Monthly Archives: July 2010

Good rides on Faeryn and Faxx

I rode Faeryn in the field twice this week – working mostly on lateral work and small ‘forward and back’ at trot and canter. Also working on her right lead canter, which has always been her weakest. She really wants to flex her neck to the outside any chance she gets, which really destroys the quality of her canter. It is up to me to really maintain my position so she can’t ‘fall apart.’  Since I plan to show her in the HDS schooling show championships in December, and she will have to show First 4, we also need to work on changing the lead through the trot across the diagonal, 10 meter circles, leg yields and canter and trot lengthenings and a shallow loop at the canter, which includes a bit of counter canter.  There is a huge amount of canter in First 4 and that will be Faeryn’s biggest challenge – to maintain the quality of the canter and her balance in the canter. She is getting better and I like riding her in the field. I need to drag some poles out there and start trotting her through them to help get her stronger – her wonky stifle is still a bit weak and needs strengthening. I’ve been doing a lot of reinback (and she’s gotten super at it) but trotting over poles will help even more.

I also rode Faxx twice this week and he was super. This evening I rode through most of the movements from First 4, and did 90% of the trot work sitting with no trouble. The biggest challenge for Faxx will be changing the lead across the diagonal through the trot. To start, this evening I simply asked him to make a good downward near X, and instead of trying to get a good change, I waited until near the corner to ask for the new lead. Now I just need to find some schooling shows to get him to so we can ride through some First level tests for practice for next year. I’m not going to take Faxx to the schooling show Championships – it’s just not conducive to taking two horses to that.

I am anxious to ride Fling but she is still  just slightly off. Hopefully by tomorow she will be rideable – and I will take it very, very easy for the first week – no canter and only about 15-20 minutes of trot. I think I overdid it last week and she re-bruised her foot. I had such a good ride on her last week I can’t wait to get her back in regular work!

Next week it’s supposed to be the hottest it’s been all summer. Yipee. Not. I love my hometown, but I would not be adverse to living somewhere cooler during the summer when I finally (hopefully!) retire. It has to have good dressage trainers, tho! LOL!

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Faxx’s vacation is over – and Fling is a little better

I think it’s rained every day this week, but so far not enough to curtail riding. Faxx was overdue to be ridden – he’s been on ‘vacation’ since we got back from the Regional Championships.

I wasted no time – today we started schooling first/second in earnest. We did leg yields, some ‘baby’ shoulder-in, some ‘back and forth’ at trot and canter and did a few ‘attempts’ at a canter/walk transition. He is a ways from being able to do a proper one – but he is coming down and remaining ‘through’ and connected and just takes two or three steps of trot before the walk. As he gets stronger the number of walk steps will decrease – but the main thing is to keep him connected and through.  I also tried to sit the trot more than usual, in preparation for showing him first level at some schooling shows this fall. The new dressage tests come out this fall and are effective Dec. 1 and posting the trot will be allowed in the new tests. However, I need to be able to sit his trot reliably – but being able to post a few strides here or there to rebalance him will be helpful. Other changes in store in the new tests include 3 tests at each level instead of 4 at Training-Second, and every test will be 6 minutes long. Currently First 4 is the longest National (Training-Fourth) test, at 6:30. i am hoping they will get rid of some of the canter work – it’s ridiculous — you do 15m canter circles each direction, you do a shallow canter loop each direction and you canter across each diagonal – doing a change through trot one direction and then finally trot at X the final direction in canter. First 4 goes on FOREVER.

I lunged Fling briefly last night and this evening to gauge her soundness – she was a bit sounder last night and even sounder still tonight. Instead of an abscess, I think I just rode her a bit too hard before her bruised foot had totally healed – and perhaps re-bruised it. I think I may be able to ride her tomorrow, but the next time i do ride her (Faeryn will most likely be my ‘victim’ tomorrow) I will do a light ride with no canter work.

 

Fling is lame – again!

My vet warned me this would probably happen – that Fling would have abscesses as a result of her sole bruising from the *&(% pinch-hit shoer who trimmed her too short when my regular farrier ‘forgot’ and was in Oklahoma.

I rode her Sunday and was having a great ride – super good trot work and good canter work. I’d ridden her almost 45 minutes when she felt ‘funny’ at the canter.I was about done anyway, so walked her back to the barn, untacked her and put her in the round pen to watch her. Only took about three strides to see she was clearly lame on the left front. She did not have a detectible digital pulse on either foot. Now this is the weird thing. I KNOW she was not lame during most of our ride. I can only speculate that possibly getting her circulation up and getting her warm got her blood pumping – and magnified the pressure in her foot from a probably-brewing abscess. She had no sign of any sort of soft tissue injury. I had Mike turn her out today and I’ll see how she is this evening. The good thing about abscesses is that they will ‘self-regulate’ their exercise according to their pain level, and walking around (or even galloping) on an abscess will not cause more damage – unlilke a soft tissue injury. If she is still off this evening I will start poulticing her to encourage whatever is brewing to come to a head.

Faxx had a ‘cow pattie’ moment after he came in from the pasture for dinner and I got all worried he was going to colic or something – so I even set my alarm and got up at 2 a.m. to check on him. Scared me at first because he was lying down – but fortunately he had several perfectly normal poop piles in his stall – he probably just ate a weed that disagreed with him.

It’s always something. Our local SPCA has taken in 100 neglected miniature horses – a friend asked me if I was interested in adopting one. Heck no, I replied. I have enough work taking care of the horses I can actually RIDE!

My ‘wild child’

Faeryn is most definitely the ‘wild child’ of my three. She is the ‘hottest’– meaning most reactive to external stimuli — on top her natural ‘drama queen’ tendencies. 😉  And I say that very fondly. This is the horse that, as a 2 year old (probably the age most equivalent to that package of raging hormones known as a teenage girl) laid on the ground MOANING out loud when she had a mild illness. You really would have thought (and I did, having little experience yet with her histrionics) that she was dying. And when I called my vet (who she had JUST visited fo meds for her mild virus) that is what I said to him – “Is she DYING?  Do I need to take her someplace else to see if there’s something else seriously wrong with her?”  He was as baffled as I was, since, when he examined her, her bodily parameters – temp, respiration, heartbeat, etc. – showed NO indication of severe pain, serious illness, etc.  Yet there she laid, flat out on the ground, audibly moaning and groaning as in some sort of death throes. So we did, indeed, take her to a second  vet – who, with the help of an endoscope, diagnosed an ulcer, brought on from her not eating for 24 hours – albeit an ulcer so small it was almost undetectable. And that is how we learned to take Faeryn’s dramatic performances with a big dose of salt. 😉  She is sort of the same way under saddle. A loose dog, other horses running, loud music – any of these are enough to turn Faeryn into a whirling blur of equine insecurity. It’s just my job to stay on top of her long enough for her to ‘get over it’ — which she does, usually very quickly, and then she goes about her business like nothing untoward had ever happened.

And such was the case yesterday when I rode her in the field. This was her most dramatic performance to date – first, two loose dogs appeared from behind us, and although I hollered at them and they turned around and left before they even broached our property, that was enough to send Faeryn into a tailspin – literally. Then, when the other horses got excited and started running around at the sound of my hollering at the dogs, it was katy bar the door. The good thing is, nothing Faeryn does really ever scares me. If it had been Faxx spinning in circles, backing up, leaping around, etc., I would have had been petrified.  I think it’s something to do with owning and riding Faeryn’s mother for 18 years, and riding big sis Fling for 7 years now. Neither of them either dumped me. Faeryn has dumped me twice! Neither unplanned dismount happened in a dramatic fashion – she got me launched each time while we were just doodling around at a walk when something spooked her and she jumped. So, yesterday, I just took the inside rein short to turn her in a circle with one hand, and grabbed the outside rein and the bucking strap in the other and just sat up an rode it out. She was very mad that she could not bolt in a straight line toward her buddies at the far side of the ten acres. And there is a part of me that always marvels at how animated and wonderful her gaits get when she is in full-blown panic mode. 😉 

When she calmed down yesterday I got wonderful canter – very balanced and in super self carriage. The key to her canter is to keep her bent around my inside leg and keeping her inside hind leg active. If I let up with my inside leg aids pushing her to outside rein, her natural reaction is to throw her shoulder to the inside and her haunches out, which makes her canter almost unrideable – it feels like trying to ride a jackhammer. Her lateral work is naturally quite good – I ride her in shoulder fore almost all of the time, but she can also do a proper shoulder-in quite well – and her leg yields are quite good. Still working on lengthening the stride at the canter. She does that much better out in the field than in the arena.

Fling goes back to work

It’s been a weird week, with rain almost every day. While I was tacking Fling up, we got another shower that made me curse, but fortunately it stopped quickly, and instead of making sauna-like conditions like it usually does here, it got pleasantly cooler. And – the mosquitoes are all but gone. Now if that stuff that’s circulating in the Gulf would just go away and go somewhere else. We’ve had more than our share of rain this month!

It’s been probably two weeks since Fling has been ridden at more than a walk due to her shoeing mishap.So, I really did not plan to have a ‘serious’ ride tonight but she felt GREAT. From the get-go, her canter was up, and collected and she was listening to my seat aids and my half halts. So, for the first time in probably two months, I rode through some of the canter work from third level. I am still not quite happy with the half pass to the right, BUT I did flying changes from the half pass in both directions AND across the short diagonal in both directions and got ALL of them CLEAN. Amazing! I asked for four changes and got four clean changes!  She felt super and I quit right after the last clean change and gave her a good bath! I got as wet as she did, but that was ok, it was so hot.

 

Life returns to ‘normal’ – whatever that is

I really did mean to ride Monday, but just could not find the motivation, mainly due to the heat and mosquitoes. And with rain on Monday, and more rain predicted during the week, it doesn’t look like the mosquitoes are going to get better anytime soon.

But, fortunately, the heat and the skeeters abated a bit yesterday and I actually rode Faeryn for the first time in – well, I don’t know how long it’s been. One of the best things about Faeryn is that you can go a week or ten days without riding her, and pretty much pick up right where you left off. But now is the time to get serious with her training, regardless of heat and skeeters. Her lateral work is good and she is learning to canter from walk. but I need to raise the bar if I want to show her second level at schooling shows next year. She needs to be stronger in her hind end – she has the ‘weakest’ hind end construction of the three, but I know that can improve a lot with good work. I am thinking of taking her to Cathy Strobel (the hunter trainer who helped me prep her for the Oldenburg Mare Performance Test) and taking some regular over-fences lessons with her. That really helps her canter work.  Her canter can feel wonderful – or like cr*p. The most common reason for it to feel awful and hard to ride is when she does not have enough bend, and does not step through with her inside hind. Of course that is MY responsibility. 😉  The next area we need to really work on is her ‘adjustability’ in all gaits — ie she needs to be able to lengthen and shorten like an accordian. She is getting there with the trot, but the canter needs a lot of work. I think I am going to show her one more time at training level to try and get a better median. Her first two scores at her first recognized score were very low – and I would like a chance to drop one of those. I think I will take her to one day of the HDS Labor Day show.

Fling gets her left shoe put back on today and hopefully she’ll be back in full work tomorrow. Her back leg is a bit swollen below the cut/puncture, but there is no heat and the wound itself has healed nicely with no drainage, etc.

Faxx is still on ‘R and R’ and probably won’t get ridden untilt he weekend.

Regional wrap-up

Got home around 7 last night and was beat by the time I unloaded stuff that HAD to be unloaded – meaning sweaty, stinky clothes that probably would mildew if left one minute longer in the trailer! It rained a bit on me in several places on the way home and rained last night after I put the horses in. Great. Just what we need – more mosquitoes.

Faxx had a good ride in his first test on Sunday – the Adult Amateur to Ride Championship. I remembered how he was so bargy hitting the AC the day before and so I cantered one lap around the perimeter before the judge rang the bell, and then did ‘micro serpentines’ to get him listening to my leg and bending on one long side just before heading down center line. It worked. He was much better –  and scored a 68.8 –  not our best test – but far better than the day before. We were sitting in first place until the very last rider – who had been added into the schedule and actually rode 30 minutes after everyone else in the class. I watched the ride and it was a pleasant ride, but the horse was not really on the bit once during the ride, and also appeared slightly off in the front during several movements.So I was a bit surprised when they scored a 70. But, that’s horse showing. There were 12 in that class.

He warmed up well for our last ride, the Half Arabian Open Training Championship 1.5 hours later and again, upon hitting the AC in the show ring, I cantered and did serpentines like before. He was working well as we trotted down centerline to X. However, a runner picking up tests was standing right in front of the judge’s stand as we had to trot from X to C and Faxx just completely fell apart. He came off contact, was bouncing up and down and just never recovered for that whole first trot ‘tour.’ It was a disaster and we scored a 60. A new low. I was furious. Runners are not supposed to be IN the arena during a test in progress. Nothing to do but complain to the show office. It was not the first time they had this problem during the show. Amazingly enough, we still were 5th out of 11, just barely making the Top 5!

So, the final recap was 3 championships, 1 reserve championship and 3 Top 5s. He finished in the money in every class, for a total of $505 in prize money. That covered half of my entry fees! It would have covered a larger percentage of the entry fees except for the fact I got him a double stall. But that was money well spent – he was much happier this year.

I am going to have to rethink what I want to do for next year. This is the second year he competed in dressage at the Arab Regionals and also the second year he performed way below what he does at open, recognized shows. I think the largest problem is going from the heat of the warm up to the cool competition ring. Another factor may be that the dressage is at the end of the four-day show.I am very tempted to only enter the sport horse division next year. Fortunately, due to the way scores are calculated, our two lowest scores will not count toward our USDF median score, which, before Regionals was 69.6 for the Arabian All Breed Awards and 69% for the open all-breed division. You can only use 2 scores from any one judge, so that would knock out our 60%. Then, if you have more than the 8 minimum scores, they will drop one low score, which takes care of the 62. But the 68.8 we got was still lower than our median, so will drop our score a bit.  The issue with him ‘bracing’ when he hits the cold(er) air of the competition arena does not hurt him in the sporthorse classes – because it is a rail class, he does not have to bend, and if he is a bit ‘up’ it does not hurt him at all – and, in fact, probably helps.

I am not sure who was happier to be home – me or the horses. Faeryn, bless her heart, has spent 4 days being chewed on by mosquitoes. She is probably actually the happiest of all that we are home, since now she comes into the barn at night. She is also the only one who still has scratches, since they were not treated while we were gone. So that is Job 1 this week with her. Faxx gets a few days off, Fling needs a new shoe and Faeryn will get ridden every day this week, weather (and mosquitoes!) permitting. They are so bad, our county is doing aerial spraying. I kept wondering why these planes were BUZZING our house before I left for Regionals – and then I realized!