Friday, January 30, 2009

I've Been Inspired!

Sometimes I wonder why the heck I'm even trying to do hunter under saddle... Lilly is only 15 hands (on a good day with shoes) and doesn't have a long, flowy trot. I've been told my many people that she'd make a good dressage horse, or cow horse, or barrel horse, but never a superstar HUS horse. I've also wondered if maybe she is too smart to simply plug around the arena staring at the ground. Is that really something she'd enjoy doing? Does she need something more stimulating to keep her overactive mind busy? I've often thought that local shows are as high as we could go and be successful. And even at local shows we're lost in the crowd. Paint shows seem so far above us I often lose sight of them. I aspire, but try to keep myself in check.

And western pleasure... forget about it. Lilly has so much 'go' that I've given up on that for now. I haven't ridden western in months.

I had some really great comments on my blog from Dressage In Jeans so I took a trip over to her blog to check things out. She has a Paint too and has been to breed shows in her area. Her adorable gelding is only 15.1 hands so they don't really fit the mold of today's HUS horse. Her horse isn't 17 hands tall, they don't lope when they should be cantering, or jog when they should be trotting, she doesn't have fancy tack or fake tails, but they still kick butt! What's more, is that she has trained this horse herself without any of the harsh methods I see so often these days, especially at the bigger shows. She is proof that you CAN be successful by taking the time to train your horse the right way... and you'll end up with a happy horse that enjoys his job.

I'm inspired!!

I'm rejuvenated!!

I'm excited about what our future holds! The key is to help Lilly make the right choices on her own. Forcing her to do things just makes for a sour horse! I have to show her by making the right things easy and the wrong things difficult. If she chooses to engage her hindquarters instead of just pulling herself along or chooses to carry her head in the proper position, she will be a happier horse! She can enjoy the show scene, she and I can do patterns without her going completely spastic, and we can go to the Paint shows!

I got a lot of great ideas from DIJ's blog and tried them out on Lilly last night. We did a lot of circles at the trot and a lot of circles at the canter. When she was anticipating the canter by looking at the moon and shortening her stride, I pushed her into a circle. When she was trotting properly and bending, we tracked back straight. We did a LOT of circles, but I know this will all take time and the end result will be worth it. I usually do a LOT of half halts, but she really just fought back on those and they really didn't help much. The circles give me an opportunity to teach her without having to constantly pull on her face. Her canter transitions are still similar to being launched from a rocket, but I'm hoping those will come with time as well.

So a big thank you to DIJ!! I love your style of training and you give me hope that my "too little for HUS" pony and I can compete, and we can win! Even against the big dogs at the breed shows.


In other news, we were poop free last night!! Woohoo!! I hadn't washed her since Sunday, and she had no dried manure on her legs below the bottom of her 'cheeks'... at all! She wasn't 'clean' by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn't need to wash or scrub. Was it the Quest? Maybe the new supplement? Something has helped, but I'm not sure what. The interesting thing will be when she goes back to 'work'. She's had a light riding schedule here lately, so when we start working her again, and cantering her a lot, it will be interesting to see if the diarrhea comes back in full force. If that's the case, I think I'll focus more on ulcers... but for now, I'm enjoying a poop free pony!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Checking In

It's been a while since I've written anything about Lilly... I've just been super busy and then we got a bunch of snow! Work has been keeping me from the barn as well but I make it out when I can.

Lilly has been doing much better regarding the diarrhea. She has still been messy, but not nearly as bad. The cleaning has been much easier from day to day. I was hoping it would be gone by now but we're almost there! When she's due for another dewormer I'll make sure she gets another Quest, and hopefully that will take care of the rest. I imagine if she had that much irritation in her digestive tract that it will probably take a while for it to heal itself. I'm hoping the supplement is doing what it needs to do and she'll progressively get better.

I'm hoping to start lessons again soon as well. I haven't had one since before Christmas but it seems Wednesdays are busy. Even next Wednesday I have to go to the dentist! So I'm shooting to start lessons again the Wednesday after next.

I'm ready for warm weather too!! Bring on spring!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

JCHSS Awards!

Saturday evening was the JCHSS Awards Banquet. There were tons of awards to be given out and Lilly and I were the proud recipients of two of them!

For each division, they gave out 6 awards. 3 ribbons of merit, 1 junior reserve champion ribbon and plaque, a reserve champion trophy (with some goodies like hay bags, shampoo, etc), and then the grand champion trophy or embroidered item of the the winner's choice. They had some really neat awards from dishes to blankets to bits. It was very exciting!

Lilly and I got a ribbon of merit for the stock type division, along with a bag of horse cookies for Lilly. It's really pretty and has a medal in the middle of the rosette. It says "JCHSS Ribbon of Merit 2008". In the adult division we won reserve champion and received a big trophy, a hay bag, a bottle of shampoo, and some more cookies for Lilly.

I'm really excited for this season and the first show is February 21st, so it is coming quick! I already see two shows that I won't be able to make it to, though, which is a bummer. They changed around the show bill a bit too, added some classes and changed the entry types, so it will be interesting to see how Lilly and I do this year. There are two showmanship classes now, one english and one western, but they won't be double points like the showmanship was last year. I think that's how I got most of my points... oh well! We'll have to work harder!

Friday, January 9, 2009

I Smell Progress...

and it smells GOOD! I don't know if I'm just slow or what, but I've finally found the magic trick to getting Lilly to canter like a big girl!

My trainer could very well have been trying to get me to do this at each and every lesson so I don't want to take credit for the technique... It may have just taken me a very long time to figure it out on my own. We have been working on getting Lilly to bend in her circles by doing leg yields toward the outside of the circle. She does that really well and it was helping teach her to actually engage her hindquarters. But it was just something I did in the circle while we were trotting. When we moved on to the canter, my trainer still told me to bend Lilly, but she never specifically said anything about doing the leg yields to accomplish that. I was just bending her nose around slightly so I could see her inside eye to help make sure she picked up the correct lead. By 'bend' did she mean do the leg yields too? Perhaps!!

Well that seems to be the key! Last night was trotting her, bending her, and trying to warm her up. I started doing the leg yields and then started my sitting trot to get ready to canter. I always sit the trot before we canter, so she started getting a little hyper, put her head up, and started her very choppy trot. She knew what was coming... so I started the leg yields again to get her mind off the canter and to get her to bend and give and I asked for the canter while we were moving to the outside of the circle and then... it happened!! The most wonderful canter transition in the history of Becca and Lilly!! IT WAS AMAZING! I praised the hell out of her and cantered around the arena a bit before bringing her back to a trot and then a walk. I was super excited and hoped it wasn't just a fluke... so I tried it all over again. The leg yields from a sitting trot and then the canter cue. She was a turd and bucked once during the transition, so I spun her around and started again. The third transition wasn't as good as the first one, but it was still really great!! It's like the leg yields get her engaged and makes it easier for her to do the transition... I tried quite a few more and then did some the other way. She did really great, and I've noticed that I am starting to be able to rate her speed a bit at the canter too. Half halts will slow her down and she'll take a couple nice strides on a loose rein before speeding back up. And a lot of her speed comes when we hit the corners as she has to balance herself around the end of the ring. Then she slows down on the straightaway.

I won't be able to do the leg yields on the rail, but if I do them enough in the circles, maybe it will help her figure out the proper way to do the transition and help build up the muscles she needs as well. Then we can move out to the rail and work on it there.

I'm really excited!!

Also, she was a 2 on the poop scale! I hadn't been out since Monday, so I was expecting her to be messy and like a 4 or 5. Especially since she was so icky Monday. Here's hoping things there are clearing up.

Maybe I'll have a superstar cantering horse with no poop stains one day soon!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Transitions Galore!

I wasn't able to make it to the barn on Sunday to check Lilly and see where she was on the poop scale. So when I went to ride last night I figured she'd be twice as messy, but she was about 3 times as messy. So the days of "is it clearing up?" are gone. I'd say she was about a 5 on the scale, which isn't too bad, but it was clear she back to being messy. She had a very distinct dark line that ran all the way from the top of her cheeks to the bottom of her ankles where it probably dripped off into the grass. YUCKY!

After hosing her off I saddled up and headed to the arena. It was getting dark so I had to turn all the lights on. I hate riding in the dark, even with lights. And one of the lights was out, so as I rode around, I had to go through a dark spot... I'll be glad when it is daylight until 10 pm again!

She was feeling a bit frisky and it took a lot of trotting to get her to pay attention to me. Then it was time to canter. We did a lot of "trot/canter/trot/walk", "trot/canter/trot/walk" and she didn't buck at all! I think she remembered that bucking isn't an acceptable means of letting off steam. She did, however, LEAP into every single transition with so much force it sent me backwards. We did a lot of transitions... I was hoping she'd get tired or bored and start to relax a little. It didn't really work. Toward the end of the ride she was doing slightly better, but it still needs a lot of work. I did get after her once for a crazy transition that just seemed ridiculous and out of line. Maybe instead of just letting her get away with such shenanigans, if I let her know certain things aren't acceptable, maybe we can move on.

I'm ready to move past the hyperness in the transitions... She apparently is not.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back In The Saddle Again!

I rode Lilly on Saturday for the first time in quite a while. Being on vacation out of state restricts my ability to ride my horse... weird. And after I got back from Michigan I just didn't feel like riding. I went to the barn to visit and clean her, but just didn't feel like hopping on. I was feeling lazy and just couldn't find much energy. Instead, we just spent some quality time together.

Vacation is over now, though. Time to get back to work. The first horse show is next month and I have a lot of work to do before it gets here. I'm still not sure we'll be ready to canter this year... at least not at first. Maybe by late spring we'll be in a position to try a few classes. It works out, though, because all the JCHSS shows have go as you please classes which allow us to trot/jog instead of canter.

I do hope to attend at least one APHA show this year. They're kind of far from home and quite expensive, but I'd like to go just for the experience. They don't have walk/trot classes, though, so I'd have to do all halter and showmanship if we weren't ready to canter yet. Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Maybe we'll be ready for the State Fair by October this year! Their riding classes are all canter too.

Lilly was pretty good. I was quite impressed with her considering how long it had been since I rode her. She had a nice consistent trot and was giving rather well to contact. I was really trying to get her to stretch down and she really was trying. She got excited when we started doing the canter transitions as I expected. I did some transitions in the circle and some from the rail. She only picked up the wrong lead twice (both in the counter clockwise direction) and had a couple really nice transitions. She calms right down after her transition and we had some nice trips around the arena.

I did have to get after her once, though, because I thought she was out of line. I mentioned before that sometimes she will throw in a little buck here and there and we decided not to worry about it. They were always small and I thought maybe they helped her get into the canter... maybe. Well, Saturday, she was quite annoyed with me as I wanted her to give to me before we made the transition. She instead wanted to do her very choppy little jog and hold her head up in the air. So when I was finally ready for her to canter, she let me have it! It still wasn't a huge buck, but it was enough to let me know she was pissed and it threw me out of my saddle! So I grabbed the left rein and spun her little butt around in a circle quite a few times until she had relaxed and settled back in to the trot. When I asked for the canter again after that, it was a beautiful transition!! Amazing!! I praised her like crazy and called it quits for the day. What a good girl!

I also got new leathers for my saddle so my legs would hang level for a change. So I bit the bullet and got out my new saddle to ride in. The old one is officially retired unless I decide the old one is more comfortable. So far, though, the new one is quite nice. I'll just have to keep it clean so it looks good for showing and maybe keep my eye out for a new show saddle.

Oh, and for those of you keeping track, Lilly was a 3 on the poop scale but I gave her butt a break on Friday, so some of it was from the day before. I really think things are clearing up (crosses fingers), but only time will tell. Maybe the Quest did the trick... or maybe the supplement started working. Either way, her next deworming will be with Quest again and I'm not backing off the supplements. :-)

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Official Poop Scale

The Official Poop Scale is not an extremely accurate measurement of my poor horse's digestive problems, but I'm loving it! It's helpful to know just how messy she was each day when I paid her a visit. My poop scale makes great sense to me, but if I had to explain how it is measured to anyone else, they might not be able to replicate my numbers. So for now my book is on hold...

I am also THRILLED to inform everyone that yesterday Lilly was a 2 on the scale!! She just had a few drips on her legs, but mostly she was clean except for right between her cheeks. I'm trying not to get my hopes up because there have been days in the past where she wasn't too messy one day and a disaster the next. That's what will make this so interesting. If she gets washed every day and I document it, I'll be able to keep track of what exactly is going on.

Maybe the Quest is working! Or maybe the supplement has kicked in... Lilly and Marva were moved to their own pasture so we could keep an eye on their manure piles and make sure they're getting the supplements they're supposed to be getting and not sharing with other pasture buddies.

I'm really looking forward to this evening to see if we can make it two days at a 2 on the Official Poop Scale!

It's sad when I can't wait to see how much manure is caked on my horse's legs... Just the fact that I'm blogging about diarrhea is a bit disturbing in itself.