Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little steps toward the big goal

Poor Bear has been all wet and soggy for awhile, and we've not been getting much training time in. Last Tuesday the 17th he didn't even get to go to class since there was no way I was going to be able to get the truck into the muddy pasture to get the trailer out. Luckily due to the cold miserable weather riding that night was optional, and everyone else opted to go home! So we didn't end up missing anything.

I snuck out of the office on Wednesday to ride during lunch break, but just got on the old mare and ponied him. It was too wet in the pasture, and he was feeling oh so frisky with no outlet for his energy for so long. So instead of risking a wild ride on the roads, we opted for the chicken workout. But he did get a good hour of power walking alongside the mare, and that was much better than being stuck in the slick pasture.The rest of the week got busy, and I couldn't get out to see him at all.

Saturday morning I went out just long enough to get the stupid trailer out of the pasture and onto the paved driveway before the major rains hit again. Even though it was REALLY slick in the pasture still it was going to be one of the few clear days so the horses were turned out to get some grass and frolicking. As soon as I took Bear's blanket off he decided it was time for his rodeo, mud or no mud. I'm sure this is how he injured himself originally, and through his recovery he would often slip again and be sore for the day, so I was watching with some concern as he galloped recklessly around the pasture! I'm sure I could have grabbed a bucket of feed and occupied his mind with eating instead of running, but what's the point? If he wasn't running now, he'd be running later, and at least I could observe it. More important is that he learns some sense! He was really booking it around the pasture, but he kept his balance and his feet underneath him the whole time. His sliding stops up to the fence line made me nervous every time, but he never took even one off step, so that's a huge improvement! He is still at a very awkward stage and still seems to be figuring out what to do with his body, but I hope that by learning to gallop and maneuver in the slippery muck he will better keep his balance under saddle on grass jumping field or cross country course.

Tuesday night, back to class! Yeah! We spent a good amount of time lunging off his excess energy. He wasn't all that naughty considering! He shook his head and half bucked once, and kicked out about the sand hitting the arena wall, but compared to the airs above ground he's done when I lunge him in the pasture it was quite tame. (I think he knows I'll chase him forward and really work him when he's in the arena like that.)I put the dressage saddle on, since I was planning on starting back into a little trotting this week. I guess I sort of thought twice about it, but mainly I would just be embarrassed that if I fell off people would say "That's why you should ride colts in a western saddle!" But I'm so much more comfortable in the dressage saddle! When we got on he was fine, and stood quietly. When we walked off we only made it halfway down the rail before he took a bug-eyed look at the "scary" corner, and spun completely around! I sat it just fine, in fact maybe even better than in a western saddle! But the spook was a indicator of our evening. He wasn't bad, he was just not great. It’s been a solid two weeks without riding, and he's had such a big break in his training anyway, that I shouldn't expect more until I can put the time in. He had one more incident when another horse spooked and bolted off right in front of Bear which of course made him follow suit! But I turned him into the wall and he stopped just fine. While that horse was off dumping his rider, Bear was dancing around a bit, but settle down pretty well. We did get a little bit of trotting in both ways, but he needs a lot more work with regularity of gait, and it was hard to get that worked on when I was dodging 6 other green horses! The lesson for the day way pivoting on the haunches starting with forward movement. Bear moves away from pressure alright since we started the process of moving his shoulder versus moving his haunches a while back, but he wasn't really getting the idea of stopping the forward motion. So that's what we'll be working on for a while, but it was a great start. Little steps...

Today, Wednesday, I went out to see Bear over lunch break since it sounds like the rain is coming back and my weekend is pretty full. We had another first! With all the hand walking I was doing in January, I've taken him out away from the house alone several times in hand, but today was his first trail ride ALONE! We walked to where the dirt road started, and I got on there. He was fine for about 20 feet, and then it suddenly hit him that he couldn't hide behind me if something scary came up! I was hiding behind him!!! So he sort of staggered back and forth across the trail thinking about turning to go home, but he got over it pretty quick when he remembered that the back roads are fun, and the pasture is muddy and boring! Then I got off again at the big hill. I figure I'm out of shape and need the exercise, and I know he's out of shape and wanted to make this an easy work out. Then we continued on under saddle for the flat stretch. He hardly spooked at all when the ducks took off from the pond, which they do EVERYTIME we pass. In fact he let out a big sigh of relief afterwards like the anticipation was just killing him! Over all it was great and he never felt like a danger. He does, however, have a major problem with wiggling all over the place instead of walking a straight line! I guess he's always following the mare, and taking his direction from her. So we need to work on him taking his direction from me more.

The big goal is a show March 7th, only two weeks away. It’s the same one that will have the in hand trail class, and I'm hoping to do one or two walk-trot classes just to get him in the show arena. That is, as long as I feel confident he won't run down small children on ponies! We have physically conditioning to do, and a bit of work on a consistent trot rate before we'll be ready! We'll see...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Bear!

Today, my baby is 3 years old!!! Which makes him seem much more like a horse, and a lot less like a baby...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not up to much...

With the rain and being sick for a whole week, after that Sunday trail ride Bear and I haven't been up to much lately. We had to skip Tuesday class because I was sick and never got out after that. My last post said we were preparing for a schooling show, but when Saturday came I just couldn't muster up the energy. He hadn't been worked with since the Sunday before, I knew he'd be a mud ball, and I was going to have to get up really early since it was one of the first classes. When the alarm went off it was cold outside, I could be dealing with a potentially explosive horse being that it was his first show and he had a week's worth of pent up energy, and I had to go through all the hassle of hooking up the trailer, blah, blah, blah... or I could let the dog out and go back to bed for a few hours! Clearly the bed was the best choice.

I did drag myself out on Sunday to sneak some time in so that he wasn't a complete disaster at class Tuesday. We started with the lunging/driving system. Its really kind of fun since we use more area, go over the poles, up and down the hill, and he doesn't get bored and think about bucking to spice things up. He did really well and got a decent workout, so when I got on I really only planned to spend 5-10 minutes on his back and call it a day. He was so light and responsive and was doing so well that I probably only was on for 5 minutes! It was so great. He is not always responsive to a whoa, so last class we had been working on responding to voice and seat command only. But that had been almost two weeks before, and he was really paying attention and stopping every time I asked! It felt so nice. So we reviewed the other task from class which was leg yielding in and out to make the circles bigger and smaller. He did great on that too, so we just ended!

Tuesday night wasn't quite the miraculous revelation like Sunday was, but he was at least well behaved. I was able to use the arena to lunge and he looked great walk, trot, canter! Yeah for three weeks of being sound! We warmed up walking around with the group, and we worked on a ton of circles and leg yielding on and off the rail. Then the exercise for the night was to go around a grid of cones that made up four boxes. So by keeping the cones always on your left and crossing through the middle each time you would make all left turns and complete four boxes before stopping in the middle cone again. Then of course we did all right turns. The idea was to do it at the jog, but I feel like he hasn't been worked enough lately to justify moving back up to trotting, and SINCE we haven't trotted under saddle for almost two solid months, it didn't make sense to try to do something so complicated. So we walked it, but it was still a very good exercise.

The rain started up again that night (I almost didn't get the trailer back in the pasture!) so I haven't been out since, and don't see getting a whole lot done this weekend. We'll see how Sunday goes.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What we've been up to...

Still sound, still going strong!

So Friday's work out was very similar to Wednesdays, lopsided lunging to jog along the dry flat easy parts of the pasture, and using the hill to walk up. I actually wasn't planning on going out at all since I had so much to do at work, but my day had been so stressful that by 3:00 I was going start yelling at people if I didn't get out into the sunshine for a little break! So I kept my time out there short and sweet. I did get about 15 minutes of trot work when I added it all up, and at least as much walking. Then we worked on the trail course a bit: turns on the haunches, stopping over the poles, and backing a circle (I'm hoping this will help him back straighter in the long run). Called it a day, and rushed back to work.

Saturday was an unexpected blessing. I scheduled myself to go into the office for a few hours to train interns (it always sounds good when I'm in work mode, but then I'm always mad that I gave up even 15 minutes of a sacred Saturday when I start getting ready to go), then I also had commitments that night. Luckily I was able to sneak out of work earlier than planned, and the night stuff was pushed back to much later. So I got out right at the warmest part of the afternoon which and I was able to ride in a T-shirt the last day of January! When I got there Bear was already sweaty from chasing the mare around, and then had rolled in the muddiest part left of the pasture. So I figured I would use the sunshine to my advantage. I saddled up the old mare and ponied Bear around the pasture and we used the gentle hill for some trot workout. We went up about four times, then just trotted some big circles around the upper pasture for about 10 minutes with a breather in between. He did great! He hasn't always been a big fan of trotting alongside the other horse, and used to get lazy and fall behind, but he kept right up and wanted to trot faster. So I used the sun and warm horse to do a quick rinse down to get the sweat and mud off. After a quick scrape, I hopped back on the mare and we ponied him down the back roads until he was totally dry. We made it all the way to the llamas again! MUCH better this time. It really helped that the horse across the street was only standing quietly instead of pounding against the fence and bolting off! So we were able to calmly face the llamas, and walk past them, then turn and head home without any drama. I'm so glad he gets over things fast.

Sunday afternoon I skipped all super bowl parties and went out to see my horses! My sis and I hooked up the trailer and took the two out to the easy flat trails. I walked along behind for about 15 minutes until he was nice and warmed up, then hopped on for the 15 minutes back. So only the second ride since the injury, but still very slow and limited. He was fine! Its also our first time riding out there, but he's walked it so many times now he's really comfortable. He tried jogging a couple times to catch up with the mare's super walk (I still swear she was an accident and her daddy was actually a Tenn. Walker!), but he was responsive to me when I asked him to walk instead. The best part: the few times he did jog, he didn't feel off at all! I am pretty good at feeling anything funny, better than seeing it, so it was a good test.

Monday I never made it out because I was already taking off early from work for an appointment, and then we didn't go to class tonight since I'm feeling really sick and can't quite muster up the energy to deal with hooking up the trailer, the occasionally wild horse, and standing around in the cold. What I normally love seemed like a huge hassle tonight.

I'm still not ready to trot him under saddle until I feel that he's really been conditioned back up to it, so the real test is still a couple weeks out. Its been 5 weeks since the injury, and the last 2 weeks have been progressive conditioning without any limping. I'm figuring on another two weeks of creative conditioning: longer trotting sets, hills, tons of backing up, before I can finally sigh a HUGE sigh of relief that we're done with all this! Everything from there will but common sense for his age. Because he's only 3 I'm not going to be jumping, galloping, spinning, sliding or really doing ANYTHING too long or too hard that would really be taxing on his body or joints. So I figure the rest of the rehab conditioning and restrictions that I would do over the next month or so with an older horse, falls into his training plan for the spring anyways. That's the good thing about him being young, there is no hurry to get him doing anything very hard. I'm looking forward to a Spring of walking lazily down the trails, and starting some walk-trot classes at the schooling shows, and progressing to W/T/C classes by early summer.

So far he loves being handled and loves to go for rides. I think a horse's attitude is a real indicator of when they are being pushed too hard either mentally or physically. Here's to a spring of sound mind and body for BOTH of us!