Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Scrap the plan, the plan sucks.

Actually maybe the plan doesn't suck. But this weekend I've learnt a lot about my horse. I think. Parts of the plan are good. I have in my car ulcer treatments to start tomorrow, though horse is currently sans two shoes, which should be sorted tomorrow. I spoke to my vet and while he's missing the classic signs of ulcers ( which is picky eating, though China would need his head removed to stop him eating) we discussed the ramped up cribbing, the girthiness and the just unhappy angriness I'm getting from him. It could be another source of pain also so if a week of treatment doesn't help well try a few days on bute. 

My trainer was saying a lot of the horses coming to the arena are pretty Spring mad, and I know from the trouble with magnesium staggers at work that the grass is very low on mag. But he is getting plenty of this. I might try a toxin binder but there's already one in his feed and I don't like to throw on too much in the way of additives.

The riding part of the plan sucks. I have a new riding plan. China was a shambles at the XC open day. Luckily, I was late and my group went out without me which left me free to play on my own. He wouldn't have coped with the hurry up and wait of group work. He started running really hard at fences so we went back to the trot.

This helped him to settle and the Dutch gag have me a little control but not too much. My sister was there which was good and she was like huh this is terrible ( this is a massive oversimplification) and she could see that the trust was gone between as. We were all out of sync. She was just like I think you just need to jump until he settles and get to the bottom of him. Which was a great plan. We started trotting in. We could then canter I'm as long as we were heading away from the gate and would still charge the fence down in that direction. So we went round and round over various up to two foot fences. He was cute at the tiny bank because he couldn't figure out how to get down. 

Defensive grabby elbows! Yuk! And we jumped and jumped and jumped. He was certainly super brave and looked at nothing including the little trakhener. Eventually we got to the point where he had settled enough to drop to the trot of his own accord in front of the fences he was so relaxed. I made no effort to place him, just let him bumble over if the distance was bad. I even walked over some fences at the start when he was so diabolical. 

Yep that's how sweaty he got. And that foamy sweat on the neck and shoulder is normally stress. I would have cantered and jumped nearly solidly for more than twenty minutes and it worked. We started to feel less disconnected and more in sync. I started to trust more and he started to soften and not run and sort of break the cycle. I'm not super sure what's led to all this but I can see some very small jumping classes that I trot in our future until we are a team again. I just hope I can get him back to where we were. It's pretty humiliating to spend the whole day jumping tiny fences on a clearly unhappy horse while everyone else is cruising around over bigger stuff. Until I get these basics right this is my life. He's got to learn that there is a soft easy way and I have to show him that with out trying to be forceful and overly bossy because it gives him something to argue against and he likes that. I need to work around the problem. Had a good jump school on Monday. Starting to see a little glimmer of hope.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Post pity party: progress plan

Right so I've had a little time now to process things and calm down. Definitely ordered the thoughts a little and backed away from the failure cliff edge. I know in every horse/rider relationship the honeymoon period ends and the real work on forming a partnerships starts. I still believe it takes more than a year to form a true partnership.

It's spring and the grass is bolting from the ground, full of sugar and protein and virtually no magnesium which makes for savagely hot spooky horses that are slightly unreasonable. Thus the first prong of the attack is to axe his calories. I've cut the oil, the muscle and shine and halved his low GI. I'd put him on a sugar free beer pulp as well but I have a whole drum of the sugared version and I'm poor. He's also getting double the magnesium and salt.

Prong two is try different things until you find something that works better in terms of the bitting situation. If I have more control I will be more relaxed and then he will be more relaxed. He is definitely feeding off of my tension. Creating a fun fun fun tension spiral. I get tight, he runs, I fight, he runs more.

I used draw reins for my pole work tonight. I know they tend to polarise horse people but to me they are just a tool I use to set the outer limits. It really helped too.


I have a neat video of the improvement too but of course blogger and my phone remain at media logger heads. 

I wouldn't usually use a martingale with draw reins but I had a little jump afterwards minus the draws of course. Which was a horribly mixed bag. At one point he went to run out and we ended up hitting a wing stand. Which was good because he's not sure how I made the wing get him but he wasn't interested in running out after that. He did settle eventually and do some lovely jumps. I'll get there.

The plan going forward is to have a play at the XC open day this weekend and just jump what I'm comfortable with and can do relaxed and then hack for the early part of the week before maybe having a jumping lesson. 

Exciting stuff. So tomorrow I finish work late so I'll just have a play with some bits and make sure I have something that will work XC.

Prong three is to treat for ulcers seeing as he has been quite obsessive about wind sucking lately, and quite sensitive through his girth. Worth a try anyway. So between these three things I think we can get it sorted.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Just shoot me now

I'm not sure where I've fucked up here but I really have. Though to be fair we can now canter through the poles and then go back and then trot them. I'm nt sure how I've got from jumping 3 ft courses easily back to trotting poles. And the more poles I trot the more scared j am to jump. Bollocksy bollocksy bollocks. I give up. Until tomorrow anyway.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Head to head

When I first got Chinaman he was blown away by how straight forward and easy he was to teach. He ate up new information and so quickly and happily adapted to being a sport horse. Sure he was on the forehand and he fell out but he was so trainable and I knew these things would come. He was a little lean and it's hard to build muscle on a lean horse so it's taken me a long time to get him up to weight and remuscling but he's really making progress.

Not the best picture I have managed to hide the ribs quite well.

He got poorer with more work and I really struggled to get weight on and hold it. Now he's up to weight he's holding really well, and mostly it's due to feeding Dunstan muscle and shine which is an incredible product.

Definitely a little more booty and a lot more bloom in the coat. But now he's looking and feeling stronger, he's such a dick. He just knows every bloody thing and I have very nicely been training him and being slow and soft. The last few weeks I have been so stuck in a flatwork rut. Honestly, I have put schooling on a lot of young horses. I can ride a little and have never felt so much like I was getting no where. 

He's a massive faker. He's quick to drop at the poll but he's still tight in his back and base of his neck. When he softens his back, he feels so good underneath me. I can hardly stay with his trot it's so lofty. But I have to make sure I get him all the way relaxed.

See I've been practising for ages!

Connie was amazing to ride. So soft and adjustable. So well schooled! So I know I can produce a horse. So why am I so stuck with this one so easy, so trainable horse. I have to say I have left a gaping hole in his training, in seeking softness and relaxation, I have sort of failed on training the brakes. Which hasn't been such an issue because he was easy, but now he's testing me some it's reared its big ugly head. 

As a rider I will always reward the try. I don't mind if it's minuscule, but the smallest soften, sideways step or half halt will get a soften. Obviously as you go on you expect a little more and now I do ask a lot more of China. I want him to stay relaxed and soft at all three gaits, to respond to a half halt, travel straight in his body and start shifting more weight onto his hindquarters. It's fair for his level of training. If he Gets unbalanced that's ok, and I would rarely ride for more than twenty minutes. 

This week has been a debacle though. He's a lot weaker to the left which is understandable because he has an old SI. Injury on that side so it's harder for him to load the right hind. And all horses tend to be one sided. So the walk and trot work was pretty good and I thought I'd just work on the left canter and call it quits for the day because it was getting dark. 

Then I find that whenever I half halt, or steady him, or rebalance, or simply change pace within the gait, the reaction I got was a crossed jaw, head thrown up and him bolting with a locked neck. Awesome. Which is of course not ok. So we ended up having some head to heads, times where I circled him off the straights quite hard, and circled until he stepped under and unlocked his jaw, and also had to pull him to a halt a few times. I really really struggled not to lose it and I made sure to reward the try every time even if it was less than I wanted. It was so frustrating when I really felt like he was past this level of disobedience. Then of course it gets harder because he starts to get tired as well, but eventually he gave me two lovely soft circles and stayed soft and in the bridle down the long side without taking off and I called it a day. It was well dark by this time and he had gotten worked a lot harder than expected. 

The next day I knew I was going to have go back over it, but I started with the right canter after I warmed up because it's so much easier for him. He bucked his first ten transitions and was as bad as  the day before when I worked on his weaker rein. I really really hate it when I horse just absolutely blows through the bridle, at least try to steady. Even if you break to a trot try show some obedience.  So we had the same argument on a different tein with plenty of flailing and falling out the shoulder and rugged as half halts. Te pressure being lifted until I got the right response. Finally got him working and listening, staying soft in the circles and the long sides and coming back to me after a little lengthen. Picked up the left canter and he was really good so I was able to stay really soft on him and I called it a night. Again it was a long ride and we were both knackered. 

I messaged my trainer in absolute despair. And she was pretty encouraging.

And she's so right he does have to respect me. I've been really soft on him but he needs to come to the party a bit more and not throw his toys and run when it gets a bit hard or doesn't go his way. He just has to try. 

The third night I turned up to do battle and he was gorgeous. Stunning leg yields, beautifully over the back and cantered quietly and round on both reins with good response to the half halt at the end of the lengthen down the long side. So I did ten minutes max and then took him for a hack an have myself a good pep talk. I'm ok I still got this, I'm not going to ruin him.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


So I am struggling a little with the change to working 8-5 because I used to work 5-11 and then 2-5 with maybe some day work if something came up which left the middle of the day for ponies. Now harder to do ponies because I'm tired at the end of the day. Apparently naps are frowned upon and naps were a staple of my life. 

Anyway Wednesday I catch my horse to get a ride in before the coming polar blast and he's lame walking in. So I trot him to confirm and yea he's hella lame in the off hind. And then I felt like a jerk because I saw his shoe was twisted and the quarter clip embedded in his sole. Good one Bex. 

I took the shoe off with a hammer and chisel and then wrapped the foot. And even managed to get a farrier sorted for the next day to put the shoe back on. Not a lot of foot left though, so if he loses it again I'm a bit screwed. Then the weather deteriorated into icy winds, rain and hail and it was suddenly easy to give him a few days off. The weather was good all weekend though but I wanted to give him more time off so I rode one of my trainers horses.

He was very lazy but is a really lovely boy. It's taken over a year to undo the damage caused by earlier owners but he's become such a sweet forgiving horse as long as you don't mind using a lot of leg. 

Show next weekend I was wanting to go over to for a day so fingers crossed China is ok when I work him tomorrow night. Horses. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Injurance (technically ctr)

So Sunday they held a Novice 10km CTR which basically is some sort of race judges on your ability to arrive exactly on time with a low heart rate. China mans starting heart rate was 54 so we were out basically before we began but that wasn't the point. Mostly I wanted an outing where there wasn't much jumping and galloping and just something different for him. 

He was really good going out and wasn't spooky or strong, the Pelham has definitely helped his brain make some connections. He jogged heading home a lot especially when the pony we rode out with got further and further ahead but it was so good for him. Had a nice gallop across one paddock and he pulled up easily for him anyway. He was in a loose ring French link snaffle. He even stopped jogging for the last km. And even when he was getting himself worked up he never pulled or tried to bolt, just jogged.

His starting hr was 54, it was 69 when he came in and it was back to 50 when we did our final vet thirty minutes after finishing. Kate in the other hand was incredibly chilled about everything and had hr of 30,50 and 40 respectively to win the class for my sister.

Also I just a full time job as a large animal tech and it's making riding really hard. But yay no more milking. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Finally getting some good condition and muscle tone. Needs his mane tidied up though. I love riding this horse, his movement is so light and effortless and when he's soft and listening he's an absolute dream to ride. He's also a bit of a dick but if I can get him on side and with the program as it were, he's going to be quite talented. 

So I have a plan with my trainer. I have always sort of known that China wouldn't be a true snaffle horse. The reality of The situation is here is a racehorse who couldn't be held by what are pound for pound the strongest athletes in the world, so if a jockey can't chances are I won't. I guess to because I'm mostly in jumper land using a variety of bits doesn't phase me and I'm always of the opinion it's better to bit up and be light than to fight constantly in something milder. 

So stage one was a flat ride in a Mullen mouth Pelham with a wrapped curb chain. He definitely didn't love it but he threw his head some at the start but he softened into it really nicely. I rode with two reins too. 

Only the snaffle rein goes through the martingale. Today I had a jumping lesson in the same bridle and it was night and day from the horse I rode Saturday at the show. I was able to add a stride in the line and get him really quietly to the base of every fence. In my last lesson he was jumping in and racing down the line and when I asked him to wait he just locked his neck and threw his head, and blew me off.

We probably schooled a course of about 60cm if that high, really working on smooth canter to the base. It was underpowered for a competition canter, but it was amazing being able to close my hand slightly and have him wait nicely.

Stage 2 is jump in the rubber Pelham, because he was a little light in the metal. Maintain the quiet and relaxation. Take him to a show and jump my first class in the Pelham and see what horse i have.
This is because he needs to learn that being out doesn't mean going fast. All other work to be in his long cheek French link.

Stage three is go back to the snaffle and but snaffle I mean dig into my trainers amazing bit box and have a play in there. From
There I'll just play it by ear. I want to event so the bulk of his work will be in dressage legal snaffles and just finessing the but for jumping. Also his bandages are amazing 

And after years of coveting I finally got my Ogilvy pad when it came up secondhand in my town of all places and it's actually amazing