Monday, July 30, 2012

The Last Week

So it's been an exciting week in my land of horses... on Saturday, Alex and I had our very FIRST RIDE!  We started out with lunging which went very well, with minimal "extra-curricular activities."  So after putting on my helmet and vest we headed over to the mounting block for my first mount.  Alex was a star and stood perfectly still.  Then, my friend Stephanie, my helper for the day led us around the arena in both directions.  Alex, like most every Thoroughbred, has ADD so we spent a lot of time stopping to look at everything or "smell the flowers" as I like to say.  Eventually, I felt confident enough to have the lunge line removed and just have Stephanie walk next to us.  After a few trips around the arena, I had Stephanie move to the center and we were truly on our own for the first time!  Alex was a star and we even had a few trot steps ( I couldn't help myself).  Overall, our first ride could not have been better!

Sunday Alex and I were at it again.  Same routine, except this time, no helper.  Lunging was great, possibly the best ever in full tack.  In the saddle things went well, so well that I decided to get brave and trot both directions, which went well, although I could feel that Alex was quite tense and hollow.  Finally coming through the corner at the right, Alex decided he needed to liven things up, so he picked up the pace, hopped around a bit and tried to rip the reins out of my hand.  "Ok," I thought to myself, "this is how you want to play."  So I went back to walk and spent some time trying to get him to bend.  This irritated him a little bit, particularly to the right where he decided he'd had enough of me and reared.  It was a very slow rear, but very short.  The whole thing was over in a second, but happened in slow motion to me.  I thought myself "shit... am I going to fall off?"  Instinct took over as I sat very still, leaned toward his neck and made sure not to pull on the reins.  Back on the ground, I gave a little cluck and he walked forward again.  Crisis managed.  After a little more walking I decided to call it a day.

In post mortem with my mom, she agreed that I had been his mouth (which is at the moment non-existent) too much and I need to focus on forward for a few weeks before I focus on anything else.  So our next ride will be forward, forward, forward... and hopefully, no "extra-curricular activities."

In other news, Gryff will be starting back to full flat-work on Wednesday, yay!  His wounds are still healing and will likely need a few more weeks, so that means little to no jumping, but at least we can start working back towards being ready for Jump Start Horse Trials and another outing at Novice.  So happy the Gryffster is healing... I hate seeing him hurt.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Back Among the Horses

Saturday night I rushed out to the farm to see my boy, after a whole three days! He had (gasp) a cut on his right hind pastern and was quite literally growing out of his front shoes (good thing the farrier comes this week).  I had a little moment of guilt for being gone, which is...yes...sad...I know, but he did seem genuinely happy to see me.  This does not mean, however, that he had given up on being mouthy, leftovers from being a stud I suppose, but it has earned him the nickname "shark." 

On Sunday, Alex went back to work after what I am sure was a glorious 4 days off.  Since I had been gone a few days, we went backwards one step into the surcingle and side reins.  He was actually a good boy considering this was his first little vacay from his new training regimen.  A few little hops kicks and a buck... well I mean he has to do a few, just so I know it's him! 

On Monday, Alex got worked a little harder in the surcingle and side reins.  Again, he was actually quite good and I am hopeful that we can return to full tack on Wednesday without too much fuss.  Remember, I said "hopeful" not absolutely sure :-)

Also on Monday, after nearly a month, I FINALLY got back in the saddle... ok so it was wearing shorts and only at the walk, but Gryff and I are starting the road back to where he was before this rather unfortunate interlude. On Wednesday, I may allow him to trot, we'll see, I don't want to disturb his wounds.  I could tell he was happy to be doing something though... he was quite agreeable for a horse that's been off almost a month.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Days Without Horses

It's been a little strange to be away from the horses for a bit... I keep feeling like I should be going out to the farm to make feed, groom, work or just visit Alex.  This is a fun trip, but I can't wait to get back and see/work my boys.  I suppose some time away is good, because then I have a chance to think of new approaches to the things I am trying to teach them.  And you know the old saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder."  This is certainly true of me and the ponies.  I'm also missing my pups, but I know they are having a big time playing with the dog sitter's crew.  It's funny how you can get so used to having your pets around, they really are like family.

Next week I'm looking forward to putting Gryff back to work.  I have not been in the saddle since June 30th and I just know my legs are going to be jello after the first few rides.  I hope the weather is not too terrible in August, I'd really like to get Gryff out to another schooling show, before it is time to take him to his next event. 

Well I'm off to enjoy the day, tomorrow it will be time to fly home and back to my fur-babies :-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Victory!

Today's work was so much better!  No antics at all to the left, except a few hops. To the right, Alex only had one little "moment"  which was more likely brought on by the stirrup that had slipped and was banging against his side.   For the first time in days neither of us returned to the barn drenched in sweat.  It was a small victory.  Too bad now he will have 4 days off while I'm in Minnesota and will probably turn back into a beast upon my return.  Oh well...

Gryff's legs look much better tonight, I can't help but think the dousing of Betadine shampoo and slathering of Corona I gave him on Sunday, really helped.  His scabs look much tougher.  Still some swelling in the right hind fetlock, but that's the leg that was the worst.  Next week, he's going back to work, even if it's just walking... he's bored and turning back into a terror!  You'd think at 18, he'd be thrilled to have a break, but not this horse, if he's not being worked, he finds other ways to amuse himself.

Tomorrow night it's off to Minnesota... I am nervous leaving Alex for the first time, but I know Stephanie will look in on him and he will be fine.  I will miss him though!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Up Down & All Around

Saturday we got rained out and Alex had an unexpected day off.  I opted not to try the indoor again, until I felt like he'd had a chance to "reboot."  Sunday we were back at it again.  All was calm starting to the right until about 5-10 minute into his trot he threw out a series of bucks.  This was interesting since normally he waits for the canter to throw spice things up.  If I thought it was a one time thing, I was in for a rude awakening as he had several more "episodes" in store for me.  All of this was brought on by who knows what, bugs, activity outside the arena, near slips or getting almost to the point of submission... take your pick!  For his finale he spent a brief moment standing on his hind legs.  Unfortunately for him he looked more like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum than a menacing beast.  And we hadn't even gone left yet!  Finally he gave up and did what I asked, so I let him go to the left.  This direction was not nearly as action packed, but he did throw a few bucks in just for good measure, before finally giving in or getting bored or whatever.  Finally we went back to the mounting block and practiced standing while I put weight in the stirrup which he tolerated fairly well.

Then I went out to see Gryff and give him a bath.  He decided that he felt REALLY good and proceeded to demonstrate that by running all over his paddocks and generally being full of himself.  I think most of this was to get my attention... he is the funniest horse.  I'm glad he feels good, because his cuts still look awful to me, better but still awful.  Hopefully next week I can get on him and at least start walking.

Today, the arena was full of water on both ends so the only choice was to lunge Alex in the middle.  We started out by walking around through all the puddles, which he did without complaint even stopping and pawing like he wanted to roll in one... goofball.  Again we started to the right, but this time, it took 15 minutes for the bucks to come, they were less frequent, less intense and resolved much faster.  More of the same to the left AND he even cantered through a puddle!  Dare I say it?  Could it be progress?  We will see what tomorrow brings, as it will be our last before I have to travel up north to Minnesota for 4 days.  It's an inopportune time in this battle I am fighting for supremacy, for me to be gone, but it can't be helped.  I will miss my big man though, it will be the first time I've gone out of town since he arrived :-(

Friday, July 13, 2012

One Step Up

Tonight, Alex was better and I think we gained back about 1 step of the 2 we took backwards yesterday.  Lunging was much more calm, except for cantering to the left where I think he was panicking about falling and so kept throwing his head and fighting the lunge line.  With time he finally went relatively calmly, so I let him change directions and he went really well to the right.  At the mounting block he was a little impatient, but eventually did allow me to put my weight in the stirrup.  He's not too keen on standing around a long time afterward though :-)  This biting thing has to stop though... I've gotta get tougher about that.

Perhaps tomorrow, we will start to the right, and maybe he will be a little more relaxed by the time he has to go left.  I only want him to have good experiences... that always has to be my goal, at least in these first months together.

Frustration to Understanding

Alex and I had a rough work today... I made the mistake of thinking I could just up and lunge him in the indoor arena (which admittedly is pretty scary and narrow compared to the outdoor).  Originally I had thought Tuesday's antics might be in reaction to having too tight a girth, but today the girth was absolutely not too tight.  Today's "baby moment" was equally as bad as Tuesday except that I let myself get frustrated and then I got mad at myself for being frustrated.  Makes total sense right? 

Once I had time to process, I realized how stupid I had been to totally change up the routine for the 3rd time in three days and especially to think he would just be fine in the scary indoor having only been in it once since his arrival.  Then I got mad at myself again for being stupid...

Today I learned something valuable...Alex responds to fear with bucking, hopping and kicking... sudden change in routine elicits fear. The routine is important. 

"The horse will tell you what he can handle, and quite a bit about yourself ... if you'll listen." -- Buck Brannaman

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally... a first post!

So now that my OCD about getting this blog set up has subsided, I can finally make my first post. 

Alex was a good boy tonight, which is good because yesterday he had a 30 minute long "baby moment" while working on the lunge line.  This "moment" was complete with bucks and kicks and hops.  At one point, he bucked, lost his balance and went down to his knees falling on his side in the sand.  He and I both had a moment of "shit!" and then he got up looking a little embarrassed and trotted off.  That pretty much ended the shenanigans and he finished up relatively quietly. 

Training horses, especially Thoroughbreds, is kind of like the weather in Kentucky, if you don't like what it's doing, wait a few hours, it will change.  So tonight the "weather" changed and Alex was much improved, no bucking, kicking or hopping and relatively good stretching at all three gaits both directions.  It would appear he learned his lesson...that Alex he's a smart cookie!  AND we worked with the mounting block, where he stood mostly still (except he was turning around and trying to bite me in the thigh/butt, until he got a good pop in the nose, which ended that nonsense) and I put all my weight in the stirrup before laying over the saddle.  Success! "No big deal, " says Alex, "but just get this damn tack off me, it's hot out here and I am itchy!"

This means I might actually meet my goal of getting on him for this first time on Sunday, yippee! 

Went out to see Gryff, poor guy his stifles are still looking a bit like a special effects creation from a horror film, but they are healing and the swelling is down.  He enjoyed the grooming, kisses and treats... he's such a ham :-)