Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday Lesson...Followed by a Sunday NAP!

Kelsey Briggs, you are a slave driver in an eventer's body.  Just kidding, you know I love you!!!  But really - I tacked up Sunday morning and started my lesson at 11 am.  I did not dismount until 1 pm, dripping in sweat, and exhausted, but with lots of new knowledge that made it all worthwhile.

It was a tough ride this week.  I am working really hard on breaking the habit of hanging onto my inside rein.  We have discovered that the more you hang on the inside rein, the more she leans in and bulges the outside shoulder.  So we are working now on MY habit of using the inside rein instead of using my outside aids. 

In addition, Kelsey is trying to gently coach me into trusting my mare more and more.  It is hard to break a cycle of fear that has been going for several years now.  In all honesty, Delilah hasn't done that much to truly warrant me being afraid of her.  We've had a LOT of running around, but nothing overtly terrifying, a few unsettling spooks and one very minor fall, and a lot of headtossing.  But in truth, the mare deserves more trust from me.  So I am working on it.  It helps to watch her training rides, and see how calm and relaxed she is learning to be.  Every time I watch her go around like that, it reinforces in my stubborn little pea brain that she is capable of going calmly, and deserving of my trust.  So I am working on it, step by step.  We decided to do my next dressage lesson in one of the paddocks, to see if being contained in an area other than a giant open field will make me feel a little more comfortable and get ME to relax. 

Sometimes I feel like the slow kid in class.  My biggest problem, other than fighting nervous tension, is that I tend to react too slowly.  I see Delilah pull the same tricks when Kelsey rides her - bulging a shoulder, tossing a head, leaning in...the difference is that she nips it in the bud so much faster than me.  By the time I pick up on what is going wrong, it is three strides further ahead, and most of the time something else is going wrong by that point too.  It can be frustrating, putting all the puzzle pieces together to add up to that perfect picture.  But I am determined to get there in time.

So at the end of our ride, I gave Delilah a much deserved bath, went home and showered myself, and then passed out for a two hour nap.  It was nothing short of a perfect Sunday. 

Oh, and a quick side note - I think I have mentioned before that Delilah has always been a freak about people touching her ears.  She also detests the gnats getting near her ears when we are riding, and even flips her head around if her mane is tickling them too much.  So when I went to the Camden tack shop on Saturday, I bought a crochet ear net to try, thinking to myself that there was no way I would EVER get it on her.  Well, shockingly enough, I had it on her in less than two attempts.  I was a PROUD mama!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Barns, New Training, New Update From the Vet....

Some mornings I want to pinch myself to see if life is really going as smoothly as it appears.  Everytime I do, I end up with a pea sized bruise...but a quick reminded that indeed - life is good.  I am ecstatic to see how happy both of my ponies are.  Delilah is more personable than she has EVER been.  I don't know what it is about the new barn...I have wondered if it is just getting away from the horses she has always lived with that made her cling to the people a little more, or possibly something else...  Regardless, I am just happy that she has settled in so well.  Everyone at the new barn dotes on her and admires her.  One of Kelsey's students told me last night that they think she will make a fabulous eventer.  It is so nice to hear people admiring your horse, when before she was so often the red-headed stepchild at the barn. 

She has settled into training beautifully.  She looks incredible - Kelsey keeps her in a stall or a shaded paddock, so her coat looks better than ever.  And she has lost her big grass gut, from the combination of regular work, and regulated turnout.  Kelsey started jump schooling in her second week of training, so we took some video on Sunday afternoon of her schooling jumps.  It went so well that Kelsey hopped off, switched me her boots and half chaps for my flip-flops, and let me hop on to try her out over a tiny crossrail.
(We'll see if I end up posting the video of that...I have to admit, I am shamefully in shorts and half-chaps, which equates to me as a mortal sin of riding, but nevertheless, it was worth it!)

I started out by trotting her around and feeling her out a bit.  The difference from a week prior when I rode her was so apparent, it was amazing.  She was instantly softer and lighter than ever before.  We did a few circles, then hopped a small crossrail Kelsey set for us.  Before I knew it, we were cantering off, and I didn't even realize until six strides out that we were CANTERING, and it was supposed to be SCARY....What an amazing feeling!  We cantered around the open field, came back to a trot, and I hopped off and loved on her like crazy. 

I have a huge bad habit I am working on erasing.  My previous trainer had me relying on my inside rein to "pick up" Delilah's inside shoulder and keep her from leaning on it and curling behind the bit.  Kelsey has figured out that too much contact on the inside rein does entirely the opposite - it causes her to lean on the inside shoulder even more.  So I am working really hard on correcting the habit of laying on that rein constantly.  It is so HARD to break bad habits!

And finally, an update on Samson!  He has been cleared for a slow and cautious rehab program!  We are going to start out with a lot of walking, then start adding in five minutes of trot work after a couple weeks.  Lots of trails and basic, slow strength building.  His ultrasound looked fantastic - Smokey didn't see much to be concerned about in terms of long term soundness issues - he just wants to make sure we take it very slow and cautious.  He was a little concerned about his weight loss, so we discussed a few different options to help him continue gaining the weight back that he lost while he was on stall rest.  He is getting spoiled with alfalfa hay now, and he has already gained a little since getting put on Strategy and his supplements.  So our plan is in place to get Samson back in the saddle again! 

Below is a video compilation of Kelsey's training ride on Sunday, June 19th - Delilah's second week in training.  Amazing progress, yet again!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Delilah's Training - Week One - June 14th

More to come later, but I discovered the awesome video editing tool and made a compilation of all the videos I took of Delilah's first week in training! These were all taken on Tuesday, June 14th - after only a WEEK in training!!! I cannot thank Kelsey enough for all the phenomenal work she is doing with this cool little mare. We had an amazing schooling session yesterday too, so more to come soon!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Video from Training Ride!

Well, I am ecstatic to report that Delilah's training is progressing phenomenally! I got to observe her whole training ride yesterday, and I cannot say enough good things about her progress. I am attaching a video of her canter work, after only one week. Kelsey has made amazing progress with her. She was calm, balanced, and didn't flip her head at all. Kelsey has done a lot of work on not letting her run into the canter, but rather lifting into a smooth transition, and it has made all the difference in the world. She needs a lot of strengthening and balancing still, so we talked about adding back in a lower level joint supplement to help her with her old minor stifle injury. I still cannot BELIEVE the progress they have made in only a week of training! I find myself wishing I had done this a long time ago, but regardless, I am ecstatic to have finally gotten things moving for the better!

Monday, June 13, 2011

First Lesson, and Delilah's First Week of Training!

So, it is official - my little mare has completed her first week of training! First and foremost, my hat goes off to Kelsey Briggs for the amazing work she has started with Delilah. We had our first lesson Sunday morning, which was actually the first time she has ever seen me ride my mare! I took a joint lesson with Robyn, and we trailered her gelding Linkin over for the first time. We had an absolute BLAST working with Kelsey for the better part of an hour and a half. She was so good about flipping back and forth, helping one of us, then giving homework to work on for a few minutes while she focused on the other....She is an awesome instructor.

I have to admit, I had the minor fantasy that I would get on and Delilah would show this immeasurable improvement...turns out that I am going to need just as much work and she does! I know this for a fact, because we worked for quite awhile on getting a nice steady contact at the trot, but our biggest problem (as usual!) was the consistency of her gait and the contact. Turns out, I know that I will need a lot of work as well, because Kelsey hopped on her for a few minutes to demonstrate a couple of things, and after ONE slightly rough circle, she had her completely together and looking PHENOMENAL. I was absolutely amazed. She had her going in figure eights, with perfect (and correct!) bend, engaged behind, and with steady contact in her hands. I have never seen her look so incredible.

She does her training rides in the morning, so I am actually going to stop out tomorrow before Samson's vet visit and hopefully get some pictures or video to add! I am really excited to see the progress continue. She is doing the most incredible work with her!!!

In addition, I have met the most amazingly generous woman who boards at Robyn's farm, who has offered me total access to ride her warmblood mare anytime I want while Samson recovers from his injury! I rode her for the first time on Friday night, and she was an awesome ride. She is a huge mover, and a very steady and trustworthy jumper. I am so excited and grateful to have the chance to continue to ride her!!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Big News for the Future!

Well, it has been a crazy couple of weeks, but we have big and exciting news! After six years, I have moved away from my old barn. The exciting part is that this means my mare is finally going into TRAINING!!!! She moved into her new home last night, and is going to start out with 30-60 days of professional training effective immediately! I am so excited to finally get the ball rolling and make some progress and decisions on whether she is going to be my long-term horse or not.

I have to say, I am immensely proud of how she has handled the last couple days. We moved her out of the old barn on Wednesday night, and she stayed the night at the farm where my gelding has gone to live. Now, I have to preface the whole "moving" feat with the fact that this mare has probably only been on a trailer a sum total of about three times, and as far as we know, has only lived on a total of three different farms in her ten years. So the fact that she strolled right onto the trailer, walked back off, and did nothing more than look around a little excitedly was stellar! She and Samson called back and forth to each other for awhile in their new home, but that was the most of the excitement.

Then we loaded her up again last night without a hitch and moved her to her new trainer's barn. She stood patiently on the trailer while we put up a few horses, then walked right off and strolled into her new paddock without any apprehension at all. She trotted around when the horses were turned out beside her, but settled in and started eating calmly in no time. Her new trainer is very excited to have her, and I can't wait to see how they progress together!

Samson is settling in well too. I "tucked him in" last night at his new place (this basically means giant hugs and kisses, in excess!) last night before leaving the farm. He seems to have adjusted easily, and is enjoying the "boo-boo paddock" by himself until we can get the vet out to follow up on his suspensory injury. I contacted his former owner a few days ago to see if she is interested in possibly taking him back. The decision to leave my barn was unexpected, and keeping up with the expense of both horses while Samson has had his injuries has been pretty overwhelming. Unless the vet tells me radically different about his prognosis, I am thinking that he needs to go to a home where he can be enjoyed as a trail and flatwork horse only. I just don't feel right about jumping him in light of the latest injury.

So, that is the biggest news for now. I can't wait to get my blog going again with new progress. I am hoping Delilah will get her first training ride this weekend, and I can't wait to tell all about it! It is so exciting to have such promising opportunities ahead of us!!