blanketing · longeing

Monday Morning Longeing

After a short hack out on Sunday –

hold please, I need to complain.


Anyway. After a short hack out on Sunday, Monday was for longeing, for a couple of reasons: I didn’t have all day to tack up and go through a lengthy warmup for a dressage school, I didn’t really want the kind of work that a dressage school promised, and I wanted to get back in to using the chambon and the resistance band.

(Side note, someone on COTH linked to my original post about my homemade resistance band and it has taken off in the last few days. Kind of cool!)

I was very glad I had chosen longeing, because I got a nice, clear progression. He started off a bit stiff when loose, and chose to canter for a while instead of trotting. I let him, because it was a nice, soft, semi-balanced canter, not careening around, and if that’s how he wanted to warm up, I was ok with it.

After 15 minutes of warming up, I put the chambon and resistance band on. Initially, he fussed about them both, but within a minute or two he actually settled in to the work nicely. He had some lovely, LOVELY soft, stretchy work, especially to the right. Huge difference in length of stride and the way he used his body. I worked him for another 10-15 minutes, and then put him away in his wool dress sheet – he was the teensiest bit warm, and I wanted him to cool out but not get cold quickly, especially since the temperature has plummeted 40 degrees in the last 2 days.

I’m still learning and feeling my way through how to handle and manage him with blankets and the winter coat. When I got to the barn he was wearing his quilted stable blanket with turnout sheet over it, though it was about 35. I felt under the blanket and he felt cozy – not too warm at all. Good!

After a little while of putting away tack, I put his blanket and sheet back on and out he went. I scattered two flakes of hay all over his dry lot so he’d move around a bit, and he was happy as a clam when I left.

PS – Don’t forget to vote in the Marguerite Henry Readalong poll! So far, King of the Wind is handily in the lead; add your vote for that to ensure its victory or pick another book.

PPS – Giveaway alert! Check out Equestrian at Hart for a Spreadshirt custom t-shirt giveaway.

dressage · longeing · stupid human tricks

Why Blogs Are Useful

I woke up Saturday morning thinking about the way Tristan wobbled downhill on Friday night. I didn’t like it. I kept mulling it over and over again, remembering the feel of it. I remembered that he felt okay, strong and fresh even, on the flat and on gentle inclines.

Then I was skimming back over my blog and I re-read my Thursday night post about longeing on the circle of death, and a light bulb went off.

I overworked him a bit on Thursday. All those poles worked his hocks and his stifles and gaskins, and he was too sore/tired to balance himself properly going downhill. The work we did in the dressage ring – steady, rhythmic, workmanlike but not spectacular – was just what he needed to stretch through there.

Ever feel like you’re constantly having revelations just a little bit too late to actually help? Yeah. I wish I’d given him a little bute Thursday night. Still, I’m glad to have an explanation rather than worrying. I was actually flirting with the idea of having the vet out to do a lameness eval.


Longeing: Re-Introducing the Circle of Death

I got to the barn last night and the ring was littered with random stuff: chairs, poles, jump standards, cavaletti blocks. The two lessons that had just wrapped up were beginners, and they were working on steering.

Sweet. Since I am at such a dressage-centric barn, I almost always err on the side of laziness and leave the poles in the corner. Now I had an excuse to play with them!

I longed in the halter only, and started off with some quick warm-up circles in an open area, then transitioned to a circle of death exercise. (We’ve done this more in-depth before; for diagrams, see this post.)

I started pretty aggressively, with poles set on the second highest setting of the cavaletti blocks.

The middle of these options.
I only set cavaletti on the outside end, to create an angled pole. Things started kind of ugly, with Tristan either ducking inside the circle or doing super-awkward dives and hops to the cavaletti in order to get over them. He hates to touch them, and will usually clip one only once, but he does resort to ridiculous antics to get over them. He’s a horse who “does his own footwork” in that he will get you over the jump, but he is rarely hunter-pretty at it without some serious work.
We had an argument about ducking inside the circle, that resulted in some bucking and cantering and kicking out, but after 10 minutes or so of going both ways, he started nailing the striding and taking the poles in stride, really stretching over his back and articulating his hock and stifle to do so. I made sure to give lots of praise for each one correctly achieved, and he clearly started gaining confidence and hunting them out, instead of avoiding them.
I then dropped the cavaletti blocks and dragged the poles to the outermost bounds of a 20m circle, and worked on cantering a bit. The first few were exciting – Tris slid right to the “base” of a pole and launched himself in a deer leap that would’ve cleared a 3′ fence, then landed bucking and snorting. He then proceeded to jump each one, awkwardly, in turn. Then he decided to drop to a big beautiful flowing trot stride over each pole. Finally, he took the poles in a canter stride and then started putting together an entire circle of even canter strides. It was pretty neat to watch.
I was pleased with his work, overall. Tonight: long hack with some uphill trots.
Also, to add, A Gift Horse is doing a giveaway of a Dapplebay t-shirt. I love those shirts. Go, enter!

longeing · massage · pergolide


You may have noticed an excess of non-current postings last week; sorry! I did that thing where you’re not supposed to tell the internet you’re out of town, so no one robs you. Or something. Anyway, I was off all last week for my brother’s wedding out of town, and I’m back now, and I have 567 blog posts to read. O.o

Last night, I swung by the barn to longe Tristan and loosen him up before his massage, since he hadn’t been worked in a week. The barn manager warned me that he had been a jerk on the way in – stopped to eat some grass, and when he was reprimanded started rearing and bucking. She said they’d had a discussion, which I am 100% ok with – good behavior is his #1 rule.

So I put him on the longe line and foolishly did not take that into account and he was a LUNATIC. Not even for Tristan, for any horse. I lost count of the good back-cracking bucks and kicks out and half-rears and sprinting around and whooooooo boy. What was supposed to be a 15 minute loosening turned into a 30 minute schooling, followed by 15 minutes of walking up and down the driveway to cool him out. I have some charming rope burns on my hands because I got complacent and forgot my “always wear gloves” rule for handling horses. That’ll teach me.

J. noticed immediately during his massage that he looks brighter, his muscle tone is dramatically better, and he just has a spark back to him.

We are at 5 weeks into the pergolide, and I’m declaring victory. 😀 Tonight I get on and see how he feels under saddle. This could be fun…

longeing · polls

Poll Results for Longeing/Lunging/Other

So the results have been in for a little while but I have been a very bad blogger.

With 19 votes, here’s how it came out:

13 votes, or 63% for “lunging”
5 votes, or 26% for “longeing”
1 vote, or 5% for “other”

(Dear “other,” what do you say instead? Come let us know!)

Check out the comments on the original post, too. I tend to agree with Carly: lunge is a forward movement; longe is what the horse does in circles around you.

I wonder if it’s a difference between British or American spelling?


Longeing Regimen

In addition to Tristan’s long slow distance hill rides, I’ve been longeing 1-2 days a week.

Whole lotta gear. Half pad, surcingle, elastic thingy, longe line, chambon, side reins.

Typically we start out with a walk both directions with the chambon and the elastic thingy. 
When I first started back up with the longeing, I tried out the side reins, to see if they worked for him now that he had a better idea of self-carriage.
NOPE. I don’t have pictures, but he basically inverted his neck and braced against them and never once softened and in fact was clearly building strength in all the wrong ways. Back to the tack box, side reins.
I do really like the chambon, though. It’s firm but gentle, and it reinforces the things I want, namely, don’t keep your head at a 90 degree angle to your body. It does not do anything about his nose, simply encourages a lowered poll.
Clearly we have some work to do, both on my photography skills and on his tendency to fall on the forehand in the trot when I’m not nagging every step.
See what I mean about the chambon, though? He is, yes, a bit on the forehand but he’s actually doing a little bit of coming up through his back thanks to not having his ears in the rafters.

All’s well that ends well!


Some small pieces of progress!

My hand is still healing but I’ve downgraded the type of bandage I’m using and I am slowly regaining mobility. Should be able to ride by the end of this week. I’m scheduled for barn chores this weekend.

In the meantime, still free longeing. Last night I got back to work after a few days out of town visiting family, and Tris was fresh and raring to go. He bucked and farted and galloped around and was generally naughty for quite a while once I asked for a trot.

We did some work on discipline issues: if you’re going to spin around and let fly with your hind end and generally give me the middle finger, then you are going to keep moving, no matter what. I would test him occasionally in asking him to turn or waaaaaaalk, and when I got an immediate, obedient response he was allowed to walk again. If not, back to the big forward trot for him!

I’m actually really liking what the free longeing is doing for him: it allows me to really focus on his hind end engagement and get him moving forward and through. Without the added complication of the longe line that’s all we’re doing – and since he’s free longeing, I don’t have to worry as much about torquing his joints and/or overdoing it. He’s basically going ’round and ’round the arena in exactly the same way he would under saddle.

So he has to have a big forward walk and trot and use his back for the entirety of the work, which is doing great things, I think. He’s still clearly gaining muscle through his back and neck and hindquarters. It’s so nice to see the progression! Last night, some of his big forward fancy trot had a ton of suspension (caveat: for him); his front feet were practically floating off the ground for a few strides at the time as he sat back on his hind end and really engaged his hocks.

It also lets me really see any imbalances. For example, right now his right hind is tracking…maybe 1/2″ shorter than his right hind. So we worked to the right and through transitions to get him to step under more, to flex that hock more. It didn’t say to me pain or problem, just stiff and a bit uneven.


Free Longeing Some More

Against all odds, I made it to the barn last night for about 1.5 hours in the middle of a 14 hour workday. I even beat evening grain, which doesn’t always happen!

We free-longed again and he is getting even better. We had one or two incidents early on, and near-ish to the end when he was getting bored and sick of me he let fly with his hind end in my direction and took off, but he regretted it. (You want to run, pony? Go ahead, keep running!)

I like free longeing right now; even though I still can’t grip a longe line, I can get and keep him moving, and he travels the entire circumference of the indoor, so it’s easier on his joints. I can control his stride and keep him forward, and praise when he stretches down. It’s even a little bit of exercise for me as I jog alongside him in the trot. And it’s great for our communication: by the end of the session he was adjusting his gait and position by my body language alone, and his response to voice commands had sharpened up considerably.

We did 10 minutes of walk each direction, 5 minutes of trot each direction, 2.5 minutes of walk-trot transitions both directions, and then a few minutes of trot-canter transitions; I didn’t time those. I basically ran him through a few until I felt he was responsive and had a smoother transition and then called it quits. I wanted to drill the walk-trot more for muscle-building purposes.

Tonight, hopefully more of the same, and then out of town for four days – of course, four of the nicest days we’ve had in months. It might even hit 40!


Spicey Pony

I snuck away from work for a little while today, in the middle of my second 12 hour day in a row. Because I only had a very small window, I just tossed Tristan on the longe line nekkid. Halter only.

He was pretty up, and blew right through my commands to start with, and did a fair amount of bucking and farting and cavorting when I asked him to walk on. Then the apprentice barn dog, a 12 week old Australian Shepherd, thought it would be great fun to caper about with him, and Tristan agreed.

Tris actually loves dogs and the puppy was lucky that was the case; he would run a step or two along with Tris, and Tris took off bucking and farting. The puppy spooked and sprinted back in the aisle and then snuck back in for a few more steps.

I don’t mean to say I was making light – the puppy was clearly not allowed in the ring, but Tris was being enough of a handful that I couldn’t shoo the puppy out myself. He would leave the ring when ordered but only for a few seconds, and after three or four play attempts the barn manager arrived and dragged him back to his crate in the tack room.

After that, Tristan settled down to be a bit more workmanlike. He had some nice stretching out and some big forward movement. We worked on transitions for a while, particularly tracking left. His left hind has always been weaker, so we really worked hard at walk-trot and trot-canter transitions on voice command. They sharpened up nicely, and we schooled them a bit to the right.

Tristan is so often so laid back and quiet that it’s easy to let him be a little sloppy in his voice commands, so today was a good opportunity to really drill those. We also worked on halt-walk and ground tying. I also worked a bit with a new voice command I’m installing, turn on the longe line. It’s only useful when longeing in his halter like this. He turns to the right nicely but doesn’t always want to turn to the left.

In all, I was pleased with the work he did, even if it was only 25 minutes or so. I had a nicely forward and responsive horse, who kept one ear and eye on me at all times and was responding to my body language. I’ll get up early tomorrow before work to ride, and then Sunday and Monday am covering for barn chores so I’ll ride after both those days as well.

longeing · winter

Longeing after a few days off

The cold snap has broken here in the great white north. Yesterday, it was up to 20F. Today, it will go up to 30F. I haven’t even buttoned up my winter work coat or worn gloves in the last two days. Our furnace is occasionally turning off and not working overtime in a desperate attempt to keep the apartment marginally warm. It’s amazing.

Last night, I headed to the barn. I’d spent all day thinking about what kind of ride I wanted to plan after a week and a half off. Sure, he’d walked around for about 45 minutes on Monday, but he hadn’t had any proper work in 10 days.

The more I thought about that, the more I re-thought the idea of riding at all. I decided to longe. As it turned out: good decision!

I started with a good hard curry all over to loosen his muscles and dig in to his coat, since I hadn’t been grooming him much in his time off either – the barn picks his feet out 2-3x a day so I knew he wasn’t exactly suffering, plus I felt bad pulling his blanket just to groom him for 10 minutes. (There’s no logic there, I know.)

Then I put on his surcingle and the chambon, twisted the reins of his bridle up into the cheekpiece to get them out of the way, and we headed into the ring. Almost immediately, I was very glad I had longed! He was a bit keyed up and antsy while I was attaching the longe line, but I attributed that to the fact that I’d pulled him from his stall just as the other horses were getting their grain, the poor baby.

I sent him out on the longe line, and before I even had time to bring up the whip to point at his hindquarters, he exploded. Buck, fart, crowhop, take off, you name it. Two whole circles around me! I know, some of you with very “up” horses are laughing at me right now but this is Tristan. Any bucking exuberance is extraordinary. I have to admit when he first took off I was laughing too hard to really pull him back, but he eased up nicely when I asked him too.

He was clearly a bit stiff all around, and I was glad both that I’d grabbed the chambon and that I was longeing. He clearly relaxed and came through bit by bit through the whole session, which lasted about 25 minutes. He still had some energy at the end, but I hadn’t been looking to burn energy, just to loosen him up, and he was coming through quite beautifully in both directions at the walk and the trot. He even made some attempts to stretch in the canter, something we’ve been working on a lot.

He was generally saucy through the whole session, and would occasionally stop and turn in. When I sent him back out in the direction I wanted him he would snort and let fly with his back feet and prance around a few strides before settling in. Nothing really naughty, more playful and just a touch uncooperative and spunky.

Tonight, I’ll get back on him and do a more thorough ride, probably incorporating poles.

In a horsekeeping note, after a three-round botulism vaccine (!), all the barn horses are now on round bales. Tris is very, very happy. The barn manager mentioned that she was a teensy bit worried about Tris – thought he looked a little bloated when he came in – but he laid down and took a nap and then pooped a lot. So…just a pig.