Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Master of his Domain

On Saturday I didn't get out to the barn until after the horses were already turned out, and I saw something I hadn't seen before.  Cupid was in the shelter eating the dry hay, while the other horses stood outside watching him.  The head horse wasn't turned out, and maybe the other horses just weren't interested, but maybe Cupid is learning to stand up for himself a little.  I just hope it doesn't go to his head!

On Saturday we shared a busy arena with several other horses and riders, including a few lessons.  So we kept it pretty easy, just walk and trot.  We did a lot of circles and serpentines and changes in direction, focusing on pushing Cupid into the new outside rein.  And me keeping my heels down and using my leg not heel to cue.

On Sunday it was more of the same, but we also cantered and did a few simple changes.  Cupid got the correct lead each time.  Afterwards we went for a little walk around the property.  He was relaxed, but did not really seem to like the two crows sitting on the fence.  He stopped and stared at them for a moment, and wasn't sure if he should walk by them.  But he did, and thankfully they did not start flapping their wings when we did!  Afterwards I hosed of Cupid's legs and flanks, he was pretty filthy!  Not from the mud but his stall, he is very messy!

I usually use pretty functional and practical equipment, I don't usually like anything too cutesy.  But I recently got a cute saddle pad with little owls on it.  My trainer also gifted us a saddle pad with Cupid's name embroidered on it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Drying Out

We have been enjoying a little break from the rain, and thankfully the barn areas are drying up.  Except unfortunately the turn outs, which are a swampy mess.  At my farrier's suggestion I am turning Cupid out with bell boots, to hopefully help his shoes stay on.  I try to flip them up and make sure they are clean and dry underneath.
Wearing bell boots in the sloppy turnout

In our last lesson we were in the outdoor ring for the first time in several weeks, as the ring had been closed due to the rain.  We were actually the first ones to use it, it was freshly dragged and the footing was a little saturated but overall quite good.  Apparently Cupid thought being outside was a little exciting!  He was a little quick and distracted, but manageable.  There was a pile of equipment just outside the arena, Cupid didn't notice it at first until we changed directions then when he saw it he did a little sideways spook.  (We also had a few more tiny spooks passing by this spot, but only about one every 10 times past it.)  After a quick warm up we went on a 20 meter circle to get Cupid paying attention to my inside leg inside of everything outside.  If he got quick then we would reduce the circle to 10 meters (or as close as I can get to that!) 

We did a little canter each direction.  When we were cantering a 20 meter circle on the left lead my inside foot came out of the stirrup, so I still need to work on sinking into that heel.  My new main focus in my riding is to sink my weight down, and then use my lower leg to cue instead of bringing my heel up (where it usually gets stuck in the up position with my bracing my foot against the stirrup.)

After our canter we went back to a trot, and Cupid asked if he could do a stretchy trot.  We have been working on that the last few weeks, and I think he decided it's his new favorite exercise!  So we did a little stretchy trot each direction.

Then we did a little sitting trot.  I have largely been spared from this since Cupid was young, but I think I can't use that excuse any longer.  I sense a lot of sitting trot and maybe even no stirrup work in my near future.  ::eek::

We finished the lesson with leg yielding and a little intro to the half pass!  We started by doing a little leg yielding off the rail then back on.  I still find it easier to move Cupid off my right leg, but he did good both directions.  Then my trainer told me to leg yield off the rail, straighten, then bend Cupid towards the rail before leg yielding back.  It was very subtle and gradual, and I'm not sure we were straight enough, but my trainer said it was a good start.  I think it was one of the best flat lessons we've ever had!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I was gone for a little Mexican vacation.  Even though I missed Cupid it was very nice to be someplace warm for a few days!

The morning before I left I had a riding lesson, and my trainer said it might have been the best jumping lesson we've ever had!  We haven't jumped since before Cupid's foot problems and ensuing craziness, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Especially since it was pouring rain, and even thundering at times!  But he couldn't have been more perfect!

As usual, after our warm up and flatwork we started with a single fence.  Cupid calmly trotted, then cantered over it a few times each direction.  It started as a cross rail then became a little vertical, probably just under 2'.  Then we did a little 3 jump course; taking the warm up fence from the left lead, landing and circling back around on the right lead over the barrels, then I think circling to the left over the little brush boxes.  I think we had one jump that was a little long (me not sitting up and supporting Cupid in the approach), but it felt great.  We did simple changes, but Cupid got it correct each time I asked.  After the first time through I was feeling pretty comfortable (which is one of my big goals for the year, to become comfortable cantering jumps and doing courses). 

My trainer rode Cupid once while I was gone, and said she had a great ride.  They worked on walk to canter transitions, and started a little collected trot and trot lengthening.

I had a lesson scheduled the morning after I got back, which also happened to be my birthday.  But I came out to the barn to find Cupid, minus one shoe.  He just got his feet done last week, and went the entire last cycle without losing a shoe his first time with clips so I thought we solved this problem.  But alas.  I called my trainer and told her, and suggested we can do groundwork today if she was already headed our way.

Cupid is very good at the ground work exercises.  My trainer initially thought he would be a little stubborn and lazy, but he is actually very happy to comply if you ask.  He just gets lazy with me because I get lazy about asking him.  So we did some walk-halt transitions, yielding the haunches, backing up, and sending forward.  We did a little desensitization, which of course Cupid is very good at.  Then we ended with a little ground driving.  I need to work on the same things as with my riding; not letting the reins get too slack and making sure I don't throw away the contact during my upward transitions.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cabin Fever

Cupid looked much better after the first day of soaking and wrapping, but I never saw any drainage so I thought the abscess would probably come back to cause problems.  However after 5 days of wrapping Cupid seemed fine.  He stayed in his stall since his pasture was a soupy mess.  Since he only got hand walked, for my first lesson last week I suggested we just do ground work and lunging, to make sure he was sound.  I thought he still looked just a tad off to start, but looked fine by the end.  We alternated between trotting and cantering, a few strides in each gait, which my trainer said would help build strength.  The transitions looked good.  Cupid got strong a few times, but overall looked good.

The following day I got on him for the first time since the abscess, and he was a little naughty!  I didn't get to ride until after work, so it was dark and there were a few other people in the arena.  Cupid was pretty quick at the trot, and kept his head up in the air.  He also spooked a few times, doing what I call the "teleport" where he does a few quick steps in some direction.  Luckily it usually just lasts a few steps and then he is back under control.  We did a lot of circles and serpentines at the walk to try to get him to relax.  He finally settled down a little, and we did a little trotting.

I told my trainer that our ride was not great, and she offered to ride Cupid the next day.  She said he was "fresh at first" but was excellent by the end.  When he's like that I need to focus on getting him to accept the leg.  I did a light ride that evening, just 20 minutes of walk/trot, and Cupid was much better behaved.

The following day we had our lesson, and had to do it in the evening.  As soon as I got on I knew it would be an "exciting" ride, Cupid was keyed up.  We did a little walk each direction, then my trainer said to get him trotting.  He was being quick again, and had a few spooks.  We kept working, mostly staying on a circle trotting, bending to the inside and a little counter bending.  Then Cupid let out a giant buck!!  It totally caught me by surprise, but luckily I stayed on.  I told my trainer that my form may not be great, but at least my balance is pretty good!  She asked me if I was okay continuing, or did I want to longe him a bit.  I decided to continue.  After the next spook I was almost ready to give up, but my trainer said she thought we were almost there getting Cupid listening.  I thought about throwing in the towel but said okay and hesitantly got Cupid trotting again.

He was pretty good the rest of the ride, though I couldn't fully relax.  My trainer said it only took 15 minutes until he was good, but it felt like much longer!  We mostly stayed on the circle, continuing with our bending and counter bending, changing my posting diagonal if he felt like he was getting quick, and worked on shortening and lengthening the trot a bit.  When Cupid was more relaxed, and the arena less hectic, we finally went all the way around.  My trainer kept telling me to touch the saddle with my pinky finger, to make sure I wasn't holding the reins too short and also so I sit up straight.  We even did a little cantering, twice each direction, and Cupid was good.

It is a little scary for me riding Cupid when he is not his usual sweet, slightly lazy self.  But this was good practice since he still gets nervous in new places (though thankfully he usually isn't this bad!)  I guess I underestimated how important turnout is to Cupid.  He seems fine in his stall, he is relaxed as long as he is in there but as soon as I take him out, even just to hand walk, he is a different horse.

The next day I turned him out, and that afternoon we went on a nice relaxed hack around the property.  I was very happy to have my horse back!
Key to his happiness

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Treating an Abscess - homemade soaking boot

It's that time of year again.  Cupid and I had several great lessons, and then last week as soon as I asked him to trot it was clear he was lame.  It came on suddenly and there weren't any other symptoms, looked like an abscess.  I packed his foot with ichthammol and wrapped it, with plans to get some epsom salt and soak it.

Last time I soaked Cupid's foot I had him stand in a flat rubber feed tub.  It worked okay, but he did pick his feet up out of it a few times and made a bit of a mess sloshing water around.  At Walgreens next to the epsom salt I saw something I thought might make a handy makeshift soaking boot: a "Reusable Waterproof Cast & Wound Protector."  It is a heavy duty plastic sleeve with a rubber top, made to go over a person's leg cast but turns out it works quite well as a horse soaking boot!

I put the epsom salt in the "boot."  Then I put his hoof through the hole in the top and pulled it up on his leg, where the rubber top sealed nicely just over his knee.  I spotted a watering can next to the hose, and used that to pour warm water in.  Cupid was very good and stood still while I did it.  (He was eating his grain, so that may have helped!)  I left the boot on for almost 20 minutes, and it stayed on nicely.  Cupid was good, he shifted around a little but was mostly content to stand there and eat with the boot on.

Cupid was moving better by the next day, but I haven't seen any drainage so we're going to keep taking it easy and keep packing and maybe soaking the foot.

Tune Up

Usually my trainer only rides Cupid if I'm out of town so I don't get to watch, but since I had some time off work I asked if we could add an extra session with her riding.  I thought it would be helpful for him to have her clear up some of the mixed signals I've been sending!  Plus it is fun for me to see how far he's come.
She started walking Cupid to warm up, and said it was important from the get go to make sure he's moving forward.  Then she took up the contact at the trot, and Cupid was very accepting of it.  He looked very soft and round.  I always have a harder time getting Cupid to bend left, but my trainer said she didn't feel it, and in fact thought going to the left is easier since he doesn't pop his shoulder out like he does to the right.  My right leg is stronger though, and my trainer said she (and as a result most of her horses) tend to be stronger going to the left.

In the canter they did some shallow loop serpentines, as an intro to some counter canter work.  She rode down the diagonal a few times, and Cupid did not get any automatic lead changes but my trainer said she wasn't concerned and thought he would get it pretty soon.

Then they did a few jumps, the same ones we did in our lesson earlier in the week.  I noticed that Cupid did have his head a lot higher than during flatwork, but he seemed pretty steady and was good about taking off from the base of the jump.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goals for 2017

Happy 2017!  Cupid is turning 6 this year, so he's really not a baby anymore and I can't use that as an excuse!  Generally we are going to keep working on what we've been doing, 28th the goal on having a confident and relaxed horse and rider.  But I have  thought of some specific goals for the new year:

1) Sit up and keep leg on instead of ride up Cupid's neck with a chokehold on the reins when I get nervous.  This will be a hard one for me.

2) Learn to do flying lead changes and walk to canter transition - Cupid and I both need to work on this as I never really learned.

3) Straightness - especially over jumps.

4) Get comfortable cantering courses.

Not really a goal but one thing I'm hoping for is to get my own truck and trailer! 

I would also like to do some dressage events and maybe a hunter pace.