Sunday, 31 October 2010

Gone Till December

This time last week I was blogging about how I'd been soaked through to my knickers in a hail storm...thankfully this Sunday the weather was far kinder and undergarmentals remained dry! Although the air temperatures could only have been in the high end of single figures, there was no wind and plenty of sun, so it was plenty toasty.

I rode Quadi with just a cotton numnah under his saddle. I noticed, once on board and securing the girth, that although he'd put on a bit of weight at his last weight-taping, his girth is no more snug. This goes hand-in-hand with his saddle fitting better without the need for pads or shims, rather than getting fat he's broadened over his back and wither. I could really feel his hind legs and hips pinging my hips with each stride as we set out. I also booted him, he's still feeling his frogs a little. The central sulcus of both fronts is still a little deep and contracted, so pony trainers are necessary for outings.

From the off I asked him to walk smartly without gawking or stargazing. Kate had ridden him yesterday and the effects of that were apparent, he was completely ready for work and I made little effort in my aids for forwards, soft and level. A small part of that was Kate's advice from last weekend to be more effective with my leg aids, but a whacking huge part of it was down to her riding and 'fine tuning' of my horse from the day before! I was most pleased, and grateful, as this proves how much I have to learn and improve, my horse is plenty capable :)

On the road out I could pretty much maintain this softness in hand the whole way, using my legs as I vibrated the reins (I was re-reading Heather Moffett's 'Enlightened Equitation' book tonight and she describes this like squeezing water out of a sponge, I like that a lot). He was a little head-tossy/snatchy out of the driveway, and I wonder if I ought to put the nosenet back on? He wasn't like that for Kate yesterday, but I'm not sure I was doing anything to prompt this, so I can only assume the cause is something environmental?

Also, because our normally-dependable lead pony Fin has a wee issue with passing a particular house...when he stopped, we stopped. It's just such a pain that I can't ask Quadi to take the lead in these situations! Well, I can ask, and I do ask, but by this point Drama Llama takes over and we grow roots, the farthest we can ever proceed is to Fin's shoulder *lol*

I gave him plenty of stretch breaks and played a little with some slowed lateral work, as he is prone to rushing through without bending otherwise. On the way home I could feel him tire mentally which resulted in some restless head carriage, but nothing horrid and by the time we were nearly home he'd settled down. I rewarded him with free reins along the driveway and loosened his girth, and we sauntered up the road :)

I did come home with a sore right knee, in an effort to keep him straight past the spooky house I fear I've been too crude and tense and hurt myself. I merely had my leg placed along his side but I was trying to tie myself in a knot, somehow thinking this was an effective means of aiding my horse. Lesson learned!

I'm glad he was such a good boy today and that we had such a pleasant and productive hack, it'll have to tide me over until I return from work in December!

Friday, 29 October 2010

Thwarted By Rain Clouds

I had high hopes for a ride today but by the time yard chores were done with, the gale force winds brought with them shards of rain. To that end, I gave schooling in the open field a miss!

What I did do was check Quadi's saddle fit. It now fits without the aid of a Prolite riser or a lambskin half pad :) He's looking the best he ever has, muscles (albeit soft!) in all the correct places and just the right shape. For a horse who has not been in any 'proper' work for a couple of months now, this makes me very happy indeed. Obviously I'd prefer to be able to work him a lot more often and I anticipate a quiet winter for us both, but this year has zipped past so quickly, it won't be long before spring again. Very personally, the sort of sporadic work that Quadi is in right now is a pet peeve of mine, but it can't be helped.

Rather than lose all opportunity to work, I opted to do some carrot stretches/target work. It's been months, maybe even over a year, since I did any considered clicker work with Quadi, but he hasn't forgotten anything! Unfortunately asking him to follow the target to do his stretches was too exciting, he was abrupt and jerky rather than moving smoothly as he does for a treat in-hand. But he really enjoyed the target work. I remember the excitement being why I stopped, I didn't (and perhaps still don't) have the desire to learn more about it in order to harness this enthusiasm and channel it more effectively. Once again I noticed a marked difference between stretching down and right, and down and left. The latter being his better bend for this work.

His feet were also trimmed, and are really taking shape too. The whole inner hoof capsule continues to shift back and up under him, and those slipper-like hinds are finally looking like horse feet from all angles.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Caught Out

It was sunny but windy, and Kate mooted the idea of clipping instead of hacking. I pointed out the blue skies and said we should take the opportunity to hack whilst we could. So it's my fault really...

Today I wanted to see if I could make any impact on Quadi's way of going, trying to spend at least part of the hack doing some decent flexion and softening work. What hard work! It's been an age since I was last thinking seriously about schooling, and to that end I'm a little rusty and lacking timing. I managed not to give away my contact but still use too much hand and not enough leg. When I finally redressed the balance (after a few pointers from Kate!) we were going along really nicely, I don't think I've ever managed to maintain shape and softness of my horse on a hack. Ok, so it was only for 5 minutes but hopefully next time it'll be 6 minutes, and then 7...

We investigated a lane which, once you've gone through a farm, gives us opportunity for a cheeky canter. We didn't go that far today but now I know where to go when we're out on our own >:)

As we doubled back for home I pointed out some very low grey murk in the distance. Only it wasn't really in the distance, it was on top of us. We were quickly and completely battered silly by north winds, rain and then hail! On the way out both boys had pratted once again at the llamas and ducks, but give them their dues they got us home despite facing into the weather the whole way! I broke down with giggles even though I couldn't feel most bits of myself *lol*

We could tell they really wanted to turn their bums to the weather, but apart from some sideways prancing and Quadi putting in a cheeky and uncharacteristic buck we were fine. Which is just as well as I quickly lost feeling in my hands and face! When Quadi wasn't passaging he was marching very promptly in walk. It was great to feel him lift and round his back, just wish I didn't have to ride in such wintry conditions to achieve this!

I can't describe how horrible it feels to have the rain running off the end of my jacket making my pants rather cold and sodden :( Have to say we were rather wet-nappied walking the boys to the stables!

Still...nice to be back on board and my horse is definitely sound.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

In The Saddle

With no sign of lameness and the sun in the sky, we were invited to hack along with Kate and Fin. Just for half an hour of walking. It was the first hack Quadi and I have been on, we've only been to the end of the drive on the long reins. Whilst Quadi has been sound for a few days I thought it prudent to boot his front feet.

It really was a glorious day, but the gusts of wind were bitter. The boys were very keen to get going! Not very far into our hack, the boys took offence to not only the house with the menagerie of llamas, ducks, et al, but also the farmer on the opposite side of the road shifting big round bales of hay. Fin thought it terribly foolish and dangerous to continue, and of course Quadi could not pass Fin's shoulder because he's an insecure wimp :)

Because an issue was made, naturally we had to make sure we got the boys safely past in order that this does not become and invisible line in the sand. In the end I dismounted as pratting on the road is just not safe, of course having me on the ground made everything safe again! Some days they are just cookies!

Apart from that it was really lovely hack. Fresh air and back on my horse. We had a very brief trot and he wasn't nodding, so I guess this was just an out-of-hand foot infection we're now on top of. When I remarked about how nice it was to ride my relaxed horse on an equally relaxed rein, we were treated to some fabulous jig-jogging and sideways antics on the way home. Serves me right for making comment *lol*

I practiced asking Quadi to drop his head when he started spectating and gawking, which he maintained but soon after threw his head up. Kate observed that when I get a response I drop the contact. Instead I need to just vibrate the rein and still my fingers as soon as I achieve a positive response. This was very effective and we managed to stay together for longer and longer periods until he realised I wasn't giving him room to wiggle. He did start to curl behind and under as a result but I asked him more up and into my contact with a little leg.

On the weight tape today he measured about 510kg. Perhaps a smidge over perfect but he's not been in any meaningful work for a while so we'll forgive him that, and it's less of a big deal going into winter. I'm really pleased with his general appearance and demeanour at this juncture.

Hopefully we can squeeze in another wee jaunt tomorrow!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Little Bit By Little Bit

Lameness layoff means there isn't much to tell. Quadi's feet are being treated with Hibiscrub hot tubbing and plugging the suspect area with Red Horse Hoof Stuff. Which is easier said than done when the clay has been out in the cold! And every day he's coming in to stand in the dry.

He certainly seemed sound cantering up the field for his tea. They all displayed varying degrees of muppetry tonight, I think there was a fox in the field. For whatever reason, they were on their tippy-toes and not feeling helpful *lol*

As it happens Kate's guys have their vaccinations next week, if there's still any concern or sign of this lameness then I can have him checked out then.

He's being fussy with feed again. Am laying off the light MagOx which is making a little bit of a difference, but I think he's just not hungry. None of them are clearing their plates. They have the run of the whole field now so I guess bellyfuls of fibrous grass is all they want right now.

At least I'm seeing an improvement in soundness, long may it continue!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Haven't We Been Here Before?

Before we'd gotten together to do some flexions and trot-ups, Kate had let me know the other day that Quadi was sometimes nodding in walk in the paddock :(

There were still no external indicators of a soft tissue injury (swelling, heat) and because he'd been sound coming off the Danilon, I opted to leave him be. Plus he has wrecked his stable door for the third time so clearly it will do him no good to be cooped up.

Sometimes he's perfectly sound walking and he can put weight on that leg correctly. Sensible money is on an abscess right now. We cold-hosed the offending hoof and leg up to the fetlock, and had a good feel for heat, which was detected around the inside heel bulb. This corresponds with the separation in the hoof wall being worst on the inside of that hoof. Turning him around in the yard he looked three-legged, yet trotting him back across the paddock he never took a bum step!

After a quick chat with the vet today, we're going to try more hot-tubbing and then using Red Horse Hoof Stuff to pack the area and hopefully get on top of this. If he's not improved by the end of the week then perhaps we'll need the vet to take x-rays and resect part of the hoof wall as per the last infection Quadi had, the one in the off fore that had him laid off for weeks. He's happy for us to try this method of approach for a few days, as long as the lameness remains intermittent.

The snag is that I am due offshore again by the end of the week, but on the bright side it's more money for a car, which I still haven't been able to buy!

I'm a little annoyed with myself that this separation has potentially allowed in an infection, but the vet said he'd seen a lot of horses with similar complaints this year. The good news is that the new growth is very tight and the hoof horn is very tough. I was despondent about this but the good thing about hooves is that they keep growing and this is hopefully just a blip on the road to much better feet.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Clear As Mud

On Sunday Anna determined that even on a full dose of Danilon, Quadi was showing lameness.

He turned himself inside out in the stable a few days ago, to the point where he chested the bolted door open. Got himself in such a lather despite being ok (if not happy) in the previous days. Preventatively I had upped his dose of omeprazole but this didn't stop him having a very runny backside. The box walking and the tapdancing at his door were doing him no favours so he went out with the other two in a small paddock. Room enough for everyone but just as well our guys get on without a cross word or lifted leg.

As it happens he's been pretty good with that and there's been no evidence of idiocy in the paddock, too much grass to think about!

His last painkiller was one a day for yesterday and at lunchtime today I assessed him as best I could. In this instance there was no-one to help but the vet wanted me to call him after we ran out of painkillers.

Because it was on the lunge I noticed the lameness, and because it was the easiest place to start, I gave him a spin on a flat area of the paddock. The surface was running a little damp with recent rain and mist, but good for our purposes. He was sound if unhappy at having to trot without warming up.

I took him out onto the driveway for a trot up. Not easy running backwards in yer clumpy thermal wellies! I could see no head-nodding, I tried really hard to watch his stride length and I gave him a basic flexion test. Obviously I'm not a vet and I didn't pull him hard in case I made him sore, plus I was on my own, but I figured holding his leg up passively for one minute would certainly highlight a joint issue. Still nothing as far as I can see.

After discussion with the vet, we've decided to have him continue without painkiller for the weekend until I've had help with trot-ups. If he's sound, perhaps it was just a silly strain. I may push for scans and x-rays anyway, my gut feeling is one of negligence if I don't. Very hard to know what to do!

I can work him but he said only very lightly, and if the lameness shows even vaguely then we're onto investigative work with the portable machines. I may take him for a walk down the road under saddle (straight lines, good terrain) and see how he feels. But maybe not, there's no urgency to ride or work him.

So, in short, I wouldn't want to put a wager on him being 100%. Mostly because I'm leery of being too confident in my own judgement, I just need a fresh and unbiased pair of eyes this weekend.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Process Of Elimination

Quadi had the once over from our physio today. She said he looked unfit (lacking topline muscling, to be expected) but that there were no soft tissue problems. We did have a few attempts at his tummy reflex but we got there, he becomes more responsive to this with more attempts, so I am to persevere with those. Apparently because of the angle of his pelvis, there really isn't much more upward flex he can have, but he doesn't need to do a big flex for it to be effective for him.

Because of the initial reluctance to stretch work the day I found him lame, she gave his front end flexibility a thorough check, and could find no stiffness. He's becoming quite bendy and limber :)

We also discussed pole work. She suggested taking things right back to basics with him, which would be unraised poles on a straight, then we can graduate to a curve no smaller than 20m and then think about raising them. And to stay off the small circle work for the moment. Looking over his notes and his Pessoa programme from his back treatment, she suggested I could also go back to the beginning with this, although we both agreed we prefer long-reining our horses to lunging!

We trotted him up and she could see him lame every few strides, even though he'd had Danilon this morning.

So, what could it be? Still the slight chance of an abscess but he had no digital pulse and no heat, but not impossible of course. Those things can grumble away deep inside the foot. Or a strain from being a twit in the paddock, but again I'd have expected swelling/heat and also that he'd be more sound on painkillers. Which leaves joint issues, top of my list is arthritic changes in a joint somewhere. Disappointing if that's the case, but not unexpected. It could be that nodule on the tendon too, of course, Anna agreed that was an odd thing to find and a possible cause.

Tomorrow I'm going to lay out a new paddock, large enough for the three of them but not too big, hopefully the fresh grass will encourage them to keep their heads down and all legs on the ground!

Saturday, 9 October 2010


The vet arrived yesterday, with the x-ray machine in tow but as yet no x-rays are required.

He started with his hooves, using the pinch testers which Quadi didn't react to. He couldn't smell anything that would indicate a thrush infection, and we haven't changed the balance of his fronts recently to cause an issue. He does have separation in the walls in both fores, but they are picked clean every day and checked for stones, and again there's no smell or sign of infection up there, though obviously it's not impossible.

So we took him along the driveway for trot ups, which I always find hard work *lol* The walk and trot-ups revealed the lameness but the vet noted that it was not at every stride. We also did a flexion test on each foreleg. Flexion of the left leg revealed him to be very lame on the trot up. He was a good boy despite the Spanish contingent, on seeing us disappear up the drive, careering around the field with their bums in the air!

Upon close examination of Quadi's limbs, the vet found a small nodule or lesion on an exterior tendon on the near fore (he did tell me which tendon it was but I'd have to consult a book to remind myself!). It could be an area of bursal fluid or a lump. It might be something, it might be nothing.

The vet doesn't think it's an abscess but obviously we can't rule it out. The plan is to give him Danilon to reduce an inflammation which is causing the lameness, but to decrease his dose quickly over the course of a week and see how he looks off of painkillers this time next week. If he is still lame, then we'll take ultrasounds and x-rays in that order. Obviously if he worsens then we'll rethink that strategy, and if he's sound in a week without medication then it's been a soft tissue strain or joint pain which has resolved itself.

I'll keep him on box rest for a couple more days, with access to the yard area under supervision, and move everyone to a new, smaller section of fresh grazing. He is allowed to be out in a restricted area and hopefully lots of new grass will stop anyone feeling an urge to hoon around. If it seems like he won't be able to behave himself then he'll have to stay in. If it's an abscess then turnout on wet long grass would be ideal but I can't be sure yet that this is the issue.

Anna's still due on Sunday. With Quadi being on painkilling meds, we will be limited to what we can look for, but if this is an upper limb or shoulder issue it should still show up.

On two Danilon twice a day for today, he's looking totally sound. We'll see how this progresses over the course of the week. Am trying to keep him amused with in-hand grazing and gentle stretch work.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Vet Tomorrow

This morning the boys seemed well and Quadi was moving freely to graze and still no heat in his legs, so I didn't feel the need to check how lame he was until taking-in time.

Everyone had their soles sprayed with purple spray, which means my hands are all stained now too *lol* Before Quadi's feet were treated, I took him out onto a flat, grazed part of the paddock to see how he's looking. Very nodding lame on the left rein on that near fore, less so on the right rein but still obvious.

Managed to get him an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, and I'll keep him in tonight. It's probably overkill, but you never know. i've given him 24 hours and he's no better. As I poo picked several worrying scenarios were rattling through my head. I'll give him pain relief tonight in case it's something which could be aggravated by standing in, really hard to know what to do. In fact, it could drive me quite mad figuring out which course of action is best!

I've requested the x-ray equipment for the appointment, hopefully they'll be able to bring it to save time and callouts!

Anna, our physio, is coming on Sunday anyway so if the vet happy there isn't a hoof or joint issue then that would be our next port of call anyway.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

We've Been Here Before

Today I found myself in a huge new garden emporium (it's way bigger than a garden centre), and whilst there I had a wee nosey in the aquatics section. I used to keep fish and really miss it. This evening I'm wondering whether it would be less hassle...

I hadn't the chance to work Quadi until taking-in time. He was fine to groom and I only noticed a hint of a problem when I was stretching out his forelegs to make sure there were no creases under his girth, where he was reluctant to lift his off fore. Normally Quadi will anticipate a leg or hoof lift so this was very unusual. Even when he gave me his leg he was leaning on me. I managed to stretch him out but he never really 'released' this leg. He did come out of the stable a little doddery but he walked it off.

We popped out for a quick spin on the lunge, starting on the left rein which was fine in walk. To check him out, I asked him up into trot and immediately he was nodding, the issue in this instance appears to be the near fore. Unsurprisingly, he was equally odd on the right rein.

So it was a very short session. I brought him in, cleaned his feet and scrubbed them with Hibiscrub. Historically when he's been showing these symptoms it's because of thrush, and we're still fighting some separation in his hoof wall. I felt all up and down his forelegs and could find no heat or pulses. Realistically though, it could be many things. Sore heels, infection up the hoof wall, thrush, ligament damage, strained tendon, shoulder pain, back pain...I don't suppose it really helps to make a list right now :(

Since I was in the stable with him, we did a couple of stretches, just some bows and the nose-to-hindfoot stretch. Once again he was a little stiffer on the right but very willing. Where food is involved, it's hard to tell whether or not he's sore, I think he'd walk through burning flames and over broken glass for a sweetie, even if it were a vet proffering said treat ;)

It's hard not to get down with recurrent lameness, I'm doing everything and more to make sure he is ok. Not planning on giving him any pain relief today, will see how he looks tomorrow.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

There's The Tell

After much fumbling with poles covered in slugs, and through long grass, I had managed to set up some poles for physio work. On reflection I ought to have set it up in an area already grazed as the grass is rather long and thick, but I can move it tomorrow :)

I did get rather caught up in trimming Quadi's feet so didn't spend as much time on the polework as I had planned. But before that I did manage to do rather a good stretching session. I had two pockets full of treats and suddenly a very keen horse! It did make me wonder if I ought to properly study clicker work since it so obviously motivates him.

One thing I did notice is that when we did one particular stretch, where he has to reach down and round to his hind foot, he struggled with this on the right side. Nothing obvious, but on the left side he can reach right around almost whereas on the right he stepped and moved with his feet to catch that pesky treat! We do this stretch as opposed to just reaching to his hip as he was hollowing his back, which he cannot do if he's trying to touch a hindfoot.

Also, when I was stretching out his hindlegs he was a little more reluctant with the near hind, but was fine after a couple of goes. At his age, with his history, I expect a few creaks so not sure if this is something or nothing. We'll repeat these stretches every day and see if there's an improvement by the end of the week.

We briefly went through the poles I'd set up. I'd placed a few in a row on the ground, not particularly carefully spaced out as I believe this makes him work harder as to where his feet are. Some were flat, some had one end raised, and one or two were just off the ground.

First time he clattered them all :) I walked with him and he was cool about it, so it was just carelessness. In fact, we both were. My Muck Boots combined with the long grass made me catch my toes several times, so I guess it was good practice for me too! We repeated a few times on both reins and he did rattle them a few times. I'll not read too much into this and move the poles to a clearer space before I think any more about this.

I also set up two poles end-to-end and raised the ends that met, the idea is that we can constantly circle over them, if that makes sense? He stopped a couple of times on the left rein doing this, which I was surprised at, but he tried hard. Ideally doing this exercise I'd stay almost still in the middle and activate his side with my hand (where my leg would be) as he's stepping over, in order that he fully engages his abdomen.

I will, before the end of the week, try Jean's idea of giving him a painkiller to see if the ridden work improves. It won't hurt him and it's not like I'm medicating him where otherwise he could not be ridden.

Interesting today but I'd no idea how to interpret what I observed...

I changed the routine yesterday, bringing the boys in at teatime and turning them out before I went to bed. So overall they're out longer, and I don't have to be greeted by knees on stables doors every morning. Last night was pretty windy but in double figures and dry. When I went out to check them they were all sleeping, it must have been a tiring night in the wind, but they seemed content to be out. I managed to catch The Baby doing his best Dying Fly:

Monday, 4 October 2010

Puzzling Pony

As advised, I gave Quadi a spin on the lunge in the Pessoa.

He was most willing today and first off I warmed him up on both reins without any attachments. As I predicted and as ever I guess, he tried to bend to the outside and was loading the inside shoulder. i didn't want to interfere too much before he was warmed up but I did take a feel in the lunge line every time he looked to the outside, coupled with using the handle-end of the whip pressed where my leg would be if I were riding. So I had to be quite close to him, and work as hard as he was on co-ordination! His carriage was nice though.

Then I hooked him in to the ropes and pulleys. I had it on the baby settings and left the reins pretty loose, but did have the inside rein shorter. So it didn't really come into play unless he threw his head up or to the outside. He did back off of it and was curling behind, but not vastly and it wasn't holding him tight like this.

On the left rein he was managing to curl behind in order that he could also bend out, yet he was light and uphill and responsive. The evasion was harder to correct in walk but more noticeable in trot. On the right he was also as light and contained and despite this being his weaker rein he didn't try to bend out so much.

When he bent to the inside in trot I praised immediately and asked him back to walk. So we had lots of transitions which really worked well, plus I didn't want to push him into maintaining the bend. On a couple of occasions on the right rein he needed a couple of revolutions to balance into walk. Once again I did have to correct the bend with rein plus a feel of the whip handle on his side, but he responded well to this. I paid close attention to his back and hind end, he was trying hard to work up into his back, which is good because I know he can reach well under himself even with a hollow back.

Strides were even and rhythmical, transitions were uphill, no really bum moments...he never seemed sour or sore. I didn't ask him to canter, I'll do that tomorrow maybe, I didn't want to spoil what we'd done. I felt he looked better than when he started, his back was more level and he looked 'engaged'.

I'll set up the pony pole physio gym tomorrow, and use the Pessoa again. It occurred to me as I was working him today that Perry had shown me flexion and in-hand work to do with him. I really ought to do that before every session (naughty me for letting that lapse), and I guess we'll have to do some form of pony pilates (pole work or carrot stretches) every day. I will get at least one more ride in this week and see if I get the same reaction. I also really need to investigate two-rein lunging!

Puzzled! He's such a tricky horse, poor chap is stuck with bumbling me *lol*

I'm not as sore as I thought I would be today, but a hot bath is on the cards tonight. It's really pleasing to see our very lovely winter hay all neatly stored :)

Sunday, 3 October 2010


100 bales of hay, and four pallets, all shifted by little me. Am pretty sore now but I know tomorrow will be worse, I may treat myself to a hot bath after turnout tomorrow, else I shall be creaking the rest of the day! I'm covered in hay scritches o_O

Sadly the weather would not allow for us (me plus physio) to go investigate some hacking routes on the boys, nor could we really lunge Quadi as it was rather unpleasant. So we went to a tack shop instead, and I was extremely disciplined indeed, managed to keep my hand out of my purse :) Both Quadi and I are booked in with her for next Sunday. In the meantime, she suggested putting the Pessoa on him on an easy setting and see how he copes with lunging in that. I could lunge him 'naked' to check his soundness but he'll do his damnedest to avoid inside bend. Perhaps this will have the same effect as two-line lunging, which Claire suggested yesterday? If he looks ok I will keep riding him and see what happens. Now all the jumps are out I can set up a gym in one corner, if we do nothing else this week that'll be really good for him.

I do still think it was napping, given that he and Fin both bucked the time before last. But I will always try to give him the benefit of the doubt. Trudi suggested video, which I'm dying to do but haven't a means of taking any at the moment, will try and sort that out though!

Hopefully tomorrow will bring more agreeable weather. Tonight, however, I feel like a rest, and a beer!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Buck Buck Splat!

Blimey, this is a fair chapter:

In the five years I've had him I've never fallen off Quadi...till today!

Yesterday was a write-off with the weather, and today the hay delivery was due, but that's been postponed till tomorrow. Which meant I had a whole dry and sunny day in which to do as I pleased today :)

Field poo-picked, I fetched in Quadi, first to take some condition and hoof photos, before I tacked up.

Our start was not the most gracious, but quite funny. I mount and dismount from both sides, and this time opted for an offside mount-up. But Quadi moved forwards as I was swinging my leg over, which takes more concentration from this side anyway, and I ended up behind the sadde, quite unable to haul myself forwards! Luckily I did manage after a few strides. Not exactly the strongest part of his back to be sitting on but bless him for not rocketing me off. Shame he wasn't so mellow for our entire session!

We warmed up by walking up and down the steepest part of the paddock, making loops and figure shapes as we went. This was on a long rein, so nice and relaxed. Then we moved up to the flattest part of the paddock to start our schooling. i must say we got off to a good start. Not great, but definitely not bad either. I felt him stiffer through the left rein than normal and, as usual, more resistant along his right side. I started off with easy stuff, shoulder in and leg yield, and we had more above-bit antics than what has been normal of late. I continued with the big open and very smooth rein gestures I've been using, which I guess is a step-back from where we were pre-move but no matter as it always has to be clear and easy for him.

I wasn't really achieving full-on softness, but we were managing a few strides before we lost it. I decided to really boil it down to very slow and deliberate lateral work. Every few steps we would change from leg yield to travers to pirouette to renvers to half pass to reinback (note that although I describe some advanced moves here, it doesn't mean they're fabulously executed!), and also changing bend very frequently. Whilst doing this I had what was a very basic but huge-to-me revelation...that if I concentrated on flexing my fingers and not using my hands I could achieve more with less effort and, rather embarrassingly, much more kindness to my horse. I'm sure it's something eyes on the ground would have spotted straight away, not always easy on your own! It's quite refreshing to not be riding in a school for this, something Perry told me was ringing in my ears - "ride the horse, not the school".

This really helped and I could feel his back and shoulders lift, it really caught me as I was worried we were about to bounce off somewhere but it felt great and contained. Quadi was, I presume because of my shouty hands, beginning to curl behind. Not always, and I raised my hands gently when this happened to ask him up a shade. Ideally I'd not want to see a horse in any one frame for too long (at this stage of training) and I know a better rider can achieve superior results, and much sooner too! But Quadi is not a blank canvas and unfortunately it's me at the controls! In any case, I feel the lesser of two evils is not to have him star-gazing and building up his braciocephalic muscle. At this stage we were able to halt softly and flex both ways, so I thought about trot.

Now, I didn't wear my new pair of jods because I thought that would be tempting fate with a big red flag. I also was conscious of a thought to have my mobile phone in my pocket and not the tack room. And for some reason, it's been in my head I might part company with him at some point. I can't explain why, this wasn't a self-fulfilling prophecy today. I wasn't nervous, nor anxious, I was prepared for bucks but didn't encourage them.

First trot came a big buck, so much so that his tail flicked right over my hat and dangled momentarily well over the peak of my hat! I wasn't unseated and pushed on. I got what I asked for, a slower more steady rhythm with correct lateral bend, in this instance on the right rein.

We came back to walk with the best carriage he could muster, which wasn't bad, so big paise for him and we regrouped for the other rein. He bucked again and once more I asked for forwards and sensible. At which point we started hippity-hopping sideways, which I corrected and was met with an even larger twisty buck. My foot pinged out of my left stirrup, I was sliding out the side door bum-first and tried to grapple for something to hang onto but such attempts were in vain. Quadi threw his head up, the expression on his face "keep it together up there woman!". I managed to get a foot down but momentum sent me on my derrière in the damp grass. Thankfully are soft so my landing wasn't at all sore :D

Pleasingly, amongst the obvious negatives of this situation, Quadi stood when I was on the ground, so no hooves on me and also no slogging across the field to catch him. I bounced back on and once mounted saw that a neighbour was over the fence straining to see if I was ok :o I gave him a big thumbs up! Mortifying, but nice that someone was there, and useful if I had been hurt.

We went over everything we'd done so far to establish balance and calm, and I asked again. I wasn't being brutish, but I needed to have a positive outcome. Prior to the move he didn't find this work much easier but he tried very hard without such physical evasion. I understand that's it's new and exciting where we are but I would rather he didn't have what may be dangerous to call a strop. Dangerous because being huffy is human and not horsey but I do think they're capable of being 'pissy', it's over as soon as it's thought of, of course! I don't feel this is a physical issue, his saddle is carefully padded for his current physique, he's on his ulcer meds and he's shown no changes or signs of physical issue.

Anyway, when we moved into trot he thought about bucking, but I growled at him and asked him to direct his energy up and forwards through is forehand ;) and then he tried to teleport sideways a few times but I only had to adjust my leg position on his barrel and we were heading straight again :) But he really was setting himself against me. At this point I figured if he's supple enough to buck that high and twist and bend himself sideways then he was ok to work on 15-20m circles at trot. i restrained the tempo with my rises and really gave him all the room a boy could want on the inside rein. He needed a lot of inside leg to stop him motorbiking and one-by-one I shut his escape routes. After a minute he gave and I halted, good boy :) Repeated this on the other rein and once again, as soon as he gave I didn't push him on but came back to walk and told him what a star he is for trying.

Funny thing is, after all that, in walk his frame was shorter and collected, and he was light as a feather. At this point he very much reminded me of the horses I rode in Portugal. For example, just shifting my weight and the feel in my reins gave me a very smooth turn around the forehand. We got in a pickle in the other direction but I broke it down into step-and-reward, step-and-reward. But really, he comes so light it's unreal!

I've been mulling everything that happened today. Should I infinitely postpone even trot work and potentially make an issue of it in my head, or push on and get these episodes over with, risking more bucks? My answer is the latter, which I am aware is not a path everyone would agree with. Also, with using stronger finger and hand aids means a shorter but more embattled periods of resistance, this means he will soften his jaw but is it correct to achieve in this manner? Is it kinder to let him go around with is head in the air and his back hollow? Is it right to have to go through such a rigmarole in order to achieve what I want? With Quadi, I don't see how I have a choice some days...

Challenging times. If someone else had been recounting to me what he's like, I'd never want to blame it on a behavioural issue. But I guess they do have feelings and moods and different personalities, so why shouldn't it be because he's unhappy at being asked to do something difficult?