Wednesday 27 October 2010

New Saddle, New Haircut & New Twist on previous Attitude

I will try to keep this short and I will post pictures, so hopefully ye won't be too disappointed if it does end up getting a little long. Afraid I have been known to waffle on (ref - my earlier posts).
Not entirely sure where I left off and I'm actually afraid to go back and look in case I think of other things to say (and then I'd be here all night!)
New Saddle
Anyways got Kika's saddle checked and as I'd thought it no longer fits and i was advised not to use it anymore, this was a saturday and he said he'd be back the following wednesday and he'd bring saddles for me to try out. True to his word he did, and on the wednesday he arrived with three jumping saddles each perfectly suited to herself so it was just up to me to ride in them and see which i liked best.
I ended up going for one that has velcro under the flap so that it can be a General Purpose Saddle and/or a Jumping Saddle with interchangeable leather bits suited to whatever discipline I am working on. So far I've only ridden in it with the jumping blocks in, as I'd a jumping lesson tonight (will get to that a little later), but once that was done I removed the leg blocks and stuck on the leather strips so as not to damage the underside of the flap and am all set for our flat lesson tomorrow evening.
Here are a picture I have taken of it (must remember to get a few of it on her back at the weekend):
(Sorry I had rotated it on photobucket, but can't seem to do the same here!)

New Haircut
Her not me, rofl - although I do need my haircut but that is not for discussion here, ;)
Didn't really manage to get (m)any before pictures as my old camera was broken (got a new one for my birthday yay!) so only have a few not so great quality ones and none with detail from before. But I did get some very nice after ones with my new camera toy!
A friend at the barn with clippers very kindly clipped her for me at a lower rate that the RI and helpers offer, plus I think she has done a lovely job!
See for yourselves!
Before I don't want to pose for a picture/cranky head (11.10.2010)

Oh Ok I'll make one happy face! (11.10.2010)

That was her lightweight stable rug which she just had to rip on sunday! *rollseyes* Thankfully to my untrained eye it looks salvageable. It's like she may have caught one of the belly straps when she went to get up and ripped a bit near where the strap is attached to the rug. Will see if i can get it repaired and clean to use it again come spring when weather starts to warm up again but stays cool at night...

This was taking just before clipping started, but with old camera so camera quality was bad (the lens/zoom had stopped going in and was all scratched and it was no longer that reliable in dim(ish) light - poor camera!) - 25.10.2010

(again rotation issue, sorry!)

Now for some purdy after shots taken this evening with my shiny new camera (that is so good dust mites make it look like it's snowing lol)! (27.10.2010)

"Oh - Flash means I must pose!"

"Look how nice my hair is now - no more sweaty sweaty for me!" (I like this pic!)

Last one just to show our new warmer RDS Special Stable Rug.

New Twist to previous Attitude mentioned in title is that in our jumping lesson and pretty much since i started riding in new saddle last week she has had more of a pep in her step and has found even more joy in acting the maggot! Any opportunity that presents itself for a buck/fart/jump/bounce type thing is taken!
Now if this is a reaction to how much freer her back feels from the old saddle i feel pretty darn mean for not having changed it sooner, but the masseuse was out and had said that it would be worth checking, she didn't think the whole saddle would require replacing as her back wasn't in too bad shape. She had just said that re-flocking might be in order as from her back it appeared to be a little low down and too much pressure was being put on her lower back.
But anyways thursday, friday, sunday, yesterday and today she found many's an opportunity to act the hound and go for a bounce/buck-type thing! Not entirely sure what she's doing as I am on her back, so guess i'd have to ask someone who's on the ground to describe it for me, lol! Saturday she was fine, we worked for a good hour+ without a peep out of her. I was very happy with her on saturday!
This evening took the biscuit though, she kind of jeapordised the jumping lesson to be honest with her messing and carry on. We'd go down into the jumps no problem, and the RI said my approach was very good and didn't warrant her reaction on landing - which was to drop the head and buck then bounce/pounce/jump about... She did it after three fences at which point the RI decided he didn't want to risk my falling off as it wasn't anything I was doing that she was just acting the maggot and so we changed exercise. Instead of tackling the fences he'd laid out he built another one for me to tackle on a circle. Which we did in trot a few times then cantered all the rest and on each rein with the cross pole size increasing every now and then. She was fine with that and he said her rhythm and my position / our approach and execution on the circle was good. She was doing good again until the last time we were to do the exercise when once more on landing she dropped the head and acted the hound. So after settling her again we came around again, on the same rein and jumped it a couple more times to make sure she understood that messing wasn't to be tolerated and to behave before we finished up for the evening.
Poor RI was a bit taken aback by her carry on I think, he kept saying how in our previous two lessons she had been so good and kind, was this normal behaviour for her. To which i answered no, not normal for when she is jumping, but that she has been known to act the maggot and look for excuses on other occasions. I don't like making excuses as I am of the belief that she should do as she is asked and not cause a fuss, but RI and i tossed out the ideas that the pair of us still need to adjust to the new saddle, that she may be more free in it and/or that it may be sitting differently on her (no excuse I know but perhaps sheds some light) and of course as she's a mare the typical 'perhaps she is in/coming into season' excuse was rolled out.
Still not plausible in my book, but we will work on it! I reckon she'll cut it out once i get to grips with the new saddle and quit riding like a muppet!
We've our flat lesson tomorrow evening, so that'll whip us into shape. I always ride better in the flat lesson as I've someone constantly in my ear keeping me out of my head...If that makes sense!

Wednesday 13 October 2010

So far so good...Fingers crossed it continues

I've been meaning to update this since last week, but time just kept getting away from me!
I'll start by saying I have an idea as to why Kika was so cranky before the last post, it had been an odd/rough week for her/us. She had been shod the week before and caught herself a couple of times with the new shoes, and as such wasn't ridden as much as she normally would have been, add to that the fact that she then proceeded to twist one of her new hind shoes, so I didn't want to ride her as it was very twisted and I was worried about the damage it might do to her foot if i'd ridden her, we all know how uncomfortable our own shoes are if not on correctly... I didn't think adding my weight to hers would do her foot any good, although thankfully she was not lame with it!
She twisted it on a friday, so spent saturday and sunday in the walker so as to get some movement. In an attempt to stop her getting cheesed off at the walker and continue to go in willingly I had decided to leave her out in the paddock for monday evening, under my supervision - In the hopes she wouldn't run around like a mad woman and do herself some damage! Pffft, she just had to prove me wrong and the fact that my presence does little to keep her from going loopy if the mood takes her! I usually don't mind her doing a little running as it works out the kinks and allows her to stretch her legs in a natural way, but when she started acting the real Doo-Lally and pulled the shoe I had to bring her in!
So between getting a new shoe put on (try as i may, do you think I could find the shoe she pulled in the field! No!), catching herself in the same spot again (yes - I am changing farriers after this) so she missed monday, tuesday without riding again. I rode her briefly on wednesday evening to make sure all was alright ahead of our lesson that thursday, which went well. She was ridden again on friday, left out on saturday and then we had all the fuss on sunday - which i think came to a head due to the rise in temperatures, her winter coat not agreeing with the heat and the lack of excercise she had had in those two weeks.

Since then, the temperatures are after coming back down (well since sunday evening/monday they have) and she is back in normal excercise with me again. Her attitude has returned to normal, so that is why i think the above reasons contributed to/but do not condone her awful behaviour that sunday afternoon and evening!

But on to happier things, the lessons last week etc! :)

Tuesday evening we had our flat lesson, which i felt went well and the teacher said she was slowly starting to come around. We both agreed once more that, she is going to take a lot of time to get to where we want as she has been so used (my fault) to not working 'correctly' for three years, that it is going to take time for her to understand what we want from her, for me to learn how to ask it of her and for the muscles to develop in such a way that she can correctly support and balance herself. So all in all it was positive comments and encouragement all around, :) I rode in spurs for the first time in a long time. I only used them once or twice before, but stopped as i felt i moved my legs too much and rubbed her slightly the previous time, after discussing my fears with the intsructor I agreed to try her in them again and she rightly pointed out that this prior knowledge could only help me to hold my legs quieter through the fear of rubbing her! Win-win all around if i got the reaction we desired without leg pumping and and if ultimately I held my legs quieter and used my other aids more effectively, such as seat hands and voice. Kika really was much better! Bending better when asked, and increase and decreasing speed in her gaits. I felt it went really well, and honestly did notice a difference in the pair of us. Although I will still only ride in spurs in flat lessons, I still don't trust myself alone with them yet!

Wednesday evening I had my first jumping lesson, since moving out here. We spent a good 5-10mins, walk, trotting and cantering circles with the teacher asking me to get her to flex her neck to the inside. He pointed out that she is much better going on the left rein then on the right and that we would have to work on this to get her softer on the right hand side. (Which i have been trying to do since then, hopefully there'll be a bit of improvement this evening). Then we got to the jumping, we're going right back to basics small cross polls and staight bars. I have to do less on approach and let the fences come to me, the horse will have no problem jumping them. I have to leave her find her way and guide her as calmly and quietly as possible to the fence, she will do the jumping! He has said that I will need to be patient and willing to work at it and we will get there...
I guess my 'have at it' attitude needs some re-examining, ;-)
I felt good at the end of the lesson, when i settled and stopped pushing so much, she settled and stopped pulling like a train into the fences ... lesson learned on my side.

Thursday, my flat lesson instructor said she would ride Kika to see what was going on under the hood, if you will. She wanted to get a feel for her, see what she was like under saddle so that she could get a better idea of what was going on so that she can be in a better position to teach me from the ground. I missed her on friday and over the weekend so only found out on monday how they got on. She reiterated what i had been thinking about needing to get her saddle checked (getting a saddle fitter's number this evening) and that she is very stiff on the right side - which the jumping guy had told me last week, so consistency is good. The fact that the same issues are being highlithed means all will be focussing on resolving the same things and not working against one another, :)

I rode her friday eveing and she was really good, the previous day under the flat instructor worked wonders for her. She was holding herself much better, whereas before i could only manage to get her working correctly after a while, she started working correctly on friday and was a lot more felxible. Highlighting (if i needed more highlighting, lol) my need for lessons as the things i now hope to achieve on horseback are just that little bit beyond me for now that i need to learn along with my horse. But it really does help to have someone better than me there to help out on the ground and in the saddle when needs be.

Saturday was a rest day, after being ridden everyday since monday (since moving i had set up a mini schedule for myself in that she would be ridden for three days, given a day off, ridden for three days and given a day off - meaning walker and/or field weather and space permitting). Although now that i think too much "rest" (due to twisted and/or lack of shoes) may have contributed to her cranky behaviour sunday week; I may revisit this schedule. Well that and the fact that now with two lessons a week (usually wednesday and thursday although the flat one can rotate), I'm going to have to do more riding just the two of us to practice what we learn in the lessons and still fit in a trail ride/forest hack on either saturday or sunday every week. I'm not giving up our change of scenery (plus i can still work on flexing and collecting while hacking in the woods - so homework is still being practised, ;-) ). When all of this is taken into consideration I may have to re-think my work three days rest a day plan... Although she will be getting at least one day off a week and her hack in the woods (which has to be a saturday or sunday due to darker evenings from here till spring)

Last piece of news update (I know this is after getting long, I'm sorry! But as you are reading this you already know i talk a lot, :-p)).
Sunday afternoon i took myself and Kika off for a hack in the woods as the weather was still very favourably warm in the mid twenties range (23ÂșC). We had a bit of a disagreement as to which way we were going to enter the forest, but after a yell and growl from me we reached an agreement which kept her four feet on the ground, ;-) After that all went well, we did a grand auld tour along the new tracks we discovered the weekend before and did a nice big loop without crossing our tracks once!
When i got back to the barn, I had hoped to put her out in a paddock till the masseuse would arrive at 5.30 (this was 3.30 when we got back from our hack). But as none were free i settled on giving her a thorough grooming and pulled her mane, ;-) She wasn't best impressed with that last part, but as she was standing outside with the sun on her back she got over it fairly lively! I also tidied up her stable while she sunned herself and we had a visit from a family friend of my parents who stopped by on her way back to Brussels.
When the masseuse arrived she asked what the problem was, I had spoken to her on monday to ask if she might have a look at her, explaining the cranky issues and that i thought the saddle might be causing an issue due to her shape possibly changing with the extra and more concentrated work she is now getting. So she had a look (feel) and highlighted two issue areas, she said the left side of her neck was tense and that her back was also a bit sensitive. She also agreed with me about getting the saddle checked and possibly re-flocked. So she proceeded to give Kika a massage which she enjoyed despite not wanting to relax completly, there wasn't that much going on around her, but just enough to pique her interest. The masseuse was happy to report that besides those two problem areas everything else seemed in order and that rather than giving her two days off like i'd thought she would be prescribed, I was told that under no circumstances was she to be left in the stable the following day. She was to be ridden for ten minutes in walk to loosen everything back up correctly and then worked as normal!
Monday she worked really well, so well in fact that friends from the yard who were about at the time i was riding mentioned how well she was going! I was very happy with her again, she was bending correctly and after warming up on her good side, she was willing to flex to the right and left in walk and trot. We are still working on canter and getting her to flex more regularly. It is all a learning curve and will require lots of practice from both of us!

Well that's me all caught up to today! We have our second jumping lesson this evening followed by a flat lesson tomorrow evening. Hopefully I'll get the next update done quicker and without leaving so much for me to report!

Monday 4 October 2010

Tempermental Temperatures

Yesterday was not such a good day for Kika and myself.
After sleeping on it I have come to the conclusion that the weather may be to blame for her downright misbehaving yeterday. She was in foul form, not so much when I was riding her (although she did have a few wobblers) but on the ground her manners were seriously found wanting, and in such an out of character way!
Although I think the temperatures may be to blame, it has picked back up to mid to low twenties during the day and this is looking like lasting the week if the forecast in the paper is to be believed. If this is the case I can empathise with her frustration, her winter coat has been coming in and she looks like a fine fluffy teddy bear. So I'm sure the temperatures picking back up yesterday did not do anything to endear her mood.

I don't want to list what she did online, as it was so out of character that and I am hoping a once off that I don't want her actions 'set in stone'. I'll be taking her out again this evening, then we have a flat lesson tomorrow night and our first jumping lesson on wednesday. I'm trying to rein in my disapproval of her behaviour yesterday and keep it in context, namely that this was the first time in 3 years of ownership that I have seen her act this way. So unless her misbehaving continues, I am hoping it might just have been a blip.

On a brighter note, our flat lesson last thursday went well. We are slowly getting there, I know our efforts are going to take time. Especially as for the last three years, I have been riding her without asking her to "work" correctly. This is because I myself have not known how to do it, to get her to use herself properly and engage her back end so that she can work in a correct outline. As this is all new to the pair of us it is a slow process, but one we are working on. I am the first to hold my hand up and admit that my own limited riding ability (for what I want to achieve with her) is contributing to our slow progress.
I have picked up plenty of bad habits over the years and must right these if i want Kika to achieve the goals i have set out for us. My goal for now is to get her to use herself correctly, from behind which will encourage her to work in a correct outline and responding to my legs and aids obediantly so that when/if we do return to competing I will have an obediant concentrating horse at all times.
Just a checklist for myself so that I remember what it is i have to work on with my own riding:
 - Heels down (more) and stop gripping with my knees, therefore popping my heels back up and making my feet loose in the stirrups.
 - Sit up straight with shoulders back
 - Stop looking down (getting better at this one, until we circle - working on it!)
 - Stop leaning around circles thereby upsetting our combined balance unecessarily
I'm sure there are more, but if i can get to grips with these, I'll be in a better position (no pun intended) and we'll be heading in the right direction!