Thursday, 28 June 2012

If you fail the first time...

...try, try again!

Last night I did a second attempt at jump schooling Koda through the simple gymnastic of 3 trot poles, 9' to a cross rail, then 17' to a vertical.  After talking to my old coach back east, she mentioned to try it again if he was feeling forward.  As we warmed up, Koda was feeling very forward and into the bridle.  I was happily surprised and tried another canter transition on the flat.  He did his strange head low thing, then into a canter where I balanced him and a way we went!  It was quite nice.  So, we have another piece to the canter puzzle - it's not the gait that's the problem, it's the transition.  Either way, after warming up and doing some flat schooling, we got started on the grid. 

First off, just trotted through with the crossrail up, vertical down as a ground pole.  No issues, completely willing to go through.  Went through again, asked for the canter after the crossrail, got it after the groundpole.  Hmmm...well, got the canter, just two strides later than expected.  Ok, well, he went forward through, straight, no qualms about it, let's try a small vertical of about 1'.  Going through the grid, cue for canter, get a weird 1.25 canter stride, and pop over.  This happens a couple times until I clue in - my distance is wrong!  So, I shorten my distance to about 15', try it again and voila!  We keep the vertical up and get our striding.

After going through a few times from the left and right (getting BOTH leads!) we called it a night.  Was very happy with my boy, knew his "FORWARD" was in there somewhere!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Love of Leather

Instead of going out to ride in the apparently imminent but missed us by a mile thunderstorm, I took my tack home and cleaned it.  Now, from some of my previous posts some of you have guessed that I am, as they say, a tack-aholic.  It is true, I love tack, in all shapes and sizes.  I have western tack, english tack, I own more saddles than horses, and I absolutely adore bridles.  But most of all, I love my old as the hills Stubben Siegfried.  I bought it used a couple years ago, and it has been my favourite saddle ever since. 

Now, with this huge love of my saddle, it must be taken care of properly.  Since I am a tack-aholic, all of it must be extremely well cared for.  I currently have way too many leather cleaners, conditioners, oils, brushes, sponges, and rags for the amount of leather I own.  Each piece of tack has their own specific cleaning regime that is followed everytime they're cleaned.  It's one thing that I really enjoy doing and would do for free if someone wanted their tack cleaned, particularly if it's old tack.  Bringing my old stubben back to life was a lot of hard work (who in their right mind applies oil to suede?!?!) and a great pay-off.  Even tonight when I was cleaning it and the new Harry Dabbs (that bridges so badly... but that's another post) you could easily distinguish the superior leather used to make the stubben even though it was double (or triple!) the age of the HD. 

There is nothing like quality leather to make a girl swoon, especially after a very thorough cleaning!

For a thorough cleaning of my saddle, this is how it goes:
1) apply stubben soap with damp sponge using small circles all over saddle, giving special care to the seat and area where stirrup leathers rub.
2) let dry
3) polish with kiwi cloth
4) apply balsam with old t-shirt cloth in small circles. A little goes a long way, get that elbow grease going!
5) let dry
6) quick second polish with kiwi cloth

Now this isn't an every-day occurrence, more once a month or once every 6 weeks, depending on where I was riding (indoor vs outdoor) and the weather (got caught in rain). 

Does anyone else use so many products for their leather cleaning?  Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Starting Fresh

Tonight was the first ride in the new regime.  As we have our first horse trial coming up in five weeks (eeek!) Koda and I are buckling down and taking care of business.  One of the biggest issues we have right now - being able to carry ourselves correctly.  A major problem with this is straightness and tempo are rather difficult to carry for long periods of time.  We have flashes of brilliance, but most of the time either get one or the other. 

In light of this, a new training regime has been created, focusing on schooling on the flat with a jump school and a hack once a week.  I'm hoping to ride 5-6 times which will mean 3-4 schooling rides on the flat, then a jump school, then a hack.  Is that too much schooling on the flat?  I don't want him to become sour or bored, so am willing to mix it up, but we do need to work on developing that top line and moving correctly instead of just throwing ourselves around willy-nilly. 

Either way, tonight's ride was a solid school with an increase in better moments than bad ones.  He's got the goods, just need to develop them.  We worked on simple movements, 20m circles at trot, 10m walk circles, serpentines, leg yields, and the beginning of shoulder-in at the walk.  We even had a few strides of left lead canter that felt like I was riding a side-winder, BUT the lead was there and there was some forward motion to it which was better than last time out.  I've also decided to ditch the spurs for now simply because I am new to riding with spurs and with the way our rides are going, I don't want to bump him accidentally with them.  When we're working outside, Koda has plenty of forward and listens to the aids a lot better than in the indoor, so spurs will stay in the trailer for now.  Perhaps once I've stopped letting myself get thrown all around in the saddle they may come back out for refining, but not now.

Tomorrow, our ride will be more of the same with perhaps a touch more canter in there, but we'll see how things go.  I'm teetering between getting a fantastic solid trot before going into the canter so that the muscles are half-decently built up, but am not sure if that's a good idea or not... 


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Think Before You Leap!

... or try doing a gymnastic

Tonight was going to be an intro to jumping for Koda.  We're still working on the loading, and it's getting better.  Instead of getting stalled right in front of the trailer, we're getting stalled with the one front, or both front hooves up in the trailer.  I know he can load, and he knows that I know, but we're just working on our relationship together (and this is just fine with me!).  It was super cool tonight when I walked out to the field to bring Koda in; the herd was in the far corner of the field (about 3 acre field, not super huge) and when I walked out and called to him, he looked up, saw me, and trotted over.


This has never happened to me before, and it has been one of those little girl dreams of having the horse that will come trotting to me when I call, leaving the herd behind.  Allow me to say that I may have danced a little happy jig of joy :)

Anyways, on our way to the arena, the truck started to overheat for some reason which we're still not too sure about.  A friend that is auto-savy came and checked it out at the arena and he didn't see anything remiss.  Either way, we tacked up and started our ride.  The ride was really good to start, very forward in his walk, did a little lateral work and dorsal flexion.  We got into our trot work and again, did some lateral work, circles and serpentines, and a touch of dorsal flexion as well.  Had a BEAUTIFUL 20 m circle with Koda moving forward into the contact, lifting his back, and using his hind end.  This one circle was the absolute highlight of the ride!

Which doesn't bode well for the jumping.  We set up 3 trot poles into a cross rail, stride, cross rail.  first time through was nothing spectacular, Koda lost all impulsion and forward (clue #1) once we got to the first cross rail.  This continued as we built the gymnastic.  This had me thinking, ok, need to get more forward.  Decided to work on some canter, which I know from the history I got from the previous owner that he hasn't had much work on (clue #2).  Right lead canter was rough, as expected, but existed.  Left lead... not so much.  I have a feeling this is mostly due to me being a more dominant to the right rider, particularly when I'm not fit (like I am now) and Koda going naturally better to the right than the left.  After this I was worried about him being off and that I hadn't caught it, or something, so I hopped off and tossed him on the line to see what was up.  He cantered just fine both ways (clue #3).

SO!  Now that I've been forced to look at where we're at and what we need, we have a new game plan:
1) Fitness is the key - work the cardio vascular system and the correct muscles (on both Koda and I)!
2) Balance is the second key - keep working in balance within the gaits and balance the training regime
3) Find the left lead - it's in there somewhere!

Ideas are still wanted for alternatives to show names!  Seems like Aftershock is a front runner for sure, though :)  Thanks for the feedback everyone!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Showing and Swelling

This is going to be a split post tonight!

Went out tonight to do night check at the barn (BO is out camping with her class as an end of the school treat), and while I was spraying Koda down (darn mosquitoes, leave him alone!) I noticed that he was swollen along his throat latch, not below, just near the ears and along that area.  Since it wasn't there yesterday (at least I didn't notice it), so I don't think it is anything too too serious.  Koda seemed a little less alert (or was really enjoying the scritches he was getting along the jaw and inside his ears) and a touch more lethargic (was dragging his toes a touch when not motivated, but is due for a trim) but otherwise, just fine.  I think it is allergies, but of course, me being the super over-protective horse mom that I am, research was needed!  From what I have read, it does sound like it's allergies and that to keep an eye on it.  I haven't found any information on remedies or treatment other than benedryl which I find a touch strange... human medication for an equine?  Not sure about that...

Has anyone had a horse with allergies?  How did you treat it, or help them stay comfortable?

In other news, Koda and I are going to our very first horse trial!  It's at the end of July, so we have about 5 weeks to prepare.  This will be my third horse trial, Koda's first.  We're going starter, so if all else fails, Koda can just step over the jumps.  For those friends across the border, the jumps are about 2 feet in stadium, cross country will consist of logs with varying decorations in front.  Now, the issue I have with this isn't the training or preparation (we're going to get exposure and have fun!), but it is the dreaded choosing of the show name.  Koda's registered name is Dakotas Lil Shocker (awful, I know), and barn name is Koda.  His sire is Dakotas Keyanti (arab), dam is Shock 'Em Star (AQHA).  The one name I have been flirting with is Aftershock, but I'm not sold on it yet.

Anyone have suggestions?

Monday, 18 June 2012


I have a fairly varied equestrian past, with learning at a riding stable on the lesson ponies, then the new horses at the barn, along with learning how to ride at camp, moving up the levels to the point where I was the horsebarn director.  With all these different influences, one person has stood out the most from everyone.  Let's call her E.  I met E when I was working at camp.  She came into the camp and certified the riding instructors to teach different riding levels.  E has an incredible history in the horse world and is one of the few people I would call a true horsewoman.  She's done the rodeos, she's done jumper shows, dressage shows, 14 day packing trips through the wilderness, driving, vaulting, and more.  She's a certified nurse and I would trust her with my life in any situation.  Simply, an incredible person and I'm blessed to know her.  For the past 8 years I have been assisting her at the certification workshops at one camp or another.  The workshops are a week long with 60 hours of class time along with 'homework' as well.  This passed workshop, one thing that really reasonated with me and what I need to be working on with Koda is allow the horse to make the choice to do what's right.  Don't escalate the question, don't lose your cool, just keep asking until you get even an inkling of the right answer.  This, of course, isn't the best training method for every situation, but it really helped me tonight.

Last weekend, Koda and I had a trailer loading issue.  All the other horses were hobbled and grazing, and he was tied to the fence.  I arrive, hookup, and look to load him up.  He balks, and hesitates, calling to his pals, so I ask the SO to gently tap on the hock with the dressage whip.  He did, Koda went on, closed the door, ok.  Before we even leave the yard, the insane pawing starts along with calling out.  The calling out didn't bother me, but the pawing did.  This horse hasn't pawed yet in the trailer, and this was MAJOR pawing, over half-way up the wall.  I didn't want to trailer him like that, so we got him out and worked on loading calmly.  Long story short, he walked in calmly and called it a day. 

Tonight I wanted to work on trailering again because we have signed up for our first HT and the only place we can work on our stadium is at the haul-in arena.  So I implemented some of E's training methods tonight:
1) Ask in small steps
2) Don't increase pressure, continue to ask until you get a try to what you want
3) Make it the horse's choice, do not force it

It was really interesting to see how Koda worked through this.  He knew what I was asking for, but he was a touch nervous about so I broke it down into steps.  The ideal - keep the same pressure on the lead rope, and wait for him to make the right choice.  I only had one rule - he had to continually listen to me.  No looking other ways, no losing focus, no calling, no grazing, focus only on me.  Koda knew exactly what I wanted, and he was getting very frustrated with me, making him choose instead of forcing him into the trailer.  After a bit, he put both fronts on the trailer - released pressure and let him relax.  Right before he put those feet in the trailer, he did the equine version of the eye-roll and "really mom?!?!".  It was hilarious.

Now to make this post short and hopefully it isn't tl:dr already, we got him in the trailer nice and calm with the only pressure on Koda being a slight pressure on the lead rope and clucking/kissing.  I think with a few more sessions like tonight, we'll be back to where we were with no loading issues and just on we go with no issues.

Happy Monday everyone!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Tack Buying Anonymous

So I am in the big city for a course for work.  The course runs from the morning to about 4:30pm, and I don't generally know many people at all here, so I spend my evenings in my own company.  I don't mind the solitude, it's actually kind of nice sometimes to just get to do what I want, when I want.  Yet, one thing that I always end up doing when I'm in town is go to the tack stores!  Even if I'm not going in for something specific, I always have to go take a look, or expand my tack store list, or take a look at new breeches, saddle pad, brush, bridle, or what have you.  It is a horrible horrible, yet wonderful and joyous thing.  Today I went to two new shops and found some extra long reins for mister Koda (his neck is a LOT longer than my last horse's!).  Tomorrow I'm most likely going to hit up the regulars (Greenhawk and Tudor Tack Shoppe) to see if I can find some nice galloping boots for him.  I tried the ones I have on him, and they just barely fit, so I doubt they would stay on during a cross country run.

Does anyone else have this tack shopping addiction?  I have way too many bridles for one horse, saddles, don't even get me started, and blankets out the wazoo.  My horse will be better dressed than I am since I really dislike shopping for clothes for myself (except for boots, I really like boots for some reason...).

Help fellow bloggers!  My bank account is dying in the sea of tack shops!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Good rides

Sorry for the lack in posts!  Work has been intense this week, and when I get home I either just want to hang out with Koda or the SO, then turn the brain off and enjoy some guilt-free tv. 

Went for a long trail ride with the BO and her handsome boy earlier this week and we couldn't have asked for a better time.  The day was lovely, wind was just enough to keep the flies off, sun was up but not too hot, horses were happy to go, absolutely perfect.  The ride itself went really well with some walking, trotting, cantering, and, for Koda and I, working from pushing from behind and rounding the topline.  Surprisingly, he did very well (yet again!) not only at a walk, but at the trot, and even a touch at canter.  We do need to work on our straightness, but I think that is more me than him since when I'm completely even, so is he.  I just need to get used to really riding perfectly STRAIGHT with no lean or crookedness.  Yay for yoga and pilates to help straighten me out!

The ride for Koda and I went really well, but the best part was seeing the BO out on her main horse, trotting and cantering along.  Now the BO has had a few mishaps with this guy, and the trust has not been there for a while.  Whenever we had gone trail riding before, she was very nervous about going faster than a walk on any of her horses, let alone her "hot" horse that she was on that night.  I knew I wanted to do some trot work, so I just asked and she said sure, it will help her guy learn that it's ok to let horses go by him.  Lo and behold, when I went past on my second trot, I hear the clip-clop of hooves behind me, and I turn and see her smiling from ear to ear.  It was awesome!  On our home loop, she was even the one that started cantering first, leaving me in the dust! 

It was great to see my friend get up and just enjoy the riding and to know that she can still do those things with her horses. 

Very cool :)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Setting goals and determination

Today I had a lunge lesson with my friend G.  She has ridden english for most of her riding career and does know proper equitation and was happy to torture me on the line.  Finding an english rider up here is fair and few between, and one who can teach is miraculous, so I am extremely happy to have found G!  During the lesson we talked about what my showing goals were going to be this year, and I mentioned the two horse trials I'd like to get to, one at the end of July, one at the end of August.  Just looking at starter, so it wouldn't be that big for the jumping, just worried about the experience.  She replied "Oh, it won't be that difficult!  Just keep working, haul into the arena to work on stadium and you'll be fine".  Not exactly in those words, but that's what I took from it which was very comforting.  We have plenty of time to work up to getting to the starter level fitness wise, and in the dressage ring. 

When we started heading home on the trails, Koda was really striding out, so I started doing some shortening, lengthening, stretching, and pushing from the hind through the back (lifted!) walk work.  We played a game where every time we were going downhill, we would "sneak".  I found it really helped him balance himself instead of just throwing himself down the hill, plus we slowed down so that the others would catch up to us.  It was very cool to really feel that lift through the back, and him coming round, even with the slightly too wide saddle on him.  I've heard from the seller, and the Harry Dabbs should be on it's way tomorrow via Greyhound!

Since we didn't have the camera for the lunge, here's some video from our trail yesterday.  Youtube was kind enough to fix my wobbly video-taping. 


The Poplar Grove

Heading Home

Trail Blazing

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Machesis Lake

 At the trail head! One of these things is not like the other...

BO and G are happy to be hitting the trails!

We laughed...

One of our landmarks - the 'H' tree

Happy trails to you

Best view on earth

Debating on the next trail

Alert and ready to go

Chowing down after a great ride

Good trail ponies!

My handsome man

Friday, 1 June 2012

The Heat is On!

Oh my goodness, it is HOT out here!  I did not expect for it to get this hot and dry this far north. 

Went for an easy ride today in preparation for our Machesis Lake ride tomorrow.  I've never been up to Machesis but the BO and our friend G say that it's a pretty great trail, excellent areas for picking through trails, sandy lanes for trotting and cantering, and (hopefully!) some natural obstacles! 

In saddle news, I've found a Harry Dabbs that I really like and am having shipped up to trial.  The seat sounds like it will fit me, and the tree seems like it will fit Koda better than the Stubben I have now, so fingers crossed! 

As for the show season, I'm not sure which ones I'll be able to make it to, due to them being so far away and not having as many holiday days available.  I am for certain am going to try to get to two horse trials, or at least one trial and perhaps a dressage show or two.  The main issue is that all of the shows are at minimum 4 hours away, and are more like 9 hours away, which mean taking holiday time to trailer down and back.  At least with the shows being so far away, Koda and I will have plenty of time to work on our partnership and communication (along with fitness... oye!).

Here's a question for the eventers - have you ever gone to a horse trial without schooling a cross country course before?