Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It's a Puzzle

Cupid got a shoe back on, and I decided to longe him to see how he looks.  Honestly I'm at a bit of a loss because he has been going super well most of the time, but there is something bothering him.  I've discussed it with the chiropractor and my trainer, who agree that something is not quite right, but it doesn't seem serious and to just use my best judgment.  So I've continued riding, though taking it easy especially with the cantering as he seems totally fine otherwise.  Part of me is hesitant to share this because everyone has different ways of doing things, and I don't want someone to come across this and criticize me for not doing more / something different / for the love of god why are you working that poor obviously lame horse, but this is my journal and this is what we're coping with at the moment.
His favorite frame - aka the anteater

I think I threw too many variables into the equation when I was lunging him, which made the results less clear.  For starters, I used his old loose ring Herm Sprenger, and he chomped on it throughout (which is why I originally switched to just the Myler, but thought I'd give it a try again.)  Then when I put on his balancing reins he was just cranky - not sure if that was body discomfort or just because we haven't used it in a while.  I had it on the longest setting, but he was still unhappy.

We started off without the reins, walking and trotting a bit both directions.  Then put the reins on for some trot and canter, starting at the right.  As I said he was fussy with the reins on, even at the trot and it just got worst at the canter.  Going to the left he was again fussy, but did pick up the left lead correctly each time.  I thought he was short in the left shoulder, but I don't know if I was just seeing that since that's what the chiropractor said. So if anyone wants to play detective, here are some clips (bear in mind it's hard to hold the longe line and whip, while trying to film!)

Walk warm up to the left - he's unmotivated but tracking up.

Trot warm up to the right, without the balancing reins.  His mouth is busy but he's fairly relaxed. 

Trotting to the right after I put the balancing reins on, more fussy. 

Canter to the right, not happy.  (Last time I cantered on him going right he felt quite good, so I don't know if he was just protesting the balancing reins??)

Canter to the left.  No trouble picking up the lead, but not very relaxed.

The next day (today) we had a lesson, and I told my trainer I just wanted to stick to trot work and Cupid felt amazing.  Starting out we made sure we were going forward (when we walk I should be able to ask for a trot any moment!)  When we started trotting on a 20 meter circle to the left Cupid was twisting his head a bit, so my trainer told me to counter-bend a little to get his shoulder back - which I didn't realize he was popping I was just focusing on the head. 

I had a lot of opportunity to work on myself, especially focusing on maintaining proper contact (one of my biggest weaknesses!)  We did a lot of going around a 20 meter circle, with a figure eight (two half 10 meter circle) change of direction through the middle.  We also did a little leg yielding, and transitions.  Honestly Cupid felt great, I just don't know what to think!

Monday, October 15, 2018

That's a Wrap

I said my last show at Greenville was my last show, but I was secretly hoping to go again end of October.  Even though I'm still feeling up for it, Cupid has unfortunately had a few (luckily minor) setbacks so our season really is over.

We had one good day with the left lead last week, but he's still been struggling a bit and on some days been downright cranky about me asking - very unlike him so I figured something must actually be bothering him.  Last week the chiropractor confirmed his left shoulder was very tight.  She worked on it, and recommended 24 hours off and showed me some stretches.  
Poor Cupid :(

Then yesterday I found him missing his right front shoe - again!  Ugh.  I put bell boots on after he lost his shoe for the second time a few weeks ago hoping that would put an end to this, but no such luck.  The pasture has been dry so I'm not sure how he's losing them, I was unable to find the shoe all three times.  I thought with the durasole and biotin we had been doing much better this year, but this is the third time in the last month.  It was the same shoe all three times so I guess the little bit of chipping each time is making it harder to hold the shoe, but his feet didn't look bad.  Having a short back and long legs doesn't help either.  It's just frustrating and I'm sure my shoer hates us! 
Not again!!

Once we get the shoe back on I'm going to continue training a few weeks, and plan to work on the left lead a bit on the longe or long lines.  Then Cupid will get a few weeks off and I'll start thinking ahead about my goals for next year.

Here's a video the day after the WE schooling show.  Even though Cupid has gotten really good about traveling this year and seems quite content being new places, he is always very happy to come home!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Working Equitation Schooling Show

Since the clinic I did some very rudimentary practice with cones and a rope gate (I was too lazy to set up much more), and mostly focused on transitions and memorizing the dressage test.  I went through it a few times in my lesson last week, and my trainer set up a short court which was very helpful since everything comes up so much quicker!  So I wouldn't say I was super prepared, but I felt good enough to go out there and have some fun with it!

The dressage test for intro is just medium walk and working trot, but also has a rein back and five meter half-circles at the walk.  The halts are also supposed to come from the trot with no walk steps, but my plan was to allow minimal walk steps to make it more smooth, though we have started practicing from the trot (thinking ahead to First Level!!) I didn't feel quite ready.  But not having to worry about whether we would get the left lead canter made it a lot less stressful! 

We had a good warm up in the covered arena.  Cupid relaxed pretty quickly, despite the birds in the rafters and the connected stalls.  After walking we trotted around, then got on a 20 meter circle with 10 meter circles both to the inside and outside both directions and finished with a little shoulder-in both on the circle and straight both directions.  We walked outside several minutes before our ride time, and Cupid tensed up, though I'm not sure why.  I got him back in the warm up and did a quick trot, thinking that might be better than trying to get him to stand. 

We entered the arena and I let him walk close by the letters with the pumpkins on them but luckily he didn't seem bothered by them.  He did however spook a little the first time we passed the judge's table at C!  They hadn't run the bell yet though so we had another pass around.

I felt quite good about our test, though of course we need to be rounder.  And my elbows are abhorrent, I cringed when I saw how straight they still are :(  I think I'm just going to have to tie them together behind my back...

Video of our test:
We had a few hours before the obstacle portion (or Ease of Handling as it's actually called in Working Equitation).  I walked Cupid around a bit, but he was pretty content standing by the trailer eating hay.  I was happy to see the same obstacles we practiced with in the clinic, though with a few additional pumpkin decorations by this point I figured wouldn't be a problem. 

A funny note from warm up: Cupid was quite unnerved by a loud leopard appaloosa!  He would tense up every time it was close to him.  It was pretty surprising, I've never seen him react like that to another horse.  He's seen pintos and more roan-type appaloosas, but he didn't seem to know what to make of dalmatian spots.  There was a mule at the show too, which he was totally fine with.  And he's seen cows and minis and donkeys in the past.  Luckily the appaloosa left and we had time to settle back down before we started.  (Though now I don't know what we'll do if we do a rail class in the future and there is a leopard appy in with us!) 

I kept it pretty conservative - down transitions a little early and loops pretty big, but was super happy with how Cupid did!!  The cup on the pole was our worst one again, as we overshot it a bit and had to step back.  We had comments to work on our geometry (not sure if that means circles/loops were uneven or just too big), and more energy at the walk for the ring spear and going through the donut-shape.  But no major mistakes. 

Video of our round:

It was a fun day, and Cupid and I ended up in third place!  I'm definitely interested in doing it again.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Working Equitation / Obstacle Clinic

Working Equitation seems to be growing in popularity in this area, though so far most clinics and shows I've heard about were a few hours away.  When I heard about an Ease of Handling (the obstacle phase) clinic an hour away I jumped on on the opportunity to try something new with Cupid.  It was a lot of fun, and a new way for Cupid and I to play and work together. 

The trainer had a very patient approach, and taught us a lot about the rules of the sport as well as practice tips.  There are a lot of technical rules to keep track of!  Some of them don't make sense to me - not only do you lose points for talking to your horse (same as in dressage), but you also lose points for touching/patting the horse's neck!  That's going to be hard for me, to go through the entire course without being able to praise Cupid.  For the intro level you need to trot between obstacles, but most of the obstacles can be done at a walk.  You are not timed, but get points for how well you execute each obstacle. 

There were four other pairs in my group, all of us new to the sport.  We started out by showing the horses the obstacles in hand.  There is a lot going on in the arena - cones, poles, barrels, etc, but Cupid didn't seem worried about any of them.  Some horses snorted at the bull cut out, but Cupid didn't bat an eye.  The trainer suggested we walk with the garocha (long bamboo-type pole we use to spear rings) along the horse's right side, which Cupid was also fine with.
Busy arena
Then we mounted up and started going through the obstacles one by one.  The first one was easy; a figure-8 around two barrels.  Always starting to the right.  You want to show a nice bend, and make each half the same size.  We did it at the trot, but you can walk.

The second obstacle was two cones side by side about 3 feet apart with poles stuck in them, and a cup on the pole on the right.  You had to trot in, halt between the cones (can do a few walk steps), and with your right hand lift the cup off the pole and put it on the other pole.  This looked like it would be one of the easiest obstacles but surprisingly Cupid would not stop and stand still between the cones!  The trainer had me just walk through a few times until Cupid relaxed.  Then pause for a moment before the cones and walk through.  Then stop for a moment between the cones, but walk on right away without touching the cup.  Eventually we were able to halt and move the cup.  (I may have given Cupid a treat or two to help...)  We went back a few times while waiting for other obstacles just to make sure it was no big deal.
Cupid's least favorite obstacle
The next obstacle was a little wooden bridge.  We trotted up to it, and walked over no problem.  Next up was a line of poles that we weave through.  Again it's not about speed, just showing a steady pace, even size loops, and nice change of bend between each.  This is the only obstacle you have to do at the trot.

The next obstacle was a gate, which I thought would be one of the harder ones.  Luckily for me it was a rope between two standards, which I find easier than a solid gate.  You want to approach it straight before angling to the opening side, use your right hand to open, go through, swing the horse's haunches and back up, then close it behind you.  And Cupid executed it really well! 
Gate - went really well!
The next obstacle was very simple - a plastic pitcher (empty) on a barrel.  You had to trot up, halt next to it, and lift the pitcher over your head.  Our down transitions were a little sloppy, and Cupid sniffed the barrel and pitcher which I learned you also lose points for.  So again it was a seemingly easy obstacle we struggled with.

Up next was a donut shape created with poles and caveletti blocks, and ours had plastic flamingos in the middle.  You had to go through between the poles first going to the right side so with a left bend, come out and do a turn on the haunches and go back the other direction.  None of the horses had trouble with this, though most of us (myself included) could use some work on the turn on the haunches. 

Following was the quintessential working equitation obstacle, where you had to take a garocha out of a barrel, ride to the bull cut out and spear the ring on top, then ride to the second barrel and deposit the pole with the ring.  You hold the pole in your right hand, are are supposed to kind of toss it up a little so you're holding it higher, then tuck it under your arm to get the ring.  If you miss the ring you lose points but keep going.  If you drop the pole, at the intro level my understanding is you stay on the horse and someone will hand it back to you.  But if you put it in the barrel upside down then maybe that's an elimination?  Cupid was very good at this obstacle, we did it at the walk without halting.  Some of the horses didn't like the pole being dropped back in the barrel, but Cupid ignored it. 

#9 had you walk between two parallel poles on the ground, halt (again a nice square halt for maximum points) and ring a bell, then back straight out.  Cupid often tends to swing a little to the right backing up, but we managed to stay between the poles. 

The final obstacle was three barrels we trotted a cloverleaf-type pattern around: first a right turn around the barrel on the right; then change of bend around the furthest out barrel; then a right turn around the third barrel.  Then through the finish cones, halt and salute. 

Overall I was super happy with how Cupid did, though I was surprised at which obstacles we had the most trouble with.  Even the trainer said she'd never seen a horse not like just the cups, usually if they have trouble with that they have problems throughout.  But I guess I already knew Cupid was a little bit special :p 

We are signed up for the working equitation schooling show in a week and half.  It will be in the same arena, hopefully with mostly the same props so that will help.  I still need to learn the dressage test.  For the intro level it is walk/trot only, but unlike the straight dressage tests you need to halt from the trot, back up, and do a 5 meter half circle at the walk. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

3 out of 4

So in the past two weeks Cupid pulled his shoe on the right front, scratched his left hind to where it was swollen, and then today he clipped the back of his left front heel.  Oh Cupid!!  So very accident prone.  Luckily it's usually minor things, at least.  I cleaned his heel, applied ointment, and covered with gauze and vetwrap. 

The weather has gotten quite warm again, and with his fuzzy coat Cupid has been sweating a lot.  He normally gets clipped around the end of October.  I am still thinking about waiting until later this year since he'll be getting a few weeks off, but that's assuming the weather cools off. 

Our lessons last week were a bit mixed.  The trot work has felt good, and the right lead canter is also much improved.  However the last two rides Cupid was very balky about picking up the left lead, even kicking out when I ask.  It is unlike him to react like that; he doesn't always pick it up but usually instead he just picks up the counter canter with no resistance.  I don't know if it's related to the feet issues, but something is obviously bothering him since he is very specific about it.  He feels completely normal (even great) doing anything else.  So we're going to take it a bit easy, and I have a call in to the chiropractor to see if she can come take a look at him.

We did go for a little trail ride this weekend, about an hour and a half walking under the trees.  Cupid was perfect throughout.  I am very pleased with how solid he's gotten as a trail horse over the past year. 
Cupid stops to stare...
at this little deer family
Under the trees
Sharing a post-ride Oat & Honey bar

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quiet Week

I haven't quite managed to get back in the swing of things since returning from vacation.  Cupid got his shoe replaced on Friday after I already went out in the morning, so I didn't ride him until Saturday.  Just a basic ride in the covered arena to knock the dust off.  He started off with a bit of energy, but was a little sticky moving off my leg in leg yields.  We also needed a few tries to get the left lead canter. 

On Sunday I had family visiting so I didn't ride, but did take them out to see Cupid.  He was happy to meet people and get carrots. 
Winter coat coming in, he's dark!
On Monday morning Cupid's left hind leg was a little puffy above the fetlock.  No heat and he didn't seem sensitive, body temperature normal.  I found the likely culprit, a very small and benign scrape on his fetlock.  (Oh, Cupid!)  I cleaned it and applied ointment and we did a light ride, just walk and trot for about half an hour in the covered arena.  The puffiness was gone afterwards.  However Tuesday morning it was puffy again.  No heat.  Since the light work seemed to help the day before, I saddled him up and we just walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  Sometimes Cupid is a bit looky when it's foggy, but today he was very good. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Extended Vacation

I was really excited to ride again when I got back from my trip.  Unfortunately I found Cupid with a loose, slightly twisted shoe!  :(  Big bummer.  Because of how the shoe was, I didn't really want to wrap it, and I don't have the tools to pull it off.  My old shoer showed me years ago, and I've done it a few times.  I considered keeping him in the stall, but he's much happier outside so I just hoped he wouldn't do too much damage.  I spent extra time grooming him.  He was very dusty, and is also shedding his summer coat.

The next day, as I expected, he had no shoe.  There was a bit of chipping but luckily not too bad.  I put a hoof boot on (currently experimenting with the Hoof Wraps Brand Bandage Kit, since the easy boot has been a bit hit or miss staying on) and we walked around the property for about 15 minutes.  It felt good to be back in the saddle, even briefly.  Afterwards I put Magic Cushion in his foot and wrapped it.  I left my shoer another message, hopefully he can come out ASAP!!