Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dinah rides out

Dinah has been getting better and better each time I ride her. It amazing to think that three weeks ago, she couldn't canter on the longe, and now she is cantering under saddle. I have been working more on circles and improving her balance and rhythm. I have started to work on canter leads, so when she gets the wrong lead, I tell her to trot, and then ask her again to canter and praise her if she gets her lead. The canter is a 3 beat gate, a lead is when the horse reaches further forward with the inside front, and then they bring the outside front and inside hind, and then outside hind. I started longing her over a pole on the ground, and then I rode her over the pole. At this point I am just trying to get Dinah used to as many things as possible so she will be ready to handle anything at the competition. One new challenge was that there was a large play ball in the arena, probably about 3 ft in diameter. She was not so sure about it at first, but I encouraged her to walk up to it and then pushed it around and encouraged Dinah to push it with her nose, and she did! It was really cute.

Today was a big day of progress with Dinah. We began with grooming and then a hand walk. It had been raining and Dinah was kind of wet so I wanted her to dry before I put her saddle on. After the hand walk I worked on walking her all around the barn, led her through the barn, into a stall, on mats, concrete, I dragged a chair around while I was leading her, just trying to do all kinds of things to get her ready to handle the competition. Then I took her to the stair step, and practiced doing a turn on the forehand keeping her front feet on the first stair. It took a little work and patience but once she figured out what I wanted she was really good.
Sometimes she just wants to charge ahead and I have to remind her to wait and think for a second about what I am asking. Breaking through the fight or flight response and trying to get her to think about what I am asking, not just to try to get away. After all of that we went back to her pen and I got her ready to ride. I first longed her with side reins. I worked a lot on transitions and she was very obedient. Then I walked her on the longe and did some leg yielding on the longe line. Leg yielding is when the horse moves forward and sideways, crossing their legs over as they walk or trot. I stayed at Dinah's shoulder and maintained my contact to keep a slight inside bend. Then I pushed into her with my body and the whip and asked her to step over, and when she did it I gave her lots of praise. It was much more difficult to the right than the left, which just shows I need to keep working on balancing her out. Then I rode her walk trot canter, worked on moving her shoulders from outside rein. As I was finishing riding some other riders came into the arena. It is time for Dinah to start getting used to riding in the arena with other horses. She is not concerned about horses in front of her but she does not like horses to come up beside her. I spent a while walking her around and between other horses that were standing still. Then a lady named Carol with a nice quiet horse help me work with Dinah around the arena and get her more used to having a horse near her. Carol came just close enough to make Dinah a little nervous but not panicked. The idea is to put a little pressure on, and then take it off and repeat. This way the horse learns that the pressure is not going to hurt them and it's not going to stay forever. The idea is to show her that it's not really as bad as she thinks, an she realized that pretty quick. We walked and trotted with the other horse around the arena both directions, as usual the right was much more difficult. After this she stood quietly about 3 feet from the other horses. She is going to need more work on this, but today was a big day. After the arena carol and I went out on a short loop around the property, the same one I have handwalked many times. She was great on the trail, I think because she was pretty tired! I was tired too after all that work, but I am very proud of Dinah. As always thanks for reading and feel free to comment!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinah gets a hair cut

I realized it has been a while since I last did a blog post. I think getting Dinah's teeth done has made a world of difference for her. It is amazing to me how much her teeth were affecting her whole body and way of moving. It makes sense, but seeing the change in the horse was really eye opening for me. Last week I rode her in the covered arena and we even tried a little canter! She was not so sure about cantering with me on her back, but she did it. We had a little run in with the wall of the arena after one canter, but besides that, she was very good. No buck or silly business. At this point, teaching Dinah to go forward is the goal. As long as she moves forward from my leg, I am happy with her. I am starting to introduce bending, circles and moving off my leg. I also have been rinsing Dinah off and trying to get her used to as many stimuli as possible so that when she gets to the competition she will be calm. Darby has still been watching me ride Dinah to make sure we are safe and to help me if we get in a tough spot. Darby also gave Dinah a cute mane trim, she looks very fancy now! Darby's dad came to visit Dinah, so I got to practice riding her in front of an audience.
I longed her in a different arena, to start getting her used to being worked in different places. She handled it like a champ, and was not even phased by horses riding by. The next day I longed her again in the covered arena because it was pouring rain. I was very proud of her because she was very good even though she could barely hear my voice commands over the noise of the rain on the roof. She really tries very hard and is such a good girl.
Yesterday I rode her in the jumping arena and she was great. I am starting to ride her with more contact and ask her not only to go forward but to carry herself with a little bend and balance. I was having a little trouble getting her to go forward so I carried a dressage whip. She was much better with the whip, I think I will carry one from now on. I introduced turn on the forehand, where Dinah is supposed to rotate her body around her inside front leg. I taught it to her starting with her body on the rail to give her confidence. I created a little resistance with my hands, moved my outside leg back, and asked her to step over with her haunches. She thought about it for a minute, and then stepped over, she is so smart! I am going to ride her again today. This coming week we are going to work on trailer loading and weather permitting, go out on the trail.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dinah rides off line

Dinah has made a lot of progress in the past few days. I think her teeth are feeling a lot better, and that is really making a big difference. It really shows how important good dental work is. Dinah did not have a lot of work this past week because she was recovering from having her teeth done and it was very rainy. On Monday morning I longed her with her tack on. She wanted to stop a lot and I was having trouble with her getting stuck in corners. Especially when tracking right she throws her shoulder out, which pulls me in front of her drive line and makes it hard for me to keep her forward. After some persistence, she improved and was trotting nicely around the circle. I then took her for a walk around the property and finished up. Dinah had another chiropractor appointment, and the chiro said that Dinah's eye seemed softer and her neck and jaw felt much better (most likely because of her teeth). She is still very tight in her hips. The chiro said that Dinah is one of only 5% of horses that have an overly steep angle to their pelvis. Most horses need to rotate their pelvis down to allow them to come more under themselves, but Dinah's pelvis angle is too steep. The chiro gave me some exercises to push Dinah's pelvis back in the correct direction. I rode her in the afternoon, longed her first and then got on. She was again resistant in the longing, but better after some work. Just like in riding, leg (the whip) steady contact, and half halts are the key to keeping her going on the longe line. When I got on her I rode her on the longe line. She is doing great with me riding, her transitions are getting really smooth. I have started to work on bending on circles and also pushing her into the corners. She is so smart, it really amazes me. It is definitely much harder for her to travel to the right than the left, she is much less balanced. The next day I just gave her a short longe before I rode her. From now on, every day longe time will decrease and ride time will increase. Then I got on on longe, rode her on circles and straight lines. Then I did the same thing off longe and she was great. I am really proud of her! After her ride I rinsed her off with the hose, which she wasn't so sure about at first but she settled down after she realized it felt pretty good. There was lots of activity out at the ranch, I am trying to start walking her around activity so she can get used to other horses moving around her and her not getting to follow them. One of the things I have to do in the competition is to release and catch her. In the afternoon I practiced this, I turned her out in the round pen and caught her a few times. She was very good about this as well. After that I walked her over the stair step thing and also over the teeter totter bridge, a wood bridge that is on a fulcrum so as the horse walks over it drops down, she was great! Then I took her on a walk around the property and worked on trotting in hand and let her graze some. I am very happy with her progress so far this week. Looking forward to more riding, and hoping for nice weather. A question I have, it seems like her belly gets swollen where her girth goes, not that much and it doesn't seem painful, but I was wondering if this is something that happens with young horses? Any info appreciated! Maybe she is just building muscle there, I'm not sure. Dinah is going to be moving to a new pen soon, because I need to separate her from her boyfriend George, they have become a little too bonded, so I am going to move her so it won't be so traumatic when I take her to the competition. A little less than two months till Norco! Hotel room booked, no turning back now! Next week I will work on trailer loading, and maybe take her out on the trail. I also measured Dinah and she is 14.2 hands, so she is right at the cutoff between pony and horse. She weighs 795 pounds. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dinah goes to the dentist

Dinah had a great workout on Monday. I longed her and then rode her on the longe line. I rode her at the walk and trot, in a circle and around the arena. We worked on transitions and also turning around the arena. She was very well behaved about everything. The next day it was very windy and rainy, so Dinah got the day off. On Wednesday, Dinah had an appointment with a veterinarian to float her teeth. The veterinarian was named Chuck Kessenger and he arrived at 3:00 to take care of Dinah's teeth. He sedated her two times and then opened her mouth using an instrument called a speculum. Then he checked in her mouth and asked me if I wanted to feel inside her mouth. She had very sharp edges to her molars and when I felt inside her mouth, her gums were rough where her teeth were rubbing her. She also still had one of her baby molars, called a cap, sitting on top of her permanent molar. The vet removed this tooth as well, I will include pictures of her removed teeth. After he had her teeth all filed down, he removed her wolf teeth, which seemed to not feel so good. I commented in an earlier blog that I was concerned about Dinah's right eye, because it was consistently runny. I asked the vet about this and he said that potentially her tear duct was clogged. He used a saline syringe and a small tube to push the saline through her tear duct, and it was in fact clogged. He kept pushing the saline through until it went through easily. I waited about 30 minutes to let her come out of sedation and then I walked her back to her stall. I gave her some horsey aspirin and let her sleep it off. The next day Darby helped me work with her on the longe line. I was planning on riding her, but she seemed like her mouth was bothering her so I just worked her on the longe line. Hopefully more riding next week and a visit from the chiropractor!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dinah trots

Dinah is now trotting under saddle! Today was my fifth ride on Dinah, and I feel good about the progress we are making. Darby helped me work out some of the problems I was having on the longe line, and she is now longeing all around the covered arena, walk, trot and canter, both directions. I have been riding her on the longe line, in case she panics, Darby has the longe line as a safe guard. Today I longed her and then I got on. I started by practicing walk halt transitions, using voice command she already knows and bit pressure which she already knows about because of the longe line and side reins. She is very sensitive! But also amazingly smart, and such a quick learner. I also started asking her to move forward from leg pressure, she knows how to move off of pressure, but not from leg, so that is a new thing.
Dinah also had a visit from the chiropractor last Tuesday. It was very interesting to watch and suprising to me how much Dinah enjoyed the process. She kept looking around at Amanda (the chiropractor) and seemed siprised, like she was saying "wow, that feels a lot better now, thanks!". She started with Dinah's head and neck, moved down her back, worked on her hips, and her hind end. I will post a picture of the evaluation she wrote up, which identifies all the areas she covered. She said she was surprised
Dinah had been so well behaved because her right hip was very out of place. She also said that Dinah's humerus in her left front had dropped down, so it was not sitting correctly in her scapula. I will post a photo of this joint so you can look at it. After the session, Dinah seemed happy and relaxed. The chiropractor was very generous to do this session free of charge, and she is going to see Dinah one more time on Wednesday. Another thing Dinah need to have done is she needs her teeth looked at. When horses are born they have deciduous teeth or milk teeth which fall out when they are around 2,3 and 4 years old. Dinah has her middle permanent incisors, but her middle and outside teeth are still baby teeth, soooo cute! Horses are also sometimes born with teeth in front of their first pre-molar, just where the bit should sit. Not all horses have these teeth, called wolf teeth, but if they do they must be removed. When I was at cal poly I helped remove wolf teeth during a castration, it was really cool. I am waiting for a call back from the equine dentist. There are so many things to do to prepare a horse to be a good riding horse for the rest of its life. I am going to ride Dinah again today, and maybe take her out on the trail.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dinah gets shoes!

Dinah had a big day yesterday, and she was great. I went to see her in the morning and I got her ready. It has been really hot the past few days so she is shedding a lot. After I got her ready I longed her in the round pen and she was listening well. I have been putting her bridle on over her halter, but yesterday, she wore just her bridle. I also switched her longe line to the bridle, running it over the top of her head. Then Darby came and held her for me while I got on. It was a nice calm day out at the ranch, not a lot going on, and she was really good while I was riding her. I got on twice from the left and twice from the right and walked her in about three circles with Darby leading her each time I got on. She was perfect, and didn't seem concerned about the person on her back. Laura Wainwright and Hazel came to visit, and all the great photos of the riding are thanks to her!
In the afternoon Darby put shoes on Dinah's front feet. Darby trimmed her feet to make them level and balanced and then measured them so she could custom make shoes for each of Dinah's feet. After measuring her feet Darby had to hand make each shoe out of a stick of steel. She put the steel in her forge and it rises to 3000 degrees so she can bend it and shape it to fit Dinah's feet. A lot of farriers use pre made shoes, but Darby hand makes each shoe to fit each horse. After she gets the shape of the shoe and punches the nail holes, she has to burn it to the foot. This means she holds the hot shoe to Dinah's foot to make sure that it fits the shape. Then she nailed the shoes on. Dinah behaved beautifully through the entire process. After she got her shoes we took her on a walk and she seemed very proud of her new shoes. Tomorrow another ride and a chiropractic appointment. The horse looking over the fence in the picture is Dinah's boyfriend George. He is a sweet Arab who is recovering from a leg injury.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The power of positive

I think I have learned more from Dinah this week than she has learned from me. Wednesday we had a good workout, it was raining so I went straight to the covered arena and hand walked her. When I was on her left she was fine, but when I moved over to the right side, she didn't want to go forward and kept wanting to back up. I worked her through it using voice commands and then quit for the day. The next day, I was hoping the issue would be resolved, but no such luck. It was again a rainy day, and Dinah was even worse about backing up when I was on her right. She did not improve, and was actually getting worse so I knew we were not communicating properly. I think part of the problem was the rain on the roof of the arena, it was loud an very distracting to her. After about 20 minutes of trying to get her to go forward I decided to take her back to the round pen, and work her there. The round pen is smaller and she is more comfortable in there. Once in the round pen I worked her both directions and she was fine. I put her away, and she seemed irritated during our grooming session. I thought about this workout a lot for the whole next day. I think I was trying to force Dinah to go forward, instead of stopping taking a minute to breath, and making going forward the better option for her. I always tell my students make it easy for them to do the right thing, and hard for them to do the wrong thing. I think I forgot my own advice when I was working with her this day, I kind of expected her to go forward instead of rewarding her when she did. I also think I threw a lot of new skills at Dinah, rain noise, different longe attachment, rider, long lining, in one week, without taking enough time to review. I learned that it is so important to review first to gain confidence, and then start a new skill. This is why warm up is so important! The next day I went in with a different plan that Darby helped me come up with. If she wanted to back up, calmly and slowly keep backing her up until she wanted to go forward, and then as soon as she went forward lots of praise. This worked really well! I walked her all around the barn and even walked through it once! She tried to back a few times, but my new method of correction worked really well. Instead of telling her what I didn't want her to do, I ignored the wrong behavior and praised the correct behavior. Today I was busy teaching so I just had a short time before and after work, so I groomed her and walked her around the property. She is getting really good about picking up her feet, lifting each one before I ask. She has also learned to wear a sheet, which I am going to start putting on her to help keep her coat nice. Hopefully I will get to sit on her again next week.