Friday, December 30, 2022

Dressage (with media!) and Gymnastics (with media!)

Ben and I had a phenomenal dressage lesson on yesterday. We did a real leg yield left! I'm not sure I've ever in my life done a real leg yield in that direction. Probably because I've never gotten a horse really off my right leg because I never have used it actively enough AND let go of my right rein. We started with moving his barrel over at the trot, first on a three loop serpentine. Then once he was soft and bendy through his back we added a bit more power to it. Then we'd lose the soft back so we'd let the power fade a little bit to get the complete softness again on a 10m circle. Rinse and repeat. Tracking right I had to use my right leg SO MUCH more than I usually do. Probably about as active as my left leg is all the time, I'm that uneven. And then let go of the holding right rein. But once I did, WOW! A complete bend through his body. Then the leg yield just flowed naturally from that. So cool! 

We moved into the canter then. The canter we couldn't yet add any power to it, just focused on softness. But it was amazing how light and in front of me he felt. I could turn completely from my body and legs (or maybe because I was turning completely from my body and legs he was staying soft). 

A kind friend of Steph's filmed our left lead canter. It is a 4 minute video, not the usually pithy blog content, but Steph's commentary really makes it useful for me. 

He slipped behind twice still at the trot, so that hasn't magically disappeared with the hock injections. But overall he felt SO much better. Even and really willing to sit and push. 

We went back down today for a gymnastics lesson. It was three bounces to a one stride vertical to a one stride oxer, both one strides had placing poles in them. It was SO GOOD for both of us. I think part of Ben's problem in combinations is he fixates on the whole line, especially the end, and starts worrying about the last piece and therefore flubs the pieces in between. 

When suddenly the vertical grew limes and we jumped in a very special way

He was also pretty fixated on the placing poles and struggled with that. But he was trying the whole time and even when he jumped the vertical as above, he jumped out over the oxer like this: 

Overall a really good boy. JT wants us to go through it one more time before it is disassembled and removed from the ring as her dressage trainer moves in for the winter season. Hopefully we can make that happen! 

Making a much nicer shape over the vertical

Good boy! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The other pet

 Pico had a fantastic Christmas. We were going to go to NC, but y'know 

So we stayed in Florida. Pico is now on a home cooked diet of Salmon, eggs, margarine, and oats. And we've tweaked the cellulose so that she is no longer having diarrhea. Combine that with daily DexSp injections and q12h cisapride and ondansetron mixed into her food and she's a healthy, happy cat! I looked at my dad while I was mixing her meds into her food and told him I have no idea how I turned into the person who has a cat that dictates whether or not we can go out of town, takes three daily medications, and eats a home cooked diet. But here we are. And she is SO freaking happy that I don't want to rock the boat. We have a plan to hopefully eventually wean her off the DexSP, we're already down 25% from her max. Then she at least won't be getting a daily injection. 

Immediately after this picture she climbed ON the counter... thought that the bar stool was an invitation directly up to the counter. Bad kitten! 

Anyways, she got treats for the first time in a few months because we had cooked salmon and shrimp, two foods she CAN eat. So she was thrilled by that. And my dad and his partner find her adorable, which always pleases her when people fully appreciate her cuteness. Also she discovered the DOG FOOD set away for the dog's dinner on top of the dryer and ate at least a piece of it before I realized that she wasn't just licking a tiny scrap off the floor and shook an entire piece of dog kibble out of her mouth. Steroids may be making her a bit polyphagic. 

Right after I discovered her getting the dog food, looking so smug

She also displaced the dog from the couch later by gently kneading on the dog's side. This made the (very emotionally sensitive) dog so uncomfortable she got up off the couch. Pico was super pleased to discover she could push the dog around in addition to eating the dog's food. 

In horse news, Ben got his hocks done Friday. He had a decent amount of thin synovial fluid come out of his left DIT, definitely abnormal. She was pleased with how deep into his joints she could sink the needle - said it meant his joints were nice and open like a younger horse. This was the first time his vet has done his hocks, she actually has just dealt with his super long abscess and done chiro on him. She said if every horse was like him her job would be so much easier. He was nicely sedate, but not falling over, and didn't move a muscle when she injected him. Good boy Ben.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

POP December Schooling Show

Ben and I had our second outing at training level at the POP show at the horse park last weekend. It was a mixed bag. To start, we completed a second training level event on a number, and a reasonable one at that. But things felt a little funky in all three phases.

Dressage: another go at Training Test A. He was not as soft and supple as he could have been. We also cantered again after our trot transition at X on the diagonal. I didn't give him sugar cubes and he put his tongue out for a bit. We still got 7s on those movements though, so at least this judge didn't hate it as much as the one at the November Rocking Horse. He also slipped behind partway through, fairly dramatically. And we need to work on our free walk and stretchy trot circles. They both start nicely, but then we can't maintain that degree of stretch for very long and he pops up and stiffens. Lots to work on, we'll do this test again in January at the next Rocking Horse HT. 

Stadium: He warmed up really well, but the actual course itself kinda sucked and we had two rails. Unlike Rocking Horse where I was sort of off in La La Land not asking him to go forward, I was ASKING this time and not getting much. So much so that I wacked him in the middle of the two stride. GO DUDE! 

Cross Country: Going into this weekend I was nervous about cramming all three phases into one day along with course walks. I was pretty sure that I remembered courses better after sleeping on them. But when I was looking at the course map posted online on Saturday I was just building the whole thing up in my head, imagining it to be more and more challenging each time I looked at it, so I eventually stopped. 

Once I got there Sunday late morning, I walked the course with JT. I walked it again with Amanda (who takes much better course walk pictures than I do) after dressage, just pointing and making sure I knew where I was going. And it was fine in spite of a few 180 degree turns crammed into the course. 

This was the B of the first combo - up and down a hill to this roll top. 

Then there was a 180 degree turn back to a few more jumps. The next challenge was 

MIM rail down into a bowl

Back up out of the bowl. This skinny was on the other side of the hill up - you couldn't see it until you were at the top of the hill 

Another couple of straight forward jumps and then this combo: 

Coop and then right hand turn, 5 strides, to a corner

Then a fairly spooky coffin. No terrain question like at Rocking Horse, but it was set in the tree line and the ditch tends to surprise the horses. 

Directions were to line up C and then after we were over A to just keep kicking through those flags 

The next big question was the water, roll top a few strides before the water and then a log a few strides after the water. 

Then a chevron that he had SCREAMED over when JT took him out because she had gotten after him for being a dope through the water. Then it was a left hand 180 to the next combo which was a challenge too - a corner without a ground line, left hand turn up a bank, right hand turn 5 strides to a skinny. 

Then just one more to the end. It was a pretty short course, optimum time of 4:47. After stadium we WENT FORWARD in the cross country warmup and then went out on course. Overall he was very good. Rideable, attentive, never doubting that we were going over the jumps. But he wasn't as game in between fences as he was at Rocking Horse and he was drifting left at the base of fences. When I got him on a lease in February we had his hocks done because his owner requested it. In August my vet checked him and we agreed he was fine. But I think now he needs them done again, so that is happening on Friday. I'm hoping it will also help with the slipping. 

We finished with a few time penalties on XC, rightly so. But also with a few time penalties in stadium. Nearly every pair from entry on up had time penalties; I'm pretty sure they wheeled it incorrectly. It also led to them being pretty far behind on stadium and then consequently cross country. It was fine though because I was aware of it and able to not be on too early. 

I did drive home through Ocala in pitch darkness though and google decided to send me on a super fun route with the trailer - two left hand turns across four lane divided highways with no traffic lights. At one point after sitting for about 5 minutes, I had to tell Ben to hang on and gun it much more than I wanted to in order to get across a gap in traffic. Less than ideal for sure, last time I trust google blindly when it tells me that a route will save 7 minutes and I don't bother to cancel it out.

So not our best outing, but another deposit in the confidence bank. I did swallow hard a few times walking XC but never felt any hesitation or concern out there on Ben. And the course asked some very challenging questions for the level. It was their schooling show championship, which maybe led to them amping it up a bit? The fences are even looking a bit less intimidating from the ground, I walked right next to all of them and didn't scream internally. Cross country is definitely coming together more so than stadium at this moment. 

A good friend came with her parents and took some photos - her dad is a pro photographer and has taken beautiful shots of my critters over the years. If my satellite internet weren't being a terrible pain at the moment I would dig up one of the shots of my dog he took that I have framed. They were stationed at the water jump on XC, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what he got. 

Plus she brought this amazing set up for a picnic between dressage and jumping! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

WW: Rocking Horse Stadium Pro Pics

Quite possibly my new favorite picture

Put your hands down! 

Embracing the landing shots - look at that adorable eager face! 

Monday, December 12, 2022

Ben's Best Day Ever (and some mullings on diet, supplements, and balance pads)

Ben and I went to the Chi Institute on Friday for him to be a demo acupuncture horse again. It was pretty foggy and dark that morning when I arrived at the barn. Ben and his older friend had started cantering around while I was letting the other horses in. And unlike his 25 year old friend, he cannot be trusted to navigate the two gates and barn without banging into things when he is feeling VERY frisky in the morning. So he got haltered and I led him in with a bit of trepidation. But he was a good boy and just BOUNCED next to me, not on me. He loaded well and we arrived shortly before the lab started. This was the second in person session of this set of students in the course, so people were a bit less WOW a horse and more focused on the upcoming points exam. 

Taking in the scene, being so handsome and alert

The TA for Ben's group works in Virginia and works on a lot of thoroughbreds at the track. For some reason it had not occurred to me that on the track TBs would get acupuncture, but of course they do! Anyways, the TA adored Ben and he adored her. He introduced himself to everyone by grabbing the empty trash can from the center of the group for putting needles in later and flinging it back and forth while they were chatting about things that weren't him. Then he proceeded to pick up a stick from the arena ground and fling that around for a bit. Clown. Once he had everyone's attention on him, he was a bit more focused and did some yawning and licking and chewing as they identified points. 

Pleased to be the center of attention and being so tolerant of being poked everywhere

During the break we went out to the sunshine so I could warm up and Ben could graze. I chatted with another owner who said he was "obviously a quality thoroughbred" and asked me if I knew of any for sale like him. JT has gotten a similar comment while warming us up and responded "I wish I knew!"

The shiniest, most handsome

He was a bit out of patience after the break. It is a long 4 hours of standing around and being a patient pony, so I couldn't blame him. He quickly tuned back in though and enjoyed his treatment. The students had decided to have the TA do the treatment so that they could keep reviewing. The TA was really quick with her needles and did a lot of B12 injections rather than electroacupuncture. The idea is that the B12 stays at the point and acts as a bit of an irritant and pressure spot so that the stimulation lasts longer without having to necessarily stand there with the needle in. She did it with 22 gauge needles and he really didn't seem to mind it much. 

This time around he was a "Balanced Wood" for his constitution. The way she described it, wood constitution is more solid, brave, trustworthy. Kind of all the things we've been working on with him, I wonder if we've brought out his inner wood. My friend who is currently taking the course discussed it with me later and we decided he might truly be an earth. I realized when the TA was describing a point by the ear and noting that if the ear was pricked forward or pinned the point shifted that I have NEVER seen him pin his ears. EVER. He does not have an angry, mad, or mean bone in his body. And I guess the wood constitution does have some desire to push back against authority and sometimes respond when a fight is picked. Which Ben DOES NOT. Anyways, just kind of interesting things to think about with him. He definitely has a sense of humor. 

You can barely see the 22g needles down his back here 

He scanned positive to a few of the stomach points and she asked what gut support he was on. Which he's not. And he's in full work and doing lots of travelling, so probably should be. She recommended the probiotic Equitic as a starter. As I sit here and am digging deeper though, he has recently been switched to Nutrena ProForce Fuel which contains a probiotic and prebiotic. So does he really need a separate probiotic? But the grain does not contain the specific strain (Lactobacillus reuteri) that is present in the Equiotic... Oye. The probiotic doesn't break the bank, but is roughly $2/day. 

She also prescribed him Tendon/Ligament and Body Sore because I said the Chi Performance hadn't done much. Actually what I said was I had no idea if it did anything. Because he spent November with JT on her grain and hay and schedule, and hee started receiving the Chi Performance partway through that month. Then we moved back to the GY's and he's been on the Nutrena ProForce Fuel since returning there. There's also better grass- Bahia and winter rye, supplemented with Timothy or orchard hay. At JTs it is Tifton round bales instead of grass and then t&a in the stalls. And the rice bran I was getting shipped from Chewy was back ordered so he got switched to Purina Amplify two weeks ago. THEN I got a free sample of Organic Gut Solutions, a product made in Ocala that had some suspicious claims of detoxifying the gut. But the ingredients did not look to be harmful, and they claimed it decreased anxiety, so what the hey. 

Anyways, said all that to say, no idea if the Chi Performance supplement did or did not make a difference because literally ALL the variables have changed since I started him on it. 

As shown in the above grazing picture, he looks fabulous right now. He still needs to add some trapezius muscle back in that atrophied with our poorly fitting saddle. But other than that, he has a great butt and is super shiny and slick and feeling really good. 

He has been slipping more in the hind end though over the past... unknown time frame, I want to say two months. I've been more diligent about stretching his stifles post-rides now that we're back at the GY's. And I've been breaking out the balance pads more. Mostly because he finds them really challenging in the hind end, making me think they're really good for him lol. And if he is slipping somewhere back there, then strengthening the stabilizing muscles should help, yes? 

Don't mind the sweaty saddle mark... I can't use the pads before I ride because I paint his feet with Farrier's Fix OR copper tox and I can't get that on them. And then he gets hosed post-ride. And I don't want to get them muddy and wet. So sweaty post-ride, pre-hose it is. 

The right hind is the hardest to get him on. He really wants to put that foot on solid ground. It takes a lot of repositioning and then clicking for finally putting weight on it to get him to stand on that one. 

We're only doing a minute on them right now, but I'm hoping to build up to more. It is a really good use of the clicker training because I am far from his head, but trying to let him know he is doing it right and a treat is coming. He's so solid on the not mugging me for treats while I am actively clicker training. He was still definitely mugging me for my snack and trying to ask the students for treats yesterday, but y'know, he is who he is. 

I am hoping that in a month I'll be able to look back and say that his slipping behind is doing much better... so I'm trying to mentally log # of instances per ride to write down on my calendar post-ride. But at the same time trying not to obsess about it. 

Anyways, do ya'll have any input on supplements, grain choices, and probiotics? Do you take a less is more approach or do you feel supplements can be truly beneficial and feed multiple supplements? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Rocking Horse December HT: Cross Country

JT and I walked the cross country course together between my dressage and stadium, planning out each combination carefully. Some jumps though, she has the general solid advice "Canter, jump it, don't do anything weird." Fair enough, that's all a lot of them take. 

Weeeee!! A training course map! 

The first three were pretty normal - #1 was a yellow house that is a slightly larger version of the one on the novice course. Nice gallop from that to #2. The trailer parking was off to the left, so JT warned they can sometimes get drawn off to that, kinda lolly gagging along. 

#2 - get his attention back to this jump early if he's off in lala land

#3 - straight forward coop, I wasn't sure how spooky he was going to be to this though

The first combination came up at #4 - two coops with a bending line of 5 strides between them. Tricky part was they were placed RIGHT next to the tree line. And I knew Ben was going to spook at the tree line. JT told me to keep my eye on the jump no matter what. Even if we were shooting sideways, my eye was on A, riding to it. 

#4 A


#5 was a bench through the tree line, and then #6 was a half coffin. It was down a slight downhill, but not much of one compared to what we have done at Magnolia Sands. Same as the ditch on the novice course, I was told to get his ears up and repeatedly go "Do you see THAT? We are JUMPING that!" 

Then it was a right hand turn to the water combo. We have schooled a very similar line at the horse park with a larger roll top, one stride to the water, through the water, then out over a chevron. Because he had done that so well in the past, this one didn't really give me any concerns. 

Whole line through 

To part C

#8 was an oxer, then #9 was a brush that I didn't get too close to on the ground. 

Hello there from a distance... I will canter you, jump you, and not do anything (too) weird 

#10 was another combo, roll top to wedge. Again the part that I thought might be tricky for Ben was the spooking at the other jumps on the left. Modified had a WHOLE ditch and wall right by the roll top that was really quite scary looking.

Our part B off to the right

Then there was a much friendlier looking brush and then a nice stretch to a small log, right hand turn up a hill to a tiny log on top of a hill. Again, at Magnolia Sands we have jumped a BN sized train at the top of a hill, so this didn't seem too shocking. Almost like JT has a plan to make us well prepared when we move up!! 

Jump this log at a little angle to let him know we are doing something pretty soon after, not just galloping away again

To turn right and head up the hill to catch this one

#14 and 15 were canter, jump them, don't do anything weird. #16 was another combo - a house to a legit corner. We are still at the point though where the corners can be jumped straight on to their ground line. We walked a few different angles of the coop to the corner, they all walked out as 7 strides. 

White house there in the distance

Part B corner in some funky lighting there

Then #17 was a table shared with novice and #18 finished with a log on box shared with modified.

It was the first time they offered modified at Rocking Horse, and it looked to my ignorant eyes like they had done a really good job. It definitely seemed more challenging than training, but looked more doable than prelim, which is what my understanding of modified is. 

It was really, really nice to go out and know that we had done more challenging versions of all of these combinations before at Magnolia Sands. We'd done a roll top to wedge, but the one we'd schooled was down a hill to the wedge. We'd done a full coffin set on a large hill. We'd done bending lines and corners and basically all the things. The jumps did look BIG to me though, but I don't walk up to what I jump on foot much... which I might need to start doing. And novice looked small, so I knew I was signed up for the right level. I borrowed Ms. GY's bike to go around the course once more after we did stadium. And even the few inches of height the bike added made the bigger jumps look less intimidating. I still didn't get too close to the first brush though. 

Then Ben and I drove home and he got dinner and then got turned out. The next morning I woke up at 1:30, convinced myself to fall back asleep, then woke up at 5:30. That time I got up. It was probably good I did because Ben took forever to eat, continually staring out the back window of his stall. I spook him with my head lamp, but I also don't have another way to see pre-dawn, so he's gotta get a little bit used to it lol. 

We loaded up and got there around 8. Training cross country ran training first then they back tracked to intermediate, prelim, and modified after the ground was a bit drier and the sun was a bit higher. We were sitting in 6th, we'd been tied for 3rd after dressage, but our rail dropped us down a few places. I was trying not to pay any attention to that though because I just wanted to finish without refusals in stadium and without cross country jump penalties. 

I did finally figure out how to use my Garmin watch to count down for cross country - I can program a time and distance into it and then when I start it will tell me if I'm on track for that time or too fast or too slow. I was pretty certain it could do something like that, but since I only use it to log mileage and time for my runs, I had to play with it a bit to get there. But I was also solidly refusing to buy an optimum time watch. 

When we arrived Ben got a little walk around. He took in the cross country course in the distance and definitely knew what was up. We tacked up about 30 minutes before hand and headed over to warm up. I was going to walk him for 10 minutes, but he got jazzed up about horses galloping around warm up. His "jazzed up" is pretty adorable - he starts tossing his head and shaking it a little bit, mostly down, not up into my space, and sometimes he'll add a little squeal. He also starts jigging. None of it is that much or really anything other than endearing to me, but he also won't particularly walk and it isn't worth the fight. So we trotted and then cantered with some back and forth to the gallop, then tried walking again in the quieter area of warm up. 

Our jumps were not particularly inspiring, we were getting to a tight spot almost every time. But he was jumping honestly and jumping athletically from that spot, so we took it. We did end on the triple bar to a wedge to a skinny roll top and he jumped the wedge and roll top GREAT. 

As we headed over to the box I looked at JT and said "Mine are the black sign with white writing, right?" She hid any horror and just answered, YEP! Then she told me to have fun out there with my friend and no matter what to keep believing in it. Then off we went! As opposed to last time, Ben came out of the box and knew his job from start to finish. It was just so much FUN!! 

One, two and three jumped great. We did skid sideways a small amount as we headed to four, but JT's advice worked and he jumped A great and did no spooking in between to jump B great as well. 


He did seem a bit surprised by the ditch, but I was stretching up with spurs in so he went still. He made up for it at the water combo though. I am not quite sure what happened, but suddenly we were halfway through the fairly small water and I wasn't pointing him at C yet, so it was a kind of sharp, surprising turn to C and he was very honest and game to it. 


For part C

We jumped the brush just fine, proving I hadn't needed to avoid looking it in the eye when I was walking it. He did spook a bit at the jumps near 10, but was game to it. 

Somewhere around 11, I noticed that I was not actually half halting and then releasing hands to the jump as we were going, so I added that back in and he started jumping much better. 

And over the triple bar!

He did squeeze in an extra 8th stride between the house and the corner, but again I never doubted we were DOING IT! From there the two to the finish were straight forward and then we were done!!! We were 19 seconds under optimum time and clear!! I am not a crying of happiness kinda person, but I had tears in my eyes hugging him afterwards. JT gave me a huge hug and was just as happy as I was. It was just so much fun to be out there galloping around with a horse that I trust and love. 

Getting his post-XC hose - I found this green sun shirt on sale at Smart Pak when I was buying a fluffy thin line... I am very pleased with it... now I just need to get a green belt and I will be fully green...

I iced him then loaded up to go home to the GY's this time. 

His BFF who doesn't bite him is the first one in line there. Ben walked straight up to him and they sniffed noses. I of course missed that moment and got this one where his friend doesn't look thrilled, but it was really adorable. 

He did some fancy prancing around his field, and he is looking really great right now. We've made some feed changes recently that have really made him fill out and look fantastic. It's great to have him so close again, Monday morning I popped right over and did some massage and some stretches with him.