Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wearing a surcingle

So I had an entire post completely written, and now it is gone....  Uggh.

This will be a shortened version!

Sunday 22 June 2014
Perfect day for riding.  Suki and Nikki had yesterday off, so they were both ready to work.  I really enjoy my early morning rides.  The farm is peaceful and the air is usually a bit cooler than later in the day.  It gives me the opportunity to really take my time with each horse, grooming and training.

Nikki has been going through her mounting block phase again, something we revisit every few weeks. It just takes patience, but I have to admit I find it a bit annoying.  It seems to me it's a cycling issue, because it usually starts one day before she shows signs of heat, then lasts about a week.  Today was only one time stepping away.  The second attempt she stood quietly.  At least it's winding down again!

I worked a bit on leg yielding, then shoulder in to a few steps of half pass.  The best part of the ride was when I asked for  trot lengthening across the diagonal and Nikki launched into an awesome medium!  WOW!  But that was when I realized that I hadn’t actually SAT a medium in awhile.  The rest of the ride included some work without stirrups!

Suki listened well and was not at all distracted by the horses in the fields around her.  It was a pleasure to see her so focused.  After her day off I did a lot forward gaits, as she started off slightly stiff.  A few times around and the stiffness was gone.  Transitions within the gaits were achieved by a simple change of my body position.  She was so in tune with what I was asking.  Such fun!  I love the way she walks back to the barn after working.  Very proud of herself!  Today I put the surcingle on over the saddle pad but just let it hang without buckling it.  Suki turned around and looked at it for a moment but that was it.  That was pretty much how she reacted the first time I put a sheet on her when she was three, so I shouldn’t be too surprised.  I know that it seems like I am moving at a glacial pace, but With everything that she has been through I just need to take my time.  She has recovered from the fire so beautifully, but I want to make sure that she is physically and mentally ready for each step.

Monday 23 June 2014
A warm, humid start to the day, and since Isaiah had camp I could not get to the barn until 9:15.  It was already a bit steamy, but the girls were inside in front of their fans relaxing when I arrived.  Rough life!!

The flies were annoying, but Nikki was a trooper with only one step aside for mounting.  Maybe next time she will stand still!  I spread the trot poles a bit wider today and she went through them with ease.  She looked at them a little bit the first time through but stepped it up nicely.  The first few canter transitions I felt like she was pulling a bit so I put her on a 20 meter circle and asked for trot-canter, canter-trot transitions every few strides.  It was much better after that!

We were both pretty steamy after that session so Nikki had a cool shower and I drank a bottle of Gatorade.  I used to only like the lime flavor but am a new fan of strawberry!

Suki was amazing!  She was so ready to work.  There was no evidence of stiffness even at the beginning.  The trot to halt transitions were dead-on square.  Then she lifted right into trot when asked.

Before I hosed her off I put the saddle pad on her back then the surcingle, which I buckled.  No problem.

She's really not as cranky as she appears!

Thursday 26 June 2014

Another 9:30 start to the day, but after a brief lunge for Nikki I got on.  She stood like a rock and was in such a delightful mood!!  Shoulder in is definitely improving, and today I worked on a bit of haunches in as well.  I have not worked on haunches in for awhile, but Nikki was very responsive with correct bend and nice forward energy.  I also worked on spiral in at the trot from a 20m circle then leg yield out asking for the canter as we hit the 20m mark again.  She stretched beautifully at the walk to cool out and we went for a walk outside the arena.

While Nikki’s fetlock wound seems to be healing nicely, Suki’s looks like it has re-opened.  It is a little sensitive to the touch but not bad.  Suki walked out to the arena ready to work, but once she picked up the trot I could see that she was quite uncomfortable on the left hind.  Moving her out on straight lines and large circles to see if it improve, I could tell it would not.  She will rest tomorrow and I will check again on Saturday.  I wonder if it is because of that wound?  I cleaned it really well and applied Beeswax Bandage ointment.

I also needed to take home Suki’s lightest weight fly sheet to make some repairs (this has been an almost daily occurrence!) This particular sheet is a very light weight mesh so it is perfect for hot days.  I often leave her naked in her stall during the day then return to put the sheet back on for turnout.  The Smart Pak fly sheet is out for repairs and although it too is light weight it is slightly heavier and more durable than the Saxon sheet.  Last summer my fabulous blanket lady sewed a light weight cotton panel just across the top to protect Suki’s skin from the sun.  I need to find another for back up, but it is difficult to find in a size 84!

Saturday 28 June 2014
Beautiful morning, low 60sF and moderate humidity.  I could feel the day warming quickly and the girls started towards the gate as soon as they saw me coming down the driveway!  By the middle of next week temperatures and humidity are expected to rise so I will enjoy this while I can!

Nikki did a BIG downward dog stretch just after we walked out of the barn, with an equally loud groan.  This was followed by an arabesque stretch on each leg!  After a very brief lunge to let her stretch her back a bit, Nikki stood quietly at the mounting block again. Her energy was super so we did a bunch of different exercises.  We were both tired but pleased at the end of the ride.  As soon as I dismounted Nikki stepped back to recive her post ride sugar cube!

I wanted to check Suki’s soundness status so I did a quick groom and took her out to the arena.  She did her arabesque stretches just before we left the barn.  Huge improvement today, but I will give her another rest day.  The cut looks better but I am not fully convinced that was the entire problem.  I was happy to see improvement though.  After a thorough grooming exfoliation and moisturizing I decided to leave Suki naked in her stall.  I will return later to put it on before turnout tonight.  Did I mention there was another hole to repair!?

Tomorrow will be another early start, but is there anything better than to start the day greeted by the happy knickers of greeting by your horses?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A night without a fly sheet and plans for the surcingle next week!

The past few weeks have been a bit busy, to say the least!  Isaiah was finishing his final exams (2nd grade) during the first week of June, delayed this year due to the insane number of snow days.  While settling in to her assisted living apartment my mother fell again and fractured her wrist (same arm as the proximal humerus fracture).  Otherwise my mother is doing well, recovering nicely and doing her physical therapy.  It was good that she did not have to remain in the hospital more than one night, and because they can perform physical therapy in her apartment it was not necessary for her to return to the rehab facility.  Now that we have moved mom's furniture into her apartment it feels like home to her and she seems quite happy.

I cannot believe that 3 weeks have passed since my last post but indeed they have!  During that time the corn fields of the Oley Valley have sprung up nicely due to consistent rain adding to the lush, green landscape.  While we have had some steamy, sticky days filled with gnats there have also been some lovely, cool evenings where temperatures dip to the low 50'sF and rising only to the low 70's with minimal humidity.  The hot days of summer will soon be upon us and I promise to try not to complain too much given how difficult this past winter was.  Alas, though, I am sure I will complain because I have always hated really hot days!  Maybe I should look at some pictures of the large quantities of snow when I feel the need to complain....

Nikki has been working well, but as she bores easily I change things around quite a bit.  She seems to enjoy when I throw something unexpected into the mix.....for example, last week as I cantered along the far side of the arena I turned Nikki toward a single rail on the ground.  It surprised her a bit so she jumped it as if it were 3 feet off the ground!  Those leaps are always a bit unwelcome, but especially in a dressage saddle!  Fortunately I did not come unseated by it and laughed at our slight misstep.  Also fortunately no one was around to witness my moment of "ungracefullness"!  I'm certain that my eyes and Nikki's were as large as saucers as we launched into the air.  The next time she just cantered the pole like it was another stride, which was my plan in the first place!  My plan was also to make Nikki think and not just go through the motions of work.  So I guess we accomplished that as well.

Lateral work is also being stepped up a notch.  As I have said we are a little behind in training, but Nikki is certainly capable of doing the work.  Skills need to be sharpened, including reaction time to aids.  We work on lenghthening and shortening of stride, and to decrease anticipation on diagonals and long side of the arena I ask on the 20m circle.  I am pleased with this exercise.  It is nice to feel Nikki lift in her back and push off her hind end to lengthen and compress.

We have been dealing a little with the mounting block issue, but that is a recurring issue every few weeks.  Of course I try to reason with her before I get on..... "If you stand quietly first try I will shorten the ride".  Never works. But it has improved and will disappear for a few weeks.  She sometimes swings her butt out just as I get on the mounting block.  If she hesitates then I can get my foot in the stirrup and get on even as she swings her hind end (I m thankful for my 17 years of ballet training!).  But then I walk a loop, trot a loop, get off and back on.  Nikki hates this and gives in fairly quickly with a sigh of resignation!

Overall Nikki's energy level has been excellent and lateral work is improving greatly as well.  On hot, buggy days a gnat usually flies into my eye just as I am mounting, adding to the fun.  I am like a magnet to gnats!  Many have been swallowed.  The horse flies have not been so bad yet and I have not seen any green heads.  That too will happen by July!

After workout selfie!

Suki too, is working well.  For the past few weeks I have been focusing on fitness and sharpening transitions.  Some days start with a bit of stiffness, which on most occasions resolves quickly.  Other days I see a hint of it throughout the workout.  Before the work becomes too intense I will have Suki evaluated so that we can address any problems.  It is nice to see how happy she is in regular work, almost appearing to be disappointed on those days when she does not work.  Sometimes on Suki's day off I add some stretches or brief leading exercises to give her something to do.

Earlier this week we worked on trot-to-halt and halt-to trot transitions.  After the first try the transitions were as sharp as ever.  I am pleased with her progression and her increasing fitness, but probably still babying her just a bit!  The walk-canter and canter-walk transitions are added on some days as well, and they too are becoming better.  I am careful with both girls when the footing is hard after several days without rain.

Next week I am going to add the surcingle with saddle pad.  Then side reins.  I have to pick up a bit for Suki's bridle before I can add side reins.  For now I use Nikki's but the bridle really does not fit well, so I have been having Suki wear it less frequently.  The Micklham bridle that I bought for her I have not yet tried, so that is the plan for next week also.

Last week for the first time since the fire I allowed Suki to go out over night naked.  The afternoon was overcast with rain expected over night.  Suki has not worn any additional padding over her graft site in well over a year, probably closer to two years now.  She wears fly sheets to protect the part of her back that did not achieve new hair growth from the sun.  But without sun I decided to give it a try.

I smiled as I drove down the driveway to the barn, being greeted by my beautiful girls!  Both of them without any protective clothing.  Suki must have felt liberated! I went to the barn really early to be sure it all worked out!  I believe there was an extra spring to her step that day working!  That night I left her naked again, although the sun was out when I woke up at 5 AM s I rushed over and got an early start to the day!

Last Saturday was Isaiah's first dressage show off the farm.  His rides were not until 3:30 in the afternoon so I had until 11 to ride and lunge.  Isaiah and I went to Louise's at noon to get Rusty ready for the big day.  he discouraged me from helping, declaring that he knew what to do.  Because Louise did not know how Rusty would react at a show off the farm we elected to have Isaiah do the leadline tests.  They can be performed with or without being led, so Louise just walked beside Isaiah as he performed his tests.  I was videoing the tests, and became misty-eyed watching him halt and salute the judge!

Warming up
Going over the test with Louise
A job well done                                      
Saturday, June 21, 2014
This morning I went to the barn early to groom the girls.  Suki met me at the gate, but Nikki made me walk out to her!  The temperature was 59F, so I guess she was not in any hurry to come in!

Once in, Nikki enjoyed her thorough grooming.  Her right hind foot, in the cleft above the bulb had an irritation that was dried scab and a bit goopy.  After cleaning it I sprayed Blue Kote on to keep it dry and protect it.  AsI was spraying it flew back into my left eye.  I immediately flushed my eye with water then continued what i was doing.  When I got in the car I noticed that the entire side of my face was PURPLE!!!  And this stuff stains!  I washed my whole face, but there was also some purple in my hair.  Thankfully I was wearing a hat or that would have been much worse.  The purple in my hair is underneath my bangs so it is not noticeable unless I pull them back!

Suki also had a weird thing on her left hind in the same place.  I cleaned it and applied Blue Kote with a bit more care.  She actually lifted her leg and held it out to the side to make it easier for me!

To finish this evening I would like to note something.....Isaiah was playing MineCraft and commented that in order to get the horses to work for you, you have to make them love you first.....hmmmm the importance of the human-horse relationship!