Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hooray for Sound Horses!

So, trotted Ben out today and he is finally sound! Yay!

Although it's only been 4 days, it feels like an eternity. He is now back out in his paddock, making trouble with his friend, Drew.

Tomorrow I'll start riding him again, probably just for 40 minutes or so, a lot of long and low. Of course, that will most likely not happen because he is going to be a firecracker after not working since Sunday at the show...

Should be an interesting ride tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Update on the Goober

Well, first off, I wasn't supposed to go to the barn until like 6 o'clock tonight. But I got a phone call from one of the boarders. The horses were outside and it was downpouring. She had brought all of the other horses in but Ben would not let her catch him. She had been trying for at least a half hour.

So up I went to the barn, just to bring my soaking wet horse in. He had been running around in the slippery mud and made himself even lamer. Wonderful. He had a very tiny amount of heat in the leg too. When I go back to the barn, he's getting hosed for 20 minutes, and if there's any heat left in the leg, he's getting poulticed. I'll give him a gram of bute at night and a gram in the morning and he'll stay inside all day tomorrow. If that doesn't help, I'll start to worry even more. Especially since ENYDCTA is less than three weeks away...

Silly horse.

Apple Knoll Horse Trials Results

Well, crap.

You never want to end a weeked with "RF" in the Final Place column. So obviously our weekend didn't go as planned. There were plenty of good things about the weekend, but there were certainly things that could've gone better!

On a very wonderful and exciting note, I have found a solution to my braiding woes! It is in the form of a hair gel called Ultra Glue. Enough said.

I had only 10, yes 10, reasonably sized braids that looked fantastic and stayed in all night!

On another good note, we got a perfect parking spot at the show, at the end of the row, so we had a whole side free, right next to the stadium and stadium warm-up and the dressage rings and warm-up just a few steps ahead!

I lunged Ben in the indoor, which was stadium warm-up, but nobody was in there yet. He was pretty good, kind of nervous and tense, but then started to settle a bit. There was still nobody in the indoor, so I decided to just warm-up in there. After mounting, and dealing with a good five minutes of bucking, backing up, leaping, kicking out, etc., I finally got him to go forward and we warmed up for about 25 minutes. He was okay. Not as good as I hoped he would be.

So we went in the ring to do our test. It was the usual: it had some awesome moments and some terrible moments. I just wish my horse could hold himself together for the four minutes we are in the ring. At one point, gathering him up from the free walk, he stopped dead for about 5 seconds, and in the left canter transition, he stopped and bucked. Ugh horse, get your act together! We got a 41 which put us in DFL after dressage. For you who do not know, DFL= Dead F***ing Last. Great.

I didn't let my test bother me too much though, and we had a great stadium warm-up (along with some exuberant bucking!) and a fantastic stadium round, despite him spooking at the flowers in front of the judges stand.


So then we headed to cross country. The course looked really fun, there was only one big fence that was a huge, wide table that was most definetely maximum width and height. The terrain would play a big factor because it was fields and woods. The fields were relatively flat, but the woods had really steep uphill and downhill.

The course started off in the first field where you went straight out of the start box and over a little log shared with Beginner Novice. Then uphill and to the right was a small, raised hogsback that brought you up into the woods. Then you had a steep downhill out of the woods, a few strides in the field to a rolltop. Then you headed slightly downhill to a little ditch. And I mean little. Tiny.

From the ditch there was a bending line to a feeder, then a short gallop up to a bench, and then a stone wall jumped into the woods. After a lot of uphill and downhill in the woods, there was a hanging log, a lot more uphill and downhill in the woods to another field, which had 9a and 9b in it. They were offset logs two strides apart. Then you galloped to the other side of the field to the previously mentioned huge table.

Back into the woods along a dirt road, you came across a very narrow house, then out into a small field to jump a triplebar/fruitstand type fence, and then a zigzag. Finally you galloped back into the woods along another dirt road, to the last fence, a hanging log.

The course looked really fun. Too bad I didn't make it past the ditch.

First 3 fences were fantastic. Slowed to a canter a bit before the ditch, let him break to trot to look at it...

Too bad I decided to look at it too. Note to self: do not look into ditches!

So combined with me being bad and looking in the ditch, and me being bad and leaning forward expecting a big jump, he ducked out and I went right over his shoulder. Plop.

Seriously one of the lightest falls I have ever had and I totally deserved it, it was just frustrating. But I sure was glad for my sense of humor as I laughed it off on the walk back to catch my horse who was running away. Thanks Ben, I love you too.

The best news of all: I was wearing my helmet cam:

Next stop is ENYDCTA in a little less than 3 weeks. I convinced my parents to let me go up the night before and stable since its 3 hours away. I'm so excited about that! I also think it will be really good for Ben to be there the night before and get used to his surroundings before he has to perform. However, now I am extremely paranoid that I am going to forget to bring something really important because I've never stabled overnight before! 

I was also supposed to have a lesson tonight, but when I was lunging Ben yesterday he took a funky step and was then a bit off on his right hind. Boo. I'm not too concerned, since I saw him do it and it was very subtle, but if he is sound today I'm only going to work him lightly, long and low, for about 30 minutes. Don't want to take any risks. I cold hosed him yesterday for 10 minutes so if he is not sound today, he'll get cold hosed for 20 and some bute. But I think he will be fine today.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Making Dressage Exciting

Just in case you needed some entertainment in your day, enjoy Ben forgetting he is an event horse for a second and going full on rodeo horse:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WarmUp Plans

For about a month now I have been attempting to come up with a warmup plan that really works for Ben. Not just for shows, but for everyday work too.

I've finally got a basic plan that seems to work very well. I use the same framework everyday but with different exercises so Ben doesn't anticipate and get bored.
I wanted to write a post on it so I had a place where it was written down and I could refer to it all the time. Plus, maybe it could help some people out in their warm-ups. That would be a bonus.

I start out by getting on and walking once around the ring on a loose rein, getting a feel for him on this particular day, doing a mental check of my position, making sure I know my plans and goals for the day, checking to see what part of the ring the scary monsters are in today, checking the footing in certain places, etc.

Then I pick up a light contact and work some big, loose 20 meter circles, encouraging bend and stretch. I work on making his walk steps shorter and longer just using my seat and legs. Once he's moving off of my leg fairly well, we move on to some leg yields, still on a pretty long contact. Once he is loose over his back, bending, moving away from my leg, reaching for my hand, engaging his hindquarters, I pick up the contact gradually and walk a few more 20 to 15 meter circles on the new contact. We do some walk-halt transitions in different places to get him listening and his back end up underneath him.

Then we start making smaller 10 meter circles and start with some leg yield head to the wall and leg yield haunches to the wall to get him prepped for the more advanced lateral work. When the leg yields are going well, we move into shoulder-in, counter shoulder-in, renvers, travers. We try to do this twice in each direction. I get lazy a lot, and just do all of the lateral movements against the rail. When I do them in the middle of the ring, however, it improves his straightness so much.  

Once we are doing that stuff well, I move back out to bigger circles and start posting trot. At this point, I'm asking him to be in a long and low frame. But still, he's in a frame, unlike in the beginning of our walk work.

So I do lots of circles and some trot lengthenings, just to get him thinking forward and establishing our half-halts. We also do some trot-walk-halt-trot-halt-walk-trot transitions. Then I start to ask him for a rounder frame and to put himself together more, and I sit the trot. Then we make smaller circles and work on the trot exercises I planned on for that day. I try to stick to my plan, but if I discover something that we need to address right then and there, I will tweak my plans to work on that.

Some of the exercises I'm a big fan of:
-Serpentines. 3 and 4 loop. Sometimes all at the trot, sometimes with voltes on the loops, sometimes with transitions over the centerline (either walk or halt), or sometimes with voltes and transitions. I love them because of the bending and straightening required. Doing the voltes really helps you to work out your crookedness before you have to be straight on the short sides.
-Loops. Such as from F to X to M and from H to X to K. Just like the serpentines, I will do these straightforward or with voltes. One in the corner before the turn to X. One the opposite direction once you get to X. Then another in the corner at the end of your loop in the same direction as the first circle. Love this exercise.
-Leg yielding with voltes. You start on the track in the corner, leg yield off of your outside leg, make a circle, leg yield, make a circle, leg yield, make a circle, until you are at the opposite corner.

At this point I'll also play around with shoulder-in, renvers, travers at the trot a bit.
Then I'll give him a walk break before I work in the canter.

I like leg yielding in the canter a lot. It requires a lot of balance and a nice quiet rhythm which is really good for Ben. Doing a half circle and countercantering to the end of the ring is a great balancer for Ben, although it would probably not be my exercise of choice at a show, because we haven't quite perfected it yet. Walk-canter-walk is really good for getting their butts up underneath them and getting a nice, powerful canter, although, again, wouldn't choose this for a show because it makes Ben cranky.

I usually choose two trot exercises and one canter exercise per schooling session. At that point he's going really well and would be more than ready to put in a really nice test. However, how he goes at home with this method is, I am sure, going to be completelty different from how he acts at a show with this method. I think it is a good start and when we get home this weekend, I will re-evaluate and see what needs work.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Trials and Tribulations of Mane Pulling...

Today we are going to attempt to pull our mane. It is just something that is going to have to happen. Nothing else is working and it is the only solution. Going up to the barn around 2 today where I'll lunge Ben and do a dressage school. I'm thinking of working alot of serpentines, leg yields, changes of bend in the trotwork and then maybe working a bit on counter-canter or canter-walk-canter for the canterwork.

Then I will untack him, section off a small section of his mane to work on today (thinking of starting in the middle because I feel like that would be a less sensitive area. It's also thickest there.), linimenting his crest to hopefully numb it somewhat, and then pulling it. He needs to man up and get over it.

Now what will probably actually happen is that after the first pull he will flinch and when I go for the second pull, his head will be in the rafters, and he'll be backing up threatening to break the crossties. I will then give up and pull out the SoloComb and then cry for the two hours I am braiding him this Saturday.

But really, I'm going to try it. All I would have to do is pull it really well once and then if I just kept up with it there wouldn't be a problem. If I do about a 3 or 4 inch section everyday until Saturday, the thickest part should at least be braidable and the front and back of his mane is actually pretty nice. You should see how nice my first two, and last three braids look!

I will let you all know how it goes when I get home tonight. Wish us luck!


Ben was a very good boy today, his canters were really fantastic. Let's hope he keeps this up for Sunday!

So I pulled his mane an eensy teensy little bit today. Got about 1/5 of it done. Of course thats the part near his withers that isn't that thick anyway. But it is certainly a start. He wasn't thrilled at first but I was only pulling out very few hairs at a time. Maybe 4 or 5 tops. He was shaking his head a bit but I just kept going and he got over it for about 10 minutes. Then he was done and I was fine with that. It was remarkably better than it usually is. We'll work on it again tomorrow and hopefully we'll have a semi braidable mane by Saturday.
Or a miracle, that would work too...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Heat Wave

It's hot up here. Really really hot. It's only 10 in the morning here and its already 95 degrees. Yuck! Hot, humid weather and horses do not mix very well.

Yesterday was about 90. I rode Ben for about a half an hour before I had to get off. He was fine of course, barely sweating and not even breathing hard, I was the one who was dying up there...
I always wonder how he gets so fit and I just don't. Aren't I the one who made him that fit? Hmm, things to ponder.

In other news, my horse has been most wonderful lately. It just makes me so happy to see all the progress he is making. When I first got him he was so green and had basically no real training. I couldn't walk once around the ring without him trying to start trotting. And then once we got that sorted out, I couldn't trot down the short side of the ring without him losing his balance and running on his forehand. It's just so amazing to see where he is now, all in the time of just a couple months over a year.

I had a jumping lesson Tuesday. It was fairly simple we just jumped two lines but it was very beneficial to Ben because it just got him jumping well and in a nice rhythm. Jumps were like 2'9"/3' which was also good for Ben because we haven't actually been jumping competition height much. We need more sand for our ring. It has a clay base so if it doesn't have enough sand its too hard to jump on. I have only been jumping at my lessons so we haven't done too much. Luckily, with all this hot weather, the ring has really dried up and its a little softer. It just needs a good dragging and then I can probably jump a bit on it sometime this week.

Anyway, Ben was really good for the lesson and I have a few videos that I'm going to post. There's only 10 days until Apple Knoll, I really have to get our butts into gear, it doesn't seem that close. He could use another two days of trot/canter sets on the loop. It should be dry enough now with all the hot weather.

I also need to figure out what the heck I am going to do with his mane. I can't braid it and I really hate leaving it unbraided. I just feel like that looks sloppy and like I didn't care enough to put the time in. People have mentioned roaching it before but I just can't bring myself to do it. I freak out everytime I have to clip his bridlepath!

I have tried every braid in the book: hunter braids, button braids with bands, sewn in button braids, dressage braids, scalloped braids, and plenty of hybrids between some of those but they either look like crap, or fall out, or both. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to let me know about them...

This is a video of a random lesson I had last weekend where we did gridwork:

Here's us on Tuesday jumping the outside line:

And jumping the outside to the diaganol. Enjoy our half tempi changes at the end, he didn't want to go straight after the jump...:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mystic Valley Hunt Club Horse Trials Results

Well it went pretty darn well!

On Friday night, we went up to Mystic and walked the courses. They looked pretty good, stadium looked like it was do-able but might catch a few people out in certain places. Cross country was actually the same exact course I jumped at their schooling show last October so I knew that we could do everything on it.

I headed back to the barn, gave Ben a bath, braided him. Ben's mane is impossibly hard to braid. Its thickness is about the equivalent of three normal manes. He will not allow me to pull it, so thinning it that way is out. If I want to shorten it I have to use a SoloComb. So I have taken to thinning it with thinning shears. They work pretty well but Ben's mane is so thick that I could thin out handfuls of hair at a time and you can't see a difference. For a while I was thinning his mane for about 10 minutes everyday when I groomed him but now I have gotten lazy and the days the thinning does happen, its only for about 3-5 minutes. So I guess, in a way, what happened next is all my fault...

His mane looked the best it ever had and I had the fewest braids I have ever had. We usually end up somewhere around upper 20s, low 30s but I have had 38 at one point I believe. Well we only had 16 this time. I was ecstatic. And they actually looked good! So we made him all pretty, put his stretchy hood on, fly sheet on to keep him clean, put him outside. Yes, I put him outside. That's probably another reason why what happened next is all my fault.

Although, here's the thing: I could leave him inside and have him be all clean and pretty when I get there the next morning. But I would much rather leave him outside, have him nice and dirty when I get there, and behave himself at the show. As much as I would like him to look as nice as he possibly can, the quality of our performance is much more important than what we look like. When he is turned out overnight, he is a different horse at shows.

So anyway, I show up to the barn at about 6 am on Saturday morning, bring him into his stall, take his sheet off, unclip the hood, start pulling it off - uh oh... There's maybe four braids left in his mane. I wanted to scream and cry and throw myself on the ground and take the clippers to his mane right then and there. But instead, I put him back on the crossties and rebraided his entire mane in 20 minutes. And they still looked pretty damn good! That is until we got to the show and Ben started flinging his head around and shaking because he absolutely hates to be braided. Thats when my 20 minutes braids started to go flying. By the time we made it to the dressage arena two of the braids were completly out and the rest were flopping around all loose. But hey, what are you gonna do?

So we arrived at the show, I got my packet, and asked the woman at the secretary's stand where I could lunge my horse. She said if I did it before 9, I could lunge in stadium warmup. Well, my dressage time was 9:25 and I only wanted to get on my horse at 9:15. I was not going to lunge him for a half hour. So we walk back to the trailer and I decided that I was just going to lunge him in a corner of the grass field we were parked in. So I lunged him with side reins and he was so good.

My plan was to hop on and go right to the dressage ring, in order to avoid going into the warmup ring with all those other scary horses... So I just decided to warm up in the field where I lunged him. He was very good, we warmed up for 10 minutes, then headed over to the dressage arena. We checked in and went right into the ring to do our test.

It certainly had its good moments and there was no bucking. Unfortunately, there were not enough good moments and we ended up with a 45.5. Ew! The good news: four other people had scores worse than me so were in 12th out of 16th after dressage. 

I will save you the trouble of watching my test by not posting it here...

Next up was stadium. Did I mention that this day was the hottest day of the year so far? And that I was due for stadium at noon, right when the sun was at its worst? Luckliy we were jumping in our xc stuff because xc was 20 minutes after stadium, so I wasn't dying in my jacket!

The stadium course was a vertical, a pretty sharp turn away from the ingate to a forward bending line that was riding in 6 or 7, depending on how much you bent it. The bending line was a pretty upright maximum vertical to a pretty wide oxer. From there you made a sharp turn onto the short side to another oxer. Then you turned down the long side to another oxer, tight bending line to a very forward four strides to a vertical. Up the diagonal, vertical, bending line to a two stride in and out, vertical to oxer. The oxer on the out was maximum and the distance was a long two strides. Final turn down the long side to a two vertical line in a forward five. The course was a lot to think about. It tested riding forward distances while maintaining rhythm and control to make the turns that came up very quickly. A lot of people had trouble balancing these two concepts. They either rode two forward and missed lines and turns or didn't ride forward enough and ended up with ugly chips.

We went double clear. We had one short, deep spot at the vertical before the in and out and a couple of long fences but it felt pretty darn good and is probably one of our better stadium rides. Much better than our lesson last Tuesday!

Here's the video:

Then we headed over to the start box. There was supposed to be 20 minutes in between phases but they were running early so we decided to go. We only waited about 7 minutes. The time was really tight and most people were not making it. It was 400 mpm around a 2000 meter course in 5 minutes. Very tight. The course started out in a sand ring where the start box and the first fence were. The first fence was just a raised log with some hay bales under it. That jumped very well for us.

Then it was a gallop up into the field and a long approach to fence number 2. It is an ascending oxer and its quite small for a Novice fence but they fill it in with hay bales to beef it up and make it more like a hogsback. That jumped just fine too.

Then it was a decent sized up bank, a downhill log, to the ditch. The bank rode great. The downhill hill log jumped great, but downhill things get us excited and we thought it would be a good idea to buck on the landing. Not such a hot idea. I pulled him up in time and all was well, I just would have preferred he didn't do that! And then came the ditch. Ben doesn't understand ditches all too well and he is convinced that scary monsters live in them and he needs to jump three feet over them to stay away from them. Hey, at least he goes!

Upon landing I had lost my left stirrup. If I had cantered up to the ditch, I would have expected the above reaction. However, I came down to a nice balanced trot a bit before and just expected him to pop over it... Nope. So I got my stirrup back and we galloped down to the coops. Two huge coops, a very forward three strides apart. Ben is not a fan. We turned to them and I lost his shoulder to the left. We then went in crooked. I then saw the wrong distance and then I looked straight at the fence. I am sure we can all guess what happened next. Yep, he stopped. So we reapproached and had a much better jump through!

I was mad about the refusal but it was all my fault so I didn't let it get to me. Number 8 was just some ascending rails that jumped great and then we galloped into the woods to the water. It is a big log, a few strides into the water, than a couple of strides out to another log. He was so good! He galloped right up to the log, flew over it cantered right into the water, trotted through it, then cantered out and over the other log! It was awesome! Then we jumped a downhill hanging log with no groundline. The jump isn't big but where it is on the course makes it hard. Then we galloped on to the biggest fence on the course, a big, airy, maximum height and width table. He took off really long but it worked out just fine!

Then we galloped up to a drop fence. It is a small vertical situated at the top of a steep drop off. The drop is probably a good 3 feet. He was excelllent over that. Then we galloped up over a little log pile, up a ramp and off a bank, over a big bench that gives the table a run for its money as the biggest fence on course, a stone wall, and finally the hanging long, back into the ring over the finish. We were obviously over time because of our refusal but I honestly believe we would have made time if we hadn't had it. I was so proud of my horse, he was such a good boy. It was a great outing for the first event of the season! I think we ended up in 11th out of 16 which is not too bad considering we had a refusal. If I didn't have the refusal and made time, I would've placed 7th. Oh well, there's always next time!

Here's the xc video from the second part: fences 15 to the end:

This is the video of fences 1-8, including the ditch and the refusal (although you can't see the actual refusal just the reapproach). I have no idea why in the world it is so blurry so I apologize for that. The ditch is still pretty funny to watch despite it being blurry!:
Ben was pretty hot and sweaty after xc but after getting sponged and scraped he cooled down in about 5 minutes. He was very happy to be home and had a nice roll when I turned him out. He got Sunday off and then we had a pretty decent flat ride on Monday. Next up for us is Apple Knoll Farm schooling trials on June 19th!

As always, thanks for reading guys, I should be updating soon!