Saturday, 23 June 2012

What's the Story with Aero?

My friends know that I'd been making progress riding Aero until he went lame last weekend.  I've had a few texts and Facebook messages, "What's the story with Aero?" "How's Aero doing?"

I've had no answer all week, no diagnosis other than "I think it's an abscess."  I've been poulticing with Animalintex and hot-tubbing with Epsom salts since last Sunday.  Of course, my mind has been in overdrive :

If it was an abscess, why did it improve with the poulticing and hot-tubbing, despite the fact that it never burst?

Maybe it's navicular.... no, it can't be, navicular won't show up as sudden acute lameness.... but he's been stepping short in front for a while, maybe that was navicular building up and suddenly it's manifesting itself.... no, he's been stepping short because his feet are a little tender after the last trim... ok it's not navicular... maybe

Maybe it's a tendon problem.... no it can't be, why would he have heat in his foot as well as the slight swelling on his tendon?  Oh no, maybe he has an abscess AND a tendon problem??

Maybe he broke a bone in his foot, galumphing around the paddock.... sudden acute lameness? yes?  Well, no, it improved after a couple of days of poulticing and box rest, surely a broken bone wouldn't respond so quickly.... but maybe the box rest helped it... aaargh...

Today, there seemed to be less heat in his foot.  I decided to walk him out for a few minutes... he wasn't quite sound, but he wasn't very lame either, so I took him into the arena and let him run around for a few minutes.  Unfortunately, he seemed to get progressively more lame, so I brought him back into his stable and thought a bit.  I'm going away for the second round of Silver Spurs Qualifiers next Monday evening, getting back Wednesday night and then the LSH and I are leaving for a two-week holiday in Céreste on Thursday.   The Youngest Daughter is moving home while we're away, and I need to leave her with explicit instructions and a treatment plan for Aero if necessary, so I need to work out what to do.

If I called the vet out, I was 90% certain he'd say "abscess" and start excavating in the hoof - I've had this experience before, when a trusted vet removed literally half of our pony's sole, which took weeks and weeks to regrow.

If I did nothing, I'd be petrified I'd made the wrong decision.... maybe the vet would say "X-rays of the hoof" and we'd see something awful like navicular or a fracture.

Anja, the Equine Podiatrist (DAEP), was due back from a family holiday in Paris today.  I decided I had nothing to lose by contacting her, so I texted her, asking if she could call me when she gets back, so we can work out a plan.  She did better than that, she replied saying she was flying into Cork airport at 5pm and would call to me at 6.  Brilliant!  A knowledgeable second opinion!

She duly arrived, in her glitzy Paris gear, put her boots and her farrier's apron on over her glad-rags and checked him out.  She watched him walking and trotting, applied the hoof tester and made her diagnosis - an abscess, improved, but not burst out yet.  She advised me to turn him out, as the movement might help disperse the infection in the foot.  She was pretty disparaging about hot-tubbing with Epsom salts - she reckons that if it doesn't succeed in drawing out the infection straight away, it'll make it even more difficult for the abscess to burst, as the Epsom salts harden the hoof.  She thinks there's a chance the infection will worsen, and a bigger chance it will continue to improve.  Her approach is for minimal interference in the foot unless she's sure she'll get a result, in fact she suggested putting a temporary pad inside a hoof boot which would alleviate the pain, stimulate circulation in the foot, while at the same time giving the abscess time to find a route to the surface.

All very interesting, and a very different approach to the traditional veterinary route of dig it out, whatever the cost in terms of the horse's sole.

So the treatment plan is turn him out, see how he goes.  If he's acutely lame again, she'll come back and have another look.  She thinks the most likely outcome is that he'll continue to improve, and that the abscess will gradually grow out, leaving a hole in the hoof sole and/or wall.

I can only say that Aero heartily approved of this plan. I walked the dogs past the paddock fifteen minutes after he was turned out with Flurry and Lilly, and he was lying down, sleeping, in the middle of the field, a happy boy, back with his herd.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

No Resting on Laurels Allowed

After the heady excitement of Sunday (my best ever score, won my section of the test and placed fifth overall in Test 14, behind two really good professional riders on really classy horses), it was back to work day today.  I wanted to squeeze in one lesson before I go away next week, preferably on Aero, but unfortunately, with his lameness, that wasn't going to happen, so Flurry got to do even more dressage.

Frank greeted us with "Well, if you can score 65% at Preliminary, it's time to start working on the Novice movements.  Today we'll work on test 30 (one of the high-end Novice tests, so therefore one of the harder ones)."

Humph.  No easy ride for me or Flurry today, then.

Once we had walked around "long & low" a couple of times, we started work on changes of pace within walk.  Free walk to Medium to Collected (well, as collected as we can manage, anyway) and back again.  It was a very useful thing for me to do in front of Frank, is it's something I struggle with on both horses - keeping them round throughout all of these transitions within the walk.

Warm-up continued with trot work, once again thinking "collected" and then forward to working trot, doing our "collected" bits on the short ends of the arena and pushing forward down the long sides.

Canter was our usual slightly sprawly galumph around the arena, but Frank wasn't too concerned, saying we were just warming up and we'd come back to it later.  He had a quick look at test 30 and said the first thing we'd work on was two half ten-metre circles in trot, ridden from B to E.  He emphasised the importance of the bit in the middle, when you are changing direction and the horse has to change bend, and he told me to be sure to achieve straightness before asking the horse to bend again for the second half-circle, even if it takes three or four strides.  The danger is that the horse might learn to just throw his shoulder in the new direction, so by giving me & Flurry time to figure it out, he'll learn to do it right and we will quite quickly be able to change bend correctly in just a stride or two.

Riding it actually went quite well initially.  Flurry finds it easier to go from right bend to left bend, but even so the left to right half circles weren't too bad.  Then we worked on improving the trot, got a more active trot going and suddenly the two-half-tens weren't so easy anymore!  To get his back end more engaged, we worked on a twelve metre circle around Frank, looking for a more collected trot while Frank encouraged him to step under more with a lunge whip.  It worked, apart from a major wobbly on Flurry's part when someone dropped something outside the arena and made a huge clatter!  His trot suddenly became much more active after that, though, and we ran through the two-half-tens one more time and it went pretty well.

Then we were on to canter.  I know damn well that Flurry's canter is not "Novice level" yet, it's barely even Prelim level, so I wasn't expecting this to be easy, and I wasn't disappointed!  The exercise we had to do was pick up canter over X on a 20M trot circle, then canter across the diagonal with a change of leg through trot over X.

The transition from trot to canter was above the bit, so I cantered an extra circle just to get him to soften in to my hands a bit, then we came across the diagonal from K to M, wobbled to a sprawled-out trot somewhere near X, hurtled on as far as the quarter line, I asked him to canter again and he had pretty much fallen back into some sort of a canter somewhere between M and C.  Not great then!

So the next time (we were going from left canter to right canter), Frank asked me to to position him for right canter before we made the downward transition, then do shoulder-in for a couple of trot strides, then ask for right canter after that.  This worked so well (NOT!) that we ended up on the wrong leg.  I made a dogs dinner out of the shoulder-in - I don't think I've ever had to do it without a wall for support before - so the canter transition afterwards was totally muddled.

We dropped it down a gear and just worked on shoulder-in, in trot, across the diagonal, which we once again struggled with, so Frank made it even easier for us and we worked on shoulder-in down the long side, with a transition to canter between the mid-marker and the corner marker.  Eventually, we managed this reasonably well, so puffing and sweating (me, not Flurry) we took a break and had a stretch (Flurry, not me).

The next piece of test 30 that we worked on was Give/Retake in trot on a circle.  I do a lot of scribing, and I've seen a lot of variations of G/R, and I've also seen a wide variation in what judges deem acceptable.  Frank is a list five judge, and he keeps very much up to date,  attending all of the judges training that is organised in the region, so I trust his opinion implicitly.  He advised me to prepare for the G/R by first giving and retaking with the inside hand, then repeating with the outside hand, and finally doing it with both hands together.

For my first attempt, I tipped forward when I gave with both hands and Flurry stretched down.  Tipping forward is a big no-no, as it encourages the horse to stretch down AND go on the forehand.  On the second attempt, I didn't tip forward, but Flurry once again stretched down, taking a few strides to work correctly in an outline again.  Stretching down is preferable to coming above the bit, but ideally, the horse's frame should not change, he should be starting to show self-carriage for a couple of steps at a time.  We tried a couple more times, with me using more leg to keep his back end engaged so he wouldn't feel the need to stretch forward, but it still wasn't working.

"Think Collected Trot" was the advice from Frank - "Imagine you're doing Piaffe just before you do the Give & Retake" so we did, and it worked!  This is something we will have to build on, so that gradually Flurry will be able to maintain his balance while in his big working trot, but it's a great start.

Finally, all we had left was Medium trot - we're clearly not ready for Medium canter yet!  This time, we didn't even attempt to do it á la test 30 first time.  We went on a 20M circle at C and worked on "collected" trot  as we passed the short end of the school and "medium" trot on the open side of the circle, through X.  To really emphasise the difference in what I was asking, I did sitting trot for the "collected" side and rising trot for the "medium" side.  Flurry seemed to get the idea after a couple of attempts, so it was time to try it across the diagonal!

Frank's advice was "collected" trot through the short side of the arena, turn across the diagonal line, make sure he was straight, and then ask him for "medium".  I'd love to have had it on video, because it felt like he was making a fair attempt at it.  He ran rather than lengthened once or twice, but a couple of times it felt ok, and I could really feel his hind legs coming in under him.  I'll try to video it in the arena at home, so I can see what it looks like.

All in all, it was a great final lesson before I go away.  My Laurels were well and truly crushed, but it was worth it!

Nurse Wagon on Duty

My days are currently quite tied up with Aero.  His lameness has subsided enormously after two days of box rest, hot-tubbing and poulticing, but I haven't seen any traces of pus when I remove the poultice, so I doubt that I've gotten near the end of it yet.

There is still a lot of heat in his foot, and very slight filling along his tendons.  I'm 90% convinced it's an infection in the foot - we call it a "drop" here in Ireland, I'm not sure why - so I'll continue poulticing and hot-tubbing.

Fortunately he's a good patient, and will stand happily with his foot in a bucket for ages, so long as he's got some haylage to munch.  The bucket has got hot tap water with a couple of handfuls of Epsom Salts in it, and I usually top it up from a flask of boiling water after about ten minutes, giving him at least twenty minutes of hoof soaking.

Then it's time to inspect his foot and squeeze around the crack I can see :

Apply the Animalintex poultices, one on the sole and one along the coronet, and bandage it up
The Cavallo Sport Boots which we bought in France as emergency spares for Flurry are starting off their career as poultice boots :
Aero is not at all impressed at being stabled on his own, and calls to Flurry and Lilly all day long - not great for the LSH and his business associate who are trying to work from the office in the yard!

Finally, for Annette, this is what the French call an American curry comb!  I can't remember the word they used for "curry comb", but that's what it translates to.  In Ireland and England, we just call it a metal curry comb.  It's great for scraping thick muck off Flurry!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Horsey Rollercoaster

After a wild night's partying in Kerry to celebrate my best friend's birthday, we got up early this morning and headed back to Cork so I could take Flurry to the dressage show in Skevanish.

After three days of non-stop downpours, my paddock was an ocean of mud - just the sort of stuff Flurry loves to coat himself with.  I put a light rug on him on Saturday in the hopes of keeping him clean for Sunday morning.  My hopes were crushed, however, when we drove past our paddock and I saw that he was wearing his rug around his neck, leaving his body exposed to the joys of rolling.
An hour of serious mud-scraping ensued, using the invaluable "American Curry" that we bought in France.
I had already decided that he was going unplaited - after a late night and with limited time, I had no intention of torturing myself by attempting to plait his wild & unpulled mane.  I figured I could point to his Connemara ancestry and say that I should be allowed present him in his "natural state" (which would actually mean "covered in muck").

We hit the road exactly an hour and a half after arriving home and arrived at Skevanish half an hour later - pretty good going, I have to say.  There had been a couple of last minute cancellations, which left quite a gap in Prelim 14, so I decided to push on and warm up straight away so I could go early.  

Flurry felt a little on his toes, but behaved impeccably in the warm up.  Before I knew it, it was time to go in....
Warming up outdoors
...and I'd forgotten to allow myself time to sit and do a final mental run-through of the test.  
I didn't actually realise this until I turned down the centre-line to start and I went "Oh sh*t.  Hope I know this..." 

I seemed to!  It all went great.  Trot work was good, we got mostly sevens,
canter transitions could have been better, though.  

I felt balanced on him, he felt steady in my hands but not heavy.  

We finished our last canter, came past the judge at C and headed across the diagonal.... and my brain screamed "NO! YOU'VE GONE WRONG" so I stopped and said "I've gone wrong, haven't I?"
No I hadn't!  Arrgh!  I added a two point penalty for no reason!  We came down the centre line to finish up, I was riding "positively" to try to make up for my error, and I rode him forwards to a nice halt.  
Down the Centre Line...
 Damn, I thought, he's crooked, and tried to straighten him.  Judge's comment "Overcorrected halt." Grrrr.  <Smacks Head>
Fer goodness sake, Mum, I'm standing square!
Our final score?  A Personal Best of 65% WITH a mistake!  We're half-way to being qualified for the National Championships!  Very excited!

Once Flurry was tucked away in the horsebox with his haylage, I got stuck into scribing for the rest of the day.  The LSH (who was on duty as photographer) took Flurry home shortly after we'd finished, and I got a lift home later on.

Home unfortunately had the crashing down-side of the roller-coaster waiting for me.  Aero had gone from being absolutely fine in the morning to profoundly lame, barely weight-bearing on his left fore.  There's a bit of heat in his hoof, which points towards an abscess, but there's also a teeny bit of swelling on the inside of his tendon.  I'm praying the swelling is from infection in the foot and that he hasn't pulled a tendon.

His hoof is all poulticed up, and I'll see how he is in the morning.  Poor baby is most unimpressed at being stabled all by himself.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Aero's Diary

What a difference a week makes!

I was pleased with Aero's lesson last week, but I knew we have a long way to go, even before we can do a Prelim test - the biggest issue with him is tension, and he will get marked down for it exactly the same whether he's doing Elementary or Preliminary.  Keeping "variety" in mind, I've been mixing up his work all week.

On Monday evening, the LSH and I hacked out, on Flurry and Aero respectively.  This time I tried using equine insoles on Aero's front boots to try to make them fit a bit better. Unfortunately, though, the insoles are designed for use with the Cavallo Sport Boot, which is a fully enclosed unit, unlike the Renegade Boots, which are more like sandals.  The net result was that one of the insoles slipped out the back of the boot, so that half an inch of it was sticking out at the back.  This meant Aero had a little "shelf" under his foot the whole time, and he seemed a little footsore afterwards.  Otherwise, it was an uneventful hack.  Flurry was barefoot and seemed to be minding himself, although I can't say that was the case when I hacked him alone on Wednesday!

The following day, I did some schooling with Aero.  He felt like he was stepping short, which I put down to the insole incident the previous day, so we did a lot of walk, doing serpentines, circles, free walk to medium walk and back again.  Once he loosened out, he seemed really good and was staying in an outline much better, but I wasn't 100% sure - maybe I was just accepting less from him?

To keep variety in his life, I just lunged him on Wednesday.  It took 20 mins for him to loosen out and really swing - or maybe it took 20 mins for me to really ask him to work.  We finished up after a nice swinging trot on each rein.

On Thursday, I had a second lesson booked with Frank in Skevanish.
I ended up very pleased indeed!  Aero softened and worked in an outline much quicker than last week.  I've figured out that I have to push him forward and at the same time offer him "space" in front - do teeny gives alternately on each rein, and he softens and rounds the neck.  If I just "hold" the reins, he stays tense and resistant.  He's also finding it easier to bend to the inside - this is what I was feeling on Tuesday, but without eyes on the ground (or a video, sniff!) I wasn't sure if it was right.

His canter feels so tight after Flurry's unbalanced sprawl!  At the start, it was too short, but again I asked him to move forward and offered him the rein and he lengthened his stride and worked over his back much better, despite me tipping forward too much - sigh.  We then worked on canter leg yields.  Frank calls the movement a Plié (which is a new one on me), or, jokingly, "controlled falling out through the shoulder, " which is a great way of describing it!  You turn down the centre line at C or A, ask the horse to move sideways like a leg yield and aim to hit the track somewhere between E/B and the next corner.

Even turning down the centre line in canter is new to me, it's basically half a 10 metre circle in canter, followed immediately by pushing sideways for the leg yield - lots of engaging of the inside hind!

After doing this a few times, Frank asked me to ride a 15 metre circle in canter, which went well, then he said "Next time you cross the centre line, ask for walk."  Ok, I thought, I've never done this before, but sit deep, think tall, shoulders back and WALK and leg on to maintain it... and it worked!  Easy Peasy!  Oh the joys of a horse that knows his job!

We did the same drill on the other rein, and once again finished with the 15 metre circles and canter/walk.    He fell out of canter while doing the Plié thing on this rein, but I was pleased with how I coped, I just asked for canter again straight away and carried on doing what we were doing.

We finished the lesson working on shoulder-in in walk and trot.  It felt ok to me, shoulder-in is something Flurry and I have figured out together, but apparently Aero needs more angle.  Perhaps he is not yet supple enough to give it?  Whatever about the shoulder-in, the trot he gave me afterwards was amazing - soft, round and bouncy!  It felt so nice I was tempted to try sitting to it, but decided not to push my luck - normally his trot is way too bouncy for me to sit, although I can do sitting trot all day on Flurry.

Frank wrapped up the lesson by saying he can't believe the improvement we've made in a week - it looks more like there's a month's worth of work done between this lesson and the one last week!  He's already teasing me about downgrading Aero, he thinks we'd be ready for more than Prelim in no time.  If only I had his confidence!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

My Horse is Left Hand Drive

When we arrived in Provence, both horses were, naturally enough, inclined to walk along the left hand side of the road.  Neither Anne nor I noticed them changing, but change they did!  Now Flurry is convinced that he's meant to march along the right hand side of the road, against the flow of oncoming traffic, and I'm inclined to relax and let my mind wander, so I don't notice what he's doing.  It's ok on the narrow roads around my house, but I'd better stay alert when we roam further afield.
Oops! Flurry, we're meant to be on the other side!
Way back in January, I promised to be secretary for a dressage show next Sunday.  Then my friend of 47 years decided to have her 50th birthday party the night before.  In Castlegregory, Co Kerry, which is about two and a half hours from my home.  Well, I couldn't miss that, could I?

So I explained my predicament to the local Dressage Club committee, and fortunately, the nice people at Skevanish, where the show is being held, said they'd run the show if I take entries and do the times.  Perfect!  Then I started toying with the idea of bringing Flurry.... why not?  We'll only be able to attend a couple of shows this year, anyway, and this one should be just about doable.  Seeing as I'm doing the times, I can put myself on as late as possible, giving me plenty of time to get back from Castlegregory.  I can also start the show a bit late to suit myself (evil grin).  There are definitely some advantages to getting involved on the organisational side of things!

I had a lesson booked for Tuesday, and decided to bring Flurry so that I'd have plenty of time to do homework afterwards.  The lesson went great!  He remembers everything he ever learned, worked on the bit straight away and wasn't leaning on my hands at all.  We were doing leg-yield to the E or B marker followed by shoulder-in down the rest of the long side, and he was doing it!  Not super-brilliantly, but hey, we're both beginners at this lark!  We finished off with a run-through Prelim 14.  The weakest part of our test will be canter, it's got a touch of Wall-of-Death about it as we motorbike around the 20-Metre circles, but we'll have a fun day out anyway.

I took him for a short hack today (mostly on the correct side of the road), just to let him relax and stretch his legs after the lesson yesterday.  I decided to take him past the scarecrows which Aero found so terrifying recently, just to see what his reaction would be.  We were strolling along, buckle end of the reins, I really wasn't expecting a reaction but it went something like this :

Flurry : Tum-ti-tum...
Martine : tralalalalala...
Flurry : WHOA! What the heck is that?
Martine : It's nothing to worry about, silly, let's keep walking.

Flurry : (staring suspiciously at the scarecrow) Hmm, well, if you're sure it's ok, I suppose I could walk past it.... AIEEEEEE!!!!! WTF IS THAT? IT'S A GIANT HORSE-EATING BIRD!! RUN!!! RUN FOR OUR LIVES!!!

When I managed to pull him up some hundred metres down the road, we had a little chat about brakes, then we carried on and chilled out a bit.  We were heading down a dead end, so of course we had to turn around and pass the scarey scare-horses again.  This time I decided to lead him - I figured he's followed me through so many strange places in France that it might help, and indeed it seemed to.
We stood at the end of the field for a while and watched them.  The "man" scarecrow has plastic streamers which flap in the wind, and the "bird" scarecrow swoops and dives continuously.  I think if we met them somewhere that Flurry isn't familiar with, they would have been less of a problem, but he's passed this field many times and they are "new" which makes them extra scary.

We walked up and down past them a couple of times, then I remounted and we carried on home.

Hopefully there won't be any scarecrows at the dressage show on Sunday!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Aero's Diary

I was so pleased with Aero on Saturday that I booked a lesson with Frank O'Sullivan in Skevanish for Tuesday.  Sunday's ride turned out to be pretty lacklustre, though, and I ended up wondering if I was going to make a complete fool of myself in my lesson!   It had rained heavily on Satruday night, and when I thought about it afterwards, I came to the conclusion that he had been cold and stiff as a result.  In addition to that, Sunday was the first time I schooled hime without lunging him beforehand, so he hadn't had a chance to loosen out without me on board.  I never felt the same connection that I'd felt the previous day, but when he had softened a small bit in trot, I finished up.  I've still got "arena sour" on the brain.

Monday morning, I played with boots.  Flurry's size 2W hind boots are ok-ish on Aero's front feet, once I adjusted the cables a bit, so with his own size 2 boots on behind, we set off for a little hack on the road.  The sun was shining, the road was quiet and Aero strode along happily, enjoying every minute of it - exactly what he needed, I think.

Tuesday I went for that lesson!  It started off just awful, he was going around inverted, not particularly excited and not misbehaving, but very tense.  I love Frank's approach though, never rushed, never stressed, no shortcuts.  First off all we worked on getting longitudinal softness by asking for lateral bend.  Once I insisted on inside bend on circles and kept on doing little give/retakes with the inside rein, Aero started to snort, relax and work over his back in both trot and canter.  We followed this with leg yielding to engage the hind leg and help keep that suppleness over the back, and finished up with Frank saying he reckons I'll have great fun with him!

We went from this :
 to this :
 and finished with this :

What's most exciting for me, though, is that I'm actually feeling like I will one day be able to ride this horse.  In the past, I couldn't do more than twenty minutes schooling on Aero without my back starting to complain.  Whether it's the riser pad (ahem) or the fact that I'm so much fitter than I've been for years, I don't know, but it was a good 45 minute lesson, working pretty much the whole time, and I felt 100% afterwards.

When we got home from the lesson, poor Aero had to cope with some disruption to his life!  We took Pepper away to keep Gigi company so that I could bring Flurry home.  Lilly was quite upset without Pepper, she's been with him for over a year now, and she was calling frantically after him as we drove out of the yard.  By the time we got back with Flurry, she had settled but she was clinging to Aero like a leech!

I wasn't too worried about turning Flurry out with them, as they were all out together before we went to France.  However, that was when Aero was depressed!  This time, there was quite a showdown, but Aero quickly realised that he was outgunned by Flurry and they settled down.
It's interesting to note that the most dangerous kick came from Lilly.  Although the two boys were "making shapes" initially and Flurry ended up throwing a few kicks in Aero's direction, they both gave plenty of warning signals and neither of them ever connected - I'm sure if either of them wanted to harm the other, he could have.  Lilly, on the other hand, acted like the immature little lady that she is, and blasted out both hind legs in a moment of excitement, catching her friend Aero in the process.  Thankfully he wasn't hurt, but it's a great demonstration of how a horse can unintentionally injure someone, human or equine, just by being a horse.

Watching all this, and watching them interact over the next few days, it seemed to me that Flurry just might be the new King.  Even though Aero and Lilly are a pair and are excluding him, he's first in line for food or for my attention.  One flick of his ear, and the other two get out of the way! I'm quite sure that Aero and Flurry will eventually be the best of friends, though, especially when I manage to find a home for Lilly.  After another few days, though, it's starting to look like Flurry is too lazy to be bossy all the time!  All three are very peaceful now, and Flurry is fully integrated with the other two.

I was absolutely dying to ride Flurry, so I gave Aero a day off on Wednesday (he probably needed it after his lesson, anyway) and rode Flurry instead.

Ah Flurry!  I was using the Micklem bridle with Aero's bit, a jointed rubber snaffle, instead of his usual bridle with flash noseband and French-link type snaffle.  For the first few minutes I thought he was going to be really heavy and leaning on me the whole time, then it was like a lightbulb moment : "Oh, I'm in the arena! I'm meant to go in an outline now, not like a cowboy horse!"  He rounded up, bent to the inside and listened to my aids.  His transitions were good, even the downward ones which I'd had noticed were particularly rusty while we were trekking.  I even threw in a walk/canter, just to see if he'd do it - he did!  I was so delighted with him that I'm now thinking of bringing him to a show on the 17th!  The complicating factor is that my best friend's 50th birthday party is on the night before - there's a fair chance I might be a wee bit hungover after that!

Unfortunately the cold I'd been fighting took hold, and that, coupled with the torrential rain, was enough to put me off riding the next day, so lucky Aero got two days off.  The following day was pretty windy - the sort of wind where you can't breathe properly if it's blowing in your face.  I've got enough confidence in Flurry to ride him in any weather, so he got ridden, but I definitely don't have the same relationship with Aero, so he was just lunged.  They got their flu shots, too, and Lilly got  micro-chipped - she was a little angel, she really has a lovely temperament, it's such a shame about the sweet itch.

I finished off the week schooling both horses briefly on Sunday morning.  I videoed Flurry's ride (with the LSH's camera!) and then I spent a lot of time later on that day looking at videos taken during the week of both horses.  I can see quite clearly that I need to shorten up my reins - Frank doesn't say this directly, but he takes a stealth approach to it by getting me to do things for which I will need shorter reins and which will help the horse to engage.  Every other instructor I've had in the past year has said I need to shorten my reins, and I truly believe them!
There was a lot of this...

and some of this...

I've a different problem on each horse.
On Flurry, if I shorten my reins, he leans like crazy.  Both of my wrists are weak - my left one developed a ganglion when it had to take over extra duties while the right one was in a cast, and the right one is still not back up to full strength.  So I really can't cope with him leaning on me, and I end up slipping the reins to ease the pressure, he pokes his nose and we're back to strung out on the forehand.

On Aero, if I take up a contact and try to "make" him accept it, he resists - the only approach with him is stealth, as practiced by Frank!  But I never know how much to shorten my reins when he does accept the bit, and if I go too heavy-handed, I'll just end up with him resisting again!

So I've some questions for my lesson tomorrow, but I think the best thing I've taken from the videos is a mental image of where my reins (and hands) are and where they actually should be.

Where they should be! It's nice when it's right!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

RIP Nikon Coolpix

Well, today's post was going to be a lovely romantic one about getting the LSH back in the saddle and starting a new phase in our lives as he and Flurry get used to each other as hacking companions to me & Aero.  I took a few "through the ears" shots as we went along, him and Flurry striding out ahead, another one of him & Flurry alongside Aero's head... you get the idea.

When we got home, I announced "I'll put a numnah wash on" and gathered up the numnahs, picked up my cap, camera and keys and headed down to the house.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

When I came back in for lunch, some two hours later, the wash was finished, so I went to hang it out.

What on earth was the black thing in there?  Oh no.... my camera case... was there any chance the camera inside was dry?

None whatsoever, unfortunately.

The whole lot is currently drying on the window sill.  There's a possibility I'll be able to retrieve today's photos off the card but I'd say there's a snowball's chance in hell that the camera will ever work again.

I was very fond of it after the whole France thing.

RIP, Coolpix, I'll miss you.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The First Half-Century

I wrote this last week, I wasn't sure if I'd post it or not, but what the heck, here it is!

Yup, I've reached the big 5 - O.  Does this mean I am finally middle-aged?  I don't feel any different to how I felt at twenty, apart from being a lot achier and creakier than I used to be.

Anyway, it seems like a good time for some reflection.  In no particular order, here are some of the things I'm particularly proud of from my first half century.

1. My daughters.  How did I manage to produce two such beautiful beings?  Where did they get their self-confidence from?  Not to mention their casual attitude to nudity... yes, both of them...

2. Rua Great Heart.  My first, and (so far) only novel (unpublished).  I was eleven.  They said I wouldn't finish it - They were wrong!

3. My marriage.  Twenty-seven years.  No, it wasn't always easy.  Yes, I'm proud of it.

4. PC-Interconnect.  What can I say, it was a great piece of software.

5. Defeating the Wizard and retrieving the Amulet of Yendor (but I didn't make it out of the dungeon)

6. Silver Spurs. Revamped and revitalised by me and my partner-in-crime, Naomi, I hope it will carry on for years to come.

7. Le Big Trek.  It seems almost dream-like now, but I did it - I can honestly say I rode 501.2 kilometres across France (apart from the bits I walked to ease my aching bum/hips/knees/ankles)

8. Copper.  The first and only horse I bred and produced to competition level myself.  I'd love to say she went on to great things, but she was never going to be more than an amateur horse - I think she ended up in England, she'd be about seventeen now.

9. The Livery Yard. It wasn't huge, but it helped see us through some very tough times.

10. Friendships I've made and maintained over the years - especially the one that's gone on for 47 years now (you know who you are).

There's plenty of stuff I'm not so proud of, too, but I'm not going to bring myself down thinking about that right now.  Here's to being positive and planning a whole pile of stuff I'll be proud of when I finish the second half-century!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Aero's Feet 2

Left Fore :
Pity about the rain in May!
June 1
May 22
Looks less upright from the front
June 1
May 22
Shorter toe, higher heel, or do I mean less under-run?
June 1
May 22
Flare on inside is gone, sole is sloughed off I think which makes frog look better

Left Hind
June 1
May 22
Still has quite a flare/deviation on outside wall
June 1
May 22
 Strangely the toe looks longer here but I think that's just the hoof is a better shape
June 1
May 22
Interesting to see the thickening on the walls at the heels.  Again the frog is much better defined but I'm guessing this is because a lot of sole is gone.  Heels seem wider after the trim

Right Hind
June 1
May 22
More symmetrical now

June 1
May 22
Flare on outside is gone which is giving the hoof a better shape

June 1

May 22
He seems to be growing a very thick wall on the outside here
It's amazing how much better the frogs are looking!

Right Fore
June 1
May 22
 Still a bit longer on the outside

June 1
May 22
 Less flare and heel looks more upright

June 1
May 22
Looks better with excess growth gone.
Soles seem less concave/flatter after the trim.  Frogs are slightly proud on hind feet now.