Sunday, December 29, 2013

Training Catch Up & Dressage Question

With all the holiday excitement and year end reflection, I realize it's been too long since I've actually posted about Hemie and I in our training.

We got our first jumping lesson in over a month last Saturday! Laurie can't drive yet (shoulder still recovering) but her dear friend Debbie brought her to the barn and graciously acted as jump-setter too.

We set the jumps fairly low (+/- 2') but I must have still been a little nervous at first because I had a hard time giving him the reins on approach and properly releasing them over jumps. We settled into normalcy soon, though, and I could tell Hemie was happy because he was trying to lock onto every jump!

We did 2 exercises: first was our old standby of getting more or less strides in a line. We did a 2-stride vertical to oxer in alternating 2 strides and 3 strides, both directions. Then we  worked on doing some tight turns directly after fences, and we had no problem. Hemie was a rock star. By the end of the ride we just were adding jumps left and right, no set course, just free flowing through all of them.

Laurie paid us the huge compliment of saying "you are so ready to move up" which is good since I had already mailed in our entries for the Galway Downs winter HT in February for BN!

Laurie can't do weekday lessons yet, so we've been dressagin' on our own still. I've been doing exercises from the Dr. Christian Schacht clinic, focusing on using more seat and body and less hands. I'm working on finessing the canter cue as well as keeping the right lead when bending right (so hard for Mr. Ex-racehorse!).

One concept promoted by Dr. Schacht (and also Chemaine Hurtado back in March) stands in fairly direct conflict with the approach Laurie has me do: and that is whether or not to ask the horse to get on the bit right away in the ride, and with the help of rein contact/half-halts.  Laurie has me asking for contact and shape right away, using rein squeezing in addition to inside leg, whereas Dr. Schacht and Chemaine promote patience and having contact arise organically through bending exercises.

My dear readers, kindly please share your thoughts and methods for when and how to get your horse on the bit! What do you think of these 2 approaches?

Friday, December 27, 2013

2014 Goals

I love goals. They don't always love me, but I love them anyway. I have both action goals and results goals, so that I feel accomplished by doing things even if I don't produce desired outcomes.

Sarah & Bohemian's 2014 Goals
  • XC school at 2 new venues.
  • Show at 2 new venues.
  • Participate in 4 clinics and/or lessons with other trainers.
  • Improve our dressage scores from 2013.
  • Become 100% solid at Beginner Novice. 
  • Set and review specific goals each quarter. 

By the end of the year I want to feel that we are getting to be more competitive at Beginner Novice. Not necessarily in the ribbons, but hopefully in the top half of the field (rather than towards the bottom/dead last).

I really love how some other bloggers regularly review their goals, and that's something I'm going to try this year. Setting specific goals (say, learning to canter from the walk) will help give structure to working towards our annual goals.

Note I didn't specify "good" photos/artwork. 
Blogging Goals
  • More photos & artwork.
  • Regular design updates.
  • Overall beautification & streamlining.
  • Continue posting 2-3 times per week.

Only during this past year have I started to think about blog improvement, and with helpful and inspiring posts such as this one from TSB and this one from SMTT I think that Eventing In Color can become a better blog in 2014.

Personal Goals
  • Keep better track of horsey budget & expenses.
  • Lose 15 lbs.
  • Organize my garage.
  • Be better about remembering birthdays.

Wishing Hemie and I and all of our readers best wishes for a great 2014!  May all of us either reach our goals, or go with the flow to whatever the universe has in store for us this coming year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wishing you...

Happy Holidays!

Sarah & Bohemian (aka Mr. Twinkle Toes!)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Year In Review

My, has it been quite a year for Bohemian and me!

January started off a bit rocky. I was still recovering from a knee injury. We had some girthiness issues, a small colic scare, and our boarding facility was so poorly maintained that we couldn't ride or even longe with any regularity. But we had some good too: I got my lovely Stubben jumping saddle, I audited a clinic (and watched others online), Bohemian went barefoot, and I went a tad silly with the clippers.

'Mom, why did you clip pac-man on my neck?"
"'s a half-moon...?"

February was very hard, with the unexpected and abrupt loss of my God-horse, Storm, and subsequent human drama which tends to come with extreme grief.  Hemie and I moved to the beautiful Castle Rock Farms and therefore got back into the swing of regular rides.

Blame the Champagne, aka Storm.

March saw the real kick off to our year. We had some excellent lessons at our lovely new facility, with a string of "aha" moments. We took a dressage lesson with Chemaine Hurtado of Symphony Dressage. We did a cross-country schooling at The Meadows. Hemie came up a tad lame, but then recovered in time for us to compete in our first competition of the year: a combined test derby at the Meadows. It did not go well (we had a major freak-out), though with the passing of time I now can find humor in the memories.

TK on Roxy and myself on Hemie at Meadows XC school.

April was great. We did another XC schooling at the Meadows. We had our first bareback jump and came along in our training, especially with dressage. I started dabbling with "touch-ups" to Hemie's hooves. We had some wormy fecals but took care of them. We did two shows: a hunter show at the facility next door, and another derby at the Meadows. Both were fabulous outings (with no freaking out).

Our first bareback jump.

May was fun! Amid late rain showers, we did a hunter show at Camelot and Hemie was great. We got our first blue ribbon together at a Ventura CDS dressage schooling show, and did a cross country schooling at El Sueno equestrian center. Plus Hemie turned 8!

2 Sarahs with their winning OTTBs =)

June saw a pause in our show schedule. I finally had our vet out to do a thorough exam and radiographs of Hemie's legs, and all went well. I added supplements to Hemie's diet to help with weight concerns. My husband rode Hemie for the first time. The weather was perfect so we hit the trails quite a bit.

Trail ride, with Reagan Library in the background.

July started off with a mess. Hemie gashed his leg so I played nurse twice a day for what seemed like forever, and we had to cancel our participation in a clinic with Debbie Rosen (which I still audited) and a schooling show. I did a 21-day "paleo-esque" elimination challenge to help me kick-start weight loss. When Hemie recovered we had a great time XC schooling at Shepherd Ranch.

Hemie winning at hide-and-seek.

August was mostly consumed with preparation for our first official horse trial. We kept a consistent lesson schedule and did a final cross-country schooling at the Meadows. I also changed farriers to a barefoot specialist and added an extra flake to Hemie's feed schedule. I crowned Hemie an official pleasure horse since I finally felt comfortable riding him bareback outside of the confines of an arena. We competed Intro level at Shepherd Ranch Horse Trial and it was a very mixed experience, though we technically achieved my goals.

Screenshot of us facing the wrong way at jump #2 in stadium at our first HT.

September came the crack down! We developed a plan to address our issues at the show, which included changes in tack, training, and trying to find more crazy warm up arenas. We did 2 shows: the first was a hunter show at Elvenstar next door, where even though we had to do the 2'6" instead of 2'3" due to scheduling, we came away with a blue ribbon (the first blue where we actually beat other people! amazing!). Soon after we went to El Sueno for back-to-back combined tests (Dressage & XC/Stadium), and did very well. Hemie of course was perfectly behaved at both shows.

Video of our BN XC/Stadium jumping round at El Sueno, 9/14/13.

October was a busy month, what with my birthday, hubby's birthday, a wedding, a baby shower, guests visiting from out of town, and -oh yeah- our 2nd official horse trial. We had an awesome XC schooling at Twin Rivers in Paso Robles, and had our first real gallop together. We participated in the 2-point challenge as we prepared for our event. The Fresno County Horse Park H.T. was quite a drama-filled weekend, but overall I was very proud of mine and my horse's improved performance. We even got a team blue ribbon and completed one of my life's goals: finishing a horse trial on my dressage score.

Having fun on course!

November was 30 Days of Thanks and no-stirrups month (my thighs still cringe in recollection).  I took a week long vacation with my husband which was an excellent recharge mentally and emotionally. Knowing we were done showing for the year, and due to my trainer's surgery, Hemie and I took it easy together. Workouts shortened due to after-work darkness, and I'll admit I got more laundry and dishes done!

No daylight, and no stirrups.

December is almost over! We've been focusing on dressage mostly. I audited a clinic, which renewed my enthusiasm and re-freshened my perspective. We finally got Hemie's ribs covered up, but unfortunately he tested positive for worms again. Plus his hind legs stocked up, though he's healing quickly. We just had our first jumping lesson back with Laurie and are looking ahead to fun in 2014.

But no ribs!

All told, in 2013 we:
  • competed in 3 hunter shows
  • competed in 1 dressage show
  • competed in 3 derbies (dressage + combo stadium/cross-country)
  • competed in 2 horse trials (3-part competition: dressage, cross-country, & stadium)
  • That's 9 shows total!
  • did 6 cross-country schools
  • That's 15 outings total!

My 2013 goals were:

1. Get through a horse trial with a score (ie, don't get eliminated from any section) at any level. 
I've had this goal for 3 years and am so happy that it finally was accomplished. We achieved this at our first horse trial, at Shepherd Ranch in August. Though it wasn't the best show experience, we got through it.

2. School XC at 2 places we've never been to before. 
We accomplished this as well by schooling at El Sueno, Shepherd Ranch, and Paso Robles. We topped it off by competing at Fresno County Horse Park without having schooled there previously, so all in all we got to try 4 cross-country venues Hemie hadn't seen before. 

I'm so very blessed to have such a snuggly, loving, silly, brave, and handsome horse, and look forward to our adventures in 2014 and beyond!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blogger Gift Exchange

Tracy of Fly On Over came up with an amazing idea of the blogger holiday gift exchange, and I was very happy to participate! I hope this becomes an ongoing tradition. It sure beats the heck out of awkward white elephant exchanges at work.

Tracy and her horse Miles do hunters in beautiful Ohio. Her blog is always upbeat, inspiring, and easy to read - even though she's been doing it for less than a year! Go check out and follow her blog if you haven't already.

Thank you so much to Dragon of I Trot On who sent me beautiful custom note cards! Not only is the design lovely and refined, but the card-stock has perfect thickness and the envelopes seal with sticker-peel. I've already started using them.

Dragon and her lovely Appy/Belgian Draft cross mare Sydney do dressage out in Michigan. It looks beautiful but cold! Dragon and I seem to have quite a number of things in common, with the exception that we're on opposite sides of the country and she has mastered the art of inserting gifs into her posts (there must be some secret to it that I haven't figured out yet). Please check out her blog here!

My blogger gift recipient is Hilary of Equestrian at Hart. Her horse Houston is a Belgian Warmblood and they do eventing together. She's only been blogging for about 6 months but (Correction: she's been on blogger platform for 6 months, but has been blogging for longer. Thanks L!). She's a great writer and I really enjoy her blog. Please join me in wishing Houston a speedy recovery following his recent leg trauma. I really like the gifts I got her - UPS guaranteed delivery before Christmas so hopefully she gets it soon!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 5

Day 5 of Fly On Over's 5 Day Challenge. Thanks again Tracy for creating this!

21. Favorite classes to watch.
  • At horse trials, the highest level of cross-country offered at that competition. Exciting and inspiring. 
  • At hunter/jumper shows, the crazy high jumper classes. Those horses are just amazing athletes.
  • At dressage shows, the freestyles. Horse and rider dancing to music - love it!
  • At saddleseat shows, the 5-gaited Open. Rack on!

22. What's in your cooler at horse shows?
  • Water.
  • More water.
  • V8.
  • Coconut creamer for my morning coffee (finding dairy-free, soy-free creamer at shows is impossible).
  • Fruit, typically apples, peaches, etc. Things without peels.
  • Veggies, oftentimes lettuce with cut tomatoes, with balsalmic vinegar on the side.
  • Gluten-free pasta salad.
  • Dolmas from the Whole Foods deli.
  • Lara bars (they don't need to be cold, but I just throw them in there anyway).

23. One thing about showing (or riding in general)  you wish you could change?
I wish that show programs and premiums listed the trainer and coach for each competitor. People have to put it on their entry forms, so why not put it in the programs or premiums? It would help people learn of and evaluate trainers and coaches better.

24. Your ringside crew.
My trainer, Laurie Canty. And that's it. Sometimes I'll have family or friends come to my shows, but generally speaking they are there to watch and give moral support - not very much in the way of actual "ring crew" service. But Laurie gets in there and really helps - she helps me get ready, ponies me up the arena when needed, holds my jacket or whip or whatever, and afterwards when I'm exhausted and thirsty she always kindly starts un-tacking and even washing Hemie while I quickly cover my show clothes and grab some water.

Although, I must recall that I had the privilege of a groom's service at a few shows earlier this year. Fermie the fantastic. I could get used to that!

25. Best prizes.
Saddle pads. I won a pad with Spirit back in August 2011, and that was my favorite prize. Every time I used it I remembered that happy triumphant day, not to mention it's much more practical and lasts longer than other things I've won (including chocolates, grooming supplies, and horse cookies). Although winning a gift certificate to the local tack store was a nice treat this year (and quite unexpected). Hunter shows have way better prizes than horse trails. Well, actually, that may not be true, since I haven't won any horse trials yet so how would I know? Maybe I really should consider switching disciplines! 

The saddle pad we won. We got Spirit's name put on it!

Friday, December 20, 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 4

Day 4 of Fly On Over's 5 Day Challenge!

16. One thing you'd like to change about your horse.
His ability to keep his sh*t together at large, exciting shows. We've done a total of 14 shows in our 1.5 years together (plus schoolings!), and he's lost his mind at exactly 4 of them: his first ever show, our first show of 2013, and our 2 official horse trials this year. The common denominator seems to be a high energy, exciting atmosphere. We have worked on it quite a bit, and at this point it's about exposure to more high-energy situations and giving Hemie opportunities to live through them and get used to it.

Laurie aboard Hemie (who has lost his marbles) at his first ever show.

17. Your horse's future.
Barring any major life changes, Hemie will continue to be my pet and personal pleasure horse forever. For the foreseeable future we'll be competing in eventing. Though we are at Intro/Beginner Novice level, I do see Novice or even Training as a definite possibility over the next several years. I'm not in any rush, and he's not super competitive so I doubt he's in one. I do allow for the possibility of side-stepping into hunter/jumper land. 

18. Your worst show ever.
I'd have to go with our first show of 2013. Between my horse completely and unexpectedly wigging out in the warm up while my trainer was away at a different show ("I'll be fine, Laurie, you just go on with your other clients"), and the senile judge not ringing the bell when I went off course in dressage, let's just say that it was not the best day. Makes for funny memes though.

19. Favorite horse show venue.
Out here in California we are blessed with many great show venues, but I'm going to go with Twin Rivers in Paso Robles. I haven't shown there yet, but I've attended shows there and I've cross-country schooled there. It is one of the most picturesque places, with the showgrounds laid out well for both the competitor and spectator. They are known for having good courses that are neither especially easy or too difficult. They always have a great selection of vendors, and always have good turnout at shows (which makes for great spectating!).
From Twin Rivers' Facebook page

20. Your show day routine.
My show days start about 2 weeks before the actual show, with me updating my "show prep" google document about what needs to get done and when I'm going to do it, from cleaning tack to grocery shopping to sorting my show clothes, etc. The night before each show I create a day plan for where/when/what, I review the rulebook and show premium, and then do positive visualization exercises.

On the actual show day, I generally wake up early, get dressed in my show clothes covered with sweats, make some coffee, and then hit the road. My car is already packed with everything I need. I get to the barn, groom my horse, longe him, and then do last-minute trailer prep. We load up and head out. Upon arrival, the horses are left in the trailer while I check in at the office and review my day plan (kept in my pocket at all times!). Then the horse gets settled in a stall or tied to the trailer and I either start getting ready or check out the lay of the land, depending on the time and my familiarity with the venue.

We warm up, have an amazing show performance (thinking positive, right?) and then we pack up and head home. I tuck Hemie into his stall and go home where I half sleep, half shower. Then I really sleep. If I'm lucky, eating is in there somewhere.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Warning. Worms post!

WARNING! Gross photo below! 

If you're squeamish, leave now and wait for the next post.

Oh Hemie...

Previous worm posts:

Alas, my horse has tested positive again for worms. To keep myself organized, here's a quick recap of our historical worm situation:

April 2012 - Adopted Bohemian, start worming schedule recommended by our vet of alternating Ivermectin and Pyrantel Pamoate every 4 months.

December 2012 - Administer Pyrantel, next day there are dead large white worms in stool (I know now to be round worms). I freak out, then consult with my vet, my trainer, the interwebs, every person I know, and Horseman's Lab equine parasite firm. I buy a case of Safe-guard PowerDose (double-dose fenbendazole) but ultimately decide to wait and test fecals before giving further dewormer. I pre-order fecal testing kits from Horseman's Lab. A few weeks later his fecals test clean.

February 2013 - Moved to new boarding facility.

April 2013 - Our quarterly fecal test arrives in the mail. Test comes back positive for both strongyles and round worms. Dr. Byrd of Horseman's Lab calls me to discuss treatment. He mentions that it is unusual for adult horses to have round worms - it's more common in foals and young horses. We treat Hemie with one application of double-dose fenbendazole (Safe-Guard PowerDose). We fecal test again in another 3 weeks and it comes back clean.

August 2013 - Quarterly fecal testing, comes back clean.

Which brings us to the present, December 2013. Our quarterly fecal testing came back positive for round worms at over 100 eggs/gm. This is now the 3rd time Hemie has had roundworms in the 1.5 years I've had him - again, very unusual in adult horses. After consulting with Dr. Byrd I administered Pyrantel Pamoate, and will follow up in 4 weeks with one application of double-dose fenbendazole, and then do another fecal test 3 weeks following that. I find worms in his stool for 2 nights following the deworming.

And this is only half of it! The worm was at least 10" long!!

I spoke with Dr. Byrd about what the positive round worm result may indicate about Hemie's immune system. Generally speaking adult horses are able to fight off worms early in their development stage. Given that Hemie's immune system can't do this, it is a concern. However, Dr. Byrd recommended that we follow the deworming protocol, retest his fecals, and "take it from there" rather than made any immediate changes. I got the impression he wasn't a major proponent of supplements or extra medications.

Since my vet came out this past weekend, of course I brought up the situation with him for a second opinion. Turns out he knows of Dr. Byrd (who used to be based out of Orange County) and thinks his approach is best. He said I could look into immune support products, such as garlic, but he didn't seem to be very into supplements or extra medications. While he concurred that round worms in adult horses is unusual, he said that adult horses don't have the same life-threatening complications that foals get, as adult horses' digestive systems are fully developed and the dead worms can pass through easier.

Ironically, the week that he tests positive for worms is the week that finally, FINALLY, his darn ribs are covered. He looks really good.

Great coat, no ribs showing!

At this point I'm doing lots of research on equine immune systems. Not surprisingly, there's a number of immune support products available, lots of research backing them up, and lots of research debunking them. Ideas and product reviews very welcome!  I haven't been able to find a lot on the topic of round worms in adult horses. If you know someone with an adult horse who has/had round-worms, please hook us up!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 3

Day 3 of Fly on Over's 5 Day Challenge.
From about a year ago.
Note, need to take more conformation shots!

11. Critique your horse’s conformation.
I don't know enough about conformation to give a good critique. Overall I think my horse is fairly well proportioned with good muscling and fine angles, given that our goals are lower-level eventing. I don't think he has any obvious defects.

12. Horse’s favorite riding exercise.
Interesting and tough question. For jumping, I'd say its when we are asked to remove a stride from a line so that I ask him to open up his stride. For dressage, right now it's definitely stretchy trot.

13. Favorite spa day products.
First is Healthy Hair Care Hair Moisturizer. I use this every day, not just spa day. It does a great job as a mane and tail detangler, and as an overall coat conditioner. Helps prevent winter mud crusties!

Next is Cowboy Magic Detangler & Shine. The trick is to put it on tails when they're damp after a bath, and then let the tail dry naturally before you brush it out. The tail wont get greasy, and it prevents breakage. I also use this product to seriously grease up Hemie's tail and rump before trailer rides to prevent rub issues - works better than a tail guard in my opinion.

14. Three best things about your horse.
1. His snuggly personality.
2. His great work ethic.
3. His enjoyment of shows and other outings.

15. Favorite picture of your horse.
Right now it's this gem by Sharon Weaver from our October FCHP HT cross country:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Schacht-ingly good time!

White Birch Farms on a lovely December afternoon.
This is why I live in SoCal, my friends.
Even with Hemie's worms and hind-leg issues, I was able to maintain a positive attitude this weekend, in no small part due to the wonderful Dr. Christian Schacht clinic I audited.  It was held at the beautiful White Birch Farms in Somis.

This is the second time I've attended one of his clinics (the last time being in January - recap here), and I've decided that I will do my best to ride in one of his clinics in 2014. I have gotten so much out of watching, I'm sure I could get even more from participating.

To get a rider's perspective, check out Karen of Not So Speedy Dressage's recap post.

I watched 7 lessons total, including rides by Karen and local dressage trainer Chemaine Hurtado (whom I lessoned with her back in March). I greatly enjoyed watching Dr. Schacht work with Chemaine on the upper level mare Amazingh Welcome (Maisy, and yes there is an "h" on the end of Amazingh), who are improving piaffe and passage. But of course I took away more practical advise and exercises for myself to use with Hemie from watching Chemaine on her three-year-olds, and from Karen on both Speedy and Sydney.

Here were my main takeaways:

From Karen on Speedy & Chemaine on the youngsters, Saturday:

Top quotes:
  • "Inside seat to outside rein."
  • "Don't end the trot - start the walk."
  • "Don't overdo it with the leg - we want them to be sensitive to the leg. Ask with leg and if they ignore, follow up with the whip."

Exercises & Position tips:
  • On a 20-meter circle, make it smaller by pushing them in with outside seat bone and outside leg. Use counter-bend if needed.
  • Always always keep contact with outside rein. Even if rein is long, keep contact.
  • Pick up canter by pushing inside hip bone forward, outside hip heavy, outside leg back.
  • Control the trot speed and rhythm by changing your posting only - make them more sensitive to seat and body, less with leg and hand.
  • Flex inside, then outside, alternating just a few strides apart, to encourage connection and suppleness.
  • To get better hind end engagement and to get the horse listening to body, do multiple down and up transitions, just a few strides apart. 

Happy Karen & Speedy

On Sunday I unabashedly had my phone out, typing notes during the clinic (rather than doing a quick jot-down afterwards in my car such as I did on Saturday). Other auditors soon followed suit, so hopefully it wasn't too much of a faux-pas. But that means I got more specific notes from each of the 3 dressage lessons, which were quite different from each other.

Speedy bending whole body, crossing hind legs.
Dr. Schacht looking on.
From Karen on Speedy, Sunday:

Top quotes:
  • "Flex and give, flex and give."
  • "Rise higher and quicker" to adjust tempo.
  • "Keep the forward thinking of a young horse."
  • "You turn with outside thigh and inside seat bone."

Exercises & Position tips:
  • Flex in and out on a circle, then shoulder-in, to get them connecting to the bit (rather than pulling with hands at beginning of the ride). 
  • When asking for flex, move inside leg back to get hind legs crossing.
  • 5 loops whole arena, to work on changing reins and bending.
  • To work on the outside aids: teardrops at M then 10m circles at R and P, then teardrop at F, repeat other direction. Next, shorten the exercise so that teardrops at P and R with 10m circles at B. You must use outside leg and upper body to avoid wide turns. 
  • To work on balance, 20m circle at E adding 10m circles at E and B.
  • To work on using seat and body aids, as well as horse's balance: cantering full court, at E half circle 10m, then walk at X, then change canter and do 10m half circle the other way.
I learned a dressage term: "volte" meaning the smallest circle you can do with balance. For lower level horses, that is expected to be 10m.

From Chemaine on Maisy, Sunday:

Christian having a quiet moment with Maisy.
Top quotes:
  • "If they go forward, push them more forward to make it your idea."
  • "Less, less" meaning make the movement more subtle.
  • "Don't pull, just push."

Exercises & Position tips:

  • Trotting a 20m circle, change to off diagonal and leg yield in. Then back to a  normal circle with shoulder in. This will get them on the bit (rather than using hands) at the beginning of a ride.
  • Trotting, shoulder in down the long side, then back it off a bit so that it's a less dramatic movement. Tests effectiveness of aids to control degree of shoulder in. Same exercise with haunches in.
  • When they spook, put hands down and forward. Move forward out of the spook into work.
  • Trotting, do shoulder in short side of arena, then med trot long sides. Then add 20m circle to short sides. Adjustability, effectiveness of aids, and getting them back on their haunches.
  • Haunches in on circle, using legs only (no hands).
  • Cantering 20m circle, do walk-to-canter transitions about 5 strides each without using hands. Think about shoulder in at down transitions to keep outside rein.

From Karen on Speedy, Sunday:

Top quotes:

  • "He is the friendliest horse int he world."
  • "Whistle a song. Relax. Pet him."
  • "The only way to the outside rein is inside flex and inside leg." 
  • "Its just a misunderstanding. This horse was not trained in our language. He is not mean."
  • "Pet him to the rhythm of the trot."
  • "The hard thing is that you have to forget all the things that came before."

Exercises & Position tips:

  • Apply and hold knee pressure when the horse is tense, then open when they relax. Works on TBs but not warmbloods. Generally too subtle for observers to notice, which is important in dressage. 
  • When you have a tense horse, start with long reins on neck. Don't pull back, don't lean forward.
  • If he stops because he's nervous in the surroundings, just wait for him, but don't let him back. Give him time to get bored.
  • Don't talk - they'll hear the nervousness in your voice.
  • Don't try for connection at first. Trot, rising slow, with hands down. Let the horse decide where to go, then take him back to a walk using seat only.
  • Slowly shorten the reins, hands low and wide, asking for more trot with "higher and faster" posting.
  • Add inside leg to start connection to outside rein.
  • When horses are naughty or spooky due to nervousness, don't be mean - just take each new moment as a new beginning.
  • Canter with only inside leg, press outside rein to wither.
  • Flex left and right to play with poll.
  • Do not pull as you down transition from canter to trot.
  • If he halts and goes backwards, try to stop with squeeze then big kick. If that doesn't work, rein back a lot. Make it your idea. When he want's to quit, ask for a few more steps. Then do forward walk to forward trot.
  • When you get a moment of relaxation from the horse, smile and enjoy your ride. 

Sydney being a little tense, with Dr. Schacht whispering into the microphone.

Sydney relaxing into beautiful trot work.

This final lesson was the most meaningful to me. Sydney started off quite tense, then worked out of it, then got tense again, then improved again.  I felt so much empathy for Karen - after all, we have the same issue of our amazing-at-home-OTTBs going nutso when away from home (only sometimes! which is somehow worse!).

Karen is an amazing rider with excellent feel (and an absolute KILLER lower leg!), but like me she had a hard time relaxing her whole body when Sydney was so tense. I could also tell she was having a mentally hard time being patient with his antics, which I completely relate to - when your horse is exhibiting unwanted behaviour, you feel compelled to do something about it. But Dr. Schacht reminded us that waiting IS doing something. And that we need to pick only one battle at a time. For example, he told Karen to let Sydney stay down in the corner and let him decide where to walk or trot to, as direction/location was not the battle to pick at that moment.

Overall the clinic was very informative. Dr. Schacht has a wonderful way with the horses and riders. He has a great sense of humor ("I always have the last word with my wife: 'yes hunnie'.") and a quiet calming voice.  The components of the clinic that resonated most with me is to use less hand, use more seat and body and to ride your nervous horse as if he wasn't a nervous horse (easier said than done!).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Whirlwind Weekend

This is how Hemie feels about hand-walking.
At least the weather was nice.
My goodness, just when I was getting blog-writers block, the universe delivers much to discuss. Unfortunately not all of it is good.

Firstly, worms. Hemie's fecals tested positive. Again. This is starting to become a real health concern and I'm doing more research on what this could mean for his overall health and what to do about it.

Laurie is getting back into coaching now that her shoulder is healing well following the surgery in November. She came out on Saturday morning and it was wonderful to see her and catch up.

Unfortunately Hemie and I didn't get to have a lesson as both of his hind legs were stocked up starting Friday evening. The swelling decreased with multiple repeat sets of 20-minute cold hosing and 20-minute walking, but of course I was still quite concerned since this is the first time he's had any leg issues like this.

Most of my weekend.

Luckily I had a vet appointment set up for Saturday afternoon for shots. While I was able to have our vet check out Hemie's legs and discuss the worm situation, we ended up rescheduling vaccinations since there's a small virus going around my barn. Turns out several other horses had both hind legs stock up, with minimal heat, and one's vet concluded it was a virus. It goes away within a few days. Given Hemie's significant improvement through cold-hosing and exercise, my vet thought his issue was more likely caused by physical damage rather than a virus, but better safe than sorry.

Throughout the weekend I was able to spend some time with Karen of Not So Speedy Dressage (formerly Bakersfield Dressage) - together we crashed a fabulous barn party Friday night, and I audited 3 of her 4 sessions with Dr. Christian Schacht. I didn't get as much Christmas shopping done as I'd liked, but I did get lots of excellent dressage pointers, exercises, and inspiration. So there's that.

Karen on Speedy G, with Dr. Schacht looking on.

More to come soon, but for now I'm thankful for a low-key Monday!

Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 2

Alas, another week has flown by without much on the blogging front. The days really do seem shorter in winter, don't they?

Well, first I want to thank Aimee of SprinklerBandits for featuring Hemie and I today in her Ammy Hour post series. You can check out the post here. Her blog is one of my long-time favorites and helped inspire me to create Eventing In Color.

Tonight I have the pleasure to hang out with Karen of Bakersfield Dressage who is coming to my neck of the woods for a clinic, which I hope to audit tomorrow morning. I love bloggy girlfriend get-togethers!

And now onto Day 2 of Fly On Over's 5 Day Challenge!

#6. Favorite Equestrian Book & Movie

Movie would be National Velvet. Just the best movie ever of all time period.

Book, I'm gonna have to agree with Tracy and go with the Thoroughbred series, which I read lots of when I was a kid (kind of ironic since I grew up doing Saddleseat on American Saddlebreds - I had no actual interaction with Thoroughbreds until I was an adult, and now I have my own OTTB).

#7. Most Common Riding Misconception 
That you need to stick with your discipline. Branching out on occasion is fun and healthy for you and your horse! Try trails, cows, jumping, dressage, bareback, clicker training, obstacles, endurance. There's so much we can do with our horses.

#8. 2 riding strengths and 1 riding weakness
Strength #1: excellent seat.
Strength #2: natural feel.
Weakness: lower leg needs improvement.

#9. Least favorite thing about horses and/or riding.
That quality boarding and shows are so expensive in my area.

#10. What do you feed your horse?
Morning: 1 flake alfalfa, 1 flake oat hay
Noon: 1 flake alfalfa
Evening: 1 flake alfalfa, 1 flake oat hay
When I ride: bucket of beet pulp, rice bran, and CA Trace mineral supplement

Friday, December 6, 2013

5 Day Challenge - Day 1

What's been happening with us? Lots of riding in the dark. Photos don't come out well at all - with flash they look fuzzy, without is too dark. We ended no-stirrup November strong, and are doing Dressage December!*

Now finally, my (past due) last day of 30 Days of Giving Thanks:

Day 30 - I'm thankful for living in Southern California where our winters are much milder than most other places!

So what's a girl to post about in the winter when rides are short and sweet and there's minimal photos? Well, we're saved by Tracy at Fly On Over's 5 Day Challenge. Thanks Tracy.

#1. The most influential person on your riding.

Well, that one's easy. My trainer for the last few years: Laurie Canty. She does not teach me how to ride; rather, she tells me what we are trying to achieve with the horse and why, and then "form fits function" and she gives me multiple strategies to try to achieve our goal. It's very empowering, and it means that I can ride my horse no matter what side of the stall he woke up on that day, or what the weather is doing, etc etc.

I really appreciate her dedication, enthusiasm, and humility. Lessons go as long as needed for us to "get it." She's very positive, but constantly pushing me (and Hemie) for more. And she does things for us that I know other trainers would be too proud to do, for which I am so grateful.

She has been taking a break from training due to recent surgery, and I miss her and our lessons terribly.

#2. Piece of tack you'd love to splurge on.

A high-quality padded leather halter with beautiful name plate. They are ridiculously overpriced, but I want one anyway.

#3. Top 5 riding playlist.

Alas, I do not typically listen to music while riding. But I do listen to music when packing for and driving to horse shows. My top would be:

  • Ace of Base, entire album
  • Shakira "Whenever, Wherever"
  • Edward Maya "Stereo Love"
  • Dev "Dancing in the Dark"
  • Kylie Minogue, anything

Jesse, Castle Rock manager & trainer

#4. Most important aspect of your barn.
This is a tough one because I love so many things about my barn. But #1 is surely their personnel: a professional and expert group of full-time managers and stable-hands. I believe my horse is in educated and capable hands, and I like that they are constantly checking on the horses. For example, they called me right away when he cut himself bad in turnout. If we had still been at my last barn, I wouldn't have gotten that call for several more hours, when it was feeding time.

#5. 3 winter riding goals.

1. Work on Hemie's dressage.
2. Improve my lower leg.
3. Maintain consistent work schedule as much as possible.

*Dressage December is not an actual "thing."  But I'm doing it anyway. You're welcome to join me.