Wednesday, November 29, 2023

WW: Ben is adorable

Rabicano on his right barrel - I had never noticed this before this winter

Left neck, I love this spot

Inner left front leg, scar from the Imiquimod we used on the sarcoid above it (see the hairless scar)

His one white "marking" - right hind

Monday, November 27, 2023

And lessons from a book

Ben and I have been working through a few of the exercises in 101 Dressage Exercises. While ideally we would take dressage lessons, it's been difficult to find someone willing to come out to the farm to teach. And with one jump lesson a week and often another adventure or show, poor dude spends too much time traveling already. 

I got this book secondhand on Amazon for less than $10. It is well laid out, broken down into various sections starting with a "Why Warm Up" section. That is followed by "Looseness", "Straightness" and then "Rider Position". Next comes the "Lateral Work" and "Improving the Canter" then "Building Suspension" and "Flying Changes". "Developing Lightness" and "Lengthening the Stride" follow, and then the book finishes with "The Importance of Fitness". There are exercises for every level, with a quick visual guide of the number of horses by the Key on each page. I've used this book both for Yoshi, who was just beginning to understand lateral work, and Ben who has a first-second level understanding of lateral work. I have not progressed through the book in a linear fashion at all. I've been using it purposely by browsing a section and selecting if there is an area we are struggling with and also using it for days where I have zero plan but to "do dressage". Those "do dressage" days, I'll open to a section at random. If it is a rider position exercise, I'll do that and one other from a different section. 

Each exercise takes up two pages: 

The first page gives a diagram of the exercise, the difficulty level, and the benefits. This exercise came from the lateral work section 

Ben and I have made it through a handful so far. We may be able to get a dressage trainer to come out to the farm soon, but until then we'll keep doing these once or twice a week. 

Exercise 12: 

If I were grading the challenge level, I would have given this one two horses, not just one. But maybe that's because we were struggling with suppleness. JT and I have noted that Ben holds a lot of his stress and anxiety in his ribcage, and so this exercise jumped out at me. It was incredibly helpful for him. When he spooks he tenses through his ribs and then it seems to become an emotional-physical spiral. We did this exercise at the end of our usual walk warm up (lots of serpentines, leg yields, and baby half pass) and when we picked up the trot, he felt AWESOME. So supple and powerful from the beginning. 

It took probably 3 trips around the cone before I felt that we were actually doing it correctly. We did it off the left leg first since that is easier for me, and then reverse mirrored my hip position from there to go off the right leg. 

Exercise 15:

We did this exercise on a spooky, chilly day in the arena. I already know that having something to do OTHER than picking at his spooking really helps us get through it quicker. But this worked amazingly well also. The first two ovals felt a bit frantic, but after I got the timing down a little bit better, it really helped us relax and flow. I would have actually graded this exercise as easier than #12. The consistent pattern seemed to really, really benefit Ben's brain and body. 

Exercise 43: 

When we tackled this one, it emphasized my side-to-side unevenness. But also made it easier to try to mirror what we had just done. And there's something so helpful about repeating a NEW pattern. Ben was pretty sure when we started leg yielding from the rail we were going to continue all the way across the arena or maybe stop at the center line and go straight. So throwing in the circle after was a great test for both of us and helped keep us more honest in the quality of the leg yield. If he had really led with shoulders and trailed the haunches and barrel, it was pretty hard to change the bend to do the 10m circle. But if we kept the quality in the leg yield, the 10m circle felt easy peasy. 

Exercise 44:

I'm going to return to this one because we struggled a bit with squeezing it all into the small arena and I'm not sure we got all the benefits. It felt a bit like I was cranking down the impulsion too much in order to make the pattern happen. The changes in bend were really beneficial though and he definitely felt more supple after. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Lessons from all over

Thursday before the show, Ben and I had a super fun jump lesson. We kept it short and sweet because we had the show in two days and because he was absolutely perfect. JT had a very interesting looking course set up and it was just as much fun to ride as it looked. 

I didn't photograph it, so the above diagram will have to suffice. We did a few passes through, first the straight four stride (brown), then a wide left hand turn to the straight four to bending five (blue) and then a right hand turn again up the triple three to three (red). Then we did the same first two lines (brown to blue) and then the angled three (green). The first time through we didn't angle properly and squeezed in a fourth, but the next time through we GOT IT DONE and went for it and ended on that note. 

Hello gorgeous

Goggles and I had a "jump" lesson later that week that wasn't much of a jump lesson because he decided that cavaletti on their lowest setting needed to be LEPT over. So we gave the baby horse what he needed... a slow, low key day. We trotted two poles at points of a large circle with a line of cavaletti set to be bounce-one-stride-bounce (total of 4 cavaletti) in between. Each time we came down to a walk and then aimed through the caveletti. It took his baby brain a while to catch up, but by the end he was SUPER. He's so interesting, bravery is not going to be a problem for this horse. But he wants to take over and then go quick and then he scares himself. He's got the point of "over, under, or through" but now we've got to get him THINKING about it as he does it. 

Herro handsome! 

I've got to get some profile shots of him soon, he's really grown up and turned into a very handsome horse. Some of the weight gain was aided by the fact that I (finally) did a FEC on him. He had 1350 epg. Holy worms batman. I would second guess myself, but I've done the GY's barn several times and Ben several times at this point and gotten a range of numbers there, so I'm pretty sure the weights, solution, etc etc are all right. Sooo he got Quest Plus, which seems to have worked because two weeks post was 50 epg. 

Sorry dude! 

His newly freed up calories seem to be going to more than a bit of sass. He got checked and adjusted a few days ago, and was a bit locked up in his neck again. But he did spend most of one evening standing straight up on his hind legs at his friend, most likely the source of that issue. And now my calendar is marked for FEC every 2 months. 

While we sorted out Goggles, I got the opportunity to take Amanda's Henry for a bop around cross country last week at Majestic. He is as perfect as described. Several times I thought there should be about five more strides before a jump and he appropriately did three and then left the ground, rolling his eyes about the silly human. 

He's also a "straight line" horse. I started talking with JT a while ago how some horses walk like drunken sailors as they stare at the world (AHEMbenCOUGH) and some horses have a destination in mind and GO. Henny is very much a going where you point him kinda guy. We jumped the tires and then cantered right in between a few upper level jumps without so much as a shoulder bulging to a little cabin. I was delighted. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Wednesday Walks: San Felasco

It is a gorgeous time of year here, if a bit dry. Ms. GY and I loaded up the boys on Friday and went to San Felasco. I had been with Yoshi, but Ben had never gone. It's a pretty heavily used state park that has biking, hiking, and equestrian trails. A few are shared use, but for the most part the horses and bikes are kept separate. That's definitely a good thing because the trails can be quite winding and narrow, and I'm honestly not sure how the cyclists don't run into each other. 

Ben was PERFECT!!! He was definitely a bit confused. I have taken him for one other off property trail ride with Ms. GY, but 99.9% of our trips are to go jump or dressage somewhere. He had his alert ears on and was surveying side to side most of the time, but was a really, really good boy. 

Starting out - he was fairly suspicious of all the signs we passed, we joked he was reading them and learning the routes

The first part of the trails are a little deep because they're the most used 

There is SUCH varied terrain here, it is fun 

Keeping one ear on the woods

And then the trail narrowed a bit 

We chose to fork right 

To get to this big field and have a trot and canter

Sooo pretty 

Before heading back into some pine forest

Which transitioned to include some live oaks

He liked the openness of these woods better than the thick underbrush we started in

Live oaks <3 

Then we opened up to the power line cut

And moseyed down the fairly steep hill 

Then turned back to home through thicker woods again

Starting to get the golden afternoon light 

More pine cushioned trails

Shared use cyclist trail by some wetlands that weren't very wet right now 

Hanging back at the trailer, staring at Ms. GY's horse in the distance as she hosed him off

He only spooked once when a cyclist buzzed up behind us pretty quickly, totally justified. I think it was great for him to go somewhere and just mosey, I'd like to do it a lot more this winter. San Felasco is pretty extensive, I have taken trail rides that last all morning there, so there's a lot more for us to explore. AND its only about 20 minutes from the barn. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Fall Rocking Horse Recap: Cross Country

Finishing up our - drawn out into three posts - show recap today! 

Let's tour the course first... then we'll do as much of a photo diary as I have, thanks again to XpressFoto. 

#1 - Log box headed kinda towards the parking

#2 - Bench, headed away from parking

#3 - little pimple jump then veer right through some woods to 4

#4 hut then a quick left hand turn through the trees before a little gallop to 5AB

#5AB - Triple to wedge

B was a 6 stride bending line from A, then a long gallop up to the brush

#6 - Brush roll top 

#7AB was this coop then a steep, unriveted downhill

B - flagged downhill into the sunken road

Through the sunken road

#8 - table under the tree at the top of the hill, then a long gallop

#9 - mushroom shared with N

#10 - my old fave MIM oxer then a fairly quick right hand turn to the water

#11ABC - coop to flagged water entry to cabin 

#11C - cabin then a gallop uphill away from the water

#12 - Big Red - shared with modified, then a long gallop again to 13

#13 - corner, backed up to the prelim B corner, then another long gallop

#14 - mushroom

#15AB - half coffin, right at the edge of the woods with the ditch rails painted bright white

#16 - flag

#17 - finished! 

Overall, it rode REALLY well. I was so happy with Ben. It feels surreal that we're back out here doing it. 

Leaving the box. He might've been going a bit sideways towards the trailers... that was a new one

#1 - a bit shocked to find himself out jumping


Let's do it! 

#2 rode just fine, we got ourselves together a bit more by the time we got there, so it was less sideways than #1. 

#3 - very clever over this

LOL at me riding like I immediately have to yank right. It was definitely a gentle turn and a ways to #4

#4 was a bit chippy and short and I told him he needed to get his shit together. Which he did. JT and I didn't have time to walk the whole course together unless I wanted to hang out quite late on Saturday. So we did a highlights version and did the water combo, the sunken road, and the half-coffin. The 5AB combo didn't even register on my radar as that tricky, but there were a lot of stops and even eliminations here. I LOVE wedges though. The first time we jumped one, JT told me shoulders up, hands wide, leg on. I expected a bit of shenanigans from Ben because of who he is, but he jumped that first wedge fantastically, and then I decided I loved them. Since then I ride them like I love them and he jumps them great; it is a great self-perpetuating cycle that we have. 

#5 - jumped this much better than #4, and we're already looking right and I'm pulling back a bit too much rather than opening right


Then we got held. I've never been held on course before and of course forgot to stop my watch. The two of us in the division with time penalties both got held. I think it's just hard to pick up the same rhythm again. 

But fortunately the rider wasn't injured, and we picked ourselves back up for #6 and took full advantage of brushy brush

We got held because someone came off at the sunken road at 7. Which made me ride it SOOOO positively. JT had said to get his shoulders up and ask for a tight spot in so he didn't fly towards the drop, shocking both of us. I was saying out loud "Get your shoulders UP, balance UP" as we came into it. I heard one of the jump judges say "Nice riding" as we came through it, which made me so happy. We had a rather uninspiring jump over the table at 8 though because he was spooking a bit at the shadows. I was glad we had the shared N table to build the confidence up again before ye old MIM oxer at 10. 

That he jumped the snot out of and I rode wayyyyy in the backseat. Sorry bud! 

The jump looks irritatingly small in pictures

11A - Same coop as the sunken road and he jumped this one well too, right from the base, wrapping around

And through the water, he jumped C really well 

And jumped big red well too


The rest of the course didn't get photographed, but he jumped the corner really well and kept his focus in spite of the other jumps around. The next table rode fine too. The half-coffin might be the scrappiest riding I've done to date. He spooked hard at the ditch, which I knew was coming, but I kept my eye up on the log and pushed him through. He considered noping out of the log at B, but again, I kept hands up and spurs in, and he popped over it. The really nice part about Ben is he's got A LOT of athleticism to go with his spooking. So as long as I can confidently push him forward and tell him he's DOING IT, he will in fact DO IT even if he has to finagle a little bit because of how he got himself into it. 

We went through the woods to have probably the worse chip of the course at 16 (8 being a close second with 4 behind that). JT could see us at that point from the finish, but we cleaned it up for a nice jump over 17. 

We ended up with 10 seconds of time, but I'm not upset about that. Without that we would've been third, but as is, we finished fifth in our return to training level. AND, more important, we finished on a number with a happy, relaxed stadium round and a good go of it cross country. It wasn't a super easy cross country course, and I'm so proud of both of us.