Monday, August 27, 2012

Moving right along

Alex and I have had a productive few days.  Overall, I think he is getting more confident in his new role and starting to understand what I am asking.  He is really taking to the stretching and is very enthusiastic about it when he decides to stretch!

Sunday night my mom was in town, so she came out to watch us work.  Alex treated me to stretching at various intervals right from the start, which was a big first.  We made some nice circles and even a serpentine (he was a little confused about that one).  There was even stretching at the canter to the right!  It was more canter than gallop for once :-)  But of course, you know how it goes, the young ones always have to throw you at least one curve ball, just to see if you're paying attention.  So the canter to left was more buck than canter or gallop.  I don't know what got into him, but I was definitely treated to a few small cracks of the back and nearly lost my stirrup which is always delightful :-/  At any rate, after a few tries, we managed to get a buck-free fairly steady canter/gallop before calling it a night.  I can't believe how fast he is catching on to stretching, I am such a proud mommy!

Tonight we didn't work, because Alex got new shoes... and not just your average shoes, but big boy shoes!  His first set of clips... another step in making the transition.

Another piece of good news is that it looks like Gryff can finally go back to work, his wounds are nearly healed, so he will start back lunging in side-reins this week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More progress

So again it's been a few days... but at least it hasn't been a week! 

Monday was another good day.... Alex and I had a big first, or at least I like think so...  he STRETCHED a little bit at the trot!  Ok, so I know for some this is not a big deal, but considering the fact that most of the time he has no mouth and carries himself like a giraffe...this is a BIG deal.  Of course he did a little playing and resisting as he normally does at the beginning of the trot and canter, but still, the fact that he stretched, let out a breath and relaxed just made my day.  It was also nice that he didn't go tearing around the ring at the canter/gallop :-)

Tuesday Alex got the day off, it was my day to have a massage (which keeps me sane and saves my husband from having to listen to me whine about my back), plus he had been pretty darn good for 4 days in a row, so I thought he deserved it.

Today we went back to work.  After a few minutes in side-reins on the lunge, I was back in the saddle.  Alex was highly focused on the person lunging their horse in the next arena and then he decided to do what I like to call resisting/jacking around where he tries to see if he can bully me a little.  The length of time that he does this is getting smaller every time, which is a good sign.  Today he pulled out the big guns right away and was soundly defeated before deciding to get with the program.  The we had another first!  He stretched his nose ALL THE WAY down to the ground several times to both the left and right at the trot!  This is a big deal... he might be starting to figure out how good it feels to stretch and relax.  The to add to the good night, he canter/galloped, under control both directions and even offered to stretch down a bit there too! 

I can't begin to describe how happy this makes me... this is why I decided to adopt a thoroughbred and start it on my own... moments like this.  It makes all the frustrating moments fade into the background. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A weekend of baby steps

The weather here in Kentucky has been absolutely gorgeous this weekend.  It has been a welcome respite from the weeks of 100+degree temperatures.  After sticking it out and getting through our ride on Friday night, I was really looking forward to getting to ride Alex two more days making it three days in a row.  Saturday, I decided to just get right on and see what I had. After walking a few steps I urged him into a trot and after a few more steps got some head shaking/rein ripping for which I growled and yelled at him (yes, I know this sounds stupid and I am sure anyone else on the farm who hears me, probably thinks I'm insane, but it works!), kicked him in the side and smacked him with the dressage whip.  This of course pisses him off, but he also keeps going!  So after we'd gotten through a few temper tantrums both directions at the trot, I decided to let him canter.  Now first off, let me explain, there is actually no canter with Alex, at least not yet, there is only GALLOP!  Cantering to the left, Alex was bouncing around, throwing me a few little bucks the first few strides, so I just tried to stay off his back and wait for him to settle, which he did a little bit.  To the right there were no bucks and actually we just had a few nice gallops around the arena.  Slowly we came back to the trot and then to a walk... I was very encouraged.

Sunday, I was anxious to see if Alex and I could take another step forward, so again, I got right in the saddle.  After walking around the arena, I urged him into the trot and it was actually kind of nice even if he was still trotting with his head up like a giraffe :-)  To the left there were NO temper tantrums, I couldn't believe it!  As I crossed the arena to change directions and go right, I hoped he'd reward me with the same good behavior, but he had to throw in a little head/shake rein ripping just for good measure... no matter I did my little growling/kick/smack of the whip and we continued trotting around the arena.  Still encouraged and emboldened, I decided it was time for a canter/gallop.  Alex did his usual bouncing bucking routine the first few strides to the left.  Saturday, after a little wildness he had settled into a nice gallop around the arena.  I hoped for that today, but no dice.  Alex turned on the jets and was tearing around the arena.  Greeeaaat!  I tried to let him keep going hoping he would settle, but not today.  Heaven help me the first time I have to take him cross-country!  To his credit, he was a little better to the right, so at least I know it's in there somewhere :-)

All in all, it has been a great weekend.  I know it is going to be a long journey, but I'm encouraged and that's all I need right now.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Just get through it...

This time it has been even longer between posts... I'm totally guilty, but it has been a really busy week!  So last Thursday I got on Alex again, this time by myself.  We went into the "scary" arena and boy was he a ball of nerves!  To be fair, there was a lesson going on in the other arena, someone riding on the track, geese in the field next to us and a horse grazing across the way.  Still I don't like excuses, so I knew we just had to get through it.  Alex was tense and head up in the air like a giraffe.  He spent a lot of time trying to shake me loose.  I growled at him, urged him forward and smacked him in the shoulder with the crop trying to be confident and tough.  Same routine going the other direction.  I let him canter a few strides and he behaved himself, so I called it a day. Then after all that work, I had to go out of town :-(  I really wanted to stay home and keep working, but my grandmother's 85th birthday was beckoning. 

Monday I was so hopeful we could go back to work, but unfortunately my real job demanded a late night, so Alex would have to wait.  Tuesday night I arrived at the barn, ready to go and found my horse with two very swollen back pasterns and fetlocks....great.  Long story short, I had just added some alfalfa pellets to his feed and he was allergic to them!  FINALLY on Friday, all signs were go.  So after a short lunging, I was back in the saddle again.  Alex was not as tense, but definitely still trying to shake me loose.  He was also adding some bouncing and a few attempted bucks to the routine.  One thing I can say, our rides are never dull :-)  So we got through it... and that is what I think we're going to have to do for a while... just get through it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Asking for Help is GOOD!

So it's been a while since my last post.  On Friday last week, I worked Alex in the other "scary" arena.  He was pretty much an angel on the lunge line and I thought, "this is promising."  So I decided to get on him (I'd never ridden him in this arena), and was pleasantly surprised when he walked around rather calmly.  We changed directions to the right and more of the same.  I was headed for the gate and just about to call it a day when he stopped in the corner and refused to go further. I clucked and urged him forward and I got a small rear in return.  I asked again and got another small rear and we started to go in circles. When he stopped there was anothe small rear.  Awesome.  So finally I reluctantly dismounted and proceeded to hand walk him around the arena.  He spent the entire time trying to bite/chew on me which was fun.  By the time I got him untacked and bathed, I'd had enough. 

Saturday, I lunged him in the same arena and had Stephanie as my ground person to help walk us around.  Alex spent the whole time looking around bug-eyed and trying to bite/chew on her, for which he definitely got popped in the nose a few times.  At this point I had pretty much decided I needed help, someone to get on, boss him around a bit and get him moving forward.  I had also, after lots of research and consultation, decided that Alex was most likely suffering from an ulcer or ulcers and this was contributing to the decline in his attitude.  So he started his first dose of UlcerGuard on Saturday and I am revamping his feeding regime.

Monday, we were back at it after Alex had a day off.  I lunged him in his "preferred" arena and then got on him.  He walked around fairly calmly at the walk and I decided to call it a day before I ruined what I considered progress.

Tuesday, a rider from the track, who had been recommended by a friend came out to help me with the beast.  He got right in the saddle and definitely let Alex know who was boss.  Other than a few moments where he had to get after him, Alex was a saint.  No rearing, no nothing... that damn horse.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that it's something that isn't permanent and appears to be not much of a problem at all, but it's always humbling, when you realize, the problem is most likely you.

Wednesday we were back at it.  The rider from the track got back in the saddle for a bit and then I climbed on board.  Actually, I wasn't nervous at all... we trotted and even cantered/galloped around the arena both directions.  I got some pointers on how to ride in a manner that Alex is a little more accustomed to, until he gets more comfortable with me in the saddle. 

I'm SO glad I got some help.  I am normally a confident rider but this rearing thing really had me spooked.  Now I know what I need to do, to get him going and discipline him when he acts up.  I feel like I can speak to him in a "language" he understands and I feel a lot better.  It was so frusterating to feel helpless.  Tomorrow, I will try him on my own and see how he does.  Hopefully it will be smooth sailing from here on out.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Horrible to Perfect... Whaaat?

Alex decided to be pretty much perfectly horrible yesterday and today he decided to be perfectly wonderful.  I was all prepared for a battle, I had my game face on and everything.  Alex was a little less grouchy, even perhaps, dare I say it, contrite? Today we went back to our normal arena (no, I am not cheating, I said we were going to start rotating back and forth every time we work) and still I was prepared to battle, prepared to not even be able to get on him.  Apparently someone flipped a switch after yesterday... he was PERFECT on the lunge in both directions at all three gaits.  I didn't even go easy on him, I worked him hard just waiting for the bad behavior to come out, so I could pounce... NOTHING.... horses.... geez.  So then I decided it was time to try for another ride.  I think he still isn't sure about me being in the saddle and he definitely suffers from severe ADD about what is going on around him.  We walked both directions, he was tentative, but good to the left.  The right is more challenging, there were several stops, where I had to urge him forward and reassure him.  He did not do any rearing, but that doesn't mean he didn't think about it... I could feel it.  So a successful day, where I had expected trials and tribulations. 

Tomorrow we go back to the other arena... we will see what that brings.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Today was bad...

Today was bad... there is just no other way to describe it accurately.  Alex had been off for two days since I had to work late Monday and had dinner plans yesterday.  I should have expected the worst, but naively thought all would be well.  When I got to the barn, I was tired but enthusiastic about another ride.  Alex actually seemed to be in a good mood and so I went along my merry way getting ready to work him.  We had to use the other arena, as there was a lesson going on in the one we normally use.  Right from the start, Alex was only interested in "extra-curricular activities."  He was either bucking, kicking and racing around or pretending that he had forgotten how to go on the lunge.  Usually this stops when we change directions, but today it continued and actually got worse.  Finally when it appeared that he had given up a little bit, I decided to try and get on him.  He was an absolute beast, trying to bite me, rub against me and run over me.  When I put my foot in the stirrup he went backwards and slightly up.  So I moved the block and tried again, this time he turned around and tried to bite me, then literally just tried to walk over the mounting block.  By this point I had decided there was no getting on Alex today and I had better cut my losses. 

To say I was frustrated, would be a total understatement, but frustration won't get us anywhere.  So we are still having a battle of the wills.  This means a new plan. 

1) I'm tired of this freaking out every time we change locations (one arena is literally in sight of the other, it's not THAT big a change), so we will alternate between arenas every other day until he gets over this thing he has about change in location. 
2) As much as I don't want to, when he's bad, I'm going to have to demand absolute obedience.  I have to win every time, or he will be unmanageable. 

So tomorrow we will try again... whoever said patience is a virtue sure wasn't kidding.