Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 Dubai World Cup

Animal Kingdom

No... I didn't go... although that would be pretty cool... but I thought I'd dedicate a post to the fact that Animal Kingdom just won the 10 Million Dubai World Cup in impressive fashion, becoming only the second horse to accomplish the double. I love this horse... so happy to see him accomplish this monumental feat :-)

I'll be posting about Alex and I's last couple rides later today and maybe a few more KY Derby Prep related tidbits :-)  Happy Saturday!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Neighbors & New Kicks

Alex in "Guard" mode

Apparently some geldings have been moved into the paddock behind Alex and he has been "defending" his paddock as of late.  Alex's version of defending his paddock is alternating backing up the fence and pawing/slapping the ground with one of his front hooves for a few minutes at a time with standing next to the fence staring down his neighbors and daring them to make a move.  The funny thing is that these are like stallion paddocks, so there is a lane between them and thus no way for he and his new neighbors to touch noses.  The annoying thing about this habit is that when he's backed up against the fence, he sometimes scratches up his hocks.  It's mostly cosmetic, no real damage, but annoying none the less.

Yesterday I went to the farm raring to go and found this...
No bueno....
Alex had grabbed himself, probably being a moron in the mud he loves so much and wrenched the right side of his shoe up... greeeaaat.  No riding for us :-(  But, at least the farrier was already due to come this morning and give Alex his new kicks, so not much time will be lost :-)
Just proves the following Thelwell cartoon correct

In case you can't tell... I LOVE Thelwell's


Tomorrow, I have the day off my "real job" so I plan on getting some real quality horse time.
Happy Riding Everyone!!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lazy Day....

This photo has nothing to do with today's post, but I thought it was pretty funny :-)

So yeah, I started the day with good intentions, but then had a killer busy day at work and lost the will to go out to the farm in the cold to ride.  It's ok, just say it... I'm lazy, I admit it. 

Tomorrow.... back on track... no more hibernation!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Short Week Long Week

When it comes to snow, I'm a fan of extremes... either NO snow or LOTS of snow.  Today it "snowed" all day, but no real accumulations.  More of the same.  Bleh :-/
I had dinner with friends after work so Alex had another night off.  Here's hoping that tomorrow he won't be too much of a wild man.  Even though I get Friday off (our office recognizes Good Friday) it's going to be a busy week and I'm going to have to sneak in my rides.
In the meantime, it's almost April... which means two things:
1) My Birthday...
And MOST important....
2) ROLEX!!!
Rolex Tickets!!!
This is, of course, my excuse to take time off work to excessively shop for horse stuff, take a ton of pictures and watch great riders until I'm literally exhausted. 
Yippeeee!  Just a few more weeks :-)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

More Winter + Sinusitis

It seems Winter just doesn't want to let go of the Ohio Valley and all this jockeying for position by the seasons has brought Sinusitis back into my life.  Thursday night I went to bed planning on riding Friday after work.  Morning brought congestion and feeling like my head was going to explode. I loaded up on the meds and trudged in to work.  I just couldn't shake it off, so went home early for a nap, fully intending to at least go an lunge Alex... yeah... I woke up at like 9PM feeling like I'd been in a coma.

Saturday morning brought the sun, but not much improvement for my sinuses, but I'm stubborn so I dragged myself to the farm determined to ride.  Alex was a little high but fairly good on the flat.  Lots of nice trot work both directions.  His canter left a little bit to be desired, he bucked into the wrong lead going left, then switched around a few times before landing on the correct one.  The second depart was much better, there was a little less "launching" himself and he even managed to stay in self carriage for quite a while :-)

I decided to stick with the cross-rail, but move it to another location in the arena.  Alex was a little rushy both directions, but after a few halts and circles (which he tolerated without rearing or being obnoxious) he finally managed to quietly trot the cross-rail, so I let him end on that... my head was grateful.

Today was a nasty... nasty day here in the bluegrass state and although I woke up feeling better, the hubs convinced me that it might be good to rest.  I did go out to clean Alex's stall and drag him in out of the rain.  He was pretty pitiful standing out in the rain and even whinnied at me when he saw me walking toward him (he never does that).  After hosing of the mud and replacing his nearly soaked blanket with a clean, dry, heavier one (snow coming the next 24 hours, remember what I said about Winter), I kissed him on the nose and drove home to dinner and warmth. 

Tomorrow dinner plans with friends, so Alex gets a reprieve until Tuesday :-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Building back up

Alex and I went back to work.  The arena was a bit wet, from a recent watering but I decided we'd try to get something done anyway.  Lunging went really well, no mischief, except when he slipped a little once or twice and made himself mad :-)  The slight amount of flat work we did was nice, controlled and uneventful.

I decided to continue with the tiny cross-rail and trot poles until Alex's anxiety clears a little bit more.  I'm happy to report that after our little session the other night, he walked right up to it from both directions without trying to stop several strides away, hop around or rear.  That in and of itself was a vast improvement, but he also managed to jump without being too rushy.  We did have to stop and re-approach a few times, but he didn't throw a fit and try to rear.  I count that as success. 

If things continue to improve, I will probably consider going back to a very small grid, but most likely not for a little while.  I want to continue to work on the rushing a little bit before we add to many other variables to the equation.  It's very important that I get it right this time... I don't want to have another set back.

Unfortunately for those of us in Kentucky... the groundhog lied.  It's cold and will probably stay that way for a while longer.  I'm ready for spring

Happy Riding Everyone :-)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Stay the course

Today we finally had some sun!  I went to the farm ready for round 4, but hopeful for an improvement.  Alex got to go outside today, so at least I had that going for me.  His lunging was so much better, only one or two little moments (which is normal) and he wasn't already sweating when we started our ride -- SCORE!

Flat work was about 50 times better... little to no fighting.  He did about three impressions of the cartoon above over things ranging from the barn cat to phantoms, but nothing like what I had been experiencing the past three days. 

Jumping started out better, but he's still really anxious.  Alex was practically launching himself at the jump not really paying attention, he bumped the jump and then because he landed long, stepped on the canter pole on the other side.  This must have scared him...on next approach he tried stopping more than five strides away from the jump; stopped dead and then made a little move to rear when I pushed him to go forward.  Once I got him out of being "stuck", I chased him a little to get him going forward and he jumped the cross-rail again.  I decided that was enough jumps for the day, but I did ask him to walk up and around the jump, because he has started doing this thing where he stops at one end of the arena and refuses to just walk up to the jump by threatening a rear. 

Though I do still feel bad about his having whacked his legs twice last Wednesday, I've come to the conclusion (again) he's a BIG BABY.  I'm perfectly happy to move slowly, sticking with the cross-rail and dealing with his anxiety, but I'm over this business of Alex trying to bully me.  So we'll keep on keeping on... and hopefully continue to progress.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Rounds 2 & 3

After a beautiful Saturday, the weather fairy decided to hit us with the trifecta of rain, sleet and snow on Sunday.  I procrastinated most of the morning (I really wanted to hibernate) but finally dragged my lazy self out to the farm.  Thankfully, Alex had been brought in early out of the nasty weather (yay!).

Lunging, riding and jumping were slightly better, so there was improvement and that's about the best I can say.  His flat work included a few less "rodeo moments" and there was only a slight hesitation at the cross-rail.  After the initial hesitation, Alex went back to wanting to jump so badly he was about to explode with anticipation and anxiety.  All I could do is try to sit quiet and give a rewarding release over the fence.  Thus ended another ride with both Alex and I sweating, but upright.

Today was another nasty rainy day, which didn't do much to motivate me, but I dragged myself out the farm anyways.  Alex had obviously been in all day, which on the one hand was awesome because he wasn't out in the crappy weather being rained on all day, but on the other hand kinda sucked because he'd been in since early afternoon on Sunday.  I prepared myself for another rodeo. 

Lunging was better and flat work started better but then went 180 degrees in the other direction.  All Alex wanted to do was canter... he'd stretch at the trot, start to get rushy and then launch himself into the canter.  He'd already done a fair amount of cantering on the lunge and I cantered him a fair amount, because it seemed to calm him, but finally I had to draw the line... he was exhausted even if in typical TB style he didn't think so.  There was no hesitation at the cross-rail today, which was good, but now he's just rushing over it and not really paying attention.  I'm still hoping this anxiety will cease once we get back into a regular routine and we have several rides where the jumps don't try to "eat" him.

My goal is to get back to a very small grid by this weekend.  I'd like to get the cross-rail back to a respectable height.  The one we've been working over is tiny.  He hasn't touched anything since the "incident," but I just don't want to regress.  I think at this point, more than anything, he needs that trot pole to help him get the "bounce" step he needs to take off.  I was wrong to start working without that so soon.  He's smart, but he needs lots of repetition.

Tomorrow will be four days in a row and goodness gracious this rodeo has got to end!  No one ever said training a horse was boring :-)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kat 1 - Alex 1

Me with Alex shortly after his arrival
I have to try and remember this feeling when frustration sets in...

So today Alex and I tried to put Wednesday night's disaster of a ride behind us.  The weather was beautiful sunny, 70+ degrees and windy.  I wasn't exactly full of confidence, but I was full of motivation to exercise Alex's newly acquired jumping demons.  He went pretty quietly on the lunge to the left, but then decided to put on quite a show to the right, spooking, kicking and bucking like an idiot.  All that activity with his winter coat (scant as it is) got him sweating in a hurry.  After a few more minutes he finally gave up a little bit. 

Turns out it didn't matter much whether I was in the saddle or not, Alex was literally a hot mess either way.  He was on high alert listening for even just a hint of a sound that would give him an excuse to scoot out from under me, grunt, shake his head, leap etc.  He would stretch, but only for limited amounts of time, then he'd throw his head up in the air and start fighting me. 

Once I finally got a barely quiet trot, I rewarded Alex with a little bit of canter, which actually calmed him a bit after his initial "enthusiasm."  It's funny how "more forward" is the answer to most problems.  It's so counter intuitive to most riders' instincts to slow down in order to gain control of the situation.

I had set up a tiny cross-rail in hopes of gaining back a little of the ground we'd lost.  I thought about just skipping it, Alex was on a short fuse and I didn't want to ruin the fact that he had managed not to come unglued to this point.  After a short contemplation, I decided we should at least attempt it, even if it wasn't pretty.  As we trotted towards the cross-rail, Alex was a complete mess of anxiety, but I kept my reins short and legs tight.  Alex responded with a stop before we even stepped over the trot pole.  "Sh**," I thought to myself.  I walked him up the the cross-rail and made him stand in front of it, which he did fairly willingly which was an improvement since he would not even do that on Wednesday after his initial whacks by the poles.  I made another approach and tried to be determined... apparently, I wasn't convincing... he stopped again.  As we made our third approach, I said quietly to Alex, "ok buddy, I probably deserve a little bit of flack, but we're going over this cross-rail, so just man up!"  Luckily for both of us, I was more convincing this time and he cautiously went over.  I was sure to make a big deal out of it, patting him on the neck and telling him what a good boy he was.  Although Alex was still a little cautious on subsequent attempts, I could feel that he wanted to jump so badly he was starting to forget being scared. 

Even though it was a rough ride, I feel encouraged.  We got through it and managed to gain back some ground.  That's really all I can ask at this point.

Going forward, the plan is grids... lots of grids until Alex figures out where to put his feet and when.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a much colder nasty day, but I'm going to try and work Alex again.  I have no excuses since I have an indoor :-)  I think we'll stick with the cross-rail for a bit, until he isn't such a ball of anxiety on approach.  Hopefully he will be a little less amped, but with another drastic weather change, I'm going to prepare for another rodeo.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Don't be stupid...

Sorry for the lag in posts, but it's been a super crazy week! 

As I mentioned, Alex has really been enjoying jumping and gets excited as soon as I start to shorten my stirrups.  Last Sunday, a friend came out and took some video of us which I've posted below.


I finally got to see his form over fences and I have to say, I'm very encouraged.  He enjoys jumping and he looks good too!

Alex had the next Monday and Tuesday off, during which I apparently lost my mind.

Wednesday night I arrived at the barn excited to ride, full of confidence (having seen the above video and photo) and completely overzealous.  Since Alex had been so good, I decided I'd raise the jumps a hole which, it turned out, I would regret.

The first thing that happened was there were gremlins aplenty... it took several minutes of lunging and riding to work that out.  Probably I should have just stopped there for the night since we were both tired.  Enter overzealous, eager to make up for a crappy week and/or flatwork Kat...

I went to jump the cross-rail and although there was excitement on Alex's part, there wasn't much impulsion so I got one of those frog hop jumps.  I came back around and added the vertical to the cross-rail and Alex  really whacked the vertical with his front legs knocking it down.  I got off, fixed the jump, got back on and came around again determined to make it better...sigh... that didn't happen this time he whacked his back legs and knocked down the vertical again.  Epic fail.

Not one to be deterred, I got off fixed the jump and tried again.  Alex wanted NOTHING to do with ANY jump.  I started to get really irritated.  "Fine," I thought to myself "I'll get off and lead him over them."  He wouldn't even go near them that way!  "F***!!!" (Yeah, I said that one out loud... I turn into a sailor when irritated).  I was sweating and exhausted  and I started to lose my temper. Now before anyone judges me, I know loss of temper has no place in the land of riding/training horses, but I don't think there's anyone out there that can say they haven't done it.

Finally I took the jumps apart and managed to get him to step over a pole, then I lowered all the jumps in the arena to super tiny, got back in the saddle and finally convinced him they were not going to eat him. 

By the time I left the arena, I knew it was all my fault.  I hadn't been on him for two days, I'd worn him out working through the gremlins, I raised the jumps before even going back to what we'd done on Sunday and just flat out didn't ride very well.  Stupid stupid stupid! (and I only admit it here, because this blog isn't just meant to chronicle our successes).

Once we got in the barn, I untacked Alex, kissed his nose, rubbed his face, told him I was sorry and that I'd never rush/over face him again.  I know he doesn't understand me... I'm a nerd.

Friday night I went to the Bon Jovi concert (which was awesome!) so that meant no riding. 

Today Alex got his teeth done and we had a little barbie horse time.  It was nice, I think we needed to have a little bonding/making up time.  Hopefully tomorrow we can start over, build both of our confidence back up and this will be in the rear view mirror. 

Kick On!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Even Par

After Alex's performance last night, I knew something had to give tonight, at the very least, the gremlins might make an appearance.

I set up the same grid of cross-rails, but raised them another hole. On the other side, I set up a cross-rail without trot poles and then another two strides to a tiny vertical.

I decided to go on and lunge him since the indoor arena footing is still too wet and desperately needs to be dragged. I knew we wouldn't get much canter work done in the saddle since it's still hard for him to balance me and himself even when the footing is good. He saw one gremlin on the lunge, aka one of the barn cats outside the arena, but then went right back to work. He was fussy in the bridle and although he had some really nice moments, he just really wanted to fight about stretching down the long sides. I feel like he just isn't strong enough to maintain it consistently yet and then he gets anxious, but the immediate assumption of giraffe position the moment we started down the long side was really annoying me. 

After Alex finally saw things my way, I went to shorten my stirrups to jump. He immediately started getting amped because he knew we were about to jump.  The grid rode great, although I think I was probably less than stellar a few times through. He was rushy on approach to both lines, but jumped everything fine. We had to stop or do a circle a few times in order to curve the rushes. I'm going to have to work hard on that with him, because right now he's all go go go!

Alex could have cared less about the vertical beyond an initial curious glance. He did manage to canter a few steps from the cross-rail and jump the vertical which was good.

So not a bad night, just an ok night. I really hope the arena gets a little drier and dragged. It felt like the footing was bothering him. He's barefoot in back and I know he hates sliding around.

Might make the second jump of the grid a vertical this weekend, we'll see :-)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cross-Rail Grid...Check!

Last night Alex didn't get ridden... I arrived at the barn ready to go, but the indoor arena was in one of its over-watered states.  I decided there was no reason to work him with the footing in that state, after all he's been so good lately.  So I dragged him in the wash rack and scrubbed his legs instead... I think Alex would rather have been worked :-D

Tonight I was determined to get something done, having lost a day.  I figured Alex would be a little full of himself after another two days off, so I lunged him to work out the kinks.  Apparently, the joke was on me, because there were no kinks... like not one.  The indoor arena gremlins must have taken the night off.   I thought he would at least have a momentary lapse in memory or regression about the newly introduced grid, since he'd only been through it a few times and that was three days ago.  Nope, first time around, he just trotted in, jump, stride, jump like he'd been doing it all his life.  Subsequent trips didn't change things either.  He wasn't even phased by the fact that I'd raised the cross rails a hole or two, there were no bumps or taps.  It was like he'd been thinking about it for three days!  When rode through for the last time, Alex was so proud of himself, he even did one of his studdish head shakes.  Normally I get on him about that, but I let him do it and have him a big pat on the neck.  More conformation that my horse likes jumping.

My horse is so smart!  Yeah, I know everyone says that... but I really think he is :-)

Looks like we need to move on again, might be time to introduce a vertical.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Weekend wrap-up

So yeah... Friday I was lazy... [insert sheepish look here], but honestly, I was so tired and it was gross outside, so I hibernated... just a teeny bit.

This is what I expected out of Alex on Saturday since it was cold and he'd had a few more days off this week than originally planned. 

I was pleasantly surprised when he was very good on the lunge, if a little slow to stretch, but I attributed that to the cold (I always feel bad when I have to pull the blanket off to tack him up).  In the saddle, Alex did some pretty darn good flat work. A little fussiness in the bridle, but we got some good stretches and very forward movement.  What I was most proud of, though, were the canter departs.  No bucks, no arguments, just canter. 

Now I know I said I expected him to be wild, but I also set up another cross rail on the opposite side of the arena and a little grid, just in case :-)

Alex was such a good boy... he was genuinely suspicious of the new cross rail which was now on a different approach, but he jumped it anyway...even if I was trying so hard to not get ahead of him that I got left a little and he was trying so hard not to touch it that he probably cleared it by 3 feet!  No one ever said the early stages of training a horse were pretty.  After a couple good jumps back and forth across the cross rail, he seemed game to try the grid.  I was prepared for a stop or at least a hesitation, but he trotted right through even though I think he was a little confused about where to put his feet and when.  After a few more trips through the grid, we called it a night.  So proud of my big man!

Sunday is usually Alex's weekend day off, but since his schedule had been a little light during the week, I figured we should at least have a good lunging session.  He was awesome on the lunge, lots of good stretching and some really nice movement at all three gates.  I was really proud of him,  I don't think he's worked that hard or well on the lunge in a long time.

Alex After Lunging
My handsome man...Alex still needs to gain some more weight (I'm counting the days until the grass comes back in, while I pile in the feed and hay) he's just gotten back to where we were before the abscesses.  He also needs to build some more "junk in the trunk," but that will come with the jumping.

Tomorrow night back to work and more fun with the grid :-)