Friday, September 25, 2009
In a fortuitous coincidence, Montel is recently retired after a long and very successful show career in the jumper ring, and in need of a turnout buddy. Alicia just sent me this photo... looks like they are getting along pretty well, wouldn't you say? I love it, it just brightens my day and really captures Tucker and Montel's personality.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
First trip: First fence, left lead single on the quarter line, was quiet and conservative, which was the plan. He landed left, and then I had a long approach to a diagonal oxer. He stayed quiet all the way down the long diagonal, the distance was just right, landed and did a nice left to right change. Then he came right back to me, we got a quiet distance in to the outside line, which was a ridiculously short five strides. Since we jumped in quietly, it worked out. Then he landed left and missed the left-to-right change. He was looking out of the ring at the other rings and I needed to open my inside rein and guide him around the turn. So we trotted a step and fixed it, but then we were super long to the next diagonal oxer, which was a short approach right out of the turn. Landed left, so I just had to balance and get him back to me. Then the next outside line was a normal four strides as long as we jumped in quietly, which we did. The four stride was really the only place I could let go. Then the last fence was just the other single on the quarter line. I balanced through the turn, got him back to me, and that single was nice. So other than the missed change and the super long diagonal oxer, it was a good trip.
Second trip: Started with the other single quarter line off the right, got a good distance. Got the left to right change. Unfortunately, got that same stupid big long distance to the diagonal oxer. But he landed left, and then he waited to the in of the four stride diagonal and the four was good, I just let go. Then the long approach the other diagonal oxer, that jump was fine but he got a little rushed for the left-to-right change afterward. I just felt like I had to keep him so slow for that tiny ring that we got into a little tug of war for a minute over the lead change. Then for the five, he jumped in nice and soft and quiet, so I just tried to be still, but unfortunately since the line was set so short, he was really tight jumping out. Missed the left-to-right change again -- same thing, he was looking out of the ring to the left. Then the last jump was the other single quarter line and the ride was perfect to it, but the last stride he saw a big dark shadow under the jump and jumped it like it was about 2 feet bigger than it was, with his head down between his knees. I just laughed at him, and then I think we missed the left to right change and had to trot a step, if I'm remembering correctly. Not our best trip but not awful.
Third trip: Same course as the first. Fence one was the same ride, quiet and conservative. Second fence was the single diagonal and I think he was thinking about the lead change afterward because three strides out he gunned it and then ran to the corner and pulled me through the change. Again, I think that was due to the tug of war in the trip before and he never quite relaxed around the corner. Then in the five stride outside line, I didn't sit and collect him in the line with my seat, I kind of stood and pulled, though I did remember to use my voice. Not the prettiest ride, and not the most effective because the out was still tight. But, I opened my inside rein and this time he got the left to right change. Sadly (ugh!) got the same ugly big distance to the next diagonal oxer. This time, I was trying to make him wait and he sort of blew me off and took the long one, so he jumped it really pulling the reins out of my hands which worried him a little. He landed right but got a beautiful right-to-left change. He got forward again through the change, but I used my voice and got him to slow down again. He waited for the in of the four, but it was a little bit of struggle and then the four felt a little rushed. Then he sort of cruised around the end of the ring, never quite came back to me, so the last fence, the other quarter line single, was tight and he rubbed it. To his credit, the rub didn't phase him. All in all though, not a very pretty course.
Hack: Got in and trotted until the judge started the class, because we didn't have much time between our last round and the hack and I wanted him to realize we were just flatting. His first trot was beautiful, first canter was good. Then we reversed and she asked us to pick up our canter first. He was thinking trot so I had to ask a little harder for the canter than I normally would in a hack and the canter got just a little too bold. Then she had us trot, and his trot was pretty good again. He was fourth though, so I think that second direction canter is what hurt us. There were some good movers in the class though.
Overall: Not a horrible horse show, but a little disappointing. We have been working so hard over the past month and I feel like I've really started to figure out at home how to let go, leave him alone, stay soft and flowing, and we didn't get to apply any of that. Mostly due to the fact that the ring was tiny and the lines were set pretty short, so I had to fight to keep this tiny little canter that he's not comfortable with, and I think he got a little stressed about getting his changes in tight quarters. I also think due to the last minute ring switch, we didn't get as much time to prep him as we usually take. He might not have needed more time on the longe because he wasn't fresh, but he could have used more time to flat and relax before we showed. Alicia and I have decided that the next time we show there, we need to do the 3' schooling hunters, which go in the morning, and then there's no worries about a ring switch etc. Of course, that means the next time we show there we need to be ready to show at 3', but I'm starting to think we're getting there. I just need to start thinking something other than Holy @&$*! as we're cantering down to the 3' oxer. All in good time.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Also, since Kate asked (thank you!), Julie is making progress down in Florida. She now walks quietly from the field to the barn without any antics, though she did test the waters quite a bit at first. She doesn't like baths, so she's getting one every other day -- which I love. So from what I hear, sounds like things are moving in the right direction down at Stones Throw!
We're showing today, but not til the end of the day, and I don't want to tire myself out too much, so I've sat myself down in front of the computer for a bit to catch up on the blogs and emails I've been neglecting this week (whew! busy week!). I swear, I have to treat myself like a five-year-old on horse show days.
We had a fantastic lesson yesterday so I feel really good about today. We finally had nice weather this week so we got to use the outdoor ring. Alicia schooled Tucker on Friday so he was really good yesterday, quiet and relaxed but forward. And we got our lead changes! I'm happy to say that some of the jumps yesterday were 3' and they looked less like the Puissance Wall to me. I'm trying to remember that Tucker's the one that has to jump them, not me. 3' is really a piece of cake for him, but I'm cantering up to and I swear, I hear Piglet's voice in my head... "P-p-p-pooh? Th-th-th-that looks awfully big..." So, I just stare up at the trees and try to do nothing. I should hum a little tune or something.
I'm working really hard on not interrupting his chain of thought three strides out from the jump. It's somewhat of a miracle to me. My horse is actually thinking for himself. My whole life it has been drilled into me that I had to "find the distance" or that the great riders have a "good eye." Alicia is opening up a whole new world for me, a world where Tucker finds his own distance, and I just stay out of his way. If I can just master the art of doing nothing, it could get really easy. In fact, when I do manage to do nothing, it is really easy. It has got to be one of the coolest feelings in the world when you see that you're going to have to add and realize that your horse is well aware of that fact, already a step ahead of you, collecting his stride all by himself and making the distance work out perfectly. (Really? He can do that? He is a wunderkind!!)
The funny thing is, Alicia can see that I'm trying to force myself not to do anything (she says I'm trying to resist "micromanaging" him -- it's the perfect term). I have this whole crazy dialog with myself from the time I come out of the corner til the time he leaves the ground... "Okay, this is a good canter. Wait? Is it a good canter? I think it is. Maybe not. Okay too late to change it, go with this canter. Does he see something? He does, leave him alone. Wait? Really? Are we going to get there? Close my leg? Add? No, stop it! Don't change anything! Sit still! [Tucker jumps the 3' oxer without batting an eyelash despite his mother's schizophrenia.] Okay, that wasn't bad. Good boy." And so on, and so on.
So today's goal is to take what we learned in the last month or so and apply it. That is: Get a nice canter rhythm and focus on the rhythm (I count 1-2-3-4 the entire way around the course. As I mentioned, I'm five). If I need the lead change, send his hind end forward with my seat and leg, keep the hand soft so he doesn't pull himself through the change and instead reaches under himself from behind. Sit closer to him in the corner as I approach the jump to keep him balanced. Then on the way to the jump, elevate my hands, stretch up tall, stare up at the treeline and try to do absolutely nothing. Nice soft release with my hands, keep my weight down in my heels and my leg forward, and let him jump up to me instead of throwing my body at him.
We have a plan. Now to execute it. And, to find black yarn. To be continued...
Thursday, September 17, 2009
We are currently using both the layered reins and the Irish Martingale. The Irish martingale you see to the right. From what I've read, it's very popular in European racing. I love it because it helps me keep even pressure on both reins and seems to prevent Tucker from bulging through my outside rein contact. It's very subtle, it doesn't seem to come into play too often but it's definitely there when you need it.
The layered reins have also been really effective for us. If you click the link above, you'll see there are loops in the reins through which you put your hands. It has the dual purpose of teaching you the feeling of having your reins short enough all around a course and teaching your horse not to root the reins or yank them out of your hands. Tucker isn't generally a horse that pulls you around, but since he is used to his mother riding with her reins too long, and since he is much more comfortable with a big stride, he sometimes protests the contact and roots the reins to buy himself another foot of stride or so. But the layered reins have really helped him learn not to do that. We used them in the winter, switched back to regular reins, and for the past few weeks have been using them again. This time, Tucker is far more understanding and accepting of the contact. Progress!
So our lesson on Saturday was really great. We were in the indoor due to the rain (ugh) but it was really nice to see how Tucker is so much more balanced and jumping a course in the indoor was a lot easier for him now. We did a verticle on the outside to an oxer on the diagonal, to a 4 stride line on the other outside. Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes the simplest exercises can teach you so much.
For one, I learned that I really truly can just trust Tucker to find his own distance. He comes out of the corner and locks on to the fence like one of those radar guns you see on fighter jets in movies. I learned that once he does that, I need to just kind of follow along and not break his concentration. As Alicia put it, chances are, the decision he made is the right one. I also learned that when the jumps go up to 3 feet, I think I need more canter. I don't. When I just keep the same rhythm I had when it was 2'6", he jumps it right out of stride.
Tucker also seems to have learned from the gymnastics. The 4 stride line was set 3' short, so we had to jump in quietly and stay collected. He jumped in quietly and was so good about landing and staying collected that I actually had to soften and follow down the line to have it work out nicely in four. This is huge for us! It seems we have finally conquered the huge stride problem. He really understands now about jumping in quietly and then keeping that same collected, balanced canter when he lands from the jump. I think fixing my position has helped a lot with that too. Alicia has jacked my stirrups up to my eyeballs (I type lovingly) which has really helped me keep my leg underneath me and thus keep myself balanced and in the middle of the horse (rather than lounging somewhere on his neck and having to peel myself off of him upon landing). When I stay in the middle, he lands balanced, instead of landing on his forehand and then us having to regroup.
I had this great feeling at the end of the lesson. We jumped the diagonal oxer one last time, and I just came out of the corner, lifted my eye, and exhaled. My contact was there but soft, my leg was supporting but not chasing, my shoulder stayed back, and then he just casually, gracefully, artfully jumped this 3' oxer like it was no big deal, landed on his right lead, cantered softly around the corner, and that's the note we quit on. All I could think was: "Wow. Magic." Even now, I get chills just thinking about it.
It's amazing how far we've come. When I think back to the struggles we had a year ago, to being able to comfortably jump around a 3' course, it really does seem like magic. And despite all the troubles in my life right now, for that brief moment, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Needless to say, I'm thoroughly disappointed and will not be ordering from them again. Just a friendly little neighborhood consumer warning!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Then our most recent Whitmere acquisition, an OTTB who is very sensible generally but has probably never been in an indoor ring, let alone at night and lit with flourescent lights joined us for a hand-walk to check the place out. The TB was holding it together but visibly nervous about the indoor, the mirrors, the shadows, etc. (rightfully so). Tucker immediately became tense. I walked for a while so he could relax. Then picked up my trot at the opposite end of the ring from our TB friend. Tucker was clearly holding his breath, but still vaguely listening to me.
Then the TB left. And Tucker was alone. In the indoor ring that he used to know and love but that has now become a torture chamber for unsuspecting equine victims, at least according to this TB who clearly knows something Tucker doesn't. So, Tucker does the only logical thing left for an equine to do. PANIC. SPIN. BOLT.
Yes, for the first time in his sweet little life, he took off with his mother. Thankfully, I was able to point toward the corner and stop at the wall. Unfortunately, due to my current stress level, I got much too mad at him. I raised my voice. I believe there were explitives. The phrase "What were you THINKING?!" may have come out of my mouth.
I realized immediately I had triggered Tucker's ultimate MOM IS MAD AT ME panic button and tried to calm him down. But I wasn't fooling him. I was mad, he was terrified, and now all immobile objects (jumps that he schools over all the time, open doors, mirrors, the radio) were hiding flesh-eating goblins sent to lure Tucker to a horrible demise. And with every spook, my teeth clenched harder. Not helpful. Tucker knows me too well, and teeth clenching is a sure sign that no matter what she says, mom is still mad. And I was. I was furious. Probably not at Tucker, more so at the world in general, but sadly Tucker bolted straight into the line of fire.
Then I got back into the barn aisle. Where I remembered this was supposed to be a light ten to fifteen minute hack. Because Tucker had three shoes. He had lost a hind shoe on our trail ride on Sunday, and I had borrowed Alicia's neoprene/rubber boot for him to wear. Since the footing is really soft in our indoor, I figured a light hack with a boot wouldn't hurt anyone. But then a light hack became Clash of the Titans, and the boot left a rub on his heel. Oh, the pangs of guilt! I inflicted wounds upon my beloved horse. One tasty mint later and Tucker forgot all about the whole ordeal, but I was drowning in a sea of self-loathing. What an irresponsible mother I am!
I cleaned it, medicated, vet wrapped and duct taped, and turned him out for the night. And then I laid awake worrying about it. Picturing my poor mistreated horse limping around his field all night, dragging his damaged limb behind him. Wishing he had a mother who cared about his well-being. . . .
He got the shoe back on yesterday, and the rub isn't much worse than anything he'd do to himself in the field. It doesn't seem to bother him. It's on his heel bulb, which is a difficult spot, so I just have to be careful to keep it as clean as possible so it heals okay.
I rode him last night and purposefully made sure that it was a "happy hack." No spurs, long rein. He thought about spooking at the doors for a minute when I first got on, but I ignored it and he never tried it again. Just testing the waters to see if I was still mad I think. We ended on a very good note. I was cantering a cavaletti on a left lead circle and asked him to wait to it twice, and then the third time I didn't have to do anything except lift my hand and stay back with my shoulder and he waited all on his own. The lines of communication were opened again, no hard feelings.
Reminds me of a comment on Kate's blog, reminding us to work with the horse we have in the present. It's a good lesson for me, one I am constantly having to re-learn, that whatever it is, Tucker will let it go as long as I do too. What I'd really like to overcome in the future is not letting my emotions get the best of me. In hindsight, of course I know Tucker didn't bolt to make me angry or ruin my day, and of course I know that getting "mad" at a horse solves nothing. But it's hard not to react emotionally sometimes. Even when it's a horse you love. Maybe even harder when it's a horse you love.
Sigh. We are a work in progress.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
On the particular site (and by site, I mean money-making scam whereby an internet-based company makes a fortune off of our loneliness) that I'm using, they present you with five eligible bachelors per day, whom you can "archive" or "make active." When I archive these men, as I commonly do, I picture them getting whisked away through the dark musty hallways of some library in the sky to a basement with splotchy flourescent lighting, to be plunked on some metal shelving system amongst microfische and yellowing newspaper, where they will sit with their arms crossed just waiting for some kind soul to "un-archive" them. Perhaps that's due to my long years working at various libraries while I was in school.
The site has a drop-down menu from which you can select your reasons for archiving. For a while, I tried to pick one that fit (Hmm, he has a ponytail and lives with his parents. . . "Professional differences" perhaps?). But I've decided that I need to be able to personalize my drop-down menu. As follows:
- Mentions "Lord of the Rings" in his profile.
- Mentions his mother in his profile.
- Uses the phrase "crazy good times" in his profile. Twice.
- Declines to post a picture but warns his audience that he has long flowing locks and has acquired "a few extra pounds."
- He "hates cats."
- He's not really looking for a career woman, because he wants to have a family someday (that one still makes me fuming mad).
- He's never had a "serious" girlfriend before, but he's sure that now he's ready for a real relationship with someone who's just looking to have a good time.
- He is looking for someone who is honest and loyal, not someone who is going to turn into a back-stabbing liar six months down the road and become a totally different person that the girl he met and eventually ruin his life.
- Over-use of emoticons and/or exclamation points.
- The title of his profile is "Looking for The One;" "Could you be The One;" or "Ready to meet The One."
- Describes himself as down to earth and easy-going (lacks originality).
- Describes himself as an immature goofball who's not ready to grow up.
- Describes himself as a hopeless romantic just waiting for his muse.
So that would be my drop down list, if I were running a dating site. Kind of reminds me of Halt Near X's post about Horse Classified Sites. You don't think I'm being too picky, do you? Of course not, that's what I thought. Surely, there are men out there who wouldn't fall into my thirteen non-negotiable categories of profile faux-pas?
Perhaps I should stick with geldings for a while. . . .
Monday, September 7, 2009
Julie at one-week-old, asleep in my lap
There's just nothing like a hug from a horse, is there?
Yesterday I worked at Whitmere for the day, which meant Tucker got extra spoiled, including breakfast in bed:
I heard that Julie arrived safely at Stones Throw Farm in Florida yesterday morning and got herself a bath. The first group they put her out with wasn't successful because she kept "sticking her nose where it didn't belong," but they were able to put her with a smaller group for now where she seems to be doing okay. I'm relieved that the trip is over.
Lastly, here are some nice shots of Tucker turned out in his field on Saturday night:
Looks like he may have gained a little weight since I last took pictures of him in his field. What do you think?
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I held a bucket of grain and led her to the base of the ramp, with a loose feel on the lead rope. I had my two helpers stand behind her but at a far enough distance not to make her feel crowded. She snorted a minute, then put one foot on the ramp. We all praised her and I let her have a taste of grain. She followed with another big step up the ramp. Another taste of grain and more praise. She stood there for a minute, sniffing the ramp, tasting it, peeking around inside the trailer. I took a deep breath, let her think for a few because she clearly wasn't panicking and was considering following me on. I didn't pull on the lead, but just took another step back toward the inside of the trailer. Her filly buddy called to her and for a minute her ears went back and she lost her focus, but I shook the grain a little and got her focused on me again. Another two steps, all four feet were now on the ramp. A big bite of grain and lots of praise. She stood for a minute, sniffed the wall of the trailer, snorted at the shavings on the floor. I took another big deep breath and let her chill for a moment. Then I took another step back and she just walked right up. My helpers were ready with the ramp and we closed her up without any incident. I fed her the rest of the bucket of grain so she'd remember that she got to eat once she walked on.
We left the partition over to the side (it was secured safely to the wall) so she could spread her legs for balance. Instead of using cross ties, I just secured one tie to the chest bar below her chin, so she couldn't turn herself around in the trailer but couldn't get caught up in the ties either. She started munching hay and we got going. It was about a 45-minute ride, and she shipped like an old pro.
When we got to the new farm, she whinnied a little to the horses in the barn, but was otherwise very calm. It was a little chilly and getting dusk, but I turned the lights on in my trailer and slowly, two of us helped her back off the ramp. She was great, just one foot at a time til she was on the driveway. She then went for a long walk all around with Larry, the owner of Stones Throw Farm, and she was an angel. We led her into a stall for a minute so she could drink and use the little girls' room, and then put her out in a grass paddock for the night next to a three-year-old gelding. She trotted the fence lines with him for five minutes or so but then decided to just put her head down and eat. By this point it was getting pretty dark, so we closed up the trailer, I said my goodbyes and thanks to the owners of Stones Throw, and we headed out.
I have a really good feeling about all this. I was really impressed with the way she handled the shipping. Of course, the Ace did help her stay calm, but she clearly did not want to be bad. She was relaxed, but she was alert, and if she had wanted to fight us or if she was going to panic, she certainly could have. I'm really happy to see that she can be a good girl even in a new situation. I think being in a new place was a little humbling for her, which is not a bad thing for a filly. She will leave for Florida early Friday morning, and Larry will call me once they arrive. I talked to him about coming down in mid-October, and he thinks that's a good idea.
I am relieved and very happy. Amazing how our horses can do that for us.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
First, I am very pleased to report that the martingale I purchased a while ago is now the same color as my schooling bridle. For those of you curious as to what I did to get it from bright yellow newmarket to a deep brown color that matches my havana bridle, I started by thoroughly cleaning with saddle soap to remove the wax, then soaked in Neatsfoot Oil for a few days. Let it sit in the sun to help absorb the oil. Used Hydrophane's darkening oil twice. Then just cleaned with saddle soap and oiled with Neatsfoot Oil every time I rode for the past three weeks, and now it's finally dark enough to match my Havana bridle. I've decided to use it as my show martingale, to dress up my plain tack a little (my other martingale is flat, this one is plain raised, so it's a little nicer looking). The next step will be to upgrade our show bridle. When Beval's has their big sale in February, I'm considering buying this one or this one and they may match the new martingale pretty closely. I have heard you can get them for about half their regular price during the sale. We'll see if February's budget will allow for that.
Second, I have decided to treat Tucker for a month with Omeprazole for his tummy trouble. I have not had him scoped but I put him on Maalox for a week, noticed a difference, and now that he's not had the Maalox for ten days, I thought he was pretty cranky off my leg last night. As I'm sure you all know, Maalox is not a treatment, but it just helped soothe the symptoms for a bit so we could decide if his behavior was stomach related. I found Omeprazole for $25.64 per tube if you order it in a batch of 14 at Omeprazole Direct. This is the best price I've found, even compared with buying UlcerGard or GastroGard through a local vet. I'm really hoping that it becomes more affordable this year now that the patent is up. As we go forward, I will probably treat him with one dose of Omeprazole before any stressor, such as a trailer ride, major change in routine (like when we stop night turnout for the winter), or a horse show.
Third, I've also started Tucker on SmartPaks. The organizational aspect and the auto-refill option has always appealed to me, and now he's going to be on three supplements so it makes sense for logistical reasons. Tucker has been on Grand Complete for about a year, which is a multi-vitamin supplement with lots of good stuff for joints, coat, and hooves. I tried A.B.C.'s Plus for the past month or so because I heard in the barn aisle that it helped with weight gain. It aids with digestion and nutrient absoprtion, so I figured it wouldn't hurt, but I haven't noticed a difference in his weight. So, I asked the COTH Hunter/Jumper forum and got quite a few recommendations for Cool Calories. It's not expensive, and it's basically like feeding vegetable oil but not as messy, so that's what we're going to try first. I'm also putting him on SmartGut, to help with the tummy trouble. To aid with weight gain, we've also added soaked beet pulp to Tucker's diet.
I have to say that the SmartPak representative was really helpful. Whitmere has a barn buddies account, which is a great idea and saves on shipping costs. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in shipping supplements to the farm for multiple horses.
Julie moves tonight from her current location to Stones Throw's NJ facility, and ships to Florida by Friday. They wanted her a couple of days early so that she can get oil before the long trip. I like the concientiousness already. Wish my luck getting my little kick-boxing filly on the trailer! (Don't worry, there will be drugs -- not letting anyone get hurt). I'll let everyone know how that goes tomorrow. Thanks again for all your supportive comments about my decision.