Friday, November 30, 2007

Just A Little Lunging

Slow on the Uptake

Me, that is, in getting out of school. For some reason I didn't leave until 45 minutes later than I could have.

Which meant it was getting dark by the time I got home.

So, I set up one more trotting pole (cavaletti) in my line to make four and then added a small, about one foot jump along the fence line.

Tucker seemed really interested in working, so I took his sheet off and draped it over the jump to make it more interesting. Now, Tucker watched the draping, but that didn't make him any less ready to do silly spooks every time we circled past the obstacle. Toby and Chance, on the outside were being silly about it as well, so I suppose they encouraged Tucker. However, when I led Tuck to the jump, it only took a second for him to walk over it as quietly as pie--such a good boy.

I gave him a good lunge session with a good number of trips over the four cavaletti and the jump. As last night, he was nice and forward with a good, strong looking stride, and a very positive attitude. He was very quiet about the jump and, even though he played a bit about not going over the poles every time I sent him to them, I think he really had a good time and a good little workout.

I lunged Toby next and he too was lovely and quiet, especially over the little jump. This was good because he often gets revved up when jumping and starts to gallop and buck. Tonight, he was calm and responsive, continuing his winning streak of being the master of ground work.

Chance seemed to hanging around for some attention of his own, so I took him out last. The poles were set for Tucker and Toby, each nearly a hand taller than Chance, but the kid did just fine. As long as he kept striding forward with some energy, he was able to make the distance. His stride must be potentially longer than it looks because when he hit the right distance to the first pole, he had no trouble reaching all four. I took him over the little jump too, but it's pretty clear is didn't have much of a clue as to how to time that. Were I going to do some fence schooling with him, I'd have to set up trot poles before the fence so they would dictate his striding and he could learn to find the best spot to jump from.

All and all, it was a nice set of lunging sessions. I am really pleased to see how well Tucker seems to be moving, so I am wondering if perhapd his stifles or sacroilliac might not have been a little sore before the stifle issue flared up. Right now, he looks super.

And I am impressed with Chance. Looks like he as some potential to be a bigger mover than I thought.

And Toby? I am endlessly pleased to see how well he goes. He was the first horse I trained from the very beginning, and it looks as if I didn't do a half bad job. *G*

Thursday, November 29, 2007

News Of All Sorts

A Really Mixed Bag

I rode Tucker tonight and he was very forward and enthusiastic. We trotted for about 20 minutes, repeatedly going over the cavaletti and he never once even thought of backing off.

Even though he laid his ears back a little at the canter departs, it certainly was not exactly resistance, but more of a "commentary" since he cantered easily off on both leads. This was a huge improvement over last week, before his second acupuncture/chiropractic treatment. I would say he feels almost as good as he did before the Axel Steiner clinic, so that is a good sign he is nearly recovered.

When I stopped to take a break after the 20 minute trot, Tucker headed for the gate to the woods and stood there, kind of "leaning" towards the trail. When I tried to turn him away, had a a very mini tantrum, making it quite clear he wanted to go OUT for a hack. I finally convinced him to move to the center of the ring where I dismounted, tied his reins up and told him to wait for me while I went back into the barn to get my neon orange jacket--an essential for riding during hunting season. When I came back out, he was waiting for me. I remounted, trotted him over the cavaletti four times on each hand, and then headed out to the woods.

Tuck strode out in a bouncy, happy, forward walk and we had a perfectly lovely ride along his "safe" trail. It was great!

Then, I rigged up Chance in the long lines the way Gabriel had used them on Tucker just to see if it made any difference. While I do think it encouraged Chance to use his hind end a little better, he was very inconsistant and somewhat resistant in accepting the rein contact. I am not sure if it was the configuration of the lines through the lower rings, or my not to certain understanding of exactly how to create exactly the right response from him. Overall, it was a good session, but I'll have to do it a bit more to see if it will help him or hinder his progress.

I long lined Toby next, with the lines set up as I normally use them. What more can I say? He was practically perfect in every way.

Now to the other half of the mixed bag.

My friend Stacie has a lovely 8 year old warmblood cross, Lucky, she has owned and trained since he was a yearling. He has been very successful at the lower levels of dressage and has the potential to move on up. Stacie has been taking clinics and lessons to move up and things were going really well.

Then, a bit over a month ago, at a Patrice clinic, Lucky suddenly went dead lame. Since then, Stacie has numerous vets examine him, take xrays, prescribe treatments, inject him, etc. and nothing has brought him sound.

Finally, this week she took him to New Bolton, The University of Pennsylvania for a bone scan.
Well, as it has turned out, Lucky has a portion of dead bone on his front cannon, near the fetlock joint. The theory is that at some point he seriously bruised his bone there and the injury eventually killed the healthy bone. I did just get an email from her telling me that the necrotic tissue is only about the size of a dime, so it's not very big yet.

The only course of treatment is surgery to remove the dead bone and then a long layup until, hopefully, the damaged bone heals and grows anew.

Lucky is going to have his surgery tomorrow (Friday) so all good vibes are appreciated.

Stacie hopes to trailer him out of Pennsylvania on Saturday and set him up at the New Jersey Equine Center where he can be cared for while she takes a seminar in saddle fitting she had planned weeks ago.

I told her I'd try to visit Lucky at the Center at least once while she is away. In the meantime, I am saying a few prayers to help him along through the surgery and then, of course, to a speedy recovery. Hopefully, he can come back to being sound so he and Stacie can continue their dressage career together.

He's a sweetie pie, and Stacie is a very special person. I wish them both well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Super Evening!

Line Up For Success

Tucker really had a great lesson last night!

Gabriel is a super trainer on the long lines for a start. Now, to all interested, he uses the lines on the lower rings and does bring the outside line behind the horse’s croup. He has a specific purpose for this as he uses that line to both help engage the hind end by pushing it along and also to bring the hind end in to encourage the horse to step forward more with his inside hind leg.

According to Gabriel, most horses are usually a “little slow” with the inside hind as it is the leg to take more of the horse’s weight when he engages. So, bringing the haunches to the inside encourages that leg to step under more quickly, and while at first the horse steps a bit laterally—like a haunches-in—eventually, he can be straightened with the leg stepping more under.

This gets a big tricky to explain. The outside rein also acts to control the outside shoulder, again, at first, with the horse in a counter bend on the circle. Keeping the outside shoulder from falling out keeps the horse from evading by letting the hind end’s energy “escape” to the outside. If you have ever tried to turn a horse that does not want to turn by just using the reins, you can perhaps understand the concept. When the horse’s head bends in the direction you want to go, if there is nothing to hold his shoulder and body from going in the opposite direction, he will go where he wants to go with his head bent where you want him to go. Using counterbend with the long lines keeps the horse from using that against you when you ask him to engage.

Now, a quick word about why I am not keen about using the lines behind the croup. At one point, Tucker bucked up, and sure enough, ended up with the line between his hind legs. Gabriel, who is very quick on his feet, unlike me, dropped the line and managed to maneuver Tucker out of trouble. He had a lucky break when Tucker somehow stepped out of the potential tangle, but still, it did happen. It was the only incident, but it’s the kind of thing that always worries me whenever lines are too near a horse’s legs.

Because he can run, Gabriel was also able to work Tucker on some straight lines, some serpentines, and some slight lateral work at the trot from behind. He was really pleased at how Tucker was taking the contact and more and more working from behind.

Both of us marveled a bit at how cooperative, attentive, and responsive Tucker was. He only got upset a few times and that seemed to be mostly because he just didn’t understand what he was supposed to do. I could see him trying to figure out every moment of the session and he completely focused on Gabriel the whole time. By the end, as he was standing, he had his hind end under himself as if it was just the most natural and comfortable way to stand square.

Gabriel was very complimentary both of his attitude and of his ability. “He really can do it!” he said, going on to suggest that Tucker is perfectly capable of the upper level work. As Gabriel had just spent some time teaching another horse to piaffe on the lines, and in working with Cindy Ishoy and her husband Neil, has gained a lot of good insight into longlining skills.

Tucker is, of course, no stranger to the lines, as I trained him on them before he was ridden. Still, for him to work in a new way with someone else working him was delightful to see. I can only do about half the exercises Gabriel did with him as I cannot physically run with my bad knees. Still, I can do some of the circling work and intend to add it to my training repertoire, such as it is.

Another interesting discussion after the lesson involve just how “high” the horse should be when working the piaffe and other in hand exercises. Apparently, Neil want his horses to be round and low as he begins to ask for the half steps. This, of course, brought up the evil word “rolkur” as we talked about how “deep” the horses needed to be. Gabriel said Neil seems to want the horses to reach to their knees, and said you can visibly see the horse’s back and entire frame round in the exercise. He said the rolkur he has seen seems to close the horse’s neck to its chest.

To my mind, by asking the horse to stretch “down and round” the neck is lengthened instead of shortened and does encourage the horse to lift his back accordingly. Rolkur tends to overflex the neck into the chest, and may well make the horse surrender to the bit, but it does not necessarily engage and lift the back.

I won’t get into the whole debate here. I do know every horse I have ever taught to stretch down and round loves it and chooses that as a way of relaxing after a workout.

Tucker seemed quite pleased with himself after the lesson. His eyes were soft, content, and decidedly friendly. I am hoping that part of that was that his back—stifle and sacroiliac—are finally feeling better.

I guess I’ll find that out when I next ride him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back On

Now On to My Lesson

Quick update. Scott was here and put a new shoe on Tucker this morning.

Tuck spent the day in his little run-in shed pen. I will be taking my lesson at 9 PM tonight at the indoor about 20 minutes drive from here.

Will report back when I get home, unless I am too tired, or tomorrow. We are going to do a long lining session.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Don't Want to Talk About It

The "Shoeless Wonder" Strikes Again

Despite all my efforts at limited turnout, Tucker managed to pull his shoe again.

I turned him out for the night after the ground was frozen, but somehow, somewhere, he lost his shoe. I had put him out in the ring and pasture--both nice and dry with good footing during the day, so I suppose I should have left him in for the night, but I always worry that his water will freeze and the outside tub has a heater in it.

So, he may have lost the shoe during the day....but who knows. I spent over and hour scouring the property for it to no avail.

Thus, Sunday was spent on the hunt for some kind of boot he could wear. There is a new brand called the Simple Boot in my tack store, so I bought a pair in what I thought was the right size. I took them home, tried them on Tucker and found them to be too big. Off I went, back to the closer store (Rick's Saddle Shop has 2 NJ locations) to trade them in. Fortunately the next size seemed to fit so I turned Tucker out for a frolic.

He was bounding about like a kid, romping in the still dry pasture and ring for most of the afternoon.

It was getting late so I saddled up Chance, schooled him in the ring for about 10-15 minutes, just working on improving his steering, and then we headed out for a short hack in the woods. He was a happy kid at that.

I took Toby on a short hack next and then saddled up Tucker for some trotting in the ring.

To the right, with his booted hoof on the outside, he felt wonderful. He was really forward in his trot and seemed quite happy to move out. Then, I swapped to the left rein, with the boot on the inside. Oops....he was super uneven with a decided limp.

Now I am kicking myself for being too sore after building the shed to ride him when he still had his shoe. He certainly didn't look lame when he was running around by himself, with the boot on, so I am wondering if just having a boot on one foot and not the other would throw his balance off that much. OR, was something bothering him in the hind end related to the last acupuncture.

Considering that without a shoe on one foot he shows slight lameness, I am supicious that the boot just throws his stride off. But why just going to the side with the boot and not the other? While I am not sure the boot is a perfect fit, I did not see any evidence of rubs from it when I took it off to put him in the stall for the night.

Does the boot slip a little when the inside hoof takes more weight? Was his foot sore? (Although, if so, why did he feel so super going in the other direction.) Needless to say, I am full of questions. Worse, I cannot even experiment by putting the other boot on his right foot to try him with two boots to see how he feels because today's weather has taken a drastic turn for the worse and it is pouring rain.

So, unless my hero Scott shows up to replace the shoe, I will be off to my lesson with Gabriel on Tuesday night with no shoe. The ring at Pat's is a good, soft surface, so I might just opt to have him go without the boot. We had planned on longlining anyhow, so the stress will be minimized.

I do need to ride Tucker as much as I can so we can get his stifle muscles toned up. Once more the foot fairy has intervened to cause problems. My ground is dirt and the only places I can ride him are dirt footing or the sand of my ring so Caroline's suggestions about his going barefoot would be a problem. As well, when he was barefoot as a yearling/two year old, he had problems with bruising and cracks, all of which disappeared with the shoeing. My super excellent farrier does not believe he is a good candidate for barefoot either--he's had lots of experience with people going barefoot, so he is a fairly good judge. Although, at this point, he might get so fed up with the lost shoes......*sigh*

Since it is raining, Tucker is in his stall for the day with the run-in shed pen to walk around in.

Turnout is an essential for horses, I feel. Keeping them stall bound is bad for health, soundness, and attitude.

Somehow, I have to figure out how to keep Tucker in regular work through the wet winter.

Of course, if I had a few million spare dollars, I could buy a big farm, build and indoor ring and a roofed turnout area with perfect footing and keep a farrier on staff....."dream a little dream with me."

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Shed is Up

The new shed. It took over 5 hours to set up.

More Than Five Hours Later

My friend Mark came over to help me put up the shed. Thank goodness. It would have been impossible to do it by myself. As it was, Mark and I had quite a time with it working as a team.

With me the weaker link. Mark did most of the heavier lifting and the ladder climbing construction. He also organized the parts and did the bulk of the figuring out the instructions, though once I saw how the thing was shaping up, I added a good number of useful alternatives and did manage to contribute to the brains end of the operation.

We really did work well together, so that was good. The shed is 20' long, and 10' wide so we left both ends open. That way any horses inside could escape from either end. I do have end flaps in case I eventually want to move the thing to another spot to store either hay or my tractor.

This is a Coverit building I bought about 4 years ago at a Horse Expo. It's been sitting in my garage waiting for a use since then. It has a rounded top and a fabric cover. The frame is made up of steel tubing that had to be bolted together. That's where most of the work was. Then, the cover is pulled over and cinched up at the front and back, and laced to the frame inside. The only thing we did not do was anchor it down. We had an issue with the anchoring system supplied because it just didn't seem to work in my ground. I need to come up with an alternative that is not dangerous to the horses, yet will hold the structure down in case of heavy winds. It will be OK for now, and Mark suggested should heavy wind be forecast, I could drive the tractor inside and tie the building to it for now.

I have no idea if any of the Boys have gone in it yet. Chance and Toby were free to during the night, but Tucker was locked in his stall. I'm going back out to turn him out in a little while, so when I do, I will report more and perhaps get a picture.

Scenes of "Discovery." First, Tucker says, "Hey, I'm not going near that thing!!" Moments later, the "Gang" starts to check it out. Tucker's in! Then, the scene from the far end of the ring so you have a sense of perspective about the size of the area.

The Boys reminded me of my cats in a paper bag or their "cat tunnel." Once they decided the shed would not really eat them, they ran through it several times, playing.

The novelty wore off in about a half hour and they were off to eat the hay I had put out in the pasture.

The shed has 8 feet of clearance, so Tucker might have to keep his head down, but he seemed just fine about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turned Them All Out

In the Ring and the Pasture

My set up allows access to the pasture directly from the ring or paddocks, so I closed off the muddy paddock gate, opened the sandy ring gate and turned all three Boys out in the ring.
I put another water tub at the edge of the fence and hay out in the pasture.

No shelter, but when it's nearly 70f and sunny, who needs shelter. I couldn't ride Tucker anyhow because of the acupuncture and since I was going to Thanksgiving dinner at 2 PM, I opted to just let the herd enjoy itself in the nice weather and pretty solid footing of the pasture and ring.

The temperature is supposed to drop into the 40's tomorrow. I have a male friend coming over to see if the two of us can put up the portable run in. Once that's up, I can leave the Boys on the good footing whenever I want to without worrying about shelter...I think. The shed is 20' X 20' so we will just have to see how it works...and if we can get it up.

My vet mentioned putting boots on Tucker to keep him from pulling his shoes. So, if I did get some, they would have to be the kind the horse could wear over his shoes for turnout. I am not overly keen on the idea unless things get really bad here as far as the footing goes. Usually, it dries out, but we have just had too many days of these soaking kind of showers and no sun to help out. But I do kind of like the possible ring/pasture shed solution.

Tucker is staying in at night with the little enclosed shed area. The other Boys have the two stalls and a run in roof too, but the run in on Tucker's side is the one that best shelters from the winter storms.

So, if I put up the shed where I want to, it will be oriented in the same direction as Tucker's shed and give Toby and Chance the same kind of winter shelter. All in all, it could end up being the best of situations for everyone. The shed will go in the spot where the Boys tend to hang out if the winter weather is blowing in, so they might even use it now and then!

Thanksgiving is a national celebration for giving thanks. It's loosely based on the first dinner the pilgrims had on American soil when they arrived safely after a long sea voyage from England. They thanked God for their safe arrival and for the bounty the new land appeared to provide. Eventually, it became a national holiday when many businesses close so families can get together to share a meal. Lots of charities and churches make up food boxes with turkeys, canned goods, and all other kinds of food to give to needy families. As well, dinners are served to needy people, people in hospitals, shut ins, elderly people and just about anyone anybody can find who needs a Thanksgiving dinner. Restaurants serve up special menus, and those who don't have families of their own are usually invited to somebody's house to celebrate. There is a big parade in New York City with huge helium balloons of critters and movie characters (Shrek debuted this year) and US football games are played all over the place.

Thanksgiving also is the beginning of the Christmas holiday season. At the end of the NY parade, Santa Claus arrives in a big sleigh, reminding everyone that Christmas is on its way. From now until then, there will be Santas in all the shopping malls so little kids can sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. Tomorrow is known as "Black Friday," the day most stored hope to make a profit for the year and end up "in the black, " rather than the red. Some stores are opening just after midnight, others at 4 AM, and most at 6 or 7 AM with all kinds of special big sale prices on the things people want to buy as Christmas presents. It's really a crazy shopping day I am going to avoid. I don't have all my presents yet, but I do know what I am getting for people, so I certainly don't need to stand in long lines at the checkout to get them.

I've gone out on Black Friday once or twice to just see what it was like and I can tell you, it can get pretty wild out there. Apparently some of the stores that sell computers and gaming systems already have people camped out in tents in their parking lots to be the first in line for some of the bargains.

My local saddle shop is having a drawing for a 42' LCD TV on Saturday, so I may go there just to get a ticket and try my luck. I figure that too will be a pretty wild scene but I'm used to that. He just had drawings for 2 $1000 shopping sprees about a week ago and one for a lawn tractor this summer. So far, I did win a nice nylon halter in one of his promotions, so you never know.

So, that's my country and its quirks. We are a silly lot, sometimes, but every now and then, we do take time to just step back and thank the Lord for all our blessings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So There are More Layers Than an Onion

And Tucker Has Them All

Interesting. When my vet examined Tucker, he found him sore on the left stifle and also "out" in his sacroilliac. When I expressed some surprise, he said, "Sometimes you just have to peal away the layers to get to the root of the problem."

So, Tucker had some more acupuncture and was none too happy about it. He was very reactive to the needles this time. Dr. Klayman said for some reason, horses reactions do vary. Sometimes from day to day the same horse will react differently. Today, Tuck was not a happy camper.

I cannot ride him tomorrow, but turn out is OK, so he is again in the riding ring until late feed.

The ground is drying quickly, but we are supposed to get more rain and I am not too optimistic.

Dr. Klayman suggested some kind of hoof boots. So far I have not had much luck finding a brand to fit Tucker. These would have to go over his shoes, stay safely on for serveral hours so he could frolic with the rest of the little herd. Anyone have any recommendations?

In the meantime, I am keeping him in the arena in the sand. So far so good. But he really does need the social interaction and play time with his buddies. Horses are meant to be herd animals, not solitary creatures.

I will work it all out eventually. It will definitely be interesting to ride Tuck on Friday to see if he feels any better.

For those in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! And for those who do not celebrate our national holiday, I wish you the spirit of the day. May you too remember to give thanks for all the gifts you have and the love you share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wetter Then Wet

Rained Out

It wasn't actually raining when I got home tonight, but it was wet. When I say wet, I mean wet.

We have now had several days of rains. These are not the kinds of heavy rains that run off, but the on and off kinds that leave puddles over and over until everything is coated with a layer of water. Where the mud is not getting deep it is slippery--so much so that taking the wheelbarrow to the manure pile (muck heap) was pretty risky, especially with my bad knees. I did a pretty minimal job of stall cleaning as a result, focusing mainly on the stall and runin where Tucker is confined so at least that was nice and tidy.

I did not ride in the watery arena, but I did turn Tucker out there. And I did some free lunging with him, trotting him around me for about 15-20 minutes. He was actually pretty cooperative and made long ovals around me as if he were on an elastic lunge line. I don't know of he was acting out of habit in response to the lunge whip or was actually enjoying my attention and having a reason to stretch his legs. Either way, he was really good and, despite a few bucks and leaps when I tried to reverse him--he galloped past me several times before I could manuever in front of him to ask for a reverse--it was close to a real training session. Since it was in the full sized arena, not a round pen, he could have run off to the far side of the ring at any time, but instead he just kept circling around me.

When, I guess, he'd had enough, he started closing the circle in around me, bringing it in to 10-15 meters, all the while keeping up a nice forward trot. Even when I tried to push him back out with both the whip movement and my body language, he insisted on coming in closer and closer. So, I finally lowered the whip and stopped moving. Almost at once, he stopped too, turned to face me and then just kind of walked in for a pat and some extra special praise.

I left him out for several more hours just to walk around and relax.

I have a potential plan for the winter. Since my riding ring is about 20 meters longer than a regulation dressage ring, and since it has some chronic low spots which tend to stay wet in the far end near the pasture, I don't often ride all the way to that end. I have, stashed in my garage, a portable shed I bought a number of years ago as a kind of emergency run in shed. This is one of those fabric over a metal frame shelters made for horses or to be used as storage areas. I plan to erect it in that end of the ring as a run in.

This is kind of a two fold idea. First, if it's muddy like this, I can turn Tucker out there during the day and he will have shelter, something I consider quite important. Normally, he and the other Boys have the two run in roofs and their stalls, but there is no way to set it up so that anyone turned out in the ring can get back to the barn. This way, he could have a nice little place to hang out should it rain when I am not home.

The second part of the idea is that, for some reason, that corner of the ring is often where the little herd wants to shelter when there is a storm. Now, with the new run in shed on the west side of the barn, they have been going there a lot more, but this would also give them another place to go in case of bad weather instead of standing outside with snow and icicles hanging off them.

Then again, since the portable would only take up one corner of the ring, they could still hang out there outside with snow and icicles hanging off them if that's what they wanted to do.

All I need now is a pair of strong young men--my friends two sons if possible--to get the shelter up for me.

I also needed some hay to tide me over the weekend. Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the US, and, as it turns out, my hay supplier next door is taking a long weekend break. I did managed to stuff seven bales in my little car tonight just before they closed. Apparently, someone else is coming to get hay tomorrow, so I too may manage to get seven more bales on the way home from school--half day due to the upcoming holiday. But, I will have to hurry as I need to get home so I can trailer Tucker over to see my vet.

Busy day ahead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Am So Fortunate

My Wonderful Farrier

I hadn't been home from school for more than 20 minutes when up the drive came my horsehoer.

Scott Previte is not only one of the best shoers around, but he really does go out of his way to help his customers. More than once I have needed a shoeing job before a show or a clinic, and he has always somehow found the time to get me going.

Tonight was no exception. We had a chat about what to do with Tucker, stuck with the realization that he is not really a good barefoot candidate, especially since I need to keep riding him. Scott explained that Tuck's upright hoofs (he had a clubfoot as a foal and the ligament surgery to correct it, but his natural angle--xrayed, by the way--is just a little steep) he is the kind of horse who pulls his shoes off if anything intereferes with is breakover--such as getting stuck, even a little, in the mud. Scott said he has three or four horses like Tucker and he was surprised he hadn't had calls from anyone else yet.

The ground is really wet and, even though my barn is on a hill, the mud has taken hold anywhere it's level enough for the water to sit. Even the hills are slippery.

Scott got a new shoe on and I turned Tucker out in the sand riding ring for a while to let him stretch his legs. I think "plan B" is to keep him in the stall and run-in shed until things dry out--if they ever do before spring--and let him out in the ring in the early morning before school and when I get home at night. I will, of course, also exercise him as the weather permits. It's not perfect, but at least he won't be confined to the stall.

Hopefully, when I go out for late feed later, both front shoes will still be on. *sigh*

At any rate, I am extremely thankful I have such a wonderful farrier. Fortunately, Scott lives about 8 miles away, which is a big plus, but when I consider he has come here on Sundays and even once on a holiday as well as late at night to fit in an emergency appointment for me, I am still overwhelmed by his efforts.

I have an appointment with my equally wonderful vet to do some more acupuncture on Tucker on Wednesday, again at the barn where I take lessons. It's an easy trailer ride over and saves me part of the farm call fee, so it is a great solution. I called just this afternoon to get an appointment so once again I have managed to luck out, or just pick one of the best veterinarians in the area! Dr. Klayman and his associates rock! (sorry, that's a bit teenager, but it fits)

Hopefully, a second treatment will restore even more of Tucker's positive work ethic.

I am keeping him on the U-Guard powder and will give him some omeprazole this week so the possble stress of limited turnout will not cause ulcer problems.

So many issues to deal with. I am ever grateful to have the Boys in the back yard so I can tend to them myself. Otherwise, I would just be worrying.

Well, I still worry. Right now I am thinking about shoes staying on in the riding ring.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Shoe Flies

No News To Report

It was cold and rainy most of the day.

When I finally managed to go out to the barn to at least lunge Tucker for his stifle, I soon discovered he was missing a shoe.

I didn't notice it until I had him out in the ring on the lunge line as I'd hooked him up out in the paddock. He was every so slightly uneven. I thought it was too strange for him to actually be limping because of the stifle so I checked his feet and sure enough, one naked front hoof. Just enough difference to make him take some uneven steps. Not lame, just not balanced. His hoof still looked great, so he didn't do much damage taking off the shoe. My farrier only uses four nails, usually, so the hoof holds up pretty well.

Frustrating as this is what happens when the ground gets wet along with his feet. All the moisture just makes them too soft to hold a shoe. Unfortunately, as we have discussed here, he really does need his front feet shod--Thoroughbred, cracks, other issues--so barefoot, even for the winter is not really practical. I'd love to have him barefoot for the winter...but considering the problems he had when he was barefoot as a youngster, I don't think I could take the chance.

The trouble is the weather and the footing. My farrier would prefer he stay in when it's wet and muddy. I'm never keen on keeping a horse in to start off with. Then, I don't want to have to keep him in all the time as that will actually be counter productive to getting his stifle strengthened. Going up and down the little hills in my paddocks and pasture are too good for him.

I called my shoer who is an angel about fixing things. Maybe he has some ideas.

Tucker is in now and I will keep him in until--if ever, things dry out a bit. If we can get the shoe back on, perhaps I can lunge him in the AM before school and then work him again at night. But right now, without the shoe, I really can't do too much with him. I will have to see if at least one of the boots I have will stay on his foot for some exercise. I haven't yet found a brand that seems to fit him properly.

Too miserable to ride anyone else.

The weather looks bleak for the rest of the week too. Ugh.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Think He Might Need Another Session

Half an Hour of Trotting

I think Tucker might need another acupuncture session. He was a little more crabby today about the first trot transition and not at all happy about cantering. Although the canter departs did get better, when he cantered on the left lead he really did want to carry his haunches out. To me, that means he was trying to keep his right stifle from having to "twist" itself under his body.

I was able to hold him straight, but I kept feeling him trying to evade, so I suspect he is a little uncomfortable. I will call my vet on Monday and hope we can arrange something before the lesson on Tuesday of the week after. If not, the plan is for in hand work in the lesson, and Tucker seems perfectly happy to do that. I think my weight on his back helps create the discomfort in the joint/muscle. When I worked him on the lines the other day, he was really carrying himself with very little effort.

Having dealt with Russell R.'s stifle issues for nearly 20 years, I am confident this will come right and be quite manageable. It's just that in the meantime we will probably have a few bad days to face.

I rode Chance in the ring for about 10 minutes of trot schooling and he really is improving with his acceptance of the bit. If I keep up the "lining/riding/lining" pattern, I think he will come along really quickly. We went out on a slightly longer hack along the edge of the woods, back to the flooding area, and then back through the woods after the ring session. As it is supposed to rain tomorrow, I don't know how eager I will be to ride him, so I figured I treat him to the trail ride today.

As usual, he was a good boy. He was a little more tentative today, as if he wasn't quite as confident as usual, but he was fine. I even trotted a little on the field path on the way back. Out there, he really takes a good hold of the bit and stretches his head out, so that is good.

Toby was very clear about not being interested in any work today, so I left him alone...aside from the obligatory carrot.

When I was done, I went out and cleaned out the drainage "ditch" on the woods side of the arena. I have a low spot there and drain the water into an abandoned groundhog burrow on the other side of the fence. If it does rain, that should help the ring dry out faster.

Hope it's just showers tomorrow. I really would like to get some time in under saddle to see how Tucker acts. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Well, That Was Interesting

Three on the Loose

I came home from school yesterday to find three horses loose on the back lawn, and both of the big gates open.

H-m-m-m-m. I am a bit confused about the gates. I did drive through them on Sunday to drop off the rubber mats I bought, but I know I at least closed them behind me as Tucker and Chance were VERY interested in what I was up to. Did I not completely chain them? Or, did someone else open them....that's a disturbing thought. For now, I will just chalk it up to my stupidity.

The good news is that the drive through bump gates across the driveways stopped the "Gang" from escaping to the road where there surely would have been some serious consequences as traffic is both bad and fast on my road. My Aunt, who lives next door said The Boys didn't even try the gates when she saw them, so that is a relief.

The other good news as that when my Aunt saw the horses out, she tried to convince them to stay in the back area, but all that happened was she was nearly licked and loved to death by, from what I can tell, Tucker and Chance. She said they came right over to her and just wanted to be hugged. Toby likes attention too, but he is not quite as nosy as the other two. So, that is kind of sweet.

The bad news is that since it was raining, my back lawn is now a mess of muddy hoofprints and depressions and "slide spots." I guess I will have to get that new drag put together asap so I can try to level out the worst of the messed up grass before it hardens/dries up, and plant some new seed. I do walk the horses over the lawn there when I trailer them places, so the area is not pristine, but three frolicking horses can do quite a bit of damage when they are tromping all over on a great adventure. This is not a big lawn area, perhaps, at most a quarter acre right behind the house. It will survive.

When I drove in, Tucker and Chance came right up to my car and tried to "hug" me too. I don't know if they were worried they were out or if they were just happy. I closed one gate and as soon as I went in the feed/tack room to get dinner, the whole little herd galloped across the grass and into the paddock through the other open gate, so getting them back in where they belonged was no trouble at all. Silly boys.

I am excited to find out that Gabriel, my trainer, loves long lining and in hand work. He seems pleased that I want to work Tucker in the lines at our next lesson. This is going to be fun. Tucker is not quite the "long line master" Toby is, but he still understands the concept and, as I've said before, does work pretty well in them. I will be very interested to see what Gabriel proposes we do and how Tucker will take to the training.

So, now I have even more to look forward to for our lesson on the 27th.

In the meantime, I did not work the horses yesterday as it was damp, raining, and downright unpleasant outside.

Besides, they'd had plenty of exercise mangling my lawn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuck on a Line

Silly Boy

I just longlined Tucker tonight, taking a break as I had to go to a meeting later on.

What a silly boy he was. His pace, attitude, and frame varied from "baby horse on the forehand," to "lazy horse in a jog," all the way to "stunning dressage horse in an elegant, elevated frame." Add to that an occasional "buck off" and you have the gist of the session.

Towards the end, I asked for some close in work trying to introduce the idea of stepping towards the piaffe in hand. Tucker is too quick to react to the whip by bolting forward. Not that I've ever hit him, but he just responds by trying to run.

This time, though, I just tapped his hind end at the walk and when he took a big trot step under, I eased him back and told him he was wonderful. After about four tries, he took one trot stride almost in place and I stopped him praised him to the ultimate and ended the school.

My knees will never carry me through too much close up work in hand with him as I simply cannot run or maneuver myself alongside him to help him understand what I want. I will have to see if Gabriel has worked horses from the ground like that and perhaps at our next lesson we can do a bit of in-hand work. I think it would be good as it will help Tuck understand about bending his hind legs and, if done in extreme moderation without a rider will help his stifle build up while at the same time not putting too much stress on his joints.

Too much of this work is very hard on a horse, but a few steps here and there, now and then, should be a plus for him.

It is supposed to rain tomorrow. That's OK as I have choir rehearsal and before that a photo to be taken for the church directory.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunset Rushes In

But Before Darkness Fell....

I managed to ride Tucker in the ring for about 20 minutes of trotting before going out in the woods for a lovely little hack.

He was far less resistant today and after only one minor false start, moved into the canter pretty willingly. As well, he only gave a minimal protest before trotting off, so I am guessing he is feeling either physically better or mentally more confident that he can do work without hurting. I cantered for twice as long as yesterday on each lead and he felt fine. Again, I am shortening his frame and asking him to carry himself somewhat, but still have not really challenged him to the upper level frame. That will come again when I feel his muscles are strong enough to allow him to do it without risking the stifle.

Tuck was both eager and relaxed on the hack. There were some hunters in the far field poised for the deer to come out to feed, but I may have scared them all back into the deeper forest. Fine by me. I hate to think of any animal being killed, for whatever reason. I will not deliberatly interfere with a hunter, and I will always wish them well when I meet them in the woods, but if their prey escapes, that's just fine with me.

I had just recieved my new lunging surcingle so I wanted Toby to be the first horse to wear it and he did so proudly, working like his usual perfect self in the ring of light created by the two working lights in my riding ring. (I called my electrician today and will have to hound him about this, but I need a better lighting system.) I had some trot poles set up and Toby was heading for them on his own. What can I say about the longlining master? He is just too good for words.

I long lined Chance as well, veeing the lines onto the upper rings at first, but then deciding into the session, that putting them on the lower ring encouraged him to stretch "out" and to the bit rather than "up" into the bit. Once he did the lower stretch he relaxed his back much more and his stride was longer and slower. I did have to shorten the distance between the trotting poles for him. Even though he does have a good length stride, the hand difference in height and his shorter legs were, at the moment, having trouble negotiating the distance I had set for Tucker and Toby. He did manage it a few times, but more often, he was taking a "baby stride" between the last two poles to avoid hitting the poles. I moved them less than a foot closer to each other and he was fine.

Chance did get a little tired at the end of the session, something I am not used to with my Thoroughbreds. They seem to keep going no matter what. Chance breaks his gait and slows WAY down. It is one more interesting contrast between him and the big boys.

Watching him canter on the lines does encourage me to try a bit more under saddle as he has a nice neat canter with pretty good natural balance.

I am so lucky to have such good horses. They may not be the most breathtaking movers, but they are really fun to train. Even with the challenges Tucker has offered, he has been a good horse to train.

Who needs a "10" mover when you can ride a "10" personality?

Monday, Monday

And Back At School

It was kind of hard rolling out of bed to go to work after a week off, but I managed. I had a pretty good day at school, but it surely was hard watching the sun starting to drop lower in the sky as I headed home. By 4 PM it was looking pretty bleak.

Still, I saddled up Chance as soon as I changed my clothes and took him into the ring for a short school. The longlining is making an impact already. He put his head down, rounded on to the bit and trotted off. His lateral suppleness is not there and I have to work my legs and body weight to get his correct bend in the corners, but on the straight sides he felt great--EXCEPT when we passed the gate going out to the woods. That was like a magnet to him.

So, after the school, I headed out for a short hack. He was eager at first until he realized we were heading along the same trail we'd taken on Saturday. Then he slowed to a snail's pace. I let the reins hang loose to let him make the choice and as soon as we reached an intersection, he headed off to the left, towards the lake. Once we'd veered off the old trail he perked right back up and stepped off again. I didn't take him around the lake as I was a little worried about all the mud and water Toby and I had encountered--the ATV's and minibikes have really messed up the footing where it used to be dry. But we did take the little trail on the ridge. He was happy until we turned again for home when he slowed back down. I've never had a horse go slower on the way home in all my life. It really is kind of fun.

I rode Tucker next in the ring as darkness began to fall. I put some linament on his stifle before we began to work. He was still "sticky" at the trot depart and laid his ears back a few times, but once he got going he felt fine. I had a similar problem asking for the canter, and at first on the left lead, he was very crooked. When a horse has a right stifle issue, it often shows up in left canter as on that lead, the right hind must step "around" and under, putting an extra lateral strain on the stifle joint. Later, though, when I asked for canter again, he was straight on the lead, so I suspect he is either having "pain memories" or twinges that go away.

I also put Tucker into a tighter frame towards the end of the session, getting him to step more into the bit and carry himself more on his hind end. Surprisingly, he actually seemed more pleased to go that way. I wonder if getting him to really lift his back actually balances the weight and makes it easier for his joints to carry him. I'll go for that a little earlier in my ride today to see if it makes him happier.

Toby supervised all the riding, and I gave him the night off. My annoying ring lights were not working well at all, with two light fixtures not working again. I've had trouble with them ever since they were installed. That will teach me to listen to myself instead of the professionals when setting up something like that. I had wanted a different kind of like and got talked into these. They are totally unreliable.

That reminds me. I need to call the electrician to see what we can do about replacing them with what I should have gotten in the first place. *sigh*

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weather or Not.....

The lake in the back woods. This used to be a sand mine.
....Saturday was a Washout....

And a chilly one. I just kind of bummed out after I went to the chiropractor and physical therapy. Then I went to the feed store where there was a 20% off sale and stocked up on more grain than I had room for, so that took some work to put away.

So, Sunday dawned with some beautiful weather, but I had to go the church in the morning. I was singing a solo on the introit--opening piece of the service--and the choir number was a favorite. I go every week anyhow, so that's a given, but I was "itching" to do some riding in the sunshine.
But, the local saddle shop, with the 20% off sale was also having the annual drawing for a $1000 spending spree and you had to be there to win, so I knew I had a 2:30 PM deadline to ride and do my horse stuff.
I saddled Tucker up first for his trotting workout. Interesting. When I put my leg on, he laid his ears back, napped and threatened to buck. Now this was after his acupuncture, so I was fairly confident he really wasn't really all that sore. It took some convincing, but I did manage to get him trotting and as we went along his enthusiasm increased. I am suspicious, that when he did hurt his stifle, the pain was sharp and it is when my knee "goes out"....and his pain memory was so strong, he just didn't want to do anything. After about 15 minutes, he was really starting to move out, so I added the trotting poles to the work and he was just fine.

After about 20 minutes, I tried a canter and again, I got the ears, the napping and the buck threat. I rode it out, and finally he gave me nice canter on both leads without a fuss. I really think his confidence had been seriously undermined. Hopefully, with some babying and fitness, he will forget about it and be a willing partner again. This is totally different than the napping before the ulcer medication as in this case, he is always willing to walk off in a nice, long relaxed stride. He is just very anxious about trot and canter. Since I forgot to put some linament on his stifle before I rode him, I might also think it took a little work before the muscles started to loosen up as well.

In the end, with about 2 mintues of cantering, we did a good half hour of trotting, adding some lengthening along the long sides on both reins at the end. I kept him in a long frame and did not ask him to rock back on his hind end much at all. I'll save that for about a week of just plain muscle building work.

I long lined Chance for a really nice session. He softened immediately to the bit and worked in a lovely frame with a nice forward trot and a very relaxed, rhythmic canter. He really is a nice youngster. It will be ironic if down the line, he's the one I end up training to Grand Prix. He may have the better mind for the upper levels. Ah, well, we shall see. Tucker is the clever one, perhaps too bright, and the faster learner. But Chance just has such a solid disposition.....

I went to the tack store for the drawing and, as usual, did not win. But, I did get some nice buys on a few essentials and, of course, the grain.

It was still light out when I got home, so I saddled up Toby and took him out for a ride around the lake. He is very cautious on that trail, convinced that all kinds of dangers lurk in the trees, brush and grasses around the lake area. There are also several places where he has to wade through muddy patches of water. While he is OK with the water, if he can see a potential way around, he will try to take that, so in one section, I found myself getting tangled in some thorn bushes. Thankfully, I was well padded with clothes, so no major damage was done.

The ride was a good end to the afternoon and my last day of the short vacation from school.

I spent the last half hour of daylight unwrapping the new arena drag I bought several weeks ago. Everything was wired together for shipping so I only managed to get one 4 ft. section free and attached to the draw bar. I guess I will finish up at my leisure during the rest of the week. If it hadn't been all wired together, it would be ready to go now, but I just got fed up cutting and untwisting all the little pieces and left the second section to wait. I don't need it right away, so it's fine if it waits for a few more days.

Everything I purchase recently seems to be packed within and inch of its life. Plastic wraps need heavy duty scissors, mailing pouches need to be carved apart, and boxes are sealed in yards of packing tape. The area drag was no exception.

I'll just keep trotting Tucker. At least his sheet is easy to get off.

Friday, November 09, 2007

On Target

The back trail heading home to the gate in the riding ring. As seen through Toby's ears!
Acupuncture for a Dressage Horse
Tucker went to visit Dr. Klayman tonight, and sure enough, he was sore. Mind you, he was not lame. We jogged him and lunged him and he looked fine. But, he was sore on his right stifle.

That along with the sacroilliac were my two suspicions. I am guessing that what happened when he was doing the leg yield is that his stifle just gave out, and afterwards it hurt.

The prescription? Well, first he had a course of acupuncture. Then he has tomorrow, Saturday off. And then, it's back to the trotting to get the muscles really strong around the joint. This is 25 minutes of trotting with hills just about every day.

I have dealt with stifle issues before as my Russell R. had chronic problems. There are many other treatment options to use, but Dr. Klayman prefers to take the most natural approach first, which is the acupunture and trot work. If, down the road this crops up as a more chronic problem, then we have a host of options to get the joing stronger.

It's really like my knees in a much less severe condition, so I understand what Tucker felt when it "gave" way on what might just have been a bad step. And I also know it REALLY does hurt.

So, I guess I will be in the saddle a lot just trotting along, like the old days with my Russell R. All too familiar.

In the meantime, I took everyone on the short trail ride today. Tuck walked the whole way. Chance decided to trot for the first few minutes, so I just kind of let him blow off a little steam. I don't know if his attitude is something I am going to have to watch out for as he gets more fit, but he certainly has the potential to be a forward going fellow. This is a good thing as long as it doesn't develop into jogging off all the time instead of walking. He did have a good time and wanted to stay out longer, but I'd gone to get my new contact lenses in the morning, stopped on the way home to get cat food, and with the vet appointment looming, I just didn't have time to indulge him.
I am going to alternate long lining and riding with Chance for a while as it really did seem to make a difference. Today when I got back from the hack, I rode him in the ring for a little while and he was really going well and taking the bit on his own.

Toby, dressed in "trail ride pink" so the hunters will see us.
Toby and I went out for the same short hack and we jumped the log just for fun. Every time I take him over a fence, he impresses me. Had I steered his career towards the hunter/jumper route instead of dressage, he would have been a wonderful competitor. His only flaw is uncertainty about strange jumps, but schooling would have easily cured that. He gives a really athletic feel off the ground and naturally rounds his back. He does have one jumping ribbon in his memory chest, but I had by that time decided to give up the jumping for my own safety. I would have had to deal with his spooks and sudden stops for several months of training, and I just didn't feel up to it.

So now, I just jump once in a while for fun or to put some variety in our schooling. Toby does get a little "enthusiastic" when he jumps but he feels so wonderful, I don't mind.

It will be interesting to see if Chance has any talent in that department. His dad was gorgeous over a fence. Hard to say if it's inherited or not. Chance's gaits don't appear to be as good as his dad's, but as I watch him on the lines, I see more and more potential to be a "nice mover" for dressage. Time will tell. Although he is four years old, I am not totally convinced he has yet fully matured in his body. His mom was a grade mare, and his dad a warmblood, so I have no idea what that means for his development.

Chance posing in "pasture orange." The camera has failed to pick up the true color of that sheet. It is a bright, very orange, orange flourescent.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We Have a Problem

This is part of the trail through the woods. Sometimes I jump the little log, just for fun.

Definitely A Problem
Tucker is just not right. I took him in the ring to ride a little. The trot was fine, but I didn't try to really ask for more than a lower level frame. Then I asked for some canter and his ears went back, his back humped up, and he started to shut down big time. He was very clearly saying, "No, I can't"
Here is Tucker dressed in his pink quarter sheet so the hunters can see us.

That test completed, I took him out on a nice little walking hack through the woods, as his walk felt fine. And, if his sacroilliac is out, walking is generally good for that. There are a few little hills along the route, and on one of the downhills, he was decidedly short strided and overly careful, so that too points to something being "out" in his back.

Fortunately, I have an appointment with my marvelous chiropractic/acupuncture veterinarian tomorrow at 4 PM, so we'll get it all sorted out pretty quickly, I'm sure.

My farrier was here this morning and we decided to leave Chance shoeless as long as we can. With winter coming, I'd rather have no shoes as that gives him far better traction in the snow and ice. Then we will see if his feet can hold up once Spring comes back.

I just long lined Chance today, because he needs some work at accepting the bit without me on his back. I "veeded" the lines through the top ring, the bit and then a lower ring--the top ring rein going to my hand. He argued a little about it at first, then dropped his head into a lovely frame and gave me some very nice work. I think he is going to have a very nice trot and a good, three beat canter and, overall, he seems very balanced. I had to be careful to make sure to "give" the lines when he came on to the bit so that he didn't overbend, but he was very easy to correct. I pushed him past his quitting point so that he will build up his stamina and muscles and was pleased to see how welll he accepted the driving aids. It was a really nice session.

Toby and I took to the woods for a pleasant trail ride. As usual, he was a good boy and he caught quite a few branches and leaves to munch on along the way.

This is kind of a cool pic. I was riding Toby and decided to take a picture of the path along the cornfield. I didn't see our shadow until I loaded the piture on the computer. One of those unexpected "art" shots, I guess. *G*

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

How Does the Rest of That Go?

"..Gang aft a-gley." Which means, I didn't do exactly as I'd planned today.

It's still not midnight, though and if the winds have died down, I still may long line Chance. It all depends on whether I can convince myself to go out in the dark and get something useful done.

In the meantime, I had to take the horse trailer to get the wiring plug replaced. That is a good half-hour plus drive to the trailer place, depending on the traffic, which was a nuisance. The guy there is great and we had a bit of fun replacing the plug since the trailer wiring color code has nothing to do with the standard truck/car wiring color code. My plug was badly corroded with several wires off, which explains why the trailer brakes were not working...almost...more later...and he had nothing to go on once he'd pulled the wires off the old plug.

As I stood there about a half hour into the enterprise, getting ready to write the trailer code down for the next time I'd need a fix, something nagged in the back of my brain that I had been through this before. Sure enough, in the glove box of the truck I found a paper with a list of what each color wire on the trailer worked. Had I remembered that paper early on, we could have saved ourselves at least 15 minutes of confusion.

The guy plugged in the new plug and everything worked just fine...except the brakes. Sure enough, there was a damaged prong on the receptacle on the truck, and like the last time I was there, he didn't have any Dodge replacement sockets in stock. Apparently Dodge has its own unique receptacle unlike Chevy and Ford, so I needed a new one from Dodge.

Now, here's the rub. This is just what happened last time and I had bought two receptacles from eBay. I had already used one on the truck and that one had the broken prong. When I'd left the house, I thought, "Gee, maybe I ought to take that other receptacle." Then when I wasn't 100% sure of where I'd put it, I left without it. I was kicking myself at the trailer place. The guy told me I was welcome to come back if I had any trouble swapping it out on my own. So, I paid him--very reasonable rates--and headed home with all the trailer lights working and no brakes again.

Back home, it took me all of 2 minutes to find the replacement part. Yeech!! Before I tried intalling it, I searched back on eBay, found more parts, ordered three--always want lots of spares at this point--and then went out to struggle with the plug. Fortunately, this is actually an easy job with the newer, factory wired trucks. You just unscrew four screws on the faceplate, pull out the old part, push a holding clip out and then, with a bit of effort, unplug the thing, plug in the new one, put the clip in place, and then put the four screws back. When the parts cooperate, its a cinch. I only scraped one knuckle and said four curse words before I was able to complete the task.

By the way, I have rewired both the trailer and truck plugs from scratch more than once in my life, using ameters, and test lights to figure out which wire is which, so none of this is rocket science to me anymore. I comprehend the need for ground wires and how the direct current works and all that kind of stuff.

Still, I was quite delighted to see the brake confirmation light on in the truck when I hooked things back together, so I guess we are back to optimum. A good thing as I need to trailer Tucker again on Friday and may well be driving him back after dark. As well, my next lesson will be at 9 PM so I will be going both ways in the dark. And, having properly working trailer brakes is a special plus. If they don't work right, I can still stop, but I must be super careful to anticipate well in advance which can't always happen in traffic.

That done, the next plan for the day was to get my hair cut as Wednesday is $8 off at my salon. That headed me out to East Brunswick, not far from school. What a bummer to go there on a vacation day! (Off this week for Columbus Day, Election Day, Veterans' Day, and Convention.)
Got the haircut deal and made the mistake of deciding to drop by the mall on the way home in hopes of finding a Christmas present or two. This time for my cousin and my Aunt whose house I go to for Christmas Eve.

Why is it that when I need a medium in something for me all I can find are smalls and when I need a small for someone else, there simply aren't any? And, did I get sidetracked trying on bargains for me? Of course. Fortunately, I only found one thing I liked and did manage to get two nice gifts. I have a plan for most of the other gifts I need, so that I can take care of in short order.

Well, when I got back home it was nearly feeding time for The Boys, so that's what I did. An hour later it was dark. I keep forgetting the quick coming of darkness this time of year.

I have tomorrow and Friday yet to get some horsey work done. Tucker would have had today off anyhow as he always has the day off after a lesson. Toby and Chance? No excuse except that the darn wind was pretty strong and my ring is right at the edge of the woods. Taking a hack would be hazardous as well since that too is woods and this time of year all kinds of things blow off the trees.

How's that for an excuse? Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Had A Lesson, Sort Of

Well, About Half a Lesson

I think the session with Steiner may have left Tucker sore. I hadn't ridden him since and had a lesson with Gabriel this afternoon.

We started off like gangbusters. Tucker was really moving well and working beautifully. I looked in the indoor arena mirrors at one point and he was up in a beautiful frame, really carrying himself.

Then in our second or third tour of shoulder-in on the right rein, he took a really strange step with his right hind. Shortly after, he just quit the trot and started laying his ears back and refusing to go. It was not a total shutdown as before the Ulcergard, but a definite trot shutdown. He walk was big and beautiful, but he simply would not trot.

Something had gone wrong and Tuck was making it perfectly clear. We got a lunge line after I dismounted and lunged him a bit. He trotted off a bit stiffly at first, then seemed to warm out of it, but when I got back on, he still refused to trot, threatening to buck if I pushed too hard.

I dismounted again and we took the saddle off. I ran the end of my dressage whip all along his back looking for acupressure sensitivity and found nothing until I pushed on the pressure point in his right rump. He flinched significantly. I checked it several times and each time, he reacted. This is the point for either the stifle or the hock...not quite as accurate as my vet at I suspect one joint or the other must have suddenly given out or gotten sore.

When we'd started the lesson he was acting just a little "funny" but really did settle to work, so I now suspect he was a bit muscle sore when we began. The exercise probably loosened things up until whatever twinge or issue finally stopped him in his tracks. It could also be that the shoulder in movement might have thrown something out in his back--especially if his muscles were a little sore already.

While I am disappointed at not having finished up the lesson on a good note, the part we managed was really quite wonderful. Hopefully this is just a small glitch in the program. If I can get my vet out ASAP, he can do some acupuncture/chiropractic work and get Tuck back on track.

Gabriel and I did discuss the Steiner clinic and comments and we were in complete agreement. Gabriel said that kind of attitude is what is ruining dressage in the US. The prejudice towards warmbloods and the arrogant attitude that "only warmbloods can do it" completely defeats the principle of what dressage is all about. That's the "competition" dressage so many people complain about. We both agreed that we know Tucker has limitations, but the whole goal is to train him to be better and certainly to reach for Grand Prix. I said my new goal was to ride a Grand Prix test on Tucker under Steiner. *LOL* Hey, at least I have something to shoot at now!

Gotta get Tucker feeling better first. He seems to have decided he now has the right and obligation to make it quite clear when something is wrong. Guess it's better than having a horse who works through the pain and ends up hurting himself even more.

I guess.......

Update from Wednesday Morning:
I called my vet and We have an appointment for chiropractic/acupuncture on Friday morning. I will have to trailer Tucker to the barn where I had my lesson. Otherwise we would have had to wait until Tuesday of next week.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Classical vs Competition

Most of My Trainers Have Been Classicists

To reply to Muriel, I have been lucky to have good trainers all along the way.

There have been a few "rotten eggs" in my clinic experiences, but, like Steiner, I have ignored most of them. I learned long ago to "separate the wheat from the chaff," as my early riding instructor used to say, and take whatever good I could get from each clinic and throw away the rest.

My current trainer is totally convinced Tucker can do the upper levels. His approach and attitude are entirely positive. We both know Tuck's possible limits, and are working to reach beyond them. Our big problem was all the trouble we were having before the Ulcergard. Hopefully that is all behind us.

I do believe that years ago, I had a clinic with Racinet. If he is the trainer I think he is, he ended up riding my PJ for most of the lesson. He LOVED PJ because he was so light and easy to the aids. He didn't worry whether everything they did was perfect or not, but he just rode, all the while telling me what a responsive horse he was. PJ had a super trot and a dreadful canter--which was improved over time with lots of training. I think he would give any rider who was kind his whole heart and try anything he was asked to do. I was so proud that day, even though I hardly rode at all and really didn't learn much for me. What was a joy was to see someone else riding my horse and loving every minute of it.

Some clinicians I have ridden with have been bad teachers--no names this time--and one time I even had to "go to the videotape" after the lesson to try to figure out what in the world the "teacher" was trying to get me to do. Even then I couldn't figure it out because he contradicted himself a number of times.

My most enlightening moments have often come when the teacher has gotten on my horse after I have failed to do what I was supposed to do. More often than not, the teacher has had even less success using their methods on my horse than I had. That has been a bit of a laugh to me, but I NEVER laughed out loud.

Just to let you all know, I live in a very accessible area not too far from the US Equestrian Team headquarters. Since the horse is our State animal, there are many riding stables around and over the years I have had many opportunities to ride with different trainers at clinics. I was just doing a mental account and stopped at close to 20 different clinicians including International level trainers from: Holland, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, France, Britain, New Zeland, South America, and, of course, the USA. My present trainer works with a Canadian Olympian. I have remembered a lot of good exercises from those clnics, forgotten and equal amount of good things, and tried to remember the bad as well so I could try to avoid it.

I have also been very choosy about the regular trainers I have worked with and have been lucky enough to settle in with some really good ones. I visited dozens of barns and watched many lessons before I found my first serious trainer to help me with Russell when he began his jumping career, and have been just as choosy since. I am very lucky to have so many opportunities.

I compete in the show ring as a challenge to myself and my horses. I would, of course, love to win once in a while, but it that's not to be, it's fine. Riding a dressage test in competition is entirely different than practicing at home and it really does define where the horse's training really does stand. What I am sorry to see is that horses not correctly trained are often rewarded just because they are "good movers." Having scribed (written the comments during a dressage test) for some International judges as well, I have also seen some evidence of prejudice towards "name" riders even if their tests were not as good as the scores said.

Ideally, as I have said, every horse entering the dressage ring should be and equal and the test should truly be a test of training, not the horse's natural talent. There are some judges out there who score that way and some who don't.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

After the Clinic

Not Sour Grapes

I am still pleased with Tucker and, though still stinging a bit from the insulting comments, pretty much have it all in perspective.

I remember taking Russell R., my first horse, to a lesson with an International trainer who had a reputation for helping people get their horses to extend the trot. During the lesson, said trainer rather quickly decided Russell had little talent, but he still worked with us. However, at one moment of exasperation, he said, "Well, this horse could never do a proper half pass."

I kind of shrugged nonchalantly, and said, "I'll show you." Well Russell had amazing half passes at both trot and canter with wonderful crossover. And it was absolutely easy for him to do them.

Trainer's jaw dropped as I demonstrated some super half passes across the arena.

Just because "They say so," it doesn't make it so.

Of all the horses I've had--except perhaps for Si, the four year old I lost to colic surgery--Tucker really is the most suited for dressage. He has three solid gaits, good balance, a quick brain, and a willingness to learn. On the negative side, his trot is not expansive, and he will have trouble with the extension. On the plus side, the collected work will be easy for him as will the lateral work. He does need to learn how to carry himself better off his hind end and elevate his forehand, but my lessons with Gabriel have already proven he is capable of that. I just need to learn how to ride/teach him on my own. He will never be a top level competitor, but he is capable of being solid through I high as I've ridden, so I know, and, I certainly hope I can train him to Grand Prix, again, not to win, but to be able to do all the movements.

I do not have the money to spend on a big, expensive incredibly moving dressage horse, so I train whatever horse I own to his full potential. I honestly and perhaps, naively, think that is what dressage is all about. I show more to test myself than to win, but I do take issue with judging and scoring that reflects the quality of the horse as opposed to the quality of the training.

I have been insulted by teachers before, so I can certainly survive this latest experience. That is one of the reasons I loved Lockie Richards. You could come into one of his lessons with a short legged fat Shetland pony and he would always find something good about the horse and, in the lesson always find a way to make the horse even better. He was a true and talented teacher and the world is much emptier for his loss. Edgar Hotz, who was a really tough judge, was also a good teacher whose goal was to make whatever horse came into one of his lessons better.

As a high school teacher myself, I try to judge each student according to his/her abilities, and while I may well set my standards high, I will always reward the student to tries to reach the goal and I try to make at least an essential part of the goal something every student in my class can reach.

I am hoping Gabriel will be here Tuesday for lessons, as I could use some good training right about now.

In the meantime, I rode Chance for a bit in the ring, then took him out for a longish trail ride tonight. We saw at least 3 white tailed deer (the dreaded fangtails) out on the edge of the woods and all my Chancypants did was stop and stare, and then go on about his business. He did try to spook at a tree stump, but once he saw what it was, he marched on by without much fuss.

He is funny as each time I school him in the ring, the "out gate" to the woods has a magnetic effect on his body. At this rate he may never really learn to go on the bit, as the hacks are so much more fun for us both. On the other hand, I really would like to have some more steering control when we are out on our adventures. Guess I am going to have to settle down and do some serious long lining with him as when he was in more steady work in the spring, it was really making a difference in his under saddle efforts.

Tuck had the day off but certainly insisted on attention. His new trick is to try to bite me, demanding at least some kind of acknowledgement.

I "asked" Toby if he wanted to go out for a hack, but he took off when he saw the bridle. So, I gave both him and my bad knees a break.

I'll ride that terrrible mover of mine, Tucker, tomorrow. School is off for the week, so I have lots of daylight. Here's hoping I can get him to do some of those things he simply shouldn't be able to do....*G*

Saturday, November 03, 2007


Tucker was a Gem

Even if Axel Steiner didn't like him.

Well, ,aybe he liked him a little, but he certainly was disparaging of Tucker's gaits when we started out. The horse prior had been a nice little Dutch Warmblood and Tuck DOES NOT move like a warmblood. He does have three more than adequate gaits with a nice canter when he relaxes.

He was very tense at the beginning but, aside from a few spooks, really a good boy.

Steiner made a few remarks about how much more the gallery could now appreciate the previous horse gaits and also told me Tuck would never be a Grand Prix horse. Now, mind you, I did not tell him I wanted to compete at Grand Prix, just that I wanted to train a horse to that level. Sorry, but there I cannot agree. Far less talented horses than Tucker have been trained to Grand Prix, so I don't think that's a real issue.

We spent the session getting Tucker to move forward off my leg, something which, prior to the ulcer medication was an iffy proposition. He was good as gold about responding to taps of the whip and, once he figured it out, transitions down and up to help him engage his hind end.

The trouble was, aside from encouraging me to get Tucker forward--something which I do know has been a problem--Steiner didn't really teach me anything else new, inventive or worth the exhorbitant fee I paid for the clinic. ($200+) If I hadn't known how and when to do half halts to encourage him to step under or to soften him before the lengthenings, we would not have accomplished anything. To be frank, this guy was not a good teacher. Good eye for demanding and watching for improvement in my horse's gaits, but very little use as to how to get there except to drive him on.

For his part, once Tucker decided that the doors, windows and people seated at the side of the ring were not going to eat him, he settled into a very workmanlike attitude and really worked hard for me.

Times like this, I just try to keep things in perspective. I know Tucker does not "take your breath away" when he moves, but he is certainly capable of the upper level movements. He is not carrying himself as well as he will be able to as his training progresses, but we have also just come through more than one wasted year when every effort to challenge him for more was a really, really risky endeavor.

I have always believed dressage was the way to make an average horse better and that done well, any horse can be improved. I have also believed that in the show ring, even the average horse, going at his best, deserves reward. It may not be the blue (In Britain, the red) ribbon, but some respect and compliments from the judge can go a long way.

Hard to tell any of that from Mr. Steiner. One of the auditors left after a few minutes of my ride because she was so insulted by his commentary she just didn't want to watch any more.

Too bad. As far as I am concerned, Tucker won the championship today with his attitude and work ethic.

A Word on Long Lining

There Are Many Approaches

I first learned to long line over 25 years ago from Lockie Richards. He taught me the basics of driving my horse with me behind as a way of introducing the piaffe. My horse never did quite master the movement, but I found lining a great way of encouraging him to go correctly on the bit and began to line instead of lunge soon after.

Some people call it "double lunging" as you are using to lines instead of one. The advantage to lunging, in my mind, is that the contact to the bit is not static as it is with side reins. However, it also demands that the handler think a whole lot more about how to work the reins.

I don't much any more walk behind my horses, mostly because my bad knees make it hard for me to run so we can only work at the walk. That's fine for some of the lateral work and introducing piaffe, but it's hard to do much else. Also, because the walk it the least "impulsive" gait, getting the right contact to the bit can be tricky unless the horse just naturally swings along in a good free walk taking the reins. (My guys like to get a bit lazy.)

I've used lots of rein configurations but prefer attaching the lines directly to the bit, then running them through the top rings of the surcingle to my hands. This is most like the postion the reins would be if I were riding. I run the outside line over the horse's back, not around the hindquarters. I don't like using the line around the rump because it can get caught in the tail and also, should it go slack I think it's a potential danger to get caught up in the hind legs.

I know plenty of experienced trainers put the lines lower and use them around the rump, but I am just not quick enough to correct things should we have a problem--again with the knees--so I like to take a more conservative approach.

If I do need to drop a line to a lower hole, I will most likely just drop the inside line.

Another option is to "vee" the lines by fastening the line to a lower dee, running it through the bit and up through the top dee to my hand. This gives a "draw" rein effect and far more leverage on a horse that might be really resistant to giving to the bit. However, again, you have to be really careful in using your hands as it is also very easy to get a horse overbent--into the dreaded rolkur--if you don't "give" the lines as soon as the horse yields. It's tricky.

I use the "vee" technique on Chance now and then to get him to go down as he likes to "stargaze" when he first starts out. Then, I am very light once he gives because when he gets the idea, he is soft. Toby can be tough sometimes so I might use it more. It is not the best solution for Tucker as he will overbend very quickly.

The outside line is always the key, just as the outside rein is the key when you ride. It is the line that brings the horse onto the bit and essentially controls the "height" of his head--the frame. The inside rein offers direction and bend, but really does need to work with the outside rein to get much done.

Aside from my start with Lockie, I have never had any other formal training on using the long lines and have figured out most of this by myself. I have had more than my share of mishaps including loose horses galloping around the ring with the lines trailing, and one of my favorites, horses who have spun around to end up wrapped in the lines.

However, when the lining works, it is a wonderful training tool. When Toby was first ridden after having been lined for a year, the girl who worked him for me kept insisting he was a trained horse instead of an "unbroke" three year old. She had him cantering after the second ride and he was steering and stopping like a pro. Tucker was largely started on the lines as well and when I first rode him, he stopped and steered well too. Chance loves trails so much I tend to do that with him more than the lining, but this past spring, I focused on lining him for about two weeks and it made a huge difference. (He had a injury soon after and was laid up almost all summer, so I never did finish up that effort.)

I've jumped my guys in the lines, and worked them over cavaletti. I've tried flying changes with little success, but the Spanish Riding School trainers have no trouble with that. From what I have seen, a good trainer can do most everything a rider can do under saddle in the lines. I'll never quite master all of that, but who says I won't keep trying?

All in all, I have found long lining to be a great alternative to riding, and, as I said in my last post, a good way to actually see your horse in action.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Three Long Lines

And I Get To Watch Them Go

One thing that is nice about lunging on the double long lines is that I can watch My Boys move.

I started off with Toby who was broken in the lines and is a true master. All I have to do is think what I want him to do and he does it. I gave him a moderate workout, as he is not fit enough to work for long up into the bridle. Most of his session was on a longish frame, but at the end of each direction I did a series of canter/trot/canter transitions that brought him up into an upper level carriage for one or two turns around the lunging circle. He certainly earned his carrot at the end of the session.

Chance was next and this time I did not "vee" the lines through two sets of rings to create a draw rein effect to get him to give to the bit and drop into a frame. This time I wanted to see what he would do with just a direct rein through the top to rings of the surcingle. He went into a nice trot but did not lower his head on his own. However, when I asked for the canter, he reached out to the bit and offered a little bit of a frame. I suspect the added impulsion of the canter made him seek the contact while the trot, not quite as energetic did not. One thing I do find interesting is that he definitely does tire from the work and, quite unlike my Thoroughbreds, chooses to just stop on his own.

In contrast to Chance, Tucker does not wind down as the session goes on, but rather energizes. Twice, towards the end of our lining work, he let fly with a buck and bolted off on the end of the lines and it was all I could to to follow along on my bad knees to hold him from breaking away.

Years ago at one of his first horse shows he was all riled up and I tried a lunging session to settle him down. I accomplished nothing. As a matter of fact, he was even worse during and after the lunging than he had been under saddle.

As a result, I have never made it a habit of lunging my horses before riding as a way of relaxing them or warming them up. Chance, as the first non-Thoroughbred I've worked in a long, long time, is an entirely different kind of horse. It's something I need to keep in mind should I ever need to settle him in.

Tucker looked good in between the silliness, but I have to be very careful that he does not overflex. He is not doing what he did when I first started him, which was to go behind the bit with both his head and his body, but is now more likely to overbend on the lines while still keeping pretty active behind. When he does that, it makes it hard to encourage him to elevate his front end as the weight shifts to his hind end, because there is no way to "Lift" or half-halt him on the lines when he's too flexed.

If this doesn't make sense, don't worry about it. Long lining is a tricky business because you really don't have a seat or leg to back up a rein aid. While the whip does help, it's not quite the same kind of driving aid a rider can offer. The best exercise seemed to be to push him into a forward canter, which did open up his frame, than ask for the trot, hold it in the more open frame until he overflexed again, and then go back to canter. The natural impulsion of the canter, as it did with Chance, creates a better frame and tends to correct the over bending.

My surcingle with the turrets was damaged in one of Chance's "Barn Raids" so my upper rings are not quite as high or loose as I'd like them to be and that helps too. I have seen some driving rigs with an elevated "thing" so the rein aids can be higher up, but that's kind of a cheat....and expensive, as I recall.

I'll just have to figure out how to encourage him to take more weight on his hind end with some clever exercises--yet to be determined.