Monday, March 27, 2023

Getting it right off the horse: 2023 update


I wanted to log the updates I've made to my workout plan since May of 2022. I now keep weekly workouts, logged on a whiteboard before being transferred into my phone. I find it pretty motivating to be able to cross things off as I do them. And if I'm not keeping up then there is the semi-public shame of my husband also seeing it. He is the world's most dedicated human being, so it's pretty easy for me to feel like a slacker if I make a plan and then fail to execute. And this whiteboard is on the door to a room I go into multiple times daily meaning the workouts also stare me in the face if they're not crossed off. 

So what has changed in the past 10 months? 

The biggest one is the addition of workouts from Ultimate Exercise Routines for Riders and dropping the BBG workouts. There was SO much jumping in the BBG workouts that my knees were starting to ache sometimes the day after.

There are 6 different workouts in this book that are quick to work through (roughly 20-30 minutes) and not so painful that I dread doing them. The author is a certified personal trainer and a rider herself. The workouts are total body and focused on muscles that tend to be weakest in riders. I credit the abduction exercises here with my new found ability to acknowledge and use my right leg. Even though using the leg should be an adduction movement, somehow strengthening abductors has led to a new found mid-body connection to my right leg. I've realized over the past 6 months that my tendency to pull with my right hand probably stems from an inability to use my right leg. Left leg makes a stellar inside leg and is active and creating bend. Right leg? Nah. Would prefer to just sit there. But now I can FEEL the difference between the two and start to fix it. 

So those have been added in two days a week. I also added back in my long run. It's mostly there for my mental health, theoretically as riders we do not need more "zone 2 cardio" or "long-duration endurance exercise" than riding gives us. But the long run is almost always Sunday (or Monday if I work Sunday) and it sets the tone for my week and gives me some time to mentally ruminate on things. My tempo workout is either a 1 mile run as fast as I can then a 1/4 to 1 mile repeat of that (most weeks it is 1/4 - 1/2 but sometimes everything lines up and I do a full mile again) or 30 second bursts with 30 seconds of recovery 6 times. This is to add in anaerobic work that hopefully fits somewhat with galloping cross country. 

I played around with a few upper body workouts after my post last year, but ended up coming back to simple and straight forward. Push is actual push-ups. According to a PhD professor of kinesiology on the Huberman Lab podcast, women should be able to do 15 push-ups. Yeah... I'm not there yet. I was much closer until my husband critiqued my form and my number halved. So each week I try to add one to my max number and then do 2-3 eccentric loading push-ups and two more sets of lesser reps. 

Pull was T's, Y's, and W's with light weights for about 4-5 months. For the next 6 weeks though, I'm focusing on actual pull-ups though with the same idea as push-ups. Add one each week, finish each set with eccentric loading. Eventually I'll rotate back to the T's, Y's, and W's and try to increase weight there. 

Abs are still the Athlean-X routines, although my husband paid for his app so now I can login and then select "6 pack shuffle" (I certainly do not have a 6 pack and never will, but y'know) and it pulls up a new combination of exercises each time. We use a bag of chocolates as motivation to complete our daily ab workouts. The only time you can touch the bag, that sits on the table, is after doing your abs. Then you get your chocolate reward. Works great and has actually brought my weekly number up to 5-7 times most weeks. 

How is this all working? Pretty well, I think, although my goal of "feel strong while galloping an entire XC course" is not objectively measurable. And it is especially not measurable given the skill and comfort level increases, although our crash set me back a bit on the second one. The closest I might be able to get to an objective measure of fitness would be heart rate recovery times, which I could do because my XC watch is my Garmin that I use for running. I might play with that soon, just for my own edification, although I have no baseline from last April. Also, the heat and humidity that is COMING SOON with the FL spring is sure to play into that as well. 

A lot of the finer details of the workouts have come from the Huberman Lab podcast, in particular his recent series with a guest, Dr. Andy Galpin, on many aspects of exercise science. The podcast is really great to listen to on the drives to work; I often listen to episodes multiple times because they are so information dense. 


Ben has a bit more of a solidified routine these days. I aim to start and end each ride with 15 minutes of walking. He is also out with the herd during the day every day now and so does a lot more walking around than he did when he was solo. 

He stands on balance pads with his hind feet 2-3 times weekly, after our ride, for at least a minute. I don't know in any objective way that they have made a huge difference to hind leg stabilization. He still slips, mostly in the right hind, anywhere from 0 to 4+ times each ride. His ability/willingness to spend time on them DOES directly reflect how he is feeling in his hind end though. The days where he has slipped more, he is less willing to spend time on them. 

After the balance pads, or if he's feeling really steady and willing on them then while he's still got a hind foot on one, we do hind leg stretches. First straight out behind for 30 seconds, then out laterally for 30 seconds. We do belly lifts, scratching at the girth, for at least 60 seconds after 80% of rides. These are in 10 second bouts with a treat in between each. Most days we also follow up with some carrot stretches. 

Roughly every 4-6 weeks he gets chiropractic, which he looooooves. He also gets a full Adequan series every 6 months. I do some at home acupuncture once a month or so and his trips to the Chi institute for official acupuncture have been documented here. 

Goals for the next year:
  • Once a month ground pole exercise in hand or under saddle - something interesting like serpentine over it, straddling the pole, etc. 
  • At least start monitoring HR recovery after cross country rides. I think a trend will be measurable even if there is show to show variability due to environmental conditions, stress level, etc. Whether or not the trend is due to fitness or skill won't be discernable, but still. 
  • Work through the 9 tests of fitness that are on the Huberman lab podcast so I at least have a baseline. 
  • Keep Ben sound and happy! 

Thursday, March 23, 2023

What's the baby horse been up to?

The center Goggles came from requires monthly check-ins with photos. 


The white eye has the ability to make him look excited and overstimulated and then a few seconds later deeply bored and over my photography 

Dats a pretty cute butt

Emailing the photos is a good reminder of the passing of time. It's been a little over a month. We haven't done a whole lot still, but we're putting in some building blocks. I was pretty amazed when I was stalking event entries this weekend and saw 2019 horses popping around beginner novice. Not in a they shouldn't be kinda way or even in an I need to catch up kinda way. Just... different journeys. And maybe for the first time in my life I'm starting to accept that. 

I did sit on him once. He was super good. Walked around the back field by himself. Did kick up his heels at one point when we turned away from the barn again, but got over it pretty quickly. Grand total saddle time of 10 minutes

We've also stood in more puddles. This was when he realized it was WATER like stuff he could DRINK. He was much more enthused after that. 

JT and I have long-lined him once together. I did it again Monday by myself. He was EXCELLENT. I put him just on the lunge first. He kicked up his heels for a lap or two right after I asked for the first trot. But then he settled down nicely. Then I put on the lines, and he put up with my ineptitude at handling the two long lines. We walked and woahed and trotted and woahed. Good boy. He also walked through the puddle in the round pen. Double good boy. He was mentally EXHAUSTED afterwards. He fell asleep in the cross ties. SO much braining required. 

I've also been doing "blocks" of ground work with him. Block one is staying out of my space, the space dictated by the length of the parelli style stick. When he enters he gets tick-tocked back out of the space. He was a major creeper for about 5 minutes. Instructor said he was either going "mommmy, mommy, mommy" or was pushing to see if he could enter the boundaries of my space. Either way, he got it eventually and has been pretty solid on it since then. The later blocks involve walking and doing things and moving his parts. I'm not there yet though because I had to leave early to go to work the day the instructor was there. Gogs has done the blocks with JT's working student a few times though. It's made him much more polite on the lead in and out from the paddock. He has been pushing the boundary with his older friend in the paddock. He's got some bite marks from it, I am pretty sure they're well deserved. 

He's a pretty confident horse, and I am really enjoying that. I've been doing the ground work in various areas of the back field and he doesn't really seem to care where we are or what we're near. He is VERY interested in staring at other horses doing things, but doesn't so much care if they come or go.

Occasionally he stands in a way that gives me a glimpse of the horse he can become 

And then other times he still looks like a super awkward baby 

So we toddle along. Balancing two in two different places hasn't been that hard timewise yet because I do things with Gogs twice a week. It has been hard in regards to remembering what gear needs to move between places. I've done all the things above sans gloves. Smarter choices have been made, but baby horse has been so good I haven't lost all the skin on my hands, yet. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Officially a teenager!

Happy 13th birthday to Ben!!! While technically it was January 1st, he deserves another day to be celebrated! 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Foto Friday

What's the point of having two horses if you can't get on the second when the first is having a week off? 

Fancy welded in plate to protect the quarter crack Ben is developing from where he had a terrible heel grab a few months ago


Monday, March 13, 2023

Calculated Retreat

Ben and I are in a week of sore feet purgatory right now. Turns out he cannot wear the leather pads with dental molding. Yoshi loved them, Ben gets sand under the toe then gets sore. His farrier is coming on Wednesday to reset and then he's getting his compensatory sore SI shock waved and/or chiroed on Thursday. Hopefully this gets him feeling better. I entered Terranova but haven't paid the fee yet... Waiting until I'm sure he's 100% again! 

Today we played on the ground with a bit of Nicole's weird Things idea combined with a new tactic to approach spooky objects. I read it on COTH and the poster there credited it to Warwick Schiller. My interpretation is therefore several degrees removed from the original creator. The gist I got though was to retreat from a scary object as soon as it was acknowledged. We started by purposely turning away from a saddle pad I had tossed on the ground as soon as he pricked his ears towards it.  We walked a few steps away, he grazed for a second, then we turned and walked back to it till his ears locked on it again. We repeated this four times until he was willing to stand on it. Then he got a click and treat.

Next we tackled a feed bag. He pretty quickly smelled it and had positive thoughts so it was only two retreats until he stood on it. He got a click and a treat for that. 

Had to anchor it with the hose because it was very breezy

Then we moved into the ring and tackled a few of the items on the scary side of the arena. 

Squirrels are constantly running around in the woods which only adds to the deep, dark woods fear

Things that are not upright are some of Ben's least favorite things

The whole time, I physically had to turn him away from things. He's probably spent his whole life not being allowed to turn/"run" away from things, certainly has spent his whole year with me with that rule, so I had to initiate the retreat. Also, since the retreat was made as soon as the object was acknowledged at all, he certainly wasn't alarmed enough to need to move at any faster than a walk as we turned away. 

It took probably twenty goes at it before he made it to the cart in the above picture. Between each retreat we meandered through some ground poles clicking and treating when he chose to step over the poles instead of around. He chose over the poles almost every time.

We practiced straddling the pole too, he was very very good at that once he realized the game. He was pretty focused on the reward so I don't know if he got super reflective about where his feet were, but he didn't struggle much at all with this.

Once we made it to the cart he actually sniffed around in it with a much calmer eye than when I've had him walk up to it under saddle while kind of forcing him forward. Shocking the way that worked. 

Then we headed to a part of the property where we don't really bring the horses much. He was super excited because that also meant the grass was GREAT. He grazed for twenty minutes while Ms GY and I chatted. He occasionally did look behind the garage which was the area I had in mind for our next scary item. He got to do his own retreating because I was mostly sticking to a small area so I could keep chatting while he grazed around me.

Once we stopped talking, he headed behind the garage on his own with me trailing a bit behind him holding the end of the lead rope. Then he completely blew my mind. The other horses were also pretty far off in the pasture at this point which can be stressful for him. But he actually led us up to the multiple weird, spooky items behind the garage!!!

Each time he got a click and a treat. But I've tried to use treats to desensitize him before (specifically to the drag on the spooky side of the ring) and they haven't had this effect. I'm so excited to play with this under saddle. I was completely amazed that he was literally pulling me towards new spooky objects to sniff them. 

This photo belongs much further up, but I got tired of fighting blogger on my phone

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

WW: Rocking Horse


Sad not to buy the whole package because there are some truly gorgeous stadium pictures. My feeling that overall he was jumping better was right, he's making a lovely shape over most of the jumps. But y'know choices and baby horses. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Rocking Horse: Dressage and Stadium

I decided to try out the staying at home, hauling in method for this show. I prepped everything, including the horse the night before. 

Bath time

Braids and some acupuncture - we'd had an AMAZING ride the week before after doing some acupuncture on his back 

Protect the clean horse, step 1 

And step 2 

I got up at 4:30, made coffee, and then drove to the barn. I brought in Ben and his buddy, fed Ben who mostly ate but did drop a bit out his stall window staring at the trailer and trying to figure out why so early, then loaded him up and put his pasture buddy back out with the others. We got to the show in time for me to have the show farrier reset both front shoes. He had been pointing his toe the night before on the wooden/matted deck (aka not soft sand) while I was braiding. And then I noticed the pad was a bit lumped up in the toe. The show farrier said my farrier was doing everything he could to not let sand get under there. But when you're Ben and you dig a hole to China before rolling, you get the sugar sand in there anyways... so we'll have to figure out a new system for pads for him since this is time number two he's managed this. 

Dressage was pretty nice, but our score doesn't reflect that. He's gotten his tongue out faster and faster each show and had it out the whole time. The judge told me she purposely wasn't commenting on it, but "[you] need to fix that". I wish I knew how... we scored a 35 for a connected, soft test. He did have a good spook at an extra rail outside the dressage arena at the start of our first canter lengthening, but fortunately didn't spook at it the next time around. I am getting the point I need to show MORE transition with the canter lengthenings and keep him off the forehand in the trot ones. The highest score in our division was a 34.1 though, and my 35.2 had us tied for 5th. Ah well. 

JT and I visually walked stadium after. The course was quite different from the past two events we've done here. Started straight across the middle of the arena then a right hand roll back to a bending line. He felt a little slow off the ground with his hind legs in warm up, and it looks that way in the video too. But he was jumping carefully and GOING. We did 2 in the 2 stride and 1 in the 1 stride. We had one rail where he came around the corner flat to the diagonal line and I did nothing to fix it. But considering when we were looking at the course after dressage I thought the jumps were definitely modified height, I was still pretty happy with that. 

Monday, March 6, 2023

Reverse Order...

Cross country recap first because we did it! We made it around the training course at Rocking Horse, including the same oxer that we slipped into last time. 

We've seen most of this before, so I won't do a full course walk

Very friendly starting log, he jumped it great

1-5 were "canter it, jump it, don't do anything weird". Go here and here for pictures of 2-6 and 8. He jumped 2-5 pretty well, got a little peaky and derpy at the mushroom table, but took the others well. 6A and B was a combination we saw in January, an angled 4 stride line between the ramps. He derped over 6A, but I got after him and we did the 4 strides out of it to 6B nicely this time (January we did the A fine but then chipped to B). 

The most interesting part on the course was a sunken road thing for 9 A and B, my pictures don't do the terrain justice, so I did some playing in paint, you're welcome ;) 

9A is the red table, you can see the uphill part right after it, but can't see the downhill

9b came after a steep uphill to the top of a knob, you can tell I'm standing at the top of the hill and looking down on it

Basically you jumped the red table, had one flat stride, then went steeply up the small lump to then go steeply down into a depression. If you rode it in a straight line you came back up the hill all the way to the spot where the x is that I stood to take the picture of the corner. Then the corner was a left hand turn that if you rode straight from the top of the knob would put you jumping parallel with the back face of the corner, and in Ben's case asking for a runout since we do love to do that at corners. 

JT is super smart and pointed out that if you rode the uphill and then downhill, but then in the bottom of the depression veered right a little bit, you came back out of the depression, but then didn't go all the way up to the top of the mound. Then you had a straight line to the corner to be square with the front face, not the back face. So that's what we did, and it rode beautifully. She also told me to let him pick his way down the steep downhill, and he was super smart about it and did. 

Then there was 10 

I knew the oxer was going to show up again, but they had added some visual markers to the rails. It did still give me major anxiety driving there Sunday morning, to the point where I was not sure why I spent so much time and money doing this for fun. But by the time we got there I had decided I was going to ride it POSITIVE and with an uphill balance, and it would be fine. They had a white rail oxer in warm up, so we jumped that three times till I got the jump I wanted, forward, uphill, confident. Right after we did that, another person in warm up shouted "WOOHOO!" as she jumped a coop. It was a great reminder that we were here to have fun. 

I rode 10 forward and positive and it was FINE. Then I actually took a deep breath and smiled. We were DOING IT! 

12 A and B - East Coast - rolltop, also with visual markers added, then a stride to a muddy water crossing

Out of the water and up a small hill to B, rode great

13 was a steeplechase, 14 was a new table that he did peak at pretty hard.

15 was this trakhener that we shared with modified who jumped it in the opposite direction

We've done the trakheners at Majestic plenty, but this one was hiding a bigger ditch, and I wasn't sure if that would make him peak at it. I rode it very forward and positive and he jumped it great. 

16 was a bending line from the trakhener to this hut, I was celebrating the trakhener so we didn't get a great spot here, but it was still okay

18AB, the last real question, bending line of wedges

He got a little wiggly to A, but locked his eye on B and did great 

Then we were home! With 1 second of time, but that doesn't matter at this point. I also got a tiny bit lost on the way to 17 and if I'd taken the more direct route we would've been fine. He's starting to feel quite trained, when I sit down he's starting to shift back more readily, meaning I can probably shorten the amount of strides out I am starting to do that. 

As long as I was forward, confident, and positive, he jumped well. He still did his patented bounce and chip to a few, you can see in the video, but the ones I was worried about rode super well, definitely showing he responds to the positive ride.  He feels SO MUCH more confident with studs in too, they're definitely  now part of our cross country gear every time. The sand was super loose, deep in some spots even because they need rain badly, and he felt confident leaving the ground. JT and I went shopping after my cross country round to fill out what I still needed between my pre-made kit and lovely gifts from Mr. GY. 

L to R - fronts, medial hind, lateral hind