Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bit of a Change

Years ago when I first started jumping Cupid there were a few times he felt a little strong, so I got a plain snaffle baucher to try.  But then I realized that the answer was me sitting up, and riding him between hand and leg not a different bit so I never actually used it.  Then during a recent lesson my trainer suggested I try a baucher so I pulled it out again.  Honestly, I don't feel much difference.  I didn't necessarily expect the cheekpieces to make a huge difference, but I haven't ridden him in a single joint snaffle since I first got him.  I've tried a number of different bits, and Cupid is pretty much always as good as I make him.  I don't know if this means he is just uncomplicated, or we haven't found the perfect one yet!
Baucher snaffle in German silver
We finally had a bit of sunshine, and I didn't have a whole lot of time to ride in the morning so I hopped on Cupid bareback for a cruise around the property.  He is remarkably polite about walking through or by grass without trying to stop for a snack when we ride, as opposed to when I'm leading him and I have to drag him along.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Might as Well Jump

I'm in the busiest time of year at my work, but have been managing to get short rides in most mornings.  The baby just turned 6 months old (!!) and is very much into being bounced.  So we've been listening to songs like Van Halen's Jump and House of Pain's Jump Around as we bounce him around - and perhaps that was my inspiration to do a little jumping myself this morning.  It's been several weeks, since Cupid's foot problems.

We started with some basic flatwork - a long walk off the rail trying to get him forward and straight (he was being a bit lazy and drifting), then some bending, trotting to loosen up.  A quick walk break then more trot, adding some shallow leg yields, then a little canter. 

Then we trotted into the caveletti, starting on the right rein, cantering out and coming to a halt.  Our first halt was definitely right of center, and almost at the wall.  Plus when he halted he swung his haunches, so we backed a few steps.  Back around at the trot, over again coming out much straighter into the halt.  Once more to make sure we had it, then switched to the left.  Cupid wanted to canter, and perhaps I should have insisted on a trot but hey he was on the correct lead and being quiet so I let him.  He met the caveletti in a good spot, we cantered out and halted.  Then we did it once to the left from a trot for good measure.  Then we cantered it going right.  And ended with this little 2 stride combo.  The first jump was a low x-oxer, then to a 2'3" vertical.  Cupid went over quietly, though he was a little playful on landing ducking his head down and dolphining a bit.  This time I made sure he kept cantering until I asked him to trot, and then keep trotting until I asked him to walk.  I had fun jumping and was only nervous for a brief moment before heading down the line :)
Happy with my tracks, straight and centered!
Looks like we're in for some June gloom
Just because I think his little ears are cute!

Friday, May 17, 2019

Doctor's Orders

After following an abscess protocol for about a week (consisting of a combination of soaking in epsom salt, and wrapping with epsom gel or animalintex) Cupid definitely looked more comfortable, but still not 100%.  I know abscesses can take time, and strangely come and go sometimes, so I wasn't overly concerned but I also didn't want to miss anything that might help his comfort.  So I had our lovely vet take a look.  He said Cupid was mildly sensitive to hoof testers near one nail, and though he wasn't sure that was the cause he pulled that nail and advised me to flush the nail hole with betadine solution.  He said he could pull the shoe and prod around, but based on what he saw he didn't think that would give any more answers.  The next day or two he still looked about the same, and then he looked better.

Satisfied, I rode him a few times, just walk/trot and he felt quite good.  The rain is back, and it's an insane week at work, plus I'm home alone with the baby so I haven't had too much time to ride but had a few good, short rides and even two lessons.  The vet watched a few minutes of my lesson yesterday and said he wanted to take another look.  He said he still got some reactivity to the hoof testers, which I was kind of surprised about because Cupid was moving nicely and, more importantly, his attitude about work has been super and he's normally not a very stoic horse!  He pulled another nail on the other side, and recommended I soak with CleanTrax.  But light riding is still fine so hopefully the weather won't be too terrible this weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Equicube Review

Since we're on a bit of a hiatus, I'm going to write a bit on my new training tool, the Equicube.  I'll just come out and say it - I love it! 

First - just what is it?  It's a hard rubber coated box with handles that weighs 4 pounds. 

What is it for?  Per the manufacturer: "The Equicube assists riders to achieve the correct position while engaging the proper muscles, allowing the rider to sit up, bring their shoulders back, and create the ideal ‘feel’."

Why I like it: It makes doing the right thing easy!  I've struggled with my elbows for years, I have a horrible tendency to keep them stick straight.  I thought the weight of the cube would make it tiring to keep my elbows straight - that I would still try to keep them straight but eventually it would start to hurt and I would force myself to try bending them.  But with the cube it just feels natural to bend them! 

I also have wandering hands.  They float inside into a leading rein on a circle, lift up when I ask for the canter, or go in other random directions.  Holding the block keeps them in place.  (Granted, this one can also be achieved with holding a crop in both hands, which I do frequently)  I do have to be careful though because I sometime still cross my hand over the neck with the cube.

 I also rotate my wrists, especially the right.  Or sometimes just break at the wrist.  When you hold the cube correctly the top should be level, and it's helpful for me to be able to quickly glance down and see.

Not quite correct, but it's hard holding with one hand!
The cube is also helpful with my upper body.  As I've documented, I'm always tipped forward.  I sometimes also collapse sideways in lateral work.  The weight of the cube encourages me to stay upright and centered.

The only real downside I've seen is it's hard to adjust the rein length.  But that does have a small upside of getting me to use my legs and seat more!  But for Cupid and me, improving connection is our biggest objective at the moment - and the cube will help with that long term if I ride more correctly.  I use the cube for short periods mid-ride to create the muscle memory.  When I'm not riding with it I still think of that feeling, and pretend I'm holding an imaginary cube!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Not all Gloom & Doom

The weather has returned to cold and foggy, and Cupid's foot isn't completely healed.  But it's not all gloom and doom, he is sound enough for some light work.
Just when I think I can put his blanket away
Cupid had a week off, and was looking okay handwalking and jogging.  So I kept my lesson last week, but when I put him on the lunge line was still looking a bit gimpy, so I asked my trainer if we can do in hand work instead.  I'm still enjoying the in-hand work, even though I'm still not very coordinated my timing is getting a little better.  It's interesting seeing it from the ground, being able to see when to cue his leg.  When I ride I do it intuitively, but I wouldn't say I'm great at feeling what the hind end is doing. 

My trainer is continuing the bit of piaffe training in-hand.  I can't say it's a real piaffe yet, but I'm seeing the progression!  She starts at the halt, using the whip to cue him to pick up each hind leg.  Sometimes I wonder if we did too good a job de-sensitizing Cupid because at first he can ignore the whip!  My trainer said he can (learn to) distinguish between our intention to get a reaction, or non-reaction, based on our body language and response.  Then she gets him moving forward, and uses the whip plus also picks up her own feet higher to encourage him to do the same.  Right now she does it along the rail, with a slight shoulder fore to the inside to make the collection easier.  It's pretty neat to watch! 

Then Cupid got a few more days off (still getting turned out because I feel some movement is good, plus he won't go crazy, plus he doesn't do too much in turnout unless he's been kept in!).  Then I got on him bareback for a walk around the property, which I really enjoyed since I hadn't gotten to ride in a while.  It's rough when 100% of your stable is down for the count! 

We had another lesson this weekend.  I observed Cupid on the lunge and he looked much better at the trot, but still a bit gimpy at the canter, especially going left, so we just did walk-trot.  He was a bit spooky in the outdoor again, but I tried to be more proactive keeping my inside leg on him and we did our circles when I felt him get distracted.  We did a lot of leg yielding out on a circle (18m to 20, and ~8 to 10) to get him into the outside rein.  We ended up practicing a 3 loop serpentine with a bit of leg yielding on the loops, which I think helped improve the roundness and made the change in bend more pronounced.  For Training 3 I will want to get that same feeling in our serpentines, just a bit more subtle.

So even though our riding has been light for the past week plus, we've had some good moments and I've been enjoying just spending quality time with Cupid!