Sunday, January 31, 2010

You think you got the stuff

This week ran hot and cold with training. Hot in the sense Sinari came into training with what felt like twice the firepower and ability and cold... well... more like spotty for the amount of time spent in the tack.

She went through her paces fabulously, but the intensity of the work fried her a bit. I asked for too much and got a ton (in a snaffle), but at the end, I think I overstepped her a bit.

In that session, we worked on backing up immediately to canter, mediums, extensions, collected on the spot, schooling pir's, ultra-green tempi's and piaffe.

You get it? It's hard stuff. 

The second session of the week was spent making up, large stretching circles, various outlines a bit of back and forth. It was short, and very sweet. Finished up on shoulder in/haunches in.

This week, the weather is supposed to hold. Hopefully we'll get on with everything.  

I'm a big boy now.

We've been snowed in again and normally I would venture forth to see the small child, this time, I wimped out. He's thankfully taken care of with the rest of his classmates.

Speaking of classmates, his are huge in comparison. The Lusitano colts tower by at least six inches with attitudes to match. Currently he stands around 12 hands, his growth spurt has slowed down considerably since winter hit.

So with the down time, I found a thread over on COTH about the benchmarks of pony size. Currently he's hitting the range for a large, or just barely horse. But it really makes me wonder, how big is he going to get? 

Savant, his sire (now gelded, pictured above) is about 16.2. May was pushing 14.0. So it really makes me wonder where he's going to end up and what he'll look like.

101 Things: Number 98 stablework

A few years ago, I took up full charge of my horses after years of full care.

It wasn't because I was being cheap. It was because I felt that I could do a better job than the management in my employ.

A number of years later, my ponies are glowing and I feel that my involvement on that level has only made my ponies and myself that much better.

They say success starts at home, and with horses the cliche never rings truer.

That beautiful horse coming down centerline that gleams in the sun and moves like a song isn't an overnight result, it's a product of long-term, consistent, detail-oriented correct management and training.

To produce that kind of result begins on the ground at the barn.

Understandably, most horse owners cannot do the day-in-day-out chores. The lifestyle that they lead suggests they hire someone to do it for them.

But what they can do to understand (and appreciate) is know what is involved in bringing the horse to it's peak potential.

At the very least, owners should know and do the following:

  • Know, and log how frequently you work your horse. What you worked on and where. It doesn't need to be a fancy journal, it can be a calendar, your day planner, or your Blackberry or I Phone. Review periodically.
  • Know what your horse is fed. The brands, the supplements, how much, how frequently. Ask about the feed shipments, why did they choose those brands. If your horse isn't doing so hot on that brand, call the company and ask to speak to a nutritionist. 
  • On the same vein, know how much he drinks as well. 
  • Know how to muck and properly bed a stall. Nothing is worse going to a show and seeing an under-bedded horse that hasn't slept and is expected to perform. Observe your horse's habits. Does he go in one corner? Or does he grind his manure? Does he walk his stall? Where does he lay down? How?
  • Know and keep a schedule of worming, vaccines, massage/chiro work and farrier visits. Make a point to be there, and ask questions of what's going on and how you can improve. 
  • Keep track of your tack, and keep it in good working order. Know what is working and what isn't.
  • Learn how to manage time! The hallmark of a stable is how smoothly and efficiently it runs.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What you got they can't steal it

Since the weather cleared up briefly, Sincere and I took a walk around the property after his evening supper.

The last time we did this was when he before he was weaned. It lead to much dragging, calling and unhappiness to both parties involved. Since then the weather and time had prevented us from going back out into the wilderness and to be quite frank, I'd rather not go skating behind the young man.

But the other day when we ventured forth he proved beyond brave (minus one puddle that came out of nowhere).  In the face of cows, running horses and big scary old tobacco barn he lead willingly past, stood and paid attention, pausing twice to take it all in before venturing on to greater things. Zero screaming, zero pulling, just a lovely walk around the property. He has grown up brave and willing, it should be interesting to see him go under saddle. We concluded with walking over tarps and poles and picking up feet while remaining ground tied.

Speaking of feet, his are excellent. Beautiful wide soles, thick walls and a huge frog. Minus the crack in the right front, which was my fault for not taking care of the chip when I should have, he has no trouble over the tough, rolly terrain that his current field presents. But because of the mud, we're taking note for thrush and other maladies.

Blanketing is still a bit of a challenge. While he happily wears it, getting it on and off can be interesting at times. He should get plenty of practice over the next few weeks, the weather is in flux.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

All together now

$250 later, I have my saddle back with some nice flocking.  Again, it's worth every, single, cent.

It also meant that I had to give back the nice Custom Saddlery saddle to my coach. It was a good move too, because I was becoming way too attached. It is for sale for anyone who is interested.

We rode straight through this week, most of it was in the snaffle with one day in the double. Results that were beyond what I expected.

With most of the work concentrated on bending and riding as flexibly as possible, she achieved a better amount of thoroughness and shwung through the back.

The major lateral work was sticky, so I left it be until the end of the week.

By the third session, we were in real work.

We began schooling more transitions, more collection and definitive parts of tests. Such as the double half pass from three-two and the canter V pirouette from PSG.

Schooling in the double was more of a mental exercise on both our ends. Mentally, it was for me to be still and keep the curb light and for her- to not hit the curb and overly react to it.

Schooling piaffe, we utilized the reinback to piaffe. The changes are her forte now, she's crack smart about changing, and threw in a small 'gimme' line of fours on her fresh day in addition to the regular changes. We also schooled reactions, the halt to immediate canter depart, the hi-ho silver routine, which helped immensely in piaffe/passage and medium work.

Pirouette work proved to be more tricky. The first two steps are brilliant, the third to fifth, however present issues. We utilized the 10 meter square exercise to help improve, but we're still about a yard too far from the line.

Shoulder-in and haunches in to the left is still very strong, however to the right, it's still a little hard, especially when I ask for a series of three's (three steps shoulder in, three steps straight, three steps of haunches in). Half pass she's once again getting too straight in the line I have to remember to hold back a few steps then release.

I'm most excited about her collection, Saturday we decided to a bit of back and forth from ultra collected canter immediately to medium/extended. She has it in her, just needs a more emphatic transitions. She gave five excellent transitions late into the session.These will only get better as we school them.

Overall, I'm extremely pleased and Sinari seems quite happy with herself.

On a side note, I'm considering breaking my New Year's vow of no showing. KDA is offering a few classes I feel would be up our alley. I'm also sponsoring said classes with cash incentive.

As much as I would like to complete out my bronze, the length of the counter canter required for second level is now way too much for her. Anyone have a pony that I could go second level on? ;-)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

101 Things: Number 99: Fitting saddles

As an owner of a "special" fitting horse, I've become more educated over the years about saddles, bridles and fitting the pony's equipment in general. I've spent countless paycheques to fiddle with various aspects of her equipment and finding equipment that fits and works for the two of us.

It's worth every cent too. A well fitting piece of equipment makes our job that much easier. A bad fitting piece of equipment will make any ride a living hell. 

Well fitting saddle is a basic necessity in any sport. However, it seems to be paramount in dressage due to the purposeful, physical development of the equine athlete. The dressage horse changes at every stage of development, to help with that growth, the saddle must change with it.

There are also a plethora of saddles out there, in an infinite amount of seat, tree and flocking combinations to suit tastes and needs.

First the basics: a saddle should be functional.

It should fit the horse and you. It should allow you to keep your position without fighting for it, and allow no restriction in the horse when moving. It should be stable without being static, and should fit the horse while in motion.

Trilogy Saddles has an excellent guide here.

Work with a qualified saddler. Sit in as many saddles as you physically can. Ask your fellow boarders (and your coach!) about theirs, and see if you can't sit and tryout. Take notes on what you felt when you rode in them. Jot the features you liked, and the features you didn't like. Jot what your horse liked and didn't like and how he reacted. If you can have the ride taped.

Educate yourself on flocking. Know the type of wool that is being used, whether it is a long fiber (better quality, doesn't pill), or short fiber (bad, pills and creates pressure points). If there isn't wool, what is inside that saddle? Foam? Air? Aunt Mildred's wig? How does it effect the horse?

Finally, take care of the investment. Clean regularly, condition frequently. Reflock and check the integrity of the tree yearly (more often if you fall off, or the horse has crashed on it).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Here comes the sun

The weather holds a grudge out here. The small window of beautiful, welcoming weather didn't stay.

It turned nasty over the weekend. 

Rain melted what was left of the snow, and turned everything into slick mud pile.

With the mud Sincere saw fit turn himself in to a plain bay. Slicked down by the driving rain, his fluffy winter coat gave away what he had (or had not) in conformation. So far, he looks pretty good for an awkward youngster. Like the neck, his angles, legs. His croup is a little short, and he's currently even right now, but he does have whithers. Somewhere.

His ears are still big. But I like them.

Despite the nasty, cold weather, the young man in his blanket, ground tied and trimmed well with minor incident.

He led fabulously and is pretty alright with much of what's going on. There is very little worry in him. It's a considerable attitude change from a few months ago. I have a feeling food and attention were much to do with it. But I also think he's coming into his own independent self.

I actually like him and his personality. He's the jock of the group.

While everyone else was at USEF's annual, I was at home filling production. It was well spent. Managed to get a few things done. But still have a lot to do.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Don't let me down

Until today, it's been the frozen tundra of the south.

I can't complain too much, I have an indoor. And, while I wish I was in Florida, sipping Mojito and eating fine Cuban food, apparently they got smacked around just as hard. So no hard feelings there.

The time off allowed me to do a bunch of things I was meaning to do. Like set up plans, catch some extra sleep, run errands, and be very, very, bored. 

We returned to work today, if briefly.

Saddle is due back in one week. Not a minute sooner too.  Sharon, in the meantime, has graciously lent me her's to give a shot with. Hopefully-- I won't love it too much (Steffan Peters Custom). Today we just lunged and did a bit of housework. My tack is filthy.

The lack of variety has finally taken it's toll, on fitness. While we are able to work gymnastically, we aren't used to the lack of roads and tracks. Sinari looks like a wee butterball. It be on hold due to rain and the melting snow. There is a strict no divot policy on the polo field.

Other than that, there are usual plans in the works. Would just like to get my house in order.

Blast from the past

This was posted on the YT not too long ago. The owner doesn't give me credit for riding, but oh well.  It was the mare's first time going down the centerline (Snowbird Schooling show) and was a wiggly worm. Looking back on it, it's not such a bad test, some good points, some low points (the frock was new and was more like a straight jacket) .

I wish the best for whoever ends up buying her. 

Saturday, January 9, 2010

White powder

No. Not that kind. A few more rounds with the camera with the baby in his first winter with his nifty, soon to be outgrown blanket:

He of course, stood still while his herdmates worked hightailed it around the field.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow day!

Playing approved hookey from work never felt so cold! Due to the saddle being in for the reflock, we've been grounded until that glorious piece of black leather makes an expensive reappearance. Until then I'm taking full advantage of the two inches that fell on us last night:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's not a hill, it's a mountain

We're back from break, and just in time for the negative temperatures and indoor seclusion.

While I'm appreciative of the indoor, it's a breeding ground for boredom.

Over the spring and summer, unless the weather is slick and wet, we go outside and work. We spend a little time in the actual indoor (three days at most) the rest of the time is split between conditioning sets, working in teh polo fields and work in the giant outdoor.

We are indoors and while the intensity hasn't diminished the variety has. It sucks. So we're becoming much more clever.

I'm started to school more in hand to produce better collection and to break things up. I want to try my hand at long lining again as well.

I've began to teach tricks such as Spanish walk and bow. There are days were all we do is loosening work. Something I didn't think I would resort to-- ever. But I'm desperate.

The dropping barometer also gives us an excuse to take off and address other issues.

Like saddle fit.

I'm sending my year-old saddle in to be reflocked and fit. It started bridging, and while it still theoretically fits, it needs to be redone, she's not as forward and not as willing to bend through the rib cage. Which is unlike her. 

Facing down January, reminds me of December's goals, which were met with success.

Three on the spot steps of piaffe
Achieved. The idea to make her quicker and take short steps from the halt or reinback produced a more together piaffe. She also prefers the double in working in this.
Clean changes when asked for:
Achieved. She's smart at these. Too smart. Upping the ante to straight changes.
Lateral work
Progressive. But needs to be stronger. We're working through the zig-zag exercise to produce an active hind end.
Progressive, but still fairly tense due to saddle fit.
Improved, but not 100 percent there. Normally I would resolve this out by conditioning hacks, but no go on that one.

Medium/Extended work
3 very collected steps of canter
Lateral work
The adjustable outline

Baby it's cold outside!

Winter is definitely here, and all the babies are more like miniature yaks collecting frost than the slick young babies from six plus months ago.

Sincere's first winter is going well so far. The young man, like his class are woolly, and fresh from the north wind. You see them occasionally tear around the large fields playing their games.

Unlike his classmates, he is not enjoying the wind and the cold. While fresh, he's wimpy. This 8 degree windchill thing? No Ma'am! Not having it. Living uncivilized in the cold? No thanks. He came jogging today looking for a good scratch and warm mash.

I don't blame him. I'm sounding retreat quickly to the indoors, a hot meal and a warm bath.

Because occasionally I get to work with other foals from his age class, I'm surprised (and rather pleased!) to see how short he is in comparison. In comparison, he's a full hand, to hand and a half shorter. The other foals are already the size of Sinari (standing a stout 14.1), well mannered to boot. 

Yes, not everyone celebrates a short horse.  But I do.

What's even more pleasing is he's just as stout.

December's goals were met with a mix bag:
-Trailer loading
We approached this briefly. He was willing to work around, but no loading.
Success. He ties, just is wiggly about it.
-Stall time
He currently lives in at night, and is more comfortable with it.
He's been back in one a few times, but nothing major.

January's goals:
-Stall time

101 things: Number 100 Anatomy

Let's face it, we ride in a sport that is mostly anatomically involved.

It's a sport about developing the maximum potential of the horse's gaits through correct, consistent training.  While dressage horses are first mentally developed, but along the same lines they are co-developed physically for optimal performance.

So, it comes as an unfortunate surprise that most people cannot tell the difference between a stifle, gaskin and hock. Or what parts of a gymnastic exercise develop and impact the development of their horse. Or how if the lattimus or longissimus dorsi is preventing the Trapezius muscles from lifting and allowing freedom in the topline.

In the same vein, how or anatomy impacts performance. 

Point is, learning anatomy, equine and human, not only helps you but develop your horse more thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Do you need to run out and memorize Saunder's Anatomy, attend a necropsy or earn a PhD in Bio-Mechanics?


But do learn the basic muscle and skeletal groups you'll be working with consistently and how they all work together to perform the gaits and the movements throughout the levels.

There are several hundred books on the subject, but the classics never go out of style:

Horse Anatomy: A Coloring AtlasThe Equus Illustrated Handbook of Equine Anatomy, Volume 1 and Volume 2
The Anatomy of the Horse
The Dynamic Horse A Biomechanical Guide to Equine Movement and Performance