Last night, I drove around the many, many washed-out roads to get to the barn (about which more later). I was meeting someone who wanted to look at my trailer at 6pm, and I got there at 5, so I longed.

It was, to say the least, dissatisfying. Tris was not particularly interested, and showed only glimmers of good work. He was capital-L-Lazy, and would not step out in the walk and kept hopping into the canter in the trot.

He settled into a lovely trot going left, finally, nice and stretchy but never settled in going right, even after some canters to get him warmed up and blowing. He just looked uncomfortable, stiff, and discombobulated. I couldn’t place a specific problematic area: I watched his hocks, his front feet, his stifles, his back, everything to see where he was not using it effectively or not weighting properly. I was stumped. I can’t describe it any more than he just wasn’t using his body well, at all. His legs were clean, cool, and tight, his back was not sensitive, nothing obvious was out of sorts.

So who knows. It’s possible he’s been stuck inside the last few days and not getting as much moving about time as he needs. He’s definitely due for his Pentosan, and that niggling in the back of my mind about hock injections has started again. We’ll see.

Between that, the fact that the people who came to see the trailer did not buy it (they were lovely, but it wasn’t right for them, sigh), and the tripling of the length of my barn commute due to washed out roads, not the best night ever.

conditioning · longeing

Riding Update: Conditioning & Longeing

What about my actual horse, you might ask?

Well. Not much exciting.

I’m riding, which is in and of itself exciting after the winter/spring we had. So there’s that.

We’ve done about two weeks of a conditioning program. I am an expert at rehabbing this horse now. I spent some time really thinking hard about how to push him, looked for some new tools (reviews coming soon) and we’ve been diligently pursuing trot sets and planned days off since. I’m working him 4-5 days a week, huzzah for that.

Sunday, I came off. It’s been four days now and I keep getting new and exciting aftereffects: mostly throughout my back, which seems to have re-aggravated an old riding injury. It’s not dire, but it means I’ve been moving more slowly and making my fiance bring up all the boxes from the basement to unpack.

Since then, I haven’t felt up to hijinks, so I’ve been longeing in his chambon. I love that thing. With the understanding that it does really make him use his muscles, I’m longeing for ~35 minutes, then giving him a day off. Probably I will get back in the saddle on Sunday.

Summer means bath season again. Baths are the WORST.

The good news is after 40 minutes of longeing on Tuesday, which included canter in which he had to put his damn head down, he was only slightly warm to the touch at the end. It was a muggy, humid day in the 70s, so the fact that he was a) not blowing and b) not warm made me feel good. He was clearly a little muscle-tired, and drank half his bucket when he got back to his stall, but more of a good workout tired rather than an out of shape exhausted.

He’s also in good weight and I like where his topline is headed. I just have to stick to my guns and keep pushing him instead of getting nervous and backing off.

longeing · puppy

Lunatic Longeing Pony

I worked on Christmasy things for my day off yesterday: made cake for cake balls, worked on some crafts, wrapped presents, crocheted, all of the above.

I also hit refresh on the package tracking for my Secret Santa gift approximately eight hundred million times. DAMMIT, UPS. I was so on top of things, and then it turns out it was a three week order and the shipping was slooooooooow. SIGH. Today, hopefully!

Anyway: when I headed out to leave, Arya ignored the food I had left for her and sat in front of the door and whined so hard her whole body was shaking. She is already the whiniest dog in the whole world – crying is her love language basically – but this was a cut above. So I gave in and brought her to the barn.

Now, the last time Arya came to the barn and hung out in my car while I was riding, she puked all over the driver’s side of my then-brand-new car. Like, everywhere. I was cleaning puppy vomit out of the window buttons with a goddamn toothpick.

Anyway. I walked her around a bit and we worked on focusing and behaving when everything in the whole world was more exciting than focusing on me: eating poop, eating snow, playing with other barn dogs, eating hay, eating poop…you name it. She’s nowhere near off leash ready yet, so that involved quite a lot of “WHOOOOO” and hitting the end of the leash, and then having a focused session about behaving on a loose leash, getting treats for touching my hand, re-focusing on me, walking when I said…etc. Some people can let their 14 month old dogs off leash. Arya’s brain would immediately unspool out of her ears and she would never come back. Ah well.

Then, the test: I put her in my car, settled all the various snacks out of the way, closed the door, and kept my fingers crossed.

I opted to put Tristan on the longe line. Just bridle, no surcingle and chambon. He’s been working really well that way, and today was another example. He’s in a great weight right now, and feeling good from the pergolide and pentosan. He moved out nicely, and responded well – even felt good enough to throw a couple of bucking fits as his back loosened up.

He worked for about 25 minutes overall, and over a pole from time to time. As I’ve been longeing him more and more, I’m learning that he doesn’t longe very well at the canter. He tips in, and I have no good way to correct him in the longeing setup I’m using. (I could go to double lines, but I haven’t done that with him in years and quite frankly I’m lazy.) He motorcycles and drops his inside hip and bends to the outside. That pushes him off balance and leads to a bit of a frantic scramble. He’ll get half a circle or so of a good pushing canter (and he’s starting to lift through his back the teensiest bit when he does that, which is exciting), and then fall in and scramble.

Trot, now – he works beautifully at the trot on the longe line. Nice and lifting and after a canter, a loose back and stretchy gaits. He’s becoming a pleasure to watch, truly. It’s so nice to see him building strength again!

He actually got a bit warm from the longeing, so I left him under a cooler with a note for the barn staff to put his blanket back on at grain time – just about 45 minutes later.

And Arya? Behaved perfectly. Cried and screamed up a storm when I got back to the car, but we stopped for McDonald’s on the way home, and some fries went a long way toward rehabilitating me as a parent in her eyes.

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…