Halfway There: Goal Review

So according to the logbook I keep of all my rides/sessions, I finished 616 sessions so far in 2015. The majority of this will be riding, but there’s also a lot of lunging and long-lining and free jumping in there, and loading and halter training… and if I have to hold a particularly difficult horse for feet/teeth/whatever, I count that, too. Cuz I can.

That’s about 300-450 hours, which is cool but I can do better. So maybe in the next half I shall!

Anyway, wannabe brag material aside, here’s a review on some real goals:

Arwen

  • Get her fit – Gotcha! She’s lost a tad of fitness now, with being a little under the weather over the weekend and having a slow week due to rider having to be in two places at once, but nothing major. To finish with 0.4 time penalties on cross-country at Springs, especially considering how spooky she was to the jumps, she’s got to be fit enough for her level.
  • Build her upper neck muscle
  • School Elementary Medium successfully – We knew the dressage goal was going to be the slow and tedious one. Still hammering on this. Dressage ain’t a thing you can really force, so we’re not too panicky about achieving this – quality work over chasing levels.
  • Introduce scary-looking jumps – We can keep working on it, but we haven’t had a stop in competition since March. She’s getting much more courageous. We worked on solid skinnies and spooky tires at home.
  • Have her go through water more easily
  • Show graded in EV70 – We did AND IT ROCKED. Okay, so there was no dressage, but who’s counting? We were 8th in a class of 31. I count that as achieved.
Achievin'!
Achievin’!

Exavior

  • Complete advanced halter training
  • Leading over, through and under scary things – Busy on this, but not quite done with going over spooky stuff yet.
  • Leading away from his group – We’ve got this. No screaming, no jogging on the way back, no napping. I’ll take it.
  • Bathing – We got halfway with this and then winter came; we’ll resume in summer.
  • Desensitisation to noise and sight  – I flapped my jacket all over him. He went to sleep. Mission accomplished.
  • Loading preparation – work in progess; I still want him to go over a tarpaulin.
  • Loading
  • Injections – Some improvement, but we’re not there yet
  • Be gelded – Probably going to be postponed to next winter.
  • Lowering of the head when requested by pressure on the halter
  • Basic lunging with a halter and long line only – This is fine.
  • Leading from the right – I totally forgot this (it’s been a few years since I raised my own baby) but it’s a handy skill. Working on it now.
  • Wearing a roller
  • Lunging over poles
  • Preparation for clipping – I don’t have clippers yet so…
  • Wearing boots – All these lunging-related goals will most likely will be left for next year unless he suddenly matures a lot. Being a warmblood, he’s really not at the same level of physical or mental maturity as Thunny was when he was this age. I’m using my work with Thun as a baseline because it’s the best experience I have, but while Thunder knew all this by the end of his second year, Exavior isn’t going to get there. I want him to get on the horsebox, lead from the right, and walk a few nice laps on the lunge and then he’s going back out of work for a little while, maybe even to the end of the year, except for a couple of baths and talking about injections. No point in cooking a baby brain, and he can go out and horse for a while with no damage to his people skills.

Magic

  • Improve fitness
  • Tie up – He will still fly back if something truly upsets him, but he now stands tied really nicely for his grooming every morning and if he steps back and feels the pull, he yields to pressure instead of losing his brain. Honestly, few horses will stand tied under pressure, and the skill isn’t important enough in my situation to break even more halters and potentially necks. I’m okay with him now; daily tying for grooming will serve to improve this skill gently over time.
  • Load
  • School Novice – I’m going to call this one a win, for a horse that is probably never going to compete in stressage. I practiced Novice 1-3 on him over and over again preparation for Arwen’s show and he was really good, even with the French link on. Leg-yields are also almost there, after all, Novice only requires H-L level of leg-yields.
  • Survive a hack – We went to the end of the road and back without dying, but that doesn’t count as a hack, so I’m not crossing this out just yet.
  • Be confident at 80cm
  • Show graded at 70cm showjumping – We jumped a terrifying and wonderful clear at 70cm at a training show, so we’re making our way towards this! Our next show will be 50cm, 60cm and 70cm again, and then I’ll play it by ear as to whether we do 80cm next show. My criterion for going graded is single and simple: I want him to walk into the arena and know exactly what he is supposed to do. No point in paying the earth to take a spooky baby to a show and have three stops by the second jump. When he goes in and says to me, “OK, I know what we do now,” then we can move on to graded. The height does not seem to be an issue but he likes to halfway stop at his first few fences every show, so I want to eliminate that first.
Less of this babyness...
Less of this babyness…

Thunder

  • Fix his mild tendency to get in your space
  • Get him to stand dead still for a bath
  • Introduce flying changes – Ugh. I suck so much at flying changes. SO MUCH. I can’t get them out of Arwen yet, so poor Thun hasn’t even really been asked for them yet. Still striving for this but I won’t force him and make him worried.
  • Introduce rollbacks
  • Improve on sliding stops, spins and rein backs – This is an ongoing goal but we’ve already made HUGE improvements. Like, we actually slide in our sliding stops! Spins are at least a little smoother if reeeeaaaally slow (Friesians don’t do fast until they spook), and rein backs are appropriate for his level, we get 10 steps in style and 15 sloppy steps if I beg.
  • Log as many trail miles as possible – Work in progress. I am getting so tired and bored with hacking alone, but it’s just a matter of making myself do it. As soon as I have a really cool hack horse again I’m sure my motivation will get better, but I need motivation to get that really cool hack horse ready!
O summer coat, when dost thou return?
O summer coat, when dost thou return?

All in all, I’m quite happy with our progress so far, mostly because not only have we been getting results but we’ve been improving relationships. And ultimately, that’s what horsemanship is all about. Glory to the King ❤

2015 Q1 Goal Review

I can hardly believe it’s already April! So far, this year has been terrifying and wonderful and oh so busy, but I love what I do so much that I don’t mind. I am quite happy with the universe because each day I grow more aware of how I walk hand in scarred Hand with the King.

So, let’s have a look at our goals.

Arwen’s goals:

  • Get her fit – A work in progress, but I’m happy with the progress. She survived the 2125m, 17-effort course at Le Godimo, albeit with a stack of time penalties, despite the horrific heat. At the moment, our most intense workout was 9.9km at an average speed of 22.9km/h (380mpm), our top speed 59kph (980mpm). We’re not event fit yet, but making good progress.
  • Build her upper neck muscle – A resounding success. I really, really like her musculature now. She looks strong without being butch. She just needs to lose weight, but those neck muscles are where I want them.
  • School Elementary Medium successfully – This one will take a while. We’ve been working on collected trot, counter-canter, medium trot, shoulder-ins and more difficult leg-yields. We also got a flying change yesterday, more or less by fluke, and the Mutterer is drilling us in lessons, which is exactly what we need.
  • Introduce scary-looking jumps – Haven’t done a lot on this one, except at shows and clinics. She’s been as brave as the day there.
  • Have her go through water more easily – Done. We did have a look at the Le Godimo water complex but she didn’t stop or even walk. Just trot, peek, and jump in. Super happy with that.
  • Show graded in EV70 – Not yet, but we’ve done EV60 at a graded show, and will do unaffiliated EV70 at the end of May.

Exavior’s goals:

  • Complete advanced halter training – Done. We can now trot, stand squarely, walk on a loose lead, turn on the forehand, and turn on the haunches in hand. Also no standing on top of people or dragging them around. This is a big one, so it’s just about all we accomplished so far, but it’s the basis for everything else.
  • Leading over, through and under scary things
  • Leading away from his group
  • Bathing – Started on this but he still doesn’t like water to be on his bottom.
  • Desensitisation to noise and sight
  • Loading preparation
  • Loading
  • Injections
  • Be gelded
  • Lowering of the head when requested by pressure on the halter – Total win. You barely have to breathe on his halter and you have ears around your knees. Also he keeps his head down while I switch halter and fly mask.
  • Basic lunging with a halter and long line only
  • Wearing a roller
  • Lunging over poles
  • Wearing boots
  • Preparation for clipping

Magic’s goals:

  • Improve fitness – Win. He’s a thoroughbred. He was basically born fit. He can canter around an 80cm course without being breathless, which is all I need from him right now.
  • Tie up – Eh, more or less. He ties up just fine until he gets a huge fright, and then he’ll still break his lead.
  • Load – Done. Self-loads now, sweet creature.
  • School Novice  – Work in progress; he still flips his head in transitions and sometimes in the canter. Lengthenings are good, simple changes are good, leg-yields are getting there.
  • Survive a hack – Nothing yet, but it’s in the pipeline.
  • Be confident at 80cm  – Done! Okay, so I’m not confident, but the height is not a problem for me at 80cm with him. We’re schooling 90cm at the moment with success.
  • Show graded at 70cm showjumping – Showed ungraded at 60cm, and would have showed ungraded 70cm this weekend, but he came up mysteriously lame. Maybe God’s just saying we need another couple weeks.

Thunder’s goals:

  • Fix his mild tendency to get in your space – He doesn’t do it with me anymore. With submissive or timid people he does still stand over you but never with malicious intent and he knows he’s not allowed to move anyone’s feet.
  • Get him to stand dead still for a bath – I didn’t bath him, but I hosed him off alone, and he stood like a stone.
  • Introduce flying changes
  • Improve on sliding stops, spins and rein backs
  • Log as many trail miles as possible

As for the old warrior Queen, she’s as happy as a bird, fat, healthy, and tries to throw me off on a regular basis just to remind me who’s the Queen around here. And that’s all she needs to do.

January 2015 Stats

Since July last year, I’ve been keeping a log of all the different horses I work with, partially for interest’s sake, partially for research purposes and also with the vague idea that then I would at least have something more specific than “rides so much that good gloves last three months” to put on my CV. I lost half of my records when my dear old computer gave up the ghost, but I’ve managed to keep track of the whole of January. I record the horse’s name, its level of training, owner, breed, type of workout, and equipment used. Not all the sessions I put in are rides – I’ll hazard a guess that a quarter or more are groundwork sessions – and I also tend to add situations like loading difficult horses or doing their feet. I do this mostly so that I can go back and see what equipment we used, in case I come across the situation again and have forgotten. (Things tend to pass straight through my head without touching down, as the poor Mutterer could emphatically tell you).

So, January’s statistics:

  • 118 sessions
  • owned by 6 different people (including me)
  • from untouched to Elementary dressage
  • eight different breeds, including Quarter Horses, warmbloods and an abundance of Nooitgedachters (love those so much)
  • eight lessons with two different instructors, one offsite
  • no shows yet. My little grey barrel is still too fat to get around a course of more than six jumps without rolling any poles off with her big belly.

A great start to 2015, methinks. We wrapped up the month with a lesson yesterday afternoon, which was… interesting. The Mutterer, the ponies and I were all extremely tired after a long week (Saturdays aren’t particularly perky days for any of us). I was especially brain dead (I would have been really dead, too, if the Mutterer hadn’t noticed my loose girth and made me stop and pull it up; tacking up in your sleep is real) but luckily the horses were also too tired to argue and hauled my sleepy and undeserving bottom over the jumps whether the distance I picked at random was any good or not. It just really wasn’t our day. On the bright side, Magic was a sensible, level-headed superstar and even managed not to pull my arms off despite the fact that I was jumping him just in the snaffle. We also tried a fantastic new exercise involving a jump set on one long side of the arena and a set of five or six bending poles on the other; this way I was forced to bring the horses back to a trot and be able to maneouvre them through the poles after the jump, improving our steering, control and concentration. The bending poles were jump uprights, so I only had to whack my foot once before paying attention. Arwen’s flatwork was also superb, even prompting a compliment from the Mutterer. We do have to work on her head position a little more – she tends to drop it a bit low, and occasionally nods behind the vertical, although that is just her figuring out her own strength and should go away by itself – but there is progress. She had a fantastic rhythmic canter going that made me very happy.

Our place is bursting at the seams with horses at the moment; every time my poor dad turns his back another one pops up, although he is very good about it. I have the Horde and my sister has her mare, plus the stubborn and wonderful donkey who doesn’t seem to belong to anyone very much (I quite often have to cast my exasperated eyes skywards and say, “Lord Jesus, speak to Your donkey!”). That makes seven, added to which are the Mutterer’s threesome which I am busy schooling (anyone want to buy a saintly white gelding? And I do mean saintly). Plus today my vet is bringing over her chestnut Anglo-Arab filly with a dominant personality, which basically explains why she needs a trainer. This should be interesting.

Happy New Year! Have a minor heart attack! In fact, have two!

This was how my horses wished me “happy New Year.”

The day started out just fine and continued happily with me taking the Mutterer’s white gelding for a hack, which turned out to be an awesome first ride of the year. The white gelding is taking long to sell for reasons I cannot imagine because he really is the most enjoyable little horse and with plenty of talent to boot. Anyway, I shall not complain because I get to ride him in the interim, which is no great burden whatsoever. He was his usual steady, gentle, comfortable self and we had a lovely long hack through the summer grass.

Then I took my sister and her QH mare to go and swim in the dam while I perched myself on an absolutely rotund Arwen. She had a nice two weeks off, which were very well deserved because she worked hard this year, but now that she’s starting to get very hyper I’ve put her back in as much work as the vaccination will allow (we have three more weeks to go). She looks beautiful, shiny, glossy and healthy, but also extremely fat, which has always been her downfall. The fat beast and I both need to get back in shape (although, in my defence, I am nowhere near as fat as she is).

The walk down to the dam was quiet and uneventful and Arwen even stood very still for me to strip off her saddle and my boots (thank you Arwen, I hate hopping around through the burrs trying to mount an errant horse bareback). I scrambled on and we set onto the banks. I gave her as good a kick as my bare heels could give and she went straight in without hesitation. I had just enough time to praise her when suddenly, with a horrible sensation that I have no desire to ever feel again, Arwen’s legs vanished into the mud. In a matter of seconds my feet were dangling in water that should have been knee-deep. Ten seconds of absolute terror ensued during which Arwen floundered valiantly and I, clinging to mane and kicking for dear life, egged her on at the top of my voice. If it had been anything but strong, stoic little Arwen we would still have been trying to dig her out of the clay. But she put down her hindlegs until she found solid ground, coiled up her big (fat) haunches and launched her way out. By the grace of God, we found ourselves on the safety of the bank. I was much to terrified and grateful to do anything except hug her wet neck and tremble; Arwen took a few seconds to get her breath back and then nearly catapulted me off by putting her head down to start grazing. Thank God for tough little Nooitgedachters.

She was as sound as a brass bell all the way home and we shall never, ever be swimming in that particular dam ever again ever, but it did start the year off with a shock. I foresee some trouble trying to get her to go into water complexes again, unfortunately, but I’m sure the brave little grey mare, my King and I will overcome that as well, eventually.

My heart rate had just started to slow down when Exavior came in for supper with his superorbital fossae (temples, to you and me) all swollen up (a typical symptom of the dreaded African horse sickness). His appetite was good, manner perky, mucus membranes nice and pink, capillary refill time normal, temperature slightly elevated at 38.4 degrees Celsius. We came to the conclusion that he was either reacting to a bug bite or to his vaccine, which is known for causing the mild swelling and fever in youngsters. Today the swelling is unchanged but his temperature is down to a dead normal 36.8 degrees. God willing, he’s just being a daft sensitive baby warmblood.

What a way to start the year. Thanks, ponykins.

Exavior2