Tuesday 22 February 2011

Things as they stand

To be honest not a lot has happened (my) riding-wise since I last posted. Between Kika receiving her annual injections, a masseuse/homeopathy lady checking her out and a stressful week at work for me resulted in Miss K have 3 leisurely weeks of loose and normal lungeing.
Probably the most interesting things that happened to us was that the saying animals are like their owners would appear to be very much true in our relationship. *roll-eyes*
The equine masseuse/homeopathy person had a look at her one evening when i wasnt there, my mother and a friend from the barn (the girl I had been riding with, and by all accounts she was quick to let the masseuse know that the horse was not allowed to get away with rearing as a form of stopping/avoiding work - according to my mother my friend made the point that after Kika's carry on she was still made work on until she had settled again, which made me kind of happy that people don't think me a complete waste of space) were able to answer all her questions and a diagnosis was made.
Anyway the prognosis was that the mare has an issue with her left ovary acting up and that was part of the reason for her crankiness & foul humour and explains the narkiness with rugs going on and off. Coupled with this, she apparently has a tendency to keep things bottled up and stresses internally before it has to explode out of her. Now for those of you who know me well, may well recognise this characteristic in me! *blush*
So I was left with instructions and homeopathic remidies to give to her which are to help her caml down and not let things pile up on her, thereby stressing her out. If you'd seen me stressing over work last week you'd probably have told me to injest some of that stuff as well, ;-) She was to get this for 2-3 days while being walked by hand before going back to luneging/riding. So we went for some leisurely strolls, myself and my mahoosive dog! *sniggers*
That was the week before last...last week I had so much on in work that i just about made it up to the barn in the evenings to let the poor ould gal run around and blow off some steam after being in her stable all day. This weekend came and it was time for me to re-face my "fear" and get back up and ride her. Easier said than done considering the confidence cisis I had following her escapades a few weeks ago. But went to the barn on saturday and lunged her for a good 20mins before i got up and we walked and trotted around the place, pulling tight circles and or/figures of 8 to keep both our minds occupied. Proud of myself for having faced my fear and gotten up, we went for a small walk around the grounds/towards the woods to cool herself down afterwards.
As I was leaving the barn on saturday i got chatting to another yard friend, who has had her fair share of problems with a fiery red head (also a liver chestnut mare), she has been very good to me in offering advice and "coaching"/ morale boosting when I was feeling down about the horse - she was the most vocal in reassuring me that the mare is not mean or dangerous as some people had been telling me and she reiterated again how she wanted to have a spin on the mare to see what she was like. Ayway, she often goes trail riding/hacking in the woods so I asked if she would fancy accompanying me on sunday. She agreed although stated that if it was raining (as was forcast) she wouldn't go out the trails, which was fair enough. Typically when sunday morning dawned and i dragged my backside to the yard for our agreed meeting time of 10.30am, it was snowing!
We decided that this would be as good a time as any for her (my friend) to take Kika for a test run. We tacked her up gave her a few spins on the lunge line and then she hopped up, happy enough with her. All went well in walk and trot and K was listening and obedient, issues arose when she was asked to canter, and i mean literally arose, as in up she stood again. I said nothing and left them to it, half afraid of what she'd say to me when she was finished working her. But continue working her she did, she got her going again and K settled back down and although they had a few more tustles when it came to cantering, they weathered the storm and ploughed on. When she was happy with her she finished up and came to give me her verdict, which we discussed after putting the mare in the walker to cool down as we went for a stroll with her two dogs.
She reckoned that the mare's back is not strong enough to support the work being asked of her and that she needs serious work to muscle her up correctly. This led to a lightbulb moment as well as guilt in my mind. Kika first reared back in November when i asked my intructors to ride her while i was away in NYC for a week. The teacher had told me that for the first 3 days K had been very good, then towards the end of the week from nothing and without warning she had reared (now that i think about it this is not unlike what has just happend to me) - I have never seen the instructor ride, but have been told she asks the horses to work correctly all the time (not a bad thing when the horses are correctly equipped to cope with the work load). That outburst led to all manner of tests, osteo visit, teeth done, x-rays taken and ultimately 2 months off work. After christmas i brought K back, and now realise, I made the mistake of doing too much sitting trot work - again her back cannot have been equipped to handle the work i was doing with her. Hence my guilt, as i have unbeknownst to myself been the main reason my horse was reacting as she was, man do i feel like a useless numpty. I know we are always learning when it comes to horses, and I would never ever claim to know everything about horses, but i did not until now realise exactly how clueless i am! *blush*

The friend who rode her on sunday is lending me the use of her pessoa and last night showed me how to use it by lungeing K in it for the first time (made for interesting viewing - K thought she was a lamb/bunny hopping a bit). She reassured me that at no stage did she feel unsafe and reiterated again that she did not think the mare dangerous. She rightly noticed that Kika has a good and a bad rein, and unsuprisingly the problems arise most often on the bad rein (which has indeed been the case each time she reared - twice with me and once with my friend). Throughout all the walking/trotting and cantering work (cantering on the good rein) there were no problems with K and her attitude - the only issue was when she was being asked to canter on her bad rein. She maintains that Kika does not have the correct musculation to take off correctly on her bad rein and needs to kind of run/skip into the canter on her bad side.
So all in all i feel really horrible for what i've put my horse through, and yet feel reassured that we have caught on to what is going on before it developed into a more serious problem. As i said each time after rearing, Kika would settle back into work with minimal fuss, so she is not a bad apple - her reaction was a bit extreme admitedly but it was her coping mechanism with being unable to do what was being asked.

I am now developing a new weekly regime which revolves around 3 days of lungeing with the pessoa a week. With two days of riding (no cantering - mostly walk and trot) and 2 days playing/leisure a week - I'm hoping to make one of our leisure days a trail riding day to get out into the woods again now that the snow and ice should hopefully stay away (but alas, no guarantees!)
My friend has also said, that once K's back strengthens up she's more than happy to help me with my training/schooling of her and has said to come to her at any stage with any questions queries.
My plan is to hop up this evening and do some walk/trot work just the pair of us and then tomorrow night she'll get lunged in the pessoa again. Thursday will be a chill out day for Kika, where I'll play games with her loose in an arena then friday pessoa again and either sat or sunday - trail ride methinks.

So that's me all caught up again, feeling decisevely more positive now and am hoping i can plug away and put my fears behind me. The masseuse is coming back towards the end of this week and i'll get another bottle of the homeopatic calming stuffs from her as well as getting K another once over maybe a bit of a massage to help her relax encourage & muscle building, ;-)
Fingers crossed that this might be the return to form we need, just in time for the weather to start warming back up and the days getting longer, Kika'll be back out in a paddock before she knows where the time went! :D

Hopefully I am not counting my chickens and all that, but this is the first time in a few weeks that I am actually looking forward to going up to ride my horse. It was not all her fault, work had me pretty stressed until last week, so fingers crossed that is all behind me now also.
I had just been feeling so rotten about the whole Kika thing, whenver things start to go wrong or the road gets bumpy i keep finding myself second guessing myself and worrying that i have done wrong by shipping her out here, leaving the support system I had in Ireland. I am just glad that i didn't give up hope in her, the horse i have known and loved for 3 and a half years is still here and was reaching out to me i guess, i've always told her it is a massive pity that i don't speak her language as well as i'd like. We could avoid a fair few disagreements if i did!

Wednesday 2 February 2011

New Year - same issues?

Where to start it has been so long since I updated! *blush*
Well at the start of the year I guess! I rang in the New Year in sunshine, while on a last minute get away holiday with a  friend. While I was away my sister kindly looked after Miss Kika for me, I had only asked her to lunge/put her in the walker as with K being pretty much out of work since November I wasn't about to ask my little sister to take back up the reins - although as from the video in my previous post I had ridden her in the mean time.
But the little sis with some encouragement from the mammy (it would appear) braved the big bad beastie and rode her in my absence. I got back late on the first frist friday of January and so didn't make it to see the ponio until the Saturday when i hopped up and had a peach of a spin.
For the next two weeks i was getting great work out of her, she was an angel and working lovely and balanced and using herself better! I started riding in the evenings with a girl around my age (who happened to be the year ahead of me at school but i didn't know her then) and her older gelding. She has asked me to ride with her as her horse doesn't relax when there isn't another horse in the arena with him, she also typically rode in one half of the arena while K and I used the lower end by the door, as her horse doesn't like passing the door or something - he's an older horse who is prone to a bit of messing and has had his fair share of problems as a result, so she does her best to facilitate him and keep him calm.
This repetive work out of me, I think along with an increase in temperatures that week (temps rose to 10C - and have now dropped back down to -4C yesterday and -1C and snow today! *rolleyes*) contributed to misbehaviour out of Kika. :(
The biggest kick of all was that that saturday she worked the best she ever has for me! I was just about to finish up and was walking to cool her off, when she decided (i think) that she had had enough of this staying on the same circle and in her moody mare way let me know about it by standing upright! She reared a good few times before i managed to get her moving again and pushed her on into some more work, back to our trotting circles with her settling right back down and working as she had before her outburst! So I hadn't let her get away with it.
It wasn't until i dismounted and put her away for the night that i got really annoyed at her. The next day i went back with a plan of action in mind, i was going to change things up and put down trotting poles for her to work on. I was a little apprehensive getting up but i powered through and as soon as we started working i forgot about the worry, taking her through the trotting poles and working in circles etc. Again, just as i was thinking of finishing up and brought her back to walk, in the same spot as the day before up she stood again, but she only reared twice (i think) then i moved her on again and we did some more trotting before finishing up.
After this i was beggining to get a bit more scared than annoyed, it probably didn't help that the girl i've been riding with thought it a good idea to tell me the horse is dangerous in what she does as she stands right up and without apparent reason - now if she hadn't said anything to me this thought would never have entered my head and i possibly wouldn't have started to question everything - thereby knocking my confidence. The following monday was a day off for her - it should have been sunday but after her escapade on saturday i had to ride her on sunday.
So Tuesday i hopped back up and was just walking near our companion when he turned on a circle and we were continuing straight on, she threatened to go up but i was aware of her and watching for her, so when she went to rear she got a whack of the stick on the neck (I didn't make it between her ears), but that seemed to knock the wind out ofher sails and she stopped and shook her head as in "what the hell was that!", before she got another chance to think i moved her on and we trotted then cantered, not going back to walk until we'd finished our work. Now I'll hold my hand up and admit the work we did was more about keeping her moving and guessing as opposed to 'working', but i still got what i wanted done and no more nonsense. We were walking around happy out, cooling down when after about 5mins she made a face and threatened to swing for my friends horse - which actually lead me to question whether or not this "new" behaviour might be connected to her hormones re-awakening with the weather changes...
Even though I felt i'd overcome that hurdle on tuesday by preventing her from rearing at the start, my confidence wasn't feeling any better. When i got to the barn last wednesday intending to ride she seemed down in herself, nose to the ground almost dejected when i got to her door so i decided against riding and popped her in the walker for a bit after which she seemed to be back to herself and so it was thursday before i was getting up again.
At this stage the nerves were at me and I asked another friend (who also has an uppidy chestnut mare who had offered to help should i want it) to come with me and talk to me as i rode in another arena that Kika usually behaved better in (my usual companion was going to join us later). She was great and kept telling me to do different things stopping me from getting lost in my head, thankfully the mare did not attempt or threaten to rear again but did throw a  few bucks and plunge a little on one of our circles - but I'll take that over rearing at the moment. She still didn't get out of what she was being asked to do and just had to get on with it. We finished up on a good note, but i knew in myself that my confidence was still a long way off being restored. I knew i wasn't going to make it to the barn on friday due to prior arrangments and had also planned to be gone most of saturday to Brussels with my usual riding companion and others to see horses for sale as someone was thinking of buying a new one. So i knew K wasn't going to be ridden those days as i couldn't forsee what time we'd be back from Brussels - I had just planned to let her run off some steam in an arena on her own on saturday but there was none free when i got back so her 30mins in the walker stretched to an hour then she was allowed back to her warm box for the night.
Sunday was a lovely dry and sunny but cold day, the ground was frozen so a lot of horses were being let out when we arrived at the barn (brought my mother with me for some moral support as confidence still shaky). Changed K into her outdoor rug, i was happy to get the chance to put her out for a bit as i honestly think that that's what she needs - as my Dad says she was a free range horse before i moved her out here and now she unfortunately spends most of her day in a stable.
Silly me forgot that she might go loop-dy with only having one field outing since October (Christmas day) and in my excitement to let her out for a bit didn't think to knock some of the spat off her with some lungeing or loose schooling. The poor eejit didn't know whether to come or go in the field, she stood near the gate where my mother and I were, like a ball of excess energy - she was all wound up like a spring. Rather than risk her running through wire (which i don't think was on and if it wasn't she wouldn't feel it through her rug) I brought her in to let her run around and work out some of the kinks, which she did by bucking and farting around the small indoor for 10-15minutes.
The mammy then rightly suggested i ride her now that she had let off some steam, my nerves were after getting so bad at this stage that it was an effort to get up. Most of this is (i know) in my head as she hasn't been bad since she got her slap last tuesday...apart from the bucking - but as i said i can get over that. I was also slightly more nervous (like i needed more nerves) by the fact that the smaller arenas were all in use and only the large one (and usually busier one) was the only one empty. So i swallowed (sort of) my fear and hopped up, nattering and chattering away to the horse like a spanner to try and keep myself calm. We were trotting away happy out when someone else came to the door to come in, I was at the other end of the ring and slowed to a walk, happy with how she had behaved till then. As we changed rein across the diagonal of the ring i could feel her slipping away from me and all her attention being focussed on the other horse and knew that if i asked anything else of her she'd try to stand up. So as we were already walking I dediced to  stop before she did anything damaging. Untacked and put her on the lunge to bring her to eat some grass as i wasnt sure she'd stay in a field.
I actually haven't had the chance to ride her since, i was caught late in work on monday and yesterday she got her vaccination done with vets instructions for a few easy days till the weekend. So the plan is for her to go in the walker this evening, then lungeing tomorrow and we'll see what we get up to on friday.
I spoke to the lady who does equine massages yesterday and asked if she'd come look at her for me, I think she also works with homeopathy so she might be able to tell me if it's hormones or something else. She's to ring me back to set a time for her visit, she said it's best to wait till 3 days after vaccines - minimum, so she'll probably contact me over the weekend.

I'm sure i probably shouldn't be posting such info on the net as it paints my horse and also my windy self in a bad light. I don't know why i am having such a confidence crisis at the moment, I think it is hitting me hard because she had been going so beautifully up until she wasn't and the reaction when she wasn't has left me a little weak in the knees. I hope to keep plugging away and hopefully my easily bored horse will bear with me as i rebuild the crumbling blocks of my confidence!
I don't know if it was the weather change, which has made her start shedding and now the temps have unfortunately dropped again - combined with my unimaginative and boring (to her mind) attempts at excercising her  along with her lack of turnout (which she probably didn't mind in the cold but couldn't fathom when the temps picked back up the other week) which led to her reaction.
I'll just have to suck it up and try to keep her distracted, and hope that it does the trick to allow me the time to regain my trust in her and thus my confidence.
I feel like a total windbag (aka chicken)! :(