Sunday, November 30, 2014

Canter Part 3 and Photos Galore!

I wound up traveling over Thanksgiving to see my family - it was wonderful, but it means I haven't ridden or written since Wednesday - YIKES!

I've been abandoned!
I had a really good ride on Wednesday.  I decided ahead of time that I was going to work on the canter transition on the lunge line with my willing and helpful riding partner, Laura.  We warmed up on our own, walk/trot/canter, and I have to admit - he was pretty good with transitions, but since my main focus right now is sharpening the transition between trot and canter, I don't want it to be "pretty good" I want it good, or even great!

I also bought a new lens for my camera, and so we got some pictures of our warm up and lunging.
Check out that left hind!  
What does this picture say to me?  To me he's pretty engaged and working from his butt, but he isn't really through.  I feel like I'm blocking his motion right at his shoulders.  I need to bend my elbows, pull my shoulders back (which I think would help me pull my chin back), and put my heels down!

I like this picture of Gavin and I.  I'm not screwing so much with his front shoulder action in this one, and you can tell!  He's extending more and appears more connected from back to front.  I still need to put my heels down, but my elbows look much better!

Nice heels baby!
We got to work cantering.  I made it my mission to prep him.  I'd say 1, 2, 3 and then kiss while asking for the canter.  While I was saying 1, 2, 3 I was bumping him with my inside leg.  He picked up the canter easily both directions.  In the picture you can see that my heels are down and I'm holding the whip in both hands.  I couldn't figure out what to do with my hands, but I wanted to work on bending my elbows and keeping those damn heels down!  The hands still need to be a smidge higher in my opinion, but I think it's an improvement to what you see in the first riding pic.

Chicken wings! ;) - Whatev! I like how hard Gavin is trying in this, look at his ears!!
I didn't want to drill him in the canter, but I wanted to make sure he picked up the canter easily and didn't break to the trot.  Gavin believes it's my job to keep his engine revved in the canter.  And it's not, and I don't want it to be - he's not a baby horse anymore, and I'm lazy! ;)  So while lunging I stopped asking every four strides for the canter.  I went along like a happy passenger with my seat, but I allowed him to break to the trot.  When he broke (which he did twice), I'd swat him and kiss.  Then I'd do a few more circles and then ask for the trot.  All of this was done with tons of petting and praise when he was doing a good job, which was the majority of the time.

Documenting the foam on his chest!
I need to clip this beastie!  :)

I just want to say thank you to all of you who have given me such thoughtful and useful advice for the canter.  I have tried everything everyone has suggested with definite success.  Just trying new things has helped me immensely.  Jodi from Racing to Ride suggested I leg yield and then ask when I hit the wall - this has been a very successful technique and also taught me how important it is for him to be soft to the inside aids to pick-up the canter.

Gavin watching his partner in crime getting lunged
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, or a great weekend (in case you don't live in the states - Aoife!)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Canter Continued, and Actual Fun Stuff

I listened to the great advice about the canter.  Get the trot right and then ask for the canter.  If he starts running, bring him back to a good trot and ask again.  The first night I did this it worked like a charm.  I found that by prepping him loads he responded by answering me promptly.  And I thought - voila!  I have found my solution!  And it was so easy!  I should have already been doing this, but I can occasionally be an asshole who doesn't think about these things and I don't have enough money currently to get a trainer to remind me.  The next night I came out to this friendly face.  And though he's friendly - he's also a combination of lazy and wiley! 

Who you calling lazy and wiley, lady?!?!
The work started off well enough.  We were lacking in forward momentum, but he was coming around.  And then I think he just decided "meh - screw it.  I'm not cantering today".  And he didn't!  He  was completely ignoring me.  After the fourth refusal my wonderful riding partner Laura agreed to tie her boy up and lunge us.

Laura with lazy and her boy, Sterling
The lunging went like this - ask for canter, got ignored *once* and wapped him hard on the bottom.  He cantered.  He broke to the trot (I'm pretty sure he decided he had enough after two circles).  Wap!  Canter.  And canter.  And a little more.  I doubt we did more than 10 circles, but I wanted him to listen to me - to canter and to stay in the canter until I asked him to trot.  I left the barn feeling like a jerk who spanked her horse - and to be honest, a little defeated about the whole canter thing.

Gavin after the ass-kicking, note he's still alive and well ;)
So - I came out today not sure what I'd be getting in the lazy, wiley pony world.  Well - I had no need to worry.  He was a gem!  He was so good with his canter transitions!  And I tried to just praise him and praise him.  So, I absolutely think I need to prep him and balance him more in the trot - because it definitely helps him pop into the canter, but I also can't let him walk on me in his adorable little pony way "canter? whats that?…"

After our ride we took the boys on their first trail ride from the barn.  We hand-walked them to the trailhead and then got on.  Gavin's size is perfect for getting on and off from the ground (though I try not to for the sake of his back).  So a few times that the boys deemed too scary to move I did get off to be the brave leader ;) It worked out really well, and they were great!
happy trails!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Bit, Lazy Pony (seeking advice)

Recently I purchased a new bit.  I've always been a french link snaffle kinda gal.  I'm just not that creative when it comes to bits, and also I'm afraid to use different bits as a crutch, or overbit my horse.  But I wanted something new, for some specific reasons that I thought were reasonable and justifiable.

This bit is different from Gavin's old bit in that it's an eggbutt rather than a loose ring, it has a differently shaped link in the middle, it's thicker in general, and it's made of aurigan (some metal HS created), which is supposed to help them get all slobbery.

I wanted a fixed ring bit as it helps to stabilize contact and take out a little of the rider's "noise".  I don't think I'm a "loud" rider with my hands, but I wouldn't call them quiet either.

I also wanted a material to make him salivate more.  I realize salivation comes from bit acceptance, but I also think salivation helps with bit acceptance (a little bit of the ole chicken and the egg scenario there).  My thought being if he salivates more, he may come to accept the bit more.

Based on these wants, I bought the Herm Sprenger dynamic aurigan eggbutt bit.  What a mouthful, huh?!  I've ridden Gavin in it twice and he is definitely steadier into contact.  This is especially noticeable on the straight aways, where he likes to pop up and take off.  It's harder to keep him on the bit when I'm not also asking for bend, but he seems happy to work into it now.  He is also salivating more.  I know this because every time we take walk breaks I'm leaning over to check his mouth (horse people are weird…) ;)

This is also a milder bit.  I didn't realize how thin his other bit was until comparing it to the new one.  The change has got to feel better on his lips.  Though I'm unsure of the height of his palate, he doesn't seem uncomfortable - so I don't think it's too big for his mouth.

So yes, I'm happy with the bit!  And that was my criteria for keeping it.  I wasn't going to keep it if it was just okay, and he went about the same in it.  That wouldn't make sense - as I nearly wiped out my monthly spending money on this thing.

On another, slightly embarrassing note - I have the hardest time getting Gavin to transition from trot to canter.  He almost always (95% of the time) runs into the canter.  I try to prepare him better, I balance him, I get him feeling more forward, then I say "ready?…", I sit, I ask and kiss at the same time.  He always takes between 2-4 strides of fast trot before cantering and before I'm able to think to give him a tap with the whip (tap sounds so much sweeter than spank) my legs are all tensed and curled up and I'm just squeezing the hell out of him and looking like a jockey.  I know I need to ask with my legs and then ask with the whip (and not move my legs out of position), but I have a hell of a time remembering.  Anyone have any suggestions?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SFTS Blog Hop: The Horse That Made Me

"If I could just come in, I swear I'll leave - I won't take nothing but a memory"

The blog hop asks an interesting question - excluding your current mount, which horse "made" you.  It's an easy answer for me, but a sad one too.  Beans made me.  Beans not only made me the rider I am today, but he also altered the course of my life (and I'm not being dramatic when I say that).

My Beanieboy
Beans was a 16 year old TB/Appaloosa cross when my parents bought him for me.  He was a deep liver chestnut, and was a towering 16.3 hands over my own 16 year old 5'4 frame.  What he had in height, he made up for in lack of weight.  Beans was always a hard keeper (part of the reason I now own a breed notorious for being easy-keepers).  

Before becoming a dressage school master (shown through fourth level, and schooling more advanced movements), he was a prelim eventer.  Eventing was hard on Beans' front legs, and he became unsound.  He had both front hooves nerved, and thus wasn't game to jump any longer.  And that's about the time he came to me.  

I remember the first time I rode Beans.  I remember what an absolute pleasure it was.  I smiled from ear to ear, and told my mom this was definitely the horse for me.  Now -- before you go thinking I was that 16 year old girl who got a pony for Christmas, let me tell you - that's not the case.  I was given the horse, but his board and all his other bills went directly to me.  Which means I had to get a job.  And so I did - I got a job at a local, gourmet pizza place (that I wound up working at off-and-on through college) and paid for my horse habit.  Beans taught me how to be responsible and how to work for what I wanted.

He was quite an expense for a 16 year old girl.  For every day Beans was sound and healthy to ride, we had three off days.  He was off.  A LOT.  We had his hocks injected, we had chiropractors, acupuncturists, you name it, I tried it.  I even called a horse psychic once *smh* What a joke.  But, alas, I was young.  The only thing that kept him relatively sound were injections of steroids, and weekly physical therapy sessions to keep his butt muscles built up.  Beans taught me how to care for something, or someone, besides myself.

As I said earlier, Beans was a schoolmaster.  When he was on, he was ON.  I learned so much on him and got so far in my knowledge of horses.  He was forgiving for the things I didn't know, he'd test me on those I thought I knew, and he'd happily execute anything I really knew.  Beans taught me how to really ride a horse.

Beans was also spooky, and one time bolted with me when I was showing him off to my grandma.  I wound up still on his back, clinging desperately to his neck and sobbing in front of her.  Hahaha - Beans taught me to be humble.

Before I owned Beans, I went out with my friends a lot.  We'd spend the night at each others houses and then sneak out to go hang out with guys way older than us.  But once I had Beans, I realized that it was more fun to be out at the barn late at night with him.  I didn't have to be drunk to enjoy his company.  He didn't have hidden motives.  It was therapeutic, rather than being the thing to put me in therapy ;)  Beans taught me that I didn't need boys (at least human boys) to be happy, something I think many sixteen year old girls need to learn.

Beans was not only unsound quite often, but he also had very serious issues with ulcers and choking.  Horses don't vomit, but if you ever see one hacking up crunched up food - they're choking.  I studied, I read up on his ailments, I theorized with his vet (god bless that vet for spending so much time with me).  I wanted to help Beans.  I wanted to help animals.  And so, because I suddenly had direction in my life, I went from being a C-D-F student to being a straight A student my junior and senior year so that I could get into college to become a vet.  Beans taught me to think about my future and what I wanted from life.

I wound up retiring Beans to a beautiful place with huge pastures after he had a debilitating bought with pigeon fever.  When I'd go out to visit him he'd come to me, and I'd pet his beautiful face, and take note of his weight, which as I stated earlier - was never great, even at the best of times.  Beans died in that beautiful place a year or so after he was moved there.  He was also buried there, which happens to be illegal in Colorado, but I was and am still glad to know that he got to stay in his relaxing home.  Beans taught me how to let go, but also how to remember in my heart, which I still do to this day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Love & Horses Blog Hop - Let me see your pets

I've been enjoying seeing everyone else's furry children, so I figured I'd join in on the Love & Horses Blog Hop.

As my blog name suggests - Gavin isn't an only child.  I also have a pug!

Meet Fudge.

He loves cuddles in the blanket

and walks in the park

He's handsome and stout

A great companion for lazy weekends.

An opportunist who never passes up a sunny spot in the morning.

And a wild adventurer

 Believe me when I say I could go on and on about how awesome he is.  He hasn't a mean bone in his body, though he does have a few mopey ones.  He's always game to play, to cuddle, to console.  I adore him.  :)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Videos #proudponymamas

Both rides this weekend were awesome.  My friend and I set up some cross rails (low by most people's standards, but bigger than anything we've ever done) and took turns jumping them.  I had so much fun!  Jumping is fun for me, and it gives me purpose to some riding maneuvers that I was lacking.  I'm seeing a new path for Gav and I for sure.  Without further ado, here is one vid my friend's husband took of Gav and I.  Keep in mind - I don't really know what I'm doing jumping wise, just trying to go with him and be kind with my hands.  (aka - I really, really want jumping lessons!)

Next video is of my friend Laura and her pony Sterling doing the ole Black Beauty get-on-horse-while-they're-laying-down moves.  Pretty cool.

I'm a proud horse owner this weekend, and one that had a lot of fun!  Oh yeh - and Cardi won the USDF national championship in the Grand Prix freestyle - so awesome!  :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This post is going to be all over the place.  Just warning everyone.

The last time I posted, Gavin had just popped another abscess out his left hind.  It didn't drain quite as well, or dry up as fast as the previous one, but it went about it's merry way relatively fast.  Still not sure what caused them.  The farrier thinks he had a laminitis flare up, the vet thinks it was just wet living conditions that did it… One says the hay is significantly richer at the new barn, the other says there is barely a difference - I'm a little bit at a loss.

Since the weekend before last I've been riding again.  We started off just walking a lot, then moved up to a little trot, then more trot, and finally canter.  He feels good.  Maybe even better than he has for a month or two.  I'm thinking he was ouchy for longer than I knew about it.  Stoic little booger.  :)

Everything has been going well with him.  I can tell he's out of shape, but the only way to get back in shape is to work it.  We've been working on remember what bending means, and increasing speed and then decreasing - just using seat.  He really has the slow part down!  Almost too well - it knocks me off balance!

Strangely enough (or maybe not strangely, since he just got front shoes?) he's started clipping his front hooves.  Simultaneously, I've been obsessing that his loose ring is too small for him.  And also obsessing that I no longer want a loose-ring.  Queue crazy money spending today - bought a HS aurigan eggbut, and a pair of Professional Choice bell boots.  Looking forward to getting those two puppies in the mail!

To pay for my tack habit - I'm selling my olde saddle.  It's a 17.5 Wintec Bates Isabell with Cair panels.  It's nice, and fits Gav great - I just don't use it anymore.  And I don't want to see it go to waste.  I'm selling it!  So if any of you ladies are looking for what I'm offering - lemme know!  $500