Tuesday, March 31, 2009
So last night to kick off our "spring break" hubby and I went out to the barn to just let Louie run around and have fun in the arena for a few minutes. I put a few chains on him, we got out the whip with the plastic bag, and let him strut his stuff around the arena. This generally works better with a horse who is stalled, as it's more fun to see them showing off with all of that bottled up energy. Now if those neighbor boys would have been there today that would have been good- but we got some pretty nice trotting and snorting out of him. :) And I think Louie had fun too- except for the fact that he got a shot. Darn them spring vaccinations!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
After yesterday's rather disappointing ride, working on bending and flexing, leg yields and 3-tracking at the walk mostly, I tried to make a point today to work on the basic stuff first and make sure that was down pat, then try something harder, and go back to basics again- basically alternating between the things Louie is good at and working on the things that frustrate him a little bit at a time. I also added in a new obstacle today, not for added challenge necessarily, but for interest- a couple of poles to walk and trot over. Louie has done this before so it's not like it's a brand new thing. He did the poles pretty well, and the first half of the ride today went quite well- Louie wanted to trot long and low so I let him stretch his neck out and down like a hunter. He went along really happily and we worked on circles, walking and trotting, bending and flexing just the basics. Then we worked on the ground poles, that went well, so some haunches in at the walk- that went okay as well (better than yesterday). We were about 15 minutes into the ride and I thought, hey, let's just try a canter since he did it so nicely in the lunge line warm up. In the warm up Louie got his right lead about 3-4 times out of 4 or 5 (well, at least he switched his front to the right lead after picking up the wrong- so that counts in my book for now). So under saddle, tracking to the right, even when I set him up in a corner, haunches in, head bent to the middle, he STILL picked up the left lead! Multiple times! Argh. Well at least he cantered on cue and did it fairly manageably.
Then all of a sudden, Louie spotted the two neighbor boys playing with their monster trucks and driving them up close to the arena- HOLY spaz! We went cantering around, then trotting like a show horse! Tail up over the back, ears to the sky, snorting- I knew that was in him somewhere! Well this would have been okay if his whole body weren't hard as a rock during this episode and if he'd listened to my cues AT ALL during it. As soon as the initial scare was over, I just went with it and we trotted for a bit. Well now he is all wound up trotting fast, he's back chewing on the bit, tense, unresponsive to my cues. . . so I guess I didn't really have much choice other than to ride it out until he settled down. Unfortunately this sent us back down that spiral. I was really getting the impression that Louie thought he was (and he probably was) the one doing the driving at this point and that made me even more frustrated and doubting myself. :( After a ways in that spiral I caught us and we tried to go back to something he knows- walking and halting with my seat (which he used to do beautifully). That was frustrating because he wasn't really listening and his brain was fried by now, so I decided the whole lesson had to end because we had gone past what I wanted to accomplish and we were both frustrated, so I waited until he did a decent halt off of my seat, and got off.
Neither Louie nor I were very happy these past 2 days. I am at that point where I am doubting my abilities as a trainer and feeling very stuck with where we're at and this whole teeth grinding thing, as what I want most of all is a happy horse- and that is not what I've had the past couple of days. I think what needs to happen is I need to make a schedule of what we're going to work on so I am forced to not go beyond my plan and keep lessons short and fun for both of us. We also need to get the variety back in our routine- which is really hard to convince myself to do only being able to work him so infrequently with such limited facilities and unpredictable weather. I also need to get back into my Cherry Hill book- it was a really nice reference for teaching the basics, I bet it will be a good reference for getting through some of these rough spots as well. I also am going to look into a yoga/pilates class for myself and possibly some dressage lessons to supplement. As for Louie- I think he needs a little bit of a break from riding. We'll go back to long lining, free lunging, and walks around the block and try some other things.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
I hopped on and we walked for a while, then back at the lesson. I worked on getting him bent properly, and tried to concentrate on my form (looking to the middle of the ring, turning hips), and not dropping his face, then from the walk I cued him for the canter and off he went on the right lead (the second time I asked him- the first time he just trotted). Good boy! We tried it again and he got it again- yay! Change directions and try the other way quickly for some variety- he picked up the left lead beautifully and cantered a couple of laps while I worked on half-halts and urging him to keep moving forward in a more controlled, steady frame.
By now he has given up his lovely little loap that he did the first few times I cantered him and has been working on his Kentucky Derby tryouts- particularly at the ends of the arena. So one more time we wanted to try the right lead, so I changed directions, set him up and asked and oops- took the left lead. We just let him go for a bit- he started veering off the rail, aiming for the middle of the arena and gaining speed (oh this isn't looking good), I'm trying to balance him, slow him down, and turn him in attempts to at least cut the arena short cuz we're never going to make this tight of a turn at this speed- and the next thing I knew, we were about 2 feet closer to the ground, feet scrambling underneath us, and we came out of a near disaster on the right lead! Whew! Thank God we survived that one- without injuries nonetheless! And we even got the right lead out of it!
We cooled out by walking serpentines and small circles, working on bending the whole body and not loosing our caboose (the stable's instructor was giving a lesson in the beginning of Louie's lunge session- instructing her rider with train station vocabulary, so I thought this was fitting). It is quite clear that Louie is very stiff to the right and I need to work more on bending and probably need to do some tying around to the right- perhaps I need to find a yoga class for myself too! Well now that we have halfway decent footing at home I can get back to working on the bending and flexing between lessons. So that's my homework!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I rolled up my jeans and we headed out for the mudbath. I wish I had my camera today, there would have been some great pictures. We worked on the first half of the lesson from Sunday, trying to pick up the right lead on the lunge line. It took a LOT of attempts, but he actually did get it a few times at the end (actually at the very beginning I started him out to the left and he picked up the right (wrong) lead right away- hmmmm), but he wouldn't keep going on the right (correct) lead very long by the end of the lesson. I kept trying to end the lesson by asking him to stop before he quit on me, but he kept breaking into the trot after only one or two strides (I can't blame him, I'm sure he was tired and confused from being broken back to the trot so many times when he got the wrong lead). Finally I got my timing right and after 2 strides on the right lead, asked him to stop. This is going to need lots more work, two steps back, one step forward, but I can see the lightbulb come on, so I have faith that he'll get it. The good thing about this whole ordeal is that he's getting into shape, and he is much more eagar to canter now than he was and is taking it easily with the cues- should make cantering under saddle that much easier. And, absolutely no goofing off today- yay!! I long lined him yesterday in the pasture with blinkers on and he did great then too- no cantering (intentionally), but the blinkers make a huge difference with him in getting him to work and not play.
Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me after our lesson today with the cooling out and clean up. ;) A bath would have been so much easier. haha
Sunday, March 15, 2009
We started out on the lunge line with the line through the bit and over his poll for a little extra help in getting our message across to him. After just a little while trotting to warm up, we worked on the canter- getting our transitions, understanding the cue, and no goofing off. After a few corrections he responded quite nicely picking up his left lead on the lunge line. So we switched sides to his more challenging side- tracking to the right. He really didn't want to pick up his right lead, but we were able to get it out of him a few times. By the time we were done lunging, he was already quite warm and sweaty, but he was starting to get the message and was picking up the canter quite easily off of a kiss.
So I hopped on and we walked for a while to let him catch his breath. Then we set out to accomplish our goal and finish what we had started. Tracking to the right, from the walk I asked Louie to canter (we've never asked for it from the walk before). He took a few trot strides then leaped into the canter on the left lead, meanwhile giving one of his bucks/kicks into the wall. I (as instantly as I could), doubled him up and gave him a couple of good whacks on the butt with the crop. He only tried that number one other time, got reprimanded for it, then gave it up- at least for today. We tried about a million times to get that right lead, and finally at the end he took it, so we called it good, hopped off and cooled him out.
All in all he was pretty good and made some big progress today- he is cantering much easier off of the cue, even if it's usually on the wrong lead. And Sandy, being able to observe the ride, reassured me that Louie's kicking out is in resentment of my leg against his side when I cue him- just something he needs to get over and learn not to kick out at. Also, him not continuing to kick out beyond the first few departures was reassuring that there isn't some deeper, more serious issue going on.
So here is my assignment for the next time I am able to work him at the canter (not at home):
1. warm up on the lunge line, with canter transitions, particularly to the right, working on inside bend, smaller circles, and pushing from behind into that lead. Work until we get it.
2. work primarily on the canter, and if he kicks out, discipline him.
3. transition by turning my head towards the inside, pushing left hip into the saddle, turning Louie's head to the inside, and cueing for the canter as we make a turn out of a corner. I am not to throw the bridle away as I usually have, because this unbalances him and I lose control of the steering. If he needs the added encouragement, use the whip. Work on this from the walk.
So that's it. It was a great lesson for Louie, and he was VERY tired by the end, but it was much needed and even though we over-worked him, we accomplished a lot today.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
So Louie and I loaded up and drove over to ride (he was a good boy again with the trailering, I'm so proud of him!). When we got there he was rather anxious- he was acting a bit like Social used to, something I've never seen from him. He is usually so calm and cool about things, but he settled down once we got working. They have mirrors in the arena there and Louie had a lot of fun trying to figure out who that handsome horse in the mirror was! Very cute. Anyhow, I lunged him a bit to wear off some of that excess energy and loosen him up and I have not seen him move so nice and floaty before. He had the most goregous trot (not a high animation trot, but long strided, lofty, and great impulsion from the hind end)- I was super impressed. So I hopped on and went for a ride. He did very nicely with all the tests that were put out for him. The barn crew threw hay down from the loft into the arena while we were in there, walked through with hay and shavings carts, and he didn't care at all. :) He was thinking "hmmm, food? for me??"
All in all, Louie did very well today, but I did notice some things that are going to need work. A few issues I see coming up for us are:
#1. Walking too lazily (yes, I never thought this would be a problem, lol). I had to encourage him to walk faster several times today- now I don't mind doing that, but his walk will need to be with a little more purpose once he gets to the show ring, and transitions up from the walk will need to happen a little bit easier in the future.
#2. Leaning on the bridle at the trot. I noticed this today and last Tuesday, I think it is because he and I are not finding a consistent headset and Louie enjoys chewing on his bit. We are having a struggle between up, down and flex, and it is mostly at the trot. I'm not sure if it is a balance problem or he doesn't know where he wants to carry his head, or maybe I'm asking too much of him (perhaps I want his head higher than he does). I put together a new set up to try for him, with a Dr. Bristol copper mouth half-cheek snaffle and a german martingale, so maybe I'll give that a try. The vet will be out in a few weeks to check his teeth, so we'll clear that issue. In the meantime, hopefully Sandy will be able to help us figure that one out.
#3. Bucking in the canter. Yes we are still bucking/kicking in the canter. He wants to do it just about every time I ask him for it. Today the only time I think he actually did was once we were already in the canter, just going along fine, whereas it is usually in the cueing process that he does it. I really don't know what the problem is. He also hasn't taken his right lead in the past few rides, but that's okay for now. I'm wondering if he is sore or I'm not sitting it well enough, or if he is just protesting or what the problem is. We cantered a few times today and he bucked once, on the first or second canter out of about 3 or 4. I really don't know what is going on or if this is typical? He can be a bit of a bugger at times- shakes his head and tries to goof off under tack (usually at the very beginning of the ride). I'm hoping that this will just go away once I'm able to work him more regularly and he doesn't have so much extra energey and terrible two's type attitude.
Anyhow, I'm hoping that we'll be able to find answers to these challenges (they shouldn't be too tough to solve). Tomorrow Sandy is supposed to meet me at Mel-o-dee, so hopefully she will have some words of wisdom for me. :)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Fly is totally the instigator here, and I'm sure the culprit behind Louie's shredded blankets. But boy don't these guys have fun!
Louie usually doesn't play along too much, mostly just stands there and wards Fly off, but he kinda got into it today.
I'm so glad my horse is the one keeping most of his feet on the ground!Believe it or not, Louie is ahead of Fly in the pecking order. He just likes to show his dominance by proving that he can be lazy and still win the battle. Aren't horses funny?
Monday, March 9, 2009
So I tacked him up in his Old Mac's and standard english tack and headed out of the barn. I hopped on in the driveway again (this time without incident) and walked down to the pasture to begin our workout- yielding the forehand, yielding the haunches, bending and flexing to begin. He is remembering well and actually becoming more in-tune with my cues and more sensitive to them! On his right, where he tended to be a little more tough before, he is yielding beautifully! Then I asked him for something new- a sidepass. At first he moved his forehand, then I slid my foot back just a bit and he moved the haunches. Good boy. Repeat with the leg as close to the middle as I can and he did it- took a step with both front and back legs! Good boy! Repeat, walk, and try the other side. I think he is starting to grasp the concept, but once again is harder on his right side. I think with more work this one will come along well.
Then we went out to the "rail" and walked, practicing doing some serpentines and working on our steering in general. We also worked on more vertical flexion and self-carriage (aka- don't lean on the bridle) and that all went very well, though Louie continues to grind his teeth in this set up- not sure if it's the bit (different than the one I use for LL'ing) or the whole concept of riding. Anyhow, we'll worry about that later. As expected, the melting snow has left several minature lakes and streams throughout the pasture. I was quite interested to see what Louie would do, since most horses I've owned in the past will go FAR out of their way to avoid a puddle. So I aimed Louie straight for a big puddle and ta-da! He went right through it no questions asked! He didn't miss a beat! Woohoo! So I aimed him for a few more, and like an old pro, he walked through all kinds of puddles, one of them was even a couple inches deep! Yay! Good boy! After a while, puddles weren't quite so exciting, so we decided to do just a little bit of trotting work. Now the ground is still rather hard and uneven, so I wanted to take it pretty easy, so we went at a very slow trot, almost more of a jog. I couldn't quite tell because of the less than ideal footing, but he didn't look sore, so we continued on at a slow trot. After a little bit of a warm up, we worked on some leg yielding and bending at the trot- not as much of a response, but he got the idea and I think he enjoyed that challenge. So plodding right along, we took some puddles at the trot- splash splash right through them! 'Ata boy!
For a cool down, I walked him down the driveway towards the road (the barn is maybe 200 yards from the road- it's a long driveway). There were no cars in sight, so we headed out onto the road. We just walked about 1 minute total on the road before I decided not to push my luck with the possibility of a car speeding by and spooking him, so we turned around and headed back home. He was a perfect angel on the road, but he's not ready to handle cars passing him with a rider quite yet. All in all, it was a really fun day- splashing through puddles and going on a peaceful "mini trail ride" down the driveway- big accomplishments for an almost 3 year old!
Saturday, March 7, 2009
I came to the conclusion a couple of weeks ago, when I was thinking about trailering over to work Louie, that I really wasn't accomplishing a whole lot riding him once every other week. . . in training or conditioning. So I just gave that a rest until there were signs of hope that spring would eventually be here and I would eventually be able to work him more regularly. Well, we've had several days in a row with highs up to 40 degrees! It has been beautiful- and most of the snow has melted. Unfortunately we're expecting another cold snap and a snow storm up to 12 inches possible on Tuesday- so everything will freeze and be covered in snow and ice again. . . argh. Well at least I trust that it won't stick around too long. Spring is coming and thus it is time to get back to work!
So back to Louie- I just long lined him today. A good start back after about a month off of any real work. I decided that, since he can be a little squirley at times, I would use a blinker hood today to keep him focused. I think I've only put it on him once before for some lunging. Wow did that make a difference! He paid attention to me and didn't pull any funny business or try to tangle himself up in the lines like he sometimes does. We had the whole arena to ourselves and I brought my tennis shoes (easier to run in than boots), so we did lots of trotting the whole arena, and I think I got a better work out than Louie did!
After a real good warm up (I was panting), working on walking and trotting serpentines and on the rail and off, stopping, etc, we did a little bit of canter work. We made circles about 1/3 the size of the arena. Louie did alright with that, but he has really taken to kicking out when asked to canter. Not sure if this is just because he is excited or confused or what, but the first time or two in each direction that I asked him, he kinda goofed off shook his head or kicked on his way into the canter. I made an angry noise at him, then praised him after a couple of strides of canter and by the 3rd or 4th departure in each direction he had given up doing the wild horse show. I hope that with more regular work this behavior will go away- as I don't really enjoy it under saddle either. Unfortunately I find it really hard to discipline him for this when long lining because I don't want to canter him in such a tight circle that I can reach him with my whip, and I don't really have any way to discourage it from that far away besides vocally showing disapproval. So, we'll work through it and hope it goes away. The good thing is- he is going pretty nicely off of a kiss- and some persuasion from the whip on the ground once in a while too.
After that we cooled out, untacked, and headed home for lunch. All in all I was really happy with him, as it had been a while since we've done any real work, and it's probably been a couple of months since we were last able to long line. Hopefully I will be able to bring him back again tomorrow and get back into more of a regular work schedule with him. Daylight savings starts tomorrow- hooray!