Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Back to the Land of the Living

I'm finally wearily raising my head after a rather hellish week battling a not quite the flu illness...I fell ill last Thursday when I was packing to head up to Harrisburg for the PA Horse World Expo to work the ISSO booth.  It was to be my first sidesaddle related outing since Camp Leaping Horn last August and I had really been looking forward to catching up with everyone, not to mention modeling my new leather apron.  But I'd started feeling a bit weak Thursday evening, and by Friday AM it was clear I wasn't going any further than the bathroom.  The weather has been very beautiful, and I've been wasting it more or less passed out in bed (much to the cats' glee...feverish humans make delightful hotwater bottles).  I don't remember too much, except that I tried to drive myself to the doctor's, got disoriented and couldn't remember where I was headed, so Bruce had to come find me and take me himself.  So, now I'm finally propped up, full of antibiotics and cough syrup and surrounded by boxes of tissues and empty throat lozenge wrappers.

But as I was falling ill last Thursday I did manage to squeeze in a ride.  I rode astride so I could really get up off Owen's back for some cross country work, but he still seemed somewhat tense and tight in the back.  I suppose the 40 mph wind gusts might have had something to do with that, but I tuned them out and forced Owen to think about schooling.  Helen had suggested using a shoulder in to renvers back to shoulder in movement in the canter to work on the changes, which didn't help me much with the tempis but it did make a tremendous difference in the canter pirouettes.  It really set Owen back on his hocks without having to resort to using my hands and I was pleased with the result.

Once again we rode 3s and 4s on the circle, with the straight lines being Owen's downfall.  It is not that Owen can't do the changes physically, but after about the 3rd swap he short circuits and starts getting very tense.  Obviously, the answer is a mental one, so I started a new approach to the tempis by riding long canter lines with simple changes through the halt every 3 strides.  I could feel Owen really starting to boil over, and when he tightened his back I just walked a small volte until he relaxed again and sought contact with the bit, at which point I resumed the exercise.  It was emotionally exhausting for Owen, and I was careful not to get after him for any mistakes, and eventually I was able to ride a few 3 tempi flying changes before he snapped.  This was followed by more simple changes and I alternated these with the flying changes and he began to realize that maybe they were no big deal.

I was really looking forward to building on this good work, and I hope that Owen has not forgotten his progress over the past week.

I do have to wonder, tho', do horses suffer cribbing withdraw?  Perhaps Owen needs a Nicoret patch during his transition to a crib-less existence.  I noticed that the underside of his neck is more overdeveloped than it was last year and I suspect he was cribbing more while at Michelle's.  When I'd visited him there he seemed happy and settled in, but my farrier, Liam, who saw Owen far more than I did over the previous 6 months, thought that Owen seemed lonely and even a bit mournful when he stopped by to do his feet.  I suppose tough guy Owen was a bit lonely and made up for it with increased self destructive behavior when humans weren't looking.  When I palpated his strap muscles he threw up his head, and there certainly are some big muscle knots in there.  The new collar is working very well since he doesn't even attempt to crib anymore, but it will probably be some weeks to months before I see any real physical benefit but I'm hoping his teeth and GI tract will also benefit in addition to his training.

In the meantime, I've been having a custom decal made for our horse trailer, one that reflects our interest in sidesaddle, dressage, and musical freestyle.  Here is what the artist came up with:

I'm getting one for each side of the trailer.

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