Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weekend of Horse Showing

This weekend was filled with back to back horse shows. On Saturday I had the Jersey Bred Show with JB and H, of course. There used to be a multitude of breeds showing off their Jersey Bred horses in breed classes at this show. This year the Standardbreds were the only ones left and it was the last year of the show. Since we were the only breed participating the SPHO-NJ decided to open the show up to all Standardbreds with only the Jersey Bred's taking home the money.

Between myself and H, JB was entered in 11 classes and took home 9 blue ribbons, 1 red, and a green. JB and I were 2nd in Model to my friend R's stallion. We took first of eight in a cross country pleasure class of both English and Western riders. We also won both of our western pleasure classes. He was very much in the western zone. He was also a bit itchy and fidgety earning us a 6th in the command from not being able to stand still. He and H were first in all of their classes which included English Pleasure, Jumping, and Driving.

On Sunday I had my normal local schooling show with both Satin and JB. Satin was very good and ended up Grand Champion in the Speed division. Her barrel pattern was just about perfect and keyhole was absolutely perfect. Poles, which is usually her best event, was not so great. She ran up then sucked back as we turned to weave down the poles, then tried to dive right at the pole. I managed to pull her out and get down the poles, but she sucked back as usual when we hit the last 2 poles going up and she basically walked around the end turn before taking off for home. I don't know what was up with that, but we still managed to take 2nd so it ended up alright.

We had some issues with a last minute judge change. We found out after the judge never showed for speed that he was in the hospital. We were lucky to get 2 last minute replacements. There is a father - daughter team that sells tack at all the shows. Luckily, the daughter happens to be a judge and agreed to judge the model and showmanship to keep the ring going until our other judge arrived an hour later to judge the riding. We were 2nd in the Geldings class and 4th in the open class out of 14 horses. I was quite pleased.

JB was very good in the riding. We were 4th in horsemanship, with what I thought was a decent pattern on our part, but not our best. He earned 3rd in pleasure and 2nd in command, with the class coming down to my friend K and I get again. Both of us looked at each other like "Oh God, not this again" after last shows back up contest. JB was quite itchy and fidgety yet again though so it didn't take long for us to get out for him moving in an attempt to itch at the halt. He was 5th in trail as expected, since he is afraid of half the obstacles.

Right now JB is holding 3rd for the year in both of our divisions, only a few points away from being reserve and Satin is holding Grand in the speed. Here's hoping for equally good performances at the last show of the season in October!

Last Week's Lesson

Last week Satin and I had our second individual lesson. R started out by asking me if I took Satin to jump at a horse show next year, what would I do? My reply was, "Vomit". LOL What R meant was Jumpers, Hunters, etc. I had always thought the jumpers looked fun as I have a need for speed, but on the other hand until I am more confident Hunters may be a better fit. I expressed this to R, when my other response of "Whatever you told me to do" did not suffice. R agreed that the Hunters were a good basis for everything and that we would focus on that this lesson. She decided we would do some English Pleasure in our warm up since that is what I originally inquired about when starting these English lessons (though now I think Hunters or Jumpers are more my thing).

Satin hates to trot. She prefers either walk or canter, and gallop of course! The first thing we did was work on getting her to extend her stride a bit and go in a more forward trot, which we achieved with the help of a vine that served as a crop. One thing about Satin is that you never actually have to touch her with the crop (or in this case vine). All she has to do is see it and she gets the picture. After waving it by her eye a few times she was trotting right along. Her canter was pleasure perfect so that wasn't a problem.

Anyway, after that R reset the jumps to be more Satin's size and told me to go warm up a bit before she gave us our course. Well, Satin decided she was only jumping the jumps in the direction of the in gate, but not the opposite direction. We tried and tried for about ten minutes and then all of sudden she changed her mind and was ready pop right over everything in both directions. She is quite the silly little mare sometimes.

After we had managed to get over the jumps in both directions R gave us a short hunter course to do of an outside line with two bending lines. Satin went over everything very nicely and she gave us another slighty longer course adding another bending line, with much more bend then the other two. The old mare never ceases to amaze me though. She took all of the jumps beautifully, going at the perfect pace, like she had been a hunter all of her life. I managed to do pretty well too, if I do say so myself. R was very happy with us both. Maybe a hunter show is in our near future after all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

General Satin Updates

I just realized my last few posts about Satin have all been about our lessons, so figured it was about time to give some general updates.

Last week, in the days leading up to our lesson, she was acting a bit funny about taking the bit. She always grabs the bit eagerly out of my hand. When I ride her in the hackamore she even tries to grab the hackamore chain like it is a bit. So, when she suddenly started refusing the bit, I found it very odd.

Then at our lesson on Wednesday she refused even more than she had been. She clamped her mouth shut and was pulling her head up and away from me. It took me almost five minutes of fighting with her to get her to take it. In all of these instances, once I got the bit in she was fine. She did not act funny or in pain while riding. This time however, she had foam coming out of the right side of her mouth. It was white and bubbly and made her look like she had rabies. It was coming out and dripping everywhere.

After I finished riding, R has me clean out her mouth with the hose so she could look inside. We had quite a lot of fun trying to hold open her mouth to inspect it with a flashlight (except not really). She is usually good for the dentist, but was not too happy with us, though she wasn't too bad, just kept wanting to clamp her mouth shut. We did not see anything that appeared infected or anything like that. There were some points on the inside of the teeth, but nothing major. This was odd being that she just had her teeth floated about 6 weeks ago and my dentist is always very thorough. The other thing we noticed was that she had a lot of hay and grass and what not stuck on the inside of her back teeth on the right side. We took her back outside and R hosed out her mouth again, trying to target the stuff stuck on the inside of the teeth.

Luckily, R's husband D, who is a farrier, and as much of a horse guru as R, was there to assist. R had him hold open her mouth after this and they both examined it and neither could see anything causing the problem. R suggested calling my dentist back in and riding her without a bit until then.

I rode her the next day just bareback in her halter. I gave her that Friday off and then Saturday rode her western in the hackamore and she went to grab the chain as always. This immediately caught my attention. She rode perfectly. We even did the collected circle, extended circle exercise I had down with Taz and she did it very nicely. I have done similar exercises with her in the bit, so was not sure how she would do in the hackamore, but she was great.

Anyway, I relayed the hackamore story to R the following day and she said maybe we had gotten it out when hosing and it was related to the stuff packed on the inside of the teeth. She suggested going ahead and giving the bit a try. Later that day I tacked her up English and she turned her head away from the bit the first time, but when I asked her again she took it with no issue. I rode her around, asking her to get on the bit, and jumped her a little (which she did very nicely and quietly) and there was no foam whatsoever. Whatever it was it looks like we got it, thankfully.

We also changed her diet, since she on occasion will leave over some of her pellet. She was getting half a scoop of sweet feed and half a scoop of pellet, plus her equijewel and cortaflex (joint supplement). R and I both felt she had lost a little weight, most likely due to the bad batch of hay we had gotten at the farm. She wasn't leaving enough grain or leaving it often enough to cause the change. R suggested changing her feed and putting her on a full scoop of sweet plus her supplements and taking out the pellet. She said if that is what she eats then that is what we should give her. It worked and she has been cleaning up grain consistently since. We also got a new hay delivery which is much nicer than our last batch, so hopefully we can get her back to bring a chunky monkey in no time.

Taz Update

Taz has been great (as usual) in our last few rides. Last week we put the grid to use (no we didn't jump it). We did small, canter serpentines through the grid with simple changes through the halt. His simple changes through the halt are fabulous, as is his collected canter, so he did them beautifully. We also did some work on figure eights at the jog and lope with simple changes through the halt.

After seeing us do this R suggested doing a small, collected canter circle around one of the jumps, then doing a larger, extended canter circle, then going back to the collected circle. She wanted me to use my seat, especially my hips, to get the transitions from collected to extended canter. We did this exercise in both directions. In the beginning we had some problems with breaking to the walk in the collected circles and not having enough speed to show a true difference in the extended circles. With some pointers from R on seat and hand position though we ended up with nice patterns. I repeated this exercise today and it went very well.

I have also been doing more one handed riding with him. Today I got some very nice lope from him both two handed and one handed. His jog with the one hand was perfect. I was able to get him super slow with a nice low head set.

Try's Fun New Habit

Try has come up with a fun new game for me. One thing about Try is he is very smart, too smart for his own good sometimes. He likes to spice things up a bit and develop new, not so fun habits to keep me on my toes. About a month ago his new fun habit was swinging himself towards the wall not leaving me much space on the left side (coincidentally the tacking side) and refusing to move over when instructed. I sought council from the all knowing R who suggested just poking him in the sensitive belly area with one finger, rather then trying to push him over, which only caused him to push back. After a day or two this was successful and he never tried it again.

We have been new habit free since then until last week. His latest fun new habit is trying to attack me when walking to / standing at the mounting block. He has always been an occasional nipper, but this was much more then that. When I walk him into the ring, we walk a small circle to un-bloat him and stop a few feet from the mounting block to tighten the girth. Then I walk him to the block, line him up, put the reins over his head, and mount. His new thing was he would try a nip or two in the beginning then from the time I tightened the girth to the time I mounted he would continuously try to come at me with his teeth, in much harsher manner than the occasional nip he has done in the past. His owner and I discussed the fact that we must put an end to this immediately so of course I went to R.

R's suggestion was to treat it like an in hand class and be very consistent. She said that every time he tried to bite me I should immediately back him up 3 or 4 steps. This was an option his owner and I had discussed, but he used to be bad about standing at the mounting block and if he scooted around too much at the block we would go and back him up, try again, etc. This was why I was not sure if I should do this for the biting at the block because I did not want to cause him any confusion. Once R confirmed this was a good plan I put it to work.

The first time I did it, I started immediately from the first little nip, so by the time we got to the block he got the picture and I would say showed definite progress. I did it again on my last ride yesterday and he did not try to go after me at the block at all, so hopefully we have put this new game to rest.

As far as riding, he has been a dream. No matter what stupid stunts he pulls on the ground, he has been consistently great under saddle. We have been doing a lot of work on his collected canter, with his head down and on the bit and he has been doing it beautifully! We have also been practicing his slow jog with his head nice and low, which is also one of his best things. I have also been doing a lot of circle work at the jog and lope, as well as, a lot of pattern work. Since he is so smart, I have to change it up and do different and challenging things to keep him entertained, so pattern work is great for him. We have also been doing some work on his turns on the haunches and to the right he is perfect, but to the left needs a little work.

Gambler's Choice Lesson

Last week I had my regular bi-weekly lesson with my friend L. We started out with our usual warm up flat work. Satin was a bit stiff and a little sluggish at the trot (which is typical, she hates trotting). We did some exercises to fix that, such as changing my seat to encourage her forward and breaking up the trot with a few strides of canter here and there to wake her up. This helped a bit then we did an exercise trotting a quarter of the way around the ring, then cantering a quarter of the way around, then trotting, etc.

After that R decided we would have a bit of a competition and instead of giving us a set course or exercise as she usually does, she said we would do some Gambler's Choice. For those of you that don't know, Gambler's Choice is a jumping competition. When done at a horse show, each jump has an assigned number of points and the riders have a designated amount of time to jump a course of their choosing and acquire as many points as possible. Usually the rule is that you can only jump each jump twice (once in each direction).

Anyway, in our version there were no points or time restraints. R said just keep jumping until you mess up (meaning you get a stop). We were allowed to jump each jump once each direction and as long as we were still trotting or cantering we were still in. She had dropped about half the jumps to a height Satin was capable of jumping. L started and got 3 jumps under her belt before getting a stop at the fourth. I did not get that far. The first jump rode beautifully and went to the second expecting a stop and I got one. It was totally my fault so on my next turn I rode more confidently and got through about 6 or 7 jumps before getting a stop when I last minute turned to a jump Satin wasn't expecting. After that, we had no issues and she jumped everything she could in every direction. We even through in a few jumper turns. R and I were both very happy my jumping position as well :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Introduction to Grid Work

Yesterday Satin and I had a solo lesson (as my loyal readers know I usually lesson with my friend L and her fabulous mare and Satin's best friend Lexie). Anyway, L and I usually only lesson every other week and starting with this week Satin and I will be taking private lessons on the off weeks. R and I discussed it and I thought this was a great idea. It gives me a chance to work on improving my English riding as Satin and I are both still learning in that department and a weekly lesson will speed along the process. It also gives me more continuous reinforcement of the things R is teaching me. Plus, it will give me a chance to get back to some western lessons too. :)

We started with some basic warm-up flat work. R had a grid set up that she had been working with one of her other horses on. She suggested we work with that. I was a little intimidated by this set of four jumps right in a row. L was never a fan of them and while I had seen her and several others (including R the day before) do them, I had never done any myself. R was her usual wonderful, reassuring self and told me we would take it slow, set it for Satin's striding, and slowly build it up as we went along.

We started with the first jump set as a cross rail, with three trot poles leading up to it. The last of the jumps was set as a small vertical gate. First, I trotted the gate on its own a few times to warm us both up. We had lengthened my stirrups this lesson and I felt a bit off balance at first by that, as well as, the fact Satin was popping the small gate like a deer. Anyway, then we started through the grid which R added canter poles to each time we went through. At first we had to work on pushing her trot forward so she did not suck back through the grid, as Satin hates doing a forward trot. After a few times and several canter poles R put jump number 2 into a very small vertical, basically a raised cavaletti. Satin was apparently shocked by this change and stopped for a hard look, so I trotted it solo and she was fine. After a time or two of this she added the third jump, a small plain vertical, then finally raised the second jump into another vertical of about the same height. It was basically a one stride from jump 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 then a two stride to the final jump. After we completed this successfully a few times, R made the first jump from a small cross rail to a small vertical. I did not think Satin would stop at this, as it was not a major change to the grid, but apparently it was enough for her. I thought she was going and went into my two point and she hit the breaks hard. I was thrown forward (probably mostly due to my not yet completely steady balance in an english saddle) onto her neck. Luckily my feet stayed in the stirrups and my mare remained still as my whole body was on her neck with my feet still in the stirrups. In R's words "a very nice save".

Anyway, R's main focus for us with the grid was to keep Satin slow and calm and work on her striding with the jumps and for me to work on my position and releasing. The first few times were a bit rough for both of us. But, with R's patience and guidance we got some very nice trips through the grid. Satin was going through very nicely, at a calm steady pace (though she did get a bit quick the first few times we went through after all 4 jumps were up, but settled nicely). I, again thanks to R, got some very nice two points. I found my comfort spot to stay in through the grid and bent forward in perfect time, keeping my hands forward and releasing. R was very happy with us both. We ended by cantering over the straw jump a few times to practice the position I had just worked on with a canter jump and again R and I were both pleased with the results.

In the end R asked if I was still intimidated by the grid or if I now agreed with her that they were fun. I did end up really liking the grid work. It was fun and not as intimidating as it looked from the ground. It also really helped me with working on my position because I felt like I had more chances with the four jumps in a row rather then a two jump line. The slower pace helped too, as did the fact that R was standing beside the grid coaching me through it since she was adding and raising every trip or two. All in all, it was another successful English lesson and the grid ended up being very good for both Satin and I.