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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label schooling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label schooling. Show all posts

March 5, 2016

How To Get To Good: Be A Better Lab Rat

Encore & I always look like this. Ha.
You get on your horse, warm up & organize your various pieces & parts, & then you begin work.  Ask him to move forward, connect back to front, create suppleness & adjustability, aiming for the best you can create at both of your levels of ability.  Obvious, right?

We often even think of that process as "easy" in that we can say, "Sit up straight, apply leg, maintain steady, elastic rein connection, do that breathing thing."  And if we do all those things properly, our partner will reward us with a round, rhythmic canter, stepping up through his withers & pushing energy out through the bridle.

Stop me now if that works out for you every time.  Anyone?  Buhler?  Yeah, the devil's in the details.

Solo: Master of Subtle Opinions...
On Monday, your horse decides "leg" means "let me show you my best llama impression!"  Wednesday, his response is, "Eh?  Did you say something?"  Thursday, your left elbow is convinced "steady connection" is best achieved by "death grip against my horse's locked jaw."  You're sorted on Saturday, wow, that canter felt great -- so when you have a chance to get on a different horse, you apply the same process...only to enjoy the Trot At Terminal Velocity with as much bend as a 2 x 4.

Fortunately, we have helmets to deal with the subsequent *headdesk* repetitions!  But what gives?

I posted a teaser quote from a current reading project, so now I'm following up on my promise for more.  Mary captures the individual approach horses require from us, even from one ride to the next, with a great analogy:

"Imagine that each horse, in his evasive movement, resembles one entrance to a maze, which has at its center the good movement we are seeking. With every horse we go on a unique journey & initially, in particular, the feelings he gives us & the difficulties he poses may be strikingly different. The knowledge we glean from one journey may only serve to confuse us on the next – at times we may even have to do the exact opposite of something we previously experienced as being a surefire way of getting us to the center."

Y U play hard to get, cheez??
My suspicions are supported:  our horses really do use us as experimental laboratory mice!  I knew I could hear snickering as I blundered about in search of that cheese with perfect bascule...

What I like best about her imagery though, is that it shines the focus on each ride, each journey, as a puzzle (there could be a puzzle-lover bias here, heh) instead of an assumption.  To solve a puzzle, we have to think about the process, breaking it down into progressive steps towards our goal of a nice transition or a balanced circle.

Mentally, this automatically puts me in the moment, listening to my body & feedback from my horse, then trying something different if we aren't at "good" yet.  At the same time, it subconsciously gives me the critically important freedom to do "the exact opposite of something" that I tried before, creating the opportunity to discover, hey, if I let go, my horse really doesn't run away.

BAM.  (extra hunter Solo for Lauren, hee)
Which I have far better luck with than my approach from past years, of "I did all the things, this is still sucking!"  Trapping us in a dead-end, repeatedly walking into the same wall, blindly hoping it will just fall down & present a full cheese platter.

Now I have a cheese craving, dangit.

February 7, 2016

Allow Your Horse To Believe In You

The concept of "belief" can at first sound nebulous, but in our riding, it directly translates to the essentials of trust and confidence.  In ourselves, in our partners, and theirs in us.

I've been picking away at a captivating book -- that speaks my language:  "The Natural Rider:  A Right-Brain Approach To Riding," by dressage and biomechanics author, Mary Wanless.  There is a long list of insights to discuss already & I'm only halfway through!

But one that continues to jump (pun not intended!) out at me speaks to both the foundation & the everyday process of training & schooling.  This is what we must carry with us in order to succeed in defying gravity in all its forms:

Yes, Solo once had a (exceedingly strong-willed) mane!  There are many layers of warm fuzzies in this blast from the past...June 2007, our clinic with Ian Stark (collected reports here) which took us to a brave new world. 

November 23, 2015

The Trouble With Horses

But Encore-face, impossible to not love...
Is that they're horses.  One minute you're on top of the world, the next, you're typing "NQR."

Also, never write about "winds of change".  They snicker & knock you down next time you walk out the door.

The silver lining is that change is, well, changeable.  I was disheartened last week when Encore was cooling out on the long lines...and started limping.  At the walk.  And post-grooming revealed stifle soreness. Again.

I tried not to go completely bonkers, after all, I've had plenty of practice. :/  He is out of shape & I had just asked him to really use himself,  albeit for a very brief session.

Work stepped in, I had to go flail around in mosquito clouds in the swamp, so he had a week to think about what he'd done anyway.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous when I climbed on today to feel things out & at least get a road hack in.  You want to know but you don't want to know, you know?


I kept our lines wide & straight in a brief W/T/C/hop over a couple logs warm up.  He started out with that anticipatory tightness that something might be sore.  But I just asked him to move forward through the bridle, & waited.   Not uber round & compacted, just connected to a soft feel & working over his back.

When he began to stretch down & swing a bit, it was a shared relief!  (Offer valid for the next 12 hrs only, terms & conditions may apply...)

I didn't ask more than about 10 minutes of moving out before we looped out into our road route, about a mile & change with some rolling slopes to walk.

It's (another re-) start, but such is the nature of our much-loved, yet maddening partners.  Circles both real & metaphorical & no predicting how small they'll be.

The goal & challenge will be to rebuild consistency - garnering what energy I can find & keeping my butt in the saddle so Encore has the strength he needs to support work & play.  At least until he thinks of a new trick.

Um, anyone want to ride a very cool horse while I'm stuck in meetings?

Scenery included at no charge

November 11, 2015

Catching Up: Like, RIDING HORSES!

It’s a tad squishy out, what with several inches of rain over the last 24 hours.  But the sun is warm & some of the grass is still green.  And my carefully guarded drainage sloughs & soils are hard at work already, drying it out for me & eight expensive hooves!

Storms make great sunsets though
There’s a lot to catch up on, both on these pages & in the saddle.  I commend the patience of anyone still clicking over to TFS.  One look at my annual post numbers over there in the right-hand archive tab reveals yawning gaps in our journey.

It’s not that there weren’t stories to tell.  More often a general overwhelm of the universe conspiring towards my demise combined with…well, who really wants to read, “I didn’t ride my horses because I’m sad & tired?

There are hints of change in the wind, though.  I’m not entirely sure of their direction yet, but I’m thinking that they’re the good kind.
To my shame, I have to admit that my riding muscles were actually sore after giving Encore a chance to stretch his legs on Sunday.  If that doesn’t tattle on me…  I was reminded, though, that vacations are always good for our partners.  They don’t forget what we’ve taught (good OR bad, heh) & more often than not, giving things a chance to settle in has brought us better results in the long run.

Encore: Please, admire at your leisure...
Encore Escapades

The Turf Beast has had quite a bit of down time, with intermittent bursts of exercise (let’s not go crazy & call it ‘work’), first to heal his X-Games injuries, then to wait for his rider to finish grubbing fish out of swamps through the fall (only THREE trips left this year, woohoo!).

While that naturally means we both get to rebuild muscle, all the buttons are still there, & once we start moving, it’s now only a few minutes before he is working over his back properly & staying elastic in the contact.

Um, super exciting progression from ‘llama/hackney cross impersonator locking the left side of his jaw’ that we started with.  It helps that I’m getting better at staying focused on how I WILL ride & remembering to notice that if my left shoulder starts aching, it’s probably because I’m hanging on to that rein like a climbing hold.

Psssh, with my eyes closed... By High Time Photos
 Because guess what:  your horse goes forward so much nicer when you aren’t blocking all of his energy with your iron grip.  You can have that earth-shattering tip at no cost!
Life on Solo terms: not the side of the fence I left him on
Solo Shenanigans

Solo’s been keeping my guilt active with his very special “I’m making a list of every time you don’t play with me” look.  He had his own vacation (or in Solo-terms, ‘horrific neglect,’ because somehow I have a horse who thinking eating grass & hanging out with his best horsey buddy is punishment), thanks to aforementioned ridiculous employer demands that I actually EARN my paycheck, as well as working out Weird Shoulder Thing.

While he is Member #3 of Muscle Rebuild Club, he assured me he was a solid, sexy, fancy stud both under saddle & on the longe last week (feel my awesome canter, mom, hey, let’s jump this log, did you see how awesome I was, yeah, check out this sexy canter, did I show you my badass canter?).

I couldn’t stop giggling (er, between panting) – I’d ask him to trot & he’d step up into his favourite canter instead, with that trademark spark in his eye & both ears cocked back at me to make sure I was paying attention.

Naturally, I’m rediscovering my ability to begin picking up (& searching for) pieces as soon as that nasty winter time change sets in.  But that’s ok; when it’s dark out, that's when you get to see the stars.
My Solo superstar

October 8, 2015

Why Should I Ride?

TB always ready! (Get it?!)
I felt a restless hassle, mixed with now-familiar fatigue, as I slipped the saddle billets into girth buckles.

Why am I doing all this?  I seem to have lost my goals for the time being…

Rational brain shook a finger at impulsive brain, saying, "Just get on the horse, you’ll see why."

I sighed & buckled my helmet strap as I led Encore into the top field.

With a quiet, ready eye, he took his place by my mounting cinder block/dressage letter & I swung up to his back with a fistful of mane.

As I slid my foot into the opposite stirrup & gave Encore his cue of Good Boy! to move forward into the crisp dusk of autumn, I looked towards my pond over my left shoulder.

That’s why.
Last autumn's pond delights
Oranges & reds of the setting sun were reflected in the concentric circles rippling out from a spot where a fish popped up to nab an insect, breaking the mirror surface of the water.

After the windy damp of the hurricane & the too-many rainy days before it, the clean breaths of a sun-cleansed evening were a glorious gift.

Everything in my body clicked into its respective place, my muscles wrapping around & channeling the energy of my horse, both us reveling in the sheer act of motion.

He responded in kind, stretching over his back, reaching up through the bridle for the connection, soft & ready to use his restless body.

Yes, most definitely yes.  That’s why.

C'mon, mom, there's a whole world out there for us!

September 2, 2015

Obvious Riding, Obviously

A normal workday-& perfect metaphor for my life
It's been hard to write.  It's been hard to ride.  I'd guess all my fellow horse-bloggers understand the relationship between the two.

Added to the mayhem which is field season at work are repeated spins on the health care roulette wheel.  Only I can't seem to get the ball to land in a winning slot.  :/

We're still gathering data, but there is a glimpse of a silver lining, aka treatable things.  Which would be fantastic, as I'd love to, you know, get back to living my life?

Hence my offering of a consolation prize in the form of the ridiculously dorky photo feed now featured on our homepage.

There Was An Actual Dressage Thing, Though!

I have eked out some rides here & there.  Last weekend, Encore challenged my commitment to "I Will" during a brief dressage school.

As we began a few figures in the 20 x 40, my horse was tuning me out & going llama.  I got emotional:  I got frustrated.  Red flag that things were spiraling downhill.

Letting go:  possible!
But then I let go.

I paused to breathe & regroup my scattered bits of focus.  The trainer in my head firmly repeated, "Ride off your leg, let go of the death grip on your horse's face, BE PATIENT."

We rode centerline & diagonals & I focused on staying soft.  I focused on supporting with my seat & core.  And I waited.

Patience Is The Hardest Part

I just kept riding as correctly as possible & around the third or fourth repetition...I felt Encore start to trust.  He was trusting forward & trusting that I would not suffocate the energy flow with my hand.

As we turned across each successive diagonal, I felt his trot lift & push from behind.  And lo & behold, correct worked.

Maybe I should try that more often.
Never too much Grumpy Cat

August 9, 2015

We Jumped A Thing!

Seriously – a thing!!!  Ok, the word “jump” may be a tad strong:
If it looks like a jump & jumps like a jump...
But creativity is a Team Flying Solo credo, so two barrels my neighbour wasn’t using & old seine poles from work we’d replaced = all manner of jump-like constructs.

It simultaneously seems like years ago & last week that we were arcing around 3’3” courses under David O.’s sharp eyes, but yesterday…yesterday, a whoop of triumph escaped my fool’s grin as Encore neatly popped over a single crossrail that I’d optimistically call 2’6”.

Because it WAS a triumph!  Doubly so, because this post is a post!  I know many of you have been thinking, “Hey, didn’t there used to be, like, stories on this blog?
Yep.  I’m trying to figure out where they went, too.

Every Day For The Win!

From its birth, We Are Flying Solo has been about embracing & celebrating what defines horsemanship, no matter what the discipline/breed/age:  Baby Steps.  And they absolutely still count even if you are walking in impressions you’ve made before!

Best webcomic ever, by Natalie Dee
I’ve worked very hard to accomplish the proud label of “Slowest Rehab Ever,” between Encore’s healing stifles (yeah, pretty sure those were wayyyyy faster than me) & my own bewildered feeling of being shaken up inside a dark paper bag for the past year.  I was beginning to wonder if it was Over.

What?  I never claimed to have conquered Anxiety Girl, who gains astonishing power when combined with the habitual paranoia of horse ownership

Despite a rocky moment, where Encore refused the fence twice (90% rider mental hesitation & cursed spot of doubt), the third time was the charm (out, out damned spot! *literature nerd moment of awesome*).  And so were the two after that.

So when I dropped my stirrups & leaned down to wrap my arms around that generous horse’s neck, my murmur of, “Thank you, buddy!” consisted of everything in my heart.  Gifts so often arise as moments.  Moments shaped like hope.

July 21, 2015

How Not To Get Hot

Famous last words:  “I was going to wait & ride at 8:00 pm since it’s 907% humidity, but heck with it, it’s already 6:30 pm, that’s close enough!

Nausea, dizziness, stomach cramping, fatigue, shortness of breath, & nausea are all signs of…what was that, kids?  Dumbassery?  Well, yes.  That actually might be a better answer than my old friend, heat perishing (it sounds better than the completely non-dramatic label ‘exhaustion’).

I did ride, though!  It just took me three times longer to hose Encore between gasping on the floor in front of the fan, sipping water, & thinking, “Don’t throw up, don’t throw up, don’t throw up…”

Wow.  That Sounds, Um, Fun?  What The Why?

You’d think I’d be immune to working in the stickiest of the Carolina versions of air.  I mean, at least I was on a horse while the sun set instead of on the bow of an aluminum electrofishing boat wearing black rubber gloves at mid-day!

Alas, just as we must condition our horses to work in heat every year, we must prepare our own physiology for the demands of melting from the inside out.

Yes, totally what I look like sweating
Pre-Ride Tips For You
(aka all the things I didn’t do last night, but learned from a very smart pro athlete)

  • Drink a bottle of water beforehand.  
    • Even before you fetch Dobbin from the pasture or, if trailering, before you exit the truck on arrival.  I sweat a LOT.  Like, a greased pig in a sauna on the surface of the sun a lot.  All my water bottles are 1 L (~32 oz.) or larger.  After I made this a hard rule, it was literally night & day after XC – I could breathe!
  • Dress smart.  
    • Light, wicking materials are your very best friend & I’ll happily share my secrets for budget-friendly options from sports bras to shirts & breeches.  If I see a cotton shirt in July, I’ll run screaming.  And I don’t run (technically am not allowed to run, at least I got something good out of that mess).
  • Fuel your muscles.  
    • You’re saddled up & hydrated, but just before you get on, snarf a small protein bar or one of those electrolyte yogurt pack thingies that sort of tastes like you’re swallowing a salty booger (yeah, you’re running to buy those now, aren’t you?).  I choke down the latter & then chase it with 8-12 oz. of water as I’m readying my bridle. 
  • If possible, take swigs during walk breaks.  
  • Closer to reality...
    • Obviously, not an option at a gallop, although wouldn’t it be nice if jump judges could toss you a sip every 1/3 of the course, like bikers & runners do???  I could go for misting jumps, too.  That water jump’s really too shallow to stay cool; even if you can’t resist the swim, well, then it’s your last jump anyway, oops. 
  • On sports drinks:  never drink them straight (I mean, undiluted, I know what I mean, LOL).  
    • You’ll note that so far, I’ve only mentioned water alone.  Human metabolism flips a switch when exertion begins.  Before the switch, you can’t process any of the electrolytes anyway, you’ll just have more expensive pee, & even lighter versions, such as G2, have too much sugar (not knocking sugar, it’s one of my diet staples), which will just give you a quicker burnout.  After you start working, though, a bottle cut in half with water knocks the concentration down to a useful level & staves off fatigue. 
I don’t love the flavour, but after I felt the dramatic relief, I found one I could live with.  I just stock up when they are on sale at 10 for $10 at the grocery store!

Or that...
In case you forget, I find bribing a friend or sympathetic-looking passers-by to walk your horse as you drag off as many layers as possible while collapsing prone in the nearest patch of shade, trying to bring your pulse rate back below 100, to be a perfectly acceptable backup strategy.

How About That Ride?

Overwhelming desire to retch aside, Encore felt pretty decent.  It’s been a rough while for me, health & energy-wise, so he has been carefully managed using the “Slowest Rehab Ever” approach since he sprained his stifles during his X-Games.  In other words, I’ve been able to do about one short ride a week.  :/

In the spirit of keeping a positive context, though, I can’t afford to travel anyways & I’m a firm believer that 15 minutes of quality work with hills, energy, & correct transitions, is better than 45-60 minutes of mediocre riding when I tire or we both get cranky & sloppy.

We’d be much further along if, you know, someone else paid the mortgage so I could focus on the planned, excruciatingly consistent daily work that blistering would have required.  Or even just the lower-key muscle-building without the chemical intervention.  Oh yeah, & my own body would return to its super-human state circa 2010 or so.

Pls shade.
But I’m mostly ok with where we are for now.  Encore started out with a strong, balanced trot & was able to maintain his shape much more easily through turns & slopes.  I’ve continued to practice my YES I CAN goal & am getting ever closer to unlocking that stubborn left arm.

Encore tired quickly, so our canter work was quite lean-y as he got sore behind.  But that didn’t worry me too much, given noted humidity levels (I actually hosed him before riding as both horses were caked in dirty sweat, even standing in the shady run-in all day) paired with to-date infrequent rides.

Now What?

I’m currently taking some extended leave from work over the next two weeks.  I suppose the best category is “recovery leave,” so I can hopefully step off the vicious cycle of utter exhaustion combined with high stress before it eats up any more of me.  More realistically, I need a sabbatical, but PhD (Practicality Has Disappeared, hee) was not the route for me!!
I can has back?
Just being able to move at my own speed for a little is an enormous relief already, so I’m glad I was finally able to beat my guilt into submission & commit to doing it:  I’ve given plenty of sweat & blood for that time & the last break I can remember that actually involved rest was in 2010.  Both orange boys are actually ready to work at present (which I just jinxed, sigh), maybe we can get our routine back.

Speaking of practice, fill me in!  You shared your CAN DO goals, how did you do?

Even if you didn’t catch that post on the first round, I’d love to hear about a detail you’ve been working on!  Leave a comment, better yet, tell us how you’ve practiced; I’m always excited to see everyone’s ideas & have a chance to try new approaches!! 

July 15, 2015

Craving Progress In Your Riding & Training?

Think about it like your horse does.

We (myself included) spend far too much time stuck on what went wrong yesterday or last week or at the last jump.  Rather, we need to join our equine partner in Now. 

Because that forever-sought Moment is dynamic, floating right next to us.  All we have to do is leave the baggage at the gate & open ourselves to being Present, to believing in Possible, .

March 26, 2015

Put More "Can" In Your Can-ter

The Power Of Positive

Something continues popping up its little head, quietly, back in mind cobwebs where useful things like to hide.  It just makes eye contact & then returns to its burrow, but each time, it reminds me how much I continue to evolve in the psychology of my riding & training.  And how far I have to go.

And stay off my lawn!
Growing up, I was always SO irritated by all those people who chanted "Think Positive!" & "Say It Like This!"  I thought, yeah right, life's not that simple, don't you think we'd LIKE to?  Your cheerfulness is annoying the crap out of me.  Go.  Away.

Now, I can't say that I still don't want to throttle That Person, because life ISN'T that simple, but I started applying an adapted version of this type of psychology to my riding (if you have the patience & psychiatric fortitude -- hey, don't look at me) & it was a game-changer.

In online seminars, articles, lessons, similar themes kept surfacing & finally, I began to string together these points of mental contact into a little Brain Sub-Toolbox (it's blue, naturally).  I can't decide if it holds just one big tool, a psychological Sawz-all, or if it's more like my box of a zillion drill bits -- all similar, but specialized per application.  But let’s rummage, shall we?

If you'd just listen to me, mom...
Make Your Thoughts & Plans Affirmative

Rumour has it that the brain doesn't recognize the word "don't," so when you say, "Don't hang on the left rein, you dolt," it hears, "Hang onto that rein for all you’re worth, baby."  I'm not sure if I buy the phrasing, but in this case, the means justify the ends:  tell yourself what you ARE going to do, instead of what you AREN'T going to do.

FTW example:  Enter sandbox with following internal monologue:  let's trot forward, make eye contact with the judge, smile like we know we're damn good.  My eyes & shoulders will lead my horse straight as an arrow down centerline & then I will use my leg to feed his forward energy through the bend of the corner.

A bit less of this, perhaps?
Fail example:  Enter Torture Rectangle mentally haranguing self:  don't let his haunches drift, get your head down, dammit!  Don't forget to prepare for the turn, don't get stiff, don't hold your breath, don't let him spook at the judge.  I’d hazard a guess that I’m not alone in my expertise in this approach…

If you keep working FTW, then you've succeeded in avoiding one of our worst habits:

I practice all the time!
Defensive Driving 

Stirring up all the negatives in my brain means that is what my subconscious is focused on as well, which leads to the oft-repeated discovery that clamping down on your horse like a straitjacket does not produce a relaxed, balanced dressage test.  After much practice with this charming technique, I have finally recognized it for what it is: riding for contingencies that have not happened yet.  Which means they are imaginary.

I have plenty of other issues with imaginary things, I could stand to dump one…

Supposedly this helps.  I wouldn't know.
We know well that our horses tend to live up to what the rider's body tells them to expect (note that I said BODY, not INTENTIONS).  If we are going to create self-fulfilling prophecies, why not make them good ones instead?

Because if I keep my brain positively distracted by waving good things in front of it, it (sometimes) remembers to tell my body to do the right things & pay attention to the horse I have underneath me NOW.  This keeps me focused on his energy & attentive to my riding, like a little mini-trainer is standing in my cerebral cortex.  (Hey, explanation for the voices:  BAM!)

Maybe just more of these...
Break It Down, Make It Useable

This goes far beyond just the dressage arena or show day itself; as I wrote about at the beginning of...uh, last year, I want to continue to step up & dial in my riding, sporadic though it may be.
  • That means having a plan for schooling rides…and a backup plan if it's not our day.
  • That means keeping my cool if the horse is frustrated & GETTING OFF if we both get frustrated.
  • That means envisioning each step of each ride as if it were perfect, including the feel of the contact, the rhythm, my posture, weight, balance.
  • That means also being ok when it's NOT perfect, recognizing the effort, letting the negative slip away & resetting the mental plan back to how the next great step will feel.
  • That means after dismounting, I mull over what went RIGHT & what that felt like in my back, in my arms, in my horse.  Each time, this reinforces my muscle memory & increases my ability to replicate that for a few more steps next time.  
You know, no big deal, just a few little mental exercises.  I’ve already TOTALLY mastered them.  *end sarcasm font*  But when I can do it, it WORKS.

Requisite annoyingly positive graphic!
What’s Your CAN?

Here’s where I open it up to you:  pick a positive for the next few weeks of your own riding.  Leave it in a comment here & let that be your goal (remember, they all move in baby steps, occasionally even forwards!).  If you have your own blog, I’ll even issue a friendly challenge to share it there in the spirit of mental commitment.  Then we’ll check back a bit later & see what happened!

Bonus:  you get to call me out on mine!  Although a certain genius horse has sprained his stifles while inventing pasture games in mud (a post for later *headdesk*), at least the therapy involves riding.  In doing so, I WILL ride from my leg & core while my arms remain evenly soft on the contact.

If it makes you feel better, it was excruciatingly difficult to write that without any negative clauses!

January 11, 2015

There Was Riding! Among Other Things...

I can't see you...
Two horses in one day!!

The Browner Orange One

Ok, fine, be pedantic.  I long-lined Encore as he is due for his yearly back injections (we match, only he gets four & I get three, although thankfully, mine are still holding at three years) & he is quite clear in his reminders of this fact.

One of the almost magical parts of truly getting to know a horse over days & years is learning not only every detail of his body, but expression, posture, & which level of The Horse Finger that tail swish indicated.

So now I am edu-ma-cated:  Encore generally walks up to me in his pasture, begs for work, & doesn't bother trying until a jump gets to 3'.  Around mid-January, he instead walks AROUND me (equine efforts at false nonchalance are hilarious), loses impulsion, falling out behind often, & rushes anything higher than 18". 

It's an odd relief, but relief nonetheless, to calmly surmise, "Oh, lubrication time approacheth," as opposed to the horse owner's traditional spirals of mental agony & the worst torture of all:  the unknown.  So he will remain on a relatively light schedule until his "oil change" (I say, as if I would otherwise have him on a full training schedule during 187% work overload insanity).

I would never...
The Super-Orange One

His little big brother appears to feel this gives him freedom to take over anxiety-instigation duty.  Cod forbid one own a horse calmly, I believe that would break some universal law!

Solo has definitely lost condition.  Sadly, his minion has gone & incapacitated herself; along with our string of simply horrid wet cold weeks, I've had few chances to stretch his legs.  He seems to be running on fumes, though, & I confess to being mystified.

He is still shiny with a winter hay belly, a springy trot, his trademark deep meal nicker, & takes a good prance gallop around the field with Encore.  But his face looks tired & although I enjoyed our ride today, he fatigued very quickly, even though he was not out of breath.

I just wish my favourite face could elaborate a bit?
What's Up, Dude?

Perhaps it is simply muscle loss.  When I first began working with Dr. Bob, he had a similar problem & a simple CBC revealed Solo had a low red blood cell count.  With vet approval of ingredients, I put him on SmartVite, which he's had ever since, & his count popped up to normal almost immediately.  It dropped again when he had a heavy parasite load from a previous facility, but I have dewormed with vigilance & now am in charge of my own pasture management. 

I've added more fat to his diet, although he certainly is working hard at maximizing intake of my lovely winter hay supply!  We'll run another basic CBC in a few weeks, as Dr. Bob comes out at the beginning of February for his spring collection of large amounts of invisible TFS cash (Encore will also get a set of check-up lateral radiographs on his front feet to make sure WunderFarrier & I are on the right track).

An odd sight after so long
There ARE Good Things

Recently, Solo did get his front shoes back.  While his Cavallo Sports were wonderful for trails & light pleasure, when it came to schooling & jumping, he just wasn't comfortable.  He felt like there was too much sole concussion.  He certainly felt happier about his feet today & reached out those giant shoulders with a freedom I've missed, so it's not all bad news!

Let's see...what else can we throw imaginary money at add to Dr. Bob's hard-earned retirement fund next month??

Who knew-there's a WikiHow for "how to solve all horse problems!"

December 22, 2014

The Air Of Heaven…A Horse’s Ears…You Know How It Goes

Uh, no, THIS is my sacred duty, mom...
Yesterday, I rode.  Three simple words, yet in the context of the past year, an extraordinary thing.

The time has been there, & I learned (& even mostly followed!) the #1 rule of farm ownership:  ALWAYS RIDE FIRST.  But there have been so many other energy-sapping things… 

With my favourite weather site promising “abundant sunshine,” yesterday I gathered two red geldings & called Amazing Neighbour Vanessa.  I may have magically draining soil, but Encore is still healing from his ass tear (yes, if you missed the brief mention, my talented horse actually strained his gluteus muscle) & even with studs, I worried about him slipping in our saturated fields. 

In addition, because he cannot have me getting complacent, he has knocked the inside of a front leg AGAIN; we’re keeping an eye (& the magic creme) on that one.  I am grateful a thousand times over for Vanessa’s continued generosity with things like all-weather footing.

Solo's first stud tapping...
Those Familiar Motions

Yesterday, I swept brushes over chestnut backs that were definitely missing some tone, picked mud out of under-used hooves, dripped iodine into soggy frogs (just in case).

Yesterday, I smoothed the velcro on ankle boots, cinched girths on saddles & surcingles, wrestled half-chap zippers over fluffy fleece breeches.

Yesterday, all three of us smiled as we made the brief hack down the fenceline in a bright, swinging walk (although only one of us knew that there was only sandbox torture in store).

Two Horses At The Same Time?  
(honk if you get it...)

Vanessa is all about versatility, keeping horses’ minds & bodies fresh & well-rounded, a philosophy that meshes perfectly with my own.  Hence the handy highline at one end of the arena, where I could tether one beast while I worked the other.  A two-for-one deal:  exercise AND great practice at standing tied while your buddy does things at the other end of the arena, which is possibly more fun than the spot under the line.

Duh, mom, TRAIL BIT!
So it was that yesterday, Solo watched as I suppled Encore under saddle with David’s words in my head: “Let the circles be the gymnastic exercise.” 

Encore responded with tongue-lolling annoyance, because “Mommmm, this is the trail bit, NOT the dressage bit.  How am I supposed to work under these conditions??!”  Like many abusers, I was asking him to work in the harshness of a Myler Comfort Snaffle instead of a HS Duo

*insert eyeroll here* 

Nonetheless, yesterday, my chunky Thoroughbred softened with each change in bend as we worked 10-m figure-eights.  As directed, the focus was “slow is ok, be round across his topline as he heals, we’ll bring forward back later.

Yesterday, his left lead canter was back to feeling like a canter, instead of a washing machine, & he stayed soft & quiet as he hopped over a 12” cavaletti in a steady rhythm.

But he can teach you all about vienna reins!
And Mr. Shiny??

Yesterday, after trading places, Solo managed to swallow his anxiety about the long lines (this is the horse who took four years to trust longeing enough to do it normally) & not  only accept the contact of the outside line, but CANTER on the lines.  It may seem tiny, but this is a huge achievement for him, as I trained him primarily in a round pen for that type of work.  The lines are new to him & he remains suspicious of long ropes around his legs.

Yesterday, I led home two horses after they stretched out tight backs, worked out bored energy, & rediscovered the spring in their step.

And you know what?  I was sore this morning, but I think there was a little something extra in my walk today too.
Can we head back towards this?