Thursday, June 24, 2021

Or two!

Last week before Ms. GY and I coordinated a lesson with her dressage trainer, I reached out to a local upper level eventer that I'd taken two lessons with while at my old barn. I'm not sure if she remembered who I was, but she was very welcoming regardless, and we scheduled a lesson pretty easily. I did let her know we were only doing poles at this point, but I wanted to get him going properly when we did start over fences. She said she might be able to come out to the farm, but it was easier if I hauled to her. Off farm practice is always useful too, so it wasn't a tough decision. This morning I loaded up Yoshi for the second day in a row, and we headed on the 30 minute drive to her beautiful farm. 

He hauled really well and was very relaxed tacking up there. He waited about 0.5 seconds after getting off the trailer before parking out and peeing - thank goodness he has not made peeing on the trailer into a habit. We meandered out to the jump field and stared around at things. There was a lot to look at: a tall rack with stacked jump poles, woods bordering the fields, someone hand walking a filly by those woods, a liverpool, and tons of interesting colored and shaped jump fillers. Once the lesson before finished up, she put us to work. She had us working on a LOT of the same flatwork as we had just done the day before, with a bit more of an emphasis of moving the inside shoulder over after getting the bend. She wanted the leg AT the girth for this to emphasize it was shoulder moving over with the caution that if the leg is too far back you get haunches swinging out on turns. In the canter, first it was FORWARD with both legs channeling into both hands. Then we started doing the same inside bend, move inside shoulder over, accept with the outside hand. She also emphasized the benefit of being QUIET at the correct spot. Make it comfortable there. 

We started out jumping over a cross rail. He was a good boy in spite of the fillers (half lime slices) being moved to either side to flank the jump. We then looped a few crossrails/crossrail oxers together. She wanted to trot in to build strength and straightness and then canter away from the jump going FORWARD before bringing back to a nice trot. If we were supposed to go left after but he landed on the right lead, we would trot, pick up the left lead, canter on for a few strides, and then trot again. After a few loops of 2-3 jumps, we added in the liverpool. He's hopped over the liverpool at home, but this one was real, not just a tarp between poles, and had shiny water in it from the rain the night before. He stopped and tried sideways and backwards, but acquiesced eventually and let her lead him over it with a huge leap. We went back and forth and back and forth until it was NBD. Trot in, canter out, circle left one time, right the next. 

Next she added baby bounces. The whole line was a bounce - 3 strides to a bounce - 3 strides to a bounce (total of 6 jumps). The end bounces were cavaletti, the middle were crossrails. We only did 2/3 of it at one time. First over the cavalleti bounces. He trotted the whole thing the first time, kinda fumbling over the striding of it, but he didn't try to exit. She was very pleased with his honesty, but wanted him actually doing a bounce, so she had me add a canter aid at the base of each. This helped and he got the hang of it. Then we added in the crossrails to the cavaletti. The first time he fumbled over the cavaletti because he saw them from the crossrails and got a little quick, but he figured it out the next time. Each time this was in a loop of a few other jumps too, including the liverpool. He got more and more brave over that and gave it less of a look each time. Even when he was looking though, after the first few times it was a "look while I jump" not "look while I stop". He's really, really a very honest trier of a horse, I could not ask for a more amateur friendly horse. Throughout the whole lesson she kept calling out position reminders too, stretch up tall, eyes up, look, wait for him, etc etc. Things that I know but that are so useful to hear while piloting the green horse around. 

We finished by adding back in a half lime slice to the crossrail. She had us trot it at first by itself and then come around at it in the canter after the pair of bounces. Both times he was just super, no hesitation just a little extra space. On that positive note, we were DONE. She was very pleased with him, as was I. I untacked him and hosed him off. He was very clearly communicating that he needed water immediately as soon as I turned the hose on. I started on his legs, but he was turning himself into a pretzel in the wash rack trying to get his face on the hose. He sucked down water straight out of my hand/the hose until I filled a bucket for him. He drained that multiple times and then decided he was satisfied. He loaded up super easily too, and we headed home with the trailer fan on to try to cool him off. It must've worked because he walked off the trailer only a little sweaty. He went straight out into the field with his friends, so hopefully he moves around enough he doesn't get too sore after all that work. He'll get a light hack and some stretching and massage tomorrow. When I got out of the truck, I definitely felt the work we'd done in my abs, butt, and back! Some of the back may have been the launching jumps he took over the liverpool, but the butt and abs are genuine, hard earned soreness. 

It was SUCH an amazing lesson, I am so excited to go back there in 1.5 weeks. In the mean time she wanted us working on the flat work and trotting crossrails a few times a week. Thinking forward after the jump and continuing to string things together in a looping fashion. 

We've got a dressage lesson next Wednesday and then another jump lesson on Saturday. I'm so happy to be out and doing things with him. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

A lesson!

Yoshi and I took a dressage lesson this morning. Not with my beloved dressage trainer who has unfortunately been harder and harder to get scheduled with, but with a new dressage trainer who Ms. GY rides with regularly. We hauled down there in her trailer, a two horse slant with a rear tack. Yoshi loaded fine on the way there, but was confused about backing out in a L shape. He hesitated getting in it on the way home, but it only took a light tap tap with the dressage whip to encourage him. 

Ms. GY rode first so Yoshi got the chance to look around some. There's a track on the next property, but he didn't really seem to care much. When it was our turn, I fumbled through our introductions. It's hard to figure out what's relevant. I rode second level... 14 years ago at this point. Is that useful information when that's definitely not the level I could ride at today? I think Yoshi is wonderful, but do you need to know that? We go in the shape and gait I planned on about 90% of the time, but you'll see that for yourself in the next few minutes, so do I need to say it now? We've only really been working together for 2 months, does that matter? 

Awkward introductions aside, we got right to work with bending to the inside. Inside hand back towards my inside hip. NOT in the timing of the stride, that will shorten the stride and make him rein lame. Inside leg and seat push over to maintain the direction of travel and keep him from following his nose in. To the right I was definitely wanting to use an indirect rein. When I did it her way he bent instead of tilting. Once he gave to the inside rein then the outside aids can come in to play to keep him there, holding the frame with the outside hand that my inside leg is now pushing into. The second he stiffens, hollows, leans, or examines the world outside the ring, then the inside rein again activates to get the bend back, gently over 3 strides, not pulling over 1. She said she wants the right spot to be comfortable and quiet. Like walking down a path with pricker bushes on all sides. You fall off the path and get pricked and it's uncomfortable until you're back on the path. The right choice is soft and comfortable, it is easy to be there. 

When asking for the upwards transitions if he doesn't do it just repeat the aid. If you're teaching someone a foreign language and you say a word they don't understand then you don't say it differently the next time, you just repeat it. He MUST stay soft and bent during the transitions. She was impressed with him overall, especially his willingness and balance when working through the soupier parts of the ring. She also got onto me about rounding my shoulders and tipping my head forward, it was wonderful. 

We did a LOT in 30 minutes. Trot to canter to trot to canter to trot. Frequent direction changes. Poor kid looked exhausted afterwards. She remarked that he wasn't very fit. Well, no, not at all in the way you mean. Could he go out and trot for 20 minutes and recover HR and RR quickly? Yes, but is he fit in terms of carrying himself and lifting his back? Nope! He looked relaxed though, that nice sleepy look in his eye as he stood tied at the trailer with Ms. GY's horse. 

We have another lesson scheduled next week, Ms. GY and I are just going to take turns hauling, it works out well! She filmed some of my ride this morning, but her phone won't send the videos so they will likely never appear here. I brought the pivo but stupidly forgot to set it up. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

May - June Comparison

This morning. I could not get a more interested facial expression... 

May 10th

I can see a bit more weight and muscle over the hindquarters and back. He's still got plenty of ribs showing, but he looks overall more healthy to me in the picture from today. That's also the way he looks in person - or I'm just acclimating to a TB vs. a roly-poly andalusian mare. 

The bit was not as magical today. Talking to the GYs, I realized that Tuesday we went out and did pole courses and cantered and trotted a good bit in the giant field. That typically has translated to better work in the ring, so perhaps it wasn't the bit after all yesterday. We went out for a walk around the neighborhood after about 20 minutes of dressage work today. I asked him for a little trot and got a canter and then a few little tiny hopping "bucks" if you could even call them that. I let him roll with it because he seemed to be enjoying himself. We had also just been discussing doing what the horse needs when you ride rather than doing what you had planned - a checking in with them at the start of grooming and the ride. He was fairly cranky this morning tacking up, and this was day 5 in a row, so perhaps I should have just nixed the dressage from the beginning. He wasn't bad at all, just not as there as he had been on Monday and Wednesday. Tomorrow we may go trail ride with friends, but more likely he'll have the day off. I'll do some massage and stretches with him in the evening since I'm feeding. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

An essential part, forgotten

Monday I was supposed to have a dressage lesson. First one in a month and I was so excited. Florida had other plans though. We got through 2 of 4 lessons and then the skies opened up with lots of thunder. We're all willing to brave the rain, but the thunder and lightning was a big no. Le sigh. Dressage trainer is harder and harder to schedule with these days. I didn't realize it, but he was so easy to schedule with in the fall because he wasn't travelling because of the pandemic. Now... ugh. I'm bugging him like crazy to let me know dates he could make work during the next month. We managed to have a decent ride in the evening ourselves though. 

Yesterday I dropped all of the novice sized jumps to poles on the ground by them and we worked on cantering poles. We did a tiny cross rail too, I was hoping to just hop it once or twice, but he rushed through it twice, so I got off, added a 9' placing pole before and after, and then tried again. The first time he about stopped at the cross rail because he was staring at the pole on the ground after, but it definitely had the desired effect. No rushing and no pulling to prevent rushing. 

Today I rode him in Mr. GY's TBs Mullen Mouth loose ring. He suggested I try it after watching the dressage test I recorded last week. I half expected him to lean on my hands more in it. Given my rudimentary understanding of bits, having a solid piece would mean more leaning. It was the exact opposite though. He was pretty light overall and felt more consistent and happy in the contact. I'm going to ride in it a few more times, but I was pretty impressed with the feeling he was giving me. He has been in a french link eggbutt snaffle since I got him, and I would not have thought to change his bit without the suggestion. I was chalking any inconsistency and heaviness up to greenness and my incorrect riding. Which is not to say that's not a huge part of it, but this may be another tool we can use to help.

Leila went in the same bit. I never was happy with her feel of the contact. She went just as well in a sidepull hackamore as she did in the bit. Zing went in a full cheek single jointed snaffle for jumping and a KK loose ring french link for dressage. I played around the most with his bits for jumping. Dressage trainer set us up with the KK loose ring for dressage after I was a working student for him and Zing was always so consistent and soft in the contact I never messed with it. Jumping we tried a few different things - single jointed, double jointed, snaffle and elevator. In the end, if I didn't ride properly he'd run through whatever bit we used, so we settled on the single jointed full cheek. 

I really don't know what I am doing when it comes to picking a bit for a horse - I have seen people have bit fitters come out to assess, and maybe I will eventually go that route. In the mean time, the GYs have roughly 30 bits I can work my way through to see if one is better than another! 

What bit does your horse go in? What thought process went into picking and then assessing the effects of different bits? Do you have a go to bit that you start horses out with? 

Friday, June 11, 2021

An attempt at a dressage test

Yoshi got new shoes Wednesday along with a very positive report from the farrier. He actually had a bit of heel to take off on the left foot! Woohoo!!! He was very good for the whole thing until the last 5 minutes. Then he started putting anything within reach into his mouth... the farrier, me, a halter hanging on a hook. Just like a toddler that was just DONE. So I slowly fed treats and we got through it. Funny horse. 



6 weeks ago

6 weeks ago 

Overall, his feet are looking MUCH healthier and I can see the hint of a heel. Hooray!

Today we rode through Training level test 1. 

Definitely rough in places - in particular the halts and obviously the left lead canter that wasn't, but y'know. First attempt. 

When this is my position two strides before a down transition... Yeah no wonder the halts sucked! 

I do not like how much bracing in the stirrups I'm seeing in the video though. This was the first time I'd set up the pivo in a few weeks, so I'm going to work on fixing the bracing and then see how we look in a few days.

Bracey bracey

I finally brought out the tripod which made the pivo much happier. It had been wandering off in the middle of rides and then sticking in the woods for the rest of the ride. I apparently still set it a bit too close to the edge of the ring though - it loses us at the canter a couple of times. 

May have something to do with our racehorse canter still

Overall, I'm so happy with how he's going. We're playing in and out of the dressage ring and he's just getting more and more consistent. We have another dressage lesson on Monday. I'm going to try to nail down weekly or every other week lessons ASAP. 

I cheated, and we jumped a log, barrels, and the liverpool the other day. He's perfect. The solid jumps made much more sense to him than poles, he set himself up really nicely for them. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

WW: Don't do this at home


Yoshi and I took at a trip over to my friend's farm where she took some awesome photos. He was perfect even with dogs in and out of the pond, goats, and pigs. What a lad, Yosh!

Monday, June 7, 2021

About to sell him down the river

As was pointed out to me during my trial (yep, failed to see this one on my own...), Yoshi has a "dropped hip" on the left side. What I was told by the vet who did his PPE and by my friend in Delaware, is that this is a fracture of the tuber coxae. 

Image from Nikki Hall Equine Sports and Rehabilitation Massage Therapist

Usually this injury happens when they run through a stall door/pasture gate or hit a barrel in the case of barrel racers/starting gate in the case of OTTBs. Looking at his race record, his seller and I both assumed it must have happened when he was quite young. He raced first as a 3 year old in April 2017 and raced once a month until November of that year. He then had a 6 month break until May 2018. From that point on he ran at least once every 6 weeks until he retired in October 2020. When his seller got him in November, 1 month after his last race, there was no evidence of trauma to that hip in terms of healing skin wounds. Generally, tuber coxae fractures take 3-6 months to heal, so it either happened before his first race or in the 6 month break between Nov 2017 and May 2018. 

When the fracture happens, the internal abdominal oblique muscle usually pulls the fractured piece ventrally (down). There is unilateral lameness, typically more lame at the walk than the trot, and soft tissue swelling and pain over the fracture site. 

Image from

This is a hard area to take x-rays of because there is just SO MUCH muscle there, it is a lot to shoot a through. If you use an oblique angle though, you can get a view of it. I suspect rads are most commonly used to diagnose, but there's also scintigraphy, ultrasound, and standing CT. 

Image from JAVMA

The prognosis is good for this type of fracture. There is a retrospective study that included 29 horses with tuber coxae fractures. Of those 29, 27 returned to their previous intended use. A book chapter describes healing of tuber coxae and tuber ischii fractures as "generally inevitable, with a full return to function".

So after basically being told it was not a problem by two vets that I trust and respect, Tuesday I was shocked to be told it was a major problem, and he should be sold as a trail horse. Apropos of nothing other than my feeling he should get all the things to feel as good as possible, I had a chiropractor out to work on him. Honestly, he's been feeling better and better each ride. He's really benefited from some time out of the ring allowing us both to remember how to go forward and then bringing that forward back into the dressage ring to attempt 20m circles and corners again. I'm no longer panicking each time we turn. No panicking and remembering I do have a right leg to use as an inside leg has led to him feeling pretty damn even. Shoulders are not always straight tracking right, but we're working on that too, and if I ride him correctly then I can get him straight.

Anyways, back to the visit. After a brief, mostly visual, assessment, I was told he would never be able to engage his hindquarters properly and was compensating for both the dropped hip. I don't pretend to know enough about anatomy and gait mechanics to tell whether this will be an issue or not. The literature I've pulled up on it does not seem to indicate it will be, but I haven't found anything that really delves into it on a biomechanical level. Honestly, although I have aspirations of FEI level dressage, the chances of me truly lining up everything in my life to make it there are fairly slim. So if he doesn't have the ability to make it to those levels, that's fine, most horses don't. Some because of physical things, some because of mental things. And, according to my dressage trainer who has taken a lot of horse/rider pairs to those levels, Yoshi has the mind for it, so that's half the battle right there. Only time will tell on the physical, as with all horses. And even if it turns out that's not for him, he's got the mind that would make him a lovely lower level teacher. 

In addition to his hip, I was told he has cervical arthritis and was sore over his right suspensory ligament. Now... Euthanizing a barely 8 yo horse for cervical arthritis before I got Yoshi made that particular subject a little touchy... I made sure we flexed and palpated his neck thoroughly both during my trial and during his PPE. And neither myself nor his vet, who knows my history with my mare, saw or felt a problem there. The chiro then adjusted his neck and seemed surprised when he was able to be adjusted, actually quite well, in the neck. My friend in Delaware does chiro as well and said that nearly every OTTB she works on is locked in their neck and needs to be adjusted. Because, guess what, working mostly in one direction at fairly fast paces, isn't super easy on the neck. But she said if he could be adjusted and didn't lose his mind when she did (which he didn't) then his neck didn't hurt any more than the average OTTB in her long distance opinion. 

The chiro also palpated ONLY his right front suspensory. And pronounced it very sore, which "wasn't a good sign since he's only in light work at this point". If you'll remember, when I palpate the proximal suspensory on all 4 legs he reacts... so I immediately called BS on that one (in my head). I still did go back later and check, and yep, he palpates sore in exactly the same way he did at the end of April when he was doing zero work. 

Mr. GY was out there for all of it. He has a passion for learning and never misses the chance to watch and soak up information from various professionals. He didn't say much during the whole thing, just quietly observed. The next day, after a call to my BFF and some mulling and internet research, I rode Yosh and worked on a ground pole exercise - 4 poles evenly spaced on a 20 m circle. He trotted around the circle really quite beautifully in both directions and could string together 3 of 4 at the canter. We did a good number of transitions as well in between working on the poles, balancing my desire to use transitions to help rock him back and dressage trainer's desire that every transition be beautiful and round or else it shouldn't happen. We popped over the "liverpool" (tarp between two poles on the ground) they have out in the big field, and then called it a day. I was letting him graze in the barnyard while cleaning tack when Mr. GY appeared. He's got many, many years of experience with eventing and horses in general. He cautiously asked me what I thought about the day before. I explained, in brief, my thought process from above. He looked relieved. I asked him what he thought and got a flood, ending with "I just came out to make sure you weren't about to sell him down the river."