Saturday, May 31, 2014

Suki settles into a working routine

My original plan was to start this post sitting outside under the umbrella with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  When I opened the umbrella there were about a million (okay, 20 or so) stink bugs clinging to it!
Sunday, May 25, 2014
The mounting block game.  I thought we had left it behind, but alas it reared its ugly head this morning.  I should have expected it though given Nikki's very S-L-O-W walk to the arena.  She stretched a few times, stopped, looked around, etc.  I kept reaching behind to swat her with the lunge whip to get the walk a bit more forward.  Lunging was slow so I watched carefully to look for unsoundness.  Everything else this morning was normal, so I urged Nikki on to make her free and loose.  Once she got motoring everything was fine.  Then, the mounting block....Nikki lined up to the mounting block fine but kept swinging her but away so that I could not reach the stirrup.  Three times then she she stood.  So I walked around the arena, got off then remounted.  By the third time Nikki let out a big sigh and we were fine.  The rest of the ride was lovely.  Nikki was forward, and I rode her through the ground poles several times.  I decided to keep the ride short and we finished with some very nice lengthenings.

I typically don't work Suki two days in a row but I wanted to see if she was stiff or sore so I did a 5 minute lunge to evaluate.  Starting off slightly stiff, Suki worked out of it quickly.  I asked for a bit of canter and finished.

I am noticing a change in Suki.  With regular work she seems to be not quite as impatient while being groomed, and even a bit more reasonable about waiting for turn out.  Walking out to the arena Suki marches with a purpose and sets right to work.  It may seem silly to say this, but I notice a spark in her eye as she gets back into regular work. While she has been happy and healthy all of this time I think the happiness quotient has kicked up a notch!

This weekend I have been thinking about Dressage at Saratoga.  I used to take Jenny to that show.  The first time that we competed the show was still a CDI and I remembered feeling somewhat overwhelmed.  Yes the footing is a bit deep, something to be considered when planning three days worth of tests.  The show has changed and become much smaller over the the time I competed seven arenas ran simultaneously, while now it is 3-4.  But I do have some wonderful memories and experiences to last a lifetime!

Monday, May 26, 2014
Nikki had today off so I gave her a very thorough grooming and pampering session.  Her lip drooped while I massaged her with the buffing mitt, and she dropped her head while I rubbed it with a towel.  She definitely enjoyed that time and her day off!

Suki had a 15 minute lunge and 10 minutes of in hand work.  Most of the work on the lunge was transitions between and within the gaits.  Working on building fitness and sharpening transitions.  Suki's transitions are spot on, so that doesn't take much effort!  She doesn't really pay too much attention to what is going on around her, even when Nikki calls to her from the barn.  In hand I worked on a little piaffe, which was not as sharp today as it can be so I moved to leading exercises with many quick changes of direction.  I asked for some "mini piaffe" after that and it was a bit improved.

So much to do, but we just keep moving forward at a reasonably steady pace.  In my mind I have a time frame, which I have also committed to paper, but this remains flexible.  The most important thing is that Suki remain sound and healthy.  I am pleased to note that so far I have not noticed any respiratory issues.  My thought is that by taking the fitness level up gradually we will avoid problems.  Time will tell, but so far I am pleased with the progress!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Suki and Nikki were especially vocal when I entered the barn this morning!  It is my favorite morning greeting, especially when the child greeted me upon waking with: "It CANNOT be morning already!"  As a morning person I struggle with understanding the problem!

Nikki immediately starts to demand for treats while Suki gives me the evil eye from down at the end of the aisle.  I settled Suki in with a small amount of hay and got Nikki ready to work.
Because Nikki had yesterday off I gave her a slightly longer lunge warm up to loosen the muscles.  Nikki was relaxed and loose in her muscles, clearly benefiting from her day off.  I am a firm believer that horses sometimes just need to be horses.  Even the fabulous Lipizzaners in Vienna have the summer off and relax on the hills of Piber.  Just being horses.

Suki called to Nikki once as we left the barn.  Starting the ride with three loop serpentines I moved from posting trot to sitting asking for a bit more collection.  I was pleased with Nikki's response.  There wasn't any stiffness in her back as I moved from rising to sitting....and I actually felt her lift in the back.  Yay!  Canter transitions were less than brilliant, but I feel like this was my fault.  To remedy this I did my spiral in at the trot, leg yield out, with canter transition as I reach the 20m circle.  Next I did the "bow tie" exercise, asking for canter as I hit the track.  After success with those I exercises I finished with stretchy trot in both directions.

A day off for Suki so there was a full exfoliation and moisturizing session.  I also stretched each leg as I massaged her muscles.  Tomorrow will be a work day for her.  She was happy to go out, but did not get too crazed while I put Nikki out first!  Well, maybe a little.  But she does wait while I turn her around and unhook the lead rope.  I suspect that she is not this way for everyone, but I have certain expectations and she knows that.  Nikki is always polite about being turned out!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Today was lateral work day.  Following my regular warm up with Nikki I worked on transitions within the gaits to improve response time.  Then we moved on to leg yielding which worked well even off my bad leg....well I guess it is my less effective leg!  Even shoulder in was respectable...I like to ask for it on the quarter line and center line, not just on the rail.  It helps me to keep it straighter and teaches both of us to not depend on a barrier.  I asked for a few steps of shoulder in in both directions then finished once again with a stretchy trot.  We are a bit behind, but I am feeling a little more confidence as we move forward.  Nikki enjoys our post work out routine, waiting for the face massage!  Back in her stall with half flake of hay I moved on to Suki.

Suki came barging out of her stall ready for action.  She seemed anxious to work.  I love how she marches out to the arena, ignoring Nikki's calls from the barn!  Suki seems ready to get down to business as we move through the arena gate.  Occasionally there is a lapse where she tries to dive for a mouthful of grass just outside the arena, but responds promptly to my reprimand.  I started Suki with a warm up of trot and canter then did the lunge line version of the spiral-in-leg-yield-out exercise.  This worked better than expected, since I hadn't done it in awhile.  Not just for me, but for Suki as well.  The coordination of the aids is dancing a pas de deux.  We were both up for the challenge!  The minute we finished Suki looked to my pockets for sugar cubes.

Thursday, May 29, 2014
Mornings at the barn are peaceful and quiet.  Walking into the barn with greetings of nickers from the girls and the surrounding green fields and mountains reminds me of why I find the Oley Valley a beautiful place to live.
Nikki was so lovely this morning!  The air was cool and breezy, without sunshine.  But that's okay, because there is still such a calmness in the surroundings that I embrace.  We had a brief moment of mounting block indecision, but with one growl Nikki stepped back into place.  Her trot lengthnings were really beautiful today, and she came back into a more collected gait very easily.  I kept the work simple, and took a walk outside the arena to finish.

Jenn came over to take photos of Suki working.  But Suki was a little difficult about having the bridle put on today.  Yesterday I lunged her in a halter, but I went back to the bridle today.  Not sure if I am keeping the bridle that I bought for her.  It doesn't fit as well as I think it should.  So I used Nikki's, which needs to be adjusted once on.  I was finally successful in getting it on, but something seemed off.  When we approached the arena Suki did not want to go in, so I switched the lunge line to the halter instead.  She worked okay, but I felt there was some fussiness in the bridle, even without the lunge line attached.  Her teeth were done in April, so I think that perhaps I did not adjust the bridle appropriately.  I need to make a decision on her bridle and perhaps find a different one.  The bit is the same type that I have always used, so I don't think that was the problem.  She looked good at the trot, moving out nicely in her working trot.  Jenn commented on how nice Suki's extended trot is....but I told her that this was Suki's regular, working trot....her extended trot is a sight to behold!  Workout was shortened but Suki seemed happy and sound.

I'm struggling a bit with my competitive goals these days.  I've always enjoyed showing and am very competitive.  But I also enjoy bringing horses along through the levels, and yes, showing is a measurement of how well we are accomplishing that task.   I don't think that it is because I have lost a competitive edge.  I have always been quite successful with showing, but some spark has left.  While I am a spectator at Dressage at Devon I do feel the spark return, but honestly, the Andreas Hausberger clinic last summer drove me more.  Perhaps I am finally understanding and embracing Pierre de Coubertin's Olympic Creed:

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well." 

I think of the Spanish Riding School.  They do not compete, they perform.  But the focus is first, and foremost on the process of the training and the correctness.  While we all strive for success in life, perhaps this is what it is all about.  I feel that in Suki's survival and recovery that in our conquering we have also fought well.

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