Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Visit From Alex!

I first wanted to thank everyone who took the time to comment on my last post. Your comments and suggestions are very much appreciated! I answered some questions and made some comments in case you're interested in finding out more about the saga that is Lilly and her saddle. :)

Yesterday was another big day for me and Lilly. We had made plans for Alex to come visit us again, and while she made me get up early, it was worth it to have her evaluate our progress. I also had her look over the saddle fit issues with me and after a pretty thorough examination, we decided the saddle does fit. We didn't see anything that pointed to an area that could cause Lilly pain, so Alex started looking at a few other areas that could be an issue.

After running her fingers on both sides of Lilly's spine, she noticed a few areas that were causing Lilly some discomfort. She also had a couple spots on her hindquarters and one on the right side of her neck. After some muscle adjustments, it was obvious that Lilly was feeling a lot better! I've had the chiropractor come out, I've had the massage therapist come out (and I've spent a small fortune on both), but I've never seen a reaction from Lilly quite like this! It was especially apparent after the muscle adjustment on her neck. I don't think she knew what to do at first... Alex and I stared at her for a few seconds and then she started blinking and licking like crazy. I was so happy to see her show such a release!

Alex also showed me how to get Lilly to do the belly lifts and the pelvic tucks. I hadn't been able to get her to do that yet, but it helps if you do it in the right spot. And you actually have to apply quite a bit of pressure. :)

After she had Lilly feeling like a million bucks, we headed out to the round pen. I wanted to show her how amazingly amazing we were, so we started there. I put Lilly through our usual warm-up routine and she performed as she usually does... she does everything I ask, except she does it with a cranky look on her face. As it turns out, that's my fault! Weird! As I have a tendency to do, I keep Lilly very close to me and I haven't been giving her enough slack in the lead rope. To Lilly, I'm nit-picking... and she doesn't appreciate me nit-picking when she's doing exactly what I ask of her. After giving her some slack, she was performing with a much more pleasant look on her face. Alex gave me a few other exercises to work on with Lilly and then we moved on to the actual round pen work.

She was not really listening to me a whole lot... she wanted to run around and have fun instead. I blame the fact that Lilly was feeling like a new mare thanks to her muscle adjustments, but Alex said it was my fault. Again. She gave me a few suggestions on how to communicate better with Lilly and showed me some more new things we could work on.

I'm still a bit hung up on making Lilly do the exercises over and over again. I still feel like I need to stop after she does it right the first time, but I'm trying to push past those feelings and keep going. Alex is always trying to help me see why it's good to do it more than once and to ask for finesse, but convincing myself to change that mindset is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

After playing in the round pen for a bit, Alex asked me the question that I'm sure every student of hers dreads hearing...

"You ready to try something new?"

Umm... it depends on what it is. :) Just like I need to push Lilly, she's always pushing me, but I definitely need it. So the next thing I know, I'm sitting on the gate and trying to get Lilly to stand next to me so I can hop on her back. Notice there's no part of this story that mentions how we went back to the barn to get a saddle or a bridle... I still only have my rope halter and lead. After a few minutes of convincing her to stand parallel to the gate (she wanted to swing her hindquarters away from me), she finally stood where I could slide on.

We did a lot of trotting and trying to get Lilly soft in the halter the same way she would be soft with a bridle. It took a bit of work, but she finally figured out was I was asking and I had a really pretty mare. All the whoa hunting exercises came into play and even with just a rope halter (and the lead rope in my inside hand), she would stop on a dime. She even backed up with hardly any pressure at all.

I agreed to do some cantering and it became painfully obvious that I need to work on my bareback skills. We're good on the long side of the rail, but in the round pen where we're in a continuous turn... not so good. Alex helped me find a better way to balance myself which was really helpful, but I need a lot of practice. I think I'll be riding bareback in the round pen quite a bit now.

It was amazing how light and responsive Lilly is without a saddle or a bridle. Heck, I only had one "rein" too, and while she sometimes took me where she wanted to go, we were getting the hang of it by the end of the lesson.

After discussing how responsive my mare is, Alex decided to show me just how responsive by removing Lilly's halter! All I had was the lead rope around her neck to steer and stop. The steering didn't always go so well, but I was still really impressed with how little effort it takes to get my girl to respond.

We forgot my camera in the barn, so Alex took these pictures with her cell phone. (I know I just did a post about how you should ALWAYS wear your helmet, so pretend I have one on my head in these pictures. I promise I'll wear it from now on.)

Looking relaxed and on the rail!

Even when she would speed up, it took very little to get her to slow back down.

Still trotting nicely...

And we even have a really nice whoa!
Trotting was all we did without the halter on her head. I think I need a lot more work before trying that. I'm sure Lilly would be fine, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet.

Another great day with Alex!! I'm so grateful that she will come all the way down to where Lilly and I are and help us. I feel like I have a much happier horse since she came into our lives and I can't thank her enough. :)


  1. Sounds like a great day and good time for both of you!

  2. Glad to hear that a second opinion on the saddle says that it fits. Definitely looking for other spots on her that might be sore is the next thing!

    I do the belly lift and pelvic tuck exercises with all my boys. I use a hoof pick to scratch their bellies, which the LOOOVE. Then I use two picks to scratch on either side of the tail to do the pelvic tuck. Two of them get really into that too. Just like for humans, stretching is a good thing!

  3. Really glad to hear that helped and you guys look great!

  4. Wow, Alex sounds like a great person to have around. I'm glad you were able to get some tips and how cool it is that she got you up on Lilly without a HALTER...OMG. I love the pics, you two look really relaxed together!

  5. That is so cool--the last photo of the whoa is especially impressive. Mares are a lot more sensitive than we give them credit for!

  6. You both look so relaxed! That's the ultimate ride.

  7. Thanks everyone! It was a lot of fun, even if I wouldn't normally do those things on my own. It always helps to have someone there to encourage! :)