Wednesday 28 November 2012

Half a Houdini

As title suggest Miss Kika is up to her old tricks again!
Although *knock-on-wood* so far our three tiered tape fencing with electricity is keeping her in the designated turnout area, however where we have let ourselves down is in the proper protection of the Hay bale storage area! *Shame-faced*

She got in yesterday and pulled apart i don't know how many of our hay bales :(
Tidied up as best I could and have decided she is on "house arrest" until we can sort out a better means of keeping her away from the hay. Which is unlikely to be resolved before Thursday evening at the earliest due to this evening's concert attendance. :-/

She really is her own worst nightmare!

Cool image I found of a lovely purple rug draped like a Grecian Gown

In other news, had a lovely spin last night despite my annoyance at her escapades and inability to recognise that I do have her best interests at heart. I rode in my dressage saddle in the main arena with the back wall mirrors to help me stay on the right diagonal when trotting.
We concentrated mostly on walk/trot transitions with lots of serpentines with and without volts on each loop, changes of rein on the diagonals and circles which increased and decreased in size as we were more warmed up.
I tried to particularly concentrate on keeping my outside had as a "brake", inside leg asking for the bend, inside hand guiding and outside leg on to stop her falling out on me when turning & paying attention to my legs and heels - phew was it a mental workout for me!

Fun letter box I spotted near a friends house last week - had to share!

I'm not sure what my Kika plans are for the rest of the week, she has truly thrown a spanner in the works with not staying away from the hay storage area when turned out. I can't do anything with her today due to previously mentioned concert, tomorrow I'll hopefully be able to pop her on the walker at lunch time while i turn O out. Thursday evening I hope to either ride or lunge but both will depend on how long it'll take L and myself to sort out new fencing and/or hay storage arrangements!
Friday I'm off to Paris for the weekend to take in part of one of Cirque du Soleil's European Tour - very excited as have been dying to see one of their performances for ages! Am going with two friends from work - so Miss Kika will have another quiet weekend for herself unless L offers to play with her - I never turn down such an offer!

If I'm not in touch again - have a great weekend!

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Continued Catch Up

I'm having a total mind-blank as to what I did last Wednesday with Kika, so we'll fast forward to last Thursday's flatwork lesson with L. Like Sunday she rode her horse while giving me tips & pointers. Her mare is just coming back from injury and so does mostly walk with a teensy tiny bit of trot while I'm cooling K down.

O & K after our spins on Thursday evening
I know better than to leave horses unattended like photo suggests, but I only let go of them long enough to snap photo of their happy heads - Promise!

The lesson went really well, I thought. We continued working along the same lines as Sunday's lesson - including some more canter work! Practice makes perfect, although we are still a long way off perfection...darn heels!

The weekend was a very quiet one for Miss Kika as my backside didn't get near a saddle until last night (Monday). I had hoped to ride on Friday and do some long needed pole work with her, after a great suggestion from another friend to help encourage her to release her back. But that didn't happen as a hairdressing appointment ran long due to spur of the moment suggestion of lowlights to de-boring my hairdo, ;-) I just about had time to grab the girls from the field and tuck them in for the night before I had to be home for family dinner.

I spent Saturday day in Saarbrucken, Germany - scavenging stuff for a 70s Disco themed fundraiser that night - which was fantastic fun. Boy was I tired on Sunday and my feet were well mad at me for all night dancing in heeled boots - when they are more used to Ariat Grasmeres, trainers & riding boots!
Kika went for a stroll in the woods with L on her horse, leading Kika and her two dogs, cowboy pack-horse style - report back was that she was very good - although Kika's all about following so would've been strange for her to kick up a fuss in that situation.

Sunday was a lie-low day after the late night before, L graciously turned the ponies out for me in the morning and I brought them in Sunday evening. Gave Kika a lunge in the side-reins trying & succeeding in snippets to get long flowy trot L had shown me the week before. As always a work in progress, but hopefully we'll get there some day!

Monday (last night) I managed to be coordinated enough to get to the yard & tacked up in time to have a jumping lesson - first one for quite a while. L had been jumping Kika in recent weeks as I couldn't get there for whatever reason on the Wednesdays, or maybe L had the days off and asked if she could ride/jump Kika. For all L does for me, I cannot deny her the spin especially as it only benefits me in the long run to have Kika properly schooled ;-)
So last night, the evil heel demons & knee gripping re-surfaced with a vengeance. Doesn't help that I was riding slightly longer then I normally would in my GP as I have spent so much time in the Dressage saddle of late that I didn't want to be catapulted to space when trotting with shorter stirrups again.
Despite heel demons & forgetting the final twisty course I had a wonderful lesson, Kika was an angel - we didn't have one disagreement - major bonus!

Plan is to have another spin tonight, dunno if I'll be lessoning or working on my own - depends on whether I am there at the same time as the mighty Guru...Eitehr way tomorrow evening will be a night off for Lucky Miss Kika as I'm heading to Florence and the machine in Concert!
Super excited as I love their music, loved their live performance when they were last here 2 years ago and bought the tickets to this show as soon as they went on sale back in the summer...can you tell I've been pumped since then for this week to arrive?! ;)

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Lunge Lessons

Quick snapshot taken today at lunchtime before she got her outdoor rug on to go outside

I decided to lunge Kika last night so that she wouldn't be ridden 4 days in a row doing similar things, L (The Guru) is looking after her for me today as I have a class this evening and can't make it after work.
Keeping things fresh & changing stuff up is the name of the game with Miss Kika...when things get too repetitive she gets sour - can't blame her really, we all do!
Boredom is evil!

Got to the yard last night and brought Kika in, she had been a  good girl & stayed in the field all afternoon. Although I later found out when I got home that herself and O, her field buddy, had finished their allocated amount of hay after 2 hours and my sister who passed the field gave them a bit of an extra helping. So might have recalculate with L how much to give them each day to stop Miss Houdini looking for a way out, ;)

After a quick groom (gotta love the beauty of rugs), got the lunging gear on and we were good to go. Located an empty'ish arena - another guy was lunging his horse in the upper half of the arena so I set Kika to work on the lower half.
Started warm up by walking with her knight's cooler (picture taken way back when LINK), after a couple of circles in each direction the cooler came off and we started some trot work. transitioning from trot to walk and back again for roughly 5mins in each direction with a bit of canter tossed in to get the juices flowing.

The side reins were then attached on the first hole, for some more walk/trot transition on increasing & decreasing circle sizes while moving from one corner to the other in our lower half of the arena - with some canter work in the middle where we had more room. After another 5ish minutes on each rein when I felt she was working well I tightened up the side reins to the fourth whole and repeated the exercises.

At this stage the guy who had been lunging in the upper half of the arena finished up and headed out past us. Kika didn't break stride or bat an eyelid as i had her trot down the long side of the arena and then resume her circles moving up and down the length of the arena, mixing walk, trot & canter with spiralling circle sizes so as not to be repetitive.

L arrived to see how we were doing and gave me some tips to get Kika working better, she said she was doing well with me but that I was being too soft and she could do much more on the lunge. So she showed me by taking over and the change in K was immediate. L showed me how to get her to lengthen her stride even more and keep her focused on me while lunging by playing with the lunge line like i would the reins when riding.

To see K trotting on the end of L's lunge line, the length of her stride is something I hope to be able to get her to emulate next time.

"The field is that way...Less of your faffing - LET'S GO"

Sunday 18 November 2012

Turnout Time

As title suggest Miss Houdini experienced her first taste of daytime fresh air since the 31st of October! We found where our electric fencing was being grounded and received 30 square bales of yummy smelling hay so he ladyship will hopefully stay where she's put!
*fingers crossed*
She spent a good five hours out there today, and shall hopefully be spending from 1pm to about 7pm out there tomorrow!

Rode yesterday on my own & my "baby" sister who is back for a week or so came with me and snapped a couple shots of us. I felt we did pretty well, but upon seeing the photos I now realise we weren't really working as I had hoped. I shall share a few choice ones as i recount the wonderful lesson I had today.
Hopefully it won't be too wordy, but in case it is - there are pictures as incentive to keep scrolling down, :p

Kika displaying her "Patience of a Saint" face as I prepare to take off quarter sheet to get down to work
This evening I had a lovely lesson from the Guru, L. It was my first "proper" one since L rode Kika in the Training Clinic with the outside instructor the first weekend of November. L did stop by one evening I was riding (last Tuesday I think) to give me a couple of pointers which we continued to work on today.

Darn heels!
Namely my use of my outside hand rather than inside hand when circling and more conscious control of bend when working in general. Kika's poorer side is her left rein so I need to ride circles almost over emphasizing the bend as she's inclined to refuse to relax and let go when working in that direction, which requires a firm outside rein and lots of give & take on the inside rein to try and encourage her to release the tension and relax into the movement.
We've almost the opposite problem going the other way...

Going right handed is technically her better side, however between herself & myself we over compensate on that side and she is inclined to be over bent when circling & turning. So L continually reminds me to brake with my outside hand, keep the outside leg on to keep her on the path I decide, inside leg on for bend and a soft inside hand - which I find the hardest as I've always used my hands to turn and as such guide more with my hands then leg & seat - so my aids have classically been backwards...but the re-education process is hopefully underway!

Serpentine, we're about to turn left
This evening to counteract our overcompensation, L, had me ride on that rein coaxing Kika's head slightly to the outside while trying to keep her on the circle I was on - needless to say I found this quite difficult and required some straight lines to help my brain and limbs communicate better so that I could properly transfer the message to Kika. But we got there a bit in the end, following this exercise I then found it easier when circling to brake with my outside hand and not let her sneak out - but only on that rein. Our more challenging rein will take a bit more time for me to sort out - but I'm happy to celebrate any form of improvement as a victory milestone when it happens as Lord knows it could all go to pot tomorrow!
One step forward, two steps back and what not...

Probably my fav picture even though all blurry - almost looks like we're getting places although overcompensating bend in evidence here when picture enlarge - click on it to see it bigger if you want!
Speaking of steps forward and because our trot work was going so well I got the green light to canter her ladyship! We kept it simple, a circle then back to trot, then another circle of canter followed by a serpentine to change the rein from where we cantered another circle then back to trot etc.
Since the clinic, L, thought it best that I don't canter K as she finds it quite difficult and we know that when she finds things difficult or gets tired she gets stroppy & when she throws the toys out of the pram she tends (to threaten) to rear.
So L said to forget about her head positioning when cantering and to just concentrate on keeping it forward moving, leg on and soft hands to encourage her to find her own balance, release her back and stop fighting.

"Baby" sister cooling Kika off after my spin on Saturday
Happy with our canter work, we returned to trotting serpentines with small circles on each loop, after each circle we had to come back to walk across middle of arena then back to trot for circle on next loop of the serpentine. Each circle had to be done properly by me, giving & guiding with inside rein, holding outside rein, outside leg back to stop her falling through and inside leg on to get turn as inside hand not supposed to be pulling but only guiding her head. Due to earlier exercise to coax her head out on right rein, I found the small circles on that rein slightly easier now that my brain understood how to isolate my hands and keep outside rein taught. Other direction wasn't so hot as (a) it is her worse side and (b) my weaker side as it's my left hand on the outside rein - I'm sure the fact it's her worse side & my weaker side are interconnected!
Darn dominant right hand overriding my brain and not allowing messages to get through to left hand to hold, it doesn't help that Kika resists the bend to that side and it almost feels like she's locking her jaw & tensing her neck against you - but hopefully we'll get there some day soon. (PS: osteo visit is on the cards for a general check up as she hasn't been seen to since June/July - if blocages might hold a key to helping her release)
I had a bit of a light bulb moment today with circling on "good" rein so fingers crossed the "bad" rein won't be too long in catching up!

Thank you for reading this far!
Hopefully it's not too wordy - apologies for quality of the pictures and indeed my poor riding in them. Upgraded my phone yesterday after having the other one two years, so shall invariably get used to taking pics with it when i have it a bit longer!

Please keep everything crossed for my that Horsey Houdini won't strike tomorrow when I'm in work! Shall be turning them out on my lunch break and praying I don't get a phone call before I can get back in the evening to bring her in!

Monday 12 November 2012

Air Amateur

Someone at the yard printed the above and stuck it up on one of the noticeboards - i thought it was priceless and had to google it to share here!

On to a proper updated from myself and the no longer hairy Kika.

First off, apologies for the radio silence since my update overload - I think I mentioned that I was going to be away in Ireland for a long weekend and then when I got back I was unfortunately ill and off work Thursday & Friday - so spent the end of the week & Saturday vegging in bed with the laptop catching up on all my tv shows.
Thanks so much to "The Guru", L, for keeping Kika going for me!

Speaking of the Guru, she did ride Kika in the Stage (French for training clinic with outside trainer which took place at our yard). She said she was much better on the Sunday then she had been on the Friday, but she hastened to add that she was not bad either day - she just better understanding of what was being asked of her by the Sunday session. As I was away, L also rode her on Monday for me and as she was excited to continuing working on the lessons they tackled at the clinic.
Consensus going forward is that she is quite lazy, yet very clever - a dangerous combination according to the trainer.
As not only does she not particularly want to work but she has the brains to think of ways around it!

"Tell me something I don't know" I thought, but it is good to hear similar verdicts from outsiders who don't know her story and haven't seen the sack of spuds I am when riding!

L got her answers and exercises to work Miss Kika with to help her open up her back and stop fighting us, this also includes what seems kind of strict/severe shortening & re-introduction of a martingale to ridden work to stop her throwing up her head/neck - hollowing her back - and fighting us, thereby frightening me with her carry on (aka rearing or attempts thereof). It has also been put forward that I don't ride canter work until we have a more compliant horse under me or until I feel confident enough in our ridden work to not tense/freeze/stiffen get scared if she does start making shapes to throw a wobbler.
I will say I am a braver rider when there is an experienced person on the ground to keep me out of my head (& ring an ambulance should worse come to worse :p). As such I am more than happy to tackle such issues should the arise only within the confines of a lesson scenario until Kika & I are more confident in our work.

All in all it was yesterday (Sunday) before I got myself into the saddle for a spin with the shorter martingale - it is going to take some getting used to - but can only better my riding, I think. As I realise now how much i have been over-reliant on my hands for steering and now must use my legs more - positive outcomes only!

In keeping with trying to encourage Kika to release her back when working by trying to stop her throwing her head up; I have traded lunging in the pessoa for now with lunging in surcingle and sidereins - loose until she develops the right muscles, stops fighting and starts using herself more freely across her back. In saying this, her work in the pessoa was always less argumentative then when under saddle - but I'll do as I'm told and hopefully see an improvement in our work in the coming weeks.
I haven't always been the biggest fan of side-reins, but understand that when used correctly all training aids have merit. I do want to stress that I don't undertake changes in my work with Kika lightly and trust the people around me to guide us in the right direction for progression.

All going well I'm hoping for a flat lesson tomorrow evening and we'll see where we go from there!

Friday 2 November 2012

Clippety Clop

As promised here are The Kika pre-, during & post-clipping pictures!
I can't remember if I've said how relaxed Kika is about the clipping process - but she seems to love being fawned over, so this is her idea of heaven.
Turn on the clippers & watch her lower lip droop - she is hilarious! The opposite to many a horse who tenses when the clippers start to whirr - you can actually see her breathe a sigh of relief and just doze!

Don't believe me - see for yourselves!
First some Hairy pictures taken this morning as Kika dozed while I groomed prior to L riding.
Next on the to-do list, which I didn't manage to do today is tidy up her mane again as it's after getting too long!

Droopy lip - check!

Lights are on but nobody's home...she's always watching
Start of the clipping & she's already asleep again...

She was one hairy girl!

And the finished article

I LOVE Love love the wave effect!
It's so cool and a bit of fun - each year Kika get's a slightly different clip that is all for her, this is my fav to date!

On to other news...Today was a chock-a-block busy day, despite it being a national day off. Nothing in Lux was open - so of course all there was for us to do on this wet miserable day (witness the rain on the roof in the videos in previous post) was to be at the barn for 10 am, watch L as she rode, pop her ladyship in walker to dry off afterwards as she was drenched, sort out stable (as of yesterday all horses are back in), put Kika back into it. Run home for a quick lunch and then back at the barn for 2.30pm to go finish fencing the field.
We put L's horse, O, out as we worked as unlike my bould brat, O stays in the turnout areas she is placed - WITHOUT electricity - Word to the wise there, Kika!

I stupidly didn't buy enough plastic twist in insulators to have enough to put three on each of our posts, so we did the front of the property with three and hooked up our new 4cm wide tape to all three - then did top & bottom around the rest of the land. Unfortunately we also ran out of white tape, so couldn't finish the job today as we'd hoped - so Kika is going to be staying in until we can get all three strands of wire/tape sorted & put power around the field!
If you wonder why the extra security - check out Wednesday's Escapoligist post and any of the Wandering Wagon's or Horsey Houdini's from earlier in the year!

So things as they stand on the eve of my trip to Ireland for the weekend are that Miss Kika is going to serious bootcamp for the weekend as L participates in a training clinic/ two lessons with an external instructor who's coming to the yard for the weekend; and Horsey Houdini shall not be being turned out with O until we finish the fencing.
I've just realised it sounds like we left & are planning on leaving O in a half fenced field - this is not the case! The temporary fencing we had in place last winter is still standing and unlike Kika she doesn't attempt to go under it! So we are not leaving her out in a semi'fenced field in case that was the impression my post thus far has given off - sorry!

And one last parting shot of Kika all purplified for the night!

Thursday 1 November 2012

Prancing Pony

In preparation for riding Kika this weekend with an external instructor, L (The Guru) put her through her paces this morning as you can see from the videos below.
Also here is a quick snapshot of herself all gussied up - L & I played Barbie-Horse-Dress-Up with her ;-)

"Who says Blue is for boys?"
In discussing with L afterwards as she reviewed the vids this evening, she recognises that Kika gets a little overbent at times but said that she was actually accepting the contact which apparently she doesn't often do - which results in droopy rider reins and probably doesn't help me - something else to work on!

Also another thing to point out is that about about 30 minutes of good work, Miss Kika decided she was tired and didn't want to do anymore so threw a wobbler - L stuck to her guns without getting mean about it, she handles her so well. They then worked for another 10 to 15 minutes until Kika relaxed again when L decided to end things on a good note ahead of the weekend.

Right from here I'm going to do little talking and let L & Kika show you what they got up to...
Apologies if this is a case of video overload! I think there are 8 videos in total - none more than a minute long - facilitates uploading ;-)
And sorry for sound - videos go straight from my phone to youtube...main background noise is the rain hopping off the roof and some chatter from other riders at different times...

Warming up...

Jacket's off - Time to get down to business ...

Her worse side to canter is in the next video although with a better rider than me she does well - there could be hope for me yet, :p

This last video was taken after Kika's tantrum, she'd come back around so L called it a day

The Guru has highlighted a few things she want's to ask the trainer for help with Kika:
(1) Releasing her back - she says Kika remains very tense in her back while being ridden, she mentioned this as a reason we struggle after our lesson on Saturday;
(2) She wants help with Kika's canter work - although believes that helping her to release her back will also help here;
(3) Lateral work - she wants professional input in how best to teach contrary Kika

All in all she is really looking forward to her weekend's instruction and hopes to learn a lot with and for Kika. Here's hoping (a) that all goes well with no more tantrums from Miss K and (b) that I will be able to ride her when I get back - as with so much work being put into Kika by L, I'll be lucky if I can ride one side of her on my return! :p

Watch this space as Pre- & Post- clipping photos post to was a big day for Kika, :p