Thursday 19 September 2013

Arena Awakenings

A yard friend was at the arena at the same time as me last night and agreed to snap some photos & videos of myself and Kika as we played in the arena. She has been a dream to work with, I sat on her for the first time in three weeks last Thursday after her Cinderella theatrics in losing her shoe on week 5 of our 6 week shoeing cycle - for the second time in a row. One would be forgiven for thinking she does it on purpose, ;-)

Apologies all slightly blurry & my hands and heels are awful!
This is why I wanted the pictures & videos to see exactly what I am doing and hopefully attempt to fix it!
She was wonderful on Thursday evening, straight back to work in the arena after her summer strolling in the woods and three week prolonged vacay as Cinderella, ;) I was so happy with her I smiles all evening and indeed most of the next day.

Eurgh not sure what my upper body is doing here,
but I LOVE her floppy concentration ears.
I rode again on Friday, I didn't think it was going to go very well as before I sat up she hollered in my ear as she tried to call out to her field-buddies, who couldn't possibly hear her - but the poor sod was obviously lonely & heartbroken and my presence did nothing to assuage the feeling of abandonment...perhaps I am projecting slightly here. Anyways my worries about bad behaviour couldn't have been anymore unfounded as again she worked like a dream!

The vet came to see Nancy on Friday (before I rode Kika), I think I forgot to mention that N had a bit of a growth on the underside of her jaw during the summer, I thought it was a fly bite so kept an eye on it and tried to keep it clean - but when it hadn't gotten any better after our holiday at the beach (I really must get those photos from my friend!) I had the vet out to her in August, she thought it might be an infection from her teeth that was after coming out the underside of her jaw, cue mortified me that she must have been suffering something awful - but she never displayed any unease about her head or mouth or dislike towards being bridled or ridden! Vet prescribed antibiotics which N received twice a day for 4 days and had me go to chemist for a cream that would draw out the infection. This was two weekends before we made our return to the yard. The growth was after decreasing slightly in size, but as it hadn't disappeared completely I asked the vet to come to check on it again last Friday.

Brief pause as someone else joined us in the arena - hence Kika's interest & pointy ears.

Vet & I had a proper look in her mouth, Nancy had to be sedated as the flies (now dying) bite and aggravate the horses something awful when they are inside. Even with the sedation she was a bit of a pill and kept tossing her head & making a general nuisance of herself when we tried to examine her mouth - the stubborn Friesian side made an appearance, she decided she didn't want the vet examining her gob so she made it work for us to make it so. Gargh!
Thankfully the thorough examination was good, and after an initial scare that one of the back teeth might be fractured, once cleaned and examined more closely verdict was no infection in mouth and all teeth looked good, however Nancy did get three milk teeth removed at the front of her mouth as her new teeth were starting to come through behind them - so I now have three of Nancy's teeth which I must clean up and find somewhere for safekeeping.  
Any of you wonderful creative & artsy blog-readers have any tips as to what I might be able to do with them?
Following this, I decided to give Nancy the weekend off to chillax after her "ordeal" - or she'd have had me believe it was an ordeal for her with her carry-on.

Nice soft Kika - gargh my heels!
Plans for a hack in the woods with the Guru & her dogs were scrapped as the day was miserable and wet, so ponies got checked over in the field and two buckets of carrots just cos they are spoiled!

Not quite so soft Kika, she had an eek spell where it took me a good 5 minutes to convince her the arena-monsters weren't going to eat her.
Sunday the girls two field buddies went away to a rally (kind of like huge off-site hack we did in May LINK but instead of foody-pitstops there were games & challenges for horse & rider...think pony club games like walking on overturned buckets while leading your horse etc).
I did feel kind of bad leaving Nancy all alone in the field, but she got used to it before and I didn't want to leave tied up to be devoured by the flies while I rode. So she got a bucket of carrots all to herself to assuage the feelings of abandonment, however judging from the dried sweat when I returned Kika to the field after riding, my guess is she exercised herself on my behalf.

Click to enlarge
Hate me in this,
but had to share as Kika lost a foreleg - LOL!
Again Kika was a rockstar under saddle on Sunday where we worked in the big arena, just the two of us - she made me giggle as when walking she called out a couple of times, presumably to answer Nancy and probably drive her batty running around the field - but Kika didn't put a foot wrong while being ridden. In fact the friend who took the photos and videos in this post (from yesterday) passed as we were working and commented on how well Kika was looking & riding - she said she has never seen her going so well and wouldn't recognise her as the same horse!

K watching the horse below in the mirror,
but makes for fun snap.

Checking I let the girth out right.

Monday & Tuesday were miserable wet days, where the poor girls were too wet to even attempt to do anything bar checking legs in field on Monday evening and make a vain attempt to dry them off on Tuesday by popping them in the walker in the hopes that I might get their Amigo Hero Lite's on them from my Horseware Ho shopping splurge in the summer - however another friend whose horse is also on 24/7 turnout said she'd lunged her girl for a good 30mins and not made a dent in drying her off, so after a spin in each direction for N & about 30mins for Kika I caved and turned them back out in the rain. Boy did I feel bad about that! *bad-horse-mommy-conscience*

Don't know why - but there is just something I love about this shot

It was Nancy's third time ever on the walker and while she wasn't bad, she didn't relax into it like Kika does. In fact if Kika could she would fall asleep in the walker and regularly walks so slowly that the back bar rests on her backside so she can slow the whole thing down! However Nancy stays up near the front bar and sways back and forth looking for a way to get by it, I don't know if she will settle better with more walker exposure - but i don't think I am going to test the theory and potentially scare & scar her (mentally) as she doesn't need to go in the walker - she can be pulled out of her stable and ridden straight away, unlike Kika who used to need the time on walker as warm up time to get her head in the game before riding - we shall see if this will still be the case this winter or if she has mellowed enough in herself to also be able to be ridden from the stable - although this point may be moot as hopefully we will still have the winter turnout & this year the three (my two + the Guru's O) will go out together every afternoon!

Prob my fav photo of the night!

Sorry, went off on another tangent there! I guess I should just update the blog more regularly and then I wouldn't have so much to say! Although I feel bad updating without pictures, hence the overload today!
Anyway all of this waffle brings us right back to square one and my spins last night, the photographic & video evidence documents Kika and my spin last night in our least favourite arena hence the tension - she has been riding a lot more relaxed than this of late - but our preferred arenas were too busy.

Mirror shot from arena

Close up after work, as always Nancy wanted to snuggle

After the quick Kika spin & photo/video-shoot, I managed to have the time to toss her out and haul in Nancy for her first spin since coming back to the yard last Wednesday. We were alone in the main arena (photo from mirror above), it is the largest arena and although I turned on the radio for some background noise, N was still on edge and antsy. So we stuck to walk & trot down the lower half of the arena to ease ourselves back into "working" mindset after our summer of forestry hacking. While far from perfect and nowhere near relaxed - we both survived and I managed to not stress her out any further like I had been doing prior to our summer of hacking - fingers crossed I can keep our happy hacking attitude when we play in the arenas and our fantastically fun summer in the sun & woods will have totally paid off if i can transfer our relaxed work out there to an arena setting! :D

Videos now - posted in the order they were filmed, as always apologies for sound - I have never figured out how to edit videos and7or remove things like sound & background noise.

Watching this first video on my computer screen has me questioning her soundness at the start, is it just me or is she head-bobbing at the very beginning of the clip? She didn't feel uneven last night - but now I'm worried as I'm not always the most perceptive! *another-bad-mommy-moment*

The second video is the longest at 3mins, features left-rein cantering. Watching it enlarged on my computer screen I can no see why the Guru is always telling me to sit into the saddle when cantering, I swear when riding I don't feel as loose as I appear in these videos - another thing to add to hands & heels on the laundry list for working on - am loving watching these videos as I need them to see where I am going wrong, i honestly don't know the last time I saw a video of myself riding - I'm sure it's on this blog & prob back in December when my sis was home for Christmas!
Coming up to the 1m30 mark, when we change rein, Kika decided that the arena going in this direction was scary and had monsters lurking & hiding down one side - hence more walking then trotting or cantering to get her to settle again. 3m20 mark is where someone asked to join us in the arena - worked to my advantage as K (like any horse) is happier when there is another equine in the vicinity, herd animals, eh? ;-)

Right rein cantering - our more difficult side -although this was a lovely soft canter to ride. Much more relaxed then her previous left-rein canter from previous video.

Final video, my poor attempt at walk to canter transition, there are a couple of trot strides - but on the positive side we have a  correct lead! At the end of this video, my friend turned the camera to finish video, however we can't really flip our computer screens so either tilt your head or stop watching lol - don't want to give anyone motion sickness!

My initial take-aways after watching these videos for the second time are:
- HEELS (as always), I absolutely have to stop lifting them and niggling her with them, it is tipping me forward and looks awful. I really need to strengthen my legs and work on squeezing with my calves & not niggling with my heels. Gosh talk about CRINGE - i didn't know I was this bad!
- HANDS (again as always), I am carrying my hands too low and again niggling at her with them, eurgh! I need to make more of a 90ยบ angle at my elbow and carry my hands, they are practically sitting on the pommel of the saddle. I also need to shorten my reins - Lord, where am I going with them at that length!
- SEAT, I need to sit my ar$e into the saddle, i have been told this before in lessons with the Guru when working on canter, but i honestly didn't feel like I came out of the saddle like this videos are showing me - methinks if i can get a handle on my heels and stop lifting them, I'll stop compensating and gripping with my knees which will hopefully help me keep my bum in the saddle.

I am sure there is much much more for me to work on that is obvious to others that I am failing to see, so please CONSTRUCTIVE criticism welcome - and of course for longtime followers of Kika & my story any improvements will be welcomed...if there is any!

Again sorry for blurry/grainy videos & photos - I forgot to tell my friend that if she taped the screen the camera would focus again. All images taken with my camera phone - so again quality not super - but shows me what i wanted to see - namely what we need to work on!

Thursday 12 September 2013

Missing Motivation

Apologies for the prolonged silence, as the title suggests I have been lacking in motivation to ride the last few weeks.
Well that's not entirely true, I have wanted to ride just not hacking in the woods - reading about the progress people I follow in the blogosphere have been making, has me itching to get back into an arena and get back to work with my girlies again.

Apologies for the poor photo quality! But I can't post an update without some sort of photos!
Kika pulled a front shoe a few weeks back, week 5 of her current cycle to be truthful. That's two shoeing cycles in a  row that she has managed to loose one shoe on the monday of week 5. There are 4 horses in total on this shoeing cycle with this blacksmith and we'd have to get the horses back to the yard for the farrier - so I decided to let Cinderella stew for a while - aka downtime, so probably a party for Kika as she hasn't had to do anything bar eat & poop while wandering around the field for nearly 3 weeks - spoiled or what?!
The Disney Princesses have nothing on her! At least they all had to overcome some sort of strife before Prince Charming showed up & Happily Ever After happened!
K honestly doesn't know how good she has it *sniggers*

Work & weather also conspired against me, that combined with the shorter evenings severely encouraged my lack of motivation towards forestry hacking, although i did get out a couple of time son Nancy who as per usual was an absolute doll! LOVE her so much! *Hearts&Kisses*

Farrier was contacted and said he could come today, the decision was left to me by the two girls I share the field with as to whether we'd go back to the wilderness after shoeing for another week of hacking or if we'd keep the horses at the yard and make use another field & the arenas + forestry hacking there. I selfishly decided to stay at the yard, as the evenings are getting too dark for me to hack safely in the woods where we were. I could never get to the field much before 7pm, which meant I was lucky to be onboard by 7.30 and then it got dark under the trees by 8.15-8.30. Which then meant feeding, hay giving & turning back out in the pitch black. Not the best fun nor particularly motivational when combined with the nasty rain we've had this week.

Again sorry so dark - problem with hacking in woods in the rain, but i wanted a commemorative photo - even if it is fuzzy & dark!
So despite terrible downpours last night the three of us (myself & the two girls who I went to the beach with) braved the downpour last night to meanly tack up wet ponies to hack back to the yard. I rode Nancy & I led Kika for the first time, previously L had always led her from O - but I was a big brave girl and brought both my girls back to the yard myself. Lets also keep in mind that my lack of motivation recently had meant that Nancy hadn't been ridden since last Thursday and that had been the first time I sat on her in almost 2 weeks - did I mention I have a saint horse! *halo-for-Nancy*

I was so happy when we arrived back  to the yard, and despite the lashing rain as we tacked up we managed not to get drowned as we rode back. Thankfully, my brain had actually functioned for a change and I had thought to dig out my rain gear so even if it had rained on us I'd have stayed as dry as I could!

Tous ensemble! Apologies, best photo I could get while we were moving...
We even did some trotting which was great fun as Kika & Nancy kept trying to race - the scamps! So hopefully all went well with the blacksmith this morning, I have asked that he look at N's feet and leave off the front shoes if they are good enough. I had only put the shoes on as I knew we were spending the summer hacking in the woods, now that we are back at the yard and will only be forestry hacking at the weekends, meaning twice at most - I am hoping she can go back to being barefoot & save me some pennies. ;-)
Miss Kika will hopefully have two front shoes put back on as despite being barefoot all around for nearly a year last year, she wore her front feet down too much with her stamping when tied in cross ties, feeding time, hay time & general digging in her stable - she is her own worst enemy the goon!

All going well the three of us will make our returns to arena work this evening and I cannot wait!