Monday, September 26, 2022

Pivo for the Win

My lesson got rescheduled to two weeks from now, because SW needed more time to pack for the World Western Dressage show.  So no lesson recap to be had.  I thought though, I’d talk about how helpful I have been finding my Pivo in the quest to sit in better alignment.  After not using the Pivo for months, since I was essentially ringless, I’ve been using it at least once a week to check in on, well, everything.

Having video is really keeping me honest about whether I am sitting up enough and really helps with that mind body disconnect, where you feel one way but aren’t actually there on video.  Also, it’s so helpful to see if my biomechanics impact the horse the way I’m feeling.  Such a useful tool and really pretty easy for me to use.

On the whole I am really pleased with our progress.  I had a 1 year FB memory come up yesterday of Cruise’s first real haul out.  Now I’m successfully hauling him out for ridden lessons.  He is starting to get solid in his walk trot work in the seeking reflexes and on a rhythm.  He’s basically ready to canter under saddle, I’m just waiting for a warm spell.  I really wanted to show a bit this year, but I think the investment in biomechanics online through and in person lessons will pay off in better showing experiences in the future.  We shall see!

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Similarities between Mary Wanless, Connection Training, and BTMM Groundwork

Something that has come up for me this summer has been the slow realization that there are some striking similarities between the groundwork programs of Mary Wanless on, Connection Training, and Celeste aka The Traveling Horse Witches’ BTMM.  Each of these programs uses a slightly different methodology, but the end goal and outcomes are very similar.

MW’s groundwork program on uses Equitation Science as its foundation, based on the idea that horses learn by trialing behaviors and that the release is only given when the desired outcome is shown. Connection Training is positive reinforcement based using clicker training to teach the horse to do specific movements and patterns.  BTMM doesn’t have a particular training methodology other than being gentle and using combination of negative(release of pressure) and positive (reward based) reinforcement.

The interesting thing is that all these programs have the same end objectives that aren’t really seen in a lot of other groundwork programs.  A horse that accepts/gives to contact.  A horse that can rock its weight/center of gravity back from a slight signal.  A horse that can abduct (reach from centerline out)either of its forelegs easily.  All of these things combined, leading to a horse that strengthens and uses its thoracic sling properly.  

I started with Connection Training and found a lot of value with clicker training, especially with motivation and clarity.  Then I dabbled with the BTMM, using the Masterclass on Facebook, which led to a much better understanding of how the thoracic sling actually functions.  Lastly, I’ve been doing the groundwork certification on dressage that in short, step by step videos and use of pressure and release covers the same ground. Strikingly so.

I’m about halfway through the groundwork program and I have to say it is my favorite of the three programs.  It only delves lightly into positive reinforcement aka clicker training and doesn’t go as much into the theory of the thoracic sling, but the end goal is exactly the same as the other two programs.  Groundwork that is accepting of contact, balanced, has easy foreleg abductions, and exhibiting proper thoracic sling development.  I think any of these programs can lead you to the correct place, but I have personally found to be the most step by step.  Also, the groundwork cues transfer into the ridden work very seamlessly.  

I started my online learning adventure with the TRT Method.  Where did you start and where are you now and why?

Monday, September 12, 2022

Recap Lesson 7

It worked out to be a month between lesson 6 and lesson 7 due to PHF and some nasty thunderstorms that made us cancel last week.  At lesson 6 we discussed adding another horse in the ring to see what Cruise would do and to start habituating him to traffic.  I did my usual lunge with side reins and a few minutes of groundwork with just us and then SW brought in a horse.  And Cruise promptly lost his s#$&.  It also didn’t help that the mare spooked at something as she came in the ring.  Anyway, after Cruise struck out(wtaf?) and I yelled at him, we got right to going through groundwork that moved his feet, interspersed with head lowering and short stints of standing still.  He came back to me pretty quickly and after 8-10 minutes I got on.

I did a cowboy circle 2-3 times to get his focus on me and then we were off.  He was pretty up and SW wanted me to make him go forward when he is up by doing lots of changes of direction at the walk.  So we did lots of small serpentines with halts and turn on the forehands mixed in.  

Then we moved on to trot using the same technique of forward with lots of changes of direction by doing half voltes to reverse interspersed with a few steps of sitting every now and then to get him off the forehand.  After about 3-4 minutes Cruise decided this was like work and became soft and responsive. We did a few 20m circles and called it good.

I was in general pleased with him, however, his reaction to having another horse in the ring really shows how much work we will have to do before even thinking about a show.  Also, SW was really on me about leaning forward when he is up and I’m not sure what he is going to do.  I’ve gotten better, but as soon as he gets squirrelly I revert a bit.  She wants me to ride the next couple of weeks just focusing on keeping my pubic bone and belt buckle up.  Like every single step.  Sigh.  On a good note, she was pleased with how I rode him forward, his square halts, and my green horse decision making.  So, we have a lesson scheduled in two weeks and if you need me I’ll be over here with my pubic bone and belt buckle tilted up.  That is all.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Vet Bills

Lest you think it is all rainbows and unicorns over her in Exploringdressagebiomechanics land, let me tell you about my vet bills.  We started out the year with routine maintenance in April.  Shots, teeth floated, Coggins pulled for Cruise.  Normal stuff and frankly it was quite nice to only have two.  

Then in June Jet became unable to chew hay.  Grass was fine, but he couldn’t chew hay almost overnight.  Drooling, with a lack of ability to chew.  This led to the second vet visit where the vet did a neurological exam, messed with his jaw quite a bit, then doped him up, prowled all around his mouth, and took a blood sample.  Quick conclusion was the vet couldn’t find anything wrong with his teeth, but there was a small abrasion on the interior gums on one side.  Antibiotics and painkillers dispensed, fingers crossed.  Jet seemed fine for a couple of weeks and then couldn’t chew hay again.  Vet came out the next day, said he had consulted with a vet friend who specializes in equine dentistry and that it might be Jet’s TMJ which can be difficult to diagnose.  So, long story short, Jet had some signs of TMJ discomfort, and the vet injected both joints.  Let me tell you that was a trip.  The joints are right above the eyes and you can visualize the rest.  Jet was doped to the gills and very very good.  So far, he is eating hay again comfortably except for the first bite where he makes a funny movement with his jaw.  Then it is down to business.  Fingers crossed this does the trick.  The literature says 50% of TMJ injections never have to be done again.  I’m also(another bill!) getting my chiropractor out to take a look at him because it is a joint, right?

So on to Cruise.  Just when I started to get confident that the TMJ injections had done the trick for Jet, Cruise didn’t finish his food last Thursday night.  Slightly elevated temperature.  I have had Potomac Horse Fever on the farm before(it’s fairly common in this area) and I got right on the phone to the vet.  Bless him, he is always busy but came out within 2 hours, hooked Cruise up with Banamine and antibiotics and left me with more of the same.  After a couple of hairy days feeling for hot feet, an increased digital pulse, and looking out for the diarrhea that indicates things are going towards laminitis(a fun side feature of PHF), Cruise started perking up, temperature came down, eating a bit, and is now over the worst.  Huge sigh of relief.  Interesting thing, he passed some roundworms on his third day of Doxycycline and that’s how we found out he has a resistant roundworm infection.  The Doxy kills the bacteria in the adult worms guts.  So that was kind of gross.  We’ve been following the vet’s worming and FEC recommendations but apparently the roundworms can be resistant to the ivermectin and moxidectin class of wormers that we’ve been using.  The vet recommended worming both horses with Strongid once, then thirty days after that, and then a FEC.

I have to say after rereading this how grateful I am for my vet of 20+ years.  He’s sort of old school, doesn’t talk much, and tends to start treatment without discussing a diagnosis (!!!) but he is a super good guy.  Very competent, very calming with the horses, willing to consult with other vets, and most importantly always comes out when I call, even when it’s inconvenient.  He lets me yammer and then answers my questions succinctly.  You better bet I pay my bills on time and also thank him profusely!