Monday, January 31, 2011

Poor, Lame Pony

So I show up to the farm on Saturday and as I'm going to get Kieran to bring him in for breakfast (along with all the other horses!), I look at him and frown. "Please let that be mud," I say, "not blood." Nevermind that their field is covered in snow right now and there's not much in the way of mud.

No, I get closer and indeed, his back right leg from partway up the cannon bone on down is all red with blood. Luckily, I note, it's all dryblood and not still-gushing blood...but still!

Anyway, get him inside, warm up some water and clean up his leg to find all the blood originated from one, slightly crescent-shaped spot (though the picture doesn't look it, as it's mostly covered by hair). Presumably, he got kicked there. Put ointment on and gave him some bute, but he was obviously feeling ouchy about it (though we suspect some of that is drama-queen since he walks noticeably better out in his field than he does inside the barn where people are looking at him and might give him treats to make him feel better). Still, there went any ideas I had of working him this weekend.

Mortal wound, am I right? Or at least, Kieran would like me to think so. ;)

Oh! And I got an award in the previous post, I have not forgotten you! Just haven't had time to sit down and write up the requisite post regarding it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Can I get that canter again, please?

Got my saddle back today so went to try it out and it seemed to be working well. Kieran was certainly cooperative, though we still had some of the "swing the butt away from the mounting block" thing. So, he got one "grace" step away, and the next time he moved as I settled the mounting block back into place? I smacked him on the butt with my crop and sent him off at a trot then asked him to whoa when he came back around to the block. He did it one more time, I sent him off again, and this time when he whoa'd, he actually stood there the whole time for me to climb up the block, get in the saddle, and get situated.

So here's hoping next time I won't have to do it at all. Cross your fingers!

Anyway, for our ride, we did some warmup walking and trotting and I kept to doing a lot of the work closer in to the middle of the ring and letting him walk/rest on the rail. Once he was warmed up, we did quite a bit of cantering and he gave me a lot of really nice transitions and one really really nice, forward, but a bit more collected and balanced than usual, canter. Now if I could just figure out how to ask him to do it that way more often! ;)

After that, we dialed it back a bit and I got off and rolled out the soccer ball. He stood to let me back on (lest I chase him around again!) but I could tell he was like, "but you got off! that means you're done!" which was part of why I got off to do something, then got back on. ;)

Anyway, we chased the ball around a bit and he's getting really good at trotting after it and he's figuring out I want him to push it away from the wall when it gets stuck.

Once we were done with that, I hopped off and pulled off his tack so he could walk around (and roll if he wanted to) while I cleaned up the arena.

All in all, he was a really really good boy. And oh! Here's part of the email I got from Christina yesterday regarding him:

Just wanted to let you know that [Student] rode Kieran in her lesson tonight. [...] He really was a good boy and helped her confidence increase ten fold.

I just wanted to say thank you for letting your awesome horse give lessons! He has helped [Student]'s self esteem more than you realize :)
What a nice warm fuzzy. :D

Monday, January 17, 2011

Woo, trails!

Okay, so it was grey.

And cold.

And there's still some white stuff sticking to the ground.

But who cares? We went on a trail ride!

Well, we being me and Kieran. And the trail being the woods at the back of the farm. Hah. First, though, we had to work on mounting.

And I don't know if it's all the work we've been doing with stretching or the fact that I was using a different saddle today (and yesterday) that meant that Kieran didn't even look sideways at me today when girthing. Good sign? I certainly hope so.

Anyway, we got all tacked up and I took him into the ring, my pockets full of treats. My idea was to stand him next to the mounting block and if he stood for more than a second, he got a treat. If he tried to move off, I sent him off at a brisk trot (reins tied up and secured so he couldn't get caught up in them) then asked him to whoa near the block and started the whole process over.

Had to send him off once before he'd stand quietly at the block (without me standing on it). Then had to do it a couple more times before he stood quietly with me standing on the block and then I finally was able to get in the saddle. He proceeded to continue standing nicely while I fiddled with stirrups and suchlike. Here's hoping the lesson sticks in his little horsey head (but if not, we'll just do it again).

Basically, it's too much effort for me to fight with him about standing and continually following him with the mounting block until I manage to get him to hold still just long enough so I can throw myself into the saddle (and I'm sure that last thing isn't helping his attitude about the block). It's simpler to send him off and then let him relax by the block and like yesterday's lesson shows, he understands that sort of arrangement.

Anyway, once I was in the saddle and settled, we left the arena and went walking up the driveway one direction, then came back up the other way at a trot and continued on up into the woods. In there, we made a few loops that allowed us to canter up this one hill that has a (small) log partway up. He hopped over it pretty well the first time. The last time I think he actually landed a foot on it and continued going (*sigh*).

We also just wandered the woods and I made sure to go check out one section of trail where I knew a washout had happened and try to see if there was an easy way to avoid that so we could just re-route the trail. Didn't seem to be, so now there's this ditch in the middle of the trail. (there was always a bit of one, but last year it got really deep and it's not step-overable any more). Possibly, if the trail had been clear of snow, I'd have asked Kieran to go over it, but as it was, it was pretty visually deceptive about how firm the footing was (there were sticks in the ditch, and with snow over them, it looked relatively solid, but I knew it wasn't). So we just turned around.

No big deal, plenty more places to ride. I even let him paw in the stream some.

After riding around and doing lots of trail-trotting (and a nice hop over another log that I didn't anticipate, hah! I thought he'd just trot over) in the spots I knew were relatively clear/even/smooth and a couple more short uphill canters, we went and rode in the ring.

He was noticeably better today about riding on the rail and we also did some work trotting over the poles (several were still out in approximately the same place as yesterday) and some more cantering and short canter transitions (turning at a corner and asking him to canter across the diagonal before coming back down to a trot).

To cool out, we did some walking on a loose rein and then I hopped off and gave the borrowed saddle over so someone else could ride and I led him around the outside of the barn and riding ring before coming back into the arena and doing some more walking in there.

When he was cool and not breathing hard (but still damp, bleh), I took him in and gave him a good grooming and some quality time with his new toy: a handheld massage thingy that vibrates (I got it actually to get him to associate the buzzing sound and the vibrations with something good so that when we go back to working with clippers, maybe they won't wig him out so much).

All in all, a good horsey day.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Exercises in the round

Today ended up focusing mostly on "reprogramming" Kieran to not think that he can come into the middle of the ring and not work.

Okay, lemme back up.

My saddle is currently with the saddle fitter lady getting the billets fiddled with. So I started the lesson in a borrowed treeless (English style) saddle. I'd ridden in it before (not long after I got Kieran actually) and thought it would do okay, kept slipping over to the right. We tried having me ride in it with stirrups, without stirrups, checked the girth...wasn't working. I even know [i]I[/i] was sitting straight because my butt wasn't following the saddle over to the right.

So we switched out for a treed saddle (Thornhill Pro-Am) and got back to work. It felt rather weird after being used to riding in my Duett all this time!

Anyway, what we ended up doing, I don't think was what Christina had started the lesson intending having me do but [i]someone[/i] was not riding nicely on the rail. I know I've talked about having issues with this before but today it was like...I was doing everything right (inside leg, not pulling too much with outside rein, etc etc) and he was still just steadily going inward. So we talked about it and decided that today, he'd have to work on the inside track and he'd only get to rest on the rail.

Christina set up a big circle of things for Kieran to trot over in the middleish area of the ring. So like, a pole at 12o'clock, another one at 1:30. A low pole set up on blocks at 3. Another ground pole at 4:30. A low vertical (barely deserving of the name...became a crossrail later, but the middle was the same height as the vertical had been) at 6. Another pole at 7:30, a medium-height cavalletti at 9, and another pole at 10:30.

So she had me walk him on the rail, then bring him to the inside track and start trotting over all the poles and things. Then, when she wanted to adjust something (like when he knocked the rail on the jump or whatever), we'd go walk on the rail. Then we'd come back in and trot over stuff again. At one point, he figured out it was a bit easier to actually jump over the jump at 6 and we got a little hop out of him which was funny (I hadn't been expecting it, since we'd been just trotting over it previously). Christina had me mostly do it all posting, but we went around a couple times with me in two point (and I commented that it's easier to do in a saddle intended for that) or posting, then going up into two point over the "jumps" and a couple times around with no stirrups (but still posting!).

By the end of the lesson, Kieran was walking pretty nicely on a loose rein straight on the rail without too much encouragement from me. He's a smart horse. ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Had the Saddle Fitter Out Today

In general, she said, she liked the way it fit Kieran. She suggested that I might want to put some flocking up front to lift it up but that the half pad would do for now (she was concerned that with the advent of spring, Kieran would grow, so to speak, and then it would be too tight if she added flocking).

Her big beef with my saddle was the way the billet straps are rigged.

They're not like normal saddles, not even like regular dressage saddles, I imagine. There's only two straps and they're rigged so the front one comes straight off the point of the tree, basically, and the back one is a "Y" shape so that one end of the "Y" comes off the back of the saddle and the other comes from somewhere in the middle of the saddle. Theoretically, you might think it'd make for more stability...but with the way the "pocket" for Kieran's girth is (right behind his elbow, basically), that "Y" has the net effect of tugging the saddle forward (we've talked about that here before, I think).

So after she checked out the saddle, she put it on him with no padding and girthed it up like normal (on the "grumpy pants" note, he made a couple of sideways looks and sort of laid his ears back but that was it. More on this later.) and then we went into the ring and she watched me riding away from her and around turns at a walk and a trot. Even after just those couple of minutes, the saddle shifted way forward so my knees were on his shoulders, basically.

So I got off, and she changed it so that just the back billet strap was doing the actual job of holding the saddle on (the fronts were buckled but not so tightly they were really doing much). I got back on. Same thing, walking and trotting again. This time, I was weirdly thrown forward. It was strange for me just how different the saddle could feel from such a (relatively) minor change.

So, get off and this time she has the front strap holding the saddle on and the back just buckled. Now it's still a little weird for me, but obviously much better for him and the saddle's staying in place better. She has us do w/t/c in a big circle around her both directions.

One more time, she goes and gets a standing wrap pad thing and folds it up and places it under the front of the saddle. Same girth situation as previous. W/T/C again around her's just about perfect. It was weird because for once I felt like the saddle was actually staying off his shoulders and were it belonged.

Anyway, she's going to fix the back billet strap so it's still "Y" shaped but instead of the strap being sewn in, it will be on a D-ring and will settle into place where it ought to be for the saddle to work best for him. Or at least, that's the idea.

It was definitely an interesting experience.

Oh, and on the girthiness thing. It's funny, he makes the faces when he's standing in the aisle first getting tacked up. Tightening the girth before I get on in the ring? All that taking the saddle on, redoing up the girth we were doing in there? Nothing. I was hardly even holding on to the reins to make him stand there. That's making me lean toward it being less likely to be a physical cause.

Found a picture of similar rigging on another of Duett's saddles:

But see how that one has something that allows the back billet to kind of slide? Mine is sewn in place. And my front strap is actually popping out pretty much over where the knee block would go instead of behind it like this one. (I took my knee blocks off).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Picture Musings

A friend gave me this neat frame for Christmas, basically, it's four different shapes of frames arranged together in a sort of square shape, like this:

Except the pictures in the lower left and upper right are square and there's a bit of space in the middle and the frames sort of overlap each other. But you get the idea!

Anyway, they put a picture of me riding Kieran outdoors last winter in one frame, him playing with the horse soccer ball in another, us at the Howard county show in hand in the third, and him making a funny face for the camera in the fourth. It's really cute. I had it at home, but it was in a sort of out of the way spot, so I brought it to work. I don't even have to turn my head much to look at it and there's Kieran!

It's funny, but just looking at pictures of my horse makes me feel irrationally happy. :)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Videos from today's lesson

Cantering in two point (sort of) in the first two, with wide space (around 12 feet) between the poles. Third video I'm sitting and I think it's still wide. Last two are sitting and with shorter space (like 9 and a half feet) and the last one was where we ended.






Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ride Today

Spent a long time before tacking up today just grooming and doing various stretches with Kieran. Leg stretches, back stretches, carrot stretches, all sorts of stretches. ;) No ears back while I girthed him up (he still looked sidelong at me, but was noticeably not as irritated as last week so I'm willing to chalk it up to a momentary thing but I'm still going to have him and his saddle checked out, just in case).

He has gotten suddenly bad about standing at the block. I'd had him for a while where he'd stand pretty well at home (but away from home was a different story) but today he was just not having it. Did a lot of walking in circles around me on the block till I finally got him to stand long enough for me to get on. And then he tried to walk off (so we have to back up and argue about standing by the block until I say it's okay for him to walk off). Ugh.

Once we got going, however, he was good. We did a long warmup of walking random patterns in the ring and some slow trotting. There was also someone else riding at the same time we were so that also helped keep things interesting. :)

For a bit there, we were really booking along at the trot and I let myself drop into a habit of clucking every time I posted which I forget I also do to make him trot faster on the lunge. It wasn't really running into it in a disorganized sense, but we did get going so much he just went up to a canter (nice transition, actually!) and I was like, "oops...lets go back to a trot". No big deal.

Also did a lot of transitions in general. I'd ask him to trot, then halt, then trot, then walk, then halt, then back up, then walk, then trot...just...whatever came to my mind about, "we'll do this next!".

And Christina had told me that when someone was riding him recently and another person was on a horse in the middle of the ring that he'd thrown a little crowhop when asked to canter while the other horse waited. I decided (since I had someone riding with me) recreate that situation and see what happened. And indeed, I asked him to canter just past the other horse and he threw a little crowhop (the first time he's done that to me. There were a couple times months ago when he would throw his head down going into a canter like he was thinking about it, but I think that was more a fitness issue then. This was just a toddler tantrum thing), we kept moving, I asked again, he gave me a nice canter. We went around a few times, I brought him back down, went the other direction, asked for a canter, got it. No big deal. :)

Then both me and the other person went back to riding and we did some more trotting. Lots and lots of just trotting without stopping to do anything else (we don't actually "just" trot for a long space and I think we should, I just hate to be too "boring" since it's winter and we have to ride inside so much) and then I let him canter a couple of times just down a long side before trotting again (so we didn't run up onto the other horse).

After that, we walked out of the ring and up the driveway (carefully, because it was a bit slicker than I realized) just to get some air and then...we were done. :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mr. Grumpy-pants

So Kieran has been a touch girthy for a while now. He had girth galls this past summer that took forever to heal up (and when I did think they would, they'd turn all pink again) and it started around the same time so I figured it was related to that. Never anything very bad, just sort of a sidelong look and a bit of stepping around while I tighten the girth (and note: I never just crank it up in one go. I usually start on the lowest hole, inch it up a few, go to the other side, inch it get the idea).

Anyway, tonight he didn't just look at me sidelong, but really put his ears back (which he's not wont to do) and looked annoyed (remember: most level-headed horse ever). I mean...okay, it wasn't hugely demonstrative, he didn't try to take a chunk out of me or anything, but something obviously made him uncomfortable (it's possible he was just grumpy and didn't want to work because I was tacking him up at the same time all the other horses were getting turned out).

As near as I can tell, he's not back sore (Christina and I both poked and prodded his back) and the saddle ought to fit him. There wasn't anything poky-like on the saddle pad (Or the girth, which is covered in a fleecy thing because the neoprene bothered him [think it contributed to the girth galls]). And no galls. He wasn't off when I rode (we just did a half-hour lesson and it was mostly focused on me. My riding endurance goes to crap if I don't ride for a couple of weeks!) but he did wring his tail some when made to work (see: trot) and he just seemed a bit...out of sorts.

Like I said, he's not very demonstrative most of the time. This could be nothing. But I have a niggling feeling there's a problem brewing I want to nip in the bud before it turns into something ugly.

Anyway, Christina knows a good saddle fitter she's going to recommend to me so I'll at least get the saddle double checked. It's probably also time for the vet to check his teeth (again, because his are crazy). After that, not sure. I mean, he gets tons of turnout (like, he's out more than he's in), has a pretty relaxed lifestyle, and isn't on any high sugar/carb feed (worried about EPSM, he's on a high fat diet), and gets all the hay he can stuff himself with (alfalfa mix inside, and whatever's in the round bales outside, currently drawing a blank).

Thoughts? Anyone who wants to tell me I'm overreacting and it's nothing and he just had a grumpy pony day?