Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Same Old, Same Old

Not too much happening down in humid and muggy Alabama. Lexie is enjoying the change in her flatwork. She really loves our twice weekly flats/trot work in the field. The quality of her trot and canter are fabulous in the field, and I really can't wait until that work translates into the arena. I've been working on asking her to round up independent of my hand using my seat. It's been a workout for my core, glutes, and thighs, but less of a strain on my bad shoulder. Lexie seems to appreciate the decrease in grabby hands, and is responding well. I'm tentatively heading to Brownland in July if my rotation will let me sneak off half a day early and skip a weekend of duties- we'll see. I doubt it will happen, but it never hurts to ask.

I am SO MAD this photo is blurry. Burst Mode on iPhones is the devil.
If you ask a boyfriend to take pictures of you riding, he'll either take videos or do Burst Mode. Neither of which was what I wanted. #hetried #itried #bloggerfail

Candy got body clipped this past week; poor man takes longer and longer to shed every year. I suspect he's borderline Cushing's, but he's never met the cortisol criteria. He's been a little gimpier lately, and at first I was worried his arthritis was getting worse, but then I watched him take off bucking, farting, and galloping with his girlfriend, and realized he's probably sore from being an idiot.
Post-clip adorable!
Lexie is next on the list for a clip job.
Other than that, things have been pretty meh. I've started a new rotation I'm really excited about (Equine Surgery and Sports Medicine), been working hard, and hopefully have a few reviews in a couple of weeks. Just trucking along!

- K & C & L

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Finding the Highs in the Lows

Unfortunately, I've found myself in another mental slump, wondering about my future. General small animal practice? Small animal emergency room work? Small animal internship and critical care residency? All these options, plus affording horses and student loans, have gotten me really emotionally drained and stressed. I wish I could say that horses could wait a year or four or five while I pursue a residency, but I am not a happy person without horses. My mental balance is already frazzled and delicate, and when I take horses out of the equation, well... we've read about it on the blog. I'm devastated. All this means is that I have to make sure that whatever I do next year, I can support riding at least in lessons, if not support 2 horses, somehow. Is it a bad idea? Yep. Is it what I'll need to push through whatever the next year has in store? Absolutely.

In the meantime, I've been trying to focus on the good. Yesterday- Alabama was stunning. A warm 75 degree day, sunny, a slight breeze- it was like a spring day in my Kentucky home. I took Lexie on a hack and did a handful of trot sets for her first day back in work in over a week. Because of the clinic, her stifles swelled up and became inflamed; I spent the last week cold hosing her and grooming her until the inflammation goes down. My trainer, H, and I both agree that she needs to up her fitness before and if we ask her to jump that high that hard again. The trot sets were beautiful, and her canter was amazing out in the field. It gave me a minute to take a deep breath and actually become content with where I am in life.
And she's so darn cute.
Today- well... we're trying a new evasion while jumping. Running at top speed with our head in the air like a giraffe didn't make Lexie's job easier, so now we peanut roll and open our mouth while running at top speed. Today was a "Booty Boot Camp". Trot and canter poles, cavalettis, and grids- all aimed at strengthening her muscles supporting her stifles. She loves her grids, though, so that was her reward today for a lesson attempted: 4 verticals with 2 strides in between all of them.

We may play musical bits in the future- from what I've heard about her past, she likes a hackamore, but is a bit of a freight train (surprise). I have a single jointed rubber dee I'd like to try her in, and the Ogilvy (!!) is on the way.

Getting to the barn has been what's been pushing me through a surprisingly difficult rotation; Candy is looking stiffer and grey-er and it hurts my heart.
I'm growing his mane out for the full Andalusian effect.

 But between rides like yesterday where everything clicks, and every day spent with Candy, I can't complain too much; I am a very lucky girl- I get to do what I love while studying for a career I will enjoy once I get there.

Remembering the good in the bad keep me going.

- K & C & L

Monday, May 16, 2016

B.S. Clinic aka I Went Fast, Jumped Big, and Didn't Die

**Since this is one of my less favorable clinic reviews, I didn't want to post the trainer's name. I don't think he is necessarily a poor trainer, just that he wasn't a good fit for what I needed. He seemed to do much better with people riding made, or better behaved, horses, or riders who were already very competent riding green horses. Basically, we didn't mesh, but I don't want to hurt a reputation based on my opinion alone.**

One of my barn mates trains with a Hunter Jumper A-circuit trainer (ACT) based in Georgia. She asked him to come to Auburn to host a clinic. I love riding with new trainers, and my trainer, H, loves when I go to clinics since we usually come back with new tools to help me progress.

I was a big girl, and signed up for the 0.85-0.95 Jumper class. I had heard ACT was putting jumps up all day, but when I entered the ring, the courses were set medium crossrails (0.65-0.75 in the middle) and a few 0.75-0.8 oxers. Lexie was a mild fire breathing dragon, so during the warm up I focused on lengthening and shortening to really ask her to listen, and to figure out what strength brakes she wanted that day.

It started out nice enough- just a trotting approach to a ground pole, medium cross rail, ground pole focusing on being balanced as a rider, with open shoulders. We were supposed to land and turn in the opposite direction to make a figure 8, but it turned into land and turn the direction of the lead. After a few go-rounds at the trot, we cantered it. Lexie was lovely the whole time- relaxed and soft.

We then made a small course out of a grid of medium crossrails ( 1 stride, 2 stride, 2 stride) and then cantered the medium crossrail in the middle. Still lovely- a bit of a wonky turn after the crossrail because of ground poles, but do-able.

We added onto that course- the grid, followed by a long turn to the crossrail, 5 stride outside line of 2 medium crossrails, long approach to a fan, long approach to a swedish oxer. Now- I had jumped this fan on Friday, knowing I get nervous about new fences, and wanted to school it on a good Lexie day. And at 0.65, it rode lovely. As I turned that corner to begin my long approach to the fan though, ACT jacked the jump up 3 holes- we were approaching a 0.85 m fan with no warning. I haven't schooling 0.85 or higher outside of a grid in over 4 months, but Lexie was locked and loaded. Definitely yelled, "Oh f*cking hell", sank into my heels, grabbed mane, and wrote my obituary. We cleared it, Lexie was JAZZED, but on the long approach, I got her collected for our 0.7 swedish, which was lovely.

This course set the pace for the rest of our clinic: ACT would jack jumps up randomly for all students, and it got to the point that when I was faced with a 1.0 m fan, a crossrail at 0.95 m in the middle, and a 0.95 m vertical, I finally told ACT, "I can't do this. She's tired, and I'm not ready for the height." He was nice enough to drop everything back down to 0.95 m, but I was frustrated.

I finished the clinic in good spirits- Lexie was a maniac, but I rode everything comfortably and I jumped above my comfort zone, and didn't die. I was frustrated with the clinician though- Lexie is athletic, and was a former 1.10 m horse, but she has stifle issues and fused hocks. We're working back up to the 1.10s as soon as my confidence, and her fitness are ready.

I think it was a difference of fundamentals. He saw me as staying on, seeing the distances, and riding a saucy mare as "doing really well" and kept raising the fences until they couldn't meet the challenge physically. I saw a horse who was not athletically ready for full 0.95-1.0 m courses, a nervous rider who is getting there, and figuring out a head-strong, aggressive mare. He made the statement several times that riding is 75% mental, and I agree- but the 25% is just as important. I value my horse's joints, tendons, and muscles more than I value jumping big as fast as I can.

Every clinic has an up side, and I took from this clinic that the pieces are there, I am still physically and mentally capable of jumping "larger" fences, and Lexie will take care of me when I ask (and on several approaches- I did just that, softened the reins, and said, "Take care of me, mare."). H and I are trying to figure out a plan for getting fitness on a 4-5 day a week riding schedule- it's a gradual process, and we're getting there.

- K & C & L

Monday, May 9, 2016

Baby Hunter Princess

I had my first lesson in forever on Thursday. Lexie was uncharacteristically quiet; so quiet that we were concerned she was in pain or feeling sick. She was a kick ride to the fences and over the fences, so H set a very tiny Hunter course and we were on our way. Obviously, she was not in pain or sick because the sass came out as we progressed in the course.

It was a nice chance to focus on keeping my weight in my heels, and focus on a release over fences.

Please note the sass in the first outside line and the flyer in the second outside line. #jumpoff #alldayerrday

Pretend oxer.

Hunter ducking.

I want to do a Hunter Derby with her SO bad. I think she would be an absolute blast.

Saturday we just flatted and did a small cross-rail line to try out an Ogilvy half pad and revised saddle placement. I pushed my saddle back two inches to make sure her scapula was free and put on the Ogilvy.  Lexie LOVED the combination, so it looks like I'll be scraping pennies together for a 1" Ogilvy with rear risers. She was round, a powerhouse, but responsive and willing to woah (or less cranky about woah-ing).

Her toes are a touch long so I'm holding off on riding until she gets her feet done on Wednesday.

Now.. to plan my Ogilvy color combo....

- K & C & L