Friday, October 31, 2014

Rainy Halloween!

I spent all morning at the farm with a few students who inexplicably had the day off school. What fun!

I feel so lucky to spend time with these kids -- I somehow stumbled across some of the best kids and students California has to offer, I'm sure of it.

It was raining.

I bullied Tango into a "jump" school, which basically involved making sure I had brakes installed, walking/trotting him over the little X's in hand, and then trotting him up to the jumps. He feels so green over the jumps. He's wobbly, and unsure of his feet, and just a regular nightmare. I practiced stopping after each jump on a (relatively) straight line, then praising him a lot. I have no go issues, he doesn't hestitate or try to dodge out at all, he's just gigantic and unbalanced. His proprioception isn't really there.

I'm going to incorporate some TTeam exercises into our workouts because I've never come across a better way to teach a horse where their own feet are.

As long as we're flatting, he's pretty good about allowing me to place his feet. Obviously we have a long way to go, but he's trusting me more. The second I even ask him to trot poles he gets all wonky and nervous - but I don't think it's me anymore. He used to be untrusting of the bit and panic if he felt too trapped, but now I think it's just that he has no idea what's going to happen to his legs. This could mean he'd develop into a very clean jumper, or just mean that we'll keep him at low fences forever just as a different sort of workout.

Then Tango got a bath. He was very upset.

But he minded less when we came into the barn.

He has grain and a cooler and yes, those girls are wearing a blanket.

Jimmy got round penned a bit, both as part of a lesson and because I didn't really want to school him. It's always interesting to see how the horses respond to the minute differences between people when in the roundpen. I tend to be a little aggressive in the round pen because I'd rather be certain when I take the pressure off and ask the horse to come in, they're going to be quiet and not try to trample me.

Due to the crazy amount of rain there was a gigantic puddle in the arena. Never one to pass up a useful opportunity, I had the girls tack up Danny and Camou and we tackled that puddle just like it was a water jump. Watching them coach the horses into the puddle reminded me of Alois Podhajsky saying:
Young riders will be better suited for the first lessons of a horse than older ones. Apart from the fact that in all probability they would be lighter, they are likely to make less demands on the horse. Experienced riders might, from sheer boredom, try to demand more from a young horse than his muscular development is capable of. 
The girls did a great job coaching the horses through the water and it gave me confidence for how they'll develop when we're practicing real courses (I know that this "water jump" was at home, in their trusted arena, but still! It's a good introduction.) I got some pretty silly slow motion videos of the girls going through the giant puddle!

I also acquired a very dirty blue heeler in the process. 

After all the rain it turned into a pretty cool night. Happy Halloween all!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oh what fun it is to leap, on a blinding summer's day

I actually hate Christmas carols, so I don't really know where that came from.

Today we free-jumped Tango, Camou, Danny, and the new boarder's horse Oakley. Dude. It was so fun.

I always try to keep in mind the rules from Effective Horsemanship, by Noel Jackson. If they've never seen a chute before, start them cantering through over just poles on the ground. Build it up slowly. Give them lots of verbal praise. When they start swapping leads to add power over the jump, quit for the day. Always end with bitty jumps to trick them into thinking jumping is easy when they go home.

I had a trainer, long long ago who swore by free-jumping for gymnasticizing and strengthening her jumping horses. She'd primarily have the riders do dressage and small courses, then once every two weeks she'd build a jumping lane filled with gigantic, terrifying jumps and let her expert jumpers navigate it. She almost never allowed the good jumpers to school over large fences with riders. She claimed it ruined their natural "forwardness", and was too damaging to their legs. Hey, whatever works, I suppose. She ran into the most trouble when her riders hadn't jumped a 3'6" fence in six months and were expected to ride a whole course of them at a show.

We started with Oakley, who is freaking cute. He's never been in a jumping lane before but his whole attitude was mellow and it was actually work to keep him moving! It was funny though because one of his problems is impulsion under saddle, and I TOTALLY see where that's coming from because of the way his owner clucks and clucks and wiggles the whip and hassles him along.

Starting out small...
And then!
Boom, baby!
Look at that face! "Ohmygod why is this so hard!"
And then we brought Tango in. As expected, my silly thoroughbred was a total spazznugget, but he was GORGEOUS to watch jump, even as I dazedly thought "thank god I do dressage..."

Goober decided that the 1-stride in between jumps was UNNECESSARY!
So then this happened a lot.
I tried making the last fence bigger (and moving it away from the first fence) so as to help him back off a little and not go nutso berserko, but that only resulted in a prettier jump, not exactly a quieter one.

"Did I hear you complaining about long distances?"
"Baby, I'll show you distances like you've never seen."
"Oooh shit, I didn't really think that through."
So yeah. Basically my horse has no idea where his legs are. What'd I say about dressage? What is proprioception?

Camou, on the other hand, was decidedly more athletic. He also had a very calm, mature attitude (after he got cast in the arena fence and then had a meltdown about the scratch on the inside of his leg... but let's not talk about that).

Okay so this is a weird moment for him. 
Danny was not feeling it today. He didn't really want to be jumping, but he also did some really collected work yesterday and he's also still sort of fat so maybe jumping big fences isn't really on the docket for him for a while.

Can you believe I'm planning on eventing this creature?
Yes. Galloping across hill and dale, PLUS DRESSAGE. 
"But wait! There's more!"
Anyhow it was really fun, and a very nice change from focusing on Danny's counter canter & half-pass, Tango's brakes, Camou's accelerator, Jimmy's steering, Bert's suppleness, etc.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October's 10 Questions

Tango and I at JK Presents
1. How many pairs of breeches do you own?
7 pairs of schooling breeches, 3 pairs that are unwearable and in dire need of repair, and 2 pairs of show breeches. 
2. How many horses have you ridden?
Believe it or not, at one point I knew the answer to this. If I had to guess? My low-ball excel spreadsheet came out with 249... so quite a few.
3. How many trainers have you had?
Much like Carly, I'm going to limit this to trainers I've spent more than a month with. I've had six trainers that I've stuck with over the years, and another ten or so I've either cliniced with or taken a handful of lessons from. I currently train with Anne Howard (who's amazing! Even if in every lesson I remember how HARD IT IS to be a student and also wonder if I'll ever be good at dressage.)
4.  How many barns have you ridden at?
Are we counting barns I've showed up to ride at and never visited again? Are we counting places I've shown? Let's count the farms that I was a real presence at. Eight? I've ridden at more farms than I've had real trainers. 
5. What is the name of the horse you consider yourself to have the strongest bond with?
That's a difficult question. I've had different bonds with different horses, and they're all unique and powerful. In the past few years, I'd have to say the horses I've owned I've primarily bought because I like them and I jive with them and we work well together. In Tango's case, I bought him when I absolutely wasn't looking for a horse at all.
6. What is the best show name you've ever come across?
Simply Sophisticated! Her barn name was Sophie. I loved it!
Simply Sophisticated 
7. What do you consider to be your greatest weakness or flaw in riding?
I tend to plan, and then over plan, and then plan minute-to-minute for my rides/teaching sessions. And then I get on or start teaching and start thinking "poniiiiiieeeeeeesssss" and it's not until I've worked on something TOTALLY DIFFERENT that I remember my goal was, I dunno, leg yielding and not simply lots of changes of bend or keeping them in front of my leg. 
8. What do you consider to be your greatest strength?
As a result of my over planning, I have a lot of different strategies on the front of my mind whenever I tackle the next stage of training. I am generally well-primed for trying different things, and my method of experimentation allows me to find what works best for each horse and rider. 
9. Have you ever leased a horse?
Not really.
10. What is the name of the first horse you ever rode?
Gypsy, but the first horse I remember riding was a little pony named Dusty. I think he's the reason I love buckskins so much.   
I mean, just look at that. It's gorgeous.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'Have to' vs 'get to'

I just started reading "Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?" by Seth Godin. I have this habit of reading (I've mentioned it before) and I really love reading business books. I don't really take action on most of what I read but I find the concepts of a customer's lifetime worth and how much I could potentially invest to acquire a new student to be pretty fascinating.

This morning, I read in this massive tome, a collection of blog posts:
Someone asked me the other day if posting a blog post every day is intimidating or a grind.
I view it as something I get to do. I spend most of my blogging time deciding what not to post.
The best work, at least for me, is the stuff you get to do. If you are really good at that, you're lucky enough to have very little of the have to stuff left. -Seth Godin
And it sparked me. I get to work with kids and adults, and I get to lead them into my world. A world filled with balance issues and aggravating asymmetries and the pursuit of today's perfection. I live in a world where I wonder how best I can allow my horse to express himself, how to design a workout that helps us move with more unity, communicate with more clarity.

Because when it comes down to it, the horse is a prey animal who allows us to direct them. Their trust is not always complete but it is powerful. No matter how many times I beat myself up mentally, wonder if I'll ever get it, groan about how it's just not worth it... my horse doesn't care. As long as I approach him with consistency and kindness, he will forgive my predatorial nature and just keep on being a horse. Lending me his 1200 pounds and five feet of perspective.

And I get to open this door, or polish a window, and place my hand on these people's shoulders as I say, "Look at this! Look at the possibilities!"

SRHA October Play Day

First I got up early to drive out to Scott's Valley and pick the truck and trailer up. I was rewarded with this awesome view off the mountains! Plus I just love driving a truck and trailer around... honestly, it's too much fun.

Then we loaded Able & Jimmy up to go play with pumpkins and have a grand time. Able decided that trailers were scary, I felt short on time, and so I switched him out for Harley. This ended up being a pretty good decision anyhow as Harley's a champ.

I was thinking about going into more detail about this whole adventure, but I'll just throw my photos up here and comment as I go.

First ribbon ever for horse and rider!

Up close view of these neato-burrito ribbons

Novice class all hanging out!

Less edited version of the same group

I love costume contests for this reason alone.

Pretty much a great day for everyone's first show.
I rode a bit, but next time I'll definitely bring more horses because it's a open and friendly little group and we had a great deal of fun.

My only little vignette about this adventure was when this kid who took his very first lesson ever on Saturday shows up Sunday to the event because one of the students had invited him. I offered to go back and get another horse for him, but one of the SRHA hosts offered her horse for him to use. I was floored, but laziness won out and I said sure.

I repeat: I inadvertently took a student who had spent one (1) hour in the saddle in his whole life to a show.

Ei yi yi.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Great Tail Experiment

I have a real problem with tails. I want them to be shiny, flowing, and fluffy. I am seriously attracted to a good tail. When I have a new container of show sheen, it lasts maybe a week. I spray it on EVERYONE. Every school horse, every training ride... I don't know. It's actually problematic. I could focus on other, more healthful things, such as currying. Natural shine.

Now, as anyone who's worked with horses for any length of time will know, there's two big problems with my gallon-of-show-sheen-a-week thing. A) Show sheen is expensive, and B) there's a gargantuan debate raging over whether or not all my horses's tails are going to fall off due to silicon poisoning or something else I can't really decipher.

I am going to test out some internet remedies on some of my barn's tails. The test will be to handle the tail before, apply the remedy, and then brush the tail. (Listen, you. I know you're not supposed to brush tails very often. This is science*** so we'll allow it for now.)

The Contenders:

Remedy #1: Infusium 23. The internet says to wash the tail, then shake it slightly dry, then to "marinate" the tail with the infusium and leave it alone until it's dry. $6.99 for the container of conditioner.

Remedy #2: Pledge. So I realize that this is still chock full of chemicals and whatnot, but we'll give it a go anyhow because a surprising number of people swear by it. $4-6 for the can.

Remedy #3: Pink's hair lotion. I've gotten some conflicting advice on how to use this, so I'm going to wash the tail and somewhere between sparingly apply and marinate the tail in this stuff. $4.99 for the bottle.

Remedy #4: Kid's hair detangler. I mean, I got it for $0.50. Why not?

Remedy #5: Motion's oil hair spray. The internet says it can be bought for $3.49, however, I don't remember what I bought it for.

Remedy #6: Garnier Fructis's "Marvelous Oil". $5.99.

The test:

Tango's tail before

He has a pretty nice tail. It sees a lot of vetrolin. 
Tango's before-tail feels pretty healthy and maneagable. I can pull knots out of it easily and it feels strong.

Ohmygod it's still sticky
I drenched his tail in the infusium and left it to dry. After an hour it was still sort of damp and sticky. It was easier to brush than dry untouched tail, but it was still gross. I'm headed to the farm tonight, we'll see if many more hours of drying allowed it to resume "hair" status and not "gunky halloween prank" status.

I sort of love Danny's tail

It's so full, and a little wavy

Mm. So much tail
So Danny's tail I covered in Pledge. Hah. Hah. Before I did that, it felt healthy and nice to manage.

It smelled like lemons! And it was crazy easy to brush. But it wasn't really much shinier, and it felt sort of stiff? And the shine is the main reason I mess with their tails, so...


I'm pretty sure we bought this horse solely for his tail.

And then after treatment with this stuff:

IT WAS SO SHINY OH MY GOD. If I were to use it at a show, I'd probably spray, brush, and respray because it only makes the strands it touches shiny. It also collected dust in the arena... so that was a bummer. His tail felt sort of like straw before the treatment and then it just felt oily afterwards... but the shine! It also was not easier to brush. At all. 

Harley's tail before

Harley's tail after
Harley we used the kid's hair detangler, and maybe you're supposed to let it dry first, but it was sticky. And weird. And smelled like raspberries. Or strawberries. I don't even remember, but it felt weird.

Magic's tail before

Magic's tail after
Magic got the Garnier Fructis Miracle remedy, and honestly after all the things, this one wins in terms of shine, ease of brushability, and smell.  I subsequently used it on EVERYONE. I love it.

Leo's tail before

Leo's tail after
Leo got the Pink Hair Lotion, and while it worked well for ease of brushing, I didn't like how it felt. It was odd and sticky. 

The results?

The total winner
I've used this stuff on like six horses now and I still totally love it. I can put it in, play with their tail, and it's soft, managable, and smells tasty. I also don't seem to be able to put too much in, which is a problem of mine. It also doesn't attract dust the way some of these other things do. It seems to be lasting well, the price is WAY better than a container of show sheen, and I like it. Winning!

I bought it, so I might as well use it. Sparingly and carefully. I don't know about keeping horse's tails conditioned and whether or not it actually helps, but it did help with the ease-of-brushing factor. 

I will DEFINITELY be using this immediately before entering the show ring in the future. It's pretty cheap, I already own it, and the shine is amazing. 

Scary chemicals not withstanding, this was the closest to show sheen for the whole "sleek, tail falling apart in your hands" feeling. 

This stuff is ending up in the garbage. NOPE. Do not like. Will not reattempt.

I'm beginning to think, having done some further reading, that I was supposed to get the leave-in treatment and not the conditioner for my horse's tail. Let's just write this one off, relocate the conditioner to my bathroom, and call it a day. Maybe I'll revisit the leave-in treatment later because of how many people swear by it, but we'll see.

*** Science being, in this sense, the least scientific analysis you've ever seen. So subjective. So random. SO uncontrolled.