Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gussying up the arena

Since I last posted, Mac has not only been put on a diet, but the vet put him on Thyro-L to help him lose some weight. Colin has also started riding him 2 days per week, which takes some pressure off of me and my own schedule (and my hips). And I've been riding exclusively in my dressage saddle. The result of all of these things is that Mac feels like he has more energy, is losing a bit of weight, and my hips aren't bothering me so much so that when I do ride I can now go back to cantering! (For some reason, the canter really bothered my hips so I haven't been doing much of it.) Mac is also feeling really good under saddle.

Since I started taking some dressage lessons with Pony, I thought it would be good to get the arena gussied up and put some letters down (at least indicate where the letters are) and also get some poles to do more pole work and/or set up a couple jumps if I want.

I went to Wilco and got a bunch of little flower pots and poles, went to Big Lots and got a lot of fake flowers that were 50% off, and set up my "letters" around the arena with the pots of flowers as markers.

In this shot of the arena I had set up an exercise with the poles. The two poles that are parallel to the short side of the arena mark spots for 20-meter circles, so the arena is divided into three sections of 20-meter circles. The two poles that are parallel to the long side of the arena serve two functions: they are set at a trot stride so I can trot through them, and they are also set that they form a "chute" that I can go through on center line and halt at X so I know where I am and can practice halts.

My cavaletti mark A, C, B, and E and are handy in case I want to use them for exercises, too.

With the poles set like this I did a bunch of exercises yesterday. I did 3-circle figure 8s up and down the arena. I practiced turning the corner inside of the pole and up center line. After halting at X, I practiced leg yielding out toward the rail (both directions) and not walking or trotting over the pole. I practiced backing between the two poles. I love poles - there are so many fun things to do! I'll probably keep the arena like this for a week or so so I can do these exercises with Pony, then I'll come up with something else that's fun!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mac is fat

There, I said it. Yes, he is big-boned, but he is also fat. And I've realized that his fatness makes him uncomfortable for me to ride with my hip issues. After taking three of my saddles to the chiropractor to sit in so that she can look at my position in them and tell me which is best and which is worse, I decided to just not ride in my western saddle anymore. At all. Since the chiropractor told me my jumping saddle was best, I went home and put it on Mac. I never rode him in it - always my dressage or western saddle, but the fit isn't too bad and so I got on, thinking it would magically solve my problems. Nope! Still the SI pain after riding him in it. Since I can ride the pony inn it without issue, I figured that the thing that is different is Mac.

I've not had this problem with him before, and the only thing that is different is that he's out on the grass (even though he wears a grazing muzzle) for 8 hours a day. So this is a management problem that I need to solve tout suite. Poor ponies - they all suffer for his fatness.

1) He needs to move more. I will now leave his paddock gate open overnight so he can wander around the sacrifice dry lot area. In the morning for breakfast, I put them all out there together. Since Mac is the boss (and he's not very nice about it), he will try to move everyone off a pile of hay (I put lots of piles out), so that keeps everyone moving.

2) He needs less grass. Back I go to moving horses multiple times a day! After breakfast I ride, so I like to keep them in the sacrifice area near the barn. After I ride, though, I will now move them to the larger dry lot area behind the house - again, with lots of piles of hay. I do weigh out the hay; it is easier to manage the calories than with grass, since I've had the hay analyzed and know what's in there. They are out in that area for the 8 hours that they would have been on grass.

3) I do want him to have a little grass, though, so remembering when we lived in CA that they would go out for a couple hours (and not blimp up), I now rotate them onto pasture for 2-3 hours before I bring them back to the barn for dinner.

4) A little less for dinner. They all get small-hole hay nets for dinner, but now Mac will just get less hay. Sorry, buddy, that's just the way it goes.

The vet was out yesterday for a dental appointment for him and I had her pull blood to see if there's anything we should be worried about. I'm interested to see the results.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

More Buck Brannaman clinic tidbits

I'm just going to type out some various notes I took over days 2, 3, and 4 at the clinic. Some things might be repeated - guess I thought they were important!

Ack, I just realized that my phone didn't save my day 4 notes! GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Day 2

If you feel like you are starting to lose your timing, get out while you're still good so you don't end up with something bad. When you've got something good, leave it alone and put it in the bank.

Ride the horse where it is every day.

When doing a circle, tempo and lateral flexion have to be constant and the same as you go around the circle. A circle is worthless if there's not a degree of lateral flexion.

Your job is to manage the rectangle.

If they get dull in their feet they'll be dull in your hands.

Practice moving the hindquarters without the reins (I tried to practice this yesterday and it is hard!!).

Offer them less so it doesn't take so much to get them to go. If you need to, make your point and get out. (I watched one person in particular who never made her point. There was lots of nagging with the leg, various equipment changes, but no big kick saying "let's go NOW!" and so the horse completely tuned her out and she didn't look like she got results.)

Between the poll and atlas is the holy grail on the horse. Be smoother when you change flexion from one side to the other.

"The deal" is when the door is open, go through it.

If you use too much leg, you risk taking his mind off the topic.

Supporting rein is a presence on the neck.

Go out and around when taking the head around, otherwise you build in a brace.

Release for the lightness and your horse will be encouraged to be light.

You use ground work to refine a horse, to get him handy, so that when you get on you can DO something.

How slow and accurate can you walk?

Position 3 means to stop. The hands are to prepare.

The release of the horse on the back up is conditional on the soft feel. Don't release on a brace.

Day 3

The only way you release fear is knowledge.

The horse won't stand still until you have dominion over the movement. Standing still is the worst - get them moving.

Never underestimate the stupidity of humans. :-D

Don't attempt to leg yield unless you have a high functioning soft feel. If they are too green to leg yield out on a circle, then do a circle in the opposite direction and then go back to the original circle.

When there's a big rectangle the horse is working in, there's a lot of room for something to go wrong.

As your skills develop, you need more life to do what you do.

Dial it up and dial it down.

Get out while the movement still has quality.

Set things up so the horse can make a good decision.

The only thing the horse ever needs to be motivated is peace.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Some Buck Brannaman clinic notes

Even though I'm not riding in the Buck Brannaman clinic, I am going to audit. Yesterday I took some notes on my phone . . . just as Buck was telling people to not talk on their phones. Of course I wasn't talking, but it probably looked like I was texting. I wanted to jump up and say, "But I'm taking notes! Here are all the things I wrote down so you'll believe me!" But of course I didn't do that.

Anyway, here are some tidbits.

"A horse will fight you to the end of his life to keep his balance."

"It is not disengaging the hind quarters, it is engaging the inside hind leg."

"Knowing where the feet are is everything."

"Be smoother when your horse gets off course."

"The first goal is to have the horse learn about being punctual."

"Pulling harder won't make him give any faster; more is not more."

"Nobody ever fixed a troubled horse by pulling on two reins."

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Clinic update

Well I had signed up to do Horsemanship 2 at the Buck Brannaman clinic this weekend, but I had to withdraw due to my hip problems.

Early in June I took Princess Fancy Pants to a Bryan Neubert clinic and she was great, amazing, awesome, fantastic, superb, and all other good descriptors of perfect ponytude. What I realized, though, was that I'm not currently equipped to be sitting in the saddle for three hours straight. At the pony's clinic, I mostly rode twice a day for maybe 30 minutes each time. I've been trying to find the balance between pushing myself to do more, but not pushing so far that I exacerbate the pain from whatever injury is bothering me at the moment.

I've had all sorts of diagnostics and my problems range from old spinal compression fracture to bursitis and tendonitis in the hip to some sort of soft tissue injury in my foot. They all seem related, as they are all on the left side of my body. Resting makes me feel a little bit better. Sitting in the saddle for a long period of time makes me feel worse. Two sessions of 30 minutes I could do. Three hours, not so much. So I will go audit and watch a friend and live vicariously through the people there. I always learn something from watching, so all is not lost.

In the meantime, I've been keeping up with regular lessons with Mac. I'm learning some cool new stuff both in ground work exercises and use of aids. I've exclaimed a few times "it's like magic!" Mac generally is doing better, but sometimes he reverts to his old ways. Like, for instance, when a friend came to visit with her horses, two of which were mares. She had one mare saddled to ride and put the other three horses (the other mare included) in the pasture while we went for a ride. Boy howdy, Mac sure did put on a show! I forgot how studdish he can be since he and the pony have sorted out their relationship and there isn't really any drama. But a couple new mares show up and the brains go out the window, the neck is arched, the body is prancing, and the brains go out the window. Oh, I think I mentioned that already.

It was not the most relaxing ride I've ever been on, but it gave me an opportunity to work on things that I could only work on in such a situation, so all was not lost. And to think, I ride this horse bareback and drop my reins and just meander through the woods sometimes. Not on that day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

An antique store find!

I have very active dreams and sometimes my dreams tell me things. Last week I had a dream about chinks and that if I went to a store, I would find some used ones to buy. Every time I go to the tack consignment store I see if there are any that might fit me. Alas, I've never found any that do. Today on my walk break at work, I went by this antique store that has some really cool stuff. Well, it is part antique store, part thrift store, part weird store, but totally awesome!

And look what I found!

At one point I had been measured for and ordered a custom pair, but after taking my deposit I never heard from the guy again (granted, he never cashed my check, either). I didn't follow up because by the time I remembered, so much time had passed that I just let it go. These chinks aren't as fancy as the ones I would have ordered, but they are much sturdier. The leather is thicker so they will hold up very well to my abuse (so far I've put a hole in every pair of chaps I've had when out on the trails!). And at $65 (!!!) I just couldn't pass them up!

On a different note, a friend loaned me her thinner mecate to try with my bosal. I went to a trainer who didn't like my bosal/mecate set up because he thought there should be more room at the heel knot. He suggested maybe I try a thinner mecate to see if that does the trick, so I'm going to try it tomorrow. The bosal I have was a birthday present and custom made and I can't not use it, so I'll try this first.

Now if only I could dream about the winning lottery numbers!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Not a total disaster, but . . .

I've been taking my Bad Dog (tm) Willow for off-leash walks for a little while now. She's got an e-collar that she respects, so I don't actually have to use it, and it gives her a chance to run around and sniff and maybe try to chase something. I thought it would be nice to have some company while trail riding, so I thought I'd give it a go with a short trail ride today.

As I said, it wasn't a total disaster, but it wasn't a relaxing ride, either! I just put on Mac's bareback pad and bitless bridle, since I was planning on a short loop that Willow already knows - it is maybe a 15-20 minute ride, easy-peasy. Usually when I go out there is no traffic on the road that goes by our house.

Of course today there were three cars that drove by. And Willow did not want to get close to Mac, but some sweet talking and some treats got her to me so I could hold her and hold Mac at the same time. We got in through the gate just fine and I was relieved.

I got on Mac and called Willow and off we went. It is a good thing that Mac is so good and nonplussed about things, because I really couldn't give him or my riding much attention. I was constantly calling to Willow to make sure she didn't wander too far, as she didn't want to get too close to us. Mac just marched right along and went with the flow, stopping if I asked him to so that I could look for Willow's long tail in the brush. He didn't really care that she came along with us, so at least that was good.

I don't think Willow really enjoyed it, and I found it anything but relaxing, so I don't know that I'll be doing that again! Perhaps, though, it took away some of her romantic notions of what it means to get out, because she is really happy to be home and in her bed right now!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

First Roping Lesson!

Well, I did it. I signed up for Buck Brannaman's H2 clinic coming up this summer. The clinic is described as having some roping, but I don't know the first thing about roping. So I took a lesson this morning, and will continue lessons until the clinic.

After getting some basic instruction, it was clear what I had been doing wrong. I learned the how to hold the rope, how to swing it over my head, how to hold the coils and where to put my left hand, and various tips for hand placement and follow through.

The big bummer is I forgot to bring my rope, as it seems to have this un-fixable twist that messes up my loop. No matter how I untwist it, it gets twisted again and it makes me say very bad words. The teacher had lots of ropes for me to use, and I felt pretty good using his. Of all the shots I took (at a bucket on the ground), I only missed one.

When I came home from work today, I got my rope and practiced some more. Still trouble with the coils and the twisting of the loop. I could get it okay one time, but I'd have to re-un-twist it every time. Ugh. Anyway, I put out a little table upside down, stood on the deck, and practiced. Colin thought it would be funny to get some video to document my frustration and attempts - and success!

I'll practice with Mac while we stand still and see how that goes!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mountain View

I take Mac on trail rides probably 2-3 times per week - it is our favorite thing to do together. Just last week I took this picture. I've taken this picture many times, but it never comes out on camera as it appears to me in person. Usually when we're in the juniper forest, we can't really see anything other than trees. There's one part of the trail where we get this view, but it looks so much prettier in person (and since you can't even see it, I will tell you that we're looking at the snow-covered Cascades through the trees).

I've taken a couple months off from dressage work to just trail ride in my western tack, and most recently I've been using the hackamore versus the snaffle bit. Mac is very good in it and it is fun for me to work on improving my skills with a different tool.

Just this weekend I thought I'd dust off my dressage saddle and give him a schooling in the arena and he was so good! I think perhaps the combination of body work plus some time off either with no work or lots of walking work has made him more willing to do work-work. It is such a good feeling to have him straight in his body, light in my hands and off my legs and to be able to ride from my seat. My hip isn't 100% yet, but it is better enough that I can do more canter work than I have done in a while. Perhaps the break was good for both of us!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

It has been so long since I've updated

Poor Mac's blog - it gets put on the back burner because I've been writing on the pony's blog.

Things are good here. I've had an injury that I'm still working on getting over. I thought I was almost back to normal, but I did a couple things that made me in pain again. The good news, though, is that I know I can get close to being pain-free again, so I just need to not do the things I've figured out cause me pain. It took me a little while to figure out what they were because I was in a constant state of pain, but once I was almost pain-free, it became clear what I ought not to do.

I've been getting back to trail riding now that the weather is improving and it isn't either too cold and/or there's no snow on the ground. Mac is so much happier as a trail horse than schooling dressage. So that's what we'll mostly do.

The other morning Mac and I went for a trail ride before work and I discovered a new loop that is just about an hour so the timing is perfect for a morning ride. I focused on two things - small lateral flexions to soften him in the bridle, and then keeping him straight between my hands and legs. We had a lovely ride.

And here's a picture of him with his girlfriend.

We're working on getting our plans in place for seeding the pasture. We had a soil sample done and so we've got someone who is going to look at putting together a good fertilizer mix for what we need. Water will be on earlier this year and it will be here before we know it!