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Elle, 1997 Oldenburg mare
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Discussion Starter · #321 · (Edited)
Really nice ride last night. It wasn't technically my day to go, but I'd had a message from my part-boarder saying she'd ridden first thing in the morning, so an evening ride definitely meant Elle got a good long break in between. My PB never works her very hard anyhow.

The cough meds -- uniprim + prednisolone -- were just started on Friday. My PB said Elle coughed about six times during the morning ride, so I figured, well, they haven't had much time to kick in yet. But when I rode her last night... no coughs!!!!! No coughs at all, and no tripping at all, and she felt really forward and relaxed and good. She was a tiny bit stiff to the left in canter, but it was nothing compared to when she was pretzelling herself to try to contain her coughing.

Her right lead canter felt so nice and smooth and consistent, in fact, that I managed a couple beautiful laps of the whole huge outdoor, and did some silly schooling exercises to test myself. I one-handed the reins and windmilled each arm, touched the top of my head, etc. No problems!! To the left, we couldn't stay as consistent, and I didn't try that, but that was partly her stiffness and partly my lack of riding fitness lately. Now that she's (knock on wood) feeling up to more sustained work, hopefully we'll both work through our little issues there. Her left lead canter is always the first thing to get a little wonky if she isn't worked in it consistently. When she is, there's really no good or bad direction. So hopefully we'll get there again.

(Noseband is undone here, which is why it looks like it's over the cheek piece!)

Hair Horse Sky Eye Cloud


I'm noticing more signs of ageing in her this year. A little bonier around the withers, and her back dropping ever so slightly more, despite me making lots of effort to work her topline over the winter. Lots of lumps and bumps on her legs and pasterns -- though she's had those for years, and it's hard to tell if they're more prominent. A few more grey hairs on her cheeks and here and there in her coat. But respiratory allergies aside, she's still happy in her work, and her little bit of Previcox maintenance is still doing wonders for her. And I still don't think she looks or moves like she's as old as she is. I'll ask the vet to draw some blood and make sure her systems are all still ticking along the way they should, when she has her dental in a few weeks.

Two nice things are really blossoming this season, so far: my "happy hacker" goals for her are really coming along. Wacky spring heat from a few weeks ago now being over, she's much more confident and relaxed during rides outside of the arena. And so am I!! I think it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing, but whatever the case, all the hand-walking, treat-feeding, and exploring that I started with her last spring has transitioned into her being a pretty good buddy to wander the property with. Nothing has changed about the fact that there are no trails or backroads to explore, alas, but we can use the long driveway again now that things have dried out. And much of the property has also dried out enough that riding around and between the rings and paddocks is possible. I even accidentally rode her on some really squishy footing last night and she was only mildly upset about it -- whereas the same thing resulted in her spinning and dumping me two years ago!! I also now have a new saddle with big thigh blocks, and a grab strap, so I don't think the same fall would happen if she did that again, but hopefully she's not so inclined now!

One thing about hacking through: my PB had done a lovely job thoroughly washing the brushing boots, and by the end of my ride, you couldn't even tell. 😣 So I felt guilty and rewashed them. I also cleaned my previously VERY moldy jump saddle again, now that it had had dry weather to recover, and conditioned the heck out of it with Lederbalsam. Now it glows, and smells like honey!

Automotive tire Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Helmet Automotive exterior


While I cleaned the tack, I let Elle free-range graze. Eventually she went around the back of the barn, and I heard all the horses inside whinnying. I walked in, and she was standing in the aisle, like, "Is it bedtime now?" Hahaha, awww. Good, tired giant pony. Lots of cookies for her!
 

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Discussion Starter · #322 ·
Not too much to add, but wound up slipping out last-minute for a ride last night. I wasn't going to, as I'd gone the previous night and I don't usually go that often. But it was cooler and a little breezy, and had rained a little during the day, so I knew that would keep the dust down and the bugs wouldn't be awful. Just did a little half hour ring ride, no hacking -- and no hacking of the other kind from Elle, either, as she had nary a rattle nor a cough!!

She also felt a lot better to the left, in canter, than she had the night before, so that was good. Actually, funny thing: when I was getting her ready, I was using one of those plastic Magic Brushes that everyone is raving about (and honestly I can see why, they're amazing) on my first pass, and she was twitching and pulling her back away from it, especially on her left. I thought, oh noooo, she's body-sore again, maybe the saddle is bugging her after all. Then I tried poking her, prodding her, and several other brushes, with no reaction at all. I think she just finds the new brush tickling. Phew!!!

As for me, I was feeling a lot better in the dressage saddle again than I was last weekend, when I had totally overdone everything. I'm trying to think of it a bit like "bareback with foot rests" to keep myself from bracing into the stirrups and putting too much bend down into my heel. Trying to reincorporate a little riding in the jump saddle is reemphasizing for me just HOW different the two seats are -- especially now that I'm in a "proper" dressage saddle that absolutely requires and open hip and long leg. It's like the difference in position between walking and downhil skiing. Both valid ways of going, heh, but veeeeerrry different postures!! Meanwhile my sitting trot in the new dressage saddle is a trainwreck, but I just have to put in the work and I'm sure it'll come back. Eventually.

We also had some beautiful golden late-day light. Snapped a couple quick pics from Elle's back. She was a total doll, btw, and very happy and relaxed. She's the horse I know and love again (not that I ever didn't love her), now that we're not cramped into a tiny miserable echo-y indoor arena, and she's not in heat, or tripping, or coughing up a lung. Phew!!

Cloud Sky Plant Horse Ecoregion

Plant Sky Ecoregion Cloud People in nature
 

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Discussion Starter · #323 ·
Yet another ride last night, yay!! I'm squeezing in all I can right now as I'm heading in to a long weekend with my business and may not get out until some time next week.

Another lovely, sunny, cool breezy evening with no biting bugs. Although warm enough that I rode in a tank top!

Elle did cough twice during the ride, but it was VERY dusty and dry out in the ring, so fair enough. Two clearing coughs during a ride is normal for her, plus she hadn't had the prednisolone for about 24 hours at that point. So not worrisome. I'm glad, I think, that I opted to medicate this time around. Who knows how bad she would have been without it. She was definitely uncomfortable and not feeling the work, and I can't blame her!

Another nice things that's happening: she's about 70-80% shed out now finally. I gave her a really good grooming last night, and trimmed her mane and detangled her tail. Got as much loose hair off her as I reasonably could. And she's getting that summer GLOW back! Hooray! It's amazing what a difference it makes to their overall condition and look once they really kick into that summer look. Sadly, where I live, it's shortlived. But I swear she looks ten years younger than she did a month ago! Wish I had gotten some pictures of her looking so smart, but instead, I got this.

Horse Stable Working animal Liver Horse tack


I'm still struggling a bit to adapt to my new saddle. But it's a struggle in the right direction! In the same way that riding a horse that will only do what you ask if you ask it correctly, the saddle only rewards a correct dressage position with a very open hip. My last saddle wasn't well balanced for me and I found I had to ride more like I would in an AP. If I'd been riding in the new saddle in, say, 2018, when I was used to this kind of saddle and had a VERY open hip, it would have felt natural. But for now... there's only one way to fix my position and get those hips open and thighs long again.

Water Finger Thigh Barefoot Personal protective equipment


Ugh!
 

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Discussion Starter · #324 · (Edited)
What a fabulous ride last night!! I wasn't going to go at all this weekend, as I assumed I'd be too busy/exhausted. And really, I was both those things, but it was a perfect evening weather-wise (much better than predicted) so I dragged my butt out there anyhow. It was sunny and just a little breezy. Not too hot at all, but warm enough that I was comfortable in a tank top once we got moving. The mosquitos and blackflies were out, but not badly at all, yet. A little fly spray made them very tolerable.

Elle had her dinner and allergy meds right before I hopped on her, so we did a long, slow walk warmup around the property to ease her into work. She had a good marching walk from the get go, and we tackled a couple parts of the property that we haven't hacked through as much. I didn't cling to the grab strap like I used to -- she was so darn relaxed! One of the barn dogs was even skulking in the trees and grass near us. But she didn't seem to care at all. Just in case, I called out to the dog several times so they both knew I saw him. And I flexed Elle so she could see him behind her in her periphery on both sides. But aside from pointing her ears at him a couple of times, she gave him no notice.

Once we hit the ring, she was a powerhouse! Just forward, forward, forward!! And no coughing, no tripping except one little one when I asked for canter in a slightly deeper bit of footing and she got disorganized. I worked on getting her energy flowing, and got some really wonderfully forward laps of canter in, in both directions. Some of the most forward canter I've had out of her in ages! Managed two and half laps of sustained right lead canter before giving her a breather and reorganizing. (The ring is HUGE, so two full laps is a lot!) We had to break up our laps on the left lead, although that had more to do with me being weaker that direction right now, than her. Funny, left lead canter used to be my better direction! Ah well, bodies are weird.

Actually, my seat was kind of terrible. I'm still getting back into shape from riding so very little over the winter. And this new saddle is still challenging for me. But again, hopefully worth it in the long run. (If not, I have no aversion to selling it on!) My part-boarder dislikes it and is still using the old one, but again, I think it's just too different from anything she's used before. She didn't like my coach’s personal dressage saddle either, for the few months at the beginning when we had borrowed that one.

After getting big, lovely canter both ways, and very forward, very fast trot, I worked on trying to contain some of that energy into collection. I put her on a big circle at one end of the ring, which I established first in trot, and then did canter-walk-canter-walk-canter transitions over and over to get her sitting back more and being ready to transition. I found my butt wanted to shoot to the back of the seat every time we went into canter, so that was interesting. I must be hollowing my back and tipping forward, unconsciously. A habit of mine I've always had to some degree, ugh, but again this saddle is less forgiving of it!! Maybe a good thing in the long run?

One fun thing we did, as breaks between exercises, was to go outside the ring and walk around it or into a nearby empty paddock, just for variety. She seemed to enjoy that! I'll certainly do that more often going forward.

Near the end of the ride, I experimented with using her body in different ways on turns in the trot. We did some conventional turns, with a bend through her whole body. And some where I intentionally kept her very straight and moved her shoulder over and across, so it was like a partial turn on the haunches, but in motion. So so so cool. I love how many buttons this horse has!! And it's so satisfying working on the skills to push them all.

I don't know if this sudden energy and keenness from her is related to the prednisolone or not -- I'm sure it probably, with the Previcox she's already on, has her whole body feeling darn good -- but whether it's lasting or temporary, I'll take it!! Even if it wears off a bit when the allergy meds stop, at least we'll have used the time to get her in even better condition, so it's still a win.

Can't believe she's turning 25 in less than a week, and still such a rock star!!! 🥰
 

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Discussion Starter · #326 · (Edited)
Good barn outing last night, and an interesting one!

First, grooming Elle, I'm soooo happy to see her summer coat again. She's about 95% shed out. A little winter hair is hanging on to her throatlatch, her lower legs, and her barrel, but overall she's so slick and lovely and shiiiiiiny! I'm much more motivated to give a good grooming when it doesn't feel like I'm shaking out an old dusty, crusty carpet. So I'm into my favourite summer make-her-shiny brushing combo.

-Soft rubber curry mitt
-Good quality body brush with a large surface area and short, medium-firm tight bristles
-New this season: a shaggy microfibre mitt in place of my previous "rub rag." Picks up the last of the dust, dirt, and loose hair, and redistributes oils over the coat for a final polish. The dirtier is gets, the better it works!

Frogs are looking good too. All this dry weather lately has given them a chance to dry right out and tighten up. I'm still squirting Sole Cleanse onto her hind frogs as a maintenance/prevention thing, but I'm quite sure there is no active thrush at all.

She does have a weird scabby patch on her right elbow. This happened for a spell last year, too. I'm wondering if her right hind shoe is aggravating it somehow when she's lying down. It doesn't seem to bother her when I pick at it at least. So I'm wondering if it's not that, and maybe some kind of weird localized rain rot patch or an angry bug bite. Or both.. I loosened what I could and rubbed a big glob of Desitin onto it. That's my "I put that s--- on everything" go-to for skin stuff, and it does work!

As far as riding goes... I'm still trying to decide about the new saddle. I think one of the big differences was that, in my first couple rides in it, I had it had set to medium, which meant that the twist felt wider, and I've always like a slightly wider twist. With the narrow in (the setting that fits Elle, bafflingly) the twist feels narrower so I'm don't have as much support right there. However, the things I need to change in my seat to adapt to this saddle are things I need to do anyhow, and Elle seems perfectly content in it. So if I keep going in it and decide one way or another, later, that's fine too! One issue I was having with it the other night was having my seat bounced to the back of the saddle while transitioning into canter -- especially from walk -- and having to stand in my stirrups for a stride to fix it after. I think this is coming from an unfortunate habit of mine, where I tend to tip forward and hollow my back during the transition. So in this saddle, which really wants me in an upright position with my core engaged, I'm unbalancing myself in a way that I was able to get away with in my old saddle. I did try putting a slight rear riser pad in last night, to see if tipping the saddle to move the low point ever so slightly forward could help, but I don't think I'll do that again as I was too close to the pommel.

Elle was quite perky and zippy again last night. Her default mode, once we got warmed up and going, was zippy trot. But again, it's much easier to channel forward energy and bring it down a little than it is to channel a lack of energy with a poky horse! Again, I'm wondering if the 'roids for her cough are making her feel extra good!! She did cough twice, and the second cough only came after some resistance to canter (she was right on the edge of coughing and canter is what triggers it) but that's still nothing compared to what she was dealing with before the meds.

I am feeling some improvements in my riding lately, now that I'm getting out a lot more often. I'm able to use my legs a little more independently in canter, and my inner thigh muscles are getting a workout (in a good way) as I improve my canter seat. I also need to be absolutely sure that I do a few laps, at least, of no-stirrups trot at the end of every ride to get things nice and open, and to work those core muscles. Last night I played around with my seat and back angles during this, and tried feeling like I was leaning waaaay back, and sitting right back onto my butt cheeks. I suspect it didn't look anywhere near as exaggerated as it felt! It was an odd feeling but I think a helpful one. Especially as I tend to tip forward and hollow my back. This was the opposite. So even if it was too much, it was practice in the right direction, as it should help encourage my body to find a happy medium.

Other notes from the ride: did a little walking around the property before and after. Elle is now great about crossing this little culvert that she would NOT go over before. During our post-ride cool out walk, we approached a fire pit behind the arena that had not been there before. Gasp!! She was definitely concerned about it, and did one little shy. I dealt with it by pretending that our actual destination was fifteen feet to the left of it, and once she was calm again, we were able to ride by it just fine. After the ride, I led her over to it so she could find out if there were cookies for her there for being a brave, inquisitive girl. And there were!!

Horse Automotive tire Working animal Liver Horse tack


Fun post-script: when I was grooming her after the ride, I went over her face (which is always itchy post-ride) with the body brush and she starting lipping at it and trying to scratch her lips and mouth against it, and was VERY into it. It was cute and hilarious, from this previously-stoic horse who never did anything playful with people.
 

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Discussion Starter · #327 ·
Friday was a neat day. It was Elle's 25th birthday -- wow!! -- and also her annual dental and vaccinations! I didn't book that for her birthday on purpose -- in face, when the vet suggested May 27 something was twigging but the relevance didn't occur to me until after. I planned THE WORST birthday party!!! Ahhhh! But at least she's well taken care of.

Before the vet came out, I was going to ride, but it was a dreary day, and I hate riding in the indoor. So I gave Elle a very good grooming, took her out for a little walk, and then free-lunged her in the indoor instead. I figured this would also give me a chance to take some nice pictures of her to mark the occasion.

Well, Elle had fun running around, and cantering over a very small jump, but she missed the memo about the pictures being "nice."

Hair Horse Eye Working animal Liver


However, we did get this incredibly adorable shot, which is definitely now one of my favourite pictures of her!

Hair Horse Head Eye Jaw


I tried to leave enough time for her to be fully cooled out for when the vet arrived, but her heart beat and respiration were still a tad up. Ooooops, my bad. But not so much as to interfere with the exam or dental, thankfully. Some lung sounds from her allergy congestion, but not bad. The meds are doing their job, for the most part. She did have a number of coughs during the lungeing that morning, but it was very humid and the arena is dusty, so, fair. I'm not convinced at all that what Elle has is heaves. I think it really is a seasonal allergy. But we'll see how she does after her current prednisolone ends. If we have to extend it, so be it. It's worth it.

The vet, as soon as she saw her and heard it was her birthday, said "well she looks absolutely incredible for 25!!" and I have to say I agree -- though I am biased! <3 Unfortunately her teeth didn't get that memo, though, as she's got some cavities and sensitivity, and a few of them are on their very last legs. She has two molars and at least two incisors that should probably come out in the very near future, but weren't ready quite yet for extraction. That might happen in the fall, when the vet is hoping to bring a dental specialist up. I'm not too worried about it, as the teeth that need to go aren't really performing any function at this point anyhow. Elle's incisors are incredibly crooked, and worsening every year, so it's possible that removing a few of them will make her jaw a little more mobile anyhow, and improve her comfort a bit. I'm actually impressed that she has all her teeth, still. Well, for now!!

Horse Working animal Horse tack Liver Horse supplies


It was, weirdly, really nice to just hang out with her while she came out of sedation. I spent about 80% of her derpy dopey time in her stall with her. There was a little bit of hay still on the floor at the back of it, that I didn't want her to try to eat until she was awake enough not to choke or anything. So I kept her near the stall door with me, just petting her, hanging out, and taking funny pictures of her being stoooooooooooned. She seemed to enjoy my company, at least, in her vulnerable sleepy state. She has come a long way on the affection front since I've been doing my best to spoil her and listen to her over the past couple of years. The sedation made her super sweaty, and drooly. And at one point she hung out with her face kind of in my armpit. Cute!

Horse Eye Working animal Liver Sorrel


She had the rest of that day off, of course, and then I rode her last night. It was one of those perfect evenings. Just the right temperature. I wore a tank top so I wouldn't overheat while riding, but there has a cool, comfortable breeze. I did, however, make the mistake of assuming the breeze would keep the mosquitos and blackflies away, so didn't spray either of us. Weeeeelll.... Let's just say we didn't do a whole lot of walking. We made our own breeze!!! Elle was happy and forward, and didn't cough even once! In fact, she was so forward that she "ran away with" me in TROT at one point, and I had to circle her to get her back to walk. 😂 I think the prednisolone is having the side effect of making her feel REEEEEALLLY good physically. Almost too good!! Can't complain though. It's lovely to see and feel her so keen to go go go! I'm also starting to overcome some of the difficulties in adjusting to the new saddle. I was finally able to drop the stirrups a hole, after doing so much work to open my hips. Was very satisfying! And also a lot more comfortable. Although my first right lead canter with the slightly longer stirrup was an unbalanced mess -- but my left lead canter felt great! We even did a couple of flying changes, though we're pretty out of practice with those. Tomorrow we have a biomechanics lesson, so that should be interesting and -- as always -- VERY humbling!!
 

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I always love sedated horses! They are my favorite! Lol. Such lovers.

She does look wonderful!
 

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Discussion Starter · #329 ·
Yesterday was my biomechanics lesson, and I have to say, it was definitely the best one yet! I was in a good, receptive mood, which probably helped a lot. Whereas the previous one last fall, I was physically exhausted from a 5k run the day before (bad planning), and distracted by Parker, the five year old I’d had some struggles with, being cantered in circles around us by a trainer like it was nothing. I also kept fighting that old saddle.

This time, I hadn’t gone for a run in over three weeks, which was by design, as I didn’t want tightness and tension in my body interfering while I got used to the new saddle. A few important revelations happened in this lesson:

I’m overthinking the saddle change, and trying to make things too different.

I’m trying too hard to stay behind the thigh blocks/knee rolls, instead of using them supportively.

I’m trying too hard to ride long, and needed to go back up a hole to keep adequate bend in my joints.

I’m overcompensating now for some of the problems I’ve been trying to correct: for example, I’m now allowing myself to be left behind during transitions, whereas I used to habitually lean forward. And turning my shoulders too much on turns, because I used to have my left shoulder locked too far forward. And letting my legs go too floppy because they used to be too tense.

Thinking of holding a tea tray on top of my thighs was an absolute revelation: as in, just keeping a supportive lifting tone in those muscles, while still actually keeping my legs down and back.

Part of Elle’s occasional tripping issues could be from me getting off balance at times, and throwing her off balance.

I tend to let my arms and elbows get pulled forward and straight – which the part boarder has a problem with too. Elle can be quite heavy, and her neck is loooong, so it’s easy to have her creep your arms forward.

Other good tips/visuals: thinking of the seat as a hand dribbling a ball, during canter. It has to go down as well as up to stay with the motion. Thinking of holding an orange in front of the ankle and behind the knee to keep the lower leg toned. And during sitting trot, thinking of the seat moving forward constantly with the motion, like it’s on a conveyor belt.

I worked VERY hard in the lesson. I had to dismount to get money for the instructor and I basically oozed off of Elle like a giant slug. Embarrassing, a little, but very funny. Also, it was hot and when I pulled my ponytail out afterwards, my hair was so full of sweat it didn’t even move. Ewwww. I was definitely sweatier than my horse!

I gave Elle a good hosing off afterwards, and let her graze loose a bit. Although she decided she’d rather be inside with everyone else and let herself back into the barn. I think the BO was waiting for a cooler part of the day for turnout. She also had a good roll in the indoor. Love the post-roll shaking noises, and the lick and snort:


Anyhow, I was iffy about having that lesson, initially, but now I’m soooo glad I did!! It made a lot of things make a lot more sense, and is probably one of the most valuable lessons I could have possibly had at this point in my riding!
 

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Discussion Starter · #330 ·
Absolutely lovely ride last night! I wasn't even sure it was going to happen, as yesterday was an election here, and they were having technical difficulties at my voting station, so I wasn't able to cast my vote before heading into town to work all day covering a shift away from my store. I knew I would have to make it home in time to vote after my ride, so it was tight. But I managed, and I'm glad I did!!

The boarder I've been having friction with wasn't there. Often she is if I'm there too early in the evening, so it was a relief not to have that added stress. Not too many developments on that front lately, thankfully. She's stopped turning her horses out in weird, inconvenient places, at least, so there's not much to have friction over. I have noticed that I'm missing a couple things -- like a nearly full container of Swat that I haven't used since last season -- and while it's more likely than anything else that I've just misplaced it, I have to wonder... Some other people's things have "mysteriously" appeared in her locker. So the other night, I took a Sharpie and some labels and put my name on every product I own, like some kind of unhinged kindergarten teacher. Better safe than sorry!!!

The only thing that compromised the ride a little was one of the horses being out "free range" to graze. (He's an old man who just hangs out loose behind the barn, grazing freely to keep weight on him.) I tried to catch him to pop him in his stall so we could ride out without him following us the whole time, but he kept running away from me, so I scratched the riding-in-the-open portion of the ride, for the most part. It was still a great ride though!

To compound the problem, actually, the barn owner turned the old boy's pasture mate out loose with him when I had just mounted Elle and was trying to ride through that area. This second gelding is a bit twitterpated with her, but fortunately he was more bent on grazing than flirting. In her defense, I don't think she realized we were RIGHT there! We did manage a lap around the outside of the big outdoor arena with Old Boy #1 following us, but at a very healthy distance.

After that, it was straight into trot, as the mosquitos were awful. I had sprayed Elle, but forgot to spray myself!! Naturally. Fabulous ride though! Elle was ON, and I was doing my best, too, to incorporate the changes made in my biomechanics lesson. I just couldn't seem to access those "tea tray holding" muscles in the tops of my thighs, though. I wonder if they were STILL worn out from Monday's lesson!! I could feel that my lower legs were a bit farther back this time, which was great, and my upper body felt more solid and engaged.

The canter work felt lovely as well. I'm still having a bit of that problem of feeling bounced back in my seat during the transition, but it's getting better with every ride. The dribbling-a-ball visual certainly helps with my tendency to bounce too much in canter, too.

At one point, picking up the canter on the long side while we were tracking left, we got the wrong lead but I decided to just stay with it and see if we could manage a whole lap of counter canter. And we did!! Her right lead, going left, is her better direction, and we managed to sustain it the whole way and even take the corners relatively deeply. The other direction is much more challenging for her, but to my surprise and delight, I managed to pick up a left lead the first try, by going around the corner into the long side with a slight counterbend in trot, first. We made it 3/4 of the way around in counter canter, with a more shallow approach to the corners than we had the other way, before we lost it. But that was GREAT for us! Especially having not practiced it at all lately.

Went on to do lots of transitions between trot and canter, on the rail and on a large circle. Did this to get her off her forehand, and thinking more. It also makes her more comfortable to ride, heh! Then rode some big random curves around the ring in canter, getting some flying changes when we changed directions.

All in all a fantastic ride! Would have loved to have stayed out there hacking and poking around all night, but the mosquitos were dreadful and I had to get back and vote (which I did). I let Elle go graze loose while I tidied up and got ready to go, and she did her own thing, before eventually hanging out and grazing next to her would-be boyfriend. They've never been turned out together, but they had lots of space, and are both chill horses, so they were immediately happy to be near one another.

My confidence on her has really come a long way, and my default state these days is trusting and calm, not rattled and timid. Her confidence has come a long way too, with being ridden out and around, and encountering new things. We're in a very good place, and it just gets better! Last night I had that good kind of heartache, when things are sooo good and you just want them to go that way forever, but also know that all things are going to end eventually. For a horse who's 25 though, she's doing splendidly, so hopefully she keeps going so nicely for a very long time to come. In the meantime, I definitely treasure every ride and visit with her.

Sky Plant Eye Ecoregion Green
 

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Discussion Starter · #331 ·
Bit of a weird evening last night. I hadn't been out to see or ride Elle since Saturday, just too much going on and some bad weather, so I was excited to get out there last night. I thought she might be at least a little bit happy to see me, but she was completely indifferent to me when I went over to her stall, and just kept munching her hay like "ugh, whatever." I put her in the cross ties and she was still unenthused, just standing here with her ears a bit flopped and very "meh." Nothing seemed wrong though otherwise, so I gave her a good grooming and starting putting her boots on. Well, as I was doing that, a huuuuuge wet poop came out of her. Big sloppy cow patty. Ugh! Not normal for her at all. So it suddenly made sense that she wasn't very perky. No idea what might have triggered it. Maybe just too much pigging out on grass? Or a new hay bale? Or something? She's not usually that sensitive, though.

Since I had her boots most of the way on, I went ahead and finished putting them on. Decided to take her for a walk and then try free-lungeing to assess how she was feeling. During the walk, she kept trying to pull to the grass and sneak in bites and was generally a bit more awake. I still called my coach though and cancelled the lesson for the following morning, to be on the safe side.

After a good ten minute walk, I turned her loose in the arena and free-lunged. She was, unsurprisingly, really pokey and not feeling it at all. However, after a few minutes I had an inkling that she had a big buck-fart somewhere in there, and if I could coax it out, she'd perk up and shift into a different gear. Sure enough... she did, and she did.

There was a good tear before I started filming, so she's not as zoomy here (and the "fix it" is because she was cross-firing, which she only ever does when she's being zoomy at liberty). Love the lighter, rich coppery colour of her summer coat! And she's got some dappling and an awesome shine right now.


Wouldn't know she was feeling off, I don't think!

After zipping around, she brightened right up and her personality came back. So I thought, well, movement seems to be good for her, so... I threw the bareback pad on and rode for maybe 20 minutes. Walked around a bit, did some trot and canter in the arena (including one fairly awful flying change, but I was impressed that we managed it with no saddle). She seemed happy, and was also farting A LOT so I think the exercise was helping her system work through some things. She did another big wet gross poop in the cross ties again after, but again, her mood was 100% better than before, so I think/hope the exercise was the right call. I'll follow up with the BO today and see how she's feeling and how her stall looked this morning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #332 ·
Update: yeah she's back to normal this morning. BO thinks it was a combination of her being very much in heat, and being out for a longer time on the grass yesterday. Glad it was minor!
 

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Discussion Starter · #333 ·
A nice ride tonight, with no one else around the entire time I was there. While it is nice to see people sometimes, it's also nice to just be alone with the horses!

Elle was pretty chill. She looked like she was nodding off in the cross-ties while I got her ready. She's been a bit unenthused about her cookies lately. I think there are two reasons for this. One, that she's on so much grass that she's less intrigued by lesser foodstuffs. Two, that I recently bought an ENORMOUS bag of these particular treats, so of course she has to start turning her nose up at them.

Horse Vertebrate Working animal Liver Bit


(I swear the bell boots fit better than they appear to here!!)

We worked on forwardness during the ride. She was pretty good though! Just trying to get her more in front of my leg lately, especially now that she's no longer constantly dealing with the need to cough. And once she's going well, I can fiddle with improving my position without having to keep pumping the gas pedal, so to speak.

My personal riding hang-up lately, that I'm making worse by overthinking, has been my right lead canter transition on her. For some reason, newly, my butt is sliding to the back of the saddle during the transition!! I know it's not the change of saddle, because it doesn't happen on the left lead. And it wasn't an issue for weeks in this saddle. Apparently my body just wants to find fun new ways to mess things up!!

I have discovered, however, that it doesn't happen if I start out on a left lead and do a flying change to the right. So I think, to regain some stamina and muscle memory in the right lead, I can use that cheat. I also think that she's maybe not moving out enough on the right lead -- more of an up and down motion than a forward and out motion -- so I need to get a better canter from her to be able to sit it better.

I broke up the arena riding a little by doing walk laps around the outside of the arena, including a little bank we can ride up or down. I also tried cantering her up a little path towards the barn, but she wouldn't break from trot. Almost like she was admonishing me for encouraging her to run home!!

I also did some no-stirrups trot for the first time in a while, too, and then cooled her out by hacking her around a little outside the ring without my stirrups. She was a little looky about a few things, but didn't actually DO anything, which was great! I'm not afraid to hold the grab strap if she gets the radar ears and gets hesitant. But she's been great lately, so it's really a just-in-case thing.

I also decided, for some unknown reason, to try dismounting to the right. I hadn't ever done it on her, and wondered if I could pull it off. It was, uhhhhhhh, AWFUL. Elle was a total rock, and just stood there unbothered. But I fully levered my entire left leg against her rump several times, to shuffle my body around, and when I finally landed on my feet, it was like they and my whole body had no idea where they were in relation to the horse. Or to balance. Or gravity. I did manage not to fall, but only barely. Aaaaand now I know how it feels to dismount for the first time with no practice, apparently! And also that my horse is quite tall. Sigh! I'm not a graceful dismounter at the best of times, but this was special!!

After my ride, I used Elle as a saddle stand to give my dressage saddle a quick clean. It's easier to get at the billets, etc., while it's still on her!! I then gave Elle a quick grooming and then turned her loose to graze while I went outside and did a deep clean of her poor, neglected, super filthy bridle and reins. They'll need a good conditioning, still, but baby steps. It's a really nice Kieffer dressage bridle and deserves better care than I give it! On the plus side, because it's nice leather, it's also forgiving!!

And that was my night! Quite a nice one, and I'm really feeling good and relaxed in my rides, of late!
 

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Discussion Starter · #335 · (Edited)
I played hooky this morning from work, and went for a ride somewhat spontaneously. My next ride wasn't supposed to be until tomorrow evening, but I knew the part-boarder wasn't going today, and work was quiet, and it was sooooooo nice out!!

I haven't been out there during the day in quite some time. The days are so long right now that I've just been going out after supper. Plus evenings have the side bonus of me not running into that boarder with whom I've had some friction. However, this morning she wasn't there. Just two ladies with whom I get along, and who were busy doing their own thing. So it was quite pleasant!

It was sunny, and warm, and getting warmer. Elle was poky, and I didn't want to make her do too much ring work and work up a sweat. So we did some trot and canter. Elle nearly face planted tripping over some oddly placed trot poles as we warmed up -- whoops! -- but got some nice, brief work done otherwise. Did a shorter than normal walk warm-up because the deer flies were out and were gunning for us, but at least she had already been turned out.

I feel like my position is improving steadily in the new saddle, and in general. I'm trying actively to get off the fork of my seat. I've taken to thinking of a slightly horrible -- but honestly pretty effective -- visual that I've come up with on my own. Which is that I have a tiny baby bird on my saddle, under the front of my crotch, and that if I roll forward onto that part, I will crush the bird. It's helping me sit deep, not bounce, and is also helping to keep my seat still when I do that tricky right lead transition. I'm also finding it helpful to work on those transitions earlier in the ride, rather than later, while I'm still fresh.

After some trot and canter work, I walked her over some of the itty bitty jumps in the arena, just to get her lifting her legs nice and high. Then we left the arena and hacked out a bit, just around the property. Walked through some scrub at the back of the property, including some squishy footing that Elle would have HATED a year or two ago. But she was great. We also trotted down a good long part of the straight long driveway that runs beside the property. I'd only ever walked on her down that, so that was nice. I also rode her up a steep little bank beside one of the paddocks, that we hadn't ridden up before. She was good good good. She only had one little "moment" when a cat started moving in and out of the undergrowth in a spot she was already hesitant to walk through. Elle kept it together, despite giving all the indications that she would love nothing better than to turn around and book it out of there. Instead she just very slowly started moving backwards. Instead of making her go through there, I just slowly turned her around and walked her out of that spot. She had already done so well!

So, a short ride, but one that made me happy! We're making nice slow but steady progress expanding our horizons a little, and it's nice. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #336 · (Edited)
I rode Friday night and last night. Both interesting rides/barn visits for their own reasons.

Actually, Friday I got to leave work early to go to the barn, yay!! Sadly, it was SOOO windy out that I wasn't able to do much riding-wise. I actually thought, initially, I would just free-lunge Elle because it was soooo gusty. Figured she'd be fresh, but she was unbelievably pokey and didn't care one bit about the wind!! So I saddled up Elle and got on. But the wind picked up even more, and while I wasn't worried about her reacting to much, I still had it in the back of my head that jump standards in the ring could suddenly blow over (some were already down from the wind) and even the most sensible horse couldn't be blamed for a big spook at that. Nothing actually happened, but I was definitely tense and stiff (and my lower back has been stiff lately, too) and didn't want to log a tense ride when we've both been so happy and relaxed lately. So I only rode for 15 minutes max, before deciding to call it.

After that, I fiiiiiinally pulled my bridle apart, cleaned it all meticulously (after having done a first pass getting the real grime off of it last week), let it dry, and conditioned it really well with a lot of Passier Lederbalsam. Looked and felt much better! I'm still finding the combination web/leather reins that came with that bridle to be annoying to clean, so next time I'm feeling flush I think I might spring for these:


Can't justify it yet though as between her dental, her allergy meds, and new shoes on all four feet, Elle has not been cheap this month!!!

A side note on the shoe thing: can't remember if I've written about that on here before, but that drives me a little batty and is one of the main things I dislike about where I board. Elle has always been a happily barefoot horse, and has amazing feet. Buuuuuut. The outdoor arena "sand" is a fine gravel that is so abrasive, it wears her toes excessively, especially in the back feet, and bullnoses them. (edited to clarify: so she does need shoes for that footing.) Siiiigh. So, it's $210 to $260 every six weeks during outdoor riding season just for that. eye twitch Combined with the distance I have to drive to get there, and the price of gas right now, she is NOT a cheap friend to have this year. Argghhhh!! Worth it though. I wish there were somewhere closer that I could board her, but there are literally NO options here.

Anyhow, last night's ride was a completely different story from Friday's. It was sunny and, while there were some significant gusts, mostly not too windy. Bugs weren't terrible either. Really a lovely night for a ride! My back was still feeling really stiff, so I opted to take my medicine, so to speak, and do my ride in the bareback pad. That way I wouldn't be able to do any bracing in the stirrups or other compensation moves that I often do in the saddle when my body isn't feeling fluid.

I rode for about 50 minutes total, which is a lot for me in the bareback pad! First half of the ride was just hacking around the property at a walk. Despite the wind gusts, Elle only did one barely-detectable startle in place. Not sure most people would have even noticed it. She did raise her head a little and lock her ears ahead of her a few times. That used to freak me out and get me worrying about potential spooking, which would then get her more worried, but we're working on that and making a lot of progress. Now I just do a little flexion left and right until an ear flicks back and her head drops a little, while keeping my leg on and asking her to continue forward with confidence. Much more effective than backing off, which just seems to confirm for her that there's something to worry about.

Once we hit the ring, I did about 20-25 minutes including a lot of trot and canter work. I was a bit stiff at first, and she kept dropping out of the gaits in confusion at that, but we got through it and I eventually loosened up a lot. I didn't have that right lead canter problem that I've been having in the saddle, so it was great to be able to work on that. Our transitions weren't pretty, and our steering during the transitions was especially not pretty, but over all it felt really good. I had one silly moment of coming a little bit unbalanced when she sped up her trot more than expected when I put my leg on, but that kind of responsiveness is a good thing so I can't be mad at that! Just need to keep working on myself.

At the end of the ride, trying to dismount was... awkward. My muscles had worked so hard that, once they stopped, they were jelly. Muttered to Elle that she should try being shorter for once, before slithering to the ground like a dying slug.

Tried to get a nice picture of her looking shiny in the sunlight, but her face refused to cooperate. Still, hey, shiiiiiny!!

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I’m blown away by the cost of your barefoot trim! Wow!
 
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Discussion Starter · #338 ·
I’m blown away by the cost of your barefoot trim! Wow!
Oh sorry, whoops, I see I phrased that badly! I meant she’s normally good barefoot but because of the footing in the outdoor ar this place she has to have shoes. On all four. Sigh! So just one more expense/inconvenience.

I suppose I might be willing to pay that much for the most amazing barefoot trimmer in the world, but unfortunately we don’t have that here!!
 

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Okay, that makes sense. That is still a huge cost! If I could make good money on barefoot trims I might be willing to do outside horses. Lol. Of course, in my world with rocks and gravel and difficult terrain, I am the only person who maintains any barefoot horses. Surprisingly three of our five riding horses are excellent barefoot.
 
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Discussion Starter · #340 ·
Okay, that makes sense. That is still a huge cost! If I could make good money on barefoot trims I might be willing to do outside horses. Lol. Of course, in my world with rocks and gravel and difficult terrain, I am the only person who maintains any barefoot horses. Surprisingly three of our five riding horses are excellent barefoot.
Yeah it's brutal here. And of course, it has to be the BACK feet that wear the most on her. So shoes on all four are mandatory, blurrgghhhh, since you can't just shoe the back. It's not even a sensitivity issue -- she doesn't get sore -- she just drags her back toes (long-bodied, arthritic horsey problems) a lot and... bam, front half of hoof worn away unless a shoe is there to stop it.

Any time she costs me extra $$ I just have to remind myself that her purchase price was $1 and she's still, by far, the best horse I've ever ridden. Any extra fees still don't add up to even close to what she is worth (at least to me!).
 
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