I know, I know… its been another long gap between my updates. I promise I haven’t forgotten about you all and I haven’t lost interest in this blogs upkeep. It’s just been an tough time period to try to actually sit down and write. First, I was away in Alberta from July 16th – July 23rd, came home, had 2 days off and then back to the grind at work…. followed promptly by a viral infection in my eyes which has really kicked my butt. To be perfectly honest today is the first day since the infection really reared its ugly head that I’ve spent most of the day with my vision more or less in focus. It’s had its bobbles periodically through out the day but for the most part my vision has been on par with normal and even the blurry moments weren’t as horrible as they have been. That being said, prior to this it meant that staring at a computer screen long enough to update the blog was basically impossible.
I had a great time out in Alberta. I didn’t ride at all (I thought I might get up the gumption to try to catch my friends gelding and hop on him… but that didn’t happen) but I really did enjoy myself just relaxing, taking photos and just hanging around with my friend, her daughter and nature. I definitely came back with a MUCH clearer mind and in far better spirits and at the very least with my work with Cowboy it has definitely shown. I missed him like crazy while I was gone and resisted the urge to pester Brooke for daily updates (although she specifically told me to not worry about him, turn my phone off and enjoy my time away). Of course I did come home with only 3 things… a birthday gift for my mom, a mug for my dad and of course an awesomely pretty and good quality headstall for Cowboy!
While I was gone, Cowboy got another equibow session done. We expected to find some hind end stiffness/restriction at first as he had been a bit sticky with his canter leads previously. Instead we found a lot of stuff going on in his shoulders, neck and jaw. We figure it was from his tendency to tuck himself past the vertical. Also while I was away, Brooke worked him a couple of times and also started to work on some of his stall anxiety. I had also started him on a new supplement from a local woman that is supposed to help support better cognitive functioning and balance him out. Brooke also moved him closer to the front of the barn where her “constants” are, figuring that part of the issue may be that in the section of the barn he had been in, there was a lot of constant change with horses coming, horses going and horses getting shuffled around. We know that Cowboy doesn’t do well with sudden change as it is, and wondered if maybe that wasn’t just frying his brain more than it needed to. So far the change has been working very well. He’s calm when in his stall (at least while other horses are in) again, and is even starting to not panic when others leave… which is something that he was doing even if others were still in the barn. We haven’t had him in completely alone much yet. Brooke has been letting me bring in at least one of her horses so he has someone. I did, however, try having him in alone the one day. It wasn’t the most relaxing moment for him, but we still got things accomplished. He ate all of his meal, even if it took twice as long as normal and remained relatively in check. I started out by feeding him and then getting my grooming tools. I groomed him while he ate for a bit and then stepped out of the stall. He ate for a couple more minutes and then had a bit of a temper tantrum that he was in alone and I wasn’t right by him (I was puttering around doing other things). He’d pace a bit and call. He did rear up in a couple instances. But instead of yelling at him in attempts to correct him. I just watched quietly. And then once he settled down and remained calm for a short period of time I’d bring him a bit more of his favourite grain to sprinkle into his bucket. We had to repeat this a few times before he finally just settled and finished his meal. The biggest thing to note about this though, is that overall his tantrums were far less explosive as they had been. His patience and calmness in the cross ties has also began to improve again.
Under saddle, I can say the improvement I saw coming back and riding was nothing short of phenomenal. Whatever was restricting him before his equibow definitely made a huge difference! His flat work has improved ten fold. He’s REALLY using himself, we’re getting the long, swinging trot, a consistent walk and even our walk to halt transitions are far better (although the transition work comes from another lesson with the Western Dressage coach where we literally spent an entire lesson working on transitions). I mean I actually feel him round up under me, come up into frame and track up. It’s still a little bit rushed, we need to work on some more relaxation and tempo but it’s still a tremendous start! Then, to change things up a bit and keep it exciting we’ve also been putting some effort into jumping again. Of course I’m still in my western saddle and only jumping small fences, but it’s fun for both of us.
The jumping we’ve been doing is where I’ve noticed a MASSIVE improvement in my confidence right now! I mean I know I’ve talked about it before and how I’m far more confident jumping in my western saddle than I am in an English saddle.
But when I say I’ve noticed an improvement I mean just overall. I have far fewer moments where I hesitate before a fence, but I still always take it, rather than try to pull up or avoid. I’ve gotten far better at problem solving and reacting on the fly if needed and I don’t freeze if something doesn’t go quite as planned. I’ve determined what part of jumping scares me the most….and that’s the approach. I’m not afraid of the feeling of jumping or worrying about what will happen on the landing. I get worried about if my mount is going to pull a dirty stop – something my first mare was fantastic at (seriously…. this mare could stop in the middle of a bounce). This fear is where I’ve definitely gave Cowboy my trust. Cowboy has never stopped at a fence for me. Even when we first started jumping and I was way more terrified than I am now. So now I’m getting better at just taking a deep breath, saying “fuck it” and just going. Although I’m not always the biggest fan of cantering into a fence still, I resist my urge to pull him up if he does break into a canter between or up to a fence and am also getting up the courage to canter into fences that are a bit more “scary” for me, realizing I need to pace to get a better jump out of him. I’ve also started to branch out and allow us to start working on combinations! So far we’ve conquered a double and a triple combo! At the canter as well! I’ve literally been over the moon with our progress in that department.
Despite the fact that I’ve been saying I don’t have any show plans for this summer, between Brooke and I, we’ve decided that I can take Cowboy into the Intro to Jumpers 15 inch clear round class at one of my barns next jumper schooling shows. I was hoping for the one on the 19th, however Cowboy is having an issue (which I’ll discuss below) that means we might not get there. But there is still one in September. My biggest reason for attempting this is to just get into the ring and in front of an audience. Over this summer, I’ve gotten SO much better at handling my nerves with other people and horses around. Actually, my last dressage lesson, the outdoor ring was out of commission due to rain and the indoor was busy with another lesson going on…. I managed to ride my entire lesson with 4 other horses in the ring and an audience, ontop of new and scary things at the back end of the arena… and guess what! We completed our ride with minimal issues, no freak outs on either parts and even had the 4 horses leave on us…. with both the man door and the front gap open without Cowboy or I noticing and without Cowboy trying to bolt. The day before OXC in July I rode in a lesson with a ton of strange people and horses milling about without issue and have also successfully rode at other times with other people around and audiences and not have my nerves get to me. So, it just seems logical to add onto this. Another baby step. The fences are small enough we can trot them if I need to and really it’s about getting into the ring at a show without any huge amounts of pressure on my shoulders. I’m still a bit nervous about handling him outside of the ring around all the other horses, but we’ve got a game plan for that. I’ll warm him up in the indoor and then dismount and walk him over to the main ring and get on right before my class, be walked into the ring and do my thing. I know it sounds good on paper and might not go as planned in the ring, but at least it feels like a solid enough game plan for me to try!
Right now though, the poor guy is sore on his hind right. It looks like its a bruise or an abscess in his heel bulb. Or worst case scenario some sort of mild strain. He’s off for a few days with Epsom salt water soaks and poultices. My farrier couldn’t find an abscess, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still buried deep in there. I’m just the sappy horse mom that wants my boy to feel better! Even though I can rest assured it’s nothing serious. We just never like to see our animals not feeling up to par.
Another short but cool update! Brooke has given me the opportunity to ride one of her horses, a lovely little haflinger named Lindy, for some extra saddle time, especially while Cowboy is off. Basically she’s offered me to ride Lindy a couple times a week if I feel like it to help keep her in shape and working properly. Lindy hasn’t been being used as frequently recently and can stand to be kept into shape. What’s awesome about it is that she’s definitely more finished than Cowboy is, so it’s helping Brooke out, helping Lindy out and helping me out because it gives me some time to work on ME! So keep your eyes peeled for more of me and the blonde bombshell!
So that’s all right now folks! Again, things are all kind of in a nutshell because I’ve had such a long gap between posts! But now that I’m no longer struggling with my vision, I hope to get more up!