Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Moving on Up!

The GY's and I took a rather spur of the moment trip to the Majestic Oaks schooling jumper show Sunday. I had worked till midnight the night before (what a pattern...) and decided that starting with 2'9" would be fine. It runs after the drag break, so starts a full 1.25 hours after the 2'6". That meant I got up at a fairly leisurely 8 AM. I had some nerves as I loaded him up. First, we were not meeting JT there. It was a weird sensation. I've never worked with a trainer as consistently as JT. For years I just bummed rides wherever other people were going and then Zing and I would do our thing without a second thought. I was never in a barn with an in-house trainer, so it's been the opposite experience of people who always go to shows with trainer in barn trailer then get their own wheels and can do things on their own. Fortunately JT is so good at inserting useful mantras into her students' brains that I was pretty sure we could do this just fine. Also, Yoshi is basically a pro at all things horse show now. 

Adding to the nerves though, we had a fairly terrible jump school at home on Thursday. He was... punchy and reactive. Two things this horse VERY rarely is. He started off dolphin launching after a few jumps. I don't mind that, his bucks aren't hard and aren't meant to unload me, so he can express himself some. But that progressed into bolting after jumps. I focused on myself and making sure I was not pulling and thereby giving him something to stiffen against. I also only did jumps headed away from the barn because he has exhibited a bit of a magnetic draw to the barn in the past. Finally we got soft and the jump I was going to quit on he tapped a jump with a hind leg and bolted again and bucked hard. That time I was certain I had been soft so I set him on his butt pretty firmly. We ended up working through it again, but it did add to my nerves on Sunday. 

He warmed up pretty nicely. Then we got kicked out of the warm up arena so they could drag and when we came back in everyone was trying to jump the same few jumps. He launched a bit when a horse got close to him while we were cantering. We had jumped the cross rail and vertical a few times before the drag, so we popped the oxer at height once and then called it good. I'm pretty sure JT would have had us chill out more and then do a few more trips over the oxer, but I didn't want to recreate our Thursday ride. 

The course started with a vertical headed back towards the in-gate then 6 strides to an oxer. Right hand roll back turn, either inside or outside an oxer, to a vertical for #3. Bending line left to #4, roll back left to #5. Fairly sharp right hand turn to #6ab, a one stride combination. Easy right hand turn to the oxer, #7 (that was either the inside or outside of the turn to #3). Continue that turn around to a vertical, then loop left around the ring to #9ab, another one stride, then 5 strides down to #10. 

Our first trip around, Yoshi was very good, but I could not see a distance to save my life. We were tight to a few and long to a few. This meant a rail at #3. I had taken the inside turn and he just didn't get straight or balanced in time to jump it well. The bending line right from #5 to 6 was exciting. I was kind of worried because it was the palm tree line that he had been spooky at last time off of a pretty sharp turn, but he was actually trying to rush to it. I half-halted hard then softened and got a really nice reaction. We still got deep to a, but JT in my head told me to stretch up tall and support through b, so he jumped out just fine. He found the oxer at 7 pretty spooky. Fortunately the turn near it gave me the heads up on that one. Plus he's so so honest and really scopes out the jumps about 6-8 strides ahead of time, so I just closed my leg and he got it done. He threw in a couple of flying changes for me again; it's pretty telling that they come when I'm trying to bring him back to the trot and change the bend... good set up for rebalancing haha. #9ab to 10 rode really well, I always want to gun it to the last jump, sort of a "woohoo!!" moment where I chase him flat, so it was actually really good for me to have a related distance. I sat up in between and he jumped #10 better than the whole rest of the course (other than #7 that had the spook factor). 

Jumping athletically from a tight spot 

Classes were pretty large (13 in the 2'9") and there was a trainer there showing with many students who apparently did not believe in giving directions to her students at any point prior to the one in the ring finishing, so it was 30-60 seconds of in gate directions with an empty ring. Yoshi and I hung out while I tried to decide if I should just re-ride the 2'9" or wait for the 3'. I stuck it out though because with how easy he is out cross country, it looks like if our BN debut goes well in early December our next show after that will be at N. I'm so glad I did, our 3' class was BEAUTIFUL! He was ready and game again, I could actually see my distances, the whole thing just really flowed together so well. 

I did do the whole left hand roll back turn from #4-5 on the right lead though. JT has not mentioned leads to me at all other than bringing to a trot and then picking up the correct lead if he finishes a course on the wrong lead for her smallish ring. Mr. GY and I were discussing after how much counter canter there is in dressage and how good it can be for balancing them on their haunches. I've actually started playing with very shallow one loops at the canter to help him bend and soften through his body, so I'm really just practicing higher level dressage when I do things like roll back on the wrong lead... 

I might have gone a little crazy buying pictures... but baby horse only has his first 3' class once!

Friday, November 26, 2021

November Trail Ride #2 - San Felasco

Yoshi and I headed out to San Felasco State Park this morning. It was just us again, but I felt much more confident than our first solo trip back in May. I took a better look at the map this time and managed to ride basically where I wanted/planned. Yoshi was a bit up in the parking lot; there were other people there getting tacked up, and he was quite interested in their horses. As soon as we headed out onto the trail he settled though. 

The first part of the Cellon Loop is really sandy, kind of deep in some spots. The return part of the loop has much better footing but leads into the hikers parking area. It's very close to the equestrian parking, so I need to remember to just start from there next time. We moseyed for quite some time before coming to the option to take the Turkey Creek Loop. 

Most of the trails are through the woods, so Yoshi had a grand time participating in his favorite trail riding activity - brushing his face up against foliage as we pass. He doesn't try to eat, he just... feels things with his face as we go by. 

Must feel tree with my face....

As we got to the power line cut we briefly chased a group of deer along for a while. After we crossed the large power line cut, the trail got very narrow and fairly hilly. He did well with the ups and downs. We paused to let a group of cyclists cross at a meeting of the equestrian and cycling trails. He was unimpressed by having to stand still, but not at all spooked by the cyclists, so I'll take it. The last person in the group was someone I work with, she yelled "HI" and even though I know that she goes there to cycle, it was pretty surprising to me. 

We popped out onto a slightly wider cut by "soggy bottom pond". We also had a very close encounter with a deer there that prompted just a slight bop to the side. We cantered down the trail for a little while and then came back out onto the power line cut. It had only been 2.8 miles at that point, definitely not the full 4.4 of the loop, so I figured we must have missed a turn at one point and we turned back around. We used the opportunity to canter along again, which Yoshi thought was great fun. We re-encountered the same doe and again, even though we were cantering, he just popped a bit sideways. 

Hello deer friend

The back part of the Turkey Creek Loop was well marked, but got a bit hairy in sections. The creek is so, so pretty with clear, flowing water. The banks are too steep to get down to it, so we just admired from the top. Unfortunately feral pigs have torn up a lot of the area near it and there were some pretty deep muddy spots. Unlike the trails in the front that are pretty meticulously cleared, there were significantly more down trees. One was in the muck from the pigs and about 2' high. I walked Yoshi up to it, expecting him to just step over it, but it seemed like he could not figure it out. I ended up jumping a 2'6"ish section kind of off the trail with a very short approach because even when we reapproached the smaller section on the trail, he just got way, way too close to it with his feet and then froze. Definitely a brain break moment, but he was very nice and responsive to steering off the trail, so it worked okay. 

Some of the trails at the far end are marked "for carriages" and "not for carriages". But I honestly cannot imagine a carriage traveling up/down these. We actually got to the section I used to be able to ride into from a different barn. I was last on those trails with Zing, 4+ years ago, it was interesting to see them through a different set of bay ears. Although Zing could do no wrong, ever, I have to admit, Yoshi is the best trail horse I've ever ridden. Other than a few moments early on in the ride where he thought the second I touched the reins from a loose rein walk meant canter, he was absolutely perfect. Responsive, safe, sane. He had a nice swinging walk on the buckle most of the time. The trot sections were a bit quick, but eventually towards the end he softened into a nicer rhythm. And cantering him along was absolutely lovely, easy to go or woah and just a nice smooth flowing canter. He alternated between right lead and left lead on his own, pretty interesting to feel. 

We eventually made our way back closer to home and had an option to go back the very narrow up/down portion or back by soggy bottom pond. Yoshi made it pretty clear which option he preferred, so we headed back by the pond and picked up a nice canter towards the power line cut. It started misting at one point so after walking through the power line cut (due to the possibility of meeting mountain bikers unexpectedly), we picked up a decent trot for most of the time home with one final canter on the last stretch.

We logged 8.75 miles in almost 2 hours. Average pace of 4.7mph, total of 290 feet of elevation gain. We saw loads of deer, a pileated woodpecker, a few sandhill cranes, and lots of ibis. There were also some really spectacular live oaks we rode past. Some of them must be a couple hundred years old. I love those trees. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

WW: Comparison

 September 7th vs. November 20th

September 8th

November 20th

September 8th

November 20th

November 20th

And just for fun... he spotted a mini in a blanket at JT's. He rarely gets this tall anymore, but was pretty concerned. Except he'd pause, stare, snort, and then take 2 or 3 steps TOWARDS the mini. I love his brain. 

Friday, November 19, 2021

It's a trend

Lesson today was AWESOME. 

Short version: We missed. A lot. But we learned. Yoshi tried new things. I tried new things.

Long version: We warmed up with the "medium" and "collect" game at the canter. The right lead still feels about half of what the left lead is, but I'm told it will get there. JT has been right on everything else, so I'll trust on this one for a while longer. I wish video captured the feel for me, I think if I looked back it would already be much, much better than it was 3 months ago. But alas, my eye is pretty awful, so I don't know if I could see big changes. I should pull out the pivo though to see if I can. Added bonus I'd have some pictures/videos to add to these word vomit posts. 

Two days ago from the kayak at Shired Island

I was having a bad hunchy day today for some reason. Which seems to exacerbate the pulling with the right hand. It crashed in our leg yields right. And then I found my right seat bone and released with the right hand and we got some (okay, like two) true steps. It feels like this will help him strengthen so much, I am going to add a couple of quality steps into our work each day this next week. 

Warming up over the cross rail we had an important lesson too. We got the same long spot twice in a row. But the first time I had pulled him through the turn to it instead of pushing his shoulders around the turn. This meant he had to really lift his shoulders UP a lot to take off and it felt much more dramatic than the second time where I kept his balance up through the turn. Very interesting to feel because it was the exact same long spot each time. 

Our own private beach 

Our course started with the red oxer, left hand turn around the top of the ring to a 90 degree turn to cavaletti-cross rail-cavaletti bounce across the short side of the ring. 90 degree right turn to come up the liverpool line which had been split out to a one stride cross rail to a cross rail over the liverpool to a 5 stride to the oxer out. Then it was a right hand turn around the top of the ring to a triple - 2 stride to 1 stride. The oxer and bounces rode fine, then I didn't get him up around the turn to the one stride to liverpool. He got very tight in to the first, tight to the liverpool, and then barreled down the 5 stride line and had to eek in the last stride. We repeated that once with a better ride through the turn to the liverpool line which made it flow better. 

Then we started with the red oxer, bending line down to the liverpool one stride. He was apparently sick of me missing and ran right through my half halt to launch over the one stride fairly crooked. It was definitely way more work for him because he jumped the high side of both cross rails, and they were set close to the top of the standards. JT had me "halt him like I was falling off a cliff" after that and then give him big pats. The next time we halted after the oxer with some assistance from her (she's fearless). Then we picked the canter right back up and politely did the bending line using JT as a cone to turn around/slow his roll. We continued on to the triple after that, one stride first then two stride. He very politely waited for the tight spot on the in at my direction. I told her that it was crazy having her stand there because I had time to have complete thoughts about not running her over, yet still feel like I don't have time to sit up and half halt in things like the bending line.

We finished with the single cross rail, bending line to the oxer at the end of the 5 stride, then right hand turn up the triple. She notched them all up a bit to N/T height and he jumped incredibly well. He's so funny, it's like taking off out cross country, we had to correct him sharply once and then he was great. JT said "he's just trying to be extra helpful, but right now his judgement is not always correct." Which is so true. It's like now he can move his body in these new ways and jump pretty athletically most of the time, he's trying out new versions. 

In other news (still unphotographed), the PS of Sweden is a no go for him. When we schooled Monday he spent our time waiting intermittently flipping his head like he had a fly on his nose in spite of there being zero bugs. He also was starting to have his tongue out more often than not while warming up. Not just a whisker pinching issue like I was hoping... Soooo I put him in a plain cavesson of the GY's that fits him better than mine did, and so far he is incredibly happy. No chomping, no flipping his nose when I put it on, no flipping his nose while standing. Time will tell, and very generously this is a long as I need it lend, so we're giving this a solid month before I commit to something. Fortunately since the PS of Sweden can be tricky to track down, JT bought it from me, so it isn't too much of a loss. I just wish he'd told me when I was still trialing hers and before I ordered it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Completely without (relevant) media

We schooled at Majestic on Monday. They had a recognized event running on Saturday so courses were still set, flagged, and decorated on Monday. I went with the GY's who are not ride with your cell in your smartpak tights pocket type people, so I have no media. Instead this post will be punctuated by random pictures from my phone.

Yoshi was a star again though, regardless of whether or not I have photo/video proof. We warmed up over an entry ramp, circled to the Novice #1, a ramp then a novice table. Yoshi and I are getting better at going forward from the get go, so it flowed decently well. We then headed from novice #1 to the #2 which was a decent gallop stretch away. Ms. GY's horse and Yoshi both found this a bit spooky and fish tailed a bit. Like the good boy he is though, Yoshi went forward when I closed my leg and sat up. Next we looped around through the water to the BN size table (flagged as part B of the novice combo that was 2 tables with an almost obligatory water crossing between them). I gave him a pretty short approach to the water and he was kind of surprised, slipped to a walk then picked up the trot again in the water and cantered the two strides out to pop over the table and then head to the same novice table we had warmed up over. We got tight to that, but he jumped up and over really very nicely. At least my inability to see distances is teaching him to jump well from wherever we end up. 

Next it was over the trakheners. We started over the BN one to the novice roll top with brush. We circled back to take the training trakhener. JT actually meant for me to come back over the novice one. I definitely didn't have enough forward to the trakhener, but he still hopped over it gamely. We re-did that set starting with the training brush roll top then back to the trakhener. As we headed to the brush I did think for a second it looked quite large, but JT's faith in sending us to go do it made me sit up and close my leg. The second time over the trakhener went much more smoothly. 

We headed to the banks next to play and Ms. and Mr. GY got to be amazed by the casual loose rein, hands forward, barely jog to it approach to down banks. It was so funny to watch them go through the same process Yoshi and I did a month ago. Yoshi and I went down BN, turned around to go up BN to a roll top that was part B, then turned back around to come down novice to the novice part B, a decent size roll top. 

Next it was over to the water. We did the whole novice line through then she had us do the smallest down bank in. Yoshi faltered a bit, but went after assessing the situation. JT said that was a pretty green moment and then said "we've done the down bank into water before, right?" Yoshi said "nope, we had not, but don't worry that's okay". We did that size a few more times before going to the next size up. By the time we did that twice he was splashing into water like a pro. And on that note, we were done! 

Ms. GY and I were talking later about JT's coaching. Ms. GY said that several times JT had started to shout something in my direction, but I had started doing it as she started to talk (ie stretch up and balance, move the canter). This led to JT stopping shouting and just chuckling. Between JT and Yoshi this whole process has felt so simple. I told her she had higher ambitions for Yoshi and me than I did when she told me back in August or July that we'd be looking at novice by the spring. But she knows horses and knows how to teach, so here we are, hopping over training fences like it is NBD and schooling whole novice courses. 

Yoshi is also the most uncomplicated, straight forward horse I've ever had the pleasure of riding. He goes forward when I ask, stops or slows when I ask, and goes over the jump he is pointed at. When we were circling around to head back into the water at one point he locked onto the skinny prelim log headed in. I turned him away, but he already has that down pat after 4 months of work. I cannot write/say enough how glad I am that I took a chance on this sightly blemished (dropped hip, crappy feet, osselet on left front) thoroughbred. I'm not sure if he is a forever horse for me or if he will eventually be for sale as a seeing eye horse for someone, but either which way this has been a really fun and rewarding road so far. JT said she could see him easily hopping around prelim at some point. And I would've laughed, but the prelim coffin didn't look that bad as I sat on his back. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

New bit, new bridle

So just as I finished collecting the largest collection of horse leg wear ever and had told my husband "I have all the horse things I need, so I'm done doing any shopping for a long while" a thing kinda came up. As I've talked about, Yoshi has some weird mouth things. He is orally fixated from the get go, anything he can reach from the cross ties or his stall will enter his mouth at some point. He likes to take each of my grooming tools and mouth them for a second before dropping them (although my one really nice Haas brush gets a longer chew... of course the only nice brush I own is subject to this). He also still tries to put parts of me in his mouth, although now in a toddler playing/exploring the world not an angry way. And under saddle he expresses stress by chomping on the bit and baring his teeth. He sometimes will flop his tongue out of his mouth, but the frequency of this one has lessened A LOT. I think it is a stress behavior? But I'm not totally sure. He basically does it once a cross country schooling session and rarely at lessons or shows. Apparently at the Majestic Schooling show he nearly put his tongue over the bit in warm up for dressage. JT had the good sense not to mention this to me until after the show though. 

Until August, he had been going in a Micklem with an eggbutt french link. I briefly tried a nathe that he was pretty soft in, but JT didn't love the idea of him in that bit, so he's been in the french link since then. We switched him out of the Micklem after the end of August when his constant mouthing caused a rub on his chin from the piece of leather that goes under the buckle. He did seem much happier in the plain cavesson, so I had been thinking about buying him one that actually fit his face because the Bobby's Tack bridle I threw him in was definitely not sized for his face (highest hole on cheekpieces and noseband, too tight in the browband), but fortunately had not bit the bullet yet. 

He's generally a pretty sensitive horse and has excellent brakes even though he is also nicely forward. But he would really like to hang on the contact rather than truly soften to it when asked to bend and lift. So one day JT suggested trying him in her horse's bit/bridle combo. It is a HS NovoContact Double-Jointed Eggbutt bit in a PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle. The interesting part about this bit is that the edge mouthpieces of this bit are rather flat front to back. This makes it soft when they are soft, but when pressure is applied, the mouthpieces rotate a bit to give it a subtle edge. 

You can see the shape of the mouthpiece a bit ;) better here than in the online pictures

Smart Pak's description of the bridle: The PS of Sweden Pioneer Bridle features a classic noseband redesigned. The pioneer has a drop noseband that offers unsurpassed comfort for your horse and also modern styling. Thanks to the cross-sectional design, the cheek pieces are kept away from the eyes and the jaw strap is extra padded for increased stability and comfort. The noseband has rawhide on the inside to hold its shape away from the sensitive nerve endings of the nasal bone. It also features a built in soft pillow to increase the noseband's stability and is decorated with a white seam. It closes easily with the padded pullback strap featuring a ring for greater freedom of the jaw, and an easy on/off snap that is easily removed. This bridle is recommended for horses that are young or inexperienced, need extra support and stabilization, or tend to travel inverted. Reins not included.

And after mouthing the bit for 2-3 minutes, he got quiet in his mouth. It wasn't angels singing magic of softening and bending while I sat and did nothing, but it was much quieter. I rode him in that combo a few more times before deciding that this would be worth the investment because he did feel much more comfortable. I asked JT which was the more important piece to find first and she said the bridle actually seemed to make the most difference.  

It took a bit of hunting to track down a cob sized black bridle, but I eventually found it direct from the PS of Sweden website (although now it isn't even listed on the website at all!). The bit was easy to find at Dover. Smartpak is my usual go to, but they didn't have the 5" in stock. The bit came in first, so I set it up in my standard cavesson. He seemed quieter in his mouth, but did actually lean on it a bit more than without the PS of Sweden bridle. Odd, but again JT knows what she's talking about.

Once the bridle came in, I oiled it multiple times with the tiny sample conditioner they sent. Then struggled at reassembling it, but finally got it back together properly. The range of adjustability on these bridles is definitely much smaller than in most other brands, so it is pretty important to get the sizing right. JT made some small tweaks to it after I set it up, she recommended the two cheekpieces be parallel. In the noseband/jaw strap there are 3 different areas that can be adjusted - the jaw strap, the noseband, and the pieces between the two. 

Not parallel here 

Properly adjusted here 

Now that it has been in use since we schooled at FHP, he has a complaint about the drop noseband. I'm not sure what it is because I can't find a rubbed spot, but as I go to do it up he flips his nose each time. It may honestly be pulling/trapping his whiskers, because I got the same reaction when I test pulled on a few whiskers... I'm not sure how we'll address this one. I have been tightening it to the point where I can slide two fingers underneath of it still, so I don't think it is overtightening. He does feel mostly fantastic in the combo though and usually produces a soft white foam on the bit. I'll continue brain storming on the noseband and testing out different ways to adjust it. In the mean time I do enjoy looking at his face more in this bridle than I did in the poorly fitted Bobby's Bridle. And fortunately I sold the micklem, the bobby's bridle, a sheet I'd hardly used, and a few other random things on FB marketplace, so I didn't end up actually "spending" that much on the new bit/bridle. 

Dressage saddle woes up next...

Friday, November 12, 2021

Jekyll and Hyde

Title probably how Yoshi was referring to me on Tuesday...

Ms. GY and I went trail riding that morning at Watermelon Pond Wildlife Environmental Area It was SO LOVELY. It was in the high 60's, she brought Mr. GY's OTTB. Both horses were absolutely amazing. They moseyed along on a loose rein most of the time with one tiny spook from each of them over two separate things. They trotted together - side by side when it allowed, and one in front when the trail was too narrow. They also cantered like perfect gentlemen, her horse not caring when Yoshi got a little close, and Yoshi staying politely behind him for the most part. When Yoshi led he was a little bit sucked back/cautious, but he still showed no hesitation going forward. 

Smiling about the beautiful day in front of watermelon pond

The trails are mostly sand and mostly in the sun. It was perfect for us because it was cooler and it rained a TON last week, so the sand was still pretty hard packed. I could see how on the trails closer to the entrance that are more travelled the sand could get pretty deep if it hadn't rained in a while. Watermelon Pond was quite high due to all the rain, and we did cross a couple of puddles in the path, good practice for them. There were a few gentle hills that we went up as well. We rode for almost two hours. I forgot to turn on my Garmin, but I know we covered some distance because we had two pretty long canter stretches, four nice trots, and the boys were both walking BIG the whole time. 

When we got back home, I hosed Yoshi's sweat off and decided I was going to clip him. He's been a bit out of kitty minutes since arriving home. Shortly after we got home Monday he had to stand for the farrier. He was still good, but did a lot more dancing than normal and the second the farrier wasn't actively working on him started pawing. I had already nixed clipping him that day, figuring he needed some time to play bitey face with his friends and run around. But I really wanted to get the hair off of him, so Tuesday I was committed. He has been completely fine with clippers places other than his ears when I've run them next to him. He has tolerated his legs getting done just fine. However, I had not had occasion to actually put the clippers on him and clip other places... yeah... He is the world's most ticklish horse. We came to an agreement on standing still, but I could not stop his muscle twitching. I had put tape on him for a high trace clip, but the constant muscle flicking/twitching quickly removed that. I pulled out the dormosedan gel after a 10 minute struggle and then cleaned tack while that kicked in. 

Regrouping after 1.5 mL (half his body weight dose, but he was a light weight for his teeth), I could get more done, but he was still SO tickly in his girth area and even on his jugular groove. I got the left side done pretty well, but we both kinda ran out of patience for the right side. Because he had flicked my tape off, I ended up using the saddle pad to draw a straight line across his back. This worked fine on the left, but on the right he cocked his hind leg and I didn't realize the effect this would have on the straightness of his saddle pad. So the right side climbs from the shoulder towards the hip in a diagonal line. Which meant I clipped a lot more of his butt to keep it even. And there are also more clipper tracks because we were both getting impatient.

This is the better side.. his face sums it up

Soooo much higher up on this side...

I basically could only do his girth area on both sides by hovering the clippers just off his skin. It is what it is... I told JT I understood if she didn't want to be seen in public with me for the next couple weeks. Also I am quite glad I did this a full month before we plan on showing next. I don't know if he's going to get another clip this winter, but if he does we're taking it all off and getting a full tube of dormosedan prior to starting! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

So sneaky...!

JT sent me this gif last week while I was out of town. JT does this thing where you finish a course or a line and she says "just keep coming" and then zips around and adjusts jumps while you're picking up a canter or starting the course. I've watched her do it during my friend's lessons, but barely notice it during mine even though she is clearly doing it then as well. 

I'm not sure if I shared this here or not, but my brain broke about the height of a jump a month or two ago. We were working on a roll back to a vertical and at one point it seemed easier to let him keep trotting than coordinate a canter around a roll back turn. She got after me that that was not the point of the exercise, so I didn't, but it seemed totally reasonable to me. Eventually we got it together (okay, I got it together, Yoshi was fine the whole time, I finally turned with my body and quit pulling on the right rein) and called it a day. Then JT told me the vertical was 3'. I knew she was right. She is the professional and was also standing on the ground next to the jump. But I could not actually believe her. I intellectually accepted it, but still felt in my heart of hearts that it was maayyyybe 2'9", but more likely 2'6". 

So then a few days later when I was in our home field setting some poles at specific intervals for an exercise out of the conditioning book, I stuck my tape measure on a jump that looked 3' to me. It was 3'6". Oooookay. So I found one that looked 2'6", yep that was 3'. Huh. See heart/gut, I knew she was right.

Anyways, point of my long brain-break ramble is that in our lesson Monday we made it up to training level height. It didn't feel like that big of a deal. Pretty cool. I cannot tell you how much her lessons are worth, but it is WAY way more than she charges. 

AND she filmed it. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Chiro and more

I was out of town from last Monday morning through Saturday evening. JT took Yoshi home with her after schooling at FHP on Saturday. She took her baby horse to his first show on Sunday, so Yoshi got that day off. Monday after she worked him I got a message "Just wanted to check in about Yoshi. He has been super stiff in his neck- feels a little different to me than when he was just locked. Like he's trying but encountering pain when he goes to bend. I know we've talked about the tripping in the past, but I'm worried he might have something going on that's making bending so hard for him. I have a really good Chiro and acupuncture vet coming Thursday, would you consider having her do a chiro eval on him and maybe checking his neck to see if there's anything interesting going on?" 

UGH. Interesting is not so much the word I would use for problems in the neck. But I know what she was getting at. This was not the first time she'd mentioned this. And I trust her a lot. She clearly knows what she is doing and has felt a TON of baby horses learning to bend. I had actually willfully ignored this the first time she mentioned this feeling. After Leila, the last thing I wanted to hear was neuro/neck problems. And then he seemed to get better and work through it, so I assumed it had just been "I raced 47 times and now I have to bend my neck instead of stretching it straight out in front of me?" with some muscle pain/soreness that we had eventually worked through. But this was time two of bringing this up, so I bit. Plus it was incredibly convenient to have him assessed while he was at her place. AND I was with my BFF who is an equine vet, so I could run things by her in real time. 

Tuesday's report was better - he felt more like himself. Made me feel a bit better to hear that. Thursday she kept in touch the whole visit. Found mild arthritic changes at C6-C7 on the right side (using US, more sensitive than rads according to that vet), pretty normal neuro exam. Felt like he would really benefit from chiro adjustment. Could consider injecting that spot if chiro wasn't doing enough after a few adjustments. BFF agreed with that assessment even looking at the ultrasound images at the same time. <3 technology.

So. The world did not end. I got this looked into. It is ONE spot in his neck instead of MANY. And he may not even need injections. And BFF says that even if it does need injected, it may only need injected once while he builds up the muscle and new way of carrying himself. It wouldn't be destined to be a q6months injections. With Leila it was very much an abnormal neuro exam with 4 different facet joints that could be injected every 6 months... 

Friday I was DYING for a report on how he felt. But FL got hammered by disgusting wind and rain ALL DAY. Saturday was much of the same and JT was off to coach at a horse show. I got back to town late Saturday night, but didn't plan on seeing him until Monday morning. Sunday morning she got on him and I got the report of "I'm excited for you to feel him! He's a whole new horse!" with notes on how he can actually respond to half-halts in his right lead canter now. 

Sunday afternoon my husband got unexpectedly tied up with family things and so I snuck out for a quick 15 minute ride. He felt slinky at the walk even, with a freedom to his shoulders/neck that I hadn't felt before. He slipped behind a couple of times at the walk and trot, but my theory on that is stifle weakness that comes and goes as we increase the work demands, he gets fit for it and stops slipping, then we increase the amount of sit again. His right lead canter felt FANTASTIC. We quit after just a bit of canter both directions and went for a quick walk hack before settling him in his turnout for the night all cozy in his blanket. 

The plan for him: 
  • 10,000 IU Liquid Vitamin E per day for 2 weeks before decreasing to 5,000 IU per day
  • Increase grain to DOUBLE what he is getting now. The vet's feeling was that if they are lean when they are trying to lay down and build new muscle it becomes a more fibrous less properly organized muscle mass. I'm not sure I follow the science behind that (and didn't get to talk to her in person), but she's a well-respected sports medicine vet here, so I'll follow her experience. 
  • Chiro once a month 
I'm excited to see what the next month brings us! I'm headed down to lesson on him this morning and then bringing him back home. While I was out of town I had briefly thought about moving him to JT's permanently, but the 45 minute drive there yesterday was enough to remind me how lucky I am to have GY's 1.8 miles away from me. And I adore them. So we'll stick to the once a week trailer rides down to JT's place. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

FHP Schooling

We made the trek to the Florida Horse Park to school on Saturday. Unlike most venues in the area FHP is only open to school on certain days, so it ends up being a fairly crowded cross country course. The schoolings are the day before the partners of the park schooling shows so the courses are flagged for the next day. Yoshi unloaded like a professional and stood eating hay until we were ready to get on. We warmed up with bendy circles around jumps and then popped over an entry roll top at the trot then the canter. We circled around to pick up BN 2-4, a house and two roll tops. We got a bit tight to 3, but he flowed beautifully over 4. 

We then headed over a fairly spooky BN 5, a "birch ramp" (vertical planks with contrasting black/white on the planks, placed in a tree line so it went from sun to shade as you went over), then circled back to pick up the novice ditch combo - a narrow but probably BN height coop to the ditch. He hesitated at both the picket fence and the coop, but again flowed nicely forward when I closed my leg. 

Next we circled over the novice birch ramp to the novice mulch table. He hesitated and tried a bit to sneak left at the ramp and ended up sliding a bit on pine needles so had to really jump UP from the base of the fence. The left thing was my fault, I brought him in a tiny bit angled that direction and thought "gee, you've had better plans to spooky jumps before..." We still got it done though. We galloped on after that to the mulch table to "put the confidence back in the piggy bank" as JT says about funky jumps or striding that is off. He jumped table really well, and we headed up another bit of a stretch to a novice bending line combination and followed by another gallop down to a novice table. He took all of it in stride, not batting an eye at the bending line, which had a skinny log for part B.

We played over the banks next. We started off going down the training side. He stuck a little bit at the top of it, but actually did really well once I let him look and then did a tiny circle to give him some forward momentum. I was always taught not to let them turn away from it, but he is SO freaking honest, I think once he had a chance to look and figure it out, he just needed the tiny bit of forward to do it. Then we did the training bank combo, jump up, two or three strides (some day I will start counting strides, not today though...), and then down. We did that twice and he was pretty proud of himself about it. 

We finished over the last part of the novice course, a ramp, circle around to a table, then over a log (I picked a random, not flagged log, JT had meant the hanging log that was part of the course), through the water, to a log ramp for part B of the water complex. He jumped the spooky ramp, table, and log so well. He hesitated for a second at the water, breaking slowly from canter to trot to walk, but he never stopped. He picked the trot back up in the water and slipped right into a nice canter at the waters edge to pop over the log ramp. I let him enjoy a little gallop after that before easily pulling him up with loads of pats. He has the most lovely, flowing gallop, it is so much fun to ride. And other than that one time he tried taking the bit and actually running at Majestic, he is so responsive and also so easy to stop. 

He had a few hesitations and wiggles, but is THE BESTEST BOY, so all it takes is closing my leg and he responds. He also improved throughout the day with the last loop just feeling so confident and nice. This was our fourth time schooling cross country together, and he took on almost the entire novice course. He napped in between our turns and was really just all around incredible. JT said we should do novice at the  Majestic Oaks schooling show in December before realizing we haven't actually done a BN event yet. She then rephrased it to we'll pop up the stadium jumps a bit and keep schooling and see whether we do BN or N. I am so pleased with this kid, he has been the most fun to bring along. He knows his job so well and just gets it done. It has come so quickly to him to just take me to the jumps like he's been doing this for years. 

Monday, November 1, 2021

October Wrap Up

October was a pretty busy month for us. It is almost always the first really actually nice month in Florida, and this year did not disappoint. 

October we had: 
  • 21 rides - seems to be about what we average
    • 3 dressage lessons in which we worked a LOT on our trot-canter transitions
    • 3 jump lessons in which we did bending lines and a bunch of bounces
    • 1 cross country schooling at FHP in which Yoshi was the BEST BOY and jumped all the novice things
    • 2 shows, both at Majestic 
      • 3 phase schooling show where we won our entry division on a not so great 36.1 dressage score
      • Jumper schooling show where we put in two solid rounds for his first time over their fill 

    • 6 rides in the equibands, but I did start trailing off to the once a week use in the end of the month. These I think are a really important part of our canter transitions though. Once I realized no fireworks were coming with cantering under saddle in them, they REALLY helped me get the feel of his back staying UP during the transition
    • 3 trail rides around the neighborhood, totaling 9.2 miles of walking
  • 8 trailer rides. Dude is a solid traveler AND is starting to feel comfortable enough to eat hay even when traveling solo. I'm hoping this is a trend that continues. He chows down if he's with a friend, but had only been lightly picking at hay when he was by himself till the last two weeks of October when he seemed to realize he was also fine by himself. 
  • Restarted clicker training with a head away approach to receiving treats, he's such a quick learner
  • A couple of massage and body work sessions. Ms. GY shows me things she learns from her Masterson Method courses and Yoshi seems to really like some of them. 
  • More work on clippers. Still not there yet, but when I was watching the barn for Ms. GY at the beginning of the month, I took more liberties with leaving my crap sitting around and kept the clippers right by the crossties so it was a great reminder to just plug them in and work for a few minutes each day. That dropped off after they came back though and I had to be a good boarder again and not monopolize the whole barn ;) 
November goals: 
  • Yoshi is off to boot camp again this week while I'm out of town. The hope is to solidify his canter and his transitions as well as have JT pop him over fences once or twice. 
  • I work EVERY weekend of the month, so no shows this month. This and the change in weather means I want to get him out to some trails at least twice this month. He is SO solid on them and seems to really enjoy exploring. We live within 30 minutes of a bunch of parks to ride in and the bugs should be much better than the hell ride my friend and I took in August or July. 
  • Keep plugging away at clippers... and give him his first clip of the year. I'd always been a full clip kinda gal because I have zero ability to clip straight lines. But I'm not drugging him just to fulfill my aesthetic desires, so I think this winter I am committed to a high trace clip that lets me leave his ears. If anyone has any tips for doing a trace clip (or anything that requires a pattern anywhere), please tell me!