Friday, June 27, 2008

Gentlemen Both

The shed from the arena gate so you can see where it is located.

No Spooks Here

My carpenter and his assistant were here before 8 AM to work on the shed. You can see how much work they did today. When they came all that was there were the concrete footings to hold the upright posts.

While they were working, I did as planned and rode both Tucker and Chance in the arena.

Tucker was absolutley perfect about all the noise and construction. The saws, the compressor, the nail gun, the lumber being lifted and moved, the men on the roof and every other possible distraction had no effect on his concentration at all. We had a good school, a bit short because the heat was alredy building. We did some half pass, a lot of canter walk canter transitions, some super trot work some walk pirouettes and not once did he take his focus off of me on his back. What an incredible change from the horse I used to know.

Chance was a little less perfect, but he is still not entirely steady under saddle so any kind of disturbance affects him more. I did not ride him right up to the fence where the shed is as I did Tucker, but I probably could have done so after about five minutes. He bopped his head a few times, but was very easy to correct.

The biggest flaw in our ride was that I had opened the second gate out to the pasture and forgotten to close the other gate that opens into the arena. Needless to say, we had two visitors when Toby and Tucker wandered in to "snoopervise" the schooling session. I had to dismount , shoo them back out, and then remount to finish up my ride. Chance took it all in stride.

I didn't ride Toby as the temperatures upped into the 90's. It was pretty oppressive. I don't know how those guys kept working, but they did. As you can see, the shed will be done in another day. Amazing.

Below is a picture of Chance heading out to look at the shed. He had to stop to check out the barrel, as you can see. He is quite a cute young man.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The New Shed

It's Underway!!

The footings are in, the lumber finally arrived and the new shed is being built. I think it will be done by early next week. Steve, my carpenter, also started fixing the barn roof edge where the water had seeped into the wood and ruined the edge of it. Two jobs well begun in one day. The guy is a whiz.

He has one of his students working with him, learning some invaluable lessons in contruction for the summer and the two of them spent a good day digging holes for the footings, pouring concrete, and then working on the roof. Then, at workday's end, Steve knocked on my door to tell me he was still waiting for the lumber delivery. He told me he'd stay in the neighborhood until the deliveryman called him and then come back. Sure enough, sometime around 5 PM or so, both the lumber truck and Steve showed up. The truck was far too big to get in my driveway, so the guy unloaded the wood with a forklift he carries attached to the back of the trailer. Quite impressive, and it allowed him to drop the pile in the paddock just where Steve wanted it.

The Boys, meantime, seem singularly unimpressed with all the activity going on. Nice, because I guess Chance finally gave up trying to untie the knot to get the panels down.

Speaking of, I decided to lunge everyone at the end of the arena where all the shed makings and tools are. No one spooked or made a fuss. I was thinking that if I am ambitious enough, and it's not unbearbly hot tomorrow morning, I might ride Tucker and Chance while the guys are working. Posts going up, hammering, etc. should be a fine distraction for some training experience.

I lunged all three tonight and everyone was virtually perfect. Chance is getting really responsive to the voice commands and is much more even on both the right and left hands. Sometimes, on the right he still drifts out but it's so minor now it hardly matters. The nice thing is that this is also reflecting into his under saddle work, confirming, in my mind how valuable in hand exercises can be.

Tucker and Toby were lovely as well, so once more I am pleased with my Boys. I have some well mannered horses quite uncomplicated to the moment. Only time will tell.

So I Didn't


OK, first day of the summer vacation from school. Did I ride? No.

In the morning I woke up with a dreadful stiff neck as I'd managed to sleep badly on it. So, off I went to the chiropractor. Fine, felt much better in an hour or so.

My carpenter was here so I chatted a bit with him. I had put up the corral panels to keep the horses out of the paddock area where he was working and, as usual had tied them together. When he came in, he saw one of the horses--the one with the white face--working like crazy to until one of the straps on the panels. He said when he walked by the horse kind of looked away from the strap with that kind of, "Who, me? I'm not doing anything," expression. Then as soon as he went back up the hill to where the run in shed is going to be the horse went back to trying to untie the strap. He said, not being a horseman, that it was really amazing to see.

White face? Chance. Need I say more? I should have renamed him Houdini.

I had to go in to school in the early afternoon to sign out. That meant I wouldn't have time to ride during the day--although it was kind of hot anyhow. I arrived at school on time, but ended up waiting some 45 minutes for one of the principals to come to the office to do look over all my paperwork and do my classroom check. And I had a meeting with the Assistant Superintendent about a project I am working on.

Got home in time to feed the Boys.

But, I had a rehearsal at 6:30 for my solo on Sunday, and I needed to practice my music a few more times. Since the reahearsal included dinner and a really nice visit with my choir director and his wife--two good friends--that took up the rest of the day.

I had the day off and no time to ride.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Complicated Consequences

And How I Managed to Ride All Three

Where shall I begin?

I rode Toby first tonight. It had cooled off considerably, but was a little more humid than it had been during the day as another storm had come through.

Aside from his habit of twisting his jaw against the bit on the right, he was a lovely ride. I did a good session of trot including the trotting poles. He misjudged them a few times, so I made sure I ended up setting him to them correctly on each hand to finish up. I rode a nice set of canter, counter canter, true canter to flying chance on each hand, took a break and then popped over the little jump. He was best at that when I rode him into my hand to balance him. The nice thing was that he didn't charge into the fence or charge off afterwards. Granted, it was only about 1' high, but I did ask him to jump so there was every opportunity for him to get rambunctious as he often does when jumping.

Tucker had been keeping a close eye on us as I rode, so I collected him second. What can I say? He is really shaping up as a dressage mount. We did some shoulder in, leg yield, half pass and lengthening at the trot. The lengthenings are his greatest weakness with his short back and close coupling, but at the end of the ride he did offer a pretty good one, so I was pleased. In the canter I was able to keep the counter lead on both reins with only one break of gait. I'll do that for another week at least before going back to the attempts at flying change. Anticipating the changes has messed up his canter, so it does need some good remedial work. When he thought I was heading him for the little jump, he perked up so I jumped him over it three times in each direction to finish up with something fun.

Chance was quite pleased to be caught. I only rode him for about 10 or 15 minutes, but honestly, that was all he needed. He was wonderful! His head stayed down in all three gaits--a little unsteadily still at the canter--and for all in all, he really does seem to have the concept.

So, how did I manage all this on graduation night? Well, I was excused from my assignment due to the potential danger from the student who threatened me. The teachers' association reps (my union) had followed up on the nasty scene from Friday, quite concerned that the administration had not handled any of it well. The student had screamed out some pretty strong threats and nothing had really been done to deal with it. Despite her behavior, she was going to be participating in the graduation ceremony. (Students who fail a class may still walk but not receive their diplomas until they make up the course in summer school.)

We all agreed, including my principal, that it would be better if I didn't have to see her tonight. Maybe it was better for my blood pressure. Not sure, but I think the "deal" she made with the assistant principal to make up my course during the summer at her convenience may be in jeopardy as well since the principal (the building boss) wasn't pleased to hear a compromise had been worked out.

Meanwhile, back at the barn, the fox visited again, prowling along the edge of the ring near the woods gate. I talked to him and instead of spooking, he stopped, listened for a moment and then slipped off back into the forest. While I'm sure he's up to no good with my neighbor's fowl, I have to admit he is kind of cute.

I wouldn't mind if he'd visit IN my barn to do some ratting for me. When I went to water the horses this morning, I turned on the hose and NOTHING. First I thought there was a kink, but when I found none, I was totally confused. Then I notices water under my feet where the hose runs under the mats near Toby's stall door. I pulled up the mat, and there was a gusher!! Apparently, one of the rats had decided to chew two sizable holes in my plastic/nylon hose. Yeech!! I took a chance and wrapped the hose with some duct tape. Whoopee! That stuff will save the world one day. It worked perfectly. Good thing. The rest of the hose is in really good shape and I'd hate to have to replace it.

All I can say is RATS!

Soggy Hot Monday

Opted Out

Was thinking about doing something with the Boys, but it was hot and humid all day. I'd been steamy in my classroom, so I was also kind of worn out.

Nothing of substance to report, of course. I don't even think the Boys managed to do much interesting. They were just hanging out when I got home and not very involved in anything exciting.

Guess it's OK to have days like that now and again, although I have a bad feeling I'll have a lot of them this summer. There is rumor of another heat wave coming.

But late last night into the early morning hours, a weather front came through in a fairly noisy thunderstorm. There wasn't much rain--enough to wet everything down--but it seems to have washed away the humidity. It felt really wonderful outside this morning. is still in session!! It's the last day and I have to go back tonight for graduation, so I am going to be pressed for time again. It all depends on how early I get home after the ceremony as to whether I will have a chance to work a horse. I might have some time in the afternoon, but again the weather and heat will figure in.

When I was younger, I wasn't such a wimp about the weather. I rode in the heat, the cold, and sometimes even in the rain. Stacie and I have often discussed the idea that when we boarded our horses out we were much more likely to ride them. We decided that combining a drive to the stable and the financial expense of the board, inspired a certain committment keeping them at home doesn't demand. It would take me twenty five minutes to drive to the barn. If I didn't do something productive with my horse, the trip would have been a waste. Now, it takes me all of two minutes to walk out to the barn. Somehow it's just too easy to say, "Oh, I can ride later if I feel like it."

Then again, back then, I only had one bad knee and it wasn't much of a problem. Since I've had the Boys at home, I have wrecked my other knee, had surgery on it and redamaged the other bad knee so it too needed surgery. Sometimes I just can't drag myself up on a horse.

As I've said before, I don't think the Boys mind much. They seem pretty happy just lounging around.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Pair of Riding Horses

Summer Sunday

It was kind of hot today, but not humid so I was pretty tolerable. Still I waited until evening to ride.

I'd kept the poles in the arena and the little jump, but "someone" had dismantled everything during the night. I went out first, reset the poles and moved the little jump to a better location. About five minutes later, Chance went into the arena and took the jump back apart, scattering the poles and blox all over the place. Ah, well.

I saddled Tucker up first and started off with some really nice flat work. He was quite willingly round, had a nice forward trot and, at least on the left rein, a good canter and counter canter. The right lead was a little problematic when I tried the counter canter as he kept breaking, but some hissing and determination on my part eventually got him all the way 'round the arena twice on the counter lead, so I left it alone for the day.

The trotting pole work was nice and clean, despite the distraction of a visiting rooster from my neighbor's house. The bird was exploring the far end of the arena but to his credit, Tucker just kept an eye on him while he kept on working as I asked. I'd lowered the little jump to only about a foot, but Tuck still jumped it instead of stepping over.

Chance was next, and I was really pleased with him. His head went down immediately and all through his trot work, he stayed in a nice little frame. The canter was not quite as steady and his head came up, but I think that's still how he tries to keep his balance. Since the gait is pretty irregular, with varied impulsion and some quickness in the corners, I figure he just needs some practice and repetition to learn how to canter in the frame. I don't believe in working too hard to hold a horse up or together when he's learning how to carry a rider as it's something he needs to figure out on his own.

I think it was V. Littaur who wrote extensively about letting the green horse stabilize himself when he was first under saddle. He advocated riding on a relatively loose rein, giving the horse its head and neck to learn its own balance. I'm not quite that free with my youngsters as I do like to be able to steer, but I don't tend to hold them up or hold them together.

What I like about how Chance is going right now is that he is seeking the bit on his own at the walk and trot, quite willing to stretch down into the contact. The canter will come quickly.

Toby got a carrot even though I didn't work him. He deserves one just for being Toby.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Poles and Fences

Three On the Lunge

I opted for some lunging today. I had decided I really needed to work all three and didn't have the ambition to do all the saddling up.

So, instead I set up a 2 foot high jump and laid out some trotting poles and caught the Boys, one at a time. Today, everyone was playing "catch me if you can" to some degree. I am afraid Toby's semi-evil ways have rubbed off on both Tucker and Chance. Fortunately they are both suckers for a treat, so they are never really impossible to catch.

Tucker was first and, I would say the best over the obstacles. He trotted the poles nicely, stretching his stride and elevating to cover the distance. Then, into the jump he was quiet, soft, and relaxed. He got a little lazy once and knocked the pole down, but on the whole, he managed it really well.

Toby was next and after his flat warmup, he also did the poles well. I probably should have spaced them a big farther apart for him as his stride is really long, but he adjusted well. When he realized we were jumping, he really perked up. Unlike Tucker who will run out now and then, Toby focuses his radar on the obstacle and heads for it with determined enthusiasm. Sometimes there's a bit too much enthusiasm, but he always jumps well.

Chance was quite forward in his warmup, trying to canter off at every opportunity, and he as fussing about whatever bugs or flies were out, but he finally settled down. He cantered the poles the first time through, then with my verbal correction managed to trot them nicely, handling the same spread the Big Boys had done with no trouble at all.

The jump posed no problem at all this time. He is a fast learner as this is only the second time I've asked him to go over something actually requiring a jump. But, it was not perfect and twice, during the session, he headed in and simply forgot to get off the ground, knocking the rail and the blocks holding it all over the place. I will say that each time--once in each direction--he made a lovely effort when I sent him back over, so he has the sense to figure out how to correct his own mistakes.

Everyone earned a tasty carrot, and a good spritz of bug spray.

I'll go back out and tuck them in for the night later with the famous "midnight snack."

ANother Day Gone

School was a Bummer

Came home with a tension headache after a horrendous day at school.

One of the seniors who failed my class with some 60+ days absent and a failing grade point average caused a terrible ruckus. Included were a number of threats against me. I was pretty ugly.

Hopefully, the administrator in charge has found a solution where the girl will make up time and classwork in a modified summer school program suited to her work schedule. She really does need her job, which I understand, but I also could not certify her as passing when she in no way mastered 60% of the course material.

Anyhow, by the time I administered one more final exam, graded that and then calculated all the year end grade averages and submitted the required grades, I was worn out.

Never guess what I didn't do when I got home.

Don't think the Boys care. They look happy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Nothing to Report

Horses Fine

Me, tired.

Had a long day at school despite its being only a half day. I had two exams to give to two classes. And, I needed to grade them both and figure the grade averages for the year.

Then we had a rather long meeting on school safety procedures.

When I got home, I just had no energy left. Or, no ambition. Or neither of either.

Thoughts: To Caroline--PK is Phillipe Karl, master of the French school of classic equitation.

When I rode with Lockie Richards, he simplified many of the complex riding methods of the world into easily understood concepts. He was himself a master teacher who had hundreds of marvelous techiques to deal with almost any training problem with nearly every kind of horse. (Lockie also rode at the Spanish Riding School a few times and narrated an excellent documentary on the School.)

When we were discussing some of the various ways to ride, he introduced the German school as driving the horse from behind into the bit. The French school worked the horse from front to back, suppling the front end to "allow" the hind end to step forward. He also said some horses were naturally German and others French. Russell R. was more French and worked better if we used those techniques.

Lockie also said that he'd ridden in some of the top German schools and found many of the horses very "strong" to the contact in front. As a matter of fact, he recalled one time when riding with a German master, that he found himself almost not strong enough to maintain the kind of contact his mount demanded.

I always remember these lessons when I am riding and considering exactly what is right and correct. Everyone will talk about "lightness" to the bit, but that is never actually defined. I have always felt my horses were going better when I had some good solid contact on the bit. It would actually be a matter of pounds, not ounces. But, I still tend to ride more "French" in the sense that my horse also needs to be suppled in the front so he can come through from behind. The contact needs to feel "alive" as if at any time I could bend him right or left easily and close up his frame more if I wanted to. I also seem to want to feel a little sense that if I let the rein play out, my horse would want to stretch down and out, not up and out.

Fortunately I was pleased to discover that Gabriel, my new trainer, was happy with the feel Tucker gave him when he worked him on the long lines, and also when he rode him. He had said that watching me ride Tuck, he was not too sure he was taking the bit as much as he should be.

So far, then, so good. Tucker does, however, tend to "lock" his jaw a bit and resist by stiffening thrhough his poll. This is one of the reasons why the long lining, even with an overbend, is good for him as it really does make him give in. When I am on the ground--as Lockie taught me for longlining many years ago--I have much more leverage than I do in the saddle. Planted to the earth by gravity, I have a decided advantage with a horse trying to resist the action of the bit. But, because of that, I must also be tactful and ready to "give" quickly. It's a tricky job, as I said yesterday.

By the by, Kenny Harlow establishes the "give to the bit" as one of the first basic training exercises in the horses he works. The idea is to hold the rein until the horse "drops" its head to the bit. You must release the rein entirely and instantly each time the horse gives even a fraction, until, eventually, the horse's reaction to the lightest touch of the rein is to give to the bit. Dressage does need more contact than that basic "give" creates, but using his (and John Lyons's) basic techniques can make a really positive change in a resistant horse.

OK, I'll get down of the soapbox now. Perhaps tomorrow I will put some of my concepts into practice and do some riding of my own.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lines Between the Lightning

Or After the Thunder

The timing of the weather fronts is really frustrating. A thunderstorm came through before dark, and at the time I was going to work the horses. I went out to close off the pasture and encourage them to come into the barn for some alfalfa cubes.

About 45 minutes later, the rain stopped, so I went back out to longline Tucker. I felt he needed to do some really round, submissive work.

I started him off on a small circle around me, using the lunge whip to encourage him to engage his hind end. Wow! We had about 4 circuits of really upper level, collected trot. I didn't press for more of that and let him out on the large circle first to stretch a bit for a warm up and then to work into the frame.

At first it was pretty good, but then he started to swing his hind end out instead of tracking under his body. This is a relatively new evasion, so I dropped the outside rein to the lower ring of the surcingle and took it around his hind end to get some lateral control and to keep encouraging those hind legs to step under.

Essentially, the session went well except for two issues. The first was Chance's and Toby's shenanagins in the adjacent paddock. They were goofing around and periodically took off in a made gallop which sent Tucker off into a mad gallop until I could get him back under control.

The second issue is a chronic one I haven't quite figured out how to solve. When Tuck submits to the reins he tends to overbend. Sometimes, he drops quite low. I can generally kind of snap him back up with a correction on the outside rein, but that doesn't always hold and he will overbend again. When he is up and correct, he really looks wonderful and uses himself well. When he overflexes, he is still using himself, but I think he's acutally dropped a little on his forehand or is not really "through" to the bit.

Still, since I do not work him in that frame for more than a few minutes at a time, it is kind of OK. It actually does supple him and work the muscles he needs to develop, so it's not really detrimental. I would, though, just like to see him more consistently work in a more correct, vertical frame.

Again, the mosquitoes came out in force--may have to call the Mosquito Control guy to get some spraying done soon--so I left the other two Boys to their carrots and came back in to report.

At least the day was cool and it seems we will be having similar temperatures for at least a few more days.

Gabriel may be coming on Saturday, so I could have a lesson. Not sure yet, but I am hoping. I really enjoy working with him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cool Breezes

Oops....We Forgot

Finally a lovely break in the weather. So, I headed out to ride Tucker. He seemed pleased to be caught even though all three of them were in the farthest corner of the pasture.

I started off with a good session of walk. I tried some walk pirouettes on each hand and Tuck seemed to manage them quite well. But I do need a ground person to check to see if he is correctly stepping with his hind feel instead of simply spinning on one. Pirouettes are a little tricky to get just right, but I am pleased with Tucker's willingness to turn on his hind end.

We moved up to trot. It felt nice and bouncy, with a fairly slow tempo, and a nice round frame. I worked from ten meter circles to leg yield, to shoulder in and then some good half pass.

Then I asked for canter. Things started off well, but I had decided to focus on counter canter to build Tuck's balance. That's where the "ooops" comes in. Tuck has forgotten how to counter canter. With typical Thoroughbred quickness, he has decided I must want some kind of lead change whenever I change direction. He is really trying to please, but at the same time has "switched off" my aids and is simply trying to do something he thinks is right.

The rest of the session was not the prettiest ride I've ever managed. Tuck kept throwing in lead changes--sometimes semi-flying ones--and I just kept trying to ride one circuit of the arena on each counter lead. After about fifteen minutes of schooling, we finally managed to keep each lead, I gave him a pat and quit for the night.

Actually, there is nothing surprising about this as it is one of the problems that can happen when you start to school the changes. That's one of the reasons the counter canter should be well established. Tucker's is...or at least it was....guess we just need to work on it again. *G* What does surprise me is how quickly Tucker figured out the concept of the lead changes and managed to come up with his "attempt to overplease evasion by anticipating" solution to the training challenge. He is as smart as Russell was, if not smarter, and that is quite a compliment to his intelligence. The smart ones are hard to train, but I love it.

I longlined Toby to finish off the evening. The mosquitoes were on the move and hungry. I'm sure I don't need to say it again, but Toby was a star on the lines, despite the bugs. He is such a pleasure to work on the lines it made a perfect ending to the day.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weather Or Not

Damp Either Way

The heat and humidity together were horrid. All I did was feed the Boys and pick out one stall in the AM and I was soaked with sweat. Mr. Weatherman's prediction of good weather was not right for sure.

I decided to wait for evening to do at least a little work with the Boys.

Well, that was another mistake. I put Chance on the lunge line and managed to get him worked well on the left rein as a nice cool breeze kicked up. It was quite comfy out there and he was working well until...well, big drops of cold rain started falling.

With heavy thunderstorms predicted, and an ominous looking sky, I surrendered once again to Mother Nature, and gave up.

Of course, I had just spent the hour before trying to get Tucker out of the tackroom. Somehow I had forgotten to hook the gate at the far end of the barn and left the stall guard off the tack room door. I found a 16.3 h horse happily raiding the grain bin, wedged into a 10' wide room with cabinets on both sides. Needless to say, the place was a wreck. I drove the tractor out from under the shed roof, cleared everything from the door leading out to the lawn, and tried to convince Tuck to come out that way. He tossed his head, hit the top of the door and stalled. He wouldn't come forward and he wouldn't back up. He was totally stuck in there.

Goodie. The floor is only 1/4 inch plywood over beams and he'd already put a hoof through the floor twice in earlier raids, so this was getting dangerous. I had a 4ft X 4ft piece of plywood over the holes, reenforcing the floor but there were still several places where another errant hoof could spell disaster for horse and floor.

I was nearly at my wit's end and Chance, who was in the aisle of the barn, was not helping by trying to get in the tack room behind Tuck. So I went into the barn from the outside door to get him out of the way. I shooed him back outside, turned around, and saw Tucker's head sticking out into the aisleway. Somehow, he had managed to turn himself around. That should have been a impossible task considering how narrow the space was, but apparently my big boy is quite agile. Thankfully, he stepped back down into the barn aisle and saved himself.

Mental note. ALWAYS close the stall guard into the tack room.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sweating it Out

Shoulda Ridden Earlier

I waited a bit too long this morning to ride, so by the time I went out, it was getting kind of warm out there--upper 80's. But the humidity is still down, so I figured working in the heat would do some conditioning for us both...or trice.

I rode Tucker first and he is still working well even with a week off due to the heat. As a matter of fact, he tried to do some flying changes right from the start. He didn't quite get it, but the mere fact that he offered is a big step. His trot work, shoulder in, haunches in, half pass and all is making really good progress as he is getting rounder and rounder and activating his hind end more and more willingly.

The canter is also improving as he is finding his balance better and better. The simple changes are more solid as well which is another big accomplishment. All these things are signs that Tucker is transferring his weight to his hind end and learning better how to correctly engage. We did several sessions of counter canter, and while the left is better, the right lead is also getting stronger.

Even though it was getting hotter, I saddled up Chance. He's lost a little of the steadiness we'd had in his last ride, but he is not throwing his head around at all. I kept the overall ride short but incorporated a good selection of training exercises including a number of canter departs on each lead. When I was training Tucker, I used a "hiss" to give a vocal cue for canter. It is an aid I can resort to in the show ring as only the horse can hear it. Each time I wanted Chance to canter, I used that "hiss" and soon we had a nice prompt depart. The nice thing is that nearly every time, he took the correct lead with only about one misstep on the right rein.

I finished up with some trot/halt/trot transitions and called it a day.

If I decide to work Toby, it will be later when evening cools things off again.

Friday, June 13, 2008

No Report

Hot Day in School: Thursday

Well the cool off is not so cool off. I ended up staying in my classroom all day and it was wearing.

Thought I would ride after the sun started to set.

I fell asleep on the couch instead--hope my chiropractor doesn't read this.

Guess the heat got to me after all.

The Boys are, however, going out to the pasture occasionally. This after about five days of simply standing in the barn.

And I wonder why my training is going so slowly.....*sigh*

The last day of school for the summer is June 24th, so after that I can ride in the morning or whenever I so choose. That always makes it easier when the weather is hot.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Perhaps Later

At Least It's Cooler.....

Relatively speaking, that is. Still upper 80's. Got home a bit late and I have a meeting soon, so the horses did not get any work...yet. If the meeting closes early enough, I will at least lunge Tucker in the cool, cool, cool of the evening.

To follow up Caroline's story of Zip and his nap, when I went out for later night feed last night--or this morning around midnight, Chance was napping in his stall. He didn't bother to get up when I turned the barn lights on. I put his hay in and he just lay there, reaching over to munch on it. He was so comfy and adorable I simply could not disturb him by making him get up to eat his feed out of the tub. So, I poured it on top of the pile of hay.

Well, that suited Chance just fine and he started eating the feed too, without bothering to get up. I guess it's OK if he eats in bed? Talk about the easy life. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'll Say It Again

It's Still Too Darn Hot

They closed school for half a day. Pretty dramatic. Classes were hardly going on anyhow as most teachers and students were clustering in the rooms with air conditioning, including the auditorium.

I had a room with AC myself, so my students just sat back and relaxed. I did vocabulary with my freshmen and my seniors are still watching "The Prestige." Fascinating film even the second time around. The kids really seem interested in it.

Horses? Standing in their stalls (12' X 12' boxes) with the fans blowing on them. Although Toby and Tucker were together when I got home. Chance was in his own stall looking quite content with his mane blowing in the fan breeze.

Toby looked a little worn, though. I think the heat got to him a bit more than the others.

But, thunderstorms and a "cold front" are on the way tonight. "Cold" is relative as the temperature is supposed to only go down to the 80's, but that's almost a 20 degree drop! And the horrible tropical humidity is also supposed to go away.

Unloaded some alfalfa cubes, cleaned the stable, unhitched the truck and put it in the garage, (in case of hail), and came back in the house dripping with sweat.

Anyone want a free sauna? Come to New Jersey!

Monday, June 09, 2008

100 Degrees and Counting

It's Too Darn Hot

But, bless my school Principal who gave me an air conditioned room to teach in. I was on his list of people who need to be rescued from horribly hot classrooms.

Meanwhile, the Boys are hanging out in the barn in front of their fans. The heat is supposed to break tomorrow night with thunderstorms, so I am hoping the forecast is right on.

So, I will take the time to hold court on the flying change, counter canter issue. I've read several articles about it since which do hold with the principles of training I have always believed in, so that always makes me feel good.

The idea, is to develop the flying change out of the counter canter, and only when the counter canter is established. This is to develop a straight and correct flying change.

Interestingly enough, when I did get the two lovely changes from Tucker, both came from a very well balanced and engaged counter canter. I collected him in the counter canter, switched the bend and the leg aid probably at just the right time, and there it was.

Now, I do have the advantage of having trained three other horses to change and have Toby as a well established "flying changer" to ride to settle my brain around just when I need to give the aid. You really need to ask when the horse is off the ground, just ready to strike through with what will be the new leading hind leg. And, of course, the horse has to respond to the new leg aid with a surging, longer stride on that hind leg to get the change. Sounds complicated, but if you do ride a trained horse, it is surprisingly easy to "feel" just the right moment.

With Tucker, the big thing is the balance. If he is light on his forehand and engaged in back, and able to collect the gait, he can manage. One of the articles suggests that before you train the changes, the horse needs to be able to counter canter a ten meter circle. That is, if you think about it, a rather challenging exercise. I am reasonably sure Tucker can manage that on the left lead, but I doubt his right lead can handle it.

As a cool aside, here, I taught PJ the flying change by using the half pass. He simply could not get the concept from counter canter, nor changes of direction (used with Toby and Russell R.) so I had to adapt. I would do a half pass from the centerline to the rail, riding it with slight bend so at the end the change of bend would not be a huge change. Then I cued with the outside leg, changed the bend, and he got it. Very interesting. Again, all dependent on some of the other basic exercises being firmly established before challenging him with the changes. He too was very good at the changes, but, unlike Toby, did tend to get a little rattled sometimes at the tempis. If he got worked up, he'd miscue. Toby would go like a metronome. But that was mainly a difference in temperament rather than training.

Be assured, once this weather breaks, I will be back in the saddle testing the theories. And I will definitely be working that counter canter to make sure it is solid and correct on both leads with an emphasis on the right to develop his strength.

I did mow the lawn last night, so things don't look quite so out of control as far as the grass goes.

Don't know if I am up to any outdoor work challenges tonight. It's just too darn hot.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

And the Heat is On

90+ Degrees, And That's in the Shade

Took a lesson yesterday, and it was horribly hot.

On the plus side, besides the temperature, Tucker was really good. Gabriel kept insisting he is looking better and better both physically and in his training.

The trot work was great with Tuck willing to step more and more under himself with a quicker stride behind which is the basis for collection. And, he is carrying himself in a more elevated frame. What pleased me as well is that because of the heat, we took a number of walk breaks, and each time Tucker gave me minimal problems going back up into the frame to work again.

Then we moved on to canter as I wanted to try the flying changes. We did a number of canter walk canter transitions and a stretch of counter canter on each lead. Gabriel agrees that counter canter will help strengthen Tuck's prolematic right lead as will a lot of transitions.

Then we tried the changes. Gabriel had me do a 10 meter half circle reverse back to the wall, change the bend and make an obvious "swing" with my legs to the new lead canter aid. Tucker kind scuffled the change behind and then kind of scuffled for the change in front, and that was on the "bad" side. On the good side we got something akin to a change but definitely not what I'd had at home, but that's OK. Then we tried the bad side again. This time, Tucker leapt into the air with his hind end and, according to Gabriel, I checked him in front istead of pushing him on, and lost the offer he'd given me. Ah, well, when you feel as if you are going to be bucked out of the saddle, I guess checking is sort of a typical reaction. *G*

I decided that was enough mostly because the heat was unbearable and both Tuck and I were wilting.

Proof postitive when we went back to try a little lateral work at the trot and Tuck was out of gas on the second rein. He quit at the shoulder-in/haunches in combo and did it at a walk. Then, we did get the diagonal to the half-pass at the trot, so I figured that was enough. Besides, if muscle fatigue was setting in because of the heat, Tucker was being smart. The last thing I need is for him to collapse on his stifle again.

One of my friends who takes lessons too was watching and was totally blown away at how much Tucker has changed too. She hasn't seen him in several months.

I guess it's for real. I really do know how to develop a dressage horse. *S*

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Short Time on the Long Line

Two on a Circle

I had to go back to school tonight to see a student performance, so my time was limited.

The ring was pretty soggy with a number of puddles from yesterday's rain. So I decided to lunge.

As ever, Chance came first to be caught so I worked him first. He has improved remarkably on the lunge line, willingly moving nicely forward at all three gaits in both directions.

Tucker was next. He is a bit lazy out there so I just let him warm up at a slow trot and ended the trot session with some more vigorous work. His canter is always interesting. The left lead is definitely stronger than the right. He was carrying himself well up on the left. On the right, he doesn't hold himself as well and, he has a tendancy to cross canter. He sort of takes a one skip stride, trot move with the left hind and "zap," he's on the right lead in front and the left lead in back. Tonight, for the first time, I made a strong correction immediately both with my voice and with the rein. He caught on quickly with his body and brain connecting to quickly correct himself.

This just confirms my belief that he needs to build up his strength in that right hind. Counter canter with inside bend is a good exercise as are many many half halts and transitions to trot and back up on that lead. Time and effort should make a big difference.

Had to laugh when I got home again tonight after the concert. Tuck and Toby were standing forlornly at the locked arena gate. I had closed it in anticipation of forcast thunderstorms so they could not get out to the open, hilly pasture. Chance was nowhere to be seen, but all three fence rails at the gate were knocked down. (These rails were not so securely nailed in, I fear.) Now, essentially this meant that the only barricade between the arena and paddock was about nine inches of fallen fence rails, and obstacle quite easy to step over. I will presume that Chance, being the most creative of the three, had figured that out and gone out to the pasture to graze.
Meantime, the two big boys, entirely repspectful of the concept of "fence" simply could not wrap their minds around either jumping or simply stepping over the fallen rails.

As soon as I opened the gate, they quite eagerly headed out, probably to meet with the third member of the team. Of course, it was dark, so I am only surmising, but it surely did look suspicious.

Oddly enough, I remember Russell, even as a very experienced jumper, stopped in his tracks by one fence rail left up in the fence line at the height of only about ten inches.

Strange and amusing. Three horses I've known--and I think PJ did something similar--that truly believe a fence is supposed to keep them on the other side.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Doesn't Look Like Promising Weather

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Had a chiropractor appointment after school, then decided to do some shopping--like I really needed anything.

It was off and on rainy all day, but by the time I came home, it was definitely on.

Since I fed the Boys late--6:45 or so, I can't work anyone for at least an hour. I was thinking of doing a bit of lunging anyhow since I'd had myself adjusted. But, if it keeps raining, I may have to give up that idea.

Guess I just have to wait and see which way the weather turns.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What Was He Thinking

Or With a Thoroughbred is That an Oxymoron?

I collected Toby first for a ride thinking, because of the mosquitoes, that I'd ride the dirt road between the farm fields. The road parallels my pasture fence at some distance, then turns right, eventually ending up across from the end of my pasture, but again at a good distance.

Now, mind you, Toby has done this ride dozens and dozens of times. I ride the length of the road, then turn around a ride back for a total of about 15 minutes. If I let him graze on the farmyard grass (the road ends at the farmhouse up the road from me) it's a bit longer, but it's just a little relaxing hack.

Not tonight. Tucker and Chance were out in the pasture--where Toby had left them and where they usually are. When we were partway along the last leg of the dirt road, he looked across the field and saw them! He's seen them before. Tonight, they must have been wearing Halloween costumes or something. Up when his head, over went his body and he got that dreadful bounce in his back presaging a buck. He was starting to bounce around, totally absorbed in the fact that there were other HORSES on the horizon. What was Toby thinking? Who did he think they were? He was going into frenzy mode.

I had no choice. I dismounted. I know far too well that I simply cannot sit his bucks. Good thing. I had a heck of time trying to lead him back home as he was spinning around me, totally fixated on those HORSES in the pasture. It was ridiculous.

Once we'd hiked home, I climbed back into the saddle and started to ride him in the arena. Suddenly, Tucker and Chance came galloping into the arena at top speed--I'd not closed the gate--Toby simply stood there and looked at them as they charged past. I guess he finally recognized them. *sigh* Somehow, I managed to herd them back out, close the gate and then put in nice little work session with the senior member of the little happy herd.

I rode Tucker next, and just kind of played around with him, testing his responses to my aids. We did shoulder-in, half-pass and turns on the haunches at the walk. Then I went right to canter and did a series of repeated half halts, then canter walk canter transitions over and over on each lead, focusing on keeping him light to the rein and equally light to the leg. Then, I picked up the left lead, encouraged some quality and did a half circle reverse to the rail, asking for a flying change. There it was, front and back, lovely and controlled. I dropped back to a walk after a few strides, praising him mightily.

I wish I could say the effort from right lead to left was as successful, but it will be fairly soon. The touble, I think, is that he does not have the same balance or ability to carry himself on the right lead and tends to try to drop to his forehand. Again, this is the side with the weaker stifle, so I really do have to build him up before I can expect more from him. It's just going to take some time and strength.

I did a little trot work which, after all the cantering was really quite nice with a round, light, bouncy feel to it.

I thought about riding Chance but opted out. I think I need to build my own strength and fitness as well.

Interesting night...I think...even if Toby didn't.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Monday, Funday

Two for the Ride

Felt much more awake today. Good thing as school was as busy as ever.

Then, for some strange reason, I decided to do a little shopping after work. Spent some time trying on clothes at the mall, bought a few things I surely didn't really need, then decided to go get my hair cut.

It was a rather warm day, bordering on hot, so I figured I'd wait to ride until later in the evening. Actually, I didn't go out to ride until around 8 PM. It was really cool and lovely out there. I saddled up Tucker first and rode him without the ring lights for the first half my my schooling session. He was really a good boy. I put him on the bit from the start with minor protest on his part and then he bounced off into a nice forward trot that only got better as we continued. I did serpentines, circles, shoulder-in and haunches in. Then worked the shoulder-in, ten meter circle, haunches in. Tuck has a little difficulty doing the haunches in on the left rein, the same side he finds challenging for the half-pass. I suspect moving his right hind leg over and under might be a little hard for him as that's the stifle he was sore on. I think it's just a matter of strength and suppling, though, so I'll just take it slowly.

Then I walked him on a long rein and put the ring lights on. When I picked up the rein again, he protested, but it was short lived. Again, he trotted off with a bounce. I had decided I'd finish with a few figure eights at the canter with a simple change or a one trot stride change. I didn't quite expect what finally happened. When we crossed the center line, he felt so balanced I decided to try a flying change. I just gave a little tap with my whip when I asked and suddenly, there it was!! Not perfect by any means, as he came off the bit, but it was a solid flying change, left lead to right. It was soft and relaxed. I cantered on a few more strides, brought him down to walk, and with a ton of praise for a job well done, dismounted and gave him a big hug.

I think the changes are really going to be easy for him. The simple change is getting pretty solid as he drops right to walk from canter and, as always, picks up the new lead without any trouble. That may have made the difference with the flying change, but we will see. One "fly" does not tempi changes make.....*G*

I saddled up Chance next after spraying him with the "evil, scary" fly spray which, to my delight was almost no trouble at all. I am so glad because I had just started to get him settled into accepting the spray last fall and hadn't used a sprayer on him all winter, so he must have remembered his lessons.

From the first stride, he was down on the bit and a nice little starter dressage frame (Training Level here in the USA.) But even better....he stayed there!! He was really steady on the bit, in a nice forward trot. What a pleasure!! I asked for just a little canter and things got a bit messy on the left rein at the depart, mostly because he didn't respond to my leg aids. Duh!!! When I asked on the right lead and added the word, "canter" to the aid, the depart was almost instantaneous. He's not quite able to keep his little frame at the canter yet, but he's not far from it. I was actually surprised as I hadn't ridden him for several days. Apparently he must do some thinking during his time off because he improves every time I ride him. I honestly felt tonight that I could have competed in good standing in a walk-trot starter class with him, he was that solid.

I am very excited about Chance right now. He may end up in the show ring yet!

I was awed with the way all three Boys looked tonight. Their coats are absolutely gleaming--and that's with minimal grooming. I don't know if the feed I've changed them to has anything to do with it, or if I just forget from year to year how wonderful they look after shedding their winter coats.

I love my Boys.

Oh, yes, as I was feeding Chance his carrot and blocking the stall door so Tucker couldn't go in to steal it, Tuck's head went up and he headed for the arena where the lights were still on. I caught a glimpse of something running across the sand...something with a white plume of a tail. I do suspect it was a fox, rather startled to find itself in the "spotlight!!" I had to laugh at Tuck. When I went out to the arena, he came right along behind me as if to say, "I saw it. Did you? Do you think we can find it? You stay in front, I'll watch your back."

Under the Weather

Me and the Weather

Saturday had predicted thunderstorms all day. After running a bunch of errands in the morning, I came home, lay down for a few minutes, fell asleep and missed the daylight. Then it was raining, so no horsie stuff.

Sunday I drove out for a saddle demo at a long time friend's house, came home, fed the Boys, lay down for a bit and fell asleep and missed the daylight....again....nice day too.

I think I must have had a bug or something. Feeling much perkier today. Of course, it's getting warmer out, so riding will be even more exhausting. Still, I have a lesson on Saturday...maybe, do I'd better tune up.

Be back later with the report.