Monday, November 30, 2015

Anything to See?

Thankful for this big guy

Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. Mine afforded me some time with the hubby, who ever so graciously came to the barn one day to video bits of my ride. It was a lovely weekend weather-wise up here in the PNW - cold but several days of sunshine. I made the best of it and tried to get Ben out a few times in our bigger arena.

My goal with the video was to get a bit of a "check in" to see how he is moving, as compared to his earlier video when he was in much better shape, under the careful guidance of our trainer- oh those were the days! The theme I've been experiencing with him lately is a an okay walk-warm up, then crap trot transitions, crap trotting with lots of resistances -above, sideways, behind the bit - all seemingly stemming from the hind end. I've been trying to let him do some canter with me staying out of his way, and then when I get that, then I go back to trot and everything there is generally much better. In watching these videos I can still see the fussing, and I can see that he could be taking better steps behind, generally be a bit more forward. I can tell you as the rider, the trot FEELS much better after his canter.

Part of me is wondering if there is a lameness issue- a weakness behind yet to be diagnosed. I am interested in getting our new vet to do a work up, but that is going to have to wait until after the holidays. In the mean time, I am going to keep conditioning because I do feel like that will give me more to go on anyway.

Here are the videos - in sequential order. They are intentionally short bits so the files are smaller.

First Trot:

Canter Left
Canter Right
Trot Left after Cantering:
Trot Right after Cantering:

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gain Some (Canter), Lose Some (Trot)

Last week Ben and I finally had our first lesson in ages - well over a year. Our trainer hadn't seen him since before the nose-wiener removal. On the plus side, he was full of it - tons of energy to go go go (YAY for no more breathing problems!) On the downside, he has lost a lot of condition and strength that he had. So all of the suppleness we had worked for was virtually gone, and in its place were new (and old) evasions.

We basically worked on getting clean transitions and a bit more control of the right-side, his weak side. Ben's new thing is to grab the right side of the bit, and GO - especially when rounding the short side of the arena. So step one was to move onto the quarterline as he loves to get sucked onto the wall. Step two was getting him to give us a regular, consistent speed at the walk - no speed up, slow down, chomp chomp chomp on the bit. Third was to give us some flexion on the right - respond to my right leg, respond to my fingers closing on the right rein. OMG total tune-out. "LALALALA I don't hear you!" says Bennifer. Once those things were in place- lets be real - just an exercise to be on my aids, I could then ask him for a trot and get actual real trot steps vs a mish mosh of pace-tranter-to-trot-walk-back to trot.

So yea, that was fun- not. Our homework is, well, transitions. And getting consistent walk. And responding to the aids in turn on haunches, turn on forehand. And more transitions - try to re-establish the transition within the gait, which we were lacking (either TROTTTTTTTTING immediately to the dead-man walk). Oh, and, add in trot-to-canter.

Small list, right? We've been chipping away at it all week...and as it goes some things are great one day while others are sucking, and then the next ride things are swapped the good is now bad and vice versa. For us, it is swapping the quality of gaits - if the trot feels good the canter is crap, and if the canter feels good the trot isn't great. I am hopeful though that one day we'll be able to string it all together and have one amazing ride, LOL.

Now that I think about it, I may know why my canter has gotten better and the trot has gone to the crapper. The past few rides I've gotten on Ben's case about his walk - you know it is so easy to mess up a walk so it is careful going. The problem is that Ben's walk is so lackluster, slow, behind the leg. As if he's asleep. What I am doing, is using a metronome during our warmup. The setting is low, lower than what I'm reading other people use- but my goal is to at least get a consistent rhythm to the walk, and then maybe later see about getting it to be a bit more active. But for now, it is plenty active for where he is at in his fitness level. I'm thinking that since the walk is so closely connected to the canter, that his canter has improved by proxy, LOL. The trot, admittedly, we're working just on transitions- which does improve the overall trot but it isn't like we're staying in trot for huge lengths of time.

And so we go -continuing down the path towards excellence - picking our battles one at a time, and overcoming obstacles in the process. Next week I'd like to start throwing in some cavaletti work but will do so judiciously given his level of fitness. No sense in rushing things - we're in it for the long haul.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Back to this Dressage Thing

Life is never dull when you share it with Ben! I've come to the conclusion that he basically has to have some kind of drama in his life at all times - you know, to break up the monotony of doing actual, real honest to goodness work ;)

So in my last post I mentioned that was back on the job, earning his keep so to speak. Things were going relatively well-  a bit of a saddle fit dilemma but nothing major & easily fixed. Summer eased in to fall and I started riding him more, now with my mare in full training. One week, I started to notice Ben doing something funny when I put him up in his stall for the night. He'd go to the back corner and stretch out as if to pee, but never did he actually pee. He'd stand there, looking at his belly - kind of like the onset of colic. However, it lasted all of a couple of minutes - he'd snap out of it and head to his food waiting for him. So of course I'm thinking he's on the path to death, so I call the vet and explain what is happening. We scheduled an appointment for a few days later, thinking we'd get his annual check up/vaccination/float done and also talk about possible ulcers, as that is what it sounded like, though in my mind I was prepared to be shocked if he had ulcers - as he doesn't seem to fit the "type."

The next day rolls around, and I head up to the barn. On my way up I get a text saying "Ben Colicking, Call Me" I got there and saw that while he was in distress, it wasn't colic, rather, it was choke. However, there was no discharge - just him wheezing and making a donkey-brayish noise. So I called our vet and thank goodness he was about 5 minutes out. We got Ben sedated and got the obstruction cleared. While doing so, we were talking about the behavior that I had been witnessing, and thought that perhaps it was related, in addition to his previous nose wiener issues (does he have damage to his esophagus from a tubing gone wrong?)- the best course of action being getting him scoped to see what is going on in there.

A few days later, Ben packed up for the clinic. I cried my eyes out for 2 days straight, convinced I was going to get horrible news of irreparable, life threatening damage. After fasting all night, Ben's appointment was to be that morning, and the clinic said they'd call as soon as it was done. All morning goes by and I heard nothing. They did say they would have to delay if an emergency came up. Still, by noon, I had heard nothing. I finally decided to give them until 1 pm, thinking that maybe they keyed in my phone number incorrectly. When I finally did call, they told me that they had to delay Ben's scope not due to an emergency, or running behind had to delay it till the afternoon because my horse thought he was being starved and ate shavings through the muzzle, and they were waiting for those to pass.

The were finally able to scope him in the afternoon and found...drum roll please... nothing. Absolutely nothing. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Well...they did catch the tail end of the shavings...but no scar tissues, abnormalities, or ulcers. His bloodwork was totally clean. When it comes to his nose, airway, esophagus and stomach - Ben is a picture of health. So the sum of it is-  my horse believes he has to gulp food and eat everything in site. He now lives on his hay and mush wet meals, for life.

That said, after a couple of days off, Ben got back to work. Our trainer finally came down last week for a lesson and gave us LOTS of homework to do that basically all involve some element of suppleness and 1 million transitions between and within gaits. The plan going forward is to lesson once a month. My goal is to be able to finally start crackin' on stabilizing and balancing his canter so that he can keep it for longer. Now wouldn't it be great if next year I could show him at training level again, and maybe even 1st?