Thursday, July 26, 2012

The rest of the story

So I have to back up about a week.  A week ago yesterday, I had a lesson with Carolyn at a new location in town (this farm is actually super close but Carolyn doesn't go there on a regular basis).  My ride time was at noon which meant it was pretty gross out but Charlie handled it like a champ.  I got there a bit early because I wanted to give Charlie some time to look around and relax.  Good move on my part.  He came off the trailer and was very excited to be in a new place.  After about 10 min, he settled right down and we tacked up.

I probably sound like a broken record but we worked again on contact and getting him to accept the outside rein.  We're getting so much better!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  He was pretty up and when he's like that, Carolyn has me trot right off the bat so Charlie can burn off some energy.  Once he settled, the goal was to get him to stretch his neck into a soft hand.  I struggle most with just maintaining a soft feel of his mouth and letting my hand just follow.  I want to pull back to create the contact (still working on this) which causes him to fuss because he's not ready for that kind of contact.  Once he was walking forward into the contact, we added some flexion to soften his jaw.  As his jaw softens, it's my job to take up the slack created with my outside rein.  As he softens in his jaw, I up the pressure by asking him to come rounder.  We spent most of the lesson on this concept.  If Charlie comes above the bit or loses the flexion, my job is to flex him and use my inside leg to remind him to stay soft and in a true bend.  Carolyn told me its my job to let him know when he's doing something I don't like and his reward is me staying quiet with my body.  It's so crazy how well this stuff works!  My mind is still blown over how much progress we've made or should I say how much progress I've made.  Charlie is truly a rockstar - if I ask correctly, he does exactly what he's supposed to do.  I've never had a horse this easy.  Lucky, lucky me!

So as I mentioned, we went to a new farm for the Carolyn lesson.  Well, said farm is owned by a local event trainer and she is getting ready to test for her ICP level 2 certification and needed guinea pig riders to teach.  She asked if I would be willing to come for a lesson on Saturday and I figured why not?  Poor Charlie hasn't jumped since our show in early June but I signed us up for a jumping lesson.  He was a rockstar!  The lesson was a bit awkward because she was teaching according to the ICP format which I wasn't a huge fan of but whatever.  She had me work on getting Charlie truly in front of my leg and maintaining an uphill balance.  I felt like a bit of a wild indian but mom said it looked fine (super mom came out to watch).  I'm contemplating going back for another lesson to see what she's like when she isn't trying to hit "x" number of points (she has to touch on certain things - kinda like a pony club lesson).  I really like Janna but it would be super convenient to only have a 20 min trailer ride for lessons vs an hour.  I'm going to talk with Janna and see what we come up with as I'd still like to ride with her but it's tough to get up there sometimes and I think I need to be on a more consistent schedule.

I was really proud of Charlie -  a month + off from jumping and he didn't bat an eyelash at anything.  He's so good.  He definitely has his quirks - not tying to the trailer gets annoying as does the pawing in the trailer or the not loading but as totally makes up for it with his willingness to go to work when it matters.

Which brings us to yesterday - in this lesson, Carolyn was really happy with our progress and we worked a little bit on the contact issue but spent the majority of the lesson on pressuring him when he dumps the contact.  We also worked on transitions a bit and that's my homework for next time.  In order to have a really good transition, Charlie needs to understand that sitting simply means sitting trot b because right now, he thinks it means transition where he dumps the contact and falls into the new gait. This means a lot of work for me because physically, I'm just not strong enough to sit the trot right now. Charlie's pretty bouncy so it makes sitting even tougher but I think once we're both strong enough, he's going to have an amazing trot.  I guess that's the incentive...  Carolyn said we look really good and have made tons of progress in the last month.  She's seriously a miracle worker.  I'm super excited for this fall - I'm starting to plan a tentative schedule for us.  Fingers are crossed!

So I've done some shopping and one purchase I've been really happy with are these which I got from SmartPak (because that's where I get everything for Charlie!):


I got them on sale for $16.95/pair and I love them!  They wash great and provide the perfect amount of protection.  I have a similar pair from Dover which I think are too thick.  Not to mention I got them in Feb and they are already starting to fall apart.  Grrrrr... :(

Still on the hunt for shipping boots - I've tried Kensington and Pessoa both were no good.  I have to go to Marietta (just outside of Atlanta) which is one town over from Alpharetta where a Dover store is located at the end of August so I might make a trip over there to take a peak at their shipping boots.  I refuse to pay Dover shipping costs, just won't do it.  Any other suggestions are welcome.  Pretty sure he needs a warmblood size since he's so stinking tall and with almost all of his height being in his leg.  It's so funny - everybody thinks he's bigger than 17.1 because his legs are so long.  But he's a gentle giant.  

Going to try and ride in the morning but the heat has been out of control especially when paired with the humidity.  It's a little demotivating when it's 76 degrees with 85%+ humidity at 0630...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More to follow...

...but I just had to share.  Today was one of the best days.  Ever.  I had an awesome clinical in the ER - I got to start an IV, give lots of shots, and saw tons of stuff.  This probably sounds creepy to anyone not in the medical field but it was awesome!  And to cap it all off, I had an awesome Carolyn lesson!  However, I'm beat so I'll add details to the 2 Carolyn lessons I've had since my last post as well as my jumping lesson with a new person.

Charlie and me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Holy smokes!

I suck!  I can't believe I haven't blogged in over a week.  Sorry about that.

So Charlie's abscess popped and he was pretty much sound immediately.  I hacked him on the following day, just walking.  We practiced what we had done in our last lesson with Carolyn which conveniently happened at the walk.  I was only on for about 10 minutes before a storm blew in.  Now even if I wanted to ride in the rain (keeping in mind I'm a tack fanatic and cringe at the thought of it getting soaked and Charlie is a diva about getting wet while being ridden), it was thundering and lightening and the way my luck is going, I'd probably get lit up.  For the 10 minutes, I really focused on getting him to accept my outside rein.  I focused on keeping it quiet and on his neck (no opening rein!).  He was very good considering he'd had yet another week off.

Charlie safely indoors, looking out at the rain.  Don't even have to tie him up - he's not going anywhere!

Trying to get a picture of how hard it was raining but someone kept sticking his nose in the picture...

Wednesday had us going to a new place for a lesson with Carolyn.  Once again, it was mostly walking with a bit of trot.  She really focused again on the outside rein and the connection.  She had a great analogy that the weight of that rein (for the moment) should feel like a fishing pole with a fish on it and if you let it get too loose the fish will get away but if it's too tight, you'll break the line.  The inside rein is focused on flexing him in and keep his jaw super soft.  We did a little bit of trot work and we had some of the best upward transitions I've ever had.  Period.  On any horse.  Ever.  Lucky for me, super mom was in attendance and kindly videoed the whole thing.  I just need to have Carolyn's voice on constant repeat.  Almost forgot!  Charlie went in an indoor for what I believe is the first time ever.  He thought it was pretty exciting, especially when the owner was opening the door at the far end of the arena.  It was what I would call an old school indoor - metal sides with no real windows and about the size of a large dressage arena.  It was very nice with a lovely breeze and he calmed right down and went to work.  Good pony!

Thursday I got up at the break of dawn to ride (because I had to go out of town in the afternoon) and once again we spent a lot of time walking.  I'm trying to focus on three things - flexion and softness in the jaw with the inside rein, consistent contact with the outside rein, and ensuring he's listening to my inside leg.  Charlie's so smart that I think once I get the correct feel, everything will fall into place.  He was quite good, I think (because I honestly can't remember that far back although I think I would remember if he'd been bad, haha!).

I came back early on Sunday to ride but the stars failed to align so I was only able to give Charlie a bath.  He was fine, I just didn't think it was a good idea to hop on him.  Unfortunately, he was left out the whole time I was gone and managed to develop a lovely case of rain rot.  Again.

I flatted him yesterday and today - he was quite good, especially yesterday.  He was very consistent as well as forward.  I've been carrying a whip with me and reminding him that when I ask him to move off my leg, be it forward or laterally, he responds immediately.  He's been very good about the taps (meaning no explosions or shenanigans) and I've been trying to praise him every time he gives the correct response.  I think he really appreciates that - he's so funny; I swear he talks to me, I can hear him.  I promise I'm not crazy though!

Eating his dinner after he dumped it out of his bowl.  I'm going to start feeding him out of a bucket hung on the fence.  I can see $ in the grass...

Just because she is so funny looking - poor Snowball!

You can really see how dirty her face is - I have no idea and don't want to know where she's sticking her head to get it that dirty,

Hopefully I'll be able to get another lesson with Carolyn this week.  If not, I'll meet up with her next week at Julie's.

I want to give a quick product "shout out" - Cowboy Magic Detangler and Shine is the quite possibly the best thing ever.  Works a million times better than Show Sheen or Vetrolin Shine to keep tangles out of Charlie's tail.  I know it costs more but you only need to use a little bit and one application lasts more than a week before you need to reapply.  Highly, highly recommend it.  You won't be disappointed!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pop heard 'round the field

Yup, you guessed it - his abscess has popped!  Because of his glue-ons, it came out through the coronary band.  I had a feeling this would be the case as when I pushed on it in one place, Charlie was very unhappy.  I soaked his foot a couple of times with warm water and epsom salts (making sure the water level was above the coronary) but the last couple of days have been putting DMSO on it per Bruce, the farrier.  He's still a little ouchy but hopefully he'll feel ok in the morning after walking around all night.  I'm hoping the movement will promote pushing the gunk out over night.  We'll see.

And now for your viewing pleasure...

Can you see it?  Apologies for weird painted nail - it was my test patch and I've been too lazy to remove it.

Love the flies flocking to the gross junk that's oozing out.  I wanted to put something on it but didn't want to interfere with the draining process.  I don't want anything getting in the way of the gunk draining out.


Charlie's annoyed that I won't let him sniff me while I'm trying to take his picture.  He loves to sniff me - my legs, my back, my hair, my shoulder, you name it.  He's constantly snuffling me - I'm sure some people would find it annoying but I love it!  He's so cute and sweet and curious - always wants to know what's going on.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Off in more ways than one...

It's been crazy hot here although I think just about everyone else in the US feels my pain.  So when scheduling my dressage lesson last Thursday with Carolyn, I asked for a crazy early time hoping to not ride when it was super hot but also so Charlie would have a somewhat cool ride home after said lesson.  Lesson was set for 8:45 at Janna's farm (about an hr from home).  This meant I needed to get to the barn by 6:30 so I could be on the road by 7:20 at the latest.  I really hate getting up early but I was actually on time.  And perfect pony showed up, hopping right on the trailer.

Lesson was awesome even though almost all of it happened at the walk.  I've been struggling forever to get Charlie to accept the outside rein and after this lesson, I finally feel like I know what I need to do.  Part of my problem is he "blows off my leg" according to Carolyn.  He falls in on the corners and I open my outside rein to compensate for him not listening to my inside aides.  I'm basically making 2 mistakes here - 1) letting him blow off my leg and 2) taking my outside rein off his neck which breaks the contact. So how to fix?  Well, 1) I need to carry a whip to give him a tap when he "forgets" to listen to my inside leg, 2) keep the inside flexion - I should be able to always see the corner of his inside eyeball, and 3) keep my outside rein on his neck no matter what!  Typically, we move right into the trot work but this lesson we spent a ton of time in the walk really focusing on getting Charlie to accept the contact.  Carolyn basically told me once I get my act in gear and get him comfortable with the contact, everything else will fall right into place.

Cherie basically told me all of this before but I think sometimes I become a little ADD and can't figure out what to focus on.  I guess that's the beauty of riding with someone who focuses on pure dressage - she's really able to pick out the weakest link and focus on that and only that.  I need that as I have a really hard time on prioritizing what I need to work on.  I get on and start thinking about how he needs to be forward but wait he needs to be balanced but he also needs to be supple and soft and what about engaging his hind end, etc, etc, etc.  I feel like I have so many holes in my education - it's a little frustrating at times.  Ok, a lot frustrating!

Now for the bad news.  When we did finally pick up the trot, he got pretty lame very quickly.  Obviously that meant we were done for the day.  I was really hoping that by the time we got home, he would be better.  No such luck.  I called the farrier and we both agreed that he most likely has an abscess.  Poor Charlie.  He was so sore today coming in from turnout.  Hopefully that means it's just about to pop.  Believe it or not, in all my years dealing with horses, I've never seen an abscess.  Keeping my fingers crossed that 1) this is an abscess and 2) I never see another one.  He's definitely in a lot of pain even with bute.

I'm on the hunt for new shipping boots as my current 17 yr old shipping boots have kind of lost their umph.  I'm open to whatever brand but they need to be big as Charlie has very looong legs so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

The sunrise from last Thursday - I took this right before pulling into the barn.  

And this is Snowball, one of the dogs that lives at the farm.  She's typically really furry (she looks like a white golden retriever) but Nadine shaved her with the horse clippers and she looks super funny!  Furry face, legs and tail with a shorn body.  Makes me giggle every time I see her.  

Monday, July 2, 2012

Air Bruces and happy feet!

So we left off with the sad tale of Charlie's too small shoes and me having to call the old farrier to plead for him to take us back.  Well, much has happened between now and then.

First the vet came out last Wed to give Charlie his bi-annual shots along with his rabies shot.  He then proceeded to tell me Charlie had arthritis in his left ankle.  I won't go into the details but let's just say I now have some serious doubts about this vet's credibility.  I suppose the really ironic part of this whole farrier/vet drama is the county I live in has the highest horse population in the state behind Aiken county.  There are a lot of horses around here but the area seems to be seriously lacking in quality equine care.

Ok, moving on.  I brought Charlie to Aiken bright and early Thursday morning to Bruce's (the farrier) house.  He doesn't have a barn yet so we had to make do with the shade of the trees but honestly, it was really nice.  Even though it was a bit warm, the breeze was really nice and kept us nice and cool.  So the plan was to put glue-ons on all 4 feet.  Bruce was really excited to be able to trim the foot exactly the way he wanted.  Before, he had to be really careful to not thin the hoof wall or he was unable to get the nails in.  Then he shaped the aluminum shoes and we gave Charlie a little cocktail to make sure he wasn't super antsy and even more mellow than usual.  Once the glue gets put on the hoof and the shoe goes on, the foot needs to stay up so the glue can harden before Charlie can put weight on it.  It was pretty cool to watch.  Bruce mixed the glue with some fiberglass fibers to strengthen the hold then put some glue on his foot and fit the shoe on top of it.  Once he was satisfied with the placement, the whole hoof was wrapped in plastic wrap to help the glue cure.  And voila, Charlie has glue-on shoes.

Bruce showing off his handiwork.

A close-up of said handiwork.

Charlie felt so much better after he got his "Air Bruce's".  I rode him on Friday and to me, he felt great!  But more importantly, *he* felt good.  He was trying so hard to not be a hooligan - I could feel him wanting to throw in a few bucks to show how happy he was but he contained himself.  He doesn't love being ridden first thing in the AM.  He typically runs around after breakfast to get his funnies out but when I ride in the AM, he eats after being ridden.  That's the other way I know he feels better - it's been awhile since he ran around after eating.  I rode him on Sunday as well but it was so hot we didn't really do a whole lot.  The air quality has been bad and then mix in the heat and humidity and neither of us are super enthusiastic about having to work very hard.  No shenanigans on Sunday other than him saying "I'm hot and I'm done" - perfectly understandable given the conditions.

From last friday after our ride.

Like everywhere else on the east coast, we've been suffering from a major heat wave.  It's been ridiculous!  Temperatures have been in the 100s well into the evening hours.  Typically it starts cooling down around 7ish but it's been over 100 at 8PM the past couple of days.  We had a bunch of storms last night so it cooled off into the 70s over night and first thing this morning but the humidity was out of control.  I hate the summer!

Charlie looking out his window - he looks thrilled...

Because his isolation field doesn't have any shade, he stays in during the day under his fan.  He doesn't love it but is tolerating it well.  I'm going to try and keep him in during the day for the rest of the summer to 1) keep him out of the flies, 2) keep him cool and his coat looking fabulous, and 3) the water in every field bakes in the sun which means it's as hot as the air if not hotter.  Speaking of his coat, it's finally starting to look nice.  Charlie is shiny and super soft.  He still needs to finish shedding out but otherwise he looks really good condition-wise.  I just need to build his top line back up after all this time off.

Begging for treats which he of course received.  There's not much he doesn't get!

Hopefully, we'll have a dressage lesson with Carolyn on Thursday.  If not, we should have one next Wed.  Janna's out of town for awhile (I can't keep up with her schedule) for pony club stuff (she's a national examiner).  I may try to take a lesson with a jumper person in Tryon or maybe someone else in Tryon but we'll see.  Wish us luck on not melting!