction of trot and canter half pass. The first line I did was just a short diagonal (corner to centerline) and the second was a full diagonal. He really felt good and doing the half passes made Kaswyn really jazzed. I think the upper level movements get him really energized because he loves to show off!

The turnout situation is exactly what I thought it would be. Both Saturday morning and Sunday morning all Kaswyn did was run and scream, even though there were horses clearly in his sight about 20 feet from him. He's just such a boob and can't be turned out alone. They are going to try him with another horse tomorrow and hopefully that will go better.

Today I was really really sore. My hips and back were all tight and my abs were killing me. I'm not used to riding this many days in a row, and with such intensity. I decided that Kaswyn probably felt the same way so today all we did was walk around the farm for a good 20 minutes. Afterwards my hips and back felt much better, but my abs were still sore. We have our second lesson tomorrow. I'll be sure to load up on ibuprofen beforehand!

Since it was a beautiful day I took a bunch of photos of the farm to share.

Here is Kaswyn looking out of his stall.

This is the barn aisle.

The barn from the front.

The barn from the side.

The wash rack.

The huge tack room.

The beautiful and spacious tack lockers.

One of the all weather paddocks. This one has a run-in shed with stalls built on the inside. Kaswyn may live in one of these stalls for future Boot Camps if all the stalls in the main barn are filled.

Another all weather paddock with run-in shed.

The outside of the indoor arena.

The inside of the indoor arena.

The front grass pasture

The back grass pasture

The side grass pasture. There's even another huge grass pasture that I didn't get a photo of.

Future site of the outdoor arena. The area has drain tile laid already and has been leveled off. All it needs is footing and borders of some type and it will be finished. It's okay to ride on so I walked him around there today. It's really nice.

So as you can see, the farm is beautiful. It's going to be really hard to leave.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Day 2

When I got out ot the barn today and started grooming Kaswyn, I saw the gal who works at the barn and I asked her if he did well with turnout that morning. She shook her head and said that he was only out long enough for her to clean his stall because all he did was run and scream. He was alone in his paddock but was next to another horse. I was afraid of that. I spoke with my trainer and she said she would put him in a different paddock tomorrow, and that she hoped that he'd settle down by then. I've been through this before with him so I have my doubts. He's just a bit of an ass if there is not another horse in the paddock with him. If he doesn't settle down they'll try him with another horse and see if it's any better.

I tacked up and went to the arena. I realized as soon as I started out that for the past two years or so I've been riding my horse like he was hurt, and for part of the time that's been true. I've been very easy on him and not insisting that he make a good connection, or that he comes through to the degree that he needs to. My fear that I'll hurt him or make his injury worse has resulted in my riding being wimpy and ineffective, and his resulting work is sub par. Since it appears that he's all healed up, it's time to stop riding him like he's made out of glass.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to suddenly be brutal and hard on him. What I'm going to do is just return to the kind of riding that I used to do. I need to insist that he makes a good connection with the bit and my hand. He must always come through his back, and I must be able to work through any resistance to maximize his energy into quality gaits.

This was the overall theme of my ride today. I decided that I'd run through all the exercises we did yeaterday in the lesson, but I'd just do short workouts of them. I didn't want to ride him for more than twenty minutes after a hard workout the day before. The plan was to get him working in a comperable frame, connection, and rhythm, using the exercises to get us there.

Amazingly, once I started riding like I used to, it all came easy! I had forgotten to mention that we did serpentines yesterday to work on maintining the rhythm with the changes in bend, and when we tried that today it went very well. The canter exercise was the most eye opening, because it was so obvious that as soon as I changed the counter flexion to true flexion I could feel him come through his back under my outside seatbone.

It's so wonderful to feel like we made such progress in such a short amount of time. We still have five days and two lessons left. I'm anticipating more progress every day!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Day 1

Today was my first of three lessons at boot camp. I was going to take some pictures of the barn and the arena but the weather was gray and depressing and the photos would not have come out very well. I'll be there for a week so I hope to have a nice day to get some good images.

Kaswyn didn't get turned out this morning because of my lesson, and because they aren't sure where to put him for turnout if he's only going to be there for a week. They don't want to mess with the turnout groups as they are, so the plan is to probably turn him out alone but next to someone. Hopefully that will work out. Sometimes he can be a bit of a boob if he's alone, and will run and scream even if he's next to someone. I guess we'll just have to see.

I brought Kaswyn into the arena and he seemed very at ease. We started our lesson by discussing what I've been doing and what I've been feeling. Besides just trying to get him in a decent working frame, I have mostly been trying to keep Kaswyn slow as he trots, especially in the beginning. He has a tendency to get rushed and have too quick of a tempo. My trainer had me start at the walk doing shoulder in so I could straighten him out a little bit because he was crooked in the right hind.

Then we started working on the trot and Kaswyn decided that this was all very exciting. He started getting a little quick and was so busy in the mouth that it was hard to make a good connection. He was jiggling the bit around so much I felt like I was on a young horse. My trainer was more accepting of his shenanigans than I was, saying that because of the rain on the roof, one horse being verbal in a nearby turnout, and her husband working on changing a tire on her horse trailer that she understood his excitement. When he settled down a bit and we were able to get a little consistent trot work in, she told me that I need to work on the rhythm as well as the tempo.

For those who are wondering, the tempo is how fast the horse takes strides. With Kaswyn I've usually needed to slow the tempo because he gets excited and wants to go quick with short little strides instead of big slow strides. The rhythm is how regular the strides are in relation to one another. The more evenly spaced they are, the better and more consistent the rhythm is. In the poor footing Kaswyn has been forced to take some short quick strides and also some slower ones as he's going from hard to deep soft footing. I've been letting him just figure his way around the footing because I've been afraid to force him into a set rhythm.

This has created a problem with his rhythm. We worked on getting the rhythm more consistent, and in the end the trot started to feel really nice. She also wanted me to take a more firm connection and get Kaswyn to work more strongly over his back, so we worked on trot/walk/trot transitions. At the end of the trot work I was really pleased with our progress.

Then it was on to the canter work. She liked the tempo and rhythm of the canter, as well as the jump. He seemed to be able to concentrate a bit more now and he was feeling really good. We needed to work on straightness in the canter, so my trainer had me do this exercise that took me a bit to figure out how to execute.

She had me start by putting Kaswyn in shoulder fore position at the canter. This is like a shoulder in but with less angle and bend. I was only supposed to displace the shoulders slightly to the inside. Then, with him in shoulder fore, I was supposed to counter flex him at the poll only. This would serve three purposes. One, to straighten him by controlling the inside hind leg. Two, to load weight on the inside hind to work and strengthen it. Three, the counter flexion of the neck, while maintaining the body position of the shoulder fore, would stretch the inside muscles from his hip to his poll.

The hardest part of this exercise was keeping the body position while counter flexing him. Here is what I figured out that I had to do to make this work. To ask for the shoulder fore, I turned my shoulders and hands slightly to the inside as I would do if I was asking Kaswyn to turn off of the rail. At the same time my inside leg came on at the girth to keep him going straight. I sat very firmly on my inside seat bone, while driving straight forward with my outside seat bone. My weight was slightly to the outside. Then to ask for counter flexion I would move the neck slightly so his body was facing the inside of the arena but his head was looking at the rail.

It was a really tough exercise, but not too taxing on him physically because we didn't ask Kaswyn to hold the counter flexion for more than a few strides. The shoulder fore wasn't the hard part - it was keeping the shoulder fore and then asking for the counter flexion without losing the body position. One time I asked for the counter flexion and I let my inside leg get too far back and I lost the haunches to the outside. Kaswyn obediently did a very nice flying change, because that was effectively what I was telling him to do. We walked, I gave him a pat, and started over. Eventually we were able to execute the exercise correctly a few times each direction.

We ended the lesson there since we had been working for about forty minutes. I was super pleased with my horse. I can't remember the last lesson we had, it's been so long. Today he was sound, excited, and had plenty of energy. He was also obedient and eager to please. Kaswyn felt like the horse I knew a few years ago. I'm completely stoked.

I don't have the whole lesson on video because my trainer and I were the only ones there, but she was able to take two short videos of the trot work.

Trot Right

We took this video after the lesson was over and we had been talking for a few minutes. Kaswyn got all excited when I put him together again and asked for the trot. As a result he was fussing with his mouth. The connection was not as good as I'd like it to be but we got a couple of nice strides that show me that he's sound.

Trot Left

Then I turned him around and did some trot to the left. He settled down and I think we got a very nice connection. I was happy with his impulsion and rhythm too. I see my left hand moving more than I'd like, which is a bad habit that I kicked years ago but it looks like it's resurfaced. That's what happens when I don't get regular lessons. Bummer.

So it was a superb lesson, and my horse is awesome. I think he's ready to go back to work. I'm ready to as well. One thing I know for sure though - my abs are going to be killing me tomorrow!!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Boot Camp Session One - Arrival

Today is the day that Kaswyn was scheduled to head over to my trainer's new barn for a week long intensive training session. I hurried to the barn after work and packed all of my equipment. I tried to only take what I thought I needed, but it was still a lot of stuff. Saddle, girth, pads, polos, etc,. I know he's only going for a week but I didn't want to leave anything behind.

I had some extra time after I finished making up grain, loading my truck, and taking hay out to the driveway, so I decided to clip Kaswyn and wash his tail. Everything was going along just fine, until I brought out the shipping boots, which was purposely the last thing I did. When I started putting them on him he got totally antsy as I knew he would. He started pawing and dancing in the crossties, anxious to go someplace. Like I've said before, my horse loves to go places. Not only that but he's really impatient about it. He doesn't care where he's going, he just wants to get there, now!

We walked outside and waited for our ride in the driveway. He tried to graze a little bit but he couldn't even stay focused on the grass. As soon as the truck and trailer pulled into the drive he yanked his head up and watched intently. There was already another horse on the trailer so both the other horse and Kaswyn had to have a little chat as we opened the trailer.

When the doors were open and the ramp down I did what I usually do with Kaswyn to put him on a trailer - I threw the leadline over his neck, pointed him at the trailer, and said "Okay, get in." He surprised me by not just loading immediately on the trailer, but instead trotting up the ramp and into the open slot. He just cracks me up.

It was a short trip over to the new barn and I got Kaswyn unloaded and into his new stall. He was completely nonplussed, and didn't seem the least bit upset or nervous. He got some hay and started munching happily, and was very quiet as I unloaded the rest of my junk. Then I tacked him up and we went for a quick ride in the arena.

My plan is to ride very day that I'm there, even if it's only for ten minutes. I don't want to ride him into the ground every day, but I want to maximize my time in the saddle while I can. Since we are having a lesson tomorrow, I decided to ride for just fifteen minutes. A warm up, really, just to see how he felt in the arena in nice footing.

When we walked into the arena he was looking around but wasn't nervous at all. I got on and we walked around the ring a few times. Again, he was unphased. How I love my horse! He's awesome. No spooking, no nonsense, he just went to work as asked.

We did trot and canter work and I have to say that he felt really good. He felt a little stiff in the neck, but his strides felt very even. Stiff I can deal with, no problem. It's those uneven strides and funky canter that makes my heart sink. But I didn't fell any of that.

After our ride we walked down the driveway, then went back to the barn for a quick rinse. Again, my horse just walked right in to the strange washrack with no funny business. When I hear people talk about crazy arabs I want them to spend time with Kaswyn. Yeah, okay, I might be biased but the proof is in his actions.

Overall it was a great arrival day. When I left everything was put away and Kaswyn looked very content and relaxed. I hope he gets some rest tonight because I see lightening and hear thunder rolling in as I type this. We have our first lesson tomorrow and I don't need a pooped pony!

Poked and prodded

Today Kaswyn will get picked up for his week long Boot Camp. I thought he was going to go Thursday but my trailer ride changed plans and it's going to be today. Yay! However, something has happened that is totally out of character for me. I'm completely unprepared. I don't have my stuff packed, I still have grain containers to make, and I didn't clip him. I'm trying to be calm about it, because I know I can get it all done before they roll in with the trailer, but I'm usually ready the day before.

I would have had everything done already, but yesterday the massotherapist came out to evaluate Kaswyn. We talked about his issues and then she watched him walk and trot on the lunge line. Then she did a bit of exploratory poking and prodding. The good news is that he doesn't have one sore spot in his back, and in the past he's always had at least one slightly sore spot. So the saddle was worth it. Yippie!

The bad news is that Kaswyn is sore in some very weird places. The said that it's very odd where he is sore, and judging from the places that he reacts to she's getting the idea that he's holding his shoulders and chest in and down. She said he should be trotting with his chest elevated and open to give his shoulders maximum range. She thinks this is probably due to him trying to protect himself, and that he's probably been going that way for a while. Now that it's a habit she said it will be hard to break, but she gave me some stretches to help him to not be so tight in the chest and shoulder.

He also is less developed in his inside right hind than he should be. Looking at his leg, just above the hock, from the back, she said the muscle on both sides should be about the same. However, he's much less developed on the inside than the outside. The left hind looks fine. Since it's common for opposite legs to have issues, I really am not surprised that she saw something in the right hind. she says that he's not traveling quite straight with that leg either, that he's bringing it too far towards his midline when he's trotting.

The muscle on the inside right hind is not only under-developed, but it's hard as a rock. It was so tight at first that she wasn't able to get her fingers in where they needed to be to be able to release it. She had to work on his outer hip a little, which wasn't very sore at all, and have him step away from her a few times. Then she had me walk up the arena and back, then trot up and back. Only then was she was able to get to the muscle where she wanted.

Her suggestion for an exercise for that muscle is doing a shoulder in left at the slowest walk possible. She said to start very slow and be sure that he's moving that leg straight and not towards the midline. If we go too fast it will just defeat the purpose. Eventually when he gets built up we'll be able to work more of the shoulder in at the trot, but right now he probably won't be able to do it properly.

Yesterday was really just an evaluation, but she thinks she can help get him where he needs to be. She said we should do the next session with me riding him first so that she can see what he's doing when i don't like the way he feels. I asked her about the swelling in the left front and she said that he might always carry a bit of swelling there, but if it goes down with work (which it always does) that it's not an issue. She said that since there are no muscles down there that she can't really do any work in the area, but that the tendons and ligaments in the leg feel good to her. She didn't think he's significantly stiffer in the left front pastern than the right, but also thought he might be guarding it. Solving the shoulder issue might resolve that. Another factor about the left front is the fact that he's been nerved, and might always step on that foot differently now. She didn't really see that it effected the trot, just a bit at the walk.

So my horse isn't too out of whack, and isn't very sore. He just has some odd issues that we can work on. And he looked really sound on the lunge line. A very good thing.

On to the arena. *sigh* I'm trying to be patient, but Mr. K stood me up on Monday. No word from him yesterday. Last time I talked to him he seemed a little annoyed that I keep calling him. However, at the end of each conversation he says "Call me at this time.." so I call him. Sometimes he doesn't answer. I'm just so damn frustrated. I could really work in that ring if the footing were just fixed. If he could do it while Kaswyn was at my trainers that would be fantastic. However, I'm starting to feel uncomfortable calling him.

My plan is to stop by his farm tomorrow and see what he has to say. After a week in an arena with perfect footing it will suck rocks to go back to such an uneven place to ride. Two more things are on my mind too. First, I'm investing a week of time and money to get some intensive training done. If I can't ride after that it won't be very helpful. Second, I'm still scared to death that Kaswyn will hurt himself in that area if I'm not careful. I can tell at times that he struggles or takes missteps.

So I'll keep working on trying to fix the footing while we're at Boot Camp. It's just got to get done. If I had the equipment I'd have done it myself by now!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr