The culprit?

Looks like it might be saddle fit.  Stay tuned.

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Tattletale

After a few rides in which thing went really well (previously documented here), things have gone a bit south lately. I attributed much of my difficulties to a few intense Pilates sessions, which left my hip muscles and core tired and made rides  on the same day as my sessions hard.   Then I promptly got sick, and missed a few days in the saddle.

Today I got back on and had an okay but still-not-as-good ride on Derbs.   He’s moving forward nicely but I’ve been having the very devil of a time getting him connected.  He’s been bracing and resistant, and my ability to influence his inside hind leg has been iffy.   It’s not been terribly pretty.

After I put Derby away, I pulled out my buddy Tucker.  He’s my truth teller, and I was looking forward to seeing what my ride would reveal.

Well, it was revealing all right, and not at all in the way I expected.  We had a lovely ride.  Tucker was steady in the bridle.  We rode lovely connected serpentines, deep corners with nice bend and easy shoulder-fore.

All righty then.  Tucker tattled on Derby, effectively revealing that I’m riding nicely at the moment.  However, a certain someone is, as Christy says, “giving me the hoof.”

Will report back after tomorrow night’s lesson.

Priceless? I think not.

One enucleation for Jag:   $1000 (including hauling & hospital stay)

Injections all around for Derbs (coffin joints in front, hocks in back):  $Don’tEvenKnowYet

Chiro for Derbs (Thursday): $125

Massage for Derbs (Friday):  $25 (hey, that one was easy)

Critter comfort – priceless?  Clearly not.  But worth it none the less.

 

Go on, then.

Two days, three rides, plus a bonus ride on Friday. I’m keeping the pedal to the metal, and am determined to use this long stretch of not traveling to my best advantage.

derbs and c 2

Derby hanging out with his good buddy C. It’s hard to tell who likes who more.

On Friday, I snuck in an extra ride, but not on Derby.  Derbs took a break from me to partner C., a friend of Natalie’s, who also has a penchant for bay TBs.  She recently had surgery on a leg, and her ride on Friday was her first in forever.  It was also the first nice spring day, with temps into the 50’s, and after tooling around in the arena, they took a tour of the farm.   Looks to me like they both enjoyed themselves, if the smiles (and floppy ears) say anything at all.

My ride on Tuck wasn’t the most fantastic.  I struggled with getting him connected, and was having to constantly remind myself to give with my hands.

I planned to ride both on Saturday, but my plans went sideways when I got a call from the fellow who keeps Jag for me.  Jag has uveitis, and the eye was flaring up badly.   I called the vet, who happily was in the area, and Jag was seen within a couple hours.  It was the world’s shortest emergency vet call, however.  Dr. Tully took one look and said that it was time for the eye to come out.  Surgery is scheduled for tomorrow morning.   Fingers crossed for no complications, and a quick return to a comfortable life for my number one boy.

So on Saturday, I rode Derbs, and struggled a bit more with connection, while also working on really upping the trot tempo, with more success on the latter.  But all in all, it was a pretty “meh” ride.  I cut my losses and spent time trucking around in two point.

derbs and c

Field trip! Derby and C. took advantage of the nice spring day on Friday to stroll around the farm.

Today, however, I got my act together.  First and foremost, Derby was again behind my leg and failed to respond with any alacrity to my request to step it up.  So he got a good crack on the hiney, to which he responded by humping his back and then, perhaps thinking better of it, proceeded to step into a canter.  I let him go, urging him forward when he felt like he was flagging.  I need to tune the ‘go forward button.’

We had some better quality work after that canter, but I still wasn’t happy with my connection.  I didn’t feel like I was getting him out to the end of the reins. So I practiced stretchy trot – something I’ve not done enough of, and frankly don’t do well.  Up came his back, and he stretched nicely out and over his top line.  We did a couple laps and then switched direction.  I was pleased.  This was progress.

Once Derbs was cleaned up and enjoying a copious serving of beet pulp, I went and fetched Tuck.  Our ride today was better, as I worked to recreate the out-to-the-end-of-the-reins feeling I had when getting Derby to stretch.  Another productive ride.

It’s going to be an eventful week for all my animals.  On Tuesday, Derby’s vet is going to evaluate him and decide whether it’s time for some joint maintenance.  He’s been feeling stiff, dragging his hind toes, and watching him try to lie down to roll is painful — he lowers his front end, leaving his hind up in the air, and just doesn’t seem able to fold his hocks underneath himself – instead, he collapses awkwardly to the side.

Then, on Thursday. Derby is also getting a chiro treatment.  And on Friday, a massage.  He will feel like a new horse come Saturday!

Friday is also Cat Rodeo day.  All three of the house cats are headed to the vet for shots and a pre-dental check up, so I can schedule teeth-cleaning for all three fuzz butts. Their breath is gnarly. It is time.    Ironically, having about 28 lbs of cats vaccinated, inspected and made pristine will cost more than eye surgery for Jag, or (in all likelihood) joint injections for Derby.    But it’s all part of having pets, and I like taking good care of my critters.

 

 

 

Back to work

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 10.55.36 PM

We are officially back to work.  I don’t have any travel for the next month, and, well there are some schooling shows coming up …. but I digress.  We’re back to work, and Christy is approving – our work is consistently more correct, and it’s my fervent hope that we’ll see the results in the form of some more muscle on that skinny neck.

I added a lesson, so we worked with Christy four times this week – we have to keep up this momentum. After our nice ride on Monday, I got a little over-motivated and rode Tucker before my ride on Derbs, after a killer Pilates session.  Needless to say, I was almost out of gas by the time my lesson rolled around, but we had a few nice moments before I pooped out.  Then on Wednesday, it was Derby’s turn – the horses were inside due to pouring rain and wind, and after a few more strenuous rides, standing around in his stall did him no favors.  He felt blah and was really underpowered in his hind end, so we worked on some stretchy trot, and then rode the intro tests for variety.

Two point.  Ow ow ow.

Two point. Ow ow ow.

Today we were both back on form for the most part, so we worked on some canter – which at the outset is going to be focused on conditioning and really getting Derby to move out at the trot.  He still wants to duck behind my leg , which we need to fix.   We’ll be addressing

But we’re putting things together.  The pieces feel like they’re starting to come together.  I’m trying not to be too impatient, so Derby will get a day off tomorrow, and I’ll ride Tuck to keep myself going.

 

 

The Reveal

trot diagonal

I haven’t posted for a long time because frankly I haven’t had anything to post.

Between the weather and my travel schedule, I have not been riding much at all. My time in the saddle has been dreadfully inconsistent: I think, including tonight’s lesson, I’ve ridden twice or three times in the last three weeks.

One thing I have been doing one thing pretty consistently, however, is Pilates. It’s gratifying, because exercises and movements I struggled with at the beginning are becoming easier. In fact, I had a really nice moment last week when one exercise that requires balance and core stability and hip strength [all at once!] was much easier for me –  I was able to execute it without losing balance, and losing control of the equipment.   With that in my mind, I was really interested to see what effect that would have on my riding.

Unfortunately, on Saturday Derby had what I call a “bad air day.” trot left On bad hair days, he has difficulty getting his breath because he flips his palate and then has trouble (I’m surmising) getting it back in place.  These days are characterized by a complete lack of gas in the tank and extreme mouth fussiness.  He can get his tongue over the bit as he works his mouth, trying to rectify the palate problem. It can be really difficult to have a quality ride on that air days, because he doesn’t seem to really work out it.

argyle

New spring duds. Adorbs.

I am patient on these days, and we did have a few nice moments here and there of nicely connected trot, and I was happy with that. You do what you can with what you got on any given day. And we looked cute: we had a new saddle pad and our matching periwinkle polos!

Tonight was a different story. Derby so great, and we are both ready for a lesson.

I’m doing a better job of not immediately going to my hands to correct issues I perceive I’m having with Derby. Instinctively, I’m much more likely now to try to maintain “side reins” with my hands, and use my seat and leg to fix the problem I’m encountering.

Tonight we expanded on that, with Christy asking me to “lengthen” at the walk and trot.  In our current state of fitness, not too much lengthening is happening, but really, the point of her reminder is to tell me to close my legs, engage my core and ride forward.  I also need to remember to swing my hips to my hands, (not vice-versa) – that helps keep my hands steady.

Moving into the trot, things were promising from the get-go,  Derby was breathing and I was managing to put things together.  Some trouble did appear as we started to practice riding deep into the corners on the short sides, and then lengthening down the long side.  As I was approaching the corners, I was tending to collapse. Essentially, I would lose my base of support, collapse through the inside hip, and flail ineffectually with my inside leg trying to get the horse to been through the corner.

As you might suspect, that doesn’t work very well at all.

The memory device we use the corners is “pirouette seat” — obviously, we’re nowhere near during the doing pirouettes in any way, shape or form, but we use the phase as as sort of mnemonic device, as a reminder to maintain strength through my hip and leg, attaching it to my core, given the horse something to bend around. Anyway, it might sound silly but it works for me. And I actually do have a mental image of a Grand Prix rider sitting deep and leading with a hip in a perfect pirouette in my mind whenever I hear Christy’s  reminder,  In fact, now that I think about it, there’s a half off in there too, isn’t there.

So we have some video of the work tonight and I’m sharing it with you here.   It doesn’t look like much, but what it reveals is much better work on my part, especially in maintaining some connection and engaging the horse’s hind.  It certainly felt good, and when Christie had me doing some circles and diagonals, they would ride really easily. The degree of control I have is significantly greater, and I feel like I can be so much more precise and make communication of course Christie made a comment with much the same sentiment: telling me that it was clear I had access to my body parts and could control them in order to give the horse clear aids. It was an enormously gratifying lesson.

Derby on 3/17.  He's looking pretty out of shape.

Derby on 3/17. He’s looking pretty out of shape.  That’s what 4 months of woefully inconsistent work and limited turnout will do to a boy.

Before I got on, I also snapped a picture of Himself.  Where has our neck gone? Ugh.  I’m glad this winter is about over (and no, I’m not capitalizing it because I don’t want to give it any sort of respect) and we can do some consistent work!

Frozen, but not in place

The super-cold temperatures mean that the arena can't be watered as much as we'd like. :P

The super-cold temperatures mean that the arena can’t be watered as much as we’d like. :P

The Polar Vortex III is coming to town.  Most sequels suck, and I don’t expect this one to be any different.  The ground is frozen and everyone is grumpy – Tucker even made a legit attempt at a bite the other night – way out of character for him.  We are all sick, sick, sick of this weather.  However,  God in is good grace made britches out of Wind Pro and underwear out of merino wool and those lovely toe-warmer thingies (which I kid you not I buy by the gross) and so – we ride.   We complain but we show up, and we ride.  Christy even did a post about the determination her crew has displayed this winter.

That said, things aren’t ideal.  There are some nights it’s been too cold to do much, and due to some exceptionally icy conditions, the horses have been stuck inside – a lot.  The muscle has melted off them – even Derby, who carries a lot of muscle for a TB, is now sporting a pencil neck and droopy top line.  Happily for both of us, my riding is continuing to improve as I get stronger in places I never thought possible through my Pilates work.

I’m coming off a three-week travel jag during which I rode very inconsistently (literally and figuratively!)  But I got a real surprise on Saturday when I finally clambered aboard for a ride.

I was fiddling with my position, really trying to feel and engage my lower core muscles, and was working on big trot/little trot, a little exercise we do in which I ask for a

Stop taking my d@mn picture and take me inside already!

Stop taking my d@mn picture and take me inside already!

larger gait down the long side and a smaller one around the short side, while staying connected.  The ‘ask’ comes from half halts, nothing else.    We were heading down the long side at a spanking working trot and it felt great – forward, round, connected, back up, rider balanced – one of those ah-ha moments.  Going into the short side, I half halted, and Derby sat down and halted.  Okay, he took a couple steps but we did come to a stop for which I was not prepared, and subsequently there was grabbing of the horse’s neck required to stay aboard.  There’s no doubt that my half-halts can be stronger, so I spent some time after that incident working on tuning the strength of the half-halt, so I could get a transition within the gait, not a full-halt.

I told this to Christy before my lesson on Monday and she confirmed my continued improvement. The trot work is looking good and our next step is putting the canter back together and wow, it is frightful.

As we plunge back into the sub-zero deep freeze for the next few days, most of my plans are on hold. I’m planning on getting on both Tucker and Derby for mostly walk work – we’ll set up some cavaletti and work on lateral responsiveness.  This weekend it should be a bit warmer (in the teens, oh joy.)  The 10 day forecast isn’t offering much encouragement at the moment but for the love of God, it is almost March.  Mother Nature is bound to end this bender soon, come back to her senses and give us some normal temperatures.  (We hope.)

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