Our long suffering for our horses.
Yesterday I skipped my breaks, my lunch and skipped out early to drive across the city in search of a slinky for Moon. Based on my morning spent calling around, it seemed my luck would be limited. It's amazing how one product can have so many names, and tack stores only bother to learn the one that they stock.
"Hi, do you sell slinky's/sleazies/lyrca hoods?"
"Oh yes we have Horseman's one step in stock."
"You're looking for horse feed?"
"No. A slinky? A lycra hood to prevent rubbing, keep the mane down..."
"Oh. I'm not sure what that is. But we don't have anything like it."
"Hi, do you sell slinky's/sleazies/lycra hoods?"
"Oh. Not even the shoulder guards?"
"We sell Robin Hoods."
"Is that a lycra hood?"
"Yes. But it's not a Sleazy."
"I don't care about brand. Just a stretch fabric hood. So do you have any in stock?"
"Yes. An XL and a small."
"XL fits 1500 lbs or 17.2 hh and above. Small fits weanlings."
"So you don't stock any sizes that would fit a normal horse?"
"Hi do you sell slinky's/sleazies/lycra hoods/robin hoods?"
"Yes we do. We sell them for headless horses."
"You know, headless?"
"Unfortunately my horse has a head..."
"Oh, I mean, they're headless. Um, not the horse. The slinky."
"Phew. Because I prefer my horse with a head. Makes them easier to ride."
"Hi, do you sell slinky's/sleazies/lycra hoods/robin hoods?"
"Any in stock?"
"No. But if you go to www.xxxyyzz.com and click on the link that says Northwest Catalog and scroll to the far right...."
"I need one right away."
"Oh. We don't have any but if you follow that link, and then select the 4th page and scroll half-way down..."
"Thanks, but I can't wait for a special order."
"Oh. Well just check out our webpage just in case and if you send me your selection out of the catalog..."
"Uh, thanks. I'll do that. Bye."
Sigh. WHY are some things so exhausting?
I finally wound up finding a place that sold the full hoods and the shoulder guards. The price wasn't awesome, but I bought them both, took them home and figured I'd work something out.
In the end, Moon left the barn wearing just the shoulder guard. We've had some summer-sheet rubbing issues and I figured I wasn't going to want the hassle of the full-face for any length of time. The shoulder-only was hard enough. There WAS one embarrassing moment when I was trying to get it on him. There's a strip of lycra that comes between the front legs and an elastic that goes along the girth. Except it unvelcro'd on one side, but not the other. So I figured I had to lift Moon's right leg to stick it through the leg-hole....Thankfully W stopped me part-way and explained that the velcro slides out of the middle lycra strip. Woohooo! He doesn't have to step into it!
As for the full hood, I'm going to return the overpriced one I bought, but only AFTER I make a pattern of it to make my own. Yes, awful. But I already paid way too much for the shoulder guard. : P And with everyone saying they're made of tissue paper, I'm going to save myself some headache and make one out of the thickest lycra I can find...
Since I wanted things extra gentle for Moon on his rub (which had dried up nicely), I sewed a fleece patch into the offending shoulder. Yes. I spent 30 minutes in the barn hand-stiching a brand new, over-priced chunk of lycra. While it was still on my horse. : P
Moon expresses our feelings about this whole adventure rather well:
Now that that's looked after (hypothetically), let's talk about our first lesson in over a month...
He's making progress, yet did all the things that drive me crazy. Which in hind-sight was perfect so W could tell me all the things I need to do to drive him equally crazy.
Most importantly, his very rude habit of yanking the reins and thrusting his head downward. For the longest time we've been focusing on "soft contact" and I'd move with him. Except he's now taking advantage of my good behavior and will rudely pull the reins from my hands, often yanking me forward. Uh-uh buddy. Now every time he does it, I lift my hands and bump with my legs, thereby driving him forward and getting him to realize his antics only lead to him bumping himself with the bit. Surprise! We'll see how long that lesson takes to learn...
But overall, we've reached a new place in our training pyramid. We've worked hard at rhythm and have made great progress on our relaxation. Except I've been dropping the ball.
Moon has progressed beyond just needing to work at rhythm and relaxation. He needs to start engaging those topline muscles and actively stretching, flexing and, stop the presses, CONNECTING! I've sort of had that feeling for awhile, but upping the ante meant more work for me (and him). So it was probably easier to continue to focus on the small simpler things.
Well, not anymore.
W had us doing a ton of work with more flexion and a resulting increased and improved contact with the bit. She explained that by flexing him more, he's engaging his topline and neck muscles and having to carry himself different. He also then reaches down into contact and maintains that position, thereby maintaining that muscle engagement and consequently building them up.
Let me say that Moon proved to me how much more he could offer in contact and steadiness if I just bothered to ask him for it. He showed me yesterday that he's moved past being a horse in rehab. When we came to W last May, he was terrified of contact, stiff, upright, avoiding and bracing. W explained to me that he now is struggling to learn the same things that many young horses are learning: contact. Connection.
When I'd ask for it, his head would lower, his muscles engaged and the more I asked, the longer he'd stay there. THIS is what I've been struggling with. I didn't understand why we weren't getting it. Um, maybe because I wasn't asking him for it?!
Holy smokers. Face-Palm moment.
The rest of the ride was building on everything else. His leg-yielding went to crap. BUT, we worked on our shoulder-in for the first time in a long time, and guess who did a stellar job? At least in one direction. In the other, I felt sooo off that I couldn't expect him to feel any better. Practice time.
Last, our canter. Lilly's mom gave me a great little comment that gave me great hope we'd move past our "everything means canter and all I want to do is canter" stage. Oh In2Paints, I'm holding you to that! Wanna ride Moon'er through this stage??? Huh, huh??!
W also assured me that I should be happy he's so willing and excited to canter. Some horses apparently hate the gait and are just hard to get moving. Um, take him on a trail and he'll gallop/canter for miles. I mean, miles! W thought that was awesome. But she's never sat on a dripping wet horse that won't slow down!
We got our lead, we missed our lead, we rushed around. We were told that we've actually done a good job getting him to transition and now it's about 2 things: 1. Only canter when I say canter, 2. Outside rein to keep balanced and maintain canter longer.
I professed to W when she asked me why I didn't do anything during one really nice canter transition when he slowed to trot. "My head was going "OMG! OMG! We're CANTERING!! OMG!!!", that I couldn't think of anything else!". Oye.
: ) Today he gets the day off work and tomorrow we'll get back into making him work on Connection. Pyramid Level 3, here we come!!! : )