Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Ride Recap - 2/22

Rather than writing several boring post per week about my rides, I've decided to just recap them all in one post. I can only say, "We had another good ride! I worked on jogging and cantering!" so many times before it just becomes ridiculous, so this seems like the way to go.

My usual ride days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Sunday. I didn't ride Tuesday because my trimmer came out and we always end up doing a lot of talking. I did have a great ride on Thursday, though, in which we worked on the usual things. I can feel her getting stronger and she's been making great progress at the canter.

Best view EVER!
I rode on Saturday and I was able to get some really nice, slower canter strides. She's even starting to stretch down and round her back. I've been riding her in the shank bit I use at shows rather than the snaffle, and I'm trying to ride mostly with one hand because I want both of us to get used to riding the way we need to do it when we're actually showing. Previous to this year, I always worked her in the snaffle because I felt like I could teach her more easily that way, but she's doing fantastic with the shank bit.

We also did some fun stuff after our ride. The barn owner has a lot of trail objects set up and a few little jumps here and there, so we played on those. She seemed to enjoy the jumps, even though she just stepped over rather than jumping. We did some work on the trail bridge and backed through some Ls. She really does well with trail, so I suppose we'll stick with that class this year at the shows.

My Sweet Girl
If you're a longtime reader, you know I've dealt with a strange diarrhea issue with Lilly for many, many years. It kind of comes and goes, and when it's in full force, her back legs just get covered. Her manure is always ok, but there's a liquid that comes out after she passes gas, and it just drips out, runs down her cheeks, and all the way down her legs. She's been doing really great with it for the past year or so, but for some reason it's back. I added that joint supplement to her diet, so I'm not sure if that's what caused it to return, or if it's because I've been riding her so much more now than before, or if it's because the grass is starting to come in a little bit... or if it's because it's a leap year and today is Monday.

Love this face.
It was really bad on Saturday when I was out. After our ride, she stood in the cross ties and made a nice puddle of green poo water on the mat. So frustrating.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Loose Rein Cantering?

Lilly started receiving her new joint supplement yesterday. After quite a bit of research and comparison, I opted for the SmartFlex Senior Pellets. I got the herb-free ones based on reviews saying they are better for horses with sensitive tummies. She definitely has a sensitive tummy. It pains me to think of her as senior, and I didn't want to get a senior supplement, but she WILL be 16 this year, and I have to face the facts. They seemed like the best choice and the best value based on what I wanted to get out of a joint supplement. I'm hopeful they'll keep her comfortable as her workload increases this year.

I went to the barn and rode her Thursday, and while we had a good ride, there wasn't anything I was really excited to write about. We just keep working on the basics, and fitness is what I'm really going for right now. I'm keeping the rides to about 30 minutes, increasing the amount of canter work we do during each ride, and I can already tell it's easier for her to hold a decent canter for more than a few strides. She's doing really well with everything I'm asking of her.

I've been making a point to get out to the barn for a ride on Tuesday, Thursday, and either Saturday or Sunday. So she's only being ridden three times per week right now, but I'm trying to be realistic and consistent. I wondered if she'd get tired of the rides and start avoiding me when I go to the pasture to bring her in, but she's always very happy to see me. Yesterday she ran wide open from the back of the pasture when I called her name, so the rides aren't something she wants to avoid. That makes me so happy. It let's me know she's comfortable and enjoying the work.

Yesterday's ride was great because for the first time in probably forever, I had her cantering around on a loose rein. It's a faster canter than I'd like, but it's easy to ride and great for now, and I just love that fact that she's doing it on her own. She's learning to stay consistent, and while I have to keep her in circles for the most part (things kind of fall apart when we try cantering on the rail), it's a noticeable improvement. I didn't expect to see improvement like this so early on, but I'm loving it.

Cutest cookie face ever!
I love my girl so much! She tries so hard to please.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cold and Rain!

I had two great rides on Lilly, but both were cut short thanks to the weather. I'm ready for spring, whenever it wants to show up.

Our ride on Sunday was only about 20 minutes because I thought I would literally freeze to death if I didn't find a heat source. It was an excellent ride, and I was very happy with how well she did. A friend of mine came along and took pictures, so instead of going on and on about what a great ride it was, I'll just show you some of the pictures.

Lots and lots of circles.
Every so often, we get a loose rein, semi-slow-ish canter.
Making so much progress!
I know I've only had a few rides on her this year, but I already feel like we're making progress at the canter. She's still very fast and not really collected at all, but I can feel an improvement in her, which makes me very happy. She also seems content to canter around the ring on her bare feet, without taking any choppy strides, as has been the case in the past. I don't use boots at home at all, and I'm excited that we can do this kind of work and know that she's totally comfortable.

We've got this jog thing down to a science... well, at home anyway.
Our ride yesterday was only about 15 minutes because the arena was soggy thanks to all the rain. I was hopeful when I first arrived because I saw hoof prints, but after checking it out for myself I knew it was iffy. It seemed a little too dry to wuss out and not ride, but a little too wet to have a serious ride, so I decided I'd saddle up and let Lilly tell me if it was too wet. She decided very early into the ride that it was too wet to canter, which is what I've been wanting to work on most, so we did our usual stuff and called it a day. Hopefully Thursday will be better.


Monday, February 15, 2016

February Condition Photos

These were taken on February 11th.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Changing Up the Order

Thursday I got in another great ride on Lilly. I stuck with the 30 minute routine again, but changed it up a bit this time, and I think it worked out much better for Lilly, which in turn made it better for me!

Normally, when I ride, it always goes something like this: walk and warm up exercises (poles, circles, bending, etc) in both directions, jog and canter in one direction. Then I reverse, jog and canter in the opposite direction. Once I've checked all the boxes, I work on whatever wasn't feeling quite right or needs to be worked on. I end the ride with a nice cool down, and we play with stuff like sidepassing, leg and seat only cues, and finally a bit of showmanship after I dismount.

I've pretty much done my rides this way for years because it seems the logical progression... warm up at the walk and jog before moving on to the canter. Being a creature of habit, though, Ms. Lilly anticipates the second canter, which is something I mentioned in my last post. Once that first canter is out of the way, she seems to stay focused on when I'm going to ask for it again.

We run into the same issue in the show ring too. She knows it goes walk, trot, canter, reverse, walk, trot, canter, and every time she hears the speakers click, she tries to move on to the next task without waiting for me to ask. It drives me crazy, but there's not much I can do about that at the show, other than school of course, but the order is always going to be the same, and I can only wait so long after the click to ask for the next movement.

Anyway, last night I decided switch things up. I did a really good warm-up at the walk and jog in both directions and did the canter last. We worked on the first canter and the second canter at the same time because I opted for figure eights, asking for simple changes in the middle. There was no anticipation, and she stayed much more focused and relaxed.

She still gave me a very fast walk at the end of the canter exercises, but I'm starting to think that she's cooling herself out, thinking she's done after cantering. That's what happens a lot of the time, so I've probably taught her that myself without even realizing it.

I need to be more mindful about the exercises we're doing and the order we're doing them. That way, she doesn't know what's coming next and I'll have a horse that is better about not anticipating.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Feeling of Starting From Scratch

**Pictures provided by my BO are totally unrelated to this post, but too fun not to share!**

It's true. Lilly and I have done very little in the way of actual work these past several years. Between all the hoof issues popping up, the craziness that is my life, and a myriad of other excuses I can think of, we really haven't practiced much of anything for an extended period of time. I'd get a ride in here and there, but I couldn't really work toward making us better, because the rides were too few and far between.

Feeling frisky!
There's something to be said for winning either grand champion or reserve champion in at least one division at every single horse show we went to this past year, but we're not really improving, and that's because we haven't been working to improve.

We do well enough to squeak by. We're consistently the okayest horse and rider team out there.

Lilly is awesome, and I was reminded of this last night when I was talking with my barn owner about buying horses. She's in the market for an OTTB she can use for dressage and jumping, and we were talking about how much we enjoy our predictable horses. She's a little nervous about starting over with a new horse. She's had her mare since she was a foal, like I have with Lilly, and we love the fact that we know our horses inside and out.

Rodeo pony!
I got to thinking about that conversation and how, in a way, I feel a bit like I'm starting from scratch this year. I know it's not the same as starting with a new horse, but I want it to feel like I have a new horse. I want to ride a lot more than I did last year, I want to work on several of our issues, and I want to see and feel improvement. I want to finally make some progress and feel confident when we jog into the western pleasure class that we're going to kill it.

I'm just glad she didn't tear anything... just sayin'.
Last night I rode for the first time this year. I've done all the longing I want to do for now, so it was time to bust out the saddle... the very moldy, gross, uncomfortable saddle. Lilly gave it the stink eye when I brought it out from the tack room, so I don't think she was too excited about the prospect of going for a ride. Honestly, I tried to talk myself out of it several times as well because it was SO COLD, but I kicked myself in the butt and tacked her up.

Overall we had a really great ride, considering the temperatures and the fact that I haven't ridden in months. I rode for about 30 minutes, which is what I'm going to stick with for now, just so we don't overdo it. We did mostly trot work, with lots of circles, changes of speed, and ground poles. I threw in a canter every now and then and the transitions were spot on, but I can tell she's not strong at all.

The usual issues were present, and I want to acknowledge them, so I can work on making improvements.
  • When she thinks she should be done jogging, she roots with her nose. Maybe I give her too much credit, but to me it feels like she roots so there's contact with the reins and she can say, "sorry... I felt pressure on the bit so I thought you wanted me to walk."
  • After cantering in the first direction, she gets anxious about cantering in the second direction, and doesn't really settle back down until we do the second canter.
  • So by the time we canter in the second direction, she's like a rocket, and it's difficult to get her to focus. While trying several different tactics with her yesterday to try and fix this, I might have found a solution, and that's simply to pick a point in our canter where she's done something marginally well, and praise the living daylights out of her. This really helped her settle yesterday, so I'll be trying that one again.
  • After cantering in the second direction, she speed walks around the ring. I can mostly get her to focus on work again, but the walk is super fast.

These are definitely minor things, but they're issues we've had for a long time that I just kind of let slide. I want to figure out a way to get past them so we can move on to bigger and better things!

Such a pretty girl!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gettin' in Shape!

I've been doing a lot of research on the best way to bring a horse back into shape, and like with anything else, there are a lot of opinions about it. Luckily, we're not coming off an injury or anything, so in theory, Lilly should be in some sort of shape from being turned out on pasture for 12 hours a day. Right?

I've been exercising her as much as my busy schedule allows trying to get her moving and working a bit. I've been doing a lot of in hand stuff (ground poles, small jumps, trail patterns) to get her mind going and get her picking up her feet. I've also been doing quite a bit of longing as well. She's great on the longe line and pretty much just plods around on the end of it. We've been doing a lot of jogging, and I toss in some loping every now and then.

It's great because it saves me quite a bit of time, and if I only have an hour or so, I can just groom her quick, grab the line, and take her to the arena. It's hard to work her into my schedule some days, but I know we both need it. It seems like my free days are plagued by rain, and my busy days are sunny and beautiful. Today is one of those days... I have free time after work, but it's going to rain all day.

Winter sucks... I'm ready for spring!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Hoof Pictures

I haven't posted hoof pictures in quite a while, but they've been looking really great! She always has hoof wall to trim when my trimmer is out, and I don't have any issues exercising her in the arena at the barn. She's just in a really great place with her hooves right now.

The only thing I've been having to deal with is her seedy toe. I think it's been an issue for us for almost 5 years, which is crazy to think about. I've tried recessing the hoof to open it all up, I've tried a less invasive method of just opening up the crack a tiny bit, I've soaked and soaked and soaked, packed with cotton and a mixture of athlete's foot cream and triple antibiotic ointment, and it's all done nothing but kind of keep the seedy toe from getting worse. I never saw improvement. My trimmer and I decided that she must just have some defect in her coffin bone that was keeping the connection from staying tight as her hoof grew out and that it was something we'd just always have to deal with. I was ok with that, as long as I could keep it from getting worse. Lilly has several maintenance issues, and we'd just add that to the list.

Several trim cycles ago, my trimmer mentioned that she had several clients that were having good luck with Durasole, and maybe it would help Lilly. We talked about it helping her soles more than anything, but thought perhaps it might help with the seedy toe as well, and I decided to give it a try. I can only find it online, and Valley Vet Supply seemed the best place to get it, so I bought at bottle. I used it on her hooves every time I was at the barn, and we always did a generous application after her trim. I made sure to squirt a bunch of it into her seedy toe, and concentrated on her white line and soles. The Durasole is different than some other hoof products because it isn't caustic and you can put it anywhere on the hoof and not worry about it. At first, I didn't notice anything spectacular, but she did shed some sole, and then she shed a little bit of frog.

Slowly over the next few trim cycles, though, I noticed the seedy toe and the crack growing out little by little. I didn't want to jinx myself, or get too excited about it, but at our last trim, which was about two weeks ago, the last remaining bit of crack was trimmed off. IT WAS ALL GONE! (Well, almost... there's still a defect in her hoof wall, and an area on the underside of her hoof that needs to grow out, but the actual crack itself is gone!)

It has to be from the Durasole... and I wish I had purchased that little $12 bottle of magic sooner! There are several factors that I need to consider with regards to her seedy toe, and it's possible it could still come back, as it's not totally gone, but I am so optimistic now that I'll be able grow out a totally healthy hoof wall, and keep the seedy toe at bay with regular applications of the Durasole.

No more seedy toe!!
Left front hoof.
Left front sole view.
Right front hoof.
Right front sole view... the hoof with the seedy toe.
Don't they look amazing?! I just can't believe how thick her hoof wall is, and there's not a crack to be found anywhere. I highly, highly recommend this stuff, both for healthy sole and hoof wall growth, but also for that persistent crack or trouble spot your horse might have on its hooves.