Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Black Friday Purchases

Cupid and I have pretty much stuck to walk-trot work since the show because he has a scrape on his leg that seems minor but has felt a little warm and was a little swollen some mornings though that seemed to go away with movement.  And he has been moving out quite nicely, so my trainer and I decided to keep it shorter and no cantering but continue working.  We are making progress and getting a lot closer to being on the bit.  I feel myself improving too; my elbows are not quite so rigid (though I do still go to a leading rein sometimes, or cross my hand over the neck, and my right wrist still likes to rotate down), and I'm sitting up better.  A minor adjustment to my seat - tilting my pelvis forward a touch to not have so much weight in the seatbones - has seemed to make Cupid noticeably happier.  We haven't had any balky transitions into the trot, knock on wood.  It feels like I have to disengage my waist a bit when I do this - so the pelvis is tilted forward but my upper body is upright and it was weird at first but has helped me with the sitting trot immensely.  I think that disengagement is where I need to absorb the bounce in the trot.

I also tried to do the majority of a walk around the property day in two point.  After reviewing my photos and video from the show, I realized I need to work on sinking into my heels so that's my newest goal.

Here are some of my purchases from black Friday:

Dura-Tech Wool Blend Quarter Sheet

Even though I live in California, the place I board Cupid gets pretty cold.  Cupid is noticeably slower to warm up when the temperature drops, and some days I can't feel my hands or feet!  So I thought a quarter sheet might be nice for those days.  Plus I was thinking of it for winter shows we can wear it for warm up if its raining.  I decided to go for wool instead of fleece for a little extra weight as it can get pretty windy.  SStack had these nice wool blend sheets at a very good price.  Of course since I got mine the weather has warmed up again, so I've only used it once but so far I'm impressed.  I just had it under my leg and it felt warmer than without. 

HDR Anatomic Girth
Cupid has slightly big shoulders and a forward girth groove, so sometimes it's hard to get his saddle placed properly.  I've thought of trying an anatomic girth for a while, but kept putting off the expense.  I have a Total Saddle Fit girth for dressage and was thinking of getting their jumping one, but decided to try HDR's cheaper version, which as an added bonus I think matches my HDR bridle and breastplate/martingale.  I ordered the same size as my current girth, 48".  It is a bit shorter, but I don't know if my old girth has stretched out.  Regardless, it currently fits on the first hole on one side and second on the other, so I think with a little use will be good.  I've only used it for one light right so far, but no complaints.  For my personally, I can't tell the difference between this and a more expensive version (though I'm assuming there probably are quality differences), so I'm happy with this purchase so far.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Spring Down Equestrian Center Schooling Show

The last few months our primary focus was on dressage and flatwork, but the last 2 weeks we got a little jumping in.  And wouldn't you know, most of that flatwork translates to jumping as well.  Cupid has been very relaxed (lazy even) jumping, our connection is better, and I've been feeling more secure both physically and mentally.  I had tentatively been looking at the last H/J schooling show of the year, and two days before decided I'll go for it.

Cupid was perfect loading, no hesitation.  I have been giving him a dose of Gastroguard before trailering.  It was about half an hour drive to the show.  We got there and I went to check in, signing up for the first class which is a 18" warm up hunter (trotting allowed).  I realized, to my dismay, that there was no separate warm up arena and we had just missed the designated warm up time!  I was panicing a little.  There was the gate area, which was crowded with horses and people, and most of the rest of the place looked paved.  I settled for a little dirt patch next to the trailer parking where we could at least walk a little, though not trot.  So I just started walking circles, getting Cupid to bend.  We did some rectangles with a little shoulder in.  At first Cupid was a little nervous, and whinnied a few times, but I felt him start to settle after about 10 minutes.  I asked my trainer if it would be unfair to make him go in the ring, and she said since the jumps were pretty small it would be fine. So we decided to still do the class.

We entered the arena and trotted up a long side and did an opening circle, then headed to the first fence on the diagonal.  It had flowers sticking out the top, I felt Cupid hesitate a few strides out but he continued on and over it smooth.  Left hand turn to two jumps on the other diagonal.  Right hand turn to two jumps on the long side.  Continue around and right to 2 jumps on a short diagonal.  Then left turn to the final jump on the other long side.  Though I had hoped to canter the entire course, we ended up trotting it except between the combinations, since Cupid felt a little quick and distracted.  Or maybe I was just not confident because of the lack of warm up!  But overall I was happy with him.  To my surprise we ended up in 5th, I think there were about a dozen entries!  My trainer said we had a good takeoff and hit the center of each jump, and Cupid actually makes an effort and lifts his knees even over small jumps.  Plus there were several refusals, I didn't notice until after I finished that one of the jumps had a big inflatable Santa by the standard!
He looks pretty pleased with himself

Oops, I need to put my weight in my heels!!
 The second class was over the same course, and I thought it would go even better.  Unfortunately for some reason Cupid seemed more distracted.  We ended up mostly trotting again, a few times he landed in a canter that felt too fast to me.  He actually put his head down and propped a little after one of the jumps, I'm not sure if I did something on approach that annoyed him!  And he had a little spook approaching the judge's booth, but I think maybe the judge couldn't really see that from her vantage.  We ended up in 6th, so I think the judge really liked Cupid because it felt uneven to me.  But this did confirm my belief that Cupid can probably make a cute little hunter, he just needs a little more seasoning so he relaxes.
Luckily I didn't notice Santa until afterwards, otherwise I probably would have been looking down at it!

We stayed for the next warm up round.  The ring was very chaotic, and between all the horses and jumps I could barely find a place to circle.  But we trotted and cantered a little, and at the end Cupid was trotting softly with his neck arched in good hack form.  After the warm up session we hung out by the gate for a little bit.  Cupid must have been tired because he pretty much took a nap!  Earlier he was very unhappy having to stand.  I decided to call it a day on that.  I was very happy with Cupid, and myself for being able to roll with it, and be able to go into a place we've never been before and complete our course even without a sufficient warm up, and not getting anxious even when Cupid felt too quick.  We've made a lot of progress, and I'm excited for the next year/season!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Seven Oaks Dressage Year End Schooling Show

Going to a show (even a schooling show) is always a little nerve-wracking, but even more so when our dressage court has been closed so I couldn't practice the test in a correct sized and marked arena, and when I'm not even sure I will be able to get there if my horse won't load!  Plus I was pretty sure it would get rained out anyways, but the rain held off.  I got an email 2 days before that the show was still on, but the warm up arena might not be available so everyone got a scheduled time to warm up in the show ring in groups of two or three.  That actually sounded like a good thing, so we can do a quick test run.  I was doing the same two tests I rode last time, Training 1 and 2.

The day before the show I did some loading practice with my trainer.  I was leading Cupid and she held a whip behind him.  After a few minutes we switched, and just a few moments later (with me swishing a lunge whip and tapping the ground behind him) Cupid loaded.  We left the doors open, just closed the divider and let Cupid eat hay.  After about 15 minutes I let him off.  We did an easy hack around the property, and just a few minutes in the arena for some quick circles and transitions.  Then I gave Cupid a bath.  Then we went back to the trailer, where I had Cupid's bucket in the back and he walked right up!  Again I left him on to eat for about 15 minutes.  I hoped we would be good for the next day.  I cleaned all our tack and put in the trailer so we'd be ready to go.

Sunday morning I left early for the barn.  I witnessed an unfortunately accident on the way, and stopped to make sure help was on the way.  I still had plenty of time so went ahead and braided Cupid.  My trainer said it looked good, though a few braids were a little loose by the end they stayed in and I think it was a good first attempt.

I put on Cupid's shipping boots and tried to think positive as we headed towards the trailer.  Again I had his bucket in the back.  I felt him hesitate, and asked my boyfriend to get in the trailer and shake the bucket.  Cupid stepped right up, and I breathed a sigh of relief!

It was about half an hour drive, and I got there about 20 minutes before my warm up time.  Just enough time to check in, unload, and tack up.  I left Cupid on the trailer with the window open while I checked in, with my boyfriend staying with him.  He said Cupid seemed a little anxious, but Cupid was good when I unloaded and stood tied to the trailer while I tacked up.

We headed into the ring to warm up.  Halfway through our first lap, Cupid spooked because there was a hedge along the side separating us from another ring and he caught a glimpse of a horse passing by on the other side.  Oh great, I though.  I kept him moving, and after walking another minute or two we started trotting some circles, trying to get him to bend and focus.  Cupid was starting to settle when my trainer showed up. 

She had us trot more circles, including some 10 meter circles within our bigger circles, and a little shoulder fore.  Then she had me canter, yelling "more! more!" which kind of just made me laugh because a bigger canter was pretty much the last thing I wanted, I was quite happy that Cupid seemed relaxed.

Warm up time was over, and we were up first so the other rider left.  Cupid whinnied after the other horse, a bit distracted.  Training 1 is a very straightforward test, where you trot a 20 meter circle, canter a 2 meter circle, change direction at the free walk, and do the same the other direction.  Our only major mistake was dropping to the trot early from the canter.  I thought our transitions into the canter were decent, and I was happy we got the left lead (which hasn't been a problem the last few weeks but has been in the past). 

We waited outside the ring for one rider to go through, then it was our turn again for Training 2.  Even though I memorized the test I decided to use the reader, just so I don't have to worry about forgetting again since this one is more complicated.  Right when we we about to go into the stretch trot circle and horse trailer drove by with a whinnying horse, and Cupid's head shot up and I couldn't really refocus him quickly enough.  I was pretty disappointed since usually the stretchy trot is one of his best moves.

Overall it went good, a few green moments and I still need to work on sitting more upright.  Our tests were a bit conservative, Cupid was a little quick and above the bit in some parts and I should have pushed him for more impulsion.  But I was very happy with him, and proud of us.  We have some work to do this winter but hopefully will be ready for our rated dressage debut next year.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Good Graces

After Sunday's trailer debacle, I had a renewed determination to have Cupid see me as the leader between us.  If I ask something I want the response to be, yes ma'am!  So on Monday I tacked up Cupid and walked up to the arena.  I asked him to whoa while I adjust his saddle.  As per usual he started creeping towards the jump and pile of stuff around the mounting block.  This is standard operating procedure for him, and usually I just let him because I know at least he will stand still while he's investigating the stuff.  Lazy rider!  Today I told him no, I asked you to stand here, away from the stuff.  Then at the mounting block when he started to amble off before I put my feet in the stirrups I told him no, I haven't asked you to move yet so let's back up back to the block.  Then when I asked him to walk, I expected an actual forward walk not a slow mosey.

Cupid got the message that I meant business.  I didn't have to do much, no crop or anything, just have to set my intention.  Cupid tested me a few times, tried to see if he could be a little balky when I asked for a trot but I said no we're going, slight tap, and away we went.  Cupid got the message, and I could feel a lightness underneath me.  It's hard to explain, but it just felt like I had more horse under me.  It did make some things easier, though it was also a little scary because it felt like more power!  But he was being very good.  We did a little leg yielding, then a circle in the corner and holding a haunches in a few steps coming out of the corner.  We practiced some transitions, and the ups were good but he did creep forward a little at the halts.  The we practiced walking a square, halt before the corner, and yield the haunches over.  Overall I thought a very productive ride!

On Tuesday it was more of the same in our lesson, and this time with less testing by Cupid.  We warmed up and did some trot work, then got a pretty big canter going.  Again it felt different and a little scary.  I would not be comfortable jumping out of that canter!  I probably wouldn't be comfortable cantering like that with other horses in the arena either, but luckily we had it to ourselves.  But I guess I just need to get used to it, and hopefully it will feel normal eventually.  We ended the lesson with some sitting trot, which needs some work.  At least my saddle is comfortable!  We did a 20 meter circle, big trot forward, then shorten the trot with some shoulder fore into the sitting trot.  Then we added walk transitions from the sitting trot.  The transitions were going going to the right, but not so good on the left.  I still have trouble keeping the contact to the left.

On Wednesday I didn't have time to ride, but did want to take Cupid up to the trailer.  He walked right up to it like no big deal, and I fed him his grain off the back.  We didn't try to load (it wasn't hitched), but I just want him to see the trailer as a happy place.
Trailer = not so bad!
Cupid has mostly earned his way back into my good graces!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

When he's good he's very good, when he's bad he's horrid

We were planning on going for a trail ride on Friday, but it was raining so we decided to do a little jumping instead.  A little variety so Cupid doesn't get bored!

We warmed up trotting in two-point, then did some shallow loop serpentines.  We warmed up the canter then trotted over a pole, then made it 2 poles, then 3.  Then we jumped a little crossrail a few times each direction, trotting in and cantering out.  We started going to the right, and the first two times Cupid landed on his left lead (surprising since usually he prefers the right), but got it correct the third time.  We haven't jumped in a while, but he was relaxed.

There was an accident on the road, we could see and hear the sirens and bullhorn directing traffic.  I was a little distracted, but Cupid didn't care.  So we went on and did a little course: one jump on each long diagonal, then the third jump was on the centerline so we completed the diagonal and around the short side, halfway down the long side then turn down the middle and a left hand turn to the jump.  They were all small crossrails, probably about 1'.  I felt a little rusty, and we got a few long spots when I didn't sit up before the jump, but we got it the third time through.  I was happy with our ride, and had fun doing the little jumps.
New rain sheet with hood, from Jeffers

I gave Cupid Saturday off, I thought he could use it.  Then Sunday we were going to go on a trail ride, but he refused to load!  He has been really good, I'm not sure what the issue was today.  He would come within a few feet, then back up.  If we applied more pressure he would kick out, or leap up in the air.  I tried doing some groundwork, he was good until he got close to the trailer.  We tried bribing him with grain, that didn't work either.  I once got him up to the edge of the trailer, then lifted his hoof and put it in the trailer.  I patted him and gave him a treat, but he just stood on his toe and the treat fell from his mouth, almost like he was in shock.  I lifted his second hoof and placed in the trailer.  He stood for a moment and I gave him a treat, then he leapt backwards and wouldn't get close again.  My trainer tried doing a little groundwork and getting him in; make him work if he didn't go forward.  That didn't work either.  We tried putting another horse on the trailer.  Cupid walked up to the edge and started lifting his leg, then quickly backed up.
Being stubborn
Angry horse, biting he air
I was frustrated, and confused.  Cupid knows how to load, and he didn't seem anxious.  At this point I wasn't sure if I should give up.  Continuing seemed kind of pointless, though I don't want Cupid to think he can get out of doing something by being naughty.  We took a break for a little while, walked around and I gave him a bath because he was already filthy before and now he worked up quite a sweat.  Then when my trainer was done teaching I got him back out.  My trainer led him, while I stood behind him with a lunge whip.  Luckily I didn't have to hit him, as tapping behind him got him forward.  We tried to be patient, and praise him when he went forward but every few steps forward he went back again.  Finally I saw him start licking and chewing, and I thought maybe there is hope.  Then all of a sudden Cupid just walked up, like no big deal and we hadn't wasted half the day!  I gave him treats, let him eat hay on the trailer for 10 minutes, then let him off and we were done for the day.

I am going to try having him hang around the trailer more, let him eat off the back and tie him to it for grooming so he sees it as a good place.  My trainer said we also need to work on the send forward command.  But hopefully this was just a fluke?

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Since Cupid's shoe got pulled, he got a few extra days off until the shoer was able to come back out.  At least it was pretty cold; not being able to ride in nice weather is worst!  I did put an easy boot on for a little walk around the property, but that was it for a whole week.  And I did get lessons on two of my trainer's horses.  I was a little nervous riding new horses, but they were good.  Both of them were a little lazy, on one I had to work pretty hard to keep him cantering.
Wrapping the hoof with Vetwrap or gauze wrap seems to help the Easyboot stay on.

Cupid got his shoe back on Monday, and on Tuesday we had a lesson.  I was worried he would be a little full of it after a week off, but he was great!  Actually he started out a little lazy but worked out of it.  We just did walk/trot, but the trot work felt very good and Cupid start getting a little round.
New saddle pad to go with the new saddle

On Wednesday we just did a little hack.  I rode in the new saddle without a pad to help with the breaking in.  I am still very happy with the saddle!

On Thursday I had a group lesson with 2 of my trainer's other students.  Again Cupid started out lazy so I spent the beginning trying to wake him up, but I was glad he was relaxed working with the other horses.  We did a lot of trot work, and he felt like he was finally working through.  Then we took a long walk break while my trainer worked with each of the other riders individually for a bit.  When it was our turn, Cupid was done.  He would not go forward at all, he would just balk, or kick out, or back up.  I tried asking him to go but he resisted.

The extent of his protest concerned me, I thought maybe he really was hurting from the abscess still or the saddle wasn't fitting or something.  But he had felt sound, and I got off and checked and reset the saddle and it seemed fine.  So I made him go, as gently as possible but insistent.  Once he got going he was good.  We did a few trot-canter transitions, and he got the left lead each time.

I thought that maybe I shouldn't have walked for so long; if I kept him more engaged we probably wouldn't have had a problem.  But on the other hand this is a problem we need to work through; I didn't ask for anything unfair and Cupid doesn't get to decide he is done.  I suspected this was an issue at some of our shows but wasn't sure and haven't had the opportunity to address it.  At least this form of tantrum is far preferable to a bucking fit!  Hopefully today was a step in the right direction, and Cupid realized that 1) he can't get out of work so easily; and 2) even if I do make him work it's not that bad!
Tired pony after our lesson

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fast Acting Abscess

I rode Cupid on Friday, everything was normal.  We had plans to go to the Horse Park the next day, so I didn't go to the barn my usual early hour.  Then Saturday morning I get a call from our shoer, asking if he should do Cupid's feet.  Normally he just comes on a regular schedule, I wasn't sure why he was asking me.  The only thing I could think of was maybe he wasn't quite due but if it doesn't get done today then maybe he wouldn't be able to until he's overdue.  So I asked how long it's been, the shoer said 6 weeks.  I said go ahead and do him.  Then the shoer asked what happened, I'm still confused.  Finally I realize he's saying Cupid is lame!  Not just lame but totally dead lame!  I told him I'd be there in half an hour.  I get there and sure enough Cupid can barely hobble out of his stall.  The shoer tested his hoof but couldn't see where it was hurting.

I soaked his foot with epsom salt, then poulticed and wrapped.  Even though Cupid has had several abscesses I decided to call the vet.  The vet confirmed the diagnosis, and tested his feet but wasn't able to locate it either but suspected it may be in the bar.  I poulticed and wrapped, and Cupid stayed in his stall.

By Sunday morning Cupid was walking comfortably.  In fact when I brought him out for a walk he was full of energy, prancing instead of walking.  I couldn't see that anything had burst, but it was hard to tell since I had put icthammol on it.  So I soaked his foot again, and this time wrapped with a dry poultice.  By his second walk Cupid was still full of energy, so I decided to try turning him out for a little bit while I watch to make sure he stays out of trouble.  Cupid looked like he wanted to play, but the other horses ignored him so Cupid decided it wasn't worth it running around by himself.  After about an hour I put him back in his stall.

While I was hanging out with Cupid this weekend I got a lot done, cleaning most of my tack and also practiced my dressage braids!  I haven't braided a horse in over 15 years, but my trainer recently showed me her method.  The best part is I don't even really have to pull Cupid's mane for it, yay!
First attempt
Day 2 attempt

I also got the opportunity to ride one of my trainer's horses, a thoroughbred gelding much further along than Cupid.  It felt strange and was a little scary riding a different horse, but he was was good.  He did test me a little, luckily just by taking small steps and not by running or bucking!