Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do you strap one on?

This email from Lyndsey White (co-founder riders4helmets - just came through on the horse bloggers email list.

"A special video presentation by US Olympian Courtney King Dye who suffered a traumatic brain injury in March 2010 opened the 2nd Riders4Helmets Helmet Safety Symposium on July 23rd. The video was posted just 48 hrs ago and has already been viewed nearly 7000 times. To view the video please visit To view reports of the symposium visit ALL video presentations from the symposium will shortly be posted on theriders4helmets youtube channel at PLEASE can you help to get this video of Courtney circulated, it may just save some lives if people make the choice to wear a helmet."

I didn't used to, but years ago I decided that I would always wear a helmet when I ride. If you don't wear a helmet, check out the video. I hope it changes your mind.

Every ride, every time.

Crooked to the left, crooked to the right

Sometimes it's just really hard to make any progress.

It seems like it's always something. Either Kaswyn is having an issue or I am. Recently it has been me. Two weeks ago I got really sick and spent three solid days in bed. Then a few days ago I had a really severe asthma attack and had to stay indoors and away from dust and mold for three days while my meds reduced the inflammation in my lungs. It's frustrating.

Kaswyn has been doing pretty well despite my absences. Our big issue right now is with straightness. I know that can be an issue for any horse, but I think his shoulder problem is so tied to his tendency to be crooked that we really need to fix it. It's just hard because when he is straight he feels crooked to me.

So I really have to ride with someone around to tell me if he's straight. I try riding off the rail and concentrate on keeping him straight between my legs, but he can get profoundly crooked in one stride and some times I just don't feel it. We don't have mirrors (oh, how I wish we had mirrors!) so without someone there to tell me "his haunches are off to the right" I can really miss his crookedness.

And he's such a wiggly worm that if I try and straighten him he often over-corrects and swings his butt way far the other way. Then I try to correct that and before you know it we're fishtailing down the arena.

The good news is that the area on his pastern from the surgery seems almost completely normal. He has a slight bump there, but it's not super sensitive like it was before. I can brush it and rub it and he doesn't seem to mind most of the time. Occasionally, if he hasn't been out of his stall yet that day, he'll be a little reactive to me touching it, but nothing like before. So that makes me feel better.

His attitude seems really good right now too. He's grabbing his halter and being cheeky when I groom him or walk him, and is very ready to work. He doesn't have as much energy as I'd like, but it's been really hot and humid so maybe that's playing a part. We don't work that long, so maybe I need to start increasing the length of our workouts to bump up his stamina. I don't want to work him harder and make him sore though, so I'll be careful. He's starting to get some nice muscling along his back. Overall he looks pretty good for twenty years old!

I am getting to ride other horses too, which is always fun. I'm not riding Lee anymore (which sucks cause he was so much fun - he is still for sale though) but I get rides every now and then on other horses that are coming in for conditioning or sale. Every new horse I sit on only helps to improve my riding, and I'm all for that.

I'm hoping to get a lesson on Kaswyn with my trainer when her summer show schedule winds down a little. I'd love to hear what she thinks of how he's going right now. Hopefully it will be good news!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cute boy

So it's not news that's it's been hot around most of the country recently, and our neck of the woods was no exception. For the past two days I didn't ride Kaswyn because, well, he's no spring chicken anymore and I figured we could wait until it got less obnoxious heat-wise. No sense in pushing it and making him feel icky.

I still went out to visit him, walk him, and give him a cool shower. Today when I was hand walking him I decided to reach over and scratch his itchy spot on his withers while we walked. Kaswyn had other ideas.

The second he figured out what I was doing he planted his feet and nickered at me in the most adorable way possible, and then proceeded to make that "I'm in heaven" face he gets when I scratch that spot. For a second I thought that maybe he just nickered at another horse or something, so I scratched him for a few minutes and then we walked some more. Then I went to scratch him and he did it again - stop, nicker, and make faces.


I know, it's probably just me, but I was just so touched that my horse was talking to me, and not just when he saw me coming towards his stall (which could always mean food, so having a nicker or whinny handy is always helpful). It's like he wanted to say thanks for scratching me there, cause you know I love it.

Well, thank YOU buddy. You deserve all those scratches, and more.

Monday, July 18, 2011


So I haven't done an update on Kaswyn in awhile, mostly because I'm afraid to put this down in print, or even utter the words.

He's been sound.

I've been working really hard, but very slowly with the biomechanics stuff, and had been riding him in a bareback pad for a few months. This was because I just wasn't getting the feel of when he was straight or crooked, or when he threw his shoulder or haunches this way or that way when I was riding in a saddle. So I went to the bareback pad and really concentrated on his body and how it was moving.

Our rides consisted of lots of walk work to begin with. Slow walking steps, as in - he'd take a step and then there was a pause before he put the next foot down. This pause caused both of us to slow down and really pay attention to what was happening. With that slow tempo it was easy for me to feel a shift in his body if he was going to get crooked, and then I could correct it before he stepped.

In that slow walk, we made squares, and when turning the corner I'd ask him to bring the inside shoulder over to the inside, and move the haunches to the outside while keeping his body straight to make the square corner. Not that he's going to do that when we make a round turn in dressage though. It's all about control, and what I needed to learn and then teach him to do was slow down and move his body when and how I wanted it to go, instead of flinging himself all over the place and overreacting to my leg or seat. Kaswyn's very sensitive and wiggly, and he can get crooked in a half a stride. It can be maddening!

Also in the slow work I concentrated on having him lift his back into each stride. This is hard work, even at a slow walk, but he needed to lift into each stride and not hollow his back. This required a lot of leg but a light seat, and more than once I got a piaffe out of him because he was just not getting it. The few piaffe steps accomplished what I needed, because he lifted his back, so then I would tell him to walk and then try and keep the back up there. It doesn't sound like hard work, but it really is.

When I had that going pretty well, I added the trot. The hardest thing was convincing him that he could actually trot off from that slow, lifted back walk, and lift into a straight trot without needing to contract his back or get crooked. Now, it was a slow trot, not collected, but slow, and he needed to do all the same things at the slow trot that I had asked him at the walk. Control the body, slow the thinking, keep the back up. Even harder work than the walk. It was very low impact on his legs and joints because I wasn't asking for collection, but lots of work for his back.

Incidentally, his back has not been sore at all, and I can tell from our shoulder stretches that his left shoulder is much looser than it was before I started all of this. Oh, and I'm not just coming up with this stuff on my own, although I wish I had been smart enough to think of it. The biomechanics lady has been my guide through the whole thing, plus the chiropractor who identified some physical issues in Kaswyn. Without them I could never have done this.

When I thoguht the trot was ok (but not perfect yet, I knew that) I moved on to the canter, which was even harder than the trot. I've been working a few weeks of this on my own and I really need a session with my biomechanical lady. I hope that happens tomorrow.

Anyhow, last week I put the saddle back on him and after we did our walk and trot work I asked him for a normal working trot. He hesitated, and hung back a bit, being unsure if that is what I really wanted. But then he went on and did it. And it felt pretty good. I asked two trainers who happened to be there that day what they thought. They both said he was even strided, but was throwing his haunches right.

Well, damn. It's not perfect yet, but I know it's getting better. We'll keep working on it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Flip Camera winner!

The winner of the Purina Flip camera (chosen by random drawing) is OnTheBit! Please send me your mailing address at so I can ship you your camera! I hope you have lots of fun with it.

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. Now I have a whole list of blogs to check out!

Updates on Kaswyn will be coming...when I get the time to sit down and write! Summer is always crazy!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr