Monday, May 10, 2021

An Ounce of Prevention...

So, I think of myself as a very experienced horse owner.  To the tune of 35+ years.  But I am a tightwad by nature and sometimes that gets me in trouble.

One case in point is that I intended to have my equine(and human!) chiropractor look at Jet and the Cruiser early this spring.  Not for any specific reason, all seemed well at the time, but just to catch anything brewing before harder work started.  And then our last and oldest farm dog started to have health problems.  That continued on and on for a couple of months ending with her euthanasia.  Very sad and kind of expensive.  So even though I had the money to get the boys checked out I put it off because I was spending money on the dog.  Everything seemed fine with the horses until I started working Jet back to back days.  After a couple of weeks he started feeling funny in the hind end in the canter.  Long story short, in a lameness exam before spring shots and teeth, Jet came up positive on a couple of joints but more importantly something is also going on with his back.  Now I don’t know that this all could have been prevented with a look see by the chiro earlier in the year but I have my suspicions.

And speaking of teeth being floated.  When Cruz came in August I had vague thoughts of having the vet check his teeth.  But.  He seemed well cared for, feet in nice shape, and no problems eating so I let it slide.  Like I said, tightwad.  Guess what happened when the vet had Cruz’s mouth propped open?  Something like “Holey cow-look at this!”  Edges and hooks all over.  Scars on his tongue and cheeks.  All from a 3 year old horse that bridles himself when you hold the bit out to him.  He obviously has a high pain tolerance.

So, I obviously feel like an awful horse mom.  The chiropractor is coming out Thursday for both boys.  Cruz is having his teeth rechecked in 6 months.  I’m going to make an effort to be a little more proactive about prevention and combating my tightwad tendencies while not going crazy the other way.  Might be difficult for me.

What are your feelings about standards of care and preventative maintenance without breaking the bank?

Monday, May 3, 2021

How to Avoid Tipping Forwards

So, I was finally able to use my Pivo outside last week and surprise surprise I am back to tipping slightly forward again.  The good news is that it is very slight and Jet was in pretty good horizontal balance.  He was soft and willing and poll high.  Still though, this habit persists through every correction, yoga, and etc.  Every time I think I have vanquished it, it comes back even if it is diminished.

I was trolling around on YouTube, as one will when stuck with a riding problem, and found this video from that has rocked my world.  Using RWYM or Mary Wanless’ biomechanics theory it finally explains why I lean forward, how to fix it and also fixed my posting dynamic.  I shortened my stirrups one hole to get my thigh at a 45 degree angle, did the “slingshot described in the video, changed my posting, and the difference in my posture and position was astounding.  I was able to Pivo myself on day two to confirm that what I felt was accurate and the video looked great.

Basically, I’ve needed to have my thigh more out in front of me(think knee pushing slightly out against a hand in front of it) with a concurrent slight backward pull of my hips to form a “slingshot”.  Combined with a bit of “bear down” of activating my core and managing my angles, stacking my vertebrae or opening my hip angle is much easier.  I’ve been struggling to fix the tipped forward without fixing the underlying support and that’s why I’ve always had limited success. I’ve been pivoting around my thigh and putting my thigh out in front of me makes stacking my vertebrae easy.

It’s amazing too, how much more stable I feel and how good Jet looks.  I went through a phase of really being into Mary Wanless years ago but got stuck without the ability to easily video or take lessons.  I’ve always thought her principles were good, I just got discouraged in the implementation of how much and when with the biomechanics principles.  Now that I have the Pivo I think it is going to be the summer of experimenting with MW principles and using the Pivo for immediate feedback.  Exciting!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Baby Horse Update

As you can see from this photo, the Cruiser is not leading a stressful life.  This was yesterday afternoon after taking the saddle off post ride 15ish?  We almost made a round circle at the walk one direction(woo hoo!), had nice hindquarter yields and halts each way, did some steps of across and back, and most importantly felt a lot less wobbly at the walk and halt.  He’s feeling really solid on mount/dismount/touch all over and in general is very chill about the whole deal.  I totally credit the TRT Method Young Horse module for making the process very step by step.  By being able to work on the ground work/saddle position patterns all winter long that translate directly to the under saddle work, it has been pretty seamless getting Cruz going again.

He’s still about as wide as a pencil, even though he’s gained 200+ pounds and grown a couple of inches.  Currently I think he is around 900-1000 pounds and 15hh but he still has that immature weedy look.  He is only 3 though and very leggy, so I think it’s just time and long slow miles to build muscle.  The current plan is to ride him 1-2 times per week for 10-15 minutes mostly at the walk, to ground drive him all over my property 1-2 times per week(he’s been doing great driving outside), and do a bit of TRT ground work 1-2 times per week.  I’ll reevaluate in a month or so and hopefully add in some riding outside at that point.

I was sort of dreading the whole young horse thing but it’s been surprisingly fun.  He is so smart and pretty level headed, which makes it easier, but I’m also enjoying the thinking involved and solving the little training puzzles that come up.  We have many miles to go to be reliable transportation and then start real dressage, but we are on the road.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

Sometime in the past year, I can’t remember exactly when and where, I read a paragraph about always looking at environmental training challenges as opportunities for growth.  Especially with a young horse.  Tree trimmers working close by?  Training opportunity.  Horses next door galloping wildly?  Training opportunity.  Windy day?  Training opportunity.  With the caveat, of course, that the work you do should be appropriate to the training and experience of the horse.  For instance, with a young horse, something like TRT in hand work and only moving on to the next thing like under saddle if the horse is calm, so as not to overwhelm them with the situation.  But not avoiding a lot of potentially scary things totally, to keep everything copacetic.

This whole mindset has really fundamentally changed how I approach a challenging environment.  Instead of plowing through and being more harsh OR just backing off and finding somewhere else, I have been so much more conscious of challenges as teaching opportunities to end up with a more trained and exposed horse.  I think I’ve gone from a get ‘er done philosophy that could be a little rough, to a more empathetic approach that sometimes backed off too much, to where I am now with a mindset that first and foremost thinks about how I can use this situation as a training moment.

This all ties in nicely with the TRT Method philosophy of small building blocks of exposure to scary things but never with an intensity that completely overwhelms the horse so that he can’t think.  A lot of times I am running into a challenging situation and choosing to do an easier version like in hand or easy working gaits but always with the thought that this will be the bottom stair in the staircase to where we need to go.  I am also much more aware of gradually building up exposure to things that are potentially scary.  I find, because I am not throwing them off the deep end, but I am also regularly  testing boundaries of things and places that are scary, both horses are tending to not get overwhelmed and act out.

Thoughts about how your training philosophy has changed and how you look at environmental challenges?