Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get it Framed.

Let's talk first about the newest stall plaque. I'm obviously pretty excited about it.

While I love doing the silhouette style, I've been dreaming of trying some new designs and styles. I love pen and ink drawings of horses and thought, wonder if I can mimic one? I chose a sketch from google and gave it a go (someday I'll dream up my own images, but beginners need to start somewhere). I spent an evening burning it, and was pleased with the result. This is a Christmas gift commissioned by a friend, and I hope they enjoy it...

Now on to Mr. Moon...

Yesterday I had my last lesson before heading off on Christmas vacation. Which means a week and a half of no pony-riding : ( I actually was disappointed and a part of me didn't want to leave yesterday. He's becoming a different horse to ride, AND W gave us a ton of guidance and homework. All of which I want to start working on!

To add to things, there was freezing rain last night, soaking the poor ponies. Since Moon's blanket was sopping wet (on the outside, though those tiny holes let some moisture in), I couldn't repair it. *sigh*. There's an even bigger rip near his butt that I NEED to fix before I leave. Friday I'm hoping for one last visit and WILL fix it. Poor bugger.

To make me more anxious, there's a 3-point Buck (deer) that I keep seeing when I drive out to the barn. Waiting to leap in front of my car and write it off. Seems every time I turn on my high-beams, there he is standing in the ditch. Yesterday's road conditions and the fact it's dark before 5 pm doesn't help. Ger.

Anyway, on to our lesson...

For starters, we worked on his counterbending when going left, coupled with encouraging him more to reach down and into contact. This is one of those things I really appreciate having W for. When he braces or doesn't do what I'm trying to cue him, I struggle for awhile, try a bunch of different things and then quit, frustrated. W explained to me that I need to keep asking what I want of him, the same way and waiting for him to figure it out. Patience.

She advised me to bend his head in and hold it there until he softened and bent. THEN release the pressure. A little outside leg to keep him upright, a little inside leg to help keep him out. She also assured me that it's better to get bend in a messy circle, then focus on trying to stay on the circle but missing the bend. Apparently when a horse reaches and stretches around the circle, they will automatically move back out to the wider circle. I wasn't so sure, but as we worked on it he actually started giving me a wider circle on his own. Hmmmm...

So below is a picture of Moon from this summer when he was first learning to soften into the bridle. You'll recall his evil rabbit face and head in the sky...

And then the video clips from last night (granted, he didn't move like this ALL the time, but it was more consistent then ever and I learned a lot of things to encourage him to keep it there).  These pictures were at a trot too, which he's had a harder time stretching down for. I'm just so thrilled!

And that was the impressive thing. The last couple of months, he'd throw his head down and then put it right back up. Now it stays down longer and doesn't come up so high when he does lose contact.

W had me drop my stirrups at the trot, and Moon was hilarious. Whenever we'd be trotting around and I'd slip them off my feet, he'd halt immediately. It was honestly like he thought I was falling off and needed to stop! Finally I had to remove them and lift them over my saddle BEFORE walking off. Silly sweet boy.

At the end of the lesson, we worked on our canter!

And he cantered for me. W gave us some excellent homework of using a circle to improve our canter. We do a nice stretchy circle and as we come into the short-side, I ask for canter. This means he's bent the correct way when he hits the long side of the ring, assisting him in getting the right lead.

We had one decent canter depart when we tried it that way. When we tried on just the long side, he propelled me backwards with the sheer force of his canter and went wildly dashing forward only to collapse through the corner. W explained to me that he counterbends before take-off every time and we wind up on the wrong lead. Oh fun. We're going to have a ton of work there!

Finally we called it a night. I was sweating under my layers, but Moon still looked calm and cool. I was proud of how easily he came back to 'calm and sedate' after his wild cantering, and considering a month ago he wouldn't even canter-depart in the arena, we're making progress.

W looked at us and said "I think you guys might be ready to show Training level in the Spring".

Um, W, no. : P

I am sincerely looking forward to at LEAST two shows at walk-trot, just to adjust to being at a show. Maybe we'll get things together enough for Training in the Fall, but at this point I'm so thrilled with his progress that I don't need to rush it. I honestly believe that W's training style is the perfect horse physio. People often want quick easy results. They want someone to hop on their horse, position him so he looks like a magazine pull-out and bring in the high scores. They think that a couple pinches of magic 'feed' or a couple of 'pops' and 'cracks' to the joints will make things instantly better.

It doesn't work that way. It never has. Everyone I know that's successfully come back from injury or pain has done it through long and grueling physiotherapy. It's about slowly rebuilding and restructuring. You can't collect a horse until you supple a horse. You can't supple a horse until you teach him how to relax and loosen. It's a long and slow process with no immediate gratification. No one leaves feeling like "Wow, things are way better today". It's months of hard work, repetitive work, mistakes and repairs and convincing and encouraging. Slowly but surely you make progress. Progress built on progress.

We far too often now expect things to be fixed too quickly. Time however, will always be the best medicine. Time coupled with patience and practice.

But enough on that. I'll be physio'ing Moon till he's well into his 20's and only time will predict how far we get together. But I'm willing to spend the time and have the patience. I care more about how he's feeling and developing then in ribbons and accolades. He's worth it.


  1. That plaque is incredible!! I am very impressed... I can't even draw that well, much less burn an image onto a piece of wood!!

    I also completely agree with you about training our horses. I've been taking things very slow with Lilly too, but it's what she requires. If I try to rush things, she gets upset and we get nowhere. I want to end up with a happy, sound horse too! Our horses are very lucky. :)

  2. I agree with you for the most part about the time and dedication it takes to turn your horse into an athlete. Dressage requires them to use muscles they wouldn't normally engage, and it takes time to build that strength.

    As for the cracks and pops, it worked for me. Handsome was first introduced to dressage in 2003. Until this year, he has never had a proper-fitting saddle and he's never had effective hoof care - contributing to his stiffness and tendency to hang back on your leg.

    When he had his chiro adjustment, he suddenly had the one thing all dressage judges kept asking for: impulsion and lifting his back. So in our case, it was the magic that we needed all along. So don't doubt its value just yet!